Scott Miller: What Are You Listening To?
There’s no great message here other than I was asked if I would come up with a playlist, and these are the songs that came to mind without any research or study. I forget things now that I’m old. And I used to drink. A lot. It’s a shame because I used to be so sharp…
I couldn’t summon the hubris to add my own songs. You’ll have to go find those yourself.
Thanks for listening!
singer/songwriter, cattle farmer, malapert
Chuck Berry, “Havana Moon”
God, I love a story song. Songs don’t HAVE to be stories to be great (I give you ‘Louie Louie’), but songs that go from a point A to a point B are what I like. So suck it up. She’s gone, Chuck.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”
Doomed by their popularity on a.m. radio for rock snobs. I proffer that Creedence may be the greatest AMERICAN rock & roll band and I like them, anyway. ( I actually think Los Lobos is the greatest American rock band.) What makes a band great? Well, great sound, great playing, great vibe, gravitas and even though you can name a million bands that have all those that I haven’t heard of, I will say they also have to have HITS (sorry, Big Star). Plus, I love taking something timely (Nixon’s election) and making it timeless, which Fogerty did again and again with so many songs. His gift of writing is way overlooked.
Tom T. Hall, “That’s How I Got to Memphis”
Please play Tom T.’s version. I know it’s been covered, but unless you actually sing for a living, you don’t understand how hard this song is to sing and how he nails it, besides having written this thick ol’ masterpiece. Formulaic maybe, but the formula still works, ask Chris Stapleton. Its melody is deceptively simple, like our National Anthem. It’s a bitch to sing and requires more range than you think. Anyway, again with the story song, go I. Also note that it’s produced by Jerry Kennedy.
Charlie Rich, “The Best Years”
Another Jerry Kennedy-produced gem. More on him next.
Roger Miller, “One Dyin’ and a Buryin’”
Roger Miller (no relation, unfortunately) is MY GUY. When I heard the first album (produced by Jerry Kennedy) Dang Me on SMASH records, and then when I heard the second album, and the third AND the fourth with not one bad song on them…NOT. ONE. — that’s when songwriting turned for me from timely stuff written to get attention in a crowded bar to at least an attempt at something timeless. Roger could do both. With ease. Sometimes in the same song.
Roger Miller, “Husbands and Wives”
See what I mean? Unstoppable.
The Statler Brothers, “Flowers on the Wall”
No, I didn’t put this on because Pulp Fiction made everyone aware of this song. I didn’t even put this on my list because the Statlers are from my hometown in Virginia. I put this on because it’s another Jerry Kennedy production. That’s his guitar work, for you all you six-string nerds out there. I don’t know if anyone listens to or reads this, but you should leave with Jerry Kennedy’s name stuck in your brain.
Otis Redding, “Tennessee Waltz”
So yeah, I have my own self-imposed criteria for what makes the greatest (American) rock band. I also have one for ‘the greatest song ever written.’ This is it. A melody that can’t be denied (AND a waltz) that crosses all genres of music, it was a HIT and anyone can cover it and it still comes across and makes its point. (Close second, ‘Achy Breaky Heart’). O.R.’s version..well…he don’t hurt the unhurtable, that’s for sure.
Conway Twitty, “That’s My Job”
Another Sun Alum (see Charlie Rich). Songs don’t have to be great, they just have to hit you at the right moment. I was on the road driving from Houston to Dallas when I scanned the radio dial and this song popped up. I wept. Conway was truly the best friend a song ever had…You can skip this one if you want. When I make a record (and I’ve made a few) I always figure people can skip a song if they don’t like it. If they can’t figure out how to do that, nature will weed them out, anyway. (The people, not the songs.)
Neil Young, “Motion Pictures”
This is my favorite NY record. Even above Tonight’s the Night. (And not a hit on it.) I had this on 8-track as a teenager and didn’t disengage it from the player for (maybe) way too long. I love everything about this record, the players (that’s Rick Danko on bass) to the vibe to the feeling like each song is juuuuuuust about to fall apart…but doesn’t. (Like they do on his Time Fades Away record.) I had a good friend who couldn’t quite grasp the Neil thing. Then I played this record on a dusk to dawn drive through some fog and traffic. He got it then.
Ella Fitzgerald, “I Get a Kick out of You”
This is from Ella Fitzgerald sings the Cole Porter songbook. My dad played trumpet in the big band era. He loved Nelson Riddle and Les Brown and he loved Ella Fitzgerald. And who doesn’t, really? I saw an interview once with Whitney Houston where she was asked who was the greatest female vocalist of all time. She asked the interviewer right back, ‘Besides Ella?’ Anyway. I’m part showing off and part saying that even as a kid when my dad would play this stuff that I didn’t really appreciate at the time…when it was a good SONG, it still got through to me. That’s my jam. A well-written song. Besides cows, of course.
John Prine, “Mexican Home”
Go with the version off his live record, although I’m a TRUE Prine fan and love the album Sweet Revenge’s version too, and all his records from that era like Storm Windows. John Prine is the shit. Enough said.
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