If I Could Only Take One

My desert island song by Utopia

Alrighty, it’s Wednesday and time again to prep for another imaginary desert island trip. Of course, in the context of this recurring feature, this means I need to pick another song to take with me – one bloody tune, not an album, though I’m not suggesting the latter would be much easier.

Plus, there are a few additional rules. The tune must be by an artist or band I’ve only rarely written about or not covered at all. And I’m doing the silly exercise in alphabetical order.

This week I’m up to “u”. Artists (last name) and bands starting with that letter include U2, UFO, Ultravox, Umphrey’s McGee, Uncle Kracker, Uncle Tupelo, Utopia and Uriah Heep. Given my above rules, U2 and Uriah Heep are out. I also just recently wrote about Umphrey’s McGee. And since I don’t feel like dancing with tears in my eyes, Ultravox are out as well.

This still leaves me with four choices, none of which I’ve covered to date. And my pick is Utopia, aka Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. Now that I’ve figured out the artist/band, the question is which song to pick? Love Is the Answer.

Written by Todd Rundgren, Love Is the Answer is a tune from Utopia’s third studio album Oops! Wrong Planet, released in September 1977. Initially, the pop-oriented song missed the charts. Two years later, American soft rock duo England Dan & John Ford Coley recorded a version of the tune and took it to no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart. It also reached no. 10 on the mainstream pop chart Hot 100. Sounds very yachty!

Following are some additional tidbits from Songfacts:

Todd Rundgren wrote this hopeful song about the power of love for his band Utopia, which released it on their 1977 album Oops! Wrong Planet. The song became a hit in 1979 when England Dan & John Ford Coley recorded a slicker version perfect for the adult contemporary market, and scored their last of six US Top 40 hits with their cover.

In our 2015 interview with Todd Rundgren, he explained that Utopia’s Oops! Wrong Planet was a “bummer album,” and that they included this song on it to make it more uplifting. [Perhaps that made Rundgren want to bang the drum all day? CMM]

Todd Rundgren performed this song when he toured as part of Ringo Starr’s “All Starr Band” in 2015. Ringo insists on three hits from his guests, and along with “I Saw The Light” and “Bang the Drum All Day,” he wanted Todd to do “Hello It’s Me.” Rundgren didn’t think that one was a good fit in the set, as it’s a very introspective song and Ringo’s shows are very communal. Todd convinced him to go with “Love Is The Answer,” which he thought was the perfect song for Ringo – “Mr. Peace And Love” as Rundgren calls him. The plan worked: the song went over very well at these shows and fit the vibe perfectly.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

It Was 35 Years Ago…

A look back on Live Aid benefit concert – Part 1

“In late October 1984, I came home at about six o’clock in the evening and turned on the television to watch the television news. And I saw something on the screen that put my pathetic personal problems into a horrifying perspective. There in front of me were elegant men and women, moms and dads, holding their children. But they were hardly recognizable humans at this point. They were just about alive. They had the swollen heads and the bloated stomachs of children who are dying of starvation.”

“The thing is you don’t actually die of hunger. You die of a collapse of all your immune system, so you catch all sorts of diseases, but your muscles are so weakened you can’t even make a noise. And all these children were silently screaming at me in agony to die. To die of hunger is to die in complete agony. And here were these mothers and fathers in the last seconds of their children’s lives in utter despair as to what to do. And these people stared at me in my pop star live in Chelsea in London.”

The above is an excerpt from Bob Geldof’s introduction to Live Aid 35, which you can watch in its entirety on a dedicated YouTube channel, along with plenty of footage from the actual benefit concert that took place on Saturday, July 13, 1985 – just a little over 35 years ago. I’m envisaging to commemorate the 35th anniversary in a two or three-part series over the next few days – not sure yet how much time I will have to write.

Organized by Geldof, lead vocalist of Irish rock band The Boomtown Rats, and his friend Midge Ure, frontman of Britsh new wave outfit Ultravox, to raise funds of the famine in Ethiopia, the event featured concerts at London’s Wembley Stadium and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. It was attended by an estimated 72,000 people in London and close to 89,500 folks in Philly. The live broadcast was watched by an estimated 1.9 billion people in 150 countries. I was one of them and still remember it pretty well.

Queen’s performance at Wembley Stadium was one of the highlights of Live Aid

The concerts are believed to have raised around £150 million for famine relief, though the initial numbers included in news reports the day after the event were significantly lower, putting the total between £40 and £50 million. There was also some controversy over the distribution of the aid, including allegations funds had been diverted to the Ethiopian government for the purchase of arms – a truly disgusting thought!

In 2010, the BBC apologized for statements made in a previous investigation, saying there “was no specific evidence [money had been diverted to buy arms] and we’re apologising today to the Band Aid Trust and we’re also apologising personally to Bob Geldof.” I’d like to leave it at that and get to some music.

Live Aid kicked off at Wembley Stadium on July 13 at 12:00 pm British Summer Time. The first act were British boogie rockers Status Quo. Here’s their rendition of John Fogerty’s Rockin’ All Over the World, the title track off their 10th studio album from November 1997, and one of their biggest hits. Perhaps the ideal tune to start a rock & pop marathon!

Of course, in addition to organizing the event, Messrs. Geldof and Ure also got to perform. Here are The Boomtown Rats with I Don’t Like Mondays, their biggest hit, initially released as a single in July 1979 ahead of their third studio album The Fine Art of Surfacing, which came out in October that year.

I’d like to wrap up part 1 with Sting and a great stripped back version of Roxanne, featuring jazz saxophone player Branford Marsalis. Written by Sting, the tune first appeared as a single by The Police in April 1978. It was also included on their debut studio album Outlandos d’Amour from November 1978.

Source: Wikipedia; BBC; YouTube