1. LL Cool J, "I Can't Live Without My Radio." As good a song as any to demonstrate the split between rock and roll fans and the new rap music. The sentiment expressed in the title was certainly a familiar one to rock fans, and the minimalist production on the track should have appealed to lovers of other simple-is-best musicians like the Ramones. But nope … rap wasn't singing, it wasn't music, anyone for some Tom Petty? So the monster riffs and killer beat bypassed the white boomer audience, or rather, that audience bypassed the music. Meanwhile, LL was only 17 when this was made … legend has it he dropped out of high school to cut the album, which (boomer irony alert) was named a couple of decades later on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, just ahead of Richard and Linda Thompson.
2. James Brown, "Living in America." Rocky meets the Godfather of Soul. Apollo Creed dies, Rock-o gets revenge for black people everywhere, and Flavor Flav gets the girl. (Hell with godfather … JB was old enough to be LL's GRANDfather, but both were on the charts in 1985.)
3. Madonna, "Into the Groove." Another movie tune … people forget, but after Desperately Seeking Susan, we thought Madonna would add "movie star" to her list of accomplishments.
4. Public Image, Ltd., "Rise." OK, these seem to be popping up with increasing frequency, songs from the wrong year that I let slide. In this case, I was going by All-Music Guide, which lists this as 1985, when it was apparently recorded, but most sources go with 1986, when it was apparently released. What can I say, anger is an energy. Is this Johnny's last great moment?
5. Valerie Dore, "It's So Easy." Boomers hate rap music, but at least they know it when they hear it. Italo Disco probably just flew over their wavelengths entirely. It's kinda hard to follow the story on Wikipedia, but I'll try: Monica Stucchi was a model who joined a music/stage group that had a project called "Valerie Dore." Stucchi became Dore, but someone named Dora Carofiglio did the singing, while Stucchi lipsynced. Stucchi had the looks and stage presence, Carofiglio had the voice, everyone had hits. On some records, the voices of Stuuchi and Carofiglio were electronically combined … or something, like I say, I don't quite get it. At some future point, most of the original people involved in "Valerie Dore" were gone, while Stucchi had "become" Valerie Dore. Whew!
6. The Beat Farmers, "Happy Boy." A college-rock classic. Once heard, never forgotten. Hubba hubba hubba hubba hubba.
7. 5 Star, "System Addict." What a horrible fucking song. Someone needs to take Shuffle Play out to the woodshed for a whippin'. One day I'll remember why I have this on my hard drive.
8. Toy Dolls, "She Goes to Finos." Another college-rock classic, not the only one for this oddball band.
9. Hüsker Dü, "I Apologize." Not sure it's possible for me to pick a favorite song by the Hüskers, but any list of the best ones would find this very near the top. Arguably the greatest vocal of Bob Mould's career … the words on the page just don't get how it sounds in your speakers, which hasn't stopped me from trying. You could type "I apologize" as if that sums up the central phrase of the chorus, but that doesn't even come close. A little more accurate would be:
BOOM BOOM BOOM
And this, my favorite part of the whole song:
We sit around we're staring at the walls
We don't do anything at all
Take out the garbage, maybe, BUT THE DISHES DON'T GET DONE!!!
10. The Pogues, "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda." Doesn't get any sadder than this song. Speaking of "greatest vocal of his career," Shane MacGowan has some great drunken-sounding stuff in his resume, but he never topped this one. Not sure anyone has. Shuffle Play got one thing right: after this song, you can't listen to anything else. (Video link takes you to an audio-only YouTube copy, but MacGowan draws his own pictures.)