“You're afraid to lose your cover
Afraid to bare your soul
Like an Alfred Hitchcock lover
Who slowly goes out of control”
Music fans are continuously bombarded with simple pop or rock and roll songs with catchy hooks born of limited thought and offering little insight - Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Keeping it simple
Most people aren’t looking for wisdom and introspection when they listen to pop or rock music. They’re looking for escape and distraction from the everyday. Simple songs provide the much needed outlet. They don’t change your overall outlook on the world, but they can get you pumped up and distract you from otherwise mundane situations in life.
Some of the best rock songs follow this simple format - songs like “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen and “Gloria” by Van Morrison and Them have carved a place in rock and roll history despite their simplicity.
Click here to listen to “Louie Louie.”
Click here to listen to “Gloria.”
Humorist and occasional amateur musician Dave Barry wrote in a column titled “Glory Days” that “Gloria” was so easy to play, you could “throw a guitar off a cliff, and as it bounces off rocks on the way down, it will, all by itself, play ‘Gloria.’” The simplicity of rocks songs like “Gloria” adds to their primal appeal and provides the everyman aspect to rock and roll - the idea that anybody can do it if you have the guts and the nerve to stand on a stage in front of strangers and bare your soul, even if only superficially.
Despite the important place they hold, you can’t survive on a diet of simple songs alone.
You also want to hear songs that strive for more depth and understanding about life and the human condition. You want to listen to songs that see the world you see, but through different eyes. When this type of song is done right, it can often contribute as much, if not more to the musical landscape than the simpler tunes and still rock your soul.
“Letter to L.A.” by Texas singer/songwriter Joe Ely is one of these songs.
Letter to L.A.
If you’ve lived in or visited a big city and felt alone, this song was written to you. If you’ve ever been in a relationship where you’ve felt alone, this song was written to you.
In a 2006 Los Angeles Times article by Geoff Boucher, Ely said he was inspired to write “Letter to L.A.” as he walked along Sunset Boulevard one night. He was feeling alone in the big city with all of its superficial and meaningless shine and glamour. At the time, he was in an unsatisfying relationship. With his personal life in disorder, he wrote “Letter to L.A.” which he said was “about a person but also about a place.”
In "Letter to L.A.," Ely personifies the unsympathetic city as a lover and objectifies the lover as a callous city and compares the two in an effort to work through the pain and the isolation he was suffering at the time. “Letter to L.A.” could have easily been another love gone wrong, melodramatic musical plea for pity. However, instead of wallowing in past misery, Ely charges ahead in blaze of guitar and vivid imagery painting an ominous picture of the “City of Angels” and a love gone awry. He peels back the surface layer of both “Tinsel Town” and relationships to expose the ugliness that exists in the shadows of both.
Despite the isolation and pain that inspired the song, “Letter to L.A.” is not an invitation to drown your sorrows in alcohol and get mired in regret. It’s a call to take note of your losses, tuck them away for reference, and move on to better locales, figuratively and maybe even literally if necessary. It is a rock and roll letter written directly to your soul. And Baby, Baby that’s alright.
Click here to listen to part 1 of “Letter to L.A”
Click here to listen to part 2 of “Letter to L.A.”
To learn more about Joe Ely visit his Web site
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