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Home » Culture and Criticism

Whither The Funky Bunch?

Submitted by on November 16, 2011 – 1:15 PM34 Comments

You know what song you don't hear much anymore? "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. You do hear it sometimes, like at the nail salon, but you don't hear it much, because it's not good. It's a little surprising that Mister Respectable Producer Man Mark Wahlberg hasn't had all copies of it destroyed, now that I think about it. I like Donnie Wahlberg pretty well as an actor, and I respect that he doesn't sell out his time in the New Kids; he went out on that tour and made the Knights their mortgage and didn't act cooler than the gig or the fan-service stuff, which is what a grown-up does. I can't prove it, but I feel like Mark isn't like that, that he'll just pretend that whole era never happened, that if you meet him at a party and you even refer to Calvin Klein in passing, all of a sudden you're eye-to-eye with the top jacket button of a 350-pound former nose tackle named Cha-Cha, and the Funky Bunch keep calling and calling and Deirdre the intern says the same thing every time, yes he got your message, no he's not avoiding you, okay…uh-huh, o– okay…okay, take care.

Yes, I wrote a sad little micro-fic about how Mark Wahlberg friend-dumped the Bunch and won't even tell the truth about it. What do you think about during a pedicure?

This isn't trying to talk shit about present-day Mark Wahlberg, either, not really. When he's cast correctly, he's a very good actor (although I acknowledge that what I call "subtle," you may call "bad"). Who would have thought 20 years ago that that's the discussion we'd have about him, though? Watching the "Good Vibrations" video is like seeing a documentary of another life; everything about it is dated and cheap-looking, from the Cellblock-D assignation he's having with some girl in which he keeps his backwards baseball cap on even lying on his back, to the shrill lady vocal performed in front of a cracked mirror, to the anti-drug raps, to the David Silver Dancers working it out under an overpass in a huge puddle (see also: the Jon Secada video from the same era that finds him singing his heartbroken ass off in a…desert carport?). You had two kinds of videos back then: this kind, shot in black-and-white to look "street" (read: to hide the budgeness); and the Anthropologie-catalog kind shot in a brownstone they'd filled with trees while the lead singer wandered around in angel wings and needed an iron pill.

It's the budge quality that struck me, visually and aurally. Marky and his relentless gym boobs are going for straight outta Compton, but landing with a thud on straight outta Casio. But the dollar-store feel isn't confined to "Good Vibrations," or to the slapped-together Faux! MTV Raps hybrid tracks we all had to endure back then (C+C Music Factory, please line up behind the Bunch). Everything seemed cheap back then. Watch a TV show from that era; find a men's suit on the screen that isn't shiny or shlumpy or ill-fitting or rayon, or a combo platter of those things. Find one women's belt whose buckle doesn't look like a child could bend it. And the prints, Jaysus.

We accepted it, too — or we saved up for Docs and wore them with our green Gap jeans and a big black sweatshirt, every day. I don't remember noticing it, how cut-rate everything felt. From a distance, a lot of '80s stuff is ugly or weird or completely of its time in some other negative way, but at least sometimes clothing and videos and whatnot looked like money had been spent, no matter how misguidedly. The early '90s just came off jenky all the time.

And if anyone can confirm or deny that the Bunch is doing okay, I'd love it.

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  • Miglet says:

    A friend and I had to confiscate a third friend's cassingle of that song after hours of aural abuse. So, so bad.

  • LSail says:

    How funny, I was just discussing "Marky Mark" with some friends over the weekend.

    I wonder if it's a function of the fact that Mark Wahlberg has found tremendously more success as an actor (I dig him; he does seem kinda one-note, but that note is "bad ass," he does it well, and looks good doing it) than he did as a singer/rapper. On the other hand, I think Donnie is still better known for NKOTB than he is for his acting, and participating in the recent tour made that time fresh in the minds of the public.

  • Dayna says:

    "the lead singer wandered around in angel wings and needed an iron pill." LOLOLOLOL!

    Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. I don't remember this video. Actually I don't remember any of their videos if I think about it. I know they were popular for about 20 seconds, but they weren't my cup of tea.

    When I see videos from the '80s now, good or bad, mostly I say "Oh, gawd, what were we thinking?" We thought we were so hot, but truth to tell, I wish I had now a little of the fearlessness (or was it cluelessness) to wear what I wanted. My style needs a little more of the flamboyance that I had then and a little less of the drab of current times.

  • attica says:

    I never refer to MW as anything other than Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Yes, I attach the Bunch to his moniker still. Because even the name 'Funky Bunch' screams low-rent-tryna-be-hip.

    Donnie will always get a pass from me for his Band of Brothers turn as Lipton. Such an understated perf, especially seeing as how NKOTB was anything but understated.

  • Todd K says:

    I was just talking with some people last night about that last topic: how the look of all things early 1990s has aged so badly. I don't think I noticed it so much looking back five or ten years ago, but now? I see almost any movie or TV show from (say) 1991, or a YouTube of an old commercial or a celebrity hawking something on Arsenio's show, and it hurts my eyes. Check out, for example, the awful boxy blazers Jim Rome and Jim Everett are wearing in the clip of their famous ESPN brawl.

    Sars, do you remember a commercial for…I don't know what it was. A vehicle of some kind, I believe. This ad aired right at the beginning of 1990, the first few months, and it had some smarmy guy with a Chris-on-Northern-Exposure voice looking right at us and announcing that "This is the '90s! Excess is out!" or something along those lines. Maybe cheap-looking was a wide-ranging aesthetic overcorrection. It did go along with the meager, marking-time feeling of the whole Bush 41 era.

  • Kim says:

    I saw NKOTB in concert about 3 years ago, before they teamed up with The Backstreet Boys for the Super Boy Band! group they are now. What struck me most was how much fun the guys seemed to be having. They didn't take themselves too seriously, did some of the ridiculously cheesy dance moves that we all remember but knew that they were cheesy but that's what their audience (mostly women in the late 20s/early 30s) wanted. And yes, when Donnie came out into the audience and danced right in front of me I giggled like I was 13 again.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    The nineties lost their way precisely at midnight New Year's Eve and decided that might as well be their motto.

    It was such a placeholder, waiting for the damn Millinium to show up already, might-as-well-use-paper-towels-and-not-dirty-the-good-napkins decade. It wasn't punk, new wave, hippie, goth–anything, really. Those things were all around, sure, but there was no cohesiveness at all.

    And the economy! Dot-coms, bubbles, kids starting startups with nothing but a mountain bike and an Xbox and grown businessmen literally shoveling cash at them while they Casual Friday'd it in hilarious Dad khakis. It was like attending high school with a low-grade fever.

    I've always described the entire decade as "An era of overpriced Champagne and imaginary money."

  • Jessica S. says:

    I think if you asked Marky Mark about this now, he'd be like, "Whaaaat? Nooooooo!"

  • Jenn says:

    I thought I'd come away from this post with "Good Vibrations" stuck in my head. Alas, I wound up with a Jon Secada earwig instead. (Or, as my dad calls him, Jon Cicada – he only has a hit every 17 years.)

  • Allie says:

    Ah, cassingle. Has a word ever had so brief an existence?

  • Matt says:

    Thanks for bringing the funny, both in this piece and those in the links. Yes, I did do my share of dancing at weddings to this song, sweaty and full of Miller High Life. didn't own a suit then, so i might have been wearing my knit tan v-neck sweater with the lime green accents.

    Now that I think of it, that's in my high school graduation picture….

  • Bronte says:

    I associate "Good Vibrations" with my Mum aerobics classes in the 90's. Even today, if I hear it, it's nearly always at the gym.

  • Emily says:

    I find that I refer to him as Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg, thus encapsulating both of his personas into one name.

  • Jody says:

    Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch will always have a special place in my heart. One of my friends was completely obsessed with them. She stalked them around Six Flags and took pictures of them. She made copies for me, which I'm sure I still have because I was completely obsessed with her. Oh, the love that dare not speak its name, or even mention its existence until later in life.

    Now that I think about it, those pics should go in the trash or at the very least be on the list of things that need to get trashed immediately if I die unexpectedly in an accident.

  • Joleen says:

    My friend and I who both turned 40 this year often talk about fashions from the 80's. She wants it all to come back and I do not! Especially not those color blocked, way too big, "washable" silk monstrosities!

  • Laurie says:

    I've heard (and I have no source other than… around) that Marky Mark will not allow anyone to mention the words "Marky Mark", "Funky Bunch" or "Good Vibrations" anywhere near his person, so I'm with you on this.

    And Jordan Knight must have a pretty big mortgage, because he's been on my tv over the past few months as a judge on Cover Me Canada (and no, I cannot figure out how *that* pairing happened). Think The Sing Off with cover bands instead of a cappella bands…

    And even 18-year-old Laurie's Jordan Knight crush couldn't bring much older Laurie to watch it.

  • MinglesMommy says:

    1st, Jenn: "I thought I'd come away from this post with "Good Vibrations" stuck in my head. Alas, I wound up with a Jon Secada earwig instead. (Or, as my dad calls him, Jon Cicada – he only has a hit every 17 years.)" – AWESOME. Love it.

    Second: I am sorry to admit that I loved the Marky Mark parts of this video. He just did something for me. Of course, I was 14 at the time. And he's now an old father of like 16 kids and married to a former model and he doesn't do it for me anymore. But ah, the memories.

    Wait – ew, the memories.

  • Agent Weiss says:

    I LOVE THIS SONG!!!! It's in regular rotation on my mp3 player and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

    YO! It's about that time, to break forth the rhythm and the rhyme! I'm a get mine, so get yours, I wanna see sweat comin' outcha pores!

  • Agent Weiss says:

    Now I have a wicked earworm!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …And that is why I will not be riding bikes with Agent Weiss anymore.

    Juuuuust kidding, she knows that I have three Bryan Adams albums on my iPod. (Not songs. AL. BUMS.)

  • Jo says:

    So back in 1992, after years of trying to convince my parents to drive me 6 hours to the nearest New Kids concert to no avail, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch came to a county fair that was only two hours away, and very cheap, so I saw them in concert. It was the next best thing. It was fun. Marky Mark (I will always refer to him that way) asked people to remember to vote and said he prayed no one would vote for Bush. And when some guys in the front row started to fight, the ENORMOUS body guard leaning against a speaker started flipping some nunchucks around and they stopped. I have no idea what happened to the rest of the Funky Bunch, but I like the story of that concert.

    I did see NKOTB on the reunion tour in 2008. I took a friend who I met at summer camp at 10 and back then we bonded over the fact that she HAD been to a concert. We had an amazing time. All the guys in the group were having so much fun and were surprisingly … good. I had expected it to really suck, but the truth is they were very good live. It's too bad Marky Mark can't embrace his past the same way.

  • Tylia says:

    I haven't heard that song in, I dunno, fifteen plus years and I still have that damn thing memorized. I had forgotten how much air humping was involved in all those videos. Like, the hell?

  • Sandman says:

    You had me at "Deirdre the intern," but by the end of the third paragraph I was weeping with laughter.

  • Todd K says:

    An additional reason you don't hear that song much anymore: It's the loser of one of those "Two Songs, One Title" cage matches, where two unrelated pop songs are both big hits at different times, but only one really hangs on to become a pop standard. There's the one everyone thinks of first when the title is mentioned, and then the other one that is sentenced to an eternity of Wikipedia-disambiguation hell. Usually (but not always) it's about getting there first. Here, the Beach Boys song wins hands down. Elsewhere, it's Aerosmith's "Angel" over Madonna's; Roy Orbison's "Only The Lonely" over the Motels'; Elvis's "Don't Be Cruel" over Bobby Brown's…

  • Alison says:

    I am now very concerned about the fates of the Funky Bunch. The New Kids however do seem to enjoy themselves, well except for Jon.

    Laurie, Jordan Knight seems to enjoy Canada, he was a lot of fun at Blissdom Canada. It also freaked out my inner 13 year-old. She may still be shrieking.

  • Natalie says:

    I feel like this song is enjoying a weird little renaissance. Two unrelated friends have sent me links to this video this week and now the nation.

  • Miss Elisa says:

    Sars, your hunch about Mr. Wahlberg not being able to accept his time as Marky Mark is right on. Check out "Rock Star". If you make it to the end (god bless ya), wait for the blooper credits. It's standard issue stuff until one magical moment: Mark onstage for whatever metal lipsync he's supposed to do. The music cues up…and it's "Good Vibrations". Not even a smirk crosses his face, only fury. I bet someone definitely got fired, like 2 minutes after that happened.

  • JeniMull says:

    Anybody else see Marky Mark in "Rockstar"? During the credits, they had a moment where they were about to film a concert scene and the whole cast blasted "Good Vibrations" and everyone started jamming/dancing/acting insane instead. I don't recall how he reacted, or they cut the clip before the bloodshed, but I loved it.

  • Rhiannon says:

    This is not the best example because it's more 80s than 90s, but I went as Tiffany for Hallowe'en this year, and I noticed the same thing in my extensive "research" (i.e., YouTubing all the videos)–in part of "I Think We're Alone Now" she's wearing sneakers, tight jeans, and a HUGE black sweatshirt. And that was totally acceptable for a teen pop star, to have no skin showing except her hands and her face.

    I have also noticed it in my watching of the Dawson's Creek reruns on CosmoTV.

  • Vardaman Bundren says:

    Ok, two things:

    1. The shaved underam thing. This is at best, mildly upsetting, and at worst, deeply weird. He is not a competititve swimmer. This process is not required, and makes the whole enterprise kind of plastic-doll squicky.

    2. The 'DU-RAG. Lordy.

  • Kat from Jersey says:

    To this day I still refer to Mark Wahlberg (whom, I'm kind of embarrassed to say, I find hot, what with his cute pug Boston Irish looking mug) as Marky Mark! I mean, the guy has done a heck of a lot of, dare I say, good film work, but to me he'll always be Marky Mark, the guy who did those sexy underwear ads.

    Oh, and if you have Sirius XM satellite radio, they play "Good Vibrations" a lot on the 90's channel. Ugh!

  • Kim says:

    I wonder if Mark Wahlberg realizes that his ditching of the Bunch and refusal to acknowledge/laugh at his Marky Mark past is only ensuring that he will remain Marky Mark in our hearts forever…

  • Annie S. says:

    On Saturday night, my wife and I were walking by a candy shop and I heard the drum bridge from this song for less than a second before I identified it. I listened to this song far too many times as an adolescent and I know every word.

    Marky Mark was MW's ticket out of the life he had been living before, as a petty thug in Boston. It's no Compton, but he was dealing drugs and beating people up. Apparently he had an epiphany in jail and decided to stop doing what he was doing, and his brother, who was a successful New Kid at this point, helped him form the Bunch. I like to imagine that MW has some gratitude to the Bunch for that reason alone. (Not to mention his brother! I came as a MM apologist and then realized that Donnie Wahlberg keeps getting better and better.)

    That being said, he doesn't really seem like the kind of guy who would have a sense of humor about it. Unlike Donnie D.

  • Zoe says:

    Looks like the Funky Bunch is doing ok. Check out their myspace page.

    I read somewhere in past that MM never ditched his pals and actually has some of them living with him in LA. But that's likely not the case anymore with his kids.

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