t doesn’t all have to be serious.
A few years ago, San Diego’s ill-fated independent station KUPR had a weekly program showcasing new music. Independent artists and others from the music industry were invited to hawk their wares to a panel of interested parties. The panel varied slightly from week to week, but included local musicians and others from the local music scene, and members of the station’s staff.
During one show, one of the tunes was an obviously trivial, but fun, calypso number. Mojo Nixon, a regular panelist, made the disparaging comment that it sounded like something ‘parrot-heads would think was cool.’ The rest of the panel agreed that it wasn’t ‘important’ enough to get airplay.
I’d developed a semi-friendly relationship with Clark Novak, who piloted KUPR in the midday. So, I fired off an indignant e-mail to Clark about why music doesn’t have to be serious or heavy; I included references to the Beatles, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, and I think even Mozart.
The next day, Clark called me and said that he’d forwarded my message to the station’s programming manager, who had asked him to invite me onto the show as their first listener panelist. This was on Friday; I couldn’t make it that next Wednesday, so we scheduled my visit for the next week. I fretted and stressed for a whole week, worrying that after years of being considered ‘the music guy’ by the folks who knew me, I was going to embarrass myself on the radio.
No such luck. Friday morning, after three years of truly imaginative independent programming, including my first exposure to the likes of Jude Cole, Sonvolt, and others, KUPR turned country. No commercials, no breaks of any kind; just canned commercialized country-pop 24 hours a day. Eventually, they became a huge radio conglomerate’s answer to cotton candy; I couldn’t even tell you what station is at 95.7 in San Diego these days.
Needless to say, since there was no show, I didn’t embarrass myself. I still think it’s an extreme measure, killing an entire radio station just to keep me off the airwaves.
And, as Bill Cosby is wont to say, I told you that story so I could tell you another one; this time, about the Lightning Seeds‘ lush and fluffy tune ‘Pure.’
Just as Five For Fighting, World Party, and so many other groups are really the brain-children of a single artist, ‘Lightning Seeds’ is really primarily Liverpudlian singer/songwriter Ian Broudie. Broudie seems to cycle between serving as producer for acts like Echo & the Bunnymen (Bedbugs and Ballyhoo!) and Alison Moyet (Nobody’s Diary), and varous solo or duo projects.
The opening moments of the song establish a less-than-serious feeling with a single keyboard note which can only be described as a pleasant honk. After a few seconds, the usual bass, drums, and guitar join the pleasant honking in a bouncy melange that makes it hard for me to sit still. It’s primarily a vocal tune; even the guitar solo in the middle is extremely understated, more of an ‘introduction part II’ for the second half of the song. At less than four minutes long, the abundance of lyrics makes it seem longer.
Full of celestial and hypaethral imagery (lines like
raindrops splash rainbows as daydreams slide to colour from shadow, picture the moonglow shooting stars around your heart as leaves pour down; splash autumn on gardens as colder nights harden, their moonlit delights look at me with starry eyes, push me up to starry skies; there's stardust in my head
fill the tune) it seems to be a lover’s plea for happiness. The verses seem so joyous and vibrant, every one ending with the line ‘and I love you’, but the chorus reveals awareness of a lover’s sadness:
Now you're crying in your sleep I wish you'd never learnt to weep Don't sell the dreams you should be keeping pure and simple everytime
In spite of the implications of sadness and pain, there’s a beautiful message of unconditional love:
I've found a place I'll never leave; shut my mouth and just believe love is the truth, I realize not a stream of pretty lies to use us up and waste our time
It might not be easy, but ‘Pure‘ is hopeful, almost from the beginning, reminding us that ‘perhaps someone you know could sparkle and shine.’
Isn’t love worth it?