|THESE NINE SONGS WILL MAKE YOU SUCK DOWN THE HOOCH LIKE NOBODY'S BUSINESS.|
|By Molly Simms||
"Have a Drink On Me" -- AC/DC
Road trip movies have the driving-cross-country experience all wrong. You and your friends and your bachelor's degrees think you'll cruise across America, entering impromptu karaoke contests (and winning!) and singing along to the Modern Lovers. And while that's sometimes true, there are a whole lot of people in our great nation who never had to ponder the question, "Should I get a DSL line?" and don't think your $50 haircut is particularly fucking cute. One place where these people congregate is Utah, where my boyfriend and I almost got stabbed at a local bar by a man who really should've asked for his front teeth for Christmas. And the one thing that saved us, the one reason I'm writing this today with both my arms intact, is AC/DC. Our lily-white New England asses walked into that bar, wanting a pitcher of Michelob and a jukebox we could smoke to. Chad, who was guarding the door, knew he had fresh meat on his hands -- the kind of folks who didn't have a license to operate a big rig. After lots of bullying and badgering, he asked us one final question, the question that would determine our fate: "Do you know AC/DC?" When we told him that, fuck yeah, we loved AC/DC, it was as if a fog of hatred was lifted, and we were his brethren. He bought us a round of drinks, and we sat down, visibly shaking. The band's powers of redemption and community were proved to me that day. Of all the songs AC/DC ever wrote about smashing things or getting fucked up, "Have a Drink on Me" is the most straight forward and honest portrayal of that moment when you decide to stay for one last beer. The power guitars, machismo, and thunder drums are here in full effect. And if you're ever in the local bar in Salina, Utah, tell them Angus Young sent you.
"Slow Descent Into Alcoholism" -- New Pornographers
The New Pornographers are a band that's good enough to give you heart palpitations. I don't remember how I first heard them, but I know that I cling to their existence now as proof that people, somewhere, are rocking. Unfortunately, that somewhere is Canada, and we're all aware that our neighbors to the north are simply doing a shoddy impersonation of us, albeit with a goofy accent. Accent or no, "Slow Descent Into Alcoholism" is one of the finest songs ever burned onto vinyl, with a beat that makes you want to prance around in go-go boots, even if you have a penis. The fact that the song's lyrics are a depressing look at one man's addiction to the sauce only makes the relentlessly upbeat melody way more amusing. Never (besides the time your drunken uncle slipped you a joint at the family reunion) has alcoholism seemed so fun, and so danceable! The organs and pop drums give the track a Phil Spector-ish party-music-from-1965 feeling, and the lovely Neko Case wails in harmony along with the tune. This is beer music, plain and simple, made for keg stands or those ice luge things that frat boys favor. It's a nonstop morbid party from the band that will eventually get its fair shake on our shores- just give them time.
"Cold Gin" -- KISS
Who's more appropriate to encourage us to get plastered than the kings of arena big-balls rock and roll? "Cold Gin" is a certified classic, and one can only dream of how many ta-tas were bared at KISS shows, inspired by the very liquor the band was singing about. Ace Frehley's song is a masterpiece of the "I'm fed up, let's party" genre, and he names a laundry list of complaints to explain why he needs this cold, cold medicine so badly. In addition to spewing blood and dressing up like drag queens from space, the members of KISS also knew how to put their liquor away, so all this boasting isn't just idle chatter. Though it never approached the mainstream success that "Beth" garnered, "Cold Gin" is a favorite among the members of the band's "army", and with good reason. The thrash guitars and bumping bassline give this song a lecherous feeling, which, when added to the creepy cackling, would make this song an excellent one to strip to. Better yet, climb up on your boyfriend's shoulders, throw up the devil-sign hands, and give us your best "Wooooo!" Like the bottle of vodka you kept hidden in your closet throughout high school, some things never really go out of style.
"Warm Beer and Cold Women" -- Tom Waits
Noting that Tom Waits writes great drinking songs is like declaring that Duran Duran was a gaggle of overrated homos -- it goes without saying. But almost nobody writes a drinking song with the pathos and gravity that Tom Waits does. Like the friend of yours who won't stop feeling sorry for himself, blended with a helping of actual talent and lyrics you'd murder your cat to be able to write, "Warm Beer and Cold Women" is a beauty. When he's not growling about "all these double knit strangers with gin and vermouth and recycled stories in the naugahyde booths," Waits is twinkling away at the piano as if nobody's watching, with a grace that makes you understand the fame he's won over all these years. His words slur into each other and swing along to the melody, as you imagine the cigarette smoke curling through his fingers as he slumps over the piano. It's a slow-dance of a number, but it's mournfully sad. If you've just been dumped by your woman, there's no better place to rest than in the gravelly voice of Tom Waits, and there's no better song to soak up your self-pity.
"One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" -- John Lee Hooker
When I hear the two different versions of this popular song, I'm reminded of the scene in Ghost World, when Steve Buscemi comes to see his blues idol open up for the hokey, screaming "Blues Hammer." Like me, he's wincing when he hears the paltry cover, which embarrasses the whole spirit of the tune. George Thorogood's campy, overblown story-telling version is the Parfums de Coeur to Hooker's Chanel No. 5. The latter's goes down like Johnny Walker Black Label- authentic and convincing. The classic blues-shuffle drums propel the song forward, and John Lee Hooker's swaggery vocals sound like a man who knows his way around a lady. Not to mention the fact that the title alone is an excellent inspiration for your drink orders this Friday night. Every time it comes on in the dive bars my friends and I frequent, there's something different floating in the air. Even the nerdiest among us can feel that bravado, and pretend, for just one night, like they've got a stomach of steel and balls to match.
"Alcohol" -- Kinks
With the faraway acoustics in this song, Ray Davies' voice could be that of an omniscient narrator, looking down on the poor sap who falls victim to a life of "port, pernod or tequila, rum, scotch, vodka on the rocks." And though Davies often seems like he's giggling at the missteps of the characters he sings about, this song is still one of the saddest on the list. Whether it's the elegant lyrics or the warbly, wailing chorus, there's a real sense of someone who's been to hell and back, all while looking through the glass of a Jack Daniel's bottle. Cabaret instrumentation brings the song extra drama and an almost ragtime-on-quaaludes feeling. The man in question turns to drink, beats his wife, and ends up in a gutter in front of the Salvation Army -- and though that's not necessarily the soundtrack you'd want for an average night of boozing -- it's a fitting tribute to the gin-blossomed old men you see hunched over the bar. Maybe you should switch to water. Like now and shit.
"WPLJ (White Port and Lemon Juice)" -- Frank Zappa
For most of my adolescence, I regarded Frank Zappa as a sloppy asshole whose music was made for bad acid trips and whose tastes in children's names was sadistic. It's only recently that I'm coming around to the idea of making peace with Zappa. Maybe it's yet another birthday looming, or maybe it's the kinder, gentler persona I've adopted in this wartime, but Frank Zappa made some excellent, and certainly druggy music. One of my favorite songs, even though it's a cover, is "White Port and Lemon Juice", a messy, happy song about Frank's favorite drink. Part of the reason it's so charming is that sing-along quality it possesses, which is so important for any drinking song worth its rock salt. There's laughter in the background and the general sense that he and the Mothers of Invention recorded it as they were a little drunk, fooling around at the recording. And sometimes that element of disarray is important in this age of air-tight studio production. It seems we're missing out on something more human. Stick a flower in my ear and call me Joan Baez, but I think the boozy, hiccuping presence of Frank Zappa is just what your neighborhood bar has been craving. Add reefer and stir.
"Alabama Song (Show Me the Way to the Next Whiskey Bar)" -- The Doors
I used to like this song when I was sixteen and my boyfriend was a sweet, gangly drug dealer who worshiped Jim Morrison. Then I grew up and got a goddamn brain.
"Baddest of the Bad" -- Reverend Horton Heat
You think you're tough, with your tribal tattoos and your summer spent
in London, going to see the skinhead punk bands. But face down the Reverend
Horton Heat and you're a washed-up ninny who needs to sit down in his
high chair. The Reverend has a pockmarked face like Noriega and a drinking
problem with its own area code. The band's live shows are full of angry
rednecks trying to rearrange your dental work, and rivers of beer pooling
around your shoes. It's not attractive. It's with this in mind that I
include a song on the top ten that's the perfect drinking song to get
punched in the face to. Even though many Reverend Horton Heat songs could
be classified as drinking songs, this one has a homicidal energy that
sets it apart from the pack. The admittedly corny title for this type
of music is psychobilly, but that doesn't adequately describe the surprising
hardness of this tune. The beat is fast enough to give the drummer an
aneurysm, and the guitar work sounds like it was aided by copious amounts
of crystal methamphetamine. On those nights you'd like to feel like a
crazed biker, wandering the West in search of a bar brawl, Reverend Horton
Heat should be your number-one priority.
Molly Simms, the former music editor of Bust magazine, writes for money. Sadly, the Black Table doesn't pay any money. We are now in hiding.