No disqualifications tonight. I briefly flirted with The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. They began their careers 20 years before The Four Seasons but have had barely a third as many members. I enjoyed their one appearance on a Jimi Hendrix tribute CD, but they’re gospel and that’s too far afield. Though they’re certainly better than many of the bands on our list.

Let’s go 5!

Ben Folds Five
Ben Folds plays piano, and his two colleagues don’t play guitars. This gets really monotonous after a while, and it doesn’t help that Folds’ vocal qualities are similar to Weird Al’s. On Ben Folds Five (1995), Folds mostly bangs on his piano à la Schroeder, though he opens up some on “Uncle Walter.” I do like one of these songs a lot – “Where’s Summer B.?” – but mostly I want them to hire a guitar player.

The Dave Clark Five
Awhile back I wrote that “time has not been kind to them.” I’ll stick with that.

This one probably doesn’t count, as the 5 is a stand-in for an s. But what the heck.

Deadmou5’s real name is Joel Zimmerman. He hides inside a mouse’s head because he made a fool of himself at his bar mitzvah and he’s still embarrassed. I love trance and other forms of electronica, but Deadmou5 is not one of my favorites. He can turn out a classic hypnotic number like “I Remember” (Random Album Title, 2008) and he can also be repetitious and annoying, frequently in the same song. People say the same things about me, or maybe just the “repetitious and annoying” part.

Five Finger Death Punch
Don’t throw up your rawkfist just yet. 5FDP is a hard-core thrash outfit with a knack for making all of their pummeling songs sound exactly the same. Vocalist Ivan “Ghost” Moody thinks he’s narrating a horror movie. One of the two super-shredding guitarists is from Hungary – they have a lot of barely checked aggression there after decades of Soviet rule. Their first album was The Way of the Fist (2007); the follow-up was War Is the Answer (2009). Of course they were.

Five for Fighting
Another pianist, though this one likes guitars. John Ondrasik writes self-reflective songs that make me the Chairman of the Bored. At least Ben Folds gets up in my face. Ondrasik is too mellow for a confrontation. Has had two hits this century: “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” which is delicate and boring, and “100 Years,” which is syrupy and boring. Jim Croce without the sense of humor.

Five Man Electrical Band
A Canadian band that hit the big time with the anti-establishment “Signs” (1969). Today the singer railing against all the signs he sees forbidding this or restricting that sounds like a self-righteous little prick. Nice guitar work, though. They also did a song called “It Never Rains on Maple Lane,” which isn’t exactly good but it does make me imagine Harry Nilsson collaborating with George Harrison in 1970.

Maroon 5
It’s difficult to escape singer and TV personality Adam Levine these days. He has a very long neck. I wonder if he’s ever thought of hiding inside a mouse’s head? Probably not.

I’m not crazy about Levine’s near-falsetto singing, but Maroon 5’s music is an entertaining merger of alternative rock with the mainstream and a dash of hip hop. They’re not innovators, but they know how to get you moving. The Monkees could’ve recorded It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (2007) if they’d had the benefit of 30 years of video culture to build on.

“Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” Wayne Kramer yells at the beginning of Kick Out the Jams (1969), and there follows an earthquake that could easily be called the birth of punk. This is an angry album that I still find hard to listen to, and yet there are moments of quiet harmonizing – these boys grew up in Motown, after all. Must’ve been something in the air: another punk forerunner, The Stooges, came out of Detroit at the same time.

Seattleite Floyd Rose was a guitar-tech god of the early ’80s who invented a locking tremelo system. This keeps guitars in tune no matter how trembling the tremelo. We can thank Rose for his invention and ignore his music – 1984’s Steel the Light is routine metal and uninspired singing.

The 5th Dimension
Nixon invited these folks to the White House, which shows you how inoffensive they were. But if you want to experience the hippie milieu, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” will do it for you at light speed. They usually let too much sunshine in for me; exhibits A, B, and C are “Up, Up and Away,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” and “Wedding Bell Blues.”

“One Less Bell to Answer” is a fun song to act out, though I find that people start hitting me before I get much beyond the first line.

The Five Satins
Bobo Holloman was a pitcher who threw a no-hitter in his first major-league appearance in 1953. He won two more games, lost seven, and disappeared. The Five Satins were something like that. Their very first single was “In the Still of the Night,” which right out of the box made them the most famous doo wop act ever. And then nothing much happened. They were immortalized by Paul Simon in “Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War”:

Easily losing their evening clothes
They danced by the light of the moon
To the Penguins, the Moonglows
The Orioles, The Five Satins

The deep forbidden music
They’d been longing for
Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war

The Jackson 5
Say this name and we think of “Puppy Love” and “ABC,” or else we think of the family’s sad history. But The Jackson 5 were so much more, as they proved early on with “I’ll Be There” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” and as you can tell from two of their last major albums, Destiny (1978) and Triumph (1980). “Lovely One” from Triumph could easily have won a place on Thriller. The Jackson 5’s contemporaries The Osmonds were a pebble on their shoe.

The Jackson family had problems similar to The Monkees, in that their label refused to let them write or play their own music. The Jackson 5 was Motown’s last great group, but their relationship ended in a bitter legal struggle, a new label, and a change of name to The Jacksons. This at last freed the brothers – and allowed them to grow up.

Victory (1984), I just learned, is the only album that features all six Jackson brothers. (But not Janet.) I didn’t know there were six. It’s not as good as Triumph, unfortunately. Victory also has the bizarre “State of Shock,” which pairs Michael with Mick Jagger. Weird Al’s parody was better.

We Five
Here in the 5s, the two bands that are the farthest apart are Five Finger Death Punch and We Five. Five Finger Death Punch could sprinkle We Five on their pancakes and never notice the difference. I can best describe We Five as The Byrds after they were fixed at the vet’s. In 1966 they turned “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” into a cure for insomnia and then had a hit with Ian & Sylvia’s “You Were on My Mind.” (The British egomaniac Crispian St. Peters, who claimed he could write better than Lennon and McCartney, also had a hit with “You Were on My Mind.”)

These groupings will now start getting smaller. Tomorrow we’ll probably tackle numbers 6 through 10. Thanks as always for following along!


  1. Verlierer says:

    On the minuscule chance that you may be mocking me as well as Mr. Shatner, ‘Has Been’ is not a “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” schlock-a-thon. Seriously, it is quite good. The many special guests help a bit, too.

    Go ahead, prejudge and laugh, if you must. I stand by this album.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Prejudging is one of my specialties, but I thought you were referring to The Transformed Man. I’m not mocking you. I usually mock you, but not this evening. I didn’t know that after 36 years Shatner tried it again. And with Ben Folds running the show! I’ve added Has Been to my list of music to hear and I promise I’ll get to it soon. But if I hear any of the crud I heard on the first record, I am so OUT of there.

  2. Verlierer says:

    Ben Folds may be lite as a musician, but is a heavy weight producer, able to fabricate the awesome “Has Been” album for William Shatner.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Whoa. My respect for Ben Folds has just gone way up.

      A Shatner retrospective would be an interesting project, though I don’t think I could live through it. We (me and two co-workers back in the ’90s) once had an idea for a Shatner film festival. We were going to call it Shatuponcon. But once we started perusing the man’s IMDB listing, we got scared.

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