Ten Songs that Should Not be in My iPod
I love some atrocious music. At least that’s how it would be judged by this community’s standards. But I prefer to think of it as unconventionally brilliant, bits of flotsam that bring the glory of stone classics and revolutionary obscurities into sharper relief.
Jim McGuinn started me thinking about these songs by playing a set of guilty pleasures on WXPN a couple of weeks ago. But I don’t feel guilty about any of it. You love what you love, and shouldn’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong. So you can keep your Sufjan Stevens, indie hipsters. Give me Daddy Dewdrop.
To prove my lack of shame, I now share with you ten songs that honest-to-goodness reside on my iPod.
1. The Osmonds, “Down By the Lazy River.” The first song I ever loved, it was my gateway drug to rock and roll. To my tender ears in 1972, this was as edgy and dangerous as the Rolling Stones. But it wasn’t even the pinnacle of the boys’ edgy rockin’ danger. Warning: Unless you want your mind blown by some sheer Utah psychedelic audacity, please – I beg of you – don’t click this link.
2. Aldo Nova, “Fantasy.” He had me at guitars-shooting-lasers. But the addition of a skin-tight cheetah-print suit, cowboy boots, a bubblicious pop metal riff, and a vaguely unplaceable accent (French-Italian-Canadian?) pushes this one into the guilt-rock stratosphere.
3. Abba, “Knowing Me Knowing You.” You see the story pop up from time to time: Rage-fueled crusading homophobe shows up in photos at a Days Inn with a well-oiled gigolo and a couple of vials of crank, exemplifying the thing he professes to hate. Abba is gay prostitutes to rock snobs, the band they fiercely deride in public while privately cherishing their copy of Gold. The canon is full of choice tunes, but this one takes top honors. And, for me, Anna-Frida will always be Mary Anne to Agnetha’s Ginger.
4. The Babys, “Isn’t It Time.” I remember seeing the Babys on The Midnight Special or some such show in 1978 and thinking that John Waite was one of the prettiest girls I’d ever seen. I’ve always had a soft spot for the band’s bubbleglam music that was so awkwardly out of step with the brilliant punk rock and new wave that was happening at the time. This song – which some American Idol hopeful should appropriate the way this Belgian dude did – with its shameless, guileless and unapologetic romanticism, is tailor-made for my list.
5. The Partridge Family, “I Think I Love You.” As a kid, I didn’t know that The Cowsills were the true antecedent to this fictional family; I thought Shirley, David and company were simply the perfect pastiche of the Osmonds and The Brady Bunch, and little could be better than that. I’ll fight anyone who wants to slag this slice of pop perfection. “I think I love you/So what am I so afraid of/I’m afraid that I’m not sure of/A love there is no cure for/I think I love you/And that’s what life is made of/Though it worries me to say/I’ve never felt this way.” Shakespeare wishes he had written that.
6. Haircut 100, “Love Plus One.” There’s nothing wrong with loving this song, which is the pure embodiment of summer for me. It’s the intensity with which I adore it that should be called into question. What does the “100” in the band’s name represent? Just that it’s one of my one hundred favorite tunes of all-time, that’s what.
7. Kiss, “Shout It Out Loud.” When I was a kid, three of the things I loved best were rock and roll, superheroes and professional wrestling. And then came a band that seemed to synthesize all three! Don’t let ‘em tell you that there’s too much noise. They’re too old to really understand.
8. Hall and Oates, “Private Eyes.” I know that you can dig “Sara Smile” or Abandoned Luncheonette and still maintain some semblance of hipster cred. Screw the cred. Give me trench coats, fedoras and an endless bounty of pop hooks.
9. Justin Timberlake, “SexyBack.” I know what you’re thinking. This song is misleading inasmuch as my partner Trip – and not young JT – brought sexy back. And you’d have a point. And you may also be thinking that Justin is all that’s wrong with contemporary pop music. That’s where you couldn’t be more wrong. The kid is so right it hurts, injecting all the traditional verities of rhythm, melody and sex into a four-and-a-half minute jam that’s irresistible even to middle-aged men like me.
10. Rick Springfield, “Jessie’s Girl.” What exactly should I feel guilty about? Is the song too catchy? Is the riff too irresistible? Is the lyric too note-perfect in its portrayal of best friend’s girl jealousy? Or maybe I’m not supposed to dig this because the guy used to be on a soap opera. Leave that line of reasoning for Jack Wagner’s string of hits, ‘cause I’m gonna love The Rick till my dying day.