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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Jukebox: "Things Can Only Get Better" by Howard Jones

I suppose some of you are wondering why today's blog post is called 'Sunday Jukebox' and not 'Sunday Funnies'. If you scroll down below to the Bobby's World entry, the explanation is there.

I just felt that in discussing all things pop culture that there was one topic that remained largely undiscussed.


I can't imagine a world without music in it. What kind of a dull place would it be if we didn't have any music whatsoever. During one six-month period, the music at my workplace just stopped working. It was hell.

So, I started thinking to myself. “Self,” I said, “why don't you have any sort of music feature in this blog?" Music is a universal language that everyone in the world understands. Whether a song has lyrics or is just an instrumental, the way it is presented can have a big impact.

Certainly in my lifetime are songs and artists that stick out. Perhaps it was a Top 40 song that I couldn't get enough of. Maybe it was some obscure B-side that nobody knew existed. Quite possibly, I was touched by the meaning of a particular chorus, or moved by the imagery presented in a music video.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I needed to have a category that celebrates nothing but music. Since the Sunday funnies day was sort of made redundant by the fact that many comic strips have been turned into cartoons, I made the decision to move the comic strips to Saturdays and free up Sundays for music discussion.

Hence the creation of the 'Sunday Jukebox' feature!

A couple of points to explain this new day. Most of the time, I'll be featuring a song that really resonated with me, or one that reminds me of something. Sometimes I'll do an artist spotlight. Sometimes, I'll do a band spotlight. I may even throw in a couple of references to albums and television clips for children. After all, most shows for kids usually have a couple of musical numbers in them. You all look at me like I've lost all my hearing in one ear as you read this, but it's amazing what songs for children can teach you about yourself!

Have you got your quarter in your hand? You do? Great! Stick it inside the coin slot and push A-1 to get this feature started.

The first song?

ARTIST: Howard Jones
SONG: Things Can Only Get Better
ALBUM: Dream Into Action
RELEASED: February 9, 1985

I was born a little too late to appreciate Howard Jones when he was first releasing music. His debut single was released when I was all of two years old, and back in those days, I believe the only singer I ever listened to was Raffi.

(Suffice to say, it may have taken some years for my musical tastes to mature)

Whatever the case, Howard Jones was one of those artists that had quite a bit of success in the 1980s. In the United States alone, he had eleven singles chart on the Billboard Top 100 between 1983 and 1992 – two of which made the top five.

One of those songs was “No One Is To Blame”, which was Jones' highest charting single at #4 in 1986. The other song is the one that I'm featuring in this blog entry.

The song 'Things Can Only Get Better' was initially released in the United Kingdom in February of 1985, and a month later hit the North American charts. Oddly enough, although Jones was born in the UK, this particular song charted higher stateside than it did in his own country.

And it was a pretty decent song at that. It had every element of a quintessential 1980s hit. Synthesizers. Big hair. Catchy and upbeat. The song and its accompanying video had all of these things and more.

Of course, as I mentioned before, I was a little too young to appreciate Howard Jones' music. Back when the song was hitting the charts, I was likely hitting the sack with my little yellow blanket inside my playpen. I probably couldn't tell the difference between Howard Jones and Jughead Jones back then.

It wasn't until recently that this song crept back into my life in a way that I never would have thought possible.

On February 9, 1985, Howard Jones released 'Things Can Only Get Better'. Twenty-six years later on February 9, 2011, I was in some of the most severe pain that I had ever experienced in my whole life.

About a week prior to this, I had been having some problems with my stomach area. There was this sharp, pulsing pain in my gut that no matter what I tried, I could not get rid of. If you can picture a Ninja dressed head to toe in black tossing shurikens directly at my mid-section, you would probably get an idea of how bad of shape I was in. It was absolutely unbearable.

After suffering from this for almost a week (and after several trips to the emergency room), it was on February 9, 2011 that I made the decision to go to the hospital and I was not going to leave the emergency room until the doctors did something to help me.

Picture this. It was roughly eight-thirty in the evening. I was in so much pain that I was literally out of breath as I was walking to the car. My mom agreed to take me to the emergency room because I was in really bad shape, and I didn't know what was going on with me.

It was an incredibly scary feeling to have, you know.  The feeling of being so incredibly sick and not knowing what was wrong at all.  I didn't know what to expect, and I was worried as to what would happen to me.

As soon as the car started, the radio kicked on, and what song came on the radio?

Yeah, you pretty much figured it out, right? 

It seems like such a random moment, and it seemed like a random song that was playing on the radio.  Somehow though, it calmed my fears a little bit.  It almost seemed as though someone was trying to give me a message of some sort.  I don't claim to be a religious person by any means, and I'm in the camp that thinks that there might be a God, but yet there's no proof that such a deity even exists.  Yet, after hearing that song play through on the ride up to the hospital, somewhere inside me, I kind of knew that like Mr. Jones was singing on the song, that things would only get better from here.

After hearing that song, I was at peace with whatever the outcome would be.

The end result was that I had a severe gall bladder infection.  So severe that it had gotten fused onto my liver.  My surgery was three days later.  The surgeon actually had to cut around the liver to get the gall bladder out.  It meant a hospital stay of sixteen days total, and the end result was that I ended up with this sexy scar.

Isn't that a beaut?  My apologies for the lack of six-pack abs and abundance of chest hair.  Metrosexual I am not. 

It's been four months since I had my surgery, and the only souvenir I have of the experience is that scar.  When you consider that had I let it go any longer, I could very well not be here to write this blog entry, that's a very big deal.  I'll greatly wear my scar with pride, and hope that others will see it as a badge of honour and not an ugly disfigurement.

Seriously, you insult the scar, you insult me. 

So what have we learned from this?

Howard Jones may not be a fortune teller, or a psychic.  Heck, he hasn't had a hit song on the charts in almost twenty years.  He was right about one thing though.  Things could only get better...and they did.

It was the power of positive thinking.  Listening to the Howard Jones song on the radio kickstarted my belief that I would get through my medical scare of February 2011 because I kept telling myself that things would only get better.

I'm thinking maybe I should adopt this song as my own personal mantra.

God bless you, Howard Jones.  :)

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