Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Week of music lists: 5 really goofy songs I like without irony

PhotobucketThus begins the Week of Music Lists, in which I use my newly reorganized CD collection as muse for a series of easy posts!



Many, many songs in rock are goofy. These are songs that are a bit odd, but not ones that are intentionally comic, i.e. "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." I can't precisely define "goofy songs" to me, but it's not, say, "Yellow Submarine," which is a fanciful, childlike song. However "goofy" accurately describes much of Abba's output. I would say goofy songs combine solid hooks with rather inane lyrics, which for you the listener never quite tip into the realm of sheer kitsch and instead forge some kind of emotional connection, no matter how oddball it may be. Thus, onwards! My 5 are heavy on the 1980s because, well, I am a child of the '80s.

1. Don't Lose my Number by Phil Collins
PhotobucketI could fill up this list with Genesis and Phil Collins tunes -- my guilty pleasure, Phil, has practically created an entire catalog of goofy songs, from Genesis tracks like "Dodo/Lurker" and "Abacab" to strangely vague pop smash hits like "Sussudio" and "Easy Lover." But this might be my favorite, with its very '80s processed drum splash sound and Phil's knack for giving a desperate urgency to an utterly daft tune (the video features Phil Collins transformed into a bee, which is superbly Kafkaesque in a totally '80s way). "They came at night leaving fear behind / Shadows were on the ground," apparently. Who lost whose number? Who's Billy? What's going on here? Phil, save us!

2. A Quick One While He's Away by The Who
Honestly, could this song be any goofier? A monster nine-minute medley from the Who's early, pre-"Tommy" days, it foreshadows the epic sweep of their later work with a shifting, burbling song that switches genres several times. But it's incredibly silly, too, telling the story of a girl left stranded by her lover for "many a year." About the time the Who break into a western gallop, complete with trotting horse noises, you realize the whole song's gotten away from them a bit. Yet it also sums up what's great about the Who - the open-eyed excess and broad visions that still manage to touch a few universal emotions. Just don't try to make any bloody sense of it all!

3. Cannonball by The Breeders
This alt-nation classic was everywhere in 1993, and is a great example of how lofty and literate alternative rock could be as goofy as the masters. The Deal twins fill this one to the brim with hooks -- the lovely drifting guitar and bass lines dueling at the beginning, the jaggedy solo freak-outs, and the lyrics that make no sense at all -- "I'll be your whatever you want / The bong in this reggae song." Fffh. Whatever, dude.

4. Blue Jean by David Bowie
C'mon -- awesome hooks, fantastic production, but listen to these lyrics -- "Blue jean / I just met a girl named blue jean / she got a camouflage face and no money." What? The honking line of horns, the jiggly use of a marimba, the barbershop harmonies in the chorus, it's all camp as all get out, but peroxide-haired Bowie and his inimitable "most stylish man on the earth" early '80s look sell it. But don't try to take this song seriously, honestly.

5. One Night In Bangkok by Murray Head
Wow, this song was deep to me when I was 13, but is nigh-unbearably goofy when I listen to it now. From the musical "Chess," it's kind of decadent and fey in the "Frankie Goes To Hollywood" mode, with Murray Head singing it in a wry voice murmuring lines like "I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine." It kindled a vision of Thailand as impossibly exotic and strange to me, although heard now it's a very goofy '80s curio, one that straddles the line between musical theatre and synth-pop hit.

What are your goofy faves?

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