Song Lyric Sunday – “Magic Pants” — Cap’n Swing

At 8:49 p.m. last Sunday, September 15, this message popped up in my Facebook feed: “Rip Ric O Omg I am in shock !!!😱😱😱.” “Somebody’s sick idea of a joke,” I thought. I searched through my slew of Cars-related FB memberships, but no where did I find any other mention of his passing. Less than ten minutes later, my feed contained nothing but reactions to the unbelievable news that the Cars’ founder Ric Ocasek had, indeed, passed. Now, a week later, the FANORAMA is still reeling. 

To many, Ric was a lyrical genius and a hero/role model. His music and creativity inspired so many musicians, known and unknown, to pick up an instrument, write songs, start a band. His words and music reached in and grabbed the souls of many of us. But more than anything, Ric was the foundation of the Cars. For over a decade, together with Benjamin Orr, he gathered musicians, forming and re-forming bands for the sole purpose of playing the songs he wrote, until he found the magical combination that joined with him and Benjamin to become the Cars: Greg Hawkes, Elliot Easton, and David Robinson. The Cars would not have been the Cars without them. After Ben passed away, the other Cars didn’t even try to replace him when they put out an album of new music in 2011. But make no mistake: Without Ric Ocasek there will be no new Cars music, no reunion album. No Cars. 

When I got that first Facebook notification last Sunday, I was looking at the Song Lyric Sunday schedule, trying to decide what to write. I was too stunned to write anything last week, but I knew then what song I’d pick for this week’s theme of Clothing/Hat/Pants/Scarf/Shirt/Shoes/Tie: “Magic Pants (a.k.a. Crazy Rock and Roll)” by Ric’s last pre-Cars band, Cap’n Swing. I’ve loved this song from my first listen because it is one of the few Ric (presumably) wrote that could have only one interpretation. It was all about Ric (Cap’n Swing) and Ben (Magic Pants) trying to make it in the music business. Now, somewhere in the universe, I hope Cap’n Swing and Magic Pants are making music again together.

Note: the picture on the video is the Cars, but (to my knowledge) no pictures of the Cap’n Swing band exist. Three of the Cars were in Cap’n Swing: Elliot Easton (center), Ric Ocasek (jumping), and Benjamin Orr (right).

 

 

Magic Pants

Cap’n Swing and Magic Pants they were floating down the street
Trying to get a gig or two where they can get some heat
Everybody feels their presence, everybody flows
Find a groove to settle in, let your feelings be the show
It will make you want to flow, crazy rock and roll, it’ll make you want to flow

Cap’n Swing and Magic Pants, they were shooting out their licks
Shooting out their music if you think you need a fix
Everybody feels their presence, some of you have heard
With Cap’n Swing and Magic Pants, listen is the word
It will make you want to flow, crazy rock and roll, it’ll make you want to flow

Yeah yeah

You know that Cap’n Swing and Magic Pants they were floating down the street
Trying to get a gig or two where they can get some heat
Everybody feels their presence, everybody flows
Find a groove to settle in, let your feelings be the show
It will make you want to flow, crazy rock and roll, it’ll make you want to flow

Cap’n Swing, yeah Magic Pants

 

Song Lyric Sunday – “I Am The Man” – Benjamin Orr

Today, on Song Lyric Sunday, Benjamin Orr would have been 72. I wanted to pay tribute using this week’s Bird/Fly/Sky/Wing theme, but, on July 20, 2018, I wrote about “Skyline,” the only Orr song to fit the theme. So, for the first time, my choice, “I Am The Man,” deviates. Sorry, Jim.

In late 1992 and continuing through most of the 90s, Benjamin Orr recorded tracks that were to have been his second album. He co-wrote half the songs with John Kalishes, who would become the lead guitarist in Benjamin’s ORR band. Although “I Am The Man” was recorded during this time, the writer is unknown. I’d like to think it was written by Orr and Kalishes because I interpret it as Benjamin’s response as he coped with a series of lost integral relationships: the Cars and his long friendship with Ric Ocasek, an eight-year engagement to co-writer of his first album Diane Grey Page, and a marriage to Judith Orr. In fact, I view the entire unreleased second album through that prism. Whether or not he wrote a particular song, each one fits that theme of loss, and “I Am” expresses the culmination of his struggle.

Whatever his reasons for possibly writing and definitely recording it, “I Am The Man” was important enough to him that, when the ORR band performed, he saved it for encores and for introducing his band. This video with 1997 audio from a live performance is an example. If you want to skip the band intros, they run from about 4:30 to 11:56. If you decide to skip, you’ll miss such mini-gems as “Wipe Out” and the Flintstone’s theme song played on bass. The lyric link takes you to my friend sweetpurplejune’s blog, where she has linked a video featuring the studio recording of “I Am The Man.”

 

I Am (author and copyright unknown)

I am the fire that shows no flame, I am the killer who has no name
I am the wind you cannot feel, I am the truth that is not real
I am the river that flows nowhere, I am the feeling that does not care
I am the drug your body’s been missing, I am the soul that you’ve been wishing for

I am… I am… I am… I am the man

I am the time that will not pass, I am the future living in the past
I am the shadow you cannot see, I am the prisoner you cannot free
I am the legend of lust, love and pain, I am the man who’s lost his name
I am the drug your body’s been missing, I am the soul that you’ve been wishing for

I am… I am… I am… I am the man
I am… I am… I am… I am the man
I am… I am… I am… I am the man

I am the fire that shows no flame, I am the killer who has no name
I am the wind you cannot feel, I am the truth that is not real
I am the river that flows nowhere, I am the feeling that does not care
I am the drug your body’s been missing, I am the soul that you’ve been wishing for

I am… I am… I am… I am the man

 

 

“You Get The Funk After Death”

Benjamin Orr 135 funk after death

 

“You get the funk after death.” Words of wisdom from Peter on my first day on the job. We were digging the latest grave, and I was still pretty skeeved from all the new smells that hit me when I arrived that morning. I never knew about the funk until I started working at Floyd’s Funeral Parlor. I never knew a lot of things until then.

Since I was a kid, I’d wanted to work at Floyd’s. I’d pass the big, old Victorian house twice a day, to and from school. Out front, Floyd’s tuxedoed statue stood a good 15 feet higher than the tallest passerby. He was always tastefully ringed by a bed of fresh lilies. You might think he’d be intimidating, looking down his nose on everyone, but those lilies softened him and reassured bereaved families that their dearly departed would be in good hands at Floyd’s. Floyd seemed like the kind of man I wanted to be.

“Almost like fingerprints, everyone’s funk is different,” Peter continued.

“How so?”

“Well, take the little old lady we’re burying today. She came here from Myrtle’s Nursing Home, where she’d lived for years. You know how nursing homes always have that stale urine, musty kind of smell? Well, when you’ve lived with that stink for years, it becomes part of you. Plus, she lingered for a long time after she got sick, and decay had got a foothold before she passed. Her family brought a bucketful of Tender Violet cologne to try to cover it up. I guess they thought if the perfume matched her name, violet would become the prominent aroma. Now her funk could best be described as decaying violets with a hint of dog piss.”

“She doesn’t smell like that in the viewing room. I think the embalming process must have taken care of it.”

“Nah. It just adds to the mix. You don’t notice it as much because the lilies are overpowering.”

“What about the guy who came in last night? The one who had a heart attack on the 18th green over at Shady Glen Golf? If where you came from becomes part of the funk, he should be smelling like fertilizer, but He doesn’t. He just smells awfully sweaty.”

“There you have it! By the time you get to the 18th hole, everyone smells sweaty.”

“So the funk isn’t quite like a fingerprint, after all?”

“Sure, it is. Didn’t you ever notice everyone’s sweat smells different? Garlicky and fishy, if you just had scampi; boozy if you drank lunch.”

“Hey, Petey! Stop your yammering and just dig! I’m trying to get some sleep here.”

I wasn’t about to wait around to find out who said that. I dropped my shovel and ran. Peter caught me by my overall strap as I ran past. Nearly choked me to death before he brought me to the ground.

“Pfft! When are you not trying to get some sleep, Harvey? You think you got someplace else to be?”

“Peter? Who’s Harvey? Isn’t that the name on the next tombstone?”

“Listen, Petey, even the dead have to rest up to make a good first impression.”

“On the kid? I think you’ve already made your impression, scaring him half to death. It’s his first day. I planned to ease into letting him know what’s what.”

“Not the kid; Violet. We were sweet on each other when we were young. I want to look my best when she sees me.”

I must be cut out for this work. I was already getting over the shock of hearing a dead man talking, because I jumped into the conversation.

“Mr. Harvey, how is she going to see you? I mean, I gather you ARE the Harvey in the next grave. I can hear you but can’t see you. How will she?”

“Don’t know how it works, Kiddo. It just does. She might not see me right away, if she’s not over the trauma of dying yet. But when she does see me, I want to look as good as I can.”

“Harvey, you’ve been dead 15 years already. How good can you possibly look?”

“Listen, Petey. Floyd does an A-1 job of embalming and prepping for burial. He may not be able to get rid of the funk, but he sure can preserve the body. I just wish he hadn’t concentrated only on the parts that would be seen at the viewing.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Harvey? I thought the embalming fluid replaced blood through the whole body.”

“It does, Kiddo. But Floyd does a lot more than just stuff us with that formaldehyde mix. He fixes up our faces, too. Haven’t you ever heard anyone say ‘Aw, he looks just like himself’ when they pay their respects?”

“Yes, but…”

“Listen, Kiddo. When that train hit me, it threw my parts all over the place. Floyd got them all back and reattached what he could.”

“He made you whole again, Harvey. What’s the problem?”

“Well, Petey, let’s just say, he’ll never be a plastic surgeon. Or a tailor.”

Death comes differently for everyone. Sometimes he comes violently, painfully. Other times, he comes peacefully, stealing from morphine dreams. Sometimes he’ll snatch people before they know what hit them. Other times, he’ll wait for months in the shadows, slowly siphoning someone’s life away. Anytime he wants, Death’ll take from a hospital, bedroom, golf course, lake, middle of the street. No matter how, when, or where he comes, when Death takes, his leavings come here to Floyd’s.

 

Inspired by a lyric from The Cars’ “I’m In Touch With Your World.” Photo of Benjamin Orr (credit unknown)

 

Song Lyric Sunday – “River of Fire”

Burn/Fire/Flame is another expansive Song Lyric Sunday prompt from Jim Adams. Narrowing the topic to “fire,” I’ve chosen “River of Fire,” co-written by Stan Meissner and Glen Burtnik (nee Glenn Burtnick). Each released the song separately on solo albums, Meissner on his 1992 album, “Undertow,” and Burtnik on 1996’s “Retrospectacle.”

Canadian Meissner, despite his 30 year career as a singer-songwriter, is not well-known in the United States. He has released two other solo albums and multiple singles which have done well on Canadian music charts.  His songs have been recorded by many singers, such as, Celene Dion, B.J. Thomas, and Eric Clapton.

Glen Burtnik’s creative output is diverse and prolific. He has portrayed Paul McCartney in the Beatles tribute show “Beatlemania;” has performed in two separate stints as a member of the rock band Styx; has released eight solo albums; has written chart-topping hits for artists such as Patti Smyth, Don Henley, Cheap Trick, and Randy Travis. As if he is not busy enough, Burtnik has, for over 20 years, produced and hosted the annual charity show “Xmas Xtravaganza.”

One of the many artists who has recorded a Meissner and/or Burtnik song is Benjamin Orr, who recorded “River of Fire” in 1993 as the title song of a not-yet-released second solo album. Orr’s first verse differs from the original, but, as Burtnik put it: “I didn’t care, I was just thrilled that Ben Orr was singing one of my songs!” Since it was okay with Burtnik, I’m posting the lyrics that Orr sang.

(Note: Whenever possible, I prefer live vids, regardless of picture quality, as long as the audio passes muster. The lyric link below takes you to sweetpurplejune’s page that has a video using the studio recording.)

 

 

River of Fire

My life you hold in your heart
I look for the light, I wait in the dark
Burning emotions, I’m drawn to the flame
Chasing the shadows that call out your name

Searching for some kind of escape
I find my way right here to this place
‘Cause the night has no end
All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire
Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire

I still remember the look in your eyes
I wish I knew then that it was goodbye
I try to fight it but I know I can’t win
Sometimes your dreams just get lost in the wind

Something beyond all time and space
Leads me right back here to this space
At the edge of this world
All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire
Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire

Burn for you… burn for you… burn for you… burn for you…

All of my life my dreams run wild, now I stand alone in this river of fire
Days of despair and nights of desire, I wait for you in this river of fire.