Packing for Summer Camp
By Brigette Adair Herron (of Tunabunny)
I never went to summer camp. There are no camp songs or ghost stories from my memory that I can look back on. There are certainly no memories of warmth or togetherness around the campfire like I used to see on TV. I did watch “Ernest Goes To Camp” once, but I much preferred “Ernest Scared Stupid”. In the summertime when I was a kid I watched a lot of TV, I played the drums, and I was bored. I was so unimaginably bored! But from boredom comes great innovation, and that is one strategy that I can share with you.
Having grown up in Athens, GA I come from a long tradition of bored local kids making up their own fun, embracing their inner weirdness, and generally not worrying about what people might think. It was this spirit that I believe inspired the early days of WUOG, and that continues today. So if you are staying in Athens this summer, you live here full time, or you just think of Athens as your groovy adopted home, then this playlist is for you. I may not know anything about summer camp, but I sure as hell know a lot about being fabulous, putting on a pair of gold hot pants and gearing up for an unbearably hot and humid summer. You’re going to need two things: confidence and glitter.
1. Divine – I’m so Beautiful
When Divine sings, “There ain’t nobody better than me, Can’t you see, LOOK at ME!” she is so right. This song fills me with a happiness that is so infectious it has never failed to lift me up from my lowest low. The true brilliance of this song is that while it starts out as very Divine-centric (I’m so beautiful), as the song goes on it slowly adds the lines, “we’re all beautiful, you’ve gotta believe that we are beautiful,” which is so powerful—transitioning from the love and acceptance of the self to a more universal love for all of humankind. It is at times pleading (You’ve gotta believe that I am beautiful!) and at other times completely confident (everyone is welcome to this point of view). Divine, otherworldly in her cosmic magnificence, never to be stopped—not even by death, she’s got a synthesizer that won’t quit and she does it better than New Order. There is no one better. She brings the gift of freedom, and now it belongs to you.
2. Taco – Puttin’ on the Ritz (1983)
Number 2 on my list is Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” You look great Taco, and I love your light-saber cane. We see some excellent use of a tap dance solo as percussion at the 2-minute mark followed by sad, scary mannequin men being snowed on, a mouse on a trumpet, a regrettable wah wah guitar solo, and then at 3:58 OH SNAP, did Arthur Russell just wander into this song!? You are forgiven Taco.
3. Bumblebee Unlimited – Lady Bug
I really love long disco and dance songs with that eventual surprise/ payoff at the end. Some have written about this trend in disco as a reflection of the feminine in music (think sexual climax), rather than the more masculine verse-chorus 3-minute rock/pop song. How very boring of you 3-minute rock/pop song! Have you no patience or imagination? Anyway, Bumblebee Unlimited is like nothing else. “Lady Bug” is brilliant, and completely nuts. If you don’t listen past the 2-minute mark, then you never made it to the beginning. And if you don’t listen all the way until the end, then you are getting a spanking.
4. Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
This song is the ultimate! Sylvester so beautifully shifts between these feminine and masculine identities in physical appearance and through the use of his voice. Naturally, listening to this song must be quickly followed by this Sandra Bernhard tribute, “Free at Last”. She explains it better than I can. Feel real, y’all.
5. Giorgio Moroder – Baby Blue
This is one of Giorgio Moroder’s more optimistic/cheery sounding songs and sounds a bit more like the Yellow Magic Orchestra than his other “hits” like the Coast to Coast bumper music “Chase”, “Knights in White Satin”, or “Cat People (Putting out Fire)”. I’m having one of those baby-types this summer and this is totally going on my baby music playlist. See also: Raymond Scott’s Soothing Sounds for Baby.
6. Human League – The Things That Dreams are Made Of (Dare Album version and Original Dub version)
I cannot get enough Human League, which is why I put two versions of their song “The Things That Dreams are Made Of” on this list. It was hard to choose just one song, because their album Dare is one of the greatest albums ever, but this song is so manically brilliant and stupid at the same time that it totally encapsulates the mood of this summertime playlist. Hey, everybody needs 2 or 3 friends, right? NEW YORK ICE CREAM TV TRAVEL GOOD TIMES! JOHNNY JOEY DEE DEE GOOD TIMES!
7. Yoko Ono – Walking on Thin Ice
O.K. now it’s time to get real y’all. Listen to Yoko Ono everyday and feel the wisdom of raw female power shake you to the core. Don’t be scared. John Lennon plays some pretty radical freak out guitar on this song as well.
8. Olivia Newton John – Landslide
Moving on now to this super bizarre song and video by Olivia Newton John, where ONJ’s love interest is stalked by death, child ninjas, and some interesting alchemical triangle images, only to be locked up in a cave jail by ONJ herself. What is going on at 3:22?! What does it all mean? But damn, ONJ can sing. Check out her album Totally Hot, particularly for the songs “A Little More Love” and “Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting,” which was featured prominently in the series of short films/documentary “The Beaver Trilogy” (deserving of its own post altogether! ). I actually first got into Olivia Newton John after seeing Crispin Glover’s amazing re-enactment of a re-enactment of a true story of a small-town guy who dresses in drag and sings ONJ’s “Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting” under the stage name ‘Olivia Neutron Bomb.’ It’s just amazing!
9. Phil Collins – Don’t Lose my Number
Here’s another song I can’t seem to get enough of these days. My husband thinks this song might be about a gay runaway teen named Billy. Apparently Phil wrote this song in a sort of stream of consciousness state, so I like to think that he was in fact channeling something to that effect. The video is pretty awesomely weird as well, particularly his parody of David Lee Roth at 4:38. Phil seems like the nicest guy, don’t you think?
12. Man Enough to Be A Woman, by Jayne County
Get a copy of this book—the autobiography of Georgia’s own Jayne County, formerly Wayne County of punk rock outfit Wayne County and the Electric Chairs. Her story is inspiring, heartbreaking, and hilarious—taking you from her days hanging out in Warhol’s Factory all the way to becoming a full-blown cat lady and sole caretaker of her mother somewhere outside of Atlanta. She is the best, and this book was part of the inspiration behind the Tunabunny song “Duchess for Nothing” off of our album Genius Fatigue. Here’s a great clip of her back when she was playing as Wayne County:
11. Can’t Stop the Music
Summer will end, but if there’s one thing that you do before it’s over, PLEASE for the LOVE OF ALL that is GLITTERY AND FABULOUS, PLEASE go to your local video rental place (you know the one on the Eastside) and rent the Village People movie, “Can’t Stop the Music.” Ask Sam to help you find it. It’s in the music section.
The soundtrack is, of course, full of amazing Village People deep cuts as well as some of their more well-known favorites. Anytime I feel down, if I put on this movie it completely changes my mood for the better. And that’s what it’s all about. This is the transformative power that music/movies/books and art can have. Keep it weird y’all, make your own fun, and take care of yourselves this summer.