A Random Six-Pack ‘o Tunes

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.Β 

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 theΒ 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.Β 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 RenΓ© 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.

42 thoughts on “A Random Six-Pack ‘o Tunes

  1. It’s not cool to admit it, but Stewart had some pretty good hits in the early 1990s – I like his covers of Tom Waits’ ‘Downtown Train’ and Robbie Robertson’s ‘Broken Arrow’.

    That’s a dorky Clash photo – they don’t look like the only band that matters in that one…

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        1. The Stones almost literally starved themselves back in ’62-63 so they could afford to pay Charlie the five quid he demanded. That’s how badly they, especially Keef, wanted him. They resorted in some instances to shoplifting

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Common lore with bands. I heard one where Jim Morrison gave guitar lessons (These Boots Were Made for Walking) to a neighbors kid. He would devour anything on the coffee table. Peanuts, candies etc.

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        3. Good looking corpse. We actually visited his grave in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. People left boots, booze, joints and other assorted paraphernalia. Mine will be a dusty hole in a pauper’s graveyard. Like Scrooge.

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  2. His work with Beck and The Faces were great but if you trade it all in for a tiger-print lycra body suit and matching sun visor you can expect a good ribbing
    Great selection of tunes though, sir – always good to hear The Clash and I didn’t know that REO Speedwagon song, tis a cracker

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    1. Oh fuck yeah, no argument there. Rod should be tarred and feathered. I guess it just bugs me when people hear Rod and Elton’s bloated later years “mommy stuff” and think “Well then, that’s the entirety of them. I can write them off.” I would direct them to their early stuff. Listen to Elton’s “17-11-70” and you will hear more Jerry Lee Lewis and less Barry Manilow. Hell, Elvis did a bunch of crap movies and shitty songs. But his early work spawned a generation of rockers.

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    1. I’ll have to re-subscribe to your blog. I think you show up in the Reader but I never get notifications. I’ll look forward to your Fixx review because I won’t be doing one. And if you think about it, the random choices are exactly what the DJs do on the radio. REO got me going on this one.

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      1. It is what the DJ’s used to do. Everything is so planned out nowadays it is sickening. We were listening to a pop station (my kids were in the car no choice) and they played 3 songs by the same artist in about a 30 minute window. It was awful!!

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        1. My car has Sirius, my wife’s doesn’t. Usually I play Spotify in her car but if I’m off for a short jaunt I might just put on the FM stations. What a sad wasteland. I can predict the exact songs the “Classic Rock” stations will play.

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        1. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. The last album he put out was in ’98 with Plant. Either he’s played out or he fears he’ll never top Zep.

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  3. All great picks, Jim. I knew all except REO Speedwagon and Little Feat.

    I mostly know REO because of their ’80s big hit rock ballads you could frequently hear on the radio back in Germany – kind of amazing how long they’ve been around.

    That Clash take of “I Fought the Law” is classic.

    I also really like that Little Feat tune – nicely rocks!

    While it certainly hasn’t suffered from under-exposure, the Tommy Tutone song just is one hell of a catchy pop-rock song. It’s kind of weird how an artist like him has such a great song “and then nothing else” – I mean, sure, there are many other examples of one-hit wonders.

    “One Thing Leads to Another” is the only Fixx song I can name – liked it when it came out and feel it’s still holding up pretty well – cool sound!

    As for Rod Stewart, the man has an amazing voice and can be quite soulful. “Rhythm of My Heart” isn’t necessarily my favorite, but he has done far worse. The old blues rock-oriented Rod still is the best. BTW, he just came out with a new record. Haven’t checked it out, though my expectations aren’t very high at this point. At least it’s not version no. 388 of the American Songbook – no disrespect here but enough is enough!

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    1. I go to a Spin (stationary bicycle) class at the gym on Tuesdays. They play a mix of rock and dance stuff and they played REO. I was reminded of what a great song it is and it triggered this post. I have that Little Feat album from way back and it always gets my blood going. These are great driving songs.

      Like i mentioned in the piece, the Fixx tune is just straight-up funk. Easy guitar chords but the trick is to get the rhythm just right.

      I’ve always loved that tune by Rod. I agree his forte is blues and rock but to me he really makes this song evocative. I mentioned the Dutch guy who first sang it. Give a listen to a little of this in his Elvis voice.

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