Editor’s note: This is a companion piece to yesterday’s newsletter issue on R. Stevie Moore, by David Buck. Read that first, then come back here.
R. Stevie Moore’s vast body of work may intimidate some and may delight others. I’ve taken the liberty of curating a list of my top R. Stevie Moore songs that will entertain, amuse and otherwise. They also serve as a great introduction to the man and his work.
R. Stevie Moore Songs You Must Hear (Abridged Version)
“I Hate People” from Drumdrops and Everything you Ever Wanted to Know about R. Stevie Moore But Were Afraid to Ask. In this 1978 song, Moore sings, “something bad is happening to me, and it has to do with all of you I see.” The lyrics then go onto lamenting always wanting what you don’t have. What begins as catchy, straightforward punk rock with irreverent lyrics swells into an anthem of apathy and downright pessimism about life, love, and success. A loud, droning feedback hum starts toward the end of the track and continues up to its conclusion. The song originally appeared on a cassette club release, Drumdrops, in 1980, despite being written two years previously. Later, it appeared on an official album, Everything you Ever Wanted to Know about R. Stevie Moore but we’re Afraid to Ask on New Rose records in 1984 and again on 2017′s Make It Be, an album Moore recorded with musician Jason Falkner. The song is representative of everything Moore is about and is both rocking and bittersweet.
“Part of the Problem” from Glad Music. —this is hands-down my favorite RSM song. It sounds like a cross between the Beatles, Zappa, and The Clash. It is a thing of true beauty.
“Play Myself Some Music” from Teenage Spectacular. A beautiful, poignant soliloquy about the life of record lover and musician. It’s one of Moore’s best tunes.
“Pretend for a Second That You Are Very Intelligent” from Sample for Your Approval. The Residents vis a vis R. Stevie Moore. It has a few laugh-out-loud bits, but is NSFW.
“Debbie” from Pow Wow: This song, also available on the Everything compilation, is silly and poignant in a way. Also on Pow Wow is a fine cover of FZ’s “Let’s Make the Water Turn Black,” along with “Misplacement,” a tune that should prove hilarious to anyone who’s ever had to work a soul-crushing retail job.
“You Can’t Write a Song,” from Stevie Moore Often. The song is done in a falsetto, lamenting the fact he can’t write a song, though RSM fans know better.
“Whatcha Doin?” from R. Stevie Moore Quits. It’s both hilarious and bizarre and one of my favorite tracks on this album. This is another one of Moore’s cassette club releases that manages to be irreverent, poignant, bizarre, and hilarious all at once.
“Goodbye, Piano” from Phonography. “Melbourne” from the same album is also a great instrumental.
“Why Can’t I Write a Hit,” “Horizontal Hideaway” and “Puttin’ up the Groceries” from Games and Groceries. I’ve probably listened to this album more than any of his others. “Hit” is humorously poignant before devolving into a Zappa-style freak-out, “Hideaway” is Chipmunks-inspired insanity and “Groceries” is a delightful slice of boring suburban life.
“Manufacturers” from Warning. This one makes me laugh because of RSM’s performance. There’s a sleaziness to the singer’s words and a catchy tune to support the song. Most of the songs from Warning are cover versions (a few of which we’ve heard the originals on The Dr Demento Show).
“Tee Hee Hee,” a suite from the 1978 album R. It’s a bizarre laughing record that would fit right in with anything Spike Jones put out or the “OKeh Laughing Record.” It leads into another minute-long da da piece called “Guitardish.” I’m not sure what to think of that, really, but it’s intriguing at the very least. Following that are “How I Record (Sort of)” and “The Artist Speex” wherein we learn about his creative process.
A demented cover version of “Chantilly Lace,“ available on both the Clack album and Everything. I chose this as an outright funny song largely because of Moore’s largely exuberant performance. It’s a solid cover version, too. It appears this song was played once on the show, on Mar. 17, 1985.
Moore Starting Points
Official releases: Phonography , Everything You Always Wanted to Know About R. Stevie Moore but Were Afraid to Ask, Glad Music, Teenage Spectacular, Warning
(Above: From the cover of Teenage Spectacular)