My buddy Tyson just texted me a few weeks ago to tell me that Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back turned 30. 30! I haven’t felt that old since…well…a month before when I found out that Living Colour’s classic Vivid turned 30. I immediately thought two things: 1. I’m getting old. Seriously, I know people say that as a joke, but I’m getting old. 2. I had pretty damn good taste in music when I was 12. I also listened to a lot of Bobby Brown and MC Hammer around that time. So, everything I listened to in the late 80’s didn’t age well. I was 12. I was also addicted to Terence Trent D’Arby at that time and someday I’ll post my love letter to TTD/Sananda Maitreya and give you 5,000 words on why he was criminally underrated and the best male vocalist I’ve ever heard. That, however, is for another day. Today, I want you to listen to “Broken Hearts”.
Living Colour is my favorite rock band. Vivid and Time’s Up are classics to me. I’ve grown to appreciate some of their lesser known stuff, especially their heavily slept on third album, Stain. Corey Glover wasn’t just a great singer, but his energy, incredible hair, and Body Glove suits made me envious. It is not hyperbole to say that Vernon Reid has to be in the argument for guitar GOAT. Muzz Skillings and Will Calhoun were also among the best at bass and drums. They had to be. The Ringer had a great column recently about how they had to be the best (and still get a favor from Mick Jagger) to get noticed as a black rock band in the middle of the hair band era…or sadly, in any era.
For 30 years Living Colour has remained in my rotation. Today I was in a bit of a foul mood and needed some music to release some aggression I turned to “Cult of Personality“. A couple other notes about this album that stand out to me before I get to my point…
- It’s sad and disappointing that the lyrics to the song “Funny Vibe” are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago, if not more.
- “Memories Can’t Wait” is amazing because the song begins with an insane guitar solo. There’s no easing in to this song. The moment you press play Vernon Reid begins melting your face.
So, here I was deep in thought working on something while familiar tracks from “Vivid” left smoke coming out of my AirPods. Then as the greatness of “Memories Can’t Wait” was wearing off I was caught off guard. I’ve listened to “Broken Hearts” a few hundred times in my life, yet today for reasons that I cannot explain or understand I felt like I was hearing it for the first time. This song is beautiful. How can a song be simultaneously upbeat and melancholy? Vernon Reid is credited as the song writer in the liner notes and he outdid himself with the lyrics to this song. Corey Glover, who can scream and/or growl his way through a track with the very best, pulls back on this song and his vocals never sounded better. He’s the perfect vocalist for the song. Then, in a pleasant surprise, after the first chorus, Muzz Skillings gets a 8-bar bass solo. A bass solo!?!!? The second verse and chorus add a vocal harmony to up the ante. An amazing track that I’ve somehow slept on for 30 years.
I listened to the song repeatedly on my drive home from work and, upon arriving, immediately dropped the needle on my Vivid vinyl. I am, after all, a vinyl snob and everything sounds better on my turntable, especially for some reason, music from the 80’s. I don’t know what happened to that music when they put it on compact disc, but it just sounds much, much better on vinyl. I listened it so many times tonight I was motivated to write about it. I hope to spend more time writing about music like this. I’m happy my first ICYMI post was about Living Colour.
Before I’m done here, enjoy one more youtube clip. This is LC performing “Broken Hearts” live 30 years ago. Check out Muzz’s solo on the fretless bass. Damn, I love this band. Check them out if you haven’t.