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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


Related Posts To Check Out:

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

Awesome 80s Albums You May Have Overlooked

Closet Singles: Billy Idol “Hole In The Wall”

Sound Mines: The Outfield “Taking My Chances”

Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”

George Michael: The Careless Whisperer

Closet Singles: The Outfield “New York City”

Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince

 

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Awesome 80s Albums You May Have Overlooked

Count me among the minority who truly likes all genres of music and yes, no ones going to drive a bulldozer over my disco CD’s either. F*ck no. Not Donna Summer! Not Saturday Night Fever! I’ll be like the famous photo of the student in Tiananmen Square facing the tank. And a guitarist friend of mine who’s toured with Arlo Guthrie and other Folk legends like Willie Nelson will join me in solidarity and brotherhood here as he is a die hard Bee Gees fan too. So there. Say what you want about Barry Gibb’s “faggy falsetto” voice in misdirected machismo, he’s a great songwriter. Grease is the Word, brothers and sisters. Barry wrote that. See now you can’t possibly make fun of him out of ignorance anymore.

 

Okay. Moving on. Since plenty of my family and friends are 80’s freaks, I felt it appropriate to give out some suggestions for 80’s music lovers everywhere still lost in the land of Loverboy headbands. Which by the way yours truly has seen and they are fantastic as well as TONS of fun live.

 

Actually, the Archangel of 80’s music, Archangel Flockofsegulliel commanded me to enlighten the masses an iota (technically, more than a tad). So it is by Divine Decree I write this article. You’re probably asking “So how’s things in your padded cell?” Couldn’t be better. Cable TV, internet. Thanks for asking.

 

Anyhow, another reason that lead to this list was a musical comrade and I were talking about our Desert Island Discs, a concept of which has since been negated by the invention of the iPod. I then thought about the more obscure albums most people don’t know about from the era of music known as New Wave or 80’s.

 

My friend rightly calls The Cure’s Disintegration “a gift to Humanity.” Indeed, but the average 80’s fan knows about that album. I’m partial to the Cure’s Faith too. It’s got the grooves I need to “Let the coolness flow into our vertebrae” in the words of a Mel Brooks film History Of The World Part I.

 

In fact, years ago I developed complications due to wisdom teeth extractions. I got a post op infection and had to take heavy painkillers every 4 hours. I remember one night sitting in my living room after the painkillers whisked me away to groggy land while listening to The Cure. Boy did Mr. Smith’s music make so much sense to me then. It occurred to me that I was very near to the state most of it was written in and from. Robert Smith has stated he doesn’t remember writing or recording the Pornography album because he was so strung out on heroin. My friend does a fantastic Robert Smith impersonation of this interview blurb complete with the British inflection “That’s the album I don’t remember writing.”

 

In the same vein (pun intended), author William Burroughs doesn’t remember writing Naked Lunch, the novel which gave Steely Dan their name.  Yes they remain the only Grammy Award winning act named after a dildo. So that said, let’s stop talking track marks and start talking tracks!

 

Saga

Worlds Apart (1981)

Heads Or Tails (1983)

Saga is an oh-so-underrated Canadian band that you should definitely know more about. This is intelligent yet danceable grooving Proggy New Wave from Canada. They do other things up there besides play hockey and drink Molson you know. Seems Billboard needs to be reminded that Canada exists from time to time.  Listener’s also need to be tipped off that there are other acts from the Great White North besides Rush, Bryan Adams, The Guess Who, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Neil Young.  Oh and surprise, that other band I mentioned earlier, Loverboy also wear maple leaf underwear too.

 

Saga is reminiscent of the Power Pop style of The Outfield but with way more keyboards. I put them in the same category as far as energy vibe and positivity goes. They have over 20 studio albums in their catalog and have been recording for over 35 years. They’re only a one hit wonder to boneheads who wait to be spoon fed singles by MTV, commercial radio and record companies . They won a Juno award in 1982 (The Canadian version of a Grammy) after this album dropped for Most Promising Group Of The Year. Our friends Loverboy still hold the record for 6 Junos in one year, so rock those red Mike Reno headbands with pride kids because they are indeed a symbol of Canadian recording industry royalty.

 

Saga had two singles released that got some airplay off of Worlds Apart, their 4th album: “Wind Him Up” and their biggest single “On the Loose” which peaked at #26 on Billboard. However, in “On the Loose” much of the instrumental solo section was chopped off to fit the anal retentive 4 minute radio decree from Mount Sinai which is of course the Eleventh Commandment. One hopes the karmic entertainment in hell people for such song sushi chefs consists of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring and the Grateful Dead among others. The Beatles fell from grace too with “Hey Jude.” Thankfully Saga was saved from eternal damnation here but you can hear the song in it’s entirety safely on the album.

 

Another track which I always groove out to on the album, “No Stranger” could have also been released as a single. But again, the slower intro/build section topping 2 minutes would have been seen as “dead space” to commercial radio and would have been chopped off by the radio station sushi chefs.

 

Another Saga album from the 80’s you should definitely own is Heads Or Tales. It perfectly showcases why I love the guitar player in this band, Ian Crichton. He has such a physicality to his licks, riffs and solos. Ian’s playing is very animated and slippery with notes and phrasing. Listen to my favorite tune off this album “Catwalk” for an example of this. There’s a visual animation to his style almost as if the music was made for a soundtrack to a film but can surely stand on it’s own without accompanying visual images.

 

By this I don’t mean overacted facial expressions, atomic windmills or overdone stage gestures. I’m talking about the Holy manipulation of soundwaves. The producer on these Saga albums was Rupert Hine. Yes, you may know the name from your The Fixx albums. What you don’t have any The Fixx albums? No Howard Jones either? You need remedial ’80s then. You can chew gum and throw paper airplanes in that course. This article is for those who know about the Journeys, Loverboys and Madonnas already.

 

For you ’80s 201 students, Rupert Hine is a Composer/Producer who has also recorded his own albums. They tend to be hard to come by. One of the songs you’re probably familiar with if you’ve seen a bunch of John Cusack movies is “With One Look (The Wildest Dream)” off the Better Off Dead soundtrack which plays during the end credits. This is a quirky classic 80’s movie I’ve seen probably 900 times:

 

“Two dollars!”

“Go that way really fast, if something gets in your way, turn.”

 

See I told you. Rupert Hine wrote much of original soundtrack and the title track mentioned here features The Fixx vocalist Cy Curnin and guitarist Jaime West-Oram. A Saga track on Heads Or Tales that sounds like it could have just as easily been a Fixx tune or a Rupert Hine solo track is “Scratching The Surface.” There’s often a lot of “musical overlap” with Producers and the groups they write and work with, and you can get a decent 80’s Fixx (haha) with any of these.




 

Tubeway Army

Replicas (1979)

A seeming technicality on the album release date of April 1979, but New Wave and the music considered ’80s actually started in the late 1970’s. Before you knew him singing about “Cars” Gary Numan was in this group. “Cars” is a classic 80’s track, a song where drums accent on the 4 and by a white British guy before 1980. Wow. I’m speechless.

 

Replicas is a science fiction epic which you can nicely zone out to. I heard this album on college radio and had to pick it up. Thanks WRPI!! College radio is a beacon of actual music variety even more so than internet radio which tends to be just one genre per station just like commercial radio.

 

Although Replica’s lyrics and themes are science fiction, don’t let that turn you off. It’s not inaccessible, overdone and definitely not 80’s campy (but still fun) as Styx’s Kilroy Was Here (Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto–Japanese for “Thank You Very Much…”). There’s some really cool keyboard work on Replicas as far as 80’s goes–several tracks on par or exceeding “Cars” in my opinion. That being because essentially Tubeway Army was pretty much all Gary writing. Some of my favorite tracks on Replicas are “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” which was released as a single and reached #1 in the UK, “You Are In My Vision”, “It Must Have Been Years”, and  the bonus tracks off the 1997 and 2008 Beggars Banquet reissues “We Are So Fragile” and “We Have A Technical.” The 80’s synth on this album will put a Miami vicegrip on your eardrums.

 

Utopia

Oblivion (1984)

P.O.V. (1985)

Utopia was a project of Todd Rundgren, another writer/producer known for singing “Hello it’s Me” and “Bang the Drum All Day.” Don’t we all Todd. And what do Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell have in common? Todd produced those albums among others. Not too shabby for a boy from Pennysylvania hey? I guess Hall & Oates, CinderellaPaul Gilbert (Mr. Big) and Poison carried that states pride in the 80’s too.

 

Todd also wrote “Love is the Answer” and Utopia recorded it on Oops! Wrong Planet, then England Dan And John Ford Coley recorded it shortly afterwards and that’s the version everyone is used to hearing on the radio. Yup, the Carole King Effect strikes again.

 

The Carole King Effect: When you write a song, record it and later somebody else records it but makes 10 times the money you did.

 

Carole wrote it first dammit!! So if you want to protest outside BMI headquarters there’s some picket sign

suggestions.

 

Anyhow, 2 Utopia albums any 80’s collection is lonely without are Oblivion and P.O.V. Really any album by Utopia is worth checking out. Rhino records released a double CD a few years back called P.O.V., Oblivion & Some Trivia. It has both albums plus the 2 new tracks from the Trivia compilation album. This is a great starting point to get you into this under the radar late 70’s-80’s group. This CD is also worth it for the song “Fix Your Gaze.”

 

The 2 albums included on this release have some of the coolest Utopia songs on them. EVERYONE in Utopia sang lead vocals so you get a variety of singers and really fat full multi part harmonies. The musicians Todd had with him in Utopia were professional touring musicians and session players as well. Keyboardist/vocalist Roger Powell for one toured with David Bowie. Bassist/vocalist Kasim Sulton toured with Meat Loaf (bassist on the Bat Out Of Hell album), Hall And Oates, and Joan Jett (was a Blackheart). So I’d say there’s a tad more than garage band creds here folks.

 

Some of the tracks on these albums that rock 80’s style are “Bring Me My Longbow”“Crybaby” ,“Welcome to My Revolution”  and “Winston Smith Takes It on the Jaw” from Oblivion and “Zen Machine” and “More Light” off of P.O.V. There’s plenty of lost 80’s gold buried on these albums. It’s like totally an 80’s tragedy that NONE of the tracks off of Oblivion were released as singles. There’s some absolutely slamming uptempo tracks like the ones listed above as well as some amazing slower introspective tracks like If “I Didn’t Try”“Maybe I Could Change” (which has a gorgeous piano arpeggio intro) and “I Will Wait.” Still, the album charted in the US at the number 74 position despite the lack of a single. If it had even one single, it would have climbed higher instead of getting lost in the oblivion of radio station shelves.

 

I’m not sorry I own any of these 80’s albums and you won’t be either. Mike Reno gives his blessing for you to own them as well. Some I found in bargain bins, which just goes to prove the old axiom one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and with music, one man’s earwax is another man’s earworm.

© Composer Yoga




 

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Sound Mines: The Outfield “Taking My Chances”

The unfortunate thing about massively successful albums is there's songs on them that never see the light of day.

 

Stated another way, if these songs were written by another band or artist, they would have been released and became their signature song in an alternate parallel pop universe.

 

The Outfield had their breakthrough album with their 1985 debut Play Deep. And it was all about some girl named Josie after that.

 

The band have so many instantly recognizable songs: "Josie's on a vacation far away..." see what i mean? And from there, bassist Tony Lewis became known as the lead singer. But there was another singer in the band who you only heard in their signature harmonies, which we'll come back to in a moment.

 

But first: The pop world is still wondering, "Is this same "Josie" Steely Dan hung around in the 70's? Did Josie also attend Bard College with Walter Becker and Donald Fagen then do a semester in London?"

 

Play Deep was huge with 4 singles becoming radio mainstays: "Your Love" (AKA that tune about Josie), , "Say It Isn't So", "All The Love" and "Everytime You Cry."

 

Like Cheap Trick, The Outfield have so many interesting songs buried in their respective catalogs. Do yourself a favor and dig into their deeper tracks. You'll find veins of auditory ore that'll turn you into a more active fan of both bands. Okay I used to live near Robin Zander for those of you full disclosure purists.

 

The Outfield were a brilliant blend of power pop, new wave and pop rock with trademark crisp, clean positive vibes. A band from London and apparently not pissed off about anything when the prices of hotel rooms there alone are enough to piss off most tourists.

 

The vision behind The Outfield was guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter and yes, vocalist John Spinks. And it is John who is lead vocalist on our featured track here "Taking My Chances." John Spinks was a regular "jack" of all instruments like that Canadian Aldo Nova or that Prince guy you may have heard of.

 

For those fans who missed Canadian Musicians 102, Aldo Nova had a major hit with the tune "Fantasy" off his 1982 self titled debut Aldo Nova. You can now safely go back to your Rush, BTO, The Guess Who, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Corey Hart with or without OSHA approved sunglasses.

 

While main Outfield vocalist Tony Lewis showcased a high piercing positivity like Jon Anderson of Yes, John Spinks had a deeper introspective voice which made for a rich vocal blend with and classic counterpoint to Tony Lewis.

 

On top of that, John Spinks' guitar tone is among the happiest guitar tones I can think of. The matrimony of Lewis's soaring vocals and Spinks's guitar tone and style is something that often goes unnoticed and understated for why The Outfield have legions of fans outside the English speaking world.

 

Close your eyes (You Canadians take your sunglasses off) and imagine that "Taking My Chances" was the first tune you ever heard from a new band called The Outfield. You'll see that John Spinks could have fronted his own band as guitarist and lead singer:

Hey Rick Springfield did it. So did Bryan "Sandpaper Larynx" Adams. John Spinks easily could have done so too with all the demos he made that eventually became Play Deep. But The Outfield was a project he enjoyed with his pre–fame bandmates since the late 1970's, bassist/singer Tony Lewis and drummer Alan Jackman.

 

"Taking My Chances" reverses the traditional vocal order of The Outfield winning formula but it still works great. It also demonstrates how well John and Tony blended their vocal harmonies and could expertly weave in and around each other no matter who was the lead off hitter in the song.

 

It's this classic blend of high range and low range vocals which worked superbly for other successful acts generations a generation earlier like Hall & Oates and Kiss. Daryl Hall & John Oates and Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons gave the ear fix for high and lows plus the chorus blends of each. Coincidentally, The Outfield and Hall & Oates both had a hit song titled "Say It Isn't So."

 

This "Master Blend" also worked well for Journey although briefly. The Tony Lewis and John Spinks blend was also similar to Steve Perry and Gregg Rolie. the former vocalist for Santana and original Journey vocalist. Rolie has such a beautiful deep soulful voice, and is best known or singing "Black Magic Woman"  but gives stellar performances on tracks that have been largely unknown and forgotten which is  another story altogether.

 

For just 3 people, The Outfield packed a lot of power and wattage. Their incredibly full sounding choruses weaved from the tapestry of harmonizing between John and Tony gave songs their characteristic punch.

 

The Outfield wrote great pop music and weren't pretending to be anything they weren't. In fact, the same 3 bandmates which became the classic Outfield lineup took a hiatus in the late 70's because the Punk Movement was becoming more popular in England.

 

Instead of getting mohawks, bleaching their hair fluorescent orange, or piercing their nipples with nunchucks, John  Spinks, Tony Lewis and Alan Jackman took a long 7th inning stretch into the mid 80's when the music industry, now steadily dating it's new flame MTV, became more favorable to their original style of songwriting. The strange thing being, even though the English speaking world was all over British Pop/New Wave acts like Duran Duran and The Fixx, The Outfield were never as popular in their native England as they were in the United States.

 

What I've always enjoyed about The Outfield is the production quality of their songs is always crystal clear but never hospital sounding sterile. There's always a vibrance and energy to the music and instruments in the mix. The recording quality is always bright and shiny, it's like listening to sunlight reflecting off chrome. People just feel good listening to them, just like a simple Beach Boys song. And that's all the proof anyone's ears need.

 

Sadly the creator and songwriter of The Outfield, John Spinks died of liver cancer in 2014 at just 60 years of age.  Later in early 2016, liver cancer also claimed David Bowie. But John's legacy lives on as does his pleasantly hypnotic vocal tonality on this track which never made it out of the band's batting cage of potential hits.

 

"Taking My Chances" is great song that got overlooked because it was a track on a album filled with great pop songs. Play Deep quickly went triple platinum and continues to be a Must Have 80's album for new generations of fans.

 

Indeed The Outfield knocked it out of the park on their first album. They could have also hit more singles.

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
Closet Singles: The Outfield “New York City”

Recommended:
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
Closet Singles: Hall & Oates “You’ll Never Learn”
Sound Mines: Bihlman Bros. “Dream”
Closet Singles: Devo “Later Is Now”
George Michael: The Careless Whisperer
Closet Singles: Billy Idol “Hole In The Wall”

 

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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

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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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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

Related Posts To Check Out:
Sound Mines: The Outfield “Taking My Chances”

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Entertainment Earth

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!!

© Composer Yoga

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Closet Singles: Billy Idol “Hole In The Wall”

Consider me a card carrying member of the at large group that wishes Billy Idol released “Hole In The Wall” as a single. We meet in church basements (after White Weddings of course) periodically to discuss plans to preach this lost gospel to humanity because “Hole In The Wall” is a glamorously gritty rock gem from Billy and guitarist Steve Stevens.

 

“Hole In The Wall” is a track off Billy’s first stateside solo album called Billy Idol, released in 1982. Two singles were released from Billy Idol: “Hot In The City” got a good amount of airplay but “White Wedding (Part 1)” took the cake, pun intended.

 

“Dancing with Myself” was already released as Billy’s first single from an earlier EP in the US called Don’t Stop which also had his cover of “Mony Mony” by Tommy James & the Shondells. “Dancing With Myself” first appeared on the 3rd and last Generation X album Kiss Me Deadly (long before Lita Ford) back in England before the band broke up and Billy moved to the US. It then also reappeared on a later version of the Billy Idol debut album.

 

Since Billy was a new artist stateside, there were actually 2 different versions of the 1982 Billy Idol album cover. The one I have has the cover pictured below with Billy wearing the black leather vest. The other has him wearing a print shirt looking like he’s modeling for JC Penney or a few years early for The Karate Kid auditions as it has elements of the Japanese flag in the design.

 

I got into Billy Idol because my cousin, a ballet dancer & painter, was really into him. Not surprising since Billy’s music is high energy danceable pop punk rock and not the chaotic mosh pit dance kinda punk where the high end and midrange went as AWOL from the mix like punks went from society—it’s all low end coming out of the speakers making a thick audio mud where you can see why one would need to dance in Doc Martens.

 

While my mosh pit days are behind me (still have all my front teeth and don’t need to claim I was a boxer or a pimp), I still love punk—and Billy Idol, like The Clash is intelligent well–written Punk; The Clash being more Thinking Man’s Punk while Billy was cornering the market on Feeling Man’s Punk. It’s also Dancing Man’s Punk for anyone who can perform rudimentary choreography to a 4 count without looking like they’re being electrocuted by a hairdryer in a bathtub or having a group session of Whac–A–Mole.

 

Being a kid, I was only aware of Billy Idol songs on the radio and his music videos which my siblings and I thought was funny to imitate his triumphant raised fist and media persona like a professional wrestler. It took years later when my older cousin’s enthusiasm caught up with me and I too found myself wanting more more more.

 

Like Billy, I also grew up in a place where dwindling geriatric industry and a bread crumb modicum of a better future left the youth to develop the juvenile delinquency of your choice. So of course I got in a Hard Rock/Metal band with a friend and other members from surrounding cities and towns.

 

It’s funny that our practice space was on Baker Street years before I actually walked on that street in London, home of Sherlock Holmes and which Gerry Rafferty (formerly of Stealers Wheel known for the tune “Stuck In The Middle With You”) wrote his song about.

 

My first band never went anywhere as our singer seemed on his way to having a drinking problem before we even had a record deal and before we were even out of high school mind you. Fortunately I avoided the carnage of drugs and substance abuse. So yes, not all punk fans have addictions, use drugs recreationally, or even look like punk rock fans. I do still have a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors though.




Topically “Hole In The Wall” is a song about drug use and addiction but then again plenty of drug songs became hits. Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” isn’t talking about pills Major Tom required for his mission and the “Feed your head” lyric definitely wasn’t a PSA encouraging people to visit their public library.

 

“Hole In The Wall” refers to the time in his life when Billy and girlfriend Perri Lister lived in New York City and would buy drugs from a place in their neighborhood through a hole in the wall.

 

Aside from the street prescription inspiration and shady source material, art transmuted “Hole In The Wall” into an over the counter audio dose of Awesome:

The early Billy Idol albums were Billy with NYC guitarist Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey (who’s an underrated drummer). Forsey worked with producer Giorgio Moroder in Germany prior to his “American Idol” days.

 

Moroder & Forsey wrote songs for artists like Donna Summer and also wrote Flashdance with Irene Cara. From his apprenticeship with Moroder, Keith was the ideal producer for danceable punk. Forsey later went on to write “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” for the John Hughes coming of age cult film The Breakfast Club in 1985.

 

BUT it was originally written intended for Billy Idol to sing. Billy turned it down and the Scottish band Simple Minds recorded it with frontman Jim Kerr injecting some sublimely elevated affectation on vocals.

 

It’s a defining song and film of the 80’s. I always loved that song especially the outro where the drums have a brutally crisp precision to the groove. Also, one of my friends’ jazz bands got permission to do an instrumental version of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” on their CD.

 




Steve Stevens is a guitarist with all the chops and bells and whistles of a Hair Metal Maestro but he always wrote appropriate to the song and let the song determine his parts. This is a skill onto itself not often appreciated or applauded as it should be.

 

Steve Stevens playing style with Billy Idol is not bloated with virtuosity—It’s got a howling heaping of edge though like Billy’s screams and yelling, perfectly suited for the Pop Punk style the pair pioneered on the airwaves and MTV.

 

But, if you don’t believe Steve can “go there” to Virtuosoville, just listen to some of his solo instrumental recordings. Steve is one of those über versatile collaborators with genres up the wazoo under his belt. Some added feathers in his Aqua Net were he played with Michael Jackson and wrote the Top Gun anthem.

 

In fact, visually Steve Stevens was kinda the Slash before Slash—all you saw was this ubiquitous umbrella of spiked black hair, where it’s like who needs makeup if no one can tell if you’re standing forwards or backwards anyway?

 

Let’s zero in on Billy’s yelling. Yes even before he wrote a song about yelling on the follow up album Rebel Yell, there was that signature primal punk roar. What strikes me about Billy Idol’s vocals is he’s very present in the microphone like Henry Rollins (Black Flag, Rollins Band) and David Byrne (Talking Heads, solo), some of his fellow generation Punk/Pop colleagues.

 

It seems the act of recording doesn’t diminish the fervor and visceralness of their singing. For instance, the outro on the Henry Rollins track “Tearing” always blows my hair back and spins my chakras like a pinwheel.

 

I also like how Billy always sounds nicely loose in his vocal tracks and from reading his autobiography Dancing With Myself, he mentioned how Keith Forsey would always tell him to “not forget to have fun in there” when he would go into the Iso booth to lay down vocals.

 

I’m sure Billy’s drug use during that time contributed to the looseness somewhat as well when it wasn’t impairing him from standing vertically. His autobiography is a precautionary tale though, as many musicians and celebrities that did the same dance with drug abuse didn’t live to write a book.

 

More so, how much more art and creativity could they all have accomplished and contributed if they didn’t have the fallout and obligations that accompany substance abuse? Does anyone think of that as a reason to get clean or not get involved with substance abuse in the first place? I suppose if you’re ignoring self–preservation in the first place, the higher self–actualization focus of health as part of greater creativity and artistic expression goes out the window as well.

 

Thankfully Billy survived and met his ideal musical partner when he moved across the pond.

 

Steve Stevens brought the metal flavoring to the Billy Idol punk sound developed with his first songwriting partner bassist Tony James in Generation X back in England. Billy wasn’t afraid to bring in dance and new wave to punk and Steve brought the Metal tap shoes.

 

The prechorus in “Hole In The Wall” (“We we’re such an ugly pair…”) has broken (arpeggiated) chords played with guitar textures that make one think Steve Stevens had a pint with Andy Summers at some point.

 

Both The Police and U2 were using string muting on riffs and chords as part of the style of early UK Punk influenced pop. U2 particularly on their track “New Year’s Day”, and The Police most famously with “King Of Pain” both in 1983.

 

I always loved how Steve Stevens got a “Wall of Sound” out of a simple power chord like in the prechorus first heard at the 1:02 mark. Those are just 4ths and 5ths but it builds a scorching sonic trampoline to the chorus.




The syncopation on the verse riff shows Steve’s penchant for accenting on the 1 for a more danceable groove than the traditional Rock ‘n’ Roll accent on the 2 & 4. The verse riff for “Hole In The Wall” is accented on the 1 and sightly before the 3, leaving space and atmosphere for Billy to weave his sordid tale of the cycle of withdrawal.

 

The interlude narration part (“It’s a move to take you through…”) has a muted riff which reminds me of the Neil Schon riff in the Journey classic “Don’t Stop Believin'” that ends with a bend before Steve Perry comes back in with “…A singer in a smokey room…”

 

Both songs start off muting the riff then lift the mute and fret the notes increasing the volume for a segue back into the verse. The opening/chorus riff is just delightfully abrasive and another example of how Steve Stevens writes meat hooks that keep your ears hanging on.

 

With Billy, Steve and Keith we had an ideal Musical Meth Lab, cranking out not crank but Addictively Fun Fusion Punk. It was a new experiment musically to see if America would dig it after the unsuccessful first wave of punk tour by The Sex Pistols.

 

History shows they fared better as the Statue of Liberty herself has a punk rock hairdo and was already raising her hand in salute to the pop punk invasion spearheaded by a Brit and a guitarist from Brooklyn with hair as black as the leather vests Billy wore.

 

And now you know about the Hole In The Wall…and the suspected punk who punched a hole in it.

© Composer Yoga


Related Posts To Check Out:

Punk Rock Joke (Redneck Punk Rock Singer)

Atomic Punk: The Clash “Complete Control”

The Yoga Of Billy Idol

Edge Of A Broken Heart: The Runaway Bon Jovi Song

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

Awesome 80s Albums You May Have Overlooked

 

Recommended:

Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

Going Solo: Iron Maiden “Caught Somewhere In Time”

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

Closet Singles: Devo “Later Is Now”

 

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First Recording Of Purple Rain In America

Jimi Hendrix first described a Purple Haze in 1967. Back in 1983, The Weather Girls forecasted that “It’s Raining Men.” Amen. Not just “a men” but LOTS of them. Unfortunately for women, most of that “man rain” fell on gay nightclubs as the song got absorbed and usurped by gay culture.

 

However, the conditions seemed ripe for these two songs to combine into a huge storm front at some point—and it most noticeably did in 1984 as radio, MTV and theaters worldwide were saturated with the purple deluge.

 

On other ends of the weather song spectrum, The Fixx saw “Red Skies” at night over London in 1982. A couple years later in 1986, Peter Gabriel reported “Red Rain” in England and Slayer saw it “Raining Blood” in America that very same year.

 

But where was the first record of “Purple Rain” falling? Minnesota? Hollywood? Does Purple Rain make doves cry? Would Gene Kelly sing in it? Is it responsible for Teletubbie Tinky–Winky in England?

 

Due to it’s massive notoriety and cultural impact, most people would think the first record of Purple Rain mentioned in the pop world was by Prince in the song/album/movie of the same name. But Prince did not coin or originate the phrase. Purple Rain didn’t first pour into the mainstream audience in 1984—it was actually recorded years earlier by another band.

 

First Recording Of Purple Rain: London, England

Purple Rain was first seen by America on “Ventura Highway” on their 1972 album Homecoming. America are a British born trio composed of musicians Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek. They met as sons of American servicemen stationed overseas around London.

 

The second verse in “Ventura Highway” contains the reference to Purple Rain which seems to have no particular intended meaning other than it rhymes nicely with ‘train’:

Wishin’ on a falling star
Watchin’ for the early train
Sorry boy, but I’ve been hit by
Purple rain

 

Another lyrical possibility could’ve been, “Sorry boy, but I’ve been hit by a Herpes strain.” Maybe for the Weird Al version…

I’ve always been entranced with the mood “Ventura Highway” creates. It’s a trip back in time for me even though I was in the area for a first time as an adult. “Ventura Highway” is a combination of haunting nostalgic longing for moments of a heightened sense of freedom and the joy of being alive.

 

In addition to capturing moods in aural photographs, America was always able to pull off creating very full sounding acoustic folk rock. Their sonic recipe being the interplay and layering of the 3 guitarists individual tracks and the multi part choruses. Instrument wise, it’s stripped down but the vocals have a rich fullness where the listener doesn’t notice there’s anything missing in the auditory department—just guitars, bass drums, vocals and strategic use of space.

 

America’s style of songwriting doesn’t need a Rick Wakeman, Al DiMeola or Neil Peart sitting in on a recording session. It’s complete in itself and most importantly, very singable by an outside nighttime fire as a bunch of musician friends and relatives often do when I’m visiting family in the Northeast.

 

“Ventura Highway” as well as another favorite, “A Horse With No Name” are great mood pieces—narrative story songs with some of the most fun memorable sing along choruses and interludes in pop music.

 

Kudos to America for creating several earworms which stimulate alpha and theta waves of relaxation, personal reflection and deeper connection instead of the more common beta consciousness of numerous pop songs which don’t venture beyond major chords—and are color blind to how the wider sound palette of 7th chords and above can furnish the listener with deeper, more profound harmonic textures. Songs like “Ventura Highway” have the endearing ability to become part of the soundtracks of people’s lives as it’s done so with mine.

 

Should you try to find Ventura Highway, you may have more luck finding Ausfahrt, Shell Beach, or Bigfoot hitching a ride back to Seattle from Burning Man. The song refers to the section of Highway 1 along the coast of California, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH.

 

When I was in Southern California, I drove up that famous ‘fictional’ highway and took in the beauty of the sharp jagged coastline and images of the mighty Pacific which relentlessly carved it over eons. Of course, people will tailgate then pass and flip you off while you’re trying to take in the same awesome spectacle that they take for granted. Welcome to California—land of “no worries” but not no hurries.

 

That kind of motorist etiquette just shows the mentality of young adults who have very little life experience and growing up in California doesn’t give you a fully stamped passport either. It also demonstrated to me there and in numerous other places I’ve traveled around the country, how most people are not in control of their lives. If you’re always in a hurry, how in control of your life are you? If you ARE in control of your life, then you wouldn’t be in a rush or hurry all the time. That just means lots of other people and things own your time and you’re their bitch.

 

Regardless, I wasn’t going to let a few testosterone cases and stressed out SoCal speedometer slaves interrupt my Ventura Highway moment and another one of my pop culture pilgrimages. They certainly didn’t personify the youthful hunger for wonder, Indian time schedule rebellion and explorative quest for freedom captured in America’s “Ventura Highway.”

 




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My journey continued. I drove up to Ventura then Santa Barbara, soaked up the State Street shopping district a friend who went to UCSB told me about then onto Santa Barbara’s beach and the Stearns Wharf pier.

 

The PCH is a windy and at times mountainous stretch of road. Traveling north from LA, you’ll pass Vandenberg Air Force Base outside the city of Lompoc, just north of Santa Barbara. It was in this area years ago a young Dewey Bunnell formed impressions he later translated into some lyrics in “Ventura Highway” as he and his brother were standing around waiting for their father to change a flat tire and saw a sign for Ventura.

 

Ironically I had my own car issue in the same general location but AAA took care of me nicely as my father was most likely on a golf course several states away. Like Dewey, I also formed some memories of vivid nomadic optimism and several “Freedom of the Road” impressions of my time spent there.

 

I was considering relocating to that area north of LA—I enjoyed Ojai in the mountains, Ventura and Santa Barbara, all less crowded and congested areas of southern coastal California. Driving the “Ventura Highway”, it’s easy to get tangled up in blue there—the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean reflecting the western sun as you ride the snake along that ancient lake.




Second Recording Of Purple Rain: Chanhassen, Minnesota, United States

 

Back to Purple Rain Prince style. Ah, the Wendy & Lisa era of Prince, with The Revolution. It’s highly likely Prince got the title idea from the “Ventura Highway” lyrics. Perhaps while driving up Ventura Highway in his Little Red Corvette.

 

In any case, Purple Rain was the most massively successful and enduringly popular album and movie Prince has ever done. Purple Rain spawned a phenomenon—sprouting several hits: “Let’s Go Crazy”, “When Doves Cry”, the title track “Purple Rain”, and perhaps my favorite Prince tune “I Would Die 4 U.” Mr. Slowhand himself, Eric Clapton is partial to “Purple Rain”—supposedly one of his favorite songs.

 

Prince and the Revolution live at the 1985 American Music Awards introduced by Lionel Ritchie:

 

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Some of the other tracks on Purple Rain however had unintended consequences for the Prince of Minnesota as well as the rest of the listening public. Purple Rain set off its own Water–gate or more aptly, an Ear–a–gate scandal.

 

“Darling Nikki” was the track that tipped off (and ticked off) Tipper Gore thus beginning the Parent’s Music Resource Center (PMRC) crusade and the black sticker stampede against explicit lyrics all because, according to Prince, Darling Nikki was masturbating with a magazine in some hotel lobby and her aforementioned grinding ability was irresistible.

 

This was the creative inspiration for Tipper Gore to co–found the PMRC and spiked the moral VU meter of the masses putting popular music under a microscope and bringin’ on the ear gates so we could all become Def Leppards to bad influences. The Censor Ship was bound to set sail up everyone’s auditory canal.

 

Perhaps a brush up on remedial Reverse Psychology 101 would have been a better course of action in retrospect before cooking up a controversy casserole which usually has a few tablespoons of the secret ingredient “personal embarrassment” in the recipe.

 

The “Sticker from Tipper”, Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics/Explicit Content was to teenagers and adolescents as appealing as stray beer in their parent’s fridge and sneaking into R rated movies (like Purple Rain) after buying a ticket for some tame G or PG flick not that I would know about such things.

 

Fortunately Purple Rain did produce the fabled “Trickle Down Economics” of the 1980’s as it created additional production jobs for duplicate censored versions of albums to be sold at more conservative retail stores like Walmart thus insuring purchase by parents on the cutting edge of cool.

 

These Clean Version Technicians or Song Sanitation Technicians have been protecting impressionable ears by erasing all discouraging words home on the range here in America since the mid 80’s. I doubt France or Europe got in such a tizzy over dirty words, but in America, the sound sanitation continued with questionable results.

 

Santa may have bought you the wrong version of that 2 Live Crew CD in those turbulent turntable times. And building an auditory F–Bomb shelter Skinner Box only enhances the future culture shock to befall the Rod & Todd Flanders types portrayed in The Simpsons.

 

Regardless of the controversy Purple Rain set off, ask a group of people the top albums that defined the 80’s and you’ll hear Purple Rain right up there in moonwalk orbit with Thriller. Purple Rain duked it out with Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. for the #1 album spot twice—a showdown between Minnesota and New Jersey; Two primal elements, “Purple Rain” vs “I’m On Fire”, battling it out in a Billboard boxing match each scoring successive hits on their opponent.

 

“Purple Rain” is Prince in a more introspective tone which I tend to really enjoy when he wrote songs in this manner as opposed to his more explicit “I’m a Sexual God” song catalog. He could write deeper stuff well which is why “Purple Rain” has more widespread appeal than say “Pussy Control” —Errr…bad pun there. This is the chorus of this particular tune on The Gold Experience album but thanks to Tipper, it’s track listing being the self–censored and unassuming “P Control.”

 

Prince really shows off his guitar acuity on “Purple Rain” like he does on the more uptempo rocker “Let’s Go Crazy” and moderate tempo “When Doves Cry.” The thing with Prince is he was able to do some guitar flash without alienating his female audience because it’s not overkill—it’s strategically placed and thematic to the melodic exposition of the song.

 

Gratuitous guitar masturbating (being a Guitarling Nikki?) and shredding generally is more interesting and impressive to men. When you hear the outro guitar line of “Purple Rain”, it’s reminiscent of other 80’s hits like “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister and “Who’s Crying Now” by Journey.

 

“Purple Rain” is a modern gospel rock ballad and his guitar playing is nicely legato and played in a smoothly connected singing style known as Cantabile as all the standard musical terms from the classical tradition are in Italian. This is because both the violin and piano originated there a few centuries after pizza did. Cantabile is the art and technique of playing a musical instrument in the manner of imitating an actual human voice singing.

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As for the movie, a little known fact is one actress who was approached to play Prince’s love interest in Purple Rain before Apollonia Kotero eventually got the role. Some girl named Jennifer Beals. A movie called Flashdance came out the year before in 1983.

 

They probably figured since Beals got drenched already onstage dancing to “He’s a Dream” by Shandi Sinnamon and in the “Maniac” montage to the Michael Sembello tune, she’d be game to purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

 

Unfortunately, Beals was in college at the time and declined the offer as she had aspirations in life other than welding and exotic dancing. On the upside, Flashdance did win a Grammy in 1984 for Best Album of Original Score. Another fun fact is Lee Ving from the punk band Fear was also in Flashdance as a strip club owner, not that this stereotypes vocalists in punk bands in away way, shape or form.

 

The classic 1980’s album opens with Pastor Prince giving his famous sermon from the pop pulpit on Purple Rain in the beginning of “Let’s Go Crazy” with the church organ sample rocking out behind his “Dearly Beloved…we are gathered here to get through this thing called life…” spiel. It culminates in the sage advice as the drums kick in elevating the tempo and just before the full band enters:

“And if the de–elevator tries to bring you down…go crazy…punch a higher floor.”

 

People who grew up in the 80’s memorized this Prince dialogue as much as the opening dress down rant by actor Mark Metcalf (the Doug Niedermeyer character in National Lampoon’s Animal House) in Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video, one of the funniest things to grace the early days of MTV. “A Twisted Sister pin?! On your uniform?!…”

 

Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider later found himself defending free speech to Congress along with Frank Zappa and John Denver after that “Darling Nikki” incident from Purple Rain. Seems the Purple Rain washed Dee’s makeup off for the congressional hearings as he wasn’t sporting his trademark stellar Cover Girl looks.

 

All in all, Prince seemed to weather the controversy of Purple Rain fairly well. The album and film have held up over time and aren’t going to wash away with censorship soap anytime soon. Pop history knows the Censor Ship set sail after the Purple Rain and wouldn’t have had the degree of controversy buoyancy without it’s success being embraced on a wide scale by the culture at large.

 

Years later, the controversy fizzled out and ran aground on it’s own moral high ground. People can read into things and create and inflate issues like our tale here of how a little Purple Rain turned into the Perfect Sh*tstorm.

 

Let me take a retroactive stab at it before I wrap up this purple banana: On “Purple Rain” Prince states, “I only wanted to see you bathing in the Purple Rain.” Okay, so maybe that means the Prince has a bit of a voyeur fetish as well. Cover your ears! Release the hounds!

 

The good news is, we can baptize ourselves with Purple Rain in more than one way and in more than one location thanks to America and Prince. So before you build that F–bomb shelter or call up that shrink in Beverly Hills, it might be better for your sanity to go crazy and take a long leisurely meditative drive along Ventura Highway in the sunshine after the purifying cleansing of a freshly fallen Purple Rain.

© Composer Yoga

Related Posts To Check Out:
The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

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Closet Singles: Hall & Oates “You’ll Never Learn”

This is the inaugural installment of a segment where we’ll highlight songs that “Coulda been a contender.” Don’t feel sad there Marlon Brando, you WERE a contender having been mentioned in David Bowie’s “China Girl.” These are songs we refer to as “Closet Singles” and aim to sing their praises and give them a coming out party almost as good as Diana Ross could.

 

What usually happens with a musical duo is one becomes the lead vocalist in the eyes of the public, or as in this case, Private EyesSimon & Garfunkel, Loggins & Messina, Hall & Oates.

 

This holds true even if the other part of said duo CAN and does sing. Even so if the duo records albums with each trading lead vocals on various tracks like Hall & Oates regularly did on their albums.

 

Why does this happen? Well, with hit singles, record company marketing and desire for ROI (Return On Investment) heavily influence this.

 

Once a song becomes a major hit, that’s the lead singer—that’s the map, the formula: repeat the previous success in the future for their bottom line as well as for listeners wanting to hear the next song by whatever act with that same lead vocalist.

 

Strangely, Hall & Oates first well known single, “She’s Gone” off their 1973 album Abandoned Luncheonette was with John Oates on lead vocals and Daryl Hall secondary.

 

Technically, it’s actually a dual lead vocal line in the verses—Daryl doubles John with a falsetto but since it’s high and thin aurally, John’s deeper voice takes precedence in the auditory foreground then they trade for a “call and response” chorus.

 

A few years later however, after “Sara Smile” and “Rich Girl”, their first number one single, it was pretty much all singles with Daryl Hall on lead vocals and John Oates as backing vocalist.

 

Record companies use the same formulas of established success within bands as well as in the industry as a whole—think boy bands and rest assured, there’ll be new ones for every generation. They might even outlive cockroaches & Keith Richards.

 

They also follow this template with previously successful artists—they re–market, repackage, resell “them”, that style to new generations. An example of this is Lady Gaga.

 

When I first listened to her Born This Way album, a woman I worked with asked me what I thought of it. My first reaction was “They’re Madonna songs sung by someone else.” I could totally see why Lady gaga was being backed by and was a priority artist on a record company’s roster.

 

You can see and hear how they follow previously successful formulas and sign artists that fit this sound/style and/or groom their talent pool more in that direction because they do not want to take chances. Taking chances is a business risk and they want a sure predictable return on their investment.

 

So it is with the first hit single—for Daryl Hall & John Oates it was “Sara Smile” with Daryl Hall at the helm. It seems “She’s Gone” just wasn’t a big enough single to perk their ROI radar. If it had, they’d have been looking for the next single with John Oates on lead vocals, and that’s where this installment of Closet Singles comes to the much belated rescue.




That song is “You’ll Never Learn” which is also off the same album as their first #1 single “Rich Girl”—their 1976 release Bigger Than Both Of Us. If you love Hall & Oates like I do, you’ll love this song. It’s another great example of John Oates the vocalist, how there was another “She’s Gone” in the batting cage, waiting to get another chance at bat to become a hit.

 

“You’ll Never Learn” showcases John Oates’ range and intensity alongside solid lyrics and orchestration. His vocals on this capture that sublime sense of awe—his nuance and tasteful use of falsetto makes this melody soulfully soar:

“You’ll Never Learn” is a flat out great Hall & Oates song that never met the airwaves—it’s a great song for ANYONE that few people know about.

 

Now picture a Parallel Pop Song Universe. Imagine if John Oates was a solo artist and released “You’ll Never Learn.” If you have hairspray induced amnesia or if I used The Force and made you forget Hall & Oates, what would your impression of this song in that context be?

 

I can say if this was a song I heard on the radio or saw on MTV, Solid Gold, The Midnight Special, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, etc., back then, I definitely would have bought the hypothetical John Oates album She’s Gone And You’ll Never Learn it was off of.

 

Which brings us to another point—The dynamics of a duo are different: Batman is more likely to have a successful solo career than Robin.

 

Think about bands that have/have had one or more lead vocalist:

Chicago
The Eagles
Kiss
Fleetwood Mac
Journey
Toto




These are just some well known ones that come to mind. Notice how it’s more permissible and acceptable to vary vocalists with the industry and audience AS A BAND than if you are known and billed as a duo?

 

In the case of Fleetwood Mac, it’s not only 2 different female vocalists, but also a dude in the mix: Lindsey Buckingham. They had songs chart with each different vocalist including songs with split vocals like the anthem “Don’t Stop” off their Grammy Award winning Rumours album.

 

Following this strategy and seeming recording industry/audience loophole, say for instance the songwriting duo Hall & Oates called themselves by a band name instead. I mean Steely Dan was mainly 2 guys and could have went by the duo name Becker & Fagen.

 

Lets work some revisionist history magic and say Hall & Oates called themselves by what they coined their own style of songwriting & music: Rock N Soul. Since they were from the Philadelphia area, let’s add that to the mix as well. So they are now known as “Philly Rock & Soul” after Marty makes it back in Doc’s DeLorean or PRS for short.

 

This is assuming Paul Reed Smith guitars (PRS) doesn’t have a problem with that. What then? Well now the duo bias and audience ADD is removed and PRS can have hit singles with more than one vocalist doing leads. Furthermore they can each have successful solo careers afterwards like Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Peter Cetera, Ace Frehley, etc.

 

…And they can all live happily ever after with Rich Girls.

 

So if Batman & Robin should happen to read this, they should call their band the “Caped Crusaders” instead of “Batman & Robin” ensuring both may have successful solo careers sans capes, masks & spandex later on in the Gotham City music scene.

 

Perhaps they could even do a cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker.”

© Composer Yoga


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Somewhere On The Road, Somewhere In My Life

(or “I Wrote Most of this Late One Night in a Parking Lot on my Laptop in Southern California”)

 

Somewhere on the road, somewhere in my life…also Somewhere In Time. How could I forget one of my favorite Metal albums of all time?

 

It’s been a few years since I went on a Jack Kerouac style hiatus from the regimentation known as daily life.

 

My GPS indicated I’d driven over 10,000 miles all around the country. It was kind of a social experiment to see what I could learn about myself, face some inherited fears, find out what I’m made of. Dropping it down to what Jimi Hendrix mentioned as “Nothing but existence” in the tune “I Don’t Live Today.” Call it a modern day Vision Quest minus the peyote and Journey soundtrack.

 

On the other side of routine and structure, life is very different having had the experience of the limbo of living that perspective. And seeing it from this perspective shows you we all have “Wasted Years” tracks on the CD grooves of our life just like the rings of a felled tree.

 

Living my version of that Iron Maiden song on the road for half a year traveling the United States, the lyric that gets me the most today is “Another city goes by in the night…”

 

When you’re in that Interstate Love Song & Interstate Love Affair groove and don’t have an address anymore, every city you pass through is home to someone else but just another spot on the map to you.

 

Over time you start to miss little things like your own bed and nice warm showers become something you’ll now feel gratitude for.

 

On this trip, I joined the Cross Country Club—twice that year year driving from the northeast to a southern coast, then did the east to west coast trip. Various songs pop into my head, old memories get triggered from seeing new sights, file cabinets from my back pages slide open integrating new multi sensory connectivity.

 

I’ve added several personal Holy places to my roster of visitations. I’m still thinking about seeing the Vermilion cliffs and Echo cliffs along the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona. I didn’t just see these places, I felt them—interacted with them more than just visually.

 

This seems a sense that gets drowned out when we live lives of desensitization which happens when we do the same thing 900 times—go to the same places, work at the same job, drive on the same roads, have the same routines, have the same conversations.

 

The neurons upstairs take extended Rip Van Winkle naps because they aren’t being stimulated when there’s no substantially different experiences on our plate in front of us.

 

I was never one to see this (what’s considered a “normal” life) as promoting growth and expansion within myself. So it’s been a life of art, particularly music, travel and meditation to keep fanning the flames of Spirit within.

 

If I lived several centuries, I would outgrow every other human experience but these. They will always be larger than me and I grow with them the more intimately I become with them. They are ladders to Divinity.

 

And while the life I lead and some of the things I do may seem crazy, it leads me to deeper Freedoms of Being—reaching the point periodically where I have no name, no address, no titles, no roles to play…

 

None of those things are even close to what I really am, not even close to the REAL me. You realize that on the road, constantly in motion.




I recall first experiencing this state as a classical piano student after practicing for 4–6 hours a day after school. I touched the “Being” state and then would come back to all the surface identifiers we latch onto and use socially—my name, social relationships, my social security number, etc.

 

In fact, they’re pretty laughable and matter little when you tap into the Zero Point of naked existence which has always been more appealing to those of my tribal orientation…Bohemians and Beat Generation reloaded types.

 

I remember walking alongside a massive male elk at the Grand Canyon. I was about 10 feet away and the look he gave me was just that—from the Being state of naked existence. One life form looking at another with no need for conceptions or layers of culturally created identities—just Life, Existence, looking at itself from the mirror of different body designs.

 

I looked into his big eye, watching him casually go about his day, watching his body maneuver in 3 dimensional space, listening to his gait. I smiled taking in the moment, realizing how much more present and sensorily engaged I was compared to the life I left behind.

 

The slower the brainwaves, the more you perceive and more deeply comprehend.

 

The fast pace of normal everyday life makes for thin consciousness. And anorexic consciousness isn’t healthy, calm, joyous or capable of deep peace. It’s a religion of stress, neuroticism and anxiety, regardless of the material or financial carrots it may promise.

 

You up the bar at the same time you drop the limbo into Being. Explore what’s deeper. You won’t have a squad of cheerleaders, you won’t have the support of the majority around you. People won’t understand. Do it still.

 

The surface doesn’t liberate nor is it a wise teacher. The common, the comfortable, won’t forge new alloys of Being. There are Freedoms beyond being physically free.

 

There are wars you will need to fight when all wars on the planet end. There’s no end to the distractions, the “to do” lists, needs, social roles, obligations, that keeps us from making dates with ourselves for greater internal revelations and transformations.

 

It takes time to arrive at what Lao Tzu referred to in the Tao Te Ching as “Doing not doing” —when the musician becomes the music, the dancer becomes the dance. The business card of the Being is but a blank white card—the unstruck chord, the Unpatterned Mind of Patañjali, the sound of one hand clapping…

 

A question to ask is, “Do you know what you need or need what you know?”

 

Two rivers. River “need what you know” is wide enough for a cruise ship, and filled with flamboyant ferry boats with ten piece dixieland bands. River “know what you need” is kayaks only—single file, solo.

 

Each new terrain on that river requires more albatrosses to be jettisoned to go further. Holding on to temporary identities, impermanent things, attachments and situations creates the friction of current. Without them, the currents against you cease.




You can reach the realization through repeated suffering yourself or a Master will tell you the same: “You don’t even know what’s good for you.” You can debate, resist, intellectualize, rationalize with the pancake stack of accumulated ego, socially constructed, culturally reinforced “yous” til Aunt Jemima rocks some dreadlocks.

 

And what will doing so ultimately prove? Learn to listen at the level of Being and you may learn something deeper about yourself and start a more important journey than the cookie cutter career cul–de–sac we all are funneled into to various degrees.

 

Reach the quiet question underneath surface living of “What grade level of Freedom are you comfortable with?”

 

Every time I embark on one of these adventures on the planet, it’s simultaneously paralleled by a corresponding inner journey which is experienced as vividly as the outer scenery. This other facet isn’t something I mention often nor is it easy to convey on the printed page.

 

You’ve heard it said “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.” It’s more than a bumper sticker and J.R.R. Tolkien quote—it’s a way of interacting with life towards self discovery.

 

If you’ve “arrived”, if you’ve defined yourself satisfactorily to forego further revisions, explorations, and the desire of shedding finer and finer layers of the onion—THAT is lost.

 

The constant flow inside the journey becomes home. The journey becomes the goal.

 

It’s the reason I embrace the life I do. I do so regardless of whether it’s understood by those around me, whether it’s right for anyone else, or what others may think I “should” do with my life—because these experiences have taught more satisfying ways to expand my consciousness and creativity than “playing it safe” ever has.

Big birdcages are still birdcages, big fishbowls are still fishbowls

Time and experiences will make the deeper questions surface and get louder

Life is about living the right questions

What grade level of Freedom are you comfortable with?

© Composer Yoga


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