I’ll Give You Something To Cry About

September 22, 2012

Occasionally, I will be surprised to find Ravi, our smallest cat, hanging from the top of the curtains in our living room.

I find these moments to be hysterically entertaining. It’s like being in a cartoon.

Paloma is less amused. In fact, for reasons inexplicable to me, she is not amused.

Not at all.

Ravi’s hanging antics – and whether or not they should be celebrated, perhaps even encouraged – is one of the few major points of contention between Paloma and I.

The other is her declaration that Morrissey would take Bruce Springsteen in a fistfight.

I thought it was kooky talk.

Paloma will profess her affection for Springsteen, but she is a long-time devotee of The Smiths and has argued that, should fisticuffs ensue, Morrissey would fight dirty.

I first heard The Smiths, for whom Morrissey sang lead, on 97X in high school – it must have been their clasic How Soon Is Now? – and the band was hugely popular with a lot of my friends and peers in college.

I just was hardly rabid about The Smiths, though, and The Smiths fans that I knew often were.

(as a lot of Springsteen fans are rather obsessive about Bruce)

I liked The Smiths, but I never totally embraced the band. However clever and literate the lyrics, despite the wonderful, jangly guitar, the mopiness of it all wore out its welcome with me.

“What’s he bitching about now?” I’d ask a college buddy when he’d put on The Smiths and Morrissey would lament how he never got what he wanted.

I thought of Paloma’s pugilistic prognostications regarding Morrissey and Springsteen the other morning while commuting to work.

I often bounce between E Street Radio and the ’70s station on Sirius and had the latter dialed up as Gilbert O’Sullivan was singing Alone Again (Naturally). I couldn’t help but hear the morose lyric and imagine Morrissey covering the song.

Given the sensitive inclinations of many of the singer/songwriters of the decade, several other hits of the ’70s popped into my head.

I believe that Ravi should be allowed to dangle without restrictions and I have no doubt that Bruce would indeed triumph should he and Morrissey enter Thunderdome.

And, here are four songs from the ’70s that I think might be ideal for Morrissey to cover…

Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally)
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box (1998)

Pretty grim stuff, Mr. O’Sullivan – a groom left at the altar, two dead parents, and suicidal thoughts.

God only knows how I interpreted this song as a child. I imagine that I was too entranced by the nursery rhyme-like melody to ponder Gilbert’s existential angst.

Michael Murphey – Wildfire
from Blue Sky – Night Thunder (1975)

I wasn’t listening to music in 1975 aside from what I’d hear on the radio in the car, but I do remember hearing Wildfire. How could I not?

Before the first chorus, a young girl is dead and “the pony she called Wildfire” is lost in a blizzard.

Oh, the carnage.

Michael Johnson – Bluer Than Blue
from The Very Best Of Michael Johnson: Bluer Than Blue (1978-1995) (1999)

To paraphrase Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, how much more blue could Michael Johnson be?

The answer is none. None more blue.

Henry Gross – Shannon
from Release (1976)

And then there is ex-Sha Na Na member Henry Gross and his elegy about the death of Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Irish setter Shannon.

So, to recap, we have four songs with a jilted, suicidal groom, a pair of dead parents, a dead girl, a pony lost in a blizzard, a disheartening break-up, and a dead dog that drove Casey Kasem to distraction.

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Rock You Like A Warm, Gentle Spring Shower

October 9, 2008

Like every person for whom music is essential to their happiness, Paloma and I both have fairly eclectic tastes. However, since we have begun to collect vinyl, there does seem to be some strange gravitational pull toward all things mellow.

Our first day rifling through bins of albums, yielded Blondie, Randy Newman and Pink Floyd, but also among those early purchases were Christopher Cross, Art Garfunkel and Bread. Paloma has been heard to declare, to even her surprise, “I’m a Gino Vannelli fan.”

I have been dumbfounded upon realizing the influence Christopher Cross has had on my own life. What in the name of Seals & Croft is going on?

Maybe it’s because the ‘70s was a heyday for soft rock and singer/songwriters and there’s a lot of vinyl from that time period. After seeing so many copies of Pablo Cruise albums while working your way to Prince, you eventually say, “What the hell? It’s one dollar.”

But I suspect the association of mellow pop with childhood is a large part of the appeal. The world might have been scary at nine, but maybe there was also a bit more hope and faith that there were infinite possibilities.

And maybe throwing on an America album is the shortest path back there.

America – A Horse With No Name
You know, listening to their songs an album side at a time, I’ve been surprised to note how many engaging melodies and songs America had during the early ’70s. Some of their lyrics are a bit puzzling, forced and sometimes cringe-inducing, but…

I remember hearing A Horse With No Name on the radio when it was a hit. It’s really one of the first big, hit songs that I recall as a young child. I also remember that it always seemed to be raining when I’d hear it on the car radio and, using the logic of a three-, four-year old, I felt the song’s desert setting was somehow connected to that rain.

Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally)
Pretty grim stuff, Mr. O’Sullivan. God only knows how I interpreted this song as a child. I imagine that I was too entranced by the nursery rhyme-like melody to ponder Gilbert’s existential angst.

Nicolette Larson – Lotta Love
Paloma never seems to tire of Lotta Love and I’m there with her.

I know the great Neil Young wrote Lotta Love, but I’m not sure if he ever recorded a version (if he has, I haven’t heard it). It certainly couldn’t have been the breezy delight which Larson’s take is (despite the protagonist drawing a line in the sand with her love).

Robbie Dupree – Hot Rod Hearts
Robbie Dupree arrived on the scene about the time I was discovering girls (which certainly must be considered childhood’s end). Dupree scored hits with Steal Away and Hot Rod Hearts before vanishing from the radio. According to Dupree’s All-Music Guide entry, the singer played clubs in Greenwich Village with Chic’s Nile Rodgers in the early ’70s.

And, did Michael McDonald guest on every soft rock – or, in the parlance of the times, yacht rock – album in the late ’70s/early ’80s? Furthermore, why do most yacht rockers resemble Kenny Loggins?