Ranking #51 singles, U.S. edition: 1985-1990

So confident was CBS Records about the success of “Ruthless People” that “Weird” Al Yankovic composed a parody of the High Reagan Era collaboration between Mick Jagger, Daryl Hall, and David Stewart. Imagine Paul Stanley of KISS writing a tolerable, superior song on his own. But a subdivision of the Isley Brothers and the Replacements compensate for the dreck. Continue reading “Ranking #51 singles, U.S. edition: 1985-1990”

Rhapsody and rebellion: A Fourth of July playlist

Gazing at his white audience in Richmond, Frederick Douglass had, as we like to say, no fucks to give. Northern white men and women who opposed slavery but stopped at granting the Negro political or, lord help us, social equality repulsed him. Douglass:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity … a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

In my state (the state with the prettiest name!) it may be illegal for teachers to assign Frederick Douglass. Honored during Black History Month, he exists in the historical memory for millions of white Americans as an almost avuncular figure, a Benjamin Franklin figure, not as a persistent nettle nor as a wasp not content to merely buzz; our culture’s fascination with autobiographical uplift stems in part from an intrinsic misunderstanding of what Douglass and others achieved in texts like Narrative of the Life of…We’re not supposed to read him and applaud his sagacity; we’re supposed to feel his rebuke and condemn our sanctimony and dilatoriness.

As for life in these United States, we will not meet the president’s goal of celebrating the first jabs of 70 percent of Americans. In these United States white notions of freedom are inseparable from egoism. For the sake of choosing to abjure vaccination, we would risk infecting our neighbors. An education doesn’t begin in kindergarten and end with an advanced degree: to respect the complexity of our neighbors is a necessary adjunct.


The first two selections came easily: X’s juxtaposing of romantic apocalypse against the holiday’s compulsory uplift; and Martina McBride’s finding uplift within romantic apocalypse. The following list is rhapsodic and rebellious.

(I don’t understand fireworks.)

Take care of each other.

1. X – 4th of July
2. Martina McBride – Independence Day
3. Miley Cyrus – Party in the USA
4. Bruce Springsteen – My Hometown
5. Jimi Hendrix – The Star Spangled Banner
6. Gil Scott-Heron – Winter in America
7. Ray Charles – America the Beautiful
8. Aimee Mann – 4th of July
9. John Cougar Mellencamp – We are the People
10. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – American Girl
11. Kanye West & Jay Z ft. Frank Ocean – Made in America
12. Johnny Cash – Ragged Old Flag
13. David Bowie- America
14. Kelis – 4th of July (Fireworks)
15. Migos – John Wick
16. Van Morrison – Almost Independence Day
17. Lil Wayne – God Bless Amerika
18. Jay-Z – American Dreamin’
19. Elvis Costello – Indoor Fireworks
20. Brad Paisley – American Saturday Night

Ranking #51 singles, U.S. edition: 1979-1984

I suspect the considerable roots-rock cohort among my friends will wonder why the hell “Teacher Teacher” didn’t top my list; it’s not as if Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds often visited the Hot 100. But when “Outstanding” and “The Spirit of Radio” present themselves as competition, the pub rock supergroup had to settle for third place, and they may have understood: the latter became Rush’s highest-charting UK single, the source of St. Etienne’s “Conchita Martinez”.Continue reading “Ranking #51 singles, U.S. edition: 1979-1984”

Ranking #44 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-1993

Kim Deal is smiling! Why? “Cannonball” didn’t hit the top 40, but became a subcultural hit that even MTV devotees recognized. It straddled the Poppy Bush Era series of hits whereby Scorpions, Vixen, Richard Marx, and goddamn Escape Club got this high, not to mention Crosby-Collins and a pair of Clivilles-Cole songs not sung by Aretha Franklin although one of them would be. Continue reading “Ranking #44 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-1993”

It’s a brand new era!

Hi, all! Remember when our friends said Don’t Say Gay had nothing to do with anything outside trans rights? Behold Orange County, home of Orlando and Walt Disney World:

According to representatives of the county’s teacher association, teachers and staff members will be disallowed from wearing rainbow articles of clothing, including lanyards distributed by the district last year. Elementary-level teachers reported being discouraged from putting pictures of their same-sex spouse on their desk or talking about them to students.

“Safe Space” stickers aimed at LGBTQ students may have to be removed from doors, teachers will have to report to parents if a student “comes out” to them and they must use pronouns assigned at birth, regardless of what the parents allow, the CTA reported.

Some of the measures appeared to be far outside what the law actually forbids, as it focuses primarily on mental health monitoring and classroom curriculums.

“It will be alarming if our district chooses to interpret this law in the most extreme way,” CTA President-Elect Clinton McCracken said. “We want them to protect student privacy. We want them to make sure that they’re creating and helping to create safe classrooms. We believe our school board supports that.”

Let me submit for your consideration, friends of this blog, that this paranoia — a chilling effect, let’s call it, hmm? — is precisely what DeSantis wanted to stoke. The toughest gay or lesbian teacher in Florida (the state with the prettiest name!) will think thrice before answering an innocent question from a fourth grader about the existence of a Mrs. Soto. And a Pride bumper sticker? Mr. Soto might scrape it off.

Happy July.

Ranking #46 singles, U.S. edition: 1990-1995

Oops! I didn’t know we couldn’t talk about sex, Madonna purred. She didn’t know Top 40 would have nothing to do with the Madonna who before Evita was trying To Go Respectable, for, recall, her last three big hits were “I Remember, “Secret,” and “Take a Bow.” Respectability politics had consumed her and her critics in Newt Gingrich’s America. So, in a way, “Human Nature” was as bold as George Michael allowing the release of “Mother’s Pride” at the height of the Gulf War, an album track offering no bromides — an album track as bleak as “Praying for Time.”Continue reading “Ranking #46 singles, U.S. edition: 1990-1995”

Ranking #50 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-1994

Looking past the dregs of the Reagan-Bush era, whose names I need not mention out of respect and for fear of inspiring a reader to defend them as if they were Goldwater speeches, I see Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove,” which, I must say, sounded great against Dino’s boneheaded “Summergirls” and other freestyle and Miami bass tracks (I need to learn to what degree WPOW Power 96 acted as the KROQ of South Florida). But Public Enemy earned its second highest chart position with the unstoppable “Can’t Truss It,” which I’ve often mistaken for their only top forty. These tracks sound fabulous against Lil Louis’ house classic and the only C&C Music Factory single not to make the top 40 during their golden 1991 run and, of course, it’s their best.

The also-rans ain’t bad: a Prince outtake as a new track for his 1993 comp, the Stones’ least unconvincing ballad after 1986, and a rare high chart placement for Brooks & Dunn.

The Hague

Damn Yankees – Come Again
Poison – Stand
Taylor Dayne – Send Me a Lover


Tiffany – Feelings of Forever
Cheap Trick – Wherever Would I Be

Sound, Solid

Guy – I Wanna Get With U
Dino – Summergirls
Roxette – Sleeping In My Car
Eria Fachin – Savin’ Myself
ZZ Top – Doubleback
Dolly Parton & Friends – Romeo
Colourhaus – Innocent Child
The Alarm – Sold Me Down The River

Good to Great

Lil Louis – French Kiss
Public Enemy – Can’t Truss It
Depeche Mode – Strangelove
C & C Music Factory – Just a Touch of Love
Prince – Pink Cashmere
The Rolling Stones – Almost Hear You Sigh
Brooks & Dunn – Boot Scootin’ Boogie
Keith Murray – The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World

Never mind the tea and the yoga: ‘Father of the Bride’ remains comfortably conservative

Forget the sops to liberal audiences: every version of Father of the Bride gleams with a confident conservatism. Vincente Minnelli’s beloved 1950 original, saved by Spencer Tracy’s wryness and the luminosity of Elizabeth Taylor, unfolds like a ponderous dinner party with sherry to start, lamb course with mint jelly and potatoes, brandy afterwards. The yuks-a-minute 1991 remake starring Steve Martin emphasized the star’s slapstick skills and a game supporting cast, perhaps because the bride is boring (Kimberly Williams will go on to marry country star Brad Paisley). What the films share is a complacency. No matter how ridiculous if not boorish and hostile Daddy might react to the sudden engagement of a beloved and nominally self-reliant daughter, His Heart’s in the Right Place. The jokes at his expense are meant to humanize him and reassure the audience: we know this is a useful fiction—okay, bullshit—in which viewers choose to believe.Continue reading “Never mind the tea and the yoga: ‘Father of the Bride’ remains comfortably conservative”

Ranking #50 singles, U.S. edition: 1980-1987

Many obscurities (to me) on this list: I had not heard The Fools’ version of Roy Orbison’s “Running Scared,” never knew Jermaine Jackson followed up “Let’s Get Serious” with an album of self-written nullities, was not acquainted with Herb Alpert’s “Beyond,” which sounds like a bizzer hearing Giorgio Moroder’s soundtrack to Midnight Express and digging it. If anything links the Meh and Sound, Solid entries, it’s (a) terrible hair (b) Canada.Continue reading “Ranking #50 singles, U.S. edition: 1980-1987”

Ranking #42 singles, US edition: 1976-1979

Obstinate about Springsteen as garrulous post-Dylan babbler and vinyl fetishist, I didn’t come around to the dude until 1984 and, blessedly, his 1987 follow-up; but I can’t deny the tug and roar of his guitar solo in “Badlands,” a necessary discordance during the peak of disco. Not superior to disco, mind, but, as Wallace Stevens said twenty years earlier, required as a necessity requires.

But even if Springsteen weren’t howling there would be “I Don’t Wanna Lose You,” a perfect, perfect approximation of the Philly sound that for reasons I can only imagine have something to do with payola never became the Hall & Oates smash before “Kiss on My List” the duo deserved. It’s no pastiche: Daryl Hall updates Thom Bell strings and rhythms for the Studio 54 era, plus includes a lyric as casually tossed off and cruel as “People have a tragic habit/Of letting love get in the way,” almost queer. Disco-influenced tracks by Marshall Tucker Band and full-fledged things like Crown Heights Affair add heft to this list. And I’ve realized Hot Chocolate is one of the sexiest and subtlest of R&B bands, certainly reducing Pablo Fucking Cruise to the category of rank embarrassment.

The Hague

Charlie Ross – Without Your Love (Mr. Jordan)


Firefall – Livin’ Ain’t Livin’
Bette Midler – You’re Movin’ Out Today
Parker McGhee – I Just Can’t Say No To You
Pablo Cruise – A Place in the Sun

Sound, Solid

Smokey Robinson – There Will Come a Day (I’m Gonna Happen to You)
Linda Ronstadt – Someone To Lay Down Beside Me
Gloria Gaynor – Let Me Know (I Have A Right)
Atlanta Rhythm Section – Neon Nights
Boz Scaggs – What Can I Say
Al Stewart – On the Border

Good to Great

Bruce Springsteen – Badlands
Daryl Hall and John Oates – I Don’t Wanna Lose You
Waylon & Willie – Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
Hot Chocolate – Don’t Stop It Now
Heart – Dreamboat Annie
Crown Heights Affair – Dancin’
Aerosmith – Draw the Line
Van Morrison – Wavelength
Joyce Cobb – Dig The Gold
The Marshall Tucker Band – Last Of The Singing Cowboys
Amazing Rhythm Aces -The End Is Not In Sight (The Cowboy Tune)

Ranking #48 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-

To earn a pair of Hague candidates when your third solo album becomes your best-seller and your spite, rage, lack of compassion, and vanity remain undimmed deserves a special prize; but nothing on earth exists that I can award Don Henley for writing the longest, dullest song ever to hit #1 on Y-100’s airplay requests; I’m sure sea level rise began at that moment. A scoundrel to the end, Henley apparently thinks a New York minute lasts 1450 centuries based on his concept of yuppie soul goop, complete with backup ooh-ooh-oos and a piano line with enough dust to sink Uruguay. I’m sure his handlers thought Don Henley singing “How Bad Do You Want It?” was marginally sexier than David Coverdale ordering you to give him “all” your love.Continue reading “Ranking #48 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-“