Betcha Say That / Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine

betcha“Betcha Say That” is one of Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine’s lesser known singles. Released as the second single off their Let It Loose album, it peaked just inside the top 40 at #36, and was considered a flop after the top 10 hit that was “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.”

The fact that it’s not really remembered is one of the things I love most about it. It didn’t get overplayed like a lot of Gloria’s songs did, especially the singles that followed it – the ballads “Can’t Stay Away From You” and “Anything For You.” That said, they did age better than I expected them to.  And also, they brought the album back from the dead, something that would never happen now.

I remember that I had purchased Miami Sound Machine’s previous album, Primitive Love, after having satisfied the “three song rule” but being more or less disappointed in it. I think it’s aged better than it deserved to, but my experience with that album kind of soured me on their albums in general. It wasn’t until Let It Loose had been out for nearly a year that I finally bought it and even then, it’s the singles that stand out. Most of the album tracks, most notably the title track, were forgettable, although as I’ve been listening to the album while composing this post, I forgot just how good “Give It Up” was.

Clearly, by putting Gloria’s name in front of “Miami Sound Machine” the record company was prepping her for solo stardom. I recall thinking that was so egotistical of Gloria, but in interviews around that time, she claimed that she really didn’t want that to happen. Of course, by the time their next album came out in 1989, the “Miami Sound Machine” part had been dropped completely and in 1991, Gloria was firmly established as a solo artist.

I don’t listen to “Betcha Say That” very much, but it’s always a pleasant bit of nostalgia when I do.

For the record, I realize that I’m pretty far behind on my blogging.  After tonight,  I’ll have written 8 posts in 12 days, which means I need to do double duty for 4 days to catch up. This is the farthest behind I have ever been since I started doing the blogging songs in November thing. But as my wife just reminded me…


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Affirmation / Savage Garden

AffirmationSGI was driving home from work last night, the latest in a series of days full of stress and uncertainty and for some reason, I had the urge to hear Savage Garden’s “Affirmation.” When my brain talks to me like this, I always listen. It’s long been one of my favorite Savage Garden songs, mostly because it’s a cleverly written song full of advice that we should all take to heart. Sometimes, when I am at my lowest, I don’t want to hear what many could consider to be trite cliches about things that Darren Hayes believes in, but for some reason, it resonated with me yesterday.

I woke up this morning and just had to hear it again. I think it was partly because of this article that I found while browsing reddit, which basically says that complaining is killing us. As I was reading it, I thought of my previous therapist, Maura, who could have practically written the article because it is basically mindfulness dressed up in pretty language. I have really been going through a rough patch lately – if I were honest about it, it’s been since mid-summer, and it’s been a lot of ups and downs. I find myself dealing with a lot more depressive symptoms than I have in years.  But I’ve been taking a lot of steps to counteract those feelings because, as we all know, feelings aren’t facts and I’m more than just the amalgam of my thoughts and feelings.  As I so frequently so, my anxiety (or, in this case, my thoughts and feelings) is not the boss of me.

For some reason, Darren’s list of things he believes in is really speaking to me right now, especially the chorus, because those are truly things that I believe too.

I believe in Karma what you give is what you get returned
I believe you can’t appreciate real love until you’ve been burned
I believe the grass is no more greener on the other side
I believe you don’t know what you’ve got until you say goodbye

I’ve always taken issue with the third one – that the grass is no more greener on the other side – but only because the word “more” is completely unnecessary. But from the vantage point of my 40s, I mostly find it charming and endearing and realize that the line would have had to have been jettisoned if not for that extra “more.”

So if you’re like me and feeling the challenges of life more acutely these days than usual, I encourage you to listen to Darren’s list and watch the video below. And I can’t recommend the article I linked to enough. It might be a little bit woo for some people, but I encourage people to give mindfulness a chance. It literally changed my life. It could change yours too.

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Eat For Two / 10,000 Maniacs

eat for twoIn My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs is one of my top five favorite albums of all time. It came out at a point in my life when I was ready to hear it and ready for a journey off the beaten path of cheesy, brainless pop that had dominated my listening habits up to that point. Whether you listen to the version with “Peace Train” or without (I prefer the one with), it’s a perfect album top to bottom, touching on social issues like literacy, depression, child abuse, and alcohol abuse while still keeping it light and poppy.

I wish I could say that about the follow-up, Blind Man’s Zoo. While still a pretty solid album, it definitely suffered from Overly Ambitious Follow-Up Album Syndrome. It was like they sat down and mapped out which social issues they were going to address and wrote the songs accordingly. Most of the songs feel like an after-school special, with nowhere near the subtlety and finesse of those on In My Tribe. One big exception to that is “Eat For Two.”

As you might expect, “Eat For Two” is about pregnancy – specifically teenage pregnancy. Now, it would have been easy to make a song like this maudlin and overdone. But the combination of lyrics and music along with brilliant production by Peter Asher takes the song from good to great.

The keyboards in the song provide a sense of urgency that you’d imagine any teenage girl might feel if she found herself in that position. Lyrically, it’s one of the strongest songs on the album and the video retains the urgency that the song itself provides, circling around and around a Natalie Merchant looking younger than her age, while doll parts tumble through the air and images of fetuses are flashed on the screen.

“Eat For Two” showed up on the Maniacs’ 1994 Unplugged album, but it couldn’t have possibly been in a more disappointing form. Gone were the faux strings, the keyboards, the driving drum beat.  In their place was a plodding arrangement that only highlighted how the song could have gone so terribly wrong if this had been the initial production.

Maybe that’s the vibe they were going for this time around, but it totally doesn’t work for me. My college roommate had only known “Eat For Two” in its Unplugged version and when I had him listen to the original, he thought it was “cheesy” and “too fast.” I guess, like so many things in life, it’s all a matter of perspective.

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I’ve Been Everywhere / Lynn Anderson

everywhereI am behind. Two posts behind to be precise. But this isn’t a “blog daily” thing it’s a “do 30 posts in 30 days” thing. So I still have time to catch up because it is still early.

When Lynn Anderson passed away earlier this year, I had coincidentally been into her signature song “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden.” The only reason it’s in my iTunes library at all is because it was included on the Zodiac soundtrack which I purchased in the heady days after seeing and loving that movie.  “Rose Garden” has some of the best rhymes, and the fact that they are subtle rhymes makes it even better. My favorite rhyme in the whole song is when she rhymes “jolly” with “melancholy.”

Smile for a while and let’s be jolly
Love shouldn’t be so melancholy
Come along and share the good times while we can.

essentiallynnWhen she died, I was compelled to listen to more of her music, and thanks to Spotify, I was able to do so.  I don’t know much about what Lynn Anderson albums are considered “essential” so I started with the one that told me it was essential – the compilation album The Essential Lynn Anderson. At 40 tracks, certainly there could be nothing left out.  So I started listening to it and I couldn’t get over how many songs I actually knew. Some of them were songs I knew because other artists had recorded them, but a surprising number were ones that I knew but didn’t realize Anderson was the voice behind the song.

One of those songs was “I’ve Been Everywhere.” If asked to pinpoint when and where I first heard this song, I would be hard-pressed to come up with the answer. It’s one of those songs that make up the “soft rock/country rock” repertoire that I was raised on. It might have been Hee-Haw, it might have been The Lawrence Welk Show (which my mom watched on Saturday nights occasionally.) Whenever and wherever I first heard it, it and its rapid fire list of all the places that Anderson had been had been banished to a deep part of my subconscious.

That is some seriously big hair.

I didn’t know that, in its original form, “I’ve Been Everywhere” rattled off a litany of Australian places that the singer had been. Naturally, when an American singer recorded it, the places had to be American, so the American version of the song was born.  And it didn’t stop there, there are many versions of this song. An exhaustive list is located on the song’s Wikipedia page, but among them is a version for New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and Great Britain. But perhaps my favorite is the Dave Shirley parody “I’ve Used Every Swear.”  Language is totally NSFW, obviously.

A karaoke candidate? I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try it.

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You’ll See / Madonna

Madonna+Youll+See+-+Maxi+Ecopak+59111Serving as the polar opposite to last night’s post, I’ve known since I started work on this month’s song list that Madonna’s 1995 single “You’ll See” would be today’s song.  Based on journals I kept at the time, I was able to determine that November 4, 1995 was the day that Heidi and I met – 20 years ago this year. And if that’s the case, why would I choose a song like “You’ll See” – a song that chronicles moving on from a relationship, standing on one’s own, and knowing you’ll survive and stay live? Well, pardon the pun, but you’ll see. But first, some background information.

I tell the story all the time but I’m not sure I’ve ever told it here. In the fall of 1995, my good friend and Madonna partner-in-crime Jeff was living in Washington, Iowa. When he first moved there, he lived in a small, one bedroom apartment above Daylight Donuts. When the much larger apartment down the hall opened up, he jumped at the chance to move. Having moved in mid-October, he decided to have a housewarming party since he had moved down the hall. As one does.

I was in graduate school at the time, a rather ill-advised endeavor that is perfectly clear with the benefit of hindsight, but it was what everybody thought I should do so, what the hell, I did it. After a summer that saw all my pharmacy school friends and acquaintances leave Iowa City, I was lonelier than ever. It was so lousy and I felt so awful that I refer to it as “the summer of my discontent” when describing my life at that time. By the time the fall semester started up, I was pretty depressed, sure that I would fail and, above all, be alone forever. That didn’t last terribly long as I did make three good friends in the graduate program and we bonded through what ultimately was a trial by fire. On November 3rd, I was up the entire night in the library of the pharmacy building writing up a lab report, finally sliding it under the professor’s door at 5AM.  I remember walking home as dawn was breaking and thinking how there was no way on God’s green earth that I could go to Jeff’s party that night.  I nearly called to say “maybe next time” but I had promised a friend of ours that I would ride down with her to Jeff’s, as she was not entirely sure how to get there.  So I grabbed some sleep and woke up mid-afternoon, leaving for Jeff’s around 5pm.

Meanwhile, Heidi had been living in her mom’s basement since graduating from college that spring. She was prepping to go to graduate school, having taken a year off to pay down some debt and weigh her options. She worked for a law office in Iowa City and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that she felt just about as miserable as I did.  Heidi’s mother and Jeff taught in the same small Iowa school district and he had invited her to his party.  Wanting to get her oldest daughter out of the basement and around young adults her own age, she told Heidi that she was going to go as well.  She didn’t want to go, figuring it would be full of teachers talking about education while she stood by herself with nothing to add to the conversation. But she relented and said to her mother that if she was bored, she was leaving.

I still remember when she showed up to the party. I was pretty much instantly taken by her. She was so pretty, so confident, and oh-so-smart. I vividly remember thinking to myself “it would be pretty awesome if she were my girlfriend, but I’m sure she wouldn’t be interested in a guy like me.” The funny part is that she was thinking pretty much the same thing. We sat and talked. And talked. And talked. And talked some more. Her mom got up to leave and Heidi tried to leave with her and she said “don’t you even worry about it. I’ll just walk.” I had never had such an instant rapport with someone, someone with whom I was pretty much instantly at ease without a single lull in the conversation. To hear Jeff tell the story, everyone was leaving and he and the friend I had arrived with were cleaning up and doing dishes and Heidi and I were still talking.

Eventually, it was time for her to leave and I will never forget her parting words. “Well, I’m in Iowa City every day if anyone wants to do lunch!”  Not one minute after the door shut and she was gone, Jeff turned to me and said “Well, Dan, you’re the only one of the three of us that lives in Iowa City.”   With much prodding from Jeff to overcome my anxiety and belief that no girl could possibly ever like me, I ended up calling her at the law office nearly 3 weeks later. To my great relief, she remembered me and she agreed to go out with me. We had our first lunch date on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 1995. And that, kids, is how it started.

But the reason “You’ll See” is today’s song is because a few days before Jeff’s party, the video for “You’ll See” had premiered on MTV and naturally, Jeff and I were obsessed with it. It was the first time we heard Madonna’s new and improved Evita voice – and it did impress us much. The video was a sequel to her award-winning “Take A Bow” video, consisting of primarily new footage with some of the stuff that hit the cutting room floor for “Take A Bow.” Clearly, the moral of the song is “don’t get involved with a matador.”

Anyway, “You’ll See” has the dubious distinction of being the first Madonna song Heidi and I listened to together because Jeff and I subjected her to a viewing of the video THE VERY FIRST NIGHT WE MET. Why she didn’t run for the hills, I’ll never know. But I’m sure glad she didn’t.  Since then, she’s experienced so many Madonna moments with me, enduring most of them but enjoying some of them (case in point: the viewing of the Sex book in French.)

So that’s the story of how we met at a party that neither of us wanted to go to and both of us almost skipped. Just think how different the world would look today if that had come to pass.  Of course, Madonna figured into the story somehow.

And those three good friends I made in graduate school?  They were ushers at our wedding.

Love you honey. I’m glad to have known you for 20 years. Without you, I would be mostly surviving and staying alive instead of living.

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That’s The Way Love Goes / Janet Jackson

That's_the_Way_Love_Goes_(Janet_Jackson_single_-_cover_art)Flying by the seat of my pants is clearly the theme of this year’s blogging project, because as I was doing dishes tonight, I decided to revisit Janet Jackson’s 1993 album janet. What prompted that listening party was an out-of-left-field urge to listen to “That’s The Way Love Goes” – the lead single from the album.

janet. is an anomaly among early Janet Jackson albums because it was the first one I didn’t buy right off the bat.  In fact, I don’t think I actually purchased it until 1996, and from a used CD store at that. For some reason, the album did not resonate with me like Control or Rhythm Nation did.  Maybe it was the fact that it was less pop and more R&B. Maybe it was because I felt like she was copying Madonna with the overtly sexual material and succeeding whereas Madonna faced bitter backlash when she did the same. Whatever it was I didn’t immediately connect with the album. But time has been kind to it and I recognize it for the iconic record that it is – certainly one of Jackson’s strongest albums and home to some of her most memorable singles.

I can still remember hearing “That’s The Way Love Goes” for the first time during the final few weeks of the spring semester of 1993. I had read about it somewhere – this was pre-Internet so we didn’t know the every move of our favorite artists like we do now and there were certainly no leaks of new material ahead of the release date – and was interested to hear it. I am pretty sure I heard it while listening to the radio on my Walkman and if that does not date me, I don’t know what will. I can’t remember what I thought – I think I was surprised it was not uptempo like “Miss You Much” or “What Have You Done For Me Lately” had been. It subsequently went on to rule the summer airwaves like a juggernaut, inescapable and omnipresent.

(I truly cannot believe the full video is not on YouTube.)

Truth be told, I think it was because I was knee-deep in Reba McEntire’s For My Broken Heart album that I mostly didn’t pay attention to Janet Jackson during that long rainy summer of 1993.  Maybe it just wasn’t time for me to connect with the album. It’s hard to know for sure, but it’s also hard to deny the impact of “That’s The Way Love Goes.”  I do very vividly remember using the phrase “that’s the way love goes” more than once in journal entries I made during that time – words that would undoubtedly make me shudder with embarrassment at 43 but made perfect sense at 21.

And for my money, the NSYNC version of “That’s The Way Love Goes” is almost as good as Janet’s.

For all the dilly-dallying I did when it came to buying janet., it has now become one of my most sought after vinyl albums. As you can see, it isn’t cheap!

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Walk Like An Egyptian / The Bangles

walk like an egyptianI was pretty big into The Bangles when I was in high school – not surprising since it was an all female band that had slick pop production and catchy melodies. I mean, what was not to like? I loved “Manic Monday” and loved “If She Knew What She Wants” even more (see my post from a couple years ago about that song.)  But I wasn’t quite sure what to make of “Walk Like An Egyptian” when I first heard it.  Why did it take three verses to hear the familiar voice of Susanna Hoffs? What the hell was “walking like an Egyptian” anyway?

Let’s be honest – “Walk Like An Egyptian” is a novelty song, much in the vein of a song like “Wooly Bully” but less of a novelty song than say “Fish Heads” or “Pac-Man Fever.”  It just didn’t seem like that strong of a single to me. I figured that it would have its World Premiere Video on MTV and then slip silently into the dust bin of history. But what the hell did I know because it became their first number one song and ended up being the number one song for all of 1987!

Naturally, I grew to like the song and I probably played it more than my parents want to recall. I must have bought the single – why wouldn’t I? But I know that I did not have the picture sleeve because when I went to find a picture of it, I sure didn’t remember it. As the third single from the album, “Walk Like An Egyptian” was the song that finally pushed me to buy the album.  Back then, I had a “three song” rule that I loosely followed when buying albums. If there were 3 singles from the album that I liked, then I felt pretty comfortable spending the money on the whole album. I can think of many exceptions I made to that rule though, so it wasn’t like it was hard and fast.

A few fun notes about “Walk Like An Egyptian”:

  • It was offered to Toni Basil, who turned it down. She must be kicking herself.
  • It was the first song performed by an all female band playing their own instruments to hit the #1 spot on the Hot 100.
  • It was “deemed inappropriate for airplay” by Clear Channel in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

How does it hold up today? I think the jury is still out on that one. It’s not a song that go back to frequently. There’s no denying that it’s catchy, but when I think of songs from the 80s, it’s pretty far down the list.  For sure it was inescapable at the time, but I’m pretty sure “Woolly Bully” was as well back in its day.

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