Friday, June 17, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 17: A Song That You Hear Often On The Radio

Like most people, I don't listen to the radio as much as I used to. I do listen to NPR every morning as I'm getting ready, but as soon as the news programming is over I usually plug in my iPod. The same is true in my car. However, when I am listening to radio in my car, it's almost always one of two stations: either 94.1 WKQK (which is basically an oldies/classic rock station) or 92.1 (which is the Rhodes Radio station). As a rule, I find most DJ's pretty annoying-- with the exception of the Rhodes Radio DJ's, many of whom are quirky and endearing-- and there isn't much that is played on the radio that I don't already have in my iPod. So, today's challenge is a little hard, since I don't think that what one "hears often on the radio" really means all that much anymore.

Nevertheless, the song I chose today IS a song that I hear often on oldies/classic rock radio when I'm listening. It's from one of my favorite bands of all time, Three Dog Night. I feel pretty confident that there aren't many people who don't know at least a handful of Three Dog Night's songs, even if you don't know that they're Three Dog Night songs. They produced so many good ones, and their songs seems to capture the sound of at least a decade-long slice of Americana. Here's one of Three Dog Night's better-known tunes, "Joy To The World" from their 1971 album Naturally:



I grew up as a PK (for the uninitiated, that means "Preacher's Kid") and so there's a little soft spot in my heart for this song in particular. When I was younger, I was exposed to more than my fair share of gospel/church music, but at home my mom and dad pretty much raised us on "oldies," especially the music of Motown, Creedance Clearwater Revival and Three Dog Night. In particular, on Sunday mornings, we would listen to this music (and ONLY THIS MUSIC) as we were getting ready for church. The consequence of that was, as my mother tells it, when we were children and someone asked my younger brother and I to sing "Joy To The World" we would begin by shouting: JEREMIAH WAS A BULLFROG! HE WAS A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE!

Not exactly what most people would expect from Preacher's Kids, to say the least.

Since I'm on the topic of "oldies" music, I want to register a longstanding complaint about how this gets played on the radio. To me, "oldies" and "classic rock" are genres that have a very particular musical sound and belong to a very particular historical period. Nowadays, I will occasionally hear things like Pearl Jam or Nirvana on the "oldies" station and it really does drive me cuh-razy. Here's the thing: "oldies"/"classic rock" does NOT mean "anything that is more than 20 years old." It means something that IS or SOUNDS LIKE the music of the 60's and 70's (maybe early- to mid-80's). I'm talking about CCR and Three Dog Night and the Rolling Stones and Cream and Buffalo Springfield and Fleetwood Mac and The Mamas and The Papas and Steppenwolf, maybe the Beach Boys, maybe even some early Aerosmith. But make no mistake about it, Pearl Jam is and will NEVER BE "oldies" or "classic rock." We've just got to have standards, people.

[Climbing down off of soapbox now]

Back to Three Dog Night: I'll just say in conclusion that I think "Joy To The World" has one of the best lyrical lines in classic rock music-- second only to John Cougar Mellencamp's "sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze"-- when they sing:

If I were the King of the world, I tell you what I'd do
I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the wars,
And make sweet love to you

For my part, I'd probably want to keep the bars... but otherwise Three Dog Night gets an AMEN! from me on that one.

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