Articles - - "Magnet and Steel"
September 6, 2006
World’s Greatest “That’s not a Power-Pop Riff…THAT’S a Power-Pop Riff” Song

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World’s Greatest “That’s not a Power-Pop Riff…THAT’S a Power-Pop Riff” Song
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So it’s 1978, and you’re Lindsey Buckingham, musical leader of Fleetwood Mac—only the biggest band on the planet—and you’re looking to branch out into the production side of things. You end up working with this guy, Walter Egan, who’s got David Cassidy good looks (or at least Sean Cassidy), and on top of that, is a pretty good writer. He even used to hang with Gram Parsons, so he’s got some critical cred on his side. The only problem is, his voice doesn’t match up with the songs he’s writing. He’s giving you the next great Cheap Trick song, but what’s coming out of the speakers sounds more like John Denver. Even you and Stevie can’t make this work. Oh sure, the single becomes an MOR hit, because you can’t hide the quality, but you know there’s something more; if only you could get that song into the right hands. Of course, because it was a hit, it’s going to take a while for people to forget about twang when they hear it. Better leave it alone for a while…

1998: You’re still Lindsey, back in the Mac after a ten-year absence, and now a new member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Now you’re the one with the critical cred, even if you haven’t had a real hit in a dozen years. Plus, you’ve got disciples who look at you the same way you looked at your heroes—guys like Matthew Sweet, who rings you up and says that he’s been asked to record a song for (of all things) the soundtrack to the TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He wants to do that Walter Egan song. Are you up for production duties?… What? Oh my God! You’d forgotten about that one. And Matthew Sweet, the master of slash and burn power pop? Hell yes, you’re up for it! Stevie’s on tour? No problem, Matthew’s got his Ming Tea bandmate Susanna Hoffs to fill in.

What more can I say? You’re feeling it. This version of the song starts not with an “excuse me” tip-toe of a riff, but the dirty crunch that you heard in your mind two decades back. Now, instead of a cooing outro, Matthew’s telling you to crank your ax and bust a hole in a wall to chase the song into the sunset. You’re so into it, you’ve got to sing along as well: “I am steel!” you call. Of course you’re steel, man: You’re Lindsey F’ing Buckingham, and now you’re finally got Egan’s song the way it was supposed to be. Matthew Sweet? More like Matthew Awesome!

MP3: "Magnet and Steel" - Walter Egan

MP3: "Magnet and Steel" - Matthew Sweet

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