How Does Your Light Shine?

shine-the-light

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:16

Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in Shambala

With the recent passing of lead singer, Cory Wells, I felt compelled to include a post featuring one of my favorite bands of the 70’s, Three Dog Night. I hate to admit it, but having spent a great portion of my life in and around the music biz, I had a habit of using TDN as a benchmark, of sorts.  When comparing band success, I would often times use TDN as the “dividing line” between good and great, over and under. Thus, the measure of a rock band’s success was above or below that of TDN, the perfect middle line. The question became: Did a band have more – or less – hits than TDN? Maybe it wasn’t fair treatment, but I never had anyone dispute me on the validity of the idea.

Ah, ooh, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah, ooh, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

As the Righteous Brothers, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, once sang, “If there’s a rock n roll Heaven, you know they’ve got a hell of a band.” That song was released back in 1974, just as TDN’s run was coming to a close.  Back then, the song featured artists that had died far too young like Janis and Jimi, Otis Redding and Jim Croce.  But these days it’s all to common. Forty years have gone by since then and it seems like another rocker passes every other day now. A sign of the times, for sure.

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind
On the road to Shambala
Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind
On the road to Shambala

TDN was originally formed in 1967 when Cory, Danny Hutton and Chuck Negron, three very talented singers decided to get together as a cover band playing the local L.A. club scene. The band soon filled out with the addition of Jimmy Greenspoon on keyboards, Joe Schermie on bass, Mike Allsup on guitar and Floyd Sneed on drums, and the group was off and running, signing a contact with ABC-Dunhill records. They focused mainly on recording interesting material from a new crop of – then unknown – artists, like Elton John, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro and Harry Nilsson, among others. For five straight years between 1969-74, the band released a new album – and a new crop of hits – every single year. They scored a total of 21 Billboard Top 40 hits during that period.

How does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala
How does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala

One of those hits, appearing on the album Cyan in 1973, was the song “Shambala” which rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. It had a rolling, chanting gospel feel and was somewhat religiously, if not just mystically, inspired by the mythical Hindu/Buddhist kingdom of Shambala, which was said to be located somewhere in the Himalaya’s. TDN’s – and original songwriter Daniel Moore’s – vision of Shambala appeared to be based more on a state of mind reflective of walking a certain spiritual path, than as a physical kingdom or place.

I can tell my sister by the flowers in her eyes
On the road to Shambala
I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes
On the road to Shambala

Here’s a few interesting notes about TDN and “Shambala”:

  • Everyone has probably heard the story of the band’s naming, but just in case, I’ll repeat it here. Danny Hutton’s girlfriend had been reading an article about early native Australians and learned that, on cold nights, they would find a hole to sleep in and pull in a dingo or two to keep them warm. A really, really cold night was thus called a “three dog night”.
  • Only one week prior to TDN’s release of “Shambala”, a version by country singer B.W. Stevenson was released. His version was shorter, with a bit more country twang and it did pretty well, but was greatly overshadowed by TDN’s version. Stevenson later “stole” some of the melody from “Shambala” for his smash hit “My Maria”. Check them both out and you’ll see just how much they sound alike.
  • “Shambala” has been so popular throughout the years that it has been used in 15 movies, 2 TV shows and – most recently – in a 2014 Bank of America commercial.

How does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala
How does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala
Tell me how does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala
(Tell me how) How does your light shine
In the halls of Shambala

So, let’s all wish Cory a sweet rest and remember him fondly via one of TDN’s greatest hits. Listen to a great live version here:

Sources for this post include:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shambala

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Dog_Night

 

Of That I’m Sure

The old city of Jerusalem 05a

But you remain the same, and your years will never end. ~ Psalm 102:27

Nothing lasts forever
Of that I’m sure
Now you’ve made an offer
I’ll take some more

Nothing lasts forever. Boy ain’t that the truth?

At least that’s the way it seems for most things on this earth. But some things do last longer than others. And that’s comforting.

Young loving may be
Oh so mean
Will I still survive
The same old scene

Familiarity breeds contempt.  Things become routine and we get bored. Sometimes we need change, just for the sake of change. This happens with most things in our lives: cars, jobs, homes and, sadly, with our relationships.  Even our relationship with God.

In our lighter moments
precious few
It’s all that heavy weather
We’re going through

But there are times when we need to dig in deep, to reach out and “hold on loosely (but don’t let go)” as Johnny Van Zandt once sang. I read something recently that sticks in my mind: “A perfect relationship is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on one another”.

When I turn the corner
I can’t believe
It’s still the same old movie
That’s haunting me

Bryan Ferry turned a corner of his own in early 1970, forming Roxy Music (a wordplay on rock music) and holding on to his dreams of rock-n-roll stardom. The band had moderate early success in the early 70’s pursuing the “glam” or “glitter rock” stylings of other artists like David Bowie, T-Rex, Gary Glitter, Alice Cooper and Lou Reed. Songs like “Virginia Plain”, “Pyjamarama” and “Street Life” capitalized on the synthesized keyboard driven melodies that were topping the charts for those other artists.

Young loving may be
Oh so mean
Trying to revive
The same old scene

Roxy-Music

Unlike Bowie, Cooper and T-Rex, however, Roxy Music did not receive much attention here in the U.S. until 1974’s “Love Is The Drug” hit the airwaves. It was perfect for the burgeoning disco sound that was beginning to dominate the clubs. I remember clearly the first time I heard the song; it had that irresistible thumping groove replete with the timbale roll, accompanied by Bryan’s signature seductive – yet elegant – croon.

And just as suddenly as they had burst onto the scene – poof – they disappeared. It wasn’t until 1979’s “Dance Away” that they made any real impact  again, ironically just as the disco scene was dying out. It seemed to me that “Love Is The Drug” and “Dance Away” made perfect bookends for the whole disco era.

Young loving may be
So extreme
Maybe we should try
The same old scene

And then it came; in 1980 the group released their best album to date, Flesh And Blood. It produced four solid hits including  “Over You”, “Oh Yeah”, “Same Old Scene” and the fabulously quirky cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour”.

“Same Old Scene” really jumped out at me. I had gone to the Atlanta premiere for the movie Times Square, and it was featured in the soundtrack (which is a great album in it’s own right for those who loved the late 70’s/early 80’s punk/alternative sound).

Flesh and Blood was followed by – in my humble opinion – an even bigger masterpiece, 1982’s Avalon.

A few interesting tidbits about the band include:

  • Before forming Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry was teaching ceramics at a girls school but was fired for holding impromptu recording sessions in class.
  • Ferry once auditioned to take over as lead vocalist for King Crimson when Greg Lake departed to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
  • The first five Roxy Music album covers all catered to Bryan Ferry’s obsession with women and fashion. The covers included fashion models  Amanda Lear, Jerry Hall, Marilyn Cole (each of whom had romantic relationships with Ferry),  Kari-Ann Muller (who dated Mick Jagger’s brother Chris) and two German fans/models, Constanze Karoli and Eveline Grunwald (on the cover of Country Life, which was banned in many countries).
  • The Avalon album cover features model Lucy Helmore, who married Bryan in 1982. They divorced in 2003.

I guess with all of Bryan’s womanizing, it’s obvious that he was certainly not one who cared for the “same old scene”, but his song lamenting it sure sounds as fresh as it did back in 1980. Check out the original here:

And check out “In The Midnight Hour” live on MTV’s 1980 New Years Eve Special: