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Archive for April, 2007

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 27

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007


Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back, folks – we all made it to Charlene and back with the most of our dignity intact – and hopefully, without any venereal diseases to show for it!

And, you know, we’re not the only ones with a soft spot for Charlene. Mike pointed out this AP article about Shrek The Third. Notably:

Regis Philbin joins the voice cast as Mabel, another ugly stepsister, while Captain Hook, seen briefly singing a Tom Waits song in “Shrek 2,” advances to a speaking role, with vocals by Ian McShane. There are hordes of others, from palace flunkies to medieval Valley Girls to a Wicked Witch singing Charlene’s sappy 1980s hit “I’ve Never Been to Me” as a torch song.

So remember, everybody: when Charlene makes her big 2007 comeback, we ripped her apart first! But now, it’s time to get back to a song that is definitely a strong – and in my mind, obvious – candidate for Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Climax Blues Band – I Love You (download)

Originally formed in 1968 as the Climax Chicago Blues Band, they dropped the “Chicago” in 1970 so as not to not be confused with, um, Chicago. Which seems weird to me. I can’t imagine anybody coming across an ad for “Climax Chicago Blues Band” and think, “awesome, I love Chicago!,” getting there and going, “wait a minute – where the fuck is Cetera? BOOOO!” No, if anything, I’d think the reason for getting rid of “Chicago” would have been the fact that all members of the band were FROM ENGLAND. And what kind of name is “Climax Blues Band,” anyway? Clearly these guys weren’t concerned with getting laid.

Either way, the band was definitely well-versed in the blues; the AMG states that their early work was reminiscent of John Mayall. (I can neither confirm nor deny, as I don’t give a shit.) The band toured and recorded constantly, releasing a staggering eight albums before finally finding chart success with “Couldn’t Get It Right,” from 1976’s Gold Plated. “Couldn’t Get It Right” was the band’s biggest hit, climbing to #3 in 1977. However, in my mind, their best song was this Mellow Gold classic. (I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not I’ve heard any other Climax Blues Band songs.) The song was written by the band’s guitarist (and eventual bassist) Derek Holt, and sung by him as well. We’ll talk more about Holt in a minute, but first, let’s look at what’s so gloriously Mellow about “I Love You.”

What’s not to love about this song? It’s gentle, it’s pretty, and of course, it’s smooth. Listen to those opening keyboards, fluttering in and out of the right and left speakers, only accompanied by the light bass drum and cymbal. Before you know it, these guys have a nice lil’ groove going. And the chorus? Just beautiful. Nice chord choices, with terrific backing vocals and harmonies. The string section is a great touch – never too obtrusive, especially over the simple lead guitar solo.

Lyrically, the song’s not trying to impress anybody. It’s as simple as the title; just a sweet declaration of love. Of course, I love that opening lyric: “when I was a younger man, I hadn’t a care; foolin’ around, hittin’ the town, growin’ my hair.” Something about that third example has always struck me as lame. Growing your hair is a really passive activity. And the other great lyric is found at the end of the same verse: “oooh babe, you got what it takes, so I made you my wife.” Inconsistent tenses aside, this is a terrific lyric. Why? Well, I’m sure Holt wasn’t thinking it at the time, but hello wedding classic! Do those DJs have to pay royalties? If so, Derek Holt is ridin’ high.

The lyrical sentiment of the song, coupled with the gentle music, are perfect Mellow Gold. No talk about sex in a Chevy Van, no Ambrosia-esque seduction, and no Dan Hill weeping: just love, love, love. I mean, listen to those lyrics: he was a freakin’ drunk, she found him, and they went for a walk! That’s it! I mean, I really don’t believe that anything else happened! And after all of this, what does he do? He thanks her for being a friend! (I can neither confirm nor deny a direct Andrew Gold/Derek Holt correlation, to answer your next question.) You can take that Mellow to the bank, baby.

And that’s really all I have to say about the song from the musical/lyrical standpoint. It’s just a simple, pretty, smooth song. Not much snark, I know, but what can I tell you. It’s a great song. I mean, who doesn’t love this song?

Oh, wait. I know who doesn’t love this song: CLIMAX BLUES BAND.

Plenty of bands have sacrificed a portion of their original sound/vibe and headed towards a smoother, pop-friendlier tone. I’m not saying it was always a deliberate move, but it’s happened. My favorite example, of course, is Styx, who had their biggest hit with 1979’s “Babe,” a song that Tommy Shaw has probably hated every single day of his baby-faced life. However, all these years, Shaw accepted it and dealt with being Dennis DeYoung’s bitch, forced to sing backup on it for every concert with the original group. You might imagine that the guys in Climax Blues Band, all rockers, felt the same way about “I Love You.” And you’d be right.

Holt had written the song all on his own, and had recorded a full demo as well to present to the band. The band heard the song and instantly rejected it, as it was pretty much against anything and everything Climax Blues Band stood for. The band had hired producer John Ryan to work with them on their upcoming album, Flying The Flag, and after hearing the songs they were prepared to record, asked the band if they had any other tracks lying around. Holt pulled out “I Love You.” The rest of the band rolled their eyes, and promptly shit their pants when Ryan declared it would be a smash hit.

Well, you gotta hand it to those guys for sticking to their roots, and their guns: they told Holt to go fuck himself. They literally refused to play on the recording. The version that you’re hearing consists of Holt, drummer John Cuffley and, oddly enough, famous session pianist Nicky Hopkins. Holt played the guitar, the bass, and sang all the backing vocals. The guitar solo was written, note-for-note, by Holt, who somehow convinced/forced guitarist Peter John Haycock to commit it to record. Lead singer Colin Cooper was nowhere to be found.

Ryan then added those pretty strings to the record, at which point the other members of Climax Blues Band must have been searching for painless ways to kill either themselves or Holt. And if you thought that this created an uncomfortable situation for the band, you can imagine how things went down when the Warner Bros. execs showed up and ecstatically went apeshit for “I Love You.”

The song, much to the band’s chagrin, was another huge hit (and their first in four years), reaching #12 and becoming a radio favorite. Warner Bros., of course, wanted the band to go out and promote the single. Too bad, so sad: the rest of the band refused to ever play it live. I mean it. EVER. They never once played it in concert. The band would have preferred to remain a one-hit wonder of sorts than back Holt on his pansy-ass tune. And when you think about it, you have to give them credit for at least staying true to what they believed was the true Climax Blues Band sound.

Clearly an event like this caused plenty of bad blood within the band, and a year later, Holt decided to leave and form his own band, Grand Alliance. Who can blame him? It’s hard to say whether his presence was missed, as Climax Blues Band was a revolving door in terms of members, anyway. After five drummers, five keyboardists, four bassists and three guitarists over their career, the only constant has been Cooper on vocals.

If you’re interested in more information on the band, check out their official website, although it hasn’t been updated in a couple of years. However, it’s there that you’ll find their boast about being included in the Guinness’ Who’s Who Of The Blues, although it hasn’t been confirmed whether this is the same as those targeted letters you received during your junior year about being included in Who’s Who Of College Students. You’ll also find a nifty history page where the current members pretend to give a shit about former members. All we know about Derek Holt is that he “runs a pub in Stafford, where he plays two nights a week.” And remember poor Peter John Haycock, the reluctant soloist on “I Love You?” Here’s what we get about him:

The band refuses to comment on events surrounding Pete’s departure at the end of 1984, with the view that websites are no place to get involved in personal differences.

This is kind of like taking the high road, but not really. I was really hoping they would have included, right afterwards, “but Pete’s a cock.”

And with that, I bid you a fond, mellow farewell for this week – see you next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Important Blogging. For A Cure.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

I love writing about music.  You love reading about music.  We’re a match made in heaven.  But the most fun part of blogging, for me, is in the relationships we create with each other.  Some of those relationships are virtual, some are real-life relationships, and some have morphed into an interesting combination of both.  We spend a lot of time, in these relationships, snarking and discussing music – which is fun as all hell, but at the end of the day, doesn’t change much in the world.

I think we have a chance to do something real.  And I want to take a second to tell you about it.

One of my favorite bloggers is Scott Malchus.  If you don’t read his blog, you should.  Malchus writes about music with as much heart behind it as I’ve ever seen.  My favorite part of his blog is "Basement Songs," where he reminisces about some of his favorite tunes so vividly that you’d swear you grew up next to him.  I don’t know Scott personally – we’ve barely ever e-mailed each other – and yet I feel like I know him.

Scott’s 5 year-old son, Jake, has cystic fibrosis.  Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States.  Read this post – an article about the Malchus family – to get a feel for what it’s like to live with this disease, day-by-day.

The Malchus clan – Scott, Julie, Jake and Sophie – aren’t taking this disease sitting down.  They’re facing it with positive attitudes, and working towards a cure.

As are we!

Jeff Giles came up with a brilliant idea.

Bloggers For A Cure


Here’s the deal: we want to help the Malchus family reach – and hopefully exceed – their goal of raising $2500 for the Great Strides walk for Cystic Fibrosis in Valencia, CA on June 2, 2007.  If you make a donation, you’ll not only be showing that the blogging community can make a difference, but you’ll also be entered in the running for some fantastic prizes (including a 250GB hard drive full of music from the Jefito Collection, which is music nerd porn if ever there were such a thing).

So what are you waiting for?  Let’s help the Malchus family – and all those who have been affected – beat cystic fibrosis!

Bloggers For A Cure is a joint effort, led by Jeff Giles, and comprised of:

T-Sides | Py Korry | The Lovely Mrs. Davis Tells You What to Think | Mulberry Panda 96 | Lost in the ’80s | Jeff Vrabel | I Like Your Crappy Band | Jason Hare | Down With Snark! | You Must Be From Away | Kurt’s Krap | Jefitoblog

CHART ATTACK! #26: 4/8/89

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Hey, everybody!  It’s Friday, and time for CHART ATTACK!  Before I get started, I need to give another huge thanks to the amazing writers who covered my ass during the month of March.  Give it up for Matthew, Kurt, Robert, Carlos and Jeff, who all did an unbelievable job (and, frankly, made me wish I had never given away those weeks!).  Be sure to check out their sites for more examples of excellent writing.  And now, it’s time for me to get back into the swing of things – apologies in advance if I’m a bit rusty, it’s been over a month – and let’s attack April 8, 1989!

10.  Funky Cold Medina – Tone-Loc  Amazon iTunes
9.  Walk The Dinosaur – Was (Not Was)
  Amazon iTunes
8.  Dreamin’ – Vanessa Williams  Amazon iTunes
7.  My Heart Can’t Tell You No – Rod Stewart  Amazon iTunes
6.  Stand – R.E.M.  Amazon iTunes
5.  Like A Prayer – Madonna  Amazon iTunes
4.  She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals  Amazon iTunes
3.  Girl You Know It’s True – Milli Vanilli  Amazon
2.  Eternal Flame – Bangles  Amazon iTunes
1.  The Look – Roxette  Amazon iTunes

10.  Funky Cold Medina – Tone-Loc (download)

So, readers, which of the two incredibly similar Tone-Loc songs do you prefer – this one or "Wild Thing?"  My guess is that most people will go with "Wild Thing," but as I mentioned back in Chart Attack! #18, "Funky Cold Medina" name-checked Spuds Mackenzie, which I find impressive.  (It also name-checks "Alex from Stroh’s," but we all know Alex was nothing but a Spuds ripoff, so I award Mr. Loc no points for that one, and also mentions Mick Jagger, who’s humped more legs than the other two combined.) Plus, while "Wild Thing" samples Van Halen’s "Jamie’s Cryin’," this song – penned by Young MC, by the way – samples five tunes: "All Right Now" by Free, "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner, "Christine Sixteen" by Kiss, "You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdrive, and "Get Off Your Ass And Jam" by Funkadelic.  I’d be willing to bet that none of these artists saw a penny from the success of this song, which is probably a good thing since Loc probably needs all he can get.  Unless he’s still getting residuals from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective?

Still, you gotta love this song.  That Funky Cold Medina can be blamed for everything – bestiality, homosexuality, and bethrothals!  Loc knew what he was saying when he stated "that medina’s a monster, y’all."  Word, Loc.  Word.

9.  Walk The Dinosaur – Was (Not Was)

Bless you, Was and Was, stealing our hearts with a mere "Boom boom, acka lacka lacka boom."  David Was (née Weiss) and Don Was (née Fagenson) were – and are – talented musicians, producers and consultants.  You may know Don from his work directing and producing the Brian Wilson documentary I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.  There’s even a Mellow Gold connection: Don co-wrote, with Paul Reiser, the theme song for Mad About You – sung by Andrew Gold!

However, if you decide to judge them by their impact on the pop charts, all you really have to go by is this song and "Spy In The House Of Love," both from their album What Up, Dog?  It should be noted that this album was released at a time when most people would have seen that title and thought someone made a spelling error.

I actually was familiar with Was (Not Was) back in 1986.  As a 9 year-old Wham! fan at the time, I had studiously poured over their liner notes (which, it should be noted, were virtually nonexistent) and found that a song from Music From The Edge Of Heaven, "Where Did Your Heart Go," was penned by the, er, Wasses.

Here’s the stupid video.  Please note that the two lead singers are not Wasses.  (I mean, they don’t even look Wassish!)  The one who looks like the maitre’d at Red Lobster is Sir Harry Bowens, and the one who looks like Arsenio Hall is Sweet Pea Atkinson.


I think it’s pretty clear why "The Dinosaur" didn’t necessarily catch on as the next big dance craze, don’t you think?  Do you think the Wassholes closely studied videos of the Electric Slide and tried to figure out what worked?  And do you think they sent flaming bags of poo to the jackoffs who invented the Macarena?

8.  Dreamin’ – Vanessa Williams

I really don’t know what to say about "Dreamin’."  When I don’t know what to say about a song, I have three choices.  I can ramble about chart position and other similar facts; I can just say "I don’t know what to say" and move on; or I can make shit up.

I’ll take choice #3. 

So "Dreamin’" was written by Willie Nelson, who was backstage at Farm Aid in 1987 when an old issue of Penthouse fell out of a roadie’s backpack – and, as luck would have it – the issue opened right up to Vanessa Williams’ spread.  Nelson took one look at her and dropped his bong, shattering it into a million pieces.  "I’m gonna write a song for that there lady," Willie announced to nobody in particular, and put pen to hemp-based paper.  His initial version, though, was entitled "Creamin’," which was deemed to be inappropriate for a woman who would appear in the esteemed pages of Penthouse.  One letter-change later, a hit was born.

I like "Dreamin’."  It’s a pleasant song.  I feel bad that I totally pulled the above paragraph out of my ass.  Oh well.  Next time, Vanessa, come up with something interesting.  I’m glad Robert already covered our Vanessa Williams bases a few weeks ago in Chart Attack! #23.  (Is there anybody on the Internet who links to himself as much as I do?  Jeez.)

7.  My Heart Can’t Tell You No – Rod Stewart (download)

I’m only a little ashamed to admit that I actually like this song.  I think the chords are pretty, and Rod’s voice is a perfect fit for it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the song is timeless by any means; its sound is locked into the late ’80s with overbearing synthesizers and that drum machine sound that leaves you wondering why they didn’t just, y’know, hire an actual drummer.  You can send your thanks to Andy Taylor of Duran Duran and Bernard Edwards of Chic, perhaps one of the stranger musical combinations, who produced Stewart’s highly successful Out Of Order.

The video is also straight out of the ’80s, with an overdramatic romantic soap opera featuring two hotties, interspersed with shots of Rod singing on a projection screen.  While there’s no excuse for Rod’s polka-dotted tie, let’s just be thankful he left the make-out scenes to models, instead of subjecting us to a reprise of the tonsil hockey from "D’Ya Think I’m Sexy."

6.  Stand – R.E.M.

While "The One I Love" was R.E.M.’s first hit single in the U.S., "Stand" was the number that most likely led to scores of college kids mourning over the loss of their favorite secret.  The song reached #6 and remains the band’s second-biggest single, behind "Losing My Religion."  It figures that one of their most successful hits was a song that Stipe felt was one of his most inane from a lyrical standpoint.  I’ve always loved this song.  And according to the wiki, "Stand" has not one, but two "truck driver’s gear changes" – in which a song abruptly modulates up a semitone without any transition between the two keys.

5.  Like A Prayer – Madonna

It’s not like I’ve spent a great deal of time listening to Madonna albums from start to finish.  However, Like A Prayer – the album – is a damn fine cohesive piece of work.  Not to mention that my copy of the CD still smells like patchouli.  The title track is a phenomenal opener – a perfect blend of pop and dance with a touch of rock (it’s easy to miss the crunchy electric guitar, courtesy of Prince, which is buried in the mix).  Love the choir.  Love the bassline, courtesy of Randy Jackson.  And I prefer the album version to the equally popular version from The Immaculate Collection, which is a dance remix.

I thought this cover (from the 12" single) was interesting:

A drawing by a fourth grader Madonna’s brother Christopher, the "MLVC" represents Madonna’s full name – Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone and my god, why do I know that without looking it up – and the falling "P" represents her divorce from Penn (comma Sean), which had only recently been finalized.  (For a more blatant reference to Penn, listen to the fantastic "’Til Death Do Us Part" from the same album.)

How many of you heard "Like A Prayer" for the first time during The Cosby Show?  I know I did.  Although my favorite incarnation of NBC’s Thursday night lineup had just ended (I still miss you, Family Ties), I remember still being interested enough to make it through the 8:00 hour.  I’m sure many of you recall Pepsi making a huge deal about the debut of the song via their two-minute commercial.  It aired at 8:12 PM on March 2nd, and was promptly yanked from the air after Pepsi execs saw her proper music video (you know, that whole cross-burning thing).  The commercial was, of course, completely innocuous, but Pepsi never aired it in the U.S. again.


No big deal for Madonna, of course, who got to keep her $5 million endorsement fee without having to fulfill her contractual obligation to three more commercials.  And, of course, the Madonna controversy only helped the single, which went platinum and reached #1 mid-April.

4.  She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals

Fuck this song.  Fuck this overplayed song and its stupid video and Roland Gift’s stupid voice.  Here’s the best thing I can say about "She Drives Me Crazy:" at least it’s not "Good Thing," which is just god-awful.  I don’t understand the vocal, which sounds like some kind of warped muppet who ingested too much crack.  (The funny thing, of course, is that Kermit The Frog later covered "She Drives Me Crazy" on the Kermit Unpigged album and my god, why do I know that without looking it up.)

Sorry.  I just never understood why this song was really a hit in the first place, and why it’s remained a staple on what is now "oldies" radio.  I guess it’s clearly the vocal I have a problem with, as the music itself isn’t really that bad.  Anybody want to enlighten me?

3.  Girl You Know It’s True – Milli Vanilli 

Okay, what can I really say about Milli Vanilli that hasn’t already been said a million times?  Not a hell of a lot.  Here’s all I can bring to the conversation: probably the best thing that came out of Milli Vanilli was the kick-ass inaugural episode of VH-1’s Behind The Music which – combined with Pop-Up Video – was the best thing to come out of the channel, ever.  And if that wasn’t good enough, stay tuned for – I’m not kidding – Milli Vanilli, The Movie.

There are some nifty YouTube clips of Milli Vanilli, although at first glance, I couldn’t find the two I was looking for: the Connecticut performance where the record skipped, and their attempt to win the crowd over on Arsenio after the news broke.  (Both clips, by the way, are on Behind The Music.  Damn, I should have taped every single one of those episodes.  Along with Pop-Up Video.)  Anyway, here are my favorites:  their awesome Carefree gum commercial (great PR, but unfortunately didn’t help them much), a great commercial about the class-action lawsuit following the scandal, and – the weirdest – Super Mario and the gang going to see Milli Vanilli.  Oh, and if you never thought you’d see Milli Vanilli appear in the same music video as Bob Dylan, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Eric Idle, John Candy and Placido Domingo, think again.

2.  Eternal Flame – Bangles

Ahh, the Bangles’ biggest-selling single, reaching #1 in five countries, including the U.S.  "Eternal Flame" was another hit from the powerful songwriting duo Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg – we discussed them back in Chart Attack! #17, concerning their awkward journey writing "Like A Virgin."  Susanna Hoffs, who’s also listed as a co-writer , requested that Kelly and Steinberg assist her in creating a tune similar to one entitled "Unconditional Love" that the duo penned for Cyndi Lauper.  (Anybody heard it?  Not me, but I’m humming the Donna Summer song of the same name now.)

Steinberg has said that the song was inspired by two eternal flames: one in Graceland, and one in his synagogue growing up, which leads me to wonder: how have the Jews not picked up on this??  Why didn’t they capitalize on the song’s success back in 1989 and recognize the Bangles for bridging the wide (wiiiiiide) gap between the Jewish culture and pop music?  What a wasted opportunity!  This is worse than the time we completely glossed over Bob Dylan’s appearance on the "L’Chaim/To Life" telethon the same year.  Oy!

"Eternal Flame" is an interesting song.  From a musical standpoint, Steinberg points out that it’s similar to a number of Beatles songs in that it doesn’t have a chorus: the verse kind of becomes the chorus by the last line, and then the bridge is repeated twice to make a short song longer.  (He likens this to "We Can Work It Out.")  But I also think it’s interesting because it’s definitely not universally loved.  I mentioned it to Jessica and Jeff yesterday and heard two very distinct reactions:

Jessica:  I love this song!
Jeff:  This song suuuuuuuuuuuucks!  SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS!

I don’t hate the song by any means; I just think that if I have a choice of listening to a Bangles tune, I’m going to go for at least five other ones before listening to "Eternal Flame."  I do enjoy when people sing it at karaoke, though.  Why?  Because every girl in the world thinks she can sing it, based on the opening verse.  However, every girl forgets that Hoffs eventually hits a batshit-high note at least twice near the end of the song – and the first time, she frickin’ belts it.  There’s nothing like the look of terror on a girl’s face – not to mention her fellow karaoke mates – when that note comes a-callin’.  Hell, I think even Susanna was freaked out by it – why else would she go for falsetto the second time?  Because it’s suddenly a sensitive moment?  I’m not buying it.

1.  The Look – Roxette

Na na na na na, na na na na na, na na na na na na, na na na na na, na na na na na na na na, I’m stalling while I think of what to say about this song.

(Go ahead and count.  I got ’em all, beeyotches!)

I’ll hand it to Roxette, though; they did a pretty good job at writing pop tunes.  If I had to pick one, I suppose I’d go with this one over "Joyride" (which I think is pretty much the same song), "Listen To Your Heart" or "It Must Have Been Love" (although I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Pretty Woman soundtrack – first CD I ever owned). 

"The Look" was Roxette’s U.S. breakthrough.  Legend has it that an American exchange student heard Roxette in Sweden, and when he got back to his home city of Minneapolis, he bombarded station KDWB with requests for "The Look."  The song was added to the playlist – pause while all of our jockey readers shed tears – and, since the response was positive, it was added to other stations.  (This tale is apparently known as the "Dean Cushman story" and is probably not exactly true – the wiki states that EMI was preparing for a big Roxette push in the States anyway – but it sounds good in interviews.)

And look at that – we’re at the end of another entry!  Thanks again for being so patient as I got my act back together – and we’ll see you next week for another edition of CHART ATTACK!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 26

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007


You guys, I’m a bad blogger. I haven’t really posted much in a while. I know you’re all perfectly nice people, and you can probably forgive me for that. But I don’t know if you can forgive me for being a mean blogger.

You see, I’ve worked so hard to gain your respect, your readership, and most importantly, your readership. And it all ends today, with this edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold. Believe it or not, I AM sorry for this one, and hope you’ll forgive me one day.

Charlene – I’ve Never Been To Me (download)

That sound you just heard was Jeremy sending bomb threats to my ISP.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, right now. This song is very, very mellow. Very smooth, too. Is it traditional “Mellow Gold?” No, not really. Certainly not in the same way as many of our male artists (and yes, we’ve discussed the differences between male and female MG artists, too, with no real definitive answers). But I’m covering it because it’s been requested by a few people, and also because when it was last mentioned here, people seemed to get really angry about it.

I think that’s funny.

If you like “I’ve Never Been To Me,” well, one could say you’re entitled to your own opinion. For my part, I think this song is pretty terrible. It’s sappy in the worst ways imaginable, both lyrically and musically.

I really don’t know much about Charlene, and I’m not convinced that anybody really needs to know that much about Charlene. Quick backstory: Charlene signed with Motown in 1973. In 1976, she recorded “I’ve Never Been To Me” and released it on her album Charlene. However, the song didn’t take off, possibly because of its spoken interlude smack in the middle. (More on this later.) In 1977, the song was re-released without the bridge on her album Songs Of Love. It reached #97, but still, no hit.

In 1982, the famous DJ Scott Shannon was working down at WRBQ in Tampa, and somehow brought the song back to the airwaves. (Here’s where Scott Shannon works now, in case you’d like to send him a thank-you note.) Shannon generated significant interest in the tune. Motown threw Charlene back into the studio, where she re-recorded the song, with the spoken word section intact. “I’ve Never Been To Me” reached #3 in the U.S. in May of 1982, and even hit #1 in the U.K.

“I’ve Never Been To Me” is Charlene’s plea to housewives everywhere who long for the glamorous life: “don’t wish for my life of luxury, ladies, for yes, I’ve done many wonderful things, but I don’t know who I really am. Stick to your dish pan hands.” Never mind the fact that the things that Charlene mentions in her song – such as sipping champagne on a yacht and making love in the sun here on Thunder Island – sound pretty damn good. So what if I wind up never going to me? I’d much rather go to Greece, anyway. Me sucks.

This song establishes its mellow-icity from the first four words: “hey lady, you lady.” Now, we’ve already established that calling a female “lady,” or “woman” is a trait distinctive to Mellow Gold. However, here’s where the gender confuses things: there’s just something that sounds wrong when it’s used by a woman. And “hey lady, you lady” is a phrase I never really want to hear, not even by Jerry Lewis. Unless Charlene says it while wearing a Jerry Lewis costume. (I will accept you either as Nutty Professor Jerry, Charlene, or as Steroids Jerry. Your choice.)

Accompanied by gentle piano and strings, Charlene lays (heh) out her tale for us. She’s a whore who regrets all she’s done in her life, and wants to pass on her worldly advice. And I don’t mean “a whore” in a male misogynistic kind of way: I mean she’s an actual whore. I’m convinced of it. The proof:

Took the hand of a preacher man and we made love in the

(Having sex with preachers? Slutty move.)

I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things that a woman ain’t supposed to see

(I’m guessing she’s probably talking about Mel Tormé’s scrotum.)

And, of course there’s THIS line:

I spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that cost too much to be free

Okay, she could be using “whoring” as a symbol for something else, but when you add it up with the previous lines, I’m thinking she’s being pretty direct.

So yes, this song is Charlene’s cautionary tale. And yet, Charlene didn’t bother to warn people about more pressing matters, like her haircut or fashion sense.

Hey, lady! Who picked out your clothes, Stevie Wonder?

Unfortunately, Charlene’s cautionary tale to housewives everywhere fails completely. Instead, Charlene comes off as a spoiled brat who’s been given plenty of wonderful opportunities, but can’t appreciate them. All we get is this whole self-absorbed whine of “but I’ve never been to me!” Listen, I’m an emotional guy, and I’m not saying that therapy is a bad thing. But if anybody ever says to you, “you know what your issue is, Benny? You’ve never been to you,” then I think you should kick ’em in the teeth and run the fuck out of that office.

Still, Charlene needed to let the entire world know that although she spent the better part of a decade with her legs hiiiiigh up in the air, she had never been to her. Oh, thank you, Charlene! How can we ever repay you? In a way that doesn’t involve giving you money for sex, I mean?

I haven’t even started in on the spoken word middle section.

Hey, you know what paradise is?
It’s a lie!
A fantasy we created about people and places
As we like them to be!
But you know what truth is?
It’s that little baby you’re holding!
And it’s that man you fought with this morning!
The same one you’re gonna make love to tonight!
That’s truth! That’s love!

Does anybody know if the housewife suicide rate increased in 1982?

I don’t know what possessed the Motown people to reintroduce this oddly insulting middle section into the song. But if they were so insistent on it, why’d they stop there? Speak all over the damn thing! How much more entertaining would the opening verse be if it went alittlesumthin’likethis:

Hey lady,

“uh, me?”
You, lady,
“Oh. You really are talking to me. When was the last time you showered?”
Cursing at your life

And so on. Let’s make this song a full dialogue! Let’s tell Charlene what we think of her, while she’s busy bragging about her bullshit life! And when was the last time a whore sounded this good, anyway? I mean, if she’s really done all the stuff she says she’s done, don’t you think she’d come out a little worse for the wear, maybe sounding like Lunchlady Doris from The Simpsons?

Although I did post an unflattering picture of her above, the truth is that not only did she sound pretty, but she looked pretty, too. Observe:

1982 suspenders on loan from Mork from Ork

So here we have a lady (heh) that looks and sounds appealing, and is regaling us with tales of her “subtle whoring.” I can’t say for sure, but I imagine the male side of the music industry responded with a hearty “hey, fresh meat!” I mean, surely somebody in the biz must have listened to her song – one where she still sounds a little weak-willed – and decided this was a woman worth taking advantage of, right? Right?

“No, when I said ‘you can touch my Oscar…'”

If there’s anybody in the biz who’s gonna respond to “subtle whoring,” it’s good ol’ Stevie Wonder. He’s perhaps the mackin’est blind piano player in the universe, behind Ray Charles (but Ray’s dead, so he’s out of the race). Yes, it’s true: Stevie and Charlene made beautiful music together.

“That’s the last time we let Stevie get final approval on picture singles!”

“Used To Be” was Charlene’s only other successful attempt in the biz: it reached #46 on the charts. Charlene seemingly disappeared from public view, although “I’ve Never Been To Me” enjoyed a resurgence in 1994, when it was used in the film Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert. Recently, Priscilla was turned into a musical, and Charlene went down to Australia to promote it. Here’s a recent clip of her performing her hit. Her voice and looks still hold up relatively well, but you can’t beat the original video.


And according to this LiveJournal entry, Charlene has been guesting on some gigs in the L.A. area. That’s about all I can find. I mean, you can try going to her official website, but the site’s been temporarily disabled. Maybe her webmaster realized he’d never been to him and quit.

To close out this ridiculously snarky Mellow Gold entry, I thought I’d summarize some important facts about this song. Enjoy.

Places Charlene Has Been To

1) Georgia
2) California
3) Nice
4) The Isle Of Greece
5) Planned Parenthood
6) Charlie Sheen

Places Charlene Has Never Been To

1) Talented
2) Sheboygan
3) My Balls

See you next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Evil Prince Ludwig!

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

Here are a few of my favorite photos from our gig at The Bitter End on Friday.  Full album can be found here.  Thanks to everybody who came!  (And special thanks to Jess, who was on camera duty the entire night.)