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June 22, 2007

Singing Along

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Is it fair to propose a category of song labeled, more or less, "songs that I've made a happy fool of myself singing along to"? I think it may be OK. In any case, high on my personal list of such songs would come this goofily operatic piece of inane cheerfulness by Jay and the Americans:

Listening to it, I'm a kid again, waiting until the house clears out, then cranking up our tiny stereo and bellowing along with Jay Black. Infantile pop bliss.

Oh, here's another song that deserves a high place on my list: Johnny Rivers doing the immortal "Secret Agent Man":

It's surprising how happy these silly songs still make me feel. In fact, they make me wish I didn't live in an apartment house. Even when The Wife is out and I have the place to myself, there are still neighbors around, darn it. One of the minor sorrows of my life is that I have such an appalling voice. If only I could really sing ...

Just as I sometimes think that the story of my inner life is inscribed in the pornography I've collected over the years, I sometimes think that the story of my emotional life can be inferred from the songs I've loved to sing along with.

Wikipedia is informative about Jay and the Americans as well as about Johnny Rivers. Interesting to learn that Jay and da boyz were discovered and shaped by the great Leiber and Stoller. Here's Jay Black's site. Here's Johnny Rivers'.

Of all the songs you've enjoyed making a fool of yourself singing along with, which ones have made you the most dizzily happy?



UPDATE: Lester Hunt rhapsodizes about Domenico Modugno's rendition of "Volare."

posted by Michael at June 22, 2007


Still singing it: "Oh Lord, won't you buy me, a Mercedes Benz..." Janis Joplin

Posted by: susan on June 22, 2007 11:48 AM

Susan, you hippie, you!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 22, 2007 12:03 PM

I'm an absolute sucker for Deadbeat Club. Especially in the summer and if I can connive my daughter's friends to be backup singers.

Posted by: DarkoV on June 22, 2007 12:05 PM

I feel a Vulcan mind warp reading this post, this morning.

Ah, yes, music. It was on my blogging mind early this morning during my drive downtown to the place that pays my grocery bills.

I was thinking to myself, "how many people in the world, right now, are listening to Neil Young belt out this?":

I am a lonely visitor.
I came too late to cause a stir,
Though I campaigned all my life towards that goal.
I hardly slept the night you wept
Our secret's safe and still well kept
Where even Richard Nixon has got soul.
Even Richard Nixon has got

I am a lonely visitor.
I came too late to cause a stir,
Though I campaigned all my life towards that goal.

Further, I contemplated on how I seem to prefer to listen to those tunes from my teen/twenty's years as opposed to any new stuff. Maybe that's true of everyone, hey, Secret Agent Man?

I don't care who listens, I am an equal opportunity singer. If the mood strikes me, I am singing aloud at home, at work, in the car, etc. I especially love being alone in my car driving to and from work with the cd player loud and singing my heart out. Other drivers give me wide berth, I notice.

I remember singing as a teenager, doing housecleaning chores on a Saturday morning, and belting out "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" - or any of Ms. Warwick's melodies, or Sergio Mendes and Brasil 88's "The Look of Love".

Once many years ago, I took great pains to write down all the lyrics to Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne". I would sing and weep with what I perceived to be a very sad love ballad. Now, upon closer scrutiny of said lyrics, I am wondering, "What the hell?".

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on June 22, 2007 12:16 PM

Lately, it hasn't been singing. It's been playing air bass, guitar, and flute along with Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick". You don't have to sing to be a fool with a favorite song...and this one covered to sides of an LP!

Posted by: raymond pert on June 22, 2007 12:21 PM

make that "two sides"

Posted by: raymond pert on June 22, 2007 12:22 PM

I highly recommend both B-52's "Love Shack" and "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves. I have been laughed at by people in passing cars on several occasions while geekily singing these songs at the top of my lungs, care windows rolled down.

Posted by: habeas on June 22, 2007 12:26 PM

I can't hear a Beatles song without singing along with it, and I'm not even a Boomer. Those tunes are so damn singable.

btw, that iTunes commercial with McCartney makes me equal parts enraged and saddened. The dude should just rest on his considerable laurels.

Posted by: the patriarch on June 22, 2007 12:34 PM

The silliest of the songs that make me happy is probably "Windy," as performed by The Assodiation. ("Who's peekin' out from under a stairway/Callin' a name that's lighter than air...."). But the songs that make me happiest tend to be actually good songs, like "Wien, Wien, nur du alein" by Sieczynski. That one is guaranteed to take me to a Good Place.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on June 22, 2007 12:37 PM


Much agreed on the Beatles point.

I can't decide if Sir Paul is just trying to stay hip or what. He certainly doesn't need to prove anything, or surely can't need more money, so what's the dill, pickle?

Kman and I on many weekend nights sing Beatles tunes long into the dark, each of us trying to come up with the last Beatle song we can think of. (Of course, Kman's musical tone is always 45 degrees Left of Albuquerque, but mum's the word.)

My stepchildren are probably saving up for a siamese-twin straight jacket for us.

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on June 22, 2007 12:47 PM

Wierd. My original comment never showed up! Oh well. Not that the music world is waiting with baited breath or anything! But I must say that, in the privacy of my car, "Kiri Eleison" by Genesis, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (by the Animals? Is that right?), "King of the Road" by Roger Miller, "Surfer Girl" by the Beach Boys, and "Big Red Corvette" by Prince make me sing along badly. Which, of course, is different from the songs that make me want to dance...

Posted by: annette on June 22, 2007 12:56 PM

Lately I've been on a Louis Prima kick. I'm sure that other drivers start to steer clear of me when "Sing Sing Sing" comes on. If they don't, they should: that song instantly brings out my inner wild man.

Of course, how can you not love any song that has backup singers joining in with "hi-de-hi, ho-de-ho"? Possibly my greatest disappointment in life is never having sung nonsense lyrics in the background of a song. It's not like I can sing, but I could sing that!

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 22, 2007 1:26 PM

Roy Orbison songs bring out the shower singer in me.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on June 22, 2007 2:38 PM


Your mentioning Louis Prima reminded me that I'd totally forgotten to mention Domenico Modugno. How could I have committed such an atrocity???

Posted by: Lester Hunt on June 22, 2007 3:05 PM

The opening non-sense sequence from Tutti Fruti: Do-dop-aloom-bop-boom-bam-boom, or whatever it is. Course I can't sing! (or spell either. . .)

Posted by: Luke Lea on June 22, 2007 3:10 PM

Various songs by the Ramones. Commando may be the top contender.


They do their best, they do what they can
They get them ready for Viet Nam

From old Hanoi to East Berlin
Commando - involved again

(Here you go into a Johnny Ramone crouch, snarl, make the guitar sound with your mouth, and do air guitar with it)

They do their best, they do what they can
They get them ready for Viet Nam

First rule is: The laws of Germany
Second rule is: Be nice to mommy
Third rule is: Don't talk to commies
Fourth rule is: Eat kosher salamis

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 22, 2007 3:34 PM

It can be so much fun to acknowledge the goofy stuff that has really made us happy ...

It occurs to me that, y'know, screw Presidential debates. What I want to know is which songs each candidate likes to sing real loud when home alone or out driving. Now that'd be a good way to judge a candidate.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 22, 2007 3:35 PM

Doo-lang, doo-lang, doo-lang,
Doo-lang, doo lang
(hit it)
He's so fine...

And of course the immortal "Rubberband Man." The marvelously ridiculous "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" is good; "What's New, Pussycat" (best sung in the kitchen with big wooden pepper grinder microphone and much pelvis action) and the ancient Del Shannon tune "Runaway" with its catchy Clavioline solo.

And anything Gilbert & Sullivan, although that probably doesn't qualify. Not long ago I pulled up to the pick-up window of a fast food joint in a very small south Georgia town where a kid was out cleaning the windows. My, what a fine job he's done on this sliding window here, I thought, as I lauched into a full-throated "Our Great Mikado Virt'ous Man" while waiting. And the ultra-clean window turned out to be an open window and there was a great deal of laughing and hooting.

Posted by: Flutist on June 22, 2007 3:35 PM

That opening declaration from Tutti Frutti goes
Be ah wop bop a loo bop
Ah wop bam boom

Posted by: Flutist on June 22, 2007 3:38 PM

Friedrich: If you enjoy Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie as Jeeves and Wooster, Jeeves joins Bertie about midway through the "Jeeves Takes Charge" episode (First season, episode 1) for a, well, on Jeeves part, temperate version of the "hi-de-hi, ho-de-ho.

Jeeves is a perfectly stoic, reserved, restrained, monotoned back up singer. I think it's hilarious.

Posted by: raymond pert on June 22, 2007 3:45 PM

Keep rollin', rollin', rollin',
Though the streams are swollen,
Keep them doggies rollin', rawhide.
Through rain and wind and weather,
As long as we're together,
Together at the end of the ride.

Move 'em on, head 'em up,
Head 'em up, move 'em on,
Move 'em on, head 'em up, rawhide!
Head 'em out, ride 'em in,
Ride 'em in, let 'em out,
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in, rawhide!

Needless to say, when I sing this Frankie Lane classic in the shower I get the head 'em ups, move 'em outs, shut 'em downs, ring 'em ups, let 'em downs any-which-way-and-loose! Speaking of which...

Posted by: ricpic on June 22, 2007 3:52 PM

Pattie, I think Paul just wants to be back in the limelight. Performers need it.

Side note on the Beatles. When I was younger, Lennon ruled. As I get older, I'm more moved by McCartney songs. Wondering if anyone else has experienced something similar.

Posted by: the patriarch on June 22, 2007 4:00 PM

I love to sing along to songs whose lyrics I don’t really understand. I remember with fondness the opening of “Radar Love” by Golden Earring, which I used to listen to on a tiny Sony transistor radio (remember when Sony was cr*p?), which mangled, fuzzed and distorted the (really cool) lyrics beyond recognition. The actual words:

I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel
There's a voice in my head that drives my heel
It's my baby callin', says I need you here
And it's half past four and I'm shifting gear

I’d stagger around the basement in my mother’s home (I was a kid, OK?), stoned, drunk or both and yell out the equivalent of:

Beh draffen uh nat muh het wet’n duh wee-ah
Voy’n muh hay just draffs my ree-ah
S’babee’s callin’s uh neejuh hee-ah
Saff pass fone ahm shiffin gee-ah

Ah, that was the life.

Posted by: PatrickH on June 22, 2007 4:15 PM

I knew someone who said he had thought it was "See that Asian man". :) It does sound a lot more like "Asian" than "agent", doesn't it?

Those are a couple of quality songs, Michael. What's wrong with fun lyrics, if they're clever and fit the music? I'd feel more guilty about liking the wimpy, sloppy cliches of Lennon's "Imagine".

I get that childhood singalong experience from songs like "Karma Chameleon", "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Material Girl", "Time After Time", all of which I still consider quality songs. Plenty of other songs take me back, but in a more historical way since IMHO they're simply not as good examples of pop songwriting.

Posted by: J. Goard on June 22, 2007 4:26 PM

Oh, forgot to add that there was one totally lame aspect in your clips: Jay charading out the lyrics there. Pretty ridiculous.

Posted by: J. Goard on June 22, 2007 4:32 PM

About that Valore: I prefer Dalida's version.

Speaking of Dalida - I will humm along to anything she sings. One of the greatest.
Look at this, for example - - how can you NOT singalong?

Posted by: Tat on June 22, 2007 7:42 PM

Occasionally I'll stumble across a musical style that I'm not only unfamiliar with, but one that I've never heard of.

How about "Folk music/Viking metal" ? I love to sing along to this track having no idea what it's about ( Just audio, no video.

Posted by: Ed from Malabar on June 22, 2007 9:45 PM

OH, Lennon still rules. Hands down.

The only reason McCartney shines so brightly now is cuz he's the last of the Mohicans (Ringo doesn't count for much musically.)

Rawhide! I forgot about that one! Perfect sing along. And don't forget that Eddy Arnold goodie (sung here with LeAnn Rimes):

Cattle Call

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on June 22, 2007 9:45 PM

"I prefer Dalida's version"

She's a heckuva lot easier on the eyes, I'll give you that. (Note BTW that Modugno composed both "Volare" and "Ciao Ciao Bambina," which leads of Dalida's "Italian Medley.")

Posted by: Lester Hunt on June 22, 2007 9:54 PM

"I look at the night
And it don't seem so lonely
We fill it up with only two

And when I hurt
Hurtin' runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I'm holding you?

Warm, touching warm
Reachin' out,
Touchin' me, touchin' youuuuuuuu . . .

Sweeeet Caroline (Bah, Bah, Bah)
Good times never seemed so good
I've been inclined (Bah, Bah, Bah)
To believe they never would . . ."

Posted by: Kate Marie on June 22, 2007 10:08 PM

Beach Boys. Surfin' USA, Surfer Girl, Little Deuce Coupe, The Warmth of the Sun, Please Let Me Wander, 409, California Girls, Barbara Ann, Help Me Rhonda, Good Vibrations, I Get Around, Don't Worry Baby, Fun Fun Fun, Dance Dance, Dance, Darlin', Do It Again, Surf's Up, Caroline No, and the list goes on and on.

Posted by: TxBubba on June 23, 2007 4:56 AM

Growing up in the midwest my sing-along group choice number one was and still is The Beach Boys! Surfin' Safari, Surfin' USA, Surfer Girl, In My Room, Fun Fun Fun, Don't Worry Baby, I Get Around, All Summer Long, 409, Help Me Rhonda, California Girls, Barbara Ann, Wouldn't It Be Nice, Good Vibrations, Darlin', Surf's Up and the list goes on and on.

Posted by: TxBubba on June 23, 2007 5:29 AM

Love Volare...and it's a Eurovision song! If that's not embarrassing enough, I love just about every version of it. It would take an Eddy Fisher (or his modern equivalent, Madonna) to kill this one. By the way, my Musical-Love-That-Dares-Not-Speak-Its-Name is popular French from the mid-century: from Charles Trenet to Francis Lai. I do draw the line at some of the mumbly, tragic stuff - but by and large I'm a sucker for it. Yves Montand crooning "Feuilles Mortes" or "St Germain--Des-Pres." is enough to make you forgive all Commies. (Not really.)

Posted by: Robert Townshend on June 23, 2007 6:30 AM

Yer So Bad - Tom Petty, who can do no wrong.

Posted by: D Flinchum on June 23, 2007 10:03 AM

One more:

Billy Bragg, "The World Turned Upside Down".

This song is everything I hate and am opposed to, a sort of violent, sentimental socialism.

But, for some reason, it hits me in the deepest places. I know every word and from time to time find myself singing it lustily.

"IN 1649, to St. George's Hill, a ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's will ..."

"You poor take courage! You rich take care!"

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 23, 2007 3:05 PM

The Lion Sleeps Tonight was done by the Tokens.

Of the many I belt out loud, the most egregious is "hooked on a feeling", replete with "ooga chacka" chorus, which - if I have the opportunity - I belch rather than sing.

Posted by: yahmdallah on June 23, 2007 4:20 PM

Some Synchronicity: Lead singer of the Tokens has died.

Posted by: yahmdallah on June 23, 2007 6:53 PM

I'm a big fan of anything Andrew sisters. They just don't have a bad song.

Youtube offers lots of treasures. See Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman's Why don't you do right .

Posted by: Robert Nagle on June 24, 2007 4:55 AM

Oh, also a big fan of Fantastic Plastic Machine's promotional music video, Dear Mr Salesman

Posted by: Robert Nagle on June 24, 2007 5:05 AM


I think we were separated at birth; wasn't Johnny Rivers just the coolest guy when you were a kid? He insisted on wearing a suit when everyone else was going flower power; he was always surrounded by gorgeous babes (hey, it was the 60s)...way cool!

Posted by: doug on June 24, 2007 1:37 PM

Wimoweh, awimoweh, awimoweh, awimoweh ....

Theme of this thread: "Strange how potent cheap music is."

Posted by: Lester Hunt on June 24, 2007 1:47 PM

Great essay on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" from the incomparable Mark Steyn:


Posted by: PatrickH on June 24, 2007 5:11 PM

Annette, I'm going to reveal just how many neurons of mine are shot by this stuff, but the song is "Kyrie Eleison" by the (mostly forgotten) Mister Mister. (And Prince's Corvette was little, not big).

But it's mostly the late 1970s and the 1980s that do it for me, too. The cheap songs from that era that I'll turn up on the radio when no one else is around include "Take on Me" by A-ha, "Waiting For a Star to Fall" by Boy Meets Girl, and "Driver's Seat" by Sniff N'the Tears.

Going back earlier, I'd add "My Maria" by B. W. Stevenson, "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" by Sugarloaf, and "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" by Boyce and Hart.

Yep, I'm a sap, no two ways about it.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on June 24, 2007 8:59 PM

O bla di, O bla da !

Posted by: Rosy on June 24, 2007 10:26 PM

So, is this the most popular post you ever put up?

All that deep thought about art, and cinema, and immigration, and stuff, and your many fans love best of all -- the chance to talk about the silly stuff they do.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 24, 2007 10:42 PM

Yer right---it little red corvette--I'm stunned. Oh well, I enjoy Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac", too. :) When I read the comment about "see that asian man" it made me think of when I was in grade school and my older brother loved "Sweet Hitchhiker" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. I honest spent years thinking it was "Sweeta Jehika".

Posted by: annette on June 25, 2007 9:55 AM

This is mine--for the time being:

Posted by: David C on June 30, 2007 8:04 PM

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