Alone In A World So Cold

Doves-doves-32938431-1920-1200

And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. ~ John 1:32

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that’s so cold? (So cold)
Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

In 1979 I was invited to attend (actually practically begged to attend) a “listening party/ meet-n-greet” for a new Warner Music act called Prince. Apparently, ticket sales for the event were sparse and the reps from WB wanted to fill the house for this guy and his band from the Twin Cities.

The party was held at a small venue in Atlanta called, at that time, The Agora Ballroom, which was a nice place for smaller acts in a fairly intimate setting.  You could probably put 500 people in there, and on this particular night, there were maybe 150 of us in attendance, most of us music industry folk.

I had a bit of advance notice on the band, having just recently received a copy of his self titled LP, which contained the soon-to-be hit single “I Wanna Be Your Lover”.  I thought the album was really good and rated it pretty high during a call from Billboard magazine, asking how it was selling. I even took time to find a copy of his first album; the relatively unknown For You. Nothing special there and no hit singles, but I could hear the promise of better things to come.

Needless to say, I was absolutely blown away by his live show. It was as if Jimi Hendrix had come back to life and had a love child with Sly Stone and James Brown, clothed him  head to toe in paisley splendor and elevator boots. It was rock, it was funk, it was like an adrenaline injection by sound. Everybody in the place left happy, sweaty and in utter amazement at what we had just witnessed, which, looking back on it, was just a preview of what the world would see at halftime for Super Bowl XLI.

princesymbol

Prince never forgot those of us from the industry who showed up for that showcase and reached out in a variety of ways over the coming years to favor us. A couple of years later, his breakthrough album, 1999, came out and that, as they say, was that. His follow up, the soundtrack to the box office smash movie, Purple Rain, cemented his superstar status. A personal high point for me was getting on stage with him at a record store grand opening party and grooving along with his Purpleness and his new band, the New Power Generation. When his prodigy/honey du jour, Apollonia, came to Atlanta to promote her new movie, Black Magic Woman, I’m quite sure it was Prince who pulled the strings and got me a lunch date with her. Just WOW!

And now, as John Lennon once sang, “I heard the news today, oh boy.” In a time when way too many of our rock icons are falling, this one was a shock. At only 57 years old and seemingly on a roll with new artists, sounds and styles, he’s gone, felled by complications from his recent bout with the flu. A old friend of mine from the music biz said it best when she commented on Facebook; “It’s hard to believe we’re talking about Prince in the past tense.”. Yup.

There’s purple tears on earth today and purple rain in Heaven. Sadness rules.

RIP Prince…you will surely be missed.

 

 

 

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Hang A Shining Star

christmas-star

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. ~ Matthew 2:10

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight

Have you ever seen something that made your heart leap with joy? Maybe, it was a loved one returning from a long trip. Perhaps the first time you saw your child. Or maybe, for a returning soldier, the sight of his or her family awaiting in the airport.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away

And when you see such a sight, your everyday troubles do just seem to fade away, don’t they? Because, at that moment, we are struck with something beyond ourselves. We realize what’s truly important.

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Yup, these are the blessings most dear to us; the gatherings of family and friends during the holidays. They take us back; to where we’re from, where we’ve been and to where we really long to be.

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

The real magic and meaning of Christmas happened at night, when a star could lead the way. And so it goes, even to this day. All of us are seekers, searching in vain for something that’s right there in front of us, shining brightly. It’s funny that so many of us only see it at Christmas.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away

The original recording of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was brought to us by the incomparable Judy Garland in the 1944 musical, Meet Me  In St. Louis. But this version by Chrissy Hynde and the  Pretenders has always been one of my Christmas faves.  It was featured on the very first A Very Special Christmas album in 1987, a series which now has 16 volumes and has been going – and growing – strong for 28 years.

averyspecialxmascover

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

This first issue was dedicated to raise funds for the Special Olympics and shipped over 4.5 million copies in the U.S. alone.  According to the AVSC website the series has netted over $116 million in proceeds to the Special Olympics to date, fostering programs for special athletes in 10 countries around the world.

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

So, while you are decorating your home or tree this year, please remember the real shining Star of it all, the greatest gift ever given to mankind; our Lord Jesus. And that His greatest blessings to us are the relationships that we have with friends and family. And I hope all will gather near and dear to us again this year, to enjoy the holidays once more.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Something To Hide?

hiding-in-plain-sight-19

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. ~ Ephesians 4:25

You had something to hide
Should have hidden it, shouldn’t you
Now you’re not satisfied
With what you’re being put through
It’s just time to pay the price
For not listening to advice
And deciding in your youth
On the policy of truth

Now there’s the dilemma: not whether or not to tell one another the truth, but when and how much of it? I mean, I don’t think we set out to be bald faced liars; I think most of us start with good intentions and want to be honest if not completely open (wait is that really being honest?) in our relationships. But, for a variety of reasons,  most of us fall short of being completely truthful in all things. And therein the difficulty lies (pun intended).

Things could be so different now
It used to be so civilized
You will always wonder how
It could have been if you’d only lied
It’s too late to change events
It’s time to face the consequence
For delivering the proof
In the policy of truth

Wait, let me un-ring that bell. Maybe in our desire to be truthful we actually handicap ourselves and our relationships. Could that be true? Sometimes there are things better left unsaid? Or, is the foundation built on half-truths and kept secrets just as shaky as one built on outright lies?

Whatever the case, I know we all feel a strong need to be tell the truth, hard as it sometimes may be to do so. And yes, God forgives us, but that doesn’t remove the consequences we face in this world.

Never again is what you swore
The time before
Never again is what you swore
The time before

Live and learn is what they say…and we swear we’ll do better next time. But we never do. As Elvis (Costello) sang: “History repeats the old conceits, the glib replies, the same defeats.” And the wheel rolls round and round forever.

If you’re looking for answers here, I don’t have them. I just know we have to try to do better. I know the truth is what God wants from us, but my experience says that there are times when things are better left unsaid. Times where damage is caused by words spoken that you can’t erase. I think there are times we must bear our own burdens and keep it to ourselves…with God’s shoulder to lean on, of course.

Now you’re standing there tongue tied
You’d better learn your lesson well
Hide what you have to hide
And tell what you have to tell
You’ll see your problems multiplied
If you continually decide
To faithfully pursue
The policy of truth

Depeche+Mode

Depeche Mode was a beautifully crafted group from the New Wave and second Brit Invasion of electronic pop in the early 80’s. They have always been one of my favorites from this genre and have certainly stood the test of time, forming in 1980 and still going strong today. They have had over fifty singles charted in the U.K. and have sold more than 100 million records worldwide. “Policy Of Truth” was not one of their biggest hits, but to me was the “sleeper” hit from their 1990 album, Violator, a mainstream smash that catapulted them to international success. “Policy Of Truth” only made it up to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100, but went all the way to #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

A few interesting tidbits about DP include:

  • The band’s original name was “Composition Of Sound”. Before they really got started they renamed themselves “Depeche Mode” after a French fashion magazine (depeche mode means fast fashion), because it sounded cooler.
  • They never had a drummer and didn’t try to hide it, often placing their drum machine on a riser right in the middle of the stage, in concert.
  • At age 17, Dave Gahan earned his place as lead singer by auditioning with a strong rendition of his rock idol David Bowie’s “Heroes”, which also happened to be a favorite of founding members, Vince Clarke and Martin Gore.
  • Dave later moved to New York and found his kids attending the same school as Bowie’s; they bumped into each other several times attending school plays and events.

Truth and deceit in relationships continued to be a theme in DM’s songs, including hits like “Personal Jesus”, “Long Time Lie” and “Secret To The End”, but “Policy Of Truth” always rings most true to me.

Check out the original here:

 

 

 

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:


Roots That Spread So Deep

root-tree-2

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation…  ~ Exodus 15:2 

Love can make you weep
Can make you run for cover
Roots that spread so deep
Bring life to frozen ground

Stronger as we get older? I’m not so sure. We surely don’t get stronger in the physical sense. But you hear a lot of things; sayings like “that which doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger”. I’m not sure I believe it. I’m thinking it’s more that we just grow our roots a little deeper, a little further down into terra firma. We’re really only as strong as the earthly support around us. Or are we?

Something so strong
Could carry us away
Something so strong
Could carry us today

I find myself leaning a little more and more each day on inner strength. We all will have trials in this world and the Bible guarantees it. But I think you can learn to better deal with these trials by calling on a different type of strength; that which springs not from this world, but from our Heavenly Father. As  Bill Withers once sang: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong”.

Turning in my sleep
Love can leave you cold
A taste of jealousy
Is like a lust for gold

Crowded House seemed, for many here in the U.S., to have burst upon the scene almost overnight with their smash hit, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987. The band’s front men, brothers Neil and Tim Finn, however, had already reached international success with their previous band from  New Zealand – Split Enz – and their 1980 hit single “I Got You”.

music-neil-finn-4

Something so strong
Could carry us away
Something so strong
Could carry us today

By 1984, Split Enz had begun to run it’s course, and Neil, along with drummer, Paul Hester, decided to form a new band during the Split Enz farewell tour, aptly named Enz With A Bang.  The new band, originally called The Mullanes (Neil’s middle name), got off to a great start, easily securing a new deal with Capitol Records on the strength of Split Enz’s success and huge fan base in Australia and New Zealand. Brother Tim was soon to follow along, as did former Split Enz bassist, Nick Seymour.

I’ve been feeling so much older
Frame me and hang me on the wall
I’ve seen you fall into the same trap
This thing is happening to us all

Here’s a few interesting tidbits about the band:

  • Capitol Records didn’t like the original band name, so Neil changed it to Crowded House in reference to the tiny house the band shared in L.A. early on.
  • Bassist Nick Seymour did the cover art for all the band’s albums.
  • Under intense pressure from Capitol to quickly record a second album to capitalize on their debut; Neil’s working title for the second album was  Mediocre Follow Up.
  • Neil took everyone by surprise in 1996, when at the press conference for the release of the band’s greatest hits collection, Recurring Dream, he announced that Crowded House was disbanding.

Something so strong
Could carry us away
Something so strong
Could carry us today

So, while all of us will suffer with burdens that sometimes seem to great to bear, take heart. Just lean on that inner strength that comes from above and don’t let your troubles carry you away.

Listen to the boys from “down under” here:

And lest we forget the Split Enz hit, check it out here:

Sources  for this post include:

Taking What They’re Giving

iron-workers

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” ~ Colossians 3:17

Some days won’t ever end and some days pass on by,
I’ll be working here forever, at least until I die.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
I’m supposed to get a raise next week, you know damn well I won’t.

I know, I know…Labor Day was last weekend, but hey, better late than never! And speaking of working – I’ve had to take a bit of a break from my UTRS writings this summer and focus in on some deadline work that had to be done in my “real” job. But I’m happy to be back and posting here, as this is truly a “labor of love” for me.

Workin’ for a livin’ (workin’)
Workin’ for a livin’ (workin’)
Workin’ for a livin’, livin’ and workin’
I’m taking what they giving ’cause I’m working for a livin’.

It’s great that I’ve been able to combine a couple of my favorite pursuits – music and writing, along with being a follower of Christ – to create this little hobby that gives me such great joy. But the truth is, we ALL need to be joyous in our everyday working lives.  And the Bible gives us this key to keep us on the right path: “Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.”  That’s right, your hard, honest work pleases God, especially when we dedicate our efforts to Him.

Hey I’m not complaining ’cause I really need the work
Hitting up my buddy’s got me feeling like a jerk
Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent.
I get a check on Friday, but it’s already spent.

They called James Brown the “hardest working man in show biz”,  but Huey Lewis’ (born Hugh Anthony Cregg III) path to success was surely a hard and rocky road.  Ringo Starr once sang “If you want to sing the blues, then you’ve got pay your dues”.  And paying your dues is exactly what Huey had to do.

Workin’ for a livin’ (workin’)
Workin’ for a livin’ (workin’)
Workin’ for a livin’, livin’ and workin’
I’m taking what they giving ’cause I’m working for a livin’.

Huey-Lewis-The-News-huey-lewis-and-the-news-2877809-758-473

Huey’s first real break in the biz came in 1971 when he joined a local San Francisco Bay area band called Clover. Yup – the Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello backup band! Upon joining Clover, he changed his stage name to Hughie Louis and, after being discovered by Nick Lowe, the band was soon invited to tour Great Britain. The band adopted the early pub rock-folk sound that was just being replaced by punk rock. Huey was primarily a harmonica player and occasional vocalist during the tour.

Bus boy, bartender, ladies of the night
Grease monkey, ex-junky, winner of the fight
Walking on the streets, its really all the same
Selling souls, rock n’ roll, any other day

Clover’s first two records bombed, the punk rock scene took over and that was the end of the road for the band, at that time. Huey returned to San Francisco, re-enrolled in college to pursue an engineering degree and started playing around at local bars to make a little side money.  It was while playing at a Corte Madera bar, Uncle Charlie’s, that he met the guys that ultimately became The News. They recorded a little song (written by the one and only Robert John “Mutt” Lange)  called “Do You Believe In Love” and the rest is history. “Do You Believe In Love” reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 1982.

Workin’ for a livin’ (workin’)
Workin’ for a livin’ (workin’)
Workin’ for a livin’, livin’ and workin’
I’m taking what they giving ’cause I’m working for a livin’

A few interesting notes about HL&TN:

  • Huey learned to play harmonica while hitchhiking across the country as a way to pass the time while waiting for rides.
  • The band’s original name was Huey Lewis and The American Express but their manager made them change it so they wouldn’t get sued.
  • Huey played harmonica on Thin Lizzy’s 1978 album Live And Dangerous; he’s credited under the name “Huey Harp”.
  • He produced Bruce Hornsby’s smash hit album, The Way It Is, in 1986.

So, I’m hoping everyone enjoyed their Labor Day holiday and got a little rest and relaxation in before heading back in to work this week. And while you’re working, here’s a little hard workin’ music to help you through the day.

Check out Huey and the boys from the Bay here:

Sources for this post included:

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

http://www.songfacts.com/facts-huey_lewis_%5E_the_news.php

 

Got To Pay Your Dues

easy-button

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.                          ~ Phillipians 4:13

It don’t come easy,
You know it don’t come easy.

No, it sure doesn’t.

And it seems like the older I get, the harder it becomes. No matter what the subject, nothing is easy. I thought things were supposed to ease up as you got older, but that doesn’t seem to be proving out, at least as far as I can see.

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,
And you know it don’t come easy.
You don’t have to shout or leap about,
You can even play them easy.

Yessir. you got to pay your dues, indeed. We all have to, but it’s the spirit in which we do so that counts. We can either carry our burdens cheerfully, or complain about them all the way to the end. I think Glenn Frey said it best when he sang “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.” You just have to keep on keepin’ on.

Forget about the past and all your sorrows,
The future won’t last,
It will soon be over tomorrow.

Ringo Starr – born Richard Starkey – certainly has carried his burdens with a seemingly constant smile on his face. Ringo was always my favorite Beatle. Constantly shoved in the background and often maligned as a poor drummer; I always considered Ringo the “court jester”- and biggest personality – within the group.

ringoyoung

I don’t ask for much, I only want trust,
And you know it don’t come easy.
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time,
And you know it just ain’t easy.

Ringo overcame two life-threatening illnesses as a child, putting him behind in school and giving him the appearance of not being the smartest guy (it was said that at age 15 he could still barely read or write), but his open smile and warmhearted approach to life won people over.

Open up your heart, let’s come together,
Use a little love
And we will make it work out better.

“It Don’t Come Easy” was the first hit for Ringo’s post-Beatles, solo career, reaching #4 on the US and UK charts, later followed by #1’s “Photograph” and a great cover of Johnny Burnette’s 1960 hit “You’re Sixteen”. From 1970-73, Ringo actually had more solo success than any of the Beatles, charting seven straight Top 10 singles.

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,
And you know it don’t come easy.
You don’t have to shout or leap about,
You can even play them easy.

Ringo’s first solo album, Sentimental Journey, filled with covers of old standards like Cole Porter’s “Night And Day”, Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” and Johnny Mercer’s “Dream” was recorded in 1970 as a gift of appreciation to his mother. Paul McCartney, Quincy Jones and the Bee Gee’s Maurice Gibb (among others) contributed arrangements on the record. If you have never heard it, I highly recommend a listen.

His second solo album, Beaucoups of Blues, was a testament to his cowboy influenced roots and produced by some of Nashville’s finest, including Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana (Elvis Presley) and Pete Drake (Lynn Anderson, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich). It was moderately successful, reaching #65 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart

But it was Ringo’s third album, the self-titled Ringo, that truly turned the tide and made him a solo star. With the aforementioned top hits and contributions from all of the other ex-Beatles, as well as greats like Billy Preston, Jim Keltner, Tom Scott, Steve Cropper, Harry Nilsson and The Band’s Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, it was bound to be a huge hit and ultimately went Platinum in sales.

Peace, remember peace is how we make it,
Here within your reach
If you’re big enough to take it.

A few interesting tidbits about Ringo include:

  • In the mid-’80s, Ringo provided the voice for the narrator and Mr. Conductor in the children’s TV series Thomas The Tank Engine.
  • Ringo was naturally left-handed, but played a right-handed drum set. His grandmother helped him become ambidextrous by teaching him how to write with his right hand as a schoolboy.
  • Growing up, Ringo watched at least three American Western movies every week. His childhood hero was Gene Autrey, “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy.”
  • On some Beatles’s tracks, it was Ringo’s idea to cover the tom-toms with dishcloths and blankets to produce the desired sound.
  • Ringo was the oldest Beatle.

I don’t ask for much, I only want your trust,
And you know it don’t come easy.
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time,
And you know it don’t come easy.

olderringo

Yup, Ringo was always the most unassuming of the Fab Four, though maybe one of the most well-rounded when you throw in his acting and dancing talents. It’s only fitting that Ringo was the last of the ex-Beatles to be inducted into the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (earlier this year). And just as appropriately, the only other living ex-Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney himself, did Ringo’s induction speech.

Ringo keeps on keepin’ on; touring and singing both his, and his fellow Beatle’s songs, and “It Don’t Come Easy” will always remain among my favorites.

Listen to the original here:

McCartney’s induction speech for Ringo at the R&RHOF:

 

Every Minute, Every Hour, Every Day

events-calendar

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:24

I want a Sunday kind of love
A love to last past Saturday night
And I’d like to know
It’s more than love at first sight
And I want a Sunday kind of love
Oh yeah, yeah

Now I’m not exactly categorizing Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as “classic rock”, but I think we can all agree that doo-wop influenced the heart and soul of many of the great rock artists to follow, including Billy Joel, Elton John, Steve Perry, Jon Bon Jovi and many, many more.

fourseasonsgroup

And, after finally seeing the biopic, Jersey Boys, I just had to include at least one of their songs in UTRS. “Sherry” was the first song by Frankie and the boys that I can remember making an impact on my rock conscience, bursting off the speakers in 1962. Even as a young boy, I could tell this was something special, something very different from every other sound out there.

I want a love that’s on the square
Can’t seem to find somebody
Someone to care
And I’m on a lonely road
That leads to nowhere
I need a Sunday kind of love

With their huge catalog of hits – even though a lot of their early hits sounded a lot alike – spanning two decades, there were a lot of songs I could pick from, but after seeing the movie, their take on “Sunday Kind Of Love” really spoke to me.

I think many of us can identify with the kind of love that continues past the excitement of Friday or Saturday night dates and on into Sunday. I can remember moving past that first stage in relationships and it seemed like the Sundays spent together, maybe at a family gathering, a quiet walk and picnic in the park, or – heaven forbid – attending church together, always took things to a higher level of closeness. There was just something extra special about a Sunday date.

I do my Sunday dreaming, oh yeah
And all my Sunday scheming
Every minute, every hour, every day
Oh, I’m hoping to discover
A certain kind of lover
Who will show me the way

“Sunday Kind Of Love” was first released in November 1946 by the Claude Thornhill Orchestra and became the signature song for his lead singer, Fran (Frances) Warren. It has been covered dozens of times over since – most notably by the amazing Etta James – and it only seems fitting that one Francis Castelluchio would later choose the song for his new group, The Four Seasons.

And my arms need someone
Someone to enfold
To keep me warm when Mondays and Tuesdays grow cold
Love for all my life to have and to hold
Oh and I want a Sunday kind of love
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah

Yes, we all long for a love that lasts, one that’s permanent. Unfortunately, in this world, that kind of love can be very, very hard to find. But for a long stretch in the mid 60’s, there were a lot of folks out there falling in love to – and with – the songs penned by Bob Gaudio and sung in the one and only Frankie Valli’s falsetto. Between 1962-1975, Frankie and the boys from Jersey scored twenty-nine Top 40 hits including five #1’s (“Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like A Man”, “Rag Doll” and the cherry on top, 1975’s “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)”. And, just when you thought he was done, Frankie came back with a killer job on the Bee Gee’s penned title track for the blockbuster movie and stage play “Grease”.

I don’t want a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
Or Thursday, Friday or Saturday
Oh nothing but Sunday, oh yeah
I want a Sunday Sunday
I want a Sunday kind of love, oh yeah
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday kind of love

If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend seeing Jersey Boys, which is largely fact based and reveals a lot about the group that most people – including their record label – didn’t know. Here’s just a few bits of interest from the film that are true to life:

  • Three of the band members had been in prison or jail, most notably Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. Tommy had been in 7-8 times.
  • They took the name “The Four Seasons” off a Union, New Jersey, bowling alley cocktail lounge sign.
  • Future movie star, Joe Pesci, who happened to be a close boyhood friend on Tommy DeVito’s actually introduced Bob Gaudio to the group.
  • The group really did get arrested in Ohio for skipping out on a $375 hotel bill. Check out Frankie’s mug shot below:

valli mugshot

So settle back and ready yourself for some classic doo-wop by one of the best of the genre. “Sunday Kind Of Love” wasn’t one of the groups bigger hits, but I’ve always held it as one of mine.

Check out the original here:

Great live version here:

Etta James version:

Sources for this post included:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankie_Valli

History vs. Hollywood: http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/jersey-boys/

No Stranger To The Street

streetlight_man

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. ~ Psalm 91:11

No, I’m no angel
No, I’m no stranger to the street
I’ve got my label
So I won’t crumble at your feet

Yup, we’ve all got a few skeletons in the closet. What was it that JC said? Let he among you who hath not sinned cast the first stone? Something like that. Seems nobody comes into a relationship squeaky clean anymore. And sometimes that’s a good thing.

And I know baby
So I’ve got scars upon my cheek
And I’m half crazy
Come on and love me baby

And you know those scars just give you character, anyway. Another saying – one I’m no longer so sure I totally agree with – is that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. I’ve noticed it’s usually those that are overly scarred that seem to cling tightest to that mindset. Yes, this life can definitely drive you a bit mad.

So you find me hard to handle
Well, I’m easier to hold
So you like my spurs that jingle
And I never leave you cold
So I might steal your diamonds
I’ll bring you back some gold, I’m no angel

And like Waylon once said “Ladies always love outlaws.”. Yes, the girls sure do seem to have an attraction for the boys with a bit of an edge to them. I guess the dark side has is own particular mystique. But like moths drawn to the flame, sometimes when you get too close, you may get burned.

No, I’m no angel
No, I’m no stranger to the dark
Let me rock your cradle
Let me start a fire with your spark

Gregg Allman is certainly no stranger to the dark side; true southern rock royalty with more than just a dash of “bad-boy” persona thrown in. I once had the pleasure of being backstage at an event that Capricorn Records was hosting and got a brief introduction; just a handshake and hello – no photo op, thank you – and he was one of those guys that just seemed to have that automatic “rock star cool” factor radiating around him at all times.

Oh, come on baby
Come and let me show you my tattoo
Let me drive you crazy
Come on and love me baby

Gregg’s “comeback” hit single “I’m No Angel” signaled the ending stretch of his roller coaster ride through the dark side of life during the early 1980’s. His four year marriage to Cher – one of five failed marriages – had ended in 1979 amidst his growing drug and alcohol problems, and his struggles seemed to carry forward throughout the first half of the decade. Gregg actually spent three days in jail for DUI just a few weeks before this single was released.

So you don’t give a darn about me
I never treat you bad
I won’t ever lift a hand to hurt you
And I’ll always leave you glad
So I might steal your diamonds
I’ll bring you back some gold, I’m no angel

But like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the success of “I’m No Angel” – it went to #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987 – and the new album seemed to spark a rebound that ultimately led to a reformation of The Allman Brothers Band  in 1989. It sure looked like southern boogie’s ultimate bad-boy was back!

No, I’m no angel
No, I’m no stranger to the dark
Let me rock your cradle
Let me start a fire in your heart

But, no matter what, the darkness seems to carry on throughout Gregg’s life, one way or another. First with the deaths of brother Duane and band mate Berry Oakley, then suffering through Hepatitis C and liver transplant surgery, and even more recently with the accidental deaths of several members of a film crew working on his autobiographical motion picture, Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story.

Oh, come on baby
Come and let me show you my tattoo
Let me drive you crazy
Come on and love me baby

Yes, it can be enough to drive you crazy – if you let it. If there was something I could say to Gregg that might help him on his journey, it might be a reference to the Psalm verse above, along with a friendly reminder that God says that we’ll all be given trials in this life – but they won’t be more than we can bear.

Listen to the original here:

Source for this post included:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregg_Allman

Songfacts: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=853