July 10, 2017
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Which came first, Starbuck’s Unicorn drink or The Flaming Lips?
Remember way back in early 2017 when Starbucks brought forth the enlightenment in the form of a drink? The Unicorn Frappuccino Blended Creme had enough sugar to take down any mythological monster but stand in bold stature like the creature it was designed for.
Unicorns have been a part of our pop culture and Internet foray for many years that it was only a matter of time someone capitalized on the icon. From memes,
and rainbow puking unicorns,
to the next level of unicorn lore,
the unicorn has become a mantra of its own device. Around the same time, The Flaming Lips released Ozcy Mlody, an album that features a song about a unicorn. It was perfect timing in the midst of this unicorn hoopla. Who inspired who? Whose to say? All I know is that Wayne Coyne looks mighty elated floating across an audience on a technicolored unicorn while adorning blow-up rainbow angel wings.
Just For You, Here’s A Love Song
Even though July reminds me of the horrid ritual of band camp and those long hours practicing under excruciating summer temperatures, being in high school band also brought to light sappy love songs. It’s not only the canopy under which I survived the rights of passage of my teenage years but also the culture that surrounded band and the ‘80s.
Every year, our high school would put on a variety show called Spotlighters where various choirs, individuals, musicians, and bands would perform. This was also a time several famous musicians teamed up to make intensely drippy love songs from this,
Symphonic band was a requirement for all band students and to this day, I will never forget the song that came before our performance. Once whoever began singing to The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame,” it was our trigger to gather backstage for the following act. I could not tell you what basic rendition of some classical composition followed by a gross misrepresentation of some (current for the time) pop song as we tortured the audience like someone at turning on the bar’s overhead lights at 3 a.m. But I will be sure as hell to recite The Bangles’ lyrics while remembering the soft hues of blue lights reflecting off our formal attire in all teenage awkwardness. So with that, please give a warm round of applause for our next act, the torturous love song! *insert crowd cheers here*
Another song that also emerged during this era was Heart’s “What About Love.” It stood out at all high school dances as being one of the least annoying love songs. By this time, I was knee deep into metal and Noxzema. In my world, Heart meant “Barracuda” not “What About Love.” But in comparison to everything surrounding this song, it was still a rocker. Although cover songs have dominated Ann Wilson’s live gigs, there is a guilty pleasure when Ann Wilson still performs the song.
Ballads from the Revolution
On the flip side of the love song were the rock power ballads. The ‘80s were chock full of them. From L.A. Guns to Poison to Cinderella to Whitesnake to Tesla and every late ‘80s rock and metal band in between, there seemed to be a subconscious rule at least one love ballad was incorporated. Was it a means to challenge the diversity of the band and show a balance between muscle and sensitivity? I am guessing it was more of a means of getting lucky.
Michael Monroe combated the love song with “Don’t You Ever Leave Me” on Hanoi Rocks’ Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes. In its essence, it is indeed a love song. But Monroe sings it with such panache the only thing that saves the song from imploding is the confidence that Monroe has.
Monroe was the Cyrano de Bergerac of hair metal vocalists. As Hanoi split up and Monroe began churning out solo albums, he proved he could write riveting material as well as sculpt cover songs into his own contiguum. The transition from glam to grit, Monroe has been able to successfully balance between the seedy and the glitter. He is clearly an underrated performer.
That is why it is refreshing to finally see that 30 years after his first solo album Nights Are So Long, a two-disc best of compilation is finally being released. And Spinefarm does a great job at selecting the core essence of Monroe’s talent from within these three decades.
Back To Mystery City
Rock and roll should be unpredictable. It should speak to our primal senses be it in slow motion or full steam. From the Sunset Strip and all up and down that California highway, the Golden State has played an important role in how rock philosophizes human nature.
Once touted as Thunderchief and now blowing GFIs as Shotgun Sawyer, Dylan Jarman utilizes the same contemplation that went into the love song for this anti-love song. Jarman looks within and tries to break free of the past in order to understand and revitalize himself. Rock and roll is an escape and “You’ve Got To Run” not just reminds us about that escape but embellishes in the same desperation that has been built on the love song. Sometimes the love song is about dealing with consequence in order to find love within oneself. For him it is all too real. For the listener, it is mere fantasy that molds and distorts into someone else’s conception of reality. Shotgun Sawyer’s latest single is not about the solution. It’s not about being the hero. It’s more about urgency of change and Jarman has documented that emotion in rock to a tee.
From the psychedelic lovefest of The Flaming Lips to the psychedelic highway rock of Shotgun Sawyer, pop and rock comes in all forms of guises and escapism, even when it is a sappy serenade or a rocket ship rocker barreling straight for your own heart.
“Take it, and turn to facts my fantasies.”
—Cyrano de Bergerac
So, what is your love song/power ballad guilty pleasure? What is that sappy song you are ashamed to admit loving or song that is a part of your cerebal memories?
Let us know at email@example.com. Until next time, we will keep that eternal flame lit bright over here.