Great Gonzos

Boston, "Rock & Roll Band" (Sony; 1976). iTunes

Kiss, "Room Service" (Casablanca; 1975). iTunes

Grand Funk Railroad, "We're an American Band" (Capitol; 1973). iTunes

Steve Miller Band, "The Joker" (Capitol; 1973).

Styx, "Come Sail Away" (A&M; 1977). iTunes

Van Halen, "Little Guitars" (Warner Bros.; 1982). iTunes

Ted Nugent, "Free for All" (Epic; 1976). iTunes

Thin Lizzy, "Cowboy Song" (Mercury; 1976). iTunes

Black Sabbath, "War Pigs" (Warner Bros.; 1971). iTunes

Cheap Trick, "Southern Girls" (Epic; 1977). iTunes

As any aspiring, or successful, or over-the-hill rocker will tell you, rock and roll is one part pure glory and nine-tenths pure waiting around. Perhaps the only thing that separates rock dudes from baseball players is that rock dudes have good taste in music and no money, and baseball players are the other way around. That said, the conversation in the rock dugout is most often, no surprise, rock itself. Having five guys in a van with strong musical opinions and their whole record collection at their iPod-enabled fingertips makes going on tour a musical argument, and the Hold Steady's most recent topic is "The Most Gonzo Jams of the Most Gonzo Decade" (the '70s, obviously). Here are my votes, and the lyrics that got them there.

1. "Rolling into Hyannis"—Amazing in that it details all the gory details of the band's rise to the top, except it's completely made up. Gets even better when Brad Delp hits the falsetto on "signed a record company contract."

2. "Baby I could use a meal/Do what you feel"—"Do what you feel" may be the greatest sentiment ever in any art form.

3. "We'll help you party down!"—Probably the first "scene unity" song, long before hardcore. They just want to help. Minor Threat, move over.

4. "Some people call me Maurice"—It is so hard to start a nickname for yourself, trust me. Only a suave AOR blues guitarist like Steve Miller could pull it off.

5. "I thought that they were angels but much to my surprise/They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies"—My first concert, and totally gonzo; start off with a sensitive '70s girl song, and then drop the alien invasion on that shit.

6. "???"—Not '70s, but David Lee Roth perfected gonzo, coming up with the most indecipherable lyric of all time in this song's chorus.

7. "When in doubt, I whip it out"—I first heard this song at one of many classic-rock-fueled "dances" at my Christian youth summer camp. At the time, I truly believed that he meant his guitar. The camp must have worked.

8. "Make my living bustin' broncs/In the rodeo"—Phil Lynott wrote about America as a bloody Western or greaser fantasy, suggesting he was way more informed by movies and television than by ever being here. If I could make it half this cool, I would immediately start writing songs about Japan, or somewhere else I've never been.

9. "Generals gathered in their masses/Just like witches at black masses"—Ozzy was the first and best rapper to get away with rhyming a word with itself.

10. "You say hump and I'll jump"—Maybe the best rock and roll lyric I know about.

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Craig Finn is the singer-guitarist for the Hold Steady, who play Neumo's at 8 p.m. Sat., Oct. 15. $10 adv.

 
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