Tag Archives: Music

On this day in 1994

Man, I looked down at the date today and it rang out in my mind. I couldn’t figure out why at first, was it somebody’s birthday? Did I have an appointment or something? I eventually remembered the significance of the day. It was my first hip hop concert. 1994. 25 years ago. Good lord! I had that ticket hanging on a bulletin board in my bedroom when I was younger, and that’s probably how I remembered the date. (Or…. the real story if you prefer is that it was the 1 year anniversary of my girlfriend at the time, and I felt shitty for not hanging out with her that night, but……) we were going to see De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest who to this day are my two favourite hip hop artists. What a show! The latter who I have to choose if asked for a preference, was at the absolute pinnacle of their career, which in my humble opinion coincided with the very peak of hip hop as an art form. This would be like seeing Led Zeppelin in 1971, or James Brown, or Elvis or something like that. Prince or Queen I suppose.

I went with my friend Brad. Which made me think of this picture. This picture is not from that night. I have no pics from that night. There were no camera phones back then. Most dudes didn’t carry cameras around with them. A good chunk of my life is undocumented. From whenever my mom stopped thinking I was cute 😉 (I wink there, because my mom will read this, and better still think I’m cute), to whenever I got it in my mind to buy a camera. Whatever those years were, there aren’t many pics. Maybe some birthdays or something.

This pic is of Brad and I in the summer of 93. About to go on a road trip to Cleveland to watch the Blue Jays (who won the World Series that year btw…. and haven’t won since *sniff*). We were mad skinny, oh my god! Ready to drive a Pontiac Acadian over the border. I must have blogged about this car already, but it didn’t have power steering. If you’re under 40, you don’t even know what that means!!! If you’ve ever been to a theme park or carnival that had a spinning tea-cup ride, or some other equivalent, there’s usually this giant steel wheel in the middle of the cup that you can try to spin around while you’re spinning around to control freak your own turns, and it’s heavy as shit to turn. That’s what driving a car with no power steering is like.

Summer of 93

Look at us!!! Young and full of piss and vinegar. Look at my Chuck Taylors… man I gotta get another pair of those. That car embodies the phrase, ‘putting lipstick on a pig’. That car was a piece of shit. It looked cool though, and the system pumped. The rest mattered not. That was summer of 93. In the Fall, A Tribe Called Quest put out their best album ‘Midnight Marauders’ (apologies to Tribe fans who prefer ‘Low End Theory’…. you are not wrong either), and the Toronto Blue Jays would win that last World Series. I was 18 and skinny. Didn’t have any idea what I was doing, but I looked alright doing it. I’m not trying to say that was any better than 2018….. but it didn’t suck. That’s all I wanted to say.


I Love To Hear Your Opinions On Music….. Unless They’re Idiotic

I don’t even need to write this. The title says it all, but lets see if I can burn 500 words by giving some context. I was reading an online article titled ’30 Mediocre Songs That Ruin Otherwise Amazing Albums’. It drew me in right away. I’ve seen a million of them. ‘I wonder we have some of the same ones’, I thought. Now this wasn’t a REAL article. It seemed like the results of a social media poll, so there was no guarantee that any of these opinions were going to be worth a pinch of cat shit, but I was curious nonetheless. To their credit, the Twitter masses were able to come up with a few good ones. Like ‘Rocky Raccoon’ being just the dumbest song ever, and a black eye on the otherwise perfect ‘White Album’ by The Beatles. Let’s face it, I didn’t know half the albums either, but I’m not here to talk about stuff that I agree with. That’s not me. That’s not this blog. I’m here to talk about the inexcusable stupidity that I encountered in the rest of the article. I have 3 examples that I just can’t take. Each are obviously just the opinion of one lonely misinformed Twitter survey participator, but I feel I must take them down anyways. Here we go.

1. “How Soon Is Now” by the Smiths apparently ruining the ‘Meat is Murder’ album. Here’s the thing. The opinions of others don’t always matter, and if this person just has a unique way of listening to music (like with cotton in your ears), then it’s always subjective, but MANY would argue that “How Soon Is Now” is the greatest alternative song of the 80’s (all time?). I’m not saying I think that. I’m not saying you have to think that. I know a lot of Smiths fans who don’t really care for that song too much, which I find happens when you are really into a band, you aren’t always going to say that their most popular song is your favorite. That said, it can’t go from being one of the greatest songs ever recorded, to ruining an album for you, that’s just ignorant. That’s just saying dumbass ignorant shit for attention, or to spark a debate (also for attention). Just so I could back up my claim without doing a whole lot of research, I googled ‘Greatest Alternative Songs of the 80s’ and it was the 3rd one listed. I clicked on the first article I saw called ‘The 100 Greatest songs of the 80s’. This list worked it’s way from 100 to 1, and you know what I did? I skipped right to the top 10 because I’m that sure that this song is universally regarded as being that high, that I didn’t even need to view 100 through 10. I was right. It was #2. So how some attention starved hangnail of a person thought that this would be the one thing they would say about this debate, like one of the greatest songs ever, ruined an album for them….. is really beyond me. I like people who are different, and have unique opinions, but this is clearly being different for the sake of being different.

2. “Creep” by Radiohead ruined the album “Pablo Honey” for one person, and their tweet got published, leading me to angry-blog. Oh I know. Nobody likes ‘Creep’ anymore. Revisionist history though. Same theme as above. Let me say this about “Creep”. It was awesome. You might be tired of it. Again, you probably don’t think it’s Radiohead’s best work, and it isn’t, but it was a great song when it came out, and Pablo Honey isn’t even a particularly great album, especially by their standards. Even the band doesn’t like that album. So how did you deem this album (undisputedly the shittiest of all the Radiohead albums) to be so close to perfect, and then choose it’s best song as the moment that ruined it for you? Are you a creep? Are you a weirdo? What the hell are you doing here?? You don’t belong here, ohh ohh….. never mind.

3. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin as the moment that ruined Led Zeppelin IV. *Sigh*. See, here’s the thing. It’s played out. All of these songs are, and I understand that sometimes when you hear the same song over and over again, you start to hate it for whatever reason, although I would encourage you to stop listening to the radio, because they’re the ones that over play songs. In this day and age with so many options???? Radio sucks. I fall into this trap too sometimes. Every time I go to a wedding I have to hear ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA, and after doing that about 7000 times or so, you start to hate it, but it’s not a bad song. It’s just a good song in the hands of a bunch of robots who play music soullessly for a bunch of sloppy drunks so they can pay their rent. I can’t stay mad at them. Getting back to ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Love it, hate it or just sick of it, it’s the one of the most iconic rock songs of all time, which doesn’t make it good, but it IS good by all musical standards, and the world loved it. Too much maybe. So much that there wasn’t a grade 8 dance where they didn’t play that song, and we all had to find a way to awkwardly slow dance (tempo changes and all) for 8 or 9 minutes or however goddamn long that song is, but they played it because it was too great not to play. Now, if someone said they skip that track when they listen to Led Zeppelin IV, I can live with that. Listening to that song is an emotional investment, but don’t tell me it RUINED the album for you, that’s just silly.

In summary, please stop with your desperate attempts to be unique and different at the expense of common sense. Stop with the revisionist history. Stop with the Hipster-style need to dislike things that everybody else likes even though it’s awesome. It just makes you seem insecure and weird. Stop blaming excessive radio play for you disliking a song. It’s not the song’s fault that you listen to the radio instead of taking control of your own music intake. Especially with rampant streaming and illegal downloading. There’s no excuse to listen to the same songs over and over again, and then blaming the song for getting played out. That’s like going to McDonald’s everyday and getting sick of Big Macs, and then saying Big Macs are the worst thing on McDonald’s menu. They are NOT! They are the BEST (and maybe only edible) thing on McDonald’s menu!!!


David Bowie Sadness

I found out this morning that David Bowie passed away. It’s been bothering me all day. I’m not even sure why. Celebrities die all the time, and I should be used to it by now. In a workplace full of people half my age, nobody seemed particularly devastated. A couple of people seemed suitably bummed, but not to the level I was looking for. So I did what anybody would do in this situation and logged into Twitter. This was better. People falling all over themselves to pay respects to David Bowie. One tribute more eloquent than the next. Re-tweets of celebrities and die-hard fans pouring out their hearts. I’m neither, but I felt like I would like to be one of the people who said something beautiful about David Bowie. It would probably get read by 3 or 4 people, and get heaped onto the magical invisible ‘I don’t give a shit’ pile in their minds, only to be soon erased. So I came home and went through my typical evening routine, cooking some dinner, and getting the boy to bed before probably falling asleep on the couch. Maybe I drink one of those kick ass Belgium beers in the fridge. The last of an epic sampler pack, but can I stay awake to drink it? Then I remember that I have a David Bowie concert DVD. I don’t even think I’ve ever watched it before. When it comes to music, sometimes I just buy stuff just to have it. The price was probably right, and I’d heard he was a hell of a live performer. Tonight would be the perfect night for a cold beer, warm sweater, and some David Bowie sadness.

Just as I start to relax a bit, I find myself totally captivated by this concert. I LOVE music, but I only LIKE David Bowie. I want to say I love David Bowie because he’s super cool to me, and he aged so incredibly well, and he’s such an innovative ground breaking artist, and I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about him. If I said I loved David Bowie, then you would demand to know how many of his albums I have, and I’d have to answer none. Just the 2 disc greatest hits collection, and a 45 single of ‘Modern Love’ on vinyl from back in the day. That’s better than nothing, but it’s not love. He was good. I’ve talked to very knowledgeable music people who say he’s the best ever. At some point in the future I would probably go through a David Bowie phase and listen or purchase all of his music, but I haven’t yet. My connection with David Bowie doesn’t have to do with me being his biggest fan, but more to do with him being my first!

When I was 7 years old I found my way into current pop music. Before that what do we listen to? Whatever our parents have around the house? Kid music? Who knows? None of that matters. What matters is that when I became first aware, and then quickly lifelong obsessed with music, David Bowie had a song (and an album) called ‘Let’s Dance’. You only had to see this dude in his white outfit playing a guitar in a Mexican restaurant to know he was the guy. Or just to look at him on the album cover, shirtless with his 1920’s boxing gloves on. He was my first favourite singer. I wanted his album. Birthday present? Christmas? I think my parents probably shied away from that, possibly because they were aware of such freaky things as Ziggy Stardust, and I wasn’t. Yet they were totally cool with Boy George which was odd to me. David Bowie in 1982 was as clean-cut as they came, and I thought that would be totally suitable for a kid to own that album. They must have relented in time for me to get the ‘Modern Love’ single.

That was kind of it for David Bowie for me for a while. I didn’t know at the time that there was a lot more substance to David Bowie’s music that would allow me to partially rediscover it as I got older. As I sit here and watch his concert DVD, it almost feels like I’ve come full circle. Am I sad because a legend has passed away? Yes, but he did leave us with 25 albums, and I’m sure I’ll spend the next several years discovering a lot of his music for the first time. Am I sad because I’m closer to the age in which he passed away (69) than I am to the age in which I discovered David Bowie for the first time? Certainly. I will say this though. While watching the concert I felt like there were times where his music was reaching into my body and touching my soul. Not all musicians have that power, but I’m grateful that David Bowie did, because it’s one of my favourite parts of the human experience.

Thus concludes my odd little story about David Bowie sadness. Turn and face the strange!


Billy Ocean Confessional

I got an iTunes GC recently. I’m a music junkie. This is absolutely the best thing to get me always. My nephew knows this and he’s not even 2 years old yet. He slipped it into my Father’s Day card. So I did a bit of iTunes surfing to see if there was anything I wanted. There’s always something I want, but I have to prioritize my wants, because I can’t buy everything at once. Unless there’s some new album that just came out that I’ve been dying to pick up, then it’s anybody’s guess what I might download. I decided my first item should be a Billy Ocean greatest hits album. This decision provides more questions than answers. I told my wife, and she said “You’re so weird.”

Of all the things life can throw your way, what could have possibly transpired in my life that lead me to purchase a Billy Ocean album?

If I could get the money back that I spent on music, I’d have a serious head start on retirement. Music brings me joy, so its money well spent. I wondered about the Billy Ocean decision. It’s been on my mind for a while. Is it time? Could I get away with just ‘Caribbean Queen’ and maybe one or two others, without picking up the whole album? The album was only $10. 4 songs cost more than $5, so I might as well go all in. Plus I didn’t know he had a ‘Long and Winding Road’ cover from the Beatles, and I wondered if it was good.

Would people think I was ‘weird’ for having this? Like if it came up on random play in the car and there were other people in the car, would I skip it, and just secretly enjoy it when nobody was around? I decided while dancing in the kitchen with my earphones on that ‘who gives a shit what people think about Billy Ocean, or about me for that matter?’ Getting older sucks, but as my ‘I don’t give a shit’ factor increases exponentially, I start to think that it has its benefits.

Is it that ever since I was 10 years old I’ve secretly always wanted to have the suave confidence to tell a woman to ‘get out of my dreams and into my car’? Who wouldn’t want to pull a line like that? Do people still even use pick up lines? I haven’t heard any in a while. Maybe this is something lost on the newer generation. I think it’s been unfairly categorized as sleazy. I would argue that if I care enough about you to be that creative, then it’s a thoughtful gesture. Right? Oh well, it was the 80’s, and if it doesn’t fly now, it must have then.

Billy Ocean was way cooler than Lionel Ritchie if you ask me. I would be way more embarrassed to have a Lionel Ritchie greatest hits album (who am I kidding? I have that too….. I have everything).

I’m 40 now. I used to listen to Public Enemy and N.W.A. I still do like that stuff, but old friends might be surprised to know just how much Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Steve Winwood and Bee Gees I listen to these days. I used to think that stuff sucked. Now I quite enjoy it, not to the exclusion of underground Hip Hop or anything, I just like it ALL. Billy Ocean too. It is not the most embarrassing thing in my collection. You know what?? It’s not embarrassing at all. What’s embarrassing is that I just swallowed a fish oil pill sideways and had to go in and ask my wife if I’m going to be OK. I’m finishing this blog despite my throat injury, because ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going.’

I think I just had to talk myself through it here. It’s not high school. Nobody cares what kind of music I listen to. I only think that people care, but the older we get, the more people are just happy to listen to whatever bullshit happens to be on the radio. That’s sad to me, but you know what??? “There’ll be sad songs to make you cry….. love songs often do….they can touch the heart of someone new…..saying I love you…..” Haha. I forced that in. Sue me.


The Day I First Heard Midnight Marauders

ATCQMidnightMarauders

I found myself on a bus this evening. (Don’t most of my blogs start this way??). It was leaving a shopping mall and it was packed full of retail employees and shoppers alike. I had been waiting a while and was rewarded with a seat, which was a relief for my aching feet. I didn’t have my iPod, so was forced to listen to the ramblings of teenagers while reading Twitter feeds which is often exactly like listening to the ramblings of teenagers. A group of four of them were standing near the exit. Two guys and two girls. I love to watch people and speculate what their situations are. I don’t think these were couples. I think they were just either co-workers or classmates or something along those lines. This girl was speaking with a confidence you can only have as a teenager, because it’s yet to occur to you that you know virtually nothing compared to what you will eventually know. She was talking about something harmless like funny TV commercials, and doing a poor job at explaining why they were funny, but laughing hysterically anyways. One of the guys in the group was trying hard to give positive feedback to what she was saying, probably because he was interested in her, and wanted to keep a flirty dynamic going. They were just excited to be there. I don’t even know why, but I assume it’s because they were probably about 18 years old, and why wouldn’t every moment of your life be that exciting. Most 18 year olds have yet to be beaten down by responsibility, and they’ve got lots of good times ahead. I remember what it was like to ride a bus with some girls that I might have a crush on, and maybe have nothing much to do afterwards except for watch a movie, or play video games, or just getting into random mischief. That was fun.

I switched back to my phone and scrolled down on my Twitter feed to find out the following. My favourite music album of all time was released 20 years ago today. For those wondering, or not familiar enough to grab it from the blog title, it was Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest. I’ll only spend a second telling you why it’s the greatest, because this isn’t a music blog, although I think one day I will start one. All I do is talk about music, so why not just start a new blog, other than I don’t have time? A Tribe Called Quest was and is the greatest thing that ever happened to Hip Hop music. Midnight Marauders was the moment when Hip Hop achieved its true potential, and was never before and never again as pure, exciting, creative, accessible, and lets just say perfect. There will be varying opinions from Hip Hop purists, but not too many would go out of their way to refute this claim. I don’t mean to disrespect any of the great music that came out before this moment, or anything that evolved out of this moment, but on November 9, 1993 Hip Hop hit its peak in my not-so-humble opinion.

It was a Tuesday. I was an 18-year-old high school student. Probably not unlike the ones I saw on the bus. Excited just for the sake of being excited. A lot was going on in my life. I had a girlfriend, who came over to my house after school to see it for the first time. Not that she’d never come over before, but my parents had recently purchased a new house. This house was big. I’d lived in a semi-detached house my whole life leading up to this, but my parents leveraged a really poor real estate market, and got a house (that they probably couldn’t afford) in the same neighborhood, but just bigger. It had 4 bedrooms upstairs, and a swimming pool. I curse the thought of how much time and energy I’ve spent maintaining that pool vs. how much I’ve actually swam in it, but nevertheless, some of my greatest nights involved having friends over while my parents were out-of-town. A great party house! The best part of the whole thing was that there was a bedroom in the basement, which I quickly laid claim to. The basement was straight out of 1972 with its stucco, awful carpet, faux beer keg in the wall, and a small hidden bar compartment also in the wall. It was designed to be a 1972 party pad. This was 1993 however, and the rest of my family thought this basement was an eye-sore, and steered clear of it. Suited me fine. It had just the right amount of privacy an 18-year-old kid would want.

So I was showing my girlfriend around this house, and I was specifically remember that she was only there for a few minutes on her way home from school because I had a 5-close shift at my part-time job that night, which I would have to leave for shortly. I was feverishly calling around to see if anyone would take my shift because A Tribe Called Quest’s new album was coming out today, and I needed to get it…..TODAY! The amount of time that had elapsed between Tribe’s 1991 offering, (and my favourite album at the time ‘Low End Theory’), and the one that came out that day seemed like centuries. These were the days of long summers, and even longer school years! If I’m obsessive about music now as a (usually) mature adult, you can only imagine how unreasonable my longing was for this album to come out. How was I going to get it if I had to go to work? I worked through the book of co-workers phone numbers, and it became evident that I wasn’t going to get this shift covered. I called my oldest friend in the world, also a Tribe fan, and also a co-worker at this particular job to tell him of my plight. He seemed unaware that today was the magical day that ‘Midnight Marauders’ was released, and was on store shelves as we spoke. (Do people really not know about release dates?? Am I the only idiot that would know about this in advance?) In a move that I hadn’t considered, he said he wouldn’t take my shift, but that he was going to drive over to the mall and buy the album while I was at work. This sounded great, but I couldn’t believe that I would have to spend 4 hours at a job while he was in possession of something I’d waited centuries for. This was to be the longest 4 hours ever. I tried to convince him not to listen to it until I got there. He assured me that he would listen to it at least 3 times before I got there, but offered to ‘tape it for me’.

Let me explain what I mean by ‘tape it for me’. Let me start by saying I never really thought I would ever have to explain that. I believe the days have arrived where this term requires explanation. While CDs are not yet obsolete, in the fall of 1993 I was a couple of months short of acquiring my first CD player. I was relatively happy listening to my music on tapes, and sometimes vinyl. While vinyl is making a comeback, I don’t think tapes ever will. The good thing about tapes is that you could record stuff on them, and they were cheaper. So my friend was offering to buy the CD for himself, and tape it for me so I could own it for free, and have it instantly….. that is after my 4 hour shift was over. I agreed, and headed over to his house on my way home from work. I found him asleep on his couch. I asked him for the tape. He had forgotten to make the tape, and once we established that I wasn’t leaving without a tape, he said he would happily listen to the album again while I made the tape. Then he gave me what I can only describe as a ‘Bill Cosby Jell-O Pudding Smile’ and said ‘it’s really good’. I knew it would be somehow. So I started to listen. Every track was incredible. It was simply the best thing I had ever heard. Who knew that would be the last time I ever thought that. 20 years later, and it’s still the best thing I ever heard.


The Sad Demise of Record Stores

I sometimes feel that it’s difficult to explain my obsession for music to people. If you share this obsession, then I don’t need to explain. If you don’t share this obsession, then you’ll never understand anyways.

On December 31st 1983 I heard my first ‘year end countdown’. Quite by accident. I used to love watching music videos on TV with my sister. I remember listening to ‘hit radio’ all the time. They had a weekly top 30 which they published in the paper every Thursday (how do I still remember that?). They had a Top 7 at 7pm (determined by fan voting) which I used to listen to while washing dishes or up in my bedroom lip syncing in front of the mirror (I should also mention that I used to call in to this station to request songs and try to ‘influence’ the results of the Top 7). I had a love of statistics as they pertained to sports and music. I loved charts and countdowns! So when I turned on the radio and found out that they had a countdown for the entire year, I just about lost my friggin mind. The top 83 of 83. 1050 CHUM was the station in Toronto (who heartbreakingly switched to an oldies format a couple of years later). I was 9. Michael Jackson, Duran Duran and Culture Club were the hottest things in pop music at the time. I listened to, attempted to predict, and wrote down the results of this entire countdown. ‘Every Breath You Take’ by the Police was #1. All I wanted was records for Christmas. Records or Baseball Cards. You didn’t need to go to any special store to get something for me. K-Mart did the trick. I listened to pop music, and compilation albums were the best gift idea. K-Tel used to make them. Like ‘Rock 83’, ‘Rock 84’, Rock 85’…. well you get it.

When I started high school I became obsessed with Hip Hop music. I used to deliver newspapers with a cassette tape of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince in my walkman. I dropped that walkman so many times. The cover was broken, the batteries were drained. I would still listen to it even if it didn’t play at the proper speed. The Fresh Prince later became a big movie star, and was something of a gateway drug for me to get into harder stuff like Public Enemy and N.W.A. I eventually settled on a more mellow mix of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Now that I was old enough to make my own money, my first stop was always the record store. I would go to any record store, but due to a more specific tastes, I liked to go to the more urban style record shops where the DJs would go. Always wanting to have the newest and freshest music. I remember there was one in my neighborhood that was walking distance which was perfect since I didn’t have a car. On Thursdays I would watch Muchmusic’s version of ‘Rapcity’, and as soon as it was over (if I had money) I would jet over there to see if they had that new song that I’d just heard. All of those stores I used to shop at for Hip Hop records are closed.

As I got older and my tastes in music started to diversify a little more, I used to love going to a little place called ‘Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum’. This place sold vinyl at a time when records had pretty much been phased out. This was a place where you could literally dig through the crates and try to find some magic. It spanned all genres and time. Not only was the music diverse and sometimes obscure, but you could look at all of those crazy album covers which was awesome in its own right. Did you know that Lisa Whelchel (Blair from ‘Facts of Life’) had an album in the 80s (and upon further research was nominated for a grammy)? Did you know that all of the ‘Pointer Sisters’ had solo projects?? These are the crazy things I learned at Peter Dunn’s. They closed down a few years back. I believe there’s a Karate school there now.

Every trip to the shopping mall for me is still highlighted by a trip to the music store (HMV being my favourite). I now will listen to just about everything from RnB/Soul to Alternative or Classic Rock. From Jazz to Hip Hop. I can’t forget the 80s and the songs I used to listen to on 1050 Chum. I do have an iPod and I buy quite a bit of my music digitally, but I still love to wander through record stores, both old and new. I love the smell of dust that only a creepy, musty old record store could have just as much as the smell of plastic packaging that only a newer music store has, and I love them equally.

I guess the only thing I don’t love is the theft of music. People look at me and say ‘Dude….why would you pay for music when you can just download it for free?’ I don’t know! By that rationale, why would you pay for food? Why don’t you just go into a grocery store, fill up the cart, and just walk out? They don’t check receipts at the door! Or better still, why don’t you go to a farm, hop the fence, and start stealing crops? Hopefully, it’s because you know it’s wrong. I don’t see any difference between that and music piracy. No difference between that and looting. No difference between that and sheer fucking anarchy.

As much as I love the instant gratification of getting music online, I kind of miss the hassle of going to the record store. It was an event… a mission!! I devoted days, weeks, perhaps months of my life to this. There was something about the anticipation, and either the fulfillment or disappointment of acquiring music. As the world goes digital, I hope some of these stores can win this losing battle. I for sure will miss this terribly, and I don’t think I’m alone.


My Top 20 ‘Do Not Play’ Song List for Weddings

There are a lot of people who are into technology and have calendared the launch date of the new Iphone.  People that can tell you about cars and all of the pros and cons of purchasing each model.  People that know about literature, and have a million books, and know which ones are being adapted into screenplays.  People that know the history of the British Royal Family and who all the important political figures are in all of the countries all over the world.  I don’t know about these things, but if we’re playing Trivial Pursuit, and the topic is music, you better hope I’m on your team.  I love music!  All kinds too.  I know as much about Hip Hop as I do about Rock and Roll, and most things in between.  If I don’t know I’m curious to find out.  I’m a sponge!  The question that comes up with family and friends is ‘can I get paid for such proficient use of that part of my brain?’  The answer would be ‘not to this point’.  If you don’t care about music, and we are in a ‘musical situation’ together, then I am annoying.  If you love music, and we are in a ‘musical situation’ together, then I am awesome, and so are you!

What’s a ‘musical situation’ you ask???  For me it’s every waking moment, but for most people it would be a concert, car ride, grocery store (they always have adult contemporary or 80s music playing….it’s the only reason I go), cleaning the home, and the most obvious ones which are going out to a bar/night club or for those that don’t go to those places, there’s a type of bar/night club that everyone goes to which I like to call a ‘wedding reception’.  Yes, once all the awkward speeches and kissing games are done, and the food is eaten, there is only one man who can bring home a good wedding, and that’s your wedding DJ.

In second place behind top 40 radio, the wedding DJ is the lowest common denominator of ‘musical situations’.  I don’t want to paint them all with the same brush, but time after time, wedding after wedding, they encourage me to paint them with the same brush.  They do this by having the same mediocre playlist of ‘safe’, reception appropriate, multi generation compatible music that every other wedding DJ has.  As a real music fan this sickens me.  It’s not because I think a wedding is the time for a DJ to pull out all the tricks and start ‘digging through the crates’ so to speak.  You do have an audience that has a huge range in age, so you kind of have to play to everybody, which can be a tricky proposition.  So what they’ve done over the years is found songs that work in those situations, and created a formula for success.  In any business, this makes perfect sense.  Being a wedding DJ definitely makes you a business person, but being a DJ SHOULD also make you an artist.  Art and business typically don’t mix very well, and only in the rarest of circumstances can an artist stay true to his/her art, and still make money.  The compromised product is often what works best.

While I’m understanding of their limitations and expectations, I would still like to see wedding DJs to take some chances.  Play some stuff that I didn’t hear a week ago at the last wedding I was at.  You’ll know if you’ve taken it too far, and you can always bring it back to what works, but there are thousands of songs out there that can work in these situations, yet I seem to only hear the same 30 or 40 over and over again.  As someone who loves music as much as I do, the repetition hurts my soul.

My wedding DJ did a pretty good job.  He came over to my condo and allowed me to lecture him on music for 4 hours (I’d gone to high school with him, so we caught up a bit too).  He was very patient with me.  He nodded like he was listening, and when my wedding day came, while I’m not sure he remembered everything I told him, he held his own up there, and kept the party going without really offending me in any way with his selections.  One of the things he did do, which I thought was pretty awesome, was asked me to make a list of 20 songs I had to hear, and 20 more for him to not play under any circumstances.  Now, I can’t remember if he played all 20 of the songs I wanted to hear or not, but he definitely didn’t play the ones that I didn’t want to hear, and that was even more important in a way.  I just didn’t want to hear the same generic songs that I hear at all the other weddings, so those made my list.

For your consideration, here are the 20 songs that I hate (but always end up) hearing at wedding receptions.  Some comments are included.  This is not necessarily in order of hatred, but rather which ones jumped into my head first.

1. Celebration by Kool & The Gang ( I get it….. we’re celebrating……I love Kool & The Gang too.  How about ‘Get Down On It’ or ‘Jungle Boogie’)

2. Holiday by Madonna (Madonna has 30 years of danceable hits….Why this one every time?)

3. Dancing Queen by Abba (Same comment as above but only 10 years)

4. Macarena by Los Del Rio (You will only hear this at weddings now…. hate songs with dances made up for them…. hate any form of line dancing)

5. Chicken Dance by Werner Thomas (Same comment as above)

6. Who Let the Dogs Out? by The Baha Men (They used to play the original version of this song at the clubs, and we liked it ok, but when the Baha Men re-did it, it became #3 on Rolling Stone Magazine “Most Annoying Songs Ever” poll.  So if you’re a wedding DJ, and this information is available to you, why would you keep playing it???  It’s horrible!!!! You’re horrible!!!! Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!)

7. Love Train by The O’ Jays (I actually love this song, but people tend to start a conga line when it comes on, and then they want to come around to every table, and there’s always some drunk member of the fun police that wants to get you up out of your seat to join the stupidity.  Fuck off and let me enjoy my beer and my social awkwardness!)

8. Conga by Miami Sound Machine (Same comment as above)

9. Mambo #5 by Lou Bega (I want to stab myself with my dessert fork every time I hear this )

10. Swing the Mood by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers (This is a lazy-ass DJ way to play a bunch of swing songs all at the same time in hopes that some of the older people will feel like he ‘played to them’, but if your DJ was a master mixer himself, then he wouldn’t need to resort to this bullshit.)

11. Follow Me by Aly Us (As far as classic house goes, this is a great song, but at a Filpino wedding, everyone on the dance floor starts doing the ‘bus stop’, and if you don’t know that dance, or don’t feel like line dancing, it’s a good time to grab a drink.)

12. YMCA by The Village People (Wedding DJs get off easy, b/c they play to the drunkest of crowds.  Who would tolerate this song if sober?)

13. TIE – Anything from the Grease Soundtrack (This just sucks the life out of me)

14. Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough by Michael Jackson (I’ll take some Michael at a wedding, but not this one anymore)

15. Single Ladies by Beyonce (I wonder if it’s bouquet toss time?  I don’t really see any way of avoiding this one though)

16. We Are Family by Sister Sledge (You can celebrate with your family without this cue, thanks)

17. Le Freak by Chic (It sounds like I’m picking on Disco here, and I’m not really.  I’m merely picking on the lack of originality by wedding DJs.  A lot of these songs would be better if I didn’t hear them all the time.  I probably prefer this stuff to current pop music like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, but a lot of these Disco songs have been getting played out for the last 35 years.  If they are playing Lady Gaga at weddings 35 years from now, I’ll make a new list)

18. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler (I figured I’d include a few of the slow songs that drive me nuts.  This one is almost always the father/daughter dance.  I don’t want to sound un-sentimental (if that’s a word), but I can’t take any more of this song.)

19. TIE Anything by Shania Twain or Celine Dion (As a proud Canadian it disappoints me to do this, but no more please)

20. Baby Got Back by Sir-Mix-A-Lot (Oh my god Becky, look at her butt)

Maybe I’ve missed some!!  Do you have a played out wedding reception song that makes you shoot poisonous glare darts toward an unsuspecting, ‘mailing it in’ Wedding DJ???  I’d love to hear them!