MarsEarth

Old world wisdom, new world insight – poems, poetry, philosophy, dreams, commentary, ideas


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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #18

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard  (WARNING: adult content)

Those of us who are older are familiar with the British phrase: ‘Keep a stiff upper lip.’ It supposedly is considered an encouragement. Its intention is: ‘We support you,’ or ‘Don’t lose heart,’ or ‘Keep on keeping on.’ More currently:  ‘Keep Calm and _(fill in the blank)_.’ As Human beings we must continue to encourage each other to get through dark times. We often face a lack of resources, bullies, bad governments, snakes in sheep’s clothing, liars, cheats, and swindlers. Most of these trials involve bad people. We are never the only person in the whole world who has to face down a bully.  It just feels like that. Parents who let their kids get bullied need to seek out TV and radio media and expose the lazy system their child is inside BEFORE someone is hurt or self injures. With all the noise generated by a modern world, it seems we are more and more responsible for encouraging ourselves. What if the bully is our own mind?

The British rock band Bring Me the Horizon appears to have taken on this task. Their success on four previous albums led them to their fifth studio effort “That’s The Spirit.” There are eleven tracks on this effort and eight of them were released as singles. Music critics have said BMTH’s musicality is in the vein of Linkin Park, with chorus stylings reminiscent of bands such as early Metallica, and also Avenged Sevenfold and Thirty Seconds to Mars. Oliver Sykes, Matt Nicholls, Lee Malia, Matt Kean, and Jordan Fish make up the band.  This membership, after Curtis Ward and Jona Weinhofen left during the formative years.

Lee once revealed to BBC Radio that the first track they worked on for the fifth album was inspired by the group Rage Against the Machine. He explained that the lyrics make light of a “sh++++” situation. More specifically they deal with depression. Oliver says that the song is the unofficial tile track of the album.

We often fall into the trap of repeating to ourselves the bad words we use to describe our own shortcomings. It doesn’t have to be this way. What if we took that power and used it to build ourselves up and help ourselves get better?

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #19

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Ever heard some teacher say, “In a perfect world, we would all help each other” ? It sounds noble. Except that people in a perfect world don’t need any help. Every situation would be . . . perfect. The society we live in now is not perfect by any means. We all should help each other if and where we can. Often some helpful person gets praise and we declare her/ him to be a type of  ‘hero.’ So what happens to our heroes as they become old? We also grow older and then move away only to forget them. Then, new people come to power who have never heard of our so-called hero. It happened in Egypt after the death of Joseph (and his coat of many colors). What if Earth’s ancient heroes were giant robots? What happens when these hulking contraptions re-activate themselves and are frustrated with our ridicule and lack of praise? It is a painful experience, especially when our heroes are 100% Human, too.

Consider the awkward situation that the English Rock band Black Sabbath were in.  They formed in 1968 in the county of Warwickshire, city of Birmingham, England. Drummer Bill Ward, bassist Geezer Butler, guitarist  Tony Iommi, and singer Ozzy Osbourne, and are considered pioneers of Metal Rock. More precisely Heavy Metal.  They had just released their self-titled album in 1970 when inspired to produce and release a second album that very same year. The band name came from the film, “Black Sabbath,” a 1963 effort starring Boris Karloff, and this is where the group derived their horror themed songs.

They debuted with a Certified Solid Gold album in the UK and Canada, and Platinum in the US. Their second work entitled “Paranoid” included eight innovative tracks that metal rock music fans were growing an appreciation for.  The songs were not guitar feedback and relentless drums, but styled songs with thematic lyrics.  One song in particular which Geezer penned was about a man’s journey into the future. He sees the apocalypse and quickly returns to the present to warn his society. Strangely, the trip home magnetically transforms him into a giant man of iron who is not able to speak

It is one thing to react to someone who cannot speak. It is quite another to make fun of someone when they are trying to communicate with us. There are always consequences. How do we treat people who want to be heard? What does it say about us when we ignore those who are not quite as “normal” as we are?

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #26

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

We are often asked “How did it happen?” but rarely “Why did you let it happen?” We have easy answers for how a relationship fails: ‘they gave up,’ or ‘they didn’t want me any more,‘ and the tried and true ‘it was her/ him, not me.’ The problem is when it comes to ‘why’ because then we don’t always speak plainly. We are either brutally honest (truth!) or radically sarcastic (No – I hate my one and only). Sarcasm says a lot about who we really are inside, doesn’t it? Psychologists say that when we tease in this way, we reveal what is truly fascinating us.

For the long experienced British rock band 10cc a change in their future was because of the band’s name. It had been changed previously more than seven times with some varied recording success in the UK and the US as the band morphed from rock and roll to pop to bubblegum dance music. Their Strawberry Studios production facility was making hits for Top 40 artists such as Silver Fleet, Freddie and the Dreamers, Ohio Express and Neil Sedaka.

But, it was when they signed on with Jonathan King, an English singer-songwriter, record producer and music entrepreneur, that they admitted how they felt about themselves as rock and roll songwriters and musicians. Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley, and Lol Crème used the “male sex drive” moniker to lead them to five Top 10 singles and a #1 hit all from their first five releases.

On their way to success in America the quirky “Life is a Minestrone” was the first single from their third studio album, “The Original Soundtrack.” For some this parody was too Frank Zappa-esque and a confusing surprise.  It seems their sharp wit put off quite a few music lovers, despite reaching #7 in the UK. That is the slippery part about sarcasm, it sometimes makes people laugh when we are expressing how sad we really are about something.

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #28

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Life is wonderful and every day is a diamond in the rough. Except when it is not. Since 1960 America has been videotaping and broadcasting war and violence and abuse and assaults for TV and film. The visual message does influence everyone who sees it. Ask any corpporation that has paid for and shown a Super Bowl commercial. Of course moving images and sounds can alter people’s consciousness in good and bad ways.

There was a time when rock bands would design acoustic albums to express the intensity of life’s ups and downs. In 1970 the English rock band Led Zeppelin went unplugged  on their third album “Led Zeppelin III”  Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham (1948-1980) and John Paul Jones were on a retreat at Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in the country of Wales. Jimmy and Robert went for a hike and brought along a guitar.

They composed the beginnings of a song with Robert’s lyrics that highlighted the stressful issues of the day. They sang about pollution and even all the anti-Zeppelin sentiment experienced on their earlier American tour: being spat on and having guns drawn on the band. The 1970s decade saw the first generation  growing up with color TV and mobile phones. There was also a constant barrage of Vietnam War news and anti-war protests on TV. The newspapers even took sides cajoling subscribers and readers who to love and who to hate.

Sad news has made this particular generation weary. The youngest among us now are numb to violence. It is the saddest kind of mind control: witnessing crime on video while news media continue to incite viewers to hate. How do we stop exposing ourselves to negativity? Continue reading


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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #33

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

How much fun is it to point at the TV and say, “There’s my boyfriend/  girlfriend.” We see people in the malls, driving by, and even in our schools and can instantly fall in love. Sometimes there are chance meetings at clubs and shows or concerts. What happens if we meet a rock star and they are nice enough to make us feel special?

If a girl or a boy ‘falls in love’ in this way we call them silly. If an adult does this, we call her/ him a groupie. Even if we fall in love with a famous musician who we meet by chance, it is usually not a long term thing, We might think less of that musician if they break someone’s heart. This seems to be the theme for a 1969 song written by Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell and Delaney Bramlett.


This was the same year that Karen Carpenter (1950-1983) formed The Carpenters soft rock band with her brother Richard Carpenter. She was the drummer and lead vocalist while he was a pianist and arranger. The band released hit songs that touched on all manner of hopeful relationships. Their star power generated five #2 singles and three #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song, originally called the ‘Groupie song,‘ became one of the most famous melodies by The Carpenters and also an international sensation. The way Richard arranged the orchestra seemed to showcase sobbing horns, a broken beat, and a rainy piano accompaniment. Fans said it really felt as if you were someone who was “in love” with a popular itinerant musician. It is not always easy to accept that the one we love is ready to move on and not as invested as we are.

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #34

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

We live in a place where people are in despair. They suffer in public. Sometimes we see them hurting and we reach out with water, change, advice, or a meal. Other times we just concentrate on getting as far away as possible.

For English singer-songwriter Phil Collins, the thrust of his music is more than painting pictures with words. He describes realistic and stark scenes. Sometimes they have happy but complicated endings with upbeat rhythms. Other times the music is eerie and the lyrics hurt to hear. For Phil the prospect of having an encounter with a homeless man, as described in the 1982 release by his former band, Genesis, was a Top 40 sensation in America.  The song “Man on the Corner” saw a person down on his luck and with no place to go,  It had an “I see him” kind of detached feel.

Unfortunately, just like every other music artist who puts his/ her politics in front of the audience, the critics rightfully invoked the “hypocrisy label” on Phil because his wealth was being used as he called on  everyone else to act. As if singing about homelessnes is supposed to be a socially conscious and caring contribution. It is however quite lucrative for a musician.

Phil understood this formula and altered his lyrics for a song that ended up as the first track on the B-side of his fourth solo album, “. . .But Seriously.” It was a poignant description of a homeless woman’s plight. Phil’s tone and melody bring a an aura of shame and sadness to the radio. While singing along has caused us to convict ourselves of not doing enough. It is easy to feel sympathy for anyone who truthfull lives in the streets. It is hard to spring into action for each person’s need is as unique as their fingerprints.

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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #35

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

We communicate with our body position, with our eyes, and even when we do nothing at all. We can send signals of ‘yes’ with a wink and a signal of ‘no’ with that same wink. We write notes but these days we write electronic messages which are not as personal. Some things that we wish to say we don’t say because there can be no good outcome. This was not the personal philosophy of the leader of one of Rock and Roll’s most successful bands Van Halen whose communication style was inadequate.

Eddie Van Halen the lead guitarist formed the band in Pasadena, California, with brother and drummer Alex Van Halen, bassist Michael Anthony, and from 1973 to 1985 vocalist David Lee Roth. The band has been riddled with controversy following the exits of David Lee, Sammy Hagar, and Michael. Each one complained that Eddie had problems taking seriously the business of the band. They said he did not talk about his alcohol abuse but finally went into rehab in 2007. Some have a hard time accepting fame and the changes it brings.

Early on, Van Halen’s self-titled debut album was essentially a live-to-tape production in 1977. Their touring garnered fans nation-wide. The following year when the album was released radio gave America what it was hoping for, rock theme songs such as “Runnin’ with the Devil” and “Feel Your Love Tonight.” But one song with heavy metal overtones lamented the hopes and dreams of a young girl in love.

Fans were intrigued by this melancholy tune with a dance beat which was released as a single just two months after the album was in the stores. Critics used the opportunity to  proclaim the band doomed to failure in the same way they declared an early end for British electric blues band Led Zeppelin. The song decries the power of lust tempered by the choice of reason and a personal letter not sent.

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