Lil Keke, "Southside" When a dance is created in honor of a certain track, you know that song is extraordinary. One of the unmistakable Houston anthems, Lil Keke's hypnotic classic has become a call to action to "raise your hands, so so high, rub your head, and do The Southside!"
As soon as those four piano keys ring out, you can feel the energy of the club shift into full pimp mode. A lyrical master, Keke provides a wide range of memorable lines, all delivered with confidence and conviction. "If you don't like it you can get up off The Southside dick!" MARCO TORRES
Dean Martin, "Houston" Sung by anyone else, "Houston" might be a sad song indeed, seeing how Dino has holes in his shoes, no friends, chases dollar bills in the wind, and hasn't eaten in a week. Yet his demeanor on this 1965 tune sounds more like Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. are holding a tee time at River Oaks Country Club. There's a girl and a warm bed with a feather waiting for him, see. (Allegedly.) Hopefully a car is too. CHRIS GRAY
Tift Merritt, "Stray Paper" This auburn-haired alt-country songbird was raised in the Tar Heel State but born in Houston, and in February 2013 told us she had nothing but happy memories of visiting family here with her dad as a girl. Things change, though. In this song from 2004's Tambourine, all Houston stands for is a postcard stained with painful memories: "Just to remind me that it all went wrong/ Just to beat me up, just to turn me on." CHRIS GRAY
Mickey Newbury, "If You Ever Get To Houston (Look Me Down)" "Cincinnati is a long, long way from here/ And it gets a little further with each beer." A graduate of Jeff Davis High, Little White Wolf knew the Northside's hardscrabble inhabitants and blood-bucket beer joints well. When he sings "I'll be dead a-sleepin' in the back of Richard's Northside Lounge," that's all the geography we need. Newbury's version sounds like it was written for Jerry Lee Lewis, but crooner Don Gibson had a minor hit with it. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Iggy Pop, "Houston Is Hot Tonight" Ahhh, the early '80s. All those petrodollars floating around. "I don't mind a bloodbath, with oil on my breath," the estimable Mr. Pop sings on this sexed-up post-punk blues with a snaky bass line and cushion of horns. He saw a moonman on his telephone, too -- must have made a nice change of scenery from Berlin or something. CHRIS GRAY
Really Red, "No Art in Houston" In 2014, you can still find plenty of dumb, young peckerwoods complaining that there's nothing to do in this town: no good shows, no good music, no good artists. Well, if they think it's bad now (it ain't), they'd have run screaming from the Houston of 1981, possibly with a cop hot on their heels. Really Red, the city's Reagan-era hardcore heroes, put screaming voice to the frustration with Houston's underdeveloped arts culture on their terrific Teaching You the Fear LP.
On "No Art in Houston", lyrics by Perry Webb of Culturcide (now better known as artist Mark Flood) took well-deserved shots at institutions from the Houston Ballet to FM-KLOL, outlets purveying the kind of backward-looking "art that sells" that punk rock was designed to destroy. Musicians like Really Red may have been treated "just a cut above a dog" in those days, but they paved the way for the current-day Houston underground that you've been sort of meaning to seriously check out for years now. NATHAN SMITH
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