Friday Five: November

Fall is in the air. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Here are five songs from five albums that were all released in November.

5. “The Girl is Mine” (Michael Jackson)
Thriller was released on November 30, 1982. This duet with Paul McCartney was the first single released from the album. It’s not quite what you’d expect from what would become the biggest selling album of all time. In some ways it’s a homage to the Jackson of the 70s.

4. “You’re No Good” (Linda Ronstadt)
This is the first track on Linda Ronstadt’s breakout album Heart Like a Wheel, released in November 1974. Ronstadt was one of the most successful performers of the 1970s, and there’s lots of reasons why. When I listen to some of her work (like this song, a reinterpretation of an old R&B tune) I’m surprised she’s not more well-known today.

3. “Bombtrack” (Rage Against the Machine)
The self-titled debut album of Rage Against the Machine was released on November 3, 1992. This is the first track. I remember when a friend first put this CD in the player and pushed play. It’s a memorable opening for a band that would become a voice for some of the best parts of my generation.

2. “Thinking of You” (Tony! Toni! Toné!)
One of my favorite albums of the 1990s was released on November 19, 1996. The fourth album of Tony! Toni! Toné! is something of a comeback album, with rumors of their break up bolstered by their individual success behind of host of hits in the interim. The sound they captured was a homage to 60s soul wrapped up in a 90s way. It’s best felt in this song, the first track on the album.

1. “Candy Man” (Roy Orbison)
A year before Roy Orbison died, a bunch of music stars (ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Tom Waits) and a killer back up band (including the great Jim Burton) accompanied the legend in an evening of his greatest hits. Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night aired on Cinemax in early January 1988. In December Roy would die. A year later, in November 1989, the album of this historic evening was released.

Friday Five: Boo!

Happy Halloween!

It’s a testament to my wife that my kids get more excited for putting on their costumes than they do eating candy. It’s a testament to their father that they know Michael Jackson’s Thriller as well as anything by Taylor Swift.

Here’s five more songs they’ll know by the end of the weekend.

5. “Monster Mash” (Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers, 1962)

4. “Dead Man’s Party” (Oingo Boingo, 1985)

3. “People Are Strange” (Echo & the Bunnymen, 1987)

2. “Halloween” (The Misfits, 1981)

1. “Werewolves of London” (Warren Zevon, 1978)

Friday Five: Silly Love Songs

I have few actual memories of 1976. I was only 4, after all. I developed a deep love for the entire decade later in life, though, a mix of the sights and sounds I do remember with my later interests. 1976 is a great representative slice of that.

As I’ve written before:

It was the bicentennial (I love US history); Taxi Driver, Network, and All The President’s Men came out (I love 70s cinema); and “What’s Happening!”, “Laverne & Shirley”, and “Charlie’s Angels” all premiered on TV (all were big for me in syndicated repeats). One of my favorite movies ever–Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993)–takes place on May 28, 1976!

Wing’s “Silly Love Songs” was a hit in 1976. I like the song okay, but Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles life isn’t my favorite stuff. It was a good year for love songs, though.

So here are 5 love songs from 1976:

5. “Sweet Thing” (Rufus, featuring Chaka Khan)
If you want to know why a certain segment of baby boomers is crazy for Chak Khan all you have to do is listen to songs like this, when she was the lead singer of Rufus. She pulls off what only she could do.

4. “Beth” (Kiss)
Kiss is one of thos love-hate things, mostly because in an era of “artistic” album rock they were a commercial juggernaut who didn’t hide their desire to make money. That said, they hit it more than a couple of times. This is one of those times, a snapshot into the life of a rocker.

3. “Isn’t She lovely” (Stevie Wonder)
Stevie Wonder is a genius who was at his most genius in the 70s. This is one of the best songs of all-time, from one of his most amazing albums.

2. “Sara Smile” (Hall & Oates)
Damn but these white boys could sing some soul!

1. “Somebody to Love” (Queen)
So beautiful. The loneliness contrasted with the operatic the energy is amazing as a studio production, but remained amazing in its many live performances, too. It’s my favorite Queen song ever.

Friday Five: Blue

The Dodgers are moving on the face the Chicago Cubs in this year’s National League Championship Series. Why not enjoy some blue songs for my boys in blue?

5. “Blue Moon” (The Marcels, 1961)

4. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1969)

3. “Forever in Blue Jeans” (Neil Diamond, 1978)

2. “Blue Suede Shoes” (Elvis, 1956)

1. “Blue Monday” (New Order, 1983)

Friday Five: 50 years old

Like most people, I love the music of my teen and early adult years. But my favorite music more often comes from the late 1960s and early 1970s, the era just before and right after my birth.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of 1966, one of those years that I love, a year that produced some of the most amazing works by a variety of musical artists. Like most years, it was a time of stark diversity. “The Ballad of the Green Berets” was the top single of the year, and Frank Sinatra had a hit with “Strangers in the Night” (the song that would win him his last non-honorary Grammy award, until his 1994 album Duets II). At the same time, the Beatles released Revolver, the Stones released Aftermath, and Dylan released Blonde on Blonde.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

Here are five of my favorite songs from 1966:

5. “Paint It Black” (The Rolling Stones)

4. “Land of 1000 Dances” (Wilson Pickett)

3. “Hey Joe” (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

2. “Sunny” (Bobby Hebb)

1. “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” (The Four Tops)

Friday Five: 80’s soundtracks

Yesterday, while working, I got a song in mind that I didn’t notice for awhile and then, when I did notice it, it wouldn’t leave. There’s no explaining why this song suddenly occupied my brain, but it did. The song was “Like a Cannonball,” a bad crossover attempt by the Spanish-language boy band Menudo.

“Like a Cannonball” is a piece of crap song that I knew because I was a fan of the 1984 piece of crap movie for which it was written, Cannonball Run 2 (starring Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise). Aaaaanyway…it got me to thinking about all the good songs that came from bad 80s movies, too.

So here we are! Five songs that I do like, that came from 80s movies that were, well, not so good.

5. “Kiss” (Prince, 1986)
I was 14 when Prince’s second movie, Under the Cherry Moon, was released. My sister and I saw it on opening day because, well, Prince! I’m sure I was too young to understand what Prince was trying to do. As an adult, I get it, but the film still doesn’t work. The accompanying soundtrack album (Parade) not only hits it, it hits it big! It has two of my favorite Prince songs of all-time, including this massive hit.

4. “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” (Deniece Williams, 1984)
I don’t want to say that Footloose was a bad movie. The 12-year-old me LOVED it. The grown up me loves it, still, for both the nostalgia aspect of it but also for the corniness and the simplicity and the intensity of it all. It is what it is, as they say. Part of “what it is” was a vehicle for a whole bunch of MTV hits, not the least of which is the poppy dance song by Deniece Williams, still a great one for the GenX dance floor.

3. “Rhythm of the Night” (DeBarge, 1985)
The tropical influence, popular in the 80s, is all over this pop hit. There’s a lineage of soul and R&B greatness here, too, in the DeBarge family. I can see why some hated this song but it never bothered me. I loved it, and I still think it makes people happy when they hear it today. What most probably don’t remember is that it was from the film called The Last Dragon (actually titled Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon), a Motown produced film that blended African American life with the Kung Fu and supernatural genre. I loved it! LOVED IT! But I also know it was a piece of crap.

2. “Live to Tell” (Madonna, 1986)
I didn’t see At Close Range until I was in my 20s. It’s not a bad movie, it’s just not overall that good. The acting is powerful, if not a little moody. Madonna’s song from the soundtrack (hubby Sean Penn was the star) was bigger than the movie, not only because the film bombed but also because the song was a massive hit. It’s one of my most favorite Madonna songs, a real change from what she sounded like before.

1. “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” (Tina Turner, 1985)
I have to admit that I liked the 1985 movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. As a kid, I was too scared to watch the original Mad Max or the hit sequel The Road Warrior because I was pretty scared about violence in films. By 13 I was starting to like cinematic violence, and so this (very sanitized) sequel to the previous films attracted me. Plus, it had Tina Turner, a huge budget, and lots of teens in revealing frocks. It was probably made for my demographic, and it worked. I like it a lot. Time and taste being what they are, none of it holds up to my present-day eyes except for the kitsch factor. This hit song, however, which many might dismiss, is a real gem to me. It’s super overproduced (very indicative of the time) but the sheer talent of Tina Turner brings it home in a way nobody else could do. She elevates pop.

Friday Five: the Big 6!

Our youngest turns 6 years old this weekend! It’ll be a weekend of celebrating her bottomless energy, big heart, and adventurous spirit. Here’s a mix of five songs in honor of her big day…

5. “Believe” (Shawn Mendes)
“Everything is possible / There’s nothing we can’t do / It’s a wild and beautiful fire / And I believe in you!”

4. “Rainbow Connection” (Kermit the Frog/Jim Henson)
My little one shares a birthday with the great Jim Henson, who would have turned 80 years old this weekend. “What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing and what do we think we might see?”

3. “Firework” (Katy Perry)
“Boom, boom, boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon…”

2. “Wildside” (Sabrina Carpenter and Sofia Carson)
“Don’t wanna live my life by design / Locked inside, breakin'”

1. “Take on the World” (Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard)
“On the edge of something wonderful…”