wasn’t until ten years ago or so that I fully yielded to my love of the
perfect pop song. Of course, I can
trace the infatuation back another
couple of decades, to when I first adored ELO’s “Turn to Stone,”
breaking my own heart with Terry Jacks’
“Seasons in the
Sun,” and hotly anticipated the cruelly fleeting seconds
moment The Rasberries’ “Go All
the Way” began to play on the radio and
my father switched stations
(muttering, for reasons I couldn’t fathom,
that it was “inappropriate”) .
My favorite album of the early
seventies was, hands down, a K-Tel collection of the hits of 1972
after one of those same hits, “Believe in Music: 22 Original
Hits 22 Original Stars.” You can find it on e-bay,
“as-is” and “may be
scratched,” for under $3 .
This both astonishes and horrifies me.
Such a rarefied
object shouldn’t be so easily owned. It may very well
be my favorite album of all time, because I have no doubt
someone spins it while I’m on my deathbed I’ll decide it was all worth
it, that there’s no room for regret
in a world that includes such
beauty as Mouth and MacNeal’s
“How Do You Do” .
For a time I
imagined I’d never listen to anything else. This collection provided me
with everything I’d
ever need—the entire gamut of viable emotion and
plot in its dozen songs. I was certain that hidden within it
secrets I’d know as an adult, and that if I repeatedly listened to the
songs, in sequence, arcane truths
would be revealed to me prematurely.
This may help explain why, over thirty years on, I still seek out the
experience, hope the next hook-laden pop song will expose the deepest
mysteries of life and/or help convert
me, finally, to a higher plain of
existence . But as I
said at the outset, for a long time I kept this
all to myself.
It wasn’t right that an insistent riff or a playful
rhyme could so easily take me in. And then I grew up. I realized
rather than listen to what I thought I should like, I could listen to
what I really wanted to listen to, could
listen to it over and over and
over again, without excuses. I decided that the aesthetic thrills
provided me by
nifty pop songs are one of the things I live for, that
these three-minute (or two-minute) masterpieces make
happy and on especially bad days actually remind me that everything
will, after a fashion,
be okay . Now I
feverishly and shamelessly
seek them out, hoard them and don’t bother trying to convince
how fantastic they are .
I simply settle in and listen to them
interminably, looking to “solve” them
, which I ultimately
evidenced only by the fact that I no longer feel the need to listen
to work out the mystery, to tease apart all the sinew.
with all this in mind that I’ve recently set out to “reconstruct” my
beloved album so I can listen to
it on my ipod whenever I want and as
often as I want. It’s admittedly a little pathetic how much this has
like a “project,” as if I’m actually accomplishing something of
import by tracking down 22 songs that
dominated the charts over three
decades ago . Of
course, this is one of those endeavors made
or at least greatly facilitated by, the technology that has
upended the music industry in the past dozen years.
Think of the
ludicrous number of man-hours, the unwanted tracks collected, the hit
to the wallet, if I’d tried
this before the age of downloads.
yet despite these advances, it’s still plenty of work, as attested to
by my still unsuccessful search
for No by Bulldog. A one-hit wonder if
ever there was. I know from All Music that Bulldog was a side
of a couple of guys from the Young Rascals , that it was released
by MCA on an eponymous
album in 1972, and was a “a minor hit in some
regions of the country.” They single out the song for praise
what is essentially a dismissive review of an album’s worth of
seventies AM filler. And that’s it, and
would be enough to make me
think I imagined the whole thing if not for the scratchy evidence of my
vinyl copy of Believe in Music, which increasingly seems to me
like a priceless object I have to encase in a
hermetic, temperature-controlled case 
This difficulty, of course,
this test, is what makes the whole enterprise exhilarating. The ease
I picked up “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” and “Gypsies,
Tramps, and Thieves” actually worried me. I don’t
want the hunt to be
over too soon, and despite my wishes I’m a little thrilled by
It’s a kind of faith, I think.
vaguely inappropriate titles that must be included on the soundtrack to
Childhood: The Movie include
The Hollies “Air That I
“Long Cool Woman
(in a Black Dress)”, Paper Lace’s
“The Night Chicago
Died”, Looking Glass’ “Brandy
(You’re a Fine Girl)”, and Clint
“Playground in My
 The cover is a work of
the serif font that spells out the title to the ghosted image
folks at a concert
behind rays of purple and red and olive and
simultaneously recalling both faded photos in attics and
eternal futures under the sun.
 Also available, on
are used copies of a heartbreaking imitation, a 1996
contains only 10
songs, 6 of which don't even appear among the original
22. The affront is simply to deep to merit a response, although I am
encouraged to find a
brotherhood among the irate reviewers on the
 I know that they were
from the Netherlands.
Mouth was the guy, I think, with the
Muppet Monster voice (the
key hook is strangely reminiscent of Manah-Manah),
and MacNeal was, I’m
just guessing, the pretty
girl. According to All Music Guide there’s
only one stateside album, a greatest hits package released by B.R.
Music in 2002. I suspect,
I hope, that it contains twelve different
versions of “How Do You Do.”
 Apparently not much more
known. They performed songs by Hans van Hemert
and Harry van Hoof, one
of which must be Mouth’s real name. I don’t why, but I find it
comforting to know this.
 A good pop song will
someday turn me into pure energy.
This is not an exaggeration, and is true despite widespread bad taste,
my inability to cometo
terms with the infinity of space
and time, and daily premonitions
 Except my wife, who
listens because she loves me.
Insert gratitude for this concept of wanting to “solve” our favorite
songs to Nick
Hornby, whose Songbook
(or 31 Songs in the UK) is an
insightful and funny look at
a life shaped by pop songs. Reading it
will provoke certain souls out there to shudder,
as they surely do when
sitting in a Starbucks or reading music reviews in the New Yorker,
the sudden awareness that they constitute an all too easily defined
I owe Hornby’s book even more thanks for turning me
on to Teenage Fanclub and
Badly Drawn Boy, both of which you
check out today. Really. And finally,
in this pile-up of shout-outs,
thank you to Mark A. for suggesting I check out Hornby.
then, look, he actually arranges them into the original album sequence!
hones, polishes, refines
his playlist! It takes him time and dogged
effort but he’ll do it!
 Drummer Dino Danelli and
guitarist Gene Cornish, if you care.
 “A real gem”
It’s almost too late. Several tracks play as if a washing machine is
the background. Abundant
throughout are horrid pops and
crackles…like the voice
of kids’ cereal, or the sound of one’s own