Still Another Great Moment in the History of Background Music

I have written here before about the convenience store in my neighborhood, and often-surprising tunes they pipe in. Yesterday, it was “Love Stinks” by the J. Geils Band.

I have always thought that the J. Geils Band’s breakthrough to superstardom, which happened with the Freeze Frame album in 1981, really should have happened with Love Stinks a year earlier. It contains about as many radio-friendly tracks, and is every bit the departure from past J. Geils stuff that Freeze Frame was.

Even if it didn’t make them superstars, it put them on the singles chart more than any of their previous releases. “Come Back” and “Love Stinks” both stalled in the 30s on the Hot 100. When “Just Can’t Wait” was released as a 45 in the summer of 1980, my radio station jumped on it immediately, because the music director (me) thought it sounded like a slam-dunk smash. It wasn’t. It got only into the 70s on the chart–which is probably more of a testimonial to my lack of ears than to the public’s lack of taste.

(At my college radio station the preceding spring, our favorite track had been “No Anchovies Please,” which is not a song in the traditional sense–it’s a science fiction/film noir/shaggy-dog story that climaxes with the memorable line, “Oh my God, that bowling ball–it’s my wife!” You had to be there, and it would help to be 20 years old.)

So anyway, I seem to have drifted. “Love Stinks,” in the convenience store, very unexpected.

Recommended Reading: If you enjoyed Marathonpacks’ first scholarly exploration of little bits of Beatles tunes, here’s another. That we can take apart their body of work on this level–and find it interesting–is merely more proof that 500 years from now, the Beatles will be about the only musical artists from our era who will be of interest to anyone.

6 thoughts on “Still Another Great Moment in the History of Background Music

  1. Anonymous

    One of my favorite songs to break format with is “Give It To Me.” I have never worked for a radio station that had it in its music library, but once in a while I’d slip in the long version which is 6:23. Just LOVE that synthesized organ solo! —Shark

  2. Jeff up north

    J. Geils was so great in the early to mid-’70s — an underexposed band seemingly known well by only a few of us. It actually was disappointing when they broke it big in the early ’80s. So many people jumped on the bandwagon, and for songs not as good as some of the earlier stuff.

    Give a listen to “Live, Full House” or “Live, Blow Your Face Out” — two of the best live albums ever, by anyone. “Monkey Island” is another of my favorites.

  3. JP

    I’m a huge fan of Geils’ 1970’s recordings – particularly the first two albums, THE J. GEILS BAND and THE MORNING AFTER, on Atlantic. If I’m talking about this band and the other person immediately starts talking about later ’80s duds like “Freeze Frame,” then I know it’s time to end the conversation.

    Although if I HAVE to listen to their later, synthy recordings, “Love Stinks” still works well for me. But that’s it.

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