It’s Monday, and you don’t care, I know.
Actually, you must, because you’re here.
If Adult Contemporary radio stations laid the foundation for my music tastes at an early age, I Heart Radio built the house upon that foundation. Songs I knew, songs I discovered, and songs I came to appreciate as an adult that I wouldn’t have given a second listen at a much younger age. Not because of ignorance, but…ok, I thought I was “too cool.”
Confession: I was never “too cool” for good music. Or anything.
Mind blowing, I know!
My heart and musical soul belongs to Chicago, Hall and Oates, and late 1980s dance music, mixed in with Earth Wind and Fire, Billy Joel, Phil Collins with Genesis, Phil Collins without Genesis, Genesis, David Foster, the 1980s, the 1990s, and numerous one-hit wonders. Always have, always will. But classic rock (in the vein of what I listen to on the regular) has a place too. Today’s song falls nicely into that category.
A few years back, I was loving this one Saturday Night Live sketch, where a group of self-absorbed blondies with goofy accents battle it out like a soap opera, before all looking in a tall mirror while dramatic telenovela-style music plays.
It was hilariously super dramatic.
Each time this happened, the sketch would cut away to a pre-recorded opening featuring the California coast and the opening to this one song with a pretty groovy guitar riff.
They even had their own drinking glass at the Saturday Night Live Exhibition store in New York.
I was going to buy it for my brother (it is one of his favorite sketches), but opted for a box of Schweddy Balls instead.
These were a hit in our house and my brother’s house. Especially this box – I still have the empty box on my display shelf!
Anyway, that song…
Now, this guitar intro I’d always known, but for the life of me, I’d never known the name of the song. I Heart Radio came into my life about the same time as this sketch did, so lucky for me, I found out who sang it, and what it was called.
“Ventura Highway” is a 1972 single by British-American rock group America (the name of the group came out of its founding members trying to stand out and not sound like a British rock group). The group’s founding members, Lee Martin “Dewey” Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley, were all students at London Central High School, sons of US Air Force personnel whose families were stationed in England. The song came from their debut album, Homecoming.
The song is about Dewey Bunnell’s family’s drive down the California coast from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1963. According to Bunnell, he and his brother watched the clouds while standing on the side of the highway and saw a road sign for “Ventura” while there. The lyrics mention “alligator lizards in the air,” a reference to cloud formations Bunnell saw.
Oh, and the “Joe” mentioned in the song? He was modeled after a grumpy old man Bunnell met while his dad was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base (Biloxi, Mississippi).
“Ventura Highway” entered the charts on October 21, 1972, charting its highest at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and staying on the charts for twelve weeks.
Janet Jackson sampled the guitar riff in her 2001 song “Someone to Call My Lover.” The song’s co-producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, were influenced by America and “Ventura Highway” since listening to it on the radio in their hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Also a fan? Wrestler/Actor/Politician Jesse Ventura. America performed at his inaugural celebration, playing – you guessed it – “Ventura Highway,” as well as “A Horse With No Name.”
But enough of that, and more of what you came for…the music!
Well, that about does it for cruising down the coast, clouds shaped like animals, purple rain, and people dramatically looking in the mirror.
Ok, that happened on Saturday Night Live, but it is worth wrapping all of this up!
Have a great Monday, and enjoy the music!