MP3 Monday: July 24, 2006

This week’s MP3 Monday is all about punk rock. Not about the music itself, per se, but the answer to the question: “What, exactly, were they rebelling against?” After all, Johnny Rotten was famously pulled into the Sex Pistols when proto-svengali Malcolm McLaren spotted him wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt with the words “I hate” scrawled in felt-tip pen above the logo.
In other words, it’s a gimmick to post some ’70s classic rock — particularly its most overproduced and overambitious phyla. As always, songs will stay on the server for one week’s time.
Tiny Dancer” by Elton John. From the album Madman Across the Water (1971).
For people my age, it’s easy to think of Elton John as a punchline — as that garish old guy with the toupee, the one who only makes headlines when he hugs Eminem or sings sappy ballads at the funerals of princesses. And sure, not much of what he’s done in, say, my lifetime has been worthy of much attention. But the early Elton — that’s good stuff.
Still, I bet Johnny Rotten didn’t like it.
Here’s the song’s most recent pop-culture moment — one of the best scenes in Almost Famous, a movie I sometimes think I’m the only person who liked.

There’s also a version of Elton singing the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. From the album Rumours (1977).
Honestly, I don’t have much to say about Fleetwood Mac. I find most of their stuff kinda grating — and Stevie Nicks, well, I could do without Stevie Nicks. But Lindsay Buckingham knows his way around a riff, and this is a bit of propulsive fun you’ve heard 10,000 times before.
If I remember their Behind the Music correctly, around this time, 94 of Fleetwood Mac’s 173 members were having affairs with each other behind their other’s back.

Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp. From the album Breakfast in America (1979).
Technically, this didn’t come out until after punk broke, but come on — this is exactly what 1977 London wanted to smash into little bits.
Supertramp was all about concept albums, falsettos, prog qua prog, and a tone best described as fey. And they dressed like a Band of Christs:

Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra. From the album Out of the Blue (1977).
The first time I ever heard of ELO was when I was about 10, reading William Poundstone’s Big Secrets — an absolutely perfect book for the young nerdy boy in your life, by the way. It had a section on backward messages in rock songs — you know, Satan’s work.
Anyway, it mentioned that an ELO song named “Eldorado” allegedly included the message: “He is the nasty one / Christ, you’re infernal / It is said we’re dead men / Everyone who has the mark will live.” (Turns out it doesn’t. See, kids, these were the things your grandparents were worried about before they had MySpace to panic over.)
Did you know William Poundstone records his dreams in a blog? Or that he has a whole weirdly fascinating web site that features too much Futura Condensed? O, sweet mystery of life.

Industrial Military Complex Hex” by The Steve Miller Band. From the album Number 5 (1970).
I went to high school with a guy named Steve Miller. He was a year below me, and he had a band. Jokes necessarily followed.
Dallas music trivia: Steve Miller went to St. Mark’s School, the hoity-toitiest all-boys private school in the area. So did Boz Scaggs, Tommy Lee Jones, and Rhett Miller of the Old ’97s. Of those four, I’d say the Millers (unrelated, to my knowledge) fit the St. Mark’s image best. Why he’s singing about the military-industrial complex — not to mention getting the order wrong — is beyond me.
Nobody” by The Doobie Brothers. From the album The Doobie Brothers (1971).
Heh, he said “doobie.”
Both this one and the Steve Miller Band track are taken from Meridian 1970: Protest, Sorrow, Hobos, Folk and Blues, a U.K.-only compilation of songs from that year. More about that here (“a fine compilation that represents a music scene in love with all things rootsy and Americana”).

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