Friday, December 13, 2013

Top 10 First Songs

Last month I posted that I was going to work on Josh's song game and it's been great fun. I made a spreadsheet with every band and artist I could think of that I liked (using things like Jango and Youtube likes to beef the list up) and end up with 232 names in my spreadsheet. Then I went through each one on Wikipedia to find their first song off their first album and gave them all a listen. (I mostly did this while playing Path of Exile!) I assigned each song a letter grade and at the end of it all I had 11 S songs and 34 A songs. When I was putting the grades down I was mostly assuming I'd be listing all of the S ones and then have to pick through the As to make my top 10. Having more than 10 Ses was a little awkward but I decided to just run through all 45 of them again without caring about the initial grade. I made a Youtube playlist!

A lot of the bands on my list I only knew for one song. Typically these were 'one-hit wonders' from the 80s, and I was surprised to find their first songs tended to be the one I knew. In retrospect it shouldn't be that surprising. Most likely these people had one good song and then some label convinced them to make a full album or something. Stick the good song on first so people who pick it up recognize what's going on. I didn't know if I should discount these in the rankings or not. Ultimately I decided not, but mostly because while I liked these songs they just aren't as good as some of the other contenders.

I was also surprised at how many bands started off with either a song called 'introduction' or with a cover of someone else's music. I hate cover songs. Going through this exercise has made me realize it's more I hate things that are wrong and cover songs sound wrong to me. But it's not so much that it's a cover as much as it's different than what I know. So in some cases I do like a cover and the original song is wrong just based on the order I heard them. I know that's not very fair and I stand by the original assertion that I hate cover songs but it isn't quite as black and white as all that. The big one for me in this exercise, oddly, is Paul Simon's first song. I Am A Rock. It's my all time favourite song, but I mean the version done by Simon & Garfunkel. The original (which is really quite similar) just sounds wrong. So wrong I left it off my top 10 here. Which makes me a little sad.

The whole Paul Simon thing illustrates another tricky door... What actually counts as a first song? Should I only have been considering You Can Tell The World, which is Simon & Garfunkel's first song? Did his solo career open him up as a second category? What about the strange case of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship. Should they get three cracks at the list? If so, why shouldn't a band that changed significantly over time get a second crack at it? The Phil Collins led Genesis, or the Stevie Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac. I ended up allowing all second chances and such in, if the name changed, but I think I was a little too critical of them as only one ended up making my list. I think Tom Petty's Free Fallin' probably should have found a spot but I don't know which of the actual first cracks I'd drop for it.

I also wasn't sure what to do about bands I think are awesome but who had a less than stellar initial offering. Soul Deep by Roxette is actually a pretty good song, for example, but I don't know if it would even crack my top 50 Roxette songs. This is the other side of the 'one-hit wonder' coin I guess. I don't know if Animotion should get dinged for only having Obsession in their library and I don't know if Roxette should get dinged for being really awesome later on. I ended up deciding to just go with the song on its merits and in this case it didn't quite make it in. I like Soul Deep, but I suspect I like it because of the other Roxette songs and not so much on it's own.

At any rate... I'm going to include YouTube links for all of them which is going to make the post pretty long. So I'm sticking in a break. Songs to follow!

10 - Evanescence - Going Under

Amy Lee has such a powerful voice and it's certainly on full display in this song.

9 - Arrogant Worms - The Last Saskatchewan Pirate

AAAAAAARRRRR! If you want to reach the co-op boy you've gotta get by me!

8 - Traveling Wilburys - Handle With Care

This one really feels like cheating since the 5 members of this band (George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan) appear to have combined for at least 103 albums before this one. But it's so good! The story of how they got together to do this song and the subsequent albums is worth looking into as well.

7 - Boston - More Than a Feeling

One of my favourite Guitar Hero songs.

6 - U2 - I Will Follow

I can't explain it, but the glockenspiel used in this song is driving me crazy.

5 - The Cowsills - Rain, The Park, and Other Things

I used to listen to the 'oldies' station when I was a kid. I don't know if this song in particular was played a lot there, but this song just sounds like the 60s. I like to think it's about Aeris even though it was written 20+ years before Final Fantasy VII came out.

4 - Avril Lavigne - Losing Grip

6 years ago before Pandora got banned from Canada I remember using it and how it would explain things about songs I liked. Most of the time I like upbeat songs but I remember being surprised at how much I liked a station of downbeat songs. I forget the exact word they used, but whatever it is, this song represents it entirely. It's a perfect whatever it is.

3 - The Beatles - I Saw Her Standing There

Not the absolute best Beatles song, but a pretty good one. How George Harrison gets to be on the list of first songs twice is a little puzzling, but there you have it.

2 - Natalie Imbruglia - Torn

This is the song I mentioned in my first post. I bought this album on tape for the long train ride between Moncton and Waterloo on the way back from Christmas in 1998. I later bought the CD version once my portable music player got upgraded from a tape player to a cd player. Because this is what I listen to on the train, see. 22 hours on loop. Each way. And yes, this song is a cover. But it's the right version, honest!

1 - Heart - Magic Man

Heart has an insane number of awesome songs and this may be the best one.

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