Home Music Friday List: Compiling the ultimate Wisconsin playlist

Friday List: Compiling the ultimate Wisconsin playlist

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The Friday List is a recurring feature in which we jog memories, spark thoughts and perhaps generate debate in one of the grandest formats devised by man … the almighty list. Are we missing something? Are we dead wrong? Offer your thoughts on the list du jour by heading to the Valley Review’s Twitter or Facebook pages. 

It’s July in Wisconsin and with festivals every weekend, we’ve got music on the mind. 

For this week’s Friday list, we explored Wisconsin music and worked to compile the ultimate Dairyland playlist. We set the following ground rules: we’d look at songs that had chart success and/or pop culture influence. They were recorded by artists with Wisconsin roots. Only one song per artist would be listed. 

“Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes: The song’s simplicity and Brian Ritchie’s unforgettable bass line defines the band’s sound. While many fans would choose another option, there’s no arguing it’s their most popular. It plays in NBA arenas. It was part of a Wendy’s commercial that broke up the band for a stretch of time.

“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” by Timbuk 3: Timbuk 3 was formed in Madison by Pat MacDonald and Barbara K. MacDonald. Their bright moment came in 1986. Their single climbed to 19 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and its title reached 1980s catchphrase status.

“Closer to Free” by BoDeans: Founded in Waukesha, BoDeans remain a favorite and frequent live act in Wisconsin. Their 1993 hit “Closer to Free” peaked at 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a piece of pop culture history as the theme from TV series “Party of Five.”

“The Joker” by Steve Miller Band. The space cowboy whom some call Maurice was born in Milwaukee and attended UW-Madison. Steve Miller was a hit machine in the 1970s and while many songs would represent him well, his 1973 chart topper is the first song that comes to most minds at a mention of Wisconsin’s very own gangster of love.

“Better Days (and The Bottom Drops Out)” by Citizen King: The Milwaukee alternative rockers were officially a one-hit wonder, but what a wonderful hit it was. Better Days peaked at 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1999 and was just about everywhere including the pilot episode of “Malcolm in the Middle.

“Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes: Sheboygan’s own Chordettes were regulars on the pop charts with their tight harmonies, and their big number 1 hit released in 1954 remains instantly recognizable across generations.

“Stupid Girl” by Garbage: Madison’s Garbage went double platinum with their self-titled 1995 debut album. The single “Stupid Girl” reached number 24 on the Hot 100 and number 2 on Billboard’s alternative chart.

“Slow Poke” by Pee Wee King: King was born in Abrams and went on to become an inductee in the Country Music Hall of Fame. “Slow Poke” peaked at number 3 on Billboard’s best seller chart in 1951. On the country chart, it spent 15 weeks at number 1.

“We’re in This Love Together” by Al Jarreau: Milwaukee’s Al Jarreau earned seven Grammy Awards across his career. Jarreau regularly reached the jazz and R&B charts, though crossed into the mainstream with two top 40 hits. “We’re in This Love Together” hit number 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1981 as part of his platinum-selling “Breakin’ Away” album.

“How High Is The Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford: Les Paul, the Wizard of Waukesha, influenced modern music like none other as a pioneer of the solid body electric guitar and multi-track recording. Younger generations who associate him with his Gibson model guitar might not know him as a chart topping performer. His 1951 recording of “How High Is The Moon” with his wife and musical partner Mary Ford spent 25 weeks on the Billboard chart with nine of those weeks at number 1.


“Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs: The compatriot of Steve Miller also attended UW-Madison. His 1977 hit reached 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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