The jukebox is important. In good bars, it will help set a mood. Mood is important. Internet jukeboxes are not important.
A good bar has to have a good jukebox. A good bars jukebox will not make anyone leave and will encourage people to meet in that bar rather than a nearby coffee shop or friend’s house.
A good bar with a good jukebox will become a destination for birthday parties, after work beers and night caps.
This is the first half of the BYT dream jukebox. 25 CDs (yes, this is a CD jukebox that holds 100 CDs, 1 album per slot, slot numbers running 00-99, not a 45 jukebox which looks amazing but is extremely limiting nor it is an Internet jukebox because see above) picked by Brandon Wetherbee, 25 CDs picked by 25 people chosen by Brandon Wetherbee. This is the dream jukebox for a particular type of bar.
The bar this jukebox lives and thrives in serves the neighborhood. It does not have televisions. It has one arcade game and one pinball machine. Half the bar staff smokes cigarettes. It opens at 5 p.m. Capacity is 100. It has lots of tables. It has a handful of quality beers on tap. It’s a basic, quality neighborhood bar. Given those notes, here’s what 26 people, a mixture of musicians, writers, co-workers and people I like to drink with, would have on their dream jukebox. Come back next week for part 2.
The first page of the jukebox tends to get played the most, second only to the middle pages. The first and last page matter since most people go to the end or beginning of the jukebox. Placement matters. You want to put your friends in the best possible position. Albums that don’t get a lot of mainstream love or had limited releases can feel like your friends. Mannequin Men is a band that should have been much bigger than it was.
I’ve been lucky enough to grow with Mannequin Men, both figuratively and literally. I was a college radio station program director, going to used record stores to unload the recently digitized promos to trade for a better record collection. Mannequin Men’s Kevin and Ethan were working behind the counter of the now defunct HiFi Records. They bought my used CDs and pointed me in the right direction of old vinyl I needed to own. They also told me about their band. I liked their band. Their best record is their most recent and final release, a 2011 selt-titled lp. What started as a louder, drunker, more punk Stones turned into a confident, tipsy Chicago version of The Replacements.
Guest Pick: Mannequin Men’s Kevin Kujawa
I asked Kevin because he’s the frontman of Mannequin Men. They’re a good band. See above.
When I was a kid, I’d always try and play the song on the jukebox that was the longest because VALUE, you know? Eddie is a favorite of mine and he also has a few really strange comedy records (which I also think would make it in). I suppose this one meets all my juke criteria; great album cover (courtesy of Peter Palombi), sounds great when you’re drunk, makes people dance, and is fun to play darts to.
Yes, it can be depressing. Yes, it’s not upbeat. Yes, you probably don’t know who this is, but this is the type of album that will be played by staff and regulars over and over and over and never leave the rotation.
Guest Pick: Daniel Knox
Daniel was asked for his opinion because in addition to writing fantastic music, he consumes art that’s unfamiliar to most.
My dream jukebox is one that prevents people from singing along and guarantees there will be no dancing, or if there is, it will be the strange unwelcome kind. That being said, a dream jukebox of mine would still be one that plays something I want to hear, even when it’s clearing the room.
So given the chance, in a jukebox of my own making, or one I just happened upon, I would be most happy to find From The One That Cut You by Fred Lane.
The opening horn skronks of track 1 “Fun In The Fundus” are like the sound of someone bursting into the wrong room then racing out only to bump into a crowd of people making the same mistake. It’s frantic and ridiculous. The rest of the album veers between deranged lounge music backed by a triumphantly incompetent jazz ensemble (“Rubber Room”, “I Talk To My Haircut”), the title song’s weird country ballad based on a violent note found in a used car, children’s lullaby (“Oatmeal”, “Meat Clamp Conduit”), and 50’s racing music (“Danger Is My Beer”).
It’s silly, stupid, discordant, beautiful and absurd. It also has one of my all time favorite lyrics ever written from the song “Rubber Room”:
“Then I get in the car
Pick up some chicken
Arrive at your for
Which I will be kicking in.”
Good bars don’t cater to one type of clientele. Lydia Loveless doesn’t cater to one audience. She can appeal to country crowds and singer songwriter crowds and folk crows and punk crowds and piss them all off too. One of the youngest artists on the jukebox with the potential to have a lot of staying power.
Guest Pick: Lydia Loveless
When I interviewed Loveless recently we talked about The Replacements. I wanted to include Tim on the jukebox. She did not.
My favorite jukebox album is Pleased to Meet Me by The Replacements. Usually I wanna hear those songs while I was, you know, drinking at a bar so that would be my go to for that.
Why Pleased to Meet Me over Tim?
I love Tim, but I feel like that’s more of an at-home record whereas Pleased to Meet Me has more transcendent emotional songs on it for me. So that’s like crying on your 8th beer music.
Have you ever heard “Here Comes a Regular” at a bar at like 1:30 in the morning?
Yes, and it’s because I was singing it as karaoke. And it was a horrible idea, I don’t know why I decided to do it.
Ryan McLaughlin is one of my favorite D.C. musicians and the newest Typefighter record is my favorite of his releases. This is one of those records will play when they hear Smoking Popes (coming up later) and The Hold Steady (coming up later) but are sick of hearing songs they already know all the words.
Guest Pick: Ryan McLaughlin
I’m glad Ryan picked an album that would have been on my list. Also glad he stayed away from a sound that he employs.
Since my discovery of Björk’s Homogenic when I was about 15, I’ve kept it in close proximity. I am a huge admirer of her whole discography but that record really resonates and captures something (kind of) human and seems to offer it back to you in ways only Björk can. Her courage to sound un-apologetically absurd makes for a super entertaining listen and it pretty much runs the emotional gamut. Every jukebox needs a never-boring, ‘WTF is this’ kind of record, and this is it. And it’s so good that you understand why Iceland gave her a fucking island.
If someone plays the intro, they’ve wasted their pick and people in the bar got to hear bad language. Win-win! Kool Keith’s debut is near perfect. Even the interludes are great. Tracks like “Earth People” and “Blue Flowers” are able to please people that think they hate hip-hop. It’s weird, but not too weird. Sonically ambitious but not intimidating.
Guest Pick: Tony Beasley
Tony and I ranked all Nine Inch Nails songs late last year. He’s also the guy that introduced me to hip-hop artists like Kool Keith.
There aren’t many rap albums that I care to listen to from start to finish. Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest (1993) is one of about 12 or 13 of them, and I think it has stood the test of time and remained my absolute favorite. My anecdotal experience tells me that most would consider The Low End Theory to be ATCQ’s best work. I respectfully and strongly disagree with this. Midnight Marauders has the best thematic sound/production, the best lyrical contributions from Quest members not named Q-Tip, and the best single that Quest ever released (“Award Tour”). Most importantly, I can and frequently do listen to it from start to finish without getting bored or wanting to bail out. The length is perfect: just slightly more than 50 minutes with 13 tracks of actual music. The tracks flow neatly into one another, even with the use of very limited vocal “interludes.” (A note on interludes in rap albums: Midnight Marauders is rare example of where it works. Most of the time, they are confusing, inside baseball, and beg to be skipped.) Only one track, “The Chase, Part II,” is weak, and even then, only relatively and endearingly so. Midnight Marauders induces the right kind of rap nostalgia, and for the right amount of time.
One of the best touring party bands. Soul revival or R&B revival or big rock band revival or whatever you want to call it. They’ve yet to record anything as good as their live shows but they’re young and this is the kind of album you’ll put on to convince your friends to see the band the next time they’re in town.
Guest Pick: JC Brooks
Rather than pick a throwback, JC Brooks went with a relatively modern sounding sex album. Good for him.
Midnite Vultures is both an excellent party album and an excellent fuck soundtrack. With the exception of the frenetic opening track “Sexx Laws” (which, due to its energy and immediacy was my wake up song for the better part of my sophomore year in college) the album maintains a chill, rolling vibe that suits both romance and revelry. Beck crafts excellent mood and employs many sounds that I consider 90s hallmarks: the overblown horns in the first two tracks, the gleefully trashy drums throughout, the SFX/samples like laser zaps and dumped garbage cans sprinkled here and there. His lyrics are hilarious and layered in a way that allows him to spout wisdom without seeming to take himself too seriously.
Damning confession: “Get Real Paid” came on and I was moved to dance like Buffalo Bill.
Mitigating disclaimer: I was well into my second bottle of wine, and had just purchased a full-length mirror.
SUGGESTED SEXUAL ARC:
“Sexx Laws”: Arrive home, offer your guest a drink
“Nicotine & Gravy”: Initiate makeout sequence
“Mixed Bizness”: Discard clothes as you make your way to the bedroom, light-to-medium petting
“Get Real Paid”: Excuse yourself to go ‘freshen up’, splash some water on your junk, take a moment to get nasty in the bathroom mirror
“Hollywood Freaks”: Tonsil hockey Stanley Cup, mutual manual stimulation
“Peaches & Cream”: Oral stimulation -give
“Broken Train”: Oral stimulation -receive
“Milk & Honey”: Everyone’s favorite number
“Beautiful Way”: Initiate genital intercourse
“Pressure Zone”: Bang it the fuck out
“Debra”: Cool down -cuddle if applicable; if not, retreat to bathroom and make weird noises. If your guest is experienced, they will be dressed and ordering a Lyft by the time you emerge.
For “Queen”. I’m playing this song every night I’m in the bar.
Guest Pick: Perfume Genius
He made one of the most appealing songs of 2014. He picked one of the least accessible sounds for the jukebox.
When I get to pick a song, I usually like to do like a really big buzzkill. And those are perfect ones. Not a buzzkill in a bad way, I mean they might be for some people, but the songs to me are beautiful and strange and they put you in a very specific mood every single time you hear them. I mean its not necessarily a party mood or the mood you’d want to be in where a jukebox is in the room, but…
All good jukeboxes have multiple soul records. The best have multiple soul compilations. This is the first. Why? Track 1, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes “Wake Up Everybody”. You can find this classic on more than 40 different records, but this one also features Bill Withers, Major Lance, Walter Jackson and 16 other excellent artists.
Guest Pick: Jamel Johnson
I’m putting my friend and stand up comic Jamel’s pick here because he has an amazing bit that references Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and whenever I hear Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes I think of him so…
A perfect album for a jukebox would the smooth R&B classic Rapture by Anita Baker. It’s got 8 songs, 7 of which are bangers. It’s straight up 3rd date music. It’ll make you and your significant other feel like you’re the last 2 people on the planet. Don’t put the quarters in if you don’t plan to get drawers. Side note: It’s also dope when you’re on shrooms.
I undervalued first wave hip-hop in bar settings until recently. Best of Sugar Hill Records, specifically “That’s The Joint” by Funky 4 + 1 and “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” by Grandmaster & Melle Mel, came on in a bar and it could not have been better. I was in a small group and the only one actively listening. The other 3 people were nodding their heads without noticing. That is perfection for a jukebox album.
Guest Contributor: Joe McAdam
Besides being one of the funniest living funny people, Joe McAdam was co-host of the fantastic music podcast RPM. He turned me onto countless acts. He also reminded me of classics.
There’s a few criterion that makes something a good jukebox record. First, all the songs have to be good. None of this “the single’s hot, then it’s some filler” bullshit. Every track on Paul’s Boutique is good, even the opening “To All the Girls” is a good chill out end-of-night pick. Second, you can dance to it. Sure you may hate dancing, but if you need to do it, put on “Shadrach” (or anything). Next, you need to have songs people know. People can rap along or at least pretend to rap along with most anything on Paul’s Boutique. This may be annoying, but I do it, and when I do it, it’s not illegal. And finally a good jukebox album needs a long song you can put on repeat to get rid of dipshits at the bar. “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” is your long song. It’s so long and segmented, people might think they’re going insane if they’re unfamiliar and they hear it for the fifth time in a row. This record gets bonus points for not having any “monster ballads” that dipshit frat dudes scream-sing while drunk.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKuYFexR_pg
Favorite record of 2014, most played record of 2014, best live act I saw in 2014. I wish it was as good as their live show. Adam Schatz can not be properly captured on tape. Doesn’t matter. I’m still able to make fans for the bands whenever I put on the record.
Guest Pick: Adam Schatz from Landlady
In addition to writing fantastic records, Adam likes fantastic records. Records I really enjoy but never think to put on.
This is one of my favorite albums of all time. Harry Nilsson singing his friend Randy Newman’s songs, before either artist had released some of their best albums. It’s proof how great they both were at the very start. There’s such an openness and willingness to let someone else record your songs and release it properly, though I think at the time the album came out to little fanfare. Newman plays piano on the record, and Nilsson sings his ass off, hitting all sorts of high notes that could never be attained in the originals. And the arrangements are so phenomenal. Arranging is a strong suit of both dudes, and Nilsson’s first chance and Newman’s second chance with these songs produce the most magical results, my personal favorite being “Beehive State”.
My favorite PJ Harvey album happens to be a love letter to New York City. Written and released pre-9/11, it also happens to be the best post-9/11 love letter to a post-9/11 NYC.
Guest Pick: Megan Burns
So this is a good time to bring in BYT NYC editor Megan Burns.
My immediate association with jukeboxes is that they are located in bars, because everyone knows that nothing goes better with alcohol than music. But not everyone (read: me) finds themselves as driven to belt out “Timber” and “Party In the USA” once they become intoxicated, and so tensions can run high should the wrong ballad be selected to please an entire bar full of differently drunk people. WHAT TO DO, THEN?
I’ll admit, if this challenge (of selecting an ideal jukebox album) had been framed in a non-jukebox format (aka selecting a generally ideal album to be played at any given time and/or any given place), I would have had a mild brain implosion. HOWEVER, it was immediately clear to me that the only correct answer to the question would be: Tears for Fears Songs from the Big Chair. (WHAT A GODDAMN GOOD RECORD.) While I’d listen to this anywhere (the car, the subway, doing work, walking around…) I think it is especially crowd-pleasing when it comes to the diverse audiences bars attract. For example, if you don’t like the upbeat vibe of “Everybody Wants To Rule the World”, you can dial it back with a track like “Shout”. There is a song for EVERYONE, because it is the perfect balance of energy and angst, happiness and unhappiness, and if your watering hole of choice does not come equipped with it on its jukebox books, then GET THE HELL OUTTA THERE.
Track 3, “He’s a Whore,” is one of the greatest songs of all time. This band is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is proof the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is full of shit. Fuck the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “He’s a Whore” alone is deserving of hall of fame status.
Guest Pick: Black Cat staff
You know who has Cheap Trick Cheap Trick on their jukebox (or at least did when we produced our 20th anniversary piece)? The Black Cat.
Choosing an ideal album for a jukebox is a bit of a science. You don’t want something too popular or you’ll be beaten over the head by the hits on the LP. Cyndi Lauper’s first record is awesome but the luster starts to fade when you have to hear “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” 25 times a night. But you don’t want to go too far in the other direction either. Put an electronic noise record on and, inevitably, that guy shows up to hit play on the longest and skronkiest track on the album. No one likes that guy. What you want is something just right. One of our favorite jukebox albums has always been The Very Best of Otis Redding. The whole record is great and it’s perfect bar listening. Plus, everyone like Otis Redding. Except for maybe that guy.
I have no emotional attachment to Repo Man movie or soundtrack. I do not think it’s a very good compilation. It’s on the dream jukebox because it’s a good conversation piece and conversation is extremely important in a bar. I worked in a bar that had the Repo Man soundtrack. It elicited the most “What’s this?” so it belongs on this list.
Guest Pick: Trace Dominguez
Trace is a fantastic host of DNews, a good friend and someone that’s excellent company in a bar. Since we’re in the soundtracks section of the jukebox, let’s go back nearly 20 years to a childlike innocence with a childlike Leo.
Sometimes I want to listen to Everclear, Garbage, or The Cardigans and rage with 90s nostalgia. Thus, my dream jukebox much have the 1996 classic soundtrack from William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. The album holds classics like Kim Mazelle’s “Young Hearts Run Free” and the Butthole Surfers’ “Whatever (I Had a Dream)”. Everclear’s “Local God” is a huge personal throwback; it was the first CD I owned with the word “fuck” in it. Young Trace jumped across my sawed-off bunk bed numerous times in order to kill the volume on the jukebox just before Art Alexakis crooned, “You look so fuckin’ stupid…” I felt like I was a rebel; a real suburban badass. Bonus: the 10 Year Anniversary edition adds Baz Luhrmann’s 1999 spoken word track, “(Everybody’s Free to) Wear Sunscreen.” How can you go wrong? As The Cardigans sang, “Love me, love me… You know that you need me,” and they were right.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GU6i_JhbVsc
If you put any non-Best of Bowie compilation you’ll get sick of “Ziggy Stardust” or “Life on Mars” or “Let’s Dance”. This 2002 US edition, single-disc best of has all the bases covered with none of the Tin Machine.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYZRfDhCHlc
Guest Pick: Esmeralda Leon pick
Esmeralda is my friend, You, Me, Them, Everybody Live Chicago co-host and former co-worker at both a radio station and a bar. There is no more perfect contributor than her. Also, there’s a Bowie CD next to her pick since there’s a Bowie song on the volume 2 of the next album…
This may be a cop out, but I genuinely like it. It’s a Britpop dream. It’s got dance jams, “Lust for Life” and “Born Slippy”. I enjoy the calming Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”. It’s perfect for all your bender needs.
The best party music to put on when you have no idea what party music to put on. I’ve used this at cookouts, late night apartment parties, July 4th fireworks displays, before comedy shows and of course, in a bar.
Guest Pick: Seannie Cameras
Seannie writes about EDM for BYT and resides in The Mansion, a house that throws the best parties that might not be legal gatherings of people. It’s no surprise he picked an album any party would appreciate.
Has your woman left you? Has your best friend stabbed you in the back and you are looking for revenge? Fallen on hard times, perhaps? Look no further than this soundtrack that could be playing background music to your shitty life. The score plays as a veritable canon of soul/funk/Motown classics by the likes of Isacc Hayes “Walk On By”, Curtis Mayfield’s “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below Then We’re All Going To Go”, Harold Melvin and Blue Notes “Never Never Gonna Give You Up” and the crown jewel, “The Big Payback” by James Brown round out the eponymous collection of hits. So, settle into that cracked pleather bar stool, pump a few credits (it used to be quarter’s) into our love machine, order a bourbon neat and reminisce on how things used to be.
Curtis Mayfield’s first solo LP is perfect. Get the version with the bonus tracks. Even when the instrumental outtakes come on you get happy. This is the only artist with multiple appearances of the same song. This is not an accident. The last album has “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go”. This album has “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go”. The next album samples “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go”…
Guest Pick: Kaylee Dugan
Kaylee is a former BYT intern and current BYT social media person. She picked the Kanye record for the jukebox because if it was up to me it’d be My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the entire bar would have to listen to “Lost in the World” and “Runaway” and “Dark Fantasy” back to back to back multiple times each night and no one but me wants that.
There are a lot of albums I love. Some are actually great and some are kind of average and are really only important to me for nostalgia reasons. The College Dropout is both absolutely fantastic (like crazy crazy good) and absolutely fills me with good memories every time I listen to it. I remember watching MTV2 (which was all music videos all the time) constantly in middle school, where I was enthralled by the first music video for “Jesus Walks” (there are actually three). I have intense memories of speeding through the dark and completely empty streets of Columbia, MD at 1 a.m. (after getting out of a shift at Merriweather Post Pavilion, of course) playing “Through the Wire” as loud as I possibly could. There isn’t a single song or skit I don’t love. It’s absolute perfection.
A good jukebox has a few albums that are under the radar. This is very under the radar. The songs of Built To Spill with only synthesizer, drum machine and vocals. It’s a treat every time it comes on.
Guest Pick: Cale
Cale is my boss at BYT and the one that turned me onto The Electronic Anthology Project. Other recent highlights of new/old music include his office programming of the new Lead Belly 5-disc Smithsonian Folkways Collection and the 3-CD compilation Baby How Can It Be? Songs of Love, Lust and Contempt from the 1920s and 1930. Those albums would be included on this jukebox if they didn’t take up 8 places.
The point of the jukebox is not to listen to a song of your choice, it’s to force everyone else to. This power can be used for good or evil. Here is an example of the latter. In the early aughts I frequented a suburban pool hall that had one of those early digital jukeboxes with a very limited selection. And this particular selection was awful. As was the clientele. But, you know, sometimes you need your pool tables, dart boards and foosball. And I had a crush on a bartender. Anyway, whomever was in charge of curating this jukebox had an obvious lapse in attention to detail, giving Rush’s seminal prog-rock masterpiece, 1976’s 2112, the green light. Among the current top 40 radio garbage rose the magnificent title suite in all it’s 20+ minute late 70’s Canadian sci-fi glory. Nobody really paid much attention as “Part II – The Temples of Syrinx” reared it’s complex time signatures, but by “Part V – Oracle: The Dream” the douche-natives were out for blood, demanding this shit end so that Sum 41, or Blink 182, or Eve 6, or Matchbox 20, or whatever the futz 9/11 they wanted. Good thing I cued it up three times.
White Mystery is a brother-sister garage rock duo out of Chicago. They make party music. Music that makes you want to party. Who doesn’t like to party? They’re always helping people party. They haven’t not been on tour for the last 7+ years. See them live. Similar to JC Brooks and Landlady, their recordings don’t do them justice.
Guest Pick: Alex White of White Mystery
Alex is the rare breed that prefers 45 jukeboxes. Rather than alter the entire jukebox, I’m assigning her a compilation that features her pick and a classic The Buckinghams must-have.
An ideal jukebox strictly contains 45s— you know, the 7-inch diameter vinyl circles that spin forty-five rotations per minute. While it’s hard to “single” out just one record, my favorite nugget at this moment is “Just Like Me” by Paul Revere and the Raiders. It’s a scathing-hot garage song with vocal delivery so punk that it transcends it’s 1965 debut date. I would be happy to hear this on repeat for all of eternity.
Another perfect album. Remember, you’re going to hear these songs all the time. There’s a reason there are best of lists with a lot of the same albums. This belongs on any best of list that includes the 1960s or California or goat noises as descriptions.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBdCunNbeH4
Guest Pick: Svetlana Legetic
My other boss at BYT has picked another perfect album.
Enjoying jukebox music is all about finding a song or an album the rest of the room remembers, remembers loving, but somehow isn’t too sick of because EVERYONE plays it on jukeboxes all the time. And when that song and that room come together – it is a truly beautiful thing. The whole The Very Best of the Ronettes is filled with songs like this: sing-alongable harmonies, that Spector touch, and a dose of New York cool that makes it perfectly acceptable for even the grittiest rock club (compared to some other of their girl group contemporaries). But it is the song that gave the collection its name that takes the cake. Of course. Maybe one of the top 5 most perfect pop songs ever written, it has been used in everything from jeans commercials to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and still somehow doesn’t ever feel trite, but a welcome addition to any evening. I identify my whole grown up life jukebox experience with the Black Cat Red Room and I’ve played this song there so often I now identify my whole grown up like jukebox experience with that song. Last time I stopped by it seemed the album maybe made it out of the rotation, but I am going to pretend that that was just a bad dream.
You’re in the midst of the best section of the jukebox, the meat of the sandwich. Beach Boys, The Ronettes and now Hank Williams. What follows is another classic. Remember how I said you’re going to hear these songs a lot? You do not want to tire of them. Hank Williams has never been and most likely never be overplayed. This is good. If you work in a bar or if you’re drinking in a bar, you’re going to enjoy the music of a very sad, most likely drunk Hank Williams.
Guest Pick: James Nasty
James is a fantastic Baltimore based DJ. Real DJ. Good DJ. DJs the kind of stuff not found on jukeboxes. But he understands what belongs on a good jukebox.
It would be absolutely essential to have James Brown 20 All Time Greatest Hits in my ideal jukebox. There’s soooo many classic records on there that are time-tested party starters. Definitely plenty of crowd-pleasing hits like “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine Pt.1”, and “I Got The Feelin” plus some lesser known records that I would never be mad at hearing at any time like “Hot Pants, Pt.1.” It’s the definition of soul music. It’s the ultimate collection of I-dare-you-to-not-tap-your-feet-nod-your-head-or-shake-your-ass songs. I mean seriously, James Brown and jukeboxes are pretty much synonymous.
It doesn’t have my favorite QOTSA song (“The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret” on Rated R) and it isn’t their best LP (...Like Clockwork) but it does have the best air drumming (“Go With The Flow”) and the song that will be played the most (“No One Knows”). You’ll grow fond of those annoying radio interludes. Trust me. Those annoying radio interludes will encourage patrons to consistently debate the merits of annoying radio interludes on compact discs.
Guest Pick: Rob Delaney
When we interviewed Rob Delaney last month we thought he would have picked a QOTSA record for his dream jukebox. He did not.
It’s sort of a concept album about how love heals us in life, and sort of transmuting the pain of life into peace and laughter and stuff. And it’s just rock, I mean it just destroys. It’s by one guy, Matt Johnson. It’s his best album out of many great albums and thematically it’s just so beautiful.
Jonny is D.C.’s best bluesman. No joke. No qualifiers. He happens to be under 30. He recorded a new album in one day and it’s the closest he’s come to capturing his live show. If you get a chance to see him, see him. I prefer stripped down, no one else but him and a guitar performance in a quiet room. Second best is the large band with the harp player and drummer with the massive kit. This song leans towards the latter.
Guest Pick: Jonny Grave
What Jonny chose does not sound like what Jonny plays.
Although 1995’s Maxinquaye is substantially and wholly different from Tricky’s body of work, it is the masterpiece album by which all of his subsequent works are judged. Perpetually dark, but irresistibly alluring, the album stalks back and forth between early Jamaican dancehall, mid-80s breakbeats, 1970’s spy movie strings, ethereal female-led melodies, and Tricky’s sinister sprechgesang. He’s like the devil on your shoulder, the whole way through.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDMKwXyntmo
Chromeo is a perfectly fine band that would not be on my home playlist. I enjoy them live, I enjoy them with company and I enjoy dancing to their very danceable pop songs. They’re the vanilla ice cream of this jukebox. No one’s favorite but no one is going to get upset with free ice cream.
Guest Pick: Brandon Weight
BYT’s Brandon Weight comes next because he picked an album that goes well with Chromeo and he looks like he’s related to the lead singer in Chromeo.
0:00 – “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” begins on the jukebox.
0:16 – Everyone in a bar nails the first seven words.
0:23 – Everyone in the bar who kind of knows the song, but doesn’t really, you know, like disco, begins humming the bass line, which, to the musically inclined is four low A notes, followed by a D note and a C note with a few muted guitar strings thrown in.
1:12: “YOU’VE GOT TO SET THEM UP OOOH, OOOH YEAH” x 2
2:23: “YOU’VE GOT TO SET THEM UP OOOH, OOOH YEAH” x 2
2:52: Everyone finds a spoon, a pencil, a chopstick in someones hair to start banging on their pint glass “bells” which who the fuck knows what tempo or rhythm it really follows, BELLS.
4:16: “YOU’VE GOT TO SET THEM UP OOOH, OOOH YEAH” x 2
On a very different note is the incredibly moving Jason Molina and Songs: Ohia record Didn’t It Rain. This should be played with caution. I was made aware of this incredible LP by friends at an event at saki records, a great record store in Chicago. It’s the kind of album that I would normally listen to alone with headphones on but I’m putting it on my dream jukebox because it has the potential for bringing sensitive souls together.
Guest Pick: Matt Bryne
Talking Heads: 77 is probably my favorite Talking Heads album and totally deserving of a spot on any/all jukeboxes, dream or otherwise. This group of twitchy misfits with a soft spot for polyrythmic world music and a latent fear of the modern world collected 11 weirdo pop songs for their debut LP, including “Psycho Killer,” arguably the defining song of the band’s career. As a former dive bar “DJ” (iTunes operator), I can rep for “Psycho Killer” as a great, off-kilter late night singalong. That said, there’s much more to the record beyond the single – the grooving bounce of “Don’t Worry About The Government” is an ideal daydrinking song: background music that rewards, but doesn’t demand, closer listening. “Tentative Decisions” is a spastic nugget with deadpan backing vocals begging to be goofed on, and album closer “Pulled Up” has a demanding chorus that doesn’t quit. My ideal bar is nearly empty, either pitch-black or totally open air (nothing in between, please), with 77 prominently featured in the jukebox.
If it was possible to have a regional hit in the mid to late 90s, the Smoking Popes had them. The best power pop band to come out of Chicago should have conquered the world, not just Morrissey’s playlist. Put this on and try not to be happy. Both boys AND girls like the Smoking Popes!
Guest Pick: Kelsey Snell
Kelsey Snell is my former DJ partner and current wife. Her pick comes at the bottom of this list because we’re at the official half-way point in the jukebox. If the person scrolling through the pages doesn’t stop at 00 or 99 they stop in the middle. This is the most played page on the jukebox so it should have my favorites. It does.
I could listen to this album in just about any setting–in a dark bar at 2 a.m. in January or while standing next to a grill on a roof deck in July. Actually, those are two of my favorite places to hear it. I almost picked the band’s equally awesome follow-up, Stay Positive, but there’s something about the slightly angry, mostly nostalgic way Craig Finn tells stories of being a dirt bag in his 20’s that really hits my soft spot for slightly angry dudes who have spent a lot of time in the Midwest. I’m listening to this album now and makes me want to order a PBR and a whiskey and hang out with my friends.