31 July 2023

31 July 2023 - Loretta Lynn - One's On The Way

This was originally written for last week, but you know what they say about plans - man plans and God laughs.  I still wanted to share this post with you, and it it a fitting end to a busy July. 

I grew up in the 1970s, the son of van owners.  We had an eight track and later a cassette deck in the van.

My parents were also Columbia House Record Club members, so, well, they had a lot of 8-tracks and later cassettes.

My mother was a huge fan of Loretta Lynn, so I heard a LOT of Loretta Lynn music.  One I remember hearing is perhaps one that could have been considered my mother's theme song (although I hope not completely).  A song earnestly performed by Lynn, it was about a woman who married too early and kept getting pregnant, while envying those who were marching for women's lib.

Loretta Lynn, like my mother, was a feminist.  No doubt.  In 1971, this was controversial.  Loretta Lynn was frequently a controversial figure.  So was my mother, in some ways.  

The best part of this song - which was a huge country hit, reaching the top of the charts in 1971 - is the songwriter.

Shel Silverstein.

The Where The Sidewalk Ends guy.  

Shel Silverstein.

This performance is from the Grand Ole Opry in 1972.

Famously, she also performed the song in 1978 on The Muppet Show..... with a lot of small Muppets. 

28 July 2023

28 July 2023 - Elvis Presley - In The Ghetto

My parents were country music fans and we listened to it in our family van all the time.

One of the cassettes my parents had was a Mac Davis compilation.  Included on this was a song called "In The Ghetto", a very sad song about a child who grows up poor and completes a vicious circle of violence and poverty.  

It would be many years before I learned that was an Elvis Presley song.

It would be a few years after that before I learned that Mac Davis actually wrote the song and was covering a song HE wrote - a year after Elvis turned it into a hit song.

This was Elvis's first release after his 1968 comeback special - and it ended up being a worldwide hit.  It remans to this day one of my favorite Elvis Presley songs (don't tell my parents).  

27 July 2023

27 July 2023 - Sinead O'Connor - Take Me To Church

I felt this was a good bookend to yesterday's post - because it came from the other end of Sinead O'Connor's career.  This song was the big single from her 2014 album, I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss, which would be her last.  

I actually found this song hoping to post a cover of hers that wasn't a Prince song over on Totally Covered.  I thought this was the Hozier song.   

It is not the Hozier song.   Sinead O'Connor wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the music for this one.  

The video, directed by James Lees, is particularly striking for me.  It superimposes images of Sinead O'Connor from her "Nothing Compares 2 U" video over her in the present day - with hair (that she removes at approximately 2:00 in the video - it's a wig).  

I encourage you, however, to pay attention to the lyrics.  It's raw and honest performance by O'Connor.  

26 July 2023

26 July 2023 (Special Edition) - Sinead O'Connor - Mandinka

I really REALLY REALLY dislike having to do special edition posts.  

For those new to the blog, I do these when a musician passes away, so, you can probably figure out what's going on here.

This song was Sinead O'Connor's third single, and her first in heavy MTV rotation, from her debut album, The Lion and The Cobra, which is fantastic.  It's a straightahead rock song, and it led to her becoming an international superstar and being in the position to tear the pope's photo in half on Saturday Night Live

"Fight the real enemy." - Sinead O'Connor

I was supposed to see Sinead O'Connor live in 1995, as part of the Lollapalooza tour.  She departed about a week before I was scheduled to attend.  I'm sorry that I never got to see her live, Her eccentricity and raw spirit are going to be missed in the music world. 

26 July 2023 - Nanci Griffith - It's A Hard Life Wherever You Go

The late Nanci Griffith was quite possibly the greatest songwriter of her generation.  She released so many critical acclaimed albums throughout her long career.

At the time of its release in 1989, Storms was not one of those albums.  It was a huge departure for her stylistically - from country-folk to a more pop-folk sound, including this song, which ended up being one of the biggest personally recorded hits she had in her career (Bette Midler had a much bigger hit with one of her songs, and frankly, so did Kathy Mattea).  Critics did not like her change in style, which didn't stick, but also, these were still great songs that told great stories.  

And this song tells a fantastic story, and it does so beautifully.

And the lyrics are so poignant, even today, more than thirty years on.  Few songs give me actual chills - but this one does.  

"This will always be my, uh, my personal best favorite" - Nanci Griffith

"If we poison our children with hatred
Then, the hard life is all that they'll know" - Nanci Griffith

25 July 2023

25 July 2023 - The Chicks - Not Ready To Make Nice

Remember when the (Dixie) Chicks got in a fight with George W. Bush over the Iraq War.

1) They were right (and I'm pretty sure he'd agree now).
2) This better-than-it-should-be song, which was extremely controversial at the time of its release, ended up being one of their biggest hits.

This song hit the Billboard Hot 100 in 2006 and REENTERED in the top 10 in 2007, after the song won three Grammys, including Song and Record of the Year (the two biggest awards).  Co-writen by the Chicks (they changed the band name in 2020 to avoid association with the Dixie Swastika) and Dan Wilson (the lead vocalist of Semisonic), it is an angry song.  Anger does, however, bring about good music.  

It was an extremely controversial song.  Controversial songs can be good songs, though, and in this case, it is.

I considered including their Grammy performance, which was excellent, but their performance on the TV show VH1 Storytellers was even better and more sublime.

24 July 2023

24 July 2023 - Kelly Willis - Take Me Down

As I write this, there is a country song with a lot of controversy surroudning it (mostly based upon its music video).  It's a big hit song.  It's also not very good.  

By the way, I am presently sitting in a small town, saying that, so you could say I tried it ina  small town.  (I feel like that joke isn't going to make sense in a month).

So, at a loss on what to write, I decided to do a week dedicated to country music that doesn't suck.

Of course I'm opening the week with Kelly Willis.  I've written about her before, but everything I've written this far is about her MCA years.  Her three albums for MCA were excellent but poorly marketed.  Her first album for Rykodisk, on the other hand, What I Deserve, was very well marketed.  Its first single, today's song, is excellent, much like her earlier work, and actually got label support.

The song would go on the broad critical accalaim, as would the album, and deservedly so.  Co-written by Kelly Willis and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, it is now a part of the American music fabric.

Of course she performs the song live.  And it's delightful.

21 July 2023

21 July 2023 - Billie Eilish - my strange addiction

My Strange Addiction is an American documentary television series that premiered on TLC on..... no, wait.  I mean, that's true, but that's not what this blog is about.

Let's, instead, talk about Billie Eilish's strange addiction..... The Office.  Not that this song is about that - it's probably more tightly tied to the TLC show and perhaps a romantic addiction.  However, this song opens with a sample of Season 7, Episode 17 of The Office, titled "Threat Level Midnight" and contains other sample throughout.  It is a must-see episode that was requested as a going-away gift for Steve Carell.

The song was written and produced by Finneas O'Connell, Billie Eilish's brother.  They are frequent collaborators, and this song might be their high water mark.  It was a mid-level hit - peaking at #43 on the US charts and a top 10 hit elsewhere.  

By the way, their mom, Maggie Baird, once had a voice role on The Office.  Season 4, Episode 18, "Goodbye, Toby (part 1)".  She's the one on the phone with Phyllis when she's asking about an anti-gravity machine.

This isn't an official video for the song.  No such video exists.   However, Billie Eilish has fans, and they made a pretty good video that includes a lot of The Office clips, too.  

This is a song she clearly loves performing live - and the crowd, who knows all the words, love it, too.

20 July 2023

20 July 2023 - FIZZ - High In Brighton

What happens when four relatively well-known musician friends decide to start a band together?

Chaos? Maybe.

Hilarity? Absolutely!

Buzzworthy effervescent pop music?  No doubt.

Well, Dodie, Greta Isaac, Orla Garland and Martin Luke Brown did exactly this.   They are four best friends who happen to be independent musicians that made themselves into a supergroup.  

FIZZ's debut single came out three weeks ago, and their album drops in September.  Go preorder it if you want.  No pressure.  The song is about... well, getting high.  In Brighton.  

So, this is so new, there's no way there's any live performances, right?


19 July 2023

19 July 2023 - Olivia Rodrigo - vampire

It is SO RARE that we get to hit a song when it's still a hit.  It happens maybe twice a year.

This is the CURRENT, as we write this, #1 song in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, and #2 in the UK - and a big hit in a lot of other countries..

Of course, the version of the song that's a huge hit doesn't include the word "famefucker", but we don't restrict bad words here.  

I was a little hesitant to post this three weeks after I had posted another Olivia Rodrigo song.  But then she had to go and announce her second album, Guts, coming out in September, and release this fantastic single on June 30th.

And it is good.  REALLY good.  It's like a mini rock opera, and the video has three acts just like your traditional rock opera.  No Olivia Rodrigos were harmed in the making of this video.

This far, it being such a new song, she's only performed the song (which she co-wrote, like most of her stuff) live one time.

But she did it on piano, and it hits so much different - maybe even a little angrier! - so stripped down

18 July 2023

18 July 2023 - The Monkees - Porpoise Song

My sister is going to be very happy with this post.  You see, she was part of a generation in thei 1980s who were the perfect age to see The Monkees reunited (without Mike Nesmith) and a revival of their show by Nickelodeon(!), so she became a really big fan of The Monkees at an early age, and I mean a really big fan.  

It's because of her that I even know to write this post, because, before her, I didn;t know of the existence of Head, a somewhat satirical musical adventure that served as an epilogue to the band's popular television series.  Co-written by Academy Award winning actor Jack Nicholson - yes.  THAT Jack Nicholson - the movie was... well, it was a little trippy.  

It opened with this song (and accompanying visual - this is the opening of the movie, complete with mermaids saving Mickey Dolenz), written by the great songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King.  It is something of a deep song - and includes not only the band playing the song, but actual porpoise clicks and clacks.  

The Monkees took a lot of shit for being a band for a television show.   Yeah.  I said it.  It was undeserved.  They were a real band, with a lot of talent, who toured together for as long as they possibly could.  Here are three surviviing members (Davy Jones having passed earlier that year) performing together - and I do mean together, and well - in 2012.  


Of course, at this point, three of the four Monkees have passed, but the vocalist on this song, Mickey Dolenz, has not, and still tours in tribute to the Monkees  More than fifty years after this song was originally released, he still delivers it in the same huge, theatrical, emotional manner.  

17 July 2023

17 July 2023 - Belinda Carlisle - I Get Weak

We're eleven years into this blog - more than! - and we've never, as far as I can see, posted a song written by Diane Warren.  I'm not quite sure how that's possible - she was a huge hitmaker, especially during the 1980's and 1990's, and still writes for top pop artists to this day.

As much as we usually talk about the artists - and we'll get there - the songwriter is the hitmaker in this case.  She's written 32 top 10 US hits, been nominated for 14(!) Academy Awards (winning none but finally recieving an honorary one in 2022, during a year she was also nominated for an award), 15 Grammys (winning one), and two Emmys (winning one).  

She's a well-respected songwriter who has written a lot of hit songs you know well.  This is one of them.  Originally intended for Stevie Nicks, it was given to Belinda Carlisle, who took it all the way to #2 on the US charts, only being kept from that top spot by one of the most enduring songs of all time

The video was directed by Diane Keaton.  Yes, that Diane Keaton.  

14 July 2023

14 July 2023 - PJ Harvey - 50 Ft Queenie

I've mentioned the worst show I ever saw - September 10, 1995, Hartford, CT.  Live, with special guests PJ Harvey and Veruca Salt.  I didn't have high expectations of the headliner - I was there for the two openers.  Veruca Salt were truly disappointing.

I had high expectations of PJ Harvey, and Polly Jean let me down.  I'm sure it was an off night, because she had already released three great albums of material and has consistently done so since.  

And the show wasn't all bad.  She did perform this song and it was the highlight of the show.  

This song, her third single ever, came from her second album Rid of Me. It was a huge hit in the UK, but she never got the commercial success stateside that she had enjoyed in Europe.  Is it her best song?  No.  It is a rockabilly punk masterpiece, but she's got better songs lyrically and musically.  But it's a FUN song.  It's an in-your-face, dick-measuring masterpiece by a woman who previously wrote a song about her childbreaing hips.  

I KNOW I caught her on an off night, because this performance, and other songs from this performance, rocks.  From 2003, you can see the song isn't hard to play on guitar, but it is simplicity that makes it a masterpiece.

Someday, I am going to stop being surprised at musicians who are still touring 30 years into their careers.  This is from 2016, and it STILL rocks.  Polly Jean has given up the guitar, but that makes for a more dynamic performance.

13 July 2023

13 July 2023 - The Pandoras - Run-Down Love Battery

The Pandoras were an all-girl garage band that got their start in LA in 1982 and had a great run until 1991, when front woman Paula Pierce passed away.  The band didn't break up (they're STILL together, despite also losing bassist and background vocalist Kim Shattuck in 1991 to The Muffs (Melanie Vammen also went to The Muffs) and again in 2018 to ALS), but their glory days were behind them.

This performance, from 1990, was probably their pinnacle.  They were a garage band and a good one at that, with a bunch of great musicians who all happened to be women making great music.  

Oh, they also made a video for the song. I just wanted to feature something that WASN'T such obvious 1980s record label objectification right up front.  

12 July 2023

12 July 2023 - Pixies - Debaser

The second you saw the name "Luis Buñuel" in yesterday's post, you should have known this was coming.

"I am un chien andalusia" is literally a line in this song.

"Slicing up eyeballs" is literally a different line in the song.

Can we look at the title of the film, though?  Un chien andalou is a mishmash of French and Spanish already.  The film is really about nothing.  It's a surrealist collaboration between Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. It was, at points, stomach-turning, debasing the standards of art and morality.

Ahhhh, there it is.  The title.  That last sentence paraphrases Black Francis a.k.a. Charles Thompson IV, the writer of this song and leader of the Pixies, the Boston-based post-punk band that broke through the US consciousness with their 2nd full length album, Doolittle, which opened with this bombastic song. 

Never released as a single in the US, this song hit #23 on the UK charts.  More personally, it's possibly my favorite song by a band that I count among my favorites.   

The Pixies did break up in the mid 90s but reformed about a decade later, and are still together and still making music.  Kim Deal did leave the band in 2013 to devote herself to The Breeders full-time, and was replaced on their 2013 tour by Muffs frontwoman Kim Shattuck - who was amazing as a fill-in.

Shattuck was replaced the next year - by most accounts, because her personality (which had been very frontwoman-y and outgoing) didn't mesh with what was a mostly introverted band, which is a shame because she was incredible.  She was replaced by Paz Lenchantin, who, to be fair, is also incredible.

11 July 2023

11 July 2023 - White Town - Your Woman

Jyoti Prakash Mishra, White Town's sole member, famous music producer, and a guy, wrote this song as kind of a methaphor for all sorts of relations, that could be adaptable to all sorts of points of view.   He recorded the song using a sample from an old Lew Stone song (the muted trumpet), free MIDI software and a cheap tape recorder, releasing it in 1997.

He created a worldwide sensation.  

This song was a worldwide hit - top 30 in the US, top 10 elsewhere.  What's more, it carried Mishra's self-described mediocre voice and pretty good keyboard work to one hit wonder status.

“I feel so privileged [because] to be 100 percent honest with you — I’m a mediocre singer, I’m a terrible guitarist, I’m a pretty good keyboardist, I’m a good producer, not amazing, but good.”

The video was partially inspired by Luis Buñuel's Un chien andalou - thankfully without slicing up any eyeballs - and other surrealist artists, and has the same 20's feel that the Lew Stone sample gives to the song.

10 July 2023

10 July 2023 - The Cult - She Sells Sanctuary

In 1985, British band - from Bradford, West Yorkshire, if we're being precise - The Cult would release what would ultimately be their best known and most widely recognized single.  It wasn't their biggest hit - although close to it in the UK - and didn't even chart in the US, although its success and endurance paved the way for their future worldwide success.  

Written by Ian Astbury - the lead vocalist - and Billy Duffy - the guitarist..... I didn't need to tell you that.  The song shows that. Astbury's haunting vocals lend an air of enigmatic charisma to the lyrics that are tuned for his voice. His raw, soulful delivery infuses the lyrics with passion and depth, drawing the listener into a realm of introspection and introspective longing. Add that to Duffy's distinctive guitar work, which merges elements of psychedelic rock with a touch of new wave, and you've got a Cult classic.

Weirdly, the song was also a club hit - so much so that in 1993, it got some remixes and a rerelease, which ended up being a hit in its own right.

It's weird, though.

The Cult, believe it or not, are still together. There have absolutely been some lineup changes, but it has always been, unceasingly, the Billy and Ian show throughout.  This performance from 2022 shows that the song has changed a little to accomodate for the changes age brings to vocalists, but not much - and the energy is still there.  

07 July 2023

7 July 2023 - David Bowie – Space Oddity

In 1969, feeling feelings of alientation - his career was taking a nose dive - and having seen Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, David Bowie wrote and recorded this classic song.

It was an initial bomb but enventually because a UK hit, his only until 1973.  

It remained a bomb in the US for three years, until it was released in 1972.  THEN it hit #15 on the pop charts and became a big deal.  

In July, 1990, I was getting ready to go to college.  I was 18, and visiting family in Niagara Falls and Buffalo. Coincidentally, and not visiting my family, David Bowie was playing at the Niagara Falls Convention Center in what he said would be his last tour playing his classic songs, such as "Space Oddity".

Naturally, I wanted to go, but I was only allowed to go if I went with my Aunt Martha, who, to be fair, wasn't terribly old herself and so was cool enough to actually enjoy the show.  We had a great time and it was a great show.

My younger sister was pissed because she wanted to go.  Sorry, Dawn.

This is from Santiago, Chile, on the same tour.  I can tell you that this is exactly how it sounded.

By the way, David Bowie lied, because here he is, performing the song in 1997.  David Bowie taught me not to believe that farewell tours are real.  

But that 1990 show was still great.  

06 July 2023

6 July 2023 - Peter Schilling - Major Tom (Coming Home) (Völlig losgelöst)

This top 20 hit was released in 1983 by German artist Peter Schilling.  The titular Major Tom is, at least officially, not the same Major Tom who happens to be an astronaut in the David Bowie classic "Space Oddity:.   

But c'mon.

Yes it is.  

The synth-heavy song is right in place in 1983 - and it remains a really cool song to this day.  It was Schilling's first English language single, and it ended up being a worldwide hit.

Ready for the other shoe?  Well, the title of this post should have given it away.  

This was a rerecorded version of a German song - and a hit song at that - by Schilling in 1982. Titled "Major Tom (Völlig losgelöst)", it was hit in Europe and the German-speaking world.  Specifically, it was a #1 hit in Germany.  

The video is not NEARLY as good.  

05 July 2023

5 July 2023 - Harold Faltermeyer - Axel F

This song was commissioned for the 1984 hit movie Beverly Hills Cop.  Most of you probably knew that.  I mean, it's Harold Faltermeyer's best known song.  

"Alex F" was named for the character Axel Foley, portrayed by Eddie Murphy in the movie.  What you may not know is that it was composed in the key of F minor, continuing the F theme.  Faltermeyer wrote the song, and performs all the instruments, which are all electronic.  He also appears in the video, strangly wearing an overcoat, sunglasses and a hat while pounding away on what was probably state-of-the-art computer equipment in 1984.

Before you all go running off to the Wikipedia page for this song and tell me that I'm wrong and that the song was written by Hans Faltermeier, you should know that his full name is Hans Hugo Harold Faltermeier.... and he anglicized his name for single release (mostly because Americans are more likely to listen to a Harold than a Hans, to be frank and sad about it).

Anyway, it was a worldwide instrumental hit, and you should just listen to it.  

Now enjoy Peter Griffin dancing to it.

04 July 2023

4 July 2023 - Van Halen - Jump

Well, Happy Independence Day to all our US readers.

We decided it was appropriate to go with a 40-year-old motivational song that started off as something very different than that.

You see, Eddie Van Halen wrote the synth part first - and the rest of the hard-rockin' band rejected it.  When David Lee Roth was finally convinced to give it another shot, he recalled a news story of a person who was threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a building... and, well, there's always that asshole who has to yell "C'mon, Jump!"  

Well, since encouraging suicide isn't really something that record labels are going to get behind, the lyrics the band wrote ended up being a bit more motivational and less... well, death-y.  

What the end result turned into was the biggest hit of Van Halen's career, by a lot.  Deservedly so, too - it was a great, energetic song that brought rock to the masses.

Famously, David Lee Roth left Van Halen and was replaced by Sammy Hagar - which really begat a different band.  This live version of the song from 1993 is a lot less synth-y, which tracks with the harder rocking feel of the band.

Funny enough, this live version was released as a single in Europe and ended up being a bit of a minor hit, too.  

Perhaps not so famously, Sammy Hagar left Van Halen and was replaced by Gary Cherone from Extreme.  Not surprisingly, he needed to perform David Lee Roth's songs, too.

This version was not released as a single and was not a hit because no one liked Gary Cherone as the lead vocalist of Van Halen.

Because this is a blog post, we are very much oversimplifying the history of Van Halen, but the short version is, David Lee Roth came back and the band, of course, performed this song.  It is very much a fusion of the rock and synth styles - and that's Wolfgang Van Halen on bass.

There was supposed to be a "kitchen sink" reuinion with Hagar, Cherone, and Michael Anthony rejoinign the band - but, sadly, Eddie Van Halen passed away before that could happen.  So, this post ends here. 

03 July 2023

3 July 2023 - Digable Planets - Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)

We want July 2023 to be the coolest month on Wicked Guilty Pleasures ever.  This is why we opened it with the absolute coolest song ever recorded.

The song was released as the debut single from the Digable Planets's debut album, and it was a Top 20 hit in the US and elsewhere.  It remains their biggest hit to this day.  More to the point, it is a Grammy-winning song and is considered to be the pinacle of the fusion genre known as jazz-rap.  You hear the jazz, right?  Well, that's "Stretching" by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, which they sampled for this track.

The Cleveland-based trio formed in 1987, and broke up for a bit in the late 90's, but they're back together and still together.  All three of them have remained - no lineup changes.  

And, as you can see from this 2016 live performance, they're still way cooler than I am.