Welcome back, Mellow Miners! So here’s a conversation I had with my 20 year-old brother this weekend.
Ryan: Are you ever going to post anything other than Mellow Gold?
Jason: Well, I do Chart Attack! posts, too.
Ryan: When are you going to cover music for people with penises?
It’s a good question, Ryan. The answer is: not today. Just accept that you’re a Hare, and therefore, this is your destiny. Learn to embrace the McDonald, buddy.
Onto the Mellow Gold!
Ace – How Long (download)
That’s right, Ace!
No, not this Ace:
Not this one either:
And no, definitely not this one.
I’m talking about this Ace:
Ace was a mid-70s British rock band, most famous for being the first group where Paul Carrack sang lead vocals. Carrack was previously a member of a prog-rock band named Warm Dust, as was fellow Ace bassist Terry “Tex” Comer. Ace was originally known as “Ace Flash and the Dynamos” but, realizing this name would probably invite drunk pubgoers to throw shit at them, they quickly saw the error of their ways and abbreviated the moniker.
While Ace was a rock band, this song is pure Mellow Gold – you’ve got gentle keyboard, and a great lead vocal by Carrack – although let’s be honest here: this song is Mellow Gold because of those backing vocals. There’s some blue-eyed soul happening up in this bitch, but the guitar after the first verse makes it clear these guys could clearly rock as well.
Now, let’s talk about the bass…and the bass player.
The bass is pretty high up in the mix. I’d say it’s a key element to the song. And yet, except for the choruses, it’s the kind of bass part that would almost make John Entwistle long for the days of playing “Magic Bus” (eight minutes of “A”). The verse is one note. That’s it. One note. But Tex Comer was a good bassist. A respected bassist. A coveted bassist. So coveted, in fact, that another British band, named The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, tried to steal Comer away from Ace.
The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver were a bit higher on the totem pole than Ace during this period of time, and it seemed like a good deal for Comer. Still, Comer stayed true to Ace. The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver only had a few minor hits, but a song of theirs, “Sailing,” (not the Christopher Cross song, we’ll get there another time, be patient), was a huge hit for Rod Stewart in 1975. Yes, even in 1975, Rod Stewart was profiting from cover songs.
Anyway, back to “How Long.” The tune didn’t have much in the way of lyrics:
Well your friends with their fancy persuasions
Can’t admit that it’s part of the scene
But I can’t help but have my suspicions
‘Cause I ain’t quite as dumb as I seem
And you said you were never intendin’
To break up our secret this way
But there ain’t any use in pretendin’
It could happen to us any day
How long has this been going on?
“How Long” sounds like a love gone wrong – perhaps an extra-marital affair? Nope. It’s Carrack’s aim at those dastardly Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, and their attempt to swipe Comer away from Ace.
You all think I’m making this up, don’t you.
Ace only lasted until 1977, and of course, we know that Paul Carrack went on to much greater endeavors. But “How Long” wound up having another life, specifically in 1982, when it was covered by….you guessed it: Rod Stewart.
Sneaker – More Than Just The Two Of Us (download)
You can thank our lovely reader Jane for this track. In last week’s Mellow Gold, she mentioned the song as being a childhood favorite of hers. She graciously sent it on to me, and now I pay it forward. Sort of. In a wussy kind of way. Thank me later.
Sneaker was a West Coast band formed in 1973, although they didn’t release an album until 1981. Maybe they didn’t have a record contract? Apparently 8 years wasn’t enough time for them to wonder, “y’know, maybe it’s our shitty band name.”
Their self-titled debut was produced by Steely Dan/Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. They had one “real” hit, the one we present here, and another minor appearance with a cover of an early Steely Dan song, “Don’t Let Me In,” which has actually never been officially released by SD. Although Sneaker had four albums (two official releases, a set of early demos and a live disc from Japan), they never made any real impact after “More Than Just The Two Of Us,” and disbanded.
In the comment section, I had mentioned that, from the 30-second sample I had heard, I thought Sneaker had an Air Supply sound. Holy shit, do they ever! From those opening piano chords to that sweet, earnest and genuine vocal, to the swirling, soaring strings, I can’t believe that this actually isn’t Air Supply. I’m hearing, specifically, some of “Even The Nights Are Better” and “Here I Am.” And yes, I know enough Air Supply to make distinctions between their songs.
You may think this is an insult, but I’m going to be honest with you: I love this song. I think it’s beautiful. The chorus is especially wonderful – great chord choices, great instrumentation, and some of the prettiest harmonies I’ve heard. So yes, Jane, this song is definitely a Mellow Gold classic, and maybe I’m saying this because the chorus is currently playing as I type and I’m feeling a little emotional, but I really appreciate you sending it and I think maybe we should get married.
Where was I? Oh yes. Sneaker.
So guess who plays clavinet on Sneaker’s first album? David Foster. Yes, that David Foster. The mastermind behind way too many soft-rock hits to mention. Yet another thing you can blame/thank him for, take your pick.
Jane was worried I was going to pull up some horrible pictures of Sneaker. No worries, I couldn’t find any photos.
Once again, we must offer praise to the Internet, which has graced us with a video (!!!) of Sneaker performing “More Than Just The Two Of Us” on Solid Gold:
I’m not asking you to watch the whole thing, but at least watch the first minute, and here’s why: at around 40 seconds, we get a nice shot of each member of the band. And if you were ever wondering what happened to the outcast geeks from high school…here they are! We have the Science Geek, the Auto Shop Geek, the Geek Who Graduated Two Years Ago But Hangs With The Younger Kids, and, of course, The Geek Who Is Awkardly Growing Hair All Over His Body While Still A Teenager. The last one I mention – the lead singer – looks like former Brady Bunch star Christopher Knight, if a monkey attacked his face and head.
Finally, would you like to learn to PLAY “More Than Just The Two Of Us?” No problem!
And now that you know more about Sneaker than you could have ever imagined, I’m outta here. See you soon for more Mellow Gold!