Thursday, December 29, 2005

Trapped on Planet of the Wuss

A commenter to the post below mentions some New Year's songs, including Dan Fogelberg's early 80s holiday perennial, "Same Old Lang Syne." Can I just say how much I hate "Same Old Lang Syne"? Let me count the ways:
Wimpy singing, wimpy playing. As was the case on most of his early 80s work, Fogelberg goes for sensitive and soulful, but comes off like a wuss. And it's too bad, really, because he was actually a fairly competent singer of rock songs when he tried to be. I'm thinking the entire Souvenirs album (the one with "Part of the Plan"), or "Tell Me to My Face," one of the great pissed-off classics of all time, from the Fogelberg/Weisberg album in '78, or "Face the Fire" from Phoenix the year after that. But Phoenix, of course, contained Fogelberg's wimp-rock monument "Longer," and he rode various permutations of that slush up the charts time and again for the next three years or so.

Bitching about travel. It's another song in which a wealthy and famous rock star sings about how the travel makes it so hard to be a wealthy and famous rock star. Well, if the travel is so bad, then give up singing and get a day job like the rest of us. Or else shut up about it.

Lyrics: stupid, stupid, stupid. The story told in "Same Old Lang Syne" rings false--the details are wrong, as anyone who's ever met an old love unexpectedly can probably tell. All the bars are closed but the liquor stores are open? Only on Planet of the Wuss. "We drank a toast to innocence/We drank a toast to now." Shut up. And as songcraft, the lyrics have got problems, too. "The beer was empty and our tongues were tired"? Clunky as it is, that line might be forgivable if he needed "tired" to rhyme with something, but he doesn't--it just sits there like a meatball for no good purpose.

Love and precipitation. And while we're hating on the lyrics, let's not forget the song's final lines: "And as I turned to make my way back home/the snow turned into rain." This sort of thing was a recurring theme in Fogelberg's early-80s material. But it never just rained or snowed--it always rained or snowed in such a way as to show the universe's wryly commenting on Dan's life. As if the universe gives a shit.

Can't read the calendar. Why, if the action takes place on Christmas Eve, does the song end with "Auld Lang Syne"? (And a hideous smooth-jazz "Auld Lang Syne" to boot.) That's New Year's Eve, you twit.

The company it keeps. "Same Auld Lang Syne" appears on Fogelberg's album The Innocent Age, which could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch. It's docked points for the treacly and sentimental "Leader of the Band" (I don't care if it's a tribute to Dan's father; that tasteful low brass makes me want to hurl). And then there's the monumentally stupid "Run for the Roses," about thoroughbred horses. I said it then and I'll say it now: Somewhere in Kentucky, a horse has written a song about Dan Fogelberg.
With the possible exception of Back in Black, no album that came out while I was in college did I detest more than The Innocent Age. And the most detestable tune on that most detestable of albums is "Same Old Lang Syne." I hate that record. Hate it hate it hate it. And I am prepared to hate anyone who doesn't hate it as much as I do.

(PS: Don't bother e-mailing me to say that Fogelberg has prostate cancer and has temporarily retired because of it. I know, and I wish him and his family well. But I still hate "Same Auld Lang Syne" just the same.)

Coming tomorrow: Our yearend countdown.

8 Comments:

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the mid-70's, you'd hear Dan Fogelberg songs only on album-oriented rock radio stations. My guess is that he got some bad advice and began writing songs with the most shallow-est lyrics and simplistic production in order to get more airplay on Top 40 radio (perhaps he was pressured by his record company to produce more "hits").

You won't get an argument from me that much of Dan Fogelberg's music set world records for degree of wimpy-ness. His lyrics said absolutely NOTHING with an all-time low from the song, "Missing You" which bellowed, "I'm getting closer but I don't what to / Ooh Ooh, I'm missing you." For those who, for some reason, love Dan Fogelberg songs, you can hear his endless diatribes on the radio weeknights on the "Delilah" show or on any one of the many lame so-called adult contemporary music radio stations playing "all your favorites from the 70's, 80's, 90's, and today without the hard rock and rap." ---Shark

 
At 4:00 PM, Blogger Willie said...

"Back In Black" features Brian Johnson taking over for the late Bon Scott in Screamer #1 position was a major coup. The album and accompanying tour were better than anyone could have expected. It was one of my favorite concerts.

As the song says, "Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution."

 
At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry but I like that song....Fogelberg did a great job on it.

 
At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WELL.... you might think his music is whimpy, BUT..... at least he can sing and make hits.... have you?
You are an idiot!

 
At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how its done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.
Brendan Behan (1923 - 1964)

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger jabartlett said...

You don't have to be a chef to know that you don't like the taste of something.

 
At 2:21 AM, Blogger Michael said...

What is with all you "well can YOU write songs hmmmm???" people? Are you all stuck in 5th grade? How freakin' pathetic.

I will agree that *some* critics *want* to associate themselves with the glory of the artists they critique, as if they are also somehow rock stars, but this guy isn't doing that. He obviously loves music, which is why he hates this HORRIBLE steam-pie "hit" (and album) so much.

Anyway, to the writer, if you ever see this - that review brought me to tears, *twice*. You are a very funny man my friend. I still can't say that "horse wrote a song about Dan" line out loud without falling apart. Thanks for the belly laughs friend, and your criticism, by the way - all of it - was *spot-on*.

 
At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an English teacher, I had the frustrating task of teaching a play written by Shakespeare to highschool Freshman. I was constantly met with the same feedback from them: "I don't get it." Or, "This stuff is so boring." Or, "This stuff really sucks." When they asked the inevitable question, "Why do we have to read this crap written by a dude who died 400 years ago?"' I would respond with the absolute fact: "He is the greatest writer in the English language." Of course, my explanations that he was a genious did not alter one whit their beliefs that his material "sucked". They all felt mired in "The Planet of Crap". The majority of these students would not read anything if they had had that choice. Reading all the Dan bashing reminds me of those students. I understood the genious of his words, I was moved by them, and I was utterly amazed that anyone could not only write these ingenious words but also write in iambic pentameter. There is no possible way to force a love of Shakespeare on those who "just don't get it". There is no possible way to convince anyone who believes Dan is "wimpy" or writes "slush". Wimpy voice? Have you listened to "Road Beneath My Wheels"? He can write and sing the Blues with the best blues artists. His voice is gravily and hard. Do you know that on an album he would play piano, electric guitar, does his own backup vocals, pipe organ, slide guitar, works the synthesizer, and harpsachord and much more. Your total lack of understanding the genious of Dan Fogelberg is in the same realm as 15 year olds' ruiminating over "The Planet of Crap" Shakespeare dwells in. One last thought, I wouldn't have taken the time to write this if it hadn't pissed me off to the extent it did. Dan is not a Shakespeare. But you hate him because you fail to understand his genious.

 

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