by Bob Langham

There are those awesome “you’ve got to hear this” songs for which you crank up the radio at the traffic lights to fulfill your civic duty of playing them loud enough for everyone to hear so they know that you have your pulse on the hottest musical trends, if not a crystal ball into the musical future for what will be the next biggest hit. Sure you’ll get dirty looks from the people that don’t appreciate you sharing your high decibel knowledge. However, it’s your Constitutional right to share great music with the public at large, one traffic intersection at a time until everyone has been enlightened and the world is a better happier place through song. 

Then there are those other songs that you have latched onto like a bad habit over the years for no logical or scientific reason. These are the songs you are forced to enjoy privately out of fear of ridicule from your friends. If they caught you listening, or worse singing and dancing to them, they would never let you live it down, so you hide them away and enjoy them in the privacy of your own home or earphones. I’ve been pretty good about hiding my closet songs over the years as I am sure many of you have. But I’m tired of living a musical lie. I’m through listening in the shadows. It’s time for full disclosure.

I fully acknowledge that I own all of these songs in one format or another – vinyl album, 45 RPM, compact disk, or MP3 on my iPod, so consider this a warning; The next time you are sitting at a traffic light minding your own business, listening to your socially acceptable tunes, you may hear one of these gems at full volume coming from the car beside you.*

If you aren’t careful, you may find yourself tapping your foot or bobbing your head and enjoying tunes you may have previously mocked. Don’t worry though; your secret is safe with me.

Lonely Days – The Bee Gees

Like many others who had a preference for rock and roll, I rebelled against disco when it first reared its glittery head and by extension, I rebuked the Bee Gees. I never thought I would say this about a Bee Gees song, but this one rocks in places that you don’t expect. Had anyone known I liked this song when I was younger, I would have been spending many more lonely days and nights than I already did.

Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim

Let me get this straight – One can rock gently, and one can rock slowly? Oh the duality of love as seen through the prism of the 1970s. Try that today, and Dr. Phil will be all over your butt for not being honest with your emotions.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light – Meat Loaf

This makes the closet song list for two reasons:  First, it has the most blatant baseball/making out metaphor in music history (I think if Harry Caray had performed this at Wrigley field instead of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, the Cubs may have won a World Series or two in the ‘70s. Secondly, the lead singer is named after an entree. For these two reasons, I have always secretly enjoyed this song.

Loving You – Minnie Riperton

I plead the ‘70s on this one.  I didn’t know any better and it latched on to me at a young age and no matter how hard I try, I can’t shake it. This song takes me back to my childhood happy place – and come on, it’s got birds… can you really turn a deaf ear to God’s creatures?

Sweet Transvestite – Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show)

I’m secure enough in my masculinity to say I like Tim Curry’s energetic over the top vocal performance of this song.  Just to clarify, I may have bad fashion sense, but I have never had any desire to wear women’s clothes, not even to any of the midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show like many other fans.  If my friends heard me singing along to this song, they might have thought I had a secret life to go along with my secret list of songs so it has always been on the closet list.

Bad Blood – Neil Sedaka

“Doo ron, doo ron, di di, dit, dit, ron ron.” Need I say more? Okay, maybe one more thing, only the ‘70s could birth a song about the bitchiness of a woman and still make it sound so festive, thanks to Neil’s flamboyant performance.

Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus  

At first listen, you’d think this shouldn’t be a closet song. It appeals to the simpleton in us all – It’s a bumper sticker set to music about two core values – partying and patriotism – everything should be cool right? Except someone my age and gender rocking to Hannah Montana’s alter ego is just wrong.

Mr. Roboto  – Styx

This is a contagious tune that rocks, but it could be perceived as a vehicle for trying to reintroduce the Robot dance to the youth of the world. I didn’t want to be associated with that so it was a closet song. Besides, didn’t we learn a year later from Terminator that machines are bad?

Borderline  – Madonna

This song was a little too pop for the rock and roll persona I wanted to portray. But there is something about the way Madonna seductively moans the lines “Keep pushing me, Keep Pushing me, Keep Pushing My Love” (I wonder what she was talking about there) that made me a secret fan of this song.

Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

I was sucked in by this ‘80s power ballad and Tyler’s husky voice like everyone else. What was I supposed to do? I caved to the influence of MTV in its early watchable days. I always kept this one on the closet because I thought it was the musical equivalent of a “chick movie.”

Hocus Pocus  – Focus

Even in the ‘70s you didn’t want to be caught dead listening to a song that included yodeling, whistling, and other goofy sounds in place of actual words, even if they were set to a rock guitar backdrop. In addition to secretly liking this song over the years, I’ve always had the desire to see this song substituted for the National Anthem at a major sporting event. Can you imagine how hilarious that would be if the crowd stood up in in succession, similar to the wave but instead of waving their arms they echoed the yodeling and whistling chorus of this song? I think it would take away some of the overinflated importance of professional sports and the world would be a much better place.

Convoy  – C.W. McCall

I’m still reluctant to go public about this song, but I will expose it because it’s a point of cultural reference for the younger generations. Before cell phones and personal computers became standard communication tools, the main means of verbal communication between two separate locations was via land line or citizen band (CB) radio. You could even talk from your vehicle. It was the ‘70s version of social networking – But back then you had to talk in jargon to fit in – 10-4 good buddy, you got your ears on?  Unlike today, where we’ve matured and don’t have to resort to such silly short-hand jargon – OMG, LOL, BRB.

Coconut – Harry Nilsson

It seems so wrong to like a song about produce, but it sounds and tastes so good so I just kept it secret all of these years.

Hollaback Girl – Gwen Stefani

The only thing I know is this song is catchy and once it’s in your head it won’t leave on its own, but that’s okay because this song celebrates attitude and produce  –  “My s*** is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.”

 Centerfold – J. Geils Band

Not since the theme song to the Andy Griffith show, has a whistling solo taken us back to a simpler time,  if by simpler time you mean discovering that a girl you had a crush on in school had become a centerfold model in a girlie magazine years after you graduated. It also, must be mentioned that this is one of the two songs on this list with the gratuitous use of “Na Na Na Na” instead of actual words.

Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ – Journey

This song always had a special place in my closet music collection, because Journey was really popular at my school and apparently so were actual loving, touching, and squeezing, or so I was told. I was never able to independently verify this on my own until many years later, but I had this song to get me through those lonely years. Additionally, this song is the second song on my list to use the “Na Na Na Na” card.

Long Tall Glasses (I can Dance) – Leo Sayer

I knew I couldn’t dance and if I’d been caught singing and trying to dance to this song, my secret of having no rhythm would have been out.

Lady – Little River Band

Okay I admit it. I cried while watching Brian Song and when Old Yeller died. This song was on my closet list because I didn’t want to risk getting all weepy in public when listening to this maudlin tune.

The Kid is Hot Tonight – Loverboy

One moment, Loverboy was being played every 15 minutes on MTV, and then the next moment they were gone. I guess they over used their 15 minutes of fame.  Maybe they were obscured by Pearl Jam, and Nirvana and the whole grunge scene, or maybe people just realized they were listening to a band that wore red leather pants and headbands. I guess I’m not as judgmental as most people.

Dirty Diana – Michael Jackson

This was on my closet list because Michael was known more for pop music and my musical taste leaned more toward rock, but he showed he could merge his pop and dance talents with blazing rock guitar accompaniment and make a pop song that rocks. That is good enough for me.

Mighty Man – Mungo Jerry

Can we all just agree that there is just not enough kazoo and banjo in rock music today? Can we also agree that the banjo and kazoo are a big factor in making this a closet song? No further questions.

I Am I Said – Neil Diamond

This song is like a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies – soft, warm, and sweet, but in the long run, not good for you. And this song isn’t good for your reputation, if you are a dude.

Sister Christian – Night Ranger

Another ‘80s rock ballad on my list, only because it over saturated the radio airwaves to such an extent when it was popular that I think it became a crime to be caught listening to it in public. And if I’m going to go to prison, it is not going to be for something that’s going to get beat up by the inmates and the guards.

Take it on the Run – REO Speedwagon

I was always afraid someone would hear it from a friend that heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend that I was listening to this song – but I’m over that now – there’s nothing to be ashamed of this is a good song.

Gypsies Tramps and Thieves – Cher

I don’t think Poppa would have shot me if he heard me listening to this song, but my peers may have called me something worse than a gypsy, tramp or thief for liking this Cher musical cautionary tale.

Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang

A collision of two styles – disco and rap – I couldn’t pull off either style separately, so you there was absolutely no chance of me embracing the two publicly and maintaining any level of coolness.  I enjoyed this song privately until the Rapping Granny came along and made it okay for people of all walks of life to listen and sing to this song.

*These songs are for educational and reference purposes only are performed and written by the credited artists.

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