Each year, any efforts to cover all that the Columbus music scene has to offer is a challenge. It’s impossible.
With bands seemingly cropping up every weekend, from every niche and genre under our often obscured sun, trying to define or corral what Columbus music “sounds like” becomes an existential rabbit hole. Simply put, we are lucky to have it all.
In a effort to preserve what has come before, (614) asked a number of reputable musicians, label owners, and radio personalities to pick one song that to them encapsulates Columbus’ musical identity. We took the results and put them together into a seamless, old fashioned mixtape. By no means is this a survey or an attempt to rank and file the classics into a tidy list. Remember, that’s impossible.
“Letter to a Fanzine” – Great Plains (1987)
Classic wit and intelligence from one of the most interesting bands to ever come out of Columbus.
— Sue Harshe (member of Scrawl and Fort Shame)
“Gotta’ Keep A Runnin'” – The Godz (1978)
This band is 100% homegrown and the song reflects the life and times of Columbus in the late ’70s rock scene better than any other band. Many elder, native Cowtowners grew up falling over each other at their wild Newport (then the Agora) live shows.
— Mike “Rep” Hummel (member of the True Believers and the Quotas, as well as infamous lo-fi producer)
“Devo and Wine” – Times New Viking (2007)
Of all the TNV hits “Devo and Wine” was the one I looked forward to hearing the most at their early shows.
— Sam Brown (member of Operators, Divine Fits, and You’re So Bossy among many other classic Columbus bands)
“The Progress” – Greenhorn (1992)
Greenhorn was my favorite band in high school, the band that made me realize that stuff as good as or even better than the tapes I was buying was right on my doorstep. And even though we laughed about how the records didn’t capture even half of how great they were at Stache’s, those recordings still have a pummeling charm all their own. The juxtaposition of all the disparate elements in Greenhorn – the weight, the power; the confusion, the frailty, the endurance and perseverance – is maybe expressed nowhere quite as well as in “The Progress.”
— Nick Schuld (drummer for Nervosas and Ace of Cups sound guru)
“Just Like Home” – Tim Easton (1998)
It’s from his debut release Special 20 following his work with The Haynes Boys and I love it just as much today as I did in 1998. Even though he’s spent time living in Joshua Tree and now Nashville, it’s great he still o.k. with us calling him Columbus’ own!
— Maggie Brennan (music director at 90.5 WCBE)
“Number One” – Bill Moss (1969)
I knew Bill Moss as a Columbus City Schools board member before I knew about CapSoul. He was the only board member willing to visit Indianola Middle School (where I taught), which at that time was one of four schools that made up the lowest circle of purgatory in the system, where the serious discipline problems were rotated through. He was hilarious and a total instigator – he used to go to board meetings in combat fatigues! I admit to getting teary when he died. This song, besides being catchy as hell and brilliantly produced, captures his optimism and spirit. Essential for fathers of sons. It’s a total classic.
— Don Howland (member of the legendary, blues-damaged duo, the Bassholes)
“Broken Horses” – Moviola (1997)
Moviola were an under-appreciated Columbus band that almost got vaguely famous. That they spurned a major label overture to basically work at OSU and own their modest homes makes them a quintessential Columbus band.
— Bela Koe-Krompecher (owner and operator of Anyway Records)
“Refried Dreams” – Cheater Slicks (1999)
One of best things about living in this town is having the opportunity to go see one of the best punk bands on this or any other planet play in a bar about the size of your living room twice a month. They’ve put out almost a dozen stellar records since defecting to Columbus from Boston in the mid-90’s, but if I had to pick a track to include on the next Voyager launch, it’d be the title track from 1999’s Refried Dreams. I’ve broken my glasses twice whilst losing my shit during live performances of this song.
— BJ Holesapple (member of Necropolis and Vile Gash as well as founder of Columbus Discount Records)
“Your Contemporaries” – The Lindsay (2006)
I’m not sure Columbus has ever produced something this gorgeous and violent at the same time.
— Tom Butler (DJ at CD102.5 and host of the Independent Playground)
“Jim Motherfucker” – Gaunt (1992)
Because through some drunken miracle it channels boneheaded exasperation into contagious exuberance and perfectly represents the lo-fi punk rock renaissance of the early 90’s.
— Ron House (member of Great Plains, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, and currently the Counter Intuits)
“Cinema East” – Earwig (1999)
Lizard Family Music was a little D.I.Y. scrap-rock record label out of Columbus in the mid-’90s which was founded by a fellow named Lizard McGee. He also happened to sing and play guitar for a band called Earwig. Several LFM bands made it onto the mixtapes of my youth, but this song is LFM’s national anthem.
— Kyle Sowash (member of the Kyle Sowashes and local concert promoter)
“The Casualties of Happiness” – Hugs and Kisses (2007)
Hugs and Kisses perfectly embody the reason why Columbus’ cultural products are so great. When you live somewhere that doesn’t have an assumed public identity, you can be anything you want. Rather than feeling that, as an artist, you have to speak to community identifiers, you form a gang based on ideas necessary to crafting the world you want to exist. Not something happy people would know much about either.
— Elizabeth Murphy (member of Times New Viking)
“Pissing Out the Poison” – Barbed Wire Dolls (1990)
Barbed Wire Dolls were Columbus’ own Sabbath, Stooges, and Stones, all wrapped up in a dirty tortilla of skuzz, and their “Pissing Out The Poison” single from 1990 is their “T.V. Eye.” I felt like I needed a shower every time I saw them, even if I just accidentally saw them walking down the street.
— Pat Dull (member of Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars and founder of Break-Up Records)
“I’m Gonna’ Keep on Loving You” – Kool Blues (1972)
There were a lot of killer soul tracks released on Capsoul, but this one sticks with me.”
— Brett Ruland (owner of Spoonful Records)
“Bristol Girl” – V-3 (1996)
To me it shows Jim Shepard’s direct Velvet Underground influence, where he combines the pretty with the profane. It’s also noteworthy that the song appears on his only major label release and could be interpreted as an attempt to do something “commercial.” Though I think anyone who listens closely will agree that it could never have been a hit by modern day “industry” standards — and that dichotomy makes it a great song.
— Paul Nini (member of Log and founder of Old 3C Records)