I’d Let You Watch

Leave it to the 1980s to spawn a world wide hit that comes from a rock-musical about two chess Grandmasters playing in the Thai capital of Bangkok, written by ABBA and Tim Rice (famous for being Elton John’s and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s lyricist).  But “One Night in Bangkok,” is both catchy, exotic, and very witty (if not at time offensive).

One Night In Bangkok

There is really little to say about this song: It is the musical scene were an American TV analyst (played by Murray Head, a successful British stage and television actor whose brother is also well known for play Giles on the Joss Whedon series Buffy the Vampire Slayer), discusses his love for the intellectual purity of chess, and his disdain for the exotic, Asian capital.  Thailand is the wrong place for the cerebral pursuits he is here to observe, and nothing sums this up better than the line “I’d let you watch/ I would invite you/ but the Queens we use would not excite you.”  Playful, insulting, and a not-so-tongue-in-cheek sexual reference to gay-male prostitutes, he is basically saying what thrills you is but the opposite of what thrills him.

This song makes the list simply because, as a junior high kid, I knew every word, but understand maybe half of what it said or implied. It was not until I was in college that I even knew the song came from a musical, and I really didn’t bother to learn more than that.  I love playing it now to friends my age, and pointing out it is about the game of chess, and a put-down to Thai culture. Ultimately the Thailand Mass Communication Organization banned the song, saying it perpetuated a misunderstanding about Thailand and disrespected Buddhism.

The video for the song is a horrible 1980s video: And of course it would be.

 

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I’ve Waited here for You, Everlong

I just realized that my first American band on this list is the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl’s project that grew from the collapse of Nirvana after Kurt Kobain’s suicide.  Having spent his Nirvana years behind the drum set, with Foo Fighters he steps up as a multi-talented guitarist, front-man, and lyricist.

FooFighters-TheColourAndTheShape

His first album, eponymously named Foo Fighters, was just Grohl and a friend singing back up.  But eventually, Grohl was able to form a band and record the breakout album “The Colour and the Shape,” which gave us the trio of hits, Monkey Wrench, My Hero, and Everlong.

In my opinion, everything about Everlong is ground-breaking. The song itself is a total surrender of heart and mind, one that borders on self-destruction.  It bridges the break-up of Grohl’s marriage to his wife, and the courtship of his new girlfriend at the time.  And torn between these two, Grohl writes what has to be the most creepy and yet romantic line ever, part surrender, part obsession:  “The only thing I’ll ever ask of you/ You gotta promise not to stop when I say when.”  Grohl admits that love is an addiction, and despite what we know is best, we sometimes do what we know is wrong.

The original video for Everlong was a Michel Gondry production, which I own on DVD from a collection of Gondry videos.  Gondry’s video is ground-breaking for it’s creepy story line, the disturbing huge-hands (which he claims came from a nightmare he once had), and finale, so creepy as the band members literally climb from out of their own bodies.  It was nominated for Best Video at the 1998 MTv Music Video awards.

However, the Foo Figher’s line up was tumultuous from the start.  Members came and went – especially the charismatic and problematic Pat Smear (I once found myself in a Banana Republic dressing room next to Smear in downtown Seattle, where he told the sales woman “I USED to be a member of that band Foo Fighters, but not anymore,”).  But Grohl would still perform hits, sometimes playing acoustic versions of the complex rock songs that made Foo Fighters famous.  Here is he playing an acoustic version of Everlong, which shows that the song, even in its most basic form, is still endearing and unnerving.

 

 

And all the sinners saints

It might have been Baudelaire.  Or perhaps Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita.”  But whatever the inspiration, The Rolling Stone’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” is an out right hit, and  started, so many think, the “Rock and Roll is the music of Satan” controversy.

Rolling_Stones_Sympathy_for_the_Devil

In first person narrative, the song lists many of the world’s atrocities – The German Blitzkrieg, the Russian Revolution and killing of the Romanov family, the assassination of John and Bobby Kennedy, and decades of religious war in Europe – with the boisterous backing of a chorus of “Whoot wooos.”  You can’t help but shuffle your feet and clap your hands.  Ostensibly the song is not so much a tribute to Satan’s doings, but the evils of mankind.  And the line that says “Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints,” sums up that sentiment exactly.  Because whether we want to believe it or not, the most holy amongst us are capable of evil, and the most evil capable of kindness.  So like the title says, have some sympathy for the devil: As a whole we are no better than him.

I Know You Don’t Love Me Anymore

Continuing with our Irish Invasion, we move next to Sinead O’Connor.  She’s most famous for raising from the dead Prince’s bluesy love ballad, “Nothing Compares 2U,” and her no-holds-barred attack on the Roman Catholic Church. In college I fell in love with her voice, and her beauty – that bald head and those piercing eyes.  I bought her second album, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” after my freshman year of college, and must have listened to it 1000 times in those three months I languished at home in my parent’s house, waiting until I was allowed back on campus.

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I have a hard time picking my favorite song from that album:  Black Boys on Mopeds, Emperor’s New Clothes, Three Babies.  But the song that always just tore my heart open was “Last Day of Our Acquaintance,” and the simple line “I know you don’t love me anymore.”  That’s it.  It was just so simple, and yet said so much:  Both a realization and an accusation, said with such aplomb – but just the smallest hint of longing.  Realizing someone doesn’t love you anymore is harsh in and of itself; but, perhaps, what is harder yet, is the process of accepting it.  She does that all in seven words.

 

Scream Without Raising Your Voice

Acclaimed by Rolling Stone as the ‘Biggest Band in the World,’ and having the most Grammy Awards (22) of any other band, U2 is considered one of the most influential groups of all time.

The_Joshua_Tree

Their best selling album, The Joshua Tree, elevated them from a touring band known for their stage presence, to a charting bad, with hits like “Where the Streets have no Name,” “With or Without You,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”  But it is one of their lessor known hits from The Joshua Tree, “Running to Stand Still,” that I always find myself humming.

Everything about this song just builds – from the simple bass notes at the beginning, to Bono’s wordless howling in the middle; then it subtly ends just as it began, with a soulful harmonica.  A metaphor for rage:  Mild at the beginning, passionate and frantic in the middle, and exhausted and surrendering at the end.  In the midst of this all stands the line,”You got to cry without weeping, Talk without speaking, Scream without raising your voice,” delivered with such persistent calm in a song about desperation is so haunting, that you just can’t help but be impressed at what they accomplished in 4 minutes.

Say whaatt??

“I’m glad I’m a man, and so’s my Lola.”

Lola

For the next week, I will post some of my favorite lyrics – whether for their poignancy, the “WTF” factor, or just because they spark a certain memory.  And the first is the from the Kinks’ Lola, for multiple reasons:

1) The whole lyric is “Well I’m not the world’s most masculine man, but I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man, and so’s my Lola.”  In high school, I just loved this line.  Probably for the double entendre, but I didn’t even know that word back then.  During the whole song, you just wonder, “What is Lola?”  And that is what the Kinks meant.

2) Remember Alex P. Keaton?  And his sister Mallory?  And years after watching “Family Ties” was too cool, there was Mallory’s boyfriend Nick Moore, who decided that getting married just didn’t feel right, when he learned that the drive-by-night chapel they were going to use didn’t have “Lola” as a the song they could march down the aisle too.  Good times.

So, here’s to the Kinks and to “Lola.”