Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Good Songs IV and V

Good Songs IV

Forever – Kiss
Open Letter to a Landlord – Living Colour
Bring the Noise – Public Enemy
Gas Face – 3rd Bass
Nothin But A Good Time – Poison
I’m That Type of Guy – LL Cool J
What It Takes – Aerosmith
Women – Def Leppard
Back in Black – AC/DC
The Humpty Dance – Digital Underground
Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
911 is a Joke – Public Enemy
It Take Two – Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock
Lick It Up – Kiss
Wild, Wild, West – Kool Moe Dee
Turn This Mutha Out – MC Hammer
Antisocial – Anthrax
Angel – Aerosmith
Just a Friend – Biz Markie
2-Hype – Kid N’ Pla

Good Songs V

Up All Night – Slaughter
Fight the Power – Public Enemy
Crazy Nights – Kiss

Before we get to the songs, I put in the words "Good Songs Mix" into the old Google machine and one of the images that returned was this picture of two confused Olsen Twins. It's as good as any image I can think of.

Another two-for-one deal Good Songs post. Again, I can’t figure out why I would only put three songs on a 135-minute tape. I’m sure that the Slaughter-Public Enemy-Kiss lineup was too much awesome for anyone to take any more rocking or rapping.

The band Kiss is an interesting choice for these Good Song editions as I decided to add three songs from the band on this tape and a quarter. In the first entry I spoke a bit about my misplace middle school nostalgia and I would bet that the inclusion of three Kiss songs is a continuation of that trend.

Judging from the songs that were recorded, my guess is that I created this tape in either the late summer or early fall of 1990. During that time, Kiss wasn’t doing so hot. Yes, the ballad “Forever” entered the Billboard Top 10 (peaking at number 8) and was co-written by early 90s superstar Michael Bolton (yes, that Michael Bolton). But aside from the hard-core Kiss Army, no one really cared about the band at all during this time. They were an old, boring band that wasn’t doing anything at all. In one of the lines from the penultimate song in this collection, “Crazy Nights”, Kiss frontman Paul Stanley whines, “And no one is going to change me, because that’s who I AM! Ugh!”

I’m not sure why he added the Ugh, but Stanely couldn’t have been more wrong with the rest of his statement. Kiss was constantly changing in a desperate attempt to keep up with the times.

The song “Lick It Up” was released in 1983, about seven years before it was included on this tape, and this song was also the first video where Kiss took off their makeup. It was their ultimate trump card, because up until then, the vast majority of their fans had never seen what Gene Simmons or Paul Stanely or Eric Carr or Vinnie Vincent (the latter names, replacements of band founders Ace Frehley and Peter Criss) looked like sans grease paint. The unmasking ceremony on MTV was a hit and “Lick It Up” (the album and single) did pretty well. However with their trump card played, Kiss lost a sense of mystery, a sense of what made them unique from other bands. They were just four ugly guys warbling over loud guitars – Journey without the harmonies. As such, each album released after “Lick It Up” did progressively worse. According to the book, “Kiss and Sell” (which was written by the band’s financial manager) the group grew more and more desperate to appeal to the young demographic; dumping money into their concerts, following what the popular bands were doing (like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi), hiring people like Michael Bolton to write songs for them. In the early 90s when America’s youth’s tastes turned to the Seattle scene, Gene Simmons grew a goatee and the band made a heavier, grungier album. Unfortunately nothing really worked for the band until they found an ace up their sleeve (HA! Kiss pun!) got Frehley and Criss back into the group, slathered on the paint and repackaged themselves as a Greatest Hits band.

The point isn’t to draw attention to a bunch of old men desperately trying to stay hip, but answer the question: “Why is there so many Kiss songs on this tape?” Like I said, I think it has to do with misplaced nostalgia. I had a friend named Mike who was obsessed with Kiss. Every square inch of his bedroom was covered in Kiss posters, clipped photos and scores of Kiss videotapes and paraphernalia. The dude knew every word to every song and more than that, knew the meaning behind the words (which wasn’t difficult, since this is Kiss we’re talking about). But I thought that was cool, Mike had already had HIS band. And his band had dozens of albums, tons of pictures and years of mythology to comb through.

Kiss, and similar bands with a long history, allow newer fans a short cut to becoming super fans. A new fan of an old band doesn’t have to wait for their favorite group’s next album to come out, there are already 12 albums in the store to buy. Fans of older bands don’t have to hunt high and low for mentions in Rolling Stone or Hit Parader or Spin, chances are good that a cover story was written about them in the last few weeks – or better yet, maybe a book or a documentary. They can be just as knowledgeable about the band as a 20-year follower, because they both have the access to the same knowledge.

When I was younger and the Internet didn’t exist, I didn’t want to spend the time searching for information. I was impatient waiting for new records, articles or TV specials. Maybe I wanted to co-opt Kiss as my band but deep down I couldn’t because they were Mike’s. There’s a saying, “No one knows that they’re living in history”. I wanted the history of a band (even a crappy one like Kiss – sorry Mike), a band with history makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger. I made a serious go with Living Colour but they only released one album by this point and there is only a finite amount of times you can listen to “Glamour Boys”.

There are two songs that made it to the first three volumes of Good Songs*: “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses and Poison’s “Nothin’ But a Good Time”. WTTJ is easy to explain, it’s an awesome song by an awesome band, which at this period in  time, was probably the biggest band in the world. And “Welcome to the Jungle” isn’t the only GNR song on the Good Songs docket; “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Paradise City” and “Mr. Brownstone” all make appearances.

* For this argument, Good Songs II and III are part of the same collection as are Goods Songs IV and V.

However the inclusion of “Nothin But a Good Time” on these tapes is quasi-interesting in that it’s the only Poison song I include over these three volumes. Was Poison a one-hit wonder? Nope. They had a ton of songs that were as popular, if not more (“Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”, for example). Did I only own the NBaGT cassingle? I did not. I actually owned not one, but both of Poison’s tapes at the time.

I think why NBaGT gets a spot on these tapes is because I genuinely liked the song. I sincerely thought that this was going to be an anthem for my generation, much like Kiss’ “Rock N’ Roll All Nite” was for a previous generation. And I think the band agreed with me because at the beginning of this video, the down-in-the-dumps dishwasher was listening to Poison’s version of the Kiss classic on his radio before his jerkass boss told him to turn it off. Of course the dishwasher kicks a door and there’s Brett Michaels and the boys ready to play “Nothin But a Good Time”.

Anyway, I was like that girl in “Mean Girls” (this was on a few nights ago, which made me think of this analogy) who was trying to make “Fetch” a thing. I was trying to make “Nothin But a Good Time” a thing, but I should have stopped trying to make “Nothin But a Good Time” happen. It never happened.

Also, I remember mowing the lawn one day listening to “Look What the Cat Dragged In” on my Walkmen when a female neighbor of mine asked me what I was listening to. When I told her, she laughed and said, “No one listens to Poison.” And that was the last time (other than “NBaGT”) I ever listened to Poison.

But what was happening (at least if this tape can be believed) was I was waist-deep in hip pop. From the East coast with Kool Moe Dee and LL Cool J to the West coast with Digital Underground and MC Hammer, it looked as if I was all about busting a move (even though there is no Young MC on this tape). I was not all about busting a move. In fact, unless I was pretty hammered, there was no way I was going to dance. Mostly because I’m terrible at dancing—either drunk or sober.

I did not own the Kid N’ Play tape, CD, cassingle or album and I don’t think that I know anyone who did, so I’m not sure how I got ahold of it for the Good Songs mix, but I’m glad I did. The lyrics are pretty awful (“Last night I had it my way with a fun girl who was def”) but the beat is insanely catchy. I know that most people will say that Rob Base’s “It Takes Two” might be the most dance hypnotic beat out there, but this is a solid runner-up.

I will talk more about hip hop in the ensuing editions of Good Songs, because looking ahead it’s all-rap, all the time. But I did want to end this entry with a few sentences on three songs:

Def Leppard – Women: on a CD (Hysteria) that had a ton of chart-topping songs and was an absolute beast for three years, this song may have been my favorite. I’m not sure why. I think it’s partly because it’s different than the other songs on the disc and partly because a friend of mine had a Def Leppard t-shirt that was designed to look like a comic book. The sinister-looking robot on the back of the shirt was giving a presentation to other evil robots and said W.O.M.E.N. was an acronym for “Worship Our Master’s Every Needs”. It was never clear to me if the female population sent the evil robots to Earth to battle men in order to enslave them, but I was a deeply closeted comic nerd and thought it was cool.

Anthrax – Antisocial: I do like this song, I like it a lot. I like the video where the band chases around their weird looking mascot and pulls off it’s head and it’s Ozzy Osborne in the suit with the oversized latex head. But I guarantee that I added this song because Public Enemy’s Chuck D yelled, “Wax is for Anthrax” in “Bring the Noise” and I wanted a winking joke. Yes. This was some of the crap I thought of when I had nothing else to think of.

Aerosmith – Angel: this is such a brutal, terrible, stupid, awful song; I could barely get through the playing of it this morning. What utter tripe. I’m retroactively embarrassed by including it on this tape. I’m sorry to everyone I’ve ever known. I will not apologize for “What It Takes” though. That song kicks ass.

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