It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, But I Like It

Thanks to my fancy new iMac and its fancy new iTunes application, I know exactly what I’m listening to these days. My “Top 20”:

1 “Atomic Power” Uncle Tupelo

2 “There’s Always Someone Cooler…” Ben Folds

3 “Stetson Kennedy” Billy Bragg & Wilco

4 “Marry Me” Drive By Truckers

5 “Jailhouse” Sublime

6 “Teen Angst” Cracker

7 “England, Half English” Billy Bragg

8 “Wallace” Drive By Truckers

9 “Forty” John Eddie

10 “Heart Shaped World” Chris Isaak

11 “Lonesome Day” Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

12 “Can’t Sink This Town” Freedy Johnston

13 “As Long As It Matters” Gin Blossoms

14 “Vive La Vida” Santana

15 “Searchin’” Lynyrd Skynyrd

16 “Love Delicatessen” Presidents of the USA

17 “King Of New Orleans” Better Than Ezra

18 “Is This Love?” Bob Marley & The Wailers

19 “Club Song” Too Hectic

20 “I Love Her She Loves Me” NRBQ

What does this snapshot of my current listening tell us? Since these songs are all ones I’ve burned off my CD’s onto my computer, the genres run heavily toward current favorites–not much of the hard rock that’s on my old LP’s that my wife exiled to the basement. More pop and alt.country these days. Where’s all the blues and reggae that once were all the rage? Where’s Elvis Costello and Little Feat?

I think the key to unlocking this mystery is the song “Forty” by John Eddie. Any song with a chorus “I guess I’m fucking forty” strikes a chord with all us 40-somethings. Rock’n’roll is more often heard on our new iMacs than at some late night club or concert arena. I saw John Eddie (then the leader of the up and coming Jersey band The Front Street Runners) as a sophomore in college (1980). He rocked as hard as my then and current (and always) favorite–Bruce Springsteen. His new album trades the Shore sound for an alt.country feel and a great look at growing older and wondering about the hand you’ve been dealt.

I’m still a sucker for political songs. I always change the names when I sing along to the Billy Bragg/Wilco song “Stetson Kennedy” that uses lyrics written by Woody Guthrie–creating the perfect 2004 protest song:

I done spent my last three cents

Mailing my letter to the president

I didn’t make a show, I didn’t make a dent

So I’m swinging over to this independent gent

Stetson Kennedy (Ralph Nader)

Writing his name in

I cain’t win out to save my soul

Long as Smathers-Dupont(Bush-Cheney) has got me in the hole

Them war profit boys are squawking and balking

That’s what’s got me out here walking and talking

Knocking on doors and windows

Wake up and run down election morning

And scribble in Stetson Kennedy (Ralph Nader)

I ain’t the worlds best writer nor the worlds best speller

But when I believe in something I’m the loudest yeller

If we fix it so’s you can’t make money on a war

We’ll all forget what we’re killing folks for

We’ll find us a peace job equal and free

Dump Smathers-Dupont (Bush-Cheney) in a salty sea

Well, this makes Stetson Kennedy (Ralph Nader) the man for me

Words: Woody Guthrie 1950 (phil 2004)

Music: Billy Bragg 1997

This list wouldn’t be complete without a plug for my favorite new band–Drive By Truckers. The southern rock of my youth with a new attitude. The album Southern Rock Opera is nothing less than the history of the new South as seen through the prism of Lyrnyrd Skynyrd and their fans. Decoration Day is even darker, delving further back into the region’s history. It also has my favorite DBT song– “Marry Me.” I dare anyone to not crank up the volume when this song comes on. If there was any justice in the world “Marry Me” would have been all over rock’n’roll radio–but then that’s a whole other 40-something complaint.

In the words of Patterson Hood from DBT “Rock’n’roll means well/but it can’t help tellin’ young boys lies.”

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