Tag Archives: The Beatles

Awesome 80s Albums You May Have Overlooked

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Saga

Worlds Apart (1981)

Heads Or Tails (1983)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Two dollars!”

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

 

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




 

Tubeway Army

Replicas (1979)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Utopia

Oblivion (1984)

P.O.V. (1985)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

suggestions.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

© Composer Yoga




 

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The Colors Of Rock: Songs

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

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

© Composer Yoga

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Rock Zoology: Songs

A list of songs that draw their name from the animal kingdom (updated periodically)

A Horse With No Name (America)
Alligator Woman (Cameo)
American Horse (The Cult)
Animal (Def Leppard)
Baracuda (Heart)
Beast Of Burden (The Rolling Stones)
Birdland (Weather Report)
Bird Mad Girl (The Cure)
Black Cat (Janet Jackson)
Black Dog (Led Zeppelin)
Blackbird (The Beatles)
Buffalo Stance (Nenah Cherry)
Cat Scratch Fever (Ted Nugent)
Catepillar (The Cure)
Cold Hearted Snake (Paula Abdul)
Crocodile Rock (Elton John)
Dixie Chicken (Little Feat)
Dog And Butterfly (Heart)
Dog Eat Dog (Ted Nugent)
Dogs Of War (Pink Floyd)
Elephant Talk (King Crimson)
Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
Fly Like An Eagle (Steve Miller Band)
Fox On The Run (Sweet)
Free Bird (Lynryd Skynryd)
Great White Buffalo (Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes)
Godzilla (Blue Oyster Cult)
Grey Seal (Elton John)
Hair Of The Dog (Nazareth)
Hound Dog (Big Mama Thorton, Elvis Presley)
Hungry Like The Wolf (Duran Duran)
I Am The Walrus (The Beatles)
Mary Had A Little Lamb (Stevie Ray Vaughn)
Monkey (George Michael)
Monster Mash (Bobby "Boris" Pickett)
Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys)
Peace Frog (The Doors)
Piggy In The Mirror (The Cure)
Rock Lobster (The B-52's)
Rocking Robin (The Jackson Five)
Rocky Raccoon (The Beatles)
Shake Dog Shake (The Cure)
Shock The Monkey (Peter Gabriel)
Spiderman (The Cure)
Stray Cat Strut (Stray Cats)
Union Of The Snake (Duran Duran)
Waiting For The Worms (Pink Floyd)
Walk The Dinosaur (Was (Not Was)
War Pigs (Black Sabbath)
Werewolves Of London (Warren Zevon)
Where Eagles Dare (Iron Maiden)
White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)
Wild Horses (The Rolling Stones, U2)
Wooly Bully (Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs)

© Composer Yoga

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Rock Zoology: Bands

A list of bands and artists that draw their name from the animal kingdom (updated periodically)

A Flock of Seagulls
Adam Ant
The Animals
Bee Gees
The Beatles
The Black Crowes
Blue Oyster Cult
Britny Fox
Buddy Holly and the Crickets
Buffalo Springfield
The Byrds
Cat Stevens
Counting Crows
Def Leppard
Dragon Force
Dinosaur Jr.
The Eagles
Echo & the Bunnymen
Eddie Rabbit
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Faster Pussycat
The Flock
Glass Tiger
Gov’t Mule
Greg Hawkes (The Cars)
Great White
Hawkwind
Hootie & the Blowfish
John Cougar Mellancamp
Iron Butterfly
Los Lobos (The Wolves)
Maxine Nightingale
The Monkees
The Partridge Family
Pet Shop Boys
Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band, solo)
Phish
Ratt
Seal
The Scorpions
Sheryl Crow
Sly Fox
Snoop Dogg
Steppenwolf
Stray Cats
Temple of the Dog
Three Dog Night
Toad the Wet Sprocket
The Turtles
W.A.S.P.
Whitesnake
White Lion
The Yardbirds

© Composer Yoga

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Abbey Road Trip




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It’s the pavement The Beatles made famous. But where the bloody devil is it? We’ll give you some Help! for how to get there for your Fab Four foray into Rock ‘n’ Roll history with this pictorial guide. So here’s your Ticket To Ride–make sure to look both ways or hold someone’s hand ’cause there may be some Day Trippers out there. And don’t worry about running into any werewolves either. Abbey Road is located in the borough of Camden in the city of Westminster. Warren Zevon only saw and overheard werewolves in Soho, Kent and Mayfair.

First get a decent London city map and Paris one if you’re coming by train under the English Channel. I highly recommend Borch maps because they’re laminated for far better long term use and durability. They’re also waterproof so when you spill your Earl Grey tea and malt vinegar or smear Marmite on it, you won’t Twist and Shout profanities.

Visiting Abbey Road is a Rock ‘n’ Roll pilgrimage. It reminded me of hearing a guy say after a Who concert, “I’ve been to Mecca.” Whether you’re a musician or fan, venturing to this iconic location puts you in an exclusive pop culture club. You can make the Magical Mystery Tour on foot, but it may take you several hours to a day to get used to the reverse traffic patterns in England from most other countries if this is your first time there. Taking a few hours to walk the streets getting used to British traffic patterns and “unlearning” your own pedestrian habits is sound advice. The good news is crosswalks are indicated with “Look Left” and “Look Right” written in the sidewalks with corresponding arrows at crossing points. Mind you this is ONLY in busier, more heavily traveled roads.

As a head’s up, the smell of gasoline is pretty horrid in London. Britain processes petroleum differently than other countries so the automobile exhaust will be nauseating to varying degrees your first time there. Cars don’t smell that way in North and South America or other European countries.

 

 

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This is the actual crosswalk. To replicate the exact angle seen on the Abbey Road album cover, you’ll need some help from some friends. The best time for this is early AM. Due to my schedule that day, I got there around 5pm.

What’s funny is people who live in the area and have to drive here do get annoyed. You hear a lot of honking horns because people imitate the stylized crossing several times a day. I saw 2 groups of people with videocameras and several people with still cameras while I was there. And it was any ‘ol Tuesday after 5pm.

 

 

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This is the angle behind The Beatles looking in the direction of the photographer Iain Macmillan who stood on a stepladder as a Police officer held up traffic for around 10 minutes. This is a fairly heavily traveled street and it slopes down in front of where The Beatles crossed. The reason I did not get the same exact same POV shot as the album cover besides there not being a Home Depot nearby is you have to stand in the middle of the road with your back to traffic.

 

 

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This is the direction The Beatles were walking in the album cover photo taken on August 8, 1969 sometime after 11:35 AM. This was “John’s eye view” as he was first in line to walk, followed by Ringo, Paul then George. The British government designated the crosswalk and Abbey Road Studios itself as Grade II Listed Status in 2010 for their Cultural & Historical significance.

 

 

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This sign is on the side of the street in the direction they crossed. There was some construction on this building that day.

 

 

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This is the view towards the opposite side of the road. Abbey Road Studios is up the street towards the right of this image.

 

 

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Graffiti on the side of the road they walked from. This is the small property wall near the studio.

 

 

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Must have been some good acid Sarah…

 

 

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You knew this was coming.

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So where EXACTLY is it? Okay, whether you fly into Heathrow or Waterloo International or take the Eurostar to St. Pancras, find Regent’s Park in the northern part of your London map. Below it is Marylebone Road. If you’re coming from St. Pancras International train station, you’ll get on Euston Road. Head west and Euston Road turns into Marylebone below Regent’s Park.

From the Tube (subway), you can get off at the Marylebone stop. To the left of the subway, or around 8 o’clock from Regent’s Park on your map, take a right onto Lisson Grove from Marylebone Road. You will be heading northwest.

 

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Keep following Lisson Grove and it will turn into Grove End Road.

 

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You’ll see this along the way and feel yourself coming ALIVE…

 

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…and wonder if you feel like he does.

 

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Grove End Road comes to a fork at this spot. Abbey Road starts on the left of the statue/monument at the fork in the road. The crosswalk you see here is not Abbey Road. The Abbey Road crosswalk will be on your left.

 

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This is what it looks like if you’re drunk.

 

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This is what it looks like if you’ve dropped acid.

 

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You’re here!! You got by with a little help from your friends here. See all you need is love and decent directions 🙂

© Composer Yoga




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George Michael: The Careless Whisperer

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

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

 

Careless Whisper (Make It Big 1984)

 

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

 




Father Figure (Faith 1987)

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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Waiting (Reprise) Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 1990

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So boom boom boom boom.

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

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

© Composer Yoga

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Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

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

 

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

 

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

 

Abstract & Origins

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

 

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

 

Publication SM–58

 

Showing Some Love Towards Cover Bands

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

 

Acceptable Usage and Examples

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Recommendations

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

 

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

 

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

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Sharpening Your Cool IQ

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

–DPAC

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Case Files:

 

Poison “Talk Dirty To Me”

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

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

 

 

Def Leppard “Armageddon It”

“Come on Steve, get it!”

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

 

 

Mötley Crüe “Girls, Girls, Girls”

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Rick James “Super Freak”

“Temptations Sing!”
“Blow Danny!”

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

 

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

 

 

Prince And The Revolution “Computer Blue”

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

This concludes Case File Installment #1. And remember:

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

 

The Dork Prevention Advisory Committee (DPAC)

© Composer Yoga

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




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Nobody Told Me The Zen Of John Lennon

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

There's Nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Strange days indeed -- strange days indeed

Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama

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

 

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

 

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

© Composer Yoga




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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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Stages Of Relationships According To Pop Songs

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

More songs praising this idealized stage include:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

© Composer Yoga

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