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"Desperate Fools"


LC

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Sorry about being rather late but as I'm not a daily reader of EC.com (but an outright fan I am). The thread-starter (LC) and this discussion about "Desperate Fools" and his comments brings to mind a question which goes through my head every time I listen to this nice, melancoly piece: WHY WAS A HARMONICA USED AS AN INSTRUMENT? I picture every time a lonely cowboy sitting at an open fire playing this instrument on a dark, starry night. And this drives me crazy. Why wasn't a violin set in instead?

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I love the juxtaposition of the harmonica aginst the piano and strings. It has a beautiful, haunting tone and it was unexpected.. The harmonica sounds just the way I felt in L.A., lonely and out of place. That's why I used it. I WAS that harmonica. I didn't want another "symphonic" instrument. I wanted the solo really intimate, like the guy was sitting right next to you playing it. Tommy Morgan played it just beautifully. I LOVE the harmonica solo! ec

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The harmonica was the perfect counter to the existing tone/feel of the arrangement. It sets the whole piece apart from being just 'another song.'

I have never been one to pay a lot of attention to lyrics. For me, it has always been 'the sound.' But Desparate Fools really got my attention and was probably the genesis of a greater appreciation of songwriters as opposed to the talent of the musicians.

The angst of DF is vivid. I could never bare my soul like that. Kudos young man. You are truly a great lyricist.

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Annette, GREAT question, and I'm glad you asked it, because Eric's answer reminds me of why that harmonica solo always grabbed me. It was a really different touch on a song that ran counter to the trend of the day: disco.

I mean, here's this classic-sounding ballad with a real melody, sad lyrics, and a great harmonica, right smack in the middle of a time when you just couldn't escape that thumping disco beat.

Heck, I remember competing for turntable time with my college roommate that spring ('79). He was solidly in the disco camp:

* He wore painted-on designer jeans; a Ron Jeremy mustache; and gaudy silk shirts unbuttoned to the navel to expose his sweater-thick chest hair.

* He LOVED Sister Sledge, Saturday Night Fever, "I Will Survive," and the Village People. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

* His favorite activity: dancing all night under one of those big shiny disco balls at a club in Rochester, NY.

He'd come back from a night out, ready to cue up Peaches & Herb or Chic ("Le Freak"! Ugh!). And I'd have Side 2 of Change of Heart playing over and over.

Imagine trying to explain to your college roommate why "Boogie Oogie Oogie" wasn't anywhere near "Desperate Fools" in terms of depth, melody, lyric, production.... smile

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Thanks for the insight. I'll keep all your comments in mind when I listen to it again. I just have to get this 'lonesome cowboy' picture out of my mind. -- And it won't be easy. -- (Still interesting the psychological associations a person can make with such a piece of music.) - It would be interesting to know if other ec.com members have a movie running through their head when listening to a particular EC song/ballad?!

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I wanted the song to sound and feel like something Stephen Foster might have written. Very "Americana". In MY head, I pictured something more like Morgan Freeman in tattered old clothes, sitting on an inverted tin pail, back behind the slave chanty on a starlit Georgia night, looking up at the sky with a tear in his eye, and then he picks up his harmonica and starts to play........ec

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It really has a historical "emerging America" flavor to it. I have mentioned before (ad nauseam) that the song reminds me of "Old Man River" - totally different melody but a similar feel. An idea - when(?) you come to Atlanta, start the concert off with an actor (as you have described) sitting on an inverted pail miming the harmonica as the overture plays and then as the curtain opens, launch into something really upbeat.

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Eric, I love the pictures that you paint in describing your intentions for each song. You definitely have a vision with each and know how to go right after them and fulfill them.

After hearing your description, I'll be listening with a whole new set of ears. Thanks!

smile --Dar

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It would be interesting to know if other ec.com members have a movie running through their head when listening to a particular EC song/ballad?!

Hey Annette,

If you mean a sort of cinematic quality (as opposed to specific movies), I'd answer that question with "Nowhere to Hide," which has some great scene-setting; "She Remembered" (already covered in another thread); and, for me, "Run Away."

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Hey LC,

actually I wasn't thinking of film music. It has more to do with the images/pictures your brain generates (your fantasy) when listening to, say,'Desperate Fools', where I automatically associated the melody and the harmonica with a lonely 'Marlboro'-type cowboy, while a sad Eric literally saw himself sitting on an inverted pail playing the harmonica. YET, although 2 different stories, they both have something in common -- LONELINESS.

Take Smetana's "The Moldau", not everyone knows the Moldau is a River in the Czech Republic. If listening to this mighty piece of classical music for the first time and not knowing it is a river, a person could fantasize maybe a young handsome, dark-haired man interested in a golden, blue-eyed woman named Moldau, who is already promised to a high-ranking military officer. The boyfriend gets wind of this, challenges him to a duel, a sword fight takes place...and in the end the admirer dies. That's it. --This is what I mean with a film running through your head. In real, Smetana's Moldau River ends with it joining the Elbe River. Really powerful and timeless. - This is starting to get complicated. - I hope still you now understand the point I was trying to make. FANTASY is the keyword here.

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  • 15 years later...

After more than 15 years... bump!

For newer members, this thread is killer, starting on page 1, where the topic was "Desperate Fools." Eric himself hijacked the thread quickly, in a good way, by getting into his Boats Against the Current album. He revealed that Arista flipped around the order of songs; his original order was opposite of what appeared.

Eric also song-drops "Temporary Hero." He then makes some revealing and heartfelt comments about experiences that inspired the Boats album. Later, on page 3, he circles back and gives us the scoop on "Desperate Fools," thanks to a deft redirection by a short-term member named Annette. 

It was always a kick to read authentic comments from this site's namesake. 

 

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Aww...my favourite, Desperate Fools ❤️. Special Meaning for me as I wrote my own post about it when I first joined up in fall of 2021.  It was also my lead off song to a 2023 Eric Carmen set list that LC started not long ago. I listed it as my favourite song of Eric's when I joined and wondered why it wasn't talked about much on this site. The harmonica,  and it's great effect in Desperate Fools is also a topic I brought up,  glad to see I'm in good company. I have cherished this song for 44 years.  But to read Eric's comments regarding this song and "Boats" song placement is awesome . What a great read here.  "Temporary Hero",  I don't remember seeing a link to this song but I do remember it being talked about though. Another great unreleased gem. It's such good writing and a great melody. Eric's demos are so exceptional and his voice in that demo is the unmistakable Eric Carmen voice that we have come to love. Yes James I agree, thank you LC  for reviving this great thread!

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  • 4 months later...
On 6/16/2007 at 2:52 AM, Eric Carmen said:

I love the juxtaposition of the harmonica aginst the piano and strings. It has a beautiful, haunting tone and it was unexpected.. The harmonica sounds just the way I felt in L.A., lonely and out of place. That's why I used it. I WAS that harmonica. I didn't want another "symphonic" instrument. I wanted the solo really intimate, like the guy was sitting right next to you playing it. Tommy Morgan played it just beautifully. I LOVE the harmonica solo! ec

RIP Tommy Morgan - heckuva harmonica player - just gorgeous solo on this song!

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  • 1 month later...
On 6/11/2007 at 1:16 AM, hollies65 said:

Sonny Geraci [Lead singer of Cleveland legends The Outsiders] and his band Climax played at my high school prom in 1976...I just attended my 30th this year. I think I appreciate going to these alot more now...about 30 people in our class have passed away. Now I happen to have graduated in the largest class ever in the state of Ohio [Mentor 76...over 1200!]Good thing there were name tags...very few look anything like they used to...I do...but man...I was walking up to people I was friends with and I did not know it was them!

I had this band called "Raspberries" play at my high school prom in 1971 and boy was the lead singer a real hottie!

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