1 New Book, 8 Is Not Enough, and 10 More Songs! (part 5 of 10)

So, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter you might know that I have a new book that came out Tuesday. If you aren’t sick of saying so, then perhaps I am not doing my job guerrilla marketing enough. So I may as well add a blog post about the book before I get to the 5th group of 10 songs in my top 100 list.

The Book: WWE 100 Greatest Matches. I got to be part of some amazing books during my seven years working at WWE. (Hell, I got to be part of a few amazing wrestling books before my time at WWE. The three books I did at Sports Publishing LLC probably helped me get the WWE gig in the first place.) While I did write one book while working at corporate (10 Count Trivia) and contributed to several others, this is the first book I wrote solo. We solicited authors, wwe.com contributors, Superstars, and more to get a vast range of opinions of the greatest matches in WWE history. I built the list of 100 using these lists as a guide. For each match, I then rewatched them a few times, and wrote about the leadup to the match, the match action, and then the aftermath. Each match is a two-page spread accompanied by several awesome photographs from the WWE library. I also was super lucky, because Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, who’s match with Macho Man Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania III was a no-brainer addition to the list, wrote the introduction, giving the book’s authoring team some much needed star power.

Are you already interested? The book should be at your local Barnes & Noble in the sports section, or you can order it from Amazon Here!

Cover

The reviews: Still not convinced that this should top your summer reading list? How about some awesome reviews that really stoked my ego at a time that my self-esteem could use the boost. Here’s one and here’s another! The real kicker is that WWE even made a video promo for the book. If you ask me honestly, the WWE Encyclopedia is still the project I am most proud of working on, but this is pretty darn close.

The real heroes: Other than my involvement, what is the primary similarity between my new book and the Encyclopedia? The editors, designers, production team of DK/Brady/Prima. I’ve worked in the publishing industry for decades, so I already knew of the magic Rube Goldberg  machine that took text to finished product, but it’s even more stunning when it’s my crappy words that get turned into a spectacular visual product.

I am sure I won’t continue to bring up this book–hopefully, I will soon have another project to announce and I can move on. Worst case scenario, it’s only 3 to 300 more blogs tied to the book. But let’s make this one a best seller in the meantime by buying this book for dads, moms, brothers, sisters, your letter carrier, Seth Green, Bill Simmons, that lady who lives down the street–it’s the perfect gift for anyone.

Back to my music list and the reason for the music list in the first place–listening while exercising. My previous blog, Renewing My Fitbit Vows (part 4 of 10), mentioned that I was back to hitting my 11,000 step, 5.5 mile goal–with 5 straight days. I am now on an 8-day streak, although upping it to 9 will be a challenge, as we are driving to North Carolina tomorrow for a First Communion weekend.

  • Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)–Miami Sound Machine
  • No Myth–Michael Penn
  • Heroes–David Bowie
  • Hip Hop Is Dead–Nas (featuring Will.I.Am)
  • Rapper’s Delight–Sugarhill Gang
  • And She Was–Talking Heads
  • Let’s Go Crazy–Prince
  • I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)–Hercules Soundtrack
  • Crazy For You–Madonna
  • Us and Them–Pink Floyd

I always thought a “Guilty Pleasure” album featuring acclaimed music acts doing covers of  songs you wouldn’t expect them to perform would be a great concept album. If I was such an artist,  I have no doubt that Miami Sound’s Machine’s “Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)” would be my contribution to the project. I’ve always had a soft spot for soft rock. I love Air Supply for example, but I did not put any of their songs on my 100. There is another song that represents this side of my personality to come, but there is no guiltier pleasure than this Gloria Estefan number. The other candidate from this batch is the romantic song from the animated movie Hercules. This song was already on my list, but then my daughter made me love it even more by using it for a college film project.

For a long time, Michael Penn was the ultimate one-hit wonder as I absolutely adored “No Myth” from the first time I heard it. “What if I was Romeo in black jeans?” is a question I can hear sung any time and it makes me smile. The driving chords from the acoustic guitar are also so distinctive. But I had not heard another song from Penn, the brother of actors Sean and Chris Penn, since (by the way, that seems like a brutally talented trio of siblings–what are my kids going to do to match that? No pressure!) But 12 years later, Penn performed a duet with the incredible Aimee Mann (his wife and the former lead singer of ‘Til Tuesday) of the Beatles song “Two of Us” for the I Am Sam soundtrack. (I cannot recommend the movie at all, but the soundtrack is definately worth owning.) That’s a song  that just missed this list.

The two music giants that we lost this year are represented on this group of ten. I had already talked in some detail about Prince in the blog entry Royal Discography but David Bowie was another crushing loss in 2016. Like Prince, I do not ever remember a time in my life when Bowie wasn’t cool. He was making his “comeback” so to speak in 1983 when I first started really paying attention to music.  His three hits from the Let’s Dance album were mainstays on American Top 40 that year, and they are such incredible songs to sing along with anytime they play on the radio. Loving those songs inspired me to work backwards on his catalog, and I was so delighted to discover his earlier work. Again, any number of songs could make a favorites list, but “Heroes” is theone that makes the cut for me.

I am glad that the premise of the Nas song that makes my list, “Hip Hop is Dead,” is decidedly not true. Not only is this a song that I love hearing any time it comes up, but often I have to tilt the randomness of my ipod by specifically selecting the song to play. The sampling of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is inspired and the wordplay on the song about the commercialization of the genre is fantastic. I can’t say I am a hip-hop/rap expert, but I have loved having it in my life back to the days of “Rapper’s Delight.” I remember being obsessed with that song in 1980. I was in fifth grade and I would constantly rap the lyrics anywhere and everywhere. I have a lasting memory of (I thought) quietly doing them at my school desk and the girl sitting in front of me turning around and hissing the request that I please shut up.

My favorite band for years was the Talking Heads. They were my first real break from Top 40 music, even if “Burning Down the House” was a top ten hit. Seeing the concert movie Stop Making Sense as well as listening to “And She Was” and the rest of the Little Creatures album did it for me. Not seeing them in concert was one of my great musical regrets. I am not proud to finally admit that the only reason I started to listening to them in the first place was to impress a woman. I was a bus boy in high school and Danielle, two years older than me, was a big fan of the band. I wanted to impress her, so I started listening to their music to have something to discuss. While my initial reasons were not pure, I loved what I heard and they remain a favorite of mine. In fact, another song will be coming as well as a song featuring David Byrne.

The first of two Madonna songs to make my list was the absolute greatest slow dance songs from my high school years. We used to have dances in our church basement, and my friend Aaron and I would DJ them (this is not to say we were DJs in the way people DJ now–we just played one song after another and would come up with idiotic prizes for dance contests–thank god cameras were not so ubiquitous back then–I would not liked to have seen my moves preserved on  YouTube for the rest of my life. But “Crazy for You” was an excellent tune to slow dance to if you could convince a girl to do so. Looking back, it is amazing I ever got anyone to do so. I was a dork back then, not the dashing and suave hero I am now.

Finally, my love of pop music, American Top 40 (or more specifically Billboard  magazine charts), numbers, and records intersected with the amazing fact that Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd spent more than a decade on the Top 200 album charts. Don’t get me wrong–like all white American middle schoolers, I eventually got into Pink Floyd and love that album, as well as the song “Us and Them” in particular. But that is just an amazing number–more than 700 weeks and 15 years on the chart. I’d settle for 700 readers or 15 straight Fitbit goal days in a row.

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Renewing My Fitbit Vows (part 4 of 10)

OK, fact #1–I am overweight and badly need to lose many, many pounds. Fact #2–I love numbers. This combination of facts led me to purchasing a Fitbit a little more than a year ago. Before I did, I thought the concept of “wearable tech” was a stupid fad. However, my record of exercising has been spotty at best, and the idea of hitting a number on a daily basis appealed to me. Over the next twelve months, my Fitbit has pushed me to hit daily goals on a fairly regular basis. I even upped my thresholds from 10,000 steps to 11,000 steps and 5.0 miles to 5.5 miles daily. I was regularly hitting my exercise goals 5 to 6 times a week and even had 25+ day streaks on three occasions. My cardiac procedure in early April set me back a bit with the hospital time and the recovery, but I think I’m back in business, as yesterday was the fifth consecutive day I hit both step and mile goals.

I know the Fitbit and other wearable tech is not for everyone, but if you’re on the fence, I highly recommend it. There’s nothing more motivating to me than sitting on the couch at night, ready to veg in front of the TV, but looking at your step counter and seeing you’ve done fewer than 5,000 steps is a real call to action. Particularly if you add friends and family to your Friend list. It’s the reason I’d suggest Fitbit over the other wearable tech options–it has the biggest base of current members, so you can add people and then compete against them to see who can get the most steps in a day, work week, or weekend. So when I am nowhere near my goal, it pushes me because I want to do better than others and I am sure they are looking at my lack of activity and judging (which logically, I am sure no one is doing–but leave me to my self-centered paranoia, OK?)

Now the Fitbit isn’t perfect–for example, if the arm that the device is located on is locked, the steps don’t count. So if you are pushing a grocery cart around a store, it will not give you credit for your steps. You have to be moving arms and legs to increase the counter. So in my cart example, there are two workarounds. Push the cart with one hand while continuing to swing the other arm–don’t worry,  it doesn’t make you look like an idiot to all the other shoppers (actually, it does). It also makes steering the cart a bit of an adventure. That’s why the second solution, put the tracker in your pocket, a better workaround. This also works in other armlock situations, like riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill (if you plan on holding the heart sensors for any length of time). Speaking of heart sensors, my Fitbit model does not include a heart monitor in it–that was the next model up. However, I heard from a cardiologist that he does not recommend getting an exercise tracker with heart monitor–he thinks people obsess too much about the pulse numbers. He did like the idea of an exercise tracker–so if you want to get onto the wearable tech craze–save yourself some money and get a model without heart rate checking. And let me know if you do–we can be Fitbit friends!

On to part 4 of my 100 favorite songs list. There are links to parts 1-3 at the end, but now that I’m walking more again, let’s look at the next 10 songs that come up when I listen to my top 100 playlist:

  • Welcome to the Terrordome–Public Enemy
  • Around the Dial–The Kinks
  • Eminence Front–The Who
  • Scar Tissue–Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Set Adrift on Memory Bliss–P.M. Dawn
  • Floating Vibes–Surfer Blood
  • You Can Call Me Al–Paul Simon
  • Invisible Sun–The Police
  • Your Love–The Outfield
  • New Year’s Day–U2

I will admit being late to appreciated the genius that is Public Enemy. I first heard them as part of the Do the Right Thing soundtrack. It was already a powerful film, but I got to see an advanced screening of it introduced by Spike Lee while I was at MIT. Of course, I was disappointed at how the Larry Bird Celtic jersey was used in the film, but the movie blew me away. A big part of that was “Fight the Power.” One can argue that with songs like it and “911 Is a Joke,” Public Enemy was the most effective act to fix popular music and politics since the protest singers of the late 60’s. However, the Public Enemy song I enjoy the most was a different release from Fear of a Black Planet–“Welcome to the Terrordome.” All of their songs have such raw power and anger behind the lyrics, and this one is no different. I know that Flavor Flav has become a punchline in recent years, but his work on “Welcome to the Terrordome specifically and all of Public Enemy’s work in total is amazing.

As I said when I first started talking about my 100 list, I refused to place artificial constraints like one song per artist on the list, and a few artists have more than one song from the same album. One such album is Give The People What They Want by the Kinks. I remember my older sister listening to the cassette tape of the album all the time when she got a boom box for Christmas along with it, Working Class Dog, Escape, and Candy-O. I enjoyed all four albums, but the Kinks release was the best. A second song from the album cracks my top 10, but “Around the Dial” has always been a favorite, right from its radio-tuning opening. I’d argue that the message of the song–the corporatizing of radio stations–is more apt today in the Clear Channel era than it was at time of its release, although to make it more timely, we’d have to change the lyric “FM, AM, where are you?” to “FM, XM, where are you?” as you only find political, religious, and sports zealots on AM these days.

After two Who songs in the previous group of 10, they are right back with a third entry on my list. There were almost two versions of this song on the list, as a member of Sons of Sam Horn shared with us a mashup of “Eminence Front” and “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That)” by Digable Planets. He called it “Cool Front” and it’s an amazing combination of two distinctly different tunes. I would recommend it, but I know it’s unavailable and I shouldn’t share it for copyright reasons. The Red Hot Chili Peppers then make their first, and only, appearance on the list with “Scar Tissue,” which like many songs by the Peppers effectively mixes rock and mourning.

Remember cass-singles? When I was carless in graduate school, I rode with a friend from Bloomington, Indiana to Tampa, Florida for holiday break. Three of those cass-singles dominated our listening time during the trip–“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature, and “Set Adrift in Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn. The new age-i-ness of the song always drew me in, although the song was almost permanently ruined by the parody of it done in Fear of a Black Hat. By the way, if you haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend it enough–it’s a rap version of This Is Spinal Tap, but it really nails the different song styles, the gangster culture, and more. The soundtrack is top notch and the parody/homage to the NWA Detroit situation portrayed in Straight Outta Compton is dead on. It’s a hard movie to find, but worth the effort.

I mentioned Sons of Sam Horn earlier, and for those that don’t know, it is a online community devoted to fans of the Boston Red Sox. However, the site is not limited to baseball talk or even just sports. The site has many members knowledgeable about a number of different topics, and thanks to some, I have received some great new music recommendations. It was on the site that I learned about an indie band named Surfer Blood. Looking at the name, I would have assumed they were some sort of heavy metal group, but their sound is more pop, more surf music than blood music. I’ve become a big fan, owning all three of their albums as well as their EP. I can listen to their music at any time, but “Floating Vibes” from their first album is still my favorite.

The list has multiple Simon & Garfunkel songs, but it also has a solo song from Paul Simon. Almost anything from Graceland could have made the list, but I chose the hit, “You Can Call Me Al” (with “Boy in the Bubble” being a close runner-up). Another 80’s group that could have had numerous songs on the list, but just got one, was the Police. I love their hits, but I seem to gravitate toward their odd, darker songs like “Invisible Sun” and “King of Pain.” I’d probably put “Synchronicity II” in that category as well. But the dystopian world presented in “Invisible Sun” takes it to the top for me.

The last two songs in this batch are also 80’s entries, and from opposite bands for a number of reasons. Most guys I know that went to high school in the 80’s loved the Outfield’s album Play Deep and their hit song “Your Love.” Unfortunately for the band, most guys I know did not buy any of their subsequent albums. However, their big hit has had a bit of a resurgence recently, as the Patriots play it in their stadium and the song was part of the soundtrack for Rock Band 4. That game also is the first game of its type to have U2 songs in it. Unfortunately, you can’t play “New Year’s Day” yet, but “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from the same album is available. This is the only U2 song on the top 100, a surprisingly small number, but when you’re this limited, you have to make some tough choices. Sorry “Grace”!

If you want to read any of the earlier parts of this series, the links are below:

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

Self Tributes, and the Reason for the Star Wars Season (part 3 of 10)

Self Tributes, and the Reason for the Star Wars Season

 

Happy May the 4th! I do hate how commercialized this holiday has become. With all this starkiller base and pod-racer shopping, as well as Alderan key parties, people forget the true meaning of Star Wars Day–how many midi-chlorians you have in your bloodstream. Also, remember today is more than just Earth Day–remember that the Bluths also set it as Cinco de Quatro.

In honor of such a momentous day on so many levels, it’s time for the third set of songs from my top 100 list. If you missed the first two, well I’m making a sad frowny face in your direction, but I will help you overcome such an oversight with the help of the two links below to parts 1 and 2.

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

  • Mercy–TV on the Radio
  • Ruby Tuesday–The Rolling Stones
  • Smoking Gun–Robert Cray
  • Love, Reign O’er Me–The Who
  • Another Tricky Day–The Who
  • Mandinka–Sinead O’Connor
  • Days/This Time Tomorrow–Ray Davies
  • Man on the Moon–R.E.M.
  • Amie–Pure Prairie League
  • Silent Lucidity–Queensryche

The 2013 song “Mercy” by TV on the Radio is far and away the most recent song to make my list. It’s not even from an album–it’s a single they released that did not hit any charts. The song starts off great and intense, but it kicks it up a notch or twelve as the song goes on–the beat is relentless. I am not a big concert goer these days, but I think I’d go see TV on the Radio just to see this song performed live.

The British Invasion’s Fab 4 bands (the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and the Kinks) are a prominent part of this group of 10, with every group but the Beatles showing up in this list of 10. Of the four, the Rolling Stones is probably the group I listen to the least, but “Ruby Tuesday” is my favorite song of theirs (although I would probably have another three to five Stones songs if the list expanded to 500 or so–I just would be adding many more Beatles, Who, and Kinks songs).

When I first started listening to music, I was more about singles than albums. If I would listen to an album, it was often because three or more “hits” from the record had received radio airplay. The first album for me that was different was Strong Persuader. Sure, the song “Smoking Gun” first attracted me to the album, but it was the first album I remember liking from beginning to end. I think the fact that it was this blues sound I was not hearing in most pop songs that day. I loved listening to that cassette tape over and over, and would even say it was my first “Desert Island Disc.” It even resulted in me buying Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on its release date. I will admit that I did not enjoy that album as much as Strong Persuader, but I still love Robert Cray, with his cover of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” being my favorite number from the Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll soundtrack.

Back to the standard bearers of the first wave of the British Invasion. I love the Beatles in total the most, but I think there’d be more Who songs on my favorites list in total. I know that I’ve said this repeatedly, but a longer list would be dominated by even more Who songs. A top 200 list would have 2 songs from Quadrophenia for example, but only 1, “Love Reign O’er Me”, made the top 100. (The other song that almost made the list was “5:15”.) I think most people would list Tommy as their favorite Who rock opera, but I am more of a Quadrophenia man myself. When doing some followup research for this blog posting, I was surprised that “Another Tricky Day” was never a chart hit. In my opinion, it is a much stronger single from Face Dances than “You Better, You Bet.”

Speaking of songs that weren’t hits, I was exposed to “Mandinka” through college radio airplay. I was the cliche kid who learned more about alternative music once I went to college. My freshman year in college saw the music acts 10,000 Maniacs, R.E.M., and Sinead O’Connor added to my musical rotation. After The Lion and The Cobra came out, I would have expected Sinead to be a much bigger artists, but her only big hit was the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

My Kinks entry in this batch is more of a Kinks-related entry. Ray Davies released an album in 2011 in which he re-imagined Kinks songs by performing them with other artists. The album has an eclectic batch of contributors, including Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Lucinda Williams, Black Francis [of the Pixies], Jon Bon Jovi, Paloma Faith, and more. But to me, the strongest pairing on the album is the work with Mumford & Sons on the medley of “Days” and “This Time Tomorrow.” Those that have been following this blog know I have a real soft spot for tribute albums (and my number two song of all time is from a tribute album–how’s that for a teaser?), and this is one of the more unique tribute albums as it seems to be an artist paying tribute to himself.

One of the other college alternative artists I began listening to as a freshman (thanks to my record album purchase of Document) was R.E.M. I have come to love their early work, but the two songs that make this list are later releases. The one in this group is from another desert-island disc candidate for me–Automatic for the People. Every song on the album is phenomenal, but “Man on the Moon” is my favorite. I also loved hearing it on the trailer for the movie by the same name. That’s a movie I have not seen in years, but I think it might be worth revisiting with my kids this summer when they are home from college.

When making these kinds of lists, it’s always interesting to think about when I first really connected with a song. For the Pure Prairie League’s “Amie,” it was thanks to Freaks and Geeks. (If you have not watched that show, go an do it RIGHT NOW, and not just because it launched the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Siegel, Busy Phillips, and Linda Cardellini. Every one of the 18 episodes is so powerful and raw–it was the first show that got the high school experience perfectly down. I believe it is on Netflix instant, so go and watch it. One episode featured them going to the local planetarium for a laser Pink Floyd show, but show up on the wrong date and end up seeing a country and western show instead. Sorry for the spoiler, but I promise it will not lessen your enjoyment of the entry. Over the closing credits, “Amie” plays–by the way, the acting and writing are the best thing about the show, but the soundtrack is also pitch perfect.

The last song on this batch is a power ballad and one of three songs that makes me think of my father. I already mentioned “My Way” by Frank Sinatra in part one, and “The Living Years” probably the most on-the-nose choice, by Mike + the Mechanics, did not make my 100 (but would make the 200). “Silent Lucidity” in specifics and the album Empire more broadly, feels like the closest another band got to re-creating the Pink Floyd sound. This song is one of my go-to numbers if I want something to help me drift off from a stressful day–it is the perfect capper to a tough day, and the perfect ending to a group of ten songs.

 

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

What better way to spend the weekend (or the weekend time between going for exercise walks and getting your car stuck in mud) than to follow up the last post with the second group of songs from my 100 favorites of all time playlist? So on to the second batch of songs!

What? You actually care about how I got my car stuck in the mud? It is a treacherous tale that involves high-speed chases, attempts on my life, homemade explosives, stolen government defense plans, illicit love affairs, and a wisecracking robot sidekick. Unfortunately, if I shared the details with you dear reader, I would be putting your life in danger–they will stop at nothing to silence anyone that knows the truth. So instead, I will share the cover story. I was heading to our local branch library to return a book (Stephen King’s The Dark Half), CDs by the Gin Blossoms and Pistol Annies, and the movie Furious 7. Unfortunately, the library had some sort of fair going on in the parking lot, so parking was limited. However, a number of cars were parked in the grass in front of the library, so I parked there and ran in with my returns. (My wife was with me, but she stayed in the car. She had also suggested that I pull up to the front, drop her off with the returns, and circle around, eliminating the need to park. I nixed this solution as I wanted to go in and make the dead drop see if I wanted to check anything else out.) When I returned and tried to leave, the wheels started spinning–we were stuck. My wife got behind the wheel while I pushed. In a terrific visual bit of luck , the wheel threw some mud up and over my legs, which were now caked with wet dirt (and not the blood of the countless ninjas and assassins trying to steal the plans). I was able to move the car a bit, but luckily some young men helped us push and get the car back on firm asphalt. I know this story makes me look like an idiot, but if that is the price I have to pay for our nation’s security, so be it.

  • For What It’s Worth–Buffalo Springfield
  • Smoke–Ben Folds Five
  • Against All Odds–Phil Collins
  • Secret Garden–Tom Cochrane and Damhnait Doyle
  • Gypsy–Suzanne Vega
  • Shadow of the Day–Linkin Park
  • Dirty Work–Steely Dan
  • How Deep Is Your Love?–The Bee Gees
  • Africa–Toto
  • Out of Touch–Hall & Oates

Is there a Vietnam movie out there that doesn’t feature “For What It’s Worth” on its soundtrack? Until today, I always assumed this song was a protest number about the war. However, according to the never-wrong folks at Wikipedia. the song is about the Sunset Strip Riots (also known as the “Hippie Riots” Read Wikipedia if you don’t believe me!). Really saps a lot of power from the song, right? I did not know this information when I put it on my top 100, but I don’t think it’s enough to bump it off, unless Beyonce writes an amazing tune about Jay-Z actually cheating on her with Rachel Ray.

Before the advent of iTunes/steaming music services, it was fun to occasionally make a “roll the dice” album purchase. You know, you hear one song from an artist you don’t know and decide to buy the whole album because of it. I think the first time I did that was after hearing “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits and deciding to grab Brothers in Arms. That clearly worked out great, and it got me to work backward on their musical catalog. In fact, an old song from the band will be appearing later on this list. One of the other great leaps for me was buying Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben Folds Five based on the strength of “Brick” (now there’s a song to listen to anytime you want to feel good!). Again, I loved the album and “Smoke” is my favorite track from it.

Like “Don’t Answer Me” from the last list, “Against All Odds” might be another ashamed to admit favorite. It was also one of two Phil Collins soundtrack hits from the 80’s I am ashamed to admit liking. The other “Separate Lives” (a duet with Marilyn Martin) is not even part of my music collection these days–I had the 45 but have not added the song in the digital era. If I was going to add a Phil Collins duet to my collection, it would be “Easy Lover” with Phillip Bailey from Earth, Wind, and Fire, a song that would probably make my Top 200. The interesting thing about these two soundtrack hits is that while I love the songs, I have not seen either movie (Against All Odds and White Knights). Ironically, I haven’t seen three other movies that Collins contributed soundtrack songs to either–Tarzan, Brother Bear, or Buster. The first two are odd misses as my kids were right in that Disney animation sweet spot when they were first released, while the last miss makes complete sense.

I assume that almost anyone who creates this list will have a few songs that most people would say “who or what is that” when they see it listed. The “Secret Garden” song is probably that. It is a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song featured in Jerry Maguire. Now I love the Boss, but I am telling you this duet version from Light of Day, a double album of Bruce Springsteen covers, is an incredible improvement over the original. The male/female duet makes the lyrics seem more poignant and sadder. Another one people might not know is “Gypsy” by Suzanne Vega, the first of two songs by her on my list. This one is on her Solitude Standing album, which also has her most famous hit, “Luka.” That is her only top 80 hit in the United States, which I find crazy. She has a rich selection of songs, but none are as beautiful as “Gypsy,” with the chorus

Oh, hold me like a baby
That will not fall asleep
Curl me up inside you
And let me hear you through the heat

(I know I haven’t quoted lyrics until now, but I’d like to make a secondary mission of this particular blog entry to get people to sample more Suzanne Vega.)

My list is skewed to older songs, but I do have a few post-2000 entries, including “Shadow of the Day” by Linkin Park. But my list jumps back four decades after it with a pair of 70’s efforts that feature in films too. Obviously “Dirty Work” was originally just an album cut from Steely Dan’s debut album Can’t Buy a Thrill. But after seeing it in the opening credits of American Hustle, I added it to my digital music collection and listened to it enough to add it to my top 100. The other 70’s song, “How Deep Is Your Love?” probably gets a little lost in the anti-disco fever that erupted at the end of the decade. Actually, I am not sure where we stand these days–is disco awful, cool, retro, kitsch–where do we stand? Regardless of that answer, “How Deep Is Your Love?” is a generational ballad that transcends the genre anyway.

It will almost always come back to the 80’s for me, and the last two songs on this list are square in that wheelhouse. I started listening to top 40 music regularly in 1983, so I missed the peak of the album Toto IV by a year. (Side question–who’s four was better? Toto IV with “Rosanna” and “Africa” or Foreigner 4 with “Urgent”, “Waiting for a Girl Like You”, and “Juke Box Hero? Do you give bonus points to Toto for its fancy use of Roman numerals? Or do you vote for Chicago IV? That last on is a trick–Chicago’s fourth album, between Chicago III and Chicago V, is titled Chicago at Carnegie Hall. So they are out of the running!) Anyway, I didn’t need to hear it on the radio daily to appreciate the joy of the song “Africa” and it has been a list candidate for decades. My last song is the only top 100 entry from one of my favorite bands, Hall & Oates. They were, along with Men at Work, my first favorite artists. I think if I made a top 500 list, they’d have a dozen songs, but “Out of Touch” has always been my favorite from the group.

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

I’ve enjoyed expanding the topical reach of this blog, but I also liked last weekend’s column where I pontificated about Prince songs throughout the years after listening to a playlist of them. It was a throwback to the original point of this blog, where I was going through all my family’s music in alphabetical order by song title. I actually got pretty far into it before life got in the way of constant exercise and constant posts. Now I am back to exercising–particularly thanks to my Fitbit as nothing is more frustrating that looking at the number of steps I have on a particular day and thinking how far I am from 10,000 steps/5 miles. But I use my iPhone as my electronic workout buddy, and it is harder to fit music on it, forcing me to be a bit more selective in my choices.

However, one playlist that is a staple on my phone is DEAN100. This is a list I created of my 100 favorite songs of all time. It’s the kind of idea that starts off easily enough–50-70 songs absolutely have to go on it. Then as the remaining number of slots dwindle, difficult choices have to be made. However, once I settled on the 100, it has remained solid. I think there was only 1 or 2 changes due to me remembering a song I had completely forgotten. One quick note–there was no limit on the number of songs from a particular artist or album. I never understand these types of artificial constraints on these lists. If you are picking the 10 greatest movies of all time, and want 5 of the Fast & Furious films there, go for it! So several artists are represented more than once.

I also started to put them in order 1-100. This proved to be a frustrating experience, and once I realized that I listen to my list in shuffle, I decided it was pointless. However, my top 10 or so did stay up high, so seeing that I will be walking through the list in groups of 10 starting from the bottom, my absolute favorites will only appear at the end of this–properly building up your anticipation. So this batch is not 91-100 by any stretch of the imagination, just the first group.

  • My Way–Frank Sinatra
  • Secret Separation–The Fixx
  • Don’t Answer Me–The Alan Parsons Project
  • The Magic Number–De La Soul
  • Head Over Heels–The Go Go’s
  • (Keep Feeling) Fascination–The Human League
  • Do You Believe in Love?–Huey Lewis & The News
  • Slip Slidin’ Away–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Nuthin’ But a “G” Thing–Dr. Dre Featuring Snoop Dog
  • Word Up!–Cameo

My father died in a car accident when I was seven years old, so my memories of him are spotty at best. One of the things I never really knew about him was his pop-culture touchstones. What movies did he like? What TV shows did he try not to ever miss? (Well, I can guess that there was almost nothing on that second list as he was a bartender so he tended to work nights, and this was before one recorded shows with a VCR, let alone DVR.) I do remember him liking certain hymns at church (“Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “Go Forth” in particular) and I remember being told “My Way” by Frank Sinatra was his favorite song. For this simple reason, I always had an affinity for the song, and I purchased a Sinatra CD to make sure I could always listen to it. Before I bought the CD, the only Frank Sinatra song I owned was his duet of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” with Cyndi Lauper on A Very Special Christmas 2.

I mentioned having to tweak my 100 list a couple of times because of a sudden realization that I had forgotten a song. The first one of those was “Secret Separation” by the Fixx. I think I’d even put a different Fixx song on the list–“Stand or Fall.” I even listened to it on the list once or twice before realizing I meant to include a different Fixx song–“Oh yeah! Secret Separation!” These both come from the same CD, and the only Fixx album I own, React. I had purchased it thinking it was a greatest hits album, not knowing it was a live album until I got it home. I kept it, as their live versions of all their songs are pretty great.

I am hoping this blog is a safe space, one where I can freely admit to some potentially embarrassing choices without being mocked too badly. I would think that having “Don’t Answer Me” is possibly a choice like that. My first encounter with the Alan Parsons Project was winning a 45 of “Eye in the Sky” at a Bar Mitzvah, but it was “Don’t Answer Me” that really caught my ear. It also caught my eye, as the goofy animated video was a favorite of mine as well.

De La Soul came into my life during my year of graduate school as a friend had Three Feet High and Rising on cassette and played it fairly constantly in his car. The album is entertaining beginning to end, but the group’s tribute to Schoolhouse Rock is my favorite track. Years later, I tried to buy the album on iTunes or at a store, but could not find it anywhere. Luckily it was available on Amazon.com, so now the CD is a proud part of my collection. It even came with a second disc of rare tracks and outtakes.

Seeing that I started listening to Top 40 music on the radio in the 1980’s and seeing that 80’s music is awesome, it should come as no surprise that my 100 list has a significant number of 80’s tracks and groups represented, including the next three songs. I figured most people would pick one of “We Got the Beat”, “Our Lips Are Sealed”, or “Vacation” if asked to name their favorite Go Go’s song, but for me it’s “Head Over Heels” and it’s not even close. (Side note–when the Go Go’s reunited and toured in 1991, I got to see them play in Boston. I went with someone from my college, but she was joyless at the show, refusing to sing along or dance to the music. Meanwhile, about five rows in front of me were other friends who I did not know would be at the show and they were having a great time with audience participation. To this day, I wish I had gone with them.) I remember loving “(Keep Feeling) Fascination” when I first heard it back in 1983, and it has remained one of my favorite songs ever since. Finally, I was a Huey Lewis fan, owning both Picture This and Sports on cassette back in the day, but their first chart hit is the one that has most stuck with me.

The second live song in this initial group comes from the famous Simon & Garfunkel concert in Central Park. (Spoiler alert–this will not be the only appearance of a song on this list, but you will have to wait to the final group–my top 10–before you see them again. I have always said that I think Paul Simon continued to write Simon & Garfunkel songs for the first decade after the duo broke up, and “Slip Slidin’ Away” is a perfect example. The Paul Simon version of the song is good enough, but when he performs it with Art Garfunkel, it becomes transcendent. It just sounds like it was written specifically for their combined vocal styles. To be fair, this may be true of all music and not just 70’s Paul Simon.

My relationship with West Coast rap got off to a rocky start. I remember not wanting to listen to Straight Outta Compton because the song “Fuck tha Police” seemed disrespectful. (I was a bit of a toe-the-line kind of teenager.) However, thanks to MTV I was able enjoy the first few releases from Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. After purchasing the album on CD, I have made it a regular part of my listening rotation, and the track “Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” almost made the top 100 as well, and would certainly make the top 200 list. But “Nothin’ But a ‘G’ Thing” was a lock for this list, and if I had order the top 100, it would have been much higher, in the top 50 for sure. By the way, thanks to the film last year, I finally picked up Straight Outta Compton and I regret not doing it sooner. The album is dynamite from top to bottom, and “Express Yourself” is just below the top 100 for me.

The last song from this first group is another 80’s hit and another song that’s been in my favorites since I first heard it on the radio 30 years ago. (Do you ever find yourself catching your breath when you realize how long ago something happened? Here’s one–next year is the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.) I just knew that “Word Up” was completely unlike any other pop song I’d ever heard, so I bought the album back in high school and still own this track to this day. I am all for this song getting as much exposure as possible, and I often love covers, but I think it is a crime that the Korn version of this song is the one available in the Rock Band video game franchise. It should be Cameo all the way.

 

Royal Discography

As I mentioned recently, I tend to listen to podcasts more than music when exercising these days, but in light of the passing of Prince, it has been 48 hours of Prince songs (I had to dig out the old iPod to do this). Prince on YouTube, Prince on AppleTV, and Prince while walking on the treadmill.

When I first heard that he had died, I stated that Prince’s death was going to be tougher on me than Bowie. Not just because Prince was a bigger artist and I liked his music more–both are true, but they are not the only reasons. I did not really get into music until 1983. Sure, I would listen to the occasional family 8-track tape before that, but popular music (and Saturday mornings listening to American Top 40) did not start until then. While I know that Prince had three albums and several hits before that year, it felt like he truly arrived with the late 1982 release of 1999. I do now enjoy much of his earlier work, particularly “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” (although as a piece of advice, if you are trying to rev your wife’s engine, saying that your sex life is like a Prince song, with you being “Soft” and her being “Wet” does not work that well), but 1983 is when I started to love Prince.

  • “1999”
  • “Little Red Corvette”
  • “Delirious”

I think more people at the time loved “Little Red Corvette, but the jarring combination of uptown dance beat and “the world is ending”lyrics was so damn appealing. At one point I was sure that Prince sang all the parts on the song, including the female-sounding parts. Going by the expertise one finds at Wikipedia, I have now learned that Wendy and Lisa from the Revolution handled the ladies singing. When “1999” came out in 1982, the year seemed so far off, like 100 years in the future. It was less than two decades away,  and we did not get our flying cars and monkey butlers. (Although, when Prince sang about people who “…run from their destruction…” do you think he was predicting the Y2K problem?)

  • “Let’s Go Crazy”
  • “When Doves Cry”
  • “Purple Rain”

I did not see Purple Rain in theaters when it came out in 1984–it was an ‘R’ rated film and I was a nerdy-follow the rules 15-year-old (as opposed to now, where I am a nerdy-follow the rules 47-year-old). It wasn’t until three years later that I saw the movie on VHS. The film was amazing, but my favorite part of the film was Morris Day and the Time. I purchased their album Ice Cream Castle based on their appearance in the film. I enjoyed their record, but the soundtrack was inescapable that summer and for the rest of the year. While these three were the big hits from the album, I remember having that soundtrack on cassette and listening to it beginning to end almost nightly. That’s an album I can brag about listening to all the time, along with Born in the U.S.A, Synchronicity, Thriller, and Strong Persuader. It’s a little harder for me to brag about how often I listened to Chicago’s 17.

  • “Raspberry Beret”
  • “Pop Life”

Like everyone else, I was dying to see how Prince would follow up the success of Purple Rain. I remember initially having mixed feelings about the song “Raspberry Beret,” but the more I heard it on the radio, the more it grew on me. Both of these songs from Around the World in a Day seem more airy than Prince’s earlier work, but his ability to shift gears really made him stand out from his musical contemporaries.

  • “Kiss”

Talk about standing out–I needed no time for this to grow on me; I loved it from the first listen, and I ran out and purchased it on 45. I also enjoyed the cover of the song done by Tom Jones and the Art of Noise. (If you want an underrated greatest hits album, go get the best of the Art of Noise).

  • “Sign o’ the Times”
  • “U Got the Look”

Once again, Prince shifted gears, giving us a powerful song about the issues of the day. Thanks to “Sign o’ the Times” I learned what horse was. I also learned that the sweet, innocent Sheena Easton of “9 to 5 (Morning Train)”, “For Your Eyes Only”, and “We’ve Got Tonight” was gone, thanks to the raw sexiness of “U Got the Look.” Frankly, I should have figured that out sooner, particularly when she oh so subtly asked people to spend the night inside her “Sugar Walls.” Like horse, it took me time to understand what exactly she was getting at.

  • “Alphabet Street”

This is the single I have been listening to the most since I heard of his passing. I think it’s the “slipped through the crack” song. You know when an artist has a deep catalog of songs, some do not get the attention that others do, and you often re-discover the song later. Sometime you think “cool, so-and-so has a new album out” only to discover that it’s a song years or even decades old.

  • “Thieves in the Temple”

One song I do not have in my Prince selection is “Batdance.” When Batman came out in 1989, I made the choice to purchase the instrumental soundtrack by Danny Elfman rather than the Prince release. This was clearly a mistake, as thanks to ownership complications, none of Prince’s songs from it can appear on his greatest hits/B-sides CDs that I listen to. I mentioned on Facebook recently that no artist could have taken “Batdance” to #1 other than Prince and I still believe that. I think it would have seemed like a joke in the hands of any other, but if you watch Batman, it’s clear the film was influenced by Prince and not the other way around. Prince’s success with the film is nice to see, as it was clear with Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge that Prince was not going to replicate the success of Purple Rain, at least not on screen. The album by the same name worked, producing “Thieves in the Temple,” which is not a favorite of mine, but still a good song.

  • “Cream”
  • “Gett Off”
  • “Diamonds and Pearls”

I am not sure how I feel about the transition from the Revolution to the New Power Generation. I guess the important thing was the constant Prince, but I loved the the Revolution as well. These three songs from Diamonds and Pearls did make the transition a smooth one. I was always a big fan of “Diamonds and Pearls” even if it has spelling within the song.

  • “7”
  • “Pink Cashmere”
  • “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  • “I Feel for You”

I always had meant to buy the Prince box set, but I was a broke new worker fresh out of graduate school, so I settled for the two discs of “The Hits/The B-Sides”, which not only had all his big hits (sans “Batdance”), but also his versions of hit songs that he wrote for Sinead O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”) and Chaka Khan (“I Feel for You”). Of course I also knew about “Manic Monday” being written for the Bangles, but it was only recently that I learned he also wrote “Stand Back” for Stevie Nicks.

  • “Cinnamon Girl”
  • “The Marrying Kind”
  • “Life ‘O’ the Party”

Sadly, I lost interest in new music from about the mid 1990s until 2004 or so. However, thanks to my time at WWE, I received a copy of Musicology. I remember when I first got home thinking how odd it was that Prince would cover a Neil Young song. But his version of Cinnamon Girl was all his own, and the album was an incredible return to the world of Prince. I didn’t partake of much of his music after that, but now that he’s passed away, I feel it is time to do just that, giving me an opportunity to keep his musical spirit in my life.

A weedy vacant lot

Hey, I remember this neighborhood! I used to have a blog here! Then I finally found my next job post-WWE, which required relocation to Buffalo. That lasted about a year before I found a better opportunity in Orlando, Florida, working with Ripley Entertainment, home of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! I got to work with some incredible people and learn some truly bizarre information, but after 20 months, I am now looking for my next opportunity.

It’s always scary working without a net, but my wife and I are confident that things will work out the way they are supposed to. Plus the break right now isn’t so bad–I had been super stressed at the position and last week I had a cardiac ablation. There’s probably many of you out there wondering what that is. Hell, I would have been in that camp until early January when a doctor suggested it for me. Basically, a cardiologist sticks catheters into your body, either through your arm, neck, or groin. All men just shuddered at the description of door number three, so of course that’s what I got. the doctor then kills the electrical impulse ability of part of your heart tissue in order to prevent future arrhythmia. There’s risks associated, but the procedure was a success for me. Perhaps I will share more details in a future blog if people want.

A future blog? I am working toward a second relaunch of this blog. I am thinking about altering format, as I have not been listening to my 10000+ songs in alphabetical order any more. It’s not that I’ve stopped walking. In fact, thanks to my Fitbit, I now walk more than 5.5 miles a day. However, I now use my iPhone when I walk and I cannot fit all my songs, so I listen to podcasts more during my extended walks. Perhaps I can talk about those, or about broader pop-culture topics. Maybe I’ll just write about my medical procedures–who wouldn’t want to read that? If my ego is healthy enough to think you’re interested in my extemporaneous thoughts, everything is in play.