Night Music: Meat Loaf, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”

I confess to a strange and circuitous relationship with Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell album.

I did buy the album when it came out, and remember selling a friend–John Takauchi–the poster from within the album for $10, a hefty sum at the time. I do see the original album goes for $35 or so on Ebay, but did not see any posters that came with the initial pressing of the 1977 disc.

I did like the album, though I thought Jim Steinman’s songwriting a little overwrought and too angst-ridden, but Meat sings well, the band is great, and well, Todd Rundgren produced the who thing and played guitar and those are good credentials.

But, the album came and went but suddenly I crossed paths with Meat who is a big Fantasy Baseball player, for we met a couple of times 15 years ago when the National Fantasy Baseball Championship drafts were held in Las Vegas.

However, in 2011, after Diane and I had actually been together for a half-dozen years, Meat dropped in.

I have to remind readers old and advise readers new, that my partner in life, Diane Walsh and I share very little musically. Over our 10 years together we have attended only one life concert together that did not involve either my band, or the band of a friends.

She likes the hit WTF and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Thrift Shop just to give an idea of the range of what she will listen to, but, as for liking bands or albums or things I like, we are on not just different planets: more like as I have written that music, for Diane, is something to listen to while at the gym.

Di and I have driven cross country a couple of times, and I mostly tried to mitigate the gap in our musical tastes by finding classic 80’s and 90’s, living on Boston and Georgia Satellites and their ilk while in the car.

But, during our second trip from Chicago to Berkeley we traveled Route 66, and during the end of May and we ran into some torrential rain just outside of Tulsa. The rain pelted us on the Interstate so hard that we had to pull over.

As we sat there, mesmerized by the crazy falling water, Paradise by the Dashboard Light came on the radio. Diane and I had never discussed this song (I might have mentioned that I met Meat) or album, but I started singing Meat’s part when the vocals came on, something not unusual for me. The cool thing was that right on cue, Diane began singing the Ellen Foley part, and we sat there, on the side of the freeway, pouring rain, singing the duet to and with one another about as spontaneously as permits.

It was quite fun, and one of those little magic moments in relationships, and as it is, a bunch of the songs from the album are on my shuffle for times when a cross pollination of our musical tastes is appropriate.

But, a week ago, as I was surfing for something to watch among the 300 derelict channels we get, the film Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise was on and I found it pretty fun and interesting.

There was a clip of Paradise that is not the one below, but it does appear to be from the same tour. But, Meat and Karla DeVito (I believe) are great in the performance. And, overblown or melodramatic or whatever, the song and performance make pretty good theater.

Hmm. . .

The Keith Morris book tells me this is the first band Keith managed. I knew nothing about them, so I had to check it out. This is pretty damn good.

I love:

1) The Gibson/Marshall sound and the sound in general,

2) The little guitar riff that drives the entire song,

3) The Chuck Berry solo,

4) The drummer.

Drove me nuts for a while trying to squeeze who the singer sounds like out of my brain. It’s Leonard Graves Phillips from The Dickies.

I have a feeling I’m gonna be disappointed, but I need to do more investigating.

This is what pop/punk should be.

Song of the Week – Darling Be Home Soon, Joe Cocker


mpw-28919John Sebastian wrote “Darling Be Home Soon” for the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1966 film You’re a Big Boy Now, while still with The Lovin’ Spoonful.

“Darling…” is very sentimental which is typical of so many other Sebastian compositions. It was one of five songs Sebastian played at his unscheduled performance at Woodstock.

The Lovin’ Spoonful version is terrific but Joe Cocker did it one better. He ditched the sappy strings for a more organic musical arrangement (including a great piano part) and gave it a gospel feel, all without losing the earnest sentiment of the original.

The lyric is a love letter to a dear one that is away and sorely missed. This has got to be the only song in rock history that would attempt a rhyme like “dawdled” and “toddled.” A bit twee, but perfect for the emotion of the song.

The melodic structure of the composition is flexible enough to have a different form in each of the verses. For instance, in the first verse the last two lines end in rhymes. In the second verse the last three lines rhyme. In the final, shortened verse, there is no rhyme for the final line.

Although I chose to present the Cocker version to you, check out the Lovin’ Spoonful original too.

Enjoy… until next week.

Afternoon Snack: Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get it On”

When I was first really nailed by the radio, in 1962, Marvin Gaye’s Hitch Hike and Can I Get a Witness were the hits of the great Motown singer.

Old Marvin kept producing, but by the mid-70’s, when I finished college, I got my first “real” job as a social worker working for the Oakland Housing Authority.

My work day was in the midst of the African American community in Oakland, a culture that is both rich in custom and heritage, yet sadly overlooked and dismissed.

Well, Marvin was at his peak over the decade I worked in West Oakland, producing such great songs as Mercy Mercy MeGot to Give it Up, and for sure Let’s Get it On.

These songs were great, and they come up once in a while, but I stuck a Motown greatest hits collection on my Playlist, sort of randomly–that is without looking at any of the titles, since I could guess, and liked most–and the other day Let’s Get it On came on and reminded me not just how great Gaye was, but how fantastic the Funk Brothers and Motown musicians and arrangers and producers were.

Let’s Get it On sort of typifies this for me, with a great song and melody, fantastic production (listen to the Wah Wah guitar fills through the verse till the drums come and and the horns phatten the sound duplicating the guitar line).

And, everything just builds, sort of like the song, sort of like the subject of the song.

Great stuff from a great, albeit troubled artist. Why are these things so often linked?  Sigh.  BTW, there were a lot of takes of the song out, but somehow this vid, from Soul Train, seemed the right way to go.

Night Music: Black Crowes, “Hotel Illness”

The Black Crowes came to me at an interesting crossroads of my life. I was just finishing graduate school, while working full time. My son, Joey, was a handful of years old, and I saw the Crowes, touring behind their first album, along with Jellyfish, also hot locally at the Warfield in San Francisco in March of 1992.

A month later I would have a Masters Degree in English, have completed a novel, and my marriage was over.

It was all very strange, and it was a tough time, but it all led to where I am today, and for that I could not be happier.

Anyway, while building up my playlist the other day, I was thinking of songs–just cuts, not necessarily albums–that were fun and this song by the Crowes popped up.

It is indeed a pop rocker, but quite tuneful, and really well executed. And hey, talk about upbeat.

Song of the Week – I Can Help, Billy Swan


Someone recently posted a list of Tom Petty’s favorite songs as enumerated in an appendix to his biography. I checked it out and was surprised by one of his selections – “I Can Help” by Billy Swan. Just last week he included the song in the playlist for his SiriusXM radio show, Buried Treasures. Clearly he’s fond of this song.

For me, the 1974 hit is a reminder of my high school days, driving around town, listening to AM radio, which is pretty much all most cars had back then.

It’s a slight song, both lyrically and musically, but it’s also very catchy — especially its use of those distinctive, alternating Farfisa organ chords over the rockabilly shuffle. Many articles claim the organ Swan used was a wedding gift to him from Kris Kristofferson and (then wife) Rita Coolidge. But in a 2007 article I found, Swan told interviewer Richard Buskin that the gift organ was used to write the song and produce a demo, but was not the one he used on the commercially released recording.

Although “I Can Help” was Swan’s only hit as a performer, he had earlier success in the music business. He wrote “Lover Please” that was a top 10 recording in 1962 for Clyde McPhatter, who had left the Drifters in 1954 after serving a stint in the Army.

As a producer, he hit in 1969 with Tony Joe White’s Southern cult classic “Polk Salad Annie.” As an instrumentalist, he was a touring musician in bands for Kristofferson, Kinky Friedman and Billy Joe Shaver.

Swan says he wrote “I Can Help” in just 20 minutes. More than 40 years later, that 20 minutes of inspiration is still satisfying listeners.

Enjoy… until next week.

Teenage Lust, Teenage Lust

screenshot-2016-09-14-23-51-32Wikipedia says this band is a glam band from the 70s, but has no info.

Evan Davies led his WFMU show off tonight with this tune, which has an opaque edition on YouTube, which you’ll see below.

But first, my comments. This is good! Not the sound quality, though it doesn’t really hurt, but the guitar, and the song itself, and the drummer is working hell hard. Plus the bass is in there churning.

Maybe Evan will see this on Facebook and fill us in with whatever details, but in the meantime, Thanks Evan!

Evan’s show is great, I don’t listen enough, but we also have to remember he gave us the fabulous Graveyard. Thanks Evan!