50 great potential closer songsby Chris Jaffe
January 26, 2009
One of the great pleasures in having a regular gig here at THT is the ability to have an original idea (or at least original to me), do the research to study it, write it up, and winning fame and accolades when it goes up (and by "fame and accolades" I mean a link or two to other websites).
This isn't one of those columns, though.
Another pleasure of life at THT is taking someone else's idea, and ripping it off. This is precisely one of those columns.
A few weeks ago, SNY writer Ted Berg wrote a two-part article on the 10 best non-traditional closer songs of all-time. It was a blast and well-worth reading (as were the BTF threads based on it).
For no good reason other than the pure fun of it, I started thinking up a list of possible closer songs in my head. I wasted enough time thinking of it to come up with this column: my top 50 possible closer songs.
A few ground rules:
(1) they can't be songs listed by Berg or that I remember someone other than myself mentioning at BTF (note: I came up with the list a few days after those threads, so some overlap is possible).
(2) No song, as far as I know, can be used by a closer currently. The key phrase is "as far as I know." Though I found this exercise in closer-song-finding fun, I know very little about which songs closers actually use. Trevor Hoffman uses "Hells Bells" and about 85 percent of the remainder use "Enter Sandman," right? Ultimately, there is a good shot some of my list will repeat actual songs. Ah, well.
While I'm thus technically under qualified to do this list, that's not a big deal. It's supposed to be fun, not brain surgery.
3) Try to avoid obvious clichés - unless I really want to include them. In part, this is to minimize overlap with actual closer songs and in part, choosing the most obvious songs is boring.
Below is my 100 percent arbitrary, 0 percent scientific list of closer songs. (Sorry if that disappoints, but if you were expected any 50 best ___ songs list to be scientific, you got bigger problems than this article).
50. "White Room" by Cream. This belongs in just for the opening rip of notes. They makes a person lift his head up in expectation of what's coming up. It sounds important—regal, even. That's not a bad thing for people to be thinking when a closer steps on the field.
49. "I Feel Good" by James Brown. One thing I noted in looking up songs: while closer songs are normally intimidating sounding works (like "Enter Sandman") another angle can be taken with them: songs of celebration. Instead of telling of the opposing team's doom, you can cheer on your team's impending success. If you're going to celebrate, there are few better ways to do it than with the Godfather of Soul.
The celebratory approach might backfire if you have a lousy closer entering with a one-run lead on the road (the other team can be happy he's entering), but then again no one would be that intimidated by a heavy metal song either.
48. "King Kong" by the Kinks. A good rockin' tune about how the unstoppable beast is coming after you. It's more of a traditional pick, but that's OK. Nothing wrong with having a bragging closer's song.
47. "U Can't Touch This" by M. C. Hammer. I'm not a big Hammer fan, but this belongs on the list just for the title alone. It gets extra credit as a possible Oakland closer song, since Hammer was once a batboy for the A's lo those many years ago.
46. "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons. OK, I admit—this one has some problems; namely, you have to ignore at least half of its lyrics for it to work. Yet rarely, if ever, has a celebratory song sounded so infectiously exuberant. Plus that introductory jackhammer-piano riff makes a real nice attention getter. It's the all-time leader in VORSD (Value Over Replacement Shoobie-Do).
45. "I Hope You're Happy Now" by Elvis Costello. "I hope you're happy now, like you're supposed to be / And I know that this will hurt you more than it hurts me."
44. "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)" by Parliament. So the closer can turn this mother out.
43. "Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters. Machismo. Many did it louder than Muddy Waters, but how many really did it better? You want some macho confidence in you closer, hence this song's inclusion on the list.
42. "Rock This Town" by the Stray Cats. Just a fun little tune about not letting anything getting in the way of having a helluva a time. Makes sense for a closer to do it.
41. "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Certainly one of the more distinctive songs to come out of the 1950s. One detriment: no closer will be able to enter as effectively with this song as Hawkins did. Screamin' Jay would wear a cape and step out off a coffin on stage to sing this one.
40. "Hellbent for Leather" by Judas Priest. As closer songs go, Priest's motorcycle anthem is a heavy metal cliché, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone's actually using it. However, I want to include it here because this would have been a perfect song to use back in the days of bullpen cars.
Can you imagine: the opening notes cry out, and instead of a tough looking Harley Davidson, the crowd sees a silly looking modified golf cart shaped like a baseball cap. Not only would it be a good song, but it would also make for a surreally brilliant (and entirely unintentional) parody. There's an extra level of irony if someone like Todd Jones came out to Rob Halford's voice, but that is a whole other issue.
39. "The Power" by Snap. How many closers use rap/hip hop songs anyway? (For all I know, a bunch, but the closer song genre is more associated with metal from what I know). This would be a great song for the relief ace to enter in with when it's getting kinda hectic.
38. "Raw Power" by Iggy and the Stooges." Actually, there are several Stooges songs that might work. (I might've picked "You're Pretty Face is Going to Hell" if it stuck with it's original name, "Hard to Beat."). This one works best, especially for a closer with a great fastball.
37. "I Wanna Take You Higher" by Sly and the Family Stone. Celebrations don't come much livelier than this.
36. Theme from "The Natural." Roy Hobbs was originally a pitcher, after all.
35. "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians. It's one of the darker 1960s one-hit wonders, and a closer certainly wants the opposition to cry 96 tears.
34. "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" by the Diggable Planets. It's not the loudest song out there, but it certainly contains plenty of inarguable, self-possessed confidence. It's nice for a real cool cat of a closer.
33. "Higher Ground" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. No offense to Stevie Wonder, but I'll take this version. A nice celebration, and wining after nine innings is a higher place than leading after eight.
32. "Baba O'Reilly" by The Who. Certainly the hardest rocking song to ever end with a fiddle jam.
31. "Reach Out - I'll Be There" by the Four Tops. This would rank higher, much higher, except that the lyrics are a touch on the desperate side. That partially makes it one of the greatest songs of all-time, but it's a little off for our purposes here.
30. "Gimme Some Lovin'" by the Spencer Davis Group. Maybe it should lose a little ground for appearing in a financial planning TV commercial (then again, given how much money closers make, that might make it even more appropriate). It's a great celebration with a memorable opening bit.
29. "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel. "All you have to do is call me / I'll be anything you need." Plus the title is a good one for a closer song.
28. Various U2 songs, including: "It's a Beautiful Day," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking for," "Where the Streets Have No Name," and "I Will Follow." Nobody does uplifting rock'n'roll songs quite like this band of Irishmen. Added bonus: the song "I Will Follow" sort of describes a closer's job description.
27. "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" by John Denver. Ah, you go to hell—it's a great song. Look, this song wouldn't work for most closers, but for the right kind of reliever it would be great. And by "right kind of closer" I mean a country boy. People tend to respect someone who takes pride in his heritage, regardless if it's racial, ethnic, or (in this case) rural.
26. "I Wanna Destroy You" by the Soft Boys. That is one helluva juxtaposition between a song title and the band's name, don't you think?
25. "Train Kept a-Rollin'" by the Rock'n'Roll Trio. It's a good time song and it can't be stopped.
24. Tie: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" and "Taking Care of Business" by Bachmann Turner Overdrive. Both are fairly obvious songs that ought to make it just for their titles alone. Obvious doesn't mean inappropriate, though.
23. "Shut Down" by the Beach Boys. Cockiness is one of the classic attributes of closers and their songs. The Beach Boys might have more of an entitled, smug, suburban sense of cockiness, but they had it nonetheless. At any rate, a song with the refrain: "Shut it off, shut if off, buddy now I shut you down" belongs on the list.
22. "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves. It's time to feel good.
21. "Hail to the Chief." Look, as long as you're going to go with a cocky, arrogant song for a closer, may as well get it over with and pick the president's song. Added bonus: given that the president throws out the first pitch once a year, a non-zero chance exists that Fearless Leader would have to stand for someone else when this song plays.
20. "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised it someone was already using this song.
19. "Rave On" by Buddy Holly. Another great song of celebration.
18. Theme from "Empire Strikes Back." Want to talk intimidation? Then let's start with Darth Vader. You could do a whole lot worse than playing his song.
17. "Tonight, Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins. Another joyful song, which promises something wonderful is about to happen. With its "city by the lake" reference, it works especially well for a closer from Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, or Detroit.
16. "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth. This is either the greatest crappy song of all-time or the crappiest great song of them all. Either way, it's a lot of fun to listen to as the band gets into it and the lead singer (I could look up his name, but it's Nazareth—who really cares?) sounds like he means when screaming "Now you're messing with a son of a bitch."
15. Tie: "Get Off Of My Cloud" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones. You can't go wrong with either one of these tunes. The first one tells the other side to get the hell away (plus has a fantastic snappy drum intro). As for "Flash," it's a gas, gas, gas. (And thus especially appropriate for a fastball pitcher).
14. "Speed King" by Deep Purple. Speaking of songs for fastball pitchers, none are more appropriate than this one. The title is perfect and the song rocks, too. Other possible Deep Purple songs include: "Hush" (like "White Room" it has a memorable opening barrage), "Highway Star" and, of course, the guitar riff that ate the world.
13. "This Is a Call" by Foo Fighters. I'm tempted to go with "Everlong" instead (or at least make it a tie) but I'll take this one when you get down to it. After all, the manager has to make a call to the bullpen to get the closer out.
12. Much of the soundtrack from "The Good, the Bad, the Ugly," especially "Ecstasy of Gold," "The Trio," and the main theme. Perhaps there is a better movie score out there, but there can't possibly be a cooler one. There is a slight heavy metal connection as apparently Metallica has "Ecstasy of Gold" play before they enter the stage at their concerts.
11. "Just What I Needed" by the Cars. I was going to pick "You're All I've Got Tonight" by the same band, but the line "I don't care if you even the score" disqualifies it. This one is pretty effective, too.
10. "Under Pressure" by Queen (with David Bowie). Sure, they no longer enter the game with the tying runner on base like they did in the days of Gossage, but holding onto a one-run lead in the ninth inning still involves a good deal of pressure.
9. "One Way or Another" by Blondie. Because the closer is going to getcha getcha getcha getcha. I suppose this song could be flipped around so the batters coming up can pump themselves up for a possible comeback, but that can be said of many traditional closer songs. If "Enter Sandman" plays before Albert Pujols faces Generic Closer, who do you think should feel afraid?
8. "Night on Bald Mountain." Everything I know about classical music I learned from "Fantasia" so this is easily the most appropriate piece from that genre I can think of. It sounds like doom rolling down from the hills, which is just what a closer wants the opposing hitters to feel.
7. "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J. The last thing I closer wants anyone to do is to call it a comeback. Plus it's a great, hard-driving song.
6. Theme from "Superman." Forget "Hail to the Chief." Why settle for the president's song if you can claim to be the frickin' man of steel?
5. "It's Like That" by Run DMC. The closer's laying down the rules, and everyone else just has to accept it. That's just the way it is.
4. "Uptight (Alright)" by Stevie Wonder. This might be the most fantastic, liveliest celebration song of them all. It pulsates along like nothing else. If any positive-sounding song should be used in the ninth inning, it should be this one. I'd rank it higher except for the "I'm just an average guy" line.
3. "Heroes" by David Bowie. Ain't that the whole point of a closer? He's supposed to come in and save the day.
2. "Hold On, I'm Coming" by Sam and Dave. Jeez, just look at the title. It doesn't hurt that it's one of the greatest soul records of them all, either.
1. "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath. Part of me feels bad for ending with a cliché, but this really is my pick for the best of all possible closer songs. It has all the elements you want in a closer song: a slow start, an instantly recognizable guitar rift, and a foreboding sound of doom. Are closer songs supposed to be intimidating? Well, the hero of this song is an unstoppable mass-murdering killing machine. Top that.
Several Sabbath songs would make good closer tunes - "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," "Children of the Grave," "Black Sabbath" itself - but there is only "Iron Man."
Then again, if we were to be honest about it, the perfect closer song for at least ten teams would be "19th Nervous Breakdown" by the Rolling Stones.
References and Resources
Though it's linked in the site's main page and up top of the article, it's impossible to overdue the debut I owe Ted Berg for his brilliant idea for a two columns at SNY. They inspired this piece, to put it mildly.
In case anyone's curious, the followins songs were deemed "too cliched" by my entirely arbitrary standards to make the list: "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead, "Run for the Hills" by Iron Maiden, "Hells Bells" by AC/DC (duh), "Closing Time" by Semisonic, "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang, "Wild Thing" by the Troggs, "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You" by Queen, and "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.
Those also considered but ultimately rejected include: "House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals, "Catch Us If You Can" by the Dave Clark 5, "It Won't Be Long" by the Beatles, "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac, "Real Wild Child" by Iggy Pop, "Head On" by the Pixies, "Do It Again" by Steely Dan, "London Calling" and "Clampdown" by the Clash, "Tub Thumping" by Chumbawumba, "Killing Me Softly with His Song" by Roberta Flack, "Movin' Right Along" by the Muppets, "Heartbreaker" by Led Zeppelin, "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads, "Lose Yourself" by Eminem, "Pictures of Matchstick Men" by the Status Quo, "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant, "No Action" by Elvis Costello, and the theme from "Chariots of Fire."
Oh, and Nazareth's lead singer was named Dan McCafferty.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.