Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Acoustic Storm Christmas


The Acoustic Storm brings Christmas cheer to the airwaves next weekend (12/20-12/21) with acoustic rock for the holidays. An Acoustic Storm Christmas will feature a double bill in the Eye of The Storm with Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, featuring Christmas music and memories from Jon Anderson of Yes and Greg Lake of ELP.

You'll also hear traditional Christmas songs from Bruce Springsteen,
David Bowie (with Bing Crosby), Marshall Tucker and Jeff Beck; plus
acoustic-rock holiday classics from John Lennon, Elton John, the
Eagles and Jethro Tull.

As an added treat, we'll head to the archives for those vintage Christmas messages from the Beatles to their fan club, which date back to the early '60s.

One of the songs we'll play is "Same Old Lang Syne" by the late Dan Fogelberg. Larry Coffman wrote the following article exclusively for the Acoustic Storm Web site:

There have been many songs recorded in the rock era that tell a story. But the crème de la crème of these is "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg. It is a masterful retelling of an experience he had in 1975, and it became his signature song.

We remember the song this month because of its strong connection to the holiday season – and because of the first anniversary of Fogelberg’s death.

The song tells a compelling tale of two former lovers who have a chance meeting in a grocery store on Christmas Eve. They had dated in high school and are now adults who have not seen one another in a few years. Their efforts to take their conversation from the market to a bar are foiled when they find that all the taverns are closed. So they stop at a neighborhood liquor store, buy some beer and sip while they chat in the woman’s car.

After Fogelberg died of cancer on December 16, 2007, Jill Greulich stepped forward to reveal she is the woman whom he encountered on that snowy night in Peoria, Illinois. Greulich, now living with her second husband in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, grew up in Peoria and attended Woodruff High School with Fogelberg from 1965 to ’69. Her account of the Christmas Eve event first appeared in the Peoria Journal-Star. Attempts to reach her for additional comments were unsuccessful.

Fogelberg and Greulich, who was Jill Anderson back then, dated intermittently during their high school years. After he departed for the University of Illinois and she for Western Illinois University, they kept in touch and even dated occasionally. But the romance was finished when he left the state to pursue his music career. Dan was playing coffeehouses in Champaign, Ill., when he was discovered by schoolmate and fledgling agent Irving Azoff, who sent the budding star to Los Angeles and then Nashville to sharpen his skills.

Jill, meanwhile, relocated to the Chicago area to work as an elementary school teacher and flight attendant. A man she met there became her first husband.

In December 1975, Jill and her husband were in Peoria for a visit. During a family gathering on the night of the 24th, her mother asked Jill to get some eggnog from a nearby store. She ended up at the Convenient Food Market, where Dan, also home for the holidays, had gone to purchase whipped cream to make Irish coffees.

As they sat in Jill’s car with beer in hand, they caught up on the years that had passed since their last meeting. There were some bittersweet moments, as told by Dan’s skillful lyrical crafting. The two finally ran out of things to talk about and went back to their respective families.

The song ends on a melancholy note, with Dan reliving the high school days he spent as Jill’s lover and feeling the pain of their break-ups. As they part, an idyllic winter night is soured when falling snow "turned into rain."

Five years later the song, which would appear on the album "The Innocent Age," was released. Jill heard it on the radio one morning as she was driving to work and thought it sounded like Dan’s singing. Then she absorbed the lyrics and thought, "Oh my gosh! That really happened!"

The song is factual – to a point. The words say that Dan told Jill, "…her eyes were still as blue." But in reality her eyes are green. Chalk that up to poetic license. They also say that Jill told Dan she had married an architect, when her then-husband actually was a physical education teacher. It’s unlikely that Dan knew what Jill’s husband did for a living and just thought "architect" sounded good, she said.

The memory of the event is one that Jill treasures. She explained that she sat on the secret for so long because "it wasn’t about me, it was about Dan. It was Dan’s song."

The melody at the beginning of each verse comes from Tchaikovsky’s "1812 Overture."

The recording features Fogelberg on acoustic piano, bass and electric piano, and he overdubbed his backing vocals. Russ Kunkel played drums, and the late Michael Brecker played the closing solo snippet of "Auld Lang Syne" on soprano saxophone.

"Auld Lang Syne" is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. Translated, the title means "old long since," "long long ago" or "days gone by."

Band leader Guy Lombardo often is credited with popularizing the use of the song on New Year’s Eve through his annual broadcasts on radio and TV dating back to 1929. He also recorded it in 1939 and ’47.

"Same Old Lang Syne" was not the only song Dan wrote from his personal life. "Leader Of The Band" was about his father, Lawrence Fogelberg, who was an educator and band leader at Woodruff and Pekin high schools. He began an eight-year stint as band director at Bradley University in 1951, the year Dan was born. On his website, Dan wrote, "I was so gratified that I gave him that song before he passed on."

Dan’s mother, Margaret, emigrated from Scotland as a child and was classically trained as a pianist while attending Bradley in the 1940s.

The liner notes from "The Innocent Age" include a thank you from Dan to "my father for his gift of music and my mother for her gift of words."

Paul Evans succinctly summed up the impact of "Same Old Lang Syne" in his liner notes of one of Dan’s last CDs when he wrote, "A Dan Fogelberg song haunts you. It lingers."

That haunting masterpiece will be lingering for many years to come.

Happy Holidays from The Acoustic Storm!