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Mainstream Rock: Blue Oyster Cult, “Burnin’ for You” (1981)

Mike: One of exactly two Blue Oyster Cult songs I’m familiar with (I’m sure we can all guess what the other one is). It’s the kind of meathead early Eighties rock I dig. Whenever I hear the intro I envision a laser-light show.

Dunphy: Otherwise known as “the other good Blue Oyster Cult song,” “Burnin’ For You” is just a nice old slice of hard rock. Buck Dharma’s thick harmony “aaaah aaaahs” lean more toward The Cars than the macabre graveyard imagery the band ordinarily toyed with, but that’s where music was going in 1981. I like it.

Taylor: I wrote a Lost MP3 on this song awhile back. I have the return of KROCK to thank for reminding me how awesome it is. It’s pretty much flawless from the start – the exultant opening riff, the more subtle guitar that sort of tick-tocks, the beefy chorus. I have the ask, though, what the hell are they wearing in the video?

David: I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of Blue Oyster Cult boils down to four songs: the cowbell song, “Godzilla,” “Shooting Shark,” and this. So here’s my question: are these guys really a hard rock band, or just a rock band that occasionally kicked out the jams? I’ve always had the impression that these guys didn’t deserve the title of hard rockers, and this song – along with “Shooting Shark,” which I actually really like – are my evidence. Am I standing on faulty ground?

Zack: Not at all – while this song and “Reaper” rock incredibly hard, I wouldn’t describe either one as hard rock.

Jeff: BÖC was/is utterly pedestrian in every way that matters, but I’m still pretty sure listening to “Burnin’ for You” makes everyone here miss bands like this anyway. Rather than making the usual bitchy comments about Staind and Linkin Park, I will instead use this space to marvel that the Blue Öyster Cult has been around, in one way or another, since 1967 — and they already have tour dates lined up through September. Wow.

Dunphy: BÖC survives because they’re fun. Their “Boooo! Scary!” affections are just that, hiding the fact they’re not that far removed from Jefferson Starship. They always (for the most part) were in on the joke as opposed to being blindly unaware of the joke, unlike Jefferson Starship.

Beau: As with most early ’80s music, I’m most familiar with this from MTV, and that’s unfortunate because the video is pretty shoddy, as if a director said, “Burning? Hey, let’s put some fire in there somewhere.” The lyrics are as random as most rock relationship songs, but the laid-back vocals and sharp guitar riffs work. Perfectly good tune.

Jon: I believe the vocalist, “Buck Dharma” (also his porn name) Roeser, borrowed his costume from Xena: Warrior Princess. Actually, considering the timeline — and Buck’s wussiness — my guess is that Xena removed the costume from him forcibly, and left him with an atomic wedgie. She fills it out better, anyway.

That said, I love “Burnin’ for You” — and one of the things I love most about it is the (seeming) idea that if you take a midtempo pop-rock song, give it a decent guitar riff, and use variations of the word “Burn” liberally, you get a song that could plausibly come from the type of hard-rockin’ near-metal band B.O.C. imagined itself to be. God bless the umlaut! If I could remember how to make one with my computer, all my writing would appear Scandinavian.

Zack: Even though the production sounds a bit dated, I still love this song. Plus, I’m a sucker for internal rhyme (…I’m livin’ for givin’ the Devil his due). Between the mentions to “home in the Valley” and Eric Bloom’s mustache, I can’t help thinking that this song might actually be an homage to late-seventies porn and the scourge of venereal disease (Burning for you…or burning from you?).

Jeff: Well, the album it’s from is titled Fire of Unknown Origin…sounds like a gift from a groupie, doesn’t it?

Modern Rock: The Jesus & Mary Chain, “Blues from a Gun” (1990)

Beau: Generally, I have little to say about this band other than “Where’s Joseph?” But this isn’t bad at all, mining the same territory Love and Rockets never really finished exploring.

Zack: It’s impossible to conceive of the Reid brothers as “young,” but they certainly look that way here. They’ve always seemed a bit camera-shy to me. I love the distinctive sound of the Jesus and Mary Chain, so I’m pretty much guaranteed to like most of their songs, and this one is no exception.

Jon: This is a wonderful song, and I had never seen the video before, which is also terrific. But did the Reid brothers never get the memo that when you’re lip-syncing on a video soundstage, you don’t have to stand stock-still and sing right into the mic? Or is it that, after all the notoriety they received for violent episodes during the ’80s, their A&R rep said, “We’ll let you guys make this video, but only if you down this handful of quaaludes first”? Either way, one imagines the director pleading, “Come on, William, smile for me! Dance around a bit! Can you give me anything at all? No? … Screw it! I need more animation!

David: I remember how excited I was when I first heard this, because finally Jesus and Mary Chain made a song that didn’t make me want to smash their records. I snagged a copy of Psychocandy from the record store I was working at, but I didn’t “get it.” In other words, I was too busy listening to Information Society 12″ singles to appreciate the whole feedback thing. But this had a beat, so I was totally on board.

Jeff: I spent the JAMC’s heyday refusing to acknowledge its existence; in fact, this is the first time I’ve ever listened to one of their songs all the way through. Nothing personal against the Reids, but I don’t think rock & roll and drum machines were ever meant to go together, and although age has mellowed my stance somewhat, listening to “Blues from a Gun” doesn’t make me sorry for ignoring the band all these years.

Taylor: This is a solid rager, and the kind of JAMC song that makes me angry that they literally refused to play really loudly when I saw them at Webster Hall last May. Part of me always wants to pump both fists in the air when he sings, “I don’t mind about the state of my mind.” Often, I do.

Dunphy: The Reid Bros. kind of wear me out. It’s a guitar assault but there isn’t something that lifts it up beyond that, and the rest of the song is a standard pop track… Jesus & Mary Chain are more influential than well-remembered (not hard to hear a little Smashing Pumpkins in there) but they also can be a bit tedious.

Mike: This is the only song here I wasn’t familiar with. After all, in 1990 I was 14 and it was still a year or so before I started listening to “alternative rock” (thanks R.E.M.). I don’t really have much to say about this song, other than that it sounds like what most modern rock sounded like in 1990 — at least to my ears.

Zack: Uh, Mike, I don’t mind it when Taylor does it (it’s kind of her thing), but would you please refrain from, uh, you know, being younger than me and stuff? Much appreciated.

Adult Contemporary: Harold Faltermeyer, “Axel F” (1985)

Jeff: Here’s my lone “old guy” gripe for the week: When did people forget how to write songs that, even if they didn’t have any words and you’d never seen the movie they were written for, still managed to make you think of high-speed chases and dudes hanging onto the backs of Italian cars? Dammit, the world needs more of those.

Zack: I just want to say right now that the first three songs make this one of the greatest Chartburns ever (in terms of songs I actually enjoy listening to).

Jon: How many Casio keyboards, sitting on shelves in electronics stores nationwide, had their virginity swiped by pock-faced boys riffing on “Axel F”? I still think somebody should manufacture a computer keyboard that plays “Axel F” as you type. Once upon a time, hearing this song would conjure a mental image of the entire Beverly Hills Cop plotline (where have you gone, Judge Reinhold?) — but these days, sadly, it is more likely to remind me of the Spongebob episode where Mr. Krabs starts imitating a synth-pop song and Spongebob becomes convinced his boss is a robot.

Mike: It’s hard to imagine now that the guy behind crap like Norbit was once the biggest movie star in the world and a badass to boot. Twenty-five years later, I think even Judge Reinhold is a bigger badass than Eddie Murphy now. Oh, the song. Awesome when you hear it in the movie, not so much when the movie’s not playing. Never been big on instrumentals, and this one’s kind of repetitive.

Zack: I managed to get Jon Brion to perform an improvised and embellished version of this during his birthday show at Largo in December. This song fit so perfectly into Beverly Hills Cop as a leitmotif that it’s impossible to imagine that it ever existed in any other context. Depending on your point of view, splicing in a 4/5 scale green-screen version of Harold Faltermeyer into the scenes from the movie is either hilarious, or unintentionally hilarious.

Dunphy: The most famous soundtrack song in history. I can’t imagine a human being of communication age that hasn’t heard this instrumental. Many don’t know it’s from Beverly Hills Cop, and some of them only know it as a Crazy Frog song (yikes!) but it has so fully integrated itself into the popular conscience that it has ceased to be a piece of music for me. It’s still an interesting ditty but I find myself confusing it with Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” a lot lately.

David: It’s amusing in retrospect how gaga we all were over this when it first came out. Dude, this is cutting edge, man! All synthesizers! Then Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice” theme hit later in the year, and we all forgot about this. “Whoa, listen to those drums!” Boo boo boo bee boo boo…

Taylor: First thought after watching that video: uh, what? There isn’t a lot of electronic instrumental stuff I can listen to more than once without feeling like I’m living inside a computer, but I can probably listen to this a good two or three times in a row before that happens.

Beau: We should probably give some history here for Taylor’s benefit. In 1985, Eddie Murphy was pretty much the biggest movie star in the world, which much more of a bad-ass rep than he has in his post-“Daddy Day Care” career. “Beverly Hills Cop” was a ginormous movie at the time, and this was back in the day when movie soundtracks could move some CDs. And if you were a teenager interested in music in 1985, you and your buddies kept trying to one-up each other by learning this tune on the Casio or whatever keyboard someone had.

All that said, I think it still stands up. It’s a good synth hook with some clever counterpoint. It didn’t turn out to be a sign of things to come in the music world, but perhaps that’s a shame.

Taylor: Oh, I may be a youngster, but I knew all the Eddie Murphy/Beverly Hills Cop stuff – aside from the whole trying to one-up each other by learning how to play it. That’s pretty good! 2009 version of that: who gets the highest score playing it on Rock Band? Oh wait, have they added keyboards to Rock Band yet? I’m a poor excuse for a 20-something sometimes…

Mike: his song makes me think of one thing and one thing only (and it has nothing to do with Eddie Murphy or Beverly Hills Cop).

R&B/Hip-Hop: Ashanti, “Foolish” (2002)

Zack: I’m pretty sure none of the girls I’ve ever dated would put up with me throwing a lamp at them – whether I missed or not. There’s really nothing I like about this song – the overdubs are awful, the harmonies are pedestrian, and the lyrics are pretty much just a cry for help from a doormat. Get confident, stupid!

Beau: Is this video basically “Love is a Battlefield” for people with 1,000 times the disposable income of Benatar’s family? Or is she Diane Keaton to this guy’s Al Pacino? Ah, who cares. Trite song.

Mike: Ugh. Asshanti (I will leave the typo in as is) can’t sing, and this song, which directly samples a Notorious B.I.G. song that sampled an old DeBarge song, is lazy as hell. I wish I could grow sideburns as thick as hers, though. I wonder what her secret is..

Dunphy: Is that Terrence Howard in the video? I think that’s Terrence Howard. That’s just about the only interesting thing happening here as Ashanti, a third-stringer in the R&B pop world, spools out another “lonely and done-wrong” jam. As a singer, she’s not interesting enough to hold her own. The material she’s working with is kind of hacky and we get all the same studio tricks the “megaproducers” still haven’t graduated from. No wonder Terrence Howard is the only interesting part of this.

Oh, and I heard he’s a stark staring lunatic too.

Taylor: I have a weakness for smooth-ass R&B, so it’s no surprise that I kind of dig this. The piano hook is pretty good, although I’d take Alicia Keys over this.

Jeff: Ah, Ashanti — no sooner did she swipe the one-named-pop-starlet tiara from Brandy and Mya than it was taken from her by Rihanna. It’s rumored that Ashanti released a comeback album this year, but no one has been able to verify this.

Jon: Ashanti never lip-syncs until three minutes in, and even then for only 20 seconds as she straddles gangsta-bastard Terrence Howard. It’s an interesting divergence from the interlacing of plotline and lip-sync footage that characterizes the traditional narrative video. There — I’ve proven that I paid attention. Can I listen to something else now?

David: It has long been my wish that the bling videos – I can shower you in diamonds and champagne, get you a table at the hottest restaurant, ’cause I’m a playa/gangsta, baby – die a violent, fiery death. I can’t help but think they’re responsible for the number of kids running around that think they’re entitled to wealth and fame without having to earn it. Oh, this song’s all right. Funny seeing Terrence Howard in the video.

Zack: Don’t you mean a violent, bullet-riddled death?

David: Bullets are quick. Fire is painful. Definitely fiery death.


Hot 100: Jackie Wilson, “Baby Workout” (1963)

David: Never heard this before. Man, could he wail. Sigh.

Mike: Jackie Wilson was a smooth dude, y’all. I’m sure the chicks were all over him. I’m also sure that Michael Jackson was listening and watching very closely.

Taylor: You know how I know this song is from the ’60s, aside from the way it sounds? Because with the obesity figures we currently have, I’m fairly confident that a song encouraging this much physical movement couldn’t make it to #1 now (sex and sex-related things aside). The most recent thing I can remember that even comes close is the “Macarena” and that was the very definition of wimpy. Oh, and “Crank That.” Yeeeeah.

Dunphy: Certainly not Jackie Wilson’s best song, but that’s not a problem. Even his so-so attempts rule.

Jon: I’m exhausted just from watching the go-go dancers. I recently “let my backbone slip” during a workout — damn, Jackie, why didn’t you tell me how painful that was gonna be? I had to borrow some quaaludes from the Jesus and Mary Chain so I could sleep it off. Jackie was amazing, though. It’s sad how he’s largely forgotten these days — like many others, I’m sure, I only tracked down his music after Howard Huntsberry sang his ass off on “Lonely Teardrops” near the end of La Bamba.

Jeff: I came at Jackie Wilson from odd angles — first hearing Van Morrison’s “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile),” then Michael McDonald’s excellent (no, really!) cover of “Lonely Teardrops” — but that’s probably only heightened my appreciation for his music. “Baby Workout” isn’t his best song, but it’s still my favorite of this week’s tracks. In fact, I think I’m going to go listen to some Jackie Wilson right now.

Zack: I can say with one hundred percent confidence that nobody I’ve dated would have put up with me repeatedly exhorting them to “Work out. Baby. Workout.”