For My Sunday Song #252, we are going to go through “Way Cool Jr.” by Ratt. The song is off their 1988 album ‘Reach for the Sky” which was produced by legendary Beau Hill. The song was the first single off the album and didn’t really light the world on fire. It only went to #75 on the Billboard Hot 100 so no Top 40 for this one. The band was on the downslope of their career but it was songs like this that still kept me interested in the band.
The song was written by Stephen Pearcy, William DeMartini and Beau Hill. It seems to be about a handsome fella that was living his best life and thought he was so cool and that all the women loved him. He was slick, charismatic and probably wore sunglasses inside. He wasn’t a good guy though as he was a drug dealer and getting everyone high. The lyrics make you think he is a blues guitarist, but he is serving something else. It shows the glamours side and the seedy side and is full of contradictions. There has even rumors that the song is about Robbin Crosby who was deep in to the throes of heroin by this point.
Now there is also a possibility this song is about Elvis as he came from Memphis and was really cool guy hanging with the blues crowd that is where he got that sound. He is good-looking and the women love him. Either way, it is pretty cool.
Musically, the song is pure blues rock and roll from the gritty slide guitars by Warren DeMartini and Robbin Crosby and Bobby Blotzer playing the harmonica and cleaning things with his washboard. Juan Croucier is laying down a funky rhythm on bass and Steven Pearcy struts around on the vocals laying out his coolness for the world to hear. It is a cheesy, over the top song and for me this wasn’t your typical 80’s glam song, it had a little more style and depth musically.
For My Sunday Song #111, we are going to examine “Blue On Black” by Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. The song was released in 1998 and was off their album ‘Trouble Is”. “Blue on Black” was #1 on the Mainstream Rock Chart where it stayed for 6 weeks and it stayed on the charts for around 42 weeks. It also won the Billboard Music Award for Rock Track of the Year. Not bad for a Blues song.
“Blue on Black” as a song can mean anything to the listener. Kenny won’t say what it means, but people interpret it as either losing someone whether by death or end of a relationship or that the relationship was abusive. For me, I view at as the end of a relationship. I don’t see it as abusive but it ended badly with things were said that shouldn’t have been and maybe anger got the best of them and someone was push and shoved. But you interpret it as you want.
Another interesting thing about the term ‘Blue on Black’. The idea for the song came from Kenny wearing a shirt and those two colors were the main colors of the shirt. Tia Sillars, one of the songwriters, thought how when you take those two colors and put them together you actually don’t get a new color. The dominance of the black just absorbs the blue and still makes black. I take that to mean when things are dark and you are blue, you can get consumed by it and things just get bleaker.
Rick Springfield has been releasing music since the early 70’s. You have the teeny bopper music from the 70’s to the pop hits he had in the 80’s including “Jessie’s Girl” which made him very famous. And now at 68, he brings his 20th studio album called “The Snake King”.
He has done many styles over the years and this time he ventures into the Blues genre. The album is a mixture of Blues Rock and straight up Blues. Now, this isn’t Blues like you would think with Curtis Mayfield or Robert Johnson, heck it isn’t even Blues like Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang. This is Rick Springfield Blues. He can try different genres, but he will always have that Rick Springfield sound and feel to his albums. You can’t be around for 5 decades in music and not have your own style or vibe.
The Blues can be very depressing and sad at times and you might think, how is Rick going to honestly convey those emotions. Well, let me tell you he hits the nail on the head with the blues. Rick has suffered immensely with depression and he has had many issues in his life. He digs deep and captures the stories and feelings from those dark times.
Rick Springfield has a new album coming out on January 26th, 2018 called ‘The Snake King’. If you are expecting a “Jessie’s Girl” pop album you will be sadly disappointed. Rick is exploring his rock side. Even more, he is going back to his early influences and it is a more Blues-Rock oriented album.
The first single, “Little Demon”, is a wonderful example of that sound. It is a hard, rocking song with some heavy blues influence. Rick sounds great and he can still deliver the goods. The highlight of the song is the music as you can see below, there are not a ton of lyrics. The song is very guitar heavy and at over 5 minutes is a really long song that we are not accustomed to from Rick. He is definitely stretching himself artistically and if this is an example of what is to come on the album, we are in for a treat.
I am well aware that Rick can bring the rock as he did just that with his album Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance which is my favorite album of his. I wasn’t sure he could pull of the blues as well, but I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. His voice is gritty enough now to pull off the vocals and the team surrounding him has done a great job musically. Is it the best blues song I have heard and the most authentic, no. However, if you are a fan of Rick Springfield, it is a great rock song and you should be able to get on board with it. I do like it better than anything on his last release so that is a good sign.