Category Archives: guilty pleasures

Gonna Keep On, Keep On, Keep On Groovin’…

We’ve all got them in our CD collections: those discs we’re embarassed to own and will either make excuses for (“I got it for a buck!”) or outright lie about (“Er, that’s not mine…”) if anyone finds it in the CD cabinet.

I’ve got quirky enough tastes in music that I’ll even ‘fess up to purchasing — and enjoying — CDs like Neil Sedaka’s The Hungry Years or Toto: Past to Present (1977-1990). Even something like Orleans’ Waking and Dreaming is a keeper — after all, it’s got “Still the One” on it — once you get past the worst album cover of all time.

Still, there are some discs that I love but can’t help making up some excuse for why they’re in my collection. Usually it’s my wife who gets splattered by the shrapnel of the cover story. “Best of Barry Manilow???” my friend will say incredulously, holding up a CD with Barry staring androgynously outward, eyes heavy with glittery eyeshadow. “Uh . . . that’s Barb’s,” I’ll reply, despite the fact it’s been in my collection since 1990.

Anyway, here are three more discs that I love, yet will completely disavow:

First, there’s It’s A Sunshine Day: Best of the Brady Bunch. Oh yes, it’s as dumb as you think it is. Naturally, it’s got the Bunch singing “Keep On,” “It’s A Sunshine Day,” and “Time to Change.” But it’s also got some unappreciated gems like “Candy (Sugar Shoppe)” (with Barry Williams trying — and failing — to rock out) and “Merry-Go-Round.” And what’s not to love about a Brady Bunch version of Don McLean’s “American Pie”? Classic.

Next, it’s K.D., er, k.d. lang’s Ingenue, an album I purchased not for the single “Constant Craving,” but rather for the retro-campy “Miss Chatelaine.” And only k.d. lang would describe her look in the song’s video — in which she wore a classy 1930s-era frilly ball gown — as “dressing in drag.” Say what you will, it’s still a terrific album, though one I always try to hide by mixing it in among my Jonny Lang discs.

Finally, there’s the self-titled Buster Poindexter, the retro-cool persona of New York Dolls front man David Johansen. Buster was several years ahead of the swing revival of the early 90s and therefore never really got the play he deserved, though he’s now made a comeback, of sorts, as “jump blues.” “Hot Hot Hot” may have been the hit single (it was sort of the “Macaraena” of the late 1980s), but there were also a killer versions of “House of the Rising Sun” and “Smack Dab in the Middle.” How you feelin’? Why, hot, hot, hot, of course.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to the Little River Band’s Greatest Hits. It’s Barb’s. Really.

Guilty Pleasures

I’m a great fan of Sirius satellite radio. I can’t stand the commercials on terrestrial radio any more — if I get in the car to drive to Home Depot just as regular radio goes into a break, chances are good they’ll still be playing commercials by the time I reach my destination 15 minutes later. And when they do come back from a break, the brainless patter of deejays makes me so crazy that I generally spend most of my time yelling at the jock to SHUT THE F*** UP AND PLAY SOME MUSIC! And then, of course, there’s the music: the same old limited playlist of the same old tired songs. I can say with confidence that it was overplay of the Supremes’ “Stop In The Name of Love” and the Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown” that drove me to satellite several years ago. And the fact that Howard Stern had announced he was heading to Sirius only made the XM/Sirius choice that much easier for me.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that I love satellite radio. My particular model of radio has a function called “S-Seek,” in which you can program the radio to alert you when one of thirty of your favorite songs comes on. At the press of a button, you’ll be whizzed over to the station that’s getting ready to play your song of choice.

And I realized today, as I was driving to Rockville, that most of my S-Seeks are, to put it bluntly, quite lame.

What they all are, I realized, are guilty pleasures — songs that I love to hear and (God help you) sing along with. Some are one-hit wonders, while others are just plain dopey songs that the artists themselves would probably just as soon forget. Still others are good songs, but the kind that no card carrying middle-aged straight guy should be squealing about when they come on the air.

So without further ado, here are my Top Five Guilty Pleasures (as determined by my Sirius Radio S-Seek Function):

(5) “Bad Blood” (Neil Sedaka)

With its opening synthesized bass notes and Elton John-assisted harmonies in the chorus, what’s not to love about this mostly forgotten chunk of well-produced 1970s pop from one of the Brill Building’s tin pan alley icons? Bonus points as well for Sedaka’s almost too-enthusiastic enunciation on the word “bitch.”

(4) “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (Elton John & Kiki Dee)

Another Elton John assist, this time on a catchy call-and-response notable for its complete lack of sexual tension, especially for a song allegely about heartbreak. Yet, the hook is irresistable — it’s impossible not to sing “woooo hooo…” at the chorus. Just try.

(3) “Don’t You Want Me” (Human League)

My wife often teases me about what she calls my “mod” tastes in 80s music, and this song probably epitomizes those tastes. No drums or guitars, only heavy synthesizers (hey! that was part of their novelty!), and a plot straight out of A Star is Born, with lyrics all but screamed by frontman Philip Oakley. And the fact that I know the name of the lead singer makes me want to punch myself right in the area.

(2) “Head Over Heels” (Go-Go’s)

You can have your “We Got The Beat” and “Vacation” — to me, this is the finest Go-Go’s song ever produced. It’s a clean sounding track, with well-placed back-up harmonies, and a strong vocal from Belinda Carlisle, but it’s the little quirks in the song that really sell it. There’s heavy piano, a bass guitar solo(!), and, the icing on the cake, handclaps — which arrive on a half-beat — in the chorus. Go ahead: try to clap along. I’ll just point and laugh.

(1) “Afternoon Delight” (Starland Vocal Band)

I loved this song as I kid, and I’m still a sucker for it today. It took me years to even realize that the lyrics were suggestive — I thought for a long time that the fireworks themselves were the “afternoon delight.” Oooh! Ahh! — I was more impressed with the acoustic sound and the harmonies. To this day, when it comes on the radio, I try to pick a harmony part to sing and see if I can stay with it for the entire song. I hate myself.

What are YOUR guilty pleasures, hmmm?