David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 69: Triumph (Lay It On The Line)

July 4, 2020

We all have those songs that every time we hear them, they make us think of a party. I wrote about "What You Need" by INXS on Day Eighteen, recounting my table dance.  I could share how every time I hear The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There," I think of a crowded room in my friend Frank's house at college, everyone dancing.  "68 Guns" by The Alarm comes on and I think of a college party I threw and the cute girl I talked to about how great The Alarm was . . . and never asked her out on a date.  (I can't even remember her name anymore.)

Then there is for me the song that I associate with a party and absolutely NOTHING more -- Triumph's "Lay It On The Line."

Trust me, I am going to have to fight through a whole bunch of dead brain cells for this one.  There is so much I can't freaking remember related to this song.

The party is somewhere in Morgantown. I am thinking it is a high school party, at most a between high school and college summer party. I don't remember the "friend" who held it, and that term may be loose as everyone is a friend when it comes to high school or college parties. I am pretty sure it was at his parent's house, which is why I put the timeline somewhere in 1979 or the first half of 1980.  I can't remember if it was a big blow out, like many of mine were as I stupidly encouraged anyone to invite anyone they knew . . . anyone that they know. I just know that by the end of the party, there were only a few of us left, and the host and I sat in a family room, overlooking a beautiful canyon framed by a full wall of windows, while he played me "Lay It On The Line" over and over, telling me it was the greatest song he had ever heard.

I am pretty sure he played it at least a dozen times, and each time I did get hooked more and more. The intricate chord sequence in the subdued opening inevitably had to lead to the revved up second verse, which inevitably had to lead the more revved up chorus, which inevitably had to lead to the guitar fill before returning to the verse. The voices inevitably had to rise to scream, while the second guitar solo inevitably had to lead to the necessary drum fill and then the run up the neck.

I say this with all the due respect of how most 17-year old boys hear music. It pushed all of the buttons, soft opening, heavy chords throughout, voice bordering on shrill (the band/lead singer are Canadian, and one can hear Geddy Lee of Rush or Mike Reno of Loverboy if one listens long enough).

Even more than the song structure, the lyrics were meant to appeal to the 17-year party-goer. "It's the same old story all over again/you want to turn a lover into just another friend," Rik Emmett sings in the delicate opening. By the end, the male rock God is still perpetuating the "I am not the playa here" persona with lines like "you know I love you/you know it's true/it's up to you, girl/what've I got to do?"

People claim porn gives teenage boys false images of women and relationships, but I swear to God, this "I am the faithful one, you're the scoundrel" crap by male rock stars screwed up most teenage boys' expectations of women.

So whatever my friend's name was (This is horrible, but all I can remember is that he was a bit shorter than me . . . and that gorgeous view out of his parents' windows.), it is no surprise he spent all night trying to convince me this song was canon-worthy. I wouldn't have disagreed that it was a catchy song. If he was correct, that greatness would be recognized every time I turned on the radio.

There's the rub. I honestly don't think I have heard the song more than a dozen times since that fateful day over forty years ago. Almost every time would be when I sought it out, as I have done today to remind me of more than just the chorus. It was a minor hit in their native Canada, but at a time when Toto was holding the line and Rocky Burnette was tired of toeing the line, very few people seemed to be laying their cash on the line for Triumph, maybe the ultimate insult.

Still I have a memory, fuzzy as it is, and it hasn't been completely obliterated by age and drink. That's worth something.

"Lay It On The Line." Just A Game. Triumph. RCA. 1979. Link here.

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