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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Write Back Weekend "SIgn Your Name Across My Heart"

Growing up, I had a bit of a fetish for songs with names in them. I actually used to clip together the chorus of songs, one after another that had a name in the title. I even went as far as to use this as part of an English project for school so I guess my efforts weren't completely in vain. I suppose if you dig deep enough, you could blame it all on the children's television show, The Magic Garden.

As a child, I'd watch the show religiously, especially observant at the part where they'd "look out" into the audience and announce all the children they could "see". Episode after episode, I'd patiently wait for them to see me, but they never did. At the time I didn't know this was not because I was invisible or that the nice ladies were simply ignoring me, I just didn't have common enough of a name to come up in conversation, or in a pond's reflection for that matter.

Although I've gotten over it now, I always thought it would be pretty monumental to have a song written about you. Technically, I have at least two semi, well known songs written about me so I guess my name transcended obscurity after all. The first one is Interplanet Janet from Schoolhouse Rocks and Damnit Janet from Rocky Horror Picture Show.

But as I soon grew to find out, you really should be careful what you wish for, at least in my case considering both songs are more novelty one hit wonders than torch song manifestos. I suppose the distinction is important to note as I quickly grew tired of hearing "Damnit Janet, I love you!" or "Interplanet Janet she's our galaxy girl!" or even "No my first name ain't baby, it's Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty!"

So when I sat down to write my favorite list of songs with names in them I thought about the ones that had more meat to them. They aren't all necessarily complimentary, but they aren't rudimentary either. I decided to only talk about a top ten although as you will see from my honorable mention list, I could go on for much longer. I also linked to footage of the songs in case you don't know any of the tunes I'm mentioning. You're welcome.

1. Jessie's Girl- Rick Springfield As anyone who has read this blog knows, I love all things Rick Springfield. Not only is this my favorite song with a name in it, it's also one of my favorite songs of all time, period. See Jessie is a friend of Rick's. A good friend. But lately, something's changed and it's hard to define. Jessie's got himself a girl and Rick wants to make her...his. It's a simple as that really.

2. Mandy- Barry Manilow I had a friend for a brief time in college whose name was Amanda but really she preferred to be called Mandy. She said that Barry Manilow song inspired her parents to name her Amanda. I thought that was pretty cool. She's lucky because she has not one, but two great songs written about her (see below). Barry Manilow's song however is one of those slow building, tear your heart out kinda dedications. Nice.

3. Carrie- Europe Say what you want about the hair bands of the eighties, some of them sure knew how to write a kickass power ballad or two. Europe's Carrie is a perfect example of this. It's a sad song about breaking up and moving on but there's the silver lining that maybe, one day, they'll meet again.

4. Veronica- Elvis Costello The first time I heard Elvis Costello's Veronica I was twelve years old. Instantly I was taken in by the melodic nature and sure pop bliss of the song. But then I saw the video and listened to the lyrics more carefully (a practice that takes much skill with Elvis Costello songs). If you have ever done this with Costello's work you'd know that on the outside things seem like rainbows and puppies, but on the inside, there's a whole lot more going on. Veronica is no exception. It's a song about a woman named Veronica who lived a rich life, but now she's aging and slowly beginning to lose her memory. Sad but brilliant alll at the same time.

5. Jenny (867-5309) - Tommy Tutone Ahh, the innocence of this song. These were the days before the 555 exchanges and your mind was free to roam, but not your cell phone. There are stories of this number being dialed in all different area codes, in search for the elusive Jenny. Back then it was all about engraving numbers on bathroom stalls. For a good time, for a good time call...

6. Laura- Billy Joel In my opinion, Billy Joel is one of the best lyricist/performers we have had in popular music to this day. Laura is for some reason one of his lesser known tracks (thus the live footage clip with crappy audio), but I love the way this song builds. Laura is obviously a very needy woman who manages to push and pull with the emotions of the people in her life. If you've been around long enough, I think most of us will know a "Laura" at some time or another. Joel finally loses it about 3/4's of the way through the song and it's in a word, fantastic.

7. Sarah- Starship Not only is this one of my favorite songs with a name in it, it's also one of my favorite videos. I distinctly remember the time period this song was out and to this day, I still associate Garbage Pail Kids with this song, but that's not important now. No matter what name they perform under, Starship definitely got it right with their classic, Sarah, so much so that I think that it eclipsed the debacle of We Built This City.

8. Come On Eileen- Dexy's Midnight Runners Every once and awhile a song comes along that is just super fun to sing. Come On Eileen is defintely one of those tunes, although I think it's really about a guy trying to convince his girl to go all the way with him. Maybe I'm wrong. Either way, I still find the begging throughout the song (and the overall clad video) to be rather endearing.

9. Billie Jean- Michael Jackson Once upon a time Michael Jackson was known for making magic. Billie Jean is just one example of the magic. Billie Jean is yet another track that took on new meaning once I really knew what they meant when he was saying "Billie Jean is not my lover, She's just a girl who claims that I am the one. But the kid is not my son." This is another song that holds a special place in my heart because of the time period in which it was released. I was in first grade and I won a dance contest beating kindergarten through fifth graders. This was the song I danced to. Don't ask me what I did or why I did it. I was never that bold or brazen again.

10. Why Georgia- John Mayer Before John Mayer got involved in the showbiz glamour of the likes of Jessica Simpson, I really appreciated him as both an artist and a person. I still do, but he seemed more cerebral than all of that, sorta like his generation's answer to James Taylor. At any rate, Why Georgia is simply a very fun song to sing along with. It could have been sung about anybody, but it's the way it's delivered that makes all the difference. Why was it Georgia? We may never know.

Honorable Mentions

Amanda- Boston
Sweet Caroline- Neil Diamond
Hey Mickey- Toni Basi
Buddy Holly- Weezer
Joanna- Kool and the Gang
Rosanna- Toto
Luka- Suzanne Vega
Oh Sherrie- Steve Perry
Cecilia- Simon and Garfunkel
Johnny Have You Seen Her?- The Rembrandts
Hey Jude- Paul McCartney
Mary Provost- Nick Lowe
27 Jennifers- Mike Doughty
Danny's Song- Kenny Loggins
Stagger Lee- Lloyd Price
Gloria- Laura Branigan
Rick James- Jude
Sheila Don't Remember- Jude Cole
Denise- Fountains of Wayne
Who's Johnny?- Debarge
Sweet Jane- Cowboy Junkies
Joey- Concrete Blonde
Arthur's Theme- Christopher Cross
Just Like Jesse James- Cher
Frank Sinatra- Cake



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