Yacht Rock Essentials: The Story and Meaning Behind “How Much I Feel,” a Change of Pace for Former Prog Rockers Ambrosia

Some of the artists who made a name for themselves in the soft rock genre in the late 1970s and early ’80s immediately took to that style of music from the beginning of their careers. But for Ambrosia, it was only after proving their mettle in another genre that they found they had a talent for what’s now known as yacht rock, thanks to their No. 3 1978 hit single “How Much I Feel.”

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What is the song about? And how did it represent a major change in Ambrosia’s approach to their music? Here are the details on “How Much I Feel,” a yacht rock classic with serious staying power.

Prog Beginnings

In the annals of band names, perhaps none was chosen in such a haphazard manner as the one for the group who performed “How Much I Feel.” The band formed in California in the late ’60s when some of the members were still in their teens, and they were going originally by the name Ambergris Mite. Not exactly the catchiest thing, but original, right?

Well, maybe not, as it turned out. There was another band at the time known simply as Ambergris. Hence, the band opened up a dictionary and looked at the entries that were listed alphabetically right after Ambergris. That’s where they stumbled upon Ambrosia, which, in mythology, is the food eaten by deities.

Since Ambrosia made their bones in the early ’70s, it’s not altogether unsurprising that they took a shine to progressive rock, which was all the rage at the time. When they signed with 20th Century Fox Records, they were mostly playing a brand of prog rock, albeit with vocal harmonies inspired by California bands like Crosby, Stills & Nash.

To show just how bona fide they were in terms of their prog rock credibility, Alan Parsons, who worked with Pink Floyd and would form a highly successful outfit in the genre on his own, was involved in the making of the first two Ambrosia records. Even their debut top 20 single “Holdin’ on to Yesterday,” which arrived in 1975, moves along at a brooding pace and has a certain mystery about it.

But, as often happens, a label change also meant a change in artistic direction. When they signed to Warner Bros. for their third album Life Beyond L.A., and with Parsons no longer in the picture, they started to develop a warm, slinky rhythmic groove. And that played to one of the band’s chief strengths.

Lead singer David Pack possessed a stunning voice, capable of climbing the heights in soulful fashion. With excellent harmonies provided by fellow band members Joe Puerta and Burleigh Drummond, Ambrosia created an ideal sound for soft, smooth balladry. And Pack proved to be an excellent writer of these types of songs, as evidenced when he delivered “How Much I Feel.”

What is the Meaning of “How Much I Feel”?

“How Much I Feel” is a unique little love song that travels through time to depict the depths of the love the narrator has for the girl he’s addressing. In the early verses, he doesn’t understand why she’s pulling away from him, but he’s willing to give her the space she needs. It’s gonna hurt me but I’ll break away from you / Well, just give me the sign and I will be gone.

In the second verse, he suggests that just a touch will show her how true he’s been and, yes, how much he feels: Well, take hold of my hand, and I will be forgiven. But then the middle eight comes around, and we start to question if his intent alone will be sufficient to reunite them: And you try to make amends / But you’re better off as friends.

That’s when the final verse delivers the big surprise: The pair have separated and the guy has a new wife! But that doesn’t stop him from pining: Sometimes when we make love, I still see your face. Based on that, we can’t be sure this new marriage will have much of a shelf life. But that’s OK, because “How Much I Feel” by Ambrosia is all about that one love that dwarfs all others in the lives of two people, even if the pair involved doesn’t end up together.

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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