Made in the 80’s

Playlist: Play It Again

Ever wonder why some artists feel the need to re-record their big hits? Sometimes it’s to record with a new lineup, other times it’s for legal reasons. But more often than not it feels like a cheap cash cow and is almost always a bad idea. While some bands have gotten away with re-recordings that aren’t terrible, they never live up to the original. Let’s take a listen to some of the best and worst re-recorded hit songs.

“Boys Don’t Cry” – The Cure

The Cure have a lot of notable songs in their lengthy catalog, but this is their most iconic. Taken from their debut album, Three Imaginary Boys, the song received moderate praise upon original release. Over time, the single garnered more praise and acclaim quickly becoming a Cure staple. When Robert Smith revisited the band’s singles for their 1986 compilation cassette, Staring at the Beach, Smith and co-headed back into the studio to re-record the classic. Known as “New Voice New Mix” the new version sounds very similar to the original. The biggest difference is Smith’s mature and more playful vocal take. Though it doesn’t sound bad, it still doesn’t match the charm of the original. It seems the band knows this as the new version was only used for the companion video. Otherwise, it has not been officially released on subsequent Cure collections.

“Shout at the Devil” – Motley Crue

Normally, there is no reason why a band should re-record their songs, especially when they’re considered classics. Usually, it ends up a disaster. Sadly, this is the outcome of Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil 97.” The original is a staple of heavy metal and helped launched their career. It remains one of their best songs. In 1997, the band reunited with Vince Neil, who left 1992 and released their seventh album, Generation Swine. To celebrate Neil’s return the band decided to re-record the song. And it’s…weird. While the vocals are largely unchanged, the music sounds nothing like the original. It’s hard to even pick out the tracks’ notable riff. Is this supposed to be a heavy metal version? It’s like they wanted to prove how bad and edgy they were and this is the result. Best avoid this version at all costs.

“Ace of Spades” – Motorhead

If there’s one song that represents being a badass, heavy metal, and the awesomeness of Mr. Lemmy Kilmister, it’s “Ace of Spades.” It’s not only the band’s most well-known song, it’s often listed as one of the best songs ever. And with good reason. Everything about it from the iconic riff to Lemmy’s gruff vocals makes it kick ass. The song is pretty much perfect, so why mess with it? When Rockband wanted to use the song for their game, the band re-recorded it and branded it “Ace of Spades 08.” There’s nothing bad about it; it sounds pretty close to the original. But it’s just not the same. Hearing it you know something’s off and it’s a little disappointing. At least Motorhead didn’t try to rebrand the song, unlike the Crue boys.

“Every Day is Halloween” – Ministry

Ministry’s early work is spotty at best. Before they found their abrasive, brutal industrial sound they sounded more like a faceless new wave band. It wasn’t until this song that they began finding their sound. Though the band would have bigger hits later on, this song still played an important role for both the group and fans. It’s still considered a favorite in their catalog. But perhaps Al Jourgensen thought it wasn’t heavy enough. He “fixed” this by re-recording the song in 2010. This version sounds more in tune with later Ministry, but it also sounds like a mediocre cover. The grinding guitars, fast tempo, and new vocals suck out everything that made the original great. This just sounds like another boring metal song trying too hard to be edgy.

“Melt With You” – Modern English

Though Modern English found more success in the UK they’ll forever be known as the one-hit wonders who gave us this 80s classic in the States. Constant airplay on MTV and playing over the end credits of Valley Girl helped it become a hit. It eventually reached number 7 on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart. The band re-recorded the track for their 1990 album, Pillow Lips. While you can hear some slight vocal variations, the changes are minimal. The same can’t be said for the 2010 version of the song. Recorded for the I Melt With You soundtrack, this version is harrowing. It takes all the bouncy, fun nature out of the song. Instead, it sounds stark, dark, and haunting. The 1983 version is still superior, but there’s something oddly beautiful about the 2010 rendition.

“Missing You” – John Waite

John Waite has a notable career as the singer for Bad English and The Babys, but he’s best remembered for this 80s ballad. It’s a typical sappy song about getting over someone, but not really getting over them. It proved to be a major hit and topped the charts in several countries. He’s gone on to release other successful singles, but none as big as this. In 2007, he re-recorded the track with Allison Krauss for her album A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s not terrible. It’s okay at best. Krauss doesn’t sound horrible singing and Waite sounds pretty much the same. It’s a very vanilla rendition of the song that makes you wonder why it had to happen in the first place.

“In This Paradise”- London After Midnight

This track from LAM’s debut album, Selected Scenes from the End of the World, has a Gothic, mysterious nature with the tolling bells and Sean Brennan’s vampiric vibe. There’s a dark romanticism to it that’s alluring, yet mysterious. But the album received a limited release and as a result was reissued several times in the States and Europe. For the 2003 re-release, Brennan re-recorded various songs from the album, including this track. The most notable change is the better sound quality. It no longer sounds like the track is muffled. Brennan also tightens up his vocals and the instrumentation, though the dancing guitar riff found in the original is missing here. It’s actually a decent update but is still missing the tantalizing vibe of the original.

“Everybody Have Fun Tonight” – Wang Chung

This Wang Chung hit is one of those mindless pop songs from the 80s. You know it’s bad, but like it because it has a catchy, memorable hook. Whether or not you actually like it, you’ll be singing along with it. Besides, the song has a positive message: have fun tonight. Who can’t get behind that? At least listening to it is better than watching the nauseating video. The 2010 re-recorded version doesn’t change much, but there’s something missing. It doesn’t sound as upbeat and energetic as the original. It sounds like a Wang Chung cover band is performing instead. And they try to spice up the song with soulful backup singers, but it falls flat. The whole thing sounds deflated. So if you have to listen to the song, stick with the original. Just don’t ask what “everybody wang chung tonight” means. The band doesn’t know either.

“I Remember You Two” – Skid Row

Skid Row’s third single is a cut and dry power ballad. It has sappy lyrics, soothing acoustic guitars, and the “edgy” hard guitars meant to show you it’s not a cheesy love song even though it is. The band re-recorded the song in 2003 with new lead singer Johnny Solinger as “I Remember You Two.” Re-recording hit songs with a new singer is never a good idea. No matter how decent the singer is, it will never live up to the original. Sadly, this isn’t the only problem this version has. Rather than sticking with the power ballad formula, the band “update” it to be heavier giving a lame “punk rock” sound. This along with the over the top vocals make it sound like your dad’s cover band instead of Skid Row. This is why re-recording songs is almost always a bad idea.

“I Was Made for Lovin’ You” – KISS

Sometimes when a band changes its lineup, they feel it’s time to recapture the magic of classic hits with their “amazing” new members. Skid Row already showed us why this is a bad idea, yet bands keep doing it. Look to KISS’ Kiss Klassics, an entire album of re-recorded hits featuring their 2008 lineup of Paul Stanely, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer. All of their biggest hits are re-recorded with less enthusiasm and energy as before. “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” shows you just how bad the album is. Not only does the whole thing sound unenthusiastic and boring, Stanely clearly can’t hit those high notes during the bridge. That wouldn’t be a problem if his attempt actually sounded good; it just sounds sad.

“Your Sweet 666” – HIM

Originally found on their debut album, this track was later re-recorded for their breakout LP, Razorblade Romance. Unlike many of the tracks here, the two versions are obviously different from one another. The original sounded like it came from the depths of Hell with Ville Valo’s deep vocals and the hard, distorted guitars. The later version is lighter in tone featuring more keys and fewer guitars in the mix overall. Rather than sounding heavy, this one has more of a traditional rock tone with a bit of glam mixed in. Though some fans prefer the new version, the first packs a heavier punch. With its Gothic nature, dark tones, and haunting vibe, the original stands out with its dramatic, Hellish vibe fitting in with HIM’s long-running themes of love and death. The latter version sounds like another typical rock song and isn’t as exciting as the original.

“I’m Your Man” – Wham!

Wham’s 1985 single proved to be another hit for the duo and one of their last before their split in 1986. Just like their other singles, this one is upbeat and fun, making you want to dance as soon as you hear the bouncy beat. It also has a killer hook of “baby/I’m your man” that you can’t help but sing out. It’s one of those typical fun 80s songs that puts you in a good mood. When it was time for a Wham! greatest hits album in 1996, George Michael decided to update the hit with an R&B spin. And it’s…something. The sound is completely different with elements of funk, rap, and R&B. Hearing hype men shout “who da man” at the beginning leaves you scratching your head. The whole thing sounds like a cover from the Backstreet Boys. Rather than breathing new life into the song, it’s a sad attempt at trying to be relevant.

“Paradise City” – Slash

This is another sad attempt of trying to update a classic. With Slash and Axl Rose not on speaking terms, Slash decided to release his debut solo album in 2010. The previous year, he released the single “Sahara,” which featured this GNR classic as the b-side. You can’t fault Slash for wanting to reinvent one of the band’s biggest hits – he’s part of the reason the why the song is so popular. But you would think he’d enlist a viable rock singer for vocals. Instead, he recruits Fergie and Cypress Hill. Why? is the only thing you’ll ask yourself when hearing this terrible rendition. This is one case where rap and rock don’t get along. And when was the last time Cypress Hill were relevant? Fergie’s screeching in the background just makes matters worse. It’s not worth sitting through this crap to hear Slash’s killer licks. Just stick with the original.

Which re-recorded hits did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Remembering Prince

April 21, 2016, the world lost one of music’s iconic and talented musicians, Prince. He was truly a legend who left a huge impression on music with his style, songs, and vision. He was a versatile artist who constantly pushed boundaries and challenged perceived notions of music. Since he was bigger than life, even though he only stood 5’3, you don’t picture him working with a lot of other artists or even performing covers. His music is so good, why should he play other people’s songs? But, surprisingly, Prince extended himself to various musicians and created memorable, yet underrated duets. At the same time, he also put his funky, sexy spin on songs you’d never guess he’d play. So let’s remember the late Prince by looking back at some of his most notable duets and covers.

“Love Song” – Madonna + Prince

When listening to Madonna’s landmark album Like a Prayer it’s easy to gloss over this smoldering track. The sexy ballad features the two music icons being seductive with one another. It’s a smooth, sexy track meant to put you in the loving mood. So how did the two end up working together? “We were friends and talked about working together, so I went to Minneapolis to write some stuff with him, but the only thing I really dug was ‘Love Song’ […]” With its funky groove and steamy lyrics, it’s more of a Prince song. It sounds like something that belongs on one of his albums and doesn’t mesh well with the pure pop of the rest of the album. You would think a song featuring two of the biggest acts of the 80s would get more attention. But the track couldn’t really compete with massive singles “Like a Prayer” and “Dear Jessie.”

“Creep” – Radiohead

You don’t expect someone like Prince to do too many covers, especially considering how many hits he has in his catalog. But during his headlining set at 2008 Coachella, he pulled out a number of them. He played The Beatles’ “Come Together,” Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice,” The B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” But the most talked about moment was his blazing cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Though the elements of the original are there, he turns the track into something completely his own. When he pulls out the extended solos and falsetto vocals, it doesn’t even sound like the same song. It’s amazing to listen to especially since he never played any of the band’s songs before. But of course, Prince wasn’t happy when footage of the cover went live online. He ordered the video to be taken down, which Radiohead reverted since it’s their own song.

“Waiting Room” – No Doubt + Prince

This is another unexpected Prince collaboration. Found on No Doubt’s Rock Steady, it’s got a bit of groove, it’s kind of soulful with a dash of synth and pop. Thanks to Prince’s work on the track, it sounds nothing like the band’s previous or later material. Apparently, Prince agreed to work on the track as a favor to the band since Gwen Stefani appeared on his track “So Far, So Pleased.” They sent him the track and he completely rewrote it. His influence can be heard all over the song. If it wasn’t for Stefani’s lead vocals, you would swear it’s a Prince song. It’s one of the weirder, yet satisfying options from No Doubt’s 2001 album.

“Best of You” – Foo Fighters

Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl Half-Time performance was the first time I realized just how versatile and insanely talented he was. We know how hard Prince rock’s his own material, but not too many other songs. That changed when he busted out renditions of “Proud Mary,” “All Along the Watch Tower,” and Foo Fighter‘s “Best of You.” You wouldn’t expect to hear falsetto shrills in a Foo Fighters song, but Prince truly made that track along with the others he featured all his own. He infused them with his attitude, flair, and a healthy dose of soul like no one else ever could. Though some people didn’t think he was worthy of handling the show, his performance is still hailed as one of the best in Superbowl history. Watching it now, it still gives you chills, especially when he busts out “Purple Rain” during an epic downpour.

“A Love Bizzare” – Shelia E + Prince

Prince was so unique and had a style unlike any other that his essence pours out of every song he writes. This duet with his protégé Shelia E, features the Purple One on background vocals and on bass. But even though Shelia E is the focus of the song, it’s undeniably a Prince song. With its upbeat funky groove, irresistible hook, and sultry lyrics it could’ve come from any of his albums. Though his contribution is kind of downplayed on the studio version, the live version has his flamboyance all over it. Like so many of his tracks, this one is fun, energetic, and sexy. Then again, what Prince song isn’t sexy?

“Every Day is a Winding Road” Sheryl Crow + Prince

Any artist collaborating with Prince should know once he makes an appearance, he steals the show. That’s what happened during this live collaboration with Sheryl Crow. The two performed a hard-edge version of her hit “Every Day is a Winding Road.” Prince does backup vocals and shreds away on his iconic guitar. Shortly after this performance, Prince recorded his own version of the track for this 1999 album Rav Un2 The Joy Fantastic. If you’re lucky enough to find this version, you’ll find a completely different song. It’s funky, slinky, and downright sexy, which you don’t expect from a Crow song. It’s soulful and makes you want to dance. The cover is so good, Crow should hand it over to Prince to be rightfully his. On the same album, the two collaborate on the track “Baby Knows,” which has this cool rock, funk swing to it. If you want to hear it, you better pick up the record; they’re impossible to find online.

“Why Should I Love You?” – Kate Bush + Prince

Kate Bush is an iconic figure in alt rock. Her music is often dreamy, otherworldly, and elegant. So it’s a bit unexpected to learn she worked with Prince. The song, which appeared on her comeback album The Red Shoes, starts out with an air of whimsy and airy and quickly turns into a Prince jam. Seems to be the usual pattern with Prince collaborations. Apparently, Bush sent him the track back in 1991 so he could add background vocals. He not only added vocals but a lot of instrumentation. Since it sounded so different, Bush wasn’t sure what to do with it. They worked on it for two years trying to make it fit Bush’s sound. Clearly, it didn’t work.

“A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell

Prince is known for his sexy, funky style, but on this Joni Mitchell, we get to hear a different side. While it still has an air of sensuality, the track is absolutely gorgeous. It’s an intimate moment with Prince and a piano that’s unforgettable. Hearing his soaring falsetto vocals and the classy tinkling piano keys leave you in awe. We all know Prince was such an amazing guitar player, it’s often easy to forget what a versatile musician he was. This cover shows the beauty and elegance he could add to songs, whether they were his or not. This version is a stark difference from Mitchell’s original folk stylings.

“Love is a Losing Game” – Amy Winehouse + Prince

This haunting and somber track from Amy Winehouse’s final album Back to Black, received the Prince treatment several times live. Footage of this is difficult to find, but luckily, the two eventually teamed up for a powerful rendition of the song. Winehouse joined Prince onstage in 2007 during his final show at London’s O2 Arena. He leaves her to take care of the vocals while he tears it up on guitar. In case you forgot what a badass he is on guitar, you’re quickly reminded on this track. It’s an unforgettable collaboration, though you can’t help but feel a little sad since both musicians passed on unexpectedly.

“Honky Tonk Woman” – Rolling Stones

Prince started performing this song live in 1993, but his version was never officially released. Previously, it could only be found on the Japanese version of The Undertaker. The cover received a wider release when Warner Bros. shared rehearsal footage of Prince performing the track shortly after his death. He turns the song into a scorching number with meaty guitars and a bad ass solo. If you needed more proof of what a genius Prince was at playing guitar, just watch this video where he shreds away with an “I make this look good” look on his face.

“Give Em What they Love” – Janelle Monae + Prince

Prince doesn’t easily hand out compliments and didn’t hide it when he didn’t like someone. But he did admire Janelle Monae, who looked up to him. Luckily, the two worked together for this track from Monae’s second album, The Electric Lady. Not only does Prince play guitar, he also provides co-lead vocals on the track. The song is already is already hot with Monae’s passionate vocals and seductive demeanor. But having Prince sing his signature falsetto makes the track even sexier. Plus, it’s funny to hear Prince utter the term “chicken head.” It’s funky, has a healthy dose of attitude, and makes you feel sexy as hell.

“One of Us” – Joan Osbourne

Prince covered Osbourne’s sole hit for his 1996 album, Emancipation and played it live in concert. With this track, he takes you to church. His soulful delivery, cries for the crowd to join him, and his passionate singing makes it feel like you’re in the middle of a sermon. You want to close your eyes, sway your arm in the air, and shout “preach!” as he’s singing. While there’s nothing wrong with the original, Prince’s version is superior especially with the fiery guitar solo that gives it an extra edge. He even uses the track to take a dig at his former label, Warner Bros. by changing the line “Just a slob like one of us” to “Just a slave like one of us.” This shows if Prince had a problem with you, he’d let you know it in the sassiest way.

“Shhh” – Tevin Campbell

There’s no question about it; Prince was a sexy mother. Just about everything he did dripped with sex. He does the impossible on this Tevin Campbell cover; inject a song that’s about getting in on and make it 100 times dirtier. No, he doesn’t change any lyrics or anything like that. It’s all in his over the top delivery. Hearing his falsetto cries of pleasure you’d swear he was having sex while recording the song. If that wasn’t enough to get you hot and bothered, the blazing guitar solo will do the trick. He takes a typical 90s slow jam and turns it into a sex romp. Only Prince could somehow make a sexy song even sexier.

“Crimson and Clover” – Tommy James and the Shondells 

If you thought Joan Jett made this song rock, you haven’t heard Prince’s version. For the most part, it’s a straightforward cover with Prince being playfully coy during the breakdown of “I think I love you” and blowing kisses into the mic. It’s not until the solo where he makes this song sizzle. In case you needed a reminder what an awesome guitar player he was, Prince make sure you remember with this performance. He makes the guitar burn and blaze like he’s Jimi Hendrix. It leaves you stunned the way he makes the guitar whine, scream, and trill. The cover appeared on his album LOtUSFLOW3R, but it’s his performance of the track on Ellen that gets a nod here.

Which ones of these Prince covers/duets is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

 

Playlist: Fads That Spawned Novelty Songs

The novelty song is a strange, unexpected, and oftentimes, horrible thing. They seem to come out of nowhere, become popular for a spell, and die out quicker than they came. It’s the type of music that makes you wonder if anyone listens to those songs once the joke is over. But what’s weirder than the typical novelty song is one about a fad. These artists took a popular trend and wrote songs about them. Some of them are an homage to the thing, others are poking fun at the trends. All of them are freaking weird. Trends come and go, but these novelty songs will always be with us, for better or worst.

“Teletubbies say Eh Oh!” – The Teletubbies

Remember when weird alien baby creatures took over children’s television in the late 90s? Teletubbies is a show we’ve all seen at least once and none of us can explain why it was so popular. Frankly, it looks downright creepy. Believe it or not, the show spawned a hit single. You read that right. “Teletubbies Say Eh Oh” is a remixed version of the theme song where they say their name. To shake things up they randomly throw in “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and “Mary Mary Quite Contrary.” The song actually took the top spot on the charts in the UK. I shit you not, this actually happened. After it fell from number one, it still remained on the charts for 79 weeks. Why? What in God’s name is so good about this song that it stayed in rotation for so long? Who was listening to this? What’s really freaky is there were probably more adults listening to this than kids.

“Tamagotchi” – Squeezer

People loved virtual pets and Euro dance music in the 90s, so of course, there would be an official Tamagotchi club song. If it wasn’t for the constant repetition of “Tamagotchi,” it could easily be about a lover instead of a freaking toy. The video shows the singer looking sad that she can’t find her Tamagotchi, which is represented by the toy’s weird, but cute, mascot. The song is kind of upbeat and catchy and it’s cute how they incorporate the blipping sounds from the toy. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard European club song, just a really weird one. Wanting to get in on the trend, Eurodance group Daze released the song “Together Forever,” which has several references to the popular toy. This one is downright creepy with lyrics like “I’m your Tamagotchi/so happy that you love me” and “I see you as my new mom and daddy.” To make things worse, the clip features a bunch of little kids. Yeah… let’s move on.

“Where’s the Beef?” – Coyote McCloud and Clara Peller

We’ve all seen the iconic ad where a flustered woman lifts up her hamburger bun, scoffs at the pitiful size and says…well, you know the rest. Similar to “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” in the 90s, the phrase took on a life of its own spawning merchandise and more ads. It also gave life to this song. Peller’s infamous phrase is used as the chorus, while McCloud tells the story of this woman, just in case the commercial wasn’t clear enough. With the cheesy lyrics and disco-inspired music, it sounds like something Gene from Bob’s Burgers would write. Here’s just a sampling of the on point lyrics:

“WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Young man, can’t you hear her call
She don’t see no beef at all)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Call a cop and catch the thief
the one who stole this lady’s beef)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Eeny meeny miney mo
tell us where did our beef go?)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Won’t somebody end her grief
And tell her where’s the beef?)”

“We Know Who Done It (Who Shot JR)” – The Barron Knights

“Who shot JR?” It was the mystery everyone wanted to solve in 1980. The tagline comes from the insanely popular drama Dallas wherein the third season finale the character JR Ewing is shot by a shadowy figure. Similar to “Where’s the beef?” this phrase also spawned its own line of merchandise. Comedy pop group The Barron Knights, think of them as British Weird Al, took the opportunity to poke fun at the event. Sung to the tune of Gary Newman’s “Cars,” the group sings about the events teasing listeners that they actually have the answer. Just when you think the mystery is going to be solved, the record skips (intentionally). By the way, it was JR’s sister-in-law Kristen Shepard.

“Pac-Man Fever” – Buckner & Garcia

Videos games are common place now. Hell, your mom probably plays some mobile games throughout the day. But back in the 80s, the medium was still new, fresh, and exciting. The arcades were packed with kids looking to spend a lot of quarters and waste the day away. One of the hottest games of the time was Pac-Man. So of course, people wanted to capitalize on the trend any way they could. In comes novelty duo Bucker & Garcia with what is perhaps the most famous novelty song of all time. The upbeat rock/pop infused track highlights the 80s video game craze and points out the player’s obsession with the game, even noting he has to get away from Speedy. Unlike many of the songs on the list, this one is surprisingly fun. It’s silly, but it’s something you can actually stand to listen to once the joke has worn off. Others thought so too as the song peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. Bucker & Garcia tried to make magic again with “Do Donkey Kong,” but failed to be a hit.

“#Selfie” – The Chainsmokers

On the internet, it’s easy for anything to get insanely popular without any rhyme or reason. That’s the only explanation why people started talking about selfies as if they haven’t been around for hundreds of years. It got to the point where everyone cracked jokes at those stupid enough to take selfies daily or at inappropriate moments. Electronic duo The Chainsmokers wanted to poke fun at the trend too and released the annoying song “#Selfie” in 2014. The song is nothing but a club girl blabbing about the most asinine “problems” in between taking more selfies. Surprisingly, the song actually charted around the world and reach the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. What helped it get so popular were celebrity cameos by David Hasselhoff, Snoop Dogg, and Steve Aoki. Some may not agree with it being classified as a novelty song, but it’s about fucking selfies with a generic beat. Can’t really imagine anyone listening to this track now, which why it’s hard to believe The Chainsmokers now having other chart-topping songs that aren’t one tiresome joke.

“Hula Hoop” – Maureen Evans

Though you’re more likely going to see someone hula hooping at Coachella, back in the 50s these simple toys spawned a craze. Popularized by toy company Whammo, the hula hoop sold two million units in just two years. It was so popular Carlton Products Corporation had to make 50,000 hoops a day just to keep up with demand. At the height of the craze, pop singer Maureen Evans released “Hula Hoop Song” in 1958. Making the act sound like a dance fad, the song talks about not getting enough of the toy and hooping at all hours of the day. It’s pretty catchy and actually sounds like something that would’ve been popular in dance halls at the time. It’s simple and gets the point across: hula hoops are awesome. Now, they’re the mark of someone trying way too hard at a festival usually wearing a flower crown.

“The Streak” – Ray Stevens

Aside from disco, flared pants, and The Brady Bunch, the 70s gave birth to a streaking craze. Streakers started running through residence halls and even outdoor games for a cheap thrill. People still do it now, with major consequences, but it’s nowhere near as popular as it was in the 70s. Ray Stevens highlights the craze in his 1974 track “The Streak.” The song pokes fun at the trend by reporting fake streaking incidents spotted around town. You can tell it’s supposed to be wacky with the prominent slide whistle and laugh track. Though the song is silly, it was a hit earning Stevens his second number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. It remains one of his most notable songs. I guess the current equivalent would be a song about the mannequin challenge.

“Doctorin’ the Tardis” – The Timelords

It seems Doctor Who only recently gained a huge following in the States, but it’s been a hit overseas for years, which is the only way to explain this song. Made by Bill Drummord and Jimmy Caughty (aka KLF), the song is nothing but the hook of “Doctor Who” sung to the tune of Gary Glitter’s “Rock n Roll Part 2.” You’ll occasionally hear a Dalek screech “EXTERMINATE!” but there’s nothing else to the song. This is another strange case of a novelty song scoring the top spot on the charts. While it only reached number 66 in the states, it peaked at number one in both the UK and New Zealand. In 2005, Party Ben and Team9 re-released the song set to Green Day’s “Holiday” as part of their American Edit project. It’s pretty bad; better stick to the original.

“A Nightmare on My Street” – Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff

Technically, this isn’t a novelty song, but it’s corny enough to be considered one. In case you forgot, Will Smith was a rapper at one point and Jazz was his DJ before he became a running joke on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The two cash in on the slasher move trend of the 80s with this song. The duo’s third single talks about Freddy Kruger and how he’s all too real for Smith. It starts with Smith claiming he’s not real and not even that scary. Of course, Freddy comes after him to prove him wrong. The rap is kind of lame and silly, but there’s still something charming about it. Smith makes references to Kruger’s iconic outfit, there’s music that sounds awfully a lot like the film’s score, and “Freddy” even drops a verse. It was originally considered for the Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master soundtrack, but the producers decided against it. Instead, New Line Cinema sued the duo’s record label for copyright infringement. The two later settled out of court.

“The Curly Shuffle” – Peter Quinn

The Three Stooges are proof that slapstick comedy never gets old. Everyone’s seen at least one Stooges short and probably laughed way too much. They’re bonafide comedy legends and in 1983 they received a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. At the same time, Peter Quinn released this novelty song as an homage to the comedy troupe. The song is simple; just Quinn expressing his love for the group, especially Curly and his trademark shuffle. Classic Stooges sounds like “Nyuk nyuk” can be heard throughout. Oddly enough, it’s an infectious song that’ll put you in the mood for some Stooges shorts. It’s surprising how hard they still make me laugh.

“Space Invaders” – Player One

While “Pac-Man Fever” was a hit in the States, another video game related song was taking over Australia. Written by Russell Dunlop and Bruce Brown, the song is about the popular arcade game of the same name. It attempts to give the game a story talking about how it’s up to the hero to save the world from ruthless aliens. The song is cheesy complete with generic disco music and some sweet falsetto crooning during the delivery of “space invaderrrs!” It’s actually the best part of the song. It ended up being a hit in Australia and reached number three on the Kent Charts. The duo released the single internationally, but it wasn’t received as well. It seems people wouldn’t be ready for video game inspired songs until 1982, the year “Pac-Man Fever” released.

“Mr. Rubik” – The Barron Knights

The Barron Knights return again poking fun at another 80s fad: the Rubik’s cube. This song tells the story of a guy who goes crazy trying to solve the damn thing. He even resorts to cheating by taking it apart and coloring in the squares to try to get some peace. He seemingly dies from the insanity only to learn the afterlife is full of the maddening puzzle. Similar to their other entry on the list, this one is silly, yet takes the piss out of the odd trend. Still, the song is better than the dreaded Rubik’s cube cartoon. *shudders*

Which novelty song did I miss? Are any of these your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Rock Duets

Sometimes a duet is the best thing in the world. Other times, it’s a disaster. But it always leaves memorable stories. There’s something about two huge musicians getting together to create music that’s thrilling and exciting. Pop music is full of countless duets, but they don’t seem as popular for rock music. They certainly exist; they’re just not as abundant as they are in pop music. So let’s look at some of the most notable and popular duets in rock music. For the purpose of this playlist, a duet is a song where both artists have an equal amount of time on the track.

“Close My Eyes Forever” – Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne

This is probably the most famous rock duet. The song, which apparently came about as an accident according to Sharon Osbourne, was the third single for Lita Ford’s self-titled debut album. With sappy lyrics and a blazing guitar solo, it’s no different from the many power ballads of the era. Ozzy’s haunting vocals do add an eerie touch to the song, but it’s still pretty cheesy. Though I love Osbourne, I never liked this song. It’s too slow for my tastes and is just corny. Then again, I’d be hard press to find one power ballad from the 80s I actually like. Still, this single stands out as one of the most notable duets in rock music.

“Love Interruption” – Jack White and Ruby Amanfu

The music world went a little nuts when Jack White announced a solo album only a year after the White Stripes ended. The debut single “Love Interruption” wasn’t what people expected. There were no roaring riffs and White screaming over screeching guitars. Instead, the song is mellow, subdued, and a bit cynical. Though White could’ve easily carried the song himself, the addition of Amanfu’s smoky vocals adds an understated sensuality to the song. Something about her voice adds a raspy, soulful nature that would’ve been missing otherwise. I actually think it’s one of the strongest tracks from Blunderbuss and serves as a reminder love isn’t always pretty.

“Dancing in the Street” – Mick Jagger and David Bowie

Two of music’s iconic artists, what could go wrong? To be fair, the cover itself isn’t that bad. There’s nothing particularly special about it, but it’s fun at least. Yet, the music video will go down in infamy. It’s unbelievably bad. Jagger exaggerates everything from his facial expressions to his seizure inducing dance moves. Bowie remains cool though it looked like he left the house in some wild pajamas. And don’t forget the scene where Jagger chugs down a soda while Bowie sings. It’s probably one of the worst videos of the 80s. Hell, even Family Guy said it was the gayest music video in history. Thinking about it, there are moments where the two singers get a little too close for comfort.

“State of Shock” – Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger shows up again for a better collaboration with Michael Jackson. Recorded for The Jackson’s album Victory, the song is a raucous and kind of spastic team up with the rocker. The song was originally meant to be a duet with Freddie Mercury for the Thriller album, but scheduling conflicts kept the two from working together. Jagger was called instead and it ended up being his biggest hit away from The Rolling Stones. It’s one of those unexpected hits from Jackson’s catalog, but it’s one of the finest examples of pop and rock colliding. Later on, Jackson said he Jagger sang off key, while Jagger called Jackson “lightweight.” Anyone else think the Freddie Mercury version would’ve been epic?

“Good Times” – INXS and Jimmy Barnes

When two talented vocalists come together, they often try to outshine each other. That’s not the case here. For their contribution to The Lost Boys soundtrack, INXS teamed up with singer/songwriter Jimmy Barnes on this cover of The Easybeats song. Michael Hutchences’ smoldering vocals pair exceptionally well with Barnes’ bluesy, rock-tinged voice. They actually work together to give listeners a thrilling experience. The two sharing vocal duties along with the high energy music supporting them, it’s everything you want a good rock rolling song to be. It has a similar good time vibe as Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Listening to Barnes’ vocals, you have to admit it’s reminiscent of rockers, like Robert Plant.

“Hunger Strike” – Temple of the Dog

Temple of the Dog started as a way for Chris Cornell and members of Pearl Jam to deal with the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood. Their debut album did exceptionally well with this song being their biggest hit single. The track features Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder on vocal duties. When two of grunge’s most notable and talented vocalists get together for a song, you know it’s going to be good. And that’s exactly what you get with this powerful, emotionally driven tune. Both artists get time to share their unique vocal styles, Vedder being gruff and raspy and Cornell’s higher range. It results in a song that’s beautiful and haunting.

“Stand by Your Man” – Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister

Ever wonder what it would sound like if two punks ripped apart the Tammy Wynette classic “Stand By your Man?” That’s what Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister for a single in 1982. The song is almost unrecognizable with gritty, blazing guitars making a ruckus while the two scream out the lyrics over the noise. Oddly enough, it works. It’s one of those weird covers you would never expect two rock legends to even consider. They breathe new sinister life into the country classic that makes you want to head bang. O. Williams and Kilmister teamed up again for “Jailbait,” which appeared on the Plasmatics album Kommander of Kaos. Listening to these two, it’s clear they were truly one of a kind.

“I Ain’t No Nice Guy” – Motorhead and Ozzy Osbourne

When two of hard rock’s most iconic and legendary figures team up, you expect something epic beyond belief. That’s not the result of this duet featuring Lemmy Kilmister and the Prince of Darkness. Rather than getting together for a kickass track that would melt your face off, the two sing a ballad instead. It’s a slow, somber song made for radio airplay. It actually became a huge hit for Motorhead’s tenth album March or Die. It’s a decent song and features a slow burning solo from guitar hero Slash, but it won’t hit that sweet spot for most metalheads. It’s just so unexpected for the rockers. What’s even more surprising is seeing Ozzy with a five o’clock shadow in the video. Yikes.

“A Tout Le Monde” – Megadeth and Christina Scabbia

This song originally appeared on Megadeth’s sixth album Youthanasia and quickly became a staple for the band. At the time of its release, it garnered controversy for its music video. MTV banned it claiming it promoted suicide, which Dave Mustaine was quick to dismiss. The band re-recorded the song in 2007 for the album United Abominations with Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil. Aside from some slight alterations, like a faster pace, there;s not much difference aside from Scabbia singing an entire verse showing off her vocal chops. The song keeps its sentimentality intact along with its hard hitting sound and slightly aggressive mood. Many may prefer the original, but this re-recording is a great blend of old school and new school.

“Walk This Way” – Run DMC and Aerosmith

These days the world of rock and rap often combine for both awesome and questionable results. But back in the 80s, the two were seen as exclusive genres that should never cross paths. Run DMC and Aerosmith broke that barrier with this duet. When it was released in 1986 it blew everyone’s collective minds. Not only did Run DMC cover this classic rock track, they even got Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to join them. The song is still amazing to this day and remains one of the best mash-ups ever. It, of course, would go on to inspire other rock/rap collabs, such as Jay-z and Linkin Park (remember when that was a thing?)

“The One You Love to Hate” – Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson

Two heavy metal giants, both who are considered the best vocalists in the genre, team up for this roaring track. Recorded for Halford’s debut album Ressurection, the song features Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson on vocals. You’d expect to be beyond amazing and the most bad ass thing you’ve ever heard. In reality, it’s okay. It feels more like a Dickinson track since his voice overpowers everything and Halford is stuck on back up duty. It’s a pretty standard metal song with soaring vocals, blazing guitars and a lot of aggression. It’s not bad; just not very remarkable.

“Don’t Fear the Reaper” – HIM and Sanna-June Hyde

On HIM’s debut album, the band provided a haunting rendition of the Blue Oyster Cult classic. This version brings out all the darkness and grim view that’s implied in the lyrics. And frontman Ville Valo’s baritone vocals provide are a perfect match. Adding some brightness to the track is Finnish actor Sanna-June Hyde. She provided guest vocals for this track and “For You” early in her career. She’s not necessarily the best singer but her voice surprisingly well with Valo’s. There’s also something eerie about their voices. Still one of the best covers of this song.

“Under Pressure” – Queen and David Bowie

The thought of Queen and David Bowie doing a song together sounds like a dream. This amazing collaboration resulted in one of the best songs of the 80s. It’s an undeniable classic; pairing Bowie’s mellow vocals with Freddie Mercury’s dramatic bravado leads to a beautiful sonic experience. And try not to get chills during the bridge when Mercury pleads “Why can’t we give love/give love/give love?” The song became a huge hit for both artists and remains their most notable. Of course, the riff would be stolen by Vanilla Ice in the 90s, who claimed it wasn’t the same song.

Which is your favorite rock duet? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

H2O – Hall and Oates

Release Year: 1982

Rating: 7.5/10

Hall and Oates are a musical act I’ve grown to love over the years. I’ve always liked their hit singles, but I’ve grown to respect their contributions to music. And lately, I’ve been in a Hall and Oates mood. In the past two weeks, I watched all their videos online, saw countless interviews, and watched their Behind the Music special. I’ve covered Big Bam Boom, probably their biggest album, already so I wanted to look at another one of their successful records. This time, let’s look at the duo’s eleventh album H2O.

The album opens with one of their best singles “Maneater.” That slick opening beat, hot sax riff, and lyrics about a woman whose dangerous yet tempting, makes this one of their coolest songs. It’s dangerous yet sensual as the music slowly builds up and Hall begins singing about this “maneater.” It’s pop meshed with soul for that “Motown groove” making it so irresistible. Though the song sounds like it’s about a vicious woman, the duo said it was inspired by the greed and lust of New York in the 80’s. Years later, it’s still one of their best songs and a great example of what makes the duo so talented.

The next track “Crime Pays” is kind of weird, but fun to listen to. It’s pretty much their disco song. It has a funky groove, glistening keys, and an upbeat dance vibe that’s meant to get you moving. The music is the most notable thing about the song. It’s not as memorable or as interesting as the other tracks, but it still puts you in a good mood. It’s a quirky moment from the duo before they go back to laying out the catchy, ear worm jams. While “Guessing Games” and “Delayed Reaction” aren’t bad, they’re kind of typical for the band. Both are pretty straightforward pop songs, with the latter having a catchier, if not, simpler hook. The former is kind of dull. These songs don’t cause much of a reaction; maybe just a subtle nod of the head at times.

Daryl Hall constantly talks about growing up in Philadelphia and being influenced by soul and R&B music. These influences come out best on this album, especially on tracks like “Art of Heartbreak.” Though the song is about being a heartbreaker, the song sounds sleek and sexy with the opening dirty blues riff and Hall’s crooning vocals. For an extra air of cool, the hot sax makes a return for a sensuous groove. It’s an underrated Hall and Oates gem that lets them get in touch with the soul sound that launched their career. The R&B sound returns on the lukewarm “Open All Night.” It’s not a terrible song, but compared to the other tracks it doesn’t stand out. It’s a slow song about finding out a lover’s infidelity. It’s not bad, just a bit generic.

The album also includes hits “One on One” and “Family Man.” The former takes a bit to grow on you, but once it does, it never lets go. The soothing opening keys and Hall’s falsetto makes it sound like a lounge song from the 70s. And if you’re not used to Hall hitting those high notes, it comes off a little weird, but soon enough you’ll be singing “Whoooa, one on one/I wanna play that game tonight/One on one I know” with him. It’s a slow jam about getting some face time with your lover. To make sure you get in the mood, the sax comes in during the bridge adding a suave vibe to the song. It’s a Hall and Oates classic that never seems to get much attention.

Family Man” is actually a Mike Oldfield cover about a man being proposition by a prostitute. He resists by screaming “Leave me alone/I’m a family man!” The song has a rock vibe with beefy guitars with some weird muted music making it sound like they’re in the middle of a jungle for a moment of the song. What makes the Hall and Oates version stand out is how Hall’s vocals get more intense near the end, showing how this “family man” is about to lose it. And it has a hook that lodges itself in your head. I woke up one day with the hook repeating in my head. No joke.

Though the album is mostly solid, there are some real stinkers. And unfortunately, they’re both written by John Oates. “Italian Girls” is a throwaway track filled with Italian stereotypes while Oates sings “Where are the Italian girls?” It’s so upbeat and generic it almost plays like a comedy song from the 80s. Instead, it’s stuck on the tail end of the album bringing down the second half. The following track “At Tension” doesn’t sound cheesy, but it’s so unfitting. Oates’ back on vocals singing about war and the military. It’s out of place because most of the songs are about relationships. It’s also drawn out, slow, and boring making it a song you can’t wait to be over. Luckily, the end of the album is saved by the catchy slow jam, “Go Solo,” which finds Hall rightfully back on vocal duty.

H2O is just one of the numerous hit albums for this duo. Though it’s not as upbeat and fun as Big Bam Boom, it’s a solid record. Most of the songs are memorable and have that classic Hall and Oates touch that makes their music so irresistible. What I appreciate about the record is how it shows off more of their soul and R&B influences, which isn’t always easy to hear on tracks like “Out of Touch.” And if you needed proof that Daryl Hall is a stellar vocalist look no further than this album. He has an impressive range and his soulful crooning is like no other. There’s some filler along with flat out bad songs, but the album is enjoyable. If you have a Hall and Oates that needs scratching, this album will be your satisfaction.