Guilty pleasures. We all have them. Actually, I never had any until recently, because I figured that if I didn’t feel any shame about liking a song, then it wasn’t a guilty pleasure. Ah, what a naïve child I once was. I surely should have known that music would turn on me and become something I didn’t like, and then that something I didn’t like would create something I liked (ahem, “I Want It That Way”).
So I was inspired to reexamine my CD collection and cast a hairy eye at which songs have not exactly held their own against Father Time. I still like all of the songs on this list, mind you; let’s just say I have since come around to understanding why others may disagree with me.
“I Beg Your Pardon,” Kon Kan (Move to Move)
I think the laconic vocal is what hooked me, as opposed to some over-sampled tenor like Dino or Paul “Boom Boom, Let’s Go Back to My Room” Lekakis. I remember, as early as the following year, someone played that song at our local college dance bar, and as people were leaving, they were mock-imitating the keyboard riff. Not much of shelf life for this one.
“Strawberry Fields Forever,”
Candy Flip (Madstock…)
It must have been the use of “Funky Drummer” in a cover version of one of my all-time favorite songs. That clearly blinded me to the breathier than breathy vocal, the impossibly slow BPM, and, well, pretty much everything else about it.
“Hello,” The Beloved (Happiness)
It’s a List Song, which is always a bad sign. When the choruses consist of the names of celebrities, followed by “Hello, hello, hello, hello,” you should know straight away that you are not dealing with a band that’s going to change the world. Especially when two of the celebrities paired together are Willy Wonka and William Tell. In the interest of full disclosure, I have granted a full List Song pardon to Simple Minds’ “Up on the Catwalk,” because the drums are just too damn cool.
“Hella Good,” No Doubt (Rock Steady)
I was very, very late to the No Doubt party, and then as soon as I started to like them, they started falling apart. The individual tracks to this intrigue me – I can totally envision Arthur Baker working his mid-‘80s mojo on it – but truth be told, there isn’t much of a song here.
“Turn Me On,” Vitamin C (Vitamin C)
And while we’re talking about songs that don’t have much of a song, play a song like “Turn Me On” at a bowling alley and see what happens. The verses, literally, disappear, and the chorus is exactly the same every time. It’s a hell of a chorus, but as much as it pains me to say, it’s not enough.
“Do It,” Knodel (The White Hole)
The song is funny, but funny has a short shelf life. And that chorus does not live up to the promise of the verses. And that second verse is killer. “Do you like swing / Music / I said no / She said why / don’t you come / back to my / house and we / can swing dance / on my bed.” Um, did I say that I didn’t like swing music? Strike that, reverse it.
“Love Is All That Matters,” Human League (Crash)
This is basically “Human” at a faster speed, which is funny because “Human” is “Tender Love” by the Force MCs at a faster speed. The lyrics are god-awful, too. “Love for giving, love for good / Love to keep us faithful / After all is said and done / Love is all that matters.” Huh? If there’s a song on this list that truly embarrasses me, it’s this one.
“Certain Things Are Likely,” KTP (Certain Things are Likely)
Roughly three-quarters of the beat mixes I made during my DJ days contained the garage mix of this song. I just loved that Phil Harding bass line, and in retrospect, I’m not sure the song deserved it. And what the hell does mean to say that certain things are likely? It’s both wishy-washy and profound.
“Careful Where You Step,” Saga (Silent Knight)
Saga’s biggest problem was that they were absolutely terrified of open spaces in their songs. This song, with its guitar-to-keys-to-drum-fill busyness, demonstrates that as well as anything. Still, when I heard Michael Sadler set off that siren in the break, followed by some crazy-ass guitar soloing, I was mesmerized. Nowadays, less mesmerized.
“Tattva,” Kula Shaker (K)
It was those Beatle-esque verses, those damn things get me every time. If the melody is hypnotic enough, they could be saying, “We are the master race / Everyone else must learn their place” and I’d sing right along.
“He’s a Man,” The Other Ones (The Other Ones)
I used to always try to look for the next hit single on an album I liked. When this band scored with “Holiday,” I was convinced they should follow it with this song. The harmonies in the chorus clearly distracted me from the brain-dead lyric. “Lonely boys are never happy when they’re all alone / Tell me one lonely boy who is happy on his own.” Um, if they’re lonely, then they’re not happy to be alone, jeez. I did dig the guitar solo, though. Remember when even the poppiest of pop bands had guitarists that could shred?
“Just Another Victim,” Helmet & House of Pain (Judgment Night Soundtrack)
Musical tastes can sometimes be like playing Crazy Climber; if the window closes on your hands before you find another window to move to, you fall out of touch, metaphorically speaking. As the dance music window began to close on me in late 1993, a strange new window opened, one with Rage Against the Machine, Redd Kross and the soundtrack to “Judgment Night,” which I bought solely for this song. That window closed almost as soon as it opened, but it was fun while it lasted. In a black bag, a tag on your toe…
“Hateful Hate,” 10,000 Maniacs (Blind Man’s Zoo)
Even Natalie Merchant has admitted that she’s embarrassed by this song now. Such minor-key righteous indignation, wasted. One person that surely still loves this song today is 10,000 Maniacs drummer Jerry Augustyniak, because it’s one of the rare moments when he’s able to let rip.
“The Thin Wall,” Ultravox (Rage in Eden)
I let this song slide for doing the very thing that Jason Mraz does that makes me crazy: Midge Ure just won’t stop singing. Talk, talk, talk, and that talk has references to bovine grace and those that act as though they’re moved by unheard music. Are you kidding me? It must be the video, which is the UK synth pop version of Billy Joel’s “Pressure.” Both videos, coincidentally, were directed by Russell Mulcahy, who helmed all of the videos from Duran Duran’s Rio.
“Going South,” Wolfgang Press (Funky Little Demons)
I remember meeting up with my family for a wedding shortly after this song broke. I kept singing, “Peace and love, a phony kind of lover,” and my brother Steve kept saying, “Stop it!” My brother-in-law Kevin, who was a DJ, sang along with me. It had to be some kind of Stockholm syndrome-related condition that bonded us that day.