Talk Of The Town

whispering

And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about. -Luke 4:37

You arrived like a day
And passed like a cloud
I made a wish, I said it out loud
Out loud in a crowd
Everybody heard
’twas the talk of the town.

Fame is fleeting, so they say. But we’re all supposed to get our 15 minutes worth, right? And isn’t it funny how some bask in the limelight and others shy away from it.

With good reason, some might say. At what price is fame? I know that every move Christ made during his time on this earth was constantly and steadfastly directed towards the cross; His true mission. Certainly, Jesus knew this new-found fame was gained at his own peril. Turns out, It was all just a part of the plan.

And so it is for many of our musical stars, as well. The very fires that burn so bright are sometimes the first to burn out. The Pretenders came on in a flash of blinding light …white hot out of the gate.

It’s not my place to know what you feel
I’d like to know but why should i?
Who were you then, who are you now?
Common laborer by night, by day highbrow

I remember their first LP coming out (The Pretenders) just in time for the new year in late December 1979. Country-rock, southern boogie and disco had all gone by the wayside, punk had lost it’s swagger and the music world was wide open for something to fill the void. Enter the New Wave.

If Elvis Costello was New Wave’s founding father, then certainly Chrissy Hynde was it’s mother superior.

If you ask me, New Wave was really just the back-side bookend to the First Wave…the 1960’s British Invasion. And the best of the new sound was definitely coming from the UK. Chrissy was from Akron, Ohio, but moved to London in 1973 to seek out the music scene there. She cut her teeth with early punk rockers, including brief stints with The Clash and The Damned before putting The Pretenders together in early 1978.

Oh but it’s hard to live by the rules
I never could and still never do
The rules and such never bothered you
You call the shots and they follow

“Talk Of The Town”, one of my favorite early cuts, was not on their debut album, which contained hits like “Kid”, “Stop Your Sobbing” and “Brass In Pocket”. TOTT was from the soundtrack for the movie Times Square and was included on the Pretenders EP (aptly titled Extended Play) released in March 1981. The first time I heard it was in the theater, watching the movie. Being “in the music biz” back then, it was prerequisite for me to attend ANY movie with industry (soundtrack) implications.

When I first saw the band perform it on MTV, that retro- cool, “Beatle-sque” look and sound (check out the video link below) transported me back immediately to the sixties.

I watch you still from a distance then go
Back to my room, you never know
I want you, I want you but now
Who’s the talk of the town?

The Pretenders were a huge success both in the UK and US. Their debut album was named one of the best of all time by both VH1 and Rolling Stone magazine. But at what price this fame? Within two years, both bassist Pete Farndon and guitarist James Honeyman-Scott were dead from drug related incidents. Chrissy hung on and persevered throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and through multiple band member changes. In 2005, The Pretenders landed in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

During her induction speech, Chrissy thanked all the replacement band members and said: “I know the Pretenders have looked like a tribute band for the last 20 years … we’re paying tribute to James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, without whom we wouldn’t be here. And on the other hand, without us, they might have been here, but that’s the way it works in rock ‘n’ roll.”

Just two weeks after the death of Honeyman-Scott in July 1992, Chrissy regrouped and pulled together a stellar team including original drummer Martin Chambers, Rockpile (Nick Lowe’s band) guitarist Billy Bremmer and Big Country bassist, Tony Butler, to record “Back On The Chain Gang”, in his memory. Somewhat ironically, I think there are a lot of similarities in sound and structure between these two songs.

Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday
You’ve changed your place in this world

At the dawn of the New Wave, The Pretenders were most definitely “the talk of the town”.

Listen here:

Acoustic version:

 

Into a Dancer You Have Grown

dancer

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. -Ecclesiastes 3:4

“Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down.”

I’m getting to that age, you know. That age where people I know are starting to leave. It seems like more each year. Or is it just that I’m listening more?  That it’s more real?

“I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found.”

And contrary to the righteous Bobby Hatfield, time does not go by so slowly. No, it rushes by now, hurtling forward…no emergency brake here.  And those that you think will be here forever, suddenly no longer are.

It’s so easy to lose touch. Even with the power of social media. And speaking of that, I’ve got three Facebook friends who are no longer with us. Yet their Facebook pages live on (and sometimes even make posts) to remind me. It’s strange, but also somewhat comforting.

“No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone.”

Frank and Elvis said they would do it “my way” and they surely did. But when the time comes, we’re all on our own. Life begins with the closest personal relationship most of us will ever have, and ends (for most) without it.

“Into a dancer you have grown, from a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know…”

Jackson Browne was one of the founding fathers of the SoCal “country-rock” scene in the 70’s, and along with John David Souther, helped show Glenn Frey and Don Henley a little bit about songwriting. As much as I loved the Eagles, I never thought they were able to match the pure lyrical genius of either of those guys.

“For A Dancer” has long been my favorite cut off Jackson’s third album, Late For The Sky.It seems just a bit ironic that this song came out two years before the death by suicide of his first wife, Phyllis Major, in 1976. The following “landmark” album, The Pretender, solidified Jackson’s grip on the genre, and his next, Running On Empty, was his biggest commercial success, but I always thought LFTS was superior.

Fellow SoCal rocker, Linda Ronstadt, covered only two of Jackson’s songs; “For A Dancer” with Emmylou Harris and “Rock Me On The Water”, both from Jackson’s earlier, less popular, works. Her versions of both, with that voice as big as the house, actually trump Jackson’s originals. But, then again, I’m a little biased when it comes to Linda!

Life, as they say, is short. So, as JB urges here, go on and sow some seeds of your own; go on and make a joyful sound!

Listen here:

Linda and Emmylou:

 

 

Secrets Of The Heart

locked-box-pic

Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. – Psalm 44:21

Secrets…we all have them.  And we don’t want to let them out.

“Secret heart, what are you made of? What are you so afraid of? Could it be three simple words, or the fear of being overheard?

Secret heart, what are you made of?
What are you so afraid of?
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/ron-sexsmith/secret-heart-lyrics/#Au4IWBOzkjcoT3vR.99

What are we afraid of? Surely God knows the innermost secrets of our hearts and minds. And, if He knows, does it really make sense to keep them from others?

“The very secret you are trying to conceal, is the very same one you are dying to reveal.”

Ain’t that the truth.  And doesn’t it always feel better…such a relief… when we finally let it out?

“Secret heart, come out and share it. This loneliness, few can bear it. Could it have something to do with admitting that you just can’t go through it alone.”

Ron Sexsmith sounds like he knows a bit about being lonely. His philosophy on songwriting and performing is deferential: “My main objective is to try to stay out of the way of the song. I want to write songs that are good whether I’m singing them or not.”

Ron’s style is a “melancholic pop folk”, perhaps an acoustic REM. Or, imagine fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot crossed with Nick Lowe. A very under-appreciated artist with a beautiful voice and guitar technique, Ron’s been around since the early 2000’s and has had songs covered by the likes of Steve Earle, Nick Lowe, Rod Stewart, Sheryl Crow, K.D. Lang and Michael Buble, just to name a few.

There was a great documentary film made about Ron (Love Shines) that chronicles his struggle to convert his niche following into mainstream success. The documentary was nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards in 2013.

Can you keep a secret?

Listen here:

Feist cover version:

 

We Could Have Had It All

breakup heart pic

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. -Galatians 6:7

Ahhhh yes, the breakup song. Who doesn’t have a few of those rattling around in their head, lurking…just waiting for a moment to pop out and catch us. To drive us back to that awful moment in time.

You don’t load these songs up and play them incessantly…at least not after that initial “burn-off” period. You know, that two to three weeks after the breakup. When you revel in it, soak in it…roll around in it. Over time they live in the closet…waiting…ticking like a time bomb.

And then they appear, out of nowhere, and knock you down and out.

Such is the plaintive, bitter, angry tone of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”. This is Adele saying quite clearly, “You don’t want me? OK it hurts, but screw you!” It’s true: hell has no fury like a woman scorned.

“Turn my sorrow into treasured gold; you’ll pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow.”

The phrase “rolling in the deep” is explained by Adele in a Rolling Stone article as an, “adaptation of a kind of slang, slur phrase in the UK called ‘roll deep,’ which means to have someone, always have someone that has your back, and you’re never on your own, if you’re ever in trouble you’ve always got someone who’s going to come and help you fight it.”

But, sometimes it does not work out that way. And while we hurt, we also secretly smile because we know that, most of the time,  what goes around, comes around.

Or, as John Lennon said: “Instant karma’s gonna get you, gonna knock you right on the head”.

Do we really hope that will happen? We do, but immediately feel bad about it. Because deep down, we still care.

“Throw your soul through every open door, count your blessings to find what you look for.”

So go on, get on with your life, have fun, knock yourself out. Don’t worry ’bout me, be happy.

You’ll get yours 🙂

Watch the video here:

“John Lennon – Instant Karma”:

 

 

 

Why I want to share this blog with you!

Come let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.– Psalm 95:1 

I have been a music lover all my life. I can’t ever remember life without it. I can’t imagine what life would be without it.

I’m a baby boomer, born in the 1950’s…the same decade that birthed rock-n-roll. An Elvis man all the way. From Presley to Costello.

Throughout the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, music ruled pop culture. During that time I was fortunate enough to spend over 18 years working in the “music biz”, predominately on the retail side. Those years gave me an unprecedented opportunity to listen to a plethora of music, artists, and styles.

If Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” holds true, then surely I could be considered an expert on listening to music!

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than sharing music with others. Seeing friends and acquaintances light up in appreciation of a good song is all the gratification one could want. When I was working in the biz, nothing was better than being asked for a recommendation…and the joy of being able to deliver one. I can’t tell you how many times someone would walk up to me and say “I’m looking for something new…something good. Can you suggest something I’ll like?” Music to my ears!

Music is the soundtrack of our lives. But it goes much deeper than that. If you look closer and listen a little harder, you’ll catch it.

I believe songwriters and musicians have been given a gift from God.

I believe their music comes from a place inspired by God.

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all “holy-roll-y” with you 🙂

I’m not gonna preach.

I’m just looking forward to sharing and exchanging thoughts on the deeper meaning of music with you.

Will you join me?