Archive for March, 2007

CHART ATTACK! #25: 3/31/90

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Note from Jason:  As mentioned earlier this week, this week’s CHART ATTACK! wasn’t supposed to be a guest post, but I foolishly didn’t cover my bases for what has turned out to be one of the busiest weeks of the year for me.  Thankfully, somebody volunteered to jump in at the last minute.

Back in October of 2005, I caught wind of this site called Jefitoblog by way of Stereogum.  I read the linked post – his Idiot’s Guide to Toto – and it was on that day that I came up with the idea for what to do with jasonhare.com.  Coincidence?  Hardly.  Jeff’s ideas, musical taste and writing style have been the #1 influence for this site since then.  I am thrilled and honored that he’s stepping in this week, especially since I know he’s extremely busy himself.  (I’m also a little worried: as he sent me his first few brilliant chart entries, he commented, "I’m just letting my fingers do the talking now. I don’t even know where this stuff is coming from."  Jeff, on behalf of music bloggers everywhere: suck it.)

Enough talking: observe as Jeff hits the ground running and attacks March 31, 1990!


10.  Here and Now – Luther Vandross
  Amazon iTunes
9.  Get Up ! (Before The Night Is Over) – Technotronic
  Amazon iTunes
8.  Keep It Together – Madonna
  Amazon iTunes
7.  Escapade – Janet Jackson
  Amazon
6.  Don’t Wanna Fall In Love – Jane Child
  Amazon iTunes
5.  All Around The World – Lisa Stansfield
  Amazon iTunes
4.  I’ll Be Your Everything – Tommy Page
  Amazon iTunes
3.  I Wish It Would Rain Down – Phil Collins
  Amazon iTunes
2.  Love Will Lead You Back – Taylor Dayne (do your worst!)
  Amazon iTunes
1.  Black Velvet – Alannah Myles
  Amazon iTunes

10.  Here and Now – Luther Vandross

Here’s the conventional wisdom regarding "Here and Now," which went on to become the official soundtrack to all slow dances around the world in 1989:

After a decade of R&B hits, Vandross finally crossed over to Top 40 and AC stations with "Here & Now," a new recording tacked onto his first greatest hits compilation.

This is technically correct. But it leaves out an important detail, which is this: He may not have been a crossover sensation prior to "Here and Now," but by pretty much any other definition of the term, Luther Vandross was a huge fucking deal. (And hey, quit it with the fat jokes.) The compilation in question, The Best of Luther Vandross: The Best of Love, spanned two discs and 20 songs, and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, consider that aside from his own hits, Vandross had already produced successful albums for Dionne Warwick and Aretha.

Still not impressed? Such was Luther’s might that he recorded a duet with Gregory Hines and turned it into a #1 R&B hit.

Serious mojo.

Having given credit where it’s due, I can safely point out that this song is awful. It makes me die. In fact, I suspect it was not diabetes, but being forced to repeatedly perform this song, that killed Vandross in 2005.

(Extra fun fact: After leaving the group Change in 1981, Vandross was replaced by James "Crabs" Robinson.)

9.  Get Up ! (Before The Night Is Over) – Technotronic

One of several "bands" of the era that mined platinum by mixing clattering house beats with lip-synching models, Technotronic was huge (according to their Wikipedia entry, the "band" has sold the extensively amended, yet still staggering, sum of "approximately 14 million albums and singles worldwide") just long enough for people to realize that every single goddamn one of their songs sounded exactly the same.

Seriously. Five bucks to the first person who can, from memory, point out a single musical difference between "Pump Up the Jam" and "Get Up! (Before the Night Is Over)."

As it so often happens, the story of the "band" is much more interesting than anything it recorded; Technotronic was founded by a guy calling himself Jo Bogaert (his mother named him Thomas de Quincy — six of one, half a dozen of the other), who ditched America (and a career as a philosophy professor) for the burgeoning Belgian house music scene.

(Just kidding. Beyond Technotronic, there really wasn’t much of a Belgian music scene, house or otherwise — but hey, they did sell approximately 14 million albums and singles worldwide.)

Technotronic’s lyrics, which were mainly just repeated exhortations to get up, move, shake that body, etc., were handled by Ya Kid K; early on, however, the video lip-synching was handled by a model named Felly. (Felly, tragically, didn’t speak English, and didn’t understand a word of Technotronic’s lyrics.) When word got out, Bogaert admitted Felly had been hired to create an "image" for the "band"; there wasn’t really much of a scandal, but one can imagine Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus being pretty pissed.

You’d think an outfit like Technotronic would run out of things to say about halfway through its first album — and you’d be very right — but the "band" continued to linger, fartlike, for several years; as the AMG notes in its bio, "The 1995 Technotronic comeback attempt Recall was not a success."

8.  Keep It Together – Madonna

If there’s one thing that participating in Kurt’s Week in Rock roundtable has taught me, it’s that even the geekiest of music geeks can be surprised by what has managed to chart. Personally, I had no idea this had even been a single.

Sure, okay, I spent the ’80s maintaining an impressively staunch level of disinterest in Madonna’s music, but still, you couldn’t really escape her singles unless you happened to be living in a quaint Midwestern burg where John Lithgow was your town preacher and had all the grown-ups believing dancing was a sin.

But, um…"Keep It Together" in the Top 10? Color me nonplussed.

Video, anyone?

7.  Escapade – Janet Jackson

Show of hands: Who doesn’t wish Janet Jackson would cool it awhile with the breathy, middle-aged sex-kitten bullshit and somehow find her way back to recording irresistible pop nuggets like this one?

"Escapade" was the second of four Hot 100 chart-toppers from Janet’s septuple-platinum Rhythm Nation 1814. The album represents Jackson at her indisputed artistic and creative peak; she took her first stabs at socially conscious R&B (some of them, admittedly, pretty clumsy — "We are a nation with no geographic boundaries, bound together through our beliefs, we are like-minded individuals, sharing a common vision, pushing toward a world rid of color lines" ain’t What’s Going On to say the least), but she knew enough to mix some light and catchy stuff in with the message music.

Particular credit must be given to A&M, her soon-to-be-former label, for plotting out a genius series of singles; they mixed the more strident and adventurous title track and "Black Cat" in with more stereotypically Jacksonian fare like "Miss You Much," "Alright," "Come Back to Me," and the flawless "Love Will Never Do (Without You)." The end result? No fewer than seven Top Five singles (including the aforementioned Number Ones), seven million in sales, and — according to Janet’s Wikipedia entry — "15 Billboard Music Awards, five American Music Awards, four Soul Train Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and her first Grammy Award."

I’m impressed. And I’m not even really a fan.

6.  Don’t Wanna Fall In Love – Jane Child (download) (link currently leads to silence – will be fixed Saturday, for all you big Jane Child fans)

Dear God in heaven:

Jane Child, whatever her other virtues (and I’m sure she must have at least a few), is irrefutable living proof that MTV did not make it impossible for unattractive people to have hit records.

"Don’t Wanna Fall in Love" was a big hit, and deservedly so — it was overloaded with bright splashes of early ’90s synths, had a brain-meltingly catchy chorus that I’m humming as I type this (goddamn you, Jane Child), and was delivered with aplomb by a singer with bona fide pipes. None of which changed the fact that she had a cornrowed Mohawk and a chain running from her nose to her ear, but hey, a hit’s a hit, right?

Like many one-hit wonders, Child remained on her label’s roster well past her sell-by date; her second album, Here Not There, wasn’t released until 1993, four years after Jane Child (and for the record, saleswise, the album was not here, there, or anywhere). After being dropped by Warner Bros., Child kept a low profile for awhile — according to her Wikipedia entry, she "kept herself busy working with obscure bands and Japanese projects" — ultimately resurfacing in 2002 with a self-released third album, Surge.

(She’s got an official site, and apparently has a new album on the way, but I’m not clicking on that link — I don’t want to know what the 21st-century version of Jane Child looks like.)

5.  All Around The World – Lisa Stansfield (download)

If you took the luxurious soul of Barry White, removed the terrifyingly deep vocals, and placed a cute, immaculately coiffed soul diva in front of the microphone, you’d get "All Around the World." Addition by subtraction, in other words, although purists will surely shudder at that statement (I’m having a hard time with it myself, but I can’t come up with an opposing argument more compelling than "Barry White is cooler than Lisa Stansfield"; feel free to put me in my place.)

This was the first of Stansfield’s several hits, and undeniably her biggest; it was also so overplayed that for fifteen years, I couldn’t hear more than a few bars without wanting to slap that beauty mark off her face. Hearing it now, though, I’m forced to admit it’s an extremely well-written song. Even more impressive is the fact that Stansfield’s vocals were transferred from the song’s demo, recorded on an eight-track in her apartment.

American success was rather short-lived for Stansfield; by the mid-’90s, her albums were being marketed pretty much exclusively in Europe. She eventually did what every self-respecting pop diva past her commercial prime ends up doing — releasing the Naked Video:

Stansfield’s recent releases have sold poorly — including, disappointingly, 2004′s presumably pretty solid, Trevor Horn-produced The Moment — and aside from appearing in a London production of The Vagina Monologues, I’m not really sure what she’s been up to lately. (Presumably, all it would take to find out is a visit to her website, but I don’t really care.)

4.  I’ll Be Your Everything – Tommy Page

Some interesting facts about Tommy Page:

1. The All Music Guide lists his genre as "Rock," as good an argument as any for getting rid of the All Music Guide
2. His middle name is Alden, which is Welsh for "horrible"
3. He has released ten albums — almost as many as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin, and Jeff Buckley combined
4. He appeared on an episode of Full House, thus providing an indestructible bridge between bad music and shitty television
5. According to his Wikipedia entry, he’s "currently working as VP of A&R in a major U.S. record label," as good an argument as any for getting rid of major U.S. record labels

"I’ll Be Your Everything" was Page’s biggest hit, at least partially due to the fact that it was a collaboration with the New Kids on the Block, and offers enduring proof that teenage girls will buy anything if it whimpers enough. When my daughter reaches her teen years and wants to know why I won’t give her an allowance, I’m going to play her "I’ll Be Your Everything" and explain that I’m only doing my part to try and prevent this from ever happening again.

3.  I Wish It Would Rain Down – Phil Collins

One of approximately six hundred Phil Collins-related hit singles during the ’80s and early ’90s, "I Wish It Would Rain Down" marks the spot where America woke up after a long Collins-induced nap and decided it was no longer all that interested in hearing Phil on the radio every ten minutes. (Of course, thanks to the AC format, stations will go right on broadcasting "Easy Lover" and "Separate Lives" at regular intervals long after the human race has ceased to exist. For this, and the national debt, thank your parents.)

"I Wish It Would Rain Down" comes from …But Seriously, the album that, in theory, acted as a response to critics who’d grown weary of Collins’ incessant mugging; the idea was that he was more than just the guy who goofed around in songs and videos like "Sussudio" and "Don’t Lose My Number." The sad irony, however, ended up being that if you thought Phil Collins was annoying when he had nothing to say, hearing him go on and on about poverty and war acted as a painful, belated reminder to be very careful what you wish for.

(For the record, I’d gladly listen to "Sussudio" — or even "Who Said I Would?" — for a solid day if it meant never having to hear a single song from …But Seriously again.)

After this, the wheels started coming off Collins’ (admittedly phenomenal) solo career; 1993′s Both Sides was even drearier than its predecessor, and by the time he tried being catchy again, with 1996′s Dance Into the Light, people had pretty much stopped caring. The really sad thing about Collins’ music is that he’s a talented guy, and he’s written more than his share of good (if not great) songs, but he’ll always be remembered more for mind-numbing treacle like this than any of his more positive contributions. Then again, nobody put a gun to his head and forced him to sing "You’ll Be in My Heart."

2.  Love Will Lead You Back – Taylor Dayne

If a mall could sing, it would sound like Taylor Dayne.

That sounds unnecessarily cruel, and it probably is; for all I know, many of you have fond memories of Dayne’s music. For the life of me, I can’t understand why — did America really need a female Teddy Pendergrass? — but to each his own. I know Jason is expecting me to berate you, this song, and Dayne herself, but it’s more effort than it would be worth.  (You suck, Giles. – JH)

Like many terrible ballads, "Love Will Lead You Back" was written by Diane Warren, and is described in Dayne’s Wikipedia entry as follows: "The song deals with the complications surrounding a breakup, and focuses on the intense hope that love will find a way to save the relationship."

Fair enough, I guess. Personally, I always felt like the song’s title was a threat, but the beauty of art is that it’s open to interpretation.

To her credit, Dayne is still performing regularly, and supposedly has a new album in the works. Consider yourselves warned.

1.  Black Velvet – Alannah Myles

Sort of a Canadian Pat Benatar with worse material, Alannah Myles was briefly, inexplicably, hugely popular all over the world (and I do mean hugely — this single sold five million copies). This song wasn’t much of anything, really; I mean, it certainly isn’t bad, but even with the benefit of seventeen years’ hindsight, it’s hard to understand exactly why people were so infatuated with it. Maybe, as this week’s chart suggests, they were starved for a little rock & roll.

I don’t know. But let it be said that, for a one-hit wonder, Myles was not fucking around. (And before Jason’s army of niggling trivia freaks comes at me with their torches and pitchforks, let me hasten to point out that yes, in Canada, Alannah Myles continued to have hits well into the ’90s; also, as everyone knows, Canada doesn’t count.) She released another album in the States, 1992′s Cutoutbin — er, I mean Rockinghorse — but as far as I know, it didn’t chart.

Still, her career is fairly snarkproof. For a scrap of passable bar rock, this song did all right for itself (I repeat: five million copies), and resulted in Myles’ catching the rheumy eye of rock legend Robert Plant, who became intimately acquainted with her personal black velvet. And the song lives on, as this recent video from the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention attests:

From Luther Vandross to anime conventions — to quote the late, great James Brown, I can’t do no more. It’s been fun, folks! Like the rest of you, I look forward to Jason’s return next week!

Thanks again, Jeff, for saving me from an empty, disappointing Friday.  As usual, I’m in your debt, and your writing puts mine to shame. Thanks for reading, and with any luck, I’ll be back here next week to restart my very own CHART ATTACK!

Evil Prince Ludwig this Friday!

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Just goes to show you the kind of week I’m having – I haven’t even properly promoted my gig with EVIL PRINCE LUDWIG THE INDESTRUCTIBLE! at The Bitter End tomorrow night, which also features Mike on guitar and vocals!   That’s right, folks: two lame bloggers, one low price!

Late notice, I know, but if you’re interested, we’ll be playing at the aforementioned club at around 10 PM.  Cover charge is $8.  All details can be found on the performance page.

Tomorrow: JEFITOCHARTATTACK!

Administrativia at jasonhare.com

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Folks, this might be an quiet week here at jasonhare.com.  See, I have my final week of performances of Postcards From A Dead Dog (which is going absolutely swimmingly, thank you very much for your good luck messages!), and I have a gig with EVIL PRINCE LUDWIG THE INDESTRUCTIBLE! this Friday night.  So essentially, in addition to the day job, I have four nights of either performances, rehearsals, or both.  (On the fifth night of the week, Jason rested and reminded his wife of what he looks like.)

I started working on a Mellow Gold this weekend, and my iPod kinda sorta ate itself.  I didn’t lose any music (I had it all backed up on my computer), but I did lose the content of all my playlists.  Which means that the fabled "List" to which I add all your wonderful/awful Mellow Gold suggestions is now empty.  That’s around 90 songs that are floating somewhere on my computer, looking for a centralized, Mellow home.  I’ll be spending any free time this week going through just about all the MG posts and e-mails you’ve sent, building the list back up.  So if there’s no Mellow Gold this week, that’s why.

As for CHART ATTACK!  I thought I was so smart when I asked some brilliant writers to jump in four the past four weeks.  "Once the show opens, I’ll have tons of time to even write some future CHART ATTACK! posts," I exclaimed to nobody in particular.  Yeah.  That didn’t happen.  And foolishly, I thought that I’d have free time this upcoming week.  (Why did I think that?)

While some other writers did volunteer to step in above Matthew, Kurt, Robert and Carlos, I felt it unfair to ask them to write a post with less than a week of lead time.  However, I had no problem asking Jefito to do it.  I sit in awe on a daily basis as he casually mentions to me that he’s finished a Cutouts Gone Wild!, a Cassingle Vault and an Idiot’s Guide within a few hours.  (Of course, when I then ask him, "how’s your baby daughter?" he says, "who?" and then runs off to make sure she hasn’t fallen into the toilet or something, but hey, you can’t do it all.)

So Jeff will be writing CHART ATTACK! for this Friday.  I’m both excited and worried, because how do I follow a post by Jeff?  I’ll do my best.

In any case, thanks for your continued readership and if we don’t get Mellow this week, there’s always next week!

CHART ATTACK! #24: 3/23/85

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Note from Jason:  It’s Friday and I’m a lame writer this month, which can only mean one thing: another guest-written CHART ATTACK!  This week’s entry is written by our good buddy Carlos Ramirez.  Carlos has been a jasonhare.com contributor since the very beginning, and was one of the first to suggest that Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold become a regular series (see what you did, Carlos?).  I’m happy to have him attacking the charts this week, and I hope you will be, too, so let’s welcome him as he takes on March 23, 1985!


10.  Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
  Amazon iTunes
9.  Only The Young – Journey  Amazon iTunes
8.  High On You – Survivor  Amazon iTunes
7.  Private Dancer – Tina Turner  Amazon iTunes
6.  Lovergirl – Teena Marie  Amazon iTunes
5.  Too Late For Goodbyes – Julian Lennon  Amazon iTunes
4.  The Heat Is On – Glenn Frey
  Amazon
3.  One More Night – Phil Collins  Amazon iTunes
2.  Material Girl – Madonna  Amazon iTunes
1.  Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon  Amazon iTunes

10.  Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a 5-piece synthrock outfit whose members got their starts in the Liverpool punk scene of the late 1970′s.  The group was spearheaded by vocalist Holly Johnson and a Freddie Mercury look-alike named Paul Rutherford. No one could ever really explain what Paul did, exactly; I like to think of him as a gay version of Flava Flav.  He would just stand on stage, dance around and get the crowd to join in during the chorus parts, much like a "hype man" would do at a rap concert.

FGTH had a huge hit here with "Relax" in 1985.  Many critics at the time gave producer Trevor Horn credit for much of the song and the success of its accompanying album, Welcome To The Pleasuredome.   Horn had previously been the brainchild of Buggles, who most of you will know for their song "Video Killed the Radio Star" which was the first video EVER played on MTV in 1981. 

After Buggles, Horn went on to join and produce prog-gods Yes. After producing popular albums for ABC and Dollar, he got into the record company business with a London journo named Paul Morley. They called their label ZTT. Although the album went on to sell millions of copies and help fund ZTT well into the late 80′s, Frankie Goes To Hollywood later sued (successfully) Horn and the label for unpaid royalties.

9. Only The Young – Journey

Taken from the soundtrack to the Matthew Modine film Vision Quest , "Only The Young" was originally supposed to be included on Journey’s 1983 album Frontiers.  The song was foolishly taken off at the 11th hour by their A&R man at Columbia Records. Jonathan Cain’s synth line just screams of early 80′s AOR rock and would have not sounded out of place on an Asia or Aldo Nova album. You can almost vision a keytar being rocked out in the studio!

I had the pleasure of meeting former Journey vocalist Steve Perry this past summer, and I asked him what songs he cherished most from his time in the band. This was one of the ones he mentioned, which kind of took me by surprise.

8. High On You – Survivor

It’s almost poetic justice that this song charted higher than Journey this week, because Survivor was always looked upon as a poor man’s version of the California arena rockers.  I, for one, have always preferred the boys from Chicago, and I’ve caught a lot of crap for it!

This song is sung by their second vocalist, Jimi Jamison, who replaced "Eye of the Tiger" frontman Dave Bickler in 1983. You might also recognize Jimi’s vocals from the theme song to Baywatch.  I have linked to their performance of "High On You" from Solid Gold, where you could see their bassist playing one of those headless, rectangle shaped basses that Geddy Lee of Rush also played in that time period.  I hated those things! Another thing I noticed was how old Jamison looked in that clip. It was 1985 and he already looked about 43 years old! What was it about the 80′s that made people look at least 10 years older?



7. Private Dancer – Tina Turner

Mark Knopfler originally wrote this song for his own band, Dire Straits, but gave it to Tina Turner instead. Included on the album of the same name, Private Dancer, the song also features a bluesy solo from none other than Jeff Beck. The song peaked in the States at #7, but the album went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide. The song seems to be about a gold digging stripper. It’s hard for me to picture Knopfler writing these lyrics, but Tina really sells them!  The bridge part where she sings "Deutschmarks or dollars/American Express will do nicely, thank you" always got my attention as a kid. My mom isn’t from this country and her English isn’t that strong so she would sing along to this song when it would play on the radio. If she only knew what this song was actually about!

6. Lover Girl – Teena Marie (download)

Santa Monica, California’s Teena Marie was one of the first white artists signed to Motown Records in the 70′s and she quickly found a creative home within Rick James’ musical camp. They even scored a hit with their duet, "Fire and Desire," off of James’ Street Songs album.

The same old’ "label screws the artist" story happened to Marie when she realized that she wasn’t getting paid her fair share of royalties off of her first four albums for Motown. After taking her former label to court and finally being released from her sticky contract, the folks at Epic Records welcomed the soul singer to their fold.  Her biggest pop hit, "Lover Girl," came off of her second album for the label which she christened Starchild. Unfortunately, it’s not a concept album based on the life of Jewish kid from Queens named Stanley Eisen who went on to change his name and front one of the biggest bands of the late 70′s. No, instead, the record finds Teena blending her familiar, smoothed-out soul with the kind of rock guitar sound that Prince was exploring during that time. I distinctly remember roller skating to this song at a place called USA Roller Rink in Queens, NY when the song came out.

5. Too Late For Goodbyes – Julian Lennon (download, bonus downloads below)

His father was in The Beatles and his debut album was overseen by legendary producer (Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel) Phil Ramone. How could you go wrong?  It looked great on paper and the record did deliver with two top 10 hits: the title track, "Valotte," and the simple yet extremely infectious, "Too Late For Goodbyes."  The video for the track was directed by the late Sam Peckinpah. If you know any of Sam’s work, you know that this was a surprising artistic pairing. This is the guy who directed StrawDogs and The Wild Bunch, for chrissakes!

The radio station that introduced me to a lot of the stuff on this chart was WPLJ in New York and I remember that when they premiered "Too Late For Goodbyes" they had a contest where people had to call in and guess who the artist was. Obviously, most people thought it was some kind of lost John Lennon track from the vaults.

I’ve often thought that Julian’s output has never really stood a chance, for obvious reasons. But people should look back at this album and even more, Help Yourself  from 1991 which gives home to the singer’s best song, "Saltwater." Although the single was a hit in the UK, it was never properly pushed by Atlantic Records here in the states and failed to chart. Lyrically, "Saltwater" finds him exploring the same kind of worldly ideas that his late father tackled on "Imagine."

(Jason’s note: Carlos is right – "Saltwater" is a great song – so I’m going to offer two bonus downloads this week: "Saltwater" by Julian Lennon (download), and a live cover by Tommy Emmanuel, my favorite guitarist (download).  Enjoy.)

4. The Heat Is On – Glenn Frey

Let me start out by saying the guy playing the film editor in the video looks like jazz great Tom Scott. Secondly, I hated videos in the 80′s that spliced in actual dialog and sound bites from the movie the song was taken from!  Check out the sax player’s mullet!  Is that Dee Wallace Stone?   Glenn looks like he plowed through $400 worth of Colombian gold about a millisecond before the director yelled "Action!"  I’m not the biggest Frey fan, but is it just me, or does it sound like this song is really just Kenny Loggins backed by the Silver Bullet Band?



3. One More Night – Phil Collins

This Lite FM staple became Phil’s second number one song after the massive success of "Against All Odds" the previous year. I’m 32 and I can’t ever remember a time where it was OK to admit you were a Phil Collins fan. Lord knows that I’ve gotten a lot of grief whenever I’ve stuck up for his output!

I think it’s songs like this that have branded him "middle of the road," but I don’t think he’s ever tried to pass these kind of songs as anything but what they truly are: ballads. But if you want to satisfy the inner-critic/rock snob in you, look no further than his first two solo albums for some inventive pop songwriting and instrumentation. Now that Tarzan soundtrack, that’s something even I can’t defend!

 2. Material Girl – Madonna

Co-written by two obscure funksters named Peter Brown and Robert Rans, "Material Girl" is a song that Madonna has had a love/hate relationship for the better part of two decades.  After her Who’s That Girl Tour of 1987, she even declared that she would never perform the song in concert again, but actually has included the song in her live shows as late as last year. The video was directed by Mary Lambert who went on to direct both Pet Sematary movies.

The clip’s obvious inspiration was Marilyn Monroe and her film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes from 1953.  Me and my friends, like most of you here, have always been trivia fanatics. We were watching this video once around the time of its release and my pal, Rob Savage, turned to me and said "the creepy dude with the beard’s brother in real life is the main dude from Revenge of the Nerds." This is the kind of useless crap that excited(s) us!

In other trivia news, the backing band on the hit was essentially Chic, with Nile Rodgers on guitar, Bernard Edwards on bass and Tony Thompson on drums. Rodgers also produced the album which this song is named after.

1. Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon

I had the 45 single for this song that my dad bought for me at the flea market where this creepy hippie dude who would sell bootlegs for really decent prices. Through this guy, I discovered a lot of bands that I probably wouldn’t have looked out for on my own. The funny thing was, whenever I would buy a record from a band like REO Speedwagon or April Wine, he would make these offhand comments under his breath. What can I say? I never found a power ballad hook I didn’t like! Start the song off with a simple piano figure, add a vocal part during the first verse and have the rest of the band kick in with a little bit of compressed distortion and you nailed it! Kevin Cronin struck AOR gold a few times with this formula. The video is a completely different story! Wow! The thing you see is a baby which then fades into Cronin’s grill which is kind of a bad idea actually. The rest of the video is marred by more questionable artistic calls. I think even Dennis DeYoung cringed when he saw this!

THANKS SO MUCH JASON!

Hell, no – thank YOU, Carlos, for deftly attacking the charts this week!  You pulled up a bunch of fascinating facts – loved the WPLJ tidbit and remember when they did the same for Donny Osmond’s "Soldier Of Love" – and gave your best shot at defending Phil Collins!  Excellent work – thanks, everyone, for reading and downloading, and we’ll see you back here next week for another CHART ATTACK!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 25

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

mellowgoldlogo.jpg

Greetings to you, Mellow Gold-ians, and thank you for your patience as I manage my absolutely wiggidy-whack schedule. We’re back, and wimpier than ever! (Well, maybe not ever, but still…pretty wimpy.)

I threw you guys a clue yesterday:

The next Mellow Gold covers a track with a chorus that is meant to be a reassurance of love, but in truth, comes off more as a threat.

A few guesses were made, the most impressive being Matthew’s guess of “If You Leave Me Now.” (The least impressive? A tie between “More Than Words,” by Jessica and “I Touch Myself” by Pete.) Matthew, that’s a great Mellow Gold song, but it’s not the one I’m thinking of.

Dr. Hook – A Little Bit More (download)

I’m-a be honest with you: before this entry, I didn’t know a damn thing about Dr. Hook. I had heard of Dr. Hook as a kid, but naturally thought it was a person, not a group, and so I always got them confused with:

and:

aaaaaand:

It turns out, though, that the real Dr. Hook looks like….well…a hillbilly family getting their picture taken at the local Sears.

Stare at this picture closely, folks. For once, I’m not going to be snarky. I don’t need to, do I? This photo speaks for itself. Oh, and they also thought this cover was a good idea:

The biography of Dr. Hook is an interesting one, I’ll admit. But my time is precious these days, and would I forgive myself in the morning if I spent too much time relaying the history of these gentlemen, who in the above photo look like they’re caught in some odd Mummenschanz-meets-refrigerator-repairmen nightmare? Allmusic has a great bio if you’re interested, but if you’re not, here are Five Not-So-Interesting Facts About Dr. Hook.

1. Two Lead Singers, Three Eyes. The vocal and guitar duties were shared by Dennis Locorriere and Ray Sawyer. Sawyer wore an eye patch due to some injuries stemming from a car accident in the late ’60s. I’m not sure who sings lead on “A Little Bit More” – I think it’s Locorriere – but since I think it’s funnier to make the pirate sing it, I’m sticking with Sawyer. Don’t correct me if I’m wrong.

2. Dr. Hook Was Shel’s Light In The Attic. Shel Silverstein wrote all the music for their first album, the self-titled Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show (they later shortened their name), which included (but was not limited to) their famous “The Cover Of The Rolling Stone” and “Sylvia’s Mother.” Although he didn’t write “A Little Bit More,” he had heard the song on an album by songwriter Bobby Gosh and suggested Dr. Hook include it on one of their albums.

3. They Had Awkward Album Titles. Sloppy Seconds and Belly Up are just two.

4. They Impressed Clive Davis. The band bombarded Davis in his office and serenaded him with an impromptu concert, which secured their record deal. When Clive Davis eventually dies and they do a retrospective of his career, expect Dr. Hook to “accidentally” go unmentioned.

5. Did I Mention The Singer Wears An Eye Patch?

If I seem a little disinterested in Dr. Hook’s biography, it’s true. All I’m interested in is their contribution to Mellow Gold. And friends, these guys wrote some mellow shit. I know at least a few of you (Mike and Dave, I’m looking in your general direction) are wondering why I’m not covering “Sharing The Night Together.” Don’t worry, it’ll be covered here in due time, I promise.

So here’s my theory on Dr. Hook: They’re not really a mellow band. I don’t believe that their mellow hits were representative of their true emotions. They didn’t curl up into the fetal position on a nightly basis, like our friends Dan Hill or Paul Davis. I fully believe that the gentlemen in Dr. Hook were brilliant opportunists: they saw the reaction these other groups were getting from the wuss rock, and thought, “well, if these guys can get pussy…” Much like the jock who enters the senior musical in high school and pushes the master thespian to the sidelines, Dr. Hook set their sites on a collision course for Mellow Boulevard.

You know “A Little Bit More” is heading for Wimpsville fast within the first few seconds of the song. There’s some limp-wristed electric guitar, which is completely invalidated anyway by those smooth, dulcet keyboard tones. (I’d bet that early mixes of this song didn’t have any electric guitar at all, and it was only added after the guitarist threatened to walk out and join Sneaker.) The rest of the song follows suit: light acoustic guitar, those keyboards, and just a little electric thrown in to shut the guy up. Oh, did I mention the strings? Shit, yes: strings all over the goddamn place. And I’m pretty sure I heard a flute. A fucking flute! Dr. Hook, you’re shameless. I see through this ploy.

But did the women see through this ploy? That’s the question. I’d like to believe that they did, because, well, Dr. Hook were a lot of things (or maybe they weren’t; as you can see, I haven’t bothered to do my research on who they were), but subtle, they weren’t. At least not lyrically. Let’s review, mmkay? We’ll start, as Dr. Hook do, with the chorus.

When your body’s had enough of me
And I’m layin’ flat out on the floor
When you think I’ve loved you all I can
I’m gonna love you just a little bit more

….and that’s all we need. See you next week on Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Just kidding. But really, isn’t this enough? Look at that first line: “When your body’s had enough of me.” That’s classic. I mean, shouldn’t the line after that be “I’m going to leave you alone?” or, at the very least, “I”m going to disconnect the phone so you don’t call the police?” But remember, friends: Dr. Hook were mellow poseurs. The chorus gives it away. I mean, it’s not really about her, is it? Sawyer’s saying, “when you’re sick and tired of all my one-eyed bullshit, too freakin’ bad! You’re getting more! I don’t care if we’re both exhausted!”

Dr. Hook were committed to the poon, you gotta give them that much.

(A little off-topic: listen to the chorus: doesn’t it sound like he’s saying “when YOU’VE think I’ve loved you all I can?” I’ve listened about 10 times and I just can’t physically listen anymore. My body’s had enough of the chorus and I’m layin’ flat out on the floor.)

These lyrics get better, believe it or not. Because now, Sawyer’s settin’ the scene. Somebody call the Mellow Gold Players! Verse one:

Come on over here, and lay by my side
I’ve got to be touching you
Let me rub your tired shoulders
the way I used to do

Ooooh! Point for Sawyer! Well done, my man! You almost lost her with the “touching you” phrase, but got it back with the massage tactic, almost as if to say, “what, you think I’m some kind of perv? I just want to give you a massage! Geeez!” I can’t help but wonder if I somehow subliminally learned this move from Dr. Hook. (It rarely works. Okay, it never works.)

Look into my eyes, and give me that smile
the one that always turns me on

Girl: My smile turns you on? Uh, okay? (gives awkward, full-toothed smile)

And let me take your hair down
cause we’re staying up to greet the sun

Girl: Wait, wait, we’re doing what? Wait a min….oh no!

See, at this point, Sawyer’s jumped on top of her. He perfectly executed a Mellow sneak attack: let’s pretend that I just want to rub your shoulders (thanks for the tip, England Dan!), and once your guard’s down, so is my zipper! You’ve just fallen straight into Dr. Hook’s Patented All-Nite Lovemaking Trap!™

During chorus #2, the poor gal’s just gasping for breath here and there. Silly girl. First of all, didn’t the swirling strings give you any indication that this guy was serious about seducing you? And secondly, didn’t your mother tell you to never go home with a guy wearing an eye patch? Luckily, she breaks away for a minute…prompting Sawyer to follow through on the second verse.

Got to say a few things that have been on my mind,
and you know where my mind has been

Girl: Yes. Thank you. You haven’t made it completely freaking obvious.

I guess I’ve learned my lessons
and now is the time to begin

(I don’t even know what the hell this means.)

So if you’re feeling alright, and you’re ready for me,
I know that I’m ready for you

Girl: Good. I was concerned. (grabs her coat, goes for the door)

We’d better get it on now,
’cause we’ve got a whole life to live through

Excuse me for a second.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

(deep breath)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Congratulations, Dr. Hook: NOW you’re Mellow Gold! See, before, I just didn’t feel you were really desperate. But with a line like “we’d better get it on now ’cause we’ve got a whole life to live through,” I can actually smell the desperation on your gigantic collar. (Unless that’s Old Spice.) I knew you’d get there – we just had to see how pathetic you could actually get, and I think I speak for all of us when I say you’ve really exceeded our expectations. Seriously, the only way you can get any lamer is by going with “But I’m dying of polio!”

Final chorus: I’m envisioning this poor girl crawling on the floor, desperately trying to get out. I think she actually makes it out. Thank God Ambrosia was caught in traffic!

And just like that, the song’s over. Let’s take a quick second to bask in the absurdity of this lame-ass attempt at seduction.

One final point before I sign off for today, and I thank Mike for bringing this up: there’s no shortage of bands like Dr. Hook these days – bands who don’t have the convictions of their passions and resort to cheap tactics to get women in the sack. But what if it all started with Dr. Hook? Is it possible? Maybe Dr. Hook begat Extreme, who begat Dave Matthews, who begat John Mayer who begat Jason Mraz who eventually, in some perverted way, begat Fall Out Boy. Sends chills up your spine, don’t it?

That’ll do it for this week. Expect us to revisit The Hook sometime in the future. Thanks for reading, and as always, see you next time for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!