Friday, October 14, 2011

Michael McDonald Gets His Own Joke

So after all this, you might ultimately be wondering: what is Michael McDonald really like? Does he think he's cool? Does he think he's ridiculous? Is he in on his own joke?

Ladies and gentlemen, I think I've found the answer. He is.

Back in 1999, many unsuspecting viewers of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut reached the credits and were initially hit with a punk version of "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" Suddenly, after about a minute and forty-five seconds, a cheap, '80s-style keyboard entered, and a husky, soulful voice began crooning:
The eyes of a child, so innocent and pure
A child's heart is full of song
Take their tiny hand and lead them to the light
As adults we see pain in the world, and it sometimes don't seem right

But through the eyes of a child
The world seems magical
There's a sparkle in their eyes
They've yet to realize the darkness in their soul
The beauty of their smile
Adventurous and wild
Life is kind of gay, but it doesn't seem that way
Through the eyes of a child
Could it really's...Michael McDonald!

Here, according to Parker and Stone, is how it went down:
Having him come in and record that, he was just like, he was fucking perplexed. He said something like, "Beggars can't be can pay me in food...can I crash at your guys' place...yeah it's been kind of lame lately...I gotta do whatever I can." He was great, he did a really good job on that song. He did Michael McDonald really well.
It truly is a treat to hear one of the iconic voices of my childhood belt out lines such as "Spread your wings and fly to the brightest star/If you want I can even get my friend Steve to detail your car - for like 20 bucks." He sounds like he means it.

Additionally, in a recent interview with Time Out New York, McDonald displays an impressive self-awareness. Some excerpts:

You should know going into this that I’ve had “I Keep Forgettin’ ” stuck in my head for 25 years now. I think I’m technically insane.

Well, that’s good to hear.

That “Regulate” song by Warren G and Nate Dogg? Didn’t help.

It’s funny. To my kids, that’s the good version of the song. They say, “Why couldn’t you have written it that way?” They love that record—but not because of anything I did.

As a guy with prematurely graying hair myself, I want to thank you for being a role model.

I wish I had a choice in that one, but yeah, you’re welcome.

You wore it proudly—like Steve Martin!

I wish I could say that I was that way from the beginning. It was only after two or three humiliating episodes where the record company told me, “We’re not going to shoot a video unless you dye your hair,” and I looked like Mr. Chocolate Kiss from Clairol. It had to get really ugly before I decided that I would never dye it again.
All well and good. But what we really want to know is: has he heard of Yacht Rock? Nothing could have prepared me for his delightful answer:

Have you ever owned a yacht?

No, but I thought Yacht Rock was hilarious. And uncannily, you know, those things always have a little bit of truth to them. It’s kind of like when you get a letter from a stalker who’s never met you. They somehow hit on something, and you have to admit they’re pretty intuitive.

Have you at least lived near a marina?

No, I never did. Although a couple summers ago, when I opened for Steely Dan, I’d do the encore with them and come out in a little captain’s hat, like Alan Hale Jr. We all wore them onstage.

And not one of you owns a yacht?

Not that I know of. Well, David Crosby owns a sailboat. But I’m not sure he counts.
The man has not only seen Yacht Rock; he liked it. Sometimes, the universe really is a wonderful place. The interviewer manages to squeeze a few more juicy morsels out of him:

Okay. So what’s the craziest thing you ever did with Kenny Loggins?

We mostly worked a lot when we would get together. Kenny, he’s one of those guys who was a more serious artist; I was just a schlub. He was like, “C’mon, let’s get this right,” and I was like, “Got any beer?”

I’m thinking that your tenure in the Doobie Brothers probably wasn’t drug-free.

Not exactly, no. Not everybody had the same problems that I had, but there was a few of us who did the dust.

Did fans almost expect that kind of stuff from you?

I don’t want it to sound like I’m bragging about smoking pot, but there was a time when that was a big part of our day. Smoking in the morning was normal. But a lot of things became normal to me. Seizures, pissing my pants, waking up in a hotel room with the New York City police at the foot of my bed became normal. It’s not like I’m proud of it.
I'm proud of it, Michael. We're all very proud.


Thus ends our adventures in Yacht Rock - or at least the collection of artists featured heavily in the Yacht Rock web series. In reality, the show has only dipped its toes into the vast ocean that is early '80s soft rock. I have vague plans of starting a series on great Yacht Rock one hit wonders, as well as a series on Yacht Rock's late '80s sister genre, Yuppie Rock. But all in due time. For now, it's on to a discussion of a genre to which I have decided to bestow the name "Cosby Rock."

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