Archive for October, 2006

Evil Prince Ludwig!

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

EVIL PRINCE LUDWIG THE INDESTRUCTIBLE! rocked a packed house at The Bitter End on Friday night!  Thanks to everybody who showed up.

Full photo album can be found here, and the archived info is up in the performance section.  Here are a few of my favorite shots!

Two years!

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Jessica and I are celebrating our two-year wedding anniversary today.

Happy anniversary, smoochie.  :)

CHART ATTACK!#5: 10/29/83

Friday, October 27th, 2006


Welcome back, boys and girls, to another week of CHART ATTACK!  This week, we tackle October 29, 1983: a strong week in general (no covers!) and a particularly good week for Jim Steinman!  Plus, YouTube links aplenty!

10.  Uptown Girl – Billy Joel  Amazon iTunes
9.  Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair) – Sheena Easton
  Amazon
8.  Delirious – Prince  Amazon iTunes
7.  King of Pain – The Police  Amazon iTunes
6.  Making Love Out Of Nothing At All – Air Supply  Amazon iTunes
5.  One Thing Leads To Another – The Fixx  Amazon iTunes
4.  True – Spandau Ballet  Amazon iTunes
3.  All Night Long (All Night) – Lionel Richie  Amazon iTunes
2.  Total Eclipse of The Heart – Bonnie Tyler  Amazon iTunes
1.  Islands In The Stream – Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton  Amazon iTunes

10.  Uptown Girl – Billy Joel  Billy Joel gets a lot of shit for An Innocent Man, but I have a real soft spot in my heart for the album, and this song.  It’s not just because I was a kid when this album came out and it was my first exposure to Billy within the context of pop culture (in truth, I heard The Stranger at age six and promptly convinced my parents to let me take piano lessons).  It’s because I’ve followed The Ballad of Drunky McCrashersen for many years and I really enjoy remembering him in this period of his life – when he was ridiculously, head-over-heels in love and couldn’t help but wear it on his sleeve, while paying tribute to the music he grew up with.  Cheesy?  Maybe.  Overplayed?  Definitely.  But if you can’t hear the redeeming power of a woman in this song…well, as Billy said himself in the "Keeping The Faith" video, they say justice is blind, but I sure hope it ain’t deaf.  (Then he put an oversized nickel into a jukebox and did an awkward dance.)

9.  Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair) – Sheena Easton  Sheena Easton was no chart slouch in the 1980s, amassing 10 hits in the Top 20 during the decade.  Five of those hits preceded this one, and all five were your typical soft rock singles.  "Telefone" was Easton’s attempt to keep up with the current radio trend – synthesizer-based pop.  Other than her voice, there’s not a genuine, acoustic-based instrument to be found.  This song has traces of "Mickey" by Toni Basil, "Gloria" by Laura Branigan, and "All Right" by Christopher Cross.

8.  Delirious – Prince  The third single from 1999, "Delirious" peaked at #8 and was only Prince’s second hit in the Top 10, the first being "Little Red Corvette" from the same album.  With a drum sound later resurrected for "Let’s Go Crazy," "Delirious" was a Prince song typical of this stage in his career – dirty lyrics that nobody really cared to decipher.  This was Prince’s last significant chart impact before "Purple Rain" made him a star of epic proportions.

7.  King Of Pain – The Police  One of my favorite Sting songs, "King Of Pain" is filled with such fantastic imagery that I don’t know where to begin.  So I’m not even going to try, because I wouldn’t do it justice.  I’ll just say that clearly Sting was depressed or something.  I’ve heard two pretty good covers of "King Of Pain," both of which you can find over at Coverville, by Alanis Morrissette and Brandtson, if you’re into that sort of thing.  (And you should be.)

6.  Making Love Out Of Nothing At All – Air Supply (download)
  So why was Jim Steinman having the BEST WEEK EVER?  Well, he had two songs in the top 10, and neither of them were by Meat Loaf.  I imagine it must have vindicated Steinman to prove that he could provide hits through other avenues.  "Making Love" was Air Supply’s eighth (and last) hit in the Top 10, and features all the trademark Steinman tricks: mainly, completely bombastic lyrics and production (especially those backing vocals).  It’s actually quite similar to "Total Eclipse Of The Heart," and Bonnie Tyler did go on to cover this track later in her career.

I was just about to publish CHART ATTACK! for this week and Mike called.  He requested – no, insisted – no, demanded that I include the video for "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All."  When I reviewed it, I realized he was right.  I hadn’t remembered what an atrocity this video is: it features some of the most horrible acting I’ve seen maybe ever (and I have seen some awful acting), courtesy of guitarist Graham Russell:

There are so many snarky comments to be made about this video, but my favorite part is when (spoiler alert!) the girl shows up in the wings near the end, mouths "I love you!" and Russell mouths back "I love you too!"  At this point, all I want is for Russell Hitchcock to look at him and, thinking the message was for him, kiss him on the lips.  God, I hope CAPTAIN VIDEO! covers this one at some point.  (No pressure, Captain.)  Thanks, Mike, for threatening me with murder had I not included this video.  It’s a classic.

5.  One Thing Leads To Another – The Fixx (download)  Although this was their only Top 10 on the Pop charts, The Fixx had a number of singles reach the Top 10 Mainstream and Modern Rock charts, including three #1 hits on Mainstream.  You probably have it already on one of your many 80s compilations, but if you don’t, you need to download it now.  It’s a great new-wave pop song.  Despite a lack of hits in the past 15 years, The Fixx maintain a strong following and still tour regularly.

4.  True – Spandau Ballet  With only two guitar chords, this New Romantic band created one of the easily most recognizeable riffs of the 1980s.  Their only U.S. hit, "True" name-checked Marvin Gaye and quoted a line from Nabokov’s Lolita, and is actually a song about trying to write a love song.  See, I would have known these things earlier had I ever listened to the lyrics.  Songwriter Gary Kemp was initially nervous about presenting such a…how shall we say…"wussy" song to his bandmates, but as soon as the royalty checks came in, I’m sure they put up less of a fight.  (Actually, they unsuccesfully sued Kemp years later for royalty payments, but that’s another story.)

"True" went to #1 in 21 different countries, and I imagine it’s playing on a radio station at the very moment you’re reading this.  It’s been covered or sampled by a number of artists, including Cary Brothers and Nelly, but of course, it was most famously sampled in 1991 by P.M. Dawn for their fantastic hit, "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss."  The video for "True," by the way, is the walking definition of the term pretty boy.

On another note, apparently nobody seemed to know or care that the band members were awkwardly inspired to name their band after Spandau Prison in Berlin, where Nazi war criminals were hanged in 1946.  So true.

3.  All Night Long (All Night) – Lionel Richie  Words can’t express how much I dig Lionel.  I love this song, seriously, and there’s no irony or snark in that statement.  (I’m totally going to see Lionel on the 8th at the Beacon Theatre.)  "All Night Long" was initially written as a slow R&B number and eventually morphed into an uptempo, Carribean-flavored dance tune.  It outsold another Richie song, "Endless Love," to become Motown’s biggest-selling single at the time.  It was accompanied by a music video that just screams 1980s (look at their costumes, people!), produced by former Monkee Michael Nesmith.

You may or may not know this, but apparently Lionel Richie is absolutely adored by the Iraqis.  Although they don’t understand or speak English, they LOVE his music.  According to Richie, "All Night Long" was playing in the streets on the day in 2003 when American tanks made their way for the first time through Baghdad.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my favorite lines in the song are the pre-chorus that goes like this:

We are so
lucky to know them, to feel them, to share them
time now to let them know
How much we
love them, want them, need them, forever
so hard to let them go

You don’t remember that part?  Shame on you!  Clearly you weren’t watching TV on August 12, 1984, when Richie was asked to close the Summer Olympics with this tune, featuring a special verse written just for the Olympians of the world.  Once again, bow your head and give praise to YouTube.

Your one remaining question might be: what’s the deal with the Jamaican chanting?  The truth is: I don’t know.  I thought this would be an obvious answer, but I can’t seem to figure it out, so if anybody knows how this chant came to be a part of "All Night Long," please, enlighten us.  I promise not to make fun of you.  Here’s what I can tell you, though: on the record itself, there are a lot of people joining in on that chant, including Brenda Richie (bad idea, Lionel!) and Richard Marx.

2.  Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler  I hate this song.  Seriously.  I know I’m supposed to absolutely adore it, being a fan of all things cheesy about the ’80s, but this song just irks me.  I think it’s ridiculously overdramatic and too fucking long.  (So in other words, it’s a Jim Steinman song.  But I don’t mind Bat Out Of Hell or the previously mentioned Air Supply song, so I guess I have to either blame Bonnie or the asshole singing the "bright eyes" part, which irritates me too.)  And by the way, when I say the song is too long, I’m referring to the radio edit.  I’m not even referring to the 7-minute monstrosity from the record!

The Wikipedia entry on "Total Eclipse of the Heart" has all sorts of interesting information, but as I don’t like this song, I’m not going to waste space on it.  However, I did quite enjoy the detailed description of the "Total Eclipse" video, which is fascinating even if you’ve never seen the video itself.  And I did find this footage of Steinman rehearsing the song with Tyler kind of interesting, only because it’s clear Tyler had not yet found her confidence.  Clearly she did not yet know she’d be singing this song at every single gig for the rest of her life.

1.  Islands In The Stream – Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton  How on earth did I not know that this song was written by the Bee Gees?  Produced by Barry, the Brothers Gibb originally wrote this song for Diana Ross but converted it to a duet after Ross rejected it.  Too bad for her, because the song found collosal success: not only did it win Vocal Duet Of The Year and Single Record Of The Year at the Academy Of Country Music Awards, but it also won Favorite Country Single at the American Music Awards two years in a row – the first time such a feat had ever been achieved.  Additionally, the single went platinum (a million copies) in the US – the only single to do so in 1983.

If you only know this song because of "Ghetto Supastar," then again, I’m old.  That being said, I think "Ghetto Supastar" is a fantastic song and uses the "Islands" chorus brilliantly.

The Bee Gees themselves recorded "Islands In The Stream" for a 2000 greatest hits compilation.  I was hoping to include it here as a bonus download, but trust me, you don’t want it.  Robin Gibb’s vocal is atrocious and while he intended to be funny by singing a chorus of "Ghetto," it just sounds pathetic.  That being said, the early ’80s were a great time for the Bee Gees, who were discovering they were capable of great success by writing and producing for other artists.

And with that, we’re at the end of another CHART ATTACK!  Enjoy the downloads and see you next week!

Shameless Self-Promotion!

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Hey all NYC-area readers!  I’ve got two gigs coming up – one this Friday, October 27th, and one on Saturday, November 11th.

The 10/27 gig is with a full band at The Bitter End on Bleecker St in NYC.  We’re doing an 8 or 9 song set of classic rock tunes, but not the typical radio crap.  In fact, come to think of it, you probably only hear one or two of these songs on the radio anymore.  Stuff by Steely Dan, The Cars, Jackson Browne, Queen, The Who…it’s going to be lots of fun.

The 11/11 gig…well, think of it as CHART ATTACK! gone wild.  It’s all cheesy ’80s stuff in the acoustic duo format.  I’ll plug this gig more later, trust me.

In the meantime, if you’d like to come check out either gig, I’d love to see you.  All details are in the Performance section.

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 5

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

mellowgoldlogo.jpg

Welcome back, Mellow Miners! So here’s a conversation I had with my 20 year-old brother this weekend.

Ryan: Are you ever going to post anything other than Mellow Gold?
Jason: Well, I do Chart Attack! posts, too.
Ryan: When are you going to cover music for people with penises?

It’s a good question, Ryan. The answer is: not today. Just accept that you’re a Hare, and therefore, this is your destiny. Learn to embrace the McDonald, buddy.

Onto the Mellow Gold!

Ace – How Long (download)

That’s right, Ace!

No, not this Ace:

Not this one either:

And no, definitely not this one.

I’m talking about this Ace:

Ace was a mid-70s British rock band, most famous for being the first group where Paul Carrack sang lead vocals. Carrack was previously a member of a prog-rock band named Warm Dust, as was fellow Ace bassist Terry “Tex” Comer. Ace was originally known as “Ace Flash and the Dynamos” but, realizing this name would probably invite drunk pubgoers to throw shit at them, they quickly saw the error of their ways and abbreviated the moniker.

While Ace was a rock band, this song is pure Mellow Gold – you’ve got gentle keyboard, and a great lead vocal by Carrack – although let’s be honest here: this song is Mellow Gold because of those backing vocals. There’s some blue-eyed soul happening up in this bitch, but the guitar after the first verse makes it clear these guys could clearly rock as well.

Now, let’s talk about the bass…and the bass player.

The bass is pretty high up in the mix. I’d say it’s a key element to the song. And yet, except for the choruses, it’s the kind of bass part that would almost make John Entwistle long for the days of playing “Magic Bus” (eight minutes of “A”). The verse is one note. That’s it. One note. But Tex Comer was a good bassist. A respected bassist. A coveted bassist. So coveted, in fact, that another British band, named The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, tried to steal Comer away from Ace.

The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver were a bit higher on the totem pole than Ace during this period of time, and it seemed like a good deal for Comer. Still, Comer stayed true to Ace. The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver only had a few minor hits, but a song of theirs, “Sailing,” (not the Christopher Cross song, we’ll get there another time, be patient), was a huge hit for Rod Stewart in 1975. Yes, even in 1975, Rod Stewart was profiting from cover songs.

Anyway, back to “How Long.” The tune didn’t have much in the way of lyrics:

Well your friends with their fancy persuasions
Can’t admit that it’s part of the scene
But I can’t help but have my suspicions
‘Cause I ain’t quite as dumb as I seem

And you said you were never intendin’
To break up our secret this way
But there ain’t any use in pretendin’
It could happen to us any day

How long has this been going on?

“How Long” sounds like a love gone wrong – perhaps an extra-marital affair? Nope. It’s Carrack’s aim at those dastardly Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, and their attempt to swipe Comer away from Ace.

You all think I’m making this up, don’t you.

Ace only lasted until 1977, and of course, we know that Paul Carrack went on to much greater endeavors. But “How Long” wound up having another life, specifically in 1982, when it was covered by….you guessed it: Rod Stewart.

Sneaker – More Than Just The Two Of Us (download)

You can thank our lovely reader Jane for this track. In last week’s Mellow Gold, she mentioned the song as being a childhood favorite of hers. She graciously sent it on to me, and now I pay it forward. Sort of. In a wussy kind of way. Thank me later.

Sneaker was a West Coast band formed in 1973, although they didn’t release an album until 1981. Maybe they didn’t have a record contract? Apparently 8 years wasn’t enough time for them to wonder, “y’know, maybe it’s our shitty band name.”

Their self-titled debut was produced by Steely Dan/Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. They had one “real” hit, the one we present here, and another minor appearance with a cover of an early Steely Dan song, “Don’t Let Me In,” which has actually never been officially released by SD. Although Sneaker had four albums (two official releases, a set of early demos and a live disc from Japan), they never made any real impact after “More Than Just The Two Of Us,” and disbanded.

In the comment section, I had mentioned that, from the 30-second sample I had heard, I thought Sneaker had an Air Supply sound. Holy shit, do they ever! From those opening piano chords to that sweet, earnest and genuine vocal, to the swirling, soaring strings, I can’t believe that this actually isn’t Air Supply. I’m hearing, specifically, some of “Even The Nights Are Better” and “Here I Am.” And yes, I know enough Air Supply to make distinctions between their songs.

You may think this is an insult, but I’m going to be honest with you: I love this song. I think it’s beautiful. The chorus is especially wonderful – great chord choices, great instrumentation, and some of the prettiest harmonies I’ve heard. So yes, Jane, this song is definitely a Mellow Gold classic, and maybe I’m saying this because the chorus is currently playing as I type and I’m feeling a little emotional, but I really appreciate you sending it and I think maybe we should get married.

Where was I? Oh yes. Sneaker.

So guess who plays clavinet on Sneaker’s first album? David Foster. Yes, that David Foster. The mastermind behind way too many soft-rock hits to mention. Yet another thing you can blame/thank him for, take your pick.

Jane was worried I was going to pull up some horrible pictures of Sneaker. No worries, I couldn’t find any photos.

HOWEVER….

Once again, we must offer praise to the Internet, which has graced us with a video (!!!) of Sneaker performing “More Than Just The Two Of Us” on Solid Gold:

I’m not asking you to watch the whole thing, but at least watch the first minute, and here’s why: at around 40 seconds, we get a nice shot of each member of the band. And if you were ever wondering what happened to the outcast geeks from high school…here they are! We have the Science Geek, the Auto Shop Geek, the Geek Who Graduated Two Years Ago But Hangs With The Younger Kids, and, of course, The Geek Who Is Awkardly Growing Hair All Over His Body While Still A Teenager. The last one I mention – the lead singer – looks like former Brady Bunch star Christopher Knight, if a monkey attacked his face and head.

Finally, would you like to learn to PLAY “More Than Just The Two Of Us?” No problem!

And now that you know more about Sneaker than you could have ever imagined, I’m outta here. See you soon for more Mellow Gold!