Tag: Stevie Wonder

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

Header

This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest album of all time.

Before you flick lint in my beer or pelt me with wads of Big League Chew for not designating this title to Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay, allow me to point out that there are many albums that are flawless – sometimes in spite of a number of actual flaws. Nary a wayward note blemishes Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, and Paul Simon’s Graceland is among the few utterly perfect slabs of 1980’s vinyl. For me, “the greatest” combines not only artistic and technical brilliance, but the subjective distinction of having served as the soundtrack to many of the most fantastic moments of my life. Your results may (and probably do) vary.

The story of Abbey Road is one of pure, primal mirth, flecked with auburn specks of encroaching melancholy. It is the last glorious and romantic trip to Maui for an otherwise doomed marriage. It marks the greatest rock band in history (an assertion I’ll stand by as wholly factual) producing one final brushstroke upon their legacy before heading their separate ways.

Frustrated-1

This is not a happy group.

In January of 1969, the Beatles were moving in four different directions, and had been for over a year. Their plan was to return to the studio, record a back-to-their-roots album, perform their first concert since the summer of 1966 (the Pyramids in Egypt were a proposed locale, as was a barge adrift in the Atlantic), and film it all for posterity. This attempt to reconnect resulted in a cavalcade of arguments, the grandiose concert reduced to a noon-hour gig on the roof, and the temporary quitting of George Harrison. Read more…

Day 200: A Man Confesses To His Friend, Using Two Hundred 80s Pop Song Titles

In honor of Day 200, I invite you to dig around and find all 200 song titles in the following dialog.

 

Two old friends, Peter and Ian, are having a drink in Ian’s apartment.

 

IAN: “Peter, what’s wrong? You seem to be under pressure. Do you need one more night of magic with those West End girls, buddy?”

PETER: “I’m gonna tear your playhouse down with this news, Ian. It’ll sound cold-hearted, leave you with broken wings and might push you to the borderline of becoming a maniac. Just don’t react in the heat of the moment.”

IAN: You may be right, but it’s a matter of trust, Peter. I’ve been keeping the faith for the longest time that you’re an innocent man. Don’t ask me why, ever since we lived in Allentown I go to extremes while you have the ability to leave a tender moment alone. Just tell me, old friend.

PETER: It’s your wife…

IAN: Sherrie’s quite an uptown girl, isn’t she?

PETER: Ian, she’s a modern woman.

IAN: What’s that supposed to mean?

PETER: It’s hard to say I’m sorry. If I could turn back time, shake it up and change things…

IAN: Relax! The truth is a good thing, and I’ve got my mind set on you speaking it.

PETER: We had sex.

IAN: Oh, Sherrie! My sweet valley girl!

PETER: It was urgent that I tell you tonight, tonight, tonight, Ian. I’m in too deep in this land of confusion, that’s all. Our friendship? Sure, maybe I’m throwing it all away, but if you could have no reply at all for just a moment, let me explain…

IAN: I thought Sherrie and I were on the holiday road to Paradise City; instead these dreams are breaking us in two! I want to cry all night long (all night)!

PETER: It happened when you were on that Africa-Panama trip.

IAN: Weren’t you dating Rosanna then?

PETER: I know, Rosanna was my angel of Harlem, my Caribbean queen; she’s a beauty! But when we were alone, she was a funky cold Medina.

IAN: A what?

PETER: I mean she was no wild thing in bed. We were free fallin’ out of our jungle love like a two of hearts down a wishing well. Just like that, abracadabra, another one bites the dust.

IAN: But Sherrie…

PETER: Remember your white wedding? It was hot in the city that night and I was dancing with myself. Sherrie brought me an Orange Crush. Don’t get me wrong, nothing happened then, but I knew that night that someday we’d get it on (bang a gong).

IAN: This is hitting me like a sledgehammer. What have I done to deserve this?

PETER: She was no easy lover, and you can’t hurry love, you know. Months later I was on my own, when…

IAN: Say, say say! Was this the night you were airing your dirty laundry when she worked the night shift at the Sunset Grill?

PETER: We got caught up in the rhythm of the night, yes. I remember there was a photograph of some China girl over the deep-frying machine, we were little wasted on the way, and our hormones just seemed to… sail on.

IAN: Do you really want to hurt me with this?

PETER: No! It was no endless love, just part of the walk of life is all.

IAN: That heartbreaker. All she wants to do is dance, ever since she was a centerfold.

PETER: Hey Ian, you’ve got a view to a kill in your eyes…

IAN: Why not? Why shouldn’t this nasty torture make me the king of pain? I oughta rock you like a hurricane, the same way you managed to rock me. Amadeus once said, “never trust a smooth operator.”

PETER: Did he say that?

IAN: I’ll knock you from here to Kokomo.

PETER: This is really turning into a manic Monday.

IAN: I’m sorry Peter. The calendar says it’s a new moon on Monday, and that always makes my inner rebel yell like an old pink Cadillac. Besides, I don’t like Mondays anyway.

PETER: You know, you can call me Al before you can call me someone who’d hurt a friend.

IAN: What about that time you hooked up in that love shack with Sara? Wasn’t she Jesse’s girl?

PETER: I guess I just feel forever young. My desire becomes an obsession. I want someone with angel eyes to be near me, so I get all lost in love like some jukebox hero, then one thing leads to another and I end up making love out of nothing at all.

IAN: I had faith in you, Peter. You were like a father figure to me. I feel so out of touch, like I need to hire private eyes to follow this maneater to see who she gets all one-on-one with. It feels like every kiss on my list of greatest kisses has been a fraud! Say it isn’t so, Peter. I can’t go for that. No can do.

PETER: Ian, it’s a small world, and if this is it, it’s as much a perfect world as we’ll ever see. Sure, the power of love can rip apart your heart and soul, and have you walking on a thin line because of her devil inside. But no one is to blame, and really things can only get better! Before you know it, you’ll be back in the high life.

IAN: I can’t just roll with it, not if this is true. It’s a tainted love now.

PETER: She was a part-time lover to me. But she’s still head over heels for you, she’d shout it from the rooftop! She and I were puttin’ on the Ritz, maybe once or twice we’d pump up the jam, but she’s been sowing the seeds of love with you for years.

IAN: She’s just a private dancer. Our relationship has been on the road to nowhere, it’s a wonder I’m not burning down the house!

PETER: Come on, you’re simply the best. You wouldn’t do that.

IAN: And you! Maybe it’s time you beat it, get out of here. You’re just a gigolo!

PETER: But what about love?

IAN: What’s love got to do with it? I’m all out of love.

PETER: Look Ian, just bang your head against the wall a couple of times, and let’s go out. Yah mo B there for you, man. Throw on that raspberry beret you bought in 1999, I’ll call up 867-5309 (Jenny’s number, I think), get her to invite Mickey and that darling Nikki, and you and I will hop in my little red corvette and get delirious! Come on, let’s go crazy!

IAN: Oh yeah… blah blah blah, de do do do de da da da… forget it! I’m the owner of a lonely heart, remember?

PETER: Bull. Even when you wear your cheap sunglasses at night you’re a sharp dressed man. Remember the freedom of our dance hall days? We’d chug down some red red wine and scream, “We are the world!”

IAN: But Sherrie…

PETER: You got lucky when you married her. I know you’ve felt a heartache tonight, but if you love somebody set them free!

IAN: Keep it down, voices carry through these apartment walls.

PETER: Sorry. Come on, Ian. We built this city in our wild electric youth. Sherrie just can’t get enough of you, I swear. But you’re in the danger zone, dwelling on this, and it’s the final countdown before you get hungry like the wolf and do something stupid.

IAN: I guess this is why she was doodling “P.Y.T.” in her notebook instead of “I.G.Y.” She was thinking of your monogram.

PETER: Forget that. So what, so this is the end of the innocence. I guess that’s why they call it the blues, right?

IAN: Oh, Sherrie…

PETER: Enough! I’m still standing, you’re still standing. Don’t worry, be happy Ian! This isn’t the wild, wild west – you’ll forgive those hungry eyes of hers and stay together forever. Sherrie’s never gonna give you up, you’re simply irresistible!

IAN: If you say so…

PETER: For me it was a brief infatuation, and I’m sorry. But some guys have all the luck; she’ll always be your emotional rescue. Sherrie is wrapped around your finger! She’ll always be right here waiting to give you the look when you come home, and I’ll be alone. So what? C’est la vie. Listen to your heart, Ian.

IAN: I guess you’re right. Pretty smart for a super freak.

PETER: Let’s go. Let’s have one last worthless evening like a pair of Ghostbusters under an invisible sun.

IAN: Let’s do it. Let’s go runnin’ down a dream and do some dancing in the dark.

PETER: These are our glory days, my friend. Leave the shattered dreams for the old man down the road. Don’t stop believing!

IAN: Should I call my cousin, Eileen?

PETER: Please. I wouldn’t come on Eileen undercover of the night, brother.

 

Ian and Peter grab their coats and leave.

Day 83: The Rise And Fall And Rise Of The Moog

Today, in a roundabout way, we will be discussing the man who invented the 1980s.

The 80s were the decade of synthesizers. The handful of pop songs which allowed clanging guitars to step out front were eclipsed by a deluge of synthesized modernity, providing an identifiable date-stamp on the sound of the era. As a kid, I loved the synth. As an adult, I probably still love the synth, but I won’t admit it.

Before the Thompson Twins splattered synth like ketchup all over their songs, before Stevie Wonder turned synthesizers into a band, we have to go back to where it all began: the Moog.

Robert Moog started out selling theremins when he was a student (probably not door-to-door; the article doesn’t say). He started to tinker with sound-making devices. Up to this point, any kind of sound synthesizer had to be custom-made, using a number of filters and oscillators that could bend and warp sounds. This video features a 1952 composition by Otto Luenig, an electronic music pioneer. It’s trippy, like someone playing the wine glasses with a major echo effect. Listening to it, I feel as though I should burn some incense, maybe get a foot massage.

But it ain’t no “Final Countdown.”

The time was right for Moog. The advent of the transistor meant that a synthesizer could be built without vacuum tubes – it could be smaller, cheaper, and maybe someday turn into this:

In the 60s, we dreamed we'd all be flying around in our Aero Skyblazers, playing our keytars by 1986.

An analog synthesizer doesn’t come equipped with presets, like “strings”, “oboe”, or “cowbell”; you’d alter the noise by tweaking knobs and stringing patch cables. Cowbells would have to be bolted onto the sides and struck manually. It was a primitive time. Read more…