We’ve had a couple weeks since wishing Dick Clark was still around to ring in the New Year. But even with all that time, I know there are more than a few of you living in the past and still writing “2013” on your checks.
Then if you’re like most classic rockers maintaining a Keith Moon mentality, you go berserk-o over your annual mistake, trash (tear up) the check and say a few choice words that would get you banned for life on network television – but make you a viral star on YouTube.
Then swearing on the memory of Dick Clark, you promise never to make that mistake again and concentrate on “2014” as you write another check.
On second thought, you must really be a classic rocker if you haven’t joined the digital age by now and are still handwriting checks. You’re either stuck in a time warp or I’m stuck in a line behind you at the grocery store while you try to use a check for a month’s worth of munchies and have no valid ID.
That’s about the time my mind starts to warp and I prove why I’m banned for life from network television.
The passage of time is what made our once hit songs now classic rock songs. But who in the past knew what the future held? Wait a second (or minute, or hour) I almost caused myself to go berserk-o with that brain warping thought…
Quite a few classic rock artists must have dissed their lava lamps for the light of a crystal ball when writing songs predicting the future. Maybe they were basking in the heady power that comes with fame, fortune and mass adoration, or just having an acid flashback. For the rockers still pumping out the same messages on the classic rock concert circuit, it could be powered by the lack of an antacid flashback.
A male rock star from any generation will predict the future. He’ll tell you he’s gonna get the girl or that he’ll never get over his broken heart. The females have demonstrated a wider range by crying at their own party to keying her cheatin’ man’s car door.
The common thread is that they want to tell you what they’re gonna do before they actually do it.
The problem is, not everyone can be Joe Namath before Super Bowl III.
Some rockers conjured up deadly predictions with warnings of what’s to come if you don’t fix it now.
Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction was a pretty grim farewell to the entire world in 1965, while the Beatles predicted that some guy named Maxwell was gonna hit some judge over the head with a silver hammer. If we had only known in advance, the entire final verse could’ve been eliminated by a smart use of prisoner restraints and an extra guard in the courtroom.
Okay, it’s storytelling by song. I get it. But sometimes the artist does it in a very convincing manner.
I’ve never turned my back on anyone named Max since 1969.
But singing about what’s ahead can seem very clairvoyant and even mysterious, until it becomes the past. Future-talk from years ago is remembered differently with 20/20 hindsight.
Anyone younger than driving age won’t understand a comedian’s punchline if it includes “Y2K” and The Mayan Calendar immediately became last year’s news when the world didn’t end on December 21, 2012.
Do you remember both? If you can, then you’re also probably good at remembering losing teams from Super Bowls past.
But there were a few rock stars who dared to sing of very specific dates in their future that are still worth listening to. Not that they predicted anything that really happened, but for the time warps they conjure up. When played loudly (as intended) it’s easy to shake off the shackles of time and party like it’s… well, I’ll let the purple one jog your memory on that long-ago prediction.
When the following songs were recorded no one was predicting the artists would end up in a museum called The Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame instead of doing time in an old age home. They were rockers in their prime, contemplated the future, and wrote a song about it.
Since then we’ve had decades of 20/20 hindsight to realize time waits for no one. But if you’re still writing last year’s date on your checks, think how berserk-o you’ll drive the next generation of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus wanna’be’s by requesting they sing one of these long gone futuristic pop classics at the next iHeart Radio Concert.
No. 3 – 1984 by David Bowie
This song had the effect of scary monsters coming at us, even though it came out six full years before the rebirth of Major Tom for the Scary Monsters LP. Is that too much future/past talk for you? Let me explain…
In 1974 Bowie was predicting the end of glam rock by killing off Ziggy Stardust and assuming his role as The Thin White Duke. But before he let that happen, he pulled off one last session with Spiders From Mars veterans Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder to spin George Orwell’s vision of doom into a danceable rock anthem.
It fit into the musical times, but not from the disco perspective you’d expect from a thin white guy who wasn’t really a space alien or a Duke. Bowie’s funky intro to this futuristic fun house ride started with a beat and “wah-wah guitar” (is that a legit music term?) that closely resembled the kick-butt debut of Richard Roundtree as Shaft in the classic Blaxploitation flick.
That kind of berserk-o talk would get all of us banned from network television for life. It won Issac Hayes an Academy Award in 1972.
Orwell’s future-talk novel 1984, unpredictably published in 1949, had animal characters playing the parts of humans. Bowie’s version came out on his LP Diamond Dogs, showing him on the cover as half Ziggy and half mutt, neither of which was ever considered human.
The song had some rock cred thanks to Bowie’s superstar status at the time, but faded quickly as The Duke worked on dance moves in his tailored suits.
If he really wanted to throw some fear into someone by making predictions about 1984, he could’ve warned Paul McCartney not to team with Michael Jackson that year on the song Say, Say, Say.
It was during that session when The King of Pop asked the future Sir Paul what to do with his money. The advice was to invest in music copyrights, which is why Jackson’s family still cashes a check every time you hear Yesterday on your classic rock radio station of choice.
|Michael is smiling. Paul doesn’t realize why. Yet.|
And speaking of Sir Paul…
No. 2 – Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five by Paul McCartney and Wings
The year was 1973, which means Macca bookended Bowie’s 1984. If you didn’t follow that backward looking future talk, compare the dates of release and prediction.
This song closed the album that made McCartney relevant again in the eyes and ears of mid 70’s rockers, Band On The Run. Before his arrival back to cool, he had gotten a bit stuck in a syrupy side of pop music that made John Lennon question how his former partner in fab could sleep at night.
McCartney must have caught a few winks to rest up his inner rocker because that year alone he hammered us with both the James Bond movie theme Live and Let Die and Band On The Run. And there was never any mention of a guy named Maxwell to do the hammer time.
The revival of McCartney’s rock roots is the key to naming this song to our list. In fact, that and the title are the only qualifiers this classic rocker can come up with. The words are a conglomerate of mismatched thoughts, assumptions and predictions that would even have Michael Jackson asking, “Say, Say… What?”
Basic lyric translation: I have no idea.
No. 1 – 1999 by Prince
Oh yeah! We’ve been partying like it’s 1999 since… oh, since 1982 when His Purple Majesty told us we only had 17 years until Y2K. Then again, he would’ve needed a Commodore 64 personal computer or a DeLorean to know that for sure.
Combined with the one-two hammer (sorry Max, I’ll stop now) punch of Little Red Corvette, Prince joined the rock star party circuit with a year-naming song that rolled him doubles at the winner’s table. It was a hit in 1982 and scored a repeat when he brought it back a second time prior to all of us rolling into 1999.
As we rocked into the unknown of a new Millennium, Prince urged us to let it all hang out by singing:
It was a wild party, but the dawn broke on 2000 and we still had more time on our hands than his disbanded backing back, The Revolution.
Prince had spent the ensuing years melding funk, rock and soul into a colorful sound and image that included Purple Rain and Raspberry Beret. He also showed he had a little Richard Roundtree toughness in him when a stand-off with his record company inspired a legal name change to a symbol no one could pronounce.
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, it’s a good bet I pulled a Keith Moon on my first check of the new Millennium after writing “1999” as the date. But at least I didn’t have to write “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” on the signature line.
It’s fun to look back, but also wise to keep one eye on the future. After all, I can only name one classic rock song that stills holds true with its decades old prediction.
That one belongs to the still rollin’ Rolling Stones from their 1974 LP, It’s Only Rock’n Roll: Time Waits For No One.