Headed alone to a desert island for eternity and you have to pick 15 songs to listen to for all time? I hate when that happens.
But to make this awkward predicament a little easier for you, let me come up with some tunes that will help you pass the time. No, not generic fare or elevator music that would make things way worse. Im talking about wacky novelty items that are both catchy and bizarre. Heres your pesky playlist:
WORDY RAPPINGHOOD THE TOM TOM CLUB (1981)
An offshoot of the Talking Heads, the Tom Tom Club was cofounded by Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz in a playful and very inspired mood. Their Wordy Rappinghood is a silly, loving delight, if not that easy to sing along to. (Hi kye yay yippie yi kye yay/Awoo awoo ayee kie chi )
NO MATTER WHAT SIGN YOU ARE” DIANA ROSS AND THE SUPREMES (1969)
Co-written by Berry Gordy Jr. this novelty number cashing in on the astrology craze was a flop that signaled the end of the group, but it was always a hit to me. The words? No matter what sign you are/Youre gonna be mine, you are/Cant let astrology/Chart our destiny. Alas, it was the Billboard chart that told its destiny.
IM HENERY VIII, I AM HERMANS HERMITS (1965)
The wildly popular Brit group exhumed this British music hall song always done in a thick Cockney accent in which the singer reveals hes the widow next doors eighth consecutive husband named ‘Enery. Cute, no? But the most adorable part of all has lead singer Peter Noone announcing, Second verse, same as the first!
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN THE SEX PISTOLS (1977)
Pure fury on a stick, this punk classic lashes out at the Queens fascist regime and declares, Theres no future in Englands dreaming. The song still has the power to make unsuspecting listeners spit out their crumpets.
OH ME OH MY (IM A FOOL FOR YOU, BABY) LULU (1969)
The petite Scottish singer only had one big hit in the U.S. the immortal appreciation anthem To Sir With Love but her powerhouse voice was also well-showcased on this weird and affecting song, which starts soft and tender, then builds to the rocking climax (’Cause Im crazy/said Im crazy bout ya baby). Aretha Franklin did an interesting cover version a few years later, but the luscious-piped Lulu owns it and so should you.
YOUNG AMERICANS DAVID BOWIE (1975)
This soul-influenced swirl incorporates political references, a quote from a Beatles song (I heard the news today, oh boy), backups by Luther Vandross and some riveting vocal posturing by the magnetic Mr. Bowie. (Aint there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?) Well, this one can, every time.
I LOVE IT ICONA POP (2012)
The Swedish duo, featuring Brit singer Charli XCX, exude a wonderful Fuck you attitude with this classic breakup song, which serves the kind of anger that might be useful on a desert island, though the result is more deliciously bratty than anything else. Its a torrent of bitter words, leading up to the wondrous choruses of I dont care/I love it. I do care, and I love it.
BAD ROMANCE LADY GAGA (2009)
Gaga may be attracted to the wrong people, but shes drawn to the right kind of hooks in this, her most appealingly eccentric hit of all. I want your ugly, I want your disease, she asserts, in between nonsense syllable chants, Hitchcock references, and some de rigueur lines of French. It adds up to a bouillabaisse of pure fun.
THEY DONT KNOW TRACEY ULLMAN (1983)
Funny lady Ullman went musical with this boppy cover of a girl-group-influenced Kirsty MacColl song full of sweet, romantic hooks and lovely chimes. MacColl sings backup on it and reprises her performance of the word ba-by, and Paul McCartney cameos in the video, making this a total lovefest and sadly Tracys only American Top 40 hit.
FUCK ME PUMPS AMY WINEHOUSE (2003)
Amy didnt only lambast herself, she also made merciless fun of other women. This cut from her first album also known as Pumps satirically dealt with money-hungry, social-climbing gals on the prowl for rich men. It only made it to No. 65 on the U.K. singles chart, but its gained in stature along with Amys legend.
PATCHES CLARENCE CARTER (1970)
I love a good story song, and this kitsch classic weaves a powerful tale about a poor farm boy in Alabama having some final exchanges with his dying father. Blind singer Carter performed it to the hilt, and you dont know whether to laugh or cry. (Patches, Im depending on you, son )
LOVE IS STRANGE MICKEY AND SYLVIA (1956)
Co-written by Bo Diddley, who recorded the first version, this eerie classic fills the instrumental break with spoken dialogue (How do you call your Lover Boy? Come here, Lover Boy!), then builds to the weirdly harmonized, Baby/Oh baby/My sweet baby/Youre the one. The song was featured in Deep Throat, Casino, “Dirty Dancing” and The Sopranos, and its on a surreal commercial for Nationwide Insurance. Most interestingly, Sylvia went on to be Sylvia Robinson, founder of Sugar Hill Records and a huge force in hip-hop. Life is strange.
THE GLAMOROUS LIFE SHEILA E. (1984)
Sheila Escovedo is the talented, curly haired musician who worked with Prince and was gifted this intoxicating little ditty by his truly. It simmers along with lots of percussion, which she performed admirably, even while spinning and doing kicks. The message? Without love, it aint much.
BUFFALO STANCE NENEH CHERRY (1988)
The Swedish-born diva graced us with this ’80s dance-floor classic, which lyrically refers to the art of standing around as if posing for a photo shoot. But whatever its about, the song sweeps you along with eccentric delight, and along the way it includes samples of Malcolm McLarens Buffalo Gals and delectable lyrics like, No money man can win my love. Its sweetness that Im thinking of. I can pose to that!
GET LUCKY DAFT PUNK AND PHARRELL WILLIAMS (2013)
The French house-music duo, Williams and Nile Rodgers wrote the dizzyingly fun song that grabs you from the first note and doesnt let go until its won a bunch of Grammys. Enjoy!
Michael Musto is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.