Today, let’s pay tribute to the drummer of the legendary cult power pop band Big Star. Jody Stephens was the only main stay, other than Alex Chilton, for every iteration of the band. And Jody brought some skills to the table. His work on “Oh My Soul” alone is enough to show how skilled he was, and he certainly influenced future drummers (I would guess Will Rigby of The dB’s learned a thing or two from those first two Big Star records). Jody helps keep the Big Star flame burning and works at Ardent Studios, where the band’s classic albums were recorded. I’d reckon if you stop by there when he was in, if he wasn’t recording some band, he’d probably show you around. Let’s salute Mr. Stephens by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
The Rolling Stones – Miss You (Some Girls): The first big hit off of the Stones last truly classic LP. Back in the day, this tune stirred up a bit of controversy, with the accusation that the song was “disco,” about the most spurious thing you could say about a song in 1978. Primarily, it’s the excellent Bill Wyman song, but otherwise, this is a great Rolling Stones foray into R & B, which I wish they had done more often.
The Vores – Heartbeat (Moment of Uncertainty): A Buffalo, New York post-punk band in the vein of Pere Ubu and Television who didn’t get around to recording a full album until the past decade. And they happened to be a really good band. This tune has a strong bassline and great interplay between the two guitarists, with a slight reggae vibe. Just found out they put out another album last year. I’ll have to check it out.
Earth, Wind & Fire – Got to Get You Into My Life (Greatest Hits): This was originally recorded for the soundtrack of the disastrous Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. It ended up being a decent sized hit for this great Chicago soul band, and since they didn’t actually appear in the movie, they weren’t stained by the association.
Jim Croce – Rapid Roy (That Stock Car Boy) (You Don’t Mess Around With Jim): A typical Jim Croce folk-country story song. Croce really had a great sense of rhythm, which he incorporated into his lyrics. There are some nice internal rhymes that mesh perfectly with the music.
Superchunk – Iron On (Here’s Where the Strings Come In): A sturdy mid-tempo rocker that has all the attributes of a terrific Superchunk tune: sturdy bassline, lead guitar lines in the verses that snake through the bass and rhythm guitar, a rock solid beat, strong melodies and urgent vocals. They make it sound so easy.
Blondie – Fade Away And Radiate (Parallel Lines): An atmospheric tune from Blondie’s masterpiece. Debbie Harry is angelic, singing over Clem Burke’s ominous drums and the effects laden guitars of special guest Robert Fripp of King Crimson. I need to play this on my show sometime.
Rick James – Make Love to Me (Street Songs): Mr. Punk Funk pulls off a Philly disco move on this slick mid-tempo tune from his best album. The lyrics were about as direct as one could be in 1981.
Elastica – Annie (Elastica): They didn’t get sued by Wire for this one, which actually sounds like a cross between Wire and Blondie. Maybe Elastica wasn’t the most original band, but they borrowed exceptionally well. I still fondly remember their gig at Double Door promoting this great debut LP.
The Sights – Sorry (Are You Green?): Apparently this Detroit garage pop band is still a going concern. Their first couple albums blend some bashing retro rock with songs that are either more Kinks/Zombies-type pop or, like this cool tune, more psychedelic.
Blitzen Trapper – Love and Hate (Destroyer of the Void): This is from the album where Blitzen Trapper busted out some prog rock moves, but only on a few songs. One thing I like about this band is how they find different ways to present their song – the core writing is pretty similar, but the varying sonic approaches keep things fresh. At it’s core, this is ‘70s oriented folk-pop, but with heavier guitar and organ parts than normal.