Music

Music Questions: An Internet Quiz Thingie

It’s been a long time since I ran across one of those questionnaire things that used to comprise so much of the blogosphere. You know, the list of random questions that reveal oddball truths about your tastes and/or personality? I always enjoyed doing those, so when I spotted this one on Facebook earlier today, I couldn’t resist.

And now… random queries that reveal my dubious taste in music!

  1. A song you like with a color in the title: “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” by Willie Nelson
  2. A song you like with a number in the title: “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega
  3. A song that reminds you of summertime: “Dance the Night Away” by Van Halen
  4. A song that reminds you of someone you would rather forget about: “Cat Scratch Fever” by Ted Nugent
  5. A song that needs to be played LOUD!: “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
  6. A song that makes you want to dance: “Dancing with Myself” by Billy Idol
  7. A song to drive to: “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” by John Mellencamp
  8. A song about drugs or alcohol: “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” by George Thorogood
  9. A song that makes you happy: “Dancing Queen” by ABBA
  10. A song that makes you sad: “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
  11. A song you never get tired of: “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield
  12. A song from your preteen years: “Xanadu” by Olivia Newton John
  13. One of your favorite ’80s songs: “Safety Dance” by Men in Hats
  14. A song you would love played at your wedding: “A Love Song (from a Different Point of View)” by Jimmy Buffett  (Go ahead, look it up!)
  15. A song that’s actually a cover of another artist: “Crimson and Clover” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (original artist: Tommy James and the Shondells)
  16. A favorite classical piece: “Spring” by Antonio Vivaldi (a bit of a banal choice, maybe, but my knowledge of classical is limited… and “Spring” just makes me happy. So there.)
  17. A song you would sing a duet with on karaoke: “I Got You, Babe” by Sonny and Cher
  18. A song from the year you were born: “Proud Mary” by Credence Clearwater Revival
  19. A song that makes you think about life: “Human Touch” by Bruce Springsteen
  20. A favorite song that has many meanings to you: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey (Don’t laugh. I love that one more with every passing year.)
  21. A favorite song with a person’s name in the title: “Kristina” by Rick Springfield
  22. A song that moves you forward: I’m not quite sure what this one is asking… “moves me forward?” I guess I did find a lot of solace in Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” during a dark time once.
  23. A song that you think everybody should listen to: “Imagine” by John Lennon
  24. A song by a band you wish was still together: “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin
  25. A song by an artist no longer living: “I Drove All Night” by Roy Orbison
  26. A song that makes you want to fall in love: “Then He Kissed Me” by the Crystals
  27. A song that breaks your heart: “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt
  28. A song by an artist with a voice you love: “In Your Room” by the Bangles (Susanna Hoffs on lead vocals)
  29. A song you remember from your childhood: “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
  30. A song that reminds you of yourself: “Beautiful Loser” by Bob Seger (Don’t worry, that’s not as self-loathing as it sounds! The dichotomous lyrics illustrating a person’s contradictory desires simply resonate with me… )

And now back to your regularly scheduled Internet programming.

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “September Gurls”

And suddenly it’s September, Labor Day weekend, which in my mind always marks the end of summer, even if the calendar says we have another 22 days. Already the mornings are growing cooler, the kids have gone back to school, and the light has a different slant in the afternoons.

I’m so ambivalent about this time of year, i.e., September running through early November. I love the weather — there’s no finer time for top-down driving than Indian summer, in my book — and that quality of light I mentioned is like having golden hour all day long. But in counterpoint to the sense of well-being brought on by mellow afternoons and brisk nights, I always start feeling a vague restlessness around Labor Day, a sense that I ought to be… someplace else. I guess I’ve never entirely gotten over the routine of heading back to school myself, even though I’ve been done with college since 1992. There’s also a stab of melancholy in this emotional mixtape, no doubt brought on by my impending birthday and its reminder of mortality, the stark truth that we’re only given a finite number of summers and I’ve just burned off another one. At least I can say I accomplished something with this one, i.e., successfully pulling off my 30-year high school reunion.

This week’s song selection nicely captures my current bittersweet mood, and it even includes the name of our new month in the title: “September Gurls” by The Bangles. It wasn’t a hit for them, but it’s always been one of my favorite cuts from their album Different Light.

Although Susanna Hoffs would become the face and voice most people associate with The Bangles — something that generated a lot of friction within the group and ultimately led to their breakup in 1988 — singing duties were always evenly divided among all four Bangles on their albums. Bass player Michael Steele takes the lead on this track, a cover of a 1974 song by a power-pop group called Big Star, who are better known today for their influence on other musicians than for any of their own music. (It’s worth noting, however, that you probably do know a Big Star song, even if you don’t realize it. A reworked and drastically shortened version of their tune “In the Street” became the infectious theme song for the TV sitcom That ’70s Show; sadly, though, it wasn’t Big Star’s recording that you heard every week. The song was redone by Todd Griffin for the show’s first season, and then by Cheap Trick for the rest of its run.)

Michael Steele, originally known as Micki Steele during her brief tenure with The Runaways, appeared on three Bangles albums during the band’s peak years. When The Bangles reformed in 1998, Steele was the last holdout, and while she did write and record three songs for a new album, her contributions stood out as having a distinctly different tone and sound from the rest of the material. Various conflicts around the subject of touring followed, and she again parted ways with the other Bangles in 2005, leaving Hoffs and sisters Debbi and Vicki Peterson to continue working as a trio.

Since it was never released as a single, “September Gurls” never received a proper music video. This clip is from a concert the group gave at Syria Mosque Arena in Pittsburgh on December 13, 1986; the show was broadcast by MTV.

And with that… happy Labor Day, kids. Hope you can all enjoy a three-day weekend.

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)”

By the time I graduated from high school in the spring of 1987, I was beginning to disconnect from popular music. My tastes to that point had always been pretty solidly Top-40, with a general preference toward guitar-based rock sounds, but in the latter half of the ’80s, pop started to move in directions that I didn’t care to go, especially as hip-hop and rap became more mainstream. (Sorry, hip-hop fans, I’ve tried… ) I was evolving, too, of course, and would begin to explore harder rock and more historical stuff when I started college in the fall.

Nevertheless, there were some pop tunes that were still catching my fancy around that time. Listening to them now, I’m struck by how many of them have (to my ear, at least) a similar sound. I’m thinking of three in particular: “(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew, “Something So Strong” by Crowded House, and this week’s selection, “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” by a Canadian band called Glass Tiger. I can’t put my finger on what exactly I’m hearing in these three tunes that sounds alike to me, or why exactly that sound appealed to me so much when I was 17 years old and more or less coasting on autopilot toward commencement. (Honestly, I was more preoccupied at that point with girls and immediate gratification than with anything to do with my future. Which probably explains a lot when I look at the course my life has taken.) But whatever that X factor was, I did love these tunes, and “Don’t Forget Me” in particular proved to be inspirational, as I remember writing that phrase in a lot of yearbooks.

With my 30-year reunion happening tomorrow — a reunion I somehow, improbably, ended up in charge of — I’ve been thinking about those final weeks of May and June, 1987, and of yearbooks and fine sunny days in my old 1970 Thunderbird, and of course the girl with whom I was besotted at the time. And naturally this silly song is playing in the background of all my reminiscences.

Glass Tiger formed in 1983 and lasted ten years before “going on hiatus,” as Wikipedia kindly describes it. In that time, they produced a number of singles that were hits north of the border, but only two of their songs made a splash in the U.S.: “Someday” and “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone),” both from a 1986 album called The Thin Red Line. Of the two, “Don’t Forget Me” was the bigger success, reaching number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of ’86. I suspect a factor in its success was a backing vocal by Bryan Adams, who was still riding the popularity wave generated by his smash 1984 album Reckless and the subsequent world tour. You can hear his unmistakable voice chime in roughly two-thirds through “Don’t Forget Me.”

Interestingly, Glass Tiger shot two videos for this song; off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other bands that did that, unless it was an alternate live performance clip or something. The first video was made for the Canadian market, and I hope my Canadian friends will forgive me for saying there’s a good reason why it wasn’t more widely distributed. I usually shy away from describing any piece of vintage media as “cheesy,” but in this case there’s just no other word that quite describes it. The whole thing, with kids in day-Glo ’80s-wear pretending to play instruments and the members of Glass Tiger mugging their way through a faux wedding, plays like a fantasy sequence from an episode of Full House. All it needs is a guest appearance from John Stamos and the Olson Twins. (If morbid curiosity compels you, here’s a link to the Canadian version.)

The second video, the one made for international markets, can probably also be described as cheesy, considering it’s pretty much a grab-bag of ’80s music-video cliches. You’ve got mullet hair-dos, big shades, acid-washed jeans, baggy sport coats, one guy in a bolo tie and another in a quasi-military-style jacket, and of course the obligatory pinback button in the lead singer’s lapel. But believe it or not, this stuff was cool back in ’87. Yes, kids, it’s true… this really is how we dressed, or at least wanted to dress. The strangest thing about this clip is that Bryan Adams is nothing more than a disembodied voice; at least in the Canadian Full House pastiche, there was a kid (dressed in Adams’ then-tradmark denim) lip-syncing his part.

Glass Tiger reformed in 2003 and still plays occasional live gigs throughout Canada. And tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to see if writing this song’s title in everybody’s yearbook actually did the trick at keeping me in my classmates’ memories…

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “Rhinestone Cowboy”

When Glen Campbell died earlier this week, I wrote on Facebook that there was a lot more to his career than just “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and indeed that’s true. He wore a lot of hats during the course of his 50-year career in the entertainment industry: He was a session musician on a mind-boggling number of recordings during the ’60s; he filled in for Brian Wilson on tour when the leader of the Beach Boys had a nervous breakdown; as a solo artist, he recorded and released some 67 albums; he hosted four seasons of a television variety show that bore his name; and he even tried his hand at acting, appearing alongside no less a star than John Wayne in the original True Grit. In spite of all those achievements, though, the vast majority of the obituaries and retrospectives I saw this week somehow managed to reference “Rhinestone” in their headlines. But you know what? As legacies go, that song is a pretty damn good one.

Released in 1975 as a standalone single (as opposed to a track from an album), Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” was a cover of a song written and recorded a year earlier by a guy named Larry Weiss. Weiss’ recording didn’t make much of an splash, but Campbell’s certainly did, rising to the number-one spot on both the country and pop charts, and ending the year as Billboard‘s number-two single of ’75. It also scored highly on a number of international charts and, with its laid-back-but-not-too-twangy sound, it helped usher in a new sub-genre of country/pop crossover music that would peak in the early ’80s with hitmakers like Alabama, Juice Newton, Eddie Rabbitt, and Kenny Rogers. “Rhinestone” is also one of a handful of songs — including Mac Davis’ “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown,” and Elvis Presley’s “Kentucky Rain” — that are capable of instantly catapulting me back to my early childhood… back to a time when my hometown was more hay fields than housing developments, and just about the best thing in the whole wide world was riding with my mom in her ’56 Ford pickup, watching the sundogs pivot off the curve of the truck’s enormous windshield as we carried a midday snack of Fanta red-cream soda and raspberry Zingers to my dad…

Although I tend to think of music videos not really existing prior to the advent of MTV in 1981, there is a ’70s-vintage video for “Rhinestone Cowboy.” It’s pretty simplistic compared to what the rock artists would be doing less than a decade later, but its visuals evoke the feeling of my childhood memories as strongly as the notes of the song itself do. That road that Glen is walking alongside could easily have been one of the ones my mom and I drove down in her ’56, and the way he’s dressed reminds me of my dad and my Uncle Louie when they were young and strong.

After all the crazy headlines of this past week, I really like the idea of going back to 1975, if only for three minutes and ten seconds. As for Glen Campbell’s passing, well… he’s free now to walk any street and sing his song forever. I’m glad he’s at peace after his long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “Tiny Dancer”

The following opinion might not sit well with some of my readers, but I’ve got to be honest: I don’t really care for Elton John.

I know, I know, he’s part of the classic-rock pantheon and all, but his music has never quite clicked with me. And a couple of his biggest hits are weapons-grade irritants as far as I’m concerned. “Crocodile Rock” is enough to make me want to murder a busload of nuns.

Ah, but then there’s”Tiny Dancer.” That track belongs to an entirely different category. Its sound is deceptively simple, and yet the song contains rich imagery and a multitude of emotions, some of which are paradoxically contradictory. “Tiny Dancer” is by turns wistful, nostalgic, joyous, sad, celebratory. I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to suggest that the song is a reflection of life itself, all the ups and downs, all the beauties and disappointments, all encapsulated in six sublime minutes.

That amazing flexibility of tone is evident when you consider its two best-known uses in television and film: at the conclusion of the WKRP in Cincinnati episode “The Americanization of Ivan,” and in the marvelous scene aboard a rock band’s tour bus in Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece Almost Famous. Both scenes are bittersweet and heartbreaking in entirely different ways, and if you have any kind of soul at all, both are unforgettable.

Strangely, given how ubiquitous and well-known it is today, “Tiny Dancer” was not a hit when it was first released. Its long runtime and lack of a traditional pop hook both worked against it succeeding as a single; it reached only 41 on the U.S. charts, and it wasn’t released in the U.K. at all. But over the years, it’s become a staple of adult contemporary and classic rock radio, and it has a timeless quality that never seems to go out of style. You’d never guess it’s four-and-a-half decades old.

There had been some experiments with filmed promotional clips prior to the song’s release in 1972, but MTV was still a decade in the future, so no video as we understand the term was ever made for “Tiny Dancer.” Until now.

Just last month, a director named Max Welland won Elton John: The Cut, a video competition held in honor of Sir Elton’s 50-year writing partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin, with his brilliant visual interpretation of “Tiny Dancer.” Filmed in Los Angeles, the video doesn’t have a plot per se, but comprises dreamy images of LA skies, traffic, and landscapes, and vignettes of interesting-looking people that invite us to imagine the stories behind the moments we’re sharing with them. Like the song itself, these vignettes encompass a number of emotions and, taken together, form nothing less than a celebration of life itself.

There are a lot of music videos I like. There aren’t many that move me. This is magnificent:

Oh, in case you’re wondering, yes, that is shock-rocker Marilyn Manson petting the snake. I have no idea what he’s doing in there, but… it fits.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “I’m No Angel”

When I was a young man, I went through a phase that I imagine a lot of young men experience, a time when I was desperately trying to be a bad boy. You know the type, the misunderstood outlaw with a sensitive side, just like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause or, to reference something a bit more relevant to my generation, Bender in The Breakfast Club.

Of course, I wasn’t really bad at all (which, come to think of it, is probably true of most of the young men people believe to be bad boys). In fact, I was pretty goody-goody if I’m being honest about it. I never broke any laws, aside from occasionally speeding in my big old Ford Galaxie. I didn’t get into fights or vandalize things. I didn’t do drugs, and I never touched alcohol until my 21st birthday, if you can believe that. I went to my classes every day and I pulled mostly A grades, high school and college both. But growing up in strait-laced Utah, at least when I did it back in the ’80s, it wasn’t too hard to gain a reputation. Don’t go to church, listen to the wrong kinds of music, have a naughty sense of humor and an earthy vocabulary, wear your hair a little long in the back and cultivate some facial hair… oh, and of course, drive a big old Ford Galaxie. They had roomy back seats, you know. I was very well aware that fathers cringed when I arrived to pick up their daughters, and I loved that. In my mind’s eye, I was a heartbreaker, a dashing highwayman, a love-em-and-leave-em renegade with an irresistible smile and a mission to claim another sweet young thing before the night was over, a real scoundrel. I know at least one of the girls I dated saw right through all that nonsense — probably they all did — but their fathers didn’t, and more importantly… I didn’t. For a time, I really believed that’s who I was. And I liked that guy. I miss him sometimes, now that I’m old and settled.

Around that general time period, Gregg Allman, who was a notorious bad boy himself, released an album called I’m No Angel. Allman was legendary for his work with the Allman Brothers Band, a seminal Southern rock band of the 1970s, but his solo career had been far less successful, so it was a bit of a surprise when this new album’s title track — originally recorded by Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers five years earlier — hit number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in the third week of March 1987. I was a senior in high school then, cruising the last couple months toward graduation day with all the credits I needed, and a lot more interest in immediate pleasures than trying to figure out my future. The bluesy-country sound of “I’m No Angel,” and lyrics that spoke of a man both dangerous and endearing, clicked perfectly with the image I was trying to cultivate, and I adopted the tune as my personal theme song for that long spring and the summer that followed. I remember singing it to that girl I mentioned, the one who saw through me, one hot and sunny afternoon in the roomy back seat of my Galaxie…

I don’t remember ever seeing the video for “I’m No Angel” back then. It’s pretty silly stuff, typical of late-80s MTV after the initial surge of excitement for the new medium had worn thin. I think Allman looks a bit embarrassed to be in it, and it’s telling that his official YouTube channel doesn’t include it (although there is a nifty live version of the song from 2015 that’s worth checking out). Nevertheless, I present it here as a memento of a time in my life that I still think about more often than I probably ought to at my age:

If you haven’t heard, Gregg Allman died a week ago at the age of 69. A friend of mine commented on Facebook that she’d once worked with him briefly. She didn’t get to know him well, but her impression was that he was “a really gentle soul interested in primarily two things: music and women.” Sounds a lot like that young highwayman I used to know. Rest in peace, Gregg.

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “If Anyone Falls”

The first time somebody told me that rock-n-roll goddess Stevie Nicks once lived in Salt Lake City, I didn’t believe it.

It sounded too much like the far-fetched tales my Mormon friends used to tell about all the celebrities who were secretly members of the LDS church. Now, to be fair, there are a number of famous people who also happen to be LDS — Gladys Knight comes immediately to mind — but there was a time when I heard so many variations of “Did you know that so-and-so is a member?” that if even half those stories were true, there would be more Mormons in Hollywood than plastic surgeons. (This was pre-Internet, you understand, when it was a lot more difficult to verify such things.) I’ve long wondered where those stories came from and why they were such a tenacious aspect of Utah folklore for so long. My working theory is that they probably arose from a deep cultural insecurity that manifested as two sides of the same coin: a longing for a hometown hero who catches the national spotlight, as well as an ironclad certainty that nobody cool has ever come from Utah.

Except Stevie Nicks, apparently. That particular urban legend turns out to be 100% true, as corroborated by the lady herself just over a month ago when she brought her 24 Karat Gold tour to Salt Lake on February 25. I’d seen Stevie live a couple times before, but always as part of Fleetwood Mac, not in a show focused on her solo work, so this concert had a very different feel to it. It was more personal for her, I think, and that carried over into the audience’s emotional response; it felt personal to me as well, as if somehow a 19,000-seat arena was magically shrunk into the neighborhood club, and Stevie and her band were just playing and goofing around for a small group of friends. Stevie herself looked and sounded fantastic, far more youthful than her actual age and far healthier than the previous times I’d seen her. She was chatty and a little bit scatterbrained and very funny, like the cool aunt who’s been everywhere and met everyone and has a million stories to tell. I found her utterly charming. Yes, I’m like every other male rock-and-roll fan (and not a few female ones!) of a particular age in that I’ve had a crush on her since my early teens, but I really fell a little bit in love with her on February 25. By the time she performed her signature tune “Landslide” in the finale, the emotions were running high. I may or may not have shed a tear when my 60-something rock goddess sang the line “And I’m gettin’ older too… ”

But long before that moment, she opened the concert with one of my favorite songs of hers, “If Anyone Falls,” which was the second single released from her 1983 album The Wild Heart. “If Anyone Falls” wasn’t as big as the album’s first single, “Stand Back,” rising to only 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 — “Stand Back” hit number 5, thanks I would guess to a propulsive synthesizer track played by none other than the late, great Prince — but I always liked this one just a hair more, for reasons I can’t really articulate. The lushly romantic tone, perhaps, so nicely illustrated in the official MTV video by images of Stevie watching old movies by herself in an empty theater. I’ve done that a few times myself… usually late at night, like it is now… the time of day when I find I most enjoy listening to Stevie Nicks…

Incidentally, in case you’re still wondering about when, exactly, Stevie lived in boring old Salt Lake, it was while she was in eighth and ninth grade, which by my calculations would’ve been the mid-1960s. Her best friend from those days still lives here, and she was at the concert the other night. Stevie called out to her several times. I love the idea that a rock star of her magnitude could still be friends with someone she knew in the eighth grade, so very long ago…

 

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “Heat of the Moment”

The year is 1983, or somewhere around there.

I’m thirteen years old, in the eighth grade and soon to be finished with middle school, and I’m going through a broody phase. No doubt the onslaught of puberty has something to do with this, but as far as I’m concerned, I simply have a lot on my mind. Big, important things like, What will high school be like? Will I ever have a girlfriend? Will she be willing to “put out,” and what exactly does that mean, anyhow? Will I live long enough to find out what it means, or will there be a nuclear war? That’s a real possibility, you know, what with Ronnie Ray-Gun’s finger on the big red button and all. What would I do if I got the word the missiles were in the air? And most importantly… how will Han Solo get rescued from the living hell of carbon-freeze in the upcoming third Star Wars movie?!

Just lately, I’ve taken to spending much of my leisure time on the rope swing that hangs from my old treehouse in the backyard, caroming off the cinderblock wall of Dad’s shop with each pendulum-like motion. I’ve been spending so much on that thing that wear spots are developing on the front of my jeans, where the nylon rope is abrading the denim. (I’ll learn later on in life that Dad was worried about me during this phase, finding it weird that I would be out there for hours on end, just… swinging. Swinging and thinking.)

I like to listen to music as I swing and think, on my trusty Sony Walkman II cassette player. And among the music I’m most likely listening to around this moment in time is the band Asia.

Asia was what used to be called a supergroup, a band comprising musicians who are already known for being members of other successful bands. In the case of Asia’s original line-up, bassist and lead vocalist John Wetton came from King Crimson; guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes were both from Yes; and Carl Palmer, the drummer, was one-third of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, all of which were important prog-rock groups. Not that I knew about any of that when I was thirteen; I just liked Asia’s sound.

My favorite Asia album was the band’s second release, Alpha — which really should’ve been called called Beta, when you think about it — but as it happens, their first and biggest charting single came from their debut record, the self-titled Asia. Co-written by Wetton and Downes, “Heat of the Moment” was a huge and inescapable hit that climbed to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as spending six nonconsecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart throughout the spring and summer of 1982. Its opening guitar riff remains one of the most recognizable of the early ’80s, one of those things that insist you crank up the volume whenever you hear them.

John Wetton died a couple weeks ago at the age of 67, so tonight, in his honor, I thought I’d share “Heat of the Moment” and think about 1983 (or thereabouts), my old rope swing, and those teenage ambitions I remember so well…

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “Patience”

I’ve used “Patience” as a Friday Evening Video before, but given how this week has gone on pretty much all fronts, it seems not inappropriate to post it again. As I wrote the last time, “maybe it can help some of the people reading this, too, the ones with the problems and the ones who are afraid and unhappy, and the ones who, like me, are just plain tired. It is truly a song — and a sentiment — for our moment.”

If you care, here’s a little background I didn’t include the last time I posted this one: “Patience” is the only single released from Guns N’ Roses’ 1988 album G N’ R Lies, which was half live recordings from a previously released EP and half new acoustic songs. It reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April of ’89, three positions higher than the band’s breakthrough hit “Welcome to the Jungle,” and surpassed only by “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (number 1 the previous year) and “November Rain, which hit number 3 in 1992.

And with that, I intend to spend the rest of my Friday unplugged from social media, drinking whisky, petting my cat, and watching 1970s car-chase movies. Hope you all have something similar in mind…

spacer

Friday Evening Videos (New Year’s Eve Edition): “Don’t Stop Believin'”

Oh stop. I can feel your eyes rolling from all the way over here.

I’m very well aware that this song has as many detractors as fans, and that it and Journey in general are routinely derided as “soulless corporate rock” (whatever the hell that means). I don’t care, and I’m not interested in debating it. Not now, not on the final night of this year, above all others. From the deaths of Bowie, Prince, and Princess frickin’ Leia to that god-awful endless election (I think everyone, no matter which side you were on, can agree that the election was a shit-show of historic proportions), 2016 has left me most definitely not in the mood for a debate. About anything. Here, at the end of this annus horribilis, more than ever, I’m missing my youth and the boundless possibility it seemed to contain, the certainty I used to have that everything would just somehow turn out all right. I’m exhausted, and I’m testy.

If you don’t like “Don’t Stop Believin’,” well… that’s your concern, I guess, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about that. Personally, it’s always been one of my favorites, going back to the days when I listened to it from a cheap K-Tel collection on a beat-up portable cassette player while I read comic books in our haystack. Even before I had any real understanding of what the lyrics were about, I responded to the sound of the song in that ineffable, near-mystical way that you simply do with some pieces of music. I loved the piano opening and that dramatic rising guitar thing following the first verse, and the soaring vocals that are both easy to sing along with and entirely beyond the range of most normal humans. Now that I’m older, I love the goofy optimism at the core of the song’s lyrics.

I’ve read some counter-intuitive arguments that this is actually a depressing song, that the story told by the lyrics is one of people consoling themselves while on a tawdry and unsatisfying quest for love. Or at least for sex. I guess that’s one way to read it. It’s not mine. I see this song as an ode to the indomitable human tendency to keep trying, to keep reaching, to keep hoping, in spite of disappointment and even though time and the culture around us and the world itself just keeps moving indifferently forward. As we crawl from the smoking crater of 2016 into the uncertain landscape of 2017, that’s a message I need to hear.  Maybe you do too.

I’m not going to bother with the usual historical background on this one, other than noting that this performance is from 1981, the year the song itself was released.

Happy New Year, everyone.

spacer