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Bonnie Bramlett's "Groupie": Ruben Studdard defined his run through the second season of American Idol with this song, better known by the Carpenters' renamed version, "Superstar." His adoption of the song made the original a vital candidate for downloading. Bramlett, who co-wrote the song with cult favorite Leon Russell, sells it as a saucy country tune, which it should be. With lyrics about a perhaps-psychotic starfucker sitting alone in her room remembering her sexual encounter, it's not G-rated material. Russell is scheduled to perform in Phoenix this September and may just pull this one out of the old songbook.
The New Pornographers' "From Blown Speakers" and "The Laws Have Changed": A friend advised me not to invest in the Vancouver band's entire new album The Electric Version, released this past spring. So I downloaded these two songs. Wise choice, as both are fantastic, offering an indefinable pop blend that combines playful organ work, a peppy groove, surf-happy harmonies and lyrics about pharaohs and other oddities. They're the kind of songs you wanna play while you're instant messaging your friends at two in the morning.
Elvis Presley's "That's Alright Mama": I downloaded this one last Thursday for good and obvious reason. Sam Phillips, the man who did more to acclimate white America to black music than just about anybody, had died the night before. Phillips is credited with "discovering" Elvis. Actually, it was the other way around. Presley was an ambitious kid in wingtips and pink-and-black pants looking for a break when he began pestering Phillips at Sam's Sun Records recording studio to record him. Sam, a gifted engineer and producer, eventually relented, pairing Elvis with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, and produced this blues gem in 1954. Packaged with a version of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky," it became Presley's first commercial single and launched rock 'n' roll as we know it. Phillips went on to record Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, lifting them into corporate orbit while never receiving his own big payday. Without Phillips, the RIAA and its lawyers arguably wouldn't even have their cause célèbre. Even though he just entered the ground, Phillips may already be rolling in the dirt.
Who knows? After this column, I may be rolling in my own. Bring it on....
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