Monday, October 11, 2010

Bloodrock -- "D.O.A." (1970)

I try to move my arm and there's no feeling
And when I look I see there's nothing there . . .
I remember
We were flying low and hit something in the air

After a brief trip to 2010, we're back in 1970 for another in the long-running (no end in sight yet!) series of posts featuring songs that were popular on my college campus.  It's also the first in a series of posts featuring songs by bands from Fort Worth, Texas.  

Everyone knows Fort Worth is where the American West begins.  It's also one of the two major cities in the "Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex."  

Map of FortWorth/Dallas Metroplex

You may have heard that referred to as the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, but look at a map of Texas.  Fort Worth is west of Dallas, so it's to the left and Dallas is to the right.  

This is the United States of America, and we still read from left to right, not the other way around (despite the ill-intentioned efforts of certain people who should never have been elected to their lofty offices).  Maybe they do it differently in China or Russia or France.  If they do, THEY ARE WRONG.  

So Dallas/Fort Worth is actually bass-ackwards unless you read from right to left.  And if you did, it would be Dallas/Worth Fort, not Dallas/Fort Worth, so I've got you either way, don't I?    Plus Dallas sort of sucks.

"D.O.A." appeared on Bloodrock's second album -- which was titled Bloodrock 2.  (The band's first LP was titled Bloodrock.  Care to guess what its third album was called?)  

It is wasn't for "D.O.A.," I don't think a soul outside of the band members' immediate families would remember anything about them. 

Actually, that's not quite true.  George Starostin remembers Bloodrock -- he remembers a lot about Bloodrock.  Here's a link to his detailed and generally very positive reviews of all six Bloodrock albums.  

Based on his comments, I may have to give some other Bloodrock songs a chance.  (Starostin compares Bloodrock to Grand Funk Railroad -- we'll be featuring some of GFR's fine work in the not-to-distant future -- but thinks Bloodrock comes out on top.  Terry Knight managed Grand Funk and produced albums for both groups.)  

Here's the cover for a subsequent Bloodrock album.  Very interesting, non?

Thanks to "D.O.A." -- which Wikipedia refers to in a real understatement as "somewhat morbid" -- Bloodrock 2 made it to #21 on the Billboard pop album chart.  The shortened version that was released as a single made it to #36, which ain't bad considering that it was banned by a number of radio stations.  

The story told in this song will be familiar to most or many (if not all) of my several loyal fans.  The narrator regains consciousness after an airplane crash and realizes that he is bleeding and (worse) missing an arm and (worse still) lying next to his dead girlfriend.

Shortly thereafter, an EMT bends down to whisper in his ear, and the news isn't good: "He says there's no hope for me."  And he's right.

Musically, the song relies heavily -- almost exclusively -- on two-note, diminished-fifth arpeggios (e.g., G flat, C, G flat, C).  This musical interval, which was given the name diabolus in musica ("the devil in music") some 300 years ago, is used as musical shorthand for "scary" or "evil" or "watch out, there's a guy with an ax hiding behind that door and the sh*t's about to hit the fan."  

The song also features ambulance sirens.  Bloodrock didn't believe in being subtle.

What's your favorite teen death song?  Here's a website devoted to such songs, of which there are hundreds.  (Whoever devoted so much of his or her spare time to the creation of this website needs to get a life.  Don't you agree?)

I think the classic teen death song is J. Frank Wilson's awful "Last Kiss," which was a huge hit single in 1964.  (Pearl Jam covered this song about 10 years ago.  What where they thinking?)

Here's a Spanish version of "Last Kiss":

When the driver in that song came to after their crash, he was lying on the ground next to his girlfriend.  He was able to hold her close and "kissed her our last kiss" before she went on ahead, where she will wait for him to join her for eternity.

There's none of that sentimental crap in "D.O.A."  The girlfriend is that song is already dead meat when the guy wakes up.  No last kiss for them, and nothing about a reunion in heaven some day.  The world sure changed a lot between 1964 and 1971, didn't it?

According to Bloodrock's lead guitarist, the song was inspired by the crash of one of two Martin 4-0-4 aircraft that was taking the Wichita State University football team to Logan, Utah, to pay Utah State on October 2, 1970.  Thirty-one of the 40 passengers on that plane died as a result of the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that egregious and numerous pilot errors were the cause of the crash.  Here's an excerpt from the NTSB report:

 "The intentional operation of the aircraft over a mountain valley route at an altitude from which the aircraft could neither climb over the obstructing terrain ahead, nor execute a successful course reversal. Significant factors were the overloaded condition of the aircraft, the virtual absence of flight planning for the chosen route of flight from Denver to Logan, a lack of understanding on the part of the crew of the performance capabilities and limitations of the aircraft, and the lack of operational management to monitor and appropriately control the actions of the flightcrew."

Wikipedia doesn't buy the Bloodrock's guitarist's story.  It says that review copies of the Bloodrock 2 album were delivered to Billboard magazine the week of October 18.  Given that the Wichita State football team crash had occurred on October 2, it seems unlikely that the song could have been written and recorded in time for the LP to be pressed and delivered by that date.

Here's the album version of "D.O.A."  (You didn't think I'd cheat you with the shorter single version, did you?)

Here's a cover of "D.O.A." by Morticia, a Minneapolis goth band.  This performance was apparently shot at the state prison in Stillwater, Minnesota. 

Here's a video of Morticia doing a song called "Voyeur."  This video was shot at notorious adult cinema/peepshow joint in downtown Minneapolis.

(While scouring YouTube for more Morticia videos, I came across a whole bunch of videos devoted to piercings.  Really yucky stuff.)

If you want to buy the song from iTunes, click here:

Click here to buy it from Amazon.  (Both of these links take you to the single version of the song -- I can't find an MP3 for the album version.)

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