MarsEarth

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


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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #13

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Ever had a friend that was always putting themselves down? Remember the times we may have done the same thing to ourselves? It is never easy feeling inadequate. This is something we do to ourselves. If others try to tell us how we are wrong, it can make us feel powerless. If we tell ourselves we can’t make the grade, then we are just giving up true power over our own lives. Wanting to be the best we can be can involves being with others. It can get confusing if we think that someone else can make our lives better, just by being close to them.

The English alternative rock band Radiohead kicked off their career with this concept. Band members Colin Greenwood – bass guitar, Jonny Greenwood – guitar and keyboards, Ed O’Brien – guitar and backing vocals, Philip Selway – drums, and Thom Yorke – lead vocals, are all involved in songwriting. Colin has reported that Thom wrote their first hit song while a college student in the late 1980s. Supposedly the lyrics were inspired by a girl that Thom had a crush on. She showed up at one of the band’s early concerts and that was the spark. While in the studio for their first album, the band decided to perform the song for their producers. They were impressed and encouraged the bigwigs at EMI Records to release it as the group’s first single.

The band had some issues with their newfound fame beginning in 1993. Extending their tours in the US and the UK and playing the same songs over and over again.  The group complained that they felt like they were stuck. Being sad, depressed or melancholy is not an easy place to leave. Especially if our own bodies are causing us physical and mental pain.  It is so important to try… to try and get a handle on what we tell ourselves.  Is it true that our inside-the-head game is more important that what’s going on around us?

 

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #15

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Remember how much fun it was when we were young and met people who would become instant friends? We saw them at the pool or the library or the park. There were many more people to meet at school, but it was not the same as having a close friend living next door or just down the street. So, it was hard if that person ever moved away. Even harder when dating that person and there were any questions of fidelity. The most difficult was being in love with that person who revealed their cruel and shallow soul.

These seem to be the themes of the fifth album released by Paramore, the Franklin, Tennessee, Pop Rock Punk band. Members are guitarist Taylor York, vocalist Hayley Williams and drummer Zac Farro. This album entitled “After Laughter” was co-produced by Taylor and rock music producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen. As of this publishing date, their A side top track, “Hard Times” peaked at the #6 position in the Billboard Hot 100 singles in the Rock Songs category, but is making another run at the top, moving up again from the #29 spot to #27.  The band’s style is reminiscent of Blondie with Deborah Harry‘s skill at singing with an inviting voice over up-tempo beats while delivering pensive and too real lyrics.

I know what you’re thinking.  I am writing about their song “Fake Happy.” It received serious consideration. In the very same way that the honorably mentioned Three Degrees received a review, and it was the happy tune that placed it out of contention – for both songs. For Paramore the song that had the punch and real grit of a sad song was dealing with a very toxic relationship. It was the kind of relationship that makes you cry, that hits you in the face, that makes you want to quit and keep on fighting at the same time.

Why do we put up with a loved one who keeps breaking our heart? Unfortunately, no one knows this answer. Some famous broken-hearted person once said, ‘the heart wants what the heart wants.’ That’s just a lie we tell ourselves when the other person becomes more important than our own identity. So what happens when we do this?

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #16

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

We love through sheer determination. Not all of us can rise to the occasion of a Liam Neeson character who can track down a loved one unto the ends of the earth. However, among those of us with some form of courage, we find that we can walk through fire to find and help the person whom we love. If they leave us and don’t want to be found, it does not matter how hard we look. They just can’t be located.

Elvis Aaron Presley (Jan 8, 1935 – Aug 16, 1977)

That must have been what country singer  Eddie Rabbitt and songwriter Dick Heard were thinking when they wrote a particular song that was meant for Elvis Presley to sing. Elvis received the track early in 1969. It was initially recorded at the American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.  Almost one year later, the song was released as an A-side single on the RCA Records label.

When Elvis went on tour in 1970, he introduced it as a new song. It quickly became a signature work that was part of the ballads which made him a great singer, and King of Rock and Roll. For Eddie Rabbit, the theme is based on an anxious lover. The person takes on a search to find the one he loves. The song’s imagery is heavy and it effectively paints a picture that no matter where the man goes, there is no one who can help in this particular case. Not even a preacher.

Having strong feelings for someone can make us obsessive or single-minded or blinded. If we feel that strongly, we might chase the dream and try to make our way to our loved one’s front door. How bad can that be?

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #17

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

This is nothing wrong with death. It is a natural process in the life cycle of living things. Unfortunately, there are circumstances where some of us face death all too soon in our journey here on Earth. American TV advertising floods programming with commercials telling us to buy products which will keep us young and reverse or slow the aging process. Why? Manufacturers think that we are afraid of dying and of looking old. So, they assemble products to “boost” naturally fading hormones. Surprisingly, the Botulinum toxin (BTX) a neuro-toxic protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum is one of those products. BTX is an acutely lethal toxin that “they think” will stop the aging process through paralysis. Who wants a killing toxin injected into the body, much less injected into the face? Ironically . . . people who are afraid of dying and looking old.


More than 23 years ago, (how’s that for aged?) Scott Hull founded the grindcore band Agoraphobic Nosebleed in Springfield, Massachusetts with Carl Schultz and J. R. Hayes.  While many band members have come and gone, Scott is the remaining original. He is a guitarist and drum programmer who can be pointed out as a significant influence on several drum-machine grindcore bands today.   Grindcore is a genre of music that is considered ‘extreme’ because it uses slow, industrial laden beats, abrasive-sounding tones, including heavily distorted and down-tuned guitars and grinding overdriven bass. The beat can flip to a high speed tempo with blasting vocals – growls and rumblings, and even screams.

Today, the group is made up Jay Randall, Kat Katz, formerly of SalomeRichard Johnson of Enemy Soil and Drugs of Faith, and John Jarvis formerly of Pig Destroyer and Fulgora. ANb has perfected the “micro-song” characteristic by releasing four studio albums and 27 short length efforts in their career. This includes the EP entitled “ARC” which has a track that puts the listener in the center of a death scene. The EP features vocalist Kat. “ARC” is supposed to be the inaugural effort of a four-work EP series. The purpose of which allows each individual band member to express themselves through the grindcore experience.

What is it like when we lose a dear loved one? Do we only shed tears? If our feelings could speak, would they not also scream and growl and breakdown in loud and sorrowful desperation? What is that one thing we would petition our dying loved one before their life oozed from this realm of pleasure and pain?

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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 – #21

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Ever been in a situation where the person you are speaking with does not understand what is being said? We repeat ourselves sometimes to the point where we speak louder until that person finally says, “Oh. I get it.”  But then they don’t? When a loved one tells us that they are out of love and the relationship is ended, do we / can we  just shut it off?

One of the most controversial rock and roll bands ever to get radio air play was The Doors. Band members: keyboardist Ray Manzarek (1939-2013), guitarist Robby Krieger, drummer John Densmore, and vocalist Jim Morrison (1943-1971).  Their formation began in July, 1965, when Jim and Ray were schoolmates at UCLA. Ray was a songwriter and laid the groundwork for many of the group’s tunes. After some earlier musicians left the ensemble they got a gig at a Los Angeles club, The London Fog, in 1966. A low attendance rate at that location meant the band could work out song kinks and in some cases, lengthen their works with leads and improved lyrics without the crowd requesting cover songs.

They eventually got hired to perform at The Whiskey A Go Go nightclub in West Hollywood.  There Elektra Records producers signed them to a contract by mid-August and three days later The Doors self-titled album was in the works.  Iconic songs on this first effort included: “Break On Through (To the Other Side),” “Soul Kitchen,” “Light My Fire” and “The End” and as planned, it was released in January, 1967.

There was also one song in particular, written by Jim, which detailed despair. It included a keyboard solo that echoed the sadness of the theme. Some insist that it was a poem about a love affair that Jim ended. Some interpret the lyrics as double entendre for drug use. Many others believe the lyrics discuss suicide.  No matter how we feel about the song, it is separation from the familiar at any point that can cause heartache for all involved.

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #22

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Years of experience have taught our old time farmers what to expect in a given situation. Pleasant weather turning bad. What is a good tool and what is a better tool to use for a job. How to not let your eyes fool you – so use a measuring stick.  And, what it really takes to get from point A to point B.  There is always that outlier, that one freak possibility which can cause everything to go wrong. We are instructed to be prepared for that outcome and especially a loss in any case.

In 1968 Michael Martin Murphey was a student at UCLA, working on a concept album for Kenny Rogers. The work meant long hours and little sleep. In his fatigue Michael is said to have dreamed of a song.  He woke up and by the next morning wrote it down. He told an interviewer that the song reminded him of a story his grandfather told him when he was a little boy. It detailed a Native American legend about a ghost horse.

Michael was teamed up with Boomer Castleman in 1967 as part of a duo known as the Lewis & Clark Expedition (which had a brief stint on TV).   After Michael began his solo career later in 1968 he co-wrote his song with Larry Cansler. They were struggling in southern California at the time.

By 1971 Michael came back to Texas and joined the “Outlaw Country” movement. He was working along side Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker. Michael created a unique blend of country, rock, and folk music. This caught the ear of Epic Records managers who produced four albums for him, including “Blue Sky – Night Thunder” which peaked at #18 on the Billboard 200 Album chart in 1975. This was the seminal work of Michael’s career. The lead track of the album still brings young girls and old men to tears. It is the tale of a man facing devastating weather, a runaway prized pony, and a lost love.

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