Bits and Pieces

15 Mar

Usually, or at least a great deal of the time, I can immediately associate how I remembered a song by either who I happened to be hanging out with at the time, or by an event I tagged with it, by a girl I was linked with, a band I played in, a season, or at least by a unique, if rather tenuous, random yellowed highlight of a distant foggy memory. There is always something that somehow reminds me of that track.

But there are instances where I have that small particle of a phrase in a song that pop into my mind every so often where I can’t for the life of me remember anything about how I even have the right to know that particle. Case in point is the phrase “5-10-15-20 (25 30 Years of Love)” that appeared to me from time to time precipitously dangling in my mind. I’d randomly remember that phrase, and that phrase only – even remembering the music that accompanied that phrase, but only able to recall that minute section of the song. It wasn’t until maybe 10 years ago that I found that it was performed by the Presidents.

I would believe that the inability to remember a scrap of some tune from somewhere out of the past happens to all of us who have put way too much time into listening to music and who have developed an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia throughout the years. Sometimes it may be that it gets all too much to retain every individual and unique orphaned, floating subdivision of everything we’ve ever heard.

Manfred MannThere’s been another example of a tiny jagged sliver of a song that had been moving within my cranium for years, of which I have only recently cracked where it came from within the past few weeks. How I ever remembered this particular phrase that has swirled in my head I can’t begin to understand how or why. Again, every once in a great while it dips into my mind chamber, dallies for a few short moments and abruptly flutters away for a year or more yet again. All I could grasp onto were the words and music of the line / chorus “Sooooo hard, living without you” and a catchy lead following those lines.

Quite by accident I bumped into it while playing video montages by decade as background on the laptop while doing little things around the house. I hadn’t thought about it for, I don’t know how long, but suddenly those words and the music that comes with them squirted out of the speakers and I was floored.

Turns out, the song was by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band! Manfred Mann – he who actually made a career as a cover band making hits culled from the catalogues of the Exciters, and more successfully, by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. This song that had been pecking at me for years had been written by none other than the great Randy Newman.

The milk truck hauls the sun up
The paper hits the door
The subway shakes my floor
And I think about you
Time to face the dawning grey
Of another lonely day
It’s so hard living without you So hard, so hard
It’s so hard living without you
So hard, so hard
It’s so hard living without you
Off of 1972’s Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, here’s “So Hard”.

And a video from – geez, looks like a guest spot from … I think, a French-based show? Any ideas?

So, another shard of musical trivia is solved, and I would have bet that the answer would have been a one-hit wonder and not someone so well known.

I can’t be the only one who has had bits and pieces of something from the past only to have been deciphered in later years, am I?

Salt In The Eyes: Styx

16 Feb

Where did it all go so wrong for Styx?

They had talented rock guitarists in James Young and Tommy Shaw, and they had early solid hits with the Top Ten ‘Lady’ and Top 40 with ‘Lorelei’. In ’77 they had breakthrough triple gold with ‘The Grand Illusion’ in which spawned ‘Come Sail Away’, ‘Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)’ and my favorite ‘Miss America’. Following that monster album, ‘Pieces of Eight’ was released in ’78 and yielded ‘Renegade’. In ’79 yet another big album was ‘Cornerstone’ and the #1 hit ‘Babe’.

Then came 1981’s ‘Paradise Theater’, a golden example of a band making the choice to move away from their bread and butter and taking themselves much too seriously. Come on, seriously, “The Best of Times’? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

I still enjoy listening to Styx every so often, especially The Grand Illusion. They originally hailed from the Midwest, so I wonder what those blogs that originate from that area remember about the good that was Styx and what they think about Styx and their demise. It’s probably only me that thinks of them in those terms, because they sold enough copies of schlock to clog the airways for years. So, the joke is on me.

For me personally, their jumping the shark episode came with ‘Kilroy Was Here’ in 1981. Supposedly a rock opera set in the future where rock music has been outlawed, and their ensuing musical struggles with the man. Ugh. And they then turned the blender filled blasé into a stage show. Ugh².

However, the video – oy!, the video. But, don’t wonder and fret for no good reason fans, they did indeed leave behind video proof of what surely had to have been legendary bloated production costs for the visual that must have caused their record label executives to carry a travel tankard of antacids.

So, for this episode of Salt in The Eyes, I present to you the splendor that is Styx and Mr. Roboto.

Sir Douglas Quintet

5 Feb

Everything is cancelled today because of the snow. You can look out and tell that we’re getting walloped, not just because of the rate that it’s falling, but from the color of the sky. Know when you look up when it’s snowing and the sky is as white as the snow? As I look up today, the sky is a hushed, sullen, morbid grey and looks to be dislodging all that’s impacting within itself down to topography that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Welcome to the dive.

When I was making a living as one of the sullen rats who stared at a monitor and typed poor code within 5×5 white cubicles, Mark was one of the few highlights I ever knew in those wretched days. Not only did he talk music enough to keep up with me, he bestowed upon me a gift that very few ever could – he held my head under the waters of a new genre that I had only a tenuous inking of. When I found my footing again, I was newly baptized into the frenzy of Garage Rock.

It was Mark that turned me on to the Sonics : Strychnine, the Leaves : Hey Joe, the Shadows of Knight : Bad Little Woman, early Raiders : (I’m Not Your) Steppin Stone, the Seeds : Pushin’ Too Hard, 13th Floor Elevators : You’re Gonna Miss Me, Adrian Lloyd : Lorna (a must hear that even today, has my heart rupturing), the whole Nuggets collection and the delicious Sixties Rebellion collection, and countless other growling denizens of the garage. The music reached out its steely claws, encapsulated my neck and vibrated my skull with such vigor that as I look back now I believe that I spent close to a year passionately embracing, and collecting, the Garage Band era. As any other music whore could tell you, sometimes you listen to something so powerfully beguiling, that quite unexpectedly, the siren has completely wrapped you into its fold, nested you within, and before you know it – a year has gone by before you are able to loosen its grip and pull away. Such was my time in the jaws of garage. Anybody else ever get the fever that bad?

garageRather than spending phrases on an obscure influential raunchy slice of rock or lament over a balladeer who slays with emotion, I’m presenting someone who is noticeable, who had a hit, and who was there through the pulsing early strobe lights, who played all the beer-encrusted table tops of small halls, who was there watching the mini skirted, calf-booted, fringe swirling vests of teeny boppers, and helped to form and popularize the sound that enlisted thousands of kids with encouragement that they too could form a band.

Sir Douglas Quintet, with the inimitable Doug Sahm, had the quintessential lineup of guitar, drums, bass and organ that was permeated throughout the mid-sixties. Easy, yes? But what came out of that lineup was beautiful, headstrong bliss. They were based out of Texas and had a wide pallet of musical influences siphoned into their minds from that area including Tex-Mex, psychedelic, blues, pop and soul. Out of the maelstrom came what they are more known for, 1965’s ‘She’s About A Mover’, which hit #13, and the 1968 hit ‘Mendocino’, which I favor more.

It’s all I need; nodding rhythm, a pulsing Vox organ, catchy hook and easy enough for any garage aspiring teenage band to play as long as their willing to learn four basic chords.

Not to downplay my selection, but I can’t help but include the video I found showing the stark and silly juxtaposition of the band playing on, of all things, Hugh Hefner’s show ‘After Dark’! What, what? It includes a brief pre-performance interview.

Sadly, Doug Sahm died in 1999. In his sleep. Not a bad way to go is what a lot of us think. But, feast on this track from a band that was shoulder deep in the buzz, excitement and glory of the movement, and who helped to inspire legions of makeshift bands that drove their parents crazy, who felt like rock stars must have felt and had that taste of splendor that could only be had by being in a garage band.

And before I forget, thank you Mark for causing me to spend all that time listening to garage bands.

Sir Douglas Quintet: Mendocino