Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 18 !

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And so here we are. And all I’m going to do this week is straight up, no frills introduce & offer the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new music we’ve heard over recent days. Here’s truly hoping you find something to love.

Listen on Soundcloud:


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Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 17 !

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Yup, that will never get old 🙂 But hey, it’s time for the latest  🔥 WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST 🔥 featuring the finest new music we’ve heard in recent days. And this week was a good one full of epic pop guitar weirdness ( plus an excellent SWV cover) all of which I’m telling you is better than Gaga. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.

Listen on Soundcloud:

Picking Up Rocks · Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 17 !

Listen on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7aNhnt0SvZy1pWEfotYvCQ?si=ZD0EK-AhQj-Whd4Zm4h_WA

Lost in the’80s Playlist: A Celebration of Should’ve Been #1’s

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What you see above is my actual pen pal request as published in the UK’s greatest pop music magazine ever Smash Hits back in the ’80s. I was 100% desperate to know someone in England which I felt was home to the best music & what appeared to be the cutest people. I was both excited & disturbed when I first saw the published ad because while WOW I was in Smash Hits (!), they’d also re-punctuated my first sentence, changing the period to a question mark. It was actually a meant to be a statement about how I, teenage Hope, felt about music, not a question. But still, Smash Hits (with Heaven 17 on the cover) !!

The requirements for being my pen pal were obviously pretty stiff , as you couldn’t just be into The Police & Culture Club to write to my stupid arse, you had to be “REALLY” into them. And the “busy” part had zero to do with an active social life & everything to do with school & the commitment of my very first job…at the ‘One Hour Photo’ store one town over.

You can see why this ad might be absolute catnip to the universe.

Now to cover my bases in case that UK ad got no responses, I put an ad in a glossy Japanese music mag called “Music Life” as well because I was also desperate to connect pop music freaks in Japan. It appeared in an issue with my personal love God at the timeDavid Sylvian on the cover which thrilled me far more than it should have.

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Inexplicably these ads worked. Within weeks of their being published I was inundated with hundreds of letters. Envelopes from Japan covered with stickers & cartoons that held intricately folded & elaborately decorated pieces of tissue stationary as well as actual photos of Ian McCulloch & Paul Weller arriving at the airport. Polaroids of people sitting in tiny bedrooms in Liverpool surrounded by Boy George paraphernalia. Old ticket stubs from recent New Order shows. And oh yes, there was some really weird shit too, mostly coming from a particular grown man who lived in Kidderminster but we’ll just leave it at that. Oh ’80s…

Yup, that pen pal pursuit is one of my most cherished memories of being a music nut-nerd in the ’80s ( and yes, I still have a bunch of letters saved somewhere).

And so, to celebrate those glossy, glittery, shiny pop times, I wholeheartedly offer you the genre-spanning, head spinning LOST IN THE ’80s PLAYLIST, a mighty fine, fittingly massive selection of wondrous singles that didn’t quite ascend to the heights they deserved & foxy deep cuts that never got to be singles but should’ve been.

There are 60 tracks (!) & all are gently gathered the YouTube playlist below ! I truly hope you discover ( or rediscover) something in here that both blows your mind & inspires you to investigate these particular artists . Let the music play…  

Quick note: Why YouTube ? Well while putting this together I discovered a lot of these songs were not available on Apple Music or Spotify. Thankfully most could be found within the lord’s # 1 rabbit hole i.e. YouTube. You can hear the playlist featuring all these little wonders below ( & in some cases, enjoy the added bonus of seeing some VERY ’80s videos).

Listen here ! :

One last note while we’re here: I want to acknowledge & pledge my eternal love to these people, places & things below, nearly all of which are gone now but provided endless joy & fascination to a whole lotta teen pop nerds back in the ’80s. Bless them all to the last :

Magazines: Smash Hits, Number One, Record Mirror, Melody Maker, Sounds & NME

Record Shops ( in NY ): Slipped Disc, Rebel Rebel, Record Runner, Vinylmania, Discorama, Record World, It’s Only Rock’n Roll, Musical Maze & good old Tower on W.4th

Radio : WLIR-WDRE

You all ruled, thank you forever…

 

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 16 !

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Keeping it simple this week. Welcome to the latest Weekly New Wonders Playlist featuring our favorite songs from recent days. It’s a bit shorter than usual this week but that means you can give each one extra attention. All sweet, all swell, all🔥 !!!

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

 

Soul in the Middle of the Road : A Playlist

You know everybody’s got their own way of doing anything, like you take this particular song for instance, it’s been done by many but I gotta do it my way…

(Bobby Womack’s spoken intro to his 1971 cover of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain’)

 

Back in the ’70s, long before that thing called streaming existed, the primary ways to hear the latest pop music were by watching TV variety shows, hanging out at the record store or by tuning into the most powerful pop music purveyor of them all, the AM radio.

And so because there were a limited number of places and airtime hours available to hear the latest pop music, people were generally exposed to a very specific bunch of songs at a time, as determined by whoever was programming all the aforementioned outlets. This meant that both younger and older generations were ultimately acquainted with the same hits. In other words, the pop Top 40 consisted of songs everybody knew regardless of their age, ethnicity or gender (a mad phenomenon we shall never ever know again).

This inevitably resulted in some existential and horrifying musical dilemmas wherein you and your parents could potentially end up liking the same song. Case in point, I loved Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, but so did my freakin’ Mom and that was 100% unacceptable. Speaking of which…

There were a whole lotta sensitive white boy singer-songwriters and easy listening hippie chicks in the charts in the ’70s. The sound they made was collectively referred to as MOR aka middle of the road better known these days as Soft Rock. To further clarify, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Neil Young rocked. James Taylor, Bread and America soft rocked. MOR songs were all crazy in love with everything the universe offered, most especially ladies, summer, horses and Chevy vans.

Of course at the end of the day it really didn’t matter whether a song was technically soul, country, rock or it’s aforementioned soft subdivision because once a song hit the Top 40 in the ’70s world, it fell into one singular category: it was a pop song.

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Lady + Horse + Summer = ’70s MOR Pop Music…

 

And of course artists were listening too so it was inevitable that some of these ubiquitous Soft Rock songs were going to get covered. And so began a small sub-trend wherein traditional Soul artists started covering Top 40 tracks by these MOR artists and molding them into R & B songs. These covers were rarely if ever straight copies of the originals, in fact it was pretty common for arrangements to be tweaked and lyrics to be altered. And of course if you were an artist of the masculine lover man variety it was mandatory to offer a little preamble at the beginning of the song because girl, there’s something you need to understand.

🔥 Welcome to the PuR Soul in the Middle of the Road Playlist featuring the best Soul covers of MOR-Soft Rock hits from the ’70s that were also recorded in the ’70s ( and a couple from the very early ’80s) 🔥

Sometimes weird, occasionally messy, often wonderful and in more than a few cases straight up better than the originals that inspired them. The jasmine’s in bloom…

*And yes, while Nina Simone is a Jazz artist, her version of “Alone Again Naturally” has to be heard to be believed.

 

Listen Here ! :

 

 
*And hey one last thing ! : There are a couple of tracks I wanted to include in the playlist that are not available on Spotify. One is only available on CD as of this writing and the other you can hear below on YouTube !

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Carla Thomas: In 2013 a cd featuring previously unissued music from recording sessions Thomas did back in 1970 with legendary producer Chips Moman was released. There are a bunch of covers on it including an absolutely smokin’ version of James Taylor’s “Country Road”. Unfortunately it’s neither on YouTube or the streaming services as of this writing but it’s worth picking up the actual cd, which is basically a soul version of Dusty Springfield’s classic “Dusty in Memphis” album (if only it had been released at the time, sigh).

Lea Roberts: Listen as Neil Sedaka’s 1975 # 1 soft rock classic is given a super soul injection by Roberts.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 15 !

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That is a photo of the actual kitchen in my childhood home in the ’80s. None more brown. And yes, there was carpeting in the kitchen because that’s how my Mom rolled (and still does so eat over the table please). The only thing missing from the picture is Daisy, our basset hound at the time…who was also brown. Just wanted to share something warm & fuzzy (literally) this week to help combat the restless mayhem for a minute. And with that, welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the absolute finest new songs we’ve heard in recent days, all of them #1’s in a better parallel universe.

Listen on Soundcloud:

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 14 !

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“You should give him a chance, he really understands women”.

So said one 16 year old girl ( my friend) to another ( me) back in the early ’80s about the guy celebrating his 71st birthday this week, Billy Joel. This was a pretty commonplace topic for us. I would try to explain why The Police were the best & she would counter with her arguments in support of B.Joel. But nothing could change my mind. He had so many marks in the NO Column for me. He wasn’t British. He wasn’t rock star cute. A large part of his fanbase seemed to be grown ass adults. “Just the Way You Are” (ugh). “She’s Always a Woman to Me” ( make it stop). He was resolutely uncool & I was not interested in anything he had to offer.

At that point, avoiding him had become somewhat challenging. Not just because my closest friend worshipped him but because we were living on Long Island, Billy Joel ground zero, his birthplace. Make no mistake, on Long Island, Billy Joel was a God.

Back to high school. When Billy announced the tour to support his latest album at the time “The Nylon Curtain”, my friend bought tickets & then adamantly stated that we were going. The show was of course at freakin’ Nassau Coliseum meaning it was a “hometown show” so the hardcore, evangelical Lawng I-lind pride would be in full effect. It sounded slightly nauseating  but fine, whatever, I’ll go, jeezus.

My rejection plan remained in tact until about halfway through the show. Just like the infamous Simpson’s moment when Lisa spurned Martin & the exact point his heart burst was captured on national television, I remember the precise moment I started liking Billy Joel. There was a song on “Nylon Curtain” called “Goodnight Saigon”, an emotional reminiscence from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran. It’s a gigantic piano power ballad featuring the sound of helicopter blades over it’s opening notes. He started playing it & okay, it sounded kind of good. Then during the song about a dozen actual Vietnam vets came onstage, put their arms around each other & sang the pseudo chorus, “And we would all go down together”, swaying together from side to side. They were crying. Then, all of a sudden I was crying. I’d never cried at a show before in my life ( bad seats at Disney on Ice one year aside). It was embarrassing but also a little shocking to me. F-ing Billy Joel had infiltrated, he’d gotten to me. Boom.

That was it. I went out & bought the album the next day. Then, over time, welcomed the rest of his catalog into my life. Anyway, Happy 71st Billy, sorry I was such jerk to you as young one, I hope you can forgive me.

And now it’s time for the finest in new music. Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST, featuring the ABSOLUTE FINEST SONGS we’ve heard in recent days. Turn it up 🐝

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 13 !

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Hey Y’all, welcome to week 300 of this “thing”. I humbly offer a small, melodic salve in the form of this week’s WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs we’ve heard in recent days. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify (links below) & let it wash over you. I bow to all these artists as there are some particularly sweet things in there & it’s made this hell-scape seem slightly less hellish today which is an absolute blessing.

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

Lost in the’90s Playlist : A Celebration of Forgotten Deep Cuts

Over the course of the ’90s, I worked in 2 music stores in New York City. No, they were not of the cool, indie, High Fidelity variety, they were both behemoth, double stuf megastores. Which meant when it came to in-store play we weren’t listening to Captain Beefheart, Alice Coltrane or Daniel Johnston, but were getting exclusively rocked with whatever the latest major label releases were. Sure on the cool end it meant getting to hear good shit like Garbage or Liz Phair in their entirety…but it also meant wading through more challenging and horrifying noise like Rusted Root and Candlebox on a regular basis. Of course you could attach value to the latter experience by connecting it to the notion that you were “broadening your knowledge” and therefore better able to help customers ( at least that’s what I did) but if you were having a bad day, hearing an hour of Ugly Kid Joe could ignite a truly debilitating migraine ( true story).

Anyway, when the official store DJ’s weren’t around, we would throw albums into the 5 CD changer & just let ’em play all the way through. And, gonna get flowery here,  sometimes something magical would happen. Popping in these whole albums meant you’d end up hearing a lot of deep cuts. And doing that meant every now and then you would stumble (literally) on something really f-ing amazing that you’d never heard before.

Anyway, all that got me thinking it might be cool to shine a light on some songs & artists that got a bit lost in the immense MTV-Spin Magazine-Lollapalooza-Lilith Fair-Britpop-New Jack Swing-Grunge tornado of the ’90s and so….Welcome to the genre-spanning, head spinning 💥 LOST IN THE ’90s PLAYLIST 💥 a mighty fine selection of wondrous singles that didn’t quite ascend to the heights they deserved & foxy deep cuts that never got to be singles but should’ve been. There are 60 tracks (!) & all are gently gathered the YouTube playlist below ! I truly hope you discover ( or rediscover) something in here that both blows your mind & inspires you to investigate these particular artists . Let it play ⚡️ 

Quick note: Why YouTube ? Well while putting this together I discovered a lot of these songs were not available on Apple Music or Spotify. Thankfully most could be found within the lord’s # 1 rabbit hole i.e. YouTube. You can hear the playlist featuring all these little wonders below ( & in some cases, enjoy the added bonus of seeing some VERY 90s videos).

That’s Their Pet Sounds : Rupert Holmes “Adventure” (1980)

Mission statement:

No matter who we are in this absurd, brief, and messy life we can all lay claim to a peak, a shining moment where we were the best we could be, where all the stars aligned and we freakin’ delivered the goods.

Welcome to “That’s Their Pet Sounds”,our semi-regular feature where we endeavor to spotlight and celebrate a heretofore maybe uncool, often unjustifiably underrated, sometimes polarizing, not as acclaimed as they should be, or “what the hell?” artist’s grandest artistic achievement i.e. their greatest album.

*”That’s Their Pet Sounds”is named after the Beach Boys landmark 1966 LP which is universally regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made but yeah, you probably knew that.

Welcome to casual Friday….

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Rupert Holmes’s  Best Album: Adventure (1980)

Background: I need to start this in pure, unadulterated “get off my lawn” style but want to offer an apology in advance for the miniature hissy fit I’m about to throw. It’s just before we get into this particular masterpiece by the angel above, Rupert Holmes, we need to talk about the concept of Yacht Rock. I’m a hardliner in that I don’t believe in the whole idea of “guilty pleasure” since you can’t help what you like. It’s easier to just own up and love stuff openly because at the end of the day who gives a rats ass what anyone else thinks. Which segues into why I think Yacht Rock is both a troublingly subjective and wildly imperfect means of musical categorization, as it’s not so much an actual genre as it is a directive on how to hear particular artists and songs, created for primarily comedic purposes.

And to make matters worse, the overall sound that it has come to define actually already had a name before it was called Yacht Rock and was /is specifically tethered to a time and actual group of artists (and loosely, a place). It was called West Coast and from around 1978-1983, it was as pervasive on U.S.radio waves as hair metal was in later in the decade. During those years, the top 40 charts were absolutely brimming with West Coast.

The “sound” was typified by supreme musicianship, slick production, and melodic smoothness and the people that made it tended to be straight, white guys, within the age range of 25-35. And as the state of the art recording studios in Southern California were where the overwhelmingly majority of it was created, where the best known purveyors of it tended to be based at some point, years later, it started getting referred to as West Coast, though as I alluded to, the music itself was created all over. I never even knew it had a name until like 10 or 15 years ago when searching for some “where are they now” type info, I stumbled upon a website called Blue Desert.

Here are some very fine albums from the heyday of the West Coast sound. Nothin’ but pure, unadulterated, bearded romance.

But Yacht Rock also selectively drags in bits of another maligned genre that was being birthed during the same era, that of AOR. Now AOR ( Album Oriented Rock) is basically the musical equivalent of Baby Bear’s bed in Goldilocks and the Three Bears; not too Hard (Rock), not too Soft (Rock) but juuuuust right…in the middle that is, taking elements of both and accentuating neither. For context, let’s just say Journey are The Beatles of AOR …but they are actually, believe it or not, too much of a rock band to fall into the Yacht category.  Toto are The Beatles of  West Coast and while they have songs that fall firmly into the AOR category, their general smoothness has landed them straight in the  Yacht Rock wheelhouse. Breathe in, breathe out…

And as if the latter day categorization wasn’t enough, at the time the sound, let’s just call it  West Coast for now, was happening, within the music industry it was referred to as, wait for it, Adult Contemporary aka Soft Rock. Both of those descriptors were code to describe music for grown people who like pop but wanted to hear things that were mellow and non-threatening. There is still an official Adult Contemporary Chart to this day ( also sometimes abbreviated to “AC”) and as of this writing, Maroon 5 are occupying the # 1 spot which I have no smart alecky thing to say about because it’s unnecessary.

I know, this is far more confusing than it needs to be….and that’s the thing, because in real time when these songs were actually being released, especially to my kid ears, it just was just plain old pop music. To the average listener of Casey Kasem’s weekly Top 40 radio show back in the late ’70’s and early ’80s, these songs currently singled out as Yacht Rock, which are West Coast, with occasional nods to AOR  but technically Adult Contemporary  were just part of an amorphous blob of hit singles, rubbing shoulders with everything from The Cars to Kool And The Gang. They were pop songs, that’s it.

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Clear the runway y’all…

A Man Called Rupert: While singer-songwriter Rupert Holmes has a number of noteworthy achievements in his CV, including writing a Tony award winning Broadway musical and producing a Streisand album, he is most famous for creating what’s become the unofficial anthem of Yacht Rock, the # 1 hit from 1979,“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”. Based on those career highlights it should be pretty clear that when it came to this music thing, Rupert Holmes was looking at the world through a more mature set of eyes. His primary audience were grown people, actual adults with jobs, mortgages and alimony payments.

The back cover of the 1979 single of “Escape…” featured a handy recipe for making a Piña Colada because this was a record for grown people. Not gonna discuss the front.

1980’s Adventure, Rupert’s sixth studio album, was the follow up album to the previous years, Partners in Crime ( which featured 3 Top 40 hits “Him”, “Answering Machine” and the aforementioned “Escape…”). In terms of sales it was a huge failure and none of it’s singles landed in the pop Top 40. In fact from this point forward, Holmes himself would never again appear in the pop Top 40 performing his own songs ( though he still managed to score a huge hit  in 1986 albeit as a songwriter).

Why it’s his Pet Sounds:  While the plush production, epically clever lyrics and Billy Joel/Nilsson-esque melodies in his 5 albums prior to Adventure tend to get the accolades (especially Partners, with it’s triumvirate of hits), this is the one Holmes album where absolutely everything was on point. It’s the leanest, least jokey and most straight up “ROCK” thing he ever did and is filled end to end with well-scrubbed, orderly guitar solos and shiny bridges. And yup, as is his custom, Adventure is home to more hooks than an overstuffed tackle box.

This album offers no mystery whatsoever. You will never be confused by the lyrical content or be tempted to play it backwards in search of secret messages.  Every emotion and situation is described in clear precise language. It’s basically 10 soap opera scenes, miniature screenplays and short stories set to music . This is the Holmes Style™ and a skill that lent itself perfectly to his later endeavor of writing musicals and TV shows. The main lyrical ingredients here are clarity and earnestness with added dollops of cheese, knowing winks and “did you get it” elbowing. You know, kind of like a musical.

And you won’t find any meandering epics or extended instrumental interludes. Every song is unabashedly auditioning to be a single and future radio star.

To summarize, while Adventure didn’t set the charts alight alas, it is a truly seminal Yacht Rock-West Coast-Adult Contemporary-Soft Rock-Pop classic that deserves it’s due because, let’s get “1980” for a second, it’s just totally bitchin’.

*Sidenote: Actually there IS one mystery, that being why in God’s name a teenage girl who was obsessed with Sting and maintained a fat Police scrapbook should have been remotely interested in this album. It spoke from a vantage point that she had zero understanding of, that of a successful, nearly middle aged man living I assume, in LA. This album screamed midlife crisis from it’s every orifice. Yet it was a frequent occupant of my turntable. And for the record, yes I believed Sting “understood” me & I him. I know we both agreed on the most crucially important of all facts; that Sting himself was hot.

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Okay, look sensitive…

The Songs (side one):

The album opens with the epic title track “Adventure” and though I kind of hate myself for doing this, I need to invent a new f-ing category to describe it because it leaves me no choice. “Adventure” is a Yacht Prog” song. It’s fat, cheesily dramatic keyboard opening bears a striking similarity to what Genesis were turning out in the late ’70s. But while Genesis were still singing about mythical creatures and “kings who were laughing in the rain” at that point, Rupert was offering up an oozingly earnest sermon about how Hollywood’s interpretation of adventure ain’t nothing compared to the unexpected, even more thrilling real life encounters us average Joe’s have. He employs some absurdly dramatic pauses ( you could drive a tractor trailer between his “and” and “then”) and I’m conspiratorially convinced ABBA’s Benny and Bjorn co-opted the vibe from this very song for their own musical Chess a few years later in the form of 1984’s mountainously cheesy megahit  “One Night in Bangkok”…only “Adventure” is an infinitely better song.

But if we sell ourselves as somebody else we could make a misconnection

You’ll end up with one who loves not you but THE MASK…

While Rupert Holmes may not be Nostradamus, the prescience in evidence on “The Mask” with it’s primitive allusions to “catfishing” and pleas to just be your damn self are oddly impressive considering the song is 40 years old. The tune itself is built on a neat sinewy little groove but is also full of surprisingly clever and unpredictable key and tempo changes. To hear him passionately plead alongside an awesomely fuzzy, ascending electric guitar line for you “to tear the mask off“, might cause you in true Twilight Zone style to wonder how Rupert could’ve have possibly foreseen social media’s effect on future human relations in 1980 or then again maybe it’s just proof that people haven’t changed like at all.

“Blackjack” -The intro of the song sounds suspiciously like the kind of music you’d hear while watching a Las Vegas magician suddenly emerge from a cloud of smoke waving a wand while throwing shapes under an undulating spotlight. But it’s most likely just meant to sound “Vegas-y”, as if a wildly spinning roulette wheel could emit music. “Blackjack” is built on a bed of awesomely obvious gambling metaphors to describe love, all double downs, Queen of Hearts and chips but again Rupert surprises, employing loads of cooly oddball turns within the tune. This song rocks in a civilized and orderly fashion and while things don’t get out of hand, it does feature a break constructed for audience participation which I’m certain it didn’t get to enjoy in any significant way in it’s heyday. Here is the sleeve of the single which while somewhat endearing is the very anthesis of rocking.

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Time to throw some light ( and shade) on one of the more unpleasant pop music tropes from days of yore, namely successful 30 plus year old soft rocker guys writing about high school girls. This was such a common thing in the seventies and eighties that it was almost a sub-genre to itself.  Paul Davis, Billy Joel, Robbie Dupree, Benny Mardones  (and many, many others), all hit the charts with paeans to teenage girls, within which they were either reliving the exploits of their younger selves or, okay benefit of the doubt here, wistfully reminiscing in their current conditions. At that juncture in pop music history, you could get away with this shit with perfect impunity. It was so normalized that it wasn’t even questioned, after all, it had been going on for decades with future legends Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis leading the charge back in the’50s in the absolute worst possible ways.

But since we didn’t grow up with these guys and only knew them as grown ass men, this kind of thing could sound extraordinarily dicey ( remember this ?). What also sucked was that despite their questionable content some of these songs actually were freakin’ great…and I confess to an abiding love for several of them (dammit). Rupert’s contribution to the genre “The O’Brien Girl” is generally pretty subdued but while not overtly sexual it does come across as the sentiment of an obsessed fantasist. The lead character in this song has a backstory involving her leaving her previous high school but the story behind her departure is never revealed (though it’s implied something unfortunate happened to land her at Rupert’s school). All in all, it’s a regal and handsome ballad with a gloriously incongruous electric guitar adding a tiny and straight up weird bit of edge.

If any of you have  been to a Fleetwood Mac concert featuring the classic line-up of Stevie, Lindsey, Christine, John & Mick, you may recollect a point in the show when the band introduces each other. And you can probably recall which band member got the biggest cheers. Of course even if you haven’t been you can probably guess. It didn’t matter how many insane runs Lindsey did on his guitar or how killer his version of “Big Love” was, it was very clear who the star was, who was the most beloved. It was always Stevie Nicks. And it sucks right, it was sort of “your” thing, I mean you insisted she be in the band and this is what happens. Yup, no matter how hard you’ve worked, your bearded ass will never hold a candle to our beloved, spectral queen. In “Crowd Pleaser” Rupert describes a similar scenario and mostly cowers in the corner as backing singer Chrissy Faith crushes him with her steamroller. The chorus falls somewhere in between Kiss and Blue Oyster Cult. Seriously. I think after getting typecast as the Piña Colada guy, Rupert just wanted to f-ing rock for a minute or at least show people that he could. And bless him, for despite the earnest on the nosiness of this whole song, it’s insanely fun.

The Songs (side two):

“You’ll Love Me Again”– Yes, the sentiment of the title is as troubling as it sounds. It really should’ve been called “Red Flag” for under the guise of a love song, something far more sinister is afoot.

Here is a typical verse :

You loved me once and you’ll love me again

She said ” You think so ?”

I said “I know so, I know so much about you now”

She said “Well maybe”

I said “There is no maybe”

It’s all very Dateline. Which dovetails perfectly into the songs extravagant arrangement, with it’s Phil Collins style drum fills and Beach Boy-esque, Corvette convertible, twanging guitar line post chorus. Oh yes, this is most definitely “Yacht Prog” and it’s a goofy, glorious, passive-aggressive beauty to be sure.

Back in the day,  the inherently terrible and misogynistic term “frigid” was a commonly used to describe women who didn’t like or respond to sex in an “appropriately” heated manner. The more “polite” but still inherently questionable version of frigid is cold . While Rupert’s take on this notion, “Cold” is more polite than say the Stones screaming take regarding the same idea, it also manages to serve up a little quiet menace. Here, glaciers, sleet storms, blocks of ice are all overcome by the thawing agent known as “Spanish Wine”. Yeah, you get it. There’s some table turning in the latter half of the song which makes the whole idea of “Cold” feel less hostile ( Rupert is more progressive than Freud it appears). Weird thing is that despite all this, I’ve always kind of loved this song, which I pretty exclusively put down to it’s exceptional, twisting, turning tune and overall grooviness; that part is indisputable.

Which brings us to “Morning Man”, about a guy who is in love with a nurse who works the overnight shift while he works during the day. And so they have to get it while they can. And they make it work, unsurprisingly he is always ready to go (“doesn’t take much to wake me, just you shake your morning man” Rupert croons sweetly). And so you know, it’s a pop song about morning stuff. But holy crap, this tune, it’s just plain swoon-worthingly gorgeous.

The last 2 tracks on the album are the toughest listens, the most Broadway-ish sounding and the least rockin’. They have their virtues ( melodically tight) but they wither in the light of all that came before.

“I Don’t Need You”  is silly. It’s main attribute is it’s resolutely bouncy tune. It’s sentiments are similar to that of 10CC’s brilliant “I’m Not in Love” but have a decidedly cutesy flavor which quickly upends the pseudo-rockin mood Rupert had been establishing up to this point. To be frank, it’s the kind of thing your Grandparents might have liked had they heard it emanating from your teenage bedroom. Which is a terrible, terrible scenario. I now need to offer an anecdote to drive the aforementioned point home.

If you grew up in the seventies or eighties you will probably be familiar evening talk show host Merv Griffin. Though he was initially meant to rival daytime talk show king Mike Douglas, he was on at night and more akin to Johnny Carson but like the poor man’s version as in he was less charismatic and uh, likeable.

But in his defense, he seemed to care about us kids…or at least the person who booked musical artists for his show did. Which is to say he featured waaaaay cooler musical guests than Carson ever did, like he had Soft Cell on doing “Tainted Love” when it came out and even went so far as to invite them over to the guest sofa to have an actual chat. It was WTF wonderful, incongruous and embarrassing all at the same time. I even remember seeing Devo on there, as well as Marvin Gaye which was undeniably cool. Now in the ’40s and ’50s Merv had  been a bit of a crooner and so was often inclined to open his shows with a song. In keeping with the progressive nature of things, he would occasionally attempt songs of a contemporary nature . And on one particular evening, he chose to open with Rupert’s “I Don’t Need You”. The song was sort of new at the time and juuuuust the right amount of corny for an aging TV Host to belt out without completely humiliating himself.

Now while I was well aware that Adventure wasn’t a cool album by any stretch, the idea that this old, sports jacket wearing Hollywood guy was rocking the same thing on his turntable as me really put me off. I genuinely remember thinking WTF, this is my album you old cheeseball. And that is my main memory of this song. Even when I hear it now I think of Merv awkwardly schmoozing around the stage to it and for this reason, I just can’t. But I will give points for it’s schmaltzy and sweet guitar line because that’s actually kind of cool.

I’ll be honest , the last track “Special Thanks” also pisses me off a little. Despite it’s good intentions, there is something gruesomely condescending in it’s tone. It is as the title insinuates a song of thanks. He thanks the waiter for the table with a view. He thanks the pretzel vendor & all the denizens of the park that day who provide a backdrop for he and his love to walk through. He thanks the city for providing the opportunity to live out his dreams. Yes, a little smarmy and unctuous but I suppose since it’s the last song we can cut him some slack; it doesn’t change a thing.

In Conclusion:

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Rupert included that genuine little message you see above on the inner sleeve. It is clear by his tone that even he didn’t think a teenage person was likely to “fork out” for his grown up album. And that was probably an accurate observation based on his whole persona and the subject matter. As a recently minted teenager of course I didn’t own an apartment, house or car . But I did possess an obsession with AM radio, an allowance and a blue shag carpeted teen bedroom to play records in. And while I couldn’t entirely relate to the sentiments ( frigid ladies, night nurses, artifice, consumerism…wha?), I was completely enraptured by all the head spinning hooks, which were just plain more important. And though we haven’t really discussed it, I kind of dug his voice with it’s faintly detectable lisp.

When it comes to straight up melodic mastery Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Todd Rundgren are pretty much the gold standard but know what, Rupert Holmes had a similar strain running in him…and you can hear it all over  Adventure.

Despite my love of the album, I never felt inclined to write and respond to his message… but maybe in a way this essay is a letter that arrived 40 years late. Or shoot, I’ll just write a quick note now.

Dear Rupert,

I love Adventure and in my lifetime have played it at least as much as “Zenyatta Mondatta” ( but maybe not as much as “Ghost in the Machine”), but still I know every word to every song and can hum every guitar solo if tested. I’m proud to say I have officially lived long enough to understand what you were talking about in the songs. I think this album is your Pet Sounds. I’m eternally grateful it exists. And so no, Thank YOU.

Hear it here :