Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold, Pt. 1

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Like just about everybody else on the Internet, I’m a huge fan of the Yacht Rock series. But dear readers, I don’t want you to think that I just jumped on the ol’ Yacht Rock bandwagon like those other people. No siree. I was a fan of this type of music way before JD and company made it hip.

I grew up with this music, for better or worse. My parents were radio listeners, especially on these 5-hour drives we’d routinely take up to the Adirondacks. While my dad never expressed a preference for this type of music, he always seemed to hone it on the stations that featured it. When I hear songs like “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia and “Baby Come Back” by Player, I’m back in that station wagon, half asleep, pillow propped up against the window…this music entering my brain whether I wanted it to or not.

After one of our many music discussions (specifically, one where I was torturing Jeff with one of the songs mentioned below), Jeff suggested I do some exploring into the “mellow mines” of music. Why? He says it’s a good idea, but personally, I think he just wants you to share in his pain. That’s right, friends: Jefito Hates You.

Still, I think there’s something to his idea. I really do love this music, albeit for reasons I may not be able to explain, but why shouldn’t I share it?

So let’s put on our pink miners’ helmets and, uh, go spelunking, shall we? Today, we’ll examine two quintessential smooth hits.

Firefall – You Are The Woman (download)

Mike: “There’s only one word to describe this song: limp.”

Mike is on the money. This is one of the wussiest, wimpiest songs I’ve ever heard. Mike described this song – hell, the entire genre – in his post about the wussiest songs of all time:

The whole driving force behind yacht rock was the sensitive bearded proto-hipster dude singing to his woman about how much he understood her and how sex was not important to him. There are so many yacht rock songs that have some variation on the theme of “I love you so much that I will never bother you again” or “come on baby, just allow me to be in your beatific presence and I will not even think of putting any kind of sexual move on you. I promise.”

So many songs in music are about gettin’ it on, hot n’ heavy, screwin’ all night. This song is the equivalent of over-the-sweater petting.

But forget lyrics. From a musical standpoint, why is it so wimpy? Could it be that the flute enters the picture less than 2 seconds in, and then pisses all over the track? I swear, when I hear the flute part, I imagine Doug Henning doing a little fairy dance. There’s a few little “whoa-woh”s during the song, and then, around 1:49, we get this bridge, clearly building to a REAL “whoa!” Instead, there’s three quick flute hits, and a “whoa” that fits better in a sentence like, “Whoa! These Grape-Nuts are really good!”

This song is so gentle and sweet. I imagine that the woman dumped him immediately after hearing it and found herself, I don’t know, Ted Nugent. I love this song.

Robbie Dupree – Steal Away (download)

“Steal Away” should more appropriately be titled “Steal Away Michael McDonald’s Fucking Riff.” Dupree directly lifted his piano riff (as well as the piano tone, the backing vocal and even some of the drum beats) from “What A Fool Believes.” Want proof? Please excuse the disparities in audio quality between the two tracks in this little impromptu mashup; I do it only to serve my point.

[audio:http://www.wwmmd.net/tunes/inline/stealafool.mp3]

Right? Right?

Upon hearing “Steal Away,” I naturally thought, “McD’s gotta be involved in this, somehow.” It only takes a quick listen of “This Is It” by Kenny Loggins or “Ride Like The Wind” by Christopher Cross to recognize the hand of The Master. Surely McD gave his permission for “Steal Away,” played the riff and sang backup, yes?

No. He didn’t. Robbie Dupree is a THIEF.

I’m not the first to discuss this – see here and here (especially that last one, even noting that Dupree stole McD’s LOOK!), nor was Dupree the only one to steal the riff – apparently “He’s So Shy” by The Pointer Sisters took it as well – but I don’t think anybody was as blatant as good ol’ Robbie. And need I comment on the actual title of the song?

Well, download it if you like. It’s no “What A Fool Believes” (well, actually, I guess it kind of IS “What A Fool Believes,”) but it’s smooth and mellow nonetheless.

And, as we exit the Mines Of Mellow Gold, please ensure that you still have your pink miner’s hat and all of your body parts. If you’re a guy, your nuts may have inadvertently detached during the trip. If you need more emasculation, well, have no fear, we’ll be exploring more of the Mines before too long!

  • Oh, hell yes. Good things will come to you, Mellow Miner.

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  • I have been harassing Jason to put this up for a week, mostly so you can all share in my Firefall induced pain. It’s sissy, it’s stupid, the flute does in fact urinate all over the track, and yet I CAN’T GET THE DAMN SONG OUT OF MY HEAD. Help me goddammit!

  • Eric

       My dad (may he R.I.P.) loved that fucking Firefall song. I saw them at the U of Idaho when it was a hit. Ticket sales for their show were so lackluster that they refunded everybody’s money and opened it up to the public; a free show. It was sooo boring, but having grown up in the ’70s, it still remains a (somewhat) fond memory, like most shows I have attended. There’s a place in the world for songs like that. Anyone for some Pablo Cruise?

  • I look forward eagerly to your appreciation of "Smoke from a Distant Fire".

  • Billy K

    (Cross-posted at Jefito)

    I was just involved in an exchange yesterday where she said that the indie-folk freaks were going to slip into full AM Gold mode soon. I told her it was funny she said that, because I had written notes yesterday to write a blog post about how all this mellow indie emo crap nowadays is just this generation’s version of “Yacht Rock.”

    It was kinda funny a couple years ago, when I dug up a bunch of this stuff to make some comps for a friend (and yeah, I enjoyed it – I’ll admit it); but now that it looks like a full-fledged revival (or at least resurgence) – complete with Time-Life 83-disc collector’s set – I’m not liking it much at all.

    How can music move forward if we have to keep going back in time to kill the ghost of Christopher Cross!?

    P.S. “Smoke from a Distant Fire” is a great song, pure and simple. No post-ironic detachment in the name of sarcasm here whatsoever.

  • More please.

    I’m on a ANDREW GOLD kick lately. Would he qualify under this stylistic umbrella?

    How about JOEY SCARBURY? You know, the dude who sang the theme to “Greatest American Hero.”

  • Thank you, loyal Jefito readers, for visiting, and thank you, Jefito, for the mention on your site.  To paraphrase, if it wasn’t for Jefito blog love, I wouldn’t have no kind of blog love at all.

    Billy, as I mentioned on Jeff’s blog: clearly what I’m doing in my post is some heavy mockery, but I do honestly enjoy the music I’m posting about.  I wouldn’t waste my time writing about it if I didn’t.

    I originally wrote about this in my post, but removed it because I couldn’t find the exact tracklisting: about 7 or 8 years ago, I created what would eventually be termed a "Yacht Rock" mix for my mother and I.  2 discs of this stuff: Robbie Dupree, Ambrosia, Player, Ace, Seals & Crofts, Little River Band, etc…I plan on getting into all of it eventually here.  Perhaps I should have kept it in as further proof that Yacht Rock isn’t what drew my interest to all of this music.  However, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t help revive it.

    And Carlos: Both of those qualify in my book.  I’ll definitely cover some Andrew Gold at some point, not the least because Mike thinks I look like him, minus the facial hair.  Thank you for being a friend, Carlos.

  • Billy K

    Yeah, well how can you listen to this stuff and not poke a little fun. I guess some of it was “serious,” like Bob Welch (Ebony Eyes was a really good song), America, Seals & Crofts and Al Stewart…but Pablo Cruise, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Little River Band? Come on…how can you not feel silly?

    I’d be interested to see your tracklistings, Jason. I’ve been adding volumes as I remember songs that fit. I’m up to seven now. It’s become something of a sickness.

  • Holy shit, Billy.  Seven volumes?

    Okay, here’s what I can come up with based on the ones I put on my iPod and labeled "Easy N’ Cheesy Rock" at the time.  There’s more than this, this is just all I can find right now.

    Stephen Bishop – It Might Be You, On And On
    Ambrosia – Biggest Part Of Me
    Christopher Cross – Sailing, Ride Like The Wind, Arthur’s Theme
    Little River Band – Reminiscing
    Kenny Loggins – This Is It
    Air Supply – Lost In Love
    England Dan and John Ford Coley – I’d Really Love To See You Tonight
    Earth, Wind And Fire – After The Love Has Gone (I know this is more soul, but it still seems smooth to me)
    Rupert Holmes – What do you think?  :)
    Benny Mardones – Into The Night
    Ace – How Long
    Paul Davis – I Go Crazy
    Sergio Mendes – Never Gonna Let You Go
    Seals & Crofts – Summer Breeze
    Robbie Dupree – Steal Away

  • Someone should do a blog that just covers this type of music.

    I’m serious.

  • Eric

       Personally, I like "Smoke From A Distant Fire". When it was a hit, I saw the Grateful Dead. When the house lights came up after the show that was the first song to play on the house p.a. I remember it sounded, at that moment, better than ever. Not that it bears any resemblance to the Dead, but it was a prime moment to keep dancing to a catchy tune. I’ll always like it.

  • Billy K

    Now you see, that’s why I asked. I missed several of those: Stephen Bishop, Rupert Holmes and Benny Mardones. And good call on the EWF track.

    I agree with Carlos. Someone needs to do a Yacht Rock blog. I’m surprised it hasn’t been done yet (or I haven’t heard of it).

  • Well, now you need to list what’s on your SEVEN VOLUMES OF MELLOW GOLD.

    I don’t know if I could dedicate a whole blog to this type of music, but I’m happy to do two tracks at a time every week or so…

  • Yesssssssssss…they’re drawing you in…This is gonna be good. I can’t wait.

  • ahh YOU beat me to posting about this!! darn it. What about America, Sister Golden hair?

  • Sorry, Christine.  But on the bright side, your blog’s name is way cooler than mine.

    And "Sister Golden Hair" is on my newer, more recent list.  I remember hearing it in a pizza joint a few years ago and wondering, "how did I not put this on thie mix??"

  • rico

    How about I JUST WANNA STOP by Gino Vanelli? Even got its own Eugene Levy tribute on SCTV.And can’t forget I LOVE YOU by Climax Blues Band.

  • Good call, Rico.  I have "I Just Wanna Stop" on my list – I have to thank Pandora for pulling that one up on my Mellow Gold station – but hot damn, EXCELLENT call on "I Love You."  I had totally forgotten about that one – but it’s just perfect.  Thank you.

  • tim

    i have Sister Golden Hair on a mix and I have to dive for the changer whenever it’s about to come on and I have a friend in the car. That’s the def. of guilty pleasure.

  • Ugly A

    Other songs that need to be mentioned:Robbie Dupree – Hot Rod HeartsMickey Balin – HeartsJay Ferguson – Thunder Island Jay Ferguson – Shakedown CruiseAir Supply – (Too many to name)Neil Sedaka – Bad BloodBilly Preston & Syreeta Williams – With you I’m Born AgainCarly Simon – JesseDave Edmunds – Slipping AwaySteve Forbert – Romeo’s TuneBenny Mardones – Into The NightBlues Image – Ride Captain RideDr. Hook –  (also a slew of tunes)Starbuck – Moonlight Climax Blues Band – I Love YouLindsey Buckingham – Trouble

  • I’ve always resisted — resented — the idea of "guilty pleasures".  A childhood of social ostracism, coupled with liking many uncool things, instilled within me two attitudes that are the foundation of my approach to popular culture and art: I don’t apologize for anything I like; and Cool Ain’t Shit.  When we call something a guilty pleasure, we validate a heirarchy of values that is not about the skill with which something is done, but whether it is worth doing at all: we acknowledge that our culture or our community has decided that some kinds of things are lesser, and we pay tribute to the judgment of the community while admitting that we can’t help enjoying what we enjoy.  As adults we’re willing to assert what we like, but we’re still uncomfortable knowing that others will sneer at it if they hear it in our car.  When we apologize for liking what we like, we are letting others set the standard for what we ought to like — and we are reaffirming a social heirarchy and our place in it: cringing in anticipation at a put-down from someone cooler, or a loss of face among one’s cool peers, as surely as we did in high school.  At least, that’s the way it feels to me.   Not that I’m incapable or working up a healthy dose of loathing: my God, the vocal for "Moonlight Feels Right" has to be the smuggest vocal of all time — but if you love it, who am I to mock?  I love "Everlasting Love" by Andy Gibb: a great song, no irony, eyebrows firmly in standard position.

  • Ugly A

    Agreed Scraps, I have no guilty pleasures, just what I like and what I don’t. I’ve endured the complaints by my Too Cool friends for years when I’m digging on something like Elton John’s  "Little Jeannie", Kenny Loggins "Heart to Heart", or Donald Fagen’s "I.G.Y.". Whatever, like super effing whatever. But my friends are cool about it, they know me and that I love those tunes. It wouldn’t matter either way, the songs hooked me long ago.

  • There’s a great little essay about "guilty pleasures," and why that’s such a ridiculous, offensive concept, in the new Klosterman book. Buy it! Through Jason’s site, even!

  • Bob

    With all due respect, you are all missing the wussiest, the wimpiest, the most emasculating song of all time. I give you: “(You Left Me) Just When I Needed You Most” by Randy VanWarmer.

    If you’re not familiar with this song (which was a sizable hit in 1979), then you owe it to yourself — in the spirit of this thread — to give it a listen. You won’t be sorry ( translation: you WILL be sorry. )

  • What more needs to be said on "Easy N’ Cheesy Rock" playlist?  Well, one that’s out of the era but should be included is James Blunt’s "You’re Beautiful." Oh, and anything by Five for Fighting. 
     
     

  • Wade

    I don’t mind saying I like "You Are The Woman". It is "wussy", but sometimes wussy is ok.
    I also like "Just Remember I Love You" by Firefall.
    Another favorite "wuss rock" song is 10cc – The Things We Do For Love
    good stuff

  • "The Things We Do for Love" is my favorite pop song of the 1970s, period.  It’s a catchy melody, intricately developed, with terrific backing vocals that develop as the song goes one, a gorgeous two part chorus with a hook at "feeling like a part of you is dying", another at "in her eyes", and a spooky chord change into "ooh, you made me love you" — plus a fine intro and a coda that builds on the title line, still developing as it fades.  It’s a perfect song.

  • This post has been very popular.

    I think I might take my own advice and start a blog dedicated to these little pop treasures!

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  • Punky Toaster

    Steal Away aped the STYLE of Michael Macdonald’s song, nothing more, a boppy little 1-2-3 synth line and background vocals that sound exactly like m.m. The songs by themselves sound nothing alike, except that they are both soft R&B type AM songs. The fact that you included the pointer sisters makes me laugh. At least, if Steal Away is the same riff as What A Fool Believes, then all grunge music has exactly one riff.

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