Yes, it’s finally here. The long-awaited companion piece to CRAP I WATCHED DURING 2020.
2020 was a year which I should have spent discovering new music. Artists putting out their self-funded, recorded-in-their-bedroom masterpieces. Or, if not that, at least expanding my knowledge about the rock icons and classic bands I probably should know more about than I do.
I tried. I did a little of those. Yet, not nearly as much as I should have. I took the easy way out. And, in doing so, only cheated myself….
But damn, there were some nights that were really fun.
Like THE CRAP I WATCHED list, there is crap and there is crap. Some of the music I’m about to write about is seriously underappreciated and should be given an honest reevaluation by those that dismissed it. Others, it’s not about being “good” per se. It’s about enjoying it or not.
If I liked it and listened to it a lot, it’s listed. “Good” is an entirely different question and honestly, kind of irrelevant here. That’s not what this post is really about.
OK, let’s begin, shall we? Crap I listened to in 2020….
THE KNACK “GOOD GIRLS DON’T”
Many of you know THE KNACK from their mega-hit “My Sharona.” The catchy as hell song which became a major hit not once, but twice. The first time it took the entire world by storm was when it was released in 1979. The second was with when it was used in the painfully winy and bad “REALITY BITES,” in 1994.
Sadly, the popularity of that song overshadowed some of the other songs they came up with. Their debut album “GET THE KNACK” actually has several memorable tracks on it. The best of which are all about sex.
For example, there is “Frustrated” which is about sexual frustration. There is also my favorite track off the whole album, “Good Girls Don’t.” It’s a song, a very graphic song, about teenage sex. Which would be incredibly wrong and creepy if it weren’t told specifically from a teenage boy’s perspective. OK, it’s still a little creepy. But it’s so damn fun…
Anyway, I often listened to that song and couple of others off the first album. Then I would start to wonder if THE KNACK were woefully underappreciated and deserved more respect.
Those songs from 1979 have an energy, aggressiveness and disregard for “sweet and proper” that reminds me of punk in all the right ways.
But then I listened to the rest of the tracks on the LP and feel almost embarrassed I was even thinking that. They’re just not good. At all. Forgettable pop garbage, if ever there was.
So, this is my solution. Just put on your favorite tracks, skip the ones that are trite and let yourself go. You might feel a little ashamed. Even a little dirty when you wake up the next morning and realize what you’ve done.
But how could it be wrong when it feels so right?
SWEET “FOX ON THE RUN”
OK, there are a lot of music fans which might be upset I put SWEET on a list of “crap.” To a lot of people, fans of 70s music in particular, SWEET deserve a ton of respect as songwriters and musicians. I’m not going to argue with them.
I just know I like this one song. A lot.
“Fox on the Run” was a huge hit in much of the world back in 1975. It reached #5 on the U.S. charts. I like it far more than their other huge U.S. hit, “Ballroom Blitz.” A track which I like but sounds like a novelty song to me instead of a serious rock song.
I own a vinyl copy of (the U.S. version) of DESOLATION BOULEVARD, the album both songs are off of. The rest of it is not nearly as good as “FOX ON THE RUN” but I still enjoy the whole LP.
SWEET definitely had something.
Great rock or bubble gum nonsense? Was SWEET a great band or just a band for kids? Whatever you decide, it’s all good with me.
Just listen to the damn song.
JOE JACKSON “I’M THE MAN”
Joe Jackson isn’t crap. The albums LOOK SHARP and I’M THE MAN are both solid LPs, start to finish. Both display Jackson’s ability to go from high-energy rock to heart-breaking ballad. Both are just damn good.
But then it gets complicated.
Those albums I love and respect were both released the same year (1979). The first was Jackson’s debut, LOOK SHARP, which he followed up almost immediately with I‘M THE MAN. Then came BEAT CRAZY and JUMPIN’ JIVE which were not nearly as good.
And then the real crisis hit.
In 1982 Joe Jackson released NIGHT AND DAY. It was a critical and commercial sensation. It was one of those albums that was impossible not to hear, whether you wanted to or not.
It was everywhere. On the radio, in stores, on TV…
Which is kind of a shame. NIGHT AND DAY had something to it, for sure. Joe Jackson was clearly still a skilled song writer. But there’s something about it that is so soft and mushy. An album so “easy listening” that it gets incredibly grating.
I can’t listen to it.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. Which is a tragic. Joe Jackson was a super-talented guy who made a lot of terrific music.
Even the early ballads like “It’s Different for Girls” are outstanding. But somehow NIGHT AND DAY crossed that line. From rock to shlock. And sadly, that now colors how he is remembered and regarded.
But try to forget all that. Listen to the song “I’m the Man.” Then try those first two albums from 1979.
You’ll see. Crap, it ain’t.
STEVE HARLEY “MAKE ME SMILE”
OK, I can thank TIDAL for this one. I was listening to T. Rex and other glam rock when this guy’s name showed up. I’d never heard of him.
I like this song. Catchy. As in, I couldn’t get it out of my damn head for weeks after hearing it.
Turns out, once upon a time, it was a pretty big hit in the U.K.. Huge, in fact.
“Make me Smile” was #1 on the U.K. charts for nine weeks in 1975. It also appeared on the soundtracks to THE FULL MONTY and VELVET GOLDMINE, as well as being used in a ton of commercials.
And I had never heard of the guy.
More shocking to me was that it wasn’t Harley’s only big hit. He had a number of songs which charted in the U.K. during the 70s.
The thing is, I tried listening to some of those other songs. They are just…bad.
There’s no other way to put it. I just really didn’t see much to like about them. Which, I’m guessing. is what a lot of Americans thought back in 1975, since he never reached the same level of success here.
But, no bother, this song, “Make Me Smile,” this song checks all the right boxes.
THE ASSOCIATION “NEVER MY LOVE”
Ok, it’s shlock. Total, complete, undisguised, easy-listening, muzak shlock. I have no right to criticize Joe Jackson at all if I like this song, I admit it.
But god damn, this song haunts me.
I find myself singing it all the time without realizing it. Walking, cooking, trying to read something that’s too boring to keep my interest….
Anyway, if there were a way to track which song was in my head the most during 2020, it might actually be this one. I’m not saying that’s a good thing. It’s just a fact.
Turns out THE ASSOCIATION were absolute masters of this. During the 1960s they terrorized the listening public with a string of songs which infested their brains and wore down their resistance. They had “Along Comes Mary” and easy listening mainstays “Windy” and, gulp, “Cheerish.”
Oh, my God, what’s happened to me? How? How could I have this in my head all the time. It’s just not right.
But resistance is futile. You’ll see. You laugh now but you’ll see.
CHEAP TRICK “CANDY”
CHEAP TRICK has a lot of fans. People that insist they were a solid rock n’ roll band that is too often disrespected and dismissed as pure bubblegum garbage.
I think I agree with them…kind of.
I am kind of torn. I am a definite fan of the first two albums. Both of which failed on a commercial level. In fact, the above track from the band’s 1977 debut was the only single off the album and it failed to chart.
But those first two LPs are solid. Great, I’m not sure about. But I like them and listened to both a lot during 2020. But, like some of the other bands I’ve been writing about, when it comes to respect, CHEAP TRICK have some problems.
Unlike Joe Jackson, it wasn’t their break-out mega-success that bothers me. Their third LP was a live album. Not just any live album. It was “LIVE AT THE BUDOKAN.”
It went triple-platinum in the U.S. and remains one of the best-selling live albums of all time.
BUDOKAN is a bit bubble gum but still works for me. In fact, some of its biggest hits are live versions of the studio songs from the first two albums. Songs which flopped, initially. Most notably, “I Want you to Want Me,” which is from the second LP.
No, all that is OK with me. It’s the stuff starting after that.
It started with “DREAM POLICE” in 1979 which was already flirting with a different sound. It got far, far worse with songs like “Tonight It’s You” and a track called “Mighty Wings” which was used for the end credits of TOP GUN. Oh, it got bad. Really bad.
There’s good crap and bad crap. Cheap trick did a whole lot of both.
So, there you have it. A small sampling of some of the crap I listened to in the crappiest year of all years, 2020.
Some of these songs are truly great. They are songs worthy of listening to by bands and musicians that were exceptionally talented. Others are kind of OK on the respect meter but maybe, when it comes down to it, not so much.
And some of these songs are just pure garbage. But in a good way.
It’s great garbage. Stuff that sinks into your brain and makes you want more and more of it.
It’s like candy. You know it’s gonna make you kind of sick if you have too much but you can’t help it. And, honestly, that nauseous feeling is a small price to pay for such a satisfying binge.
Indulging and consuming songs like these is pure joy. A “screw you world!” kind of joy that says “I don’t care what you think, I like it!”
And that’s the best kind of all, isn’t it?