Immediately after the 1985 American Music Awards, the most important music awards show in the world that was created as a TV special by Dick Clark, the most important people in American popular music (except for Prince and Madonna) convened in a Los Angeles recording studio to record, purely scientifically-speaking, the most important song of all time. Inspired by Bob Geldof’s all-star-charity recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” to help alleviate the African famine via raising money and the wholesome, nutrient-rich powers of celebrity, many major stars, under the name USA for Africa, took turns singing a few lines of a song that isn’t at all terrible and whose quality was necessarily overlooked in favor of a good cause.
As USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” is the single biggest event in world history, as it ended permanently both hunger and the political instability in Africa that caused it, you are an enemy of America if you don’t know the names of the stars who sang on it, and in what order. In England, they knighted Bob Geldof; we don’t have that kind of system in the non-Communist America, so the least you can do to thank these selfless, brave, charity soldiers, who took a few hours out of their lives to sing some words written by Lionel Richie, is to know who sang which non-cliché, and then who sang the next non-cliché. Commit this to memory:
Lance Rogers said Wednesday, “Please substitute Kansas Republicans’ January immigration tax tort before Johnson makes Jesus declare restitution.” “Don’t worry,” we nagged. “All joint bequests still kill logarithms; stretch pants, dude.” He hollered loudly, “call Lance killjoy, corporal. Bloggers don’t return coats.”
Now you will have no problem recalling that the USA For Africa soloists, many of whom died that night, were: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Carnes, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles.
First of all, this song is bullshit. Despite that promising title, Simon pulls the old bait-and-switch (or, as it’s called in the music industry, the old, Simon-and-Garfunkel) and doesn’t actually deliver. The lyrics only mention that there “must” be fifty ways to leave your lover. Simon doesn’t state them, nor did he even bother to research them. Disappointingly, Simon only notes four, and they’re pretty lame, vague, and obvious, not to mention, rhyming. Still, if you need a quick out in a relationship, the song is worth a listen. And with all of the things going on in your head when you need to leave a marriage and town fast, as Paul Simon often does, the last thing you need to memorize are Paul Simon’s
fifty four ways to leave your lover. Instead, memorize this mnemonic:
Shovels make him die.
Now you know the four ways to leave your lover are to: slip out the back, make a new plan, hop on the bus, and drop off the key (which doesn’t really have anything to do with leaving; it’s actually more of a courtesy to the dumped after dumping them, but the guy successfully left both Art Garfunkel and Carrie Fisher, so his methods aren’t to be questioned).
While it was not a hit song, the Nails’ 1984 New Wavey/electropop hit “88 Lines About 44 Women” has endured for both its humor and seemingly endless descriptions of the women bedded or nearly-bedded by the song’s protagonist and first-person narrator. But how to memorize all those women’s names—all 44 of those women’s names? A simple mnemonic device is how. Simply assign a woman’s name to each of the women’s names:
Danielle, Carrie, Margaret, Sally, Ramona, Celine, Velma, Patricia, Zathra, Janet, Shannon, Kelly, Samantha, Kirsten, Jennifer, Megan, Gertrude, Mariah, Millicent, Julia, Rochelle, Pilar, Lacey, Kristen, Padma, Jacqueline, Gwen, Josephine, Sadie, June, Tillie, Brianna, Raquel, Destiny, Daisy, Nancy, Beatrice, Emily, Tabitha, Rashida, Jessica, Danica, Jamie, Allison.
Now you can easily remember that the names of the 44 women in the song are: Deborah, Carla, Mary, Susan, Reno, Cathy, Vicky, Pamela, Zillah, Joan, Sherrie, Kathleen, Seattle, Karen, Jeannie, Mary-Ellen, Gloria, Mimi, Marilyn, Julie, Rhonda, Patty, Linda, Katherine, Pauline, Jeanne-Marie, Gina, Jackie, Sarah, Janet, Tanya, Brenda, Ronnie, Dee-Dee, Debbie Rae, Nina, Bobbie, Eloise, Terry, Ronnie, Jezebel, Dinah, Judy, Amaranda.
(Note: If it’s easier for you to remember “Cathy” if you spell it “Kathy,” sub out “Celine” and sub in “Katarina.”)
If anyone, say, a potential employer, customs agent, or a royal in a receiving line, ever asks you, “Hey, what are the names of the first four Led Zeppelin albums?” as a preamble to asking you your favorite Led Zeppelin album (and they will ask—just say “the one with ‘Stairway’” is your favorite) you can rattle off this little mnemonic device in your head to help you remember.
Led Zeppelin laughed zestfully. That’s Led Zeppelin – that’s Led Zeppelin, fortunately!
Then, out loud this time, you can confidently state, because you have successfully remembered, that the first four Led Zeppelin albums are Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin Two (II), Led Zeppelin Three (III), and Led Zeppelin Four (IV).
The Beatles are the greatest, by which I mean the bestsellingist popular rock/roll band of all time. It is thus your duty as a resident and citizen of popular culture to know the names and order of their 12 major albums. But how to remember them? Well, you already know the names of the Rolling Stones’ first 12 albums (everybody does!), so just think of those when you need to remember the names of all the Beatles albums, and the little clues embedded in each.
England’s Newest Hit Makers for Please Please Me. Because being a “hit maker” is “pleasing.”
12 X 5 for With the Beatles. “12 X 5” sounds like a measurement, so one of those numbers would be a height, and the other one would be a width, and “width” sounds a lot like the word “with.”
The Rolling Stones Now for A Hard Day’s Night. Both indicate a measure of time – now vs. night.
Out of Our Heads for Beatles for Sale. Each title is a prepositional phrase.
December’s Children (And Everybody’s) for Help!. Duh! Both albums feature extra, and ultimately unnecessary, punctuation! December’s Children (And Everybody’s) uses parentheses to offset a parenthetical expression, while Help! has an exclamation point (!)!
Aftermath for Rubber Soul. Because judgment of the “soul” happens in the “aftermath” of your death.
Between the Buttons for Revolver. If you wanted to kill somebody, with a revolver, you would aim between the buttons of their shirt, so as to ensure a kill-shot. (Fun murder fact: Bullets cannot travel through shirt-buttons.)
Their Satanic Majesties Request for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. If you play Sgt. Pepper backwards, you get a message from John telling you that he killed Paul and that he loves the devil.
Beggars Banquet for Magical Mystery Tour. A banquet is like a magical tour for your taste buds!
Let It Bleed for The White Album. Bleed means blood, and blood is red, and red is the opposite of white.
Sticky Fingers for Yellow Submarine. You would have “sticky fingers” if you ate a “submarine”-style sandwich, because those sandwich places just always load them up with sticky mayonnaise, various mustards, and sandwich syrups.
Exile on Main St. for Abbey Road. It should be super-easy and obvious to remember this one. But, to spell it out for the slow readers, Abbey was the name of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr’s first wife, and Stones drummer Charlie Watts once dated the lead singer of the ‘70s soft rock band Exile.
Goats Head Soup for Let It Be. Amazingly, “goats head soup” is an anagram for “let it be.”