Into the Ear of Madness: Week 7 — 152 bpm, the Tubes, and Airplay

Written by Into the Ear of Madness, Music

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Over the next year Terje Fjelde has agreed to listen to nothing but David Foster on his iPod. He’s loaded the thing with over 1,200 songs produced, arranged, composed, and/or played by David Foster. A deal with the devil? He keeps wondering.

One of the more practical difficulties that I’ve encountered during this project is that I’m desperately dependent on my iPod when I’m working out and running. And if you know anything about David Foster, it’s probably that he’s not famous for his killer grooves and up-tempo stuff. But I can’t very well run to the rhythm of “You’re the Inspiration” or “I Will Always Love,” now can I?

I’m a pretty casual runner, but I like to keep a steady rhythm, and I need to keep it somewhere between 150 and 152 beats per minute to be comfortable. Usually my playlist consists of fast rock, a la Arcade Fire, We Are Scientists, and the Jam.

With a total of 1,272 David Foster songs now on my iPod, I have the luxury of choosing from four — four! — songs. And after running 40 minutes three times a week in the past six weeks, I’ve been listening to the same songs for a total of 12 hours. Really, I have.

Incidentally, two of them are Tubes-related. The (in this case) aptly titled “No Not Again” is from their 1983 album Outside Inside, the second and last Tubes album to be produced by Foster.

He provided them with their biggest hit in 1983, “She’s a Beauty,” but they chose to return to Todd Rundgren when they set out to record the disastrous Love Bomb in ’85. Rundgren produced Remote Control for the band in ’79, but that was a far superior record to Love Bomb, which tanked, and the Tubes disbanded shortly after its release. Predictably, they reunited in the mid-’90s with four of the original members and a new keyboardist.

Tubes frontman Fee Waybill: “[David Foster] is the best producer I’ve ever worked with. Todd, in my opinion, didn’t hold a candle to David. David’s a genius. He completely changed the whole deal for the Tubes. He wouldn’t stand for anything but perfection. Because of that, he kind of alienated some of the band members. Pride got in the way.”

Hmm … “pride got in the way.” I wonder why that sounds familiar?

“We went back to Todd and did Love Bomb, and it was a complete, end-of-career disaster,” Waybill says. “We sold no records. The label dropped us. Our manager dropped us. Our booking agent dropped us. We lost a fortune, and that was it.”

In 1984 Waybill released a solo album produced by Foster. “You’re Still Laughing” is my second 152 bpm track and it’s very similar to “No Not Again.”

Nice. Jay Graydon, David Foster and an air plane in 1980

Nice! Jay Graydon and David Foster in 1980. My final two workout songs are 1980’s “Stranded” and “Leave Me Alone,” by Airplay, Foster’s band project with Jay Graydon and singer Tommy Funderburk, the last time I’m aware of Foster actually playing in a band. He was in a couple of bands throughout the ’70s such as Skylark, the Dark Horse Band, and Airplay, but he apparently cast aside all such aspirations when his success as a producer and songwriter grew in the early ’80s.

But he still tried to make it as a solo artist in the ’80s. Chicago’s Robert Lamm, from an interview conducted sometime in the ’90s: “David Foster badly, still to this day, badly wants to be an artist and he’ll never be an artist. So what he does is he makes records using artists so that, you know, what he does can shine through using the artists as a synthesizer if you will.” Ouch — he’s kind of mean, isn’t he? Hurt pride?

Listen to “Stranded.” I think it was Jay Graydon who once said that the Airplay album was a bit overproduced, and that listeners probably didn’t understand what hit them until track 8 on the disc. Well, he’s not exaggerating, but I love that album despite that, and the fact that it sometimes sounds like a 1980 Coca-Cola commercial. Maybe that’s part of why I love it. Old Coca-Cola commercials make me feel nostalgic.

But seriously, I can’t listen to these same four songs for a year. And I really, really need music when I’m working out, there’s no other option. I’m actually considering setting up a new playlist consisting of songs at half speed with a steady beat (75-76 bpm), running at two steps per beat. Which means I’ll be working out to Celine Dion’s “Tell Him” and Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love”! Maybe I should put together a David Foster remix and add disco rhythms to some of his ballads? Or re-record my LPs at 45 rpm? I have to think this over.

I’ll probably let you know how it works out.