Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Waiting For A Girl Like You | Lefsetz Letter

My radio was stolen for the fifth time. This one was a Kenwood. It only lasted a day and this time they broke the console. My insurance was canceled and I gave up. I drove my 2002 for years with no problem, and then all of a sudden I couldn’t keep a head unit. I decided to leave the console broken, and I went to one of those discount electronics places on Beverly and bought a twenty dollar radio. You know, about 8×10″. I’d place it in the passenger seat, extend the antenna, and dial in the stations when I wasn’t shifting.

And then the antenna broke. Which in retrospect I should have foreseen. For I couldn’t leave the radio visible when I parked, I had to put it under the seat, hide it, and somehow in this many times a day movement the antenna snapped. So I got one of those wires with an alligator clip and clipped it to the stub and let it flop on the seat and it worked pretty well.

This was the summer of ’84. The heyday of alternative rock on KROQ. Nascent hair bands on KMET and oldies with a few cherry-picked new cuts on KLOS. And soft rock on KNX. It was the heyday of L.A. radio. Then again, KWST, the Led Zeppelin station, had gone by the wayside a few years prior.

And I lived to hear the Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now.” Sure, I was aware of “In The Name of Love,” it was played incessantly on KROQ, but there were so many English bands that came and went so fast I didn’t buy their album. But when that intro flourish came on the radio, it was exciting. If you wanted to know what was going on, you listened to KROQ, before every home had MTV, when you felt you were part of something, a movement, led by these English bands experimenting.

But “In The Name of Love” didn’t prepare me for “Hold Me Now.”

Now at the time I was working in a house a hundred yards up from the Rainbow, and every night there was an event and I oftentimes didn’t drive home until midnight, or thereafter, and when I heard the notes of “Hold Me Now” on the radio, I was soothed, I smiled.

Hold me now, warm my heart
Stay with me, let loving start

You’ve got to know, L.A. nights are not hot. Maybe a week a year, at least before climate change. But as the sun goes down, it gets cool. You can almost sense the dew descending. And “Hold Me Now” ran shotgun, literally, as I drove home.

I had to buy the album “Into The Gap” so I could hear it more.

I love that LP. Especially the opening cut, “Doctor! Doctor!” This was back before everything had to be in-your-face, when a record could be an invitation, to a journey to a place you’d never been before. You didn’t need drugs to experience the music, the tunes were drugs themselves.

Like the second side opener, “The Gap.” Akin to a journey to the East.

No one ever talks about “Into The Gap” anymore, never mind the Thompson Twins, but the album is one of my all time favorites. And I went to see the band at the Greek, it was a celebration. And Arista held a party afterwards, I remember the exquisite chocolate cheesecake. And I foresaw great things for the Thompson Twins, but they never materialized.

But Foreigner was well known. They appeared when KROQ was still a free-format station. They were too hip to play “Feels Like The First Time,” but KMET and KLOS banged it. It was a one listen wonder, I had to drive to Music Odyssey to buy the album the day it was released, I couldn’t live without hearing the track on demand. It was a masterpiece. With the squealing keyboard, the buzz saw riff and the sweet powerful vocal.

But the rest of the LP was not quite as good.

“Cold As Ice” was a bit cheesy in my book.

“Headknocker” a little too formulaic.

“Long, Long Way From Home” was better, but I didn’t buy “Hot Blooded,” the follow-up. Maybe I didn’t need to, the title track lived on the radio, along with Foghat, who I came to love.

Stone blue, rock and roll sure helped me through

And “Double Vision” was serviceable, it didn’t bug me, but it didn’t stick to me either.

And “Head Games” was even worse. “Dirty White Boy,” talk about corporate rock. Although, as the decades have gone by, I’ve learned to love “Head Games.” What can I say, it’s the unexpected change into the chorus, and, even though Mick Jones was the mastermind, Lou Gramm was the special sauce that put the act over the top.

But expectations for the act were low, especially now that the new wave had gotten traction.

And then we read that they were working with Mutt Lange.

This was after “Back In Black,” when the combo of the two was a head-scratcher, what was the resulting album, ultimately entitled “4,” gonna sound like?

Like nothing that came before.

“Urgent” exploded out of the radio, and was brought to the goal line by Junior Walker’s saxophone, a sound most hadn’t been exposed to since “Shotgun” fifteen years before.

I could feel the excitement, I had to own the album.

And there was another killer cut, “Juke Box Hero,” reminiscent of Bad Company’s “Shooting Star,” and I love Bad Company.

But the best cut on the LP, which I discovered in my house, not on the radio, was “Waiting For A Girl Like You.”

Now if you talked to Bud Prager, Foreigner’s manager, and I did, he believed the apotheosis was “I Want To Know What Love Is,” from “4”‘s follow-up, “Agent Provocateur,” but that LP missed Mutt, and I believed, and still do, that this was a play for the center, with its cheesy video, it might have gotten a lot of plays, but it eviscerated the band’s cred. This was before hair bands cut ballads for airplay, but still…who are you? A sellout?

But “Waiting For A Girl Like You” still fit in the band’s oeuvre. It was ethereal.

And its otherworldliness was its magic. A journey into orbit. Of the world, but somehow removed, just like a music fan. Our music was everything, it got us through.

And what put it over the top was Lou Gramm’s vocal, the way he went up in the chorus, he was WAITING!

Aren’t we all. For love, for our lives to begin.

So long, I’ve been looking too hard, I’ve been waiting too long
Sometimes I don’t know what I will find, I only know it’s a matter of time

The waiting is the hardest part. Back when there was no internet diversion, never mind in the palm of your hand. You had to waste time in bars, searching. But you still believed, there were no incels.

It feels so right, so warm and true, I need to know if you feel it too

He’s not overconfident, they’re in it together.

Maybe I’m wrong, won’t you tell me if I’m coming on too strong

He’s insecure, like we were, maybe still are.

This is the opposite of #MeToo. The bands may have raped and pillaged, but we listeners were lonely nerds, we just wanted someone to talk to us, to understand us, to give us a chance.

This heart of mine has been hurt before, this time I want to be sure

That’s what’s wrong with experience, it makes you gun-shy.

I’ve been waiting for someone new to make me feel alive
Yeah, waiting for a girl like you to come into my life

She’s gonna solve all my problems.

That’s what you believe when you’ve got more questions than answers, when you’re slogging through life, putting one foot in front of another trying to get…


But then comes the key line:

Only in dreams could it be this way

Ain’t that the truth. Real life is messy. Perfection doesn’t exist. You have to forgive flaws. You’ve got to be willing to jump in and make it work.

Or you can sit at home and listen to records.

So I’m driving home late one night, twiddling the dial on that radio, looking for “Hold Me Now,” and I hear “Waiting For A Girl Like You.”

It gave me hope, I’ll never forget it.

Waiting For A Girl Like You – Spotify playlist

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