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The Freedom of Music: fourty-five 45s at 45

July 12th, 2009

freedom-of-music-headerOne likes to believe in the freedom of music.

Rush – Spirit of Radio.

It’s not my 45th birthday, in fact I’m a mere two weeks away from leaving 45 in my rear view mirror, closer now to 50 than 40, worse yet closer to 60 than 30. But I am, as of this writing, 45 years old. And fairly well reputed for procrastination. So lets pretend I’m playing this game on my 45th birthday, but I procrastinated just a touch.

Credit to this post must be given to Rick Mcginnis who listed his top 45 45’s on his fourty-fifth birthday (Rick credits Dave Macintosh, former Nerve Magazine editor, who forwarded his list to former writers of the magazine last year).

And without further ado, my fourty-five favourite 45 RPM records, from the vantage point of being 45.

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45. The Unicorn (Irish Rovers) – The first 45 I ever remember. It seemed to be always around the house, and when my own kids were young it was their introduction to the rotary music maker i.e. the record player.

44. Layla (The Acoustic Version) (Eric Clapton) – Probably the last 45 I bought as new. A timeless song re-done for a new era. The best Clapton had been for fifteen years, and the best he’s been since.

43. Burning Down One Side (Robert Plant) – Robert Plant’s first solo release I probably bought this because it was released before the album (a common practice back then). I can’t remember if it disappointed, but it shouldn’t have: great song.

42. Understanding (Bob Seger) – Some Bob Seger songs you just can’t get on a album, this is one of them. From the movie “Teacher,” one of those middle of the road piano based songs that Seger excelled at.

41. Classical Gas (Mason Williams) – The genius of this song is that it does fit on a 45. Many classical pieces would be too long for the 45, thus too long for radio play and too long to buy without forking over the extra money you need to buy an album.

40. Rasputin (Boney M.) – Singles – 45’s – are what you took to parties, what DJ’s lugged to weddings. Rasputin is one of those great dance songs that work so well at parties/ weddings &tc., thus is a great 45. I probably would never listen to the whole album, but I’d listen to this song more than once in a row.

39. Beat It! (Michael Jackson) – Obligatory Michael Jackson content, I include this one because it has the name “Jaimie” written on the label, which was the stage name of a stripper my buddy went out with. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a strip club, but I’m betting the girls don’t bring their own records anymore.

38. The Night the Lights Went Out in  Georgia (Vicky Lawrence) – Yes, the same Vicky Lawrence that was on the Carrol Burnett Show. One of those addictive songs that I had to pull out of the closet recently when the wife a) wanted to know if I could get the song for her and b) didn’t believe I had it.

37. Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot) – It’s expected if your Canadian that you will love Gordon Lightfoot. I don’t, but I don’t hate him either. This is by far his best song, and a great song with an amazing groove it is.

36. Sugar, Sugar (The Archies) – The only 45 I own that is performed by cartoon characters. Even if it wasn’t, it would probably be the catchiest.

35. Last Song (Edward Bear) – A very popular early 70’s Canadian Band, they will always be remembered for this, the schmaltziest song they did. I’ve always liked this song mostly because it was an important part of life when I was just the right age.

34 Help! (The Beatles) – Doesn’t everybody have some Beatles in their collection? I have half-a-dozen maybe, some even better songs. But was any Beatles song better suited to the 45RPM format? Two-and-a-half minutes of up tempo pop, perfect for the old portable record player.

33. I’m Into Something Good (Herman’s Hermits) – Like Help! a perfect single for the format, like  Rasputin, an addictive little ditty. Granted it’s no Henry the Eight or Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, but it’s the one I’ve got.

32. Free Ride (Edgar Winter Group) – One of the great rock ‘n’ roll hooks of all time. Turn it up.

31. I Was Only Joking (Rod Stewart) – I was going to put You’re In My Heart in this slot, mostly for the b/side, a relatively unknown and truly cruel little song, You Got a Nerve.  But in the end, I Was Only Joking is one of Rod the Bod’s best songs and far more deserving of this minor honour.

30. Sometimes When We Touch (Dan Hill) – I know, ack, gag, ptuii. Make all the choking, gagging, nausea noises you want, this is a lovely song and if you didn’t use it to rub up against a cute girl at the dance it’s only because your not the right age. I am, and this song stays on the list.

29. Fly at Night (Chilliwack) – Notice all the Canadian talent? The 70’s and 80’s really were the best of times for Canadian music. Chilliwack really was a great band, and this is a memorable piece.

28. Who Are You (The Who) – They cut the album version to make it fit on a single, then they cut it again to make it fit on a TV show. This is far better than the 30 second CSI version, not as good as the longer album version.

27. High on Emotion (Chris DeBurgh) – I have an affinity for up-tempo pop songs that serious music fans are not supposed to have, and this is a good one.

26. Takin’ Care of Business (Bachman Turner Overdrive) – The first song that was important to me, and the first 45 I bought that I just had to have.  The one I own is scratched irreparably from unsuccessfully trying to learn how to play it on the guitar.

25. Blinded By The Light (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) – Another song that was shrunk to fit, and thus became a radio song. It’s easy to say they bastardized the song by shrinking it, but if they hadn’t Manfred Mann would still be remembered as the guy who did Do Wah Da Ditty. If you know and like this song, this single is why, even if that’s not the version you hear anymore.

24. My Ding-a-ling (Chuck Berry) – So much important music, yet Chuck Berry is immortalized here for a novelty song. None the less I was in grade four when this song was being played on the radio and we got the joke. It may not be Berry’s best, but it introduced Chuck Berry to a whole new generation of fans, me included.

23. The Loco-Motion (Grand Funk) – This song rightfully belongs on everyones list. The only argument is which version – this is my favourite version.

22. Season’s in the Sun (Terry Jacks) – Well, somebody has to remember Terry Jacks.

21. King of the Road (Roger Miller) – The original of a song that has been covered by countless artists (Wikipedia lists 19). A fun song, somedays that’s all you want.

20. Indian Reservation (The Raiders) – I wonder if Brenda Miller wakes up some days and wonders what ever happened to that record?  The copy I own has my old babysitters name all over it, and I remember her playing it to death when she came to babysit us.

19. Heatwave (Linda Ronstadt) – Not the Martha and the Vandelles version but a young, very cute Linda Ronstadt’s. One of those songs with a great hook to it, when you hear it you can’t get it out of your head. If you don’t believe me search YouTube for Joan Osbourne doing this song from the Shadow of Mowtown DVD.

18. Closer to the Heart (Rush) – How many Rush songs are 45 friendly? Closer to the Heart really isn’t, but Rush was so big by the time it was released the radio stations had to have something.

17. Thinking of You (Harlequin) – Who knows who Harlequin even is anymore. Yet between this and Innocence you have two of the best Canadian songs.

16. Only Women (Alice Cooper) – They not only shortened the song to 3:29, they cut the title from the presumably controversial Only Women Bleed.

15. Patience (Guns and Roses) – You didn’t expect welcome to the Jungle, did you? G’n’R rocked as hard as anybody, but they also mastered the rock ballad and this is proof positive of that.

14. Benny and the Jets/Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Elton John) – My brother was away for the weekend, and I, who always competed with him for who had the best music (being three years younger I always lost) had bought both of these singles while he was away. When he came home I very deliberately put on Benny and the Jets, but was reading the picture sleeve of Lucy in the Sky, so when he walked in my room he would know immediately what I had bought. It was dumb, but it was the only time one of these little schemes actually worked, so I remember it fondly.

13. Shaddap You Face (Joe Dolce) – I love the novelty song, and I still laugh when I hear this one. My mom wasn’t even Italian, but she would say this to us. That may be the magic of Shaddap You Face. Mom’s don’t talk to their kids like that anymore, so today’s kids may not relate so well, but I bet they laugh anyway (I know mine do).

12. Mickey (Toni Basil) – Cheesy, yet a wonderful piece of pop music. A true one hit wonder, a former dancer there’s something infectious about this song. I don’t listen to it often, but I smile every time.

11. New York, New York (Frank Sinatra) – For years this was an end of the party song, and being the guy usually looked upon to provide the music, it made it’s way into my collection. I still feel like doing a rockette kick when I hear it.

10. Heavy Music (Bob Seger) – I spent some time a number of years ago collecting Bob Seger. Unlike most artists, there is a number of Bob Seger 45’s that aren’t otherwise available. Most people probably know Heavy Music from Live Bullet, but when it gets seperated from the pack the way a 45 seperates a song, you realize how good a song it is. Bob Seger at his best, before he know that this was what he does best.

9. Sweet City Woman (Stampeders) – The top Canadian act on the list, Sweet City Woman is the first 45 I remember being around the house. It was my brothers, but somehow I managed to end up with it (probably because it has a chip out of the edge).  Not even my favourite Stampeders song, but how can you not love the rock ‘n’ roll banjo?

8. Bop (Dan Seals) – Classic pop with a tinge of country. This probably wound up higher on the list because a) Seals passed recently, therefore I listened to this recently b) my wife is quite fond of it.

7. The Night Chicago Died (Paper Lace) – This gets treated as a bad piece of trite, obvious trash, as if it’s Billy Don’t Be  A Hero. It’s not. It’s a decent piece of rock ‘n’ roll that’s worth listening to just to remind yourself of a time when the throwaway trash was better than the best of the best today.

6.Ballroom Blitz (Sweet) – Will the music at grade six dances ever be this good again? I swore for years this would be the first dance at my wedding, and if I wasn’t so darn uncomfortable dancing in front of people, I might have insisted on it. Great song for all the right reasons.

5. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown (Jim Croce) – I have been a Jim Croce fan as long as I can remember. this isn’t his best song, but it’s my introduction to him, and I still have the original 45. Longevity counts in this list, so it breaks the top 5.

4. Come On Eileen (Dexy’s Midnight Runners) – Probably the only song on the list I like more now than then.  Through the years I have heard more and more Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and I am always impressed by their musicianship, and the fact they come as close as you can in the pop world to doing something truly original.  They really do rock the banjo, along with a couple of fiddles, creating a danceable pop tune that’s neither understandable or forgettable. It’s one thing to have the words to a song stuck in your head, it’s another thing entirely when you have no clue what those words really are. That takes true genius, and Come on Eileen is an almost peerfect piece of pop music.

3. I Don’t Like Monday’s (Boomtown Rats) – If you bought 45’s in Britain, you didn’t need the little plastic piece to keep it centered on the turntable, they came with the center piece built in. My copy of I Don’t Like Monday’s was bought in Irelend in the summer of 1979, when I Don’t Like Mondays was Top of the Pops. It wouldn’t find a voice in North America until deep into the next winter, by which time I was telling people it was an old song and I was already tired of it. I wasn’t really, and still aren’t.

2. Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen) – For all the talk about Springsteen being deep, meaningful, political, &tc. Springsteen is a truly brilliant writer of pure pop songs. Dancing in the Dark is the best example of that, as well as the song that turned Springsteen into a superstar. 

1. Immigrant Song/Hey Hey What Can I Do (Led Zeppelin) – The first record I went in search of. Led Zeppelin didn’t like singles, but the record company got Immigrant Song onto a 45, and released it with Hey, Hey What Can I do on the b/side. Hey Hey… was never released on an album, so when radio stations started playing it in the early 80’s, the Immigrant Song single became a must have. I searched to no avail, and then sometime around 1982, it got quietly re-released. I still have never seen an original, but still like to throw this 45 on from time to time.

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

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