Get Closer

Album: Get Closer (1982)
Charted: 29
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Songfacts®:

  • In this song, Ronstadt is giving a guy some helpful advice: If he wants love, he'll have to open up his heart and get closer. Like many of her hits, it was written by a guy, in this case Jon Carroll, who was a member of The Starland Vocal Band ("Afternoon Delight").

    Soon after the group broke up in 1980, Carroll wrote the song and recorded a demo - it works for either a guy or a girl to sing, improving its chances of getting recorded. Starland leader Bill Danoff was Jon's manager, and one night he found himself enjoying some time with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. When Harris asked what he was up to post-Starland, Danoff pulled out a cassette tape with three demos, including Carroll's rendition of "Get Closer." He played it, and when "Get Closer" came on, Ronstadt asked if she could have it. She brought it to her producer, Peter Asher, who agreed that it was a great song. The made it the title track of her 1982 album and the lead single.
  • The song has an unusual piano riff in a 7/4 time signature. That riff is similar to the one heard in "Fire," the 1978 Pointer Sisters hit written by Bruce Springsteen, but with the last quarter note of the second measure chopped off.
  • In a Songfacts interview with Jon Carroll, he told the story behind this song. It started with the riff, which he came up with during a session at Bias Recording in Washington, DC. "There's all these different types of songs that come to you, but sometimes the nugget of them just comes from somewhere," he said. "In my head, I was hearing a kind of Leiber and Stoller shout, a call-and-response type of thing. I'm sure other songwriters do this as well, especially in R&B, but when you're grooving on something and you know where you want the vocal to be, you just start chiming and hollering phonetical things that aren't words. I was hollering and I started recording it the next day on a hand-held.

    'You want love,' that was the dog-bark of the tune, and then 'Get Closer' was just because it felt good phonetically. It started from there."

    He added: "The riff was something I didn't want to depart from because it felt so good, so I figured I'd depart by just changing the key and having the verses in a different melodic rhythm but have the bass stay the same rhythm. It brings it down to another key - it goes to the key of C from F, so that way it brings the melody out from that upper wheelhouse into more of a narrative.

    It's got that thing that good party records have, which is starting with a chorus and then departing to the verse - the second act kind of starts with the first verse when you start with the chorus like that."
  • Jim Carroll's original has a horn break, and also these lines, which Ronstadt excised:

    Why you laying on all that macho stuff?
    Don't you think she's already had enough?


    His version is posted at his website.
  • This was Linda Ronstadt's first single released in the MTV era. A video was made for the song, which did well on the network, but she was not destined to be a video star. Ronstadt certainly had the looks, but she had little interest in the form. The "Get Closer" video is based on the album art, with Ronstadt in the same dress, making literal gestures to match the lyrics.
  • Instrumentation on this track is:

    Guitar - Andrew Gold, Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel
    Bass – Bob Glaub
    Drums – Russ Kunkel
    Wurlitzer Piano – Bill Payne
    Backing Vocals – Patti Austin, Rosemary Butler

    Kunkel is the cousin of Margot Chapman, who was part of the Starland Vocal Band with the song's writer, Jon Carroll, and paired with him romantically. While the song was being recorded, Carroll tried to get updates from Kunkel on the progress, hoping it would make the album. He was thrilled to learn that the song was not only going to be on the album, but would be the title track and first single. It was also gratifying for Carroll when they kept his 7/4 time signature.
  • Ronstadt changed direction after the Get Closer album, releasing three orchestral albums of standards, followed by an album of Mariachi music. It wasn't until 1989 that she released another traditional pop album: Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind.

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