Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Mansa Musa became the King of Mali in 1312. This was well before European Colonization of Africa and the slave trade. Africa was free to live unimpeded at that time and the Kingdom Of Mali was rolling in resources, specifically gold and salt.

The Kingdom was doing well and the then King of Mali decided to go on a pilgrimage, so he told Musa to run the kingdom until he came back. It being the 1300s and whatnot traveling anywhere was a gamble. No cell phones to call for help, exposure to storms, marauding headhunters, dysentery, typhoid, smallpox, leprosy, no Fortnite or NBA 2K20, you get the drift. Tough world back in the day.

So, something happened and the real king never came back. Nobody ever knew for certain why, but one of those reasons above is as good a guess as any. Anywho, because of this Musa ruled Mali for the rest of his life. He built upon the empire by acquiring Timbuktu and Gao, and that allowed him to dominate trade routes all over Africa during the middle ages. This was huge because the world needed Mali’s salt, of which it had in abundance. Salt back then was a big deal because it was used to preserve food. No refridgeration in the 1300s, kids. Salt was so important, in fact, that at that time that you could trade it for it’s weight in gold, and that is exactly what Musa did. He amassed so much gold that he was worth an estimated $400-billion in today’s money. That’s more than John Rockefeller, who topped out at a measly $336-billion. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos? A paltry $120-billion. That’s chicken feed to Mansa Musi. He probably carried half that under the cool turban he sported.

The thing is, nobody really knew about Musa because he was down in Africa. It wasn’t until he took his own pilgrimage to Mecca that people learned about him internationally. That said, he wasn’t going to make the same mistakes as the King before him. Nope. My man traveled in style. He traveled across Africa to Cairo and then on to Mecca with an entourage of 60,000 people and thousands of animals, and they would throw gold at people on the streets along the way. Amazingly, they brought so much gold with them that it messed up the world’s economy for a while. Mansa Musa alone increased the amount of gold in circulation by giving so much away. Good Lord, man.

Mansa Musa died in 1337 after ruling for 25-years and had continued to give money away for his entire life. He built so many mosques across Africa that the legend is he constructed one every single Friday.

So there’s your history lesson, my loyal readers. Mansa Musa, the richest man who ever lived.

PS- Mansa Musa roughly translates to “King Of Kings” and that’s certainly fitting.

 

Note: Shoutout to Barstool Sports, where I got a lot of this information.

 

Here we go kids, sitcoms from the late 50s to current day. You can vote for up to five, and if your fave is not listed you can write it in!

WARNING: There are 80 freakin’ albums (pared down from 124) listed, so this is for true music lovers only. That said, I spent a significant amout of time on it so read the damn thing. Maybe you’ll discover a nugget or two.

I know, I know. How has this subject not been addressed on Shoe: Untied already? God knows I’ve posted a lot of lists in the 8-year duration of this site. However, the thought of narrowing down my favorite albums has been too daunting for me.

Until now.

We’ve all been social distancing and flattening the curve lately, which of course has led to downtime for all of us. Because of this I’ve actually had the time to take on the challenge. Has it been hard? Hell yah. Still, I have perservered for you, my loyal readers.

Please remember that these albums don’t necessarily have to be the greatest or most influential of all-time to you or the general public, but they are to me. In one way or another, they’ve impacted my life. So, don’t yell at me because Highway 51 Revisited isn’t included. Sorry Mr. Zimmerman.

I did make a couple rules, with the main one being I would include no greatest hits albums, the other being no live albums. I mean, those would be sort of cheating, right? Let’s get to it . . .

 

THE 1960s

 

Introducing the Beatles – The Beatles (1963)

Ah, the album that started it all. I have written often of the day I first laid ears on it. I was on the couch in our living room, listening to music on one of those big stereo cabinets that were the size of a coffee table. I was playing an album by somebody, probably Bobby Vinton or Gene Pitney or somebody like that because it’s all we listened to at the time. But one day, in walks my sister Karen . . .

She’d been to town shopping and immediately pulled the needle off the album that was playing, which annoyed the hell out of me. But before I could say anything, she shushed me and said, “Just listen.”

At that point the guitars kicked in, and the lyrics began: “1-2-3-4 . . Well she was just seventeen, if you know what I mean, and the way she looked, was way beyond compare . . .”

Yep, life as I previously knew it was over. Sis had dropped the needle on the album Introducing the Beatles, and I probably listened to it at least 1000 times in the months to follow. Sure, I probably would have discovered them anyway, but thanks to Sis I was clued in from the beginning.

PS- This record ended with The Beatles’ cover of Twist and Shout. Sublime. 

Revolver – The Beatles (1966)

I knew the minute I heard this album that something was  . . . different. It saw a huge leap in the band’s creativity and inspiration, and it also saw them drawing on their experiences with drugs and their interest in eastern religion. Every single song was killer, and The Beatles changed studio recording as we knew it with this album. They distorted sounds, experimented with sound effects, and worked with engineers to create distortion effects. And guess what? Double Tracking, a technique now commonly used in music to create multiple vocal tracks, was invented in the Abbey Road Studios in 1966 on this album.

The result? Songs so complex they were impossible to play live, and sure enough, none of the songs on Revolver were ever performed in front of an audience. With songs like Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Here, There and Everywhere, Good Day Sunshine and Got To Get You Into My Life, this was a glorious record.

Pet Sounds – Beach Boys (1966)

When John Lennon first heard this album he went straight to Paul McCartney and allegedly said, “We’re finished. We can’t top this.” Paul agreed and the two listened to it over and over and over. Brian Wilson’s production was incredible and his songwriting was unsurpassed with tunes like Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Sloop John B, God Only Knows and Caroline No. Simply a gorgeous album that’s usually ranked as the #1 or #2 album ever recorded. Oh, and The eventual response from The Beatles? An album called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (1966)

The 13th Floor Elevators were a short-lived, wild little band that I saw on American Bandstand and I was captivated. They actually have a guy blowing into some sort of utensil they called an “electric jug” and making bubbly noises. These cool cats were from Texas and were a huge inflence for none other than ZZ Top among others. Since I’m assuming many of you haven’t heard of these guys, let me give you a taste:

Man, that’s g-o-o-o-o-o-o-d. Dick Clark had no idea what just hit him.

The Doors – The Doors (1967)

The Rolling Stone recently called this “still one of the most dangerous albums ever.” When Break On Through (To the Other Side) kicked in I new this was something completely different. Jim Morrison’s voice, Ray Manzarek’s keyboards, it was all beyond anything I’d ever heard. Then, when Light My Fire started playing? I was all in.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (1967)

Well, der. This album is widely thought to be the greatest album in the history of music, and there’s good reason for that. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest Rock & Roll group of all time. And kids, it was the first concept album ever. All the songs were tied together. I spun that record a million times as an 11-year old, marveling in its mystery and imagination. From the opening track Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to the A Day in the Life finale, this album is close to perfection.

At San Quentin – Johnny Cash (1969)

Yes, I said said no greatest hits or live albums. However, where Johnny Cash is concerned it’s fine to break the rules. I was just a kid, so the sole reason I bought this album was because I loved A Boy Named Sue, probably the silliest song on the album. But when I listened to the record and the way Johnny Cash sang so raw and emotionally, the way he interracted with the prisoners in San Quentin, I was touched deeply. I mean, the man stood on stage and sang these lyrics in front of not only the inmates but the warden and guards as well:

San Quentin, what good do you think you do?
Do you think I’ll be different when you’re through?
You bend my heart and mind and you warp my soul;
Your stone walls turn my blood a little cold
San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell.
May your walls fall down and may I live to tell.
May all the world forget you ever stood.
And the world regret you did no good.
Clearly, as you watch the video below, the inmates loved it. The others? Not so much. Vintage Cash.

The Beatles (White Album) – The Beatles (1968)

Most people refer to this as The White Album, but in reality the correct album title is simply The Beatles. After the pageantry and complexity of Sgt. Pepper’s, and with everyone else now mimicking that style, the lads chose to go in another direction – simple cover, simple title. This was a double album, and it was obvious the boys were beginning to grow apart. Most of the songs were clearly solo efforts, but the album was still stuffed with classics, both simple and groundbreaking. To name just a few, Back in the USSR, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, Birthday, Helter Skelter, and that’s naming just the most well-known songs. Just a wild, diverse mix of rock history. Give a listen to the first heavy metal/grunge song:

Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (1968)

I have to admit I got on the Vanwagon a little late and bought this record a decade after its release. This jazz-influenced acoustic album featured minimal percussion, an upright bass, flute, harpsichord, vibraphone, strings, and stream-of-consciousness lyrics about being transported to “another time” and “another place.” Wild stuff, even for the free-thinking, out-of-the-box late 1960s. The album only contained eight songs, but man, every one was a haunting, melodic masterpiece. Astral Weeks is always listed among the top all-time albums, and deservedly so.

Sweetheart of the Rodeo – The Byrds (1968)


In one inspired blaze of creativity, The Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo leaped over the cultural divide between the acid-taking, peace-preaching long haired hippies and the beer-chugging, flag-waving good old boys by creating Country Rock. With rippling guitars and silky vocal harmonies, The Byrds sang a mix of country traditionals and originals. This record permanently shattered the wall between Country and Rock. Hell, the group even cut their hair and played the Grand Ole Opry. Kids, without this LP there would likely be no Eagles, no Lynyrd Skynyrd, no Marshall Tucker Band, no Allman Brothers, and by extension no Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban or Luke Bryan. A stretch? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Music from Big Pink – The Band (1968)

I love The Band, and their farewell showThe Last Waltz is one of my favorite concert films and albums of all-time. However, it was Music from Big Pink that started it all. The Band had previously been the backing band for the legendary Ronnie Hawkins, and after that for the even more legendary Bob Dylan. On this, their initial LP, their mix of Country, Blues, Gospel, Western Classical, and Rock was incredible. While Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Who split eardrums, The Band turned down the volume, revealing the intricacies of their arrangements and complexity of their lyrics. While The Beatles and Brian Wilson were working in state-of-the-art studio laboratories, The Band holed up in a dank concrete cellar in the wilderness of the Catskills to make their magic. The result was different from anything being recorded at the time.

Note: Big Pink was a regular, ranch style home. It still stands. Here’s a pic.

Bucket List!

Abbey Road – The Beatles (1969) 

Abbey Road is my favorite Beatles album. It was the very last album they recorded, although Let It Be was released after it. After the disjointed White Album and the aforementioned Let It Be, John, Paul, George and Ringo put it all together one last time for an amazingly beautiful, harmonic masterpiece. It includes the songs Something and Here Comes the Sun, hinting at what was to come from George Harrison. John Lennon’s Come Together also kicks off the album, but it’s the Side 2 medley that blew me away. Little did we know that when Paul McCartney’s little ditty “The End” finished the album, it really was the end.

Here’s the medley:

 

THE 1970s

 

Sweet Baby James – James Taylor (1970)

Pretty sure it was the voice that drew me in initially. I heard the single Fire and Rain on WLS out of Chicago late one night on my little transistor radio, and I’m guessing the DJ was Larry Lujack. Out of curiousity and my interest in that song, I bought the album. With the songs Sweet Baby James, Steamroller, Oh Suzannah and of course Fire and Rain emanating from the stereo speakers of my souther Ohio bedroom on many a warm summer night in 1970, I was hooked.

Note: James Taylor was at the forefront of the singer-songwriter movement that was to come.

After the Gold Rush – Neil Young (1970)

Although this album contained the songs After the Gold Rush, Southern Man (a great song about civil rights in the deep south) and I Believe In You, it was Only Love Can Break Your Heart that cut straight through to my heart. Neil and the other members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had all released solo albums after their album Déjà Vu, and Neil’s was by far my favorite. Just a stellar album from start to finish.

All Things Must Pass – George Harrison (1970)

After spending the previous 10+ years largely in the shadow of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George let loose with a torrent of creativity in this classic album. It was a little surprising to some that it became massively popular. All Things Must Pass spent 7-weeks at No. 1, and its’ lead single, My Sweet Lord, occupied the same slot on the singles chart, marking the first time a solo Beatle had occupied both spots. The 6-sided album (hey, I told you George had some pent up energy) also included the great songs What Is Life and All Things Must Pass. Incredible album.

The Harrison Estate ran a contest, asking fans to make a video for the song What Is Life. This video won:

Imagine – John Lennon (1971)

Any respectable music fan was waiting for this album, and John did not disappoint. This is a great album full of brilliant songs with great hooks, but also mixed with John’s ever-present barbed wit to avoid it from becoming the kind of music that John found irrelevant and boring. Of course it included the legendary song Imagine as well as great songs like Jealous Guy, Oh My Love and How Do You Sleep?, the famous attack on his old friend Paul McCartney. This was another sign for broken-hearted Beatles fans that even though The Beatles had broken up, the incredible music would continue.

IV – Led Zeppelin (1971)

I had never gotten into Zep before this fourth album, and I know not why. Like a gazillion others I took one listen of Stairway to Heaven and rushed to the record store to by IV (actually I couldn’t drive yet so it was probably Mom or a Sister who drove me).  Imagine this – I was a a freshman in high school, had only heard Stairway to Heaven, put on my headphones, dropped the needle on the album, and the first two songs are Black Dog and Rock and Roll. Those were followed by the slow, acoustic The Battle of Evermore and then Stairway concluded Side 1. What. The. Hell? My ears, and musical sensibilities, were forever altered.

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (1971)

Marvin Gaye’s career as tuxedo-clad heart-throb ended when he cut this concept album dealing with Civil Rights, the Vietnam war and ghetto life. Equally startling was the music, softening and double-tracking his voice against a wash of percussion, strings and guitars. Motown boss Berry Gordy hated it, but the album’s social awareness caught the public mood. It ushered in an era of socially aware soul. My favorite tunes include What’s Going On and Mercy Mercy Me, a song about the environment:

So s-m-o-o-o-o-o-t-h-e.

Something/Anything? – Todd Rundgren (1972)

My opinion of this record have been well documented on this site. For a comprehensive read about this album, click this link: Something/Anything?: Todd Rundgren’s Magnum Opus. Quite simply one of rock’s great masterpieces.

School’s Out – Alice Cooper (1972)

I wore out this album in the summer of ’72 and beyond. The song School’s Out was the anthem of a generation, man. You think we didn’t have this blaring from our tape decks on the last day of school in 1973? You know it. Aside from the title song, though, there were tunes like Luney Tune and Gutter Cat vs. The Jets that rocked your socks off. The cover lifted like an actual school desk too. Far out, man.

Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd (1973)

I realize I keep saying this, but you knew immediately upon hearing it that this music was something very different. Dark Side of the Moon was an artistic concept album that included topics on wealth (Money), war (“Us and Them”), madness (“Brain Damage”), squandered lives (“Time”) and death (“The Great Gig in the Sky”). The sound was so unique at the time that it was difficult to describe, although David Gilmour attempted to when he said it was “that psychedelic noodling stuff.” Bottom line? Dark Side of the Moon was a dizzying, mind-bending joy ride from start to finish.

Note: Since we all have  alot of time on our hands, dig this – there’s a video where the movie The Wizard of Oz is synched with Dark Side of the Moon. It’s called Dark Side of Oz and it’s freaky as hell. It’s almost as if it was done purposely. At one point the lyrics say “drives the faithful to their knees” just as the Scarecrow falls to his knees. And believe me, there’s more. Wild stuff.

Muscle of Love – Alice Cooper (1973)

A bit of a surprise here possibly, but I absolutely loved this straight ahead, full bore album full of Rock and Roll. Included is one of the best hard rock songs of all-time, Muscle of Love. The album also contains such classics as Big Apple Dreamin, Teenage Lament ’74 (with the Pointer Sisters singing backup!) and Working Up a Sweat. Yeah, I loved the albums Killer and Billion Dollar Babies, but I’ll take Muscle of Love any day. Check out the title track:

Band on the Run – Paul McCartney (1973)

In my opinion Paul McCartney’s greatest solo effort. I mean, the album includes the songs Band on the Run, Jet, Bluebird, Let Me Roll It, Helen Wheels, and the underrated Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me). Just spectacular stuff. The album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, and Paul and his wife Linda were actually robbed at knifepoint one evening. Bottom line, this was the album that proved Paul could put out an amazing album without the help of John Lennon.

On the Third Day – ELO (1973)

I’d bought the album ELO II, the song with Roll over Beethoven and Mama on it, and I loved it. But this, this one blew me away. The violins, the energy, the melodies, I loved everything about it. And the tracklist? Wow. Ocean Breakup/KIng of the Universe, Bluebird is Dead, Oh No Not Susan, New World Rising/Ocean Breakup (Reprise), Daybreaker, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, Dreaming of 4000 and In the Hall of the Mountain King are all groundbreakingly outstanding. Of course, this was followed by Eldorado, Face the Music, A New World Record, Out of the Blue and more. With On the Third Day, ELO was just getting started.

For a taste, watch this video:

 

On the Border – The Eagles (1974)

This was a record that probably wouldn’t have existed without Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds and Music From Big Pink by The Band back in 1968. It was one of the first mainstream albums kids my age had heard that had that Country Rock feel to it, with emphasis on the Rock (and yes, I know The Eagles had recorded The Eagles and Desparado before it). While I loved the hits Already Gone (a blistering missive aimed at a former lover) and Best of My Love, there are a couple of forgotten gems on the album as well, most notably My Man, James Dean and the Tom Waits classic Ol’ 55.

Diamond Dogs – David Bowie (1974)

Without a doubt my favorite David Bowie album, and it’s not even close. Called “a glitter apocalypse” by one critic, it has one of my very favorite starts of any album. Called Future Legend, it begins with a distorted howl and features Bowie’s spoken-word vision of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, now renamed Hunger City. He describes “fleas the size of rats” and “rats the size of cats“, and compares the humanoid inhabitants to “packs of dogs.” Halfway through the narration, the Richard Rodgers’ tune “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” strikes up. Future Legend then morphs into Diamond Dogs with the cry “This Ain’t Rock and Roll, This Is Genocide!”. Out. Standing. Oh, and don’t forget the classics Sweet Thing and Rebel Rebel. The LP concludes with a little ditty called Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family, perfect for those family barbeques this summer.

A Night At The Opera – Queen (1975)

Queen had released three albums before this one, and of course I’d heard Freddie Mercury’s sensational voice on the single Killer Queen from Sheer Heart Attack a year prior. But this album, released in late 1975, was different. From the searing Death On Two Legs that opened the album, to the smooth pop sound of You’re My Best Friend, to the achingly beautiful Love of My Life, this record had it all. And then, deep into Side 2 was song #11, the next to last song on the album. That song was Bohemian Rhapsody. What in the HELL? The rest, my friends, is history.

Bonus Vid: Love this scene from Bohemian Rhapsody.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Elton John (1975)

I know, I know. Elton John had released 11-albums before this one, including classics like Madman Across the Water and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (I saw the tour!). He’d even released a greatest hits compilation the year before. That said, this album is my favorite. It’s an autobiographical account of the early musical careers of Elton John (Captain Fantastic) and his long-term lyricist Bernie Taupin (the Brown Dirt Cowboy). It was a simpler album, no overproduction or overarranging, less grandiose and more laid back than those prior, and I loved it. The only single from the album, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, wasn’t even close to my favorite from this one. Instead, I loved the songs Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Tower of Babel. Bitter Fingers, Curtains, and especially Writing. And you know what? It’s simplicity is one of the reasons it still holds up today.

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (1975)

I’d heard a little from Bruce’s previous albums, Greetings From Ashbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and I liked what I heard. I knew the music was a throwback to simpler, more straightforward Rock and Roll, and I was ready for it. After buying the album in the summer of ’75, I brought it home and dropped the needle on Side 1. Imagine how I felt when the first two songs were Thunder Road and Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. I was stunned. But the real life-changer for me came from the first song on Side 2. When the drums and guitars began on Born to Run, I knew Rock had really gone back to the basics. And a Springsteen concert reflected his style – no giant balloons, no laser shows, no glam makeup – just flat-out Rock and Roll like it was meant to be. I now knew what music critic Jon Landau meant when he said this after seeing Springsteen live:

“I saw my Rock and Roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw Rock and Roll’s future ,and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

PS – And oh yeah, Jungleland closed out Side 2. Amazing.

If you didn’t get a chill at the 3:33 mark you have no musical soul.

Bankrupt – Dr. Hook (1975)

This might seem like an odd choice, but it’s an album that I’ve played it over and over for 45-years. Dr. Hook had hits with Sylvia’s Mother on Doctor Hook and Cover of the Rolling Stone on Sloppy Seconds. But then they released an aptly titled album called Belly Up! that tanked at #141, followed by an album called Fried Face that was so bad no record company would release it. Then came Bankrupt, named because, well, you can figure it out. And guess what? This album wasn’t a hit either but that didn’t stop me from loving it. With witty, quirky tunes like Levitate, I Got Stoned and I Missed It, Wups, The Millionaire, and Everybody’s Makin’ It Big But Me, it was right up my musical alley. Their cover of Sam Cooke’s Only Sixteen was awesome as well. I still adore this album. And I dare you to watch this video and not smile:

Tales of Mystery and Imagination – Alan Parsons Project (1976)

Alan Parsons was no stranger to great music. He was involved with the production of several of the most significant albums in history, including the Beatles‘ Abbey Road and Let It Be, and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Well, he went solo and his debut album knocked my socks off. The musical themes of the album, which are retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe (who I love), attracted a cult audience, me included. The title of the album is taken from the title of a collection of Poe’s macabre stories of the same name. Give a listen to the song To One In Paradise to get the vibe. Groundbreaking album that once again led to a lifetime obsession.

The Ramones – The Ramones (1976)

If I thought Bruce had taken us back to the 1960’s, The Ramones upped the ante. To really get rock back to its roots Joey Ramone and his three “brothers” (they weren’t really, not even related) did it with one album and 16 tracks, all under 3-minutes, just like back in the early days of Rock. They did it all with with speed, a distorted guitar thrash and a line in silly, dumb lyrics. In an era of Progressive Rock pomposity and 12-minute tracks, The Ramones back-to-basics approach was rousing, raw and confrontational. And although it was called Punk Rock or New Wave, what it really was was basic, garage Rock and Roll.

Fun fact: The Ramones were inspired by Paul McCartney, who would check into hotels as “Paul Ramon.”

 Bonus Fun Fact: The Ramones real names were as follows – Joey Ramone (Jeffery Hyman), Johnny Ramone (John Cummings) and Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin).

Out of the Blue – Electric Light Orchestra (1977)

If Something/Anything? was Rundgren’s Magnum Opus, Out of the Blue was Jeff Lynne’s. A double album containing 25-songs, it’s the result of Lynne retreating to a chalet in the Swiss Alps and unleashing a burst of creativity. Although it didn’t have the overall impact of On the Third Day to me, basically because the style was so jarring on that one, Out of the Blue has many more incredible songs. To name just a few, how about Turn to Stone, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Night in the City, Steppin’ Out, Standin’ in the Rain, Big Wheels, Summer and Lightning, Mr. Blue Sky, and Sweet is the Night. Man, I spent many a night on 178 West Avenue, Apt. C, in Columbus, Ohio just off OSU campus listening to this one.

Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf (1977)

Speaking of 178 West Avenue, Apt. C, I was just around the corner from there when I first heard the dulcet tones of one Mr. Marvin Lee Aday, also know as Meat Loaf. The sound was something unusual, sort of Operatic Rock if you will. That made sense because Meat was an actor who’d performed in the musical Rocky Horror Picture Show. This album was prduced by my man Todd Rundgren, who also voices the introduction to You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night). Other amazing tunes are Bat Out of Hell, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad and of course Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Really good record that I just about wore out.

Alive On Arrival – Steve Forbert (1978)

Ah, Steve Forbert. Somehow I got into Steve with this album before his 1980 record Jackrabbit Slim, which included the hit Romeo’s Tune. I loved the sound immediately. It’s really hard to describe his style, so I’m not even going to try. I will say that Steve Forbert is a true poet and an absolute master storyteller and lyricist. And perhaps the most unique thing about Steve Forbert is his voice. Listen to it, man. I’ve been lucky enough to see him live a few times and even met him twice. Romeo’s Tune was his only commercial hit but that hasn’t stopped me from buying every single album he’s ever recorded. Love the songs Goin’ Down to Laurel and especially Settle Down, which has always touched me on a personal level:

If I’m caught up in a whirlwind, babe, I know
I’ll make it through,
I’ve seen that spinning power rise an’ fall.
I can ride it sailin’ higher. I can ride it comin’ down.
It’s a natural kind of cycle, babe, that’s all . . .
Fantastic album that introduced me to a life-long musical addiction.

Labour of Lust – Nick Lowe (1979)

I knew a little about Nick Lowe from his work in Rockpile, a great band he was in with Dave Edmunds. I’d heard a couple songs from Jesus of Cool, his first album. But when Labour of Lust was released in ’79 it blew me away. It wasn’t just Cruel to Be Kind, it was Born Fighter, Switchboard Susan, Dose of You and American Squirm that drew me in.  Like I’ve done with Steve Forbert, I’ve purchased every Nick Lowe record since that debut album.

Note: Saw him live for the first time recently. He did not disappoint.

Tusk – Fleetwood Mac (1979)

Sure, Rumours was awesome. But the great Lindsey Buckingham was determined to make an album nothing like it, and he did. It was experimental and was influenced by Buckingham’s infatuation with Post-Punk. I loved it from the get-go. The songs Tusk, Think About Me, Sara, What Makes You Think You’re the One, Storms, every one was amazing. Remember that the big hits from Rumours were Don’t Stop and Go Your Own Way? Compare those to this song (wait for the USC Marching Band):

So yeah, different.

The Wall – Pink Floyd (1979)

Yes, I know. The original cover had no text.

Dark Side of the Moon was incredible, but The Wall is my favorite Pink Floyd album. A double album masterpiece, it is a rock opera that explores Pink, a jaded rockstar whose eventual self-imposed isolation from society is symbolized by a wall. Roger Waters father was killed during WWII and Pink’s father also dies in a war, which is where Pink starts to build a metaphorical wall around himself. The album includes several references to former band member Syd Barrett, including Nobody Home, which hints at his condition during Pink Floyd’s abortive US tour of 1967, with lyrics such as “wild, staring eyes,” “the obligatory Hendrix perm” and “elastic bands keeping my shoes on.” The song Comfortably Numb was inspired by Waters’ injection with a muscle relaxant to combat the effects of hepatitis during the In the Flesh Tour while in Philadelphia. Just an amazing record that I played over and over and over back in ’79. And of course everyone remembers one of the most amazing choruses of all-time:

We don’t need no education . . .

 

THE 1980s

 

Hootenanny – The Replacements (1983)

Oh my. Sure, The Replacements had released one album before this one called Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (also an EP titled Stink), but Hootenanny is the one that grabbed me by the ears and rattled my brain. This was a band that could somehow come off as both sensitive and sarcastic and darkly poetic but also strikingly sophomoric. The Mats were raw, basic rock and roll with hooks, man. It was almost like The Beatles and Sex Pistols had a baby and that baby was The Replacements. I love Paul Westerberg’s voice (hoarse and real) and the guitars sounded like something  you heard in your buddy’s garage in 1973. The songs on Hootenanny range from the raucus Color Me Impressed to the sublime Within Your Reach. What. An. Album.

Murmer – REM (1983)

A-n-n-n-n-n-n-d here it is. The record that ignited my lifelong obsession with R.E.M. This band influenced so many future bands that when younger folk hear R.E.M. today it doesn’t even sound original to them. Peter Buck’s ringing, jangly guitar style, Michael Stipe’s distinctive vocals and obscure lyrics, Mike Mills’ melodic basslines and backing vocals, and Bill Berry’s tight, economical drumming made for a singular original sound, unlike anything we’d heard before. Peter Buck described it as “Minor key, mid-tempo, enigmatic, semi-folk-rock-balladish” and I believe that explains it.  So many songs on this record are special to me – Radio Free Europe, Pilgimage, Talk About the Passion, Laughing, Moral Kiosk, Perfect Circle, Catapult, Sitting Still, 9-9, Shaking Through, We Walk, West of the Fields . . . wait, did I just name the entire album? I did.

Note: Without R.E.M. artists like The National, Beck, Eels, Pavement, Gin Blossoms, The Decemberists, and many more would not exist. True story.

Behold, 1983 R.E.M.

The Final Cut – Pink Floyd (1983)

In my opinion oner of the most underrated Pink Floyd albums, and it was Roger Waters’ last record with the band. Waters and David Gilmour fought constantly during the recording of the album, leading to Roger getting the hell out. Anyway, The Final Cut was basically a Roger Waters solo album and is an anti-war concept piece that explores what Waters regards as the betrayal of fallen British servicemen—such as his father—who during the Second World War sacrificed their lives in the spirit of a post-war dream. I know, heavy stuff. As for me, I loved the general dreamy feel of the record and songs like Paranoid Eyes, The Fletcher Memorial Home and Two Suns in the Sunset. Great album.

Note: The Final Cut was not included Floyd’s 1992 box set, Shine On. 

1984 – Van Halen (1984)

Without a doubt my favorite Van Halen record. There were five before this one, all pretty good. Lead singer David Lee Roth scrammed in 1985 for a sad solo career, but not before contributing mightily to this album. It grabbed me right away with the instrumental 1984, which kicks right into the legendary Jump. Add Panama, Top Jimmy and Hot For Teacher and you have one hell of an album.

Note: A lot of Van Halen hardliners didn’t like Jump because it wasn’t “hard” enough, being synth heavy and whatnot. I do not care. Loved it.

Fables of the Reconstruction – REM (1985)

Here’s one of the reasons I love R.E.M. – after their first two incredible albums, most bands would try and build on what they’d accomplished to try and really go over the top. Not my guys from Athens, Georgia though. They went in another direction and unleashed Fables of the Reconstruction, a big departure from Murmer and Reckoning, their first two records. Hell, the song Can’t Get There From Here even had horns! The record is chock full of great music and includes the R.E.M. classics Feeling Gravity’s Pull, Maps and Legends, Driver 8, Life and How to Live It, Old Man Kensey, Green Grow the Rushes, and Wendell Gee. Man, did my buddy Goose and I play the hell out of this one back in the glory days of 1985.

Mars Needs Guitars! – Hoodoo Gurus (1985)

Back in the day I would sometimes buy records on a whim, just taking a chance because I liked the band name or album cover. Such was the case at the gloriously named Magnolia Thunderpussy record store in Columbus, Ohio back in the fall of ’85. While perusing the selections I laid eyes on Mars Needs Guitars! by a band named the Hoodoo Gurus and I was smitten without hearing a note. Weird I know, but guess what? I loved it and I’ve purchased every Gurus album since because they are awesome. Anyway, Mars Needs Guitars! contains some amazing songs, including BittersweetShow Some Emotion, The Other Side of Paradise and the incredible tunes Death Defying and Like Wow – Wipeout!. Yep, my hunch was right.

Behold, Like Wow – Wipeout and Death Defying . . .

Lifes Rich Pageant – REM (1986)

The album title comes from a line in a Pink Panther movie:

Maria: “You should get out of these clothes immediately. You’ll catch your death of pneumonia, you will.”

Clouseau: “Yes, I probably will. But it’s all part of life’s rich pageant, you know?

Lifes Rich Pageant is varied, kicking off with the rockin’ Begin the Begin and These Days, then slowing down with one of Michael Stipe’s favorite R.E.M. songs, Fall On Me. Add Cuyahoga, I Believe and a raucous cover of The Clique’s Superman and you have another R.E.M. classic.

Note: The absence of an apostrophe in the title was intentional and I know not why.

They Might Be Giants – They Might Be Giants (1986)

 I can’t recall who first turned me on to this quirky little duo from New York City. It may have been my friend Goose or maybe Jed, I cannot recall. Anywho, my first reaction upon hearing them was “What . . . in . . . the . . . world?” The music of TMBG is, shall we say, different. It’s whimsical, funny, odd, tuneful, sometimes deep, and always amazing. On this, their debut album, the two Johns (Linnell and Flansburgh) unleashed the tunes Everything Right Is Wrong Again, Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head, Don’t Let’s Start and Youth Culture Killed My Dog on an unsuspecting public. Hey, I told you they were quirky. This album set the stage for my lifetime love of They Might Be Giants.

Cloud Nine – George Harrison (1987)

George had released several albums since All Things Must Pass, and I bought them all. I particularly liked Thirty Three and 1/3 and Somewhere In England, but it was George’s big comeback album after a 5-year absence that blew me away. Co-Produced by Jeff Lynne (and you can certainly hear his influence), Cloud Nine featured guest appearances by Lynne, Ringo Starr and some cat named Elton John. The big hit from the album was the cover of Jimmy Ray’s 1962 song Got My Mind Set On You, but I loved the tunes That’s What It Takes, This Is Love, When We Was Fab, and Devil’s Radio as well. Just a a sublime, infectious record and nice return for George.

Rehab Doll – Green River (1988)

Green River was Grunge before Pearl Jam and Nirvana, kids, but obviously never achieved the commercial success of those two bands. Green River made very little commercial impact outside Seattle, but what the band lacked in commercial success it made up for in influence. In general, Green River is widely regarded as being one of the pioneers of Grunge music. With its sludgy mix of hard rock, punk and metal, that was heavily influenced by The Stooges, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith, coupled with Arm’s twisted lyrics and vocal delivery, Green River greatly influenced both its peers and bands that followed them. Even without the fact that some of its members would later go on to form some of the biggest bands of the Northwest music scene, Green River is still remembered for its musical foresight and innovation, years ahead of the rise of grunge. My faves from this album are Swallow My Pride and Porkfist. ‘Twas the earliest grunge.

Note: Several Green River band members went on to be in other, more famous bands. Mark Arm (Mudhoney), Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam), Steve Turner (Mudhoney), Steve Gossard (Pearl Jam), Bruce Fairweather (Mother Love Bone), and Jason Finn (The Presidents of the United States of America). ‘Nuff said.

The Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1 – The Traveling Wilburys (1988)

Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrision – quite simply the greatest Super Group of all-time. This album though. It’s Rock with a dash of Country and it’s great from start to finish.  They boys originally got together to record Handle with Care for Harrison to release in Europe. The result was deemed too good for such a limited release, however, so the group agreed to record a full album, titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. The rest is history.

The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)

I’ve always felt like The Stone Roses were Oasis before Oasis was Oasis. Only, you know, better. This record, their first, was a breakthrough success for the band and received critical acclaim, many regarding it as one of the greatest British albums ever recorded. Their sound is lush, harmonic and beautiful. The band had so many internal difficulties they could only eke out one more album, Second Coming, in 1994. It received mixed reviews although I loved it as well. Watch the video below to get that Roses vibe.

PS – Whilst reseaching the band I found out they released an album in 2016. W-h-u-u-u-t? Must. Check. Out.

Doolittle – The Pixies (1989)

Oh my. The Pixies came on like bats out of hell with this, their second release. The album’s offbeat and dark subject material, featuring references to surrealism, Biblical violence, torture and death, contrasts with the clean, poppy production sound. That, my friends, is right up my musical alley. Debaser and Here Comes Your Man, in particular, are absolutely killer tracks. Band members Black Francis (who later recorded solo as Frank Black), Kim Deal (amazing bassist and singer), Joey Santiago and David Lovering all contributed mightily to this legendary record.

PS- I saw them in the summer of 2018. So damn good.

 

THE 1990s

 

Flood – They Might Be Giants (1990)

Why is the world in love again? Why are we marching hand in hand? Why are the ocean levels rising up? Here’s a brand new record for 1990, They Might Be Giants brand new album, Flood!

I promise you that any middle school kid I taught in the early to mid-1990s will recognize that intro to Flood, the fantastic album by They Might Be Giants. That intro kicked into Birdhouse in Your Soul and the rest is history. This is the band’s most recognizable and definitive album, and it’s also their best-selling. But really, how could it not with songs like Birdhouse, Instanbul (Not Constantinople) and Particle Man? Holy hell man. Oh, and there are two other special gems there as well – Twisting and They Might Be Giants. Love love love.

Nevermind – Nirvana (1991)

This album pretty much has to make any discerning music lover’s list, amirite? Although Grunge music had been around for years, it was generally this record that brought it into the mainstream. The album started selling slowly, but with the help of the video for the song Smells Like Teen Spirit it eventually rocketed to the top of the charts (it replace Michael Jackson’s Dangerous by the way). For listeners who had heard bands like Green River or Soundgarden this wasn’t such a shocking sound. For others it was ear-opening. Amazing, music-changing album that featured drummer Dave Grohl for the first time.

Ten – Pearl Jam (1991)

This album was released less than a month before Nevermind, giving the world a 1-2 punch of Grunge and knocking it on its ass. Hair Metal, my friends, was essentially over. While Nirvana had done it with a punk attitude, catchy hooks and Kurt Cobain’s suffering, hoarse vocals, Pearl Jam did it with arena-sized riffs, choruses and Eddie Vedder’s wails. Nirvana’s sound was unique – nobody ever really tried to mimic them. On the other hand, Pearl Jam influenced great bands like Stone Temple Pilots and not-so-great bands like Creed.

Bandonwagonesque – Teenage Fanclub (1991)

Do you like The Byrds? R.E.M.? Gin Blossoms? Then you’d love Teenage Fanclub. On their third album, Bandwagonesque, they are firing on all cylinders. Like I mentioned, they were heavily inluenced by The Byrds and even the Beach Boys and Beatles. With hooks and harmonies, songs like The Concept, Star Sign and Metal Baby, this is the first Teenage Fanclub album that caught on with the masses. It was also critically acclaimed, and get this – it topped Spin Magazine’s Album of the Year poll, beating out . . . wait for it . . . Nirvana’s Nevermind. Just a wonderful, 60s vibed record.

Apollo 18 – They Might Be Giants (1992)

Another spectacular album by the two Johns, and this one has an interesting twist. Sure, it’s overflowing with catchy, melodic, weird tunes like I Palindrome I, Mammal, Dinner Bell, and See the Constellation, but the real treat is what ends Side 2. I’m talking about Fingertips and it’s 4:25 minutes of the strangest, most peculiar, most glorious music these ears have heard. Fingertips is composed of 21 short tracks ranging in length from 4 to 71-seconds and includes wild tunes such as Everything’s Catching On Fire, Who’s That Standing Out My Window?, Come On And Wreck My Car, What’s That Blue Thing Doing Here?, Something Grabbed Ahold Of My Hand, and I’m Having a Heart Attack. Stellar in every way. Here ’tis, but be warned – your ears may be twisted and turned inside out.

The MEN – The MEN (1992)

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the first single from this album. I was driving south down State Route 104 from Columbus, Ohio nearing Chillicothe, and I was passing between the two prisons there. I was listening to QFM-96 and on it came – Church of Logic, Sin and Love by a band called The Men (The Men consisted of two men and two women by the way). The song immediately blew me away, and guess what? It still does. I drove straight to the record store and ordered it, waited the requisite week or so, and when it arrived I was thrilled to find the entire album was incredible. In addition to Church of Logic, Sin and Love there were other great tunes like I Built My House This Way, She’s All Mine, Goodnight Sally, and Where You Found Me. Sadly The Men vanished from the airwaves after this one astonishing album, like a comet streaking across the night sky.

It’s the kind of place where space explorers could have landed around 1963 – when Kennedy was in Life Magazine and everything was aquamarine . . . aquamarine.

Piece of Cake – Mudhoney (1992)

As I mentioned before, Mudhoney was formed by lead singer Mark Arm, who was in Green River and is credited with actually coining the term “Grunge.” Pretty cool. Mudhoney’s earlier song Touch Me I’m Sick and the Superfuzz Bigmuff EP were massively influential on the Seattle music scene. More than almost any other release of the era they inspired the dirty, high-distortion sound that would become grunge. On Piece of Cake, Mudhoney unleashed Suck You Dry, Blinding Sun and No End In Sight on the shell-shocked masses. I got to see Mudhoney back in 2007 on their tour and am happy to say I scored their setlist, handed to me than none other than the man himself, Mark Arm.

See? I wouldn’t lie to you.

Automatic for the People – REM (1992)

R.E.M. had sure come a long way since 1983 when I first fell in love with them. Automatic for the People, their eighth studio album, put them smack dab at the top of the game. Out of Time, released in 1991, had been a huge success and included the smash single Losing My Religion, but this album is the one I loved the most. The songs are simply beautiful, and Automatic for the People is generally regarded alongside 1983’s Murmur as one of the band’s supreme achievements. The album yielded an astonishing 6-singles – Drive, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight, Everybody Hurts, Man on the Moon, Nightswimming and Find the River. Just an exquisite record from beginning to end.

Fun Fact: The star on the album cover was in front of a Miami restaurant and Michael Stipe dug the way it looked. It had since been destroyed in a hurricane.

14 Songs – Paul Westerberg (1993)

I loved The Replacements and I loved their enigmatic frontman Paul Westerberg, so it makes sense that I loved his first solo album. I even wrote about him in a piece called Man Without Ties: Paul Westerberg. On this album Paul was in peak form, churing out cool songs like Knockin’ On Mine, Runaway Wind, First Glimmer and the sarcastic take on plastic surgery, Mannequin Shop. The album features contributions from Ian McLagan, former keyboardist for the Faces, a band that Westerberg has often cited as a favorite. I’ve loved a lot of Westerberg’s solo albums over the years, especially 1999’s Suicaine Gratification, but 14 Songs remains my favorite.

PS – I had the opportunity to see Paul Westerberg live in the late 90’s and he was everything I hoped he’d be.

Hi-Fi Sci-Fi – Dramarama (1993)

Dramarama had released 5-albums since 1985, but it wasn’t until 1993’s Hi-Fi Sci-Fi that I finally caught up with them. It was the song Work For Food that caught my ear, which led me to buying this album and subsequently every album they’d recorded previously. In addition to Work For Food, the songs Senseless Fun, Late Night Phone Call and Shadowless Heart make this an exceptional album. Oh, and John Easedale’s vocals are supreme throughout. Sadly this was Dramarama’s last album until 2005’s Everybody Dies. Great band.

PS- There’s also an acoustic version of Work for Food that is amazing.

100% Fun – Matthew Sweet (1993)

Matthew Sweet may be the most underrated artist this side of Todd Rundgren. The two albums preceding this one, Girlfriend and Altered Beast, were outstanding as well.  On 100% Fun, Sweet delivered a hook-filled guitar-fused power pop record for the ages. With a soft, warm voice, he always keeps the emphasis on the melody, no matter how aggressively hard songs such as Sick of Myself and Super Baby may seem. However, the gem on this album comes in at song #3 with the incredible tune We’re the Same. It evokes memories of the early Beatles, Raspberries and even Cheap Trick with it gorgeous harmonies, chorus and jangly guitars. Give it a listen below, and you’re welcome in advance.

PS- Who does Matthew Sweet credit with being his biggest influence? None other than R.E.M. 

Monster – REM (1994)

I feels like R.E.M. may have become a little weary of the commercial success that albums like Out of Time and Automatic for the People brought them. Monster didn’t sound like anything on the radio, and it certainly didn’t sound like 1992’s Automatic for the People. On Monster, the boys wanted a return to their roots and displayed a much harder edge with great, rockin’ songs like What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, Crush With Eyeliner, Bang and Blame and Star 69. Was this a different R.E.M. record? It was. Was it awesome? Hell yes it was.

Note: What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? referred to the the infamous attack on Dan Rather on a NYC street  where the assailants repeatedly yelled the line.

The Hearing and the Sense of Balance – Fury in the Slaughterhouse (1995)

Fury in the Slaughterhouse is another band I’ve loved for years, and this is my favorite album of theirs. A German band, these guys have made a ton of good music. And don’t let the name fool you – they’re basically a straight ahead rock band with guitar led, hook-filled melodies. One song led me to this record, a song I’d heard on an alternative compilation of new and upcoming bands. That song was Milk and Honey, and I was smitten. Upon buying the album I was turned on to tunes like Down There, Hello and Goodbye, and Rainy April Day, a song about Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Great album, great band.

Here’s a taste of the song that started it all, for me at least:

Nerf Herder – Nerf Herder (1996)

Ah, the Herders of Nerf. I cannot quantify how much enjoyment these knuckleheads have given me over years. They describe themselves as a Geek Rock band, and are known for simplistic modern punk-style songs with frequently humorous, juvenile, and pop-culture-referencing lyrics. This, their first album, contained the cult classics Down On Haley (not what you think), Sorry (not safe for children), and Van Halen (where they rip the band for replacing David Lee Roth). Nerf Herder is simply a band that sings nerdy, funny, irreverent, and sometimes inappropriate songs. Love these guys.

Note: Lead singer Parry Gripp is the nut who’s responsible for all those wild videos like Cat Flushing a Toilet, Hamster On a Piano and Baby Monkey Going Backwards On a Pig. Good stuff.

The Colour and the Shape – Foo Fighters (1997)

The Foo Fighters had recorded one album prior to this one, Foo Fighters, but it was with The Colour and the Shape that I got on board.  When Dave Grohl started The Foos after the death of Kurt Cobain ended Nirvana, nobody knew what to expect. Hell, we’d just seen Dave back there pounding the drums, many thought he couldn’t be a frontman. They were wrong. The Foo Fighters turned out to be one of the greatest rock bands in the world. This record grabbed my ears with great songs like Monkey Wrench, My Hero and the iconic Everlong. With The Colour and the Shape, the Foo Fighters were just getting started.

PS- I’ve been lucky enough to see several Foo shows over the last few years (including CalJam ’18), and thanks to a friend I’ve had backstage access. Incredible experiences all.

Electric.

Electro-Shock Blues – Eels (1998)

Everyone knows that The Eels are one of my Top 5 all-time bands. Mark Oliver Everett, who’s essentially the band, is a damn musical genius. I wrote about him in a piece called Mark Oliver Everett: A Man Called E if you want to know his story. However, it was this album that turned me onto him. Following the success of the band’s first album, Beautiful Freak, E experienced a difficult time in his personal life. His sister committed suicide and his mother was diagnosed with cancer (he’d discovered his father dead years earlier in their home). These events inspired him to write Electro-Shock Blues, which focuses on his family, which he had never written about previously. Electro-Shock Blues deals with many difficult subjects including suicide, death and cancer. However, don’t let that scare you off. The album is soothingly melodic, with intelligent lyrics. You’ll love this record. Check out Last Stop: This Town for a sample:

Imagination – Brian Wilson (1998)

Everyone knows Brian Wilson was the genius behind the Beach Boys and created one of the greatest albums in the history of music, Pet Sounds (see above). Years after the Beach Boys broke up, in 1988, Brian released a much anticipated solo album, his first. It was great, but then he pretty much vanished again. He released a couple inconsequential albums in the 90s, one that included a lot of remakes and another was a collaberation with old friend Van Dyke Parks. Neither were very good. And then, it happened. In 1998 he let loose with only his second solo album of original material, Imagination. The first song on the record was called Imagination as well, and it blew me away. Those old harmonies were back and the song was breathtakingly beautiful. Another tune, Lay Down Burden, is an amazing ode to his late brother Carl. South American is a catchy, beachy song he wrote with Jimmy Buffett. Keep An Eye On Summer could have fit right in on any 60’s Beach Boys album. All in all a spectacular return for the legend Brian Wilson.

PS- Shockingly, this album wasn’t received well by critics. Critics are idiots.

The harmonies at the 2:40 mark brought tears to my eyes when I first heard them.

 

THE 2000s

 

Daisies of the Galaxies – Eels (2000)

If you’re not aware of The Eels, this is the album you need to listen to. Daisies of the Galaxy is incredible from start to finish and has no weaknesses. Hell, its hidden track was undoubtedly its most popular song.  The album is cheerful on the surface (helped by its quirky, upbeat tone) but contains cynical undertones. E shows genuine calmness as he displays his sadness. It’s amazing really. It’s hard to explain, but E’s music juxtaposes itself effortlessly. From the carefree opening minutes of Grace Kelly Blues to the last, happy-go-lucky last song, Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues, Daisies Of The Galaxy has undertones of desolate emotion behind quirky, upbeat pop tracks. So, so good. My personal favorites, although they’re all excellent – Grace Kelley Blues, Packing Blankets, I Like Birds, Daisies of the Galaxy, It’s A Motherfucker (don’t let that title fool you, it’s a gorgeous, heartfelt song), Jeannie’s Diary, Wooden Nickels, Selective Memory (a great song about E’s late mother), and the aforementioned hidden track, Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues. Essential Eels, man.

Rockin’ the Suburbs – Ben Folds (2001)

This one is right at the top of my Ben Fold’s treasure trove of records. Released on 9/11/01, this was Ben’s first solo album since leaving Ben Folds Five. It contains the usual Ben Folds piano based, hook-filled gems. The record’s best songs are Annie Waits, Zak and Sara, Still Fighting It, Rockin’ the Suburbs, and one of the most beautiful songs ever written, The Luckiest. The whole album has a Burt Bacarach feel to it (look it up if you’re under 60), and believe me when I say that’s a good thing. And as always, Ben maintains that signature sarcasm throughout. I’d expect nothing less.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – Flaming Lips (2002)

I always liked the Lips, but this album is by far my favorite of theirs. It’s a weird, haunting, lush, symphonic record with gorgeous melodies and and an incredible, moody vibe. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots appeared in the best-albums-of-the-decade lists of several music publications, such as Rolling Stone (#27) and Uncut (#11), with Uncut also declaring it the greatest album released in the magazine’s lifetime. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I absolutely love the songs Flight Test, Are You a Hypnotist?, and Do You Realize?. What an amazing album with Wayne Coyne at the peak of his powers.

American Idiot – Green Day (2004)

Green Day had released a pretty bad album, Warning, just before this and the band was dropping in popularity big-time. They released a greatest hits album to buy some time, healed some old wounds in the band, and promptly unleashed their best album ever (in my humble opinion). American Idiot was not a traditional Green Day album. This was different. The band not only listened to classic rock operas and concept albums like The Who’s Tommy and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, but also pulled ideas from Broadway musicals. The record also includes classic rock influences (The Beatles) and the boys also allowed some of the top Rock and Hip-Hop acts of the day to factor into their sound and approach. According to Billie Joe Armstrong, “We decided we were going to be the biggest band in the world or fall flat on our faces.” What resulted was one fantastic album with songs like American Idiot, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and Wake Me Up When September Ends. Spectacular album.

PS – I saw the band live right after this album dropped. Electric.

Indian Summer – Carbon Leaf (2004)

Carbon Leaf is the greatest relatively unknown band I’ve ever known. They burst onto the scene in 2002 when they won the Best New Band award at the American Music Awards. After that they settled in on a solid, successful career. Their sound has a Celtic, Irish feel to it, although lead singer Barry Privett calls their sound “Ether-Electrified Porch Music” which seems about right. Indian Summer is chock full of that unique, patented Carbon Leaf sound with tunes like Life Less Ordinary, What About Everything?, Grey Sky Eyes, Raise the Roof, and Let Your Troubles Roll By. I highly recommend you listen to this band, and you can start by watching the video below.

PS- I’ve seen the guys live several times and have become aquainted with them. Great, down-to-earth people.

PPS- Carter Gravatt is an incredible guitarist.

I And Love And You – Avett Brothers (2009)

I first heard The Avett Brothers in the early 2000s when I was driving my car through Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was on station 99.1 The Sound, where I always seemed to find new bands. The song was I and Love and You, and my proverbial socks were knocked off. The Avetts sound is really hard to describe. They combine Bluegrass, Country, Punk, Pop, Folk, Rock, Indie, Honky Tonk, and Ragtime to produce a unique sound described by the San Francisco Chronicle as having the “heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones.” Yep. I would say that about covers it.

 

The 2010s

 

Something for the Pain – Redlight King (2011)

Redlight King is another band that hasn’t really received its due and I know not why. They formed in Canada in 2009 and released this, their first album, in 2011. Lead singer Mark Kasprzyk made news on this record for his success in securing permission from Neil Young to allow him to sample the 1972 song, Old Man, and the results were incredible. It’s sampled in Redlight King’s song of the same name, a tune about Kasprzyk’s father. I got a recommendation to listen to this album from a friend, and I’m forever grateful for that. In addition to Old Man, the songs Something for the Pain, Bullet In My Hand, Comeback and When the Dust Settles Down are all stellar. Give Redlight King a listen. You won’t be disappointed.

Egypt Station – Paul McCartney (2018)

Just when you thought 76-year old Paul McCartney was getting close to the end of his career he dropped this bombshell on us. Ladies and gentlemen, Egypt Station was Sir Paul’s first #1 album in the USA since Tug of War in 1982. Let that settle in for a second.  As Rolling Stone reviewer Rob Sheffield said, “Make a list of all the songwriters who were composing great tunes in 1958. Now make an overlapping list of the ones who are still writing brilliant songs in 2018. Your list reads: Paul McCartney.” Man that’s impressive. Give a listen to songs like I Don’t Know, Come On To Me, Fuh You and Back in Brazil and you’ll know what he’s talking about. Did this record surprise me? It did. Should it have? Hell no. It’s Paul Freakin’ McCartney.

PS- Paul gets two videos.

So there you go, my 80 favorite albums of all-time. Eclectic? Yes. But I sort of pride myself in that. There’s really no musical genre I don’t like. And while making this list I realized that the album’s of today are not the same as the albums of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. In the 60s and 70s, in particular, there was nothing better than buying an album, taking it home, peeling off that plastic cover, and reading the liner notes. If it was a double album it was even better. Today we just download a particular song to our iPhone and that’s that. Sad really.

Anyway, to those of you that stuck with me all the way through this l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g blog, I appreciate it. Please let me know if any of my albums match yours, or if there are other albums not included here that had an impact on your life.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Tim is new to this whole Twitter thing, but damn it if he’s not giving it his all. Tim is a National Treasure and, dare I say, the hero we all need right now.

[click and scroll to see the entire tweet]

In the world today, 1 in 200 men are direct descendants of Genghis Khan.

“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Years ago my late father told me a story, a story that most kids today wouldn’t understand. It was from a time long ago, a time of hardship and poverty that most of us cannot begin to comprehend today.

My dad grew up the youngest of seven children, the son of Sadie and Royal Shoemaker. Grandpa was a carpenter and a blacksmith, and he and Grandma somehow raised every one of their kids to be a part of independent and successful families. The oldest was Myrl who ended up in the second most powerful position in the state of Ohio, serving as its Lieutenant Governor and Director of Natural Resources after 24-years as a State Representative. Brothers Hester (Deck) and Leroy were also strong figures who raised amazing families, and sisters Alice, Ruth and Millie were the matriarchs of great households as well.

Dad? His name was Ralph and he graduated from Ohio University and rose to the Head of Purchasing at the Mead Corporation, a large paper company here in Southern Ohio.

Bottom line, Grandpa and Grandma did an amazing job of raising seven children, most of whom grew up during the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world.

Which brings me to my father’s story.

It was a Christmas morning, probably sometime in the 1980s, and we were all sitting around watching the grandkids open their myriad of gifts, just tearing through the presents and tossing them aside with barely a glance. It was apparent that Dad was amazed at the sheer number of gifts the kids were getting, and he and I were chuckling about it. At some point we found ourselves in another room and he asked me this question:

Do you want to hear about the best Christmas I ever had?

Well, sure. Dad was never one to share a lot of his personal feelings so I wanted to hear what he had to say. Then he began the story. I’m paraphrasing but I remember it well . . .

“It was, I don’t know, maybe 1933 or 1934. It was Christmas morning, although we didn’t have much of a celebration or anything. I think I was in 1st or 2nd Grade. We didn’t have much at all back then, and we all had chores to do around the house each day. One of my jobs was to get up and shovel coal into the furnace. It was cold in the house, so the first thing I did when I awoke was to put my shoes on. They were always right by my bed. When I put one of them on, I felt something inside. I reached in and there, with a white ribbon tied to it, was a red pencil. A red pencil! Some of the kids at school had their own pencils but most of us did not. I was so excited. I cherished that red pencil more than any present I ever got. I promise you I appreciated that gift more than kids today appreciate theirs. And I made that one pencil last the rest of the school year.”

As he recounted the story I could see the excitement in his eyes, even after all the years that had passed.

You see, back then in that space and time for that little boy, getting a new pencil was special. So special that he remembered it vividly decades later.

I guess we should just appreciate and be grateful for what we have, right? And it’s not always the quantity or the price of the gifts, sometimes it can be something very, very simple.

Like a red pencil.

 

Simply put, the NBA as we know it today wouldn’t exist without the ABA, or the American Basketball Association.

Formed in 1967 and lasting until 1976, the ABA played a flashy, distinct brand of basketball, one far different from what the NBA was playing at the same time. It had an awesome red, white and blue ball and 3-point shots (gasp!). And oh, by the way, it also featured the first slam dunk contest in 1976. The league only lasted a few seasons, but its impact on the game continues to this day. Four ABA franchises that merged into the NBA (the Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs) remain today. And those innovations like the three-point shot have continued to help the NBA evolve over time.

The league consisted mostly of players not quite good enough for the NBA, although they did swipe a few from the older league. Some great players that chose to play with the league were Julius “Dr. J” Erving, George “The Iceman” Gervin, Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, Louie Dampier, and Rick Barry (who they signed away from the NBA). They also signed players that had been banned from the NBA for various reasons, great players like Doug Moe and the legendary Connie “The Hawk” Hawkins. Both were banned for alleged gambling violations that were never proven.

Although only four teams eventually merged into the NBA, the original ABA featured some really cool names and logos. Some still exist today. Check ’em out:

 

Here are some random photos from the American Basketball Association. Like I said, they played the game up-tempo and wide open, much like the NBA game is played today. At the time the NBA was a walk it up, pound the ball inside league. And man, that ball. The way it spun was almost magical. Ah, the memories.

Finally, for an in-depth look at the ABA I beseech you, dare I say implore you, to check out this video. Amazing stuff.

I’ve always been fascinated by abandoned places, whether they be houses, cars, or anything really. For instance, there’s something about looking at an old abandoned house and knowing that it was once someone’s dream, a place where maybe kids were running around, a home that somebody took great pride in but now it just sits there, overtaken by nature. Why did they leave? What happened? To me that’s very intriguing.

With that in mind, here are 12 photos of abandoned places that I particularly like. I hope you like them too.

[click on a photo to begin scrolling]

Big word guy here. Everyone knows that. I’ve written several blogs about words, including the classics William Shakespeare, Rad Bro of Avon and Inventor of Words, 7 Redundancies We Need To Eliminate, Moving Forward, Allow Me To Reiterate, A Message To Social Media Users, 11 Examples of Why We Should Let Kids Name Stuff, Mispronounced Words: My Top 10, My 15 Favorite Palindromes, Here Are Some Words That Need To Make A Comeback, Word Up! Snorkel, Curds and Uranus and the legendary Cool Beans! Words and Phrases That Need to Make a Comeback.

So yeah, a lot.

And I once had a kid claim that “dude” was a word that only young folk should use, so of course I had to point out to him that it’s been around for at least 150-years, and that it was even used with regularity back in the stone age when I was in high school. And yes, I wrote about that too, in the blog The Etymology of Dude. 

Which brings me to today’s little piece about words that are older than you think. Let us proceed . . .

HIPSTER

Seriously. “Hipster” shows up in the 1941 Dictionary of Hash House Lingo (yes there was such a thing) and it meant “a know-it-all.” The words hip and hep had been around since the early 1900s, meaning being up on the latest and knowing what’s what. And by the way, I’m old enough to remember beatniks being called hep cats. God I’m old.

UNFRIEND

Think “unfriend” is a word brought upon us by Facebook? Naw. It’s been around a long time. It shows up in this example from 1659: “I Hope, Sir, that we are not mutually Un-friended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us.” Cool. On a related note, if you don’t think I’m going to use the word “betwixt” henceforth you’re out of your gourd.

HANG OUT

Hang out has been used as a verb for passing the time since at least the 1830s. In the Pickwick Papers Charles Dickens wrote: “I say, old boy, where do you hang out?” True story.

PUKE

Puke has been around since the 16th century, man. The word, not actual puke. That’s been around forever. Anyway, while it is often claimed that Shakespeare invented the term, puke has been found in earlier sources. It meant then what it means now, to vomit. To hurl. Barf. Heave. Spew. Upchuck. You get the picture. But it also used to be a causative verb, meaning to make someone vomit with a tonic or potion. Your doctor might have you purged, bled, and puked for your own good. That’s disgusting, but I get it. Sometimes puking does make you feel better.

FUNKY

Funky was used as a term describing music back in the 1930s, but the “strong smell” meaning has been around long before that. Since the 1600s funk was slang for the stale smell of tobacco smoke, and by extension, anything that stank. Cheeses, rooms, hobos, and especially ship’s quarters could be described as “funky.” And oh by the way, I saw Wild Cherry perform “Play That Funky Music (White Boy)” on High Street in Columbus, Ohio 6-months before they hit it big. Boom.

FRIGGING

Wait, what you say? I kid you not. Frigging has been around since the late 1500s and has served as the more family-friendly substitute for that other F-word. Check out this 1943 quote, man:  “This shunting frigging new arrangement has got every flaming thing foxed up.” People used to talk way cooler than they do now, amirite?

LEGIT

Legit as a shortening of legitimate has been around since the 1890s. It started as theater slang for things associated with legitimate (as opposed to vaudeville or burlesque) theater. From the 1920s on, it referred to underworld or shady occupations or places. If you were “on the legit” you were being honest. Kewl.

So there ya go. Words that are older than you thought they were. I hope you learned something today, kids.

 

 

 

I can’t tell you how fascinated I am by these photos I randomly came across on the worldwide interweb. These are real, folks. In one Abe’s hair is a complete mess, in the other he’s sporting a do that would be appropriate for 2019. Abraham Lincoln, man. Dude was ahead of his time.

Click and scroll for the insanity.

One of the most iconic music videos in history, The Beatles singing “Hey Jude” on the David Frost Show in 1968. It was their first live performance in over 2-years. I love at the beginning when the lads are messing with Frost. Great stuff.

The album “Let It Be” by The Beatles was supposed to be a trip back to their roots – pared down, simple, no orchestration or strings, no overdubs, and no overwhelming production. They wanted the album to have an almost “live” feel. This from a band that had recorded albums like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in which the studio work and production were groundbreaking in their complexity. Bottom line, The Beatles wanted to get back to their roots.

Here’s the album track list:

Side 1

  1. Two of Us
  2. Dig a Pony
  3. Across the Universe
  4. I Me Mine
  5. Dig It
  6. Let It Be
  7. Maggie May

Side 2

  1. I’ve Got a Feeling
  2. One After 909
  3. The Long and Winding Road
  4. For You Blue
  5. Get Back

The songs range from the silly (“Dig It”, “Dig a Pony” and Maggie May”) to the rockin’ (“Get Back”) to the almost country sounding (“One After 909”) to the beautifully legendary (“Let It Be”, “Across the Universe” and “The Long and Winding Road”). It was a truly a wonderful album in spite of the cracks that were beginning to show, fissures that would eventually tear the group apart.

Quick note – although “Let It Be” was the last album released by The Beatles, it was actually recorded before Abbey Road.

As I mentioned before, during the recording of “Let It Be” the relationships between all four Beatles was strained severely, almost to its breaking point. It was so strained, in fact, that the guys became so tired of the in-fighting they allowed manager Allen Klein (who Paul hated but John liked) to take over the finishing touches on the album. Klein ended up handing the project over to legendary “Wall of Sound” producer Phil Spector, who proceeded to completely defeat the original purpose of the album by adding orchestras and female background singers (which The Beatles had never used before) to songs like “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let It Be.” Paul McCartney has stated publicly many times that when he first heard the final product he was aghast at the results.

Years later, in 2003, the album was re-released by McCartney as “Let It Be . . . Naked” in an attempt to rectify the mistake and let the public listen to the album as it was originally intended. The result was a beautiful album of simple songs in which the voices and musicianship stand magnificently on their own.

Here’s a comparison of the original release of “The Long and Winding Road” with strings and background vocals, followed by the originally intended pared down, simple version:

Long and Winding Road (with added vocals and orchestration)

Long and Winding Road (original “naked” version)

Big difference. Sure, the first version is beautiful, but I much prefer the second one, especially since Paul wanted it to be heard that way originally. Again, all the added fluff went against the spirit of the album, which was to “get back” to the roots of The Beatles.

Here are some videos from the movie “Let It Be” which was basically a documentary regarding the making of the album. It includes the legendary surprise “rooftop concert”. Great stuff:

Let It Be

The Long and Winding Road

Get Back

Let It Be Factoids:

  • Piano legend Billy Preston played keyboard on the album.
  • During the recording sessions, tensions between George Harrison and Paul McCartney, grew so heated that Harrison left the studio.
  • Although recorded in 1969 and released on “Let it Be” a year later, the song “One After 909” was one of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s first collaborations, dating back to 1959.
  • In the United States, advance orders for the album were the largest in the industry up to that point – over 3.7 million units.
  • Legend has it that when McCartney sang “Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged” he was looking directly at Yoko Ono, who was in studio during the recording.

 

 

Yep. Not photoshopped.

You all know about my man Teddy Roosevelt. After all, I wrote about him in the acclaimed and cleverly titled blog “11 Examples That Show Teddy Roosevelt Was Either A Badass Or Batshit Crazy“. Click on that link to read about all that was Teddy.

Finished? Good.

What follows are 7 of the most savage, vicious lines that our boy Teddy laid upon some poor folks that got in his way. Dude makes Trump’s put downs sound like they came from an 11-year old. Read on . . .

I shall start with a personal favorite. Teddy once said of William Jennings Bryan, then Secretary of State to Woodrow Wilson, “He’s a professional yodeler, a human trombone.”

Boom. Roasted.

Once a Supreme Court justice dared to cross our man. Teddy proceeded to call him a “an amiable old fuzzy-wuzzy with sweetbread brains.”

Ouch. That’s cold, man.

Here’s what he said about William Alfred Peffer, a senator from Kansas who was hairy, tall, and lean – “He’s a pin-headed, anarchistic crank, of hirsute and slab-sided aspect.

Uh, OK?

Novelist Henry James once called Roosevelt “dangerous.” Teddy responded by calling James “a little emasculated mass of inanity.”

Burn.

Teddy once said of some government official named Charlie Lyman, “he’s the most intolerably slow of all men who ever adored red tape.” 

He saved some of his best zingers for William Howard Taft, calling him things like a “puzzlewit” and a “fathead.” He also said he had “brains less than a guinea pig.”

No love lost between those two, man.

Even family members weren’t immune to his barbs. He said of his brother Elliott, “He is evidently a maniac, morally no less than mentally.”

So you see, the Mad Tweeter that currently sits in the White House isn’t the first president to lower himself to insults about his enemies. Sure, Teddy delivered his lines with considerably more intelligence, but that’s no shocker.

Anyway, Teddy Roosevelt? You didn’t want to get on his bad side.

 

 

 

I don’t think I missed an episode of Soul Train or Midnight Special. Watch these dancers groove to Love Train by my buddies the O’ Jays. On a related note, Don Cornelius was the coolest cat around back then.

Since today is April 20th, I thought I’d post this article from Time magazine explaining the significance of the date to those of you who might be unaware. Interesting stuff.

TIME- Both marijuana smokers and non-smokers recognize April 20 or 4/20 as a national holiday for cannabis culture, but few actually know how the date got chosen.

Some say “420” is code among police officers for “marijuana smoking in progress.” Some note 4/20 is also Adolf Hitler’s birthday. And some go as far as to cite Bob Dylan’s song “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” because 12 multiplied by 35 equals 420.

But, to put it bluntly, those rumors of the history behind how April 20, and 4/20, got associated with marijuana are false.

The most credible story traces 4/20 to Marin County, Calif. In 1971, five students at San Rafael High School would meet at 4:20 p.m. by the campus’ statue of chemist Louis Pasteur to partake. They chose that specific time because extracurricular activities had usually ended by then. This group — Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich — became known as the “Waldos” because they met at a wall. They would say “420” to each other as code for marijuana.

As Reddix told TIME in 2017, “We got tired of the Friday-night football scene with all of the jocks. We were the guys sitting under the stands smoking a doobie, wondering what we were doing there.”

The shenanigans continued long after 4:20 p.m., too. The group challenged each other to find ever-more-interesting things to do under the influence, calling their adventures “safaris.”

Later, Reddix’s brother helped him get work with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh as a roadie, so the band is said to have helped popularize the term “420.” On Dec. 28, 1990, a group of Deadheads in Oakland handed out flyers that invited people to smoke “420” on April 20 at 4:20 p.m. One ended up with Steve Bloom, a former reporter for High Times magazine, an authority on cannabis culture. The magazine printed the flyer in 1991 and continued to reference the number. Soon, it became known worldwide as code for marijuana. In 1998, the outlet acknowledged that the “Waldos” were the “inventors” of 420.

Mirror: The Beatles Abbey Road album cover is one of the most famous in the world. The album’s sleeve shows the four members — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — walking across the street outside Abbey Road Studios in North London.

However, if you look closely at the photo of the Fab Four, you’ll notice a suited gent standing on the pavement. For years fans have been trying to track the mystery man down, and it is an American tourist called Paul Cole. He was tracked down and said he was included in the snap purely by chance. Paul said he was standing by the side of the road waiting for his wife, who had been looking around a museum.

“I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks. ‘A bunch of kooks,’ I called them, because they were rather radical looking at that time.”  

He said: “I saw the album and I recognized myself right away. I had a new sports jacket on and I’d just bought new shell-rimmed glasses.
I said to my children, ‘Get a magnifying glass out and you’ll see’.”

Paul Cole died in 2008 at the age of 98.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked at that cover and wondered who the dude was standing on the street in the background. I just figured it was somebody who worked in the area and was used to seeing the boys around. Turns it was Paul Cole, an American who was tired of touristing with the wifey and had gone out for a quiet moment and some fresh air. Little did he know he’d end up being on one of the most iconic rock and roll album covers in the history of mankind. That’s wild stuff, man. Anyway, Paul Freakin’ Cole. Check him out:

It’s called “The Incident at Dyatlov Pass.” Here’s what went down . . .

On January 28th, 1959, 10-students and graduates of the Ural State Technical University embarked on a hike into Russia’s Ural Mountains. They were all experienced mountaineers, and they expected to reach their destination by February 12th.

One of the hikers, Yury Yudin, got sick early in the trip and had to stay behind. Turns out he was the group’s only survivor as well as one lucky flu victim.

So the group of 9-hikers heads into the woods and never came out. It’s sad, but it’s also one of the risks of wandering in the wilderness, right? The thing is, when they didn’t arrive at the expected time, the search-and-rescue team that was dispatched to find them discovered a terrifying and unexplainable scene that remains a mystery to this day.

First of all, the tent that the nine had shared had apparently been cut open from the inside and was full of the party’s food, warm clothing, and other essentials. The team then discovered five of the missing hikers about a mile from their tent. Two were discovered beside the remains of a campfire, and their hands were severely burned. The other three were discovered fairly close together of about 100-feet away, apparently attempting to return to their destroyed tent.

And get this – all five were found in various states of undress. Some were barefoot, others were wearing only their socks. One of the men, Rustem Slobodin, had a small fracture in his skull, but it was ruled that he had died from exposure, not injury.

The remaining four hikers were found approximately 3-months later. But instead of clarifying the situation, their bodies only made the story weirder. Some of the hikers were wearing clothes that belonged to hikers left at the campfire, indicating that they had scavenged those bodies in order to stay warm in the -30° weather, but all four apparently tumbled into a ravine and died there. These hikers had all suffered chest injuries that doctors compared to a car crash, and another was found to be missing her tongue.

Weird, right? But it gets weirder.

The hikers’ clothing was all strongly radioactive, and other than their severe injuries, there were no obvious signs of struggle or the presence of any other living thing in the area. One of the hikers, Semyon Zolotaryov, had apparently taken the time to grab his camera before fleeing the tent but left his clothing behind. What the hell had he hoped to photograph? And speaking of cameras, another member of the party, Yuri Krivonischenko, had taken a blurry picture of something weird and glowing before the incident.

Oh, and one more thing – the place they all died translates to “Mountain of the Dead.”

Gulp.

So, what could have killed the hikers? In short, nobody knows. There are a few theories that keep coming up, though. One is that they were attacked by someone or something in the woods, but there’s just one problem – the search teams found nine sets of footprints in the snow, one for each of the victims but no others. None made by humans, animals, Yetis, aliens, or otherwise.

So maybe it wasn’t an outsider? Maybe something happened between the hikers that caused them to turn on each other, or caused one to become extremely violent. Except there’s not really any great evidence of that, either. The diaries of the hikers found back in the tent didn’t indicate any kind of rising tension, nor did anyone who knew these nine believe they would have allowed their emotions to interfere in a survival situation. Some nearby residents reported seeing orange lights in the sky, leading some people to theorize UFOs had to be involved, and other slightly more rational minds suggested that they had been the accidental victims of some sort of Soviet weapons test. At least that would explain the radiation I guess? It would also explain why the official Russian investigation into the incident closed almost as quickly as it opened – investigators were satisfied to list “a compelling natural force” as the cause of death, and the region around the area where the incident occurred was closed for 3-years afterwards.

By the way, what exactly is “a compelling natural force”?

Oh, and about that aforementioned Yeti/Sasquatch/Bigfoot, you say? On one of the dead hikers cameras they found a mysterious photo of a man (or something). In any case it has a surreal look to it. Check it out:

Yikes. Fu-reaky.

It’s known as Photo 17, and it was the last photo taken on Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolle’s camera. Is it human, or something else? Could it be a member of the group coming back from somewhere? Maybe somebody else with sinister intentions? Nobody knows, but damn that’s a weird looking photograph.

So, the questions remain:

  • What frightened the hikers so much that they raced barefoot and half-naked into freezing windy temperatures?
  • What caused the traumatic injuries that doctors compared to those gotten from a car crash?
  • What caused the traces of radiation on the hiker’s clothing?

Anyway, it’s an enduring mystery and one that fascinates the bejesus out of me. Sure, you can find people on the worldwide interweb that claim to explain everything, but they an all go straight to hell because that’s no fun. Bottom line, they ultimately explain nothing.

PS- If you’re as interested in this as I am here’s a bonus, and also chilling, video for y’all. It includes some of the theories I talked about above, as well as some others.

 

I actually attempted two websites before this one and neither really caught on. The first was called Rock Hard Times and was all about music. The second was called The Inside Handshake and stuck exclusively to sports. Then one day it hit me – why limit myself to one subject? Hell, I have opinions and observations on other stuff as well. Why not open it up to everything? Music, sports, politics, science, entertainment, nature, the list was endless. Thus was born Shoe: Untied, a play on my name along with the idea of sort of letting loose (actually a friend of mine came up with the title and I liked it). Anyway, as you know the site turned out to be a pretty eclectic one, and that’s the way my crack staff and I like it.

One thing I discovered early is that you can never, ever predict what people will like. Sometimes I write something I think is great and get very little response. Other times I write something that I feel is sort of trivial and it just blows up (see drunk pig blog below). Like the title says, it defies explanation.

With that said, here is our annual year-end report and Top 25 Most Popular Blogs for 2018. We’ll start with #1 and work our way down. Just click on the title if you want to take a gander.

Australian Pig Steals 18-Beers From Campers, Gets Drunk, Fights Cow

Yes ladies and gentlemen, a short little article I posted along with my observations back in 2014 got over 500,000 views this past year. For you non-mathematicians, that’s over half a million people. Seriously man, it was about a drunk pig. See, a radio station out in Seattle happened upon my site, liked the post, and put a link to that story on its website. Then the Aussies got hold of it and the rest is history.

UPDATE: Drunk Australian Pig That Started Fight With Cow Killed In Car Accident

Aaaand of course the throngs of people who loved the drunken swine story were interested in the tragic update. On a related note, Australians and I have the same exact sense of humor.

My Side of the Story

Nearly 400,000 people from all over the world heard my side of the story, and I’m glad they did.

Sis

I thought losing a basketball job was a tragic experience. I soon learned that, on life’s grand scale, it wasn’t.

My Dad and I

My memories of my father, who we lost just 53-days after my sister.

“Things Most White People Say” List Is Hilarious, Also 100% Correct

Basically just a repost of some funny tweets I’d run across. Good stuff and people liked it.

Incredible Photo of the Day: Gator Catch!

This was another post that the Australians inexplicably enjoyed. A large percentage of its views came from the Land Down Under.

So How Many People Did The Rifleman Actually Kill?

I love the old TV show The Rifleman, so one day I decided to research just how many people Lucas McCain actually killed. The answer? 120. Ol’ Luke murdered 120 people. But hey, they all deserved it so it’s cool.

Scioto Valley Conference Boys Basketball Preview & Predictions

A preview I wrote regarding our local basketball conference. I must say it’s turning out the way I predicted. So far.

The 2017 Ugly Dog Contest Was An Absolute Joke

My critique of the Ugly Dog Contest and its beautiful winner, Martha.

Cool Beans! Words and Phrases That Need To Make A Comeback

Another story I published a couple years that seems to never go away. Just a simple blog about words.

An American Hero: Ruby Bridges

My story about Ruby Bridges, the little 6-year old African-American who integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans on November 14, 1960.

Map of the Day: World Rat Distribution

The most fascinating aspect of this map is that Alberta, Canada is rat free, and it’s not by accident.

Regarding Beach Midgets

Just an offbeat, original little story that people seemed to find hilarious.

15 Reasons I Hate LeBron James (Or Used To)

I wrote this after LeBron left Cleveland with his ridiculous television show, “The Decision”. I really did hate the guy for a few years, but he won me back with his letter admitting he’d made a mistake with the way he left, then returning to Cleveland and ultimately bringing them a championship.

Celebrity Mugshots: My Top 10

Another old post that saw a resurgence of sorts in 2018. I’ve no idea why.

Meet Australian Cow Knickers, the Biggest Damn Cow You’ll Ever See

Again, Australians, man.

If You Haven’t heard of August Landmesser It’s a Damn Shame

I’m truly glad people liked this one, and I’m glad I got to spread the word about August Landmesser.

Paint Valley Basketball Records

This is a page I maintain that’s linked to Shoe: Untied. It gets a lot of hits.

Brad Kerns and Parenting the Way It Should Be

A telling story about one of my basketball parents and also one of the best friends I ever had.

The Many Worlds Theory is Wildly Fascinating

A pretty good example of what an eclectic website Shoe: Untied really is.

Map of the Day: USA IQ Test Scores by State

I had a lot I wanted to say here politically bit I couldn’t pull the trigger.

Man Killed Trying to Bring Christianity to Remote Island Tribe

A recent story that was quite controversial. Seems not everyone agreed with my views.

Another Drunk Animal Causes Havoc, and This Time It’s a Sozzled Squirrel.

Who knew drunk animal stories would be so wildly popular? Not I.

Don’t Think Animals Are Scary Smart? Read On.

There’s a certain segment of people who visit my site that can’t get enough of the animal stuff. They just eat it up. Animals, man.

So there ya go. All in all it was the biggest year ever for Shoe: Untied, and I thank the people who visit because you’re obviously as nuts as I am.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

Flashbulb Memory

Noun

  1. the clear recollections that a person may have of the circumstances associated with a dramatic event.

Flashbulb Memories. We all have them. Oh, you may not have known they had a name until right now, but I guarantee you’re thinking of a couple right now. Like the definition says, they’re those moments in your life that were so shocking, so mind-numbing that the moment they happened is burned into your brain forever. Obviously the older you are the more of these memories you’ll have, and what follows are my flashbulb memories. Yep, all 19 of them. And by the way, I excluded the deaths of close friends and relatives. That’s way too close to home, man. What I’ll do is this – I’ll tell you where I was, how I heard the news, and any other information that I feel may be pertinent.

Note: As much as I tried to come up with an even 20 I couldn’t do it. Sorry folks.

The John. F. Kennedy Assassination (November 22nd, 1963)

I can vividly recall that Friday in November, 1963 when a knock came on the door of my classroom in Twin Elementary in Bourneville, Ohio. I was in row 2, seat 2. My teacher, Mrs. Hughes, walked to the door and listened for a few seconds. For some reason, the classroom became completely quiet. Somehow we sensed something in the air. I distinctly remember Mrs. Hughes sort of toppling a bit and leaning against the door jamb upon receiving the news. Then she turned, deathly white, and walked to the front of the room . . .

“Kids, I have terrible news. Our president has been assassinated.”

I recall my friend Jeff, who was sitting in front of me, turning around and asking me what that meant. I have no idea how I knew for sure, but I told him that somebody had killed John F. Kennedy, our president. Our president was dead. I don’t remember the rest of the school day, but I do remember going home after school and being surprised that my dad was home, sitting on the couch watching the television. I also remember that for the first time in my life, I saw tears in my father’s eyes.

The Truth About Santa (December 22nd, 1963)

How do I know the exact date, you ask? Because I remember it was the Sunday before Christmas and a few weeks after the Kennedy assassination. My family had gone to my grandparent’s house east of Chillicothe, at a farm just off Route 35. All was well until the ride home. It was on that fateful trip back to Bourneville when we were all discussing Christmas and my older cousin Mike, who was riding with us, leaned over and delivered the earth-shattering news:

“Santa Claus isn’t real. Our parents buy the presents.”

Mind. Blown.

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan (February 9th, 1964)

My sister Karen had played “Introducing the Beatles” for me a few weeks prior (it was released on January 10th) so I was already all-in on this new band from Liverpool. Still, when Ed Sullivan yelled, “Here they are! THE BEATLES!” and I actually saw and heard the boys playing, I knew my world would never be the same again.

Note: I know the video below seems simple and not at all earth-shattering for younger people, but trust me when I say it was like watching four aliens sing a strange new sound at the time.

The Moon Landing (July 21st, 1969)

1968 had been a terrible year for the Unites States, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and then Robert F. Kennedy, rocking our nation. Coming from a politically involved family I was dialed into the political and civil rights scenes more than most 12-year olds, so those two murders rocked me almost as much as the John F. Kennedy assassination. So, when the U.S.A. fulfilled a promise made by JFK and beat Russia to the moon in the summer of 1969 the entire world was watching, including my family. I recall watching the event on television, listening to Ohio native Neil Armstrong say the famous words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, and then Dad and I going outside and staring up at the moon in disbelief. It was simply unimaginable at the time that a man was standing on it.

The Death of Jim Croce (September 20th, 1973)

This one probably isn’t on most people’s lists, but I remember vividly when I heard about it. I was in my Dad’s Catalina Brougham, sitting at our mailbox reaching in to get our mail. It was in the morning and it was a Friday. I had the radio on, listening to the news, when I heard the report that one of my favorite singers had died in a plane crash the night before after performing at a concert in Louisiana. I couldn’t believe the guy who sang “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, and “Time in a Bottle” was dead.

President Richard Nixon Resigns (August 8th, 1974)

Again, because of my family’s involvement in politics I was tuned into the whole Watergate scandal from Day 1. I even made a bet with my History teacher that Nixon wouldn’t make it through the summer, that he’d be forced to resign. Needless to say, I won that one. I watched the resignation my sister Karen’s house, along with her husband Jigger.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Plane Crash (October 20th, 1977)

I was living just off The Ohio State University campus at the time, 178 West 8th Avenue, Apartment C to be precise, at the time. I’d purchased tickets for the Skynyrd show on Friday, October 28th, but when I awoke the morning of Friday, October 21st, I had the following conversation with my roommate Jed just as he was walking out the door:

Jed: “Hey, don’t you have tickets to see Lynyrd Skynyrd next week?”

Me: “Yep.”

Jed: “Uh, pretty sure it’ll be cancelled. Their plane crashed last night. Six people were killed including Ronnie Van Zant.”

I just stood there speechless as he walked out the door.

The Who Tragedy (December 3rd, 1979)

Yep, my buddies Tom, Andy and I had tickets to Riverfront Coliseum the night of the tragedy where 11-people were crushed to death, and we were actually on the way to the concert. Fortunately, since it was my birthday we thought a party in Chillicothe would be more fun, and it might have saved our lives. And yes, I know about a million people claim to have had tickets to that show. We actually did. We went to the party, and we found out what happened when we returned to Andy’s house around 2:30 in the morning and found his wife sitting on the floor in front of the TV, crying. She thought we’d gone to the concert, and when she saw us walk in she leaped up, hugged us all, and told us the news. Chilling stuff.

USA Hockey Upsets The Russians (February 22nd, 1980)

Unless you were actually there you didn’t see this game live because it was played at 5:00pm and shown on tape delay at 8:00pm. This being 1980 and before the internet, nobody I knew had heard that the biggest upset in sports history had happened. Nobody, and I mean nobody, aside from American Coach Herb Brooks thought a bunch of collegiate hockey players could beat mighty Russia, who was essentially a professional team and undoubtedly the best hockey team in the world. Hell, the USA had been beaten by the Russians 10-0 just days before. So, when the US was winning 4-3, clock winding down to 0:00, and announcer Al Michaels screamed “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?” I leaped up and accidentally knocked my coffee table over in the process. Unbelievable night.

John Lennon Assassination (December 8th, 1980)

Lennon signing his assassin’s album the night he was shot.

I was home by myself that night. It was around 11:30 pm and I was relaxing on my couch, headphones on, listening to “Double Fantasy”, the new album by John Lennon that had been released a couple of weeks prior. Lennon hadn’t recorded in 5-years so the album was a big deal. A Monday Night Football game was on but I wasn’t really watching, I was just lounging with my eyes closed, listening to the music. The TV was actually across the room, sort of behind me, and I was facing the fireplace.

At some point I opened my eyes and glanced into the glass doors of the fireplace. There I saw the reflection of the TV, and for some reason John Lennon’s face was on it. I took the headphones off and turned to the television, and they were talking about Lennon being a former Beatle who had just released an album, just giving a brief bio of his life.

Uh-oh. This wasn’t good.

I soon learned that John Lennon had been murdered outside his New York City apartment. I was stunned. A few minutes later my phone started ringing as people were calling to share the news and talk about this unspeakable thing that had happened. Soon my friend Tom showed up and we spent the night just talking about it in disbelief.

John Lennon had been such an influential part of my life. For me, music would never be the same.

The Space Shuttle Explosion (January 28th, 1986)

I was in my second year teaching at Greenfield McClain and I was in the teacher’s lounge. It must have been the 4th period or thereabouts because it happened at 11:38am – the Space Shuttle exploded. This was close to my heart because for the first time a civilian was aboard and I had applied for the spot. Don’t get me wrong, over 11,000 teachers sent in applications so it wasn’t like I had a chance to go. Still, we all knew teacher Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire, was aboard. My principal at the time, John Miller, walked into the lounge and said simply to the 3-4 of us there, “The space shuttle just exploded. They’re all gone.” At the time? Inconceivable.

The Day My Son Was Born (June 3rd, 1988)

My wife and I had applied for an international adoption in 1985. We desperately wanted a child, had gone through an intensive interview process, and had been approved. In early June I was at Coach Billy Hahn’s Ohio University Basketball Camp, at a pay phone outside Grover Center where I’d just called home, when I was given the news – our baby had been born in Korea. Soon thereafter we were sent a photo, and in the fall we finally got to meet the baby that would come me be known as Kip Min-Soo Shoemaker. To this day, deciding to adopt was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Buster Douglas Upsets Mike Tyson (February 11th, 1990)

I was coaching at Paint Valley. It was my first year coaching varsity basketball. We were at a post-game victory party at an assistant coach’s house when we heard the news from ESPN – Columbus, Ohio’s own Buster Douglas had done the unthinkable. He’d knocked out the unbeatable “Iron” Mike Tyson. We were ecstatic and shocked. Unforgettable moment.

Magic Johnson’s Announcement That He Is HIV Positive (November 7th, 1991)

It was the Fall of 1991 and I was getting ready to coach a team that didn’t have a senior on the roster. That team ended up winning 14 games that year and 18 the next along with a league title, but on this evening none of that had happened yet. We were getting ready for an early season practice when junior Josh Anderson walked into the gym . . .

“Have you guys heard? Magic Johnson has AIDS.”

What? It turns out he didn’t have AIDS, but was instead HIV positive. Still, at the time that meant a death sentence. Since Magic was an NBA legend, the idea of watching him waste away like actor Rock Hudson was shocking. Like I said, at the time being HIV positive meant you were going to die a slow and agonizing death, and it was absolutely distressing to contemplate.

The OJ Car Chase (June 17th, 1994)

I was living in Bourneville (where I’m back living now) and my in-laws were in from Niles, Ohio for a visit. Of course everyone had heard about the murders, and there was a news bulletin and we found out that OJ had been scheduled to turn himself in at 11:00am but never showed up. Then, at 1:50pm LAPD Commander. David Gascon announced that Simpson has not surrendered for arraignment as scheduled and was a fugitive from the law. It was stunning. For you youngsters out there OJ Simpson was one of the most famous athletes in the world back in the 70s. He also starred in those Naked Gun movies. This led to a televised slow-speed car chase with most of the country glued to their screens. That evening I kept switching from the OJ coverage to the NBA Finals game between Houston and New York. Wild stuff.

The OJ Acquittal (October 3rd, 1995)

Fast forward to a little over year later, and I was sitting in my classroom at Paint Valley watching TV with my class. The jury had made a decision and the world was awaiting the verdict. When OJ was found innocent verdict we were stunned.

The Death of Lady Diana (August 31st, 1997)

I was sitting at the bar of a restaurant in German Village in Columbus, Ohio, waiting to be called for dinner. It was around 7:00pm. I was with my wife Marianne, my sister Karen and her husband Army. There was a TV above the bar with the sound off, and my sister suddenly said, “Oh my God.” We all looked up and the news was right there on the screen- Princess Di was dead. We soon learned she’d been killed in a car wreck in Paris, which due to the time difference was 6-hours ahead of us. The accident had happened at approximately 12:23am Paris time. I recall the bar got eerily quiet as everyone whispered to each other about the news.

The WTC/Pentagon Attacks (September 11th, 2001)

I was at good friend of mine’s house that morning. He’d been in an accident the evening before and had passed away earlier that day. I was with his wife, son and a couple other members of their family. Around 9:00am I left to get everyone breakfast and turned on the radio, where I learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At that time I assumed that it was a small plane that had gotten lost in the clouds or something. I then went and got breakfast and returned to the house. At about 10:45am I went into the living room, where the TV was on with the sound muted. I immediately saw all the smoke and dust where the WTC buildings had been and was absolutely dumbfounded as to what happened. I soon learned though. Tough, tough day that I’ll never forget.

The Block (June 19th, 2016)

I was in my house in Bourneville. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors. Series tied 3-3, game tied with 1:20 left. Cleveland had never won an NBA title. I was on my knees, perhaps 5-feet from my TV screen. The Warriors were on a fast break for a seemingly easy score when LeBron James made The Block. It was at this exact moment when I realized: “He’s not going to let them lose.”

Like I said, there are closer, more personal stories I could tell but they’re way to fresh in my mind, too raw, to recent and too fresh. Maybe one day.

But enough about me. What are you’re Flashbulb Memories?

 

The events of November 22nd, 1963 have been well documented, and theories as to what actually happened the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated have been vast and varied since the day it all went down. I’ve read them all because I’ve been fascinated by the assassination since it happened. I also came to the conclusion years ago that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Was he prodded by somebody, some group working in the shadows? Possibly. Still, I think he was the man who pulled the trigger that fateful day.

However, there’s something regarding that day in Dallas that has always intrigued me, and that is this – who was the Babushka Lady?

You see, after the assassination a film surfaced, one taken by a man named Abraham Zapruder. His film would come to be known as simply “The Zapruder Film”, and it captured the assassination in all its unimaginable horror. You can view it by clicking here, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Anyway, there was one person that showed up repeatedly in the Zapruder Film and other photographs taken that day. This person was the Babushka Lady, named for her Russian scarf, called a babushka. She appeared to be filming the president, and her actions after the assassination were unusual to say the least.

There are several remarkable things about the Babushka Lady, the most amazing being that since that day she has never been found. With all the power of the United States government looking for her, as well as hundreds if not thousands of private investigators, she has never been located. Nobody knows who she was. There have been a few women claiming to be her, but all were proven to be frauds.

How in the hell is that possible?

Secondly, after witnessing the President of the United States getting his head blown off probably 30-feet in front of her, she basically showed no reaction at all. While everyone else was diving for cover, the Babushka Lady remained amazingly calm. Below are photos of her during the assassination, followed by a short video about her. Incredible, fascinating stuff. To this day we wonder . . .

Who was the Babushka Lady?

[click and scroll for photos and captions]

No, a Blizzard Cone is not a delicious item on the Dairy Queen or Tastee Freez menu.  This baby was designed to keep those strong winter ice storms out yo face. Sadly it never caught on, because that would have been super. The Blizzard Cone was a contraption that was invented in 1939 in Montréal, because you know, Canadiens.

PS- This reminded me of how much I loved Tastee Freez back in the day. There was one where the Giovanni’s stands today in Chillicothe. Turns out there are only 23 locations left, the closest being in Churchville, Virginia, 321-miles way. Man that’s depressing.

All the cool kids had them.

Yep. Whiskey vending machine. That is all.

This speech was given just 2-months after Ronald Reagan was shot on March 30th, 1981. Listen, I was never a big Reagan guy at all (although he looks pretty damn good in retrospect) but this is a stone cold move. After hearing a loud balloon pop he doesn’t flinch, just casually says “missed me” to the masses. Reagan, man.

PS- Again, this was just 2-months after he was shot. Hell, the Orange Tweeter couldn’t go out in the rain to honor our veterans.

bbbbbbbbbb

Well, maybe not everything, but a hell of a lot.

Let us review the facts and fiction of Thanksgiving:

FACT: The Mayflower did bring the Pilgrims to North America from Plymouth, England, in 1620, and they disembarked at what is now Plymouth, Mass., where they set up a colony. In 1621, they celebrated a successful harvest with a 3-day gathering that was attended by members of the Wampanoag tribe. It’s from this that we derive Thanksgiving as we know it. However . . .

FICTION: The feast wasn’t actually the first Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until the 1830s that this event was even called the first Thanksgiving by New Englanders who looked back and thought it would be a good idea. Heck, the holiday wasn’t made official until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared it as a kind of thank you for the Civil War victories in Vicksburg and Gettysburg.

In any event, claiming it was the “first Thanksgiving” isn’t quite right as both Native American and European societies had been holding festivals to celebrate successful harvests for centuries. Maybe first for the English in the New World, but that’s about it.

FICTION: The town of Plymouth was created by pilgrims clearing land and starting a village from scratch. Plymouth was already a village with clear fields and a spring when the Pilgrims found it. Why was it available? Because every single native person who had been living there had been wiped out by a plague, namely smallpox.

FICTION: The pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom. The Pilgrims already had religious freedom in Holland, where they first arrived in the early 17th century. Like those who settled Jamestown, Va., in 1607, the Pilgrims came to North America to make money. Shocking but not really.

FICTION: Pilgrims called themselves pilgrims. False. They called themselves Separatists. In fact, the term Pilgrims didn’t surface until around 1880.

FICTION: Everyone dined at a long table with a white tablecloth. The partiers most likely sat in small groups around fires, eating geese or duck. Also, it seems weird but forks hadn’t been invented yet. Folks ate with their fingers.

FICTION: The Puritan Pilgrims didn’t drink alcohol. Pilgrims loved a good beer. No doubt ale was plentiful thanks to a recently harvested barley crop.

FICTION: The Indians thought highly of Pilgrim intelligence since the English citizens brought with them advanced technology. Nope. The Pilgrims may have had durable shoes, woven clothes and powerful muskets, but their lack of survival skills earned them little respect among the Native Americans. Massasoit considered the Pilgrims “as a little child.”

FICTION: The first Thanksgiving took place in November. The exact date isn’t known, but the feast we celebrate on the fourth Thursday in November likely occurred in late September or early October, shortly after the harvest of such fall crops as corn, beans, squash and barley.

FACT: It is true that the celebration was an exceptional and unusual cross-cultural moment, with food, games and prayer. Native Americans had been growing food for the colony nearby for awhile, so they more than likely ambled over for some chow. In fact, they probably outnumbered the English 2-1.

FACT: Squanto did in fact help the English. His people, the Patuxet, had lived on the site where the Pilgrims settled. When they arrived, he became a translator for them with other native people and showed them the most effective method for planting corn and the best locations to fish.

FICTION: Squanto’s story is a happy one. In fact, he was captured by the English in 1614 and sold into slavery in Spain. He spent several years in England, where he learned English. He returned to New England in 1619, only to find his entire Patuxet tribe dead from smallpox. He met the Pilgrims in March 1621.

FICTION: Turkey and pie was served at the “First Thanksgiving.” The truth is that there was no mention of turkey being there, and there was no pie either. Settlers lacked butter and wheat flour for a crust, and they had no oven for baking. What is known is that the Pilgrims harvested crops and that the Wampanoag brought five deer. There were plenty of turkey around, but settlers preferred duck or goose.

Oh, and there’s one more truth that was ignored for hundreds of years, and that is the fact that entire races of Native Americans were wiped out by Europeans due to disease and outright murder.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!