16 April 2021

16 April 2021 - POWERS - Dance

POWERS is a band that has not gotten a ton of attention.  I hope to change that today.

Their Wikipedia page is very sparse, but here's what I have been able to find out about the band:

1) Their two principle members, Mike Del Rio and Crista Ru, started off as songwriters for other artists, and they have a number of Wicked Guilty Pleasures to their credit.  

2) The duo got their big break when they appeared on a single with The Knocks - we'll have to feature that here sometime, but today, I wanted to give them their due.

3) Their music has been described in many multi-adjective ways.  I won't add to that pile.  I will say that a male/female vocal duo that shares the duties so evenly and so well is rare, refreshing, and energetic.  

4) They slay live.  

15 April 2021

15 April 2021 - Don Dixon - Praying Mantis

We have talked about Don Dixon a little as a producer on his blog.  But he's a musician, too, and one worthy of Wicked Guilty Pleasures.

This song, from the 1985 album Most of the Girls Like to Dance but Only Some of the Boys Like To, served as Don Dixon's debut as a musician - he had already produced some of R.E.M.'s early albums - and, let's face it.... it's a little odd. 

I grew up in Connecticut, where the praying mantis is the state insect, so we learned a little bit about them..... but for the rest of the country, this song, which got a fair amount of MTV airplay, was an education on the mating habits of the praying mantis.  Yes, it's accurate.  

Dixon is still performing.  Here he is, performing this classic, in 2017, with his wife Marti Jones supporting him on guitar and Grammy award winner (for this) Jon Carroll on keyboard.

14 April 2021

14 April 2021 - Five for Fighting - Superman (It's Not Easy)

This is a song I don't expect to enjoy. And yet, I do.  

Five For Fighting is named for the penalty given in hockey (and is a penalty I never got in my years playing hockey, because I avoided fighting on the ice.  Not a fan.)

Five For Fighting is also the stage name of John Ondrasik, This Grammy-nominated song from from 2002 was his biggest hit - and has a pretty interesting subject.  The titular narrator of the song is, of course, the famous DC Comics superhero, talking about how surprisingly hard his life is.  You wouldn't think empathy for the Man of Steel would result in an a moving hit song, but yet, it did.  

13 April 2021

13 April 2021 - The Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly

In 1993, I can tell you that I thought the Flaming Lips were a fun novelty band that wouldn't endure.  Especially on the strength of this song, which to this day remains the bands biggest radio hit, if not their most recognizable song anymore.  

Boy, was I wrong.  Led by Wayne Coyne, the Lips have proven to be an interesting and inventive band who really respects, honors, and relishes its loyal fans.   Plus, the band is chock-full of excellent musicians who have all contributed both to the Flaming Lips catalog and other artists who might have once palled around with a blue dog.  

Lyrically, this song is goofy.  Musically - it's catchy and uplifting and fun and rich.  

If you doubted me in how much the band respects their fans, this 2013 performance of the song, which is highly interactive, should illustrate that.  There are fans on stage.  They are playing with the crowd, who are singing along.

12 April 2021

12 April 2021 - The Knocks ft. Foster The People - All About You

If you've been reading Totally Covered today, you know that we featured three tracks from the Knocks ft. Foster The People EP Melody and Silence.

As you may have guessed, this is track 4, which is the single.  It is both melancholic and uplifting.  Musically, The Knocks have always had a distinctive electronic sound.  Adding Mark Foster to the mix  - with whom they've collaborated in the past, and it shows - adds depth to an already rich, deep song.  

My plea to you: go encourage your local radio station to play this song.  The way music like this gets made is if music like this is supported.    

09 April 2021

9 April 2021 - DMX - X Gon' Give It To Ya

Earl Simmons was born in Westchester County, and died in Westchester County this morning.

You knew him better as DMX.  He was a groundbreaking artist, gone too soon.

DMX is still the only artist to have five consecutive albums debut at #1 on the Billboard album charts.  A lot of hip hop artists before him chose accessible or angry forms of the music.  His success showed that an artist can reach both.  

He will be missed.  He leaves a large catalog of music behind, perhaps none better known than this song.

9 April 2021 - The Wiggles - Fruit Salad / The Wiggles ft. James Harkness, Jawan Jackson, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Rakete, Taylor Symone & Victor Valdes - We're All Fruit Salad

We don't normally cover children's music here on Wicked Guilty Pleasures, especially when it wasn't music we grew up with.  

The Wiggles made sure we made an exception for them, especially since we've now featured them twice in the last month on Totally Covered.  If you didn't read yesterday's Totally Covered post, I strongly encourage you to do so.

This song, one of the signature Wiggles songs, first appeared on their 1994 album Yummy Yummy, so this version, from one of their many videos, features the classic, original Wiggles lineup.  The song is earnest and inoffensive, and at the same time, teaches kids how to make a fruit salad.

Of course, the Wiggles are known for their live shows, too, and they do perform this song live, A LOT.  You'll be happy to know that I listened to this song A LOT when I was writing this.  I know definitively how to make a fruit salad now.  This version, complete with a lot of dancing fruit, is from 2011 and their 20th Anniversary concert.

In 2013, the Wiggles changed, with only Anthony Field remaining from the original lineup.  At that time, the modern lineup, with Lachlan Gillespie, Simon Pryce, and Emma Watkins debuted, and they've been quite popular with the modern kids.  The original educational theory, 

But the history of the Wiggles endures, and, rather than just tritely talking about bananas, apples and grapes, the Wiggles did something a little different to celebrate their 30th anniversary.  They celebrated the concept that we're all like fruit salad, in the same bowl... while still acknowledging that fruit salad is, indeed, yummy yummy.  It is truly a delicious tribute to the times we in which we live.

When the Wiggles (along with a couple of OG Wiggles) appeared on Triple J's "Like A Version" to perform, well, yesterday's Totally Covered post, they also performed their new song, live.  Emma did not play drums this time.  

08 April 2021

8 April 2021 - Tame Impala - Elephant

Sometimes, a song is so mind-blowing and transcendent that I have to drop everything and reschedule posts just to make sure I fit them into these blogs as soon as possible. 

This 2013 song from Australian psychedelic band Tame Impala is not that song.  It is, however, a great song, that combines blues and psychedelic elements with a fantastic guitar riff that defies understanding.  One of Kevin Parker's oldest songs, it was pulled out and recorded in 2013, and ended up being one of the band's most successful songs.  

Lyrically, the song is a bit naughty - the trunk of the elephant is clearly metaphoric-  and not just a tribute to Death From Above 1979 - and, for that reason, Kevin Parker found the song "shallow", but it isn't.  It's rich and deep and sultry, a musical and lyrical journey.

(Also, when you go over to Totally Covered and see who sings about "shakin' his big grey trunk for the hell of it", your jaw is going to hit the floor.)

Here is the band playing an extended version of the song, readily admitting how appropriate the song is for getting "down and dirty."  

07 April 2021

7 April 2021 - DJ Khaled ft. Cardi B & 21 Savage - Wish Wish

DJ Khaled is a very humble man.

But in this song, 21 Savage and ESPECIALLY Cardi B steal the show.  Between the two of them, there is not a single low moment - no down time, no pause - in this song.  And yet, the song does not feel rushed. 

To his credit, Khaled is happy to give the spotlight to artists he clearly respects.  This is the second time he had collaborated with each of them.

The three featured artists co-wrote the song with producer Tay Keith.  "Wish Wish" peaked at #19 on the US pop charts.

06 April 2021

6 April 2021 - Phantogram - Running From The Cops

I felt like this excellent tune, from the Phantogram album Eyelid Movies, is an appropriate post in a week when Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for his part in the death of George Floyd in police custody.

That's as political as we are going to get with this post.  

Clearly, the protagonist in this song - sung by Josh Carter and not Sarah Barthel - is not a fan of the cops.  Neither is the guy who made the video, Naje Lataillade, who very much thought through the imagery used.  In Naje's words:
"...a sexy police woman comes into frame and gives chase to the crowd. The hipster wearing the PHANTOGRAM shirt is scared for his life. As we watch, we think, "Oh I get it, the song is called 'Running From The Cops'", but there is only one cop, not plural cops. Well, here in Brooklyn, cops equal pigs. So the next character to come out is a freak with a pig nose, dressed in all pink, carrying a bottle of swine flu. He looks angry and like he wants to raise hell. This explains why the people in the beginning were wearing medical masks, as he's spraying the swine flu everywhere. Even the cop is running from because swine flu kills 'pigs'."

The video is mostly in black in white, but there are splashes of blue and red/pink in the black and white.  Those two colors are what are required to make a phantogram, the technology you may have seen in your 3D glasses of the 1980s.

It is interesting to watch the performance of this song from 2009.  It is a song that is not only performed, but constructed and looped, synthesized to the nth degree to create something noisy and chaotic and beautiful.  Second note:  they're both multiinstumental.

With a fuller band, like they had in 2014, the song is still chaotic, but less electronic and looped, and more direct.  If you happen to have one of those old pairs of 3D glasses, now might be a good time to put them on.

05 April 2021

5 April 2021 - St. Vincent - Los Ageless / The Melting of The Sun

Even though we've featured Annie Clark here before - yes, Scott beat me to St. Vincent just like he beat me to Lights - it's likely none of you know who she is.  

Or, at least, until you watched Saturday Night Live this weekend, right?  Full disclosure, I'm writing this the day BEFORE she's scheduled to appear, and I didn't know about it until I started doing research for this post.  In fact, because I discovered that fact, I moved this post to Monday.  You deserve instant gratification.

It's a shame it took SNL to bring her to your attention, but here we are. Her music is poppy yet dark.  Her 2017 album MASSEDUCATION is a revelation of sorts. This song, the second single from that album, is a commentary on the culture of Los Angeles, purposefully layered on top of distorted guitar and synth lines.   

It's somewhat easy to lose the message in the synth of the song, but in 2018, St. Vincent released an piano version of the album, calling it MassEducation - see what she did there?  She also performed the song live in an acoustic guitar version - here's an example of that. Notice how she retains the desperation of the third verse, even with a sparser accompaniment.   

If you are here to hear the song St. Vincent performed on SNL this weekend, here it is.  Her new album, Daddy's Home, is due to be released May 14th, and, since it's the first since MassEducation, we're pretty excited for it.

02 April 2021

2 April 2021 - Urge Overkill - Sister Havana

I promise you I didn't intend to wean you off of a month of Canadian music with back-to-back 1993 songs by Chicago bands.  

It just happened this way.  

What also just happened on the whole Saturation album was that Nash Kato, who wasn't the band's normal lead vocalist, sang lead vocals.  I wasn't a huge fan of the band before this album, so it was a good thing for me....

01 April 2021

1 April 2021 - The Smashing Pumpkins - Today

Welcome back to the the United States.  

As your reward, here's the power ballad 2nd single from the Smashing Pumpkins' epic 1993 album, Siamese Dream.  I remember sitting with my girlfriend (at the time) watching them perform this song on SNL.  They were becoming a big deal then.  I didn't think I'd be talking about this band nearly thirty years later.  

But here I am, and it remains one of my favorite song by the band. 

31 March 2021

31 March 2021 - Sarah McLachlan - O Canada / Céline Dion - O Canada

Good evening. This is Wicked Guilty Pleasures, an owned and operated blog of the Wicked Guilty Pleasure Broadcasting Corporation, with a picture signal strength of 77,000 watts and a sound signal strength of 7,500 watts. Our principal transmitter is somewhere inside a Google datacenter, which broadcasts to metropolitan Toronto and areas throughout the world. Repeat transmitters extend our broadcast area to include Wawa, White River, Hornepayne, Manitouwadge, Beardmore, and Geraldton. If you have any comments or suggestions about our programs, please address them to info@wickedguilty.com. We hope you've enjoyed this month's programming. 

And now, our national anthem.

Bonsoir. Il s'agit de Wicked Guilty Pleasures, un blog détenu et exploité par Wicked Guilty Pleasure Broadcasting Corporation, avec une puissance de signal d'image de 77 000 watts et une puissance de signal sonore de 7 500 watts. Notre émetteur principal se trouve quelque part dans un centre de données Google, qui diffuse vers la métropole de Toronto et des régions du monde entier. Les émetteurs de répétition étendent notre zone de diffusion pour inclure Wawa, White River, Hornepayne, Manitouwadge, Beardmore et Geraldton. Si vous avez des commentaires ou des suggestions sur nos programmes, veuillez les adresser à info@wickedguilty.com. Nous espérons que vous avez apprécié la programmation de ce mois.

Et maintenant, notre hymne national.

(Special thanks to CLBT-TV, whose sign-off from the 1990s we shamelessly lifted)

31 March 2021 - Armistice - Mission Bells & City Lights Cry

We are closing this month of nothing but Canadian music the same way we started.

Not just with a band the American audience here had never heard.   I mean, yes, that.  

Wait.  You did figure out the Canadian music thing before now, right?  Every artist I posted in March was Canadian - even the covers.  I was explicitly clear in every post.  EVERY post contained the word "Canada" or "Canadian" - except for the one that contained the word "canadien" and was all in FRENCH.  I spelled the word "favourite" several times.  I pretty much beat you over the head with the damn maple leaf.

Which also brings us back to ending this month exactly like we started. You see, Armistice was a group - a duo, really, comprised of a man from Toronto band Bedouin Soundclash, named Jay Malinowski, and his girlfriend at the time, a Montreal musician named Béatrice Martin.

This collaboration was very much has a 60's mariachi band feel, which is very different than the reggae/ska sound of Bedouin Soundclash and the sound (although not the lyrical depth) of the chanson française of Cœur de Pirate (are you happy that I had to write the œ AGAIN?!).   

Jay and Béatrice, while on tour together in 2011, performed a couple of songs on the streets of Paris.  For reasons that will become clear in a minute and you can already guess, I decided to feature their song "City Lights Cry", which also tells a story in mariachi.  The couple clearly had a lot of fun doing this.  

And they were a couple - meeting at the Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver - but when that relationship ended, Armitice persisted long enough for some promotion of their EP, and then they went their separate ways.  Thankfully, the songs didn't die with the relationship, as they have been performed by Cœur de Pirate regularly.  Granted, they don't sound quite as mariachi on a piano.... but the songs still work.  

30 March 2021

30 March 2021 - The Weeknd - Save Your Tears

I know many of you were underwhelmed by The Weeknd's Super Bowl performance.

It is difficult, however, to be underwhelmed by the impact this Canadian singer has had on music.  His combination of soul and electronic music is somewhat groundbreaking - and I can understand that not translating well to a weird national broadcast performance.

So we're clear, this was his current single during that Super Bowl, and it is a top 20 hit worldwide, so I think he's doing something right.  The song initially charted in April 2020, a full 8 months before it was released as a single - because it is such an infectious song.

The Weeknd also performed the song during the 2020 iHeartRadio Jingle Ball.  In a few years, we're going to look back upon performances like this, without crowds, and remember our little pandemic.  For now, just enjoy this live performance. 

29 March 2021

29 March 2021 - Drake ft. Majid Jordan - Hold On, We’re Going Home

I'm a little surprised it took me this long to post anything by this Degrassi: The Next Generation alum.   That's right.  Aubrey Drake Graham was best known for his role on the Canadian drama before he was a musician.  

Yes.  He was billed as Aubrey Graham.  

On this song, which is more soul and less hip-hop than some of Drake's other tunes, he is joined by R&B duo (singer + producer) and fellow Canadians Majid Jordan - and had a worldwide hit, both commercially and critically.  


In case it isn't clear, here are Drake and Majid Jordan on Ellen, with Majid Al Maskati clearly singing significant vocals on this song.  

28 March 2021

28 March 2021 - Barenaked Ladies - Be My Yoko Ono

I couldn't in good conscience let Klaatu stand as your Wicked Guilty Pleasure today.

For a good percentage of you, this was your first exposure to BNL.

For me, this was the song, playing on CFNY, a radio station from Toronto.  It's clearly a tongue-in-cheek love song, referring to the romance of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in somewhat amusing terms.  Their debut single, it was a minor Canadian hit and cemented their charm and appeal across the country.  

By the way, Yoko Ono has heard the song, and enjoyed it.

28 March 2021 - Klaatu - Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

The Carpenters did a lot of covers.  This was one of them.

But we're not talking about the cover.  We're talking about the Klaatu original.  You see, Klaatu was a band, formed in 1973, whose style had them dubbed "the Canadian Beatles".  It was even rumoured that they WERE The Beatles for a while.  Clearly, they weren't, but they had a few hits in their own right.  

And they sure did write some offbeat music.  However, the title was lifted from an actual 1950's UFO society who used that phrase to start every transmission.  

27 March 2021

27 March 2021 - Stompin' Tom Connors - The Hockey Song

I dare you not to smile during this song. 

A classic played at many many hockey games, especially in Canada (as it references a Canadian win, and I don't think he means the Canadiens), the single, released in 1973, became a posthumous Canadian Top 30 hit for Connors in 2013. 

And me standing in the Saddledome in Calgary at a Flames game in late 2019 singing this song with a lot of Canadians is among my best memories of Canada.  It's truly moving to hear thousands of people singing such a joyous song.

26 March 2021

26 March 2021 - Jann Arden - Insensitive

On December 29, 2017, Arden was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada for her 'achievements as a singer-songwriter and broadcaster, and for her extensive charitable work.

I literally copied that from the Jann Arden Wikipedia page.  I also learned from her Wikipedia page that she was born in Calgary, but at an early age, moved to Springbank, Alberta.  Having spent some significant time in Calgary, I can tell you 1) great city.  Go there when you can. 2) That's barely leaving Calgary.  

This was Arden's only big US hit, reaching #12 on the pop charts, but she's a superstar in Canada. This song might sound like a sweet ballad, but it's actually kind of angry - which is part of the brilliance of Arden's performance.   

The song was released in the mid 1990s, but she still sounded amazing playing the song live in 2018.

25 March 2021

25 March 2021 - Neil Young - Helpless

After we posted that brilliant k.d. lang cover of this Neil Young song yesterday, we could not help but post the original performing his own song.

From Farm Aid 1993, the Canadian legend belts his classic song, originally performed with his band Crazy Horse but was more famously recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  Alone, the power and ache of Young's voice shines through.  

24 March 2021

24 March 2021 - k.d. lang - Constant Craving

You know, we haven't had anything resembling country yet this month, so let's go with it today.

k.d. lang did start off as a country artist in the late 80's, finding success in both the US and her native Canada.  However, when she embraced a slightly poppier sound in the early 90's, she achieved her biggest hit outside of Canada - today's feature.  By moving away from country, she found a larger audience - and earned a Grammy.

The song itself - which lang co-wrote - is a song about, well, constant craving.  It features both her rich voice alone, and multi-part harmonies.   In kind of a funny coincidence, the Rolling Stones were (perhaps not consciously) inspired by this song when writing their 1997 single "Anyone Seen My Baby" - so much so that they gave lang a co-writing credit.  This was not due to a lawsuit.   This was due to Keith Richards being that big a fan of the song.  

Also, I hear this song on in-store radio literally every time I go to Wegmans.   Not a joke.  

23 March 2021

23 March 2021 - The East Pointers - Two Weeks

For me, personally, the greatest musical discovery I made in 2020 is PEI band The East Pointers.  It's not even close.  They are a delight, and everything that trio has done is delightful.  I love their dedication to folk music and to Atlantic Canada.  

For those outside Canada, YYG is the code for Charlottetown Airport, on Prince Edward Island.  And yes, WestJet does fly from YYG to and from YYC - that's the code for Calgary, an airport I know very well - on a seasonal basis.  

22 March 2021

22 March 2021 - Gordon Lightfoot - Song For A Winter's Night

Gordon Lighhtfoot is a Canadian treasure.  On this, there can be no debate.

Of course, the song was written on a hot summer's night in Cleveland, Ohio in the mid-1960, as Gordon was missing his wife while on tour.  It is a sweet song that is now a winter staple in my house.  I hope it is in yours as well.  

21 March 2021

21 March 2021 - Dream Warriors - My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style

Captial Q and King Lou were just a couple of friends from Toronto who came together to sample an old Quincy Jones song that was a television theme song.  I suspect it is this song that caused "Soul Bossa Nova" to be the theme for the Austin Powers movies, although Mike Myers is Canadian, so he'd probably have seen the Canadian game show Definition.  

And now you know where the chorus for this song comes from.  And why the song has such a long title.  

In case you were wondering about Definition, here's a 1982 episode.  YES, that's the guy from Card Sharks

20 March 2021

20 March 2021 - Len - Trillion Daze

Every one knows that Len is a one hit wonder.   That doesn't mean they didn't release other music, or even that "Steal My Sunshine" was their first single.  The Canadian band preceded that huge hit with this single, and a video that features some sweet snowboarding.  

"Trillion Daze" is much less hip hop and much more straight-ahead rock with punk sensibilities.  I like this incarnation of the band.

19 March 2021

19 March 2021 - The Weakerthans - Sun In An Empty Room

We have featured The Weakerthans before.  "Tournament of Hearts" is absolutely the greatest song ever written about the uniquely Canadian sport of curling.  

The single that followed that great song was this one, a working man's anthem from a working class band.  The band, proud of their hometown of Winnipeg, filmed this video there.  Together, they make a fitting tribute to life in the middle of Canada. 

18 March 2021

18 March 2021 - Loreena McKennitt - The Mummers' Dance

Who would have thought that an song that sounds like a traditional Irish folk composition would be a top 20 hit?

And yet, that's exactly what happened to Canadian Celtic singer Loreena McKennitt in 1997.  A tribute to the mummers' plays of spring, it is an odd but sweet song, bolstered by her sharp soprano vocal.  It would be her only hit outside of her native Canada, as she did take a hiatus from music following a deep personal tragedy in 1998 - but she has returned to music and is still releasing new material.  

17 March 2021

17 March 2021 - Spirit Of The West - Home For A Rest

Spirit Of The West aren't a band most Americans have heard, but were wildly successful with their Irish-tinged music in their native Canada.  So, this article is going to hit a certain number of you more in the feels than others.

That statement should sound familiar, and yeah, this story doesn't end better.

In 2014, the band's frontman, John Mann, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.  He continued with the band as long as he could, but it clear he was not long for the music industry.  He passed away in 2019, at the age of just 57.  

This song was an anthem of the band from 1990, but wasn't released as a single until 2014, when it was released in a limited manner on Record Store Day.  In the wake of the announcement of Mann's illness, it was quite a bit more poignant than the drinking song it was originally intended to be.  

The first time the band played at the famous Massey Hall was on June 6, 2015 - and it was one of their last shows.  Mann actually forgets the lyrics for a bit during the song - but the audience had his back.  It is one of the greatest moments in Canadian music history.

16 March 2021

16 March 2021 - Cowboy Junkies - Misguided Angel

This song was recorded straight to 2-track in a Toronto church, as was the rest of the Trinity Sessions album - although one of the songs was recorded on a 2nd day, despite the mythology of the song.  Famously, they ran out of time during the recording session - which famously featured Margo Timmins singing into a PA - and had to bribe a security guard to let them stay long enough to record this unrehearsed song - which they recorded in ONE TAKE.

This is the DEMO. And it is beautiful.

Of course, the Canadian band is best known for a cover they did, which you can heard today over on Totally Covered.

15 March 2021

15 March 2021 - Robbie Robertson - Somewhere Down The Crazy River

When Robbie Robertson of The Band went solo, no one expected such a soulful song like this to come out of him.

And yet, this sultry masterpiece is exactly what he came up with.  But it happened accidentally.  As Robertson was playing with chord progressions, he was telling a story, which producer and fellow Canadian Daniel Lanois secretly recorded.  The chorus and backing vocals by Sam Llanas of The BoDeans were added later.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the video.  There's three people in the video - Robertson, Llanas, and Maria McKee, who at the time was wrapping up her time with Lone Justice and embarking on a solo career. McKee herself sings some background vocals on other Robertson songs on his debut album, but her appearance her is solely visual. 

14 March 2021

14 March 2021 - Stampeders - Sweet City Woman

The Stampeders had several hits, but this 1971 tune was their biggest hit by far outside of Canada - or even INSIDE Canada.  The Calgary trio - who started as a quintet in the mid-1960 - broke up in the late 1970's, but reformed at the 1992 Calgary Stampede, and has not stopped touring since.

By the way, the Calgary Stampede is something I barely missed in my time in Alberta, and remains on my bucket list.  It probably won't happen for me in 2021, but it will sometime soon.  

13 March 2021

13 March 2021 - Moxy Früvous - King of Spain

I recently have been looking into my family tree, and have traced some of my genealogy back to 9th Century Europe.  In fact, I have a branch of my tree that is, indeed, descended from Ferdinand III, king of Castile, Toledo, León and Galicia.... a real life King of Spain, I sincerely doubt that Moxy Früvous had me in mind when they wrote their prince/pauper tale in the 1990's, mostly because I never worked at the Pizza Pizza... but that's the story I'm telling everyone now.

Seriously, Moxy Früvous were a fun and satirical band, frequently poking fun at their native Canada and making a lot of "inside the Queensway" jokes.   This is their biggest hit outside of Canada, which got some radio play in Western New York.

12 March 2021

12 March 2021 - Grimes - You'll Miss Me When I'm Not Around

I have been a fan of Canadian electronic artist Grimes for many years now.  She continuously reinvents herself, and yet still sounds fresh and exciting.  

But this video is boring as heck on purpose, and it's because she loves her fans.  

You see, she released this video on April 1, 2020, with a green screen background, alongside the raw audio from the recordings, specifically so fans could remix the song and make their own versions of the video - #GrimesArtKit.  What a terrific pandemic art project!

The song itself is fairly soulful while not forgetting the electronic power Grimes has consistently brought to her music.

Here is the original video, in all its chromakey glory.  I think it's important to note that Grimes was seven months pregnant when she released this.

I wanted to highlight some of my favourite fan versions of this video.  

YouTube user Brent Bonacorso describes this version of the video as "(a) quarantine dream of digital conception and creation, broadcast from the heavens in a gamma-burst of love and code."  I pretty much think that nails it.  Starting with a roar, it builds into the music.

I thought YouTube user Jonathan Hernández made a visually interesting video.   He doubled up on the Grimes and put her in space.  

Rather than use the Grimes video, YouTube user Red Dawn went with footage from a bunch of 1980s movies and a radical electronic remix.  It works, well.  This is the only video on that channel, but I personally hope that changes.  

11 March 2021

11 March 2021 - The Tragically Hip - New Orleans Is Sinking

The Tragically Hip never got to be the superstars that they were in Canada south of the border.  So, this article is going to hit a certain number of you more in the feels than others.

I grew up in Connecticut - but my extended family lived in the Buffalo, NY area, so I would visit them often.  As I visited the area, I became accustomed to Canadian radio - and because of the rules governing Canadian radio that required a certain percentage of Canadian artists to be played, I got to hear a lot of artists that weren't generally played in the States.

One of these bands was The Tragically Hip.  

When this song became a minor hit in the US for The 'Hip in the early 1990s, I already knew who this "new" band was, and I was pretty excited.  

The Tragically Hip are no more.  Their lead vocalist, Gord Downie, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2016.  Their last show, in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, was broadcast to the entire nation by the CBC in August 2016 - a show that 1/3 of Canadians watched.  

This song opened the first of three encores and was the 22nd of 30 songs they would perform.

Downie passed in November 2017.  He was so beloved, his death so mourned, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed it, emotionally.

10 March 2021

10 March 2021 - Nickelback - How You Remind Me

I know, I know.

It's popular to hate on Nickelback nowadays. 

No matter how you feel about them, the Canadian band does have a few solid tunes.  This song, from 2001, TOPPED the POP charts in the United States.  

Topped.  The.  Pop. Charts.   With a heavy rock song. 

The song is an emotional roller-coaster, written by Chad Kroeger about a dysfunctional relationship he had once had.  It remains the signature Nickelback song to this day.  

09 March 2021

9 March 2021 - Carly Rae Jepsen - Want You In My Room

So, I guess she decided that the coy approach wasn't working?

In all seriousness, the one-time 3rd place Canadian Idol finisher really stepped up her game here. This 2019 single, which combined a childlike exuberance with sexual themes, received an abundance of critical acclaim, applauding both the fun sound and maturity of theme, so well-balanced.  If you missed this 1980's throwback song in 2019 - the horns! the synth! - I encourage you to check it out now.  

As an added bonus, here she is, performing the song in her hometown of Vancouver.  Three things of note: 

1)  She is really enjoying herself.
2)  Flying V.
3)  The synth sticks around live.

08 March 2021

8 March 2021 - Rush - The Spirit Of Radio

Rush was, of course, a band made up of three of the greatest rock musicians on their respective instruments (yes, I know.  Neil Peart joined after the first album.  Don't @ me).  Sone might call them egotistical, with numerous bass, guitar, and especially drum solos featured on many of their songs. 

This song, the big single from their 1980 album Permanent Waves, is a great example of that, where you can hear all three members of the band taking a lead in the music at some point.  It remains the band's biggest UK hit, also hitting the charts in the US and their native Canada.

Lyrically, the song is a lament of the loss of radio formats of the 1970's, having been replaced with more commercial formats.  The band specifically have cited Toronto radio station CFNY - one of the first stations to play the band - as a catalyst for this song.  They also pay tribute to several of their favourite artists in the song - the tribute to Simon and Garfunkel is pretty obvious, but the reggae feeling that portion of the song takes on is a tribute to up-and-coming band The Police.  

It's where the song title came from.

The song was featured on the album Permanent Waves, which has a catalogue number of 1021 - in tribute to the CFNY FM frequency - 102.1.  This video was commissioned for the 40th anniversary of the song in 2020.  

07 March 2021

7 March 2021 - k-os - Crabbuckit

My American audience isn't going to know k-os very well.  k-os is a Canadian "alternative hip-hop artist", according to his Wikipedia page.  I wish he was known better south of the border, because his sound is soulful and innovative.

This song, which won Single of the Year at the 2005 Juno Awards (which, for those unaware, are kind of like the Canadian Grammys - and this was the first time a hip-hop song won that award), referred to the crab-in-the-bucket syndrome.  Basically, if you throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket, the mob will work to pull down anyone who tries to escape - a metaphor for someone trying to escape a particular socioeconomic situation.  

06 March 2021

6 March 2021 - Martha And The Muffins - Echo Beach

Martha and the Muffins are a rock band from Toronto - ARE.  Not WERE. Formed in the mid-1970s, they had a lot of hits in their native Canada, but only one real big hit outside their homeland.   That hit, of course, was "Echo Beach", a horn-filled electronic romp to a place far removed from the ennui of everyday life.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of their biggest international hit, Martha and the Muffins rerecorded the song, imagining it at a much slower tempo with a somber tone.  It's a far sadder song.... and still works as such.

05 March 2021

5 March 2021 - Sarah McLachlan - Into The Fire

As a snooty music fan in the late 1980's and early 1990's, I discovered some music before it hit the mainstream. 

Sarah McLachlan was one such artist.  I discovered this song - her first alternative radio hit in the US (it was a bigger hit in her native Canada) and instantly loved it - her huge voice, and unusual lyrical content.  

And yes.  That's her naked and covered in mud in the video.  

Fast forward to the late 1990's.  McLachlan is now a huge hitmaker worldwide.... but as of this point, she still remembered her roots.  Here she is, performing the song in her 1999 concert film Mirrorball.  

Sadly, she stopped performing this song live in 1999.  Which is a shame.  It remains one of my favourites by her.

04 March 2021

4 March 2021 - Bran Van 3000 - Everywhere

Bran Van 3000, from Montreal, Quebec, did have some success stateside.  Probably best known for "Drinking In L.A.", they actually have a rich, deep catalog.

Take this song, which is less hip-hop and more straight-ahead pop-rock.  A follow up to their aforementioned hit, it was a pretty big, sweet Canadian hit in its own right. Bear in mind, those two very different songs were from the SAME album - Glee, which is a truly underrated piece of art.  

03 March 2021

3 March 2021 - Lights - Peace Sign / Lights feat. Cœur de Pirate - Peace Sign

I couldn't let this little synergy go unnoticed.  So I'm doing a 2nd post.  

"Peace Sign" was Track 8 on the Lights album Siberia, which was released in 2011.  It was not a single, but is still an excellent song.

Here is Lights performing the song live.  Excellent, energetic, and something of a dark song.  But clearly, an exciting highlight when performed live.    

Following along so far?

Literally the day after this song was written, the G20 riots in Lights's hometown of Toronto, and that had quite an impact on her.  So, as the story goes, she started corresponding and collaborating on a bilingual version of this song with an artist she was a fan of, for Siberia Acoustic, which was released in 2013. 

That artist, of courses, was Montréal artist Cœur de Pirate

And here is that finished product.  It's a lot less energetic, but the lyrics shine so much stronger.  

Lights tells the rest of the story live in 2013 - as of this recording, she had never MET Cœur de Pirate in person - and didn't know the French part of her own song.  Thankfully, the audience did and helped.  Say what you want about the politeness of those from Québec, but it's my opinion and experience that French Canadians are just as polite, helpful and wonderful as just about every other Canadian.  

3 March 2021 - Lights - Toes

Yes, Scott beat me to Lights.  By nine years.  

But here I am.

And that's the Canadian singer-songwriter's real first name (not by birth, but still).  Which is super convenient when it comes to having a stage name.   

This song was released in 2011 to mostly positive reviews, and, really, it's kind of got an infectious beat and some intelligent lyrics.   Which makes me wonder why I was so late to the party.    

The video was filmed in Lights's hometown of Toronto.  

Lights has been known to do an acoustic version of this song live - and in fact did an acoustic version of the entire Siberia album.  Here she is, performing it live in 2019.  The audience knows the words.  It's a slightly different feel, but still just as heartfelt.

02 March 2021

2 March 2021 - Anne Murray - You Needed Me / Shania Twain & Anne Murray - You Needed Me.

Anne Murray hit #1 on the US pop charts for the her first and only time in 1978 with this song - ironically missing the top spot on the Country and Adult Contemporary charts on which she had much more success.  She also won the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal for this song, the first time a Canadian had done that.  

In 2007, |Murray would rerecord the song as a duet with fellow Canadian Shania Twain.  It's essentially the same song - but just with two people singing it.  

By the way, I know you came here to hear Stewie Griffin sing this.

01 March 2021

1 March 2021 - Cœur de Pirate - T'es belle

....2) Cette chanson, de fin 2020, est clairement sortie sous le nom Cœur de Pirate.  

C'est clairement étiqueté

Je ne me soucie pas particulièrement du nom que Béatrice Martin a choisi d'utiliser pour faire de la musique à l'avenir. Tant qu'elle continuera à faire de la musique révolutionnaire qui est intéressante, je vais rester heureuse.

Je ne suis pas canadien, donc je n'ai pas eu à apprendre le français à l'école. En fait, dans mon apprentissage des langues, c'est mon talon d'Achille. Permettez-moi de vous assurer que tout cela est une gracieuseté de Google Translate.  

1 March 2021 - Cœur de Pirate - Undone

I told you she didn't sing EXCLUSIVELY in French.  

Canada is a bilingual country, after all.

This is from her 2015 album Roses, which features songs in French and English.  

In 2018, Béatrice Martin announced she planned to no longer make music under the name Cœur de Pirate, which I guess would mean I'd be able to stop trying to type œ on my English-language keyboard..... but 1) she would continue to make music, which is amazing.....

1 March 2021 - Cœur de Pirate - Comme des enfants

It is refreshing to hear an artist so fresh and not-so-well-known outside their home country like Cœur de Pirate.  However, what is really unusual is that Béatrice Martin has actually had more hits in France than in her native Canada.

You see, she is a francophone from Montreal, and primarily sings in French.  Not exclusively, mind you - but mostly.  And yet, despite having the heart of a pirate (that's what her name translates to, people), the songs are just enchanting.  Without knowing French, you can hear the love and longing in her voice, in the music.  

This song, her debut single, won the 2010 Victoires de la Musique (French-language music) award for Original Song of the Year. 

It almost sounds more soulful live. Check out this performance from Massey Hall in Toronto from 2014.   The acoustics threaten to drown her out, but Cœur de Pirate's full voice wins in the end.

26 February 2021

26 February 2021 - Domenico Modugno - Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu

Modern audiences know this song by another title.

"Volare".  And Bobby Rydell's English language version is better known today.

But Domenico Modugno wrote the song.   And, in 1958, it spent five weeks at #1 in the US, in THIS version, and was the biggest hit of 1958.. all while remaining faithful to its original Italiamn.  To compare, Rydell's version hit #4 in 1960 - this was the bigger hit.  

25 February 2021

25 February 2021 - Nena - 99 Luftballons / 99 Red Balloons

Almost certainly the best-known German language song outside of German, this little warning of the apocalypse was a big hit in the 1980s.  Yes, people in the US were singing along to their death from nuclear attack. 

And who would blame them??  This song is damned catchy.

In a bit of an oddity, an English language version of the song - slightly changing the narrative to be even a little darker - was released  THIS VERSION DID NOT CHART, meaning the US audience preferred not to know what they were singing about, I guess.   

24 February 2021

24 February 2021 - Marmello - Moonlight / Moment of Glory

Marmello were a K-Pop group with a twist - they played their own instruments.  They were a bona fide band.  Although they disbanded in 2019, we hope for a comeback, which isn't unprecedented in the K-Pop world - because they actually rocked kind of hard for a K-Pop group.   I mean, this ain't metal - it's pop-rock - but it's not usual to see.   

Less than three weeks after this single was released, the band reimagined the song, slightly changing the lyrics and title to be a rally song for the 2018 World Cup.  It rocks just a little harder.

23 February 2021

23 February 2021 - Gloria Trevi - Que Me Duela

Let's get it out of the way.

Gloria Trevi spent almost five years in a Brazilian prison on charges of endangering a minor.  She was released due to lack of evidence.  She has maintained her innocence (and divorced her DNA-provably guilty husband as a result of this).  

My point on mentioning this up front is that she missed several years of her very successful music career, and when she was released from prison, she jumped right back in, feet first.  She went away a crooner, and came back an EDM hitmaker - and let's be clear.  In Mexico, she was welcomed back with open arms, with this and just about every other single she's released being a pretty big hit there.  

In Brazil, not so much.

What did NOT change was Trevi's in-your-face style and bold lyrics, which she exhibits here.

22 February 2021

22 February 2021 - Superbus - Apprends-moi

For my English-language speaking audience, the title translates roughly to "Teach me".  That is about the limit of the amount of French I speak.  

Superbus is a French band, and this was a top 20 hit in that country in 2012.  However, the band got its start because their lead vocalist, Jennifer Ayache, came to America to perfect her English, after which she wanted to start a band.  I suppose the rationale was that English-language songs would sell better?  At any rate, this isn't an English-language song (although some of their stuff is) and it did pretty well.

This song, as is a lot of this band's music, is heavily influenced by 1980's music, with a synthesizer playing a strong role.  

19 February 2021

19 February 2021 - Charly Bliss - DQ

This is the 900th post on Wicked Guilty Pleasures.  It wasn't supposed to be our 900th post.  

In fact, this was not a band I had heard OF before I posted #899 yesterday.  

I first heard Charly Bliss on February 18th, 2021.  They've been around for several years, but for some reason, I only stumbled upon them today.  They are now in heavy rotation.   This fun, perky, punky song that contains the line "I bounced so high I peed the trampoline" is perhaps my early favorite. 

The band has been compared to Weezer, and I hear it.  But they're somehow even quirkier than Weezer, and that's a good thing. 

You know that I am going to add a live version of this song, right?  From the 2017 Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo, MI, you can see that the whole band is full of cohesive energy, with Eva Hendricks a solid frontwoman, and not just a vocalist.

Also, everything I hear about this band is that they are all very nice.  

For all these reasons, I rewrote post #900.  And I will revisit this band.  They are incredible.

18 February 2021

18 February 2021 - The Smithereens - Miles From Nowhere

This isn't the first time I've posted about New Jersey Music Hall of Famers The Smithereens.  

It IS the first time I have posted my absolute favorite song of theirs.  Released in 1994 in support of their album A Date With The Smithereens, the Pat DiNizio-penned song is perfectly on brand for the band, if not a little more grungy.  This was because we were living in a post-Nirvana world in 1994, and since Butch Vig - the guy who produced Nevermind - was supposed to produce this album, it makes a lot of sense.   

However, a couple of weeks before recording was to start, Vig decided to drop the project, which prompted Capitol Records to drop the band.  RCA picked them up quickly, and with great producer Don Dixon - who had produced their first two albums - the album was back on. 

The song was far from a big hit, but it is a beautiful, angry, desperate breakup song.    

Even though DiNizio has passed away, the band lives on with guest vocalists.  Here they are in 2019 with special guest Marshall Crenshaw.

17 February 2021

17 February 2021 - Sonic Youth - Kool Thing

"I don't think so" is a line right out of "Going Back To Cali", and this song was supposedly about LL Cool J's misogyny following an interview Kim Gordon did with him for SPIN Magazine.  Read it.  It's really cringeworthy.  

Clearly, Chuck D was OK coming along for the diss - although he seems to be friendly with LL Cool J.  

There are a lot of other LL references in this song, which was Sonic Youth's major label debut.  All in all, it's a short, digestible song that introduced the bombast of Sonic Youth to a wider audience, and it was their biggest success to date.  

16 February 2021

16 February 2021 - LL Cool J - Going Back To Cali

No one was released slow songs in the rap genre in 1988.

No one else was James Todd Smith, either.  

This video was instantly in heavy rotation on MTV, and not just because of the Martha Quinn cameo at 3:08.  No, it was a cool song. Cowritten by LL Cool J and Rick Rubin, the song was inspired by Rick Rubin's hesitance to move to LA - because he thought the girls would be too sexually forward.  

This song did inspire a response, which will be here tomorrow.  

15 February 2021

15 February 2021 - Commodores - Nightshift

In 1985, the Commodores were what those in the music industry may call "past prime."  Their charismatic leader, Lionel Richie, had left the band.  They hadn't had a hit in a few years.   It seemed like they were done.

And then came "Nighshift".  Initially, the band didn't want this song, which was a tribute to two legendary singers who had passed far too young in 1984 - Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, to be a single.  Their label insisted, and it ended up being not only an R&B but also a pop hit - one of the biggest of their career.  It won the Grammy in 1986 for Best Vocal R&B Performance by a Duo/Group, an honor that was well-deserved.  

Suddenly, the Commodores were no longer seen as past prime.  This song cemented their own legendary status and proved that there was a market for smooth songs like this. 

Of course, you can hear the emotion tied to this song in its live performance.  On top of being legends, the band KNEW Marvin and Jackie.  When Walter Orange sings "he was a friend of mine", he means it.  Eagle-eyed listeners will hear Wilson and Gaye lyrics quoted in the appropriate verses.  

14 February 2021

14 February 2021 - Alannah Myles - Love Is

I wanted to post something appropriate for today.  This second single by Canadian superstar Alannah Myles, the follow up to the huge "Black Velvet", seems to be a good choice. 

Except... funny story... It was actually her debut single in Canada. In the rest of the world, the other song came first. In her home country, this one did. And THIS song also got the Juno nomination for Single of the Year in 1990 (it lost to "Black Velvet"). 

Although often forgotten, this song was a top 40 hit. Alannah Myles is no one hit wonder!!!!!!  Anyway, enjoy the video that most of the world enjoyed in 1990.

This is one of those songs with two official videos. Here's the Canadian version. 

13 February 2021

13 February 2021 - Cannibal Corpse - Hammer Smashed Face

As we started Buffalo Week, we thought we had a pretty good representation of Buffalo music.

We forgot one huge name, featured in the movie Ace Venture: Pet Detective.   So, we're including Cannibal Corpse, death metal pioneers from Buffalo, today. 

More than thirty years into their career, Cannibal Corpse is still making music, with a new album dropping in April.  However, we invite you today to enjoy a classic song by the band.  

12 February 2021

12 February 2021 - Green Jellö - The Flight of the Scajaquada

This song deserves its own post and an explanation.

The Scajaquada Expressway is Route 198, a highway that runs through Buffalo, NY.  Buffalo, as you know, is known for its snow (although Rochester and Syracuse both regularly get more, but DO NOT GET ME STARTED).  Let's just say that The Scajaquada is not a place you want to be during a blizzard.  During the late 1980s, when this song was released, it wasn't a safe highway.   

There's all sorts of Buffalo references in this song.  All sorts of Buffalo-area schools that you would have heard on a late-1980s school closings announcement on the radio are referenced, as are several popular news personalities from that period.  

Oh, one more thing.  Thanks to another lawsuit, when the song was reissued as part of their 1993 album Cereal Killer, they had to spell it "Skajaquada", but I refuse.  That's not its name.  I also preserved the band's original name here.  

12 February 2021 - Green Jellö/Green Jellÿ - Three Little Pigs

Shockingly, just as soon as this Buffalo punk band got a little success, Kraft sued them and forced a name change. 

No matter.  This novelty tune - amazingly about exactly what you think it is, if you've never heard it - was a Top 20 MAINSTREAM POP RADIO hit.  Radio played the hell out of this song.  When the single was first released in 1992, it was ONLY available on video - it is the first known video single. Although it did get a CD release later, the sales of the video were enough to earn the single Gold certification.

Prepare to be entertained.

The YouTube comments of this live version include the comment "this song is heavier than it has any right to be."

Not wrong.

This performance from 2019 shows that they haven't faded in the quarter century since this was a new song.  

11 February 2021

11 February 2021 - John and Mary - Red Wooden Beads

I saw John and Mary twice at St. Bonaventure University in the early 1990's - I want to say 1991 and 1992.  When I went to that first show, 

1) I had John Lombardo sign my copy of Hope Chest by 10,000 Maniacs - the same copy that Natalie Merchant signed and yes, he signed it first.  
2) I purchased their first album, Victory Gardens, and yes, they both signed it.

They were both exceptionally nice.  And exceptional performers.

When I went to that second show, they BOTH remembered my name.  And were happy to see me.  

Now, technically, I saw them a 3rd time at St. Bonaventure, in 1995, after Natalie Merchant left 10,000 Maniacs and that band appeared essentially with John and Mary instead of Natalie - a lineup that pretty much has stuck to this day (John is only a part-time member and Mary did leave the band for awhile), so there's not a lot of John and Mary music anymore, but they don't not exist and they still make music together.

This was their debut single and the song they opened with at that first show.  

10 February 2021

10 February 2021 - 10,000 Maniacs - What's the Matter Here?

Seeing a theme this week yet?  

Well, we've got one.  

10,000 Maniacs formed in Jamestown, NY in the 1980s and quickly made a name for themselves on the Buffalo music scene, eventually getting a major label record deal and a broader audience.  

This was the band's 4th single from their 1987 album In My Tribe, and despite the heaviness of the song, it was a minor hit for the band.  Natalie Merchant and Peter Buck wrote the song, from the point of view of someone seeing a neighbor's child being abused.  

The band still performs the song live, with Mary Ramsey on the microphone now.  It's still just as poignant.

09 February 2021

9 February 2021 - Ani DiFranco - 32 Flavors

If you live in Western New York, you know who Ani DiFranco is.  She's one of the first artists to eschew major label flirting with her and go off in her own direction.... and still remained financially viable and visible to big names in Hollywood. While she left Buffalo many years ago, that is where she grew up and recorded much of her earlier music. 

This song was from DiFranco's 6th studio album, Not A Pretty Girl.  A clear pun on Baskin-Robbins, it's likely her best-known song not performed as part of a Julia Roberts movie soundtrack

08 February 2021

8 February 2021 - Goo Goo Dolls - Name

This song is about Lisa Montgomery.  That one fact alone makes it worth a 2nd post in a day.  

8 February 2021 - Goo Goo Dolls - There You Are

A lot of times we post the first hits by bands.  This was one of the last songs by the Goo Goo Dolls that wasn't a gigantic hit - and on the first album where Johnny Rzeznik was primary lead vocalist (he had previously been an occasional vocalist and fulltime guitarist), which set up the big stardom to come.  This song is far more straight-ahead rock and less acoustic-driven than their later hits, but that doesn't make it bad.  Lyrically, it is a song of despair and anguish over a breakup. 

Primarily filmed at what was Pilot Field in downtown Buffalo, NY, the band's hometown, the band's first ever video serves as a tribute to Buffalo, showing a lot of familiar sites around the city (yes, I can mentally drive the first few seconds of the video). Bit of an "inside baseball" fact for someone who spent a fair amount of growing up in the Buffalo area - at 2:27, the video is filmed ON the border between the United States and Canada - something of a no-man's land, between the two flags on the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. 

So, since they're big hit makers, I'm sure they don't play their old stuff anymore, right? 


05 February 2021

5 February 2021 - The Beach Boys - God Only Knows

My mother would have been 74 years old today.   She passed away last year, in March, after a long battle with a disorder known as posterior cortical atrophy, so this is my family's first birthday of hers without her.  As something of a tribute, I felt it right to pay tribute to a band she enjoyed.

As a kid, and really, into adulthood, my mother's favorite band was The Beach Boys - she was a teen in the 1960's, after all.  Now, as a kid, I heard songs like "Surfin' USA" and "California Girls" and thought they were kind of cheesy.  As I grew older, though, I realized how difficult such harmonies could be, and I, too, gained an appreciation for them.  

And then I discovered Pet Sounds.  That is an amazing album, and if you haven't listened to the audio experimentation that's going on there, you need to go listen to it now.  It's an incredible albums - Brian Wilson's masterpiece.   That album helped me appreciate the earlier AND later works of the band as well.  

This song, co-written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, opened Side 2 of Pet Sounds and is regarded by many as the greatest song ever written.  This version, which was a top 40 hit, featured rare vocalist Carl Wilson on lead, which was a stroke of additional genius in an already great song.  

Of course, the song became a live staple.  Here is the band performing the song in 1980, the last time the original members of the band (Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, along with Al Jardine) would appear on a UK stage together.

04 February 2021

4 February 2021 - Black Eyed Peas ft. Shakira - Girl Like Me

Brace yourselves.  New BEP.

Kind of.  Shakira and will.i.am were working on this song in 2008, and finally got around to recording and releasing this fantastic, strangely intimate collaboration.  How many callbacks to old Shakia songs do you hear?  How many times is apl.d.ap using terrible Spanish?  All we know is, it's a fun song.  

The song is presently on the Billboard charts, as we write this, #35 with a bullet.  The video was filmed in Los Angeles (the Peas) and Barcelona (Shakira), and yet it looks like they're in the same room.

But you didn't come here for the video.

You came here for the TikTok dances.

03 February 2021

3 February 2021 - Poe - Trigger Happy Jack

The mid-90's brought us a lot of angry-sounding female singer-songwriters, largely due to the appeal of Liz Phair.  Yep, I'm giving the credit to Liz.  Fight me in the comments.  

Some were excellent.   Some were awful.  

Poe managed to stand out from that crowd by bringing members of Suicidal Tendencies and Guns 'n' Roses into the studio with her.  Her music was - is - borderline experimental folk-punk.  Her first big single was "Trigger Happy Jack", a justifiably angry song that makes what I think is a pretty obvious statement in the chorus.

One great thing about Poe is that she is just as emotive live as she was on video. Watch her throw her whole body into this performance.

02 February 2021

2 February 2021 - Mason Williams - Classical Gas

Believe it or not, this instrumental classic was written for a TV show.... by a comedy writer.  The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was the show, and Mason Williams was the head writer.  Williams wanted the song to be fuel for the classical guitar, so he titled his piece "Classical Gasoline".  It was abbreviated on the call sheet as "Classical Gas", and that's the title that stuck.  

The Smothers Brothers were interested in launching new musicians on their show, and so they gave Mason a chance to perform his song... which he did in 1968.  The song ended up being a massive hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It also earned Williams a couple of Grammys - the song won three total.  

He's backed on vinyl by famed session musicians The Wrecking Crew, and on the show by the Smothers Brothers Orchestra - I think it was an orchestra? - and it's still so dense and layered and beautiful today.  

01 February 2021

1 February 2021 - Tom Cochrane - Life Is A Highway

Tom Cochrane was already a star in Canada when this song become an absolutely gigantic hit.  But it almost didn't happen.

Cochrane used to be the lead vocalist and songwriter for a band called Red Rider, and he wrote a song called "Love Is A Highway".  The band never recorded it, because he considered it unusable...

...but picked it back up a few years later for his 1991 solo release Mad Mad World, retitled and retooled.  It was a fun and happy song that became a huge worldwide hit.

When Mad Mad World was reissued for its 25th anniversary, Cochrane included the original demo on the album.  You can hear that it's a very different song, but also, you can hear where the big hit came from.  

Also, this was hard to find, so you're welcome.  

29 January 2021

29 January 2021 - Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner

This is perhaps the oddest history of a song I have ever posted here.

I first heard the song in 1987, as the opening track on Solitude Standing, Suzanne Vega's 2nd album.  It was a crisp and clear acapella song... so clear that it was used to test the MP3 file format for clarity.  Yes, the answer to the trivia question "what was the first MP3" is "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega.  I immediately loved it.

This live version captures the album version quite perfectly.

Fast forward to 1990.  Two British producers that called themselves DNA remixed the song with a thumping bass track.  They didn't ask anyone if they could do this.  They just did it. They went ahead and released the track to dance clubs in Europe.  Her record label - A&M - caught wind of this and did something remarkable.  With the approval of Suzanne Vega (who actually liked what DNA did with her song), A&M bought and released the remixed song.  

It would become Vega's second biggest pop hit of her career (after "Luka") and arguably her most recognizable.  

28 January 2021

28 January 2021 - Depeche Mode - I Feel You

What do you get when you cross Depeche Mode with guitars?

One serious hot, rocking song and a huge hit song.

While Depeche Mode had a devoted fan base from their years of electronic-oriented music, this new direction for the band, which put a guitar in Martin L. Gore's hands and put Alan Wilder behind a drum kit, ended up bringing them one of their biggest career hits.  The unexpected bombast, as it turns out, resonated.

As bombastic as that song is, it is somehow more so live.  David Gahan somehow looks quite comfortable belting out the powerful, straight-ahead rock song.

27 January 2021

27 January 2021 - Blondie - Heart Of Glass

A couple of days ago, I was writing some posts for Totally Covered in advance, and I decided to pull out a Miley Cyrus cover of a Blondie classic, as I am SURE I am going to be billing that on Twitter.  Then I realized that, although I had posted TWO covers of this song over THERE, I had never posted anything about the original.  There's no good reason for it, so let's remedy this.  

This song was built around a drum machine beat, which opens the song.  This was something that, in 1979, was not commonly seen in rock music.... but was seen in the popular disco music of the day.  As a result, Blondie did suffer a temporary backlash in the punk community that had supported them for so many years.  

Of course, this song was also Blondie's first Top 40 hit, making it all the way to #1..... and led to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so I think they made the right choice.  

Now, go to Totally Covered and check out not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different covers, all very different from each other, but all fantastic in their own ways.  

26 January 2021

26 January 2021 - Raf - Self Control | Laura Branigan - Self Control

It is generally accepted that the Laura Branigan version of this song, which was worldwide (outside of Italy and Switzerland) a much bigger hit, is a cover of the Raf version. 

Since Raf co-wrote the song, I think it's a legitimate claim.  However, I'm including both versions on this post, and not shuttling Laura off to Totally Covered.   I'll explain that decision in a moment.  

But can we talk about this Italian classic?  This was the debut single of Raf - some consider it to be the biggest Italian worldwide hit of all time (Tarzan Boy might have something to say about that). This was a #1 song in Italy and Switzerland (more on that second one in a moment) and first hit #1 on June 24th, 1984 in Italy.

The Laura Branigan version first hit #1 in Germany, on June 17th, 1984.  Perhaps stranger, it first hit #1 in Switzerland on June 24th.  The #2 song that week was the Raf version.  The two songs switched places the next week, and switched back on July 8th, where this version would remain for the next seven weeks.  

The two songs were contemporary.  While the Raf version was recorded first, they were released at the same time.  Both had a large impact, contemporaneously, and for that reason, I am placing them both here.  

25 January 2021

25 January 2021 - Aimee Mann - Labrador

I adore Aimee Mann. Over the last 10 years, Scott has seen her perform a handful of times. Happy to say that he saw her again on January 23, 2012! So let's go back to Aimee's "care free and light-hearted 80s days" in 'Til Tuesday.... that she remade shot for shot.

Today is my former co-author Scott's birthday.  Go to his Twitter and wish him a happy birthday..... and also read HIS original post.