I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes. I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale. Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not. In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey. I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site. With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment.
As a reward of sorts for “graduating” middle school, my parents bought me my own radio. It was a monstrously large device that I picked out from our local Sears. It consisted of a big, chunky, center radio component with two (yes two!) cassette decks and two detached speakers. On to of the center section was a storage tray for all the cassette tapes I didn’t own. But more importantly, the thing worked like a charm and picked up all the local radio stations. But back then, I only needed one — the on that played Casey Kasem’s Top 40 every Sunday. For several years I tuned in religiously every weekend, after church and before lunch, to hear the latest and greatest (or so I thought) in pop music. As the mainstream musical landscape was transitioning from experimental new wave and hair metal to rock ballads and carefully-formulated harmonies, there wasn’t a ton of variety on the airwaves however. Still, I eagerly listening in and nearly memorized the list that didn’t vary much from week to week. In no time flat I could recite by heart any number of songs by Janet or Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan, George Michael, Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, Rick Astley, and other conventional artists of the time.
But every now and again, a song popped into the Top 40 that wasn’t quite so conventional. “I Beg Your Pardon” by Kon Kan was one of these songs.
For you see, as much as traditional pop ruled the radio in the late 80s and early 90s, there really was plenty of infiltration by other genres, especially dance/club/happy electronica. Call it New-New Wave. Stuff by the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Information Society, New Order (to a certain degree), Depeche Mode, and others. Songs that were poppy (and maybe a little glum) but more danceable and heavily synthesized. Songs that were plenty successful by established artists but without the extreme MTV hype. That’s where the Canadian group Kon Kan comfortably sat. But their hit song, and possibly the one for which they’re best know, “I Beg Your Pardon” from their album Move to Move wasn’t quite like the rest of the club tunes blasting from the speakers.
With my retrospective glasses on, I might call the song a mashup; but back then, it was simply “dance” though unusual dance. Unlike a straight-up song with unique music, “I Beg Your Pardon” featured vocals over samples from other songs. Sampling wasn’t anything new, but it was kinda new to Top 40 radio during my heyday with it, and it was new to me, which is probably why is got stuck in my mind. I remember quite clearly it being described (probably by Kasem, but possibly another radio personality), as a “song within a song” because everyone focused on Kon Kan’s use of a clip from “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson, though there were plenty of other samples in the song as well.
All I knew was that I really liked it. Maybe it’s because it had a very foreign feel unlike some of the standard “blah blah I love you blah blah four-four beat” music that everyone seemed to be outputting then. Maybe it was a harbinger for my eventual immersion in mashups. Maybe it was just different enough to really stick, because years later, while recalling songs for a rather eclectic playlist, this one came to mind. Though not immediately. All I could recall of the song was that Lynn Anderson clip, and I could hear it repeating over and over in my head. I didn’t take much searching to find it. And when I heard “I Beg Your Pardon” again for the first time, it wasn’t long before I was jolted back to that summer before my freshman year of high school. It’s probably good that not all my memories from then were horrible, otherwise I might not still be hearing this song in my head, and on my iPod today.