Did you know that "Thriller" did not win Best Video at the MTV Video Music Awards?
That honor went to "You Might Think", a video that was one of the first to use computer graphics. The song, written and sung by Ric Ocasek, is a straightforward love song - and the song was one of their biggest hits to date, so the sweet lyrics resonated with a worldwide audience.
A lot of you are travelling home today from your Thanksgiving festivities. Please travel safely.
I decided to provide you with a classic Velvet Underground song for your travelling pleasure. In its best known version, it is a haunting instrumental classic, written by Lou Reed. It gives the feeling of riding into the sun - not into the sun per se, but more into the sunSET to start anew, brighter.
In this rare vocal version, Lou Reed punctuates that feeling with words specific to New York City, which is what a lot of their music was about - but it can apply to any city. Or even small town.
"I was writing lyrics like 'Baby Don't Cry' and 'Beautiful Girl' and lyrics just about how wonderful it is to have something else in your life besides yourself to worry about and think about." - Andrew Farris
This, the fifth single from Welcome to Wherever You Are, was also penned by Andrew Farris, this about his infant daughter. His quote says everything that needs to be said there.
(by the way, if you're looking for the third and fourth singles, we posted them previously in 2012 and on Monday)
This song, the second single from Welcome To Wherever You Are, was wholly written by Andrew Farris as a sweet love song for his six year old daughter, who, not shockingly, he missed when he went on tour. Backed by the Australian Concert Orchestra, the song is about choosing love, even when far away, in the face of adversity.
As has become customary for this little blog that could, when there's a Hall of Fame artist, we give you a little extra, for the loyal readers.
Thus, "Heaven Sent", the first single from what was considered something of a comeback album, the band's eighth (save for their live album, Live Baby Live) and in my opinion, their high water mark, Welcome To Wherever You Are.
This is a high water mark on an album that is already a high water mark. It's a pretty typical INXS song - Michael Hutchence frequently goes to the megaphone vocal trope, as he does on this song, and it's straight-ahead pop-rock - but it is the band at their happiest. They clearly enjoyed making this song, which is lyrically about the beginning of a life-altering love.
This was a song that became a live staple throughout the 1990's for the band. At their last show ever, in Pittsburgh, they performed what has become my favorite version of this song. Hutchence sings the song with more passion and energy than even the original recording - or any pther live version. The rest of the band matches his vigor here.
I had way too much material for just one Hall of Fame week. This is why I'm posting on the weekend.
And I couldn't ignore the biggest INXS anthem of all. Initially not a big hit song, this has become one of their most played and most popular. And it's for good reason - the song is so uplifting and sweet. Opening with one of the most iconic synth solos of the 1980's, it erupts quickly into a full band showcase.
The song is about a love that was lost and found again. I like to think of it as the reclamation of a relationship after a breakup, or maybe finally finding that love after failed attempts. The resolution of happiness and execution of bitterness in the lyrics is referring directly to that love, and the pleas to not change are a wonderful reminder and acceptance to love those who we love just as they are.
Of course, because Michael Hutchence is no longer with us, there were a finite number of times he performed this song. This performance, from September 27 1997 in Pittsburgh PA, is sad in hindsight, knowing that it was the final time he'd sing the song - he would be dead exactly two months later. Still, even though it's only audio, you can hear his stage presence, even in his exhaustion.
In 2011, Kirk Pengilly and Andrew Farris - not typically lead vocalists - took the vocal duties for a slower, deeper version of this song they co-wrote. It is a fitting tribute.
Right now, most of you are wondering what the hell this is.
This was the debut single by INXS in 1980. Notice the more new wave sound - a little more punk-edged. Originally only released in Australia, their debut album, which featured this song and many others written by all six members of the band, made it internationally in 1984, after the band started having some hits in Europe and the US.
This song wasn't a hit. It was six guys looking for a sound. It is frantic and fun and simple.
This song isn't one I had ever really enjoyed by INXS. It is NOT a song I really enjoyed all that much. It's not bad, mind you - but modern Vienna waltzes weren't my thing in the 1980s. It was a pretty big hit, and one that was inescapable in 1988, between radio and heavy MTV rotation.
But then, I got a girlfriend, and of course the song took on a new meaning. The girlfriend and I didn't last forever, but the song resonated for our time together. It's a classic love song for the ages, with a great arrangement by Andrew Farris.
The song also resonated again in 1997, when INXS lead vocalist and lyricist for this song, Michael Hutchence, passed away. The five remaining members of INXS, as well as Michael's brother, Rhett, served as pallbearers. What song played as they carried the coffin from the cathedral? This one.
So, at the end of the day, because of its romantic meaningfulness and its meaningfulness to fans of INXS, it grew on me. I hope it grows on you, too.
The band's first US Top 10 hit, "What You Need" hit #5 on the Billboard charts. It was written by Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farris under record label pressure - they were looking for a hit. The men delivered in a big way.
Lyrically, the song is a pep talk. It's literally JUST a pep talk. Musically, the six-piece all have their featured moments in a high-energy way. Visually, the video is done using a rotoscope animation technique.
In 1997, INXS lead vocalists Michael Hutchence died in what appears to have been an accidental suicide. After a few years of hiatus, they did what any normal band would do in their circumstance.
That, of course, is hold a reality television competition to find a new lead vocalist. And they found a vocalist that had a similar bravado to Hutchence - a homeless man from Toronto who went by the name J.D. Fortune (it wasn't his real name).
This song, the only top 40 hot of the J.D. Fortune era, was co-written by Andrew Farris and several of the contestants, includin Fortune. In my opinion, it absolutely holds up against the hits from 1980s-era INXS.
I'm not one to bury the lede. This was INXS's biggest hit. The opening single from the Kick album in 1987, the Andrew Farris/Michael Hutchence classic about living in the moment was a #1 hit around the world and set the band up for superstardom.
More than that, it moved the band a little away from the rock band mentality and more into a zone where it was OK to use electronic instruments to augment their sound. It made them a richer, deeper, and, ultimately, more popular band.
The song is more about the video, which won 5 MTV Video Music Award. It was directed by Richard Lowenstein and used photocopied images to accomplish the visual effects.
I'm pleased to induct Australian icons INXS into the Wicked Guilty Pleasures Hall of Fame. This week will feature a LOT of INXS.
Why are they the choice this year?
Because they released in a relatively short time so many iconic songs and videos. Were they particularly highbrow? No. They're a band that did release more complex and nuanced music than it might have looked on the surface, but still was mass-market sexy.
Their 1992 album, Welcome To Whereever You Are, came at the start of the tail end of their time as a prominent band, but did account for several singles and went platinum in its own right. It is my favorite INXS album, for a lot of reasons. The songwriting was top notch. Michael Hutchence had reached the pinacle of maturity in his performance.
This video was never released in the States, and, well, it's something else. The song was the 4th single from the album, Written by Hutchence and Andrew Farris, the song is cool and sexy, with all six musicians getting their due, but no one dominating. It is a perfect encaptualation of the genius of INXS.
INXS famously found a new lead singer after the death of Michael Hutchence on a reality TV show. We'll talk a lot more about that over this week, but I wanted to touch on this because it's relevant. New vocalist JD Fortune came with a slightly different bravado, but still held his own with this song.
The Flaming Lips are not a band that you would necessarily associate with the word "accessible" or "popular", and yet their 2002 single, which singer/songwriter Wayne Coyne considers to be the best the band has ever written, is exactly that.
The song, with lyrics by Coyne, was written in response to fellow bandmember Steven Drozd trying to kick his heroin addiction. It concerns the fragility of life - and the beauty within it despite and because of that. The song is absolutely beautiful.
The song is one that they preform live often, and is a crowd pleaser. The band clearly appreciates how much the crowd is pleased.
You probably only know one Proclaimers song, and it's this one. It is their biggest worldwide hit, and it was a slow burn. Originally released in 1988, it was fairly successful at the time. It was MORE successful in 1993, when it was featured in the movie Benny & Joon and rereleased.
Written by the Reid twins (who are The Proclaimers), the song is about the willingness to travel long distances to see the one you love, no matter what, because being by their side is the most important thing. It is this purity of message - the sweetness of this song - that makes it one of my true favorites. It's this I wanted to share with you today.
Carole King was - is - a prolific songwriter who could sing. She released her second album, Tapestry, in 1971, and it became a worldwide sensation. Winning several Grammys, it also spent 15 weeks on top of the Billboard Top 200 album chart, the longest any woman has held the spot.
This song, a highlight of Tapestry, was a top 20 hit for her in October of that year. Supported by James Taylor on guitar, the song is very straight-forward about missing someone who isn't there. However, the song isn't just about physical, but also emotional distance. It's a song full of meloncholy on several levels.
All these years later, she still performs the song. Here she is, with James Taylor, in 2013, at the Boston Strong concert, doing an earnest and possibly too chipper version of the tune.
She was one of the first artists I felt like I was "too old" to enjoy, a sentiment I have CLEARLY overcome. But, in 2001, I was in a place in my life where that was a reality.
In 2021, I realize that that is not a sentiment anyone should have.
Especially with this song! It's a brilliant pop-rock masterpiece, co-written by Branch, dealing with the early throes of falling in love - or so it's been intepreted. Branch herself has said that the song is ambiguous on purpose, leaving its meaning to the listener to determine. Combined with her earnest performance, it ended up being a top 20 hit and one of her biggest worldwide.
Written by George Harrison as a tribute to his then-wife, this was considered by John Lennon himself to be the best song on the Abbey Road album. The 1970 promotional film that followed (and is today's post) was recorded after John Lennon announced his departure from The Beatles - the four members are filmed at their homes with their respective wifes and edited together.
The song itself is on its surface a straightforward love song - the narrator is complementary towards the source of his affection. However, the bridge brings the straightforward love to reality - that there is a lot of things unknown for the future, but lovers will still strive together towards an unknown goal. The guitar solo after that bridge by Harrison is considered one of the greatest of all time.
In 1995, Alaska native Jewel Kilcher dropped her last name and her debut album, Pieces of Me. The album was a hit and generated several singles. This, her 2nd single from that album, would prove to be the biggest hit of her career, reaching #2 on the US Singles chart.
The song itself seems like a sad song - it is clearly narrated by a woman struggling with a breakup she doesn't want or now regrets. It can, however, be interpreted as happy - she's getting on with her life despite these feelings, while not losing the emotion that seems sad but is more hopeful.
Under the Lakuna name, Newport, RI graphic artist David Narcizo has done some music - along with his wife, Melissa - that is more audio experimentation and less traditional music, but using obscure sound samples and tape loops still make for excellent and entertaining sound.
This song, from 1999's Castle of Crime, is perhaps Lakuna's best known song. It builds from a very industrial opening into a creamy melodic center, with a stark finale.
This 1984 song was Foreigner's biggest hit in the United States AND the UK, the two home countries of the band. Lead singer Lou Gramm hails from the greatest city in America, Rochester, NY. I'm not at all biased.
Gramm's soulful voice is what makes this such a great song. It's clearly a love song - but it's a deeper love song, which goes right to the fear of that initial love - not being sure if you can face the heartache and pain that could happen, but at the same time, love finds the narrator. Backed by the New Jersey Mass Choir, the song gets a larger-than-life feeling that matches the subject matter.
Well, the chorus is, anyway. But haven't we all been there? Our heart is broken, and we're missing someone terribly, and we're trying not to miss them, and we're insisting that we are fine and don't miss them.
Well, John Waite really was missing his lover in this 1984 #1 hit. There is, after all, a storm raging through his frozen heart.
John Waite extended his lie by including Alison Krause on a rerecorded version in 2007. It hit #34 on the Country Charts.
"Mrs. Robinson" may be the song most associated with the Mike Nichols film The Graduate, but it wasn't the song used in the iconic final scene. That song was the first Simon and Garfunkel #1 hit, "The Sound Of Silence", which Nichols convinced the duo to rerecord for the soundtrack. Paul Simon wrote the song in the echo of his dark bathroom - hance the sound of silence.
The song is sad and stark in its imagery, while retaining a harmonic beauty. It picks up tempo as it roles along, ending with an abrupt deadening in tempo.
In context, here is that last scene of the movie. The song is slightly different in this version, and it matches the feeling of the scene - the unknown, not knowing what's next, the good and bad of the reality of what just happened hitting you. There's some excitement to this, and at the same time, fear.
This single was released TWICE - once in 1982, and once in a remixed form in 1984, when it became a top 10 hit. Written by the three sisters, it's a song about.... being excited. What did you think I was going to say?
In all seriousness, it's a sexually charged song, which was atypical for a girl group in the early 1980s. This video is for the 1982 release, but is the gold standard, featuring all three sisters getting ready for a formal event. It also matches the lyrical content of the song.
You all came for the Jessie Spano version. I know this. Here it is.
In 1991, my friend Heather Deane and I went to see the DiVinyls. I wrote pretty extensively about that nine years ago.
What I left out of my original telling was the opening act, School of Fish. They are the band that really made Heather's ears right, literally for days. Weeks, even.
This song was one of their biggest "hits" back in the day, getting some significant MTV Buzz Bin airplay. There's a little blast from the past for y'all. Written by Josh Clayton-Felt & Michael Ward, the song is a trippy straight-ahead rock song that brings the listener through a psychedelic journey of.... well, three strange days, I guess.
In 1978, Dr. Hook (which was the name of the BAND) released what would be their biggest hit worldwide and one of their biggest in the United States. Their look really gave away their easy listening/country crossover song, but for this single, penned by Even Stevens, the traditional sound gave way to one that was a little more disco-tinged.
The song sounds like it's sweet - and in some ways, it is - but it's really about jealousy. It's about the lingering self-doubt that comes with dating someone who is better looking than you.
Wesley Stace is a British folksinger and author of four novels. You might not know his name as a musician, though, because most of his music is under the stage name John Wesley Harding. This was his debut single, from his debut album Here Comes The Groom.
The song, as the rest of the album, draws comparisons to Elvis Costello - and since a couple of The Attractions make up part of his backing band here, that's understandable. Lyrically, the song compares the attrocities of human behavior to, well, the devil. It is a brilliant and sardonic take on the subject.