1998: The Year in Lists

Brian Alcorn's Top 10 Songs Bay Area Radio Missed the Boat On
Any music fan can name dozens of wonderful, obscure songs that never made it on the radio, but here are 10 wonderful mainstream singles that got spins in other markets, yet somehow failed to impress local music directors:

1) Lucinda Williams, "Right in Time": KFOG picked up on the swampy groove of "Can't Let Go"; otherwise one of the year's best and most talked-about albums (Car Wheels on a Gravel Road) would have had no local airplay whatsoever. Trouble is, "Can't Let Go" was the second single. Oops.

2) The Mavericks, "Tell Me Why": If a great country band that can't get on country radio does a great pop record that can't get on pop radio, does it actually make a sound?

3) Beth Orton, "She Cries Your Name": Memo to Alice (KLLC) -- Like that Lilith thing you're doing. But why'd you miss this one? Not whiny enough?

4) Jeff Buckley, "Everybody Here Wants You": Even a tragic death couldn't get Buckley airtime in the Bay Area. His posthumous album was unfinished in the extreme, but there's nothing unfinished about this soulful, smooth, sexy ballad.

5) David Garza, "Slave": Everything Rufus Wainwright wants to be.
6) Son Volt, "Driving the View": Overlooked masterpiece on an underrated album by an overrated band. Enough to make one carsick.

7) Billy Bragg & Wilco, "California Stars": Odd collaboration among a British folkie, an altcountry pioneer, and long-dead icon Woody Guthrie produced one of the tenderest, most compelling records of the year. But if you wanted to hear it, you had to get thee to a Virgin Megastore listening post.

8) Gomez, "78 Stone Wobble": Too hip for KFOG, too rough for Alice. Yo, Live 105 (KITS)! This was your baby all the way. What's up?

9) Golden Smog, "Until You Came Along": A flawless pop gem.
10) Barenaked Ladies, "One Week": Eventually found its way into regular rotation here, but that was several weeks after release, and long after this infectious ditty became the breakout hit for this 10-year-old Canadian band.

Robert Arriaga's List of Bay Area Clubs That Shouldn't Have Closed ...
1) Trocadero: Booker George Lazaneo made this one of the best venues to catch good ol' punk rock, from Bad Brains to the Toy Dolls.

2) Chameleon: One of the best places to get drunk on cheap beer and catch live music of any stripe.

3) Starcleaners: So what if it was technically illegal and doomed to failure? It was a second home for new punk bands and death metal.

4) Cat's Alley Club: Bands complained about the sound, yet it was one of the few spaces that would touch underground hip-hop during the week and book death metal on Sundays. It's reopened as a dance-only venue.

... And Four That Show There's Hope
1) Justice League: Opened in 1997, but this year Michael O'Connor resurrected part of its Kennel Club past by adding rock to its already stellar world beat, DJ, and hip hop booking policy. So far this year it's hosted Neurosis, Fu Manchu, the Hellacopters, and Cornelius.

2) Annie's: It doesn't get any better than punk rock karaoke just across the street from police headquarters.

3) Storyville: Changed its booking policy this year and managed to become one of the best DJ clubs in the city.

4) Il Pirata: The bar's been around for years, but it recently became host to good monthly hip-hop parties such as "Brick."

Dave Clifford's 10 Things More Exciting Than 1998's Rock Music
1) Sex.
2) Jim Goad, The Redneck Manifesto (Simon & Schuster): Goad examines the unsavory topic of racism in America -- as directed against poor "white trash" -- with this bitingly funny and baiting frolic through our subsumed class structure.

3) The paintings of Joe Coleman (www.heck.com/coleman): Packing more apocalyptic chaos and rabid catharsis within a single canvas than any rock band produced this year, artist/misanthrope Coleman's surreal visuals astound in detail, color, and execution.

4) Dock Boggs, Country Blues (Revenant): The same ghastly horror lurking within Robert Johnson's antique recordings haunts this 21-track archive of Boggs' shrieking detuned-banjo standards.

5) Anton LaVey, Satan Speaks (Feral House): Founder of the Church of Satan, LaVey exited this mortal coil just after completing this grumpy, yet witty collection of essays.

6) John Waters, Pecker: The postmodern film-sleaze king decries highbrow art and declares the end of irony with his usual perky candor.

7) Elvis on Tour: The King topped the recent zombified reanimations of murdered rap stars with this bizarre tour video, which shows footage of the bloated Elvis on giant screens accompanying a live band.

8) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, live at the Warfield, Sept. 16: Cave's slithering insincerity mixes a lounge lizard showman's grace with compulsive acts of passion -- be they religious, sexual, or violent. Here, he demonstrated how his sentimental music can lurch into pure fury at the twist of a knife.

9) E-Bay (www.ebay.com): The fastest, most enjoyable way to find all the useless collectible crap one could ever want -- then launch bidding wars against other losers for stuff with little to no value.

10) David Lee Roth, Crazy From the Heat: Diamond Dave's book demonstrates the insight, humor, and goofy charm behind every kick, every squeal, and every scourged brown M&M.

Sam Prestianni's Top Three 1998 Addictions
As a singular storm of extreme musicality and poetry in commotion, no one matches Polly Jean Harvey. An English country lass with one stiletto heel on the Yorkshire moors and another in the backwoods juke joints of the Mississippi Delta, Harvey channels the collective spirit of wrongfully spurned women the world over. Tunes like "Joy" and "My Beautiful Leah" on Is This Desire? shake up the viscera with a rib-cage-rattling intensity that reminds me I'm human. What more can one ask from a mere pop record?

Gillian Welch reaches into the dusky corners of the soul with tracks like "The Devil Had a Hold of Me" and "I'm Not Afraid to Die" on Hell Among the Yearlings. The album's apparently a coming-out rite for this high-bred, former new-country wanna-be who finally found her true voice as an all-American girl from the mining towns of Appalachia. It's perhaps an unlikely conversion of faith, but the timelessness in Welch's bluesy storytelling and the candor in her voice belie the lack of grit beneath her fingernails.

The duende of twentysomething Mexican singer Lhasa de Sela comes across like something out of a dream on her debut album, La Llorona. Think of the old-soul beauty of Peruvian goddess Susana Baca or Cape Verdean diva Cesaria Evora combined with the evocative sensuality of torch singer Cassandra Wilson. Toss in a South of the Border-styled rhythmic canter and the serpentine whorl of klezmer, the magic realism of Marquez and the surrealistic fan-tasy of Borges. Lhasa's from-the-gut passion says she's in no way fooling around -- she has to sing.

Craig Smith's Top Five Dumbest Decisions in Hip Hop, 1998
5) Oakland hit-maker E-A-Ski chooses DreamWorks SKG to release his highly publicized Earthquake. Sporting a contract that his label reps deem too lucrative, this quake will indefinitely wait.

4) Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page pair up for the Godzilla soundtrack. Nuff said.
3) Overhyped and underperforming Canibus selects alleged gun-pointer Wyclef Jean as his manager. Jean must have thoroughly read the Death Row Records expose Have Gun Will Travel.

2) Dionne Warwick miserably revamps "What the World Needs Now" with Big Daddy Kane, Kurupt, Coolio, etc. This from the woman who once referred to a prominent rap artist as "Snoop Doggy Doo Doo."

1) The Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard did so many dumb things this year, it's hard to say which was most dimwitted: bum-rushing the stage at the Grammys, changing his name to "Big Baby Jesus," failing to pay child support, threatening to kill his child's mother, being arrested multiple times and missing court dates, or stealing a $50 pair of Nike sneakers in Virginia. A source close to the Dirty One felt that "all the publicity was great."

Denise Sullivan's Geezer Rock Top 10 That -- Incredibly -- Does Not Include Lucinda Williams

1) Three nights of Cheap Trick as they re-created their first three albums at the Great American Music Hall.

2) Reissues. So many titles, so little time: Dylan's Live 1966; Kinks and Pretty Things catalogs; Mick Ronson's Slaughter on 10th Avenue.

3) Geezer wannabes Elliott Smith and Beck: XO and Mutations tie for albums of the year.

4) Kate and Anna McGarrigle live with special guest Loudon Wainwright III: Emotional content plus superb songcraft and musicianship put it in my top five shows ever.

5) Led Zeppelin at Concord Pavilion: Actually, it was just Page and Plant, but the all-Zep rep was wonderful.

6) X reunion with Billy Zoom at the Trocadero (and the $10 baby T's).
7) Current guilty pleasure (a geezer concept if there ever was one): New Radicals' "You Get What You Give" for its Todd Rundgren-style Philly soul hook.

8) Patti Smith singing Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" at the Fillmore for double geezer value.

9) Screen gems: Use of old Yes and King Crimson tunes in Buffalo '66; VH1's Behind the Music and Legends; Beatles' Anthology, twice as long on laserdisc; Storefront Hitchcock; Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog; Dylan's "The Man in Me" in The Big Lebowski.

10) British music magazine Mojo, especially the September "American Giants" issue: Interviews with the Artist, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Dr. John, and Randy Newman.

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