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CARUSO In the Face: 35th Anniversary Deluxe - Liner Notes


Part 1: The End?
Part 2: Recapturing an Image of Youth
Part 3: Song by Song
Part 4: Lyrics
Part 5: Where Are They Now?


















15. THE LONG-HAIRED GIRL (1982 Demo Remix)




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


Thematically, London was an edgy companion to the song, YYY, from our previous EP. Both lyrics pose the question of why radio songs are so paint-by-numbers.


The title refers to two different Londons — the first, of course, being London, England.


American 80s radio had imported a ton of music from abroad, and I thought most of it was more interesting than the American-made songs that were topping the charts. England was home to The Beatles and to many of my favorite music artists.


The other London I was writing about was in southwestern Ontario, in Canada. CARUSO had played in that city a few times, and even though it was just over an hour from Michigan’s eastern border, the city felt exotic to me and that made it cool.


England Swings was the title of a song by Roger Miller, whose greatest hits album was a staple in our family home at a time when were old enough to start actively listening to music. I wrote the line, “England swings, why can’t we?” to propose that most American music wasn’t as cool or creative as the music that rode in on the British waves of the 60s and 80s.


At the time that In the Face was released, the video streaming platform YouTube didn’t exist. The Internet wasn’t even ready to stream video yet. On subscription-based cable TV, MTV was the king of music television, with music videos playing all day and all night. “Watch your music on TV,” was about that, and about how some people seem to respond to concerts and music videos through their visual components (like light shows, dance troupes, or attractive singers) more than through the music and lyrics. The song “takes a back seat” to the spectacle.


Musically speaking, London was crafted as a single. Since the lyric was critical of American radio, I wanted the music to be as ebullient and radio-friendly as possible. Like Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, I typically use a lot of chords per song. So for London, I restricted myself to 3 simple power chords (I-IV-V).


The rhythmic hook is a quarter note, snare drum triplet. This was inspired by the prominent triplets in ABC's Be Near Me. Whereas ABC had used the triplets to announce the chorus, I used them in the intros and as a transition between song sections.


Another element of simplicity was the use of repetition. I’m not normally a fan of this much repetition, but after all, we were trying to record a hit song. I can still remember our co-producer, Eric Morgeson, comparing the formula of a hit song to Aristotle’s method for a memorable presentation: “Tell ‘em what you’re about to tell ‘em, then tell ‘em, and finally, tell ‘em what you just told ‘em.” That’s why, for instance, the title of a hit song is often repeated so many times.


Elvis Costello had experimented a lot with meta chorus setup lines, like “That’s the problem, and here’s the hook…” (from Tears Before Bedtime). I appreciate a good setup line, so for my chorus, I went with the simple, “Sing with me!”


Big props to Brad Davenport (aka Dave Bradley) for his guitar prowess and power on this tune, along with Rob’s killer drum fills.


To end on a positive lyrical note, during the ending I threw in: “Better things are on the way / You can find them any day.” That was a nod to The Kinks’ Better Things. I had also recorded two followup lines, which we removed during the final mix: “Get it down / Let ‘em see what you’ve found / It’s alright, it’s okay.”




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


Can’t Stop Dreaming began life as a different song. (See The Long-Haired Girl.)


The introduction on the demo for Can't Stop Dreaming was a 4-bar guitar phrase, played twice, inspired by the intro to Complicated Girl, by The Bangles. As a songwriter, I wanted to write a phrase that was hypnotic enough that its length would be a feature, not a bug. My intro was immediately shot down by one of the band members as being too long. So I cut the intro in half and made the second half more of an answer to the first phrase.


The chorus is more repetitive than I usually write, but we wanted this to be our breakout album, so I dumbed it down from its previous incarnation.


As one of 16 bands chosen by the Miller Brewing Company to be part of their Miller Rock Network, we got some free music gear which included an Ensoniq Mirage sampling keyboard.


The Mirage was a lo-fi sampler which loaded sounds into memory from a floppy disk. When paired through a MIDI interface to our DX-7, we were able to layer some interesting keyboard sounds, and to set up zones on the Mirage for different samples. These samples started appearing in my demos and they changed the way I wrote and arranged our songs.


Cribbing from If You Leave by OMD, l loaded several sounds in different keyboard zones for Can’t Stop Dreaming, including a harp sample. We used a higher-quality harp sample on the album, but the lo-fi Mirage samples worked well for us in live settings. For instance, I sampled the 2-part vocal from London and triggered it from one key on the keyboard, making it play as “La-la-Lon… la-la-Lon… London leaves me undone.”




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave & Rob


Writing on demand wasn’t new to me. I’d been giving myself songwriting assignments since I was a junior in high school. So when our co-producer asked us to write another song for the album while recording was already underway, the time constraint wasn’t that intimidating.


I decided to start with another song’s title, and to build an entirely different song around that. For years, The Ramones song, I Wanna Be Sedated had been a staple at CARUSO shows and we were fans of their music. I thought it would be fun to write a new song using their title, She’s a Sensation.


We needed more songs featuring our 4-part, sibling vocal harmonies, so I built that in. Another common element of our live show was that Rob and I would trade off vocal parts within the same song. So for She’s a Sensation, I offered the second verse to Rob.


For the ending vocal ad libs, I attempted a Bowie-esque, spoken-word delivery on the first half of the line "And you've give anything… to be alone with her."




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave & Rob


The album's title appears in this lyric: "You're young and tender and you're fighting In the Face of surrender."


Adolescence is a rich writing topic, because it’s an age of transition. We’ve all been through it, but it’s relatable at any age because we’re continually adjusting between one period of our lives and another, when we feel awkward and lack a full understanding of what we’re going through. (Just ask any John Hughes movie.) Joe Jackson brilliantly encapsulated this idea in his 2003 song, Awkward Age — a song I wish I’d written.


The main piano riff (which was originally intended as a guitar riff), uses the same three notes that open the verse, but in a different order.


At first, the third verse comes across like a bridge, but it's really a melodic variation of a verse, with a music breakdown. Halfway through that verse, we bring the band back in, resume the original melody, but sing it later, so that it becomes a second train of thought, running in tandem with the new lead vocal. That made it a no-brainer to have a different singer (Rob) sing the alternate melody.


Although desperation is a thread that runs throughout the song, I wanted to end on a hopeful note. The third verse provides the takeaway that no matter what you might be going through right now, in time you're gonna be okay.




Written by Chet Powers

Sung by Dave Caruso


The final song on the original In the Face EP was the chorus of a 60s tune which was written by Chet Powers and made famous by The Youngbloods.  The song is a classic and its message of "smile on your brother" was a nice subliminal reminder that we were literally a band of brothers.


When I first got the idea to record this song, I made two a capella practice recordings on 4-track cassette to test out the harmonies.


There are four different vocal parts.  Each individual part was performed three or four times, as closely to the original pitch as possible, before sweetening the final mix with effects. I sang to a piano guide track that we recorded first and later removed from the final mix.


Once we finished recording it, we immediately thought it was too short. Inspired by the backward masking on The Beatles’ Revolver and The Beatles (a.k.a. The White

Album), we asked Eric Morgeson to do something similar with Get Together.


Mike Caruso still remembers Eric deftly unspooling a short length of 2-track tape mix from the reel-to-reel, manually pulling it through the tape heads to determine where to make the edit, and cutting it with a razor blade, which he held between his teeth while splicing it backward in front of the original take.


The result is an opening section which is simply a reversal of the later section, minus "C'mon people now," and with the piano guide track mixed in. 


An early idea for the album's liner notes was that we’d include a transcription of whatever was supposed to have been sung there, even though it's actually just backward nonsense:


"Um, be outer than the door full of the doubt

Where they'd be staking out, but they're resolving all odds."




"Paul is dead now, miss him, miss him, miss him..."




Written by Rob Caruso & Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Rob


The verses are mostly Rob’s and the Chorus is mostly mine.


One feature of CARUSO recordings is the variety that Rob and I brought with our two voices in the same song, be it with harmony or with trading off lead vocals parts.


The solo is a guitar/sax duel, ending with both instruments climbing the scale to a high note.


Listening to the original ITF album, you don’t get the full picture of just how good a drummer Rob was, often while singing at the same time. Some of these live songs fill in that missing picture. Just listen to that drum fill in the middle of the third chorus.




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


Lyrically, this is a play on words. “I tried everything to make her perk / I tried to move her but I couldn’t shake the shirks / then I tried fire — and fire works.”


Musically, I wanted to write something that would feature our sax-and-trumpet horn section, played by Joe and Mike, and to arrange it with a quarter-note Motown snare beat, with nods to The Jam and Elvis Costello




Written by Rob Caruso

Lead Vocal: Rob


A hard-driving recording of one of Rob's most popular songs.


“I got a front row seat with a terrible view.”


For the bridge, Rob wrote a cool, back-and-forth between the lead vocal (Rob) and backing vocals (Dave and Joe), while Mike punctuates with a cool, syncopated bass pattern.




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


I rerecorded this song on my 2020 album, Radiophonic Supersonic, but this live CARUSO version is pretty special.


Conceptually, rock gardens have always interested me, not only because they’re gardens which are devoid of life, but also because these particular rocks could be headstones.


I wish I had taken voice lessons during my time with the CARUSO band. Still, if you squint your ears during the ending choruses, you might get a bit of a Phil Collins vibe.


Check out our rhythm section. Mike does some tasty bass work, in collaboration with Rob’s always incredible drumming.




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


“I need a woman — you’re almost the woman I need.”




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


Written almost 30 years before Ed Sheeran was Thinking Out Loud.




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


Mike played keyboard bass. The octave-apart lead vocals were a trademarks of Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze, of which we are huge fans.


The title is a play on pop culture. The first two choruses say:


“It’s a popgun culture where cool is king

Youth and beauty are everything

Sex and money are the card and key

To the members club of society


But the third chorus knows the underlying truth:


“It’s a popgun culture where crap is king

Youth and beauty are almost everything

Sex and money are the card and key

To the diners club of hypocrisy.”




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


This is one of my songs that I hoped we'd eventually record, but we never got around to it.  It made it into our live show, at least.  Plenty of my songs never made the democratic cut, which was usually for the best, as my songwriting muscles were still developing.


Early in our career, when we first started playing in bars, we caught an earful from one particular bar owner who thought we had a lot to learn. It was over 40 years ago, so I don’t remember what he said, but I’m sure of two things: 1) I took it personally, and 2) he was probably right. My answer to him at the time was this song.


I wrote the music in the early style of Toby Redd, a local band we followed who made good with a one-album RCA recording contract. Their drummer, Chad Smith, later found fame with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


The last 5 notes of the song are a variation on the ending to Elvis Costello’s Clubland.




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


This song wasn't studio-recorded yet in 1996, when we made this live recording, and the lyrics were still in their early stages. You’ll also notice that there’s no third verse


Here’s what the opening riff sounds like on guitar, as it was originally written.




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave


This is the only song on this album that’s not contemporaneous with the other tracks, which were recorded in 1986 and 87. The Long-Haired Girl was recorded in 1983, but since it was rewritten for this album as Can’t Stop Dreaming, it makes sense to include it in this deluxe package.


I did some things in writing this lyric that I had never done before.


Usually, backing vocalists support what the lead singer is singing. During the prechorus (“She’s alone, so are you, but you don’t know what you want her to do”) I have the backing vocalists (Mike and Rob) singing in dialogue with the lead singer / protagonist.


I was listening to the organ part and I noticed that I had alternated between two notes that are a 4th apart. The two alternating organ notes reminded me of Neil Diamond’s song, “I Am, I Said.” In the chorus of that song, Neil sings two notes that are a 6th apart: “And no - one - heard - at - all - not — even the chair.”


Back in 1982, I decided to try a creative exercise by singing those notes at the coda and building it into a vocal round. There are 4 couplets (2-line phrases). Each couplet repeats a word in both lines, but in different positions in each sentence. In some cases, the repeated word ends one line and then starts another.


This gives the ending a lot of depth and stuff to listen for. During the 2003 remix, I also mixed in the “doo-doos” from the intro.


You’ll also hear 62-year-old-me singing new parts along with my 22-year-old self on the original vocal.


That’s Wally Piotrowski expertly playing acoustic guitar on the left side of the stereo field, from the original recording session. For the remix, I recorded a new acoustic guitar part and panned it to the right.




Written by Dave Caruso

Lead Vocal: Dave & Rob


There were a couple of main reasons I wanted to remix this song. For one thing, the kick and snare were heavily gated and every hit was the same volume. For another, I wasn’t crazy about the eighth note keyboard part in the intro. This mix is more about the guitars, played expertly by Bradley Davenport (aka Dave Bradley). Since I was already making those changes, I dropped the bass out of the bridge and instead of letting the song fade out, I re-created the ending that we used to use in our live performances. There are a lot of other, subtler changes that you can discover for yourself.





Harmony House and Free Spirits hosted an album release party for In the Face. Free Spirits was a local club that we played several times a year when we weren’t on the road. This track is a WLLZ FM Detroit radio ad for that show.  Harmony House, a 30+ store, midwest record chain, called In the Face the most successful record by any unsigned Detroit band in their store history.


Available on CD and digital on 04/07/23.

-- Dave Caruso