This is The Great Unheard 2X5 project, from 2014. Fifteen people each made a ten-song playlist comprised of “two under-appreciated songs from each of five separate decades.” The goal of the project was to get a sampling of songs from different eras. The liner notes are lost to time, unfortunately. But the playlists all are below. To jump to a contributor’s playlist, click their name below.
1. “No Second Thoughts” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / My favorite Petty song that not many know.
2. “To Be Someone” by Oasis / A cover of a Jam song from the 70s, but this acoustic version is pretty different from the original.
3. “Anything, Anything” by Dramarama / Obscure 80’s band, but this song captures the time, methinks.
4. “Starry Eyes” by Motley Crue / I grew up on this. This is the lo-fi sound (sound, not necessarily music) that the strokes tried to capture in 2000.
5. “Here” by Pavement / Played this for Brian McLoughlin this past weekend, and he didn’t recognize it. Thus: UNHEARD!
6. “No Voices in the Sky” by Motorhead / Call them a metal band, but this is a real-deal punk song.
7. “Blown From The Action” by Vic Thrill / Solo album from Bogmen frontman Billy Campion. Such a chill sound.
8. ” Lotion” by The Greenskeeper / Internet sensation who might nonetheless be unknown too many on this site.
9. ” Undertow” by War Paint / Heard this on KEXP. Had no clue at the time who it was but I was instantly drawn in.
10. “Cocaine Blues (remix)” by Escort / 2010 disco from NYC
1. “The Whole Damn Thing” by Those Darlins / Has this ever happened to you?
2. “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long” by Eryka Badu / Deep grooves. Dig it.
3. “Diana from NYC” by Lee Moses / From some WFMU sampler Chris (my husband) got called, “Tune that Name.”
4. “Bossa Nova Baby” by Elvis Presley / Elvis being 60s Elvis.
5. “I Like Beer” by Tom T Hall / ‘Nuff said.
6. “You Left the Water Running” by Otis Redding / The guitar’s a bit out of tune and I love it!
7. “Smokey Joe’s Café” by The Robins / No comment—just the song.
8. “Saved” by Lavern Baker / “I used to fuss, and cuss, and BOOGIE all nite long!”
9. “Rise Up With Fists” by Jennie Lewis / No comment—just the song.
10. “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” by Gnarls Barkley / No comment—just the song.
1. “I Don’t Want to Go Home” by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes / When I was in high school in the early 80’s it was close to impossible to see Bruce in concert, but you could always see Southside Johnny at the pier at Jones Beach. The song was written by Miami Steve and Southside Johnny played this song at the end every concert I went to.
2. “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” by Tom Waits / I wasn’t listening to Tom Waits in the 70’s since I ranged from 4 to 14. I first really learned of him in 1986 when watching ‘Down by Law’ and have liked him ever since.
3. “Number-One in America” by David Massingill / I spent a lot of time listening to music in the east and west village in the 1980’s. David Massingill was part of the Fast Folk Musical Collective and even though many other members became very famous since the 80’s, I thought David was the best story teller of the bunch.
4. “Me, Steve, Kirk and Keith” by Cindy Lee Berryhill / Cindy Lee was part of the anti-folk group in the east village. It was a great counter-point to all the harmonies coming out of the west village. She was my favorite of the anti-folkers and this song (and album) was produced by Lenny Kaye of Patti Smith Group fame.
5. “Fixing Her Hair” by Ani DiFranco / I first saw Ani at an open mic night in the late 1980’s and I was so impressed by her attitude and lyrics. I listened to this song a million times when it first came out because what 20-something girl didn’t have a friend selling herself short for a boyfriend. I am still a sucker for her politically infused lyrics of her younger days. “…he says he loves her, he says he’s changing and he can keep her warm and so she sits thee like America suffering through slow reform.”
6. “Modern Girl” by Sleater Kinney / I loved the energy of Sleater Kinney in the 90’s. While this song came out in early 2000’s and after I stopped listening to them so much. But it is my favorite Sleater Kinney song so I included it in the 90s.
7. “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” by Martha Wainwright / If you are someone who likes to make mixed tapes for friends when love goes bad, there is almost no better song than this one.
8. “Kick, Push” by Lupe Fiasco / I so love the sound of this song. Makes me wish I was a skate boarder.
9. “Stop for a Minute” by Keane (feat. K’naan) / I also love the sound of this song. I am a big fan of K’naan and his way with words. “uh, yeah, and baby, you are just beautiful. from crown to your cuticles.”
10. “Stand Up” by Flobots / I like the Flobots and the interesting way they manage to be political and a rock band and a hip hop band. They have a great sound and message.
1. “Purple Haze” by Dion, 1969 / Dion balked at spending $36 for a seat on a chartered plane at the end of the 1950s so we get to hear to his take on Hendrix at the end of the 1960s. Makes me dream of Buddy Holly’s interpretation of “The Seeker”.
2. “Loan Me a Dime” by Boz Scaggs, 1969 / Wouldn’t mind if this 12:29 tune went on for an hour or two longer. It may be Duane Allman’s finest hour.
3. “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” by Todd Rundgren, 1972 / Power pop perfection from the double album masterpiece that is Something/Anything. You don’t own Something/Anything?
4. “Linden Arden Stole the Highlights” by Van Morrison, 1974 / Listen to this a few hundred times then be prepared to tell others how it gets better with each listening.
5. “Love Sounds Like Rain” by Strange Cave, 1985 / Unreleased Hoboken guitar/cello gem. James Mastro’s stint with the unsigned Strange Cave was tucked between his days with The Bongos and The Health & Happiness Show.
6. “Saint Jake” by The Del Lords, 1986 / With the exception of Vince Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight and the safety net of CBS-FM 101.1 there was simply no reason to listen to the radio in the 1980s. Jack Spector died on the air. Blessed are the faithful!
7. “Simone & Perry” by Grant Mclennan, 1994 / Someone took me to see Grant at a festival in Brisbane back 1995. He was on a bill with Morphine and Alex Chilton. He was “brilliant” as the Aussies say. I bought a copy of his wonderful double album “Horsebreaker Star” at the show.
8. “Gallo del Cielo” by Joe Ely, 1995 / Hands down the best cockfighting song of my generation. “Tonight I’ll put it all on the fighting spurs of Gallo del Cielo”!!!
9. “Bandages & Scars” by Son Volt, 2005 / Woody gets channeled in a garage. Glorious, cranked-up protest music!
10. “Black Cowboys” by Bruce Springsteen, 2005 / “And she got lost in the days.”
1. “Rock Island Line” by Leadbelly / Once this song gets going, I just love the way the vocals drive the rhythm.
2. “Boogie Chillin’” by John Lee Hooker / So many versions of this, even by JLH, but this original is just so classic.
3. “Matchbox” by Carl Perkins / And that boogie is not quite as chillin’.
4. “Coconut Woman” by Harry Belafonte / Add some Jamaica to the mix. I just love the way Harry stretches the coconuuuuuuuut.
5. “0.0.7. (Shanty Town)” by Desmond Dekker / Desmond Dekker and some really classic Rock Steady.
6. “Small Axe” by The Wailers / Marley voicing his displeasure with the Big Tree records controlling the 1960’s music airplay in Jamaica.
7. “Marcus Garvey” by Burning Spear / Reggae in full bloom and ready to be worked into the punk rock scene of the ’70s.
8. “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” by The Police / I am not the hugest Police fan, but it is so cool to see the reggae worked back into rock and roll.
9. “Washington Bullets” by The Clash / On the other hand, I am a huge Clash fan and still to this day cannot get enough of this song.
10. “Mr. Grieves” by Pixies / Just squeezing into the decade. Is this the most stripped down reggae song of all time?
2. “You’re Not Alone” by Mavis Staples, 2009 / I got this song off a Paste magazine sampler a couple of years back. I found out subsequently that Jeff Tweedy wrote it and produced it, rendering it perhaps not so “unheard.” I left it here because I’d never heard it outside of my iTunes, and I think it’s one of the few tunes about loneliness that genuinely makes me me feel unalone. Lastly, the line “I want to get it through to you” reminds me of a song off The Specials’ first album: “A Message to You Rudy.”
3. “Set in Motion” by Sloan, 2006 / A metaphor (over)extended over two-and-a-half minutes of Big Star-style pop. Great Unhearder Greg Bartalos turned me on to Sloan. Great, underappreciated band.
4. “See Yourself” by Graham Parker, 1995 / I don’t think there’s a bad line in this song.
5. “Fox on the Run” by Manfred Mann, 1968 / I know nothing about this song, but I really like it. I’ve got it in my “Sunny” playlist in iTunes. Yes, I have a playlist called “Sunny.” Wikipedia tells me this turned into a bluegrass and country hit in the 70s.
6. “I Want You Back” by Hoodoo Gurus, 1984 / This is what white people dancing sounds like. Hoodoos are an Aussie band with Spinal Tap’s knack for naming albums. My favorites: Mars Needs Guitars and Magnum Cum Louder.
7. “Love Whip” by The Reverend Horton Heat, 1990 / This style of music is known as Psychobilly, presumably the hybrid spawn of psychedelic rock and rockabilly. I can’t listen to a lot of this stuff, but a song here or there really sounds great. I also love The Rev’s song, “Eat Steak”, which features this line: “Roberto Duran ate two before a fight / Cause it gave a lot of mighty men a lot of mighty might.”
8. “Splash 1” by 13th Floor Elevators, 1968 / This song sounds like an elegy for the the 60s to me. The line “And now I’m home to stay” should be a happy one, but it sounds like failure here.
9. “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline” by X, 1980 / For a brief period, 1977-1981 or so, punk had a tangible, positive effect on mainstream music. The Clash, Joe Jackson, The Jam, The Ramones–all these bands were making great, hard music with pop hooks. X came in at the tail end of this movement. 80s schmaltz soon followed, but those four years are great ones.
10. “Song for Bob Dylan” by David Bowie, 1971 / My boy Jim Wolfe gifted me with a bunch of his vinyl, including Bowie’s Hunky Dory. The sound of this tune reminds me of what a great song “Changes” was before it got ridden into the ground by classic rock DJs.
1. “Broken Arrow” by Neil Young / This was actually recorded with Buffalo Springfield (of “For What It’s Worth” fame – a.k.a. “Stop children, what’s that sound/ Everybody look what’s goin’ round”). I love Broken Arrow for the song itself, despite the typically 1968 self-important sound collages interspersed throughout the song. PS – Youtube the killer Wilco cover.
2. “Everybody Knows This Nowhere” by Neil Young / With the mighty Crazy Horse, his on again/off again backup band. To my ears, this is where The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and lots of other free and easy California country rock bands got their sound.
3. “Revolution Blues” by Neil Young / From On The Beach, possibly my favorite Neil Young album ever. Released during a time when his record company was begging him for a commercial follow up to his #1 hit album “Harvest” (the one with “Heart Of Gold”). Neil famously said that “Traveling in the middle of the road got boring, so I headed for the ditch.” This song is about Neil crossing paths with Charles Manson before the Manson Family killings, and so bugged out David Crosby that he refused to perform the song live as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, causing it to be dropped from the set list for years. SPIN called this the wildest 5 minutes of Neil’s career.
4. “Powderfinger” by Neil Young / With Crazy Horse. Gun to head, my favorite Neil Young song of all time. This is the one I’d play for a space alien that wanted to know what rock n roll sounds like. I love this one so much I’m going to shut up and get out of the way and let the song speak for itself.
5. “Shots” by Neil Young / The death rattle to the man’s career in the 80s. After giving birth to a son with severe cerebral palsy, Neil grew increasingly uninterested in making rock n roll records. This song is a ferocious last gasp.
6. “Computer Age” by Neil Young / By this point, the man was in full F- You mode with his record company. Fans revolted after Neil released this new wave-inspired album, complete with synths and vocoders (which in retrospect was meant to symbolize the difficulty he had in communicating with his son.) The record company threatened to sue him if he didn’t make another rock album, so he next greased his hair back, wore a tuxedo, and recorded an album full of the 1950s rockabilly songs called “Everybody’s Rockin'”! The record company, not impressed, followed through on its threat and sued him for making “unrepresentative Neil Young albums.” The decade only went downhill from there.
7. “I’m The Ocean” by Neil Young / By this time, Neil Young had rebounded in a big way. Starting with “Rockin’ In The Free World” in 1989, followed by reuniting with Crazy Horse for 1990’s universally lauded Ragged Glory album, to being crowned “The Godfather Of Grunge” after bands like Sonic Youth and Pearl Jam (the latter of which backs him on this song) started namedropping him as a huge influence.
8. “Philadelphia” by Neil Young / The title song from the Denzel Washington/Tom Hanks film, this version is a bootleg from the Academy Awards show, which I think is the definitive version of the song. The man’s lyrics can admittedly be lacking at times, but not on this one. Springsteen, who won the Academy Award for “Streets Of Philadelphia” that year, said that Neil got jobbed.
9. “Razor Love” by Neil Young / I won’t bullshit you, Neil’s 00s output was almost as dicey as his 80s output. Nonetheless, this beauty belongs in his Hall Of Fame (though it was actually written 20 years earlier. Ha! Got you on a technicality!)
10. “After The Garden” by Neil Young / At the height of the Iraqi War and during George W. Bush’s lowest ratings, Neil rush-released this raw collection of anti-war and anti-Bush songs called “Living With War,” just as he did in 1970 with “Ohio”, which was rush-released in the wake of the Kent State shootings. Regardless of one’s politics, it was his strongest release in forever. The rest of the 00s was hit and miss, but he put out two fairly strong albums in 2012, providing hope that he’ll continue his every other decade run.
1. “Seven Day Weekend” by Gary US Bonds / This is probably not unheard to another generation, as I believe this was a hot in the early 60s but it’s certainly great and unheard to me.
2. “Rougher Yet” by Slim Smith / This is basically a classic soul song put to the reggae / rock steady mento. The difference is the rhythm and the low end. I’ve been listening to this song for over 20 years and it always makes me feel good.
3. Bird’s Lament” by Moondog / This fella was a German immigrant who dressed as a wizard and busked on the streets of Manhattan throughout the 40s, 50s, 60s and into the 70s. He did all of this on the corner of 53rd and 6th, which is now home to many world class Halal Chicken carts.
4. “The Ballad of El Goodo” by Big Star / Any chance of this being already heard, or not unheard enough, is outweighed by the chance that you don’t know this song and are exposed to one of the best tunes in the Big Star catalogue.
5. “Call Me” by Throwing Muses / This sound became somewhat common in the 90s, but when I paid $16.99 for this cassette import for Germany in 1989, it was mind blowing. Until then it was all Pixies, REM, Replacements, Cure. This is the first record I got with the dissonance that permeated the world of “alt rock” in the 90s.
6. “Kickin’ (the gone fishin’ song)” by Too Much Joy / This band provided me with some unforgettable street hanging and 40-drinking in my youth / sometimes with homeless guys, sometimes with Tim Quirk, always outside of CBs and Brownies, often with equipment being smashed or tuxedo pants being ruined.
7. “Blood” by Tindersticks / This was on an old mix tape cassette that I found in my closet. I definitely got this record from my brother Rory. Great to rediscover this tune. Just nice and understated.
8. “Razzmatazz” by Pulp / For Pulp fans this song from “his n hers” is not unheard but I find that not enough people know enough about Pulp beyond “Common People.” [Ed. note: There is a great cover of “Common People” on David Weidner’s Covers playlist.] This one is a great example of the way they bring words, pop melody and dramatic swells together so well.
9. “Your Birthday Present” by The Good Life / This is Tim Kasher’s side project to Cursive. This Saddle Creek sound seemed to be everywhere for a few years during this decade, so I found this one appropriate.
10. “St. Gregory” by Greg Dulli (Live in New Orleans) / A true unheard in that these CDs were only sold at shows. This was when Dulli toured acoustic with a few other people and played Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers and Gutter Twins songs. This song in particular sounded great on the acoustic guitar.
2. “Paradise Café” by Barry Manilow / From the album 2 AM Paradise Café. All Music Guide gives the album 4 stars.
3. “Storm Warning” by Bonnie Raitt / From the album Longing in Their Hearts—1994—written by Always, Britten, Maalfrid.
4. “But Not For Me” by Ella Fitzgerald / A Gershwin song.
5. “Ballad of a Runaway Horse” by Emmylou Harris / 1993, a song written by Leonard Cohen.
6. “The Joint is Jumpin’” by Fats Waller / 1937, written by Waller, J.C. Johnson, and an Ellington collaborator Andy Razaf.
7. “In the Still of the Night” by Jane Monheit / One of the great standards singers now alive singing a Cole Porter song.
8. “A Nightingale Sang in Barclay Square” by Mel Torme / The smartest of all of the standards singers, he makes you listen. His technique and phrasing outshine Sinatra, Bennett, or any of the rest.
9. “Penthouse Serenade” by Tony Bennett 1959, a heavily orchestrated version of a little known song—written by Will Jason & Val Burton.
10. “The End Of The World” by Vonda Shepard / The singer from the Ally McBeal series at her best, singing a 1962 song by Skeeter Davis.