“Into the Ear of Madness (The Intro)”

Yup, that’s me. And my iPod. And David Foster. Everyone knows David Foster, right? The penultimate overproducer. The musician. The songwriter. The record executive. The TV reality star? Yes, indeed. The Canadian who alienated millions of rock fans with his supercommercial reinvention of bands like Chicago and the Tubes in the 1980s and the man who brought us Celine Dion, Josh Groban, and John Parr — or, as one blogger eloquently put it, “the least likely person on earth to undergo an ironic hipster resurgence.” Well, let’s give it a shot then, shan’t we?

David Foster was my hero throughout adolescence. I had an unabashed love for romantic ballads, dramatic key changes, and all kinds of e-piano-flavoured 1980s goodness. I’ve never been afraid to admit it, even though my tastes have expanded over the years.

I recently discussed my faded affection for the king of soft pop with Jeff, our Popdose editor, and here’s the deal we made: over the next year I will listen to nothing but David Foster on my iPod. I’ve loaded the thing with over 1,200 songs produced, arranged, composed, and/or played by David Foster. I cannot remove any of the tracks, and I can only add new tracks if they’re somehow related to David Foster. A deal with the devil? I keep wondering.

I’ve agreed to share my experience with all of you right here on Popdose. Will it really turn out to be a journey “into the ear of madness”? Will I grow to hate the sight of my iPod? Will the series be axed after a week due to serious displays of aggravation from Popdose readers? Time will tell.

Just for the record: No, I have not lost a bet. I’m not being punished by anyone. And as far as I know my faculties are intact — so far.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really want it to happen like this. I wanted to do it over the course of a weekend — like, 80 sleepless hours with David Foster. A whole year with nothing but David Foster on my iPod seems to be a bit over the top, even for my tastes. But Jeff wouldn’t have it any other way. And who am I to raise my voice against Jeff Almighty of Popdose? No, you’re right, I had to oblige.

Skylark c. 1972

Skylark. David Foster in the middle, Donny Gerrard on the far right.

Skylark — “Wildflower,” from Skylark (1972)

We start off with Foster’s first hit, a ballad (shocker!) Well, actually, he didn’t really write it. And Dave Richardson, the lyricist, says that Foster, though the bandleader, was very democratic about everything, and he kindly stepped back on this tune, claiming it would sound better without the keys. Foster — the minimalist. What a way to start the series! And what a long way we have to go!

Anyway, so Foster didn’t play much on it. He didn’t produce it. That honor goes to Eirik the Norwegian, or Eirik Wangberg, who collaborated frequently with Paul McCartney at the time (so that’s what vikings did in 1972). At this point Foster, 22, was still three years removed from his first co-production — Bruce Miller’s “Rude Awakening” in 1975.

But let’s be fair, Skylark was Foster’s band — he probably fitted in those Mellotron synths at the end (he couldn’t help himself, after all), and I’m sure he did the string arrangement, too. And I can definitely hear his voice on the background vocals.

His first wife, Bonnie Jean Cook, was a member of the band as well, along with Donny Gerrard, who sings on “Wildflower” and collaborated with Foster later on. We’ll get back to all that in good time. Ah, we’re rolling! This feels good.