Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chris Rea - The Road to Hell (1989)

Well I'm standing by a river
But the water doesn't flow
It boils with every poison you can think of
And I'm underneath the streetlight
But the light of joy I know
Scared beyond belief way down in the shadows
And the perverted fear of violence
Chokes the smile on every face
And common sense is ringing out the bell
This ain't no technological breakdown
Oh no, this is the road to hell

When music is the topic and I mention this album, invariably the person with whom I'm speaking has never heard of it.  Never heard of Chris Rea, never heard either of his two radio hits from this album.  And it's a real shame.

In 1989 I was listening to Austin's KGSR quite a lot, which is how I heard of this album and these songs.  I suppose if I had gone as far as Austin I might have found it in a music store there, but in all of Seguin, San Antonio, New Braunfels and San Marcos, there was nary a copy to be found.  Take a look at the top 100 hits of 1989 and what do you see?  Crap.  Pure, unadulterated crap (except maybe for that one R.E.M. song).  Just count how many times you see Milli Vanilli (Milli frikkin' Vanilli) on this list.  When it came to music, 1989 was a terrible, terrible year.*

Of course, it hasn't gotten any better.  Top pop hits continue to suck, but there's a good reason.  It's because even back then, 22 years ago, as Chris Rea tried to tell us, we were already on the road to hell.

Chris Rea plays slide guitar and has a voice full of the warmth and soft roughness of a dirt road in the summertime.  Once you hear it, you will not forget it.  He's from England, and he wrote one of the best Texas songs I've ever heard.

But no radio station in S.A. ever played it, so if you lived here back then, I'm sure you never heard it.  Unless you tweaked your antenna until you could pick up KGSR like I did.

He had two hits from this album, like I said.  The first was called "The Road to Hell."  The full version of "The Road to Hell" is 9+ minutes long, but it's divided into parts 1 & 2 on the album.   Here's the full version to which someone has created their own video.  "Part 2" begins at the 4:54 mark.

There was also a radio single version that's a little less than 7 minutes long, and which was used for the official video.

"Texas," the other radio release, also had a video.  Here it is.  However, the sound quality isn't all that great--there's some background hum.  I think someone probably taped this from a TV show with a stereo VCR and oldfangled patch cables back in 1989.  A better sound quality version with someone's personal slideshow follows.

Chris Rea began recording in 1978.  He's made 23 studio albums--the most recent of which was released this past September--11 compilations, 1 live album, 1 soundtrack and has had 72 hit singles.  And no one around here has ever heard of him.  The road to hell, indeed.

This is one of my favorite albums.  That's about all I have to say about it.

*As I've said before:  The 1980s--the decade when all the music sucked.


  1. I've heard him a few times, usually on the "adult contemporary" stations, after someone has specifically requested him. I love "Texas," of course, and like "Auberge" a lot, tho as you say, he doesn't get much airplay. That second vid for "Texas" is pretty neat, reminds me of a motorcyclist's slideshow for Brian Burns' "I've been everywhere (in Texas)." (I think my dad's restored '68 Triumph with a Texas-shaped Union Jack on the tank would have looked better in that vid, than those Harleys.)

  2. I used to hear "Texas" a lot on the radio, and I swear I've heard "The Road to Hell" several times, too. I'm a San Antonio boy, and I never owned a Chris Rea album, so some place must have been playing this guy.

    Maybe I remember these songs from MTV. You know, back when they still played videos.

  3. I heard this somg on KLBJ FM back in those days, on decent rotation, and really liked it so I hunted down the CD. It has always reminded me of Leonard Cohen from his "I'm Your Man" days. I was surprised to learn that he did "Fool If You Think It's Over", a pretty big hit in the 70's that I used to catch on KTSA AM in its' top 40 days. If you don't remember that one, hunt it down-well written and painfully beautiful.

  4. This blog has a superior readership.