Monday, November 25, 2019

Family: Family Man

Mike Oldfield: Family Man

Like most people around my age, I was familiar with Mike Oldfield because of Tubular Bells, his 1973 masterpiece that became famous when part of it was used in the movie The Exorcist. But because his music was, for the most part, album side-long instrumentals, it was otherwise rare to hear Oldfield’s music on the radio.

And when I got to college and began working at WPRB, I was able to explore some of Oldfield’s records, although again, even at that college station, it was unusual to throw on a 20 plus minute song. Unless you were alone in the studio and had to run to the bathroom, which was down the hall.

But Oldfield is a remarkable musician, playing most of the instruments on his records and overdubbing wildly—by some count, he has played more than 40 different instruments on his various records, and his music is very much worth listening to. So, I do recall occasionally playing “Part I” of Tubular Bells (which features Viv Stanshall of the Bonzos introducing the instruments, because Oldfield liked this song) on the air, or a few of the shorter songs he began adding to his records as time went on, maybe in hopes of getting radio airplay.

In March, 1982, not long before I graduated from college, Oldfield released Five Miles Out, which included a few shorter, poppier songs, including “Family Man,” sung by Scottish singer Maggie Reilly, that was actually pretty catchy. In fact, the song nudged onto the singles charts in the UK and Canada. It tells the story of a man approached by a sexy prostitute, and his rejection of her—“Leave me alone, I’m a family man,” he sings—although part of his rejection is based on fear that if she continued her seduction, he might succumb. I liked the song, played it a few times on the air, graduated from college and moved on with my life.

A year or so later, I heard a song by Hall & Oates (a band that is not my favorite—although there’s this) called “Family Man,” and it sounded vaguely familiar. Somehow, back in the pre-Internet era, I was able to determine that it was, in fact, the same song. Although to their credit, H&O definitely made it their own. And they added some lyrics that changed the song so that the man decides to take the woman up on her offer, but she had already left, leading to some apparent regret. This version, not surprisingly, did much better commercially, reaching No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 15 on the UK and Irish singles charts. Although what a cheesy '80s video...

Reilly also covered it, in 2009, but it is slick, commercial and not that interesting.  Maybe I’m being a music snob (which would not be surprising, would it?), but I prefer the original—although I have to admit that the H&O cover isn’t terrible, so if you like it better, I’m not going to think less of you.

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