In Robert Forster’s book The 10 Rules of Rock n’ Roll, rule number 2 is: ‘The second-last song on every album is the weakest.’ While I think this is true in many cases, I am going to provide you, in order of release, 10 second-last tracks that are up there with the best songs on the album, if not, THE best song. These songs are listed in chronological order.
6. Cheap Trick – Come on, Come On
My favourite Cheap Trick song is the second-last track from In Color: Come On, Come On, although I must say that the production could be better and I prefer the version on Cheap Trick At Budokan, which, as everybody knows, is the best live album ever recorded. Like my favourite band ever, Nirvana (this song reminds me of Drain You), Cheap Trick play an unusual and awesome alchemy of pop, punk and (70s) metal.
Most Cheap Trick album covers feature just the singer and the bass player because they’re the best looking members of the band. The other two guys are kinda funny lookin’.
7. Stevie Wonder – Lately
I remember discovering my dad’s copy of Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July on tape when I was a kid. My dad (who mainly listens to jazz) tends to be attracted to songs for the social/political messages contained within as much as the music itself and I suspect he (who has a keen interest in the civil rights movement) got this album because it featured the song Happy Birthday, which Stevie wrote as a campaign to have the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. become a national holiday.
The second-last song on Hotter Than July is Lately, a heart-wrenching ballad (what a vocal performance!) about suspecting that your beloved has fallen in love with someone else. While he can’t keep the facade that everything’s hunky dory, she too, as much as she tries to be covert, can’t hide what her heart wants. Eek. Looks like this guy’s headin’ for Splitsville.
8. REM – Country Feedback
Country Feedback is the second last track off REM’s Out of Time, which features some the band’s best and worst songs. Reportedly, Country Feedback was recorded on the first take with Michael Stipe improvising over a repeated chord progression, and it sounds like it. It’s immediate and unselfconscious. The lyrics are largely nonsense, he is just emoting, diving straight into the deep subconscious sea where our emotions reside…or something like that.
Other great second last REM tracks are Nightswimming, (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville, Hairshirt and Parakeet.
9. Cat Power – Crossbones Style
Crossbones Style is the second-last track from Cat Power’s Moon Pix album. It was recorded in Sing Sing Recording Studios in Melbourne with members of the Dirty Three. Chan Marshall, one of my favourite and most affecting vocalists ever, wanted this video to be just like Madonna’s Lucky Star video, which it is, except 100 times more awkward.
10. Dinosaur Jr. – I Don’t Want To Go There
The second-last song on Dinosaur Jr’s Farm is I Don’t Wanna Go There. Like many Dino Jr tracks, it’s a country folk song with the guitars turned up to 11. WARNING: the outro guitar solo on this song is a face-melting guitar solo. If you listen to it your face will literally melt, like on that Peter Gabriel album cover. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!