31 December 2020
31 December 2020 - David Bowie - Heroes
30 December 2020
30 December 2020 - Cocteau Twins - Iceblink Luck
29 December 2020
29 December 2002 - Incubus - Drive
28 December 2020
28 December 2020 - Kool & The Gang - Celebration
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
25 December 2020 - Run DMC - Christmas In Hollis
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?
24 December 2020
24 December 2020 - Amy Grant - Emmanuel
23 December 2020
23 December 2020 - Cake - The Distance
22 December 2020
22 December 2020 - Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride
21 December 2020
21 December 2020 - Cranes - Everywhere
18 December 2020
18 December 2020 - Three Dog Night - Joy To The World
17 December 2020
17 December 2020 - The B-52's - Channel Z
17 December 2020 - The B-52's - Love Shack
16 December 2020
16 December 2020 - Edie Brickell - Good Times
That's right. If you have a Windows 95 CD, you have a copy of this video.
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
12 December 2020
12 December 2020 - Charlie Pride - Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'
11 December 2020
11 December 2020 - KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See
|She did not mess around.|
10 December 2020
10 December 2020 - Chuck Mangione - Feels So Good
09 December 2020
9 December 2020 - Lizzo - Good As Hell
08 December 2020
8 December 2020 - The East Pointers - Wintergreen
07 December 2020
7 December 2020 - Dido - Thank You
04 December 2020
4 December 2020 - The White Stripes - Fell In Love With A Girl
03 December 2020
3 December 2020 - Owl City - Good Time (Acoustic)
"Owl City has put together a song that benefits from Carly's presence, but doesn't require it."
02 December 2020
2 December 2020 - Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over
01 December 2020
1 December 2020 - Oasis - Live Forever
20 November 2020
20 November 2020 - Men At Work - Overkill
19 November 2020
19 November 2020 - Olivia Newton-John - Xanadu
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.
18 November 2020
18 November 2020 - Sam Phillips - Holding Onto The Earth
14 November 2020
14 November 2020 - Nirvana - Lithium
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.
14 November 2020 - Nirvana - Verse Chorus Verse
14 November 2020 - Nirvana - [hidden track]
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
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.
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.
12 November 2020
12 November 2020 - Nirvana - In Bloom
11 November 2020
11 November 2020 - Nirvana - Sliver
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.
10 November 2020
10 November 2020 - Nirvana - About A Girl
09 November 2020
9 November 2020 - Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
I decided that Nirvana deserved 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.
28 October 2020
28 October 2020 - Lena Katina - Never Forget / No Voy a Olvidarte
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.
15 September 2020
15 September 2020 - Lush - Ladykillers
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.\
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.
21 August 2020
21 August 2020 - Miley Cyrus - Midnight Sky
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
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.
10 August 2020
10 August 2020 - An "Into the Unknown" Special
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
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
She does. She's a fan.
30 July 2020
30 July 2020 - The Jesus And Mary Chain ft. Hope Sandoval - Sometimes Always
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
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
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
15 July 2020
15 July 2020 - Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
|"I love you, Kay Hanley!"|
23 June 2020
23 June 2020 - Veruca Salt - Volcano Girls
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.
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 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
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
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
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 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.
09 June 2020
9 June 2020 - Game Theory - Erica's Word
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
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
(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)
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
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
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
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
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
|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
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
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
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
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'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
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
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!