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Friday, August 15, 2008

Lail: Proposed 3rd Q song list leaves much to be desired

Matt Lail

I absolutely love my alma mater, but sometimes it appears that N.C. State University just throws things together without really thinking them through just because someone thought it would be a good idea. The result can be a lame, half-hearted attempt at a “new” tradition that dies a quick, yet still somehow painful, death.

Case in point: The “Walk of Champions.” Don’t get me wrong: the concept of it is wonderful, and I hope it sticks around forever. But the name is a misnomer; the Wolfpack hasn’t won an ACC football championship since 1979. A large number of State fans are – by combination of their nature and the fact that they follow the Pack – a sarcastic and cynical bunch. We tend to mock ourselves as much as opposing fans can. So it’s not uncommon to see a Pack fan roll his eyes when saying, “Well, I’m off to see the [rolling eyes] ‘Walk of Champions.’”

The newest “new” tradition proposed is to have a sing-along song for the time between the third and fourth quarters. (Apparently this is very important; ample tailgating time is not.) Fans have been asked to vote from among these choices.

1."Hey Baby" -- Bruce Channel
2. "Song of the South" -- Alabama
3. "You Give Love a Bad Name" -- Bon Jovi
4. "I Won't Back Down" -- Tom Petty
5. "Start Me Up" -- The Rolling Stones

Sigh. My good friend James has already analyzed the pros and cons of the above list, and if the song has to be from among those five, then I have to agree with James that “Song of the South” should be the clear favorite. James stated that that is the most “inside the box” list ever, and he’s right. I’m surprised “Mony, Mony” (the Billy Idol version) didn’t make the cut.

But why force a “new” tradition on us? After all, the best traditions are those that just sort of happen.

In the 1960s, English band Gerry and the Pacemakers recorded a version of a song from a Rodgers and Hammerstein production. The song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” was regularly played over the speakers before Liverpool F.C. soccer matches, as the stadium DJ at that time would play the top 10 songs of the day in descending order. Incredibly, even after it was out of the Top 10, the Liverpool fans latched on to the song’s theme (“Walk on through the wind/Walk on through the rain/Though your dreams be tossed and blown/Walk on walk on, with hope in your heart/And you'll never walk alone”), they learned the words, and to this day the song is sung before the Reds take the field, either at home or away. The song is such a part of LFC culture that it’s included in the team’s crest. It wasn’t planned; it wasn’t focus-grouped; it just happened.

And it’s perhaps one of the greatest traditions in sports.

But, if we must have songs blaring from the Carter-Finley Stadium speakers, then let’s at least pick good ones. I give you my potential song choices for Pack games, in no particular order. (And there are no rap songs on this list; not because I don’t like rap but because Coach Tom O’Brien has said there will be no rap. I’m taking him at his word.)

I’ve divided the list into three categories: Rockin’ Tunes (these songs may not have lyrics that people can sing along with, but the songs have enough “oomph” to get some fists pumping); Happy Fun Songs (great sing-along songs or songs that just put a smile on your face); and finally, Southern, Possibly Un-PC Songs (no description needed). So, without further ado …

Rockin’ tunes

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” – Metallica

Granted, the opening portion of this song is probably a little too long; it would take minutes to get to the actual lyrics. But imagine a night game at Carter-Finley. The opening note of the song (an ominous, “come out to the execution” bell), followed then by the march-like thunder of guitars and drums. Oh, and for good measure, imagine close to 60,000 people (OK, probably more like a couple thousand who know the words) singing to the opposing team …

“Take a look to the sky just before you die
“It is the last time you will
“Blackened roar massive roar fills the crumbling sky
“Shattered goal fills his soul with a ruthless cry.”

Hell yeah.

“One Little Victory” – Rush

One disadvantage to this choice is that if just a few know the words to Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” then even fewer will know this song. No matter. The crushing double-bass drum intro to this song would have people on their feet. And, if by some chance we make it to the lyrics, they ain’t half bad either:

“Celebrate the moment
“As it turns into one more
“Another chance at victory
“Another chance to score …

“A certain measure of righteousness
“A certain amount of force
“A certain degree of determination
“Daring on a different course …”

“Working Man” – Rush

I threw a second Rush song in here for a reason. I may be completely off-base by saying this, but I’ll go ahead and say it: the consistent themes in Rush’s songs tend to be themes close to the heart of many Wolfpack fans: self-reliance, independence, the reality that “it’s a dog-eat-dog world.” “Working Man,” from Rush’s first album, is an homage to the common man, as the title implies. Plus, the song just rocks. Same could be said for “Tom Sawyer.”

Other choices:

“Fuel” – Metallica
“Elevation” – U2
“Rusty Cage” – Soundgarden
“Break on Through (To the Other Side)” – The Doors. (“Try to run/Try to hide …”)

Happy Fun Songs

“Keep On Loving You” – REO Speedwagon

Back in college, one of my friends (and former Technician Sports Editor) Michael Preston cleverly named his fantasy football team “MJP Speedwagon,” even claiming that his make-believe “team” took the field before “games” to “Keep On Loving You.” We all got a big laugh out of that. But thinking about it a decade later, maybe Mike was on to something. The song’s just catchy and cheesy enough to work. Plus the lyrics – “I’m gonna keep on lovin’ you/Cuz it’s the only thing I wanna do” – symbolize what it takes to be a State fan: dedication and perseverance.

Oh, and a sense of humor.

“Build Me Up Buttercup" – The Foundations

Speaking of self-deprecating humor...

“What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong

Hey, if “You’ll Never Walk Alone” can be embraced, why not perhaps the most positive song ever written?

Other choice:

“Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher” – Jackie Wilson

Southern, Possibly Un-PC Tunes

“Song of the South” – Alabama

See James’s commentary, linked above.

“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – The Band

OK, so four-fifths of The Band were Canadians, but that didn’t stop them from recording one of the most anguish-filled yet romanticized songs about the South ever written. Robbie Robertson once recalled going “down South” and hearing people say, “the South’s gonna rise again.”

“At one point when I heard it I thought it was kind of a funny statement and then I heard it another time and I was really touched by it,” he said in the liner notes of Greatest Hits. “I thought, ‘God, because I keep hearing this, there’s pain here, there is sadness here.’ In Americana land, it’s kind of a beautiful sadness.”

“The South’s Gonna Do It” – Charlie Daniels Band

If we’re considering “Song of the South,” why not go for someone from North Carolina? Charlie Daniels is from Wilmington, the same city as Roman Gabriel. Coincidence? I think not.

It could be a fun song to which to dance, and the lyrics are very, uh, Southern:

“Be proud you're a rebel
“'Cause the South's gonna do it again and again...”

Other choice:

“Ring of Fire” - Johnny Cash
“Friends in Low Places” – Garth Brooks

Of course, if we must insist on a Dixie-themed song, there is one logical choice (and it’s not “Dixie”). It goes a little something like this …

"Where the winds of Dixie softly blow o'er the fields of Caroline, There stands ever cherished, N.C. State, as thy honored shrine

“So lift your voices! Loudly sing from hill to oceanside!

“Our hearts ever hold you, N.C. State in the folds of our love and pride."

Simply beautiful.

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