Saturday, May 17, 2014

Track Of The Week: Eddie and the Hod Rods, "Do Anything You Wanna To Do"

Three years ago this week I accepted my current high school teaching job, leaving behind my academic career.  It was a heady time, and as usual for me, I incorporated music into it.  For example, when I left my old town for Jersey, I cued up "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen as my car hit the city limits, and had a big old grin on my face when the Boss cried "It's a town full of losers/ I'm pulling out of here to win."

Another important song for me in that moment was much more obscure, "Do Anything You Wanna Do," by 70s English pub rockers Eddie and the Hot Rods.  I'd first heard of the group years before as a punching bag for John Lydon nee Rotten, who attacked them as poseurs jumping on the punk bandwagon.  That impression changed in the late 90s, when I picked up a Rhino comp of 70s British new wave, and "Do Anything You Wanna Do" put its hooks in me.

The band and the song are hard to categorize, especially since the "pub rock" scene that spawned them shared punk's DIY ethos, but involved a certain reverence for the very old rocknroll and R&B idols that punk sought to smash.  Eddie and the Hot Rods are not punk rock, but you can't really blame the Rods for that, since they never claimed to be such.  (After all, it's not their fault if other people wanted to lump them into that category.)  "Do Anything You Wanna Do" nevertheless has a fast tempo and rocks hard.  Instead of punk's spittle and spite, however, the song contains an earnest message of everyday defiance.  The singer says he's "tired of doing day jobs/ with no thanks for that I do/ I'm sure I must be someone/ Now I'm gonna find out who."  It's a song about about telling your boss off, leaving your crummy town, and going off to find yourself.  I used to drive around with this song cranked on my car stereo, and sing along in my own tuneless warble.

As much as I loved it as a 35-year old, I can't think of a better song this side of Alice Cooper that better encapsulates what it's like to be 18 and itching to finally live your own life.  It's also been twenty years since my high school graduation, and while I didn't know this song yet, it pretty much nails how I felt at the time.  In an ideal world, this song would be played at graduations all over the country this month, not the usual treacly crap.

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