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)
Bagpipes

“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).”

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Ah Hey Oh Ma Ma Ma…*

January 8, 2012

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).

Few bands have been more aptly named. Paisley as could be, pictures of the classically-schooled trio made me think of the early ‘70s television series The Mod Squad.

(barely walking in tadpole pajamas during that show’s run, I vaguely remember being somewhat transfixed by Peggy Lipton)

And if the name The Dream Academy is unfamiliar…if you were listening to radio in the autumn of 1985, you likely know their song Life In A Northern Town (see here for a very cool performance by them on Saturday Night Live).

That song was pretty much all that most listeners ever heard from The Dream Academy which is unfortunate. I’ve always considered them to be a sadly overlooked act of the ‘80s and felt that, under different circumstances, they could have had more success.

(what those circumstances might be, I don’t know).

The group split after releasing their third album, A Different Kind Of Weather, in 1991 and for years their catalog was unavailable aside from pricey Japanese imports (of course, all Japanese imports tend to be pricey).

Curious about what lead singer Nick Laird-Clowes had been up to during the past decade and a half, I did a bit of research. He has been doing music, but another detail caused me to take notice.

Supposedly, he had fallen into serious drug addiction and, to become sober, he had sequestered himself in a monastery in the Himalayas.

Whether it is true or not, I have no idea. I do know that given their music and their style, if one band would have a member that would seek respite from drug addiction with Tibetan monks, it would certainly have been The Dream Academy.

It was just their vibe.

Here’s the song that made The Dream Academy a one-hit wonder and four more from their brief existence…

The Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town
from The Dream Academy (1985)

I remember hearing Life In A Northern Town on 97X amidst Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and The Suburbs and immediately taking notice. The tribute to the late Nick Drake, produced by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, was so striking.

By the time they chanted the first ah-hey-oh, ma-ma-ma…I was hooked and, twenty-five years later, I still never tire of the song.

The Dream Academy – The Edge Of Forever
from The Dream Academy (1985)

Aside from Life In A Northern Town, The Dream Academy has achieved a measure of immortality for The Edge Of Forever as the wide-eyed song plays during the kiss between Ferris and Sloan at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The Dream Academy – This World
from The Dream Academy (1985)

This World is a song of lost innocence as dark as it is pretty (and it is very pretty).

The Dream Academy – Here
from Remembrance Days (1987)

As the members of The Dream Academy were classically trained musicians, there are a lot of flutes and such accenting much of their music. Here is simple and lush, building to a crescendo.

The Dream Academy – Love
from A Different Kind Of Weather (1991)

There are some folks who might consider covering John Lennon to be sacrilege, but his music has made for some inspired covers over the years (Marianne Faithfull’s take on Working Class Hero springs to mind).

The Dream Academy do an admirable version of Love, making it a joyous, trip-hop tinged, chant-filled romp.


The Not Contractually Obligated Top Ten Of 2009

January 1, 2010

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.

A year 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 2009 was the first, full calendar year of this blog’s existence, here are the most popular songs that appeared here during that time…

10. The Motels – Shame
from Shock
Coming Soon To A Record Store Near You (Or Not)

“In a previous life, I did a bit of freelance music journalism. For the past several years, I’ve been engaged in far more lucrative albeit soul-sucking work…”

9. Guadalcanal Diary – Watusi Rodeo
from Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man
Dear Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas…

Any Major Dude has noted the search engine terms leading the masses to his blog often involve unrequited or impossible love…”

8. Fleetwood Mac – Sara
from Tusk
Maybe I’ll Have Fleetwood Mac Perform At My Island Coronation

“Inspiration strikes at the most wondrously random moments. The other day, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk popped up on shuffle…”

7. Big Country – The Storm
from The Crossing
If I’d Known He Was My Neighbor, I’d Have Brought Him Some Haggis

“For a band that had such minimal commercial success here in the States, Big Country made their one shot a memorable one. In A Big Country is a well-worn touchstone in the world of ’80’s pop culture…”

6. General Public – Tenderness
from Weird Science soundtrack
Adios John Hughes

“Last Thursday night, checking the news before going to bed, I read the headline that filmmaker John Hughes was dead. As I am of the age I am, it’s a passing of someone that had a rather measurable impact on my childhood…”

5. Los Lobos – Will The Wolf Survive?
from Will The Wolf Survive?
Even Rock Stars Need A Hug Sometimes

“It surely doesn’t suck to be a rock star…”

4. The Jacksons – Can You Feel It?
from Triumph
Michael Jackson

“Word spread quickly at our office on Thursday that Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital. Less than two hours later, while I was navigating rush hour traffic and dodging hobos on the interstate, the announcement came over the radio that Michael Jackson was dead….”

3. Mark Knopfler – Going Home (Theme For The Local Hero)
from Local Hero soundtrack
So Long, Little Friend

“Like most people, I would prefer the days to unfold like the colorful pages of a Dr. Seuss book, populated by the playful antics of furry, non-existent creatures and lots of nonsensical rhyming….”

2. The Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town
from The Dream Academy
Ah Hey Oh Ma Ma Ma…

“I’ve mentioned how lately I have discovered that I possess a previously unknown interest in the music of Bob Seger. And in the last few days, I’ve rediscovered a band which I had loved and forgotten (despite owning all three of their albums)…”

1. The Pogues – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
from Straight To Hell soundtrack
Straight To Hell, Indeed

“For several years, I worked in a very large record store. One of the perks of the job (aside from cocooning oneself from reality) was free rentals from our video department…”