Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 100 7" Singles

I am very tired of futzing with html table tags, so I went with the simplest code and yet it still looks like crap. Anyway those who can count will note that the list has grown to 104. Yes there are four ties and I cannot bring myself to edit the list further so it is what is is.

A few rules were applied in making these choices. The single had to be released on vinyl in either the USA or UK. If the B-side was different in one country, I went with the version from the country in which the artist was resident at the time of the release. Promo or canceled releases are prohibited.

As far as the subjectivity of the choices, this is a list of my favorite singles, not favorite songs. Hence [#3] may be a better song than [#1] but based on my singles critera [#1] wins out. The criteria for a great single include
(a) the song must be instantly recognizable within two seconds
(b) the introduction must have that "wow" factor
(c) the quicker the tempo the better
(d) generally the run time should be less than three minutes (obviously [#3] and [#100] are massive exceptions
(e) the production must be either extravagant[#8] or bare bones [#9]
(f) clever lyrics are more important than the actual meaning of the words. Again, this is about what makes a great single, not necessarily a great song
(g) as my interest begins with the British Invasion, nothing pre-Beatles is included

Extra points for odd instrumentation such as glockenspiel, tubular bells, saxophone, tympani, strings, harpsichord. Additional extra points for lovely melody, vocal harmonies, and general "hookiness".

Songs further down the list may be lacking in one or more of these areas but have enough of the right stuff to earn their spot. So without further ado, here is Mister Pleasant's top 100 singles list.

Rank A-Side B-Side Artist Year
1 Lady Madonna The Inner Light The Beatles 1968
2 I Can See For Miles Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands The Who 1967
3 Hey Jude Revolution The Beatles 1968
4 Fire Brigade Walk Upon The Water Move 1968
5 Tonight Hard To Get Over A Heartbreak Raspberries 1973
6 Instant Karma Who Has Seen the Wind? John Lennon 1970
7 Waterloo Sunset Two Sisters Kinks 1967
8 Born To Run Meeting Across the River Bruce Springsteen 1975
9 Honky Tonk Women You Can't Always Get What You Want Rolling Stones 1969
10 This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us Barbecutie Sparks 1974
10 Itchycoo Park I’m Only Dreaming Small Faces 1967
11 Friday on My Mind Made My Bed, Gonna Lie in It Easybeats 1966
12 Desiree I've Got Something on My Mind Left Banke 1967
12 Accidents Will Happen Sunday's Best Elvis Costello 1979
13 Strawberry Fields Forever Penny Lane The Beatles 1967
14 Starry Eyes Paint Her Face The Records 1979
15 Do Ya No Time The Move 1972
16 Talkin' About The Good Times Walking Through My Dreams The Pretty Things 1968
17 Pictures of Lily Doctor Doctor The Who 1967
18 Bus Stop Don't Run and Hide Hollies 1966
18 Wichita Lineman Back In The Race Glen Campbell 1968
19 Brown Sugar Bitch Rolling Stones 1971
20 Wouldn´t It Be Nice God Only Knows Beach Boys 1966
21 Time Of The Season Friends Of Mine Zombies 1968
22 They Don't Know You Broke My Heart in 17 Places Tracey Ullman 1984
23 Rebel Rebel (US phased version) Queen Bitch David Bowie 1974
24 Junior's Farm Sally G Wings 1974
25 This Is The Story Of My Love (Baby) Nixture Wizzard 1974
26 Lady Friend Old John Robertson The Byrds 1967
27 Jumping Jack Flash Child Of The Moon Rolling Stones 1968
28 7 and 7 Is No. Fourteen Love 1967
29 I Can't Let Go I've Got a Way of My Own Hollies 1966
30 Hello Goodbye I Am The Walrus The Beatles 1967
31 I'm On Fire Did You See What Happened? Dwight Twilley Band 1975
32 Something For the Girl with Everything Marry Me Sparks 1974
33 Overnight Sensation Hands On You Raspberries 1974
34 Message In A Bottle Landlord Police 1979
35 Be Stiff Social Fools Devo 1978
36 I Will Follow Boy/Girl U2 1980
37 Sunny Afternoon I'm Not Like Everybody Else Kinks 1966
38 Pleasant Valley Sunday Words Monkees 1967
39 Pretty Ballerina Lazy Day Left Banke 1966
40 Autumn Almanac David Watts Kinks 1967
41 Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine Next To Me Stealers Wheel 1973
42 Whenever You're Ready I Love You Zombies 1965
43 A Whiter Shade Of Pale Lime Street Blues Procol Harum 1967
44 See My Baby Jive Bend Over Beethoven Wizzard 1973
45 All The Way From Memphis Ballad of Mott The Hoople Mott the Hoople 1973
46 Waterloo Watch Out Abba 1974
47 Eight Miles High Why The Byrds 1966
48 Goin' Back Change Is Now The Byrds 1967
49 If You Want My Love Four Letter Word Cheap Trick 1982
50 Mister Pleasant Harry Rag Kinks 1967
51 Carrie Anne Signs That Will Never Change Hollies 1967
52 Open My Eyes Hello It's Me Nazz 1968
53 Star What More Could You Want Stealers Wheel 1973
54 I'm A Boy In The City The Who 1966
55 Cecilia The Only Living Boy In New York Simon and Garfunkel 1970
56 Sail On Sailor Only With You Beach Boys 1973
57 Baby Blue Flying Badfinger 1972
58 Walking In the Rain How Does It Feel? The Ronettes 1964
59 Hand Me Down World Runnin Down The Street The Guess Who 1970
60 Dogs Call Me Lightning Who 1968
61 When I Grow Up (to Be a Man) She Knows Me Too Well Beach Boys 1964
62 Wedding Bell Blues Lovin' Stew Fifth Dimension 1968
63 Lola Mindless Child of Motherhood Kinks 1970
64 Valleri Tapioca Tundra Monkees 1968
65 Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing Blame It On the Sun Stevie Wonder 1974
66 Fight The Power (Part I) Fight The Power (Part II) Isley Brothers 1975
67 Blackberry Way Something The Move 1968
68 Message Of Love Porcelain Pretenders 1981
69 Mother and Child Reunion Paranoia Blues Paul Simon 1972
70 Paper Cup Poor Side Of Town Fifth Dimension 1967
71 Drive In Saturday Round and Round David Bowie 1973
72 Back on the Chain Gang My City Was Gone Pretenders 1982
73 The Kids Are Alright The Ox The Who 1966
74 Tell Her No What More Can I Do? Zombies 1964
75 Porpoise Song (Theme from Head) As We Go Along Monkees 1968
76 I Saw The Light Marlene Todd Rundgren 1972
77 Live and Let Die I Lie Around Wings 1973
78 Break Away Celebrate The News Beach Boys 1969
79 Albert Flasher Broken The Guess Who 1971
80 Care of Cell 44 Beechwood Park Zombies 1967
81 Hot Smoke and Sasafrass Lonely Bubble Puppy 1968
82 Sunrise My Girl Eric Carmen 1976
83 Superstition You've Got It Bad Girl Stevie Wonder 1972
84 Middle Of The Road 2000 Miles Pretenders 1983
85 Paperback Writer Rain The Beatles 1966
86 Jet Let Me Roll It Wings 1973
87 John I'm Only Dancing Hang On To Yourself David Bowie 1972
88 Ticket To Ride Yes It Is The Beatles 1964
89 Leave Me Alone Takin' the Long Way Home Peggy March 1964
90 Couldn't I Just Tell You Couldn't I Just Tell You Todd Rundgren 1972
91 She's Not There You Make Me Feel Good Zombies 1964
92 I Feel Fine She's A Woman The Beatles 1964
93 Talk of The Town Cuban Slide Pretenders 1980
94 All I Know Mary Was an Only Child Art Garfunkel 1973
95 No Matter What Better Days Badfinger 1971
96 You Got the Love Rags to Rufus Rufus 1974
97 Indication How We Were Before Zombies 1966
98 Join Together Baby Don't You Do It The Who 1972
99 Avenging Annie So Fine (It's Frightening) Andy Pratt 1973
100 MacArthur Park Didn't We Richard Harris 1968
100 Bridge Over Troubled Waters Keep the Customer Satisfied Simon and Garfunkel 1970

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sneak peek at number **** five

The Pleasant Valley Sunday Top 100 Singles list is prepped and ready for the press sometime this week. I must warn anyone brave enough to continue here that I have some really oddball interests. For instance, I am one of the world's biggest Jimmy Webb fans, so you know what that means - MacArthur Park - you betch'ya. I also get all jiggly inside when I hear those massive bass lines in 70's funk, so the Isley Brothers are on the list too. Seventies acts with songs that sound like the Beatles are here, though maybe not the songs you would expect. For instance Stealer's Wheel makes the list twice, but Stuck In The Middle With You is not one of them.

The Raspberries are another band that carried the Beatle's torch into the 70's. Eric Carmen's lyrics are the band's weak spot, but I give him credit for writing songs that are so hook-filled that I scarcely notice the words. Way, way up on the singles list is a song that did not even crack the top 40. A look at some of the top 15 singles that year leaves me scratching my head:

1. Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree, Tony Orlando and Dawn
2. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, Jim Croce
5. My Love, Paul McCartney and Wings
6. Why Me, Kris Kristofferson
7. Crocodile Rock, Elton John
11. The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia, Vicki Lawrence
12. Playground In My Mind, Clint Holmes
14. Delta Dawn, Helen Reddy
15. Me and Mrs. Jones, Billy Paul

So why did Tonight fail to register on the top 40 charts that year? Can I blame it on the Nixon presidency, or perhaps the Vietnam War? All I know is that Mr. Carmen produced perhaps his finest work, and Wally Bryson anointed it with power chords from heaven. Bryson also layered the song throughout with contrapuntal goodness. Gorgeous lead guitar arpeggios, leading tones, grace notes. Recently Steve Simels at PowerPop listed it at numero uno in his post Best Use of Power Chords. It doesn't get any better than this, folks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

99 + 1 = 103?

Someday soon I plan to post the complete Pleasant Valley Sunday top 100 singles. The list has been in existence for a while and other than a few minor alterations, the list has remained fairly constant over time. There are a few ties, but I cheat by not skipping the next position. So in actuality there are 103 singles on the list.

Last October I wrote about three Beatles' singles in Teenage Angst. Turns out that one of those is in my top spot, another is #3, and the third is #29. Not to spoil the unveiling party, I won't disclose which is which just yet. But since #1 and #3 have already been covered here, let me introduce #2, the first Who entry here at PVS - I Can See For Miles. Not sure what I can say it that has not already been said. This is a pinnacle, one of the most powerful, amazing, unrepeatable artifacts of what rock'n'roll is all about. Townshend's lyrics about a young man with (possibly imaginary) super powered vision to spy on his cheating lover are cut from the same cloth as many of the other Who diamonds from those pre-Tommy years.

Due to the complexity of the song, it was rarely performed live during Keith Moon's lifetime. There are a gaggle of lip synced video performances, but many are from a few years later when the band took on a different persona and it just does not work for me. I need to see the Oooo in frilly shirts and Roger Daltrey with his page boy haircut to really appreciate this song. Probably the best lip synced version is available here, but alas no embedding. So instead here is an arty black and white video which consists mostly of jump cut face shots.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Generally I am a studio album kinda listener. Live performances are great if I am in the audience, but on live recordings I keep listening for the studio effects that are not there. But every once in a while I come across a performance that for various reasons becomes the de facto version. In the case of today's post the performance is so hair raising that it has haunted me since discovering it.

In the early eighties I became a fan of New Order. That eventually led me to check out the band's previous incarnation as Joy Division. I bought the two cassette (remember those?) release of Still. The recording is of terrible quality and frankly I listened a few times then put it away. Later I discovered the 45 single Love Will Tear Us Apart - their most famous song - years after the fact and made a note to go back and check out their few studio releases. Well I never did. Then one day I came across a live 1979 performance of She's Lost Control. The video is not well synchronized and is herky-jerky, the sound quality is poor, and yet it is a fascinating and surreal performance. So much so that it refuses to leave my brain after viewing.

Lead singer Ian Curtis was afflicted with epilepsy, and his performance here includes a disturbring St. Vitus dance that only accentuates the lyrics and their description of a girl who suffers from the same malady. At :50 seconds in the main guitar riff rears its massive head. The bass line sometimes follows, sometimes mirrors the riff, all the while the drums keep an ominous unstoppable beat that reminds me of those early industrial revolution machines in David Lynch's The Elephant Man. This performance is both powerful and frightening.

And she turned to me and took me by the hand and said,
I've lost control again.
And how I'll never know just why or understand,
She said I've lost control again.
And she screamed out kicking on her side and said,
I've lost control again.
And seized up on the floor, I thought she'd die.
She said I've lost control.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

She Had Tears In Her Eyes

In 1968 The Pretty Things released a couple of singles that were totally out of left field. Their previous R&B incaranation was gone, never to return. In its place came a band totally immersed in the psychedelic movement, in no small part thanks to producer Norman Smith. Smith previously was the recording engineer for the Beatles up through Rubber Soul, and upon his promotion to producer he became the sound steward for the Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd.

The first of these singles, Defecting Grey b/w Mr. Evasion is a groovy trip through hallucinogenic fields. All sorts of odd instruments and sound were used, included phased vocals, early synthesizers, and tons of guitar feedback. As far as I can tell the single sold about five copies in the UK. Undaunted the band released another pair of gems in the same vein - Talkin' About the Good Times b/w Walking Through My Dreams. The A side kicks off with jangly guitar which is almost immediately overridden by an electric guitar riff that sounds almost like a rooster crowing. Then the chorus comes in - oddly before the verse - with all sorts of Beatle-ish goodness. Mellotron, lovely harmonies, crazy stilted martial drumming, I could go on forever. Yeah its just my opinion, but this is probably in the top five finest psychedelic 45s ever released. And of course it disappeared without a trace upon release.

She has sun in her face
Her lips kiss the sun, caress the sun, arrest the sun, fields of light we found the place
She has sun in her eyes
The clouds cross the sun, without the sun, the evening shadows in her eyes

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rise Up, Mutants

What do Iggy Pop, Artie - the strongest man in the world, and mutants have in common? Well someone has spliced together a set of clips from The Adventures of Pete and Pete and set it to the music of Devo. I was way past the age for the target audience of Pete and Pete, but regardless it was a guilty pleasure for me. I could not get enough of the surreal suburban adventures of the brothers who shared a first name. The show had a bevy of cool guest actors and often used music by a variety of great indy rock artists. When Nickelodeon pulled the plug on the show I felt like a part of my inner child had departed.

But my main point for posting this embedded video is that this seems to be the only available video which uses the original 1978 "Stiff Records" recording of Be Stiff, Devo's third single in the UK. I am unapologetic about my enthusiasm for Devo, at least up through the first four or five LPs. Musically this song stands apart from their more off-the-wall social sarcrasms and synth-driven songs. Underneath the nerdy veneer they were one hell of a rock'n'roll band. And this song has the goods. From the opening telegraphing guitar riff you know you are in for a roller coaster ride. The lyrics use the same sophmoric syntax of many of Devo's songs, obsessed with all things sexual.

Be stiff my b-abies be stiff
Fruit ooze is wetly lewd
Stay dry in rubber boots
and cucumbers ripe and rude

I have always been fascinated that "babies" is plural, making me wonder exactly who they are singing to. The mid-song guitar solo is a miracle, so simple yet powerful. And like any great single, it says what it has to say and is over in less than three minutes.

Devo - Be Stiff (The Adventures of Pete & Pete) from IO1011 on Vimeo.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rocking in Stumptown

The Portland indy music scene is wild and wooley, and given their longevity, Quasi has become somewhat of a godparent to the younger bands. In the olden days Sam Coomes was in Heatmiser with Elliot Smith, and Janet Weiss worked the drum skins in Sleater Kinney in parallel with her work with Quasi, which formed in 1993 as a duo. Long before the White Stripes Sam and Janet experimented within the boundaries of a two person band. A couple of years ago Joanna Bolme (Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks) joined, adding a big fat bass sound to the mix.

Quasi has gone through several transformations in sound, from the first proggy/pop album, to the middle period noted for heart wrenching lyrics sugar coated with some of the hookiest pop melodies in recent history, to the current incarnation with a heavier emphasis on Sam's pyschedelic guitar workouts and Janet's take-no-prisoners Bonham inspired drumming.

Some old fans disappeared with the release of Hot Shit in 2003, although for me it may be their finest record. I am not such a big fan of their last release, but based on the buzz from their recent New Year's Eve all Who-cover set, their upcoming release American Gong might be just what the doctor ordered. Here is the white hot first track - Repulsion.