Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Heard It From a Friend Who...

You know the feeling.

It's late, or maybe early. You haven't slept much, or perhaps you just woke up. Either way, your eyelids are heavy, your head feels like a one-ton weight, and at any moment, you get the sense you could just lay over and fall right asleep where you are.

But you can't. Because inches in front of you is the steering wheel. Your hands are on it. Your feet are on the pedals, or close to them if you have the cruise control. You are tired, you are sleepy and you are driving.

Its time for the driving anthems. Lean over, grab that CD, or maybe that iPod, or even that cassette tape you bought at Wal-Mart for $3.99 in the big wire rack. You know, the tape that says R-E-O on it.

The guitar strums, then...

"...heard it from a friend who... heard it from a friend who... heard it from another you been messin' around..."

Some of you are smiling right now, because know exactly what I'm talking about. Its not just the wagon, its the Speedwagon. The REO Speedwagon (and for those of you 20 and under, its not "Oreo" or "Rio", its pronounced like its spelled.. Are-Eee-Oh)

"Take it on the run baby, if thats' the way you want it baby, then I don't want you around. I don't believe it... not for a minute... your under the gun so you take it on the run..."

Some music isn't about whether its good or not... some music is just fun. Some music is made to be sung loudly, off key, and to have the entire room--or car--singing with you.

I had to make several trips last week on the road (hence no posts until today). I drove from my apartment to the Birmingham International Airport and Dance Club, picked up family, drove three hours to Dothan Alabama, stayed 45 minutes, then drove back to my apartment. All in one night. Left our door around 620pm. Got back around 3am. Yawn.

On the way back, I could tell The Lovely Steph Leann was dying to go to sleep. She wanted to lay her head back and just doze soooo badly, but she didn't. She stayed awake, talking to me, making sure I was okay as I drove. I had actually opened the store that morning, so I had been up since 4:30 that morning, so for me, it was a 23 hour day. "23 hours? Please. I stay up that late". Well, try running a Starbucks for nine hours, getting home, eating, cleaning up the apartment, then spending 7 of the next 9 hours driving.

To stay awake, I put the iPod on the dock in the car, and turned on "Steph's Playlist", which is a list that I created that includes all the stuff that we both like, including some Broadway, some country, mostly soft rock, pop and Christian... no hip hop (which I like) and no Barbra (which she likes). And REO Speedwagon's "Take It On the Run" came on. Within the first verse, we were both singing along, and by the second verse, we were both singing loudly. How can you not?

Some of you--Paula, NYC Jenni, perhaps Wendi Miller--are humming the tune to yourself right now, I'll bet.

That got me to thinking... anthem songs. Songs that make you sing them loudly. I think there are some, like "Take It On the Run" that are universal. There are probably some that are individual. What makes an anthem song for me is this:

1) You know all the words. You have to be able to sing along to it. This pretty much takes out "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard... most people only know a few phrases... "you got the peaches, I got the cream... um... take sugar, one lump or two?" This also excludes "Hip Hop Hooray", because lets face it, the only words anyone besides Treach knows to that song are "hip", "hooray" and "hop".

2) Has to be a fun song. Nothing too serious. This takes out everything Seal, Sting or The Police.

3) "Anthem" does not mean your own personal soundtrack... "anthem" means it loud, its stadium worthy. This eliminates most Christian music

4) When caught singing it, most people won't make fun of you, they'll probably sing along. This cuts out most boy bands from recent years, though "Hangin' Tough" might get you some people singing... the words are obscure on that one, though (see Rule 1)

5) Has to be family friendly, at least to a point. At some parties I'm sure busting up with "Pop That Cootchie" from 2 Live Crew might make some people dance, but this isn't something you'll want to be singing at a church outing. So, this does cut out most hip-hop and rap, though "Baby Got Back" might be an exception. This might exclude Prince, though you have to determine if "Little Red Corvette" is appropriate for your audience, or if you are Paula Maddox.

Besides "Take It On the Run", here's what I came up with, for me at least...

"Keep On Loving You" by REO Speedwagon
Kinda the same sound, but different. "And I meant every word I said, when I said that I loved you, I meant that I'll love you forever... I'm gonna keep on loving you... cause its the only thing I wanna do... I don't wanna sleep... I just wanna keep on lovin' you" If Steph ever said that to me, I'll know she's hard core faithful, because she loves to sleep. No joke.

"Makin' Love Out of Nothing at All" by Air Supply
This song is really stupid, when you really pay attention to it. Its 4 minutes and 51 secondsof the pansiest, wussiest love song you'll ever hear... and its great. He's singing all these things he knows how to do, like whisper, cry, find the answers, lie, fake it, scheme, face the truth, dream, where to touch you, when to pull you closer and when to let you loose. He's never gonna tell you everything he's gotta tell you but he knows he's gotta give it a try. BUT... but... he don't know how you do it, making love out of nothing at all.
When the first verse is over, that's when the singalong begins. Then, when the instrumental is over, oh boy, let's go crazy... "I can make the runner stumble, I can make the flying block, I can make every tackle at the sound of the whistle, I can make all the stadiums rock!" Yes, this is a love song, not a cheerleading choir.

"Separate Ways" by Journey
Conventional wisdom will tell you that "Don't Stop Believin" is the way to go here, but for my money, there are few song openings better than the keyboards that start "Separate Ways". Steve Perry is in all his "I'm trying to be bada** gangsta, but we all know I'm not" glory. For the longest time, though, when he sings "Here we stand, worlds apart, hearts are broken in two", I thought he said "Here we stand, Rosa Parks broken in two", and I could never figure out why the civil rights pioneer was mentioned in a Journey song. "Someday love will find you, break those chains that bind you, one night will remind you, howe touched and went our separate ways... if he ever hurts you, true love won't desert you, you know I still love you, though we touched and went our separate ways!"

"I'll Be There For You" by Bon Jovi
A charter member in the "Stephanie Firth Club", Jon Bon Jovi sings this anthem and I immediately go back to 8th grade when the most beautiful girls in the world were Claudia Sorrells and Nicki Vann, and my biggest problems were that I ran for student council and lost. Again. (never fear, I won 4 years running starting in 9th grade)
"Baby you know my hands are dirty (woman, you know my hands are dirty), but I wanted to be your valentine, I'll be the water when you get thirsty baby, when you get drunk I'll be the wine..."

"Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
How can you go wrong with this one? I mean, its one of those songs that if someone asked you how the second verse started, you'd have to go through the whole song to get to it... if its the regular boring radio version, its "every now and then I know you'll never be the boy you always wanted to be ". If its the true, full version, its "every now and then I get a little bit restless and I dream of something wild"
We did a drama to music to this a few years ago. It was interesting... not sure I'll ever do it again, but I thought it was awesome. I love how Bonnie screams "WE'RE LIVING IN A POWDER KEG AND GIVING OFF SPARKS!!!" and two lines later, she's lightly singing "...nothing I can say, a total eclipse of the heart". And the big bass drums in the instrumental... just cool.

"Fergilicious" by Fergie
Just kidding, just kidding. Wanted to see if you were still with me.

"End of the Road" by Boyz II Men
Unfortunately, we just don't hear the Boyz anymore. Obviously, they aren't on mainstream pop radio now, but even on our soft rock stations that play classic Bryan Adams and Phil Collins and old Sheryl Crow, no Boyz. Its a shame, really, because they had a good thing going for a while.
My favorite B2M is "Motownphilly", which is probably the same for most, but 90% of you don't know the words to "Motownphilly"... but you do know the words to "End of the Road". It was the class song for the Samson High Class of 94 (mine was "Its So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" in 93... a B2M song about death, followed up by a B2M song about a broken heart. Go Tigers!)
What's interesting about the Boyz is they started the deep voiceover trend... you konw, instead of a bridge, its Nate, Mike, Shawn or Wanya, whichever has the deep voice, talking, saying "baby, I love you baby, come back to me, I'm sorry baby, etc". They did this on most of their stuff, including "Water Runs Dry" and "On Bended Knee", and the trend carried onto Boyz II Men wannabes like 4P.M. and All-4-One.

Other Anthems That Probably Only Me Appreciate:
"Say Say Say" by Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney
"Sweet Child O'Mine" by Guns N Roses
"Blaze of Glory" by Jon Bon Jovi
"The Longest Time" by Billy Joel
"When Doves Cry" by Prince & the Revolution
"Sin Wagon" by The Dixie Chicks

I am leaving out a bunch of stuff. Later today, perhaps five minutes after I post this, I'll think of four songs that should have made this list... and hopefully, you'll comment and tell me what either keeps you awake or just makes you happy to sing loudly and shamelessly.

Until then, just one command... Turn around bright eyes. Turn around.

ps... as I was posting this, I randomly turned on Oasis and started belting out "how many special people change, how many lives are living strange, where were you while we were getting high?" at the top of my lungs. Sigh. I love music.


  1. I can't believe you left out Bohemian Rhapsody, or really anything by Queen for that matter.

    Of course after saying that, I'll surely have to remain anonymous.

  2. That is a good one... though for me, it would come close to violating Rule 1 (which is my rule, anyway...) No one really knows the words to it, they just kinda make up words that sound like what the words might be. Sing "scatta moosh, scatta moosh can you do the fandango" and no one will question it in the song.


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