Ask Billboard: Bad Medicine, Good Concerts
Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.
Last week, upon the debut of "Gonorrhea" by Lil Wayne featuring Drake on the Billboard Hot 100, Ask Billboard highlighted prior charted songs about woeful afflictions. (Talk about "catchy" songs ...)
The mailbag also solicited your thoughts on some of the best concerts you've seen. Here are reader e-mails on both topics.
FEEL A WHOLE LOT BETTER
I have an addition to the list of songs about various ailments large and small.
Vitamin C took "The Itch" to No. 45 on the Hot 100 in 2000. The song was the lead single from her second album, "More."
Too bad the Cure didn't cover it.
Trenton, New Jersey
I enjoy your column every week (and have been reading Billboard since 1981).
I was amused with the "Medical Chart" topic last week. I remember the No. 1 Dance/Club Play Songs smash, and No. 35 Hot 100 hit, "People Are Still Having Sex" by LaTour in 1991.
There was quite a bit of controversy over the song, which claimed that abstinence was not the sole defense against sexually transmitted diseases. Per the lyrics: "Have you noticed that people are still having sex? All the denouncement had absolutely no effect / Parents and counselors constantly scorn them, but people are still having sex and nothing seems to stop them."
Jonathan J. Lewis, III
This is in response to your question last week about the best concerts ever attended.
I've attended a few different shows in my day in various genres: hard rock (my first concert was in my teens when I went to see then-red hot Canadian rock band Toronto and its opening act, the Headpins); art rock (Supertramp); country rock (Blue Rodeo); and folk (Rita MacNeil).
The concert that I enjoyed the most, however, and am still impressed with the most was by British popera star Sarah Brightman. She has one of the most beautiful voices of anyone I've ever heard, recorded or live. I've remained a fan of hers from that day forward.
One local concert that to this day I regret not going to was Garth Brooks'. I'll certainly attend should he decide to leave Las Vegas and tour this way again.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
My best concert ever, hands down, nothing even comes close: Barry Manilow at Pine Knob Amphitheater outside of Detroit in the late '70s. I liked Manilow, but it's not like I idolized him. I realized the extent of his abilities when he performed a two-and-a-half hour concert and never stopped moving the entire time.
(He even he did something quite novel during his concert that some artists could learn from today: he sang, right there and then! Plus, onstage there was what is called a "band." A whole bunch of people playing instruments. Trumpets, clarinets ... you know, like back in Beethoven's time).
Very honorable mentions: Heart and John Cougar (no "Mellencamp" at the time) near Traverse City, Michigan in the early '80s. Also around that time, the Go-Go's. I didn't expect much from these five women that I thought were pretty (including lead singer Belinda Carlisle), but of whose musical merits I was skeptical. They more than impressed me with their music and were certainly accomplished instrumentalists. Totally rocked!
Thanks for posing the question about memorable concerts, past, present and future. I'll share a few:
Colin Hay, the Maple Room, Lewiston, Maine, 2008. The Maple Room is a 95-seat venue that is what its name suggests, a room. And an intimate one, at that, with fantastic acoustics. Just Colin and his guitar, nothing else needed.
Cyndi Lauper, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Conn., 2005. I finally saw Lauper perform three years after having met and interviewed her, and she was certainly worth the 22-year wait dating to 1983's "She's So Unusual." If there had been a merch table, I would have bought a chunk of it. A mother of a soldier killed in the Middle East brought to the stage an article of clothing that had belonged to her son. The mother wanted Lauper to know how much her music had meant to her son. Lauper said, "You're giving this to me?" Moved by the gesture (along with the rest of us), she then sang an a cappella version of her 1993 single, "Who Let in the Rain."
Tori Amos, State Theatre, Portland, Maine, 1994. I had just moved to Portland and the State was back in business after a lengthy absence. Amos had just released "Under the Pink," with "Little Earthquakes" still on everyone's mind. She was phenomenal. I ended up seeing her perform three more times (so far) because of that show.
INXS, Colby College, Waterville, Maine, 1987. "Kick" had yet to be the monster hit it was about to become, but that didn't stop me from getting squashed near the stage, and from someone else being taken off the stage, before singer Michael Hutchence was forced to warn the crowd to retreat. I enjoyed the show a lot more after making my way to the bleachers.
Other concert highlights for me include Madonna, the Police (standing on Boston's Fenway Park field to see the band was such a thrill), the Hooters, They Might Be Giants, Robyn Hitchcock, Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennitt, David Byrne, Sinead O'Connor, Cowboy Junkies, Bryan Adams, Nouvelle Vague (France's impeccable '80s cover export), Squeeze and Elvis Costello (the lattermost show marking the only time I've ever suffered verbal diarrhea when meeting a celebrity - sorry, Elvis!)
Future shows I'd love to see include Regina Spektor, U2, R.E.M., Depeche Mode and Talking Heads. Hey, I can hope for that "once-in-a-lifetime" reunion tour, can't I?
Ron Raymond, Jr.
Music Director, WMPG-FM