I know, I know, you disagree! Maybe with all five. But don’t blame me. These are Indio’s “pure emotion” songs, meaning, according to him, they bypass the cerebral cortex and drive directly into the brainstem. The list is guitar-heavy because he’s guitar-heavy.
These songs aren’t my “songlist” for writing to—I prefer instrumental music for that. Indio is the middle child, a musician and songwriter who also expresses himself through art.
When his sister Wynter shows up with her half-formed musical talent and non-standard interpretations, he teaches her what he knows—starting with the blues turnaround, of course. For a short period in her childhood she had access to a radio and listened to classic rock stations. These five classic songs (and bonus), aren’t radio-friendly for various reasons, so she’s never heard them before but Indio considers them essential listening. (Song squares by me.)
1. Gimme Shelter—The Rolling Stones (1969). Come for the apocalyptic imagery, stay for soul singer Melissa Block’s incredible emotional vocal performance, which Mick Jagger talks about in this 2012 NPR interview. At 3:01 on the track, you can hear her voice crack and a whoop of appreciation from the control room.
2. Closer—Kings of Leon (2008). I read somewhere that according to the band, it’s about a lovesick vampire. Okaaaay. Wynter says that Van Gogh’s Starry Night is a painting she can fall into. This is a song you can fall into.
3. Cocaine—J J Cale (1976). Here’s a live version showcasing that awesome guitar riff. Listen to J J Cale and Eric Clapton (who later covered the song) play it together at soundcheckhere. Or click below for the original.
4. Whole Lotta Love—Led Zeppelin (1969). BBC Radio 2 listeners a few years ago voted this as the all-time greatest guitar riff. From Wikipedia: “[Jimmy] Page came up with the guitar riff … in the summer of 1968, on his houseboat on the River Thames” on a Sunburst 1958 Les Paul Standard guitar (Indio’s dream guitar).
5. I’m Not in Love—10CC (1975). This fascinatingBBC documentary explores the making of the song (originally written with a bossa nova beat), which layered a “tsunami” of 624 voices that were then mixed live. Like Gimme Shelter, this song includes a “random” female voice (secretary Kathy Redfern whispering “Big boys don’t cry”) added at the last minute. As she says, the song “stops you in your tracks.” One of my all-time favorites, too!
Bonus #1! This one is not guitar-heavy and is more pure sex than pure emotion, but close enough. Relax—Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1983, charted in 1985 in the USA). Wikipedia calls it “one of the most controversial and most commercially successful records of the decade”. The record company “intentionally courted scandal with the promotion” of the song with a tag line in print ads reading “ALL THE NICE BOYS LOVE SEA MEN”. BBC Radio and eventually TV refused to play the song (although it was played on commercial stations), after which it hit number one for five weeks in the UK.