Song of the Day 10/24

Posted: October 24, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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It’s Monday and it usually takes me a couple of hours to become acclimated to a Monday. Monday is the fresh beginning of a new week, full of possibilities. Monday is also the end of the weekend and for most, the start of the work week. Today’s song has a similar duality. From the always theatrical Chicago progressive rock band, Styx comes their 1977 release “Come Sail Away”.

From the band’s seventh album The Grand Illusion, “Come Sail Away” reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. The Grand Illusion was certified platinum the following year and went on to achieve triple platinum status. The album includes the singles “The Grand Illusion”, “Fooling Yourself” (if you want to know what that one’s about, ask me in person), and “Miss America”.

The Grand Illusion marked one of many changes in the band’s direction because of singer Dennis DeYoung’s movement toward musical theater and Tommy Shaw and James Young’s desire to play more guitar heavy rock. This tension resulted in DeYoung being fired from the band on multiple occasions.

Styx released a few concept albums, most notably Killroy Was Here, a rock opera released in 1983, set in a future where rock music is illegal. DeYoung plays the part of Killroy, an imprisoned rock star. Tommy Shaw plays Jonathan Change, a rocker fighting for Killroy’s freedom. For people who have never heard the album, this explains the line at the end of Styx’s hit “Mister Roboto” where DeYoung exclaims the secret he’s dying to tell, “I’m Killroy”.

“Come Sail Away” begins with a ballad feel about setting your own course and freeing yourself from the things that hold you back. At the end of this section, DeYoung talks about how, even though they live happily ever after, they missed something, “our pot of gold”. I believe this is reflection on the path that he’s chosen. Then the song gets a little strange. “A gathering of angels” appears above his head and fills him with hope, but he learns that they are not angels as they invite him aboard their starship… strange lyrics aside, the angels or aliens are a metaphor for chasing your dreams no matter how strange it might look to someone else. DeYoung has said that the song was a way to help him deal with depression.

I have to mention that there are a few covers of this song. Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, a punk cover act, released a cover in 2004. Trey Parker as Eric Cartman released a cover in 1998 and there is a legend of a video of an incredibly inebriated Katie and J.C. Fralick singing a portion of the song into a camera while at a dueling piano bar in Walt Disney World (I’m sure it would surface if I ever ran for public office).

I have found that there is often not a lot of middle ground with regard to Styx. Most people either love them or hate them. I think they were a great band whose many directions helped broaden their audience and possibly held them back from superstardom in any one area. It was certainly responsible for their many break-ups.

I always find that I can escape into “Come Sail Away” to help a Monday pass. What’s your favorite escape song?

See ya on the “b” side

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Song of the Day 10/21

Posted: October 21, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Today’s song is a karaoke favorite and I shudder to think about how many times I’ve heard this song butchered by a group of drunk women who believed they sound REALLY good. Released in 1981 from the album Escape, Bay area staple Journey brings us “Don’t Stop Believin’”. The song reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, despite the song not being re-released, it re-entered the Singles Chart in 2009 because of increased digital downloads making it the 9th longest running song on the UK singles chart, ever. The song is also the top selling catalog track in i-Tunes history with nearly 5 million digital units sold.

Allmusic – a service media guide, calls Journey “one of America’s most loved (and sometimes hated) commercial rock/pop bands” and says of “Don’t Stop Belevin’” that it features one of the best opening keyboard riffs in rock.

Journey originally formed as a back-up band for San Francisco artists. The original line up of Journey, then called the Golden Gate Rhythm Section, included former members of Santana, Fruminous Bandersnatch, and The Tubes. After poor album sales, the band decided on a new direction. They hired Robert Fleischman and the other members took singing lessons in an attempt to add harmonies to Fleischman’s vocals. With Fleischman, the group wrote “Wheel in the Sky” but it was not well received.

Journey is perhaps known for the instantly recognizable vocals of Steve Perry who joined the band in 1977. The addition of Perry moved the group firmly into the pop genre and gave the band their first hits with “Lights” and the recording of the previously mentioned “Wheel in the Sky”.

Journey tried to capitalize on their success by licensing their likeness to Bally/Midway for Journey the arcade game and recording beer commercials. Critics, well… criticized the band’s decisions, but it did not stop Journey from being one of the best-selling bands of the early 80s.

Recent uses of “Don’t Stop Belevin’” have kept the track relevant in popular culture. The song has been featured in Family Guy, Scrubs, the Rock Band video game, the 80s musical show Rock of Ages (which originally featured Chris Hardwick, my pseudo-boss and comedy hero, as Stacee Jaxx in the original LA cast), as well as the controversial use in The Sopranos finale. The song has been covered by The Chipmunks and the cast of Glee. The Glee version charted higher than the original, but it still trails the original by millions in overall sales.

The song is about two young people who want to get away from their current lives. Both are ready to give up, but the singer urges them not to stop believing. It is an anthem for those that feel that they are stuck in the mundane or “living just find emotion”. The song structure is a bit different. Most songs have a chorus that is repeated several times, but “Don’t Stop Belevin’” has its chorus as well as the first mention of the title at the end of the song. The chord structure has a pop-punk progression or I-V-vi-IV structure.

While Steve Perry has left the band, his successors, Steve Augeri and Arnel Pineda, hired from a YouTube video, have maintained that distinctive Journey sound.

Sing it loud, just make sure it’s in your car and not at the bar.

See ya on the “b” side

Today’s song is among the best of Motown. Written and produced by the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland team and released in 1966, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” was one of The Four Tops biggest singles. The song went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Rolling Stone calls the song the 206th greatest song of all time.

The Four Tops formed in Detroit, Michigan as The Four Aims. Band members Levi Stubbs (cousin of Jackie Wilson), Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renalso “Obie” Benson, and Lawrence Payton performed together from 1953 until 1997 with no line-up changes. The first change to the members of The Four Tops happened in 1997 when Lawrence Payton died. After a short stint as a three piece, Payton was replaced by Theo Peoples, a former member of The Temptations. Although The Four Tops are still performing under that name, Fakir is the only surviving original member.

Early in their tenure at Motown, The Four Tops recorded jazz standards. Between records, they sang back up for groups like The Supremes and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. The Four Tops first hit came from a complete instrumental track that Motown’s songwriting team wasn’t sure what to do with, so they created “Baby I Need Your Loving” from the track and The Four Tops recorded it in 1964.

One of the biggest things to distinguish The Four Tops from other similar bands was that their lead singer, Stubbs, was a baritone, unlike most tenor-range lead singers of the time. Holland-Dozier-Holland decided to write the music in the tenor range so that Stubbs’s voice would sound somewhat strained. They believed this would give the singing a sense of urgency and an almost gospel quality to it.

The song has been covered by many, including British singer Jackie Trent, Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, Michael Bolton, Michael McDonald, Boyz II Men, Meat Puppets, Richie Kotzen, Bill Cosby recorded a comedic take on the song, Michael Jackson alludes to the song in The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” and Elton John’s “Healing Hands” was directly inspired by the song.

The song is a man telling a woman that anytime she needs something, no matter how bad things get, she can always reach out to him and he will be there. The structure is fairly complex for the time, shifting from major to minor to minor augmented chords during the hook, as opposed to the major, major, minor structure of most songs at the time. (You’re welcome, musically inclined readers).

The Four Tops had a string of hits during their time with Motown, but it is “Reach Out I’ll Be There” along with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” that have become the songs with which they are most associated.

The next time you’re in a Motown mood, reach out…The Four Tops will be there.

See ya on the “b” side.

Posted: October 20, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Song of the Day 10/19

Posted: October 19, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Today’s song will have us all up and moving. From American house/dance group from New York City named Deee-Lite comes the funky, happy and danceable (if you do that kind of thing) “Groove is in the Heart”. This song was released in 1990 and hit the charts worldwide, including grabbing the number 4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

Deee-Lite’s members hail from around the world and all of them took on alter egos when performing. Super DJ Dmitri is originally from Kiev, Ukraine, Lady Miss Kier is originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Towa Tei is originally from Tokyo, Japan and DJ Ani is originally from Kansas City, Kansas.

Deee-Lite released two additional albums after their World Clique debut, but none of them recaptured the success of “Groove is in the Heart”. Just before the group’s third album was released, Towa Tei left the band claiming that his time with Deee-Lite had made him ill.

The backing track is made up of samples from other songs. The main riff is from a Herbie Hancock track. Possibly the best known moment from the song is the slide whistle during a breakdown which is sampled from R&B singer Vernon Burch’s “Get Up”. Parliament-Funkadelic legend Bootsy Collins and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest also contribute to the recording.

Online publication Slant Magazine ranked the song number 2 on its 100 Greatest Dance Songs list.

The music video is a psychedelic romp through a constantly shifting cartoon background featuring Deee-Lite, Q-Tip, jazz saxophonist Maceo Parker and Bootsy Collins. The video closes with Collins speaking close to the camera and saying “I just wanted you to know that groove is in the heart, and Deee-Lite have definitely been known to smoke…on stage, that is!”
From what I can gather, the song compares the feelings of infatuation with a groovy song that gets inside you and makes you want to move.

When it comes to what is commonly considered a one-hit-wonder “I couldn’t ask for another”

See ya on the “b” side.

Song of the Day 10/18

Posted: October 18, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Today’s song had me singing higher than I should ever try to sing on my drive to work. Written by Don Henley, Glen Frey, Bob Seger and J.D. Souther, The Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight” was released on 1979’s The Long Run and released as a single that same year. Despite the single selling 1 million copies, the song only remained at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week. “Heartache Tonight” won The Eagles their fourth Grammy, this one for the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. “Heartache Tonight” would be The Eagles’ last number one hit and The Long Run, their last studio album for 28 years.

Because The Eagles have had so many members throughout the years, I thought it important to list the people responsible for this particular song. The Eagles line up during this time consisted of: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Don Felder and Timothy B. Schmidt. Bob Seger also sang backing vocals, but was not credited.

The band broke up after a tense set in Long Beach, CA in 1980, but still owed their label a live recording from the tour. Frey and Henley were so angry at each other; the album was mixed by Frey and Henley from opposite coasts via FedEx.
“Heartache Tonight” was covered by Country music artist, John Anderson for the album Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles as well as by Michael Bublé.

The song is about people going out and actively seeking a one night stand. “Somebody’s gonna hurt someone, before the night is through”, the singer is telling us that this type of behavior usually ends with someone getting hurt in some way.

The Eagles are legendary performers and musicians. They are one of the most successful bands of the 70s. To this day, they are the fifth highest selling musical act in U.S. history and the highest selling American band in history with over 120 million albums sold worldwide. The Eagles were at the height of their popularity when they broke up. Many of the members had successful solo careers.

The Eagles reunited in 1994 and were inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 1998. They released Hell Freezes Over in 1994, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard album chart.

There is no doubt about the mark left on the music world by The Eagles. Last year, one of the members even mentioned another possible studio album. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. If they should announce that they are done, I’m sure there will be several heartbreaks that night.

See ya on the “b” side

Song of the Day 10/17

Posted: October 17, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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I needed something a little bit louder to help wake me up today, so while flipping the pre-sets on my radio, I found one of 1994’s biggest songs. From the album Purple by Stone Temple Pilots, “Interstate Love Song” reached 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay charts, one of the three components that makes up the Billboard Hot 100.

Stone Temple Pilots, or STP, was formed in San Diego, CA in the early 90s by Scott Weiland, Robert DeLeo, Dean DeLeo and Eric Kretz and quickly rose to fame with the release of their debut album. STP was quite commercially successful in the 90s with 16 top 10 singles, eight of which hit number 1, the number one album with Purple and a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. VH1 lists Stone Temple Pilots as the 40th greatest artist of hard rock.

“Interstate Love Song” opens with a memorable guitar riff that has a bit of a Southern rock feel to it, but like many rock songs of the time, the meaning doesn’t jump right out. It is only when we understand Weiland’s issues and mindset that we can ascribe any meaning to the lyrics. Weiland claims that the song was about his recent, at the time, relationship with heroin. A relationship that would come to characterize Weiland’s stage shows, cancelled tour dates and multiple stints in rehab. Each time he would complete his time in rehab, STP would record another album and sometime during the tour in support of the album, rumors would always begin about Weiland continuing his drug use. Unfortunately, the only time I had the chance to see Stone Temple Pilots, it was clear that Weiland had lost control again. He was unable to remember many of the lyrics to his songs and he stumbled around the stage as if he were lost.

The song also deals with honesty and the lack of honesty. The singer is waiting for someone to come clean. This never happens and the singer departs “on a southern train”. Lyrically, the song breaks no ground, but it is an interesting tune by a drug fueled mind.

Hum this one today, if you know it. It’ll help get your blood pumping and make you thankful you’re only hooked on caffeine.

See ya on the “b” side.

Song of the Day 10/14

Posted: October 14, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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Today’s song is a bit of a protest song in light of the “occupy” movement. While I don’t completely understand the message of the “occupy” movement, (I don’t think there is a clear message yet) the message of today’s song is very clear. Today’s song is from the Jamaican born reggae Legend himself, Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley and the title is “Get up Stand Up”.

Written by Marley and Peter Tosh, “Get Up Stand Up” was released in 1973. Marley’s music focused on social issues of Jamaica. Often it was through Marley’s music that people first heard of issues and injustices in his homeland. “Get Up Stand Up” is originally from the album Burnin’, but it is Marley’s posthumously released compilation, Legend, containing this song as well as many other Marley classics that is the best-selling reggae album of all time, certified diamond in the U.S. and selling over 25 million copies worldwide.

Marley’s music has, at times, been misunderstood to have an anti-white stance, however Marley himself was half white, and his father of English decent. Marley did identify as black African and sang several songs about the struggles of the African people against the West. Marley’s music, instead, has an anti-injustice stance and “Get Up Stand Up” is no different. The song speaks to not letting anyone take away your rights and standing up for what you believe in. Marley believed in Rastafari, whose beliefs include the spiritual use of cannabis and the rejection of western society, which they call Babylon. Don’t call it Rastafarianism, though, as the lyrics to “Get Up Stand Up” say “We sick an’ tired of-a your ism-skism game –“ meaning that the Rastafari believe that “isms” are responsible for great evil in the world. Of course, the religion is much more complex than a short write-up about a song can possibly convey.

Marley is thought of as a philosopher, musician and prophet and his early death and the conspiracy theories surrounding it have helped cement those descriptions and elevate Marley to his current iconic status. Unfortunately, the representations we have been left with after the commercialization of Marley as a product are very different from the rebel from the streets of Jamaica that condoned fighting when it was necessary and only wanted freedom from oppression and slavery for all. Today’s Marley is a symbol for cannabis use and is most often seen as little more than a smiling, mesmerizing musician.

Marley encouraged us to both stand up for our rights and to not give up the fight, but he also condoned living life to the fullest, challenging us with “I know you don’t know what life is really worth”. At least for today, let us make the most of what we have as we remember the most famous reggae musician that ever lived.

See ya on the “b” side.