Sunday, March 01, 2015

Street of Dreams

It was the same old song, only now it was completely different.

I was fiddling around on YouTube the other day and I wound up going back in time and reliving some personal history.

I was listening to a block of songs by Bobby “Blue” Bland, a fabulous blues singer whose name I had known for years, but whose work had only recently caught my attention after I saw The Lincoln Lawyer and heard Bobby singing “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” over the opening credits.

Bobby does an excellent job with this song and it really sets the mood for the film.

I felt like I should know the song and the singer and the fact that I didn’t know either one sent me scurrying straight to the Internet.

YouTube was only too obliging, hooking me up with one Bobby tune after another. The standouts include “Members Only,” “I Ain’t Gonna Be the First to Cry,” and “I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me).”

I felt like an explorer discovering a lost civilization. Yes, obviously millions of people know Bobby “Blue” Bland and my so-called “discovery” was strictly a one-person affair. But that’s the power of great music—it makes you feel as if it’s been written just for you.

And then a song called “It’s Not the Spotlight” came on and I stopped everything I was doing.

If I ever feel the light again shinin' down on me,
I don't have to tell you how welcome it will be…

This tune sounded really familiar. I was almost certain that I had heard it before, but I didn’t know where or when.

I felt the light before, but I let it slip away,
But I still keep on believin' that it'll come back some day…

This was so strange. I knew nothing of Bobby’s work, so how could I possibly know this song? I decided to poke around to see where I might have come crossed paths with this tune. And then I remembered.

Feel the Light

I first heard Rod Stewart do “It’s Not the Spotlight” on his 1975 album Atlantic Crossing. I was a freshman in college back then and this was one of the first LPs I ever bought.

Bear in mind that this was a record—not a CD or a download, but an actual vinyl disc. And I loved it so much.

The album is divided into a fast side and slow side and in addition to “It’s Not the Spotlight,” the recordtracks also includes “Three Time Loser,” “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” and a slow version of the Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart of Mine.”

Back then “It’s Not the Spotlight” was not my favorite track by any means. I didn’t dislike it. I just didn’t think that much of it.

But that all changed when I heard Bobby’s version. No disrespect to Rod Stewart—I’m a tremendous fan—but Bobby really owns this song.
And the lyrics resonate with me much more now than they did with my younger self. The singer talks about feeling the light again as he hopes he’ll reunite with his lost love.

It ain't the spotlight,
It ain't the candlelight,
It ain't the streetlights,
Of some old street of dreams…

The line about letting the light slip away is particularly painful because this guy lost a beautiful relationship—something I can certainly relate to—and that, despite all this hopeful talk, he will never again see the light shining in his lover’s eyes.

The song was co-written by Gerry Goffin, the one-time husband of Carole King, with whom he co-wrote some of the biggest hits of the Sixties, including “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “The Loco-Motion.”

Their story is dramatized in the Broadway show Beautiful, which my sister and I saw last year when our aunt from California came into town.

The play depicts Goffin as a talented but troubled man who is constantly sleeping with other women. Carole King finally gets fed up and divorces him and I’m wondering if Goffin wrote “It's Not the Spotlight” after he realized how much he had lost.

That was quite a ride I took, traveling back to the Seventies, bouncing over to Broadway and coming back to the present.

It was long walk down the street of dreams.


Ron said...

Rob, before I left this comment I went over to You Tube and listened to a little bit of Bobby's version of the song because I had never heard of him before. And it's ironic you mentioned that Rod Stewart also included the song on his album because I could so see him singing it too. It was also interesting to read that Gerry Goffin co-wrote the song, who was married to Carole King (who btw, I love). At one time I had her album, Tapestry. And yes, it was an actual vinyl disc!

"That was quite a ride I took, traveling back to the Seventies, bouncing over to Broadway and coming back to the present."

That's amazing!

Have a super week, buddy!

Bijoux said...

I'm always amazed at how music can stick with you, subconsciously. My parents always listened to the easy listening FM stations when I was a kid (which I hated, of course), so it cracks me up when I will recognize lyrics or a tune that I'm certain I haven't heard since 1975!

Jay, Sparking Synapse said...

You have a way of encapsulating a slice of life in a way I can really relate to, Rob.

For me, the album which was my first vinyl purchase, and which I loved so much, was 'For Your Pleasure' by Roxy Music. I still love it, and still feel a warm rush of nostalgia (and pleasure) when I hear a track from it. The fun thing was that when OH and I married, we found that we both owned it and loved it. Of course, there was other music we both owned and loved, and he had some stuff I'll never like, just as I had some that he can't appreciate.

'It's Not The Spotlight' ... I wouldn't have recognised the titled, but as soon as I read your quoted lines I knew how they should be sung, so I guess I heard the Rod Stewart version often enough to be familiar with it, but you're right: Bobby Bland owns that one!

Rob K said...

Hey, Jay! That's so fabulous that you and OH both owned and loved that Roxy Music album! That shows you two were meant to be together!

And we agree on Bobby Bland!

Take care!

Rob K said...

@Bijoux--it is amazing how music can stick with us for so many years?

I used to hate my parents music--Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and the big bands--but now I love that stuff!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, how's it going?

The song has had quite a ride and I'm amazed at how it has come back into my life after so many years.

Tapestry is a great album and Carole King is a tremendous singer-songwriter.

Have a great week, buddy!

Anonymous said...

Don't you love exploring new music? That is one reason I love Pandora! It takes the tastes in music you load in and it picks things it thinks you might like! I have found some pretty awesome music that way :)

Rob K said...

Hey, Shae, what do you say?

"Exploring" is an excellent way to describe it, because that's what we're doing when we search out new music.

I'm a huge Pandora fan, too. Just switch it on and enjoy the tunes.

CrystalChick said...

It sounded vaguely familiar! Good song, Rob.
And your Loco-Motion mention... now that one I know! I tend to live more in the past with regard to music. Occasionally, I'll listen to artists that my parents liked, and it takes me to memories of them and growing up. I got a download on iTunes of an old album that they had and I remembered many of the song lyrics and beat after not hearing it for many years. So cool!

Rob K said...

Hey, Mary!

I'm a bit of time traveler when it comes to music, too.

And I find more and more that I'm enjoying my parents' music. It really does take you back.

I used to cringe when I heard Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Now I can't get enough of them!