Welcome back to another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! Let me tell you something: today’s post is awesome. No, not because of the song. The song sucks. It’s awesome because it’s time to unveil the all-new Mellow Gold logo, created by none other than Jefito, the man who came up with this series idea in the first place.
Click on, my friends:
Is that frickin’ awesome or what? Although we have yet to really cover one of his songs here, we all know he’s the Patron Saint of Mellow Gold. And he looks so darn cute in that miner’s hat! Thanks so much, Jeff, for the awesome logo. Maybe one day, you can switch it out for Christopher Cross or Stephen Bishop. (Actually, I’d love to see you fit that helmet over Gino Vannelli’s moptop, but I digress.)
On with the crap!
Marty Balin – Hearts (download)
“Hearts” should come with a warning from the Surgeon General. CAUTION: Listening to this song will make you less of a man. Even thinking about this song makes me feel like less of a man.
You guys know good ol’ Marty Balin. The Artist Formerly Known By The Nice Jewish Name Of Martyn Jerel Buchwald changed his moniker back in 1962, when he attempted teen idol status by releasing two singles on the Challenge label: “Nobody But You” and “I Specialize In Love.” The latter can be found on iTunes – here’s the 30-second sample:[audio:http://www.wwmmd.net/tunes/inline/balinspecialize.mp3]
While I truly dig the delivery of the word “specialize,” the single went nowhere. (Maybe because no girl at the time was saying anything complimentary about a guy named Marty.)
Marty quit the pop idol life and, actually, decided to become a professional quitter. He became a lithographer and got married, but soon he quit the job and his marriage. Joined a group called The Town Criers. Quit that. Finally, he founded Jefferson Airplane and remained the primary songwriter and lead vocalist of the band, until eventually being eclipsed by Grace Slick in the late ’60s. In 1971, Balin quit Jefferson Airplane for a variety of reasons, including the fact that his romantic, lovelorn ballads weren’t gaining any popularity within the group. Balin rejoined the band (now Jefferson Starship) in 1974, only to quit again in 1978. Mickey Thomas replaced him, and now, Balin can be blamed for just about everything that went wrong in the world during the 1980s. It was on his 1981 solo effort, Balin, that he ended up with a Top 10 hit. “Hearts” peaked at #8 in August of ’81.
One of the great things about Mellow Gold songs in general is that the wuss factor (wussicity) can be applied to any number of scenarios. You’ve got your Mellow Gold songs about trying to get the girl (“Cool Night”), you’ve got your Mellow Gold songs about getting the girl (“Sometimes When We Touch”), and then you have your Mellow Gold songs about losing the girl. “Hearts” is a pathetic attempt by the protagonist to re-connect with the girl who dumped him for a real man. In fact, the song is even funnier if you imagine it as a 3 AM drunk-dial.
(Uh-oh! That’s right! It’s time for a bit of Mellow Gold Theatre!)
So the girl’s dropped Balin like a bad habit, right? She’s found herself a new man. They go out to a candlelit dinner, followed by a great night of dancing. It’s the middle of the night. After a hot night of passion, they’ve collapsed in each other’s arms.
The phone rings. She wakes up.
“Who the hell is calling me in the middle of the….hello?”
Er, ah, hello, it’s me!
Is everything alright?
“Who is this?…Marty? Is that you?”
I just called to say
How lost I feel without you
“Jesus Christ, Marty, it’s 3 in the morning.”
I really can’t believe I’m here
And how I still care about you
“Wait a minute…you’re here?” (scrambles to window, peeks through curtains) “You’re really not here, are you?….Marty? (pause) Hello? (pause) Are you crying?“
Heaaarts can breaaaaak
“Dammit, Marty, I thought I told you not to call me again!”
And never mend together
Love can fade away
Heaaaaarts can cryyyyyyy
“Marty, seriously. This is embarrassing. Find someone new. I hear Nicolette’s available.”
When love won’t stay forever
Hearts can be that way
(to partner) “No, it’s okay. You don’t have to leave. He does this every so often. I’m trying to get my number changed.”
Is everything the same?
(distracted) “No, no, honey. Please don’t go. I’m hanging up. Seriously. Don’t go. Let’s have sex again.”
Do you ever think of me
And how we loved one another?
Will you change your mind?
Will you want me back again?
Or have you found yourself a new love?
(hangs up phone. Marty keeps singing to a dial tone.)
– FIN –
You get the point. (You probably got the point six paragraphs ago.) But it works, right? “Hearts” is yet another one of those songs that reduces the singer to a sniveling pool of mush on the floor. Anything even coming close to resembling pride has gone out the window. But that’s the Mellow Way, isn’t it? It’s not just about losing your pride and your dignity; it’s about letting anyone and everyone know about it. Check out the last verse:
Is everything okay? (How is he still asking this goddamn question?)
I just thought I’d write a song
To tell the world how I miss you
‘Cos each and every day
I think of all the words I never said
And all the chances that I had to
Okay, I’ll give him those last three lines: that’s a relatively common sentiment. Although if you look at the rest of the song, I think it’s relatively clear that his lack of communication wasn’t really the problem. I think it’s far more likely that the problem was the constant weeping in bed. Also interesting is the enunciation and the delivery of this last verse. I don’t think I was too far off with that drunk-dial thing – he actually starts to sound truly sloshy.
Balin ends the song with a dramatic “Hearts….can be…” but doesn’t finish the sentence. Instead, he asks – yet again – “is everything alright?” Mellow bookends, everybody! I love it. It’s the worst question you can ask. It’s also the dumbest. Why would you even ask it? No, everything’s not alright! And she doesn’t care, either! Get a grip, Marty! Like Daryl and John said, she’s gone. Move on with your life.
Musically, there’s so much to love about this song: for starters, the vocal is a long, drawn-out whine. Listen to the way Balin kinda scoops up into most of the words, and then gently slides down. It’s hard for me to believe that this guy was actually in a band that rocked. And the instrumentation is just classic Mellow Gold: very little guitar, soft drums and bass, all making way for those ringing, droning keyboards. (It’s got the same sound as “Cool Night,” actually.)
Normally, this is the part where I’d include a video and snark on it. And the “Hearts” video is a great candidate for snarking. But look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s CAPTAIN VIDEO!
What’s that, CAPTAIN VIDEO!? You’ve already taken a look at “Hearts?” And it’s hysterical? Well, folks, there’s nothing more for me to say here. Go forth and enjoy this
awesome awful awesome video, and we’ll catch you back here next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!