I wanted to do a list.
Lists are fun, spark conversation, and serve as definitive benchmarks. You spend a few weeks in their wake digging through your CD collection, some touchstone mixes surface. Everyone wins. Problem is, results are pooled from a collective braintrust and the boring, old hat middle rises alongside the cream. More importantly, music lists are illogical, driven by nostalgia, dominated by the ’60s.
We looked at our strengths as a website. Bro Jackson is an unofficial coalition of football and fantasy football lifers–it’s a sort of common thread in the clubhouse. We have been conditioned to draft. Perfect: In lieu of polls and predictable results, we opened up the playbook. 14 writers, 14 rounds, just under 200 songs.
Operating criteria is somewhat obvious: Draft the best songs ever, with big picture context in mind, and from the rock and roll era (everything after Chuck Berry). It’s an insight into what people love, not just respect. For example, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”–the most celebrated cover song ever–is perfect in every way (vocal performance, sax solo, bass line, empowerment in an age of bullishness). But “Respect” was a late nab, because it is nobody’s favorite song. Some people tried to be funny, some people reached for a Linkin Park / Jay-Z mash up. One particularly apt professional music writer bolted after two rounds and auto-drafted a team for the ages. Despite the chaos, results are still familiar. The first hip-hop track off the board comes courtesy of a pioneering mainstay. Elvis and Michael Jackson get early green room calls. Difference is, the song trumps the artist and his or her respective legacy, which is important with a list about songs. 1
Over the next 14 business days, this draft will slow roll with 14 posts that detail the 14 rounds. It’s been a journey.
Weirdly, no one drafted Journey.
Your general managers
# 1 : Fantastico – “Paradise City,” Guns ‘n Roses
Fireworks at the top, bitches.
The first pick comes with a ton of pressure. Of all the songs ever made, I get to choose from any of them. Am I nervous I might not get this right? No. I got this. “Paradise City” has it all. Starts off slow and clues us in as to what it’s all about–a utopia where the landscaping and the fairer sex are top notch. The song builds from there with a few verses about an awful city run by crooks with greed as their only motivation. The awful city clues us in as to just how perfect this “Paradise City” actually is. So many nice lawns. So much fine tail. All the while the greatest guitarist on the planet warms up, bides his time, and then explodes down the home stretch. It’s a seven-minute clinic on how simple, powerful, and explosive rock and roll should be.
# 2 : Fantasy Douche – “Suspicious Minds,” Elvis Presley
After coming to a recent decision to have some friends over to grill out, it was suggested that we grill kabobs. My response was basically: “Fuck that.” Nobody ever shows up for a barbecue and then complains because there are no kabobs. But if I show up to a barbecue and there are no burgers or brats, I’ll feel pretty robbed. That position sums up my general outlook on music as well. First and foremost, I think that music should sound good. So excuse me if I don’t go crazy for songs that are supposedly good but that nobody ever put a dollar in a jukebox to hear. “Suspicious Minds” is a great-sounding song. It also accomplishes two rare acoustic feats: it sounds just fine being yelled by drunk people, and none of the quality of the song is lost even if it’s played in cavernous casinos over the dings of slot machines.
# 3 : E. Strait – “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson
My plan to reconstruct Thriller is off to a good start. But really, my taste heavily favors music from the ’90s onward, so I wanted to snag an all-timer to anchor my lineup before it’s overrun with hip-hop and pop-punk. Is there really anything left to be said about “Billie Jean?” I don’t think so. It jams. I could listen to it day in and day out.
# 4 : B. Hurtik – “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan
I’m picking songs like I would assemble a baseball team, and I just drafted Miguel Cabrera. Dylan’s electric masterpiece has everything: rambling lyrics, an iconic organ line, bluesy guitar, and a truly revolutionary tone. It may seem like a safe pick, but when you have a chance to pick up a guy who will hit .350 with 35 HRs and 120 RBIs with his eyes closed, you move early.
# 5 : D. Moskal – “Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns ‘n Roses
This song just gets you in the right frame of mind to rage. It is unequivocally the greatest sports entrance song of the modern era–whether it be a closer in baseball or an entire team, given that their name is a jungle cat.
# 6 : K. Gotsick – “It’s Tricky,” Run DMC
Man, this song will save your party. And if it can’t? Nothing can. THIS SONG MAKES PEOPLE STOP IN THEIR TRACKS AND REEVALUATE THE TIME THEY’RE HAVING. No matter where I am or how inappropriate the setting is for me to rock out, when that first bass note drops I rock out. Whoever I’m with, I tell them “wait a second” and then I dance balls until the end of that first chorus. I usually stop and do it again on “this girl named Carol follows Darrell every gig we play” but with a totally different flow to my balls dancing. I’ve stopped short on busy sidewalks to rock out to this song. I’ve interrupted business conversations and makeout sessions to rock out to this song. This is a song that makes people freeze and pay their respects. Add an appeal to leave your dad alone and a solid anti-drug message and what have you got? The best song ever.
# 7 : R. Johnny – “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones
“I was born in a cross fire hurricane” is some braggadocious type shit. Like boastful gangsta rap before Ice Cube was barely a tickle in his old man’s underpants. The Rooster wants you to know he’s the motherfucking man, and Keef shreds with sweet licks that destroyed your soul, while Charlie Watts kept time like jack rabbits fucking. A primal masterpiece.
# 8 : R. Ramirez – “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” The Beatles
Wow, the Fab Four are still available mid-way through the first round. The who is an easy decision, the what less so. Their ’62-’65 singles overflow with the best pop songs. It’s almost an indiscernible mass, but I think “She’s a Woman” and “I Feel Fine” are my favorites. Still, not their best work. I can’t draft the whole b-side to Abbey Road. “Hey Jude” heals the world, but I don’t think a McCartney piano ballad is most emblematic of what the Beatles did. I think “Warm Gun” is their most complete track and the thing doesn’t even get to three minutes: It’s heavily political without the handfed whining of “Revolution,” and it endures because of its poetry–who is touching “she’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane?” It’s got that heavy fuzz bass. It calls back to the “shoo shoo” ice cream parlor era of their comparatively innocent earlier years. It makes me forget about the 100 or so unreal love songs that The Beatles wrote.
# 9 : R. Rich – “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-9),” Pink Floyd
A team’s first round pick is its anchor, and the pressure to come through with that anchor pick is tremendous. So what better way to hedge your bets than to take a 20-plus minute epic written in such a way that it could serve as nine separate songs? Pink Floyd is the greatest prog rock band of all time, and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” sees them at their best. From spacey, atmospheric noodling to melodic pop to jazzy groove rock, this is the song that encapsulates more genres than any other of these first round picks combined. This is my quarterback, and Floyd’s going to take us all the way.
# 10 : A. O’Connor – “Overkill,” Motörhead
Resident contrarian Andy O’Connor was covering a hard rock festival in Baltimore, Md., during this draft. But his early picks were outlined before he turned on the auto-draft light.
# 11 : C. Marler – “Baba O’Riley,” The Who
I picked “Baba O’Reilly” for two reasons: (1) it has an unmistakable intro that sets the tone for the awesome lyrics and message that ensues during this all-time favorite that makes every 15-to-25-year-old feel adequate for their own teenage wasteland of evading responsibility and delaying grown up life; (2) I wanted to be taken seriously before rounds 3-5 where I planned on choosing “God Bless the USA,” and “Circle of Life” (non-Elton John version) from “The Lion King” to load the bases before my cleanup hitter, Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There.” It’s known better known internationally as “the ‘Free Willy’ song.” Mission accomplished.
# 12 : D. Kallison – “Just Like Heaven,” The Cure
Of course I pick the emoiest, scrawniest song in the first round. I basically just drafted Chris Bosh. But Bosh produces. Bosh is deep. I was dancing to this song one time (alone, while weeping silently to myself, obviously) and I was like, this is the greatest song ever. I’ve learned to trust every thought I’ve had while dancing, so it just stuck that this is the greatest song ever. The bass line just begs your hips to move and by the time the synth swells leading up to Robert Smith’s first line, your arms are flailing and your feet are doing things they probably shouldn’t do. It’s glorious. There’s an honesty in Smith’s voice that’s hard to shake and a haunting optimism in the lyrics. My first pick might not be the strongest or sexiest or flashiest, but my pick gets the shit done.
# 13 : K. Griggs – “Hoochie Coochie Man,” Muddy Waters
Rolling Stone ranked this song 225 in their 500 greatest songs of all time. Doing such a thing calls into question everything the magazine has done since Hunter S. Thompson left that rag. This song exudes manliness, but more than that it’s an homage to survival and there’s a cocksureness in the lyrics that make me want to slap a fool silly. Also, think about this: it was recorded in 1954, nine years before those punks from Britain would record that pansy-ass song about holding hands. I’m proud to call this the anchor of my squad.
# 14 : J. Klein – “I Want You Back,” The Jackson Five
The more I thought about what was going to be my first choice, I kept coming back to this thought: If I’m making a mix CD, what song will make every single person in the world nod their head and say, “Ooh. I love this song.” If the first six seconds of “I Want You Back” don’t make you happy, there is an excellent chance someone in your family just died. Plus who can’t identify with the idea that an ex looks better when they’re with the next person? Well, maybe Ray J, but who else?
- Suck it, Rolling Stone. ↩