CMJ Top 250 Songs, 1979 – 1989, 91 – 89

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91. The Replacements, “I Will Dare”

Paul Westerberg had a “Stop the presses!” moment after he finished off songwriting chores on “I Will Dare,” though he would have been referring to the hydraulic presses that bring a vinyl record into shape. Hootenanny, the second full length album from Westerberg’s band the Replacements, was in its final mastering stage when he called up Peter Jesperson, head of the group’s record label. “I got a call from Paul saying, ‘I’ve just finished the best song I’ve ever written. We need to record it now,'” said Jesperson. “But the record was already done, so we couldn’t do it.” Instead, the Replacements recorded “I Will Dare” for their next album, the artistic breakthrough Let It Be, released in 1984. Peter Buck of R.E.M. guested on the track, playing the distinctive opening guitar riff. And yet another emerging iconic band of college radio likely provided direct inspiration for the song, according to Westerberg. “That might have been another answer to ‘I Will Follow,’” Westerberg explained, referencing the early hit from U2. “Part of it has to do with the band: we’ll dare to flop, we’ll dare to do anything. ‘I Will Dare’ was a good slogan for a Replacements single. On the other hand, it was a kind of love song: ‘Ditch the creep, and I’ll meet you later. I don’t care, I will dare.'”

 

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90. Camper Van Beethoven, “Eye of Fatima (Part 1)”

According to David Lowery, lead singer of Camper Van Beethoven, the first single from the band’s 1988 album, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, had its origins in some romantic tumult that took place around the band. Years later, Lowery recounted experiences he had with a Camper Van Beethoven fan who he referred to as Pete C. Lowery was visiting Pete in his usual California digs, a hotel in Soquel, California, and noticed that the young girlfriend of Anthony Guess, the band’s drummer at the time, was fairly chummy with their host. “Shortly after this, Anthony’s girlfriend ran off with Pete to Wyoming,” explained Lowery. “It was never exactly clear if they were romantically involved but they definitely went on a huge drug and psychedelics binge. When I saw her sometime later she mentioned tripping her ass off on LSD with a bunch of cowboys in some tiny town in Wyoming. And she said verbatim to me: ‘Man watching cowboys on acid was crazy. They looked like some kind of Egyptian hieroglyphics to me. Animated like cartoons.’ And thus the song ‘Eye of Fatima’ was born.” The details of druggy tryst show up explicitly in the lyrics: “And this here’s a government experiment and we’re driving like Hell/ To give some cowboys some acid and to stay in motels.” As part of Camper Van Beethoven’s major label bow, on Virgin Records, “Eye of Fatima (Part 1)” got a fairly polished video and generous MTV airplay, freeing the band a broader perception that were a tuneful novelty act, churning out songs that could fit comfortably on Dr. Demento’s playlist.

 

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89. Talking Heads, “Wild Wild Life”

1986 was the year that David Byrne went though a transformation in the public eye, evolving from the esoteric lead singer of a band with more acclaim than hits into, as Time magazine declared on its cover, “Rock’s Renaissance Man.” The likely tipping point was Byrne’s excursion into cinematic authorship as the director, co-writer, and co-star of True Stories, an oddball bit of soft satire. In addition to an official soundtrack album, Sounds from True Stories, the film also fed into the official seventh studio album by Talking Heads, which shared the movie’s title. “Wild Wild Life” was the first single from the album. Befitting its strong connection to a visual art form, the single was boosted by its music video, drawn directly from the track’s usage in the film, which finds a stream of character lip synching to the song at a flashy bar. “The song itself becomes a vehicle that they can say anything they want it to,” Byrne explained. “Some gestures and movements are obviously derived from well-known sources: television shows… movies… and, most recently, rock music videos. Odd to think that some lip-synchers are imitating characters in videos, who are really musicians imitating other characters.”

 

As we go along, I’ll build a YouTube playlist of all the songs in the countdown.

The hyperlinks associated with each numeric entry lead directly to the individual song on the playlist. All images nicked from Discogs.

 

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