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Caught between the moon and New York City: Christopher Cross, soft rock acid freak
09.25.2014
06:51 am

Topics:
Drugs
Music

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LSD
Christopher Cross
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Christopher Cross goes sailing in the cosmos, 1980
 
If you’ve spent much time waiting in a room with piped-in music—in a Walgreens or Duane Reade, let’s say—you may have had occasion to wonder: just how does a person get “caught between the moon and New York City,” anyway? Wouldn’t such a person be suspended roughly 100,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, suffocating in the vacuum of deep space? Wouldn’t falling in love be the last thing on his or her mind? Yet the singer insists on telling you about the transformative experience he had among the stars and, above all, the mystical vision vouchsafed him there of the power of love: “I know it’s crazy, but it’s true,” he pleads, sounding more and more like Coleridge’s ancient mariner with every refrain.

It turns out that Christopher Cross is a true cosmonaut of inner space, the kind of performer who had to live the psychedelic nightmare of “Arthur’s Theme” before he could sing it. Last year, in an interview with songfacts.com, the singer revealed that he was frying super hard on tons of high-quality acid when he wrote his first hit, “Ride Like the Wind.” (Okay, I am probably exaggerating the quantity and quality of the dose.)

And all this time, you thought it was the least mind-expanding song in your parents’ record collection! Here’s Cross’s story of the lysergic inspiration for “Ride Like the Wind”:

Well, the interesting thing about that tune is that we had a band and we’d play every night. We were doing this Paul McCartney tune called “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five,” and we’d get into this big jam in the middle of it. It’s funny, I just saw McCartney and I didn’t tell him this, but in this big jam on “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five,” in the middle of it I did that “ba da da da, da da, da da.” I did that part.

So I thought that felt really cool. I thought it felt like it had something, some magic, so I built the song around that. That was the first part of the song, and then I built the rest around it.

It didn’t have any words. We were living in Houston at the time, and on the way down to Austin to record the songs, it was just a beautiful Texas day. I took acid. So I wrote the words on the way down from Houston to Austin on acid.

And I grew up with a lot of cowboy movies. Serials and stuff, like The Lone Ranger and these cowboy serials where they were always chasing the bad guy. And I lived in San Antonio near Mexico, so there was always this anarchistic allure about if you could get to Mexico, you could escape the authority. Also, Mexico was a place where you could go down there and drink and do all this debauchery that as a kid, you think sounds really cool. So getting to the border in Mexico was a fascinating thing to me.


And here’s the full, unexpurgated text of the cosmic cowboy epic Cross brought back from his psychedelic odyssey, which I trust the heads among you will scrutinize for hidden meanings:

It is the night
My body’s weak
I’m on the run
No time to sleep
I’ve got to ride
Ride like the wind
To be free again

And I’ve got such a long way to go
To make it to the border of Mexico
So I’ll ride like the wind
Ride like the wind

I was born the son of a lawless man
Always spoke my mind with a gun in my hand
Lived nine lives
Gunned down ten
Gonna ride like the wind

And I’ve got such a long way to go
To make it to the border of Mexico
So I’ll ride like the wind
Ride like the wind

Accused and tried and told to hang
I was nowhere in sight when the church bells rang
Never was the kind to do as I was told
Gonna ride like the wind before I get old

It is the night
My body’s weak
I’m on the run
No time to sleep
I’ve got to ride
Ride like the wind
To be free again

And I’ve got such a long way to go
To make it to the border of Mexico
So I’ll ride like the wind
Ride like the wind

Sounds like a real bummer, man. . .

To refresh your memory of “Ride Like the Wind,” take a look at this classic SCTV sketch, in which Rick Moranis shows how Michael McDonald might have recorded his backing vocals:
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall

 

 

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