Randy Newman [Photo:David Livingston/Getty Images]Wow! Huh? People annoyed at Public Enemy and Donna Summer being admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ahead of Iron Maiden, Iron Butterfly, Iron City Houserockers and Iron Prostate are surely going to completely freak out when they check out this Randy Newman dude.
I went nobly hunting through his catalog looking for songs that rocked and all I kept finding were horns! And strings! In the end, I settled for anything with drums on it. Or a curse word or something. I forget. If I were Randy, I'd show up at the Induction Ceremony in that faux-Kiss make-up he wore on the cover of Born Again and blow some stuff up in hopes that nobody notices that these songs are kinda jazz.
I left out the movie music stuff. I'm sure Babe: Pig In the City has some fine moments and he did win an Academy Award for "Best Original Song" for "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3, but I highly doubt any of it rocks.
Fact is, I left off lots of Newman "classics" because they didn't sound like heavy metal. (I didn't discover "Beat Me Baby" until after the list was formalized.)
I sure hope getting inducted into this Hall of Fame finally leads to that long-awaited collaboration with that New Orleans musical legend himself, Phil Anselmo of Pantera.
Shall we get this over with?
24) I Want You To Hurt Like I Do: I sincerely hope Public Enemy, Heart, Rush, Lou Adler and Quincy Jones all stand around the piano and join Randy for a rendition of this heart-cooling song about man's need to share his misery with one another. What a finale!
23) Falling In Love: Early Randy Newman albums feature lots of turgid strings and tedious piano playing and stuff, but in the 1980s, Randy hit a groove where he employed four producers and more than five synthesizer players and at least four drummers to flesh out his sound. It almost sounds like normal music!
22) Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein In America: The horns here make me nervous, I won't lie. It would've been a much better song if, say, Aerosmith had played on it. But Randy probably didn't know them at the time.
21) You Can Leave Your Hat On: This is one of the lousier tunes from Sail Away, but it's the one that almost rocks (trust me, you'd get real annoyed if you heard "Political Science," which is brilliant and prescient but is also a shuffle, like a Doors song). Joe Cocker had a mild hit with it when it was featured in the strip-tease scene in 9-1/2 Weeks. Had Randy grunted better, he might've had a hit with this himself.
20) Have You Seen My Baby: This is some kind of 1950s rocker that you can imagine Richie Cunningham playing sax to on Happy Days and it turns out Richie's hero Fats Domino did cover it! Randy opened his second album with it, hoping people would be less likely to return it.
19) My Country: This could be Randy's "My Hometown" song. It's slow and moody and speaks about the American Dream of watching television without being interrupted.
18) There's A Party At My House: I can see why Randy considers Trouble In Paradise to be his best album. It's the one where he had the least to do. I count nine singers, including Don Henley, Bob Seger, Rickie Lee Jones and Paul Simon, four keyboardists, two guitarists and six horn players. Now that's a party at his house!
17) Rider in the Rain: Smartly figuring out that even if his next door neighbor and best friend growing up was Warner Brothers executive Lenny Waronker he still had to sell records eventually, Newman made sure Waronker was his producer and had Don Henley and Glenn Frey from a little group called the Eagles once again sing harmony with him. It wasn't a hit single ("Short People" was) but at least Randy looked like he was trying!
16) Baltimore: While the TV show Monk got Randy to give them "It's A Jungle Out There," HBO's The Wire should have insisted on this love song to "Baltimore." Judging by the words to the song, Randy's visited!
15) Little Criminals: Joe Walsh plays the guitar solo.
14) Masterman and Baby J: This is Randy's "rap" song and will surely make him a first-round inductee into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, along with his new friends Public Enemy.
13) God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind): Obviously this song should be redone by someone who can really scream it, along with the rest of the sleepy Sail Away album. I put it on here because it shows potential and because I thought I heard a drum in there somewhere. Just wait for it in late-2013: "God's Song" by Randy Newman, ft. Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Carly Rae Jespen (Mark Ronson Mix).
12) Old Kentucky Home: Not until Black Stone Cherry many years later would Kentucky have a band worthy of representing such a fine state, but this little ditty surely made everyone from this proud state very, very happy! Much like how proud I am to have Jon Bon Jovi and those Real Housewives and Jersey Shore folks represent New Jersey!
11) It's Money That I Love: The consistently semi-reliable Wikipedia calls this song a "thumping blues rocker," so clearly it makes the cut here. I'm just surprised more rock 'n' roll musicians didn't sing about money. R.E.M. made a lot of it, a lot more than Randy for sure, and they never really bring it up. Maybe they don't like it.
10) Rednecks: OK kids, imagine Guns N' Roses' "Civil War" song lasting twice as long and you have some idea of what Randy's Good Old Boys album is like but instead of bone-crunching electric guitars, you just get lots of Dizzy Reed piano playing and an orchestra. And a very, very bad word that Axl has used himself but not as ironically.
9) My Life Is Good: Here's where Randy finally learns to show off and lets us in on a little known fact that in 1983 before the whole Born In The U.S.A. shebang Bruce Springsteen asked Randy, "How would you like to be The Boss for a while?" Had Randy taken the job, it's likely that Born In the U.S.A. would've sold twice as many albums and had twice as many hit singles! (Which would be 15, one more than is actually on the album.)
8) Dixie Flyer: Supposedly, Land of Dreams was going to be a concept album about Newman's childhood in New Orleans but after just three songs he got bored and wrote other stuff. This song can often be heard, again according to the lazy journalist's best friend Wikipedia, "as break or filler music on public radio and public television." I've heard it there, too, so it must be true!
7) It's Money That Matters: Funny that public radio should use a snippet of Randy Newman's music considering Rand mocks its employees on this song for being too timid to go for the gusto. Use of Mark Knopfler ensures this is considered a "real" rock 'n' roll song.
6) Mama Told Me Not To Come: Randy Newman wrote this song for Eric Burdon but it was Cory Wells' Three Dog Nights who managed to have a smash hit with it (Newman's only #1 hit). Surprisingly, Newman's own version features drums and electric slide guitar from Ry Cooder instead of more mopey piano. Maybe deep down Randy dreamed of being in an acid-rock band but his parents wouldn't let him.
5) I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It): By 1999 Randy Newman likely realized his catalog wasn't strong enough in the hard rock department and that his one day possible inclusion in the illustrious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might be in jeopardy if he didn't record something with hard rockin' beats, so thusly "I'm Dead" from Bad Love was born, the toughest number in Newman's welter-weight catalog.
4) Gone Dead Train: The opening cut from the 1970 soundtrack album for Donald Cammell's film Performance features Randy Newman and Ry Cooder getting down and heavy for the "other toughest number in Newman's welter-weight catalog," according to Y! Music's List of the Day blogger Rob O'Connor.
3) Short People: This was Randy's biggest hit and one of The Office's Michael Scott's favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. The song is often misunderstood. Let's make it clear. It's a song about the ridiculousness of people who are short by choice.
2) I Love L.A.: Who hasn't run around their own neighborhood yelling out street names and then "We Love It" only to discover that "Stuyvesant Avenue," "Frelinghuysen Avenue" and "E. Joseph Koenig Boulevard" don't quite capture the American Imagination quite like the streets of Los Angeles. This smash hit made it all the way to #110 on the pop charts!
1) Golden Gridiron Boy: Produced by Jimmie Haskell and Pat Boone (yes, that Pat Boone), "Golden Gridiron Boy" was Newman's first single and was released on Dot Records in October 1962. Written at the suggestion of Lenny Waronker as a way to cash in on the football craze, it remains Newman's single greatest accomplishment. It did not chart. It has been downhill for Randy ever since.
Congratulations, Mr. Newman.