365 Day Song Challenge: Day 63 – “I Got You Babe”

Day 63: Your favorite duet.

“I Got You Babe” – UB40 featuring Mo Birch

UB40 - CCCP: Live In MoscowI hear you saying “Who the hell is Mo Birch?” Well, if you’ll hold your horses and be patient for a minute, I’ll tell you. Chill out.

So when you think of a duet, what qualifies? Does it have to be boy/girl or are two singers of the same gender okay? Do the people have to actually sing together (like, same words at the same time)? Or is it enough to have two people who don’t normally perform together on the same track? Does the credit have to include “&” or “And” or can you include “featuring” or “with”?

Because if you swap those criteria in or out, I’d have different answers.

So it’s a little mind-boggling to try to work all that out. (Read: it’s handy that I can obfuscate my confusion and indecision by pushing the vagaries of the challenge back on its creators.)

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I wanted to avoid songs by artists I’ve already featured, but that’s getting harder to do with each passing day. So finally I just sucked it up and decided.

I’m going to get flack for not picking “Under Pressure” and I may lose my Genesis cred by not picking one of a few Phil Collins duets (for the record, I hate “Separate Lives,” so that wasn’t even an option, but “Easy Lover” was). For something more obscure I thought about “Candy” by Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson (of the B-52’s). I even considered “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink and Nate Ruess (from fun.) which I like very much, but decided against it.

No, in the end I picked a song that most of you know, but a version most of you haven’t heard. “I Got You Babe” was originally by Sonny & Cher, and in 1985 UB40 and Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders) did a cover of it. While I like Sonny & Cher’s version for its period kitsch, I think the song does lend itself to a reggae beat quite well.

As I’ve mentioned, in 1985 when the UB40 version with Chrissie Hynde was released, I didn’t care much. It was only afterward that I really latched on to UB40 (and reggae in general). Even with that 20/20 hindsight, the recording on the album is a little flat. Chrissie Hynde is not the most dynamic vocalist and the keyboard voice chosen for the riff was so-so at best.

In 1988, after seeing UB40 live, my friend Amy bought me a copy of CCCP Live In Moscow for Christmas. Back then, the Iron Curtain had not yet fallen, and bands from the West were not generally allowed to play in the Soviet Union. So it was a special treat and the crowd was obviously very much into it. I enjoyed it because it reflected my then-recent live experience well. And overall, there was simply more life to the live renditions than the studio recordings.

But “I Got You Babe” was more. It was an epiphany. I loved it from the moment the band’s toaster, Astro (who recently left the band), announced “We’re going to do an old 60s number… originally done by Sonny & Cherski… ‘I Got You Babovich.'”

Mo Birch, (I told you I’d get there) was one of the band’s regular backup singers both live and on record. She took the Cher/Chrissie Hynde part in live shows and her performance gave the song more life than it had in either of the studio versions I’ve mentioned.

And then there were the horns. The weak keyboard voice from the album track was replaced with UB40’s horn section and the difference is amazing. So this duet has been high on my list for a long time, and as good (even great) as some of the other songs that I’ve mentioned are, this one has a special place in my heart.

That said, Laura told me about hearing the isolated vocals from “Under Pressure.” So I had to check it out. She was right. The domination of the bass line and the backing tracks in general hide how amazing the vocals really are.

It still wasn’t enough to sway me. The power of Mo Birch is just too much to overcome…

Have a listen, anyway:

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 62 – “Jessie’s Girl”

Day 62. Your favorite song by a singer turned actor.

“Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield

Jessie's GirlWho would’ve thought it would be so hard to come up with singers turned actors? Sometimes it seems like every other singer on earth thinks they can act, and just about every actor thinks they can sing. So why is it so hard to find some that actually made the crossover? I mean even my buddy Ric Ocasek has some acting roles in things like Hairspray and others.

But since it’s looking for a favorite, this post seems to beg for someone who was actually successful at both. That list is even smaller.

In terms of actors who later became singers and were much more successful at the latter, I think Janet Jackson (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty) is probably the one that comes to mind first. She was on “Good Times” and had some other guest stints (like on “Diff’rent Strokes”) but I’m guessing no one really thinks of her as an actor. (She couldn’t even really feign surprise during the “wardrobe malfunction,” after all.)

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So when it came to favorites, I figured I had to go with Rick Springfield. And if you’re going to go with Rick Springfield, you probably have to go with “Jessie’s Girl.” (Although “I’ve Done Everything For You” is every bit as good a song.) The problem is, short of remembering hearing it while roller skating as a kid, I don’t really have a story to go with it. (And even less of one for “I’ve Done Everything For You.”)

I do have some commentary. though. What I find baffling is that the lyrics are apparently a true story (with the names changed to protect the innocent). Before he was a successful actor or singer or anything, Rick Springfield had a friend. And that friend had a girlfriend. And Rick wanted that girlfriend in a bad way. And Rick never got said girl. Ever.

For those that don’t know, Rick Springfield released Working Class Dog in 1981 and upon release it instantly went… nowhere. So he took a job on “General Hospital” as Dr. Noah Drake or Dr. Drake Ramoré or Dr. Dre or something like that. And then the music got popular. And because his music was popular, “General Hospital” got more popular. And as “General Hospital” got more popular… well, you get the picture. There was lots of popularity flying back and forth.

But back to “Jessie’s Girl.”

Now, songs about a guy wanting his friend’s girl are nothing new. The music world is filled with them. (Um, “My Best Friend’s Girl” anyone?) Heck, Country Music is practically built on the concept.

I’m told that Mr. Springfield was a good-looking guy. What are the odds that his buddy is better looking? Or more lovable? Or, in time, more rich? Because what I find bizarre is that after all this happened, that Jessie’s Girl didn’t have an epiphany.

Are you telling me that she couldn’t figure out “Hmm… We used to know Rick. We all used to hang out a lot. Hey! That song is about me?” Sure, at the time he’s a broke actor/singer/whatever, but once he’s famous and rolling in dough, wouldn’t you think she’d rethink things and maybe change her mind?

I dunno. Maybe I’m being cynical. Maybe Jessie and his girl had found true love and it conquered all. Maybe people aren’t as shallow as I think. Because, after all, I like to think I’m not that shallow. But maybe I am, since I’m on this train of thought?

At any rate, Rick had a string of hit singles and albums, and a good gig at GH for a while. And then the 80s ended and things didn’t go quite as well. His album sales trailed off and he ended up doing a bunch of weird sci-fi things that didn’t do much. And today, while I’m sure he’s not living in poverty, he’s not the hot commodity he once was. And reportedly he’s an abusive, cheating, sex addict.

So maybe Jessie’s girl was smart after all.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 61 – “U Can’t Touch This”

Day 61. A song that you like to sing in the shower.

“U Can’t Touch This” – MC Hammer

U Can't Touch ThisThe issue with today’s post is that I generally don’t sing in the shower. I find that shower time is idea time for me. I tend to think about the things that are going on, and often I’ll get some of my best ideas while I’m thinking about the day, some problem that I’m trying to address, or some other challenge. So there’s usually no time for singing.

But every third Wednesday of the month, if I happen to be in the shower between 8:45 and 8:47 I might get crazy and sing a little something.

Many people might not know this, but I do voices. (I hear them, too, but that’s a whole different blog post.) And I’ve got a pretty good ear for accents. Most of the time, I do them for my own personal entertainment, but I’ve always had visions of doing voice-over work or finding some other creative outlet for them.

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Back in the day, before “U Can’t Touch This” was relegated to irrelevancy and MC Hammer still had money, I created this character (which, in retrospect, would likely be considered racist, even though I never meant it that way) called “MC Hammed.” Basically a guy with an Indian accent who wanted to be a rapper and thought “U Can’t Touch Dis” (sic) would be a great way to break into the business.

It never got very far as a concept (mostly because I could never find something that rhymed with “Vishnu” and, oh yeah, “Mohammed” isn’t really an Indian name). But at the very least I had spent enough time thinking about it that it’s permanently stuck in my head. (Hmm, that could be a good blog name.)

So occasionally, I will break into MC Hammed’s “U Can’t Touch Dis.” And then I might think about how it’s sad that I never really pursued it. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but maybe I can ride the wave when there’s hoopla on the 25th anniversary of its release… next year.

That’s about it, though. Even if I do sing something in the shower, it’s most likely a one-off. Maybe “3AM” by Matchbox 20. Or a rousing rendition of “I Will Always Love You” (the Dolly Parton version, not the Whitney Houston version) or “Girl You Know It’s True” by Milli Vanilli (but not very often, because frankly, there isn’t enough room in the shower to do the dance justice).

Or not.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 60 – “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Day 60. Your favorite movie-moment song.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

I see a little silhouetto of a man...Yeah, yeah. I didn’t pick “In Your Eyes” from Say Anything… Big deal. I’ve never been a huge fan of the movie (which in and of itself is probably enough to get my “Child of the 80s” membership card revoked) and at this point, it would practically be bordering on cliché to pick it anyway.

Deal with it.

I thought about picking “Tiny Dancer” from Almost Famous, but I’ve only seen the movie once, and while it was a really good movie moment, I can’t call it my favorite.

You’ll have to deal with that, too.

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Just to show I have nothing personally against John Cusack (his sister is a whole other matter), I even considered choosing “Dry The Rain” by the Beta Band from High Fidelity, but I decided against that because I figured no one really knew the song, or possibly even the movie. (If you haven’t seen it, see it.) Not to mention, it’s a pretty short scene.

But back to the first two. There’s no question they’re both heartwarming moments, but I’m a goofy comedy guy at heart. So even “Shout” from Animal House was in the running. In the end, I had to go with Wayne and Garth.

Movie moment aside, I would also say that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a better song than any of the others. (“In Your Eyes” is a close second, though.) It’s a brilliant piece of music, with its suite-like construction, faux opera moments and story of despair. It was a potential choice for the “song I wish I’d written” post.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” appeared on A Night At The Opera and was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who has a reputation for layering lots of vocal tracks on songs. That certainly played to his advantage here, where a four piece band sounds like an entire choir in places. Per Wikipedia: “The choir effect was created by having May, Mercury, and Taylor sing their vocal parts continually for ten to twelve hours a day, resulting in 180 separate overdubs.”

But it’s the performance in the movie that goes along with the song that makes it a favorite. It doesn’t just accompany the movie, it’s part of the performance. It’s funny enough that everyone is singing along, even the friend suffering from “party burnout.” But I defy you to get to the part where everyone starts head banging and not laugh out loud.

I can’t be alone, both in liking the song, and the movie moment. “Bohemian Rhapsody” charted again in 1992 on the strength of its inclusion in Wayne’s World, reaching #2 in the US (which incidentally is 7 places higher than its original 1975 release), whereas the re-release of “In Your Eyes” didn’t crack the Top 40.

So you can keep all your sappy Lloyd Dobler boom-box-holding drama. I’ll take the lip-syncing “teenagers.”

Party on, Garth.
Party on, Wayne.

“I think we’ll go with a little ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ gentlemen.”