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Don Pardo died on August 18, 2014, at the age of 96.
Last Friday night, my friend Bertis Downs had a birthday party here in Athens. All invitations came with a request: To pick your favorite U2 song and sing it for the audience, with a live band backing you. One of the few downsides of being friends with Bertis Downs — who is R.E.M.’s longtime manager and advisor — is that he all his other friends can sing, and I, well, I cannot. Thus, I had to attempt to compensate through enthusiasm and commitment to the gig. The song was “The Fly.” All I had on my side were Bono glasses, leather pants and the truth, man. (And a few bourbons beforehand to settle the nerves.) It turned out to be a pretty fun time.
If you want to see actual video of this performance, my friend Carrie Kelly put it on Facebook. All I know is that it took me about three days to finally get those pants off.
Unsurprisingly, Bertis’ idea for a birthday celebration was a rather inspired one, and like all inspiring ideas, I got to thinking about how I might someday steal it. I’ve got more than seven years until I have a birthday with a round enough number that will necessitate much of a party — that seven years is going to zip by, by the way — but if I do have a party then, the idea of having all my friends come and make fools out of themselves to some of my favorite music has considerable appeal. I wouldn’t want to just pick one band, though. I’d probably go after a specific era.
Thus, today, here is my 10-song setlist of ‘90s songs I want the live band to play at the future round-number birthday celebration, all the songs I screamed out and air guitared throughout my most formative and influential decade. This all assumes that I am still alive to attend it and able to scream out lyrics through my oxygen mask without my colostomy bag spilling.
An obvious pick. This will sound strange, but this is as close to Kurt would ever come to writing a Jim Steinman song. There is an argument to be made that this is the best Nirvana song. I love what Pitchfork’s “Jenn Pelly” wrote about this song last month: “’Aneurysm’ never fails to put the stupidest grin on my face, and I cannot hear it without flailing every inch of my body to its squirming emotional upheaval, without jerking my shoulders to its torrential feedback of the heart, as if succumbing to every knot and crevice of this punk song could save my life.”
Live band karaoke highlight moment: I will be just stupid enough to try the scream at the end.
“Angry Chair,” Alice in Chains
It still blows me away that Alice in Chains found some dude that sounds exactly like Layne Staley and then went out and made an awesome Alice in Chains record, like, 20 years later. It’s like Metal Journey!
Live band karaoke highlight moment: When someone in the audiences passes out from a heroin overdose.
“Casino Queen,” Wilco.
It’s obviously not their best album, but “A.M.” goes awfully underappreciated in the Wilco canon. There’s some lovely stuff on there — “Pick Up the Change” just kills me — and just because it’s not as dark and complex as their later albums doesn’t mean it’s not still great. I’d want to sing this one because there isn’t a time I don’t go to Busch Stadium (where the Casino Queen is just across the river, a hotel I have stayed at dozens of times in my life) that I don’t hum this song to myself.
Live band karaoke highlight moment: I have always wanted to yell “My Lord you’re MEAN” at a room full of my loved ones.
“Dead Horse,” Guns N’ Roses
One of my darkest secrets is that the Guns ‘N’ Roses album I listen to the most, still today, is “Use Your Illusion II.”
Live band karaoke highlight moment: Just saying, calmly, quizzically, “when she said she was, like, gonna wreck my car, I didn’t know WHAT to do?” right before a roaring guitar riff has always been a life goal.
“Epic,” Faith No More.
This song technically came out in 1989, but it sure feels like more of a ‘90s song than an ‘80s song. Faith No More is an unappreciated band, I think; “Angel Dust” is like a nightmare on record. I also highly recommend the Shovels & Rope cover of this song.
Live band karaoke highlight moment: Screaming out “You want it allllll but you can’t have it .....” will have some extra oomph, I suspect, when the boys are basically Beavis and Butt-head that year.
“Holland, 1945,” Neutral Milk Hotel
I would not allow myself to sing this one. I’d find someone who can — maybe local Winterville mayor Dodd Ferrelle? Or the band itself?— and I’d just sit and listen to it and be sad.
Live band karaoke highlight moment: When everybody cries.
This is the secretly perfect wistful nerd rock song that you required that old “DGC Rarities” disc to know back in the day. It’s just simple and straightforward and the era of Weezer that I have always appreciated the most. I mean, it’s a plaintive, standing-out-in-the-rain love song to a lawyer.
Live band karaoke highlight moment: Getting the bassist to back me up with “oooh-oooh-oooh!” at the right moments.
“Jesus Christ Pose,” Soundgarden
I was standing next to Grierson one time when someone asked him what his favorite hymn was, and he named this song. It is honestly the most metal either of us have ever been.
Live band karaoke highlight moment: There’s no way I’m hitting any of those high Cornell notes, so I’d probably just throw myself into things.
“She Don’t Use Jelly,” The Flaming Lips
I love (mostly) the band that the Flaming Lips became, but there’s a little part of me that will always prefer the weirdo pseudo-grungers they started out as. That’s probably because that’s how I first met them: I saw them open for Stone Temple Pilots and the Butthole Surfers at the Riverport Ampitheater in St. Louis in, like, 1992, and thought they were amazing. Nothing against the bunnies and balloons shows, but all told, this is the show I’d go back and relive.
Live band karaoke highlight moment: “VAAAAAAAAAASELINE!”
This is one of my absolute favorite Radiohead songs, which makes me similar to ... nobody. This remains one of the most unpopular songs in the Radiohead canon — even the band doesn’t like it! — and I am absolutely baffled as to why. That Greenwood solo at the end! Come on!
Live band karaoke highlight moment: Everyone at the party shrugging and saying, “why’d he pick that one?”
So, see you in seven years, friends for uh, a very old white dude party, apparently.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. Maryland Football Isn’t the Aberration in Football Coaching, New York Magazine. This gave me the opportunity to say some stuff about coaching I’ve been meaning to say for a while.
2. Why the Cardinals Are Completely Different Under Mike Shildt, MLB.com. Their win streak snapped right after this column went up, of course. BUT STILL.
3. An Annotated Timeline of Yasiel Puig Annoying Opponents, MLB.com. I am an unapologetic Puig apologist.
4. Spike Lee Films, Ranked, Vulture. Grierson and I have been working on this one our whole lives.
5. Debate Club: Best Horror Films of the 21st Century, SYFY Wire. Yes, Hereditary made it.
6. The Thirty: The Active Players Most Likely to Have Their Jerseys Retired, MLB.com. The Pujols-over-Molina selection was a bit controversial, but I stand behind it.
7. My Annual Cameo in Drew Magary’s “Why Your Team Sucks: Arizona Cardinals” Column, Deadspin. One of my two annual appearances over there, and definitely the lesser one.
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
This week’s guest on “The Will Leitch Show” was Mackenzie Phillips. Now THAT lady has lived an interesting life. Watch our show right here on Amazon or on SI TV.
Grierson & Leitch, excellent conversations on “BlacKkklansman,” “The Meg” and “Four Lions.”
Seeing Red, Bernie Miklasz and I looked at the hot Cardinals.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, Tony Waller did a couple of excellent interviews.
If you have an Amazon Alexa — and my family doesn’t, for obvious reasons — you can hear a special show Grierson and I are doing weekly solely for the Amazon Alexa. Read about it here. If you have one, will you try it out and see if it works? I have no idea how to work that weird device.
The boys like school so much they have forgotten who we are.
Have a great weekend, everyone.