Thursday, May 23, 2013

Booze Blues: 10 Great Drinking Songs

One of the most unfortunate injustices of life is how the things that offer the most pleasure, if only fleetingly, often do so much damage. No wonder the words "guilty" and "pleasure" get along so well. That goes double (preferably of vodka, or tequila) for drinking, a seemingly endless fountain of pleasure the night of and torturous hell the morning after.

Thankfully, the simple pleasures of drinking songs are healthier, and they can continue indefinitely, as long as you want to press "repeat." Country music would dominate any list of the best ones (and where else could one score No. 1 hits, as '80s duet partners David Frizzell and Shelley West did, respectively and solo in 1982 and 1983, with odes to the bottle named, respectively, "I'm Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home" and "Jose Cuervo"?). But drinking songs don't need a torch-and-twang chaser to go down smoothly.

Just in time for The Hangover Part III (speaking of guilty, fleeting pleasures, and which, from what I've read, may or may not even include the titular malady), here are 10 that will take you higher tonight without the comedown of a splitting headache tomorrow. (Because gain doesn't have to come with pain, no matter what that old cliche says.) Now isn't that the best kind of buzz?

"Misery and Gin" Merle Haggard Not really the best killer combo (unless you're actually talking possible death), but then, that's the whole point of the song.

"Just for a Moment" Rumer Clarity at the bottom of a bottle -- what a gorgeous fantasy!

"Let's Go Get Stoned" Ray Charles His best song and a No. 1 R&B hit in 1966 that was co-written by Ashford and Simpson. My how times have changed. Nowadays, a mainstream star probably wouldn't be able to get away with a title like that (which actually refers to getting drunk, not smoking pot).

"Straight Tequila Night" John Anderson I've had a few of them, as anyone who has ever stumbled upon me -- or been stumbled into by me -- while I'm lining up shots at the back bar during a night out at the Peel in Melbourne well knows.

"Brass Monkey" Beastie Boys Before kir royals and Johnnie Walker entered my adulthood, my own first poison got quite a few college parties started. It was so potent that one bottle -- which, until recently, I'd hung onto as a souvenir from my early sloppy-drunk days -- lasted me all four years at the University of Florida.

"Pass the Courvoisier Part II" Busta Rhymes featuring P. Diddy and Pharrell It's interesting how, in the space of two decades, rap and hip-hop went from bemoaning the plight of the disenfranchised and the poor to flaunting the sweet smell -- and spirits -- of success.

"Closing Time" Leonard Cohen (and Feist's Take That Waltz cover) The best of Cohen and the inspiration of my favorite sequence of one of my favorite films of 2011. I'd love to go to a party like that, but no cider laced with acid, thank you.

"Bad Boy"/"Having a Party" Luther Vandross Okay, so Luther didn't actually mention booze in either part of his 1982 medley (and in the 1962 version of the second song, Sam Cooke name-dropped Coke, as in "the real thing," nothing stronger), but really, what kind of bad boy would be having a party without it?

"Blur" Britney Spears Alas, the hangover isn't the only devil in the bottle (for further proof, there's Ciara's "I Don't Remember"), but the singer behind "Early Mornin' (on In the Zone), Circus (from whence this track comes) and the tellingly titled Blackout must well know about that particular recreational hazard.

"Cheers (Drink to That)" Rihanna Her 2011 Top 10 probably did as much for Rihanna's image as "Blur" did for Britney's, but then, like that unrecommended blend of misery and gin above, that may have been the whole point of the songs.

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