Tunes for Cruisin’ Playlist

September 20, 2012

We are in the car more than you think:

At an nationwide average drive-time of about 24.3 minutes, Americans now spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. So crank up the tunes and enjoy the ride!

Little Red Corvette/ Prince

Inspiration for the song hit as the musician napped in a pink Edsel, Prince notched his first Top Ten entry with one of the most sensual and frankly explicit hits ever to crack the charts. “Little Red Corvette,” a slow-burning funk-pop odyssey which is most definitely not about a sports car, is an after-dark masterpiece, aural soft porn rendered with the inextricable combination of perversity and sophistication which defines virtually all of his best work. Everything about the song is suggestive, from its moaning synthesizers to its bump-and-grind rhythm to the orgasmic squeals which punctuate Prince’s vocals; even the lyrical metaphors are so persuasive — in addition to cars, there are horses (Trojans, in fact, some of ’em used) — that it’s virtually impossible to discuss “Little Red Corvette” without lapsing into double entendres of one’s own. (Really, how else to describe the incendiary coda which closes the song but as a climax?) Making a brilliant case for innuendo as an end unto itself, “Little Red Corvette”‘s triumph is that even while the song — much like the body of its lusty heroine — is “just on the verge of being obscene,” it never succumbs to blatant tastelessness; even as an evocation of pure sexuality, it appeals to the imagination as much as the libido. Not just Prince’s first major hit single, “Little Red Corvette” may be his very best — only fitting that a song about staying power would have so much of its own.- All Music Guide

Mustang Sally/ Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett’s interpretation of Sir Mack Rice’s “Mustang Sally” quickly yielded the vocalist a career-defining side that ultimately climbed to the Top Ten R&B chart and into the Top 25 on the pop singles survey in December of 1966. Earlier in the year, Pickett had started working at Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, instead of the Memphis, TN-based Stax Records facility that had turned out the smashes “In the Midnight Hour,” “Don’t Fight It,” and “634-5789.” His initial outing in Muscle Shoals scored him one of the largest titles of his career, the infectiously fun “Land of 1000 Dances.” For Pickett’s subsequent session, he returned to Alabama to cut what would become the exemplary Wicked Pickett (1966) long-player. “Mustang Sally”‘s bouncy groove instantly developed into the album’s focus track, with the vocalist supported by the Fame house band, whose membership included Chips Moman (guitar), Tommy Cogbill (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums), and Spooner Oldham (piano). Presumably, the horn section was once again supplied by the Stax crew, who had been in attendance for the earlier date as well. Although not as significant a crossover hit as “Land of 1000 Dances” or “In the Midnight Hour,” “Mustang Sally” provides another good example of how complementary the material, artist, and musicians had become. -All Music Guide

Drive my car/ Beatles

“Drive My Car” was one of the best numbers on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, one which saw both their musical and lyrical horizons visibly opening. Although John Lennon was in general ahead of Paul McCartney in expanding his lyrics in more ambitious and experimental directions, this story-song was principally the work of McCartney, with some assistance from his contractual songwriting partner. The verse is based around a funky two-chord groove which ascends to a higher level at the very end, a suitable bedrock for a commanding McCartney hard rock vocal. Far more surprising is the chorus, with its tortuous jazzy key changes, a quality reinforced by the bursts of jazz piano that follow the first two lines. While initially the song seems like the standard macho boasting of some guy showing off his car, it transpires that actually the girl in the song is leading the narrator on by half-hinting that she’ll let him be her chauffeur, and maybe be his lover too. That’s a subtle, one might say almost O. Henry-like, slant that was most likely totally beyond the reach of the usual Californian hot-rod act, or most other pop and rock singers for that matter. The most ironic touch, however, was applied when the Beatles merrily sang “beep beep” at the end of the chorus’ punch line: a nifty way of making nonsense words compliment the images and the sounds. An especially wiry guitar solo was a nice cap to the understated, faintly nutty satire of what was nonetheless a very good-natured tune. The best-known cover of “Drive My Car” — not one of Lennon-McCartney’s more frequently interpreted compositions — was by jazz singer Bobby McFerrin in the 1980s.-All Music Guide

Cars/ Gary Numan

A personal road-rage incident inspired the synth-pop hit. Perhaps the most iconic intro of the entire synth-pop era (in 2003, an auto manufacturer set a commercial to the instrumental opening of “Cars,” knowing that its target audience would get the reference immediately), the throbbing, repetitive synths of “Cars” are all most listeners know of Gary Numan, especially in the US, where it was the musician’s only Top 40 hit. Taken in the context of the album The Pleasure Principle, the deliberate isolation of Numan’s lyrics fits in perfectly with Numan’s overarching obsession with alienation and depersonalization. In the context of a four-minute pop single, however, “Cars” is a novelty about on a par with the five-minute edit of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” that was a minor hit in 1975; in other words, only about one step above Hot Butter’s “Popcorn.” That said, it was arguably the first true new wave hit single in the United States, and the song’s slightly odd structure (the song proper is over in about 90 seconds, with the rest of its running time devoted entirely to an extremely long fade-out) and crisply modern electronic sound set the stage for the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” a couple years later, and the early MTV cavalcade of new wave smashes that followed.-All Music Guide

Little Deuce Coupe/ Beach Boys

The Beach Boys’ biggest hit in the hot rod rock genre found their budding blend of up-tempo pop/rock and sweet vocal harmonies flowering into something truly special. The lyrics of “Little Deuce Coupe,” which Wilson penned with DJ and car enthusiast Roger Christian, are a simple but lovingly detailed ode to “the fastest set of wheels in town” that divide their time between listing this car’s attributes and making boastful asides about its prowess (“If it had a set of wings, man, I know she could fly”). The melody behind this car-crazy narrative utilizes a doo wop-inspired sense of swing to create a song that cruises in jaunty fashion during the verses but soars into the stratosphere on its harmony-drenched chorus. The Beach Boys’ recording enhances the swing of the melody by building its foundation on a combination of boogie-woogie piano riffs and a pulsing bass line that pushes it along in a gentle but insistent fashion. However, the best part of that recording is its vocal arrangement: wordless harmonies add an extra melodic punch to the verses and Mike Love’s bass vocal and Brian Wilson’s falsetto blend in a sublime fashion to drive the chorus home. The mix of clever songwriting and stylish production made “Little Deuce Coupe” a Top 20 hit for the Beach Boys and inspired covers by every hot rod rocker from Jan & Dean to the T-Bones. It also became a seemingly eternal part of the Beach Boys’ live set, proving “Little Deuce Coupe” is more than just another hot rod tune.-All Music Guide

Rocket 88/ Ike Turner

In 1991, after a great deal of debate, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized this as the first Rock and Roll song ever recorded. Turner was in jail at the time for cocaine possession, so his daughter accepted the award. The song is about a car. The Oldsmobile “Rocket 88” came out in 1949 and was the fastest car on the road at the time. A small car with a big, overhead valve V8 engine, it was one of the first muscle cars and dominated NASCAR races in the ’50s. The car was advertised as having a V-8 “Rocket” engine, with the slogan, “Make a Date with a Rocket 88.” This song was produced by Sam Phillips, who formed Sun Records in 1952. Phillips later became famous for recording Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.-songfacts.com
Black Limousine/ Rolling Stones
This song features one of Mick Jagger’s best harmonica performances. This is based on a song by Blues musician Jimmy Reed called “You Don’t Have To Go.” The song is about The Stones’ Rock and Roll lifestyle of women, alcohol, and limousines. This was first recorded at the Some Girls sessions in 1978. Ron Wood got a writing credit for this. It is one of the few Stones originals not credited only to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. According to Wood, the guitar riff was influenced by a Texas slide Blues guitarist named Hop Wilson, who recorded in the ’60s.-songfacts.com
First recorded in 1955, this version cracked Billboard’s Top 10. This song was originally written by Charlie Ryan. It was first recorded and released by Charlie Ryan and The Livingston Brothers in 1955. It tells the second half of the story started by the song Hot Rod Race, recorded in 1951 by Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys, as referenced by the opening: “Have you heard this story of the Hot Rod Race, when Fords and Lincolns was settin’ the pace? That story is true, I’m here to say; I was drivin’ that Model A.” While the song tells of a race between a Lincoln and a Cadillac on the Grapevine grade in California, the actual location was on the Lewiston grade in Idaho.
The most iconic line from the song is: “Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln!”
Was there really a “hot-rod Lincoln?” Yes and no. Actually, it was a rebuilt car with the body of a Model “A” coupe set into the frame of a 1941 Lincoln, along with a “hopped-up” Lincoln engine block. However, at the time of this song’s writing, Ryan built a second car, this time with a chop-shop melding of a 1930 Model “A” Ford coupe and a wrecked 1948 Lincoln. It is this second restored car with which has Ryan toured.Both the songs “Hot Rod Lincoln” and “Hot Rod Race” are defining anthems of the hot rod community and 1950s car song culture. “Hot Rod Lincoln” has appeared in the soundtracks to The Beverley Hillbillies and MTV’s Beavis and Butthead.This was the only hit for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, who were a County-Rock group formed at the University of Michigan. Commander Cody is lead singer and piano player George Frayne.-songfacts.com
The Cadillac Ranch is a collection of 10 Cadillacs buried hood-first in a wheat field near Amarillo, Texas. Visitors are allowed to add graffiti to the cars, which are considered works of art.
This is one of many early Springsteen songs featuring cars. Some others were “Thunder Road,” “Backstreets,” and “Racing In The Street.” Bruce used the Cadillac image again in 1984 on “Pink Cadillac.” Junior Johnson is mentioned in the second verse. He was a NASCAR racer in the ’50s and early ’60s before becoming a championship car owner. He won the second Daytona 500 in 1960 and was one of the first people to discover the drafting method of racing at the super speedways. Cars were very important growing up in New Jersey. Springsteen’s first car was a ’57 Chevy with orange flames painted on the hood.- songfacts.com
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DJ Kelsey’s British Playlist in Honor of the Olympics

July 27, 2012

WBER’s DJ Kelsey has put together a playlist of songs by British artists to celebrate the 2012 London Olympics that begin today!

Got To Get You Into My Life/ The Beatles

All the rules fell by the wayside with Revolver, as the Beatles  began exploring new sonic territory, lyrical subjects, and styles of composition. It wasn’t just Lennon and McCartney, either — Harrison staked out his own dark territory with the tightly wound, cynical rocker “Taxman”; the jaunty yet dissonant “I Want to Tell You”; and “Love You To,” George’s first and best foray into Indian music. Such explorations were bold, yet they were eclipsed by Lennon’s trippy kaleidoscopes of sound. The biggest miracle of Revolver may be that the Beatles covered so much new stylistic ground and executed it perfectly on one record, or it may be that all of it holds together perfectly. Either way, its daring sonic adventures and consistently stunning songcraft set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve.- All Music Guide

Naive/ The Kooks

The Kooks arrived fully formed in 2006, for their debut sounds like the work of a band well into its career: the confidence with which the foursome from Brighton play and the abandon with which Luke Pritchard sings; the witty songcraft and deft arrangements; the drama and fervor they unleash from the very first notes and carry through to the end. They display maturity but also play with the fervor of kids and project a wide-eyed charm that is very endearing. On most of Inside In/Inside Out, the band sounds like a more energetic Thrills or a looser Sam Roberts Band, maybe even a less severe Arctic Monkeys at times.- All Music Guide

Bad Thing/ Arctic Monkeys

Breathless praise is a time-honored tradition in British pop music, but even so, the whole brouhaha surrounding the 2006 debut of the Arctic Monkeys bordered on the absurd. It wasn’t enough for the Arctic Monkeys to be the best new band of 2006; they had to be the saviors of rock & roll. Lead singer/songwriter Alex Turner had to be the best songwriter since Noel Gallagher or perhaps even Paul Weller, and their debut,  Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, at first was hailed as one of the most important albums of the decade, and then, just months after its release, NME called it one of the Top Five British albums ever. Some may call it striking when the iron is hot, cashing in while there’s still interest, but Favourite Worst Nightmare is the opposite of opportunism: it’s the vibrant, thrilling sound of a band coming into its own. – All Music Guide

LDN/ Lilly Allen

Like most British pop, Lily Allen’s debut album, Alright, Still,overflows with impeccably shiny, creative productions. However, Allen attempts to set herself apart from the likes of Rachel Stevens, Natasha Stevens, Natasha Bedingfield, and Girls Aloud with a cheeky, (mostly) amusing vindictive streak in her lyrics that belies the sugarcoated sounds around them. You know exactly what she means when she says her ex is “not big whatsoever” on “Not Big”; later, she revels in being the one that got away on “Shame for You.” And “LDN” is a glorious summer confection, even if “it’s all lies” underneath the Lord Kitchener sample and “sun is in the sky” chorus. – All Music Guide

Honky Tonk Women/ Rolling Stones

“Honky Tonk Women” was the last and one of the greatest of the Rolling Stones’ classic 1960s singles, reaching number one in 1969. Most Rolling Stones classics are based around a primal blues-rock riff, and in “Honky Tonk Women,” there could have been several: the clipped circular one at the beginning of the song, the responsive ones that echo Mick Jagger’s vocal through the verses, or the ones played by a combination of guitars and horns in the instrumental break. Also crucial to the musical greatness of the track was Charlie Watts’ funky, no-frills drumbeats, which lead off the song and ricochet throughout the song with great authority but absolutely no bombast. Although “Honky Tonk Women” is rock & roll, there’s a lot of country and blues influence, perhaps even more country than blues.-All Music Guide

Starry Eyed/ Ellie Goulding

It shouldn’t surprise any Ellie Golding fan to know that the British songstress wrote music for the likes of Gabriella Cilmi  and Diana Vickers before issuing this full-length debut. That’s because Golding’s sound doesn’t stretch far from other teen Brit-pop artists of 2010, who are more likely to pull back and dig deep on a record than indulge in the froth of Girls Aloud or Sugababes. Golding finds a balance between both camps on Lights. Ultimately, Golding’s debut album is something of relevance; it lacks the dramatic crash and bang of Florence + the Machine’s Lungs, but is certainly a more restrained, compelling listen than the debut records by Pixie Lott and Little Boots, two artists whose electronic dance-pop is echoed here. – All Music Guide

Under Cover of Darkness/ The Strokes

When the Strokesreturned from their lengthy post-First Impressions of Earth hiatus with Angles, they’d been apart almost as long as they’d been together. While they were gone, they cast a long shadow: upstarts like the Postelles and Neon Trees borrowed more than a few pages from their stylebook, and even established acts like Phoenix used the band’s strummy guitar pop for their own devices. During that time, the members of the Strokes pursued side projects that were more or less engaging, but it felt like the band still had unfinished business; though First Impressions was ambitious, it didn’t feel like a final statement. For that matter, neither does Angles, which arrived just a few months shy of their classic debut Is This It’s tenth anniversary. Clocking in at a svelte 34 minutes, it’s as short as the band’s early albums, but Angles is a different beast. Somehow, the Strokes sound more retro here than they did before, with slick production coating everything in a new wave sheen.-All Music Guide

Coffee and TV/ Blur

Blur’s penitence for Brit-pop continues with the aptly named 13, which deals with star-crossed situations like personal and professional breakups with Damon Albarn’s  longtime girlfriend, Justine Frischmann of Elasta, and the group’s longtime producer, Stephen Street. Building on Blur’s un-pop experiments, the group’s ambitions to expand their musical and emotional horizons result in a half-baked baker’s dozen of songs, featuring some of their most creative peaks and self-indulgent valleys. – All Music Guide

Flux/ Bloc Party

The album begins with two of Bloc Party’s angriest, most experimental songs, which revisit the beat-heavy territory of  A Weekend in the City’s “Prayer” with even more charged results. “Ares” is a modern-day war chant, with seething processed guitar lines fueled by huge pummeling drums, the likes of which haven’t been heard since the big beat heyday of the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. – All Music Guide

Ask/ The Smiths

For many Smiths fans, Rank is as close as they will get to a live performance from Morrissey, Johnny Marr, and company. Recorded live at The National Ballroom in London in October of 1986, roughly six months before they disbanded altogether, these 14 songs capture the Smiths performing in full-on rock-star mode. Though Grant Showbiz’s production and engineering work consistently places Morrissey’s voice too loud in respect to the rest of the band, the performance is suitably epic, hit-packed, and engrossing. Morrissey is in fine form, randomly trilling and squawking throughout, providing enough cocky banter and personality that the fact that he’s nearly out of breath for half the performance doesn’t put a damper on the festivities. – All Music Guide

Stylo/ Gorillaz

Gorillaz began as a lark but turned serious once it became Damon Albarn’s primary creative outlet following the slow dissolve of Blur. Delivered five years after the delicate whimsical melancholy of 2005’s Demon Days, Plastic Beach is an explicit sequel to its predecessor, its story line roughly picking up in the dystopian future where the last album left off, its music offering a grand, big-budget expansion of Demon Days, spinning off its cameo-crammed blueprint. Plastic Beach is the first  Gorillaz album to play like a soundtrack to a cartoon — which isn’t entirely a bad thing, because as Albarn grows as a composer, he’s a master of subtly shifting moods and intricately threaded allusions, often creating richly detailed collages that are miniature marvels.- All Music Guide

Pumkin Soup/ Kate Nash

On a first listen to Kate Nash’s debut Made of Bricks , it’s easy to hear the similarities to her contemporaries (Lily Allen, the Streets, Amy Winehouse)  and influences (Björk, Robbie Williams). Her most popular songs are both intimate and confrontational, using brief portraits and slang-conversational vocals to illustrate the larger issues going on — the dinner party that exposes a crumbling relationship on “Foundations” or the futility of using “Mouthwash” as a defense against feelings of low self-worth. Nash has plenty of maturation to do as a songwriter and performer, but she shows considerable promise on this debut. -All Music Guide

Tears Dry On Their Own/ Amy Winehouse

The story of  Back to Black is one in which celebrity and the potential of commercial success threaten to ruin Amy Winehouse, since the same insouciance and playfulness that made her sound so special when she debuted could easily have been whitewashed right out of existence for this breakout record. (That fact may help to explain why fans were so scared by press allegations that Winehouse had deliberately lost weight in order to present a slimmer appearance.) Although Back to Black does see her deserting jazz and wholly embracing contemporary R&B, all the best parts of her musical character emerge intact, and actually, are all the better for the transformation from jazz vocalist to soul siren. – All Music Guide

Fit But You Know It/ The Streets

Mike Skinner has a problem, and from the sound of it, it’s life-threatening. Skinner’s urban British youth persona is even more fully drawn than before, and this time he delivers a complete narrative in LP form, with characters, conflicts, themes, and post-modern resolution on the closer. Skinner drives these tracks with a mere skeleton of productions and delivers some cruelly off-key harmonies on the choruses; only the single, a rockabilly buster named “Fit but You Know It,” makes any attempt to connect the dots from beats to melody to production. Confronting doubts about his seriousness and squashing whispers about his talent, Skinner has made a sophomore record that expands on what distinguishes the Streets from any other act in music. -All Music Guide