We’re going to call this the Keith Richards Tribute List. Side man steps up for a turn out front on lead vocals. While Mr. Richards (pictured) is not featured on this list, he is indeed its very inspiration. We believe Keith deserves his own list, which we hope to bring you in a future editorial season. For now, be advised that there were some restrictions on eligible tunes. No co-lead vocalists (Mick Jones). No regularly contributing band features (George & Ringo). No guest stars (Roy Harper on “Have a Cigar”).
Interestingly, we learned something about the way that bands are promoted these days. Labels don’t promote a group with its individual members, they get behind songs. We were fortunate to push into the 90s with Oasis and Wilco.
Phil offered his 5 favorite cuts last month, now I step out for my turn. Here they are, submitted for your approval…
“Superman” – Mike Mills, REM
I credit Mike Mills with revealing to me the magic of backing vocals. But this cover of the 1969 The Clique song featured Mills front and center. Mills came out of Michael Stipe’s shadow in a big way on Life’s Rich Pageant. (The lead single, “Fall on Me,” was essentially a duet.) It shows the confidence the band had in Mills’s voice that this was chosen as the second of only two singles released from a record loaded with single-worthy tracks.
“I’m in Love with My Car” – Roger Taylor, Queen
It was all about “Bohemian Rhapsody” when I purchased this 45 in 1975. I was in sixth grade and collecting primarily AM radio singles when “Rhapsody” took my pre-adolescence by storm. But this B-side paean to machines, belted by Roger from behind the drum kit, also “got a grip on my boy-racer roll bar.” Roger reportedly locked himself in a closet until his bandmates agreed to make this the B-side, a decision which eventually caused some royalties strife between Roger and Freddie Mercury.
“Take it to the Limit” – Randy Meisner, Eagles
My favorite scene in the recent Eagles documentary is where Glen Frey and Randy Meisner come to blows backstage because Randy doesn’t want to sing this vocally-taxing crowd-pleaser every night. (Henley keeps security from breaking it up.) This ongoing dispute led to Meisner leaving the band. He was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, the very same bassist who had replaced him in Poco. Meisner re-recorded this track for his first solo record, Randy Meisner, with David Cassidy on backing vocals. C’mon Randy…
“It’s Just That Simple” – John Stirrat, Wilco
Legendary alt-country band Uncle Tupelo’s final lineup included bassist John Stirratt, who stuck with Jeff Tweedy when Jay Farrar left and Tweedy formed the soon-to-be-legendary band Wilco. Not only is this a great track reminiscent of a Jerry Garcia/Dead song, it’s notable for being the only Wilco song not sung by Tweedy. Stirratt also fronts his own group, The Autumn Defense, which occasionally opens for Wilco on tour.
“Black Water” – Patrick Simmons, Doobie Brothers
Guitarist Patrick Simmons stepped out from behind front man Tom Johnston for this #1 Doobies hit from 1975. This was originally the B-side to “Another Park, Another Sunday,” which reached #32 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Black Water” achieved the rare feat of reaching #1 having already been released as a B-side to another Hot 100 hit. My sister and I wore this 45 out on our Kenner Close ‘n’ Play. We simply could not get enough of “that funky Dixieland” and the killer a capella section.