Now I’ve Seen The Way

magic_hand

And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. ~ Acts 8:11

You’re sailing softly through the sun
in a broken stone age dawn.
You fly so high.

Isn’t it funny how some people can simply mesmerize us? No matter what they do, we love it. There’s just a certain magic in the air when they’re around. And even when they do things we disagree with, we give them a pass. We just smile, shake our head and shrug it off.

I get a strange magic,
oh, what a strange magic,
oh, it’s a strange magic.
Got a strange magic,
got a strange magic.

It’s like we are hoping a little of that magic dust will rub off on us, if we can just hang around it long enough. One characteristic about these “magical” souls is their ability to make you feel like they are wholly and totally interested in you – and only you – even if it’s just for that moment.

You’re walking meadows in my mind,
making waves across my time,
oh no, oh no.

And while it’s clear that Jesus was not physically imposing or impressive – he is routinely described as being very ordinary in appearance – the people he encountered were drawn to him like a magnet. It’s my belief that He must have been one of those people who locked right in on you, like a laser beam, until you felt there was no one else in the world except the two of you. Totally focused only on you and your concerns.

I get a strange magic,
oh, what a strange magic,
oh, it’s a strange magic.
Got a strange magic,
got a strange magic.

Jeff Lynne, one of the founders and the creative force behind the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) was certainly one of those magical personalities, as well. ELO “burst” upon the American music scene in 1971 with their debut LP, No Answer. I say burst, but maybe I should say bust, as there was very little notice or fanfare. It seemed that their “light orchestra” concept for rock-n-roll simply did not translate well outside the studio. In fact, many of their earliest show dates were cancelled because their sound was so bad. “Roll Over Beethoven”, indeed.

Oh, I’m never gonna be the same again,
now I’ve seen the way it’s got to end,
sweet dream, sweet dream.

But by the time their third album – On The Third Day – came out, they had hit the formula for their signature sound with “Showdown” reaching #53 on the Billboard charts. And with their fourth album – Eldorado – they moved up to a new level with “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” going to #9. With the tour for Eldorado, Jeff decided to quit trying use only studio effects onstage to replicate their sound and hired an actual string based orchestra and choir for the road shows. ELO instantly became one of the most popular live bands on tour.

Strange magic,
oh, what a strange magic,
oh, it’s a strange magic.
Got a strange magic,
got a strange magic.

When people talk about “Strange Magic”, they frequently use terms like “trance-like”, “mesmerizing” and “hypnotic” to describe the sound. It sounded, at that time, truly like nothing else on the radio. Jeff Lynne has maintained that his original goal with ELO was to structure a form of “classical rock” that would “take up where The Beatles left off”.

The cover art for Face The Music depicted an electrocution on the front with the band facing against a glass panel watching it, on the back. One band member – keyboardist Richard Tandy – is the only one not shown “facing the music” because he objected to the morbidity of the concept.

ELOFTMFCover

ELO_FACE_THE_MUSIC back cover

Strange magic STRANGE MAGIC
oh, what a strange magic STRANGE MAGIC
oh, it’s a strange magic.
Got a strange magic.

With the follow up platinum selling A New World Record in 1976 and the multi-platinum. double-LP, Out Of The Blue, in 1977, Jeff and ELO had firmly cemented their rightful place in rock legend. In 1978, ELO booked 92 cities for the most extensive tour schedule ever at that time – dubbed The Big Night – which became the highest grossing rock tour in history, to date.

“Strange Magic” has always been one of my faves and, coming along well before their meteoric success, marked the way for their days ahead. Face The Music is, even today, in my car’s CD box and still in my own personal top rotation. So get ready for a little rock-n-roll magic. And, if you’ve got some good headphones, I recommend putting ’em on and cranking it up.

Enjoy the original here:

Sources for this post included:

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

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face_the_Music_%28Electric_Light_Orchestra_album%29

 

 

 

A Band Of Brothers

lost_sheep_pic

What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? ~ Luke 15:4

99
I’ve been waiting so long
Oh 99
Where did we go wrong
Oh 99
I love you

With the recent and untimely passing of yet another one of the famous Porcaro brothers – Mike this time – I felt compelled to feature a Toto song this month. I thought this song, in particular, might be a good one to share.

99
I keep breaking your heart
Oh 99
How can we be apart
Oh 99
I love you

Of all the parables in the Bible, those that feature the “Good Shepherd” theme are some of my favorites. And this one, with it’s message of unconditional love and concern is particularly touching. Isn’t this the perfect picture of agape love? That He would turn his back on the whole tribe just to find a single lost member? Does that not truly express the value that God places upon each and every one of us?

I never thought it would happen
I feel quite the same
I don’t want to hurt you anymore
I never knew it would work out
No one to blame
You know i love you 99

The Porcaro’s (Jeff, Mike and Steve) truly were a “band of brothers”. The three were sons of Joe Porcaro, himself an established LA studio percussionist who passed his musical talent and passion on to his three sons.

Jeff got his start as the drummer in Sonny & Cher’s touring band and went on to play with Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald and dozens more before founding Toto in 1977 with his brother Steve, and buddies David Paich, Steve Luthaker and David Hungate. The third brother, Mike, joined the band in 1982, replacing David Hungate on bass after the recording of Toto IV was finished.

Unfortunately, Jeff passed away suddenly in 1992 after suffering from insecticide poisoning ingested from treating his lawn. There has been debate that the underlying cause for his death may have had something to do with drug use, but the family has maintained that was not the case.

99
You keep holding my hand
Oh 99
They don’t know who i am
Oh 99
I love you

Mike Porcaro was also an accomplished LA studio musician; a bass playing wizard touring with Boz Scaggs, Michael Franks, Larry Carlton, Seals & Crofts and Joe Walsh, among others.

And now we have another brother, Mike this time, leaving us way too soon. Mike was diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2007 and had to give up touring with the band at that time. Toto wound up disbanding in 2008. Mike finally passed quietly, in his sleep, at his home in LA on March 15th.

I never thought it would happen
I feel quite the same
I don’t want to hurt you anymore
I never knew it would work out
No one to blame
You know i love you 99

Which leaves us with Steve, the keyboard player and last survivor of this band of brothers. Steve always seemed to be more in the background, more of a composer and writer, and more closely fitting in as a “behind the scenes” studio player, albeit an extremely talented one. Steve was the composer for Michael Jackson’s hit “Human Nature” and wound up leaving Toto in 1986 to further pursue his writing and composing interests. He currently is deeply involved with writing film and television scores.

99
I can’t take it no more
Oh 99
Oh we were so sure
Oh 99
I love you

Pure is the word, I think, for Toto and much of their work. The lineup for the band has evolved continually throughout the years, but the Porcaro bloodline runs clearly through it.

So, take a minute to toast the musicianship on this classic cut and all the years of hard work – in studio and on the road – that forged this great band. Here’s to the memory of Jeff and Mike and cheers to the one brother who labors on…alone.

Listen to the original here:

Fantastic live version with the reunited brothers here:

 

In Your Wildest Dreams

heart-of-stone

Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. ~Proverbs 28:14

Cryin’ on the corner, waitin’ in the rain
I swear I’ll never, ever wait again
You gave me your word, but words for you are lies

Darlin’, in my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d go
But it’s time to let you know

Yup, life can really throw you some curve balls. Can’t resist a little baseball reference here – I’m a huge fan, spring training is in full swing and we’re just a couple of weeks away from the season openers. But I digress…

Yes life can be full of tough games, with love being the toughest of them all. And when it roughs you up enough, the temptation is to become a little jaded, a little cynical…a little hard-hearted.

I’m gonna harden my heart
I’m gonna swallow my tears
I’m gonna turn and leave you here

And though I can only speak for one side of the gender gap, it seems to me a trait most often worn by the fairer sex. Then again, I guess that’s because we menfolk are most often giving them reason to be. And it’s funny how the softest thing in the world – a woman’s heart – can somehow turn into the hardest stone you’ve ever seen.

All of my life, I’ve been waitin’ in the rain
I’ve been waitin’ for a feeling that never, ever came
It feels so close but always disappears

Darlin’, in your wildest dreams, you never had a clue
But it’s time you got the news

And when it does, it often seems like it comes out of nowhere, in the middle of the night. Gone with the wind…and a colder wind never blew.

You know, it’s funny but that’s how some folks are about Jesus, too. They can be the warmest, most caring folks in the world…but let the conversation turn to the King of Peace and you’ll surely find some hardened hearts out there.

And you gotta wonder why.

I’m gonna harden my heart
I’m gonna swallow my tears
I’m gonna turn and leave you here

It’s hard to say where the inspiration for Quarterflash’s only Top 10 hit “Harden My Heart” came from. It was written by Marv Ross, the guitar playing husband of Rindy Ross, the sax player and lead vocalist for the group.

And theirs was seemingly a fairytale story: they met while studying for teaching degrees at Western Oregon University. They fell in love while gigging for local Pacific northwest area bands and, after pursuing their teaching careers for three years, ultimately founded their own group – Seafood Mama – playing local dive bars between Portland and Seattle during the late ’70’s.

Darlin’, in my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d go
But it’s time to let you know

And I’m sure Marv and Rindy never thought that they would become huge stars – well at least one-hit wonders – when they changed their band’s name to Quarterflash and got signed with Geffen Records in 1981. But, it was the year MTV debuted and there was not a huge catalog of music videos available, so Quarterflash’s catchy tune with the “Pat Benatar/Raphael Ravenscroft” sounding sax player got heavy rotation. It would go on the reach #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and become a million selling, Gold certified single.

I’m a-gonna harden my heart
I’m gonna swallow my tears
I’m a-gonna harden my heart
I’m gonna swallow my tears
Harden my heart
I’m gonna swallow my tears
No, oh, oh, oh
Harden my heart
I’m gonna harden my heart
I’m gonna swallow my tears
I’m a-gonna harden my heart

A few interesting notes about Quarterflash:

  • The band’s name came from an Australian slang description for visiting Yanks as being “one quarter flash and three parts foolish”.
  • Marv and Rindy discovered the expression in a book they found at the house of their Geffen producer, John Boylan.
  • The group was actually formed by the merging of their group, Seafood Mama, along with another Portland area band, Pilot. They recorded a prior version of the song “Harden My Heart” and it was a regional hit in the area.

Quarterflash

Marv and Rindy have stuck together ever since, reforming Quarterflash in the early 2000’s and releasing two more albums, though neither has seen much commercial success.

I guess you could say the Ross’s have kept their hearts from becoming hardened and endured as a couple, both musically and romantically.

We should all strive to do likewise.

Enjoy the original here:

Sources for this post included:

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

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

Nothing In The Way

trafficlightpic

He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, and my life shall see the light. ~ Job 33:28

I’ve wandered around with nothing more than time on my hands
I was lost in the night with no sight of you
And at times it was so blue and lonely
Heading for the light

As Joe Walsh said on the recent History Of The Eagles documentary, “As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, non-related events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation, and then, this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on. And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel.”

And so it goes for most of us. We know we are always and forever searching; for what only heaven knows. And we don’t really know where we are heading. Or what we are going to be. But He does.

Been close to the edge, hanging by my fingernails
I’ve rolled and I’ve tumbled through the roses and the thorns
And I couldn’t see the sign that warned me, I’m
Heading for the light

And sometimes it surely does feel as if we are just barely hanging on. Perilously close to the abyss and the jagged, rocky bottom below. Straining so hard to keep from tumbling down, the sweat and blood can pour down into our eyes and obscure our vision. It’s so easy to lose your way in this world.

The only thing any of us can do is to “keep on keeping on”, as my old Pop used to say. Just keep on heading for the light.

Ooh – I didn’t see that big black cloud hanging over me
And when the rain came down I was nearly drowned
I didn’t know the mess I was in
My shoes are wearing out from walking down this same highway

I’m pretty sure that George Harrison didn’t really have a plan to put this stalwart group of seasoned pickers together into an actual band, but somewhere along the way the light came on. I know it did for me the first time I dropped the needle on The Traveling Wilbury’s debut album.

And just like the perfect hindsight Joe Walsh spoke of, at the end, it really did look – and sound – like a finely crafted novel.

I don’t see nothing new but I feel a lot of change
And I get the strangest feeling, as I’m
Heading for the light

Traveling-Wilburys-the-traveling-wilburys-5570335-640-425

As most everyone knows by now, The Traveling Wilbury’s (Tom Petty, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne) really came together almost purely by happenstance.

In 1987, George Harrison had pulled together a group of his “mates” (Orbison, Dylan and Lynne) to record a song to be used as the “B” side for the single “This Is Love” off his latest album, Cloud Nine. When the song they recorded, “Handle With Care”, was first submitted to Warner Brothers execs Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker, both immediately knew it was far too good a song to be used as a throwaway “B” side. They urged George to run with it as the lead for a new album project. The rest, as they say, is – solid gold – history.

Ooh – my hands were tired
Jokers and fools on either side
But still I kept on till the worst had gone
Now I see the hole I was in
My shoes are wearing out from walking down this same highway

A few interesting tidbits about the Wilbury’s:

  • Tom Petty got involved purely by chance: George had left a guitar he needed for the recording session at Tom’s house and when he went to retrieve it, Petty decided to tag along to the session with him.
  • The name “Traveling Wilburys” came from a reference to some of Jeff and George’s recording errors while working on Cloud Nine. They said they would fix them by burying them in the final mixing. Thus “we’ll bury” them became “Wilbury”. George initially added “Trembling” to the name, but Jeff suggested “Traveling” instead and everyone liked that better.
  • They recorded two albums – Traveling Wilbury’s Vol. 1 and Traveling Wibury’s Vol. 3. George named them this way purposely as a sly acknowledgement of a well known bootleg that had been produced in between the two.

I see the sun ahead, I ain’t never looking back
All the dreams are coming true as I think of you
Now there’s nothing in the way to stop me
Heading for the light

Unfortunately, these two albums were all she wrote for the Wilbury’s. Roy Orbison died before the second album was completed in 1988 and George followed soon after in 2001. The band paid tribute to Roy in the video for the song “End Of The Line” by placing his guitar in a rocking chair and showing his photo.

Bob, Jeff and Tom are all still rocking and I have no doubts that both George and Roy definitely found their way at the end…with both of them surely heading for the light.

And the one that started it all:

Sources for this post include:

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

Traveling Wilburys website: http://www.travelingwilburys.com/

In The Right Measure

manwithsword

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword! ~ Matthew 10:34

Oh, I can’t take another heartache
Though you say you’re my friend, I’m at my wits end
You say your love is bona fide
But that don’t coincide with the things that you do
And when I ask you to be nice, you say
Maybe it should be said that conflict, not absence, makes the heart grow fonder. There’s just something about the drama that often ensues from conflict in a relationship, that warms – more like heats – the heart. There’s nothing like a good spirited spat to get the blood racing. Yeah, a little gunpowder thrown in the fire can be a good thing.
You gotta be
Cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind means that I love you
Baby, you gotta be cruel to be kind
I’ve never been one of those who needed such stimuli to keep relationships strong; quite the contrary, I prefer the placid pond. Though I know there’s plenty out there who would disagree on this with a resounding jeer – how boring!
I do my best to understand, dear
But you still mystify and I want to know why
I pick myself up off the ground
To have you knock me back down again and again
And when I ask you to explain, well, you say
And what would Jesus say about such foibles? Interestingly enough, the Prince of Peace says that when we next see Him, He will be swinging a sword. And this time it won’t just be tables at the Temple getting knocked over. There will be all kinds of destruction and division, even among family member and close relationships.

You’ve gotta be cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind, it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind means that I love you, baby
(You’ve gotta be cruel)
You’ve gotta be cruel to be kind
“Cruel To Be Kind” has always been one of my favorites from the self proclaimed “Jesus of Cool”, Nick Lowe. It was his highest charting single in the U.S., reaching #12 on the Billboard charts in 1979. Interestingly enough, it reached #12 on the U.K, Australian and Canadian charts, as well.
Here’s a few interesting notes about the song:
  • “Cruel To Be Kind” was one of 206 videos that were played on MTV’s very first day of broadcasting, August 1, 1981
  • The video re-enacts his wedding with Carlene Carter (June’s daughter) and also features Rockpile bandmate, Dave Edmunds, as the limo driver.
  • The song was originally written for Nick’s earlier band, Brinsley Schwarz, but never got released
  • It also appeared – in a different, slower version – as the B side to the single “Little Hitler”
 Well, I do my best to understand, dear
But you still mystify
And I want to know why
I pick myself up off the ground
To have you knock me back down
Again and again
And when I ask you to explain, you say
Nick was no stranger to conflict and chaos himself; he earned his nickname “Basher” due to his unique style in the recording studio, both as producer and performer. He was known to urge his bands to just “Bash it out…we’ll tart it up later” to get the raw, rough sound that his record label, Stiff Records, became so well known for.
So, if you are one of those who prefers a dash of drama to liven your day and a few tears mixed with your laughter, or if you prefer a more peaceful union, either way, the Basher is sure to get your blood flowing with this one every time.
Enjoy the original here

Source for this post included:

You Turn And Run

runningaway

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? ~ Psalm 139:7

We hear you’re leaving, that’s OK
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart

Running away. Where and when does it begin? As soon as one acquires the ability, I suppose. And we’re all running from something. Everyone has those skeletons in the closet. Don’t we?

Rikki don’t lose that number
You don’t wanna call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don’t lose that number
It’s the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

But there is one that we can’t run from. No matter how hard we try. Well, two actually; we can’t run from ourselves, either. No sir, no way, no how. We try but we just can’t do it.  As Robert Palmer once sang “You might as well face it…”. But the good news is, there’s no reason to run, no real reason to hide. Because, at the end of it all, there will only be one to answer to. And he loves us most of all. And will be with us till the end of the age.

I have a friend in town, he’s heard your name
We can go out driving on Slow Hand Row
We could stay inside and play games, I don’t know
And you could have a change of heart

In a Rolling Stone interview in 2013, Donald Fagen said, “Walter and I aren’t fond of ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.’ It’s not a bad song. I think it’s well-written, but it’s just so simple. I just have listening fatigue. It’s been played so much.”

As it turns out, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” would become Steely Dan’s highest charting single of all time, reaching #4 on the Billboard charts in 1974.

You tell yourself you’re not my kind
But you don’t even know your mind
And you could have a change of heart

The greatness of Steely Dan was not just in the ability of the band’s masterminds, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, to craft such perfect jazz/rock/pop/funk sounds and lyrics together, but in their ability to assemble a seemingly endless revolving cast  of the finest studio musicians in the world to make them come to life.

A review of the liner notes on any Steely Dan album might include such stellar players as: Larry Carlton, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Michael McDonald, Jeff Porcaro, David Paich, Lee Ritenour, Chuck Rainey, Michael Omartion, and so many more that it’s hard to list them all here.  Needless to say, when I became a Steely Dan fan was when I learned to read album liner notes to see who was playing on an album. Once you knew who the quality players were, you could pick a hit record without ever listening to it. If you saw those names listed, no matter whose album it was, you knew it would be good.

A few interesting notes about Steely Dan:

  • Becker and Fagen were obsessed with perfection in sound. They would routinely use over 40 takes in a studio on any given track. For the album Gaucho (which only had 7 songs), they used 40 different studio musicians and 11 different engineers.
  • One of their early groups, The Leather Canary, featured Chevy Chase on drums.
  • Becker and Fagen were in the touring band for Jay and The Americans (“This Magic Moment”, “Cara Mia”), featuring the legendary Jay Black, for over a year, getting $100 per show. Early in the tour, the band’s manager cut their salary in half.
  • Early in their career’s, Walter Becker didn’t feel his vocals were good enough for commercial acceptance and Donald Fagen suffered from stage fright, so they hired ABC Records journeyman, David Palmer, to sing lead.

Becker and Fagen, it seemed, were continually trying to run away from success (and their own fears), but eventually overcame them. They have sold over 40 million records and were inducted into the Rock an Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001.

I guess it just proves the point: you can run, but you just can’t hide.

And to my buddy, David Sanders, this one’s for you.

Listen to the magic of Steely Dan (just as it sounded in ’74) here:

My sources for this post included:

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

Songfacts.com: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3204

 

 

No Crazy Dream

man on tracks

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. ~ Galatians 5:17

Now blue ain’t the word for the way that I feel
And the storm’s brewing in this heart of mine
This ain’t no crazy dream, I know that it’s real
You’re someone else’s love now you’re not mine

Yes, we are born into sin and it’s only through His grace that we are saved. Even then the temptations lie there, seething and waiting, just below the surface, ever lurking. Every day we face the ultimate decision and we must answer the ultimate question. The one that Lenny Kravitz so succinctly posed “Are you gonna go my way?”.

Crazy arms that reach to hold somebody new
While my yearning heart keeps saying you’re not mine
My troubled mind knows soon to another you’ll be wed
And that’s why I’m lonely all the time

It’s a constant struggle. One starts to wonder, can I ever really completely follow the straight and narrow path? We are perpetually torn and tortured within ourselves. I have been told that living in such a state is a sure sign of having received God’s most gracious gift. That only those truly saved will experience such constant turmoil; it is only those without this gift that can walk through this world without a troubled conscience.

Now take all those precious dreams I had for you and me
And take all the love I thought was mine
You know someday those crazy arms may hold somebody new
But honey I am going to be lonely every time

I’ve been reading Rick Bragg’s magnificent book, Jerry Lee Lewis – His Own Story,  and I can testify with certainty that The Killer – as Jerry Lee is known – was certainly not one of those without a troubled soul. Born into the Pentecostal Assembly of God and raised by his mother, Mamie, to revere the Gospel, Jerry Lee found it exceedingly hard to reconcile the devil’s music in his hands with the Godly beliefs in his heart. He once asked Elvis Presley a fundamental question that apparently had tormented him all of his life: “Do you think you (or me) can play rock-n-roll and still get into Heaven?”.

Crazy arms that reach to hold somebody new
While my yearning heart keeps saying you’re not mine
My troubled mind knows soon to another you’ll be wed
And that’s why I’m lonely all the time

Now, I still believe that Elvis is the true king of rock-n-roll, but after spending some time researching, one can see where the Killer may have a case to dispute the throne. The legend goes that Elvis came to the Sun Records Studios in Memphis to meet with Jerry Lee one day shortly before he was inducted into the Army and, with tears in his eyes, said simply, “You can have it.”

“Crazy Arms”, originally a  hit for Ray Price, was the song that first began to open doors for Jerry Lee – it sold 300,000 copies – but it wasn’t until the legendary Otis Blackwell penned “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” took off that Jerry Lee shucked the “rockabilly” label and was catapulted to heights above Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly – and everybody else – in the rock-n-roll pecking order of the day.

A few of my favorite Jerry Lee stories:

  • After losing an argument with Chuck Berry about who would close a show, Jerry Lee stormed onstage and played “Breathless”, “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” and finally launched into “Great Balls Of Fire”. He then pulled out a small Coke bottle filled with gasoline, doused the piano top and set it on fire. He finished the song with the flames still roaring and then sauntered past Berry offstage and said “I want to see you follow that, Chuck!”
  • In 1950 Jerry Lee’s mother enrolled him in the Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas. During his first term there, he was invited to perform a solo at a student talent show and assembly. Jerry Lee was set to play the Assembly of God standard “My God Is Real”. When it was his time to perform, he announced “I understand we are going to have a little change in tempo.” His hard rockin’, boogie-woogie infused rendition had the students rocking and rolling in the seats, but the school’s dean expelled him the very next day.
  • Jerry Lee always swore that nobody had more faith in him – and his plans to become a star – than his Mom and Dad. After knocking around playing the clubs in Ferriday and Natchez, Mississippi for several years, Jerry Lee heard stories about how Sam Phillips was turning music into gold for the likes of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and, of course, Elvis Presley. He told his daddy, Elmo, who was out of work at the time, that he needed him to take him to Memphis’ Sun Studios to see if he could get a break, too. Elmo collected 36 dozen eggs over the next few days from area hen houses and sold them to get the money to finance the trip.

After all these years, the Killer remains steadfast in his two core beliefs: that he is the greatest rock-n-roller of all time and in the Gospel of the Pentecost. And he has yet to answer that fundamental question that has haunted him his entire life.

As he strolls his farm today in Nesbit, Mississippi, he often walks down to the railroad tracks nearby to see the big trains lumber through; some heading in one direction and some in the other. And he knows he’ll get his answer one day.

Listen to the song that started it all here:

And the song that made him a star:

And just in case you still don’t think he can rock-n-roll:

Sources for this post include:

“Jerry Lee Lewis, His Own Story” by Rick Bragg

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

 

Its Just The Radio

blaupunktradio

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

Long ago, and, oh, so far away
I fell in love with you, before the second show
Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear
But it’s just the radio and you’re not really here

It’s a solid fact; since the days of the Hillbilly Cat – and probably way before that – girls have always fallen hard for the boys with guitars. And the nomadic lifestyles and aloof personalities that often accompany the young men that play that six stringed bandit just add fuel to the fires burning within their hearts. Before there was ever a name or term for those girls so madly in love with the boys in the band, the inevitable attraction simply was.

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

And there’s no hurt on earth like the pain of unrequited love. Promises made and never kept. Feeling it so strongly and knowing it will never, ever really be returned. And wallowing in such heartache, even in this self deceit is found such sweet anguish. The Bible tells us that He will heal us of such pain, but trying to tell that to those so afflicted with this particular brand of longing, is like telling an orphaned child that he’ll get over the fact his mother left him and said she would be back, but really will never return.

Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again
What to say to make you come again?
Come back again and play your sad guitar

In the heady and wild, early days of what we now know as classic rock-n-roll, women like Bebe Buell, Bianca Jagger, Pamela Des Barres, and Anita Pallenberg brought fame to the term “groupie”.  They were professionals. But these were not the women that a young Bonnie Bramlett was writing and singing about in “Superstar” – a song with the working title “Groupie”. This was real – the girl next door kind of real.

Listening to the original version of the song – it was the B side of Delaney & Bonnie’s 1969 single “Comin’ Home” – gives one the impression that Bonnie had some firsthand knowledge of this kind of feeling. Like most kids back then – glued to Top 40 radio – my first intro to the song came from the Carpenters cover in 1971, with Karen Carpenter’s rich, pure contralto voice pouring out of the speakers. It wasn’t until many years later, long after becoming familiar with Delaney & Bonnie via their hit singles “Never Ending Song Of Love” and “Only You Know And I Know”, that I found “Groupie (Superstar)” tucked away on an album sandwiched between “Comin’ Home” and “Country Life”.  I wondered if it was the same song. Fortunately, I was working in a record store by that time, so I was able to simply pop the wrapper and find out for sure that it was.

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

Having become so accustomed to the Carpenters version – which was a huge hit – listening to Bonnie’s original was a rare treat. The Carpenters version was so ingrained in my head, it felt like D&B’s version was the cover. And while Bonnie’s vocal starts out strikingly similar to Karen’s, it quickly morphs into a delightfully soulful “Stax Records” sounding, blues-infused confession of longing love. Give it three more listens and suddenly Karen’s vocals sounded…well…more like a Carpenters record. A sweet and touching ballad for sure, but way more pop sounding – “Easy Listening” as the category was referred to back then – than real rock-n-roll.

Here’s a few interesting notes about “Superstar”:

  • It has been covered by dozens of artists as diverse as: Cher, Vikki Carr, Ruben Studdard, Usher, Elkie Brooks, David Sanborn, Chrissie Hynde, Luther Vandross, Sonic Youth and The Motels
  • It has appeared on multiple movie soundtracks including: Tommy Boy, Juno, The Frighteners, Wayne’s World 2 and Ghost Rider
  • The lyrics in the second verse were changed by Richard Carpenter from “And I can hardly wait, to sleep with you again” to the more socially acceptable – at that time – “And I can hardly wait, to be with you again”
  • The Carpenters cover version went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Easy Listening chart

Bonnie’s career has taken a lot of twists and turns over the years and – as Hank Jr. might have said – she has definitely lived out her life in the songs she wrote, sang and backed up. One thing is for sure, no matter whether she was singing with Delaney or Eric Clapton, backing up Albert King, or belting it out as the first white singer to join Ike & Tina Turner as an Ikette, she did it in her own style and with that unmistakeable sound you can pick out on any recording she ever did – with your eyes closed.

And, as for all those love torn, rock star crazed young ladies; the bad news is he ain’t ever coming back. The good news is there’s someone out there who knows exactly how you feel.

To learn more about what Bonnie is doing today check out her profile at: Leadership Artists LLC

Listen to the Delaney & Bonnie original here:

The hauntingly beautiful Bette Midler cover here:

And my favorite soulful cover by Luther Vandross here:

My sources for this song included:

Leadership Artists LLC: http://leadershipartists.com/bonnie-bramlett/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstar_%28Delaney_and_Bonnie_song

Nothing Left To Fear

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And he takes the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, In the middle of the night and in the darkness.  – Proverbs 7:8-9
Hold on
I’ll be back for you
It won’t be long
But for now there’s something else
That’s calling me
So take me down a lonesome road
Point me east and let me go
That suitcase weighs me down
With memories
How many songs have been – and will yet be – written about the fears, doubts and insecurities of the night? What is it about this time, this deep black void of night that causes us to feel washed over in it’s midst? Whether lying awake, or twisting in fitful dreams, it’s in the night that we feel most alone, vulnerable and most needful of someone to be beside us.
I just wanna be the one you run to
I just wanna be the one you come to
I just wanna be there for someone
When the night comes
Let’s put all the cares behind us
And go where they’ll never find us
I just wanna be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes
The Bible tells us to have faith and to fear not, over and over again. Yet from our early childhood and even on through our older years, the nights can often bring such trepidation. So, we turn to one another – and to God – for comfort in the dark.
Two spirits in the night
That can leave before the morning light
When there’s nothing left to lose
And nothing left to fear
So meet me on the edge of town
Won’t keep you waiting I’ll be ’round
Then you and I
We’ll just roll right out of here
John Robert Cocker was surely no stranger to the night. His trademark spasmodic hand motions and gravelly voice were forged in his soul like the steel from the mills of his home in Sheffield, England while toiling the nights away honing his skills in the bars and clubs around the South Yorkshire area. Joe, as he was later called, was a working class kid from a blue collar town and could definitely relate to the cold of the night and the fears of doing without.
I know there’ll be a time for you and I
Just take my hand and run away
Think of all the pieces of the shattered dream
We’re gonna make it out some day
We’ll be coming back
Coming back to stay
When the night comes
And, unlike many of his mates in Sheffield, Joe did finally rise up and make it out of the gritty mill town, emulating Ray Charles and classic bluesmen like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and by putting his own special stamp on songs penned by others. Probably the best example was one of his first covers, “With A Little Help From My Friends”, which reached #1 on the British charts and #68 here in the U.S.. Paul McCartney reportedly enjoyed the remake very much and had the following to say about it: ” I was especially pleased when he decided to cover it and I remember him and Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Savile Row and playing me what they’d recorded and it was just mind-blowing; (he) totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful to him for doing that.”
I wanna be the one you run to
When the night comes

To be the one you’d come to
I wanna be the one you run to
Oooh I just wanna be the one you run to
Wanna be the one you come to
I just wanna be there for someone
When the night comes

A few interesting tidbits about Joe and his career:

  • His first group was the Cavaliers in 1959. He was the drummer and harmonica player. The group had to pay to get into their first gig together.
  • His 1969 debut album Joe Cocker! featured guest appearances from two legendary artists: Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Traffic’s Steve Winwood.
  • His version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” was later used as the theme song for the TV series The Wonder Years.
  • He had several songs that were featured on TV or movie soundtracks, including a song that resurrected his career in 1982, “Up Where We Belong”. The stirring duet (with Jennifer Warnes) was on the soundtrack for An Officer And A Gentleman.

Let’s put all the cares behind us
And go where they’ll never find us
I just wanna be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes

“When The Night Comes” has long been one of my favorite Cocker tunes, coming along on 1989’s One Night Of Sin. It reached #11 on the Billboard charts and was Joe’s last U.S. Top 40 hit. Like all the others, this was another great cover; the song was written by Brian Adams, Diane Warren and bandmate -and frequent writing partner – Jim Vallance, specifically for Joe to sing. Like a bookend some 20 years after his major debut, there was no drop off in Joe’s passion and performance.

In his later years, Joe moved to Crawford, Colorado and built the Mad Dog Ranch while continuing to tour right up to the end. As you may be aware, Joe passed away on December 22 after a long struggle with lung cancer. I’m happy knowing he’s at peace with the Lord – and definitely getting a little help from his friends – in Heaven’s all-star band.

Hear Joe live and at his best here:

 

Bryan Adams version here:

Sources for this post included:

A Christmas Card For You

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Let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise. ~ Psalm 95:2

As I head to church today for the Christmas Eve service, I am filled with the anticipation of joy found in the celebration of the birth of The Prince Of Peace. The songs, the candlelight and the eternal message of hope is a perfect cap to each year and makes me reflect upon the greatest gift ever given to mankind. And also in remembrance that the greatest gifts we give each other is ourselves.

The Christmas Eve service is when Christmas becomes real for me and when the spirit of the season finally starts to rise in my heart. It is my “kickoff” to the holiday, usually followed by a Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends and then the celebration of Christmas morning. Oh yes, and one more thing: the annual viewing of Jimmy Stewart in “It’s A Wonderful Life” with my daughter, which typically occurs in the late hours after the dinner party and everyone else has retired for the night. Sometimes my wife and son will join in, but they usually fall asleep shortly after the gymnasium floor opens and the pool party begins.

And in the spirit of that classic movie, I wanted to write a “Christmas card” of thanks to those of you who follow this blog, as well as those who have just passed through and sampled a post or two. Since I don’t have all your addresses and I can’t send a real card, this will have to do!

God has blessed me with a passion for both music and writing, so this blog has truly been a labor of love for me this year and has fulfilled a long desire of mine to find a way to “mission” for Christ

I am looking forward to writing more posts for you in the coming year and hope to continue to spread God’s message as reflected in these classic tunes. And if there are any particular songs that you believe deserve the UTRS treatment, please feel free to comment and let me know. I’ll be glad to take your requests!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all from UTRS!

P.S. Here’s a brief snippet of “It’s A Wonderful Life” to get you in the Christmas spirit, too!