Five Rock Songs We Love That We're Probably Not Even Supposed To Like
We don’t believe in guilty pleasures.
At least not in musical form anyway.
If you’re enjoying yourself, and not hurting anybody in the process, do you.
But we must admit, that it took us awhile to reach this new age of enlightenment, not to be confused with being too old to care what anyone else thinks.
Or maybe that’s exactly what it is.
Either way, in this special double-shot of The Five Spot, we’re taking a trip down memory lane, while also cleaning out our closet, and clearing our conscience.
This page is the first of two, the rock and roll incarnation, aka “Five Rock Songs We Love That We’re Probably Not Supposed to Even Like”, keep an eye out for the rap installment of this deliciously dubious category, following closely behind.
Read 'em and weep...with laughter, sorrow, or inspiration...
“Smooth Up In Ya”-BulletBoys
Let's start with the first and the worst. The BulletBoys were a Velveeta Cheese band, even by late-eighties, Sunset Strip, hair-metal, cock-rock standards. The name, an amalgamation of L.A. Guns Lite + boy band, didn’t help. The hook to this hit, the biggest charter of their career, is crude bordering on creepy.
I’d forgotten all about this song. On the journey from L.A. to Philly this summer, I found myself in a bar called The Rusty Nail in Davenport, Iowa. There was an 80’s pop-metal cover band called Bad Hair performing. After running thru fairly predictable selections from Motley Crue and Poison, they launched into this. It wasn’t hard to recognize, despite not having not heard it in decades, since BulletBoys were helpful enough to announce its title in the opening screech. But as the guitar riff came, while swigging from a Busch Light can, it occurred to me: I (gulp) like this song. Probably always did, despite that even by age 12 when first hearing it, having enough sense not to loudly proclaim it. But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. This is a good, sleazy, rock & roll cut, that I’ll likely turn up, not turn off, whenever I next hear it.
Black Flag are a legendary punk band from Hermosa Beach, California, an L.A. beach city with which I’m well acquainted. This particular song comes from their late 70’s debut, before Henry Rollins became the singer, or anyone outside of that beachfront punk scene afforded them a shred pf recognition, let alone any level of critical respect.
I’m not sure why I love this one so much, there’s not a whole lot to it. The track runs for a grand total of 51 seconds. Their singer at the time, Keith Morris, later of the Circle Jerks, sounds like he’s doing “Surfin’ Bird” on speed. The lyrics reaffirm exactly what you’d guess the song was about by its title, though the reference to Hermosa's strand earns it bonus points. The band’s rhythm is like taking the Ramones' sound and then feeding it thru a blender, while holding the fast-forward halfway down on a cassette player. Still, it works. Soon as it starts, I almost immediately inherit the buzz that he's barking about, then by the end feel a little worn out and wasted myself. It's a pretty amazing feat to accomplish in under a minute's time.
“It’s Only Love”-Bryan Adams & Tina Turner
Our kindly neighbors to the north in Canada have delivered us many cultural and musical gifts. However, being “hip” has rarely been one of those exports. Even the Ontario band who dubbed themselves The Tragically Hip, fell tragically short of matching that description. Meanwhile the hippest Canadian cats we met on wax, from Joni Mitchell to Neil Young to The Band to Tommy Chong, had to mine Southern California, or the American South, to achieve that goal.
This brings us to Bryan Adams, one of Canada’s biggest rock stars of the past three decades, who would have to punch a few paparazzi, or have a couple drug busts, to be seen as an edgy rock star of even John Mellencamp proportions.
Even the way Tina Turner introduces Adams here, seems conciliatory at first. But once that riff starts, and both start making scrunchy faces, while sharing mics, it’s only love. Because this 1985 duet smash still kicks ass, while Tina’s hot legs, plus strut in those heels, remain electrifying, while the mugging might make Mick Jagger blush.
“Jumper”-Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind dropped into that wasteland era of mid-to-late 90’s rock between grunge & garage, just before rap-rock rehashes like Limp Bizkit took over. That “doo-doo-doo” song (aka “Semi-Charmed Life”) was what all the girls working at Champ’s Bar & Gril in Marlton were singing in the summer of ’97 in South Jersey. As a young, self-serious college kid, I naturally chose to hate on it.
Third Eye Blind’s lead singer, Steven Jenkins, was engaged in a music press battle with Rob Thomas, lead singer of Matchbox 20. From a distance, they both seemed to fit the wise-men-said-don’t-argue-with-fools proverb fairly well.
Despite all that, I always loved this song. It had good lyrics, plus just enough snottiness in the vocal to make the poppiness palpable. The drum build into the guitar crescendo, combined with the shouted vocal coda, earns it catharsis by the end. It’s simply a great record, with no qualifiers. Later on, much later, we're talking not until Spotify Premium levels of late, when I could afford to roll the dice, I revisited Third Eye Blind’s debut. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it sounds pretty great nowadays, and recommend it, that is as long as you’re not the type to get bogged down by music snobbery ;)
“Thunderkiss ‘65”-White Zombie
I have virtually no idea what words Rob Zombie is singing here. No clue what this song’s about either. And since that's been the case for 25 years, it's almost surely better that way at this point. Back in 1992, I was probably diving too deep into Nirvana, or fighting off the fall of Public Enemy, to be examining White Zombie. But this song was just undeniable. Still is, either despite or due to, how insistent and over-the-top it is.
I can't name five White Zombie songs, plus am still waiting for that Rob Zombie-directed movie about the Broad Street Bullies to come along, but this joint right here? I'll probably be rocking it until I'm sixty-fiiiiive, yeeaaah!