The aphorism “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” is oft-quoted and much-loved —including by me, obviously — but almost always taken out of context. When William Blake wrote it he attributed it to Satan, and so it should be taken with a certain amount of irony. The road of excess can lead to the palace of wisdom, sure; but it can also lead to the morgue or prison. In practice it should always be paired with another aphorism: “Your mileage may vary.”


Night of the Living Fucking Dead Laura Dern, Nic Cage, Et. Al.
To this day I harbor a deep, powerful, irrational love for Wild at Heart. I may be the only one.

Movin’ Right Along Kermit & Fozzie

Travelling Mood Dr. John
Dr. John was a muppet too.

Stand R.E.M.
“[‘Stand’] is an example of ‘truck driver’s gear change,’ as the last two rounds of the chorus are each one whole step higher than the one previous. The song is meant to be a self-aware ‘tongue-in-cheek’ 60s-esque bubblegum pop ditty, meant to resemble the music of The Banana Splits, The Archies and The Monkees. ‘Stand’ was used as the theme song for the 1990–1992 Fox sitcom Get a Life, starring Chris Elliott…. Guitarist Peter Buck described ‘Stand’ as ‘without a doubt, […] the stupidest song we’ve ever written. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though.’” —Wikipedia

Hit the Road, Jack Ray Charles
Percy Mayfield wrote this song in 1960 and sent an a cappella demo to record exec Art Rupe, who passed it on to Ray Charles. The rest is history.

The Greatest Guy in History Homer Simpson
I wonder how many two-syllable tree names the writers went through before finally deciding that chestnut was the funniest. Which it is.

No Particular Place to Go Chuck Berry
“[Chuck Berry] can hit me in the eye again anytime…. See, Chuck fascinates me — he’s an absolute asshole but I’ve had lots of experience working with them. And to me it’s kind of a lovable trait. It’s not a big deal that a guy is an asshole. It doesn’t mean that you don’t bother with him. To me, it’s more intriguing than a guy who’s fairly well balanced and has all the answers.” —Keith Richards

Roadrunner The Modern Lovers
“Natick Stop & Shop looks too modern to be the same store Richman walked past, then drove past. ‘How long has this Stop & Shop been here?’ I ask the cashier. He is young and slightly built, a faint brush of hair on his top lip. ‘Uh, I dunno…’ he frowns. ‘Did you know there’s a famous song that mentions the Stop & Shop?’ I press on. ‘No.’ He looks at me, hairs twitching, and his colleague interrupts as she packs my bags: ‘Can I take my break?’” —Laura Barton

Foggy Notion Velvet Underground
“Lou Reed was a big 1950s/early 60s doo wop fan, which makes me suspect that ‘calamine lotion’ is a reference to the lyric ‘You’re gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion’ in the song Poison Ivy, originally released by The Coasters in 1959. It has long been rumored that ‘Poison Ivy’ is actually a song about a guy catching a venereal disease from woman (‘Poison Ivy, lord’ll make you itch.’). If Lou is bringing along his ‘calamine lotion,’ he’s just taking some extra precautions.” —Jon Pennington

Grooving in the Bus Lane The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy
Butch’s website helpfully has the lyrics for this song, and somehow I had never noticed the part in the second verse where he sings “Been singing this tune since I heard Blank Frank” 1— a reference to the second song on Here Come the Warm Jets. Years later he wrote a whole song about his love of Eno, which is always worth another spin:

Sidewalking The Jesus and Mary Chain
“In 1988, the Reids [Jim and William, Mary Chain masterminds] exhibited an unforeseen influence – hip-hop – on Sidewalking. The standalone single, which reached No 30, sampled the drumbeat from Roxanne Shanté’s Roxanne’s Revenge (part of the infamous Roxanne Wars with the Real Roxanne).” —Jeremy Allen, The Guardian

Stay on Target Graham Ashley & Angus MacInnes
Given the half of the internet is Star Wars-related, it was all too easy to find the names of the actors who played these tiny parts, which I never knew before. Also absurdly detailed biographies of the extremely minor characters they played. More information than I require, TBH.

All Along the Watchtower The Jimi Hendrix Experience
This is another one that Withnail and I turned me on to. To this day I can’t hear those opening chords without picturing a big ol’ wrecking ball smashing a brick wall.

Miles to Go Robert Frost

Moonlight Mile The Rolling Stones
“I also came up with an Oriental-Indian riff on my acoustic guitar. At some point during the tour I played it for Mick Taylor, because I thought he would like it. At that point, I really hadn’t intended on recording the song. Sometimes you don’t want to record what you’re writing. You think, ‘This isn’t worth recording, this is just my doodling.’ When we finished our European tour in October 1970, we were at Stargroves… We were sitting around one night and I started working on what I had initially written. I felt great. I was in my house again and it was very relaxing. So the song became about that…. What makes ‘Moonlight Mile’ special is that it’s a song and a recording at once. All these things — the strange plinking piano, the tom-tommy mallets on the drums, the different guitars — they all came together to produce a feeling of vulnerability and loneliness, you know what I mean? I think the three of us2finished recording the basic track around 6AM. The sun was coming up.” —Mick Jagger

As We Roll Along This Way David Carradine
That’s not writing, that’s typing.

Radar Love Golden Earring
“At first, the opening line was ‘I’m sitting in a bathtub.’ And I thought, ‘That’s hardly masculine.’ Then I came up with sitting in a car. It took me about three hours to write the lyrics, which is pretty swift…. It wrote itself in a way. I was listening to the music on the side and the story just took wings. I remember, in those days, I was really interested in ESP. I read some shit about it. And that sort of crawled in. Like there’s an accident, but these people still have ESP, they still have contact in a way.” —Barry Hay

Road to Nowhere Talking Heads
When I saw David Byrne in Kansas City a couple years ago my only disappointment was that he didn’t do “Road to Nowhere,” which seemed like the perfect song for his wacky mobile band setup. Then, lo and behold, they made a movie of his Broadway show, and what do you think the final encore was?

The Eagle Has Landed Neil Armstrong
“Tranquility Bass was the stage name of Michael Adam Kandel (1967/1968 – May 17, 2015), an American musician whose music has been variously categorized as ambient house, trip hop, and funk rock…. Tranquility Bass died on May 17, 2015, aged 47 in Chicago suburb Buffalo Grove, IL. A cause of death was not released to the public.” —Wikipedia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *