SotD: Ben Folds Five, “Best Imitation of Myself”

In fall 95 I spent a weekend in Ft. Wayne, IN, playing at a regional bridge tournament with my friend Mark.  On the way home that Sunday night, I caught a show on the radio featuring Ben Folds Five, a mix of interview and in-studio playing.  I still remember three of the songs they played: “Underground,” “Philosophy,” and “Song for the Dumped.”  The first two of those were featured on their debut disk; the third was recorded later for the follow-up.  I was impressed enough to go out and get the disk, and it’s become one of my all-time favorites.

I remember back in college my friend Warren claiming that Making Movies by Dire Straits might be the greatest album of all-time by a trio; I’d think about making the case that Ben Folds Five (featuring only piano, bass, and drums) deserves to be in the conversation.  It’s got melody and hooks galore (“Philosophy” includes an homage to “Rhapsody in Blue”), interesting off-beat topics (an interview between Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali, the mosh pit scene at clubs), and maybe most of all, energy, confidence, and flair.

My top track on BFF is this one.  It’s a witty take on the question of “who’s really behind that mask?”

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 1

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

“You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms. The most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?”

“The Breakfast Club” was one of the iconic movies of my college years. I saw it when first released and probably a time or two since; it’s a pretty good flick. Today’s song appears at the end of the movie, as the Club’s essay, quoted above, is read in their voices. My understanding is that Billy Idol was given first crack at it, but it wound up with Simple Minds. Keith Forsey, Billy’s producer, stayed at the helm and it sounds like he tried to make Jim Kerr’s voice a little Idol-esque. It was #1 the third weekend of May 1985.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 7/30/83

One of the great kiss-off songs of the 80s. Lots of good venom here! This was Briley’s only American hit.

Several years ago I assembled the tunes on this countdown into a playlist; a primary reason was for some of the songs present at the bottom: this one (it’s at its peak of #36), “Slipping Away” by Dave Edmunds (its only week on, at #39), and “Pieces of Ice” by Diana Ross. Lots of fun stuff towards the top, too. 83 is turning out to be one of my favorite years for popular music as I look back.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 1, Song 11

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

I can precisely peg the moment collecting LPs (and subsequently CDs) became part of my identity: a weekend night in February 1984, probably Saturday the 11th. There were a couple of albums I was interested in checking out, so it was over to Cut Corner Records (now CD Central), which in my college days was located over the old Tolly-Ho at the corner of Limestone and Euclid in Lexington. It’s difficult to overstate the impact those two records, along with a third I got a few days later, had on the development of my future musical explorations.

One of the albums I got that night was U2’s War. This is still my favorite of theirs, though Achtung Baby comes close. I don’t have any of their songs on these two tapes, but they were central to my listening at the time.

The other was Marshall Crenshaw’s debut, eponymous record. “Someday, Someway” had been one of my favorites in late summer 82, and I’d read good things about the album. I wasn’t disappointed–twelve magnificent pop songs, all clocking in at 3:10 or under. This is one of its best tracks. His style evolved somewhat over the years but I bought and enjoyed just about everything he put out through the mid-90s.

(Oh, and the third album? Come back Thursday.)

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 1, Song 10

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

“New wave” sprung out of the punk movement in the latish 70s in the UK but soon spread to the US and other parts of the globe. It’s a term that has been applied to so many bands that it’s been rendered almost meaningless. That said, it’s easy for me to see that my musical tastes through most of the 80s and even beyond clearly aligned most closely with this “movement” and its evolution(s).

Whatever “new wave” is, this song certainly qualifies. A #3 hit in Britain, it made #36 in the US toward the end of 1980.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 7/26/75

A year before this countdown, George McCrae, a heretofore unknown soul singer, had just peaked at #1 with “Rock Your Baby,” written by two members of a struggling Florida band. The original intention had been to give the song to George’s wife Gwen, but by the time she got to the studio George had already laid down the tracks that would become his big hit. Gwen did get her chance for real reasonably soon afterward: this is at #10, one short of its peak position. It’s one I clearly remember hearing on the car radio at the time.

One week after this countdown, the songwriters of “Rock Your Baby,” Harry Casey and Rick Finch, made their first appearance on AT40 as members of KC and the Sunshine Band with “Get Down Tonight;” their time in the spotlight was just about to begin.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 1, Song 9

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

If you’re trying to think about what might be coming next and guessed today’s song has a video that features Madonna writhing around in the middle of a road, all I can say is… you’re right.

I guess I’d been digging on “Borderline” and “Lucky Star” in the summer of 84, because I purchased her first album (which this comes from) early that fall semester, just a few weeks before she became a superstar with Like A Virgin. There are a number of Madonna tracks from the 80s that I still rather like, and honestly, I think a few are great songs. Alas, though it’s okay enough, I can’t say that this is one of them…