Battle of the Song Titles - Round 4
by Scott Bass
Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages; we welcome you back into the aural altercation arena, a fantastic world of faux fisticuffs and futile musical pugilism, also known as the latest chapter of Song Title Battle.
Some have called our literary sport stupid, idiotic, moronic, obtuse, vapid, and even vacuous. I appreciate that you donít like these articles and will talk to you more about it at the family reunion, ya ding-dong.
CONTENDERS: Connie Francis vs. The Go-Go's
This 45 from 1962 was megastar Francis' final Top 10 single and it's a song many people will still recognize today. Drop the needle and her version immediately clocks you with a real "right" hook: "V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N... in the summertime." The best possible way to start a song is with a catchy singalong phrase; and for decades, no group dared to use this title when entering the pop charts, frightened of the imposing shadow cast by the incomparable heavyweight Connie Francis.
But something happened in the '80's -- the idea of "girl group" as a pop enterprise came back into fashion for the first time since the '60's. Bananarama, The Go-Go's, The Bangles, and the Pointer Sisters (who were around a while before that) are just a few of the all-female groups to hit the charts multiple times during the decade. Girls could punch just as hard as the boys when it came to Top 40 success, and in 1982, frisky upstarts and former punks The Go-Go's decided to have their own go at a song called "Vacation." And what a go it was, as the smoothly-produced slice of beach-pop went Top 10 and even went into the obscure media history books as the first "cassingle" issued by IRS records.
The Go-Go's track contains an even bigger hook than Francis' and also clocks at just one second under three minutes in length, the perfect length for a pop song.
WINNER: THE GO-GO's
TITLE: "Fox on the Run"
CONTENDERS: Manfred Mann vs. the Sweet
Bear witness to an evolution of a theme, of sorts. The English are people renowned for their bizarre obsession with the cruel sport of fox hunting. Extremely ripe for a rock treatment, the concept was first realized by Manfred Mann who posited that an alluring young lady was "like a fox on the run." But the Sweet tossed pretense right out the window and said we're talking about a foxy girl here. Possibly serving as an official Jimi Hendrix sequel, The Sweet are here to explain what happened to that Foxy Lady.
"Okay, you think you got a pretty face, but the rest of you is outta place" is such a great line; combine that with one of the catchiest choruses in '70's glam, and this one is an easy call. It's a first round knock out!
Winner: THE SWEET
CONTENDERS: Three Dog Night vs. Metallica
Aside from the simple singular title, these two songs also share another quality; they were such massive hits that they can both be accused of being "overplayed." Sometimes a song becomes so popular and played so much that we, for a time anyhow, tend to lose appreciation for it. So let's collectively all take a step back and recognize that these were both pretty huge singles that brought a lot of joy to the world, especially the folks cashing the royalty checks.
But which one was mightier? Both songs received so much airplay in their heyday that we have to look at how they fit into each group's respective catalog in order to settle this particular musical melee.
In the late-'60's/early-'70's Three Dog Night were a heavy-hittin', hard-pollutin' smash foundry, kicking out charting singles every few months. "One" was their eighth most popular track of 21 seven inchers to enter the Billboard charts--making it far from their most popular song, despite its ubiquity.
21 sounds like a bunch of hit singles until you compare to Metallica, who as of 2019, have entered the Billboard singles chart an astonishing 37 times. And "One" holds an interesting place on that list -- not only is it dead last as the only single of the 37 to miss the Top 40 (it peaked at 47) but it's also the earliest entry for the group--1989. In other words, it's the year the group decided to stop being a true Heavy Metal band and instead go for those sweet, sweet, rock and roll radio dollars. Can't fault 'em- it is what it is. Stay tuned for their children's book, coming out in 2019.
WINNER: THREE DOG NIGHT
TITLE: "Talk Talk"
CONTENDERS: The Music Machine vs. Talk Talk
Mark Hollis' new wave hit "Talk Talk" was first heard on the fabled early UK-punk compilation Streets first issued in 1977. Recording with a group called The Reaction, this version of "Talk Talk" is sped up and a bit rougher in production and instrumentation compared to the version he recorded five years later that currently earns him royalties; however, it's clearly the same song and provides a direct pin-to-pin connection between Punk and New Wave genres. One has to wonder how many other first-wave punk acts could have made a mint had they only re-recorded their old material with a slower tempo and a crisp new-wavey synth line?
Good on Mark for squeezing two different records out of the same idea but he should have known that he stood approximately zero chance of ever claiming fame to have written the best song called "Talk Talk" because that's the title of the best garage song of the '60's bar none. If John Lennon was alive today, I'd bet dollars to donuts he'd be willing to strangle a puppy if it meant he could have written this song. But he didn't; Sean Bonniwell and his Music Machine recorded their "Talk Talk" in 1965 and there's a reason why it's one of the most covered Nuggets era tracks out there. The track is such a raw, catchy, and original composition that it almost appears to be a gift from some alien rock intelligence when compared to some of the simple "Wild Thing" style three-chord frat rock that was popular at the time. Bonniwell's voice is both brooding and menacing, and his machine produces some of the best protopunk of the era.
WINNER: THE MUSIC MACHINE
This fight should never have happened
CONTENDERS: Van Halen vs. Kris Kross
1984 was the name of the album but also the year that Van Halen broke big. Released in the last month of the year prior, this single was VH's highest-charting song ever and for good reason. It's an undeniably catchy affair, although kind of an anomaly in their catalog as it features Eddie not just cranking on the keys for the main riff, but also during the solo section, where he showcases his signature "tapping" on a keyboard instead of a fretboard and anyone who says they didn't like it when it came out is lying.
And so it was established then, the song title "Jump" would hitherto belong to Van Halen. Until the early 90's anyway, when hip hop fans discovered the pogo and everyone was jump, jump, jumpin' around to get down. 1992 was the year that House of Pain scored a hit record no one else wanted with "Jump Around" and also the year that Jermaine Dupri discovered the young rap duo Kriss Kross. "Discovered" being a music industry term for "successfully exploited." I'm not trying to imply that being thrust into the national spotlight at the age of 12 by a rap label contributed to member Chris Kelly's later drug problems and tragic early death in 2013 at the age of 34. There's no need to imply, because that's what happened.
WINNER: Van Halen
Honorable mention: The Pointer Sisters
We have witnessed silly spars become serious scraps, and indulged in some seriously ridiculous harmonic pugilism. And now dear reader (not you, cousin Kevin) this intrepid fight reporter is ready to throw in the towel for this particular event.
But fear not, because the promoters are telling me that they are already plotting their next engagement, and that we will be back with another bout sometime in the future, and it's going to be amazing. They say that about everything.
SEE PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF THE SONG BATTLES:
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