365 Day Song Challenge: Day 54 – “Home By The Sea”

Day 54. The song that got you hooked on your favorite band/artist.

“Home By The Sea” – Genesis

Home By The Sea SingleI don’t have a lot of time for today’s post. So if it sucks, tough.

Sorry about the back-to-back Genesis entries. Now you know why I was holding off on others a week or so ago. While I love Genesis (and would love to convert every single one of you), I know they’re not for everyone.

That said, I could make a case that “Home By The Sea” (with its uncredited second half, “Second Home By The Sea”) is for everyone. I say that because, as the challenge states, it’s the song that really turned me on to Genesis.

It’s another suite (this time a two-piece) that runs well over 10 minutes. But unlike something like “Supper’s Ready” where you have to do some work to get into it, “Home By The Sea” is from Genesis’ 80s period, when their music was more accessible (even the longer songs). So, like “Domino” that followed, “Home By The Sea” is more rock- and pop-based than the older, 70s-era suites. Heck, they even released the first part standalone as a single (in a couple of countries, countries that were not the US or the UK).

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Now, I certainly knew about Genesis before I heard this song. I was familiar with Invisible Touch (it was 1986/87 how could you not be?) and at the point, was all about “The Brazilian.” But, although released in 1983 on the Genesis album, I didn’t hear “Home By The Sea” until 1987, and on first listen, it didn’t register much. (I have to admit that initial listen was as I was acquiring a huge batch of music all at once, so I wasn’t paying close attention, either. And no, it wasn’t illegally copied! How dare you? The fact that I purchased two 10 packs of blank tapes just prior has no relation whatsoever.)

Then in 1988, I was reintroduced. I have my friend Justin, (a.k.a. Woody) to blame… er… thank for that (as well as the addiction and copious purchasing that followed; and no, there is no 12 step program for Genesis addicts).

As I mentioned in my “Rockford Files” post (I will find a way to include links to every post I’ve ever done), sometimes it’s a sound that grabs me. And to some extent, that’s the case here. At about 1:40 (and multiple times throughout), after Phil Collins sings “So many years ago/before the time when we first heard ‘welcome to the home by the sea’,” Tony Banks begins playing some arpeggios (which you unfortunately don’t get to hear in the preview). The combination of the arpeggios and the keyboard voice he chose grabbed my attention, and somehow it was magical. I’d never heard anything quite like it.

I was hooked.

“Home By The Sea” instantly became my favorite Genesis song and one of my favorites overall. It’s become less magical over the subsequent 25+ years and dozens of plays, but I still get a little shiver on those rare occasions when I get to do nothing but listen.

At its core, it’s a ghost story, something described pretty well here (although I don’t agree with the first two paragraphs). Someone enters the house, the ghosts trap them, and they force them to listen to their stories. Over and over and over.

Sit down Sit down
cos you won’t get away
no with us you will stay
for the rest of your days – Sit down
As we relive our lives in what we tell you
Let us relive our lives in what we tell you

Creepy, huh?

Then, things change. The song moves into the second half of the suite, which is all instrumental (save for a few lines at the end.) This section has a heavy, almost oppressive feel to it at times. My “other mom” once said it sounded like a death march, and while I was offended by that at the time, in retrospect, she was right. And I actually think that was the intention. Mission accomplished.

You know how it is when you discover something really cool: I had to hear more. In the end, the infamous tape (a la Woody), with Abacab on one side and Genesis on the other, got played 18 gajillion times. I literally wore it out.

Alas, “Home By The Sea” is no longer my favorite Genesis song. Discovering the remaining 16 albums has a way of shifting your favorites around just a little. But it’s still quite high on the list. And I suspect it will stay that way.

Now, it literally just occurred to me that in essence, with this blog I’m reliving my life with what I tell you. How’s that for a creepy little circle…

So, please: sit down. Sit down…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 53 – “Supper’s Ready”

Day 53. The song that you’re most proud of knowing all the words to.

“Supper’s Ready” – Genesis

A Flower?

Yesterday’s song was just over a minute long. Today’s song, “Supper’s Ready” is often referred to as an opus (no, not the penguin from “Bloom County,” although Opus in the flower costume (right) is a funny mental image). Or an epic. Either one is an apt description:  depending on the release, “Supper’s Ready” clocks in at about 23 minutes, plus or minus a few seconds.To put that in perspective, the average sitcom runs 24 minutes without commercials. (“Supper’s Ready” has a better plot than the vast majority of them.)

Any hardcore Genesis fan has a special place in their heart for “Supper’s Ready.” Keyboardist Tony Banks still counts it as the best thing they’ve ever done; many fans do as well.

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The song has 947 words. To put that in perspective, my average post length is around 700 words. So, while it’s not quite the length of a college essay, it’s also not a song you learn in a single sitting; I’ve listened to this many times. While you may scoff at the hours that I’ve spent on it, it’s well worth the listen(s). As you might expect, at 23 minutes, this isn’t your typical verse/verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus construction. As a result very few of the words repeat. And, since it’s essentially a suite built around seven distinct sections, it’s musically diverse and interesting as well.

Like “Solsbury Hill” Peter Gabriel started writing the lyrics based on a “spiritual experience.” (He seems to have many more of these that the average person.) He described it in Armando Gallo’s excellent book, I Know What I Like, about the early years of Genesis:

“The first sequence was about a scene that happened between me and Jill [Gabriel’s first wife]… It was one night at Jill’s parents’ house in Kensington, when everyone had gone to bed… There was this room at the top of Jill’s parent’s house. This room was the coldest part of the house. I always used to get the shivers when I went in there. It was covered in strong purple and turquoise wallpaper. Everything was bright purple and turquoise… We just stared at each other, and strange things began to happen. We saw other faces in each other, and… I was very frightened, in fact. It was almost as if something else had come into us, and was using us as a meeting point.”

He claims they were completely sober, no drugs or alcohol. Uh… sure. I’ll leave that to you to decide. The resultant lyrics:

Walking across the sitting-room, I turn the television off.
Sitting beside you, I look into your eyes.
As the sound of motor cars fades in the night time,
I swear I saw your face change, it didn’t seem quite right.
Coming closer with our eyes, a distance falls around our bodies.
Out in the garden, the moon seems very bright,
Six saintly shrouded men move across the lawn slowly.
The seventh walks in front with a cross held high in hand.

I’m sorry, but when you see seven guys in white walking across your lawn with a cross, you’re either in the Deep South and about to be in for some trouble or decidedly un-sober. That’s my opinion, anyway.

At any rate, the remainder of the song goes through its series of sections, many with allusions to, and imagery from, the Bible, ultimately culminating in the salvation of the narrator at the Apocalypse. It’s some pretty powerful stuff when you hear it.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen Genesis perform this song live. They stopped doing it in its entirety back in the late 70s, and the last time they performed any part of it was 1987. (It was released in 1972.) The closest I’ve come was seeing it performed by a tribute band called The Waiting Room. I have to say, short of hearing Gabriel himself sing the song, you can’t get closer. I was blown away at how much the lead singer sounds like Peter Gabriel. And he had the flower.

“What’s with the friggin’ flower?” you ask.

Well, along with the long songs that I’ve alluded to in the past, Gabriel often used costumes (sometimes outlandish costumes) as part of the performance. During the middle of “Supper’s Ready,” at the end of the “How Dare I Be So Beautiful?” section are the following lyrics: “Social Security took care of this lad./We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower./A flower?” At this point Gabriel would appear wearing the flower costume featured at the top of this post. It’s an iconic image from those days of the band. That’s the deal with the friggin’ flower.

I could talk a long time about this song. (In fact I’d be happy to discuss with you any time.) The lyrics are all over the place, and in some places border on nonsense. In other places they’re pretty deep. But no matter what, I’m still pretty impressed that I know them all. But at the end of the day, you’re still going to think I’m crazy. Most of you, anyway. The rest know who you are.

As impressive as “Supper’s Ready”‘s 947 word count is, I briefly considered a couple of other possibilities. (Mostly because I’m trying not to double up on songs, and there’s a challenge a little ways down the road about the longest song you like. But I found a way around it.) One option was another Genesis song, “The Battle of Epping Forest,” which runs right around 11:45 and has 782 words. That is, until I realized that I didn’t actually know a bunch of them. Although, neither did Peter Gabriel half the time. But that’s another story.

I also considered “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies. But, same story. I know most of them until they get into the “Gonna make a break and take a fake/I’d like a stinkin’ achin’ shake/I like vanilla, it’s the finest of the flavours” section. Yeah, I know the last line just fine, but get to the  “stinkin’ achin’ shake” and I start to lose it.

So back to “Supper’s Ready” it was. It’s a good choice. A fine choice. An epic choice.


365 Day Song Challenge: Day 52 – “Lukin”

Day 52. A song that you’ve been listening to for years & you still don’t know what the heck they’re saying.

“Lukin” – Pearl Jam

As I mentioned yesterday, there are many times I don’t pay attention to lyrics. And then there are those times when you just have no clue what they’re singing no matter how hard to try to figure the words out.

Today’s song is one minute and two seconds long. There are 5.7 seconds out of the entire song where I can understand what Eddie Vedder is saying.

Yes, I timed it.

Before today I had never looked up the lyrics. After determining my lyric/vocal recognition time above, I did finally do that. And while I would never have been able to make them out without the cheat sheet, they did all make sense once I did. I could read along and say “Yep, I can see that now.” (“See” being a figurative term, of course.)

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Seems it’s named after Matt Lukin. His wikipedia page says this about the song:

In 1996 Pearl Jam wrote and recorded a short and fast punk song entitled “Lukin” naming it after Matt Lukin. Lukin describes the song in an interview for the book Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge: “Vedder had a stalker chick that would come by his house that was freaking him out. He would start to avoid his house after a while, so he would just come by my place. Vedder’d come over and we’d sit ‘round the kitchen and drink and stuff. He would talk about his stalker problem a little bit, but I would just blow it off. It was just drunken talk, throwing darts, having fun… The Pearl Jam song ‘Lukin’ is about how my kitchen’s a sanctuary for him. Also, I was giving him shit about all their songs being too long. That inspired him to make ‘Lukin’ a one-minute song.”

People are generally surprised that I like this song. Admittedly, it’s not usually what I go for. But I’ve liked it since I first heard the album, which was… far too many years ago now. Maybe the fact that it’s so short doesn’t give it time to get on my nerves. Whatever the reason, I’m passing it on to all you lucky readers.

That’s all I’ve got today. Short song, short post. Tomorrow will make up for it.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 51 – “The Ballroom Blitz”

Day 51. A song that you realized you’ve been mishearing the lyrics for years.

“The Ballroom Blitz” – (The) Sweet

BallroomBlitzI should put a warning on this post that there are some comments in here that aren’t suitable for kids under 13. However, since I doubt any 12-year-olds are reading the rambling musical remembrances of an old fart, I’m not too worried about it.

I think I may have mentioned before that I’m not really a lyrics guy. That said, it’s pretty rare for me to botch up more than a few words of a song. That’s because I either have a pretty good fix on what they are, or only know one or two words in the whole song. There’s usually not much middle ground. But, like everyone else, there are plenty of songs where I’ve botched up the words over the years. So I’m going to do a Top 10 list here in ascending order of screwiness (which correlates to descending number on the Top 10 list.)

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Most of these date a ways back, when I was more likely to have time to try to figure out the words and less likely to have an Internet where I can Google lyrics in seconds. As such, most of these correlate to when I had the mind of a 15-year old-boy. So, y’know, last week.

So here’s the list:

10. “Just What I Needed”—The Cars. “You always knew to wear it well/You look so fancy I can tell.” I heard the first part as “You always knew too very well.” This is a minor infraction, thus, #10.

9. “Athena”—The Who. There’s a repeated line in this one that goes “Just a girl? She’s a bomb.” When I was young my friend Mark had me convinced they were singing “She’s a whore.” We were of the age where “whore” was a scandalous word.

8. “My Best Friends Girl”—The Cars. There are a lot of Cars songs on this list. I attribute that to starting to listen to the album at an early age and it being the first album where I really tried to learn all the lyrics. Anyway, I always thought “When she’s dancing ‘neath the starry sky” was “When she’s dancing ‘neath the stormy sky.” This one is so ingrained, I’m still quite likely to sing it that way.

7. “Blue Jean”—David Bowie. “One day I’m gonna write a poem in a letter/One day I’m gonna get that faculty together.” I heard the last line as “I’m gonna get that f***ing thing together.” I was a little shocked they would play that on the radio. Then my brother set me straight.

6. “Bye Bye Love”—The Cars. Yeah, I know, another one. “I can’t feel this way much longer expecting to survive/with all these hidden innuendos just waiting to arrive.” became “I can’t feel this way much longer expecting to survive/with oddity and innuendos just waiting to arrive.” No, I don’t know how oddities and innuendo can be a package deal. And later: “Substitution mass confusion/Clouds inside your head/Involving all my energies/Until you visited.” These lines show up a couple of times in the song. The second time, Ben Orr sings it more forcefully and I could have sworn he said “Were f***ing all my energies/Until you visited.”

5. Domino“—Genesis. This song speaks a lot about disaster. In my world “The liquid surrounds me/I fight to rise from this river of hell/I stare round about me/Children are swimming and playing with boats” ended with “Children are swimming and playing with books.” I dunno, I guess in this post-apocalyptic future I saw a world where illiteracy runs rampant and the children have no idea what to do with a book. The fact that it came right after a line about swimming didn’t register with me.

4. “Africa”—Toto. I’ve touched on this before. The line “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti” is stupid. So stupid, in fact, that for many years I thought it was “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like a leopress above the Serengeti.” Y’know, leopress. As in female leopard. It made sense to me that she would rise above the plain just before she attacked. Which is all well and good until you learn there’s no such word as “leopress.” It’s a “leopardess.” Somehow, I feel like my version still makes more sense.

3. “Pour Some Sugar On Me”—Def Leppard. Speaking of stupid, we have “Love is like a bomb, baby, c’mon get it on/Livin’ like a lover with a radar phone.” Um… what? Am I just living in a bag or does no one else know what the hell a radar phone is? And why would a lover have one? At any rate, when we were trying to figure out what he was saying (this was long before Google) we thought it might be “Livin’ like a lover with a red hard on.” We were 17. We were guessing. We were wrong. It still made more sense than “radar phone.”

2. “I’m In Touch With Your World”—The Cars. No, I’m not planning on doing the whole album. Just most of it. Anyway, there’s a line in this one that goes: “I’m a psilocybin pony/You’re a flick fandango phoney.” While I had no friggin’ idea what a psilocybin pony was, I was fairly certain that the second part was “You’re a big fat macaroni.” Given some of the other lyrics, I don’t think it’s too far out of the realm of possibility, actually. I also take some solace that I’m not the only one who screwed up the lyrics. A little later in that same verse, there’s a phrase “Everything is science fiction/And I ought to know.” In the demo, the line was “Everything you say is fiction.” Greg Hawkes, who was in the band, misheard it as “Everything is science fiction” and Ric Ocasek changed it for the album. If the band’s own keyboard player can’t make out the words, I don’t feel so bad. On the other hand, he had a lot going on during that song.

1. “The Ballroom Blitz”—Sweet. I’ve always known this group as Sweet, even if the singles say “The Sweet.” So there. When I was first introduced to this song at the age of 13, I had no idea what the hell they were saying. I had so many things wrong it’s comical. And I’m not talking a word here or there like the first few on the list. I’m talking full blown “where the hell did that come from?” wrong. Here’s the breakdown:

End of verse 1: “And the girl in the corner/let no one ignore her/’cause she thinks she’s the passionate one.” I thought it was “‘Cause she thinks she’s the passion that won.” I have no idea what she was winning, or that there was even a passion contest. (And what are the judging criteria?) Strike one (of way more than three.)

First bridge: “It was like lightning/Everybody was frightening” became “Everybody was fightening.” Yes, “fightening.” No “r”. An epic battle royal. This was not that last of the made-up words I attributed to the song.

Verse 2. This is where all hell breaks loose. I had no idea what they were saying and I was trying to make things fit. The real words:

Reaching out for something – touching nothing’s all I ever do
I softly call you over – when you appear there’s nothing left of you
And the man in the back is ready to crack as he raises his hands to the sky
And the girl in the corner is everyone’s mourner – she could kill you with a wink of her eye

My words:

Each and every someday. <Something something>’s all I ever do
I <something something something – something> there’s nothing left to do.
And the man in the back is ready to crack as he raises his hands to the sky (Yay! I got something right!)
And the girl in the corner is everyone’s warden – she can kill you with a wick of her eye

That poor girl in the corner. I pretty much had her wrong every way to Sunday. I don’t know what a wick of an eye is, how it could possibly kill you, or why she’d be a warden. She’s obviously talented in ways I can’t imagine.

And finally: “Oh yeah, it was electric, so frantically hectic.” Easy, right? Nope. Not for me: “Oh yeah, it was electric, sopranically hectic”

Yep, “sopranically.” More made up nonsense. I don’t know what I was thinking.

So, yeah. “Ballroom Blitz” was a train wreck. I’m not sure how or why I remember all these gaffes for this song. Perhaps it’s just that there were so many of them that every time I discovered another one that was just way wrong, it left one more mark on my brain. Perhaps it’s my mind’s way of humbling me when I get too big for my britches. Or perhaps I have a penchant for remembering stupid, useless things that are simply taking up space in my head for no good reason while I forget other, far more important things.

A betting man (or a passion-winning warden) would go with the latter.

See Greg Hawkes try to keep it all together…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 50 – “Rooms On Fire”

Day 50. A song that you’ve listened to for years & have just recently begun to appreciate.

“Rooms On Fire” – Stevie Nicks

RoomsOnFire I have never been a huge Stevie Nicks fan. Frankly, I never really understood what all the fuss was about with her. Everyone seems to taken by her personality and “beauty.” I mean, she seems to have bedded every guy that was ever in Fleetwood Mac (with the exception of Peter Green who went crazy long before anyone even knew who Stevie Nicks was).

But then, I always seemed to look at her a little differently than most people anyway. When Fleetwood Mac had their late-80s resurgence with Tango In The Night and they were all over the place, my friends laughed at me when I said I thought Christine McVie was better-looking than Stevie Nicks.

There was always something about Stevie Nicks’ voice that just didn’t sit well with me, either. I won’t say I hated it, but I didn’t really like it either, especially as it seemed to deteriorate over time and just get more gravelly. (However, I stop short of likening her to a goat like the “South Park” guys.)  And then there was all that pretentious pseudo-mysterious “white witch” crap she was always talking about. I just found her a little too much.

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So, short of some of her early hits like “Stand Back” and “Edge Of Seventeen” that I did (and do) like, I didn’t pay too much attention to her solo work.

Not long ago, I found a copy of her Box Set Enchanted floating around here. (See? More of that “magic” BS she loves.) I’m not even sure where it came from, to be honest. But figuring, “What the heck? It’s here so I may as well give it a chance,” I ripped it to iTunes. (I do that from time to time: grab something I’m not really familiar with or music by someone who I might not love and give it a shot. Sometimes it leads to interesting discoveries. More often than not it leads to multiple “delete”s.) Imagine my surprise when, as I went through the tracks, I found that there were some that I really liked. (Much to my chagrin, as I really had preconceived notions on this one.)

One of those was “Rooms On Fire” which was originally on her 1989 release The Other Side Of The Mirror, an album I barely knew existed at the time, if I did at all. I’ve actually had the song for a while and found it okay, but when I heard it again while going through the songs on Enchanted something clicked and I discovered that it was something that stood out. I really liked it.

I think the thing that grabbed me first was the bass line in the chorus. (Bass lines can get me like that. Like “Hand In My Pocket” by Alanis Morrisette and “Everyday Is A Winding Road” by Sheryl Crow.) And then the melody sort of snuck into my head and I realized I liked that too. (Damn it!) And for some the reason the part of the chorus with the lines “There was magic all around you/If I do say so myself” (which is at the very end of the sample, so you may not get the full effect) became a little earworm-y. (And yes, I am aware of the irony of me getting stuck on a line about magic given my earlier statements.)

I had to concede defeat. She’d won me over on this one. And one or two others. Perhaps a few. Alright there were more than a few! Are you happy?

Whew. Deep breaths…

Still, I’m not really fond of Stevie Nicks’ persona and all that magical spiritual crap, but I am gaining a bit more respect for  her songwriting and performance over time. I’m still not a huge fan of her voice, but it’ll do. Who knows, maybe I’ll find that the whole freakin’ box set becomes my favorite thing ever and I’ll be out getting her entire catalog. (But I seriously doubt it.)

And call me crazy, but I still think Christine McVie was the better-looking one.