It is the nature of a firmament, at least one of mine, to be ephemeral, so I guess I shouldn't be too troubled by the idea of blowing up my '70s Soft Rock Top 10 from February. Blow it up I must, because thanks to a vigorous backchannel discussion of the late, great Midnight Special, inspired by Craig Popelars's latest Algonquin Annotations and specifically by his appreciation for the multitasking, silk-berobed drummer in Andrew Gold's "Lonely Boy" performance, I rediscovered a lost gem that demands a place in the top 10.
I present to you "Moonlight Feels Right" by Starbuck:
I don't think I have to explain how effortlessly this number nestles into the microgenre, but let us marvel at its most notable identifying features. A lead singer who, looking as if he just dismounted after the eighth race at Hialeah, expresses a come-on confidence beyond his apparent seductive powers that puts him well on the sleazy side of the sensitive/sleazy spectrum. His deliciously louche (I'm sorry, "comfortable and friendly") and Wooderson-worthy chuckle just before he gets to the name of the song, which could either be interpreted, literally, as confidence that you are going to be glad you joined him in the moonlight, or, metacontextually, as knowing pleasure that he is about to deliver the punch line to what is sure to be a solid gold hit. And of course, of course, the marimba solo*.
But the element that has me marveling at its depths is a section of the lyric, which I transcribe here:
You say you came to Baltimore from Ole Miss,
A Class of Seven-Four gold ring.
The eastern moon looks ready for a wet kiss
To make the tide rise again.
Now, am I mistaken or does that scream "Steely Dan" to you, particularly the deservedly familiar chorus, "They call Alabama the Crimson Tide / Call me Deacon Blues"? Naturally, my initial thought was that Starbuck, the upstarts, were paying a respectful homage to the kings of mellow sophistication. But wait: "Moonlight Feels Right" hit #3 in 1976, and "Deacon Blues," on Aja, wasn't released until 1977. Starbuck was first to the sleazily allusive Southeastern Conference come-on (and they also rhymed "Ole Miss" with "wet kiss"!): I feel that soft-rock history has shifted under my very feet.
The question we are left with, then, is where does "Moonlight Feels Right" fit into the Top 10? Clearly "Thunder Island," which is a good fit in theme but not in tempo at #10, has to go, and I would put Starbuck at #6, right behind "Make It with You," and slide everything else down a notch, though really I'd be okay with going anywhere as high as #4. You okay with that?
* And where are they now? On the twinkling, moonlit site for the band, which embraces its one-hit-wonder status enough to call itself www.moonlightfeelsright.com (or perhaps www.starbuck.com is too close to a major corporation), the current biography for Starbuck front man Bruce Blackman (front row, left) is wonderfully typical for an ex-soft-rocker:
Today Blackman serves as CEO of his own music publishing and production companies. He is producing an album project on his daughter Sarah along with writing and producing for several other artists. He is affiliated with Sony/ATV and is busy working on several movie soundtrack projects.
But the bio for his former partner in the band, the marimba virtuoso Bo Wagner (front, right)? I'm afraid I could only judge whether it was typical if there were any other rock marimba virtuosos to compare him to:
Wagner’s whereabouts are unknown.