Eric Carmen

eric carmen

All By Myself

By Tony Hidalgo

So I am a single man, never married, already forty-five years old, getting older by the minute. Yellow flags are going up in your head. I know. Presumably as a means of flattery, my good friend, slightly younger, slightly more married, with plenty of kids, asked me for his blog series to write about a song from “my time”, a song for me to muse upon, “All By Myself”. Sure, that’s a nice one for me. I am perhaps less flattered than the jazz-loving leper in his writing group he had reflect on Kenny Loggins’s Footloose and less charmed than the pretty fourth-grader he had wax lyrical on Only the Good Die Young between treatments in the oncology wing. Still, I should feel honored.

This is one of those songs that goes on for-EVER. I remember that. I can hear the singer. It was Nilsson or O’Sullivan. No, it was Eric Carmen, formerly of the Raspberries. I visualize him on the high-contrast album sleeve, pouting, or on the fuzzy Panasonic set, lip synching (it was accepted then). I can still see his open shirt, his smushed facial features with a huge coif cherry on top, a bouffant so baroque you would expect to see it on a bust in the back of a woman’s wig shop, accumulating dust more than admiring glances. Yep, way too long. I think why I recall the record’s epic length is the false fade of a verse where you think it’s finally over, followed suddenly with more drums and that maudlin chorus all over again. If you’ve never heard it, you have missed out. But you ought to thank me for the well-arranged, bombastic schmaltz I have saved you from. You really should.

In its demure, seven-minute run time, there is slack between sad-sack confessions of “all by myself” for an instrumental interlude. How about two? I always thought there was something cutting-room Beatles in this recording. Was it the seventies-era McCartney Tony Quote 1lyrical cheese? No, it was this first interlude at 1:50, the bridge with the pleasant slide guitar solo which you hope only sounds like George Harrison making a little session money. I’ll look it up later. A chorus more and at 2:54 you are confusingly entering another, grossly longer interlude which transports you this time into the Romantic era of piano, tinkling like Rachmaninoff never would, then weaving in wispy violins to try to jerk the tears out of your lonesome self one last time. Apparently the Sergei similarity I noticed is worth 12% royalties. If you need to take a nap during the song, this is the time to do it. You have two and a half minutes. Make a sandwich, brew some iced tea, then return after the pregnant pause for those slow drum taps ushering in the sweeping chorus of agony again. It’s a beautiful thing. If you hear the song in your vehicle, you’re really not respecting Eric Carmen’s memory. The radio edit crushes the histrionic voyage down to a flimsy travel guide, a 4:22, 7-inch butchering better laid to rest between drinks and tabletops. I’ve just learned Eric Carmen is alive. So that’s nice.

You can watch the song if you like. YouTube is littered with jittery videos from ’76 of Carmen in aforementioned “do” and wide-open collar behind the scuffed baby grand of a long-forgotten variety show, brooding at a fixed mike, crawling through, one chorus at a time. Before seeing it in close up, I didn’t realize how much his lower lip and underbite eric carmen 2played into how he belts out the aforementioned “by” and “my-“. He looks too young and famous to be so blue. And those audiences. Reverse shot. It’s not exactly a song they can rock their heads to. They just sit there, glassy-eyed, largely inanimate, as most Eric Carmen fans must be, like mannequins waiting for someone to put that wig on them. They can’t even be fans. This is the general lot who wanted to get into a variety show taping. Hey, there’s that slide guitar. And the beefy dude in the green suede jacket playing it doesn’t look a thing like George Harrison. The videos are full of such subverted expectations. The microphone isn’t even a dummy. It really works. In another video, on Bandstand, Dick Clark has our hero at the extreme, pantomiming and unzipped to the navel. I am redeemed but subverted again!

You can buy this song if you want. I don’t think anyone does that anymore. Buy music, I mean. But if you did, it comes in a package called “The Essential Eric Carmen”. I would not call this Tear Fest “essential” to anyone–well maybe you if you’re the kind that stays at home alone Saturday nights and you are wont to don over-the-ear Sennheisers whileTony Quote 2 dreaming up ways to romantically die. Why? ‘Cause the love of your life really doesn’t care for you. You don’t know that either because you never told her how you feel. She doesn’t really know you. The evening news has finished. Perhaps it is “essential” to this guy’s memory. I can’t imagine any other song in that collection. You are lying on the rug with a curly cable nudging your ribs and those bulky cans gripping your head and shedding sponge. You are soaking it in. You watch the title counter tick up to its ethereal 7:15, blubbering in private with quiet dignity. You’re not even dressed well. Tom-tom drums are stomping up. Violins are sailing in. The best work of this singer-songwriter is floating repeatedly into your ears and the Essential Eric Carmen is an EP of one song and you’re not even sleepy.

I guess what I am saying is that you are missing out if you don’t know the music of when I grew up, the music my friend Andy seems to think resonates with me. “All by Myself” is blessed with nice chords. But it has its flaws. Its lyrics are too simple when you read them. Its orchestration is too ambitious for its modest writing. It may, like a gastrointestinal incident, make you want to walk out of the room for a bit. But it will provide you something that the current, snide song factory cannot: a glimpse of a lost age–a soft, eric carmen 3yearning style of love song retired in English-speaking nations and a crooner whose best hair days are behind us but whose melodious, melancholic machinations refuse to leave your belfry. They transcend quality and haunt us uncomfortably. The sadness and loss shamelessly evoked through bathos repercuss within a tender side of us which we never show the crowd. So if you’ve never heard it and no one is looking, sample this ready-made recipe on the shelf. Open your heart to this track written and recorded by little Eric Carmen of Cleveland, Ohio. And if someone unexpectedly walks in while it’s on, someone who was born decades after the song came out, hopefully they will weep with you. If such newbie instead starts smirking, resist the urge to blush or unplug. Instead, toggle to a confident irony. And if you can’t pull off ironic like a pro for a few seconds, then hand this unannounced guest a home-brewed drink and politely tell her that you’ve just murdered someone. You will be in the clear. Cheers, aeons too late, to dear Eric, Sergei (verse melody), and George (yeah, he had nothing to do with it).

Eric Carmen’s Official Website

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Eric Carmen

A Playlist for the Burned

By Dave Meyer

Every week MEDICINE I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED features a piece of writing inspired by a particular piece of music. This week Dave Meyer remembers a rocky love affair set to a playlist in his mind.

1. The Doors, “L.A. Woman”

City at night…
City at night…

We met at night. We drove up to the top of the hills. The city was laid out before us like a glittering blanket and we thought we owned the future.

Sometimes when you’re new in love you think you are above it all.

2. New York Dolls, “Puss ‘n’ Boots”

And now you’re walking like you’re ten feet tall…
Just like Puss ‘n’ Boots
I hope you don’t get shot for tryin’

Should have taken the song (a favorite of hers) as a warning. I knew I was dressing up. I knew she was slumming.

3. Roy Orbison, “You Got It”

Sometimes obsession dresses up as love.

4. Radiohead, “All I Need”

I’m a moth
Trying to share your light.

I began to sense that she needed me as much as I needed her. Every time we struggled to get away from each other we fell back into flames.

5. The Velvet Underground, “Heroin”

I’ve made a big decision
I’m gonna try to nullify my life

We canceled each other out. Passion was a yearning for oblivion.

6. Aphex Twin, “Come to Daddy”

Life became a fever dream and I an emaciated thing hiding in shadows. Unloveable in a hall of mirrors. Drowning in each other.

7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “The Mercy Seat”

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I’m yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth
An eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth

8. The Beatles, “A Day in the Life”

The cacophony builds and builds until it’s unbearable. Until you can’t hear yourself think. And even when you think it can’t possibly get any worse, it does.

Until you hit that final chord. And suddenly it’s over, and there’s irony, and sweetness. And relief.

9. Glen Campbell, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”

She just didn’t know
I would really go.

Gentle guitars, and the whine of strings. Sunlight slanting through the windshield. A hint of regret for what might have been, and my part in the failure. And the relief that it’s really over.

A Playlist for the Burned

The Magnetic Fields

If You Don’t Cry

by Karissa Stein

My daughter had a difficult infancy. Ear-piercing shrieks. Diapers filled with green goo. Gnashing of teeth, mostly mine.

She might have been cute if she weren’t twisted up into a shriveled, wiry, sallow thing all the time. She was like a jaundiced Slim Jim in a pink onesie.

The Doctors said, “There’s nothing wrong with her. Just a little colic.”

The Parents said, “You were the same way when you were a baby.”

The Friends said, “Uh, no. I’m busy that night. Can you get AWAY for a drink?”

Meaning, nobody wanted to come over to my house. And my husband was traveling for work.

I don’t blame my husband. He hated his job. He’s recently moved on to a better one. But I did think a number of times that no job could possibly be worse than the 24-hour a day one which shackled me to a screaming, writhing meat stick.

It’s safe to say I had post-partum depression.

The Doctors said, “It’s normal to feel this way when you’re not getting enough sleep.”

The Parents said, “We were the same way when you were a baby.”

The Friends said, “Uh, no. I’m busy tonight.”

When I was able to convince a friend to come over (and I understand that I have a couple of very good friends, ones who were able to recognize that this child which interrupted our conversations in the most violent manner possible and yet were able to pick up the thread of what we were talking about twenty-five minutes later as if nothing had happened) I could see the energy draining from their faces. Three glasses of wine was not enough.

I began to wonder if I would ever love my child.

At some point one of these friends brought me these CDS, and I put them on the divider. That’s where all the things went, when I was too tired or frazzled to put them in proper places. Our divider looked like it belonged in the basement of an old hoarder. I remember three solid months where I watched an orange first grow mold, and then shrivel up into something hard and waxen, because I only had enough brain power to carry me from one task to the next, and anything else which got in the way was a distraction. And moving an orange, no matter how shriveled, from the divider, was not as a task very high on my list.

But there was a point, a very dark point, where she just kept crying and crying and I just couldn’t listen to her anymore. I needed something to drown her out, even though I was holding her in my arms.

The song which I put on repeat was “If You Don’t Cry.”

If you don’t cry
It isn’t love
If you don’t cry
Then you just don’t feel it deep enough.

And for a moment everything fell into place. Here was my justified. It was love, because I cried. I cried and cried and cried.

We cried together.

Things did not get easier immediately. It was a full six weeks before she began to sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time. But every time I cried, I reminded myself: If you don’t cry, it isn’t love.

My daughter is now four years old. She’s not easy. I doubt if she ever will be. But now that I’ve been able to get something resembling a full night’s sleep from time to time, I’ve realized just how strong she is.

I still wonder what she was experiencing during that time. Was it pain? Was it astonishment? Was it just a reflex? Whatever it was, it came from a little person who came out a warrior. To be able to cry that much, that consistently, takes a lot of strength.

I should know. I did it too.

The Magnetic Fields