Thursday, 12 February 2015

My Top Ten Key Songs

See, I do take requests. (If you'd like to suggest a Top Ten subject, you know where the comments box is.) This one goes out to my old blogging pal Nota Bene who's been having a bit of trouble with his keys lately. Originally, I thought I might split it into two lists: songs about door keys and songs about musical keys... then I decided I'd be scraping the barrel a bit to fill 20 spaces. So they're all mixed in together here.

And if you're wondering where Melanie is... I'm saving her for another Top Ten. (Ditto, The Wurzels, but you might have to wait a bit longer for that one.)

Special mention to The Black Keys, The Mar-Keys and Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key of Life.

10. Buffalo Tom - Skeleton Key

25 years old now. Doesn't sound it. 
You are so crazy
Should be under lock and key
You've got to be the worst thing
That's every happened to me
But I don't get angry
Got my skeleton key
I can open every door that
Stands in front of me
See also Skeleton Key by The Coral... which is ever-so-slightly SCARY.

9. The Charlatans - Love Is The Key

I tried to resist any metaphorical key songs - all the other songs on this list are about musical keys or keys that open locks. But this is really funky, and it's much better than the Urban Cookie Collective. 

8. Jim Noir - Key of C

Sounds like the theme tune to Magic Roundabout turned into a psychedelic indie-pop song. Video looks like it was made by a bunch of 6th form Media Studies students. Therefore: brilliant.

7. Jenny Owen Youngs - Keys Out Lights On

Sultry and smokey, with a lovely bit of trumpet... delicious.

6. Okkervil River - No Key, No Plan

No idea what this one's about, but as with a lot of Okkervil River records, it bounces along like a Barnes Wallis.
I'm a rich young sophisticate, I've got girls and friends.
I'm doing what I really like and getting paid for it.
There is no key, there's no plan; well, I discovered that.
And, truly, I don't think you'll find a happier man.
5. Billie Holliday - I'm Gonna Lock My Heart & Throw Away The Key

What can you say about a song like this? It probably should be number one. But when I'm comparing apples with Fabergé eggs, putting songs in Top Ten order becomes impossible.
I'm gonna park my romance right alone the curb
Hang a sign upon my heart
"Please don't disturb"'
And if I never fall in love again
That's soon enough for me
4. Luke Haines - Rock Opera In The Key Of Existential Misery

'Nuff said?


It's from an album called Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early '80s...

Still not convinced?
I've had more women than you've hat hot dinner, sunshine...
First we take Berlin... and then we take Stoke.
See now? I call the over-used g-word. You know, the one that ends in 'enius'.

3. Huey Lewis & The News - Give Me the Keys (And I'll Drive You Crazy)

I'll happily argue my case that in Fore!, Huey Lewis produced one of the Top Five pop albums of the 80s. But how do you follow an album as perfect - and packed with classic radio hits - as that? Well, the truth is, he couldn't. I have a great fondness for Fore!'s follow-up, Small World, but nobody could claim it to be a great record. And this, the album's big single, isn't fit to be mentioned in the same breath as The Power of Love, Stuck With You or Hip To Be Square. It kind of marks the point where the 80s started to go bad, musically. But I still love it in its own quirky way... and the video is hilariously awful. Huey always did some great comedy expressions.

2. Billy Bragg & Wilco - Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key

Another never-before-recorded Woody Guthrie composition, brought to life by Billy & Tweedy from the Mermaid Avenue sessions.
Ain't nobody that can sing like me...
Too true, Billy.

1. Kathleen Edwards - The Cheapest Key

A great F-u song, possibly aimed at a former songwriting / romantic partner (though t'internet lets me down on revealing just who deserves Kathleen's ire). Definitely one of her best, anyway... and the video's an absolute belter, proving that in a sane world Ms. Edwards would be a star of Pink-like proportions.

I was wondering when a new record might be arriving from one of my favourite Canadians, but iffypedia informs me she's taking time off music to open a coffee shop. Which is great news for the caffeine-fiend residents of Stittsville, Ottawa... but a cold cup of dregs for the rest of us.

See also Copied Keys, another fine record from the divine Ms. E. She wins this one hands down.

Which one has the key to your heart? And which one gets stuck in your lock?


  1. And another Skeleton Key from Wendy & Lisa:

    1. Ah, Wendy Lisa... where are they now?

      Running a cafe in St. Ives, apparently.

  2. And I will add Urban Cookie Collective for their very jolly The Key, The Secret which I'm currently bouncing around the living room to

    Thank you...really appreciate this top ten!

    1. The first rule of Top Ten Club is: You Do Not Mention The Urban Cookie Collective. (Even though I already broke that rule.)

      That said, their version of Champagne Supernova was arguably less annoying than the original.

  3. I propose Hopelessly Devoted To Them by The Housemartins, partly for the chorus line "You've got the keys to all my doors", but also for the fact that we all need more Housemartins in our lives.

    1. Agreed. I currently have London 0 Hull 4 on repeat play in the car.


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