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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…