47. “Filthy/Gorgeous” by Scissor Sisters (2005)

The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.

If you spend any time talking to terrestrial radio DJs – lord knows I do! – they’ll tell you the number one reason people change the station isn’t commercials or an obnoxious DJ, but because someone heard a song they didn’t recognize. So if you’re one of those people who complains that the radio always plays the same old stuff, but change the channel as soon as something you don’t know comes on… well, it’s you, hi! you’re the problem, it’s you.

I have seen this phenomenon in action on wedding dance floors, and the culprit is #47 on this here countdown. A few months before my own wedding, my best buddy Stephen got married, too. Incredibly opulent New Jersey wedding with what felt like half a football field of hors d’oeuvres in a breathtaking venue. Incredible time! When it came time for dancing, I requested “Filthy/Gorgeous” by Scissor Sisters from the DJ, and where there was once a packed dance floor, there was now an empty one except for me, my (then) fiancée, Stephen and his new wife.

Roughly four months later, after an incredible start to the dancing portion of my wedding reception – “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas, “Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC and god knows what else – this gem comes on and clears it out again. The four of us remained a second time, but thankfully we were joined by a handful of others who either knew it too, or didn’t care and just wanted to keep dancing.

Because here’s the thing – this song fucking slaps. And how to describe it? It’s like disco, but also glam rock, some electronica, and it wouldn’t sound totally out of place on alternative radio. It’s like if Elton John got really into Danger Mouse and Arcade Fire at the same time. The song “Filthy/Gorgeous” is about a transgender prostitute which I adore because saying that sentence out loud immediately puts squares and assholes on edge.

And make no mistake here, I am not nearly cool enough to find Scissor Sisters on my own. That honor goes to my wife Kristin who found this through whatever secret club meetings she attends where she finds so much of the cool shit that eventually makes its way to me. I heard this song for the first time parked outside a motel in Durango with my friends Jason, Logan, and poor Miranda who had to spend 8 hours riding bitch in the middle seat on the road trip from Fort Collins. Why was Kristin – who drove the whole way, mind you – now checking us into the hotel? Because the rest of us were shitfaced. Let me back up…

Kristin had a Nissan Pathfinder, and in many a January, our little crew would visit friends at Fort Lewis in Durango as the annual Snowdown festival commenced. Since she had the biggest ride, we took hers in what was probably January 2006. And at some point, we got the brilliant idea to pass around a bottle of Crown Royal and take a swig each time we changed highways (Kristin obviously abstained). And buddy, if you’re going from Fort Collins to Durango, there’s a rough, rapid fire stretch in there.

I-25 —> I-76 —> I-70 —> C-470 —> HWY 285

Then you’re on 285 for hours, but those five shots in roughly 20 minutes will turbocharge your buzz. We then decided to change it up and take a swig every time we passed through some shitty town until the bottle was gone. I seem to remember things getting quite hazy by the time we got to Bailey.

Then we switched to beer! When the Transplants song “Tall Cans” came on, I had one of our passengers in the back pull out the Bitburger tallboys so we can raise ‘em up in time with the chorus of “Tall cans in the air, let me see ‘em, fuck you!” Uh oh, cops ahead! We all shut the fuck up, sang along very quietly and raised our tall cans in the air roughly one inch off of our laps. When she went over a snowy Wolf Creek Pass, we all shut the fuck up again, and Kristin later told us we were the politest, most compliant group of drunk idiots she’s ever been around. And why wouldn’t we be? She’s driving the whole way and we’re drunk as shit.

Not to mention the fact that up to the point she pulled into the motel parking lot, we had been listening mostly to punk rock for the entire 8 hours. That’s an assault on nearly anyone, not to mention the chauffeur to 4 imbibing dipshits. So when she put on the Scissor Sisters album Ta-Dah, no one complained.

And I remember sitting there in the car at probably 9 o’clock at night listening to “Filthy/Gorgeous” with Miranda just over my shoulder softly whispering the words along with it, and thinking, “Man, this song fucking rules.” I then checked out the entire album, thought it ruled too, and yet another brick in my misplaced, amateur hour music snobbery wall crumbled before my very eyes. That’s a dope feeling in retrospect.

And to any of you jackasses who change the channel when something you don’t know comes on, or skip the opening acts at concerts, you are not living your best lives. In the words of Patton Oswalt: “You’re gonna miss everything cool and die angry.”

Up next: Ideal versions of ourselves and matching tattoos.

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