These days it seems like you can't read about a juicy political development in Canada without falling behind on a dozen other juicy political developments that occur in the meantime. These are booming times for political columnists, and none are busier than Andrew Coyne of the National Post, and the At Issue panel on CBC's The National.

Naturally, if you could buttonhole Coyne for a moment and ask him one question, that question would be, "So what are you listening to?" Coyne is an avid music fan, and shared this list of some favourite songs he thinks people might not know, but should. We asked him several months back after his Twitter tilt with Jian Ghomeshi over the merits of Duran Duran.

Sometimes obscure, always entertaining and probably not what you expect from one of Canada's most respected political commentators. We offer it up as a soundtrack to your reading in the days ahead.

'Have Mercy Baby' by Billy Ward and the Dominoes

"This legendary R&B group was the missing link between gospel and rock 'n' roll. It was fronted at one time or another by two of the greatest singers in R&B/soul: Clyde McPhatter (who left to form the Drifters), and Jackie Wilson. This masterpiece is from 1952."

'Miss Pearl' by Jimmy Wages

"I know next to nothing about Jimmy Wages, a rockabilly singer of little renown. But ever since I found this on a rockabilly compilation, I've never ceased playing it. One of those songs that brings out the deep ties between country and blues: you could well imagine an R&B artist cutting this record. Later covered by Chris Isaak."

'Train Kept A-Rollin'' by Johnny Burnette and the Rock 'n Roll Trio

"A better known group, and perhaps too well known as a song (the Yardbirds were among the many groups to cover it) to include here. This is just the greatest rockabilly song ever recorded."

'You're the Boss' by LaVern Baker and Jimmy Ricks

"LaVern Baker ('Jim Dandy' was perhaps her best known hit) was one of the great female singers of early rock 'n' roll. She teams up here with Jimmy Ricks, bass singer for the Ravens ('Green Eyes') for a Leiber–Stoller song that's all kinds of dirty."

'Love Me' by the Phantom

"The Phantom appeared in publicity shots in a mask. His real name was Jerry Lott and this is his only hit, 90 seconds of demented, breathless, immortal mayhem."

'Surfin' Bird' by the Trashmen

"Speaking of mayhem. This song, a mash-up of the Rivingtons' 'Papa Oom Mow Mow' and 'The Bird is the Word,' is perhaps the craziest thing ever committed to wax. Along with 'Louie Louie,' the Beach Boys and the Rivieras' 'Warm California Sun,' it is proof the American charts were not dead to rock 'n' roll before the Beatles arrived."

'Bad Time' by the Roulettes

"Originally Adam Faith's backup band, the Roulettes may have suffered for the association. Yet as this track shows, their stuff ranks with some of the best British Invasion-era pop."

'Man With Money' by the Everly Brothers

"Like many a pre-British Invasion American act, the Everlys found themselves all but washed up — even though they were heroes for a lot of the British acts. So they went to L.A. and recorded a bunch of amazing songs with the famous Wrecking Crew of studio musicians. Still couldn't buy a hit for the most part, but they're available on a great Warner Brothers collection. This spooky gem was later covered by the Who."

'Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache' by Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon

"A classic of northern soul, the kind of soul popular in clubs in the north of England in the '60s and '70s: danceable, melodic and the obscurer the better."

'What?' by Judy Street

"Another northern soul favourite from 1966. This is actually a sped-up cover of a song done first by Melinda Marx, daughter of Groucho."

'Batman Theme' by the Marketts

"Guaranteed to make any dance floor go crazy."

'So Sad About Us' by the Who

"My favourite Who song, and one of my favourites period."

'I Can't Control Myself' by the Troggs

"'Wild Thing' is a classic, but this is almost as great."

'September Gurls' by Big Star

"OK, this one's pretty well known. I include it because it's the single most played song in my entire iTunes collection. What's that Roxy Music lyric? 'The rhythm of rhyming guitars'" Turn the treble up and enjoy."

'Liza Radley' by the Jam

"The Jam were my favourite group back in the day. This is an uncharacteristically softer song, sort of mid-period Beatle-ish."

'If I Were You' by the Blue Shadows

"A much-cherished alt-country '60s pop band — 'Hank goes to the Cavern Club' — featuring Billy Cowsill (of the Cowsills) and Jeff Hatcher, frontman for the great Winnipeg roots rock/new wave band the Fuse and songwriter extraordinaire. This is just haunting."

'Who Will Save Rock and Roll?' by the Dictators

"One of the first New York punk bands, formed in 1973, and put out this amazing anthem in 2001."

'The Violet Hour' by the Clientele

"I am completely addicted to the Clientele. Their songs may all sound a lot alike, but they all sound amazing. This is the one that first got me hooked."

posted by Mike Miner on Nov 22, 2013