|"Hey, what about our song?!"|
While this writer will always prefer the crackle and pop of a jukebox loaded with vinyl 45's worn to perfection, the upside of the NSA listening in on our our call phone conversations is that just about every jukebox has an immense cloud-based database to choose from. Thus, the days of not finding a particular song on the jukebox are a thing of the past, for the most part.
After decades of careful, beer-soaked research, I have compiled the most potent playlist ever known to man:
"Mary Jane's Last Dance" - Tom Petty
This song is the ultimate "room uniter" because, no matter what type of music you might be into, you still love this jam - especially after you've had a few cold ones. The best example of this was witnessed by yours truly in an underground Pasadena, CA pool hall. Like most weekend nights, as the clock approached midnight, the room was filling to capacity with a mix of hip-hop, Latino, and biker contingents all getting louder and more boisterous as the night continued. All it would take is one accidental poke of a pool stick by a player from another table for the uneasy peace of the room to be broken. As I made my way to the jukebox, I could see the waitresses motioning to security to be on alert.
A few seconds later, the opening guitar riff to "Mary Jame's Last Dance" swept over the room like a friend with weed. Next thing you know, the hip-hop dudes are trading high fives with the biker guys while the Hatfields and the McCoys call a momentary truce. The whole room is now swinging as one and all it took was a song.
Having said that, you probably won't be the only person to play this tune over the course of the evening. Luckily, this a tune that holds up to multiple plays.
2. "Smoke Rings In The Dark" - Gary Allan
With a chorus that is as wistfully evocative as Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game", Gary Allan weaves a familiar tale of resigned heartbreak that, sad to say, most people don't even know exists. That's why I like to play this song in the right public setting just to see how many people I can get to walk over to the jukebox. My current record is eight.
It has also been a tremendous ice-breaker, leading to many a great conversation and, occasionally, to the sort of extra-curricular activities from which more than a few great rock songs are written.
Honorable Mention: Gary's version of Todd Snider's "Alright Guy" is also a great tune to play if you find yourself in a room that seems just a little too enamored by "new country" and you wanna break them out of their bottle-blond, spray-tanned vanilla-wafer coma.
3. "If You Don't Love Me I'll Kill Myself" - Pete Droge
Sadly, the only time most of us are reminded of this song's awesomeness is when we watch "Dumb & Dumber" and, considering the fact that some folks are just downright immune to this movie's charms, they remain sadly ignorant of this rollicking hook-o-rama.
What makes this song so great is that it sneaks up on you. Play this tune to a room of the previously non-converted and you're bound to find a handful of malleable brains soaking in Budweiser are bored shitless by their friend still bragging about their lateral promotion at work as if they'd been appointed CEO.
By the time the first chorus kicks in, every set of ears in the room nods with an assured smile, as is they'd known what song it was the whole time. That's when you catch the eye of the cute chick in the corner, see enough of a smile to risk total humiliation, and the rest, as they say, will be history. Next day, you wake up in the arms of someone you didn't even know 24 hours ago and make a mental note to send Pete Droge a thank you note.
4. "Ah Leah" - Donnie Iris
Most people may not know Donnie Iris enough to know any of his other songs, nor do they know that he sings "Ah Leah". They just know that when this song comes on the jukebox, it's time to stop whatever they'd been doing and pretend their beer bottle is a microphone.
And, by golly, isn't that what all songs you hear on the jukebox should do? For the average layman who doesn't own every Donnie Iris album like yours truly, it's nice to hear a song that you didn't realize you knew all the words to and that your reasonably confidant the whole room wants to hear you sing. Luckily, you will not be alone.
5. Wicked Game - HIM
Remember when I mentioned "Wicked Game" earlier? Chris Isaak's signature tune sounds great playing on a jukebox, sure, but this version is the one to play if you really want to make some folks go "What the fuck is this?" once that first chorus hits and they realize that this is not your father's "Wicked Game".
This is also a great tune to choose if you find yourself in a karaoke situation from which you cannot escape and wish to make an impression upon the room that you are a person of discerning taste and sex appeal. Sadly, this moment is fleeting and lasts only as long as it takes the next singer to murder Garth Brooks' "Friends In Low Places" and completely kill the buzz.