Tag Archives: Freddie Mercury

Periodic Table Of Rock: Artists

Artists composed of elements and substances from The Periodic Table Of Rock (updated periodically)

Air Supply
Andrew Gold
Billy Ocean
Black Oak Arkansas
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Burning Tree
Copperhead
Curved Air
Diamond Head
Earth
Earth, Wind & Fire
FireHouse
Fleetwood Mac
Freddie Mercury
Frehley's Comet
Golden Earring
Iced Earth
Iron Butterfly
Iron Maiden
Jewel
King Diamond
Krypton
Led Zeppelin
Manfred Mann's Earth Band
Metal Church
Metallica
Midnight Oil
Neil Diamond
Nickelback
Pearl Jam
Pebbles
Plastic Ono Band
Quicksilver Messenger Service
Rare Earth
Scorched Earth
Scorched Earth Policy
Sly And The Family Stone
Steel Panther
Steelheart
Steely Dan
Strontium 90
The Rolling Stones
Tin Machine
Vanilla Ice
Xenon

© Composer Yoga

Entertainment Earth

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Celebrities And Fame: A Videographer’s Perspective

I’ve been backstage with members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I’ve shaken hands with Academy Award winners.

I’ve watched some guy other than Eric Cartman sing “Come Sail Away” from behind amp stacks on stage right while seeing thousands of people sing the words along with him.

I know people who’ve won some shiny awards the Entertainment industry gives out.

I know musicians who’ve played, recorded and toured with people everybody’s heard of.

I’ve videotaped people everyone’s heard of. Even that guy who’s enjoying a resurgence of popularity with his impersonation of Donald Trump periodically on Saturday Night Live.

 

But fame, from what I’ve seen, I can tell you it’s just like Freddie Mercury sang of in Queen’s “We Are The Champions”

 

But it’s been no bed of roses,

No pleasure cruise

 

So hence my observations on being around celebrities and how being in the limelight can actually be more like a lemon. Here’s some feedback on how to counteract the knee jerk fan attack and be a class act when you have a close encounter of the Celeb kind.

 

Hive Mind Over Manners

Treat Them Like People
Think about it. How do you want them to remember you (if they would)?

 

Ask Yourself, “How are YOU treating them?”
Like a real person? Respectfully like meeting anyone else you would for the first time or like a freshman girl at a frat party?

 

Treat Them As If You’ll See Them Again
From my experience, it DOES happen. I’ve been backstage with the same public figures years apart. In this case, you’ll be glad you didn’t behave like a dog trying to hump their leg for an autograph or selfie pic.

 

Backstage Etiquette 101

I’ve seen how most people act when they meet someone famous. The industry standard reaction for a picture and/or autograph. The total recall flashback memories. And you know what?

It’s CREEPY!!!

 

Hearing a fan talk about a version of a song from a a gig in Atlantic City 15 years ago along with the accompanying stage banter to the audience dialogue verbatim always sounds like a cross between Stephen King and Rain Man (the Oscar winning Dustin Hoffman movie) to me.

 

I’ve seen and overheard these “Fan Flashbacks”, and “Biggest fan foaming at the mouths.” At times I’ve wondered if I would have to transform from Videographer to Bodyguard–At–Large Power Ranger style because certain conversations turn and veer into Weirdville to my ears.

 

It’s like, do you remember every effing day of YOUR day job? Every single thing? Every early morning slightly comatose water cooler conversation?

 

Well, neither do they and you can’t expect them to. A couple hundred gigs a year, a couple thousand gigs later and it tends to become one gigantic blur to most performers. Long days on movie and TV sets with actors are the same way too.

“Unless Jesus appears atop a Marshall amp stack or Bigfoot crashes Camp Bisco, it’s doubtful performers will remember individual gigs.”

 

So don’t expect a musician to remember your favorite photographic moment from one little gig you saw them at.

 

To gauge how unrealistic and weird this expectation can be, try this simple test with a co–worker:

Ask “Hey, remember that staff meeting two years ago in May where you said “That’s a great idea Joe?'”
At the very least you’ll get an eyebrow raise and possibly a private visit to the HR Department asking you “If everything’s okay.”

 

These same conversations that fans think are acceptable with celebrities and famous people, sound like Steve Carrell’s off kilter character Brick Tamland in the Anchorman movies.

 

 

Being Stuck In Fan Mode
The problem with being stuck in “Fan Mode” when meeting celebrities is there’s no real conversation or connecting on an authentic level. It’s mass production cookie cutter human interaction. Even more so for the manufactured image shaping and enhancement Social Media generation who want to post the coveted “Hangin’ with a Celebrity” pic for like brownie points and response roulette on Facebook.

 

Same Old Song And Dance
In a sense, as a videographer, photographer or backstage/production crew, when you’ve met one famous person you’ve met them all. Don’t get me wrong, being around art is always exciting but the more celebrities you meet, the more it desensitizes you to the OMG! factor. It becomes “Yah, yah, it’s so and so and they really exist outside of TVs, silver screens and tabloids.”

 

Real Is What Real Does
When it becomes somewhat normal to be around celebrities and public figures, you can have genuine interactions with them like you have with your friends or next door neighbor. And that’s more important to me than a picture with someone who won’t remember my name 5 minutes from now.

 

The other thing is, celebrities actually appreciate it over being mobbed by swarms of air sucking vampires with needy attention tentacles.

 

The reason Forrest Gump met so many amazing people in his life is he had no projected needs, ulterior motives or preconceived expectations towards them. Be like Forrest.

 

Remember, you may see some of these people again. How do you want them to remember you? Would you want THEM to trust you around their kids and family?

 

So I don’t go for the selfie’s with celebs or autographs. But I’ve had real moments of conversation, handshakes, and camaraderie on the road. If you are a port in a storm to someone, life will return the favor when you need it.

 

Billboard Turned Cardboard
Years ago, I had a private tour of MTV Studios at One Astor Plaza (1515 Broadway/Times Square) in New York City. The shoot that day was cancelled but it was funny seeing the set left up from the day before. It was life–size cutouts of members of a boy band. And the MTV tour guide telling us of the contrast between having a few hundred screaming fans in that room and a few thousand outside the day before for the Backstreet Boys.

 

Think about how Fame looks from their perspective…

 

Do you want random people you don’t know to start talking shop to you?
It’s not even all that pleasant when they do know you and you’re not hugely famous. I used to get this when I headed up a non–profit years ago.

 

I’d be walking down the street outside my office before or after work and on weekends and it was like, “Where’s my Elephant Man hologram so people will just leave me alone!”

 

You wonder that you even have to tell people I AM OFF THE FREAKING CLOCK. But they don’t seem to get the hint even in street clothes, shades and a few days past a decent George Michael 5 o’ clock shadow.

 

When you’re a Celebrity and famous, you are NEVER off the clock in the minds of fans.

 

Not Every Celebrity/Famous Person/Public Figure Is A Social Butterfly And Blatant Extrovert
Often they’re overwhelmed with all the attention their talents have brought upon them. Often they’re really shy and introverted. But fame requires you to be an extrovert towards fans and various media outlets.

 

Often the side of them that got them famous is just a part of them, an act or adapted self. Michael Jackson is a classic example of this. Howard Stern said this about himself—about the “other” nature of his DJ Persona in his book Private Parts. He is not that person off the clock and doesn’t want to be “that Howard” 24/7. Being “on” all the time and being expected to be is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting.

 

Everyone needs down time. Everyone needs privacy. Even your heroes.

Fame Is An Obligation
I’ve had famous people tell me about signing autographs in public restrooms. The standards of politeness with strangers go out the window and fans expect people to be “on” and accessible all the time.

 

In my travels, I’ve actually been mistaken by fans of certain artists who come up to me all nervous. They ask, “Excuse me, are you______?”

 

It’s strange and I’d quizzically say I wasn’t the person in question. They apologize and walk away. But if I WAS famous, they wouldn’t apologize for intruding on my time and personal space. Instead, they would call me rude, a jerk or an A–hole if I didn’t talk to them, give them an autograph or take a picture with them.

 

Double standard. BIGTIME.

 

One time in Orlando I got let in early to a Comic Con because I was mistaken for one of the actors on a panel (I have the same first name as he does and resemble him a bit). But the perks of privilege seem to be outweighed by the prisons of popularity.

 

Behind The Green Room Door
Several times before gigs going over the game plan and setlist for the evening performance, I’ve heard band tales of gigs past and road stories. The funny thing is, band road and gig stories are the same whether the musicians are famous or not.

 

The content is the same. You can close your eyes like a game show and try to guess whether the Jon or Joe being mentioned is Bon Jovi, Walsh or Jantkowski. If the Neil in the story is Diamond, Schon or Neidermeyer. If the Bruce mentioned is Dickinson, Springsteen or Billingsley.

 

For celebrities, life is not always like a box of chocolates. They do know what they’re gonna get, and it’s the same ‘ol song and dance most didn’t ask for and they’re tired of having to do. It’s a mindless Macarena they’re manipulated into going through the motions of by the Media Maestro behind the curtain.

 

Occasionally I’ve needed a spotter videotaping gigs because I’ve have my back to a pumped up somewhat inebriated audience. But I’m glad I don’t need a bodyguard to go buy blueberries and I can live peacefully in Springfield right across from The Simpsons. And all my D’ohs! aren’t plastered across tabloids in supermarket checkout lines.

© Composer Yoga

Entertainment Earth




George Michael: The Careless Whisperer

Just when we thought 2016 was done swallowing up celebrities, with just a week left in the year, we lose another. Then another. George Michael and Carrie Fisher. I can’t remember another year where more major musical figures exited the stage of life taking their final bows.

 

I mean David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, and George Michael—Four of the most well known musicians on the planet. George Michael sold over 100 million albums which is even “more” considering he recorded far fewer studio albums in his career than the others listed. Whether you’re a fan or not, that’s a lot of albums and fans. That’s in league with acts like The Eagles, Queen, Chicago, Whitney Houston, The Rolling Stones and Mariah Carey and nearing fabled Beatles and Elvis territory. George Michael’s numbers will no doubt increase in the coming weeks as it did with Prince posthumously even causing an unreleased track on the 1986 album Parade, “Sometimes It Snows In April” to chart in several countries in Europe peaking at #14 in France.

 

The death of George Michael came as a surprise to me as it did many others.  I was visiting my brother later in the afternoon and saw it on my Twitter feed. I said to him George Michael just died. He didn’t believe it either. With all the recent talk about fake news stories on Facebook and Twitter like “Donald Trump Summits Everest” as well as discussion of verifying the accuracy of Tweets, at first I thought this was just another social media sucker punch celebrity death click bait. Then I googled and found a BBC article. George Michael gone too early at just 53 years old. Which means there’s songs not released yet and songs and projects unfinished.

 

George Michael won two Grammys: one for his debut album Faith (Album Of The Year) and one for his amazing duet with Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin. He achieved eight #1 singles on Billboard charts during his solo career. He began his foray into pop culture with high school friend Andrew Ridgeley in the 80’s British pop group Wham!. The historical fun fact about Wham! was they were the first western musical act to perform in China. Make that allowed to perform in China as many types of music was still banned there at the time. That was 1985 and Chinese police were worried there’d be riots. Being trampled by teenage girls can be an occupational hazard. I know the feeling. A few years back, I went an Ingrid Michaelson concert and it was me surrounded by 400–500 teenage girls. I hung out back near the soundman until the end of the show then talked to friends of mine in her band when it was safe. I lived to tell about it.

 

I’m going to disregard the American Idol admonition “You shouldn’t have picked a George Michael song” and pick several of my favorites. Some were released as singles, some not. All showcase his incredible voice and adeptness at singing. It’s blatantly evident George Michael was far from a base model vocalist—with him our ears get the deluxe package with all the bells and whistles. There’s none of smoke and mirrors of autotune numerous pop stars depend on and which newer generations of music fans have become tone deaf to people who wield greater mastery of the art of singing like George Michael.

 

Last Christmas (Single 1984, included on Music from the Edge of Heaven 1986)


Last Christmas for George Michael. The bittersweet irony of George Michael dying on Christmas Day was not lost on Captain Obvious. It was another bizarre coincidence like Prince dying in an elevator after mentioning one in “Let’s Go Crazy.” Both occurrences with greater odds against them than if Elton John, a member of Chicago or the Bay City Rollers died on a Saturday.

George Michael and Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley released “Last Christmas” on the heels of the massive success of their second album Make It Big. “Last Christmas” is one of those fun pop holiday songs that invites you, some would say addictively beckons you to sing along. Special. See? You know you love doing the backing vocal to it. And of all the Yuletide assaults on our ear canals in retail stores from November 24th til December 31st, I was always glad when the satellite radio roulette landed on “Last Christmas” when I was in a store. Just like when Michael Jackson died, MJ merchandise was everywhere only a day or so later and shop owners were moonwalking all the way to the bank. So don’t be surprised if you see Last Christmas or CHOOSE GEORGE apparel in stores soon.

 

Careless Whisper (Make It Big 1984)

 

Although Wham! was marketed as an early boy band (or more aptly a boy duo), when I got older, I could see how George Michael displayed a compositional maturity beyond his years. Case in point: “Careless Whisper.” I was even more impressed when I learned he wrote that famous haunting sax line when he was still a teenager. This was the first official solo from George Michael even though it was included on Make It Big. He and Andrew Ridgeley started writing this track several years prior and it’s the only one on the album where Ridgeley has a writing credit. The rest of Make It Big was all George Michael compositions.

 




Father Figure (Faith 1987)

 

George Michael had devastating nuances like Sade. “Father Figure” demonstrates how he could maneuver inside whispers. It’s one of the most believable love songs I’ve ever heard. It’s not surface pretty pop lyrics, it’s not idealized, it’s not some teenage or 20 something year old lamenting about love with miniscule life perspective—it’s a naked vulnerable exposure beyond what teeneyboppers and young pop stars could pull off. I listen to this track and see how George Michael is actually living inside these lyrics and delivers fine point precision singing with a degree of authenticity they cannot replicate. Put another way, I highly doubt even if they could write lyrics as piercingly honest and revealing, they couldn’t sell the performance vocally as genuinely as George Michael does on “Father Figure.”

I hear songs first on the level of emotional depth. So even if this song was in a different language it still would have connected with me. Though now, as an adult I can see how the lyrics could be interpreted as references to gay culture. Back then I wasn’t privy to this since this over a decade before George Michael officially came out. And during his Wham! days and early solo work, he was still bisexual (which was kept from the press) and still writing songs about women.

 

Nevertheless, I just heard “Father Figure” as a great love song with rare solemnness and sincerity. It really didn’t occur to me at the time that a guy who had women like Tyra Banks in his videos was gay. Back then, for George Michael, life was like a Robert Palmer video. He didn’t publicly come out until that incident in a Beverly Hills bathroom in 1998—his Pee Wee Herman moment—both men caught masturbating in public. Michael made fun of himself and the incident in the music video for the single “Outside” by wearing an LAPD uniform, holding a nightstick and dancing in a bathroom pimped out like a disco. He didn’t take himself seriously, which is a blessing when you meet famous persons who are like this, but George Michael always took his singing seriously which is preserved in the sublime softness of this moment carved in sound. Rest assured in the future, some work(s) by George Michael will be selected by the Library of Congress to be included in the United States National Recording Registry joining the Steely Dan album Aja. I have Faith on that.

 

I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) 1987, Duet, Grammy

 

What’s better than a song by Aretha Franklin? A song with Aretha AND George Michael. It was the only time it happened and fortunately it was awesome. George got to sing with one of his heroes, one of his favorite artists. He definitely picked a great example to emulate and develop his own style. The pairing was also the biggest hit for Aretha Franklin reaching #1 on Billboard charts. Earlier on in her career Aretha got Respect. Sharing a mic with George Michael got them a Grammy. Coincidentally the song has the word Faith in it as well.

This song proves it doesn’t matter what color your skin is or what gender you are. It’s what’s inside you. George Michael had Motown and R&B coursing through his veins supplying his vocal chords with velvety richness and a buttery expressiveness. On the outside we saw a white British guy of Greek heritage. We heard something beyond all those temporary impermanent classifications when he sang. And this is such a beautiful contemporary spiritual/gospel flavored song disguised as pop tune with an infectious triumph and elation in the chorus hook.

 

Something To Save  (Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 1990)

This song soars. It’s either a secular gospel song or a hymn in the First Church of George Michael. This track will bring tears to your eyes with it’s openheartedness. It was never released as a single but it’s definitely a George Michael track that deserves more attention that it got. His affectation, freedom, and expressiveness on this track show how George Michael could make singing into a religious experience. It’s like taking a glider ride on sighs.

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Waiting (Reprise) Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 1990

 

This is another track which was never released as a single. Although it’s short it contains some brutally confessional lyrics. And George Michael doesn’t devolve into sappy which all too often undermines the realness of a song. He expertly matches the singing to these really personal lyrics. He’s wasn’t just a singer, he was a songwriter and you can hear the difference—he’s singing his own words and experiences. The intimacy of this song is a reflection of self discovery. It’s daring and not the juvenile shock value kind, it’s delicate shades of gray which don’t get obscured by clouds of anger. When he sings “Here I am” towards the end of the song, he paints so many more words than just those three.

 

Freedom! ’90 (Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 1990)

 

Man could George Michael sing. Listen to “Freedom! ’90” and he’ll blow your hair back on the chorus. It’s one of my favorite George Michael tracks. The outro is just pure astral emancipation. It’s danceable latin flavored groove is deceptively inviting onto a dancefloor of deliverance. “Freedom! ’90” is where we delightfully hear George Michael roar in celebratory victory. The resonant power of his chorus yells gives reverberating lift fanning the ignition of independence.

 

 

After Wham! George Michael explored songwriting further, stretching out from the common verse chorus restrictions. And that’s when he really showcased his vocal techniques and vocal range. It allowed him to employ a greater tonal palate with his singing and become more confessional with his material and singing. George Michael ranged from theatric to solemn, from sassiness to spiritual. His slower tempo songs really allowed him to stretch out and showcase his vocal flair.

 

For a vocalist to reach and apply higher level artistry, he or she has to sing more than just notes. and George Michael brought vocal ornamentation to the forefront. His sense of dynamics, use of nuance and inflection have made me go wow in my head numerous times. It’s in the tonality of his voice, the multi–textural vocal stylings, it’s not just his vocal range, it’s he could do so many cool things with his voice.

 

When your ear becomes educated you can Listen Without Prejudice and appreciate singers and styles you wouldn’t otherwise have listened to. Like Freddie Mercury (whom he was a fan of as was Freddie of him) George Michael was a one of a kind unique voice. He wrapped silver and gold tinsel around his melodies, fitting for someone with such a gifted voice.

 

So boom boom boom boom.

Remember, if you’re going do it, do it right, and wear your CHOOSE GEORGE shirt.

But I just hope you’ll understand, sometimes the clothes do not make the man.

© Composer Yoga

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Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

For those unfamiliar with our organization, DPAC, the Dork Prevention Advisory Committee has been entrusted with the ardent task of upholding, maintaining and preserving standards of cultural coolness & integrity for successive generations. We conduct ongoing policing of pop singers recommending safeguards and protocols with the noble aim of curbing, avoiding and eliminating Dorky Dialogue in popular music.

 

Our panel of experts have compiled a series of reports entitled “Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song: Case Files And Conclusions.” In addition to this website, copies of our reports will be available at all Federally funded government offices and institutions including but not limited to your local DMV, Post Office, and Public Library.

 

DISCLAIMER: DPAC should not to be confused with 2–Pac, nor is in any way affiliated with Self Help author Deepak Chopra.

 

Abstract & Origins

Dorky Dialogue is indeed a razor’s edge many have slipped from iconified grace and wound up impaled on Dork Stalactites in the corny canyon years or decades later. Such dialogue risks launching self–inflicted salvos at their own careers and creates blundering boomerangs as their own “Towers of Babble” return to sender. CAUTION is the watchword for unfiltered enthusiastic utterances in the studio or onstage, impromptu or planned.

 

DPAC aims to erect a “Speech Line: Do Not Cross” Auditory Police Tape so future musicians and entertainers may refer to maintain a successful “Bell Curve of Cool” throughout their careers as well as protect the airwaves and internet from Nerdy Noise Pollution. Our Publication SM 58: Dampening Dorky Dialogue (see below), provides helpful guidelines for singers to learn when to palm mute their given instrument. The Singer Modification 58 Protocols outline safe and unsafe lead vocal territories in regards to unnecessary chatter, gibberish, babble, bragging, ego stroking, superfluous filler, fluff, Paul Stanleyisms, etc.

 

Publication SM–58

 

Showing Some Love Towards Cover Bands

The first thing such Inter–Song Socializing (ISS) or Inter–Band Dialogue (IBD) on a recording does is it renders a particular song Cover Tune Unfriendly (CTU). Before engaging and risking such utterances, ask yourself “What are the odds cover tune band members will have the same names and/or play the same instrument?” Or be the same gender for that matter. If you are not good with math like a singer, the odds are about that of a Beatles reunion, Charlie Manson getting a record deal, or another Tiffany album.

 

Acceptable Usage and Examples

Neneh Cherry saying “Hey DJ…” in the intro to her hit track “Buffalo Stance” is one such example. Note that this is acceptable as Ms. Cherry refrained from naming the particular DJ, and just telling him (or her) to “Stop that effing scratching and give me a beat!”

 

Vanilla Ice prodded “Yo VIP–let’s kick it!” to get his DJ to press a button and get the the synth drums going on “Ice Ice Baby.” Again no one is insinuated by name and thus cannot be charged as an Accessory to Nerdy.

 

Steve Perry shouting after the piano intro to “Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Neil!”  to Neil Schon to cue in the 4 note guitar lick build that increases in speed and crescendos with the drums entering. Steve did this live but NOT on the actual sound recording which would have definitely been North of dork and South of cool.

 

Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention could get away with lots of inter band conversation onstage because it was musical theatre and part of the show.

 

Rap & Hip Hop have taken Inter–Song Socializing to new plateaus, talking to and about themselves with a frequency density far greater than that of other genres as they do not seem concerned with having their material covered by bands in nightclubs. Since it is so much a part of the genre, we have determined a hands off policy is the recommended approach.

 

When did all this Inter–Song Socializing (ISS) start?

DPAC has determined its origins seem to have been with James Brown, shouting “MACEO!!” To Maceo Parker his horn player. However these were live recordings and part of the spontaneity of being in the moment.

 

Note that doing so on an actual STUDIO recording is a logical contradiction, since if a band member is dumb enough to not know when to solo or play a certain part, then why would they be in the band to begin with? One presupposes they ARE in the band because they are competent on said instrumentation. ISS on recordings is further innecessitated when hiring session players for an album, who it can be safely assumed, know their ass from their elbow.

 

Recommendations

One recommendation is yelling out the name of the instrument about to take spotlight such as “Guitar!!” In regards to such solos, riffs, fills and licks, fans already know it’s coming and who’s playing it, so doing this in substitute of a bandmates name can prevent a dork meter spike and keep you safely south of dork. Bret Michaels finally learned this wise strategy on Poison’s sophomore album with the track “Nothin’ But A Good Time” after his horrendous transgression to C.C. on “Talk Dirty To Me.”

 

Consider the fact that your band members will already be listed in album liner notes and also on your website. You also get to introduce them live on stage every performance. Is there really a need to have such a conversation during the song?

 

Just Shut Up And Sing!! Well, you know what we mean—avoid mentioning your bandmates by name and at all during recording sessions. (The SM–58 Gold Standard—our preferred recommendation)

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Sharpening Your Cool IQ

Imagine a Steely Dan recording session where Donald Fagen yells out to Jeff “Skunk” Baxter “Go Skunk!” Or to Elliott Randall, “Elliott!” on the opening solo of “Reelin’ In The Years.” A voice sample of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial saying “Elliott”, although getting points for originality, still fails to be a Trojan horse in the cool army.

 

Picture “Tom Sawyer” with Geddy Lee saying “Gimme a roll Neil!”  to Neil Peart right before his first gargantuan drum fill. Then “How about another?”, and finally a “One More time.” Or alternately after the 3 big drum fills, Geddy saying “Wow, Neil was on a roll!” in some form of schlocky musical slapstick.

 

Singers are most often the guilty parties. Think about how dumb it would sound for another band member telling the lead singer to sing. Can you picture Jimmy Page telling Robert Plant “Scream Robert!” Or Keith Richards telling Mick Jagger “Sing unintelligibly like you always do Mick!” ISS seems to be a symptom of Lead Singer Disease (LSD) as guitarists, drummers, bassists, pianists and keyboardists, etc. are not prone to such fanciful faux pas.

 

Did we ever hear Freddie Mercury telling guitarist Brian May “Go Brian go!?” In the classic Rob Reiner Mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, the track “Gimme Some Money” on the band’s CD makes fun of Inter–Song Socializing. It’s a retro 60’s Flower Power song, where lead singer David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) says to guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), “Go Nigel Go!!” as he begins a wimpy guitar solo replete with stellar garage band cacophony.

 

“Gimme Some Money” is a parody song. DPAC exists to prevent parody from unintentionally becoming reality, and any Careless Whisper or Momentary Lapse Of Reason from becoming a parody later on. That being said, we wish you a long and productive career filled with years of Certified Dork Free Recordings (CDFR).

–DPAC

SwimOutlet.com

 

Case Files:

 

Poison “Talk Dirty To Me”

“C.C. pick up that guitar and talk to me”

Bret Michaels yells out “C.C. pick up that guitar and talk to me” to C.C. DeVille on Poison’s debut album during the track “Talk Dirty To Me.” It’s like what the hell was C.C. doing prior to this in the song—NOT playing guitar? Sitting on his monitor amp painting his fingernails? It makes little sense. One needs to factor in and consider before doing so “Will this still sound cool 20 years from now?” Because unless you’re in a tribute band, and dress and pretend to be the actual members of the original band onstage, such lyrical appendages are better omitted.

 

 

Def Leppard “Armageddon It”

“Come on Steve, get it!”

Joe Elliott talks to one of his guitarists on the track “Armageddon It” off of the monstrously successful Hysteria album. He calls out to Steve Clark, “Come on Steve get it!” right before the guitar solo. Was this encouragement because Steve flubbed the last 5 takes in the studio? DPAC wonders if there could be some kind of curse in doing this—In Def Leppard’s case, this was Steve Clark’s last completed album (due to his untimely death) and our friend C.C. got fired from Poison later on as well.

 

 

Mötley Crüe “Girls, Girls, Girls”

“Hey Tommy check that out man
What Vince where?
Hey hey right there
(whistle)
Hey baby going somewhere?”

Vince Neil and Tommy Lee are obviously not at a strip club during this conversation even though that’s what most of the song is about—a tour of the world’s finest nude entertainment establishments. Unfortunately due to the global recession, some of the strip clubs mentioned in the song are no longer in business.

 

But does this dialogue have real world authenticity? Like any girl wouldn’t be like “Who are these juvenile douchebags?” Like they would say, “Oh that’s okay, they’re in a Rock Band so high school kinda stuff is still pretty cool. They’re socially exempt from being any more sophisticated than a cruder construction worker Cassanova to be successful with women. They’ve got motorcycles so they MUST be cool.” Ah, the ‘ol Harley hat trick.

 

Although the strip club bonding Bromance between Vince and Tommy was some drunken drooling over imaginary Double–D’s, fortunately the motorcycle starting up in the song’s intro was real as one of our Board of Directors knows the person who did it on the actual studio recording.

 

 

Rick James “Super Freak”

“Temptations Sing!”
“Blow Danny!”

Rick slipped up twice in his hit dance track “Super Freak.”  First he tells his backup singers, “Temptations Sing!.” We’re sure after a successful recording career prior to Rick getting his first pubes, that Motown veterans The Temptations know the difference between choruses and verses and when to get their backing vocals on. And hiring session musicians as experienced as The Temptations requires conductor caliber instructions from Maestro James during the track?

 

Rick also tells his sax player when to take a standard 8 bar solo, with “Blow Danny!” Really? Like Danny would do a solo during the verses when Rick was singing about some very kinky girl? We think not. There are “Lead Drummers” who inappropriately intervene thunderously real or imagined virtuosity over lyrics but the phenomenon of “Lead Sax Players” has yet to spike our grievance and peeve meters.

 

 

Prince And The Revolution “Computer Blue”

“Wendy?
Yes Lisa.
Is the water warm enough?
Yes Lisa.
Shall we begin?
Yes Lisa.”

Although we’ve never heard Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie yell out “Go Lindsey” to Lindsey Buckingham telling him when to rip into a guitar riff or solo, one example of women talking during the song is on the Purple Rain Soundtrack. Our research has indicated female singers don’t tend to talk to their band members by name as frequently as their male counterparts. The intro to “Computer Blue” being a notable exception. The track begins with a conversation between Wendy and Lisa with no discernible reference to even playing an instrument.

 

What does this “girl talk” conversation have to do with a song entitled “Computer Blue?” Your guess is as good as ours. Incidentally, you shouldn’t have water anywhere near your computer as it can short it out and damage the circuitry. Yet certain questions still remain as to what they’re actually talking about. Our panel has narrowed it down to the following possible scenarios:

  1. Making herbal tea
    2. Shaving their legs
    3. Making sure the pasta they’re cooking turns out Al Dente
    4. Visiting a day spa while on tour

Regardless, don’t let no thermometer stop you from purifying yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka:

 

This concludes Case File Installment #1. And remember:

Some singers get hip replacements, others need lip replacements.
Don’t get a D in Dork, score a C in Cool!
Loose Lips Sink Hits!!

 

The Dork Prevention Advisory Committee (DPAC)

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America




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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


Related Posts To Check Out:
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America
Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

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Convincingly Sung By A Gay Man: Freddie Mercury (Queen) “Fat Bottomed Girls”

A classic, some would say THE ode to Rock & Roll groupies. “Fat Bottomed Girls” is such a timeless singalong chorus, I’m even willing to bet the Queen of England has rocked out to this at least once.

 

Come on Liz, fess up.

 

Long before Sir Mix–A–Lot rapped of his selective approbation on derrières, Freddie Mercury sang appreciatively of their Prodigal Son–esque magnetism after seeing every blue eyed floozy on the way. That being said, it’s a safe bet Hitler would not have been a fan of this song nor a Fat Bottomed Girl. That’s his loss for turning the other cheek on bigger cheeks.

 

Queen had already wrote what became 2 internationally popular sports anthems: “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” on their 1977 album News Of The World. As a secret DJ rule, these songs are usually played back to back on radio stations.

 

What better way to crown a trilogy with an anthem about the back?

 

“Fat Bottomed Girls” is a track off the 1978 Queen album Jazz. It sounds heavier than most Queen songs because Brian May used drop D tuning for the recording over standard guitar tuning. Instead of the guitar strings being tuned to the standard E A D G B E, drop D lowers the two E strings one whole step down to D, so the strings will be tuned D A D G B D.

 

The album version of “Fat Bottomed Girls” on Jazz is unedited. When the single was released to radio, they shaved off some guitar between the verses and the fade out ending. The edited version is on Greatest Hits albums and in the official music video while the unedited version is on Jazz as heard below.

 

Oh, and incidentally Roger Taylor has 2 pretty cool drum rolls launching us into the build for the anthemic Big Spoon lover’s chorus:

But wait…that’s not Freddie Mercury singing the chorus on the album—it’s guitarist Brian May!




Yes we’ve been fooled again despite Roger Daltrey’s well intentioned optimism by what I like to call the “Golden Earring Effect.” This happens When you have 2 singers who can overlap in range and vocal timbre, sounding similar enough where most listeners think it’s the same person’s voice.

 

With Golden Earring, it’s lead singer Barry Hay and guitarist George Kooymans. On their classic rock track “Twilight Zone” they trade vocals and no one seems to notice obviously because they’re in the Twilight Zone and nothing is as it seems.

 

And what pray tell was our Astrophysics degree I built my freaking guitar luthier mofo lad Brian May thinking when he penned this one? That along with fellow Brits he don’t need no education or thought control—he just needs a Fat Bottomed Girl. That would round things out nicely for him so to speak.

 

Regardless, that Astrophysics degree (or Asstrophysics?) sure came in handy here as Brian May sings of the Newtonian Physics of Fat Bottomed Girls making us privy to how they make the rockin’ world go round. It’s not a thesis Galileo would have agreed with however although Freddie repeatedly called to him in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

 

Regardless of the ongoing Gluteocentric Theory debate, Queen are the second highest selling act in UK music history right behind another group of lads with 4 members: The Beatles.

 

Furthermore, Queen were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Their Greatest Hits album sealed their crown as the best selling album in the history of the United Kingdom dethroning The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

 

Queen is also the only group in which not only did every bandmember write songs, but each bandmember wrote more than one single which actually topped the charts. How’s that for batting average?

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So let’s get this straight even though the band is named Queen and the lead singer was gay—The studio recording on the Jazz album has Brian May singing lead on the chorus, pleading for the Fat Bottomed Girl of his affection to take him him home tonight.

 

Live however, Freddie Mercury sang the entire song with Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor harmonizing just for the chorus as you’ll see in the live video posted below. Freddie Mercury provides the autobiographical narration in the verses of his torment of being glued to the glutes and on the verge of checking in to Fat Bottomed Anonymous.

 

As listeners, we’re supposed to sympathize with the protagonist being left alone with big fat Fanny (a double meaning of her name and certain measurements) who was such a naughty nanny (these days perhaps a sexual harassment lawsuit but back then a badge of honor to a schoolboy).

 

The verse then concludes with a certain Buttocks Boomerang Effect described thusly as “Take me to them naughty ladies every time.” The second verse finds our narrator later in life with “mortgages and homes, stiffness in the bones” yet still recalling the same fondness and preferences of his earlier cradle robbing romp with Fanny: “Heap big woman you done made a big man of me.”

 

It’s about as “Amazing Grace” as the Rock and Roll world allows for: Deliverance via derrière.

 

“Fat Bottomed Girls” and another single from Jazz, “Bicycle Race” were released together on those black frisbee looking things called records as a double A–side.

 

The two songs both contain mirror lyrical references to the other song. “Fat Bottomed Girls” has Freddie commanding “Get on your bikes and ride” to perhaps engage in the fetish of watching Fat Bottomed Girls ride bicycles. Historically, the mass popularity of the thong was still years away and British lads had to make things work with what they had.

 

“Bicycle Race” actually mentions our subject matter here in the song’s lyrics “Fat bottomed girls, they’ll be riding today, So look out for those beauties, oh yeah.”

 

As a tourist in England it’s hard enough getting used to the traffic pattern moving in the opposite direction of North America and numerous other parts of the world. For your safety, I’d recommend to forego sightseeing for said beauties riding bicycles right away as it’s going to take you a few days walking around London to cross the street safely like a local.




NOW GET THIS!!! If you are a Fat Bottomed Girl, take pride knowing certain countries appreciated your anthem more so than others. Queen’s Gluteus Maximus Opus charted higher in England, France, Ireland and Norway (go figure).

 

It also scored high on Dutch music charts which would include Denmark and Belgium since the northern half of Belgium is Dutch speaking. In America “Fat Bottomed Girls” only reached number 24 on the Billboard top 100. Boo!

 

Perhaps even that acceptance was bolstered a bit by the popularity of Disco and lyrics like “Shake Your Booty” by KC & The Sunshine Band so white people that didn’t listen to Parliament or the Commodores could hear about the wonders of big booty from people they were more likely to see in their neighborhood during trick or treating.

 

And if you weren’t good with math like the Commodores “Brick House” requires (“36 24 36 oh what a winning hand”), “Fat Bottomed Girls” laid it right on the table clear as day for listeners far and wide.

 

1984 saw English parody Metal band Spinal Tap also making further inroads for Fat Bottomed Girls with their landmark track “Big Bottom.” All valiant efforts on many fronts for curvier backsides but we’re still a ways away from Fat Bottomed History Month however.

 

I’ve been to the Queen star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in Los Angeles. I’ve done photography of London’s Royal Albert Hall and the magnificent statues of Albert Memorial across the street in Kensington Gardens. Unfortunately I never got to see the original members of Queen perform live although I’ve heard the legends from people who have.

 

Concert footage and music videos are as close as myself and many will ever come to seeing Queen in their heyday and the amazing Freddie Mercury at the top of his game. The music video here (pre MTV, and no doubt further inspiration for it as with “Bohemian Rhapsody”) for “Fat Bottomed Girls” was done in Dallas, Texas back in 1978, shortly after the song was released.

 

Sans further ado, get on your bikes and enjoy the video—“Fat Bottomed Girls” is definitely a track to swipe right on your Musical Tinder app.

© Composer Yoga


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Bill Douglas: Give Deep Peace A Chance

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Years ago, my regular Sunday night ritual included eating vegan Goats Head Soup with Cups And Cakes, praying to the Great Pumpkin and listening to Stephen Hill’s Hearts of Space on my local NPR station. I was fresh out of college, it was my first apartment and for several months I ate meals on my Yamaha piano bench. That is, before my sweet grandmother felt sorry for me and bought me a wooden dining table and chairs even though I was enjoying dining Japanese style. From my standpoint I was getting in touch with my inner Mr. Miyagi.

 

Hearts of Space, or HOS (not to be confused with Santa’s A–Game catchphrase or types of women Sting became famous for singing about) was on at later evening time slots where I lived which sometimes made it hard to get up for work Monday mornings *insert Todd Rundgren song here.* The shows creator, Stephen Hill has been hosting Hearts of Space out of San Rafael in Marin County California since 1973 or since bell bottoms were still the fashion rage thanks to Derek and the Dominos “Bell Bottom Blues” and The wardrobe department at The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.

 

Very often I would fall asleep listening to the themed episodes of ambient, new age, choral, classical, Celtic, electronic & experimental music Hearts of Space featured—music Clear Channel program executives probably wouldn’t dare play unless they all had Near Death Experiences and were instructed to do so personally by Archangel Yanni. Or perhaps a Charles Dickens version of “A Listener’s Carol” with successive visits from the Ghost of Listener’s Past might convince them to loosen the playlist leash and broaden their sonic horizons once again. Unfortunately as we’ve seen over time, The Spirit of Radio was replaced by a radio monopoly, playlist dictatorships, FM formula fascism & airwave homogenization—all we hear is the same “Radio Ga Ga” Freddie Mercury & Queen forewarned us about.

 

It was here on HOS I first heard of Canadian composer Bill Douglas on a winter themed show while laying down for a few hours listening to music like I usually do before falling asleep. I was in the right mood, the opportune window of the Soul open to receive this specific sonic side dish of something that spoke the language of spirit through sound. “Deep Peace” struck me as a profoundly beautiful elevating piece of music—ethereal, nebulous, contemplative, spiritual, transcendent harmonized vocal lines weaving sonic paths though my temporal lobes as I lay on my pillow, bathing me in a nice alpha–theta meditative wave. You’ll see why it’s one of my favorite contemporary choral pieces. Try listening to this lying down with your eyes closed before bed when you’re relaxed for maximum effect:

There’s some nice pockets of space here to inhale the harmonies into your energy field. This choral piece allows you to breathe deeply and recalibrates the relaxation settings so you can recline deeper into yourself. I’m glad I was introduced to the music of Bill Douglas and this composition, the title track off the album Deep Peace which is worth owning in it’s entirety. If you’re a fan of Enya’s music, Deep Peace is quite Enyaesque. Bill Douglas’ work also has crossover potential much like Enya. I mean, for someone like me who wouldn’t list choral music in his top favorite genres, that says it right there that Douglas made me a fan. That and how modern choral music can be profoundly moving internal experience.

 

Some time ago I spent several months traveling all throughout California. After spending time in SoCal, I gradually made my way north to Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz & the Monterey Bay, then further up to hang out in San Francisco for a few days. I then crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to explore San Rafael and the surrounding areas before heading further north to Santa Rosa to commune with Charles Schulz (creator of the world famous Peanuts comic strip) and see what all the hype was for Gino Vannelli to actually write a song about—was Schroeder a childhood idol of his too? Maybe Gino got lost as his directions in the song probably lead to Ausfahrt and not actually Santa Rosa California.

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San Rafael became the home of “Space Music”, the term coined by Stephen Hill to describe the mixture of music he played on the show into a variety pack genre. And how can one visit San Rafael and not do a drive–by of Skywalker Ranch? It’s indeed one of the most beautiful inspiring locked gates my eyes have ever beheld located coincidentally on Lucas Valley Road. And no, it was not named after Father George—that’s what the road was called a long, long time ago in a valley far north of the bay.

 

In addition to George “Original Gangsta Star Wars Mac Daddy” Lucas, Carlos Santana & James Hetfield have residences in San Rafael. There’s also a who’s who who’ve lived there in Marin County (I know Dr. Seuss would dig this sentence from whatever Whoniverse he now resides in):

Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Missing Persons)
David Crosby (Crosby, Stills, Nash & sometimes Young)
Jerry Garcia
Janis Joplin
Van Morrison
Huey Lewis
Tony Williams
Alan Watts (author of numerous books on Taoism & Buddhism)
Ram Dass (author of Be Here Now)

Philip K. Dick (Science fiction author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which was made into the cult Sci-Fi film Blade Runner with Harrison Ford and The Man In The High Castle currently a series on Amazon. Dick’s works have also been made into the films Total Recall with AHHNOLD Schwarzenegger and Minority Report with Tom Cruise).

 

So we can deduce from the evidence here Marin County is kinda cool or else it wouldn’t attract all this riff raff.

 

Another pop culture, or rather pot culture fun fact about the area is San Rafael High School is believed to be the epicenter of the term 420. It referred to the time joint subcommittee meetings would commence after “School’s Out” and Alice Cooper sang.

 

As for me, I found a sense of peace making that pilgrimage to the Heart of Hearts of Space. I still remember hiking in the mountains off Lucas Valley Road having close encounters with deer and seeing the skylines of San Francisco and Oakland in the distance. And most importantly, my prayers to the Great Pumpkin all those years ago were answered a short while later while visiting Santa Rosa when Linus appeared to me in the woods like Obi–Wan.

 

As an added bonus, “Deep Peace” is a non–denominational prayer for personal peace so even hypervigilant politically correct types can enjoy listening to without it ringing their church bells. Maybe we can’t do anything about War Pigs and warmongers but you can’t please everybody. If you want to pray some more at the First Church of Bill Douglas, there’s other albums in his discography such as Earth Prayer.

 

Perhaps the title of this post was inspired via a psychic nudge from spirit of John Lennon as we do share the same Birth Star in Vedic Astrology. Where my Vedic Birth Star homies at? You know you’re in the Golden Age of Sat Yuga when street gangs start rapping phrases like that instead of bitches and hos—unless it’s the other kind of HOS as in Hearts of Space. So farewell space fans, wherever you are…Drift Long and Prosper in a galaxy far alpha wave and give “Deep Peace” a chance.

© Composer Yoga

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Swiss Time Was Running Out For Deep Purple And The Pet Shop Boys

Question: What do Deep Purple and the Pet Shop Boys have in common? Give up? Outside of both being British musical groups, they both mentioned Lake Geneva lyrically in respective songs…

 

And for good reason: Geneva, Switzerland is a stunningly beautiful European city.

 

When you’re coming in for a landing in Geneva, the Jet d’Eau (water jet in Lake Geneva) can be seen high above the buildings in the city. It’s an amazingly magnificent sight to see a fountain launching water 459 feet into the air from an airplane.

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Geneva is a very clean sophisticated city offering that “walk around and explore” intimacy and old world charm and character of many European cities which I love.

 

And all this is set on the doorstep of the European Alps like a living Ricola commercial—so remember to pack that long Alphorn for a jam session at the base of the Matterhorn.

 

You can tell you’re nearing the Alps from the air when the rivers below turn a crystal clear translucent glacial blue color more magical than Elvis’ bathwater.

 

Known as the “Peace Capital” as well as a top financial center in Europe, Geneva ranks high among cities having the highest quality of life in the world—it’s also one of the world’s most expensive cities.

 

Geneva is located on the western side of Lake Geneva at it’s southernmost point. This body of water has been made famous in the realm of popular music in the following songs:

 

1. Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)
2. West End Girls (Pet Shop Boys)

 




Smoke On The Water

“Smoke On the Water” came out in 1972 off their Deep Purple’s Machine Head album which was recorded in Montreux, Switzerland. It remains Deep Purple’s most successful album to date, and also includes the tracks “Space Truckin'” (obviously requiring pricier fuel than the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin'”) and the indomitable early metal classic “Highway Star.”

 

I can attest to the pure unbridled mayhem of playing “Highway Star” in a few classic rock bands. It’s one of those tunes you save for later in the night to kick everyone’s ass before last call.

 

At all our strategic band setlist negotiations, our drummer would jokingly declare at the outset “Highway Star stays or I go.” Indeed. It’s such a fun, full out balls to the wall tune to play live. I still remember Jon Lord’s scorching Hammond B3 organ solo and break into it now and then while practicing.

 

Ritchie Blackmore’s classically influenced guitar work provides a look into a guitarist’s style before the Yngwie Malmsteen neo–classical revival and Van Halen’s two handed tapping technique became the new upgraded mainstay for the instrument—a technique embraced (sometimes bear hugged to death) by the Shredders and Hair Metal monsters of the next decade.

 

“Smoke On The Water” is one of the most identifiable riffs ever. Ritchie Blackmore created this simple anthemic rock riff that even those who are NOT guitarists can learn in 5 minutes. It’s based on perfect fourths played across two guitar strings which one can play with just one finger. It’s simplicity however does not erode it’s granite like staying power and appeal to multiple generations of musicians and fans.

 

Ian Gillan goes right for the Lake Geneva jugular in the first verse of “Smoke On The Water”:


We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

 

For those unfortunate souls who’ve never seen Beavis and Butt–Head “Dunt Dunt Dah…” this classic rock anthem, the first part of the post title here is a lyric from “Smoke On The Water” as well.

 

Montreux, where “Frank Zappa and he Mothers were at the best place around” (casino gigs paid well back then too) is located on the eastern most side of Lake Geneva. But as the story goes, unfortunately “some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground…”

 

Right in the middle of a gig too. A fan with a flare gun inside the theatre set off the fire. Fire bad. Fan stupid.

 

Zappa and the Mothers lost their equipment and the Casino de Montreux went up in flames. Hence the song title from bassist Roger Glover as members of Deep Purple saw this incident from their hotel across the lake.

 

The Casino de Montreux was where Deep Purple originally planned on recording their Machine Head album. The casino reopened a few years later and there’s a sculpture commemorating Deep Purple and “Smoke On The Water” next to the lake—it even has the notes of the riff on it to survive the Zombie Apocalypse or should those Zombies have a 2112 moment and decide to rock out.

 

The monument is also next to a statue of legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury who had a home in Montreux.

 




West End Girls

The Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe hold the distinction of being the most successful duo in UK music history (oh just over 50 million albums sold). They’re kinda like the Hall & Oates of Great Britain and at least one of them is a Maneater I hear. Coincidence?

 

“West End Girls” was a single off the Pet Shop Boys 1986 album Please. The track charted on both sides of the pond. Please also spawned several other hits for them including “Love Comes Quickly,” “Suburbia”, and “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money),” which by now that prophetic Pet Shop Boys tune has come to fruition and then some.

 

When I was in London, I made sure to wander all those sections of the city connected to famous pop songs including the West End. Maybe someday there’ll be a bus tour—a Magic Bus tour to take fans to all these places.

 

Love may come quickly but the Lake Geneva reference comes later in “West End Girls”:

In every city, in every nation
From Lake Geneva to the Finland station
(How far have you been?)

 

Anyone catch the Chevy Chase Fletch movie ad in this video? It’s around the 2:57 mark, right before Neil sings about Lake Geneva in the last verse.

 

So what have we learned from this musical meandering? In conclusion, even a blind Aristotle, or one playing Fifty Shades of Plato can see the causal connection between success in the music industry and mentioning Lake Geneva in a song.

© Composer Yoga


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Primal Scream Therapy: Deep Purple “Woman From Tokyo”

Awesome 80s Albums You May Have Overlooked

Convincingly Sung By A Gay Man: Freddie Mercury (Queen) “Fat Bottomed Girls”

Eddie Van Halen’s Pure Gargantuan Nastiness

 

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