Monday, May 22, 2006

Songs for the Silly Season

I was struck recently by the number of great songs (according to my definition of great) that actually have silly lyrics, themes, or origins.

In 1985, I remember getting dissed by a pretty girl in my biology class for asserting that Morris Day - It's About Time - Jungle Love"Jungle Love"
by Morris DayMorris Day and the Time was one of the best songs of 1984. (I had it tied for first with David Bowie - Best of Bowie - Blue Jean"Blue Jean" by David BowieDavid Bowie.) Her take: "It's funny, not good". I felt a measure of redemption when, at the end of "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back", the best song of all time is announced and what do you know, Kevin Smith claims it's "Jungle Love". Ah, the days when Prince was so prolific that he could conjure up a great song for a fictional band invented just to be in a movie.

This is the first year my wife and I have watched "American Idol". In the first show we saw, I immediately decided that Bucky had to go. Couldn't understand -- could hardly hear -- his vocals at all. Paradoxically, on the show where he was voted out, I though his rendition of Queen - Queen: Greatest Hits - Fat Bottomed Girls"Fat Bottomed Girls" by QueenQueen was the highlight of the night. I remember they used to play that song over the arena speakers during public skating when I was a little kid not paying attention to the lyrics. Do you suppose there's some subtext there? Freddy Mercury certainly sounds happy.

I didn't actually see the show "Hit Me Baby One More Time", but I did read that the band CameoCameo played their song Cameo - The Definitive Collection: Cameo - Word Up!"Word Up" on one episode. That prompted some reminiscence, and I realized after listening to it again that it actually is a great great song with some fabulous tongue-in-cheek touches. Little sound effects a la "Kiss" by Tom Jones / Art of Noise. Then when the singer drops the Urkel voice and goes into that sustained wail, just great.

Among Canadian songs, two stand out for me:

"Switching to Glide" by the King Bees is chockablock full of lyrics that make no sense, or only as fragments overheard from one side of a conversation. But has a great beat and switches gears several times so it feels like half a dozen songs in one. (It's often referred to as "Switching to Glide / This Beat Goes On" to reflect the two major segments.) Doesn't appear to be available at the iTunes Music Store.

Which brings us to The Guess Who - The Best of the Guess Who - No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature"No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature" by The Guess WhoThe Guess Who . This really is a mashup of two separate songs. Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman each had half a song ready, both in the same key, so they jammed them together in a way that made no sense lyrically but worked as a tune. Legend has it that "No Sugar Tonight" was inspired when Bachman was about to get mugged, but the mugger was called off by his girlfriend with the thread of "no sugar tonight" if he didn't come right away.

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