Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Good Songs XIV

Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
Crazy – Seal
Down Boys – Warrant
Love Song – Tesla
Gonna Make You Sweat – C+C Music Factory
Photograph – Def Leppard
Scared – Dangerous Toys
Fuck Tha Police – NWA
Boys of Summer – Don Henley
3AM Eternal – The KLF
Never Enough – LA Guns
Fly to the Angels – Slaughter
Jackin’ for Beats – Ice Cube

Hoo boy. This is a weird one to listen to again.

What I mean by that is, for a tape that was crafted (ha, crafted – so pretentious) in 1993, this has a feeling of a cassette that was made three years prior. As I was listening to it earlier today, I was trying to figure out exactly what message I was trying to convey.

And I think that message was simple, “I wish I was back in high school.” And this is a strange message because I was very happy with Merrimack College and while I enjoyed my time at Amesbury High School, I didn’t want to go back at all. So maybe that wasn’t it. Perhaps I just wanted a tape of all the crappy music I enjoyed when my primary address was my parents’ house.

In either case, I couldn’t have picked better songs to elicit tones of home.

Seal’s “Crazy” is still a terrific tune. When it came out, I remember being absolutely blown away. It was psychedelic and creepy with lyrics suggesting something bigger was going on behind the scenes. It was as if Seal was taking the listener on a chill, yet paranoid acid trip wondering who are the gun-toting “yellow people that walk through his head”?

Like many of the descriptors that I use to explain my fascination with certain songs, it all begins with that hypnotic beat that lures the listener into this weird audial world. It’s dreamy and ethereal and things seem to flow along those lines until the drum hits and it begins to pick up speed. It reminds me of the boat ride in the original “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” where the kids think that they’re in for a nice float down a chocolate river, but ends up being a psychedelic hell ride of chickens without heads and giant visages of Slugworth.

Seal doesn’t quite go that far, but the dreamy world of the song’s beginning runs in sharp contrast as to the pointed nightmares that make up the remainder of the tune. I had high hopes for Seal after this song as I thought that he was going to release weird, trippy songs for the rest of his career* but he ended up cutting off his dreads, releasing adult-oriented pop, getting married to Heidi Klum and becoming insanely rich. I guess him not making weird songs kind of worked for him.

* After he release “Let Love Rule”, I also had the same thoughts about Lenny Kravitz too. But he didn’t do it either. In fact, he cut off his dreads, made (less-than-original) adult-oriented pop, married Lisa Bonet and became insanely rich. I somehow dislike Kravitz more than Seal though I’m not sure exactly why. There’s a lot of Kravitz coming up soon, I’m sure I’ll get into it more.

There are times when you add a song to a mix because you want to set the mood. If you’re lifting weights, you add Rage Against the Machine or Dangerous Toys. If you’re trying to woo a young lady, first off you don’t say you’re “Wooing her” and second, you add a little Jeff Buckley or Tesla to the mix. I don’t know what the hell I was trying to do when I added C+C Music Factory*.

* Or if you’re into puns and from Amesbury, MA: C+C Pizza Factory. God, I hate myself sometimes.

There is no excuse for this song anytime, anywhere. And I apologize for introducing this earworm to your brain right now. It wasn’t cool and I deeply regret it.

Like most dance tracks, this song is forgettable. The one thing that I remember is the CONTOVERSY! that this video created when it was aired regularly on MTV. Much like Velvet Underground, C+C Music Factory had a supermodel who hung around with them and “sang” with them. Her name was Zelma Davis and because she was draw-droppingly attractive, she had a lot of face time in the video.

Also around this time, it was found that Milli Vanilli did not sing any of their vocals on their record. For some reason this was a big deal back then. I mean, a really, Really, REALLY big deal. Milli Vanilli were pariahs and never worked again, then one of them killed himself. Like I said, people went a bit bonkers about this at the time. During the same time, it came out that Zelma Davis did not really sing. Most of the hooks were sung by former WeatherGirl (who sang “It’s Raining Men”*) and big-boned female Martha Wash.

Unfortunately, Ms. Wash did not have the aesthetics that a group as serious as C+C Music Factory was going for, so they had her sing the songs and told the world that that was Zelma Davis’ pipes. Not wanting to become a running joke like Milli Vanilli or deprive the world of music inspired by the Arsenio Hall bits, C+C came out and admitted to what happened.

* Everytime I hear “It’s Raining Men” (which is A LOT!) I am reminded of that classic Simpsons scene where Moe kicks Homer out of the bar and removes his favorite song from the jukebox.

Home: “It’s Raining Men”?
Moe: Not no more it ain’t!

Of course it lands in Smithers’ car.
Remember when MTV ran videos and in the bottom left-hand corner was that box that told you all the information you need? Band name, song name, album name, label name and the name of the video director. C+C Music Factory’s information looked as if it was written by Dostoyevsky. I’m trying to do this by memory but I remember it reading “Artist name: C+C Music Factory, vocals by Marth Wash, visualized by Zelma Davis”.

Now that I look at it, the name doesn’t seem long, but trust me it looked like a lot of words when you 16, drunk and staring at a TV for hours.

Speaking of videos, the video for the KLF’s “3 AM Eternal” was bizarre. It was a bunch of people in blue robes in a post-apocalyptical world jamming to something called “Justified Ancients of Mu Mu” and singing into hilariously outdated cell phones. I loved it. I loved every damn thing about that song – mostly because I knew nothing about that group (this was pre-Wikipedia and the internet) so my ideas of who these people were, what they were signing about and what they were attempting to do were Seal-level crazy.

For some reason I thought that they were from the Netherlands (actually from England) and I thought that they were singing about something really big. They were not. They were just a band with a prefab mythology that was meant to be mysterious. But I didn’t know that yet.

I was such a naïve kid, I am surprised that I never joined a cult.

Don Henley. Ugh, I hate Don Henley. But almost everyone hates Don Henley, so it’s not like I’m in some special club. But I don’t hate “Boys of Summer”. If you’ve never heard it before, it has nothing to do with the 1955 Brooklyn Dodogers or the Donald Kahn’s book about the 1955 Dodgers.

It’s about a baby-boomer reflecting on his days as a kid. And while baby boomers and their love of their own selves and generation are ranked just a tick below my feelings for Don Henley, nostalgia is nostalgia. And I’m a suck for that crap. Especially when you’re as self-absorbed as I am. Oh no. I am Don Henley, I’ve become what I’ve hated the most. But in some ways, aren’t we all a bit like Don Henley? By hating Don Henley, we really hate ourselves!

Or maybe Don Henley is a pretentious douche who thinks that he’s a little better than everyone, when in reality he’s the third most talented member of a thoroughly mediocre and absolutely boring rock band.

Yeah. That’s more like it.

I’ve mentioned it before, but if there’s one thing that I really like (aside from the untimely death of Don Henley) it’s team-ups and cross-overs. Whether it’s in the movies, or on TV, or in comics; if you stick a character that I like in another medium that I like, I’m there.

Ice Cube’s “Jackin’ for Beats” is the perfect audio team-up, except Cube is a bit of a dick about it. He takes a bunch of beats that have been made popular by other artists of the day (Public Enemy, Digital Underground, D-Nice, among others) and brags about how he’s taking their beats and making them his own.

I’ve never rapped nor do I run in hip hop circles, but I think that taking a beat that is completely identifiable with another rapper or group is like taking that person’s property*. I remember hearing that song for the first time and being shocked that Ice Cube was so brazen in his theft.

* Which is strange because, let’s face it, rappers grab beats that were identified with other musicians and make those songs their own. I’m not going to get into a debate about whether it’s right or wrong, as Bill Belichick is fond of saying, “It is what it is” but do you associate the funk of “Superfreak” with Rick James or MC Hammer?

Brazen or not, it’s a lot of fun to hear Ice Cube rap over these beats and that’s what makes it a great song, even now. And the little shot at the end against NWA? Ice Cube really knows how to twist that knife, doesn’t he.

Speaking of NWA, I really liked “Fuck tha Police” a lot, didn’t I? It’s on just about every Good Songs tape. Enough already, 1993 Byron. You’ve made your point.

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