A Valentine’s Day Musical Massacre
Artists pick the good, the bad and the weird for love songs
If you hate the February date when we’re supposed to show our loved one that we love ’em, you can blame the Romans – Valentine’s Day comes from their Lupercalia festival which was done to toast the start of Spring and the pairing off of women.
Just as Easter and Christmas holidays now have little or nothing to do with Jesus H nowadays, V-Time’s is basically now an excuse to shame you in to buy flowers and treating your mate to dinner.
But there is still some flowery connection to V-Times for some and in that vibe, we corralled 18 noted musicians from the worlds of punk, jazz, ska, indie, rap, mash-up, classical and folk to conjure up the spirit and name their favorite, least favorite and the weirdest love songs they could think of. Some of them even chose their own songs, which we allowed. Plus, special note was made more than once of certain former Beatles’ solo tune (3 thumbs down) and a Daniel Johnston song (two thumbs up). And even if he wasn’t name-checked here, Barry White will always be Doctor Love.
(As a side note, I wish I could have included more women respondents here. I did ask about 20 female musicians and received fewer responses that I would have liked but in hindsight, I should have asked more before the deadline caught up to me)
If you’re inclined, use some of the tunes to serenade your sweetie, or scare ’em away with the bad tunes if it’s time for a break-up.
Don’t let it end here though- let us know YOUR favorite, least favorite and weirdest love songs in the comments section below.
PAULINE BLACK (The Selecter)
Most affecting: Special A.K.A. “What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend.” Wry take on a hackneyed subject. Should have been sung by a woman. 😉
Worst: “Wet Dream” by Max Romeo. Boorish & derivative, but a great groove.
Strangest: “Special Brew” by Bad Manners. What is stranger than a dancing fat man singing about his love for a warm can of English beer?
The Selecter have tour dates coming up in France and the UK. See details here: https://theselecter.net/live-dates/.
SAGE FRANCIS (“forefather of indie-hop”)
FAVORITE LOVE SONG: I got married a few months ago and we did our first dance to “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues. It’s forever been on my playlist and it was on the first mix CD I sent to my wife, so I’m glad we could bring that magical, mystical love energy to our first dance. I don’t know how to explain it beyond that. It’s not even about the words of the song really. It’s more about the feel that the strings, vocal swells, sparse but purposeful bassline, and all the other miscellaneous elements bring to the song. That said, I did edit the song down so that there wasn’t over 7 minutes long with the unnecessarily long outro including the spoken word piece. If that’s blasphemous, you can hate me now.
LEAST FAVORITE LOVE SONG: It’s tough picking a least favorite love song as most of them fall into the same category of blah to me, but I suppose I’ll go with “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. It’s not a bad song really, but it was played non-stop and celebrated by the most basic of basic people when it first came out. I guess my biggest aversion to it is that it was played at my uncle’s funeral. His girlfriend said it was his favorite song and we all got a chuckle out of the notion that a badass biker dude’s favorite song was from the recently released Titanic soundtrack. Oh well, funerals are more about the people who are mourning than they are about the deceased who are being mourned I suppose.
STRANGEST LOVE SONG: “I Used to Love H.E.R.” by Common. When you listen to this song you’re like, “Woah this sounds like a cool girl. Oh wait, what’s happening now? She did WHAT?! Oh no, that’s so sad she turned out that way.” But then you’re like, “Hold up a minute. HOLD… UP. This is about HIP-HOP! I know it is because Common said so in the very last line. And I’m glad he did because I was really fucking confused for a couple minutes.” There’s a rumor floating around that M. Night Shyamalan was the ghostwriter for this track, but that’s ridiculous. Great song all in all, but that twist at the end is STRANGE.
Francis’ latest project is Epic Beard Men, which has a new album out, This Was Supposed To Be Fun on the Strange Famous label.
AMERIGO GAZAWAY (DJ extraordinaire)
Favorite Love Song: Common “The Light”: The great thing about hip-hop is that you can listen to multiple songs simultaneously. That’s why I chose Common’s “The Light;” because not only is it a great love song, but it also contains elements of another great love song by Bobby Caldwell called “Open Your Eyes.” Produced by the late J Dilla, this track encapsulates the feeling of love and appreciation for entire generation of hip-hop fans.
Some of the other songs I was considering:
Marvin Gaye “I Want You”
Stevie Wonder “I Was Made to Love Her”
Common “I Used to Love H.E.R.”
Nina Simone “My Baby Just Cares For Me”
Worst/Least Favorite Love Song:
Lil B “I Love You”
This track could also fall under the “strangest love song” category (especially with a music video that takes place in some weird pet shop with reptiles everywhere). I actually think his message here is sincere, but sonically it’s a trainwreck to listen to (if you can even make it through the whole song). Don’t get me wrong, Lil B is from Berkeley so I gotta show love, and his unwavering positivity and outlook is contagious. #ThankYouBasedGod
Strangest Love Song: Midnight Star “Scientific Love”
Found this one on 7-inch vinyl recently and thought it was funny because my wife is a scientist. Includes such standout lines as “Two hearts that feel like one, It’s scientific love” and “can’t stop this chemical reaction, better if we make it everlasting.” Not sure what any of this has to do with science, but I’m here for it.
Gazaway’s vast trove of ever-evolving, ever-expanding music can be found here: https://amerigomusic.com/..
HAMISH KILGOUR (The Clean, The Mad Scene)
Favorite Love Song: “True Love” by Daniel Johnson be-coz it’s a great love song.
The worst love song was the one that tried too hard-so it wasn’t about love. Maybe “I Hate You Babe” by the Monks.
The strangest love song would have to be 4 me at this moment-…..ah …ummmmmmm..ah…..hhh-still thinkin—–“To Know Him Is To Love Him” by the Teddy Bears and Phil Spector because Phil became a drugged out rapist murderer. He was not a lover-especially in the psycho fright wigs-and he is still in jail right?????? Esp. being a producer of a number of fabulous love songs, especially his ex Ronnie who did “Baby I Love You.”
Kilgour’s latest album is Finklestein on the Ba Da Bing! label: http://www.badabingrecords.com/hamish-kilgour.
CHRIS KNOX (Tall Dwarfs, Toy Love)
Most Affecting: “Not Given Lightly” Chris Knox
Worst: “Silly Love Songs” Paul McCartney
Weirdest: “Married Man” Neil Young. LAUGH!!!
Knox’s latest release was a 2012 collaboration with the band Rackets where they all called themselves Knoxious. They did a 45 single, “Garagin“.
KOSHA DILLZ (rap’s “independent workhouse”)
Most Affecting: The Cardigans “Lovefool”
I don’t know why but it is simple, straightforward and catchy… not too deep. It seems realistic. I appreciate and describe the low key I need in my life. Can you come thru and tell me?
Worst: “Don’t You Forget About Me,” Simple Minds
I just think it is not about wanting to be in love and be with someone forever, but wanting people to remember you. As an artist, I want that to happen.. But in my true self, I want love that is long lasting and permanent. I don’t wanna be alone. The song is still amazing.
Weirdest: Weird Al “He won’t talk about her spastic bladder at a party” (aka “If That Isn’t Love”)
And TBH, I would love this to be a song because I think couples who sing this song don’t get divorced or break up. They really love to have a good time. Strange is good.
Dillz’s music, writing/articles, podcasts, tour dates can be found at http://koshadillzworld.com/.
JAD FAIR (Half Japanese)
Most Affecting: Daniel Johnston’s song “True Love Will Find You In The End” is one of my favorite love songs. I was able to see Daniel perform the song at several shows. It’s a wonderful song.
Worst: “To All The Girls I Loved Before” seems creepy to me. I don’t want to hear about all the women Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson have been with.
Weirdest: Michael Jackson’s song “Ben” is strange. It’s a love song to a rat.
See Fair’s artwork at https://www.jadfair.net/. Half Japanese’s latest album is Invincible.
SCOTT KEMPNER (The Dictators, The Del Lords)
Favorites: Springsteen love songs. “If I Should Fall Behind.” “Badlands” is also a favorite (song and performance), and I love “Ramrod”- it has the most rockin’ groove in his catalog. Also love his duet with Patti on “Tougher Than The Rest” and “New York City Serenade.”
Kempner says “I’m in the middle of writing songs for a new Dictators record.” He also adds that he “played “The Wanderer” once with Bruce, Joe Grushecky, and Dion.”
JON LANGFORD (Mekons, Waco Brothers)
Most Affecting: I like “She Is Gone” by Willie Nelson. That’s remarkable and sad and makes me feel wobbly round the knees.
Worst: I always get in trouble when I do worst things/least favorite things.
Weirdest: I think most of Marc Bolan’s love songs are very strange, “Life’s a Gas” is really weird and beautiful – how do you love someone like a planet? It’s a bold image.
Langford’s last project is Four Lost Souls on Bloodshot Records: https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/album/four-lost-souls.
PAUL LEARY (Butthole Surfers)
Most affecting: “Something.” The music is so beautiful and the bridge is just so incredibly uplifting. I was stunned the first time I heard it when I got Abbey Road as a Christmas present from my aunt in 1969. I get that same feeling when I hear it today. It was George Harrison’s finest work.
Worst: “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney. Actually, I’m sure that there are much worse, but I dismiss such songs from my mind and do not retain them to memory. “Silly Love Songs” is just catchy enough to stick.
Strangest: “ I Wanna Fuck Your Bottom.” I can’t remember if that was by The Mentors or Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates. I never heard the song, but the title always cracked me up.
Leary adds: “I have finished production of my new album, with Josh Freese on drums. Look for it late this spring or early summer.”
GRAHAM LEWIS (Wire)
Most Affecting: The most effective love song is one which syncs and becomes the soundtrack to one’s love. Choosing one song would be absurd, here’s a few…from my list of many. And I didn’t choose 1 from Motown Records!
Call Me Al Green (anything of this album)
“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” The Walker Brothers
“You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” The Righteous Brothers
“God Only Knows” The Beach Boys
“My Baby” Nina Simone
“May I” Kevin Ayers and The Whole World
“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” Neil Young
“Case of You” Joni Mitchell
“When You Walk In The Room” The Searchers
“Bring It On Home To Me” The Animals
“When A Man Loves A Woman” Percy Sledge
Worst song: There are far TOO MANY! And they certainly do not need to be remembered.
Strangest song: ”Outdoor Miner,” Wire. I guess the insect metaphor threw folk!
Lewis would also like to point this out: “there is 1 love song on the new Wire album Mind Hive, “Oklahoma.” Opening line: “I admired your sexy hearse…””
LYRICS BORN (“funkiest rapper alive,” producer, author)
Curtis Mayfield’s “So in Love” is the most beautiful ballad in human history. His line “U do so many things with a smiling face” says it all. The melodies & horn arrangements are gorgeous & I well up every time I hear it.
I’m not a huge fan of Poison “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” It really ain’t got shit to do with the song, but mostly bc I was dating a white girl that was 6 inches taller than me in the 6th grade who loved that song & dumped me cold. That was thorny. I associate that joint with her hair-sprayed ass, so….
Weirdest & most awesome has to be Roger (RIP) “Computer Love.” Soooooooo funky, but to this day I can’t understand a thing he’s saying thru the vocoder. I’ll just say it was the future theme song for Tinder.
Born will be playing a concert in New Hampshire on Valentine’s Day 2020. See more news/details/updates at https://www.lyricsborn.com/.
FRED SCHNEIDER (The B-52s)
Most affecting: “Our Love” sung by Dinah Washington. Sentimental reasons.
Worst: “Muskrat Love.” Just one of the worst songs ever.
Weirdest: “Love in the Year 3000.” It’s by us 🙂
Find out about the latest hi-jinks of the B-52’s at their website: https://www.theb52s.com/.
MATTHEW SHIPP (pianist extraordinaire)
Most Affecting: Stevie Wonder “Boogie on Reggae Woman”, because “I’d like to see you in the raw under the stars above”– and what a hellified harmonica solo.
Worst: Billy Joel “Just the Way You Are” It takes a lot of craft to write and perform this song but it sucks because it is Billy Joel and that is what he does, suck.
Strangest: Billy Preston “Nothing from Nothing” You can call this an anti-love song-but there is a whole genre of no-finance no-romance type songs in black music — “ain’t nothing going on but the rent”-type songs. What’s so strange about these songs is the music is so upbeat but the lyrics are so fucking coldblooded.
Early May will see the release of a solo piano CD by Shipp, The Piano Equation, on the Tao Forms label.
CARL STONE (composer extraordinaire)
Most Affecting: This is a beautiful song that never fails to touch me, first on a musical level and then because of the lyrics, which metaphorically (and euphemistically) mix love and death: John Dowland “Me, Me and None but Me”
Worst: Most love songs give me the creeps, so it’s hard to pick one as the worst. Maybe something by the Carpenters. Arbitrarily, let’s say “We’ve Only Just Begun.”
Weirdest: Frank Zappa “Dirty Love”
Stone’s website is http://www.rlsto.net/Nooz/. His latest release is Himalaya: https://unseenworlds.bandcamp.com/album/himalaya.
LINDA THOMPSON (singer extraordinaire)
Most Affecting: “Love Hurts” is the most affecting for me. Perhaps because I was a teenager when I heard it. When love was the be-all and end-all. And The Everly Bros’ voices cut me to the quick.
One of the worst: “You Stomped on my Heart.” Some lines:
“You stomped on my heart
And you tore it all apart
Baby you just sorta
Mashed on my aorta.”
Weirdest: “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole seemed creepy to me.
Thomspon’s website is http://lindathompsonmusic.com/.
DICK VALENTINE (Electric Six)
MOST AFFECTING: “True Love” by Mark Mallman — This song should have been a global smash. So simple, so catchy. It’s just about going to a strip club and “falling in love” for the short time the narrator is there. But you wouldn’t know that when you listen to it once. You would think it’s about, well…true love. Only after thousands of repeat listenings do you realize that this is about cheap thrills and lap dances.
WORST: “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney — It makes me want to put a drill bit in my head. And then turn on the drill. I’d be fine if the drill was in drill mode once it was close to my temple. If the song was not turned off within ten seconds, I’d start drilling. Gimme anything by Ringo Starr, the true talent of the operation.
WEIRDEST: “Hello! I See You!” by Electric Six — The only band I really listen to these days is Electric Six. Our song “Hello! I See You!” is a love song of sorts….it’s about the ecstasy of accepting Satan as your master. The narrator is in the process of giving himself over to the dark prince for all eternity. He’s looking around and seeing Satan vaporize others around him just for sport. He knows he might be next and he loves that. He’s so devoted, so in love with Satan that he would gladly be vaporized for his new master’s pleasure. That’s love.
Electric Six is embarking on a US and then UK tour through 2020. See details at https://www.electricsix.com.
MIKE WATT (Missingmen, fIREHOSE, Minutemen, Stooges)
Most affecting: “Sweet Honey Pie” by Roky Erickson cuz I just love it, it’s big-time sublime. I even put a bass solo in my version cuz that’s what I was feeling.
Worst: Too many to list but “Angel of the Morning” is pretty fucking terrible just cuz it is. just listen to it.
Strangest: “You’re an Unidentified Flying Object,” Roky Erickson. Just read here:
“You’re an unidentified flying object
A rebel without a cause
You need something you shouldn’t kick
You’re living beyond the arm of the law
“You got such a psychic life to live
Makes me sorry some think you were supposed to die
You’ve got so much to give
You need someone to take
It’s all a lie
“You’re an unidentified flying object
Flying uncharted and untraveled skies
You pull at and play my heart’s guitar strings
Flatter and compliment and comply my mind
Host stood special lord is Gurdjieff
Flying at speeds as fast as Beethoven
You fill in imagination to fairy tales
An artist’s best friend
“You’re an unidentified flying object
Indefinably far and way out in space
First the solar system, then the universe
Where you don’t travel is no place
“Your communication in life is unknown
I had to write you this, another song
The look on your face
It does no wrong”
Watt just recorded the MSSV album and will tour it this March/April: https://mainsteamstopvalve.com/.
Of course, I have to add my own two cents, so…
Most affecting: “I Only Have Eyes For You” by the Flamingos. Gets me right from the light-as-air opening guitar strums to the fleet “doo-bop sh-bop” backing vocals. They honed their version in a church and it shows. Heavenly.
Worst: “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. So overblown and over-sung, which is incredibly sad because Dolly Parton’s song as she sang it herself is so sweet and lovely. Plus, the way that DP wrote it about her former music partner Porter Wagoner adds even more poignancy to it. That’s why the original is the one that everyone should remember and cherish instead, especially this version that she sang on Wagoner’s TV show.
Strangest: “In Dreams” by John Otway. Roy Orbison’s original version was moving and really odd as is- a love song for a love that never was, starting with “a candy-colored clown they call the sandman.” But Otway’s cracked voice goes to desperate places that even the Big O hinted at, but couldn’t get to, even with David Lynch’s help. Plus there’s a weird little synth solo where the thing just… vaporizes. Just barely edges out Spike Jones’ “Cocktails For Two” into second place: https://youtu.be/lvt4b_qwC_Q.
You can also see a Spotify playlist of everyone’s favorite love tunes here:
And if you dare, you can listen to the weirdest love songs here:
For the worst love songs, you’re on your own. Happy V-Time’s day, y’all.
VIDEO: Paul McCartney and Wings “Silly Love Songs”
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