Songs That Make You Go Hmmm

'80s and '90s musical discourse.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I'm in Provincetown for the week. It's simultaenously really fun and really gross.

I'm amazed at how often '80s music comes into conversation.

"We went to a step aerobics class. I didn't like it because he played old George Michael, like Wham and stuff."

Of course my heart cried since I still listen to "Wham! Rap" and "Bad Boys", let alone newer Wham! like "Edge of Heaven" which sends me into the stratosphere.

"Lime is New Jersey's best kept secret."

I'm staying in a house with fellow New Jerseyans. 'Babe, We're Gonna Love Tonight" was played in every NJ club ever since it came out in '82. I smell like a malibu bay breeze when I listen to it. They are not NJ's best kept secret. They're from Canada.

It's not '80s, but a dance remake of "Everybody Dance" by Chic is everywhere here. My friend Addam and I had a dance off when it came on at the daily tea dance. Every 8 bars we'd pull a new move. Any excuse to do the Wop, ya know? People appluaded. I was happy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

can you identify this art?

"Gay Type Thang" by Jon Sugar

Jon Sugar is my best friend and life coach. I met him in 1995 after traveling from NYC to SF on the Greyhound with a grand in my pocket and little else. I didn’t have a job or a home, but I had a new friend. As head of GAWK, Gay Artists and Writers Kollective, he stages unpredictably queer shows in the heart of the pasty Castro, and takes his friends and minions to free shows and movies around the Bay Area. He’s the most verbally gifted individual I’ve ever met, and manages to get him and a posse into events three times a week.

“Gay Type Thang” was written in ’80 and recorded in ’84. Jon says it’s the first gay rap record – who’s to contradict that? It got some college radio airplay. It speaks for itself, but a sample of the lyrics is as follows:

I’m a bastard Jew boy in the Promised Land
With a big hairy butt and a pocket full of sand
With the nuts to butts, asshole to belly
Putting crazy glue in my KY jelly

He’s keeping it real. His friend is nice enough to offer "Gay Type Thang" online (click the title of this post). Someday I’ll learn how to do that myself.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


There are songs that make me cry every single time I hear them. "Unchained Melody" is one of them - my sister's friend committed suicide in high school and he sang it with a thin, aching falsetto in a talent show a month before that. "Night of the Living Baseheads" by PE is another, only because it's so perfect and blistering.

"Elvis Presley Blues" by Gillian Welch was added to the list today.
I can't stop listening to it and I can't stop crying.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

D.I.S.C.O. by Ottawan

Next time you forget to spell disco, play this video and attempt to move your legs like this. I love that she's totally throws herself into the song before the song begins. She is disco, she is high.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

drive-bys up and down the thighs

I'm old and out of touch enough that I find out about music I love years after it's released. Whatever. "Daydreamin'" by Lupe Fiasco is Portishead meets Nas. My sister downloaded it from the Fred Flare site, of all things.

I'd like to thank the streets that drove me crazy
and all the televisions out there that raised me

the ending to a verse that goes from making cocaine cool to tiptoeing around the baby to sticking a middle finger to the world. I love him.

And Jill Scott wails.

Friday, March 16, 2007

disco alphabet

Grover's version of the alphabet song lasts about 30 seconds, but I think it's my favorite disco song of all time. The dancing still sends me into fits of convulsion.

Monday, March 12, 2007

quaalude songs - "Ocean Drive" by Lighthouse Family

My boyfriend's Dad is taking us to a Neil Sedaka concert next month. We hada choice between Judy Collins and Neil Sedaka. There are few things shockingin this life, and this invitation was one of them. But I'm really excited for it. I'll be singing along to "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" but not "She's Having My Baby". Upon research Neil, we discovered he hit the Top 10 with a remake of "Stairway to Heaven".

That's some crazy shit.

There are certain songs that I think of as quaalude songs.  Songs thatinstantly put me at ease with the opening chords.   Songs usually recorded within the '74-'82 window and usually recorded by Los Angeles studio musicians.  Songs you might hear in Duane Reade.   "Africa" by Toto.  "So Into You" by Atlanta RhythmSection.  "You Are the Woman" by Firefall.  Anything by Bread. And definitely "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille, written by Mr. Sedaka.  If Toni Tennille makes a special appearance at the show, I will be tickled.

This morning I heard my favorite Quaalude song from the '90s – "Ocean Drive" by Lighthouse Family (yes, the youtube video if you click on the title of this post).  A huge hit in Britain, it sounds like Hootie and the Blowfish through the production lens of Breathe.   Right now the song is dripping my tiny computer speaker, and if I close my eyes, it's dripping from a transistor radio in Barbados.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

favorite '80s videos. Confusion by New Order

It captures a time and place I never really experienced.

Friday, December 22, 2006

i want candy

I frequently do radio interviews to promote my books. It usually requires me calling in to a morning show in Missouri or Oregon or Iowa and chatting with perpetually smiling radio personalities. Nobody tells me in advance what questions they're going to ask or what to expect. DJs vary from thinking my book is the best thing since James Joyce to treating me in a hostile manner because I'm from NYC and my voice is a bit effeminate.

I love doing interviews. I could be in the most heinous mood - no coffee, no sleep, hating life - but as soon as I'm on the air I'm happier than the host of an informercial.

This morning I called in to "The Goose and Romi Show", somewhere on the West Coast. I stayed on hold while three women were competing for a Playstation 3 thingy, whatever contraption people are clawing each other's eyes out for this Christmas.

The contest? Whoever sucked the red off a candy cane first, won. I'm sitting in my office listening to the DJs take stabs at inappropriate innuendo and all I could think was, "If there's any contest I could win, this is the one. Why am I not there?"

By the time they got to my interview, I was so distracted that I couldn't remember my name.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I Used To Love H.E.R.

How many times have you heard someone say (or you've read it on their online profile), "I like everything except rap and country". Sometimes they they make an exception for Outkast or something.

That shit makes me upset.

Common's first hit (under the name Common Sense) could change their minds if they had the mind to listen. It's an allegory, comparing a relationship with a woman to a relationship with hip hop. It's prose for the masses.

Somewhat related -- have you seen Dave Chapelle's Block Party? I haven't seen many films in recent years because I...umm... I've been doing something or other. But I think DCBP is my favorite movie since..ummm...since something or other. I want the DVD for Christmas.

This is a long clip, but maybe you're on the toilet with your laptop and you need to kill some time. It makes me happy. Mos Def is some beautiful. And so is the trumpet player.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I always admired how Prince’s genius rubbed off on others. Or maybe he just attracted good people. If it wasn’t for Prince, there would probably be no Janet Jackson as we know her (producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis worked with Prince in The Time), Jody Watley as we know her (produced by Andre Cymone, Prince’s bassist early on), Sinead would be hitless, possibly no Tevin Campbell, Wendy and Lisa, “Sex Shooter”, etc.

George Michael is sort of a poor man’s Prince. If it wasn’t for that urinal queen, we’d never have:

Backup singers Pepsi and Shirlie, who’s “Heartache” is so candy it’ll give you a toothache.

Deon Estus, George’s bassist, who probably shouldn’t have appeared in his own video for “Heaven Help Me”.

And I recently learned about Wham!’s first backup singer Dee C. Lee. Friend Andrew J has enriched my life by giving me a Girls Aloud mix CD, the catchiest band since the days of guilty feet having no rhythm and the sun shining brighter than Doris Day. They remade a song called “See the Day” originally recorded by Dee, who married Jam singer Paul Weller. Sadly, the the Dee version on youtube sound like crap. Too bad, because Dee roller skates in the video and it makes me happy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Top 5 Best (Worst) Duran Duran lyrics

Bad lyrics come in many forms. The most common form in pop music is the treacly, saccharin, forced kind. Like when Air Supply sings “Even the days are brighter/when someone you love’s beside ya” in “Even the Nights Are Better”. The second most common lyric faux pas is stringing random so-called poetic images to create a so-called mood. My favorite example of this is Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Will Do You Good”. Sheryl think she’s off-the-cuff and clever when really she sounds like the biggest poseur with lyrics like:

Canine, feline, Jekyll and Hyde
Wear your fake fur on the inside


Mercedes Ruehl and a rented Lear
Bottom feeder insincere

What's a rented Lear? That is some stupid shit. Maybe she learned from Duran Duran that stringing nonsense together makes you money. The following are my 5 favorite ridiculous Duran lyric gems.

5) from "New Moon On Monday"

Shake up the picture, the lizard mixture
With your dance on the eventide

I had to look up eventide. It means evening. The quiet "New Moon" was a welcome departure from bombastic hits like "Union of the Snake", but it was still as dumb as a box of hammers.

4) from "Wild Boys"

You got sirens for a welcome and there’s bloodstain for your pain
And your telephone’s been ringing while you're dancing in the rain

There are few sounds more painful than Simon Lebon straining to hit the "wild boys never lose it" notes in the chorus. The last attempt at the end is particularly cringe inducing. They really should have changed it to a lower key. But why even bother singing this crap? What 'wild boy' gets a bloodstain from dancing in the rain while his telephone's been ringing? What are they talking about?

3) from "Skin Trade"

Doctors of the revolution gave us the medicine we required
Besides being absolutely painless, it’s a question of compromise

Just because it's so nonsensical. You can't infer any sort of meaning from it.

2) from "Too Much Information"

Destroyed by MTV, I hate to bite the hand that feeds me

“Too Much Information” by The Police makes me want to pogo. “Too Much Information” by Duran Duran makes me want to vomit. Are they really claiming that they were ruined by Music Television? Without it, they would be Kajagoogoo. Again, makes no sense.

and a tie for 1).

from "New Religion"

Bring my timing in, seagulls gather on the wind
Lady screaming, lady leave me out
‘Cause sometimes people stare
Coming down, electric chair

It's like a smattering of random refrigerator magnets.

from "Notorious"

You own the money, you control the witness
I hear you’re lonely, don’t monkey with my business

"Don't monkey with my business" causes a bloodstain every time I hear it. The lazy twisting of the phrase to try to sound ironic and clever - ugh. ugh. Too bad, because the Nile Rodgers production is really funky.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Right now when you type in "songs that make you feel stoned" into Google, this little blog comes up first.

Monday, November 13, 2006

random '90s trivia questions

What '90s rap song - some may say it's one of the best from the decade - begins with a scratch guitar sample from Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?"

Hint: The first lyric is in the song is "Now in my younger days I used to sport a shaaaaaag".

Sunday, November 12, 2006

10-9-8 by Face to Face

I love when you hear a song you haven't heard since it came out and it makes you feel exactly as you felt back then. It doesn't always work when it's, say, "Don't You Want Me" by Human League, something I've heard a million times over the years. But it works with this song, probably more than any other song for me. I was in 9th grade, acting in community theater, and I had multiple friends to sit with in the cafeteria for the first time. I was something approaching happy.

There were a lot of pay phones in '80s videos.

Friday, November 10, 2006

my book party

My book Things That Make You Go Hmmm: The '90s Music Party Game is on sale next week. I'm having a small release party to celebrate.

Monday, November 20th
Dove Bar, 228 Thompson St. between Bleecker and West 3rd
7 - 9:30 (or later)

The Dove is a cozy litle spot in the West Village. My friend Addam bartends there. Prizes will be awarded to '90s trivia buffs! '90s mix CDs will be given to all. And I will look cute.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I held you in my arms so strong

I went to four senior proms, every year from 10th grade to my freshman year in college. When a girl couldn’t get a date, they’d ask me. Or more likely, her mother asked my mother. 10th grade was Joy, sister of my good friend Linda. All I remember is she wore a royal blue dress and I don’t like royal blue. Next year was Sue, the star french horn player. She was smart as a whip and quiet as a lamb. We danced our nerdy asses off and had a blast. My senior year I took Milena Jimenez, in some ways the most beautiful girl in the school. Unfortunately, she was a Jehovah’s Witness and couldn’t even go to Denny’s with me afterward. The final year I went with friend-of-the-family Jessica. I knew all the skater boys in her grade so I was in heaven.

My prom theme was “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand. There were no gay kids on the prom committee. Admittedly I do like the song and know all the words and even imitate Barbara’s pronunciation of “pick chas” in the second stanza when I sing along, but it was not an acceptable prom song for 1988. They got a lot of things wrong at Rahway High School.

Especially considering the myriad possibilities. “Keep On Loving You”. “Through the Fire”. Even “My Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” would have been fun. In the endless interest of rewriting a frustrating childhood, here are my top 3 choices for appropriate, inspiring 80s prom themes.

3. “Purple Rain” by Prince.
The best thing about a “Purple Rain” prom theme is that it’s over 8 minutes, and by the end unless you were really ugly your tongue was guaranteed to be down your date’s throat. The second best thing about it is that it may be the only hit ballad from the mid ‘80’s that wasn’t cheesy and if it had to be a slow song for the theme, better “Purple” than “Hold Me Now” or “I Want To Know What Love Is”.

2. “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy
OK, I’m in love with Loverboy. I don’t know why. Mike Reno sounds like every cocky dickhead I knew in high school, but his voice + Foreigner-like guitar riffs sends me into a tizzy. I even like “Lovin’ Every Minute Of It”, which isn’t a good song by any means. Their greatest hits collection is titled “Big Ones”. So hot.

You can’t really dance to “Turn Me Loose” unless you considering head nodding and stomping around dancing, so it’s not totally perfect. But with its menacing guitar riff and selfish, sophomoric lyrics like “I gotta do it my way or no way at all”, it’s a perfect song for releasing the anger and frustration accumulated over 12 years of crusty gym clothes and filling in tiny ovals. With the knowledge that in a month you’ll never really have to do math again and after sneaking a swig of vodka in the bathroom, “Turn Me Loose” must’ve felt like an prom orgasm in ’83.

1. “Never Say Goodbye” by Bon Jovi
My boyfriend will blame this on growing up in Jersey, and he may be right. This is a song where boys race cars and drink alcohol and girls lose their virginity and people are brazenly heterosexual, and at the time I definitely could not relate, but I still practiced kissing my hand when this song came on Z100. If I wasn’t in public.

During the song, Jon and some Middlesex County skank sporting a gloppy amount of eyeliner get into a fight at the prom, their favorite song is played, and they make up. That almost clinches it as the best ‘80s prom song right there. But the melody is so melancholy and longing and dramatic and hopeful like senior year. And when Jon sings, “You lost more than that in my backseat, baby” tell me you don’t feel a tingle in your loins. Every time I hear it, I feel like Jon and I made passionate love just days ago and I’m still finding long hairs in the backseat of my Dodge Dart. And it gets even worse when Tico Torres pounds the drums leading up to Jon’s octave jump on “bye……” at the end. He’s imitating Bruce Springsteen, but still.

Monday, October 30, 2006

it's big. it's real big.

Is Weird Al going to win the Best Song Grammy for "White and Nerdy"? Because it is the best pop song of the year. Except for maybe "Crazy" by Gnarles.

Few things in this cold, oh-so-parodyable world makes me happier than AL TV. Christmas paled in comparison to the day when my white and nerdy self got to lie on the couch, eat frozen chicken nuggets all day, and watch AL from dusk 'til dawn. This later clip of him making fun of Britney and Justin tickled me pink.

What kind of god allows Al's parents to be killed by a fireplace?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

stars in his eyes

Even though I'm going line dancing instead of watching the Survivor premiere tonight, I started reading the contestant profiles on because I need a constant stream of distractions. The first one I read was Billy, who says "...when he was 15, he heard the song "Juke Box Hero" on the radio and began to entertain the idea of becoming a rock and roll musician."

"Jukebox Hero"!! Most people in hindsight change their inspiration song to Zeppelin or Elvis Costello or something politically musically correct. But it's the cheesy AOR hits that influence kids to buy a guitar. So now I have to root for him. That song still makes me pump my fist in the air. He better not turn out to be an asshole.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

random ridiculous lyrics from 1996. just because.

Hey freak. Can you name these songs?

1. You are the bearer of unconditional things.

2. Your love is thick and it swallowed me whole.

3. You swim like lions through the crest and bathe yourself in zebra flesh.

4. How many special people change?

5. When I scatter my spit, I dream of juice.

6. Bowel shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse.

7. Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Marconi plays the mamba

Whenever I sleep alone, my laptop sleeps with me. When I’m finally ready to slumber, I usually lay it next to Blansky, a bow-tied stuffed dog from my childhood. I think I need a shelf for the laptop. It can’t be good when my 220-lb. body rolls on top of it. I’m sorry, lappy.

This morning sleeping with the laptop reminded me of when I used to sleep with my Panasonic radio/cassette player when I was a teen. I had the same little battery operated machine from age 14 until I went to college. I couldn’t sleep with a radio in front of my metal head roommate, and placed my bigger boom box on my faux-wood dresser. It was a hard habit to break.

That piece of scuffed gray durability was like a friend to me. In the morning, I would turn on Z-100 and often won call-in contests like the Mystery Oldie. Scott Shannon would play a split second of a song and I would instantly know it was “One on One” by Hall and Oates or “It’s Raining Again” by Supertramp. Once I won a $100 gift certificate to J&R Music World and my Dad drove me to Manhattan where I bought a Casio keyboard with detachable speakers!

At night I would listen to Dr. Ruth. It’s a shame that she’s a punchline now because I think she probably saved a lot of gay kids’ lives. She was pretty much the only person I ever heard speak positively and consistently about gay people until I went to college. I consider myself a sexually healthy person (no comments from the peanut gallery) and she gets partial credit for that.

The best part about the radio is that with a click of a button, I could interrupt the recording of a song and record my voice instead. I would do this in a rapid fire fashion. For example, you know the part of Laura Branigan’s “Self Control” when she sings “Wo oh oh. Wo oh oh.” like a Tarzan imitation? I could record the whole song and sing just that part myself. It sent my friend Nick into laughing convusions. I was the background singer all the time, never the lead. When I sang like the commanding black women at the end of “Rock and a Hard Place” by the Stones, I thought I was as fierce as Chaka Khan.

Now I never listen to the radio and it makes me sad. As recent as a few years ago, I listened to KISS-FM while cooking dinner and danced to “Running Away” by Roy Ayers and “Everybody Dance” by Chic. It was such a good tension release after work. Now author-turned-talk show host Michael Baisden takes calls about baby daddy’s during that hour. Sigh. Broadcast radio has really gone down the tubes.

I think my nostalgia for radio is why I prefer my Ipod Shuffle to my Mini – it replicated the surprise factor of radio. I don’t even have a radio in my apartment. Maybe I’ll buy one on the way home. I know I’ll end up listening to LITE-FM.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Gay Type Thang

My friend and mentor Jon Sugar recorded the first gay rap song, "Gay Type Thang". Other Sugar accomplishments include being arrested for running a house of prostituion in '81, jumping off stages as the lead singer for the White Trash Debutantes, and currently DJing a vinyl set unlike any you've ever heard every other Friday at Mars Bar in San Francisco (7th and Brannan).

He wrote this in '81 and recorded it in '84. That's him singing also. If you live in SF and you're not boring, he'll take you to free movies and theater. He is the best.

a website kind enough to host Jon's song

random question

from my '90s book.

Name the popular '90s song that contains the following words: under her shirt, pay for it, want something, through the door

Hint: Produce is featured prominently in the video. It's one of the best videos ever.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Who told Timbaland he could appear in the videos? Other than maybe Michael Damian, he's the most awkward performer I've seen on MTV. TM, you are not the love interest of Nelly Furtado, although her sleeping with you would explain her success. That being said, I love Tim Mosley. Love.

I don't have time to listen to all of Timmy's songs, but of the one's I have experienced, the below 10 are my favorite. "Get Your Freak On" does not appear on the list because I'm currently sick of it. And I like the chorus of "Sexy Back," but only for mashing up against someone in a club, not for repeated listening while doing the dishes. The "Big Pimpin'" beat makes your body moves in unnatural ways.

1. “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” by Jay-Z
Why: I listen to it for inspiration. I’ve been brushing lots of dirt off my shoulder lately. Jay-Z sounds breathless when he commands, “Get. That.” in the chorus. It sounds urgent.
Favorite parts: Ladies is pimps, too. Oh, and Timmy gets to brush the dirt off in the beginning.

2. “Oops (Oh My)” by Tweet
Why: In any other circumstance, that honk-y sample would sound like a nuisance. Here it sounds like a pelvic thrust. And when Missy sings the background vocal, it sounds like she’s in the bathroom checking out the Tweet-on-Tweet action. She must be bi.
Favorite part: The honk. And the general masturbation. No hiding behind “She Bop” or “Dancing With Myself” metaphors. 50 points if you know Robert Plant's solo masturbation song.

3. “Work It” by Missy Elliot
Why: It’s ridiculous. There’s an elephant in the chorus, symbolizing a large body part. There’s a sample of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” percussion under everything, making me happy.
Favorite part: The “Peter Piper” sample exploding at the end (actually a Bob James sample). Trivia question: What TLC hit also samples “Peter Piper”?

4. “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot
Why: Missy’s smoking endo and the song is way stoned. “Who got the keys to the jeep? Vrooooom.” is a much improved “tin roof rusted”.
Favorite part: There are crickets chirping throughout the whole track. Timbaland couldn't sleep, heard the crickets, and ran to the studio. There are also crickets in the Aaliyah drum-n-bass track “One In A Million”.

5. “Tell Me Do U Wanna” by Ginuwine
Why: I always think of Ginuwine as the Al B. Sure of the ‘90s. Maybe because they’re both tall and effeminate. I like “Pony” but this song make me want to… do stuff. I even like the bridge. It’s hard to write a bridge that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself.
Favorite part: “Ay, Ay”.

6. “Roll Out My Business” by Ludacris
Why: Timmy’s horny chorus is so catchy that Luda just sings along with it. I love that Ludacris.
Favorite part: “Who’s your housekeeper/what you keep in your house?”

7. "Try Again" by Aaliyah
Why: That running fat splat of a bass line blows my mind, and the way the melody weaves through it. From “Romeo Must Die”, a film I’ll will never see.
Favorite part: When the beat drops out and the bass line stands alone and you catch yourself trying to sing along with the bass line and you sound stupid and then you stop.

8. "I Care For You" by Aaliyah
Why: Is it the only song in 6/8 meter to hit the Top 40 in the past how many years?
Favorite thing about it: If you ever thought Aaliyah was just some young chick that was lucky enough to get with R. Kelly, listen to her vocals on this song.

9. "One In A Million" by Aaliyah
Why: Everybody from David Bowie to Trent Reznor to Ben Watt tried to work jungle beats into pop music. Timbaland did a better job.
Favorite thing about it: For better or for worse, R&B started and stuttered after this song came out. "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child and even "What Hurts the Most" by Rascal Flatts might not exist without this song.

10. “Nigga What, Nigga Who” by Jay-Z featuring Big Jaz
Why: Jay-Z and Big Jaz match Timbaland’s on-again, off-again choppiness. I actually think Jaz does a better job, but I’d never say that to Jay-Z’s face. According to Wikipedia, Big Jaz aka Jaz-O had a falling out after the latter mentored the former for many years.
Favorite parts: The last three sly chords before the chorus, and Jay-Z rapping about KY Jelly.

Ginuwine video. I need this apartment. He looks like a 7'1" Gumby when he dances.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

with one and a half pairs of pants, you ain't cool.

Rap is my generation's folk music. The best rap songs tell a story of truth, whether it's in a linear, narrative way or with images through words. "Love's Gonna Get'cha (Material Love)", along with "Children's Story" by Slick Rick, are my favorite narrative rap songs.

KRS-One bills this as an anti-materialism rant, but to me it's about why people choose crime. Not just because of wanting stuff, but because of relief from the pain of being poor. The video is excellent. I live for the background singers.


About Me

I wrote two books: Don't Dream It's Over: The '80s Music Party Game and Things That Make You Go Hmmm: The '90s Music Party Game (out in October).