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IFC LIST MONTH: Best “Man” Songs

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We are in the midst of another “man” summer, with Iron Man cleaning up at the box office and The Dark Knight (aka Batman) soon to follow. The mans, or I guess I should say the men mentioned above got me thinking about superhero names. I always appreciated how easy it was to dole them out–you simply take the hero’s most notable attribute and attach the word “man” on the end (Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, etc.). Growing up, I soon realized it was just as easy for a band to do the same with a song, in fact, it was easier. You could merely take an adjective (charmless) or noun (muffin), stick a “man” on the end, and have yourself a catchy song title.

(left: Coming up with a “man” song title is even easier than coming up with a name for a superhero.)

Below, in my opinion, are the best “man” songs ever created. Before you cry foul because Johnny Cash’s “Man in Black”, R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon”, The Pixies, “Here Comes Your Man”, or Public Enemy’s “Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya Man” didn’t make the list, please keep in mind that each song chosen had to fit the superhero naming criteria explained above:

10. “Pizza Man,” D.F.L.
How did little ol’ D.F.L. make the list, and Pearl Jam (“Better Man”), Rush (“Working Man”), Blur (“Charmless Man”), Neil Young (“Southern Man”), and Elvis Costello (“Miracle Man”) did not? Well, sometimes it’s not about how big your fan base or popular your record–sometimes it’s all about subject matter. In this case, the scrappy California hardcore band craft the greatest minute-and-a-half ode to a pizza man ever. (It also doesn’t hurt that the Beastie Boys’ Adrock plays bass on the tune and Mike D is the brother-in-law of the group’s lead singer.)

9. “Spoonman,” Soundgarden
This song was inspired by Santa Cruz street performer, Artis the Spoonman, who, well, was famous for playing spoons. An early version of the song appears as background music in the film, Singles. Following the film, Soundgarden took the “Spoonman” snippets and turned it into an entire song. It was eventually released off the group’s Superunknown album, and not only did the video feature Artis the Spoonman, but drummer Matt Cameron also plays pots and pans during parts of the song.

8. “Method Man,” Wu-Tang Clan
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did Method Man get his own track on the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), because he was their elite performer? Or did he become their elite performer because of this track? If you walk down a busy street today and scream out, “M-E-T-H-O-D,” I guarantee you there will be at least one person who follows with an emphatic, “Man!”

7. “Soul Man,” Sam and Dave
A single performed by the duo of Sam and Dave, written by the duo of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and later popularized (again) by the duo of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, better known as the Blues Brothers. While watching a newscast of the 12th Street Riot in Detroit (1967), Hayes noticed that many buildings bearing the word “soul” were untouched by rioters. Hayes and Porter decided to use the phrase “Soul Man” as a term of pride and overcoming struggle during the African-American Civil Rights movement of the late 60’s.

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6. “Egg Man,” Beastie Boys
I wrestled with myself all day, which Beastie Boys’ “man” song do I include, “Egg Man” or “Heart Attack Man”? As you can see, I went with “Egg Man”. Not only is this one of the lone songs in hip-hop history that pays homage to the art of pelting people with eggs, but the song–as well as the entire Paul’s Boutique album–helped take sampling to a whole new level. Imagine growing up in the late 80’s and hearing a song that simultaneously sampled, Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly”, Sly & The Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music”, Public Enemy’s “You’re Gonna Get Yours” and the theme songs to Jaws and Psycho. Lawyers would catch on quickly and sampled hip-hop would never get this good again.

(above: The Beatles were the first to sing about the Egg Man, but the Beasties were the first to make a song about him.)

5. “Simple Man,” Lynyrd Skynyrd
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most recognizable hit, well, besides “Free Bird” and that one about Alabama. Following the deaths of each of their grandmothers, Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington got together and shared stories about them. Supposedly within an hour, Rossington came up with the music and Van Zant had penned the lyrics, which talked about a wise mother sharing life long lessons with her son. This proves once again that behind every good “man” is a good woman (or in this case, two of them).

4. “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Bob Dylan
This is a “man” song that has caused some debate over the years. Will the rightful owner of this tune please stand up? Is it the Byrds? Or is it Bob Dylan? Though The Byrds struck number one with the song–and even named their album after it–Bob Dylan is responsible for writing it. Though there are many rumors where the song title originated, the most popular one is Dylan coming up with the idea for the song after seeing fellow folk musician, Bruce Langhorne, play a large Turkish frame drum which made a jingly tambourine sound.

3. “Rocket Man,” Elton John
A song loosely based on Ray Bradbury’s book, The Illustrated Man (maybe that was too many syllables to sing?). Since this song was released only a few years after David Bowie’s Space Oddity, there’s a good chance Elton John and songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, were influenced by the man who would later fully embrace his inner alien. For some reason or another, this song has become the choice soundtrack tune for any silly movie with a man traveling into space. For a different take on the song, be sure to listen to Me First and The Gimme Gimmes’ punked-out cover version–good stuff!

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2. “Piano Man,” Billy Joel
Here’s why this “man” song made it to number two on my list. I don’t own any complete Billy Joel albums (forgive me Long Island), up until last year I couldn’t even tell you the last time I remember hearing this song, but at my brother-in-law’s wedding, upon request of the DJ, I was able to sing every word of the whole freakin’ song. My wife turned to me and asked, “How do you know all the words?” I replied, “I don’t know?” That’s power! “Piano Man” you have humbled me.

(above: Finish the “Piano Man” lyric: And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy…)

1. “Iron Man,” Black Sabbath
This almost seems like an integrated marketing stunt, doesn’t it? On the summer that Iron Man hits theaters, I name Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” as the number one “man” song of all-time. Get that out of your head right now. I’ll tell you why this is the best-of-the-best in the “man” song genre. First of all, this song has one of the most recognizable guitar licks of all time (played by a man who had melted soda bottles for fingers). Here’s a little test for you–right now hum the “Iron Man” riff. Are you done? Okay, now answer me this–when you were humming the riff were you simultaneously banging your head? Not only does this tune subconsciously turn innocent people into raging headbangers, but “Iron Man” is also Black Sabbath’s most recognizable song, and we could go on for days about the legions of bands that were inspired by Sabbath’s dark-and-sludgy sound. You have no Nirvana without Black Sabbath and you have no Black Sabbath without their crown jewel of a tune known as “Iron Man.”

This list marks day 3 of IFC’s List Month — check back here for a new list every weekday!

< — Back to day 2 -- The Ten Most Important Presidential Speeches.

Forward to day 4 — Ten Bittersweet Patriotic Films — >

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.