If you're like me -- and you better pray to Jupiter you're not -- you had some trouble getting back into the flow of working today, in a little bit of a post-holiday hangover. With Memorial Day now behind us, not only is it socially acceptable to wear white pants again, but we have also entered the drinking season. Maybe those of you who live in warmer climates don't understand as well because you can have a beer outside all year long, but we Midwesterners really grab on to summer, cling to it like sweet death, and squeeze it dry. From street festivals to backyard BBQs to bar patios to just being able to sit on someone's porch with a cocktail in your hand and shoot the shit, the summer is our reward for suffering through negative wind chills, snow in April, and being forced to wear scarves on a regular basis. I hate scarves.
In honor of the fun we're going to have during the next three months, I have tried to come up with a list of the ten best songs with some type of alcohol (beer, wine, whiskey, etc.) or a brand of alcohol in the title. I'm excluding songs that have a more general term (alcohol, liquor, etc.) in the title or that just discuss alcohol or drinking in the lyrics (since it would be damn near impossible to narrow that list down to ten). Here are my top ten (in alphabetical order by artist):
1. "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett
I don't know if there has ever been a song that has so perfectly summarized its singer's lifestyle (or perceived lifestyle) than "Margaritaville." Sure, it was largely derivative of Coconut Pete's "Piña Coladaburg," but Jimmy Buffett has built an empire because of this song.
2. "Tequila" by The Champs
Chances are, the first time you ever heard of tequila was because of this song. It's a classic early rock song, and who could forget when Pee Wee won the respect of the bikers by dancing to this song?
3. "Nightrain" by Guns N' Roses
When I was a kid, I assumed that this song was about a train that ran after dusk. Turns out, it's about a cheap, rot-gut wine (Night Train Express) that the band used to drink before they had made it, due to the alcoholic bang you could get for your buck. The band came up with the chorus while drunkenly walking down the street sharing some Night Train. One of the band members yelled "I'm on the Night Train!," and then the other guys in the band came up with the "bottoms up," "fill my cup," "I can never get enough," and other phrases that follow in the chorus.
4. "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes
This song has to be one of the biggest guilty pleasure songs ever. In theory, you should not like it. It's cheesy, kitschy, and sounds like it was made in 1979 (which it was). But there's just something about it. Maybe it's the synthesizer solo. Maybe it's the chorus. Maybe it's the story -- a man who wants to cheat on his woman and a woman who wants to cheat on her man, so they take to the personal ads, eventually bringing them to meet clandestinely, only to realize that the person on the other end of their personal ad back-and-forth was their own significant other. They must have had a good laugh, as they realized that they were so bored with their current relationship that they were forced to turn to personal ads, and they were so focused on their own wants and needs that they forgot about what brought them together in the first place: a horrible, high-calorie, sugar-laden drink made from coconuts. And banging at midnight.
5. "Cold Gin" by Kiss
Ace Frehley wrote this song for Kiss's debut album, but he wasn't yet confident enough to sing, so the famously teetotaling Gene Simmons handled the vocals. The song itself is about a man's apartment being so hot that he gives himself but one option to cool himself off: drinking gin. Hell no.
6. "Gin and Juice" by Snoop Doggy Dogg
It's impossible for me to hear this and not immediately want to be in someone's back yard during the summer with a drink in my hand.
7. "Whiskey in the Jar" by Thin Lizzy
The quintessential St. Patrick's Day song can actually be enjoyed all year round, just as whiskey in a jar can be.
8. "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" by George Thorogood & The Destroyers
I like the John Lee Hooker version, but I love the George Thorogood version, especially the whole thing about getting kicked out of his apartment, not having a job, and then heading to the bar to take his mind off of things. In one sense, I suppose this song taught me that, when things get rough, you can always turn to alcohol to escape. In another sense, this song taught me that everybody's funny, now you funny too.
9. "Red Red Wine" by UB40
Masters of covering songs and turning them into their own, UB40 probably hit its peak with their cover of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine."
10. "Spill the Wine" by Eric Burdon and War
Hearing this song last week actually inspired me to write this list. What a great song. Ex-lead singer of The Animals, Eric Burdon, teamed up with funk/Latin/jazz/rock band War for a couple albums in the early '70s, and "Spill The Wine" is the most enduring song of their brief collaboration. It's a funky, soulful, psychedelic song about me, an overfed, long-haired, leaping gnome.
Honorable mention: "Bottle of Red Wine" by Eric Clapton; "Me and My Wine" by Def Leppard; "Gin & Milk" by Dirty Pretty Things; "Quiet Whiskey" by Wynonie Harris; "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers" by Motörhead (or ZZ Top); "Champagne Supernova" by Oasis; "Streams of Whiskey" by The Pogues; "Take Your Whiskey Home" by Van Halen; "Oh Gin" by The Velvet Underground; "Screwdriver" by The White Stripes
I'm sure there are some that I'm missing, so feel free to comment with some others.