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Edge Of A Broken Heart: The Runaway Bon Jovi Song

As if Slippery When Wet could have gotten any bigger. Well it COULD have.

 

When we think of 80’s mega albums, Slippery When Wet rubs elbows with Thriller, Purple Rain, Make It BigMadonnaHysteria, Can’t Slow Down, Toto IV, Sports, Born In The U.S.A., and Back In Black.

 

The Bon Jovi Holy Grail spent 8 weeks at #1 (Billboard), 38 weeks within the top 5 albums, became the best selling album in 1987, is among the 100 best selling albums (currently #48) in the United States, and has sold over 12 million copies worldwide.

Richie Sambora’s white Fender Stratocaster

 

Those of us who lived through the New Jersey invasion of the airwaves from Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, remember the 4 singles from Slippery When Wet:

 

You Give Love A Bad Name” (#1)
“Livin’ On A Prayer” (#1)
“Wanted Dead Or Alive” (#7)

 

The above trifecta here gave Slippery When Wet the notable distinction of being the first Glam Metal/Hard Rock album to have 3 top 10 hits. The Hair Metal floodgates opened from there. It was indeed a great time to own stock in Aqua Net.

 

The power ballad, “Never Say Goodbye” was released as the 4th single but not domestically so it wasn’t able the chart on Billboard’s Hot 100.  However it did reach #28 on another chart, the Hot 100 Airplay which measures how often a song is being played on radio stations and more recently streamed online as well.

 

That was the first missed opportunity for another official Bon Jovi single off of Slippery When Wet. The demand was certainly there. The second was “Raise Your Hands”, which was on the soundtrack of the classic 1987 Mel Brooks Star Wars spoof Spaceballsstarring John Candy as Barf, Rick Moranis as Lord Dark Helmet, and a pre Independence Day Bill Pullman as Captain Lone Starr.

 

The movie literally opens up with Bon Jovi. Can anyone picture flying a Winnebago in space without rocking out to “Raise Your Hands?” I mean what the hell did Han and Chewy do on the Millennium Falcon, listen to NPR and knit sweaters? Leave it to a comedy to portray something more accurate,

 

 

But the most egregious lapse in Bon Judgement was not including the amazing track “Edge Of A Broken Heart.” For whatever reason, it missed the tour bus for Slippery When Wet and has been thumbing for a ride in Bon Jovi limbo ever since. It’s a stronger song than many that were included on the album.

 

Slippery When Wet (1986) was the 3rd studio album from Bon Jovi, sandwiched between 7800° Fahrenheit (1985) and New Jersey (1988). It was also the first album they brought in songwriter Desmond Child who co-wrote the album’s 2 biggest tracks “You Give Love A Bad Name” (#1)
“Livin’ On A Prayer” (#1) with Jon and Richie as well as a few others. “Edge Of A Broken Heart” should have been on that list and on the charts.

 

For the longtime Bon Jovi fan or people who just know their songs from the radio, in either case the reaction is the same: WTF?! Why wasn’t this track [“Edge Of A Broken Heart”] released as a single?

 

Slippery When Wet (1986) had 10 songs on it of which 4 were released as singles. For comparison, other albums in this pre-CD era released more songs as singles from their respective albums as shown below:

 

Thriller (Michael Jackson, 1982) 9 tracks 7 singles all becoming top 10 hits, 8 Grammys, best selling album of all time
Can’t Slow Down (Lionel Ritchie, 1983) 8 tracks 5 singles.
Lionel should have released the title track “Can’t Slow Down” as well. It could have been his 6th single.

Back In Black (AC/DC, 1980) 10 tracks 5 singles
Sports (Huey Lewis & The News, 1983) 9 tracks 5 singles
Make It Big (Wham!, 1983) 8 tracks, 4 singles
Purple Rain (Prince, 1984) 9 tracks, 5 singles

Hysteria (Def Leppard, 1987) 12 tracks, 7 singles
Toto IV (Toto, 1982) 10 tracks 4 singles
Born In The U.S.A. (Bruce Springsteen, 1984) 12 tracks, 7 singles all becoming top 10 hits
Madonna (Madonna, 1983) 8 tracks 5 singles
Like A Virgin (Madonna, 1984/85) The 1985 reissue included “Into The Groove”, a track from the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan making the album 10 tracks with 6 singles

 




 

“Edge Of A Broken Heart” is chock full of classic Bon Jovi ingredients in their proprietary Jersey Shore stew: David Bryan’s keyboards, Sambora’s crisp crunchy power guitar parts, Jon singing a few long notes during the verses (the words “I’m” and “Now” in both verses of the song) teasing us for the bigger payoff we know he’ll deliver come chorus time.

 

The same kind of vocal hook was used in the verses of “You Give Love A Bad Name”:

Oh, oh, you’re a loaded gun
Oh, oh, there’s nowhere to run

 

This singing device is so Bon Jovi and we drink it up like like bacon flavored Kool-Aid, ready to become drooling rock zombies wearing overpriced tour T-shirts. The nutrition label on this track indeed gives us more than a full days RDA of RAWK—and you’ll still find yourself wanting second helpings of this lost hit.

 

There’s also the “Bon Jovi build” which starts up the song with Tico Torres drums, Sambora’s guitar riff and Bryan’s keyboard work until the band enters in for a full tidal wave of fun smiley 80’s rock before it recedes and gets calm again to let Jon sing about the latest fictionalized Femme fatale that crossed paths with a peaceful tour bus just trying to spread the Gospel of Rock & Roll. The lyrics even mention “Private Dancer” another classic 80’s hit/album from Tina Turner.

 

Then there’s the deluxe call and response vocal parts during the chorus between Jon and the band’s backing vocals giving us a double shot of satisfying volleyball of energy for the ears:

 

Bon Jovi Tickets

 

 

Rock chemists the world over have devised strategic formulas over the years and “Edge Of A Broken Heart” uses a tried and true mixture: The Root, Four, Five chord progression (AKA I IV V)—A classic example  being “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen.

 

Another well known chord progression is Root, Five, Four (I V VI) like Baba O’ Riley by The Who better known by as “Teenage Wasteland.”

Chords in Baba O’ Riley:  F  C  Bb  (1 5 4  or I V IV)

Chords in Edge Of A Broken Heart:  E  B  A     E  B  B  C#  A  (1 5 4   1 5 5 6 4  or  I V VI    I V V VI IV)

 

You can see and hear the first part of the chord progression is the same as Baba O’ Riley but just one note lower.

“Edge Of A Broken Heart” is also in the key of E Major like a few other classic rock tunes:

“Limelight” by Rush

“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey

 

So Slippery When Wet COULD have had a total of 6 singles released by our count here.




Savvy Glam/Hair Metal fans will know the band Vixen also had a song in 1988 of the same name off their debut album Vixen which peaked at #26 .  This “Edge Of A Broken Heart” was actually written by two other 80’s vocalists/songwriters: Richard Marx and Fee Waybill of The Tubes. Richard Marx actually co–produced the album.

 

As you can see, the #MeToo movement back in the 80’s involved sharing each other’s hair care products as well as song titles:

 

 

But you can’t copyright a title. And Bon Jovi also has song called “Runaway” which Del Shannon had a hit with back in 1961. “Runaway” is one of the “Carpal Tunnel Classics” where there’s Eternal triplet notes for keyboard players like Toto’s “Hold The Line” where a bucket of warm epsom salt is a welcome spa treatment after a gig for your wrist.

 

A fun trivia tidbit here is Steve Vai is married to former Vixen bassist Pia Maiocco (playing the red guitar in the above video). They met at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Richard Marx makes a cameo as well at the 2:41 mark.

 

The Bon Jovi “Edge Of A Broken Heart” was included on the 1987 film Disorderlies starring The Fat Boys who are best known for the single “Wipe Out” (1987) with The Beach Boys doing back up vocals. It was a rap using The Surfaris 1963 hit instrumental of the same name.

 

And speaking of films, there’s an interesting connection with drummer Tico Torres. He was also a studio player for fellow New Jersey band Franke and the Knockouts who are best known for their 1981 hit “Sweetheart” which reached #10.

 

Namesake and lead singer Franke Previte also went on to have a few of his tunes appear in movies like his Bon Jovi brother. Previte is co–writer (along with John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz) of “Hungry Eyes” and “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” which were the anchor tunes on the classic 80’s film Dirty Dancing (1987) with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

 

The original versions were recorded by Franke and the Knockouts but went onto greater acclaim as covers by Eric Carmen (#4 in 1987) and Bill Medley (of The Righteous Brothers) & Jennifer Warnes (#1 in 1987) respectively. The later won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and a Grammy.

 

Looking back, 1986 and 1987 were great years for both New Jersey bands. And here we are some 30 years later coming full circle from when Bon Jovi seemingly took over the world on a steel horse. The funny irony of Slippery When Wet was that it had massive international success with one of the cheapest album covers EVER. Just a step up from Metallica’s The Black Album, where Jon write “Slippery When Wet” on a wet trash bag.

 

So with that, we extend an esteemed “Shock to the Hearty” congratulations to Bon Jovi for making it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Class of 2018. A photographer I know worked on the New Jersey tour and had nothing but positive things to say about them. It’s always a bonus when people who aren’t a bunch of arrogant egomanics get a deserved honor. Jon is an authentic humanitarian who has his own charity feeding homeless/low income people as well as homeless veterans:

JBJ Soul Kitchen (www.jbjsoulkitchen.org)

Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation (www.jonbonjovisoulfoundation.org)

 

Oh and Jon has stated this lost Bon Jovi tune should have been included on Slippery When Wet and actually apologized believe it or not. So they’ll have to answer for the “Edge Of A Broken Heart” transgression on Bon Judgement Day, but in the meantime, we can forgive them because we’ve found their missing runaway.

© Composer Yoga


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When Compliments Aren’t Compliments

We’ve all been there as artists and creative people. Someone notices you have talent and thinks they’re complimenting you with something like…

“Wow you’re really talented, you should work for [whatever company]” or  “You should work in [name of profession where you’d wind up working for another company].”

 

You thank them on the surface for the half compliment but know deep down know they still don’t get it—or you. You want them to see your talent and creativity as an end in itself and valuable in it’s own right not simply a tool to be used by someone else.

 

They still don’t get that being an artist/creative person for many including you is about personal freedom to do what you want, do it your own way and on your own time—and get the maximum benefits from owning your own intellectual property to generate income now and in the future via royalties and/or licensing fee income.

 

The problem is most people including those giving “compliments” to you just want any kind of job they can stand and don’t absolutely loathe to get needed income so they’re not focused on being independent and self–sufficient. Art and creativity is not their lifestyle and overriding driving force.

 

The act of creation is air and energy to those of us who know the joys of creation.

 

 

Getting to do what you like to do for a living is a step up for most people. It’s a foreign concept from most people’s family environment since most of us observe people around us working to make money because we have to and the need is brutally immediate. But it’s not looking at life long term. Think about it, if you’re going to spend 4-5 decades doing something, why not choose something you really enjoy doing?

 

And why retire when you’re really living your ideal authentic self and life’s work? Think John Williams is going to retire and stop writing music? Think Oprah’s going to retire and crack open Coronas with Stedman on a tropical island she could buy for the rest of their lives? These people don’t need another dollar. They still “work” because they’re living their authentic selves, and IT’S NOT WORK—it’s fun, it’s play, it’s deeply meaningful and fulfilling.

 

So what is your authentic life’s work? We can define it as “What you would still do even if you weren’t paid to do it.” I know musicians that would still practice and perform, actors who would still act, writers who would still write and dancers who would still dance—paid or not. And day jobs are an interruption to what we’d rather do with our time and lives.

 

But some may ask (let’s call them the Consensus Chorus), “So why not just work for someone else and get paid for your creativity that way?” Fair question. Well, here’s the legal reason why that’s NOT the best way to gain the benefits of your talents and creative efforts over a lifetime…

 

Slavery 2.0

Laws favor the company over the individual employee. So WHEN YOU WORK FOR SOMEONE ELSE, YOUR CREATIONS ARE NOT YOUR OWN ANYMORE. THEY ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF THE COMPANY YOU WORK FOR.

 

In other words, everything you create working for a company becomes property of the company, not you the originator of the art, invention or idea. So working for Big Successful Company ain’t really no compliment now is it? You just continue to get paid hourly or get a salary and won’t make any royalties even if what you thought up goes on to make millions of dollars for the company. And you may not even get a big corner office and promotion out of it either. But the CEO, top management and shareholders will all get dividends and higher pay thanks to your ideas. Sound like the deal of the century?

 

No one would expect Tom Brady to work for $40,000 a year. He makes millions for the New England Patriots. Yet, the All Stars of the Creative Sector, (writers, animators, etc.) working for large TV, film & entertainment companies get paid slave wages compared to the company’s owners, upper management and top stockholders while making them millions of dollars from their work and ideas.

 

The copyrights aren’t yours, the patents aren’t yours, they’re the company’s. You become a non–entity in some Twilight Zone of creativity and inventions without what SHOULD be your legal rights and benefits as the creator/inventor.

 

Intellectual Property 101

Sucks eh?
I can hear Isaac Hayes in the “Theme from Shaft” say “”Damn right!!” from beyond the grave.

 

Say for example you create a new character for an animated movie that Disney will release. You and the other writer–animators came up with all these characters kids will absolutely love. There’s going to be ticket sales, soundtrack sales, DVD sales, and a global merchandising juggernaut up the wazoo: backpacks, sippy cups, stuffed animals, T-shirts, figurines, pillows, pajamas, blankets & bedspreads, gummi multivitamins, toys, toothbrushes, you name it.

 

The wake up call: You’re likely not going to see a penny above your normal pay from any of those sales because since you’re an employee, your ideas are owned by the company now and you’re in no position to negotiate from Cubicleland. You might get a small year end bonus for your hard work though which is more of an insult that what you and your ideas are really worth.

 

You may not even get bragging rights that you’re the creator of Marvelous Margay and Fantastic Ferret. If there’s a clause in your employment contract stating so about non–disclosure, you can’t even make your fame at conventions singing autographs and doing interviews on talk radio/TV shows or in print unless the company books it for you. Nope that’s for upper management to be drooled over as business wizards in newspapers, trade magazines and on esteemed panel discussions where everyone worships their “genius” over yours. The Stan Lee’s of tomorrow are anonymous.

 

And such animated characters really do go around the world. I’ve seen SpongeBob and Hello Kitty in several different countries that don’t speak English.




 

A Better Strategy that Compliments YOU

Better to work on such ideas OUTSIDE of your day job so you can sell the idea to a studio and make some real money—possible even the one you work for. More than that, you can earn your freedom to lead the life that’s more you as a creative person instead of punching a time clock for someone else. Most companies will only pay you enough to keep you showing up for work the next day.

 

It’s not fair to artists, inventors, innovators and creative people being used as “Financial Camels” to further carry and support top heavy management salaries and shareholders.

 

 

Most management type people aren’t the creative types the company is riding on the backs of but they’re making craploads more money than you. Why should they get paid more money than you? Do they really work a couple hundred thousand to a couple million dollars harder than you? Are their brains really a couple hundred thousand to a couple million dollars better than yours?

 

There is no real justification for the lopsidedness of pay scales. It’s a symptom of a sick society that doesn’t honor and award creativity and instead oppresses and corrals it so others benefit more than the originators. It’s like cattle being milked and sold for money, the privileges of wealth and freedom the cattle will never see.

 

Why is the pay scale so mediocre for most creative people who work for other companies? That’s how it’s been and will continue to be. I’m not betting Congress will grow a set to stand up against big corporate lobbyist money. Since laws will not change in your favor as long as you’re working for someone else,  work in a manner where Copyright/Intellectual Property (IP) laws work in your favor. For that, you have to make it on your own outside of putting your best efforts and ideas for someone else. You could be chewing saffron truffle quinoa Matsutake mushroom salad instead of hay.

 

Don’t set the bar too low for yourself just because of other people’s fears of making a living and lower standards for living a life more authentically you. That’s no compliment to yourself or your talents. And for that, you need freedom from 9 to 5 to do it. Your ideas and creations are your most valuable asset so don’t be so willing to give them away for pennies when they’re worth much more.

 

Look at The Blair Witch Project. I thought the movie was poorly made with a sparse script and plot. They only spent around $60K, which is low budget even for low budget independent films. Who’s laughing now though? To date, that first film has raked in over $250 million dollars worldwide. Not bad for only 8 days of filming.

 

Would you spend $60k for your freedom like that? They did and now they can do whatever they want for the rest of their lives. Good for them. Like the tattoo on John Wick’s back “FORTIS FORTUNA ADIUVAT” (Fortune Favors the Bold), working in Cubiceland isn’t being bold—it’s just playing it safe, and playing it safe only keeps you safe for so long. And our friend Mr. Wick being an A–list well paid designer tailored suit wearing hitman isn’t living his authentic self and life either. Even he wants to be free from working for someone else.

 

You can lose at playing it safe just as easily—perhaps even more easily since there’s more people in that boat versus the person who invents their own boat and becomes their own Captain.

 

 




Who’s George Lucas?

That’s right. See what we mean? You’d be asking that too if George started his career working for Disney. No one would know him by first name. At this point, there’s probably extraterrestrial civilizations that know who he is too.

 

Instead of working in a rookie pen for pennies on his imagination, he became a billionaire from his own creations and ideas and sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney decades later for a lot more than they would have paid him in wages/salary as an employee.

 

Who’s Bill Gates?

Bill too. If he tried to get the backing for his ideas on a new operating system with his superiors at IBM he may have gotten a grand old promotion and expanded his heirloom sweater collection with a slight bump in pay. But he wouldn’t have founded his own company, Microsoft, which IBM now buys products from. You can’t buy a megaphone like that to get your superiors to notice you when you’re working for someone else.

 

The best thing to do with success like George, Bill’s or Oprah’s is to nurture other artists/inventors/creative people with no strings attached financial support so they too can give their gifts to the planet. Venture capitalists are too attached to return on investment (ROI) within a timeline more aggressive than standard bank business loans. They often step on flowers they initially attempt and intend to water. I’ve seen companies go under once Venture Capitalists get involved. So it’s recommend to stay away from such money marionettes for your art, inventions or ideas, because guess who’s going to be the puppet in this relationship?

 

Real Compliments

I’ve gotten real compliments and they’re gold. They last and age like fine wine, increasing in both richness and potency. So when people see you and your art as valuable in itself, that’s a real compliment. When they don’t tell you you should to work for this company or that, that’s a real compliment. When they’re interested in your next project and tell people about you, that’s a real compliment. When they want to help you however they can to help your grow and promote your endeavors, that’s a real compliment. When they’re a legitimate fan of what you do, that’s a real compliment. When they’re happy to know you, that’s a real compliment.

 

Artists of the world need real compliments, not career advice from armchair HR directors.

 

 

Anything less is feeding you and your creative heart & soul to the sharks of the marionette marketplace. They’re forever swimming around Cubicleland, following the scent of money and new ideas from naive creative people to exploit for their own gain over yours.

And who wants to swim with sharks? You could be sipping an organic margarita with Oprah and Stedman on a financial island of your own creation.

 

© Composer Yoga

Resources for Artists/Inventors

US Copyright Office Website

https://www.copyright.gov/

 

Registration Fees—these are less expensive if done electronically online versus mailing your work(s) in:

https://www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html

 

There’s various kinds of copyright forms: Form TX, Form VA, Form PA, Form SE, and Form SR. The form instructions describe the purpose of each in more detail but here’s a brief explanation of what each is for:

 

Form PA (Performing Arts):

Screenplays, plays, musicals, dance,choreography, comedy, motion pictures, audiovisual works

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formpa.pdf

 

Form TX (Text):

Books, poetry, etc.

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formtx.pdf

 

Form VA (Visual Arts):

Photography, prints, sculptures, models, paintings, etc.

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formva.pdf

 

Form SR (Sound Recording):

Music, audio masters for CDs/albums, music spoken or other sounds by themselves not part of a larger audiovisual work

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formsr.pdf

 

Form SE (Serial):

Periodicals & serials, newspapers, etc.

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formse.pdf

 

 

 

Patents are done through the US Patent and Trademark Office. This is a more expensive and time consuming process. There are different kinds of patents as well.

https://www.uspto.gov/

 

Application Fee Info:

https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/fees-and-payment/uspto-fee-schedule

https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/fees-and-payment/uspto-fee-schedule#Trademark%20Fees

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Christmas Tree Pizza

Vegans rejoice in this Yuletide culinary cuisine…Behold:

 

CHRISTMAS TREE PIZZA

 

 

Ingredients:

Organic green peppers: Cut the tree out of a flat side of pepper.

Organic onions: Cut out the tinsel and star. You can also use any kind of cashew/nut/vegetable cheese.

Organic pizza or pasta sauce

Organic Sourdough Spelt crust (or use gluten free crust)

Use an X-Acto knive or another small sharp knife for better precision cutting.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to give Santa a slice!!

© Composer Yoga




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I Believe In Father Christmas: It’s Not Christmas Until Greg Lake Says So

Count me among the esteemed club that this is their favorite Christmas song of all time.

 

I like it even more than John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

Even more than Sir Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”

Even more than “Silver Bells” (made famous by Andy Williams then Bing Crosby) which I’ve performed with my Grandfather on vocals.

Even more than “Little Saint Nick” by The Beach Boys.

Even more than Wham’s “Last Christmas.”

Even more than other perennial pop favorites like Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree” and The Waitresses’ Christmas rock classic “Christmas Wrapping.”

 

Yep, I like all those quite a bit too so you know I’m not some morose Emo Shoegazing Scrooge when it comes to holiday music.

 

So why is Greg my YuleBox Hero? Because “I Believe In Father Christmas” hits deeper musically and lyrically than anything else I’ve heard. It’s truly a heavyweight Christmas song in it’s unequivocally arresting sincerity and thematic undercurrents. Let’s put a red nosed spotlight on this tune, make a list and check it twice.

 

The Greg Lake Effect

The haunting sincerity of Greg Lake’s voice was the first thing that captured my ear years ago. There’s a timeless quality to this song as if it exists outside any particular decade or time period. I’ve loved this song long before I understood its lyrics and meanings.

“I Believe In Father Christmas” paints frosted dreamy windows peering into canvases of Christmas pasts.

 

There’s a resemblance in mood and tonal sacredness to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarbourough Fair”, another song which has echoed in the recesses of my memories since childhood.

 

Greg Lake’s meditative ode on the Christmas Spirit stands the test of time exceptionally well—It’s just as pleasing for me to hear now as when I anxiously awaited the arrival of the traditionally pictured type II diabetic Saint Nick and gifts from his pint sized North Pole posse. And I wasn’t helping things leaving cookies.




Folk Sensibility

The folk sensibility of this song is palpably and unmistakenly devastating. It’s disarming, unifying and asks deeper questions beyond the reflexive shop and buy holiday routines. It dares to be confrontational and does so softly through a folk song.

 

“I Believe In Father Christmas” is folk singer Greg in his finest form just like on “Lucky Man” and “From The Beginning” with Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP). Other examples of his folk stylings include “I Talk To The Wind” and “Epitaph” with King Crimson.

 

It’s the same brutal honesty and unpretentious delivery to your ears that’s a Greg Lake trademark no matter genre he sings in. It’s a simultaneously therapeutic and cathartic craftsmanship of sound.

 

The acoustic guitar melody is a soft intimate fireplace and the deep synth bed that comes in on the second verse becomes warm grounding covers to tuck yourself happily under and let out sighs of relief, gratitude and contentment.

 

Greg’s heart piercing Psalm is undeniable. His vocals are a tuning fork of resonant re–centering for the all too common mindless treadmill stress paced lifestyles people accept as “normal” while drinking half their body weight in coffee before lunch.

 

Plus with the steroidal retail season which tends to overplay holiday music starting midnight on Thanksgiving, “I Believe In Father Christmas” is one of the songs I’m ALWAYS glad to accidentally hear in a store or on the radio:

 

Meanings and Themes

“I Believe In Father Christmas” was written by Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield, who wrote lyrics Greg sang with King Crimson and ELP.

 

As with these kinds of writer/singer relationships like Bernie Taupin and Elton John and Neil Peart and Geddy Lee, there often is not only a divergence of opinion, but a myriad of meanings. This happens because one person writes lyrics while another sings them so there’s a fusion of interpretations and meanings.

 

Sinfield wrote the lyrics about the loss of innocence and childhood belief towards Christmas. For Greg Lake, he sees and sings about the over commercialization of Christmas which drowns out the more elevated meanings of peace and goodwill towards everyone.

 

I can see both meanings in the song. The disillusionment is out in the open in Peter Sinfield’s lyrics yet it poetically walks the tightrope over the pitfalls of cynicism:

 

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin birth

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
’till I believed in the Israelite

And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
’till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

 

 

It’s a deceptively simple song when you first meet it—I appreciate it much more fully now having years of built up perspective to match it. The lyrics unravel wrapped up memories and allow the listener to superimpose a myriad of images from their own ghosts of Christmas past. This is particularly the case with the following verse:

 

I remember one Christmas morning
A winter’s light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

 




The Sting Effect

Call it the Sting effect. slipping in really brutal lyrics in an unassuming pop sounding song. The Police classic example being “Every Breath You Take.” Which actually, Greg Lake preceded it with “Lucky Man” over a decade earlier in 1970.

 

“I Believe In Father Christmas” opens itself up in layers over time. It connects on multiple levels as I experienced as I got older. It’s rare for a song that allows you to grow into it and unwrap deeper meanings and nuances. It baits you with multicolored hooks. It has a pleasant outer covering but then there’s some disturbing subjects inside which need deeper examination.

 

As with songs like these, the listener will shift to confront the darkness they elicit when they are comfortable doing so. The songs can be enjoyed and connect with listeners on multiple levels.

 

Universal Themes

There’s a lake of emotion behind what Greg Lake sings about and his vocals are only the release pressure valve. There’s something far more massive behind just the words that’s at stake. As he sings, he inverts one particular day to a universal, to a planetary level and not just the holiday of one particular religious faith.

 

Greg Lake’s normally upliftingly positive vocal affectation also tempers what could have been a sleighwreck of horror and nihilistic negativity in the hands of another less versatile vocalist. With Greg Lake, no matter how negative the subject matter, you could always hear the hope in his voice, the light inside dark places. This is especially the case with the closing verse and lyrics of the song:

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear

Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

 

This is the part of the song which has brought my eyes to tears. It’s the pairing of Greg’s singing and these words. Think of another vocalist who can sing these words and mean it like Greg Lake. It takes a singer the depth of Greg Lake to pull it off believably. He’s not flashy, he’s not the typical “rock star”, he’s a genuinely honest singer who lives inside what he sings.

 

The “I wish” verse is a beautiful prayer hidden in a pop song.  An overture to a larger common humanity that is beyond “isms” and temporary identities false distinctions.

 

It even has some Sergei Prokofiev (The Russian composer known for Peter And The Wolf) thrown in for good measure. The “bell melody” in between the verses is an excerpt from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite, which was Keith Emerson’s idea.

 

Prog Gnosis of Christmas

“I Believe In Father Christmas” was Greg Lake’s first solo track released in November 1975. The music video for the track was filmed in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt and also the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. There’s also footage of the Vietnam War which was still fermenting it’s bitterness into the global culture at large.

 

Like George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley’s “Last Chrismtmas”, “I Believe In Father Christmas” also went to #2 on the UK singles chart. The band that kept it from number one was Queen with their epic track “Bohemian Rhapsody”, another very early music video pre–MTV.

 

So what does Prog know about Christmas? It seems more than mere stocking stuffers for deservedly titled Godfathers of Prog Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield. Actually Sinfield also wrote a Christmas song for members of another legendary Prog band named Yes (bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White). The track is called “Run With The Fox” and is written in more of a lighter upbeat holiday vibe:

 

 




So if the Prog world is still waiting for Rush to weigh in on a holiday track, I guess we’ll all have to wait for
“The Christmas Spirit Of Radio.” In the meantime, here’s some winter safety tips fromGeddy Lee:

 

So  remember the message from Saints Peter & Greg in “I Believe In Father Christmas” and have the wonderful Christmas you deserve.  And try to deserve it more each year by shedding more light into darkness you find inside and out.

 

Because like the opening line in ELP’s “Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression Part 2)”, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside”, you want people to enjoy life with and have them be warm and welcoming towards you around the Holidays and beyond.

 

And hopefully for those of you who live in areas where weather permits, as Greg Lake would likely paraphrase, “See the snow, see the snow!!”

 

© Composer Yoga

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