What could be worse than an earworm? Two earworms!
The only thing worse than getting an earworm is getting it in the form of a mash-up. This week I’ve had “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence drilling its way through my brain, and I made the mistake of listening to the version sung by Goofy (by ProZD) and then that got stuck in my head.
And because viruses mutate, over the week, this has gotten merged with “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia to form a horrible, millennium-spanning Aussie Pop/Nu-Metal hybrid:
Wake me up! I’m all out of faith Can’t wake up! This is how I feel Save me! I’m cold and I am shamed, lying naked on the floor
Edited to add: I hadn’t heard any mash-ups of these songs before, but of course it’s not surprising at all that they already exist. The best one I’ve found is “Bring Me Torn Life” by Jed K.
These next ones are the first song on their old albums
I was a freshman in college in 1988, and I had a CD player and two CDs: Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits, and Green by REM. It’s odd how even now, over 30 years later, the opening of “Rhiannon” transports me back to that dorm room, when I had no clue what I was doing but was still arrogant and optimistic enough to believe that I did.
And because I had those two CDs on constant — and I mean constant — rotation, I’m sure the opening of “Rhiannon” means something very different to my poor roommates and our neighbors. We had a downstairs neighbor who was straight-up obsessed with the song “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction, and would play it in a constant loop, to the point where that beginning bass line sends shivers up my spine to this day. I hope I managed to instill in them the same dread over the beginning to “Pop Song 89.”
Later I would go on to UGA, where cosmic justice was delivered to me in the form of having to hear “It’s The End of the World As We Know It” at least twice daily by the REM-obsessed youths of Athens, after I’d kind of gotten tired of them.
The video for “Pop Song 89” must’ve had a lot of horned-up UGA undergrads extremely twitterpated, seeing as how it had a long-haired Michael Stipe dancing shirtless in harlequin leggings (along with three also-topless women, which was likely stated to be a bold statement about the hypocrisy of American prudishness about the human body but was more likely just an excuse for Michael Stipe to dance shirtless in a video).
Once again, he’s used the video to promote charity donation, this year emphasizing three immediate causes: protecting access to safe abortions in Texas, recovery in New Orleans after Hurricane Ida, and campaigning for responsible climate policy.
Try to remember to donate if you’re in a position to do so! Hey, that reminds me of a song. I was unaware that Harry Belafonte had done a fairly well-known version of “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks, which is nice to discover. I’ve liked the song ever since I had to sing it for an audition once1I did not get the part., but every version I’ve ever heard is almost cringingly white, like it’s not incidental but they’re leaning heavily into the whiteness of it.
Continuing a theme for the week, I guess, with two songs from ABBA
If I’m sharing my odd pre-adolescent crushes with the internet, I should probably mention Benny Andersson. I was obsessed with ABBA as a kid, even by gay boy standards.
I’m not sure how exactly I first saw their videos — we didn’t get cable until after I’d “outgrown” them, so I guess it was Night Tracks? — but I was still impressionable enough that the one for “Take a Chance on Me” was hugely formative. One of my favorite songs being performed by a beardy man who dressed kind of like Han Solo? I was completely on board.
I’m also not sure exactly how obsession with ABBA became stereotyped as a gay thing. Obviously, the costumes were over the top, but it was the 1970s. There were plenty of glam pop and rock groups that were even more extravagant but weren’t publicly made up of straight couples. Still, the stereotype is pervasive enough that I know of multiple stores in predominantly gay neighborhoods catering to gay customers, called “Does Your Mother Know?” Which is a song that almost sounds more like Cheap Trick than ABBA.
It used to bug me that so many of the most common stereotypes applied to me; nobody likes being a basic bitch. But now there’s something kind of comforting about realizing you’ve got a common frame of reference with so many other people. As I’m looking through old videos, hearing songs that I’d completely forgotten about but somehow I can still sing along with every single word, it feels like I’ve had Agnetha Fältskog floating over my shoulder all this time, coming to me in times of trouble to whisper about good days and bad days.
Surf Guitar and Outer Space are two great tastes that taste great together
Today’s theme for the Tune Two-Fer: Space Surf Guitar!
Although I’d heard examples of it previously, the first time I became aware of combining surf rock and sci-fi was on Space Mountain at Disneyland, when it debuted the soundtrack with Dick Dale doing a space surf version of Carnival of the Animals. It seemed like such a novelty, even though it made perfect sense: the “golden age” of surf music roughly coincided with the popularity of sci-fi B movies and TV series.
I admit that I’d always just assumed that combining space and surf guitar was a novelty the Pixies invented, on Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde. In my defense, if you compare their cover of “Cecilia Ann” on Bossanova with the original by the Surftones, it does sound like the song had spent decades Earthbound until the Pixies added otherworldly organs and echoes.
The above links are from Apple Music; here are the Spotify versions, if that’s your thing:
In honor of Biz Markie, two tracks from one of my favorite albums.
“Intergalactic” from Hello Nasty (as opposed to the video version) ends with what sounds like Biz Markie demoing the style that the boys kind of ended up using in the song. (“Is that an echo?”)
Hello Nasty is easily my favorite Beastie Boys record, and it’s one of my top 10 of all time, so even if I’m mistaken and that’s not what was going on, nobody tell me. I like the memory better.
Biz Markie died last week, from severe complications from diabetes. The memorials I saw online all talked about his hit “Just a Friend,” but I’ve always thought about him in relation to Hello Nasty. That’s not back-handed or condescending. It may not be his album, but the album wouldn’t have become such a classic without him. He’s got such an outsized presence — or at least my favorite tracks — that in my mind, it’s a collaboration, not a guest appearance.
Maybe even more than “Body Movin'” and “Intergalactic,” I think my favorite track on Hello Nasty is “The Grasshopper Unit (Keep Movin’)”. On the Deluxe version of the album, there’s a neat outtake called “The Biz Grasshopper Experiment” that gives an idea how the track came together. You probably can’t go wrong if you’ve got an echo delay effect and Biz Markie as your hype man.
If ever this country needed Cartoon Network to be cool again, that time is now
If I were to tell you that there’s a piece of music that’s running on a constant loop in the background of my brain, it’d be reasonable to assume that it’s the Innoventions Area loop from Epcot, or the theme from Space: 1999, or even Pump Up the Jam.
And those do frequently take over my capacity for thought for weeks at a time. But the one tune that lies, Cthulu-like, in the depths of my subconscious, waiting for its time to strike, is That Time Is Now by Michael Kohler. It was broadcast as a commercial bumper in the golden age of Cartoon Network, when all of us nerds of a certain age were so happy that a bunch of hipsters had gotten control of the Hanna Barbera and Warner Brothers libraries.
That remix of the Superfriends theme is what I heard in my head as a child, all the power and bombast and excitement of a show that simply didn’t warrant such cool music or Ted Knight voice-overs.
There were a ton of other impossibly cool ones, and it’s hard to pick a second favorite. The collage video warning that Atom Ant was the only thing saving us from nuclear annihilation? The impossible board game with Jonny Quest? The one that takes Josie and the Pussycats through various stages of music from the 60s to the early 2000s? I mean, their Betty Boop video for “Rolling” by Soul Coughing is what made me love the band.
But I think the one that made me feel like there was infinite potential for creative people to remix and re-imagine was Jabberjaw Running Underwater, with a song by the band Pain and a video re-imagining the Neptunes as hipsters on a lunchbox.
One song from Epcot Center and another song that captures how I felt as a 13-14 year old in Epcot Center.
The Universe of Energy pavilion wasn’t my favorite (although the pre-show with a film projected on rotating panels was mind-blowing to teen Chuck and hasn’t been matched since). But the “Universe of Energy” theme song has almost everything I love about early Epcot: undeniably early 80s, with that kind of inspiring instrumentation that made you feel like F Yeah with Exxon and American ingenuity, we can do anything wait what’s that about an oil spill?
I say “almost everything” because another of my favorite aspects of early Epcot was how 60s and 70s animation was still lingering in unexpected places: a Roman chariot turning a corner in Spaceship Earth, several scenes in World of Motion, and the “horror story” section of Journey Into Imagination. It made the park feel almost like a showcase for the Disney educational cartoons.
And to this unabashed nerd, it was like they’d combined Disney World and PBS into a full-sized version of 3-2-1 Contact that I could walk through. I’m definitely not anti-IP, and I’d prefer a movie-based attraction to a corporate sponsorship any day, but I do think it’s a little sad that when it came to Epcot Center, the edutainment nerds lost. It was inevitable, in retrospect, that entertainment would win out for people spending a ton of money on a vacation. (Especially since it should’ve been obvious to everyone, even in the late 70s, that Disney would never be willing to make the kind of recurring investment required to keep the educational material current and interesting). But at least it’s comfortably settled into nostalgia, which is both fun for aging nerds and profitable for Disney, so win-win!
This Tuesday Tune Two-Fer’s all about whatever makes you happy
There’s a new song out by the Go! Team, from their upcoming album Get Up Sequences Part One. It’s called “A Bee Without Its Sting,” and it’s joyful.
I’ve got to admit that it feels a little bit like Go! Team videos are being generated by a neural network at this point: they’re a mish-mash of Cooper Black, video and photocopier artifacts, film footage of bodegas and other city scenes, and people playing instruments in front of a green screen. But I don’t care a bit, since it’s all such a positive energy that I don’t even feel self-conscious using phrases like “positive energy.”
The only thing that could improve it, of course, is replacing the Sting. Here’s the Tantric Dad himself singing “Little Something” with Melody “What If Eartha Kitt but Super-White?” Gardot. I wish I could get past my snobbery about music like this, because I am almost-50-enough and white enough to genuinely like it, but I still can’t jettison the idea that I’m supposed to be at least a little bit embarrassed for liking it. This seems like music that affluent straight white people in their mid-50s have sex to. Like right after the end of the Cialis commercial, they get out of the tubs, open the doors of their Lexus parked nearby, and just crank this shit out while they start doin’ it. Happy Tuesday!
How long has it been since you’ve seen the video for 1987 dance hit “Pump Up the Volume” by M/A/R/R/S? I’m betting it’s been too long, and you’ve forgotten that the video is actually pretty rad, with tons of old space race footage and NASA visualizations.