Tag Archives: Public Enemy

Message In Our Music: A Black Music Month Playlist

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared June Black Music Month. In 2016, President Barack Obama, who recognized the month as African-American Music Appreciation Month, said the music of African-American artists helped the country “to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Today’s Tunes du Jour playlist embodies that sentiment.

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Throwback Thursday – 1991

“It was a 5-minute song with no chorus and a mandolin as the lead instrument. So for us to hold that as the bar we have to jump over every time we write a song would be ridiculous.”

In the summer of 1990, R.E.M. demoed a song in the studio with the working title of “Sugar Cane.” The band’s guitarist, Peter Buck, had recently purchased a mandolin and while learning how to play it, came up with the song’s main riff and chorus.

Lyrics about obsession and unrequited love were added, including an expression from the southern part of the United States that means “being at the end of one’s rope.” That expression became the song’s new title. The band’s singer, Michael Stipe, recorded his vocals in one take.

Though in the liner notes the R.E.M.’s career retrospective, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, Stipe wrote “I don’t think any of us had any idea it would ever be … anything,” the group wanted it to be the first single released from their album Out of Time. Their record label, Warner Bros., didn’t think that was a good idea, as it was, in the words of one of the company’s executives, an “unconventional track.” After much discussion, Warner relented.

That record, with the title “Losing My Religion,” went to #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and became a smash worldwide. The album from which it was taken, Out of Time, sold over 18 million copies, far more than any of their previous releases.

Out of Time won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and was nominated for Album of the Year. “Losing My Religion” won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video and was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, which it lost to “Unforgettable,” which was written in 1951.

When asked at the time if he was worried that the song’s success might alienate older fans, Peter Buck told Rolling Stone, “The people that changed their minds because of ‘Losing My Religion’ can just kiss my ass.”

“Losing My Religion” made Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s, Blender’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. On their annual music critics poll, the Village Voice had “Losing My Religion” as the #2 single of 1991, just behind Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

For this Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour presents twenty of the best tracks from 1991. (I didn’t include “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because I base this not on year of release, but on the year a song peaked in popularity. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1992.)


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Throwback Thursday – 1989

During the February 22, 1989 telecast of the Grammy Awards, Pepsi premiered a thirty-second spot that featured a new song by Madonna, “Like a Prayer.” It was the first time a major artist’s new single was used in a television commercial prior to being released to radio or record stores.

The following week, a two-minute version of the commercial aired during The Cosby Show, at the time a highly-rated program starring America’s favorite dad, Bill Cosby. The ad, part of a $5 million endorsement deal Pepsi struck with Madonna that also included tour sponsorship, featured Madonna dancing in the street, in a school hallway, and in a church.

The song’s music video premiered the following day on MTV. In the video, Madonna witnesses the murder of a white girl by white supremacists. A black man gets arrested for the killing. Madonna seeks refuge in a church, where she has a dream that includes stigmata on her hands, kissing a black saint, and dancing in front of burning crosses.

The Vatican and other religions organizations condemned the video and threatened a protest against Pepsi products. Pepsi dropped its sponsorship of Madonna, never again aired the television spot, and let Madonna keep the $5 million they paid her.

“Like a Prayer” became Madonna’s seventh #1 pop hit in the United States. It also topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Belgium, and Switzerland.

“Like a Prayer” won the Viewers Choice award at the 1989 MTV Music Video Awards, a program that incidentally was sponsored by Pepsi. In her speech, Madonna said “I would really like to thank Pepsi for causing so much controversy.”

Tunes du Jour’s playlist this Throwback Thursday spotlights the year 1989, and kicks off with Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”


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My Birthday Advice: Don’t!

doggies + Elvis
Today is my birthday. Over my 25+ years on earth, I’ve learned many life lessons. Most of them came from songs. My birthday gift to you is a playlist of 100 songs offering advice as to what not to do.


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Public Enemy: Don’t Tell Me That You Understand Until You Hear The Men

Today is the 55th birthday of Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy. The ensemble have many fans. They also have their fair share of detractors. A large portion of the latter have never heard the group’s music, basing their dislike of the group from what they’ve learned about them through the white media, which painted them as anti-Semitic and homophobic.

Let’s examine these accusations.

About gay people, Chuck D (born Carlton Ridenhour, and let’s face it – Carlton is a terrible name for a rapper. It’s a good name for Rhoda’s doorman.) told music writer/critic Robert Christgau “I think they’re a little confused.” On its face that sounds offensive, but to be fair, he didn’t say we’re confused about our sexuality. I, for one, am confused about why someone would think they are heroic for killing a wounded lion. I know I’m not the only gay who feels this way. Lonnie, a gay at the Starbucks around the corner from my condo, agrees.

In the spring of 1988, Professor Griff, the group’s Minister of Information (What? Your band doesn’t have a Minister of Information?), told the UK press “There’s no place for gays. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was for that sort of behavior” and “If the Palestinians took up arms, went into Israel and killed all the Jews, it’d be alright.” A few months later Chuck defended Griff’s comments, telling Spin magazine “I back Griff. Whatever he says, he can prove.” He can prove there is no place for gays? Clearly he has never been to the Starbucks around the corner from my condo.

Griff later said he dared Jews to send “their faggot little hit men” after him and revealed how “the Jews finance these experiments on AIDS with black people in South Africa.” What a relief! I thought he was going to blame the gays for AIDS!

A 1989 story in the Washington Times quotes Griff as saying “’The Jews are wicked. And we can prove this.” He helpfully added that Jews are responsible for “the majority of wickedness that goes on across the globe.” All I can say in response to that is I hope that the dentist who killed the lion isn’t Jewish. Please don’t let him be Jewish!

To his credit, Public Enemy’s Chuck D swiftly kicked Griff out of the group (swiftly being a relative term, i.e. relative to how successful and popular the group had become since Griff made his comments the year prior). D then hired him back into the group seven weeks later, demoted to Supreme Allied Chief of Community Relations. (What? Your band doesn’t have a Supreme Allied Chief of Community Relations?) Griff rid himself of his anti-Semitic feelings in just seven weeks. That’s why he was put in charge of community relations.

Mr. D has also taken heat for being a follower of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. He rapped “Farrakhan’s a prophet and I think you ought to listen to what he can say to you” and “Don’t tell me that you understand until you hear the man.” Fair enough. Let’s hear him:

“The Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that’s a good name. Hitler was a very great man.” March 1984
“Murder and lying comes easy for white people.” February 1994
“Did you know that the Koran says that Jews are the most violent of people? I didn’t write it, but I’m living to see it.” February 2012
“They stole land in Palestine and this Synagogue of Satan knows that the end of their time of rule is up.” October 2010

I listened. I heard the man. I’m not sure I understand, but then again, I’m gay and therefore confused.

(By the way, for more of Reverend Farrakhan’s greatest anti-Semitic hits, go to the Anti-defamation League website. Then read how the Nation of Islam’s head said it was Jews responsible for the 9/11 attacks.)

In “Welcome to the Terrordome,” Chuck D raps “Crucifixion ain’t no fiction / So-called chosen frozen / Apologies made to whoever pleases / Still they got me like Jesus.” On behalf of the so-called chosen people, I accept this beautiful, heartfelt apology. It’s beautiful to see a man learn from his missteps. In return I’d like to say I’m sorry we killed Jesus.

In the group’s song “Meet the G That Killed Me,” Chuck D raps the classic homophobic line “Man to man, I don’t know if they can, from what I know, the parts don’t fit.” Work harder, Carlton. The parts will fit.

In “A Letter to the NY Post,” the group’s resident felon Flavor Flav (born William Drayton) rails against his domestic abuse arrest being reported by the titular newspaper. He raps “It only brings agony / Ask James Cagney / He beat up on a guy when he found he was a fagney / Cagney is a favorite / He is my boy.” A true poet, Flav is. I did an internet search and could not find any evidence of Cagney beating up any fagneys. So Flav likens making public his arrest for assaulting his girlfriend to James Cagney beating a fagney, considers Cagney a hero for beating up a fagney, and makes up the story of Cagney beating up a fagney. When asked about this lyric, Chuck D told Robert Christgau “Flavor doesn’t like homos.” Ah, thanks for clearing that up. I was confused, as homosexuals are, you know. By the way, since the NY Post printed the story that led Flav to write that song, he has been arrested for attempted murder, domestic violence, driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance, possession of marijuana, unlicensed operation of a vehicle, driving under the influence, speeding, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, and something having to do with cocaine. Though I’m upset this fine upstanding human being doesn’t like homos, as an olive branch form the gay community, I’m suggesting some rhymes for all the songs he needs to write about how his arrests keep being reported by the media: Emily Kagan/fagin, Sammy Hagar/fagar, Bilbo Baggins/faggins, Dolly Dagger/fagger, George Burns/fagurns, Marilyn Monroe/fagrow, Pagliacci/fagliacci. You’re welcome.

While speaking as the authority on who women of color should date, Chuck was quoted as saying “Homosexuality among brothers is another barrier cutting into the numbers [of men available for black women].” I have a solution – more black lesbians! Balance this shit out! You’re welcome.

Don’t try to get Chuck to elaborate on his views on gay people. Robert Christgau tried and was told by D, “Talking about homosexuality is almost like talking about Jews, you know, it’s a waste of my fucking time. I don’t spend much of my day talking about either.” True. He doesn’t spend much of his time talking about either. He succinctly says gays are confused and Jews are evil and then he moves on to whine about the group’s critics.

In 2003, Chuck D co-hosted a nationally-syndicated daily radio show alongside Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow. No Jews, but a big gay. Said D “[Rachel] steers the bus. Rachel is one of the best professional broadcasters I’ve worked with.” And so all is forgiven.

And now onto the music!


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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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The Song Retains The Name

Winston + Bobby Brown
Today is Bobby Brown’s 46th birthday. A former member of New Edition, Brown had his first solo hit in 1988 with “Don’t Be Cruel,” which reached #8 on the Hot 100. Though it shares its title with an Elvis Presley #1 hit from 1956, Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is not a remake.

That brings us to today’s playlist, which I call The Song Retains the Name. It consists of different songs with the same title. I initially planned to include twenty such songs, but more kept springing to mind. Before I knew it, I passed 100 entries. There are plenty more, so I decided to open this up to my reader(s). If you have songs that share titles you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

(NOTES: I included The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” because when it was released in 1980 its title was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Thought he didn’t have to, Michael Jackson, the song’s writer, later changed its name to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel.” Whitney Houston didn’t feel the need to make the same Hotel accommodation.

Also, though it is listed on Spotify as “The Best of My Love,” the Eagles track does not have a “The” on the 45 or the band’s On the Border album.)

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Songs Of Great Social And Political Import (1980 – 2011)

Ringo + Maniacs
Today is the birthday of Natalie Merchant, former lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, whose 1987 album In My Tribe is one of my favorites. The album opens with “What’s the Matter Here,” a song that addresses child abuse. That inspired the theme of today’s playlist – songs about social or political issues.

While such recordings seemed more commonplace on the radio in the sixties and early seventies, there remain plenty of songs that speak to topical issues. I decided to make 1980 my starting point, with that year’s “Biko” by Peter Gabriel being the oldest song on the list. As the studio version is not on Spotify I used a live recording. The most recent recording included is Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” from 2011. Lots of great songs of different genres about a variety of topics populate the program. If you’re so inclined, let me know what favorites of yours I missed.

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Glenn’s Ten – 10/15/14

The Black Keys hold down the top spot in Glenn’s Ten this week with “Gotta Get Away,” which may be their least White Stripesy single to date. Kendrick Lamar has a good chance of taking the reins from that duo next week with his Isley Brothers-sampling “i.” Swedish chanteuse Tove Lo is the week’s lone new entry with “Habits (Stay High)” entering at #7.

1 – “Gotta Get Away” – The Black Keys
2 – “i” – Kendrick Lamar
3 – “Put Your Number in My Phone” – Ariel Pink
4 – “Beggin for Thread” – Banks
5 – “Secrets” – Mary Lambert featuring B.o.B
6 – “Budapest” – George Ezra
7 – “Habits (Stay High)” – Tove Lo
8 – “Alone in My Home” – Jack White
9 – “Low Key” – Tweedy
10 – “Dangerous” – Big Data featuring Joywave

Today’s playlist are the above ten tracks followed by ten songs that were #1 on this date in Glenn’s Ten history.

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Glenn’s Ten – 8/27/14

Demi Lovato’s “Really Don’t Care” remains at #1 in Glenn’s Ten this week. There is one new entry – “A Place With No Name” performed by Michael Jackson, who has been in Glenn’s Ten many times over the years.

Glenn’s Ten for this week is:
1. “Really Don’t Care” – Demi Lovato featuring Cher Lloyd
2. “Chandelier” – Sia
3. “Do You” – Spoon
4. “New Dorp, New York” – SBTRKT featuring Ezra Koenig
5. “All the Rage Back Home” – Interpol
6. “How Can You Really” – Foxygen
7. “Dark Sunglasses” – Chrissie Hynde
8. “Electric Lady” – Janelle Monae featuring Solange
9. “Nothing More than Everything to Me” – Christopher Owens
10. “A Place with No Name” – Michael Jackson

Rounding out today’s playlist are ten tunes that were #1 on this date in Glenn’s Ten history, in reverse chronological order. It’s a place where Rihanna, The Chemical Brothers, Simply Red, Anthrax, Thompson Twins, Frank Zappa and Skee-Lo can peacefully co-exist.

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