I don’t know why it fascinated me so much recently to poke around with songs that had foreign lyrics in them. But, here we are. This week’s show (and I promise I’m done with the premise for awhile) looks at four songs between 1969 and 1984 which have non-English phrases in them. Some of them have been hilariously misunderstood for a long time. One of them is pretty obvious but I decided to throw it in anyway. And one may come as a surprise to you, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
As promised, here’s an episode of the European game show Jeux Sans Frontières from 1975. This episode comes from Engelburg, Switzerland:
And here’s another, airing from Vilamoura, Portugal in 1980:
Mr. Mister is kind of a peculiar name for a band, but a lot of them have peculiar names, so there’s that. This particular band, originally from the Phoenix, Arizona area, got their name from an inside joke about the Weather Report album Mr. Gone.
Sorry, not all the stories I have are great stories.
“Kyrie” is one of those songs that is very well understood by a certain slice of America. It’s also very misunderstood by the rest of the country, and it largely depends on your religious upbringing, although if you know a lot about classical music, you may also have a clue. No, I’m not going to tell you here. Go listen to the show.
Also, I probably shouldn’t mention this, but this is one of a few songs that will invariably have me Chasing Amy…so to speak. And if you think you’re Amy, drop me a line.
Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” which we looked at back in Episode 5, is not only on the charts again, it’s made it back into the Top 10 on iTunes in the US, nearly 40 years after its release.
Why? You ask. I presume you’re asking because you’re reading this in 2025 or something, and don’t remember this phenomenon. But a pair of YouTubers, Tim and Fred Williams, have been making videos where they listen to older pop songs recommended by viewers, and they’re recording their reactions as they listen to the song for the first time.
The 21-year-old twins already had a pretty respectable following, and then someone edited their response to “In the Air Tonight” down to a roughly 45-second snippet where they hear the drum break for the first time and they’re both surprised and wowed by it.
The video as a whole (all of their stuff, really) is pretty cool, with them stopping and starting the song to comment in-between, but what makes this one extra-good, I think, is that the song is such a slow burn, they’re slowly warming up to it, and then WHAM! They’re literally (their words) woken up by the beats. The whole thing is worth watching, but if you’re impatient, skip to 4:13:
(Fair Warning: They run an intro at the beginning that drops some NSFW language.)
What’s tough to remember, years and years down the road, is how WE first reacted to this song, and I have to think that it was much the same, and that’s the fun of this particular set of reaction videos. These guys know what they’re talking about musically, and they express it in a unique way. And because they’re usually pulling the songs from YouTube (recursive stuff, that), sometimes they spend a little time reacting to the videos (if the song has an official promotional video).
And once you’ve seen this one, go check out some of their other reaction videos over on YouTube. Their YT handle is TwinsTheNewTrend. Good luck getting out of that rabbit hole.
Some songs seem to spring out of nowhere, and then you take a deeper look and you realize that it’s a cover, or a rewrite, or it’s a re-release that flopped the first time. “Take On Me” by A-ha, it turns out, is in the All Of The Above category. It was re-written several times and re-recorded a couple of times, and released three times before it finally became the hit we know today.
The Kinks are a band that seems to have some huge, HUGE adherents, and others who are more casual fans, and not much in between. And that seemed to reflect in their chart positions here in the United States. They’d get the positive reviews, they’d get the airplay, the singles would do well, but they’d never really tear up the charts. And then a little while later, maybe a year or two, new material would come out and the cycle would begin again.
And every time a single dropped in both the US and the UK, it would do better in the UK.
Except for this one. “Come Dancing” got a boost in the US from MTV airplay, and then in the UK from all the attention it was getting in the US, which prompted Arista Records to re-release the single. And for all that, it’s The Kinks’ highest-charting single, tied with another song from many years earlier. Which one? Go listen to the show.
The Go-Go’s (somehow that always looks wrong) started out in the late 1970s as a punk band in Los Angeles, and they were a pretty solid presence in that city’s Punk scene. But as they started to grow in prominence, they moved away from that edgy sound and into more of the pop scene.
When IRS records finally signed them in 1980, they cut their first album, which included a re-recording of their first single. If you listened to college radio, you probably remember the original version of “We Got The Beat,” which was an import here in the US and was actually part of their demo record. You probably also found yourself wondering what happened to it when you finally heard the song released as a single in the early days of 1982, while “Our Lips Are Sealed” was making its slow climb back down the charts.
Well…wonder no more, because I’ve got that story for you right here.
Last week’s show was short, time-wise, and I promised I’d make up for it. And make up, I did, because this is one of my longer non-interview shows, clocking in at 20:30. If you listen to this show during your morning commute, you may have to circle the block a few times before going in to work.
But it’s so packed with stuff that I don’t think you’ll mind. This week we’re looking at songs that were inspired by books, a topic that’s turned out to be HUGE, and we’ll be visiting again in the future if you’re digging it.
First up: this should be the end of the oddball uploads. The show itself is completely migrated, and I’ve gotten a few personal issues out of the way, so I should be back to Sunday night releases beginning next week.
Are we good now? OK.
This week’s show is a little bit on the short side, largely because there wasn’t as much story to tell as I thought there’d be, but I’m definitely going to wind up making up for it with next week’s show. At any rate: Styx’s attempt at a rock opera kind of concept was both very successful and very confusing to a big chunk of their fan base, who stayed away in droves. It managed to fracture the band at the end of the tour, and for thirty-five years they refused to play it in concert.
For those of you who are interested, here’s a picture of the original Kilroy from the World War Two era:
This image, in fact, can be found etched into the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, and it’s a pretty typical version of the image. Sometimes the words appeared below the line, or at another point, but you get the idea. And Kilroy does have dots for eyes; they’re kind of tough to see here because of the granite surface.
Thanks for your patience as the show migrates from one server to another. As I noted on the social media, I’m working hard to make it as invisible as possible if you listen via Google or Apple or Spotify, etc. And the website here is going to look kind of weird for awhile with a lot of double posts for previous episodes, until I pick my way through and fix them, one by one. Fun, Fun, Fun!
This week, we’re taking yet another look at a few songs which you may not have known were covers, and nearly all of them were suggested by a listener named Kim, who didn’t feel that a shout-out was necessary, but obviously I don’t feel the same way. Kim had a list of songs that could work, and I said “Sure” to most of them, with a single exception, and that’s mostly because the story is a little convoluted and I may have to turn it into an episode of its own down the road a ways.
Anyway: a new hosting partner means a new player here on the webpage for you, and I do have a little bit of customizing control over it (something I didn’t previously have at all), so I’m happy to hear your suggestions. And, of course, please let me know if you hit any weird technical snags.
First up: A Hat Tip to Jeremiah Coughlin of the podcast Brine Time, a podcast dedicated (but not limited to) the Portland (OR) Pickles baseball team. He wanted to hear about some Foreigner, and coincidentally I just picked up a copy of Agent Provocateur, so we were off to the races. Anyway, Jeremiah and his partner Jake Silberman are a funny couple of guys who know how to convey their fandom in a fresh way. And now I kinda have an idea for another podcast. Aberdeen Ironbirds, are you paying attention?
I think I’m the one person who didn’t hate Agent Provocateur as an album when it first came out in December 1984, because the critics gave it a beatdown. It ultimately yielded four singles, two of which did…okay, and the other two did very well, including this one, which was their only Number One track in the US and the UK, not to mention a bunch of other countries around the world.
Not bad for an album everyone hated.
But while the work was good, Lou Gramm was itching to work on a solo project, and he used “I Want to Know What Love Is” as one of his reasons for bailing out for awhile, so he could go work on his solo album Ready or Not almost simultaneously with their sixth album, Inside Information. And it seems like both albums suffered as a result.
So here’s the show, and then go listen to Jeremiah and Jake.