► Say My Name. When you sit down and really start thinking about girls’ names in rock songs, you could just keep going and going and going. Which is why this topic will be the subject for multiple playlists over the coming months.
As first in the series, this playlist narrows down the playing field to songs with girls’ names in the titles and features some of the most classic songs in this category, by both male and female artists.
► A countdown. In order of my personal favorites.
8 • Maggie May • Rod Stewart ► Certainly getting kicked in the head in the morning is no walk in the park, but does it justify telling a woman she looks old? If you’re looking for a quick way to end a relationship, that comment ought to do it.
7 • Jolene • Dolly Parton ► Country music is no stranger to the cheating heart. In this song, a woman pleads with another woman to stop stealing her man–and not in a I’ve-got-a-baseball-bat-and-I’m-not-afraid-to-use-it-on-your-car-windows kind of way. Here the narrator/singer lauds the other woman’s superior qualities in (what seems to be) an earnest appeal for the other woman to go ahead and take her fine self elsewhere.
These days we’re more accustomed to a song of this nature (be it country, r&b, pop or whatever) to sound more like a call-out for a catfight with a lot of derogatory names and putdowns–what sadly passes for “girl power” in our modern times. Leela James in “Music” observed years ago that she couldn’t even turn on the radio without hearing somebody hollering about, well, one kind of gal or another.
Maybe with “Jolene,” Parton catches more flies with honey than with vinegar–or a baseball bat.
6 • Layla • Eric Clapton ► I know you are expecting it, so here it is: This classic lament of a song–the longing for a captivating woman…who just happens to be your best friend’s wife? Is this rock-n-roll or a soap opera?
5 • Roxanne • The Police ► A Cinderella story–but in a song. Also: Put on the red light.
4 • Melissa• The Allman Brothers ► Interestingly enough, the name Melissa, though admittedly already very popular in the 1970s, did climb the charts after the release of this sweet little ditty, closing the decade as the second most popular baby girl name. Coincidence? I think not.
[ Sidebar ► I know you’re interested so here are the other most popular baby girl names of that era: No name ever unseated Jennifer, which reigned supreme as the number one name for girls throughout the entire decade. Other names topping the list were Amy, Michelle, Lisa, Angela, Heather, Jessica, Nicole, and Kimberly. Hmmm, will we see any of those names in future playlists in this series? ]
3 • Rhiannon • Fleetwood Mac ► Wouldn’t you love to love her?
2 • Billie Jean • Michael Jackson ► Don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts. Take my strong advice: Listen to the acoustic cover of this song by The Civil Wars. Whoo.
1 • Gloria • Them ► This song not only uses a girl’s name in the title but spells it out as part of the chorus! A pretty fitting pick for the number one slot on this playlist.
I probably should not be crazy about a song in which a guy goes on for over 6 minutes about a girl who came over “just around midnight,” but I am. The song’s grungy guitars and guttural vocals give this song a raw, almost primal, energy, and it has always seemed to me like the musical equivalent of Marlon Brano hollering for “Stella!!!!” in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Humorist Dave Barry once said that if you threw a guitar into a canyon, it would still play “Gloria” when it the bottom. While Barry may think this song is so easy that anyone–or no one–could play it, he still harbors a deep affection for the song. In fact, this linked article explains why humorist Dave Barry thinks “Gloria” is the best song ever.
[ Sidebar ► Them was Van Morrison’s early band. ] ■
► Bonus Tracks » Tupelo Honey / Crazy Love • Van Morrison ► The tender side of Van Morrison tunes, you know, to balance out the frank lustiness of “Gloria.” Like the 2 sides of a coin. ■
unless otherwise noted * graphics, photographs, text © 2016 hilary hall
► In the queue » songs for Christmas •