Jun 122020

Have you ever realized that there are artists you like who nevertheless have a surefire type of song on every album that you will likely skip? The most obvious example of this may be Paul McCartney‘s patented “songs for me granny” on any Beatles album starting with Sgt Pepper’s. I’ve actually come to appreciate “Your Mother Should Know,” but I get it.

For me, the first surefire needle-lifter that comes to mind are the two long rock ballads on any Mott the Hoople album. Were they pioneers in rock balladry? I know they often aspired to the sort of rambling songs Dylan used to turn Blonde on Blonde into a double album. Sometimes the results were decent, such as on “At the Crossroads.”

Too often, however, these efforts resulted in the kind of ponderous rock balladry that original Mott guitarist Mick Ralphs and his new bandmates in Bad Company would specialize in. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Bon Jovi.

With the exception of Mott’s cover of “Your Own Backyard,” which does pick up steam, I’m skipping the Mott ballads.

How about you and the catalog of an artist you dig?


  13 Responses to “Surefire Needle-Lifters in an Artist’s Catalog”

  1. Here’s another example, for me, in case this helps prime anyone’s pump: The long blooz song on every Led Zeppelin album (eg, “The Lemon Song”).

  2. BigSteve

    I skip Country Honk and The Girl With Faraway Eyes. I like it when the Stones mess with country music — for example, I love Sweet Virginia. Wild Horses, good, Dead Flowers edges toward the jokiness that loses me.

    Similarly You Got To Move is a definite needle-lifter for me, but Stop Breaking Down rules. You’ve got to do something with roots music, not just put the makeup on and mug.

  3. Piano ballads by the Raspberries.

    I love the upbeat stuff from their first two albums but most of the ballads are like caricatures of cheesy early 70’s lounge lizard songs, and they hint at the schlock he’d put out in his solo career, (or maybe they just ARE cheesy early 70’s lounge lizard songs). Their third album is my favorite because it is Eric Carmen – ballad free. I don’t listen to the last album out of respect for the great Dave Smalley.

  4. mockcarr

    Yo La Tengo feedback fests.

  5. cherguevara

    Not always, but I tend to skip instrumentals if that is not the artist’s main thing. “Behind My Camel” is not a place I care to be.

  6. The good Mott the Hoople ballad really suffers in comparison to the Doug Sahm original.

  7. I must admit that I am not much for needle-lifting. If it’s a someone that interests me enough to buy a record, I actually will stick with them through most pointless digressions. Fortunately, though, Torn Curtain was at the end of the album so I could just move onto another record a little early.

  8. Happiness Stan

    Like Geo, I tend to just zone out when the tracks I don’t enjoy come along. The first that comes to mind are from the first four Byrds albums. From the first two, the closing tracks, really irritating covers of We’ll Meet Again and Oh Susanna. Both mercifully short, but still outstaying their welcomes on albums half an hour long. Having ditched the cheesy covers schtick, they then let David Crosby loose with his prissy self indulgent tosh on the next two with What’s Happening, followed by a load of question marks, and the execrable Mind Gardens. Chucking him out at least spared us from Triad until it was added as an extra to the CD.

    The only band whose albums I could only listen to on cassettes with half the songs cut out that comes to mind are Swell Maps. Was there ever a band with a wider gulf of styles between the song writers? I love the ones with tunes but can’t abide the ones that sound like a street full of bins being emptied into a dustcart, or garbage trucks as I believe you call them over there.

  9. BigSteve

    Mind Gardens may be the ultimate needle lifter.

  10. David Crosby was so lucky that Grace Slick doing Triad was the “original’ version. It totally redefined a song that would’ve been pretty creepy sung be Crosby, even in its time.

  11. Happiness Stan

    I’d completely forgotten Jefferson Airplane did Triad. I did my best with that band in my late teens when I moved in circles that rated them, they got a long way in the strength of half a classic album and a singer everybody wanted to sleep with. The rest of the songs weren’t even needle lifters, more like audio wallpaper.

    The Stones take on country rock is an interesting one, I haven’t listened to them in years, since songs threatening women with violence isn’t my thing even if I used to overlook it. Wild Horses is a great track, did they do any others with that deftness if touch after Gram Parsons stopped being there to rein them in and move them back from parody?

  12. A good chunk of the 2nd side of Big Star #1 Record.

  13. Happiness Stan

    I can forgive Big Star anything for providing the template for Teenage Fanclub, but only played their albums once before taking them back to the second hand record stall on the market, knowing I’d never want to hear them a second time. My word they were dull.

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