On my way to work last Wednesday, I was listening to my tunes, yo, when this song came on:
There are two reasons I still love this song. First, I’ll never forget my “mind officially blown” reaction to the song when it showed up all unannounced at the end of Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. Secondly, that phased guitar! You just don’t hear that anymore.
But. Even as I carry this song around in a heart-shaped box in my memory, it’s still a dated little tune. It was released in April 1983 (when I was just a Duran Duran loving third-grader) and it sounds like it.
I started to think about what makes a song timeless. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and here’s what I’ve decided:
The most critical ingredient is the lyrics. They must be smart, poetic and emotionally exposed. Like this:
You have to back up those words with a strong guitar hook (in this clip it comes in at 1:02):
…hammered out by a jaw-dropping lead guitar:
…and the dark grind of a bass line:
Brilliant. I shake my head in awe. (The bass guitar is my favorite.)
Plus, drums. They have to almost knock you out of your chair.
It needs to surprise you (like in this clip, at 1:46):
And leave you devastated at the close. (This song kills me every single time.)
Or a banjo:
Or a piano.
Put all of those elements together, and you have the perfect song. I haven’t found it yet, exactly, but this comes close.
No cowbell necessary.
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