Category Archives: the ’90s

test your musical knowledge with my favorite game

Hello, old pal, it’s been a long time. Too, too long. So long, in fact, that I wasn’t sure I was going to remember my login and password. But my long-term memory came through, and here I am. Continue reading


bad, bad = good, good

They say there are no new ideas, a thought that is particularly evident in today’s cineplexes — Friends with Benefits/No Strings Attached, anyone? (Thanks to Blind Film Critic, now you don’t have to see either of them.)

But in the world of music, I would think it’s especially difficult to come up with unique titles for songs. So I don’t blame musicians for going with one-word titles that will inevitably get (or already have been) co-opted by others. In fact, I think it’s pretty cool that one song title can represent two (or more) entirely different but equally awesome songs. I took a quick trip through my iTunes and found these musical homonyms, which I present to you face-off style. Any more to add to the list? Any thoughts on your favorites? Post a comment below!

Bad, U2 vs. Bad, Michael Jackson:  The ultimate same-name song-off, and also the genesis of this blog post, thanks to Tim’s astute observation (thanks for the blog title idea, too, dear!). Although both are marquee tracks in their respective artists’ libraries, I think we all know I’m gonna go with U2 on this one. If I could (vote for both), you know I would, if I could, I would…

All I Want, The Cure vs. All I Want, LCD Soundsystem: This is a tough one — do I go with the moody aggressiveness of the former, or the up-tempo melancholy of the latter? I think LCD Soundsystem takes it by a nose.

All I Need, Radiohead vs. All I Need, Jack Wagner: Can I really choose an ’80s soap opera star over one of the greatest bands of all time?  Yes, I can. Frisco Jones, come home to Port Charles ASAP.

Amsterdam, Coldplay vs. Amsterdam, Peter Bjorn and John: I much prefer the peppy Peter Bjorn and John version, even if they do tend to abuse the whole whistling thing. This song better captures what I believe Amsterdam to be like…and I just think it’s fun.

Black, Pearl Jam vs. Black, Pete Yorn: This is one of my favorite songs from both artists. One makes me feel a little sad, and one makes me feel a little happy. So I think this one has to be a tie.

Bye Bye Love, The Everly Brothers vs. Bye Bye Love, The Cars: As adorable as The Everly Brothers are, and as much as I love a good harmony, no one beats The Cars in my book.

Cherry Bomb, The Runaways vs. Cherry Bomb, John Mellencamp: It’s been tough for me to forgive Hollywood for casting Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, but obviously I’m gonna go with The Runaways on this one. To be fair, I should mention this is probably my least favorite John Mellencamp song (not to mention one of the stupidest music videos ever made), so it was never really a competition. P.S. How great are the Japanese subtitles on the Runaways clip?

Crazy For You, Best Coast vs. Crazy For You, Madonna: As I much as I love Best Coast and the short and breezy version of this song title, Madonna takes this round. Mainly for her terribly off-key performance in the best ever ’80s wrestling movie starring Tim-doppelganger Matthew Modine. You’re going to have to watch the movie to hear how horrible she sounds — this video uses the studio recording. I’m sure Madonna has expunged every clip of that performance from the Internet. But she can’t destroy all the copies of Vision Quest, now can she?

Creep, Radiohead vs. Creep, Stone Temple Pilots vs. Creep, TLC: This is hardly my favorite song from any of these beloved groups. But TLC clearly is the winner for a number of reasons: 1) They use creep as a verb. 2) They use creep to mean how they go about cheating on their man. 3) They were gigantic oversized pajamas with waistbands that make them look like boxers (the fighters, not the underwear).

You Talk (Way) Too Much, The Strokes vs. You Talk Too Much, Run DMC: Okay, the titles aren’t exactly the same, but I just love both of these songs so much. A total tie.

Dreams, Fleetwood Mac vs. Dreams, Van Halen: I happen to be a Van Hagar fan, and I always loved the Blue Angels video. In fact, when I would watch those cool planes fly by during SF Fleet Week this song always played in my head. But Fleetwood Mac’s is undoubtedly the superior Dreams-related song.

Forever Young, Rod Stewart vs. Forever Young, Alphaville: Not even a fight. While the cheesy, graduation-song sentiment of both songs really turns me off, only Stewart’s version actually makes me want to vomit. And you don’t have to be a musical genius to know that Jay-Z was never going to sample that crap.

Gloria, U2 vs. Gloria, Laura Branigan: Bono, I love you, but Laura Branigan always wins this fight. Watch this performance on VH-1, you’ll see.

I Go Crazy, Flesh For Lulu vs. I Go Crazy, Paul Davis: I truly had no idea that Paul Davis could be mistaken for a member of ZZ Top until just this minute, which kind of makes me want to choose him. Never has a voice less fit a face (except for maybe Christopher Cross). It’s a beautiful song and it brings back fond memories of cruising around with my parents in their maroon Chevy Caprice Classic in the ’70s. But it’s not featured in Some Kind of Wonderful, which is the best movie soundtrack of all time. So Flesh For Lulu wins, because I have even more fond memories of the ’80s.

Honorable Mention — Boys Don’t Cry, The Cure vs. I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Boys Don’t Cry: So it’s not exactly the same thing. But I always loved that there was a band called Boys Don’t Cry and that this song of all songs is what they sang. It just makes me laugh — and the video is absolutely remarkable. As for the Cure’s version, it’s definitely in the top 5 of their catalog.

celebrating 20 years of pearl jam

Most days, my musical tastes skew more toward the big hair and neon of the ’80s. But being a teenager in the ’90s definitely influenced my musical tastes. I mean, it was practically considered heresy to be a young adult during that decade and not enjoy The Grunge. I donned some flannel at times (as a “nod to the crisp Seattle weather”), and my very moody  teenaged mind felt a real connection to the angry, anti-social, existential, poignant lyrics that came from the bands offering up the Seattle Sound. I enjoyed it all, from Nirvana to Alice in Chains. But the band that stood out amongst the rest for me was Pearl Jam. From the hardest rock jams to the deepest, darkest ballads, they held the top spot in my stereo for a long time. It’s hard to believe they are celebrating their 20th year as a band, because that means I’m definitely not 20 anymore. They will be embarking on an anniversary tour at the end of summer…too bad it’s all in Canada, save for one show in Wisconsin. I might just have to make the trek to the Great White North for the occasion.

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it’s the music that makes the movies

Movies and music go hand in hand. A good movie has a solid plot, a sharp screenplay and impressive acting. Add to that mix some memorable tunes, and you’ve got a great movie.

Everyone knows those songs considered to be theme songs for their respective movie: “Danger Zone” and “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun, “In Your Eyes” from Say Anything, “Footloose” from, well, Footloose. But there’s another class of movie music that does just as much to make a movie as those overplayed “theme” songs. These songs weren’t necessarily written for the movie, but their presence has elevated certain movie scenes to classic status, and in doing so, the music and movie are now inextricably connected. Take heed: several of these clips are for mature audiences only.

1. “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger: Boogie Nights
This is one of the most tense but hilarious scenes from a movie ever. It is impossible to hear this song and not think of the wacked-out crackhead in his bikinis “motoring” while this random Asian boy lights poppers. The increased intensity of the song beautifully mirrors the increased anxiety Dirk Diggler and crew feel as they try to get out of an ill-advised drug deal unscathed.
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rediscovering a source of inspiration

When I was in 8th and 9th grade, I was obsessed with the movie Lean on Me. I was so inspired by the story of Principal Joe Clark and the crazy tough-love tactics he used to turn around his New Jersey high school. After my grandpa met Clark I even hung the autographed movie poster he brought me on my bedroom wall.  I’m watching the movie again after a number of years and am wondering if a seed wasn’t planted in the back of my brain, way back then, that eventually led me down the path to becoming a teacher. Although I teach at a school of relative privilege, my students face many of the same challenges as those in the movie — drugs, violence, teen pregnancy — and if I can do just the tiniest bit to steer them in the right direction, I suppose I will have accomplished what I set out to do. And maybe Principal Clark would be proud.

Here’s one of my favorite parts of the movie, featuring ’90s R&B group Riff:

why U2 is tops in my book

“This song is not a rebel song, this song is …”

If you were anywhere between the ages of 5 and 35 in 1983 you’ve already finished this sentence, and you’re already imagining Bono marching in combat boots under the lights of Colorado’s Red Rocks to the opening militaristic drum beats of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.

It’s just one of the many influential U2 moments that those of us of a certain age hold dear. For most people my age, U2 is like our Beatles or Rolling Stones, their many sweeping anthems inextricably intertwined into our collective memory. You can hear their enduring influence whenever you turn on the radio — the most obvious (and overdone) comparison is Coldplay, but I find traces (for better or worse) of U2 in such varied artists as The Killers, Radiohead, Broken Bells, Mumford & Sons, Train and Daughtry, to name a few. U2 hasn’t quite gained retro caché with today’s teens, the way Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and others did for those of us who were teens in the ’90s. In fact, I’m pretty sure most teenagers cannot name  a single U2 song (I’ve tested this in class before). But it should only be a matter of time before the kids start showing up to school in vintage Under a Blood Red Sky t-shirts. U2 is the Milennials’ best candidate for Band My Parents Like But I’m Okay With Also Liking Because They Are So Tight (“tight” is slang for “cool” for those of you who don’t frequently hang out with teenagers).

My friend Katy and I recently had a discussion about our favorite U2 songs, and it got me thinking of the lasting influence of this Irish quartet, both in my own life and on music in general. Click here to see Click here to see our top picks.

It seems that Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton have just always been there. I was 8 in 1983, and I remember watching those early MTV videos — the aforementioned Red Rocks clip, the Scandinavian artsiness of “New Year’s Day” and the floating barge performance of “Gloria”, featuring a neon-yellow-haired Adam. But it wasn’t until 9th grade that I really began to cultivate my U2 obsession. Much of the credit goes to my friend Heather, whose undying love for Bono was illustrated in her ultimate fantasy: that he would walk past her bedroom door, turn slowly, flash her a sexy Irish smile, then keep on walking. That’s it. She didn’t want to ask for more, for fear of being disappointed should Bono be a bad conversationalist, or worse, a bad kisser. (This deep level of fan worship was hilariously conveyed in Troy’s love for LeVar Burton in the most recent episode of “Community”.) Heather knew every word to every U2 song, and after hours of listening to them with her, I wanted to, too. It was a moment in time ripe for U2-loving — the band was riding high on the critical and commercial success of The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby was just around the corner. The latter was probably the most played album of my high school career.

I loved all versions of the band — the social statement-making angry youths of Boy and War, the spiritual seekers of The Joshua Tree, even the later ’90s pop concepty stuff of Zooropa and Pop (which I’ll admit I hated at first, but can now appreciate for the tongue-in-cheek weirdness). I also loved all versions of Bono, from the John Cougar-esque mullet and tank-top wearing activist to the fly glasses and MacPhisto red devil horns of the Zoo TV tour (which my friends and I saw twice). But my all-time favorite Bono is the sleek, long-haired “With or Without You” Bono. This is the Bono that captured our high school hearts.

U2 was present on our radios and TVs — I have no idea how many times I’ve seen Rattle and Hum or U2: Zoo TV Live from Sydney — even in our bars: we closed out many college nights at Maloney’s with the live from Sun Devil Stadium version of “Where the Streets Have No Name”. I carried my love for them to San Francisco, and was relieved to learn on our first date that Tim was also a superfan. I don’t think I could be married to someone who doesn’t love U2.

Somewhere along the way, though, I lost some enthusiasm for U2. Perhaps I burned out, or perhaps I subconsciously wanted to distance myself from the aging rockers so I, in turn, didn’t feel so aged. All That You Can’t Leave Behind is a really good album — it’s tough not to be motivated to get happy by a song like “Beautiful Day” — and though I don’t listen to them very often, I do like some of their two most recent albums. But these later works just don’t grab me like the band’s earlier stuff. I happen to love the ambassador-to-the-world, elder statesman persona Bono has adopted; I am impressed and inspired by his tireless commitment to the causes he champions. But, for me, Bono will always be that self-assured, intense young rocker. I guess we always hold the softest spot in our hearts for the imagery of our coming of age. And, to be honest, the band’s current status as the reigning Adult Contemporary artist just makes me feel old.

Don’t get me wrong, the members of U2 are still my favorite Irishmen. And, though I hate to pick a favorite, I guess I can’t deny they hold the top spot as my all-time favorite band. It’s nearly impossible to narrow down their extensively awesome music catalog into a Top 5 list, but I asked some friends and fellow U2 lovers to do just that. Here’s what they came up with:

Our Top Picks

Katy’s Top 5 (in no particular order)
“Red Hill Mining Town”
“In God’s Country”
“I Will Follow”
“A Sort of Homecoming”

Michelle’s Top 6 (couldn’t narrow it to 5)
“Party Girl”
“With or Without You”
“Where the Streets Have No Name”
“I Will Follow”
“A Sort of Homecoming”

Tim’s Top 5 (in order)
5. “Running to Stand Still”
4. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
3. “Where the Streets Have No Name”
2. “Bad”
1. “Elevation” (From Tim: “If possible, I strongly recommend hearing this song at the Rose Bowl ten feet from Bono with a 100,000 fans clamoring along.  Good times.”)

Kristy’s Top 5 (this was really hard)
5. “Running to Stand Still”
4. “Party Girl”
3. “Red Hill Mining Town”
2. “Bad”
1. “I Will Follow”
Honorable Mentions: “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, “Bullet the Blue Sky”, “Until the End of the World”

“This is a song called ‘Party Girl'”

What are you favorite U2 songs?

on that funny sap

We first bonded over a Greek slave gladiator freedom fighter.

Twenty birthdays later, we still find new and wacky ways to make each other laugh. She just texted me the other night to tell me she watched Bill Cosby Himself, because we have long enjoyed the line “Dad is great! Gave us chocolate cake!” Continue reading