January 30, 2015

It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But We Like It!)

Rockin' on the Radio

"When we started this band all we needed was a laugh. Years gone by, I'd say …" 

I never thought I would begin a blog post with a lyric from Motley Crue. It's not that I'm ashamed to be a Crew fan, it's just that their songs don't generally lead to quality content. At least not the kind of quality content I think I put forth here on Rick's Writing Again ... The song referenced is "Kickstart My Heart" which arrived on the DR. FEELGOOD album in 1989. Now, truly, at the time no one thought that 20 years later Motley Crue would be classic rock. It's a great tune and I think it resonates with many people. And this post isn't even a post about Motley Crue but about lyrics that catch people and stay with them … forever. 


The middle part of the song slows down and Vince Neil sort of spoken word says, "When we started this band all we needed was a laugh …" and then the song kicks back into gear and rocks out for another few minutes. The live version released a couple years later is actually a really good live song — and ti's hard to capture a good live song. Critics and fans consider KISS's 1976 live album recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit and titled ALIVE to be a great live album; however, the fact is that it was heavily improved in post–production. But the song "Kickstart My Heart," which if I remember correctly was the last song on side one, was released as the "B–side" to the single "She Goes Down," but it might just have been the best song on the entire LP. Certainly it's the one that has outlasted the other album tracks. 


The middle part of the song means something different to everyone who hears the song, but anyone can substitute anything else into "band" and come away feeling pretty good. I think that's where the band got it right — the song isn't necessarily about Motley Crue but about the listener — and to me, that's the key for every song that anyone likes. What about *this* song makes sense to me. I think about the songs I consider my favorites and there's something about every single one of them that grabs me. Some songs it's just the jam, the music, but many songs it's the lyrics. 


When I was a youngster and buying every single cassette that arrived on the shelves of Ye Olde Music Shoppe in Elk Rapids or Camelot Music in Traverse City, I would spend hours looking over the liner notes. If I bought a new album and it didn't have the lyrics, I was disappointed; I felt like the artist was hiding something from me. This was 30 years ago, so it wasn't like I could hop on the Internet and see what John Mellencamp was slurring in "Hurts So Good" or get a clarification on a line in a Bruce Springsteen song. I still sing along to songs and realize that I often slur lyrics I don't really know or just skip them completely; if I hear someone else sing a line differently that I always have, I check it out. It's amazing to discover that for 30 years, I've been singing a song wrong — I hope I'm not the only person who has discovered this! 

In "Hurts So Good," for example, listen to the song and see if you know the second line of the song — the second line! I think I slurred that line for years. I know Mellencamp used to pull fans up on the stage to sing Hurts So Good, and now I wonder if anyone got the second line right:

"Hurts So Good" (Mellencamp/Green)
When I was a young boy
Now that I'm gettin' older
So much older


Another point of reference, Jimmy Buffett's Changes in Latitudes album had the lyrics on the back of the album. I thought it was so cool to follow along to these songs which contained content I didn't really understand. I'm referring to myself as about a nine year old at this point — and then I found lyrics that he actually changed on the recording and wondered why. If you listen to the song "Miss You So Badly" about those surgeons on vacation and read the lyrics at the same time, you'll understand. You'll also get why the nine year old didn't get it! A great album, by the way, that ages very well. Buffett truly hit a home run with that platter.


Remember those songs you thought were great as a kid? I used to sing along to "Hot Blooded," "My Life," "Lonesome Loser," and countless others. Seen through the eyes of a kid, the songs are just about best friends and sleep overs, but years later … It's uncanny when you suddenly realize what you used to sing about as a kid, totally unknowingly! You know what, though, you still sing that song every single time it comes on the radio, don't you?


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