R.I.P. Glenn Frey 1948 – 2016
He’ll be remembered by most for his groundbreaking work with The Eagles but over here at the Land of TNUC, Glenn Frey’s impact meant something completely different. When ‘You Belong to the City’ was birthed into this world during an episode of Miami Vice in 1985, this man brought us the gift of trenchcoat-noir. Make no mistake, this song isn’t merely a “slice” from this sacred genre of music or just another track pulled from its growing library…this is the granddaddy, quintessential, textbook trenchcoat-noir song of the century. FACT.
What are you babbling about Uncle T? What the hell is “trenchcoat-noir”? For starters, it’s a certain style of music that has an almost indescribable chilly-night “feeling” attached to it. Cold synths, smooth basslines and flashy production are just some of the ingredients that when this music hits, it inspires us to wander the streets at night with that trusty trenchcoat and a cigarette dangling from the mouth, while night rhythms echo in our minds. The pale moonlight and neon signs provide just enough light to guide you through the damp streets and dark alleys of the buzzing city. You pass by sports cars, people in nightclubs drinking Zima, steaming hot dog carts, sexy silhouettes, homeless people hovering over burning barrels and the usual leather-clad hooker on the corner named Sharise. These are the visuals that accompany trenchcoat-noir. Extremely polished. Masterfully slick. Rawness of the city. Tons of heart.
Time to listen and watch the five minutes and forty-eight seconds that started this entire movement. If this is your 7,000th listen to this song (like me), shut off all distractions around you and turn up the volume. It’s time for a revisit and to bid this man a proper farewell.
Right from the start it’s everything you could possibly ask for in a song. When that signature saxophone slides into my eardrums and down into my pants, I can’t help but stop whatever I’m doing and sink into an entirely new listening experience. Studio musician Bill Bergman isn’t just “playing” that saxophone. That sax is crying, aching and ripping into all of our hearts. I don’t think this instrument has ever sounded so rich and tough at the same time. It’s the perfect balance of elegance and BALLS.
But hey, if what you long for is the complete audio/visual experience, plant your ass to the all-white leather sofa and watch the Miami Vice episode “Prodigal Son” (Season 2, Episode 1). New viewers will quickly find out why the show is infamous for being so innovative when it came to music and fashion. Director Michael Mann wasn’t just throwing great music into these episodes because he could afford to. Songs like ‘You Belong to the City’ were carefully placed to accompany the story, provide exquisite montage and evoke emotion.
I feel like some people take this show for granted and forget how truly great it still is. With the tired “retro-eighties” revival thing constantly regurgitating images of Ferrari’s, palm trees and pastel leisure suits in our faces, it seems like some people only associate Miami Vice with these types of things, not realizing the level of quality and the intense magic of the series. If people have preconceptions of Vice being all style and no substance, they’re dead wrong.
OK, it’s time to talk about when ‘You Belong’ showed up in other forms of entertainment. During an episode of Married With Children that aired in 1988, Al Bundy and Steve walk through the streets of Chicago looking for Marcy’s old Barbie doll that they sold while trying to start a baseball card collection. When Al and Steve start asking every bum on the street if they’ve seen the doll, a low budget SOFTCORE SAXOPHONE version of the song plays in the background, as heard in the scene above. Of course some glorious psycho on YouTube uploaded the scene and cut out the audience laughter, providing us with the best possible recording of this strange rendition. (Big thank you to my friend Jessica-Lee for reminding TNUC about this precious moment!).
T H A N K Y O U G L E N N !
See you in the river of darkness, pal. Under the neon lights.