Songs I Wish I'd Written, Pt 1
Prince "Take Me With U"
My favorite songs are like little snow globe villages. That's what this song is to me -- a unique, self-contained universe you can hold in your hand. The lydian string melodies in the verse are unbelievable. The little chiming sound in the outro is pure magic. As the song says, "sheer perfection."
Wish I'd written it.
Lipps Inc "Funkytown"
Every square inch of this song is catchy. The bassline, the little keyboard melody, the sax breaks. There are so many vocal hooks in this thing, any one of them would be good enough to carry a whole song on its own. Ridiculous. Wish I'd written it.
Hot Hot Heat "No Not Now"
I love songs that hit the ground running. This one wastes no time getting you right into the first verse - no preamble necessary. The chorus is one of the greatest choruses I've ever heard and I've tried to re-write it several times. No luck yet.
The spirit of this song is undeniable. Timeless and universal. The recording is flawless. This one will be around for a long, long time. Wish I'd written it.
"The only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud." What a way to kick off a song. This one kills me every time. The feeling that comes off of it is pungent. It's a humid song. It is dirty and sweaty. The whole track is pinned in the red, pushed to the very saturation point. The guitars are gorgeous. I'll stop here.
Tom Tom Club "Genius of Love"
Wish I'd written this. I heard this song for the first time well over a decade after it was made and even then it sounded more than fresh; it sounded futuristic. "Genius of Love" sounds like a strange transmission from another world. What's genius about it is the way it sounds, the way it's delivered. This song wouldn't work if you stripped it down to just an acoustic guitar and vocal; the production is everything.
By the way, I absolutely hate it when music snob types say that any song worth its salt should be able to stand up when performed just with an acoustic guitar and vocal. That's just nonsense. Would Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" hold up in that format? What about Fatboy Slim's "Rockafeller Skank"? Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner"? In rock music, sound is as important as song; sometimes more important.
Daft Punk "Around the World"
This is perfect. A crystal-clear beat, a killer bassline, and a single vocoder-generated lyric: "around the world, around the world. around the world, around the world." That's the song. That's total f-ing genius. I wish I'd written it.
Queen "Another One Bites the Dust"
Queen invoke Chic and nearly beat them at their own game. I just love how, whenever Queen decided to attempt a style of music, they not only succeeded, but they OWNED it. This song's got an unforgettable bassline and a hair-raising vocal. Freddie always outdid himself in the studio. As usual, everyone in the band plays exactly what's right for the song and not a note more than what's necessary. This song changed my life. I wish I'd written it. Then I would have changed my own life.
Jellyfish "Joining a Fan Club"
This song is so rich, so decadent, I almost feel like I'm going to pass out when it's over. I need a cigarette. Outrageous. What's terrifying is that Jellyfish could pull this off live. I wish I'd written "Joining a Fan Club" and I wish I could play it live, too.
Massive Attack "Unfinished Sympathy"
Here's another song that's a triumph of sound and production. Yes, the lead vocal is spine-tingling. But all the other touches are what bring it all home -- the string orchestrations, those little bell sounds, those mysterious samples. This is one of those songs that gives me chills as soon as I hear the intro. I wish I could claim to have recorded something so arresting.
White Zombie "Thunderkiss 65"
It's the most booty-shaking metal song ever. What a great track. Wish I'd written it.
The Cure "Fascination Street"
"Fascination Street" possesses not only one of the greatest basslines in the history of rock, but also a seemingly endless supply of killer riffs, woven together in a dense patchwork of swirling guitars and keyboards. There are enough cool parts in "Fascination Street" for ten songs. But the bassline stays the same throughout, drilling the same six notes over and over, on one string, hypnotizing you, pulling you under. One of many, many Cure songs I wish I'd written.
Smitty's "Crank Up the Radio"
The first time I saw Smitty's they opened with this fist-in-the-air rock anthem and by the second verse I was up in the front row, rocking out, 100% won over. Such a killer energy. Wish I'd written it.
Big Audio Dynamite "Medicine Show"
In the Clash we only got to see a fraction of Mick Jones's talents. "Medicine Show" was the official debut of Mick's unfiltered musical personality, and it shines brightly as such. Such a buoyant track, packed with memorable and colorful lyrics, too.
Fleetwood Mac "Dreams"
Sublime. Stevie's vocal performance is so haunting and fragile. Lindsey's ambient guitar atmospherics are chilling. The recording is immaculate. I wish I'd written and recorded "Dreams."
Chaka Khan "I'm Every Woman"
This song absolutely SLAYS!! Chaka absolutely WAILS! And it just keeps amping up higher and higher in the outro. I wish I'd written this but I'd sound pretty silly singing those words...
Nina Hagen "New York New York"
This is a great song but of course it's Nina's singing that sells it. This is hysterical, ridiculous, genius.
The Cure "Shake Dog Shake"
I've tried to re-write this many times. No luck yet.
King's X "Black Flag"
Such a cool chorus and gorgeous harmonies all over the place. The Beatles/Sabbath fusion is in full effect here. The lyrical imagery is really effective. One of dozens of incredible songs by this band. This is one I wish I'd written.
The Jesus and Mary Chain "Here Comes Alice"
Three chords and vibe for days. The last lines of this song are: "don't let your life be the butt of a joke / get your lips 'round a cool black Pepsi Coke." What are they ON about? What are they ON?! I love this song! I wish I'd written it!
Primal Scream "Swastika Eyes"
The power of "Swastika Eyes" emanates from its lyrics and its sound/production. It's a perfect marriage of those ingredients. This track positively seethes.
Blondie "Heart of Glass"
This was Blondie's finest moment and a world-class pop song. I wish I'd written it.
Nellie McKay "Waitor"
Stunning. I love all the songs on Nellie's debut album, but this one really hits me where I live. It's hard to describe how it makes me feel -- let's just say it makes me FEEL. Alot. I would be thrilled to have written something that did that to people.
Jane Child "Don't Want to Fall In Love"
This is textbook one hit wonder stuff right here. Which is a shame, because Jane Child is a BAD ASS. Phenomenal songwriter, singer, keyboardist, producer. Stuff this sophisticated usually isn't this damn catchy. So clever -- I wish I'd written it.
Terence Trent D'Arby "Wishing Well"
The groove is irresistible. Insidiously catchy and wicked singing. I could see myself writing something like this, but of course I could never deliver it like TTD. Wish I could sing like that.
Doobie Brothers "What a Fool Believes"
This deliriously bouncy and masterfully written tune keeps taking you higher and higher well after the point where you thought you'd reached the peak. I don't own the original version of this but I do have cover versions by Self and Aretha Franklin. Amazingly, Kenny Loggins wrote this!! I wish I'D written it!
Play this at a party and watch the room transform. Undeniable. So simple, there's almost nothing to it. Wish I'd written it.
The Muffs "Sad Tomorrow"
Here's a very very underrated songwriter, Kim Shattuck. Imagine a female Billy Joe Armstrong and you'll be in the ballpark. I happen to think she's better, though. Kim channels alot of classic girl group pop in her tunes, it seems to me. This is a song that makes you want to hit rewind/play a few times before you've had enough.
B-52's "Song For a Future Generation"
Such a clever little ditty. If it doesn't make you smile, then listen to it again. The lyrics are adorable. There's something pure and innocent about the B-52's that you don't see very often in rock.
Big Country "Big Country"
I love the anthemic guitar melodies in this. A euphoric, breath-taking song. I can't say that I know any of this band's other songs, but this one's definitely a winner. I would be happy to have written it.
Marshall Crenshaw "Favorite Waste of Time"
There are only two parts to this song, a verse and a chorus, and that's plenty. The fact that Marshall's label was up for releasing this rough home demo as a B-side on one of his singles is kind of amazing to me. And very cool. It's hard to pick just one Marshall song but this one is right up my alley. Wish I'd written it.
ABBA "Dancing Queen"
Now here's a song that holds up just fine on an acoustic guitar. "Dancing Queen" is a juicy slice of inhumanly virtuosic pop. And it somehow comes off sounding stately...I wish I'd written this song.
Frida "I Know There's Something Going On"
Speaking of ABBA -- this overlooked gem from Frida (one of ABBA's vocalists) has a fantastic drum part courtesy of producer Phil Collins and a chorus to die for. A chorus I wish I'd written.
Jason Falkner "Follow Me"
Jason is nothing less than a master songwriter. I love the serpentine chord changes in the chorus. I wish I'd written many of his songs.
Listening to this is like mainlining adrenaline. The guitar riff is outrageously cool, the groove is massive. I used to play this often in my dj sets at Galapagos. Julian, the sound engineer would always go completely bonkers. How can you not?
Faith No More "We Care Alot"
One of the great sarcastic anthems of all time. A stroke of sheer brilliance. Wish I'd written it.
Motorhead "Rock and Roll"
Only Lemmy could write a song called "Rock and Roll" and have it epitomize the subject in as pure a fashion as is possible. "I got rock and roll / it satisfies my soul / and if that's all there is / that ain't so bad / rock and roll!" I wish I'd written this but then I could never give it the delivery it deserves. Great one, Lem.
Chainsaw Kittens "Sore on the Floor"
It's ferocious, loud and catchy as hell. It positively leaps out of the speakers at you and grabs you by the throat. Most people don't know this song but I wish I'd written it anyway.
Queen "Killer Queen"
I've never heard so many chord changes packed into two minutes, yet this is the breeziest thing to listen to. Freddy Mercury was a genius and he wasn't the only genius in Queen. The amount of combined talent in that band was staggering. "Killer Queen" is not just a great song but a wonderful recording, filled with clever parts and ear candy galore. The guitar solo alone is a study in orchestration. Wish I'd written that.
Fishbone "When Problems Arise"
I just heard this song for the first time three years ago and became obsessed with it. The word "infectious" doesn't do it justice. I wish I'd written it.
The Smiths "The Boy With the Thorn In His Side"
"The boy with the thorn in his side / behind the hatred there lies a murderous desire for love..." The main instrumental theme is as beautiful as can be. I wish I'd written this song but then that wouldn't be right -- only Morrissey can sing this. Wish I was Morrissey.