Next up is Jerry Lee Lewis, with “Great Balls of Fire”, because that’s about as pure a rock and roll song as has ever been performed. I like the whole image of Jerry Lee, the bad-boy rebel with the punk haircut and the almost predatory way of attacking a piano, the laconic, demonic smile and the combination of gentleman and pervert that he exhibited during his career. He was old and creepy at the end (rather like some other ancient rock stars. I’m looking at you, Mick), but he made some hellfire music, didn’t he?
And while I’m on the older-music track, I’m throwing in Peggy Lee’s “Fever”. The woman could sing, songwriters could write, and this tune is pretty much smoldering in its bones; the classic lovers of all time, and they come off as actual LOVERS, rather than the chaste, Disney-type romantic couples they’re often presented to be. I think William Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time, but it wasn’t until I got past my freshman-year presentation of ROMEO AND JULIET and started to realize how earthy and sensual the relationship between those two kids was that I really started to appreciate the Bard. Shakespeare is FULL of sex and passion and desire. And Ms. Lee’s song…well, yeah. The fever burns.
Digital Underground, and Humpty (pronounced with an umpty) get the next spot, because “The Humpty Dance” is one of the greatest dance tunes of all time. Not just the beat, nor the clever lyrics, nor the innuendoes, nor the fact that anyone who can get his rocks off in a Burger King bathroom is okay by me, but because it’s sheer FUN and FUNNY. Musicians can sometimes take themselves way too seriously. These guys don’t. They just want to grab you in the biscuit, make you dance like you’re having a seizure, and drink up all your Hennessy.
Then there’s Heart. Gotta have some Heart. I’ll hunt down their performance of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ soon, because they nailed it (and I’ll hunt down Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar doing ‘Rock and Roll’, and Trent Reznor and Karen O doing ‘The Immigrant Song’, because apparently in my world covers of Led Zeppelin songs are actually better than real Led Zeppelin songs), but for now I’m going to start with their prettiest and most sublime song, ‘Dog and Butterfly’. The image of that big dog playing with that delicate, tenuous, ephemeral flying bug–the girl falling laughing to the ground–everything about that song (not least the heavenly voices, the great guitar) makes my heart surge in my chest.
And, finally, for my tenth song, I have to put on “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead. And not just because I love the umlauts. Because I love Lemmy, is all.
Fair warning—my next group of five is going to contain two country songs and one disco song.