Tag Archives: punk

Punk Rock Joke (Redneck Punk Rock Singer)

Who’s the famous redneck punk rock singer?

Hillbilly Idol

© 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

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Make Making Music A New Year’s Resolution

 

People are always making New Year’s Resolutions. Most of which never stick, involve giving up something, punishing yourself to varying degrees, restricting something. How about making a New Year’s Resolution that’s fun? One that’ll make you happier, smarter, improve coordination, memory and the performance of your ENTIRE brain more than pretty much ANY other activity. What’s the catch you ask? The blood of a free range unicorn? The fender from a pink 1979 Cadillac Eldorado? A transgender outhouse from Smurf village?

 

Actually, just the price of an average instrument, new or used. Any standard portable 5 octave keyboard with full size keys, an electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drums, sax, flute, horn, trumpet etc. will do. Guitars and keyboards tend to be the most popular instruments, but whatever instrument piques your interest, go for it. Maybe you’ll become the next Flugelhorn Icon. You can even learn play a couple instruments as this interestingly brings out different sides of yourself.

 

You don’t have to buy the most expensive top of the line instruments. I used to work for a music instruction company and got to play around with all kinds of high end uber expensive instruments. Fact is, you’ll get the same benefits of playing music without having to drop 5 grand on an Eric Clapton signature model Martin, just like you don’t really need a Rolls Royce to drive to the grocery store. Unless your address is Buckingham Palace.

 

Cockroaches, Casios and Keith Richards

Even an inexpensive Casio keyboard you can buy at any department store or online will do. I still have one of the very first keyboards I learned to play on, a Casio. Over the holidays, I met up with one of my former bandmates and we were joking about about how they’re made of some kind of indestructible plastic. Seriously, I’ve had the same cheap Casio longer than I’ve owned any car. I’ve loaned it out long term to at least 4 different people over the years and it still comes back working. So folks, it’s not just gonna be cockroaches and Keith Richards—It’s actually cockroaches, Casios and Keith Richards. That black Casio has been in the trunk of my car in the winter, in the tropics, in the desert. It would work on the moon I’m sure. I’ll make a mental note to play The Police tune “Walking On The Moon” for the occasion.

 

Benefits Of Making Music

Pretty much everyone loves listening to music which by itself gives plenty of benefits. But when you actually PLAY an instrument, so much more of the brain is engaged, leading to improvements across the board in numerous areas. Here’s some of the science behind making music:

Making music leads to improved coordination, enhanced learning abilities and better overall emotional health and well being. All things that are allies in anti–aging. One of the buzzwords in brain science is Neuroplasticity. The belief not all that long ago was that the brain does not grow any new neurons after adulthood. Not only is this seen now as the pile dogma sh*t that it is, the brain can and does actually grow new neurons and neural connections later in life. Playing an instrument grows new neural connections and keeps your brain young and active. And making music is actually neuro–protective. Look at our friend Keith Richards. With the amount of drugs Keith, Mick and The Stones did back in the day (I’ve also heard unpublicized stories from a musician who toured with them), one would expect them to be dead or only capable of having “zombie conversation” at a nursing home with other other casualties of the counterculture and retired boxers. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger did enough drugs to kill a herd of elephants. But lo and behold, not only can they still wipe their butts by themselves, they’re still touring, still writing and recording and being creative. Some even making new butts to wipe in their 70’s. Imagine what can happen if you play music minus the neuron guillotining effects of drug abuse.

 

Keith Richards’ practicing and playing guitar has no doubt protected him from years of addiction, bad habits and harmful life choices. So don’t wait till you retire to learn an instrument! Start getting the benefits now and you’ll be in much better mental and emotional shape when you do retire. You may not even want to retire from what you do because you won’t know what over the hill means. As for music, I’ll never retire from that. I don’t see music as my second language. English is my second language. I loved music before I spoke my first words.




Making Music Improves Cognition, Memory And Emotional Well Being

People take all kinds of pills and supplements to give them an edge professionally and personally. Things for energy, alertness, stress relief. Western culture promotes the magic pill. What about the magic hobby? Why don’t Dr. Oz, the Surgeon General or drug companies recommend playing an instrument? The drugs and supplements they recommend and make cost more in the long run than the price of an instrument. And the benefits of making music last longer than pills. Music is an all purpose medication without the harmful side effects.

 

Sound is energy. Sound is the first sense that becomes active in utero. Sound literally grew your brain. Mom’s heartbeat is our first drum kit. Why not keep growing your brain by playing an instrument? Your brain just works so much better with regular practicing of an instrument. It’s like your memories get a team of office support staff all filing them in their own departments throughout the brain. And they communicate with each other more frequently and recall things quicker and more vividly. Music is also meditative. It’s calming and relaxing and gets you out of the left brain beta consciousness birdcage which is a factor in the increased stress in modern society. That lateralization of consciousness isn’t normal or healthy—it’s fight or flight mode as the new norm. Music is nonverbal and provides stress relief in a way that other common methods cannot. Stress is energetic which then turns to physical symptoms. Music can match that negative and stuck stress energy and diffuse it. It works like a tuning fork in reverse. If you’re angry, listen or play some angry music for a while and you’ll find it draws it out of you like a Homeopathic tincture. As in Homeopathy, like cures like, and matching music to your mood will cancel it out and you’ll balance out and find your equilibrium again. Making music makes a more resilient brain.

 

Overcoming Biases And Misconceptions

You’ll have to overcome some biases and misconceptions about making music and playing an instrument. Rewind back to when you were a kid. Every child loves singing and making music. It’s fun, a form of play and vital for learning. At some point, most kids don’t continue their learning and exploration anymore through singing and music because “I’m not a prodigy” or some other socially approved or socially reinforced cop out and sacrificial offering to the lame God of Practicality. Are there expert or prodigy walkers? Did that stop you from learning how to do that? You don’t remember how long it took you to stand up and walk, yet most people are intimidated to play an instrument because it would “take too long.” We could have used the same excuse against speaking, writing and spelling. Look at Doctors—they’re no prodigies of handwriting are they? Granted making music is not essential to daily life but it is essential for long term quality of life as you’ve seen in the above video clip.

 

Look at it another way: You’re ALREADY better than any caveman. If you had a time machine and went back to the Stone Age, you’d be a rock star. As bad as you think you are or will be, you’re still better than Fred Flintstone so don’t make excuses or write yourself off before you even start.

 

You Don’t Need Formal Lessons To Get The Benefits Of Playing Music

You learned to speak and walk pretty well without any formal lessons. You got better with practice and later went to school and improved further. Just enjoy making music, get back to that explorative phase you had when you were a kid. Cross the “taking lessons” bridge if and when it comes to that later on. Just focus on playing music for fun and it’s benefits first. You can find free lessons online and buy lesson books before you commit to a teacher. Get comfortable and familiar with the instrument before you put yourself in the situation of paying for music lessons and the level of seriousness that goes with regular lessons. Many parents, who even well–intentioned, signed their kids up for music lessons too early turned a lot of people off from the fun of playing an instrument by making it too serious with the commitment required by having a teacher. Just like you don’t need a $5,000 Martin acoustic guitar in the beginning, you don’t need Madame Juilliard Graduate as your piano teacher the week after you buy a cheap portable keyboard. Overcommitment leads to personal letdown and unrealistic expectations at the beginner’s stage leads to personal sabotage. Don’t set yourself up for failure like this in the beginning. Remember your first time driving a car? Squirrels still have nightmares…

 

You Don’t Need To Understand Notes, Chords And Theory To Get These Benefits

Just play. Make pleasing sounds, practice, have fun. Worry about the formal knowledge later. Make sounds that you like. That’s how songs by your favorite artists are written. Music is created by playing first then written down, not the other way around. There are plenty of free videos on Youtube and sites online that explain music theory. You can also buy books for reference later. For guitarists, there are sites like www.songsterr.com (that is how it’s spelled) which shows how to play hundreds of songs for free. The site uses tablature to show which string and fret to play by numbers instead of having to learn notes by name. Tablature (AKA guitar tab) has helped generations of guitarists learn how to play. The site also has a player so you can hear how the song should be played so you don’t have to learn the types of notes and their time values. It is however a good idea to get a chord diagram book for keyboard or guitar because you’ll learn to think in chords instead of individual notes which is more complicated and frustrating when first learning about music theory. And all songs are based on chords, and you can quickly learn the most frequently used chords in thousands of pop songs in an afternoon.

 

Remember, music theory was invented thousands of years after musicians made and played the first instruments. G minor 7 flat 5 doesn’t mean squat to the Aborigines, but music and playing instruments does. Paradoxically, the more “primitive” the culture, the more every member of the culture engages in music, song, and dance. Take a hint. Heal thyself, Oh sophisticated industrial society cellphone texting box dweller!




You Don’t Have To Be “Good” To Get These Benefits

Look at Punk Rock (no offense since I dig that too). You don’t need to be a virtuoso like Franz Liszt, Niccolò Paganini, Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. Even so, all these “Gods” once drooled all over mom’s shoulder just like you and me. And being “good” never stopped Punk Rock musicians from having fun writing and playing songs. They weren’t victims of self sabotage in believing they suck or the “Don’t quit your day job” beatdown. And numerous Punk Rock bands have become culturally significant playing just a handful of the most basic chords. Music is just as fun and beneficial for a 3 year old doing pick slides on guitar as it is for someone like Eddie Van Halen.

 

You Don’t Have To Do It To Become A “Musician”, Play Out Or Get In A Band

Hallelujah!! Your garage can still be used for that pink 1979 Cadillac Eldorado. Frederic Chopin didn’t play live concerts much at all in his lifetime. He really just loved sitting at home with his piano composing. He make his living teaching and though sheet music sales as CD’s weren’t around in the 1800’s. French composer Camille Saint–Saëns was also an amazing pianist but never cared to play out live, preferring like Chopin to “stay home and compose.” Saint–Saëns was a prodigy and supposedly could play Beethoven Sonatas from memory (again, music really upgrades memory function). I’ve known musicians with plenty of road battle scars of drug use yet can get onstage and play songs note for note they haven’t played in years. Again, music is neuro protective. It’s an unethical double blind study which will never be done in a lab, but I’ve seen it proven true through observation time and again. On a more positive note, one of my former bandmates is a high school dropout. He’s started and successfully run several different businesses, and is also an inventor with a few U.S. Patents under his belt. His musically developed brain has more than made up for his shorter formal schooling and standardized education and gave him intelligence potentials and abilities most other people with high school and college degrees have never achieved.

 

I’ve played in original and cover bands, have recorded in a studio band (where you write songs but don’t perform out live), and have done my own solo projects writing and composing in various genres. At the end of the day though, I still love playing music at home just all by itself. When you love playing the same 3 or 4 noted over and over again in practice, you know you’re a musician. Just focus on enjoying making new sounds and interacting with whatever instrument you chose to make music that sounds cool to you. You don’t have to label the stage of your relationship with your instrument to anyone or on social media. You’ll be a musician regardless, and your journey over the years will determine the label you give yourself. But you are still a musician even if no one ever hears you practice or play, and you aren’t obligated to begin playing an instrument for the purpose of anything else down the road except enjoying your time practicing all by yourself.

 

Making Music Is The Perfect Marriage Between The Right And Left Brain

Music is math and music is creative. You get the best of both worlds of brain enhancement in an activity a lot more fun that grammar school math tests. I never “called in sick” on my practice time. I always wanted to be there and even played when I was sick. Music is such a part of all aspects of my daily life. I listen to and practice music while I write. If more writers rocked they wouldn’t have writer’s block. I often pick up an instrument first thing in the morning, and it’s often the last thing I do before bed. I use music to meditate, I use it when I cook and eat, when I relax, read, and lie down right before I nod off for the night. I was a musician long before I became a writer but it is helpful and beneficial to become a musician at any point in your life and career. For instance, Humorist Dave Barry and Novelist Stephen King are amateur musicians who played in a band together called the Rock Bottom Remainders along with other authors like Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club), Cartoonist and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and The Byrds lead vocalist and guitarist Roger McGuinn.

 

For people who don’t see the value in the time necessary for playing an instrument, here’s an example: Albert Einstein was an amateur musician. How much of his genius is attributable to playing music? You don’t ever hear about him being a musician because he was never famous for that. He was an amateur violinist though. He realized the value of playing an instrument. And the word “amateur” in our society just tends to mean you aren’t being paid for it and making your main income from it. The term is so arbitrary. Put another way, you could suck and be a “Professional” musician and you can be an amazing player in your living room and still be considered an amateur. Either way music still benefits you regardless. And lets face it, “Amateur Night” doesn’t stop men from attending Strip Clubs.

 

I’ve been to Einstein’s house in Princeton New Jersey, but there aren’t stories floating around of the legendary Al Einstein String Quartet killing it at the First Congo. But I’d wager playing music was a huge factor in his ability of accessing radical creativity in quantum physics. The autopsy showed Einstein had increased connections between the right and left hemispheres of his brain. The guilty party I suspect is music. Playing music caused that, which in turn allowed his greater ability for whole brain thinking and a more integrated brain. Playing music is ALWAYS additive—it wires the brain for expanded creativity and intelligence. Music grows the foundations and neural architecture for genius.




Life With And Without Making Music

I know from my own life the “before and after photos” and the feasts and famines of making music and practicing regularly. Case in point, the most stressful time in my life was during college. Why? Like many college students, I was trying to do too many things at once, juggling too many balls at once and I can’t even juggle. The mistake I made was cutting down my music practice time so I could focus more on my studies in college. It make total logical sense. But be wary of Captain Practical getting Gestapo on your enjoyments in life because restricting some, especially music, is actually detrimental to your overall performance and well being as I found out.

 

I did however always do my homework and studied listening to music which maintained my buffers during stressful times but not as well as when I was actively practicing music. The difference is always blatantly noticeable. I literally feel my brain light up after a good practice session of 1 or more hours. Being a musician would get me high. I remember my music lessons every Thursday night growing up and the next day in school I would be high all day. And wow did playing music get me through the drudgery and stellar maturity of high school. Making music was so cool I checked out of the whole clique, popularity, and party scene long before I graduated. All that stuff seemed so small and petty compared to the marvels of music. I’ve long outgrown all those high school issues and concerns. I’ll never outgrow music, the swaddling cloth of sound.

 

Sometimes I’d practice for 5 or more hours straight and that would get me ridiculously high, not to mention expand my internal effulgence of happiness—the “Happy for no reason happy.” But in high school and at various jobs right after college, I had to hide this to a degree because most people around me I could tell were not all that happy. Maybe if they made music, they’d tap into that inherent well of joy that cannot be found in hamster wheel lives chasing notoriety and titles.

 

Listen to birds. They can only make a few notes with their vocal chords. And they sing those same notes all day for their entire lives. You have the advantage of being born with fingers and hands which can play WAY more notes than any bird ever dreamed of. Making music and making sound is your birthright. Don’t deprive yourself of one of the most fun and beneficial things in life. So pick up an instrument this year and show the gray matter it matters and join the Culture Clubno transgender or androgynous bathroom pass necessary.

© Composer Yoga

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Closet Singles: The Outfield “New York City”




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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

© Composer Yoga

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

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R&B Hive: Brothers Johnson “I’ll Be Good To You”

Being a video professional, I’ve been to more weddings than 99.9% of the population. I’ve worked on weddings in several states and of various ethnic and religious ceremonies; Church weddings, beach weddings, country club weddings, backyard & banquet hall weddings, lake weddings—even at an aquarium and on a yacht.

 

I’ve heard the songs (Barry Manilow writes them if I recall) numerous DJs play at these as well as the collective “Borg Booty Mix” of current Wedding Top 40 and Wedding’s Greatest Hits. Maybe Rhino Records will walk down that aisle in the future.

 

One wedding I had to reposition my camera during the ceremony then felt something dripping on me—my vest had to be dry cleaned afterwards as the back of it was covered with caked on candle wax. Candles were melting from the crossbeams of the historic rustic barn and I looked like I just arrived from a Dominatrix appointment for the rest of the evening.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” is more than worthy of a couple’s first dance. It’s a tune deserving inclusion into matrimonial mixes and wedding video montages. It’s the kind of music that’s injection mold for memories.

 

Yet I’ve never heard this amazing song played at a wedding and think it’s a tragedy. “I’ll Be Good To You” is more than worthy of a couple’s first dance. It’s a tune deserving inclusion into matrimonial mixes and wedding video montages. It’s the kind of music that’s injection mold for memories.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” is a track off the Brothers Johnson 1976 debut album Look Out For #1. The song reached #1 on the R&B charts and peaked at #3 on the singles charts. In 1989 “I’ll Be Good To You” reached #1 again on the R&B charts this time covered by Ray Charles along with Chaka Khan.

 

In both cases Quincy Jones (the other Q after James Bond’s) was at the “singles event.” He was producer to the Brothers Johnson for the original version and the Ray Charles & Chaka Khan cover was a track off his Back On The Block album. “I’ll Be Good To You” was also covered by Vanessa Williams with James “D–Train” Williams (no relation to her) on Vanessa’s 2005 album Everlasting Love.




George and Louis, The Brothers Johnson grew up in Los Angeles, played in area bands, backed The Supremes, became session musicians and Jedi Apprentices of Quincy Jones before going solo.

 

The biggest singles of their career were “Strawberry Letter 23” (originally recorded by Shuggie Otis), “I’ll Be Good to You”, and “Stomp!” which came out years before the theatrical show of the same name. The track “Get The Funk Out Ma Face” on Look Out For #1 was written with Quincy Jones and also released as a single reaching #30 on the Billboard charts.

 

Another track on their debut album, “Thunder Thumbs And Lightnin’ Licks” contains the nicknames of the Brothers Johnson. Codenames far less encrypted than “Mac Daddy” and “Daddy Mac” because they were actually in a band not the CIA like Kris Kross. Actually as far as my Intel is concerned, Steve Jobs was the Mac Daddy (well really Steve Wozniak & Jeff Raskin but it works better as a joke).

 

Guitarist George Johnson “coulda been a contender” in the Keith Jarrett look alike contest but his codename here is “Lightnin’ Licks” while his bass slapping brother Louis Johnson is “Thunder Thumbs.” From the sound of it, thumb wrestling a guy like Louis would’ve been a bad idea.

 

While not as well known as other legendary Funk/R&B bassists like Larry GrahamBootsy Collins, & Bernard Edwards, EVERYBODY knows Louis Johnson’s playing…

 

While not as well known as other legendary Funk/R&B bassists like Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, & Bernard Edwards, EVERYBODY knows Louis Johnson’s playing…

 

There’s just a little tune called “Billie Jean” that he was the session player for. Okay, so now his Badass Musician Index (BMI) just went through the roof. Actually Louis played on 3 Michael Jackson albums: Off the Wall, Thriller, and Dangerous.

 

Other tracks Louis Johnson was session bassist on:

“Off The Wall” —Michael Jackson
“I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near) “—Michael McDonald
(Warren G’s 1994 hit “Regulate” featuring Nate Dogg samples “I Keep Forgettin'”)

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” —Michael Jackson
“Give Me the Night” —George Benson
“P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” —Michael Jackson




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Larry Graham of Sly And The Family Stone and Louis Johnson were pioneers of slap bass playing, with Larry considered the first to bring the style into prominence. Louis showcases his technique on their 1980 hit “Stomp!” (off the album Light Up The Night) which features a bass solo breakdown you’d think he pulled out the Popeye forearms for.

 

If you’re a liner notes junkie, you’ve seen Louis Johnson listed numerous times as he’s recorded or performed with over 60 artists including Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Phil Collins, Stevie Nicks, Kenny Loggins, John Mellencamp & Sister Sledge among others.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” is an all star feel good party song like Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” just waiting to pollinate a positive vibe for all occasions. It can pack a dance floor and has a supremely infectious sing along chorus that mixes well with the leisurely waving of hands in the air in the simple act of celebrating life.

 

George Johnson’s vocals ooze sincerity, his inflections unwrapping layers of affectation. I’m usually good at deciphering lyrics but at first I thought George was singing “Stella” instead of “Said–A” in the first verse. Even though not the case, he demonstrated he can say “Stella” much more pleasantly than Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and that’s important.

 

In “I’ll Be Good To You”, the clean tone rhythm guitar chords are contrasted with some medium roast distortion on the lead line like the Commodore’s single “Easy.” This gives the lead guitar a soft fuzziness that takes on a dreamy synthesizer quality.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” truly earns it’s wings with it’s chorus of female backing vocalists. At this point in the song, the sky opens up and listeners get a Soul Shower of Ambrosia

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” truly earns it’s wings with it’s chorus of female backing vocalists. At this point in the song, the sky opens up and listeners get a Soul Shower of Ambrosia:

The Charles/Khan cover is a more uptempo 80’s synth pop version. It gave Ray Charles his first #1 R&B single in over two decades:

What a jam! It’s a top shelf Jam Anthem like Chic’s “Good Times”, a liquid honeymoon groove. The groove in The Brothers Johnson tune “I’ll Be Good To You” is so laid back, it’s a recliner with a chilled beverage buoying a miniature yellow umbrella.

 

This is music silk listens to when it needs to feel comforted. This is what it sounds like when butter melts slowly on imported china next to a bottle of Champagne on the French Riviera.

 

That being said, I’ll be the first to admit love songs are an already overcrowded and overdone subject matter. Songs get recycled from previous regurgitations. Compared to Punk and Metal where there aren’t rations in the topic department, love songs are often terminally stereotypic and predictable. Silly Love Songs Sir Paul called them in the 1970’s—several decades later we’re probably at Zombie Love Songs status.

 

Pop song somnambulists sing about love and relationships like pull string dolls and the depth of their experience reflected in lyrics is watered down and wafer thin. It’s not like there’s a few decades of perspective packed into their “life virgin” verses like say Supertramp lyrics.

 

And what vast life experience can young pop stars actually bring to the table a few years after getting a driver’s license? Forget about songs about history, political and social issues they’re not even on the map yet.

 

Part of the socio–economic skid into preteen pop culture purgatory was that several decades ago, the record buying public was comprised of 30 to 40 year olds. The mainstream music consumer has gotten younger and younger with each successive generation.

 

Now the consumer base includes preteens buying music written by artists just a few years older. Here, relationships are the most common subject matter because it’s the most relatable experience to the cell phone starring young consumer tranquilized in the Twilight Zone of eternal texting. Most are still a few hundred selfies away from getting a Passport photo and experiencing the world outside a 4 inch screen.

 

Young celebrity culture also demonstrates that for all the wealth and fame they have, they make the same mistakes as the rest of the population. The breakup and divorce rate isn’t any less frequent among celebrities. Truth is, there are very few Paul Newmans and Joanne Woodwards in the entertainment industry—people who lived the song “I’ll Be Good To You”, married or not.

 

For generations breast fed on Rap & Hip Hop, it’s ear opening to hear what regal and elegance sounds like. There is life beyond angst and anger and higher vibes than the hormonal surges of youth.

 

For generations breast fed on Rap & Hip Hop, it’s ear opening to hear what regal and elegance sounds like. There is life beyond angst and anger and higher vibes than the hormonal surges of youth. There aren’t many love & relationships songs that have deeper depth and perspective behind rhymes and catchy melodies— even monotonous ones. “I’ll Be Good To You” is that museum piece that’s still more alive and vibrant that what I hear coming from the current crop having their media days in the sun.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” comes from a time when people chose to ride a more positive vibe with the top down and more importantly from the top down. Although Louis Johnson left the planet in 2015 at age 60, his bass grooves from beyond the grave and thankfully so.

 

It bounced off the wall and broke down walls of race and gender. So why not inaugurate your life together with the Brothers Johnson? If you’re single, Why not renew your vow to “Treat Me Right” like Pat Benatar demanded because sometimes if you want something done right, you gotta to do it yourself.

 

If there’s no wedding bells in your future, just grab a pair of wedding bell bottoms from the past. In either case, You May Kiss the Vibe.

© Composer Yoga


Related Posts To Check Out:

George Michael: The Careless Whisperer

Celebrities And Fame: A Videographer’s Perspective

 

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Bill Douglas: Give Deep Peace A Chance

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Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”

The Colors Of Rock: Songs

The Colors Of Rock: Artists

 

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Atomic Punk: The Clash “Complete Control”




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

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

–Beethoven, from a letter he wrote to Prince Lichnowsky

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Total
C—o—n control – that means you!

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ooh ooh ooh someone’s really smart

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

© 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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