Saturday, June 10, 2017

Pride Month: (facts about popular songs part three)

LET'S HAVE A KIKI by SCISSOR SISTERS

This fun-fuelled dance track starts as a message that co-vocalist Ana Matronic is leaving on someone's phone. She proceeds to describe her night out at a club, which gets shut down by the cops so she is forced to move the party home.

So what is a 'kiki'? "The term 'kiki' is a drag queen term," Matronic explained to Spinner, "and it's used in the drag community in America to describe a good time. You can have a kiki on the phone with your friend. It also means gossip. Or you might hear a conversation where somebody says, 'Did you go to the club last night?' and you're like, 'Wow, girl, you should have been there. It was a kiki.' It would mean that your friends were all there and you had a good time."

The song became an online hit after Anne Hathaway admitted she was a fan of "Kiki's" on Late Show With David Letterman.

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HURT ME? by CULTURE CLUB

The four members of Culture Club wrote the songs for their first album Kissing To Be Clever together, with singer Boy George coming up with the lyrics. On this song, he later admitted that he wrote the lyrics about his relationship with their drummer Jon Moss. They had an affair for about six years that was kept hidden from the public, and George often felt hurt and emotional.

At first, Boy George didn't want this released as a single because it was such a personal song for him. When it was released, it hit #1 in 23 countries. Boy George told Q magazine September 2008: "Our first two singles failed. That single was our last chance. But I threatened to leave if (the label) released it. I didn't think it was us; it wasn't club music. It wouldn't stand up to Spandau Ballet. But I was wrong. It was so personal in a way that our other songs weren't. It was about Jon. All the songs were about him, but they were more ambiguous."

This was Culture Club's first single released in the United States. It was a huge and unlikely hit for the British band, who embarked on an American tour in 1983 to gain traction in that country. The song crossed over to Adult Contemporary radio, where most listeners had no idea the lead singer dressed like a girl. MTV, whose library was mostly British bands when they launched, had acclimated their US audience to guys in makeup, so Culture Club wasn't so shocking on the channel and the group developed a huge audience of young people who liked the sound and the look.

The "look" was authentic: Boy George had been wearing makeup and women's clothes since his school days, and while he exaggerated it for publicity, it was his preferred style. In a 1983 Trouser Press interview, the singer explained: "I wear my hair this way 'cause it makes my face look longer, my hat because it makes me look taller, black clothes because they make me look thinner, and makeup because it makes me look prettier."

The band came up with the soft reggae beat and put the song together when they found they had some spare studio time during a recording session for the Peter Powell show on BBC Radio One. Their bass player Mikey Craig brought a Caribbean influence to the band's sound.

Boy George surprised a lot of people who met him in person, as his substantial size and manly speaking voice belied his feminine appearance. At least one line in this song addresses how perceptions can be wrong. He told Musician magazine in October 1983: "There's a line from 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?' that says, 'Everything's not what you see,' which is basically what I believe. It's kind of boring when things are just what they are."

In the book 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Boy George said: "'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me' is a really well-constructed song. It's probably the only proper song we've got with proper chord sequences and keyboard changes in it. It's just very musical. The most powerful songs in the world are love songs. They apply to everyone - especially kids who fall in and out of love more times than anyone else. At the end of the day, everybody wants to be wanted."

In the 1998 film The Wedding Singer, which is set in the '80s, a member of the wedding band named George is clearly modeled after Boy George. At one point, he is thrust into the spotlight and sings this - twice.

In January 2009, one TV news program reporting the demise of the former Culture Club frontman Boy George said it was a case of life imitating art. The previous month, the openly homosexual George O'Dowd was convicted of the false imprisonment of a male escort. He was said to have handcuffed the man to the wall in his London apartment and beaten him with a metal chain. A Guardian correspondent reported that in an apparently accidental allusion to the 1982 hit, Heather Norton for the prosecution, asked the jury: "Did he really have to hurt him?"

At least one newspaper used a similar headline; this was O'Dowd's second conviction in recent years; he had previously been ordered by a US court to sweep the streets of New York for wasting police time after reporting a non-existent crime. Ironically, the video Culture Club made for "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" was set in a courtroom.

The concept of the video was Boy George as an outsider, getting kicked out of different places in various historical settings. It was directed by Julien Temple, who came up with the idea of jurors dressed in blackface. This was a shocking image for American audiences, who long associated blackface with racism, but in England it was far more accepted as part of their music hall tradition.

Temple explained in the book I Want My MTV: "'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" was about being gay and being victimized for your sexuality, which George was kind of emblematic of. It seemed appropriate to me that in the video he would be judged by jurors in blackface, to send up bigotry and point out the hypocrisy of the many gay judges and politicians in the UK who'd enacted anti-gay legislation."

This was released on September 3, 1982 in the UK to almost universal derision. Smash Hits, for instance, called it, "weak, watered-down fourth division reggae." It only became a hit after Boy George performed the song on BBC music program Top Of The Pops wearing something resembling a white nightie with dreads wrapped in colourful ribbons and a face caked in make up. George recalled in Q magazine: "Our plugger got called and was told. We can't promote this record. What is it? Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a drag queen. The ensuing tabloid frenzy with the 'Is it a boy, is it a girl' headlines gave the song all the publicity it needed and it zoomed to the top of the charts."

(SING IF YOU'RE) GLAD TO BE GAY by TOM ROBINSON BAND

"(Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay" by the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) was recorded as part of a live EP in November 1977 and appears on Robinson's critically acclaimed debut album Power In The Darkness. As might be expected, this song calls on homosexuals to "come out" and declare their sexuality with pride. Robinson was an out – though not effeminate – homosexual at the time, although in later life he married and raised a family.
The song contains the interesting couplet:

There's no nudes in Gay News, our one magazine
But they still found excuses to call it obscene

Those familiar with the story behind this claim might beg to differ.

In June 1976, Gay News published a poem by the academic James Kirkup, The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name (a pun on Oscar Wilde). This "poem" described a centurion performing sexual acts on the dead body of Christ, and caused grave offense to many people, especially Christians.

As a result of this, the Christian activist Mrs. Mary Whitehouse (one half of "Mary Long") brought a prosecution for blasphemous libel – the first in Britain since 1921 - against the paper and its editor, Denis Lemon. The trial, in July 1977, resulted in their conviction, a fine for both defendants, and a suspended sentence for Lemon; Kirkup was not prosecuted.

The same issue of the journal contained an article by an anonymous pedophile in defense of his perversion.

Cultural references aside, this song is a bitter attack on the police as much as on the law, a perennial favorite with Robinson.

DON'T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME by ELTON JOHN

This is a song that was influenced by The Beach Boys, and contains contributions from members of the group; Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston both sang backup. Elton said the Beach Boys "Sound, harmonies, and the way they structured their songs" was an influence on many of his tracks, including this one and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."

As usual, Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics. Taupin is a student of words, and was always looking for new ways to present an idea. "I like to be more interesting than a good old 'I love you, you love me, my heart will break if you leave me," he told Esquire. "Throw in a curveball. 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me.' Put a dark twist on them."

Regarding the composition of this song, lyricist Bernie Taupin said: "My only recollections of this is that we wanted to write something big. I mean, big in that dramatic Spectory (as in Phil Spector) style, like 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'.' Hopefully being powerful without being pompous. I'm not sure that with this in mind it made me fashion the lyrics any differently. Although, in retrospect, they do seem to have a slightly more Brill Building flair to them, so it's entirely possible that I did.

Of course, I always seem to have to revert to a crib sheet to check these things, as I just seem to have a really bad memory of my own work. In fact, it makes me think of a situation that I found myself in a few years ago watching some TV with some friends of mine. There was a game show on where one of the categories happened to be my lyrics. And there were, I believe, five questions, and four of them I got wrong."

Toni Tennille and Daryl Dragon, who would later have several hits and their own TV show as The Captain & Tennille, performed on this. The idea was to have a huge chorus made up of semi-famous singers in the background. Dusty Springfield, as well as members of America and Three Dog Night recorded vocals for the song, but all the voices sounded terrible when mixed together so they just used Wilson, Johnston, and Tennille.

This was extremely difficult and frustrating to record. Elton was not satisfied with any of his vocal takes, and the producer Gus Dudgeon had fits trying to mix all the voices and instruments that went into this. In Philip Norman's book Sir Elton: The Definitive Biography, Dudgeon said, "When Elton recorded this track, he was in a filthy mood. On some takes, he'd scream it, on others he'd mumble it, or he'd just stand there, staring at the control room. Eventually, he flung off his headphones and said, "Okay, let's hear what we got." When Gus played it for him, Elton said, "That's a load of crap. You can send it to Engelbert Humperdinck, and if he doesn't like it, you can give it to Lulu as a demo."

Elton claims he would not have attempted a song like this early in his career. He feels his voice has improved over the years, and by 1974, he had enough confidence and ability to sing with a very broad range.

This was released as a live duet with George Michael in 1991. That version was taken from a George Michael concert in London on March 25, 1991, which was Elton's 44th birthday. Elton appeared as a surprise guest at the show. The duet was a #1 hit in both the US and UK.

If Elton's line "Don't discard me" sounds a little weird, that's because he was doing an exaggerated American accent. Producer Gus Dudgeon was going to bury the line in the mix, but Toni Tenille, who was singing some of the background vocals, convinced him to keep it out front.

The horns heard on the last refrain and at the outro to this song were played by the horn section from the band Tower of Power, who had a hit single in 1972 with "You're Still A Young Man" and another the following year with "So Very Hard To Go."

Oleta Adams recorded this for the album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. Other artists who covered the song include Joe Cocker, Obsession, and The Three Degrees. Various orchestras have also recorded the song, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Roger Daltry of The Who sang this song in 1987. This version was used in the hit motion picture The Lost Boys.

Nigel Olsson's drumming on this track was an influence on three Guns N' Roses songs. According to GnR drummer Matt Sorum, "November Rain,"
"Don't Cry" and "Estranged" started out as all one song. After they broke them up and were getting ready to record "November Rain," Axl Rose played "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me."

"I said, 'God, listen to the tom toms on that,'" Sorum told us. "Axl goes, 'Yeah, that's cool. So epic.'"

Sorum worked that drum phrasing into the song, and played the same fills on "Don't Cry" and "Estranged" to unify the tracks.

Caribou was mostly recorded in a mere nine days. It reached #1 in just its second week on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified double platinum by the RIAA.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON by QUEEN

Guitarist Brian May wrote this while lead singer Freddie Mercury was dying of AIDS. It was Mercury's last official album with Queen, and when it was released, very few people knew he had the disease.

The lyrics are about the need to press on and make the most out of life while you can still enjoy it. It is inevitably a comment on Mercury's worsening condition, and his attitude towards life - May noted his incredible courage in the Days of our Lives documentary. "He never moaned, he never said 'my life is s--t, this is terrible, I hate it,'" said May. "He had an incredible strength and peace."

The song's placing as the final track on Innuendo is notable, as it's likely that the band thought that this might be the last album Mercury would be healthy enough to perform on before his death. In the sessions, he made enough recordings to provide the band with material to release the posthumous 1995 album Made In Heaven.

This was used in the movie Moulin Rouge. It is performed in an operatic style by Jim Broadbent and Nicole Kidman in a scene that sets up the climax of the movie.

In a 2005 poll by digital TV channel Music Choice where 45,000 adults across Europe were asked which song they would like played at their funeral, this was the favorite.

The video is mainly just clips of old Queen videos and a few live performances, but it is so cleverly edited and spliced together that it works as a video of it's own.

This song was performed in dramatic style in 1997 with Elton John on guest vocals with an Italian ballet trope. It would be John Deacon's last performance with the band, and last public appearance - he retired from music after the performance.

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