Gone Away

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3bsN2Xl

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3uwA7uJ


I listened to this song seventy five minutes straight last night. And I would have listened even longer if there wasn’t a podcast I wanted to hear, which turned out to be a waste, because talking heads lie and musicians, when they’re in the groove, do not.

I was listening to the new Offspring album, “Let the Bad Times Roll.” I was surprised how good it was. Today you put out an album and then it immediately disappears into the ether, which is why so many new acts put out singles, on a regular basis, trying to maintain mindshare. Put out an album and even fans may not be aware you’ve done so.

Not that I’m that big an Offspring fan. But I’ve got to give them credit, for persisting and existing, which is the hardest thing to do in today’s marketplace. It’s one thing to have a hit, quite another to have another and quite another to be able to draw an audience not only for years, but for decades.

So after my hike, I stopped at the 76 station in Bel-Air. I know gas is more expensive there, but when it’s eleven o’clock at night safety becomes a factor, I’ve had friends who’ve been mugged at gas stations and my life is worth more than five dollars.

And when I pulled away from the station and was sitting at the light I was stunned that the music was still playing, normally it cuts off in this spot, the satellite can’t see through the trees, and it’s quite a long interval before the light goes green, so I know.

And after merging back onto the 405 I was cycling through the tracks on the Offspring album and just after I passed the point where Sepulveda cuts underneath the freeway, I heard a piano. Wait a minute, is this a ballad? This was something they did in the late eighties, in the hair band era, most people wouldn’t listen to the act’s normal music so they cut a track or two to appeal to the masses, the most egregious example being Extreme’s “More Than Words,” the rest of the LP sounded nothing like it, and not long after that huge hit the act broke up, it turned out that’s what people were interested, and that’s not the music Extreme normally made.

And an acoustic piano sounds so different from a raucous guitar, especially late at night when you’re cruising in your car alone.

“Maybe in another life

I could find you there

Pulled away before your time

I can’t deal it’s so unfair”

Wait, Dexter’s not changing his vocal tone, this is akin to one of those Green Day ballads.

“And it feels and it feels like

Heaven is so far away”

This is not the only ballad about death made by a rock band, the previous best example being Slaughter’s “Fly to the Angels.” And on that initial LP there’s an electric and acoustic take and it’s the acoustic take that resonates.

And then the song evolves and there are STRINGS!

In the early seventies strings got a bad name, they were seen as schmaltz. Needless to say they’re not a feature of hip-hop tracks, but the truth is strings add majesty, they set your mind free, I’m listening to “Gone Away” and I’m immediately reminded of this take of “Message to My Girl” that I got on Napster twenty years ago, with Split Enz backed up by an orchestra. That’s a song that never was a radio hit, but is known by all fans, you see the greats ultimately resurface and sustain.

And I’m now parked in front of the house and I can’t turn “Gone Away” off, I’m loving the mood, and I’m getting the feeling…THIS IS A HIT! I don’t mean a successful record but a ubiquitous record, that cuts across all audiences, which everybody embraces. But how come it’s not a hit already? How come I haven’t heard about it already?

So I rush into the house and do research and that’s when I find out it’s an old song, in fact it went to number one on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, but that was back in 1997.

After listening a few times while I was stretching I turned off my phone and settled into the couch and got back to my book, but as soon as I woke up the next day I fired up Spotify and checked out the original.

It sounded nothing like this version. It was the same song, but it was loud and in your face, with a strumming electric guitar and pounding snare. It was good, but this acoustic piano version was TRANSCENDENT!

So now I’m intrigued, I do further research and I find out Five Finger Death Punch did an acoustic take of “Gone Away” and I’m thinking this is like Jack Ingram’s quiet version of Hinder’s “Lips of Angel,” but it’s not, the Five Finger Death Punch take starts off with an acoustic piano but not long thereafter it slips into bombast, this is ultimately nothing like the acoustic take of “Gone Away” on Offspring’s “Let the Bad Times Roll,” it’s ultimately bludgeoning, befitting the expectations of Five Finger Death Punch’s audience, which is not the mainstream. But research tells me Five Finger Death Punch’s take was the inspiration for Offspring’s acoustic version, who knows the truth, the web is not always right.

So it’s back to Google, and I immediately find a live version of “Gone Away” by Offspring that starts with the acoustic piano, that’s akin to the ultimate recorded take, and the audio is not perfect but the vibe, the prickly-skin tension is. Especially at a rockin’ concert when the band slows down and plays an intimate number the audience is extremely receptive, this is the highlight of the show. You can hear the audience scream when Dexter takes a short break in the middle. And this live take is very similar to the one on the new album, but it was cut in 2018 and I never heard/saw it, because in the modern world being great is not good enough, there are gems hiding in plain sight it’s just that we don’t have the roads to take us there, we need an infrastructure plan for the music business. And, not long after the three minute mark, this live take evolves into the original studio take from “Ixnay on the Hombre.”

Music… First and foremost it’s not a business, it’s a feeling. And it’s elusive. Oh, a lot can go in your ears but little transforms your body, takes you to a whole new place, where nothing else matters, where it’s just you and the music. And when you’re in this space you don’t want it to end, which is why I didn’t turn off “Gone Away” on my hike last night, listening to it from the moment I left my house until over an hour later.

“Pulled away before your time

I can’t deal it’s so unfair”

Passing before your time. It hurts for those left. Unbearably, the feeling might fade, but it never goes completely away. Which is why “Gone Away” would resonate with such a wide audience.

But when I listened last night I was not paying attention to the lyrics, just the music.

Elton John built a whole career with his piano, and we’ve got some pop stars employing the instrument these days, but the end result is not raw, so much is layered on top that you end up with just another pop record, but “Gone Away” is not another pop record.

“I reach to the sky and call out your name”

When it works, and it was working last night, you lift your arms in the air, you start to conduct the orchestra, your mind pinballs around your past, listening to music at different points in your life, even being brought to young people’s concerts by your parents.

I was hypnotized, I was in a trance, I never wanted it to break.


How do you make a hit these days?

Well, the goal is the Spotify Top 50, which leaves out so many styles of music.

You’re searching for TikTok synchs, but that platform skews more towards upbeat, jaunty songs, the dark mood that gave birth to the goth movement, the songs that you listened to alone, that kept you from committing suicide, the social network is not made for those. But those are the ones that mean the most to us.

“The world is so cold”

It truly is. Alienation rules, but our music goes in the other direction, towards commerciality, cash is king and if you’re not pursuing it, taking every last dollar off the table you get little attention, we’re interested in numbers, grosses, not the music itself.

“And it feels like and it feels like

Heaven is so far away”

Boy does it.

If I want to resonate these days I turn to streaming television, not music. Streaming TV is trying to get the emotions right, to reflect real life, that’s not the essence of today’s music. But just when you think the formula is lost, that you don’t even feel the same way about music anymore, you hear “Gone Away” and you’re brought right back to where you belong.

This is not made for musos to analyze. This is not made for fans of other genres to denigrate. “Gone Away” is made for people. You remember people, irrelevant of political persuasion, ultimately equal, irrelevant of their bank account, we’re all on this planet with more questions than answers just looking to feel that we belong, and nothing can make us feel like we belong more than music, but that’s rarely the goal.

This acoustic version of “Gone Away” is one of those tracks that could triumph on all radio formats, played at sporting contests and funerals, something that everybody knows, that they could rely on, a trusted friend when they need it.

But the system has evolved away from providing this. Instead of looking for ubiquity, the music is made for a market.

“And it stings, yeah it stings now

The world is so cold

Now that you’ve gone away”

Where did the music go? Tracks are built dispassionately by the equivalent of scientists whereas great art is always channeled from an unseeable, untouchable spirit, which lands when you least expect it.

“Gone Away” is stripped to the bone. Strings are added for sweetening, for meaning. And the end result is a concoction that distills the essence of life.

It’s what we’re looking for.

“Gone Away” live YouTube take: https://bit.ly/3uvP4xh

“Message to My Girl” Split Enz with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra” (song begins just prior to one minute in): https://bit.ly/3uwdXbU

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