Many years ago while I remained stationed in my formative years, my Dad worked for a company which was of the habit of producing calendars every year for it’s existing and perspective clients.
Naturally they featured the company logo, address, and phone number. There was no website or email address on there. Back then, such tidbits were as far off in the future as the flying car.
The really cool thing about the calendars was that each month would feature a picture of a chimpanzee or two, dressed up like humans. A witty quip would reside just below which was guaranteed to evoke a chuckle. Todays modern day equivalent would probably be a demotivator.
One of my more favorite pictures from those calendars features a chimp who just sat there and stared at you. The line below read: “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.”
I found myself in such moment just the other day when a flash of brilliance hit me on the composition of the worlds greatest song.
As I feverishly rifled through my cluttered desk looking for some semblance of a writing utensil to commit to paper the verbal brilliance which had just arrived as a result of just sitting there, something occurred to me. First and foremost, I don’t write squat. That’s in the physical sense, mind you. As one who has exploited many of the tools the information age has to offer, I’ve practically given up on the physical act of writing. I find the lack of the little red or green squiggly lines which adorn my grammatical indiscretions to be troubling whenever I put pen to paper. Instead, I type it up. If I’m nowhere near a computer, I’ll put it on my phone. Apps rock.
Non sequitur. Yeah, yeah. I know. Back to the song.
Before I could commit the poignant lyrics running through my head to something other than my head, I had an epiphany.
Don’t write the song.
It would have rocked. It had all of the right stuff to endure itself to anyone who ever appreciated a good song. The lyrics would have had a good message. The tune was catchy. It would have transcended time, space, and the space time continuum.
Even still, I chose not to write it.
You obviously want to know why I chose not to enrich your life with such a wonderful song, as you’re still here.
When I got the idea for the world’s greatest song, I flashed back to what must have gone through the heads of Mozart, Beethoven, Diamond, Townshend, Manilow, Taupin, Holly, Wonder, Page, Grohl, Urban, Morrison, and a host of others when they chose to compose their brilliance. In that flash, the composition of one specific song stuck in my head.
Sometime in 1980 or 1981, three young, yet seasoned musicians gathered in some house, studio, warehouse, or other location, most likely in what I would guess to be in either San Francisco or Los Angeles. The collaboration of those three individuals during those sessions would bear fruit which would have a lasting impact on the music industry for years to come.
I don’t know how they got along. I don’t know if everything was just peachy, or a knock down, drag out. Frankly, I don’t know what happened in those sessions
With the disclaimer firmly in place, I now present to you my version of what happened in the early sessions to write the songs which would appear on the Escape album by Journey. The players in those sessions were Steve Perry, Neal Schon, and Jonathan Cain.
Steve: Hi guys. I want to thank you for coming today. I think this one is really going to be a big hit for us. First of all, I want to officially welcome Jonathan Cain to the group. Greg was a good guy, but he felt it was time to move on. His loss, our gain. I think Jonathan will bring a lot of good stuff to the table. Right Jonathan?
Jonathan: You betcha.
Neal: Welcome Jonathan.
Steve: So I think this year’s album is going cement our place in history. I want to get at least six or seven hits off of this one. I have some great lyrics written down here. Check this out. I don’t have the whole thing yet, but I have one that mentions a boy that was born and raised in south Detroit. Now you know that when we take that one on the road, all I have to do is change the name to whatever city we’re in that night. The crowd will go nuts.
Steve: I got another lyric here that talks about having dreams worth living for. I’m telling you guys, this will be gold.
Jonathan: So what about that Detroit thing? I’ve had a couple of good piano riffs going through my head lately, and one may work for that one. Check this out.
As Jonathan proceeds to play what’s been characterized as a pop punk progression, looks of excitement appear on the faces of Steve and Neal.
Neal: Jonathan, that was 17 seconds of pure brilliance. It would be a great opening. Keep playing it and let me work in some of the guitar stuff.
As the minutes turned to hours, our three heroes worked on what would ultimately be called “Don’t Stop Believin'”. We rejoin our three musicians in their discussion once the song is complete.
Steve: Guys, this is great. This will put Journey on the map. Sure we’re on the map now, but this will put us on THE map. Think of what this will do for us. With the new guy in place, we take on a slightly new look which doesn’t convey that we’re all pot heads. By the way, where are Ross and the other Steve?
Neal and Jonathan both shrug.
Steve: Never mind them. Think of what this will do guys. A decade down the road, this song will be used on television commercials. It will be covered on talent shows. TV shows will rearrange it and make it popular for a generation of kids not even born yet. School choirs will hire choreographers to add goofy dance moves to the rearranged song and perform it at their year end concerts……….
And there you go.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but there is a scene towards the end of the movie The Doors which sticks in my mind. In the scene, Jim Morrison finds out that other members of the band granted rights for one of their songs (Light My Fire, I think) to be used on some commercial. Morrison wasn’t too happy about that.
Much like my rant about Super Bowl half time shows which continue to butcher good music in their feeble attempts to cross pollenate the demographic, I would hate to think that anything I could ever write would be subject to such an assault years down the road.
As a result, I will opt not to write the song.