Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rock: It Doesn't Get Much Better than This

Where to start?

Robert Palmer was the classiest rocker of his generation. It's a shame he died young (d. 2003, age 54). His best-known song, Simply Irresistible, has to be one of the best rock songs ever written. And when he performed it in his trademark suit and tie (he was British, after all), it took it to another level. The music videos for his hits (in the Eighties) revolutionized the genre. The video for Simply Irresistible is amazing, as is the shorter, revised version of it that Pepsi used for a 30-second TV commercial. Like Palmer himself, their power lies in the realm of subtle suggestion rather than overt hammering. I don't have the nerve to post them here, but his best-known music videos are available on YouTube.

The opening chorus line in SImply Irresistible is a classic: "She's so fine, there's no telling where the money went!" Ha ha! What a great line! Who cares where the money went? She's simply irresistible!

Palmer's appearance on Letterman in 1988 is a joy to watch, not just for Palmer himself but for The World's Most Dangerous Band—what Letterman's house band was called when they were at NBC (now known as Paul Schaeffer and the CBS Orchestra). The core guys in this band have been playing together since the Eighties and represent the quintessential rock band: drums (Anton Figg), guitar (Sid McGinnis—no guitar player has as much fun playing as Sid McGinnis—watch him), bass (Will Lee—ditto, a close second. Watch him clapping time during the bridge. Nobody told him to do that; it's just pure joy in playing), and keys (Paul Schaeffer). While they've added horns and a rhythm guitar since then, back then they were as tight musically as four guys could be. They're all older now, with shorter hair, and probably better musically—but pure rock doesn't get much better than this from 1988. (No wonder they've been the house band for the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame for decades.)

Pure class, musically and vocally. Here's hoping you've got good speakers:

P.S. That big square thing Letterman is holding up is a 33 1/3 long play vinyl album. (Just kidding. Most people know what "vinyl" means, but it's amazing that there are young kids today who will probably say, "What's that thing Letterman is holding?" How times change. I recently tracked down a used copy of a vinyl LP that I used to listen to on cassette tape in the late Eighties. It was from a church called Church in the City in Houston (no longer in existence)—beautiful, Jesus People style original worship music. Like most people, I no longer have a turntable, but have an audio engineer friend who has agreed to pull the tracks off the vinyl and burn them to a CD for me.)

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