Happy 2012 everyone! To ring in the new year, I am... phoning it in by posting an old Facebook note I wrote quite a while ago. But I've updated the list, and I'm throwing in a few YouTube clips as well. Enjoy!
I've been noticing a trend in the popular music world as of late. It seems that many musical artists nowadays, in an effort to branch out musically, are becoming obsessed with "stripping it down" and "getting to the essentials". This often leads to simple acoustic versions of many songs, and also leads to artists whose entire career is centered around a very minimalist writing and performing style. Unfortunately, this also usually leads to whiny vocals, poor instrumental proficiency, and general weirdness praised as being "honest and meaningful art", a great example being that song from the movie "Juno". And let's face it: nobody likes that song. NOBODY. Anyone who tells you they like that song is lying. Even the people who wrote it probably thought "God, this song is just awful". And yet, that's what's being passed off these days as "meaningful" music. And I think to myself - what happened to the days when people made MORE out of their songs? You don't improve a steak by "stripping it down to the essentials", you improve it by wrapping it in bacon, covering it in A1 sauce, and lighting it on fire. Why not improve your song by adding lengthy guitar solos, some double bass-pedal action, and a completely unnecessary and very expensive symphony orchestra? You may question the musical integrity, you may question the artistic honesty, but you can't question the fact that these songs will ROCK YOUR FACE
OFF. What many people don't realize these days is that "Goofy" and "Awesome" are musical forces that actually go hand-in-hand quite wonderfully, and a lot of the time, the best plan of action really is to turn it up to 11. And so, without further adieu, I give you...
THE 12 GOOFIEST/MOST AWESOME SONGS
#12: "Bewitched" - Candlemass
Candlemass is a rather interesting band that is sometimes classified as "Stoner Metal", as in "I'd have to be stoned to understand what the eff is going on in this song". Although the thunderous riffs and melodious high-baritone wailings of singer Messiah Marcolin ("The Book Of Mormon" actor Josh Gad's evil twin, I'm sure of it) certainly classify this song as both goofy and awesome, what really puts it over the top is the video. Grainy VHS footage of metal dudes LARP-ing at a Renaissance Fair? Count me in.
#11: "Wrathchild" - Iron Maiden
If Satan formed a funk band, it would probably sound something like this. Rarely ever does a genuine heavy metal song make one want to shake one’s booty, but Steve Harris’s badass bass lines and crunchy riffs lay down a funky-fresh groove so funkadelic that you’ll soon be saying “DAMN that’s funky!” Throw in a little guitar shredding and some gratuitous metal screams and we’re off to the races.
#10. "Play With Me" - Extreme
Most of you probably know this as the song being played during the mall chase sequence in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. If you are not familiar that film, you have a lot to learn about things that are both goofy and awesome. Two minutes of rapid-fire, completely nonsensical lyrics followed by Nuno Bettencourt’s mind-blowing guitar solo make for goofy/awesome glory that just screams “It’s 1989, I have a mullet, I live in my parent’s basement, and I have some SWEET tickets for Judas Priest, this Saturday at the Omaha Civic Center! Well… actually, they’re kinda near the back… but still, JUDAS PRIEST!!! I’m taking my super-hot girlfriend that I TOTALLY didn’t make up.” Rock on.
#9: "Kill The King" - Rainbow
Rainbow goes down in my book as one of the most under-rated rock bands of all time, and this 1977 fantasy rock classic only serves to prove my point. Nothing says "metal" quite like epic fantasy lyrics, rollicking guitar riffs, flamboyant keyboard licks, thunderous double bass drums, and a 5-foot tall Italian guy wearing the puffy shirt from Seinfeld while flashing the devil horns (RIP Ronnie James Dio).
#8: Hangar 18 - Megadeth
One of the most goofy/awesome songs of all time also happens to be accompanied by one of the most goofy/awesome music videos of all time. Stick around through the long intro, the rest of the song and video is totally worth it. Blistering guitar solos, Dave Mustaine snarling into the camera, and sci-fi lyrics about medical experiments performed on space aliens that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico: it’s like everything great about being a nerd was combined into a single song.
#7: "Painkiller" - Judas Priest
One day (as I imagine this whole thing happened), the members of Judas Priest were sitting around somewhere in jolly old England, when one of them said "I say old chaps, what say we each chug an entire case of Red Bull, then run into the recording studio and play the fastest, loudest, craziest goddamn thing we possibly can?" They all thought it was a smashing idea and got right on it. The engineer in the booth suggested that Rob Halford sing the entire song up an octave, and that lead guitarist Glenn Tipton should play "MOAR SWEEP-PICKING!!!!!"; the band agreed. What you hear is the result. The video is what happens when an overdriven electric guitar has a seizure.
#6: "The Pharoah Sails To Orion" - Nightwish
It’s hard to get around the goofy/awesome stigma when you’re a Scandinavian prog-metal band with a female opera singer as your lead vocalist, so Nightwish tends to just go with it, and all for the better. This six-plus minute epic goes through a staggering multitude of musical material and features lyrics about… erm, something… honestly, the lyrics are virtually impossible to understand. Much like hieroglyphs before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, the lyrics are virtually impossible decipher even by internationally renowned university language professors. I’ve heard this song countless times and I STILL have no freakin’ clue what it’s about. Oh well.
#5: "Flash" - Queen
About half of Queen’s entire catalogue could be up for nomination on this list (I could do an entire separate article on “Goofy/Awesome Queen Songs”), so narrowing it down to just one was a difficult decision. I decided to go with this song for the complete campiness of the music video as well as the song itself. Queen actually composed the entire soundtrack to the now hysterically dated-looking 1980 “Flash Gordon” film, and this song was released as a single to accompany the release of the movie. The opening lines are some of the most epically-cheesy/cheesily-epic ever written in the English language: “FLASH! AAAAHHHH! Savior of the universe! *epic Brian May guitar riff*” It’s almost inevitable that a poorly-drawn super hero will then burst in through the walls, wrap his arms around the buxom-est blonde he can find, and fly away triumphantly to the strains of Freddie Mercury’s falsetto. The Flash Gordon film clips bring to mind images of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, but perhaps most perplexing about the music video: What the heck is up with John Deacon’s sweater? Is it just cold in there, or is he in fact a 70 year-old British woman? A case could be made for each scenario.
#4: "The Dark Eternal Night" - Dream Theater
A heavy metal epic about a Pharaoh who rises from the grave as an undead zombie/mummy bent on terrorizing civilization. There is a honky-tonk ragtime piano solo in the instrumental section. Do I NEED to write anything else? No. No I do not. Just watch the video.
#3: "To Hell With The Devil" - Stryper
“Christain” and “hair metal” are not exactly two terms that people tend to associate with each other, but sure enough, Stryper emerged in the mid-80’s as a band of rowdy, guitar-shredding, spandex-donning head-bangers who just happened to love Jesus. The band would have been a complete joke if they didn’t actually write good songs, but let’s face it… they kinda rocked. Except the ballads. Their ballads SUCKED. Original prints of Stryper albums actually contained a warning label on the back that read “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Listening to Stryper ballads causes ear cancer, profuse vomiting, erectile dysfunction, and may complicate pregnancy, in that nobody would EVER want to have sex with someone who listens to Stryper ballads”. Yikes. However, when playing and writing pure heavy metal, these guys could rock out with the best of them, as exemplified in 1987’s outrageously over-the-top “To Hell With The Devil”. Be sure to stick around to the end of the video for Michael Sweet’s ungodly high
note. The man could out-scream Satan himself.
#2: "Hot For Teacher" - Van Halen
The song begins with a 30-second drum solo that sounds a bit like Bruce Vilanch falling down a flight of stairs in an antique shop. Great way to start. In comes Eddie Van Halen’s finger-tapping guitar wizardry, followed by David Lee Roth’s offbeat in-song commentary, and we’re headlong into a raucous, ridiculous 1980’s classic. Not only is this one of the goofiest/most awesome songs ever written, but it also features one of the goofiest/most awesome music videos ever created. Words simply don’t do this song justice, just watch and listen for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
#1: "Eagle Fly Free" - Helloween
If I were to describe the experience of listening to this song, I would say it’s akin to being sexually assaulted in the ear for about five straight minutes. When the song ends, your first thought is probably something along the lines of “What the HELL just happened to me?!”, and yet you wouldn’t mind doing it all over again. This song contains all the trappings of goofy/awesome greatness: bloody-blazing fast tempo, indecipherable fantasy lyrics written by guys with an apparently tenuous grasp of the English language (the band is from Germany), testicle-defying high notes, dueling lead guitar lines, overtly gratuitous guitar solos, a drum solo, a bass solo (?!?!?!?!?!?!), and more distorted power chords than you can shake a stick at. It’s the musical equivalent of biting into a candy bar so sweet that you immediately contract diabetes. Don't say I didn't warn you.
James K. Ballard
A sometimes insightful, hopefully entertaining look into my career and everyday life.