Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The Thirty-Day Music Challenge: Week One

This is just one of those things floating around social media that caught my eye. I thought it would be fun… and then I realized it might make for an interesting series of columns. You all should feel free to play along at home, as well.

I rarely talk about this here but music is a big part of my life. I got the bug from my old friend Joe, who I’ve mentioned here once or twice before. Some of my favorite memories from high school are the two of us tooling around Portland in Joe’s ancient Plymouth Duster on Saturday afternoons, going to various record shops and music stores, and then Joe would throw me a bone by stopping in at Cameron’s Books or the Looking Glass bookstore. (Most all of those places are gone now except Music Millennium and Cameron’s.)

Once upon a time, the record collection rivaled the book and comics libraries in the Hatcher home; we still have a number of CDs but they mostly live in the car now. These days my music listening tends to be when I’m working here in the home office, so I usually just pipe the stuff in through the computer. But I always have music going when I write– I think because my work habits were formed in college, typing away in the dorms where someone was ALWAYS making noise, I need to have some sort of background noise for my brain to push against. Trying to write in total silence is much harder for me than it is when the music is going.

So for the next four weeks of columns I’m going to be posting my picks for this challenge up here, a week at a time; some will be seven and some, like this week, will be eight, so that we end with thirty after four weeks. Here’s Week One.


Day One: A Song You Like With A Color in the Title.

Without question, my favorite song with a color in the title is “Out of the Blue,” by Roxy Music. Joe put this on a mixtape for me when we were in college and it went to the top of my personal playlist instantly. The one he chose was from their live album Viva! Roxy Music, but this is my favorite version, from the 2001 reunion tour. Mostly because of the young lady playing the violin, Lucy Wilkins. The violin solo is the best part of the song and she really nails it, and her modestly triumphant grin at the end is utterly endearing.

I’m going with live versions wherever possible because I think it’s more fun to see the band actually play the song. You can find the whole album here; or maybe you’d rather have the DVD. (We have both.)


Day Two: A Song You Like With A Number In The Title.

Most people jeer at the Rolling Stones’ brief flirtation with psychedelia on Their Satanic Majesties Request, and as a Stones album it is pretty lame. However, I always liked “2000 Light Years From Home,” especially when a REAL psychedelic band plays it. Sky Cries Mary were big in Seattle in the 1990s back when grunge was a thing, but really they are more in Pink Floyd’s ballpark.


Day Three: A Song That Reminds You of Summertime.

My idea of ‘summertime’ music is probably different than most people’s. For me the image that comes to mind is the memory of a bunch of people rocking out and pogo’ing like mad at local concert hall dives with the hot new band of the moment. Specifically, Portland’s Theatre of Sheep back in the early 1980s: they were selling out shows all over town and we saw them any number of times at the local all-ages venue, Starry Nights. It would get so hot out on the dance floor it felt like it was a steam room instead of a dance hall. This is the song they’d usually close the show with, “Glamour.”

If you want more, there is an album, Old Flames, that you can get at CD Baby, here.


Day Four: A Song That Reminds You of Someone You’d Rather Forget About.

In the early 1980s my life was a mess; I was trying to go to college but mostly I was drinking a lot with my fellow honors students. Quite a few of those folks are dead now from AIDS, overdoses, other bad behavior; a bunch more of us went through rehab. Being in the honors program was a lot like being in a cult and those of us that are still in touch wonder at how we made it out alive. (A lot of my novel The Silver Riders is pulling from that experience.) Which brings me to Day 4: A Song That Reminds You of a Person You’d Rather Forget.

1980s me is that person. Even more than Theatre of Sheep, The Confidentials were THE band for our posse of damaged people back then — I was drunk at a bunch of their gigs and I can never hear one of their songs without cringing at the memories it evokes.

The Confidentials, as talented as they were, nevertheless by all reports were even more dysfunctional than we were back in the day, and were constantly breaking up and reforming and so on; they self-destructed before they got any actual recording done. No albums that I’m aware of, just a couple of clips on YouTube. This one is the better of the two.


Day Five: A Song That Needs To Be Played Loud.

Well, shucks, I think they ALL do. But this one, especially.

Before Scrooged, Freejack, and Buster Poindexter, David Johansen fronted the New York Dolls. The Dolls were punk before punk was a thing. They were great and EVERYTHING they did should be played loud. I happen to like this one, “Girls,” which technically was released after the band split up, but the Dolls used to do it and I believe Johansen’s touring with a new version of the band today, featuring himself and the members left that didn’t OD on heroin. This clip is from a half-hour show recorded for Musicladen back in the eighties… I first saw it on Night Flight, a very odd but cool show you used to see on cable.


Day Six: A Song That Makes You Want To Dance.

I didn’t really come to appreciate jazz and funk until I was in my late forties. With the inverted snobbery that most young people have, I tended to dismiss it as ‘old people music.’ But in recent years– as I am becoming an old person myself, I suppose– I have come to really like it a lot, in particular the subgenre known as “acid jazz.” This is the Brand New Heavies, a remarkable group of musicians from Britain. They look like they’d be a lot of fun to see live. This one, “Stay This Way,” is a favorite of mine. You can find their albums here.

I am frankly a terrible dancer, with a bad case of Protestant rhythm (which is to say none at all) but the Heavies are one of the few bands that allow me to overcome my repressed white-guy fears and shake it a little bit. Badly, and no one but my wife Julie ever sees it… but it happens.


Day Seven: A Song To Drive To.

Roxy Music again… this time it’s “Both Ends Burning.” This could just as easily been the entry for Day Six– Julie and I both find it really propulsive and when Julie hears it coming out of the office she often will come dancing into the room doing the same moves as the go-go dancers featured here, just to make me laugh.

So this one does provoke dancing. But it’s ALWAYS played in the car at least once on our road trips, so I decided it was a better fit for Day Seven. Again, this is from the 2001 reunion show; you can find it both on CD and on DVD using the links listed above in Day One.

Miss Wilkins is just as endearing here on keyboards as she was on the violin. The percussionist in the blue corset, Julie Thornton, is kind of adorable as well. The whole show is great fun to watch just because the BAND seems to be having so much fun.


Day Eight: A Song About Drugs or Alcohol.

There are so many, but growing up in Lake Oswego, or “Dysfunction Junction” as we tend to refer to it in our household, this was our anthem. “White Punks on Dope” by the Tubes. They still tour, doing a stripped-down version of their infamously elaborate stage show…. and lead singer Fee Waybill still dresses up as faded glam rocker Quay Lewd to play “White Punks.” This is from a couple of years ago.

We always go when they’re in town, and we usually try to bring along someone who’s never seen them before just to watch them react with delight. They are a wonderful live band no matter the venue, and if your only memory of them is a couple of minor hits on MTV in the eighties then you are missing out. If they are playing in your town you should go… I think they’re actually more fun now, in the smaller clubs, then they were at the height of their fame playing big coliseum shows. You can find their records here— I’d recommend one of the live albums, myself.


And there you go. Feel free to give us your picks in the comments; and I’ll be back next week with the second installment.


  1. Jeff Nettleton

    Song with a color in the title: Fade to Grey, from Visage. Nice moody early 80s synth.
    Song with a number: 88 Lines about 44 Women, by The Nails. Little stories in each line.
    Song that reminds me of Summertime: Pipeline, with Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughn, from Back to the Beach. Really awesome version.
    Song That Reminds me about someone I would rather forget: don’t really have a pick, hereaisde from anything by an American Idol alum
    Song That Needs to be Played Loud: Superbeast, by Rob Zombie
    Song that makes me want to dance: Run, Runaway, from Slade-really energetic, nice Celtic flavor (also needs to be played loud.
    Song to Drive By: Ready for Saturday Night, by Joanna Dean. The whole album, Misbehavin, is a great one for driving. I used to play it for the 5 hour drive between Athens, Ga (where the Navy sent me to school) and Charleston, SC (where my parents were living). Raucous blues/rock.
    Song about drugs and alcohol-White Lines, by Grandmaster Flash.

  2. Edo Bosnar

    “…no one but my wife Julie ever sees it…” (*pssst: Julie, if you’re reading this, two words – phone camera*)
    Some great picks there. Never heard that live recording of “Out of the Blue.” Yep, the violin solo is killer. And I love the NY Dolls.
    Also like the Brand New Heavies pick; I first heard of them, and also acid jazz, back in the ’90s.

    My picks:
    Song with a color in the title: “Red” by Sammy Hagar – ha! Kidding! But sticking with the color, “Little Red Corvette” by Prince

    Song with a number: “Funk 49” by the James Gang

    Song that reminds me of Summertime: “Topaz” by the B-52’s

    Song That Reminds me about someone I would rather forget: like Jeff, nothing really comes to mind here.

    Song That Needs to be Played Loud: pretty much anything by the Buzzcocks, but let’s go with “Mad Mad Judy.”

    Song that makes me want to dance: “L’ombelico del Mondo” by Jovanotti

    Song to Drive By: “Stigmata” by the Ministry (I associate this with driving because my first car was a noisy VW bug, and loud stuff like the Ministry was the only thing I could listen to on the car stereo that was louder than that damned engine)

    Song about drugs and alcohol: “Alcohol” by Gogol Bordello

  3. Eric van Schaik

    Nice idea Greg, here are some of my picks. In some cases it was hard to chose.

    Song with a colour in the title – Blonde Redhead/Pink love or The Gathering/Red is a slow colour

    Song with a number – Kiss/100.000 years or Siouxsie and the Banshees/92 degrees

    Song that reminds me of summertime – Morcheeba/The sea

    Song that reminds me about someone I would rather forget – everything by Rush
    I thought I had a real friend but when I needed his help I never heard of him again. He was a Rush fan so I can’t hear them anymore.

    Song that needs to be played loud – Blue Oyster Cult/Harvester of eyes or The Gathering/When trust becomes sound or too many other songs 🙂

    Song that makes me want to dance – Plaid/Squance or Depeche Mode/World in my eyes

    Song to drive by – Rob Halford/Drive or The Cure/The kiss

    Song about drugs and alcohol – Queens of the Stone Age/Feel good hit of the summer or New Model Army/Heroine

    I’m looking forward to your other suggestions.
    Will mister Burgas submit a list too? 😉

  4. Peter

    Fun idea. I really like “2000 Light Years From Home” and “She’s A Rainbow” is a great tune as well. I think “Their Satanic Majesties Request” is pretty underrated.

    As for my own picks, I would have to go with:
    Song with a color in the title: “Blue in Green” by Miles Davis. Probably the most beautiful song on “Kind of Blue,” and there are a lot of great tunes to choose from.

    Song with a number: “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians. Pretty basic, musically and lyrically, but it’s just perfect as the template for cryptic garage rock.

    Song that reminds me of Summertime: obvious choice here, but “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone. Almost anything by the B-52s reminds me of summer, too.

    Song That Reminds me about someone I would rather forget: when I was in high school, I taught myself to play all of your basic pop/rock instruments and recorded an album in my basement for a senior year capstone project. I can listen to about two or three songs from those days without cringing; most of the other ten are embarrassing because of a couple bum notes that others may not hear, but scream out to me. One song, though, is about a girl I had a crush on and once awkwardly flirted with at a dance (after I had written the song). I don’t necessarily want to forget the girl (she was a nice person), but I’d really rather forget my hapless interactions with her around that time.

    Song That Needs to be Played Loud: “Bastards of Young” by the Replacements. Probably because the video is one shot of a big-ass amp.

    Song that makes me want to dance: anything by Los Straitjackets, particularly their original “Pacifica” and their version of Vince Gauraldi’s “Linus and Lucy.” Everyone should see this band live!

    Song to drive by: after graduating from college, I went on a long and barely-planned road trip with two of my best friends. One of my friends was playing random songs from his phone while we drove, and an Irish folk tune called “The Rattlin’ Bog” unexpectedly came on in between more conventional road trip music. We thought this was hilarious, and made a point of playing the song every 100 miles for the remainder of the trip.

    Song about drugs and alcohol: “I Live For Buzz” by the Swingin’ Neckbreakers.

  5. Le Messor

    I love Fade To Grey!

    I’ll try not to let the fact I re-watched Wayne’s World 2 on Saturday influence me too much, but it could.

    I could probably fill this whole thing out just by going by Queen, but let’s broaden it a little:

    Day One: A Song You Like With A Color in the Title.

    I was spoiled for choice on this one, but I had to chose:

    Red Right Hand, Nick Cave. I love this song, and it’s by a singer who I collect, from my home country and this song made it big overseas. Yay!

    Day Two: A Song You Like With A Number In The Title.

    1984, Bowie. Really cool and funky song.

    Day Three: A Song That Reminds You of Summertime.

    Cool Down by Dragon; a song about the heat of an Australian summer.

    Day Four: A Song That Reminds You of Someone You’d Rather Forget About.

    Isn’t She Lovely? by Stevie Wonder; I like the song ‘n’ all, but ‘she’ has the same name as my sister, who treated me like garbage for the first 20+ years of my life. He actually says the name in the song.

    Day Five: A Song That Needs To Be Played Loud.
    “Parents are just allergic to music played at the appropriate volume.”
    ~ Garth

    God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You II by KISS. When the movie* came out, and I kept playing the soundtrack over and over, I’d always pump this one up. It just didn’t work quiet.

    * In Case You Don’t Know dept: Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey

    Day Six: A Song That Makes You Want To Dance.

    With all this talk of Wayne’s World 2 and Magnums with the clip filed down and the safety off, Shut Up and Dance by Aerosmith would be the obvious answer… but I don’t like to be obvious.

    So: Cuban Pete performed by Jim Carrey. A lot of my music choices are informed by movies. 🙂

    Day Seven: A Song To Drive To.

    I always have music playing when I drive, making this hard. I find classical music doesn’t work well in a car, though.

    Cleanin’ Up The Town by The Bus Boys. I dunno, I had to put something.

    Day Eight: A Song About Drugs or Alcohol.

    From The Inside by Alice Cooper, a semi-autobiographical song about checking into a mental asylum to help deal with his alcoholism. Apparently he doesn’t even remember recording a lot of the albums from about this time.

  6. Greg Burgas

    All right, let’s see if I can do this …

    A Song With A Color In The Title: “Black Friday” by Faith No More.

    A Song With A Number In The Title: “60 Minute Man” by Bill Ward and his Dominoes. “551” by Dessa.

    A Song That Reminds You Of Summer: “Fuck Around” by Pepper. For some reason “The Boys Light Up” by Australian Crawl always reminds me of summer, as well.

    A Song That Reminds You Of Someone You Would Rather Forget: Nothing, really. I haven’t really had horrible relationships, and even the less-than-optimal ones aren’t really that bad and don’t have any musical memories attached to them.

    A Song That Needs To Be Played Loud: “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J.

    A Song That Makes You Want To Dance: “Pull Shapes” by the Pipettes.

    A Song To Drive To: I only listen to music when I drive, so all of them? “Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring springs to mind. So does “Ride On Josephine” by George Thorogood.

    A Song About Drugs Or Alcohol: “He Knows You Know” by Marillion.

    It’s hard to narrow these down!

  7. Let’s see now…

    A Song With A Color In The Title: “Blues in the Night” by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer. I like the Ella Fitzgerald version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5oW0hopdqY

    A Song With A Number In The Title: “Northwest 222” by Harry Chapin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfMzWSYi0d8

    A Song That Reminds You Of Summer: I have a distinct memory of being on the dragon climbing thing at Valley Park in Hermosa Beach on a summer day and hearing “Winchester Cathedral” by The New Vaudeville Band playing on somebody’s radio. This song always brings that moment back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKc1OCJ7iXk

    A Song That Reminds You Of Someone You Would Rather Forget: “Luka” by Suzanne Vega. I don’t want to remember the creature that my father was throughout my childhood. He got better eventually, but Vega’s song brings him right back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZt7J0iaUD0

    A Song That Needs To Be Played Loud: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Specifically, it needs to be played loud in a convertible on an open road in excess of 80 MPH. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3t9SfrfDZM

    A Song That Makes You Want To Dance: “Mony Mony” by Tommy James and the Shondells. More accurately, a song that makes me want to jump around like an idiot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkMgs3lFwkQ

    A Song To Drive To: We’ve found that any long road trip of the past 20 years has included repeat plays of Frente’s Marvin the Album. I’ll go with the second track, “Labour of Love.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2sPV7Nm148

    A Song About Drugs Or Alcohol: “Carmelita” by Warren Zevon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeb0OI8wXN4

    1. Le Messor

      Luka by Suzanne Vega. I don’t want to remember the creature that my father was throughout my childhood.”

      Sorry to hear that. Must’ve been hard. 🙁

      1. *Shrug* Your normal is whatever you think is normal. Fish don’t know they’re wet.

        The hard part is adjusting to a new normal later on. Like when you tell a funny story about something that happened when you were a kid, and people don’t laugh, they look horrified and say “oh my god.” Then you start to wonder if maybe your upbringing was maybe a little off.

        1. Le Messor

          Nobody should have to grow up with that kind of thing, is what I’m saying. It should never be considered ‘normal’.

          I’m glad you’re dealing with it well, though.

  8. Louis Bright-Raven

    Day One: A Song You Like With A Color In The Title

    The first song that pops into my head right now is “Blue Ain’t Your Color” by Keith Urban

    Day Two: A Song You Like With a Number In The Title

    Sweet Little Sixteen by Chuck Berry

    Day Three: Song That Reminds You of Summertime

    “Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys is the first song I could come up with that didn’t have “Summer” or “Summertime” in the title.

    Day Four: A Song That Reminds You of Someone You’d Rather Forget About

    Too personal, and would definitely cause a shit storm if I mentioned it and explained why. Sorry.

    Day Five: A Song That Needs To Be Played Loud

    “I Don’t Wanna Know” by REO Speedwagon (my inner child’s rebellion song), or “Get Over It” by the Eagles (what I have to say to the world about all their fucking crybaby bullshit – politics, racism, sexism, whatever ‘ism’).

    Day Six: A Song That Makes You Want To Dance

    The only time I ever really wanted to dance was when I had a specific person in my life who is no longer on this earth. ‘Our’ song was “We Belong” by Pat Benetar, so I’ll go with that.

    Day Seven: A Song To Drive To

    “Headlong” by Queen.

    Day Eight: A Song About Drugs Or Alcohol

    I don’t drink or use, never was really into those kind of songs, either. But I guess I’ll say Brad Paisley’s “Alcohol”

  9. John King

    1) Nights in White Satin – the Moody Blues
    2) Two out of Three ain’t bad – Meat Loaf
    3) Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
    4) – pass
    5) Can the Can – by Suzi Quatro
    6) Young Hearts Run Fee – Candi Staton (I’m not a dancer but I find something infestious about the rhythms in that song)
    7) Boys of Summer – Don Henley
    8) Whiskey in the Jar – Thin Lizzy

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