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Don’t You Forget About Me: The Beach Boys – “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man),” 1964

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 24, 2010

First off, let me say this: The first season of Men of a Certain Age was significantly better than any TNT show (especially one endlessly hyped during the MLB playoffs, usually a sure sign of deathliness) has a right to be. It feels like a show that should have happened decades ago–a grounded, well-acted portrayal of the constant stresses and occasional rewards of life close to the half-century mark, without the snappy punchlines and caricatured supporting cast such a premise would normally suggest. (Forgive me, Modern Family enthusiasts, but I just can’t take another explanation-less faux-documentary sitcom in my life right now.) Andre Braugher’s greatness is no surprise, of course, and I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Scott Bakula from my days of watching Quantum Leap re-runs on Sci Fi, but the revelation here is Ray Romano, who when freed from the cruel oppression of an interminable laugh track, a perpetually pissed off Patricia Heaton and a family of Emmy-clawing ingrates, turns out to be an impressively expressive and relatable actor.

The show is strong all around, but perhaps its biggest home run is with its credit sequence and theme music, which proves once again that sometimes the most obvious choice is the best one: The Beach Boys’ “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man).”

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Don’t You Forget About Me: “Boy, You Sure are a Funny Kid, Johnny…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 17, 2010

Am I the only one who can’t get this song out of his head when seeing the promos for everyone’s favorite fur-wearing, Ruskie-idolizing, Lady Gaga-chumming ice skater’s Sundance documentary series? What’s more, is this what the show’s creators intended to do with the title? I mean, you don’t often see American TV series getting named after Men At Work songs not even released as singles in the US, but I’m not sure what else the show’s title would be referring to, exactly. (Apparently there was also a race horse name named Be Good Johnny, but….nah.) Besides, you can’t deny how perfectly the song fits Mr. Weir in its lyrical portrayal of the titular aloof youngster. No doubt this Johnny was not particularly likely to go out for football or cricket either, and was probably more of a fan of dreaming all the day long. Not to mention that he probably heard the “What kind of a boy are you, Johnny?” question more than once in his time.

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Don’t You Forget About Me: The True Leader of “Who Dat?” Nation

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 2, 2010

With all the controversy over who it is that legally possesses the rights to the “Who Dat?” phrase that has become positively omnipresent in the Saints’ recent playoff run, let’s none of us forget who it is that truly owns the phrase. Sure, he might technically have been Florida-based (though I would’ve sworn he was part of Juvenile’s clan at one point–maybe not), but no one has ever invigorated the two words with more swagger, intensity, and likely drug-fueled paranoia as one JT Money. If he doesn’t get an invite to Miami–hell, for all I know, he already lives down the corner–to get the Saints fans amped before Super Bowl XXXIV, something’s seriously fucked up with the NFL. I mean, we all know how much Drew Brees loves pre-game adrenalizing–how fired up would he get leading the Saints in a good, old-fashioned “WHO DAT WHO DAT WHO DAT TRYIN’ TA GET UP IN MA CREW?!?!?!?” chant? You’re not gonna get that shit playing “Magic Bus,” I’ll tell you that much.

Love that Face/Off-aping video, too. 1999, where you at??

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Don’t You Forget About Me: The Alan Parsons Project – “Sirius” / “Eye in the Sky”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 23, 2009

I found the Alan Parsons Project’s Eye in the Sky in a 3/$10 rack recently, and given my appreciation of the few songs of theirs I know (and my recent issues with my mp3 player, necessitating recent CD listening), I decided to give it a shot. It’s a pretty cool album, actually, and it’s about as hard to put a finger on as I had expected. It’s impossible to get a read on exactly what the Alan Parsons Project’s deal was from their hits, since none of them really sound alike, and likewise, the album comes across as a weird hybrid of the Beach Boys’ Smiley Smile, Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (the last one being appropriate enough, I suppose, since Parsons engineered the thing). But though the album’s pretty solid throughout, if more than a little dated, all I want to do while listening to it is go back and listen to the first two tracks over and over again.

“Eye in the Sky” was the big hit, getting all the way to #3 back in 1982, and it is a beaut. A chugging, atmospheric maybe-love song (if you consider “Every Breath You Take” to be a love song and/or 1984 to be a great romance, anyway) with a heartbreaking lead vocal (not by Parsons himself as I previously believed, but by forgotten hero Eric Woolfson) and a truly knockout chorus (those harmonies, man, those harmonies), it’s one of the more underrated singles of the 80s. It actually kind of sounds like it could have been one of Lindsey Buckingham’s better, more lovelorn songs on an 80s Fleetwood Mac album. Contributing to its underratedness is the fact that, like every other Alan Parsons Project single, the song has completely vanished from radio–a little too weird for soft-rock, a little too dreamy for classic rock, and not quite kitschy enough for 80s retro. It’s hard to think of who today would come up with a modern equivalent to “Eye in the Sky”–after all, how many rock engineers turn into rock stars these days, anyway?

Anyway, despite the fact that it was just a two-minute intro meant to lead into “Eye in the Sky” on the album, the song that you’re far more likely to know if you weren’t around in 1982 is “Sirius.” As far as That Songs go–songs that just about everyone knows, despite not knowing their titles or the artists behind them–“Sirius” has got to be an all-time top tenner. It first came to national prominence during the Chicago Bulls’ championship runs in the 90s as the team’s intro music, but has since been co-opted by teams in just about every major sport as the go-to music–along with “Eye of the Tiger” and the Requiem for a Dream theme–for building tension and suspense during pivotal game moments. (Apparently it was used even earlier as the entrance music for forgotten wrestler Ricky Steamboat–seems slightly less iconic). If you don’t think you know it, trust me, you know it–listen if you need proof.

It’s actually a pretty stunning piece of music when separated from the cheesy entrance sequences–the sparkling, mysterious guitar riff and widescreen production make the song sound positively spectral, so it’s difficult to imagine a time when people could hear the song and not picture a big, dark room full of flashing laser lights accompanying it. It’s going to be kind of hard to hear the song without “Eye in the Sky” coming after it now, though. “Sirius” flows so naturally into the album’s title track that it’s impossible for me to see why the two of them were ever separated in the first place, really–combined, they make for a damn amazing six and a half-minute minute classic rock epic, along the lines of classics like Elton John’s “Funeral For a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding” and uh, John Mellencamp’s super-long version of “I Need a Lover”.

Looks like the follow up to this album was called Ammonia Avenue. Just a little too ahead of its time, I guess.

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Don’t You Forget About Me: Nirvana – “You Know You’re Right” (2002)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 2, 2008

Hey

Possibly my favorite listing to be found on the IMDB Goofs page–ahead of Errors in Geography, Audio/Visual Unsychronized and Factual Errors (Possibly Deliberate By Filmmakers)–is that of the Anachronism. It’s great fun to read about the gold watches that can be found on crusaders’ wrists in Braveheart, or the Reeboks that Globe attendees can be seen wearing in Shakespeare in Love, or other such proofs that the movie does not actually take place during the year claimed. But what I find infinitely more compelling are Future Anachronisms. In other words, if one of the members of The Breakfast Club brought an MP3 player to detention, or if one of the athletes Jerry Maguire represented expressed interest in playing for the New Orleans Hornets, or if Thelma and Louise drove an electric car into the Grand Canyon. You won’t see too many of these listed on IMDB Goof pages–namely, because they should be physically impossible–but they certainly raise more interesting qusetions, don’t they?

“You Know You’re Right” arrived amidst great, great hype in 2002. A Nirvana box set had been expected to be released the year prior to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Nevermind, and “You Know You’re Right” was to be the cornerstone of the set–a brand new Nirvana song, heard before only in incomplete versions on lousy bootlegs, claimed by members of the band and by Courtney Love to be one of Nirvana’s greatest achievements (I think someone even said that it “could have changed the course of popular music,” though I can’t remember who or find the quote, probably for good reason). Of course, amidst legal squabbling between Novoscelic, Grohl and Love, the set was stalled for another few years. Instead, the fans got a mere Hits collection the next year, simply named Nirvana (an attempt at giving the band their equivalent to The Beatles’ 1), with “You Know You’re Right” the only new or in any way rare track. After that, it had better have been something pretty special, right?

Not only was “You Know You’re Right” something special, it was something…well, impossible. It was, almost undeniably, an example of a future anachronism. Recorded in 1994, it somehow managed to capture exactly what rock music sounded like in the year 2002. Now on a superficial level, this is somewhat unremarkable, since Nirvana on the whole were a pretty big reason why rock music sounded the way it did in 2002 (Follow the flow chart, please–Nirvana-Pearl Jam-Candlebox-Live-Creed-Nickelback). But the intricacies of this song–they all scream early 00s. The guitar harmonics on the intro and outro are just like those in Puddle of Mudd’s “Blurry”. The thunderous, near tribal-sounding drums and rumbling bass on the verses are eerily reminiscent of those in Disturbed’s “Down With the Sickness”. When Kurt raises his voice up to an octave-higher shout at the end of the second verse, the resemblance to Maynard James Keenan in A Perfect Circle’s “3 Libras” is uncanny.

It’s perhaps because of this bizarre kinship that “You Know You’re Right” is not better remembered than it is. The Puddle of Mudds and Disturbeds of the world made most folks seem to want to forget that rock music even existed in 2002 (except, of course, for the White Stripes and Strokes), and YKYR blended in far too well with those for people to remember it as part of the Nirvana pantheon. Bearing me out with this is the fact that the only people that seem to still recognize the song are the nu-metallers of the time themselves, as both Seether and Limp Bizkit have been known to cover the song live. And just as “Blurry” and “Down With the Sickness” sound much better to me now than they probably did in ’02, I think YKYR is certainly good enough to rank as a true Nirvana classic–as cathartic as anything on In Utero, as catchy a chorus as anything on Nevermind, and (almost) as bruising as anything on Bleach.

Nirvana’s prediction of the future of rock may have seemed dystopian to some–and yeah, it probably felt like it at the time–but they always were just a little bit smarter than their contemporaries. When people get enough distance to recognize the brilliance of StainD’s “For You” and P.O.D.’s “Boom,” perhaps the world will once again remember the top-shelf quality of “You Know You’re Right.”

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Don’t You Forget About Me: Eazy E – “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s” (1993)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 13, 2008

Should have known by now, Eazy Duz It

Huge, huge respect to the powers that be behind the marketing for Saints Row 2 for reminding me of this song’s existence in their recent ads for the game. I didn’t even know there was a Saints Row 1, personally, but their use of this song makes me tempted to actually play a non-Rock Band video game for the first time in who knows how long. What better, though to advertise a video game about gang warfare, than Eazy’s aural smackdown in his own escalating West Coast feud with Dr. Dre? Doesn’t matter that the lyrics are edited to be kept unspecific in the trailer–the song has become so inextricably tied with Eazy’s return fire that I don’t think I ever even heard the whole song until the 21st century, only hearing parts of it in clip shows detailing the bad blood between the two Gangsta Gangstas.

Of course, there’s a pretty good reason for why that is–“Real Muthaphuckkin G’s” isn’t particularly great. Everything about this song screams second-rate, especially when compared to a gem like Snoop and Dre’s first blow in the battle, “Dre Day.” The bass line is vaguely similar, but not as memorable, the synth hook is Dre G-Funk By Numbers but not nearly as catchy. The guest rappers on the song are Dresta and B.G. Knocc Out, whose careers never quite broke out the way Snoop’s did, and and who it seems likely Dre had never even heard of at the time the song came out (and really, what beef do these losers have with Dre anyways?) And the video is similarly tired, with the same stock South Central crowds, the same White Sox hat Dre wore (and what did these guys have against the Dodgers, anyway?) and a strange appearance from the Bizarro Eazy that appears in the DD vid, who Eazy and crew proceed to beat down in what would appear to be a very poetic case of self-loathing.

“Real Muthaphuckkin G’s” was not a pop hit, the video went nowhere, and by the time I started listening to music seriously in 1996, Eazy, then dead from AIDS, was most known to me as “the guy from the end of the video for ‘Tha Crossroads’.” But it did have one huge impact on the pop culture landscape: It introduced the public to the now old hat image of Dr. Dre, fresh from his days in 80s electro outfit World Class Wreckin’ Cru, in a shiny, tight dress, with a stethoscope lovingly draped around his neck.

The value of this picture is certainly not to be under-estimated. Dre, now somewhat notorious for his homophobia, has become heavily disenchanted with his early electro days (despite club hit “Surgery” being almost as awesome as anything he’d do later) that he’s now appeared to disavow the era completely.
When talking about the group in VH1’s recent NWA doc, he and fellow WCWC-turned-N.W.A. member DJ Yella seemed downirgh uncomfortable talking about those days, with Yella sheepishly submitting that they all used to be in some wack groups. But without having heard their music back in the 90s, I just assumed Eazy had gotten a good trick photo or Dre lookalike or something–I couldn’t believe such a hard dude would ever think glamming it up like this was OK. But it certainly seems like he dug it for a while, and thanks to the picture, his days at WCWC can never be completely forgotten. And if he had lived to fight another battle, he could’ve always pulled it out as an ace in the hole in case he got into a really heated one with Dre. “You tellin’ me I don’t pitch in for gas enough? Motherfucker, you OPTIONALLY WORE A DRESS AT LEAST ONE POINT IN YOUR LIFE. Don’t lecture me on shit.”

And anyway, despite the lack of greatness, I actually like this song pretty OK. It’s all second-hand news, obviously, but that heavy, creeping bass and synth-hook combination is still pretty fun to work with, and the way Eazy’s nasaly voice cruises on top of it shows why it’s a shame his solo areer never had the time (or the hits, I suppose) to really get off the ground. And for whatever reason, it sounds right at home soundtracking reckless gang violence in a computer-generated dystopian setting. It’s certainly no “Dre Day,” but I’ll take it over more contemporary retaliation songs like Nas’s “Ether” or Fat Joe’s “Fuck 50” any day. If we got to see Jay-Z’s early “Hawaiian Sophie” days in the Nas vid, or embarassing high school photos of 50 Cent with a Jheri curl in Cam’Ron’s, then maybe we’d have something to talk about.

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Don’t You Forget About Me: P.M. Dawn – “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” (1991)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 10, 2008

That’s the way it goes….I guess

Everyone knows that Vanilla Ice had the first-ever rap single to hit #1 on the hip-hop charts with “Ice Ice Baby” (so very, very close, Tone Loc), a statistic used mostly by lame white people to show how lame white people are. What fewer people know is the answer to which hip-hop single by black people to reach pole position was. That is an honor of distinction held solely by Prince Be and DJ Minute Mix, a.k.a. PM Dawn, with a little help from Gary Kemp and Chuck Brown, on the 1991 classic “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss“–also the first #1 of the SoundScan era, incidentally. If this song seems only vaguely familiar, or if you’re under the age of 22 and probably haven’t heard of it, there’s a pretty good reason–it makes “Ice Ice Baby” look like something off of ELIF4ZAGGIN by comparison.

P.M. Dawn was essentially, to quote Avon Barksdale, a rap duo without a country. The basic formula–one dude speaks rhythmically and unmelodically over another dude’s funky, sampled beat–is hip-hop by just about any standards. But what sub-genre, what movement would possibly claim these guys for their own? Aside from a tossed-off reference to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebaum,” “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” seems to contain nothing else to tie it to hip-hop culture. It’s all about transcendence, longing and near-tantric romantic bliss, with a calm, resigned tone. The beat is vaguely danceable–frankly, anything that uses the “Ashley’s Roachclip” sample (of “Paid in Full,” “Unbelievable,” “Blame it on the Rain” and countless others fame) will be–but it’d sound far more natural in a physical therapy center than a strip club.

The closest comparisons I can think of in hip-hop culture are some of the more hypnotic, ethereal-sounding East Coast love songs, classics like De La Soul’s “Eye Know,” Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s “Lots of Lovin'” and LL Cool J’s “Hey Lover.” But none of those guys would ever make a video quote like that of “Set Adrift,” swathed with soothing beach imagery, swirling with pastels and psychedelic colors, and full of weirdly-dressed individuals falling through the blue sky for no particular reason (which, along with the videos for New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and The Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang,” makes for a rather bizarre music video cliche). None of those guys would ever name their breakthrough album Of the Heart, Of the Soul, and Of the Cross: The Utopian Experience (I’m not even sure Arrested “Zingalamundi” Development would ever sink to quite such depths). And perhaps most importantly, none of these guys looked quite like Prince Be, a man of such large disposition that he was sort of the early-series Bobby Baccala to Biggie’s Tony Soprano.

Perhaps P.M. Dawn were never met for hip-hop culture to begin with. The early, pre-Nirvana 90s, were a pretty chill time to begin with, and when you start comparing “Set Adrift” to hits like DNA and Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” Urban Dance Squad’s “Deeper Shade of Soul” and even Enigma’s “Sadeness (Pt. 1),” I guess it starts to make a little bit of sense. Yeah, they’re black, and yeah, they sort of rap, but I guess you could view it more as spoken word, whatever hip-hop elements being used more for their mantra-esque powers (mantric?) than for hip-hop’s more traditional methodologies and goals. For later hits, like ’92’s #3 hit “I’d Die Without You,” they’d drop any tenuous connections to hip-hop anyway, for a sound much closer to Shai’s “If I Ever Fall in Love Again” (which is pretty much always a good move).

Whatever you wanna call it, I really like this song. Something about the combination of that “Roachclip” drum loop and the guitar sample from Spandau Ballet’s “True” hits you like a Corona and lime (though not like the extremely stress-inducing”Corona and Lime”), instantly melting away all pressures of the outside world until you are setting adrift in complete serenity in the world of Prince Be and DJ Minute Mix. The lyrics can be a little much (“An eye for an eye / a spy for a spy / rubber bands expand in a frustrating sigh”?), but they certainly set the scene, and Be’s sighing monotone provides the proper chilling, heartbeat-lowering effect. Plus, even if it doesn’t fit the genre itself, the song’s legacy in hip-hop culture is more or less cemented by the influence it had on other rappers’ picking up of the “True” sample, later used in Nelly’s “N Dey Say,” Lloyd and Lil’ Wayne’s “You,” and apparently even Silkk the Shocker’s “Be There.”

Kind of song that makes summer being over sort of a bummer.

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Don’t You Forget About Me: Depeche Mode – “What’s Your Name?” (1981)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 15, 2008

All the time I understood

What’s Your Name?” is probably pretty far from the best song on Depeche Mode’s seriously underrated debut album, Speak & Spell, but it’s arguably the most interesting, for obvious reasons. Not like the Mode were the first or last synth-pop group to harp on the more attractive qualities of masculinity (although it is the only one I know to employ a cheap synth-drum version of the “Be My Baby” intro to do so), and Marc Almond of Soft Cell especially probably scoffs at the song’s timidity. Still, I find it notable as proof that there was ever a time in pop music when a group of heterosexuals (and yes, they were all straight, even Martin Gore, who dressed in fishnet shirts and was always laughing, and Vince Clarke, who between his work in DMode, Yaz and Erasure must be something like the Teena Marie of heterosexual males) actually seemed to think they would fit in better with their time by acting gay–and not in that dressing well and getting pedicures way that’s insulting to all sexual preferences, but rather by actually singing about hitting on hott dudes.

Somehow, I don’t think they were playing this one on the 101 tour.

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Don’t You Forget About Me: Carly Simon – “Why?” (1982)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 1, 2008

Here’s what I have to say

I’ve made a big deal in several entries in this blog about rock artists that went disco in the late 70s and early 80s–despite the bad rap they received from most critics and “true” fans at the time, I find their crossover attempts to be usually among their respective artists’ most compelling works and almost always among their most fascinating. So when I heard about Carly Simon’s “Why?“–a flop single from 1982, including on the Chic-curated soundtrack to the even bigger flop movie Soup for One, and later resurrected by Ibiza clubbers–I was tantalized at the thought. The “You’re So Vain” and “Nobody Does it Better” singer/songwriter/would-be diva going 4/4, written and produced by the Gamble and Huff of the disco era and re-claimed at the Hacienda? Yeah, I think I could work with that.

“Why?” doesn’t sound anything like I expected or wanted it to. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what it sounds like. It’s certainly not disco–it’s not nearly propulsive enough, simple enough, or even cathartic enough to qualify as that. What it is falls somewhere in between reggae, funk, and basic 80s balladry, space it shares with no other 80s single that particularly comes to mind and most decidedly not with any of Simon’s other hits. It’s funky but not particularly danceable, moving but not particularly emotional, and extremely of its time but not even particularly dated. With its shuffling rhythm, melancholy synths, bouncing bass line and off-beat guitar stabs, it’s completely hypnotic–musically perplexing, but all the more worthy of thorough investigation because of it.

The lyrics, and Simon’s vocal for it, does much to add to this affect. The lyrics are beyond minimal, consisting almost entirely of two main phrases-the plaintive question of the chorus, “Why does your love hurt so much / tell me why?,” and the song’s primary, possible Annie Hall-influenced lament, “La, di-da, di da…” There are some verses, and they’re effective enough, but it keeps coming back to these two phrases–phrases that don’t say particularly much, but are delivered by Simon with the same sort of flustered misery that the whole song is tinged with. Carly definitely rides the backseat to the production of Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Nils Rodgers on this one, but she does all she needs to do to get these phrases stuck in your brain for years and years to come (especially in the 12″ edit, which just makes you realize how the song still isn’t nearly as long as you’d like).

The video doesn’t help to simplify matters. It’s just as enigmatic as the song itself, with Simon splitting time dancing on the New York sidewalk (possibly outside the same building in which Debbie Harry and the Blondie gang were partying in the “Rapture” video), antogizing various people in the streets, and getting what appears to be the entire city to sing along with the “la, di-da, di-da” part. From the era before people really figured out how to properly use music videos, “Why” is a wildly inappropriate clip, asking Simon to look, act and dance like a pop star (none of which she is particularly up to the ask of doing) and then asking all of NYC (probably more people than ever bought the single itself, anyway) to sing along with a song that barely makes sense coming from one romantically perplexed individual, let alone a whole city. Yet, it doesn’t feel particularly wrong either–“Why?” is a song so puzzling that it is essentially video proof, so having an extremely unfit video ironically makes more sense for the song than having a logical one.

Perhaps most fascinating of all, however, is how enduring the song (a mere #74 ranking on the Billboard charts, at least 60 lower than her abysmal “Jessie” from a few years prior) has become to different musical scenes. Aside from the liking the late-80s UK dance crowd took to it (it does sort of have a Madchester groove to it, I suppose), A Tribe Called Quest used it as the backing track to a remix of one of their best early singles, “Bonita Applebaum.” Then about a decade later, British ragga-ist Glamma Kid cut it up with some of his own toasting for a UK top ten hit in ’99. None of these songs endured particularly well, but they demonstrate how the song sort of lingers in the public memory–omnipresent but never intrusive, forgettable for months until one day you start humming “La, di-da, di-da” and then you’re hooked for weeks.
Apparently a version of Chic doing the song themselves exists out there somehwere, too. I’m intrigued, but somehow I don’t imagine it’d be as good–the song needs a blank slate like Carly to work its bizarre ambiguity, and Chic might just be too musically committed an act for the song’s singularity to survive them.

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Don’t You Forget About Me: Loleatta Holloway’s “Love Sensation,” Jocelyn Brown’s “Love’s Gonna Get You” and the Diva House That Ensued

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 10, 2008

And time won’t take my love away….

One of my favorite things about the cannibalistic nature of both and dance and hip-hop culture–or, to be more accurate I suppose, just DJ culture in general–is how the songs most frequently drawn from are so often songs that barely anyone outside the culture would recognize heard on their own. The songs that essentially form the base of these sample-based genres, songs like Kraftwerk’s “Numbers,” Dennis Edwards’ “Don’t Look Any Further,” and Bob James’ “Take Me to the Mardi Gras,” get used in so many different ways by so many different hit songs, yet as songs they’re all completely anonymous to the general public. You’d think that these core tracks would have to some pretty hot shit on their own. Yet such, I suppose, is often the challenge of a good DJ–to take that which is unremarkable and make it so.

Even still, I’m always blown away when I listen to “Love Sensation” and “Love’s Gonna Get You.” I’ll forever associate the two together, for a number of reasons. Both are sung by artists who were probably relatively farmiliar to anyone on the club scene in the 80s that was in the know, but largely unknown elsewhere. Both are extremely soulful ballads at the core, maintaining my position that both bliss and heartache always sound more compelling at over 120 bpm. And without either, diva house (hi-NRG dance with shouty chick vocals; C&C Music Factory, Deee-Lite, “Vogue”) would probably not exist as we know it–not only because of how influential the two songs most likely were, but in the fact that so many of the signature hits of the diva house era were basically carved out of already-existing chunks of those two songs–five of the 90s’ bigger and better dance hits, in fact. Yet–I hadn’t heard of either before, had you?

If you recognize Loleatta Holloway’s name, it’s likely from her appearance on Marky Mark + the Funky Bunch’s 1991 #1 hit “Good Vibrations,” in which Loleatta sang the chorus hook. This is taken straight from a couple of pieced together sections in “Love Sensation,” in which it appears as one line in a sort of off-the-cuff verse section. Loleatta was given credit from her sampled vocals out of respect from the Bunch, partly because “Love Sensation” had been blatantly ripped from a year or two earlier when Black Box used a whole bunch of different sections of her vocal in this song on their UK smash “Ride on Time,” but did not credit her for them (and started a long and controversial trend of getting a hot model chick to lip synch the fat diva lady’s parts in the video). Then, a few years later, Moby took yet another different section of the vocal hook in his “Move (You Make Me Feel So Good).” Apparently Samantha Fox’s “I Wanna Have Some Fun” uses some part of it too, but it’s definitely not the “S-S-S-S-SAMANTHA FOX!” part so I don’t really care about that.

The resume of Jocelyn Brown’s “Love’s Gonna Get You” isn’t quite so vast (to my knowledge, anyway), but is no less striking. Immediately, even by the song’s title, you might get the hint that this song had something to do with Bizarre Inc’s ecstatic mid-90s dance classic “I’m Gonna Get You” (easily one of my ten favorite dance songs of the whole decade), and indeed, the song sources both the “I’m gonna get you yesss I am!!!” and the “WHY WASTE YOUR TIME?? YOU KNOW YOU’RE GONNA BE MINE!” hooks. But even more of a treat is to be found at the 3:00 minute mark, when the clarion call–well, maybe just the backup clarion call, since C&C Music Factory are nowhere to be found here–of all diva house is heard in its original form–“I’VE GOT THE POW-AH!

And I guess the question is, why doesn’t anyone know about these two songs? And i guess the answer is–these two songs just aren’t nearly as good as the half-dozen or so they helped spawn. I listen through them and I only perk up for the parts I’ve already mentally underlined, and when I try to think of how they go, the only parts that run through my head are those. Still, there are worse fates than being the under-recognized architects, accidentally or not, of nearly an entire subgenre of music. Especially when you’ve got nerds like me to discover you ever now an dthen and fawn over your innovations.

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