I almost included The Three Tenors. They’re not rock, obviously, but Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and José Carreras are the premiere tenors of our time. When they’re together, everything they touch turns to gold. People would pay money to hear them sing “Who Let the Dogs Out?” But they never recorded “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and I finally decided against them. Also, I hate opera.

Let’s go 3!

3 Doors Down

3 Mustaphas 3
Paul Simon’s Graceland is as far as I go with “world music,” a term that covers every instrument and musical scale ever played that isn’t usually played in North America. If world music is your thing you’ll enjoy 3 Mustaphas 3, as the members seem to be having a lot of fun playing their various Dr. Seuss string-like things. I find that their singing sounds like the Minions from Despicable Me, but that’s probably my American provincialism speaking. Allmusic.com suggests you start with Soup of the Century (1990). I suggest Graceland or The Rhythm of the Saints.

Pioneering rap-metal outfit that helped open the door for Korn and Limp Bizkit. Curse you, 311! Their 1994 hit “Down” is a marriage of rap and Nirvana. Their other hit from that year, “All Mixed Up,” is rap, metal, reggae, and jubilant all at once. That’s the one song I can recommend by 311.


Fun Boy Three

Loudon Wainwright III
I admit that this is cheating. The guy was born with that number, he didn’t pick it! But this gave me a chance to listen again to “Dead Skunk” (“Take a whiff on me that ain’t no rose/roll up yer window and hold yer nose”) and “Lullaby” (“Shut your mouth and button your lip/You’re a late-night faucet that’s got a drip”), two of folk-rock’s greatest achievements.

The Three O’Clock
Bands have been returning to their music’s roots since rock was old enough to grow roots. One such roots movement was “The Paisley Underground,” a loose grouping of early-’80s LA bands that loved the ‘60s. The Dream Syndicate loved The Velvet Underground. The Bangles loved The Mamas and the Papas. Rain Parade loved The Doors.

Then there was The Three O’Clock. (Their biggest fan: Prince.) They worshipped The Monkees and The Association, though to me they sound like their contemporaries The Go-Gos. Their best-known song and the one I like is “Jetfighter,” from Sixteen Tambourines (1983).

Third Eye Blind
They came along in the aftermath of grunge and produced hard rock for a hip college crowd that was thrilled to see them in concert and forgot all about them before they hit 30.

Best known for the catchy “Jumper” and the even catchier “Semi-Charmed Life” from their self-titled 1997 debut; the former is about talking a friend off a ledge, the latter is about trying to escape crystal meth. The suicide song sounds surprisingly upbeat, but the other is downright happy. The singer and his girlfriend are in love with meth and they feel fine, despite the bleak words they’re singing. I don’t know if this emotional disconnect is intentional. It’s definitely weird.

Third World War
No listing on Allmusic.com, no music on Rhapsody, but a tantalyzing reference on Wikipedia, where I learned that these Brits formed a sort of proto-punk band in 1970 that produced two albums, toured Finland, and made no money. I found their song “Ascension” on YouTube – it sounds like Jethro Tull had an affair with Joe Cocker. I listened to a couple others, but while my interest declined I can understand why punk pioneers Joe Strummer and Henry Rollins cite Third World War as an influence.

Three Dog Night

Timbuk 3
Forever known for “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades,” which would’ve been perfect for Huey Lewis & The News. “Things are all right, and they’re only getting better,” Timbuk 3 sang on this 1987 release, and though things didn’t get better for them professionally they did turn out a pretty interesting record, Greetings From Timbuk 3 (check out “Facts About Cats,” “Just Another Movie,” and “Shame on You,” another good song for Huey if he had ever learned how to rap). Too bad that the glare from Timbuk 3’s one novelty number obscures the rest of their work.

4 Non Blondes
Joan Armatrading meets Guns N’ Roses with a hint of Heart. Their one album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More (1993), yielded the hit “What’s Up,” which is pleasant enough. 4 Non Blondes eventually featured six non-blondes, one of whom was a guy.

Bobby Fuller Four

Classics IV
Classics IV started out in life imitating The Four Seasons. That’s enough by itself to get them kicked out of this conversation. But they eventually produced three classics (there, I said it) of the ’60s, “Stormy,” “Spooky,” and “Traces.” (“I close my eyes and say a prayer/that in her heart she’ll find/a trace of love there…”)

If you were 12 or 13 as I was when these songs appeared, then like me you occasionally tune in to the Oldies station in the car and you don’t turn these off when they pop up in the rotation. The first slow dance I ever had was to “Traces.” Unless it was “Crimson & Clover.” Whatever the soundtrack was, once I was mashed up against a girl-type person I suddenly understood what everyone in rock was singing about.

Objectively speaking, these songs pretty much suck. “Spooky” is particularly nuts – the singer never knows what his girlfriend is going to do next. Check this out: He asks her if she wants to go to the movies and she says no. Then she rethinks her decision and says yes. Alfred Hitchcock could’ve made an entire movie out of these psychodynamics.

Perhaps because they recorded “Stormy” and “Spooky,” at one point they covered “Sunny.” That one’s not bad!

Four Bitchin’ Babes
Folk-comedy from a rotating cast of bitchin’ babes brought together by Christine Lavin. Their first album, which I have yet to hear, is Buy Me Bring Me Take Me: Don’t Mess My Hair!!! (1993). I’ve heard Fax It! Charge It! Don’t Ask Me What’s for Dinner! (1995), and it’s not all laughs on this disc, as in the first track, “My Mother’s Hands.”

Frankly I’m getting tired of all the folk music and world music on this list, and that includes our next contestants:

Four Men & a Dog
Irish boys playing Celtic music with an international flair. There have been more than four men in this lineup although only four at a time. The dog stays home. If the long-running radio program Thistle & Shamrock is your idea of a good time, you probably already have posters of Four Men & a Dog on your bedroom wall. (For years I wondered why that show only had one announcer, and if she was Ms. Thistle then where was Mr. Shamrock?)

Gang of Four

The Four Aces
Famous a cappella group of the early 1950s that were shot to pieces like a rural stop sign by rock ’n’ roll. I know I don’t get paid for writing this blog but somebody owes me something for listening to their two biggest hits, “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

The Four Freshmen
We’re not exactly on a roll here with the number 4. The Four Freshmen are The Four Aces set to music. Eighteen freshmen have sung in their lineup, on such albums as Four Freshmen and Five Trombones, Four Freshmen and Five Trumpets, Four Freshmen and Five Saxes, Four Freshmen and Five Guitars, and Four Freshmen and Five Dr. Seuss String-like Things. Surprisingly, the band existed as a recording unit for six years before they thought of naming an album Freshmen Year.

The Four Fellows
See The Four Toppers.

The Four Havens
I thought this had something to do with Richie Havens and his family, but I was wrong. I’ve heard one track, “One Note Too High,” from somewhere in the 1950s. It’s an uneasy clash of R&B and doo wop. I think they were on to something interesting here but it’s impossible to judge from one song and no context.

The Four Horsemen
Obscure metal act of the early 1990s in which everyone went to jail or died. If they’re known for anything, that thing is “Rockin’ Is Ma’ Business,” which would’ve been done far better by AC/DC. In fact AC/DC can do everything they can do backwards and in high heels. However, for a while the Horsemen had a punk/metal drummer named Chuck Biscuits, which is the second-best drummer name of all time (the #1 spot is still held by punk pioneer Spit Stix).

The Four Seasons
Awhile back I read Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, in which the hero spends 50 pages at the bottom of a dry well. In the dark. I’d rather reread those pages than listen to The Four Seasons.

But, because I am always fair and balanced, I must note that this bland, boring steamroller has been playing and touring and selling records for 50 years. The British Invasion, funk, reggae, disco, punk, grunge, rap, and Lady Gaga have all tried to kill The Four Seasons and all of them have failed. The Four Seasons will still be playing, touring, and selling their bland, boring records 50 years from now (and you can bet your download device of choice that I’ll still be complaining about them).

The Four Seasons’ lineup of past and present members stands at about 40. They will catch 101 Strings sometime before the bicentennial of the Civil War in 2061.

The Four Tops
They’ve lasted just as long as The Four Seasons and they’ve done it with only five guys. Long list of hits, particularly when Holland-Dozier-Holland was feeding them material in the mid-’60s, but my favorite has always been “River Deep, Mountain High” from 1971 (recorded with The Supremes’ survivors after Diana Ross left).

The Four Toppers
Early ’50s singing group that basically broke up when half of them were drafted during the Korean War. They transformed into The Four Fellows on their return. They’re worth remembering because Fellow David Jones wrote “Soldier Boy” while serving in Korea.

Tomorrow night: Rikki. Don’t lose that number, OK?

  1. “…But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

    —United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

  2. Verlierer says:

    A third Wainwight III classic is “1994” (“And if you start killing people/It’s not evil you’re not cruel/It’s just a little goop polluting your genetic swimming pool”). Also a numerological bonus, having digits in both name and song.

    Speaking of genetic engineering, The Four Seasons have achieved it with their Broadway musical “Jersey Boys,” where cyborg stand ins are falsetto-ing their songs for another 50 years (after your 50 years).

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      You’re the one who suggested I try songs with numbers. I might do that yet.

      I forgot about Jersey Boys. You’re right, the show could easily run for a century, long after we turn the Earth into a sauna. Whoever inherits the place from us will stand in line for tickets!

  3. Rikki. Don’t lose that number…

    What do Steely Dan and The Soft Machine have in common? You won’t need a calculator, but if you did, you know who to thanks.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Hahaha! I never thought to put those two together. Hmmm…a sexual innuendo band list…we now have the anchor tenants.

      • The actual phase from ‘The Naked Lunch’ was “Steely Dan III from Yokohama” (even the Beach Boys picked up her good vibrations). What a pity that Rikki lost that number; they could have been part of your musical numerology. Anyway, why am I telling you? You probably know more about the Becker boy’s than I do – I understand they left their old man back in Oregon.

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        People should always tell me things. I never know what I don’t know.

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