Suppose the great rock single had flickered over the airways just once, on the night you had passed out in the back seat? Probably not, but still…rock and roll has always had this sense of possibility.
–Dave Marsh, Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, page 93
I originally read the above quote in the 1980s, when the first edition of Marsh’s Springsteen book came out. It’s stuck with me over the intervening decades, and at some level has informed a lot of my writing. That idea, filled with drama and potential, that I might’ve just missed the greatest thing ever, is one of the things that drives me to write stories that, regardless of their apparent genre, are at their hearts, mysteries.
But of course I thought about the idea literally as well as metaphorically. What song might fit that description–a serious contender for the greatest rock and roll single that hardly anyone–well, anyone in my social circle–has ever heard or remembers?
And this is it:
This was also the very first music video I ever saw, sandwiched between two movies on HBO at a friend’s house. MTV hadn’t been invented, and I remember wondering exactly what I was watching: a preview, or a commercial, or what? And for years I had the actual 45 of this single.
The late Herman Brood (1946-2001) is far from an unknown in his home country of the Netherlands. In fact, there he’s legendary. But it’s safe to say most music fans younger than me (which is most of them, sadly) have never heard of him. This was his one hit on the American charts, and even then it only rose to #35.
But as a contender for Marsh’s award, it’s perfect. It’s about something universal in rock and roll (i.e., Saturday night, the night the rules are broken and the boundaries shattered in so many other songs). It has an instantly recognizable guitar lick for a hook. It’s the perfect single length at roughly three and a half minutes. The name of his band–His Wild Romance–is so good I truly wish I’d thought of it. And it makes you want to enter the nighttime world it conjures, where the deadness of your mundane existence would vanish in a night of “chicks dressed to kill/surrounded by the boys like bees and their honey.” That, to me, is always at the heart of real primal rock and roll.
But that’s my take. What’s your contender for the greatest rock and roll song that no one’s heard of? Tell me about it in the comments.