But this is going to be a list of songs of sort. One of the podcasts I’ve been enjoying, among others, is the Playlist Wars podcast, hosted by Brian Colburn and Gomez. It’s a fairly basic premise: take an artist or a topic, create a ten-song playlist of what you think are the best songs from that artist or on that topic, then the two hosts and their guest reveal their playlists and why those songs were chosen. Afterwards, they open it up to the listeners to vote for the winning playlist. It sets itself up as a competition, and sometimes there’s some playful smack talk, but it is ultimately a celebration of the music. You frequently hear a lot of praise for songs chosen by the competition, and there’s often a lot of crossover between the lists, sometimes a song being on all three. The passion for the music comes through with every selection made. There is one disclaimer that I must give for those readers who are from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame watching community: it tends to skew pretty heavily toward album-oriented rock and its progeny (modern rock, hard rock, etc.). To be fair, I can sense the hosts’ desire to branch out into other styles and genres, but this is generally their wheelhouse. But for the sheer passion about the music, including the bits of trivia presented throughout the episodes, I recommend this podcast. If you can get geeked out on other people’s geeking out, this is a podcast for such a music lover. This is also a fun podcast to play along with. I have built playlists of my own that I have in my YouTube library built out of their episodes. Some of my playlists have little to no depth, while some have some fantastic forgotten gems. I’ve even created three playlists for episodes that don’t exist at all. They are what you might call “fanfiction” playlists (hence the title of this entry).
One of those three playlists is one about the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s Class Of 2021. I pitched this episode to them, and since they prefer their guests be fellow podcasters, I suggested a couple from the hobbyist community. Truthfully, Brian and Gomez have had so many ideas pitched to them, I can understand this one falling through the cracks. And maybe getting a guest wasn’t in the cards. Whatever happened, I would have loved to hear what songs they would chosen and why. And because I’m a privileged white male, I’m going to go ahead and share my list, even though nobody asked or cares. I’m sure there’s also a lesson in here concerning those who prepare for a war that is never going to come. Seriously though, this is a celebration of great music, and I hope this playlist is as enjoyable for you as it was for me to create and listen to multiple times. For those readers who are fellow Playlisteners, this blog recognizes that “rock and roll” is much, much more inclusive and includes soul, hip-hop, reggae, and even electronica, as well as the popular connotations that include metal, prog, thrash, and alternative. Dem’s da rulz in this house. And as a note to Brian and Gomez, even though this list is topical, the number artists is limited. There were thirteen inductees, so the possibilities are relatively limited, compared to other topical episodes, so I would say that the crossover and trifecta rules apply at the song level, not the artist level like in other topical episodes. Onto the list:
Track 01: “It’s Time For War” by LL Cool J
First off, it’s Playlist Wars and this annoiunces that it’s time for war. A little on the nose, but that’s not always a bad thing. Second, this song is entrance music. This is a song that plays as a prize fighter enters the ring or the octagon. Stylistically, this is a song to use to make an entrance, and so it’s perfect to use to kick off the playlist. But if that weren’t enough, this is the perfect song to use for this playlist for a third reason. This is a playlist about the Class Of 2021 for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and the lyrics of this song are LL Cool J’s way of making his case for induction. True, this song and the album Exit 13 came out before he was eligible, but he’s putting his credentials out there in this one. In fact, when evaluating his merits for the nominnees’ merits rankings the last couple times he was nominated, I considered simply lifting lyrics from this song and using them to explain his Innovation, Influence, Impact, and Intangibles. He’s telling you what makes a Hall Of Fame artist and that he is one. This is the perfect song to kick off the playlist.
Track 02: “We Got The Beat” by the Go-Go’s
Keeping with the credentials, the ladies represent strongly with this one. The Go-Go’s play what has long been considered a boys’ game, play it the boys’ way, and shatter the glass ceiling with the vibrations caused by them kicking down the door. They play rock and roll music the way the staunch purists try to narrowly define the genre, and prove that they belong. A solid, driving, pounding song with great elan and gusto. It makes you feel good and makes you feel like moving. Whether you define rock and roll as a genre of music or as the spirit of youth culture, the Go-Go’s are patrolling that beat quite ably. They got the beat.
Track 03: “Walk” by Foo Fighters
I respect the way Brian and Gomez keep the rules relatively simple, but if I were going to add one more rule for this particular episode, I would add that the lists must include at least one song from each of the six Performer inductees. Think of the Performer inductees as the pre-requisites, and the other categories as electives. This rule would be more about making sure rock and roll is respected in its diversity, but for me, it would mean making sure to include a Foo Fighters song. That’s not to say I hate this band. Indeed, I made a point to go through all their Modern and Alternative Rock Charts’ hits to make a shortlist of possibilities, and even that shortlist was… everlong (just for you, Brian). Ultimately, my sense of programming flow led me to this selection, though “All My Life” was a close second. I liked the placement of the other songs in their places on my list, so the Foo Figthers song chosen had to fit in this slot. Despite the low-key entrance, I felt this song was the best by this band to serve as a link between between “We Got The Beat” and the next track. And it’s a pretty catchy song as well.
Track 04: “The Train From Washington” by Gil Scott-Heron
I discovered this song by binge-listening to Gil Scott-Heron after listening to the episode about him on the Who Cares About The Rock Hall? podcast. I don’t think this song was listed among the better known or historically significant songs from this man. But as soon as I heard this song, I fell in love with it. It’s a funky, jazzy song with the spoken intro, and a singing voice that is simply amazing. This was a song that I had to have on my list. It’s a great song to remind people that there was more to this man’s catalog than just “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I frequently catch myself singing the lines, “You can depend on folks and gravity, both of them will bring you down,” and “You can depend on the first two numbers, but damn if the last one comes through.”
Track 05: “Better Be Good To Me” by Tina Turner
On the Playlist Wars podcast, they always talk about the playlists both as digital playlists and as analog media, like a vinyl LP or a cassette tape. So, I wanted my fifth song to work both as a midway point in a digital format that would keep on playing, and as a great way to end the first side of a medium that needed to be turned over. This song is that song. The song opens up very theatrically, evoking a mental picture of Tina emerging from the fog created by smoke machines until her silhouette is filled in with her features and she starts singing. The Big Country-esque guitar licks, the background singers, and Tina’s delivery all make this a great song, and the way it tapers off at the end makes it a great song to finish the first side of a cassette or record.
Track 06: “Bang The Drum All Day” by Todd Rundgren
As much as I tend to operate on a different wavelength from other people, this is one song I am convinced would be a trifecta, maybe even a bingo. If you were listening to this list playlist on a CD or just streaming it in programmed sequence, this song would lead out fantastically from “Better Be Good To Me,” and if this was on a cassette or record, this would recapture the energy and momentum that briefly drops when you have to stop and flip it over to the second side. It’s a great song to kick off the second side, it’s a fun song that is fun to jam to, and it sort of touches back on the idea of rock and roll both being a musical styling (defined by a rhythm or beat) and the spirit of youth (both in terms of feel and reverting back to childhood tendencies to deal with adulthood). And really, who doesn’t love a good rock’n’roll polka? A rock’n’rollka?
Track 07: “Nothing From Nothing” by Billy Preston
When I play along at home and make my own playlists, I find I like to make the seventh track my “clean-up hitter.” In baseball, it’s the fourth batter, but in my playlists, it’s number seven. Sometimes it’s because it’s my favorite song on the list, sometimes it’s a song that’s special to me, and sometimes it’s because it’s a strong selection that others might not have seen coming. This song bats clean-up for that last reason. Stylistically, it leads out pretty well after “Bang The Drum All Day,” and even though it’s pretty well-known song, I feel like this is a song others might not expect me to choose. Granted, I briefly tried swapping it out for the stirring and moving “That’s The Way God Planned It,” but that substitution didn’t work well with the overall feel and gestalt of this playlist. So, I put this one back.
Track 08: “It’s Too Late” by Carole King
As much as I tried to maintain a nice steady flow to this list, I felt an abrupt shift isn’t entirely uncalled for. And we didn’t really have a slow, mellow song yet. There are some other songs from this legendary singer-songwriter I could have used, but somehow, this slightly brooding opus really gives this playlist a special flavor, and I have to keep it. It’s a great song and a reminder it doesn’t have to be frenetic with a guitar solo to be rock and roll. Plus, it’s from her landmark album Tapestry, so it’s not like one could go wrong choosing a song from that album.
Track 09: “99 Problems” by Jay-Z
I’m not one for numerology, but having the ninety-nine as number nine was too good to resist. Admittedly, I feel it’s a little bit of a disservice to Mr. Carter to go with the Jay-Z-only track that is most likely to get White people turnt, but it is infectious. And again, this isn’t the Songs Of Proof list; this is a side thing for fun. I also enjoy that it kind of bucks the credo of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” in a very rock and roll way, with a very rock and roll attitude, and with a very rock and roll sample. And when the track ends, you really get a feeling that you’re not quite at the end of the playlist, but that you are nearing it. Besides, no way was I going to use “Hard Knock Life.”
Track 10: “Kommetenmelodie 2” by Kraftwerk
Without rehashing previous conversations, there are ten inductees in this class that could have been inducted in the Performer category, and in my opinion, should have been. This list was intentionally programmed to include and enjoy all ten of those artists. This instrumental track from this internationally renowned German outfit isn’t representative of their body of work, but it is a really good song. I love it, and it works amazingly well as a closer. If these songs were scattered throughout a movie, this song would start up in the last few seconds of the story and play over the credits, and is so good the audience would stay in their seats to listen to it. Listening to this song at the end gives an amazing feeling of satisfaction and completion. The party’s over, but it’s okay. It didn’t need to go any longer. You’re not sad it’s over; you’re just glad you had the time together to listen and celebrate, and hasn’t it been a blast? It almost gives a secular kind of feeling of shalom. I like to use the German word zufrieden to describe how I feel after listening to this list of ten and ending with this one. Very celebratory and closes out beautifully.
Hidden bonus track: “Hang It On The Wall” by Charley Patton
That said, imagine listening to this playlist on a CD. You’re lying on your bed or couch as “Kommetenmelodie 2” finishes. You’re lying there for another ten to thirty seconds, thinking the CD player has stopped, but you’re just feeling too contented and peaceful to get up juuuussst yet. Then you hear what sounds like an old-tyme Victrola-era song, complete with crackles and lyrics you can’t quite make out because of the age of the recording, but from what you can make out, it sounds like the man is singing about his one-eyed wonder weasel. That would be this song. And yes, it really is that old. This is the one inductee that even the category purists like me agree is a true Early Influence inductee. The song itself has a sort of back and forth feel to it, with its inflections on the “Ahh”s after multiple lines, the chorus with its suggestions on what to do with it… the whole song sounds like a silly little ditty; however, since I can’t fully make out the lyrics, I can’t be certain. Nonetheless, this seems like a song that would play in the background of the comedic post-credits scene of a movie. And with Patton being the only other inductee that had either charted hits or historically significant songs as a credited recording artist, I felt this was a nice way to sneak him in as well. The playlist is still amazing without this as a bonus track, but it definitely adds one last dash of panache.
Possible honorable mention: “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne (honoring Randy Rhoads)
Ozzy hasn’t been inducted as a solo artist, but his guitarist Randy Rhoads was inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence category. In recent episdoes, Brian and Gomez have added the official “honorable mention” that didn’t make your list, but made it onto a competing playlist, possibly both of them. As I mentioned previously, the hosts love music, and they particularly love classic rock. So, I have to imagine that one of them, probably both, would choose to include a song that Randy Rhoads played guitar on. This is the song he’s most famous for playing on, and I have to believe this song would be on both of their lists. I haven’t added it to the YouTube playlist that I listen to, and I doubt that I will.
Possible honorable mention: “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers (honoring Clarence Avant)
It’s also entirely possible that Gomez or Brian would take a quick look at who Clarence Avant is, see that Bill Withers was an artist whose career Avant had a significant part in launching,, and throw this on. It wouldn’t be a bad selection either. “Lean On Me” is a fantastic, timeless song. There is a reason that this song is one that is being passed on to subsequent generations, and I hope that will never change. As for not being on my list, as I said, the original intention of my playlist was to focus on the ten artists that I felt should have been inducted in the Performer category, a snapshot of how diverse and far-reaching the concept and genre of “rock and roll” really is, and that all of it should be celebrated. That is certainly no slight on Clarence’s contribution, or Randy’s, or Charley’s. I just had a specific theme for the original ten tracks made.