I Melt With You ~ Modern English

modern-english

Formed in Colchester, Essex, England, in 1979 by Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), and Michael Conroy (bass, vocals), Modern English were originally known as The Lepers. The group expanded to “Modern English” when Richard Brown (drums) and Stephen Walker (keyboards)  were subsequently added to the lineup of the band.

After a single on their own ‘Limp’ label in 1979, the band signed to 4AD the following year, with two further singles released, and a session for John Peel recorded before the band’s debut album, Mesh & Lace, in 1981, the band in the early days showing a strong Joy Divisioninfluence. (Mesh and lace is a style of Lingerie.) A second Peel session was recorded in October 1981. The follow-up, After The Snow (April 1982), was more keyboard-oriented and was compared to Simple Minds and Duran Duran. It was also released in the United States by Sire Records the following year, where it reached number 70 on the Billboard chart, and sold over 500,000 copies. Grey said of the album, “We used to think ‘God, we’ll never make a pop record. We’re artists!’, but things don’t always turn out as you planned and when you actually create a pop record, it’s so much more of a thrill than anything else”. The second single from the album was also a hit in the US, the jangly “I Melt With You” reaching number 76. When he reviewed the album, Johnny Waller of Sounds described the track as “A dreamy, creamy celebration of love and lust, which deserves to be showcased on as 12″ single all by itself, with no b-side”, while his colleague Tony Mitchell described it as “suburban amateurism at its most unrewarding”. The band relocated to New York City and worked on a third album, Ricochet Days, which again made the top 100 in the US, after which the band left 4AD and were solely signed to Sire outside the UK and Canada. The album Stop Start (1986) was the last record Modern English record released by Sire, with the band splitting up after its release. During 1983-84 time Grey, McDowell and Conroy were also involved with This Mortal Coil.

Robbie Grey reformed Modern English in 1989 with Mick Conroy and Aaron Davidson to record new album, Pillow Lips, released in 1990 on the American TVT label. The album featured a re-recorded “I Melt With You”, which was released as a single, and saw the band again in the Billboard top 100. The band split up for a second time in 1991, after contractual problems with TVT, with Grey forming Engine. In 1995, with the legal issues with TVT sorted out, Engine evolved into the next incarnation of Modern English and signed to the Imago label, with Grey and Matthew Shipley (keyboards). This lineup recorded the 1996 album Everything’s Mad.

Robbie Grey toured the US with a new Modern English lineup from 1998-2002 and travelled coast to coast across the US and recorded a new album with Hugh Jones (producer of earlier Modern English records). The songs written with guitarist Steven Walker (not to be confused with the band’s original keyboardist) and including Matthew Shipley came together on the road and back home in London between tours. After a few years on the shelf this collection of songs, entitled Soundtrack, was released on May 24, 2010 on Darla.

Also in 2010, the original lineup of the band reformed (minus drummer Richard Brown) and toured the US in July and September 2010 and the UK and Paris June 2011. They were invited by film director Mark Pellington to re-record “I Melt With You” for his movie of the same name. This same incarnation of the band remains intact and includes original members Robbie Grey, Mick Conroy, Gary McDowell, and Stephen Walker, augmented by (the “other”) Steven Walker on guitar and Ric Chandler on drums.

 

I Melt With You

I Melt with You” is a song by the British post-punk/new wave band Modern English. The song, produced by Hugh Jones, was a single from the 1982 album After the Snow, and is about a couple making love as nuclear bombs fall. It reached #7 on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart and #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983. The song gained popularity due to its airplay on MTV in early 1983 and its use in the ending titles and in a “falling in love” montage sequence in Valley Girl the same year. The band re-recorded it in 1990 for their album Pillow Lips, the re-released version peaking at #76 on the Billboard Hot 100. The reformed original line up of the band re-recorded it again in 2010 in a completely reworked style for inclusion in the movie I Melt With You.

It is ranked #39 on VH1′s 100 greatest songs of the 80′s and #7 on VH1′s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s.

I Melt With You – Modern English

Moving forwards using all my breath
Making love to you was never second best
I saw the world crashing all around your face
Never really knowing it was always mesh and lace

I’ll stop the world and melt with you
You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time
There’s nothing you and I won’t do
I’ll stop the world and melt with you

(You should know better)
Dream of better lives the kind which never hates
(You should see why)
Trapped in a state of imaginary grace
(You should know better)
I made a pilgrimage to save this human’s race
(You should see why)
Never comprehending the race had long gone bye

(Let’s stop the world) I’ll stop the world and melt with you
(Let’s stop the world) You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all
the time
(Let’s stop the world) There’s nothing you and I won’t do
(Let’s stop the world) I’ll stop the world and melt with you

The future’s open wide

**The future’s open wide

(Let’s stop the world) I’ll stop the world and melt with you
(Let’s stop the world) I’ve seen some changes but it’s getting better all the
time
(Let’s stop the world) There’s nothing you and I won’t do
(Let’s stop the world) I’ll stop the world and melt with you

The future’s open wide

hmmm hmmm hmmm
hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm
hmmm hmmm hmmm
hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm

I’ll stop the world and melt with you (Let’s stop the world)
You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time (Let’s stop the
world)
There’s nothing you and I won’t do (Let’s stop the world)
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (Let’s stop the world)

I’ll stop the world and melt with you (Let’s stop the world)
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (Let’s stop the world)

I’ll stop the world and melt with you (Let’s stop the world)
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (Let’s stop the world)

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American Pie ~ Don McLean

Don McLean is an American singer-songwriter.

As a young teenager, McLean became interested in folk music, particularly the Weavers’ 1955 recording At Carnegie Hall. Childhood asthma meant that McLean missed long periods of school, and although he slipped back in his studies, his love of music was allowed to flourish. He often performed shows for family and friends. By age 16 he had bought his first guitar (a Harmony acoustic archtop with a sunburst finish) and begun making contacts in the music business, becoming friends with folk singer Erik Darling, a member of the Weavers. McLean recorded his first studio sessions (with singer Lisa Kindred) while still in prep school.

McLean graduated from Iona Preparatory School in 1963, and briefly attended Villanova University, dropping out after four months. While at Villanova he became friends with singer/songwriter Jim Croce.

After leaving Villanova, McLean became associated with famed folk music agent Harold Leventhal, and for the next six years performed at venues and events including the Bitter End and the Gaslight Cafe in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Concurrently, McLean attended night school at Iona College and received a Bachelors degree in Business Administration in 1968. He turned down a scholarship to Columbia University Graduate School in favour of becoming resident singer at Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY.

In 1968, with the help of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, McLean began reaching a wider public, with visits to towns up and down the Hudson River. He learned the art of performing from his friend and mentor Pete Seeger. McLean accompanied Seeger on his Clearwater boat trip up the Hudson River in 1969 to protest environmental pollution in the river. During this time McLean wrote songs that would appear on his first album, Tapestry. McLean co-edited the book Songs and Sketches of the First Clearwater Crew with sketches by Thomas B. Allen for which Pete Seeger wrote the foreword. Seeger and McLean sang “Shenandoah” on the 1974 Clearwater album.

In 1961 Don’s father died. Don had also been profoundly affected by the deaths of both Buddy Holly and John F. Kennedy. These events would influence him in later life.

American Pie

Don McLean’s most famous composition, “American Pie”, is often interpreted as describing the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper in an airplane crash on February 3, 1959, spawning the phrase, “The Day the Music Died.” McLean has stated that the lyrics are also somewhat autobiographical and present an abstract story of his life from the mid-1950s until the time he wrote the song in the late 1960s. The hometown legend is that “the levee” is his hometown bar, the Beechmont Tavern near Iona College. “American Pie” symbolizes the ongoing radical and tumultuous changes in popular music during this period, evolving from the often raw, upbeat sounds that marked the earliest days of rockabilly and the rock eras of the 1950s to the darker, more introspective, often cynical and increasingly socially conscious music of the late 1960s, driven by the sweeping social upheavals and volatile political atmosphere that had engulfed and defined America by the end of the decade.

Don McLean’s “American Pie” has remained the subject of intense scrutiny and philosophical interpretation for more than 30 years as music historians, scholars, professors of modern American literature, and his fans alike continue to search for its ‘deeper meaning.’ In interviews, Don claims to be amused that many interpretations start with the premise that he never talks about the song nor has ever provided insight into the meaning of the lyrics.   I have included a possible “key” to the lyrics below.

American Pie – Don McLean

A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while.   1

But February made me shiver
With every paper I delivered,
Bad news on the door step,
I couldn’t take one more step,   2

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride   3
But something touched me deep inside,
The day, the music, died.   4
So…

Bye, bye Miss American Pie   5
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry 6
Them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey ‘n’ rye   7
Singin this will be the day that I die.
This will be the day that I die. 8

Did you write the book of love 9
And do you have faith in God above,
If the bible tells you so.   10
And do you believe in rock ‘n’ roll?
Can music save your mortal soul? 11
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well I know that you’re in love with him
Cuz I saw you dancin’ in the gym. 12
You both kicked off your shoes 13
And I dig those rhythm and blues. 14

I was a lonely teenage bronkin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pick up truck 15
But I knew I was out of luck,
The day, the music, died.
I started singin…

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey ‘n’ rye
Singin this will be the day that I die.
This will be the day that I die.

Now for ten years we’ve been on our own 16
And moss grows fat on a rollin stone 17
But that’s not how it used to be,
When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean 18
And a voice that came from you and me. 19

Oh and while the king was looking down,
The jester stole his thorny crown 20
The courtroom was adjourned;
No verdict was returned. 21

And while Lennon read a book on Marx, 22
The quartet practiced in the park 23
And we sang dirges in the dark, 24
The day, the music, died.
We were singin’…

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey ‘n’ rye
Singin this will be the day that I die.
This will be the day that I die.

Helter Skelter in a summer swelter 25
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter,
Eight miles high and fallin’ fast. 26
It landed foul on the grass. 27
The players tried for a forward pass 28
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast. 29

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume 30
While the sergeants played a marching tune. 31
We all got up to dance
Oh but we never got the chance. 32

As the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed, 33
the day, the music, died?
We started singin’…

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey ‘n’ rye
Singin this will be the day that I die.
This will be the day that I die.

Oh and there we were all in one place, 34
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again. 35
So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick. 36
Jack Flash sat on a candle stick 37
Because fire is the devils only friend.38

Oh and as I watched him on the stage,
My hands were clinched in fists of rage,
No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan’s spell. 39

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight,40
The day, the music, died.
He was singin’…

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey ‘n’ rye
Singin this will be the day that I die.
This will be the day that I die.

I met a girl who sang the blues 41
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away. 42
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play. 43

And in the streets the children screamed, 44
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed. 45
But not a word was spoken,
The church bells all were broken. 46

And the three men I admire most,
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, 47
They caught the last train for the coast, 48
The day, the music, died.
And they were singin’…

They were singin’…

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey ‘n’ rye
Singin’ this will be the day that I die.

The Key

1. The song is about the history of rock and roll music and how it changed after Buddy Holly’s death. It is also, however, about McLean’s growing up, and his love of the pure rock and roll of the ’50s. McClean was a musician. He wanted to make people dance. Most 50′s music was meant for dancing and in general upbeat and happy, in contrast to 60′s music.

2. McClean was a paperboy on February 3, 1959 when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed. He was devastated by the news, since Holly was his idol.

3. Holly’s recent bride was pregnant when the crash took place; she had a miscarriage shortly afterward.

4. The same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly also took the lives of Richie Valens (“La Bamba”) and The Big Bopper (“Chantilly Lace”). Since all three were so prominent at the time, February 3, 1959 became known as “The Day The Music Died.”

5. Goodbye to the music of America, the Rock ‘n’ Roll and dance music of the ’50s. It’s interesting how McLean has feminized 50′s rock music here, the fact that it’s a virgin (Miss) form of music that’s as American as apple pie.

6. Chevy represents America. The Levee is the bar where McLean and his friends hung out in his hometown of New Rochelle, NY. It closed down.

7. This line is a play on words. Rye is a city in New York near where McLean grew up. When the Levee closed, the “good ol’ boys,” McLean and his friends, fled to drink in Rye where together they mourned the deaths of the trio.

8. One of Holly’s hits was “That’ll be the Day”; the chorus contains the line, “That’ll be the Day that I Die.”

9. “The Book of Love” by the Monotones; hit in 1958.

10. In 1955, Don Cornell did a song entitled “The Bible Tells Me So.” This line could also refer to the sense of disparity that maybe God let us down after the assassination of John Kennedy and the general disillusionment of the early ’60s. It is also likely that these lines are meant to garnish rock ‘n’ roll with religious imagery, because most of the early musicians, including Holly, got their start in church choirs or by singing hymns. An old children’s hymn called “Jesus Loves Me” has the line “the Bible tells me so” in the lyrics.

11. This is a lament of the decline of the dance music of the ’50s. It might also be a reference to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s hit in 1965 with John Sebastian’s “Do you Believe in Magic?” Or, McLean might be questioning the integrity of music and it’s worth after the plane crash

12. Dancing slow was an important part of early rock and roll dance events — but declined in importance through the 60′s as things like psychedelia and the 10-minute guitar solo gained prominence. Back then, dancing was an expression of love, and carried a connotation of commitment. Dance partners were not so readily exchanged as they would be later. Allegorically, the “him” is probably all the young, hansom teen idols that were common in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The “you” represents all the teenage girls who swooned over those idols.

13. A reference to a “sock hop,” generally held in gymnasiums.

14. McLean is letting us know he prefers the R&B music of the ’50′s to the sock hop music.

15. “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation),” was a hit for Marty Robbins in 1957. McLean was lonely because his music was out of style.

16. It was roughly 10 years after the death of Buddy Holly that McLean started writing “American Pie.”

17. The “rolling stone” is a reference to Bob Dylan, since “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965) was his first major hit; he was busy writing songs extolling the virtues of simple love, family and contentment while staying at home and raking in the royalties. It also is a reference to The Rolling Stones, and a symbollic reversal of the aphorism, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” To McLean, the music of the ’60s was gathering moss–growing stale. “That’s not how it used to be” refers to the early days of Dylan.

18. The jester is Bob Dylan. The king could refer to Elvis. The Queen is probably the Queen of England, whom Dylan performed for. In the movie “Rebel Without a Cause”, James Dean has a red windbreaker that holds symbolic meaning throughout the film. In one particularly intense scene, Dean lends his coat to a guy who is shot and killed; Dean’s father arrives, sees the coat on the dead man, thinks it’s Dean, and loses it. On the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”, Dylan is wearing just such as red windbreaker, and is posed in a street scene similar to one shown in a well-known picture of James Dean. Bob Dylan played a command performance for the Queen and Prince Consort of England. He was not properly attired, so perhaps this is a reference to his apparel.

19. A reference to Dylan’s style of music, folk music, from the people (you and me).

20. This could be a reference to Elvis’s decline and Dylan’s ascendance. (i.e. Presley is looking down from a height as Dylan takes his place.) The thorny crown might be a reference to the price of fame, or another religious metaphor.

21. This could be the trial of the Chicago Seven. It could also refer to the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, which really had no “verdict,” and is still open to speculation. Most likely, it is a reference to the fact that there really is no true “king” of rock ‘n’ roll during this period. For even though Dylan has grabbed (stolen) the mantle of rock’s spokesman, the verdict is still out.

22. This is a play on words. Literally, John Lennon reading about Karl Marx; figuratively, the introduction of radical politics into the music of the Beatles. Both Lennon and Lenin (Soviet dictator) believed in Marxist philosophy.

23. Allegorically, this line probably refers to the time when the Beatles were still playing in England and Europe. They were still “practicing” because they had not come to America yet.

24. A “dirge” is a funeral or mourning song, so perhaps this is meant literally, morning the death of Holly or his music…or, perhaps, this is a reference to some of the new “art rock” groups which played long pieces not meant for dancing. It’s likely just a reference to McLean’s unhappiness with the way music was going.

25. “Helter Skelter” is a Beatles song which appears on the “White Album.” Charles Manson, claiming to have been “inspired” by the song led his followers in the Tate-LaBianca murders. The “summer swelter” might be a reference to the “Summer of Love” or perhaps to the “long hot summer” of Watts.

26. The Byrd’s “Eight Miles High” was on their late 1966 release “Fifth Dimension”. It was one of the first records to be widely banned because of supposedly drug-oriented lyrics.

27. One of the Byrds was busted for possession of marijuana.

28. The football metaphor could be the Rolling Stones, i.e. they were waiting for an opening which really didn’t happen until the Beatles broke up. Or it could refer to attempts of other musicians to come into the limelight while Dylan was laid up.

29. On July 29, 1966, Dylan crashed his Triumph 55 motorcycle while riding near his home in Woodstock, New York. He spent nine months in seclusion while recuperating from the accident.

30. Drugs, or the hidden messages about drugs in some of the songs of the mid-’60s (half-time in the decade).

31. A clear reference to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles 1967 album that changed rock ‘n’ roll forever. It was the first theme album, the first to put lyrics on the cover, the first to use synthetic sounds. It had no hit singles, another new concerpt in album production. It had proported hidden messages, mostly drug messages in songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (LSD). McLean liked it (sweet perfume).

32. All the youth got into this album. They didn’t get the chance to dance because the Beatles had now pushed rock music away from its dance roots. They used orchestras. They wrote long, slow songs with ponderous rhythms. Or it could also refer to the fact that the Beatles’ 1966 Candlestick Park concert lasted only 35 minutes.

33. No one could compete against the Beatles. Some folks think this refers to either the 1968 Demomcratic Convention or Kent State. What was “revealed” was the dark underlying messages of rock music: the Marxism that was alluded to in the previous verse, the advocation of drug use, the overly self-obsessed quality of the lyrics.

34. The “place” was Woodstock.

35. Perhaps this is a reference to “hippies”, who were sometimes known as the “lost generation”, partially because of their particularly acute alienation from their parents, and partially because of their presumed preoccupation with drugs. It could also be a reference to the ’60s TV show, “Lost in Space,” whose title was sometimes used as a synonym for someone who was rather high. Perhaps, their preference for psychedelia had pushed rock and roll so far from Holly’s music that it couldn’t be retrieved.

36. Probably a reference to Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones; “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was released in May, 1968.

37. The Stones’ Candlestick park concert? Candlestick park was also the venue for the Beatles’ final performance–the end of the rock ‘n’ roll era.

38. It’s possible that this is a reference to the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil”.

39. While playing a concert at the Altamont Speedway in 1968, the Stones appointed members of the Hell’s Angels to work security (on the advice of the Grateful Dead). In the darkness near the front of the stage, a young man named Meredith Hunter was beaten and stabbed to death — by the Angels. Public outcry that the song “Sympathy for the Devil” had somehow incited the violence caused the Stones to drop the song from their show for the next six years. This incident is chronicled in the documentary film “Gimme Shelter”. It’s also possible that McLean views the Stones as being negatively inspired (remember, he had an extensive religious background) by virtue of “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Their Satanic Majesties’ Request” and so on.

40. This could be a reference to Jimi Hendrix burning his Stratocaster at the Monterey Pop Festival, or simply the bonfires that were lit at the outside concerts. It could be a reference to Jagger dancing and prancing while the murder was happening. Mick Jagger is Satan, the murder provided the sacrifice.

41. Janis Joplin

42. Janis died of an accidental heroin overdose on October 4, 1970.

43. The “sacred store” might be Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, one of the great rock and roll venues of all time. Alternatively, this refers to record stores, and their longtime (then discontinued) practice of allowing customers to preview records in the store. It could also refer to record stores as “sacred” because this is where one goes to get “saved”. (See above lyric “Can music save your mortal soul?”) The music “wouldn’t play” means that nobody is interested in hearing Buddy Holly et.al.’s music anymore. Or, as above, the discontinuation of the in-store listening booths. Another interpretion is that the “store” is the record industry in 1970; the “music” is McLean’s own song, American Pie, and “the man” is the recording industry and radio. McLean’s style of music, particularly this song, just wouldn’t play. It was too long (over 8 minutes), too folksy, and too late.

44. Protesters being beaten by police and National Guard troops.

45. The trend towards psychedelic music in the ’60s.

46. It could be that the broken bells are the dead musicians: neither can produce any more music.

47. Holly, The Big Bopper, and Valens.

48. They died; rock died. Elvis has left the building. Buddy Holly is no more. Rock ‘n’ roll is over, at least in its original form. And Don McLean can only watch them go and sing, “Bye-bye, Miss American Pie…”

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Vincent ~ Don McLean

Don McLean is an American singer-songwriter.

As a young teenager, McLean became interested in folk music, particularly the Weavers’ 1955 recording At Carnegie Hall. Childhood asthma meant that McLean missed long periods of school, and although he slipped back in his studies, his love of music was allowed to flourish. He often performed shows for family and friends. By age 16 he had bought his first guitar (a Harmony acoustic archtop with a sunburst finish) and begun making contacts in the music business, becoming friends with folk singer Erik Darling, a member of the Weavers. McLean recorded his first studio sessions (with singer Lisa Kindred) while still in prep school.

McLean graduated from Iona Preparatory School in 1963, and briefly attended Villanova University, dropping out after four months. While at Villanova he became friends with singer/songwriter Jim Croce.

After leaving Villanova, McLean became associated with famed folk music agent Harold Leventhal, and for the next six years performed at venues and events including the Bitter End and the Gaslight Cafe in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Concurrently, McLean attended night school at Iona College and received a Bachelors degree in Business Administration in 1968. He turned down a scholarship to Columbia University Graduate School in favour of becoming resident singer at Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY.

In 1968, with the help of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, McLean began reaching a wider public, with visits to towns up and down the Hudson River. He learned the art of performing from his friend and mentor Pete Seeger. McLean accompanied Seeger on his Clearwater boat trip up the Hudson River in 1969 to protest environmental pollution in the river. During this time McLean wrote songs that would appear on his first album, Tapestry. McLean co-edited the book Songs and Sketches of the First Clearwater Crew with sketches by Thomas B. Allen for which Pete Seeger wrote the foreword. Seeger and McLean sang “Shenandoah” on the 1974 Clearwater album.

In 1961 Don’s father died. Don had also been profoundly affected by the deaths of both Buddy Holly and John F. Kennedy. These events would influence him in later life.

Vincent (Starry Starry Night)

vangogh-starry_night.jpg

The song clearly demonstrates a deep-seated admiration for not only the work of van Gogh, but also for the man himself. The song includes references to his landscape works, in lines such as “sketch the trees and the daffodils” and “morning fields of amber grain” – which describe the amber wheat that features in several paintings. There are also several lines that may allude to van Gogh’s self-portraits: perhaps in “weathered faces lined in pain / are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand”, McLean is suggesting that van Gogh may have found some sort of consolation in creating portraits of himself. There is, too, a single line describing van Gogh’s most famous set of works, Sunflowers. “Flaming flowers that brightly blaze” not only draws on the luminous orange and yellow colours of the painting, but also creates powerful images of the sun itself, flaming and blazing, being contained within the flowers and the painting.

In the first two choruses, McLean pays tribute to van Gogh by reflecting on his lack of recognition: “They would not listen / they did not know how / perhaps they’ll listen now.” In the final Chorus, McLean says “They would not listen / They’re not listening still / Perhaps they never will.” This is the story of van Gogh: unrecognised as an artist until after his death. The lyrics suggest that van Gogh was trying to “set [people] free” with the message in his work. McLean feels that this message was made clear to him: “And now I understand what you tried to say to me,” he sings. Perhaps it is this eventual understanding that inspired McLean to write the song.

It is also thought that the song intends to portray van Gogh’s tough relationship with his family. They were a wealthy family who did not accept him for his schizophrenia (“for they could not love you”) and never understood his will to help the poor. It is thought that van Gogh felt that in killing himself he would make the point to his parents. This is seen in the line “Perhaps they’ll listen now.”

There are also references to van Gogh’s sanity and his suicide. Throughout his life, van Gogh was plagued with mental disorders, particularly depression. He “suffered for his sanity” and eventually “took [his] life, as lovers often do.” In theory, the word “lover” puts into context how McLean saw the relationship of van Gogh with his art — a relationship of love. This love was strong enough for van Gogh to persevere with his art even without acceptance from his contemporaries: “For they could not love you, but still your love was true.”

Another theory is that the lines refer to van Gogh’s sordid relationship with Paul Gauguin,  with whom he had, as with many others, a complex sort of relationship, which was so intense as to lead Van Gogh to think it rational to cut off a part of his left earlobe as a sign of cutting Gauguin out of his life and heart. That led Gauguin, who had also had severe bouts of depression and suicidal tendencies, to distance himself from van Gogh, tumbling the already troubled artist into a schizophrenic depression, the theoretical straw that broke the camel’s back.

Vincent – Don McLean

Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer’s day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless head on nameless walls,
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget.
Like the strangers that you’ve met,
The ragged men in the ragged clothes,
The silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they’re not listening still.
Perhaps they never will…

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Take Me Home Tonight ~ Eddie Money

Eddie Money is an American rock singer-songwriter who found success in the 1970s and 1980s with a string of Top 40 hits and platinum albums.

After becoming a police officer, like his father, during the late 1960s,  Money began to be interested in music, and eventually ended his law enforcement career in favor of becoming a musician. He moved to Berkeley, California and became a regular at area clubs, where he eventually got enough attention to secure a recording contract with Columbia Records. Later in the 1970s, he charted with singles such as “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise”.  Money continued his successes and took advantage of the MTV music video scene in the early 1980s with his humorous narrative videos for “Shakin’” and “Think I’m in Love”, but his career began to fail him after several unsuccessful releases in the mid-1980s, accompanied by his struggles with drug addiction.

Money made a comeback two years later in 1986 and returned to the mainstream rock spotlight with the album Can’t Hold Back, which featured a Ronnie Spector duet with “Take Me Home Tonight”, which reached the Top 10, along with the hit “I Wanna Go Back”. Money followed the album with another Top 10 hit, late 1988′s “Walk on Water”, but his Top 40 career ended when “I’ll Get By” charted in 1992. During the 1990s and 2000s, Money continued to release numerous compilation albums along with several albums featuring new material. Today, he still tours the “Oldies” circuit regularly, often accompanied by other successful rock acts from his era, and has also made several television appearances on American sitcoms. Since 1992, Money has traditionally opened the summer concert season for DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI. 

Take Me Home Tonight

The song starts with a synth playing and is then joined by a guitar playing the same notes. This song was recorded in a duet with Ronnie Spector. The song has Spector singing the chorus from The Ronettes’ previous hit, “Be My Baby”, (on which Spector sang lead vocals) after Money sings “just like Ronnie sang.” The lyrics suggest that the singer wants the woman’s company for the night and for her to “be [his] little baby.” The song is credited as being inspired by an unknown person who is called “Garth” by the main band members when questioned about the song, who when they were young was a friend of all of theirs who was constantly looking to sleep over at other people’s houses.

Take Me Home Tonight - Leeson, Vale, Greenwich, Barry, Spector

I feel a hunger

It’s a hunger that tries to keep a man awake at night.
Are you the answer?
I shouldn’t wonder when I feel you whet my appetite

With all the power you’re releasing

It isn’t safe to walk the city streets a
Anticipation is running through me

Let’s find the key and turn this engine on.

I can feel you breathe
I can feel your heartbeat faster.
Take me home tonight!
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light!
Take me home tonight!
Listen honey
iust like Ronnie sang: Be my little baby!

I get frightened in all this darkness

I get nightmares
I hate to sleep alone
I need some company

A guardian angel to keep me warm when the cold winds blow!

I can feel you breathe
I can feel your heartbeat faster. . . .
Be my little baby!

Just like Ronnie sang
I say
just like Ronnie sang:
Be my little baby
baby
my darling!
I feel a hunger
it’s a hunger!

Take me home tonight!…
Take me home tonight!…
Take me home tonight!…

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House of the Rising Sun ~ Five Finger Death Punch

five-fingerFive Finger Death Punch is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 2005, the group’s name is derived from classic martial arts cinema. The band originally consisted of vocalist Ivan Moody, guitarist Zoltan Bathory, guitarist Caleb Andrew Bingham, bassist Matt Snell, and drummer Jeremy Spencer. Bingham was replaced by guitarist Darrell Roberts in 2006, who was then replaced by Jason Hook in 2009. Bassist Matt Snell departed from the band in 2010 and was replaced by Chris Kael in 2011.

Their debut album The Way of the Fist was released in 2007. Following its release, the band began achieving success rapidly. The 2009 follow-up album War Is the Answer further increased their popularity, leading to both of the albums being certified gold by the RIAA, selling over 500,000 copies each in the United States. The band’s third album, entitled American Capitalist was released on October 11, 2011 and achieved Gold status within the year. The band has played international music festivals including Mayhem Festival in 2008, 2010 and 2013, and Download Festival in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

Five Finger Death Punch are the recipients of the Radio Contraband Rock Radio Awards for “Indie Artist of the Year” in 2011, 2012 and 2013. They were also honored with the Radio Contraband Rock Radio Award for Album (American Capitalist) and Song of the Year (“Coming Down”) in 2012.

House of the Rising Sun

“The House of the Rising Sun” is a traditional folk song, sometimes called “Rising Sun Blues”. It tells of a life gone wrong in New Orleans. The most successful commercial version, recorded in 1964 by the English rock group The Animals, was a number one hit in the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden, Finland, and Canada.

Like many classic folk ballads, the authorship of “The House of the Rising Sun” is uncertain. Musicologists say that it is based on the tradition of broadside ballads such as The Unfortunate Rake of the 18th century and that English emigrants took the song to America where it was adapted to its later New Orleans setting. Alan Price of The Animals has even claimed that the song was originally a sixteenth-century English folk song about a Soho brothel.

The oldest known existing recording is by Appalachian artists Clarence “Tom” Ashley and Gwen Foster, who recorded it forVocalion Records in 1934. Ashley said he had learned it from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley.

The song was among those collected by folklorist Alan Lomax, who, along with his father, was a curator of the Archive of American Folk Song for the Library of Congress. On an expedition with his wife to eastern Kentucky, Lomax set up his recording equipment in Middlesborough, Kentucky, in the house of a singer and activist named Tilman Cadle. In 1937 he recorded a performance by Georgia Turner, the 16-year-old daughter of a local miner. He called it The Rising Sun Blues. Lomax later recorded a different version sung by Bert Martin and a third sung by Daw Henson, both eastern Kentucky singers. In his 1941 songbook Our Singing Country, Lomax credits the lyrics to Turner, with reference to Martin’s version. According to his later writing, the melody bears similarities to the traditional English ballad, “Matty Groves”.

Roy Acuff, an “early-day friend and apprentice” of Ashley, learned it from him and later recorded it as “Rising Sun”. In 1941,Woody Guthrie recorded a version. A recording made in 1947 by Josh White, who is also credited with having written new words and music that have subsequently been popularized in the versions made by many other later artists, was released by Mercury Records in 1950. Lead Belly recorded two versions of the song in February 1944 and in October 1948, called “In New Orleans” and “The House of the Rising Sun” respectively; the latter was recorded in sessions that later became the album Lead Belly’s Last Sessions (1994, Smithsonian Folkways).

In 1957 Glenn Yarbrough recorded the song for Elektra Records. The song is also credited to Ronnie Gilbert on one of The Weavers albums released in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Pete Seeger released a version on Folkways Records in 1958, which was re-released by Smithsonian Folkways in 2009. Frankie Laine recorded the song then titled “New Orleans” on his 1959 album Balladeer. Actor and comedian Andy Griffith recorded the song on his 1959 album Andy Griffith Shouts the Blues and Old Timey Songs. Joan Baez recorded it in 1960 on her debut album; she frequently performed the song in concert throughout her career. In 1960 Miriam Makeba recorded the song on her eponymous RCA album.

In late 1961, Bob Dylan recorded the song for his debut album, released in March 1962. That release had no songwriting credit, but the liner notes indicate that Dylan learned this version of the song from Dave Van Ronk. In an interview on the documentaryNo Direction Home, Van Ronk said that he was intending to record the song, and that Dylan copied his version. He recorded it soon thereafter on Just Dave Van Ronk.

I had learned it sometime in the 1950s, from a recording by Hally Wood, the Texas singer and collector, who had got it from an Alan Lomax field recording by a Kentucky woman named Georgia Turner. I put a different spin on it by altering the chords and using a bass line that descended in half steps—a common enough progression in jazz, but unusual among folksingers. By the early 1960s, the song had become one of my signature pieces, and I could hardly get off the stage without doing it.

Nina Simone recorded her first version on Nina at the Village Gate in 1962. Later versions include the 1965 recording in Colombia by Los Speakers in Spanish called La casa del sol naciente, which was also the title of their second album. They earned a silver record (for sales of over 15,000 copies). The Chambers Brothers recorded a version on Feelin’ The Blues, released on Vault records.

The Five Finger Death Punch version changed the name of the location from New Orleans to “Sin City” as a nod to Las Vegas gambling.

House of the Rising Sun – Unknown

There is a house in Sin City
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, I know I’m one

My mother was a tailor
She sewed my new blue jeans
My father was a gamblin’ man
Down in Sin City

Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and a trunk
And the only time he’s satisfied
Is when he’s on a drunk

Well, I’ve got one foot on the platform
The other’s on the train
I’m goin’ back to Sin City
To wear that ball and chain

Well, mother, tell your children
Never do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the house of the rising sun

In the house of the rising sun

Well, there is a house in Sin City
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, knows I’m one

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More Than a Feeling ~ Boston

The origins of the band are now shrouded in mystery thanks to later conflicts between Tom Scholz and the other band members. The classic lineup of guitarists Tom Scholz and Barry Goudreau, vocalist/guitarist Brad Delp, bassist Fran Sheehan and drummer Sib Hashian didn’t fully crystalize until the band was signed by Epic Records. However, the five musicians had been working together throughout the early 1970s.

Boston began when Tom Scholz, an MIT engineering graduate who worked at Polaroid answered a newspaper ad placed by guitarist Barry Goudreau, seeking a keyboard player for a band called “Mothers Milk.” (Scholz was predominantly a keyboard player at the time, although he developed rapidly as a guitar player during Boston’s early years.)

Scholz made many recordings at his home studio with the future members of Boston, as well as drummer Jim Masdea (with whom Scholz played in a prior band), and singer Ron Patti from the band Boston Creme. The roots of the first album were created in these early demo sessions with songs such as “More Than a Feeling,” “Hitch a Ride,” “Peace of Mind,” “Foreplay/Long Time” and “Rock & Roll Band.” Scholz soon became frustrated with the limitations of the technology at the time and his inability to capture the sound he wanted, so he began building and designing his own equipment.

The first tapes Scholz produced were rejected by the record labels. A second set of tapes with Scholz on guitar, newly hired singer Brad Delp on vocals and Masdea on drums drew the attention of executives at Epic Records, a division of CBS. The label was dissatisfied with Masdea’s performance, so he was replaced by Sib Hashian. The label also insisted that Scholz re-record the demo tapes in a professional studio with a full band, which led to the hiring of bassist Fran Sheehan. With the exception of “Let Me Take You Home Tonight,” which was recorded in California, Scholz re-recorded the other seven tracks in his home studio.

Lead singer Brad Delp took his own life March 9, 2007, at his home in Atkinson, New Hampshire. Police found Delp dead in his bathroom. Police Lt. William Baldwin called the death “untimely” and said that no foul play was indicated. Delp was alone at the time of his death according to the police report. According to a New Hampshire TV website, Delp was preparing for a summer tour and marriage. His family later revealed that his death was a charcoal-burning suicide and that he was found by his fiancee. Associated Press reported that, according to the New Hampshire medical examiner, Delp’s death was the result of suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning as evidenced by carboxyhemoglobin.

More Than a Feeling

His biggest hit, “More Than A Feeling” took writer Tom Scholz five years to complete. The song is an example of the compound AABA form. The verses are in the key of D mixolydian, and the refrain is in the key of G major.

The Book of Rock Lists suggests that the chorus riff may itself be a subtle homage to the Kingsmen’s classic, “Louie Louie”. Scholz credits “Walk Away Renee” by The Left Banke as the song’s main inspiration. Other critics have noted that this song’s main riff is referenced in the Nirvana single “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  The descending verse riff is also similar to the hook from “Badge” by Cream. The song’s instrumental guitar bridge is heavily inspired by the instrumental hooks of The Tornados’ 1962 instrumental hit “Telstar”, but also sounds like the riff from the song “Tend My Garden” by Joe Walsh.

In February 2008, Scholz wrote to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, requesting him to stop performing the song at public appearances. Huckabee, an amateur bassist, was reported to have been regularly playing the song, sometimes with former Boston band member Barry Goudreau who held himself out on YouTube (it was subsequently yanked by the Huckabee Campaign) and on stage to be “of BOSTON” implying he was currently of the band BOSTON even though he had been out of the band for over two decades. In his letter, Scholz wrote:

While I’m flattered that you are fond of my song, I’m shocked that you would use it and the name Boston to promote yourself without my consent. Your campaign’s use of “More Than A Feeling”, coupled with the representation of one of your supporters as a member “of Boston”, clearly implies that the band Boston, and specifically one of its members, has endorsed your candidacy, neither of which is true.

More Than a Feeling - Tom Scholz

I woke up this morning and the sun was gone,
Turned on some music to start my day.
I lost myself in a familiar song,
I closed my eyes and I slipped away.

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling).
I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away.
I see my Marianne walking away.

So many people have come and gone,
Their faces fade as the years go by;
Yet I still recall as I wander on,
As clear as the sun in the summer sky.

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling).
I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away.
I see my Marianne walking away.

When I’m tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day,
And dream of a girl I used to know.
I closed my eyes and she slipped away.

She slipped away.

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling).
I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away.
I see my Marianne walking away.

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Make Believe ~ The Burned

the-burnedThe Burned is the solo project of singer/ songwriter Kurt Baumann.

Born in San Antonio, and growing up in a rural East Texas town, his parents separating when he was three, Kurt and his sister lived their teen years with their father, an airline pilot who once worked for the Prime Minister of Lebanon, in such exotic locales as Saudi Arabia and Germany. As a child, his favorite singer was Willie Nelson, but he also listened to master storytellers like Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson before his sister turned him on to rock & roll, eventually drawing him to visionaries such as John Lennon, Jim Morrison and David Bowie. Although he played in a grunge-style punk garage band while in Germany, then was a member of the popular jam band Kan’nal, he traveled a long road to write his solo bow that took him to a mystical, transcendent experience in an abandoned mining town tucked away among the mountains of Mexico where he wrote much of the album.

“People have described my music as kind of spooky and dark,” says Baumann, much of its inspiration coming from the parched terrain of his home state that has produced a musical melting pot of country, blues, soul, rock, R&B and psychedelic sounds. “I needed to fulfill this vision by going back to my Texas roots.”

That background can be heard in songs like the sun-baked “Where Are We Now,” with its jangling guitars, whispered vocals and a cappella choir; the distorted rock guitars of “Monster;” the loping, atmospheric “What We Know;” the sensual blues of “Hard Lesson;” the ominous, Pink Floyd acid strains of the sci-fi “Man Running;” and the soaring chamber string sextet which climaxes “Make Believe” as Kurt urges us to “remember what it’s like to play God” and “make believe in miracles again.”

“I’ve always dipped into elements of the subconscious as a writer,” he says, calling Carl Jung one of his favorite authors. “Some of the sounds I choose trigger those feelings of something underneath the surface, hidden from view. It started out as an acoustic record, like Ray LaMontagne or Damien Rice, but then I began working with synthesizers, plug-ins and electric guitars during the recordings and the songs began to organically evolve with these electronic and atmospheric elements.

A vocalist from the time he could walk, Kurt would sing country songs for his elementary school show-and-tell, always knowing he had a stage presence, but it wasn’t until he gave up music, traveled to Mexico, and had a number of explorative journeys and experiences that he found he had something to write about.

“I wanted to find a deeper thing within myself to present to the world,” he says.

Biblical references dot songs like “Where Are We Now,” “What We Know” and “That’s Life,” which express that existential journey, while “Hard Lesson,” “Listen” and “More Than I Want” deal with relationships and the more emotional side of that path. The acoustic “Time” even features a duet with his partner, singer/songwriter Katie Gray. Throughout, Baumann is like a shaman, providing spiritual signposts for listeners in his musical visions.

“I’m not trying to preach, but rather share my views with others,” he says. “I’m fascinated with the desert visions of Native Americans, the whole make-up of that subconscious realm. It’s like those ceremonies that are thousands of years old and tap into the underlying grid of what’s real. I’m trying to put that mystery and magic into the music without having people judge it. Mainly, I want it to be good music to listen to, but to also trigger something a little deeper inside.”

There’s an apocalyptic, end-of-days feel to music on The Burned, but Baumann insists he’s a glass-half-full kind of guy, leaving the choice up to us.

“It’s not like I feel I can change the world, but I really want to put stuff out there that can help people, make them feel better,” says Kurt. “Give them the seeds they can plant and grow something beautiful with. I want people to discover things within themselves through the music.”

On “Listen,” he combines Chris Isaak’s twangy noir classic “Wicked Game,” offering the advice, “Hang on to your dreams/Cuz dreams keep things alive.” On the majestic “That’s Life,” he reveals, “I’ve been chasing a reason/For my life,” with the same confessional gospel fervor of U2′s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

“In the past, I struggled so hard not to reveal my influences, but this time, I really wanted to let them shine,” he says. “I found out that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Indeed, The Burned, recorded mostly at Dik Darnell’s Colorado studio and at Castle Oaks in L.A.’s Calabasas suburb, finds Baumann increasingly comfortable with his musical palette.

“I definitely feel this album captures the essence of what I’ve been through and where I am right now,” he insists. “Obviously, I’m constantly changing, and I will try to do my best to continue getting better, but for the first time, I really enjoy something I recorded.”

Now, returning to his current hometown of Austin, Kurt has set about forming a band to play these songs live. In addition to The Burned, he has also toured and recorded with Grammy-winning DJ Adam Freeland’s electro-rock trio Freeland, is co-producing Katie Gray’s new album and joining her in a duet project called The SeaStars.

“The record business may be vanishing, but the music business will always be here,” he says. “The demand for something new and good is larger than ever.”

“Until this album was made, I had never really achieved what I wanted in the studio. I created all these songs in my home studio, then Dik and I were able to cast its recording like a movie, bringing in the players and showing them the parts. We were finally able to get the sounds out that were in my head this time. The vibe and the vision were clear to me.”

“They tell me nothing lasts forever/But let me tell you to your face/You’re never gonna catch me/We’ve got to keep running.”

With The Burned, Kurt Baumann’s music carries us to a world where there are no finish lines and always something greater beyond, “…just jump over the edge and see.”

Make Believe

Make Believe” is the 12th cut off Kurt Baumann’s 2010 solo album, The Burned.

Make Believe - Kurt Baumann

Who’s to know my world
Who’s to share my worry
Mountains rise and fall all the time
And it doesn’t mean a damn thing to God
So make believe in miracles instead

Who’s to show no fear
Then cast the first stone at the mirror
And break the spell you put on yourself
And crack your shell wide open again
And make believe in miracles my friends

Who’s to give everything
Just to serve what they believe in
That’s the way you play the game of life
You create the world you want to see outside
And remember what it’s like to play God
And make believe in miracles again
Make believe in miracles my friends

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