January 22, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall
I was recently tapped to (voluntarily) participate in challenge game in the world of Facebookery. The ultimate goal of the game is to share music and thoughts on how wonderful the music is. As an added bonus, there is the possibility that you might introduce someone to a song that hadn’t heard before. So I jumped at the chance.
Seven Days Of Epic Tunes is exactly what the name implies; the nominated person (in this case me) shares one song each day for seven days and the songs in question must be epic. The interpretation of what makes a song epic was left entirely up to me. Being a writer, I went with the classic definition: “noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style.”
Basically, if the song tells a good story, it’s an epic tune to me.
For me the real challenge was that it was only seven. There are so many more songs that I also wanted to include.
Here are my song choices and comments from the last seven days.
For Day One I’ve chosen Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the master of musical storytelling. There is so much going on in this song, both musically and lyrically, all strung together on a single thread of “I just want to be with you, Rosie.” As the music swoops and glides, the words create incredibly detailed images. The whole song is an amazing construction of epicness and defined Springsteen as a creative powerhouse.
When you start reading a novel, the first chapter is so important. It needs to grab you right away, pique your interest, make you want to keep reading. The first chapter should give you a sense of the author’s writing style, give you just enough information that you want to know what happens next, but not so much that the rest of the story becomes predictable. And it needs to start you on a journey that you want see through to the end.
As side one / track one, Five Years is the first chapter of David Bowie’s concept album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. The first time I heard this song, back when I was just discovering the magic of Bowie’s mind, I was hooked, I wanted to hear the rest of the album. I needed to hear it.
Starting out in a flat voice almost devoid of emotion, he easily (and without you really noticing) transitions to a voice dripping with emotion, the raw, jagged kinds that hurt; shame, regret, anger, pain, sorrow, resentment, despair. And near the end, if you listen closely, you can hear in Bowie’s voice the sort of feeling you get when you are afraid to hope.
That’s an emotion we don’t even have a name for, and he conveyed it in a song.
That, my friends, is epic.
I Wish was Stevie Wonder’s ode to the wild and carefree days of childhood. He does some wonderfully creative things with syllable cadence as he sings this song, at times even splitting words over two lines. It’s a weird tactic and he makes it work, letting clever lyrics supports a grooving melody.
Forget Bruno Mars and that other dude. This is the uptown funk you want and need.
Inspired by Richard Foster’s speculative fiction short story “A Nice Morning Drive” published in Road and Track magazine, Red Barchetta by Rush is a fantastic example of musical storytelling. A stand out track on a stand out album from a stand out band, this song showcases the diverse and wide ranging musicality of all three members of Rush. Neil Peart’s lyrics paint a brilliant picture of an illicit car ride in an era with stringent restrictions on vehicular travel as the music drives the excitement of the chase and eventual escape. Listening to the song, you can almost feel the wind against your face as the car races along the country road.
Recorded in one take, Rapper’s Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap single to chart on the Billboard Top 40, and set the standard for early hip hop.
Also, it’s just fun.
I’m sharing the full-length 12″ single version, nearly fifteen minutes. There are several different “slice of life” stories, everything from trying to pick up women to suffering food poisoning. As an added bonus in this video, check out the 1979 fashions in the Soul Train dance clips.
I also included this for fun…
With the arguable exception of maybe three songs, every song Harry Chapin ever recorded was a story. He could write a full-length novel as a five minute song and leave you moved and weeping at the end. He was a master storyteller armed with a guitar.
His marginally fictionalized account of Eugene Sesky’s tragic 1965 misadventure took on a life of its own through live performances. I’m sharing today the version of 30,000 Pounds Of Bananas by Harry Chapin taken from his Greatest Stories Live album. It’s a fantastic album and if you are not familiar with it, I recommend you become familiar with it. But this particular song is notable because the telling of the story becomes a story in itself.
I’m finishing my seven days by delving into the same catalogue I started with; The Boss.
Jungleland by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is another showcase of not only Springsteen’s phenomenal storytelling skills but also the incredible talent in that band. Intriguing characters with colourful names and simple hopes and dreams, matched with music so poetic and dramatic. It’s incredibly moving to just listen and let the words flow through you. Sit back and let the story tell itself to you.
“…And the poets down here don’t write nothing at all; They just stand back and let it all be.”
Try to be nice to each other.