Hey, the Guardians of the Galaxy was great, right? How about that music? Where did they GET that stuff? Um, out of my iTunes and the box full of vinyl in my closet. (Duh.)
I heard the mixtape, enjoyed the mixtape, and knew that I could gild that lily like nobody’s business. I ended up with a 69-song playlist, which, understandably, would take like seven cassette tapes to hold, so I narrowed it down for this discussion to the two dozen songs IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER that I have something to say about (however unnecessary and inane).
1. Queen, “Under Pressure.” If you’re younger and kind of dumb, you may listen to the opening beats of this song and think, “Ice Ice Baby.” That makes you young and dumb. Vanilla Ice lifted that beat from this song. Then he placed it in a pile of Cheetos covered in hot dog water. Not only is this a Queen song (meaning a good song), but it is one featuring David Bowie, which may have made Freddy Mercury reach for higher highs and more perfect vocal riffs than he normally goes for. Oh, you should hear it.
2. Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together.” This is a beautiful song. Whether it would have made this list before Barry Obama let loose with a few notes of this song at a fundraiser, I’m not sure.
3. Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I heard an interview with Mike Myers in which he explained that he began gaining his reputation as a difficult auteur by insisting, against all of the wishes and threats by production suits to use something like Guns N Roses, to use this perfectly wonderfully silly song in his first “Wayne’s World” movie. Can you now imagine that Pacer-driving head-banging scene with any lesser song now? Pffff.
4. James Brown, “Get up Offa That Thing.” Quit feeling sheepish that you first fell in love with this song, first released in the 70s, when you heard it in a children’s animated movie, and embrace it. It was the best thing about that 2005 Robots movie, and it was the best thing about a forgettable 1983 Dan Aykroyd vehicle called Dr. Detroit, which I adored, as I was young and impressionable.
5. Daryl Hall & John Oates, “She’s Gone.” Abandoned Luncheonette, an early Hall & Oates album, was a favorite in our split-level basement when I was DJing. It has the opening phrase “Everybody’s high on consolation,” and only gets better from there. This is not the best Hall & Oates song ever (that would be “Sara Smile”), but it is on the album that we played the most, even though it has a super creepy song about either cradle robbing or straight-up statutory rape on it.
6. Ohio Players, “Fire.” I grew up in Vernonia*, Oregon, a small logging town in the northwest corner of the state. There was no funk there. So I imported some. I would like to say it was a game-changer, but I think Vernonia’s funk moved away with me. Be careful of both the words and the vinyl artwork around impressionable young ears and eyes. Wait – it didn’t hurt me any so go ahead. *No spellcheck ever believes this is a real city name.
7. Steely Dan, “Hey Nineteen.” This song memorably includes the lyrics, “Hey, Nineteen - that’s ‘Retha Franklin. She don’t remember the queen of soul.” This knock on some young bimbo not knowing who* Aretha Franklin was made me determined to have an encyclopedic knowledge of all soul nobility. (Prince, Duke Ellington, others) So, useful. *MS Word insists this should be “whom,” but, ugh. Right?
8. 10cc, “I’m Not in Love.” Of course, The Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape includes this song because it is one of the best things that has ever happened in a recording studio. Just a lovely effect, painstakingly over and overdubbed, tape upon tape, before a thing like that was easy. If you are more interested, go to YouTube and look up “10cc – I’m Not In Love – Making Of Documentary.”
9. Earth, Wind & Fire, “September.” As part of my funk evangelism mission, I danced to this song at a high school talent show. (I'm pretty sure I danced in two talent shows. I don't really remember the other song I danced to. I'm afraid it might have been YMCA. If it was, I apologize.)
10. Redbone, “Come and Get Your Love.” This also was featured in The Guardians of the Galaxy. I mention it here because (a) I heard someone of similar vintage on a pop culture show say that he had somehow missed hearing this in the 70s (WHAT?) and (b) because I loved it so much I bought the whole album (you can see it on the left side of the photo). The album has some interesting native-themed numbers, but nothing else quite as catchy as this. Then again, what could be or would be again ever?
11. Fleetwood Mac, “Chains.” Yes, we had a copy of Rumours in the 70s. It was not mandatory like Frampton Comes Alive, but it was strongly encouraged. No, we didn’t know about the drug-soaked, partner-swapping soap opera in which the album was born, but it was nice to hum along to. I didn’t really think Fleetwod Mac was all that cool until I heard Tusk. Now THAT I liked.
12. Marvin Gaye, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology).” This is also the best song. That is all.
13. Jackson 5, “ABC.” I dare you to sit still and not even wiggle your knee while this song plays. You can’t do it. (If you can, then GET OUT, WITCH.)
14. Stealers Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle With You.” Did you forget about this song? I recommend you pick it back up. I hope it’s on Awesome Mixtape #2. It belongs there. Just try not to sing along when the song comes to a complete stop to say, “Slap you on the back and say, pleeeeeeease, pleeeeease.”
15. Heart, “Crazy on You.” Here is where Ann Wilson earns her rock star wings.
16. Atlanta Rhythm Section, “Spooky.” The little guitar riff along with that simple organ doo doot-doo, doot-doo doo. (I believe that is the correct musical notation.) Indispensable.
17. Bad Company, “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” It’s not all about funk. I was about to add, “let’s add some southern flavor,” but it turns out Bad Company is an English band. I guess I didn’t pay that much attention to the non-funky portions of the 70s radio playlist.
18. Neil Diamond, “Cherry, Cherry.” Neil Diamond seemed like a super-dork trying too hard to be “cool” even when I was in high school, but this song is so happy, I can’t resist it. And it just sounds like orange shag carpet and avocado-colored refrigerators.
19. Electric Light Orchestra, “Don’t Bring Me Down.” This is your obligatory ELO entry.
20. Eagles, “Take it Easy.” This is your obligatory Eagles entry, because (a) Drew requires at least one Eagles song, especially if I refuse to include any Rush songs, and (b) it sounds as 70s as puka shells and bell bottoms.
21. Bill Withers, “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I include this song because I always thought this should be Drew’s constant companion and heartfelt feeling when he was away from me. (No, he did not feel likewise.)
22. The Who, “My Generation.” We listened to a lot of The Who in the basement when I was in high school. This will be the placeholder for the entire collection.
23. Elton John, “The Bitch is Back.” My first big crush was on a bespectacled, closeted, gay man with a weight problem. My first big album purchase was Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road. There are a lot of songs I could choose for my designated Elton John song, but I chose “The Bitch is Back” because it hasn’t become stale through overplaying, it rocks, and it holds up quite well.
24. The Bee Gees, “Staying Alive.” I am the only living human who admits (and embraces) that the disco era was the formative music of her youth. This is the song that I chose to represent my love of all things disco. Oh, that walk. Oh, those paint cans.
I welcome nice notes about how spectacularly right I got this, and which songs I foolishly left off. If you’re interested in hearing more, follow me on Spotify and I’ll hook you up with the Big List. Happy listening.