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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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Sound Mines: The Outfield “Taking My Chances”

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The Colors Of Rock: Songs

A list of songs on the palette making The Colors Of Rock (updated periodically)

18 Yellow Roses (Bobby Darin)
99 Luftballons/Red Balloons (Nena)
All Cats Are Grey (The Cure)
Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk (Dr. Hook)
Back In Black (AC/DC)
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown (Jim Croce)
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
Black Celebration (Depeche Mode)
Black And Blue (Van Halen)
Black Cat (Janet Jackson)
Black Cow (Steely Dan)
Black Diamond (Kiss)
Black Is Black (Los Bravos)
Black Night (Deep Purple)
Black Water (The Doobie Brothers)
Blue Collar Man (Styx)
Blue Eyes (Elton John)
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain (Willie Nelson)
Blue Jean (David Bowie)
Blue On Black (Kenny Wayne Shepard)
Blue Suede Shoes (Elvis Presley)
Bluer Than Blue (Michael Johnson)
Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
Brown Shoes (Frank Zappa)
Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones)
Caribbean Blue (Enya)
Crystal Blue Persuasion (Tommy James & The Shondells)
Colour My World (Chicago)
Desert Rose (Eric Johnson)
Don't Eat the Yellow Snow (Frank Zappa)
Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue (Crystal Gayle)
Fade to Black (Metallica)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
Green Earrings (Steely Dan)
Green Eyed Lady (Sugarloaf)
Green Green Grass Of Home (Johnny Darrell, Porter Wagoner, Bobby Bare, Tom Jones)
Green Light (Lorde)
Green Onions (Booker T. & The M.G.s)
Green Tinted Sixties Mind (Mr. Big)
Gold (John Stewart)
Golden Lady (Stevie Wonder)
Golden Slumbers (The Beatles)
Lady In Red (Chris Deburgh)
I Saw Red (Warrant)
Indigo Eyes (Peter Murphy)
It's Not Easy Being Green (Kermit the Frog)
Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (Brian Hyland)
Little Red Corvette (Prince)
Mellow Yellow (Donovan)
Men In Black (Will Smith)
Midnight Blue (Lou Graham)
Mr. Brownstone (Guns N' Roses)
Orange Crush (R.E.M.)
Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)
Pink Cadillac (Bruce Springsteen, Natalie Cole)
Pink Houses (John Cougar Mellencamp)
Purple Haze (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Purple People Eater (Sheb Wooley)
Purple Rain (Prince)
Red Barchetta (Rush)
Red House (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Red Sector A (Rush)
Red Skies (The Fixx)
Song Sung Blue (Neil Diamond)
Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree (Tony Orlando and Dawn)
Touch Of Grey (The Grateful Dead)
True Blue (Madonna)
True Colors (Cyndi Lauper, Phil Collins)
Still Got The Blues (Gary Moore)
White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)
White Room (Cream)
Yellow (Coldplay)
Yellow Flicker Beat (Lorde)
Yellow Submarine (The Beatles)

© Composer Yoga

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Rock/Pop Finance: Songs

A list of songs that draw their name from the world of finance (updated periodically)

Bitches & Money (Master P featuring The Real Untouchables)
For the Love of Money (The O’Jays , Utopia)
Gold (John Stewart & Stevie Nicks)
Last Dollar On Earth (Utopia)
Lawyers, Guns and Money (Warren Zevon)
Money (Pink Floyd)
Money For Nothing (Dire Straits)
Money Talks (AC/DC)
Take The Money And Run (Steve Miller Band)
The Big Money (Rush)
Rich Girl (Hall & Oates)

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Hair Metal Heaven: Cinderella “If You Don’t Like It”




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Ah, one of my favorite deep cuts of Hair Metal. This is Hair Metal having a bad hair day. This is Hair Metal Sweeney Todd would rock out to while practicing his horrific handiwork. If you've only heard Tom Keifer wail away on Cinderella singles released to radio, you'll be pleasantly pleased with this ear shattering escapade in E mixolydian. "If You Don't Like It" delivers bluesy banshee riffs with Tom's trademark sonic screams galloping on an uptempo iron horse.

 

"If You Don't Like It" is a track off Cinderella's sophomore album Long Cold Winter released in 1988. Long Cold Winter reached #10 on the charts and went double platinum by year's end. The album produced the Hair Metal classic "Gypsy Road" and the power ballad "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)" which holds as the highest charting single for Cinderella reaching the #12 slot. Long Cold Winter also included the singles "The Last Mile" and "Coming Home" which just edged in the top 20. "If You Don't Like It" is a fun FU song in the tradition of The Eagle's "Already Gone", Billy Joel's "My Life", and Metallica's "Escape." Tom Keifer carried this grand gospel of youthful declaration of independence to Hair Metal.

 

I don't need anyone
To tell me how to run my life
Got along alright so far
I don't really think I need to hear your advice
I've got my mind made up know what I wanna do
I'll do it anyway I choose
So just sit back shut up for a minute let me show you what I'm gonna do

 

Funny how a band name like Cinderella began in a location not exactly red carpet velvet rope glass slipper territory. Guitarist Tom Keifer and bassist Eric Brittingham met in a bar bathroom on Halloween in 1980. There's an "I Just Knew" tale that could stack up to the best of those relationship and wedding story TV shows. Actually Keifer and Brittingham had also revolved through the same Philadelphia area band Saints In Hell earlier.

 

We can't talk about Cinderella without mentioning fellow brotherly love band Britny Fox. Britney Fox was formed by 2 former Cinderella members: Guitarist Michael Kelly Smith and drummer Tony Destra. It's a Hair Metal fairy tale of the birth of 2 bands like Metallica and Megadeth minus the some kind of soap opera monster of drug abuse that always upstages people's lives.

 

Just over 2 hours outside Philly in Mechanicsburg, yet another 80's Hair Metal band was cutting their chops on nightclub stages before relocating to L.A.: Poison. Across the state line just south of the PA border in nearby Hagerstown, Maryland, Kix was blowing fuses in the club circuit. This general area was at the crosshairs of the east coast Hair Metal invasion. A decade earlier, the Philly area sprouted some Hall & Oates, who became one of the most successful duos of all time. Afterwards acts out of the Philly area that achieved prominence were R&B/Soul/New Jack Swing group Boyz II Men and Trance Fusion/Jam band the Disco Biscuits.

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There's several vocalists in the Hair Metal Howler club I get my regular guilty pleasure fix along with Tom Keifer: "Dizzy" Dean Davidson of Britny Fox and Steve Whiteman from Kix. They continue the vocal styling of 70's rock bands like AC/DC, Aerosmith, and Nazareth which Tom Keifer could easily go back and time and fill in on a gig for Dan McCafferty singing "Hair Of The Dog" and only Dan's mom would probably notice.

 

"Nobody's Fool" firmly established Cinderella in the subgenre of pissed off maverick glam as their flagship song from their debut album Night Songs which reached the #13 position. The noble tradition continued on Long Cold Winter with "If You Don't Like It":

 

Take it to your heart gonna tell ya from the start
Gonna send a word or two your way
So just sit back take a ride on your pony
It'll all come back to you one day

 

There's so many cool parts to this tune: The strummed chords in the intro and overlaying spacious atmospheric whammy bar work, the main riff which becomes the bedrock for the chorus, the pulsating driving rhythm in verse like a steaming locomotive loaded with boxcars of boiling beratement, the slinky blues based snub your nose dalliance of the prechorus. There's even a Jon Bon Jovi sighting at the end of this clip if that's not enough:

As to Cinderella, the band had more in common with her maid rags as the preferred "Royal Ball" stage fashion during the 1980's than fairy tale footwear. Tom Keifer prefers wearing snakeskin boots when strolling down Gypsy Roads anyway, and if you don't like it, he's gone on record here on the probability of a care package arriving during a Long Cold Winter in Hell.

© Composer Yoga

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Going Solo: Iron Maiden “Caught Somewhere In Time”




I discovered Iron Maiden totally by accident. Up until that time I was listening to bands like Van Halen and Def Leppard and that was as "heavy" as I was getting as a preteen. No heavy petting or heavy metal quite yet. I was still usurping my older brother's music collection and whatever I could forage on local rock stations. Pyromania and 1984 were played to death in our bedroom. I remember Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry and Quiet Riot's Condition Critical vibrating the stereo speakers often and somehow our parents were "able to take it"---that being when Dee Snider aurally materialized as an uninvited house guest. Perhaps the fact that our bedroom was on the opposite side of the house as theirs had something to do with it. When we moved to a bigger house after I entered 7th grade, I began working out in the basement and had just a bare stereo on our second freezer along with my workout albums. Old school Rocky Balboa approved. Okay, it did look nicer than Clubber Lang's apartment. But I was having a hankering for heavier stuff to get the Eye Of The Tiger amidst the sound of Leppards.

 

Back then, Judas Priest was the only "really" Metal band that actually got airplay on the Classic Rock radio stations I listened to where I grew up. It seemed if you had two guitarists, it was "too heavy" for a standard Classic Rock station. It's as if there was an "Elevator Weight Capacity" for bands not to exceed a set number of pounds---4 band members: okay, 5 band members: Holy Crap, it's Metal! Of course there were exceptions. Bands that had 5 members (and 2 guitarists) and passed through the Rock Radio Checkpoint Charlie were The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bon Jovi, and .38 Special, all of which were never considered Metal. The subject matter of a band's songs was a deciding factor in if they were considered Metal or not. Because if you're Metal, you don't write whiny ass songs about relationships. At least that's the way it used to be before Hair Spray and Metal met in a Paul Mitchell salon somewhere west of the San Andreas Fault in southern California. I see a children's book in the making right there.

 

Back to my Maiden voyage. For someone who didn't have a learner's permit yet, I was at the mercy of other people who knew how to drive. And with that, used to go to backyard parties with my older brother and his friends or some of my older friends. It was at one of these backyard evening parties standing around a fire where the serendipity of discovering Iron Maiden happened. I wish I could say Eddie appeared and we roasted marshmallows by the fire from his long scrawny fingers, but this was more towards the Pabst Blue Ribbon spectrum of soirees than Burning Man peyote fest.

 

Somehow several adult beverages landed in my hand and my new friend buzz and I were digging all the rock tunes playing on the stereo blasting raccoons back to the nosebleed seats at the edge of the woods. I remember hearing the words "Deja Vu" on one of the songs. That was all my brain cells bathed in Bud or some other cheap beer could recollect the next day anyway. And with the finest Sh*tfaced Sherlock Holmes determination for solving "The Case Of The Mystery Song" in someone's back yard I didn't know and cannot remember, I set out asking "Hey, who sings a song called 'Deja Vu.?'" I got a lead on this band called Iron Maiden. I then set out to canvas some stores and look for what album the song was on. With the sobriety of Sergeant Joe Friday, a few Iron Maiden albums later (or so I thought), I found it---Somewhere In Time had a track listing of "Deja Vu." It also had amazing Science Fiction cover art (inspired by Blade Runner from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and since I was a huge fan of Star Wars growing up, that sealed the deal. I took Somewhere In Time to the register and with that, owned my first Iron Maiden album. And to this day it's still my favorite.

 

The opening track "Caught Somewhere In Time" just blew me away---Bruce Dickinson's vocals were crazy good, like one of his parents had sex with an amplifier good. I kept having "Holy Crap" moments---this was the first Metal album I actually owned and knew I was hooked for life. I was so blown away by all the songs I'd heard before "Deja Vu" (the second to last track) that I didn't even care it WASN'T the song my drunken ears heard at that party mentioned earlier. Turns out, I found out later the lyrics were actually "Danger---" and it was the the song "Danger" by Motley Crue off Shout At The Devil. The sustain and vocal effects when Vince Neil sings the word "Danger" sounded like "Danger....ooooh" which my slurried braincells misheard as "Deja Vu":

 

Danger
You're in danger
When the boys are around Danger
You're in danger
And this is my town
This is Hollywood

"Caught Somewhere In Time" for me was one of those solos that makes you want to become a guitarist. It shows how much fun you can have on a guitar, how freely you can launch energies from your fingertips and dance across the fretboard like a Whirling Dervish. I was just starting to play guitar and "Caught Somewhere In Time" blew my (back then) short hair back like the famous Maxell "Blown Away Guy" ad of the dude sitting in an easy chair listening to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" which conveniently blows a glass of wine to him:

The "Blown Away Guy" moment I had was hearing solo #2 by Adrian Smith which begins at the 4:05 mark continuing to the 4:50 mark:

The solo ends with a recapitulation of the opening fast tempo riff heard first at the :53 mark. Iron Maiden switches keys often in songs and the solo baton passing between the two guitarists is no exception.
Dave Murray leads off with his slippery bluesy frolic in B flat then Adrian Smith punches it into orbit with this masculine metallic montage in G. The driving ascending staccato triplets across the neck and legato two handed tapping are the solos highpoints for me. You can almost hear the Silverback gorilla.

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At times I reflect how long I've come since buying that album and listening to it in my bedroom as a teenager. If someone were to have told that teenage me that I would someday see all the places I would, I probably would have thought they were talking about someone else. Like "Wasted Years", I saw those cities go by in the night, went from coast to coast of the United States, flown over a few of those "seven seas." On whatever journey, I was always packing Metal, packing Somewhere In Time to listen to. Towards the end of the final track on Somewhere In Time, "Alexander The Great," there's the verse lyric:

 

The battle weary marching side by side
Alexander's army line by line
They wouldn't follow him to India
Tired of the combat, pain and the glory

 

As if the Somewhere In Time album were a personal prophecy or subliminal travel itinerary, I even visited India and got my Indiana Jones on. Years before going to to other side of the planet (which is brutal jetlag), I had tickets for John Williams Night at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox Massachusetts. It's been a Tanglewood tradition where Williams guest conducts a program of his greatest hits: Jaws, E.T., Superman, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc. At one point, Chewbacca and Darth Vader got on stage with Maestro Williams, but unfortunately you cannot conduct an orchestra with a Light Sabre. It was called the Electric Light Orchestra not the Electric Light Sabre Orchestra there Darth.

 

So there I was, visiting ancient temples all over southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu, which actually sounds like a planet in a Star Wars movie. I was even in a tiger preserve in the mountains and walked out a Survivor. And as for "Jedis", Tamil Nadu is famous for producing more Saints and Realized Masters (Advanced Yogis) than any other location on Earth. On the other hand, Gary Indiana is famous for producing more serial killers (which happens to be a Maiden song and earlier album) than any other location and also The Jacksons for some Thrilling reason. In India, my eyes met the sacred Mt. Arunachala (pictured on the package of some Organic India products), the mountain where Carl Jung spent over a month traveling on steamships just to see in his lifetime. Jung pioneered the concept of Synchronicity which was the title and inspiration for the incredible final album by The Police, which has the tracks "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II" (the tune where Sting is yelling in the intro).

 

So sometimes mishearing lyrics can be a good thing. People mishear lyrics sober so accidentally discovering Iron Maiden was either some jolly good luck or Divine intervention of the Metal Gods. These days the Pope drinks more than I do (My Metal collection is WAY better than the Pope's though). But "Caught Somewhere In Time" is still one of my favorite Metal solos of all time---it's even among my favorite solos of all time. I've since listened to this album on 4 continents, numerous times at 30,000+ feet, watching mountains, plains, oceans and coastlines below me; In and through several countries, dozens of states, countless miles of Interstates, slicing across the country in the night; and also countless nights peacefully lying down in bed falling asleep to it. Somewhere In Time is like a companion I've taken with me in life on the leash of my iPod.

 

Some people don't "mellow with age" as far as their musical palette and tastes go. We just expand in both directions of harder and softer to integrate more of the whole. I still love Metal and know I could listen to it in my 80's, 90's and past 100. I'll never outgrow it and will definitely look better than Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie, who at some point I'm betting will look better than Keith Richards (heroin will steal your youth, health and possibly your life folks---it's taken too many musicians far too early). I just know wherever in time I'll be, I'll want Metal beside me within earshot. I've come to realize I exist "Somewhere In Time" and with music, I'll always have a portable home. And YO ADRIAN!!!

© Composer Yoga

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Nobody Told Me The Zen Of John Lennon

Sarasota Florida is home to several famous things: The Ringling Circus empire was headquartered there. It has a white sand necklace of beautiful keys off it's shore where you can drive from just north in Bradenton to Anna Maria island (AKA Anna Maria Key), onto Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach then onto Longboat Key down to Lido Key (perhaps do the Lido Shuffle if you want to get your Boz Scaggs on) and onto St. Armands Circle Key, Coon Key, Bird Key then back to mainland Florida in Sarasota. And just to the south is one of my favorite white sand beaches in the country, Siesta Key. I worked several weddings in the Sarasota area as Florida is one of the destination wedding locations in the United States. As an added bonus, you don't have to risk the retinal roulette of seeing an Elvis impersonator in a Speedo. The King did eat in a small restaurant there though so maybe that already happened.

 

Sarasota has one of the Unconditional Surrender sculptures by Seward Johnson located downtown. The 25 foot (7.6m) sculpture is in the likeness (but not an exact rendition) of the famous V--J Day photo taken in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor bent over kissing a nurse in the street. Sarasota was also the place where the In Cold Blood murders documented by author Truman Capote took place and of course where Pee Wee Herman was caught masturbating in an adult movie theatre. And speaking of Johnsons, it's also home to AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson and his wife Brenda. (I'll get working on my Segue Of The Year acceptance speech a bit later).

 

Sarasota is also home to the 3rd oldest automobile museum in the world: the Sarasota Classic Car Museum. The oldest car museum in the United States is the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan; The oldest car museum in the world is the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, Germany in case you're having flashbacks of ZZ Top videos, Beach Boys tunes or old school Grey Poupon commercials. And speaking of Grey Poupon, the museum has John and Mable Ringling's Rolls Royce collection. There's a DeLorean like in Back To The Future though not as pimped out like Doc Brown's packing a flux capacitor. And Oh my God!, it has a Ferrari worthy of Thomas Magnum's Hawaiian print shirt and Jonathan Higgins' legendary high waters (a 308 GTS). All in all, the museum has more than 75 automobiles spanning over 100 years of automotive history under one roof. Perhaps the most famous however are 2 vehicles owned by John Lennon: his blue 1965 Mercedes coupe which he owned in England (the steering wheel was built on the "British" side by Mercedes), and the last car he ever owned, his white Mercedes station wagon which was "the Lennon family car." As I touched that car, I imagined seeing John and Yoko in it with Sean riding in the back. It was a connection to music history and to the man who wrote a song I remember loving as a kid long before I knew who he was---A song released years after his death and ironically, one he didn't intend to be the vocalist on.

 

"Nobody Told Me" was recorded during the Double Fantasy sessions, which turned out to be Lennon's best selling solo album. John Lennon would never see the success of it though---he wouldn't be there to receive his Grammy for Album Of The Year in 1981 either. Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman on December 8th, 1980 just 3 weeks after Double Fantasy was released. "Nobody Told Me" was in songwriter's limbo for several years as Yoko Ono mourned the death of her husband. In fact, "Nobody Told Me" was written for Ringo Starr as a track for his solo album Stop And Smell The Roses which was released the following year in 1981. Lennon intended Starr to be the vocalist and sang the song as a guide vocal/scratch track for Ringo to later re--record the song. But after Lennon's murder, Ringo chose not to include the song on his album.

 

In 1984, Yoko Ono released a collection of material recorded during and after the sessions for Double Fantasy called Milk And Honey, which became John Lennon's 8th solo album. So the version of "Nobody Told Me" that was released was essentially a demo by John Lennon for Ringo. Nobody noticed. Nobody told me it was only a demo. Even so, "Nobody Told Me" become the third single to break into the top 10 posthumously for John Lennon, it's highest chart position reaching number 5. The UK had to wait until 1990 for "Nobody Told Me" to be released there (this was before the internet became a daily necessity). Two other songs from the album, "Borrowed Time" and "I'm Stepping Out" were released as singles and overall, Milk And Honey reached #11 on the US album charts.

 

One of the things that grabs me about the song is it has some interesting lyrics:

There's Nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs

 

Huh? Nazi plumbers? I never knew this was what the lyric actually said when I was a kid hearing it on the radio. Some biographical info being John Lennon grew up in World War II England during Nazi attacks by the Luftwaffe and long range rockets. His middle name was Winston as in Winston Churchill, who famously made his "We shall never surrender" speech before the Battle Of Britain in 1940. Iron Maiden sample this speech as the intro to live versions of "Aces High", a track on their 1984 album Powerslave. Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill had a huge impact on British history last century and it's not surprising John Lennon bore the tribute in a middle name by his family. Even today, there's a bronze statue of Sir Winston in the park next to Big Ben and Parliament. The middle name happened to be a premonition as a few decades later, John himself became a "Sir" in 1965 though he returned his MBE medal (Members of the Order of the British Empire) a few years later to the Queen due to his protest of British support of the Vietnam War and Nigeria's Civil War (which was symbolic as doing so has no effect on your MBE status).

 

"Nobody Told Me" is probably the only top 10 pop song which mentions Nazis in the lyrics. Another similar reference that comes to mind is David Bowie's (and Iggy Pop's) 1983 single "China Girl" which charted at #10 and mentions "Visions of swastikas in my head":

I stumble into town just like a sacred cow
Visions of swastikas in my head
Plans for everyone
It's in the white of my eyes

 

John Lennon and David Bowie became friends after the breakup of The Beatles. Lennon, Bowie and Carlos Alomar (who was later in the band Arcadia, a Duran Duran side project) wrote "Fame" together which appeared on Bowie's Young Americans album and became his first #1 single in 1975. Lennon played guitar on the track. Lennon and Ono had December 9th tickets to the play The Elephant Man on Broadway which David Bowie was starring in. So did Mark David Chapman. Bowie was on Chapman's hit list as well. Bowie performed the show that night with 3 empty seats in the front row. John Lennon was a victim of fame; David Bowie almost was too.

 

"Nobody Told Me" also mentions the capital city of Nepal, Katmandu:

There's a little yellow idol to the north of Katmandu

This puts it in the company of a few other songs which mention the exotic locale: Bob Seger's 1975 single "Katmandu" off Beautiful Loser, and the 1976 Rush single "A Passage To Bangkok" off 2112:

Pulling into Katmandu
Smoke rings fill the air
Perfumed by a Nepal night
The Express gets you there

Lennon wrote this lyric about the yellow idol in the poem The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God by J. Milton Hayes. In contrast, Rush is singing about enjoying sampling fatties the world over making "A Passage To Bangkok" a kind of THC Tour on a Rock 'N' Roll rickshaw.

 

But the most interesting reference in the lyrics is actually based on a true story:

There's UFOs over New York and I ain't too surprised

Back in 1974, John Lennon and then companion May Pang (still in his "Lost Weekend" phase separated from Yoko) saw one from their terrace overlooking east New York. They had moved back to New York from California and rented a penthouse on 434 East 52nd street. The circular object was floating over the city within a hundred feet away from them. Lennon told photographer Bob Gruen (who took the famous "New York City" shirt photo of Lennon) who later called the local police because Lennon didn't want to for obvious reasons. The police informed Gruen that there were 3 other reports of the object. The Daily News printed that 5 people reported seeing the object near where Lennon and May Pang had their apartment. Lennon "officially" documented his sighting in the liner notes of Walls and Bridges released later in 1974:

"On the 23rd August 1974 at 9 o'clock I saw a U.F.O. - J.L."

UFO's were also showing up in lyrics in the 80's. Greg Lake sang of them in "Touch And Go" off the 1986 album Emerson, Lake & Powell:

All systems go friend of foe
You're caught up in the middle where the four winds blow
Come without a warning like a U.F.O.
You're runnin' with the devil it's touch and go

Many people claim to have seem UFO's---what makes John Lennon's sighting unique was that he was naked at the time. Would the Air Force have to file those under "Project Nude Book?"

 

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"Nobody Told Me" was written by a more mature John Lennon who was in a much better headspace. It's a happier side of Lennon---it's the Lennon who's dealt with some of his his demons, a Lennon who's accepting things in life, a Lennon with greater perspective.

 

Lennon's early life wasn't a fairy tale like the Fab Four Fantasy the world cast him and 3 others into. His father left them then came back into his life and forced John to make a decision between his parents as a 5 year old. As a result, young John Lennon became a troublemaker in school, acted out and was jealous of others who had a stable family. Later on this factored in his competitiveness with Paul McCartney and him not being the greatest father to his first son Julian since he had no good role model himself. The worst tragedy of his youth happened when he was 17: Lennon's mother was hit by a car and killed. Lennon was still grappling with these issues when Hurricane Beatlemania made landfall in all their lives.

 

During his Beatles tenure, Lennon became a proponent of peace partly to confront things about himself he grew to no longer like and approve of: His anger, chauvinist attitude, and violence against his first wife Cynthia. This was written about in the Beatles song "Getting Better" off of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967:

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved
Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene
And I'm doing the best that I can (Ooh)

 

After The Beatles broke up, Lennon's past wounds had an open calendar to come to the forefront. His heroin addiction, problems in his marriage with Yoko, led to him going to California kind of like the Led Zeppelin song with an aching in his heart. Lennon went with his assistant May Pang (whom he was having an affair with Yoko's knowledge & blessing) for what was later known as his "Lost Weekend" which amounted to a year and a half "college drinking binge" with singer Harry Nilsson (famous for "Everybody's Talkin'", 1969).

 

Lennon came out of the "Teenage Wasteland Woods" of the early 70's a different man as can be heard in his later solo works. These were the first songs I came to know John Lennon as an artist: "Woman", "(Just Like) Starting Over", and "Nobody Told Me."

 

"Nobody Told Me" is a deceptively light, playful tune. The bounce in the verse makes you think it just came from a 1950's trampoline (perhaps on that DeLorean mentioned earlier). That swing and bounce on "Nobody Told Me" match the bass thumbprint of the guilty party, session ace Tony Levin. Levin recorded several monster Art Rock albums with Robert Fripp in King Crimson in the 1980's among them Beat, Three Of A Perfect Pairr and the amazing compound melodic intricacies of Discipline. Levin's contribution to this John Lennon tune just demonstrates how Musician's Musicians can rock a pop song and make it even better.

 

"Nobody Told Me" uses a series of images like Sting later used to great effect on "King Of Pain." Lyrically, it's a word/concept play with imagery of dichotomies and contradictions. It's like a Zen tale and narration of the human condition and observing society with a degree of detachment. It poses contradictions of human behavior to ponder over like the famous Zen koan (a paradoxical anecdote used to meditate beyond the logical mind), "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

 

Word play and concept play are literary devices no stranger to poetry and lyrics. The Byrds "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (originally written by Pete Seeger---verse taken from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, 1st 8 verses of the 3rd chapter) released in 1965, and Pete Townshend's "Face The Face" released in 1985 off of White City: A Novel are some ancient and modern examples of this. "Nobody Told Me" is most similar in concept though to Howard Jones' "No One Is To Blame" (Dream Into Action, 1985) where both begin by proposing an activity/event then a corresponding contrast, failure or denial.

 

Regardless of the problems and torment he encountered in his personal life, there's a joy, happiness in this song I always loved. It's present in the lyrics and especially the strummed chords after both choruses that sends me soaring. It's the part after John sings:

Strange days indeed -- strange days indeed

Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama

This is the emotional center of the song for me. It's the part that caught my heart as a kid, it's the part that exhales into the comforting vastness of existence.

 

After his death, John Lennon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: In 1988 for The Beatles and in 1994 as a solo artist. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987. As a kid I heard his songs. As an adult I walked across Abbey Road and touched John Lennon's last car. That's about as full circle as I'll ever get to John Lennon. But music is an intimacy that doesn't recognize time or space---on some level we've already met.

 

Music brings needed levity to the world and reminds us on deeper levels that we are more than we think we are. The beauty of music is you can do this with a few chord combinations and it will have meaning beyond the songwriter and the song---it will affect people you'll never meet, affect them in ways and depths beyond your understanding, and affect them long after you leave the planet. Music is ALWAYS more than the sum of it's parts. If you listen closely and repeatedly, you can hear whispers of something beyond. There's a bit transcendence embedded within even simple pops songs and I'm convinced "Nobody Told Me" is the sound of one Beatle clapping.

© Composer Yoga




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Air Mattress Blues (Blues Parody Song)

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Woke up 1:30 AM
My back was sore
Air mattress deflated
And I hit the floor
(spoken): There’s an active volcano with your name on it air mattress

 

The cards seem stacked against me
Why can’t I ever win?
Did I commit some
Snoreiginal sin?
(spoken): I was looking for a Bed Zeppelin air mattress not the Hindenburg. I didn’t see anything about beer farts in the instructions

 

Well, sleep roulette ain’t for me
I’m a strait shootin’ guy
You’re the Count Dracula of sheep
And a Franken Lullaby—look out!
(spoken): I’m gonna defriend you on Facebook air mattress…creep on someone else’s wall not my bedroom floor


So I return one again
Back to the store
I never thought I’d become
Such an air matttress whore…ohh Lawd
(spoken):I give you plenty of crack air mattress and you still don’t put out. Have mercy

 

My alarm clock walked out on me
Hit the snooze bar down the street
I found a Dear John letter
“You don’t need me, you need sleep”
(spoken): There’s gonna be some Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in your future air mattress. I got friends in blow places

 

Well its no fairy tale ending
How I turned and how I tossed
You told me such lies
On the front side of your box
(spoken): Correct me if I’m wrong but “Impermeable” ain’t talking about no new hairstyle now

 

Should I throw you over a cliff?
Or burn you at the stake?
Is there an air mattress abyss
For keeping this po’ boy awake?
(spoken): Johnny Sleep Depprivation is gonna be my new stage name. I may have to take some of my guitar’s AMPhetamines

 

Do I call for a priest
Or get some Craigslist exorcist?
I can’t take anymore
Of these Zombie morning hips
(spoken): I’m gonna bury you at sea in a rip current air mattress—hope you can swim. Now you know how I feel. Even David Hasselhoff can’t save ya now

 

So I call up the company
A desperate man without a bed
Customer service confirmed
What the air mattress autopsy said
(spoken): What’dya mean that model has no warranty? I don’t weigh anywhere near 300 pounds. Does the word starving artist mean anything to you? So let me get this straight…they can build a wall that stands a couple thousand years but can’t make a lasting air mattress?

 

Well it’s all been as fun
As staples in my ass
But I don’t need no one to take me
To any air mattress rehab
(spoken): How about some romantic camping outside Niagara Falls air mattress? Spend some quality time together

 

I was down on my luck now
Living back in the skids
Who’s gonna want a single white blues guitarist
Who can’t get no gigs??
(spoken): I’m leaving you air mattress. This relationships not gonna work because YOU don’t work. Say hi to some class 5 rapids then go suck on the Hoover Dam there air mattress

 

Well hell may freeze over
And pigs may someday fly
But I will forever be
A Single Airmattress Guy—whoa no
(spoken): How’s that for a lifetime SAG card air mattress? Oh I’m full of hot air? It’s because of you air mattress…and I’m gonna huff and puff and blow this house of cards down

 

(spoken): Air mattress…you picked the wrong dude to mess with—blow on this  [guitar solo]

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[Interlude]

Now I lay me
Down to sleep
I pray the Lawd
My air mattress don’t leak

And If I should pump
Before daybreak
I pray the Lawd
James Hetfield won’t litigate ohhh no

(spoken): I’m goin’ to Enter Sandman on you air mattress. I’m gonna be your worst nightmare. It’s gonna seem like Rambo sells Girl Scout cookies

 

So I—go to my cupboard
Grab my Bowie knife
Cut you up on the side
And make you my shower’s wife
(spoken): Yah I’ll get some use out of you yet air mattress!!

 

Now you been crucified
On my bathtub cross
I was an air mattress Judas
For all the sleep that I lost
(spoken): It’s a resurrection. Hallelujah—vinyl ain’t dead! It’s like the Shroud of Snorin’

 

Well those days are gone now
It’s all in the past
Now I’m shacking up
With a sexy yoga mat!!!
(spoken): Once you have mat you’ll never go back

 

We’ve been goin’ on strong now
Gettin’ real tight
I’ve even been doing
Downward–Facing Dog at night—yah
(spoken): How’d ya like me now air mattress?

 

Now it’s always my big spoon
Holds me up just so right
I give my mat some ass
Each and every night
(spoken): You coulda had this air mattress

 

So I learned to forgive
All the times I’d been played
You still get to see me nude
Take a leak and while I shave
(spoken): How’s that for a golden shower there air mattress? I guess we can live hap–PEE–ly ever after. Good times

 

My new old lady sticks with me
She don’t need no diamond ring
She’s made of a word
Too long for me to sing
(spoken): Polyurethane wanna cracker? This white boy gives it away now—Ya hear?

 

She’s waiting at home for me
Cushions me with delight
You might say we’re a Dream Team
Like KITT and Michael Knight
(spoken): Aw yah, it’s like turbo boost sleep—no Jack Daniels necessary. It’s black mat–gick

 

Now it won’t be a hole–ly
But a silent night
So take it straight from me
This sound sleep advice
(spoken): I’ve been catching my ZZZss without you air mattress…it’s Facebook official. My yoga mat’s mojo’s workin’

 

[Ritard]
(spoken): How about one of them ritarded endings?? Aw yah!!

© Composer Yoga

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Closet Singles: Alan Parsons Project “Can’t Take It With You”

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When I was a kid my mother always played the radio in the kitchen when she was baking things. One of my favorite desserts was her recipe for “Peanut Butter Swirl Bars”—think Reeses Peanut Butter Cups with an increased decadence factor: LOTS of chocolate and peanut butter mixed in a wheat flour base then topped off with what else but chocolate chips. The batch was baked in a Pyrex glassware oblong baking dish then cut into brownie squares hot from the oven. With these squares, I didn’t stop at just one. I definitely was that dude who DID eat just one Lay’s potato chip (my kid civil disobedience to their advertising slogan “No One Can Eat Just One”) as my sister can verify. With the sugar/carb content of this favorite homemade treat, nowadays it would be a recipe for ADD—but for me it became a recipe for APP—the Alan Parsons Project.

 

The Alan Parsons Project was a “studio band” like Steely Dan with writers/composers Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson at the helm. They met in the cafeteria of Abbey Road Studios as both worked there; Woolfson as a session pianist, Parsons as an Engineer/Assistant Engineer. Although Alan Parsons worked with notable acts like Ambrosia, The Hollies, and Al Stewart, he firmly secured his place in recording history as Assistant Engineer (AE) on The Beatles albums Abbey Road and Let It Be. And if that isn’t good enough for Archangel Tapereel, Alan Parsons WAS the Engineer on the classic Pink Floyd concept album Dark Side Of The Moon, which became one of the best selling albums worldwide and consistently ranks as one of the greatest albums of all time regardless of any self–congratulatory vainglorious revisionist history on the part of Kanye West. Another thing worth noting is how the iconic over art on Dark Side Of The Moon had to factor into the Alan Parsons Project album title Pyramid that the subject of this Closet Singles is about.

 

When I think back to being a kid, it was kind of strange how I loved listening to music but didn’t start buying it until later. Reruns of Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry cartoons gave me my love for classical music (It’s not like my father was known to whip out the Stradivarius after dinner). I wasn’t even aware what genre of music Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry were grooving along to was called. I also used to draw all the Peanuts characters—Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Woodstock and others. I loved the Charlie Brown TV specials and had no idea what I was hearing was called “jazz” piano (outside of Schroeder’s Beethoven worship). Call it what you want, it was all just music to me. *Insert Tesla song here*

 

It was in this orange kitchen (unknowingly an optimal color to encourage appetite) where my ears were being fed without being relegated to “sloppy seconds” or “leftovers from the eyes” from watching TV in the living room. To this day, I’m still a radio junkie—I’ve since graduated to internet & international radio but still play local stations all the time at home and wherever I visit and travel. Maybe someday we’ll be able to get some extra–terrestrial stations and hear the “Proud Marys” of other civilizations which would be sent through space more powerfully than their more melodically dense & complex classical music thanks to the profit motive of commercial radio. Their entire solar system is probably tired of hearing their periodic NPR fundraisers as well.

 

Like one of my friends says, “We’re Ear People” meaning musicians tend to have hearing as their dominant sense (or one of their main dominant senses) and learning style. With me, it’s to the point I can hear higher pitches than most people’s range of hearing. My ear brother has the Rain Man savant skill of being able to approximate the dimensions of a room from hearing a clap in it over a phone. Too bad there’s no game shows or carnival openings for that.

 

In a sense we’re all “ear people.” That is, at least in utero. The French ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) Doctor and researcher Alfred Tomatis was known for the theory “The ear grows the brain” and that incorrect hearing is a primary factor in many conditions related to speech, learning and emotional health. His theories of hearing and listening are known as the Tomatis Method or Audio–Psycho–Phonology (yet another APP). Some notable musicians who’ve received treatment and benefitted from the Tomatis Method include Sting and Opera legend Maria Callas.

 

Hearing is the first sense that comes online in utero—the auditory input actually grows the brain. Sound is energy, sound is food. Music builds neural connections and enhances intelligence with exposure to increasingly more complex sound patterns. The brain on music is like “let’s arc weld some new neurons and have a conference call with the right and left hemisphere.” Listening to music is like that Pink Floyd laser light show going on inside our heads and leads to more whole brain oriented functioning. Musicians develop interstates as a Corpus Callusom (the band of nerves connecting the hemispheres of the brain) not the “Country Roads” biology gave us anymore. Guess what I’m doing now? Listening to music while I write—it’s perhaps the best compliment and springboard to any creative endeavor. The interesting thing is how other people seem to lose this auditory dominance once their sense of touch and sight become the “new toys” biology leaves for us under the Christmas tree of life.

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Back to that orange kitchen. My mother was far from a punk rocker—her name is nowhere even close to Sheena. Then again Sheena Easton wasn’t a punk singer so maybe that Ramones song should be taken with a grain of salty tasting Doc Martens. The station she liked was a local independent AM/FM station that played soft rock and adult contemporary radio favorites until the next ice age. Mom didn’t ride a Harley (my music teacher on the other hand yes) nor was she rocking out to AC/DC like my siblings and I—and making up our own lyrics because we couldn’t understand anything beyond Dirty Deeds…

 

From that kitchen radio, my ear developed a fondness for the Alan Parsons Project, Toto, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan among numerous other bands and songs. I wasn’t aware at the time that this was some very well crafted popular music. I didn’t even find out what most of these songs were called until years later. Some of the songs I remember hearing during these kitchen table top ten sessions were “Hey Nineteen”, “Eye In The Sky”, “Africa”, “Minute By Minute”, “Rikki Don’t Loose That Number”, “Games People Play”, “What A Fool Believes”, “Rosanna”, “Don’t Answer Me”, and of course “Peg.” I wasn’t aware Steely Dan was considered jazz pop or the Alan Parsons Project was called Prog or Progressive music. Nor was I aware many of the same musicians played on these songs via the incestuous family of A list session musicians.

 

I just soaked up all these songs sitting at the kitchen table while drawing, making things out of modeling clay, building models, sorting baseball cards, or playing with my chameleon. My brother did like the Culture Club hit “Karma Chameleon” but neither of ours was named Boy George. We also thought the lyrics were Come–a come–a chameleon… Flash forward to adolescence. It was here I started getting deeper into all these bands that I’d only heard a few songs from on the radio and doing “musical archeology” to catalog all these songs and bands I’d heard as a youth. Being a piano student, it’s cool how you can appreciate music on deeper levels with more musical knowledge—like how the main opening melody line in “Eye In The Sky” is in the locrian mode—rarely used in pop music (The song itself is in B minor). Alan & Eric snuck that in like 11th hour Congressional legislation.

 

Later on with bands I played “My Old School”, “Kid Charelemagne” & “Reelin’ In The Years” and in private would tear into “Peg”, “What A Fool Believes”, “Do It Again” and “Minute By Minute” as often as possible. As a teenager I started working as backstage/technical crew for an area dance company. Here I was exposed to even more kinds of unique pieces of music and compositions. When I heard something I liked, I’d ask what the song was and who wrote it. One show the dance theatre did choreography to the Alan Parsons Project instrumental “In The Lap Of The Gods” off the 1978 Pyramid album. I bought that album and it became my new favorite for quite some time. Even today it’s like visiting an old friend whenever I give it some ear time.




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Pyramid is a concept album based on the Pyramids on the Giza Plateau in Egypt. It was nominated for a Grammy in the category “Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical” in 1978, the same category Alan Parsons was nominated for years earlier with Dark Side Of The Moon. Deja Vu all over again—both albums having Pyramids in common.

 

Alan Parsons Project used several vocalists depending on the particular facet the song required. Their vocal stable read like a who’s who of United Kingdom pop singers. Among the Alan Parsons Project speed dial vocalists were Colin Blunstone of The Zombies (famous for the 1964 hit “She’s Not There”) and Scottish solo artist Chris Rainbow. Blunstone did lead on “Old And Wise” (Eye In The Sky) and “Dancing On A Highwire” (Amonia Avenue); Rainbow did lead vocals for “Snake Eyes” and “Gemini” (The Turn Of A Friendly Card) and “Since the Last Goodbye” (Amonia Avenue). Also of note, Gary Brooker from Procol Harum (known for the 1967 hit “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”) sang lead on “Limelight” off the 1985 album Stereotomy.

 

However, the two most well known Alan Parsons Project lead vocalists are the following:

Eric Woolfson—the “Jon Anderson” and “Sade” of Alan Parsons Project. Eric has the breathier more spiritually cosmic inclination and nuance as a vocalist. He sung on several of the APP’s most popular singles: “Time”, “Don’t Answer Me”, “Prime Time” and “Eye In The Sky”, the band’s most successful single ever. Another feather in the cap for Eric was “Closer To Heaven” (Gaudi) was used in an episode of Miami Vice.

 

Lenny Zakatek—the “Jon Bon Jovi” of Alan Parsons Project. Lenny sang the more uptempo rocking tunes like “One More River” on Pyramid and a few years later on another of their flagship tunes “Games People Play” off their 1980 album The Turn Of A Friendly Card. Lenny started out as a R&B funk blues singer with the British band Gonzalez who are best known for their 1977 disco hit “Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet.”

 

Alan Parsons & Eric Woolfson worked with a diverse group of singers and touched on so many different styles & genres they could’ve brought Gollum in for a session and made something precious. The lead vocalist on “Can’t Take It With You” was Dean Ford. Dean’s street pop creds originate with a band called Marmalade, which he co–wrote and sang lead on their 1969 hit “Reflections Of My Life.” Dean Ford is like a blended combo of Eric & Lenny for singing this more uptempo ethereal oriented prog rock tune:

Why “Can’t Take It With You” was never released as a single is beyond me. It could possibly have put the Alan Parsons Project on the mainstream map sooner than “Games People Play” and “Time” did. Another connection to Dark side Of The Moon here being both Pink Floyd and Alan Parsons Project had singles called “Time.” The Jukebox Hero in my head tells me the track “One More River” could have been released as a single as well. “Can’t Take It With You” has elements of new wave but in a much more orchestrated manner, the signature of APP style prog. And there’s just a great positive vibe throughout this tune like you’re on a karmic train ride through time.

 

The opening high pitch keyboard solo in “Can’t Take It With You” reminds me of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” off his album City To City which also came out in 1978 like APP’s Pyramid. “Baker Street” is where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B and also where one of Gerry’s mates lived. Rafferty’s “Baker Street” is perhaps best known by it’s signature haunting sax riff in A minor which structure wise, becomes a chorus—a chorus theme placement without accompanying lyrics. This hook even made The Simpsons in the episode called “Lisa’s Sax.”

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The song’s subject matter pertains to non–attachment so even Buddha could rock out to a tune like “Can’t Take It With You.” I always liked the nicely metaphoric verse lyrics right before it transitions in tempo and the chorus musically and visually “opens the sky up” in the song:

 

But the boatman won’t be waiting
And he’s leaving here with you.

And the boatman’s getting restless
As he stands upon the shore…

 

The “after” chorus (or secondary chorus) part creates a deep introspective mood with a motion. Although a bit hard to discern at first, the high range “chanting” vocals after Dean’s “Can’t Take It With You” chorus are One more mile, one more road, one last bridge, one less load.” These are the same lyrics contained in another song on Pyramid, “One More River” sung by Lenny Zakatek. Such repetition of a theme is a hallmark of a concept album. Contrary to pop music teachings, you actually DO need an education to perceive this so pay no attention to that mantra on other Pink Floyd concept album The Wall.

 

“Can’t Take It With You” is an amazing song—great guitar riff, great groove, cool oozing bass line, nice counterpoint, hauntingly evocative vocal melody and arrangement, great chorus breakdown, well placed tempo changes that elevate and intensify tension and resolution, tasty thematic opening & outro solos, plus it’s 15 minutes less than most prog tunes. Why wasn’t this track a match made in Radio Heaven? I do my nightime meditation to “Can’t Take It With You” often. It’s in my iPod meditation mix of songs that are conducive to slower brain waves like alpha, theta and delta. And played on replay, it often gets me into a deep state of relaxation like a bubble bath for the brain. Actually, Pyramid is an ideal album for this in it’s entirety. The overall vibe of it is so relaxing I’ll often fall alseep listening to it with headphones. The other instrumentals “Hyper–Gamma Spaces” and the opening track “Voyager” are far from Pyramid filler as well—they’re solid tracks which create interesting vivid aural imagery.

 

So all those years ago as a kid I discovered how peanut butter and chocolate went great together. I also accidentally discovered how modeling glue and the Alan Parsons Project went well together too. Maybe that’s why I have boxes of model kits I never actually finished. Blame it on Testor’s model cement. As an adult, the Games People Play I plead guilty to would be taking a jolly good stroll on “Baker Street” in London, crossing the Holy sidewalk of Abbey Road and visiting Santa Barbara half hoping to bump into Alan Parsons as he lives there. Okay, so Santa Barbara, AKA the American Riviera, was also home to health pioneer Paul Bragg who was a big influence on my diet, health and lifestyle in terms of fasting and eating clean (pesticide, chemical & GMO free) Organic food. These days I don’t go near junk food, processed food, nor succumb to any of those dietary sins committed in my youth and college years (flashbacks of cheap instant Ramen noodles in styrofoam containers with a week’s worth of sodium in every cup). I’ve redeemed myself from Pop Tart purgatory, became a renunciant of the Reeses, and layed the Lay’s to rest. Good practice with the art of detachment because You “Can’t Take It With You.” The thing that hasn’t changed is I’m still a music lover and still love the Alan Parsons Project…and may never get out of rehab for mixing peanut butter and chocolate. Oh and one last connection to Dark Side Of The Moon: Same Bat Time Same Bat Channel, or adjusted for the recording arts, Same Track Time Same Track Channel—Both albums were recorded by the same engineer and in the same recording studio—Musical Archeological proof that Pyramid builders originated from Abbey Road.

© Composer Yoga




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