MarsEarth

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


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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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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #23

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. We don’t intend to be just like our parents or guardians. Something happens as we grow older and begin to use good habits to protect ourselves or personal interests. We also try out bad habits that supposedly help us to ‘get through it’ or ‘to forget’ painful trials. This is how we evolve into who we are. Some of us are strong and motivated to develop good things and to make life better. The rest of us have weaknesses. We are preoccupied with not fainting from the pain, or struggling to see the light of a new day. We all confront roadblocks and hassles and really stupid humans along the way. If any of us get a chance to be a role model, we often struggle with doing the right thing.

For singer and songwriter Harry Chapin (1942 – 1981) our world was in was in constant need of somebody doing the right thing. Some of his friends such as Bruce Springsteen would say he was more than an activist and a little overbearing besides. Harry was versatile and his work as a guitar teacher brought him together with a student, Sandy Gaston, whom he asked to marry two years into their relationship. The new Mrs. Sandy Chapin inspired one of Harry’s songs “I wanna learn a love song“. The two would later collaborate on one of the most impactful hits which is still very recognizable today.

The new song’s lyrics began as a poem written by Sandy. It was inspired by the awkward relationship between her first husband James Cashmore and his father.  Apparently fathers and sons have issues when the dad is too busy with work or another relationship to maintain a connection. it is rumored that Harry told an audience that the song scared him just thinking about its implications. Is it really that hard for a father to spend time and nurture a relationship with a growing son (or daughter)?

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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 – #30

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

That’s it! I quit!

We hear you. We’ve all been there at some point hoping to get out of a bad situation. It really takes a lot of bad news to break off a relationship. When it is over, though, it is so over. Usually it is not because of one misunderstanding nor a string of them. The reasons to break up with somebody abruptly can be anything from not being appreciated to cheating and lying. The feeling of hurt mixed with anger is not an easy process to wade through.

One of America’s most eclectic musicians and songwriters who is able to articulate this feeling is David Bromberg. His musical tastes run the gamut. They are as varied as the many musicians he has played with.  These include:  Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, Rusty Evans, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Vince Gill, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, John Hiatt, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. David’s virtuoso guitar style is featured on 18 solo albums. Although his roots are based in folk music, his songs reflect his life and times. So, what was it that made him so determined to separate from a girlfriend that inspired his iconic break-up song?

David got an idea for the 1976 album “How Late’ll Ya Play ‘Til?” and it involved a big split – but in a good way. The album is a two record / two CD collectors item. The first is a studio session collection of humorous songs. David shows off his guitar blues skill. The second includes his break-up rendition. David must have come face to face with a really unfaithful person. We can feel lost and betrayed when the one who loves us shares their affection with someone else.

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #32

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

It is not always easy to show our feelings, especially if it is a forbidden type of love. Adult relationships involving sexual interactions cause pain for everyone. Knowing that we might be the one who is stealing someone away is often a bad arrangement, even if it brings pleasure in the very short term. Being in a love triangle for whatever reason complicates our lives.

This seems to describe singer and songwriter Robert John and his relationship with his many record labels. As a young performer at the age of 12 years, Robert’s talent as a singer was recognizable. His early fame made him attractive to several companies: Diamond Records, MGM Records, and Columbia, but also Herb Albert’s A&M Records. This last partnership produced the famous cover version of The Tokens’ 1961 song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” It was a solid gold hit and reached #3 in 1972 with one million copies sold. Still, his relationship with A&M was a brief one.

Six years later Robert was still in search of a record label when he got the call from EMI Records.  It was a British label founded to replace Columbia and Parlophone. Robert’s music did not mimic the dance stylings found in pop songs of the 1970s. He wrote a song at the height of disco’s influence that was slow and emotional. It cut right to the separation of two lovers who seemed to agree on a short lived affair. Loving someone, especially when it’s the wrong person, hurts just as much when we have to stop being with them.

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