Flip It, Flop It, Davy Crockett: The Top Fourteen Songs at 2:19


Ago 27 2009, 21h44

As I get deeper into this project, I am starting to discover that most song lengths do not suit a particular genre exclusively; that is, I don't find most of these lists to be dominated by a single style. That's why it hasn't occurred to me to make mixtapes or construct playlists around specific lengths--there's no real stylistic or thematic gravity for the individual songs to orbit around. And a good mix isn't just about good songs, it's even more about the relationships between them.

(That's not to say that mixes with varied styles aren't good--built with care, they can be the very best kind of mix--just that they're harder to do.)

That's not true of this list. Perhaps it's just an anomaly, but 2:19 seems to lend itself to the virtues of original rock n' roll: simplicity, rawness, primary-color emotions, the big beat. Another virtue of 50s rock--an extrinsic, cultural plus--is that since the era of Happy Days, American Graffitti, and Sha Na Na, 50s rock has been mostly ignored by both classic rock and oldies radio, meaning that these songs haven't been shoved down our throats like so many 60s and 70s hits have been. They've had some breathing room.

But in another sense, 50s rock n' roll has never really gone away, instead contributing its DNA to a variety of direct descendants such as punk, R&B, non-Nashville/insurgent country, garage rock, surf, and rockabilly. To borrow a phrase from Neal Stephenson, original rock n' roll is an evolutionary badass.

Of course, it's not like all of these oldies were, in fact, goodies. You know, Pat Boone was really popular at the time. Even the good stuff was somewhat limited in its sonic and lyrical palettes. But fifty years on, it has proven to be a remarkably durable template. We even sent Chuck Berry to the stars.

Project Index

The Top Fourteen Songs at 2:19

1) Yeah! Oh, Yeah!--The Magnetic Fields
Damn the theme, this is my favorite at this length. It's a murder ballad dressed up for Broadway, thrown against the wall in the style of Phil Spector, then stripped down to its underwear and set on fire. Subversion of romantic clichés doesn't come any drier, darker, or funnier.

2) (Every Time I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone--Roy Montrell
Great, forgotten, essential early rock n roll. Flip it, flop it, Davy Crockett! If you’ve never heard it, you need to. Montrell was a New Orleans session guitarist, and this is one of only two singles he ever recorded under his own name. Disclaimer: "mellow" this song is not. More of a rolling boil.

3) Good Good Lovin'--James Brown
The Godfather didn't burst from the womb as the king of funk he would later become; he cut his teeth on prime rock n' roll like this.

4) Make Any Vows--Game Theory
Like so many Scott Miller songs, the melodic construction is flawless: the build from verse to prechorus to chorus is reliably blush-inducing. Does anyone else have the blush reaction to a great tune? If so, does anyone know why that happens?

5) Seven & Seven Is--Love
Revelatory 60s punk—just turn up the distortion on that guitar and it fits right in with SoCal scene a dozen years later. Unfortunately, Lee was not trying very hard with the lyrics—as with too many otherwise great songs, they read like the first things the songwriter thought of that fit the melody, and no one ever went back to revise them.

6) Mach 1--Trailer Bride
Melissa Swingle is a master of the emasculating, pithy putdown. Here she absolutely incinerates a man whose self-image is that of a tough, masculine dude, but who pours all his money into a Mustang sitting on blocks in the front yard and drives his girlfriend's car--when he's not at home with his PlayStation.

7) I'm Movin' On--Ray Charles
I've written before about how my fondest wish for time traveling is to just go see bands. Shallow, perhaps, but that doesn't change how kick-ass it would be to see Ray Charles play at a juke joint sometime in the 50s.

This is a Hank Snow country original, covered dozens of times, but Ray's version is the best I've heard.

8) Just a Memory--Elvis Costello & the Attractions
This torchy ballad is about as straightforward lyrically as Elvis gets, and what it loses in lyrical pyrotechnics, it gains in directness. He insists, “memories don’t mean that much to me,” but the dull pain of raw nerves can't be disguised.

9) Terms of Psychic Warfare--Hüsker Dü
Another data point for Grant Hart in the Grant vs. Bob argument. Reliably Du-licious, but sprightly pop and loping country hide behind the fuzz.

10) Blue Moon--The Marcels
Dip-de-dip-de-dip. Vocal hooks for miles.

11) Stop, I'm Already Dead--deadboy & the Elephantmen
A ten-minute psychedelic 70s blues stomp, distilled down to just the cool parts. Or just the skeletal structure of a Lenny Kravitz song, minus the indulgence.

12) Backspace Century--Deerhunter
Like a smeared Polaroid of a Pavement song, it starts off Weird Era, Cont. with a psychedelic announcement that this will be no typical bonus-disc collection of stuff that’s not good enough for the regular album.

13) Two Swords--The English Beat
It's hard to think of another anti-war/anti-violence song that is this much delirious fun.

14) A Certain Girl--The Yardbirds
Not quite as good as the Ernie K-Doe original, but infused with a carefree joy typical of the early 60s British Invasion bands. Their aim was not to sanitize, but to evangelize—and it wound up teaching Americans to love our own music again. Thanks, Brits.


A while back, I promised stats (in the project index). Think I'm gonna take a stab at putting those together before my vacation next month.
Envios aceitos
Real Journal Entries


  • Auto_Da_Fe

    Love that Roy Montrell track (haven't ripped the 7" so no competition here), and not many seem to know it. Do you also know Cherokee Dance by Bob Landers (from the same series of Ace 70s rock and roll reissues) which was the track that made me search these things out in the first place?

    Ago 28 2009, 8h04
  • rockrobster23

    I don't know that one--a friend put "Mellow Saxophone" on a mix tape about 15 years ago, and I was hooked.

    Ago 28 2009, 19h55
  • dtito2

    I like the Elvis track, from an album where I think there are only two songs over 3 minutes.

    Ago 28 2009, 23h19
  • Auto_Da_Fe

    So – didn’t come up with much rock n roll here – or even, after the first three, a lot of seriously great music. Tracks 4 – 10 are all enjoyable, but there have been other episodes of this epic from which they would have been unceremoniously discarded. 1) T. Rex - Solid Gold Easy Action. Still sounds glorious after 37 years 2) The Doors - Hello, I Love You. A chestnut – but somehow still a pleasure to hear. 3) Jimi Hendrix - Crosstown Traffic. I’m not as mad for Hendrix as one is taught one should be – but the good stuff is v e r y good. 4) Louvin Brothers - Stuck Up Blues. Second only to the Delmore Brothers in the world of brotherly country harmony boogie 5) The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird. Bird IS the word. 6) Elliott Smith - Say Yes 7) Say Hi to Your Mom - Yeah, I'm In Love With An Android. I’m pretty sure this is deeply uncool. 8) Angelic Upstarts - I'm An Upstart. Punk also-rans, but this is certainly their momentus mirabilis. 9) Yeah Jazz - Stranger Than Fiction. In my very short career in A&R, I signed two groups. This was the bigger selling.. but just because nobody bought it doesn’t mean they weren’t good. Going back to a previous episode, Kevin (the vocalist) has the ability to cause inappropriate welling up of emotion – at least on my part. 10) 8 Eyed Spy - Diddy Wah Diddy. The one decent track from a shockingly bad album (as I was forcibly reminded when ripping vinyl a few weeks ago).

    Set 1 2009, 21h23
  • masto65

    I will toss mine up tomorrow night. Been a crazy week. I got my 10 just need to say a word or 2. Kind of top heavy with the punk. It was surely a time issue with me.

    Set 2 2009, 5h21
  • rockrobster23

    Four things: 1)James, I am pretty sure that it is deeply uncool of me not to have the original "Surfin' Bird" on my hard drive. If I was an emperor, I would have no clothes. 2) My conflicted relationship with The Doors deserves its own post at some point. Reminder to myself. 3) Never heard of Yeah Jazz before, but its good. Reminds me of another band you introduced me to, The Monochrome Set. 4) I can't recall actually listening to 8 Eyed Spy, but it is possible that it happened. I could never get into the no wave scene--it seemed to be too willfully unpleasurable in a way that I didn't find rewarding. Contrast (for example) certain early-ish Sonic Youth, which had abrasive/unpleasurable elements that were kind of beautiful, too. Make any sense? If not, perhaps I should revisit the no wave. It HAS been a very long time.

    Set 2 2009, 7h14
  • Auto_Da_Fe

    Hmm - taking this list: http://nowave.pair.com/no_wave/nycnowave_index.html as defining who was No Wave, I rate a lot of James Chance/Contortions and the first albums by Lounge Lizards and Judy Nylon highly. Much of the remainder would be hard work to listen to..

    Set 2 2009, 10h49
  • rockrobster23

    By the way, did you notice that pronoah has dropped off the site? The last we heard, his wife was shouting at him. It doesn't look good.

    Set 3 2009, 17h48
  • rockrobster23

    I actually like Swingle's subsequent (and current, near as I can tell) project The Moaners even better.

    Set 21 2009, 22h00
  • rockrobster23

    Vacation is done, and I'm back with my library. 2:14 is next, as quickly as I can put it together.

    Set 22 2009, 5h55
  • masto65

    Okay better late than never. For the record here is the 10 at 2:19. Paperback Writer • The Beatles In my Beatles top 5. Easy. The guitar alone made me want to learn how to play. Ex Lion Tamer • Wire Awesome. Anti-Fashion • Social Distortion A little slice of high school. Saw them play this in someones backyard. Satisfaction Guaranteed • Mourning Reign Unheard of 60's psych-garage. From one of those nuggets kind of comps. Cool song highly recomended. Anyone curious shoot me an message.. 13 • D.O.A. Made me a Chuck Biscuits fan. Best song about pedophilia ever. Lover's Walk • Elvis Costello Trust is still my favorite Elvis album. No New Wave No Fun • Mclusky I just like the way Albini makes these guys sound. Pass It On • Coral Makes me want to wear earth shoes for some reason. Ha Ha Ha • Flipper Saw them back in the day and they just annoyed the hell out of me. But I guess that was the point. Triumph of the Will • Devo Just goofy. The one that got away for 2:19 was “Seven and Seven is Masto.

    Out 2 2009, 5h09
  • rockrobster23

    My Beatles collection is definitely incomplete. As much as I have kind of gotten tired of them (oddly, really over the last 6 months or so--I blame the big Beatles Rockband media blitz), I should probably get some of those discs ripped, because something like "Paperback Writer" would definitely make a list. Some anachronics in there; "Ha Ha Ha" and "Triumph of the Will" are good bets for mentions in other lists.

    Out 2 2009, 6h20
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