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🎵🐐Tune Tag #4 with Andrew Smith (Goatfury): Ambrosia, Genesis, Beatles, Jennifer Holliday, Phil Collins, Stephen Stills
It's wild! It's wooly! It's the magical musical game of Tune Tag! One song leads to another, with surprising twists and turns in style, era, and genre! Join the fun!🎶
FRONT ROW & BACKSTAGE recently asked Andrew Smith of Substack’s “Goatfury Writes,” to guest-post a bit of his “Old-School Punk Primer”:
We both lived to see another day (and received glowing notices!), so we asked Andrew to return for a round of Tune Tag!
Tune Tag veterans will know that, ideally, each track Andrew and I send the other will have some tie-in with the one previously sent! Whether thematically or musically, the challenge is to pick a common element for a song to send to the other player.
Please note: The comments written by each Tune Tag player are written in real time, before each see the comments from the other! In other words, Andrew won’t see my comments until this is published (and, I only saw his after I had written mine)!
Play along with Andrew and me, if you’d like (which song would you follow with? Leave us a comment!), and consider playing Tune Tag with a friend!
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Andrew’s #1 Song Sent to Brad: Ambrosia, “How Much I Feel,” 1978
Andrew: This song hits me directly “in the feels,” as the kids say. I used to sing this song to Molly when she was alive. Molly (shown above with Andrew) was our senior dachshund, and my soulmate for six years. We did everything together, and she had a way of sleeping “in my belly,” under my hoodie. Now, the powerful longing to be with someone you can’t be with continues to speak directly to my soul today.
I also grew up listening to this song, and I’m sure some of that nostalgia bleeds through to today. The lyrics and music combine to haunt me, too: it’s not a simplistic song by any stretch, and even though it fits nicely in with the Yacht Rock genre, it’s far from a trivial song. Wistfulness combines with longing and sorrow in search of happiness.
Brad’s response: Big fan of Ambrosia since their 1975 debut. I had just started as a 20-year-old DJ at Houston’s KLOL-FM radio, Space City’s top “progressive rock station.” I distinctly remember them being promoted (and written about in the rock press) as a “prog” band, something they quickly, and just as certainly, drifted (if not rocketed) away from.
Members: Keyboardist Christopher North, guitarist/vocalist David Pack, bassist/vocalist Joe Puerta, and drummer, Burleigh Drummond. Puerta added lyrics to a poem by Kurt Vonnegut from his Cat’s Cradle, while the band composed the music for “Nice, Nice, Very Nice,” their big “prog” hit performed live, here, from December 1976:
Brad’s #1 Song Sent to Andrew: Jennifer Holliday, “He Ain’t Special (He’s Just the One I Love),” 1987
Andrew’s response: It’s possible that I heard this song in 1987, but it’s also entirely possible that I completely missed out. Holliday sounds a lot like Taylor Dayne, but less powerful. I strongly suspect that this song was picked due to the lyrics above all else; that feeling I described with Ambrosia? It's right here in the lyrics:
He ain’t special
He’s just the one I love
He ain’t special
The only one I’m dreaming of
Clearly, we are stuck on a doom loop of wistfulness! That’s not really a bad thing, though. I picked my next song in direct response to the lyrics above.
Brad: Jennifer, of course, burst onto the scene with her star turn in Broadway’s Dreamgirls, and this song (a televised performance from the late ‘80s, about 6 years after I saw Jennifer and Dreamgirls on Broadway in 1982, writing about it here).
Second, the linking reason I sent Jennifer’s “He Ain’t Special (He’s Just the One I Love)” to Andrew is because it was produced, arranged, and written by Ambrosia lead singer, David Pack and former Doobie Brother, Michael McDonald. It’s from Jennifer’s 1987 Get Close to My Love album on Geffen Records.
Pack, now 71, released his debut solo album two years before…1985’s Anywhere You Go, an album I owned on cassette, and on which I recently performed an Audio Autopsy:
Along with the title track, this one’s a favorite, written by Pack, McDonald, and fellow pop singer, James Ingram. The melodic and harmonic dynamism (not to mention the monstrous barre chords here!) on this track is evident in the 1987 Holliday song:
Andrew’s #2: Stephen Stills, “Love the One You’re With,” 1970
This 1970 song has served as an excellent example of stoicism. This bit always gets me:
Turn your heartache right into joy
’Cause she’s a girl and you’re a boy
Get it together, make it nice
You ain’t gonna need any more advice.
And, the haunting tune that accompanies Stephen Stills’ lyrics is perfect for the subject matter:
Brad’s #2: Seals & Crofts, “Hummingbird,” 1972
Andrew’s response: I think that we’re really in a wistful loop here, but never fear: we’ll escape soon! There’s an awful lot of regret and a genuine desire to reconnect and preserve something that might be about to escape, so there’s a similar sense of desperation.
Brad explains the link: Rita Coolidge and her sister, Priscilla Coolidge (known then as Priscilla Jones, as she was married to musician Booker T. Jones (known for co-writing his “Green Onions” hit in 1962 with his Booker T. & the MGs) sang back-up on Andrew’s Stephen Stills song, “Love the One You’re With.”
In 1997, Priscilla became one of the founding members of Walela, a Native-American inspired trio (pictured above). Walela, in the Cherokee language, means “hummingbird.” Hence, I landed on the ‘73 hit by Seals & Crofts. A long, crafty thread, indeed, but Tune-Tag legal!
Andrew’s #3: Rudimentary Peni: “The Gardener”
Brad’s response: I’m guessing Andrew took the hummingbird, and chose a song about someone who works in and around where hummingbirds flitter, namely a gardener.
Andrew: I wanted to pick up on both the sound and the lyrics here: Rudi P has a wide range of songs, and their lead singer, Nick Blinko (in photo above, posing in front of his artwork, which adorns most of his band’s record jackets), spent some time in a mental asylum, where a lot of his creative energy seems to stem from. The uniqueness of the band is showcased here.
When Seals & Crofts said,
Alas here comes the gardener; he’s come to till the flowers,
The draught of understanding; Wisdom, peace, and love is ours,
this brought me straight to Rudi P’s garden, where the roses “have no thornsssssss.” We’ve taken a more mysterious, creepy turn. I like it.
[Brad: And, the sheer wonder of Tune Tag is on full display here, as there could be no more disparate musical artists as the ‘70s soft-rockin’, faithful Baháʼí followers and these ‘80s British anarcho-punkers!]
Brad’s #3: Genesis “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” 1974
Brad: Nowhere else to go with The Gardener than “over the garden wall, two little lovebirds…..”, which is where we go with my least favorite song from my favorite prog band from my favorite Genesis era (the early-‘70s Peter Gabriel-led years), and my favorite album of theirs, Selling England by the Pound.
Andrew’s response: Brad really picked up on the “creepy” vibe here, and the lyrics once again pick up the “garden” metaphor.
Andrew’s #4: Beatles, “I Feel Fine,” 1964
Andrew: Straight up: I heard the intro of “I Know What I Like,” and that riff and feedback took me straight here. I grew up on The Beatles: They were the first band I really fell in love with, probably around age 11 after seeing Beatlemania: The Movie (released in summer 1981).
We’ve turned from wistful to downright fine, and I like it.... but of course, The Beatles aren’t merely happy even when they’re “happy.”
Brad’s response: I’ve never “heard” the feedback intro to “I Feel Fine” when I listened to “Wardrobe.” Again, the beauty and wonder of separate lives and different musical experiences.
I love Andrew’s “I grew up on The Beatles” sentiment and following. Although, it wasn’t a movie that did it for me: I was 8 in February 1964 when I witnessed the pop cultural watershed moment of their live Ed Sullivan Show appearance. That story here:
Brad’s #4: Phil Collins, “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven,” 1990
Andrew’s response: This is almost like fast-forwarding a few years after “I Feel Fine.” It really feels like the narrative picks right up here. Also, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get away from hearing this song for about 3 weeks in the spring of 1990. I sure tried!
Brad’s rationale for linking a Collins song to Andrew’s Beatles song: The only thing I can figure is that Andrew must’ve somehow known that Collins was in the audience during a concert scene for the A Hard Day’s Night filming! I mean, WHAT?!?😱
Well, he was. Phil Collins, as a paid 13-year-old extra, was actually in the audience to see The Beatles filming a scene in A Hard Day’s Night at the Scala Theatre in London. Shot on March 31, 1964, the scene was ultimately cut from the film!
Phil tells the story to Conan O’Brien in the ‘90s: