Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year (It Could Be Worse -- We Could Have Locusts*)

[I originally posted this little confessional back in 2013; I'm posting it again now not because I'm trying to make it a tradition or anything, but because Sam Anderson -- a very fine staff writer for the New York Times Sunday Magazine -- recounted an almost identical account two New Years ago; you should read HIS VERSION after mine, because his is much funnier. -- S.S.]

This is, as I have been wont to say here on many previous occasions, a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

It also has a certain relevance to today, which will be revealed later in the narrative. Please be patient.

Anyway, so a few weeks ago I was in a cab heading down the West Side Highway in a snowstorm, and the driver had the radio tuned to whatever soft-rock Lite FM station they inevitably have on when they don't have WINS News Radio blasting or some guy from Queens yelling about sports.

I wasn't particularly paying attention, but suddenly some soft-rock Lite FM staple song came on, and immediately I knew three things.

1. I had definitely heard it before.

2. It was probably from the 70s or the 80s, although I couldn't rule out the possibility that it might have been more recent, and it had that whole California soft-rock vibe, which I usually detest, in spades.

3. I had no idea who the guy or the group singing it was, although I was painfully aware that when and if I found out I was gonna kick myself. Because pretty much everybody in the world, at least of a certain age, would have been able to recognize it instantly.

The truly insidious part was that there was something about the damn thing that grabbed me. Yes, the vocals had that laid-back L.A. Mr. Sensitive shtick that usually makes my gorge rise. But the tune was charming, the voicings of the harmony parts in the chorus were really quite lovely, and -- try as I might to deny it -- it was getting under my skin.

Fortunately, because of the roar of traffic, I couldn't really hear the lyrics, although one word -- "architect" -- jumped out. "Hmm," I thought. "There's a word you don't hear in a pop song everyday."

Anyway, I then went about the rest of my weekend, but I knew with an absolutely dread certainty that I was gonna break down sooner or later and look the song up on the Intertubes.

So, late on Monday, I googled "Soft Rock song with the word architect in it" and up it popped.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...and my fingers are shaking as I type these words....Dan Fogelberg (the horror, the horror!) and his 1980 (which I had apparently put out of my mind, probably deliberately, ever since its original vogue) "Same Old Lang Syne."

Well. In case you're wondering, no -- I have no interest in revisiting the rest of Fogelberg's body of work, and yes, I still basically can't stand the whole genre he represents, but goddamn it -- this damn song works and it gets to me. Like I said, it's melodically quite charming, and now that I've actually deciphered the lyrics, it turns out that -- despite a certain smugness that kind of rankles -- they actually make a pretty good little short story.

And the record's not even a new guilty pleasure, to be honest, because I don't feel particularly guilty about liking it.

Sticks in my craw a bit, though.

As I said, this is a very sad story, so please try not to laugh.

* old Jewish expression


DrBob said...

It is a beautifully constructed lamentation. The simple and well-orchestrated flow of music beneath the poetry makes it timeless for all who have loved. Of course, drummer Russ Kunkel and Michael Brecker on sax don't pull it down any. As the Duke said, "If it sounds good, it IS good!" Good ear, Mr. Simels, and Happy New Year!

Ken J Xenozar said...


jackd said...

Anderson's piece, for those of you who didn't bother to look, includes the marvelous characterization of Fogelberg's chorus as a "sumptuous lasagna of harmonizing vibrato."