This is a story about albums that I have loved, but am now embarrassed by the fact. Everyone has them. Those stacks of albums, cassettes, CDs or whatever medium you use that you can’t believe you bought. It’s one thing if you bought them and didn’t like them. It’s another thing to buy them and like them and then, years later, realize how embarrassing it was for people to have heard you listening to it or, even worse, singing to songs on that particular album.
Kids of today have it much easier. They can download a particular track. They don’t have to buy the whole album or CD to get one favorite tune. They can listen on their iPhones or iPads to particular genres on apps like Pandora. They don’t have to go to a record store like I did and ask the clerk for advice on a new music type. I walked into Record Shack in Iowa one day as a teenager and remember asking the 40ish year-old woman if she had ever heard of a music genre called rap. And if she did, could she make suggestions on a rap CD I could buy? She could not. In our day, it was more trial and error. You bought as many duds as you did great collections in order to stay hip and current.
I’ve recently had the chance to think through my music collection. I have decided that because I have always liked to sing is one reason for so many embarrassing albums. My second reason for the embarrassment comes from the fact that I have always liked a good ballad. With ballads come bad choices….trust me. So here are five albums that I dearly loved, but am ashamed to admit it today. What was I thinking? I am sorry to all the people who had to hear me sing along to the songs on these collections, that had to hear me discuss their musical merits or that had to stand in line with me when I bought them. Here goes:
In 1975, the Captain and Tennille came out with ‘Song of Joy’. The actual tune, ‘Song of Joy’ was to become the last song they sang each week on their ill-fated prime time variety television hour. I knew all the words. Each week, my parents would be forced to sit in their recliners and watch the Captain and Tennille entertain and, at the end of each show, watch me join in as they played and sang through their signature goodbye song, ‘Song of Joy’. Towards the end of the first and only season of their variety hour, I was able to sing harmony to Tennille’s melody. I’m sorry Mom and Dad. As a side note, this album also spawned the song ‘Muskrat Love’ which I played so often that the needle from my stereo actually destroyed the grooves on the album.
In 1978, my main man Barry Manilow released ‘Even Now’. I had several Manilow albums in my stash already, but this album is the one that always sticks out in my mind. While it contained three of my favorite Manilow hits, ‘Even Now’, ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ and ‘Copacabana’, there was always a sadness in my heart when I listened to it. I knew that Barry’s world dominance was coming to an end. This album was one of the first where I realized that I was going to have to work it if I was ever going to be in entertainment (which I am not). I would sit on my bed and belt ‘Even Now’ out in a manly, yet sensitive seating arrangement. I even introduced a light dance number to the interlude on ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ just to spark things up a little when I sang it in my bedroom. I also asked our local barber in Iowa if he could cut my hair just like Barry Manilow’s. I think that I may have been asking for a mullet, but I thought it was perfect for me. Barry’s hair was always ‘business in the front, party in the back’.
In 1982, Diana Ross released ‘Silk Electric’. The big hit on this album was ‘Muscles’ written for her by her friend Michael Jackson. At the time, I was into some sports like wrestling and track (although not great at either) and therefore thought I had an incredible body. Let me re-phrase….I did have an incredible body at that time, but didn’t think so. Now that I am a troll, I realize what a waste of time that was thinking I needed to be in better shape. I should have worked it more! Let me tell you right now that there is not a man on Earth that should ever, ever sing ‘Muscles’ where anyone can hear them or could possibly hear them. There is no good that can come of it. Yet, I was proud to sing along to the radio in front of my friends. I’d sing over the buzz of a loud party when it came on so that everyone knew that I knew all the words. I was proud of that. Sometimes I would flex my arms to really get into it. Again, not good. Don’t try this at home.
My roommates in college during 1985 were listening to new music that their parents would never allow them to listen to at home. I am remembering Rush and AC/DC. I was listening to Sheena Easton’s ‘Best Kept Secret’. ‘Almost Over You’ was my favorite. Again, any ballad is a good ballad to me. I listened in my college dorm room to this song when I was happy and I listened to this song when I was sad. For Christmas that year, my college dorm roommate gave me headphones that worked with my stereo. He said he had heard enough of Sheena Easton and that song. I was stunned. As a side note, I gave every girl I knew the fashion tip to wear her pearl necklaces at an angle like Sheena did on the cover. I didn’t date once that year.
In 1990, I had moved to San Francisco and was enjoying the whole new R&B and hip/hop scene. Bobby Brown’s ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ was the album to own if you liked this kind of music. There is nothing wrong with this album and the music on it. ‘My Prerogative’ is still one of my favorite tunes and I listen to it on my iPod even today. It is probably (and unfortunately) Bobby Brown’s singular contribution to the music scene before he turned into the crazy Bobby Brown he is today. The problem was the clothes. I filled my closet up with double-breasted suits that had huge, stuffed shoulder pads in them. Tab collar shirts buttoned all the way up to the neck were all I wore. As the album got hotter and hotter, my shoulder pads got bigger and bigger. My hair got shorter and shorter on the sides and higher and higher on the top. I saw Bobby in a sequined blazer at one point and exhausted several department store sales people in a massive hunt to find a match. This is the truth….see the jacket in the picture on the left.
I was cool while this style was popular. However, after it wasn’t popular anymore, no one told me. When a woman in a club looked at me circa 1992/93 and called me a ‘Sad Bobby Brown’, I knew I needed a makeover. It was my prerogative to change, so I packed up my suits and tab-collar shirts and put them away for another time when they would be back in style.
They say that the truth will set you free. Telling you about my embarrassment and shame around these albums is helping to release me. Again, there is nothing wrong with the music on any of these albums…they are not duds. It’s just that hindsight is 20/20. Looking back 20 and 30 years later, what was I thinking? Thanks for reading. I’m off now to download a couple of these songs onto my iPod. At least I can listen to my iPod in secret with my ear buds and no one will even know what I’m lip synching to in my bed room. What albums do you still love but are embarrassed to admit…be honest?