by Kevin Burton
That color that falls midway between black and white, the British tend to spell it with an e, the yanks with an a. Ever notice that?
You will see both spellings on this week’s edition of Flying Colors. I will go with the spelling that the artist used.
So graying is aging, in-between thoughts, shading, uncertainty. For that theme, your bonus track is a truly great songwriter song, “Time Passages,” by Al Stewart. “Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight,” he sings. But if “home” is the past and all things familiar, those tickets are not for sale.
If you’re ready now, here’s the gray list:
8 “Girl’s Not Grey,” by AFI. The song, “seems to be about dealing with the feeling of personal loss and sorrow,” says www.songfacts.com, but it’s “wide open to interpretation though, as frontman/lyricist Davey Havoc doesn’t discuss its meaning.”
To me it seems like a speculation on post-death existence. “What follows will swallow whole” is the ending lyric. Well-crafted song.
7 “Grey Lagoons,” by Roxy Music. I want to drop these lyrics off with Donald Fagan or maybe Bob Dylan to interpret. Leave me with the middle part, the pounding keys, the screaming sax, guitar and harmonica solos. I’m not big on extended solos but could listen to this for a while.
6 “Wrapped in Grey,” by XTC. I just found this song and it’s growing on me. If Burt Bacharach wrote a song and abandoned it, then Gilbert O’Sullivan worked on it a little, Wrapped In Grey is what you might get. “Your heart is the big box of paints,’ the song says. “Don’t let the loveless ones sell you a world wrapped in grey.”
5 “Shades of Grey,” by Billy Joel. Those of us who grew up on the literate, piano-driven rebellion of Billy Joel weren’t ready to hear him sing “I’m old and tired of war,” on this track from his final rock album River of Dreams. But it’s a lyric that plays out in many lives.
4 “Touch Of Grey,” by The Grateful Dead. Nobody has ever reminisced with me about a grateful Dead tune, album or concert. This is a ghost band for me. “We will get by” is the song’s wishful-thinking mantra. It’s very tuneful, with a feel-good 60s groove.
And just open your eyes, the evidence is all around, people getting by. People always get by, until such time as they don’t.
3 “Grey Seal,” by Elton John. Here’s an Elton John song you can’t understand even with a lyric sheet.
“Elton John’s lyricist Bernie Taupin said it’s one of the songs with lyrics he never really understood but somehow work,” writes www.songfacts.com. “The wise grey seal is a mystery even to him.”
“Elton called it ‘Procol Harum-ish absurd, like a Dali painting.’”
A few research notes before the top two:
Thumbs down: “Grey Matter,” by An Emotional Fish. “I drilled a hole in my head to let the sunshine through,” the song says. Stupid lyrics but the music is good. What we need is an instrumental version.
Thumbs Down: “All Cats Are Grey,” by The Cure. If there is some deep lesson to be had here, try dressing it up in something more musically interesting.
Bonus track: the sublime “Time Passages,” by Al Stewart.
OK, on to the heights of grayness:
2 “Fields of Gray,” by Bruce Hornsby. His approach on this reminds me of Sam Cooke. This is Hornsby without backing band The Range. Hornsby wrote this song of comfort and devotion for his twin sons. The lyrics resonate in the pandemic.
“There’ll be blue skies falling. There’ll be sad scenes and bad dreams in a world so uncertain. Through the clouds it’s hard to see. I will grab you and lift you as you hold on tight and sway. We’ll go walking across the fields of gray.”
1“Thank God And Greyhound,” by Roy Clark. There’s beauty in diesel exhaust fumes, just ask Roy Clark, who sang “thank God and Greyhound you’re gone.” This song is hilarious! I’ve spent my share of hours creeping around the Midwest in Greyhounds. I don’t miss those busses just as the singer didn’t miss this woman.
Wow, what are the odds Roy Clark tops any list of mine? You just never know. But if I missed any great gray songs, let me know in comments below.