Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ripping out the root of love

When you talk about big female voices, one that never seems to get mentioned is Toni Childs. And this is truly a shame, because she has a voice as big as...well, just about anything. The only song of hers that made any kind of waves at all (and by waves I mean ripples) is 1988's "Don't Walk Away."

During the late fall/early winter of my junior year of high school, I was OBSESSED with Toni Childs' "Don't Walk Away." And how could I not be? A powerful female voice, what sounds like a minor key (although I can't independently prove that) and a great GREAT hook in "ripping out the root of love." I can't imagine this song in anyone else's hands. No one, but NO ONE could do that "Don't walk awaaaaaeeeeee" like she does. Despite my love for it (or perhaps because of it), it barely made a dent on the U.S. charts, peaking in the 70s or something like that, although it did have a nice run on the Modern Rock chart. This song deserved so much more exposure than it got which really is sad.

I discovered this song when I was in the midst of completely eschewing pop radio (mostly in vain) for what I had determined was more "artistic" fare. This was the fall that I discovered 10,000 Maniacs, Tracy Chapman, Edie Brickell and other artists that don't fit in very well with the expected Dan mold of cheesy dance pop. It was, as I have detailed in the past, partially the influence of and partially an attempt to impress one of my best high school friends, Kelly. I've talked about Kelly before in my Tracy Chapman post I did a few years back. At the time I wrote the post, I had really lost track of her. In the time that's elapsed since that post, we've reconnected on Facebook and she also paid a visit to Ames this summer during which we went to the always fantastic Great Plains Pizza and got all caught up on the last umpteen years.

Kelly and I never saw eye to eye on Toni Childs. She always likened her voice to a sharp knife cutting through bread. I guess I can see that. It's certainly an acquired taste and not everyone's cup of tea. She did, however, help me to acquire the Toni Childs CD Union which was never in a million years going to be at K-Mart in Carroll, IA. She picked it up for me on a trip to Omaha and then navigated the icy streets of Carroll to deliver it to my house. Union is one of those albums that I always forget about. I remember being less than impressed with it - nothing was as good as "Don't Walk Away" and even after only 9 songs, her voice started to grate. But when I do rediscover it, I always like it more than I remember. But "Don't Walk Away" is still the standout. It was even nominated for a Grammy that year for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance amidst four other standout nominees (Tina Turner for Tina: Live In Europe, Pat Benatar for "All Fired Up", Melissa Etheridge for "Bring Me Some Water" and Sinead O'Connor for The Lion & The Cobra.) Tina ended up winning it like she did every year during that time period.

I've mentioned before that during our junior year of high school, Kelly and I kept a journal together. It was a Mead notebook that we passed back and forth and we took turns writing in it. There were two volumes total and somehow I ended up in possession of both volumes. It's been 22 years since we initially wrote them and some of the pencil is starting to fade. It makes me think that I need to scan the pages into the computer so that they are preserved for posterity. Not that anyone would want to read them but us, but they do represent a fragment of time - an early version of this very blog, if you will - that is now passed. It was a time that I tried without much success to escape the grips of cheesy pop. At 38, I'm still in cheesy pop's clutches and I know better than to try to get away now. However, while looking through those journals, I did find this, and considering my comment about knives and bread, I thought was appropriate for this post.

That's Kelly adding "the edge serrate" as she was the biggest INXS fan I have ever known. I love how Union was "my next tape need." Little did I know that the CD player was about to arrive at Christmas that year.

And really, to be totally honest, if Jason and I ever get our respective acts together, this could be the first entry in our It Should Have Been A Hit! blog.


John said...

It absolutely should have been a hit. This fits into the same mold with One2Many's "Downtown" and Banderas' "This Is Your Life". Love it, and haven't thought about it in years. The video was one of those stylistic ones that VH1 played the heck out of (I assume) because of the arty cinematography.

Jason Roush said...

Awesome post, Dan, and an excellent unofficial first entry in our forthcoming future blog! I remember that Toni Childs album, and I totally remember having my "next tape needs" back in junior high and high school. In fact, the mom of a friend of mine used to scold me for thinking that a dollar was equal to "one-seventh of a new cassette tape," as she described my spending habits back then. :)

Dan said...

John - we were VH1-less in our one-horse town, but we did have MTV and I think I saw the video once! But it certainly left an impression. Oddly enough, I have never really gotten into anything else she's done.

Jason - As I'm sure is no surprise to you, I bought records and tapes in my teenage years like it was going out of style. I would have bought an album a week if I could have afforded it. That said, I do have quite the collection of 45s from the mid-to-late 80s. They were MUCH more affordable. A dollar was 2/3rds of a 45! ;)