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Mainstream Rock: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “I Love Rock & Roll” (1982)

Zack: The only way this song to could get worse would be to have some pigtailed, bubble-gum chewing pop star perform a cover of it. Oh, wait. The rhythm guitar part is so incredibly simple it could have been played by an elementary school band, the guitar solo is laughable, and given the opportunity to choose between listening to Joan Jett’s screech or the sound my own screaming as a fingernail was pulled out, I’d ask if anybody had some bandages and maybe some Aleve for when the throbbing set in.

Ken: Not a favorite, really. Oh sure, if I’ve had enough to drink, and this comes on the jukebox very loud, I might get up, but on any other occasion, it just bores me to tears. It’s one of those songs that people use to define rock ‘n roll, and it just isn’t defining. It’s just mainstream crap really.

Dunphy: Complaining about this song is like complaining about pork rinds. It’s not good for you, and the taste of them kind of turns your stomach, but every so often you can handle it. This is the perfect illustration of lunkhead rock, but it’s not so awful that you’d do something drastic, like change channels or anything.

Jon: Top 40 radio playlist for a typical hour, spring 1982: “I Love Rock & Roll,” “Centerfold,” “Ebony and Ivory,” commercial break, “I Love Rock & Roll,” “Centerfold”… That year had the tightest Top 40 playlists of any in the pre-Soundscan era. Only 15 songs reached Number One all year, mostly because those three songs combined for 20 weeks. Those playlists also were practically lily-white; there’s a reason Columbia had to threaten MTV over Michael Jackson in early ’83.

I still haven’t commented on the song. That’s because I’m ambivalent about it, and always have been.

Mike: This whole song is about simplicity. That’s why I love it so much. The song itself isn’t great, the singing isn’t great, but the whole vibe of some random tough chick singing about loving rock ‘n roll just seems so cool and…well…rock ‘n’ roll to me. Joan Jett is a badass. Not to mention she’s aged extremely well. She’s hotter now than she was then.

David: Man, that is a bad solo. Still, it’s no “Fight for Your Right.” That, for my money, is the worst guitar solo ever.

I was in eighth grade when this song hit, and let me tell you, we couldn’t get enough of it. Such innocent times.

Jeff: This is the worst guitar solo ever.

David: Let me clarify: worst solo put to tape. Otherwise, you’re right, that Durst solo is pure Nigel Tufnel.

Beau: Simple, yes, but effective. Sticks in your ear without being obnoxious. Timeless theme that everyone can relate to. Even if you were never 1/100th as cool as Joan Jett.


Modern Rock: Elvis Costello, “The Other Side of Summer” (1991)

Mike: Mighty Like a Rose is the only Costello album I own between Get Happy and Painted from Memory. I must say this is one of those times when the video actually makes me like the song more.

Ken: How can any self-respecting Beach Boys fan not like this musical homage to the music of Brian Wilson? Elvis gets a lot of it right, too. Lyrically it turns the whole California magic thing upside down, but it needed turning upside down anyway.

David: I really want to like this song, since it has so many ideas percolating throughout, but it just never sinks in for me. Sorry.

Jon: I wish I could say I always found this song to be a brilliant satire of pop escapism and a profound indictment of our shallow culture. But I gave up on Elvis a couple years before the Mighty Like a Rose album, and never bothered to listen to the lyrics before just now. Therefore, I must admit that, for me, this song has always seemed a pleasant-enough space filler between “Brilliant Mistake” and “Tokyo Storm Warning” on the two-disc Elvis compilation I bought in about 1999. Oh, and: What a freakin’ buzzkill!

Beau: A couple of good zingers and a pleasant musical setting, but does anyone else find this just a little on the pedantic preachy side? In lesser hands, this is Phil Collins’ song … something … paradise …

Zack: Did Elvis Costello get confused and think that black leather and neoprene rubber were essentially the same material? (Actually, if I could get a wetsuit with fringes like that…) I generally don’t see what the big deal is about Elvis Costello, but I have to admit that this song grew on me once I realized the song has a pretty deep meaning. The lyrics along with the video provide a nice counterpoint to the music; the cheerful presentation of some pretty bleak images is inspired.

Dunphy: No love for the Mighty Like a Rose album here? While this is hardly E.C.’s best tune, and it doesn’t compare to “Veronica” from the previous Spike album, “The Other Side Of Summer” is a sugar-coated slab of nastiness that appeared during a year where we needed it badly. While everyone thought Paula Abdul‘s “Rush Rush” was something-something, I sneered from my car, listening to Napoleon Dynamite Sr., confident that if I wasn’t right, at least I felt like I was.


Adult Contemporary: Christine McVie, “Got a Hold on Me” (1984)

Dunphy: On her own, Christine McVie’s albums do have a sameness about them, don’t they. Has a person ever needed a band so badly? Vice-versa, has Fleetwood Mac ever needed her pop sweetness just as badly? The magic 8-ball indicates “Yes.” “Got A Hold On Me” is a featherweight song that’s alright by me, but placed in the context of a full album, Christine does need a psycho coke witch and a loon pop scientist around to balance the ratios.

Zack: This song has as much of an effect on my ears as a piece of toast dipped in lukewarm milk would have on my mouth. Bland enough that it’s impossible to be offended by, but nothing much to bite into, either.

Beau: I can speak no ill of Christine McVie. I shall move on.

Jon: I remember when they re-released The Legendary Christine Perfect Album back in the early ’80s (I think), and the hype was ridiculous. My brother bought it, and my reaction was, “What’s the big deal? Sounds like ‘Over My Head.'” And that’s the thing about Christine — her songs have always been nice enough, and sounded sweet and fluffy on the radio, but there was never much growth involved, was there? You could take “Say You Love Me,” “Got a Hold on Me,” and “Everywhere,” play three-card monty with them and stick them randomly on different Mac/McVie albums, and who would know the difference?

Ken: Pretty much indistinguishable from McVie’s output with Fleetwood Mac, though the piano might be a little more prominent. It’s a typical McVie pop confection, and in this case, that’s a pretty good thing.

Mike: Again, simplicity. The McVie-written Fleetwood Mac songs always had a simple message and were simply sung, and that’s what I liked about them. ‘Cause who the hell knew what Stevie was singing about? It won’t change your life, but it’s a damn well-written and catchy song.

David: Jeff and I are both on record for our views on how Christine McVie is Fleetwood Mac’s secret weapon, and her voice is what makes those songs soar. Having said that, I find a lot of her songs to be rather pedestrian. This might be one of the most wallpaper-y of them all. Even the video is boring.


R&B/Hip-Hop: Earth, Wind & Fire, “September” (1979)

David: I miss songs like this. That’s all I’m saying.

Beau: The sad thing about music today is that we don’t just lack the upbeat R&B numbers like this, but we have hordes of rappers waiting to turn this into an ode to weed.

Jon: I was listening to an AT40 countdown from January ’79 on XM “70’s on 7” recently, and when Casey introduced “September” I was surprised, because this is the rare song that is such a part of everyday life it seems weird that it was ever new. That said, has there ever been a ubiquitous pop song that had less to say than this one? I mean, for crying out loud, “Ring My Bell” is a dissertation compared to this.

Ken: This is one of my favorite songs ever. The arrival of the first few notes get me up and singing at the top of my lungs. Sadly, I can’t begin to reach Philip Bailey’s falsetto notes, so the resulting sound is pretty tragic. But I can still dance, right? Oh, you don’t want to see that, either? Okay, I’ll just sit here quietly. But I’ll be rocking hard on the inside.

Robert: “September” is my favorite of EWF’s songs. My birthday is September 25, so it’s not hard to manipulate the first line of the song to reflect the moment I came into this world. Plus my voice never changed, so I sound like Philip Bailey every second of the day.

Zack: This song is one of the primary reasons that I’m thrilled the Giants didn’t make it to the Super Bowl this year. Can you imagine how many damned montages featuring Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw running between, around, and through defenders we’d have had to sit through during the pregame coverage? The falsetto harmonies in this song have always irritated the hell out of me.

Dunphy: Like “Got A Hold On Me,” I can’t slay this song. Everyone’s dead right in saying it’s omnipresence is downright disturbing, and I can see how one could get jaded because of it, especially since it has all the literary heft of a Bazooka Joe comic strip. But come on, it’s EWF. You aren’t really supposed to think about it, you’re supposed to wave your groove hassock to it.

Mike: EW&F were the happiest ’70s funk band there was. This song never fails to put a smile on my face. Who do you guys think would win a falsetto sing-off between Philip Bailey and Barry Gibb? (you disco fans might wanna throw Sylvester in there too).


Hot 100: Louis Armstrong, “Hello, Dolly!” (1964)

Mike: Speaking of happy. Damn. Can someone wipe that grin off of Satchmo’s face? Considering the time period and what conditions black folks were under in those days, Armstrong’s mugging seems a little shuck-and-jivey for me. Sorry for insulting an American institution, but that clip just pushed my militant button.

I also think someone shoulda turned up the A/C. Dude lost about five pounds in sweat during that performance.

Ken: Sad, really, because this is all that most people know about one of the greatest figures in the world of jazz. This, and “Wonderful World.” There’s no doubt that both are charming performances, and pure Armstrong, but hopefully people will take the opportunity to go back and check out more of his seminal work.

Zack: I’m not crazy enough to criticize Louis Armstrong around here; I’ll just say that I’ve never cared for jazz and leave it at that.

Dunphy: I love Louie, but I have an aversion to anyone welcoming Barbara Streisand back for any reason. Itz-zo nize to have you back where you belong… far away from here, that’s for damn sure.

Beau: “What a Wonderful World” is a wonderful standard. This is a basic show tune made marginally interesting by his distinctive growl.

Jon: I never got the appeal of Louis’ vocal stylings, if they can be called that. The trumpet, yes. The great instrumental jazz, absolutely. But, really, why the voice? I can’t even stand “What a Wonderful World.” However, since this drove me to Wikipedia, let’s all revel in this golden (ahem) nugget: “[Armstrong] made frequent use of laxatives as a means of controlling his weight, a practice he advocated…in the diet plans he published under the title Lose Weight the Satchmo Way…He became an enthusiastic convert when he discovered the herbal remedy Swiss Kriss, [and] appeared in…ads [that] bore a picture of him sitting on a toilet — as viewed through a keyhole — with the slogan “Satch says, ‘Leave it all behind ya!‘”)

Mike: Thanks for that visual!

Jeff: Personally, I’d love to find a poster-sized version that I could print up and frame for my office. I’d hang it up next to my Brian Wilson 1999 concert poster, my autographed Nilsson poster, and the autographed picture of Jack Wagner that my fucker of a little brother sent me for Christmas last year.

Dunphy: Well then, we have to include this, don’t we?

David: Am I crazy for loving Satchmo’s voice, but hating Tom Waits’ voice? They’re pretty much the same, right? Well, except Louie has better pitch.

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