The Go-Go’s were a historic band. There had been other all-female bands, such as Fanny, The Joy Of Cooking and The Runaways, but none had ever had a real hit. The Go-Go’s changed that, managing to combine a fun persona with convincing rock music. Kathy Valentine was the last piece necessary before The Go-Go’s took off, her steady bass combining with Gina Schock’s energetic drumming to fuel the band’s classic songs. So in honor Kathy’s birthday (and The Go-Go’s in general), grab your iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up.
Neko Case — Rated X (The Tigers Have Spoken): This live album showcases, at times, the more purely country aspect of Case. And nothing could be more purely country than a cover of a Loretta Lynn classic. Case tears into it with gusto, showing off the same honky-tonk skills that came to the fore on her debut album, The Virginian.
The Hotrats — Damaged Goods (Turn Ons): This is Gaz and Danny of Supergrass, doing a bunch of covers. The album title is a bit of a tip of the hat to David Bowie’s all-covers album, Pin Ups. On almost every song, the Rats try a different arrangement. Sometimes, the rearrangement is a bit radical, other times it’s slight. It’s almost like they challenged themselves to tweak the songs without destroying what makes them special. That holds true for this Gang Of Four cover. Only at the end do they introduce the familiar jagged guitar, relying on the bass to provide a funk aspect, while accompanying it with an acoustic guitar. This remake eventually comes closer to the original and retains its catchiest elements, making for a nice reinvention.
They Might Be Giants — The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) (Apollo 18): Three covers in a row? Of course, They Might Be Giants reinvent the African song, giving it a faux ’70s R & B vibe and then changing the lyrics up. Moreover, there’s a subtle use of dynamics, with the verses horn fueled, contrasted with the quiet chorus, sung by special guest Laura Cantrell (who later became known for acclaimed alt-country records).
Elton John — I’m Still Standing (Jump Up!): Even as his star waned in the latter half of the ’70s, Elton John still had hit records, they just dwelt in the bottom part of the Top 40. Who would have thought that Elton John would benefit from MTV. While always a flamboyant performer, one would not think a pudgy heading to middle-age pianist could captivate viewers. But this song pretty much revived Elton as a commercial force, because of the dynamic video that managed to have lots of crazy visuals and still showed off the artist’s personality. And the song was pretty damned good too, and a perfect vehicle to launch a comeback.
Supergrass — Moving (Supergrass): The lead track off of the underrated third album from this great British pop band. This album showed the band further moving away from wise ass pop songs and showing a real maturity. Gaz Coombes’ melodies have always had a melancholy undercurrent and this really comes to the forefront. This song starts off pretty and then adds a spirited R & B middle eight, and then bounces from the lusher sounds to the more robust parts. Great track.
Masters Of Reality — Tilt-A-Whirl (Sunrise On The Sufferbus): For a brief period, it looked like Masters Of Reality were going to bring an old school hard rock sound back into vogue. On this second album, Goss signed on legendary drummer Ginger Baker, and this album is the next best thing to a Cream reunion (perhaps even better), with peppy blues based songs that mix a bit of heaviness with a deft touch. Goss has been a direct influence on Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age, who carried on the Masters’ mission of keeping a blues base and traditional ’70s elements in hard rock/heavy metal.
Bad Religion — 21st Century (Digital Boy) (Stranger Than Fiction): This is a mid-tempo rant (as opposed to the band’s usual speedy rants) that became an alternative radio hit in 1994. The song was a re-recording of a song that came out on a prior album. While I love this album (and a lot of Bad Religion fans think that this was the beginning of things going downhill), but think this is actual one of the lesser songs.
Adrian Belew — Laughing Man (Desire Of The Rhino King): This comes from a compilation of Belew’s initial solo records for Island. These albums showed off the three main sides of Belew the solo artist: 1) the guy who was in King Crimson, doing slightly more accessible takes on his work in that band, 2) a Beatles’ loving pop artist with a bit of a psychedelic jones, making memorable songs, and 3) a former Zappa sideman who liked to noodle around with cool guitar sounds. This song fits in Category 3, as it’s a sweet instrumental. The keyboard sound is very reminiscent of Todd Rundgren.
The Easybeats — Let Me Be (The Definitive Anthology): An early Easybeats tune, this is basic blues rock/pop. The song sort of chugs along with a solid vocal from Stevie Wright. This isn’t too far away from what the early Who was doing, but it’s much more subdued.
Generation X — Ready, Steady, Go (Perfect Hits 1975-1981): The band that gave Billy Idol his start seems to have been forgotten. And while they weren’t quite up to the level of Buzzcocks, The Boys and The Undertones, they had a bunch of great poppy punk songs. While Idol didn’t have a great voice, even early on he had the personality. This is nearly bubblegummy, nicking the title from the old UK pop performance show. Fun!