Monday, September 23, 2013

Dwight Twilley And A Very Confused Bass Player Play "I'm On Fire"

Right around 1975 or so, this was a minor hit. Top twenty or so.

Like most hit songs, there's nothing to it, really. If you quizzed fans of the song, and asked them to tell you the lyrics, they'd be able to sing-song the "hook," you ain't you ain't you ain't got no lover, which doesn't sound like Shakespeare to my ear, and the three-word title, but the rest is basically unintelligible, and unintelligent, if you look it up. It's the sort of song you could sing anything in if you were covering it, and no one would notice it. But pop songs aren't often worth studying overmuch. It was raucous fun, and any four people could bang it out in the garage if you got the notion.

Of course Dwight and his friends got the idea of banging things out in their Tulsa garage by seeing A Hard Day's Night, and figgering, "How hard can this be?" This song made it to the charts out of nowhere, while the band was trying to get famous doing something else, and then they started paying attention to it again, and the something else never materialized.

It's not hard to have a hit song, really.  It's almost impossible to have a hit song, but it's not hard. There is no way to tell what the public will like, or even what they're willing to have shoved in their ear. Payola got bad songs played on the radio back in the day, but it wasn't a slam-dunk way to make things popular. The record companies just tried everything to see what worked, and were satisfied with one million-seller out of a thousand tries. It wasn't that difficult to get thrown at the wall thirty years ago. Deuced difficult to stick, though. I'm not sure exactly what alchemy is used now, although fake Twitter followers and bot-driven YouTube views seem to have supplanted having members of the band and their families calling the radio stations non-stop and requesting their own songs with a hankie over the receiver to disguise their voice. Time marches on.

This song was about the first thing Dwight Twilley ever did, and it's the only thing that might even merit a trivia question about him. You could perhaps tease a second trivia question about the drummer and female singer in the video. They're castaway Cowsills. You can hear the drummer playing and singing on other recordings that made the charts, too; that's him on Tommy Tutone's Jenny (867-5309),  another one-hit wonder in the same guitar/bass/drums vein.

The rock and roll machine has always been the musical version of The Million Monkey Theorem. It explains probability theory by positing that if a monkey hits keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time, it will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare, eventually.

So I offer the Dwight Twilley Theorem to you, my readers. Here goes:

If an infinite number of garage bands are formed after watching a Beatles movie, and they hit notes at random on Telecasters and sing doggerel for an infinite amount of time, they'll eventually get Casey Kasem to utter their name on AM radio after midnight on Sunday, even if their bass player doesn't know what to do with his hands.
The corollary to this theorem is: Only the music store and Yoko Ono will end up with any money.


Leon said...

well i've never heard of any of these people or the song but i have heard some notes played sort of like that was a nice sort of noise for a given value of nice and a separate given value of noise.

as you've pointed out a performer main job is entertain the audience and they seemed to be doing that. i suspect the audience's main objective was to find someone whom they could rub up against and if luck held take home later. this nice sort of noise seemed sufficient to the job.

on an unrelated not you may wish to check out this.

Mark Kindermann said...

Well, the bass player didn't really look confused, but he did look like he was playing Stanley Jordan Style with his left hand, which if this was 1975, was waaay before it's time...pretty cool actually

Anonymous said...

The bass player is not confused, he knows the song and he knows it well. The writer of this post is the confused one.

Anonymous said...

which one is the bass player?

chasmatic said...

Okies, uh? One thing you can say, they all ended at the same time. Sign of a good band.

About that bass player, he didn't look or sound confused. Wonder what his name might be. That wouldn't have been you, eh Sipp? Jes' askin'.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Leon- Thanks for reading and commenting. I used that video on for today's post. Thanks for sending it along.

Hi Mark- It's just a joke about the playing with his hand position upside down, like he's playing a lap steel. It's not hard to play the bass like that, it's just sort of - odd.

Hi anon- Thanks for reading some of the words and commenting.

Hi anon- The bass player is second from the left. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Hi chasmatic- They are Okies, and another Okie, Leon Russell, signed them to a label he was running in LA back in the day.

The bass player's playing the bass with his left hand over the top instead of normally. The bass playing on 104 percent of rock records can be played with most any appendage, or even a bloody stump, held any which way, so it's really not important, just unusual. My older brother is left-handed, and can play a borrowed right-handed bass upside down as well as a left-handed bass, which kind of mystifies me: Mardy Bum in the attic with Unorganized Hancock

And no, it's not me. The people in the video are a lot older than I am, but if memory serves, my brother has played with the drummer before, either live or on a record.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out the bass player. The only musical instrument that I can play is the radio.

Music is magic, I can not begin to understand how it is made nor what a bass player is.

I can create a 1930s Ford out of a pile of parts....I have done it more than once and have driven the results every day for 17 years

chasmatic said...

Sipp, sorry 'bout the time warp. I got guys my sons' age (40s) calling me sir and g'kids fixin' to make me a great-grandfather. Yikes. Every day I look in the mirror and I see the same face, hain't changed a bit, uh uh. Of course it is a dimly lit bathroom and I need to get my glasses upgraded, but still ...

They say Tempus is fugiting; I never knew the sonabitch could run that fast!

Sam L. said...

chasmatic, you got oneathem Chinese mirrors in your bathroom, too. Jerry Van Der Loonie complained about that, made me realize I had one too.

chasmatic said...


Goes ta show ya: great minds think alike.

Of course, er, fools seldom differ but - ahem- that is a horse of a different feather.