took a rowboat to find ya


Today’s question will require just a modicum of thought. What are your top 2-3 “secret crush” songs? Here are the rules that make it a secret crush:

1) The song must have been on the radio at some point, not an obscure track on Side 2 of the album (which means no “Wildest Dreams” by Asia no matter how awesome the drum solo is)

2) The song cannot be considered widely popular, or played to absolute death in either Muzak or doctor office form (thus, no “If You Leave Me Now” or “Same Auld Lang Syne”)

3) The song cannot have already been rediscovered, chewed up and spat out again by the Irony Machine [which means no “Major Tom (Coming Home)”, “Break My Stride” or almost anything by Journey.


seriously, truly nothing is going to break his stride

My list? I have many, but here are three:

The Pointer Sisters – Automatic – With an androgynous vocal line and a sick electronic bass line, there was nothing organic about this song, and it fucking swung. I don’t know ANYBODY with this one on their iPod (except me, and I’m only telling because I asked).

Jane Child – Don’t Want to Fall in Love – I already wrote about this one: this song was so frickin’ insane when it came out around 1990 that Linda’s – a bar in Chapel Hill that was no stranger to some crazy shit – actually fell silent to watch the video. Featuring more chord changes than “The Rite of Spring” and a piano solo that KICKS ASS, she should still be famous. Alas, you’ll probably only remember her as the chick who had a chain from her nose ring to her ear.

Shalamar – Dead Giveaway – I mean, come ON! You’ve got Jody Watley with staccatos on the DX-7 synthesizer:

And yours? Those judged most original and creative get some personalized artwork from the Lulubeans!

31 thoughts on “took a rowboat to find ya

  1. ken

    Whoa, only three? How bout four??
    “Hold Back The Rain” – Duran Duran – Very few 80’s DD tunes are obscure and most got played on the radio (including this) but it’s not as overplayed as some of their 80’s output. I finally got to see them live about a month ago (from third row seats!) and felt like a giddy teenager again. I may be the only person who’s seen Duran Duran, Scratch Acid and Paul Simon in the last six weeks.
    “What About Me?” – Moving Pictures – Remember this one? A melodramatic little pity party of a song; it sounds like a whiny prepubescent’s diary entry, or a girl who just got dumped. Regardless, it’s a little slice of treacly pop heaven that was a #1 hit, yet still remains ignored by those 80’s revival stations.
    “AEIOU and Sometimes Y” – Ebn Ozn – This was an MTV staple but not so much on the radio. I recently learned it was performed entirely on the (then new) Fairlight CMI synthesizer. It still holds up today.
    “Smalltown Boy” Bronski Beat – Holy crap this is still an amazing song; from Jimmy Sommerville’s indelible vocal to that simple, yet hypnotic keyboard part, it’s a synthpop (and gay) anthem. I hate dancing but this one never fails and since I’ve never been put in a situation in which it was played for me in public in the last 25 years, I’m safe.

  2. GFWD

    Ian, My original post got sent to purgatory. I guess your site is trying to save me from myself because I admitted to owning both Olivia Newton John and Cliff Richard.

  3. scruggs

    One Tin Solder: The Legend of Billy Jack – Coven
    I just love this song.
    Since You’ve Been Gone – Belinda Carlisle Not sure if it had any/much radio play to qualify, but I also still listen to Summer Rain and Leave a Light On, so they can be a package deal.
    Mary’s Prayer – Danny Wilson

  4. JB

    Angel Eyes – The Jeff Healey Band. WRDU (back when it played actual music) ran the hell out of this one in the summer of 1989, when I stayed in Chapel Hill for summer school and had a massive crush on a girl who shall remain nameless. And they were in ‘Road House’ to boot!
    They Don’t Know – Tracey Ullman. Soaring vocals and amazing retro Wall of Sound production values. Plus a killer, funny video.
    Goodbye to You – Scandal. I just fucking love this song and am not ashamed to admit it.
    And I’ll give a bonus, too: Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks.

  5. emma

    Not sure about the radio play of these songs, but here goes:
    If I Can’t Change Your Mind by Sugar – my biggest musical regret is that I have never seen Sugar or Bob Mould in concert.
    She Doesn’t Exist by Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians – I can’t answer a musical question without some kind of reference to REM. Michael Stipe sings a beautiful “lalala” in the background that I love.
    Jacob by Jack O’Pierce – I am not a word person. I mostly listen to the music and don’t pay attention to the words, so when the words of a song grab my attention and bring tears to my eyes every single time I hear it, it must be great.
    I am going to follow Ken’s lead and use four – Black and White by the dBs. I have loved this song since my Ramsgate days at UNC when I copied a mixed tape that a guy made for my roommate and this was on it. I don’t know what the main track off Stands for decibels is, but I know this is my favorite song off the album and if it is not the main track, then it should be (although Big Brown Eyes and Judy are also quite good).

  6. kent

    I guess the rules confuse me, because if they’ve been on the radio, they’re not so unpopular that they’re _obscure_ obscure.
    “Summertime” – Mungo Jerry. It’s all about the beat, but the laughing-gas silliness of the lyric is the acme of ridiculousness.
    “Boadicea” – Enya. Enya is famously wack in several dimensions, but this song is bad ass. But then Boadicea was pretty bad ass herself.
    “Mississippi Queen” – A minor hit in 1969 or 1970 for Mountain, it is — especially the short 7″ version — an amazing example of minimalist Blues, as carefully constructed as a Swiss watch.

  7. jersey

    “In A Little While” by U2. It’s on All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
    It is somewhat buried behind the first four monster songs on the album (Beautful Day, Stuck In A Moment, Elevation, and Walk On).
    But it’s a terrific song. This might be my favorite U2 album, and In A Little While might be my favorite track on it.
    I would also throw “Life is a Highway” out there by Tom Cochrane.

  8. noj

    All I Need – Jack Wagner
    Crazy For You – Madonna (maybe disqualified according to your criteria)
    and the most embarrassing one…
    I Miss You – Klymaxx.
    So that’s 2 from 1984 and one from 1988. 89 is when the bottom dropped out on my sentimentality, never to return.

  9. noj

    i think i misunderstood the kind of response you were seeking. all of the ones i listed above were related to adolescent / high-school crushes on girls. re-reading your post it seems that the crush was to have been on the actual song and not some girl. i’ll leave my list as is, though, since it’s goofy.

  10. Bud

    [published now, sorry – ed.]
    Martin Briley – Salt in My Tears
    This one fits the bill perfectly. The other two? Well, I hope college radio counts….
    SinĂ©ad O’Connor – I am Stretched on your Grave
    Orbital – Halcyon On and On
    I heard Halcyon ONCE on WXYC late on a Saturday night circa 1992 and it stayed in my head for several years before I finally heard it again in a record store and was able to identify it. Bought the album on the spot and delved heavily into electronica after that.
    Great question!

  11. Scott

    First, a critique of the criteria. Automatic reached #5 on the US charts, and Don’t Want to Fall in Love hit #2. So the whole “cannot be considered widely popular” must be in the eye of the beholder!
    Second, did all of you spend way, way too much time picking out the songs? I started with a list of @ 20 guilty pleasures, and then tried to whittle them down much like one picks out the perfect song for a mix-tape.
    OK – on to my selections:
    “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)” – Information Society. Got to see them up close and personal at Senior Night in Disney. Like front row. Had to wait for quite a while to see them, missed much of the rest of the night, but still worth it. (Peaked at #3 on US charts)
    “Take Me Home” – Phil Collins. The video was shots of Phil in different cities across the world – probably shot as he was touring, which means to took months to film the video. Otherwise he was flying like made for a couple of weeks. (peaked at # 7 on US charts)
    “Patience” – Guns n Roses. The steady build of the song to Axl’s full on screech “Ye-ah-ah, but I need you! OOOOOH I NEED YOU! WAAAAAAAH, I NEED YOU!” (peaked at #4 on US charts)
    OK, three is just not enough. So, with the holidays soon to be upon us, I offer my fourth : 12 Days of Christmas by Bob and Doug McKenzie. Beauty, eh?

  12. Julie

    Desire by Gene Loves Jezebel
    Shaking the Tree by Peter Gabriel
    Closer to Free by the BoDeans (it was the theme song for Party of Five)

  13. Sharon

    I too am unsure about the criteria, but I think you’re asking for slightly unhip songs that we really love. So here goes:
    Brandy — no idea who sings this. It’s the one about the sailor and the bargirl. Love that song.
    September — Earth Wind and Fire
    True — Spandau Ballet
    Amie — Pure Prairie League
    I love, love, love Wagon Wheel by OCMS but I think that’s too hip for this list.
    @ JB – I also love Garth’s Friends in Low Places.

  14. ginat

    Wow — how to pick only three?
    Emma – Bob Mould played a song with the Foo Fighters in DC a couple of nights ago.
    Night Swimming….R.E.M.
    Aquarius….Fifth Dimension
    Wishing Well…..Terrence Trent D’Arby
    Jefferson Airplane….White Rabbit (was probably very well-played in its day)
    Well, those are the first four I could think of. Sorry to break the rules.

  15. emma

    Ugh! Looks like i missed the big picture too. I only looked at the rules, not the big picture “secret crush”. Sorry. got too excited when I saw it was a music post.

  16. Laura

    Fox on the Run by Sweet
    Brandy, You’re A Fine Girl – Looking Glass (#1 the week I was born)
    I Call Your Name – The Mamas and the Papas

  17. emma

    Sorry for the numerous comments, but now that I have the hang of it – here are my secret crushes
    Let the Music Play – Shannon
    Good Vibrations – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
    More than a Feeling – Boston

  18. amy a

    dammit, ian. “don’t wanna fall in love” is totally one of my faves in this category. three others:
    1. “toy soldiers” by martika
    2. “would i lie to you?” by charles and eddie
    3. “freedom” by wham! (not to be confused with “freedom 90” by george michael, which is also awesome, but not quite in this category i don’t think)

  19. Deborah

    I don’t know if these truly fit the criteria but I thought of…
    -Kayleigh by Marillion. LOVE this song. Don’t know how much radio play it got but I remember seeing the video on MTV ~1988.
    -Second Hand News by Fleetwood Mac. I remember hearing this song often ~1991 but I think it was from Troll’s jukebox, not the radio.
    -Romeo’s Tune by Steve Forbert.
    I also love both of George Michael’s “Freedom” songs!

  20. Tammy O.

    Bikini Girls with Machine Guns – The Cramps
    Everyday Sunshine – Fishbone
    When You Were Young – The Killers
    I’m sure there are other songs that are more secretish or crushee, but I can’t think of them right now.

  21. Julie Hunter

    Silver, Blue and Gold-Bad Company
    Fast Car-Tracy Chapman (actually cry sometimes when I hear it)
    I Like Dreamin’-Kenny Nolan (had to look up the singer because I forgot him but not the lyrics)

  22. Bud

    Oh well, since my original comment from hours ago still hasn’t made it out of comment purgatory…
    1) Martin Briley – Salt In My Tears
    Heard it for the first time on MTV, which was still new to me. Thought it would be a huge hit, but it peaked at #36. 15 years later, it was one of the last songs I found on my 1000+ song “must have in digital” list.
    2) Thomas Dolby – One of Our Submarines
    To me, this song is the early 80s at their best. Experimentation. Technology and emotion blending into something new. My life at the time was as murky as the sea floor and this song’s lonely ambiguity resonated with me. I heard it once or twice on Charlotte pop radio and dozens of times after that on the Golden Age of Wireless EP reissue. Europa & The Pirate Twins (from the same EP) has a similar resonance for me.
    3) Orbital – Halcyon & On & On.
    Another successful melding of technology and deep emotion. I first heard this late on a weekend night circa 1992 on WXYC in Chapel Hill. Several years later, I heard it in Selecter Records in Statesville, NC and finally identified it. Of course I bought the album and after that, I’ve enjoyed a lot of electronica. This song wasn’t as obscure as I’d thought. It was on the soundtrack of Mortal Kombat (and several other films).
    Earlier I listed Sinead O’Connor’s I Am Stretched On Your Grave, but it doesn’t really fit as well as One of Our Submarines. I have dozens of these “crushes”, but I’ll keep these as my top 3.

  23. JB

    Three more! Three more!
    Tired of Toein’ the Line – Rocky Burnette
    Missing You – John Waite (oohh, a big crush on this one and I don’t think the irony machine has gotten to it yet)
    Heart of the Matter – Don Henley (yes, I’ve been known to cry when I hear this song and I’m not ashamed to admit it)
    Romeo’s Tune! Yes! Salt in My Tears! Yes! King of Wishful Thinking! Yes! Toy Soldiers! Yes!

  24. ken

    Emma- No shame in loving Robyn Hitchcock. In a 250-song collection of Hitchcock songs (including Soft Boys stuff) on my iTunes, only “Raymond Chandler Evening” has more spins than “She Doesn’t Exist”. The breakdown: (37/33)
    I LOVE that someone mentioned Martin Briley!! That’s a killer tune.
    And JB, that Rocky Burnette selection is choice. I remember seeing him on SNL way back when and the other song he did was “Don’t Take Off My Pants” or something like that.
    Since I’m here, “Ah Leah” by Donnie Iris needs to be a part of everyone’s life. An all-time classic!

  25. Ian

    Good lord these are fantastic… keep ’em coming, as I’m going to play them all for Lucy and we’re going to pick THREE WINNERS now.
    (sorry about the comment purgatory – that only happens if you try to publish more than two links)

  26. CM

    Love Is Like Oxygen – Sweet.
    My Own Worst Enemy – Lit.
    Bop Til’ You Drop, Don’t Walk Away, and other Rick Springfield Songs. He’s underrated.
    Jam on It – Newcleus. (And I absolutely hated it at first!)

  27. Ken H

    These music questions always get me!
    Saga – On the Loose – Always one of my favorite 80’s tunes… but somehow seems to stay off the radar of bad 80’s night DJs who stick to Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
    Chaz Jankel – Questionnaire – Going super old school… before there was MTV, there was HBO’s Video Jukebox and they played this song all the time (mostly because there were like 3 videos). Great video on youtube – first real music video I remember.
    Bon Jovi – Runaway – I know this breaks your rule #3. But back in the late 90’s, before Bon Jovi somehow moved from nostalgic to ironic to iconic, this song would always bring a guilty-pleasure-smile to the room.
    And @Emma… I saw your crush band Sugar years after their big album came out in Baltimore and you didn’t miss out on much. I just heard on the radio this weekend that Bob Mould put out an auto-biography.

  28. Alyson

    Well, mine seem newer than everyone else’s.
    1 – Mandy Moore – Candy
    The lyric “love always, Mandy” gets me every time.
    2 – Heather Small – Proud
    Those are the first that came to mind.

  29. Tanya

    Can’t help it – I’ll play!
    Dream Academy – Life in a Northern Town
    Ace of Base – All that She Wants (NOT I Saw the Sign – that song is just…*shudder*)
    George Michael – Freedom

  30. mairinpgh

    not sure if I got the rules right here, but my “secret crush”/favs from my time in Chapel Hill:
    – Praying Mantis/Don Dixon
    -Someday, Someway/Marshall Crenshaw
    – The push & the shove/Golden Palominos
    (any of these take me straight back to 1986-1988, with a silly smile on my face….)

  31. chip

    JoBoxers – Just Got Lucky
    Steely Dan – Any World that I’m Welcome To / Caves of Altamira/ Only a Fool Would Say That
    Seals and Croft – Summer Breeze, and other 70s songs like it by America or Bread

  32. Salem

    ginat- Wow- Wishing Well. I might have had a 30 day addition to that one.
    Ya know Bob Mould played the Cradle on his birthday in the uh….err… late 80’s.
    I’m late to the party, but
    Luther Vandross: Stop to Love
    Michael Penn: No Myth
    Midnight Star: No Parking on the Dance Floor


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