#100, "Tennessee," Arrested Development (1992)

By way of introduction, I'm going to post a song or two a day until I get to my all-time favorite. I don't know how precise this is. It's my list and I made the rules, so some of the selections are sketchy. I do know that I like "Tennessee" better than "Possum Kingdom" by the Toadies, which was the last track I cut. I'm not sure if I ike "Tennessee" better than "Good Good Things" by Descendents, which was the second-to last song I cut, but Descendents are already on the list. But by the end, I do have a list of 100 (in order) and it's a good list. I also have a Spotify playlist, which I will share later. 

 

Anyway, "Tennessee." I've mentioned before that the 90s were weird, looking back. At once shockingly progressive compared with what came before it but also very quaint compared to contemporary pop culture. A lot of cool stuff that had been bubbling under the surface kind of rose to the top and the best of the alt-hip hop stuff that surfaced was Arrested Development and "Tennessee" was their first and best mainstream single. As primarily an alt-rock fan, for me, the crossover was real and I dug them though I didn't have the money or the motivation to expand my horizons enough to get the album (you don't have to tell me to go get it or whatever, it's still on a long-range to-do list), so this just stands for me as a shining, enduring example of how we thought mainstream music had transcended corporate boundaries. It seemed like a new era.

#99, "Dammit," Blink-182 (1997)

I already posted about how I was in on Blink 182 before you were, even if you don't care. If you do care, I probably ditched them before you did. I was done with them before their second album album came out, so I didn't get into anything off Dude Ranch until Pete and I started ironically listening to their Greatest Hits while playing Super Mario 3. I grew to love this one and "Josie" as my favorite songs by them, period. I almost chose "Josie" instead because of the title but upon serious consideration, this one wins. 

 

I don't feel like I "grew up" per se until I left grad school after my mom passed and started my first full-time job, at which time I was already in my late 20s. It was around that time where I felt like I was less in contact with my best ladypals from high school (with whom I jammed out to the first Blink album, attended the only concert at which I ever saw them). Pete and I were going through some personal stuff. I was in the midst of a big post-parent-loss depression I didn't even realize was happening and definitely drinking too much. I had unchecked thyroid issues, gained a bunch of weight. I dunno, it was a weird time.

 

I recall distinctly talking to my best friend on the phone in a cab on the way back from a business trip about what she was going to do with her life next. I thought about this song and wanted to sob so hard. Which is so dumb and embarrassing because "I guess this is growing up" was probably a throwaway anthemy/breakthrough/intentional sellout hit chorus line to Blink but to paraphrase Arrested Development, at the time, it meant a great deal to me.

#98, "Float On," Modest Mouse (2004)

I don't think any of the songs on this list were released after 2004 and creating the list prompted me to wonder why. What *happened* in 2004? Well, sir. The first Electric Grandmother show was on June 9, 2004. It occurred to me that after we started playing out and going to local bands' shows, we both lost interest in mainstream popular music. This makes so much sense to me and I'm going to go with this theory. 

 

Pete, however, thinks it's because the 90s really were the last great decade, which must be somewhat true because he didn't just make that up. Even if true, I think the big exceptions to this theory is clearly that cool little postpunk revival that happened in the early part of the 2000s. It seemed like every day some new band popped up and surprised you with some weird, amazing music. These songs always remind us of our first apartment in Columbus together (actually in the suburb of Westerville) and whenever a song from this era comes on, we know the other is thinking of those sepia-toned images from that apartment that was too big for us to keep clean, when we were eating sauteed chicken with cream of broccoli soup, going to school, and learning how to drink on Smirnoff Ice. 

 

Of course Modest Mouse had been around for a while before this song was released but as far as I know this was the first "big hit" they had. I went out and bought the album myself on behalf of our household, which was unusual because Pete usually took the lead on this stuff. I think on that same trip I also bought the album from that band Thursday but I don't remember anything about that band. Pete called them my "experimental purchases." As I recall, I enjoyed the album pretty well, but it didn't really take. This song endures, though. At my last birthday karaoke party a friend put this song on, I lost my mind, and jumped on the mic. The hook is really the only part of the song that's particularly musical, but I think that's part of its magic. The verses are clunky and aggressive but the lyrics are self-deprecating and the chorus is such an earworm. It's so odd and so excellent.

#97, "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)," En Vogue (1992)

This song is 100% the summer of 1992 along with a handful of others (e.g., "Life Is a Highway" comes to mind immediately). The summer of 1992 was very boring and didn't mark any particular milestones, so I watched a lot of MTV. Those in a similar position at the time might recognize the fact that "My Lovin'" was one of those they played every hour. And I don't blame them because both En Vogue and this song are AMAZING. They deserved to be played every hour. Just--just look at it. 

 

Every single one of the En Vogues are impossibly beautiful, each in a distinct way. And you cannot deny that their songs aren't wonderful. I could have also picked "Free Your Mind" for this list, but decided on the first of the Funky Divas singles. It edges the other out. Both are so, so good. I remember at the time talking to a Grunge Boy about how despite being grungy myself, I loved En Vogue and would fight him over it. He predictably gave me a little shit and I figured he couldn't understand. I think En Vogue did not appeal to boys of his kind, but appealed to the vast majority of adolescent girls. 

 

20-odd years later, Pete and I decided to eat-in at a Pizza Hut. On impulse. We wanted to get Pan Pizzas and drink soda out of those giant red cups. Neither of us had been in like ten years, so we thought it would be a fun, retrofabulous experience. We knew very well we could get better pizza elsewhere, but didn't want better pizza, we wanted Pizza Hut. We became giddy when we saw they had a working jukebox. I scurried on over and after a few minutes decided on this one. It started: Oooooooooh--BOP. And he cracked up (audibly from across the dining room we pretty much had to ourselves) because it was so perfect. 

 

I guess all of En Vogue made a made-for-tv Christmas movie a few years ago. I never watched it. The wind was taken out of my sails when I realized it was probably pretty religious. But I'm glad to know they're all still best friends.

#96, "Idioteque," Radiohead (2000)

I see that Radiohead's Kid A was released in October 2000. Yes, perfect. Life was really good. I was about to graduate from college and was applying to grad schools. The last major chapter of my mesoadulthood was winding down. 

 

I liked Radiohead a lot. I thought and still think OK Computer is a perfect album (maybe near-perfect. I still haven't budged on "Fitter Happier"). "Fake Plastic Trees" is one of the most sadly/sweetly romantic songs I've ever heard. So I was excited about Kid A. 

 

Pete bought it and listened before I had a chance. When asked what he thought of it, he said "It's really good. Dancier than you'd expect." I wondered aloud: "It's dancier AND it's better?" Pete was like "I know." It was a transitional time for us, where we were kind of moving away from a narrow punk rock focus for a variety of reasons but to that point (believe it or not) dance music was sort of forbidden. I struggle to explain this. I think the best way to try and do so is by example: at punk shows in the late 90s (after slam dancing went out of style but before it was ok to dance-dance), you were supposed to stand there staring at the band with your arms crossed, MAYBE nodding your head ever so slightly. Best not to show too much enthusiasm. Ugh, it was so oppressive. Giving into dance was very freeing. It was like it was ok to have fun.

 

Kid A in general and Idioteque in particular started to change all of that. I can't credit Radiohead on their own, but I credit Kid A-era Radiohead, Bob Mould's solo album Modulate, and Le Tigre's first few records for eventually leading me to prefer drum machines and synthesizers over drums and guitars. Electric Grandmother was born right before this era, an electronic solo project by necessity (since Pete had no band mates but still needed to write), but also by influence.

#95, "Nuthin' But A "G" Thang," Dr. Dre (1992)

In 1992, I was 13 years old, so my rap exposure was limited to mostly Hammer and Vanilla Ice and Another Bad Creation and Salt-N-Pepa and probably Kris Kross and TLC by that time? It certainly did not include NWA or anything Eazy E related. In other words, rap and hip hop was party music and ultimately as non-threatening as Boyz II Men. I recall having a vague sense that Gangsta Rap existed and was maybe even familiar with Ice-T because of Body Count and probably because of the news. It's hard to say, things were moving very quickly at the time. I knew of Ice Cube, at minimum because of Boyz in the Hood. 

 

What I do recall is "G Thang" being played (once again) every hour on MTV and it was so badass and so dangerous and so naughty, it appealed very much to a young teenaged white girl going to catholic school, living in suburban Honolulu. The hook itself was very dangerous. It sounded very serious despite being so infectious, almost like if gang-related murder sounded like music, it would sound like the hook from "G Thang." It's the kind of thing where you could see joining a gang because of that sound.

 

The B side of the cassingle was the instrumental and it got to the point where I could rap the whole thing along in my head. We've never done it for karaoke before, but I can still hang in there on Dr. Dre's part and Pete can do Snoop (fitting on both accounts I think). We will rap along when watching the video at home on Friday nights though. And laugh at The refrigerator in the "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" video that's full of 40s.

#94, "Intergalactic," Beastie Boys (1998)

One of the hardest things about putting this list together was to select a song by an artist that inherently deserves a place on this list but doesn't have a standout song. Some artists suffered from this so hard, I just left them off (sorry, Whitney). With others, I selected a song that maybe I like better than your average person by way of tie-break. For the Beasties, it was between "Sabotage," "So Whatcha Want" and "Intergalactic" and I chose the latter because I have a special relationship with it. 

 

Upon reflection, this song makes me sentimental for a lot of reasons. The Beasties were past their prime by this time. To the point that when I heard they'd be releasing a new album I kind of wondered why. It seemed like their time had passed and it was time for them just to be happy and rich, semi-retired family men (though I have to laugh at this now because they were much younger than I am now when they released it). And then they came out with Hello Nasty which was a very solid effort. I guess it was hard to imagine that they'd be able to follow Ill Communications up because it was a perfect album for its time. This somehow made the Beasties seem like underdogs and I was rooting for them because that's what I do. "Intergalactic" was the lead single and America was immediately sold.

 

I'm also still sad about MCA. I think most of us are. The park in Brooklyn dedicated to his memory was not far from Josie's apartment, so I kind of associate Josie and MCA with each other. Also, if you've read the Beastie Boys Book and seen the documentary, you get a sense of how heartbroken the surviving Boys are by his loss, not just as a creative partner, but as a brother. My bandmate and I have been together almost as long as the Beastie Boys have been and hearing their voices break when they talk about losing MCA is a gut punch. Hello Nasty is the last great album they put out. I don't think I even listened to their post-Nasty stuff so to me, this album and the videos they released from it are MCA's swan song. What a way to go out.

#93, "What's Going On," Marvin Gaye (1971)

We were heavy into this album two and a half years ago when we went on tour with Loi Loi over Thanksgiving, hitting Chapel Hill, Charleston, and Raleigh. We met up with them midway through their tour. We couldn't get the rental car to sync up to our phones, so we stopped in a Target on the way and bought a portable bluetooth speaker so that we could listen to our own shit. It was Black Friday. We were desperate. The speaker would fall off the dash if I turned the steering wheel slightly and would occasionally hit the wiper control, which became a source of amusement as we got more road-weary. We listened to What's Going on and Paul Simon's Graceland on the way down. We listened to other stuff too, but those two are burned on my memory. We also listened to the entirety of Whitney Houston's Bodyguard Soundtrack (not to be confused with Electric Grandmother's Bodyguard Soundtrack) and Metallica's Black album at 3:00 AM driving back to DC. It was a memorable trip. And that little speaker was a valuable investment. We use it all the time to this day.

 

Though I like the title track best, I have another strong connection to "Mercy Mercy Me" because of the cover that was released and played on pop radio in the early 90s because they decided Earth Day was going to be marketable. I never thought to look up who did that version until just this minute and I guess it was Robert Palmer (?!). Anyway, I remember my mom, who was somehow unfamiliar with the original remarking about the 1991 version "this song is cute--it's about the environment." And that was one of my first realizations of political music other than vague references to justice like you'd find in "Imagine" by John Lennon, which I think is the poster child for Basic Policial Music. 

 

Also I've never seen this video, evidently official, released last year. It's great.

#92, "Tony Adams," Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros (1999)

If the world is too much for you, there is no better medicine than Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. I love the Clash dearly, but JSatM is Joe Strummer stripped of all the bullshit that punk brings with it. Joe was humbled by the dissolution of his life's work and what's left is just Joe being Joe, stroking your hair and not guaranteeing that it'll be ok, but promising to protect you. 

 

Playing these records is something of a bat signal in my household. If either one of us are having a hard time, we put it on, and the other is instantly aware of the hard time. Not just the hard time, but the desire and inclination to fix the hard time, which is a wholly positive signal. I was feeling kind of crummy about everything this past Saturday afternoon and without saying a word, Pete put on Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. 

 

This song is the first track from their first album, which came out in 1999, THIRTEEN YEARS after the Clash officially broke up in 1986. That's a long hiatus, during which he didn't produce much quality creative stuff. What you hear in the Mescaleros' debut is a triumphant return, which suggests to me that Joe doesn't create unless he can confidently tell you something you need to know. <br>

The thing I remember most from the Joe Strummer documentary The Future is Unwritten is the scene where he's trying to get people to come to a Mescaleros show in Atlantic City. The act is painted as fundamentally depressing (it's Atlantic City), as if his past glory is meaningless. Joe goes about it in typical Joe style, where he's handing out flyers in good humor with total self-awareness so that there's a tinge of sadness about it. But he pushes through. 

 

Wikipedia tells me that "Tony Adams" wasn't the first and only single to be released from Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, but it's such a standout, I feel almost moved to not believe The Source. The rest of the album is just OK. As an album, Global A Go-Go is much stronger.

 

I was Today Years Old when I learned that Tony Adams the person was an English footballer who struggled with addiction but overcame in heroic fashion (which again, I never really thought to look into until just this minute). I think Joe was also singing about himself after the Clash broke up. He was also singing about the United States in 2020, healing after the death of your heroes, losing a parent or a beloved pet. It fits just about everywhere you need it to.

#91, "Lookin' Out My Back Door," Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970)

This is actually a song I didn't initially include on my list but I switched it out for something dumb that I'd initially put in to mix things up a little (it was by the Bouncing Souls and it's a great song, but probably not top 100). So it's a cheat, but it belongs here. 

 

For a long time, I liked Creedence like I like Whitney Houston, from here on forever my touchstone for having a general love of a band without being able to pick a single song. But my mom pointed out how odd the lyrics are and I started thinking about it harder. The chorus is infectious as well, but that's kind of par for the course with Creedence. 

 

Even my mom said this was about drugs. My parents are in that meaty part of the curve, old boomers who graduated college in 1969 or so. But they didn't dick around the states after that so it's hard to say if they would have tried the common drugs of the era when they came of age. I got the impression my mom tried pot, but my dad has remained silent on the matter. In any case my mom wasn't particularly cool or uncool when it came to this stuff among parents. But she was sure. 

 

TYPICAL BOOMER ARROGANCE. As it turns out this is a song for Fogerty's then three-year-old son. I like that way better. 

 

How great is it that they're from San Francisco and not somewhere in Louisiana? I love that about CCR, fake twang and everything. I wish I could go back in time and pretend like Electric Grandmother is from somewhere else. 

 

I think like a lot of people I associate this song not just with my own experience listening to it as a fan of CCR but heavily with the Big Lebowski. The music in the film is always perfectly placed, but this one stands out, when the Dude is looking at Larry Sellers' homework and the cuts to each of his teacher's angry critiques on Larry's analysis of the Louisiana Purchase timed perfectly with the guitar in the bridge. So good. 

 

Almost unrelated, I have a very clear memory sitting with Pete in the Lennox Shopping Center Champs near the Ohio State campus. We were there for dinner and it was in the thick of Hurricane Katrina. I heard "Bad Moon Rising" playing and it occurred to me that the song "predicted" Hurricane Katrina. I mean, I knew it didn't, but it seemed uncanny. I also think of Andre Rison because of his nickname and subsequently Left Eye and get a little sad. I guess "Bad Moon Rising" could maybe have made this list too, but it's not as good as "Looking Out My Back Door," no sir.

#90, "Why Bother?," Weezer (1996)

I am a Blue Album person. And in fact I didn't own or listen to Pinkerton until well into the 2000s. I enjoyed El Scorcho as a single very well, but had kind of moved on from the mid-90s alt rock connecter piece between grunge and pop punk by the time Weezer released Pinkerton. 

 

I feel like Pinkerton enjoyed a renaissance during the early-mid 2000s after the Green Album was released. And by this time, I was ready for Weezer again. I loved Green and decided to give Pinkerton (should be called Pink for short) a shot. 

 

For a minute, Pinkerton displaced Blue as my favorite (the ranking has since self-corrected). Is this common? For a while, I thought that Pinkerton was the more common choice but then in 2010 Weezer did that thing where the fans voted on a Blue or Pinkerton tour and Blue buried Pink. I was surprised. Pitchfork wrote about Pink: "The album that killed Weezer's career ended up saving it." This was also in 2010, which I think was true from a Pitchforky perspective at the time. Today it's like "The album that killed Weezer's career saved it and then aged in a very, very troubling way." 

 

Yeah, Pink is an uncomfortable listen. But "Why Bother?" is as good as ever. My clearest memory of enjoying this song was in 2004-05 or so. It was a random (possibly week-) night at Andyman's Treehouse in Columbus during the stretch when we practically lived there. This was because we were playing there a lot but also because it was during the time in our life when we could just hang out until 2 at a bar on a weeknight due to tenuous employment and--idk--a sense of invincibility? Someone put this song on and everyone in the crowded bar sang it at the top of their lungs. Looking back, this is a top-five defining moment of this era, along with staying up all night so that Gretchen could take Pete and I to the airport for an early flight home the following day and drinking Bomb Pops with Pete, Shaun, and Tonya to oblivion on the 4th of July.

#89, "Ms. Jackson," OutKast (2000)

I am an extremely casual hip-hop fan. It isn't my favorite genre, but I enjoy it and have always felt inclined to follow pop hip-hop as long as I followed pop music. In my memory, Outkast broke through at the exact moment we needed them. 

 

I've mentioned that 2000 was a transitional year for me and my memory has been refreshed that "Ms. Jackson" was released in October of that year, coincidentally the same month Radiohead's "Idioteque" was released. Huh. As I mentioned in that post, life was good. I was in the process of graduating from college, Pete and I were really getting to know each other and ourselves as a couple. It was like a fog was lifting, where we were emerging from a difficult time and could see a future for ourselves.

 

I think Ms. Jackson is kind of emblematic of that both personally and in terms of music culture as a whole. I think the late 90s was a low point. I recall being in my first year of college and it randomly occurring to me that Third Eye Blind had replaced the bands I loved in high school as what was "happening" in rock music and it shook me. Like, a sudden realization that everything had turned to shit. Does that happen to everyone? I remember posting once on Facebook about how I felt lucky to have entered high school in 1993 because my salad days were richer than those 4-5 years younger than I and a handful of friends 4-5 years younger than I called bullshit and thought THEY were lucky to not have to endure grunge music in their formative years. I guess it's a matter of perspective. 

 

I've mentioned that during the early 2000s, all music seemed to improve in a coordinated way. I think it's the same for hip hop as it was for rock music with the post punk revival and I think Outkast lead the pack on the hip hop side. 

 

The OTHER thing that I think of when I think of this time and this song is that we had recently been blessed by MTV2 being added to our cable package. A common complaint about MTV is that they stopped playing music, switching entirely to garbage reality-style programming. I'm not sure if MTV2 was started to respond to these complaints, but it was the logical explanation at the time. When it was first introduced, they didn't seem to *have* a lot of options. Or maybe they were just trying to mimic MTV1's start. They played an eclectic mix of old shit and we ate it up. We spent all of our spare time watching it (in our underwear, in Pete's tiny apartment, eating sugar-free popsicles). Eventually their rotations stabilized and they started showing contemporary videos, including this one. And this one got the every-hour treatment just like in the old days. Somehow MTV2 eventually became all reality-style shows too. It's hard to believe that given all the vocal complaining about their programming, they'd still switch from a mostly-videos format, but I guess that's a decent metaphor for Our Times.

 

Anyway, I love this song. It's honest, it's soulful, it's just really good. Kelly has been saying as she's composing her list that she has to ask herself whether she likes the song that much, or just really likes the video. Then she suggested that we do a video list next. This one is guaranteed to make both lists. It's brilliant.

#88, "Safe European Home," The Clash (1978)

Give 'Em Enough Rope is my favorite Clash album which I think is less unusual than I initially thought but I still think the album is fairly underrated. Rolling Stone has their original review of Give online and it's very lukewarm. Well, maybe they didn't know any better. I also don't think I've heard anyone else claim it before. Maybe I just haven't done a thorough enough canvassing. Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments. 

 

That said, I wouldn't put it too far in front of London Calling, Sandinista, and the Self-Titled. Those four are all solid A/A+ efforts. "Safe European Home," however, is the best Track One of any Clash record and probably any record, period. Probably. 

 

I love how it starts with such energy. Like before the song starts everyone's at the starting line and they shoot an inaudible starter's pistol. Then the song starts. I love it. It's a great first-thing-in-the-morning song. Gets you going. 

 

I 100% credit Pete with getting me into the Clash. I think I've mentioned before that when I met him, I enjoyed the contemporary punk of the mid-90s, but hadn't heard much of the 70s stuff beyond "Anarchy in the UK" and assorted Ramones songs, while it was Pete's main bag. He brought me along, starting with the Clash. The first mixtape he gave me included "Lost in the Supermarket" and "White Riot." "White Riot" made sense to me but "Lost" struck me as not sounding like any punk I knew, all mellow and feely as it was. But even at that point in their careers, they were way more punk than, say Rancid. It's a good lesson for life.

 

Pete told me long ago and this was mentioned also in the Clash documentary Westway to the World that this song recounts Joe and Mick's trip to Jamaica to go on a songwriting retreat. They were kind of taken aback by how unpleasant the experience was, as white tourists in an impoverished country. I think they also thought they were cool enough to hang but nobody gave a shit about the Clash there. Much as I was impressed by how far "Lost in the Supermarket" was from the typical punk sound I was accustomed to, the humility plainly laid out in "Safe European Home" is impressive given the tough-guy perception punk is sometimes unfairly subject to. 

 

Paul Simonon is still pretty mad about not being invited to go to Jamaica with Mick and Joe, despite all this.

#87, "Redemption Song," Bob Marley (1980)

I've been dreading this write up for a couple of reasons. First, it's an uninspired pick. Everyone loves this song of course, it's a classic. Also I am bothered by how in the late 90s reggae was co-opted by frat boys and the Legend picture of Bob Marley became a dorm room staple. That's gross. 

 

Second, have you seen the Marley documentary? It was released in 2012 and I can't recommend it because it left a very long, very lasting bad taste in my mouth. Bob Marley wasn't good to the women in his life. 

 

Also my context for loving this song is very specific to my experience. Reggae was everywhere in Hawaii in the 80s and 90s to the extent where I almost resented it before I fully understood it. As a teenager when I was getting into ska and learning the history of ska and reggae, I began to love it and particularly the Legend Collection as well as other compilations from his early, suit-wearing days. 

 

But goddamn if I don't really and truly love this song to my core. It's a song about history, mortality, and self-reflection. It's beautifully done. In producing the album on which it originally appeared, they recorded two versions, one with just Bob on the acoustic guitar and one with the full band, with the intention that they'd use the full band version. Because the acoustic solo version was so powerful in its simplicity, it was the version that ended up on the album. It was also the final song last album he released before he died. Shit, man. 

 

I love the Joe Strummer cover of it. LOVE IT. It was posthumously released on his FINAL album with the Mescaleros, likely recorded in the same spirit Bob Marley did. I can only recommend giving it a listen if you want to barf from sadness.

#86, "Punk Rock Girl," Dead Milkmen (1988)

Last night I came out as someone who is not a fan of Elvis Costello and asked people to comment and then I got up this morning to 30-odd comments about how good Elvis Costello actually is. And today I'm going to come out as someone who isn't a fan of the Dead Milkmen, so I guess we're doing this again. As with Elvis Costello, I've tried and failed to get into the rest of their catalog. I don't think I'm beyond help in either case. I overcame this issue with Talking Heads recently, so I can keep trying. 

 

This song came out in 1988 but it was generously in heavy rotation on Radio Free during the 90s, so I associate it with high school. It's a jokey song, but I think it's crazy romantic. It was exactly what I wanted out of a relationship. Me and a cute guy, going around town, committing harmless acts of terrorism (apart from the stolen car, which I guess is less harmless). Those aspirations eventually came to fruition. I shared this song with Pete early on in our relationship, as if to say "look, see this is a blueprint for what we can be." I don't know if he took it that way, but he adopted the role naturally. 

 

Another thing I like about this song is the references to real stuff in Philadelphia. When I was in high school, my grandma moved in with my aunt who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, not terribly far from Philadelphia. We would visit summers and spent most of the time around my aunt's house because my grandma wasn't super mobile. My favorite times during these trips is when we would visit Seaside Heights, New Hope, and South Street. South Street was so fucking cool to me as a teenager! The incense store! The hat store! The hippie restaurants! And of course, Zipperhead, which is now named Crash Bang Boom. I am delighted to find that it's still with us. Pete and I visited Crash Bang Boom on a weekend trip in 2013, which I think was for our 10th wedding anniversary. I think anymore these kinds of shoppes are a dime a dozen, so it was a bit of a letdown. I've wondered why on earth they'd change their name but today I learned that "zipperhead" is a racial slur and I'm very sad about that. Anyway Zipperhead gets a shout out in this song as well as a pizza place that is no more. 

 

Recently, I think knowing that I'd include this song on this list, Allison offered to give me a Minnie Pearl commemorative plate, which was an amazing gesture I had to turn down. Also there's a reference to "California Dreamin'" by the Beach Boys, which is so funny. When we played with Theophobia in Brooklyn, someone inexplicably put "California Dreamin'" on the jukebox. We were talking to Dylan at the time and she was in the middle of saying something else when she interrupted herself and said "Oooh, Beach Boys." I will never ever forget that. I don't know whether that was on purpose or not. It kind of doesn't matter.

#85, "Heroin," The Velvet Underground (1967)

Kelly started posting her list today so I'm celebrating by making today a two-fer. I also enjoy the comedy of posting "Punk Rock Girl" and "Heroin" on the same day. I don't think I planned this when I put these songs back-to-back on my list. I wish I did.

 

I think of myself as a late-adapter to the Velvets, but that's not true. I'm a *slow* adapter. I got into the Andy Warhol banana album in grad school almost 20 years ago. As I was getting into it, I didn't think I would love anything more than I loved that album. Then for a while nothing happened until fiveish years ago I entered my Transformer phase and didn't see loving anything more than that ever. Now I'm in my Loaded phase and it is the very height of western cultural achievement. In a few years I expect to enter my Berlin phase, and so on it will go. 

 

I love "Heroin," though. Because of its age, it seems a little cliched to describe it as something that starts really slow and whips itself into a frenzy. I think Lou was trying to recreate the experience of taking heroin while telling you with words how much he loves it. That sounds so stupid, but it works so incredibly well.

 

I don't, as a rule, like songs about heroin. I think the 90s killed the concept. By the time I heard the 19th Alice in Chains song about heroin I'd had enough. But most of them are all wrapped up in stupid metaphors. Not this song. It's like Lou has your face between his two palms and speaking words he can't possibly state more clearly "Heroin. Is. Great."

#84, "One Step Beyond," Madness (1979)

I think, I *think* we have gotten to a point where one's love of ska music needs no defense or canned disclaimer about how first and second wave should be thought of in a completely different category from Save Ferris and lord help us, No Doubt and Smash Mouth (the latter two of which I still don't even think of in the same breath as third wave ska but they tell me it qualifies). So I won't bother with that. 

 

Madness is known best for "Our House" which is completely fair I even though I prefer "One Step Beyond." Madness is also probably the second-best known 2Tone band (behind the Specials) but skimming through a list of notable singles only "One Step Beyond," "Welcome to the House of Fun," and "Night Boat to Cairo" sound strictly like ska to me. The rest of them are poppy new wavey songs like "Our House," "It Must Be Love" and the like. 

 

This isn't a criticism. I'm a ska apologist but I think unless it's coming out of Jamaica in the 1960s, it can only be tolerated for so long, which is probably why people think they hate ska. So my thought is that Madness evolved into a pop outfit may have been a very wise act of self-preservation. Also, their pop songs are really very good. 

 

Anyway, "One Step Beyond." When I first heard it as a third-wave baby in high school, I couldn't believe how fucking bad-ass it was. Is this song an instrumental? I don't know. I was going to say that it's the only one on my top 100, but there are technically words to it. The very best part of this song is the iconic, semi-spoken-word introduction: "hey you, don't watch that, watch this. This is the heavy heavy monsta sound" and so on. This is evidently unique to the Madness version, so good on ya, Madness. Following that, only the words "one step beyond" and those ska sounds you make with your mouth appear on the vocal track but that's it. It's at least mostly an instrumental. It's delivered with such confidence. I learned today that it's a Prince Buster cover which makes total sense. That's why they were so sure of themselves. 

 

This would be one of those that would also appear on my favorite videos of all time. It's not a particularly artful video, but it's amazing. I wish when we visited London two years ago I'd thought to look up shooting locations for this video because the bar in which a lot of this video takes place is still open. I wonder if that stairwell looks the same! Damn, I miss travel. The outdoor shots in this video make me want do go back so bad. Look at how gritty and Londony it looks! Ugh, fuck Covid, man. 

 

Another remarkable feature of this video is Madness themselves. What a bunch of affable dorks! I'll get to the Specials later on but just want to point out that the Specials (Madness's most comparable contemporaries) were undeniably cool with their suits and their sunglasses and hats and serious expressions. That's great for them and make them a better band, ultimately, but I identify more with Madness's unbridled spirit. The best part is at about the 2:18 mark in which you can see a member who I believe is Mark Bedford looking deadpan into the camera and skanking with only his arms in front of a neon light background. It's so uncomfortable and I wish he would look away but he doesn't and this shot goes on for way too long (in reality only six seconds, but I think it's the longest six seconds in music video history). 

 

Two more thoughts on Madness. I recently Audibled Michael Caine's memoir on a recommendation and he talks about the "Michael Caine" song that Madness put out in the context of impressions of Michael Caine saying his own name being a Thing (I was not previously aware of this Thing). He recorded the spot with the band because at the time his 12 year-old-daughter was very much into Madness and urged him to play along. Michael Caine is a good man, I would definitely recommend the book. Finally, Morrissey's 1992 single "You're the One for Me, Fatty" is about Madness's lead singer. ONLY Morrissey could get away with writing such a dumb song about an inside joke with a personal friend and pack the house for a performance on Hangin' with MTV. God, I love to hate that man.

#83, "Other 99," Big Audio Dynamite (1988)

Today I was supposed to do "Mayonnaise" by Smashing Pumpkins but I am so tired of talking about Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan in particular that I banished them from my list and added an essential tune that I'd forgotten about earlier in the countdown. I'll come clean when we get to that one. I felt I should let you know. 

 

Last week was Joe Strummer week, as it included a Mescaleros song, a Clash song, and a song Joe covered with the Mescaleros which I mentioned in the write up. I love Joe obviously but in the Clash continuum I'm really more of a Mick person. I tend to like his Clash tunes a hair better and I LOVE Big Audio Dynamite. 

 

Does anyone else? I feel like they're underrated but don't actually know. Pete likes them of course but Natalie is the only person outside of my household I can recall ever mentioning them. Is it because they haven't really toured the United States probably since the 90s (apart from maybe an appearance at Coachella or something)? Or is it because they were kind of the Sublime of the 80s in that they shoehorned every musical genre they liked into one project? It is a lot. Chaotic. There are a lot of samples. They were both dancey and political before that was fashionable. 

 

When I first started listening to them in the early 2000s, I recognized "Rush" but couldn't place it. Later I realized that a version of it appeared on the So I Married an Axe Murderer soundtrack, which I owned (it's used in the butcher shop montage for those familiar with the film). "Rush" probably should have been the one to represent BAD on my top 100 list because it is so good, but I have a lot of songs on this list that are the band's biggest hit and wanted to give myself more credit as a BAD fan than that. 

 

BAD has a ton of great videos! Unfortunately they did not make a video for this particular song, but you should watch them if you are even a little interested. They're weird and theatrical and make excellent use of costumes. I don't know where this came from because the Clash were so straight laced and Mick was famously impatient with this stuff (or maybe just extremely moody). Either way, they're great. 

 

Regarding "Other 99," this track is in my top-two BAD songs because it's musically on point but mainly because of the lyrical content. Essentially: don't beat yourself up for not being the best. I think that attitude has come into fashion recently and we will be happier, more centered people because of it. Moving from a place where we are prioritizing ambition and success (however one defines it, monetarily, creatively, in terms of one's career trajectory, etc.) ahead of relationships and emotional well-being. Like, you even see professional athletes choosing to be there for the birth of their child instead of playing in a playoff game. That's great and increasingly normal. I can only imagine how novel it was in 1988, knowing how odd it struck me 20 years ago when I began to digest this concept.

#82, "Wish," Nine Inch Nails (1992)

When I think of Nine Inch Nails, the first thing I think of is my best friend and her major Trent Reznor celebrity crush from our high school days. She had a type and Trent fit it perfectly. I also think of being at those interminable weekend play practices and playing the very end of "Closer" on the auditorium's ancient piano, which Alison had picked up by ear out of boredom. If you know Alison, you'd be as tickled by this as I am because she is one of the most pleasant (and at least in high school, least-depressive) people you'd ever want to meet. But Trent was her thing. 

 

Nine Inch Nails really does have a very gloomy catalog. I don't particularly like gloomy music anymore, though I very much loved it in high school. Pete had a streak in the late-2000s where he briefly got back into NIN, listened to the albums on regular rotation. It was exhausting! It's not that I can't be a gloomy person when the mood and environment strikes me but I don't *like* feeling this way, so I don't find myself wallowing in this spirit. I'm more solutions-oriented than that. NIN isn't solutions-oriented. It's too heroiny. 

 

"Wish," however, is an unqualified jam. I don't normally notice these things but I feel like it's the most ostentatiously-produced song in the history of music (maybe "Love Will Tear Us Apart" has a counter-argument here). That non-sound in the intro? What is that? It sounds like it's coming straight from hell--legitimately--not like in a Judas Priest way. The volume changes are grizzly and it should be irritating but it somehow really really works. Also, outside of David Bowie's entire catalog is there a mainstream rock song that sounds more like it was written on Mars? This isn't a song, it can't be! 

 

The lyrics are fairly typical NIN fare, maybe more on the angry end of the gloomy spectrum. I can appreciate the many different ways Trent finds to say "fuck you" in this song. The best of which: "Gotta listen to your big time, hard line, bad luck--fist fuck!" followed by "Don't think you're having all the fun? You know me, I hate everyone!" Hahahahahaha! "I hate everyone!" Trent, you are the absolute living end. 

 

The video is just disgusting. Fittingly so! Is there a sweatier video in music video history? I don't think so. They all look like a writhing mass of parts. It isn't filmed in black and white, is it? Everything is just naturally near-black and white. It's perfect. 

 

I just listened to this song to make sure I got the punctuation on the lyrical excerpts above right and now I'm going to listen to it eight more times.

#81, "Space Junk," Devo (1978)

Like most people who hadn't given it much thought, I didn't think of Devo as being much beyond "Whip It." Pete was a fan when I met him and when he mentioned it, I started to say "you mean that 'Whip It' band--?" and he cut me off because that's what everyone says. Fair. He put some tracks on early mixtapes and I quickly became a fan as well. 

 

I do celebrate much of Devo's catalog and it was a little hard to pick one. I have favorites, but no one specific one. I selected "Space Junk" because it was probably the deepest cut of the bunch. Second place goes to "Mongoloid," which I would suspect is a lot of people's favorites. I tried to get Pete to cover that one. I'd even roughly planned visuals for it. It was going to be about how Danny Tanner is the subject of the song but Pete flatly said "I'm not covering Devo" and that was it. I could have also selected "Uncontrollable Urge" or "Freedom of Choice," which would have been less fun to write about. 

 

I also could have very easily picked "Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)" from their 2010 album, a surprisingly strong one. It was on that tour that I saw them play for the first and only time at THE OHIO STATE FAIR. It was a weird show. Most of the crowd was old enough to have been 20 when "Whip It" came out. Also it was at THE OHIO STATE FAIR. Devo were great though. I remember they played "Beautiful World" over underwater footage of the Keystone pipeline oil spill. It was then that I realized that we will always need Devo. 

 

My relationship with this band is complicated by the fact that Jerry Casale recently married someone who was in high school with the Catscan! boys. The Catscan! boys who are significantly younger than I. They also had this weird 9/11-themed wedding. I guess he's backtracked on the wedding theme, saying it was a "surprise." OK. Even if it was, he still married a woman who was in high school with the Catscan! boys. For reference, it was really fucking tasteless: https://consequenceofsound.net/2015/09/devos-jerry-casale-had-a-911-themed-wedding/

#80, "I Can't Do Anything," X-Ray Spex (1978)

This was a total cheat. I'd completely forgotten about X-Ray Spex on this list until it was already done. So I bumped Barry Manilow's "Mandy" because I didn't have a lot to say about it that wasn't part of a long apology. This would be more fun. I have one additional song I totally spaced on to squeeze in somewhere. 

 

Pete and I were introduced to X-Ray Spex by our friend Mike, who'd put "I'm a Cliché" on a mixtape he made for Pete and it went over like a lead balloon. We were confused. "What is this?" we wondered "and why would anyone like it?" The vocals were like nothing we'd ever heard before, but like not in a good way. They were really powerful and not bad per se, but just very unpleasant. She didn't sound like a Riot Grrrl and she didn't sound like Debbie Harry. There was no template for this. 

 

"I'm a Cliché" I guess was not the best place to start. I think, I *think* we next gave X-Ray Spex a chance during our college radio show, Underground Babylon (named for the Catholic Discipline song on the Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack, a creative decision I stand behind). There are a number of songs on this list I discovered as a result of having poured through the thousands of CDs and LPs in KTUH's collection. For the most part the show was made up of our own collection, but to mix things up, we'd often throw something on sight unseen. And then on occasion, we'd *borrow* a CD we never thought anyone would miss before we were able to put it back. We were the only ones at the station playing what we did, so it was low-risk. 

 

Anyway, I've no idea what prompted us to give it another chance, but we borrowed Germfree Adolescents for a week and began to open ourselves up to X-Ray Spex and "I Can't Do Anything" lead the way. Another thing about X-Ray Spex that made them a little less accessible was the obtuse presence of the saxophone on most tracks. On "I Can't Do Anything," the sax is the hook, so it's much easier to like. I had thought the lyrics in "I'm a Cliché" were kind of dumb, but as I was heavy into Riot Grrrl at the time, the playful/pissy take on patriarchy as a barrier to creative credibility in "I Can't Do Anything" made a lot of sense to me. Poly Styrene's VERY UNIQUE vocal style fit in perfectly with both the melody and that childlike gender role critique. It all came together perfectly. 

 

After getting our feet wet with "I Can't Do Anything," we warmed to the rest of the album, INCLUDING the much maligned "I'm a Cliché" and the album is now a favorite. It's a BIG SHAME that there is no decent video for "I Can't Do Anything" (that I could immediately find) on YouTube. Other performance videos I've seen are awesome and highly recommend checking them out. 

 

Poor Poly Styrene passed away in 2011 of breast cancer which is obviously really really sad. It's worth mentioning that she wasn't just a woman who lead a British early punk band but a woman of color, which makes her even more of a bad-ass trail-blazin' revolutionary. In reading this morning I found out that there's a documentary about her life in development. The production is crowdsource funded and seems to be moving a little slowly so I did something I've never done and became a monthly contributor.

#79, "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," The Darkness (2003)

Pete and I were both kind of slow adopters when it came to digital music. Still are, I guess, since we are the last underground band who still presses CDs. Back at the beginning during the five or so months during the spring semester of my last year of college (2001), I was taking one class and working almost full time on a grant project. The computer I was given for that job already had Napster on it and I reasoned that it was ok to download albums I already had so that I didn't have to drag a bunch of CDs along with me, but that's as far as I took it. It felt icky otherwise. Then a couple of years later we'd gotten a new laptop and Pete decided to sit down and figure out how to download music for free. The very first thing we downloaded had a massive virus and the laptop never really recovered. It eventually became the This Machine Kills Fascists laptop we used during live shows for YEARS and years but it couldn't do much else than play the EG backing track. 

 

One day our friend Jeff was talking about some new music he heard and we were lamenting the fact that we felt weird about pirating music and besides we can't seem to do it without killing a computer and Jeff was like "you know what would work good for you guys? Apple iTunes." He explained that we could just download some software and buy songs for like a dollar apiece, so that if there was a one-off song that we just *wanted,* we could have it without going to a store or committing to having an overpriced CD single (fuck that, right?) in our home for the rest of our lives. 

 

Damn. 

 

I bring this up because I think of the Darkness and "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" as a perfect early-iTunes situation and I believe was one of the first tracks we bought on the platform. The song is excellent. SUPER excellent. And it seemed a straight-faced but ironic take on something maybe a little too recent to be retro but very worthy of an extremely competent parody. So like, I'm not at all interested in an entire album's worth of Darkness songs, I just want "I Believe" on repeat. And I could have it, "Jesus Walks," "Against All Odds," and "Boys of Summer" at my fingertips for the low, low price of just under $4. Amazing. 

 

It goes without saying that this early take on digital music is quaint. Now I can listen to this song any time I want FOR FREE and enjoy the fucking outstanding video on top of it. I could watch this video all day. I think the musician's favorite is probably the Marshall Stacks part, but I like the giant squid wrestling with the spaceship. 

 

I think this is probably the perfect song for the early 21st century because I can actually enjoy it, I can see aspects of it that are a joke, am impressed by how good the songwriting and musicianship is, but don't understand why it happened or why anyone would want to listen to more than one song by them. I guess being treated like a "joke band" has been a persistent irritation throughout their career, but I don't know what would separate a "joke band" and the Darkness. And I don't know whether it matters if they're a "joke band" that people actually enjoy and a real band that is really funny most of the time. But also, on a personal level, I completely get it.

#78, "Story of My Life," Social Distortion (1990)

Is Social Distortion (hereafter, Social D, as Sunny Delight is to Sunny D) a guilty pleasure (like Sunny Delight)? I don't know very much about them aside from the basics, the radio singles and that self-titled 3rd album. They're clearly very corny. From reading this morning it looks like they were mildly praised by critics for transcending their "ordinary" LA Hardcore roots to come up with something new. "Something new" in this case is the 90s Rockabilly revival, which is not a look I like. (Side note: I saw in a meme once that Rockabilly is "white privilege cosplay" and haven't stopped thinking about it as such since). 

 

However, Social D's self-titled and most of their singles from the early 90s are difficult for me to deny. They were a persistent presence on alternative radio throughout high school. Their best album and "Story of My Life" were released in 1990, but as with the Dead Milkmen and Violent Femmes, they were played on alternative radio during my formative years (bless). I didn't think I'd ever seen them live but they played one of the first four Big Meles, so I guess I would have had to: Big Mele. I believe they played by themselves when I was in college but for whatever reason, didn't go see them. More on that later. 

 

So this song along with "Ball and Chain" and their cover of "Ring of Fire" were mainstays, but "Story of My Life" is the enduring favorite of mine. I think it's mainly sentimental. I remember listening to this song, which is about wistful high school nostalgia, while in high school, wondering whether I would look at things the same way (I would not). Make no mistake, there is nothing novel about this song, thematically or lyrically. "I didn't have much interest in sports or school elections" is straight from the play book from your most basic teenage misfit. I've been considering all morning what "that silly school boy crush was more than just pretend" means and I still don't have an answer for you. But I can't deny how gooey it makes me feel anyway. They're cartoons, but they're convincing cartoons. 

 

Two stories. Senior year we started doing this thing at lunch where students played music over the loudspeaker. Each Wednesday we had a theme (e.g., hip hop, punk, Hawaiian, etc.). I was friends with the student council, so I managed to wriggle my way into the DJ role more times than I should have (I abused this advantage on a number of occasions). I used to come up with themes where my ability to play punk and/or ska would be possible but not obvious. One such theme was "cover songs." This, I think, was the last straw and ended up being my last stand. But I do recall playing "Ring of Fire" by Social D and one of my favorite teachers Mr. Eckman (European history and philosophy, who has since passed <3) approached me, pointed in my direction and said "Johnny Cash! 1967." 

 

In college, Pete, Alison and I were walking through Sears at Ala Moana and walking the other way was a punker guy who looked vaguely out of central casting for a Social D fan--without breaking stride--produced something out of a bag he was carrying, gestured to Pete, and said "Michael Ness" in the same cadence of "Mr. Black" from overdubbed audio in the Camp Krusty video. He repeated, "You like that? Michael Ness," again, never breaking stride. I guess it was an autographed picture from the show we missed the night before. To this day, Pete and I still say "Michael Ness" like "Mr. Black" and sometimes continue to "Thank you Krusty and welcome children, I *am* Michael Ness." For reference:

#77, "Home Sweet Home," Mötley Crüe (1990)

It's funny how when you're a kid, the musical genres you prefer can shape your entire identity. When I was in 6th grade, I didn't have much of one. My friends and I kind of kept to ourselves and did our own normcore stuff, generally seen as quiet good-grades girls. 

 

Leading up to 7th grade, rather than going to the local junior high school, I convinced my parents to send me to St. Ann's, the local K thru 8 Catholic school because that's where my friends were going. After all of this was settled, I learned that Jamie, my very BEST friend was actually moving out of state and I'd be mostly without my security blanket at this new school. I did still have casual pals entering St. Ann's in 1991 with me, including Cybil Rawlins, who'd I'd gotten to know pretty well during summer camp the previous year, who was an aggressively extroverted ball of funtime for me. So I was ok. 

 

I don't remember how it happened exactly but Cybil and I began to open ourselves up to the mainstream rock music at the time, which happened to be the tail end of the 80s hard rock/hair scene. I think Wayne's World may have helped us along with that. I've said before that I've thought of myself as having a "metal phase," but that's kind of a lie. I loved Guns n' Roses and Black-Album Metallica, YES, but the rest of it I kind of had to force. But it was sort of worth it because Cybil and I became the rock chicks of St. Ann's School in Kaneohe, which was a fun identity to wear for a while. I liked it better than being a quiet/good grades girl. 

 

Anyway, apart from Guns n' Roses and Black-Album Metallica, some songs stand out for me and have an enduring legacy in my brain, among them the Decade of Decadence version of "Home Sweet Home" by Motley Crue. If you ask Pete what the worst of the worst of this period is, he will tell you it's Motley Crue and I guess he's right, though I don't feel as strongly about it. Their music is generally bad and they are bad people, it's true. If you haven't read the Dirt, you really should. The made-for-TV movie is entertaining too, but no substitute for the book. 

 

The song is considered a power ballad and I guess it is technically, but doesn't fit that mold exactly. Pete used to say that these bands would release a ballad just to get the "chicks' buy-in" but this song isn't romantic or anything, it's just a really beautiful song. I heard the 1991 version before I'd heard the 1985 version and much like "Walk this Way" by Aerosmith/Aerosmith and Run-DMC, I don't see how you can make a fair argument for the older version. As much of a bastard as Tommy Lee is*, the image of him slumped over the piano from the 1991 video playing this beautiful melody is to me a convincing argument to the contrary. 

 

One time in 7th grade music class, our teacher Ms. Panke mentioned something about "decadence" and Cybil raised her hand and asked the teacher what a "decade of decadence" would suggest. The teacher quite fairly didn't know how to answer that question and probed as to why we were asking. Cybil told her it was an album. This clicked for Ms. Panke and she was like "well, I would guess it's a heavy metal album" and the class groaned in unison, knowing our reputation and we high-fived each other. 

 

Josie loved Motley Crue and could still handle listening to them, deep into their catalog (i.e., any song besides "Home Sweet Home ['91]"). She was stronger than I. When she was sick a bunch of us pooled our money and bought a Cameo of Tommy Lee, sending Josie a personalized well-wishes message to her, which she predictably LOVED. The message was a little weird, but I'll never forget him for it so any time *I call Tommy Lee a bastard, it has to be with an asterisk.

#76, "Take A Chance On Me," ABBA (1978)

I am privileged that at this point in my adult life, I can't count on both hands the number of women to whom I feel extremely close. At the risk of using a cliche to drive the point fully home, these are my sisters. This is particularly nice to be able to say looking back at my twenties, when most of my friends were men. I think that women and femmes have made a real effort to forge these bonds as we look at catty/competitive stereotypes of the past and willfully reject them. Men don't seem to have these relationships and I don't know where I would be without them. 

 

One such sister is Emily McGlynn. Tragically, she decided to step away from Facebook a couple of years ago, so I will have to email this to her. I met Emily in 2013 or so, as the wife of the person Pete worked with most often at Crooked Beat. She was part of a larger group of friends whose primary commonality is that they were all vegan and would throw these brunches and movie nights built around a vegan menu. They lived two blocks up the street from our old apartment, which made them our only friends in the neighborhood.

 

The four of us quickly became very very fast friends. One particularly sloppy night, at a Twin Peaks-themed Halloween party, Emily and I were by ourselves at the bar ordering another round for the group when she grabbed me by the arm and said "we have to be best friends." I was confused. "What the four of us? We already talked about this--we are?" She was like "no, you and me. We have to be best friends." So it was written. 

 

Emily loves ABBA. Emily also loves Beck and old country music and Jonathan Richman and can lay out an extremely compelling argument for why you're factually wrong if you disagree. Emily is an original. When I found out that she'd never seen Muriel's Wedding, we made it this big thing where we would watch it for the ladies and then Good Will Hunting for the guys. I was so excited to finally show Emily Muriel's Wedding, I waited for months with great anticipation. When she finally saw it, I think she just thought it was pretty good, but put on a nice show for me. 

 

So yeah when I think of ABBA, I think of Emily and it's a very good feeling. "Take a Chance on Me" is my favorite, though I'm pretty sure the first version I heard was Erasure's very competent cover version (also if you haven't seen both videos, please change that). There's a class of song I call an "Incel Anthem" where the perspective is from someone who feels entitled to unrequited love. I actually have a soft spot for these songs, which I think goes back to my formative years during which I kind of identified with them or at very minimum appreciated the humility. This one doesn't count because it's mostly sung by women, but it really has the same basic plot. 

 

I've been listening to ABBA since I got the Gold collection via Columbia House during high school. It was kind of a jokey/irony thing, but I always genuinely appreciated them. I went with my grandma to see Muriel's Wedding in the theater after school one day. A bunch of my friends were at the theater to also see Muriel's Wedding. My grandma encouraged me to go sit with them. I was like "no, Gram, I'm here to hang out with you" but she insisted, so I did. I guess she didn't know there would be so much sexy time in the film and said afterwards that she felt relieved we weren't sitting together during the sexy time. Oh, Gram. It would have been way less awkward if you'd just not mentioned it. 

 

Two final thoughts. The scene in the Office in which Andy invokes this song with his two Here Comes Treble pals on speakerphone to try and woo Angela represents the only time Andy Bernard used a capella for good instead of evil. Also, back in the winter when we were allowed to do such things, Johnny and Sarah came over to watch a movie and after it finished, we watched this top-ten ABBA songs YouTube bit. It was a good memorable time. "Take a Chance on Me" came in at number TWO, ahead of "Mama Mia" and behind "Money, Money, Money," a ranking I can't begin to understand. I'm still a little mad about that.