Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Best Moments in Rock and Roll History

Folks, rock music is pretty much the best thing ever. Case in point: this video from Scott Brown and Anthony King. I, for one, can organize my whole life by musical phase-- I graduated college during my "Electric Light Orchestra resurgence" phase, for instance, and the summer I spent working for a construction company was my "Kinks and Boz Scaggs*" phase. The history of rock and roll is a history of awesomeness, and there are some immortal moments that stand out above the rest.

Here're my three personal favorite moments in recorded rock and roll history-- for accessibility's sake, they're moments you can go out right now, buy a CD of, and listen to in your room while ignoring your mom's phone calls and drawing pictures of dinosaurs doing human activities. At least, that's what I'd do. And no, hippie hipsters, the Fleet Foxes** are not gonna show up on this list, even if they were by far the best part of SNL on Saturday night. Fleet Foxes? More like Sleet Sloxes. List, begin!

3. "Wham, Bam, Thank You, Ma'am" (David Bowie, "Suffragette City")
No. Thank you, David Bowie. Towards the end of "Suffragette City," the music dips and it seems like Bowie's rollicking anthem may be over. Just then, Bowie screams the aforementioned phrase in what may be the coolest voice ever, and it all starts up again, more frenzied and energetic than ever. More importantly, before the line, Bowie has already used the word "suffragette" 16 times-- likely more than any other rock song ever has (or will). But the line is his way of saying "I want to say 'suffragette' some more now,"*** as he goes on to roll up the total to 25, culminating in the closing shout, "Suffragette!" We get it, D-Bow, you really like women's voting rights.

2. Led Zeppelin is Better Than Everything (Led Zeppelin, "Moby Dick")
The ol' Zep is a band that made an entire career out of being better than everyone else (except, arguably, E.L.O.). The tactic worked quite well, although no other band has successfully duplicated the Great Drummer+Great Guitarists+Great Lead Singer+Great Songs=Great Band formula. Instead, today's bands follow more the Thick-Rimmed Glasses+Interesting Moustaches+Hats-Musical Competence strategy, with expectedly non-facemelting results. But rarely is Led Zeppelin's superiority to everyone else more apparent than late in "Moby Dick" when, after what is considered one of the best drum solos ever, the guitars return with a heavy riff that's far better than what most bands have as the centerpiece to their songs, much less as afterthoughts to drum solos. It's music talk for "F you guys, we don't even need lyrics or melody to be the Bobby Orr of rock and roll."*** To explain, I (along with Led Zeppelin) consider Bobby Orr to be the greatest hockey player of all time.

1. "Behind them...?" (Poison, "Talk Dirty To Me")
Long before Bret Michaels broke out with the Emmy-winning**** and critically acclaimed**** VH1 series "Rock of Love," he was in a band called Poison, a pile of hair and sleaze that produced four good songs in the 80s. "Talk Dirty to Me" is one of those four songs, even though the fact that one of their guitarists is named "C.C." is a bit over-emphasized (especially in the music video). But the best part is right after the solo towards the end when the chorus kicks in with everyone singing, and the line "behind the bushes" is replaced by "behind them (slightly overlong pause)... bushes!" with "bushes" sounding rushed and off-beat. Some would argue it's for effect, but I like to think it's because the band, all at once, temporarily forgot the words in their drugs-n-hairspray-induced haze and blurted it out at the last minute, then left it on the track just because they didn't want to have to do another take. Oh, what raucous fun they must have had in the studio.

Maybe it's anticlimactic, but that's what rock and roll is all about, people: not the music or the glamour, but the mythologies you create in your own head. The magic of your own imagination, and the feeling you get when you're driving down the PCH at 100 mph with a police brigade hot on your heels. Also, when Dio throws up the horns like his Italian grandmother taught him. The music and the glamour are pretty important, too. Actually, strike all that other stuff I said-- the music and the glamour are what rock and roll is about. Now, to end this post the only way I know how: Suffragette!

*Admittedly, the "Boz Scaggs" portion of this phase consisted entirely of one song, "Lido."
**Foxes has gotta be one of the most awkward pluralizations ever, and it only gets more awkward each time you say it. Foxes. Foxes. Look at those foxes. Should be foxen, or foxi.
***Read with a British accent in mind for full effect.
****Facts not checked for accuracy. Also, check it out: four asterisks, people! This thing's nearly unreadable.

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