“Mysteries of Love” – Julee Cruise

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When David Lynch was making his 1986 film “Blue Velvet,” he wanted to use This Mortal Coil’s famous cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” for his film. As great as this cover is, Lynch could not afford the rights to use it based on the limited budget he was given to make “Blue Velvet.” So, Lynch used composer Angelo Badalamenti’s and vocalist Julee Cruise’s “Mysteries of Love” instead. The song was effectively used in the film, especially during the scene where Jeffrey (played by Kyle Maclaughlin) kisses Sandy (played by Laura Dern) for the first time and then during the end credits.

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Johnny Boy’s Entrance in “Mean Streets” (1973) dir. Martin Scorsese

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Sometimes, one minute of careful editing, brilliant acting, and music tells you everything you need to know about a character in a film. This is the infamous entrance of Robert DeNiro’s character Johnny Boy in Martin Scorsese’s breakout film from 1973 “Mean Streets.” The scene is cut to the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and Johnny Boy enters the club, two girls on his arm, acting like a cocky jackass with a stupid hat and suit. His friend, played by Harvey Keitel, eyes him with the most in-control “Oh s–t! This a–hole better not start anything tonight” look I’ve ever seen.

“Guts” (Live in Seattle KEXP-FM’s studio, 12-5-12) – John Cale

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Holy … f–king … s–t! This is a beyond incredible rockin’ version of one of John Cale’s best and most intense songs, done live in the studio for KEXP-FM in Seattle in December 2012. This was originally recorded in 1975 for his “Slow Dazzle” album, and was allegedly about Cale’s extremely angry and homicidal thoughts about a colleague of his who hooked up with Cale’s then-wife. You’ll notice in this nearly 40-years later version, Cale changes the pronoun on the infamous opening line from “my” to “his.”

Please keep in mind that the man intensely rockin’ the mic is over 70 years old. The fact that I share Welsh blood with this man gives me hope for my impending “golden years.”

“Flakes” – Frank Zappa

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From Zappa’s magnificent and gleefully obscene 1979 album “Sheik Yerbouti” comes “Flakes,” an anthem about unreliable repair technicians and the people that hire them. The Bob Dylan impression and the reference to “frosting a cake with a paper knife” are especially nice touches. “Flakes” is an unusually clean (though not that clean) track from “Sheik,” apparently Zappa’s best-selling album of all time. “Sheik” is also arguably the least politically correct and filthiest album to hit the Billboard Top 25 album chart until the ascendency of gangsta rap. That’s a compliment, by the way.

“Nightclubbing” – Iggy Pop

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From the David Bowie produced 1977 album “The Idiot,” comes the stomping, quaalude-paced “Nightclubbing.” If there was ever an anthem for vampires, this would be it. You can definitely hear the influence on Goth music, yet “Nightclubbing” does the Goth thing so much better than what resulted later on.

The song was later covered by Grace Jones, whose version I’ve included below. While I like Pop’s original better, I do like Jones’s odd, stoner-funk cover. The song made also made an appearance in the 1996 Danny Boyle classic film “Trainspotting.”

“Creepshow” (1982) dir. George Romero, scr. Stephen King

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Back when I was 12 years old, I used to visit my Dad in the Washington D.C. area about 4 times a year. There was a mall with a 6-screen multiplex within walking distance of my Dad’s towhouse, so I used to spend a lot of my days buying records, reading books in the bookstore, and seeing movies at the mall.

Being a horror movie fan (the sicker the better) and a “Fangoria” reader at the time (a magazine which showed all of the gory scenes from popular movies the same way stroke mags feature aspiring model/actress/whatevers working very hard to make the rent), I was familiar with the R-rated, gory “Creepshow” that was being released to theaters that fall. With George “Dawn of the Dead” Romero directing and Stephen King as the screenwriter, crafting a hyper-sleazy homage to the hyper-sleazy E.C. Comics of the 1950s, I knew this was going to be a great film.

However, the film was “R” rated, which meant (at least from the religious right city where I grew up), that an adult had to buy your ticket and watch it with you in the theater. I knew there was no way in hell my Dad was going to watch it with me. Not because my Dad was a prude (he took me to the original “Mad Max” and Richard Rush’s “The Stunt Man” when I was 10), but because he thought horror movies were stupid.

I knew I could probably sneak in, but every time I’ve always tried to do something underhanded in my life, I always get caught. I’ve never been a good liar or sneak (some people say that’s a good thing). Anyway, I thought “Hey … I’m tall for my age … Maybe I could pass for 17.” I walked up to the box office at the multiplex, trying to be cool and “casually” requested a ticket for “Creepshow.” The ticket taker said “$2.50” I threw down my cash and ran in to the theater thinking “Yeah, motherf–kers! That’s how I roll!” Of course, it never occurred to me that the theater probably had no policy about enforcing the age policy on R-rated movies (ahh, the 1980s in a major city!), but for an afternoon, I thought I was a motherf–kin’ badassss!

The film didn’t disappoint. It delivered lots of gore, bad language, and very very nasty behavior. But with the comic book stylings of the production design, it was all in very good, tasteless fun. It’s funny, but the attached preview doesn’t even remotely hint at how nasty this film is. But even still, like an Alice Cooper album, you find yourself more entertained that offended. Not Romero’s best by any means, but still a lot of fun.

“Strange” – Wire / “Strange” – R.E.M.

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First up is the grinding, distortion-heavy,machine-like anthem of paranoia “Strange” by Wire, from their 1977 debut “Pink Flag.” As classic as this song is, the more upbeat, rollicking, garage band cover by R.E.M. from 1987’s “Document” album is probably better known. I can’t say which one I like better. I love how positively creepy and dreadful the original is, yet the R.E.M. version is one of their best, hardest rocking tunes. You decide.

“Mother of Pearl” – Roxy Music

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For those that only know Roxy Music by the smooth crooning of 1982’s “Avalon” album need to understand that the band was not always so slick. The material that Roxy recorded during the period between 1972 and 1975 was a wonderful mix of the sleazy and the sublime. “Mother of Pearl” is arguably the greatest song of that period, and arguably the greatest thing they ever recorded.

The first 1:23 of this song is pure metallic freakout by guitarist Phil Manzanera while lead singer Bryan Ferry sings about all of the meaningless sex he’s getting, albeit with a very frenetic, panicked tone. Then, the song slows down considerably and Ferry finally confesses that he’s found what he was looking for all along … true love … and that he will give up everything to spend the rest of his life with his “mother of pearl.” Critics cite the Who’s “A Quick One” as the greatest mini-rock opera of all time. I totally love “A Quick One,” but I would also add “Mother of Pearl” to that very short list. It’s an absolutely thrilling and emotional epic. The song was used in a very pivotal early episode of the hit TV show “How I Met Your Mother” and also in the film “SLC Punk.”

(On a side note, I would also add Green Day’s “Jesus of Suburbia” to that very short list of greatest mini-rock operas of all time. But I’ve already discussed that in an earlier post).

“Boy or a Girl” – Imperial Drag

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One of the best tributes to early 1970s British glam rock ever recorded. As much as I love the soundtrack to Todd Haynes’s 1998 film “Velvet Goldmine,” Imperial Drag’s “Boy or a Girl” blows every song on that album out of the water. I remember hearing this for the first time on an Alabama radio station in the summer of 1996 and immediately was taken with how much this song was a perfect approximation of the English glam rock genre. Which is probably also why it was never a hit (even on “alternative” radio) and why I didn’t hear it again for another 10 years. Yes, English glam rock inspired a lot of American bands back in the day (R.E.M., many early American punk bands), with the exception of a few singles here and there (T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” Gary Glitter’s “Rock n’ Roll Part 2,” three Top 5 Sweet singles), glam rock didn’t have the same commercial impact as it did in the British Isles. In any case, the song has a wonderfully sleazy edge and I’m glad Imperial Drag recorded this with an absolute faith and love of a genre that never quite caught on in the United States.