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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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

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

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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…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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