Hi everyone! Listen, I get it: I need to listen to ELO. Thanks for all the tips – and for enduring last week’s suckfest of Olivia and Cliff. I think this week’s a little better, but I’ll let you be the judge, as we dive into this week’s edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!
Pure Prairie League – Let Me Love You Tonight (download)
Remember “Let Me Love You Tonight?” I don’t think it’s ever been suggested by anybody, and I certainly wouldn’t have thought of it off the top of my head – but one day, it just magically appeared on my iPod, and from the second it began, I knew we had a Mellow gem on our hands. But first, the questions on everyone’s mind:
1) Who were The Pure Prairie League?
2) What were their dreams and ambitions?
3) Is Jefito back yet?
4) This sucks. (Not technically a question, but you can’t deny it’s on your mind.)
If you want quick answers so you can go about your day, here you go: 1) A bunch of putzes with guitars, 2) to get laid, 3) no, and why does everybody keep asking me this, and 4) I agree, and I’m the one writing it. But you might as well stick around, since I’m going to write about Pure Prairie League whether you like it or not.
Here at ATTMOMG (first time I’ve acronym-ed that, y’all), we often mourn the loss of the good ol’ days, back when relations between artists and record labels were based on more than just the bottom line. Pure Prairie League is another band that reminds us of a sweeter time; “Let Me Love You Tonight,” the band’s most successful hit, was on their ninth record. The band formed in Ohio in 1969, and, after building a strong following in bars around the Columbus area, were signed to RCA Records a year later. Now, I’m not saying that the record execs were saints; they gave PPL a fightin’ chance, but after two albums and nary a success on the charts, the group was dropped by their label.
Other bands might have quit while they were behind, but Pure Prairie League went back to basics, and continued to perform constantly wherever they could land gigs, usually in the Midwest. Their dedication paid off: after two years of constant touring and promotion, radio stations went back to album #2, Bustin’ Out, and began playing a track entitled “Amie.”
A quick word about this song: while “Let Me Love You Tonight” was certainly the band’s most successful hit, it’s probably not their best-known; “Amie” gets that honor. This tune, despite being primarily acoustic and full of delicious backing vocals, is not Mellow Gold, so we can’t cover it here. However, the song is fantastic that I think it’d be a crime to deprive people of it.
Pure Prairie League – Amie (bonus download)
Pretty tune, right? Plenty of people felt the same way – enough, in fact, that RCA re-signed Pure Prairie League. They re-released Bustin’ Out, which hit the Top 40 and went gold, and “Amie,” which also made the Top 40. (Never mind that the song’s lead singer, Craig Fuller, was no longer in the band – a long story that involves some dubious claims in order to avoid going to Vietnam.)
The success was short-lived, however, and it wasn’t long before Pure Prairie League were once again wondering if they were going to be able to make it through the lows, not to mention the oft-shifting band personnel.
Enter this guy.
Doesn’t look familiar? How about now:
Still no? What’s wrong with you people?
I’m guessing not a lot of people know what Vince Gill looks like, ’cause when I searched for his image, I found a whole bunch with his name included. But anyway, Gill showed up at Pure Prairie League auditions in 1978. He wasn’t planning on trying out – he had just shown up with a friend – but he wound up jamming, and the chemistry was…well, I guess it was good enough to join Pure Prairie League, whatever that’s worth, I dunno.
PPL with Vince Gill. Five guys, five shitty haircuts.
Dr. Hook could only hope to look so good.
With Gill on lead vocals, the stage was set for mellow goodness. However, before the magic happened, the band had one more task to complete: another unsuccessful album. (One would argue that the group was on a roll.) This time, they left RCA for good. And oddly enough, you know who picked them up? Casablanca Records. Yup, home of Donna Summer and The Village People. I mean, yeah, PPL wore lame outfits and had no taste in barbers, but still, did they deserve to be put on the same level as The Village People?
Anyway, Casablanca was where they released album #9, Firin’ Up. And finally – FINALLY! – we get to talk about “Let Me Love You Tonight.” First, you’ve got your title. Mellow is the band that essentially asks permission before loving. We’re not even talking about knocking boots, here. We’re talking about cuddling. C’mon, guys, even Dr. Hook’s looking more manly than you! One has to wonder who rejected the original title, “Um, Pardon Me For Interrupting Your Lunch, But If You’re Not Terribly Busy Later On, Perhaps I Could, Oh, I Don’t Know, Love You Tonight, Pretty Please?” The rest of the lyrics are pretty damn simplistic. The band realized that the chorus, with its Eagles-esque harmonies, was the best part of the song; if they had their way, chances are this number would consist of “let me love you tonight” over and over again. But you have to have verses, and so I guess the tactic was to just write whatever rhymed until we heard that music chorus again. They even wrote a bridge.
When the moon has forgotten what the night’s about
And the stars can’t work their places out
Hold me tighter than tight
When the daylight comes, it’ll be all right
What the fuck is he talking about? I’ve seen refrigerator poetry better than this crap. And yet, he’s asking the woman to hold him. This just in: Vince Gill has no nads.
So you’ve got your mellow lyrics. You’ve got your mellow harmonies. You’ve also got a sweet bassline and lots of piano. But what’s the mellowest of the mellow on this song? The saxophone! Oh god, the saxophone. It’s pissing all over this track. I actually listened, and there are only 19 consecutive seconds of saxophone-free music. Who the hell can’t put down the sax for more than 20 goddamn seconds?
Curses! It’s David Sanborn! I should have known! You know, earlier in his career, Sanborn was playing with Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones. Later on, he fell into a dark life of smooth jazz. Could it be? Could the smooth stylings of Vince Gill, Pure Prairie League and “Let Me Love You Tonight” have led Sanborn down this tragic road? We may never know, but I’m going to blame them anyway.
In all seriousness, “Let Me Love You Tonight” is perfect Mellow Gold. It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s rather wimpy both in musicality and sentiment, and it has way too much saxophone. What more could you want?
Gill left Pure Prairie League after – you guessed it – another unsuccessful album, which seemed just as well, as Casablanca Records bit the dust. Pure Prairie League essentially split up in 1987, but have reformed in recent years. In fact, if you really want, you can see them with a number of other MG bands: Poco, Firefall, and even Orleans! Just check their tour page and take your pick of venues: state fairs, aboretums, bars or even Renaissance Festivals. Pure Prairie League are still out there for your mellow pleasure.
Enjoy the two PPL tracks and we’ll see you next week for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!