Fighting Songs by the Rolling Stones, Pat Benatar, the Ramones + others: Odd Couples

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So, it’s finally come to pass that boxing legends Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have arranged to meet this May to thrash out their differences by thrashing each other. To celebrate the figurative freezing over of that famous, particularly hot piece of real estate (and I don’t mean Las Vegas), and to help whet your appetite as you wait for the main event, here’s an undercard special edition of Odd Couples: Songs about Fighting …

“ONE HIT (TO THE BODY)” by THE ROLLING STONES
vs. “HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT” by PAT BENATAR

The Rolling Stones lumber through this single taken from 1986’s Dirty Work, featuring some fine rhythmic chops from Keith Richards and Ron Wood. As well, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page shows up for a guest guitar solo. But even the presence of these three princes of English rock guitar royalty couldn’t prevent this song from becoming the first Rolling Stones’ single to miss the Top 75 in the UK charts.

On the other hand, Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” turned out to be her breakthrough single, making the Top Ten and carrying her album Crimes of Passion to No. 2 — where it was kept out of the No. 1 spot in January 1981 by Double Fantasy in the aftermath of John Lennon’s death. Catchy, yet tough, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” employs a relationship-as-fight metaphor like so many other songs, but Benatar’s delivery makes you believe that she really can take your best figurative punch and feed it right back to you.

For the Rolling Stones, it’s just another song. Besides, they already had their entrance into the Fight Song Hall of Fame guaranteed years ago with “Street Fightin’ Man.” Winner: Pat Benatar by TKO in the 10th round.

“SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR FIGHTING” by NICKELBACK FEATURING KID ROCK
vs. “KUNG FU FIGHTING” by CEELO GREEN AND JACK BLACK

Like 90 percent of the world, I’m not a big Nickelback fan. But I have spent the night in their hometown of Hanna, Alberta, where at 3 a.m. in a motel lobby, a local itinerant oil rigger regaled me with tall tales of how he was often mistaken for one of the hometown boys in the band whenever he went down to the corner store for a pack of smokes. In any case, Nickelback’s version of Elton John’s mega hit “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” isn’t as offensive as one might think; in fact, it’s a pretty competent update that brings the classic into the era of modern arena hard rock — which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your level of Nickelback tolerance.

I’m not a big CeeLo Green fan either. However, he takes Carl Douglas’s unlikely disco/martial arts crossover hit from 1974 “Kung Fu Fighting,” gives it some production, some polish, and a bit of a rewrite, and the result is so shiny and sparkly new it can be used in a Disney movie (which, again, may or may not be a good thing). But I never met anybody who claimed to be mistaken for CeeLo.

Winner: CeeLo Green, by (nearly) unanimous decision. No matter how nice the guys in Nickleback are supposed to be, you still don’t want your pre-teens listening to them, do you?

“COMMANDO” by THE RAMONES
vs. “STORMTROOPIN'” by TED NUGENT

I dunno – bands using army imagery seems a little too obvious. But Ted does have a pretty strong … opinion on the right to bear arms, and Johnny Ramone briefly attended military school. At least in “Stormtroopin’” lead vocalist Derek St. Holmes seems to be singing about standing against the storm troopers, not joining them. And Nugent really is a great lead guitarist.

But the Ramones have their own agenda as well; they know the whole left wing/right wing dichotomy is a put on. In “Commando,” they manage to squeeze in the phrase “eat kosher salami,” poking fun at those who take the Ramones’ military imagery as indicative of some kind of emotional fascism within the band. The only thing truly military about the salami is that it supports the old saw that “an army always travels on its stomach.”

Winner: Ramones, TKO, first round. There’s a reason those Ramones’ songs were always so short.

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
JC Mosquito
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