Happy early Thanksgiving, mellow miners! It’s time for another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold, and today I’ve got two smooth songs for you – the perfect thing to listen to as you lie on the couch after a full turkey dinner – unless, of course, this music makes you nauseous, which…it might.
Dan Hill – Sometimes When We Touch (download)
Too easy, right? Maybe. I swear this wasn’t on my list when I first started doing these posts, and nobody has suggested I cover it. That being said, in surrounding myself with this music, “Sometimes When We Touch” has been brought up multiple times over the past few weeks. I’m taking it as a message. Yes, that’s right. A message. A message from….Emasculysus, God of Mellow Gold.
A couple of weeks ago, Mike, Warren and I were driving to the Acoustic ’80s gig. Somehow, this song came up in conversation. Warren astutely commented about how the song is an unbelievable ode to codependency. He repeated the chorus to us:
‘Cause sometimes when we touch
The honesty’s too much
and I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you ’till I die
‘Till we both break down and cry
I wanna hold ya ’till the fear in me subsides
Dan Hill makes Paul Davis look like Ted Nugent.
Those aren’t the only awkward lyrics, either. I think there are certain words that shouldn’t be used in songs, especially not in the first few words, and the word “choke” in “I choke on my reply” is one of them. And what about the bridge?
At times I’d like to break you
And drag you to your knees
At times I’d like to break through
And hold you endlessly
Lady, BACK AWAY FROM DAN HILL. This motherfucker’s crazy.
Then there’s the last verse:
At times I think we’re drifters
Still searching for a friend
A brother or a sister
But then the passions flares again
Dude. If you’re not sure if this girl is your sister or your girlfriend, and yet you still want to hold her until you die, stay where you are, I’m calling the cops.
Mike then came up with one of his best ideas ever: “I think the song woud be better if the line was ‘I wanna hold you ’till YOU die.'” I’m giggling just thinking about it. How awesome would that be?
Out of the blue, Jefito sent me this clip. It must be seen to be believed. I know I post a lot of YouTube clips on here. This one isn’t one of those “watch if you feel like it” clips. YOU MUST WATCH THIS VIDEO.
Could there be a more awkward-looking singer than Dan Hill? Or his band, for that matter? Feel free to peruse the comments over at YouTube on this clip. Someone hits it right on the nose with “Unfrozen Caveman Manilow.” How many of you knew a song like this was accompanied with a face like that? Would it have killed him to comb his hair? He looks like he was a homeless guy outside the studio who was brought in as a joke.
It’s not like the band is looking any better, though. The pianist looks like the guy who repaired our television sets in the early ’80s, or maybe Ben Folds in a grey wig. The other session players look like they’re thinking, “God, I wish I had gotten that Steely Dan gig.” And I think the drummer looks like Louie Anderson.
Poor Dan Hill apparently couldn’t play an instrument, and the record label wasn’t forward-thinking enough to put one in his hands, which was a shame, because the man had no idea what to do with his body. The worst happens at around 2:20, at which point we’re not sure if he’s about to do some air drumming or go for a jog. The hands just wave around. It’s uncomfortable. And then, when they’re not flailing, he slumps his posture and sticks ’em in his pockets, as if to say outright “yes, I’m a pathetic shlub. Please, walk out the door. It’s best for both of us.”
But you know, in a way, this song (and its video) says something positive about the state of the music industry in the ’70s. For starters, “Sometimes When We Touch” was Hill’s first hit, off of his third album, and yet, his label hadn’t dropped him. Can you imagine any other artist today releasing two albums without hits and not getting kicked to the curb? And secondly, can you imagine any artist LOOKING like Dan Hill and getting a hit? It just wouldn’t happen. Yet despite the beard that has taken over the majority of his face, his eyes that look like they just might bug out of his fucking head, and his band, half-dressed in plaid and weighing a combined 740 pounds, “Sometimes When We Touch” became a smashing success. And as you’ll see in comments on this song all around the Internet, people still truly love it.
Dan Hill had one more hit in his career: “Can’t We Try” in 1987, a duet with a then-unknown Vonda Shepard. I thought about including it as the second song here, but even though it is a mellow, wimpy song, it falls more into the cheesy ’80s realm than the Mellow Gold, don’t you think?
Contrary to what you might read in the YouTube comments, Faith Hill was NOT married to Dan Hill. She was married to a Dan Hill, but not this one. Maybe she just couldn’t handle the beard. Or the eerie lyrics.
Little River Band – Reminiscing (download)
As you may know, there are a number of Little River Band songs we could choose for Mellow Gold status. “Reminiscing” is not only my favorite, but reportedly one of John Lennon’s favorite songs of all time. (Specifically, it was considered by Lennon and May Pang to be “their song” during his infamous “lost weekend.”)
Hailing from Australia (which you’d never know from the vocals, clearly influenced by the music of the west coast), Little River Band originated as a band called Mississippi, but found that Australians didn’t seem to care for a band with such an American name. A street sign on their way to a gig in Australia influenced them to change their minds. Already huge in Australia, the band attempted to make it big in the UK, but were met with general indifference (much like other Australian bands at the time). Their manager, however, already had a strong sense of the American industry, and decided to set the band’s sights on the States.
Little River Band flourished in America: they became the first Australian band to truly hit it big, and sustain that success, in the United States. Between 1978 and 1982, the band had six consecutive singles in the Top 10, which at the time made them the only band – period – to claim such a feat. While their single “Lady” remains their best-selling single to date, “Reminiscing” was their highest charter, peaking at #3.
So why does “Reminiscing” groove in the mellow manner? A good question, since this song, thanks to its chord choices, rides close to the smooth jazz genre. First and foremost, Little River Band were a group strongly focused on vocal harmony, and their harmonies, while jazzy, were undoubtedly smooth. There’s not a lot of them in this song, but they do comprise the entirety of the chorus. (And they’re freaking awesome.) The lead vocal, courtesy of Glenn Shorrock, has that great lounge lizard quality. You’ve got gentle drums, that bass that starts off funky and kind of…devolves into mellow territory, strings low in the mix, and a trumpet solo that screams, “Take me, Lite-FM, I’m yours!” There’s guitar, but for the most part, they’re overpowered by keyboards, which is the Mellow Gold Way. Throw in the bongos all over the track, and baby, I’m hooked on your mellowness.
Songwriter (and LRB guitarist) Graeham Goble paints this black & white picture of a couple from the ’30s or ’40s as they court each other and eventually look back on their glory days together, and then throws this curveball at the end:
Now as the years roll on
Each time we hear our favorite song
The memories come along
Oh the times we’re missing
Spending the hours reminiscing
Zing! I actually really enjoy this last lyric; suddenly, the song has a touching, bittersweet quality.
Like many other ridiculously successful songs, “Reminiscing” almost didn’t happen. Goble had wanted to book a specific session player for the keyboards, but he wasn’t available. After two separate sessions with two different players, the band started to lose interest in the song altogether. Goble’s intended musician finally made it to the studio, the song was cut, and included on the record. Capitol Records, however, didn’t think the album had any worthy singles at all. Someone in their New York office eventually influenced the label to release “Reminiscing,” and the rest is pretty much history.
Little River Band today is much different than the group that evolved from Mississippi. For starters, no original members remain in Little River Band; the rights to the name belong to guitarist Stephen Housden, who was not an original member but has been with the band since 1981. Three of the original members still perform as Birtles Shorrock Goble: The Original Voices of the Little River Band,” which seems oddly similar to the way members of the Beach Boys seemingly have to perform these days. They can mention that they used to be part of the Little River Band, but can’t actually say they’re THE Little River Band. And they sure as hell can’t use their swimming platypus logo.
So that’ll do it for this week’s Mellow Gold! Have a very happy Thanksgiving, and see you here on Friday for CHART ATTACK!