Song In My Head #110: “Ready To Rock” by Pianosaurus

The New York-based band Pianosaurus gained a fair bit of notoriety in the ’80s, not least for playing toy instruments. (I recall an MTV News segment where drummer Stephen Dansiger waxed rhapsodic about his Muppet Babies drumkit, followed by a sequence where the band destroyed their instruments post-show in classic Who fashion.) Nevertheless, their 1987 album Groovy Neighborhood boasts delightful songs, this one being my favorite. Word has it that a long-shelved sequel exists…

(Sadly, Psychotic Reaction was the name of the show from which this performance was taken. I, too, had hoped that “Ready To Rock” would segue into the San Jose garage-rock classic by the Count Five.)

Song In My Head #109: “Dead End Justice” by the Runaways

As longtime blog readers might guess, I’m not exactly a horror devotee. (True story: I sat down to watch the Alice Cooper episode of The Muppet Show as a little girl, burst into tears shortly into “Welcome To My Nightmare,” and didn’t try again for another thirty years. Even though I had become an Alice Cooper fan by then, I still ended up pretty spooked by the end.) Nevertheless, I found myself reading We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix this past week. How did that happen, you ask? Well, even though I had to take occasional (okay, semi-frequent) squeamishness breaks, the guitar-wielding heroine and the rock ‘n’ roll in-jokes kept me riveted. One running gag involves Kris and her bandmates invoking the lyrics to the Runaways’ “Dead End Justice” at every opportunity. Needless to say, I had to track the song down. Why it’s not a karaoke bar standard is beyond me:

At one point I gasped, “Redd Kross HAS to cover this song!” Guess what?

Song In My Head #108: “Nine Times Out of Ten” by the Undertones

If you want hits, the Undertones have ’em. The band’s show at Slim’s in San Francisco last Sunday served as a powerful reminder. Most acts would have to save a song as brilliant as “Teenage Kicks” for the end of the set, but the Undertones performed it midway through with no lull in audience enthusiasm afterward. (New singer Paul McLoone did an excellent job in spite of his struggles with laryngitis, and the fellows played with fervor that would make guys half their age drop.) I was especially thrilled to hear “Nine Times Out of Ten,” a song I’ve loved since my college days. (I don’t know if mashups are a thing anymore, but Chris Bell’s “I Got Kinda Lost” would pair perfectly with it thanks to their shared guitar hook.) Of course, the Undertones did do “Teenage Kicks” a second time for their final encore, since they clearly are not fools…

Song In My Head #107: “Jackie” by the New Pornographers

I’ve always loved Carl Newman‘s music, but for some reason I tend to gravitate toward the New Pornographers songs sung by his bandmates instead. “Jackie” was penned by Dan Bejar, who sings it on the NPs’ 2000 debut Mass Romantic. When I saw the New Pornographers play Noise Pop in 2002, Bejar was not touring with the band, so drummer Kurt Dahle rendered an excellent lead vocal. Dahle has since left the lineup, so I wonder who sings the song in concert these days. I certainly hope someone does!

Song In My Head #106: “Zombie” by the Fall-Outs

To me, the Fall-Outs are the great underrated band of the 1990s Seattle music boom. How could anyone resist truly infectious pop-punk, topped by classic (if appropriately hoarse) harmonies? While their Sleep album finds heavy rotation on my CD deck, I’ll always have particular fondness for this song. (If you see the 7-inch single somewhere, nab it! It features a nifty organ arrangement that makes the tune resemble an actual Zombies outtake.) I just learned that the band is still together and playing gigs, so let’s make things right, folks…

Song In My Head #105: The Dream Syndicate’s “That’s What You Always Say”

I missed most of LA’s Paisley Underground back in its heyday (being a Northern California-dwelling grade schooler at the time), but a great song will always find its way. I discovered “That’s What You Always Say” the other week thanks to the Bangles’ excellent cover, but after hearing most versions, I have to pick the original on the Dream Syndicate’s 1982 debut EP:

Song In My Head #104: “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” by A Tribe Called Quest

I’m in the middle of reading Hanif Abdurraqib’s engaging Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest. Naturally, the first A Tribe Called Quest song I heard has been my mental soundtrack all week. Abdurraqib links this song to classic ’70s sitcom Sanford and Son in delightful fashion, but you should read his book to find out how. In the meantime…

Song In My Head #103: “The Longest Line” by the Posies

Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson often refers to the Posies as “the heavy metal Hollies,” thanks to their melding of pristine harmonies and crashing guitars. While the Posies’ 1988 debut Failure mostly sidesteps the raucous guitar wizardry that would follow, it does feature some of the band’s best wordplay. “The Longest Line” is the only song I know that manages to work “intrinsically” into the lyrics without missing a beat. Since the flying pig exists only in Kids in the Hall sketches, “The Longest Line” remains my favorite distraction during a long wait. Enjoy!