Forty Years Of Glenn’s Ten

In 1980, my friend Lydia, who preferred I call her Candice, gave me a diary for Hanukkah, which I prefer to spell Chanukah. Adorning the cover of the diary was a drawing of Paddington Bear, about whom I knew nothing except he appeared to go out wearing only a coat and a hat with the price tag still on it, an ursine Minnie Pearl who reminded me of that guy I saw in Times Square five years earlier. My parents had taken me to see Broadway’s The Magic Show starring Doug Henning for my eleventh birthday. On our walk from the restaurant to the theater we passed a man with no pants sitting on a mailbox shouting about “the system.” I sensed that man made a wrong turn at some point in his life.

I’d never kept a diary, but not being one to throw away a gift, I gave it a try. “January 1. I woke up at noon. Had bacon for lunch. New England clam chowder for dinner.” I cherish that memory of my most festive New Year’s Day ever.

On January 10 I listed my ten favorite current songs:

That constituted the beginning of a habit I’ve upheld every Saturday since. This week Glenn’s Ten begins its 41st year.

Despite the initial Glenn’s Ten consisting solely of national top 40 hits that one could hear on Casey Kasem’s countdown way too early on Sunday mornings, the other kids in school never talked about them. My fellow seniors at New Jersey’s Saddle River Country Day School talked about the greatness of The Doors, Led Zeppelin and The Grateful Dead, but never discussed the brilliance of Eddie Rabbitt employing alternating finger snaps and hand claps to mimic raindrops hitting the ground in “I Love a Rainy Night.” Led Zeppelin didn’t do that in “Fool in the Rain.” The Dead didn’t do that in “Box of Rain.” The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm?” Nope. It was Eddie Flippin’ Rabbitt, and there’s more precipitation from whence that came. My favorite rock and roll singer during my high school days, Barry Manilow, connected with me on “I Made It Through The Rain.” Whereas Mr. Rabbitt sang about his passion for actual rain, Barry “The Man” Manilow’s rain was a metaphor for adversity and everyday struggles. High school’s social scene was a struggle for me. Already shy and introverted, my fondness for the most popular music of the day exacerbated my feeling of not belonging, which is ironic, don’t you think?

From the late summer 1981 to spring 1985 I attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Shy me made a few friends there, such as Kathy, who was my platonic date for the school dances. I so enjoyed dancing, and our college years were a furtive time for dance music, with the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the rise of Madonna and Prince, plus all those new wave bands hailing from the UK. Kathy was especially taken with them. She studied in London one semester, and when she returned to the States she gifted me a mixtape of the music she discovered abroad. I was particularly taken with The Smiths, whose singer, Morrissey, recognized what I was feeling. (We didn’t yet know about his racist leanings.) The Smiths weren’t well-known in the United States. I recall Interview magazine’s Glenn O’Brien writing that the only people in the US who heard of The Smiths were some “pretentious yuppies at Brandeis.” I’m famous!

In the spring of 1985, The Smiths released their single “How Soon Is Now?,” with its lyrics:

There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

It was like he read my diary, if my diary was more than song lists. I desired a girlfriend so badly, but my shyness prevented me from asking girls out, and on the one or two occasions where I mustered the courage, I was rejected.

When you say it’s gonna happen now
When exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long
And all my hope is gone.

A few months after graduation I landed a job in the Accounting department of CBS Records. Me at a record company! The record company that distributed Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper and Bruce Springsteen and Barbra Streisand and flippin’ Deniece Williams! I got the job through my skills and know how – I’m a math geek and great with numbers. Let’s hear it for this boy!

By the way, as you’re looking at my top ten lists, the column on the right is the position that song held the previous week. Under “Average” I list the songs that dropped out of Glenn’s Ten that week. The parenthetical lists that song’s peak Glenn’s Ten position, the number of weeks at that position, and the total number of weeks in Glenn’s Ten. The number to the right of that is the sum of every position held by the song, plus 11 for every week of the year the song was not in Glenn’s Ten, which number I then use in December each year to compute my tally of my favorite songs of the year. That’s the skills and know how that got me my job. Math geek!

I’m gay. My first clue was that I had been attracted to men with muscular physiques for several years, though I attributed that to envy, as I was so skinny. It turns out it was more than envy. I admitted that to myself in 1988, and from then on I was open about it. Interestingly, none of the artists in the Glenn’s Ten of January 9, 1988 were openly gay publicly. Nope, not him. Nor him. Nor him. I’m still not sure about him; do you know?

In other big news, in 1988 I moved from the suburbs of New Jersey into Manhattan. Just two years earlier I couldn’t envisage me living in the big city, with all its noise and activity and men donning only a coat and a hat. Now I loved this concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Let’s hear it for New York New York New York.

In even bigger news, I changed the verbiage denoting the scores of songs that fell from Glenn’s Ten from “Average” to the more accurate “Total.” What a year! Break out the bacon and chowder and make way for 1989!

I met Tommy in 1989 at a dance at NYC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. I went with my friend Frank, who knew the friend with whom Tommy went, so while those two were catching up on the dance floor, I was dancing with Tommy. We became a couple. We’d go out dancing every other weekend. I can still picture him throwing his hands in the air during the chorus of Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody,” when they sang “everybody” for the fourth and eighth times. Or perhaps that was me with my hands in the air. I get us confused. Like Tommy’s mother said to him after meeting me, “He’s like a Jewish version of you.” (Does that make me a self-hating narcissist?)

I broke up with the gentile version of me. Tommy was and is a good guy, though I was missing the massive amount of support I required to counter my insecurity. It was that insecurity that kept me with him for three-plus years, as I thought I’d never encounter another guy as cute or who possesses all of Tommy’s positive qualities who felt the same about me. Eventually I realized I was cheating myself and broke it off to discover where life takes me.

Career-wise, I moved from CBS Records’ (now Sony Music’s) Accounting department into the division of the company that licenses their music. Brought in to manage their accounting functions, I asked my boss if he could teach me about licensing (negotiating deals for music to be used pretty much anywhere music is used – on albums, in movies, playing above your head at the Piggly Wiggly, etc. That greeting card your mother sent you that plays “We Are Family” when you open it? You’re welcome.).

I learned a lot, and when a position opened up in the International Licensing department, I applied for and got it. The job included several trips to Europe to meet with and do presentations for Sony’s affiliates.

I was still shy. I was still introverted. I also was a perfectionist who needed to master his job. I had to conquer my shyness. I had tried therapy in the past, but it didn’t work for me. My therapist would assign me homework – “Go to a bar or a club and say hello to someone. Just hello.” “Hello, therapist! I’m here because the thought of saying hello to a stranger is mortifying.” He may as well have told me to wrestle an alligator. Afraid of needles, I’d let the dentist drill cavities without first injecting me with Novocaine. That I could handle. Talking to a stranger was too painful. This demanded radical action.

When people got to know me they’d tell me I’m funny. That’s it! I’ll become a stand-up comedian. I’ll be on stage in front of strangers, expressing my thoughts, and they’ll have to listen to me, because I have a spotlight and a mic. I took courses at The New School and the American Comedy Institute. I studied improvisation at HB Studios. I made my stand-up debut at a meeting for singles at the Jewish Community Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I think the only one who scored that night was me. I got laughs. I got more bookings. Over time I won comedy contests. I was favorably reviewed in several publications, with Backstage newspaper featuring me in a front page story. Within a few years I performed for a sold-out crowd at NYC’s famed Caroline’s on Broadway. During my years of performing stand-up comedy only one audience heckled me – a group of senior citizens during a fundraiser for a Catholic hospital. The only ones there who appreciated my “Glenn’s Tips For Meeting Guys” routine was a table of nuns and priests, one of whom was taking notes, I swear to whomever he believes in. That gig aside, stand-up boosted my self-confidence.

I met with Sony’s affiliates. I did presentations. I made them educational and fun. I enjoyed doing them. At a conference in Athens, my fellow employees awarded no-longer-as-shy me a bottle of ouzo for my mastery of Greek dancing, which I think had less to do with my dancing than it did with the consumption of ouzo by the judges. Still, I welcomed the recognition. To this day I have that bottle. I don’t drink yet I’m not one to throw away a gift.

In the fall of 1996, I was dating Dr. Leonid, a nice-looking Russian dentist I met through a personal ad he placed. I liked him, though I knew he wasn’t “the one.” And he knew that I knew that he wasn’t “the one,” though I was “the one” to him, a sentiment he drove into me by singing along to Madonna’s “You Must Love Me” from the Evita soundtrack while we were baking the potato.

My #1 song was BLACKstreet’s “No Diggity.” When the CD single was released, I went to buy it at Nobody Beats the Wiz in Union Square. On my walk over I thought “I wonder if that cute salesguy who was there on Father’s Day still works there.” As I approached the top floor, where the CDs were sold, my eyes locked with that salesguy. No-longer-as-shy-yet-still-very-shy me immediately looked away and headed to the section for CD singles. “May I help you?” I heard from behind me. That’s how I met Michael. We chatted for several minutes about the music we liked, a conversation I found far more pleasant than having a cavity filled. Nobody Beats The Wiz didn’t have “No Diggity” in stock, so I left with “Macarena Christmas” and Michael’s phone number.

Michael and I went on our first date the following Friday, when he revealed that he kept a weekly list of his favorite songs. What kind of wackadoo does that? I liked him. Dr. Leonid, who was away on vacation when Michael and I went out, called me the moment he was back (This was in the pre-cell phone days), and I broke the news to him. He didn’t take it well. “Who is he?” “His name is Michael.” “How old is he?” “He’s 23.” “Where does he work?” “At a store.” “What store?” “I’m not going to tell you where he works.” “I feel like someone stabbed me in the heart!” A popular song on the radio at that time was Toni Braxton’s “Un-break My Heart.” If Dr. Leonid maintained a top ten, that record would have then jumped to #1 with a bullet. Needing a copy of this song that so adequately expressed what he was feeling, he went to Nobody Beats The Wiz in Union Square. While looking for it, a voice from behind him asked “May I help you?” Dr. Leonid turned and saw the salesguy’s name tag. Michael. “How old are you?” Dr. Leonid asked. “23,” the salesguy replied. They made plans to go on a date.

They never did go on that date. Dr. Leonid relayed the story to me a week later when we met up for dinner, revealing that he asked out Michael merely to hurt me and make me upset. I wasn’t upset. I thought it was hilarious. That made Dr. Leonid upset. As far as I was concerned, Michael could see who he wants. He doesn’t belong to me. I was happy that someone as attractive as him would even date me. I recognize that sounds like low self-esteem talking, but that’s only because it’s low self-esteem talking.

I only saw Dr. Leonid once more after that, a few years later at a cabaret show. The friend who invited me also invited another friend of his, who it turns out was Dr. Leonid’s then boyfriend. Dr. Leonid lit up when he saw me and we caught up for a few minutes. His boyfriend did not care for the obvious affection Dr. Leonid still felt for me. They departed before the performance started and broke up the next day.

Michael and I have long since stopped seeing each other, though we still discuss music and share our lists.

Speaking of …

My four years working in Sony Music’s International division were the longest I’d gone without a promotion in my 14 years at the company. I reckoned this was the end of the line of my career. I could remain there and suck it up or end up in Times Square wearing only a coat and a hat with the price tag still on it. Neither was optimal. Enter Macy Gray.

Don’t let the days of your life pass you by
You got to get up, get out and do somethin’
How will you make it if you never even try?

A woman with whom I was working on a license deal invited me to a dinner party. I did as Macy Gray suggested and pressured myself to go. While there I asked folks if they knew of any record company that is hiring. “I think Zomba is.” Zomba was the home of Backstreet Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, and a young performer who at that moment was enjoying her first hit – Britney Spears. I sent my resume to a former Sony employee who was now at Zomba. She passed it on to her boss. Her boss called me. “We just created a new head of licensing position and you’re exactly who we’re looking for.” And so, off I went. My optimism returned. And to think, all I had to do was put myself out there and talk to people. I learned a valuable life lesson: always listen to Macy Gray.

My four years at Zomba were great. I got promoted two years into it, and under my leadership, the company’s licensing revenue increased 400%. A few other companies reached out to me to get me to jump ship over to them. One was Warner Music Group. An executive from Warner asked me “how much would it take for you to relocate to LA and be our Vice President of Domestic and International Licensing and Contract Administration in our Rhino Records division?” LA, with their traffic and smog and healthy dining? Yuck! I proposed a salary 60% more than I was presently making. The executive called back two days later. “Your salary was approved.” At the same time, my boss at Zomba told me “You are now in charge of film and TV licensing for every BMG label – Jive, RCA, Arista, etc.” BMG had purchased Zomba some months earlier. BMG was unable to match the Warner salary, and thus, I said goodbye to New York and Bobi, the handsome Dutch soccer player I was dating, and off I went to breathe in smog while sitting in traffic and munching on a carrot stick. I made it. The week I started at Warner, Zomba recording artist Justin Timberlake fell out of Glenn’s Ten, and Warner recording artist The Streets was #1. Could this be a sign? Don‘t be stupid.

Most of my years at Rhino/Warner were good. Under my leadership the licensing team had several record-breaking fiscal quarters. Rhino’s General Manager/later President told me on several occasions “I don’t know how you do it. Sales continue to decline, yet licensing revenue keeps going up.” I’ll tell you how I did it. I know how to negotiate lucrative deals and I hired and developed good teams. The rise in licensing revenue year over year wasn’t enough to compensate for Rhino’s declining sales, and every year we had layoffs. In September of 2013, one month shy of my fiftieth birthday, I found myself an out of work bitch. (See what I did there!) Rhino’s former GM/now President told me “Licensing receipts are declining.” No shock, Charlotte! That’s what happens when you prune a staff of 27 down to a staff of four. I’m outstanding at my job but I ain’t Doug Henning!

While being laid off is rude and insulting, the reality is I was ready to leave. In my last year at Rhino they had me reporting into a different senior vice present. This SVP would yell at me (and other employees), cuss at me, and blame me for some poor licensing deals made by an outside party he hired, deals he failed to review and that had no oversight by me or anyone on my team. I now recognize that his conduct likely stemmed from his own insecurities. People deal with their insecurities in different ways. I turned mine inwards. My boss lashed at people and didn’t accept responsibility for his mistakes. I understand. I have sympathy. Still, what an asshole!

My friend Martin urged me to quit. I was stressed. I was unhappy. At this point in my career, I had proven my abilities and had 27 years of stellar employee reviews to back me up. As soon as I exited that meeting with the company’s president and Human Resources I went to my office and immediately texted my friend Martin: “My birthday present came early this year.”

This was the first time since I started at CBS Records in 1985 that I found myself without a job.

Not only was I unemployed; I also was single. I went on a fair amount of dates when I got to LA. Early on I met a great guy named Carlo. We went out a few times and seemed to click. We decided to be a couple. I haven’t seen him since we made that decision. I hope he wasn’t kidnapped or killed wrestling an alligator or in a home invasion. None of those possibilities occurred to me until today. Hopefully he’s alive and well and merely decided he doesn’t like me and chose to ghost me. What an assh—no. He’s a good person. I don’t know where he went, though I sincerely hope he’s happy and doing well wherever he is. I wish that for everyone I’ve ever dated.

Only three of the song’s in this week’s Glenn’s Ten are in the national top 40. One is my #1, Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body.” I discovered a group of friends who share my love of it, and we fan boy over the cleverness of Ms. Stallion’s lyrics, to wit, “saucy like a barbecue but you won’t get your baby back.” If that doesn’t win M.T. Stallion the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry then their voting process is shoddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy oddy.

Over the 40 years I’ve been writing down my favorite songs of the week, my tastes have evolved, though what gravitates me toward certain songs hasn’t. Over the 40 years I’ve evolved, though I retain many core traits. I’m still an introvert. I still consider saying hello to a stranger terrifying and painful (though I do now let the dentist shoot me up with Novocaine before drilling.) While the past year of living through a pandemic has caused my anxiety to spike, the bright spot I find in it is I no longer have to come up with excuses to avoid social gatherings. As my friend Angel said, “It’s like you’ve been practicing for the stay at home mandate your entire life.”

Speaking of man dates, a love life doesn’t exist for me. I went out with a few good guys my first seven years in LA, including the aforementioned Carlo, as well as the gorgeous bodybuilder attorney and the adorable high end furniture salesperson with the rash, though at some point I gave up. I’ve gone on only one date in the last ten years, though four guys went on dates with me due to miscommunications. It seems a relationship isn’t in the cards for me. I’m too old. I’m not fit enough. If that sounds like low self-esteem talking, that’s because self-esteem is a journey, not a destination. I still have work to do on myself, though there has been progress over the years. I now like myself enough to relish solitary time and not spend it pining for a boyfriend, though who doesn’t like a baked potato?

But hey, anything can happen. Forty years ago, I didn’t conceive I’d have a successful career in the music business. I didn’t think I’d feel comfortable speaking to hundreds of people. There may exist someone out there for a funny, smart, music-obsessed math geek. Until he shows up, I’ll continue doing what I do and await further instructions from Macy Gray.

I still often feel I don’t belong, though I found a group of guys who also feel like they don’t belong, so we “don’t belong” together. I suppose that’s the primary difference between 17-year-old Glenn and 57-year-old Glenn: my shyness and feelings of otherness are not frightening or debilitating. They simply are there, and while I wish I didn’t feel these feelings, I do and life goes on. I’m less insecure. I made it through the rain.

My initial plan after departing Rhino was to decompress for two weeks and then search for a job. That plan was quickly nixed when I realized after two weeks not working that I was the most relaxed I had ever felt. I looked at a job posting for a VP of Licensing position at another major record company and found my stomach turned. I don’t want to run the licensing department at a big company anymore, but what to do? It didn’t make sense to work for 28 years straight and then relax for only two weeks. I extended my break and set to work on myself, exploring what makes me happy, which, aside from listening to music, is being creative. I attended more improv classes and writing classes and joined two public speaking clubs. As evidenced previously by the joy I took in performing stand-up comedy and doing business presentations, I enjoyed public speaking. Maybe there’s a fresh career there. What would I talk about? I don’t think I’ll secure many bookings discussing the brilliance of Eddie Rabbitt (but seriously, those alternating finger snaps and hand claps!). I guided my staff to great success, so perhaps I’ll talk about leadership. My staff was made up of men and women of varying ages, races, nationalities, sexual orientations and religious beliefs. When I exited Rhino, its senior management was all men, all white, all straight, all cisgender, and all in their forties. Well, one guy was in his fifties; he got laid off the week after me. I decided to pursue corporate speaking about the value of diversity to organizations and how it’s not only the right thing to do morally; it’s also the right thing to do fiscally. It’s taken me awhile to get it going – I’m still working on my perfectionist tendencies – but I anticipate my diversity book and online course to launch this year, and I’m confident they’ll perform well. Not over-the-moon confident, but reasonably confident. If they don’t work, I’ll attempt something else. I’m smart. I’m resourceful. I’m still evolving. I’m not ready to head to Times Square and sit on a mailbox wearing nothing but a coat and a hat with the price tag still on it.

Forty years of Glenn’s Tens

Today’s playlist consists of my top song from every year I’ve been doing Glenn’s Ten, courtesy of my math skills:

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The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

Today is the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. You’re officially allowed to start listening to holiday music now. To get you started, I compiled a playlist of what I consider to be 100 of the best Christmas songs. Okay, 98 songs, a stand-up routine and a skit. It’s a mix of standards, versions of standards with which you may not be familiar, and obscure but delightful tunes.

Enjoy!

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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 31: ‘Mo Christmas

More Christmas music! This installment is heavy on queer icons. The ladies we love are joined by RuPaul, Marc Almond, Band Aid and an ABBA tribute band. Songs you know by heart mix with songs you’ve never heard before.

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Sam + Ringo

It Really Shoulda…

Sam + Ringo
It’s that time of year when music geeks such as I think about the I.R.S. I.R.S. as in It Really Shoulda, as in it really should been a top ten hit.

Eight years ago, a colleague from my Sony Music days, Rich Appel, created the I.R.S. countdown. Music fans submitted a list of songs that didn’t make the top ten on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 but should have, in their opinion. Rich compiled the tallies to create the overall I.R.S. top 104. He’s been compiling this survey each year since.

As for why a song should have been a top ten hit, that’s left entirely up to the list-maker. On my list, I included records that are perfect or near-perfect melodically, lyrically and/or production-wise. I included songs that have withstood the test of time and are still part of the public consciousness years later. I included records that everybody thinks were top ten hits. I included tracks that would have been top ten hits except they didn’t conform to Billboard’s rules for chart placement at their time of release (e.g. they weren’t available on commercial 7-inch singles or viral video play didn’t count in metric measurements). I included singles by artists who hit the top ten with lesser songs. I focused on tracks that have pop appeal, leaving out fantastic recordings from some of my favorite acts, such as The Replacements and The Smiths – they were called “alternative” because they weren’t pop.

My list for 2015 is below, followed by a Spotify playlist of those songs. Rich asks people submitting lists to put them in order, with #1 being the record one feels should have, more than any other, been a top ten hit. Ask me to do so tomorrow and my list will likely be in a different order.

For today, here is my I.R.S. 104. After the artist name I listed how high the song charted during its initial release. If the single hit the Hot 100 at a later date, I included that information as well.

You can hear the official I.R.S. 104 tally for 2015 on Rich Appel’s radio show, That Thing, this coming weekend on RewoundRadio.com. Friday at 6PM Eastern he’ll go from #104 to around #53 and Sunday starting at 6PM Eastern he’ll pick up from where he left off and go to #1.

1. Wonderful World – Sam Cooke (#12, 1960)
2. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (#19, 1967)
3. River Deep, Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner (#88, 1966)
4. I Only Want to Be with You – Dusty Springfield (#12, 1964)
5. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#14, 1969)
6. Cupid – Sam Cooke (#17, 1961)
7. Holiday – Madonna (#16, 1984)
8. Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder (did not chart, 1977)
9. 1999 – Prince (#44, 1982; #12, 1983; #40, 1999)
10. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (#23, 1975)
11. It Takes Two – Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston (#14, 1967)
12. Little Egypt (Ying Yang) – The Coasters (#23, 1961)
13. I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & the Family Stone (#60, 1969; #38, 1970)
14. Into the Groove – Madonna (did not chart, 1985)
15. We Will Rock You – Queen (did not chart, 1978; #52, 1992)
16. S.O.S. – Abba (#15, 1975)
17. You’ve Got a Friend – Carole King (did not chart, 1971)
18. Hold On! I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave (#21, 1966)
19. Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding (#25, 1967)
20. The Way You Do the Things You Do – The Temptations (#11, 1964)
21. It’s a Shame – Spinners (#14, 1970)
22. It’s Gonna Work Out Fine – Ike & Tina Turner (#14, 1961)
23. Under My Thumb – the Rolling Stones (did not chart, 1966)
24. Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me) – Four Seasons (#13, 1966)
25. Me and Julio down by the School Yard – Paul Simon (#22, 1972)
26. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko & the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir (did not chart, 1971)
27. I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan (#21, 1978)
28. Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley (#29, 1964)
29. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (#13, 1984)
30. Super Freak – Rick James (#16, 1981)
31. Mighty Love – Spinners (#20, 1974)
32. Stan – Eminem featuring Dido (#51, 2000)
33. So Far Away – Carole King (#14, 1971)
34. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love (did not chart, 1963)
35. Because the Night – Patti Smith Group (#13, 1978)
36. Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (#67, 1970)
37. Candy Girl – New Edition (#46, 1983)
38. Brass in Pocket (I’m Special) – Pretenders (#14, 1980)
39. Everybody Hurts – R.E.M. (#29, 1993)
40. It Takes Two – Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (#36, 1988)
41. Heartbreak Hotel – the Jacksons (#22, 1981)
42. Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Staton (#20, 1976)
43. Valerie – Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse (did not chart, 2007)
44. Rock and Roll All Nite (live) – Kiss (#12, 1976)
45. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester (#36, 1979)
46. L-O-V-E (Love) – Al Green (#13, 1975)
47. It’s Raining Men – the Weather Girls (#46, 1983)
48. I’m a Slave 4 U – Britney Spears (#27, 2001)
49. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (#35, 1980)
50. Wake Up Everybody – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (#12, 1976)
51. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (#16, 1973)
52. Bring It on Home to Me – Sam Cooke (#13, 1962)
53. Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2 (#33, 1984)
54. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead (#13, 1979)
55. Move Your Feet – Junior Senior (did not chart, 2003)
56. Heroes – David Bowie (did not chart, 1977)
57. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (#21, 1978)
58. One Way or Another – Blondie (#24, 1979)
59. You Get What You Give – New Radicals (#36, 1999)
60. Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel – Tavares (#15, 1976)
61. Ain’t Nobody – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan (#22, 1983)
62. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon (#44, 1986, #23, 1987)
63. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt (#18, 1992)
64. Young Americans – David Bowie (#28, 1975)
65. A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke (#31, 1965)
66. Respect Yourself – the Staple Singers (#12, 1971)
67. Moondance – Van Morrison (did not chart, 1970; #92, 1977)
68. Where’s the Love – Hanson (did not chart, 1997)
69. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing – Stevie Wonder (#16, 1974)
70. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow (#62, 1982)
71. Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club (#31, 1982)
72. Beautiful Stranger – Madonna (#19, 1999)
73. Shame, Shame, Shame – Shirley (& Company) (#12, 1975)
74. The Way I Am – Eminem (#58, 2000)
75. Jungle Love – The Time (#20, 1985)
76. Gypsy – Fleetwood Mac (#12, 1982)
77. Smile – Lily Allen (#49, 2007)
78. Tear the Roof off the Sucker (Give up the Funk) – Parliament (#15, 1976)
79. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert (#11, 2013)
80. Solid – Ashford & Simpson (#12, 1985)
81. Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang (#36, 1980)
82. The Cup of Life – Ricky Martin (#60, 1998; #45, 1999)
83. Me, Myself and I – De La Soul (#34, 1989)
84. Bad Luck – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (#15, 1975)
85. Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads (did not chart, 1981)
86. Fuck You – Lily Allen (#68, 2009)
87. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service (did not chart, 2003)
88. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (movie version) – Lauryn Hill (did not chart, 1998)
89. Dedication to My Ex (Miss That) – Lloyd featuring Andre 3000 (#79, 2011)
90. Jump To It – Aretha Franklin (#24, 1982)
91. Mamma Mia – Abba (#32, 1976)
92. Space Oddity – David Bowie (did not chart, 1969; #15, 1973)
93. P Control – O{+> (Prince) (did not chart, 1995)
94. Got Your Money – Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis (#33, 1999)
95. LDN – Lily Allen (did not chart, 2007)
96. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Buddy Holly (#13, 1959)
97. Does Your Mother Know – Abba (#19, 1979)
98. Up in a Puff of Smoke – Polly Brown (#16, 1975)
99. Blue Limousine – Apollonia 6 (did not chart, 1984)
100. All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople (#37, 1972)
101. Fight the Power – Public Enemy (did not chart, 1989)
102. Pass That Dutch – Missy Elliott (#27, 2003)
103. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne (#21, 2003)
104. You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse (#78, 2007; #77, 2008)


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Ringo + Jody W

It’s Jody Watley’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Ringo + Jody W

Jody Watley is more of a trailblazer than you may realize.

She debuted as a Soul Train dancer at 14, where she amassed many fans due to her fashion sense and her dance style, called waacking, described on her web-site as a “beat-driven cousin of voguing.” She told DiscoMusic.com that she remembers those days fondly. “The Soul Train era was a lot of fun. It’s where I received my diva training in working the camera, giving attitude and ‘working it!’ All of the gay boys on the show taught me well!”

In 1977 she became a member of the music trio Shalamar, with whom she remained until 1983. The group landed hits on the pop, r&b and dance charts with “The Second Time Around,” “Dead Giveaway,” “Make That Move,” “A Night to Remember,” “Full of Fire” and “Right in the Socket.”

In 1984 she participated in the recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” She and Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool & the Gang were the only American performers in Band Aid.

Her self-titled solo debut album was released in 1986. It produced five charted singles – “Don’t You Want Me,” “”Some Kind of Lover,” “Still a Thrill,” “Most of All,” and the classic “Looking For A New Love,” which gave us the catch-phrase “Hasta la vista, baby,” later used by Tone-Loc in “Wild Thing” and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. She co-wrote all but three songs on the album, including its three top ten pop singles.

That album won Jody the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, nearly a decade after her first hit as part of Shalamar.

The music videos for “Most of All” and “Real Love,” the first single from her second solo album, were directed by David Fincher, director of the films Gone Girl, The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac and Se7en. The “Real Love” video received six MTV Video Award nominations.

The follow-up to the “Real Love” single, which hit #2, was another top ten pop hit. “Friends” was groundbreaking in that it was the first crossover hit to which a rapper, in this case Rakim, added an original verse. This formula became and remains very popular, to the extent that in 2002 the Grammy Awards added a Rap/Sung category.

That song’s music video was radical as well. In it, Jody and Rakim perform for a multicultural crowd that includes people of different races, sexual orientations and gender expressions, but not in a way that appears pandering to her base.

In 1994, Jody had a dance hit with an original song entitled “When a Man Loves a Woman.” In the UK re-edits of the song were released. “When a Man Loves a Man” was a big hit in gay clubs there. (There was also a “When a Woman Loves a Woman” mix.)

Said Jody to DiscoMusic.com, “I appreciate my gay fan base so much… I’m told they admire my individuality, style, and inner strength to persevere. I’ve also been told that my songs have helped people come out to their families or go through break ups. I’m always humbled.”

In 2004, four years before Prop 8 became a Prop, city officials in San Francisco issued about 4000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Jody Watley was there to serenade the newlyweds. (The California Supreme Court ordered the city to cease marrying same-sex partners in March 2004.)

Today Tunes du Jour celebrates the 56th birthday of Jody Watley by peppering our weekly dance playlist with some of her finest moments.

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Winston + King

King Holiday

Winston + King

There was a trend in eighties pop music of superstars banding together for a cause. As trends go, it was certainly better than the medley craze of that same decade. Its high points included “We Are the World,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” “Sun City” and “King Holiday.”

“King Holiday” was the result of a conversation rapper Kurtis Blow had with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son Dexter. The civil rights leader’s birthday was celebrated as a national holiday for the first time on January 20, 1986. To commemorate the occasion, Blow, along with Grandmaster Melle Mel, Bill Adler and Phillip Jones, composed “King Holiday,” which Blow and Jones produced.

To perform the song, they gathered an impressive list of crossover stars of the day. Joining Kurtis Blow and Melle Mel on the record were Run-D.M.C., Whitney Houston, Lisa Lisa, Full Force, James “JT” Taylor (of Kool & the Gang), Teena Marie, Whodini, Fat Boys, El DeBarge, Stephanie Mills, New Edition, Stacy Lattisaw and Menudo (featuring Ricky Martin). The single made the top 30 on Billboard’s Black Music chart. All proceeds from its sale were donated to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Today Tunes du Jour jumps back in time to sing celebrate sing sing celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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An Atheist Jew’s Guide To Christmas Music, Part 1

Raised Jewish, I celebrated Hanukkah. For several years, my family also celebrated Christmas. We didn’t go to midnight mass, we didn’t drink egg nog, we didn’t throw a special type of log in the fireplace. (By the way, I have no idea what makes a Yule log yuley). We put tinsel and candy canes on a large potted plant my mother had in the den and bought each other small but practical gifts. For example, when I was 11 for Christmas my parents got me a salt shaker. The Christmas celebrations stopped after I innocently told Grandpa Mordechai about them. My parents were so angry with me they took away my salt shaker.

Though I no longer celebrate Christmas, I still have a major jones for Christmas music. I own many more Christmas records than any atheist Jew probably should. We’re talking in the hundreds.

I eschew Christmas classics performed by well-known middle-of-the-road acts such as Celine Dion, Michael Bublé, Kenny G (sell-out Jew), Neil Diamond (sell-out Jew) or Barbra Streisand (sell-out Jew). Frank Sinatra shows up only in a duet with Cyndi Lauper and Bing Crosby shows up only in his duet with David Bowie.

Including the Crosby/Bowie version, I have 15 renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in my iPod, by a diverse list of artists including Johnny Cash, The Temptations, Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and RuPaul.

I have ten versions of “Winter Wonderland,” and that’s not counting the cross-dressing parody “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” not performed by RuPaul.

I have “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas in Harlem,” “Christmas in Washington,” “Christmastime in the LBC,” “Christmas in the City,” “Christmas in Heaven,” “Christmastime in Hell” and “Christmas at the Zoo.”

I have Christmas songs by most of my favorite artists of all-time, including The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Elvis Presley, The White Stripes, Kanye West, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Radiohead.

Some Christmas songs aren’t Christmas songs at all. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow Let it Snow Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” don’t mention the baby Jesus or Santa Claus or presents or a bullied reindeer with a skin ailment.

Some of the Christmas songs I have are a bit odd. “I Found the Brains of Santa Claus,” a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” C3PO and R2D2 singing “Sleigh Ride.” I have Liberace reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” though his version doesn’t hold a candle to Aretha Franklin’s version, in which the Queen of Soul took a few liberties with the words: “A bundle of gifts he had and what did I get? / As I squealed, opening the package, the same old shit!” Her lyrics are downright Disneyesque compared to Snoop Dogg’s reading of the famous poem. If you’re interested, Google the lyrics because I’m not going to print them here.

I have John Denver singing “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas).” Verse one opens with a couplet for the arithmetically-challenged: “Just last year when I was only seven / Now I’m almost eight you can see.” Santa needs to bring John some flashcards. The next two lines create a holiday image that is less Norman Rockwell and more John Waters: “You came home at quarter past eleven / And fell down underneath the Christmas tree.” Someone needs to get him to a 12-step group. He can attend a meeting with the title character of Fishbone’s “Slick Nick, You Devil You,” who came down the chimney with a keg of brew and spilled Jack Daniels all over the drapes.

I have Sarah Silverman singing “Give the Jew Girl Toys,” in which she taunts Santa by singing “You have a list / Well, Schindler did to / Liam Neeson played him / Tim Allen played you.”

Then there’s the classic “Fairtytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, which evokes the holiday spirit with the line “You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot,” something yelled at me every year by those Salvation Army Santas.

Better still is “Macarena Christmas.” I LOVE “Macarena” and I’m betting you do to though you probably won’t admit it. “Macarena Christmas” celebrates the birth of our lord and savior Baby Macarena by taking the chorus from the hit single and uncleverly inserting it repeatedly into a medley of Christmas songs, so it goes “Joy to the world, the Lord has come / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena, Que tu cuerpo es pa darle alegria y cosa Buena / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena / Eeeeeh, Macarena – ay / Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way.” Sound effects of what sounds like an infant with the hiccups are thrown in. It makes no sense, y me gusta mucho.

My favorite holiday album and one of the greatest all-time albums period is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, featuring tracks he produced for The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. Every cut on it is classic and can be enjoyed by the whole family, except Grandpa Mordechai.