Sunday, September 18, 2016

G Is For...

Songs A to Z

My 26-day challenge to myself -- write about a different band every day, working from A to Z. 

The Grass Roots / 
"I'd Wait A Million Years"

Yeah, this gets complicated.

The Grass Roots were not what we purists might call a real band. It basically started as a construct by songwriters P.F Sloan and Steve Barri, along with famed producer Lou Adler. The legendary LA studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew played most of the tracks, with lesser musicians recruited to tour the albums. Their clever blend of Brit backbeat, R&B, and folk-rock was a calculated marketing strategy, and the actual band members -- a rotating cast that included Creed Bratton, who later resurfaced as Creed on the American TV series "The Office" -- were given very little role in the songwriting and recording. The only constant was front man/vocalist Rob Grill, who until his death in 2011 continued to flog the brand on the oldies circuit.

And yet I can't deny that they produced some genuinely fine pop music. This 1969 single was a follow-up to their big hits "Let's Live For Today" (1967) and "Midnight Confessions" (1968) appearing on their LP Leaving It All Behind. Let's be honest: when those iconic hits blast out of a jukebox, do you not spring out of your chair and shout "I love this song"?

This song -- written by the songwriting team of Mitchell Bottler and Gary Sekley, who also wrote the Grass Roots' 1971 hit "Sooner or Later" -- starts out all baroque rock, with synth harpsichords, but it doesn't take long to blast out with a horn section and all. (Just to put things in perspective, this is the same year in which the Chicago Transit Authority, later known just as Chicago, released their first horn-drenched album.)

The arrangements are monumental, even if the lyrics are fairly jejeune: "All of the lonely nights / Waiting for you to come / Longing to hold you tight." Yadda yadda yadda, The chorus is fairly standard hyperbole: "But I'd wait a million years / Walk a million miles / Cry a million tears." Not enough? Let's go for even more cliched declarations: "I'd swim the deepest sea / Climb the highest hill / Just to have you near me." Ain't no mountain high enough, apparently.

Well, it was 1969, so fuzzy-headed philosophy was only to be expected: "As life is reality / When you are near to me / I am in ecstasy." But beyond that, it's really just reiterations of that millions theme. "I would wait for you (a million miles) / Baby, I would be true (a million miles) / I would follow you (a million years) / If you want me to."

The production is just slick enough to put me on my guard. Honestly, hold this up beside a sincere track like the Proclaimers' "500 Miles" and there's no contest. (Granted, walking 500 miles is a whole lot more feasible....)

And yet, at the eleventh hour --- damn, I just can't hate this song. It's so tight, so ferociously driven. Who am I complain that it was recorded by the Wrecking Crew? The Wrecking Crew were awesome.

No comments: