Welcome back to another edition of the wimpiest series on Popdose, Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold! Last time we met, we covered a wonderful, wordless song — well, mostly wordless, unless you count Mang’s 1982 version or my highly superior recording with kick-ass lyrics. This week’s song might as well be wordless because, frankly, the actual lyrics don’t matter. What is important, however, is the tone of the lyrics, which — combined with the music — will go to prove that the handsome man in the miner’s hat is not only the Patron Saint of Popdose, but the Patron Saint of Mellow Gold altogether; his influence spreads over all the best Mellow Gold artists like a bad case of gonorrhea, and inspires them not only to be their Mellow Goldiest, but to pay the Mellow Gold forward. And what better day to do it than today, February 12 — which, as my buddy Matt Wardlaw pointed out in his excellent Ticket Stub series, is Michael McDonald’s birthday! Happy birthday, Michael! My birthday present to you is that I promise not to call you at midnight in celebration like I did last year. And the year before. You’ll just have to console yourself with Matt’s greeting cards.
Okay, on to the wimpy music!
Greg Guidry — Goin’ Down (download)
I know, I know: Who? Well, I’ll tell you, but first I’ll answer the question that many New Yorkers might have right now: no, Greg is not related to Ron Guidry, legendary pitcher for the New York Yankees. (And believe it or not, I knew who Ron was without even having to look it up!) He is, however, related to just about every other Guidry: his debut album featured his siblings Sandy, Cathie, Randy, Tito and Marlon.
Guidry (shown here making a call to a phone sex hotline) grew up in St. Louis, playing in various high school and college bands. At 23, he signed a songwriter deal with CBS, like many Mellow Gold artists at the time. In 1982, Guidry released his solo debut Over the Line, and in March of ’82 “Goin’ Down” reached #17. A second single, a duet with his sister Sandy entitled “Into My Love,”didn’t get any higher than #92 — most likely because it’s a song called “Into My Love” sung WITH HIS SISTER.
While Guidry remained in the music business as a songwriter and occasional backing vocalists for bands such as the Allman Brothers, he didn’t record a follow-up to Over the Line until 2000, the horribly-named Soul’d Out — and, of course, it includes an updated version of “Goin’ Down,” recorded in a lower key and sounding like a wedding band cover. (No, I will not offer it for download. Buy it for $1.29 at iTunes if you dare.) Guidry died in a fire in 2003; according to Wikipedia, “His charred body was found in a car parked in his garage in Fairview, Tennessee. His death was ruled a suicide.” Yeesh. Did it suddenly get all uncomfortable in here?
So now you know more than you ever thought you would about Greg Guidry. Let’s talk about “Goin’ Down.” Lyrically, I’m sure you all can imagine how disappointed I was to find out that this song had nothing to do with oral sex. No, I can only speculate that Mr. Guidry is actually talking about falling in love with someone dangerous…or at least that’s what I get from the mysterious groove of the song and the first two lines:
I get the feeling that I’m in way over my head
I should be careful but I’m going deeper instead
Wait a minute, maybe this song is about oral sex!
The only problem is that the lyrics don’t support the whole “dangerous woman” theory past those two lines; Guidry just focuses on her awesomeness, resorting to to clichés like “she lights a fire in my soul” and “a fool could drown in her eyes.” Now, normally, I’d be irritated by this lack of commitment to a clear theme. But as I said before, the lyrics don’t matter. It’s all about the music. In fact, it’s so much about the music that I swear to you, I listened to this song upwards of ten times before I paid one lick of attention to the lyrics in the second verse. And it was a vicious cycle, too: I’d say “okay, I’m really gonna listen this time,” zone out with the song’s groove, and then suddenly realize I was into the guitar solo. Then I’d get all pissed at myself and repeat the cycle. Who gets this upset with themselves over Greg Guidry? This guy.
Enough with the lyrics — let’s get to the music. We start, of course, with just bass and keyboards — no guitar, as it should be in a Mellow Gold hit. (If you dare to utilize a guitar in this genre, it had better be acoustic, or buried deep in the mix. Or both.) So we’re off to a very McD start, no? The song immediately evokes the opening of Herb Alpert’s “Rise,” adding a little vibraslap and some synthesized strings, getting us all mellow in that lounge-suit lizard kind of way. Can’t you just see a guy in a suit with a huge collar — Dave Mason, maybe? — chest hair flowin’ in the breeze, big gold medallion around his neck, thrusting his pelvis around? No? Just me? Damn my smooth overactive imagination.
Remember I said that the lyrics don’t matter, but tone does? Listen to the backing vocals on “I wanna run by her side.” That’s Guidry singing, but is that totally McD infleunced or what? I challenge you to sing these backing vocals and not do a Michael McDonald impression. But wait! There’s more! Check out the chorus. Holy crap, right? Listen to that falsetto! Guidry is a thief! Not a Dupree-level thief, but a thief nonetheless.
Musically, the second verse is exactly the same as the first. I can’t speak to any lyrical similarities, since — as I mentioned — I haven’t been paying attention. I will note that I could swear he’s saying “Her secret passion’s got me chummed, I’ll never get free.” He’s actually saying “charmed,” but I’m not hearing the “r” sound, so I’m just thinking about him vomiting all over her. Now that’s the kind of move a Mellow Gold artist would pull! And it’s only after the second chorus that the guitars are allowed into the mix — we have a guitar solo that was probably described at the time as “searing hot.” As far as I know, a video was never made for “Goin’ Down,” but if there had been one, this would be the scene where he succumbs to the passion of the woman he’s been adoring for the past two minutes. And you know it happens in some seedy apartment where there’s a blinking neon sign right outside the fire escape. (Again, my smooth overactive imagination rears its wimpy head.)
And so the solo ends, we’re back into a chorus, and I simply cannot stop thinking about Michael McDonald. He really should be singing the backing vocals here. With a song this smooth, it’s a no-brainer, right? In fact, forget the backing vocals — he should be singing the lead vocal as well. What song isn’t improved by Michael McDonald, other than that stupid Grizzly Bear song? (Actually, it is indeed improved by McD. I just wanted to tell Grizzly Bear to go suck a dick.) Somehow, Guidry must have been directly influenced by the man in some way or another. (Could this be a more obvious setup?)
“Born Gregory M. Guidry, in St. Louis, Missouri, he played piano and sang gospel as a child, and sang in a band with future Doobie Brother Michael McDonald as a teenager.”
IT HAS BEEN PROVEN. All bow down and worship Him!
But wait — that’s not all! Remember how I mentioned Guidry’s songwriting contract with CBS? Well, during that time, he wrote songs for England Dan & John Ford Coley, Climax Blues Band, Exile, and Robbie Dupree. Do you see? Michael McDonald not only influenced Greg Guidry’s musical style, but also inspired him to share his gift of wussitude with other Mellow Gold artists. Thank you, Mr. McDonald — and thank you, Greg Guidry, for your honorable contribution to the genre. Although you left this world too soon, we’re confident you’re relaxing up in Mellow Gold heaven, most likely writing emasculating hymns with Dan Fogelberg and Randy VanWarmer.
Thanks for goin’ down reading, and see you soon for another edition of Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold!