Good songs serve as time machines. They teleport us back to a favourite place – in our hearts. It’s even more special when we have some personal attachment to the songs – getting to hang out with the creators of the evergreen classic songs.
The following are my list of all-time favourite sonic ambrosia –
Sailing by Christopher Cross – I remember vividly slurping contentedly on an ice cream cone in a US campus centre, when Sailing came on the air. I reflected, “Aaah, this is the Life!”.
Fast forward a decade or two, when I was a head honcho in a management consulting firm. I got a phone call that everybody craves, “You busy? How would you like to meet …”. Christopher Cross. A concert promoter friend knew I was a BIG Christopher Cross fan.
The good friend invited me to the late afternoon soundcheck before the evening show. He put me right in the centre, five rows from the stage. I was told NOT to vacate the seat after the soundcheck. I realised I was the only one in the entire seating section. The rest of the others was the working crew in the aisle. It was as if the band playing for an audience of one – me.
So when the soundcheck was over and the band duly left the stage. I was awkwardly sitting by myself. After about five minutes, someone suddenly jumped from behind and sat next to me. It was Chris! He started with “I heard you are a big fan …” In my excitement, I forget the rest of what happened next BUT he did sign my record cover.
On a lighter note: I fondly remember those two Mont Blanc pens in my corporate pocket. The gold one’s for my signature and the burgundy lacquer pencil’s for penning my business rain-making ideas. Mont Blanc also happened to be my client!
Over the years, Christopher’s signature and message “Eddie Sung, Keep On Sailing, Christopher Cross” may be slightly faded but the fond memory of meeting Sailing’s composer is forever etched into my heart.
Don’t Worry Baby, Good Vibrations, God Only Knows by Beach Boys – These songs, and the Pet Sounds and Smile albums are a big WOW to me. Brian Wilson is a genius in song-writing and is a song production extraordinaire!
We now Barry Manilow writes awesome and catchy songs. It’s ironic that his hit song “I Write The Songs” was NOT written by him but by Bruce Johnson of the Beach Boys.
Years later in 2013, the band honoured me by featuring my beloved B/W images of them both on the CD cover and booklet artwork in their 50th Anniversary Live album!
My Sweet Lord by George Harrison – I first heard the song on a Boy Scouts camping trip on a neighbouring island. We were heading to the jetty to catch a ferry on a hot mid-afternoon. A fellow Scout had a radio on when suddenly this catchy tune floated through the air. At the end of the song, the DJ mentioned the title.
Around that time, was where each of the solo Beatles, after the break-up , was trying to out-do each other in the hit charts. Ironicallly the Quiet One fared the best, George had just unleashed his triple-album magnum opus.
At 12 years old, I could not afford it. Only the $1.80 vinyl single. The B-side had another awesome song “Isn’t It A Pity”, about the sad break-up of his former fab band.
Long story short, instead of heading home to clean and freshen up, I headed, mud and all, to a record shop in town to get the vinyl single.
I never got to meet George Harrison but I became fast friends with the legendary photographer, Barry Feinstein, who shot the All Things Must Pass album cover. I went to his home in Woodstock several times and even slept on his bed while he was at the local hospital. I even brought Chris Stein of Blondie along to visit Barry. But I’ll leave that tale for some other time.
Imagine by John Lennon – I never got to meet John Lennon. He was assassinated in the first year I was in college. Years later, I was introduced to Yoko Ono at a private event in New York City. She had a major influence on Imagine and was subsequently given an equal composer’s credit in this iconic song.
John Lennon wished for global peace. I did experience this magical moment when the peaceful stars aligned for a brief evening. I attended the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games opening ceremony. The attendees at the event literally came from all corners of the world. The Russians had boycotted the event. Holding hands with our seated global neighbours, there was NOT a dry eye in the stadium that night.
Ventura Highway, A Horse With No Name by America – Both great songs were written by Dewey Bunnell.
Both songs has this tinge of mythical western aura to them. Alligator lizards n the air, hit by purple rain, etc. Purple Rain Prince was only 14 years old, when Ventura Highway came out. The very first place I checked out when I first landed in USA was getting my tourist-guide friend to drive me along Ventura Freeway. The second place was Disneyland. When I told Dewey and Gerry that years later, they were highly amused.
There’s no Ventura Highway, like there’s no Hotel California. But the Highway 101 runs through the Ventura county. A Horse With No Name is a metaphor for a vehicle to get away from life’s confusion into a quiet, peaceful place (Wikipedia).
The Reason by Hoobastank – The awesome song begins with “I’m not a perfect person.”. The gentlemen, on my right, wrote the song – Dan Estrin provided the song melody and Doug Robb was the lyricist. Once I attended a Christian event and one of the songs we sang in church was The Reason. It’s taken on a religious journey.
Heart Of Glass by Blondie – In 1978, this upbeat discofied hit-song propelled Blondie into the stratosphere! It instantly made them the most successful band that emerged from the music club CBGB scene. It’s the New York City equivalent of Liverpool’s Cavern Club where the Beatles got their fame. I was in the army serving out my national service when Heart Of Glass hit the charts.
Years later, I would be invited by Blondie to photograph their recording sessions for their Panic Of Girls as well as Pollinator (see above image) albums in Woodstock and Soho, New York City respectively. When I travel overseas, I usually only bring along a reliable point & shoot compact camera.
This time, I fondly remember getting a “Please bring your serious camera!” request.
Honoured to have Chris Stein, a co-writer of Heart Of Glass, hang out at my home.
Xanadu, Don’t Stop Believin’, I Honestly Love You by Dame Olivia Newton-John – These days, collaborations of all walks of genre especially in designer toys and fashion is a common place. But in August 1980, a collab between two differing music giants ELO X ONJ was totally unthinkable! The upbeat Xanadu is, never fails to lift up my spirits, right from the opening beats. I’m so glad they joined forces.
Don’t Stop Believin’ is Dame Olivia’s stay-positive anthem for life. In fact, she named her autobiography that.
I’m forever grateful she featured my images of her and my name in the best-selling book. Imagine my shock to receive a parcel with the cheeky “Surprise!” written on the mysterious wrapping! (Image below).
I Honestly Love You won the Record Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female forthe 17th Grammy Awards in 1975. Enough said.
Our House by Graham Nash – One of the stand-outs from the Deja Vu album by Crosby, Stills , Nash & Young. A love song to his then girlfriend Joni Mitchell. In the late-90s, I was lucky to be invited into the iconic “house” in Laurel Canyon, still owned by Joni. Another beautiful song written by Graham Nash is Simple Man.
Some People by Sir Cliff Richard – Written by the prolific hit song-writer Alan Tarney, it must be one of Sir Cliff’s favourite songs too. Origianally releasedin 1987, Sir Cliff re-sang it with the accompaniment of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the Rise Up album in 2018.
How Deep Is Your Love by the Bee Gees – Barry Gibb is my all-time favourite Bee Gee. I was amused when I came across this license plate, which presumably implied Barry Gibb (BG).
I’m an avid collector of authentic used (well-travelled) USA license plates. Over the years I managed to acquire a collection of my favourite “B” bands. Beach Boys, Blondie and Bee Gees. I’m honoured for my beloved images to be featured in two of three of the iconic bands’ albums.
Last but not Least – Any Hit-Songs by the Carpenters!
To Karen for her timeless healing voice!
To Richard for his impeccable song arrangements!
I do hope you’ll give all the above mentioned favourite songs in this Blog a good listen one day. All the songs were penned by their respective genius composers in the hope for a peaceful, love-filled, fun and harmonious world.
A nice bonus of hanging out with my hero hit-makers is that from time to time, their masterpieces emerge through my radio. Their songs immediately teleports me back to fond times hanging out with them.
Simple hummable songs are, ironically, the hardest to write!