The shuffler: Jon Wurster has played drums for many fine indie-rock outfits, most notably Superchunk. With that band mostly dormant, Wurster has found time to play with Robert Pollard, Ryan Adams, and Marah—and he's now on tour with The Mountain Goats. He's also half of the radio-comedy duo Scharpling & Wurster.
Neko Case, "Hold On, Hold On"
Jon Wurster: Classy lady, very funny. This is on Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. But it makes me think of "The Tigers Have Spoken" from the album of the same name, which is about a tiger in the circus… It's the saddest song I've ever heard. I don't want to spoil it for anybody, but the tiger dies at the end. I can't be in the same room as that song. Ever.
Morrissey, "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful"
JW: I love this song. He's a really funny lyricist. I think the bridge of this goes, "It should have been me / Everybody says so." I like the odd Smiths song, but for some reason, I like the solo stuff more. Especially that record Your Arsenal, which he did with Mick Ronson. It's a little more rockin'.
Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, "Mad Man"
JW: It's only on here because of the intro. It's this thing the band recorded at rehearsal: You hear a little bit of a song, and then you hear this super-loud knocking, and it's one of the guys' fathers. He's like, "I've been home for three hours, you guys are still playing?" And one of 'em goes, "Dad, it's our only time to practice!" And he says, "I don't come home from work to hear you dummies play, I come home to relax!" And then the guy in the band goes, "Now we're stopping."
Blue Öyster Cult, "E.T.I."
JW: One of my favorite bands, featuring the great chorus, "All praise / He's found the awful truth / Balthazar." I met the drummer; he came through Chapel Hill with his band The Brain Surgeons a couple years ago. I got him to sign a big cowbell for my friend who was getting married, because he played the cowbell on "Don't Fear The Reaper," like the SNL sketch. I was really nervous about it, because I didn't know if it was a sticking point with him. I even had a nightmare about it a couple of days before the show, but he was super-cool.
The A.V. Club: Have you ever signed a cowbell? You're a drummer.
JW: I don't think so. The worst is when someone wants you to sign a drumstick, because they're impossible to sign. Because they're round. Round-ish.
The Byrds, "Spanish Harlem Incident"
JW: It's a cover of the Dylan song. It's under two minutes, but it contains maybe the worst bass flub of all time. But somehow it was left in. I was always amazed that this incredible mistake was left in. The bass player just goes to the absolute wrong chords for two notes. It was a deep cut, so it didn't matter.
MDC, "Business On Parade"
JW: I was a huge hardcore fan as a teen, and this was my favorite hardcore record. This is an intense record all around, featuring the lyrics, "Don't believe what politicians do / Don't believe what they say / All they do is fuck you / Get fat on their pay." I actually have that lyric tattooed on the back of my leg. No, I don't.
The Carpenters, "Ticket To Ride"
JW: A cover of the Beatles. I heard it one night in a supermarket. You know how when you're in a dream and things are going super-slow, like you're being chased by someone? That's exactly what it felt like. The song almost goes in reverse; it's so dreamy. But it's great. The harmonies are great. Richard, the brother, adds chords to it! It's kinda ballsy that he did it. He added a weird jazz chord at the end of the chorus, which I guess would be considered sacrilege in some circles. But I give him ups for tweaking!
Steely Dan, "Gaucho (Demo)"
JW: It's just Donald Fagen at the piano. Another funny lyricist. That's one band I'm always embarrassed to say that I love, but I've been meeting more people that are into them. Like John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats—I was surprised to hear that he's a fan. I'm not even sure where I got this. In the studio, they were super-meticulous about getting the perfect take. Apparently the drum track for the album version has, like, 90-some edits, where you'd actually cut the tape and cut out a little mistake and piece it together. It's kind of unheard of for back then. But it made for a great take!