I had an English Professor who I took two sections of Shakespeare with. She told us once that you cannot go through a day without being exposed to a Shakespeare reference. It was years ago that she said this, somewhere in the mid-to-late ’90s, and yet I still think about it, smiling to myself when I run across one.
Many of those “references” are music related, and today’s Top 5 Music Obsessions is inspired by my old Engish Professors proclamation/challenge. All 5 Songs are not just songs I obsess over, but they all also reference Romeo and Juliet. See if you can spot them.
If you can think of any others please share them in the comments. I’d love to add to the R+J collection.
Top 5 Music Obsessions – Wednesday, January 2, 2019
1. “Romeo Had Juliette” by Lou Reed
from the album, New York (1989)
“And Romeo wanted Juliette,
and Juliette wanted Romeo.”
I love this version of the Romeo and Juliet(te) story, told through the lens of New York City in the late ’80s.
It reminds me of late night conversations with my boyfriend about New York, and how we’d love to visit, or even possibly live there someday, if even for just a year.
This version is full of street cred. You can smell the city in it, the grime and glitter, the dreams, both broken and realized. I want to see a movie, or stage version, about the life and love of Romeo Rodriguez and Juliette Bell.
“Romeo Had Juliette” (live) by Lou Reed
2. “Romeo and Juliet” by The Killers
from the album, Sawdust (2007)
“A lovestruck Romeo,
sings the streets of serenade,
laying everybody low with a love song that he made.
He finds a streetlight,
steps out of the shade,
says something like,
‘you and me, babe, how about it?'”
Another alternative take on Romeo and Juliet.
I love how meta this one is. At times it seems to speak to a pair of actors who once played the tragic lovers, becoming lovers themselves. But now something’s changed. Romeo is still below the balcony (or maybe just on the street under her window). Juliet is over it. Not separated by family, but by choice, it seems. It’s all still unrequited and heartbreaking though.
I prefer The Killers’ cover of Dire Straits’ song, “Romeo and Juliet”, mostly because I like Brandon Flowers voice better than Mark Knopfler.
But, credit where credits due, the lyrics are fantastic. Cheers to Dire Straits for those, and cheers to The Killers for their version that I fell hard for as soon as I heard them perform it on “Live From Abbey Road”.
3. “Impressed” by Charlie Sexton
from the album, Pictures For Pleasure (1985)
“Romeo and Juliet.
Louis and Mademoiselle Antoinette.
Napoleon and Josephine.
Mickey and the Rodent Queen.
Anthony and Cleopatra.
Nicholas and Alexandra.
Ken and Barbie,
Dick and Jane.
Well, Superman and Lois Lane.
I am not impressed,
I love you the best.”
Oh my stars, I had such a crush on Charlie Sexton back in 1985.
The cheekbones, the brooding eyes and song lyrics, the rasp in his deep voice. And there he was, singing about Romeo and Juliet, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and all the other pop culture lovers, singing about how his love was so much better than theirs. I believed him with all my 16-year-old heart.
“Impressed” (live) by Charlie Sexton
4. “Fever” by Peggy Lee
from the album, Things are Swingin’ (1958 – not part of the original release, but as a bonus track in 2004)
“Romeo loved Juliet.
Juliet, she felt the same.
When he put his arms around her,
he said, ‘Julie baby you’re my flame.'”
Another cover version that is my preferred version, Peggy Lee’s take on the Little Willie John song, “Fever”.
In May of 1958, Peggy recorded her version in Hollywood. Her cover featured significantly rewritten lyrics composed by Peggy herself, without credit.
The uncopyrighted lyrics by Lee featured historical invoking (including the verses beginning “Romeo loved Juliet,” and “Captain Smith and Pocahontas”) are now generally thought of as a standard part of the song, and have been included in most subsequent covers of “Fever”.
“Fever” (live) by Peggy Lee
5. “Cherish” by Madonna
from the album, Like a Prayer (1989)
“I was never satisfied with casual encounters.
I can’t hide my need for two hearts that bleed with burning love.
That’s the way it’s got to be.
Romeo and Juliet,
they never felt this way I bet.
So, don’t underestimate my point of view.”
Madonna was a big part of my teenage years, especially in the years between 1986-1989.
I hear songs of hers from this era, especially ones like “Cherish” off of her 1989 album, Like a Prayer, and I’m immediately back in my teenage bedroom with my friend Rachel, dancing around and hairbrush singing-a-long with Madge.
“Cherish” was written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, and was released by Sire Records as the third single off of Like a Prayer. “Cherish” was built around the themes of love and relationships, with Romeo and Juliet being one of the major inspirations.
The track also included a line from “Cherish” by the 1960s band The Association. (from Wikipedia)
“Cherish” (live) by Madonna
Top 5 Music Obsessions – Week of December 31, 2018