‘The song simply won’t die’

[…] In the case of “Don’t Stop Believin'” it helps that the general listener isn’t old enough to remember when the song was first released. The song is older than almost all of the Tigers and the Giants, and it predates every single member of the William McKinley High School Glee Club (Morrison was barely 3 years old in 1981). Over the years, the song has shed its disreputable associations, yet retains its power as a pop cultural artifact with the weight of history behind it. A new generation ostensibly hears it for what it is: a shameless go-get-’em-tiger anthem with a catchy chorus and a straightforward sentiment about not disbelieving. Modern-day listeners can ignore its pandering take on poverty and struggle (which is particularly ironic during the current recession), as well as such awkward phrasings as “streetlights people,” “living just to find emotion” and, of course, “South Detroit.”

They can do this because “Don’t Stop Believin'” was a blank to begin with. It wasn’t punk or new wave; it wasn’t muscle car rock or heavy metal; it wasn’t glam or lite pop or any other genre that can be popularly associated with a particular scene or era. It grew out of ’70s and ’80s corporate rock, which tended to erase any regional traits or distinctive personalities to appeal to the broadest swath of listeners possible. Journey is more or less interchangeable with Survivor, Toto, REO Speedwagon, Mr. Mister and so many other anonymous bands of that era. In fact, those groups are so bland that they barely constitute an identifiable genre, which allows a song like “Don’t Stop Believin'” to live slightly out of time and out of style, unburdened by any identification with a larger movement good or bad, popular or obscure. The very traits that drew the most criticism have become crucial to Journey’s longevity: Their blankness allows for more than simple nostalgia. Subsequent generations can paint whatever they like on this blank canvas. […]

That’s near the end of Stephen Deusner’s Salon.com article “Please, let’s stop believin'”

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‘When I said that I love you, I meant that I love you forever’

RIM’s most recent efforts to hold on to loyal customers, as well as software developers building apps for its next generation of phones scheduled to be available next year, have elicited universal cringes. In a recent promotional video, Alec Saunders, RIM’s vice president for developer relations, is shown belting out a rock song titled “Devs, BlackBerry Is Going to Keep on Loving You,” a riff on the 1981 power ballad by REO Speedwagon “Keep on Loving You.”

“This is the sign of a desperate company,” said Nick Mindel, a 26-year-old investment analyst. “Come on, BlackBerry, I always had some faith, but you just lost a customer. Frankly, I don’t think they can afford to lose many more.”

That’s near the end of Nicole Perlroth’s New York Times article “The BlackBerry as Black Sheep”

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‘Well it’s your heart that talks you into staying where you are’

Billboard Adult Contemporary (chart) number-one single
September 25, 1982 (2 weeks)

One of the interesting things about soft-rock of a certain vintage is the extent to which it could be played (and get airplay) on different radio formats. Country music saw plenty of crossover success to the pleasure of many fans and the displeasure of more than a few. Crossover made hits out of movies like “Urban Cowboy” and even bigger stars out of artists like Paul Davis, Alabama, Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbitt, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. We tip our cowboy hats to

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Come along baby, you’d better make a start


Getting our @fleetwoodmac in shape with a little help from @JulieBruins Feather & L. work on Bryan Adams' "Heaven"

We enjoyed a decent turnout tonight at Just A City Boy‘s apartment a few blocks east of Lake Merritt, with only a couple of new folks from last week’s practice unaccounted for (and a couple of veterans — Rich Girl (Bitch Girl) and Tenille Diamond away) for very good reasons. Preacher Teacher offered up a lot of vocal warm-ups to start, including one that wound up leading us into a new vocal backing pattern for the chorus on Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere.” Thanks, Preach! Members who distinguished themselves on those new harmonies were Heather Feather and Lisa Frank.

It looks like we have at least one gig coming up (thanks to Tenille) at a private residence next weekend in Albany, and possibly another Sunday in West Oakland! As soon as we can confirm, we’ll have all the details posted here on-site. As delightful as it is to return to full strength for weekly practice with a decent representation of recruits and vets, it’s even more delightful to look ahead and see lots of opportunities to perform for local audiences!

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Open practice

Oakland Soft Rock Choir @SoftRockChoir open practice is open

The choir enjoyed a visit from several new soft-rock supplicants with strong interest in joining up at Rumour’s secret lair in Berkeley this week. We also enjoyed the return of our long-lost Rich Girl (Bitch Girl) from a four-month break after the birth of her first-born child, Swayze.

After Preacher Teacher led all in attendance through vocal warm-ups and a rousing round, members performed several songs. The back end of practice featured an expanded round of introductions, soft-rock historio-personal resonances, soft-rock names and favorite Muppets. Next week’s practice will happen in Oakland proper, and Just A City Boy said he will host just east of Lake Merritt.

More open practices are likely to happen this fall, so if you missed this one and think you might wish to attend, watch this space for further instructions or send an e-mail to oaklandsoftrockchoir at gmail dot-com!

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‘And I am home again’

Billboard Adult Contemporary (chart) number-one single, September 11-18, 1982

When you’re done looking at Elton John belting out “Blue Eyes,” give a click (via Something Else! Reviews) to this exclusive, long and delightfully discursive two-part Chambers of Rock interview with Toto’s David Paich. There’s lots of good stuff in there, and Paich is pretty frank about the main motivation for the band’s current run of tours.

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‘You and I’ve been in love too long to worry about tomorrow’

We couldn’t let the week end without a link to show how much we enjoyed counting down the hits in this week’s Top 10 list over at the venerable music blog The Couch Sessions (Michael McDonald-less though it may be — be sure to check out the McDonald-fortified list they did just last month) until reaching its Number 1 tune, Ambrosia’s 1980 smash “You’re The Only Woman”:

The moment when the organ, horns, and Pack’s high notes come together— “When the pain of love surrounds you, and the world may be unkind….” is still one of my favorite moments in a pop song.

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‘Two hearts that beat as one’

Michael Lewis’ “Obama’s Way,” for this month’s issue of Vanity Fair, has drawn accolades and sparked controversy, but few would have expected it to feature, out of many unlikely perspectives, a soft-rock moment in the Libyan desert:

[…] “Bonjour,” said Bubaker, or maybe not—he has forgotten the first thing out of his mouth. But in response Tyler Stark said something and Bubaker instantly recognized the accent. “Are you American?” asked Bubaker. Stark said he was. Bubaker leaned over and told him that he actually had friends in the U.S. Embassy who had fled in the early days of the war, and that if Stark would come with him back to Ben­gha­zi he could put them in touch. “He looked at me, astonished,” remembers Bubaker.

On the drive to Benghazi, Bubaker sensed that Stark was both shocked and wary. At any rate, as much as Bubaker might have wanted to know more about why America was dropping bombs on Libya, Stark would not tell him. And so Bubaker put on some 80s music and changed the subject to something other than war. The first song that came on was Diana Ross and Lionel Richie singing “Endless Love.” “You know what,” said Bubaker. “This song reminds me of my second marriage.” They talked the rest of the way, says Bubaker, “and we didn’t mention anything of any military action.” […]

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‘He didn’t take himself too seriously, but he took his job very seriously’

We expect many are staying abreast of breaking-news events related to the attack on the U.S. Embassy consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the untimely death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who attended Piedmont High School and UC Berkeley, and was the first US ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979.

Here’s the very end of Steven Lee Myers’ New York Times story on Stevens:

[…] He developed a reputation as a keen observer of Libya’s politics, and, as Ms. Kwiram noted, a patient listener who eagerly sought out Libyan activists, diplomats and journalists to meet in his offices in a hotel and later in a rented villa on the edge of Tripoli. He also kept up his routine of daily runs through goat farms, olive groves and vineyards nearby. In his e-mail to family and friends, he joked about the Embassy’s Fourth of July party.

“Somehow our clever staff located a Libyan band that specializes in 1980s soft rock,” he wrote, “so I felt very much at home.”

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‘Yacht rock was an ameliorative adaptation to the 1970s malaise, not a cause of it.’

Here’s how J. Temperance ends The New Inquiry’s “The Birth of the Uncool: Yacht Rock and Libidinal Subversion”:

Here’s how The Jacobin is right to proclaim that “it is only through the cultural transmission of social solidarity – and the rejection of empty celebrations of oneself – that neoliberalism can begin to be annihilated.” But no celebration of the self is more politically impotent than the hollow self-congratulation of the sarcastic and secretly shame-ridden music trend chaser who marches in double-time to fashion’s inexorable drumbeat and calls his desperate pursuit of exclusive and personal cultural capital a form of radical critique. That’s what a fool believes.

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