Bluer Than Blue by Michael Johnson (EMI, 1978)

The term ‘singer/songwriter’ gets thrown around a lot, especially when referring to solo singers of the 70s. Someone lobs that label on anyone who sings and plays guitar or piano, because, hey, if they can do 2 things at once, that must mean they’re writing songs as well. When I hear people refer to Michael Johnson this way, I say he’s no more a singer/songwriter than Boy George is. Actually I take that back – George actually co-wrote his hits. Michael did not.

I don’t mean to disparage M-Jo, but let’s refer to him correctly as a singer. A guy, possibly used as a muse, who vocally reinterpreted other’s emotions. Nothing wrong that at all. Might not have the same cache or check value, but a hit is a hit no matter how you get it.

Bluer Than Blue was written by Randy Goodrum, who later have his song You Needed Me by Anne Murray, hit #1 in the Fall of 1978. It’s basic tale of denial after a break-up from the man’s point of view, with a twist of depression now that she’s gone, hence feeling bluer than blue. Hmmmm….where do I begin?

Let’s start with the denial section: After his girlfriend splits, he can catch up on his sleeping & reading. Is this why it didn’t work? She kept you up all night, leaving that paperback version of Coma untouched on your coffee table. Also he has a lot more room in [his] closet and can stay out all night long if [he] feels like it. First of all, build a bigger closet. Never heard of that splitting up a couple..maybe the Marcos’ of the Philippines. And why don’t you ask her to stay out all night long with you?

You see, it sounds like this guy just wants to sleep, read, party and look fabulous. He doesn’t want a commitment. Now you know why he got dumped. So if he feels sadder than sad, it’s his own fault. Or, maybe this guy was ‘coming out’ and society was making him feel bluer than blue. That’s why he wants more room in his closet, so he can make a grand entrance.

And what the hell is bluer than blue? It really lacks the dramatic punch of someone who is so depressed and lives in a light-less empty room. What a passive expression – feeling blue. No I’m really blue. I’m bluer than blue. It’s that choice of words which makes me feel like the chorus is written to be sarcastic rather than a guy pining away for his lover. Think about that next time you listen to this song, as Michael gives her one middle finger during the verses and two middle fingers during the chorus.

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5 Comments

  1. Michael Johnson had three hits in the 1970s — all of them were Top 40 hits — and all were good. Personally, I prefer his other two hits (“Almost Like Being in Love” and “This Night Won’t Last Forever”) over this one.

    As for the singer/songwriter thing…maybe that title was added by people who remembered that he went over to country in the 1980s. He didn’t write either of his #1 singles on that chart, either. However, he did write some music (I remember he wrote the song “Cain’s Blood,” a minor country hit I played during my short radio career), and maybe the tag was applied retroactively.

    Next time I listen to “Bluer Than Blue,” however, I’ll definitely think of what you said here.

    Reply
    • Michael’s take on the Lerner & Loewe song, Almost Like Being In Love was an interesting one and showed a little more depth that Bluer.

      Also forgot to mention that the video of this song was one of the first played on MTV….yes, that’s how hip MTV was when it started

      Reply
  2. Steve E

     /  October 10, 2011

    There are three singles from this time that I always think of together: “Bluer Than Blue,” “My Angel Baby” by Toby Beau and “Magnet and Steel” by Walter Egan. I don’t know why I lump these three together; maybe they have the same basic feel, even though lyrically they are different.

    Reply
  3. Michael Johnson’s “Sailing Without a Sail” is crazy good. “Bluer,” “Angel Baby,” and “Magnet” have similar associations for me, probably because they were on the radio within 15 minutes of each other four or five times a day for most of the summer of 1978.

    Reply
  4. Interesting observations guys…I link those 3 songs as well, with Baker Street in the mix too. For me, I have a vivid memory of driving around neighborhoods in our van, looking for a new house. Of course the radio was on, so I feel like I heard those songs back to back.

    JB: I’ll have to track down the MJ tune…not familiar with it, but always love a good song tip

    Reply

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