20. Strawberry Letter #23 – Brothers Johnson
Starts off with circus music, then kicks a groove. That swirling sound at the bridge is extraordinary.
19. Eleanore – the Turtles.
The story goes that their record company wanted another “Happy Together”, so the group gave them one. It has the same minor to major transition, very similar – though lovely – harmonies, and the like. So why is this song, rather than “Happy Together” on the list? Two reasons, really. One: HT was really overplayed. Two: the line “you’re my pride and joy, et cet’ra,” a throwaway line if ever I heard one. (It rhymes with “better” or more correctly, “betta”.) Love singing along.
18. Drive My Car – Beatles.
I read once the intricacy of the chord structure. It’s the minor key feel of the verse and major chord feel of the chorus that grabbed me from first hearing. First song that Paul McCartney played in some 23008 concerts.
17. Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Even before the great vocal comes up, an orchestral delight, as the melody shifts from section to section.
Feeling: damn right.
16. Can We Still Be Friends – Todd Rundgren
The changing meter in the bridge makes it.
feeling: You know the answer is no.
15. Sly & The Family Stone – Hot Fun In The Summertime
Harmonies, shared vocals and an “ooo-Lord” worth waiting for.
14. Jerks on the Loose – the Roches.
The album Keep On Doing was produced by Robert Fripp, so there are odd sonic twists and turns throughout. this song has one of my favorite (and used) couplets:
“You work too ard to take this abuse
Be on your guard jerks on the loose.
This 30-second taste (Track 11) hardly gives the full sense of how great this song is.
Feeling: on my guard.
13. (Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon.
In the fall of 1980, when the single was released, there was a lot of anticipation about it and the forthcoming Double Fantasy album. I didn’t think it was a great song, but it was sort of fun, with that faux Elvis vocal in the beginning of the verse. Then John died, and the irony of the title – we waited five years and THAT had to happen? – made me tear up for months, if not years.
Feeling: still makes me very sad.
12. River – Joni Mitchell.
There’s a lot of Joni I could have picked, but this one, based on Jingle Bells, is just so beautiful. The piano variations at the end seal the deal.
11. In My Room – the Beach Boys.
I liked being in my room when I was a kid. I could entertain myself for hours, reading, looking at my baseball cards and listening to the radio. Yet I was somehow supposed to feel guilty for doing so. Anyway, lives on the vocals, in this case – single voice, then two-part harmony, then full harmony; very effective.