In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
For about six years, I was a publicist in the music industry. One of the acts I worked with, Ha Ha Tonka, plays about 200 shows a year, and pretty much always covers one track: “12-inch, 3-Speed Oscillating Fan.” The song fits in pretty well with the Tonka’s repertoire, so I didn’t immediately know it was a cover, but I’ve come to love the original in the years since.
Written by Scott Young, the track has been performed by a number of associated Ozark Mountain acts, including both Red Meat and Big Smith, making it almost a local, folksy classic now rather than one band’s possession. And while I like Red Meat’s version, I think I prefer Big Smith’s. The best version on YouTube finds the band laying down the track while crowded onto a stage for a Big Smith Live At Cartoons TV special that certainly didn’t air on any network I’ve ever gotten. The version is a little less rocking than Ha Ha Tonka’s tends to be, but the band’s homespun charm—plus some stellar washboard playing—really make the song feel like something overheard from a porch one summer night rather than something anyone could catch in a sterile rock club. The rhymes are simple (“fan” and “divan,” for instance), the beat simple, and the lyrics catchy. Taken together, they make for one heck of an earworm.