LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics: Corey Hart vs. Richard Harris
Welcome to the next matchup in our continuing search for the most satisfyingly cheesy pop songs of all time! A LeBlog Cheestastic Classic should be both undeniably corny or over-the-top while also possessing some quality that makes some of us grin and pump our fists in gleeful irony. Some people might also use the term “guilty pleasure.” But I’m not going to. For our purposes here, these are “LeBlog’s Cheesetastic Classics.” The skill and talent involved in producing some of these songs may, in fact, be quite impressive and at their core these songs might actually be rather superior to some which are considered cool. But somewhere along the way the songwriter or performer took that wrong turn at Albuquerque and landed themselves in the land of cheese.
Today we’re looking at two of the most notoriously cheesy pop songs of all time; one from the 1960s and another from the 1980s. It can be argued that neither song could have been conceived, financed, and become popular in anything but their own decade. Let’s have a chat and decide whether these recordings fit our understandings of Cheesetastic.
Last week most of our voters were pretty well satisfied with both of the presented songs as valid entries into our list of Cheesetastic Classics. Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud” won more than 72% of your approval and Meat Loaf raked in over 83% of “yes” votes for “I’d Do Anything for Love.” This means that those songs are now official members of the club along with Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” and Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero.” The more songs we approve and deny, the closer we’ll get to understanding what the moniker means.
First up is one of the bigger pop music bros of the 1980s. For a good decade, a really high percentage of television beer commercials seemed to be directly inspired by some of the visuals in this and other pop videos featuring self-proclaimed cool white dudes.
Dig that synth! Corey Hart crashed out of Canada and into the American pop music scene in 1984 with this ode to the dangerous and unhealthy use of eyewear. The story goes that the song was inspired by poorly placed air conditioning vents which were blowing into the crew’s faces (including producer Jon Astley who would later have a minor hit with the fun song “Jane’s Getting Serious”). This led to everyone wearing sunglasses in the studio and Hart improvising lyrics about wearing them during evening hours. This apparently then developed into the song as we now know it and raced up the singles charts to #7 in the summer before my eighth grade year.
It’s a little hard to believe that Hart was an unknown when he conceived of this butt-puckeringly self-important performance focused on such a ridiculous premise. Is it just me, or does he look like he’s in danger of inventing the “duck face” expression that would become so puzzlingly prevalent some twenty-five years later many times during the video? Well, whatever faults we may find from the distance of so many years, this song and its high-rotation video kick started Hart’s recording career, which would eventually land him eight more top40 hits. Eight. Would anyone else have guessed at a discography with that much success? I honestly once considered writing him up as a part of my “Nope, Not a 1-Hit Wonder” but a quick look at the long run of hit records he had accumulated pushed him way down the list. Combine that with the fact that his most famous song is not actually his highest-charting song. That would be the also pretty darned memorable “Never Surrender,” which rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 almost exactly one year after his first big hit. Was that actually the better choice for Cheesetastic Classic status? Should it be nominated at a later date?
While Hart made his bones in the sleek as polished plastic 1980s, our next nominee is actually most famous as an elderly schoolmaster. Yes, this is that Richard Harris. If you’re not yet familiar with his hit song “MacArthur Park,” well…buckle up, hit play, and listen close.
That’s about as bizarre as it gets, isn’t it? Well, “MacArthur Park” has seen both ends of public regard. In 1968 it received heavy radio play and climbed all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, but by 1992 the selfsame song was selected by a high-profile poll as the The Worst Song of All Time. For most artists, either one of these events would inexorably define their careers. But Harris was not a pop singer by trade. He was already a successful actor, having appeared in prominent films such as The Guns of Navarone, Mutiny on the Bounty, and This Sporting Life. In 1967 he starred in the hit musical film Camelot, for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy. That same year he released his first album, but it was his second, A Tramp Shining, that brought us an overwrought meditation on the poor match of cake and rain. Harris was a handsome and successful leading man with real insider esteem for his skill as an actor.
And boy did he enjoy himself. While he continued appearing on stage and screen, with credits such as A Man Called Horse, Robin and Marian, Orca, and Tarzan the Ape Man with varying success, he developed a notorious reputation as an inveterate party machine. He would quit hard drugs after a cocaine-related health scare in 1978 and become a teetotaler a few years later, but public fascination with his hell raising lifestyle continued to score him points on the late night circuit.
A return to relative sobriety helped him with a renaissance in his career, with notable appearances in films such as The Field (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), Patriot Games, Unforgiven, and Gladiator. But the role he would gain long-lasting attention for was that of Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films. He had initially resisted taking the role, feeling reticent to take on the responsibility of a series of movies, but his granddaughter insisted that he accept the offer. Unfortunately, Harris’ health failed before he could complete the series and he passed away in October of 2002 due to complications from Hodgkin’s disease. He left behind multiple children, including his son Jared who is known for playing Lane Pryce on Mad Men and Professor Moriarty in a 2011 Sherlock Holmes film with Robert Downey Jr.
Okay, so there’s a little about each of the songs and the men who brought them to us. Now we get a chance to decide on whether or not these songs belong on our list of Cheesetastic Classics. Vote here and comment below!
Posted on July 27, 2016, in Awards, Cheesetastic Classics, Movies, Music, poll and tagged Corey Hart, David Letterman, I Wear My Sunglasses at Night, MacArthur Park, Richard Harris. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.