Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold: Paul Davis Edition
As you may know, Mellow Gold hero Paul Davis died yesterday from a heart attack at the age of 60. Davis was the focus of one of the first Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold posts on jasonhare.com; in tribute (albeit snarky tribute), we repost today. -JH
We’ll talk about Paul Davis: The Man, The Myth, The Gentle in a minute. First, let’s get into the music.
Paul Davis – I Go Crazy (download)
What problem might I have with “I Go Crazy,” you may be wondering. It’s a valid question. After all, it’s pretty enough. Gentle vocal (and some unexpected ventures into the bass range). Light, unobtrusive strings. A 5-note riff on the keyboard after the chorus,
stolen from Dennis DeYoung’s “Babe,” (update: reader Jhensy has pointed out that “Babe” came out after this single, so if anything, DeYoung is the dirty thief) that is guaranteed to become an earworm (or, near the end of the song, a buzzing fly). I don’t quite get the bluesy keyboard riffing at the end, but I’ll forgive it.
My problem is this.
Think of the songs you know that mention “going crazy” somehow in the title. I came up with “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, “I Go Crazy” by Queen (a b-side, but I’m a big Queen fan) and of course, who could forget the classic “Goin’ Crazy!” by David Lee Roth? (all of us, apparently.)
But here’s my point. All of these songs that mention going crazy have a sound reminiscent of someone perhaps, oh, I don’t know…going crazy. Not Paul Davis, however.
Here. Just for the hell of it, here’s a crude mashup of the four tracks. Excuse the sonic quality; I’m trying to prove a point. Tell me if one of these things is not like the others.
At no point in “I Go Crazy” does Paul Davis actually sound like he’s really going crazy. Going Introspective? Maybe. Going Doubtful and Inquisitive? Sure. But we all know what this song should have been called. It should have been called “I Go Mellow.”
If Paul Davis is indeed going crazy when he looks in her eyes, then my friends, it’s the wussiest kind of crazy there could ever be. And that’s why it’s in the mines of Mellow Gold.
So listen back to those vocals. If you don’t already know what Paul Davis looks like, get an image in your head.
Motherfucker looks like Gregg Allman! This guy should be … I don’t know. Ripping a mean guitar solo? Smoking dope? Having his way with women? And instead, he’s approaching them gently, and giving them the message that he’d like to love them just a little bit, and if they’re not happy with it,
then TOO DAMN BAD, WOMAN then it’s okay, they can leave, they don’t have to stay. He doesn’t want to offend anyone. (Looks down at the ground, shyly, shuffles his feet)
Which brings us to song #2.
Paul Davis – Cool Night (download)
I ask you this: do they get any smoother? Any more mellow? I seriously don’t think it’s possible.
Like “I Go Crazy,” this song is actually quite pretty. Gentle, unobtrusive backing vocals. This one actually has a drum beat to it, which means that it’s considered a Paul Davis “rock” song, I suppose. There are two main differences between “I Go Crazy” and “Cool Night,” however: the first difference is that “Cool Night” sounds exactly like you’d expect it to sound. Unlike track 1, we’re not expecting Paul Davis to go batshit insane on a song called “Cool Night.”
The other difference happens at 2:33. Paul Davis actually does go a little crazy. He lets his Gregg Allman-esque hair down and does something truly ballsy: KEY CHANGE!
I love the key change. When I sing this song to myself, I never have the patience to get to the chorus after the guitar solo. I always do the key change right away. That’s how much I love the key change.
My buddy Mike sums up the emotion behind many of the Mellow Gold hits:
“I love you so much that I will never bother you again” or “come on baby, just allow me to be in your beatific presence and I will not even think of putting any kind of sexual move on you. I promise.”
That’s “Cool Night” in a nutshell. “If it don’t feel right, you can go.” I almost can’t believe he’s making the statement. A guy who looks like that? Come ON! I keep wondering if it’s a Jedi mind trick of some sort. Does the woman stay? Does she leave him to go find the guy from Firefall? (Whoa!) It’s a mystery, friends. A cool, mellow mystery.
I was going to end this post after two songs, but what the hell. Paul Davis had one more Mellow Gold hit in the ’80s.
Paul Davis – ’65 Love Affair (download)
Or as I like to call it, “The Boy From New York City.” I mean, come on. Right from the first few notes, I heard the similarities – and this was before the “doo-wop didddy-wop-diddy-wop doo” bit. Hmmm…the keyboard part in “I Go Crazy,” and now this…is Paul Davis pulling a Robbie Dupree?
If “Cool Night” was considered Paul Davis’ “rock sound,” “’65 Love Affair” features him firmly ensconsed in the “speed metal” phase of his career. Could we have done something about those drums? How about that awful 2-beat hit that’s supposed to sound like clapping or…something?
I’m not saying that Davis didn’t do a semi-respectable job of resurrecting the golden-oldie soul sound. However, the lyrics leave
a little tons to be desired: “Well I asked you like a dum-dum/You were bad with your pom-poms/You said, ‘ooh wah go team ooh wah go!’ Ooh-ee baby I want you to know/” And he does mention in the chorus:”’65 love affair, we wasn’t getting nowhere.” I wonder if it’s because he told the girl she could leave if it didn’t feel right?
“I Go Crazy,” “Cool Night,” “’65 Love Affair.” I’m using all of these songs to make a point. That point is this: Paul Davis is a sissy.
I kid, I kid. I give Paul Davis credit, actually: the pop sensibilities of both “’65 Love Affair” and “Cool Night” were a departure from his previous country sound, and Davis was so disgusted with the commercialization of his music that he essentially quit the business altogether. Can you blame him? Look at those “’65 Love Affair” lyrics again. Also, here’s a crazy fact: Paul Davis was shot in 1986…and survived! (No word on whether he was shot by the woman who left because it didn’t feel right.)
Although Paul is no longer with us, we know that up to his death, he lived in Mississippi and liked to fish.
You have to wonder, though: did Paul Davis kill the fish? Did he catch it and tell it that it could go back in the water with the other fishes if it wasn’t happy? When the boat stalled, did he mutter “I Go Crazy?”
Hope you enjoyed this expedition into the Mines of Mellow Gold!