A Song and a Story: Done to Death Songs #AtoZChallenge

Today’s songs for A Song and a Story have a number of things in common:

  1. I first heard them while traveling – repeatedly during the trips – and forever associate the songs with that vacation.
  2. Both of these songs are arguably bad songs, and definitely annoying for many people to hear.
  3. Despite not being all that good to begin with and then overplayed to death I still love these songs.  They’re so bad, they’re good.

The first song is the most notable – and notorious song – by jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin:

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

It’s the summer of 1988 and it was time for my family’s routine camping trip on Martha’s Vineyard.  My mother couldn’t get time off work, but since my sister was now an adult, we decided to take our camping trip without parental supervision for the first time.  As we drove around the island that week, we listened to the local radio station, WMVY, and heard several promos for an upcoming performance by Bobby McFerrin.  The radio station also played his song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” repeatedly that week.  We enjoyed the unique a cappella style and the funny lyrics, and it became the special song for that vacation.

As far as I knew, Bobby McFerrin was a local musician on Martha’s Vineyard and no one else would know who he was.  I was pleased to know this “secret” song. A month passed, I went back to school, and then suddenly “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, if you weren’t around in America in the autumn of 1988, you have no idea how ubiquitous this song became.  And just as quickly it became massively popular, it also became fashionable for people to hate “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

But for me, it will always be that special, obscure song, played on Martha Vineyard’s radio station.

The next song is from a decade later.  In 1998, I spent six weeks traveling in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Paris.  And for the majority of this trip, my daily activities were scored by the Danish pop band Aqua and their song:

Doctor Jones

“Doctor Jones” played from every loudspeaker as I circled Ireland.  On buses, in restaurants, in pubs, and out on the street.  I saw the band perform the song on Top of the Pops on the tv in the hostel common room.  When it wasn’t playing on a stereo, it was playing in my head, and I even heard people involuntarily singing “a yippee ay yay, a wah-hah” under their breath.  By any standard, this was a terrible song, but the people of Ireland and Britain had raised it to the top of their charts.  I found it so comically bad, I started to like it ironically, and then non-ironically.

When I got back home to the States, my experience was the opposite of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  Despite being a #1 song in Ireland and the UK, no one I knew in the US ever heard of it, nor would they ever hear of it unless I played it for them.  And I did.  I even put it on a mix tape for Susan, and I guess it didn’t offend her too much, since she still married me.

2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Musical Guilty Pleasures

Last Wednesday I was due to post my Album of the Month reviews for August, and this Wednesday is supposed to be a Musical Discoveries post, but I have listened to nothing so I have nothing ready to post.  So, I’m moving Album of the Month to next Wednesday, August 24th and a Music Discovery for Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings on August 31st.  Today, I’ll go with a list of songs I’ve compiled under the heading Guilty Pleasures.

I hesitate to use the term guilty pleasures, because almost certainly all of these songs have people who love them unabashedly, and the older I get the more I feel that if any music brings a person joy it should not be mocked.  Nevertheless, these are cheezy pop songs that don’t fit in with my usual tastes and that music snobs who are less forgiving than me would look down on.

So let’s check out my Musical Guilty Pleasures in reverse alphabetical order by song title:

“We Like to Party” – Vengaboys

The Dutch have made many contributions to global culture, but are not so strong in the pop music area.  Still I find this song irresistibly catchy.

“Strangers in the Night” – Frank Sinatra

I’ve always had trouble with lyrics – understanding them, and memorizing them.  But in college I made myself memorize this song.  I thought it might be something that people would find impressive/amusing.  It didn’t work.

“Star Wars Theme” – Meco

Not only did I love this disco version of the Star Wars theme, but I actually once had an entire album of Meco interpretation of film soundtrack songs.

“The One That You Love” – Air Supply

When I was a kid I decided to make my own weekly Top 10 list of songs and this was the first number one song on the list even though it was two years after the song was released.

“Never Gonna Give You Up” – Rick Astley

The song that launched ten million Rick Rolls, but you gotta admit that he has a good voice and it’s a catchy tune.

“Mouth” – Merril Bainbridge

When people talk about the great music of the ’90s, this song doesn’t come up, but it brings back memories.

“Milkshake” – Kelis

You should see me dance to this song.

“Let it Go” – Demi Lovato

Popular with girls aged 12 and under, I can’t help but want to join in the sing-a-long.

“Jump Around” – House of Pain

Nothing makes me feel more white than my enjoyment of this song.

“I Think We’re Alone Now” – Tiffany

I kept my love of this song a big secret when I was 13.

“Hold On” – Wilson Phillips

Who can resist singing along to “Hold On?”  No one, that’s who.

“Don’t Worry Be Happy” – Bobby McFerrin

I have an affection for this song because I was on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard and McFerrin was playing a show there so the local radio kept playin this song and it was this quirky, happy song that no one else knew until a month later when it was suddenly being overplayed everywhere.

“Doctor Jones” – Aqua

Another song I associate with travel, this time to Ireland and the UK where this was a big hit and played so often that people were absent-mindedly singing it under their breath.

“Another Night” – Real McCoy

When my wife and I were friends in college, long before we started dating, this was “our song” for some reason that has been lost to memory.

“America” – Neil Diamond

Patriotic songs are cheezy, Neil Diamond is cheezy, so this is a large extra cheeze, but dang if I don’t feel inspired.


So what are your musical guilty pleasures?  Make your confession in the comments below!


Ten Favorite Songs of 1997

The project continues with my favorite songs of 1997.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

Best Black Dress – The Nields



Brimful Of Asha – Cornershop



The Drunken Piper – Natalie MacMaster



Moby Octopad – Yo La Tengo



No Surprises – Radiohead



Peace in the Valley –  Alabama 3



Reunion Hill –  Richard Shindell



Tubthumping –  Chumbawamba



Waste Some Time – Paperboys

[The Internet does not have time to waste on this song. :( ]



You Will Go to the Moon –  Moxy Fruvous



And my song of shame for 1997: Doctor Jones – Aqua

You’re probably not talking to me after that one, but if you are let me know of a song you love from 1997.