Sunday, May 31, 2009
I like to watch things on TV...
I figured out several years ago that just about any song I can think of called (or with the word) “satellite” is just a great song and often one of my favorite of the band or at least the album on which it’s found. Often the reasons vary, anything from just a good & rockin’ tune to a joyous shout to something that’s just darn near spiritual – there’s something in singing about space that seems to draw the inspiration out of folks like the moon draws the tides. (Whoa, how poetic was that???)
Of course the most famous song with a satellite (at least in my world) is Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love, which everyone who thinks they’re anyone within in rock n roll should be somewhat familiar with in one of it’s varied forms from the multiple takes he made with the Velvet Underground, to his Transformer album, to cover versions by everyone from U2 to the Eurythmics. But a really nice version I’d never heard before is by some guy named Nuno Filepe -- very mindful of Reed’s version and yet still its own statement.
So, without further ado, I give you several songs about satellites that I think are really cool:
Depeche Mode: Satellite (live YouTube) – Tucked away in the middle of their second album, this oft overlooked little jewel is a nice, morose segue between the shimmer pop bounce of See You and The Meaning of Love (though likely in began side two on vinyl and cassette). On an album full of epic downers, it’s the antithesis of Reed’s orbiting body (a “satellite of hate”) and holds its own quite well with a relaxed two step beat, snaky, moog-like lead and near deadpan vocal delivery that reflect the overwhelming lyrical disenchantment.
Magnapop: Satellite – What do you mean you don’t remember Magnapop? Your bad, ‘cos they were (and still are) great. When they played to promote their “comeback” album Mouthfeel with my good friends Ocelots in 2005, I think I was the only person in attendance there to see them and so that 45 minutes of pop bliss was all for me. Of the new material, this was the song that absolutely stuck with me and that I joyously recalled when I picked up the album. If you like catchy, upbeat, sing along girl pop, look no further, your spaceship has arrived.
Def Leppard: Satellite (YouTube link) – What do you mean you don’t remember Def Leppard? Well, you definitely don’t know this song, ‘cos few people pay attention to anything before Pyromania, which is a shame ‘cos the first two albums (and especially the debut where this song is found) flat out rock. ROCK I SAY!!! If you like Def Leppard at all, it’s truly all here, smokin’ guitar licks and solos, harmony-anthem choruses and a killer break down (not to mention TWO-armed drumming). And having said that, this song isn’t even one of the best on the album, but it’s darn tootin’ good enough for me to proudly display it not only as a representation of how deserving On Through the Night is (with one of the best album covers in rock history), but as further proof that songs about satellites are where it’s at.
Old 97s: In the Satellite Rides a Star – When I write my post about highly anticipated albums that really let me down, the one where this song is found will likely be an entry. And while Drag It Up has definitely grown on me over the years, at the time this track and two others were about all I could find any worth in, and of course leave it to Old 97s most bestest secret ingredient, bassist Murry Hammond, to make it happen. A sleepy, reminiscent affair about the love of a lost woman, it’s everything you need for a night of contemplation with a bottle under the stars.
The Ventures: War of the Satellites (YouTube link) – Who doesn’t like the Ventures? Probably my mom. Anyway…they have SO many albums it’s just silly, and while I’m in no way familiar with like any of them, The Ventures in Space is easily my favorite one. It caught my interest when I learned that Red Rhodes (of Michael Nesmith fame) played “eerie, space-like” pedal steel guitar on it. Released in 1964 and again in the late 70s, to my knowledge this lost gem of a record has never reached the CD/digital format, so please have no qualms about getting your hands on it by any means necessary (I sure didn’t). This song with it’s bouncing rhythm, multiple breaks and sonic bursts seriously makes me dance, and really, the entire record is everything the Ventures are loved for without the benefits of breathable air, so take a puff.
Dove: Satellites – My guess is that the guys in Doves had a jam/recording session with God when they did this one. Seriously, rarely has a song moved me in such a way, with lyrics essentially reflecting all the pain and disillusionment I’ve ever felt over the years and yet with a powerful, uplifting, stay-on-target chorus that will absolutely set the hairs of your arms on end and truly make you believe in the divine. Headphone listens are greatly advised. And really, that’s all I can say, ‘cos the song flat out speaks for itself.
Robyn Hitchcock: Satellite – Man, I really, really, REALLY love Robyn Hitchcock and his 1990 scaled down solo effort Eye was where it all started for me. On an album of gloomy, green-tinged and shimmering pieces about, well, your guess is as good as mine, this quirky, jaunty rouser is a sure pick me up and so infectiously fun to sing along to, ‘cos lines like “I’m into you so far, I’m out the other side” are what rock n roll is all about. Right?
I’m aware that these aren’t all the (great) songs about satellites. And I know you’re all screaming “What about Judybats’ Down in the Shacks Where the Satellite Dishes Grow!!!” (Sure you are…) But I’m giving Tennessee’s finest an entry of their own one of these days, so that song and album will definitely get a shout out then. However, if you have a favorite song about a satellite you’d like to share…please do so!