CHART ATTACK! #26: 4/8/89

Written by Chart Attack!, Music

Hey, everybody!  It’s Friday, and time for CHART ATTACK!  Before I get started, I need to give another huge thanks to the amazing writers who covered my ass during the month of March.  Give it up for Matthew, Kurt, Robert, Carlos and Jeff, who all did an unbelievable job (and, frankly, made me wish I had never given away those weeks!).  Be sure to check out their sites for more examples of excellent writing.  And now, it’s time for me to get back into the swing of things – apologies in advance if I’m a bit rusty, it’s been over a month – and let’s attack April 8, 1989!


10.  Funky Cold Medina – Tone-Loc  Amazon iTunes
9.  Walk The Dinosaur – Was (Not Was)
  Amazon iTunes
8.  Dreamin’ – Vanessa Williams  Amazon iTunes
7.  My Heart Can’t Tell You No – Rod Stewart  Amazon iTunes
6.  Stand – R.E.M.  Amazon iTunes
5.  Like A Prayer – Madonna  Amazon iTunes
4.  She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals  Amazon iTunes
3.  Girl You Know It’s True – Milli Vanilli  Amazon
2.  Eternal Flame – Bangles  Amazon iTunes
1.  The Look – Roxette  Amazon iTunes

10.  Funky Cold Medina – Tone-Loc (download)

So, readers, which of the two incredibly similar Tone-Loc songs do you prefer – this one or "Wild Thing?"  My guess is that most people will go with "Wild Thing," but as I mentioned back in Chart Attack! #18, "Funky Cold Medina" name-checked Spuds Mackenzie, which I find impressive.  (It also name-checks "Alex from Stroh’s," but we all know Alex was nothing but a Spuds ripoff, so I award Mr. Loc no points for that one, and also mentions Mick Jagger, who’s humped more legs than the other two combined.) Plus, while "Wild Thing" samples Van Halen’s "Jamie’s Cryin’," this song – penned by Young MC, by the way – samples five tunes: "All Right Now" by Free, "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner, "Christine Sixteen" by Kiss, "You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdrive, and "Get Off Your Ass And Jam" by Funkadelic.  I’d be willing to bet that none of these artists saw a penny from the success of this song, which is probably a good thing since Loc probably needs all he can get.  Unless he’s still getting residuals from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective?

Still, you gotta love this song.  That Funky Cold Medina can be blamed for everything – bestiality, homosexuality, and bethrothals!  Loc knew what he was saying when he stated "that medina’s a monster, y’all."  Word, Loc.  Word.

9.  Walk The Dinosaur – Was (Not Was)

Bless you, Was and Was, stealing our hearts with a mere "Boom boom, acka lacka lacka boom."  David Was (née Weiss) and Don Was (née Fagenson) were – and are – talented musicians, producers and consultants.  You may know Don from his work directing and producing the Brian Wilson documentary I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.  There’s even a Mellow Gold connection: Don co-wrote, with Paul Reiser, the theme song for Mad About You – sung by Andrew Gold!

However, if you decide to judge them by their impact on the pop charts, all you really have to go by is this song and "Spy In The House Of Love," both from their album What Up, Dog?  It should be noted that this album was released at a time when most people would have seen that title and thought someone made a spelling error.

I actually was familiar with Was (Not Was) back in 1986.  As a 9 year-old Wham! fan at the time, I had studiously poured over their liner notes (which, it should be noted, were virtually nonexistent) and found that a song from Music From The Edge Of Heaven, "Where Did Your Heart Go," was penned by the, er, Wasses.

Here’s the stupid video.  Please note that the two lead singers are not Wasses.  (I mean, they don’t even look Wassish!)  The one who looks like the maitre’d at Red Lobster is Sir Harry Bowens, and the one who looks like Arsenio Hall is Sweet Pea Atkinson.

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I think it’s pretty clear why "The Dinosaur" didn’t necessarily catch on as the next big dance craze, don’t you think?  Do you think the Wassholes closely studied videos of the Electric Slide and tried to figure out what worked?  And do you think they sent flaming bags of poo to the jackoffs who invented the Macarena?

8.  Dreamin’ – Vanessa Williams

I really don’t know what to say about "Dreamin’."  When I don’t know what to say about a song, I have three choices.  I can ramble about chart position and other similar facts; I can just say "I don’t know what to say" and move on; or I can make shit up.

I’ll take choice #3. 

So "Dreamin’" was written by Willie Nelson, who was backstage at Farm Aid in 1987 when an old issue of Penthouse fell out of a roadie’s backpack – and, as luck would have it – the issue opened right up to Vanessa Williams’ spread.  Nelson took one look at her and dropped his bong, shattering it into a million pieces.  "I’m gonna write a song for that there lady," Willie announced to nobody in particular, and put pen to hemp-based paper.  His initial version, though, was entitled "Creamin’," which was deemed to be inappropriate for a woman who would appear in the esteemed pages of Penthouse.  One letter-change later, a hit was born.

I like "Dreamin’."  It’s a pleasant song.  I feel bad that I totally pulled the above paragraph out of my ass.  Oh well.  Next time, Vanessa, come up with something interesting.  I’m glad Robert already covered our Vanessa Williams bases a few weeks ago in Chart Attack! #23.  (Is there anybody on the Internet who links to himself as much as I do?  Jeez.)

7.  My Heart Can’t Tell You No – Rod Stewart (download)

I’m only a little ashamed to admit that I actually like this song.  I think the chords are pretty, and Rod’s voice is a perfect fit for it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the song is timeless by any means; its sound is locked into the late ’80s with overbearing synthesizers and that drum machine sound that leaves you wondering why they didn’t just, y’know, hire an actual drummer.  You can send your thanks to Andy Taylor of Duran Duran and Bernard Edwards of Chic, perhaps one of the stranger musical combinations, who produced Stewart’s highly successful Out Of Order.

The video is also straight out of the ’80s, with an overdramatic romantic soap opera featuring two hotties, interspersed with shots of Rod singing on a projection screen.  While there’s no excuse for Rod’s polka-dotted tie, let’s just be thankful he left the make-out scenes to models, instead of subjecting us to a reprise of the tonsil hockey from "D’Ya Think I’m Sexy."

6.  Stand – R.E.M.

While "The One I Love" was R.E.M.’s first hit single in the U.S., "Stand" was the number that most likely led to scores of college kids mourning over the loss of their favorite secret.  The song reached #6 and remains the band’s second-biggest single, behind "Losing My Religion."  It figures that one of their most successful hits was a song that Stipe felt was one of his most inane from a lyrical standpoint.  I’ve always loved this song.  And according to the wiki, "Stand" has not one, but two "truck driver’s gear changes" – in which a song abruptly modulates up a semitone without any transition between the two keys.

5.  Like A Prayer – Madonna

It’s not like I’ve spent a great deal of time listening to Madonna albums from start to finish.  However, Like A Prayer – the album – is a damn fine cohesive piece of work.  Not to mention that my copy of the CD still smells like patchouli.  The title track is a phenomenal opener – a perfect blend of pop and dance with a touch of rock (it’s easy to miss the crunchy electric guitar, courtesy of Prince, which is buried in the mix).  Love the choir.  Love the bassline, courtesy of Randy Jackson.  And I prefer the album version to the equally popular version from The Immaculate Collection, which is a dance remix.

I thought this cover (from the 12" single) was interesting:

A drawing by a fourth grader Madonna’s brother Christopher, the "MLVC" represents Madonna’s full name – Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone and my god, why do I know that without looking it up – and the falling "P" represents her divorce from Penn (comma Sean), which had only recently been finalized.  (For a more blatant reference to Penn, listen to the fantastic "’Til Death Do Us Part" from the same album.)

How many of you heard "Like A Prayer" for the first time during The Cosby Show?  I know I did.  Although my favorite incarnation of NBC’s Thursday night lineup had just ended (I still miss you, Family Ties), I remember still being interested enough to make it through the 8:00 hour.  I’m sure many of you recall Pepsi making a huge deal about the debut of the song via their two-minute commercial.  It aired at 8:12 PM on March 2nd, and was promptly yanked from the air after Pepsi execs saw her proper music video (you know, that whole cross-burning thing).  The commercial was, of course, completely innocuous, but Pepsi never aired it in the U.S. again.

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No big deal for Madonna, of course, who got to keep her $5 million endorsement fee without having to fulfill her contractual obligation to three more commercials.  And, of course, the Madonna controversy only helped the single, which went platinum and reached #1 mid-April.

4.  She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals

Fuck this song.  Fuck this overplayed song and its stupid video and Roland Gift’s stupid voice.  Here’s the best thing I can say about "She Drives Me Crazy:" at least it’s not "Good Thing," which is just god-awful.  I don’t understand the vocal, which sounds like some kind of warped muppet who ingested too much crack.  (The funny thing, of course, is that Kermit The Frog later covered "She Drives Me Crazy" on the Kermit Unpigged album and my god, why do I know that without looking it up.)

Sorry.  I just never understood why this song was really a hit in the first place, and why it’s remained a staple on what is now "oldies" radio.  I guess it’s clearly the vocal I have a problem with, as the music itself isn’t really that bad.  Anybody want to enlighten me?

3.  Girl You Know It’s True – Milli Vanilli 

Okay, what can I really say about Milli Vanilli that hasn’t already been said a million times?  Not a hell of a lot.  Here’s all I can bring to the conversation: probably the best thing that came out of Milli Vanilli was the kick-ass inaugural episode of VH-1’s Behind The Music which – combined with Pop-Up Video – was the best thing to come out of the channel, ever.  And if that wasn’t good enough, stay tuned for – I’m not kidding – Milli Vanilli, The Movie.

There are some nifty YouTube clips of Milli Vanilli, although at first glance, I couldn’t find the two I was looking for: the Connecticut performance where the record skipped, and their attempt to win the crowd over on Arsenio after the news broke.  (Both clips, by the way, are on Behind The Music.  Damn, I should have taped every single one of those episodes.  Along with Pop-Up Video.)  Anyway, here are my favorites:  their awesome Carefree gum commercial (great PR, but unfortunately didn’t help them much), a great commercial about the class-action lawsuit following the scandal, and – the weirdest – Super Mario and the gang going to see Milli Vanilli.  Oh, and if you never thought you’d see Milli Vanilli appear in the same music video as Bob Dylan, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Eric Idle, John Candy and Placido Domingo, think again.

2.  Eternal Flame – Bangles

Ahh, the Bangles’ biggest-selling single, reaching #1 in five countries, including the U.S.  "Eternal Flame" was another hit from the powerful songwriting duo Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg – we discussed them back in Chart Attack! #17, concerning their awkward journey writing "Like A Virgin."  Susanna Hoffs, who’s also listed as a co-writer , requested that Kelly and Steinberg assist her in creating a tune similar to one entitled "Unconditional Love" that the duo penned for Cyndi Lauper.  (Anybody heard it?  Not me, but I’m humming the Donna Summer song of the same name now.)

Steinberg has said that the song was inspired by two eternal flames: one in Graceland, and one in his synagogue growing up, which leads me to wonder: how have the Jews not picked up on this??  Why didn’t they capitalize on the song’s success back in 1989 and recognize the Bangles for bridging the wide (wiiiiiide) gap between the Jewish culture and pop music?  What a wasted opportunity!  This is worse than the time we completely glossed over Bob Dylan’s appearance on the "L’Chaim/To Life" telethon the same year.  Oy!

"Eternal Flame" is an interesting song.  From a musical standpoint, Steinberg points out that it’s similar to a number of Beatles songs in that it doesn’t have a chorus: the verse kind of becomes the chorus by the last line, and then the bridge is repeated twice to make a short song longer.  (He likens this to "We Can Work It Out.")  But I also think it’s interesting because it’s definitely not universally loved.  I mentioned it to Jessica and Jeff yesterday and heard two very distinct reactions:

Jessica:  I love this song!
Jeff:  This song suuuuuuuuuuuucks!  SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS!

I don’t hate the song by any means; I just think that if I have a choice of listening to a Bangles tune, I’m going to go for at least five other ones before listening to "Eternal Flame."  I do enjoy when people sing it at karaoke, though.  Why?  Because every girl in the world thinks she can sing it, based on the opening verse.  However, every girl forgets that Hoffs eventually hits a batshit-high note at least twice near the end of the song – and the first time, she frickin’ belts it.  There’s nothing like the look of terror on a girl’s face – not to mention her fellow karaoke mates – when that note comes a-callin’.  Hell, I think even Susanna was freaked out by it – why else would she go for falsetto the second time?  Because it’s suddenly a sensitive moment?  I’m not buying it.

1.  The Look – Roxette

Na na na na na, na na na na na, na na na na na na, na na na na na, na na na na na na na na, I’m stalling while I think of what to say about this song.

(Go ahead and count.  I got ’em all, beeyotches!)

I’ll hand it to Roxette, though; they did a pretty good job at writing pop tunes.  If I had to pick one, I suppose I’d go with this one over "Joyride" (which I think is pretty much the same song), "Listen To Your Heart" or "It Must Have Been Love" (although I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Pretty Woman soundtrack – first CD I ever owned). 

"The Look" was Roxette’s U.S. breakthrough.  Legend has it that an American exchange student heard Roxette in Sweden, and when he got back to his home city of Minneapolis, he bombarded station KDWB with requests for "The Look."  The song was added to the playlist – pause while all of our jockey readers shed tears – and, since the response was positive, it was added to other stations.  (This tale is apparently known as the "Dean Cushman story" and is probably not exactly true – the wiki states that EMI was preparing for a big Roxette push in the States anyway – but it sounds good in interviews.)

And look at that – we’re at the end of another entry!  Thanks again for being so patient as I got my act back together – and we’ll see you next week for another edition of CHART ATTACK!