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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Tune o’ the Day

The early-70s pop group “Looking Glass” didn’t last long, but they left us the excellent and timeless song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).”

Looking Glass” was formed by four students at Rutgers University in 1969. “Brandy” was on their first album in 1972. In 1973, they followed up with a second album and the modestly successful “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne,” but that was it. By 1974, the group disbanded.

Elliot Lurie, the group’s lead singer, tried to go solo, but never got real traction. He turned to producing music in Hollywood.

The story of Brandy‘s unrequited love is a poignant classic, especially as presented in Lurie’s unique golden tones. I can’t imagine “Brandy” sung in any other voice.

Looking Glass

Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)

By Looking Glass, 1972
Written by Elliot Lurie

There’s a port on a western bay,
And it serves a hundred ships a day
.
Lonely sailors pass the time away
And talk about their homes
.

And there’s a girl in this harbor town,
And she works layin’ whiskey down
.
They say
, “Brandy, fetch another round.
She serves them whiskey and wine
.

The sailors say, “Brandy, you’re a fine girl.
What a good wife you would be
.
Yeah
, your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea.

Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the north of Spain.
A locket that bears the name
Of the man that Brandy loves
.

He came on a summer’s day,
Bringin’ gifts from far away
.
But he made it clear he couldn’t stay
.
No harbor was his home
.

The sailor said “Brandy, you’re a fine girl.
What a good wife you would be
.
But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea
.

Yeah, Brandy used to watch his eyes
When he told his sailor stories.
She could feel the ocean fall and rise
When she saw his ragin’ glory
.
But he had always told the truth
. Lord, he was an honest man.
And Brandy does her best to understand
.

At night when the bars close down,
Brandy walks through a silent town
,
And loves a man who’s not around
.
She still can hear him say

She hears him say, “Brandy, you’re a fine girl.
What a good wife you would be
.
But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea
.”

“Brandy, you’re a fine girl.
What a good wife you would be
.
But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea.”

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Tune o’ the Day

Everybody knows the rock classic “I Fought the Law,” in which an inmate explains how he ended up in the slammer. The song was written, ironically enough, by a Texas 21-year-old with a clean record.

That Texan is musician Sonny Curtis, who in 1959 became lead singer/guitarist of The Crickets after the death of Buddy Holly.

The Crickets recorded “I Fought the Law” in 1960, and it went nowhere. Then, in 1965, the tune was covered by the Bobby Fuller Four, another popular regional band. This time, it got national attention.

Curtis is still around today and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fuller died in 1966 at age 23. His death was ruled a suicide, but various alternate theories exist, including one claim that he was murdered by mobsters involved in the recording industry.

I Fought the Law” has been covered 50-odd times over the years. The song is notable for its simplicity, for the inmate’s candor about his plight, and for his clear lack of remorse for having pursued a life of crime.

Bobby Fuller Four

I Fought the Law

By the Bobby Fuller Four, 1966
Written by Sonny Curtis

I’m breakin’ rocks in the hot sun.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I needed money ’cause I had none.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I left my baby, and I feel so sad.
I guess my race is run.
But she’s the best girl I’ve ever had.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I’m robbin’ people with a six-gun.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I miss my baby and the good fun.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I left my baby, and I feel so sad.
I guess my race is run.
But she’s the best girl I’ve ever had.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

 

 

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Pop music was never my thing, and for years, my practice has been to ignore it. I may have missed a few good songs that way, but I spared myself from enduring the huge mass of bad ones.

However, occasional exceptions get through and get my attention. Such was the case in 1979 with “Just When I Needed You Most” by Randy VanWarmer.

VanWarmer said he wrote the song six months after a painful breakup with his girlfriend. That’s probably why it rings so true.

He never became a major star, but he kept recording, and, during the 1980s, he began writing songs for a variety of country singers and groups (The Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, Charley Pride). Sadly, he died in 2004 of leukemia at age 48.

If your legacy is a heartfelt love song, well, that’s pretty cool.

VanWarmer

Just When I Needed You Most

By Randy VanWarmer, 1979
Written by Randy VanWarmer

You packed in the morning, and I
Stared out the window, and I
Struggled for something to say.
You left in the rain
Without closing the door.
I didn’t stand in your way.

But I miss you more than I
Missed you before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.

Now, most every morning, I
Stare out the window, and I
Think about where you might be.
I’ve written you letters
That I’d like to send,
If you would just send one to me.

‘Cause I need you more than I
Needed before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.

You packed in the morning, and I
Stared out the window, and I
Struggled for something to say.
You left in the rain
Without closing the door.
I didn’t stand in your way.

Now, I love you more than I
Loved you before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.
Oh, yeah, you left me
Just when I needed you most.

You left me
Just when I needed you most.

 

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One day back in 2002, my mom called and said excitedly, “Rocky, have you heard that new Johnny Cash song, ‘The Man Comes Around’?” I had not.

“Oh, you need to hear it. Johnny Cash is always good, but this song is something else. It’s… biblical.”

She tried to explain, but it was futile. I had no idea why the song had her so amped.

When I finally heard it, I understood her enthusiasm.

The song was the title tune on Johnny’s 2002 album “American IV: The Man Comes Around.”

Wikipedia explains it thusly:

“There are numerous biblical references in the lyrics. A spoken portion from Revelation 6:1–2 in the King James Version introduces the song. The passage describes the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, each heralded by one of the ‘four beasts’ first mentioned in Revelation 4:6–9.

“The musical portion then begins with Cash reciting that ‘the man’ (Jesus Christ) will one day come to pass judgment. The chorus indicates that these events will be accompanied by trumpets, pipers, and ‘one hundred million angels singing.’ The voice of the Lord in Revelation is often likened to the sound of a loud trumpet. Revelation 5:11 states that John saw that there are millions of angels in Heaven.

“The song also alludes to the Parable of the Ten Virgins from the Gospel of Matthew with the lyrics ‘The virgins are all trimming their wicks,’ a reference to the virgins’ preparation of the Second Coming of Christ.

“The phrase, ‘It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks’ cites Acts 26:14, where Paul the Apostle describes meeting Jesus while traveling to Damascus. It is a reference to a Greek proverb where a kicking ox only injures himself by attempting to kick against a goad, intended to represent the futility of resisting the Lord.

“Elsewhere, the song mentions the wise men who bow before the Lord’s throne, and cast their ‘golden crowns’ at the feet of God. Revelation 4 refers to elders who worship the Lord and ‘lay their crowns’ before Him. ‘Alpha and Omega’ refers to Jesus Christ. ‘Whoever is unjust… etc.’ is a quote from Revelation 22:11.”

Mom was right. Johnny Cash going Old Testament biblical is something else.

The Man Comes Around

The Man Comes Around

By Johnny Cash, 2002
Written by Johnny Cash

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: “Come and see.” And I saw.
And behold, a white horse.

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
An’ he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won’t be treated all the same.
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
Will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter’s ground
When the man comes around?

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singing.
Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s Alpha and Omega’s Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singing.
Multitudes are marchin’ to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s Alpha and Omega’s Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In measured hundredweight and penny pound.
When the man comes around.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked, and behold: a pale horse.
And his name that sat on him was Death.
And Hell followed with him.

 

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The 1973 film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kidwas a major hit, and so was Bob Dylan’s soundtrack. The album became a best-seller.

Most of the songs are instrumentals and supportive of the plot, but the exception was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which turned out to be a significant hit single in its day.

The song is slow, simple, and emotional. It consists of the last words (I assume) of a mortally wounded (I assume) deputy sheriff to his wife. One music critic called the song “an exercise in splendid simplicity.”

PG&BK

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

By Bob Dylan, 1973
Written by Bob Dylan

Mama, take this badge off of me.
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see.
I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Mama, put my guns in the ground.
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down.
I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

 

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Tune o’ the Day

I’m a big fan of Concrete Blonde, the alt-rock band from California in the 80s and 90s. They released some of the best and most intelligent music of the time.

Moreover, their lead singer was the incomparable Johnette Napolitano, whose magnificent voice is as captivating today (she still writes and records) as ever.

The band’s self-titled debut album in 1986 was a solid hit. Among its many great tunes: “Dance Along the Edge,” a thinking person’s love song.

Concrete Blonde

Dance Along The Edge

By Concrete Blonde, 1986
Written by Johnette Napolitano and James Mankey

Sometimes, we laugh like children.
Go running hand in hand.
I never felt like this before,
I never will again.

Sometimes, we cry like babies.
And I hold you to my heart.
I just can’t stand to see you sad,
It tears me all apart.

And we’re so afraid, and it’s such a shame.
There is no reason we should doubt it.
And the things we want to say, we’ve never said.
And we look away, and it’s all okay,
And never really talk about it.
It’s a shame the way we dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

We always seem so careful.
We’re always so unsure.
Our past mistakes, they make us shake, eyes on the door.

When do we stop searching
For what we’re searching for?
Then when it comes, we question love, and try for more.

And we’re happy here, but we live in fear.
We’ve seen a lot of temples crumble.
Some of flesh and blood, and love is under glass.
Will we come undone? Will we turn and run?
And will we know it when we find it?
It’s a game the way we dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

And we’ll walk the line, and we’ll do our time
For just as long as we’ve been given,
And pretend that we don’t hear the things they’ve said.

Can we promise love? Is it all too much?
And do our old souls still believe it?
It’s insane the way we dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

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Tune o’ the Day

When the rock band The Cars released their debut album in 1976, they had me at “Good Times Roll,” the first tune on the album.

To me, The Cars are in a special category because I like pretty much all of their songs, not just the familiar hits.

I can count on one hand the bands that clicked with me like that. And, no, I won’t burden you with the list.

One of my favorites among The Cars’ tunes is “Drive.” It’s a melancholy song, a lament by someone in a relationship with an addict or an alcoholic, trying to snap the person out of it, and probably about to give up. It’s a moving and beautiful song.

A relatable situation, simple and effective lyrics, and a captivating melody. This is good stuff.

cars-the

Drive

By The Cars, 1984
Written By Ric Ocasek

Who’s gonna tell you when
It’s too late?
Who’s gonna tell you things
Aren’t so great?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Who’s gonna pick you up
When you fall?
Who’s gonna hang it up
When you call?
Who’s gonna pay attention
To your dreams?
Who’s gonna plug their ears
When you scream?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Who’s gonna hold you down
When you shake?
Who’s gonna come around
When you break?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Oh, you know you can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

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