What do you get when you cross U2 and Donald Trump?
Where the Tweets Have No Shame
© Composer Yoga
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© Composer Yoga
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© Composer Yoga
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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 Big, Madonna, Hysteria, 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.
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:
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 Spaceballs, starring 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”:
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:
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.”
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:
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:
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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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 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.
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:
“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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
“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.
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
Tickling the Ivories?
Well you can most certainly Shred on those venerable black and whites and this happened long before Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Rick Wakeman (Yes), or Keith Emerson (ELP) ever plugged into an amp. No siree, Shredding is not the exclusive domain of gutarists—Composers and Pianists Shred too. There’s some Shred to High Heaven here so let’s take a look and delve into some of the treasure trove of Piano Shred…
Frédéric Chopin was definitely a Shredder. Look no further than “Fantaisie–Impromptu” Opus 66. Case closed after this soundboard scorcher. You might want to soak your fingers in a bucket of cool water with lavender, chamomile and Epsom salt after playing it. This composition is TOTAL piano Shred then gets mellow in the middle, with an “Eye of the storm” arpeggiated legato melody and slowed tempo change evoking a delicate soft center amidst the frenetic fingerboard fusillades it’s famous for.
“Waltz in A Flat Major” Opus 42 is another marathon of Shred. The section after the opening trill of partial chromatic runs is a real finger tightrope walk and brain hemisphere head trip to play to say the least—more difficult than the multi octave faster part it leads into which sounds more difficult. There’s plenty of fretboard fireworks at the finale here so light fuse and duck behind your couch with the nearest spaghetti colander as a helmet.
Check out “Waltz in C# Minor” Opus 64 for more awesome arpeggios that melodically meander over minor and major scales after the opening section. Chopin unleashes cascades of broken chords like the musical equivalent of hitting Class V Rapids or going over Niagara Falls in a piano. Stand under the majestic waterfall of notes and get a rapturous Baptism of Shred.
“Waltz in D Flat Major” Opus 64 No. 1 is yet another Ode to Shred. Known commonly as the “Minute Waltz”, it was actually originally given the subtitle “Valse du petit chien” (The little dog waltz or Waltz of the little dog). It’s said Chopin’s inspiration for this piece was watching a little dog chasing it’s tail. The music publisher gave it the title “Minute Waltz” which was then misinterpreted: Meaning “Minute” as in small or miniature not a measurement of time. It’s NOT supposed to be played in a New York Minute—it usually clocks in at a minute and a half to 2 and a half minutes depending how many amphetamines the performer has ingested in the last 24 hours. Become a Waltz Whisperer by aurally connecting with Chopin’s inspiration and don’t forget the doggie bag.
Similar to it’s more famous Speedy Gonzales Waltz brother above, “Grand Valse Brillante in F Major” Opus 34, is another worthy contender in the Ring of Shred. Valse means waltz by the way, but who cares when our ears need more fresh squeezed Shred? The piece reminds me of going up the first incline section of a roller coaster then gaining velocity downwards and being flung through twists, turns, loops and corkscrews. You may need a doggie bag here too for different reasons.
The verdict here is Shreddingly clear: The “Poet of the Piano” was also a Shredder of the Piano. Frédéric Chopin Shedded when the piece called for it and had amazing compositional sense in it’s ideal placement and not to overdo flash and his technical mastery at the expense of the Almighty Melody.
Another known accomplice in the Romantic Period Posse was Franz Liszt, who was friends with Chopin. Liszt was probably a frustrated electric guitarist born too early as he loved to Shred. If he were alive today he’d probably be on a G3 Tour with Vai and Satriani. “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” in C# Minor is one of the gems on the piano to grace the planet. This is one of the only lengthier piano compositions where every part and section of it has become famous especially in cartoons. Even in the slower Lassan opening section Liszt manages to weave some Shred. This piece is chock full of rock star from marathon fingerboard runs to octaves banging like gavels in judgement for the Shred. There’s tornadoes of Shred all over the place, plenty enough make your Chihuahua hide under the couch.
Liebesträume No. 3 in A Flat Major (Dreams of Love or Love Dream) is another favorite to Shred Out to. This piece is often also spelled Liebestraum No. 3. Umlauts or not, Franz unpacks the suitcase of Shred in a killer cadenza section tossing tumultuous tidal waves of notes at your ears. It’s a torrential downpour you’ll want to get drenched in again and again. Get ready for a tasty melodic sandwich with some spicy Uber Shred in the middle.
Mozart regally Shredded in “Rondo a la Turka” (Turkish March) which is the finale section from “Piano Sonata in A Major” K. 331. The section immediately after the main opening theme is especially fun to play as it’s like being inside a fine precision Swiss watch, your fingers being the bronze gears spinning out the melody synchronized in harmony. It’s some of the finest Upper Crust Shred mine ears have ever had the pleasure of meeting at any Black Tie colonial white wig event.
The first “Van” to Shred was not Van Halen. It was Ludwig van Beethoven. The mighty composer Shredded in “Moonlight Sonata” and not the more well known slow arpeggio part (first movement) that you may have blasphemously heard as background music on sh*t like Hemorrhoid creme commercials (no pun intended). The famous slower excerpt that’s become known and performed as a solo piece is part of “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# Minor” Op. 27 No. 2 which is called Quasi una fantasia (Almost a fantasy). Listen to the THIRD movement of this sonata to get your Ludwig van Shred fix. This finale section is where Beethoven breaks out of the straitjacket and Shreds like a madman howling at the moon.
Sergei Rachmaninoff brought us the Red Shred from Mother Russia as did fellow composer comrade Alexander Scriabin whom we’ll no doubt cover in another edition. Some of Rach’s finest Shred moments can be heard in “Prelude No. 1 in C# Minor” Op. 3 No. 2, one of his most famous works. It’s a piece where your hands can easily get tangled up with all the block chords played by two hands overlapping each other. After the intro melody, there’s some schizophrenically cool Shred as Rachmaninoff pours eerie arpeggios into the ether like hes summoning Jack Nicholson to bust his head through your closet door screaming “Here’s Johnny!”
“Prelude No. 5 in G Minor” Op. 23, No. 5 is a playfully creepy syncopated Shred stroll through the woods. This composition has sections where Rachmaninoff delivers a pummeling beat down of block chord Shred, something he was particularly fond of. It’s more uptempo than the C# Minor Prelude and it’s many a cartoon super villains dream to have a piece like this as his or her theme song.
“Prelude No. 2 in B Flat Major” Op. 23 No. 2 takes it up a notch to Mach 2 or Rach 2 as the case may be. The main theme is a prime example of how the melody surfs a tidal wave of left hand Shred. It’s a beautiful showcase of regal imperial elegant Shred worthy of the Tzars.
Taken together, these are three of my absolute favorite Sergei Rachmaninoff compositions.
French composer Claude Debussy did Impressionist Shred. This is notably illustrated on “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from Children’s Corner. This piece is similar structurally to Chopin’s “Fantasie–Imromptu” mentioned earlier in that it hits you with a Wall of Shred initially then has this beautiful slower section in the middle to sip an afternoon tea to. Although “Clair de Lune” from Suite Bergamasque is perhaps his most well known work, Doctor Gradus is the one to call for a Shred Checkup.
While not intended to be played fast as he noted on published sheet music, the Godfather of Ragtime himself Scott Joplin also Shredded. Joplin came into greater deserved prominence with the 1973 Robert Redford and Paul Newman film The Sting. Composer/Conductor Marvin Hamlisch even won an Academy Award (Best Music, Scoring Original Song Score and/or Adaptation) for the soundtrack to the film which featured numerous Scott Joplin compositions.
Although not generally on the menu of the musical genre he helped pioneer, Joplin dished out some side orders of Shred. While “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag” are among his most well known compositions, the piece I most enjoy getting my Shred on is “Pineapple Rag.” Ragtime is structured into 4 choruses and the chorus that peaks the Shred-o-Meter is the third one. It’s a trip to Ragtime Shred Heaven.
Let’s not forget George Gershwin and Jazz Shred with that masterpiece “Rhapsody in Blue.” This is the piece that makes me wish Gershwin wrote more instrumental works to showcase the greater range of his talents instead of mainly writing songs with his brother Ira Gershwin for Musicals. Yes it’s understandable the Musicals payed the bills, but “Rhapsody in Blue” is his open canvas stream of consciousness meandering melodic Tour de force unrestrained by the structures of verse and chorus. Playful, elegant, and powerful, “Rhapsody in Blue” is the one piece that shows Gershwin DEFINITELY rubbed elbows with the Masters.
Well we hope you enjoyed this sojourn of Shred on the aural autobahns. Definitely some essential Piano Shred to add to your collection: A showcase of Shred for different moods and over different genres. Since I’m not waiting for Merriam–Webster, I’ll describe Shred this way: Shred is controlled melodic velocity that is musical and not simple hypersonic arpeggiated dexterity or technique masturbation. There’s a ferociousness to it when it hits the spot because composed well and executed properly, it evokes the “Holy Sh*t!” response. And by it’s fruits, Ye will know the SHRED.
© Composer Yoga
Count me among the minority who truly likes all genres of music and yes, no ones going to drive a bulldozer over my disco CD’s either. F*ck no. Not Donna Summer! Not Saturday Night Fever! I’ll be like the famous photo of the student in Tiananmen Square facing the tank. And a guitarist friend of mine who’s toured with Arlo Guthrie and other Folk legends like Willie Nelson will join me in solidarity and brotherhood here as he is a die hard Bee Gees fan too. So there. Say what you want about Barry Gibb’s “faggy falsetto” voice in misdirected machismo, he’s a great songwriter. Grease is the Word, brothers and sisters. Barry wrote that. See now you can’t possibly make fun of him out of ignorance anymore.
Okay. Moving on. Since plenty of my family and friends are 80’s freaks, I felt it appropriate to give out some suggestions for 80’s music lovers everywhere still lost in the land of Loverboy headbands. Which by the way yours truly has seen and they are fantastic as well as TONS of fun live.
Actually, the Archangel of 80’s music, Archangel Flockofsegulliel commanded me to enlighten the masses an iota (technically, more than a tad). So it is by Divine Decree I write this article. You’re probably asking “So how’s things in your padded cell?” Couldn’t be better. Cable TV, internet. Thanks for asking.
Anyhow, another reason that lead to this list was a musical comrade and I were talking about our Desert Island Discs, a concept of which has since been negated by the invention of the iPod. I then thought about the more obscure albums most people don’t know about from the era of music known as New Wave or 80’s.
My friend rightly calls The Cure’s Disintegration “a gift to Humanity.” Indeed, but the average 80’s fan knows about that album. I’m partial to the Cure’s Faith too. It’s got the grooves I need to “Let the coolness flow into our vertebrae” in the words of a Mel Brooks film History Of The World Part I.
In fact, years ago I developed complications due to wisdom teeth extractions. I got a post op infection and had to take heavy painkillers every 4 hours. I remember one night sitting in my living room after the painkillers whisked me away to groggy land while listening to The Cure. Boy did Mr. Smith’s music make so much sense to me then. It occurred to me that I was very near to the state most of it was written in and from. Robert Smith has stated he doesn’t remember writing or recording the Pornography album because he was so strung out on heroin. My friend does a fantastic Robert Smith impersonation of this interview blurb complete with the British inflection “That’s the album I don’t remember writing.”
In the same vein (pun intended), author William Burroughs doesn’t remember writing Naked Lunch, the novel which gave Steely Dan their name. Yes they remain the only Grammy Award winning act named after a dildo. So that said, let’s stop talking track marks and start talking tracks!
Worlds Apart (1981)
Heads Or Tails (1983)
Saga is an oh-so-underrated Canadian band that you should definitely know more about. This is intelligent yet danceable grooving Proggy New Wave from Canada. They do other things up there besides play hockey and drink Molson you know. Seems Billboard needs to be reminded that Canada exists from time to time. Listener’s also need to be tipped off that there are other acts from the Great White North besides Rush, Bryan Adams, The Guess Who, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Neil Young. Oh and surprise, that other band I mentioned earlier, Loverboy also wear maple leaf underwear too.
Saga is reminiscent of the Power Pop style of The Outfield but with way more keyboards. I put them in the same category as far as energy vibe and positivity goes. They have over 20 studio albums in their catalog and have been recording for over 35 years. They’re only a one hit wonder to boneheads who wait to be spoon fed singles by MTV, commercial radio and record companies . They won a Juno award in 1982 (The Canadian version of a Grammy) after this album dropped for Most Promising Group Of The Year. Our friends Loverboy still hold the record for 6 Junos in one year, so rock those red Mike Reno headbands with pride kids because they are indeed a symbol of Canadian recording industry royalty.
Saga had two singles released that got some airplay off of Worlds Apart, their 4th album: “Wind Him Up” and their biggest single “On the Loose” which peaked at #26 on Billboard. However, in “On the Loose” much of the instrumental solo section was chopped off to fit the anal retentive 4 minute radio decree from Mount Sinai which is of course the Eleventh Commandment. One hopes the karmic entertainment in hell people for such song sushi chefs consists of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring and the Grateful Dead among others. The Beatles fell from grace too with “Hey Jude.” Thankfully Saga was saved from eternal damnation here but you can hear the song in it’s entirety safely on the album.
Another track which I always groove out to on the album, “No Stranger” could have also been released as a single. But again, the slower intro/build section topping 2 minutes would have been seen as “dead space” to commercial radio and would have been chopped off by the radio station sushi chefs.
Another Saga album from the 80’s you should definitely own is Heads Or Tales. It perfectly showcases why I love the guitar player in this band, Ian Crichton. He has such a physicality to his licks, riffs and solos. Ian’s playing is very animated and slippery with notes and phrasing. Listen to my favorite tune off this album “Catwalk” for an example of this. There’s a visual animation to his style almost as if the music was made for a soundtrack to a film but can surely stand on it’s own without accompanying visual images.
By this I don’t mean overacted facial expressions, atomic windmills or overdone stage gestures. I’m talking about the Holy manipulation of soundwaves. The producer on these Saga albums was Rupert Hine. Yes, you may know the name from your The Fixx albums. What you don’t have any The Fixx albums? No Howard Jones either? You need remedial ’80s then. You can chew gum and throw paper airplanes in that course. This article is for those who know about the Journeys, Loverboys and Madonnas already.
For you ’80s 201 students, Rupert Hine is a Composer/Producer who has also recorded his own albums. They tend to be hard to come by. One of the songs you’re probably familiar with if you’ve seen a bunch of John Cusack movies is “With One Look (The Wildest Dream)” off the Better Off Dead soundtrack which plays during the end credits. This is a quirky classic 80’s movie I’ve seen probably 900 times:
“Go that way really fast, if something gets in your way, turn.”
See I told you. Rupert Hine wrote much of original soundtrack and the title track mentioned here features The Fixx vocalist Cy Curnin and guitarist Jaime West-Oram. A Saga track on Heads Or Tales that sounds like it could have just as easily been a Fixx tune or a Rupert Hine solo track is “Scratching The Surface.” There’s often a lot of “musical overlap” with Producers and the groups they write and work with, and you can get a decent 80’s Fixx (haha) with any of these.
A seeming technicality on the album release date of April 1979, but New Wave and the music considered ’80s actually started in the late 1970’s. Before you knew him singing about “Cars” Gary Numan was in this group. “Cars” is a classic 80’s track, a song where drums accent on the 4 and by a white British guy before 1980. Wow. I’m speechless.
Replicas is a science fiction epic which you can nicely zone out to. I heard this album on college radio and had to pick it up. Thanks WRPI!! College radio is a beacon of actual music variety even more so than internet radio which tends to be just one genre per station just like commercial radio.
Although Replica’s lyrics and themes are science fiction, don’t let that turn you off. It’s not inaccessible, overdone and definitely not 80’s campy (but still fun) as Styx’s Kilroy Was Here (Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto–Japanese for “Thank You Very Much…”). There’s some really cool keyboard work on Replicas as far as 80’s goes–several tracks on par or exceeding “Cars” in my opinion. That being because essentially Tubeway Army was pretty much all Gary writing. Some of my favorite tracks on Replicas are “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” which was released as a single and reached #1 in the UK, “You Are In My Vision”, “It Must Have Been Years”, and the bonus tracks off the 1997 and 2008 Beggars Banquet reissues “We Are So Fragile” and “We Have A Technical.” The 80’s synth on this album will put a Miami vicegrip on your eardrums.
Utopia was a project of Todd Rundgren, another writer/producer known for singing “Hello it’s Me” and “Bang the Drum All Day.” Don’t we all Todd. And what do Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell have in common? Todd produced those albums among others. Not too shabby for a boy from Pennysylvania hey? I guess Hall & Oates, Cinderella, Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) and Poison carried that states pride in the 80’s too.
Todd also wrote “Love is the Answer” and Utopia recorded it on Oops! Wrong Planet, then England Dan And John Ford Coley recorded it shortly afterwards and that’s the version everyone is used to hearing on the radio. Yup, the Carole King Effect strikes again.
The Carole King Effect: When you write a song, record it and later somebody else records it but makes 10 times the money you did.
Carole wrote it first dammit!! So if you want to protest outside BMI headquarters there’s some picket sign
Anyhow, 2 Utopia albums any 80’s collection is lonely without are Oblivion and P.O.V. Really any album by Utopia is worth checking out. Rhino records released a double CD a few years back called P.O.V., Oblivion & Some Trivia. It has both albums plus the 2 new tracks from the Trivia compilation album. This is a great starting point to get you into this under the radar late 70’s-80’s group. This CD is also worth it for the song “Fix Your Gaze.”
The 2 albums included on this release have some of the coolest Utopia songs on them. EVERYONE in Utopia sang lead vocals so you get a variety of singers and really fat full multi part harmonies. The musicians Todd had with him in Utopia were professional touring musicians and session players as well. Keyboardist/vocalist Roger Powell for one toured with David Bowie. Bassist/vocalist Kasim Sulton toured with Meat Loaf (bassist on the Bat Out Of Hell album), Hall And Oates, and Joan Jett (was a Blackheart). So I’d say there’s a tad more than garage band creds here folks.
Some of the tracks on these albums that rock 80’s style are “Bring Me My Longbow”, “Crybaby” ,“Welcome to My Revolution” and “Winston Smith Takes It on the Jaw” from Oblivion and “Zen Machine” and “More Light” off of P.O.V. There’s plenty of lost 80’s gold buried on these albums. It’s like totally an 80’s tragedy that NONE of the tracks off of Oblivion were released as singles. There’s some absolutely slamming uptempo tracks like the ones listed above as well as some amazing slower introspective tracks like If “I Didn’t Try”, “Maybe I Could Change” (which has a gorgeous piano arpeggio intro) and “I Will Wait.” Still, the album charted in the US at the number 74 position despite the lack of a single. If it had even one single, it would have climbed higher instead of getting lost in the oblivion of radio station shelves.
I’m not sorry I own any of these 80’s albums and you won’t be either. Mike Reno gives his blessing for you to own them as well. Some I found in bargain bins, which just goes to prove the old axiom one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and with music, one man’s earwax is another man’s earworm.
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Artists composed of elements and substances from The Periodic Table Of Rock (updated periodically)
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A list of songs on the palette making The Colors Of Rock (updated periodically)
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A list of artists who get their namesake from the Clergy, Religious & Spiritual Issues (updated periodically)
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