Like New Coke, this post may not go over well, but discovering this newfangled thing called YouTube has allowed me to see the singers of the songs I had only heard and never seen. I have determined that in the pre-MTV era, one could secure a recording contract based solely on one’s musical skills and a face made for radio.Prior to viewing this performance on Burt Sugarman’s The Midnight Special (which I honestly had never heard of until today), I figured the band Exile was composed of manly men. Surely fronted by a manly man, anyway. Indeedy do, I was wrong.
First off, let me say that I INSISTED this song be played at my wedding. And not a wedding in the 70s or 80s or even the 90s. My wedding was in this millennium. The Buck Rogers one. Oh, wait, not that. And my request to the DJ was not made ironically; both my betrothed and I honest-to-God like the song. And so did a few hundred thousand others; it reached Billboard’s Top 40 in August 1978 and remained on the chart for seventeen weeks.
The performance starts out well enough; a normal-looking guy on lead guitar, rocking to the rhythm of the sexy intro. Soon there is a sea of keyboards. Too many keyboards. It’s like a Casio convention. I’m confused. And then suddenly Satin Jacket is at the mike, singing, “I want to be your fantasy” but can’t quite stay in key.
Fortunately, the lead guitarist takes over vocal duties, and Satin Jacket whips his mane about like a seizuring Taylor Swift in a blue jumpsuit. Something is not right. Lead singer Jimmy Stokley’s face is worn, puffy, dry and unfresh. If a man can be rode hard and put up wet, that’s what happened. Was it drugs or alcohol? He just doesn’t seem as lucid and alert as the others. He seems to be operating in some level of delusion wherein he is instead the Aerosmith frontman. It can never be so. The high harmony at the bridge is something to behold. Neither keyboardist nor drummer nor bass player get any face time from the cameraman. I think it would have been beneficial to balance it out. As the song ends, Stokley does a disturbing deep-knee bend in his jumpsuit, and shows the world all his kibbles and bits. I’m sorry you had to see that. Then he jumps high into the air like a rock star, indicative of the era.
Exile, however, was destined for country success, and Stokley left the band the following year (in effect, going into exile). He died at the age of only 41. Such a shame. But each time the radio spins “Kiss You All Over,” his vocals continue to live on.