I’ve always enjoyed making lists- “top ten bands of the 60’s”, “top 15 albums of all time”, “top 20 Tom Cruise running scenes”, “top 25 ways I’ve fantasized about Ashton Kutcher dying”…whatever. When I recently heard The Bangles on the radio performing Prince’s “Manic Monday” I was so struck by what a perfectly tasty little pop nugget it was that it led me to creating this particular list of songs with days of the week in their titles. It is as arbitrary as any list; basically what it amounts to is a batch of songs that I enjoy and hope you will to. I tried to list them in the order of least to most favorite but they are all songs that I genuinely love. Certainly it would have been easier to do a top ten list but there are so many great tunes that fit into this particular category that I couldn’t possibly limit it to that. At the bottom (or top if you like) of the list is a link to the entire list on Spotify or you can access it here.
PS: I sincerely apologize to the other writers of Will the Fire for this blatant hogging of Song of the Day choices.
25) “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (Johnny Cash) 1972: This is a Kris Kristofferson song and, to be honest, the only song of his that I feel is truly great is “Me and Bobby McGee” which of course Janis sang into the stratosphere before departed from the earth herself. While the words to “Sunday Morning” are a little clunky and workmanlike in parts, overall it is a solid composition perfectly suited to Cash’s low rumble and ‘Man in Black’ persona.
24) “Love You Till Tuesday” (David Bowie) 1967: A great early effort from Bowie characterizing a callous playboy at loose in the field of fragile young hearts. It is pure pop filtered through his unique sensibilities.
23) “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (Simon and Garfunkel) 1964: This is the title track to their debut LP but it was rewritten as “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me” for the follow-up Sounds of Silence LP. While this original incarnation lacks the more propulsive and dramatic power of the reworking it is a graceful performance of a lyrically gritty song detailing a petty robber caught in a vice grip of anxiety, deep regret and longing. This also has the distinct honor of being the only song on the list with Wednesday in the title. I guess Wednesday is just not the most romantic day to write about. Monday and Tuesday tend to represent the doldrums and Thursday through Sunday are days of hope and release but Wednesday is just too bland to touch from a songwriters perspective; there’s not much to say about it; it just is…wait…there’s a song idea- “Wednesday- It Just Is”.
22) “Another Saturday Night” (Sam Cooke)1963: This is far from being my favorite Sam Cooke song but it is nonetheless a fun little number about Sam wishing he was back home where he’d be “swingin’, two chicks on my arm”- me and you both Sam. The bottom line on this song is that the lyrics are less than great but Cooke sings ‘em for all their worth.
21) “10:15 Saturday Night” (The Cure) 1979: Robert Smith’s lonely Saturday night is a little more morose than Sam’s, spent listening to “the clock tick” and “the tap drip”. Unfortunately I can relate more to Smith’s plight than Sam’s. Cook’s tune is one you could actually groove to on a swinging Saturday while Smith’s is better suited for listening to in a dark bedroom with a single candle lit while your collection of Gothic gargoyles stares down at you from your black lacquered shelves.
20) “Blue Sunday” (The Doors) 1970: A woozy but lovely piece of music from the Morrison Hotel LP. Morrison can’t really sing a straight love song without a certain amount of gloom skirting its edges and a feeling of eeriness seeping in between the cracks. The Doors had their own distinct aesthetic and death always seemed to be part of the equation whether Jim was singing about butterflies or the apocalypse.
19) “Blue Monday” (New Order) 1983: I have always been more of a New Order fan than a Joy Division fan. Their best songs are pop paradise with light and airy keyboards, glorious bass lines, skeletal guitar hooks and vocals that capture the romance and pain of youth. While most of that description applies to “Blue Monday” it actually sounds as much like Joy Division as it does New Order- dark, doomed, brooding, numb and seductive.
18) “Monday Monday Monday” (Tegan and Sarah) 2002: Tegan and Sarah are one of my favorite new musical discoveries of the last many years. They write dense but ultra-hooky pop/rock songs that you could easily criticize for being too adolescent or angst-ridden but that would just make you a jerk. Besides their seemingly subtle but highly effective melodies and jaunty rhythms there is something about their vocals that I find totally charming- a perfect mixture of sexiness, vulnerability and attitude. They are identical twins as you might have guessed and both are also lesbians as you may or may not have suspected. They are also Canadian and I feel compelled to add that a certain fellow Canadian by the name of Neil Young is a big fan. I’m listening to this song again now and starting to think it should be higher on the list…oh well.
17) “Sunday Sun” (Beck) 2002: Most people’s first introduction to Beck was “Loser” and the Mellow Gold album which is filled with similar deranged folk-jams and junk-yard rap-rock but it ends with a departure from all of that fun-house grunge via the beautifully droning and magnetic “Black Hole”. “Sunday Sun” is nearly as lovely and induces the same feeling of being cut adrift in the universe but comforted by forces unseen. The Sea Change album from which it comes is one of Beck’s best in terms of emotionally direct songwriting and performance.
16) “Every Day is Like Sunday” (Morrissey) 1988: I want to like Morrissey more than I actually do but more often than not I find him off-putting both lyrically and vocally. That said, he does have his share of great songs and this is my favorite- a perfect balance of sadness and beauty.
15) “I Don’t Like Mondays” (The Boomtown Rat’s) 1979: The Boomtown Rats were really the only game in town when punk rock first hit Ireland and they were never mere Sex Pistols clones or Ramones copy cats. They mixed punk’s aggression and attitude with a broad pallet of sounds and influences including Springsteen’s sweeping romanticism. This song was their big hit and it effectively showcases Bob Geldof’s cutting vocals and often jaded but compassionate songwriting voice. Also, as a pop song which reflects on a school shooting it predates Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” by over a decade. Bob would later become best known as the founder of Live Aid and you might also recognize him as “Pink” from The Wall film. This live version of “Mondays” beats the hell out of the overproduced studio version in my book. It’s actually making my eyes well up.
14) “Friday on My Mind” (The Easybeats) 1966: One of Australia’s best answers to the British Invasion written by Henry Vanda and George Young- older brother of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm. The song was later covered by David Bowie on his 1973 Pin-Ups LP but it is not an improvement over the original power pop rocket blast. Great stuff.
13) “Thursdays Child” (David Bowie) 1999: Bowie released a slew of great albums during the late 90’s and early 2000’s after something of an artistic slump stretching back to the 80’s. One of those releases, ‘Hours…’ kicks off with this aching ballad. The production is somewhat chilly and the singing is restrained and tinged with weariness but the feeling the song generates is one of warmth, bitter-sweet sadness and hope. The title and basis for the song comes from an old children’s poem titled “Thursday’s Child” or alternately “Monday’s Child” which includes the line “Thursday’s child has far to go”.
12) “Stormy Monday” (Them) 1964: This is T. Bone Walker’s signature song and he sings it beautifully but I can’t help it if I prefer Van Morrison’s grittier singing style.
11) “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (The Monkees) 1967: Every time I hear this song on oldies radio I get transported immediately into the world of square suburban bliss that the lyrics describe. They are meant as a mockery of that world but it always sounds pretty inviting to me. Written by the great songwriting partnership of Jerry Goffin and Carole King who composed numerous pop classics from “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” first recorded by the Shirelles to several songs recorded by The Byrd’s- “Goin’ Back” and “Wasn’t Born to Follow”. Listening to this song again now I’m starting to think that I might have placed it just a little too high on the list but in honor of Davey Jones I’ll leave it here.
10) “Sunday Sun” (Neil Diamond) 1968: A typically wonderful feel-good tune from Diamond’s early years. While some of the lyrics may fall short of poetic profundity, in my view nobody is better at making a simple pop song glow with warmth. However, even in his sunniest songs he never forgets to acknowledge that their are always clouds in the sky- they just don’t always have to rain.
9) “Monday Monday” (The Mamas and the Papas) 1966: I think most people would agree that along with “California Dreaming” this stands as the Mamas and Papas song that has the best chance of survival after all the baby boomer nostalgia has faded into a dim glow. “California Dreaming” has a bit more edge and oomph to it but this song has the ability to lull you into peaceful reverie with its harmonies and “la la’s” rolling out in a gently flowing stream.
8) “Blue Monday” (Fats Domino) 1956: Fats is one of my favorite early rock n rollers but he always rolled more than he rocked with his easy boogie-woogie piano style and crooning vocals. That holds true for this song which was originally written by Dave Bartholomew but was co-credited to Fats when he recorded it in his distinctive style. The two went on to write many of Fats’ biggest hits together including “Ain’t That a Shame”. Fats is still alive and kicking in his lifelong home- New Orleans.
7) “Friday I’m In Love” (The Cure) 1992: When I first heard this song as a kid I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t hear much appeal in Robert Smith’s spastically emotive vocals or the repetitive simplicity of the lyrics. Then one day I heard it with different ears and realized what a great damn song it really is- richly textured, achingly romantic and catchy as all hell with Smith squealing like a schoolgirl from the excitement of it all.
6) “Manic Monday” (The Bangles) 1986: The song that inspired this list. It is a classic pop song written by Prince and in fact it sounds so distinctly Princely to me that part of my brain hears him singing it when I listen. That is not to say that I would rather hear him perform it necessarily as it is the perfect vehicle for the Bangles bright, sensual vocals and bubblegum sound. By the way, you can guess by looking at Susanna Hoffs why Prince might have taken an interest in the group, besides their vocal talents.
5) “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (U2) 1983: “This song is not a rebel song- this song is Sunday Bloody Sunday”. Obviously I had to include this anthem written as a plea for peace in an Ireland divided along political and religious lines. One thing that makes it such an effective anthem is that with its martial rhythms and aggressive vocals it is propelled by a sort of aural violence to make its case against actual violence. In other words, it fights fire with fire- the fire of hate and war with the fire of rock n roll. A more dramatic example of this is U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” which sounds like the audio equivalent of Picasso’s “Guernica” or when Neil Young sings a song about peace and love and then unleashes a storm of guitar noise that sounds like World War motherfucking III. A great philosopher by the name of Bono once said that rock n roll is all about channeling violence and that sounds about right to me. We all have the demon of violence inside of us and personally I would rather see people channel it into making art instead of killing each other.
4) “Friday’s Child” (Them) 1967: I think it’s a safe assumption that this song’s title was taken from the same children’s poem that inspired Bowie’s “Thursday’s Child”- in this case the pertinent line from the poem would be “Friday’s child is loving and giving”. Believe it or not, this song was first released as a single and buried on the flipside of the single was a little song called “Gloria”. Them was one of the best rock n roll bands of the 60’s in my book even though in reality they were a rotating cast of musicians supporting the raw and peerlessly soulful singing of a young Van Morrison. Obviously, this is one of their gentler moments which signaled the direction that Morrison would soon be headed in as a solo artist with its subtle textures and penetrating, romantic vision.
3) “Sunday Morning” (The Velvet Underground) 1967: I know some would probably like to see this at number one- good for them. Lou Reed has said this song is about being hungover but I always do my best to ignore what songwriters say about their own songs. To me it has always been about falling behind in life and struggling to find some peace in the present- like a permanent hangover I suppose.
2) “Ruby Tuesday” (The Rolling Stones) 1967: This is one of my absolute favorite Stones songs. I’ve always thought that Jagger was somewhat underappreciated as a lyrical songwriter. I guess with him dancing around on stage at 80 miles an hour with a yellow cape and knee pads it’s easy to lose sight of his compositional abilities but on songs like this I think there is real poetry in his lyrics.
1) “Joe Harper Saturday Morning” (Van Morrison) 1967: Another Van Morrison songs at the top of the list? You’re damn right Sonny Jim! One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite artists. It was recorded with a band of studio musicians in New York where Van was trying to churn out a hit and launch himself as a solo artist after years spent playing hard-ass R&B with Them. Van’s singing is, as always, exhilarating while the lyrics are a rich tapestry of cryptic imagery and poetic insight. My favorite line: “You walked on the streets so lonely in your own childish way/ and you thought that you would only, ha, do it for today.”
You can listen to this whole list on Spotify by clicking here.
PS: Please tell me what songs should or shouldn’t have been on this list…or don’t. I just don’t care anymore.