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“That One Song They Did Just Rocks: Part Three of a Series”

By Christian N. Kraus

We come, now, to the third part of this music series.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I like to work in threes.

There’s something about the number three that just feels complete and final.

The Pythagoreans thought that three was the perfect number—triangles were the perfect shape and how many points does a triangle have? How many sides? Right—three.

MacBeth encountered three witches in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s play by the same name.

There’s the Holy Trinity, of course—In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

In ancient folk narratives, there are the Three Billy Goats Gruff; Goldilocks has to wrestle with three bears; Rumplestiltskin gives the Queen three days to guess his name before he takes the child she promised him.

Ebenezer Scrooge faces three ghosts in his Christmas Eve night of existential transformation. And, Indiana Jones has to pass three tests to get to the Holy Grail and save his father.

But, I digress. The point is—this is the last of this series, not because I couldn’t keep writing about music, but because three is the ideal place to stop.

So far, we’ve considered music and bands that just don’t seem to retain their original “oomph” over the years, and bands who wrote songs that, because of their overall staying power, still make you want to crank the volume until your eardrums bleed. This has been a polarizing thing. I understand, of course, that not everyone will agree with my categorizations, and it has not been my intent to incite conflict. All I’ve really wanted to do is to get you thinking about how music works in your own life—the extent to which it influences how you feel and what you think at any given moment. I would argue that it has more power than you realize because of the parts of our psyche that it speaks to. Maybe you’ve paid greater attention to the songs that come over the radio lately. If so, good for you, and my efforts have not been for nothing.

But, what we have not considered are songs by bands that, I would argue, the vast majority of people would agree just rock, even if (actually, precisely because), those bands only had one or two songs that reached that just rocking status. Some people call bands like this “one-hit wonders.” And, it’s true that many bands that we know really did have just one big hit and nothing else they did really caught widespread attention. But, I’ve always had a problem with that term for them. It seems to diminish the amount of work that goes into songwriting and playing music, for one thing. It makes it seem like the bands who seem to have only had that one big hit were just a fluke, an accident, only lucky that once—as if they didn’t even really do anything else. To think this way is a mistake. These bands stumbled upon a magical moment in music history—the perfect combination of words and chords and notes that, when it all came together, created something universally agreed upon…a song (or two) that would bring humanity together in something that resembles one heart, one mind, and one be-ing. They wrote songs that most everyone would agree just kick ass.

So, who are these 80s/90s bands and what are these songs of which I speak? You all know them. Here’s my eternally rockin’ playlist:

--“(I’m Going) Straight to Hell,” by Drivin’ and Cryin’

--“Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” by the Georgia Satellites.

--“Money For Nothing, Chicks for Free” and “Sultans of Swing,” by Dire Straits.

--“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades,” by Timuk 3. (Not technically in the rock genre, but what a fun song!)

--“We’re Not Gonna Take It,” by Twisted Sister.

--(Also, technically, not rock, but…in the category of awesome…) “The Safety Dance,” by Men Without Hats. “Whip It,” by Devo, “Take On Me,” by A-Ha, “Come On Eileen,” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), by Dead or Alive.

--“Sister Christian,” by Night Ranger.

--“Blister in the Sun” and “Add it Up,” by the Violent Femmes.

--“White Wedding,” by Billy Idol.

--“Beds are Burning,” by Midnight Oil.

--“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” by The Proclaimers.

--“One Headlight,” by The Wallflowers.

--“Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” by The Smashing Pumpkins.

--(one last ‘technically-not-rock song,’ but…that scene from Say Anything, with Lloyd Dobler outside Diane Court’s window holding the boom box over his head…) “In Your Eyes,” by Peter Gabriel.

--“Closing Time,” by Semisonic.

And, sheesh, could I go on and on? Yes, I could. But, that’s 21 songs, and divide that by “magic number” three, and that’s seven…and seven is another highly magic and symbolic number. Think Biblical significance, for one…”on the seventh day, he rested.” I don’t think I have to elaborate.

These songs by these musicians are, obviously, not the only songs that they wrote. They are, however, instantly engaging and impossible to ignore.

Don’t believe me? Try it.

Pretend you’re fifteen again. Get your favorite playlist building tool out. If you’re lucky like me, you might even have that old boom box from 1985 laying around somewhere.

Now, build this “mix tape.” Put it on.

And, then, tell me, before you’re even three songs in, that these songs by these groups don’t somehow, inexplicably, make you feel…


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