Reader’s Choice: Song #18/250: Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch

One of the most successful and heavily promoted music groups of the 1980s was a boy band known as New Kids on the Block. They had a string of hits such as “Hanging Tough”, “You Got It (The Right Stuff)”, “I’ll Be Loving You Forever”, “Cover Girl” and many more. The five original members of NKOTB all hailed from the Boston area (which will become important as this story rolls along). One of those original guys in the band was named Donnie Wahlberg. He had a younger brother named Mark. This is where the story of today’s post begins.

The Wahlberg brothers grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Boston. Dorchester used to be a city unto itself but was incorporated into the municipality of Boston proper. Initially, Dorchester was a mainly white community founded by Puritans who arrived from England and Ireland centuries ago. However, after amalgamation, Dorchester saw an influx of immigrants arrive, making it one of the most diverse cities along America’s eastern seaboard today. Like many in the Boston area, the Wahlbergs identified with Irish heritage (which at the time for a teenage boy like Mark Wahlberg meant white culture). You don’t have to look very hard in Boston to find indicators of Irish culture. (The Boston Celtic basketball team, bands such as The Dropkick Murphys…my favourite faux Irish band, etc…, are everywhere you go.) So, when Donnie Wahlberg suddenly became a huge music star with New Kids on the Block, it gave his little brother, Mark, a larger sense of self-importance than most boys his age have earned the right to have. With his ego large, young Mark Wahlberg turned to crime. Specifically, he was charged with several violent, racially-motivated crimes against Black and Asian families who had recently moved into the Dorchester area. In fact, one assault was so serious that Mark Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder (which ended up being plea-bargained down to felony assault, for which Wahlberg served time in jail as a young man).

Mary Mark and the Funky Bunch. Note the “Irish” green.

After having completed his sentence, Mark Wahlberg faced an uncertain future. The one thing he had going for him was that he was handsome and strong…and he had a brother who was a music star. Mark worked with Donnie and with his brother’s management team to see if he had the talent to follow in his brother’s footsteps. As it turned out, Mark Wahlberg wanted to try rapping (after seeing the success of Vanilla Ice). With the help of Donnie and some DJs who were skilled in the emerging art of sampling, Mark Wahlberg organized them all into a band that went by the name Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Their first album was called Music for the People. The first single was called “Good Vibrations”. This song went all the way to #1 on the charts and stayed in the Top 40 for almost a full year! The highlight of the song for many was the combination of some stellar piano playing, Mark Wahlberg’s rapping and the soaring vocal sample taken from a lady named Loleatta Holloway (who was given a co-songwriting credit because of the sample, even though she never recorded a single note for the song). Despite the fact that this song reached the top of the charts, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were never able to replicate its success, and so “Good Vibrations” can really be considered their only true hit.

Mark Wahlberg’s iconic Calvin Klein ad. He is 21 years old in this photo.

While the song certainly possesses a funked up groove, it was really the accompanying music video that took Mark Wahlberg straight to the top. In the video for “Good Vibrations”, Wahlberg appears shirtless for most of it. At the time, Mark Wahlberg possessed a physique that was toned and chiseled. His body and his tough guy image that he projected set many hearts a flutter. Sex appeal has long been known to sell merchandise and this was certainly the case with Marky Mark. As a result of the overwhelmingly positive reception his six pack abs received as a result of this video, Wahlberg was signed to be a Calvin Klein underwear model. In the end, he became as famous for appearing in his underwear on billboards (alone or with model Kate Moss) as he ever did as a singer. Many others wondered how they could get themselves into the same physical shape that he managed to do and so he was approached to put together exercise videos. The story of his fitness regimes is more important than many casual fans realize and impacted his career for years thereafter.

Mark Wahlberg and “Irish” Micky Ward at the premiere of the movie, The Fighter.

When Mark and Donnie Wahlberg were putting together the music for “Good Vibrations”, there existed a famous boxer from nearby Lowell, Massachusetts, called “Irish” Micky Ward. Ward fought several times for the Lightweight title and is most known for a trilogy of matches against Montreal’s own Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. Ward won the initial match against Gatti while losing the rematch and tie breaker. However, many who watch boxing will tell you that those three matches were among the best boxing matches of all time, and that both boxers earned their sterling reputations in the ring during those bouts against the other. In fact, two of those three matches ended up being ranked as “The Fight of the Year” by Ring Magazine. So, when the Irish-influenced kid, Mark Wahlberg, decided that he needed training in the art of boxing for his video for “Good Vibrations”, he turned to “Irish” Micky Ward. It was because of Ward’s training that Wahlberg developed his chiseled physique and authentic boxing moves. But there is more to the story than that. As many of you know, Mark Wahlberg left the music business and went into acting after his modeling days came to an end. He gained fame in movies such as Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm and Planet of the Apes. My daughters know him best from a series of movies called Daddy’s Home (with Will Ferrell). But the movie that Wahlberg is most closely associated with was a movie that earned him many awards and nominations called The Fighter. This movie is the biopic based on the life of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward. In fact, there are many Irish connections at play here…Canada’s favourite faux-Irish band, The Mahones *(who were profiled last week in a post that you can read here) contributed a song to the soundtrack of The Fighter called “Paint the Town Red”. It is the band’s biggest hit. As well, Boston’s own The Dropkick Murphys’ most successful album was called The Warrior’s Code. The title track was a song dedicated to “Irish” Micky Ward, who also graces the album’s front cover. *(You can watch that video here).

Mark Wahlberg, like so many of us, is certainly a product of his environment. He grew up Irish-proud and immigrant-phobic but, over time, he has become able to embrace the positive side of his cultural roots without doing so by downgrading the right to cultural pride by groups who differ from himself. Not knowing the man personally, I cannot say for sure whether that is truly the person he has become or whether it is because of his understanding of how to project an image in the public spotlight. But what I can say for sure is that he has managed to create several onscreen characters that the people in my family like, and in particular, he has created one funky song that really appeals to my wife. So, I dedicate this post to my beautiful wife, Keri. I hope that it brings a smile to your face and a skip to your step. Thanks for being the driving force in our home for bringing the music of boy bands to the forefront. I know that you had New Kids on the Block posters on your bedroom walls growing up so this is something that makes you a product of your environment as well. As boy band songs go, “Good Vibrations” is one that even I can listen to and appreciate. Thanks for being you, dear.

***As a reminder, I take requests. Any genre. Any era. Send me your song/artist/band suggestions and I will do whatever I can to bring those stories to life in a post just like this one. Feel free to leave your requests in the comment box below. Thanks.

The link to the video for the song “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

The official website for Mark Wahlberg can be found here.

The trailer for the movie, The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Sister Christian by Night Ranger/Jessie’s Girl by Rick Springfield from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to Boogie Nights…Song #18/250: The Stars of Stage and Screen.

Boogie Nights was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It was his second major Hollywood picture and the one that really helped him make a name for himself as one of the bright rising stars among Hollywood directors. This movie was nominated for three Academy Awards and won many major awards at film festivals around the world including the Toronto International Film Festival (T.I.F.F.) where it made its world debut. Boogie Nights has an all-star cast including Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore *(who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards), Phillip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham and many other recognizable faces.

Boogie Nights is a movie that was inspired by the true story of 1970s porn actor John Holmes. But the beauty of what Paul Thomas Anderson managed to do with this story is to turn it into a treatise on human connections, on love and trust and, most of all, on putting in the hard work that goes into achieving the American Dream. Anderson managed to pull this off by creating a story that consistently manages to not be what you think it is going to be. He defies expectations and disguises the traditional path taken by most storylines. For instance, Boogie Nights is set within the porn industry. It is all about sex yet, it is not sexy or titillating at all. It is a movie in which beautiful bodies pair up onscreen yet, off screen, these same people are as lonely and flawed as the rest of us. The movie shows how easily people come to believe that the facade of movie making is real and that what happens on screen can be replicated in real life. Boogie Nights starts out as a fantasy playland where everyone is being gushed over and ends up being a lesson on how much more difficult it is to make your way in the real world of bill payments and aging and changes in technology.

Mark Wahlberg as Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights.

Mark Wahlberg stars as an unknown dishwasher who is discovered by a porn director (Reynolds) and asked to audition for one of his movies. At the start of the movie, Wahlberg is all handsome, with a chiseled physique and, we are told but never shown, an enormous physical attribute that makes him perfect for porn acting. Being the flavour of the month, Wahlberg’s character is fussed over, given lavish treatment everywhere he goes and soon comes to believe his own hype. In the process of the evolution, we get to see how unsexy the business of making x-rated movies is and how bored the actors and crew are much of the time. Needless to say, the excitement that marked the early stages of the film gives way to decadence and addiction and rejection as the movie unfolds. Walhberg’s character, Dirk Diggler, becomes addicted to cocaine, starts running out of money and is at risk of being replaced by another actor who becomes the new flavour of the month. It is at this point in the movie that our songs of the day come into play.

I used to own this album. Rick Springfield at the height of his fame.

Both “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger and “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield were bonafide hits during the 1980s. “Sister Christian” was Night Ranger’s biggest hit. It was a power ballad written by the band’s drummer about his younger sister who was no longer a child but a young woman heading out into the world. Knowing how the world works better than she did, big brother wrote the song as his way of warning her to be careful in how she goes about looking for love and not to be too quick to turn her back on her family life at home. “Jessie’s Girl” by Rock Springfield reached #1. It was his only #1 song but it did help earn him the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal by a Male Artist the year the song was released in the early 1980s.

Night Ranger in the early 1980s when “Sister Christian” was such a huge hit for them.

In both cases, the songs have come to cast Springfield and Night Ranger as though they were more prolific and successful than they actually were. It was this sort of attention to detail.…his ability to shine a spotlight on a couple of movie characters, pairing them with a couple of one-hit wonder songs and asking the question “Is this really all there is”….that has helped Paul Thomas Anderson earn such high marks for the movies he makes. In Boogie Nights, Anderson deliberately chose songs for the soundtrack that mirrored the times in which the movie was portraying, as well as mirroring the emotional/personal states of the characters at the time, too. In the scene in which both songs play back-to-back, Walhberg and his best friend in the movie, fellow porn actor John C. Reilly, have realized that there is a shelf life to being a porn actor and are searching for other avenues of employment to help make money for themselves. By this time, they are both heavily addicted to cocaine and have snorted through their savings and are now too broke to actually explore new ventures such as paying for studio time so they can start a career as singers. So, along with another friend, they attempt to rip off the man who has been supplying them with cocaine. Like everything to do with the storyline of this movie, the “drug heist” scene is a classic example of things appearing to be one way when, in fact, they end up being the complete opposite. Anderson does a masterful job of creating tension and suspense in a scene that is long enough to last through both songs. I will provide the link to the scene below. If you haven’t seen it before then get ready, it is truly something.

Chicken Soup from scratch. Click here to access the website where this photo originated.

If we are lucky, we are afforded the opportunity to call our own shots in life. But there are many people who subscribe to the old rock n’ roll notion that it is better to burn out than to fade away. As a result, we see people who soar to great heights very quickly in their young lives. The trick for them becomes how to remain atop the mountain. A select few manage to exhibit some sense of longevity but many others end up falling by the wayside. We use these people for our own pleasure, never thinking of what becomes of them after the bright lights are turned down and the music fades away. Boogie Nights tells this story for us. It is a cautionary tale in many regards. Whether or not you choose to heed its lessons depends, I suppose, upon whether you believe that even a brief taste of success is worth more than simply experiencing the everyday reality of normal life like most people do. For me, I have always been more of a “Steady Eddie” type than an Icarus. Whether that is the better choice, who can say? All that I know is that after I finish typing up this post, I have to peel carrots and chop celery and onions because I am making soup for supper. Such is life when you are a “Steady Eddie”.

The link to the video for the scene from Boogie Nights that shows “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger and “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield being played can be found here and here.

The link to the video trailer for the movie Boogie Nights can be found here.

The link to the official website for Night Ranger can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rick Springfield can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post can be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022