The great heads of Oklahoma have, adorably, decided that we need to up our street cred by officially designating one lucky tune as our residential rock song of choice, and, after much voting, nominating and narrowing down, we've arrived at 10 wildly eclectic choices for which rock god best says "Proud Okie."
Some of the picks are daring, creative and unorthodox. Others are perplexing, awkward and out of place. Some are too on the nose in their obvious significance; others are abstract and elusive in meaning. Several have no business being on the list, and just a few seem too perfect to be true.
The requirements for eligibility seem to be loose and open-ended. As long as someone from Oklahoma is connected to its creation in some way (no matter how questionable the significance of their involvement may be), the song is in. That's probably the best philosophy for an undertaking driven so exclusively by personal preference: allow everything and let the voters sort it out. General consensus is all that matters; majority rules, and that's that.
So, sort it out we must. Voting ends on Nov. 15, and it's up to you, my fellow Oklahomans, to examine the candidates and make the most informed, responsible vote possible. Election season is upon us, and I beseech you: don't succumb to the paralyzing apathy that's left our country in shambles. Our state needs you now more than ever, and it's up to you to exercise your inalienable, democratic right to choose which song best represents you as a citizen.
If it makes it easier, you can just get it all out of the way on Nov. 4. After you cast your vote for President Obama, go home, jump online (www.oklahomarocksong.org) and pick your song. You can vote for change, then vote for rock.
To make things easier, I've written you a cheat sheet for reference during the decision making process. As always, my personal opinion comes free and unsolicited (songs are listed in ascending order, from worst to best), but I urge you to go with your heart on this one. Your opinion is too important to be swayed by a goober like myself. This is America (more specifically, Oklahoma), and your decision is your identity. This is a big decision.
Don't blow it.
10. The All-American Rejects, "Move Along"
Let's get the negative words out of the way now: If the Rejects are elected to represent me as a music lover, I'll move to Arkansas.
I get it; they're a massively popular top-forty band from Stillwater and we're all proud of them. But choosing "Move Along" would be akin to Louisiana voting "Oops! I Did it Again" as its official pop song. Sure, they've sold a lot of records, but do they have the staying power and experience to represent the interests of several million listeners?
9. Elvis Presley, "Heartbreak Hotel"
The song may have been written by an Oklahoma school teacher, but I'm pretty sure another state already owns the rights to Elvis. Seriously, I don't even know how this is legal. We might as well pick a Beatles song. I heard John Lennon recorded here once. That qualifies, right? As long as we're co-opting, I'm going to go ahead and throw out "I am the Walrus" as an 11th nomination. Send your write-in ballots to firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. JJ Cale, "After Midnight"
Here's a case of having the perfect artist, but a less-than-appropriate song. Sure, the track was made famous by Eric Clapton, and Cale himself is a perfect candidate to remind people of the continued relevance of that famous Tulsa Sound. But do we really want our state chorus to be "After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out"?
7. The Ventures, "Walk, Don't Run"
These bastions of surf-rock may have been wildly influential as instrumentalists, but their connection to Oklahoma is tenuous (their home is Washington), and the music is, by nature, too abstract to draw a concrete connection to our state. It's an interesting choice, and it's impressive to see such a low-key track in the top 10. But number one should go to something more defining, more literal.
6. The Call, "Oklahoma"
Here's the requisite "I Love the '80s!" nod. You can't get much better than new-wave pop with killer Okie imagery, and, lyrically, it's probably in the top three (references to religious fervor and tornadoes seal the deal). Unfortunately, the music is dated and its anthemic drive is a bit too Tulsa Oilers time-out to really seem like the classy choice.
5. Wanda Jackson, "Let's Have a Party"
Touted as the "Queen of Rockabilly," Jackson rocked out and paved the road for female artists like Janis Joplin, and this is definitely a worthy contender. The song's not really about anything, but as a state anthem, it's broad and light enough to get a pass. It's not the perfect choice, but it's a damn good one.
4. The Flaming Lips, "Do You Realize?"
Most people under 30 are probably voting for this one, and, in many ways, it really is the best choice. It's not too pointed (no explicit references to Oklahoma) and the lyrics are poignant, relentlessly optimistic and emotionally universal. The Lips will be eternally connected to our state, and we're lucky to have them. They make us look good (if a little crazy). But there are just a few choices that may be better...
3. Three Dog Night, "Never Been to Spain"
Everyone knows this song, and the line "Well, I never been to Heaven, but I been to Oklahoma" alone makes it a top choice. Again, though, the band's lack of connection to our state (besides the songwriter of this particular song, Hoyt Axton--not a member of the band) prevents it from getting my number one vote. The lyrics are strong enough, but we need our representative to be both iconic and forever tied to us.
2. John Moreland & the Black Gold Band, "Endless Oklahoma Sky"
Moreland is a very talented individual who's been somewhat overlooked by his hometown (that'd be us), so I was overjoyed to see him on the shortlist. This is a perfect song--longing, hopeful and unapologetically regional. His resilient spirit as a young, ambitious musician, coupled with the obvious affection for his hometown, is perfectly captured in this title track to his debut album. Musically, it's all Mellencamp and Springsteen colliding with Moreland's own aggressive instincts as a rocker, and it'd be great if this won.
1. Leon Russell, "Home Sweet Oklahoma"
Here it is: the perfect choice. This is our official state rock song. A teenager leaves Oklahoma to pursue fame and fortune in Hollywood, becomes an icon (playing/recording with Phil Spector, Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys, among many others), but never falls out of love with Tulsa. He comes back to town, starts his own studio on 3rd Street (The Church), and brings members of the freakin' Beatles to record. That's the bottom line: Leon Russell brought the Beatles to Tulsa. That's why he's number one.
So there it is. Happy voting. Remember, this is permanent. We don't get a do-over in four years-- the president may be temporary, but this song is forever. Think hard before you carelessly throw a vote towards your favorite band on the list--this isn't about favorites, it's about what's best for our country.
Here's a sampling of the best stuff happening this week. On Thursday, there's a plethora of shows to choose from, starting with the Dark Star Orchestra recreating the Grateful Dead at Cain's Ballroom. Reign of Kindo plays down the street at the Marquee, while S.T.O. happens at Plan B. For the young'uns, Dead City Dregs, Under Suspition, Excess Enemy, The Rippers and Dirty Mugz assault the Pinkeye.
For Friday, the place to be is, without a doubt, Lil Wayne at the BOK Center. This is the perfect inaugural hip-hop show for the arena. Wayne is both critically acclaimed and massively popular, and supposedly puts on one hell of a show. If that's too wild or expensive for ya, Dustin Pittsley Band will be playing at Plan B, Billy Joe Winghead is taking over Mercury Lounge, and Wighead gets all weird and zany at the Soundpony. Bullet for My Valentine, Bleeding Through and Black Tide are at Cain's, O' Pioneers, Over Stars and Gutters are at the Monolith, and Fist INC is at the Pinkeye.
Saturday, the party will be hoppin' at the Soundpony, which becomes an indie dance club as DJ Moody has his Uber Revolution CD release party. Jeremy Johnson and the Lonesome Few play Mercury Lounge, while Whirligig drops by Plan B. Dustin Pittsley plays another gig with Steve Pryor at Exit 6c, and Joesf Glaude, Brian Henke and Pete Astor chill at Firey Brothers Music in Sand Springs.
Sunday's a pretty quiet night, but if you frequent the First Street Music Hall (the new name for the Capella's/Blank Slate/Exit 6c Complex), you probably know and love that ubiquitous bartender Majda. Capella's will be hosting a celebration of her birth, so come say happy birthday and buy the girl a shot or two.
After that, the next big show happens on Tuesday when MTV up-and-comer Shwayze plays with Tyga at Cain's. The Pinkeye will simultaneously host yet another all-ages hardcore show with Hoods, Sworn Against and I Know a Rhino.
Lastly, on Wednesday, the Brady Theater will be converted into a temple of rawk as cheeky modern rock hedonists Buckcherry headline with Shinedown. Saving Abel and Violence to Vegas will open the show.
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