I ran into an old friend at the first of four Every Time I Die shows at the Waiting Room last week, and with the wonderful snarkiness that is typical of him, he deadpanned, “Oh, I see you came to the ‘Dad-friendly’ show too,” referring to the early (7 p.m.) start time for the gig. I laughed, insisted that I only came to the early show so that I could review it on deadline, and commenced doing the 40-something version of head-banging.
I woke up the next morning with my friend’s words playing on a loop in my head, and by the time I’d choked down the day’s first cup of coffee, I was pondering his comment and applying it to New Year’s Eve.
I’ve had some absolutely killer New Year's Eves in Buffalo over the 26 years I’ve lived here, and they’ve all involved music – either playing it myself, or listening to someone else play it. I avoided drawing the designated driver short straw for roughly 24 of those 26 years, so yeah, I had a lot of fun, to the point where some of those recollections are a bit blurry.
But this year? I really don’t feel like going out, despite the fact that there are some incredibly enticing gigs on offer in and around the city. I don’t want to drive. I don’t want to be on the road with anyone else driving, either. This year has been bad enough, in so many respects. Why push it?
Yes, a house party is in order. If I’m going to drink and dance and act like a fool, I’d rather it not be in public. Maybe it’s the Dad in me, as my friend suggested. But whatever the reason, I still insist that my New Year’s Eve be a musical one. I’ve got my favorite vinyl ready to go, and a fresh stylus on the old Technics turntable. But let’s face it, at a maximum of 20 minutes per side, I’m gonna grow weary of hovering over the turntable waiting to flip the plastic. A killer party needs a killer playlist, one that you can simply start and let play while you’re in the kitchen mixing cocktails for your drunk Uncle or whoever. No dead weight. No filler. The mood needs to be set and maintained, the pacing has to be proper, the segues well thought-out. I’ve gotten forensic enough about things in the past to worry about placing songs in same key next to each other – too many rock riffs in E-minor, and the room might clear, and I’ll find myself standing alone in front of the stereo reliving my inglorious youth to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” while my wife wonders why she didn’t marry a doctor or a lawyer or someone more acquainted with the notion of “growing up.”
So here’s what my guests (and my neighbors) will be hearing on New Year’s Eve. Included are a few of my favorites from the slew of great albums released in 2016. There are some evergreen necessities here, some tunes with a socio-political bent that apply to the current American reality – as I’m typing this, a quote attributed to Donald Trump is making the rounds: “Let it be an arms race…” – and some songs that just plain make me happy, every time I hear them. Happy new year, everyone. Enjoy your own playlist, or feel free to borrow mine.
- Sam Cooke, “Let the Good Times Roll”
2) The Faces, “Had Me A Real Good Time”
Ok, pop the champagne a little bit early.
3) Metallica, “Atlas Rise!”
An anthem of endurance, which we deserve, for surviving 2016.
4) MC5, “Kick Out the Jams”
Oh, it’s on now. It’s most definitely on.
5) Lou Reed, “Intro/Sweet Jane”
By this point, the volume has crept up. Waaay up.
6) Public Image LTD, “Disappointed”
Yeah. This sums up 2016 rather nicely.
7) Radiohead, “A Drunken Punch-up at a Wedding”
This one’s for you. You know who you are.
8) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “Land of Hope and Dreams”
Because hope refuses to die. Greatest song about the potential of America ever.
9) Bob Weir, “Lay My Lily Down”
A beautiful song from one of my favorite records of 2016.
10) Phish, “Blaze On”
Another one that always helps me embrace the moment and drop the baggage, at least for a little while.
11) The Kinks, “Better Days”
Because I’m an optimist and a softy at heart.
12) Yes, “Close to the Edge”
You thought you were gonna escape my party without at least one 20-minute prog-rock epic? Bwah hah hah!
13) Rush, “Headlong Flight”
Make that two prog-rock epics.
14) Miles Davis, “Seven Steps to Heaven”
Tony Williams’ drumming on this makes me jump up and down like an idiot.
15) The Meters, “Cissy Strut”
Mmmm. That’s funky.
16) Parliament Funkadelic, “Mothership Connection (Starchild)”
And that’s even funkier.
17) James Brown, “Funky Drummer”
The funkiest. Must be the full 9-minute version, from the 1970 album “In the Jungle Groove.” Accept no substitutes.
18) Earth Wind & Fire, “Shining Star”
Let your little light shine.
19) John Lennon, “Instant Karma”
Because we all shine on.
20) Wilco, “I Can’t Stand It”
Not many people ever talk about Wilco’s “Summer Teeth” album but I do. My favorite.
21) David Bowie, “‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore”
The year that took Bowie is one I’m eager to forget.
22) Bob Marley, “Burning and Looting”
A little realism. But that groove, though.
23) Tool, “Vicariously”
This demands to be played loud. Very loud.
24) Puscifer, “The Arsonist”
In many ways, the story of our country in 2016.
25) Childish Gambino, “Me and Your Mama”
Some sultry, soulful R&B is a must.
26) Public Enemy, “Your Gonna Get Yours”
As is some absolutely classic old-school hip-hop.
27) Beastie Boys, “Nonstop Disco Powerpack”
See Public Enemy above.
28) Prophets of Rage, “Prophets of Rage”
It’s starting to get a little bit hot in here.
29) Genesis, “Suppers Ready”
I just cleared the room! Whoopeee! I’ve got the place to myself for the next 20 minutes.
30) Sly & the Family Stone, “Everyday People”
This is the message I want to start the new year with. Togetherness. We’re going to need it.