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Thursday, 11 January
The Ten Most Embarrassing Songs On My iPod

So this Christmas the wife brought me screaming into 2002 and bought me an iPod. (I had owned an off-brand MP3 player before; it was a blocky little doodad that held about five songs and died in as many months. It was the Benjamin Harrison of MP3 players.) So I've been having a ridiculously good--by which I mean "stupid"--time pillaging my CD collection ("I forgot I owned that! I forgot this band existed!") and iTunes. The latter in particular is very insidious. For 99 cents, you can find practically any stupid fucking song ever recorded . . . sort of. For example, looking up "Maybe I'm Amazed" brings up . . . Jem. From the soundtrack to "The O.C." What? Who cares! It's 99 cents! How bad could it be?

Well . . .

Anyway, like I said, I terrorize iTunes now and again, because, as you will soon see, I'll buy practically anything. Much like, well, everybody.

You know how everyone likes to claim that their musical tastes are "eclectic?" "Oh, I like everything, really." Which is complete bullshit. People may have affinities for certain genres, but by and large, since music is so broad and people are so weird, chances are that they're going to like a lot of other stuff here and there as well. So the fact that I enjoy Lyle Lovett and Alison Krauss a lot does not make me a country fan; it makes me a guy who normally despises country music that happened to find a couple of singular countryish outliers. Everybody has "eclectic" musical tastes, to the extent that everybody can be pleasantly surprised by something unexpected, but it's essentially a meaningless thing we tell ourselves to fool us into thinking we're more broad-minded than we actually are.

This list will also give the lie to any claim I could try and put on the "eclectic" label (and it's a line I've used in the past--it's practically required for college students). I'm pretty obviously just a fan of pop. Oh well. But here are the songs that I am most embarrassed to have on my iPod. And I'm not getting rid of them soon.

"I'm No Angel," Gregg Allman.

It's mainly only embarrassing because, as you will come to see, it's entirely emblematic of my penchant for falling in love with inconsequential, little-heard minor pop near-hits. I don't think it's a bad song qua song, but it's not got a lot going for it either. Fuckers like "I'm No Angel" is why iTunes is so lethal, and why it might ruin some of the coolness of radio in the long run. Over the past ten or fifteen years, I could count on one hand the times I heard this song on the radio, squealing, "Oh, man, I love this weird tune!" Now I can play it whenever I want. That's somehow . . . lamer. I won't again be surprised by this little not-much of a tune, and if I am, it will only be to note, "Oh, weird, I'm hearing this somewhere other than my iPod."

It's kind of charming, though. It's a song about a guy--a guy much like Gregg Allman--who is wooing a woman clearly out of his league. "I might steal your diamonds but I'll bring you gold," he sings, which is not only alarming, but also arguably not a strong economic argument. But my favorite line I find sort of touching. "Come on, baby," he sings, "Come and let me show you my tattoo." Awwwwwwwww. You know he really means it.

"Switchin' to Glide," The Kings

Canadian one-hit-wonders ahoy! Another example of a song I probably heard like five times over the past twenty years, but now I can listen to it over and over until I get some sort of Canadian ear disease. (Though true story: I karaoke'd this song once, and all the plants in the bar died.) What can you say about the Kings? You can say that band members included such names as David Diamond and Mr. Zero! Most bands can't say that! In fact, their keyboard player was named . . . Sammy Keyes!

Another thing you can say is that they recorded this song!

It's just straightforward power pop, but that chorus is some hook, boy. It's mostly that I don't know what I'll have to say to someone if they, for some reason, examine the songs on my iPod and ask me who the fuck the Kings are. You have to realize that I think about things like this.

"Govinda," Kula Shaker

One of the worst things about being an up-and-coming British band must be the realization that, sooner or later, the British musical press might sink their teeth into you. How many shellshocked English bands litter the historical battlefield of musical journalism, lionized by the British press one moment and then eating off-brand dog food a year later? This is what happened to Kula Shaker, an amusing if derivative bunch of fellows who made the sort of music George Harrison would have enjoyed if he had taken a temporal and stylistic left turn and joined Winger. "Govinda" is, typically, an Indian-smushed-into-Beatles vulgar mess, overwrought and overstuffed and overloved by me, at least for a few months at a time.

"Since You're Gone," The Cars
"Since You Been Gone," Rainbow
"Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson

So! Did I download these all at the same time or what? Ha!

Yeah. I did. And yes, I do like all these fucking songs.

I don't know if it's some weird neuronal thing, but my brain loves to find stupid connections like this, which leads me to wonder if there's something else going on behind my inexplicable love for songs by a New Wave-y pop band, a metal-ly pop band and a cockapoo. There must be. Once I excitedly called a radio station--who at the time was playing a gimmick set of songs that shared the same title--to inform the nonplussed DJ that Midnight Oil, Depeche Mode, Erasure and My Bloody Valentine all had songs titled "Sometimes"!

"We don't play any of those bands," he said.

"Attack Ships On Fire," Revolting Cocks

Ah, my fake-industrial years. This song is the version from the live CD You Goddamned Son of a Bitch, whose album art features a Wheel of Fortune wheel littered with barely-redacted porn shots and the immortal liner note, "Remember, RevCo is making the world a better place for you and your hog bitch girlfriend."

I was too much of a wimp-o to really be a true industrial fan. (I felt so tough buying an Einst├╝rzende Neubauten album, and secretly hated myself when I found it to be utterly unlistenable. The cover art of an ejaculating horse probably didn't help.) I instead opted for the industrial-lite metallic bleatings of grouches like Nine Inch Nails, Nitzer Ebb (Hi, Rory) and the Revolting Cocks. This song is pure nostalgia for me, and it has the dork appeal of taking its title from Blade Runner.

"Black Betty," Ram Jam

This is actually a Leadbelly song, which is what makes this so deeply embarrassing: I have this and not the Leadbelly version.

Honestly? I could give a shit about the blues. Most of it I find to be a total bore; all those scratchy old recordings, all that tinny warbling over fumbling guitar strangulation. I'm one ignorant motherfucker, I know. I just can't get into it. It's embarrassing.

It's particularly embarrassing, because admitting that you don't like the blues means that you have no appreciation for the basis of rock, and it's embarrassing because it seems vaguely racist, at least to certain way-too-into-it white guys who self-consciously revere their old blues vinyl by unheard-of artists like No-Shoes Davey and Lacks-Proprioception Gavin.

Fine. I admit all of it. I'm a philistine and a schmuck and I have the ears made of wool. Whatever. I just don't care for the blues. I said it.

And as if to prove my worthlessness, I like this idiotic song. I know it's idiotic. I can hear the idiocy. And yet.

"The Difficult Kind," Sheryl Crow

Is there anything quite like the dawning horror of realizing that you really like a song by an artist that you normally wish would just fall off a tall building? Admit it, it's happened to you. I can't even talk about this.

"Find Your Way Back," Starship

Ah, this is hard. Is there any other group that so eagerly and so energetically betrayed the astounding amount of talent and prowess that it exhibited in its early years than Jefferson Airplane? (I also have the fucking outstanding "Volunteers" on my iPod, just to balance things out.) I suppose one could make a case for Rod Stewart, but he's not a group, and plus, after only a few minutes of trying to think about the whole thing, you will probably become a heroin addict.

Why do I like this awful cheese log of a song? Something must have happened to me beyond my conscious level to make me like it, since it is utterly schizophrenic and sounds like the love song a dog would compose after humping a Mr. Potato Head. I truly do not understand it on any level. It's like four horrible songs all taking the same desolate onramp to damnation, with Grace Slick screaming like someone jammed an airhorn into her snatch.

How embarrassed about this song am I? I once skipped past it while I was in the grocery store because I was afraid that someone would figure out what I was listening to from the earbud leakage. But I didn't erase it.

I probably won't for a while. Sigh.

It's not on the list, but "Jane" is on there too. Shit.

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


Don't worry, I own every album (some on LP, CD and remastered CD) released by Yello (famous for the Ferris Bueller singular hit "Oh Yeah"). I could argue their greatness, but... well, yeah. I mean, Oh Yeah.

Comment number: 010721   Posted by: Ian J on January 12, 2007 08:36 AM from IP:

Being both an iTunes junky and a fan of pain, I found and listened to the snippets of your songs and, frankly, I'm embarrassed for you. I will, however, be gifting my grandmother the LP version of Revolting Cocks: You Goddamned Son of a Bitch for her birthday. Nothing says "Thank you for years of love and nurturing" like the Revolting Cocks. I bet.

Comment number: 010722   Posted by: You can call me, Sir on January 12, 2007 09:09 AM from IP:

Fess up, you New Wave bastard, you've gone out and bought some Clan of Xymox off of the iTunes store, haven't you?

Comment number: 010726   Posted by: Rory on January 12, 2007 10:42 AM from IP:

Surely you mean James Garfield, right?


Comment number: 010735   Posted by: norm on January 12, 2007 01:11 PM from IP:

i loved "the kings" cassette in 1982. i'm not sure i've heard since. better head over to itunes.

Comment number: 010742   Posted by: lisa on January 12, 2007 04:49 PM from IP:

This is all a cover, man. You're actually just claiming that these are the embarrassing songs and then hiding in your bedroom listening to Enya.

Comment number: 010745   Posted by: Joe on January 12, 2007 05:08 PM from IP:

Wow, this coming from the guy who once had me convinced that Jesus Jones and Neds Atomic Dustbin were indispensable to any modern collection. For some absurd reason, I sing the Rainbow song referenced above to myself for hours on end, "Yinsoo Gin Bon" in dyslexic glee. Thanks, Skort.

Comment number: 010749   Posted by: spinal on January 12, 2007 06:50 PM from IP:

David Diamond was one of the best American composers of the 20th century.

Comment number: 010780   Posted by: j on January 13, 2007 12:29 PM from IP:

Oh no! Fuck off! Now I have to download "Find Your Way Back"! Thanks!

Comment number: 010869   Posted by: Tina on January 15, 2007 05:15 PM from IP:

I think the most embarrasing song on my ipod is "Pure Shores" by All Saints and maybe a close second "I'm Good" by Blaque.
But the most embarrasing non-digital music I own is vinyl copy of the "Changes" album by David Bowie.

Comment number: 010881   Posted by: pretty_paranoia on January 15, 2007 11:01 PM from IP:

Actually worse than that is I just remembered I also have the CD of Changes by David Bowie.....and now I'm going to go home tonight from work and rip it onto my ipod.

Comment number: 010882   Posted by: pretty_paranoia on January 15, 2007 11:04 PM from IP:

i have Heart's "all i wanna do (is make love to you)" on my ipod. but in my defense, they DID make magic that night....ooh, he did everything right.

sue me.

Comment number: 010889   Posted by: sad on January 16, 2007 09:01 AM from IP:

I adore the song "Never Ever" by All Saints and not only have it on my Zune, but played it at a bar the other night. It came on while I was still standing at the jukebox, and I have never blushed so hard in my life. But I would do it over again.

Comment number: 010906   Posted by: Amanda on January 16, 2007 04:12 PM from IP:

spinal, Ned's Atomic Dustbin IS indispensable. Godfodder. Try it.

Comment number: 010968   Posted by: Steve on January 20, 2007 01:51 AM from IP:

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