Welcome back, mellow miners! You know, being the wimpiest guy on Popdose is not an easy job, but I do it for you and wusses across the universe. And part of the job is exposing to you (wait, that doesn’t read right) all different kinds of songs that fall into the Mellow Gold category. Sometimes, like Mang, they’re wordless — and last time we got together, we discussed Greg Guidry’s “Goin’ Down,” a song that wasn’t really mellow in terms of its lyrical content, but in its musical style. This week, I figure we’ll go the other way and see what happens: let’s take apart a song that may not be so mellow musically, but really has it goin’ on in the lyrics department.
Andy Kim — Rock Me Gently (download)
IT’S BUILT RIGHT INTO THE GODDAMN TITLE! My work here is done, everybody! Thanks, and see you next time for another Adventure…nah, I kid. But seriously? “Rock Me Gently“? Well, hang on. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at Lebanese dreamboat Andy Kim.
Damn you, Google image search!
Ahh, there we are. Andy, you handsome motherfucker. I don’t know what or who you’re looking at, but I bet they have no idea they’re about to get swallowed up by your hair.
Andy Kim was born as Androwis Jovakim in Montreal in 1952. At the age of 16, he moved to New York to pursue a music career, changed his name to mask his Lebanese background (though those eyebrows aren’t fooling anyone), and signed to Steed Records, owned by Jeff Barry. Before his 17th birthday, he had written and recorded “How’d We Ever Get This Way,” which gets props from me mainly because it’s a pop song with the word “how’d” in it. It’s such an awkward word! In fact, it’s so awkward that it remains the last song with the word “how’d” in it to make the Billboard Top 100. (Bring that up at your next cocktail party and see who still wants to talk to you.) Anyway, the song just missed the Top 20, peaking at #21, but no matter — Andy soldiered on and released a cover of the Ronettes’ “Baby, I Love You” (co-written by Barry), which hit #9 in June of ’69. That same year, Kim teamed up with Barry to write a cute lil’ pop song called “Sugar, Sugar” which, of course, has kept Kim in only the finest of shampoos and conditioners for the past 40 years.
Andy scored another solid hit with his 1970 cover of “Be My Baby,” which reached #13. Shortly after, though, the Steed label went under, as did Kim’s career. Though he had racked up some successful hits, he wasn’t exactly well-known; he told Billboard that he felt his looks belied the sound of his voice, especially since many of his songs were sped up for the pre-teen market. He claims he “went over best with their mothers who brought them to the shows.” I can totally relate. Jeff’s mother was at my last gig.
With no record label interested in signing him, Kim used some of that good, old-fashioned Canadian-Lebanese ingenuity and started his own label, Ice Records. In 1974, he wrote and recorded “Rock Me Gently.” One of the old Steed promoters heard it, and brought it to his new bosses at Capitol. The label signed him, and three months after its release, “Rock Me Gently” hit #1. Kim believed in the song so much that he included “Rock Me Gently, Pt. 2,” an instrumental version, on his eponymous album that year.
So as I mentioned, you’re not going to find Mellow Gold in the musical content of “Rock Me Gently.” It’s a nifty little pop number that even kind of rocks from time to time, which is what makes the lyrical content so amusing to me. Let’s just start with the chorus, because that’s really the mellow part.
Rock me gently
Rock me slowly
Take it easy, don’t you know
That I have never been loved like this before
Remember these words, friends. You’re going to hear them a lot.
As I hinted before, I love the idea of “rock me gently.” I want to know exactly what Kim means by this phrase. (I also want to know why he has two first names, and why he teamed up with a writer who also had two first names, but he’s not answering my phone calls.) Is he talking about rocking as in physically rocking, like rocking someone back and forth? I don’t think so. So I’m left to assume that he’s talking about rocking. Y’know, rockin’. Groovin’. Gettin’ dowwwwn. That kind of thing. But how do you rock someone gently? Or slowly? Then you’re not rocking anymore. You’re doing something else. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not rocking. But it’s Mellow Gold artists that are always pulling shit like this: Rock me, baby, but do it all nice-like! Go easy on me! Handle me with kid gloves! I am a eunuch!
So I don’t find that this chorus makes much sense. But it completely fits in with the rest of the song, which contains some of the dumbest lyrics imaginable. (I’d like to take a second and imagine the smoke coming out of Jon Cummings‘ ears, who I’m pretty sure sings this song to himself on a daily basis.) Let’s take a look at these lyrics. Much like Kim’s request for rocking, we’ll start off gently. And slowly.
Ain’t it good
Ain’t it right
That you are with me
The music playin’
Our bodies swayin’ in time
(In time, in time, in time)
So far, Andy Kim has proved himself an expert of rhyme. Or a moron of rhyme, I’m not sure which. No, wait, it’s moron. There’s no reason for “Ain’t it right.” You’ve already expressed this sentiment in the line before. But “right” and “tonight” is a no-brainer, so we go for it. I’m not denying Kim’s talents as a songwriter (I happen to love “Sugar, Sugar”), but I can’t imagine much thought went into this. The first time I heard this song, I was taken aback by the monkey-at-a-typewriter quality of this first section. So what’s next?
So warm and tender
At this point, I actually said to myself, “He’s going to say ‘sweet surrender.’ I’m sure of it.”
Lord, I feel such a sweet surrender
No, please, don’t praise me. I’m not a genius. You would’ve thought the exact same thing.
Beautiful is the dream that makes you mine
Okay, I like that line for whatever reason. But now, Andy’s run out of lyrics. So what does he do? He takes the chorus lyrics but sings ’em as a verse first. Then he makes it a chorus. And the chorus is actually good enough that you almost forget that he cut corners just before it.
But uh-oh. We can’t end the song here. We need more lyrics! Quick, Andy, whatcha got?
No, no, NO! So lazy! And speaking of lazy, I totally know what word you’re rhyming with baby.” It’s “crazy.” I know it.
You got the moves that drive me crazy
Uh-huh. Just as I suspected. What I like about this line, though, is that Kim makes “crazy” three syllables. “Cray-zeah-uhh.” I wish Andy and Cher would do a duet together. (No, I don’t.)
And on your face I see a trace of love
(Of love, of love, of love)
Well, obviously the girls were going to show up to repeat that line; they showed up in the same section before. Why make any part of this song, y’know, unpredictable?
Come hold me close
Don’t let me go
I need you, honey
I love you so
You were made for me by the stars above
And just like before, we’ve got four lowest-common-denominator lines followed by an actual thoughtful lyric. How do you do it, Andy? It’s like he saves the best lines for this one section, then figures he can take a break…’cause here comes the chorus-as-verse once again. It’s followed by two choruses, a reprise of “Ain’t it good/Ain’t it right/That you are with me/Here tonight” (which I’m convinced was included just to taunt people like me who take this song way too seriously), and two more choruses. Anybody looking for something deeper is going to walk away disappointed.
So let’s review. All of the lyrics in the verses are saying “I love you, you’re awesome, you do all these wonderful things to me,” followed my a chorus that says ” But I’m so frightened by your love and your awesomeness and all the wonderful things you do to me, so please! Take this very slow! Let’s just peck for a while!” It’s a Mellow Gold sentiment for sure, but it kind of comes out of nowhere; there’s nothing in the verse that suggests the guy’s a wuss. It doesn’t really fit. And initially, I thought: Well, Andy Kim’s not very clever. But then I thought otherwise; see, Andy knows that in most pop songs, the verses really don’t matter. (Which part of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” do you know better: the verses, or the “shoulda put a ring on it” part?) That’s exactly why he’s asking us to rock him gently seven times in just under three-and-a-half minutes. Andy’s free to be as predictable and simple as he wants in the verse, ’cause the chorus is where it’s at. And that’s why total cheeseballs like Jon Cummings and myself will listen to it again. And again. And again.
So what happened to Andy Kim after “Rock Me Gently”? Well, he started touring for reals, and recorded a number of awkward promotional videos like this one, featuring him rocking gently (and awkwardly) all by his lonesome. Go on and groove with your bad self, Andy! Love your slacks! And I also love the close-ups of his face, where he doesn’t look like he really knows what the hell is going on.
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And check out this one, which adds a crowd and an overeager camera effects guy:
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With the exception of ’74’s “Fire, Baby I’m On Fire,” which I think works better as “Fire! Baby, I’m On Fire!!”, Kim’s follow-up singles failed to make much of a dent in the chart, and he disappeared from the music scene. He re-emerged five years later, inexplicably billed as “Baron Longfellow.”
Here’s what I love about this album cover: I truly believe that Kim thought the sunglasses were going to fool everyone. This album is probably why Garth Brooks decided to wear a bad wig as Chris Gaines.
“Longfellow” released albums in 1984 and 1991, and essentially left the business once again. These were clearly dark years for Andy. He pretty much stayed at home, working dutifully on his era-appropriate mullet.
In 1995, Kim was playing a festival along with the Barenaked Ladies, and struck up a friendship with BNL guitarist Ed Robertson. Robertson eventually convinced him to re-enter the business (but with none of this Baron Longfellow bullshit), and co-wrote/produced a song for him in 2004 entitled “I Forgot To Mention.” The song reached #10 on the Canadian charts, and suddenly, Kim was back. He’s been inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame, which is not something I’m at all familiar with, but I’m sure it’s prestigious. Next month, he’ll release Happen Again, a new album that hopefully will not feature “Rock Me Gently 2010.” You can find out more information on his MySpace page, where you can hear “Happen Again” and “I Forgot To Mention” (which, unsurprisingly, totally sounds like an Ed Robertson song) and view clips of Kim with other Canadian heroes (Alex Lifeson on “Rock Me Gently”! Ron Sexsmith on “How’d We Ever Get This Way”!). Soon, he’ll tour Canada, where millions of people will sing along to “Rock Me Gently” and conveniently forget the inane verse lyrics and mellow sentiments in the chorus. Which I guess is okay with me. Maybe, in a way, none of us have ever been loved like this before. I have no idea what that means.
Thanks so much for reading and we’ll see you here soon for another Adventure Through the Mines of Mellow Gold!