I’m not one of the Cool Kids when it comes to music, as I’m hopelessly mired in the popular songs of my high school, college, and immediate post-college years. The good news, though, is this—and I’ll defend it to the death—those formative years happened to coincide with the best rock/pop music in history. I was lucky, but if you’re older or younger you’re not.
Yet there were some mushy songs during that era: songs that I think are good, but I’m ashamed of liking, for admitting that would bring down opprobrium upon me. It’s the same kind of stink-eye that I get from literature critics and teachers when I say I like Thomas Wolfe, or from hard-rock addicts when I admit that I think Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and Young) are fantastic.
So here I stand, naked in my musical embarrassment, and can do no other. But I’m sure we all have these guilty pleasures, and I hope that readers will confess theirs in the comments. Behold: seven songs that I’m ashamed of liking.
They are all sappy love songs (nothing like “Don’t Fear the Reaper” here, which I like a LOT), and that of course is an admission that I’m a softy. They were all hits, though, so others liked them, too.
This first one, I suspect, is the guilty pleasure of many, perhaps because of its great harmony (especially at the end) and its suggestive lyrics about making the beast with two backs during the daytime. It was recorded in 1975, just at the end of the Era of Good Music.
This was a monster hit in 1965, reaching #1 in the UK and #4 in the U.S. I know there are still Seekers and Judith Durham fans out there. You have to admit she had a powerful voice.
Who remembers Spanky and Our Gang? And yet they were popular for both this song (1967) and another good one, “I’d Like to Get to Know You.”
I like this one so much that it’s on my iPod Nano that I listen to while walking. In fact, it was hearing this song today that made me compile this list during the rest of my walk. It’s by the one-hit wonder band Mercy, was recorded in 1969, and made it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, right behind “Get Back” by the Beatles.
The Cryan’ Shames: what a dreadful name for a band! But they had a couple of hits, the best being this 1967 song. There’s a slight psychedelic vibrato at 1:40.
This song is on the border between sappy and respectable. It was a 1976 hit (#2 on the Billboard Hot 100) by England Dan and John Ford Coley. It was years before I learned that the lyric I heard as “I’m not talking about Millennium” was really “I’m not talking about moving in.”
And my all-time most-ashamed-of song, but Ceiling Cat help me, I do love it. I’ve always been a secret Barry Manilow fan; he really does write good songs (except for “Copacabana”), plays a mean piano, and has a great voice.
As I recall, he used to back up Bette Midler when she played in the gay bathhouses in New York City. Manilow, of course, is gay, so this song, a hit in 1976, could be read as expressing either heterosexual or homosexual love. But that’s no matter: I can’t stop listening when it’s on. (I suspect “Mandy” and “Copacabana” are often sung in karaoke clubs.)
There used to be a good live version on YouTube, but I can’t find it.
ADDENDUM: I forgot this gem by Pure Prairie League, again on the border between sappy and respectable. A hit in 1980, it’s the youngest song on the list, but is still forty years old. I also love their song “Amie” (1975), but I believe it’s respectable to like that one.
Your turn: what are your guilty pleasures vis-à-vis music? Fess up!