Last week, we delved into the strange. This
week…by God, we’re kicking it up a notch! You wouldn’t
think a single letter would make so much difference,
but as you can see, the transition from "strange"
to "stranger" – and "strangers," of course – has
given us plenty more material to work with. (Don’t
count on seeing a "Strangest" compilation anytime
"Come In Stranger," Johnny Cash (Johnny
Cash Sings Hank Williams)
There are two rather inexplicable things about this song. The first is that it was released as a single in 1958 but didn’t make it onto an album until 1960, and the second is that, although it’s a Cash original, the album it appears on is entitled Johnny Cash Sings Hank Williams. Eh, either way, it still makes for the perfect opener here.
"Red Headed Stranger," Willie Nelson (Red
Well, if you’ve got Johnny, you might as well have Willie, too, right? Actually, if we’d wanted to get three out of four Highwaymen involved, we also could’ve tacked on Kris Kristofferson’s "Stranger," but it would’ve felt like we were trying too hard. It’s much easier to feel comfortable about including the title cut of one of Willie’s best albums.
"The Stranger," Billy Joel (The Stranger)
Ah, Billy. You lost your hair and gave up pop music. Why, why, why? Chicks might not dig a bald guy, but they’re all about guys who can write a song like this one.
"Stranger in Town," Toto (Isolation)
If you’re unfamiliar with your Toto timeline, this would be after "Africa" and "Rosanna" but before "I’ll Be Over You" and "Pamela." More importantly, though, it was the band’s first single after replacing lead singer Bobby Kimball with Fergie Frederiksen. Unfortunately, it didn’t really pay off; Isolation was a relative flop, and Frederiksen left the band not long afterwards.
"Eyes of a Stranger," The Payola$ (No
Stranger to Danger)
I’m sure there are legions of Queensryche fans currently rising up to kick my ass over my decision to go with the Payola$ song of this title rather than the one from Operation: Mindcrime…because, you know, Bullz-Eye scores really high in the "Queensryche fans" demographic…but, sorry, I’m a bigger fan of this track by Paul Hyde and Bob Rock. The Payola$ were bigger in Canada than the States, but their brilliantly titled best-of collection, Between a Rock and a Hyde Place, is a good place to start if you want to find out what they were all about.
"Stranger in Moscow," Michael Jackson (HIStory)
Dammit, it’s depressing to listen to this song and remember that, even on his less-heralded albums, Michael Jackson was still capable of brilliance. I know it’s naïve, but I still think that if he’d ever get off his ass and surround himself with something other than yes-men, that guy could make another album to rival Thriller.
"Perfect Strangers," INXS (Switch)
Watching "Rock Star" was a relatively painful experience, if only because of the history I had with INXS. The idea that anyone could replace Michael Hutchence seemed ludicrous. Imagine my surprise, then, when the album that resulted from the band’s audition for a new singer turned out to be remarkably good, with the new guy, J.D. Fortune, sounding spookily like Hutchence at times. Why wasn’t this released as a single?
"Company of Strangers," Colin Hay (Company
As ever, we’ll take any opportunity to hype the solo career of the former Men at Work frontman. This album barely even snuck into release, emerging in what Hay himself described as a "brown-bag edition" (the cover looks like ratty burlap), but it’s as good as anything else in his catalog, as this title cut demonstrates.
"Stranger Things," ABC (Skyscraping)
Things started going downhill for Martin Fry and ABC right around the time of Up, leading to an eventual hiatus for the band after the release of 1991’s Abracadabra. In 1997, Fry returned with the best ABC album in a decade, and this was its lead-off track.
"Don’t Talk to Strangers," Rick Springfield
(Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet)
A classic single from a classic album. Hey, it is, too, a classic album! I mean, sure, it’s no Working Class Dog…but at least it still had cute doggies on the cover.
"Stranger Than You," Joe Jackson (Night
and Day II)
When word leaked out that Joe Jackson was finally leaving his years of musical experimentation behind and getting back to his trademark pop sound, fans were giddy. When it turned out that he was planning to do a sequel to one of his most popular albums, they went apeshit. Alas, Night & Day II wasn’t everything it ought to have been, but at the very least, the song was easily as solid as anything on the original album.
"Stranger Than Fiction," Bad Religion (Stranger
At first, I really wanted the Joe Jackson song by this title (from his Laughter & Lust album), but since I didn’t really want to repeat artists nor did I want to leave off this Bad Religion track, the problem worked itself out easily enough. Some diehards don’t rate the Atlantic years of the band very highly, but I think they kick as much ass as most anything else in the Bad Religion catalog.
"Strangers When We Meet," The Smithereens
(Especially for You)
The lead track from what’s arguably the best album in the Smithereens’ very strong discography. Makes you wish they’d go back and write some new songs instead of re-recording Beatles albums in their entirety. (Yeah, I know, "Ouch." But I feel very strongly about this, dammit.)
"Strangers in the Night," Frank Sinatra
(Strangers in the Night)
Home of the classic refrain that inspired the name of the most famous animated Great Dane in history: Scooby-Doo. What are the chances?
"Goodbye Stranger," Supertramp (Breakfast
Oh, come on, surely you knew we’d close with this one, didn’t you?
Bonus Track: "Strangers," Big Will Harris
I have never heard this song, and I don’t know the first thing about it. It just popped up on AllMusic.com when I was researching ideas for this list, and, well, when you find out that a list-appropriate song has been recorded by a rapper with the same name as yourself, it really deserves inclusion, if only as a bonus track. I can only presume that, like myself, this fine upstanding individual possesses the so-called "Big Willie Style."