Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Return of Throwback Training Tunes

Also know by the working title …. Throwback Training Tunes 2: Electric Boogaloo
Last year I launched an ambitious plan for building a new running-playlist when my assorted collections of songs on my iPod had gotten a little stale.  The plan was to build a collection of at least one song from each year for 1980 – 1999.  Sadly, I failed to complete the task.  My own version of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony …. If Shubert had lazily taken a collection of already-finished music, assembled a mixture of musicians, and had them play the songs for him in any sequence, at any time, and in any place he wanted.  Yeah …. so  …. not like the Unfinished Symphony …. at all.

This time I’m looking for help from all my blogging friends.  Especially those with fond memories of Members Only, and Swatches, and Trapper-Keepers, and acid-wash jeans …. You get the idea.  I’m looking to you SUAR, BDD, Emz, Chris K., Kovas, Candice, Slomohusky.  You’ve all given great feedback when I had this rolling before, and I’d love some suggestions.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the Throwback Training Tunes project …

“I think it’s time for a bit of running-song archaeology, but not just some random search for long-lost running songs. Rather, I’m going to challenge myself a bit and try to come up with an honest-to-goodness running song from each of the last 20 years of the 20th century. I figure this will give me a reason to dig back through the mound of old CDs that I haven’t listened to in years to see if I can find some forgotten tunes that still have some mileage in them. Also hope it may introduce some of you to some songs you may have never heard, or may have forgotten about.

My criteria for a good running song is entirely subjective, so attempting to describe it is fairly futile. It’s one of those things where you listen to it a couple times, and you just know it needs to join the playlist. I’ll test-drive anything I post about with at least two runs, and even try to link to a video or audio clip of the song. If nothing else the videos should be good for a laugh. Remember, this was the days when the music was the sell, and the artist wasn’t always meant to be seen. Very different than today’s music world. I’ll also try to share some memories or factoids regarding the tunes if there are any to be had.”

Originally I had a rule that none of the songs could already be on an existing playlist, but I’m throwing that rule out.  Anything goes.  Additionally, since I got some great comments with additional suggestions for songs, I’m looking for input from the blogging world.  Send me your suggestions and I’ll give them a listen.  Ideally I need ideas for the ‘missing’ years, but I’m open to anything from 1980 – 1999.  What makes your ears happy while your feet are screaming?  What fuels your run?

Here is what the list looked like after the last update:
’Ceremony’ - New Order (1981) – New Order is a very black or white group with most people. They either like them or have no interest in them. I fall into the ‘like them’ camp, but I find my feelings about their individual songs are somewhat black or white. I either really like a song, or just don’t care for it. Not much gray area. This is one of their top 5 for me, and until I started putting this list together I never realized or considered what a great running song this is for me. The first song on any of my playlists is a critical position for me. It needs to have a good intro, a nice gradual build, and ideally be something that matches the general mood as the sun is just starting to rise. Gets the brain working, the blood pumping, and sets the tone for the miles ahead. I had never found a first-song that could match the live version of Bad by U2 from the Wide Awake in America Album, which I never seem to get tired of despite having listened to it enough that it is tattoed on my eardrums. I think I may have finally found a worthy foe with this one. The history of this song is pretty interesting, and a bit tragic, with the end of Joy Division and the start of New Order, but it’s one of the first songs from New Order, and arguably one of their best. There are several versions of this song available, some by other artists (Joy Division, Radiohead, etc.), and a few different versions by New Order. I’d recommend the version from the New Order – Singles album.

’Don’t Change’ – INXS (1982) – I’m a big INXS fan, and have had lots of their songs in and out of playlist rotation while running over the years. Since I’m such a fan, I had to work very hard to separate putting them on my iPod because I like them versus having them there because I consider them good ‘running songs’. In a nice bit of serendipity, it turns out that probably my favorite INXS song of them all also turns out to be a great running song on its own merit. I’ve listened to this song on every run since I started this exercise, and still like it as much as the first time. Definitely gets the blood pumping.

’Heartbreak Beat’ – Psychedelic Furs (1987) – Most well known for ‘Pretty In Pink’, the Furs actually have a lot of good songs out there, and I’d highly recommend their greatest hits album.  This song has a great chorus, and an interesting mix of instruments, and is good for a pick-me-up during a long training run.

‘Rain in the Summertime’ – The Alarm (1987) – Really like the Alarm, a great band from Wales that was unfortunate enough to continually get crushed under the weight of U2.  They’ve got a number of good running songs, and the live versions of their songs (especially from the ‘Electric Folklore’ album) are packed with energy both from the band and the audience.  This link is for the studio version of ‘Rain in the Summertime’, one of their bigger hits.  Major bonus points for the abundance of hair in the video.  These guys had to keep touring to cover their hairspray bills.

‘Mandinka’ – Sinead O’Connor (1987) – Unfortunately Sinead O’Conner didn’t do a lot during her career to make people like her as a person.  Controversial and unapologetic, but she was definitely talented.  This is the first song of hers I ever heard, and I still like it as much today as I did 20+ years ago.  Great beat, great chorus, excellent song for running.  She had considerably less concern with haircare products than the boys from The Alarm.

‘Crash’ – The Primitives (1988) – This song had a bit of a resurgence when it was remixed for the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack, but I much prefer the original version from ’88.  The newer version is heavily overproduced, and loses some of the basic appeal of the original.  Unfortunately none of their other songs seemed to live up to the promise of ‘Crash’, but this song still rocks.

‘Don’t Look Back’ – Fine Young Cannibals (1988) – Not really sure what it is about this song, and didn’t have high hopes for this being good for running, but for some odd reason it really works for me.  Fair to say the lead singer for FYC has an unusual voice, but this is a good song with a good beat and chorus.  Not one of my strongest recommendations on a relative basis, but I’ve listened to it on several runs, and it hasn’t gotten tired yet.

’Always Saturday’ – Guadalcanal Diary (1989) – I have to laugh at the irony of songs like this one.  When alternative music was moving more and more into the mainstream in the late 80s, bands like Guadalcanal Diary would put out albums of their normal disenfranchised music, but they would typically include one pop-ish tune in the hopes of it becoming popular, so they could then wallow in the irony of one of their songs going mainstream, and put out a smarmy, sarcastic video where they basically mocked anyone that would like the song.  The irony is that 20+ years later, the only songs of theirs that are worth listening to, and are even remembered, are usually the pop songs that they included due to their disdain for mainstream music listeners.  Whatever the motivation behind the song, this one is a nice diversion during a run.  Kinda laid-back, with lyrics that make you think of lazy weekends.  Craptastic and bizarre video as well, which doesn’t do the song any favors with first-time listeners.

Slide – Flesh for Lulu (1989) – This was a favorite band during the college years, that had two great albums (‘Long Live the New Flesh’ & ‘Plastic Fantastic’), and then faded away.  Saw these guys in concert at a small club in D.C. and it was probably the best live show I’ve ever seen. This is a GREAT song for getting you pumped up during a run.  I like a lot of their songs, but this is definitely the best of the bunch for a running playlist.  This one appears to be fairly hard to find, but I would HIGHLY recommend it. Couldn’t find a video for this one, but while looking for a video discovered that this was on the soundtrack for the movie ‘Uncle Buck’ with John Candy.  Not an association I would have come up with in a million years.

Head Like a Hole - Nine Inch Nails (1989) – Angry, angry song, from an angry, angry band … but sometimes you need a little angry. Never really been a bit fan of NIN, but this song gets the blood pumping. Similar effect during a run as the handful of Eminem songs that seem to pop up on many of the running playlists that folks post.

Forgotten Years – Midnight Oil (1989) – These guys made a living off of being political and preachy with their music, and I like several  of their songs, but I found the ultra-political angle a little tiring after a while. This song is from the ‘Blue Sky Mining’ album, which I recall really liking during college.  This song is a little preachy as well, but it’s a positive message and is set to some really good music.  Strong chorus that’s really helpful when the legs are getting a bit weary.  And who doesn’t love any song from a giant bald man?

Stone Cold Yesterday – The Connells (1990) – This may be the band that I’ve seen in concert more times than any other.  LOVED this band during college.  Interestingly, interesting to me anyhow, these guys are from right here in Raleigh, and the lead singer worked in the UNC music department for a while.  I think they may still be making music, but the band lineup has changed several times, so I don’t really know what they would sound like today.  This is the title track from the ‘Stone Cold Yesterday’ album, which has a great guitar-driven sound and a strong chorus.  This one seems hard to find as well, which is a shame.  I’d highly recommend checking out any of their first 5 albums, especially ‘Fun & Games’.

Rush - Big Audio Dynamite II (1990) – How to describe this song? The more I listen to it, it’s kind of a cross between the Clash and an alternative incarnation of the Black Eyed Peas.  I know, that’s a hard picture to paint in your mind.  You’ve probably heard this song at some point in time, and may not realize it.  Just a fun, quirky song with lots of changes in beat and pacing that takes your mind off the running at hand for a while.

Mama Said Knock You Out - LL Cool J (1990) - I actually bought this cassette when it came out in ’90, and listened to it in my big yellow Sports Walkman while jogging back in the day. Pulled this down off of iTunes and give it a try on a couple runs, and found that it still holds up pretty well. Brings back good memories for me, so that’s always a plus, but memories aside it has a good fired-up factor which is helpful on a tough run. Definitely worth a listen. Hope you like it.

Three Strange Days – School of Fish (1991) – This song was a happy rediscovery for me. Brings back some good college roadtrip memories. The driving guitar and drums that kick in soon after the intro definitely kick up the energy while banging out the miles. A bit of ear-GU, if you will. Great song from an OK album, but really the only album they put out that held any interest for me. Every once in a while this song gets some random airplay, so you may have heard it before.

Enter Sandman – Metallica (1991) – The popularity of this song marked a sad era for many a headbanger. This song, and the black album, took Metallica into the mainstream, and suddenly everyone knew who they were. My college roommate was a big Metallica fan, so I had heard songs from Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, etc. more than I would have ever wanted long before the Black album arrived. Most of their stuff was way too headbanger for me, unless I was having one of those days that needed a soundtrack of anger. The black album was metal for the masses, and it definitely found an audience. Enter Sandman has a great combo of guitar and drums that works great for a training run. So far it’s a welcome addition to the playlist, but I’ve heard this song so many times I think I may get tired of it pretty quickly. Time will tell.
Rearviewmirror – Pearl Jam (1993) – I was a big fan of Pearl Jam back when they were hugely popular, but by their 4th album I found that most of their stuff had gone in a different direction than the sound I really liked. They have quite a few songs that make for good running music, but this song has a combination of sound and lyrics that really bring a wave of energy. “I gather speed, from you f-ing with me” …. Gotta love that lyric. Note of caution – running in full grunge apparel, although stylish and rebellious, is not recommended.

A Murder of One - Counting Crows (1993) – The Crows’ first album was a thing of beauty from beginning to end, and this song is a GREAT running song from the second the drums and guitars kick in after a brief intro. Amazing that such a strong debut album could be followed up by so many craptacular efforts. Tried to see these guys in concert in Florida right after this album came out, but Adam Duritz was so stoned that they couldn’t even manage to go on stage. I suppose that’s considered cool if you’re a rock star, but not so cool for those who were foolish enough to buy tickets. 
Looking Through Patient Eyes - PM Dawn (1993) – I’m guessing you didn’t see this one coming. Stumbled across this disc while digging through the old collection, and threw this song on the iPod with no real expectations, other than remembering I liked it when it originally came out. Surprisingly, I find it works for me as a running song. Mellows out the middle miles of a run nicely with a smooth sound. Not really sure what ever became of these guys, but this disc was pretty big back in the day.
She – Green Day (1994) – A song that got greatly overshadowed by the other hugely-successful and ultimately overplayed songs from the Dookie album. Starts out with a nice quiet buildup to the typical Green Day energy you would expect. Kind of a short song, but still good for passing the time while training.
Machinehead – Bush (1994) – One of several very popular songs from Bush’s most popular album, Sixteen Stone. The intro to this song is one of those sports-arena staples that you’ll hear during timeouts or breaks in the action. The driving beat in this one is great for a pick-me-up during a run. Not really sure exactly what the lyrics are supposed to mean … but sometimes it's less about the lyrics and more about the energy.

I’ve got some Van Halen, U2, Foo Fighters, Rush, and Beastie Boys currently getting a test-drive in the iPod.  What else should I add?  Bring the noise.


  1. Well, I know you have 1987 pretty well covered but this is just a good song. Men Without Hats, Pop Goes the World.

    Bang Your Head (Metal Health) by Quiet Riot was released in 1983 and was one I used to listen to when hitting the exercise bike!

  2. Here's a few for now. It doesn't really fill in the gaps, but it's stuff that takes me back! I liked all your selections, they were good reminders! And I can't wait to see the final list!

    1978- My Best Friend's Girl by the Cars
    1983- Blue Monday by New Order
    1985- Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams
    1988- Fallen Angel by Poison
    1989- Birdhouse in your Soul- They Might Be Giants
    1990- When I'm President by Extreme
    1991- Been Caught Stealin by Jane's Addiction

  3. This freaking rocks.

    A man after my own music loving heart.

    Down with OPP ---- ya, you know me!

  4. So glad you didn't mention my name for help! :)

  5. Jill - your name was implied. Didn't call you out since it was a given :) Any good ones?

  6. How about the Clash - "Lost in the Supermarket," etc? I also love the House Martins - "Happy Hour Again" and anything by the Ramones. Hoodo Gurus too.

  7. Flesh for Fantasy, Billy Idol, 1983
    Armageddon It, Def Leppard, 1987
    November Rain, Guns n Roses, 1992
    I Confess, The English Beat, 1981
    Superman, REM, 1986

    BTW, I went to record The Foo Fighters movie on Monday but was an hour too late. I searched and couldn't find it again. Bummer.

  8. It Take Two - Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock....always gets me moving.

  9. I don't have any ideas, but I do want to say that I think your plan is awesome and good luck!! :0)

  10. Jimi Hendrix - axis:bold as love

    A long run favorite!!