Friday, May 1, 2020


If you are a fan of the Moody Blues, frankly, I would, in the words of their best song, (which they didn't even write) , Go Now, my musical mystery being around why? It isn't, of course, ever that simple, and they have had one or two toe-tappers in their repertoire, the featured song being possibly one.


Given the whole song is based around the lack of any answers to the big questions of life and death, and is asking quite why there are no answers to the big questions of life and death, I struggle to fully understand the thrust. So we get the bombastic orchestral faff at the beginning, oohs and aahs resplendent, then the frantic strumming guitars enveloping the questions, followed by the slow interlude of justification, explaining the interrogation being only for the want of someone to understand the inquisitor. And change his life. I think. And then it all goes off again, onward to the fade. It was actually quite a big hit single here in the U.K. and I remember noting this was a bit different, pricking up my ears when they did a turn on chart show, Top of the Pops. And, being the precocious nerd I was (am?), because they were deemed serious and proggy, I decided that I liked it, even. Indeed, for a while, because I had also liked Go Now and, hell, yeah, I loved Nights in White Satin, that perennial last number at innumerable sad school discos, I thought I liked the Moody Blues. A deeper look into their catalogue saw me wisely back away, discovering unforeseen depths of symphonic dreck. (With, actually, NiWS, no different........)

Nights in White Satin

But let's look at the evidence. What was good in this song? Actually, revisiting it as I write, I love the bass, loping nimbly along in the slipstream of the thrashing acoustics. I like, nay admire, the drums, especially when they come tap-tapping at the door. (The drummer, Graeme Edge, also went up in my estimation when he entitled his solo album, Kick Off Your Muddy Boots, Muddy Boots being his play on the band's name. Mine was/is Bloody Moos, not that that adds anything here.) The then keyboard player, Mike Pinder, looked the height of cool, the teenaged me admiring the beard and bald combo that also endeared me, poor idiot that I was, to the 1970s look of Mike Love. I think that's about it. The rest of the band, especially with hindsight, had clearly invested in too much in all that white satin, it encasing their torsos just a tad tighter than history will forgive.

I should really here report some epiphany, some damascene moment of the scales falling from my eyes, the older me of the 2020s belatedly acknowledging the debt modern music owes to their groundbreaking ouvre. But I can't. Still symphonic dreck. And as for the album titles..... But, you know, there is one song that is so wretched I love it. Really love it. Lyrics so crass that even if they were believable, the lumbering arrangement effectively denies the statement any credibility at all, the choral vocals startlingly oxymoronic. Yet, somehow, and I don't understand this, it works. How? Now that, ladies and gentleman, really is the question.....

 I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock'n'Roll Band)


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Musical Mysteries: The Boys Are Back In Town

Thin Lizzy: The Boys Are Back In Town

Like many of the themes that we use on Star Maker Machine, this one came to me when I was driving in my car, listening to the radio, and the song that prompted this particular theme was Thin Lizzy’s hard rock classic, “The Boys Are Back In Town.” Now, there have been many musical mysteries throughout history, and even if you limit it to the “rock era,” there are some really fascinating ones. I have to admit that “The Boys Are Back In Town” didn’t crack any of the lists that I found when I Googled “musical mysteries.” And yet, to me, it is deeply mysterious. Let’s delve right into the lyrics:

Guess who just got back today? 
Them wild-eyed boys that'd been away 
Haven't changed, had much to say 
But man, I still think them cats are crazy

OK, who got back today? Where did they come back to? Where have they been? Why did they come back? And what makes them crazy?

In doing some research about the song, which was in part inspired by the hard-drinking, working class fans of the band, it appears that singer/songwriter/bassist Phil Lynott’s mother Philomena ran the Clifton Grange Hotel (subject of an earlier Thin Lizzy song) with an after-hours bar in Manchester, England, which was frequented by the Quality Street Gang, a group of Manchester criminals and Manchester United supporters, as well as entertainers and footballers (which may have overlapped). So, it may be that some of these mysteries, but not all, have plausible answers. But not all of them. We still don’t know where they came from, and why they returned.

They were askin' if you were around 
How you was, where you could be found 
Told them you were livin' downtown 
Drivin' all the old men crazy 

Presumably, this is a about a woman (since at the time this was written, it was not likely that Lynott would have referred to a man who drove “old men crazy”). But who is the woman? And was it only old men that she drove crazy?  What effect did she have on younger men, if any?

The boys are back in town (The boys are back in town) 
I said, the boys are back in town (The boys are back in town) 
The boys are back in town (The boys are back in town) 
The boys are back in town (The boys are back in town) 

Yes, we know. The boys are back in town. But we still don’t know why. Or where they came from.

You know that chick that used to dance a lot 
Every night, she'd be on the floor, shakin' what she's got 
Man, when I tell ya she was cool, she was red hot I mean she was steamin' 

Is this about the same girl who was driving the old men crazy? Or a different one? What's she "got?" (I think we can make an educated guess.)  Is this town filled with beautiful women? Or just one (or two)?

And that time over at Johnny's place 
Well, this chick got up and she 
Slapped Johnny's face 
Man, we just fell about the place 
If that chick don't wanna know, forget her 

Where’s Johnny’s place? What did Johnny do to incite a face slap? (Although we can probably guess.) And why did everyone appear to find it so amusing? Is it sort of a slapstick thing? What is it that this woman doesn’t want to know? And is not being curious a sufficient excuse to forget her?

If you believe the Manchester story, then it is likely that “Johnny” refers to “Johnny The Fox,” a member of the Quality Street Gang, who is also the subject of the later Thin Lizzy song, “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed,” from the Johnny The Fox album. Of course, Johnny is a pretty common name, so we can’t really be sure.

The boys are back in town 
The boys are back in town 
I said, the boys are back in town 
The boys are back in town 
The boys are back in town 
The boys are back in town 
The boys are back in town 
The boys are back in town 

Yep. They’re baaaaaaaaaaack!

Spread the word around guess who's back in town 
You spread the word around

Why is it necessary to publicize the arrival of the “boys?” Is it a warning, or an enticement? Or both?

Friday night they'll be dressed to kill 
Down at Dino's bar and grill 
The drink will flow, and blood will spill 
And if the boys wanna fight you 
Better let 'em 

Where’s Dino’s? Why will blood spill? And why should we let the boys fight?

Dino’s also appears to have been a different bar in Manchester, possibly "Deno's," a Greek/Cypriot place with a reputation for debauchery. Why it seems appropriate to condone fighting and violence remains a mystery.

That jukebox in the corner 
Blasting out my favorite song 
The nights are gettin' warmer 
It won't be long 
Won't be long 'til summer comes 
Now that the boys are here again 

What’s his favorite song? And why is the return of the “boys” a harbinger of summer? Are they like migratory birds?

Another mystery about this song is that the band originally didn’t want to include it on the Jailbreak album, or release it as a single, but two DJs in Louisville, Kentucky, latched on to the song and played it so much that it became a viral hit, and probably saved the band’s career.

And yet another mystery about this song is why the Republican Party thought that it was a good song to use at their convention in 2012 when failed House Speaker and failed Vice Presidential candidate, and alleged “policy genius,” Paul Ryan took the stage. Philomena Lynott was quoted afterwards as saying that son Phil, who died in 1986, would have disagreed with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on issues including gay marriage and taxes:

As far as I am concerned, Mitt Romney’s opposition to gay marriage and to civil unions for gays makes him anti-gay – which is not something that Philip would have supported. He had some wonderful gay friends, as indeed I do, and they deserve equal treatment in every respect, whether in Ireland or the United States.

It is, of course, mysterious, that in 2016, this country elected a Republican president who makes Romney look good by comparison.