Top 50 Favourite Songs: Frank Kogan

The Shirelles’ “Tonight’s The Night” isn’t about the night, it’s the need for the night. And Debbie Deb, from her other dance hit, “Lookout weekend, here I come,” not the party but anticipating the party. “When I hear music it makes me dance, you’ve got the music, here’s my chance.” Something about to happen, something asking to happen, something needs to happen; longing and fear of what might happen. This song is the ache, the need. Say you’re gonna meet me (tonight’s the night), but I don’t know, I just don’t know, I might…

On the other side there’s the Stones, something twisted, something off: I’m watching my TV, a man comes on and tells me he can’t be a man, I can’t get no, no no no, the drums, wham wham, pop-pop-pop, and the guitar, the (in its day) subversion, the daring fuzz noise, the great drama (in its night), aggression and excitement, anticipation… Fast forward to Brazil, DJ Guuga, don’t worry about your ex-wife, come to the cabaré. DJ Wesley Gonzaga—my friend David Cooper Moore’s description, “For a good stretch this song is propelled primarily by a gun being cocked and a synth piano line that sounds like what happens when you’re about to change the battery in your smoke detector and it chirps right in your face. And it fucking rocks.” So the dance is no longer coming up from the bass but down from that high annoying screaming beep. And if you forgot or never knew what 1965 was like, the impact of the guitar, it was the piercing smoke alarm, the noise that Keith Richard unearthed, a man comes on the radio… the need, the night in the distance, I can’t get no.

This list. It’s all Shirelles and Rolling Stones, in different times and places, inhabiting different bodies, wearing different clothes. That’s the trouble with best-of lists; it’s a highlight reel, but a highlight reel isn’t the game. So my list (top 50 songs, hah) not only doesn’t represent the world, or music, it barely represents me, either. You wouldn’t know that at age 9 I’d memorized every silly song on the 1st Allan Sherman record and the 3rd Tom Lehrer, or that from 2004 to 2016 my end-of-year lists had almost all female singers (on this list they get superseded by 2003 earlier and male Soundcloud creeps later), or that funk didn’t just reorganize my sense of musical relations but of human relations.

Methodology: I was going to take 5 songs per decade from the 1930s to the 2010s, no more than 2 from the Stones; only 2 or 3 from the 1920s, ’cause I know fuck-all about the ’20s, and anyway the record industry didn’t rev up big until ’25; and 1 or 2 from 2020-21—so that’s maybe a total of 5 from the ’20s!—and if there are a couple spots left I’ll give one more each to the ’70s and ’80s. Anyway, I got 2 from the 2020s and only 2 from the 1920s, and it turns out I also know fuck-all about the ’40s, so only 3 there, and I know fuck-all about the ’30s but have no shortage—so with 3 spots in hand I give one extra to the ’70s, pass over the ’80s, and give one more to the ’10s and another to the ’30s—and since I know fuck-all about the ’30s I don’t know the grumpy old peak achievements so instead I have fun, Billie swinging and Stanley yucking it up on behalf of Anne Boleyn and all the joke songs and show songs and folk songs I’d otherwise left off (first heard it on a Kingston Trio record), and we finally get our party.

Here’s the playlist.


In reverse alphabetical order:

Waring’s Pennsylvanians “Love For Sale
The Wailers “Jailhouse
V.I.M. “Maggie’s Last Party
Hugh Roy (U-Roy) & Hopeton Lewis “Drive Her Home
Trick Daddy & Trina “Nann Nigga
Les Têtes Brulées “Têtes Brulées

Teddy Yo “Gurage Tone
t.A.T.u. “Kosmos
T-ara “Lovey-Dovey
Donna Summer “I Feel Love
The Stooges “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
Spoonie Gee “Spoonin’ Rap
Britney Spears “…Baby One More Time
Slade “Cum On Feel The Noize
The Shirelles “Tonight’s The Night
Sheck Wes “Do That

The Sex Pistols “Anarchy In The UK
The Ronettes “Be My Baby
The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Elvis Presley “Baby Let’s Play House
Playboi Carti “Magnolia
Charley Patton “Mississippi Boweavil Blues
Charlie Parker’s Ri Bop Boys “Ko Ko

Panjabi MC ft. Jay-Z “Beware Of The Boys
The Orioles “It’s Too Soon To Know
Ninety One “Ah!Yah!Ma!
MC Teteu “Dingo Bell Sou Seu Papai Noel
Kim Wan-sun “The Dance In The Rhythm

Mory Kanté “Yéké Yéké
Lonnie Johnson “Tomorrow Night
Blind Willie Johnson “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed
Little Willie John “Fever
Stanley Holloway “With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm


Billie Holiday “Swing! Brother, Swing!
Hole “Violet
Lefty Frizzell “Long Black Veil
The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes For You
The Fall “Totally Wired
DJ Wesley Gonzaga, MC Cyclope & MC Laureta “Sarra Nela Com Fuzil Na Bandolera

DJ Guuga & MC Pierre “Cabaré” [flashing lights in the vid]
Debbie Deb “When I Hear Music
Bing Crosby “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime
Alfred Cortot “Prelude No. 4 In E Minor (Opus 28 No. 4)” by Frédéric Chopin
Company B “Fascinated
Jerry Byrne “Lights Out
Brown Eyed Girls “Smile Chock Chock

James Brown “Prisoner Of Love” live at the Apollo Vol. II
Baauer “Harlem Shake
Louis Armstrong “Laughin’ Louie
50 Cent “In Da Club


2 thoughts on “Top 50 Favourite Songs: Frank Kogan

  1. By year:

    –’20s (2): MC Wesley Gonzaga et al.; DJ Guuga & MC Pierre
    –’10s (6): Sheck Wes; MC Teteu; T-ara; Playboi Carti; Baauer; Ninety One
    –’00s (5): Brown Eyed Girls; Teddy Yo; t.A.T.u.; Panjabi MC ft. Jay-Z; 50 Cent
    –’90s (5): Trick Daddy & Trina: V.I.M.; Britney Spears; Hole; Les Têtes Brulées
    –’80s (5): Debbie Deb; Kim Wan-sun; Mory Kanté; Company B; The Fall
    –’70s (6): Spoonie Gee; Sex Pistols; Donna Summer; Stooges; Slade; U-Roy & Hopeton Lewis
    –’60s (5): Rolling Stones; Wailers; Ronettes; James Brown; Shirelles
    –’50s (5): Little Willie John; Flamingos; Elvis Presley; Jerry Byrne; Lefty Frizzell
    –’40s (3): Charlie Parker; Orioles; Lonnie Johnson
    –’30s (6): Waring’s Pennsylvanians; Alfred Cortot; Louis Armstrong; Stanley Holloway; Billie Holiday; Bing Crosby
    –’20s (2): Charley Patton; Blind Willie Johnson

    I notice that ’70s and earlier are more canonical than what comes later. For ’20s through ’50s that may be because the canon helped direct what I went back and heard and because, as I noted in my essay, I basically know fuck-all about those decades. The ’60s and ’70s are when people psychosocially like me were making good music and making the canon. Around 1980 we stopped being all that good, and in the ’00s I could start romping through YouTube, with a spillover effect on how I heard the two decades previous.

  2. Frequently asked questions:

    Do you really prefer “Totally Wired” to “Change On Me” and “West End Girls”?

    Yes, and to “That’s The Joint” and “Welcome To The Jungle,” at least in the moment I made this list. But I don’t prefer it to “Sister Ray” or “Like A Rolling Stone” or “Remember (Walking In The Sand)” or “96 Tears” or “Funky Broadway” or “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” The decade shenanigans were to stop the Sixties from dominating the list and to save me from serious boredom.

    Um, Frank, just because a party is fraught doesn’t mean it isn’t a party. In fact, being fraught might make the party more interesting.

    Okay, yes, don’t pick on me for my rhetorical devices. (And before Chuck throws it in my face, I do remember him quoting to me that I’d once said something like we don’t add fear and uncertainty to a party to make the party more realistic, we do it to make it a better party).

    Since you’re alphabetizing by surnames where applicable, and Little Willie John is alphabetized under John, why isn’t DJ Wesley Gonzaga alphabetized under Gonzaga?

    I don’t know. (And Gonzaga and Guuga end up next to each other either way.)

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