We Need a Holiday: A Six Pack and Playlist

Memorial Day 2018

I always start from the premise that it’s important to remember why we even have a holiday called Memorial Day.

So, as I’ve been doing for decades now, I’ll turn out early on Monday to watch the parade and remember that our freedoms come at a cost measured in sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

At the same time, I’m not immune to this being the start of the summer season, even if, once again, the northeast will see more clouds and rain than bright blue skies.  So I’m going to publish early so you have a playlist to enjoy.

This year I’ve decided to feature guilty pleasures. I’m talking pure pop confection. Ear candy that lasts. The kind that riles up the die hard fans of several genres. (But I suspect some of these will register with even the most stubborn opponents.) The playlist contains some deeper cuts from the pre-video era.

Because deep down, we all want to have a little fun.

Even me.

Holiday, Madonna
As a junior in college one of my apartment mates was a campus DJ. I still remember the day when Ron’s roommate, Rodney, accosted me on the quad’s lawn, screaming, “She’s white, I can’t believe she’s white.” Clutched in his hands was the first Madonna album. You didn’t think I’d ignore Madge’s Jellybean Benitez-produced masterpiece, did you? Two songs on the list but just one video.

The Look of Love, Pt. 1, ABC
As the energy of punk’s explosion dissipated there was no better way to irritate true believers than to admit loving pure product.  Martin Fry and co delivered 100% cane sugar. Everything about this delights me. The over-the-top production. The strings. The spoken aside that begins, “My friends say, ‘Martin’…” I loved it in 1982 and still do.

Boz Scaggs, Jojo
It’s hard to remember, Boz Scaggs being such a pop star, that the man from Dallas was a founding member of the Steve Miller Band and is a first-rate guitarist.  After 1976’s Silk Degrees the rockers gave up on Boz and his response was 1980s Middle Man. It was part of the soundtrack of my cab driving days and I still let it roll in my mind when driving down the GCP.

La Vida Loca, Ricky Martin
I tell myself this song is all about the guitars. (I actually say that about a lot of these songs. You want to know what’s wrong with. pop music? No guitars!) But that’s a feint. It’s pure kinetic energy and though I love Ricky Martin’s original I can’t find fault with the Eddie MurphyAntonio Banderas version either. Lighten up and dance.

Careless Whisper, George Michael
Really? An over-the-top ballad? By George Michael? Yup. I’m a sucker for a sax-driven opening (like this one from Jennifer Warnes and this classic from Gerry Raferty). Ladle in great, if buried, guitars and a tale of unrequited love and you’ve got a killer.

Free Your Mind, En Vogue
Even the rockers could get behind this screaming-guitar fueled putdown of prejudice. And why shouldn’t they? Any song sung by four attractive women with lyrics that begin, “I wear tight clothing..” should catch any male’s attention. The metalesque bass and guitar are just icing on the cake. There’s maybe never been a better way to deliver a much-needed message. Someone should start playing it again.

The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss), Cher
I always give a baker’s half-dozen so I’ll end the video portion with this 1990 remake of Betty Everett‘s 1964 R&B hit. It’s a great pop song to start with but Cherilyn Sarkisian, with that big voice, takes it into another dimension. Her cheekbones alone make it worthwhile.

Here’s the link to the playlist:

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