THE MULTI-GEN 50
“Fighting to stay free” #146..August 2010
And now, ladies and gentlemen…
…Train goes off-track. As heard on radio. One station, anyway. If you choose to, you can sing along at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrMiZhrgIzk.
Hey-ey, hey-ey-ey-ey, hey-ey-ey-ey...
The lip-split pain
First a punch and then an order to restrain
That’s what the tabloids told
Not even Ari Gold could help you now
You’re mad, Mad Max
It’s your year of living dangerously, that’s a fact
No Brav’ry in your Heart
Your mouth’s a Lethal Weapon
and I guess you think you know What Women Want
Hey, Mel Gibson
You’re over like Nixon
Let’s hear the tape
Let’s not forget those Jews you hate
Hey, Mel Gibson
I don’t wanna miss the Access Hollywoo-ood
Hey-ey, hey-ey-ey-ey, hey-ey-ey-ey...
says you’re a danger to your family, that’s right
You better not drive the Lexus
‘Cause we know that what comes next is DUI
The words you say
They might as well have gave the Oscar to Dice Clay
It really makes me sad
how you treat your baby mama
Just like Chris Brown decked Rihanna
comes to mind
Hey, Mel Gibson
You’re over like Nixon
Let’s hear those tapes
and don’t forget the Jews you hate
Hey, Mel Gibson
I don’t wanna miss that Access Hollywoo-ood
When we last left our hero (or hoagie, depending on where you happen to be while reading this), he was pondering the recent widespread outbreak of Journeymania, asking “If 'Don't Stop Believin'' can leap across generations in a single bound (or a bound single, if you're a collector), what other songs still do that?”
In this digitally-dominated world, the idea of 'mass appeal' seems antiquated. Yet, somehow, there remains a short list of recordings for the ages, as in appealing to kids as well as to old folks like us (and most in between). It's TV show/advertising licensing, public gatherings and maybe even radio driving these songs across demographic boundaries.
My first impulse was to blame the continuing fragmentation of everything and everyone for keeping this list short. Then it hit me: the list was probably short even before that. At the generation gap's arguably widest point, during the mid-1960s to early 1970s, what qualified? That was an era when the minute adults started liking a song with rock roots, kids stopped liking it, since that made it uncool. Even “Proud Mary” doesn't qualify because no one under 25 really wanted to hear a wedding band play it (aka “Fauxgerty”).
Disco and the return of interest in dancing might have made more songs multi-gen, along with the simple passing of time, which has a way of making yesterday's ear-splitting rockers today's hip parent standards. In the past decade American Idol probably did that, too, given the wide age range of viewers who needed to download “Bohemian Rhapsody” the next day.
Needless to say, this is not a ranking as much as it is – hang on, let me hand it to pain Tom Smith, who nailed it - “songs which (in my completely uninformed opinion) I believe have a certain intergenerational or "mass" appeal that transcends mere pop-hit status. I've compiled this mostly from various incidental experiences, media observation, and gut instinct, but I could be wrong.”
So, this list is based on your suggestions and my ideas too. We can argue all you like about it, and I imagine we will. That's why this isn't a countdown: #1 would be anti-climactic. Note that it's not all party/public gathering songs, but not all media-buzz or radio-test-off-the-page ones, either. And keep in mind that these 50 might be the ones with the most MGA today, but that could change tomorrow, with new licensing coups, a potential cooldown for Michael Jackson, or if one song by one particularly on-fire current act can go super-wide (Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance” looks to be awfully close).
Either way, you gotta like a list where the oldest song is from 1939 and the newest from 2009.
1. WE WILL ROCK YOU/WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS / Queen (1977)
The majority of what I would say are "multi-generational mass appeal songs" are those burned-out songs that get played at ball games. (Steve Thompson)
Proving that if you stick to a simple concept nearly everyone can relate to and play to the crowd, your song will last forever.
2. STAYIN' ALIVE / The Bee Gees (1977)
The "Stairway To Heaven" of disco? (Tom Smith)
I'll buy it. This has become the essential 70s disco/dance song for any occasion. Kids who have never seen Saturday Night Fever (like mine) can do “the Tony” to it (and in the movie, it wasn't this Bee Gees song he did it to, but “You Should Be Dancing”).
3. TWIST AND SHOUT / The Beatles (1963)
Perhaps the best example of an act best known for its original songs whose most-recognized, widest-age-spanning and biggest-reaction song is a remake.
4. OVER THE RAINBOW / Judy Garland (1939)
When most of us were kids, we could hear what is probably the most optimistic song ever recorded only once a year, when CBS aired The Wizard of Oz on Easter Sunday. Subsequent generations have been able to see it on cable more frequently and can download the song. I've even played it a couple of times on the old-fashioned radio. Plus even younger kids get to hear it as half of the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's 1990 medley with “What a Wonderful World.”
5. THRILLER / Michael Jackson (1982)
MJ's retro stock has risen considerably since his passing. (Tom Smith)
Until a year ago, relegated to being just a Halloween standard, but no more. Like #2, this has become the one to do “the Michael” to (although “Billie Jean” and “Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough” are also close-to-universal now as well).
6. I GOTTA FEELING / The Black Eyed Peas (2009)
Last year's Official Song of the Summer™. Ubiquitous. (Tom Smith)
When you think about it, it's amazing that it took 30 years from “The Rapper's Delight” for anyone to create what is essentially a hip-hop standard. Time will tell if it continues to curry favor from 7 to 77.
7. DON'T STOP BELIEVIN' / Journey (1981)
Has resurfaced for the younger crowd, and my daughter plays it all the time! I can't help but smile and get all proud of her for singing along to a song that I grew up hearing! (Kristin LaBar, Fresh 102.7)
What she said...and see Hz #145.
8. BORN TO BE WILD / Steppenwolf (1968)
9. STAND BY ME / Ben E. King (1961)
One of the few pre-Beatles songs that still works on the new breed of PPM-centric oldies radio stations, due to its second life in 1986 from the movie of that name. A good thing, because Ben got to teach our kids (and theirs too) about not only slow-dance romance but also security in the post-9/11 world (which helps explain why it's a grade-school choir staple).
10. BROWN EYED GIRL / Van Morrison (1967)
ARGGH! I feel SO alone being the ONLY human on the planet who does not go ga-ga over this non-Lady Gaga song when it comes on. Didn't care for it much in 1967...1977...1987...1997 or 2007, etc. etc. But listening to the reaction whenever it's played, you'd think it was "Hey Jude" and "Stairway to Heaven" all wrapped up in one! (Mike Riccio)
This could very well be the most heavily played recording in the history of U.S. radio. Interestingly, Van followed this up with an album that was so esoteric that even though (rightfully) regarded as one of the greatest musical masterpieces of the 20th century, has received virtually no airplay whatsoever. (Tom Smith)
And to think it started out as a paean to interracial sex (as in “Brown Skinned Girl”). But as long as there's “laughin' and a-runnin',” this will resonate with multiple generations the first time the temperature hits 80 every year.
11. SURFIN' U.S.A. / The Beach Boys (1963)
Another temperature-sensitive song. Again, Brian Wilson, one of the great songwriters of our time, and the one song of his most folks know is the one he didn't write the music for.
12. DECEMBER, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) / The 4 Seasons (1975,1994 remix)
When you consider all the reasons this shouldn't be wide-reaching (most notably, asking to be dated, having a year in its title), it's mind-boggling that it's endured. Then again, how do you explain it having hit a second time during the height of both Seattle grunge and gangsta rap?
13. SINGLE LADIES (Put a Ring on It) / Beyoncé (2008)
Not only did it have One of the Best Videos of All Time™, I saw somewhere that it had become the most popular song for the bouquet toss at weddings. But of course! (Tom Smith)
14. NA NA HEY HEY KISS HIM GOODBYE / Steam (1969)
Arguably the biggest song most know from a one-hit wonder.
15. Tie: SUPER FREAK / Rick James (1981), U CAN'T TOUCH THIS / M.C. Hammer (1990)
Is this cheating, even if each hits everyone (even very hip grandparents)? Sure, the subject matter of the former doesn't really lend itself to bar mitzvah receptions, but that Mohegan Sun TV spot tells the real story here.
16. THE TWIST / Chubby Checker (1960)
Because it's still the only dance ever that anyone can do. Until somebody comes up with an even easier one – which, judging from the latest crop of dances, isn't likely – Chubby rules.
17. YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT / John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John (1978)
I attended a screening of Grease in the late 90s as part of its 20th anniversary return to theaters. I was intrigued by the odd superposition of 90s era nostalgia for the 70s with 70s era nostalgia for the 50s. By now, however, Grease has assuredly transcended all nostalgia and chronological cultural reference points. (Tom Smith)
Or, everyone who sees the movie latches onto this almost-closing number. Including Liberty Meadows' Brandy (see below).
18. START ME UP / The Rolling Stones (1981)
Turf currently encroached upon by Michael Jackson's “Wanna Be Startin' Somethin',” but I'm guessing this is just “too high to get over.”
19. HEY YA! / OutKast (2003)
Has probably replaced both the Young Rascals' “Good Lovin'” and the Beatles' “I Saw Her Standing There” as the count-up intro crowd pleaser.
20. LA BAMBA / Ritchie Valens (1959), Los Lobos (1987)
Doesn't hurt that the latter version's in Guitar Hero.
21. LET'S GET IT ON / Marvin Gaye (1973)
The grade-school girl I saw clutching the 45 on a D.C. bus that summer has probably made a couple of babies to it. And maybe by now one of those babies has too. And there are probably a few million other girls just like her. Not to mention a few million men slow-dancing to it right now hoping to get lucky.
22. BORN IN THE U.S.A. / Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Who cares if it isn't really patriotic? (Tom Smith)
Exactly. Like many of these, most hear but don't listen.
23. MONY MONY / Tommy James and the Shondells (1968), Billy Idol (1981)
But I'm thinking Idol should be listed first.
24. THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA/ Charlie Daniels Band (1979)
When they say, “Play one country song,” is it still always gonna be this one?
25. WONDERFUL TONIGHT / Eric Clapton (1977)
The "Stairway To Heaven" of romantic date songs? (Tom Smith)
Nearly 30 years after it hit I polled 100 women in my workplace asking for the perfect wedding song. This won by a landslide, because what woman doesn't want to hear this?
26. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY / Queen (1975)
What part of "scaramouche can you do the fandango" don't you understand? (Tom Smith)
More lives than a cat. Wayne's World, Mountain Dew, American Idol, Glee...next?
27. LOUIE LOUIE / The Kingsmen (1963)
I'm honestly shocked at the way that song lights the eyes of such a wide age range of people.
I was humming the song at a diner recently, and the 20-something waitress smiled a rather knowing smile...she said she "knew the official (dirty) words to the song." Of course, the "dirty words" were one of the song's special appeals to those of us who are not...politically correct. (Dick Summer)
You know, this is one I wouldn't have thought of if not for Dick and several other pains. Who just may be “Louie Louie Generation” guys or girls. Check Dick's blog at www.dicksummer.com and see for yourself.
28. AT LAST / Etta James (1961)
For TV watchers, moviegoers and once-in-a-while slow-dancers, this has been tough to avoid over the past few years.
29. LOVE SHACK / The B-52's (1989)
Jo-ja meets Motown, and fans on both sides of the timeline converge.
30. ROCK AND ROLL PART 2 / Gary Glitter (1972)
Even though most people probably 1) don’t even know the title and 2) have never heard Part 1. (Tom Smith)
Chances are it wouldn't have become a stadium standard were it titled “Hey.”
31. HOTEL CALIFORNIA / Eagles (1976)
Notfornuttin', but the youngest person to request a song on my radio show asked for it. She was 18.
32. SWEET CAROLINE / Neil Diamond (1969)
Those Gleeks can't all be Red Sox fans.
33. HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT / Pat Benatar (1980)
[By way of] Guitar Hero/Rock Band, kids are being exposed to music they may have never discovered if it weren't for these video games. I hear my kids playing at home and get a huge kick out of my 7 year old son running around the house singing "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." (Kristin LaBar,Fresh 102.7)
As I see it, not near enough woman-in-charge songs listed, but at least this is the big one.
34. THEME FROM “NEW YORK, NEW YORK” / Frank Sinatra (1980)
Taking the “old-fashioned” slot that used to be filled by “In the Mood.”
35. I'M A BELIEVER / The Monkees (1966)
I've never seen anyone at any age not smile when hearing it.
36. I WANT YOU BACK / The Jackson 5 (1969)
“He was 11?” works with any kid. Of course, it helps that the song's irresistible.
37. Y.M.C.A. / The Village People (1978)
The art of arm-spelling never gets old, apparently.
38. SWEET HOME ALABAMA / Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)
In the “Country-by-association Hall of Fame.”
39. PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC / Wild Cherry (1976)
One of the greatest, most recognizable intros maybe ever. And that was before Craig Kilborn used it as his theme.
40. UNCHAINED MELODY / The Righteous Brothers (1965)
20 years post-Ghost, I don't think it's Ghost-driven anymore.
41. RESPECT / Aretha Franklin (1967)
Remains the go-to non-Motown R&B party track.
42. I CAN''T HELP MYSELF (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) / Four Tops (1965)
Just as this is the go-to Motown song (I don't believe most people think of the J5
as classic Motown.
43. POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME / Def Leppard (1987)
As metallic a spanner as we've got (although Twisted Sister's “We're Not Gonna Take It” seems to be coming up the back stretch).
44. LIVIN' ON A PRAYER / Bon Jovi (1986)
Perhaps the biggest protest song of the 80s (if, like me, you considered 'anti-yuppie' a protest - “It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not”). Its audience carried the message into adulthood (and into, as it happens, harder times than Tommy and Gina had to face) and to their kids.
45. IRREPLACEABLE / Beyoncé (2006)
3 words: “to the left.”
46. AMERICAN PIE / Don McLean (1971)
Whenever the family goes for a long drive together, I put it on, and everybody starts singing and gets happy. It's really remarkable. (Evan Marcus)
And there you have it. It's not so much the story anymore as it is the sing-along quality.
47. WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD / Louis Armstrong (1968)
An artist from the 1930s with a recording from the 1960s that wasn't a U.S. pop hit until the 1980s and is still popular today: how much more intergenerational does it get? (Tom Smith)
A licensing bonanza. And see #4.
48. YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG / AC/DC (1980)
The multimillion-dollar multi-generational monster. If you don't watch out, Aunt Bertha'll knock you out with her American thighs.
49. DANCING QUEEN / ABBA (1976)
As a mobile DJ, [I must say it] always works. (Name withheld)
Mama mia, that's some spicy endorsement.
50. BABY GOT BACK / Sir Mix-a-lot (1992)
Ok, let the arguments begin. The lines are open.
Just a reminder that there's one more Hz Top 50 before summer goes bye-bye, and votes have already been pouring in for it: THE 50 LEAST-DESERVING NUMBER ONE SONGS. If you've ever said "THAT went to #1???" here's your chance to sound off. As you do, keep two things in mind:
Ř Don't let personal opinion about any song be your driver. I'd say any song which was #1 for several weeks according to several sources deserved to be there, by definition. It's the ones that snuck in that make you wonder.
Ř Don't let personal opinion about any genre (and you know the one I'm referring to) be your driver, either.
Lots of time left to send your thoughts, since we're shooting to give this one to you on Labor Day weekend.
Great job on this one. 1970 is my absolute favorite year in music. And I know way too much useless trivia from then.
1970 was a great year musically, though WMCA left us. I still remember Frankie Crocker closing on 9-20-70 with the three versions of 'Grapevine.' As I knew WMCA was leaving, I purchased an FM radio and got into WOR-FM. I also went to my first concert, seeing my favorite current band [Creedence] at MSG.
I love the update. Summer 71 did it for me. KFRC & KCBQ. Wow! I sure miss great radio! Again, thanks for the memories!
Hmmm...I guess this means I'm doing one of these next year for 1971. Ok by me.
And the hits…
BACK TO WHEN THE “FUTURE” WAS IN OUR PAST Once upon a time, oldies FMs WCBS-FM New York and sister WCAU-FM Philadelphia – and probably other oldies stations, too - played the occasional current hit under the header “Future Gold.” No “classic hits” outlet could get away with that now, because we've been conditioned to the idea that formats are what they are and are not what they're not. There's no stepping out of line, even if a completely new song (not an Elvis remix) sounds like it'd fit right in.
So, excuse me if I take the other side. If there's not a lot of sharing between oldies and AC – meaning most oldies listeners hear nothing current – where's the downside? Second, since the format goes out of its way NOT to tell you when a song came out, creating a “Top 40 atmosphere” of what may as well be current hits for the audience – where's the downside? And, if a music company would like to test the concept of selling something new to a listenership which by definition hungers for new music – where'e the downside?
I've been fortunate to DJ at two oldies stations outside of any DMA, where currents were being spun before I got there. So when I played Raphael Saadiq, Michael Buble, Train or the new Sheryl Crow, the hotline didn't ring. And it didn't sound like a train wreck – not even with Train.
BUBBLE BOY Back in the summer of '69, while Bryan was doing something constructive like playing guitar, I was a 12-year-old with a cigar-a-day habit. For a week, anyway. At the bungalow colony my family was at, the game room had no candy bars for sale, so every night my new friend Alex and I would enjoy after-dinner bubble gum cigars. A true gum cigar aficionado will alternate between Gold Dragon, Pink Owl and the ever-popular El Bubble.
Strange thing, soon as we left that resort, I never had another of those cigars. But it's comforting to know they're still around (http://www.amazon.com/El-Bubble-Original-Cigars-Pack/dp/B000WFZO22/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=grocery&qid=1280886482&sr=1-1). I'm sure they're as bad for you as the real deal.
By the way, a funny (to me, anyway) thing happened when our day camp “hiked” to the center of nearby Hamden, Connecticut and wound up at a newsstand (where I could get a real candy bar). On that Wednesday afternoon of July 30th, I looked down at a New York Daily News Sunday funnies dated...August 3rd. How could this be? I said to myself. Why I didn't try to buy the paper to find out what was going to happen four days later – or at least what was going to happen with Dick Tracy - I'll never know.
ANNIE-ACHRONISM The radio prop in the production of Annie my daughter was in sure looked authentic...until I noticed the slot on the side for a cassette!
This radio'll come out tomorrow.
ARRESTED FOR DRIVING WHILE BLIND Many Hzs ago, I suggested that most people hearing the Kars 4 Kids radio spot (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6M-HXo5aTg) don't understand it. And that was before I went to the site and saw the car-toon of the kid driving a car. So, the other day when I heard a similar pitch for Heritage for the Blind, I imagined listeners saying to themselves “Now, that's taking things a little too far.”
THE MITCH IS BACK While I couldn't weigh in about the recently-departed Mitch Miller's alleged disdain for rock'n roll or supposed feuds with Frank and Tony, I can tell you that he was a big star in our house. Years before Sing Along With Mitch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dY9gtYeHhk) debuted on NBC-TV, my Dad – who's probably still singing those songs wherever he is now – had all the Sing Along albums on reel. While there's no reel of Dad singing along, there is one of his faithful 3-year-old apprentice. If I can find it, I might even play a few seconds on this Saturday's edition of The Rest of the Week with Rich Appel, 9am-1pm ET on www.wrnj.com.
That's it for this Hz So Good. We'll see youuuu in Sep-temmmm-ber—
Also, the 2012 edition of the I.R.S. (It Really Shoulda been a Top 10 hit) appears in April-May 2012 edition of Hz So Good.