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An ABBA to Zebra of Guilty Pleasures

Guilty pleasures. Everybody's got 'em -- those jams you only crank when you're home alone, those tunes you turn up on the car radio only after you've made sure the windows are rolled up tight, those CDs you hide at the bottom of a drawer or the back of a cupboard like a porn stash. (Like porn, you'd be wise to designate a buddy to come and take away your GP stash should you die suddenly -- you don't want your bereaved relatives to discover that ABBA boxed set you've been hiding all these years.)

Anyway, Racket polled hundreds of music figures about their darkest musical secrets, and some of the results are below. We hope to make this a column whenever we are on vacation, or in this case, paternity leave. (Harriet "Hattie" Rose Lomax, our first daughter and second child, was born on October 8.) We hope this column will get you to admit some of your guilty pleasures -- please send them to john.lomax@houstonpress.com. If they are embarrassing enough, and you are spirited enough in your defense of them, we'll use them later.

Americana, J.W. (Front man of the local band of the same name.) "Honestly, and this is no joke, I really, really loved the Michael Jackson and E.T. duet album. Strange as it may seem, they actually put a duet record out. E.T. singing in his lovely alien voice with Mr. Jackson, if you're nasty." [Author's note: He's really not lying; such an album did once exist -- after a short time on the shelves, it was pulled for murky "legal reasons."]

Chavez, Ryan. (Co-founder of Hands Up Houston booking collective. Recording artist in the bands Panic in Detroit and Lucky Motors.) Chavez says he has "no shame" over his choices. Chief among them right now is Foreigner. "I can't explain that," he admits. "By all accounts, no one should like this band. The content is as over the top as the singer, but then again… I love the Darkness."

Dayton, Jesse. (Recording artist.) "Musically, I'm a closet fan of so much shit music. My worst is 'I Feel Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old' by Garth Brooks. That is an awesome song. And if people knew I thought that, they would fuckin' kill me. But what the fuck. Tell 'em, I don't care. If I'm in my old Ford and it comes on, I actually turn it up like I'm some housewife and sing every damn lyric with it."

D.J. Jester, the Filipino Fist. (Extremely clever lounge DJ.) "The funny thing is, I'm really not all that ashamed," says Jester of his short list, which includes Counting Crows, Milli Vanilli and Young MC.

Escalante, Thomas. (Singer, currently of Clouseaux, formerly of the Suspects.) Queen's The Game, Jacko's Off the Wall and Yes's The Yes Album all make Escalante's list, as do Mötley Crüe's Too Fast for Love and Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast. "Hey, I grew up in Corpus Christi," he says. "It was nothing but metal."

Evans, John. (Recording artist.) "When heartache leads to liquor…and liquor leads to loneliness…I break out the Neil Diamond. Neil's been there before -- with bigger hair and better clothes. He kinda gives me something to look forward to."

Haaga, Michael. (A solo artist, formerly the front man for the metal group dead horse.) Haaga isn't sure if he can count Judas Priest's Hell Bent for Leather, which he says "rocks" from beginning to end, or Quiet Riot's "Don't Want to Let You Go" ("A silly macho ballad I like…"). He's more certain of Hall & Oates's "Sara Smile" -- "One of the most soulful love ballads ever written -- and it was by two guys who at the time looked like Bowie's backup band for Ziggy Stardust…awesome, beautiful song!" -- and Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual. "Not the hits so much, though," he says, citing instead "Money Changes Everything," "When You Were Mine" and "All Through the Night." Haaga also reluctantly admits to having loved Daft Punk's first couple of records.

Hood, Patterson. (Singer-guitarist, Drive By Truckers.) "I'm pretty much open and out of the closet in my love of 'bad' cheesy '70s one-hit wonders," Hood admits, and gives up Terry Jacks's "Seasons in the Sun" as an example. He also likes Jim Stafford's "My Girl Bill." "He was a multi-hit wonder, but you know what I mean," he says. Todd Rundgren is also on his list. "I put his newest album in my top ten this year," he says. "My wife and all my friends hate his music, and I love it. Always have. He's been one of my favorites since sixth grade." And in case you wondering, "Hall & Oates are the shit, too."

 

Lomax, John Nova. (Music editor, Houston Press.) [I don't think it's fair to get people to share theirs without giving up some of mine.] Lynyrd Skynyrd still aren't retro-hip yet, thanks to that ghoul of a band still out there ruining their good name. (That band that just played The Woodlands should be called Skynyrd's Rymnynts.) Then there's the über-redneck Hank Jr. , who has destroyed virtually all of his late-'70s honky-tonk cred through both his ludicrous Monday Night Football hullabaloos and just plain embarrassing songs like "If the South Woulda Won." But my most humiliating guilty pleasure of the '80s was (and is) my abiding love for New Orleans half-a-hit wonder Zebra. How I loved to crank up their slow-burning slab of pompous art-metal "Who's Behind the Door?" (Sample lyric: "How much more do you really think you know than a flower does about whooooo's behiiiiiind the dooo-ooor!?!") I also like Hall & Oates. As a sixth grader, I heard a girl I had a huge crush on singing "Private Eyes" in the shower while we were on a rustic overnight field trip. The image of her bathing charged the song with an eroticism it sorely lacks otherwise. For months afterward I listened to the local pop station's dedication line, waiting for the same junior high Venus to send this song out to me. She never did.

Lonchambon, Melissa. (Bassist, formerly of Panic in Detroit and Lucky Motors.) Lonchambon doesn't believe in the concept of guilty pleasures. Nonetheless, there "are a few things I put on repeat just to annoy the hell out of my friends who are stuck in the car with me." Among them: Rush -- "One of my favorite bands ever. Don't even get me started…I may need my own column for that one." Lesser GPs include Yes, King Crimson, Chuck Mangione, the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack ("especially the Cardigans' 'Lovefool' "), Ottmar Liebert ("catchy flamenco guitar with an occasional dash of New Age by a man with smoldering eyes"), the "white rap genius from Deerborn, Michigan, J. Relli, OMC's "How Bizarre" and Lagwagon's Hoss. Then there's Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity." "Okay, I'm actually cringing about admitting that one," Lonchambon says. That's the spirit!

Masters, Jeremy. (a.k.a. "Jredi Knight," singer, Dubtex.) Masters has something of an early-'80s fixation -- he cites Christopher Cross, Journey and "Neil (Frickin) Diamond." He also likes ELO -- "three of the Ramones are turning in their graves at this one" -- and Kenny Rogers. Not just the cool acid rock stuff: even "Lucille" and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town." Masters goes so far as to admit having a passion for Stryper. "Now that's embarrassing!" he says.

Sacco, Chris. (Front man, Dune*TX.) Sacco presents us with a mixed bag of guilt. There's a little rap. "The Beastie Boys' License to Ill always takes me back to my days in high school, driving around my mom's Cutlass and drinking Mickey's." There's a little pompous art rock. Rush's 2112 was "one of the main reasons I got into music, and my first exposure to a concept album." He's got some new wave on there in the form of Haircut 100's "Love Plus One." "I'm not really a fan of the band, but that tune is awesome. I still listen to it once every few weeks." Country, in the form of Junior Brown's "Highway Patrol," and dance, in the form of the Chemical Brothers, round out his eclectic roll call of GPs.

Saenz, Mando. (Country-rock recording artist.) "'I Want It That Way' by the Backstreet Boys is a badass song," Saenz states flatly. "Seriously."

Zamora, Julie. (Singer in the band Modulator.) Atop Zamora's list is the Xanadu soundtrack. "Olivia Newton-John and ELO make this one my favorite guilty pleasure. She must have been 'Magic,' or at least used helium to hit those high notes." Still on the ONJ tip, Grease is another of Zamora's faves. "I'm glad you asked: Why, yes, I am an Olivia Newton-John fan. 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' tells the sad story of my life, while 'Greased Lightnin'' makes me want to pimp my ride." Zamora also likes to mine ABBA's Gold ("Swedish melodrama rules!") and trip the light fantastic to The Bee Gees Greatest Hits. "I had a huge crush on Barry Gibb -- it must have been that high, effeminate voice juxtaposed with all of that facial hair. 'How Deep Is Your Love' makes me want to get into a fight just so we can make up." And finally, there's The Sound of Music. "What can I say? I was named after Julie Andrews. I absolutely love singing the title track (especially the high, lilting backing vocals) whilst twirling about in my apartment. Anytime I'm feeling down, I listen to this gem and go to that calm, happy place where everyone sings in harmony, is Austrian and is built like body builders."

 


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