The Not Contractually Obligated Top Ten Of 2012

December 31, 2012

Now that I’ve wasted so much time here establishing a few traditions, I’d be remiss to honor not them…

Almost every artist in the history of mankind has at least one title in their catalog that is a compilation, a stopgap collection meant to maintain interest between releases (often to boost holiday sales) or to fulfill a contractual obligation.

This is the former, a chance to make use, one more time, of a lot of wasted time over the past twelve months.

Four years ago, I reflected on the annual, childhood tradition of spending New Year’s Day with a half dozen blank cassettes as Q102 played back the Top 102 songs of the previous year.

So, as 2012 begins its fade into a speck in the rear-view mirror, here are the most popular songs that appeared here during the past year…

10. The Beautiful South – Everybody’s Talkin
from Carry On Up The Charts (1994)
If It’s December, It Must Be Christmas

“On one of the however hundred or so cable channels, NBC is airing It’s A Wonderful Life.”

9. Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
from Emotions In Motion (1982)
October 2, 1982

“At some point last year, I started a semi-regular tradition of pulling up a Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine and dissecting the debut songs for a given week in the early ’80s (when I was first listening to music and most familiar with Top 40 radio).”

8. Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers
from The Big Lebowski soundtrack (1998)
“Am I the only one around here who gives a @#%! about the rules?”

“I know that Walter Sobcheck does, indeed, give a @#%! about them. He was willing to send Smokey into “a world of pain” for a foot foul in The Big Lebowski.”

7. David Bowie/Pat Metheney Group – This Is Not America
from The Falcon And The Snowman soundtrack (1985)
February 2, 1985

“In early 1985, the shift in my musical interests, which had been evolving and changing in fits and starts for a couple years, was ongoing.”

6. Eye To Eye – Nice Girls
from Eye To Eye (1982)
May 22, 1982

“As I opt to periodically do – when I have no other viable or unviable ideas – it’s time to pull up an old Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart and note the songs that debuted that week.”

5. The Monkees- (Theme From) The Monkees
from The Best Of The Monkees (2003)
The Monkees And Me

“I suppose that for someone as fascinated by primates, both of the skyscraper-climbing and planet-ruling sort, as I apparently am, The Monkees should be a favorite band for, if nothing else, their name.”

4. Altered Images – I Could Be Happy
from Pinky Blue (1982)

“I keep seeing some television commercial, touting some MMA bout. With bagpipes blaring over fight footage, some participant is in the frame spouting Irish proverbs in an accent that I’m not quite sure is Irish or Scottish.”

3. John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks) – Gold
from Bombs Away Dream Babies (1979)
Andrew Burt – Or Someone Else – In 2012

“The candidates have not yet formally been nominated and I am already fatigued by the quadrennial excercise in slapstick that is the presidential election.”

2. The Nails – 88 Lines About 44 Women
from Mood Swing (1984)
Cheese, Crackers And The Voigt-Kampff Test

“Having had a reaction due to the ingestion of a certain plant-based substance, I once rampaged my way through several boxes of crackers, leading my housemates to dub me ‘Cracker Vacuum.'”

1. The Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town
from The Dream Academy (1985)
Ah Hey Oh Ma Ma Ma…

“In the last few days, I’ve rediscovered the music of The Dream Academy, a band which I had loved and forgotten (despite owning all three of their albums).”

Hall & Oates

December 29, 2012

(originally appeared in December, 2009)
I haven’t really been all that enamored with The Cleveland Show, the latest spin-off from Family Guy. I am still holding out on a final decision, though, as it did take me awhile to warm up to American Dad.

(though I dug Roger, the incorrigible alien, from the start)

The other night they made a reference to Peabo Bryson which was amusing because, musical considerations aside, Peabo is a fun word to say and it is a fun word to hear said.

(unfortunately, aside from that one infommercial for some soft rock collection which Bryson hosted and possibly Casey Kasem, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone say “Peabo”)

Hall & Oates was also referenced as a good angel/bad angel on Cleveland’s shoulders, trying to influence a decision.

I lived through the years of the early ’80s – they were my musical formative years – so, at the time I began listening to radio, Hall & Oates was a pop music juggernaut.

Pull up a list of their hits and run through their singles during that period; it’s staggering.

I don’t recall if Hall & Oates had any credibility in the early ’80s. The only rock criticism I had access to at the time was a still somewhat relevent (but beginning to decline) Rolling Stone. I think that the magazine mostly ignored Hall & Oates.

But, I don’t remember animosity toward the duo, either. Everyone knew the songs and most were big radio hits. However, this ubiquitousness didn’t seem to generate the rancor usually accompanying such familiarity.

You’d hear the songs, enjoy some more than others, but I don’t remember knowing anyone, personally, that was passionate about Hall & Oates – no one mocked them, no one wore their concert shirts.

Most of those songs still sound fantastic thirty years later, though. And Hall & Oates do seem to be experiencing a rediscovery during the past few years (and getting some long-overdue acclaim).

It made me consider what Hall & Oates songs that I’d most want to hear at this moment.

I don’t want to hear You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. To be honest – and I know this statement will make some shake their heads in dismay – I don’t want to hear that song by anyone.

I’m so tired of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, I can’t remember if I ever liked it.

(Thanks Top Gun)

I dug Adult Education at the time, but time has not been kind to the song. Now, I think I find it overwrought and even a bit creepy.

Method Of Modern Love was too goofy for me in 1985 and it’s still goofy but not in a way that appeals to me.

But most of the hits of Hall & Oates are songs that are more than welcome to pop up on shuffle.

Some of the lesser hits – How Does It Feel To Be Back, Wait For Me, Possession Obsession – are appealing (maybe because they didn’t wear out their welcome as monstrous hits like You Make My Dreams, I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), or Maneater did).

So, if I wanted to hear some Hall & Oates right now, I think here are a quartet of songs I’d be inclined to pull up…

Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List
from Voices (1980)

So, after touting Hall & Oates lesser hits, the first one I opted for was one of their biggest, but, from the stutter-step opening, Kiss On My List hooks me when I hear it. It’s lighthearted, playful, and has a fantastic chorus.

It’s also the first song by the duo which I remember being all over the radio. It also makes me think of rainy Friday afternoons in seventh grade when our homeroom teacher would allow us to play albums. She usually went with Christopher Cross, but I recall Kiss On My List being a favorite, too.

Hall & Oates – Your Imagination
from Private Eyes (1981)

In the summer of ’82, we took a family vacation to Western Pennsylvania. For two weeks, I heard Your Imagination, which I hadn’t heard on the stations back home. Those stations still weren’t playing the song when we returned and it was though it had never existed.

Maybe it was because Hall & Oates had already had the massive hits Private Eyes and I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) as well as the underappreciated gem Did It In A Minute from their Private Eyes album, but the quirky, understated Your Imagination seemed to get lost in the wake.

Hall & Oates- Family Man
from H2O (1982)

Dark and paranoid, Family Man stood out from Hall & Oates hits of the early ’80s with its agressive guitars and New Wave vibe.

The track is actually a cover of a song by Mike Oldfield, of Tubular Bells fame. I used to have a copy of Oldfield’s version and, aside from the female vocalist on the original, Hall & Oates take is, as I recall, pretty faithful.

Hall & Oates – Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
from Big Bam Boom (1984)

By the time Big Bam Boom came out in late 1984, pop music and Top 40 stations had begun to hold far less interest for me than it had merely a year earlier. So, I was unimpressed with Out Of Touch and Method Of Modern Love, the first two hits from the album. I’ve already declared the latter to be goofy, but the former just seems soulless and stilted.

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid was the album’s third hit the following spring and is neither soulless nor stilted. It bobs along on a gentle melody and was one of the last songs by Hall & Oates to get a lot of airplay even if it didn’t reach the heights that they had earlier in the decade.

Yes, Mr. Capra, You Are Correct

December 24, 2012

(remixed from Christmases past, but the sentiments remain true)

Though it was warm enough this morning to have a window open, the forecast tonight is for cold and the central heat is keeping the chill of the outside world at bay with a steady, soothing hum.

The only light radiating – other than that from the television’s glow – is from the lights of the Christmas tree which Paloma has trimmed with care.

(and, astoundingly, Ravi has not attempted to scale…yet)

On the television screen is Bedford Falls.

I didn’t grow up with viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life, which is odd I suppose as I was a kid in the ’70s.

It was during that decade that the copyright on the film lapsed and the movie was being aired repeatedly during the holiday season on independent television stations.

Suddenly, it had become a beloved, Christmas staple.

Somehow, I didn’t watch It’s A Wonderful Life until I was in my early twenties and rented it from the video store next to the record store where I worked.

I had two days off, I was broke, and I wanted to veg. There was It’s A Wonderful Life. I shrugged and figured I was due.

It was the middle of July.

Now, an annual viewing, seasonally adjusted, is a bit of a tradition. So, I’m stretched out on the couch and watching as the plans of Jimmy Stewart get laid to waste one by one – no travel, no college, no life in the dirty city.

(and, as I think about it, I’ve been fortunate to do all of those things he’d set out to do)

Paloma was up very early this morning, so she’s not watching. She’d likely have passed anyhow as she finds the flick to be depressing.

(it is a bit of a grim slog to Jimmy Stewart’s epiphany)

A lot of folks watching tonight likely identify with the struggles of the working class citizens of Bedford Falls.

There is a dreary rain falling outside and gusts of wind. I can feel by touching the window that the temperature is dropping.

My eyes kept catching snatches of items about the living room in the firefly flickers from the black and white images on the screen.

Bob Marley is smiling from some odd print that has him juxtaposed against stars and stripes. Godzilla battles the Smog Monster on a framed Japanese poster – a very nifty gift from Paloma.

There’s some of Paloma’s artwork on the wall as well as a cattle skull painted metallic silver, a British Union Jack and a Singaporean flag, a subway poster for The Boomtown Rats’ In The Long Grass, a clock with The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft’s face, and numerous other unusual artifacts.

There are a thousand or so CDs we’ve kept on one wall; a thousand or so vinyl albums filed against another wall.

We have creature comforts.

Ravi is asleep on a large chair, curled into a small ball of black fur and Ju Ju sits on the back of the couch staring out the window behind me.

Pizza is most certainly curled up with Paloma, sleeping in the next room.

We have a home.

It’s peaceful, it’s comforting, and, to have what we have, it is quite wonderful.

Here are four modern songs of the season that I must hear each Christmas…

Wendy & Lisa with Seal – The Closing Of The Year
from Just Say Noël (1996)

“If I cannot bring you comfort
Then at least I bring you hope
For nothing is more precious
Than the time we have and so
We all must learn from small misfortune
Count the blessings that are real
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
At the closing of the year”

The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York
from If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)

Gritty and gorgeous, poignant and profane – I’m not sure how it is possible to resist the charms of Fairytale Of New York.

Band Aid – Do The Know It’s Christmas? (12″ version)
from Do The Know It’s Christmas? single (1984)

Band Aid’s charity single from 1984 has been pretty maligned and, granted, it might not be a stellar musical effort, but, if you were a young music fan at the time, it had a certain charm that it likely retains to this day. It featured some of the superstar acts of the early MTV era and it was one of the first musical events I had lived through.

And, if you were a kid at the time, it very well was one of the first times you realized that as big as the world might be, it was one world. And, maybe it made you stop and think that there are a lot of people in the world who might not have the simplest things which we take for granted, not just at Christmas, but each and every day.

At least it did for me.

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
from I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts (1982)

The Waitresses only released one full-length album and an EP of their quirky, New Wave rock. But, despite their scant output, the group notched two, enduring classics – the sassy I Know What Boys Like and their modern holiday classic Christmas Wrapping.

I first heard the song on 97X during Christmas ’83 as I was discovering modern rock and it was immediately memorable.

Years later, I’d much better relate to the story within the song, and, somehow, despite how many times I’ve heard it, the ending is still a surprise that makes me smile.