There’s not much music I would consider a “guilty” pleasure. I’m sure that are songs in the world that I like because they remind me of a specific time in my life, or jump out at me from a genre I don’t know well. So above is the video for “If This Is It,” an impossibly un-cool, middle-of-the-road, corporate pop song that I still enjoy.
Motley Crue. Oh excuse me, “Mötley Crüe.” Because nothing says metal like superfluous umlauts. (Now THAT’S a good name for a band.) I admit, I used to love these guys. The way they strutted around, their wailin’ guitar licks, the hawt chixxorz in the videos, the way-out clothing. That’ so distant to me now that it’s hard to feel anything positive for this stuff anymore. It’s all just manufactured and fake and unspeakably lame. But if you want to, relive the days of 80s hair metal with the video above.
At least at this moment and for the purposes of this post, my favorite band is XTC. Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory et al. have been making clever, intricate, forward-looking pop music for more than 30 years. They’ve had a couple of minor hits (“Dear God,” “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”), but they’ve always been more about consistent albums than a singles band. Their output is huge, especially when you include Partridge’s solo recordings and the work from psychedelic alter-egos the Dukes of Stratosphear. And for all that material, there’s very little fluff–every album has at least a few absolute gems. So without further ado, enjoy some XTC.
OK, it’s predictable. So sue me.
This is what they call in the Navy a “target-rich environment.” I love dancing. It’s been my favorite physical activity for as long back as I can remember. I could pick scores of songs that I love to dance to, from goth to Charleston to moshing, but here’s my very favorite song for swing dancing.
“Fine Brown Frame”
Here’s an embarassing confession: I have a terrible time remembering song lyrics. I’m a lifelong music lover, a singer, and a former poetry scholar. Yet I will never just pick up more than a line or two of song lyrics no matter how often I hear the song. I have to really concentrate, and usually sit with a lyric sheet to learn a song. One of the few songs I do know by heart comes from one of my favorite Celtic bands: Silly Wizard.
“Candle in the Wind”! No, just kidding. Some of you might know this story, but the song I most connect with specific events is Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.”
When I was a kid, my dad was in a successful wedding band called the Esquires. I’d often spend weekends with Papa Joe, but of course that’s when they worked! So I’d come along to the weddings they were playing. This song is what the band always played right before taking a break. So to me, this song is associated with dozens of wedding receptions of people I never knew; a time to get up and snarf chicken wings and finger sandwiches; a time to hug my dad and hang out with the guys in the band. To this day, hearing this song makes me seriously hungry. The first time I heard it as a grown-up, I found myself in the kitchen holding the fridge door open with NO memory of how I got there.
This is the earliest song I remember: “Band On the Run” by Paul McCartney and Wings.
This one always makes me think of my dad’s first apartment after he and my mom divorced. He got a studio with beautiful hardwood floors and a huge armoire. This was down in Algiers, just across the river from New Orleans. I remember a burnished glow about the place and weekends with my father as he practiced this song on the guitar. I don’t know if he could even play guitar before; I think this was one of the first songs he learned aside from studies in practice books. Even at that young an age, I remember loving the interesting harmonies and different time shifts. Apparently I liked prog rock even as a toddler. 🙂
So many choices here! The song below always reminds me of a high school classmate of mine, Trini Triggs.
For those too young to remember, this was a hugely controversial song in 1984. It inspired Tipper Gore to found the Parents’ Music Resource Center and the ensuing Congressional circus over obscenity in pop music. Our journalism teacher hadn’t heard the song and asked what the deal was about it, so Trini sang it for the whole 10th grade journalism class. (We had all heard it, of course; the teacher was momentarily shocked by the “masturbation” line, but not really offended.) It didn’t hurt that Trini looked a little bit like Prince, a short, light-skinned black guy with an AWESOME Jheri curl. Trini was a successful singer in high school and in local bands, and has even had minor success as a country music artist. I’ve linked to one of his videos in the past; here’s another.
I’m going to come right out and say that there’s nothing particularly sad inherent in this song. It’s touching, yes, but it’s a beautiful recounting of the beginning of love.
Nonetheless, this is about what makes ME sad, not anybody else. I was listening to The Best of Manhattan Transfer one summer in New Orleans. A few seconds after this song came on, I started crying and just couldn’t stop. That was almost 30 years ago now, and I couldn’t tell you exactly what set me off. I think it was the bareness of the song that started it all. It had been a hot day (NOLA in summer, of course), I’d been to the mall and the theater and watched cable TV (!), I was physically and mentally overstimulated. And then this song came on. Delicate in its way, artistic, with nothing to hide behind or distract. I couldn’t ignore my mental problems (getting pretty serious in my teenage years) with those beautiful vocal harmonies in my ear. The song has made me sad ever since. It’s kind of a same, since objectively I think it’s a gorgeous recording.