MarsEarth

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


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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #29

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

Fear of the unknown comes in many forms while confidence means facing the unknown with faith in our own skills. Most of us would like to have all the answers before we know what questions will be asked. Life just does not give us instant anything. We have to make an effort to get out of life everything we put in it. Sometimes what we need to succeed appears to happen by chance.

Acquiring the formula for success was a puzzle for keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. In 1960 he had formed the foundation for the band Styx working under the “Trade Winds” name. The group consisted of twin brothers Chuck Panozzo  and John Panozzo, Tom Nardini, John Curulewski when Tom departed, then James J.Y.” Young joined.

This Chicago rock band was an inconsistent group, even though they garnered national success with four album releases which included  “Lady” (#6), “Best Thing” (#82), and “Lorelie” (#27). The very popular “Suite Madame Blue” (no ranking) was not a hit single. Soon the band –  by blind luck it seems – had to replace Curulewski who suddenly confessed he needed more family time late in 1975.

This is when Tommy Shaw joined Styx as songwriter and lead vocals, quickly influencing the band’s trajectory and album themes. One of his songs would soon stand out as a mournful plea to a so-called “magical source” of insight. When we worry too much, we sometimes seek assistance from strange places.  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 – #31

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

Discovery is the best part of living. It can be surprising and enjoyable. It might also cause us to stumble upon someone’s secret. Most of us these days keep a record of our communications on a cell phone or on a social media page. Yet, there are still a few of us who journal thoughts down using pencil and paper. Remember cursive letters and correctly spelled words? Remember when the passed note in class was not meant for you?

This method of honestly pouring out feelings on a page involves a secret revealed for songwriter and leader singer David Gates. He formed the soft rock band Bread with Jimmy Griffin on guitar, Jim Gordon then later Mike Botts on drums, Robb Royer then later Larry Knechtel who replaced Royer in 1971 on bass guitar and keyboards. It seems David was inspired to write about his exploits of college life. His parents gave him the green light to put school on hold in 1965 and explore his musical tastes after only two years of classes. This freedom to write and sing inspired him to put down on paper his many relationship experiences.

For David reading someone’s private thoughts about love and mistaking those intentions as directed at you can be quite embarrassing.  But, it was just the predicament that he could craft into a song that many lovelorn people could sympathize with. Sometimes we see what we want to see when we fall in love.

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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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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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