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Archive for August, 2007

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 44

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Welcome back!  It’s time for yet another spelunking expedition to the depths of wussitude!



Karla Bonoff – Personally (download)

As you know, it’s not often that we cover the Ladies of Mellow Gold.  I think that maybe the reason for this is that it’s just easier for me to make fun of the guys, but don’t be fooled into thinking that their contributions to the Mellow Category are any less valid than the ones by the dudes (who aren’t really men, anyway):  "Personally" is a fantastic mellow record, one that could only be improved upon if it featured a cameo by our above-pictured hero.  But we won’t hold that against her.  Shall I regale you with a bit of Karla Bonoff history?  (Shut up, I’m doing it anyway.)


Karla Bonoff, spending the day at Neverland Ranch

Karla Bonoff was born in Southern California and, from a very early age, showed a clear talent for singing and songwriting.  By 16, she had recorded a demo for Elektra Records.  She spent many evenings at The Troubadour in L.A. and eventually fell in with three like-minded individuals:  Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman, and (drum roll please) Andrew Gold.  The four of them formed a band named Bryndle and although they recorded an album for A&M in 1970, it was never released.  (A pox on your house, Herb Alpert!)

Bryndle disbanded, and Gold and Edwards joined the backing band for Linda Ronstadt (earlier, Edwards had been a member of Ronstadt’s first band, The Stone Poneys).  When Ronstadt went looking for new material to record, the men passed her a Bonoff demo.  Ronstadt wound up recording a number of Bonoff tunes – three on her 1976 album Hasten Down The Wind alone.  Bonoff embarked on a solo career, and had moderate success (a few Top 100 singles, anyway) from her first two albums.  It was her 1982 album, Wild Heart Of The Young, that featured her biggest hit, "Personally," which peaked at #19.

"Personally" is the only song off of Wild Heart Of The Young that’s not self-penned.  It was written by Paul Kelly, probably best known for his song "Stealing In The Name Of The Lord," a #5 R&B hit in June of 1970.  I’m sure the irony is not lost on Bonoff: her biggest hit (and only hit from the album) is the only one the singer-songwriter didn’t write, and the lyrics are all about her delivering something personally.

Regardless of who wrote it, I’m having a hard time knocking "Personally."  It’s truly a mellow gem:  Bonoff’s voice is casual, sweet and gentle, and the music behind her couldn’t be any better.  Light, funky guitar, breezy keyboards, um, competent drumming, and a fantastic bassline.  I can’t tell you the featured musicians on this particular song, but on the entirety of the record you’ll find all members of Bryndle , most of The Eagles (Henley, Schmit, Walsh and J.D. Souther – come on, he counts as an Eagle), Danny Kortchmar – one of the only Mellow Gold artists to be nicknamed "Kootch" other than Charlene – and guess who’s playing that terrific sax solo?

Damn you, Sanborn!  You’re on everything!  Ahh, that chorus is fantastic – it’s one of those earworms that never seems to get too annoying.  In fact, the chorus is so perfect that Kelly kind of got lazy on the second verse.  See, the first verse appropriately leads up to the chorus, explaining how our protagonist (I try to use this word as often as I can, it makes me feel smart) has been writing all these letters, but now has to do something more.  Okay, that makes sense.  However, verse two:  "There’s nothing like the feeling I get/Oh when you touch me baby/There’s nothing like the feeling you get/When I’m there with you, oh love."  While I get the point he’s making, he couldn’t come up with something better than those first two lines?  I’m convinced he just took those from another mellow gold tune, somewhere.

Of course, here’s the real mystery of the song: we never actually find out what, exactly, Bonoff is bringin’ to him personally.  Yes, we know she can’t send it in, can’t phone it in, can’t use semaphore, can’t send it via carrier pigeon, can’t strap it to a small barrel that’s subsequently attached to the neck of a Saint Bernard, etc.  But we don’t know what "it" is.  My guess is that it’s similar to the "that" that Meatloaf won’t do (although he’s made it clear he’ll do anything else for love), but I don’t know for sure.  So (ahem):

Jason Hare’s Guesses As To What Karla Bonoff Is Bringin’ To Him Personally (Personally, Personally, Yeah Yeah):


1)  Alimony bill
2)  VD
3)  Autographed copy of Bossa Nova Hotel by Michael Sembello
4)  Fart
5)  Midget
6)  Farting midget (I feel like this would be the most difficult to send in of all)
7)  Love child of David Pack from Ambrosia
8)  Ambrosia (either the band or the fruit salad)

So what happened to Bonoff after "Personally?"  Well, she continued to write and record her own songs.  She recorded a Lost Soundtrack Classic for Footloose.  She passed some hits off to other artists – Wynonna recorded her song "Tell Me Why" in ’93, and Ronstadt recorded "All My Life," a duet with Aaron Neville, which won a Grammy in 1991.  She’s maintained a following in Asia, touring Japan numerous times.  And hey, everybody – Bryndle got back together!  In 1995, they released their debut CD – only 25 years after their first shelved recording!  Andrew Gold left in ’96, and the band is sort of on hiatus, but they all still keep in touch and perform from time to time.  You can keep updated on Bonoff’s career at her website.  And have no fear, she’s not forgotten her Mellow Gold roots: she contributed backing vocals to McD’s Blue Obsession!


Bonoff and McD, shortly after McD ate her right arm


Until next time, my friends!  Thanks for joining me on another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

The Return of Acoustic ’80s!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Michael and I will be returning to Waltz-Astoria on Saturday, September 8th for another evening of cheesy ’80s music.  All the favorites from last time, including new ones by…well, it’s a surprise.  But definitely a Hall & Oates song with a melodica solo.  (I’m working my way through your book, Velma!)

All information can be found on my performance page – you can even vote for songs that should return to the set!

CHART ATTACK! #44: 8/16/86

Friday, August 17th, 2007


Hooray!  CHART ATTACK! is back and this time, it’s personal.  Won’t you join me in attacking yet another pop chart?  This time, let’s take a look at August 16, 1986!

10.  The Edge Of Heaven – Wham!  Amazon iTunes
9.  Take My Breath Away – Berlin  Amazon iTunes
8.  Rumors – Timex Social Club  Amazon
7.  Dancing On The Ceiling – Lionel Richie  Amazon iTunes
6.  Venus – Bananarama  Amazon iTunes
5.  We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart  Amazon
4.  Higher Love – Steve Winwood  Amazon iTunes
3.  Mad About You – Belinda Carlisle  Amazon iTunes
2.  Glory Of Love – Peter Cetera  Amazon
1.  Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna  Amazon iTunes

10.  The Edge of Heaven – Wham! (download)

We all know that I have an unexplainable, slightly embarrassing affection for most Wham! songs, right?  Okay, good.  Then I can just go right ahead and say that I love this song.  I think it’s absolutely stupid, but extremely catchy and I love the horn section.  Taken from their last album – The Final in the UK and Music From The Edge Of Heaven in the US – this song was promoted as the band’s "swan song", and featured yet another video proving that Andrew Ridgeley had little else to do other than pretend to play guitar.  Plus, as it’s their "goodbye" message, there are tons of clips from previous videos, and a poignant "goodbye" message at the end.  What?  It’s not poignant?  Well, I sure as hell thought so when I was 9.  Either way, though, you gotta love George Michael in fringe.

[youtube]dy14ywPAnLQ[/youtube]

George has actually performed this song on his recent European tour, which shocks the hell out of me.  Now all I need to hear is "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" live and I’ll be set.

9.  Take My Breath Away – Berlin 

Here’s what you may already know about "Take My Breath Away:"

– from the soundtrack to Debbie Does Top Gun
– huge hit (reached #1 for a week in September, ousted by Huey Lewis, that rat bastard)
– award winning (Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Song)
– officially the last we heard, or cared, about Berlin (the band, not the city)

But here’s what you may not know about "Take My Breath Away:" technically, it could be considered a cover.  Soundtrack guru/Donna Summer svengali Giorgio Moroder, who wrote and produced the song, asked Martha Davis, lead singer of The Motels (discussed over at this week’s Chartburn, by the way) to sing on the demo.  Davis wasn’t chosen to sing the "official" version, though, and the song remained unreleased until The Motels released it on their Anthologyland CD.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a digital version for you in time for this week’s Attack, but you can still hear it at the same place I first heard it – surprise, surprise – Coverville.  (Are you still not listening to Coverville?)  The demo, although recorded in a lower key, sounds eerily similar to the Berlin version, which goes to show how much influence Giorgio Moroder had on the production of the track.

Here’s what Martha had to say about it (courtesy of Pause and Play):

"It was one of two songs I heard where I said, ‘That is a hit’ (The other being The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’). You can say, ‘That sounds like a hit,’ but very seldom do you go ‘That song is a hit.’ Giorgio (Moroder) called me, ‘Martha, I have this song for this movie, can you come over and see me?’ I said sure. I sang it and he gave me a cassette of what I had done that day. That very cassette is the only remaining copy. No one has the actual reel-to-reel of it. (For ‘Anthologyland,’ they used the best technology to give it a rich sound.) Next thing I know, Teri Nunn had it and I was like, ‘C’est la vie.’ I’m a writer, and I’d much rather be known for something I had done. What if I had been known for doing ‘Take My Breath Away’? Would I have been overlooked for the other things that I do? So maybe it’s better that it happened that way."

That sounds exactly like what I would say if a huge hit like "Take My Breath Away" was taken away from me!

8.  Rumors – Timex Social Club (download

I take pride in boasting that I know the majority of songs that cracked the top 10 in the ’80s.  However, I could not place this song for the life of me – and even when I heard it, I still had no recollection of ever hearing it.  Clearly I’m alone on this one – even my wife scolded me for not remembering this song.  (All night:  "Are you sure you don’t know this song?  How can you not know this song?")  So download and let me know if you have any memories surrounding it.  I did like the extreme overuse of the TR-808 cowbell (discussed in CHART ATTACK! #36).  And how about some of these lyrics:

Hear the one about Tina, some say she’s much too loose
That came straight from a guy who claims he’s tastin’ her juice
Hear the one about Michael, some say he must be gay
I try to argue, but they said if he was straight he wouldn’t move that way
Hear the one about Susan, some say she’s just a tease
In a camisole she’s six feet tall, she’ll knock you to your knees

Charming.  Please don’t make me write any more about Timex Social Club.  Watch the video if you’d like – it’s a poor mix of live-action and cartoons.  The section with the lyrics above is equally appealing.

[youtube]DRte0S2a_dA[/youtube]

7.  Dancing On The Ceiling – Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie was on fire in 1986.  "Dancing On The Ceiling" is a testament to his popularity.  This song is really, really stupid.  However, it’s Lionel, and it’s catchy, so it was a hit.  Another song that was just perfect for MTV viewers, the video didn’t have any computer tricks:  instead, it featured an expensive rotating set that gave the effect of, yes, dancing on the ceiling (and the walls).  I vaguely remember seeing a documentary on MTV at the time of the video’s release, but doggone it, it’s not on YouTube.  The Pop-Up Video (I love Pop-Up Video) version used to be on YouTube, but it’s been taken down.  Among the facts I remember, though, are that it was the most expensive video since "Thriller" in 1984, and the director also directed Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling in 1951’s Royal Wedding.  (!!!)

Take the time out to watch this video.  It’s really a classic.  The outfits, the hairdos, the choreography, the keytar, Lionel’s ‘stache, the inexplicable cameo by Cheech (and one other comedian, which I won’t spoil), and the fact that you’ll probably watch the video and still wonder, "how’d they do that?"

[youtube]5XxshEdcfAM[/youtube]

6.  Venus – Bananarama 

Another cover on the charts!  Actually, 1986 was the third time that "Venus" topped the charts.You may know the original version by Shocking Blue hit #1 in February of 1970, and portions of the song were included in Stars on 45’s "Medley," which hit #1 in June 1981.  Okay, maybe that last one is stretching it a bit, but what the hell, let’s include it: that way, we can say it’s the only song to hit #1 three times, ever!

5.  We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart

I guess, for the purposes of pop culture, we’ll consider Jermaine Stewart a one-hit wonder, although I’m sure one of you will point out that he did have a Top 30 in ’88.  Stewart was a dancer on Soul Train and American Bandstand, and also a popular session musician.  His backing vocals are all over Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers, and the band was party responsible for Stewart getting a contract with Arista Records.  Another interesting fact: he released a song called "Jody," a tribute to Jody Watley (who was still in Shalamar at the time).  However, this was his big hit, peaking here at #5 this week.  Apparently, this song was a hit because it was in support of some sexual moderation at a time when AIDS was finally national news.  Stewart unfortunately died in 1997 of liver cancer, brought on by, um, AIDS.

Honestly, I had no idea that a guy was singing this song until a few years ago.  Growing up, I was convinced it was a woman.  I don’t know if it’s because Stewart sounded feminine, or because even at the age of 9, I couldn’t conceive the thought of a guy making this kind of plea to a woman.

Here’s the video, which sadly edits out the really awkward spoken breakdown: "Yes, I want your body.  But we don’t have to rrrrush the afaihhhhr.  So you said you wanna taste my wine?  Heheheheh…not yet."  I try to never write things like this, but this sounds totally gay.

[youtube]ID_N7rv-iN8[/youtube]

Mike and I are in rehearsals for our next Acoustic ’80s gig (tentatively set for September 8th if you’re in town).  I usually don’t spoil our song choices, but I’ll tell you that we’ve figured this one out on guitar and are debating who’s going to sing it.  We both do a pretty good job.  (I have to lower the song a key, though.)

4.  Higher Love – Steve Winwood 

Embarrassing Jason Hare story: in fifth grade, our teacher decided we were going to put on a show for the school, featuring kids in the class singing, dancing, etc.  (If I remember correctly, I played a few songs on piano and bored an entire auditorium to tears.)   There was only one "group" number, and it involved the entire class doing a choreographed dance to "Higher Love."  Why "Higher Love?"  No clue.  Why was I placed FRONT and CENTER?  Well, because I was the best dancer, dammit.  It actually wasn’t even dancing.  It was very easy moves back and forth, some turns, and I’ve psychologically blocked the rest out.  My face is turning red.  I have to talk about something else.  "Higher Love" was yet another collaboration between Winwood and Will Jennings, who had been successfully collaborating for a number of years (we covered their collaboration a bit in CHART ATTACK! #28), and although it performed admirably (#1 hit, won Grammy Awards for both Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year), it actually wasn’t Winwood’s biggest hit – I was surprised to find out that "Roll With It" actually did just a bit better on the charts.  Still, it remained in the Top 10 for six weeks, and featured some great backing vocals by Chaka Khan.  (Chaka Khan.  Chaka Khan Chaka Khan.)

3.  Mad About You – Belinda Carlisle
 

And here we have the song that introduced Belinda Carlisle, the solo artist.  "Mad About You" was Carlisle’s first post-Go-Go’s single, and peaked this week here at #3.  Of Belinda’s Top 20 singles, I think "Mad About You" is probably the least earworm-y of the bunch.  Also, I think I may have mentioned this before, but Belinda Carlisle is ridiculously hot, and therefore I will forgive her for just about anything.  Even the stuff co-written by Diane Warren.

Here’s the video!  The object of her affection in the video is Morgan Mason, who became her husband.  Also, look for a cameo from Andy Taylor from Duran Duran.  It’s not as exciting as Cheech, but we’ll take it.

[youtube]KXj0QcSDVRE[/youtube]

2.  Glory of Love – Peter Cetera 

In Chartburn this week, I defend Phil Collins’ "You’ll Be In My Heart."  I knew I’d be in the minority (only Robert agreed with me), but I was comfortable standing up for the song.  My point, although somewhat convoluted, is that I can’t imagine anybody standing up for "Glory Of Love."  If you want to defend it, by all means, do so in the comments.  But this song doesn’t just suck.  It suuuuuuuuuucks.  Plus, it’s an earworm.  So take the suckiness, add the earworm, and cap it off with the fact that Mike and I were forced (forced!) to sing it in middle-school chorus, and you can see why I hate it so much, right?

And the video!  Oh, the video.  The problem with…wait a minute.  Who’s that?  Could it be…?

Yes!  It’s CAPTAIN VIDEO!  And he’s performed his bravest, noblest task of all – he’s watched extreme close-ups of Peter Cetera.  Bless you, CAPTAIN VIDEO!, for all that you have done in the name of snark.  Read on, my friends.

1.  Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna 

Madonna goes political, y’all.  And she doesn’t care what Danny Aiello says.  She’s made up her mind:  she’s keeping her baby.  Uhnnh.  She’s gonna keep her baby.  Oooh!  Ohhh!  Although Madonna refused to take a stance on the issue of abortion, the song clearly put forth a strong opinion, and marks the last time she was ever commended by Catholics.  Also, here’s a bone-chilling thought: Dave Marsh, in his review of the song, called the opening cellos "Beatlesque."

Take a look at the dramatic video!  And keep in mind, Danny Aiello was really an unknown at this point in his career.  You’re welcome, Danny!

[youtube]TgnmHbPR3ps[/youtube]

And thus concludes this week’s CHART ATTACK!  See you next Friday!

Repost: Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 3

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

It’s summer and although I should be relaxing, I’m actually ridiculously busy.  Either way, that means it’s time for a Mellow Gold repost.  Often, I’ll pick a Mellow Gold song at random to cover and, while researching it, find out some too-good-to-be-true tidbits.  This was the first entry where it happened: I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  It’s one of my favorite Mellow Gold posts.  And one final note: a few months after I wrote this entry, the director of the below-mentioned documentary actually sent me the DVD – I believe it’s called "The Syracuse Cut."  I haven’t watched it yet – I’m waiting until Jeff and I finally meet in person so we can endure it together – but you can be sure that’ll be covered in a future post.  Enjoy!



What’s that?  You want some more wussy music?  You need some more wussy music?  I’m here for you.

This week, we’re only going to cover one song.  Why?  Because the story’s so good, it deserves its own post.

Benny Mardones – Into The Night (download)

You could call Benny Mardones a one-hit wonder.  But technically, you could also call Benny Mardones a two-hit wonder.  And he has a pretty interesting background, too, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  First, let’s talk about the song itself.

"Into The Night" did well on the charts when it was released in 1980, eventually reaching #11.  It deserved to be a hit; it’s a good song.  It has deep, heavy drums, dark, minor chords, a subtle piano part, ethereal backing vocals, and Mardones’ strong yet hoarse lead vocal.  It features fantastic use of dynamics, and suitably builds throughout.  I like some of the lyrics, as well:

It’s like having a dream
Where nobody has a heart
It’s like having it all
And watching it fall apart
And I would wait till the end of time for you
And do it again, it’s true
I can’t measure my love
There’s nothing to compare it to

I think that’s quite pretty.  Of course, there’s just one problem: the opening line.

She’s just sixteen years old
leave her alone, they say

(shakes head)
(bangs head on desk)
(goes to call the cops)
(thinks better of it, hangs up)

Great.  This romantic song has been ruined for me because he’s singing it to a sixteen year-old.  Listen, I’m not saying that Benny Mardones likes little girls.  I’m saying this song is not helping any if he’s trying to prove that he doesn’t.

Apparently, though, nobody gives a shit, and nobody gave a shit back then – because, again, the song reached #11 in 1980.  And that’s not all.

In 1989, a station in Phoenix drummed up some interest in the song during a "Where Are They Now?" segment.  Somehow, word got to Scott Shannon, Program Director at Pirate Radio in Los Angeles.  Scott’s been running some of the biggest stations in the biggest markets for the past zillion years.  Anyway, in 1989, he added "Into The Night" back onto the station’s playlist, and soon enough, stations around the country were spinning a nine year-old song.  Nine years later, "Into The Night" was back on the charts, and peaked at #20.

Benny Mardones may have been a drug addict by then, but he was no fool.  If you were a one-hit two-hit one hit wonder, what would you do?

You’d get your ass back into the studio and try to capitalize on the success, that’s what you’d do.

And so Benny went back into the studio, now signed with Curb Records (’cause the folks at Curb Records weren’t fools either), and re-recorded "Into The Night."  The re-release appeared on his self-titled 1989 album ("known as ‘The Blue Album’ to his fans," his website says!).

I thought about offering "Into The Night ’89" up here for download.  But there really wasn’t any point.  For starters, you don’t need two versions of "Into The Night."  In fact, you might wind up hating me for it.  And there’s really not much of a difference between the two versions.  His voice has a little more wear and tear.  The instrumentation is a little different – there’s suddenly an acoustic guitar and the bass has a terrible effect on it.  We didn’t really need an "Into The Night ’89," but by golly, we got it.

UPDATE 10 AM:  So I go to my mailbox this morning and what’s waiting for me?  A pristine, still-in-shrinkwrap copy of Benny Mardones’ self-titled 1989 release on Curb Records.  Thank you to you-know-who for sending me this…(struggles to think of the right word)…CD.  (Note 8/15/07: since this post, you-know-who has sent me just about every Mardones CD available.  They’re sitting here at work.  I see them every day.  Yet I can’t bring myself to play any of them.  It’s like listening to one of Meat Loaf’s albums that’s not Bat Out Of Hell.)

So since I have it right here anyway, go ahead, torture yourself.  If you dare.

Benny Mardones – Into The Night ’89 (download)

Things went downhill yet again after that for Benny Mardones, but not before he re-recorded the song another two frickin’ times: there’s "Into The Night (acoustic)" and "Into The Night (2002 Version)."  The former features some lame ad-libs, and the latter has a voice that can no longer belt the other high notes.  It brings absolutely nothing to the table.  In fact, it takes things away from the table.  Nobody bought it.

Except, that is, for the constituents of the fine city of Syracuse, NY.

Yes, you read that right.

According to the Benny Mardones bio:

Benny disappeared everywhere – everywhere, that is, but Syracuse, NY. With the help of fans like Tommy Nast, then program director at local station 94 Rock, Benny’s music was constantly on the air in Syracuse. In 1983, he played a legendary concert at Longbranch Park with more than 10,000 people in attendance. BennyMania took hold in upstate New York. In 1985, Benny played four sold-out shows at the 3,500-seat Landmark Theater. At his peak in Syracuse, Benny would draw 24,000 fans to a show at Weedsport Speedway.

With all his records out of print, local promoters released two "Syracuse Only" records. These included "Unauthorized" and "American Dreams," each of which sold over 18,000 copies in Syracuse. Benny’s sales topped even new releases by performers like Bruce Springsteen.


You know, when I was 17 and on the search for colleges to attend, I was wavering between a few schools.  Syracuse University was one of them.  They did a lot to sell me on their school.  They said nothing about Benny.  Had I known that living in Syracuse would have put me square in the middle of BennyMania…well, shit.  Fuck the $35,000+ per year tuition.  The chance to get Unauthorized and maybe even get it signed?  Worth it all, my friends.

So what’s Benny been up to lately?  Well, recentlly – just today, actually – he won two awards!  Yes, he won the JasonHare.com Award For Worst Album Title AND Worst Album Cover:

Well, he just beat out this guy for my Favorite Awful Title With The Word "Love" In The Cover.  I’m not even going to dignify the bandana with a comment.  Maybe my wife said it best when she asked, "Is that a woman?"

I know you’re either thinking this story can’t get any better or when will he fucking shut up about Benny Mardones?  Either way, here’s the ending.  I’ve saved the best for last.

Benny has a new documentary, entitled (are you ready for this?) Into The Night:  The Benny Mardones Story.  And according to the cast page, it features such "characters" as Benny himself!  Benny’s Mom!  Roy Orbison!  Wayne Newton!  Richie Havens!  And this guy!

I am not making this up.  I didn’t even put that text on the picture.  I swear.

I can’t possibly think of anything else to add – but I’m sure you might, so please feel free to contribute in the comments!  And with that, I bid you a very – very – wussy goodbye.  See you Friday for CHART ATTACK! and next week for more Mellow Gold!

Oppressive Net Prices…

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

…mean that there’s most likely no CHART ATTACK! this week. Until today, I was staying with family – now I’m at a Marriott and the prices per minute for net access are outrageous. (Give me props, though – I’m writing this from my cell phone. Doing a top ten this way, though, would be annoying.) Guess you’re stuck with Player until next week! See ya soon!