The Music: We Get Two Requests

As our four or five readers know, we selected BD Lenz as our wedding band. But what they may not know is that the band graciously allows us two request songs: we give them a month before the gig, and they'll learn two songs of our choice.

This was a difficult pair of choices, believe it or not. There were two separate things that had to be done:
  1. Come up with the "wedding song"--must be romantic, preferably danceable/slow.
  2. Come up with a second song, preferably one that will get people dancing.
Two separate challenges. Katherine and I had periodically talked about the wedding song for a couple of years prior to getting engaged; such is the advantage of the long relationship pre-engagement period. (If you recall, I am the guy who takes expectations seriously. Time does a good job in balancing expectations.)

So, here are some of the "wedding songs" that Katherine and I periodically discussed:
(The emergence of YouTube has made this sort of thing a far more enjoyable experience; instead of hoping that interested readers recognize the songs, I have, instead, been able to provide links.)

This one was actually a fairly straightforward decision: Katherine liked "Ever the Same" a lot. The subtext of the song, at least to me, is how effortless it feels. I honestly don't know what kind of a challenge it was to write, but the final product seems, to me, like it was very easy and natural. (I think back to F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was notoriously rough on his early drafts en route to the near-perfection of his final drafts, as possible evidence that Thomas really worked hard on the song.) I know that relationships (and marriages) take work, but I like the idea that at times, on autopilot, it can work really well.

Additionally, the song is very nice with Rob Thomas on an acoustic guitar. I think I even like the acoustic version better, and the fact that the song is so effective in these two very different styles implies, to me, that BD Lenz will be able to do good work with it.

The second song, though: this was the challenge.

As a New Jersey resident with misplaced pride in his own state, I felt that we had to have at least one Bruce Springsteen song in the program, and BD Lenz's catalog doesn't contain any Springsteen, as far as I know. I even broadened out my horizons to "songs that Springsteen used to cover in his 1970s-era shows," thinking that some of the early soul and Motown that Springsteen enjoyed so much would fit right in the wheelhouse of BD Lenz's style. (They played songs like "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Oh Yeah," and a lot of Marvin Gaye when we last saw them.)

So, here's the list of songs I considered, including some suggestions from family/friends. I'll offer up some thoughts on each one.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Fire: This one had an early lead because of its appearance in Glee, Season 1. (Roller rink, Kristin Chenowith and the sad lead character, who has my respect b/c he's a Met fan in real life). It's a fairly... erotic song, though, more so than I was comfortable with at the wedding. Moreover, good versions of the song really require that driving rhythm piano in the background, but BD Lenz will not be bringing a keyboardist, as per the arrangement that we picked. (This piano thing is a common Boss theme.)
  • Bruce Springsteen - Paradise by the C: Awesome instrumental from the 1978 tour. I suspect that BD Lenz could do some excellent work with this song. A few problems, though: the prominent Hammond organ solo would have to be replaced by either an extra guitar solo or more sax work, which would detract from the nice contrast thing that this song has going. Plus we're paying for two vocalists.
  • Bruce Springsteen - From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come): This song is a lot of fun. Springsteen farmed this out to Dave Edmunds, a British rockabilly guy, way back in the 80s. It's very upbeat, and it's about as close as the Boss got to writing country music, which harkens back to my childhood a little bit. (This song is often covered by country artists.) Like a lot of country music, though, it's a bit sad. The early love song devolves into a pastiche of sarcasm and sadness. Note the lyrics: "Well, she shot him dead on a sunny Florida road. When they caught her all she said was 'she couldn't stand the way he drove.'" Springsteen sings the lyrics so exuberantly that you almost miss the message. But considering that I do all the driving, this one was out.
  • Bruce Springsteen - The Fever: Before there was "Fire," there was "The Fever," which is a song of pure desperation. We liked this one a lot, actually. It was stricken, though, because it's a little slow, and again, I don't really like the erotic undertones at the wedding. Desperation translates into music really well, but it's not quite what I'm looking for in this instance.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Rosalita: My sister suggested this one, and it's definitely a classic. My only issue with this is the sheer number of lyrics that it has; I feel like someone who isn't fully-schooled in Springsteen would probably struggle to handle the song. I also don't think it has quite enough room for improvisation/embellishment; for a 7-minute marathon, the structure is fairly tight.
  • Bruce Springsteen - So Young and in Love: A great, upbeat song. It's also one of few Springsteen songs that does not rely on a prominent piano, organ, or synthesizer. If I have any objections on this one for the wedding, the lyrics tend to be a tad unintelligible at times, particularly on the studio version, which uses a good bit of scat-type singing in place of lyrics. I thought it might be difficult for our vocalists to sing. This one, at least on my list, came in at second place.
  • Bruce Springsteen - If I Should Fall Behind: This one was proposed by one of Katherine's friends with a strong Springsteen background. (She's also not from NJ, so bonus points there.) From such a wise source, I considered her suggestion very carefully. It's a very beautiful song, but it's just a little slower than what I was looking for.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Mountain of Love (cover of Johnny Rivers): I probably would have picked this one if not for the prominence of the piano solo. Compare this to Rivers' version of the song, and you'll learn everything you need to know about Springsteen. I like Johnny Rivers, but Springsteen simply has much more energy and life than any comparable performer. (This show, for what it's worth, is what got NY Times' columnist David Brooks into Springsteen.)
  • Bruce Springsteen - Raise Your Hand (cover of Eddie Floyd): Strongly considered, but the critical call-and-answer component of the song might not work in a venue with 50-60 viewers, assuming half the guests aren't watching the band.
  • Bruce Springsteen - Give the Girl a Kiss: This isn't the greatest recording of the song; we've got all sorts of crowd noise (and people missing the lyrics, which I find humorous). And astute readers who have been following my convoluted logic so far will recognize the prominence of Danny Federici's organ solo. In this case, though, the organ solo doesn't seem essential to the flow of the song, and could be pretty easily replaced by a nice sax solo. The guitar solos, as well, lend themselves to extended improvisation/embellishment. In short, this is what I'm looking for: it's Springsteen, it's exuberant, it's upbeat, it doesn't end with the male being shot, and it's not dripping with desperation.
So, we're going to go with "Ever the Same" and "Give the Girl a Kiss." We still need to figure out the music for the ceremony (this is all reception stuff), but it's nice to keep checking off these theoretical boxes.

3 comments:

hitchdied said...

I feel like you can't have a New Jersey wedding without copious Bruce. I kind of want to make our wedding song performer learn Bruce Springsteen's cover of Bob Dylan's "I Want You" from the Main Point concert where he debuted "Thunder Road" in 1975.

Dan said...

@hitchdied: That version of "I Want You" is from the same show as the "Mountain of Love" version I linked. Just a classic show.

Amy said...

I think "Ever the Same" works really well acoustically. Like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdrsvYyIKag

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