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Audio files: Easy listening and fierce, Slavic certainty

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Last Friday, after witnessing Jason Bonham’s Led-Zeppelin Experience, pal Rob and I had a big discussion about music, eventually getting to the brilliance of 1980s pop. (We were unaware that, earlier, a jihadist had tried to vaporize us. It was a strange night.)

Recall that 80s pop — even at its most putrid  — had a remarkable and rarely discussed quality. For instance, beneath the noxious pep of Wham! was a foundation of extremely high-caliber musicianship.

Wham! arrangements typically featured such ace studio musicians as bassist Deon Estus, who seemed capable of mimicking Jaco Pastorious at will. And maybe I’m reaching, but I posit that Wham!’s  “Freedom” is a mall-pop descendant of Weather Report‘s Birdland.”

Wham! wasn’t alone in this regard. Go back and listen to the most irritating and bland Top 40 artists from the 80s — the Cutting Crew, Mr. Mister, Richard Marx — and beneath the crap surface lay a bedrock of virtuosity.

That’s not the case in today’s vapid pop scene.


Rob and I decided there should be a Wham!-Jaco tribute band called Wham! Report.

With that impetus, I created a list of “hybrid cover bands” for this week’s column. I won’t pretend that any of ’em are good ideas. Still, it’s a fun hashtag meme, the kind often seen on Twitter, e.g.

#ToiletMusic — Olivia Newton-Portable John.

Who cares if it is played-out, with real-life bands like Jon Cougar Concentration Camp offering a slightly similar joke? Let’s do it.



Jellyphishbone (the merger of JellyfishPhish and Fishbone)

Joe Satriani DiFranco (Joe Satriani and Ani DiFranco)

Peter Pantera (Peter Cetera and Pantera)

Devoivod (Devo and Voivod)

PJ Harvey Sid Fisher (PJ Harvey and Harvey Sid Fisher)

Dioakridge Boys (Ronnie James Dio and the Oak Ridge Boys)

Burzumbawamba (Burzum and Chumbawamba)

Mahavishnugent (Mahavishnu Orchestra and Ted Nugent)

Cher Cramps (Cher and the Cramps)

The Moby Dickies (Moby and the Dickies)

Ed Hall & Oates (Ed Hall and Hall & Oates)

Melt-Bananarama (Melt-Banana and Bananarama)

TSOL Debarge (TSOL and El Debarge)

Dog-Faced Herman’s Hermits (Dog Faced Hermans and Herman’s Hermits)

Peaches and Peaches & Herb (Peaches and Peaches & Herb)

Earth, Hawkwind and Fire (Earth, Wind & Fire and Hawkwind)

Rapeman or Astroman? (Rapeman and Man or Astroman?)

Eminemtombed (Eminem and Entombed)

Alabama² Thunderpussy (Alabama and Alabama Thunderpussy)

Hot Butter Hole (Hot Butter and Hole)

Simply Red Sovine (Simply Red and Red Sovine)

Sleater-Kinney Loggins (Sleater-Kinney and Kenny Loggins)

Mister Mr. Bungle (Mr. Mister and Mr. Bungle)

Toby Keith Richards (Toby Keith and Keith Richards)

General Public Enemy (General Public and Public Enemy)

Sha Na NON (Sha Na Na and NON)


All right, enough of that.

On a final note, I thought I’d share the weird coda to my Friday night of Bonham, jihads, and jiggling flesh.

At bar time, pal Rob and I hailed a cab. The driver — a big man from some indeterminate part of the Eastern Bloc — was straight out of a Coen Brothers film (or a Daniel Kalder book).

We felt an icy strangeness.

The first clue surfaced when we asked our cabby for his opinion on some frivolous matter. But in a Rocky IV-Dolph Lundgren-voice, the eerie Frost Giant said matter-of-factly:


That’s fine, whatever. A man of few words. Commendable, perhaps, but in stark contrast to the two motormouths he was chauffeuring around.

Cabbie Drago didn’t say anything else until…well, I’m getting to that.

Rob and I noticed that Drago was listening to some completely awful piano muzak. Rob wondered if it was a Burt Bacharach composition.

“Is Burt Bacharach still alive? I asked.

Rob shrugged. “Hmmm. I dunno.”

We pondered this for a bit and moved on to other topics. Eventually Cabbie Drago arrived at my parked vehicle in Southeast Portland.

We paid the man (tipping adequately) and readied ourselves for departure.

But a booming voice stopped us COLD.

“BURT BACHARACH IS STILL ALIVE,” announced Cabbie Drago.

Mystery solved. Yeah.

That’s how the night ended — with easy listening and fierce, Slavic certainty.

“Oh,” I said, moderately pleased. Maybe Burt will pen another chart-buster for Dionne Warwick.

Rob was equally enthused.

On the way back to East County, we watched a coyote dart in front of us.

Right then, our l’il corner of hell seemed rather lovely.

The End

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3 Responses to “Audio files: Easy listening and fierce, Slavic certainty”

  1. Let’s not forget Jay and the Americannibal Corpse.
    And as dreadful as Cutting Crew was, I bought their album back then because it was produced by Terry Brown, the long-time producer for Rush. Maybe that explains the solid musicianship behind it.

  2. Kajagoogoo’s bassist was a slap happy virtuoso, and also a dab hand at the Chapman stick.

  3. @Alan

    What about Danziggy Marley? They were great in their prime.

    I had no idea about the Cutting Crew/Rush connection. How weird. I pictured the Cutting Crew recording all of their material in a hair salon with the stylist doubling as engineer.


    I thought about adding AmbrosiaGoogoo to the list. Schmaltzy soft rock collides with the sweaty radio manure of Limahl.

    What about Limahl-ly Hatchet?

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