The Whiff of Cheese

What’s there to be guilty about? Serving short measures? Eating two tubes of Pringles in one sitting? Stealing underwear from your neighbour’s washing lines? Cheating on your partner with a horse? Yes, yes, yes and yes… But getting penitent over your record collection? Never!

Go on son. Get involved...

There are only two kinds of tunes: belters and duffers. What the legendary Gram Parsons said about country music is applicable to all melodic sound: “It’s music; either it’s good or it’s bad; either you like it or you don’t.”

Just because a song is tightly composed, slickly produced, professionally performed and appeals mainly to middle-aged mums and dads doesn’t mean you should be ashamed to like it. Heck, not even the Catholic church demands remorse for enjoying the odd bit of what The Simpsons called wuss-rock.

Meatloaf didn’t always have moobs

We shall call it MOR or AOR. And we shall stand proud, clutching our copies of Bat out of Hell to our chests and raising our middle fingers to the pain-in-the-arse trendies who claim to only listen to “fashionable” music. Our credibility is of no concern. We are not ashamed.

The occasional ‘guilty pleasures’ night goes down real smooth. Hell, 1,500 people don’t risk a trip to Camden once a month to ride the area’s ritzy vibe. They do so to get down to ELO at Koko.

Of course, you shouldn’t – you can’t – claim that the tunes provoke guilt. You are welcome, though, to say they’re cheesy.

‘Cheesy pleasures’ sums up the sounds nicely, in fact. And who doesn’t love a bit of smelly brie? Well, vegans and the lactose-intolerant – who are represented among bar clientele as the aforementioned self-conscious hipsters (and who will probably end up performing air-grabs to power ballads, like everyone else).

So, smell this cheese (and download the Spotify playlist):

  1. Love Will Keep Us Together – Captain and Tenille
  2. Just the Way You Are – Billy Joel
  3. If Not For You – Olivia Newton John
  4. How to Save a Life – The Fray
  5. Crazy Horses – The Osmonds
  6. To Sir With Love – Lulu
  7. Old Days – Chicago
  8. Sex as a Weapon – Pat Benatar
  9. Mandy – Barry Manilow
  10. Paradise by the Dashboard Light – Meat Loaf
  11. Must Have Been Love – Roxette
  12. Family Man – Hall and Oates
  13. Africa – Toto
  14. Fool if You Think it’s Over – Chris Rea
  15. Magic – Pilot
  16. Angel of the Morning – Juice Newton
  17. You Made Me Believe in Magic – Bay City Rollers
  18. The Rose – Bette Midler
  19. MMMBop – Hanson
  20. Guilty – Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb

A closer listen: Billy Joel

The Stranger by Billy Joel is a terrific album. No, really. It’s the piano man’s wickedest kung fu – and it’s surprisingly light on the cheddar. The majority of the mega-selling platter’s tunes – Just the Way You Are and She’s Always a Woman, most notably – are of the ballady kind, providing nought but a mild dairy whiff. They’re complemented by the vinegary tang of a few cracking pop songs: Moving Out (Anthony’s Song) and Only the Good Die are likely to rouse a thoughtful rabble.

For additional classy 1970s MOR, you can try Turnstiles, which features Say Goodbye to Hollywood and the essential New York State of Mind, or 52nd Street (the first album to be released on CD) with its standout selections of Big Shot and My Life.

Anything from ‘80s Joel is best avoided. His work started poorly and got worse. By the end of the decade the singer, having insulted music lovers with Uptown Girl (not cheesy, just rotten), resorted to barking trite social commentary in list form. We Didn’t Start the Fire? We’ll burn down your bar if you play that crap.