Office Playlist #4

This month’s playlist comes courtesy of Fortune Assistant Managing Editor Jim Aley, one of the office’s premiere arbiters of cool. Though he primarily covers technology and the Internet at Fortune, where he began as a reporter in 1992 before heading off to helm Business 2.0, he’s best known around here for his excellent taste in music, his mind-boggling knowledge of Fortune trivia, and his rapier wit. (Case in point: When we were considering giving The Gig a tagline, Jim’s hilarious suggestions included, “Take this job and blog it!” and “A prarie dog’s companion,” which of course would’ve run with an animated graphic of prarie dogs hurdling cubicle walls.)

As far as he’s concerned, though, the most important Jim Aley factoids are his two kids, Lucy, 8, and David, 6. Says Jim: “Both have an amazing ability to remember lyrics. They’re like human tape recorders. Must have inherited this trait from their mother — it certainly wasn’t me. (Me at the ballpark: ‘Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early… Uhh… La la la la….’) That used to mean endless renditions of songs by The Wiggles. But now it’s getting more fun. Last night, out of the blue, Lucy started accurately singing ‘Great Heart,’ the old Johnny Clegg song, which my wife Sally played for her, like, once. Proud to say she and David are disdainful of High School Musical.”

So whether you want to be half as hip as Jim’s kids or just want some tips on becoming that ever elusive specimen — a cool business journalist, check out his (extensive!) playlist to get started. Even as I post this, my sister is exclaiming over the flyness…


  1. “Waltz for Debby” by Bill Evans Trio. Favorite cut from a favorite album. Playing this doesn’t show of your adventurousness; merely your impeccable taste.
  2. “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I grew up in Detroit. Therefore, I’m partial to big cars, hockey, the American League, and the Motown sound — which, as far as I’m concerned, peaked with this song. (Also respond very favorably to MC5, Bob Seger, and the White Stripes.)
  3. “Fairy Tale of New York” by The Pogues. Not at all one of their stomps, although feel free to play any of those. (Especially “Transmetropolitan.”) This time, Shane MacGowan, whose dentist should be imprisoned for gross malpractice (those teeth, sweet mother of orthodontia…), does a gentle, lovely duet with the late Kirsty MacColl.
  4. “Stuff & Nonsense” by Split Enz. Always thought of them as lightweight New Wavers. But first heard this song while my wife and I were on our honeymoon. I’ve loved ’em ever since.
  5. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys. A necessary step to musical enlightenment: Acceptance of Pet Sounds as a masterpiece. Or so they tell me.
  6. “Friend of the Devil” by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. Never been a Deadhead myself. But one of the side effects of living in San Francisco is a gnawing appreciation of Jerry Garcia. This song was one of his best, and his duet with David Grisman’s mandolin is just beautiful.
  7. “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding” by Elvis Costello. Really want to impress your music-geek boss? Profess a preference for the original version by Brinsley Schwarz, Nick Lowe’s old band.
  8. “Fight Like A Brave” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Of all the bands I listened to in college, I can’t believe these guys made it. This song in particular was a staple. Just rocks. (Utterly unrelated guilty-pleasure alternative: “Runnin’ With the Devil,” by Van Halen.)
  9. “One” by Mary J. Blige with U2. Wow. Chills. Mary J. Bliss. The woman just takes this song and just manhandles it. Tell me again, who are those four guys with her…?
  10. “Hardly Getting Over It” by Hüsker Dü. Saw these guys put on a great show 1987. They finished the set with a funny cover of the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song. One of their Minneapolis things. Anyway, my pals and I tossed our baseball caps in the air at the end of the song, just like Mary always did. We got a lot of stares — this was in Vienna, Austria, where people are apparently untutored in the nuances of 1970s U.S. sitcoms — but the band got a kick out it. Came out to chat after the show.

Bonus Picks:

  • “Tommy the Cat” by Primus. As a onetime bass “player” (I was horrible), I’m in awe of Les Claypool. Guy’s got a demented sense of humor — always a plus. No wonder the South Park guys hired him to do the theme for their TV show.
  • “This Magic Moment” by Lou Reed. Odd choice, I know. It’s a cover of the Drifters classic he did for a Doc Pomus tribute album, Till the Night Is Gone. But it’s cool Lou in perfect form. (By the way, the album has a Fortune connection: Shawn Colvin, sister of our very own Geoff Colvin, has a cover of “Viva Las Vegas.”)
  • “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. One point for loving the song, 10 for knowing it’s not called “Don’t Worry About A Thing.”

Bonus Bonus Special Category — (Mostly) Instrumental Stuff I Don’t Mind Hearing Through My Walls, Even When I’m Trying To Concentrate:

  • “The Texas Waltz” by Ralph Mooney & James Burton. I once impressed a boss of mine by showing a proper reverence for Mooney and his furious steel-guitar playing.
  • “Paranoid Android” by Brad Mehldau. A precise, plaintive cover of the Radiohead tune. Good intro to Mehldau, an innovative young jazz pianist. And if you’re going to write for a business magazine, you can’t use the word “innovative” often enough. Also good: “Revolutionary.”
  • “Rain, Rain” by Bill Frisell.
  • “Peaches En Regalia” by Frank Zappa.
  • “Groove Holmes” by the Beastie Boys. The Beasties do instrumental? Indeed they do. And splendidly.
  • “Chubb Sub” by Medeski Martin & Wood.
  • “Busenfreund” by Tosca. Electronica isn’t for everyone. But if your office is near mine, fire up the iTunes with some Tosca (or Biosphere or Lemon Jelly) and set to “repeat.”
  • “One Way Out” by The Allman Brothers. Not instrumental, but the driving beat and guitar actually make me type faster. Please do play, and as loud as possible.
  • “Cissy Strut” by The Meters. Ditto.
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