15 September 2020

15 September 2020 - Lush - Ladykillers

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

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

03 September 2020

3 September 2020 - Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks

 Let's be very clear.

This is a very dark song.

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

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

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

02 September 2020

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

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

Let's fix that today.

25 August 2020

25 August 2020 - Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé- Telephone

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

21 August 2020

21 August 2020 - Miley Cyrus - Midnight Sky

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



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

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


17 August 2020

17 August 2020 - blackbear - hot girl bummer

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

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

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

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


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

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

10 August 2020

10 August 2020 - An "Into the Unknown" Special

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

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

03 August 2020

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

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

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

31 July 2020

31 July 2020 - First Aid Kit - Emmylou

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


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

She does.  She's a fan.

30 July 2020

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

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

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

28 July 2020

28 July 2020 - Tori Amos - Crucify

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

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



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



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



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


17 July 2020

17 July 2020 - The Bangles - In Your Room

It always comes back to The Bangles for me.

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

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



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

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

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

16 July 2020

16 July 2020 - The Call - Let The Day Begin

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

15 July 2020

15 July 2020 - Baltimora - Tarzan Boy

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

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

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

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



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

08 July 2020

8 July 2020 - Transvision Vamp - Kiss Their Sons

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

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

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

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

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



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

07 July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

01 July 2020

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

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

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

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



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



These's one more thing.

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

26 June 2020

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

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

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


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

25 June 2020

25 June 2020 - The Juliana Hatfield Three - My Sister

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

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

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



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




24 June 2020

24 June 2020 - Letters To Cleo - Awake

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

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

23 June 2020

23 June 2020 - Veruca Salt - Volcano Girls

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

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

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

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

Besides, now we know who the seether is. 

It's Louise.



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

21 June 2020

21 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Daughters of the Kaos

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

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

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



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


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

19 June 2020

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

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

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



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




18 June 2020

18 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Here

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

I am posting this for four reasons..

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

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

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

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



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

17 June 2020

17 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Ladyfingers

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

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

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



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



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

16 June 2020

16 June 2020 - Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye

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

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

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

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



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



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

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



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

Image

09 June 2020

9 June 2020 - Game Theory - Erica's Word

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

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

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

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

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



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




08 June 2020

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

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

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

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

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




04 June 2020

4 June 2020 - Elastica - Connection

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

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

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



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



But there's more of a personal story here.

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

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

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

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

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



01 June 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

11 May 2020

11 May 2020 - Bee Gees - Tragedy

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

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

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

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



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

Yeah, you're making that sound right now. 

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

08 May 2020

8 May 2020 - Childish Gambino - This Is America

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

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

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

06 May 2020

6 May 2020 -The Darling Buds - Hit the Ground

Remember music programs when they made the artists lipsync?

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

They STILL rocked it.



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


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




04 May 2020

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

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

The poster announcing the protest at Kent State

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



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

Here's Young performing his song solo. 

01 May 2020

1 May 2020 - KONGOS - Come With Me Now

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

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

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

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



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

30 April 2020

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

"Hold me now

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

Man, don't we all feel that?

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

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

27 April 2020

27 April 2020 - Oingo Boingo - Stay

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

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

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



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



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


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

17 April 2020

17 April 2020 - Liz Phair - Polyester Bride

Girly Sound.

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

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

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



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



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

16 April 2020

16 April 2020 - Madonna - Ray of Light

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

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

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



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

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

15 April 2020

15 April 2020 - Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky

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

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

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

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

14 April 2020

14 April 2020 - ABBA - Take A Chance On Me

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

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



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



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



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

13 April 2020

13 April 2020 - Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water

Like many of you, my parents were Simon & Garfunkel fans. I grew up listening to their Greatest Hits on repeat.  So, for a lot of us, this song is like a big ol' bowl of comfort food.

Now that I'm an adult, and I know that the song was, in Paul Simon's words, inspired directly by "Mary Don't You Weep", a pre-Civil War spiritual about the Bible story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, I hear it a lot differently.  Originally written for guitar, Paul Simon moved it to piano to keep the gospel feel and message.

And can we talk for a minute about Art Garfunkel's powerful voice that completely OWNS this song?  It's an instrument in and of itself.

10 April 2020

10 April 2020 - lovelytheband - broken

Lovelytheband has been around since 2016.  This, their debut single from 2017, remains their only US Top 30 hit (although they get a lot of rock and alternative radio airplay with subsequent singles).  If you're only going to have one hit, though, it should be a gem like this one!

The lyrics themselves aren't terribly wholesome at first - it's a late night pickup - but it gets sweeter as it goes along, as our two characters discover that they're both broken, giving them a connection and something to grow on.  It's a beautiful synth-pop modern love song.



So, what if you took away the synth - does the pop-rock vibe still work for this song? Thankfully, lovelytheband gives us the answer to this question in this live performance. 

It does, if you were wondering my opinion.

09 April 2020

9 April 2020 - Daddy Yankee & Snow - Con Calma | Daddy Yankee & Snow feat. Katy Perry - Con Calma

I bet you all thought my first Daddy Yankee post would be "Despacito", didn't you?

No.

This re-imagination of Snow's "Informer" is somewhat spectacular, and Daddy Yankee had the presence of mind, as well as the respect for those who came before him in reggaeton  to INCLUDE Snow in this.  It would become a minor hit in its own right.... and the biggest selling Spanish-language single for the first half of 2019.



....but a Katy Perry remix shot this into the top 40, making Snow a THREE hit wonder..... and this a Hall of Fame post.  See if you can catch all the callbacks to Teenage Dream.



The Katy Perry version received some bad reviews - one writer implied that the person who suggested it might be trying to sabotage her career (Pitbull, for the record, and he isn't) , but a largely Spanish-language song reached the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 - so I think there's some credibility to the collaboration.

I mean, it can't be worse for her career than her decision to a an American Idol judge....


08 April 2020

8 April 2020 - Collective Soul - Shine

Of course we're all looking for a sign.  We're all in this crazy quarantine, and we all want out.  Collective Soul spoke to this long before all our worlds changed.  And they wrote a song about Heaven letting light shine down.

That doesn't mean they're a Christian hand.  This is a label they fought for years - but the chorus is "basically a prayer".  That's not me saying that.  That's Dean Roland, who is in the band - and the brother of the guy (Ed Roland) who sang and wrote the song.  At any rate, it's an uplifting song from a period when the dark angst of grunge ruled the day.

07 April 2020

7 April 2020 - Crash Test Dummies - Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

It isn't often that a huge hit song features a deep baritone on lead vocal.  This one, the only American hit by Canadian band Crash Test Dummies, is the only one I can think of.  However, for this band that had six Top Ten hits in Canada, it stalled at #14 in their home country.... so it was a disappointment.

It is widely considered to be a bad song - frequently featured on bad song lists - but I disagree.  All three verses speak to various reasons for isolation - and the chorus is a sad resignation.  It's a deeper song than it gets credit for.

Plus, it's nice to hear a popular song that I can actually sing along with.



The third verse does get a little flack for being anti-church - and it's always been my belief that it is specifically directed at one Christian denomination, and not church in general. Vocalist Brad Roberts seems to clarify in this 2010 live performance..... when he whispers the name of a specific denomination during that verse...


Clearly, they cared about not offending fans, especially when they were big hitmakers - so they did have an alternative third verse about a kid whose mom threw out his tonsils in a jar.  Check it out below.

30 March 2020

30 March 2020 - Boston - More Than a Feeling

We all wish we had Brad Delp's voice here.

I do, anyway.

He didn't write the song, though.  Tom Scholz - the true brains behind Boston who went so far as to invent equipment to create their unique sound without synthesizers - wrote it - about the feelings an old song can bring back.  It is no coincidence that the guitar riff at the chorus is oddly reminiscent of "Louie, Louie". 

You never heard that before, but you do now, don't you?

It isn't the old song referenced, though.  That would be "Walk Away Renee" by the Left Banke, a song that lyrically inspired this one.

The song itself is very complex and took Scholz several years to complete.  It features a dramatic key change between verse (D Major) and chorus (G Major), with a significant falsetto - which brings us back to Brad Delp's vocal range, which was incredible....



....and a power he still had almost thirty years later.  I marvel to this day at the emotion he brought to his performance.  Sadly, Delp died of an apparent suicide in 2007.  Here's one of the last performances I could find of him performing the song that made him a legend.

 

29 March 2020

29 March 2019 - Kansas - Hold On

I rarely post on a Sunday, but this song seemed appropriate. 

Kansas was already a pretty popular band when they released Audio-Visons in 1980. This song, the first single from that album, was a top 40 hit, is my favorite Kansas song, and it is a beautiful song with a beautiful story. 

Kerry Livgren - the violinist and one of the leaders of this band - discovered Christianity in the late 1970's. He wrote this song to try to convince his wife to also convert to Christianity. It was successful, by the way - she did convert and they are still together.

Example: in the third verse, you will hear the line "Outside your door, He is waiting, waiting for you.". Note the capitalized "He" - the song is about putting faith in God. 

However, this caused some discord in the band - that led to lead vocalist Steve Walsh leaving the band (he would return in 1985 after Livgren left). So, a new vocalist was found - John Elefante. Those familiar with Christian rock know that he had a pretty successful solo career post-Kansas. Livgren didn't know of Elefante's Christianity when the hiring occurred - but that drove the direction of the next several Kansas albums. 

This version I post is of Elefante-era Kansas.  It seemed appropriate. 

07 February 2020

7 February 2020 - Pylon - Crazy

Pylon were an influential band in the Athens, GA scene in the 1980s.   You've probably never heard of them.  That doesn't matter.  What matters is that they were cool and influential.  Their lo-fi punky sound did greatly guide the direction of the entire scene.

This song, remarkably simple and famously and faithfully covered by R.E.M., is probably their best known, and the one everyone wants to hear when they reunite, as they did for this show in 2008.  It sounds as good as it did in 1982.

04 February 2020

4 February 2020 - Duran Duran - A View To A Kill

From the 14th James Bond film, 1985's A View To A Kill, this is, in my opinion, the greatest Bond theme ever.  It's exciting - lots of keyboard riffs to punctuate the excitement.  It's time-period appropriate - Duran Duran were at the height of their fame in 1985.  Even the video plays out like a spy caper, with scenes from the movie. 

It also remains the only Bond theme to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.... and Duran Duran's last #1 (although far from their last hit). 

03 February 2020

3 Febuary 2020 - Berlin - No More Words

One of the first songs I remember hearing and liking was this one.   It was never their best known, and I certainly did not understand its deep meaning when it was released - but I sure do now, and I appreciate it more now than I did then.   Enjoy!

01 February 2020

1 February 2020 - BLACKPINK - Kill This Love

Welcome to 2020.  Korean girl groups are starting to own the music industry.  And their English is getting better. Enjoy!