Monday, April 06, 2009

Soundtrack of My Life: Tonio K

Most of the time, when a blogger rambles on & on about the most important musical albums of his short but adventurous life - maybe even going so far to name the series of posts something overblown like "Soundtrack of My Life" - he's picking an album or two from the extensive catalog of a musician/band that he loves.

That's not the case here - while I've heard some other cuts by Tonio K., the music that still resonates with appears on just two albums that he released on the ill-fated What? Records label in the mid-80's.

I bought
Romeo Unchained for two reasons: the cover was odd & I'd heard about this new label (an offshoot of Myrrh LA) and what they were trying to do - edgy music informed by faith in Christ.

I wasn't disappointed... here was a guy who could write lyrics dripping with sarcasm ("the one man lays down 10 percent/another man trembles and quakes/i save my money/i handle snakes" - I Handle Snakes ) & humor ("i saw shakespeare and cheetah/crying in their margaritas" - Romeo Loves Jane)... and still shift gears in order to peel back the pain of modern romance (Perfect World):
in a perfect world i'd have been the boy you need

i'd have been somebody else

in a perfect world you'd have been the girl for me

you could have been yourself

we're dying for love but we're afraid to drop our guard

we're lost in a world gone crazy

where the men won't grow up and the women get so hard
A few years down the line, one of the songs from this album became "our song" for Shari & I when I put it on a mix tape for her (along with Ivan Neville's Not Just Another Girl and Boy Meets Girl's Waiting For A Star To Fall - yes, it was the late 80's... sue me!). You Belong With Me is still one of the best love songs I know of:
two o'clock the moon is down

we say goodnight

you're headed for bed across town

we haven't even known each other that long

but it doesn't even matter

'cause when you leave it feels all wrong

you belong with me

darlin' we belong together

and every time you leave

it's obvious we're still connected

you live in your worldand i live in mine

but the collision of worlds is just a matter of time

you belong with me

now i can tell

you're so afraid

you've been lied to and taken for granted

and treated like some kind of slave

i'm not after your freedom, i'm after your heart

and i know it's gonna happen

and i knew it right from the start

what happens to people in love is some kind of mystery

yeah but what passes for love on the streets these days is a joke

so when people like us finally stumble into each other

we've got to hold on tight, gotta never, never let go

Notes From The Lost Civilization was his second & final album on What? Records... it doesn't hang together as well thematically as Romeo Unchained, but it still has some real gems. My favorites include You Were There, Without Love and The Executioner's Song.

Chances are pretty good if you were hermetically sealed in the CCM subculture during the late 80's, you never heard the best song on the album. Just as Julie Miller would be forced to wait to put the angry & beautiful
Sick of Sex on a later album because it made the CCM label nervous, What Women Want wasn't on the version of the album released to Christian bookstores.
i know what these women want

they want sex

yeah, that's true, but

i know what these women want

they want money

yeah, that too, but

i know what these women want

i know what these women really want

i know what these women want

they want champagne and jewelry

and german cars

i know what these women want

they want roses by the dozen

wanna break your heart, but

i know what these women want

i know what these women really want

they want love

it's been a problem for a couple thousand years

can't seem to find it 'cause it always disappears

they want love

don't need no forgery, don't need no substitute

they need somebody honest, not just somebody that's cute

they want some affection

and some protection

that's what they want

i know what these women want

they wanna fight

we've got 'em pretty mad, boys

i know what these women want

they wanna lay down and die sometimes

'cause it hurts

i know what these women want

i know what these women really want

they want love

they want a lover, they don't want no little boy

don't wanna wind up bein' someone's broken toy

they want love

they want somebody they can maybe even trust

they've got a feeling

they're not asking all that much

some affection

and just a little protection

that's what they want

i think that's all they want
Makes me angry 20 years later all over again when I think about how squeamish our evangelical subculture can get about telling the truth without sanding off all the rough edges. (If you'd like to hear the song, there's an unofficial video on You Tube using clips burned off VH-1 of 80's pop videos... can't recommend the visuals, but the song is great.)

And that, in a nutshell, is why I love(d) these two albums - they were loaded with capital "T" Truth in lyrics that didn't feel like they were printed inside the Baptist Sunday School Board building in Nashville, TN, wrapped up in music that was cool enough to enjoy then... and still is today.

For more info about Tonio K, you can check out:

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