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.  

25 January 2021 - Noel Harrison - The Windmills of Your Mind

There's a lot you can say about Noel Harrison.   He was the son of Rex Harrison.  A champion of the giant slalom, Harrison went to two Olympics.

And his performance of this song won the 1968 Oscar for Best Original Song.  Featured in The Thomas Crown Affair, it is by far the biggest hit he ever had.  Here's a little bit of trivia for you - the 1967 Oscar for Best Original Song went to "Talk To The Animals" from Doctor Dolittle.   The performer on that song?  Noel's father, Rex Harrison.  

Enjoy one of the greatest songs written for a movie (according to the American Film Institute - that isn't just me making up superlatives).  

22 January 2021

22 January 2021 - R.E.M. - Crush With Eyeliner

When Michael Stipe wrote this song, it is said he was inspired by the over-the-top style of the legendary New York City band The New York Dolls.  The song is fuzzy and glam-pop inspired....

...but can we talk about the video for a second?  Michael Stipe famously hated to lip-sync his songs for videos, and he was pretty bad at it.  So, for this video, he set it at a Japanese karaoke bar and had other people do the lip-sync for him!

I don't like posting stuff from Top of the Pops, because that show has a famous policy against live performance, instead forcing artists to lip-sync.  They aren't usually that fun.  But combine that with how terrible Michael Stipe is at lip-syncing, mostly because he hates it... well, yeah, it's entertaining this time.

Contrast this with live R.E.M., who are clearly enjoying the performance more....

21 January 2021

21 January 2021 - Smash Mouth - All Star

I saw Smash Mouth live.  It was a miserable rainy day.  They didn't really seem to be enjoying themselves until this song.  

The song, featured prominently in the movie Mystery Men (hence the "superheroes" at the beginning - it is unclear why Janeane Garafalo did not appear), was one of the biggest hits of 1999.  And let's face it - it's darned catchy.  Heck, we could have even posted it in Positive December!

The band's hits might be in the past, but they are very much in the present.  Here they are performing the song live in 2015.

20 January 2021

20 January 2021 - Fitz and the Tantrums - HandClap

I don't know if you were aware, but Fitz and the Tantrums are pretty sure they can make your hands clap.

The song is actually a love song - with the vocalist trying to convey enthusiasm with.... hand claps. Clearly pop and soul influenced, the song is immediately catchy and is used to get crowds fired up at sporting events everywhere to this day.  

19 January 2021

19 January 2021 - Ednaswap - Torn

I loved having a cowriter on this blog, as well as my sister blog, Totally Covered.  Scott was an awesome partner, and we are still great friends.  He's welcome to come back and write for us anytime.

Today, I am going to tell you how we came to have the 2nd blog.

You see, Natalie Imbruglia had one big hit song in the United States, and on March 5, 2012, Scott wrote all about "Torn".  Someone made a comment that the song was a cover - which Scott had not mentioned, even though he was aware.  Since we knew we love covers, we started the 2nd blog the next week.  Yes, this one is far busier now, but I still post there as well, and you should check it out.  

The song was written by members of the band Ednaswap.  TECHNICALLY, theirs wasn't the first released version, but since they wrote it and did perform it prior to selling the song to other artists BEFORE recording it themselves, I felt they earned their place here.  

So, here you are.  Enjoy Ednaswap.  

18 January 2021

18 January 2021 - Matchbox Twenty - Push

So you aren't hearing it, are you?  The D-A-B-F#-G-D-G-A progression doesn't exist in there at all.   I didn't hear it at first myself.  

Because Rob Thomas wrote it in a different key. Canon in F#?  Hear it now?

Well, because it was in a different key, I didn't post it last week, but I felt it was worthwhile to mention that.  

The song itself is not at all about abusing women, as a lot of people assume - if anything, the narrator of the song - be it Rob Thomas or whatever character he wrote - is the one on the receiving end of abuse.  The more likely interpretation, however, is that it's just about an adult relationship, with give and take, where there are good and bad times.  

To his credit, Rob Thomas, who not only wrote but sings the song, throws his heart and soul into the song.  Here he is with Matchbox Twenty (not 20.  They changed their name to spell out the number) in 2012, performing the song live.  

15 January 2021

15 January 2021 - The Beatles - Let It Be

We could not end D-A-B-F#-G-D-G-A without including the single most iconic interpretation of the song in the modern era.  The song itself is an absolute masterpiece, as many Lennon/McCartney compositions were - but in this case, Paul got some help from Johann at the beginning.  

McCartney accomplished this chord progression on piano at the beginning of the song in a unique way, however.  His right hand was playing the chords.  His left was playing single notes.

The first four bars of "Let It Be"

Lyrically, the song was imagined during some hard times Paul's parents were having.  It's meant to be a comforting song - and the song nails that.

This particular version is what became the "Naked" version of the song, released in 2003.  This was originally produced by George Martin.

Compare that to the original SINGLE version - not the album version.  The SINGLE version - which was produced by Phil Spector.  We didn't lose the Canon, but we did gain a Wall of Sound.  

14 January 2021

14 January 2021 - Vitamin C - Graduation (Friends Forever)

Colleen Fitzpatrick, better known as Vitamin C, used to be lead vocalist for a band called Eve's Plum, so named after the actress who played Jan Brady on a certain television show.  She did presumably graduate from high school at some point.  

OK, that was weak.   This, however, is a song that got played at a lot of 1990's graduations, much like a song originally composed by Johann Pachelbel around 1680.  Accompanied by the NYC All-City Chorus, the song doesn't just interpret "Canon In D" - it gives the song lyrics.  

I know that I'm being a little flippant about the blatant lifting of "Canon In D" this week, but Colleen Fitzpatrick wrote some heartfelt and reflective lyrics.  They spoke to a lot of people, and even though the music was already written - the message really transcended graduation, despite the title.  

Here she is performing the song on Australian television.  Note that a lot of audience members know the words.

13 January 2021

13 January 2021 - Coolio ft. 40 Thevz - C U When U Get There

Sometimes, chord progressions are subtle.

Sometimes, they're straight up samples.  

Coolio samples Pachelbel's "Canon In D" pretty heavily in this slow jam, a message of peace that still resonates today.  The cellos - probably actually synthesized violins here - are accompanied by a strong bassline that brings a bit of beat to a song that's otherwise calm.

12 January 2021

12 January 2021 - Green Day - Basket Case

This has just turned into the weirdest theme week - or the biggest one for music nerds - we've ever done.

Yesterday, we talked about the famous chord progression of Pachelbel's "Canon In D".  Turns out, there's a lot of songs that use that progression, across many genres - although some do it with more subtlety than Blues Traveler did.

Take Green Day.  People in the YouTube comments like to talk about how it's just three chords.  It isn't.  It's six.  D-A-B-F#-G-D-G-A.   The band's second single from Dookie won them a Grammy and established the band as superstars - but a lot of people missed the homage to the classics.  

Green Day was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, and guess which classical piece they decided to play? 

11 January 2021

11 January 2021 - Blues Traveler - Hook

Despite how cynical this song might song, this is an incredibly positive tune - albeit the angriest one I'll post this month.  I'll explain.  

This song very clearly acknowledges that people are complex, and feel anger, and rage, and sadness, and yet still put on a positive face and push forward.  Yes, absolutely, it's a satire of how hit music is written - the hook truly will bring you back - but it's deeper than that.  The song is an absolute piece of art, because it works on so many levels.   

Now, usually, we talk superficially about the music, and dive deep into the lyrics on these posts.  This one is different, because the genius is just so much better.  When John Popper wrote the song, he took inspiration, and by inspiration, I mean the chord progression, from Pachelbel's "Canon In D".  It isn't anything ground-breaking that he did that - but given how much that song is used at weddings, it adds to the positive vibes of the song.

Now, over on Totally Covered, we have a tremendous cover that mashes the two together. Here, we have a little live music for you.

08 January 2021

8 January 2021 - Pixies - Tony's Theme

As some of you know, I used to be a college radio DJ.  This song opened almost every one of my shows, regardless of format.  (This one closed most of them, as you well know). 
You see, the Pixies were (and are) one of my favorite bands.  And they were formed in Amherst, MA, not too far from where I grew up in Northern CT.  To have one of my favorite bands with a song CLEARLY named after me..... well, there's no way I could pass up the opportunity to use the song, a lot.  

I hope they made a fair bit of money off my incessant plays of the song.  It still makes me smile every time I hear it.  I hope it similarly brings you energy today.

07 January 2021

7 January 2021 - Hole - Beautiful Son

It is crazy to me that we have not yet featured Hole on this blog.

Today, a lot of people think of Courtney Love as Kurt Cobain's crazy wife, but before that, she was something of a musical genius herself.  Her band Hole's first album Pretty On The Inside, released in 1991, was a gothcore classic.   

Yes, I just coined a term.  Use it.

The follow-up to Pretty On The Inside didn't come out until 1994 - ironically just days after Kurt Cobain's death (the release could not be stopped) - to satisfy their fans, Hole released the Beautiful Son EP in 1993.  It was decidedly less dark than its predecessor - and on purpose, as Courtney was trying to be a bit more accessible.  

06 January 2021

6 January 2021 - Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre & Queen Pen - No Diggity

(Editor's Note: This post was originally scheduled for tomorrow, but in light of Dr. Dre's brain aneurysm that occurred as of this writing, I decided to move it up a day. I hope I don't have to add a 2nd post today) 

Trivia question:  Which song ended  the epic "Macarena" run at #1 in the United States?

Answer:  This song.

However, it almost didn't happen.  Dr. Dre wrote the beat for Tupac Shakur before Dre extracted himself from Death Row Records and took the beat along with him, selling it to primary songwriter Teddy Riley.  Plus, Blackstreet HATED the song at first - so much so that it took Riley himself performing on the track to convince them to go along.

It's a good thing he did.  This song ended up being their biggest hit and made Blackstreet into household names.  Plus, it's a slammin' new jack jam.  So I'm told.   

05 January 2021

5 January 2021 - Salt - Bluster

Nino Ramsby fronted the Swedish group Salt in the 1990s.  Back then, he was Nina Rambsy, but in 2015, he came out as a transgender man - something he had privately and internally identified as for years.  

None of that matters to the music, which is amazing.  I just wish we had heard more from Salt - this song hit US shores in 1996, and they were broken up a year later.  Ramsby is still a star in Sweden and still making music - his last few albums have been less grunge and more jazz.

At any rate, enjoy this gem.  

04 January 2021

4 January 2021 - Ashlee Simpson - Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)

On a cold day nine years ago, my friend Scott and I were talking about music.  We were DJs at a little radio station called WSBU in the early to mid 1990s, and we shared a love of alternative music at the time.  We were a couple of old punks.   

On this day, we'd find out we shared a love of Ashlee Simpson and other fun poppy music.  And so, I started a blog, with this post - an Ashlee Simpson song.   In fact, this is exactly what I said:
Let's open up this blog with one of the guiltiest pleasure songs ever performed.  It's hard to be bad-ass in argyle, but Ashlee Simpson tries, and pulls it off to some extent.   It's really hard to say "Ashlee Simpson" and "bad-ass" in the same sentence while keeping a straight face.
That was the whole post, people.  I also made this questionable font and design choice for this blog - but in nine years, I haven't bothered to change that.  

I hope 2021 brings us some new Ashlee music, but for now, enjoy her 2007 single that was a chart disappointment but is still entertaining and pokes fun at some of the scandals that plagued Ashlee throughout her career.  

01 January 2021

1 January 2021 - The Primitives - Sick of It

OK, enough positive.  Let's pull out an angry song that speaks PRECISELY to how we feel about 2020.

It's over now.  So enjoy a little nihilism and one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands - who are also really really nice.