Saturday, January 12, 2013

"The Cristina Raines Song"


There's a song that all my friends know I'm obsessed with.  I have sung and taught it to a wide scope of people in Washington, DC including military officers and personnel, attorneys, accountants, defense contractors, lobbyists, even cab drivers from Pakistan.  The funny thing is, it's a fairly obscure song that only a small handful of people would remember.  It's called "Could it Be Love" and it was written and composed by the esteemed Holly Dunn and Stewart Harris.  The song was performed by Cristina Raines three separate times during the second season of the prime time soap "Flamingo Road."  To the best of my research, the song has never been performed or recorded elsewhere.  My friends and I refer to the song not by its name, but as "The Cristina Raines Song."  The cab driver from Pakistan, to whom I taught the song, has told me that he has taught the song to some of his other fares and to the other cab drivers working at the same cab company.  A friend of mine teases me mercilessly because I like to sing it frequently since it puts me in a good mood.  You can see a performance of the song at 12:02 here.  The lyrics go like this:

If I've known you for such a long time.
And if the thought of lovin' you never crossed my mind.
Something's changing deep down inside.
I seem to be lookin' at you in a different light.

Could it be the firelight, dancin' around you?
Could it be the moonlight, shinin' above?
Isn't it a fine sight, you lyin' beside me?
Oh could this be magic, could it be love?

All I know is what I need.
Baby your kisses put a spell on me.
I'm so happy, so satisfied.
To look and see you lyin' by my side.

Could it be the firelight, dancin' around you?
Could it be the moonlight, shinin' above?
Isn't it a fine sight, you lyin' beside me?
Oh could this be magic, could it be love?

Oh could this be magic, or could it be love?


Lane Ballou (played by Cristina Raines) performed the song in the second season of "Flamingo Road" while working at the roadhouse owned and operated by Lute-Mae Sanders (Stella Stevens).  Lane arrived in Truro, Florida more than a year earlier while performing in a traveling carnival that came through town.  She is what I often refer to as one of the many "Lorimar outsiders":  a naive character whose arrival in a new and treacherous environment in the first episode of a Lorimar-produced prime time soap kicks off the start of the series.  ("Dallas" had Pamela Barnes marrying Bobby Ewing and moving onto Southfork.  "Knots Landing" had Gary and Valene Ewing moving into the Seaview Circle cul-de-sac.  "Falcon Crest" had Chase and Maggie Gioberti, and their children Cole and Vickie, moving into the Tuscany Valley.)  In the opening episode of "Flamingo Road," Lane tells Coyne, the proprietor of the carnival, "I'm tired of draggin' from town to town, I'm tired of eating greasy food in crummy cafes, and I'm tired of being leered at by country hayseeds.  I'm real tired of runnin' Coyne."  Lane decides to stay in Truro and make a life for herself.  She starts out with a waitressing job at the local diner and soon falls in love with handsome Fielding Carlyle (Mark Harmon) deputy sheriff of Truro.  Field falls deeply in love with Lane but, unbeknownst to her, Field is bequeathed to marry snooty Constance Weldon (Morgan Fairchild), the richest girl in town.  Titus Semple (Howard Duff), the evil sheriff of Truro, hates Lane on sight.  Titus has political ambitions for Field to someday get elected to the state Senate, and marrying Lane (an orphaned, hash-slinging waitress who came into town via the traveling carnival) doesn't fit his plans.  Titus wants Field to marry the shallow Constance.  In an effort to scare her into leaving Truro, Titus has Lane fired from her job at the diner and railroaded into prison on a 30-day sentence for bogus solicitation charges.  When she gets out of jail, she heads to Lute-Mae's to ask for a job as a singer in her saloon.  It's at Lute-Mae's that Lane makes the heart-breaking discovery that Field didn't wait for her while she was in jail and has gone ahead and married Constance.


When Field learns that Lane is back in Truro, he tries to reconcile with her and tells her that he loves her.  Lane responds by bitterly telling him "It doesn't matter anymore."  Lane eventually establishes a close relationship with successful local businessman Sam Curtis (John Beck), a hard-playing, hard-partying bachelor who starts to think about settling down when he falls deeply in love with Lane.  Throughout the first season of "Flamingo Road," it's clear that Sam is crazy about Lane and wants to marry her, but she is distracted because she is still in love with Field.  Eventually, Field and Lane embark on an affair that enrages Constance, who swears vengeance, and which breaks Sam's heart.  The first season ends with a violent argument between Field and Constance at the top of the staircase at Lute-Mae's where Constance refuses to grant Field a divorce.  Field grabs Constance, shakes her, and lets go, causing Constance to fall from the second floor bannister to the floor below.


When the second season opens, Field learns that Constance has been paralyzed by the fall.  Sam tells Lane that she has no future left in Truro and she may as well leave because whatever potential relationship she would have had with Field is ruined because he can't leave Constance now, or else risk a political scandal that would cost him his seat in the state Senate.  Sam is still bitter at Lane for breaking up with him and taking up with Field.  Eventually, Field and Lane break up for good.  When Field tries to reassure Lane that he still loves her, she tearfully reiterates what she told him the year before when he said he still loved her: "It doesn't matter anymore."  Lane decides to stay in Truro and build a life for herself that has nothing to do with Field.  Lane and Sam begin rebuilding their friendship and Lane starts working more and more on her music.


It is during this time of transition in Lane's life that the song "Could it Be Love" is introduced on "Flamingo Road."  The song premiered in the episode titled "The Intruder" on November 24, 1981.  The scene where it is introduced focuses on Sam and Lute-Mae talking while watching Lane perform it on the piano in the background of the scene.  Even though it seems like an incidental musical number, the song has thematic significance for Lane's character and the show.  The lyrics to "Could it Be Love" reflects how Lane has finally let go of hoping that she will ever be with Field.  She knows that a future with Field would be a dead-end and is finally ready to consider other opportunities staring her in the face.  The opening verse ("If I've known you for such a long time.  And if the thought of lovin' you never crossed my mind.  But something's changin' deep down inside.  I seem to be lookin' at you in a different light.") symbolizes how Lane has finally stopped taking Sam for granted.  She realizes he is a good man with much to love and appreciate, and she finds herself genuinely falling in love with him, not just using him as someone to keep her company while she is on the rebound from Field.  The second verse ("All I know is what I need.  Baby your kisses put a spell on me.  I'm so happy, so satisfied.  To look and see you lyin' by my side.") reflects how Lane has finally stopped looking for the unattainable with the spineless and wishy-washy Field to find true happiness.  She comes to deeply appreciate what the readily accessible, solid, and stable Sam has to offer her.  In the chorus ("Could it be the firelight, dancin' around you?  Could it be the moonlight, shinin' above?  Isn't it a fine sight, you lyin' beside me?  Oh could this be magic, could it be love?"), Lane is asking herself what it is about Sam that makes her feel so special.  As such, she is also rhetorically asking herself why she didn't recognize and appreciate all of Sam's wonderful qualities sooner.  The song reflects that Lane is on the verge of a healthier, mutually respectful, and loving relationship with Sam.


"Could it Be Love" reappears on "Flamingo Road" at least two more times during the second season.  The repeat performances of "Could it Be Love" helps chart the course of Lane and Sam's deepening relationship.  In the episode "The Powers That Be" which aired December 15, 1981, Lane is seen performing a country-rock version of the song in a recording studio where she is making a demo record.  She has developed more self-confidence about her singing talent and is looking to see what career opportunities lay ahead for her.  Earlier in that episode, Lane has a key scene where she runs into Field for the first time since they broke up five episodes earlier.  She later tells Sam that, when she ran into Field by chance, she realized she wasn't in love with him anymore.  She explains how, when she used to see Field, her heart used to leap for joy.  This time, when she saw Field again, she expected the feelings to return, but they didn't.  Field had become just another face in the crowd to her.  As a result, when we see Lane singing "Could it Be Love" in the recording studio later on in the same episode, her performance seems even more heartfelt and joyous than before.  She has realized that Field is completely out of her system and so the lyrics resonant even more deeply with her.


Throughout this time, Lane's relationship with Sam grows deeper and more serious.  When Lane sings "Could it Be Love" a final time in the episode "Strange Bedfellows" on January 12, 1982, she is performing it at Elmo Tyson's (Peter Donat) campaign fundraiser to run against Titus for sheriff of Truro.  Two episodes later, Sam asks Lane to marry him and, two episodes after that, Sam marries Lane in a lavish wedding attended by the elite in Truro.  Sam buys Lane a lavish house on Flamingo Road next door to where Field and Constance live with Constance's parents.  When the series is cancelled abruptly by NBC at the end of that season, Lane and Sam are expecting a baby and are among the few characters in Truro whose lives are happy and not in peril like the others.  The outsider who was shunned by the establishment when she arrived in Truro has established her own home and power base in that town.

Songwriter Stewart Harris

I've always liked "Could it Be Love" from the first time I heard it performed on "Flamingo Road."  It was that rare song that was catchy and also had depth.  For many reasons, its lyrics resonated with me.  Because I was so intrigued and obsessed with this song, I started researching the background of it.  It took a long time to find out anything about it because I don't think it ever received a songwriting credit in the end titles of the "Flamingo Road" episodes it appeared in.  I first tried to figure out what the actual title of the song was.  I researched the ASCAP and BMI databases for any songs that might be called "Could it Be" or "Could it Be the Firelight" or "Could it Be Love."  Finally, I found a biography for the songwriter Stewart Harris that indicated he had written songs that were used on "Flamingo Road."  I started researching Mr. Harris's songs and found that he had written a song called "Could it Be Love" with Holly Dunn.  I learned in my research that Mr. Harris is a very esteemed Nashville-based songwriter whose compositions have been recorded by Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis, Mickey Gilley, Reba McIntire, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Levon Helm, Conway Twitty, Travis Tritt, among many others.  I also learned that Holly Dunn, as a two-time Grammy nominated solo artist, recorded many popular country albums in the 1980s and 1990s and is now a successful oil painter based in Texas.  Some of her hit records include "Daddy's Hands," "Two Too Many," "Only When I Love," and "You Really Had Me Going."  I found Ms. Dunn's official website and emailed her to ask about the song.  To my everlasting gratitude, she shared her memories about the background and origins of composing "Could it Be Love."  (Her detailed biography and discography can be found here.)  

Songwriter Holly Dunn

Ms. Dunn recalled that "As a paid songwriter in Nashville, you are given a weekly salary to write songs for the publishing company that you work for.  In this case it was April Blackwood which became CBS Songs Inc., which became EMI Music Group several years later.  Stewart and I were under contract to write songs for April Blackwood, and they in turn, were trying to get our songs recorded by the current Country Music recording artists of that era.  I don't recall any special circumstances surrounding the writing of this song...Wish I could give you come juicy story, but we were two hungry songwriters hoping to write something that someone would want to record!  Later on, we both wrote huge hits, but at the time we wrote this song, we were young and new to the business and just trying to earn our keep!  Having our song picked up and used on a TV series was HUGE to us back then!" 

Original lyric sheet for "Could it Be Love" sent by Holly Dunn

Ms. Dunn also graciously sent me a PDF of the lyric sheet from her personal archives for "Could it Be Love."  When I had transcribed the lyrics to the song in my original email to her, based on how Cristina Raines had performed it, Ms. Dunn "noticed that the lyrics you were quoting weren't right, so I am attaching the original lyric sheet that we had on file at our publishing company.  I can't have you out there quoting wrong lyrics!  Ha!  I seem to recall that the lyrics that were used on "Flamingo Road" weren't correct and that really upset us...Thanks for taking me down memory lane with this one!"  When I examined the lyric sheet, I noticed immediately that the opening verse had been changed for "Flamingo Road."  Originally, Harris and Dunn had kicked off the song with the lyric "Baby I've known you for such a long time..." instead of "If I've known you for such a long time."  I noted how the music director on "Flamingo Road" had Cristina Raines begin the song with lyrics that were in a conditional tense.  By having Lane start off the song with the word "If," it reflects Lane's insecurity about her relationship with Sam.  It shows how, after having originally left Sam for Field, Lane is uncertain whether Sam wants her back.  


The other major change I noticed was that Harris and Dunn had composed a bridge to the song that was not used at all on "Flamingo Road."  The bridge reads:

I believe true love has found me
Since you opened up my eyes
So wrap your lovin' arms around me
And hold me tonight.

After that, the song is supposed to conclude with a reprise of the chorus.  I asked Ms. Dunn if she remembered what the bridge melody was supposed to be.  She wrote that "The 'bridge' melody is different than the verses and chorus, but after 30 years, I couldn't tell you what it is supposed to sound like... You can just pretend it isn't there or make something up!"  It was interesting to learn that there were additional lyrics to the song that I was not aware of before.  I wonder why the music director on "Flamingo Road" chose not to use it, as the lyrics "I believe true love has found me, since you opened up my eyes" remain consistent with Lane's deepened love and appreciation for Sam.  The additional lyrics "So wrap your lovin' arms around me, and hold me tonight" also reflect how Lane is sincerely committed to staying with Sam.  There is no chance she would ever return to Field.


"Could it Be Love" ranks as the best musical performance Cristina Raines gave on "Flamingo Road."  Raines debuted as a singer years earlier in Robert Altman's "Nashville" (1975) performing Gary Busey's composition "Since You've Gone."  Raines did not have a musical background when Altman asked her to sing in "Nashville."  However, as indicated in the book "The Nashville Chronicles," (which covers the making of that film) she diligently rehearsed the song for weeks before she went before the cameras.  Probably because it was her musical debut, Raines has admitted in interviews that she still does not like to watch herself sing in "Nashville."  When you watch Raines' performance of "Since You've Gone" in "Nashville," you sense a slight tentativeness and uncertainty to her performance.  Nevertheless, this does not prevent her from turning in a good musical performance in the end.  The result is a song that fans of "Nashville" consider to be one of the best in the movie.  Cristina Raines got another opportunity to hone her vocal abilities when she was cast as saloon singer Lane Ballou on "Flamingo Road."  Raines was probably the most credible of all the "Lorimar chanteuses."  Unlike Audrey Landers's Afton Cooper on "Dallas," Lisa Hartman's Ciji Dunne and Cathy Geary on "Knots Landing," and Apollonia Kotero as Apollonia on "Falcon Crest," Lane's vocal talent isn't lauded or overpraised by the other characters on "Flamingo Road" the way Afton, Ciji/Cathy, and Apollonia were overrated as singers by the other characters on their respective shows.  And, unlike the others, Lane never had a wealthy male benefactor using his influence to propel her singing career forward.  (In fact, Lane pays for the demo recording of "Could it Be Love" out of her own savings and refuses Lute-Mae's suggestion that Sam use his connections and influence to help Lane's career.)  Lane's original motive for singing at Lute-Mae's was nothing more grand than to have a home and earn a living.  Because "Flamingo Road" isn't trying to sell the audience on the notion that Lane is a brilliant singer, this allows Cristina Raines the luxury of quietly honing Lane's musical abilities.  As a result, we see Raines (and Lane's) talents refine and develop over the course of the series.  


During the first season of "Flamingo Road," Raines competently performed standards on the show like Crystal Gayle's "Don't it Make my Brown Eyes Blue," Dusty Springfield's "The Look of Love," Loretta Lynn's "Blue Kentucky Girl," and Frank Sinatra's "Imagination."  By the second season, Raines had proven herself to where the producers purchased the original composition "Could it Be Love" for her to perform on the show.  At the risk of overstating it, Raines does a great job with the song.  With her energetic and joyous performance, she effectively conveys the sense of discovery and awe that is inherent in the song.  All the nervous uncertainty of her "Nashville" performance years earlier is completely gone.  Just as Lane has put aside her insecurities, Raines has developed enough self-confidence in her musical abilities that she's able to sell that song and wring every ounce of nuance from it.  I only wish that a recording of Raines' performance of "Could it Be Love" was available on Amazon.com.  Does anyone out there know what became of the recording masters for "The Cristina Raines Song"?  If so, leave me a message or comment here.  Considering everything that has now become commercially accessible, there's no reason why a song of this quality and pedigree should remain unavailable to the public. 

6 comments:

  1. Wow. Another great article about something I had no clue about. The song is fabulous. I went to the youtube video and listened to it. I cannot believe that it has not been remade a dozen times, with about three or four being hits. This is a very thorough, well-considered, thoughtful article. Thanks.

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  2. I absolutely loved this song when I first heard it on Flamingo Road and am happy to see I was not the only one obsessed with it! Thanks for the info.

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  3. Thanks for the great blog. I loved this song from the first time I heard it on Flamingo Road and am happy to see I was not the only one!

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  4. I absolutely loved this song when I first heard it on Flamingo Road and am happy to see I was not the only one obsessed with it! Thanks for the info.

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  5. Thank you very much for this detailed and well researched article. You definitely weren't alone; I was also quite fond of the song back in the day when I first saw Flamingo Road. It was released a few years later than in my native country, Germany, than in the US, and over here all american TV Shows are dubbed, with the entire dialogue being replaced by german voice actors.

    Musical elements like Lane's songs, though, are left untouched in the process, so it was only in those short sequences than I could hear Ms. Raines' real voice.

    As it was the mid 80ies and I was in my early teens I had no means to resarch any information about the song or record it from the TV. I recall trying to use a music program on my C64 computer to recreate at least the melody of refrain, but having to do so by memory alone, it didn't work out that well.

    I've been watching Flamingo Road again on dailymotion over the past weeks, and found your blog when I tried googling the song. Thank you for all the Background infromation and how nice of Ms. Dunn to send you the lyrics.

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    1. Hi Joe: Thanks for your note. I only recently learned that a Canadian singer named Kelita Haverland covered "Could it Be Love" on her self-titled album "Kelita" released by the Boot label in Canada in 1983. Boot records also released it on a 45 single that same year. I'm trying to locate a copy of that album and/or single to hear how it sounds.

      I interviewed Cristina Raines for my blog in June 2014. You might enjoy reading her memories of Flamingo Road in that interview. Here's the link:

      http://hillplace.blogspot.com/2014/06/since-youve-gone-cristina-raines-interview.html

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