The Quest For Kickass: Episode 1

Summer will be upon us soon, and your evenings will soon be bombarded by the usual late night scene.  Picture this:  You are sitting at a bar with your friends which has been playing the Top 40 on the radio all night long, and yet somehow seems to play the same six songs every time you’re there.  You see a giggling group of fresh graduates heading over to the jukebox and know you’re about to be subjected to about a half hour’s worth of Justin Bieber.  That’s about the time you decide it is time to hit the old dusty trail.    What I’m saying is sometimes you have to make your own night, and sometimes to that end you need your own handy playlist of music; your “kick ass” mix.  But Kickass comes in many different flavors and they don’t always mesh.

So, during the month of May, I will be giving you my suggestions for a variety of songs to fit any mood in what I have dubbed my “Quest For Kickass”.  

This week, I feel it’s best to start at the basics.   Sometimes you just need to break out the heavy hitters – from classic rock to metal.  This playlist has 11 songs, because – as a wise man once said – “this thing goes up to 11.”  I have dubbed this playlist:  Kickass 101

Track 1:  Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)

We start off the playlist with the melancholic Bohemian Rhapsody, the iconic song that has launched a thousand references.  It’s easy going and somber to begin with before launching into it’s operatic bits and finally ending with a triumphant and dare I say ass-kicking ending.  I believe in starting with a heavy hitter and this one takes the bill.


Track 2: Mr. Brownstone (Guns N Roses)

From the sweet tones of Queen we move on to a song about heroin use.  In my humble opinion Guns N Roses is a band who defines the term Kickass and it took great effort to limit myself to two of their songs on this playlist. This particular track start has some fast-flying vocals on top of a grinding bass line and some impressive guitar work.

Track 3:  Are You Gonna Be My Girl (Jet)

A slight shift in tone with track 3 as we move over to Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet.  The solid drum work and bass run are what really sell me on this piece.  It’s a slight detour before we continue down the list – you occasionally have to add a bit of variety so you don’t get worn down and I feel this is just different enough to be interesting while still keeping the theme in mind.

Track 4: Joker And The Thief (Wolfmother)

With track 4 we head on over to Wolfmother for one of their staple pieces Joker And The Thief.  This song features everything you’ve come to expect from this playlist so far, but also features some artistry on the guitar and keys that gives this track a bit of an edge over other Wolfmother pieces such as Dimension or Woman.  

Track 5: Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh)

About halfway through I figure we ought to slow things down just a bit with Joe Walsh and Rocky Mountain Way.  Not every kick ass song has to be a speedy power ballad.  Sometimes you just need a stellar guitar riff, hard-hitting drums and evocative lyrics.

Track 6:  Highway Star (Deep Purple)

Okay that was a nice break, but it’s time to speed back up.  We’ll start off in 3rd gear with Highway Star by Deep Purple.  This track is long with lots of breaks in the middle to let the guitar and drums do the talking, each cutaway being its own little trip.

Track 7: Kickstart My Heart (Motley Crue)

And now we’re going to push things supersonic with Motley Crue.  Kickstart My Heart is not your BoRap or your Stairway.  This song starts kick ass, and gets progressively more kickass the song goes on.  It doesn’t slow down for a second, it’s one “bridge” segment just dropping the drumwork for a bit before finishing off in an explosive finale.

Track 8:  For Whom The Bell Tolls (Metallica)

Speaking of finales, we are building up to the finale of this playlist and I plan to end with a succession of top tier classics.  But we’ll enjoy one last diversion with a bit of Metallica.  For Whom The Bell Tolls is a slower paced song to help us catch our breath from that middle section and features one of the best guitar riffs in history.

Track 9:  Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin)

While we’ve slowed down some, let’s take a final rest to listen to Jimmy Paige’s incredible guitar work and the beautiful lyrics of this time-honored legendary rock piece.  We’ll be enjoying the medieval inspired woodwinds accompanying the classical guitar right up until they decide to drop the other shoe and take it into pure kick ass territory.

Track 10:  Paradise City (Guns N Roses)  

Our penultimate song will take us on one last road trip with Guns N Roses down to Paradise City.  Incredible guitar work with lightning-fast vocals are just this song’s starting phase before reaching the halfway point, smashing the nitrous and taking us on a wild ride of a finale.

Track 11: Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd) 

Predictable?  Perhaps.  But as much as this one might get over-saturated a bit these days I still couldn’t imagine this ending any other way.  It almost serves as a microcosm of the entire playlist – having its soft and beautiful lyrical section to start us off, leading into a hard rocking chorus, rinse and repeat until giving us what we’re all here for:  that guitar solo.

So hopefully this playlist will give you some solid listening pleasure whenever you need to reach for the godfathers of kick ass.  But maybe you’re thinking “that’s all well and good, but I prefer something a bit more modern”.  Well fear not, the Quest For Kickass has just begun!

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