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Archive for February, 2007

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 20

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007


Why, hello there, Mellow Miners! My, you’re looking fine today! I’m in a romantic mood. Maybe it’s because it’s Valentine’s Day, or maybe it’s because I’m giddy over making it to Mellow Gold post #20, but I’m in the mood for love. Barry White-type love: looooooove. Awwwww, yeahhhhh.

Oh, wait! I know why I’m in this mood! It’s because of our Mellow song, recommended by David, Scraps, and some guy named “Ugly A” from the comments of our very first Mellow Gold post. So let’s get right to it. Actually, no, let’s not: first, I’ll need you to prepare. Please, readers, get out your shag carpet, your lava lamp, your doorway beads, your incense, and your favorite bong. You know the one: it’s shaped like Michael McDonald’s head and plays “Minute By Minute” every time you take a hit. We’ll need all these things to appropriately tackle this smooth gem.

Starbuck – Moonlight Feels Right (download)

I repeat: Awwwww, yeahhhhh.

What makes “Moonlight Feels Right” a smooth, sexy, Mellow gem? I think a more appropriate question is: what doesn’t? But first, of course, I give you a brief history of the studs of Starbuck.

There you are, folks: Burt Reynolds and the Wolfman. Please note that I don’t believe either of them are wearing shirts underneath their jackets.

Actually, that’s Bruce Blackman, vocalist, keyboardist and producer, on the left, and Bo Wagner, marimba genius, on the right. And they’re here to get into your pants.

Wagner and Blackman were members of a number of different groups and musical projects before forming Starbuck. Wagner, if you can believe it, was once a musical director for Liberace. (I’m just going to let that one settle in.) The group went through enough personnel changes that my head is spinning. Let’s just leave it at this: a NYC record company, Private Stock Records, signed the group in 1975 and released “Moonlight Feels Right,” which went virtually unplayed until a DJ in Alabama picked up on it in 1976. (It seems we hear these DJ hero stories frequently around here, don’t we?) “Moonlight” was a smash, eventually peaking at #3 during the last week of July 1976.

Starbuck made a few other appearances in the Top 100, but personally, I don’t consider any of them hits. Maybe “Everybody Be Dancin’,” which hit #38, but it’s clear that it’s this one song for which Starbuck will always be remembered. And that’s clearly okay with Blackman, as he named the official Starbuck website MoonlightFeelsRight.com, which is where I attained most of this information. I like that the site doesn’t officially say it’s owned by Blackman, but come on. Only he could have written some of these detailed explanations in the footnotes of the discography.

My favorite part of the site, though, is the bio, which goes through the soap opera of member changes, and finishes with the “where are they now?” section (bold emphasis mine):

Today Blackman serves as CEO of his own music publishing and production companies. He is producing an album project on his daughter Sarah along with writing and producing for several other artists. He is affiliated with Sony/ATV and is busy working on several movie soundtrack projects. Wagner’s whereabouts are unknown. The other members of Starbuck continue to perform at various venues in the Atlanta area.

Here’s my theory: Wagner has since eaten the former members of Starbuck and currently is living in the Ozarks, living off the land and talking with bears.

But now, it’s time to analyze the song itself, which was responsible for 20% of all venereal diseases contracted in 1976. Lay back and relax as Starbuck takes you on a Mellow journey…to the skies!

First, the music. You guys remember Alan O’Day’s “allll riiiight” from “Undercover Angel?” Yeah. The entire song is sung in that voice. And the very first thing we hear in the entire song? A “wah” sound from the guitar. Then, lots of synths. I guarantee you that the guys in Starbuck already had their slacks down around their ankles by this point.

The rest of the verses feature light synth and marimba (more on the marimba in a second), leading up to the chorus: synthmania! And guess what? The “wah” is back! I don’t know (as in “I don’t care”) who played guitar on this one, but can you imagine being at the session? “No, Tony, all we need is like three notes, total. No, just three. And your Wah-wah pedal. You did bring your Wah-wah pedal, right? No? Jesus. You know it’s 1976, right? You’re fired.”

After verse two, we’re treated to an extended instrumental interlude: 24 bars’ worth, with 16 going to Wolfman’s marimba. Yes! Now this is what we needed: a marimba solo! Actually, I’ll be completely honest with you: this marimba solo kicks some major ass. I’m giving props to Blackman for allowing Wagner to go to town. I don’t know if there was a video for “Moonlight Feels Right,” but if there had been, it would have featured Wagner doing a tap-dance on a huge marimba. It would have been really bad green-screen, too. After “Moonlight Feels Right,” I imagine marimba players were either really excited to finally lose their virginity, or thought, “damn, now I have to get a haircut.”

The solo that follows the marimba is all synth, but is also impressive. In fact, I dare say it’s Stevie Wonder-esque. It kind of reminds me of the instrumental section at the end of “Summer Soft.” Then, we’re back into the verses, surrounded by – you guessed it – swirling synth and marimba. I’ll give this song credit for not trying to overextend itself: Blackman knows his way around those synthesizers, and if his only intention was to write a song slick n’ smooth enough to get him and Wolfie McWolfenstein some poontang…mission accomplished.

Let’s talk lyrics. And these lyrics, while intending to convey seduction, really only convey one thing: stohhhhned.

The wind blew some luck in my direction
I caught it in my hands today
I finally made a tricky French connection
you winked and gave me your o.k.
I’ll take you on a trip beside the ocean
and drop the top at Chesapeake Bay
ain’t nothing like the sky to dose a potion
the moon’ll send you on your way

Dude. Give me your keys. “Ain’t nothing like the sky to dose a potion?” What does that even mean? You don’t know, do you, Bruce? And the truth of the matter is: it’s okay. Because you definitely got laid as a result. Point: Blackman.

The lyrics get better. No, worse. No, better. Oh shit, I can’t decide.

We’ll lay back and observe the constellations
and watch the moon smiling bright
I’ll play the radio on southern stations
’cause southern belles are hell at night

Forgive me – I don’t expect you to understand this, but for some reason, those last two lines remind of this brilliant couplet from “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta:”

But real gangsta-ass niggas don’t flex nuts
Cuz real gangsta-ass niggas know they got em

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Don’t spend any time trying to figure out how I tied Starbuck to the Geto Boys. Instead, spend your time explaining to me that whole “southern stations” bit. I’m beginning to wonder if this song was actually written during sex.

you say you came to Baltimore from Ole Miss
a class of ’74 gold ring
(note: that’s pronounced “seven-four.” Smooth.)
the eastern moon looks ready for a wet kiss
to make the tide rise again

Okay. Point one: what’s with all the geography in this song? Chesapeake Bay? Baltimore? Ole Miss? Who cares? Was it just to get a rhyme with “kiss?” And speaking of the above-mentioned kiss, point two: ewwwww. Seriously? Ewww. “The eastern moon looks ready for a wet kiss?” Was it ‘ludes, Bruce? I’m thinking ‘ludes. You’re sick, dude, if you want to tongue-kiss the freakin’ moon.

That’s pretty much it for the lyrics, friends, other than the line “You guys, I am so high right now,” which was wisely edited out. But there’s one thing I’ve not mentioned as of yet. It’s at the end of every verse: “hahahaha.” It’s a creepy Bruce Blackman cackle. And it’s the only thing in the song that makes me wonder: maybe this guy wasn’t as cool as we think. Maybe he’s not singing this song to a girl. Maybe he’s sitting on a beach by himself, singing it to his faithful German Shepherd as they share a pint of Rocky Road. Actually, I have a scenario that’s much more likely: he did get the girl, and all was cool until Sunday morning, when his mom knocked on his door announcing that his laundry was ready to be put away.

While listening to “Moonlight Feels Right,” a picture of the singer came into my head. Except it wasn’t Blackman. I could see it vividly, but couldn’t place my finger on who it was. Then, finally, I figured it out.

Matthew McConaughey.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because he’s a healthy blend of studly and sketchy. I can just completely picture him singing this song and totally getting boatloads of nookie (boatloads!) afterwards. I guess we should all be so lucky.

Note: after finishing this entry, I found a blog post on “Moonlight Feels Right” that clearly was written by my long-lost cousin or something. It’s hysterical, and I encourage you to read it. I’m mentioning this because if you ever came across it on your own, you’d swear I plagiarized this whole Mellow Gold Adventure. I promise you, I didn’t – and sadly, his post makes me feel like I’m the least original person on the planet: he even bolded the same part of the Starbuck biography in his writing. And here I thought I was going to go without a hetero Mellow valentine this year!

Well, my mellow friends, I hope that today’s song has put you in the mood for lovin’. Or in the mood for putting away your laundry. Either way, happy Valentine’s Day and we’ll see you next week for another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!


Monday, February 12th, 2007

We spend a lot of time on this site talking about the forgotten music of years past. While we tend to focus on Mellow Gold, clearly we could apply the same type of analysis and discussion to a number of different types of music. Music that deserves our love, but has sadly fallen by the wayside. So, um, no time like the present, right?

Yes, that’s right, Jefito and I are collaborating to bring you a brand-new series. One that, again, focuses on that may have slipped from the public’s ears, but are never far from our hearts. Like most blog activity, it was sparked by idle chatter, but we’re really excited about it (actually, I’m excited — Jeff’s really really excited), and we think — nay, we demand — that you won’t be able to help yourself from following this new series from this blog to Jeff’s and back again. Mellowmas was fun, but it was just a warmup.

All right. Enough dicking around. Today, the two of us proudly present:

What is a Lost Soundtrack Classic, you ask? Good question. A Lost Soundtrack Classic is:

1) Primarily from a movie released in the ’80s;

2) A song that was, at the time, either included in the movie or on the soundtrack, but not available otherwise;

3) A song that often accompanies a montage in the movie, usually when the protagonist is finally getting over their hardship and climbing their way up the ladder to success.

There’s a very good possibility your brain is already working overtime, thinking of songs you remember from your favorite (or least favorite) flicks. That’s good — you think like us. We’ve got a robust list of these gems, and we’re going to do something long overdue: we’re going to honor these songs. We’re going to pay them the tribute they deserve. And in as many cases as possible, we’re going to hunt down the artists (some famous, some perhaps not-so-famous, to put it gently) and interview them regarding their important contributions to the world of cinema.

This is a lofty goal, and one we take seriously. We were, after all, at a very impressionable age when these movies and their soundtracks were released; we can’t help but have deep, unironic affection for them, and we weren’t sure how to do them justice. We discussed logistics ad nauseam, and even thought about throwing in the towel a few times. Honestly, it was discouraging.

But then, a voice crept into our heads:

Try to be best
Cause you’re only a man
And a man’s gotta learn to take it
Try to believe
Though the going gets rough
That you gotta hang tough to make it

History repeats itself
Try and you’ll succeed
Never doubt that you’re the one
And you can have your dreams!

And it was then, dear readers, that we knew what we had to do: We had to find out more about "You’re The Best," from The Karate Kid.

Joe Esposito – You’re The Best (download)
From The Karate Kid (Amazon)

You remember "You’re The Best," don’t you? The song that accompanies Daniel-san as he starts taking down members of the Cobra Kai at the All-Valley Karate Tournament? If you don’t, you shouldn’t be here here’s a refresher:


It didn’t take a lot of sleuthing to find out two things about this song:

1) The whole world loves it. Everybody from Danny Devito to Sports Guy Bill Simmons to Turkish Star Wars (?) to random YouTube d-bags. This song is adored the world over.

2) Nobody knows a damn thing about the man who brought "You’re The Best" to life: Joe "Bean" Esposito, and that’s where we come in.

According to the bio posted at Joe’s official website, we should all be ashamed of ourselves for not being better acquainted with the Bean; not only does he have a handful of albums to his credit, but he’s a three-time Grammy nominee, as well as "the other voice" in Brenda Russell’s "Piano in the Dark," and he’s contributed music to a whole bunch of movies. (Really. Too many to list. Go check it out.) But we still needed to know more — we demanded the full story behind Esposito and "You’re The Best." And so, without further ado, LOST SOUNDTRACK CLASSICS PRESENTS: An Interview With Joe "Bean" Esposito!

1. You worked on both Rocky III and Rocky IV. From a musical standpoint, which do you feel was the better movie?
As far as which song was better, I originally did "You’re the Best" for Rocky III, but it didn’t make it, so the director, John Avildsen, used it for "Karate Kid." I liked what Survivor did with "Eye of the Tiger," but I also really liked "Hearts on Fire" a lot, and I don’t know if one is better than the other or not — although "Eye of the Tiger" was a hit record. I actually did a version of "Hearts on Fire," but the record company used John Cafferty’s version. I think that was political — he was signed to the Scotti Brothers’ management company. I liked both movies a lot. I think Sylvester Stallone is the king of sequels.

2. To what extent are you aware of the — for lack of a better word — cult surrounding "You’re the Best," and how do you feel about it?
I really can’t explain the song’s cult following. Everyone from my son’s generation knows that song and loves it. My son is a professional baseball player — he pitches for the Colorado Rockies’ triple-A team — and I can’t tell you how many people know that I’m his Dad because of that song. It’s amazing.

That movie, of course was very popular, and everyone uses all the catchphrases. I’m thrilled to have been a part of it — it gives me a little something back for all the years I put in. Don’t forget, I’m in Vegas, singing in lounges, and sometimes it’s a little discouraging. But when someone remembers what I’ve done from a movie, or a hit song I was on, it makes me feel pretty good. I have some real good friends who always encourage me, and it really helps me to keep going.

3. When you saw The Karate Kid, did you actually believe Ralph Macchio could beat anyone up?
I don’t think so. But it was fun watching.

4. Which Stallone was better to work with: Frank or Sylvester?
I enjoyed working with both Sylvester And Frank. Frank is very talented in his own right, and a fine singer. I had a good time being on the set of Staying Alive. When we wrote some songs for that movie, I got to see Sylvester in action, and meet John Travolta.

5. You contributed the song "Lady, Lady, Lady" to the soundtrack for Flashdance. Is it true that you sang backing vocals on the song "What A Feeling?" If so, did you have any reservations about singing the line "I am rhythm now?"
How in the world did you know I sang backgrounds on "What a Feeling"? You guys are amazing! I never thought about singing "I am rhythm now," But it doesn’t bother me at all. I would take another Flashdance anytime! That soundtrack has been very good to me and my family.

Here’s some more trivia: I almost sang "(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life," from Dirty Dancing. Jimmy Ienner, who was the music supervisor on the movie, called me and asked if Donna Summer would be willing to sing something, but she turned it down because of the title. I’m not saying we would have definitely done the song, but you never know.

Oh, the ups and downs of the music business. That’s why when something like "You’re the Best," or Flashdance, or whatever else comes along, you really appreciate it. I’ve been very lucky to have done some of the things I’ve been involved with.

6. Can you give us an update on your career, including your upcoming album?
Right now, I perform and live in Las Vegas. Very different from the music industry — it’s really the casino business. I am writing songs and doing some recording. You can check my website and you will know where I am and what I’m doing.

Special thanks to Joe Esposito for taking the time to speak to us about "You’re The Best" and his long career in the music industry.  Joe’s got two albums on Amazon:  Treated And Released (which, for some unknown reason, is credited to Billy Vera & The Beaters…screw those guys!) and his collaboration with Giorgio Moroder, Solitary Men – check ’em out, why don’t you?  And the next time you’re in Vegas, see if he’s performing. Maybe you can even convince him to sing to you while you’re kicking some punk’s ass.

Okay, it’s finally time: let us know the songs you remember that fit our criteria. We’ll do our very best to cover them all in future editions of LOST SOUNDTRACK CLASSICS!

CHART ATTACK! #18: 2/11/89

Friday, February 9th, 2007

Hey hey, it’s Friday, and that means it’s time for yet another edition of CHART ATTACK!  This week, let’s go back and check out the charts from February 11, 1989!

10.  Walking Away – Information Society  Amazon iTunes
9.  She Wants To Dance With Me – Rick Astley
  Amazon iTunes
8.  I Wanna Have Some Fun – Samantha Fox  Amazon
7.  The Lover In Me – Sheena Easton  Amazon
6.  All This Time – Tiffany  Amazon
5.  When The Children Cry – White Lion  Amazon iTunes
4.  Born To Be My Baby – Bon Jovi  Amazon iTunes
3.  Wild Thing – Tone-Loc  Amazon iTunes
2.  When I’m With You – Sheriff  Amazon
1.  Straight Up – Paula Abdul  Amazon iTunes

10.  Walking Away – Information Society  "Walking Away" was Information Society’s only other imprint on the pop Top 20; the other hit, of course, was "What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)."  Both songs are pretty much the same, which probably explains why the pop charts didn’t really care much for allowing them to get away with a third sound-a-like.

If you weren’t with us back in October, check out Chart Attack! #4, where we take a look at "What’s On Your Mind," and the soap opera between the band, their founding member, and VH-1.

9.  She Wants To Dance With Me – Rick Astley  A product of the British powerhouse producing/songwriting team Stock, Aitken & Waterman, Rick Astley was ridiculously successful in the late ’80s (as if you didn’t know this already).  "She Wants To Dance With Me" was his fourth Top 10, climbing up to #6 – but I doubt you’ll hear it on the radio with any frequency.  Same with "It Would Take A Strong, Strong Man," or Astley’s final Top 10 in ’91, "Cry For Help."  No, it seems we’re doomed to hear the same two Rick Astley songs on Lite-FM stations every single day of our lives….which sound pretty much the same, anyway.  "She Wants To Dance With Me" – Astley’s first self-penned hit, – sounds, I don’t know, a little different, but wisely doesn’t stray from the S/A/W sound.  I’m still unconvinced this is a white guy.

8.  I Wanna Have Some Fun – Samantha Fox  Wow!  Remember back when Samantha Fox was pretty much the only "Skanky And Proud Of It" artist on the charts?  I remember being all sorts of impressed that somebody who had so famously (and frequently) put her tits out for all to see could make a real dent on the charts.  Her third single, "I Wanna Have Some Fun" has a video that just SCREAMS 1989 to me.


When I was looking for Samantha Fox clips, however, I came across this one, which is way more entertaining:  Fox performing "Touch Me" for a crowd in Istanbul about a year ago.  She can’t sing that well, and the crowd is completely uninterested in her, but hey, she still has some looks and moves in her, no?

7.  The Lover In Me – Sheena Easton  Considering she’s had a solid presence on the Top 10 ("Telefone," "Strut," "We’ve Got Tonight"), it’s interesting to note that "The Lover In Me" was Easton’s highest-charting hit since 1980’s "Morning Train."  Now that’s a comeback.  The song’s musical base was pretty typical of most of the dance tracks from the late ’80s, but the drum machine intro was remarkably similar to "Strut."  With "The Lover In Me," produced by L.A. Reid and Babyface, Easton went for a much sexier look and sound.  For proof, check out the difference:

"The Lover In Me," 1988:


"Morning Train (9 To 5)," 1980:


6.  All This Time – Tiffany  If you ever read Chart Attack! and find yourself thinking "wow, it’s kind of sad that Jason knows some of this extraneous information without needing to look it up," here’s the one that will take the cake:  "All This Time" was the first single off of Tiffany’s highly anticipated (by me, I guess) follow-up album, Hold An Old Friend’s Hand, and had its premiere on an episode of "Growing Pains," specifically their season premiere, in which young Ben Seaver has his first date at the Halloween dance.  Why?  WHY do I remember this shit?  Between this and Taylor Dayne lyrics, I’m seriously ready to throw myself off a bridge.

5.  When The Children Cry – White Lion  YES!  Let’s hear it for the monster ballad that once again rears its ugly head!  The gentle, acoustic fade-in, the cracking vocal (he’s crying himself, people, get it?), and, of course, the lame, laaaaaaame, laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame lyrics.  ("No more presidents/and all the wars will end/one united world under God/rocking in leather pants.")

Clearly, White Lion must have known that they were not long for chart success.  As a result, the video for "When The Children Cry" attempts to kill two birds with one stone, and inexplicably combines dramatic black and white shots of children playing, and….slow motion live clips of the band in concert.  (To be fair, it does seem like they’re playing the same song in some of the shots.)  The drama is unintentionally hysterical.


These guys were on Atlantic.  Ahmet, please tell me this wasn’t your decision.  Please tell me you punted this one to someone lower, and then fired them.  Please tell me you made their children cry.

4.  Born To Be My Baby – Bon Jovi
  You gotta hand it to Bon Jovi: they know what sells.  After a hit with the working-class anthem "Livin’ On A Prayer," Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora once again collaborated with Desmond Child to write a song with pretty much the exact same message.  They didn’t go as far as to name-check Tommy and Gina again (that sort of desperation would have to wait until 2000’s "It’s My Life"), but with lines like "two kids hitchin’ down the road of life," let’s just say none of us were fooled.

"Born To Be My Baby" was the second single released off of the powerhouse New Jersey, and went as high as #3.  Originally, the song was recorded in the acoustic duo format, but producer Bruce Fairbairn convinced Bon Jovi to re-record and release the song as a full-out rocker.  Jon Bon Jovi accused Fairbairn of trying to replicate "Livin’ On A Prayer," to which Fairbairn most likely responded, "have you READ your lyrics, you douchebag?"

3.  Wild Thing – Tone-Loc (download)  Am I the only one completely shocked that Tone-Loc has never appeared on either "Celebrity Fit Club," "The Surreal Life," or any of the other reality shows that routinely feature ’80s celebrities?  Granted, he did appear as a guest panelist on "Superstar USA" (which I’ve never heard of), and made a cameo as himself in the VH-1 movie Totally Awesome – but in my opinion, that doesn’t count.  It seems to me like Tone-Loc has never sold himself down the river in exchange for a few bucks and a bit of retro notoriety.  Consider me impressed.

Oh right, we’re supposed to talk about "Wild Thing."  Peaking at #2 the week following this one, "Wild Thing" was one of the first few mainstream rap songs to hit the Top 10.  I suppose we owe Loc a debt of gratitude for doing his part to make rap safe for the white people.  While we’re at it, let’s give a thanks to Young MC as well; not only did his "Bust A Move" do something similar, but he also co-wrote and co-produced "Wild Thing."

Speaking of white people, there’s a line in the song:  "She said ‘Hey you two, I was once like you and I liked to do the wild thing’"  I was always convinced that he was singing "Hey, Jew, I was once like you and I liked to do the wild thing."  Which was confusing because Jews, in fact, do not like to do the wild thing.  This became even more confusing when I saw people like my parents dancing to the song at Bar Mitzvahs.

Like Information Society, both of Loc’s big hits (this and "Funky Cold Medina") sounded remarkably similar, but they did have their differences: "Wild Thing" sampled Van Halen’s "Jamie’s Cryin," and "Funky Cold Medina" name-checked Spuds MacKenzie.  "Wild Thing" is an awesome song, but I think the point has to go to the one that gives the props to Spuds.

2.  When I’m With You – Sheriff (download)  In my mind, "When I’m With You" is forever tied with Alias’ hit "More Than Words Can Say," but I always thought it was just because they were both power ballads, and I owned them both on cassingle.  Turns out, they really are tied together, and can I tell you how cool I felt when I figured this out?

When Sheriff, a rock group hailing from Canada, released "When I’m With You," they were pretty confident they had a hit on their hands.  They were wrong, seeing as it was 1983 when the song was recorded and released.  I’m not sure why the song wasn’t a hit; Freddie Mercury was in the band, for chrissakes!  Look at the dude on the left:

every one of these pictures has the bottom half digitized, for some reason.
This means only one person on the Internet is admitting they have a copy.

Disappointed that their attempt at wuss rock couldn’t get them any higher than #61, Sheriff disbanded.

Six years later, a DJ in Las Vegas began playing the tune, and other stations followed suit.  (Funny, I would have guessed Arizona, seeing as how that state was responsible for the resurrection of UB40’s "Red Red Wine" and Benny Mardones’ "Into The Night," but I digress.)  Capitol Records re-released the single, and it reached #1.  That’s pure radio magic.  (Deep sighs all around.)

The logical next step, of course, was to reunite Sheriff and get them to capitalize on the success, but a few of the band members refused.  I’m not sure why they didn’t just reform under the Sheriff moniker anyway – it’s not like anybody would have known the difference – but instead, vocalist Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi teamed up with a few ex-Heart members and formed Alias.  In 1990, they released "More Than Words Can Say," which peaked at #2.

I can’t verify this – I only remember hearing it on one of the Top 40 radio countdowns back in ’89 – but the DJ claimed that "When I’m With You" had, at the time, the longest-held note in pop music, beating a record by Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply. Again, no way to tell if this is correct (especially since I don’t remember the DJ even mentioning that the tune was originally from 1983 – does anybody know if that was supposed to be downplayed?), or if the record has since been beaten, but it’s what I heard.  (For the record, the note held at the end of "When I’m With You" is over 25 seconds long.)

1.  Straight Up – Paula Abdul  I confess.  I like this song.  Mike and I learned this one for our ’80s gig, and we were a bit worried it would bomb.  (Okay, he was worried it would bomb.)  However, the fact that we had the majority of the room chanting "oh-oh-oh" convinced us otherwise.  But back to Paula: Virgin had been focusing their efforts on penetrating the R&B charts with "Knocked Out" and "(It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me," but DJs in Atlanta and San Francisco began spinning "Straight Up" instead.  Although it took a good five months to get there, it was her first #1, and paved the way for her three other #1s from Forever Your Girl (and a #3 as well).  "Straight Up" was Abdul’s finest pop moment (sorry, MC Skat Kat fans), aided by an iconic David Fincher-directed video featuring her terrific choreography, a cameo from Arsenio (remember when the most controversial thing about Abdul was whether the two were romantically linked?) and a few shots of Djimon Hounsou, back when he was just a model and not an Oscar-nominated actor.

And that brings us to the end of another CHART ATTACK!  Hope you enjoyed – have a great weekend!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 19

Thursday, February 8th, 2007


Hello everybody, and welcome back to yet another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! Thanks for waiting patiently an extra day, although after today’s choice, who knows? Maybe you’ll wish I had skipped the week altogether! Brace yourself, my wimpy friends.

John Lennon – Woman (download)

Did it suddenly get cold in here?

I know what you’re thinking: Could it be? Could a Beatle really be capable of Mellow Gold? More specifically, could John Lennon – the man responsible for gut-wrenching songs like “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Instant Karma!” and “Cold Turkey” and write something so smooth, so sensitive, so wimpy?

You bet your Mellow-lovin’ ass he could.

John Lennon was originally a member of a band called The Beatles, and…just kidding. I don’t need to waste any space here giving you a biography on John Lennon. You’re probably familiar with some of the details relevant to “Woman,” but just in case, here’s what you need to know: while on vacation in Bermuda, Lennon had an epiphany that led to his opening statement: women are “the other half of the sky.” In an interview with Rolling Stone just three days before his death, Lennon claimed the song was reminiscent of the Beatles track “Girl,” but “a grown-up version.”

“Woman” was included on the Lennon/Yoko Ono album Double Fantasy, Lennon’s first album since 1975’s Rock and Roll. The album was the work of a man content with his life, his family, and his love – apparent in songs like “(Just Like) Starting Over,” “Watching The Wheels,” “Beautiful Boy,” and, of course, the song currently under discussion.

Before we go on to discuss “Woman,” I’m going to ask you to do something for me: I want you to try and be objective about this song. Even my last paragraph most likely brings up memories of where you were when you heard Lennon was shot. (For my part, I believe I was still in diapers…and I was 12 at the time! Thank you! Don’t forget to tip your waitress!) I know it’s hard to hear this song – and perhaps anything off of Double Fantasy – and not think about what could have been if he hadn’t been taken away from us. I think about this all the time. But let’s focus, people. We’re here to talk about The Mellow.

Now, we’ve never defined actual criteria for Mellow Gold, although it’s been discussed in the comments. I think it’s better that we leave it vague, don’t you? Because we know Mellow Gold when we hear it, somehow, even if a song doesn’t necessarily fit any pre-established criteria, and I think that counts for something.

That being said, uh…John Lennon’s “Woman” does seem to meet some of the criteria we’ve used on occasion to figure out if a song fits into Mellow Gold. Let’s look:

Completely effusive lyrics fawning over female………..check
Lots of “oooohs” or other nonsense words to illustrate said lyrics
Self-effacing in presence of female
Calling female by a name like “lady” or “woman”
Gentle female backing vocals
Key change

Who’s writing silly love songs now?

Lyrically, there’s no denying the wuss factor. The whole song is literally one long, overdramatic worshipfest at the knees of his beloved. I know it’s hard to imagine, but what if this was Paul Davis, or Dan Hill? We know the woman wouldn’t have stuck around. (Hard to think the same when it’s John and Yoko, right? I know objectivity is hard. Stay with me.) I mean, it’s hard to take some of these lines seriously when you’re just reading them:

Woman I know you understand
The little child inside of the man
Please remember my life is in your hands

Now that’s some Mellow, heavy-handed, overdramatic stuff right there.

Actually, there’s one great Lennon line in here. It’s the opening line: “Woman, I can hardly express my mixed emotions at my thoughtlessness.” “Mixed emotions?” Like what? Like, “ehh, yeah, I was thoughtless when I yelled at her, but in all fairness, she was being a complete bitch that day she didn’t tell me Ringo called asking for money…”

How about the chorus? The “doo doo doo, etc” refrain has been used in many Mellow Gold tunes (“Thunder Island,” anybody?), but I’m not sure if it’s been used to such an extent that it winds up defining most of the choruses. I thought the chorus was supposed to drive the point of the verses home to the listener. “Ooooooh, well well, doo doo doo doo doo” isn’t really making me think, “wow, he’s serious about this shit!”

Musically, as I said before, it’s hard to believe that this Lennon is the same Lennon who screamed through the end of “Cold Turkey.” But it’s true. This song couldn’t get any gentler. It’s damn near ethereal at points. It treads so lightly that I’m actually surprised the song works up the guts to change keys.

Now, I understand that it probably seems like I’m really picking on “Woman.” Well, kind of. But the truth is that I love “Woman,” despite it almost being ruined for me a few years ago (more on that in a minute). I can’t say that I’m completely unbiased by John, Yoko, the comeback and the romantic fairy tale cut short, etc, but being that I heard it when I was young – long before I knew anything about John Lennon – I know that I love it despite all these things. And it’s really all about the chorus for me: the multiple Lennons, combined with the backing vocals – even if he’s just singing stupid words, it works – and becomes even more poignant with the last chorus, when he finds the words to say what he’s been feeling.

Here’s how much I enjoy this song: as you may know if you read his blog, Mike spends just about any warm evening playing to crowds in Washington Square Park. He’s invited me down many times, but I’m always reluctant; it just doesn’t feel like my scene for some reason. One summer evening, I decided to give it a try. Mike and I played by ourselves for a while, and then one of the known “leaders” of the park jams showed up to, well, lead. Except his version of “leading” was “I’ll choose the songs and sing them and try to get laid by looking and sounding really sensitive, despite the fact that I kind of sound like a weasel on helium. And when it’s not my turn to choose a song or sing one, I’ll sulk.”

Needless to say, I thought this guy was a complete, egomaniacal douchebag. (And I’ll also say that it is taking every ounce of my being not to link to his MySpace page right now.) And then – you guessed it – he sang whined “Woman.” And gave me dirty looks when I tried to sing backing vocals. (You should have seen his face when I sang lead on “Daniel.”) That’s right: I tried to sing backup for this tool singing “Woman” which, with his whine, sounded more like “Ramen.” At Mike’s behest, I recorded my impression of him singing the word. This is exactly what he sounded like. Seriously.


Ugh, I felt dirty. (Don’t you?) I left soon afterwards and was like, “fuck this guy, fuck ‘Woman,’ fuck John Lennon…” I didn’t listen to that song for about six months. But I did come back to it. And I never thought I’d be able to do it, but I was actually able to get his image out of my head when I listened to it, and remember what I loved about the song in the first place. Witness the power of “Woman.” (How much do I owe you guys for therapy?)

So John Lennon, you go with your Mellow self. And for the rest of you, hope you enjoyed (or at least will eventually forgive me for my blasphemy), and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Patty Griffin: Angel Orensanz Center, 2/6/07

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Words can’t describe how blissful it is to see and hear Patty Griffin perform live.  I had only seen her once before, at a Barnes & Noble in-store while promoting Impossible Dream.  Again, I was struck by one thought: I can’t believe such a voice, with such emotion, is coming out of this woman.

The concert, presented by The Artists Den, took place at the Angel Orensanz Center on the Lower East Side.  I’d never been there before, and it’s one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen.  A former synagogue, the architecture and acoustics were simply breathtaking.

Allison Moorer opened with five or six songs.  Patty came out, with band, and stuck mostly to her new record, Children Running Through.  She played a few from Living With Ghosts and a handful from Impossible Dream, but sadly, none from Flaming Red or 1000 Kisses (my favorite).  Guesting on piano: Ian McLagan!  The band was phenomenal, and as I mentioned, Patty was just stellar.

We were sitting pretty far back, and I’m short, so my pictures aren’t up to my usual standards.  Still, that 12x zoom came in quite handy last night.

If Patty comes to town, don’t even think of missing her.  Tour dates!

Photos:  Patty Griffin, Angel Orensanz Center, 2/6/07