Archive for the 'mellow gold' Category

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 44

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Welcome back!  It’s time for yet another spelunking expedition to the depths of wussitude!



Karla Bonoff – Personally (download)

As you know, it’s not often that we cover the Ladies of Mellow Gold.  I think that maybe the reason for this is that it’s just easier for me to make fun of the guys, but don’t be fooled into thinking that their contributions to the Mellow Category are any less valid than the ones by the dudes (who aren’t really men, anyway):  "Personally" is a fantastic mellow record, one that could only be improved upon if it featured a cameo by our above-pictured hero.  But we won’t hold that against her.  Shall I regale you with a bit of Karla Bonoff history?  (Shut up, I’m doing it anyway.)


Karla Bonoff, spending the day at Neverland Ranch

Karla Bonoff was born in Southern California and, from a very early age, showed a clear talent for singing and songwriting.  By 16, she had recorded a demo for Elektra Records.  She spent many evenings at The Troubadour in L.A. and eventually fell in with three like-minded individuals:  Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman, and (drum roll please) Andrew Gold.  The four of them formed a band named Bryndle and although they recorded an album for A&M in 1970, it was never released.  (A pox on your house, Herb Alpert!)

Bryndle disbanded, and Gold and Edwards joined the backing band for Linda Ronstadt (earlier, Edwards had been a member of Ronstadt’s first band, The Stone Poneys).  When Ronstadt went looking for new material to record, the men passed her a Bonoff demo.  Ronstadt wound up recording a number of Bonoff tunes – three on her 1976 album Hasten Down The Wind alone.  Bonoff embarked on a solo career, and had moderate success (a few Top 100 singles, anyway) from her first two albums.  It was her 1982 album, Wild Heart Of The Young, that featured her biggest hit, "Personally," which peaked at #19.

"Personally" is the only song off of Wild Heart Of The Young that’s not self-penned.  It was written by Paul Kelly, probably best known for his song "Stealing In The Name Of The Lord," a #5 R&B hit in June of 1970.  I’m sure the irony is not lost on Bonoff: her biggest hit (and only hit from the album) is the only one the singer-songwriter didn’t write, and the lyrics are all about her delivering something personally.

Regardless of who wrote it, I’m having a hard time knocking "Personally."  It’s truly a mellow gem:  Bonoff’s voice is casual, sweet and gentle, and the music behind her couldn’t be any better.  Light, funky guitar, breezy keyboards, um, competent drumming, and a fantastic bassline.  I can’t tell you the featured musicians on this particular song, but on the entirety of the record you’ll find all members of Bryndle , most of The Eagles (Henley, Schmit, Walsh and J.D. Souther – come on, he counts as an Eagle), Danny Kortchmar – one of the only Mellow Gold artists to be nicknamed "Kootch" other than Charlene – and guess who’s playing that terrific sax solo?

Damn you, Sanborn!  You’re on everything!  Ahh, that chorus is fantastic – it’s one of those earworms that never seems to get too annoying.  In fact, the chorus is so perfect that Kelly kind of got lazy on the second verse.  See, the first verse appropriately leads up to the chorus, explaining how our protagonist (I try to use this word as often as I can, it makes me feel smart) has been writing all these letters, but now has to do something more.  Okay, that makes sense.  However, verse two:  "There’s nothing like the feeling I get/Oh when you touch me baby/There’s nothing like the feeling you get/When I’m there with you, oh love."  While I get the point he’s making, he couldn’t come up with something better than those first two lines?  I’m convinced he just took those from another mellow gold tune, somewhere.

Of course, here’s the real mystery of the song: we never actually find out what, exactly, Bonoff is bringin’ to him personally.  Yes, we know she can’t send it in, can’t phone it in, can’t use semaphore, can’t send it via carrier pigeon, can’t strap it to a small barrel that’s subsequently attached to the neck of a Saint Bernard, etc.  But we don’t know what "it" is.  My guess is that it’s similar to the "that" that Meatloaf won’t do (although he’s made it clear he’ll do anything else for love), but I don’t know for sure.  So (ahem):

Jason Hare’s Guesses As To What Karla Bonoff Is Bringin’ To Him Personally (Personally, Personally, Yeah Yeah):


1)  Alimony bill
2)  VD
3)  Autographed copy of Bossa Nova Hotel by Michael Sembello
4)  Fart
5)  Midget
6)  Farting midget (I feel like this would be the most difficult to send in of all)
7)  Love child of David Pack from Ambrosia
8)  Ambrosia (either the band or the fruit salad)

So what happened to Bonoff after "Personally?"  Well, she continued to write and record her own songs.  She recorded a Lost Soundtrack Classic for Footloose.  She passed some hits off to other artists – Wynonna recorded her song "Tell Me Why" in ’93, and Ronstadt recorded "All My Life," a duet with Aaron Neville, which won a Grammy in 1991.  She’s maintained a following in Asia, touring Japan numerous times.  And hey, everybody – Bryndle got back together!  In 1995, they released their debut CD – only 25 years after their first shelved recording!  Andrew Gold left in ’96, and the band is sort of on hiatus, but they all still keep in touch and perform from time to time.  You can keep updated on Bonoff’s career at her website.  And have no fear, she’s not forgotten her Mellow Gold roots: she contributed backing vocals to McD’s Blue Obsession!


Bonoff and McD, shortly after McD ate her right arm


Until next time, my friends!  Thanks for joining me on another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Repost: Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 3

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

It’s summer and although I should be relaxing, I’m actually ridiculously busy.  Either way, that means it’s time for a Mellow Gold repost.  Often, I’ll pick a Mellow Gold song at random to cover and, while researching it, find out some too-good-to-be-true tidbits.  This was the first entry where it happened: I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  It’s one of my favorite Mellow Gold posts.  And one final note: a few months after I wrote this entry, the director of the below-mentioned documentary actually sent me the DVD – I believe it’s called "The Syracuse Cut."  I haven’t watched it yet – I’m waiting until Jeff and I finally meet in person so we can endure it together – but you can be sure that’ll be covered in a future post.  Enjoy!



What’s that?  You want some more wussy music?  You need some more wussy music?  I’m here for you.

This week, we’re only going to cover one song.  Why?  Because the story’s so good, it deserves its own post.

Benny Mardones – Into The Night (download)

You could call Benny Mardones a one-hit wonder.  But technically, you could also call Benny Mardones a two-hit wonder.  And he has a pretty interesting background, too, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  First, let’s talk about the song itself.

"Into The Night" did well on the charts when it was released in 1980, eventually reaching #11.  It deserved to be a hit; it’s a good song.  It has deep, heavy drums, dark, minor chords, a subtle piano part, ethereal backing vocals, and Mardones’ strong yet hoarse lead vocal.  It features fantastic use of dynamics, and suitably builds throughout.  I like some of the lyrics, as well:

It’s like having a dream
Where nobody has a heart
It’s like having it all
And watching it fall apart
And I would wait till the end of time for you
And do it again, it’s true
I can’t measure my love
There’s nothing to compare it to

I think that’s quite pretty.  Of course, there’s just one problem: the opening line.

She’s just sixteen years old
leave her alone, they say

(shakes head)
(bangs head on desk)
(goes to call the cops)
(thinks better of it, hangs up)

Great.  This romantic song has been ruined for me because he’s singing it to a sixteen year-old.  Listen, I’m not saying that Benny Mardones likes little girls.  I’m saying this song is not helping any if he’s trying to prove that he doesn’t.

Apparently, though, nobody gives a shit, and nobody gave a shit back then – because, again, the song reached #11 in 1980.  And that’s not all.

In 1989, a station in Phoenix drummed up some interest in the song during a "Where Are They Now?" segment.  Somehow, word got to Scott Shannon, Program Director at Pirate Radio in Los Angeles.  Scott’s been running some of the biggest stations in the biggest markets for the past zillion years.  Anyway, in 1989, he added "Into The Night" back onto the station’s playlist, and soon enough, stations around the country were spinning a nine year-old song.  Nine years later, "Into The Night" was back on the charts, and peaked at #20.

Benny Mardones may have been a drug addict by then, but he was no fool.  If you were a one-hit two-hit one hit wonder, what would you do?

You’d get your ass back into the studio and try to capitalize on the success, that’s what you’d do.

And so Benny went back into the studio, now signed with Curb Records (’cause the folks at Curb Records weren’t fools either), and re-recorded "Into The Night."  The re-release appeared on his self-titled 1989 album ("known as ‘The Blue Album’ to his fans," his website says!).

I thought about offering "Into The Night ’89" up here for download.  But there really wasn’t any point.  For starters, you don’t need two versions of "Into The Night."  In fact, you might wind up hating me for it.  And there’s really not much of a difference between the two versions.  His voice has a little more wear and tear.  The instrumentation is a little different – there’s suddenly an acoustic guitar and the bass has a terrible effect on it.  We didn’t really need an "Into The Night ’89," but by golly, we got it.

UPDATE 10 AM:  So I go to my mailbox this morning and what’s waiting for me?  A pristine, still-in-shrinkwrap copy of Benny Mardones’ self-titled 1989 release on Curb Records.  Thank you to you-know-who for sending me this…(struggles to think of the right word)…CD.  (Note 8/15/07: since this post, you-know-who has sent me just about every Mardones CD available.  They’re sitting here at work.  I see them every day.  Yet I can’t bring myself to play any of them.  It’s like listening to one of Meat Loaf’s albums that’s not Bat Out Of Hell.)

So since I have it right here anyway, go ahead, torture yourself.  If you dare.

Benny Mardones – Into The Night ’89 (download)

Things went downhill yet again after that for Benny Mardones, but not before he re-recorded the song another two frickin’ times: there’s "Into The Night (acoustic)" and "Into The Night (2002 Version)."  The former features some lame ad-libs, and the latter has a voice that can no longer belt the other high notes.  It brings absolutely nothing to the table.  In fact, it takes things away from the table.  Nobody bought it.

Except, that is, for the constituents of the fine city of Syracuse, NY.

Yes, you read that right.

According to the Benny Mardones bio:

Benny disappeared everywhere – everywhere, that is, but Syracuse, NY. With the help of fans like Tommy Nast, then program director at local station 94 Rock, Benny’s music was constantly on the air in Syracuse. In 1983, he played a legendary concert at Longbranch Park with more than 10,000 people in attendance. BennyMania took hold in upstate New York. In 1985, Benny played four sold-out shows at the 3,500-seat Landmark Theater. At his peak in Syracuse, Benny would draw 24,000 fans to a show at Weedsport Speedway.

With all his records out of print, local promoters released two "Syracuse Only" records. These included "Unauthorized" and "American Dreams," each of which sold over 18,000 copies in Syracuse. Benny’s sales topped even new releases by performers like Bruce Springsteen.


You know, when I was 17 and on the search for colleges to attend, I was wavering between a few schools.  Syracuse University was one of them.  They did a lot to sell me on their school.  They said nothing about Benny.  Had I known that living in Syracuse would have put me square in the middle of BennyMania…well, shit.  Fuck the $35,000+ per year tuition.  The chance to get Unauthorized and maybe even get it signed?  Worth it all, my friends.

So what’s Benny been up to lately?  Well, recentlly – just today, actually – he won two awards!  Yes, he won the JasonHare.com Award For Worst Album Title AND Worst Album Cover:

Well, he just beat out this guy for my Favorite Awful Title With The Word "Love" In The Cover.  I’m not even going to dignify the bandana with a comment.  Maybe my wife said it best when she asked, "Is that a woman?"

I know you’re either thinking this story can’t get any better or when will he fucking shut up about Benny Mardones?  Either way, here’s the ending.  I’ve saved the best for last.

Benny has a new documentary, entitled (are you ready for this?) Into The Night:  The Benny Mardones Story.  And according to the cast page, it features such "characters" as Benny himself!  Benny’s Mom!  Roy Orbison!  Wayne Newton!  Richie Havens!  And this guy!

I am not making this up.  I didn’t even put that text on the picture.  I swear.

I can’t possibly think of anything else to add – but I’m sure you might, so please feel free to contribute in the comments!  And with that, I bid you a very – very – wussy goodbye.  See you Friday for CHART ATTACK! and next week for more Mellow Gold!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 43

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

What, you thought a measly little vacation was going to stop me from providing you with the mellowest music on the face of the planet?  Au contraire!

Player – Baby Come Back (download)

When I told my wife I was covering "Baby Come Back" today, her first question (after "why are you telling me this?") was, "didn’t you cover this one before?" That’s exactly what I thought – and exactly what you’re probably thinking as well. But no. I know it’s unbelievable, but the truth is that we have not covered "Baby Come Back." Why we haven’t covered "Baby Come Back," I have no idea. It’s one of the quintessential Mellow Gold classics – probably in the Top 10 of the most popular Mellow Gold songs, ever.

Wise Mellow scholars that you all are, you probably have known for a long, long time that "Baby Come Back" was the work of the band Player. However, I’ll argue that most people haven’t heard of Player, and instead, when they hear this song, think, "Hey! Hall & Oates!" Do a Google search combining H&O and the song’s name, and you’ll find tons of people who insist that Player’s version is a cover of H&O’s version, that Player did the original but H&O wrote it, or even that it was performed by Little River Band, the Bee Gees or Ohio Players (??). I did a search on one of the not-so-legal file sharing services and found only one – one! – version listed under Player. The rest were the above groups, or Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical, who incorporated it into a new song called "Baby Come Back To Me." (I hear this every morning at the gym. It sucks.)

Let’s clear this up right now: Daryl Hall and John Oates have nothing to do with "Baby Come Back," except for one thing: the song is a 100% bonafide Hall & Oates ripoff. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: wouldn’t you like to know a bit more about the boys in Player? You wouldn’t? Well, sucks to be you, then.


Player at the 1977 San Bernardino Wigmakers Convention

Player began when Peter Beckett and J.C. Crowley met at a party in L.A. around 1976.  Beckett and Crowley were the only ones that weren’t wearing white pants, and somehow this was enough to strike up a meaningful conversation.  (They’re easy to spot in the above picture: they’re the two people wearing white pants.  Beckett is the one far left, and Crowley is the one far right who kind of looks like the freaky love-child of Jann Wenner and Rufus Wainwright.)  The duo, both singer-songwriters, met up shortly after the party, and realized they had enough in common to form a band together.  They added hunky Ronn Moss (above, trying to hide a hickey) on bass and Moss’s friend John Friesen (the one who looks like a SNL parody of a ’70s rocker) on drums.  Original Steppenwolf member Wayne Cook was later added on keyboards.  Managing the band was Paul Palmer, who was more than suitable for the job, also being the manager for Little River Band.

"Baby Come Back" was the brainchild of Beckett and Crowley.  Both had recently broken up with their girlfriends (as the story goes; I’m not so convinced they weren’t dumped for men with better hair) and one night, over hazelnut-infused hot cocoa and backrubs (not true), churned out their genius tune.  (Note: Wikipedia attributes this tune to Blaine Craven, but a check over at BMI confirms it’s Beckett and Crowley.  Yes, I searched BMI.  No, I don’t know why, either.)

The band had their killer song; now all they needed was a record deal.  Palmer set up auditions with various producers, insisting that the band play live, instead of submitting a demo tape that could merely be shelved and forgotten.  Producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter (who had written songs for the likes of The Righteous Brothers and Dusty Springfield) picked up the band, and in turn, convinced Robert Stigwood to sign them to RSO Records.

"Baby Come Back" entered Hot 100 in October of 1977, and in January of 1978 spent three weeks at #1.  In total, the song spent four months in the Top 40 and a massive eight months in the Hot 100.  Two million copies later, Player were being personally asked to open for Eric Clapton – quite a step up from opening for Gino Vannelli – and were named by Billboard as Best New Singles Artist of 1978.  Player had other hits (one of them, "This Time I’m In It For Love," will be snarked around here at some point, I’m sure), but of course, internal feuding tore the band apart.  In fact, Beckett left the band during their stint opening for Kenny Loggins on "The Footloose Tour."  It’s true.  He had to cut loose.  (groan)

In between various reunion incarnations, the members of Player have kept busy.  Beckett wrote "Twist Of Fate" for Olivia Newton-John, included in the movie of the same name that actually made Xanadu look like a masterpiece, and even joined the ol’ Little River Band for a spell in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Crowley left the band and became a semi-successful songwriter, writing for The Oak Ridge Boys, Johnny Cash and Smokey Robinson.  And Ronn Moss…well, Moss gained the most notoriety when he decided to use his rugged, manly looks to further his career as an actor.  Since 1987, Moss has played "Ridge Forrester" on CBS’ The Bold And The Beautiful

In 2007, Beckett and Moss reunited once again as Player.  Look at these two handsome devils!


Moss and Beckett, flexing for your pleasure.

Okay.  So now, you know all there is to know about Player: how they started, how they rose, how they fell, how they refuse to go away.  Let’s talk about the genius of "Baby Come Back," shall we?  For starters, listen to that bass: I’m willing to bet that Moss couldn’t even play the damn thing when he joined the band, but Beckett and Crowley knew the bass part required someone dashingly handsome.  The bass handles most of the verses really, accompanied by light drums and keyboard, and even lighter guitar.  These guys knew exactly how to build to a chorus.

And speaking of the chorus:  has there ever been another Mellow chorus that felt this good to sing?  What a hook!  It doesn’t matter that every single word of the chorus is completely emasculating, as the guys from Player get down on their knees and shamelessly beg forgiveness for ever wronging the girl.  Those layered harmonies, musical but essentially put forth as a shouting plea, are some of the most satisfying I’ve ever heard…until we hit the bridge.  Oh, I love the bridge of "Baby Come Back" – more harmonies building up to Beckett hitting that high "is there nothing left for mee-heee?" falsetto, a few seconds of silence, and then back into the chorus.  It’s genius, I tell you!

Lyrically – well, we’ve already talked about the chorus.  The rest of the song follows suit – it’s a simple MG song about losing the girl, missing the girl, wanting the girl back.  They could be singing anything here, it wouldn’t matter – it’s all about the music.

When "Baby Comes Back," was released, the band was often criticized for ripping off the Hall & Oates sound.  Rolling Stone even published an article at the height of the band’s success entitled "Player, Feeling Its Oates."  I’ve thought long and hard about this criticism, and I think I know why they’re accused of sound like Hall & Oates:  it’s because they totally ripped off Hall & Oates.  Think about it:  the only difference between "Baby Come Back" and "She’s Gone" is that "Baby Come Back" doesn’t change keys at the end.  Same gentle verses leading up to a full, strong, harmony-laden chorus, same general feeling of loss over a woman…they totally deserved the criticism.  For me, though, it doesn’t diminish at all from the song; it’s still one of the best Mellow Gold tunes ever recorded.

Here’s a great vintage clip from the ’70s.  The pitch is a little high on the clip, but you get the idea of how smooth these guys were.

"Baby Come Back" certainly has its spot in popular culture:  most recently, Bumblebee plays the song during a scene in Transformers.  And who can forget "Homer Alone," the episode of The Simpsons when Homer and Marge lose custody of the kids?

Simpsons

(You’ll note, however, that the version played over the phone isn’t the original.  Beckett, Crowley and Crenshaw do receive credits for "Baby Come Back" vocals at the end of the show.)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much Mike loves this song.  A couple of weeks ago, we were at our friend’s annual barbecue, an event where we all bring guitars and sing for hours.  From the moment we started playing, Mike requested we play "Baby Come Back."  I can say, almost definitively, that the only people that enjoy Mike and I doing "Baby Come Back" are the two of us.  Nobody else can stand it.  But I love performing it with Mike.  He knows every single tricky chord, really nails the harmonies, and completely makes the song his own: when I sing that line "All day long, wearing a mask of false bravado," Mike gently echoes "false bravado."  He’s the Oates to my Hall Starsky to my Hutch Crowley to my Beckett.

And since you may be wondering, yes, Player has re-recorded this song to bring it into this century; however, they’ve smooth jazzed it up, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow any smooth jazz on this site.  Maybe Jeff should play it for Lance Mueller?  You can hear one version on iTunes, and another on their MySpace page.

Have a great week!  See you next time for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 42

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Note:  Mellow Gold #42 marks the original appearance of the now-infamous Mellow Gold logo.  Although it now appears on every post, let’s re-live the near-unbearable excitement, shall we?

Welcome back to another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! Let me tell you something: today’s post is awesome. No, not because of the song. The song sucks. It’s awesome because it’s time to unveil the all-new Mellow Gold logo, created by none other than Jefito, the man who came up with this series idea in the first place.

You ready?

Click on, my friends:
(more…)

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 41: Concert Edition!

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

mellowgoldlogo.jpg

Welcome back, folks, to another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! This week’s post is going to be a bit different, since I attended a real, live Mellow Gold concert last Friday. I figure this is the perfect place to write about it!

Mellow Gold Concert Review:
Air Supply and John Waite, 7/20/07


Yes, you read that correctly. But you’re not really surprised, are you?

This past Friday, I took my mother to go see this concert at Westbury Music Fair North Fork Theatre at Westbury. My mother was a big Air Supply fan back in the day (“the day” = “back when they were popular”). She owned all of their records, and even a few of their 45s. I remember a day back in ’85, before the concert, when she surprised me by bringing home their new, self-titled album on the day of its release. (She also brought Hall & Oates’ Big Bam Boom home that day – but I was far more excited about Air Supply. My entire existence should now make sense to you.)

Times changed, though. Air Supply stopped having hits; 1985’s “Just As I Am” was their last significant single, reaching #19 in June of that year. I can remember maybe one song off of their 1986 album, Hearts In Motion. I bought my mom their album The Earth Is… back in 1991, which I believe may have received one listen before being relegated to the glove compartment of our ’88 Camry. My mom hadn’t really listened to Air Supply in 15 years.

So why did I buy her tickets? Simple: Richard Marx, Kenny Loggins and Lionel Richie aren’t touring. Had to do something. It was her Mother’s Day gift, and kind of a sentimental event for us: 22 years ago, she took me to Westbury Music Fair to see Air Supply. It was my first concert. I was eight. Neither of us had seen the band since 1985.

Anyway, my mother didn’t seem too enthused about the concert; she seemed more amused than anything else, but certainly not excited. I, on the other hand, was psyched. A few months ago, I had a few extra eMusic credits lying around, so I picked up The Singer And The Song – an “unplugged” disc by Air Supply. I was surprised at how well a number of the songs translated to the format – and how both of them still seemed to be in fine voice. So I was psyched for the show, despite the fact that it was a co-headline with John Waite. I mean, nothing against him, but all he was doing (in my humble opinion) was shortening the length of the Air Supply show. But I digress. On to the review!

I was pretty certain that Waite was going to be opening for Air Supply, as Waite’s had two hits and Air Supply’s had, like, a zillion. So we took our time getting to the venue. Sure enough, when we arrived, Waite had already taken to the stage and was making his way through “Back On My Feet Again,” which I later found out was a song from his previous band, The Babys. As we found our seats, I was disappointed; North Fork Theatre is in the round, and the stage rotates, so with the exception of maybe one section, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good view for a portion of the show. I hadn’t realized that this show was being presented in the half-round, which means the stage doesn’t rotate. So our seats, while nice and close (fourth row), were extreme stage right. My disappointment, though, was quickly forgotten as I set my gaze on John Waite’s Lyle-Lovett-In-Training pompadour.



So after “Back On My Feet Again,” Waite played “When I See You Smile.” Then he played another song, and then “Missing You.” Like the rest of the audience, I was psyched to hear “Missing You.” But at this point, I had absolutely no clue what else he could play. I screamed for “Missing You” again, but it fell on deaf ears. He did a few more of his own songs, and then a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” (not bad) and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll” (not good). He also played another Babys tune which sounded pretty good – I’m not sure of the name, but I know that I was able to sing “All Right Now” over the chorus. (And I did.)

Waite left the stage, and a slew of Beatles songs played over the loudspeaker. And just as the whole audience sang along to “It Won’t Be Long,” the lights dimmed and Air Supply took the stage and opened with “Even The Nights Are Better.”


A few quick thoughts ran through my head. The first one – which I’m sure is the same one that went through my mother’s head – was “Dear God, these guys are old!” Graham Russell looks pretty good, actually – he’s aged well.

Except for the fact that when he plays and sings together, he furrows his brow and kind of looks like he’s only moments away from a heart attack.

Russell Hitchcock…well, let’s just say that the years have not been kind to Russell Hitchcock. He kind of resembles an upside-down pear. He wears really tight boots and pants but has a bit of a gut on him, and he does this awkward skip-shuffle combo on the stage that does not befit a rock star. And I remember this guy with the huge, black ‘fro – these days, the fro is gone, and replaced with snow-white hair.

My snarky thoughts didn’t last terribly long, though, because I’ll tell you this: the man’s still got it. His pipes are powerful; the majority of the songs in the Air Supply canon (I just said “Air Supply canon”) remained in their original keys, and there wasn’t a note he didn’t nail. A few songs were lowered, and while that usually bugs the crap out of me, I forgave it instantly. After all, Air Supply recorded in ridiculous keys. I can’t hit the majority of those notes to save my life. Hitchcock is, what, 80 75 62 58 years old, and his voice is in tip-top shape.

The other thing that struck me is that he is ever the audience pleaser. Whether he’s singing or not, he spends the majority of his time connecting with the crowd: he waves to them, makes silly faces, and imitates whatever they’re doing with their arms. Occasionally, he touches his heart and points to the audience – a cheesy “I love ya, babe” – kind of move – and it suddenly doesn’t matter that he looks a touch like Grimace standing on his head. The audience loves him throughout. He’s a rock star of the Mellowest Order.

There weren’t many people on stage: Russell, Graham, a keyboardist, drummer and bassist. The band was, no doubt, incorporating backing tracks. There were numerous times I heard vocals, guitar and keyboard parts that were not coming from the group. I didn’t notice too much about the keyboardist or drummer, but I was absolutely fixated on the bassist. Why? Because he was fricking metal.

His name is Jonni Lightfoot and he’s quite the accomplished musician. But this doesn’t change the fact that he’s 34 years old – the youngest member of the band and, I might add, quite possibly younger than Graham Russell’s pubes. (I went there.)

Anyway, now that the audience realized they could spend the majority of their time successfully getting the attention of the guys in the band, they did so – and Jonni ate it up. Nothing is better than watching a musician make devil-horns at the crowd and frantically scan for ladies under the age of 40 (which, surprisingly, wasn’t difficult – there were tons of women there in their twenties). Oh wait, one thing is better: a musician who makes rocking-out faces during “Lost In Love.”

Air Supply played all the hits. The only one they missed was “Sweet Dreams.” They played a few new tunes, which weren’t half bad. Here’s “A Little Bit Of Everything.” I didn’t take this footage, and you certainly don’t have to watch the whole thing, but you’ll see the Russell Hitchcock skip-hop and the way he interacts with the audience. Also, occasionally the two meet up center stage and sing their songs to each other – which, I should mention, is really freaking awkward.

At this point, I need to share a story with you. So at that concert back in 1985, Russell Hitchcock left the stage to make direct contact with the audience. It was during “The One That You Love.” He seemed to walk directly to our section, hugging and kissing audience members while singing the song. He made his way up our aisle, shook a few hands, and embraced the woman in the row in front of me. Excitedly, I threw out my hand to him, in the hopes that he’d acknowledge me (my first brush with fame!). However, he turned back after embracing that woman, and my handshake was rejected.

I was eight. I was crushed. I spent much of the remainder of the evening sulking at being (hopefully unintentionally) rebuffed by Russell Hitchcock. (For the last time – no, I’m not gay.)

Fast forward to the here and now. The band starts playing “The One That You Love.” Hitchcock has three our four audience sections to choose from if he wants to interact with fans, but for whatever reason, chooses ours. He walks off the stage and heads for the aisle.

He comes up to my row. Smooches the woman in the aisle seat and high-fives her boyfriend, who’s more interested in his iPhone than the show. I’m sitting next to this dude.

I throw my hand out to reach him. Suddenly, I’m eight years old again. The hope is in my eyes, and all I want, more than anything, is to get that handshake. That recognition I missed last time around.

He shakes my hand.

I turn to my mother and scream, “FULL CIRCLE!”

Hitchcock continues going up the aisle, and the audience goes insane. It’s clear now that he’ll hug and kiss anybody who gets near him. Audience members from other sections scramble to get close. Hitchcock doesn’t just travel the aisle – he starts walking through rows, like he’s Roberto Benigni at the Oscars. It’s pandemonium. On the other side, the other Russell is playing guitar in the audience, but I don’t think anybody is giving a damn.

Finally he makes his way back down the same aisle.

“Mom, you gotta go get Russell Hitchcock.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Mom, you gotta do it!”
“No, no.”
“Mom!”
“Jason! Stop! I don’t want to!”
“For Christ’s sake. Excuse me, can my mom please get through? She absolutely has to hug Russell Hitchcock.”

I literally shove my mother past the other two people, into the aisle. I get the feeling she doesn’t want to look silly in front of me, which is kind of absurd when you think about the fact that I’ve sung every single Air Supply lyric for the past 35 minutes. She stands in the aisle and waits expectantly.

Hitchcock embraces her, gives her a kiss, whispers “gotta go” and heads back to the stage. My mom makes her way back to her seat, completely giddy. Unfortunately, the pic I took came out terribly blurry, but I know it’s him and I know it’s my mom, which is enough.

You know what I love about this picture? He’s kissing my mom and has his hand on another girl’s arm. This guy is my HERO.

The rest of the concert was great – and one of the first concerts I’ve been to in a long while where I thought, “that’s it?” These guys played a very short concert. Total time, including encore, was about 70 minutes. That’s a really short show. Granted, they played just about everything I wanted to hear (with the exception of “Love Is All”), so I really don’t have any complaints.

I know what you may be thinking: Jason, you’re glorifying the exact same crap you make fun of every week. You’re not wrong. But just as you have a soft spot for those songs you heard in the car with your parents as you drove down the highway 30 years ago, I have a soft spot for the music that filled my childhood. What can I tell you. If you too have a soft spot for these songs, go see Air Supply. You won’t be disappointed. If these guys can sell out three nights at BB King’s, clearly they’re doing something right.

It wouldn’t be a Mellow Gold post without some downloads, so here are a few tracks from The Singer And The Song.

Air Supply – Lost In Love (Unplugged) (download)

Air Supply – All Out Of Love (Unplugged) (download)

And here’s one more for you, “Yours Truly.” I had to include it: the first line is “Sometimes when I look at you, I wonder why you’re here with me.” What’s more mellow than that?

Air Supply – Yours Truly (Unplugged) (download)

(For fun, check out some of the other track titles and lyrics from the album Yours Truly. Maybe one day we’ll talk about “Body Glove,” with lyrics like “You and me, we’ve got enough/we live inside the body glove/You and me, we live for love/Deep inside the body glove.”)

And, just for fun, here’s that wonderful Time-Life Soft Rock infomercial you keep seeing on TV, hosted by the duo. (At least three of you have e-mailed me, in the middle of the night, to tell me about it.) Scary how many of these we’ve covered!

Come on back next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!