Sunday, October 22, 2017

While You're Begging, Why Stop At One? AKA The Mighty High Of Hippopotamus Urine Comes At A Cost

Why not ... two more nights? Hell, why not three? I mean, give him one more night ... to do what, exactly? Fix the garbage disposal? What the hell is he going to be able to do in one more God damn night, you know? Nevertheless, he sounds so soft and cuddly while he's asking, you'd have to be one cold-hearted Cruella to refuse it to him.

Then again, does the singer of this song sound like the kind of guy who would really be satisfied with "one more night"? What if, at the end of this "one more night," she still says, "Nope, Phil, I gave you that additional evening you so passionately negotiated for, and, guess what, I still feel like dumping your sorry ass"? Is he really just going to nod his head and say, "OK, fair enough, those were the terms of the deal"? Sometimes you need to set boundaries.

There isn't all that much to "One More Night." It's pure MOR minimalism. It's like soft rock's The Sun Also Rises, only less "Lost Generation" and more "Lost Drum Machine." Somehow, though, Phil added enough feathery keyboards and silky back-up vocals to give it that lush, dimly-lit honeymoon suite atmosphere those 1985 record buyers craved. Why is it that, compared to "Sussudio," this one still sounds pretty freakin' good to me? Is it the absence of horns? It's certainly not absent of "horn," but unlike the piercing brass of its predecessor, the saxophone solo during the fade-out of "One More Night" is so smooth, it feels like my ears are slipping on a banana peel. However, after reading on Wikipedia that the sax player, Earth, Wind & Fire's Don Myrick, was fatally shot by L.A. police during a narcotics investigation because they mistook his lighter for a weapon, suddenly that solo hasn't quite sounded the same.

I love the line, "And I was wondering should I call you, then I thought, may-beeee you're nahhht uh-lone." The way his voice climbs into falsetto on those last four words, he just sounds so ... wussy? Just admit it Phil, she's probably moved on and found a real, you know, non-balding boyfriend. Time to grow a pair. Lift some weights, take a karate class, buy a Harley or something.

According to Wikipedia, "Collins was playing around with his drum machine when he started saying the chorus of the song. He later recalled that 'The rest of the song was written very quickly.'" Yeah, somehow I don't find that very hard to believe. This is the way Phil Collins #1 hits get written, ladies and germs.

Or is it? From In The Air Tonight:
I was jamming with my Nigerian buddy Orumbe in Lagos one night, chatting about our favorite Afrobeat records and arguing about the best kinds of animal tranquilizer to get high on. You know, the usual.

"Sometimes, Phillip, you don't even need a drug."

"What are you talking about?"

"Some animals, they make it on their own." He leaned in and began to whisper. "I know some tribal medicine men about 16 kilometers from here. You familiar with ... how do you say it ... the hippopotamus?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Well, do you know about ... fermented hippopotamus urine?"

So he busted out a jar and, man, he wasn't kidding. You took a whiff and it was like Hendrix and Janis were jamming together ... in your mind! I had to leave for Glasgow the next day, so I asked him if I could take a jar with me.

"Well, it is not the easiest thing to get your hands on, and I promised Tony Allen a jar, but ... for my pal Phillip? Sure!" He patted me on the back. "Just please pay me by next month."

"Next month? No problem."

The thing is, when I said I would pay him, I absolutely, positively intended to pay him. But, well ... you know ol' Phil. Between all the music videos, benefit concerts, and Japanese geisha parlors, it was hard to keep track. Fast forward six months later. I'm doing a show in Philly. I've just finished raping two chickens - really gets the blood going before showtime - and I'm in my hotel room drinking tea - for my vocal cords - when five giant Nigerian guys suddenly burst in and pin me to the wall.

"Collins! Thought you could blow us off, eh? You still owe Orumbe, you little drummer bitch!"

"All right, all right! I'll pay him, I'll pay him!" My voice escaped my strangulated throat in a pathetic wheeze.

"Right now, Collins, or your little Genesis dick will soon be feeling a taste of Revelation, you understand?"

"OK, OK, listen, I don't have it on me right now, all right? Just ... just gimme one more night."

"One more night?"

"One more night, and he'll have his fuckin' money." My eyeballs were slipping gently in and out of their sockets.

"Cause we can't wait forever."

"Well you're not gonna have to wait forever, 'cause I'll have it tomorrow."

"One more night, or we're playing Hungry Hungry Hippos on your limey ass. And this time, I'm not talking about fermented hippopotamus urine."

The moment they let me go, I fell to the floor and leaned over on all fours until my breath returned. "Fuck," I thought as the blood came back to my brain. Where was I going to get that kind of money on that kind of notice? So ... I pawned my wedding ring. Thing is, I hadn't actually divorced that particular wife yet, but I figured, knowing my track record, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

That Time Belinda And Grace Slick Hosted "Legendary Ladies Of Rock & Roll"

Having recently been united in cinematic glory, if only via soundtrack magic, perhaps Belinda Carlisle and Grace Slick felt it only natural to team up and ... host a cheesy oldies revival concert for Cinemax? And why not? It's only fitting. Why, the combined cost of the drug intake between these two could've arguably paid all the overdue royalties these guest artists were cheated out of over the years.

Imagine, if you will, a world without YouTube, where gems like these would lie undiscovered for eons, never to be treated to a barrage of snarky comments from '80s music bloggers. What a sad, sad world that would be. Sure, you might be laughing, but frankly, this line-up is nothing to snicker at: we've got ... Martha Reeves! Mary Wells! Lesley Gore! Brenda Lee! Freda Payne! Shirley Alston Reeves! And the recently resurrected Ronnie Spector!

Holy Jackie Kennedy. It's like I'm back in the high school gym in 1963 all over again, getting the shit beaten out of me for glancing too long at the quarterback's girlfriend. Seriously, who did they leave out? Shelly Fabares? Shirley Alston Reeves was the one name I didn't recognize, but when she started singing "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," I realized it was Shirley Owens, AKA the lead singer of the Shirelles. The Shirelles! In other words, Little Earl is basically an admirer of every one of these performers and has at least a greatest hits CD of theirs (or in the case of Brenda Lee, a four-disc boxed set) in his music collection.

Not to mention: special guest star ... Clarence Clemmons!

Of course, no one on stage besides the Big Man and the two hosts were in anything like the prime of their careers, but why be a party pooper? This apparently being February 1987, here we find Belinda in a curious not-quite-blonde, not-quite-brunette phase, as the Belinda period began to wind down and the Heaven On Earth period began to ramp up. She seems to be wearing a purple sweater with sparkles on it, over a black ... jumpsuit? Whatever, I'm into it. Despite being about fifteen years younger than everyone else, she somehow manages to avoid embarrassing herself. Hilariously, Grace Slick was actually older than every single one of the "legendary ladies" she was hosting here (look it up), but in the public imagination, few would probably lump Jefferson Airplane in with the Shirelles (unless you happened to be under the influence of some heavy psychedelics, in which case, perhaps you might).

I'm not sure if Lesley Gore's voice ended up aging too well, but to be fair, she was about 17 when she recorded the original versions of her hits, and she certainly seemed to be having a good time on this particular night ("Was she great? Was she fabulous? Martha Reeves, thank you baby."). Reeves does sound pretty great ... until she reaches for the high notes. Mary Wells doesn't sound too bad considering she was just a couple of years from being diagnosed with throat cancer. However, they may have all gotten smoked by Brenda Lee, who sounds like she's doing just another concert in the middle of an actual tour (which she probably was) and not an oldies show. Yeah, Brenda Lee's sorry all right. Sorry she can out-sing everyone else on this special (probably even Belinda and Grace). Clarence knows what I'm talkin' about.

I doubt many in the audience realized it, but Belinda was certainly no stranger to Freda Payne, and this time she wisely lets Freda take the spotlight on "Band of Gold" (which nevertheless still sounds more like Belinda's tacky, then-current re-make than the original) while Belinda dances awkwardly to Freda's right and sings some barely audible backing vocals. Works for me!

Ronnie Spector, fresh off "Take Me Home Tonight" and acting curiously horny, charmingly introduces Belinda and Grace as "my two Ronettes" before she trudges her way through "Be My Baby." At this point the entire ensemble hops onto the stage and launches into "Da Doo Ron Ron," with everyone presumably getting a line or two (as opposed to, say, doing a line or two). Grace belts out a somewhat inappropriately robust "Summm-bah-dee told me that his name was Bih-hih-hill," while Belinda lets her sweet vibrato fly on "Yeahhhh, my heart stood stillll/Yeahhhh, his name was Billll/And when he walked me hoh-oh-ome." Phew! Didn't fuck up. Whoever was next, however (I'm looking at you, Martha Reeves?), apparently fucked up, as no one sings the following lyric. But Brenda Lee doesn't even blink and papers over the mishap like a consummate pro. No one ruffles Little Miss Dynamite.