EML’s Favorite Songs – THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH: “Smiling Faces Sometimes”

undisputed-truth-smiling-faces-sometimes

As a teenager back in the late 1960s to mid 1970s, I was madly in love with soul and R&B music (still am, actually), and among my favorite songs from those years is “Smiling Faces Sometimes” by The Undisputed Truth. Written by the renown Motown songwriting team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it’s a dramatic psychedelic soul song about phony, back-stabbing people who do their friends wrong behind their backs. The song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but was a huge #1 hit in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I lived at the time.

Beginning in the mid 1960s, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong helped turn Motown into a veritable hit machine. Along with Smokey Robinson and the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Whitfield and Strong were instrumental in the creation of what was referred to as “The Motown Sound”, as well as the late-1960s subgenre of psychedelic soul. They were one of the principal songwriters for the Temptations, penning such hits as “Cloud Nine”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “War”, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)”, “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”, “Smiling Faces Sometimes”, and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”, as well as the brilliant “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, which was a monster #1 hit for both Gladys Knight & the Pips and Marvin Gaye.

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” was first recorded by the Temptations as a 12:43-minute-long opus that was included on their 1971 album Sky’s the Limit. An edited version of the song was to be released as a 45 single, but was scrapped when one of the track’s co-vocalists Eddie Kendricks left the Temptations for a solo career in April 1971. Undaunted, Whitfield quickly turned to another psychedelic soul group he’d created known as The Undisputed Truth, and had them record the song, which was released that May. Whitfield liked to record dramatically different versions of the same song with different Motown artists (see “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”), so having The Undisputed Truth record “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a no-brainer. He later had the Temptations record The Undisputed Truth song “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, which became a #1 hit for them.

Whitfield created The Undisputed Truth in 1970 to further explore his interest in producing more songs in his psychedelic soul format, but also partly in response to fan criticism that he was using the Temptations as his personal plaything. The Undisputed Truth consisted of Joe Harris, Billie Calvin and Brenda Evans, all seasoned vocalists who’d previously worked with other soul and R&B acts.

It’s a darkly beautiful song with a sophisticated, yet menacing vibe thanks to a brilliant arrangement and stunning instrumentation. The track opens with what sounds like an abrupt horn blast, quickly followed by a deep bass line, wobbly guitar notes and a brief flourish of cinematic strings. Then, a rattle-based beat kicks in, nicely conveying mental images of a rattlesnake lurking in the shadows, which is alluded to in the lyric “beware of the handshake that hides the snake”. The intricate psychedelic guitar work is really fantastic, as are the jazzy horns and soaring strings, while that continuous rattling percussion keeps the eerie vibes alive. I love that all three band members share vocals, giving the song a fuller, more exciting sound. Their urgent, soulful vocals are perfect as they warn of the evil lurking behind our backs. I love this song. 

Smiling faces sometimes
Pretend to be your friend
Smiling faces show no traces
Of the evil that lurks within
(Can you dig it)

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof
Oh lord, yeah

Let me tell ya, the truth is in the eyes
Cause the eyes don’t lie, amen
Remember a smile is just a frown turned upside down
My friend, so hear me when I’m sayin’

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

Beware, beware of the handshake
That hides the snake
(Can you dig it, can you dig it)
I’m a-telling you beware
Beware of the pat on the back
It just might hold you back
Jealousy (jealousy)
Misery (misery)
Envy, I tell you, you can’t see behind

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
Hey, they don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

And your enemy won’t do you no harm
‘Cause you’ll know where he’s coming from
Don’t let the handshake and the smile fool ya
Take my advice I’m only tryin’ to school ya

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

EML’s Favorite Songs – R.E.M.: “Losing My Religion”

REM Losing My Religion

“Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. is a gorgeous and haunting musical masterpiece. Released in February, 1991, it’s my favorite song from the 1990s, and one of my top ten favorite songs of all time. From their seventh studio album Out of Time, it’s their highest-charting hit in the U.S., reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #1 on the Modern Rock and Album Rock Tracks charts. It was nominated for several Grammy Awards in 1992, including Record and Song of the Year, and winning for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group and Best Short Form Music Video.

Although R.E.M. had been around for ten years, releasing six albums and scoring two top 10 hits, “The One I Love” and “Stand”, they were still primarily considered an “alternative” rock band whose music was played on mostly college and FM radio stations. The immense popularity and commercial success of “Losing My Religion” and Out of Time broadened their audience beyond its original fanbase, and catapulted them to international fame. When asked at the time if he was worried that the song’s success might alienate their older fanbase, band guitarist Peter Buck told Rolling Stone, “The people that changed their minds because of ‘Losing My Religion’ can just kiss my ass.”

I agree, as it really irks me when people bitch about an indie artist or band who they feel they discovered “selling out” or “going mainstream” if they have a commercially successful breakout hit. Jeezus, we should celebrate our favorite artist or band’s success, though I suspect there’s an unhealthy kind of jealousy that occurs when all of a sudden everyone else is loving a band we felt an odd sort of intimate connection or obsession with, but I digress…

One of the many aspects that make “Losing My Religion” such an amazing song is the stunning mandolin riff that serves as the track’s driving force. Buck wrote the main riff and chorus for the song on a mandolin he’d just purchased and was learning how to play while watching TV one day. Recording of the song began in September 1990 at a music studio in Woodstock, New York, with mandolin, electric bass, and drums. Bassist Mike Mills developed a bassline inspired by some of the work of Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie, and the band decided to have their touring guitarist Peter Holsapple play acoustic guitar. Singer Michael Stipe recorded his marvelous vocal in a single take, which is remarkable in that it’s so perfect. In an interview with Guitar School, Buck later recalled, “It was really cool: Peter and I would be in our little booth, sweating away, and Bill and Mike would be out there in the other room going at it. It just had a really magical feel.” The beautiful, soaring orchestral strings, arranged by Mark Bingham, were later added to the song by members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at Soundscape Studios in Atlanta, Georgia.

With regard to the compelling lyrics, Stipe has repeatedly stated they’re not about religion. The phrase “losing my religion” is a regional expression from the southern U.S. that basically means “losing one’s temper or civility” or “feeling frustrated and desperate.” Stipe told The New York Times the song was essentially about romantic expression, while he told British music magazine Q that it’s about “someone who pines for someone else. It’s unrequited love, what have you.” Well, they’re very powerful, and deeply resonated with me and millions of others.

Oh life, it’s bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
Consider this, the hint of the century
Consider this, the slip
That brought me to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies come
Flailing around
Now I’ve said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try
That was just a dream
Just a dream
Just a dream, dream

The beautiful and rather surreal music video for “Losing My Religion” was directed by Indian director Tarsem Singh. Stipe wanted a straightforward performance video, however, Singh wanted to create a video in the style of a type of Indian filmmaking, where everything would be melodramatic and very dreamlike. Singh won the argument, which among other things, required that Stipe lip sync the lyrics rather than sing them on the video. Singh has said the video is modeled after the Gabriel Garcia Marquez short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” in which an angel crashes into a town and the villagers have varied reactions to him. He also drew inspiration from the Italian painter Caravaggio, and the video features portrayals of religious imagery such as Saint Sebastian, the Biblical episode of the “Incredulity of St. Thomas’, and various Hindu deities. The video was nominated in nine categories at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, and won six, including Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Breakthrough Video, Best Art Direction, Best Direction, and Best Editing. [Wikipedia]

EML’s Favorite Songs – TINA TURNER: “What’s Love Got to Do With It”

Tina Turner

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of my Favorite Songs, so thought I’d get back into the groove with my favorite Tina Turner song “What’s Love Got to Do With It“. Not only is it one of my favorite songs of all time, but Tina is also one of my all-time favorite female singers. And quite honestly, who doesn’t love Tina! One of the best live concerts I’ve ever seen was Tina Turner on her What’s Love? Tour in September 1993 (with Chris Isaak opening for her at the Cal Expo Amphitheatre in Sacramento, California).

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Tennessee in 1939 (hard to believe she’s now 80!), Tina Turner lived part of her rather troubled childhood (thanks to dysfunctional parents) in the town of Nutbush (which she immortalized in her 1973 hit “Nutbush City Limits”), but moved to St. Louis when she was 16 to live with her mother. It was there that she eventually met musician Ike Turner, and began singing with his band Kings of Rhythm by the time she was 18. In 1960, Ike Turner wrote the song “A Fool in Love” for singer Art Lassiter, with Bullock to sing along with Lassiter’s backing vocalists the Artettes. But when Lassiter failed to show up for the recording session, Bullock suggested that she sing lead instead. Ike recorded her on a demo with the intention of erasing her vocals and adding Lassiter’s at a later date. When local St. Louis DJ Dave Dixon heard the demo, he convinced Turner to send the tape to Juggy Murray of R&B label Sue Records, who was so impressed he bought the rights to the track and convinced Turner to make Bullock the star of his show. Well, the song became a chart hit, and Turner subsequently renamed Anna Mae Bullock ‘Tina Turner’, and his act the ‘Ike & Tina Turner Revue’, also adding a girl group called the Ikettes to sing backup to Tina.

Ike and Tina Turner went on to have a successful career, but a very tempestuous relationship, due mostly to Ike’s chronic drug use and the physical and emotional abuse he inflicted on Tina. By 1976, she’d had enough and left Ike on July 1 with only 36 cents and a Mobil gas credit card in her pocket, filing for divorce three weeks later. Tina spent the next six years performing and touring where she could get shows, becoming essentially a nostalgia act. Then in 1983 she signed with Capitol Records, and that November her marvelous cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” was released. It became an international hit and peaked at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. I remember how much I loved it, and was excited to hear Tina singing again. The song was the first single from her phenomenal comeback album Private Dancer, which she recorded in only two weeks. In May 1984 Capitol released the album, along with its second single “What’s Love Got to Do with It”.

The song went on to become Tina’s biggest hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it spent three weeks, and also reaching #1 in Canada and Australia. It’s a gorgeous R&B/pop song about the intense power of physical and sexual attraction, and how it doesn’t necessarily represent or entail feelings of love or romance. Sounds rather cynical, but I know from experience that it’s completely true. Of course, an underlying theme could be that the singer is intentionally protecting themselves from getting hurt by framing their strong sexual attraction as being merely physical.

Musically, the song has a sultry vibe, with shimmery guitars, soulful rhythms and an enchanting flute that really does it for me. Tina’s powerful smoky vocals are spectacular, with a raw vulnerability that’s strongly evident. She has the ability to seduce with a sensuous purr one moment, then chill us with impassioned wails the next.

You must understand though the touch of your hand
Makes my pulse react
That it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl
Opposites attract
It’s physical
Only logical
You must try to ignore that it means more than that

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

It may seem to you that I’m acting confused
When you’re close to me
If I tend to look dazed I’ve read it someplace
I’ve got cause to be
There’s a name for it
There’s a phrase that fits
But whatever the reason you do it for me

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

I’ve been taking on a new direction
But I have to say
I’ve been thinking about my own protection
It scares me to feel this way oh oh oh

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a sweet old fashioned notion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken
ooh got to do with it

The song has an interesting back story. It was written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, and originally pitched to British singer Cliff Richard, who rejected it. It was then given to American singer Phyllis Hyman, who wanted to do the song but Clive Davis, the head of her label Arista Records, would not allow her to record it. It was then offered to Donna Summer, who allegedly sat on it for a couple of years but never recorded it, then offered to British pop group Bucks Fizz. Bucks Fizz band singer Jay Aston wanted to sing lead on the track after hearing the demo, but was told by their producer that it was unsuitable for a female lead vocal. Then Tina got her hands on it and the rest is history.

Bucks Fizz did ultimately record the song in February 1984, but it was sung by male band member Bobby G. It was intended for possible inclusion on their next album I Hear Talk, but was shelved when Tina Turner released her version first. The Bucks Fizz version went unreleased until it was included on a re-issue of their Are You Ready album in 2000. (Wikipedia)

For comparison, here’s the Bucks Fizz version, which ain’t too bad actually:

EML’s Favorite Songs – PATSY CLINE: “Crazy”

I’ve really been enjoying the Ken Burns series Country Music that’s been airing on PBS the past few weeks, and it’s reminded me of several classic country songs that I love. So, over the next week or two, I’ll be writing about a few of my personal favorites, the first of which is “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. The beautiful but heartbreaking song was Cline’s highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #9 and reaching #2 on the Country Chart, and has endured as one of the most popular and beloved songs of all time in the 58 years since its release. It was stated in the Country Music series that it’s the most-played jukebox track of all time.

Patsy_Cline-1962_EP

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1932, Cline is considered one of the most important and influential female vocalists of the 20th Century, and one of the first country music artists to successfully crossover onto the pop charts. With her deep, resonant singing voice and ability to convey strong feelings of emotional pain and longing, she could bring even the biggest cynic to their knees. The Washington Star magazine beautifully described the essence of her vocal style: “She creates the moods through movement of her hands and body and by the lilt of her voice, reaching way down deep in her soul to bring forth the melody. Most female country music vocalists stand motionless, singing with a monotonous high-pitched nasal twang. Patsy’s come up with a throaty style loaded with motion and E-motion.

After a slow start, with a series of singles she recorded for Four Star Records failing to become hits, Cline finally had her first break-out hit “Walkin’ After Midnight” on the Decca Records label in 1957. Then, surprisingly, she didn’t have another chart hit until 1961’s “I Fall to Pieces”. In June of that year, she and her brother were in a near-fatal head-on car crash in which she was thrown through the windshield, suffering a severe cut to her forehead that narrowly missed her eyes and left her with a huge scar. After recovering well enough from the accident, though still in pain, she recorded “Crazy”. And oh man, that pain seems to emanate from her very core when she delivers those poignant lyrics with such conviction that we believe every word.

Like with many classic songs, “Crazy” has an interesting back story.  Cline’s husband Charlie Dick actually first heard the song one night on a jukebox while waiting for her in a bar. It was a recording by Paul Buskirk and His Little Men, featuring Hugh Nelson – now known as Willie Nelson – who wrote the song. Dick thought it would be a perfect song for her, and approached Nelson about them recording his song, to which he agreed. He then pitched it to Cline, who didn’t like it, and didn’t want to record it. She considered herself a country singer, and didn’t particularly like the vulnerable heartbroken sound of songs like “Crazy.” But her record producer Owen Bradley believed those songs were exactly right for her, and ultimately convinced her to record it.

Bradley wanted to produce a new and more sophisticated form of country music by adding more instrumentation and background vocals to create a fuller, richer sound. He brought in The Jordanaires, who also sang backup on a lot of Elvis Presley’s songs, and hired young piano player Floyd Cramer, as well as bass guitarist Bob Moore. Cline listened to Buskirk & Nelson’s version of “Crazy” and decided she would perform it differently, removing a spoken section that was featured on the original recording.  When the song was set to be recorded on August 17, 1961, Cline first performed some other material, and by the time they got to “Crazy”, she was tired and had difficulty singing the song’s higher notes due to residual rib pain from the car accident. Bradley sent her home to rest while the musicians laid down the instrumentals without her. A week later she returned and recorded her vocal in a single take. As we can all attest, it was perfect, and the rest is history.

Her untimely death less than two years later was a terrible loss, and we can only imagine how many more wonderful songs she could have given the world.

Crazy
I’m crazy for feeling so lonely
I’m crazy
Crazy for feeling so blue

I knew
You’d love me as long as you wanted
And then some day
You’d leave me for somebody new

Worry
Why do I let myself worry?
Wondering
What in the world did I do?

Oh, crazy
For thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying
And crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you

Crazy
For thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying
And crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you

EML’s Favorite Songs – EDDIE MONEY: “Take Me Home Tonight”

EDDIE MONEY AT TOY FAIR TO PROMOTE THE ALEKEN GAMES, NEW YORK, AMERICA - 14 FEB 2006
Photo by Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock (5633649d)

I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Eddie Money yesterday from a heart attack at the age of 70. He’d recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer, but his death was apparently related to complications from heart valve surgery a few months ago. He was a great artist who had a long career with its ups and downs, but I’m safe in saying he was beloved by many. I have a special fondness for him because he actually followed me on Twitter! Money had a string of hits, beginning with “Baby Hold On” in 1978, but my favorite of all his songs was “Take Me Home Tonight“. I loved it from the first moment I heard it, and it remains one of my favorite songs of the 80s.

Born Edward Mahoney in Brooklyn, New York, Money started out as a police offer for the NYPD. He relocated to Berkeley, California in the late 60s, where he began his music career performing in Bay Area clubs. In 1976, he met Bill Graham, then a major music impresario and concert promoter in San Francisco who would eventually become his manager. Money landed his first record deal with Columbia Records, who released his debut self-titled album Eddie Money in 1977. The album generated his first two big hits “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise”, both of which charted in 1978. Later that year, he released his follow up album Life For the Taking. The album did not perform quite as well, but it did produce one modest hit “Maybe I’m A Fool”, which is among my favorites of his songs.

Beginning in the late 70s and continuing on and off for many years, Money struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, including a 1981 incident in which he nearly died from an overdose of fentanyl. Still, he turned out some great work, most notably his albums No Control in 1982 and his 1986 comeback album of sorts Can’t Hold Back, which featured what would turn out to be his biggest hit – “Take Me Home Tonight”. His 1988 release Nothing to Lose was also very good, producing another of his greatest songs “Walk On Water”.

“Take Me Home Tonight” is a sexy, exhilarating song that’s brilliant on so many levels. Not only is it a spectacular pop-rock song from a musical standpoint, the lyrics are powerful and raw, and Money never sounded better. But perhaps the greatest thing about the song is the added performance by the legendary Ronnie Spector, who samples her 1963 Ronettes hit “Be My Baby”, taking the song into the sonic stratosphere.

From the moment we first hear those dramatic strings,  guitar licks and pounding drumbeats, the song hooks us in and never lets go. As Money begins to croon with a palpable sexual urgency, the music expands with more guitar, bass, heavier drumbeats and aggressive tinkling piano keys. When Ronnie Spector finally enters with “Be my little baby”, the sexual tension between her and Money is positively electrifying. The music continues to build to a crescendo with a wailing sax riff, and I’m covered from head to toe with goosebumps! “Take Me Home Tonight” is a masterpiece, and a classic for the ages.

I feel a hunger, it’s a hunger that tries to keep a man awake at night
Are you the answer? I shouldn’t wonder when I feel you whet my appetite
With all the power you’re releasing
It isn’t safe to walk the city streets alone
Anticipation is running through me
Let’s find the key and turn this engine on

I can feel you breathe
I can feel your heart beat faster, faster, oh
Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey just like Ronnie sang: “Be my little baby”

I get frightened in all this darkness
I get nightmares I hate to sleep alone
I need some company
A guardian angel to keep me warm when the cold winds blow

I can feel you breathe
I can feel your heart beat faster, faster, oh

Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey just like Ronnie sang:
“Be my little baby Be my little baby”

Just like Ronnie sang, I said just like Ronnie sang:
“Be my little baby, baby my darling. Oh oh oh oh oh”
I feel a hunger it’s a hunger

Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey just like Ronnie sang: “Be my little baby”
Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey just like Ronnie sang: “Be my little baby
Oh be my darling, oh oh oh oh

EML’s Favorite Songs – THE BROTHERS JOHNSON: “Strawberry Letter 23”

Strawberry Letter 23

One of my favorite songs from the 1970s, or of all time for that matter, is “Strawberry Letter 23” from R&B/funk band The Brothers Johnson. It was one of the defining songs of my summer of 1977, when I spent two glorious months in Portland, Oregon before starting college. The track was written by the brilliant singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis in 1971, whose own original version was featured on his album Freedom Flight.

It’s a romantic song with a dreamy, almost mystical vibe, thanks to the whimsical lyrics and his use of chiming guitars, xylophone, calliope and other sparkling synth instrumental sounds. For their recording of the song, which was masterfully produced by the legendary Quincy Jones, The Brothers Johnson embellished on all those lovely instruments and added their own funky guitar, bass, beats and smooth vocal harmonies, along with a dreamy backing vocal chorus. The result was a gorgeous and captivating track that took the song to the next level.

The song was included on their 1977 album Right On Time, and reached #1 on the Billboard R&B Chart and #5 on the Hot 100. It’s been featured in several films and TV shows, including Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Six Feet Under and Nip/Tuck. Otis’ version was featured in the film Munich.

I’d originally wondered why the song was titled “Strawberry Letter 23” when the lyrics speak of “Strawberry Letter 22” instead. The reason is that Otis intended for the song to be about a couple exchanging love letters in the form of songs. The singer is creating “Strawberry Letter 23” as a reply to the “Strawberry Letter 22” song he received from his lover and refers to in the song.

Hello my love, I heard a kiss from you
Red magic satin playing near, too
All through the morning rain I gaze, the sun doesn’t shine
Rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind
In the garden, I see
West purple shower bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins dressed in green

Pretty music, I hear
So happy and loud
Blue flowers echo from a cherry cloud
Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue
Playgrounds will laugh
If you try to ask “Is it cool? Is it cool?”
If you arrive and don’t see me
I’m going to be with my baby
I am free, flying in her arms
Over the sea

Stained window, yellow candy screen
See speakers of kite
With velvet roses diggin’ freedom flight
A present from you
Strawberry letter 22
The music plays I sit in for a few

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

For comparison, here’s the original version by Shuggie Otis:

EML’s Favorite Songs – ROY ORBISON: “Running Scared”

Roy Orbison Running Scared record

One of my favorite songs from the 1960s is “Running Scared” by the legendary Roy Orbison, who was one of the biggest recording artists from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Written by Orbison and Joe Melson, the powerfully moving ballad was released by Monument Records in March 1961 and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that June. The song was written in the bolero style, starting off calmly then gradually building to a dramatic finish. And, unlike most other songs written both then and now, it contains no chorus.

It opens with just a simple strummed guitar as Orbison plaintively sings to a woman he loves, but fearing she’s still in love with an old flame. With each new verse, layers of lush instrumentation in the form of drums, piano, strings and horns, as well as backing vocals, are added to the mix as both the music and Orbison’s beautiful resonant vocals build to a heart-wrenching climax. By the song’s end, with Orbison jubilant over the woman’s decision to go with him, I’m completely covered in goosebumps. I defy anyone to listen to “Running Scared” and not feel moved. The song lasts barely more than two minutes, but it’s monumental nevertheless. Everything about it is absolute perfection.

Just running scared each place we go
So afraid that he might show
Yeah running scared what would I do
If he came back and wanted you
Just running scared feeling low
Running scared you loved him so
Just running scared afraid to lose
If he came back which one would you choose

Then all at once he was standing there
So sure of himself his head in the air
My heart was breaking which one would it be
You turned around and walked away with me