Thursday, February 05, 2015

Good Songs XII

Jump – Kriss Kross
What it Takes – Aerosmith
Poison – Bell Biv DeVoe
It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday – Boyz II Men
Motownphilly – Boyz II Men
Into the Fire – Dokken
Burning Like a Flame – Dokken
Heroin – Velvet Underground
We Want Eazy – Eazy-E
Radio – Eazy-E
Epic – Faith No More
Falling to Pieces – Faith No More
100 Miles and Runnin’ – NWA

I hate Halloween. I don’t like dressing up. I don’t like the cold in the air as I’m walking around outside--it reminds me that summer is done. I don’t like begging for candy. Even when I wasn’t trick or treating, I still hated Halloween*. For a few years in the mid-90s, Kriss Kross made Halloween bearable for me.

The best and easiest Halloween costume I ever came up with was a Kriss-Kross inspired outfit. I wore a pinstriped Chicago Bulls Starter jersey backwards (before it was a Halloween costume, I loved this shirt unconditionally), a backwards baseball cap and a pair of Z. Cavaricci’s also backwards. It was a good conversation starter, it treaded very slightly on the nostalgia trail and it allowed me to live my fantasy as the Daddy Mack (or Mack Daddy). The only problem was peeing. With the fly in the rear, that was difficult.

* When I got in my 20s, my stance on Halloween softened a bit; mainly because every party I went to was filled with women wearing “sexy blah, blah, blah” costumes. Sexy nurses, sexy Josie and the Pussycats, sexy nuclear technicians, it was a good time. Now that I’m a father of two daughters, karma is going to come back to me two-fold. Therefore, even though I'm no longer dressing up, Halloween still sucks.

I haven’t listened to “Jump” in awhile, but when I was checking it out today, I noticed that there is a lot bravado for a couple of prepubescents. The first line (“Don’t compare us to another Bad Little Fad”) is a shot across the bow to the East Coast Family’s younger members: Another Bad Creation. Coming from a pair whose entire career was built on wearing clothes backwards, that’s a bit aggressive and tone deaf.

Speaking of aggressive, the entire song is full of bitter machismo, striking out at any and all comers. “When they ask if Kriss Kross rocks? You say ‘Believe that’.” I’m not sure exactly why this struck me as odd—in reality it doesn’t, it’s early 90s rap. Aside from PM Dawn there weren't a lot of soft crooners—but maybe it’s because I remember them as two cute little kids rapping that I expected something less pointed.

I owned Another Bad Creation’s “Coolin’ at the Playground, Ya Know!” and they are not represented at all on any Good Songs tape. I liked “Iesha”, I liked “Playground”* so I’m not sure why I didn’t include any of those songs on any of these tapes. I was probably extremely embarrassed to admit owning the tape--I didn't even buy it at the store, I got it through the mail via Columbia House. And if one of those songs ended up on a Good Songs mix, I’d have a lot of explaining to do.

* I know that most people give Snoop Dogg all the credit for popularizing the –izzle speak, which is adding izzle to the end of words. But there is a verse in the ABC song “Playground” that goes “It’s the Miz-ark (the kids’ name was Mark) chillin’ in the piz-ark, I got a break because my momma said to be home by diz-ark.” The question I want is answered is: “Did Snoop Dogg steal from ABC?” because that’s pretty damn whack if true.

I’m pretty sure that I created this tape in the late spring of 1992 because the first two songs have a very AHS-baseball flair to them. What I mean by that is that I borrowed “Totally Krossed Out” from a teammate and another teammate spent the better part of that season singing “What It Takes” at the top of his lungs, at all times. I pretty much despised Aerosmith by this point in my life (a dislike that continues to this very day!) and I was not regularly listening to “Pump” at all. I think that the reason why I included this song is due to my teammate getting this song jammed into my noggin for three months.

In retrospect, it’s probably the best late-career Aerosmith song around. If that’s not damning with faint praise, I don’t know what is.

Looking at the rest of this song list, I was perplexed by the song choices and then it hit me as I was listening to them in order: these were all songs that I used to listen to when I was holed up in my brother’s room playing Nintendo. My brother got a CD player really early and was buying discs with every penny he saved. And since the Nintendo was in his room, I’d end up listening to whatever was in his disc player as I was playing “RBI Baseball” or “Ninja Kid” or “Nintendo Ice Hockey”.

So much so that, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” doesn’t make me wistfully remember a friend who has passed away. It makes me wistfully recall when the computer had the pitcher hit a bomb off me in the bottom of the ninth to ruin a perfect game in RBI. Damn you, computerized Brett Saberhagen! Damn you straight to Nintendo Hell!

Boyz II Men was an interesting group, they were part of Michael Bivens’ East Coast Family with Bell Biv DeVoe, ABC and the all-white, all-absent Sudden Impact. They were easily the most talented of the quartet of groups (and I’m making the wild-ass assumption that SI sucked, since we only caught a quick glimpse of them in the “Motownphilly” video pointing and acting “cool”) but I’m not sure if that is like being the valedictorian of summer school. At the very least, they could really sing. In subsequent years, they had a run of number one songs “I’ll Make Love to You” and “On Bended Knee” but then they just disappeared. They show up every once in awhile but usually in that “Remember how wacky the 90s were” type of cameo.

I wonder why they never made it last?

Out of all the songs included on that list, there is one that sticks out like a sore thumb. A good sore thumb, but a sore thumb nonetheless. And that’s the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”. One of the truths that I have been forced to face during this exercise is that I wasn’t as progressive of a music listener as I once thought. Most of the stuff I really enjoyed were spoon-fed to me by either MTV or the radio. If I did make a foray into something that wasn’t in heavy rotation, it was something in medium rotation*.

* MTV had a show on Sunday nights, called 120 Minutes which played two hours of alternative (before this was a dirty word) music. Stuff like the Pixies, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Cure, maybe Nirvana before “Nevermind”. And we could listen to WFNX beaming from Boston. In thinking back to my high school days, I don’t think that anyone was into that scene at all and I wonder why? The music is really good, certainly better than the tripe that was on the radio and MTV, but I didn’t know anyone who liked that stuff until I went to college. I wonder how different my life would be if I got into that music while in high school?

So I’d love to write about how I found a Velvet Underground and Nico tape in some cutout bin at some mall tape store and that I took it home and my whole world view was magically transformed. Like I was some male version of Janie from VU’s  song “Rock N Roll”. But that’s not the truth. My brother bought the soundtrack to Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” and this song was on that CD.

I guess that there are worse ways of being introduced to a new band. But I remember playing this over and over and over and over again and really liking the tempo and the feeling that song imparted. I have never done heroin, but this song sounded what heroin felt like. The dreamy, slow opening with the drum, the manic, noisy middle of the screeching guitars and a giddy Lou Reed talking about death, to the crashing fade out of ultimately not knowing.

Though I found it on a soundtrack of a movie, it was way more mind-expanding than any other song on this tape (aside from “Falling to Pieces”, I suppose). The old joke is that only 15,000 people bought Velvet Underground’s first album and all 15,000 started rock bands. The humor being that just about every band says their influence is VU. I can’t claim that I’ve been influenced by VU, I’ve listened to a bunch of their stuff and “Heroin” is still my favorite song, but including it on the last Good Songs of high school is a nice departing point for college.

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