Colorful Artist Names, Great Songs

by Kevin Burton

   This week on Flying Colors it’s the singers and bands with colors in their names, not the songs. 

   So there is a mixture of colors here and some of the best examples of Soul, Rock and Disco music.

   Went looking for a bonus track from a colorful source and found a tidy little picture of America.

   The song is “Love Songs,” by the American duo Fleming and John. The John in the band is John Mark Painter, that’s the colorful part.

    The ain’t that America part is the lyric, “Paint me a picture with images blurred so I can see what I want to see.” 

   OK, here’s an assortment of colorful acts and some of their best songs:

   8 “This Love,” by Maroon 5. In the early 2000s I asked a friend what new artists I would like, based on my old-school music preferences. The best two are John Mayer and Maroon 5.  This song is about frontman Adam Levine’s breakup with a former girlfriend. There is something very cool about Levine’s soaring but hesitating delivery.

   7 “Shake Your Groove Thing,” by Peaches and Herb. Producer Freddie Perren co-wrote “I Want You Back,” “The Love You Save” and “ABC” for the Jackson 5 while at Motown, according to www.songfacts.com.  His work with Peaches and Herb created a disco standard.

   Those who don’t think peach is a color consider: the “Peaches” who sang on this tune is named Linda Greene.

   6   “Couldn’t Get It Right,” by Climax Blues Band.  Trying to write a radio-friendly hit in 1976, the band got it right.  The song is about being on the road in America.  The radio loved it all the way to number three. I will always remember it for the sublime lyric, “I nearly died from hospitality.”

   5 “Katmandu,” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.  Kathmandu is the largest city in Nepal. Seger spelled his song title without an h. This is the perfect screamer song for him.  I missed a Wichita State basketball game in the VanVleet/Baker era to see them in concert. That’s my tribute.  Who’s got a better horn section than the Silver Bullet Band? 

   4 “Smoke On The Water,” by Deep Purple. Ritchie Blackmore’s electric Stratocaster guitar is all you really need to know about this early 70s rocker. But there is an actual story here, about the day part of an entertainment complex in Switzerland burned down. Where did Blackmore get his iconic guitar riff?  It’s based on a part of Beethoven Symphony.   

   3 “Let’s Stay Together,” by Al Green.  If you are trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll and you need a definition for Soul music groove, just play Let’s Stay Together. Green is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and an ordained minister with 11 Grammy awards. But his 1972 chart topper is his signature song.

   Short notes before the top two:

   Thumbs up: “Babylon,” by David Gray. This is the best-selling single of the British singer-songwriter. Didn’t crack the American Top 40 but was number 5 UK in 1999. Gray attended the Liverpool School of Art, as did John Lennon. 

   Thumbs up: “Hook,” by Blues Traveler.  John Popper’s musical revolt against catchy but meaningless songs propagated on the public by the music industry. Spoken like a true artist.

   Bonus Track: “Love Songs,” by the American duo Fleming and John.

   Now, the top two songs by colorful acts:

2    “Radar Love,” by Golden Earring.  This song about non-verbal communication is nevertheless a sonic masterpiece.  It’s got all the elements of rock and roll, a reference to Brenda Lee notwithstanding. The driving baseline puts the musical pedal to the metal. Jim Beviglia on americansongwriter.com calls it “the song most likely to inspire a speeding ticket.”

1   “Running On Empty,” by Jackson Browne.  Admittedly some rock and roll can be mocked as loo loud and tuneless. But with “Running On Empty” you have the perfect example of rock as an art form.  As poetry this song surpasses Bob Dylan because the message is near universal and easy to understand.  You don’t have to be cutting edge to get it, you just have to be self-aware and honest.

    Any Pink Floyd or Black Sabbath fans think I left out the best tunes by bands with colorful names?  Make the case in comments below. 

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