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 – #25

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Sometimes we ask a question and hope anyone listening will give the answer. Other times we ask a rhetorical question because we know the answer, but a friend will answer it anyway. We tell them to ‘shut up’ and to go away, but we hope they really don’t.  We just cannot win at pushing away people who care about us. How ironic it is that we do that to them when someone we loved just pushed us away.

The Brothers Gibb: Barry, Robin (1949-2012) and Maurice (1949-2003) Gibb, AKA the Bee Gees music group, pose a question for the ages and put it to music. In the start of the new year in 1971 they were in London, England,  recording their seventh international album, “Trafalgar“. The Battle of Trafalgar was a British naval victory against the French and Spanish fleets in 1805. You would think the song themes of the album would be about glory and fame. Not so – many of the tracks deal with heartbreak and loneliness.

At the time, Maurice was going through some personal trials with heavy drinking and   accusations of extramarital affairs. He had been married to the highly popular Scottish singer Lulu. Since they both abused alcohol and partied too much their young marriage ended after only four years. Barry and Robin could see the decline happening to their brother. They expressed his pain and their helplessness in song. How bad does it have to get before we ask for help? Continue reading


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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 – #36

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

We have heard cries for help from little children who got their feelings hurt. Some pleas may have come from colleagues, peers or friends who needed money, more time to fix a problem, or even a little emotional support. It is not always easy to ask for someone to care about our issues much less a crisis. So, we live in fear that the one we ask will say ‘no.’

In 1970 Pete Townsend of the British rock band The Who was writing songs for the band’s fifth album. Pete was on tour with lead singer Roger Daltrey, bass player John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon in Denver, Colorado. Rumor has it that  Roger encountered a spiritual conflict as he turned down a romp with a groupie. He then went back to his hotel room alone. Because he followed the enlightenment teachings of Meher Baba, Roger wrote down his wishes to make himself a better person. The words called on the divine force to help him keep true to his beliefs.

When Pete heard about it, he collaborated with Roger on setting the experience to music. The two of them recorded a first version of the song at the Record Plant in New York in March, 1971. The band recorded a second version at Olympic Studios in London which took nearly three months to complete it. Sometimes we have to do something over and over until we get it right.

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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #41

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

What does it mean to be “in a mood“? We can feel energetic, snippy, feisty, leery, paranoid, ticklish, and sometimes mellow. Maybe it has to do with our feelings when we hear someone’s voice. Maybe it has something to do with the song that plays inside our minds over and over when we wake up to a new day. With music it can be the sound of a church organ or a clarinet or a bass drum that resonates and causes a reaction.

When British poet Keith Reid got an invitation from Gary Brooker (formerly of The Paramounts) to write the lyrics, it was for a new band with a progressive approach to rock music. Gary decided the new group would have new band members Matthew Fisher, Ray Royer, Robin Trower, Bobby Harrison, and David Knights. The band manager decided on a perplexing name for the band – Procul Harum. It was the breeding monicker of a friends’s Burmese cat, modified to sound familiar.The name Procul Harum invoked all kinds of reaction when spoken by deejays on the radio.

Keith knew his lyrics were novel. Gary and Matthew were hopeful that the music would be a worthy and interesting complement to the unique subject matter. Their new composition was just quirky enough to capture our imagination as a counterculture anthem. Plus, it subtly introduced a new metaphor into our collective consciousness. Sad and lonely are powerful feelings.

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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #44

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

Prince is an American musician and songwriter and performer and the only person in the world who changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol (the love symbol). What nerve. What an inspiration. What creativity! What was he thinking?

People like this can drive us nuts. Sometimes it is out of envy. Other times, could it be that we compare our lives to theirs?  While Prince was largely successful in the music industry, he was in a lot of pain in his personal life.

In 1984 Albert Magnoli, the director of the highly successful Purple Rain film, had asked Prince to write an additional song for a scene. The song was to be rooted in parental problems and a love affair.

The original dance track reached the  #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984. Fans felt the pain of the lyrics throughout its upbeat tempo. Continued career success launched Prince into the #27 position on the Rolling Stone Magazine List of 100 Greatest Artists. But, according to news reports he was nursing an opioid addiction. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #45

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

They know you and all your habits: Those closest to you; Your family; Your best friends; work acquaintances; Classmates and even those at your favorite restaurant. Sooner or later they can get on your nerves.

Asking too many questions. Accidentally bumping into you on your worst day. Looking at you funny when you are grumpiest. This could be you.

For George Harrison of The Beatles, this was happening all too often in 1968. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and John Lennon didn’t get along with George or each other. The Fab Four were not Rock gods, just Human.

When things get weird with those closest to you, it is okay to reach out to a friend outside the group.  For George it was Eric Clapton. George was into the Chinese I Ching.  This is a cosmological and philosophical way of explaining that all things happen for a reason. George thought if he asked Eric to play on his song then what was meant to be would be for the recording.

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