As is typical, before I tell my story, I need to provide some background.
It’s commonly accepted (by me, at least) that rock songs fall into one of five distinct categories:
- My Woman is the Devil (can be extended to all women)
- My Woman is the Greatest Thing Ever (can be extended to all women)
- Rock, How You Should Rock, How – Specifically – We’re Gonna Rock You
- Weird Shit
Name just about any rock song, and it falls into one of these categories…..
- Witchy Woman
- Fat Bottomed Girls
- Snortin’ Whiskey & Drinkin’ Cocaine
- Thanks to the advances in the various Rock Sciences, Sammy Hagar’s “One Way to Rock” has been proven to be factually incorrect, but is still a good example.
- Kashmir, and huge swaths of Pink Floyd
Then there are the short-lived subcategories. Those types of songs that seem to crop up every now and then that just don’t fit. They are:
- Runaway Girls in Trouble. I think it was probably an unwritten rule that if you were a guitar player in a band that released a solo record, you had to have a song about a young midwestern girl navigating the dangers of Los Angeles with only Our Hero (the guitar player) looking out for her well-being. Everyone from Don Felder to Adrian Smith bought into this one.
- The Afterschool Special Uplifting Song. Oh boy. Triumph made a career out of songs like these. Though “Magic Power” would seem to fir into the “Rock” category above, it’s so damn upbeat that it gets its own subcategory. See also Survivor’s “Burning Heart” and “Eye of the Tiger”.
- Cold War Armageddon. Yup. If you didn’t have a couple of these in your repertoire in the ’80s, you might as well have just gone home. From Gary Moore’s “Victims of the Future” to David Gilmour’s “Out of the Blue”, to Sting’s “Russians”, hard rain was ready to ruin the party at every turn.
And for the two or three of you that ask where the “satanic” metal stuff goes, that’s Weird Shit. And most political songs are written while trying to get someone into bed, so they fall into ategory 1 or 2.
No, wait…..A little more background.
I wasn’t a Police fan when they were around. Well, not a big one. I just never really got into them. Then suddenly in college, I became an obsessively huge Police fan (which is odd, because I was also a metalhead who was into classic rock, punk, and goth……I was one eclectic guy I suppose). And then, somewhere in the early ’90s, I stopped being a fan. And let’s be honest here…..The Police are like AC/DC and The Foo Fighters. They’ve got the formula, and they play the hell out of it. If you like the formula, you like the band. And there are still some Police songs that I think are really good (Secret Journey, Demolition Man, Shadows in the Rain, the two Synchronicity songs), but by and large, they just don’t do it for me any more.
OK, here we go…..
The one thing I really took from The Police, and the thing I’ll still give them massive credit for is the fact that the three of them were/are fantastic musicians. Sting might be a weirdo, but he’s a great bass player. Stewart might have anger issues, but he’s a sick drummer. And then there’s Andy Summers. What you get from him was a lot of delay, arpeggios, and silence. His sense of space in The Police really let those songs breathe, and then every once in a while he’d rip out something like the solo in “Driven to Tears”.
So for some reason, his playing really stuck with me. Once day in 1987, I happened across a record of his titled XYZ. It was $4 or so, so I bought it. And I immediately fell in love with it. It’s definitely not The Police. It’s a generally progressive-sounding (that’s what we called it back then kids) record that tries (too hard at times) to be avant-garde. There’s some truly inspired guitar playing, and some thoughtful lyrics. Sadly, Andy Summers just wasn’t a very strong singer, and I think that’s what hamstrung the record’s sales. Oh, and there was no Runaway Girl in Trouble song. That probably hurt it too.
Of the 10 songs, there were none that I was ambivalent about, and 5 that I thought were great. One song, “Almost There”, ranked amongst my favorite songs of the era. Great, rocking guitar, and reasonably good, though somewhat nonsensical, lyrics. The chorus has stuck with me for these past 28 years:
“….And the sun will shine, and the rain will fall, and the world will turn.”
Nice, right? I mean, there’s this breathy female background singer in there doubling the vocal, and Andy himself seems like he’s repeating himself between “fall” and “and”, but I got the message. I always took this to be an affirmation….No matter what happens, sun or rain, the world keeps turning and life goes on. A Zen-like statement that fits in with the avant-garde tone of the record, and really not a bad thing to repeat to yourself when everything in your life is going sideways (I have plenty of experience with that).
So for some reason, I woke up this morning with that lyric in my head. Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. Feeling buried by schoolwork. Mind going a million miles an hour in all sorts of directions. Since I hadn’t listened to the record for a while, I put in on during my drive to work. It’s aged reasonably well, and I still like what I used to like about it. I’m probably the only person who’s last name isn’t Summers to still own this album and listen to it (and even Andy isn’t fond of it…..I went to see him at the old 9:30 Club in ’90 or ’91 and he politely laughed at me when I asked him if he’d play this song), and I stand by my assessment. It’s a good record that needed a better singer and better production.
When I got to work, my mood was better, and I figured I’d post the lyric on Facebook (because that’s just what I do). Not wanting to embarrass myself, I looked up the lyrics to make sure I got them right (for the one or two other people on the planet who know the song). Whoops…..
“…..And the sun will shine, and the rain will pour. We radiate, for evermore. And the world will turn.”
OK, now mixing up “fall” and “pour” isn’t egregious, but oh my God, I missed a whole line. I then started frantically reading the rest of the lyrics to see how I could have missed this and……Oh my God, this isn’t an avant-garde song, it’s……..Cold War Armageddon!
“As their wings go dark – up against the sun
And their shadows pass – over everyone
And time unfolds – to a beating drum
I throw my clothes on a burning chair
I paint my eyes with the cold night air
The dreamer shouts – to an empty room
And the sun will shine
And the rain will pour
We radiate for evermore
And the world will turn
In the end
There’s a silence
And the TV set doesn’t show the fall
The light is fast the world is small
And in the end there’s a silence
And the sun will shine
And the rain will pour
We radiate for evermore
And the world will turn”
So after 28 years, I’ve learned that one of my favorite songs is about something completely different than I thought, and I somehow dreamed up (or misheard) this amazing affirmation that I’ve been using for nearly three decades. So dammit, that’s what I posted on Facebook. Because the world will turn.