The first of the monthly Top Five Songs list for Cuckoo's Eleven ... up until this week, I didn't really know which direction I was headed for a theme. But then I got to thinking about the whole Tonight Show debacle. We all know Conan didn't get his fair shake, and that Jay Leno coming back to host The Tonight Show is about as exciting as Joe Namath in a Rams uniform.
But let's not lose sight of another miss: the musical guests. When Johnny Carson retired, The Tonight Show morphed from a comedy variety hour to a 60-minute infomercial for celebrities to plug their current movie/album. In contrast, Conan's always had the better musical guests. You can have your Jay Leno and safe musical acts, Baby Boomers; I'll stick with whatever Coco's serving up.
Neil Young is set to be the final musical guest. Personally, I'm pulling for Neil to pull an encore performance of his SNL appearance back in '89. Turn out the lights and torch the studio when you're done, Neil. Burn the mother****er down. Save for this request, here is what I consider the Top Five Songs Ever Performed on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. In retrospect, most of these songs' lyrics could have been used for the "People of Earth" note: (Honorable Mention) Eric Hutchinson - OK It's Alright With Me [07.24.2009] "Ok it's alright with me / some things are just meant to be / it never comes easily / and when it does i'm already gone." Seeing Hutch on The Tonight Show was kind of like DeNiro being excited Pesci was being made in Goodfellas ... you know, before they whacked Pesci.
5) Pearl Jam - Got Some [06.01.2009]
I grew up on Pearl Jam and Conan, so a fitting first musical guest on Conan's first night hosting The Tonight Show. Was the audio a bit off at the beginning? Sure, but let's chalk that up to first show technical glitches. Interesting twist for the musical act be introduced from behind a curtain.
4) Green Day - Know Your Enemy [06.02.2009] "Do you know your enemy?"
Answer: Jay Leno. Sound kinks worked out, solid performance by Green Day. Also the night Tom Hanks coined the nickname, "Coco".
3) Wilco - You Never Know [06.24.2009] "Yes dream down a well / There's a lone heavy Hell / I don't care anymore"
With a $45 million buyout, I wouldn't care anymore either. In the last week, The Tonight Show has been more Conan's (i.e., Late Night) than it ever was before. A sketch that costs NBC $4.8 million in licensing fees just to make it expensive? Classic. Masturbating Bear's return was just icing on the cake.
2) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll [09.16.2009]
"Off with your head / Dance til your dead / Heads will roll" Great performance by YYY. And to think - the host knows who they are! How does the handling of The Tonight Show compare to GE's six sigma methodology? If Comcast doesn't buy NBC Universal, heads will roll indeed. Hopefully starting with Jeff Zucker.
1) The White Stripes - We Are Going to Be Friends [02.20.2009] "And when I wake tommorow I'll bet / that you and I will walk together again / cause I can tell that we're going to be friends."
Alright, I know that it's actually from his last Late Night show, but was the Tonight show ever really his? NBC never gave him a fair shot. Personally, I think the silver lining in this is that we'll be able to watch better comedy, more interesting music and hopefully Pimp Bot 5000 on whichever channel and timeslot Conan ends up. September 1 can't get here fast enough.