What didn’’t Make the Cut

by YES! Staff

What didn’t Make the Cut

Musical tastes are both subjective and learned. Songs often lodge in our consciousness because we first heard them during decisive moments in our lives, and the music carrries strong emotional associations for us. Songs that one person may love may make no impact on another person because there are no references to it in our repertoire of seminal experiences. On the intentional side of listening practice, critics and fans can learn to appreciate a song for its technical and innovative qualities. Here’s where it gets complicated: Great North Carolina songs must not only be great, but, in our estimation at least, they must either be made by a North Carolina artist or be related to the state in a topical way. We’ve already anticipated this protest: Where is “Carolina Girls” by the Chairmen of the Board? The song was recorded and is performed by an immensely popular group, it sings the praises of girls from North Carolina (“California girls are sexy and New York girls are too, but Carolina girls got good looks and sweet personality too”) and it’s an exemplar of one of our indigenous forms, beach music. The problem — and this is only going to throw salt in the wounds — is that neither of us can stand it. The melody is not particularly inventive and General Johnson’s voice is unimpressive. Now, you can add hypocrisy to your bill of charges. James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind” didn’t make our list initially. We knew it has strong associations for many North Carolinians, and JT is an accomplished artist that was produced by this state. The problem is that the song has just never really done much for either of us. Still, we made an accomodation and wedged it in by dropping “White Trash Heroes” by the Archers of Loaf, who were already represented with a better song. Also, a list such as this can easily become a roll call for great North Carolina artists. Mitch Easter, who is perhaps better known for his production work — most famously, Murmur by REM — found critical acclaim if not commercial success with his janglepop band, Let’s Active, in the 1980s. Still, compared to contemporaries Jeffrey Dean Foster and Don Dixon (represented on this list with the song “Black Death” by Arrogance”), Easter’s recorded output doesn’t hold up quite as well. Two songs by bands that included Easter landed on our list just shy of the 100 mark: a 1972 track called “The Hots” by Easter’s MC5-inspired outfit Rittenhouse Square, and “Every Word Means No” by Let’s Active that has become something of an MTV classic thanks to a second life on YouTube. It was easy to let go of 104 th ranked “Good-Bye Carolina” by Lyle Lovett. While it’s a good song that references North Carolina, Lone Star Lyle Lovett deserves a place on a Texas list. It was harder to drop 101 st -ranked “Confederate Soldier” by Chatham County Line, a solid cut by a really fine group. Let the brick-bats fly. — JG