Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Tears of a Clown

Posted in Smokey Robinson on May 16th, 2015 by Willie

tears of a clown

“If there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public, but when it comes down to fooling you, now honey that’s quite a different subject.”

I don’t think there is a better opening line of lyrics and verse melody ever crafted in a pop song. It’s the perfect combination of clever introspective word play and a soaring melody that cuts through the air like a skyscraper. It’s sublime and it’s no wonder that it was crafted primarily by Motown titans Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. In the past week, I must have played this song about 30 times on my iPod. This song has become a key part of my late Spring 2015 soundtrack as I walk around the city. The music just animates NYC as I turn corners, climb steps and gaze at crystal blue colored skies with this jam kaleidoscoping through my brain.

It’s ironic how much joy this song gives me despite it’s depressing subject matter. It’s a great breakup song with perfect rhymes. The only complaint I have is the circus like orchestral melody which is supposed to tie in with clown theme. It’s incredibly catchy and suits the song musically but I wish they made it a bit cooler and less commercial. Maybe record it with a Rhodes electric piano or a fuzzed up electric guitar line. That doesn’t matter, this song is fantastic and will probably be replayed thousands of times in the lives of the people who come to love the song. Become one of them by watching the video below.

BTW, here is the friendly reminder to check out my album “Funeral Business,” which is for sale on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. More information on this modern rock and roll classic album masterpiece can be found by clicking here. Also, for previews of the album you can check out the cool videos on my YouTube channel or check out my Pandora radio station. Thanks for all the continued love and support!


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My New Music Video, Chain Letter!

Posted in Andrew Lee, Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 22nd, 2013 by Willie

UPDATE: 12/22/2013.  This song has undergone an significant overhaul in the past few months. First, the immortal Feliziano B. Flores came by to help me flesh out the chorus and middle part. Mr. Flores was wonderfully inspiring, providing incredible work under time pressured conditions and my less than reliable producing. I thank him for that. Still, after working through some changes with the talented FBF, it still was missing something. At long last I found the missing piece and balance needed to send the song off on the glittering flying saucer I envisioned in my head when I first created it. As a result, I pulled the original YouTube video down and replaced it with the one below. I hope you enjoy it as I near the finish line of finally finishing my new album, Funeral Business!

Originally published on September 7, 2012: I wrote this song by accident.  I came home from Australia after five months of having no guitar to play with, and started to write a song about how miserable life could be.  The opening line, “27 lonely years, you’ll be living with your fears, if you don’t send, this message to your friends,” was all I had.  I had no idea what the song would be about, but I loved the rhyme scheme and the rapid fire delivery.  As I kept writing lines that fit the pattern, it dawned on me that I was writing about the doom and gloom found in chain letters.  After that revelation, it was only a matter of ripping off “Paperback Writer” and “Day Tripper,” and boom, I had a delirious new psychedelic pop song.  My last music video, “Funeral Business,” featured the Ghostbusters rocking out to that jam, so I figured I’d return to the pop culture well for the equally spooky “Chain Letter.”  One of my favorite shows ever, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” offered the perfect template for a song about tempting supernatural fate.  I’d like to thank my friend Andrew Lee, first and foremost, for his incredible guitar solo.  I’d also like to thank Lilja Nielsen for much needed video editing critiques, and the brilliant George Gross for more of the same.  Lastly I’d like to thank my friends Matt Sturm, Sonia Rapaport, and Ian Wehrle for a bunch of moral support and musical advice.  That’s enough yapping, so please enjoy the song and video below, and remember, chain letters only work when you share them with all your friends, so if you don’t wish to be cursed with 27 years of misfortune, please share this video with everyone you can!

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Making More Rock And Roll, Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper

Posted in The Beatles, Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 1st, 2012 by Willie

Well, I haven’t updated the ole’ website in a good while, and the reason is because I’m still making more rock and roll. The intention of this humble little corner of internet space was never to be a daily rock and roll blog, that happened more or less organically. The site was created to feature my music, and to that end, my album, which I’ve previewed extensively on this site, is nearly finished. The album in question, which I’ve named Funeral Business, is something I’m growing increasingly proud of. The album art, which the ever lovely Sonia Rapaport created, is the thing you’re looking at right above. Right now I’m collaborating on one last tune with Andrew Lee, and from there, the future promises to reflect the glimmering wonderfulness to be entailed within it. I’m planning a mini documentary movie in the coming weeks about the creation of the record, and a further reflection on my thoughts on rock and roll and what it means to me. Its a flourish of self centered activity that I find rather distasteful, but necessary to further spread the joy this music has brought to me. I want to thank all my friends and family who have helped me along the way here, and I also want to post this incredibly cool video someone made deconstructing the “Sgt. Pepper” song, because it goes against everything in my nature to provide an update without some music. This little video is really fascinating, breaking the song down into its component parts, giving you a sense of how the Beatles created their masterpieces. You will also be hypnotized by those groovy multicolored lines of sonic goodness. Enjoy.

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Happy 72 John Lennon, Woman

Posted in John Lennon on October 9th, 2012 by Willie

Well, if John Lennon had survived, he’d be 72 years old today. I do think its kind of strange to wish a dead man happy birthday, but this is John Lennon, a guy that still lives in my fantasies and dreams. Along with Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, RFK, and Bob Marley, John Lennon is one of the mythic superstars of reality that I had wished lived to see the future. His work in life was unfinished, and the thought of wondering what music and outrageous activities he had saved in cranium can drive any Beatle lunatic fan mad. Recently I discovered that John was offered the role of Professor Falken in the cult classic “War Games,” and seriously considered it until his untimely murder stopped all that. At first I thought that would have been terrible, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought how brilliant John would have been in that role. John WAS an actor after all, with a lot of experience making movies and being in front of the camera. Most of his roles were Beatle related, and not exactly serious, though he shows flashes of brilliance in every movie he was in. John could have had a distinguished career as a wonderful character actor, a dimension that would have brought to life a whole new artistic light for him and the world. Anyway, its always fun to speculate on what might have been every time John Lennon’s birth, or death date, comes around, whether they be dreams about Beatle Reunions, or battling rogue AI in an effort to save the world from global thermonuclear war. But in the final analysis, to quote another dead hero, John was a musician, so here is some; the song and video for “Woman” from “Double Fantasy.” “Woman” is a beautiful soft rock ode to Yoko, and all women too. It’s a lovely philosophical and mature song on the subject of love, and its also a great feminist anthem, an awesome talent John possessed. Enjoy, and Happy Birthday Mr. Lennon.

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Petula Clark, Downtown, A Sign of the Times

Posted in Petula Clark on October 4th, 2012 by Willie

Normally, when you think about the end of the baseball season, you don’t think about Petula Clark, but I do. I’m a rabid New York Mets fan, and when I was a kid, I had a VHS of “Amazin Era,” a film about the history of the New York Mets from 1962-1985. I watched that tape endlessly, over and over, and the soundtrack from that tape just fills me with that special brand of nostalgia. As the Mets season came to another disappointing finish yesterday afternoon, I randomly stumbled on the old Petula Clark song “A Sign of the Times.” This song was featured prominently in the “Amazin Era” tape, and its etched in the loops of my childhood memories. Now, those who read my website know that when I’m posting songs from the 60s, they are usually the absolute best songs of the era; the most artistic, the most serious, the most life changing. Petula’s 60s output doesn’t live up to those standards, but she WAS a product of the most glorious time in pop music, and as a consequence, her cheesy music still IS powerful. “Downtown,” made famous in modern times as a minor subplot in a Seinfeld episode, is an example of this. Its about a lonely woman who just travels to the city to see a movie to lift her spirits. Its totally dumb, but the melody, and Petula’s singing are out of this world. The same goes for “A Sign of the Times,” a sterling diamond of a song. To me, and I know this is borderline insanity, but “A Sign of the Times” was exactly the type of song Paul McCartney was writing in early 1967. It has an awesome vintage British feel that has proven incredibly hard to replicate by anyone since that era. So, sit back, and enjoy these two hunks of 60s confectionery sugar.

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The Bobby Fuller Four, I Fought the Law

Posted in Bobby Fuller on September 12th, 2012 by Willie

The year was 1966.  Bobby Fuller was a 23-year-old Texas rocker, riding high off the chart topping success of “I Fought the Law.”  He had moved out to California, been experimenting with LSD like the rest of his generation, and then suddenly, he died.  How?  Why?  Nobody is really certain to this day.  He was found dead in Hollywood, in his car.  Authorities found his body covered in petechial hemorrahages, unsightly red and purple marks caused  by exposure to gasoline vapors.  Some figured he must have guzzled gasoline, and the cops ruled his death a suicide.  Others say it was murder, with speculation ranging from Charles Manson to a nefarious LAPD coverup due to Fuller’s involvement with mafia women.  Whatever happened, his tragic death ended an incredibly promising career.  Fuller was a remarkable beautiful singer and songwriter with a bright and driving sound of joy.  In many ways he seemed like the heir to Buddy Holly’s legacy.  Like Buddy, Bobby was also a brash rockabilly Texan.   Bobby even got famous off a song Sonny Curtis wrote, the guitar player in the Crickets, Buddy Holly’s band.  “I Fought the Law” is just a fantastic piece of pure rock and roll.  As catchy and addictive as rock and roll gets, the song has mutated through different rock genres over the years, most famously by the Clash’s punk rock take on it.  I like the Bobby Fuller version the best, and the video below is a monument Bobby’s brilliance and talent.

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The Beach Boys, Good Vibrations

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 24th, 2012 by Willie

“Good Vibrations” was never my favorite Beach Boys song.  Its taken me years of casual indifference before I really warmed up to it, and it was only when I found the song’s proverbial sunny side.  For years I was turned off by the songs aggressive psychedelic atmosphere.  I was always slightly afraid of the dark and foreboding atmosphere going on, but one day I caught the song somewhere, and it just hit me.  This is just a gentle song about falling in love, like practically every Beach Boys song.  Brian Wilson’s innocent teenage heart, his best songwriting weapon, is in full effect here through a myriad of electro-theremins.  “Good Vibrations” was set to be the dynamic first single of Smile, Brian Wilson’s answer to Sgt. Pepper.  Unfortunately it would take Brian 40 years or so to finish Smile, a reflection of the intense pressure Brian subjected himself to in the 60s.  Luckily Brian successfully over came his demons, came out of his shell, and received all the love he was deserved when his legacy got resurrected in the late 90s.  Anyway, I think this is a good point to cap my two week odyssey into the sounds of Southern California, and begin the slow sad goodbye to the summer of love.

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The Beach Boys, God Only Knows

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 21st, 2012 by Willie

After accidentally realizing that he was a musical genius, Brian Wilson stepped up his efforts by the mid 60s.  Looking for a more serious direction, he began collaborating with lyricist Tony Asher, who helped interpret Brian’s musical ideas into focused lyrical concepts.  The increased level of lyrical and musical sophistication also stretched the limits of what was acceptable in pop music in 1966.  There weren’t practically any pop songs from that era with “God” in the title, and putting that word in the title was the source of great anguish to Brian as he was convinced it would ruin the chances of the song being a hit.  It was a hit in Europe, but only a minor success in America.  The song was an even bigger hit with Wilson’s contemporaries.  Paul McCartney has consistently rated “God Only Knows” as his favorite song ever, and it clearly influenced him to keep ramping up his sophisticated brand of mid 60s pop.  The song’s success with McCartney might have actually ended up being a negative for Brian’s psyche.  McCartney was already busy with Revolver, a masterpiece that would equal, if not surpass Pet Sounds, and nary a year later Paul and the Fabs came out with Sgt. Pepper.  There was no way Brian could compete with that level of production, and the pressure to match the Beatles led to his famous nervous breakdown.  It’s really too bad because when Brian wasn’t losing his mind, he was one of the greatest songwriters in American history.  One last fun fact, its actually Carl Wilson singing the lead vocal on the track.  Brian gave his brother the vocal because he liked Carl’s natural delivery on the song.  Nice guy that Brian Wilson.

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The Beach Boys, Surfer Girl

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 13th, 2012 by Willie

It’s hard to imagine that summer is almost over.  I’m actually on my third summer in a row.  Just when summer ended in 2011, I jetted for Sydney, and spent 5 months there just as Australia’s summer dawned, fully missing America’s cold months.  I returned home in March 2012, just in time for Spring, hence my endless summer.  I can’t think of a better way to mourn the loss of summer then with one of the saddest and my most beautiful Beach Boys songs ever, “Surfer Girl.”  It’s almost hard to believe that “Surfer Girl” was the first song Brian Wilson wrote.  He was 19 years old and the song drifted into his brain on a summer breeze as he drove his car around southern California.  “Surfer Girl,” a romantic pop masterpiece, is no slouchy way to begin a career of legendary pop music.  The song features all the greatest Beach Boy trademarks; a stunningly nostalgic melody, perfectly constructed harmonies, and wonderful lyrics mixing surfing and love.  One last note.  I love the emerging trend in these live performances of the shy Brian taking the lead vocal in a band where the hammy Mike Love, who has nothing to do but sing, is sidelined for his much more talented cousin.  It’s a fantastic live performance all around, so before you head to the beach, give “Surfer Girl” a spin to remember why you are alive and doing such activities in the first place.


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The Beach Boys, In My Room

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 9th, 2012 by Willie

Followers of this site know I have about one billion tributes, breakdowns, and videos of my favorite group ever, the Beatles.  If you didn’t know any better, you’d think I am some sort of pasty, Union Jack waving, North Englander filled with way too much national pride.  The reality is, that while I am pasty, I’m actually an American from Brooklyn, New York, and you couldn’t get more Brooklyn then honoring the Beach Boys, local lads direct from Coney Island!  Just kidding, they are from sunny Hawthorne California, a suburb of Los Angeles.  The Beach Boys crested into the hearts of America on harmonies that no one thought possible from 5 young men with rock and roll addictions.  Songs like “In My Room,” seem as wholesome as songs can get. The Beach Boys look and sound like a gang of elitist preppy choir boys, which to me, makes the band, and their leader, Brian Wilson, all the more subversive.  The Beach Boys projected an image of friendly prettiness, but the beauty of Brian Wilson’s songwriting, which in reality was painstakingly tortured, hinted at something darker and more intimate.  Much like his contemporaries John and Paul, Brian accidentally began to realize that just because you write pop music, you can’t really hide your artistic pain behind the veneer of a two minute song written for teenagers.  Brian’s discovery allowed him to tap further depths of soul that would inform his later masterpieces.  Those masterpieces will be explored later this week as we delve deeper into the wonderful world of Beach Boys music.  Stay tuned.

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