“Empty Cans” — the Streets (2004). Sometimes beer is the best friend a man has. “If I want to sit in and drink super Tenants in the day I will.... Can you rely on anyone in this world? No you can’t. It’s not my fault there’s wall-to-wall empty cans.”
“White Lightnin’ ” — George Jones (1959). If you’re willing to risk getting arrested, blowing yourself up, going blind, or dying, then home-distilling is the hobby for you. “As my eyes bugged out and my face turned blue, lightnin’ started flashin’ and thunder started crashin’. Shhhoooh ... white lightnin’!”
“Escape (the Piña Colada Song)” — Rupert Holmes (1979). Even badly dressed geeks with poor taste in booze like to tie one on once in a while. Apologies in advance for getting this song stuck in your head.
“WPLJ” — the Mothers of Invention (1970). It stands for white port and lemon juice, the tipple favored in the ’50s by the Four Deuces, the forgotten doo-wop group whose song the Mothers cover here. “You take the bottle, you take the can, shake it up fine you get a good, good wine.”
“Six Pack” — Black Flag (1981). For all its sanctimonious pieties, straight-edge punk has been responsible for some bruising music, and Greg Ginn’s righteous takedown of an apathetic drunk is one of those songs.
“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” — Looking Glass (1972). Who doesn’t want a girl like Brandy? Her eyes could steal a sailor from the sea. Her hands carry whiskey- and wine-laden trays. That guy who left her is a chump.
“Whiskey River” — Willie Nelson (1973). Who needs streams of whiskey when you have a whole gol-dang river? Nelson didn’t write it, but this song is about as synonymous with the Redheaded Stranger as any. They even made a bourbon for him.
“Absinthe” — Beth Orton (2006). While it doesn’t seem to be about the potent semi-hallucinogenic drink per se, Orton’s shimmering song perfectly evokes the hazy, fever-dream qualities — but not the potential madness and paralysis — imparted by that green liquor from the black market.
“So Much Wine” — Handsome Family (2000). A life lesson, delivered to a friend in need. “There’s only so much wine you can drink in one life. But it will never be enough to save you from the bottom of your glass.”
“Cold Gin” — Kiss (1974). The song that named a dozen tribute bands. The gin’s cold because the heater’s broke. But it’s the second-best thing at warming a dude up.
“Whiskey Bottle” — Uncle Tupelo (1990). At the end of your rope, in a three-hour-away town, sometimes amber liquid takes on more importance than it deserves. “Whiskey bottle over Jesus. Not forever, just for now.”
“Jockey Full of Bourbon” — Tom Waits (1985). Just because Tom shed his sozzled-barfly persona of the ’70s for that of an avant-garde carny in the ’80s didn’t mean booze stopped being his muse. “Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest, and I’ve been drinking from a broken cup. Two pairs of pants and a mohair vest, I’m full of bourbon, I can’t stand up.”