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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.