A Brand New Story


For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. – Matthew 12:37

Smile an everlasting smile
A smile could bring you near to me
Don’t ever let me find you gone
‘Cause that would bring a tear to me

You know the feeling, right? It’s intense. And things like a glance or smile, or even just the smell on the shirt or jacket he/she left at your place can stir your heart mightily. Little things, but they can mean so much.

This world has lost it’s glory
Let’s start a brand new story
Now my love, right now there’ll be
No other time and I can show you
how, my love

You feel like you’re living in a world of your own, just the two of you. Others pass by, darting in and out, occasionally interrupting but only superficially. You pay them no mind.

Talk in everlasting words
And dedicate them all to me
And I will give you all my life
I’m here if you should call to me

And then one day, IT happens. No, not that…it’s those words you just said. Hanging out there in the air. You can almost see them, as if captured in one of those comic strip “speech bubbles”, with the arrow coming out of your mouth. You’re frozen, unable to move or speak further.

Sometimes this can be a good thing, but more than often than not our mouths can get us in a lot of trouble. Sometimes a few carelessly spoken words hurt the ones we love more than anything else we can do. And once spoken, we can never get them back.

The Bible is full of warnings regarding the evils of the tongue and all the havoc it can wreak in our lives. To the point of our own condemnation. In the Book of James, it says that no human can tame the tongue and that it’s filled with evil. It cautions even those most pious, that to live with an unbridled tongue is to make their religion worthless.

It’s amazing how this tongue our Lord has blessed us with, can be such a force for good and happiness, yet can just as easily become a vessel of evil and heartache. Even so, many of us give very little thought to the impact that our words can have on others.

You think that I don’t even mean
A single word I say
It’s only words, and words are all
I have to take your heart away

If the Beach Boys are America’s original “brother” band, then certainly the Bee Gees (the Brothers Gibb) are the U.K.’s (though some might argue they were Australian).

The Bee Gees had two very distinct periods of success: from 1967-1975 (pre-disco) and from 1975-forward (post-disco). Their 1975 single “Jive Talkin'” was definitely the turning point, if you ask me. Even though their success after the release of 1977’s Saturday Night Fever was far greater than their earlier works – SNF alone sold over 15 million albums – I’ve always thought their pre-disco period material was superior. (That being said, I must admit “How Deep Is Your Love” is a favorite of mine and will always hold special meaning for me.)

“Words” was released in 1968 and charted at #15 here in the U.S and at #9 in the U.K. Interestingly, most all of their pre-disco songs featured Robin’s clear vibrato on lead vocals and most of the post-disco songs had Barry’s soul-infused falsetto, but “Words” was the exception. Barry took the lead on “Words” and it was also the first time one of the brothers solo-ed on one of their songs.

“Words” always stood out to me – it had that familiar Bee Gees sound, but was missing the harmony vocals. And with that unique “compressed” piano (sounded like 10 pianos playing at once), it had a spare, lonely, haunting sound that definitely stood out among the other songs swirling Top 40 radio at that time.

Barry actually wrote the song after the brothers had a few too many arguments in the studio, and to point out how hurtful some of the things the brothers had said to one another were. I guess you could say it was kind of an inter-group “make-up” song.

A few interesting notes about the song include:

  • Like a lot of their songs, they wrote it for someone else; in this case Cliff Richards. He never got around to recording it, so they did.
  • Elvis Presley chose to perform it in many of his early 70’s concerts.
  • The song was not on one of their albums; it was written for a movie soundtrack, The Mini Affair.
  • It reached #1 on the charts in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and China.

The Bee Gees went on to sell over 220 million records worldwide, making them one of the best selling acts of all time. The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and their citation says “Only Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees.”

When my son, Trey, was about 13, he and I were traveling on a camping trip and I had the Bee Gees live masterpiece, One Night Only, playing in the car. After listening quietly to a few songs (with Barry on lead vocals), Trey turned to me and asked “Dad, why does he sing like that?”. I looked at him and said, “Son, because he can!”.

Listen to the original studio version here:

Listen to Barry and the Bee Gees live on Ed Sullivan 1968 here:

Almost 30 years later in Las Vegas:

Sources for this article include:

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

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

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Words_%28Bee_Gees_song%29

Songfacts: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3371






The Road To Redemption


Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold. 1 Peter 1:18

The screen door slams
Mary your dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely

If there was ever another artist tailor made for this blog, it’s The Boss. He is the yang to Elton John’s yin. Whereas Elton openly decries Jesus, the Bible, the Church and anything remotely connected to organized religion, Bruce Springsteen is God’s own Prince of Rock n Roll. In fact, there are so many religious reference and themes connected to Springsteen’s work, there is a Rutger’s University course titled “Bruce Springsteen’s Theology”.

Don’t run back inside
Darling you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking
That maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me

We are all looking for something…some meaning… to make sense of it all.  And we are all looking beyond ourselves to someone, or something, for the answer.

You can hide ‘neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a saviour to rise from these streets

We’re putting too much pressure on ourselves. The Boss is simply, as Aaron Neville sang, “telling it like it is”.

Well now I’m no hero
That’s understood
All the redemption I can offer girl
Is beneath this dirty hood

Yet (with apologies to Mick Jagger) there are ways to gain satisfaction in this world. At least those of a more “temporary” type. You just have to be real about it.  And understand that this satisfaction is a pale imitation of the larger pursuit of eternal happiness.

Well the night’s busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels

According to professor Azzan Yadin-Israel, who teaches the Springsteen course at Rutgers, Bruce is actually imploring the young woman to not waste her time pursuing salvation in these earthly pursuits, but at the same time saying, essentially: “Hey, while we’re here, let’s have some fun and enjoy what we can.” The only thing he can really offer her is the kind of redemption we can have in this world.

Climb in back
Heaven’s waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land

Certainly Bruce is no angel here; nor is he the devil. I think most young men and women (and sometimes older ones) have gone down this road in seeking happiness. This is not a song about love, but lust. And, like cheap pizza, it’s not that great, but it’s not that bad, either.

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car’s out back
If you’re ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door’s open but the ride it ain’t free

During a performance on VH-1 Storytellers, Bruce commented on the lyrical meaning to say this was “My invitation to a long and earthly, very earthly journey. Hopefully in the company of uh, someone you love.”

There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets

And like Billy Joel before him, with the Catholic girls who “wait much too late”, Bruce cautions against the opportunities passed by.

And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they’re gone

“Thunder Road” and the album Born To Run were a definite turning point for Bruce’s career. His first two albums had not done well, even though critics were already naming him the new “rock-n-roll Messiah”. It was “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” that first caught my attention, with Clarence (The Big Man) Clemons’ roaring sax pulling it right out of the gate. But over time I’ve come to see “Thunder Road” as the true jewel on the LP. A bookend companion to “Born To Run” you might say.

Springsteen took the song’s title from a movie poster he had seen from the 1958 Robert Mitchum movie. He never saw the movie itself, but said the poster for it just stuck with him.

So, climb on on in, the door’s open. Loosen’ up and let it roll.

Oh and you can check out “The Boss And The Bible here: http://www.thejewishweek.com/arts/music/boss-and-bible


The Fruit Of Another


For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. – Hebrews 4:15

Squeeze, not nearly as big here in the states as in the U.K., was headed by the latest songwriting duo of the late 70’s/early 80’s to wear the “next Lennon & McCartney” moniker. The driving forces behind the band were Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook; in this case with an album (East Side Story) produced by Elvis Costello (EC also sings background vocals on the track) and powered by the ever-soulful Paul Carrack (Ace-“How Long”, Mike & The Mechanics-“The Living Years” and his own “Don’t Shed A Tear”) standing in on lead vocals.

“Tempted” was their breakthrough hit in the U.S. and, according to Difford, was written during a cab ride on the way to the Heathrow Airport to go on tour. As Chris explains “I was obviously envisioning a good time on the tour, as the (song’s) chorus suggests.”

And they just kept on squeezing out super sweet, superbly crafted, hook-laden grooves for a decade. This one, in particular just has that low, funky groove you just can’t help but sing along to. It’s the bass line, the punctuated percussion, and then Paul’s vocal melody inserted in perfect time. Just like a sweet temptation always seems to come along at just the perfect time.

And why not, certainly we’ve all had our temptations in life. No one can resist them all. Except one…and we all know who that was.

I bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste

A flannel for my face
Pajamas, a hairbrush
New shoes and a case
I said to my reflection
Let’s get out of this place

And oftentimes when we’ve succumbed to that temptation, that’s what we all want to do: run. Put on our best Forrest Gump imitation and boogie. But we really can’t…its always there, no matter where we go; haunting us.

Passed the church and the steeple

The laundry on the hill
Billboards and the buildings
Memories of it still
Keep calling and calling
But forget it all, I know I will

The mind will try to convince itself that we’re going to put this all behind us. Sure we will.  Just put a little space and time between us, and you’ll see.

Tempted by the fruit of another
Tempted but the truth is discovered
What’s been going on, now that you have gone

Nothing new here. The truth will out. And then the game is lost.

Alarmed by the seduction, I wish that it would stop

It’s like we’re traveling down this long road and we can see it stretching out ahead of us for miles and miles. And we know that it’s going to happen again. We can see it looming there on the horizon. And we wish that it would stop, but at the same time we eagerly await the next time. We are helpless. The car doors are locked and we can’t get out.

I bought a novel, some perfume

A fortune all for you
But it’s not my conscience
That hates to be untrue
I asked of my reflection
Tell me what is there to do

No matter what the mind commands, the body fails to obey. And, you can’t cover it up or make good with gifts or sweets. What’s done is done.

Yes, it’s tragic. But there is hope. Even though Jesus never gave in to earthly temptations, He understands the human condition, all our frailties and failings, and holds out His hand anyway. His is a love many times scorned, but offered unconditionally.

As The Boss once sang:

They say Eve tempted Adam with an apple, but man I ain’t going for that. I know it was a pink Cadillac…

So, jump on in and climb in the back. Because the road to temptation…well, it goes on forever.