Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Backstage

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Song is Gene Pitney’s “Backstage”:

There haven’t been too many songs about the touring life musicians endure. I’ve featured two on my Spotlight express: Bob Seger’s “Turn the page” and Gene Clark’s “Backstage Pass.” Both outstanding songs. One of the first was Gene Pitney’s “Backstage.”

Gene Pitney began his career as a songwriter for other musician. He wrote Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou,” Bobby Vee’s “Rubber Ball” and “He’s a Rebel”by the Crystals. In the early sixties, he took up performing. His tenor voice could give a song a powerful rendition which was lacking in many of his contemporaries.

From 1961 to 1965, he turned out hit after hit, perfect songs for the radio format of that time: “Town Without Pity,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Mecca,” “Twenty-four Hours from Tulsa” and “I’m gonna be strong.” It’s hard to listen to any of these songs and not pull over your car and listen.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Turn the page

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Song is Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”:

When I think of Rock  ‘n’ Roll, I think Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and Bob Seger. Man, those guys had rock ‘n’ roll in their souls as much as the Beatles and Elvis ever did.  Bob Seger isn’t Elvis but he’s close. And, man, can he sing. That gravelly voice carries so much feeling which makes me think he’s one of the top twenty rock singers of all time.

On top of that, he writes great lyrics. Giving us “Night Moves”, “Old Time Rock ‘n” Roll”, “Hollywood Nights” and “Against the Wind”.

Coming out of the Midwest, he has his roots in good American earth and good American music. Like another Midwesterner, John Mellencamp, he’s a working class musician who never forgets where the music comes from and he never forgets who the music’s for. I think one of the reasons I love his songs is the honesty. They seem to be saying, “Here’s my life, the good and the bad. Take it or leave it.”

Of all his songs, the one I find most moving is “Turn the Page”. Not too many songwriters give the audience a back stage view of what a touring musician’s life is like. How you are always on to your next gig and how much it cost your personal life and how towns and cities become just one long blur. It’s a hard life no matter what. You’re a troubadour, that’s all.

From the opening sax notes to the final lines of the song, it’s the story of every touring performer from Homer to Johnny Cash to the Beatles to Elton John to Jay-z, that endless line of musicians who have given their lives to the music. And the last lines of the song really hit hard.

“Later in the evening as you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers ringin’ in your head
You smoke the day’s last cigarette, remembering what she said.”

And it’s wonderful to hear an audience join in with Bob to sing all the lyrics.