I don’t have just one unsung hero. I have dozens of them.
I’ve been collecting them for years now. Odd little pieces of memory for me, faded bygones for everybody else.
I collect One-Hit Wonders. Musicians who charted big, one time, and then vanished into the obscurity of history. To become radio DJs or producers for other musicians or even realtors(!)
I preserve their brief moments of fame, here on my MP3 player.
Wild Cherry. Right Said Fred. Murray Head. Devo. A-ha. American Hi-Fi. Blue Swede. Rick Astley. Soft Cell. Taco.
Some you might recognize. Others you might have to really dig to find. Some are given rebirths by a movie soundtrack (Blue Swede sold a lot of copies of a song last heard in the 70s, thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy). Some are revived as internet memes (Rickrolled!).
A lot of those artists had pretty miserable contracts. They aren’t getting any royalties from modern sales on iTunes. I feel for these guys; rolled over by the Music Industry, in many cases, and abandoned on the side of the road.
I love ‘em all. I’m not sure why, guess I like to root for the underdogs?
We all have our semi-secret, less-known personal favorites — a great B-side, an early work by an artist that later became famous, an obscure (but delicious) family recipe. Share one of your unsung heroes with us — how did you discover it? Why has it stayed off everyone’s radar?
If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?
Hit it, Etta: “And life is like a song…”.
My god, what a difficult assignment. Soundtrack music isn’t the same as, say, choosing a playlist.
But let me play this one straight-up. I’ll use the ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ Soundtrack as a model. Because it’s an iconic movie, it had a good soundtrack, and it reflected its time. So we’re seeking songs that are iconic of the 70s and 80s, to reflect the music that’s most important in my life. (My friend Ken would hiss and spit; he says that’s all I listen to. Not quite entirely true; just mostly what I listen to.)
Anyway…24 tunes on the FTaRH soundtrack, so that sets our limit.
“Train Kept a Rollin” (Get Your Wings)—Aerosmith
“Time” (Dark Side of the Moon)—Pink Floyd
“Hotel California” (Hotel California)—The Eagles
“Back in Black” (Back in Black)—AC/DC
“Rocket Man” (Honkey Chateau)—Elton John
“Killer Queen” (Sheer Heart Attack)—Queen
“Stranglehold” (Ted Nugent)—Ted Nugent
“Halo of Flies” (Killer)—Alice Cooper
“In the Dark” (Don’t Say No)—Billy Squier
“Lucretia Mac Evil” (Blood, Sweat and Tears 3)—Blood, Sweat and Tears
“Don’t Fear the Reaper” (Agents of Fortune)—Blue Oyster Cult
“Hooked on a Feeling” (Hooked on a Feeling)—Blue Swede
“The Ballroom Blitz” (Desolation Boulevard)—The Sweet
“Turn the Page” (Live Bullet)—Bob Seger
“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” (Not Fragile)—Bachman Turner Overdrive
“Don’t Look Back” (Don’t Look Back)—Boston
“Cold As Ice” (Foreigner)—Foreigner
“I Want You To Want Me” (Live At Budokan)—Cheap Trick
“Couldn’t Get It Right” (Gold Plated)—Climax Blues Band
“Young Americans” (Young Americans)—David Bowie
“Money For Nothing” (Brothers In Arms)—Dire Straits
“Black Water” (What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits)—The Doobie Brothers
“Mr. Blue Sky” (Out Of The Blue)—Electric Light Orchestra
Your basic playlist of what (today) calls itself a ‘classic rock’ station, I guess. And of course I ran out of room before I ran out of songs, because I shot for songs that I felt were ‘iconic’, but also a few lesser tracks that deserve to be saved from obscurity (as soundtracks often do). Some are included solely for their personal meaning to me (ex: ”Black Water”—if you were there, you know why).
Some of these tracks, particularly the really long ones, probably wouldn’t be suitable for a real soundtrack. But hey, it’s my article and I get to play them, damn it.
Now all I need is another 25 tracks…ok, another fifty. Damn, I’d never be able to cut it down all the way to 24, I wasn’t even through “E” on my iTunes library.
And this isn’t exactly a riveting-reading Prompt topic, is it?
The challenge today is picking a lyric that you know “by heart”, one that resonates particularly well (any why).
I find this sort of thing immensely difficult, because I have a trick memory (tricky in a good way, I suppose) for lyrics. I can dredge up One-Hit Wonders with ease, and recite literally hundreds of songs entirely and thousands of lyric fragments. It appears to be one of the only things my memory is really, really good at retaining forever.
And unlike my wife (hi beautiful!), I generally have the right artists attached to the right songs!
Sucks pretty bad when Celine bleeds “My heart will go on” or Whitney craps out “I will always love you“, or one of the many other “Pop tunes I have always hated” gets stuck circling in my head and refuses to be shaken out.
So as you might expect, this sort of thing makes me say “hurmh, huh, well, umm” for quite a while, trying to eliminate song that’s wandered through my head, to narrow it down to only one.
I began to think through the second part, the “why”, while flipping through my 500-favorites. I decided to go with:
Time (Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter; never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say.
Home, home again
I like to be here
When I can
When I come home
Cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones
Beside the fire
Across the field
Tolling on the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spell
Songwriters: DAVID GILMOUR, NICHOLAS MASON, ROGER WATERS, RICK WRIGHT
One of the more obvious choices, the best song from one of the highest grossing albums of all time, right? That’s not why I picked it .
I chose this piece for the instrumental, one of David Gilmour’s finest (to this day) moments, which is what makes it stand out in an album full of standout pieces.
(Groove to Mason’s Intro, too)
Watch the video and pay attention around 3:00, peaks with the long wail around 4:20. Brilliant, it still catches my breath to this day, and I always reach for the volume knob. Gilmour deserves to be played loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.
My thanks to the boys in the band, and to Alan Parsons. There’s a fair chance my choice will be duplicated by other authors as a choice one (or many) times. I don’t care. I was a child of the 70s, this piece (and Hotel California) embodied the 70s, to me.
Hmm, Hotel California also has a long (and excellent) lead guitar break–do we sense a pattern?
Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.
This may be difficult for me, as I’ve already written about the first of my three choices (see: Ticking Away). So there goes one, and I’ve hinted at another (in the same post).
Which means I’ll have to figure out a way for the third tune: Train kept a-Rollin to use up the majority of the time.
So let’s start with that one, I guess, feel free to have a listen:
Not only is it a classic old Yardbirds tune (and there are a bunch of other covers), but it has a number of delicious lead guitar breaks (I might have mentioned that I lean towards ‘hard’ rock and wailing guitars…?).
Anyway, for decades this was the track that made me worship Joe Perry, first got me hooked on Aerosmith, etc. etc. I pretty much wore the album (‘Get Your Wings’) out.
Some decades after the first release, it became known that Joe Perry didn’t play on that track! It was actually played by Steve Hunter & Dick Wagner, studio musicians, who played with Alice Cooper for years.
Those wailing lead breaks that fascinated me so much (at 1:20, 3:20, 3:55) for so many years, Joe didn’t play them! The two guys who did play them weren’t even credited in the original album credits!
I forgave Joe and Steve and the boys, since they closed concerts with the tune for so many years…and their careers went on for decades…but I remember how cheapened I felt when I learned that. The music industry really is freakin’ sleazy.
That other tune? I mentioned it in Ticking Away…it’s Hotel California.
Title track of the best album of the decade (well, at least in my humble). First time we get hear Joe Walsh play with the band, that excellent last couple of minutes of lead guitar break…
And for a good many years, I was the Night Man.
“Relax,” said the Night Man. “We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”