December 9, 2009


I have a friend named Walt Schwenk, and he has a friend named Jeff Pearlman. And they've given us all something very special.

Walt enjoys music that the hypercritical and musically pretentious would never give the time of day. I'm talking about Hall & Oates, Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart, Chicago, 38 Special. Bands and artists that were incredibly successful, made large sums of money and sold out countless arenas and stadiums in their heyday. Bands and artists that are now, in many circles, considered a joke.

It's not that he doesn't like "good" music. He enjoys Springsteen, Black Sabbath, The Beatles, a good number of musicians that are both respected and critically acclaimed.

But he makes a point to emphasize his love of this kind of music, music often from a lost era, music that seems cheesy or over-the-top or just flat-out fake.

And this is music that Pearlman calls the "Best of Walt's Gay Asshole (BOWGA)". It doesn't matter why that makes sense -- it just does. It's perfect. Pearlman and Walt even have an audition process -- Pearlman puts a song on, and if Walt spreads his legs in agreement, the song is part of BOWGA. But if Walt folds one leg over the other, much like a lady, the song is rejected. Walt is tough but fair; he's proud of his musical tastes, and as his friend (and fellow fan of forgotten masterpieces), I love it, too.

In fact, I might like it more than he does. We're constantly swapping new additions to BOWGA, setting up Pandora stations for our favorite BOWGA artists and introducing ourselves to unexpected or repressed works of art.

And I think it's time to introduce our tastes to the world, but with a twist. These gems are what I am listening to now, my current favorites in this unappreciated genre:

Don Henley - "Taking You Home"
Ignore the Big Fish video attached to this song. Walt may not even include this in BOWGA, but he should. Don Henley's most known work probably came with The Eagles, but his solo albums cannot be denied. His masterpiece is The End of the Innocence, which features hits like "The End of the Innocence","The Last Worthless Evening" and "The Heart of the Matter". These are all terrific songs, probably worthy of BOWGA, but "Taking You Home" from 2000's Inside Job features unnecessary African American backup singers, a light R&B feel and inclusion as one of my favorite Henley compositions.

Michael Bolton - "How Can We Be Lovers?"
Another friend of ours, Chris Foran, loves Michael Bolton. Far more than any young man should love Michael Bolton, in fact. But he hates this song. No one is sure why -- the part where the music drops out and Bolton belts out, "WE CAN WORK IT OUT!" is probably a top-ten all time moment in recorded music. Plus, Mr. Bolton has a wonderful message -- a relationship is best built upon a solid foundation of friendship. Which is probably why I've drunkenly tried to hook up with so many of my female friends.

REO Speedwagon - "Time for Me to Fly"
Now this is one I know Walt can get behind. Much like Mr. Henley, the Speedwagon has numerous songs worthy of BOWGA -- "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "Roll With the Changes" leap off the tongue. But "Time for Me to Fly" is the perfect mix of ballad and rock, describing the difficulties of relationships while affirming that freedom from said relationship will cure all old wounds. I really want to sing this at a karaoke bar, preferably to a girl I've recently broken up with.

Annie Lennox - "Walking on Broken Glass"
The inclusion of John Malkovich in the music video is a welcome surprise, even though the 18th-century costumes are a little odd. At the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame show that recently aired on HBO, I was disgusted to see that Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin dueted on an Aretha Franklin song. How could Aretha foresake "Broken Glass"? As if she's ever done better. Another song I regret to say I've never performed karaoke to.

Phil Collins - "I Wish It Would Rain Down"
And finally, one of my all-time favorite songs. The music video stars Collins, Jeffrey Tambor and Eric Clapton, and it follows an alternate version of Collins' career where a demanding Tambor ruins his big shot at fame. But the song itself is so multi-talented; it can play so many roles. It can be a tale of heartbreak, of confession, even a key asset on my iPod shuffle running mix. Phil Collins gets a lot of flak, and sometimes rightfully so. But he has a dozen songs, maybe more, that are genuinely well-made and fun to listen to. In my opinion, Mr. Collins should be the spokesman for BOWGA. Much-maligned, successful beyond belief, unfairly shunned by popular opinion, a master of pop music. If people could accept Phil Collins and his music into their lives, the world would be a better place.

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