Given the recent news about Russian spies attempting to pull a “long con” on unassuming Americans, we feel compelled to reflect through pop culture. Seriously, what decade are we living in? Do we need to fear the Russians again? For now, let these songs soothe your inner sleuth during the long ride to St. Petersburg.
5. DEVO – Secret Agent Man
We avoided putting this Johnny Rivers classic on the list, because it was way too obvious. Then we remembered this jittery, post-punk rendition of the rock staple. The Mark Mothersbaugh quintet’s version, complete with stark yet dizzying synths, sets us off on our journey quite well. Found on DEVO’s stage setting second album Duty Now for the Future, “Secret Agent Man” keeps the urgency of the original, but adds trademark new wave aspects. Oddly enough, this cover has aged better than most of DEVO’s catalogue.
4. The Slits – I Heard It Through the Grapevine
This one may not jump out at you as a sleuth song, but there is definitely some sneaking and snooping going on. One of the most covered songs of all time, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” shares many similarities with spy culture. The first line of the song should give you enough of a clue: “I bet you’re wondering how I knew/about your plans to make me blue.” There had to have been some wiretapping involved. We have put The Slits version of the song, because, you know, it’s awesome.
The Slits, I Heard It Through the Grapevine
3. Carly Simon – Nobody Does It Better
What spy oriented list would be complete without a James Bond song? The Spy Who Loved Me is a classic Roger Moore Bond film, complete with submarines, an amphibious Lotus sports car, beautiful women, ski-slope shootouts and Simon’s iconic ballad to Mr. 007 himself. Centered the awe-inspiring class of a man like Bond, “Nobody Does It Better” raised the bar for movie intros back in 1977. Also, this song will make you proud to be a man.
2. The Decemberists – The Bagman’s Gambit
This song gives hope to all you Washington romantics. Or at least it proves that people in DC can love, despite what the news says. An epic story of love and espionage set in the halls of the Federal Government, “The Bagman’s Gambit” reminds us not to fall for those who lie for a living. Although he eventually learns that he was part of an elaborate search for U.S. secrets, Colin Meloy’s character becomes infatuated with the spy who loved him in a bathroom stall off the National Mall.
The Decemberists,The Bagman’s Gambit
1. Talking Heads – Life During Wartime
“My chest is aching, burns like a furnace. The burning keeps me alive.” David Byrne shows us, as usual, that spying ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Life During Wartime” is a tour de force. With one pumping riff jammed over and over, Byrne and company synthesize the unpleasant adrenaline rush that comes with the job. After hearing this song, we’re glad we went to college and night school, didn’t want to be different this time.
Talking Heads, Life During Wartime