Welcome back to another Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! It’s frickin’ freezing outside here in NY, and I’m tired of it. I was going to save today’s track for a warmer month, but I need a little summer right now. And so do you. I’ve decided.
Jay Ferguson – Thunder Island (download)
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, my wussies!
“Thunder Island” has been recommended a few times here, and I can tell from other comments on the web that this is one of those well-loved summer tracks from the late ’70s. And with good reason! “Thunder Island” is a Mellow Gold gem in the same vein as songs like “Chevy Van” – ones where the protagonist doesn’t wind up sitting at home, quietly crying himself to sleep while clutching a teddy bear and a pint of Chubby Hubby, but instead actually gets the girl – and totally nails her!
First, of course, a little about Mr. Ferguson.
I’m whacking the shit out of the next person who mocks my shirt!
Jay Ferguson was a grew up in California and found his musical calling at a young age, learning the piano, banjo and drums and utilizing these skills in a number of bands – mostly garage bands, although he did form a bluegrass group at an early age with his brother Tom. His first successful band was formed after an afternoon love-in at Griffith Park.
Named Spirit, the group had a psychedelic sound (did the love-in give it away?) but also included elements of jazz and hard rock. The band had modest success, and a couple of Top 40 hits, but Ferguson left in the early ’70s to form Jo Jo Gunne with Spirit bassist Mark Andes. Jo Jo Gunne had a couple of hits as well, but Andes left to join a little wussy band named Firefall, and after a few more member changes, Ferguson embarked on a solo career. His first solo album was entitled All Alone In The End Zone.
The album wasn’t much of a success, but his follow-up Thunder Island – was a biggie. Produced by Bill
Symsczk Szzymzyck Sczczczcz Szymczyk (as was the first), the title track reached #9 and brought both Ferguson and the album strong success. Ferguson did have other minor hits (most notably a song entitled “Shakedown Cruise”), but he never matched the success of “Thunder Island.”
We get it! You like showing off your chest! Now button up! And shave your moustache!
Look at his left hand next to the bushes: kinda looks like Wolverine, no?
Musically, this song is tons o’ fun: strong piano and drums, with a bass run at the end of each phrase that I’m pretty sure was timed to match up with pelvic thrusts on the beach. The backing vocals are joyful – the kind you can’t help but sing at the top of your lungs in a convertible (if you’re still in 1978, of course). And if the slide guitar sounds familiar, you can thank Joe Walsh, who guested on a number of Ferguson songs, including “Thunder Island.” Don’t go looking for any examples of musical mastery here; it’s not like we’re dealing with tricky bridges or endless chord changes like in “Never Gonna Let You Go.” Nope, this song is as simple as they come – but what more do you need, really?
And these lyrics – well, to start: I’m sure you’ll agree with me that nothing says humpin’ in the summer like Du Du De-Dit, Du De-Dit, Du De-Dit, Du Du Du Dit Du, right? Right. As we already know, there’s nothing more Mellow Gold than calling your female companion your “woman” or “lady.” I don’t know what the hell Ferguson means by “Sha-la-la-la-la-la, m’lady,” but it doesn’t matter. He’s stickin’ it to her and she’s not complaining. In fact, through the lyrics, Ferguson tells a fun story about this wonderful romp with his lady – “a summer’s day laughin and a-hidin’, chasin’ love out on Thunder Island.” I don’t think I need to tell you what he was a-hidin’. Huh? Huh?!?
But, of course, the wonderful days didn’t last. No, the sad truth is that one day – I’m choking up as I recount this story – it rained. Yup. They were “caught by the rain and blinded by the lightnin’.” And then she got struck by lightning and burned to a little crisp. No, I’m kidding. They rode out the storm. And then…yes. You guessed it. They went back to humpin’ around.
If any of these edge-of-your-seat plot points seem unfamiliar to you, I’m guessing it’s because you tuned out after the Du De-Dits and Sha-la-las. And that’s perfectly okay. Let’s face it, a song like this gets its point across within the first ten seconds. Here’s an appropriate comparison: remember “Make Me Lose Control” by Eric Carmen? Pretty much the same song. You remember the chorus – “turn the radio up for that sweet sound” etc – but you’d be hard-pressed to remember any of the lyrics in the verses. Again – totally fine. You’re enjoying both for the way they made you feel during the summer that you heard them. (Nevermind that “Thunder Island” hit the Top 10 in April.)
So where IS this magical Thunder Island, anyway? Maybe it’s this Thunder Island, located in beautiful Fulton, NY:
Let’s all hope this is not the paradise of which Jay Ferguson was speaking. (And it it just me, or is Tubby talking on his cell phone while presumably being sucked down a drain of some sort?)
No, that’s not it. I know! He was referring to a place where you can buy some cheap bitches! Or maybe the state you’re in when you have some really fine coffee! Actually, if it were anywhere, it’d probably be here, right? After all, the song is quoted right there on their homepage. But Jay Ferguson isn’t Canadian (although there is a Canadian musician named Jay Ferguson, but that’s another story). The truth is, according to Ferguson, that “Thunder Island is an invention, with the idea that everyone is invited to fill in their own Thunder Island – real or imagined. My personal Thunder Island experience involved meeting the girl I later married….I was in a very erotic state of mind when I wrote that.”
Wanna see a great video? Here’s Ferguson performing “Thunder Island” in Japan, 1979. I’m not going to spoil it, but suffice to say that at around 4:00, he breaks out the big guns.
So what’s Jay Ferguson up to lately? Well, after releasing his final album in 1982, Ferguson opted to focus on composing music for television and films. He worked on the scores for movies such as License To Drive, Johnny Be Good, Tremors 2: Aftershocks, and even contributed the song “Pictures Of You” to the soundtrack for The Terminator. (Hey, Jefito…Lost Soundtrack Classic? Call me.) Chances are that you haven’t heard most of these. However, you might be familiar with the theme song to the US version of “The Office” – that’s all Jay Ferguson, baby!
So if you find that the winter weather’s getting you down, and you need just a bit of summer lovin’ to get you through…this is your track. Enjoy! And see you next week for another episode of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!