Regular readers know that I’m fond of doing six-packs of tunes, usually of a given band. But sometimes there are either bands where I can’t think of six tunes, or songs that somehow didn’t get posted in another six-pack or series. Whatever. So here are six songs I like that, I think, make for a nice playlist while you’re rolling down a smooth stretch of highway.
REO Speedwagon goes all the way back to 1967. The group was formed in Champaign, Illinois, a college town over 100 miles SW of Chicago. They named the band REO Speedwagon, from the REO Speed Wagon, a 1915 brand of truck. After gaining considerable airplay for their hard rock and psychedelic rock sound in the Midwest, they got signed to Epic Records.
Singer Kevin Cronin joined them for their 2nd album, split due to creative differences, and came back into the fold a few years later. Co-founder keyboardist Neal Doughty has been with the band consistently since Day One. I’m not what you would call a huge fan of these guys. They tend to trade in arena rock. But like Boston, when they do it well, they do it very, very well.
When Cronin rejoined the band, on his trip from Chicago to LA he had plenty of time to reflect on changes in his life and how he was rolling with them. He penned the tune “Roll with the Changes,” it became a single from their 1978 album You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tune a Fish and the rest is history. A great, rocking tune with some nice guitar, organ and backing vocals:
You already know the – at one time – “only band that matters,” The Clash. I did a series on them a while back, the first part of which is here. I couldn’t squeeze their cover of “I Fought the Law” in anywhere but always planned to shove it in somewhere. It kicks some serious ass and makes the original sound like something you’d hear at a wedding by comparison. The Clash make it sound dangerous:
Little Feat is another band you know, still out there, some version of them currently on tour. (As is REO). I covered Dixie Chicken here a while back. The 1988 album Let it Roll was the first album they released after the death of founder Lowell George. There is some good stuff on this record but I especially dig the title tune. It just smokes from beginning to end:
How can you not love one-hit-wonder Tommy Tutone and “867-5309/Jenny?” The band built up this myth that Jenny was a real girl and that was her number. But no, it was just a song they made up. The song was a pretty big hit in the early 80s and woe betide anyone who actually had that number. Thousands of calls were made to to any poor soul who had that number. This quote is particularly heartwarming:
“When we’d first get calls at 2 or 3 in the morning,” said Lorene Burns, an Alabama householder, “my husband would answer the phone. He can’t hear too well. They’d ask for Jenny, and he’d say “Jimmy doesn’t live here anymore.” … Tommy Tutone was the one who had the record. I’d like to get hold of his neck and choke him.”
The Fixx formed a couple of years earlier in London. They had a bunch of hits and if memory serves, were fixtures on MTV back in the day. Their genres are listed as New Wave, Pop Rock, and Art Rock. They too appear to still be around and in fact, just released a single a week ago despite not having an album since 2012.
The driving guitar riff of 1983’s “One Thing Leads to Another” is pure funk:
Last but not least we come to the much-maligned Rod Stewart. Younger folk think he’s some disco lounge lizard and I suppose in some respects he is. But as discussed in my series on Jeff Beck and elsewhere, he is a soul and blues singer par excellence and I like to still think of him that way.
This is not a Rod original but a cover of a tune by a Dutch rocker named René Shuman.* I don’t fully understand the helicopter blade imagery but it is a great, evocative tune nonetheless:
The rhythm of my heart
Is beating like a drum
With the words, “I love you”
Rolling off my tongue
No, never will I roam
For I know my place is home
Where the ocean meets the sky, I’ll be sailing
*Shuman is as much an Elvis impersonator as a solo artist and he does his version with an Elvis voice.