Top 100 Country Songs of All Time, 2007, Numbers 11-20
The music industry is pock-marked with opportunities both realized and missed. For instance, Jimi Hendrix went on an embarrassing 3 year bender that ended in his pathetic death; and Led Zeppelin’s former pro-wrestler manager bullied the record companies and promoters into giving his band unheard of royalty rights for their music and performances in the early 70’s.
Country Format To 'Interrupt' 2007 Learning Conference
Swedberg, Dungan to star in Curtis-led Symposium
Former chairperson of Country Radio Broadcasters and current Radio & Records country format editor R.J. Curtis will lead a fast-paced symposium on hot issues in country radio at the 32nd Annual Conclave Learning Conference in Minneapolis.
"Pardon The Interruption" will take place on Friday, June 29, at 5 p.m. at the Marriott City Center Hotel.
R.J.'s faculty for this symposium will be Clear Channel regional VP of programming and KEEY/Minneapolis PD Gregg Swedberg and Capitol Nashville president Mike Dungan.
In this session, moderator Curtis and the session's faculty will select 10 hot topics in the country format, including PPM, talent recruiting and coaching, music issues and HD radio. They will engage in a highly interactive discussion of the topics lasting no more than four minutes each. Expect a hard-hitting and highly informative symposium!
For the past decade, K102 hasn’t had any competition in the “Country Radio” category in the Twin Cities, the 16th largest market in America. Naturally, that has made them the number 1 country station in the market…wink. With no competition, and a captive audience for its tampon commercials disguised as Martina McBride songs, the station has become a powerhouse within the “industry.” Nashville newspapers and magazines regularly call up ol’ Gregg Swedberg and pump him for Country Music wisdom, even though he’d be hard pressed to tell you who was who in a two photo lineup of Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver.
But that’s not Gregg’s fault, he’s a RADIO professional, and asking him about Country Music is like calling up the CEO of Taco Bell and asking him how much cilantro you should put in your homemade salsa.
The point to all of this, though, is that with no competition, and a more than secure audience, Gregg has been pretty chickenshit, musically, playing it safe and filling his airwaves with one shitty Kenny Chesney song per hour, every hour, since the little fella first hit it big so many years ago. The fact is, real country music left Nashville a long time ago. It’s hiding under various rocks, and you have to go find it, dig it up, and give it some sunlight. Sitting there in his big office at Utica, sunlight is a luxury for guys like ol’ Sweddy, and who can blame him? Money is money.
The Top 10 of any Top 100 has its sacred cows, but if we’re going to get serious about 11 through 20, we have to ask ourselves if we care who the fuck Mike Dungan is, or even who Chris Kulick is for that matter, and proceed with reckless abandon into a new canon for the genre. We have to stop relying on cash registers, national historic registers, and the broken steam registers of two-story, brown brick hotels in small towns with one stop sign and one hooker.
11. Screen Door, Uncle Tupelo
Down here, where we’re at, all we do is sit out on the porch
We play our songs
And nothin’s wrong
Sometimes friends come around
They all sing along
I struggled long and hard to find a door to use to penetrate this topic when the figurative and literal answer hit me in the ass. This song is at the end of a very long arc of examination, experimentation, reconstruction and finally, minimalism. It’s a very small and literal song about sitting on a porch with your friends, but all that simplicity leaves you free to build sandcastles of activity in your head. I see bicycles and cheap beer, and maybe a grill with chicken legs on it and your friend’s girlfriend’s three bean salad, maybe a few packs of smokes and one or two stinkin’ dogs.
12. Driver 8, REM
I saw a treehouse on the outskirts of the farm
The powerlines have floaters so the airplanes don’t get snagged
And bells are ringin’ through the town again
The children look up all they hear is sky blue bells ringin’
REM knocked out about 5 or 6 solid country songs early in their career. After so many years, "Rockville" felt too obvious. "Driver 8" has trains and high lonesome while it keeps pounding and driving and coming back to that howling long A sound. Even if you get lost in the words, the primordial sound of this record just feels like hobos lost in a 20th Century railroad jungle…with twang.
13. $1000 Wedding, Gram Parsons
When the groom saw the people passing notes
“Not unusual,” he might say
But where are the flowers for my baby?
I’d even like to see her mean old mamma
And why ain’t there a funeral, if you’re gonna act that way?
I still don’t know what this song is about. Booze and drugs sprinkled with hippies and EmmyLou pixie dust. Somebody’s getting married, no wait, somebody’s dead, no wait, somebody’s getting married.
14. Interstate Love Song, Stone Temple Pilots
Is the hardest thing to do
With all I’ve said and all that’s dead for you
This song should have been written and recorded by Nirvana, right? The Stones swim through the rock n’ roll 60’s and show up somewhere around 1971 and throw out Country Honk followed by Dead Flowers a few years later. Nirvana grunges everyone out after hair metal dies a crumpled Ferrari death and then arrives somewhere around 1998 with Interstate Love So…nope, didn’t happen. Instead it was STP, with their big beefy guitars and Weiland’s howling lonely accusations of mendacity.
15. Ghosts of Hallelujah, The Gourds
Our candles are in danger from the way we carry them
So keep yer matches handy and wait to see if when
The ghosts of hallelujah trickle through the walls
brandishing the wrong words nail the cursings in the hall
At some point during this exercise, we have to stop and ask ourselves who’s still humping the be-Dockered leg of a corporatized America, dulled to the sensations of a homegrown soundtrack interwoven into your brain as you harvest fresh tomatoes from your garden, or blast a wood duck in a slough in an ex-urb. People still play country music with no boundaries, and I’m not talking about dopehead jagoff jam bands like String Cheese Incident. I’m talking about 4 minute ditties on booze and ghosts and pork rinds, and shit like that. It’s okay to waste your parents’ money on lift tickets and low quality ecstasy at Bella Fleck shows that last 5 hours and consist of 3 songs, but please leave The Gourds out of all that nonsense. Their bass player doesn’t take pictures of little girls in boat houses and their drummer doesn’t play vacuum cleaners. It’s okay to make alternative music without embracing all the (as it turns out) corporatized overhead of “counter-culture.” And when it’s all said and done, most alternative music, isn’t really alternative at all…it’s AUTHENTIC.
16. Sober, Tool
I am just a worthless liar
I am just an imbecile
I will only complicate you
Trust in me and fall as well
This song is the final evolution of Buck Owens’ "Together Again." I’m dead fucking serious. I guarantee you that if you transpose this properly from the way it’s orchestrated now to an acoustic guitar, mandolin and pedal steel, you’ll hear the most plaintive, heartbreaking shuffle your little soul has ever tried to soak up in the dark on a Friday night. I’ll give you a hint, you have to tune your low E string to a D. I’m not shitting you.
17. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
When the rooster crows
At the break o’ dawn
Look out your window babe
I’ll be gone
I like Ramblin’ Jack’s version the best. It sounds hungover and vulnerable and sweet. Just a fantastic way of saying, “it’s not you, it’s me.”
18. That'll Be the Day, Buddy Holly & the Crickets
You know you love me baby
Still you tell me, maybe
That someday I’ll be through
The Kinks were the first punk band and the Crickets were the first Alt Country band.
19. Windfall, Son Volt
Switchin’ over to AM
Searchin’ for a truer sound
Can’t recall the call letters
Steel guitar, I settle down
Catchin’ an all night station
Somewhere near Louisiana
Sounds like 1963
But for now, it sounds like heaven
If you take every Alt Country song written and recorded between about 1980 and now and you ask yourself which one really sums up the whole sound, feeling, and theme, this is probably it. Sometimes I wish Jay had a brighter voice, or had something in his catalog to offset all these downers that he has out there, it might pull this song up to Number 11. But it is, what it is.
20. Me & Joe Drove Out to California, Drag The River
Sacramento we met up with Maria
We heard your band’s got a rockin’ crowd
Love to call you, I really wanna see ya
Hope ya noticed we’re comin’ around here again
Just as we’re on the verge of the absolute BonJovification of Mainstream Country music, complete with Kenny Chesney bullshit montage video songs about how hard it is to be a “rock star” on the road, we’re graced with an actual Colorado skate punk fusion road hog band with two guys out front who write road songs about road plots. Plots are key. What’s really dumb about bullshit songs like “Comin’ To Your Ci-tay” by Big N Rich (the two biggest phoney fucking sellouts in the HISTORY of country music…I’m serious, complete and utter fucking fluffer nutter, what garbage), is that they’re just laundry lists of city names. “I’ve been to that place,” they’re saying. There’s nothing unique in the observations, and there’s nothing unique about their song, Johnny Cash did it decades ago. It was hip back then, and it had context, being born from two generations of restless souls who had the vastness of the world thrust upon them by roughly 3 decades of wars in far off places. In the hands of a cynically commercial act like Big N Rich, it’s juvenile, at best. Drag the River, on the other hand, provides context to the road; they weave intensely personal snippets into this song, and by sharing their unique time, characters, conflict, and plot, they weave a tapestry of common experience for a generation built upon the immediate closeness of electronic communications, forded once in a while by actual travel. Hello old friend, it’s good to see your actual face to go with the many words we’ve exchanged.