Not Guilty

by Harry on July 30, 2008

An old schoolfriend told me on the phone the other day that she had just been thinking of me. She had gone with her sons to Stowe to see Roger Hodgson (an old boy) perform Supertramp numbers (Supertramp were big when we were at secondary school together, which ages us both, I guess), and her thought was “Harry would hate this”. What a coincidence – my 11-year-old is on a year-long (so far) 70’s rock jag, and plays a lot of Supertramp (and Led Zeppelin – I knew things were getting bad when she told me not to tune away from the local classics station playing Immigrant Song because it’s one of her favourites). I like Supertramp, enough that I’ve bought this anthology for my daughter on my friend’s recommendation, and I didn’t even dislike them at the time. Despite everything.

So Laura made a mistake when she tagged me for the “what five songs in my iTunes are my guiltiest pleasures” meme. Unlike Laura, I do have an ipod, because my wife insisted, believing it would break me of my habit of taping radio shows and listening on my walkman. It didn’t, but I do, now, listen to more music. I don’t, though, have any guilty musical pleasures: I just don’t feel guilty about what I like. I used to feel vaguely embarrassed about slightly liking Steely Dan, but eventually decided this was ridiculous, and have since discovered that they are pretty good. I am still embarrassed that I used to think I liked John more than Paul, even though in fact I liked Paul more than John, but that’s a matter of not having had adequate self-knowledge. I know its uncool to like Cliff – him being a Christian and everything – but I suspect that in my generation at least the disdain for him is substantially motivated by envy that he still looks younger than most of us. Deep Purple? My unlikely schoolfriend Jon Corcoran foisted them on me (along with Ian Gillan Band, and Jesus Christ Superstar), and I can’t hear them without thinking of him, which is a great, but not guilty, pleasure.

What itune pleasures would I feel guilty about if I felt guilty? All but one of the following are on my itunes; the missing one will go on as soon as I get round to it, I just hadn’t thought of it till now:

1. Cliff Richard, Carrie (and just about everything else Cliff has done, apart from that Millennium Prayer)
2. Status Quo, Living on an Island
3. Dr. Feelgood, Milk and Alcohol
4. Pilot, Magic (beat that!)
5. Thin Lizzy, Waiting for an Alibi

Tagging: Lindsey, Chris Brooke, and Dina.



doug 07.30.08 at 7:40 pm

I’ve got you beat: Toto, Rosanna.

I’ve been trying to turn my friends onto Toto for the last few days and have received much in the way of jeers and mockery as a result. But I’ve come to the conclusion that music is like a diet. Too much of any one artist, style, or era just ain’t good for you. So dig on your Miles, Monk, Brubeck, etc., but don’t forget your Zappa, Daft Punk, Lee Dorsey, Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, or Bach. Also, a great wake-up-in-the-morning playlist combines equal servings of Otis Redding and Norah Jones (go figure).


Adam Roberts 07.30.08 at 7:42 pm

As a Brit I must say I’m impressed that your musical tastes seem entirely UK. Good on you.


Thom Brooks 07.30.08 at 7:45 pm

Is there anything to feel guilty about with “Waiting for an Alibi”? My guilt is far more widespread, including ABBA, A-ha, and Animotion — and I’m still on “A”!


Barry 07.30.08 at 8:03 pm

It’d be an interesting idea for a party – everybody brings 1 to (however many, depending on the number of people) of their guiltiest pleasure songs, and you play them during the party. Two things – first, try to match the song with the guilty enjoyer; second, see how many people are clearly enjoying those songs One Must Abhor.


Chris Bertram 07.30.08 at 8:12 pm

I thing Macka B’s Pam Pam Cameroun is way more embarrassing than anything on your list Harry, apart from Cliff that is.

(My fave Cliff song, which everyone should know, especially if involved in education is “D in Love”).


Chris Bertram 07.30.08 at 8:13 pm

Key lyric: “You’ve go a high IQ, shame on you, you get D, D in love”.


matt 07.30.08 at 8:24 pm

If it makes you feel better, Deep Purple was huge in the late Soviet Union and is still popular with middle-aged men there now. I’d feel embarrassed by the fact that they recently gave a private concert to Medvedov, though.

I’m not sure if I’d recognize a supertramp song as such but I do remember a line from an early DC punk band (a precursor to Minor Threat, I think) singing that “supertramp gives me a cramp”.


SamChevre 07.30.08 at 8:38 pm

So–does a guilty pleasure song have to be one that’s musically bad, or does politically bad count?

If it’s only musical quality, Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and/or ABBA, “Does Your Mother Know that You’re Out”?

If politically bad counts, definitely “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue”.

I’m defining guilty pleasure as “songs you expect to be mocked/disliked for liking”.


Righteous Bubba 07.30.08 at 8:44 pm

Also not guilty, but off the top of my head…

Little River Band, Cool Change
Bon Jovi, Wanted (Dead or Alive)
Expose, Fascinated
Aqua, Candyman
Journey, Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’

4. Pilot, Magic (beat that!)

It reminds me of driving through the Rockies and makes me happy every time I hear it.


Maynard Handley 07.30.08 at 8:45 pm

Much more interesting, I think, is to probe the sociology behind this.
Why should there be such a thing as a guilty pleasure? If you like something, so what?

The obvious answer is in-group/out-group. The point of high-brow has always been to show that you are one of the anointed, that you know enough to appreciate what `oi polloi don’t understand. So even when what counts as sophisticated shifts from euro-centric (“my god, you haven’t read Virgil in the original Latin”), to world-centric (“you really must listen to this music of the pygmies I picked up on my most recent trip to Burundi”), it’s important never to be too inclusive. It’s fine to appreciate the music of the underclass of Algeria, but god forbid you appreciate the music of the underclass of America (heavy metal and country); if you like those to much you might be mistaken for one of *them*.

So it seems to me that the main thing these lists are telling us is something about the group we identify with, want to be thought part of.

And FWIW Supertramp is awesome, and I don’t feel the slightest guilt saying that, but then, of course, I was raised in South Africa, not the UK, and if it was uncool among my peer group to dislike the, I was too oblivious to say so.
Likewise for Cliff Richard; though I’m not crazy about much of his music, are we going to throw out Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam for the same reasoning? Like I said — it’s about in-group/out-group, not about logic.
Finally to reject country music for these same sort of sociological reasons is silly. Of course, like any genre, it’s full of dreck, but the best Emmylou Harris will tear your heart up.


Bill Phillips 07.30.08 at 9:15 pm

Yes, I remember Pilot and Magic. Great stuff. How about Sparks and “This Town ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” or Paul McCartney and Wings with “Jet”? Is it guilt or embarrassment?


Katherine 07.30.08 at 9:18 pm

Secretly (but not any more), I quite like Phil Collins. Beat that.


Righteous Bubba 07.30.08 at 9:23 pm

The obvious answer is in-group/out-group.

That’s got to be the biggest reason, but there’s another: you don’t want to be manipulated by people without talent originality or craft… or that you just don’t like.


dsquared 07.30.08 at 9:39 pm

“Move it” is clearly the only Cliff song that really stands up as a piece of rock ‘n’ roll. And I agree with #3 that you should feel guilty about feeling guilty about “Waiting for an alibi”.

Reminds me that I ought to do that Mick Hucknall post.


joel turnipseed 07.30.08 at 9:40 pm

uh, Maynard, does using the breath mark instead of an ‘h’ count as trying to mark oneself as part of the ‘in-crowd?’ I’m just askin’…

And, of course, the simple, Gamesmanship-appropriate response to a question like this is to reply, “I don’t have anything embarrassing on my iPod.” Then punctuate your statement with an exclamatory smirk.


novakant 07.30.08 at 9:40 pm

Alright, I’ll reveal my sentimental fondness for Where do you go yo my lovely by Peter Sarstedt, but I’d be afraid to do so in real life, lest I get this look (fast forward to 1:35 – priceless, unfortunately they cut the ending off).


lindsey 07.30.08 at 9:44 pm

Okay Harry my list is up. I don’t know anyone on your list (but my dad is a fan of Steely Dan… so I know Rikki don’t lose that number, and reelin’ in the years!). Mine really are all guilty pleasures, and they are very random. If I had to go by guilty pleasure genres, it’d be country –which you know. I’m sad I didn’t see any of those songs from your new cds on your list!


Harry 07.30.08 at 10:00 pm

But I don’t feel guilty about Waiting for an Alibi! I said that. Come on daniel, I want your top 5.


lindsey 07.30.08 at 10:06 pm

Just kidding, I wrote too soon. After clicking the youtube links, I figured out that I do know some of those people. Cliff sings devil woman, and I like that song. I know a different one by Status Quo. And I love the magic song. I just didn’t know who sang it. I only know those songs, of course, because my dad always played them when I was a kid. :)


Maynard Handley 07.30.08 at 10:07 pm

That is hysterical (it’s closer to 1:40). How did you come across it?
And good on you for supporting Peter Sarstedt — a perfect example of the sort of crap copyright leads us to. I WANT to actually pay EMI (or whoever it is) for some of his CDs, but, dog-in-a-manger-like they will neither offer them for sale, nor allow the internet to provide them for free.

@joel turnipseed
If I could do it again, I certainly wouldn’t have had a high schooling so heavy in Greek and Latin, but what’s done is done. You can’t unlearn it. Would the world be improved if I went around speaking about *the* hoi polloi?


harry b 07.30.08 at 10:12 pm

That’s good Lindsey! I don’t know the names of any of the songs on the CDs — except Life in a Northern Town, of course — and anyway, I wouldn’t feel guilty! Glad that your dad and I have something in common….


Jason B 07.30.08 at 10:12 pm

I don’t generally feel guilty about liking music, but I know there are songs and artists I like that really don’t have much in the way of redeeming value. Two examples:

Billy Ocean – “Carribbean Queen”
Cheesy and fluffy, but I’ve always liked it for some reason.

Lou Bega – “Mambo # 5”
This is a song I like despite knowing for a fact that musically speaking it’s complete crap, and the lyrics are dumber than a box of hair to boot. But there you have it.


roy belmont 07.30.08 at 10:31 pm

The B-side of the 45 of the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” is a song called “Melody Hill”. It is my favorite popsong pretty much. Probably the song in my collection most vulnerable to attack
I came to it much later than its obverse’s commercial popularity, found it at an estate sale in the Napa Valley in ’81 along with a complete set of near-mint 78’s of Django and Stefan Grappeli’s Quintet de Hot Club of Paris. Just scooped up a handful of 45’s along with and there it was, alongside Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Gonna Take the Blame?”.
I like ABBA a lot, and Diamanda Galas really really a lot.
Patti Smith and Fania(the African one) and Fleetwood Mac.
Tool, Nas, Disposable Heroes of Hip Hopracy, Spearhead, Annie DiFranco, Heart, Tupac, Eminem, Faith Hill.
Planxty and the ISB and Anne Briggs and Renbourn, as well as the Donnas and Hang On The Box.
There’s a Scots band called Deaf Shepherd but they may be defunct.
A Russian acapella group called Sirin.
Manu Chao from s. edenbaum’s mixpod.
Bad Company, Elton John, the Dead, the Shins, Dave Alvin, Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Momus, Bowie, Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Anita O’Day.
All of whom I like all of whom have partisans who will demonstrate nausea toward others in the list. Fie on that. I am ashamed of nothing, musical.

The like them/don’t like them tension is I firmly believe the result of an intentional stratification, false competition and the constant replacement of hits with newer hits. For purposes of financial gain to non-musician industry pockets.
Nice to see that going all kerblooey under the whomp of web access to all musics.


rea 07.30.08 at 10:35 pm

I quite like Phil Collins. Beat that

Oh, easily. Van Halen..


novakant 07.30.08 at 10:36 pm

How did you come across it?

My memory’s a bit hazy on this, but it must have been around 20 years ago while sailing in Ireland – we used to sing/quote parts of it all the time, lol, together with American Pie (much better song, but terribly hard to get through the whole thing without tripping up somewhere).


Righteous Bubba 07.30.08 at 10:40 pm

Oh, easily. Van Halen.


Anyway I recently defended Milli Vanilli. Think I still own something by them somewhere. Also they cover Deep Purple on the remix album.


rea 07.30.08 at 11:09 pm

?, says Bubba to Van Halen.

Some of the most amazing guitar work ever, on some of the trashiest songs . . .


vivian 07.30.08 at 11:27 pm

Defining guilty pleasure as “I roll up the windows and sing along” when driving: the Jackson 5 “ABC”, “Stop” and a couple of others. For Journey, it’s “City by the Bay” (very sheepish about that) . There’s the Three Dog Night CD compilation I got for my kid, who loves it, but that was partly to start a conversation about civil rights, so I don’t feel guilty (pace SamC).

If we can move away from the seventies, I have to stretch to defend my overplaying the first Maroon Five CD, and depending on who I’m hypothetically defending it to, there’s Louis Prima, Doo-wop, and Delbert McClinton.

If only someone would start a guilty-burdens thread, about music we kind of like intellectually but hate to actually listen to.


Jon Mandle 07.31.08 at 12:01 am

I liked “Magic” when I was a kid and it first came out, and I distinctly remember thinking that someday when I grow up I probably won’t like this song, but it will be interesting to remember that I once did. It’s like a postcard I sent to myself almost 35 years ago. Only, I still do like it… in something like the same way I still like this . Actually, I had never seen these guys until I just went looking for this video. Wow – that’s about all I can say. Wow.


Neil 07.31.08 at 12:16 am

I wouldn’t feel guilty if I had your taste. “Ashamed” would be closer to the mark.


Mrs Tilton 07.31.08 at 12:35 am

Though I can’t quite sign on to the notion that no pleasures should be guilty, I really do need to stick up here for my man Sir Cliff. How stupid is it to refrain from liking his tunes because he believes in fairy tales? (Ans.: very stupid indeed, and if that’s why you hate the Cliff, there’s a bloke who churned out tunes every week in Leipzig that you’ll want to ignore as worthless altogether). Most of what Richard has done is inoffensive mediocrity; that is, a very significant achievement indeed. And his duet “Whenever God Shines his Light” with G.I. “Van” Morrison is pure feckin genius. (The yin/yang element — the person purportedly shining his light all over the place would have been very important to Ivan as a wean, later not so much; whereas with Cliffy it would have been the precise opposite — only makes the song all the more appealing.)

I am all in favour of feeding Cliff Richard and his fellow-believers to any lions available. But dismissing his jams as uncool just because he is a voodoo practitioner only makes the dismisser look stupid (indeed, reveals him as a philistine of the worst sort; so long as Richard refrains from sticking a gun to my temple and insisting I sign on to his religion, he is in fact far less offensive than most other crawthumpers, as he injures nobody but himself.)


Eszter 07.31.08 at 12:56 am

I’m just glad this isn’t another “must avoid” thread, I like the tone of this one much better.

As to guilty pleasures, like you, Harry, I’m not guilty about what I listen to even though likely 60-70% of it people here would have things to say about, and not nice ones. Oh well.

Oh, and like Laura and Dan, I don’t use iTunes either. I’m bummed to see Yahoo! Music discontinuing its service, I liked it.


bdbd 07.31.08 at 1:52 am

“I fought the law” Bobby Fuller Four (I”m older than everyone else here, I think)


vivian 07.31.08 at 2:30 am

(turns out Making Light is also thinking about Journey today)


thompsaj 07.31.08 at 3:39 am

bdbd, that song has a certain cachet, actually


thompsaj 07.31.08 at 3:40 am

everyone knows where that link was going anyway…


trane 07.31.08 at 7:29 am

Following Vivian (#28), defining guilty pleasure as “I roll up the windows and sing along” when driving:

I can only think of No. 1:
“Eternal flame” (The Bangles)

I do not feel guilty, really. A bit awkward perhaps.


e julius drivingstorm 07.31.08 at 8:06 am

“We are the village green preservation society… God save strawb’ry jam and all the different varieties.” – the kinks

“I told her, frankly, that I’d rather be dead…so she left with the drummer instead.” – brinsley schwarz

“…her toes were so pretty, and her life so sweet.” – little feat
( the purplest prose ever, but I can sing this at a party )

“Wave the flag, pop the bag, rock the boat, skin the goat.” – the grateful dead

“Save your neck, or save your brother, looks like it’s one or the other…” – the band

Preservation Society, Rock and Roll Women, Long Distance Love, U.S. Blues,
The Shape I’m In.

guilty as charged, but not old enough


Hidari 07.31.08 at 8:21 am


John 07.31.08 at 8:35 am

There’s a DJ on BBC Radio London who has been running a show called Guilty Pleasures for a few years now. Same premise as this thread. He also hosts club nights which are wildly popular: collective guilt.


chris armstrong 07.31.08 at 9:20 am

As far as I’m concerned the point of the Ipod is to enjoy the pleasure without the guilt. Whilst my friends think I listen to serious, cerebral and occasionally depressive vibes, I can actually listen to not just Billy Ocean and Fleetwood Mac, but Kylie Minogue, Nelly Furtado, Sugababes and Tatu without anyone knowing about it!



nacky 07.31.08 at 9:58 am

Oh, bdbd, a few weeks ago I had to convince my son that the really “old” punk version of “I fought the law” he was listening to was not the original, but that said original was really “much” older. The question was, how did I know before looking it up? In the end I figured I knew it from the car radio way back when as a kid in Kentucky or Missouri. Kids listening to music associated with parents’ youth is not unusual, the same son was ferreting about for his Pop’s Iggy pop cds as well as for the Buena Vista Social Club cd (o.k. that one is not so old, but the musicians even older). A neighbor kid is nuts for the Beatles. I have a weakness for big band music, I never play it, but love to dance to it (thanks ballroom, standard dance class).
As for guilty pleasures, Journey – I have, however, absolved myself from guilt as I only recently found out who they are thanks to the bit of a song played at the end of a Cold Case episode. This lead to the aforementioned Pop finding the rest on youtube and my absurd fascination with them. I know I wouldn’t have liked them back then, and the Pop went “Journey…Journey..?” and dug out an LP he has from when they were alternative rock (pre-Perry). I am now the non-proud possessor of the greatest hits cd (€10). Yes, I have been out of the U.S. for a long time, and hadn’t a clue as to their somewhat controversial status.
Should I feel guilty when listening to the Blue Brothers when engaging in boring tasks? Is a fondness for Cock Robin something to be ashamed of?


rea 07.31.08 at 11:12 am

there’s a bloke who churned out tunes every week in Leipzig that you’ll want to ignore as worthless altogether

I hate to break the bad news to you, but he died.


Jason B 07.31.08 at 12:13 pm

vivian: If only someone would start a guilty-burdens thread, about music we kind of like intellectually but hate to actually listen to.

That’s the first time I’ve encountered that idea, but I guess it’s been with me for years. I feel this way about almost all classical music, but it resonates more for me in film:

I can’t stand Raging Bull. Can’t stand it. I know it’s a well-made film, and I know it deals deftly with deep themes, and I know it displays amazing acting from DeNiro and others, but I can’t get through the first half hour.

But, back to the thread: I entered Supertramp in my lastfm queue last night and quite enjoyed myself with all kinds of cheese. Alan Parsons Project, ELO, Genesis. Good times.


ghost 07.31.08 at 12:34 pm

“…music we kind of like intellectually but hate to actually listen to.”
“I feel this way about almost all classical music”

I recommend checking out Leonard Bernstein’s “The Joy of Music” and “The Infinite Varieties of Music” if you want to get jazzed (so to speak) about “classical” music.


MikeN 07.31.08 at 3:01 pm

Brandy, you’re a good girl
What a fine wife you would be…


Dan Simon 07.31.08 at 3:58 pm

If only someone would start a guilty-burdens thread, about music we kind of like intellectually but hate to actually listen to.

Actually, that thread goes back at least as far as the late 1800s.


Mordaunt 07.31.08 at 5:04 pm


The problem with Sniffy isn’t his religion but the fact that his music is unrelentingly awful.

Frankly, you atheists would be on much stronger ground if you dropped all that Richard Dawkins guff and confined yourself to pointing out that if Christiianity was all that and a bag of crackers, how come the Buddhists got Bowie, the Zoroastrians got Freddy, the Muslims got Cat Stevens, the atheists (most tellingly!) got Matt Bellamy and we got Cliff.

Thomas Aquinas would struggle with that conundrum.


Jason B 07.31.08 at 6:58 pm

Not to mention Stryper and Steven Curtis Chapman. Jesus Christ, they’re horrible.


Tom Hurka 07.31.08 at 7:59 pm

Re #33: weren’t some of the guys in the band on “I Fought the Law and the Law Won” survivors from the Crickets, as in Buddy Holly and? That makes it not a guilty pleasure at all. The sound is certainly reminiscent of “Peggy Sue.”

And the *real* guilty pleasures would have to be country songs or, even better, 60s folk tunes. Kingston Trio anyone? “Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro?


Roy Belmont 07.31.08 at 8:28 pm

Listen to the Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought The Law”
then listen to Steve Miller’s “Take the Money and Run”.
Same song, through the artist and back into the living stream.
It’s immediate roots are in British folk i.e. viz. the Child Ballad “Geordie”.

The Stones did that with “Street Fighting Man”, which is “Foggy Day in London Town” musically carried forward the same way, if not lyrically.


novakant 07.31.08 at 11:14 pm

I agree that Cliff’s music is awful throughout, but your extrapolation doesn’t make any sense, since Christianity has been a major inspiration for a good part of absolutely fantastic music, i.e. Renaissance, Baroque Classical and beyond. Also, while Bowie is a Buddhist, thankfully that hasn’t had much influence on his music. Nothing against Buddhism, but music isn’t really its strong suit. Before anyone attacks me for saying that, I dare them to listen to an hour of Tibetan throat singing.


vivian 08.01.08 at 1:10 am

Hidari, that CD would really hit the spot at a different exchange rate :)

Little Feat is nothing to be ashamed of. Not sure what I’d do if the kids started singing “Fat Man” though.


bigcitylib 08.02.08 at 10:35 am

Got you all beat. “Wig-wam Bam” by The Sweet. Moronic, racist, and you can dance to it!

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