31 December 2020

31 December 2020 - David Bowie - Heroes

At this point, I'm sure you've heard this song a lot this year.  This can be the last time, if you want.  But it seemed fitting, in a year when we've needed everyday heroes, in a year without a superhero movie, this song seems to provide an appropriate coda.   

Or you can go to Totally Covered and check out the "Heroes" special.

Not really a hit in 1977, when it was released, it DID become a worldwide hit on its posthumous rerelease in 2016.   It is seen as an inspiration for the reunification of Germany - that's how powerful a song this is.  His June 1987 performance in Berlin, featuring this song broadcast to both sides of the Berlin Wall, is seen as an early catalyst for these unification efforts, as music lovers on both sides of the wall enjoyed the concert live, together.  


I was lucky enough to see David Bowie perform this song live in 1991, on what he billed as a farewell tour to his old songs (of course, it wasn't - those songs were amazing).  Here he is in 1987 - the same tour as the one in Berlin (although not his Berlin performance).  

30 December 2020

30 December 2020 - Cocteau Twins - Iceblink Luck

I know a lot of people think the Cocteau Twins sound dour and sad.  This is not a sad or dour song.  It's quite chipper. This song achieved something no other Cocteau Twins song had prior - UK radio airplay.  It cracked their Top 40 - and got some significant alternative play stateside.  

This song, the single on their decidedly more upbeat than past releases Heaven or Las Vegas, didn't happen by accident.  Elizabeth Fraser is happy... mostly because she was a mother.  This song is likely about her daughter, Lucy-Belle, who she had in 1989 with fellow Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie.  

29 December 2020

29 December 2002 - Incubus - Drive

"Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there."

Has a more positive line ever been written in music?

(The answer is, yes. "I can't outshine your radiance or undermine your silliness."  But still.)  

This song was a breakthrough and crossover hit for Incubus, even making the POP top 10, which was an achievement for the rock/hip-hop fusion band.  But great, motivational songs tend to be inspirational, no matter the genre.  

28 December 2020

28 December 2020 - Kool & The Gang - Celebration

I'm going to tell you something about this great song, the only #1 hit for Kool & the Gang, and one of the biggest hits of 1981 and every roller rink since.

This song is a religious song.

That's right.  The celebration they speak of was inspired by a Quranic sura.... but a story Christians know well, and that is the one of the creation of Adam.  A mild irony here - when the hostages held in Iran returned home in February`1981, this song was the one chosen to be played for them. 

I think they made a great choice.  It's a happy and celebratory song, even if you miss the religious overtones.   

25 December 2020

25 December 2020 - Clarence Carter - Back Door Santa

Clarence Carter released a happy but quite unsavory song in 1968 for Christmas.  Now, he lost the beat to Run DMC several years later.  But, since we just posted that Run DMC song, it makes sense to give you the sampled song.  

25 December 2020 - Run DMC - Christmas In Hollis

Admit it.  You're already smiling.   

Run DMC certainly had a lot of bravado, but this song was nothing but positive and honest.  Recorded for the benefit album A Very Special Christmas, the song heavily samples Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa" as well as other popular Christmas carols.  How many can you spot?  


As a little bonus, here's the group performing the song on Nickelodeon, several years after its release.  Needless to say, the crowd still loves the song.

24 December 2020

24 December 2020 - Amy Grant - Emmanuel

I felt that, for Christmas, a song celebrating the holiday was in order.  

In 1985, the world changed.  Christian pop superstar Amy Grant released an album - Unguarded - that had some secular success - and it made the sales of ALL her albums go up.  That INCLUDED her 1983 A Christmas Album, which finally broke through in 1985.  In fact, I believe I brought the album myself in 1985.  

This song - written by Michael W. Smith - was the single from that Christmas album, and ended up being something of a holiday hit as well.  It is clearly a song about, well, the son of God (Matthew 1:23). It is quite celebratory, and joyous, without getting overtly preachy or melancholic.   It remains one of my favorite religious songs to this day.  



23 December 2020

23 December 2020 - Cake - The Distance

This is the most active we've been on this blog in seven years.  And our dedication has shown - you are reading the stuff that we're crapping out on the page.   Some days, we do a better job than others, but we always persevere.  We keep going, and we will keep going for a few more years.  

(Spoiler: we have some posts scheduled for the next two and a half years, at least)

We take special motivation from this song, about a protagonist who doesn't quit, and... well, goes the distance.  We hope you do as well.

22 December 2020

22 December 2020 - Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride

Matthew Wilder released this song in 1983..... his debut single ended up being his only hit.  

Even when I was 11, I recognized that this song was great and happy and brought me more joy than a Marie Kondo book.  The message of the song is positive and uplifting, and that's probably why it was such a huge hit that endures to this day.  

And by the way, this is absolutely the performance of this song from Solid Gold.  Ah, Solid Gold.  Ah, Marilyn McCoo.  

21 December 2020

21 December 2020 - Cranes - Everywhere

I need to open this with the fact that I have had this video sitting in my drafts for five years.  

Five.  Years.

It is one of my favorite songs of all time - a simple love song.  Alison Shaw's voice makes this very simple song all the more appealing.  It's even sweeter when hearing her light voice that brings comparison to a small child singing lullabies at the bottom of the well with a background of grinding guitars.  This is actually something a reviewer said.  

Anyway, I like the combination of her ethereal voice and the driving guitar, and I think you will, too.

18 December 2020

18 December 2020 - Three Dog Night - Joy To The World

The song isn't called "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog", despite how you know the song.

It is a drinking song, and a happy one at that.  Is it a serious song?  No, of course not.  It's just a lot of fun.  It's a song specifically written to elicit a smile, and it succeeds tremendously.


As I write this, I have learned that it is featured in a current JCPenney holiday commercial.  It's fitting, but I am rarely this accidentally timely.  

17 December 2020

17 December 2020 - The B-52's - Channel Z

This.  This song is why I was excited about Cosmic Thing.  

By the way, it's just as upbeat and happy as "Love Shack".  Why wasn't this the big hit?  

No worries.  Just enjoy this bonus post today, too.

17 December 2020 - The B-52's - Love Shack

I HATED this song for a lot of years.  

There were few people more excited than me over the release of the Cosmic Thing album in 1989.  You see, 1) I had been a fan of the band for years prior to this and 2) their first single, "Channel Z", was one of my favorite songs at the time.  Also 3) it was their first album in four years, and the first since the death of Ricky Wilson

I purchased the album on cassette at a record store in Cheektowaga, NY, while on vacation soon after its release, and I was not at all disappointed.  Top to bottom, every song was great.  Even this one.  

And then this song was released as the second single, and it was EVERYWHERE.  Now, everyone was a fan of this quirky little band from Georgia that I had been a fan of for a very long time.  This song was largely responsible for that, and I resented that for a very long time.  

I grew out of that eventually.  This song is one of the best illustrations of the three-part harmonies that make the B-52's great and unique.  Plus, it's a song that you can't help but sing along with.


I will admit that I was not a huge fan of the single edit.   Even though cutting out a few "bang bang"s might have seemed like a good idea, I do think it took something away from the song - the build-up to Cindy Wilson's famous line.

You know it.  You just said it in your head.  I don't need to.

I could not resist sharing this version that the band performed with Sugarland, making it a FIVE part harmony in spots.  This is faithful to the album version and you can hear what I mean when I say that buildup is important.   It makes the whole song better.

16 December 2020

16 December 2020 - Edie Brickell - Good Times

This solo debut by Edie Brickell - because, let's not forget, she was in a BAND called New Bohemians - was included with each copy of Windows 95 when it was released.   

That's right.  If you have a Windows 95 CD, you have a copy of this video.

The song itself is a pleasant song about someone who doesn't want the good times with her lover to end - in that moment.  In Ms. Brickell's case, that would be Paul Simon.  This song is about Paul Simon.  And it's a very happy song as a result.

15 December 2020

15 December 2020 - Sugarland - All I Want To Do

"Hey, let's skip work and just love each other."

That's pretty much a synopsis of this song.

That's all they needed to make a big hit song that was the feel-good song of 2008 and a huge country-pop crossover hit.  

That, and this video, which was really working hard to sell Jennifer Nettles as a sex symbol....  

14 December 2020

14 December 2020 - Bill Withers - Lovely Day

I think it's pretty obvious why we're posting this song this month.  It's one of the happiest songs ever written.  A moderate hit in the late 1970's, it's fondly remembered as a classic today.  

It's also got a single note that Withers sustains for eighteen seconds.  This is one of the longest ever sustained in a pop song.  


The song has experienced something of a resurgence in 2020, largely due to its placement in this Allstate commercial. Admit it, you're smiling now, aren't you?

12 December 2020

12 December 2020 - Charlie Pride - Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'

Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Pride, the first black country superstar and a favorite of my mother, has passed away at age 86 of complications from COVID-19.  

It's real, people.

Anyway, here he is performing one of his sweetest songs on Marty Stuart's show.


This song, released in 1971, was Pride's only Top 40 pop hit, but his 8th country #1, and endured as one of his signature songs.  

I grew up listening to Charlie Pride because my mother and father were fans of his.  He will be missed.  

11 December 2020

11 December 2020 - KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See

OK, folks!  It's time for a history lesson.  Today, we're going to learn about Queen Boudica.

In short words, Boudica was a Celtic tribal queen in what is now eastern England in the early A.D. times.  Around 60 A.D., she led an uprising against the invading Roman Empire (who had killed her husband and raped her daughters), by uniting the warring Celtic tribes for the first time in history.  That's right.  A woman led that uprising.  It was an uprising that they eventually lost and ended in her death, but it was 1) enough to make the Romans consider withdrawing and 2) enough to make her a folk hero to this day.

She did not mess around.

10 December 2020

10 December 2020 - Chuck Mangione - Feels So Good

In the words of Dr. Stephen Strange, in the Marvel movie Dr. Strange, Chuck Mangione "charted a top 10 hit with a flugelhorn."

This is an undeniably uplifting instrumental by a Rochester, NY native - the same place where I am writing this blog right now.   As I write this, it is cold and there is snow on the ground - but the most famous song for flugelhorn ever written is warming it up in here today.


Mangione rerecorded the song (albeit more guitar-heavy) in 1982, with a vocal by his longtime guitarist, Don Potter.  The song takes on a different meaning, but it's still a sweet song.  

09 December 2020

9 December 2020 - Lizzo - Good As Hell

This very uplifting song was a huge hit in 2019.   

The weird part about that?  The song is from 2016.  It took three years and a performance at the MTV Video Music Award to make it a big hit.

 

That unexpected 2nd life for this great song meant that a new video was in order..... given that the first one was a movie tie-in for a movie that didn't enjoy the same resurgence.     

08 December 2020

8 December 2020 - The East Pointers - Wintergreen

The YouTube comments on this song say everything you need to know:

"Top 10 Crossovers Nobody Expected: Canadian folk music and the Wiggles."

Yes.  That's Emma from The Wiggles.  And she visualizes a song about recognizing the light in someone else that they might not see in themselves well.  Not that the lyrics needed the help.

If you aren't Canadian, chances are you haven't heard of The East Pointers, a delightful folk group from Prince Edward Island.  Juno Award winners in 2017, if you know anything about Canadian geography, you'll understand their name.  Even if you aren't, you can't help but smile when you hear this song.... can you?


(Update: 26 January 2021): I don't often update posts this quickly, but 1) this song is so amazing I wanted to post a 2nd version of it and 2) I wanted to answer one question I've gotten more than once from our mostly American audience.  Emma is using AUSLAN, which is Australian sign language, and not ASL, or American sign.  That's why you don't recognize all the signs.

Now enjoy this live performance.  

07 December 2020

7 December 2020 - Dido - Thank You

Have you ever had a day that was going just terribly and then someone says something that turns it around?

That very feeling is why this song was such a big hit.  That, and the fact that Eminem sampled it.  

The song itself starts out with a string of bummers - and then makes a super positive left turn.  Dido's light and airy, yet powerful voice makes you appreciate the positive message even more.   


By the way, Dido didn't go anywhere.  She's still around.  And still performs what is inarguably her biggest hit song.

04 December 2020

4 December 2020 - The White Stripes - Fell In Love With A Girl

This song makes me smile literally every time I hear it.  It's a minute and half of pure joy.  Really, it's 45 seconds of joy repeated twice.  Lyrically, it's somewhat beautiful - about quick, pure and true love.  It is as hyper and energetic as the actual emotions.  Truly, this song is a short masterpiece.

And if you aren't smiling at a LEGO-mation video, then I don't know if I can help you.  

03 December 2020

3 December 2020 - Owl City - Good Time (Acoustic)

It isn't often that I blatantly repost a song I already posted....  

....and given my recent self-covers week over on Totally Covered, you'd think I'd put this THERE.

This is Adam Young doing his big hit song without Carly Rae Jepson.... and it takes on a different meaning - one of equal optimism, sure, but more reflective optimism.  The first version of the song was rapidly released in the wake of "Call Me Maybe".  In my post about that song, I said the following:
"Owl City has put together a song that benefits from Carly's presence, but doesn't require it."
Thank you, Adam Young, for proving me right.  


By the way, even though this song is billed as acoustic, it isn't.  There's a fair bit of electronic enhancement.  THIS VERSION, on the other hand, is ACTUALLY acoustic, and a gem.

02 December 2020

2 December 2020 - Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over

Who would have thought that a slow jam could be so uplifting?

The song might seem gloomy, and the title ends with the words "It's Over".  However, there's no comma in the title.  It's not a command to stop dreaming, because it's over.  It's a request to not dream THAT it's over - there's a long road ahead.  

Let's not even talk about how this is arguably the greatest song ever composed by a New Zealander - it is most certainly the biggest international hit by someone from that county.  Just soak in Neil Finn's lyrics.  


Now that you heard this, go to Totally Covered for a great version that respects the local New Zealand culture.   

01 December 2020

1 December 2020 - Oasis - Live Forever

To close out 2020, I wanted to feature songs that would be somewhat uplifting.  

And when you hear about the theory about the genesis of this song, you might think that it's an odd choice for uplifting.

Written by Noah Gallagher, although he has denied it, it was originally seen as a direct response to the Nirvana song "I Hate Myself and Want To Die".  I believe him.  This was one of the first songs he wrote and would have had to anticipate the Nirvana song many years later.  He did, however, strongly come out in favor of not dying young.  

More likely, it was a tribute to his mother, and stresses an optimistic outlook.  Forget how beautifully the song is crafted - the opening drum beat, the guitar solo.  Forget that Oasis constantly compared themselves to the Beatles and were generally egotistical.  Listen to the lyrics.  They're an ode to living as long and as well as one can, as opposed to dwelling on minutia and every ache and pain in life.   

20 November 2020

20 November 2020 - Men At Work - Overkill

Everyone remembers the first single.    

In 1983, this second single from the second album for Men at Work reached #3 on the Billboard chart. The song, written by lead vocalist Colin Hay (who would later cover it himself).  

The song itself is about a guy who has insomnia because he can't stop overthinking everything.  I feel personally attacked by these relatable lyrics.  For a hit song, it's a little dark, especially since this is the same band who had just smiled and made you a Vegemite sandwich.  

19 November 2020

19 November 2020 - Olivia Newton-John - Xanadu

We have billed this song, the title song to the 1980 disaster of a roller-skating movie, as being an Olivia Newton-John song, but that's not entirely true. 

The Xanadu soundtrack was split in two parts.  Side A was written by John Farrar - principle songwriter for Olivia - and performed by ONJ, with several guests backing her.  Side B was written by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and performed by ELO - but the closing song was this one, with a guest lead vocalist.  

So really, it's an ELO song.   And the single - ELO's biggest hit - was billed to both of them.  

At any rate, the song is a delightful coda to an abysmal movie.  


Of course, we also published an ELO-only version on Totally Covered.  Go check it out.  

18 November 2020

18 November 2020 - Sam Phillips - Holding Onto The Earth

Today, we are doing something very different than we have ever done before.  

We are posting the same song by the same artist on Wicked Guilty Pleasures and Totally Covered.  

We are doing this for three reasons.  The first two are over here.   

The third is that this is a great song that didn't get nearly enough attention, despite the fact that it an emotional powerhouse of a song.   This was Sam's first single as Sam - she had previously gone professionally by her legal name, Leslie - and her first single as a secular, and not Christian, artist.  Keep that conflict in mind as you listen to this.   

14 November 2020

14 November 2020 - Nirvana - Lithium

We finish our week with one of the band's biggest hits.  

I have to admit, when I first heard Nevermind, this was my favorite song on the album, and I was thrilled it was released as a single.  It isn't still my favorite, but it's still great. 

We've done a good job highlighting all the members of the band this week except for Krist Novocelic - and this is a great song to point out the bassist, who tends to not get a ton of attention.  He's an excellent bassist in a band with a genius in front - and this song highlights just how reliable his work was.  

14 November 2020 - Nirvana - Verse Chorus Verse

In case you wanted to hear what the real "Verse Chorus Verse" sounded like.

14 November 2020 - Nirvana - [hidden track]

Yep.  We posted this in the middle of the night, on an early Saturday morning, JUST TO HIDE IT.  And we probably won't share this on Twitter.

There are at least two times that Nirvana had a hidden track on albums featuring them.  The first one we will mention is from the 1993 AIDS fundraising album No Alternative.  Most versions of the album feature this song, titled "Sappy" as a hidden track, although some bill it as "Verse, Chorus, Verse."  After Kurt Cobain's death, it was discovered that there was another song called "Verse, Chorus, Verse" in the Nirvana unreleased catalog, and so subsequent releases of this song on various compilations do restore its original title.


The second is well known for those of us who one day decided to just leave their Nevermind CD running after "Something In The Way" was done.  10 minutes of silences are followed by this very loud and forceful song.

It was not my first listen to the album when I discovered it.  And yes, I did have a "what the f***" response when I did.  

13 November 2020

13 November 2020 - Nirvana - Heart-Shaped Box

Thus far, we have avoided In Utero, Nirvana's followup to Nevermind.

That was not purposeful.  Nirvana had a short catalog, but it was deep, and so it's hard to fit everything into one week.  We're trying, though.  

This song wasn't actually a single, because DGC, their record label, didn't want to cannibalize album sales.  Nevertheless, the song got an awful lot of airplay.  But what's it about?  It is said that it is about children with cancer... but some, and by some, we mean Courtney Love, think the song is about her.... and her vagina.  

Kurt's not here to tell us what this song is about, but he did leave the song behind for all of us to question and ponder.... and enjoy.


Let's look at the song live, where you can really hear Kurt belt the song. More apparent here are Dave Grohl's harmonies (with Pat Smear adding some vocal assistance).   Most apparent to me is Kurt's reluctance to be in the spotlight.    

12 November 2020

12 November 2020 - Nirvana - In Bloom

By the time "In Bloom" was released as a single, Nirvana was about ready to give a middle finger to corporate rock and roll.

Except they were corporate rock and roll.  So that posed an issue.

This video was their temporary solution.


Longtime fans of Nirvana know that this was the 2nd time they had recorded the song.  It was originally released as a single - with this video - in 1990.  The song was originally recorded before Dave Grohl joined the band - and the video recorded right after.  Whereas the later single and Nevermind version includes Grohl on harmonies - the scream going into the chorus and the chorus itself is actually two voices - this version contains no such harmony vocal.  

11 November 2020

11 November 2020 - Nirvana - Sliver

From the B-sides compilation Incesticide, this song was a great single all by itself.   

Let me say that again.

This was a non-album single, not deemed good enough for Nevermind.  It was a throwaway song.  It's also a perfect Nirvana song - showing the time before the band got so large.   

Two notes on the video.  First, the song doesn't actually feature Dave Grohl on drums, as it was recorded before he joined the band. Rather, Dan Peters from Mudhoney was the drummer on this single.  Second, and cutest, that's Frances Bean Cobain dancing at the beginning of the video.

Enjoy!


However, just because Dave Grohl didn't appear on the original single, it doesn't mean he didn't perform the song......

10 November 2020

10 November 2020 - Nirvana - About A Girl

Most of you know this version of this song.  It was recorded before Kurt Cobain's death as part of an MTV Unplugged special, and released as a single in late 1994, after his death.  It's a pretty sounding song....


.....that was actually on their debut album, Bleach, in a very different version.  What I find amazing, though, is that the same emotion shines through in BOTH versions.  

09 November 2020

9 November 2020 - Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

It's been a long time since we've used the Hall of Fame label.  

I decided that Nirvana deserved it.  

I don't usually open a Hall of Fame week with a band's biggest hit, but this one was so intensely genre-breaking I wanted it to go first.   I want to put it in 1991 context, though.

In 1991, when Nirvana made this video, which completely mocks music videos in general, they were big in Seattle, but not really anywhere else.  They had major label money, but they didn't spend a lot of money on this video, in relative terms.   And we know the day the video was made - August 17, 1991 - because they advertised for it.

Actual casting call for "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Turns out this little video, which Kurt called his attempt to "rip off the Pixies", struck a chord with the youth of America, including me.    Here's the song that started it all.   

07 November 2020

7 November 2020 - Miley Cyrus - Party In The U.S.A.

We rarely post on Saturday.  But when a decade-old song reenters the Billboard charts..... well, we notice.  

And, according to Variety, that's exactly what's happened today   The song last was on the charts in 2009, when it peaked at #2.  We will be watching closely to see how high it goes this time.  

Now, it's important to note that we are not posting this song as a political statement (feel free to PM this page if you want to know how we voted.  We are not shy), but we DO recognize that a lot of people are happy about today's news, so we're happy to share music we enjoy.


And, because we love the song (written by a Brit, Jessie J, no less!) and we love live alternate versions, here you go.

28 October 2020

28 October 2020 - Lena Katina - Never Forget / No Voy a Olvidarte

Frequent readers of Totally Covered already know who Lena Katina is.  Longtime readers of this blog know she's been here before.  

For the rest of you - Lena Katina was one half of a Russian duo named t.A.T.u., who played up a public lesbianism that wasn't real (evidenced by her bandmate's deeply homophobic statements about a decade later).  After t.A.T.u. went on hiatus to pursue solo careers in 2009, Lena took full advantage of the shot and made some really good pop music.  

I don't think it takes a genius to know that this song is about the death of t.A.T.u.  No, Yulia, her bandmate, isn't dead - but they didn't end on great terms (but did reform in 2014 for the Winter Olympics). The song, from 2011, was Lena's debut single and her biggest hit to date.  The video itself is a funeral for Lena and Yulia, as a symbolic and respectful end to t.A.T.u.   It became a worldwide hit.   

 

Of course, this being a member of t.A.T.u., there is an uncensored version of the video.

12 October 2020

12 October 2020 - L7 - Pretend We're Dead

 In the early to mid 1990's, it was cool to be a hard rock band made entirely of females.  

Seriously.  This was a thing.  And, for some reason, it was a novelty.

L7 was no novelty act.  L7 was four very talented women who knew how to rock and rock hard.  That doesn't mean their music didn't have feeling.  Take this song, the band's biggest hit.  Donita Sparks (primary vocalist on the song) wrote this while going through a devastating breakup.  It was easier for her to pretend that the guy was dead - that helped her cope.  Thus, a song was born.


While they were no novelty act, L7 knew how to have fun live.  On this live television performance from 1992, you can tell they're enjoying themselves.

Also, Donita drops trou at about 2:49.  Oh yes.  I included a performance with nudity.  


By the way, I have a personal L7 live story.   I was in attendance at the 1995 Warped Tour in Northampton, MA.  I decided this time to do something I had never ever done at any show, and that's wander into the mosh pit for the last two bands - one of which was L7 (Sublime was the other).

I didn't expect the band to crowdsurf.  

They DID stay fully clothed for that experience, but I can honestly say that I've have L7 in my hands, indelicately.  This is not something I was going for - but when you have Donita Sparks surfing over your head, you don't want to be the one who dropped her.  

The Warped performance here is from the same tour, different show. 

15 September 2020

15 September 2020 - Lush - Ladykillers

I've certainly posted about Lush in the past - but I posted about their shoegaze stuff.   

This is nearer to the end of their time together, in the mid-1990s, when they were starting to get poppy and score a radio hit or two.

03 September 2020

3 September 2020 - Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks

 Let's be very clear.

This is a very dark song.

To be clear, when Mark Foster wrote and performed the song, he was trying to write from the perspective of a homicidal kid thinking about shooting up his school.  Written in an afternoon, Foster had been writing commercial jingles and plowed through writer's block to get this song done. 

And, for a song that was just a demo, with Mark Foster singing and performing every piece, it's pretty rich and strangely beautiful.  

\

Of course, Foster DID put a band together, and they made the song even richer..... but he still does pick up a couple of instruments!

02 September 2020

2 September 2020 - 10,000 Maniacs - Like The Weather

 We're almost a decade into this blog, and we've NEVER posted about 10,000 Maniacs on this blog.

Let's fix that today.

25 August 2020

25 August 2020 - Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé- Telephone

This video tells a story that doesn't entirely match the song.  I mean, it's set in a prison - and the song clearly isn't.

And that's OK.   It also doesn't hurt the song.  

What it is is a great song, with a great dance beat, celebrating the great dance song, co-written by Gaga and Beyoncé - and they wrote a song on which they could BOTH showcase their unique voices.  It ended up being Gaga's 6th consecutive #1 song - a feat matched by no other artist in history.  

I mention that Lady Gaga cowrote this song, and I have said numerous times that this woman has a lot of natural musical talent - enough that she uses vocal tricks to her advantage without taking away her timbre.  Which brings me to this live version - from 2017.

Clearly, Stefani really just wants to dance!  But it is the singing in which she excels on this night - and it is huge and CLEARLY pure.

 

Now, Beyoncé has also done this song live.  For some reason, they've never performed it together - but I hope that changes at some point in the future.


I wanted to close this post with this unique version of the song....  it is all on piano.

21 August 2020

21 August 2020 - Miley Cyrus - Midnight Sky

It's always good to hear from Miley Cyrus, isn't it? And this is her first single of the year - so it is assumed she made this video during the pandemic.



This song, released literally last week, is clearly about her breakup with Liam Hemsworth - and it's a deeply personal song, in only a way that Miley could be deeply personal. But this is Wicked Guilty Pleasures, not Wicked Guilty Therapy Sessions, so it's got to be enjoyable, and it is. 

Musically, it's straight ahead bass-driven pop with significant synth.  It's a great 80's throwback with a modern feel - and it's fun.  And that's enough. 


17 August 2020

17 August 2020 - blackbear - hot girl bummer

We've been pulling out a lot of old music lately, so I wanted to dedicate this week to song of the past twelve months.  

This song, from late 2019, is the first hit by blackbear, aka Matthew Tyler Musto, a man who has made most of his money writing songs for other people.  He has been a recording artist for several years as well, and this was his first hit after seven years of releasing albums.

And it's a doozy.  From the repeated chorus with the chiming bell and guitar going in time with the melody, to the significant bass drops and creative use of Autotune, the song is infinitely memorable.

\\

That was the 2nd video, and it was clearly big budget.  blackbear had made a low budget one, too.


Now, normally, at this point, I'd be pulling out a live version of the song - and I can do that if you really want (let me know in the comments), but I wanted to do something a little different here.

This is a video from the YouTube page of dancer/model/modern celebrity Dytto - who has 3.63 million subscribers.   This fan video/dance performance is a homage to everything pop culture from Mean Girls, to Kim Possible, to The Purge to Riverdale.  I enjoyed it - possibly more than the official videos - and I hope you do as well.  

10 August 2020

10 August 2020 - An "Into the Unknown" Special

I am fairly certain this post isn't starting the way you thought it would, but stay with me.  We will get to Adele Dazim before you know it.

It is a fairly recent tradition of Disney to record their recognizable songs from their feature films in the native languages where their movies are released.  "Let It Go", from Frozen, for example, was recorded in several languages.  

03 August 2020

3 Aug 2020 - The Notorious B.I.G. ft. Pam Long - Hypnotize

I've got to be honest - I was always Team West Coast.  I never really understood why I had to choose a side, but I was a fan of the artists coming out of California more than New York, when it came to hip hop in the early to mid 1990's.  

Biggie's flow on this song is just impeccable, and I cannot deny it's a great tune.  I sometimes wonder what would have happened if he and Tupac would have collaborated, and it is incredibly tragic that both voices were snuffed out so young.  

31 July 2020

31 July 2020 - First Aid Kit - Emmylou

The "Emmylou" in this song is famed county artist Emmylou Harris, who was a tremendous influence on First Aid Kit.  After you listen to the song, you are going to see how obvious that statement is.


So, I know what you are thinking - does Emmylou Harris know about this song?

She does.  She's a fan.

30 July 2020

30 July 2020 - The Jesus And Mary Chain ft. Hope Sandoval - Sometimes Always

This 1994 collaboration between Hope Sandoval, best known as the vocalist for Mazzy Star outside this song, and The Jesus and Mary Chain ended up being their biggest US hit - and only song to hit the Billboard Hot 100 - and HER 2nd biggest one - after "Fade Into You".

The song is a little less... dark than other Jesus and Mary Chain fare, which is probably how it was so darned accessible to so many.  

28 July 2020

28 July 2020 - Tori Amos - Crucify

I cannot believe that we are almost a decade and more than 800 posts into this blog before we get to Tori Amos.   It's a surprise, because she was an early figure in the 1990's surge of women who were singer-songwriters and finally getting major label contracts.

This song - a minor hit in 1992 that sparked an EP with some pretty epic B-sides - is my favorite of hers.  From her debut album - we aren't counting Y Kant Tori Read here - the song is powerful and full-on from the first note.  A very piano-driven song, it was wholly written by Amos herself. 



That EP did not contain the Little Earthquake album version of the song, though.   It contained this very mild remix of the song, which includes some additional lyrics that I think add to the power of the song.



In stark contrast, this is a live version of the song from the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1991, before the song was released - and it's not at all remixed - and is STILL powerful.  True talent - a woman and her piano - is on full display.



By the way, Tori Amos still performs.  Here she is from 2014 performing a similarly pure version of the song.... and it is still as brilliant as the first time.


17 July 2020

17 July 2020 - The Bangles - In Your Room

It always comes back to The Bangles for me.

From the first song of theirs I heard (their cover of "Going Down To Liverpool") and throughout their career, I have always thought they were four excellent musicians who just happened to be female performing great music.

This was the first single off their third album Everything and it was the band's fourth top 5 hit.  Written by Susanna Hoffs, the primary vocalist for The Bangles, it is one of my personal favorites by the band.



For our live selection today, I wanted to choose a really recent performance, for two reasons.  First of all, the band hasn't lost a beat.  At all. 

The second is that bassist.  The classic Bangles lineup included Michael Steele on bass, but she was NOT the original bassist.  The original bassist was a woman named Annette Zilinskas, who left the band in 1983, just before their breakthrough All Over The Place album was released. 

35 years later, in 2018, Annette Zilinskas returned to the band.  And I just think that's awesome.

16 July 2020

16 July 2020 - The Call - Let The Day Begin

Sometimes, I post great songs and tell you a lot about them.   There's a lot to say about this song.  You can read all about it on Totally Covered today.  Here, just listen to Michael Been sing this very inspiring song.

15 July 2020

15 July 2020 - Baltimora - Tarzan Boy

When I was younger and this song was new, this was one of my favorites.  Released in early 1985, it took nearly a year to chart in the United States.... and it was Baltimora's only real hit here.

Interestingly, the man you see in the video is an Irish native named Jimmy McShane - who was kind of a member of Baltimora, as a front man.  However, he did not sing the song - Maurizio Bassi, the architect of this Italy-based project, was the vocalist, and he co-wrote the song along with Long Island, NY native Naimy Hackett. 

To be fair, McShane could sing - he did perform backing vocals on several other tracks - but not this one.

When it became clear that Baltimora was not going to recreate the success of "Tarzan Boy", Bassi disbanded the group.



I usually like to include live performances of the song, but, well, when you're using an actor to represent your band.... there aren't any.  Instead, here is the late Jimmy McShane (he passed away in 1995) dancing on American television.

08 July 2020

8 July 2020 - Transvision Vamp - Kiss Their Sons

By this time, I think y'all know that I think Transvision Vamp was one of the most underrated bands of the late 80's and early 90's.  And, if you are reading this from the UK, you probably think I'm bonkers.  They were relatively consistent hitmakers there.

This song was not a hit.  Or even a single.

I personally have a favorite album by them - Velveteen.  I consistently list it among my five favorites of all time, and usually around #3.  I purchased that album the day it was released, and it is fantastic, end to end.  I remember every song on that album had its lyrics printed in the liner notes, except one.

"Kiss Their Sons" was that song.  And this song was a lot darker and angrier than anything else on the album - because it was angry and the band was angry - at journalists who were calling these punks with credibility and careers "sell-outs", with very specific anecdotes and a lot of very colourful language.  The song opened Side 2 of the album, for those old enough to remember those - and it opened it with a guitar screech and a hell of a bassline.  The lyric "If you went away and never came back, that wouldn't be too soon" is possibly one of my favorite opening lines of any song, ever.

It is my favorite song on my favorite album of theirs, and it is a go-to for me all these years later.



I include the only live performance of this song I could find - as part of a whole live show.  The anger really shines through live - and unless I'm mistaken, Wendy James is naming names!

07 July 2020

7 July 2020 - Dweezil Zappa ft. Moon Unit Zappa - Let's Talk About it

Dweezil and Moon Unit were the elder children of Frank Zappa, and frequent MTV VJs.  They did a couple of singles together - this Dweezil-penned antiwar song being their best known collaboration, from 1986, when it received a lot of MTV airplay.  Look for the Frank Zappa cameo at around the 2:03 mark of the video, by the way - as well as a LOT of other celebrity cameos (I count no less than 6). 

I was a teenage boy.  I was watching for Moon Unit. 

By the way, Dweezil was 17 in this video, and reportedly wrote this song when he was 15. The WHOLE song - lyrics and music. 

Moon Unit, of course, is better known for her appearance on their father's single "Valley Girl", but this is an objectively better song. 

01 July 2020

1 July 2020 - Robin Sparkles - Let's Go To The Mall

Yes, this is really Cobie Smulders singing this.  I figured, let's just put that right out there.

If you are a fan of the TV Show How I Met Your Mother, you know this song well.  It's possibly more iconic than the show itself - and it endures to this day, several years after the show left the air.

I mean, everybody loves going to the mall.  Let this song rock your body until Canada Day (which happens to be today).



Oh, if you had doubts about my claim that it actually was Cobie Smulders.... as part of all this COVID-19 fun we're all having, she recorded an updated and quarantine-appropriate version..... 



These's one more thing.

Go to www.twitter.com/redargyle and start reading down.  First word of each tweet is all you need.

26 June 2020

26 June 2020 - Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj - Side To Side

At this point in her career, Ariana Grande wanted to be taken seriously, as an adult artist.  And while she tries to mask the suggestive nature of the song with this video, with ladies moving... er, side to side on exercise bikes, it ain't about going to the gym.  (Nicki Minaj, for her part, is a bit more direct.)

What this song is, even with its somewhat naughty premise, is a grown-up, densely layered dancehall-pop song that is surprisingly strong.


But what if you strip the layers and the overproduction?  It's still a surprisingly strong song - Grande has a voice that, while still maturing at this point in her career, is evocative and still a little innocent.....sounding.

25 June 2020

25 June 2020 - The Juliana Hatfield Three - My Sister

Those of you know have read this blog for awhile know that there's a story that goes along with Juliana Hatfield for me.

I won't tell that one again.  I will say that the show I reference in that story came BETWEEN the ones in which I saw Veruca Salt and Letters To Cleo.  So, I figured I'd post it today.

For its part, Juliana's first all-ages show really was the Violent Femmes and the del Fuegos.  She did not, however, have a sister (although she explains in all in her book, When I Grow Up) .



The Juliana Hatfield Three was a seemingly one-off project, but she got the band back together in 2015.




24 June 2020

24 June 2020 - Letters To Cleo - Awake

As many of you know, I am a fan of the show "Parks and Recreation."  If I had to identify one moment in this show with which I most personally identify, it's this one:

"I love you, Kay Hanley!"
I had that shirt.

23 June 2020

23 June 2020 - Veruca Salt - Volcano Girls

A couple of weeks ago, I told you which was the best band I ever saw live.

Today, I tell you about the most disappointing. But there's a happy ending.

The band was Veruca Salt, opening for PJ Harvey and Live.   I was a really big fan of the energy they brought to their music - but in  September 1995, they brought absolutely none of that energy.   Let's be clear - I have seen WORSE bands live (and, to be fair, when I wrote THIS, I had not seen the band I now consider the worst I've seen live) but this was a show I thought would be amazing, and it wasn't.

This song came after that, and they clearly recaptured the energy they had lost that one day.  So, I'll forgive them.  Plus, this song is so creative, it completely switches tempo and plot at 2:25 - which I always found to be intriguing.  Veruca Salt knew what their fans wanted, so they catered to it.

Besides, now we know who the seether is. 

It's Louise.



Two years later, they seem to have gotten their mojo back, so maybe I'd give them a 2nd chance.

21 June 2020

21 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Daughters of the Kaos

I brought back Guilt-Free Sunday because I'm on a Luscious Jackson kick.

I have spent the last week walking you though their catalog, but I had up until now avoided their debut EP, In Search Of Manny.  The seven songs on that set (3 early Jill Cuniff/Gabby Glaser demos and four others) were hip-hop/pop/rock fusion unlike anything the music industry had ever seen.

"Daughters of the Kaos" was their first video and you can see the hip-hop group influence, with Cuniff and Glaser taking turns on verses, not unlike other similar artists of their time, and the heavy use of samples - which persists through their music going forward.  Lyrically, the song is possibly a little more badass than their image going forward (remember, this was also a single of theirs), but they were well on their way to finding their sound.



Somehow, the song is better live.  When the song opens, you don't expect police sirens to follow the Spanish guitar - and yet, there it is. 


I may have taken forever to get to the earliest Luscious Jackson music, but they don't at all avoid it.  Somehow it sounds a little less dark as they perform it twenty years later, but it's still tight.

19 June 2020

19 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Show Us What You Got

Luscious Jackson broke up in 2000, but they started undoing that breakup pretty quickly, and by 2010, they were back together.

In 2013, they released a really solid album called Magic Hour.  This was the first single.  It clearly retains the hip-hop sensibilities, but it's edgier than their earlier stuff.  Listen to this post from two days ago, then come back to this one - and remember that it's the same band.



Here they are in 2013 on Letterman.  They always look like they are having so much fun live, so I love sharing these.




18 June 2020

18 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Here

Yes. The answer to my question yesterday was yes.  I am posting another Luscious Jackson song today.

I am posting this for four reasons..

1)  Luscious Jackson in general deserves a lot more attention and respect than they get.  You've got a band with four REALLY good female musicians, making inventive yet accessible music.  That they didn't have more huge hits is criminal.

2)  This song features all three vocalists, and three part harmonies are awesome.

3) Few videos were more blatantly made prior to the song being put on a movie soundtrack (Clueless), forcing a movie tie-in to be added where it could be.

4) The song is exciting and easy to dance to.  You know you're dancing to it right now.  If you aren't, why not???!!!



As per my style, here's the band performing live.   No Clueless tie-ins necessary.

17 June 2020

17 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Ladyfingers

So I couldn't even wait to finish my story.

At the end of my post YESTERDAY, I alluded to the fact that Vivian Trimble left Luscious Jackson and the group made another album, this one as a trio.

This was the relatively well-received single from that third album, Electric Honey.   The group broke up soon after, but not because they thought they were were making bad music or not enjoying it.  The official word was "they wanted to spend more time with their families" but really, females weren't getting radio airplay in 1999 and 2000 - which is a shame, because this is excellent music. 



You can see how much the band loved performing - and really, they didn't stay broken up for long. 



Will I post another Luscious Jackson song tomorrow?  Tune in.

16 June 2020

16 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye

I know - I've written about Luscious Jackson before, and I will write about them again.  But it's different this time.

I wrote about the harmonies between Jill Cuniff and Gabby Glaser before, and today  I won't be doing that.  Reason:  these harmonies don't include Glaser, but rather, keyboardist Vivian Trimble - that's right.  There are THREE solid vocalists in Luscious Jackson - or rather, there were.  More on that in a minute. - and they all harmonize well together.

Between their first and second albums - Natural Ingredients and Fever In, Fever Out - Cuniff and Trimble did a side project, called Kostars.  A single album came out of it -  and even though Glaser and drummer Kate Schellenbach were both part of the recording of that album, it was quite clearly not a Luscious Jackson record.

This song was more classic LJ - a significant hip-hop feel, while retaining a rock feel.  It ended up being the band's only Top 40 hit - peaking at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1997 - and remains a cool song to this day.  The video itself is somewhat cool looking - with all four band members never appearing together but also seemingly playing the same stoic role.



They had a lot more fun and were a lot less stoic playing live, as you can see in this clip from Late Night With Conan O'Brien from 1997.



Vivian Trimble eventually left the band, and they broke up completely in 2010 after an album as a trio (see a future post for details on that) but they reformed in the early 2010's, still as a trio, to make new music and tour.  Here's a stripped down version of the some, featuring Cuniff and Glaser, who does NOT step in on Trimble's vocals.

It's the mark of a great song - when it works so brilliantly both with a full band, loudly, and stripped down, quietly.   And THIS is a great song.



(edit: 18 June 2020):  I have discovered that the Luscious Jackson Twitter account recently posted a handwashing guide based on this song.   And yes, I did.

Image

09 June 2020

9 June 2020 - Game Theory - Erica's Word

This is possibly the first time I am purposefully repeating a song.  But I have a good reason.

In 2012, I wrote a very long post about Game Theory, featuring many of their lesser known songs.  Scott Miller, lead vocalist and mastermind behind Game Theory, passed away a year later, and I appended that post to include this song and one other ("The Real Sheila").

I regretting not giving this beautiful, snarky piece of pop jangle its personal due. So, today, I remedy that.

"Erica's Word" was the big single from Game Theory's 1986 breakthrough album The Big Shot Chronicles.  Of course, between the time the song was recorded and the video's release, there were a couple of lineup changes to the band - which was OK.  Scott Miller was the only constant in the band.  It was his baby - and it is the 1986 iteration of the band, which recorded two subsequent albums together, that appears in the video.

The song itself is beautiful, sweet, and yet ends its third verse with quite a bit of snark.  How this song wasn't a huge hit is an absolute mystery to me.  It's endlessly catchy.



Here's Game Theory in 1985, performing this song live, prior to its release.  This is the 4-piece lineup that recorded the song - the differences being a different bassist and lack of rhythm guitarist.




08 June 2020

8 June 2020 - N.W.A. - Express Yourself

This may be the angriest song I've ever posted.

I was introduced to N.W.A in the early 90's while in college.  I probably missed the messages of their songs at the time, but in this time of protest, this song about freedom of expression resonates.

This is probably the only song they ever did that could be played on radio.  Which is hilarious, because the song itself calls out other hip hop artists for avoiding profanity just to get on the pop charts. 

They didn't need to curse to make an anthem about expression.  Primarily performed by Dr. Dre, the song was written by Ice Cube. 




04 June 2020

4 June 2020 - Elastica - Connection

When Elastica exploded onto the scene in 1995, with this single, I was an immediate fan.  I mean, the power pop! The cool electronic opening!  The homage to Wire (I choose to believe it was an homage, because that lawsuit was settled out of court).

(I was also a young man and I thought their guitarist was cute.  I was spot on with that assessment)

I still love this song.  It's high energy and I still use it to pump myself up, a quarter century later.



That video wasn't the one that MTV showed, though.  They used this much higher quality video with quick edits and more nude men.  (And more Donna Matthews. She's the guitarist)



But there's more of a personal story here.

I went to Lollapalooza in 1995, in Hartford, CT.  I was looking forward to the lineup, which included Sinead O'Connor.   I really wanted to see her live.  Well, about a week before that show, Sinead O'Connor dropped out and was replaced with Elastica.  I was really disappointed......

.....until Elastica took the stage.  They were BY FAR the best band that day, and that day included some fantastic bands.  It wasn't close.  Elastica blew them all off the stage. The band brought so much energy to the show.

A couple of months later, I got the opportunity to see Elastica again, in Springfield, MA, in a smaller club.   Their lineup had changed slightly - bassist Annie Holland had left and been replaced by Beck's touring bassist - but the energy had not.  If anything, they were better!!

I've been to a lot of great concerts and seen a lot of great bands. To this day, if I am asked which is the best band I have ever seen live, the answer is, without fail, Elastica.

This video is from Tokyo, two weeks before I saw them at Lollapalooza in 1995.



01 June 2020

1 June 2020 - Panic! At The Disco - High Hopes

I had never been a huge fan of Panic! At The Disco.  I mean, it's really just one egotistical guy - Brendon Urie - and a bunch of studio musicians.

Brendon is the guy who's walking up the side of the building, by the way.

This song, released twelve years after their breakthrough hit "I Write Sins Not Tragedies", was something of a comeback, in fact, becoming not only their biggest hit, but their FIRST top 40 hit SINCE "I Write Sins Not Tragedies".

And they did it by writing and performing a more mature, humble, uplifting song that wasn't full of minor chords.

So, maybe I'm a bigger fan of theirs now.



What gives me a better feeling about the band is that, in this live performance 1) it looks like it's the same band as appears in the video, so consistency in lineup is happening 2) it's clearly really a live performance and 3) more horns than a Chicago concert.

I gotta be honest - this performance gives me chills.  The band - the WHOLE band - is clearly enjoying themselves.

11 May 2020

11 May 2020 - Bee Gees - Tragedy

The Bee Gees have never gotten due respect for their songwriting abilities.  And yet, in one day, they wrote this song, "Shadow Dancing", performed by their brother Andy, and "Too Much Heaven" - all while making a movie (the terrible Sgt. Pepper movie, but still)

That's three Number one songs in one DAY that they wrote.

This would be the group's fifth of six consecutive #1 hits.  The only other artists to match this are The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Bing Crosby.  They were this huge in the late 1970's.

The song itself is a breakup song - with the title becoming an exclamation point in a chorus to follow the desperate verses. 



You might be wondering how they get that exploding sound near the end of the song.   It was created in studio by Barry Gibb cupping his hands over the microphone and making the sound - and then duplicating it so it sounded impressive.

Yeah, you're making that sound right now. 

Here they are in studio, recording this song and showing the process - notice how Barry isn't singing every lyric in this take. 

08 May 2020

8 May 2020 - Childish Gambino - This Is America

Well, it ain't Troy and Abed in the Morning!

What it IS is a provocative song with a a video featuring a lot of Jim Crow imagery.   The song, which was a breakthrough song and Donald Glover's biggest hit to date, won four Grammys, including Record and Song of the Year.

The song itself moves between African-style folk, gospel, and dark trap rhythms, and it is exceptionally well constructed.  The lyrics - which address gun violence and police brutality, among other things - are not always easy to hear, the video difficult to watch at times.  Please, watch and listen anyway.   You'll be glad you did. 

06 May 2020

6 May 2020 -The Darling Buds - Hit the Ground

Remember music programs when they made the artists lipsync?

On this ninth annual Darling Buds Day, we go back to the late 80's and Top of the Pops, where there were no cables or microphone cords to trip over and the band sounded studio-fresh.

They STILL rocked it.



There was an official video for this song, too.  This way, you can hear the whole song.


Will we be able to do this in Year 10?  Well, the Darling Buds are rumoured to be in the studio, so I am guessing we will.




04 May 2020

4 May 2020 - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Ohio

On May 4th, 1970, at Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen opened fire on students protesting the US bombing of Cambodia, a neutral party during the Vietnam War.  Four people were killed, and nine were wounded.

The poster announcing the protest at Kent State

Neil Young saw the pictures of the incident in Life Magazine and wrote this song.  Released in June 1970, the song was a top 20 hit - despite being banned on many radio stations for its indictment of the Nixon administration - and a poignant reminder of what had happened on that fateful day.



The incident and the song sped the tide of sentiment already turning against the US involvement in Vietnam.  The massacre in Ohio is one of the darkest moments in American history, and this song brilliantly captures the nation's feelings.  Music can really capture and sway a culture, and this song is perhaps the best example of that.

Here's Young performing his song solo. 

01 May 2020

1 May 2020 - KONGOS - Come With Me Now

John Kongos was a bit hitmaking musician in the early 1970s, best known for his hits "He's Gonna Step On You Again" and "Tokoloshe Man" (both covered by the Happy Mondays)

Kongos had four sons who went on to form their own hitmaking band, KONGOS.  They made their own label - Tokoloshe Records - to release their music.  Part of the result of that was this song - which you might have heard if you paid attention to big action movies or the WWE - because it became a big hit and directly resulted in their major label record deal.

It's a rare rock song not starring Weird Al that features a lead accordion so prominently - and yet this one does, giving the song a bit of a folksy feel without being folk music.  All four brothers sing and harmonize well... which is something they got from their father.

Also, check out the musically synchronized lipstick (and blowdried hair).



KONGOS is still around and still touring and releasing music.  Here's a taste of them performing in Toronto in 2019.

30 April 2020

30 April 2020 - Chicago - Hard To Say I'm Sorry (stereo sound)

"Hold me now

It's hard for me to say I'm sorry."

Man, don't we all feel that?

This very beautiful song about longing and trying to make things right was Chicago's 2nd #1 hit, in 1982.  In a bit of a departure from other Chicago songs, 1) it doesn't feature much in the way of horns, and 2) it features musicians that were not members of Chicago in supporting roles, including three members of the band Toto.

Peter Cetera's longing voice matches well with the lyrical content and the early 80's sound.  I hope you enjoy it!

27 April 2020

27 April 2020 - Oingo Boingo - Stay

There was a time when there was a band named Oingo Boingo, fronted by a man named Danny Elfman.  They had a fair amount of success with the theme from the movie Weird Science and an appearance in the movie Back to School, the latter of which Scott wrote about several years ago.

Elfman would go on to be a big time movie score guy and be embarrassed by Oingo Boingo.  He shouldn't have been.  They were amazing.

This is not a fun and happy song.  It's a love song.  Specifically, it is a song in which the protagonist is begging his significant other to stick around and work through their problems, rather than running away.  Comparing their relationship to many things that it isn't, it's a much deeper song than you would have expected from Oingo Boingo at the time - and remains one of my favorites.



After the music industry changed and left the sound of Oingo Boingo behind, they struggled to reinvent themselves, but ultimately threw in the towel in 1995 with a huge farewell show.  Here is the band, performing this song for the last time.



The song was not a huge hit for the band in the States, but, oddly, it was in Brazil, where it was used in a telenovela named Top Model.   That's not a joke. 


Hence, there were several Brazilian bands who have covered this song - and you can see them over on Totally Covered right now!

17 April 2020

17 April 2020 - Liz Phair - Polyester Bride

Girly Sound.

Those of you who are Liz Phair fan know approximately what Girly Sound is.  For those who don't, or only know about it casually, the Girly Sound tapes were early releases self-produced by Phair in the early 1990's - Girly Sound being her stage name at the time - that led directly to her record deal.  There were actually three of them - Yo Yo Buddy Yup Word To Ya Mutha, GIRLSGIRLSGIRLS, and Sooty.

I know what you're thinking (and no - it has nothing to do with how many shots I took).  "Why is he mentioning these lo-fi recordings when today's entry is clearly well produced?"  It's an excellent question, as this song was the opening single from Phair's third studio album whitechocolatespaceegg.  However, it was a rewrite/rerecording of a song from GIRLSGIRLSGIRLS.  So, all those years later, she was still using her Girly Sound stuff as a library.

whitechocolatespaceeg, unlike her previous work, came after she got married and had a kid - it wasn't just about sex, which Exile in Guyville and Whip-Smart clearly were.  So, this song, written in her overtly sexual era, was reimagined as a more introspective and less sexual piece.



Compare this version to the GIRLSGIRLSGIRLS version.  First of all, it's a lot longer - so budget some time.   It's also a slower, sparser and I think sadder song - and more self-deprecating.  And Henry, her bar-tending friend seems to be more of a dick.



Phair still tours, and was supposed to be opening for Alanis Morrisette and Garbage this year on their tour.  I hope that still happens, but until then, here's a live performance from 2018.

16 April 2020

16 April 2020 - Madonna - Ray of Light

I usually start this posts with the official video - because, you know, that's how most people know the song. 

I'm not doing that this time.  That's Madonna with a guitar, people.  We need to appreciate this.  And, although this in its original form was electronic-driven (albeit with a significant guitar piece), I kind of dig this version.

So, before I get into some random facts about this song, I wanted you to rock out to Madonna.



I mean, we're of COURSE going to have the official video here, too. It's really good, too.  It's not just good because it's a great electronic dance tune (that, by the way, I just made you rock out to).  It's good because Madonna's energetic performance - not only vocal, but visual - is mesmerizing. 

The song itself, largely written by Ms. Ciccone, was written in the aftermath of the birth of her daughter and her career-changing turn in the movie Evita. It remains to this day one of my favorite Madonna songs.  Interestingly, it was purposely produced, musically, just outside of Madonna's vocal range.  When you hear her straining to reach the notes, that's real.  And it's spectacular.

15 April 2020

15 April 2020 - Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky

Today, we go ahead and embrace our hippie roots....

But this song seems a little Jesus-y for that, doesn't it?

And yet, that's exactly what Norman Greenbaum did - he wrote a religious hippie song.  Of course, it wasn't well-known or much of a hit in secular circles - it was legitimately a Christian song and a hit! - until Doctor and the Medics covered it in the 1980's

Really, the simple and earnest song was criminally overlooked at initial release - but it's a classic now.

14 April 2020

14 April 2020 - ABBA - Take A Chance On Me

This is a song that I am certain all of you have heard. There's not much more to say - it was the final UK #1 for ABBA (their 7th, a record), and was one of the biggest hits of their career worldwide.

Stig Anderson had assisted with the lyrics on prior ABBA singles - but on this one, it was all Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, establishing them as a strong songwriting team in their own right.  This song is so sweet, and upbeat, that it endures to this day.  Agnetha didn't have much of a solo career outside of Sweden (where she was a hitmaker BEFORE ABBA) but this is really her song, even though most of the lyrics are shared with Frida (real name: Anni-Frid - get it?).



By now, you should know that I like to include alternative versions when I make a simple post like this.  This is the 1977 demo of the song.  It speaks to the consistency of the band that it was hard to find any variation from the final studio version at all!  Other than a slight key difference in the chorus, I don't hear one.



Compare this with a 1978 live recording.....  in a lot of live performances, ABBA frequently lip-synced their songs - mostly because the studio recordings were so complex, and not at all an indicator .  In this case - look in the background.  There's a complete orchestra!!!


If you got this far - this song was famously covered by Erasure.  Check out the Totally Covered post from 2012!