Second Bananas: A Mix

Here's another old mix I've updated for Spotify; kind of a fun one, I think.

Most bands are known for a primary songwriter or singer (sometimes two, in the case of, say, the Beatles or the Clash). But then you've got that random album track where someone else in the band steps up. This mix is all about those tracks.

Sometimes it was a semi-regular gig -- George Harrison, John Entwistle, and Dave Davies typically took one or two slots on each Beatles/Who/Kinks album for a turn in the spotlight. Likewise in the indie rock equivalent, where Scott Kannberg and Tobin Sprout were allocated a few slots per album by the dominant frontmen of Pavement and Guided by Voices.

Sometimes the "alternate" singer grew over time to be a co-equal of the primary songwriter, which would usually signal the looming demise of the band, like Grant Hart stealing some of Bob Mould's thunder in Hüsker Dü, or Jeff Tweedy's growing songwriting skills leading to resentment from Uncle Tupelo's Jay Farrar, ultimately splintering the band into Wilco and Son Volt. In the alternative, being stuck in the shadows would lead them to strike out on their own -- as the Pixies' Kim Deal did in forming the Breeders, or Throwing Muses' Tanya Donnely did in forming Belly (after a stop in the Breeders).

Other times the "second banana" was always part of the core songwriting team, but only intermittently took the lead vocal, like the Stones' Keith Richards or R.E.M.'s Mike Mills.

And occasionally you'd have a band member who rarely took the helm, yet managed to conjure up one of the band's key moments -- Soul Asylum was Dave Pirner's band, but guitarist Dan Murphy delivered the band's greatest song with "Cartoon" (Murphy would get more chances to show off his power pop chops with side project Golden Smog, alongside Jeff Tweedy and others); Clash bassist Paul Simonon only took the spotlight from Strummer/Jones once, but "Guns of Brixton" manages to hold up well as part of London Calling, the greatest album of all time (says I); and Jam bassist Bruce Foxton similarly came up with one of my favorite Jam songs, "Smithers-Jones," arguably the equal of Paul Weller's finest work.

Anyway, give it a spin. Let me know if you have suggestions for the deluxe edition! [NOTE: Updated with a few additions suggested over on Twitter.]
A few videos?

Soul Asylum:
The Clash:
Throwing Muses:


  1. As an Aussie, I always love when Davey Lane steps up for You Am I.

  2. Humanfund here. Very nice idea.

    Hmm, I'd have to cut Smithers Jones as the good part is sung by Weller.

    Grant Hart has too many good, essential Husker Du songs to be classed as a second banana on par with say Kim Deal/ Pixies.

    How about Mike Watt's 'History Lesson Part 2' for the Minutemen? One of the essential songs of an essential band.

    1. No, not History Lesson Part 2, that was of course sung by D Boon. I mean Time, albeit a cover of 'Dick Hell.'

    2. Yeah, I went back and forth on Grant Hart. But it did feel on the first few albums like Mould was the obvious frontman, with Hart taking a few turns (even if numerically maybe a third or more of the songs were Hart's); obviously some of this is the challenge of being a singing drummer, or maybe just that Hart's songs felt "lighter" than Mould's raw force of nature. Personally, my own Husker Du "greatest hits" mix is heavily tilted towards Hart, so yeah, he's kind of a ringer on this mix.


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