Hot 106 #12: China Grove

The Hot 106 is a hit list (like a mob hit) of 106 “classic rock” songs that deserve to be banned from radio airplay forever, due to being overplayed or just plain played out. In an effort to be fair, and to showcase great, lesser-known “deep cuts”, Kent and Jen have tasked themselves with finding replacements for these banished tunes.

Gettin’ whacked today in a Yacht Rock showdown: “China Grove” by The Doobie Brothers. 

Kent: “Clear As The Driven Snow”

There is nothing really wrong with “China Grove”, and it really is more indicative of The Doobie Brothers’ music offerings to the world of classic rock than my replacement.

But the dirty little secret of The Doobie Brothers, forever curb stomped by the salt-and-pepper smooth rockin’ of Michael McDonald, is that their earlier albums offer music that sounds more like Crosby, Stills, and Nash than Yacht Rock, and that’s the musical history a Classic-Rock-Radio revisionist should bestow upon the brothers Doobie.

Closer Every Day” or “White Sun” are some of my favorites, but you needn’t even leave the same album that “China Grove” appears on, The Captain and Me, to find a suitable replacement: my pick is “Clear As The Driven Snow”. It has great harmonies and multiple facets, has an acoustic focus punctuated by driving bass and sinister guitar licks, and keeps McDonald on the farm.

Nothing against “China Grove”, really, but if I had heard more of Doobie tunes like “Clear As The Driven Snow” and less of the offerings given out on the radio, I would have been a fan sooner.

 

Jen: “Wishing You Were Here” by Chicago

Given my predilection for all-that-lovely-hippie-shit music, I bet I’d have a vintage Doobie Brothers tee shirt or two by now if I, too, had grown up with songs like the John-Denver-cum-Stephen-Stills “Clear As The Driven Snow.”

But “China Grove” and “Jesus Is Just Alright” and “What a Fool Believes” did much to make me turn a “blah” eye to the band. They’re not bad, but they’re just not all that great either. (Full disclosure: I actually like* Michael McDonald, despite his Lindsay-Buckingham-and-Stevie-Nicks effect on the Doobies’ sound.)

In my mind, the Doobie Brothers were always just a few shades more legit than Captain and Tenille, and they made music that found itself on AOR back when people were taking too many drugs to notice/care just how unremarkable it really was. (I like to imagine that the people taking the really good stuff were too blissed out on Close to the Edge to care.)

And then, somehow, the Doobie Brothers became what white suburban moms listened to in the ’90s when they wanted to appear “cool”. (Full disclosure #2: Including my mom.)

Doobies_whatshappening

What a fool believes: That these kids were ever into the Doobie Brothers.

Now that my (seemingly contradictory) affection for Michael McDonald and my feelings of “meh” about the Doobies are out in the open, I should mention that I considered picking a substitute  song that was quite a bit different than “China Grove”. But I feel like I’ve been doing that too readily with bands whose catalogs I’m not familiar with. Instead, then, I’m going to stick to the soon-to-be-yacht-rock theme and pick a favorite from Chicago VII: “Wishing You Were Here”.

You can tell Peter Cetera’s on the brink of ruining the band (that goddamn bridge, PETER CETERA), but the Beach Boys’ vocals and Terry Kath’s dirge-like melody make this a compelling, almost unsettling tune for the ever-mellowing ’70s. Make no mistake–this is a full-on “adult contemporary” song, but only because there’s no other way to categorize it. It’s a ballad from a band who still had the balls to put mostly weird jazz instrumentals on the entire first record of the double album it was on. That has to count for something. Right?

*I don’t care what you think.


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The Hot 106 is a list of 106 “classic rock” songs that should be banned from radio airplay forever. In an effort to be fair, and to flaunt their quasi musical snobbishness, Kent and Jen have tasked themselves with finding replacements for the overplayed tunes. 

Kent: T. Rex – “Chariot Choogle”

Crapping on Jimmy Buffett is almost cliche. To be sure, he deserves it for his pablum music and his drunk-mom-oriented rock vibe.

The basis on replacing “Margaritaville” should be on Buffett’s secret history as a musical flip-flopper; his first album was called Down To Earth, and is was full of on-the-nose socially aware folk rock. One trip playing on the street corners of Key West later, and his second album was called A White Sports Coat and A Pink Crustacean and had Raffi-for-functioning-alcoholics tunes like “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” and “Peanut Butter Conspiracy”. Kudos for Buffett for quickly deciding to just be himself. We shouldn’t have to hear about it, because in this case “being yourself” means “the musical equivalent of getting drunk at a Red Lobster”.

So, who left the folk world for the classic rock world and also has some real merit and has an easy-going vibe and also doesn’t get quite enough love on Classic Rock Radio? My play here has to be T. Rex; let’s bring “Chariot Choogle” to the masses: it woozily never quite settles in but still rocks, the lyrics aren’t too space-y or sexy as the more oft-played T. Rex tracks but still seem playful and the presence of Flo and Eddie singing background makes everything awesome.

Regardless of what you think of Jimmy Buffett’s music, it is a bit hard to call it “rock”. If your radio popped on as you started the car and “Margaritaville” was on, would you even know what station it was tuned to? No such confusion for “Chariot Choogle”.

 

Jen: The Small Faces – “Song of a Baker”

Fun fact about Jen! I briefly dated a guy in high school who tried to convince me that Jimmy Buffett was some kind of misunderstood sage. I, being a seventeen-year-old girl, had no idea that the man put out any music that wasn’t corny as hell. Naturally, then, I thought this suitor was gaslighting me. Jimmy Buffett was “Margaritaville”, obnoxious Baby Boomers wearing Tommy Bahama year-round, and that piña colada song. That was him too, right?

Awful truth about Jen! Jimmy Buffett exposes my musical bigotry. Love of his music/lifestyle is a deal-breaker for me. In fact, if I think about the idea that being a Parrothead is a “lifestyle choice”, I cringe so intensely that I wind up looking like one of those wizened-old-lady faces made out of dried fruit.

fuck these assholes

Which still looks better than this.

I know, I know–music is a subjective experience, I should live and let live.

No. NO! I’m going to fly in the face of Kent’s eloquent take-down of Buffett because I have no shame; I’m a Jimmy Buffett bigot, remember? If you look at me with a straight face and tell me you love Jimmy Buffett, I’ll mentally file you away in the area of my brain that makes note of Glenn Beck acolytes, people who believe that the WWE is real, and those who don’t know/don’t care that “should of” is incorrect.

But soft…

…allow me to ascend this musical morass with a tune that deserves airtime in place of this (objectively) over-played abomination.

Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane elevate this legit rocker from their extremely British concept album, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. “Song of a Baker” reminds you that The Small Faces were once a hard-edged R&B band, but left it all behind in favor of a uniquely British re-purposing of rock and roll. In fact, Ogden’s is so British that most of it sounds like a musical mash-up of Jabberwocky and The Goon Show. (You can hear bits of Ogden’s in this clip if you want to know what I’m talking about.) And yet it still manages to rock.

“Baker” is their legacy of the break from the familiar into the experimental. It’s got this kind of start-and-stop thing going on with its rhythm. The words are ridiculous. There’s no great guitar solo. But it makes you want to pound along on the steering wheel in your car, doesn’t it? I think that should be one of the points of “Classic Rock” radio.

Note: To avoid feelings of inadequacy, or superiority, please ignore the fact that none of these guys were over the age of 21 when this song was released.


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The Hot 106 is a list of 106 “classic rock” songs that should be banned from radio airplay forever. In an effort to be fair, and to flaunt their quasi musical snobbishness, Kent and Jen have tasked themselves with finding replacements for the overplayed tunes. 

Kent: “The Bomber”, The James Gang

First things first: Imma brush my shoulders off because I was hatin’ on The Eagles before The Dude made it cool. I’m sure bands like The Eagles and Bread are great for some. If the most delicious sandwich in the world was eagle meat on bread, I probably wouldn’t eat it out of principle, and I am a food addict.

This dismissing of The Eagles is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the Classic Rock Radio crowd to Eagle alumnus Joe Walsh’s previous and most-rocking band, The James Gang. The album Rides Again rocks throughout, and some CRR listeners probably get “Funk #49″ tossed to them every once in a while, but the album’s masterpiece, “The Bomber”, needs to replace “Hotel California”. Only a half-minute longer than “Hotel California”, the three-titled-sections prog-rockiness of “The Bomber” rules so hard, in that brilliant Captain Beyond way, that once you hear Walsh playing music like this you’ll do something you thought not possible: hate The Eagles worse.

 

Jen: Grand Funk Railroad – “I Come Tumblin”

I can’t think of an Eagles song that I could pretend to care about, and I don’t feel right picking a Joe Walsh or James Gang tune as a replacement since Kent already went down that (awesome) road. What’s a gal to do, then?

How ’bout I pick one of those lumbering rock tunes that could single-handedly revive Classic Rock Radio? I’m going to sweep “Hotel California” right off the desk–like so many office supplies–and get all Grand Funk on y’all.

Homer Simpson would approve of these wild, shirtless lyrics and competent drumwork; Classic Rock Radio listeners will approve of Mark Farner’s hot guitar licks (seriously) and a rhythm that can only be described as rockin’ and rollin’. The goal of my choice is to obliterate “Hotel California” from radio forever, and I think this song would do the job so well that the glassy-eyed masses may not even notice that they haven’t heard “Hotel California” for years.


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Hot 106 #9: La Grange

The Hot 106 is a list of 106 “classic rock” songs that should be banned from radio airplay forever. In an effort to be fair, and to flaunt their quasi musical snobbishness, Kent and Jen have tasked themselves with finding replacements for the overplayed tunes. 

Kent: “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide”

My writings about music are, by design, long formed and hyperbolic. I try to incorporate my unique relation to all the music I write about, too. That being said, writing about the Hot 106 is an exercise in pithiness, so you’re just gonna have to trust me when I say that I could write 10,000 words about why I picked “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” over “Blue Jean Blues” or “Just Got Paid” to replace “La Grange”.

The main consideration? The rewarded feeling I feel every time I listen to “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” and, after the slow boogie has had its turn for three-and-a-quarter minutes, the super rocking tag hits in, like if The Beatles had recorded “The End” red-eyed from homegrown and South Texas grit.

This is the same feeling you get after listening all the way through The Roots’ “You Got Me“: even when you know it’s coming you’re so glad it came. That’s a winner.

 

Jen: “Catfish Blues” – Jimi Hendrix

I’ll go ahead and cop to not knowing much about ZZ Top other than the fact that what’s-his-face was one of Jimi Hendrix’ favorite guitarists (informing my replacement song choice), and that they are beloved by a certain subset of (now) old, white men. (I also seem to remember them doing a promo in the ’80s for the short-lived-but-awesome Boston local music channel, V66. But I digress.)

You really can’t argue with a novelty song called “No More Madonna”.

Does this lack of key blues rock band knowledge disqualify me from this entry of the Hot 106? Not at all. Part of the reason why I know so little about ZZ Top is because what I know of them are the radio hits that have been bored (in both senses of the word) into my brain. “Legs”, “La Grange”, “Call Me the Breeze”, and “Sharp Dressed Man” today sound like parodies of the genre.

Clearly ZZ Top were, at one time, swashbuckling Texas blues rock warriors. They were novel and thrilling. Then the ’80s and, I’m guessing, too much cocaine led them down the path of bland, financially lucrative songwriting. Since I’m not going to pretend to know anything about their deeper catalog, I’m going to opt to replace “La Grange” with a blues rock track so great it’ll make you wanna slap yo’ mamma. Hopefully it’s also enough to distract from my shameful lack of ZZ Top knowledge.

Bonus! A certain person I know suggested this ZZ Top song. I’m not sure what I think about his selection…


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The Hot 106 is a list of 106 “classic rock” songs that should be banned from radio airplay forever. In an effort to be fair, and to flaunt their quasi-music-snobbishness, Kent and Jen have tasked themselves with finding replacements for the overplayed tunes. 

 

Kent: “5 to 1″

With The Doors you get a variation of two flavors: Moonlight Drive and Midnight Violence, each variation sung by the speaker of the lyrics (PLEASE NOTE I DID NOT REFER TO THE LYRICS AS “POETRY”) to a female listener; my replacement choice  the sinister closer “5 To 1″, is clearly Midnight Violence flavored, yet the song starts out with Jim cultishly cooing, “I love my girl…”.

Seeing as how Jim Morrison was not interested in getting into my pants, I tend to gravitate towards the darker songs anyway, but the perfect mix of sex/violence in side two songs of “Waiting For The Sun” help me appreciate the importance of both mindsets; the romance of “Spanish Caravan” and seductive transformative lyrics of “Yes, The River Knows” helps establish the feminine muse that gets stomped to death with the tantric beat of “My Wild Love” and is asked to stay in the car while the world gets destroyed in the closer, “5 To 1″, my favorite expression of The Doors’ lyrical  dichotomy.  Also, there’s this:

“5 To 1″ doesn’t get edited.

We can’t fairly have a conversation about Classic Rock Radio without talking about song editing for length or content.  Nothing is worse than hearing “Light My Fire” and hearing the keyboard solo trimmed away, but for The Doors, editing content is worse.  The idea of mixing sex and violence doesn’t work if the extremes of the ideas are diminished, and I’m not even talking about Ed Sullivan’s disdain for the “get much higher” line;  the rocker “Break On Through(To The Other Side)” routinely gets the line “she gets high” edited out, a line that Morrison yells out with violent gusto.  The sex in “The End” comes from an Oedipal f-bombing, necessary for the sentiment of sex/violence to get across.  Curse words are routinely edited, but many of them do not add to the music.  The Doors, however, talked about fucking with a Capital Eff.

Don’t trim the fat, Classic Rock Radio.  Fat is also flavor.

Jen – “Peace Frog”

I don’t dislike “Light My Fire” at all. Every time I hear it, I stop for a minute and consider how ominous this song must have sounded in early 1967. Sure, “Tomorrow Never Knows” was in the musical landscape at this point, as was Frank Zappa, but guys like Jimi Hendrix and Captain Beefheart were still months away, and much of what was played on the radio still sounded very friendly indeed.

"Carl Yastrzemski" is a great song!

Carl Yastrzemski” is a great song!

“Light My Fire” is one of those songs that should be put away not because it is a cop-out song in an otherwise impressive catalog, but because its power is weakened by its overplay. While it’s doubtful that teenagers forty years from now would ever find a song like “Light My Fire” in any way intimidating, I do believe it will always benefit from being heard, out of the blue, for the first time out of any context whatsoever. Unrealistic? Probably. But I speak only of what this song deserves, not necessarily what it will get.

 

ANYhow!

“Peace Frog” is fairly well-known, but it’s a great little tune that needs to be heard more often. The fucking guitar riffing alone is killer. The bass and keys follow one another perfectly. The lyrics are dark as hell for such a jaunty tune, and they’re delivered in the style that is quintessentially Jim Morrison. In fact, I’d argue that this song is more The Doors than “Light My Fire”, if that makes any sense.

Well, whatever. Classic Rock radio needs to get on this one.


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