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Archive for March, 2007


Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Between performances of my show and rehearsals for the next Evil Prince Ludwig gig at the Bitter End, I have had precious little time for writing.  My hope is to get Mellow Gold up tomorrow.  Cross your wussy fingers.

A hint for you, though: 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.  Guesses?

CHART ATTACK! #23: 3/14/92

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Note from Jason:  We’re into week three of me pawning my work off onto others our guest-written Chart Attack! series!  Sure, we all know Robert from his astute post comments – you know, the ones that are sometimes longer than the original posts – but did you know the man posts hysterical pop culture commentary all the time on his own blog, Mulberry Panda 96?   Add him to your blog feed, and let’s give him a big welcome as he graces us with his special brand of snark + TMI and attacks March 14, 1992!

10.  Good For Me – Amy Grant
9.  Diamonds And Pearls – Prince & The N.P.G.
  Amazon iTunes
8.  Tell Me What You Want Me To Do – Tevin Campbell  Amazon iTunes
7.  Masterpiece – Atlantic Starr  Amazon iTunes
6.  I Love Your Smile – Shanice  Amazon iTunes
5.  Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton  Amazon iTunes
4.  Save The Best For Last – Vanessa Williams  Amazon iTunes
3.  Remember The Time – Michael Jackson  Amazon iTunes
2.  I’m Too Sexy – Right Said Fred  Amazon iTunes
1.  To Be With You – Mr. Big  Amazon iTunes

Allow me to jerk you back to the ’90s, the decade I graduated from high school, graduated from college, and watched as my hair started to graduate from my head. And shortly after the week of March 14, 1992, I kissed a girl for the first time! Yeah! High five! High five! You in the back, gimme some! Wooo! Sure, I was already 16, but I’m a late bloomer in lots of ways (except for the graduating hair).

This entry of Chart Attack! marks the closest we’ve gotten so far to the present day, just as 1992 marks the last year that I was truly aware of what was new and popular on the radio. Geez, 1992, when did you get so old?

10. Good For Me — Amy Grant (download)

No, you’re good for me, you magnificent Christian songbird!

I genuinely like "Good For Me" (which peaked at #8), as well as "Every Heartbeat" and "Baby Baby," all of which were big hits for Amy Grant, but they didn’t work their magic for me back in 9th and 10th grade. No, it took until just a few years ago for me to realize these are simply good examples of shiny mainstream pop. Just like household pets and small children, I too like shiny things, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Grant, as you’re probably aware, started out as a teenage CCM (contemporary Christian music) artist in the ’70s, but in the mid-’80s she started to cross over into pop territory and quickly found success with "The Next Time I Fall," a #1 duet with Peter Cetera. "Good for Me" is from Grant’s 1991 album Heart in Motion, a more-popular-than-Jesus success that generated five Top 40 singles in a little over a year, four of which reached the Top 10 (they also happen to be the first four tracks on the album).

Check out "Good For Me’s" guitar-and-organ duel at the 2:35 mark. See, the organ represents the Lord, and the electric guitar represents the Devil. Which will you choose, Amy?! Predictably, it’s a tie—the organ throws two nice jabs, but so does the guitar. The cosmic ballet goes on …

9. Diamonds and Pearls — Prince and the New Power Generation
Does anyone else remember 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls being somewhat of a comeback for Prince? It’s not like Mr. Prolific had gone anywhere or witnessed a huge drop in sales, but his three previous albums—the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack (1990), the Batman soundtrack (1989), and Lovesexy (1988)—were seen as critical and/or commercial disappointments. And even though no one was pretending that Diamonds and Pearls was another Purple Rain (1984) or Sign “O” the Times (1987), it generally received a pass from the critics and racked up four Top 40 singles (including the #1 "Cream"), the most from any Prince album besides Purple Rain.

Diamonds and Pearls introduced Prince’s Revolution replacements, the New Power Generation, although they had already made their film debut in Graffiti Bridge as members of his character’s band. The title track reached #3 on the pop chart (#1 on the R&B chart) and is something of a duet between Prince and Rosie Gaines, a singer and keyboardist in the NPG. I’ve always liked "Diamonds and Pearls," and unlike "Gett Off" and "Cream," there’s no dirty talk in it, so it’s safe for the kids. The closing lines—"There will be the time / When everything will shine / So bright it makes you color-blind"—do make me wonder if, somewhere in his past, Prince was rejected by a close-minded, materialistic white girl (certainly not my fellow Georgia native Amy Grant, so don’t even think it).

8. Tell Me What You Want Me to Do — Tevin Campbell
Back to the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack for a second: it featured Tevin Campbell’s first solo hit, "Round and Round," which was written and produced by Prince. Earlier in 1990 Campbell had a #1 R&B hit with "Tomorrow (A Better You, a Better Me)," a cover/update of a 1976 Brothers Johnson instrumental that was featured on Quincy Jones’s Back on the Block (1989). So who added the lyrics for then-12-year-old Campbell to sing? Siedah Garrett, Michael Jackson’s backing vocalist on 1987’s "I Just Can’t Stop Loving You" and recent Best Song Oscar nominee for Dreamgirls’ "Love You I Do."

There’s not much to say about "Tell Me What You Want Me to Do," which is why I’m talking about other Campbell songs, but it does have some nice Mellow Gold elements. Start with the title. Be a man, Tevin! Don’t let this girl tell you what to do! Oh, wait … she’s crying. Does she cry a lot? All the time, you say? Yeah, my high school girlfriend used to do that. Drove me crazy. Sometimes I just wanted to say, "Look, tell me what you—" … ohhhhhh … now I see where you’re coming from.

But the song’s still pretty dull.

In April of ’91, Campbell appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a teenage R&B star named "Little T." (For God’s sake, Fresh Prince producers, let the young man stretch!) In this not-so-special episode, Campbell sings "Happy Birthday" to Will’s cousin Ashley and then asks her out on her first date. (For those who aren’t interested in Master Campbell’s thespian pursuits, there’s a really dumb Duran Duran joke at the 6:20 mark, so wait for it.)


You know, a girl’s first date can leave a lasting impression on her for the rest of her life. The memories she takes with her and the lessons she learns can influence her self-esteem as well as the way she looks at her subsequent romantic interests. Therefore when Campbell was arrested in 1999 for soliciting oral sex from an undercover male police officer, I bet the Fresh Prince’s cousin died a little on the inside. I can symphathize, Ashley. How do you think I felt when the girl who gave me my first kiss turned out to be a completely different person?

Damn you and your sneaky Mission: Impossible-style masks, Mr. Vice-President! (In hindsight the saggy breasts made perfect sense, of course.) "Tell Me What You Want Me to Do" peaked at #6 on the pop chart but was a #1 smash on the R&B chart.

7. Masterpiece — Atlantic Starr
Two weeks ago Matthew Bolin wrote about Atlantic Starr’s "Secret Lovers" for his edition of Chart Attack! "Masterpiece" was the band’s third (and last) Top 10 hit, but—correct me if I’m wrong—it hasn’t had the staying power of "Secret Lovers" and 1987’s "Always" on Lite FM and R&B oldies stations. Or maybe it’s just an earworm that hasn’t worked its way into my brain the way those other two have.

Like previous Atlantic Starr hits, "Masterpiece" is another drippy ballad. As I type this, it’s dripping several unidentified fluids all over my computer, my desk, and my Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Thanks a lot, A.S.! Or should I blame Kenny Nolan? He wrote the song. But guess what he cowrote in the ’70s with Bob Crewe? Well, for starters, LaBelle’s "Lady Marmalade." Hey, you’re not so bad after all, Kenny! (I just watched Carlito’s Way again recently, and "Lady Marmalade" is used masterfully near the end of that movie. But is Carlito’s Way a Brian De Palma masterpiece? Cahiers du Cinema called it the best movie of the ’90s. It’s never dripped anything on me, and that’s a good place to start, in my opinion.)

Nolan also wrote and performed "I Like Dreamin’," which can be found on Super Hits of the ’70s: Have a Nice Day, Vol. 19 alongside Alan O’Day’s "Undercover Angel," Mary MacGregor’s "Torn Between Two Lovers," and David Soul’s "Don’t Give Up on Us." Yet another treasure trove of Mellow Gold—how can we ever repay you, Rhino Records?

"Masterpiece" reached #3 on both the pop and R&B charts.

6. I Love Your Smile — Shanice (download)
Early last year I turned to Love 100.3 here in Chicago and heard "I Love Your Smile." I had sort of a déjà vu moment—I wasn’t sure when I’d last heard the song, and I couldn’t remember a particular instance of hearing it 14 years prior, but it immediately screamed "10th grade" to me. Sure enough, it was a hit in early ’92.

I really like "I Love Your Smile," but its sky-high cheese content must have escaped the attention of the American Dairy Council. I give you Exhibit A: "My boss is lame, you know / And so is the pay / I’m gonna put that new black mini on my charge anyway / ‘Cause I love your smile." Shanice, just as a man shouldn’t be able to buy your love, you shouldn’t go into major credit-card debt to win his love. Besides, his primary objective is to get you naked, so why spring for new clothes?

The song’s lyrics are easily forgiven, however. Shanice was barely 18 when she cowrote and recorded "I Love Your Smile," and the feeling of teenage romantic euphoria that she brings to the song is what makes it so memorable. Branford Marsalis’s light-jazz saxophone solo also helps, as does Narada Michael Walden’s sunny production.

"I Love Your Smile" spent three weeks at #2 on the pop chart but four weeks at #1 on the R&B chart. Shanice had another Top 10 pop hit in early ’93 with "Saving Forever for You," which was featured on the Beverly Hills, 90210 soundtrack. Click on that link and check out who else was on this compilation: Paula Abdul; Color Me Badd; Vanessa Williams (we’ll get to her in a second) and Brian McKnight duetting on the Top 5 hit "Love Is"; Jody Watley; contractually bound Giant Records recording artists Geoffrey Williams (a personal favorite from the early ’90s), Jeremy Jordan (I love how allmusic.com’s Matt Collar describes Jordan’s single "The Right Kind of Love" as having a "Todd Rundgren-meets-Andy Gibb melodic hook" that "almost qualifies it as a classic of the decade"—’tis true!), and Tara Kemp; and, last but not least …

The cosmic ballet goes on …

5. Tears in Heaven — Eric Clapton

Originally featured on the soundtrack to the Jennifer Jason Leigh-Jason Patric movie Rush (1991), for which Eric Clapton composed the score, "Tears in Heaven" was written in memory of Clapton’s son, Conor, who died at the age of four in March of ’91 when he fell out of a window on the 53rd floor of a New York City apartment building. Rush was a flop, but "Tears in Heaven" certainly wasn’t, peaking at #2 for four weeks and winning Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammys in ’93; Clapton’s Unplugged album, which featured a live version of the song, won Album of the Year.

"Tears in Heaven" was all over the radio in ’92, which led many people to wish that the song itself would go to heaven and never come back, but it’s impossible not to be affected in some way by Clapton’s musical expression of his grief. That being said, did you ever see the "Teardrop Award" sketch on Mr. Show?


Comedy = tragedy + time, so it’s a good thing that in March of ’92 this sketch was still six and a half years away from being created. While we’re on the subject of Mr. Show, may I also recommend "The Audition"? The writing on that show is hard to beat.

4. Save the Best for Last — Vanessa Williams
In 1991 Vanessa Williams released her second album, The Comfort Zone. It contained a smart, slick, gender-reversed cover of the Isley Brothers’ classic "Work to Do" (one of my all-time favorites despite the sexist lyrics, which were already out of touch by the early ’70s) and a nice ballad called "Just for Tonight." But it also contained this overplayed number, which hit #1 on the pop, R&B, adult contemporary, and airplay ("overplayed" isn’t just a matter of opinion here, you see) charts.

"Save the Best for Last" contains the line "Sometimes the sun goes ’round the moon." I’m no science expert, but I’m 99.9% sure that’s not possible, Vanessa. Stop screwing around with the cosmic ballet!

The rest of "Save the Best for Last" boils down to this: "I’ve always loved you and wanted to be with you, but you only saw me as your best friend. So there I’d sit and listen to you whine about all the other girls you were going out with when you could’ve been going out with me. Finally, as Todd Rundgren might say, you saw the light and realized, ‘Wait a second … my best friend is Vanessa Williams! And she’s so much hotter than all these other girls I’ve been with! I mean, it’s a little cocky of her to call herself "the best," but … wait, what am I saying?! Why am I even having this internal monologue? Vanessa Williams is standing right in front of me! She was in that movie with Schwarzenegger! I loved that movie! Hey, how come she’s Vanessa L. Williams when she’s in movies? Hmm … is it because of that other actress named Vanessa Williams who was on the first season of Melrose Place? I should look that up on IMDB. Gee, I hope my Vanessa won’t mind if I turn my back on her for a couple minutes so I can look at another Vanessa on the Internet. I mean, if she’s waited this long for me, she can wait two more minutes, am I right? Of course I’m right. Okay, logging on … let’s see … hey, here’s something interesting—my Vanessa was in the movie Soul Food, and this other Vanessa was in the Soul Food TV series. I wonder if my Vanessa already knows that— … hey, where’d she go? … wow, I guess she couldn’t wait two more minutes.’"

3. Remember the Time — Michael Jackson
Remember the time when Michael Jackson was getting weirder and paler but wasn’t yet being accused of molesting little boys? We all thought Michael was being silly describing his skinny, high-pitched self as "dangerous," especially after telling Wesley Snipes how "bad" he was in that Martin Scorsese video, but look what happened. We can’t say Jacko didn’t warn us.

Just like those Amy Grant songs, I didn’t care much for "Remember the Time" back in ’92, but a few months ago I heard it again and now I love it. It has a great chorus that conveys aching nostalgia, nagging regret, and oh-my-God-that-was-my-last-shot-at-happiness paranoia all at once, and it features a mostly vocal-tic-free performance from Jackson. I still think the John Singleton-directed video, costarring Eddie Murphy, Iman, and Magic Johnson, was overblown, but did we expect anything less from the Gloved One in that department? Nope.

In January of ’92, Jackson’s Dangerous was replaced at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart by Nirvana’s Nevermind, in some ways signaling the real beginning of the ’90s in terms of the industry’s long-term trends. Written by Jackson, Bernard Belle, and new jack swing architect Teddy Riley, "Remember the Time" peaked at #3 on the pop chart but spent two weeks at #1 on the R&B chart.

2. I’m Too Sexy — Right Said Fred

In 10th grade I taped this song off the "I’m Too Sexy" cassingle, which a friend from my church youth group had let me borrow. (The B side was the Spanish version of the song, which begins with "Soy tan sexy que mi amor….") On my tape "I’m Too Sexy" is immediately followed by the Beatles’ "Martha My Dear," so whenever I hear the ending of the song now, I expect the opening piano chords of "Martha My Dear" to come next.

But Right Said Fred and the Beatles are also connected in the wonderful world of music trivia: "I’m Too Sexy" was RSF’s debut single in the U.S. and it went all the way to #1, the first time a British band had accomplished that feat since the Beatles did it with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in 1964. And according to allmusic.com’s Stephen "Spaz" Schnee, judging Right Said Fred solely on the merits of "I’m Too Sexy" would be like hearing the Beatles for the first time by way of "Yellow Submarine" and thinking, That must be what all their records sound like. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there probably isn’t anything equivalent to "A Day in the Life" or Abbey Road‘s side-two suite in RSF’s discography (yet).

Does anyone else remember "Don’t Talk Just Kiss," the U.S. follow-up to "I’m Too Sexy"? It didn’t make it into the Top 40, but it did get airplay. Much like "I’m Too Sexy," it’s fun but even more disposable, and I bet it sounded really good in dance clubs in the spring of ’92 if you were drunk and horny (the two generally go together), especially the chorus: "Don’t talk just kiss / We’re beyond words and sound / Don’t talk just kiss / Let your tongue fool around."

By the way, Fred was the guitarist; his brother Richard was the singer. "I’m Too Sexy," which will obviously be the lead in their obituaries, spent three weeks at #1.

1. To Be With You — Mr. Big
Was this the last gasp for hair-metal power ballads before grunge and alternative music shifted the whole damn paradigm for the remainder of the ’90s? (Sorry if you were more hard rock than hair metal, Mr. Big, and there’s not a lot of "power" in your acoustic triumph, but I’m still going to lump you into this category for the time being.) If that’s the case, it’s not a bad way to go out; I like the "Official 1992 Summer Camp Singalong" quality of "To Be With You." Lyrically, it flips the point of view of "Save the Best for Last"—in this case, Mr. Big is hoping his female best friend will save him for last. Actually, "best friend" doesn’t sound quite right. How about "underage groupie"? Now we’re talkin’! Yeah! High five! Wooo!

"To Be With You" was the San Francisco band’s largest hit (see what I did there?), holding the #1 position on the pop chart for three weeks. (Strangely, it didn’t even make a dent on the R&B chart. Your loss, black Americans!) They returned to the Top 40 a couple more times, but thanks in part to that whole "shifting paradigm" thing I mentioned, Mr. Big’s days of arena rockin’ were on the wane. But you know what else was responsible for Mr. Big’s marketplace shrinkage? I’ll tell you what:

Oh sure, call me a bitter ex-boyfriend, but I have my sources. The real "Mr. Big" has wielded his power over the years in ways you could never imagine. Follow the money, music lovers. Follow the money.

Well, that’s it for this week of Chart Attack! Thank you, Jason, for the opportunity to stroll down memory lane.

Thanks again, Robert, for attacking the charts so deftly, although if that hook from "I Love Your Smile" doesn’t leave my head by this evening, I’m deleting this post.  Everybody, don’t forget to check out Robert’s blog Mulberry Panda 96, and come back next week for our fourth – and last – guest-written CHART ATTACK!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 24

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007


So I’m guessing that you saw my shameless self-promotion earlier this week for my new show, Postcards From A Dead Dog, which had a great opening last night. Well, believe it or not, I’ve found a way to connect my new show to this edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Henry Gross – Shannon (download)

“Shannon” is a Mellow Gold classic recommended to me by woofpop and Dave P, who both separately agreed that it’s one of the wimpiest songs they’ve ever heard. It also has the distinction of being one of the biggest Beach Boys ripoffs ever recorded, but we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s fill you in on a bit of Henry Shannon history.

Henry Gross: stealing outfits from Dave Mason since 1970.

Born on April Fool’s Day in 1951, Henry Gross began performing at an early age, influenced by his mother, who had performed with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. By the time he was 13, Gross was featured at Catskill Mountain resorts during the summers, and even performed at the 1964 World’s Fair. Upon enrolling at Brooklyn College in 1969, Gross co-founded a band you may recall: Sha Na Na. Sha Na Na became famous after their performance at Woodstock, and Gross had the distinction of being the youngest performer at the festival. However, Gross left the band by 1970 (presumably infuriated by the flamboyant, homosexual advances of Bowser) and ventured off to start a solo career.

Gross released two albums, Henry Gross and Plug Me Into Something (I love that title!). The wiki states that these albums “had several large regional hits.” I don’t know what that means. Does that mean that his song “Skin King” (I don’t love that title!) was big in McClusky, North Dakota? Did Benny Mardones have some competition in Syracuse when Gross released “Come On Say It?” I don’t have the answers to these questions. All I know is that Gross’s career-defining moment was the one involving “Shannon.”

Henry Gross and (his) Shannon:
They not only shared love, but a haircut as well.

Now, we’ve already stated that “Shannon” is, essentially, a Beach Boys song that just happens to be missing the Beach Boys. But I’m not just talking about the music. See, while promoting his first album, Gross had toured with the Beach Boys, and became close with Carl Wilson. One day, while visiting with Wilson, Gross mentioned he had an Irish Setter at home named Shannon, to which Wilson replied that he, too, had an Irish Setter named Shannon!…except she had been hit by a car and died!

awkward silence

One day, Gross was sitting on his bed with HIS Shannon, and while listening to a record entitled The Ultimate Seashore, was inspired to write a song dedicated to Wilson and the loss of his precious Irish Setter. Which, of course, prompted Gross’s Shannon to say, “I’m right here! I CAN HEAR YOU! What the fuck??” Oh, Shannon, if only you could understand: the love for a canine simply cannot match the love for a Beach Boy. (Unless it’s Mike Love. He sucks.)

Gross desperately wanted Wilson to record backing vocals for “Shannon,” but it never happened. (I can’t help but wonder if Wilson was thinking, “Uh, maybe you should have written this for, y’know, your dog?” but I’m sure he was honored nonetheless.) So instead, Gross did the next best thing, and found as many Beach Boys-esque vocalists as he could to record the song. (Prompting Sha Na Na to say, “I’m right here! I CAN HEAR YOU! What the fuck??”) “Shannon” resonated with the record-buying public, and spent a full month in the Top 10, peaking at #6 in June of ’76.

When I first heard “Shannon,” I was blown away. Not because of the lyrical content, but because I just couldn’t believe that the Wilsons didn’t sue the polyester slacks off of Gross for copyright infringement. The song is great, and Gross has a gentle, beautiful voice – but listen to those backing vocals. This is a Beach Boys song through and through, from the Carl falsetto to the California-twinged vocal. (Henry Gross was from Brooklyn, by the way.) You may also notice that there’s no bridge. I don’t think it mattered to Gross – he got those harmonies locked down and realized (correctly) that the song needed nothing more than a few chords and those blatant Beach Boys influences.

Lyrically, the song’s quite interesting, mainly because it’s not necessarily apparent that the song is about the death of a dog.

Another day’s at end
Mama says she’s tired again
No one can even begin to tell her
I hardly know what to say
But maybe it’s better that way
If Papa were here I’m sure he’d tell her

Okay, so at this point, I have no idea what’s going on. In fact, if anything, Gross has confused the matter more by introducing a dead father into the plot. We soon find out that this has absolutely nothing to do with the song. I’m sitting here trying to figure out why he’d even mention it: “Hmmm…dead dog = sensitive, but dead dog + dead dad = Mellow Gold!” I honestly don’t know.

Shannon is gone, I heard
She’s drifting out to sea
She always loved to swim away
Maybe she’ll find an island with a shaded tree
Just like the one in our backyard

You know, I’m still not convinced that this is a dog. Couldn’t it also be about a stoned hippie? “Yeah, man, y’know, she, like, really dug….trees.”

But it wasn’t just that the lyrics were ambiguous. Have you listened to Gross’s vocal? What I hear in the vocal is, interestingly enough, similar to Gary Larson’s famous Far Side cartoon, “What Dogs Hear“:

Shannon is wah wah wah
She’s wah wah wah to sea
Wah wah wah wah wah swim away

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to introduce the man who invented the word WAIL (and may have inspired the word BLEAT). I mean, you can tell that this is the kind of man who weeps when his Corn Flakes get soggy. If that weren’t enough, we have further proof that Henry Gross was the ultimate wuss: he’s wailing, bleating and weeping over someone else’s dog. He never even met Carl Wilson’s dog!
(If I were Gross’s Shannon, I probably would have thrown myself under the milk truck.)

Either way, writing a song about a dead dog is not only a wimpy, Mellow Gold move, but a smart one, as well: I’m sure that this song has become an integral part of many a doggie funeral, and I’d also be willing to bet there a number of Shannons out there who are forced to explain that yes, they were named after a Beach Boy’s dog. We can only hope that Henry Gross’s canine eulogy continues to earn him a few bucks now and then.

There’s another person who will never forget “Shannon,” by the way: Casey Kasem. Many of our readers will remember the famous “Casey Kasem Goes Fucking Bezerk” clip that has been in circulation for the past two decades, but you may not know that Kasem’s diatribe was about Gross’s tune.

For those who aren’t familiar, the basic story goes like this: in 1985, Kasem was recording an episode of American Top 40. “Dare Me” by the Pointer Sisters had just played, and Kasem’s producers set up one of the famous “Long Distance Dedications” for him to record immediately afterwards. Kasem had to dedicate “Shannon” to a man who had recently lost his dog Snuggles, and…well, why don’t you just listen to the clip, which is definitely not safe for work:


I’ve listened to that clip hundreds of times in the past 10 years, and it just keeps getting better and better.

Anyway, as with many of our Mellow Gold artists, Henry Gross never matched the success he had with “Shannon.” His follow-up single, “Springtime Mama,” sold “just short of gold,” according to the wiki, but again, that could mean just about anything. Thankfully, Gross seems to have a sense of humor about his success, and wrote a one-man show entitled One Hit Wanderer.

He’s also filmed a documentary about the show, and both are being shopped around. Check out Henry’s website for more information (as well as the more detailed story of “Shannon,” which involves a dude living upstairs blasting Latin music). Hey, maybe it’s just me, but I would totally check out this show if it came to town.

So when I first found out that I would be performing in Postcards From A Dead Dog – a play that also features the death of an Irish Setter – I figured: what better track to open the play? So I e-mailed the track to Troy, our director, and Jackie, playing my mother. Later that day, we received an e-mail from Jackie:

Troy, Sonny-

Could there be a more perfect song? It’s wonderful. Who the fuck is Henry Gross?

Well, Jackie, now you know who the fuck Henry Gross is. And for any of you that come to see Postcards: as the lights go down and the play begins, you’ll hear the now all-too-familiar gentle guitar strums of “Shannon.” Granted, the song fades out before there’s any real indication of what it is, but the important part is that you’ll know why it’s there. Feel free to shout out your own Casey Kasem-esque diatribe as I walk out on stage!

That’s all for this week! Thanks for indulging me (more so this week than usual), and see you next week for another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!


Monday, March 12th, 2007

I know what you’re thinking: this guy actually does something outside of writing posts about lame music?  It’s a fair question.  Well, this month I intend to prove it with a fantastic new show. 

It’s a one-act play called Postcards From A Dead Dog.  I don’t want to give away too many details about it, but I’ll tell you that it’s a fantastic, funny story about a mother and her son, and their attempts to connect with each other throughout their complicated relationship. (That’s a really oversimplified plot summary, which is why I usually don’t give details.) 

The important thing is that I’m working with an unbelievably gifted team: our director, Troy Miller, and actress Jackie Sydney, who is playing my mother.  We’re all working as members of Emerging Artists Theatre Company.  I’ve been a member of EAT for four years, and it’s been incredibly fulfilling, both creatively and personally.

Run by Artistic Director Paul Adams and an extremely talented staff, EAT is a company devoted to playwright development, and most shows performed have not been featured on a New York stage before.  (See the website if you’re interested in more information.)  Postcards From A Dead Dog is part of EAT’s biannual EATFEST, a collection of one-act plays performing in repertory.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks a lot; I appreciate it.  If you’re anywhere in the NY area and are looking for a great night of theatre, featuring plays you definitely haven’t seen before, please consider spending 90 minutes with us.  And please stick around after the show; I’d love to meet you if I haven’t already.  It opens tomorrow, March 13!



By F.J. Hartland
Directed by Troy Miller
With Jason Hare and Jacqueline Sydney


March 13 – April 1:  Tuesdays and Fridays at 7 PM, Sundays at 2 PM

Theatre 5
311 W. 43rd St  (between 8th and 9th ave)
5th Floor (elevator building!)
Between 8th and 9th Avenue
Paid parking is available on 43rd between 8th and 9th, as well as nearby blocks.  Only a block or so away from 1,2,3,7,A,C,E,N&R trains.

Tickets are $18
Cash, check, or credit card at door, TDF Vouchers accepted
For reservations: 212-247-2429 and reserve for SERIES A

(If you’d like to buy tickets online, you may do so here – however, there’s a $3/ticket service fee.  My recommendation is to call to make a reservation, then just pay at the door.)

All this information, by the way, is also available on the Performance page.  Thanks again!

CHART ATTACK! #22: 3/10/84

Friday, March 9th, 2007

Note from Jason:  Welcome to our second week of guest Chart Attack! posts, written by some of our favorite music bloggers.  Today’s post is by the one and only Kurt of Kurt’s Krap, home of many awesome music posts, and the location of the new WEEK IN ROCK series that’s just taking the Internet by storm!  Please make Kurt feel at home, won’t you, and let’s see how he tackles the week of March 10, 1984!

10.  Karma Chameleon – Culture Club  Amazon iTunes
9.  Footloose – Kenny Loggins  Amazon iTunes
8.  Here Comes The Rain Again – Eurythmics  Amazon iTunes
7.  I Want A New Drug – Huey Lewis and the News  Amazon iTunes
6.  Nobody Told Me – John Lennon   Amazon
5.  Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell  Amazon iTunes
4.  Thriller – Michael Jackson  Amazon iTunes
3.  99 Luftballons – Nena  Amazon iTunes
2.  Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper  Amazon
1.  Jump – Van Halen  Amazon iTunes

When Jason announced that he was looking for a few guest “chart attackers”, being the music/chart geek I am, I jumped at the chance. In fact, if he hadn’t already beaten me to the punch, I would most likely have done something similar for my blog.

I grew up faithfully following the Billboard charts and buying every Joel Whitburn book I could get my hands on. Not a Sunday would go by that I wouldn’t sit glued to the radio, listening to Casey Kasem run down the hits. It amazes me that if I now look at a current top 10 chart, I barely recognize a single tune, which shows either how really out of touch I am or how awful pop music has become. I leave that for you to decide.

By sheer coincidence, Jason sent me this particular week to attack, which is roughly two months before I graduated high school. So, these songs probably hit a little closer to home than most, just for the period of my own life they reflect.

Unless you grew up in this era, you just wouldn’t understand the appeal most of these songs still have. It was such a care free time to be alive and the music certainly reflected it. As I turned the corner on 40, I still listen to so much music from this decade, not out of nostalgia but because they still hold up as good pop tunes. I’m betting that’s something that won’t be said of “London Bridge” or “Sexy Back.”

Before you delve in and read, take a quick second or two to scan the chart itself. Simply classic. There’s nary a song on here that hasn’t become part of the pop culture collective: through commercials, movies and television, or even being sampled for hip-hop.

10. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club  Um, er, uh…hmm. OK. I HATED the first four singles that Culture Club released. I could spend my entire time here speaking of my sheer hatred of songs like “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” (Good God yes!) or the overwhelming wussiness that was “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” (complete with Prince-like short form spelling). But, I’d like Jason to call on me again in the future, so I’ll stick to the topic at hand. “Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon.” Oh God, I will so regret this, but…I actually like this song. In the same way you just cannot resist “Walking On Sunshine,” this is another catchy, toe-tapping goody that not only will I not turn off when it plays on the radio…I will actually notch the volume up a few. Though the lyrics are some of the most unintentionally ironic I ever heard:

I’m a man without conviction
I’m a man who doesn’t know
How to sell a contradiction
You come and go

I don’t even know what the hell that means, but a guy who looks like the Boy (George that is) going “I’m a man” multiple times in a song, all the while dressed like a Jewish hausfrau just gives me the giggles. And yes, I am still that immature. According to the Boy, “the song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. It’s about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.” Again, all this from a man who dresses like a woman. In 1984, America didn’t care and its catchiness helped make it the biggest song of their career, going Gold and spending 3 weeks in February at number one.

9. Footloose – Kenny Loggins
  I have yet to figure out how Kenny went from sensitive 70’s balladeer to King of the 80’s Soundtracks. Gone went the acoustic guitars and in came lots and lots of overproduced synths and bombast.  Unfortunately, unless the song was somehow tied into a movie, poor Kenny couldn’t buy a hit to save his life. So this schlock, along with possibly the most overproduced song of the decade this side of Mutt Lange…Top Gun’s “Danger Zone”…made Kenny a household name. Written by the movie’s screenwriter, Dean Pitchford, all you really need to know about either can be found in the chorus:

Loose, footloose – Kick off your Sunday shoes
Please, Louise – Pull me offa my knees
Jack, get back – C’mon before we crack
Lose your blues – Everybody cut footloose

And really, I ask you, who among us can even hear this song without visions of Kevin Bacon dancing inside a barn?

I think the less said here about the song or the movie, the better.

8. Here Comes The Rain Again – Eurythmics (download)  I’m rarely at a loss for words, especially in the written form. But, I have NO idea what to say here. It’s a great song from an act who is probably more respected now than they were 20 years ago. Along with hits from OMD and Spandau Ballet it’s probably the finest and catchiest synth-driven top 10 tune of the decade. I wish I had more to say, but then I’d just be making stuff up.  (For the future: making stuff up is not only acceptable, but encouraged. – JH)

7. I Want A New Drug – Huey Lewis and the News  Just because the 80’s were carefree doesn’t mean that we didn’t own up to our share of stupidity. Somehow, because this tune had the word “drug” in the title, those who don’t like to think for themselves immediately thought this was a tune glorifying drug use, rather than using their brain for a second and realizing the euphemism involved (women, for those still giving it some thought). Probably the most rocking tune Huey and his News recorded, it was also one of their catchiest (and in a catalog filled with catchy hits, that is actually quite an accomplishment). In fact, the song was so catchy that Ray Parker Jr. copped the melody line for his own hit, “Ghostbusters,” leading Huey to sue for this infringement and eventually settle out of court. I would also like to take this opportunity and state for the record that I miss actual horn sections in pop music.

6. Nobody Told Me – John Lennon (download Even in death, Lennon would continue to release songs that were thousands of times better than most of what passed for pop music.  Initially written for Ringo Starr, after Lennon’s tragic death, Starr just didn’t have the heart to release it and instead, Yoko Ono polished up John’s demo for the posthumous Milk And Honey album. It’s really quite a shame because it would have been the first time in nearly 10 years that all four of the Beatles would have appeared together on a song. I so want to say “cash grab” but this song is just too good. Alas, it was the last time John Lennon would appear in the top 10.  The Beatles, though, would crack it again with "Free As A Bird" in 1995.

5. Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
  Has there ever been an artist more ironically named than Rockwell? He didn’t exactly rock, and if he did, he really didn’t do it all that well. Har har…anyways, this song is admittedly kind of catchy, but that’s probably because of Michael Jackson singing the chorus (which really IS the only good part of the song). It can’t possibly be for the faux-British accent on Kenny Gordy’s rap/sing verses. It’s like listening to Madonna interview Tina Turner. Thankfully, the one and only hit Rockwell would ever have.

4. Thriller – Michael Jackson 
Anyone can write a Christmas tune and have it played on your local lite-FM for the month of December (sometimes, even by accident…just ask Savatage, erm, Trans Siberian Orchestra). But I ask you, how many songs can you name that have become synonymous with Halloween? We’ve got the “Monster Mash.” Um, there’s uh…well, maybe…right. Well, yes, we also have “Thriller.” One of a seven top 10 hits from the album of the same name, I dare any act today to pull off something like that. It was truly a cross-genre smash, with songs charting on the pop, dance, R&B and even rock charts (never mind Eddie Van Halen on “Beat It,” who knew that Toto was basically the backing band for this whole album?).. Again, another feat not likely to be duplicated anytime soon. At 29 million sales and still counting, it may have been displaced by the Eagles’ “Greatest Hits” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” as the all-time sales leader, but I highly doubt it will slip any further. This song, to my knowledge, is the only time actor Vincent Price ever appeared on a Billboard music chart. In a move that’s actually quite mind boggling in retrospect, Vincent decided to choose a lump sum payment of $20,000 rather than a percentage of album sales for his rap. I must admit, knowing everything that we know now (erm, allegedly) about Jacko, I have a hard time listening to any of his music which is too bad because the bottom line was: “Thriller” (both song and album) was among THE finest pop music ever made.

3. 99 Luftballons – Nena  I’m German and even I will be the first to admit that Germany’s contributions to the latter day musical landscape are laughable at best.  We’ve got the Scorpions and Nena (and of course, some really odd fixation with Herr Hasselhoff). Maybe Falco too, if you want to blur that Austrian/Germany border. Inexplicably, not one…but two songs sung entirely in German charted in the 80’s: Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” and “99 Luftballons”. Oddly, Nena would release an English version of this tune that managed to sound even sillier than had they just left it in its native German (and 99 “air” balloons somehow became 99 “red” balloons in the process).  Every time I hear this song now, two things spring to mind: Nena’s arm pit hair and this hysterical dancing scene from Scrubs:


 Like “Karma Chameleon,” it’s irresistible in that “Walking On Sunshine” way, but it doesn’t mean the song is any good. Then again, many of the best pop ear worms are bad.  Weird.

2. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
  As I wound my way through the 80’s, I learned to appreciate a lot of different kinds of music. And, being a ‘tween in the late 70’s, I also developed a healthy appreciation of top 40 pop music. I can admit to liking certain songs by say, oh, Barry Manilow or even Leif Garrett.  But, there are a handful of songs that I reserve for my own private hell. Along with “Mickey” and “Walk Like An Egyptian” is this ditty.  These three songs (and you can throw Cyndi’s own “She Bop” in there too) make me want to jab sharp objects into my ear drums, hoping the coagulating blood will block the incoming sounds. It’s really quite the shame because when you take away the goofiness that she exuded (and don’t even get me going on her connection to wrestling!), Cyndi would go on to record a lot of great music that would never get the respect it deserved, all because people looked at her like some sort of female Pee Wee Herman. Interestingly enough, this tune was penned by Philly musician Robert Hazard who had an early 80’s MTV semi-hit, “Escalator Of Life,” suddenly making the lyrics take on a really weird life of its own.

1. Jump – Van Halen 
In the early 80’s, Van Halen was THE rock band. I can still remember the rock heads in computer class having endless discussions about who was the better guitarist: Eddie Van Halen or Rainbow’s Ritchie Blackmore (hey, we didn’t have the Internet back then!). After the relative disappointment that was Diver Down, Van Halen needed to knock one out of the park. And we all waited for this first single, to hear what sort of heroics Eddie had up his guitar sleeve. Wait, here it comes…wha? WTF is that? A keyboard? Surely this is a joke. Is this the new Duran Duran? Yes, those were the general first reactions to this tune.  Weird now to think, isn’t it? I mean, seriously, this is a fantastic pop song (maybe one of the best ever) and in retrospect, that IS one of the coolest keyboard riffs of all time. It had a sort of deep fullness to it that really hasn’t been duplicated since. I guess all our worries were for naught as the next two singles were “Hot For Teacher” and “Panama”…both pretty hard rocking tracks to chart in this time period.  It’s somewhat depressing to hear this song now, as the band has once again self-destructed in another reunion attempt. It’s enough to make you yearn for Gary Cherone.

Well, my time here is done. Rock on wit yo bad selves…

Thanks so much, Kurt, for a fantastic entry – and probably the only one that will ever utilize the phrase "coagulating blood."  Don’t forget to visit Kurt’s Krap to read some terrific music posts, including the continuing saga of Kurt v. RIAA!  See you next week for our third guest-written CHART ATTACK!