Tag Archives: The Smiths

Not Your Typical LGBTQ+ Pride Playlist

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Tune du Jour celebrates with this playlist consisting of two hundred songs by and/or about Ls, Gs, Bs, Ts and Qs. Happy Pride!

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Not In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: The Smiths

“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have Bon Jovi as a member.”
– Groucho Marx

On April 14, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct several worthwhile acts and Bon Jovi. Over the next few weeks, Tunes du Jour will spotlight artists that are eligible for induction (i.e. they commercially released their debut recording at least 25 years ago), but have not been inducted as they are not as talented, innovative or influential as Bon Jovi.

Today we look at and listen to The Smiths. They sounded nothing like their mid-eighties contemporaries, creating songs that appealed to those who felt like outsiders, when in reality those people were humans with a need to be loved, just like everybody else. Lyrically the songs displayed wit and vulnerability and expressed feelings of loneliness and longing in ways never heard before in pop music. These lyrics were coupled with Johnny Marr’s fresh guitar riffs, hooks that worked their way into your head and never left, that often worked as the musical opposites of what was being sung.

The Smiths influenced and continue to influence countless indie rock artists. The way their songs played with traditional male roles opened the door to LGBTQ acts whose lyrics conveyed an openness toward sexuality, even though Morrissey, The Smiths’ singer and lyricist, has never publicly come out. Their songs are smart, with literary references one need not get to enjoy. However, they never sang anything like “I was running away from the only thing I’ve ever known / Like a blind dog without a bone / I was a gypsy lost in the twilight zone / I hijacked a rainbow and crashed into a pot of gold.” Do you know who did? Bon Jovi.

Here are twenty of The Smiths’ finest tunes.


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 78: LGBTQ Music From 1984 To 1985

In this installment, we finally wrap up 1984 and move into 1985, welcoming Bronski Beat into the fold. There are songs to dance to, songs to rock out to, and some to chill out to.

This playlist consists of twenty songs, most performed by artists who fall somewhere under the LGBTQ umbrella, a couple with queer lyrical content.


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 75: LGBTQ Music From 1982 To 1983

The British invasion of the early 80s continues! Welcome Boy George! Welcome George Michael! Welcome Morrissey (I’m claiming him as one of us; I don’t care what he has to say about it)!

This playlist consists of twenty songs, some performed by artists who fall somewhere under the LGBTQ umbrella, others with queer lyrical content. Some of the acts are American.


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Throwback Thursday – 1987 (Part II)

One of 1987’s most popular and critically-acclaimed hits began its life as a demo recording named after the duo who sang “It’s Raining Men.”

It’s by the band U2, who referred to the track as “The Weather Girls” or “Under the Weather.” Their guitarist, The Edge, told Rolling Stone magazine that the song sounded like a reggae band’s version of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” Over time they developed the song. Instruments were added to the initial drum pattern. When it came time to come up with lyrics, The Edge gave singer Bono a piece of paper on which he had written a phrase that came to him earlier that day – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

That became the song’s title, with lyrics inspired by the gospel music Bono was listening to at the time. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was U2’s second consecutive #1 single, following “With or Without You,” which was included on part 1 of Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday – 1987 playlist.

Here are twenty of 1987’s best, kicking off not with The Weather Girls, but with U2.


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Throwback Thursday – 1986

By 1986, Aerosmith appeared to have had their best years behind them. Sales of their releases that decade lagged significantly behind their hits in the 1970s, and the group’s members were struggling with drug addictions.

They did have fans, though. One was music producer Rick Rubin. He was working with rap group Run-D.M.C., who were known in hip hop circles and with music critics for incorporating rock guitars and beats in their boastful raps, such as “Rock Box” and “King of Rock.”

Rubin suggested Run-D.M.C. do a remake of Aerosmith’s 1977 hit “Walk This Way,” but the rappers had no interest in doing a cover. However, the group’s DJ, Jam Master Jay, was open to the idea, and Rubin called Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to come into the studio. Perry was familiar with the rappers, as his stepson was a fan. Jam Master Jay convinced Run and D.M.C. to give the remake a shot, seeing as Tyler and Perry were in the studio with Rubin.

The Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith version of “Walk This Way” was not only massively successful, but highly influential as well. It became Run-D.M.C.’s first crossover hit, and the first rap track to make the top ten of Billboard’s Hit 100, peaking at #4, six notches higher than Aerosmith’s original peaked. It opened the door to future song/rap collaborations, something that continues to dominate the charts to this day, not to mention bringing “rock rap” to a wide audience.

Steven Tyler went to rehab in 1986, and the other members of Aerosmith also sought treatment for their drug addictions. On the heels of the success of the “Walk This Way” remake, Aerosmith released the Permanent Vacation album in the late summer of 1987. Its first single, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” became the group’s first hit single outside the Run-D.M.C. collaboration since 1978’s “Come Together.” They followed that single with a string of big hits over the next few years, including “Love in an Elevator,” “Cryin’,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “Livin’ on the Edge,” and “Jaded.”

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights the best of 1986, kicking off with the groundbreaking “Walk This Way,” performed by Run-D.M.C. and featuring Aerosmith’s “Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.


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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 58: A Total Blam-Blam

I’d love to tell you what’s on this playlist, but I’m late for an appointment and the words aren’t coming to me. I can tell you it includes The Smiths, Queen and Bronski Beat, that it’s a rocking affair, and that the oldest song on it is from 1966 and the most recent from 2002. Now if you’ll excuse me….


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Throwback Thursday – 1985

Ringo + Madonna

In 1984, Madonna peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 with her first charting single, “Holiday.” By the following year, she had established herself as the Queen of the Pop Charts. She followed “Holiday” with three singles that hit the top ten in 1984: “Borderline,” “Lucky Star” and “Like a Virgin,” the latter hitting #1 and remaining there for six weeks. She opened 1985 with the #2 hit “Material Girl,” followed closely by the #1 “Crazy for You.” “Crazy” is from the film Vision Quest, in which Madonna had a small part as a nightclub singer.

Madonna had a much larger role in the film Desperately Seeking Susan. Released in April 1985, the smash film featured a new track from Madonna, “Into the Groove.” As one might expect when a new superstar has a new song, and a great song at that, the track received lots of radio airplay. “Groove” hit #1 on the Dance Club chart, and the only record on which it appeared, a 12-inch single where it was the b-side of “Angel,” went gold, selling over a million units in the US.

Though it was a big seller with a ton of airplay and club play, “Into the Groove” never hit Billboard’s Hot 100. Though that chart is supposed to accurately reflect a song’s popularity in the US, Billboard imposes rules that hang around longer than they should, throwing off historians looking into a song’s popularity. One of the arcane rules in 1985 was that a song had to be available on a commercial 7-inch vinyl single to be eligible to chart. Commercial availability solely on a 12-inch vinyl single, even one that sold over a million copies, is not enough. Widespread radio play on a variety of formats (the song hit the top twenty on the r&b chart, which for reasons that made sense to Billboard’s chart editors, allowed 12-inch singles to chart) is not enough.

Eventually, Billboard got around to revising these rules. The advent of cassingles (cassette tape singles) and CD singles expanded the formats eligible. The music industry’s decision to hold back the release of singles in any format to force consumers to shell out big bucks for a full-length album to get the one song they liked forced Billboard to make radio airplay without a commercial single good enough for a Hot 100 chart placement, but that change didn’t come into being until December of 1998, thirteen years too late for Madonna and historians.

This week’s Throwback Thursday kicks off with one of the best-known songs to have never charted on Billboard’s Hot 100, Madonna’s “Into the Groove.” It is followed by other music highlights of 1985.


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Throwback Thursday – 1983

Winston + MJ
MTV debuted on August 1, 1981. Back then it was a music video network. It positioned itself as a rock station. Most of the videos shown were of songs made by Caucasian performers, though rock-leaning black acts such as Joan Armatrading and the Bus Boys got some play.

Then came “Billie Jean.” The second single from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, “Billie Jean” was accompanied by a stylish video featuring a mesmerizing performance from Jackson. However, it wasn’t a rock song. It didn’t fit the format of rock radio stations, and it didn’t fit the format of MTV either.

But there is a big difference between radio and music television. There were plenty of radio stations and many different formats. You may not hear “Billie Jean” on the rock stations, but you could hear it on r&b stations and pop stations and dance-leaning stations. However, there was only one music television – MTV.

In his autobiography, Howling at the Moon, Walter Yetnikoff, head of CBS Records, for whom Jackson recorded (and where I worked in my first music business job), wrote “I screamed bloody murder when MTV refused to air [Jackson’s] videos. They argued that their format, white rock, excluded Michael’s music. I argued they were racist assholes – and I’d trumpet it to the world if they didn’t relent. I’ve never been more forceful or obnoxious. I’ve also never been as effective, threatening to pull all our videos. With added pressure from [Thriller producer] Quincy Jones, they caved in, and in doing so the MTV color line came crashing down.”

Jackson’s video for “Billie Jean” aired on MTV, followed just weeks later by his video for “Beat It,” a song whose guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen helped make it a hit on rock radio. These two videos made Jackson, already a superstar, a worldwide phenomenon with a humongous fan base that transcended race, age and location in a way never seen before. These two videos made MTV, a year and a half old and fairly popular in white suburban areas, a cultural institution. These two videos made the music video, then not something done for many singles, particularly those performed by artists of color, an art form and a necessary marketing tool.

Some people tuned in to MTV to see the Michael Jackson videos, and while watching the channel, discovered other acts. Some people tuned in to MTV to watch “white rock” videos, and while watching the channel, discovered Michael Jackson.

MTV went to showcase more “non-rock” videos. In 1988, they launched their hugely popular program Yo! MTV Raps, something that would have been completely unexpected just five years earlier, pre-“Billie Jean.”

While MTV deserves credit for making “Billie Jean” and Thriller successful, the person most responsible is Jackson himself. He wrote the song. He sang the song. He danced the song. Quincy Jones did not want “Billie Jean” to appear on Thriller. He didn’t like the title. He didn’t like the bassline. He felt the song’s introduction was too long. Jackson argued “But that’s the jelly!…That’s what makes me want to dance.” Jones wasn’t ready for this jelly, but Jackson stood his ground.

In May of 1983, NBC aired a tribute to Motown Records. Motown: Yesterday, Today, Forever featuring many legends who recorded for the storied label performing their classics. We saw Diana Ross, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Mary Wells, Junior Walker and then some. It was a terrific show, but the talk of the town following its airing was the performance of a song not from the Motown catalogue – Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” The iconic performance, during which Jackson brought the famous moonwalk to the world at large, pushed him that much more ahead of any other performer working in music back then.

Following “Beat It,” CBS Records released four more singles from Thriller. All seven of the singles released (the album had only nine songs!) went top ten, breaking the record of most top ten hits from a single-artist album that was set a few years earlier by…Michael Jackson, whose Off the Wall gave us four. Before Thriller, four singles for one album was considered a lot. Thriller raised the bar for blockbuster albums, and subsequent releases such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Prince’s Purple Rain, Def Leppard’s Hysteria and Janet Jackson’s Control each produced more than four hits.

“Billie Jean” changed everything.

On this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, Tunes du Jour spotlights 1983, kicking off with Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean.”


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100 Greatest Artists

Last week my close friend Laura forward to me a link to Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Artists” and asked for my impression.

My 100 Greatest Artists list includes many of the same acts as Rolling Stone’s list; however, there is a large handful of acts on my roll that are not on that publication’s slate.

I won’t disparage their choices (but seriously, Aerosmith at #59?). Instead, I will share with you music from twenty artists that made my roster but are not among Rolling Stone’s top 100.

Feel free to share your choice acts in the Comments section.


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