Welcome back to another week of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! Before I get started – anybody see The Simpsons a couple of weeks ago, where Homer becomes a fireman? Mellow Gold Alert: there’s a montage with Homer near the end of the episode, and “Sad Eyes” by Robert John is playing. Could it be? Are The Simpsons producers reading this website? Definitely not. But I was still excited.
Anyway, on to the wuss music! This week, I chose a song that doesn’t really need much snarking. It’s simply a great song that always puts a smile on my face, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s from a band that we’ve previously unearthed from the mines!
Little River Band – Lady (download)
We last talked about Little River Band back in Mellow Gold #9. I’m sure you all go back and review those entries on a daily basis, but in case you’ve forgotten:
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 #5.
“Lady” reached #10 and stayed on the charts for an impressive 14 weeks. In my previous entry, I declared “Reminiscing” to be my favorite, but now that I’m paying attention to “Lady”, I’m not sure. “Reminiscing” is definitely a cooler song musically, with fantastic chords (I know, ’cause I can’t play ‘em), but “Lady” has so much going for it. It starts off all smooth, light guitar and piano, and then slowly builds into a song that actually kinda rocks. LRB throws in some strings, a little bit of guitar, and before we know it, we’re groovin’ into the chorus in something that almost feels….rock-ish. Crazy, I know! It does this multiple times. It’s some kind of mellow deception, I tell you. Actually, I’ll give most of the credit to the bassline, which seems to set the tone for the rest of the instruments – especially in that chorus. And at one point, there’s even some other percussion that I think actually is a fucking woodblock.
And how about these lyrics? They’re definitely mellow; only a true wimp could write “feel for the winter but don’t have a cold heart” and not burst out laughing afterwards. And did I mention that the name of the song is “Lady”? If we’ve been over it once, we’ve been over it a thousand times: when we’re deep in the mines, a telltale sign that we’ve struck mellow gold is a song calling a female “woman” or “lady.” Ever tried to say this out loud, by the way? Doesn’t work. (Trust me.)
However, let’s give some credit to songwriter Graeham Goble: remember back when we talked about “Reminiscing” and those double-edged lyrics? He writes this wonderful story about looking back on life and then twists the knife by stating “oh, the times we’re missing spending the hours reminiscing.” Well, Goble does something similar here: he expresses a sweet, genuine sentiment, but can’t help but throw a wink at us as well. I know, because this little wink got me into some trouble the other day.
So all through the weekend, I was singing this song. Couldn’t help it: the sun was shining, I was grilling in the backyard, I was in a great mood. So I’m singing the song to my wife, and get to the chorus (which, as we previously mentioned, is the best part). I sing the first line:
So lady, let me take a look at you now
You’re there on the dance floor making me want you somehow
Only problem is, the look I’m getting from my wife is one of those “you’re in the doghouse” looks. I can’t figure out why until she points out to me that “you’re there on the dance floor making me want you somehow” is actually relatively insulting – you know, like “it’s unbelievable that a beast like you could actually turn me on.” I tried to dig myself out of the hole by continuing:
Lady, I think it’s only fair I should say to you
Don’t be thinking that I don’t love you, ’cause maybe I do
Thanks, Little River Band. You ruined my Sunday.
So these lyrics are kinda sucky. I guess I never noticed it because of those stellar harmonies. Shit, change it to “lady, let me throw a book at you now” and I’ll still feel the same way about the awesomeness of this song.
Like many other bands of this era and genre, Little River Band experienced their share of personnel changes. In 1981, lead singer Glenn Shorrock left the group (or was fired, depending on who you ask), and was replaced by fellow Australian John Farnham. Farnham was primarily known in his home country for a novelty single called “Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)” and had recently hired LRB’s manager to take charge of his career. Farnham eventually had his own dramas with Little River Band, and went on to create his own unbelievably successful career in his home country – but that’s a story for another Mellow Gold entry. I mention him here because, in my mind, he furthered the mellow deception: his unbelievable voice helped turn some of their smoothest songs – including “Lady” – into rockers.
A few days ago, I was perusing YouTube and came across FritzRitz’s extensive LRB/Farnham collection. Included was a live version of “Lady,” audio only, that blew my mind. (Let’s not think about how sad it is that this song blew my mind.) I asked nicely and FritzRitz generously sent me the song to share with all of you. There are two noticeable skips in the song, which are a bummer, to be sure, but I don’t think it’ll take away from your general enjoyment of the song.
Little River Band (with John Farnham) – Lady (live) (download)
Rockin’, right? Check out some of the other videos on YouTube with LRB featuring Farnham, while I go searching for a live bootleg featuring this incarnation of the band. Farnham’s voice impresses the hell out of me. I don’t recommend you listen to his version of “Reminiscing” – a bit too much on the vocal gymnastics for my taste – but when I eventually convince my band that we must cover “Lady,” this is the version I’m sending them. Well, I’d throw the piano back in. But other than that, this song is perfect. I plan on listening to it all summer. I feel bad for those around me.
See you next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! Thanks for reading!