Sunday, July 8, 2018

George Michael: "Father" Of Incest Pop? (Go "Figure") AKA Sexiest Cab Driver Ever

The pop songs in which a male singer refers to his loved one as "baby" are too numerous to mention, but with "Father Figure," I think George Michael finally took this incestuous notion to its proper, logical conclusion.

George's musical achievements are many, but it's time to give credit where credit is due: although it faces stiff competition from the Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me," Benny Mardones's "Into the Night," and Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire," "Father Figure" may be the statutory rape anthem of the '80s. Despite George's proclamation that he has "had enough of crime," I would surmise that there is one crime he still hasn't quite had enough of. In fact, not only is he willing to be this underage girl's (or boy's?) "father," but also, potentially, her "preacher," her "teacher" - indeed, "anything" she might have in mind. Anything? How about cowboy, construction worker ... maybe a cop?

But don't misunderstand me. The vaguely predatory nature of "Father Figure" is not a bug, but a feature. It gives what could have been a bland ballad a distinctively menacing edge. Take the incestuous jailbait out of "Father Figure," and what have you got? Nothing. Nada. Bupkus. You've got a Whitney Houston album track. It needs its pubescent longing.

Or maybe not, given that the melody is arguably the most hauntingly seductive one that George ever came up with. Indeed, "Father Figure" is George Michael's chief contribution to what my eight-year-old self dubbed the Summer of '88's "Egyptian Thing." No snake charmer from the Arabian Nights could have conjured up a synth riff as beguilingly hypnotic as the one that first appears between 0:09 and 0:18. Hey, you ride that camel, George, that's what I say. You ride that camel all night long. One has to admit, Georgios the Greek sets quite the Mediterranean mood here: gentle "cymbal" taps to start with, then two "bass drum" beats followed by finger snaps and some sort of "sandpaper" percussion effect. The spell is so enchanting that the listener may not even notice the tinkling piano that enters at the start of the second verse, but it's what those in the business call a "nice touch."

The chorus almost shows up without warning, as a gang of female gospel vocalists pop up and make the religious undertones of the words "father" and "preacher" just a tad more explicit. Those random session pros sure have got the jailbait "spirit," all right. They've got it so bad, in fact, that they practically drown out George's "lead" singing. Seriously, just listen closely to that initial chorus. For a #1 hit, this is kind of a ... weird mix, you know? George sort of "whisper-grunts" the phrases "it would make me ... very happy ... please let me" in counterpoint to the back-up singers, as if he's afraid of getting caught with his hands in his teen sexpot's pajama bottoms.

Suddenly, during the bridge, the mood takes a turn for the intense, with the melody shifting dramatically as George really, really tries to convince his underage object of conquest that she should totally, totally trust him: "So when you remember the ones who-have-lied/Who said that they cared but then laughed-as-you cried/Beautiful darling, don't think of meeeeeeee/because all I ever wanted..." And BOOM: the main melody returns reassuringly, along with some smoldering Spanish guitar, and, frankly, if I were this girl, at this point I'd sleep with the guy no matter what our age gap might be.

By the start of the third bridge, the intensity seems to have died down again, as the back-up singers coo "Greet me with the eyes of a child," but then George really lets it rip (with generous application of echo) on "Just hold on! Hold on! And I won't let you go-ohhhhh, mah baby!" This time through the chorus, he is right out in front and not ashamed to hide his taboo inclinations. All that pent-up longing for a Lolita to call his own comes pouring out at 5:03 ("I will be yoah-hooooe!") and 5:06 ("fahhh-thuuuuh!"), culminating in the magnificently shameless and undisguised exhortation "I'll your dadd-ay, whoa!" All the instrumentation recedes as George, alone in the dark, puts one last little flourish on this bad boy: "Till the end of ... tyyyme," pausing before the word "time" as if he's glancing around for the nearest alleyway to duck through. The Egyptian synth riff takes a final bow, and the curtain closes. For one more evening at least, this devious patriarch is safe from society's disapproving censure.

I suppose I'm playing up the predatory nature of the song a bit much, because honestly, "Father Figure," like any classic '80s ballad, can be interpreted in a number of ways, as the video certainly demonstrates. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ... the sexiest cab driver in the history of film. Imagine if Travis Bickle had been sexy instead of psychotic. Let's see how this sounds: "You talkin' to me ... honey?" Kinda works? George's co-star in this sordid affair was one Tania Coleridge, later known as Tania Harcourt-Cooze. Initially I assumed Tania was just some random supermodel with a boring background, but whoa, was I off. From Wikipedia:
The daughter of Major William Duke Coleridge, 5th Baron Coleridge of Ottery St Mary, a Major in the Coldstream Guards, and his first wife Everild Tania Hambrough, she is directly related to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge ... Born in Kenya, she followed her father's British Army career until her parents divorced in 1977 when she was 11 ... Completing a fine arts diploma in London, she joined the punk rock revolution, and would hang out on the Kings Road, Chelsea ... Having met Willie Harcourt-Cooze in her late teens, she married the Venezuelan-based businessman in 1993. Using the funds from the sale of his London flat and his family's money, the couple purchased a 1,000 acres (400 ha) cocoa hacienda in Choroni, and planted more than 50,000 Criollo cocoa trees ... She came to public prominence again in 2008 with the airing of the fly-on-the-wall documentary, Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory, centred on her husband's efforts to be one of the first Britons since the Cadbury family to grow, import and produce their own chocolate.
Hold on a second. We've got Victorian poet ancestors, Kenyan births (take that Obama!), Venezuelan chocolate magnates, pun-laden British documentary titles ... and that's not even mentioning the video for "Father Figure"! I guess dating a cab driver really would have been slumming it for this girl. I love the moment in the video at 0:27 where the cab comes into view and behind the wheel we see ... George Michael. But not just any George Michael, it's the "iconic" George Michael: sunglasses, stubble, crucifix earrings, leather jacket ... it's the Faith-era George in all his flawless glory, and he's driving a fucking cab. Consider my disbelief ... suspended.

At first it's not really clear if these two know each other. We see George in his bedroom, tacking magazine cuttings of Tania up onto his wall in a shrine-like manner, then we see Tania backstage with her pasty white rivals, prepping for a runway show. Suddenly, BOOM, at 1:53, George starts getting his hetero on, and you realize that these two are in more than just a "driver/passenger relationship" if you know what I mean. Shots of their not-at-all-fictional lovemaking are juxtaposed with shots of Tania strutting her stuff for the paparazzi in some type of business suit with a ... cone bra/corset thingy? Whatever she's wearing, the point is, she's got "it." But you know where she gets her "it" from? Her secret cab driver boyfriend, that's where. At 2:11, the camera pans across her brightly-lit dressing room, where she's being delicately, attentively dressed (or undressed?), and then gradually wanders into the shadows, where George lurks mysteriously, lighting a cigarette, giving her the hidden mojo she needs without dragging her down into his rough-and-tumble milieu.

Later, a charming photographer tries to coax the right "look" from Tania, while George surreptitiously peaks through the door in the back (at 3:00). I mean, the photographer's cute and sensitive and all, but he can't give her the animalistic passion that Mr. Cabbie can. Sometimes the pressure can gnaw at the most poised professional, as the brief "freak out" montage beginning at 4:41 illustrates: Tania slaps George, pushes her photographer, and even tosses her lipstick apparatus onto the table in supremely diva-esque fashion. God, life as a supermodel is so hard, you know? But ultimately, she gets back out there on the runway, as the faceless crowd greets her adoringly. Little do they know about the brutal, private agonies, about the sacrifice it takes for her to get there, but George knows. At 5:07 there's a brief shot of George with his head against the pillow, opening his eyes, as if he's saying, "Don't forget me, baby, I made you who you are." Finally, at 5:18, while she's out on that runway working what God gave her, she spots her lover (ex-lover?) in the audience, standing there anonymously, emotionlessly. But sometimes, nothing need be said. A glance can say it all.

As always, Professor Higglediggle offers a rather opaque take:
Often read as a vigorous embrace of the commodity scientism of patriarchal attachment, "Father Figure" can potentially be (re)read as a denial of the overworked codes of pre-sexualized discourse, albeit from within a heterocentric framework. The singer's rejection of the pre-existing, pseudo-hegemonic order ("Sometimes love can be mistaken for a crime") acts as a post-Nietzschean declaration of liberated ideals ("Anything you have in mind"). The interstitial suggestions of ephebophilia ("put your tiny hand in mine," etc.) sit uneasily against the singer's inequitable occupation (cab driver) and desire to mediate the taboo of underage courtship with filial duty.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Kylie Minogue, Version 1.0: Australia's Answer To ... Rick Astley?

By 1987, Stock Aitken Waterman had everything they could have ever wanted ... except their very own Madonna. I guess Hazell Dean wasn't going to cut it? Putting their mind-numbingly repetitive stamp on established veterans like Bananarama was all well and good, but they needed someone more fresh, more green, more pliable - someone they could mold into their own tacky Hi-NRG image. But where, oh where, were they going to find her?

She came from Down Under.

Kylie Minogue was a star on the Australian soap opera Neighbours, where, per Wikipedia, she played a "schoolgirl turned mechanic." Oh, one of those. After an early version of "The Loco-Motion" (not the better known, re-recorded version) became a #1 Australian hit, she headed to England to seek fame, fortune, and, as fate would have it, Stock Aitken Waterman. Little did the trio anticipate the magnitude of the moment. From Wikipedia:
After the success of her debut single "Locomotion" in Australia, Minogue traveled to London to work with Stock Aitken Waterman, a successful British writing and production team. They knew little of Minogue and had forgotten that she was arriving; as a result, they wrote "I Should Be So Lucky" in forty minutes while she waited outside the recording studio. Mike Stock wrote the lyrics for the song in response to what he had learned about Minogue prior to her arrival. He believed that although she was a successful soap star in Australia and very talented, there must be something wrong with her and figured that she must be unlucky in love.
Something wrong with her? What the hell dude? She was 19! Yeah, I'll tell you what was wrong with her: choosing to work with Stock Aitken Waterman, the guys who brought the world Rick Freaking Astley, had one lousy production formula that they ran into the ground, and who were known to pass brutally harsh judgment on 19-year-old Aussie soap stars they barely even knew! Well, you better believe that after the single became a UK #1 hit, they didn't think there was anything wrong with her then. Although most Americans probably assume that "The Loco-Motion" was Kylie Minogue's only US Top 40 hit until "Can't Get You Out of My Head" crossed over more than twenty years later, "I Should Be So Lucky" actually peaked at #28 over here - which ain't too bad for a single from an entirely unknown quantity that reeked from top to bottom of glitzy Eurotrash. The verses kinda sound like the bridge of Astley's "Together Forever," but I'll be honest, I'd rather stare at Kylie Minogue in a music video than Rick Astley.

The clip features footage of our Aussie ingenue prancing around in a credulity-stretching apartment (Q: Who has a bathtub just ... sitting in the middle of the room like that?), interspersed with shots of Kylie in some sort of strapless prom dress standing in front of several images that appear to have been blown up far beyond the point of quality resolution, their pixels having made me question the YouTube video bit rate until I realized that Kylie's face is perfectly high-res. At 2:51, her poor nail file gets some particularly violent treatment.

Goffin/King's "The Loco-Motion" had already been a hit twice over: first in 1962 for Little Eva at the crest of both the girl group and dance crazes, and then again in 1974 for Grand Funk Railroad under the glam-inflected thumb of producer Todd Rundgren, but clearly Kylie Minogue's version had one thing those other versions didn't:

Stock Aitken Waterman.

Boy, people must have gone for anything in 1988. Its popularity assisted by its appearance in Arthur 2: On the Rocks, this version peaked at #3 in the U.S., which may have seemed to augur a promising stateside career for Minogue, but in retrospect, may have convinced Americans that this was a recording artist whose subsequent work would not be worth following in any way, shape, or form. And who would have blamed them? Kylie spends part of the video dancing in front of what appears to be genuine New York subway graffiti. Yeah, you know Kylie, tagging those Bronx underpasses with her gang signs at 3:00 a.m. These days, she performs the song in a slightly more "adult" fashion.

If the U.S. had seen enough of Kylie, the U.K., Australia, and Europe were settling in for the long haul. "Got to Be Certain" and "Je Ne Sais Pas Porquoi" both hit #2 in Britain, the latter boasting a cinematic, Parisian-flavored video that, in a rare '80s reversal, feels less dated to me than the song it was promoting. C'est la vie, as they say.

Q: Was it possible to be less successful in the U.S. than Kylie Minogue? A: If you were fellow Australian soap star Jason Donovan, it was. While Britain went bonkers over their squeaky-clean duet "Especially For You" (the song being the biggest UK hit of 1989), America was instead treated to one last single from Kylie, "It's No Secret," which petered out at #37, but at least featured a video of Kylie running around the majestic mountains and windswept beaches of her homeland wearing a strapless rainbow top (with some sort of "aborigine" design on it?) that I imagine needed to be peeled off delicately, lest her breasts be accidentally ripped off with it.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

"Take Me Home": Can't He Just ... Call An Uber? AKA Phil's Frantic Search For Drugs Turns Into One Expensive Video

Question raised by the opening seconds of "Take Me Home": What's better than one rapidly bleeping pre-programmed synth pattern? How about two rapidly bleeping pre-programmed synth patterns? Good thing I like the sound of those two synth patterns, because that's pretty much this whole song's raison d'etre. Well, gradually some sustained, droning guitar slips into the mix, as well as actual "human" drums from You Know Who, which both serve to ratchet up the claustrophobic tension, but "Take Me Home" is a textbook example of Phil's uncanny ability to do a lot with just a little. It's the kind of song that finds its hypnotic '80s groove right off the bat and could more or less go on forever. You can't help but nod along, like a bleary-eyed junkie. But why does he want to be "taken home" anyway? And what exactly is it that he "doesn't remember"? Maybe he lost Billie's number?

Frankly, I always assumed "Take Me Home" was just another song about Phil's crumbling marriage(s), but apparently it was inspired by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and is sung from the point of view of a man in a mental institution (!). Let's take a look:
Take that look of worry
I'm an ordinary man
They don't tell me nothing
So I find out what I can
There's a fire that's been burning
Right outside my door
I can't see but I feel it
And it helps to keep me warm
So I, I don't mind
No I, I don't mind
Who lives in a building where a fire would be burning outside one's door? I mean, as long as the door itself doesn't catch fire, and as long as the fire keeps the guy warm, then I guess I don't have a problem with it. Or is Phil trying to make this fairly unreliable narrator sound like an insane man? Honestly, he doesn't sound any more insane than the narrator in "Sussudio" does, but that's just me.
Seems so long I've been waiting
Still don't know what for
There's no point escaping
I don't worry anymore
I can't come out to find you
I don't like to go outside
They can't turn off my feelings
Like they're turning off a light
But I, I don't mind
No I, I don't mind
Hmmmm. "There's no point escaping"? "I don't like to go outside"? This is at least a bit more insane asylum-ish. It's as if Harding, Cheswick, and Billy Babbitt broke into Nurse Ratched's office one night, stole a drum machine, and laid their souls bare in a riveting demo!
So take, take me home
Cause I don't remember
Take, take me home, oh lord
Cause I've been a prisoner all my life
And I can say to you
"Say to you..." what? What?? Finish the sentence Phil! "And I can say to you ... anyone seen my car keys?" What's the thing that he says? That line has always puzzled me.
Take that look of worry, mine's an ordinary life
Working when it's daylight
And sleeping when it's night
I've got no far horizons
I don't wish upon a star
They don't think that I listen
Oh but I know who they are
And I, I don't mind
Well, I'm inclined to think Cuckoo's Nest may have been more of a "starting off" point than a literal source of inspiration, but all I know is, in the words of Randall P. McMurphy, every time I listen to "Take Me Home," my ears light up like a pinball machine and I pay off in silver dollars.

In making the video, Phil demonstrated the kind of artistic patience that only the likes of Richard Linklater, director of Boyhood, would have been able to muster. I guess he thought to himself, "Well, the song's called 'Take Me Home.' I'm about to go on a world tour. I've got it. Every time we stop in a new city, I'll film a little bit of the video, and then when the tour's over, we'll edit all the footage together!" It's like the Around the World in 80 Days of the MTV Generation (with a far less dashing David Niven stand-in - or maybe Phil is Cantinflas in this scenario?). I just have one question for Phil: ever heard of a green screen? In fact, so much time elapsed between the filming of each piece of footage, you can actually see his hair line shifting from shot to shot. The video strikes me as a bit gimmicky, and it certainly doesn't have much to do with the (alleged) insane asylum theme of the song, but I will grudgingly admit that I find it compelling. One thought: The "shark" that attacks Phil in the pool in L.A. - a commentary on the bloodthirsty rapaciousness of the Hollywood entertainment industry?

Of course, that's the official line on the "Take Me Home" clip. The real story, as you might have guessed, is much less flattering. From In the Air Tonight:
It was after a show in Manchester. Our bassist had really been on fire that night. They say the tapes are out there somewhere, but I haven't heard them in years. Anyway, the next morning I woke up, I was twitching like a motherfucker. I thought I could make it through the week without needing my fix of Phil's Best Phriend, AKA horse tranquilizer, but I guess I'd been a bit overconfident. I kicked out two underage Samoan girls from my bed - I like 'em plump and pretty - and stumbled to the payphone in the lobby.

"Julio, it's Phil, I need a new batch."

"Uh ... no can do, Senior Collins."

"No can do? Why the hell not?"

"Market getting tight on jugo del caballo. Running low everywhere."

"Running low? Look, I don't give a shit, just find me some!"

"Felipe, you gonna have to look for yourself."

"Look for myself? Where the fuck do you suggest?"

"Anywhere. Everywhere. Travel el mundo. Big cities your best bet."

"Travel the globe for horse tranquilizer? Aren't people going to wonder what the hell I'm doing? We've gotta think about the optics here."

Julio paused for several seconds. "Ah, I got it!"


"You just released that song, how does it ... 'Taaaake, take me home," si?"


"How you do this, with song after song, I have no idea. You never stop with the great songs, Felipe."

"Uh huh."

"I love the production, the drums ... muy bueno -"

"Can we cut to the fucking chase here?"

"So ... you have these words in the song, "Take me home.' You travel around to big cities, you look for the jugo, but you also make music video."


"You show yourself in front of famous things, singing part of words, then come back, cut all the film together, and ... BOOM! New music video for new Phil Collins hit. So you look for drugs, but you tell people you are making music video."

It was a no-brainer. Sure, I told everybody I was on tour, filming little snippets of the video between gigs, but as they say in Texas, "Never trust a balding English drummer." So I scavenged the globe: London, New York, Tokyo, LA, Chicago, Paris, San Francisco ... you name it. Unfortunately, everywhere I went, I was coming up with jack squat. Felipe wasn't kidding around! There are certain shots where you can see how bad I was doing - like Memphis, for example. People think I was just bopping my head to the music, but that was actually me suffering from withdrawal. Had a good lead in Sydney, but it turned out to be just a bag of sunflower oil. A bartender lost an eye as a result. Sorry, but if you give Phil Collins a false lead, you're gonna pay the fucking price.

Eventually I tracked some down in a derelict Stockholm gym. Two Irish bartenders led me to the storage room, gave me a ziplock bag of the stuff. I headed into the bathroom, plunged the syringe straight into my chest, Pulp Fiction-style, and felt that sweet, sweet rush once again. The next thing I knew, I was half-conscious, lying in a tub of anti-freeze.

"Is he up yet?"

"I think he's comin' 'round."

"Phil! Hey Phil! Where's the money you said you were gonna give us?"


"Phil! We hooked you up, now it's time you pay."

"Uh ... it's ... shit I know where-ih-is," I mumbled incoherently. "It's nnnn mah shoe."

"We looked in your shoe."

"Uh ... it's in uh ..drum kit."

"That's not an answer." The two beefy leprechauns looked at each other and sighed. "He's out of it."


"What do we do with him?"

"I don't know. You know what I say? Just take ... take him home. 'Cause he don't remember."

Sunday, May 27, 2018

I Think We're A Random Confluence Of Two Tommy James & The Shondells Covers Now

I once had a conversation with a co-worker about Tommy James and the Shondells. As one often does. I assumed that he, like many people, was familiar with their long string of eminently hummable late '60s hits, but might not have been aware that each of those hits had been performed by Tommy James and the Shondells (I've also had variations of this exact conversation regarding the collected works of Three Dog Night). After I listed several song titles, he nodded sagely and grinned in recognition, before pausing in thought. "You know," he said, "Those are all songs that are kind of about sex, but not quite." I hadn't ever looked at the TJ&S catalog from that angle. "Hanky Panky." "Do Something to Me." "Crystal Blue Persuasion." Hmmm. A fine legacy for an artist. I can almost see the inscription on James's tombstone now: "Master of Songs That Were Sort of About Sex, But Not Quite."

By 1987, James wasn't master of anything other than the oldies revival circuit (although Joan Jett's 1982 cover of "Crimson and Clover" was perhaps a sign of royalty payments to come), but he was in luck: after a period in which pop songs had become more blatant on the subject of fornication, there was suddenly a desperate thirst, once more, for songs that were sort of about sex, but not quite. To paraphrase Huey Lewis, it was hip to be coy. James's time had come.

Fame came much more quickly to one Tiffany Darwish of Norwalk, California (originally of - hold on a second - Irish, Native American, Syrian, and Lebanese descent?). After touring Alaska when she was eleven years old, she appeared on Star Search, finishing in second place (just as she would in her rivalry with Debbie Gibson - burn!). Svengali manager George Tobin, sensing a bloodthirsty appetite for faceless pop among the teens and pre-teens of the world, set Tiffany out on a tour of shopping malls and dubbed it "The Beautiful You: Celebrating The Good Life Shopping Mall Tour '87." Who wouldn't want to head down to the local shopping mall and see that? Never heard of the performer? Who cares, this show's not about the performer, it's about you - the beautiful you. Well in that case. According to Wikipedia, Ms. Darwish initially hated the idea of covering "I Think We're Alone Now," deeming it "neither modern enough nor hip enough." Ironically, in 2018, Tommy James's version may sound both more modern and more hip than Tiffany's version does, but in 1987, at any rate, her instincts couldn't have been more off than if she'd tried to, I don't know, record Irish-Lebanese teen-pop for Alaskans.

There are two moments in the bridge that reveal Tiffany's arguable limitations as a vocalist: 1) When she hits the word "night" on "Trying to get away into the night," she attempts this pseudo-rocker growl that, to these ears at least, sounds amusingly contrived; 2) She tries to string together the words in the line "And then we tumble to the ground and then you say" really sloppily and bluesily, like she's Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison or somebody much raunchier than her. Every time the bridge appears in the song, she delivers these lines with the same exact affectation. It's not a complete wash: the little overdubbed harmony she performs with herself on the line "anyone around" is a nice touch. She definitely sounds like a sad little teen whose parents just won't let her run away with her equally sad little boyfriend. The key to the song's success, of course, was that her target audience (including yours truly) was living in complete ignorance of the original. Here were my eight-year-old thoughts: "Wow! Where did Tiffany come up with this great new song? And if she could come up with a song this great, how many more great songs is she going to come up with?"

Do you think Weird Al intended "I Think I'm a Clone Now" to be a comment on the manufactured and pre-packaged nature of teen-pop sensations such as Tiffany? Or am I reading too much into things? It's funny how the quality of the musical backing on Weird Al's version is easily on par with Tiffany's; the budget for his version might have actually been higher than hers. Most groan-inducing puns: "I guess you could say/I'm really beside myself" and "Cause every pair of genes is a hand-me-down." Humor that sharp could never be ... duplicated.

Like Tiffany, William Michael Albert Broad is better known to the world by a much shorter name. And like Sweet or Kiss before him, he managed to cultivate an image of being a total hard-rocking badass while essentially making radio-friendly pop singles. Lest anyone accuse Billy Idol of jumping on some sort of "Tommy James Revival Train," it should be noted that he originally covered "Mony Mony" in 1981. However, to promote his excellently named 1987 remix collection Vital Idol, he released a live cover of "Mony Mony," which, in one of those Billboard chart oddities that one might be tempted to imbue with some grand meaning, but is probably about as random as the weather, eventually bumped "I Think We're Alone Now" off the top of the charts. Or maybe Tommy James was secretly plotting to take over the world THE WHOLE TIME. If that was indeed the plan, using Tiffany and Billy Idol as his agents of doom was certainly an unexpected strategy. Although I think the live version of "Mony Mony" is strong (as live versions go), I'm ultimately partial to the studio version; both somehow manage to out-sleaze the already-sleazy original. And even though the live version is what officially hit #1, the odd thing is, I feel like I remember Top 40 radio playing both versions. It's been a long time since I've come across the live version on the dial, let's just say that.

I love performers whose hair is whiter than their skin. Also: At first I thought it was amazing how Idol's leather jacket mysteriously managed to fly off his chest at some point between the first and second verse, but then I noticed the little jacket twirl at 1:28, and breathed a continuity sigh of relief. I should also mention the part where he starts to grope the keyboardist in the slinky red dress and she gets a look on her face that seems to say, "Erm, not now Billy, we're on stage!"

So I guess Weird Al figured that, if he was going to parody one recent Tommy James cover on Even Worse, he might as well parody the other, right? Which brings me to, in my humble opinion, one of the unheralded gems in the Yankovic catalog: "Alimony." Al turns James's/Idol's paean to lust into a bitter lament over the unseemly financial fine print of a marriage gone wrong. It's hard to say what Billy Idol was so worked up about in his version, but this guy? No wonder he sounds so sweaty. She took his toothbrush too? Show the poor schlub some mercy. At least no one could accuse Weird Al's take as being a song that's sort of about sex, but not quite; this couple clearly hasn't slept together for decades. Amusingly, "Alimony" is a parody of the live version, complete with fake audience ambiance and the whole works. I'll say this: if Tommy James ever happened to find himself staring down any ugly alimony payments in the late '80s, let's hope he received some nice financial assistance from all this malarkey.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Heaven Is A Place On Earth" (Video): Diane Keaton + Creepy Globe Children + Wall Fondling ... What More Could You Want?

Music videos can be many things, but one thing that even the best of them cannot be is "catchy." It was therefore inevitable that the music video for "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" - which I have deemed, after rigorous analysis, to be the "Catchiest Song of All Time" - would fall short of the title "Catchiest Music Video of All Time." Nevertheless, while the song may have been (as I have so irrefutably established) written by God himself, the video was quite obviously created by decidedly more ... mortal forces. From Lips Unsealed:
Through Morgan's best friend, John Burnham, I was fortunate enough to get Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton to direct the videos for "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" and "I Get Weak." I was almost intimidated to meet her, but she was utterly charming and thoroughly inspirational in her approach to work. I only had to look at her body of work or the way she dressed (beautifully and with style) to know she had great taste, so I said, "Just do what you want."
And, by the looks of it, that is exactly what Keaton did. At first blush, the phrase, "Directed by Academy Award winner Diane Keaton" would suggest a video of supreme quality, and then one steps back and realizes, "Wait a minute. Diane Keaton is an Academy Award-winning actress, not a Academy Award-winning director." I'm guessing most of the participants involved were not sober enough to know the difference. Well, as music videos go, this one's more First Wives Club than The Godfather, but everyone had a great time making it, so who cares? I'm also not sure that Belinda was aware of the low relevancy level between Keaton's fashion gifts and her video-making prowess, but, hey ... she got Diane Keaton to direct her video! It's the '80s! Here's some coke! Let's do it!

I've never been to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita (I feel like I've driven past it a couple of times), and I've certainly never been on the Spin Out ride, but I may have to make a pilgrimage one day to see the prime location featured in this riveting video. Quite what the Spin Out ride, or an army of children wearing identical black Zorro masks and cloaks, has to do with the lyrics of "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" is unclear, and I'm reckoning it was unclear to Keaton too, but the song has the word "Earth" in it, and the children are all clutching glowing plastic globes, so that's relevant I guess? We don't even catch a glimpse of Belinda for the first twenty seconds; it's just marching bat kids hoisting their spheres in a fashion slightly reminiscent of a Nazi rally. I feel like this could be footage from a pilot episode of a rejected Nickelodeon game show called "Globe Reload!" or something of that nature. Up to this point, the video is pretty meh; I'm basically thinking to myself, in the words of the director herself, "Well la-di-da. La-di-da."

Finally, at 0:20, She appears, and Holy Blindfolded Pre-teen Choir Batman, this video just got a whole lot better. It turns out that heaven is a place on Earth after all, and that place ... is Belinda Carlisle's smokin' hot bod. I think this is where Diane Keaton's directorial genius truly reached its apex. She understood that the key to making a great music video ... was to have Belinda Carlisle in it. A masterstroke! A touch of divine inspiration! With one simple casting decision, Keaton entered the realm of a Scorsese or a Bergman. By liberally sprinkling her work with the aesthetic perfection of prime 1987 Belinda, she instantly elevated her video into the upper echelons of modern telegraphic achievement.

But what's this? Is it just me or ... has the former Dottie Danger done something ... new with her hair? Where's the beach blonde babe of "Mad About You" fame? Well, she probably figured, new record label, new producer, time for a new look. And so we have the debut of yet another hair color from the Big C. This one is sort of a brownish-red, but not quite red and not quite brown. I've read some describe it as "auburn." This finally raises a question that has been on my mind for longer than I'd care to admit: just what is Belinda Carlisle's "natural" hair color? I'm serious. I have seen it colored: brown, red, blonde, dirty blonde, green ... even purple. These days her hair is generally black, but I assume she dyes it. I've seen photos of her from high school where her hair appears to be blonde, but she could have been dyeing it even then. I honestly have no idea. Ultimately ... [throws hands in the air despondently] does it even matter? Like the fate of the Roanoke Colony, or the location of Amelia Earhart's plane, it is one of those questions that is destined to remain an eternal mystery.

Frankly, her hair could be beige for all I care and she'd still probably make it work. Belinda can wave her six flags over my magic mountain any day, you know what I'm sayin'? The accompanying garments are equally mesmerizing. At first she opts for a black sleeveless dress that's sporting some kind of white dangling ball design on the front, and she pairs it with a fluffy, unbuttoned pink sweater (perhaps a nod to her prior cheerleader days?). And then in the second verse she rocks some sort of black off-the-shoulder dress and belt, with flowers in her lapel. Flowers! The woman exudes sheer fecundity and potency, I tell you.

But, hold on a second. What's she doing to that wall? Honey, put the kids to bed, Belinda's ... humping a wall. Yes, for several seconds in this video, we are treated to the sight of Belinda Carlisle rubbing herself sensually against an unusually narrow corner of a nondescript wall. I mean, she's having a really good time with that wall. I hope that wall's wearing protection. What were the directions here? "Just shake it Belinda, fondle the wall, let it all out!" You rub that wall, Belinda. You rub that wall nice and good.

Other observations:
1. At 0:30, Belinda tilts her head back teasingly, and then Keaton simply hits the "repeat" button and plays the same exact shot over again. I'm thinking maybe Keaton had a preliminary cut and thought she'd covered the full length of the audio, but realized she was half a second short, so then she just decided to ... fill in the gap with a pointlessly repeated shot?
2. Why is there suddenly a narrow slit of light shining across Belinda's face? Is she in a prison cell? Is it time to feed Belinda?
3. Personally, Belinda is at her hottest in this video at about 1:13, and then later at 1:21, where she's leaning behind a fence, now wearing some kind of coat. She's got that sexy, captured, helpless, "Stockholm Syndrome" look. Ooh yeah.
4. I love the shot that starts at the second verse (1:32), where Belinda, in Outfit #2, sort of twirls away from the camera merrily, then arrives at the end of the room, realizes "Hey, crap, another wall is there!" and calmly turns around and retraces her steps. Couldn't they have just found a ... larger room? Or at least planned out the shot better? Were they under a deadline? Something fishy goin' on here. And then there's this horribly awkward edit at 1:42, where (I assume) Keaton spliced together two slightly different takes of Belinda twirling back from whence she came, perhaps hoping no one would notice? Why not just do another take?? Or maybe it's all for "effect"? Diane Keaton was fucking with us!
5. At 1:47, Belinda is back in her corner, and ... allow me to pause for a moment and state: What an exceptional corner. It's like the walls are at a 20 degree angle. They could have called this video "Heaven Is a Place in the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." This shot also, I should add, gives us an impressive view of Belinda's cleavage.
6. And why are the bat children jogging in place all the time? Is that how they're powering the globes? What sickening underworld dystopia was Belinda living in here?
7. Perhaps running out of ideas, Keaton looked behind her and said, "Hey Morgan, just get in there and stand in that pool of water and start ... making out with Belinda or something. This'll be great!" Sometimes, to quote Annie Hall, a music video is like a shark. It has to keep moving, or it dies. And what Keaton had on her hands here ... was a dead shark. Then she covered the happy couple in a ... satin sheet? My guess as to the thought process here: "I dunno, I saw it in a Maybelline commercial one time." By the end, they migrate over to Belinda's favorite wall, as the children keep spinning, and spinning, and SPINNING ... I mean, if heaven is really a place on earth, that place would be pretty nauseous by now.

YouTube comments for the "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" video generally fall into four categories:

Category #1: Belinda's Affection for the Wall:
Haha. She really likes that wall. ;)

I think she'd addicted to dancing with walls.

is she having sex with the wall?

i want to be reincarnated as a wall

Dedicated to all the guys who so wanted to be the wall...

Something tells me that wall thoroughly enjoyed itself.

That wall... I just want to roll around against it.

Thats one lucky corner.

Nobody puts Belinda in a corner....

What is she doing to the poor wall lol

this has a lot more wall humping than i remember.
Category #2: Belinda's Hotness:
Thats an "A" Class redhead meat !!!

the day this video was shot....Belinda Carlisle was THE most beautiful woman on the planet...................

Oh Heaven is a place in her pants

Thats a lucky guy who got to maul her in this video. Damn, i would've stepped up and did his job.

I love her vibrato. And her jugs.

I certainly would not miss a day of school if she were my teacher . HOT HOT !

Without sounding shallow, B. Carlisle is STILL damn HOTT!

boy would I have drank her bathwater back in 87-90. now a days I think I would let that bathwater stagnate in the hopes that the algae and mold along with the flakes of dead skin and fecal matter (from her playfully farting in the water) would mutate in to a new and soon to be young Belinda Carlisle.

Damn, Belinda Carlisle just gave me a serious Woodrow

Belinda, if you're ever down south, I'd love to take you to lunch, St Augustine area. I'll treat your bodyguard too. open invitation.
Category #3: What Does It Mean?
This vid is WHACK! I mean, is Heaven really supposed to look like a torture chamber from the Saw saga?

apparently in heaven everyone wears black eye masks.

So is this video about gnosticism?

Great song, but DAMN they had some of the worst music videos back then. What's with the jogging in place with the globe and the Green Hornet Kato masks??? And who's idea was it to stick Belinda in the corner where she almost whips her head into the's not even a right angle, it's, like, a wedge or something. Great song, though. :D

Belinda is Gaia, the earth mother, and she's fallen in love with the male mask of the apocalypse, one of many it wears. It's unclear if she knows his true nature, destroyer of worlds, or if like so many other naive women, she's under his spell and won't realize it until his violent love overcomes her and throws her body into the ditch of unbeing. In any case, at the end of the video she's obviously dead, added to his collection of little worlds, but did she want it this way, and why? Why?!

The message of this video is that accepting a one world government would bring about heavon on earth. It is Illuminati programming. Very little analysis is required to come to this conclusion.
Category #4: Miscellaneous:
"Ooo" is not a word.

Damn this whole time I thought it was "blueberry heaven was a place on earth"

Belinda and the Globe Trotters.

Best. Pop song. Ever. And I'm a thrash metal freak...

I'd have like to done lines with Belinda!!!!!!!!!!!!

Watching this video makes me realize there's a lot of us that graduated from the Belinda Carlisle school of dance.

heaven would be a place on earth if people would stop making comments about justin bieber on every music video i go on. 

Belinda Carlisle, the William Blake of the 1980s
'Until we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land'

I remember when I was young, this was my favorite song the year it came out. My brother knew this, so he changed the channel when it came on. :- ( He's now married to a horrible woman who looks like the Penguin. Karma.

Love does NOT come first. First comes introducing yourself, then comes "Nice meeting you", then comes getting to know, then comes like, then comes talking about your likes and dislikes, then comes love, then comes "Will you marry me?", then comes marriage, and then comes a family of your own.

I listened to this song on repeat before my colonoscopy because I thought I might die. Spoiler alert, I did not die.

Heaven is A Place On Earth. Hell is A Place In My Marriage.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

"Got My Mind Set On" Making Wisecracks About George Harrison's (And Jeff Lynne's?) Left-Field Comeback Hit

Here was the sound of me, upon discovering a musical fact, at some point in the mid-'90s, having become extremely aware of the Beatles since the '80s, but not having been the least bit aware of the Beatles while growing up during the '80s:

"Wait, really? 'Got My Mind Set On You' was a George Harrison solo song??"

The day I discovered that ... was almost as strange a day as the day I discovered that "Too Late for Goodbyes" was a Julian Lennon song. The real twist, of course, is that "Got My Mind Set On You" wasn't by George Harrison, exactly, but first things first. Back in 1988, when I heard "Got My Mind Set On You" on the radio about twenty times a day, I just assumed it was some random '80s hit from some random '80s dude. It might have been nice if someone would have explained to me - a parent, a teacher, a friend, anybody - that this was a massive comeback single by a member of the greatest group of all time. But no. No one bothered to explain that to me.

Let's back up a bit. By 1982, England's answer to Ravi Shankar had fallen a long way from the heights of All Things Must Pass. Gone Troppo peaked at a mere #108 in the US, and didn't even chart in the UK. Gone Troppo? How about just ... "Gone"? So he took a break, and in retrospect it could have very easily turned into a long one. Hey, why release another half-assed batch of meandering soft rock that nobody's going to buy when you can produce Terry Gilliam movies, drive race cars, and sip tea with Eric Clapton and Vishnu every afternoon? You know, maybe the days of being a top-tier recording artist were behind him. He didn't like touring. He didn't like having to do promotional interviews where nine out of every ten questions consisted of Beatles probing. No shame in hanging it up.

Meanwhile, a certain former leader of the Electric Light Orchestra with a penchant for Olivia Newton-John soundtracks was experiencing a similarly awkward career transition, although he didn't fall quite as far as George did (to be fair, he hadn't reached quite the same heights as George had either). By 1986's Balance of Power, ELO had ceased to become, shall we say, a "Livin' Thing" and was more or less an orchestra of one. Zen koan: What's the sound of one violin clapping? Guess it was time for Jeff Lynne to conjure some "Strange Magic" of his own and figure out where the hell he was going to take his florescent laser show next.

Then, like a bolt out of the blue, a thought came to him that he simply couldn't get out of his head: why rip off the Beatles when you could ... collaborate with one? If only I had thought of that. In reality, Lynne may have done more for George than George did for him, serving as the unlikely catalyst for a wealth of new songwriting activity and bringing back the much-needed enthusiasm for music-making that had been absent from George for almost the entire decade. I wouldn't say that Cloud Nine is near the level of All Things Must Pass, but ... how can I put this? It's better than any 1987 album by George Harrison had any right to be. Personal favorites of mine include "Fish on the Sand," "Just for Today," and "Devil's Radio," which received their share of radio play, but it's the two big official singles with two big official videos (well, make that three?) that everybody remembers.

Question: Is there anyone here who feels like knocking "When We Was Fab"? Anybody? Speak now or forever hold your obnoxiousness. I dare anyone to knock a video that features:
  • 1:43 Jeff Lynne playing the world's longest violin 
  • 2:00 Some random guy in a walrus suit who George claimed in interviews was Paul McCartney, just to confuse the hell out of people (spoiler: it probably wasn't him) 
  • 2:23 Paul Simon pushing a produce cart 
  • 2:41 Elton John tossing coins in George's busking cup 
  • 2:48 Ringo carrying the world's longest keyboard, with help from ... Ringo? 

Of course, Mr. Starkey contributed more than mere roadie assistance; his tight, tom-tom heavy turn on the kit received an admirably non-mushy treatment from Lynne. One might have thought that the shamelessly Beatle-referencing single would have been the album's runaway smash (as the Lennon tribute "All Those Years Ago" had been from Somewhere In England), but "When We Was Fab" only hit #23 in the US and #25 in the UK. Clearly a younger, less nostalgic generation didn't find it nearly as fab as the other major single from Cloud Nine, which boasted one of the most intricate, verbose choruses in all of '80s pop:
I've got my mind set on you
I've got my mind set on you
I've got my mind set on you
I've got my mind set on you
Hmmm. So what he's saying is ... he's got his mind set on her. Interesting. Now, you may be tempted to take George to task for phoning it in on these lyrics, but "Got My Mind Set On You" could very well be, aside from "Tainted Love," the most famous '80s hit that most people have no idea was actually a cover of an obscure '60s soul song. And unlike Gloria Jones, James Ray didn't even get to date that guy from T. Rex a decade later: he died when he was 23. Did you know that George was the first Beatle to visit the US? In 1963 he took a trip to see his sister Louise in Illinois, months before "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was even a glint in Ed Sullivan's eye. Naturally, he raided the local record store and bought obscurities such as the Donays' "Devil in Her Heart" (which the Beatles quickly covered, with George singing lead) as well as an album by James Ray, whose only major hit ended up being "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody." Let's see what we've got here:

Whoa. Ray's version is a little more ... smoky. He sounds like he's filling in for a gig that Sam Cooke or Ben E. King bailed on. The YouTube comments section is littered with people claiming that this original version is "way better" than George's. Well, it's certainly more obscure. At any rate, once Jeff Lynne got his hands on this sucker, he slicked it up like nobody's business. I kind of wish someone had imposed an "acoustic guitar overdub limit" on Lynne's late '80s work (*cough* Full Moon Fever *cough*), and the whole thing kind of sounds like Otis Redding trapped to death in a tin can, but you have to give it to the two of them: the cover does have a certain ... something (pun intended?).

The fact that George merely covered the song did not, however, stop Weird Al from mocking his version mercilessly with "(This Song's Just) Six Words Long," a deep cut from Even Worse. I'm tempted to point out to Weird Al that "(This Song's Just) Six Words Long" is actually a lot longer than six words, but perhaps ... that's part of the joke?

The truth is, "Got My Mind Set On You" was a song so nice, they made a video for it twice! The first version features a bunch of trendily-dressed teens in a state-of-the-art arcade, although for some reason the skinny blonde gum-chewing girl in a sleeveless crop top and giant earrings is peering into ... what is that thing? A kinescope? A Nickelodeon? And guess who's inside? George Harrysong! Meanwhile, a greaser kid in jeans and a white t-shirt (with the sleeves rolled up?) has, so it would appear, "got his eyes set on" the blonde, although he plays it cool by trying to grab a stuffed animal out of one of those stupid claw machines. Somehow, he apparently becomes the first person to ever grab an item from that machine successfully, but just as he's reeling in the porcelain ballerina for himself, he accidentally drops it ... into the black and white footage of George and Jeff Lynne on stage, where the ballerina promptly springs to life and George tries to pretend he's into the idea of making these stupid MTV videos. Finally, after several kicks to the machine, the ballerina drops from the stage and ends up in the kid's hands.

I guess somebody (possibly George?) took a look at that video and thought, "You know ... I think we can do better." This leads us to the second - and more widely known - clip. At the start of this one, George sits down in the middle of what appears to be a typical study in an ornate English mansion and begins to strum a guitar. A fire is roaring in the fireplace. A caged bird on the right is the only sign of life. Suddenly, at about the 0:32 mark, the surrounding furniture starts to behave a little ... curiously. However, despite activity that would turn most observers' faces deathly pale, George hardly seems to notice and keeps crooning away merrily. And who knew he was such an incredible breakdancer? I have to say, the duo of mounted moose's head and mounted boar's head really nail those backing vocals, and let's also give it up for the gopher's mean pipe playing. "Now this," George probably thought, "is my kind of video."

So George, at the tender age of 45, unexpectedly had a #1 hit, and everyone was happy for him - probably even happier for him than he was for himself. Cloud Nine turned out to be both a comeback and the launching pad for a new adventure with some old pals. See, while recording a Cloud Nine b-side, George and Jeff ended up inviting a few friends over, and those friends happened to be more famous and more talented than my friends (no offense). Basically, the Cloud Nine sessions unexpectedly gave birth to the Traveling Wilburys. However, while that particular collaboration grabbed the headlines, it was not the most momentous one of George's late '80s, post-Cloud Nine career. I mean hey, making records with Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan must have been a real thrill for the guy, but it clearly paled in comparison to another collaboration that would soon follow. No, George's comeback wouldn't be truly complete until he teamed up with one of the greatest musical artists he'd ever worked with, and would ever work with - a legend more legendary than Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan combined:

Belinda Carlisle.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"Faith": Too Much Butt, Not Enough Rockabilly

In October 1987, the world was waiting for words of healing, words of insight. The globe cried out for a single phrase that would reach into the souls of the lost children like a thousand beams of holy divination. One man was ready to rise to the occasion. One man had been to the wilderness and had returned with the wisdom that spoke to the age's deepest wounds. Here ... were this man's words:

"I've got to have faith-uh-faith-uh-faith-ah!"

Full confession: I think the compositional elements of "Faith" are strong. The lyrics, if not overly-complex, are effective and memorable. The chord progression is pleasing. The usage of the Bo Diddley beat in a dance-pop context is surprising and fresh. I think the song deserved to be a big hit.


I've always sort of vaguely felt that "Faith" doesn't quite ... groove the way it should. It doesn't quite move the way it should. In other words, I'm not sure it was recorded as well as it could have been. It's too stiff. It's too meek. I sensed this as a kid. I sensed it when I listened to Faith in the late '90s. I sense it today. I recognize that George was aiming for a rockabilly "pastiche" that wouldn't necessarily be "actual rockabilly", and yet ... the song doesn't ... rock enough. It sounds like he just recorded a demo version with a cheap drum machine on it and thought, "Eh, good enough." With a ballad like "One More Try," you can get away with that, but sometimes you need to actually rock to do a rock song, you know? I feel like "Faith" should sound more like, say, Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Now there's a rockabilly pastiche that really rocks. Instead, it came out more like an off-brand "Footloose." For instance, when some actual guitars show up for an actual, supremely twangy guitar solo in the middle, it makes me think, "Yeah! That's what this baby needs right here." In summary, I feel like the song was sort of a missed opportunity, in a way that his other big hits were not. But I'm not too worked up about it.

And I certainly can't complain about the vocals. George was one of those rare singers who could inject a bit of silliness into his singing without undermining the emotional intensity of the performance. My two favorite bits would have to be the "Bey-bae-uh!" at 1:50, followed by the "Mm-beyyyyyyyyyyyy-bae-uh!" at 1:59. Too bad nobody bothered to hire a drummer.

Then there is the infamous video, which may be better known by its alternate title, "George Michael's Butt." Yes, George Michael's butt appears in a starring role. If your idea of a great music video is one that features many, many shots of George Michael's jiggling hind quarters, then this, my friends, is your Citizen Kane. Granted, there are also numerous shots of the singer's other body parts, including his legs, his crotch, his glove-encased hand (question: Can you play guitar with a glove on your hand?), and even, occasionally, his face. My understanding is that George is extremely sexy in this video, but I'll have to take heterosexual women and homosexual men at their word. I feel like the video might have been just one big opportunity for George to turn himself on. Question: Do you think George Michael jerked off to his own videos?

Here's what I want to know: what's with the leather jacket that says "BSA" on it? I associate that acronym with a certain youth group that was not terribly fond of men of George's particular persuasion. Talk about a subversive political statement slipping under the radar! In the end, the budget for the "Faith" video must have stood in stark contrast to the amount of money that the song ultimately earned, as the tune with a video consisting of George Michael's butt wiggling in a white room next to a jukebox became the #1 Billboard hit of 1988. Perhaps the blow-dried record label skeptics, viewing the rough cut in an air-freshened conference room, just needed to have a little more  ... "faith" in their recording artist's butt. Professor Higglediggle writes:
Michael had confronted the hyperpotent reductivism of Judeo-Christian dialectics in prior works ("Last Christmas," "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)") but with "Faith" he (re)contextualized the (pre)existing symbolic domain in slightly more bold, if equally problematic, terms. With its conflation of the spiritual and carnal, the song situates itself in an almost Augustinian duality, Michael observing "When that love comes down without devotion" he recognizes the papal necessity of "showin' [her/him] the door," although he acknowledges the binary co-optation of gender norms with the doubtful aside "Well it takes a strong man baby," as if the "strong man" and his own marginalized position were ethically incompatible. The video renders this moral failure in stark visual terms by contrasting the spectral symbol of the old order (the metal crucifix dangling from Michael's right ear lobe) with the earthly symbol of the new order (Michael's gluteus maximus).

Sunday, April 1, 2018

"Hungry Eyes" And Saxophone Thighs AKA Eric Carmen Loses Control, Wins "Poofiest '80s Hair" Prize

Though my Cheesy '80s Nostalgia Club membership card might be revoked by this admission, I have never seen, nor have I ever been particularly inclined to watch, Dirty Dancing. It's a ... what's the word? What do they call 'em? It's a ... CHICK FLICK. That's what it is. I knew the word would come to me eventually. And if anyone ever gives me a hard time for refusing to see it, I'll just tell them sassily, "Nobody puts Little Earl in a corner."

Sure, I enjoyed "I've Had the Time of My Life" when I was a youth, but now I just associate it with the kind of people who like Dirty Dancing. I mean, I'm not one of those people. I only like cheesy '80s music, not cheesy '80s movies. Jeez. Also, throughout the Summer of '88, I remember hearing the Top 40 station play this uptempo dance song, "Do You Love Me?," by some group called the Contours, and I thought it sounded slightly odd and out of step with the other hits of the era, without knowing quite why.

Another fact that escaped me at the time was that "She's Like the Wind" was not sung by some random generic pop singer, but by ... wait, really? That was Patrick Swayze? Singing? You might as well have told me that Jennifer Beals actually sang "Flashdance ... What a Feeling." Let's face it: he's not half-bad! I mean, he's not amazing. He's bland, but he's not any less bland than his '80s Top 40 contemporaries - a small victory of sorts for all you actors/secretly aspiring singers everywhere. More impressive is the fact that he co-wrote the song. And how would you like to be Wendy Fraser? Your biggest taste of fame was being "featured" on a Patrick Swayze single? Guess she'll take it.

But enough of that guy. Eric Carmen's got something to tell you. He's got this feelin' that won't subside. He looks at you and he fantasizes. I've got a question. What the fuck are "hungry eyes"? I didn't realize that eyes needed sustenance. I'm pretty sure that the "appetite" of a person's eyes, if such a desire existed, would hardly vary from one moment to the next. I mean, if someone could have "hungry eyes," then could they have "stuffed" eyes? Eyes that wouldn't even have room for one more thin mint wafer? And how exactly does one feed "hungry" eyes? With eye droplets? Take your eyes to Taco Bell? What happens if your eyes get hungry at 3:00 a.m.? Well, Jack In The Box is open all night I guess.

In 1987, the biological impracticalities of ocular nutrition were probably the last thing on Eric Carmen's mind; he just wanted a hit. You see, back in the man's younger days (i.e. 1972), Carmen was like a tougher, harder-rocking version of Paul McCartney. If anyone out there comes across a more perfect (or lustier) '70s pop song than the Raspberries' "Go All the Way," please send it to me. However, it turns out that, when he sang "Go All the Way," what he actually meant was, "Go all the way ... into shameless pop schmaltz." Sure, everyone's allowed a little artistic license here and there, and you can't expect a guy to repeat himself his whole career, but ... "All By Myself"? It's like he concluded that he was ripping off the wrong McCartney. Instead of ripping off rocking McCartney, he needed to rip off wimpy McCartney! Because nothing screams out "hit song" like Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2. Don't wanna be "all by [yourself] anymore"? Then why did you leave the Raspberries, buddy? Or maybe they left him - and judging by "All By Myself," one might understand why. And so Eric McCartmen continued to churn out a string of borderline Yacht Rock singles throughout the late '70s. By 1987, the guy was so washed up that he was starting to become an environmental beach hazard to seagulls, like those little plastic six-pack rings. Ah, but as with so many other singers who found themselves stranded on the Island of '70s Pop Has-Beens, a film soundtrack finally sailed to Carmen's rescue.

The list of sleazy '80s hits is a long one, but "Hungry Eyes" may very well be the sleaziest of the sleaziest. There's something about the syrupy combo of synthesized bass line, imitation vibraphone, and Rafferty-tastic sax solo that makes me feel like I just left a strip club that closes at 4:00 a.m. - and stumbled into the strip club across the street that closes at 5:00 a.m. The lyrics are voyeuristic and pervy and not particularly ashamed of it. And the video. Sweet Jesus, the video. Check out our man Eric at the commencement, lounging back in a dark warehouse, getting off on Dirty Dancing footage. The reel winds through the projector to its conclusion. He needs a new distraction. He begins dreaming of a sultry model in a low-cut dress, picking flowers. Then she's suddenly being projected onto the wall ... no, wait, she's there in the flesh, moving closer to Eric! Is she ... real? She brushes his cheeks with her hands. If looks could talk, Eric's stunned reaction at 0:58 would say, "Whoa. Dude. Who was that?" He pulls a Keanu. She walks away, turns around, and then she ... disappears! She's a ghost, Eric. You've got the hots for a ghost. I hate to break it to you, but those hungry eyes are going to need to find a more corporeal meal.

At around 1:57, Ghost Babe suddenly reappears in a blue-tinted rain forest wearing a new gold (but equally low-cut) dress. At 2:46, we realize that, not only is she a sexy Ghost Babe, but she can play a mean sax! There's one final twist. Eric sits down at an outdoor cafe and sees Ghost Babe leaning against a building, her glove-encased arms wrapped around a rather un-photogenic fellow who looks like he just forked over an impressive sum of money to be with her. He turns his head to kiss her, and when he turns back around, Ghost Babe is suddenly ... some Asian chick? I'm telling you man, too many lonely nights watching Dirty Dancing in a dark warehouse can take you to some weird places. Luis Bunuel, eat your heart out. Favorite YouTube comments:
Jeez that girl can blow a horn...

You know shlt gets serious when babe busts out the saxophone.

i dont think the lady playing the saxophone was the in studio performer

it may be just me but it does not look like that chick is actually playing that sax

she could've at least moved her fingers hahaha

Amazng that she can change the notes of the saxophone just by swaying to the tune without changing her fingering

Every woman in the world young or old should be offered the opportunity to look like they are playing a saxophone to this song with a city night green screen!

director: "you know what guys, let's have the model do the sax solo, why the hell not? And we'll shoot upskirt to distract everyone from how absurd it is, even in 1987."

This song has to be inspired by the way my uncle's dog looks at me while eating pizza.

I get weird looks in the bakery when I sing this to donuts. I don't care, it's how I feel.

I didn't know Robert Downy Jr. had such a great voice.

I want to hear this song covered by Eric Cartman.

this song makes me think of cannibalism. I can picture a serial killer playing this song while he devours human flesh. it's creepy.
Well, when you're hot, you're hot, and Carmen didn't pussyfoot around. Though "Make Me Lose Control" followed "Hungry Eyes" by mere months, apparently someone had fed the Chia Pet on his head in the meantime. It's like a whole new 'do - or two of them! The song's main bass-and-piano riff is like a shameless cross between the chord progression from "Twist and Shout" and the bossa nova rhythm from "Under the Boardwalk," with a chorus that pays homage to (rips off?) the Righteous Brothers' "You're My Soul and My Heart's Inspiration." As I understand it, Mike Love, I assume fresh from a late night "Kokomo" recording session, also makes an appearance on backing vocals, giving the tune some much-needed "shameless pseudo-Happy Days Baby Boomer pandering" cred. Of course, nothing compliments '50s rock 'n' roll nostalgia like ... glossy '80s production! And we know how all those classic oldies always featured a tight a capella rendering of the chorus followed by ... heavily phased supersonic turbo-powered studio effects (at 4:06). Take it away, YouTubers:
He lost control of that

Dude has a serious case of Lady Hair! And spray tan was not even invented yet.

No chick wants a dude with better hair than her !

I bet that hair can cure cancer.

That hair style alone caused the ozone layer to be depleted by 1% that year.

Yeah I think if Eddie Money & Richard Marx's mullets had gotten together & also gotten it on, Eric Carmen's hairdo is what their baby would look like. Haha.

he looks a little bit like Billy Joel with Tina Turners wig

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"Heaven Is A Place On Earth"; Hell Is A Place For Anyone Who Badmouths Belinda Carlisle's Biggest Hit

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without catchy '80s pop songs, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the listening public. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of '80s radio. And God said, Let there be an extremely catchy '80s pop song: and there was Belinda Carlisle.

And God saw the Belinda, that she was good: and God divided the Belinda from the Go-Go's.

And God called the extremely catchy '80s pop song "Heaven is a Place on Earth."

Pretty sure that's how the Bible begins. I dunno, it's been a while. Maybe my translation's a little funky. But no other explanation for the creation of "Heaven is a Place on Earth" is remotely plausible. Despite published evidence stating that Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley composed the piece, I am partially convinced that it was written by God himself. The song is simply too catchy to have been created by mere man. One would expect a flaw somewhere, a weakness, a defect ... but there is none. It was not written, but merely transcribed from the heavens.

"Heaven is a Place on Earth" might very well be ... The Catchiest Song of All Time (TM).

"Heaven is a Place on Earth" is the only Belinda Carlisle song, either with the Go-Go's or solo, that has truly become ... what's the word? Ubiquitous. It is one of those '80s pop songs that will just always ... be. To use Jungian terminology, it has entered our collective unconscious. Let me put it this way: if you accost a random person on the street, and ask them if they know who Belinda Carlisle is, that person might say they do not. You could sing them every song Belinda ever sang in her 36 year recording career, and they might not know any of them.

But they will know this one.

It is a soundtrack staple, having been featured in everything from Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion and American Wedding to Love and Other Drugs and Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, not to mention (as every other recent comment on the song's YouTube page will remind you) the finale of the "San Junipero" episode of Black Mirror.

It is the song that Belinda Carlisle's fame rests on. It is, and is perhaps forever destined to remain, her ultimate, lasting legacy. It is also catchier than the themes from Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, The Andy Griffith Show, and I Dream of Jeannie put together. They say men have died from being unable to escape the eternal pull of the song's ingratiating chorus. If what they say is true, then I can't possibly imagine a sweeter way to die.

"Heaven is a Place on Earth" was Belinda's only #1 US hit, either solo or with the Go-Go's. Sometimes you only get one. But you know what? Belinda can always say that she's had just as many Billboard #1 hits as Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry, and Neil Young have had (and more than Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bob Dylan ever had!). It reached the summit for precisely one week in December 1987, preceded by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes's "I've Had the Time of My Life" and swiftly followed by George Michael's "Faith." But it was not merely a domestic triumph. Like "Don't You Want Me," "Every Breath You Take," "Careless Whisper," or "West End Girls," it was one of those '80s singles that refused to recognize pesky international boundaries. It became a massive hit on a global scale. It was one of those songs that just seemed to scream out "Number One With a Bullet." It may have even been, in the words of Jane Wiedlin's buddies Sparks, the "Number One Song in Heaven."

You'd think I'd be able to recall when I first heard "Heaven is a Place on Earth," but I cannot. The moments that define one's life, lost in the dustbins of memory. I don't remember particularly hearing it around the time of its release, and yet, when I heard the song in the early '90s, I feel like I was hearing a song I'd definitely heard already. In 1998, I borrowed one of those "80s Classic Ballads CDs" from a fellow camp counselor, thinking I would throw the keepers onto a tape I had lying around solely for the purpose of recording random songs that didn't fit on any other cassette (ah, the days before the mp3). Well, most of the '80s Classic Ballads I deemed non-Classic enough for my tape, but I saved some room for "Heaven is a Place on Earth." That was one I definitely needed in my collection somewhere. I found it hard to believe that I didn't have it on a tape already. Talk about a no-brainer.

A year or so before my Paul-like conversion into the Church of Carlisle, I was on my lunch break, enjoying some passable Indian food and perusing the local paper, when I noticed an article in the entertainment section. It was an interview with someone I'd never heard of: songwriter Rick Nowels. But when the article mentioned that he was the co-author of Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven is a Place on Earth," I immediately put down the paper, looked up toward the dingy ceiling of the food court, and thought, "Say no more." I mean, give the man a medal. Dude didn't need to write another decent song for the remainder of his pathetic career. Belinda knows what I'm talkin' about. From Lips Unsealed: "I heard the song the day after it was written. Rick sat at a piano, and Ellen sang. It was like they were showing me a newborn baby." Yes, and like Jesus, "Heaven is a Place on Earth" came into the world so that mankind could be saved. "I've had few reactions like the one I had after hearing them. I knew the song, even better than a hit, was a classic." Yeah, sure Belinda. Easy to say in retrospect.

Not everyone was quite so impressed. Certain listeners have suggested that the song is a ripoff of either Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Livin' on a Prayer," or both - a resemblance that, frankly, had never occurred to me prior to hearing someone mention it, but then again, despite their pending induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I've probably spent about five brain cells in my entire existence thinking about Bon Jovi. Of course, anyone who refers to Belinda Carlisle's definitive masterpiece as a mere "Bon Jovi ripoff" should die in a flaming inferno, but ... you know, I just listened to all three songs in a row and ... hmmm. I've heard less plausible accusations, let's just say that. Both "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Heaven is a Place on Earth" begin with an a cappella rendition of the chorus, followed by a solely instrumental rendition. And the big chord change in "Heaven" between "worth" and "ooh heaven" does, if one squints, seem a bit similar to the change in "Livin' on a Prayer" between "there" and "oh whoa, livin'." Maybe. And all three songs kind of share the same tempo. And all three songs feature a shameless T.U.K.C. (Totally Unnecessary Key Change) at the end. You know what? If Belinda ripped off Bon Jovi even a teenie tiny bit, she took whatever was good about those Bon Jovi songs and made it about a thousand times better. You know why Belinda's song is better? Because it's being sung by Belinda Carlisle, and those other songs are being sung by Bon Jovi. You mean to tell me that Mr. Watered Down Housewife Rock Working Class Malaise can even compete for one second with Ms. Yuppie Superbabe Extraodinaire? Ha! Bon Jovi fans are just jealous. That said, the electronica band Orbital has been known to mash up "Heaven" with "You Give Love a Bad Name" in concert performances of "Halcyon + On + On," which, I have to say, works well enough to hinder my argument. Amusingly, Nowels himself claims he was mainly inspired by Prince (!).

In what may have been a Wikipedia prank, several years ago a sentence on the song's Wikipedia page claimed that the melody was an interpolation of an aria from Bach's Christmas Oratorio, which seemed to explain why the song feels so supernaturally seamless. I knew that wily Rick Nowels couldn't have just pulled a chorus like that out of thin air! And if you're going to rip somebody off, it might as well be Bach, right? (Ask Procol Harum). But alas, I downloaded Bach's Christmas Oratorio, listened to the aria in question, and heard no blatant resemblance to any aspect of "Heaven is a Place on Earth." The sentence is no longer on the Wikipedia article. I think we might have to give this one to ol' Ricky Boy (and Shipley) after all.

Because you want a hook? This song's got a hook.

Some songs take a little time to get going. Other songs just grab you by the balls right from the first note and say "Come here big fella." "Heaven" doesn't "begin" so much as descend from the sky on a magic puffy cloud of '80s production goo. A single solitary pound of the bass drum acts as the clarion call to a new age, as Belinda and her back-up seraphs (including, apparently, Michelle Phillips) enter the arena, smothered with more echo than a Ricola commercial, while Thomas Dolby (!) doubles the melody on some sort of imitation glockenspiel doodad. You thought your '80s hit had an intro? This is an '80s hit with an intro. You're stuck, you're in, you can't turn back. If this intro could talk, it would say, "For the next four minutes, you're mine, baby, all mine." As the chorus enters its third bar at 0:08, I hear a really dated-sounding bass de-tuning, but otherwise the quasi-Gregorian glory of the opening has aged about as poorly as God has.

I've been pondering for years - no exaggeration - what exactly it is about the chorus of "Heaven is a Place on Earth" that makes it so ... "heavenly"? You will say that it's catchy. Yes, it's catchy, but a lot of choruses are catchy. This one is catchy, and also ... more. I think it has something to do with the rhythm of the words, the sustained pauses, not just the notes but the silence between the notes, that give it a kind of ... confidence. The first few words "Ooh, baby do you" all exist on the same repeated note, like an incantation, a mantra. The melody only begins to rise on "know what that's worth." The initial repetition brings a semblance of comfort, as if we're safe in the arms of the world's greatest Belinda Carlisle song, and once we know we're safe, we can now follow her on this journey to another realm.

And ooh, baby, do you know how enigmatic these lyrics are? I love songs that begin with a question. "Blowing in the Wind." "With a Little Help From My Friends." "Layla." "Free Bird." "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." "Bohemian Rhapsody." "Comfortably Numb." It pulls the listener in, adds an air of mystique. "Ooh baby do you know what that's worth?" What is what worth? Who is she talking to? What the hell's going on? It's a mystery. Come to think of it, upon closer inspection, the lyrics of "Heaven" don't actually ... make a lick of sense. "They say in heaven love comes first"? Who says this? Have you ever heard anyone say this? "We'll make heaven a place on earth"? I don't think that sentence is phrased correctly. I think what's intended is something more like "We'll make earth a place that's more like heaven." I mean, you could make heaven a place on earth, but how many square miles would that "place" be? And just where, precisely, would you put it? Everything's already been placed here. You'd have to dislodge something. "And the world's alive/With the sound of kids on the street outside"? Is that supposed to be a welcome sound? I know whenever I hear kids on the street outside, I feel like clenching my fist in the air and telling those kids to take that racket elsewhere, but maybe Rick Nowels thinks it's romantic.

Whatever. Belinda's fiery, magnetic delivery renders the details moot. She lays into this sucker like it's "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" When she throws that little growl into "Baby" at the start of "Baby I was afraid before" ... yowsers! Call the lion tamer! Unfortunately, by the time she gets to "But I'm not afraid anymore," the claws are out and nothing's going to tame this beast. I'm not sure how afraid she was "before," but when she exclaims that her fear has vanished entirely, well I, for one, believe her. It's like she's ripping her shirt open, declaring to anyone within earshot, "Come on, world, gimme your worst!" Maybe someone in the studio realized this song was pop fluff, but apparently nobody told Belinda.

At around 2:22, the backing vocalists fade mystically into the murk while the band vamps on some new chords. At 2:33, 2:41, and 2:48, the dense fog of back-up singers lets out an eerie "Heaaaaa-vuuuuuuhn" that sounds like it flew in from either the coda of Fleetwood Mac's "Sara" or an all-female Def Leppard cover band. After some tinny-sounding cymbal noises (arguably the only wart on this perfect beast), all of the instruments simmer down apart from the bass, while Belinda repeats her entreaties about the miracle of living and not being afraid anymore and such (retaining every ounce of passion from the prior delivery of those lyrics). Well, it's a good thing she's not afraid, because suddenly heaven turns to hell as the apocalypse begins raining down from the sky and instrumental chaos ensues - there's weird buzzing droning thingies and backwards cymbals and all sorts of demonic goings-on. Is Belinda going to be swallowed up and eaten by the hideous '80s Production Beast? No! What's this? She's saved by a lightning-quick drum roll and what may arguably be the finest example of a T.U.K.C. in all of '80s pop. Talk about a deus ex machina swooping down from the heavens at the last minute.

Discussion of the song's heavenly (and/or charmingly ridiculous) video to follow.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

VNV Nation Intros Ranked

Each VNV Nation album opens with an intro track, often instrumental but occasionally spoken word, that establishes the theme and mood for that particular album. Often times these intros transition into the first real song on the album, though not always. In anticipation of VNV Nation's first new album in five years, I thought I'd go through and rank VNV Nation's intro songs. I've taken into consideration how well each track helps establish the theme of the album, how well it builds flow or transitions into the next song, and how good the song is in general. We'll start at the bottom and move up from there. Here we go:

10. "Intro" - Matter + Form (2005)

Coming in last on this list but first on the "most appropriately titled for this list" is Matter + Form's "Intro". Even though I've placed it dead last I do kind of like this track. It feels ominous, the sound of something swirling, preparing to let loose. "Intro" doesn't flow into the lead-off song "Chrome" and feels almost perfunctory, like the band knew they needed an intro track and just slapped this one together in an hour. At least it doesn't outlast its welcome, clocking in at a svelte 1:30.

9. "On-Air" - Automatic (2011)

I came very close to ranking this one at the bottom. "On-Air" consists mainly of static old-timey radio noises, a similarly old-timey set of strings, all of which then transitions into some light piano. It certainly fits the tone of the album Automatic, with its Metropolis-like cover art and it's retro-futurist lyrical concepts, but as a song it's just kind of languid and, well, a little boring. Though it transitions into a lovely piano, it doesn't build or establish much energy. It's a shame too, because the album is otherwise one of the band's best.

8. "Anthem" - Advance and Follow (1995)

Some purists will call this sacrilege: "How could he place the first song off VNV's first album so low?!" Well, "Anthem" is a relic of a very young VNV Nation who emerged from a 90s industrial scene where the use of obscure samples was de rigueur. "Anthem" seems to be composed almost entirely of samples from TV, movies, and radio.  The use of air raid sirens near the end is neat, though they would be put to better use in a later intro (see below). I do like "Anthem", and one time I just happened to be watching a documentary when I heard the Laurence Olivier sample used to close out the track which jolted me awake like you wouldn't believe.

7. "Prologue" - The Solitary EP (1998)

"Prologue" is a bit like "Anthem" if that song was stripped of all of its percussion and samples and was left with nothing but the air raid sirens. That's nearly all it is - just a building series of air raid sirens with some backing strings. It evokes the feeling that the end of all wars has come, like Judgement Day is upon us, or, perhaps more modernly, reminds me of 9/11.

6. "Chosen" - Praise the Fallen (1998)

"Chosen" is the first intro on our list that contains actual words. I say words because this track and the other intro track (see below) are spoken word more than songs containing actual sung lyrics. "Chosen" is also remarkable due to it being the only VNV Nation track that doesn't use words penned by the band.

"Chosen" is basically a condensed rendition of the short story "Boule de Suif" by Guy de Maupassant. The track is from VNV's early days, when war as a metaphor was the primary lyrical driver. "Chosen" starts tense, with an unending, almost menacing minor chord. The story, delivered in near monotone, describes the horrors of war in a beautifully grotesque manner (or is it grotesquely beautiful?). I used to have the entire thing memorized. The menace eventually fades as the intro transitions into some strings, and finally some piano. After this tenseness has finally washed away I love how the next song "Joy" begins right out of the gate with that proud exclamation from Schiller's "Ode to Joy".

5. "Firstlight" - Empires (1999)

Now we're getting somewhere. "Firstlight" is the opener from VNV's most celebrated album, Empires. It starts off slowly, almost minimalist, and builds from there. It establishes well the palette of sounds the album uses. The only reason it doesn't rank higher is because this track is repeated at the end of the album where it transitions into a pulsing meditation featuring some of VNV's best lyrics.

4. "Pro Victoria" - Of Faith, Power and Glory (2009)

The most martial sounding intro of the bunch, "Pro Victoria" sounds like a rhythmically synchronized ancient Roman army preparing themselves for war. It also sounds like it owes an awful lot to Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary" (I swear those are the same horns in both songs). This song works well on multiple fronts - it builds in such a way that by the end it's got this hypnotizing, almost tribal rhythm, and it works thematically with its martial rhythm serving as a taste of an album about conflict.

3. "Generator" - Transnational (2013)

The most recent entry into this list, "Generator" has a fantastic construction. The track sounds just like its name - a generator coming to life. Starting with nothing more than an initial hum, listening to the track is like hearing an entire factory slowly come to life. To top it off it glides effortlessly into the song "Everything".

2. "Foreword" - Futureperfect (2002)

This one wins the award for most inspiring intro. "Foreword" captures the idealism that lies at the heart of the band's oeuvre. With a simple spoken word phrase repeated in multiple languages over Elger's "Nimrod", "Foreword" instantly establishes the tone and ideals of 2002's Futureperfect. Then, just as gently as it came in, the track transitions into a kind of sonar or radio beeping (I think it's meant to evoke an old radio transmission) ending with a series of violent crashes that push it into the next track "Epicentre". It's a solid intro.

1. "Prelude" - Judgement (2007)

We've made it to #1, what I consider the best VNV Nation intro. "Prelude" is the complete package, just a beauty to listen to. In 4 minutes and 10 seconds it tells a whole story, almost like a condensed film. It's got a cinematic quality to it, helped in part by Judgement's album cover. A friend once told me when she first put on the album she thought she had slipped a Tangerine Dream disc in instead. I can imagine so many scenes playing out to this track. The first time I heard this I was driving in the mountains and it was the perfect accompaniment to the quiet, untouched landscape. Just a wonderful piece of music.