I’ve stopped believing

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

            I only caught the first hour of Sunday’s chart countdown show on Radio 1, but the first few minutes were galling enough. There at positions 40 and 39 were “Don’t Stop Believing,” first by the Cast of Glee, then the original by Journey. I guess it was also encouraging to think that with both of them at the bottom positions, they will both drop off next week, but to hear them back-to-back was tolerance overload. It wasn’t exactly an enticement to listen to the remaining 38. 

              Journey was a San Francisco band immensely popular on the west coast throughout the 80s, headlining all the major concert venues and though never having a #1 single, scoring several #1 multi-platinum LP’s. Along with Eddie Money and Huey Lewis & The News, they were arguably SF’s three biggest names throughout the decade, none of them exactly putting the City back on the map as the creative center it was heralded to be in the late 60s. Instead of transposing oblique imagery or political statements to their music as their predecessors did, they chose to keep it within the bounds of simple love songs or live-for-today malarkey. Which is not to say everything they recorded was awful. But awful close.

              What’s so grating about “Don’t Stop Believing” is the abundance of lyrical clichés, and repeated listenings have made those clichés all the more annoying. It’s as though Neil Schöen, Jonathan Cain, and lead singer Steve Perry, when they sat down to write it, consulted some thesaurus of Rock, determining which imagery worked in countless other songs. With the opening words about a “small town girl,” you know she’s going to be “living in a (pick adjective) world.” Next we find she “took a midnight train,” not to Georgia, since they couldn’t be that blatant, so they made it “to anywhere.” Following on that midnight train to anywhere was of course, a “city boy,” where here they took ever so slight a bit of liberty, telling us he was “born and raised in South Detroit,” which doesn’t quite rhyme, but at least it’s a variation; they could have said “from Chicago Illinois,” and the context and meter could have stayed the same. The “country girl/city man” dichotomy had previously cropped up in a plethora of country songs, culminating in probably the most horrendous, Donny & Marie Osmond’s “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock & Roll,” of which Donny & Marie were a whole lot of neither. 

                 The rest of the time, there’s talk of a “smoky room,” where you know the next line is about “smell of wine and cheap perfume,” “strangers… up and down the boulevard,” “shadows… in the night,” (hello, Cat Stevens and Pat Benatar for starters), worst of all “Some will win, some will lose” followed by “Some were born to sing the blues,” as if one of the writers said, “What the hell, put it in.” Maybe they were torn between that rejoinder and “Some will wear Blue Suede Shoes,” but that would have been too crass. I’d have bought 10 copies if they’d said something like “Some will try to be Tom Cruise,” but he wasn’t famous in 1981, when the song was written, so rule that out.

                   At long last, we get to the “real” chorus, as the stuff about the strangers on the boulevard was more of a faux chorus to avoid having to write more lyrics. Ah yes, “Don’t stop believin’, Hold on to that feelin'” They didn’t realize that in their zest to rewrite “Climb Every Mountain” and “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” they would in turn be writing the template for several Miley Cyrus songs. Somehow they missed writing about rivers to cross or mountains to climb, and nothing about “breaking free,” but otherwise the boxes are pretty well ticked. Probably the most innovative thing about the song is keeping the title chorus until the last minute, but that was easily bested by songs like “Up the Junction” by Squeeze and “Virginia Plain” by Roxy Music, both of which waited until the final lyrics to mention the song’s title. 

             It figured that “Glee,” which I was afraid was going to be dangerously close to “High School Musical,” but thankfully wasn’t, would pick up on the song as being an inspirational one for the age group depicted. It’s certainly not the best of their lot, their versions of Van Halen’s “Jump” and Queen’s “Somebody To Love” showing considerably more versatility. As I had mentioned in previous blogs, I think “Glee” is an entertaining, well written, well orchestrated TV show, and while some of their song selections, and most of the mash-ups, are clever, it’s a shame that this lesser light got most of the airplay both UK and Stateside.

              What’s even more frustrating is that during the whole time I was writing this blog, that fucking song stayed droning through my head. I’m going to put on some Lady Gaga, Kings of Leon, Black Eyed Peas, ANYTHING!

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