1. Cowboy Junkies, “Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)”
I once Googled “saddest songs ever” and was referred to Cowboy Junkies. Pretty much every song of theirs qualifies for “saddest song ever,” while also being beautiful and awesome. This is probably my favorite song of theirs — it’s a re-working of the standard “Blue Moon,” and Margo Timmins’ mournful, spare vocals are perfect.
2. Roxanne Shanté, “Roxanne’s Revenge”
Roxanne Shanté recorded this at age 14 in 1984 as a diss response to UTFO’s song “Roxanne, Roxanne.” She’s the best freestyler I’ve ever heard and one of my favorite emcees — I wish she were still in the business!
3. The Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting for the Man”
I was thinking about scrounging for something more obscure to prove to this newspaper’s audience that I’m a super duper awesome in-the-know Velvet Underground fan, but this is my favorite song of theirs, and I decided that’s what’s most important.
4. The Thermals, “A Stare Like Yours”
Again, I was thinking of trying to find something more obscure to show my amazing music smartz, but this song introduced me to the raw-adrenaline-in-music-form that is The Thermals. Seeing this band live and singing along to this song would be a gigantic dream come true.
5. Ricky Nelson, “Fools Rush In”
This song appears on the soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s avant-garde, extra-homoerotic and totally awesome film “Scorpio Rising.” I love the sincerity of the lyrics — they make this song applicable to a gazillion different contexts, from the aforementioned experimental film to a romantic mix CD.
7. The Ypsilanti All-Starz, “Wave Yo’ Booty in the Air”
A masterpiece of our time. This song is off “The Booty Tape,” a mysterious mix of 200 songs all about booties that was submitted to Found Magazine in the ‘90s. The eloquent, honest lyrics are as follows: “Wave yo’ booty in the air/wave yo’ booty in the air/wave yo’, wave yo’, wave yo’ wave yo’ wave yo’ booty in the air/now bounce/bounce bounce.”
8. Memphis Minnie and Ma Rainey, “Down By the Riverside”
I found out about Memphis Minnie through the film “Ghost World” — she’s briefly mentioned by a nerdy record collector — and have loved her ever since. The fact that she teams up with legend Ma Rainey in this song is just ridiculous. I found it on Archive.org, which is an awesome resource for free, legal music.
9. Popol Vuh, “Aguirre”
Popol Vuh did the music for a bunch of Werner Herzog films, and I can’t imagine a better pairing of musician and director — their music is epic, creepy and artificial — just like “Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” which is where this tune is from.
10. Meat Loaf, “All Revved Up and No Place to Go”
I know Meat Loaf mostly from “Rocky Horror” and the ‘80s masterwork “To Catch a Yeti” — not actually a masterwork, don’t watch it — but he’s pretty awesome musically. I listened to his album “Bat Out of Hell” on a plane ride to Washington, D.C. this summer and found myself pressing the repeat button on this song several times.