Listeria: Top Ten Songs I Would Use for My Walk-On Music If I Was an MLB Closer
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 12, 2008
No, one of them is NOT “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”
If I could play any position in any professional team sport–assuming I had the athleticism, savvy and inclination to do so–the closer role on a baseball team would be pretty hard to pass up. You don’t usually achieve the star power that the elite starters and position players too, but you get decent pay and a sort of silent respect for a role that isn’t particularly physically demanding–only about 1/3 the innings of a rotation regular, but now with up to eight-digit salary potential (Gagne, ferchrissakes!) It’s easier the easiest or the hardest job on the team, depending on your definition of the words “easy” and “hard,” but for an inning every three games or so, you’re the man, the entire balance of the game hanging on your broad shoulders and terrible facial hair. You’re like an NFL placekicker that nobody laughs at. Sounds pretty good to me.
Plus, you get walk-on music. Oh sure, starting pitchers can have walk-on music, but that plays while most of the crowd is still buying Coors Light and trying to figure out how StubHub pick-up actually works. Hitters can have walk-on music too, but it only plays for like ten seconds at the most, and you’re sick of hearing those ten seconds on repeat it by the end of the game. Closers, on the other hand, can get an entire middle of the inning for their walk-on music, while at the very peak of the game’s drama, every set of eyes in the stadium squared on your entrance from the outfield, watching you walk to the mound deliberately, head down, hat down, single purpose in mind. For one half an inning, you are the biggest badass on the planet. And you get to choose the music to prove it.
So what goes into a good closer walk-on soundtrack? Well, it’s gotta be something intimidating-sounding, or if not intimidating-sounding, then at least cool enough to not be mockably weak. It has to be something energetic enough to get you suitably pumped, but not so energetic that you have to start sprinting to the mound. It should be well-known enough that there are certain popular associations that people can instantly form by your choice of the song, but not so well known that people dread your entrance to have to hear that song again. And it should have a hell of an intro, something that’s instantly recognizable, especially because it’s possible that you’ll only half about a half-minute or 45 seconds’ worth of song to work with. And while you get bonus points for topicality, you’re definitely disqualified for complete inappropriateness (which is why the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion” isn’t on this list, despite having arguably the most badass intro of any song in history).
So I’ve whittled it down a bit, and here are the ten I would submit to the powers that be as my first choices for walk-on music as I set out to shut down the ninth inning. I chose not to go with anything by Metallica and AC/DC due to their unbreakable associations with baseball’s two most legendary contemporary closers (despite the fact that I would choose “For Those About to Rock” over “Hell’s Bells” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” over “Enter Sandman”), and I figured Hendrix and Zep would be too easy. Besides those, I also couldn’t find room for Motley Crue’s “Wildside,” Bad Company’s “Bad Company,” Noreaga’s “Superthug,” KISS’s “Strutter,” Danzig’s “Mother,” Faith No More’s “Epic,” Public Enemy and Anthrax’s “Bring the Noise,” The Prodigy’s “Firestarter,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole,” Jay-Z’s “Takeover,” Eric B. & Rakim’s “Follow the Leader,” Europe’s “The Final Countdown” (too played anyway), Jimmy Castor Bunch’s “It’s Just Begun,” Linkin Park’s “Faint,” or MIMS’s “This is Why I’m Hot” (maybe in a few years).
Oh, and when you’re finished reading, please feel free to submit your own choices for this. You know you’ve thought about it at least once. And if not, it’ll torment you for the rest of your life.
10. Billy Joel – “Pressure” The benefits to this one are immediate and obvious. First, the song kicks off instantly, building the appropriate tension before unleashing that killer, super-evil synth riff. Then, if the PA guy wanted to be a little flexible with the editing, you could get even get to the verse where he actually sings “But here you are, in the ninth / two men out and three men on“. Would totally be higher on my list, except that it’s bound to cause a little bit of confusion with the ambiguity–“Wait a minute, is this guy trying to say that the hitters should be feeling the pressure? Or is he trying to get sympathy for the pressure he’s under? And why are people getting sucked into the wall in this song’s video?” Still.
9. Daft Punk – “Da Funk” OK, so this one might be a little obscure for stadium rock, and pitchers and hitters alike tend to stay away from non-hip-hop dance music for its arguable denotations of femininity and/or homosexuality. Nonetheless, I don’t think there’s much rock music out there to compete with the power of “Da Funk”–once that one-note, THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. bass line kicks in, I’d be walking across the outfield like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever 2: Doubleheader. And like that squealing (guitar? synth?) hook wouldn’t petrify opposing batters into premature submission.
8. Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones, Pt. II” “To all my killaz and my hundred dollar billaz / To real niggaz who ain’t got no feelin’s” Cold. Not too many songs could put me in the zone quite like this one. You just get to stepping in time with that warped-sounding piano hook, and all of a sudden it’s yeah, ain’t no such things as halfway crooks, Jermaine Dye. Besides, it has established closer history, working like a charm for B. Rabbitt in the climactic scene of 8 Mile. Though Eminem strikes me as more of a Joba or Zumaya-like eighth inning man.
7. Nazareth – “Hair of the Dog” I said no AC/DC, but I left room for AC/DC soundalikes, of which “Hair of the Dog” is certainly the cream of the crop. And unlike any AC/DC songs I can think of, you’ve got one of classic rock’s best cowbell-heavy intros to go with it, without being too chill (“Low Rider”), too chilling (“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”) or too, uh, specific (“Mississippi Queen”). Plus, then you get to that chorus–“Now you’re messin’ with a….SON OF A BITCH!!” Who wouldn’t want to walk out for that?
6. Heart – “Magic Man” I imagine some closers (Todd Jones seems like a man set in his ways, and Phils’ closer-turned-starter Brett Myers is a relatively well-documented mysogynist) might have issues coming out to a song sung by a chick, but really, it makes more sense than coming out to “Wild Thing,” doesn’t it? I mean, did Ricky Vaughn and/or Mitch Williams imagine the Troggs were singing about him, and are they actually progressive enough to be cool with it? In any event, I love everything about this song, especially that stray opening note, which has gotta be a shoo-in for hottest first note in all of classic rock. Plus, you could sort of turn it into an unofficial but well-established nickname…”And HEEEEERE COMES THE MAGIC MAN HIMSELF, ANDREW UNTERBERGER!” Can certainly think of worse.
5. Van Halen – “Runnin’ With the Devil”. Once you hear that horn blarin’, you know it’s Lights Out time. It’s got the same THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. bass line as “Da Funk,” an even more deliberate pace, and a guitar line so righteous that I’d know that I’d be pissing off God and Satan alike if I blew this one. I suppose the team might not be so thrilled about the possible connotations of devil worship, but then again, known Santeria practicioner Francisco Rodriguez is about to break the single-season save record, so clearly MLB is getting more tolerant of alternative religions.
4. Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”. Talk about a song that hits the ground running–two seconds of this one and the game’s already good as over. I’d get to the mound just as the verse was ending, and everyone in the audience would yell out “SABOTAGE!!!!” at the appropriate moment. ‘Coz I’d be sabotaging the other team’s chances of winning! Eh? Eh? They’d play the video on the Jumb-o-Tron, of course, and maybe on 70s Night I’d actually come dressed as Cochese or Sir Stuart Wallace. “So What’cha Want” probably wouldn’t get the crowd quite as pumped, but it’d possibly be even more fun to walk out to.
3. Slayer – “Raining Blood”. When I asked my (decidedly non-baseball fan) brother which song he would use for such purposes, he came up with this in about half a second. Now I’m not the biggest Slayer fan (I still couldn’t recognize a single song that comes in between “Angel of Death” and this on Reign), but I gotta admit, the opening minute of this song–the rain noises, the disembodied guitar wails, and the occasional DUN-DUN-DUN drum thuds, all leading up to that riff to end all metal riffs–is sixty seconds of the most badass music I ever heard. There’s no way the PA guy would let me get much further in the song than that anyway, since once it gets into the fast part, 95% of the audience would jam their ears, assume that I probably would’ve closed the game and rush out to beat the traffic. Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath” would be a pretty good back-up in this slot, too.
2. Nas – “Made You Look” The shotgun sounds might get me in trouble for this one, but if Manny could get away with walking out to Styles P’s “Good Times (I Get High),” this should seem relatively inconspicous by comparison. And oh man, is this song a killer. That drum loop, the chanting voices in the back, and that sinister, sinewy bass line–it just sounds like the aural equivalent of a physical or metaphorical beatdown. I can feel my blood rising just thinking about it. Then you get to the fairly appropos chorus–“Aw, made you look / You a slave to a page in my rhyme book / Gettin’ big money, playboy, ya time’s up.” With that hook pulsing out of the loudspeakers, I could face Vlad Guerrero, Mark Teixeira and Torii Hunter back-to-back with no fear in my heart whatsoever.
1. EMF – “Unbelievable”. All right, so this is maybe the least badass of any song on this list, and it’s certainly not gonna strike fear into the heart of anyone. But when I first had any sort of discussion about this topic, this was the song that instantly came to mind, and I gotta be true to myself here. More than any other song on this list, I only need a fraction of this song–maybe no more than that opening “OHHH!!!” to just be completely invigorated, ready to face whatever challenge life could possibly set out for me. The verse lyrics are totally irrelevant, but no one can understand what singer James Atkin (yes, even I had to Wiki that one) is saying anyway, so that’s a wash, especially since once you get up to the chorus, that’s all that could possibly matter. Naturally, I get to the mound by the time of the chorus, and then when it gets up to the “The things…you say…” part and the music cuts out, the sell-out crowd of 45,000 all shouts back:
Andrew Dice Clay responds with an “OHHHHH!!!!,“ and I am officially the most untouchable motherfucker on the planet.