"You'd Be Surprised" is a blog series where i write about songs (and maybe other things in the future) that i think would surprise many people that i truly love.
Volume 1: "Make Your Own Kind of Music" by Mama Cass Elliot
Like everyone, there are gaping holes in my musical knowledge. When i first heard Ornette Coleman, for instance, playing free jazz without a chordal instrument, i felt like i was hearing something entirely new and couldn't believe i've never heard it before. Other times, it is hearing a side-project or a one-off single by a band you thought you knew everything about. Or, like in the case of this song, you just flat out don't know a song that was a minor hit 15 or so years before you were born.
Sure, i know the Mamas and the Papas - "California Dreamin'," "Monday Monday," whatever the name of that "and everyone's getting fat 'cept Mama Cass" song is called, but i knew very little of the solo careers (if there were any) by any of the M&Ps. The most i knew was that lead Papa John Phillips had a weird and, supposedly, great solo album called John, The Wolf King of L.A. which i still want to hear for the name alone.
Then, I started to watch LOST.
And, for those of you who still haven't watched LOST, don't watch this scene. Really. It is one of the greatest scenes of the whole show, and if you haven't seen the series from the beginning, you don't want to see this scene. That being said, what the fuck is wrong with you for not watching LOST? Let the haters hate - the show is top notch (not perfect, but top notch).
This scene introduced me to this song:
Now, even without the song, that is an amazing scene. However, there is something so heartbreaking and sad about Desmond listening to a song about individuality when you learn that he has been doing the same task for YEARS, unable to live his own life at all, but just PUSH. THE. DAMN. BUTTON.
Now, Elliot didn't write the song (husband and wife songwriting team Mann/Weil did), but her strong, powerful voice really sells the words, as does the understated-as-much-as-a-pop-single-in-1969-could be. The Mamas and the Papas were still recording and playing live at this point, and the record wasn't a huge hit, peaking at only #36 on the Billboard Singles Chart.
For reasons altogether unknown to me, this song fuckin' moves me. The other day i was created a chord chart for it (i'm playing in a band for a party in September, and this is one of the songs our female vocalist chose), and i had to stop charting because of the tears falling down my face. Why? I have no idea. It just moves me.
Much like "Human," this song just shakes me to my core and makes me feel vulnerable, inspired and joyous all at once. It can't be the lyrics which, although are a great message, are a little hokey. It can't be the instrumentation, which is a little too Lawrence Welk for my taste. It is good despite itself.
And if it moves me, why do i have to investigate exactly why? Why can't i just let it be something i love and move on?
Because i'm stupid.
Which must also be the case for most musicians, as this song has no great cover versions. Get on it, Neko Case!
'Til next time,