A botched swan song

Image used solely to illustrate subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released September 1992 by Curb Records, Hope + Glory was The Four Seasons’ final studio album, and unfortunately failed on every level. Just to start with, the cover makes it look like a New Age record!

As always, songwriter Bob Gaudio’s strategy was to keenly listen to popular sounds of the day and translate that into a winning album full of hits for his band. This was a winning strategy for most of the Sixties, and while it was hit-or-miss during the Seventies, it nevertheless resulted in possibly the band’s best work.

It missed the mark in 1985, but there were still enough touches of the band’s established voice and style to pull it off somewhat decently. (I also admit my nostalgic bias for that trademark Eighties sound!)

In spite of a string of commercial failures, Bob was determined to try yet again to mount a successful comeback and prove his band could still sit comfortably on the Top 100 with a bunch of young whippersnappers who hadn’t even been born when The Four Seasons had their first hit.

What was all the rage in ’92? Hip-hop, new jack swing, soft rock, and adult contemporary. Many of those songs were also full of synths and electronic beats. A far cry from their familiar hits of the Sixties, but they’d constantly proven they weren’t afraid to try new things.

Yet Hope + Glory was also a commercial bomb, with no singles. Why might that have been, beyond the band being long past their heyday and a time when a new generation would’ve eagerly given them a third wind of popularity?

Remember my analogy about the historical fantasy writer who moves into subgenres related to fantasy and historical with a fair bit of success, then tries sci-fi because it’s trendy? Many of her fans eagerly bought her steampunk, alternative history, and contemporary urban fantasy novels, and while her sci-fi attempt was far less successful, it still had enough touches of her established voice and style, albeit buried under copycatting of the latest trends.

Now imagine she hitches her star to YA contemporary. Not only that, her POV and tense are completely different, and she’s trying to sound like someone she’s never been. Every page is full of quickly-dated language like “So I may or may not be doing all the things and having all the feels.”

Longtime fans, by and large, are going to cringe in horror. It’s not that no one can write a popular book like that, but it won’t age well. In fact, it already sounds dated upon its release! Age doesn’t improve it either. It still sounds like a sad attempt to be someone she’s not decades later, with no emotional connection to the story.

Not only did she fail to read the strongest examples of this subgenre and understand what made them stand above the pack, she mindlessly copied instead of translating anything into her long-established unique voice and style. Neither her most devoted fans nor a new generation were having it.

There are some great lyrics on Hope + Glory, but they’re so buried under awful production! This also sounds more like Frankie with any old backing band, not a true Four Seasons record. He even sings two songs with a female vocalist.

Compare this to The Wedding Album, released February ’93. They came out only months apart, yet whereas Hope + Glory sounds super-dated and like a mindless copycat of popular songs anyone in that era could’ve done, The Wedding Album has aged so well and shines with timelessness. One band was true to themselves and earned a huge comeback, while the other cared more about chasing the next big trend and in so doing forgot what made them special.

I also feel really uncomfortable listening to Frankie singing about sex! It’s nowhere near Prince-level explicit, but that’s never been his style! His prior songs with sexual subtexts weren’t that up-front or disturbing.

Track listing:

“Love Has a Mind of Its Own”
“Learn How to Say Goodbye”
“Hope and Glory” (a duet with Frankie and Bob, possibly the standout)
“This Time”
“You and Your Heart So Blue”
“Run for Your Life”
“Help Me to Believe in You” (everything about this song makes me cringe, even the title!)
“State of My Heart”
“The Girl of My Dreams”
“Even Now”
“Just the Way You Make Love”
“The Naked I”

WeWriWa—Imminent diagnosis

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes a few lines after last week’s.

It’s November 1945, and Imre chose to stay behind in Budapest when his girlfriend Csilla and their friends were smuggled into Italy. Hoping to prove himself a hero, he went to Csilla’s hometown Abony to recover important possessions she hid last year.

Imre got into a violent fight with the gendarme who took over Csilla’s house, Mr. Mészáros, which may have ended in murder and a broken hand. He fled back in Budapest, and now is at a nearby hospital with his mother.

Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Hospital, Copyright Czimmy at Hungarian Wikipedia

The doctor pressed on the hand in various spots, resulting in even more agonized screams. Imre was practically in tears when the doctor finally injected some kind of numbing agent after cleansing the wounds and putting ointment on them.

“I’m going to send you for an X-ray to see which bones exactly you broke. When the numbing agent has taken full effect, maybe you can tell us just how you hurt your hand.”

Imre got into a wheelchair, holding his injured hand across his lap, and closed his eyes. When he reached the X-ray room, he mutely obeyed all the instructions given. He was barely aware of the X-raying process, too focused on getting rid of the pain.

Back in the examining room, the doctor looked at the developed X-ray and said something in medical-speak. Mrs. Goldmark asked for a layperson’s version, and the doctor pointed to the broken finger, knuckle, and metacarpal bones. There were also several fractures in the wrist.

IWSG—June odds and sods

InsecureWritersSupportGroup
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and lets us share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

 Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

I’ve lived and breathed all things historical since childhood. History was always my favorite subject, and I never understood why so many people complain about it being boring and irrelevant. I loved learning about how people lived in other eras—clothes, food, toys, jobs, houses, pastimes, books, cars, world events.

My secondary love is soft sci-fi. It’s the opposite side of the coin from hist-fic, in that it images worlds in future eras. Both genres also require research. If your story is set in the far future, you have to know about all the predicted developments.

I know this is cliché, but I got interested in sci-fi when I discovered Isaac Asimov at age eleven. He had several stories in a book of sci-fi/futuristic stories we read in my fifth grade English class, including the first one. I was so enraptured by these imagined future worlds, I began reading all I could find about predicted future life (houses, foods, space colonies, undersea towns, leisure space travel, holographic movies, etc.).

I’m doing JuNoWriMo again, and got off to a very slow start due to my main focus being checking the updated file of my alternative history. I fully take the blame for not getting back to it at least several months earlier. Knowing I had to finish it by July was exactly what I needed for one final, major push to finish it already, but I didn’t allot enough time for stepping away to lose familiarity and develop fresh eyes.

Thus, even though I did read it through a few times, I found a LOT of little errors that slipped through. Nothing major, but just typos, misplaced words, missing words, things like that. That’s so unlike me. With all my other published books, I went through them so many times I got sick of looking at them, and only found a few tiny things here and there after the fact.

This was a very important lesson learnt, to always step aside for at least a few months before going back in to edit. Even if a book only needs fairly light editing, that can’t be accomplished properly if you’re flying through it under the gun and immediately went from typing the final word to editing. You’re still blind to your own errors.

I also began doing research for my story for the current IWSG Anthology contest. I’ve never written fantasy before, but there’s a first time for everything. Without giving too much away, my story will be set in 737 Japan, during the Nara period (the penultimate era of classical Japanese history). I’m excited to finally write an entire story in Japan, and to go much deeper back into history than I’ve ever gone before.

King Cerdic of Wessex, my 48-greats-grandpap and earliest verified ancestor, 4??–534

I recently discovered I’m a direct descendant of the Medieval Scottish and Anglo–Saxon kings, and would love to write a historical about my awesome 36-greats-grandpap King Alfred the Great. He was a fellow person of letters and scholar.

In spite of my royal lineage, I’m proudest to discover President Washington is one of my cousins. It’s an unbelievable honor to share blood with the father of my country.

Have you ever belatedly discovered a book wasn’t edited as well as it should’ve been? Would you write about one of your ancestors?

A contemporary makeover that failed

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released August 1985, Streetfighter was The Four Seasons’ first studio album since commercial bomb Helicon (1977). By this point in the band’s career, songwriter Bob Gaudio knew it was probably a lost cause to recapture the fan base who’d long since moved on. Instead, he turned his attention to crafting a record in tune with popular sounds.

This was always his aim, listening to contemporary songs and trying to translate that style into his band’s unique voice. This approach was golden during the Sixties, though it notably failed in 1969’s Genuine Imitation Life Gazette. During the Seventies, this approach was hit or miss, though it most notably succeeded with a huge comeback in 1975.

Towards this end, Bob turned to former co-writer Sandy Linzer for help. Together, they’d produced a number of big hits in the Sixties. On Streetfighter, Linzer co-wrote five of the eight songs. Surely such accomplished songwriters, with such a keen ear for currently popular sounds, could craft another great comeback for The Four Seasons.

What was popular in 1985? Lots of synths and electronic beats. As a proud Eighties kid, I can’t complain about that unmistakable sound, but it’s not exactly one most people associate with The Four Seasons. As much as I dislike people who rant about a band or artist daring to try a much different style instead of spending their entire career remaking the same album in different iterations, something’s a bit off here.

In my review of Helicon, I used an analogy of a writer who earned fame for historical fantasies, then tried her hand at steampunk, alternative history, and contemporary urban fantasy. Some fans might only be interested in the subgenre she established a name for herself in, while others will eagerly follow her into those other, somewhat related subgenres of fantasy and historical.

The Four Seasons’ career followed a similar trajectory. As different as records like GILG, Who Loves You, and Helicon were from their familiar sound, they nonetheless were underpinned by the same general style and voice. They’re obvious Four Seasons’ records.

Now imagine that writer decides to try sci-fi because it’s really trendy, and she wants to capture a new fan base. While her new genre bears some similarities to fantasy, in that it imagines other worlds, it’s a lot further from typical fantasy than steampunk or any other subgenre.

Still, there are enough hallmarks of her usual style to pull it off fairly well. Her natural voice is a bit buried under currently popular styles, but she doesn’t come off as entirely trying to be a completely different writer.

That’s exactly how Streetfighter feels. There are enough touches of the band’s established voice and style, but they’re starting to fall by the wayside. All those synths and electronic beats bury some great songs and make them sound too much like those of any other Eighties act who didn’t achieve longterm popularity.

None of the singles charted, and the album was a commercial bomb. It seemed obvious The Four Seasons were over as anything but an oldies circuit band, but Bob Gaudio was determined to try one more time to craft a popular record that would earn them a new fanbase.

Track listing:

“Streetfighter” (one of their quintessential songs, perfectly capturing Frankie’s musical image as a tough guy with a heart of gold)
“Veronica”
“Moonlight Memories”
“Book of Love”
“Did Someone Break into Your Heart Last Night”
“Commitment”
“Once Inside a Woman’s Heart”
“What About Tomorrow” (my fave track)

WeWriWa—Awaiting medical attention

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s.

It’s November 1945, and Imre chose to stay behind in Budapest when his girlfriend Csilla and their friends were smuggled into Italy. Hoping to prove himself a hero, he went to Csilla’s hometown Abony to recover important possessions she hid last year.

Imre got into a violent fight with the gendarme who took over Csilla’s house, Mr. Mészáros, which may have ended in murder. Now he’s back in Budapest, at his family’s apartment. His mother wants to know what happened to make him come back across the river to her in Pest after starting an independent adult life in Buda, but Imre is in too much pain to speak.

Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Hospital, Copyright Czimmy at Hungarian Wikipedia

Mrs. Goldmark got dressed as swiftly as possible, then helped Imre to the door and down the stairs. Imre continued screaming in agony as they walked down the street in search of a taxi. He was begging for more vodka by the time a taxi pulled up.

“Take us to Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Hospital,” Mrs. Goldmark said.

Imre slumped against his mother during the ride, which seemed to take all night. His senses were growing fuzzy by the time they entered the hospital.

“My son has a very painful hand injury,” Mrs. Goldmark told the receptionist. “I don’t think he can wait much longer to see a doctor.”

Imre made all the pain noises he could vocalize as they waited for a doctor to be brought out. When the doctor appeared, he had to be supported by both his mother and the doctor as they walked into an examining room.