Guilty Pleasures, Part II

Well, folks, it's the moment you've all been waiting for: the second installment of my "guilty pleasures" project, in which I try to find out what local, state and national music figures jam when they think no one is listening, the songs and artists you love but play only on headphones or with the windows rolled all the way up. So as one of the choices on this list might say, "Let's get it started in here…"

Alvarez, Olivia Flores (arts editor, La Semana/Bravo Houston and Press contributor). Alvarez digs George Michael's Faith era ("Corn, corn, corny, I know. Corny and commercial") as well as Mr. Jiggy, Will Smith, whom she admits is "the most un-rapper rapper in the world." Alvarez blames the media for her Doris Day fixation, one she says "even embarrasses my friends": "I watched her biography on TV one time, and they said she had incredible phrasing. That must have sunk into my subconscious or something, because ever since then I think she can sing. She's more certain about her belief that she is the only person in the world to have seen The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia -- The Movie no fewer than three times. "Bad enough I listen to Vicki Lawrence sing," she says, "but then I watched the movie, with Kristy McNichol and Dennis Quaid singing. Mark Hamill, who has a small role as a Kristy's love interest, was smart enough to be embarrassed, but not me. Kristy McNichol singing -- gosh, can you get any lower?" You can, as Alvarez demonstrates with her next Diamond Jammer. "Kenny Rogers," she says. "I know all the words to 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town.' Worse, I know all the words to 'She Believes in Me.' And 'You Decorated My Life.' And 'Coward of the County.' All of them. The shame, the shame."

Johnson, Felicia (Press contributor/ hip-hop journalist). Johnson's selections cross a far wider musical spectrum than you might expect from a hip-hop scribe. First off, there's a smattering of pop divas including Ashlee Simpson ("She sings much better than her sister, and has a cuter style -- you know, that trendy/ poseur/punk fashion thing. Ashlee rocks!"), "Toxic" by Britney Spears ("She is so bold to get in front of the world and beyond, knowing she can't sing a lick, and can dance even worse. But that song is really cute, and she gets to live out her fantasies on video. I can't even be mad at that"), Madonna ("She touched my life at a time when I was young and impressionable, and her songs are pure pop pleasure"), and I guess Boy George, who Johnson says "holds a special place in my heart," wouldn't object to being called a diva, so we'll throw him in with this group. George Michael and Journey are other '80s-era choices for Johnson. Of the latter group, she says, "I still jam any Journey song that I hear. Anywhere. In the grocery store, on elevators, in the car -- that's my favorite place, 'cause I can really belt it out like me and Steve [Perry] are on stage somewhere doing our famous duets, hehe. Y'all know he can sing…" And then she's willing to admit that her love for Maroon 5 is taking its toll. "That lead singer is too cute," she says. On the hip-hop/R&B tip, she admits to digging Ciara and Petey Pablo's "My Goodies." "In the video she tries to look so hard, but it comes off hilarious to me," she says. "Plus, that Petey Pablo is a fool, talkin' 'bout, 'Any girl in this club I can get.' Yeah, okay…" Johnson is forthright in her admiration of T.I. ("Always in trouble, man. Yeah, stay in some trouble. I'll get you in trouble. That's that thug love baby…"), though she is more reluctant about the Ying Yang Twins' "Get Low." "Y'all can't front, but that shit is live," she says. "It's been out forever, but when that beat hits, and they start up with 'From the window to the wall…' The sheer ignorance of it -- I love it."

Lomax, John Nova (music editor, Houston Press). Why does everybody hate on the Black Eyed Peas? I know, as Craig D. Lindsey put it in a phone call to me a few weeks back, that they are exceedingly "nonthreatening black guys" and all, and I also know that "Let's Get Retarded" is the last thing you hear before Barry Manilow takes the stage, but c'mon! That shit's funky! Also, almost exactly ten years ago in this paper, then-music editor Brad Tyer called Blind Melon's "No Rain" "wussy crap somewhere between Supertramp and Yes, which is hell." Virtually all of my friends and 99 percent of critics agree with that assessment. But fuck it, I dig it. And anywhere that's halfway to Supertramp is halfway to heaven to me. As is a lot of hyper-weeny soft-rock stuff from the '70s, such as Al Stewart ("The Year of the Cat"), Bread ("Baby I'm A Want You," "Make It with You"), Orleans ("Still the One") and Seals and Crofts. The last group's "Summer Breeze" is pure pop perfection. And then there's Gordon Lightfoot. I still get teary-eyed when I think of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Murrah, Tim (club DJ and former manager at Stuka and Metropol, occasional Press contributor). Given his well-known Britpop predilection, it's no surprise that all but one of Murrah's Diamond Jams emanate from across the pond. There's all-but-forgotten (even by my English wife) boy band Bros. "Two twin brothers -- Matt and Luke -- and their little drummer buddy, Craig. They were the boy band that started boy bands. Leather jackets, ripped jeans, perfectly coiffed 'dos. Fantastic stuff. A bit Michael Jacksony, but great." Murrah also has a thing for divas, including Nelly Furtado ("To this day, every time I hear 'I'm Like a Bird…' I get the chills"), Gabrielle ("I recently discovered that I have all of her albums. Oops! I do like listening to her, though, she always makes me happy") and hell, all of the rest of them; he loves all Eurodisco -- "The gayer the better. I love making the whole house rumble while listening to some sweaty diva belting out some tune about how everything is going to get better. It makes house cleaning a necessity. Makes me giddy and happy." And then there's Pink Floyd, whom he has just begun to come to terms with. "I am in my thirties and just started to buy Pink Floyd. Animals is my fave."

Sound Exchange Guys. What will the co-owners of the hippest, most High Fidelity-like record shop in Houston admit to digging? As you might expect, it's a fairly esoteric list. For Kevin Bakos, it's competition ballroom dancing ("watching, not competing"), the DeFrancos featuring Tony DeFranco, local Spanish-language car dealer commercials and "Chipmunk Punk or any music by chipmunks, for that matter." But Slade rules them all. For Bakos's cohort Kurt Brennan, it's ABBA, Sparks, Petula Clark, Rusted Shut and any British folk song, no matter how lame, that contains the word "maidenhead."

Turcotte, Brad (president, Compadre Records). "As the owner of a singer-songwriter-driven record label, my musical focus for leisure should be the obvious selections: Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark or Billy Joe Shaver," Turcotte says. "However, I am afraid to admit that I actually enjoy listening to power pop." The Killers top his list. "I have listened to their hit single 'Somebody Told Me' about 3,000 times. I honestly don't know why. Perhaps it is because I am a huge fan of Duran Duran," he says, and hastens to add that "I am a straight man." Next up is Maroon 5's Songs About Jane. "I actually told the record store clerk that I was buying this record for my sister. I don't have a sister." Turcotte also rocks out to both Rooney ("I have been a huge fan ever since first watching the band perform on The O.C. A grown man can watch teen-based dramas") and Jimmy Eat World. "I am currently listening to my third copy of this skater-infused album," he says. "I think I am a teen girl at heart. Again, I am a straight man."

Zamorano, Rozz (bass player extraordinaire, both as a member of the Fondue Monks and as a solo artist). Zamorano rattles off a mixed bag that includes perennial Hall & Oates, the Cure, Dokken and Blondie, but ultimately for Zamorano it all boils down to three words: Van Fucking Halen. "I was a Van Halen geek and still am to this day. I had the posters on my wall, the keychain, all the T-shirts. I would write Eddie Van Halen letters, and I would play all the songs on my bass. When I purchased my first bass, I made sure it looked like Michael Anthony's bass from the old Van Halen days. I played in a cover band in junior high where the set list contained about ten Van Halen tunes, pretty much a tribute band. I was there at the Sound Warehouse on I-10, waiting for the shipment of 5150 to come out with Sammy Hagar. I loved it. I bought the Van Halen III album with Gary Cherone and loved it. I still listen to the stuff often when I lose track of why I became a musician in the first place…You could say I am a fan, and, yes, I have been ridiculed heavily because of my love for their music."


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