In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking songs that feature the word “hey” prominently—either in the title or in the lyrics.
The Detroit Cobras, “Hey Sailor” (2001)
About a week ago, the venue that figured most formidably in my young musical life burned down. The Union in Athens, Ohio, fell victim to some block-sized electrical fire and, while the frame of the building still stands, it will need a lot of work (and love) to ever become a functioning venue again.
The thing is, The Union wasn’t (isn’t?) just a venue. As one of my friends noted after the fire, it’s important that a place like The Union—a dirty punk club that sold $1.25 PBRs and hosted any good local, regional, or national band that wanted to play for $2 a head—exist in a large college town. Athens is notorious for having dozens and dozens of bars all packed into one little strip called Uptown, but only one both hosted acts as varied as The White Stripes and Skeletonwitch and acted as a haven for 18-year-olds who may not have really fit in where they grew up or among the kids in their new dorms. The Union was a place for you to be weird, to find likeminded strangers who would become friends, and to really figure out who you were. (The cheap beers helped, of course.)
I saw a ton of shows at The Union, including sets from the Black Keys and the White Stripes, but the event I always liked most was called A Danceable Solution. Hosted by my friend Charley Wilcock, “Danceable” was a sweaty, $2 dance night held every month or two where you’d go insane dancing to “alternative” tracks like Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” and Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” (I started going to Danceable in 2001, and it began long before that. It’s worth noting that “alternative” dance nights weren’t really all that prevalent then, especially in small college towns.)
And just as I learned that I wasn’t alone in liking “Cars That Go Boom” at A Danceable Solution, I learned about bands that were new to me, like The Detroit Cobras. Though I’d eventually go on to work with The Detroit Cobras at Bloodshot Records, there’s still only one Cobras song that holds a large place in my heart: “Hey Sailor.” A perfect song for drunk jumps and fist-pumps, “Hey Sailor” is two minutes and 30 seconds of soul-infused rock. Accented with growls and Rachel Nagy’s scratchy, slightly off-key and cigarette-imbued vocals, “Hey Sailor” is almost unintelligible at parts, but in only the very best way. And like The Union, it’s dirty and dark, but always welcoming, even years later.