(Listen while you read, it's quite enjoyable)
Got to write the article. My Mise en place is complete. With everything in its place, Ice Tea on a yogurt cup top, my inspiration and muse, streaming in the background “Almost Famous” (2000). This semi-autobiographical film works on so many levels for any writer covering popular music, artists, and the business of music as well as for any fan. My phone is recharging and updating its software (no phone interruptions) as my thoughts are gathered and are soon to give way to ideas, then sentences, on to paragraphs, a beginning, a middle and the very welcomed END!
The hardest part of this gig, is choosing the topic upon which to tap my keys. The character ‘William Miller’ (Actor Patrick Fugit) of Almost Famous (A stand in for the Movie’s director Cameron Crowe) tapped the keys on a Smith-Corona Galaxis Deluxe. I have a much quieter laptop to generate my articles.
The prologue to this article is now past and with your indulgence begged allow me to present the topic on which I now write, 1,000 words or so. Ready dear readers, wait for it, here t’is:
Are songs written around the seasons of the year? Perhaps the oldest example of this is Antonio Vivaldi’s Le Quattro Stagioni – four violin concerti giving musical expression to each of the four seasons we find in nature (ponder this with greater evidence of climate change, will the earth’s four seasons morph into three or two Le terzi stagioni or Le due stagioni – well you can be sure none of this will make the EPA’s website, until at least the White House and Congress goes bluer).
Vivaldi’s music, evokes the spirit and the comings and goings that the composer observed first hand; probably in the countryside around Mantua – even back in the Settecento (1700’s) artists recognized the universal rule of making art, you wrote or composed what you know. Much later, music scholars classified Vivaldi’s type of music as program music – a beat – a melody – a bridge with narrative elements. I assert that while this term is more applicable to European classical music traditions it is a term that is relevant in 2018. The term underwent a reversal somewhere along the centuries. The contrasting term to program music used by the musicologists is absolute music which is music intended to be appreciated without any reference to the outside world. It is music that is non-representational.
These two terms have generated great debates and arguments among musicians, composers, music historians and critics (not to mention, the Power Chord staff)– check out the philosophy section at the bookstore under ‘Aesthetics’ – a lot of smart people wrote a lot of smart words on the ‘invisibility of sound’. Good for them, I am however, just a pair of ears that likes what music they like. On these pages writes a philistine. With apologies to Lester Bangs.
Let us not dwell on 1721 and I come to my senses and will now tackle be only slightly more au currant past 60 years or so. Allow my musical musing to dwell on what makes a song take on a season. Winter, Summer, Spring, and Fall. If there is a man for all seasons, there’s a song for all seasons.
And here in my own narrow knowledge base I came up with some songs that whether considered program music or absolute music the music that follows is chosen because the songs are enjoyable to this music fan’s ears. Ah, good word count at this point is 569 – halfway home!
First up is music that captures the very essence of seasons, yup the King James Bible, among other bibles contains these words and inspired a really well known song:
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace;
Ecclesiastes 3 King James Version
Now who doesn’t know the lyrics and the song Turn! Turn! Turn! Pete Seeger wrote it in the late 1950’s – it traveled through many arrangements but didn’t make the charts until The Byrds recorded it and released the song in late 1965.
Here’s a partial list of who covered the song. And what is cool is that performers like Roger McGuinn recorded it with Springsteen, Pete Seeger with Judy Collins, David Crosby covered it on his own and with the Byrds. This is the Leonard Cohen “Hallelujah Principal” a song that becomes an anthem and is covered by so many for so long.
Turn, Turn, Turn is the very essence of the Seasons, which after all represents time, time changing, repeating itself, a continuance of nature’s clock.
Another four seasons icon is of course the 1960’s hit makers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. See the movie Jersey Boys (directed by Clint Eastwood), and if the Broadway show is playing somewhere go see that. Active since 1960 Valli and the Four Seasons (originally the Four Lovers) took on the moniker not based on 300 years of music but from the name of a local bowling alley. Hey the Four Seasons is a popular name, from vocal bands to powerhouse restaurants and probably an assortment of coffee houses, spas, and clothing companies.
I return to the main topic, namely, where do the four seasons appear in the music blessing our airways, streaming ways and on the media, LP’s, CD’s, Cassettes and the revered 8-Track.
Crowded House, a pop rock band formed in Melbourne Australia in 1985 and lead by vocalist and primary song writer Neil Finn compressed time into one song, “Four Seasons in One Day”. An impatient band, a little rock, a little roll, this band is like smooth jazz or soft rock – sugary and leaving you hungry soon after listening.
Next up is Fleet Foxes, an indie-folk bank formed in Seattle. This bands day in the sunshine was in 2008 with the release of their second EP, Sun Giant. Critical praised the band captured one of the seasons in its track “White Winter”. A bit droll this track evokes not melodic choruses but rather the monotony of a local television weather report.
The Beach Boys, the iconic American rock band, founded in 1961 in Hawthorne, CA. The band was a family affair, Brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, Cousin Mike Love and good friend Al Jardine. Father Murry managed the band. Their music gained popularity across the US. Its music was known for close vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting the Southern California youth culture – surfing, cars and romance. An early hit, “Surfer’s Rule” gives tribute to ‘The Four Seasons’ the chorus repeating this tag line.
The English musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, activist, actor, philanthropist, Gordon Matthew Thomas Summer, CBE aka Sting took the direct route and composed this line “She can be all four seasons in one day” in one of his songs.
UB40, they took a more reflective notion, more metaphor than weather report “The Four Seasons Of My Life”. 2005
The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson, used the four seasons in the lyric to their pop hit song Maybe Tomorrow “You are the four seasons of my life”.
The Game combined Ecclesiastics Turn Turn Turn with his take on “Jesus Piece” This introspective track takes us to a higher place.
And in closing, we come to the Hip Hop fascination with hotels, their lyrics redolent with hotel imagery, metaphors, and great product placement. The Eagles had their “Hotel California”, and these recording artists have their Four Seasons Hotel (I told you earlier the Four Seasons makes for a powerful brand name for all categories of products).
Starting from the top of the Hip Hop Mountain we have these examples of loving The Four Seasons, not the weather but the five star hotel.
Jay Z – Song “Cry”. This 2010 track lyric “We should’ve been together having Four Seasons Brunch”.
Kanye West contributes to the hotel’s aura in “That Part”, “Four Seasons, take a shower, new clothes, I’m reloaded”.
Rae Sremmurd’s “Unlock the Swag”, “Woke up, last night, was all, a blur. Four Seasons, 3 words, do not, disturb.”
Lil Yachty – “ One Night”, “We spent four seasons at the Four Seasons twice”
Jon Bellion – “24 Freestyle”, “Spring rolls at the damn Four Seasons”
Curbed: According to Game on "Jesus Piece," "God says everything happens for a reason, I seen four seasons at The Four Seasons." He could also be alluding to being arrested at Greensboro's Four Seasons Mall.
What are some other songs that evoke the seasons? We would like to know.
I close with my muse coming to its end. In Almost Famous, the Band Aid Sapphire (Actor Fairuza Balk) laments, while eating her lunch, the state of the groupie in the film’s near ending, I close this article with her quote. It was true in the movie, true in life and true today.
“They don't even know what it is to be a fan. Y'know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.”