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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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Closet Singles: The Outfield “New York City”




“New York City” is a gorgeous textural track off album Replay from The Outfield released through CD Baby in 2011. The album featured all 3 original members reunited after recording three albums together back in the 1980’s—back when MTV actually played music videos all day and had VJs (Video Jockeys) like Adam Curry and Martha Quinn (remember them?). Replay was also the final studio album from The Outfield as guitarist/songwriter John Spinks died of liver cancer in 2014. And not because of any “Jagger Level Lifestyle.” Spinks always made a point to separate The Outfield from the decadence and excess that plagued numerous bands stating in interviews they weren’t into smoking and drugs. Definitely a minority in a business that caters to extended adolescence with hall passes for juvenile behavior, and absolution of responsibility necessitating the periodic ass wiping for adults to keep the money train going. A business filled with SWAT teams (Special Wipeup Ass Team) of legal “Clean Up” specialists kinda like the Harvey Keitel character “The Wolf” in Pulp Fiction. As a band The Outfield were more emotionally and psychologically mature and this can be “heard” and perceived in their music. “New York City” is no exception even though the lyrics in the last verse are about one of the most tragic moments in pop music history.

 

The Outfield were a band out of Manchester England, the prototype lineup of John Spinks, Tony Lewis, and Alan Jackman played together in an earlier band in the 70’s. Punk rock was on the rise in popularity in England at the time and the band called it a day. Guitarist John Spinks continued recording demos by himself and put a deliberately dumb sounding band name on them called “Baseball Boys.” He got the idea from a then recent film called The Warrior (like the Scandal song) which had a gang in it called The Baseball Furies. People he took the demos to liked what they heard and wanted to see the band live. Small problem—there wasn’t a band or other “boys” besides John. Spinks then regrouped (a true ‘Get the band back together’ Blues Brothers moment) with bassist/vocalist Tony Lewis and drummer Alan Jackman. After signing with Columbia Records, their manager suggested they pick a different (and less lame sounding) band name so they went with The Outfield.

 

If you’re a fan, you know The Outfield has a trademark signature sound that’s saturated with positivity. It’s a quality they have in common with bands like Toto, Boston, .38 Special, Journey, Mr. Mister (of whom Spinks was a fan), and Night Ranger. This holds still regardless of the subject matter of the song or lyrics which goes to show that intention does indeed come through in music. The Outfield toured with bands like Journey, Starship & Night Ranger so there’s also some truth to pairing bands by their vibe and the intention they put out. On the other hand, their positive vibe was why they wouldn’t have succeeded with a Punk audience in their early days and why they took a decade off in the 90’s when Grunge came crawling out of the woods near Seattle wearing OSHA approved lumberjack work shirts. While some of their British contemporaries The Fixx and Duran Duran were big in England and America, the irony of The Outfield was they were never really successful in their native England. But they were huge in the United States and have a decent fanbase in other countries like South America. Sometimes you really can’t control where your fans are or even if they speak the language your songs are recorded in, but fans are fans and music is the Universal language.

 

“New York City” evokes the sense of wonder and an aura of awe being inside a manmade canyon creates. I shuffle through memories looking out on balconies in several boroughs at the forest of skysrapers. I grew up a few hours from New York City and almost moved there—to Queens actually. I have friends from there: one who opened for Duran Duran and one who was an earlier drummer for The Beastie Boys when they were more of a Punk band. They played in bands that took the stage at places of the Ghost of Music Past like CBGB’s.

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Certain songs are more “visual” in nature and it’s interesting to see what file cabinets of your life they’ll open. A lot of impressions come to mind when I listen to “New York City”, a song which I often listen to coincidentally on replay. A mixed montage of memories surfaces: Visiting my cousin when he lived in Brooklyn Heights watching the conga line of aircraft landing and taking off from his apartment that seemed hanging from some unseen ceiling in the sky. I remember being in Times Square and how it seems “smaller looking” in person. The slideshow in my head forwards itself further through cellular celluloid: Going to trade shows at the Javits Center, meeting a friend and hanging out in Park Slope, taking the commuter rail to attend Brazil Day in Manhattan; Visiting Little India in Jackson Heights and thinking of Adam Curry for some reason; Being in Grand Central Station as a kid for the first time; Navigating the NYC subway system which isn’t as clean or easy to navigate as the Paris (Metro), Berlin or London underground; Video taping a show at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, the same venue people like Bob Dylan, Woody Allen and Simon & Garfunkel performed early on in their careers; Walking on Lexington Avenue where Marilyn Monroe famously demonstrated her new anti–gravity dress (actually it was over a subway vent); Making the Punk pilgrimage to Queens, the home turf of The Ramones (there’s also a Ramones Museum in Berlin I found accidentally while doing photography around the city). I even toured MTV studios—but all I found were the chalk outlines of Adam Curry and Martha Quinn. Yes, video killed the radio star, and reality TV killed the Video Jockey. I do hope Adam Curry found a fortuitous post–MTV career as Daryl Hall’s stunt double.

 

Big yellow taxi’s
Driving over the fifty–nine bridge
Into a jungle
Where reality don’t exist

 

The lyric here refers to the Queensboro Bridge. Simon & Garfunkel also wrote about this NYC landmark in “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” which is better known by it’s chorus “Feelin’ Groovy” since they never mention the bridge directly in the song. Fellow New Yorker Billy Joel also filmed the video for his 1985 single “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)” on the 59th Street Bridge. Superhero the Piano Man saves the day by preventing a teen from jumping off the 59 bridge or maybe he just wasn’t paying attention while playing Pokémon GO:

“New York City” starts off with a technique similar to the Genesis song “Follow You, Follow Me” then opens up into a kind of fusion Reggae groove. The intro also reminds me of a slower tempo cousin of Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally.” Spinks was a skilled and underrated songwriter—writes great hooks, big catchy choruses and doesn’t overplay as a guitar player. Leaving space in a song allows it to breathe and engages the listener to a deeper introspective intimacy. The layered melody has elements of ambient music and the “echo” in the guitar line gives it a trailing off into the distance Doppler effect feel. This part of the guitar riff reminds me of an old school 1960’s British police siren responding to a shaken martini at the Bond residence or being called for backup for some Beatles stuck in a TARDIS after a hard day’s night.

“New York City” is an impressionistic pop song that turns multi–dimensional when inside your ears. There’s a brief solo and Spinks has the sensibilities of U2’s The Edge as he floats notes over the songs canvas with minimalist precision. The Outfield released the singles “California Sun” and “A Long, Long Time Ago” off of Replay but “New York City” is more than worthy to bounce off the ionosphere as well (that’s Shakespearean techie talk for being played on radio stations):

Spinks uses guitar textures to paint a spectacular laid back landscape piece. It nicely contrasts the *actual* pace of New York (land of the infamous New York Minute) as it’s more of a dreamy, almost aerial view of the city as the chorus lyric is “New York City, New York City, New York City, looks pretty at night.” The quiet beauty of a city seen from above, seen from a distance. I pair this lyric with images of taking off and landing at JFK, points of view from skyscrapers, walking at street level soaking up the skyline, the “solitude” of being on a rooftop with friends at night.

 

The final verse in “New York City” alludes to John Lennon—specifically his murder in the city he loved and hoped to become a citizen of:

No double fantasy
Someone just waved you goodbye
On a street corner
Your stairway that led to the sky

 

Spinks was very influenced by The Beatles and some production work on Replay was done at Abbey Road Studios. Double Fantasy was John Lennon’s last completed studio album. I remember hearing songs from this album as a kid as my brother really liked “Just Like Starting Over” so I heard it before I knew who John Lennon or The Beatles were. I always dug how John kinda morphs into Elvis in the beginning of each verse. Years later, I played the track “Woman” in a classic rock band, another single from the Double Fantasy album. Other notable singles from Double Fantasy were “Watching The Wheels” and “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”, a song Lennon wrote about his son Sean which also happens to be one of Paul McCartney’s favorite songs written by his former bandmate.

 

As John and Yoko were returning from the Record Plant Studio on December 8th, 1980, Lennon was shot in the archway of his residence The Dakota by a deranged fan who got an autograph from him earlier that day. Assassin Mark David Chapman actually flew to New York earlier that year in October to kill Lennon but for some reason decided against it.

 

The title of the song also merges with the last verse with one of the most famous pictures of John Lennon: Bob Gruen’s iconic photo from 1974 with John Lennon wearing a wife beater that said “NEW YORK CITY.” Gruen bought the shirt for 5 bucks from a street vendor and they tore off the sleeves. The photo was taken on the roof of Lennon’s 52nd Street penthouse. The irony being a simple cheap “homemade” shirt became way cooler than more expensive clothing with brand names and logos strewn and flaunted across them.  It also showed how a famous person in a cheap T-shirt can itself become a T-shirt. The “New York City” photo was taken after Lennon returned from his “Lost Weekend” which refers to his separation from wife Yoko Ono. The “Lost Weekend” was in actuality a year and a half of partying with singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson (famous for the Grammy winning single “Everybody’s Talkin'” featured on the soundtrack of Midnight Cowboy) in southern California. Lennon came back to New York City to patch things up with Yoko and return to the city he came to love and embrace as his new home. It was this “New York City” photograph that Yoko chose to be the centerpiece at the vigil in Central Park following his death.

 

Although Replay was the final studio album from the original trio, The Outfield did write new material after 2011 which may be released in the future. Like any group, they probably have a backlog of “outtakes” and unreleased songs as well. John Spinks may have left the planet but the energy that was John Spinks still oscillates here in songs like “New York City” and thankfully we can still enjoy John and John both on Replay.

© Composer Yoga

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Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”

If you’re a fan of the classic Prince sound congealed with his backing band The Revolution, you’ll definitely appreciate this lesser known track off the Parade album.

 

Released in 1986, Parade was the 8th studio album by Prince and also the final one with The Revolution. Tracks like “Mountains” are prized audio real estate since his passing for fans to nostalgically travel back in time to the 1980’s on a purple motorcycle.

 

“Mountains” starts off with the familiar Linn LM–1 drum machine used in several earlier Prince hits like “1999” and “When Doves Cry.” This drum machine was also used by other artists in the early 80’s as it popped up on Billy Idol albums as well—Say for instance, if you’re going to be dancing with yourself, you’ll probably need a drum machine.

 

“Mountains” was written by Wendy & Lisa with Prince which demonstrates just how much The Revolution was the integral formula that produced the classic 80’s Prince sound which reached it’s commercial peak with Purple Rain.

 

Prince’s earlier solo records didn’t have the same “real world” orchestration as when he was backed by The Revolution. Being a multi–instrumentalist although impressive, it’s still ALL YOU playing every instrument and this can be perceived by other musicians and astute listeners. Having other musicians play and collaborate with adds an additive synergy one person cannot create by themselves alone.

 

Case in point, Steely Dan could have recorded everything (keys, bass, guitars) by Walter Becker & Donald Fagen and used an electronic drum machine. Instead they hired the best A–list studio musicians in the business which made all their albums sound all the more varied than if the two did everything by themselves. That’s how one band can turn into and sound like a handful of bands with the same 2 core members.

 

Thankfully Prince realized this after a few solo albums as well. That he could still record all by himself in his home studio and also with a band. Each has it’s pros and cons but having both puts more globs of color on a artist’s creative palette. Then there’s the blatant reality that if your’re going to play out and perform live, you cannot just be a studio band—you’ll have to have an actual band so you might as well have a group of other musicians to bounce ideas off.

 

Another thing is you can only overdub yourself so many times before it becomes overkill and listeners want to hear another biological entity vocalizing something—like that chimpanzee in the beginning of Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” for instance.

 

Outside of Freddie Mercury and Brad Delp of Boston, there’s not too many singers that still sound cool nuanced and interesting overdubbed 20 times. Having two or more vocalists creates tension and resolution within a song and having male and female vocalists adds another layer to the audio onion. Prince nailed this concept on “1999”; If only one vocalist sung the entire song it wouldn’t have had the same impact and appeal. There’s not too many songs like “1999” that use 3 vocalists to split the verses.




“Mountains” only reached the #23 slot on the US Billboard charts, but it’s definitely a buried track in Prince’s catalog that deserves greater recognition. The earlier single released from the Parade album “Kiss” became more popular having become a #1 hit. However, I prefer the groove and mood of “Mountains” as it has more emotional depth and introspection than “Kiss.” It holds up better for me during repeated listenings and on replay which helps to “get inside the song” and integrate a song into your life.

 

“Mountains” is a “sister synth” song to “1999” and “I Would Die 4 U.” It uses the same Prince falsetto we all know and love as in “Kiss” but it’s a more seriously toned falsetto instead of a “playful south enough of lecherous” for AM radio one. “Mountains” is the track where Prince unleashes his full array of vocal tricks. It has the trademark Prince Wooo!! like on “Let’s Go Crazy”, the Owww!, and the Purple Banshee Screams like on “When Does Cry”:

 

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Guitars and drums on the 1 Huuuh!!!

“Mountains” is my favorite song off the Parade album and the track I listen to most frequently in several of my iPod mixes. Plus I always dug the lyric “Once upon a time in a haystack of despair” in the song’s second verse. It evokes a cool jagged image where I wonder why any metal band hasn’t jumped on writing a song called “Haystack Of Despair.” If there’s a “Harvester Of Sorrow” according to Metallica, then it follows logically there should damn well be a “Haystack Of Despair” right? Nuff said.

 

“Kiss”, with it’s stylized falsetto, is like a hybrid pop/novelty song—it’s like Prince walked the fence between those two genres on that track, which isn’t surprising as he was never the poster boy for musical purists. He lived to experiment in the Paisley Park fire pit and create new sound stews. And besides, blind obedience to purism and “genre parameters” makes for a lower ceiling on Creativity. And that leads to starvation like what’s whispered towards the end of “Mountains” before the fade out. If there’s Diamonds And Pearls and Gold Experience in them there hills, my ear definitely hears some Purple Rain in them “Mountains.”

© Composer Yoga


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Stages Of Relationships According To Pop Songs

Get Happy with HeartMath Transformation Systems




Boston had a Third Stage. Def Leppard had Stagefright. Funkadelic took it to the stage. Rush exited Stage Left. But from the hallowed halls of Psychology, it’s generally agreed that there are 5 stages of relationships.

 

Citing the work of Dr. Susan Campbell and as a musician, Psychology student and armchair musicologist, I came up with the exciting new field of Pop Song Psychology which coincides consummately with the social conventions of dating and relationships. I’ve researched and discovered there are numerous pop songs that correlate to mainly the first 3 stages of romantic relationships.

 

Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are”, obviously written in the ROMANTIC period of a relationship: Stage 1. Here no one has flaws, everything’s just perfect. It’ll never end. How lucky they are to have found Mr. or Ms. Right. You’re far from “Movin’ Out” yet.

 

Billy’s Ode to Stage 1 has outlasted the 2 months to 2 year average duration of the Romantic Stage oh just by a few DECADES.

 

More songs praising this idealized stage include:

“Every Breath You Take” by The Police albeit disturbingly from a stalker’s point of view. There’s also “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey and “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen. Co–-dependency is rampant in this stage, even put on a pedestal to demonstrate how much in love the new couple really are. The couple believes they can’t live without each other even though they got along just fine for a decade or more before they knew each other existed. “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow is a song that should definitely check in to Co–-Dependents Anonymous. It’ll probably check in as a double CD set though.

 

“Jesse’s Girl” by our pop star peeping tom Rick Springfield is an interesting twist on this. It’s about a guy jealous of a couple in Stage 1—his homeboy Jesse and his new girlfriend or shorty. If Rick waited a bit for things to run their course, he may just have “Jesse’s Girl” although he won’t win any Grammy Awards for discreetness. The upshot in it for us is we may all finally get to know her on a first name basis. A Stage 1 relationship is the case of most industry standard enamored, entranced, infatuatory soliloquy pop songs that are titled with someone’s first name with the notable exception of Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”

 

“Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi is one of these too. I mean Tommy used to work on the docks. He don’t drive no BMW but Gina’s in love and won’t listen to her parents. She’s into her bad boy phase. She’s working the diner all day, working for her man and brings home her pay for love. But what happens when Tommy just keeps collecting unemployment checks and playing Guitar Hero all day? We never hear about that part. No one sings about debts, mortgages and repossessed automobiles.

 

Moving on, Tommy and Gina would be livin’ in a new song in Stage 2: the Power Struggle Stage. The “Wow, differences and annoying habits actually now exist and they’re BAD.”

 

There’s a few metric tons here. Probably more pop tunes than any other stage reside here. The stage where divorce, affairs and breakups most often occur. Here’s a partial list:

“Baby Come Back” by Player
“Misunderstanding” by Genesis
“Break Up Song” by the Greg Kihn Band

Actually Greg weighs in twice here with “(Our Love’s In) Jeopardy”
“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Separate Ways (World’s Apart)” by Journey
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
. She’s back after shacking up with some dude from outer space.
“On My Own” by Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle
“She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates

And some songs, like Meat Loaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” take us fast forward style though both the first 2 stages of a relationship.

 

For those that make it through Stage 2, the Power Struggle Stage, and aren’t praying for the end of time yet, they enter the Stability Stage: Stage 3. Like Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” you live the mantra of “Yes, we’re all individuals” and can accept it. You know and have resolved yourself about your significant other that “and this bird you cannot change.” You’re cool with giving each other freedom, space and choice.

 

Stage 3 is the second most common stage for divorce, split–ups, and couples counseling though. Also, people can tend to seek affairs out of boredom and stagnation if either rears it’s ugly head in this stage.

 

The best advice the pop world gives us here is:
“Hold On Loosely” by .38 Special

Or you could turn to the B–sides of this stage:
“Run To You” by Bryan Adams
“Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams, Jr.

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Past the potential barroom and courtroom rubble of the pitfalls of Stages 2 & 3, there’s Stage 4: The Commitment Stage. People here see each other clearly and not through the rose colored lenses of their initial hormonal surges of the Romantic Stage. You don’t NEED each other, you CHOOSE to be with each other. It’s you, me AND us. And perhaps “Me And You And A Dog Named Boo” if as a couple you decide to have pets. You accept each other’s differences, preferences, and peculiarities. Yah baby, “You Can Leave Your Hat On” the tune made famous by Joe Cocker.

 

Last but not least (actually it is the least) is Stage 5: The Co–Creations Stage. This is where a couple functions as a team out in the larger world beyond their private relationship, but you know there’s just not too many pop songs called “I Love You Now Let’s Save The Whales.”I Love You And The Rainforest”, “Our Love Is As Strong As The New Trees We Planted”, “Our Love Keeps Growing Like Everyone’s Civil Liberties” and “Our Love Keeps Increasing Like Lawsuits Against Monsanto” are still waiting to be penned by someone too.

 

It’s heavy stuff this Bono/Sting save the world shizzle and not many couples can go there hence the lack of pop songs about it. No, John Mellencamp’s, “Jack And Diane” are still back in a timeless High School void Stage of a Romantic Relationship. They probably got divorced by now. At the very least I think Diane filed a restraining order and Jack’s paying child support. Maybe Mellencamp will release those follow up tracks on a “From The Vault” compilation in the future. But songwriters don’t typically sing about that reality based gloomy stuff except Don Henley“The End Of The Innocence” and Steely Dan with “Haitian Divorce.” Even Detective Barry Manilow went there at the Copa—Copacabana. Barry investigated the nightclub crime scene, dusted for prints and wrote his famous auditory affidavit.

 

Alas, but our friends in Prog Rock are no stranger to songs climbing higher on Maslow’s Ladder than on top 40 charts. These are tunes touching on the theme of Self–Actualization and the song “Closer To The Heart” by Rush is an example of this.

 

Although rare, deeper self soul searching and the penultimate quest for the meaning of life are more common themes in pop songs than doing so as a couple. U2 captured and rehabilitated these endangered song subject species on the tracks “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Where The Streets Have No Name.”

 

I hope Lloyd Dobler isn’t around because it’s my turn to Say Anything and he may be crushed by what he’d hear right now and throw a vintage 80’s boombox in my general direction. But Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” is actually not about a romantic serenade to a girl. It’s a song about discovering one’s Spirituality, a merging into a deeper relationship with the Di–vine not some girl named Di–ane. I do hope this clarifies things for him. But Lloyd’s just out of high school and God’s like not even on his bucket list yet.

 

By now, time has given our friend Lloyd some minor tendonitis in his fingers, arthritic wrists and shoulder blades from his all night cassette playback vigil outside Diane’s bedroom window. The “Radio Romeo Rheumatoid” is what I hear they call him in physical therapy these days. Besides (or B–sides) “Lloyd And Diane” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Jack And Diane.”

 

So why doesn’t love stay on the Top 40 charts? Is it nothing more than different CD’s the jukebox of our lives plays at the drop of a few lonely quarters?

Captain James T. Kirk can explore the Universe, be immortalized in 1980’s German New wave pop via Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” yet still painstakingly plead in anguish and confusion, (Spoken in Kirk syncopated verse) “Spock, why can’t love be like a pop song?”

(Spock voice): “Captain, human behavior is highly illogical as are your pop songs. I’m still quite befuddled by the lyrics of “Come Together” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” myself. It would be perhaps advisable not to get me started on “Yellow Submarine” or “I Am The Walrus” for that matter either. (Holding up Vulcan “V” hand sign) Goo Goo G’Joob Captain. I believe that means “Sing Long of Nonsense” in Beatleish or Beatlease, however one may choose to classify this yet uncategorized subdialect of 20th Century British English.”

 

But do you wonder, wonder, who—who wrote the book of love? Well, at least we know who DIDN’T—God couldn’t get a publishing deal. Now you know the truth…and Ye who knoweth the truth, the truth shall set you FREE BIRD!!

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Atomic Punk: The Clash “Complete Control”




One thing I always loved about The Clash was the energy they brought to the stage. They played like there was no tomorrow and you could feel it. Even in songs with just a few simple chords, they somehow made it not just count but stand out. And someone like me who has a very large planetary catalogue of classical music in his head isn’t pompous enough to be auditorily blind to appreciating that. The composers of old had an ethos closer to punk rockers than most of the university professors who analyse and teach the music of high culture. The beautiful deep dense emotively panoramic sonatas and symphonies of the great composers can obscure the people behind them but many of them had more than a few “F*uck the Establishment” bones in their bodies and were the rebels of their time.

“Prince what you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.”

–Beethoven, from a letter he wrote to Prince Lichnowsky

 

The Clash came out of England alongside The Sex Pistols, Billy Idol (then with Generation X) & Siouxsie and the Banshees—all groups who knew each other often playing on the same bills in the early days when Punk emerged from the primordial soup of muddy Doc Martens and MIA front teeth. The press & media were standing by to perform an abortion on Punk Rock before it’s existence was in the newspapers. They flung the obligatory tomatoes at something new they didn’t understand as it’s easier to dismiss and stereotype than it is to understand people and groups on their own terms. Punk groups were singing about how everything is not bloody well right (no offense to Supertramp) in everyone’s life regardless of what’s on the Tele. In a sense, Punk Rock was early alternate media—telling it like it is, telling the unpopular, telling it from the frontlines, down in the trenches. But people want to hate the messenger, especially if the Postman wears nose rings and rings twice. It’s easier to character assassinate because in many people’s minds, this then negates the message then they don’t have to take responsibility for something actually being wrong. If Punk Rock was “acting out”, then the media and press response was a defense mechanism attempting to preserve a sanitized version of reality for the public, that everything is indeed cheerio and jolly good. Suffice to say, people who need movies with happy endings, probably don’t have a stellar punk rock collection.

 

A part of this first wave of British Punk, The Clash released their debut album The Clash in 1977. It did well in the United Kingdom but their record company feared that it’s rawness and low quality “garage band” quality recording wouldn’t work in the American market. I guess “someone’s really smart.” And what album became the best selling import album in the US during this time? That one they thought wouldn’t sell across the pond. CBS then released a version for the North American market with a different track listing than the original including the new track “Complete Control”, which was ironically inspired by an incident of their doing. Necessity may be the mother of all invention but bullsh*t has been known to give birth on occasion as the paternity test indicates with “Complete Control.”

 

Reggae was huge in England at the time and The Clash did a cover of the Junior Murvin hit “Police and Thieves” produced by Reggae artist Lee “Scratch” Perry on their original UK debut album release. Perry, who lived in Jamaica, heard it and became a fan of the band. As luck would have it, The Clash found out Perry was in London at the time working on an album for Bob Marley & the Wailers. They asked him to produce a single and he was game, Mon. “Complete Control” was also the first track Topper Headon played on with The Clash. Original drummer Terry Chimes, recorded most of the tracks on The Clash but left the band which is the reason only Joe, Mick & Paul are pictured on the album cover. They weren’t taking a page from Spinal Tap.

 

“Complete Control” inaugurated the vintage Clash line up which continued until 1982’s Combat Rock:

Joe Strummer (lead vocals, rhythm guitar). Strummer was born John Graham Mellor and went by the stagename Woody Mellor in his PC days (Pre–Clash).

Paul Simonon (bassist, vocals). Simonon is the one pictured smashing his guitar onstage in the iconic album cover London Calling. He also came up with the band’s name after seeing the term “Clash” repeatedly in newspapers.

Mick Jones (lead guitar, lead vocals). Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite (B.A.D.) after the breakup of The Clash who are best known for their #1 single “Rush” in 1991 which can easily be mistaken as a Clash tune. He was also co founder of General Public and played on their hit single “Tenderness.”

Nicky “Topper” Headon (drums & percussion). Paul Simonon gave him the nickname “Topper” as he resembled the Mickey the Monkey character in the Topper comic book. Headon is a well rounded musician who also plays guitar, bass & piano. Headon wrote and performed the piano, bass & drums on their most successful single “Rock The Casbah” (Joe Strummer on lead vocals) which reached #8 in the US. Combat Rock also included the stylized “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (Mick Jones on lead vocals), and was the most successful album of their career. Being in Florida and seeing armadillos running around, I’d have MTV flashbacks and the Pavlovian response expecting to see The Clash performing nearby behind banyan trees.

 

“Complete Control” is a punk rock classic by any standard. I’d say this regardless of wherever it had any chart success due to the authenticity of the angst alone. But I wasn’t the only one who really appreciated this punk rock uppercut to the recording industry. “Complete Control” reached #28 on the charts and is widely considered one of punk’s greatest songs. Even more so, it’s even listed in the Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time which encompasses numerous genres other than punk. With “Complete Control,” The Clash wrote a 3 minute masterpiece. It’s middle finger mayhem, an S.O.S. encased in time, a testament of when raw testosterone goes up against something it can’t bulldoze by itself and needs the backup of wit.

 

The song was even prophetic: At the 1:08 mark the late Joe Strummer sings the phrase “You’re my Guitar Hero!!” to Mick Jones, which years later went on to become the name of the popular video game franchise. No doubt because of the reference, “Complete Control” was included in the video games Rock Band and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.

 

The price of admission for me though is the breakdown at 1:41 and the outro. The breakdown then ramps up to an even more high energy outro with an awesome display of vocal interplay. The song briefly morphs to a more melodic buildup then guitars shift into overdrive with Mick Jones almost chanting the backing vocal behind Strummer that’s just a beautifully brutal combination.

 

Total
C—o—n control – that means you!

 

Strummer is like a lion in a cage at this point in the song. The guitars and drums are past the point of belligerence and Mick Jones is the sonic boom that sends this ball of fury into orbit:

Musically they achieve the equivalent of a controlled eruption with Strummer ejecting lyrical lava in all directions. What it achieves for the listener is a cathartic caldera in the wake of its seismic soundwaves. “Complete Control” is pure controlled chaos that cauterizes the ear canals from bullsh*t with a timeless sense of psychic camaraderie.

 

How much do I like this tune? Let me put it this way: “Complete Control” is my workout mix along with other selections of metal, hard rock, punk, goth, rock, & industrial. Often I’ll have “Complete Control” on replay through my ENTIRE workout. Yes I’ve listened to it on replay for an hour or more at a time. It’s like an IV of adrenaline for exercising or a pissed off palliative pill when you’ve had more than the average bad hair day with your mohawk.

 

“Complete Control” is a song about the recording industry that spikes the spite meter—a middle finger anthem against the parade of unsavory people & practices that are unfortunately joined at the hip with the entertainment industry. “Complete Control” however is no orphan, only child or C–Note section delivery. It has several vinyl siblings. Other songs in this dysfunctional family include:

 

“The Stroke” by Billy Squier (my niece used to think the chorus was saying “Old Man Muffin” instead of “Stroke Me, Stroke Me.”)
“Rock & Roll Band” by Boston
“Workin’ For MCA” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

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The Clash never cared about being rock stars or becoming media darlings. They weren’t going on stage as pretty boys with perfect hair and designer clothes to make the cover of fashion magazines. In an industry rife with value addeds & hanger ons, its sobering to have a band stripped down to a bare sense of purpose. When you remove all the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry it comes down to the music & your message—the zero point pulse the record companies & peripheral industry sidekicks line their purses with. It took punk to blow the bloated house of cards down.

 

A friend of mine who’s former Army loves The Clash as well. Once when we were talking, I mentioned how The Clash went onstage like they were showing up for battle: The adrenaline, the energy, the take no prisoners attitude. It’s refreshing to have a band out there that wasn’t overly preoccupied with the tits of the girls in the front row. When this is your inspiration for lyrics, the lifestyle of the rock star playing “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” (or hoe??) with the nightly conga line of groupies, those lyrics really don’t age well and someday you’ll become a geriatric juvenile singing them in your golden oldies at casino gigs in New England. At least that’s what my Magic 8 Ball told me.

 

The Clash always picked subject matter outside of the blue plastic kiddie pool other bands can make a career of. And there were plenty of lyrical battles for The Clash to crosshair in their career: greed, ignorance, war, militarism, police brutality, religion, racism, intolerance, repression, unemployment, politics and good ‘ol fashioned basic stupidity. The Clash weren’t about love songs and idealized fairy tale pop song lyrics. And with that, punk and metal tend to be a DMZ (De Merchandised Zone) from cross–merchandising, fashionistas, fluff, hype and “pat ourselves on the back” industry award ceremonies. Like one of my friends said about this industry that he’s survived in and navigated over the years: “It’s a can of beans to them.” Meaning your music, your art, your creativity is just another product to them to market like a can of beans to make a profit. They’re fair weather fans, as long as profits are in the forecast.

 

It’s this mentality which gave the impetus for The Clash to write “Complete Control.” They were peeved that their record label (CBS) released another song off The Clash called “Remote Control” (which they thought was a weak song on the album) without their consent. I interpret “Complete Control” as a narrative song about the kinds of things that happen in the industry and with the media. I don’t think The Clash were naive to the realities of success going in as some critics have said. It seems they get this impression because they interpret the lyrics literally when really you can hear the biting sarcasm in the way Joe Strummer delivers the vocals and the digs he makes at the “record executive” mentality:

 

Ooh ooh ooh someone’s really smart

They said we’d be artistically free
When we signed that bit of paper
They meant let’s make a lotsa mon-ee
An’ worry about it later

 

Sociologically, it’s two worlds that would probably never intersect but do so only because there’s a ton of money to be made off the success of ANY music. And it seems many record execs wouldn’t be at concerts on their own dime of many of the artists on their roster if they worked in another profession. So many pretend or force themselves to like the majority of “product” in their profession because it’s what lines their pockets. Keep up a fan face to keep that corner office.

 

“Complete Control” presents a photographic slideshow of various hypocrisy; how in the entertainment industry you’ll be told things that aren’t true, told things to string you along, told one thing then have something else done behind your back.

 

They said release ‘Remote Control’
But we didn’t want it on the label

Ooh ooh ooh have we done something wrong?
Ooh ooh ooh complete control, even over this song

Ooh ooh ooh I’ll never understand
Ooh ooh ooh complete control – lemme see your other hand!

 

In the breakdown, Joe Strummer issues a rebuttal in pseudo soliloquy to critics of the punk movement and their band, then catapults a strategic salvo by re–purposing their own words—words their detractors would choke on years later:

 

I don’t judge you why do you judge me…huh?

All over the news spread fast
They’re dirty, they’re filthy
They ain’t gonna last!

 

And this was what they were hearing around the time of their first album in the late 70’s. We don’t need DNA testing to verify these critics weren’t related to Nostradamus. The Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Unfortunately Joe Strummer died of just a few weeks prior from a congenital heart defect that went undiagnosed his entire life. It’s amazing he lived as long as he did with such a condition.

 

Part of the reason for the longevity of The Clash is they drew on numerous influences outside of punk such as Reggae, Dub, Funk, Blues, Rock, Rockabilly, Ska & Rap to name a few. If Parliment was “Funkatizing” their musical influences, The Clash were “Punkatizing” theirs. The cultural and musical legacy of The Clash has influenced generations of musicians and continues to do so. Both Bono & The Edge have stated how much The Clash influenced them as well as countless other musicians from all genres.

 

Over time as what usually happens, society at large acquired the digestive enzymes to finally assimilate the movement The Clash helped spearhead. This also dissolved old stereotypes associated with Punk. Speaking of dissolving stereotypes, you may have seen or heard the phrase “Hitler Was A Vegetarian.” It’s often used to negate the purported benefits of being a vegetarian. Next time you hear someone say that, respond in kind with “Well so was Joe Strummer—a Punk Rock icon who ate Fascism for lunch. Even more so, Strummer became a vegetarian at age 20 as a young punk rocker and remained so for the rest of his life. He was also a big fan of folk legend Woody Guthrie and the reason he used “Woody” as an early stagename. Woody Guthrie put a message on his guitar back in 1941 that said “This Machine Kills Fascists.” Guthrie, Strummer & The Clash are as far from Hitler and as Anti–Fascist as one can get.

This is Joe Public speaking
I’m controlled in the body, controlled in the mind

 

For people who want to stereotype punk rockers as low life degenerates, Joe Strummer loved The Beach Boys and said they were “the reason he played music”. It just goes to show you can’t always tell by a group or artist’s music who their influences were. And it’s often surprising. I lived right near some of the nicest white sand beaches in the world for several years and personally don’t know anyone who surfs with Doc Martens.

 

An encouraging thing The Clash proved to musicians of all playing abilities is you don’t need guitar solos or titanic technique to become musically and culturally significant. There’s only a handful of guitar solos in their entire catalogue, one of which is the brief one here in “Complete Control.” Over a decade later, the “Punk Pattern” repeated itself as Grunge came to the forefront of the music industry, dethroning the musical excess, virtuosity and vanity of Hair Metal. It just goes to illustrate how yesterday’s fears and “flaws” can become tomorrow’s cash cow.

 

The slogan “The Only Band That Matters” created to market The Clash became something fans genuinely embraced. It was one of the things their record label did right as it took on a life of it’s own becoming their epitaph. A salute to a band that wasn’t tainted with artificial ingredients. As for critics who so readily expunge venomous verbiage alongside carbon dioxide, we can only wonder “Is there a critic known as ‘The Only Critic That Matters?’ Is there a Critic’s Hall Of Fame?” Critics always have a axe to grind while The Clash grinded with their axes. Instead of writing caustic column inch in Cubicleville, perhaps their time on the planet could have been better spent writing public service announcements with guitars so people can know their rights.

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Timeless Riffs: Cream “Badge” (Eric Clapton)

I love when a riff detonates inside your being. I remember when I first came across this classic Cream song—I was a piano student back in high school and during my classic rock phase, I went out and bought Strange Brew: The Very Best of Cream so my Led Zeppelin collection wouldn’t get lonely. It was having a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time all by itself.

 

“Badge” is a track off the appropriately titled Cream Swan Song album Goodbye, which is also called Goodbye Cream.” It was the trio’s 4th and final album which came out in 1969—Cream had actually already officially disbanded the previous year after their successful Wheels Of Fire double album. Cream’s Wheels Of Fire holds the distinction of being the world’s first double LP to reach Platinum status (1,000,000 units sold).

 

Despite their early breakup, Cream and the bandmembers fared well in their later careers and projects. Cream were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 (rumor has it they were waiting so long), and in 2006 they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for their their contribution and influence upon contemporary music—giving even vegans some Heavy Cream they too can enjoy.

 

Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, John McLaughlin to name a few, were no less than the musicians who spearheaded the era of the rock lead guitarist. Moreover, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker as the band Cream were the archetypal power trio. One of their contemporaries, also a power trio, was The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

 

The word “Supergroup” was tossed around in their direction followed by the “Clapton is GOD” graffiti in England. The musical descendants of the original Cream Power Trio family tree are bands like Rush and The Police. An interesting (and unfortunate) parallel in common is that both the bass player/singer and drummer in Cream and The Police (Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker and Sting & Stewart Copeland respectively) didn’t have the best of relationships which contributed to the breakup of both bands. Thankfully Geddy Lee and Neil Peart get along quite dandy as Rush has been around over 3 decades longer than either band. In fact, Rush may very well go into the Guinness Book Of World Records as the longest running Power Trio of all time. They even have a song called “Marathon” so how appropriate.

 

Getting back to inter band tensions, the way I look at it having been in bands myself, is that if you’re fortunate enough to do something less than 1% of the planet can do for a living and fantasizes quite frequently about (write, tour and perform music), can’t you try to put whatever ego and differences behind for the benefit of yourselves and the fans? Really is the squabbling, infighting and subsequent breakup preferable to having to work a slave wage job until your Ga–Ga–Ga–Golden Years?

 

And with generally MORE than 3 or 4 other co–workers and a plethora of dysfunctional, unpleasant, and volatile customers? Really? But hey, suit yourself. Take your pick. Often success too early insulates artists from the real world the other 99.9% of their fans have to face every day of their lives. And that concert by you is often the very thing they need periodically as a break from the drudgery of their reality and helps them deal with it.

 

When I first heard “Badge”, I totally didn’t expect that it was where the song was going from the opening verse. It was like the prize inside the cereal box you didn’t expect to find. This tune, written by Eric and longtime friend George Harrison, has such a majestic mixolydian arpeggio (D mixolydian) which functions as the chorus/solo or bridge depending how you look at it. It’s a shimmering moment in time and the lyrics accompanying that section far transcend 1969—indeed an elevatingly anthemic chorus:


Yes, I told you that the light goes up and down.
Don’t you notice how the wheel goes ’round?
And you better pick yourself up from the ground
Before they bring the curtain down,
Yes, before they bring the curtain down…

 

George Harrison did play rhythm guitar on the track but could not be credited in the liner notes for contractural reasons because of some other band he was in at the time. So the name “L’Angelo Misterioso” appears instead (Mysterious Angel?). The riff does have the heaviness of the arpeggio in The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” which also came out in 1969 and was written by John Lennon.

 

The George Harrison tune “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is also in good company here as well. This track was on The Beatles self titled 1968 album (AKA The White Album) and Clapton did the lead guitar parts but was not credited either. Eric actually played on the guitar he gave to George as a gift (A Gibson named “Lucy”—It Was A Les Paul Charlie Brown!). So with “Badge”, Eric and George were even–Steven in their secret recording session rendezvous.

 

Supposedly the song got it’s title because Eric misread George Harrison’s handwriting on the lyric sheet as “Badge” instead of the word “Bridge.” It works for this song, but if Harrison was writing with James Brown, it would have been a different story: “Take me to the Badge!!” Eric sings lead vocals on this tune containing one of his most memorable, defining guitar riffs. The chorus (or bridge) which only occurs once in the middle of the song comes in at the 1:07 mark:

It’s a simple D C G arpeggiated chord progression but somehow more transcendent and expansiveness welcoming. Part of the reason is Clapton playing his guitar through a Leslie speaker for a kind of drippy enchanting psychedelic kind of sound. This progression has also mesmerized the listening populace on other occasions. Boston used a similar arpeggiated chord progression in the acoustic guitar opening of “More Than A Feeling” off their massively popular self titled debut album.

 

Boston’s Boston was once the top debut album but is now currently the second best selling debut album of all time. I wasn’t going to leave you hanging on the cross—that distinction goes to the 5 skulls pictured on Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction as the first.

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Maybe I’m the only one who notices such things, but I’d like to state for the record Eric and George get major Scrabble points for using the word “queue” in a song:

Talkin’ ’bout a girl that looks quite like you.
She didn’t have the time to wait in the queue.

 

Now that that’s out of the way, rarely does a guitar practice or jam session go by without me launching into this Clapton riff—often within the first few minutes of picking up the guitar. These timeless riffs are a good anchoring example of why playing an instrument is so awesome to begin with and why many of us will only put it down with our cold dead hands as members of our very own NRA—the National Rock Association.

 

I’m not one to trumpet the kiddie pool of social norms and customs in art. Coming from the Romantic Period/Impressionist/Russian composers Holy Trinity, a lot of contemporary music isn’t deep enough for me on a musical or lyrical level. It’s moments like the Clapton riff here that my ear is endlessly on a scavenger hunt for to hitch a ride on an aural safari somewhere deeper into the subconscious.

 

If you’re deep enough to go there, you can ingest flashes of something beyond in certain music. This is such a riff for me. Debussy, Chopin, Liszt do it for me often and that’s always been my standard: Level me in 4 measures or less. Debussy leveled me an entire weekend once with 4 measures but that’s another story.

 

The “Badge” riff is a piece of rock guitar granite that has weathered time superbly and still shines irrespective of it’s age. It’s part tye dye timewarp but also simultaneously containing a universal nature that exists outside the particular time period it was written. It could have been written in the mid 80’s or last year and still would cross generations due to it’s inherent meaning photographed with sound.

 

Carl Jung would likely see it as the expression of a Universal Guitar Consciousness and that it sonically names and touches a Collective Musical Unconsciousness. It’s simply a captivating and hypnotic example of the sorcery of sound: An Archetypal Riff.

 

If you ever go hiking in Griffith Park up Mt. Hollywood (where you get a Fab view of the Hollywood sign), on the trails there’s a pine tree dedicated to George there called The George Harrison Tree planted in his memory. It’s not far from the Griffith Observatory and marked with a bronze plaque stating “In memory of a great humanitarian who touched the world as an artist, a musician and gardener” as well as a quote from George, “For the forest to be green, each tree must be green.”

 

The Sanskrit Om symbol on a plaque is never a bad idea either and this one delivers in that department too. I did see and touch the original tree and meditate there as George is the one of the Fab Four I most closely resonate with. Ironically the tree was killed by Beatles in 2014 and hence replaced. You can’t buy me love or make this stuff up. “Badge” though, still survives as a ubiquitous moment in time, a monument first etched in vinyl celebrating the friendship between George Harrison and Eric Clapton.

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Closet Singles: Devo “Later Is Now”

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Major Earworm sure brings his dance battalion with this one. Devo’s dance track “Later Is Now” off their 2010 album Something For Everybody is a tantalizing time warp back to Whip It Ville. It’s so retro you might not realize this wasn’t a track you forgot about from the 80’s. Something For Everybody was also the last album with the original 2 sets of founding spud brothers (kinda like Blood Brothers only Devoized): Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Mothersbaugh, Gerald Casale, and Bob Casale. Guitarist/keyboardist/backing vocalist Bob Casale passed away in 2014. Devo sure revisited their spud roots here and paid homage to their earlier selves with this noble offering to the God of Energy Domes. And I’m sure Bob traded in his Red Dome for a White one Gandalf style, not Gangnam Style.

 

Inevitably however, certain things happen periodically in the music industry beyond anyone’s control:

A) Right band at the wrong time
B) Right track at the wrong time

 

These are two of the common Whammy Bars success gets sh*tfaced at and stands you up for a date. This tune is a classic case of the latter. Later Is Now was never released as a single but this track could’ve been a dancefloor anthem back in the day. So instead of the John Cusack film Hot Tub Time Machine, how about Hot Track Time Machine? The plot being going back in time and spinning some discs that never saw the light of day. Kinda like Quantum Leap—only correcting the playlists of the past.

 

And while we’re on dancefloor dalliances in alternate realities, Later Is Now sounds like it could’ve been a hit in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty–Four (also published as 1984) assuming they allowed dance clubs like The BBC: Big Brother Club. Notice the title of Devo’s tune is very Newspeak & Doublethink like “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, and “Ignorance is Strength”—“Later Is Now.” However I think local watering holes there are outnumbered by Memory Holes. Winston Smith’s “club days” would be spent at the Ministry of Dance in pair of concrete shoes and any shredding going on there would be with documents not guitars.

 

“Later Is Now” would definitely be on my old school Emerson imitation woodgrain vinyl turntable that looks like you just won the bid for on The Price Is Right. I can hear this tune on the radio alongside Whip It—were it written and released during the 80’s new wave/synthpop heyday, it very likely would have been a huge dance club hit perhaps even with crossover appeal. Maybe I’m alone here but I’d like to have seen Don Cornelius and the Soul Train dancers sporting Energy Domes just once.

 

I say this from the perspective of having been to dance clubs and also from years doing performance videography in such environments as well as weddings. It strikes me that this track has the whimsical jubilant exuberance and upbeat energy that can sufficiently pack a dancefloor. I mean Kool & The Gang’s classic “Celebration”, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” work every time for clubs and weddings and all these songs are at slower tempos than “Later Is Now.”




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Let’s revisit the “B” situation mentioned earlier for a moment. If you’re been in a band or are an astute observer of musical trends, you’ll see how styles come and go then come back in style again. The same thing happens in the fashion world as well. One band I was in seemed a victim of the “Right band at the wrong time” phenomenon. We were aiming to be “Toto with a female vocalist” albeit a few decades after the fact. Had we been around in the early 80’s at the highpoint of audience and recording company interest in musically intricate well–arranged adult contemporary power pop, we’ll I might have a few Joe Walsh “Life’s Been Good” pieces of real estate, matching speeding tickets and be more frequently answering the question “Are all these your guitars?”

 

Possibly our band could have been sandwiched between Toto IV and Lionel Ritchie’s Can’t Slow Down which were monster successes during that musical era—at the very least, much more easily than when we were performing and recording as a group with those same leanings. Even so, there were moments with that band when we started getting recognition and were thinking, “Holy crap, this could REALLY go somewhere.” And for reasons stated above, the fickleness of the industry and unpredictable tradewinds of audience tastes and interests shifts to something else leaving once well known acts behind (like Devo post “Whip It”) and bands that could have had their day in the sun a raincheck instead of a soundcheck and more importantly royalty checks. As a side note, without turning this article into a supermarket Tabloid (or would that be Guitar Tab–loid?), I will say this particular original band I was in did have a ballad that was voted #1 for several weeks on an internet site beating a nationally known act (that would be Los Lobos—yes, the “La Bamba” Los Lobos which covered Ritchie Valens’ 1958 hit back in 1987 to international fame). We also surprisingly had fans in Russia, which was a location where the market lag of exported western 80’s power pop was still a fresh ripe style in season for ravenous Russian ears.

 

But that’s all water under the guitar bridge. The fact is whatever decade it was recorded in, “Later Is Now” pumps out some good ol’ fashioned genuine high energy fun—picture it with laser lights, multiple stages, smoke machines and subwoofers around a few hundred slightly inebriated people in the sardine can of any given nightclub—it’s so chock full of carefree revelry you’ll forget you’re probably in a fire hazard and among a few OSHA violations. Dancing Under the Influence (DUI) however is not considered one of them.

 

The opening electronica synth sequencer bed in Later Is Now evokes hints of Duran Duran’s “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf” and Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.” Then the “Enter The Dragon” flanging wall of sound guitar chords cue you in that this tune means business. It builds with a guitar and keyboard interplay for the melody line painted across the palette of both instruments. The robotically slithering chorus synth riff is perfect for Twister night as well as a definite moment to practice your isolations with that white sequins Michael Jackson glove and the man in the mirror. The pulsating rhythm provides ample motivation find a suitable piece of cardboard and get that breakdancing group back together with the Divine inspiration and bravado of The Blues Brothers. Topped with fun lyrics sung in a stylized stately more formal tone than “Whip It” and some of their more cartoonesque catalogue, it shows Devo can do serious while laying down a serious groove.

 

Later Is Now has that same 80’s dance party vibe as “The Politics Of Dancing”, the 1983 smash hit by The British new wave band Re–Flex off their album of the same name. Friends of mine in the Boston area routinely get down at our dance parties to tracks like “The Politics Of Dancing”, as well as several obligatory MJ tracks like “Billie Jean”, “PYT”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, “Thriller”, and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” This track also spikes the fun meter as Dr. Nostalgia discovered a new retro dance virus.

 

I can see this Devo tune packing dancefloors even today. With a track like Later Is Now, Kevin Bacon should have called Devo for backup in Footloose. I realize that’s quite a bold statement and no offense to Kenny Loggins—but if a group of guys in yellow jumpsuits wearing Red Domed hats and sunglasses showed up riding mopeds in your socially repressed religious community, you’d know the Gods of 80’s Dance Music have spoken. But if you still need a bit of help getting into character, put on your “Frankie Says Relax” tee, Choose Life sweatshirt, dial 867-5309 on your cell and try to set Rick Springfield up with Jenny instead of Jesse’s Girl. Tell Blondie call me, bye bye love, talk to ya later, then get down to “Later Is Now.”

© Composer Yoga

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Peter Murphy’s Law: Roll Call For Crashing Hard Into The Secret Wind With The Godfather Of Goth

A one word chorus?? Yah, you wouldn't think it's adequate on a wide ruled dollar store notebook lyric sheet but the Godfather of Goth can pull it off and then some on the track "Roll Call." Some time ago while visiting a friend (and fellow Murph aficionado) in Boston, we went to see Murph at The Middle East nightclub on the Massachusetts Ave strip in Cambridge, MA.

 

Floored. Flat out amazing performance or in the indigenous Boston vernacular, Wicked Awesome. Scratch another one off the bucket list.

 

Peter Murphy went solo after the British post–punk band Bauhaus split up in 1983. Bauhaus is widely considered the first Gothic Rock group hence Murphy being seen as the "Godfather Of Goth." Murphy's other Bauhaus bandmates (Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins and David J) later went on to form the alternative rock band Love And Rockets who had a hit in the late 1980's with their single "So Alive."

 

Should you see Peter Murphy live, you'll appreciate the deftness at how his searing statuesque baritone morphs from elegant to powerful many times in the same song. He wields mic technique up in the Ninja status*, giving audio engineers needed time to catch up on their Sudoku puzzles.

 

"Roll Call" is one of those tunes I frequently listen to on replay. It's superb driving and traveling music, especially good for night time drives and evening parties—yes even gatherings of people who don't resemble Robert Smith and aren't biological relatives of Edgar Winter.

 

The guitar work on here blends perfectly, hypnotically surfing over a slow deep pulsating drum groove. I never get tired of Murphy's work, he never gets old with me and I haven't ever "outgrown" listening to him for that matter either.

 

Peter Murphy is that rare breed of vocalists—amazing lyricist, intense, deeper, more multifaceted, and verbally paints visual imagery more eruditely than the majority of top 40 stuff out there. His biggest single, "Cut's You Up" is off the same album (Deep) as this track where he just OWNS the one word chorus...


"Even real sounds like a zero to a brain in lip sync...ROLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!"

*By this is meant while singing, the vocalist moves the microphone away from their mouth during intense vocal passages (yells, screams, etc.) as not to spike the volume meter (VU) in the red, or closer for softer vocals to maintain consistent volume levels.

© Composer Yoga

Recommended:
Atomic Punk: The Clash “Complete Control”
Primal Scream Therapy: Deep Purple “Woman From Tokyo”
Closet Singles: Billy Idol “Hole In The Wall”
Sound Mines: Bihlman Bros. “Dream”
The French 80’s: Indochine “3 Nuits Par Semaine”

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