DAVE RADSTOCK

DIAMONDS

Welcome to a new feature, where I will select one of  Neil Diamond’s many gems.  I will include the actual song in an audio file where it can be played, and also include the reasons why a particular song has been selected and a brief background to the particular song.

 

 

I sincerely hope this proves to be an interesting inclusion to these pages and provides some interesting facts about the selected song, as well

as offer much pleasure to the listener.

 

There will be many classics, as well as many obscure or lesser well-known songs which deserve an airing, and which showcase Neil’s breadth as a songwriter, and interpreter of song.

 

All in all, I hope I can serve up some great musical treats, and have you wondering what the next installment will be. - Dave Radstock

'AND THE SINGER SINGS HIS SONG'

In the period between 1968 to 1973, Neil Diamond wrote many of those mega hits that he is known for, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘Cracklin Rosie’, ‘I Am... I Said’, ‘Holly Holy’, etc... but he also wrote many songs which are recognised staples, which should have been hits, Neil’s ability to write beautiful wistful songs was unmatched,  ‘And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind’, being one, and then we have this not often heard song, ‘And The Singer Sings His Song’, of all the songs of that era, I have always loved this one, it is beautiful in its simplicity, and yet is magnificent in its composition, the lyrics evoke a time of simple joys...

Young it was
True it was
Days without wond'ring
Fall with a special thing
Laugh, I could laugh
And I did…

Those lyrics conjure images of happiness, and of revelling in joyful days. It is absolute poetry, it speaks of a yearning for something that is lost, and of nostalgia, and contentment.

 

 

When you first listen to the song, all you initially hear is the gently strummed guitar, and Neil’s melodic and evocative vocals, but underlying these, is a fabulously orchestrated score, slowly lifting, and flowing where it gently seeps into your consciousness, and completes the song wonderfully. The absolute innocence played throughout the song is of another time.

Good it was
When it was
We chased the flowers
Warm summer showers
Once, it was once
Long ago

And the singer sings his song
And the children dance along
And the singer sings his song
And we dance along

This verse speaks of the simplicity of life and of being happy with simple pleasures.

 ‘And the singer sings his song’ is a beautiful, romantic, wistful and masterful song, which transports us to a time of innocent bliss.

The second verse is the start of the journey, where Neil recounts what he did in an effort to find this unknown heaven -

Caught me a pick-up
Down from Seattle through to L.A.
Seems like those folks
Go chasin' a new star every day
Ain't gonna stay
In Nevada, through Wyomin'
Colorado, I'm on my way

 

This verse speaks as though Neil is chasing his dream of stardom, and touring, the lyric certainly fits with that train of thought.

The final verse speaks of further travels, and encounters with other similar minded free spirits -

Met so many others
Wanted to know which way to go
Louisiana, New York City
They wanted the answer
They'd ask of me

'GLORY ROAD' - 1977 - 'Love At The Greek' Live Version

'GLORY ROAD'

"Glory Road is right here in me..." - ND (2012)

I have been sat thinking about this song ever since Webmaster Doug mentioned that he was working on a video to the song, and asked what my interpretation of it is, the thoughts have filled my head for the last few days.

'Glory Road' is an interesting song, and whilst it sits comfortably amongst many of Diamond’s wonderful early compositions, it is open to all manner of interpretation.

What or where is 'Glory Road'?...

The opening verse finds Neil telling us he is embarking on a journey of sorts, and setting out to find some kind of Holy Grail

Wearin' my high boots
Got all my world lies here in a sack
Looking for something
Knowing that it ain't here where I'm at
Ain't looking back
I'm comin'
Ride by thumbin'
Get by bummin'
I'm on my way

Straight away Neil is setting the scene, he feels that what he is looking for requires a search, and not really knowing what he’s looking for, but speaks as though whatever it is will be his own Nirvana or Utopia, a means to an end.

Friend, have you seen glory road
Say, friend, I got a heavy load
And I know glory road's waiting for me
     

'GLORY ROAD' - 1969 Studio Version

It is this verse which I formed my own interpretation, the final analysis and belief of what and where 'Glory Road' is. The song ends where it began, Neil’s home of New York, and tells me that he didn’t have to embark on a journey of discovery to find what was already in front of him...

'Glory Road'is home, where all the love and dreams began, and where it could always be found, it is the beginning, the end, and the in-between of everything.

Webmaster Doug was correct in his own interpretation, where he believes Neil

is talking of his career, and ambitions as a struggling artist on the road to finding fame, success and adulation, and also a piece of heaven, 'Glory Road' is all of those things, but I believe it is more rooted in the warmth and love of family and home, the old adage... "Home is where the heart is", springs to mind.

A lady I met whilst attending Neil’s 50th Anniversary Concert in Leeds, mentioned 'Glory Road' was her favourite Neil Diamond song, and I can understand why, it is a nostalgic song, whilst being spiritual, and speaks of ambition, and not being afraid to follow your dreams, a song of self discovery in many ways.                                  

If you’re gonna be true to me                                            

First you’ve got to be true to yourself                               

Oh yeah                                                                                

It don’t matter about nobody else                                   

Oh no                                                                                    

If it’s there in your mind

It’s a lesson I’ve just come to learn                                   

Something that I’ve only just begun to learn               

Oh yeah                                                                             

For the very first time                                                       

For the very first time

I interpret these verses as Neil talking to himself, as though having difficulty facing the sad reality of his father’s passing, he is telling himself that in order to move forward he has to be true to himself, the thought is swirling in his mind, this has happened, and you better deal with it, this is the biggest loss of his life at that moment, which he admits to in the second verse, “It’s a lesson I’ve just come to learn, for the very first time…”

There are elements of guilt in the song, a classic symptom of grief. Thoughts of what did I do wrong, could I have done anything differently, If only I had have done this, if only I would have done that, a common process of reasoning relating to loss. 

 

The chorus of the song speaks as though Neil hears his father,

and reasons what advice his father would give.

 

'ANGEL ABOVE MY HEAD'

This song was first heard when Neil included it on the 3-CD 1996 Box Set, ‘In My Lifetime’. On listening to it for the first time it is difficult to analyse and interpret it with any accuracy. It was written shortly after his beloved father passed away in 1985.

I have listened to the song many times since that first hearing, and to me it is a lament of grief and loss, and a desire to be still able to turn to his father for advice.

There is a level of disbelief and denial in the lyric that his father has passed away, as though Neil is still having a conversation with him. This kind of response reduces the anxiety by allowing the individual to limit their awareness of the reality of what has happened until the pain can be let in more slowly.

Everything inside shouts “NO” and the mind struggles to escape, unable to tolerate the pain if the reality were faced, the person feels emotional anaesthesia, where numbness sets in.

The lyrics in the song are wholly centred around loss, and in trying to come to terms with such an event, as though the writer, (Neil) is in some way convincing himself that this huge loss has occurred, and is a form of therapy for himself in dealing with it.

Angel above my head

Calling my name in different places

Angel above my head

Saying it’s alright to show your face to the world

It is clearly saying, stop grieving for me, go out and live, stop hiding, show yourself again.

Everything seems new to me                                                                 

Such a very recent turn of events                                                            

And the truth just doesn’t make any sense                                           

Oh no                                                                                                    

For the very first time

If we had another year or two                                                                 

I would spend it being near to you                                                          

Oh yeah                                                                                                   

Like the very first time                                                                         

Like the very first time

These verses face up to the stark reality of losing his father, and an acknowledgement that his life has changed forever. The typical reaction of wishing he had spent more time with his father, and a real sense of regret, and how is he going to cope with his loss.

                                                                                                                                       

It has been reported that Neil Diamond suffered a high level of depression after his father had died, a sense of loneliness also set in. Depression and loneliness are considered the most painful processes of bereavement. When a loved one is removed from their lives, people are often overcome by feelings of utter depression and isolation, where gradually the enormity of the loss sets in, reminders are everywhere, an empty chair by the fireside, a vacant place at the dinner table, a family photograph, and more poignantly, a missing phone call, or other personal contact. Sadness and depression follow, and self pity is frequent, where it has been suggested that the bereaved cry for themselves rather than for the deceased.

 

What Neil Diamond has done in writing this song, is to deal with the metaphysical aspect of grief, to firstly acknowledge it, and confirm it in the mind, and then write those feelings on paper, in this case, in the form of a song.

This form of self help shows the person as a reasoned individual, who is able to accept the loss, and deal with it constructively, it also shows Neil Diamond to be a deep feeling person, where he expresses his feelings openly via his gift as a songwriter, very much wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Yes, men are so easy

Just love them and let them be free

It's not complicated
Men are so easy
Like me...

'MEN ARE SO EASY'

I cannot think of another song that talks so openly about men’s feelings, and the often hidden vulnerability that men are loathe to show. The song talks about how men have to maintain a particular image, and yet underneath the tough exterior are an individual with all the same emotional needs as our female counterparts.

Didn’t I tell you 

Don’t you remember

Said it so clearly

Couldn't you hear me

I wasn’t pretending

I said that I love you

As plain as I can do

Why complicate it

Why go and make it so hard

The verse talks about how men prefer a simpler approach to relationships, whereas women seem to want hearts and flowers all the time, as a means of reassurance that their partner still loves them.

The second verse talks of how men, once they understand what the woman wants, will show that love in their own unique way, and will do that for life.

 

Men are so easy

Laugh if you want to

Once they decipher 

They take you for life

And, that’s worth hanging on to

They tell you they love you

In ways that they can do

Men are so easy

Why does it need to be hard

This is a re-affirmation that as complicated as the man seems. If  you take the trouble to explore what makes us tick, you will realise we are not complicated at all.

The bridge talks of how men tend to hide where matters of the heart are concerned, and will close down when faced with opening up, it’s centred around the “Machismo” complex, where any show of emotion is associated with weakness, where in fact the opposite is true.

 

The boy becomes a man

And in the time he learns to stand

He finds a way to build a wall

To hide behind if he should fall

He grows to be a man

And show the world that he can stand

Not knowing fear

Or even pain while

Underneath when you look deep

A boy remains ...

That particular line sums up the whole issue within the song, and it explains, that despite the tough facade, there is a hidden vulnerability that exists, which Neil writes so eloquently about.

The song says much about Neil Diamond himself, where through his music, he has often shown a real sensitivity when talking about love and its many facets, he lays himself on the line, like an admittance that he is a normal, feeling, vulnerable, and emotional person. These traits can be seen as proof of

his innate ability to be able to relate to such deep emotions, and could be set in his muse, where he digs into these feelings to enable him to write such heartfelt lyrics.

‘Men Are So Easy’ featured on the ’12 Songs’ album, an album which garnered critical acclaim, and could be said to have been the catalyst for Neil’s resurgence as a prominent artist once more, and also garner a new generation of fans.

'SOLITARY MAN'

This has to be the song that really started it all off for Neil, a song which I imagine was based around Neil’s own perception of himself ... 'SOLITARY MAN'.

 

SOLITARY MAN was written by Neil at his home in Massapequa, Long Island, and was inspired by the minor-key of the Beatles song “Michelle” which Neil loved, the song convinced Neil that he had always been this quiet, introverted kid, contrary to his 6th grade graduation book, where his fellow students voted him most cheerful, which shook his whole concept of what he was like as a child, I thought I was a loner, Neil stated later, and it turns out I was probably a cheerleader, on the other hand, Neil went on, “Cheerful Man” wouldn’t have the same ring to it.

'SEPTEMBER MORN'

Today is my significant other’s birthday, and I have always loved the month of September, with it’s beautiful colours of gold, brown, yellow, and the remnants of green from summer.

 

'September Morn' was written with Gilbert Becaud in his apartment in Paris,

it was the first song Neil had ever sat down to write with Gilbert, he had attended one of Neil’s shows the night before, and asked Neil if they could get together for lunch the following day, and maybe even do some work. Gilbert started playing a romantic melody, Neil stated he liked it, and began working with the idea, and completed most of the song at that get together.

The song featured as the title track to Neil’s well received album 'September Morn' recorded in 1979, produced by Bob Gaudio, and arranged by long standing band member Tom Hensley. 'September Morn' is a gorgeous romantic ballad telling the story of a rekindled love, between lovers who had drifted apart but found each other again.

 

'YOU MAKE IT FEEL LIKE CHRISTMAS'

This was the first Christmas song Neil had ever composed and featured on the Primitive Album, 1984. Whilst it wasn’t specifically a Christmas song, one couldn’t ignore the strong feel of Christmas running through it, it is a lovely song, telling the story of a strong and enduring love which provided all the warmth and joy of Christmas time, and has to be included at this special time of year.

Thanks and appreciation to Dave Radstock for his invaluable and informative contributions