Friday, November 5, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Mike Reno and Ann Wilson's "Almost Paradise"

Ever since the first moments when humans were able to realize that life on Earth can sometimes be a severe pain in the ass, they have tried to imagine PARADISE. For the Fourteenth Century Italian poet Dante Alighieri, "paradiso" was the ten spheres of Heaven. Similarly, John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667) concerns the fall of man from Paradise, the Biblical Garden of Eden, because of that big-time jerk and perpetual muse to heavy metal musicians everywhere: Satan. Milton writes, "To all delight of human sense exposed, / In narrow room, Nature's whole wealth, yea more, / A Heaven on Earth: For blissful Paradise / Of God the garden was, by him in the east / Of Eden planted." Sounds much better than this window-less office where I write this on the company's dime. Still, in the historical moments following the invention of the light bulb--and, henceforth, all great ideas--many musicians have tried to describe paradise for us in song. Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses, in their song "Paradise City," describes it is a place "Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty." This could be nice. But what if one is allergic to grass and doesn't particularly fancy pretty girls? Then it would be a nightmare. For Meat Loaf, on his epic cut "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," paradise is bangin' in the car when you're seventeen, preferably as a longtime baseball color-commentator provides innuendo-laden play-by-play. Because of abstinence-only education, though, this is no longer a possibility for seventeen year-olds. Since paradise is inestimable, we can only approximate it. It took two great titans of song, Mike Reno of Loverboy and Ann Wilson of Heart, to bring us to this simple but profound realization. Thanks to their song "Almost Paradise," we now have a firmer understanding of this thing poets and philosophers have been trying to describe to us for centuries.

For nearly three decades, the mysteries of Mike Reno and Ann Wilson's "Almost Paradise" have puzzled literary critics. It was long thought that paradise in the song referred to being an oppressed white teenager in a small town who overcomes a variety of obstacles in order to dance and listen to rock music with impunity. But years of scrutiny have revealed that it is about a man and a woman, presumably, who love each other something fierce and can "see forever" when they look into each others' eyes. Now that they "hold the future in their hands," they realize the love they share is not paradise, but "almost paradise." This realization, though, brings with it another, more profound one: that we can only reach paradise when we die. How stupid is that? Reno notes, "in your arms salvation's not so far away." Then, Wilson, now recognizing Reno as her magic man, chimes in, "it's getting closer, closer every day." Reno and Wilson's voices fuse into a sweaty bandana of sweetness. Even if they concede the point that paradise on Earth is unattainable, they persevere knowing their compatible and complementary love for each other is good enough, and that when they die, they can dance all they want [pending they: a) were decent enough human beings to be granted some sort of beneficent afterlife; or, b) invest in the rather expensive technology that will enable their crusty, feeble, old, decaying, dead bodies to dance forever]. Either way, by proving that our mortal selves can only arrive at a place called "Almost Paradise," what they really manage to do is create a living paradise ... FOR OUR EARS!

Here's the video for this unparalleled piece of brutally brilliant music:


  1. I'm pretty sure this song is really about a frozen beverage sold in a few select gas stations.