Friday, May 23, 2008



So I was puttering down I-75, doing the one-finger radio punch when my FM dial landed on what sounded like your typical pop tale: Girl meets Prince Charming after a lifetime of kissing frogs. The story was headed toward the predictable happily-ever-after. Or so I thought.

“You cut me open and I keep bleeding.” Wait. What the deuce is this chick singing about? A surgical mishap? Eventually, the chorus revealed the source of the hemorrhage, as well as the name of the song, “Bleeding Love.” This launched a disturbing mental slideshow that caused me to swerve – and the driver in the next lane to blast his horn while mouthing colorful invectives against my gender and driving ability (and quite possibly, my mother).

Thanks to Leona Lewis, I’ll never look at Cupid as anything other than an archer with bad aim.

Mainstream pop ain’t exactly Shakespeare, but even by Top 40 standards, “Bleeding Love” is pretty heinous. But like I said, it’s not the worst title I’ve heard. I award that honor to Fairport Convention’s “Sir B. McKenzie's Daughter's Lament For The 77th Mounted Lancer's Retreat From The Straits Of Loch Knombe, In The Year Of Our Lord 1727, On The Occasion Of The Announcement Of Her Marriage To The Laird Of Kinleakie.” I swear I didn’t make that up; it set the Guinness world record for longest song name in 1970.

Dishonorable mention also goes to “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict,” from Pink Floyd’s 1969 album, “Ummagumma.” It’s worth mentioning that this “song” is five minutes of animal noises, microphone-slapping and a rant by a gibbering pseudo-Scotsman. (History lesson moment: The Picts were indigenous to what is now Scotland).

Back then, musicians had a valid excuse for far-out titles: They were higher than Kilimanjaro. Nowadays, song titles are punch lines to in-jokes meant only for the cool kids. How else to explain “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage” and “London Beckoned Songs About Money Written by Machines,” the latter of which I suspect resulted from playing Mad Libs® after too much absinthe. These tunes are the handiwork of Panic At The Disco, who recently dropped the “!” after “Panic” … I’m guessing they don’t want to seem pretentious.

Another repeat offender: Fallout Boy, with "Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today" and "I'm Like A Lawyer With The Way I'm Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You).” I get the feeling these guys are aiming for “clever, cheeky monkeys,” but instead arrive at “wannabe-hipster hair gel junkies.”

It’s time we got back to the days when song titles made sense. You just can’t beat classics like “They May Put Me in Prison, But They Can’t Stop My Face From Breakin’ Out” and “There Ain’t Enough Room in my Fruit of the Looms to Hold All My Lovin’ for You.”

Friday, May 09, 2008



I was reading an article that referred to actor Matthew Broderick as “the less famous half of a couple,” the other half being his wife, “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker. My first thought: “Less famous? Based on what?” My next thought: Perhaps the writer was raised by wolves and never heard of a little film Broderick did called “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” (After all, wolves don’t watch much TV.)

It’s undeniable that “Sex and the City” was wildly popular during its six-year run and remains so in reruns, but I’ll go out on a limb and say “Ferris Bueller” – still making millions in DVD rentals – has been viewed by a broader audience. It’s a safe bet that many of the folks renting “Ferris Bueller” have never watched a single episode of “S&TC” (being forced by wives or girlfriends doesn’t count). I think it’s also safe to say that a large percentage of “S&TC” viewers have indeed seen “Ferris Bueller.”

Broderick’s body of work is as varied and voluminous as SJP’s – they’ve both done movies, television and Broadway, they’ve both produced and directed. So what makes him any less famous? This led me to ponder the question: What exactly is fame, anyway?

The Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2006 edition), defines “famous” as “having a widespread reputation, usually of a favorable nature,” but many of today’s so-called stars defy that definition. Steve-O of “Jackass” is known for stunts like swallowing and regurgitating live goldfish and stapling his boy-parts to his thigh. Having an audience of millions witness such acts certainly will earn one a reputation – and a trip to the booby hatch – but not so much a favorable one.

What does it mean to be famous? Is it defined by how many people recognize your face? How many times your name is Googled on a given day? How many people are aware of your accomplishments? If that’s the case, all it takes is one, “Don’t tase me, bro!” to make you as famous as that tall, bearded guy who said, “Four score and seven years ago.”

I asked a couple of friends in California – the world’s leading manufacturer of fame – for their definitions of the word. “Fame is whether you can sell tabloids,” says Kim. “It has nothing to do with merit, talent, or affability. If they're wearing your face on T-shirts in Third World countries, you're ├╝ber-famous.” According to Sal, “Fame is becoming well-known and remembered for something, no matter what you did.”

Ah, there’s the rub. What often passes for fame these days would more aptly be called notoriety or infamy. Used to be people became famous for accomplishing something worthwhile and infamous for doing something bad (or downright stupid); nowadays, the line between the two has blurred almost to invisibility. Sadly, it’s no longer important what you’re known for, as long as you’re known. But fortunately for those of us with higher standards, this brand of fame is no guarantee, baby, we’ll remember their names.