Friday, August 01, 2008

Battle of the Decades

Since my blogging has dwindled recently, I figured I could at least start posting BOTD here. This is the game I started for my family, but it keeps expanding and taking on new players.

The rules are simple. Every so often, when the spirit moves me, I'll put om XM Radio online, C&P whatever happens to be playing on their decade channels at that moment, and send out the list, with my commentary. Players have to vote for one song . If there are a couple of great ones, you have to choose between greatness. If they're all wretched, you still have to choose between wretchedness. Or sometimes, as is the case this week, one song distances itself from the pack

THE 40s
Perry Como
I'm Always Chasing Rainbows

THE 50s
Bristol Stomp

THE 60s
The Syndicate of Sound
Little Girl

THE 70s
Elton John
Philadelphia Freedom

THE 80s
Bruce Springsteen
Glory Days

THE 90s
Eve 6
Inside Out

OK, I'm willing to drop Perry Como pretty quickly, Not only was he a boring singer, and not only is this a dumb song, but I also associate it with Tuesday evening singalongs at the Millbrook School for Boys, and however ghastly that may sound to you in the abstract, in the reality it was much, much worse. And no YouTube for Perry...sorry.

And we can scratch off the Syndicate of Sound, who managed to combine a pseudo-70s-funk-sounding group name (before there even was any pseudo 70s funk, or even real 70s funk) with a pseudo Dylan vocal, and I figure if the little girl slept with these guys, she probably was doing something wrong.

Elton John is one of the most brilliant pop music composers of our time. So why can't I ever remember which song is which? However, dig those crazy Soul Train dancers.

What is "Bristol Stomp" doing in the 50s? XM playing fast and loose again. No 50s group ever had a name like the Dovells. This is a dumb song that I can't help loving. Eve 6, on the other hand, are a very good group whom I could really grow to like if I listened to 90s music more than I do, which is basically the YouTube videos for BOTD. But they still tie for runner-up, with their sound that encapsulates the heart of white American music in the last quarter of the 20th century, the music pushed to its highest peaks by Bob Dylan and...

Here's a guy who dresses like a working man, acts like a working class guy, sings working class songs, and what do they call him? The Boss! That anomaly aside, no one wrote songs like Springsteen. He had the kind of power and compression and allusion that poets get, and songwriters generally don't. But he was writing, and singing, songs, real songs, with a beat and hooks and hot riffs and everything that needs to come together to make a great song. "Glory Days" is muscular and poignant. It nails its characters with vicious accuracy and deepest sympathy. And it rocks. It gets my vote.

The videos are, in order, live on Letterman with Paul Shaeffer, on tour with the "Other Band" that everyone hated because they weren't the E Street Band, but they were damn good, live with the E Street Band featuring Silvio Dante, and the video released with the song. Just be grateful I didn't also include the duet with Jon Bon Jovi.

My own Glory Days included playing softball -- with the Crawdaddy team -- on a road trip to Asbury Park, against Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I got two hits off Bruce.

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