Here goes 1982, the Year of Stu LeBlanc:
1. Bruce Springsteen - Born In The USA #3 - How Nebraska Was Born
The song that would become the cornerstone of Bruce's biggest album (and co-opted by a tone deaf Reagan campaign) started out so starkly different from the songwriter's original vision you have to wonder how exactly he arrived at the final version. This one is more than rough. There are discarded lyrics about Nixon and a completely different rhythm than the final album version, the finished Nebraska demo or the slide guitar version he turned to on later E Street tours (above). If he'd kept going in that route it would've practically been a rockabilly tune.
2. John Cougar Mellencamp - Jack & Diane - Words & Music: Greatest Hits (originally from American Fool)
I actually saw Mellencamp perform once. He and Neko Case were unlikely paired as "T Bone Burnett's Friends" at last year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Me and my friends kept yelling for "The Coug!" And we stared dumbfounded as Neko sang backup on "Little Pink Houses." All that aside, "Jack & Diane" is quite possibly the most overplayed song on all of classic rock radio. Even more overplayed than the Eagles, which sure says something. And did Jessica Simpson really need to go and sample it?
3. Marshall Crenshaw - Someday, Someway - Marshall Crenshaw
For years I'd heard Crenshaw's first record was a masterpiece, so I eventually picked it up. All Music isn't far off calling Crenshaw the "second coming of Buddy Holly, or possibly an Americanized Elvis Costello," and this is an outstanding song. Makes me wonder two things: How can good stuff like this hide from me for so long? And how the hell did this guy's career take such a nosedive after such an impressive debut?
4. Warren Zevon - Jesus Mentioned - The Envoy
One of the non hits, I hadn't heard this until the shuffle brought it up. When I got a few of his proper albums, I immediately dove into Excitable Boy and the self-titled record, but The Envoy is still new to me. Not the strongest Zevon song out there, but damn good nonetheless.
5. Peter Gabriel - Shock The Monkey - Hit (originally from Peter Gabriel IV)
I know Peter Gabriel's hits mostly from the strange and artisticlly far-reaching videos. So to me, that particular artist and that particular art form are so quintessentially 80s that it's impossible to take up a study of the culture without them. Go here for the video, which isn't embeddable.
6. The Jam - Tales From The Riverbank - The Sound of the Jam (originally the B-side to Absolute Beginners)
While I have some friends who spent the 1990s as die-hard Brit Pop fans, The Jam never made it to the center of their listening circle, so I picked up this album from my brother. This is a great song, and sounds more like The Clash than I would've guessed for a "mod" band, but I guess the later Jam was known for more of a groove-oriented rhythm section.
7. Bruce Springsteen - Bye Bye Johnny - How Nebraska Was Born
This bootlegged outtake (after quite a bit of revision) would show up as "Johnny Bye Bye" on the B-side to "I'm On Fire." Adapted from Chuck Berry's song about the death of Elvis Presley, it's a song about a girl hitchhiking to Memphis, and ends with the refrain "You didn't have to die."
(Coincidentally, this is the second song about Elvis' death on this shuffle, after Zevon's "Jesus Mentioned." Weird.)
8. Simon & Garfunkel - America - The Concert In Central Park
The massive free concert became a massive live album, and it may be the single best album the duo made. "America" is an undeniable classic.
9. The Fall - The Classical - Hex Induction Hour
A strange band that I've barely begun to crack, The Fall is pretty well summed up by the Wikipedia description of this album, which is called the band's most accessible music in one sentence and "raw and noisy" in the next. The song is punk and not at the same time, with killer drums and spastic guitars. I need to listen to more of the Fall.
10. The Replacements - Rock Around The Clock (outtake) - Stink
The spare tracks thrown onto deluxe reissues are shuffle killers. While this doesn't suck, it's obviously the band just screwing around: "Stink, stink, stink, around the clock tonight." As this shuffle project continues, I better get some real Replacements songs thrown into the mix.
Bruce Springsteen - Born In The U.S.A. (acoustic, live Las Vegas, 2000)
Warren Zevon - Jesus Mentioned (live)