One of my all-time favorite Rush tunes that also shows the lyrical genius of Neil Peart:
Proud swagger out of the schoolyard
Waiting for the world’s applause
Rebel without a conscience
Martyr without a cause
Static on your frequency
Electrical storm in your veins
Raging at unreachable glory
Straining at invisible chains
And now you’re trembling on a rocky ledge
Staring down into a heartless sea
Can’t face life on a razor’s edge
Nothing’s what you thought it would be
All of us get lost in the darkness
Dreamers learn to steer by the stars
All of us do time in the gutter
Dreamers turn to look at the cars
Turn around and turn around and turn around
Turn around and walk the razor’s edge
Don’t turn your back
And slam the door on me
It’s not as if this barricade
Blocks the only road
It’s not as if you’re all alone
In wanting to explode
Someone set a bad example
Made surrender seem alright
The act of a noble warrior
Who lost the will to fight
And now you’re trembling on a rocky ledge
Staring down into a heartless sea
Done with life on a razor’s edge
Nothing’s what you thought it would be
No hero in your tragedy
No daring in your escape
No salutes for your surrender
Nothing noble in your fate
Christ, what have you done?
Where would you rather be?
Anywhere. Anywhere but here.
Amen (not here as in the Friday Five, but here as in work). And one of the stranger tracks on this (at the time) uncharacteristically different Rush album.
Ramones - "Too Tough to Die" (Too Tough to Die, 1984)
Can’t say I’m a big fan of this Dee Dee track.
U2 - "Lemon" (Zooropa, 1993)
I honestly thought the U2 guys had lost their minds when they released this album. I hated their new musical direction, I hated this song, and I hated the album, and therefore, I dismissed everything they did until All That You Can’t Leave Behind brought them back onto my radar. I’ve come to appreciate both Zooropa and Pop, and I think “Lemon,” with its electronic feel and Bono’s “Fat Lady” falsetto vocals, has actually stood the test of time better than some of their older “classic” material.
Toad the Wet Sprocket - "Walk on the Ocean" (Radio 104.5 Studio Session, 2008)
We end as we started, with one of my favorite bands, songwriters, and vocalists. I love this live performance with its lap steel slide guitar solo, but I’m not sure what I think about the song in general. One one hand, I’m grateful that FM radio and MTV played the absolute living hell out of it, because it (and a couple other Fear tracks) brought Toad the Wet Sprocket to my attention. On the other hand, I hate it, because FM radio and MTV played the absolute living hell out of it.
Short and sweet this week since I have meetings stacked up all day today.
Jill Phillips - “By a Thread” (Nobody’s Got It All Together, 2006)
There aren’t many Christians—much less CCM artists—who will admit that we don’t have it all together, we don’t have all the answers, and we don’t have the corner on the market of God’s grace. Jill Phillips is one of those brutally honest artists who is not afraid to admit that there are indeed times when “I can’t get it down to my heart from my head” and that “I’m hanging by a thread.”
Soundgarden - "My Wave" (Superunknown, 1994)
Don’t come over here and piss on my gate. Do what you want. Just don’t involve me.
Rush - "Out of the Cradle" (Vapor Trails, 2002)
OK, so I’m one of those oddball Rush fans that liked Vapor Trails and didn’t think the production/mastering was obnoxiously loud and distorted. But then again, I haven’t heard the recently released Vapor Trails Remixed.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - "Don’t Do Me Like That" (Greatest Hits, 1993)
Baby, don’t do him like that. I’ve always liked this tune.
The Knack - "Good Girls Don’t" (Get the Knack, 1979)
…but I do. Doug Fieger and Berton Averre sure could write some pretty pop songs with dirty lyrics couldn’t they?!
Rush - "Lakeside Park" (Caress of Steel, 1975)
I don’t listen to Caress of Steel often enough.
Dio - "One Night in the City" (The Last in Line, 1984)
Huh. I obviously don’t know The Last in Line as well as I thought I did, because I totally don’t recall this song. On listening this time, I can understand why I would dismiss it. There’s nary a dragon or sorceress in sight, nor is there any mention of fire, magic, or witchcraft, although the staccato interplay between Vivian Campbell’s guitar and Claude Schnell’s keyboard is nice.
At the Drive-In - "Fahrenheit" (This Station Is Non-Operational, 1997)
Speaking of lyrics, have you ever tried to understand anything Cedric Bixler-Zavala has ever written?! If you’re up for a good laugh, head over to SongMeanings.com and read the non-ironical interpretations of some the nonsensical stuff Cedric comes up with. Back to the music, this is 2-and-a-half minutes of everything I loved about At the Drive-In. For more fun, check out this 1999 performance of “Fahrenheit.”
Led Zeppelin - “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971)
I knew this moment would come at some point in my Friday Five listening. Classic rock radio has so overplayed “Stairway to Heaven” that often I can just barely stand to listen to it, despite its having what I consider one of the greatest guitar solos ever.
The Wildhearts - "Pissjoy" (Endless, Nameless, 1997) Endless, Nameless was The Wildheart’s experimentation with a heavier sound. Rather than capitalize on the band’s moderately successful formula of catchy, poppy tunes, in a classic, self-destructive move, they washed the entire album with layers of noisy distortion, making it almost unlistenable and ultimately polarizing many Wildhearts fans’ opinions of the album. But if you can get past the noise, there’s much to enjoy here. I especially like the gang vocal chorus of kids singing “Piss! Joy! Ah-na-na-na-na!” after Ginger delivers the line “All the children sing.” Nice.
Queensrÿche - "Desert Dance" (Tribe, 2003)
Unfortunately the Queensrÿche machine had pretty much ridden off the rails at this point, and even the tentative return of guitarist Chris DeGarmo could do little to breathe new life into the band. Despite reaching #56 on the US Billboard 200 and earning a 4-star AllMusic rating, the seeming return-to-form of the mighty ‘Rÿche just wasn’t meant to be, with old personal differences rearing their heads in the studio and their label screwing the pooch by exaggerating DeGarmo’s involvement in the “reunion.” “Desert Dance” is a decent enough tune, and I really like the song’s groove—and I have to say I honestly like most of the album for what it is—but it largely lies dormant and remains forgotten in my library.
Mutation - "Rats" (The Frankenstein Effect, 2012)
Recorded in 2011, Mutation was an on-again, off-again side-project of The Wildhearts’ Ginger that he had finally decided to shelve for good. That is until his wildly successful PledgeMusic campaign for the solo triple-album release 555% convinced him he might be able to revive the project by crowdsourcing it. Somewhere along the way, Ginger decided to launch the side-project Hey! Hello! with Victoria Liedke and release an album of material along with the two Mutation releases. I have to admit I jumped onto the campaign for the excellent, poppy Hey! Hello! album rather than the noisy, chaotic, and sometimes downright scary Mutation ones. I don’t know if Ginger was simply exorcising some demons with the Mutation albums, but I have found it really difficult to listen to them for any length of time, the stellar “Rats” being one of the few exceptions.
PFR - "Blind Man, Deaf Boy" (Great Lengths, 1994)
Early 90s CCM-pop at its finest. PFR is one of the few Christian radio acts I followed whose music has managed to stand the test of time with me.
Rush - "Chemistry" (Signals, 1982)
I know I sit squarely in the minority on this, but Signals is one of my favorite Rush albums of all time, cheesy synths and all. “Chemistry” is one of the reasons why.
Queensrÿche - "Child of Fire" (The Warning, 1984)
Queensrÿche sandwich! This time it’s a cut off their excellent full-length debut The Warning. What’s not to like about progressive metal inspired equally by Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Iron Maiden and with orchestration by Michael Kamen?
Merlin Mann - "Just Dan" (Sometimes There’s a Man, 2011)
I’m not sure if this one should count, but I’m going to let it through anyway because of what it is and who it’s from. As part of a sponsorship campaign for the wildly popular 5by5 podcast network's Back to Work show, Mailchimp commissioned former productivity guru turned podcaster extraordinaire Merlin Mann to write a 5-part rock opera in tribute to the show’s co-host and 5by5 founder Dan Benjamin. This is part 5 of this fun little project.
Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade - "Sheep" (Live Frogs: Set 2, 2001)
Yes, that Les Claypool. As the name indicates Live Frogs: Set 2 is the second release of live music from the Primus bassist’s side project Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade. Taken from the same handful of shows from fall 2000, Set 2 features Pink Floyd’s Animals album in its entirety. Sometimes I think I like this better than the original.
Five O’Clock People - “Sorry” (Fall EP, 1998)
Now I think iTunes is just screwing with me. Here’s another tune from this folk CCM group, this time from the independent EP that secured their Pamplin label deal and spawned their debut full-length.
Andrew Osenga - "Canada" (Letters to the Editor, Vol. 2, 2008)
Andrew Osenga’s first Letters to the Editor project started as an experiment in writing songs from ideas, words, lyrics, pictures, or stories submitted by the fans of this founder and former singer/songwriter/guitarist of CCM band The Normals and former Caedmon’s Call member and songwriter. The project had only three rules: 1. only one guitar, an acoustic, but with no limit to the number of tracks it could be used on in a song, 2. the only other instrument that could be used was Andrew’s voice, again with no track limit, and 3. no guitar picks. The result was a 6-song EP—Andrew comes clean in the liner notes that he “cheated” in only 3 instances—that was highly praised by Andrew’s fanbase and which he offered for free on his blog (which you can can still find if you look hard enough, but I would strongly encourage you to purchase it if you are at all interested). Volume 2 followed the same structure, and the same rules applied with the only tweaks being that he could use only one electric guitar and one amp on each tune (and once used, he couldn’t use them on another song), and he could use only one pedal, the Memory Man. To me the songs on Volume 2 aren’t as strong as Volume 1, but they are still good and stand as a testament that sometimes limitations are a good thing.
"Canada" is the only non-serious tune on the EP, the others being much more poignant and introspective. But with lyrics like these (and that namedrop Alanis Morissette and Dave Coulier), how could you not like this fun little ditty?!
I should speak French, the language of love
Still use English to get things done
We should play hockey, eh?
Let’s get poutine for two
You could be my Geddy Lee
I’m not a hoser, will you dance with me?
Rush - "Beneath, Between and Behind" (Exit… Stage Left, 1981)
Speaking of Geddy Lee, here’s a great live version (from a great live album) of a Rush rocker from the early period of the band that I don’t revisit often enough.
The Police - "Bombs Away" (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993) Message in a Box introduced me to a wealth of Police tunes lesser known to me since my exposure to them had largely been through FM radio, MTV, and the one Police album I actually owned growing up, Synchronicity. “Bombs Away” is one of those songs.
Nada Surf - "No Quick Fix" (Nada Surf: 1994-2008 vinyl box set bonus download, 2008)
In 2008 Barsuk Records released a limited-edition, numbered vinyl box set documenting Nada Surf’s career up to that point. The set was limited to 1000 copies and consisted of the band’s first five albums, a repressing of a long out-of-print 7”, and 16 b-sides and rarities available via single-use download codes, one of which was “No Quick Fix.” This is pure Nada Surf—sweet, catchy, jangly—and I’m not quite sure how it was relegated to b-side status.
Beastie Boys - "Funky Boss" (Check Your Head, 1992)
Um, see, there’s this boss. And he’s funky. And apparently he’s on someone’s back. The thing I really appreciate about Check Your Head is that the Boys proved they weren’t one-trick ponies by changing up their style and playing their own instruments. Now that’s funky.
Neal Morse - "Jayda" (Testimony 2, 2011)
Neal Morse’s solo albums Testimony and Testimony 2 document the events that led to his conversion to Christianity and, ultimately, to his leaving the prog-rock band Spock’s Beard he formed with his brother Alan in 1992. “Jayda” relates the miraculous healing of his infant daughter’s heart defect, a hole in her heart. I have a soft spot for Morse’s ballads, and being the father of a not-so-little girl these days, it has a tendency to bring a tear to my eye.