David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 48: Walter Egan (Magnet And Steel)

June 13, 2020

SMC held its virtual graduation today. It was a huge success. The company that helped produce it must be making a ton of money off of these this year.  Another stock I wish I could have anticipated.

Anyway, our student speaker, an 18-year old dual enrolled student graduating with an associate degree, has done more in her 18 years than I have done in my 58 years.  I am tempted to say she has done more than all of us at SMC with our collective years. She truly is inspiring.

I was especially tickled to learn through her biography that she has worked with Walter Egan. I, for one, didn't need our President to remind me of Walter Egan's Top 10 hit 1978 hit, "Magnet And Steel." It is a classic love song from the 70's, one that I have always loved.  It is also the only Walter Egan song I have known, so my delight in hearing that our speaker worked with him meant that somewhere 30 years past his one hit, Egan still has some pull in the music industry. I knew he wasn't completely lost to the vagaries of pop culture time, as "Magnet And Steel" featured prominently in the 1997 film Boogie Nights.

Needless to say, once the video for Commencement was through, I went listening to "Magnet And Steel" and decided to bone up on Egan's biography.  First, the song: a pure and simple love song with a dynamite chorus: "with you I'm not shy to show the way I feel/With you I might try my secrets to reveal/For you are a magnet and I am the steel." It also has that certain raging tenderness ("the love that I feel is so strong/and it can't be wrong") that screams L.A. singer songwriter all over it.

Musically, it is earnest L.A. singer songwriter also. The song features minimal ornamentation; however, I swear there is a little xylophone in there, although I can only find credits to piano and keyboard. The guitar is plunky terse through the verses and chorus, then takes on deeper resonance during the solo. 

Then, there are the vocals. Who isn't swept up by the background "ooooohs" through the verses, and through the first half of the first two chorus lines, "with you I'm not shy" and "with you I might try"? It's only the fact that the background singers are saying the "with you I might try," that I don't lose it over the grammatical rearrangement of that whole line. The background vocals are so seductive, so classic, so familiar . . .

What the hell? They are Stevie Nicks . . . with a little help by Lindsey Buckingham . . . and a little more help by Fleetwood Mac producer, Richard Dashut. No wonder the song sounds like late 70's Hot California.  Where were Henley and Frey? What happened to Linda Ronstadt? No Warren Zevon for a little drunken revelry?

Maybe they ended up on other Egan tracks, but one can't find much information online (more on that in a minute). Today I learned something new--Buckingham and Nicks helped with the song. In fact, also today, I learn Egan was writing about Stevie Nicks (I am supposing it was difficult to be in the music scene in late 1970's L.A. and not be writing songs about Stevie Nicks). Certainly now I get the line "you're a lady who's lost in her song."

Much of the rest of what I learned about Egan today is pretty minimal, and as a result, pretty sad.  He's recorded at least a dozen albums since Not Shy with not a single one (not even Not Shy) getting its own Wikipedia entry. (Look, there's a Wikipedia article on Squirrel Fishing. Certainly the freaking album this lovely song came off of deserves a page!)

Maybe it's not important what I learned about Walter Egan today. It is more important what I learned about a remarkable SMC graduate. Can't wait to see what her Wikipedia page will look like some day.

"Magnet And Steel." Not Shy. Walter Egan. Columbia. 1978. Link here. (Sorry, guys, no Stevie, and sorry, ladies, no Lindsey on the video.)

Day 47: XTC "This World Over."

Day 49: The Rolling Stones "Dead Flowers." ->

See complete list here.