Best Of Rock: 10 Rock & Roll Guilty Pleasures



By Ralph Greco, Jr.

We can’t ask the church for these indulgences. If you’re human, you will find yourself sneaking away time and again to indulge in some sordid nastiness you’d never tell your family about. What follows is a list of guilty pleasures of a rock and roll nature. Maybe not stuff you’d readily admit to doing, watching, listening to or mock drumming the dashboard over, but stuff that still sends a shiver up your spine as you engage in rock and roll guilty pleasures.

1) Watching David Bowie and Bing Crosby sing “The Little Dummer Boy.” I don’t know about you, but I kinda get sentimental over the holidays. Lots of memories are stored in traditions for us all, but there’s very few times I get to marry Xmas with rock and roll. This clip from ‘Ba Ba’ Bing’s 1975 TV Christmas special features the famous crooner and the Thin White Duke (who was very thin and white at this point in his career) duet on a fantastic version of this Christmas classic. I can’t turn away every time it plays and I have even dialed up the ol’ YouTube for the clip on more than one December eve to get myself in the mood.

2) Playing air guitar to the lead at the end of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.” In general, air guitar, keyboard dashboarding, and drumming on your leg all fall into the category of a rock and roll guilty pleasure — or can be seen as evidence of an epileptic condition. Air guitaring the end electric guitar lead of this 70s radio staple, (played by guitar player extraordinaire Hugh Burns) is for me, the nadir of mock instrument mocking. Among many other moments in a shining career, Burns also played those subtle nylon guitar lines on George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” How’s that for studio musicianship versatility?

3) Shock The Monkey ‘hands-cross-chest’ video imitation. This one might be a bit obscure, but back in the days when videos were new, Peter Gabriel was making his mark in this new medium with interesting, groundbreaking clips. Before “Sledgehammer,” the ex-Genesis front man had a hit with “Shock The Monkey,” as well as a strange and scary video of same. In the video, Gabriel puts himself through various bizarre tortures, but each time he says “shock” (OK…almost each time) we see him quickly throw his arms across his chest to emphasize the word. Every single time I hear and sing this song — and I do sing it every time I hear it — I follow Gabriel’s video emphasis and cross my arms on each “shock” — instinctively reacting to the slave to visual stimuli that I am.

4) Singing the ’ah-haa’ in “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” Should Abba technically make a rock and roll list? Well, if they do, this is a prime singable indulgent moment (with the one that follows) that I feel can’t be ignored. You know that point in the song when Agnetha and AnniFrid sing “ah-haa” after the “knowing me, knowing you” part of the lyric? How can you avoid singing this every time you hear it? I can’t.

5) Saying the ‘yeah it does’ in “Every Rose Has A Thorn.” I know ol’ Bret Micahels is getting a lot of mileage (and criticism) from his looking-for-love VH1 reality shows, but man did he ever write a little ditty that’s stayed in our collective pop conscious. At the very beginning of “Rose,” immediately after the first chorus, Bret says, “Yeah it does” before the rest of the band kicks in. This one is different than my shining Abba example as it only occurs once in the song and I find, even if I don’t listen to the rest of Bret’s love lament (and I usually don’t) I don’t turn the song off until I can say the “yeah it does” part with the bandanna-wearing bandolier of love.

6) Do ya do the windmill like ol’ Pete does? This guilty pleasure isn’t married to any one specific song but for the most part I find it damn hard, near impossible, not to get my arm swinging in tribute to Pete Townshend’s hand-slicing windmilling on certain Who songs. It’s when Pete’s power chord comes in a smidgen later than Moonie or the Ox — say on “Baba O’Riley” for instance — that I find myself checking around, making sure I’m alone, then standing in my best guitar God stance and letting fly with my arm round my front just as Pete does.

7) Singing all the operatic voices in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Even if you have the pipes, the voices in this Freddie Mercury masterpiece overlap at such a breakneck pace there’s no way anyone can replicate it. But still we all have attempted to sing the operatic bit by our loins from time to time (come on, admit it). From the wailing high “Galileos” to the “Mama Mia let me go” — even those high Roger Taylor’s falsetto B’s trailing off of the “Let him go’s” — we’ve all had a mini operatic concert with ourselves over this Queen hit. That scene in the first Wayne’s World movie had it pretty much on the nose, except there was a bunch of friends in the backseat of the car, not just one guy singing alone on his couch late at night with a…well, you get the picture!

8) Air drumming to the drum intro in “In The Air Tonight.” I know a bunch of air drumming examples that could have made this list but really, is there a better example than this perfect point of percussion pronouncement? Growing into a major pop star, front man and Disney song scribe, one forgets how great a drummer Phil Collins is. This is just one of many examples in the man’s career where his distinctive pounding is, well, distinctive.

9) The only time I dance is when I warp. Unabashedly campy, undeniably catchy tunes and some over-the-top acting, there is nothing else like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While I know there are Rocky fans still out there flinging the midnight flame of freamkdom at local theaters throughout the land, my friends and I attended midnight Rocky madness way, way back during the movie’s salad years of the late 70s. This was where I, along with a theater full of other zanies, stood in the aisles and danced (if you could call what I do “dancing”) to the infamous “Time Warp.” I cannot say how much I miss those days (or “daze”), and though I wouldn’t dare warp now for fear of breaking a hip, I do admit here and now that I did do it as much as throw toast, squirt water guns, talk back to the screen, and generally come alive on those midnights of long ago when a crazy group of high schoolers would become, for a 90-minute period, willing good-humored disciples for what was The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

10) The Monkees. Boasting one of the great 60s half-hour comedies, guest stars like Frank Zappa and Tim Buckley, and fantastic tunes like “Take The Last Train To Clarksville” and “Valerie” — this pre-made TV pop group was created to exploit Beatlemania is one of my favorite rock and roll indulgences. I’m not even sure a show of this type could “jump the shark” really. The boys have had their shares of ups, downs, who’s-in-who’s-out-who’s-still-touring-who’s-too-strung-out mishaps over the years, but for a perfect pop indulgence, it don’t get much better the Mikey, Mike, Davy and Peter.

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