Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 5

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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:

[youtube]bbR_VXWe1lA[/youtube]

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!

  • Jane

    Sneaker on Solid Gold?! I am speechless. I love it. Thank you!

  • What’s truly brilliant/lame, is that Paul Carrack recorded "How Long" again as a solo artist, in 1996. And it charted in England. He covered himself. Remind me to send you a copy.
     
    Never heard the Sneaker tune before, love the descriptions on the video. Since I have a guitar in the office today I checked them chords. The song is in Eb, so if you put a capo on the first fret and they are basically OK. I am not totally sure about "Bb?" being the right chord there, but if it is, the author spelled a Bb6/9 (and actually its B6/9, but remember we’re capoed).
     
    Have no fear, guitar nerd is here!

  • Paul Carrack should be bigger in this country! He’s had the hit with Ace, plus he’s also sang hits with Squeeze and Mike + The Mechanics. Speaking of which, “Silent Running” is such a great pop song!

    The Sneaker track is a keeper!

  • JUST DO A POST ON FOCUS ALREADY!!!!!!!!!

  • Focus definitely isn’t Mellow Gold, but they do deserve their own post.  Thanks for the reminder!

  • Where the hell are all the goddamn comments? This is brilliant — some primo fucking blogging right here. Everyone with Web access needs to get his or her lazy ass in here and partake of the glory of these posts.Seriously. This piddling handful of comments is embarrassing. It says something awful about the state of our nation. Shit.

  • Where the hell was I in 1982? I don’t even remember Sneaker or this song.  But after watching the video I realize one thing:  Brad Delp from the group Boston has a twin who sings for Sneaker!

  • EightE1

    At around the :25 mark of the video, they pan back and you see the singer’s microphone is approximately 8 feet from his mouth.  I mean, come ON.  At least PRETEND to be playing live.  A minor quibble.  Anyway, long live Reader Jane, long live Jason Hare, and long live the memory of Sneaker.RobEightE1

  • SnOOd

    God forgive Snood……..I listened to, remembered it, kinda liked it and even dl’d SNEAKER. Somebody save me.
    Mellow Gold Rulez
     

  • David

    If you took these guys and butched ’em up a little? Made men out of them, and toughened up their songwriting?

    They’d be Ambrosia.

  • Eric

       I think "How Long" is a fucking GREAT pop song; Christ, I think it’s a better song than "What A Fool Believes" (I know you now want me dead!).
       I saw the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver (they had a really good song in the mid ’70s, called "Arms Of Mary" – if anyone could post that I would think you were a God!) open for Styx and Rush here in Spokane in, I think, ’76 or ’77. Talk about your strange bills.
       Almost as strange as when I saw Little Feat open for ELO…that was too bizarre…watching Lowell George play blistering slide guitar while ELO’s yet-to-be-dropped alien-like lighting rig hovered overhead. Too fucking weird…

  • jonfromcali

    Embarrassed to say that "More Than Just the Two of Us" was the soundtrack to one of my many unrequited crushlusts in high school.  Recently burned my 45 of it onto a CD and couldn’t believe it–I remembered the location and nature of every one of the single’s pops and fuzzy patches, as if they were second nature!  I must have really LOVED that girl!
    Jesus, was I this much of a dork in high school?  You bet your ass I was… 

  • Hey Eric, there might be a price put on your head put out by the SOFT ROCK MAFIA after that “What A Fool Believes” comment!

    Watch your back!

  • woofpop

    These soft rock binges always lead to more recalled songs..
    Sneaker reminded me of "Goin Down" by Greg Guidry – and then "Please Don’t Leave" by Lauren Wood – the female McDonald – from the year when every song sounded like "What A Fool Believes".. Both are a little on the obscure tip (although both were top 40) – perfect mellow gold tracks.. 
    Now..see what you have done??

  • Oh man, MORE Mellow Gold for me to check out…I guess it’s some sort of job security!  I don’t think I’ve heard of Lauren Wood, but "the female McDonald" is quite a lofty title – looking forward to hearing her.

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