MarsEarth

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


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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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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 – #39

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

No matter if we are famous or the quiet type, we fail ourselves and fail others from time to time. Psychologists say we should forgive ourselves for our faults and try to not repeat the same mistakes. They also insist that when we ask for forgiveness from others it is a sign we are taking responsibility for our actions. Receiving that forgiveness we beg for from a hurt loved one is another topic for a different day.

Claude Russell Bridges (1942-2016) best known as Leon Russell was an American pianist and musician and songwriter whose career spanned 60 years. He wrote pop, rock, blues, country, bluegrass, standards, gospel and surf songs in all that time. He also achieved six gold records for some of his works. Leon had been married and divorced three times during these creative days and had fathered six children. He made his share of mistakes in life and in love.

His first break was playing with The Beach Boys. After that gig he composed a self-titled debut album. Leon was mentored by Elton John on this effort and recruited musicians such as Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Eric Clapton. At the time Leon was romantically involved with Carla McHenry. She may have been the inspiration for his iconic ballad that seeks forgiveness. Sometimes when we hurt the one we love it cuts deep into our souls, too. What we do about reconciling with the one we hurt can leave an impression on many more peoples’ lives than we had planned on. Continue reading


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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #40

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

It is easy to be excited by someone else. Their look, their aura, or even the sound of
their voice. In the same way we can watch a person declare their love to another and
be repulsed by that, especially if that love is untrue or secretly promised to someone else. Why does love have to be so complicated? For many of us love either works out great or love causes a big mess.

For the ever-changing San Francisco rock band, Journey, love is the source of most of
their successes and ironically the reason they changed singers in the 1990s. It all began when lead vocalist Steve Perry joined the group in 1976. At that time the band’s futuristic sound would change direction and most assuredly love would be the dominant song topic.

Steve collaborated on compositions with band members Neal Schon, Ross Valory, and Gregg Rollie. They had co-written 17 songs by the time the “Evolution” album was
recorded in 1978. Keeping the pulse of the band throughout the changes was drummer Steve Smith. Most of the recordings exuded happy beats evoking feelings of devotion and the occasional heartbreak of separation.

Steve had been inspired by a Sam Cooke tune which professed undying love. The lyrics for Steve’s new work however, showcased love that had gone real bad. What should we do if the person we love pushes us away, or cheats on us? We can find some comfort in what goes around usually comes back around. Continue reading


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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 – #42

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

We only have two choices in life: give up or survive. Even when we find ourselves trapped, the only way out is to visualize and plan our next move.  That, or give in and play the part we are forced into. But we all know that our souls are more valuable than we can ever realize. It is an impossible situation for women and children being trafficked for sex or worse.

These themes are not such heavy topics for rock and roll. Blues composers have written songs that alluded to drug addictions, murder or crimes against the innocent. For the American rock group Aerosmith writing songs about people they met while on the road was a way of acknowledging their experiences and things gone wrong.

In 1974 Joey Kramer, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Steven Tyler had just released their second album in the same number of years. The songs  for their third studio album, Toys In The Attic, magnified loneliness, vengeance, gut-wrenching sorrow, boredom, and even physical abuse like only a rock and roll band could. The beats and fuzz guitars kept you interested in learning the words. One song in particular expressed despair about an abused woman like no other song could.

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