Guest contributor: Mac Bates

Now I Know my ABCs, My XTC, MIA, ELO, REM, RZA, ODB…

categories: Cocktail Hour



Standard Fare


[Today we welcome Mac Bates from All Those Wasted Hours, a website devoted to vinyl.  And more.  Essays, playlists, and Flipping Through the Record Bin.  Mac is a writer and middle school teacher in Snohomish, Washington]


Last week one of my TA’s, either Aja, Emma, Remi or Aly, asked me what my favorite song of all time was, an impossible question, fer sure. I said I would get back to them, knowing I probably would not. Then I thought, “These 8th grade girls probably do have favorite songs of all time, songs they play over and over and over again.” And I was heartened to think that in the age of musical overload, one melody could jump out of the digital ocean–Oh God, I’m heading for some ridiculous fish in the sea metaphor, Mayday, Mayday!–Nope, I’m not going to do it. No hook, line and sinker for me.
That there is the song that still makes us swoon, dance around the house, sing at the top of our lungs and swear that God is real, has to be a good thing. But Bloody effin’ Hell! I’ve been in love with music for half a century. Do I Beatle/Dylan it or Who/Kink it or Sleater-Kinney it or Wu Tang/Sun Ra it? “Help, Mr. Wizard!”  I finally hit on a solution, my own ABC game. I decided to test it out on the music I have been listening to lately, and while fun, it turned into a marathon, stretching out over a couple of weeks. You know, there aren’t a lot of X songs, or Q songs. What follows is the What I’m Listening to Lately ABC game. Next will be my All-time Favorite ABC game. Won’t you play along with me?  What are your playlists looking like these days?  In alphabetical order or any other way!

Homeboy Sandman

a. Angels With Dirty Faces—Homeboy Sandman
b. Bridge—Lucy Wainwright Roche
c. Crazy To Love You—Leonard Cohen
d. Dead and Gone—Black Keys
e. Eyes Like Pearls—Van Hunt
f. Feeling Good—Gregory Porter
g. Ghost Blues—Loudon Wainwright III
h. Hey Jane—Spiritualized
i. I Couldn?t Care Less—Tommy Womack
j. Jericho—Rufus Wainwright
k. The Keepers–Santigold
l. Lee Majors Come Again—The Beastie Boys
m. Musician Take Heed—God Help the Girl

n. Nancy From Now On—Father John Misty
o. Oop Poo Pah Doo —Trombone Shorty
p. Philadelphia—Standard Fare
q. The Quakers—War Drums
r. Really Stupid—The Primitives
s. Same Damn Time–Future
t. Time Will Be Our Only Saviour—Bill Ryder Jones
u. Unluck—James Blake
v. Venice—Windy and Carl
w. Weep Themselves to Sleep—Jack White
x. AleX–Girls
y. Young Man in America—Anais Mitchell
z. Zombie Delight—Buck 65

You can hear all these songs for free over at



  1. Bill writes:

    This is great, Mac. I haven’t even heard of 3/4s of these bands. How do you keep up? Those middle-school kids must help. I have to get to work on Grooveshark (which I only just heard of a couple of days ago from my daughter) and listen to all of these. I don’t mean work. I mean, sit down at cocktail hour ™ and sink in.

    • malcolm bates writes:

      Jon and I share a Rhapsody account, which allows us to listen to the music on compatible devices. Each week I check the new releases reviewed on the Pitchfork site as well as Robert Christgau’s Expert Witness site on MSN. Another great site is Metacritic, a site that compiles scores for new releases based on reviews in newspapers and magazines around the world.
      If a review piques my interest I’m off to Rhapsody to give the artist a listen. There is also a web site called Band Camp where new artists are given the opportunity to put music out there. Some charge a fee to download, others put their music out there for free. Jon and I have found a number of interesting artists through Band Camp. I also listen to the Sound Opinions podcast.
      But I miss the giddy anticipation of bringing a record home, placing the needle on the vinyl, st retching out on the floor and exploring every square inch of the cover, listening to it over and over again. Jon does that. He can spend a week listening to Beach House and Best Coast. I feel compelled to dip my toes into everything and too often it feels Sisyphusean.

      Think about what it took for you to get your middle and high school bands up and running just to perform or practice. Recording was a whole other challenge. Today the technology allows young artists to record in their freakin’ bedroom and produce high-quality music (Well, at least it sounds good). In the 1970s you could count on a couple of hands the best female artists: Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Maria Muldaur, Stevie Nicks, Mary McCaslin, Patti Smith, Patti LaBelle, Aretha, Chrissy Hynde, Bonnie Raitt, Debbie Harry, Laura Nyro, Exene Cervenka, Donna Summer.
      The number of really great female artists I have listened to in the last would dwarf any list you could put together for the decade of t he 70s:
      Feist, St. Vincent, Sharon VanEtten, Laura Marling, Merrill Garbus, Carrie Brownstein, Florence Welch, Erika Wennestrom, Inaara George, Becky Stark, Eleni Mandell, Jenny Lewis, Deborah Coleman, Dessa, Neko Case, MIA, Santigold, Pistol Annies,and that’s just off the top of my bald head.
      And genres have begotten sub genres that have begotten sub sub genres: Afrobeat, dub step, industrial rock, acid house, crunk, prog-folk, thrash metal, G-Funk, blah, blah, blah. I have always had eclectic tastes and I felt honor-bound to give every genre a shot on my turntable, That ain’t ever gonna happen again.
      The process of music has become so democratic, so DIY, which is exhilerating and maddening at the same time for a junkie like me. There was a time I could hold on to the music world, know it, but it got away from me and it has messed up my mind.
      Do see something similar in literature?
      I am certainly curious to hear how other music lovers deal with the explosion of music in their lives.

      • Bill writes:

        You are devoted. And it is an explosion. When I taught I kept up kind of vicariously, a boat borne back ceaselessly on the current. And now Elysia is starting to hook in. And again, you’re listing people I’ve never heard of. Often, I’m surprised there’s any music after Van Morrison.

        • malcolm bates writes:

          I sometimes think our generation has created a rock’n’roll canon, as white and male as its literary counterpart: Dylan and McCartney; Lennon and Richards; Jagger and Morrison (J and V); Townsend, Stills, Nash and young; Wilson and Phillips (not the trio but Brian and John); Bono and Browne. But then, again, without the canon, we leave our kids with nothing to flip off. tu-tu-tu-talkin’ ’bout their generation…