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

Bruce Springsteen, Mud Morganfield, Amanda Shires and The Mahones: Tomorrow’s Top 40

In this edition of Tomorrow’s Top 40, we are taking a look at some new releases from some talented veterans of the music scene. So, if you are searching for some terrific Soul, R&B, Gospel, Blues, Country or Punk, this is your post because, as you all know, today’s new releases often become Tomorrow’s Top 40 successes. So, let’s quit the chatter and get down to it for the week of November 14-20, 2022. Here we go!

Jameson Street by The Mahones

Ladies and gentlemen….The Mahones!

OMG! It’s The Mahones! Canada’s preeminent Celtic punk rockers, The Mahones have been ripping it up for almost thirty years now. They sing songs about drinking and partying and loving and fighting in a way that is impossible to ignore. The Mahones have drawn their inspiration from the likes of The Pogues at their boozy best. They relentlessly tour, appearing regularly with bands such as The Dropkick Murphys, Stiff Little Fingers, Flogging Molly, Spirit of the West, even opening for The Tragically Hip on one of their Canadian tours. Jameson Street is their first album since before the pandemic so there is an extra energy infused into each song. There is nothing subtle about the music you will hear when you click on their link. It is loud and fast and brash and a whole lot of fun! I think their music sounds better with a beer in your hand but that’s just me. Here are The Mahones with a song that I predict will become a huge hit in pubs everywhere. It is called “Last Call at the Bar”. You can listen to it here. ***If you want a taste of The Mahones live then, check out this rendition of their most popular song, “Paint The Town Red” here.

***There is no lyrics version of this song at this time.

Take It Like a Man by Amanda Shires

Amanda Shires….and her fiddle.

Amanda Shires has been working her way through the ranks of the best female Country and Western singers for a while now. As a teenager, Shires was given a fiddle from a second hand store on the condition that she learn how to play it properly. So, she took lessons from some of Nashville’s best session players and soon found herself performing with The Texas Playboys. In her twenties and thirties, Shires released hit album after hit album. She was declared the “Best Emerging Artist” in 2017 and received a Grammy Award as a member of the band, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit that same year. However, what Amanda Shires is mostly known for is starting an all-female supergroup called The Highwomen. This group was meant to be the female counterpart to the legendary Highwaymen (Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson) from a few decades ago. The Highwomen consists of Shires, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby. Well, as it has turned out, Amanda Shires is turning forty this year and that has caused her to take stock of her life to date and her hopes for the future. This self-assessment has manifested itself in the form of a new album called Take It Like A Man. The title track has a clever twist at the end that helps make this song a feminist anthem of sorts. You can listen to “Take It Like A Man” here. ***Not sure if it just me but I think she sounds a bit like Dolly Parton.

***The lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Portrait by Mud Morganfield

He sounds as smooth as he looks! This is Larry “Mud” Morganfield.

Growing up on Cape Breton Island as I did, there was a great tendency among the locals to place everyone into family groupings on the basis of a single question that every newcomer tended to be asked…that question was, “Who’s yer fodder?” That is a slangy way of asking who someone’s father was. From there, the newcomer could be judged accordingly: being welcomed with open arms or pushed away, whichever the case may be. Well, it appears that the same sort of judging process has been a part of Larry “Mud” Morganfield’s life for as long as he can remember, too. You may not be familiar with Morganfield’s name but I guarantee you that if you are familiar with music history at all, and in particular, Chicago Blues, then you know Morganfield’s father, Muddy Waters. Waters was a legendary Blues master who passed away in 1983. At that time, Morganfield was driving trucks for a living. He had no intention of trying to start a career in the shadow of his legendary father. In fact, Morganfield was just trying to avoid the bullets that often flew around his neighbourhood in Chicago. But then, the story goes that one night after his father’s death, Morganfield had a dream that he was on stage with his father and that he was playing the Blues and that his dad was smiling upon him. When he awoke, Morganfield decided to pick up a guitar and see what would happen. Well, what happened was that he turned out to be quite the Bluesman, himself. In fact, Morganfield decided to introduce himself to the world by recording an album of his father’s greatest hits, for which he won Bluesman of the Year. To listen to Morganfield play and sing is to hear Muddy Waters again. To follow up his debut success, Morganfield is drawing upon his Gospel and R&B roots with an album called Portrait. From that album, his first single is a soaring Gospel song entitled, “Praise Him”. It is hard not to smile and sway as this song plays. It is magnificent. I am hopeful that Portrait becomes a hit and that Mud Morganfield becomes a success in his own right. Maybe the day will come when people refer to Muddy Waters as Mud Morganfield’s Dad. You can listen to “Praise Him” here.

The lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Only The Strong Survive by Bruce Springsteen

The Boss at age 73.

The storyteller in me absolutely loves Bruce Springsteen. The Boss has written some of the best story-songs of all time. I love “Thunder Road” and “Atlantic City” and “The River”, just to name a few. However, Only The Strong Survive is not an album of new material. It is a covers album containing tracks that Springsteen feels are essential Blues, Soul and R&B songs that today’s generation of listeners should be made aware of. I tip my hat to Springsteen because I have always maintained that the foundational songs that helped start Rock n’ Roll as we know it today all have their roots in black churches and nightclubs on the Chitlin’ circuit. It should not be up to someone like Bruce Springsteen to publicize these songs because they should be part of the Great American Songbook already. But, as many of you know, our understanding and appreciation of cultures that are different from our own tends to be limited. We often stick to cultural experiences that reflect ourselves, thus the Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys become more well known than the Isley Brothers or someone like Jackie Wilson. Whether this is simply due to human nature or to something else is a question for another post. But, for Bruce Springsteen, the answer is clear. He feels that the songs on Only The Strong Survive are under-valued and under-exposed and he is attempting to change that. For that reason, I commend Springsteen for having noble intentions. If you listen to the first single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”, you might think it is a terrific sounding song that fills your heart and soul and gets your toes a-tapping! But, as one critic put it, “The entire album sounds like Springsteen singing karaoke”. That was my impression, too. It will be your impression as well, especially if you listen to the real thing from Mud Morganfield first. That having been said, I am sure that Only The Strong Survive will sell well this holiday season. After all, anything that Springsteen associates himself with will always have a certain level of quality inherent in the final product. So, while there are no new stories from The Boss, he is using his 73rd year wisely to tell a story of a different sort. I hope that his efforts result in a Motown-esque revival because that is some music that really slaps. *You can listen to “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” here.

***The lyrics version of this song can be found here.

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

The link to the official website for Amanda Shires can be found here.

The link to the official website for Mud Morganfield can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bruce Springsteen 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