My song

I’ve always wanted a song. When asked what song did I call my own, I have been known to respond jokingly, “Nowhere Man.”

It wasn’t because of the lyrics. If I had listened to the lyrics, I would have known that wasn’t me. I just liked the title.

I’ve thought about Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” Love the song but it’s one of those pick-my-rear-end-out-of-the-dirt-and-get-on-with-it songs.

It does that. And it does it in aces. But I can’t say that it is a song that defines me.

Then I heard Greg Lake of Emerson Lake & Palmer perform his “Footprints in the Snow.”

I chanced upon the song by accident. I had heard that Keith Emerson had committed suicide. To honor this great musician whom I had loved in my youth, I went back and listened to several of their albums, then I found Footprints. At first, I thought maybe Greg had written it for Keith–and that may be so. I found it on the 1992 “Black Moon” and began to re-evaluate. Maybe Greg composed this song for one of his children. Or a lover.

But there seemed to be more to it than that. At least, for me. Over the years since that 2016 night, I’ve listened to Footprints hundreds of times. Wasn’t sure why I loved the song but I loved the song.

The other night I pulled it up and listened to Footprints once again. And it hit me. This is a song about my relationship with myself. It’s a struggle of trying to come to terms with that relationship.

“First time when you looked at me
You tried to hide but I could see
A special beauty in your eyes
Passion flying like a spark
Like an arrow to the mark
I feel it sting my jealousy

Before you know there’s footprints in the snow

Desire like a river flows
Where it comes from no one knows
It isn’t heard, it isn’t seen.
Love just like a flower grows
And then God only knows
It comes down like guillotine

Now I feel the rain
of love torn by a hurricane
One night eclipsed the sun
How deep still waters run

How deep they go like footprints in the snow

Take my love into your brest
Commit my spirit to the test
You will see him like a knight
His armour gleams
We’ll fly upon his angel’s wings
Above the clouds in rainbow rings
We can sail a ship of dreams

If you will take my hand
We can cross this desert made of sand
We can break in through the ice
And feel the wind of paradise
We’ll feel it blow our footprints in the snow

Anytime you feel alone
Just raise your hand, pick up the phone
Take in my number, there I’ll be
If one day your stars won’t shine
I will give you some of mine
Cause they could fall so easily

We both know there’s footprints in the snow.”

Do you have a song you claim as your own? What is it, and why?

The Big Unh-huh

He was a hunka-hunka burning love, this Elvis, and all the girls loved him for it. Just to hear their screams during his shake-rattle-and-rolls on stage and you knew how much. He was a magician and he gave us a magic that shot electricity through every performance and right down to our bones. When he delivered with his pelvic motions and his unh-huhs, we stood up and danced.

If jazz has a face, it’s Satchmo; if rock ‘n’ roll has a face, it’s Elvis. Not Elvis Presley. Just Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. But all that was before Col. Tom scooped him up and took him off to Hollywood, and the movies tamed the wildness out of him.

In those very early days of the mid-1950s, he was a hound dog man all shook up. And he was one of us. Only more so. A little bit larger than life ’cause he was on his way to the Valhalla of the Greats. You could hear the pure rock ‘n’ roll in that voice of his that was tenor, baritone and bass all rolled into one big yeah. Sam Phillips of Sun Records had said so, and he ought to have known. It was the sound he had been looking for all his life.

Oh sure, there’d been rock ‘n’ roll before Elvis. Bill Haley and the Comets were rocking around the clock a year before Sam heard the magic. And there was the rhythm and blues that Elvis poured into his rock ‘n’ roll. Had been for years. But that r & b was a black folks music played and sang by the likes of LaVern Baker, Lloyd Price, Ruth Brown and Big Joe Turner. Black magic, the preachers called it. The devil’s music, and it would drive all the teenage listeners mad with lust.

No. Elvis was different. He was safe. He called his elders sir and ma’am and he went to church regular-like. He worshipped his mamma like the Southern boy he was. Yet there was that Voice. He was a white boy with a black man’s voice. In the recording studio of Sun Records, he let it rip. Sam Phillips was ecstatic. He had found his singer.

And so had American music. The dam broke and the musical waters flooded the air waves. There was no stopping it. Soon there was Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Richie Valens, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Down the road a-ways, there would be the four lads from Liverpool, England. There was no putting the rock ‘n’ roll genie back in the bottle. The world was never to be the same as it had once been before rock ‘n’ roll. And Elvis.

In a long history of Unh-huhs, Elvis has got to be one of the Big Kahunas of Unh-huh-dom. Yeah, baby. It’s hard to say where America ends and Elvis begins. That’s like asking where the unh-huhs end and the pelvis begins when it comes to Elvis. It’s just not possible. It’s also another way of saying that deep down we all want to be Elvis, and it’s a fact that we United Statesians have a bit of Elvis in each of us.

Just look at Lady Gaga. She has done an Elton John so she can be the latest incarnation of the King. This should tell us about the state of the world. Not. All it tells us is that we have a need to tie down Elvis’ pelvis and tame those unh-huhs. Then they can be marketed and we can make a lot of sales. If tain’t the truth, then why did they let Elvis keep making all those corny movies. It was for the dough, the moolah, the benjamins. It sure wasn’t ’cause he was still the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He wasn’t. Even the Beatles said so when they met him in 1965. Looked like Col. Tom had buried that Elvis years before.

A Wish for Y’all’s New Year

Here’s what I am hoping for all of you out there.

“This Year” by the Steel Wheels.

May you and your family and your loved ones have a beautiful, prosperous and wonderful year in 2020. And may the world finally find “Peace on earth, goodwill toward all.”

And here’s another from The Steel Wheels for your enjoyment.

 

The Lost Words Blessing

Of all the arts, music is the one that gives us a little glimpse of heaven.

Architecture only gives us the concrete reality of what’s possible. Writing gives us the stories, calling us to a sensual and emotional life. In art, we see the beauty–and ugliness–of the world we inhabit. Sculpture is the concreteness of the artist’s imagination. Dance shows us the gracefulness of the human body, attempting to do the impossible and yet limited. The actor turns words into performance and recreation.

But only music transports us to a realm beyond the stars.

“The Lost Words Blessing”, text by Robert MacFarlaine, music by Kerry Andrew and played and sang by the Spell Songs Collective featuring the beautiful voice of Karine Polwart.

Reg Gets Even

I’ve seen this movie before. Dozens of times. It’s your typical rock ‘n’ roll biopic we saw in such movies as “Ray”, “The Doors”, “A Star is Born”, and “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Hollywood has the template down so well, this is how an Elvis biopic might go:
Scene 1. Elvis is driving a truck in Tupelo.
Scene 2. Elvis is recording in Sun Records Studio.
Scene 3. Elvis signs with Col. Tom Parker.
Scene 4. Elvis sings and dances in the movie, “Jailhouse Rock”.
Scene 5. Elvis gets drafted.
Scene 6. Elvis meets his future bride, fourteen-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, while stationed in Germany.
Scene 7. Elvis gets out of the Army.
Scene 8. Elvis makes movies.
Scene 9. Elvis is unhappy at Graceland.
Scene 10. Elvis makes a comeback.
Along the way, there’ll be a scene with Elvis’ addiction to pills. There’ll also be a scene where Elvis talks about his spirituality. Throughout the movie, there will be song after song by Elvis. So many songs the viewer won’t be able to distinguish one from the other. Why so many? The director doesn’t want to miss your favorite.

This is basic biopic 101, and “Rocketman” follows this template. “Rocketman” is the story of how Reg Dwight became Elton John. In scene after scene, we see how his father mistreated him; how Mom didn’t take him seriously; how his employer, Dick James, wasn’t encouraging; how his manager, John Reid, abused him. Even Bernie Taupin, his songwriting partner and friend, ends up being unkind to poor Dwight. When the two go to California and Elton John triumphs at the Troubadour, Bernie takes off with a beautiful woman at the after-the-show party, abandoning Dwight to be alone with himself. Only his Granny treated him with any kind of respect.

“Rocketman” is Reg Dwight’s revenge. After all, this is his project. He was an executive producer on the film.

Along the way through these adventures, Elton John breaks out in song as a kind of song-and-dance man you’d expect from George M. Cohan. In quite a few scenes, so many songs are thrown at the viewer. So many pies that the director is hoping one will stick. Better to have selected five or six songs and used them to give meaning to the story. Then they would be memorable. Instead we are given a jukebox.

In the early seventies, seven of Elton John’s first nine studio albums were unbelievably brilliant. I won’t tell you which didn’t measure up. He could do any musical style from rock ‘n’ roll to blues to country to pop. The songs made you want to listen to them over and over again. Of all the musical artists I’ve listened to over the years, he was one of the few that blew me away from the get-go. When he started performing in a chicken suit, it made me sad.

If you’re in the hankering for some Elton John, put on his music. VH1 did a documentary of “Yellow Brick Road” as a part of his Classic Albums series. Great stuff. As for “Rocketman”, it saddens me the way that the chicken suit saddened me. Elton John is one of the great musicians of the twentieth century and he deserves .better than “Rocketman”. So I guess you might say I give this one two thumbs down. When all is said and done, it’s a mess. A real mess.