Phantom Songs: Chuck Mangione – “Feels So Good” true...

Phantom Songs is an ongoing series of musical pieces that you can’t quite put your finger on. You have most definitely heard the song before, but are most likely not able to pinpoint who made it, when it was released, and/or what the song is really about.

This edition of Phantom Songs is not going to be like any other one. For starters, the topic of this article is actually a good song. A great song. Probably one of the best songs ever written. It almost won a fucking Grammy. It’s good. Trust me. The other uncommon aspect of this article is that I am not sure how well any of you may relate to this song. This may be one you have never heard before, or have heard but not taken notice to. But we can all relate to the situation. In this day and age, it is extremely easy to find the name and artist of songs. All you have to do is transcribe a line or two, enter it into Google and maybe add the term “lyrics” or “song”. Voila, you have a 99% chance of finding said song. But what happens if the song that’s stuck in your head has no words? What if you are not sure who incited the playing of the song? Do you just forget about it, or do you keep your ears peeled? This edition of Phantom Songs is a story of happenstance, fate and good times.

Our tale begins on the fated day of September 13, Two Thousand and Ten. Joey Z and yours truly met up at Rudy’s Bar in Hell’s Kitchen to catch some free hot dogs and Monday Night Football. [This meeting was also mentioned in one of my previous NFL Roundups in which I call the atmosphere “diggable”.] It was nearing the end of the defensive debacle known as the Jets losing to the Ravens. Everyone in the bar was either forlorn or already so bored with the Jets franchise that they have diverted to different hobbies. There was a smell in the air that something ugly was going to happen. It would take a miracle to clear out all of the tension. After being so hyped in the offseason, everyone in the duct-taped venue were at the point of vomiting at the ineptitude of Marc Sanchez and the nimroddery of LT. Men gave each other dark stares. Women cowered in the booths, trying to egg their boyfriends to find alternate plans. We all needed a place to hide and a place to fight. Just as they were abut to lose the game, with all of our fists clenched, the miracle happened. It may have come from the jukebox, but there was nobody standing there. It may have come from the Bartender wearing a bow-tie, looking like a classy blackjack dealer. However, he was wiping a glass with a curious gleam in his eye. There was something magical going on at Rudy’s, and it had nothing to do with the cheap pitchers. For 9 and a half beautiful minutes, we were subjected to this song:

It starts out like preparing for a party:
-He’s mixing the spiked punch bowl, making sure all of the glasses are lined impeccably. He’s laying out the silverware, polishing every spoon off with his breath and a fine lint-free cloth. He’s lining together the towels in the bathroom and making sure the disco ball spins at the perfect angle. He’s checking on the steamed clams and opening the caviar containers, laying out a platter complete with creme fraiche and blinis.
-At 1:33, the first guest arrives. They give eachother hugs and pecks on the cheek. It has been so long since they last commiserated. They assure each other that it will be a great night.
-40 seconds later, a large batch of guests arrive like a whirlwind. It is truly joyous for him to see all of them. Side conversations are starting. “How do you like the new job?” “Those are fantastic cuff-links. Wherever did you get them?” “Oh, it’s a secret? You devil, you!” “Ah hah! Enjoy the caviar, Katie should be here soon.”
-The last of the guests arrive and the party fully begins at 2:32. He walks around his loft, making sure to shake hands with everyone. He is already 3 drinks deep, but he is feeling nothing but good vibrations.
-By the time 4:18 hits, everyone has loosened up. David shows a group of acquaintances his card tricks. There is uproarious applause and Sarah winks at him. Looks like David is going to have the best night of his life.
-At 5:22, Ian decides to show off one of the monologues he’s been working on for his new Broadway production. Patrick is disgusted, as he feels that he should have received the role. Tensions fly, words are said, but the host breaks up the scene and convinces them to continue having a good time.
-At 7:30, it becomes almost chaotic. Everyone is sectored off into small lively groups. It becomes difficult for the host to pay attention to what is going on. But he manages, as they are all friends and all in close proximity. People start filtering out.
-It’s almost 9:00 into the party and it is getting quite late. The host says his goodbyes to all the departing guests, but there is still life in the loft. There is never a break in good times.
-The party swiftly ends at 9:45. The host, exhausted, slouches down on the couch and reminisces about such a glorious evening. It was a night that he will remember for ages.

Of course, none of this is actually said in the song. Fact of the matter is that nothing is said at all. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a message. It was a message that went into the minds of everyone at Rudy’s Bar. Because when it’s all said and done, does it really matter if the Jets suck? We should all embrace that we are at an establishment that gives us such accommodations. We are surrounded by friends, having a good time, and doing what we love. There is no reason to be angry about that. And after the song ended, there was a general feeling of comradely sweeping through the bar. We were all part of the scene that was being painted. Of course, this feeling didn’t last forever. 3 and a half hours later, after a heartbreaking Chargers loss, a man tried to start some shit with the blackjack dealing bartender. Good vibrations can’t last forever. Nothing can. The song taught us that. The song would proceed to be stuck in my head for weeks. The song…we will probably never hear again.

This was a fact of life that I was heartbroken to realize. I had no possible way of tracking down this song. There was nothing specific about it. There were no performers that I could recognize and the decade of origin was ambiguous. The only chances I would have of figuring this song out would be to be a regular at Rudys or meet a flugelhorn enthusiast that I could hum the song to.

A couple of weeks later, happenstance struck Joey and I. A few of us gathered at my apartment for a special screening of Steven Seagal’s action epic, Hard To Kill. The film starts out of Stevie doing some surveillance. He is spotted, chased down and escapes. Then he goes to the convenience store to buy champagne, because that’s just how Stevie rolls. He has some banter with the clerk, who just so happens to be Uncle Harvey from UHF. He then roughs up some baddies in said store. He even pulls a Ken Shamrock-style ankle lock turned ankle break, because that’s just how Stevie rolls. It’s not even ten minutes into the movie, and I am convinced that it’s the best one ever made.

And then it happens. At exactly 8:59 into the movie, Joey and I are struck by fate.

[scrub over to 8:59, if you don’t want to see Stevie kick ass]

Stevie is listening to the Phantom Song for 15 seconds, clearly enjoying his ass off. He then takes out the tape to listen to the surveillance from earlier. Mind you, what exactly was the point of his listening to this song for 15 seconds of screen time? They could have easily just cut to him putting the surveillance tape into the deck. But no. It was fate. We had found our Phantom and all that needed to be done at that point was to look up the soundtrack for Hard To Kill. And there it was. “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione. Odds can’t even go into play here. There was no chance of us being at Rudys at that exact place and time and then decide to watch a random-assed movie that featured the same song for no reason. The cosmos lined up. This was all meant to be.

Since then, this song has been in my regular rotation. I listen to it at least 3 times a week. It goes with every daily activity.

Top 5 Things To Do While Listening To “Feels So Good”
5) Shave your beard
4) Walk down Nostrand Ave
3) Look at porn
2) Sweep the floor
1) Ride a G train from Bedford-Nostrand to Metropolitan [which takes almost the whole length of the song, ending as you touch the ground of Union Ave]

Basically put, this is one of the most universally enjoyable songs ever written. It goes with everything. And I am infinitely grateful to had discovered it. For the first and probably only time, Phantom Song-ing has been used for good instead of evil. Tune in next time, when I will analyze the theory that every ’90s dance song is aggressive and commanding.

Originally posted 3/3/11