Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

So good.

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Love it.

While researching artists I thought should be in the Hall of Fame, Warren Zevon in particular, I came across this gem of Eddie singing Zevon’s last song before he died. Blew me away. So damn good. Enjoy.

To me, the Rock Hall of Fame has become a bit of a joke. I mean, some of the artists who have made it in are a bit of a joke. I mean, Chic? Really? Anyway, what follows are 10 bands or artists that I think should be in, some obvious, others not so much. Let us commence . . .

Todd Rundgren

How is Todd Rundgren not in the Rock Hall of Fame? HOW? Todd Rundgren not only recorded what is in my opinion one of the greatest albums in history, Something/Anything?, he’s an amazing, ground-breaking producer as well. He produced the albums Straight Up by Badfinger, Stage Fright by The Band, We’re An American Band by Grand Funk Railroad, Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf, and New York Dolls by the New York Dolls among many, many others. Folks, those are some amazing, historical albums.

Todd was a forerunner in creating music videos, and his video for the song Time Heals was one of the first videos played on MTV. In addition, his song “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” has had a major influence on artists in the power pop musical genre.

Oh, and in 1985 Todd recorded the incredible album A Cappella, which was recorded using his multi-tracked voice, accompanied by arrangements constructed entirely from programmed vocal samples. Again, no instruments, just his voice imitating instruments. I’d like to see Hall of Famer Robin Zander of Cheap Trick try that.

Rundgren has also played nearly every instrument on many of his albums, and he’s played them well.

If you want to read my blog about his greatest album, click this link:

Something/Anything?: Todd Rundgren’s Magnum Opus

Todd needs to be in The Hall, man.

The Replacements

Quite simply, The Replacements are considered one of the pioneers of alternative rock. Paul Westerberg, Bob and Tommy Stinson, and Chris Mars formed the group, and their catalog is one of the most admired in rock. From the high octane “Kids Don’t Follow” and “Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash” through their mid-period stuff like “Hootenanny” and “If Only You Were Lonely” they never let up. And everything that contributed to the band’s failure to achieve breakthrough success — contempt, self-doubt, drug and alcohol abuse, and pure hatred for each other — also contributed to their mythology. This is one band that deserves a Hall of Fame nod precisely because they didn’t make it big. Westerberg’s solo stuff is amazing as well.

Big Star

Big Star’s potent mix of power pop, psychedelia and adolescent angst made them the definitive cult rock band and informed generations of indie rockers. They were formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1971 by the legendary Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel. The group broke up in 1974, and reorganized with a new line-up nearly 20 years later. So damn good. Groups like REM and Pearl Jam bow at the feet of these guys. Give a listen to September Gurls and tell me they’re not great:

The Pixies

The Pixies became a defining leader of alternative rock in the 1990’s, which ought to be enough for the them to earn consideration for a place in the Hall. The Pixies introduced introspection, poetic absurdity and killer hooks into punk rock, establishing a template for those to follow like Nirvana, Pavement, Guided by Voices, Liz Phair and, even later, Weezer and Green Day. Formed in 1986, the original line-up comprised Black Francis (who performed awesomely solo as Frank Black), Joey Santiago, Kim Deal and David Lovering.

The Smiths

The most English of England’s major ’80s alternative-rock bands, the Smiths never rose above cult status in the United States. But their unique style — nostalgic, understated, sarcastic, a little snarky — has been enormously influential, especially in Scotland (Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, the Vaselines). But whatever chemistry went into the Smiths’ brief, electric career has never been rediscovered — not even by former Smiths Morrissey or Johnny Marr.

Television

The offbeat guitar heroes of New York’s original CBGB scene, Television defied the punk ethos with long, intricate songs that were part prog rock, part New Wave, with elements of garage rock and jazz fusion thrown in. Television owes an obvious debt to the Velvet Underground, but dozens of other important bands — from U2, R.E.M. and Sonic Youth to XTC and the Talking Heads — owe something considerable to Television. Television was AMAZING. Check them out and tell me if you agree:

Kraftwerk

Electronic music has been such an important part of rock music in the ensuing decades. Can’t these guys get in under the “influences” tag if nothing else? In fact, where are any of the great German bands, like Fury in the Slaughterhouse? My first introduction to Kraftwerk was in the 1981 when I heard “Pocket Calculator” on the album Computer World. Classic stuff. Listen up:

New York Dolls

Madonna made it in. David Bowie made it in. Iggy & The Stooges made it in. What kind of grassroots push is it going to take to put in these guys? Or will Buster Poindexter be admitted first? Can they at least be considered “influences”? Good God man. I am proud to say I once saw The Dolls at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus as part of the really weird lineup of the New York Dolls, The Babys and REO Speedwagon. Crazy stuff.

Warren Zevon

I swear to God I had to research this because I was convinced Zevon was in. How? Why? And do you know how many times he’s been nominated? ZERO, although he’s been eligible since 1994. This makes no sense on any level. With songs like “Werewolves of London”, “Excitable Boy” and his final song just before he died of cancer, “Keep Me in Your Heart” he just has to get in soon. Artists like REM, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty have all publicly agreed with me. Fun Fact: I was in the Serene Lounge just off Ohio State campus in 1978 when a friend walked in and told me he had an extra ticket to see Warren Zevon at what was then Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon. I’d never heard of him, but I said sure and was blown away. Anyway, put him in!

The Hoodoo Gurus

OK, maybe the Gurus are a stretch. Still, I believe these guys are one of the most underappreciated bands in rock history. In fact, I wrote about them in a blog called The Best Band You’ve Never Heard: The Hoodoo Gurus. The Gurus style is based on straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll, no doubt about it. From 1960s power pop to garage punk to hard driving rock and funky psychedelic kitsch their music pretty much covers the spectrum. The kicker for me though, as always, is the hook. Gotta have the hook in my opinion, and the Gurus deliver them in abundance. They also are a lyrically intelligent group who invariably bring a smile to my face whenever I hear them. So, if you want to hear some good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll peppered with a dash of wit, catchy hooks, jangly guitars, and some occasional scathing social commentary, The Gurus are for you. And although they won’t get in, they should be considered.

So, who ya got? Anyone you think needs to be in? Then again, like I said, KISS, Donovan, Chic and ABBA are in there, so what does it all mean anyway?

I’ve said it 17-million times. It’s a damn shame Todd Rundgren is not in the Rock Hall of Fame. I wrote about it in the acclaimed blog Something/Anything: Todd Rundgren’s Magnum Opus. Bottom line? Todd should be in the Hall of Fame. Anyway, take some time and listen to one of the Top 10 albums of all time and get back with me. Thank you and goodnight.

Great song with great lyrics. Incredibly, Jackson Browne wrote this song when he was just 16-years old.

These days I seem to think a lot about the things that I forgot to do for you,
And all the times I had the chance to . . .

One of the great R&B bands of the early 70s. On a related note, the hair and jumpsuits were spectacular.

So noisy, so amplified, so distorted, so rock and roll.

Here’s the interesting thing about this video – Walter Orange sings lead, and not Lionel Richie. Richie is in the background, playing a saxophone. Richie usually sang lead for the Commodores but the group thought Orange’s voice fit the song better. On a related note, this was when the band roared with unadulterated funk and before they became known for Richie’s ballads. Of course Lionel ended up going solo and the rest is history.

Stunning performance. Although Paul McCartney, Sting, Elton John and David Bowie all performed in Wembley Stadium that day, Queen was the band that blew everyone away. My favorite Freddie Mercury story is this one – when he joined the band as a vocalist after they had tryouts for a lead singer, they told him they planned to be the biggest band in England. His response? “England? We’re going to be the biggest band in the world.” And for a while they were.

The Beatles had a specific clause in their contract, even in 1964, that stipulated they would never play for a segregated audience.

 

On Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album, the music on most of the tracks was played by the band Toto.

So 76-year old George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic was interviewed by Rolling Stone, and man did this dude bring some things into perspective. He was asked about Cultural Appropriation, that is, whites doing “black music” and stuff. The question seemed a little dated to me anyway, but George responded with a great take:

I’d bite off the Beatles, or anybody else. It’s all one world, one planet and one groove. You’re supposed to learn from each other, blend from each other, and it moves around like that. You see that rocket ship leave yesterday? We can maybe leave this planet. We gonna be dealing with aliens. You think black and white gonna be a problem? Wait till you start running into mother***kers with three or four d**cks! Bug-eyed mother***kers! They could be ready to party, or they could be ready to eat us. We don’t know, but we’ve got to get over this shit of not getting along with each other.”

BOOM! I do not believe I’ve ever heard it stated better.

You know, George would make a great president. Too bad he’s in his 70’s and half crazy, nobody would ever vote for a guy like that. Wait . . .

!!!!!!!!!!

 

I’m heading to see the two Johns again this Thursday for the umpteenth time but for the first time in awhile, so this is a timely blog. Well, at least for me. It may not be timely at all for you. Anywho, I have loved They Might Be Giants and their quirky tunes since 1985, and every show is a joy, a delight and an outright lovefest. Without further ado, my favorite songs of They Might Be Giants:

Everything Right is Wrong Again

As only the boys could do, they incorporated a 1950’s Lucille Ball movie into the lyrics. “The long, long trailer” is a reference to the 1954 movie The Long, Long Trailer. Taking a honeymoon road trip, a trailer creates plenty of hijinks and slapstick problems for Lucy and Ricki, including one scene where the motor trailer, Lucy inside, becomes unhinged from the car, their dishes falling from the shelves, and the car continues away, hence these lines:
Just like in the long, long trailer,
All the dishes got broken and the car kept driving
And nobody would stop to save her .”

Admit it, TMBG fans. You did not know that.

I Palindrome I

Ah, what an amazing tune. It’s about, well, palindromes, which are words or sentences that can be read the same forwards or backwards. LOVE this song and its great opening line . . .

“Someday mother will die and I’ll get the money . . .”

Note – My 5 favorite palindromes:

A man, a plan, a canal – Panama.

Sit on a potato pan, Otis.

Eva, can I stab bats in a cave?

Mr. Owl ate my metal worm.

Dammit, I’m mad.

Classics.

Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head

An amazing song about so many subjects, including OCD. However, I love the homage to the line from ‘Guitar Man’ by Elvis that they snuck into the song – “Well, I quit my job down at the car wash, left my mama a goodbye note.

Enjoy.

Don’t Let Start

Includes these immortal lyrics:

“No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful,

Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful,

They want what they’re not and I wish they would stop, 

Saying Deputy Dawg dog a ding dang depadepa,

Deputy Dawg dog a ding dang depadepa

D, world destruction,

O-ver an overture

N, do I need

Apostrophe T, need this torture?”

Only TMBG, kids. Only TMBG.

Mammal 

Animal song about, well, the beauty of mammals. So TMBGish.

Standing in between extinction in the cold
And explosive radiating growth
So the warm blood flows
Through the large four-chambered heart
Maintaining the very high metabolism rate they have.

Mammal, mammal
Their names are called
They raise a paw
The bat, the cat
Dolphin and dog
Koala bear and hog . . .

Dinner Bell 

About Pavlov’s dog, among other things.

Birdhouse In Your Soul

The absolute classic, and the song that put the boys on the map. Enjoy, kids.

Istanbul (Not Constantinople) 

This is actually a cover of a song written in the 1950s, and it’s basically a little history lesson. Catchy as hell.

Particle Man 

A science teacher’s favorite, and there are many interpretations to this song, way too many to mention here. Lend it an ear and tell me what you think.

Twisting

Such a rocker live. It’s about a couple that constantly breaks-up and makes- up. We all know the type.

They Might Be Giants

A quirky little song about who-the-hell-knows. You tell me. I think it’s about the band, how they got their name from the movie, and how Don Quixote thought that windmills were giants. Then again, perhaps I’m quite insane.

Meet James Ensor

Love this song about the obscure Belgium painter. Good stuff.

Kiss Me, Son of God

Although this song was written 30-years ago, it could have been written about Donald Trump. Eerie really. Listen . . .

Man, It’s So Loud in Here

A newer song about, according to John, “The dawning awareness of old age.” 

Bastard Wants to Hit Me

Great tune about a weird encounter with a crazy dude. So typically weird it hurts. TMBG through and through.

[BONUS SONGS]

Your Racist Friend

“This is where the party ends, I just sit here wondering how you can stand by your racist friend.”

Timely.

Dr. Worm

Just a simple song about a common subject –  a drum-playing worm who’s also a doctor. Enjoy.

 

Looks like a really cool apartment.

I’ve been an unabashed lover of the Electric Light Orchestra since the early 70s. Man, when I first heard the opening to Roll Over Beethoven it was on. Later, the band just kept getting better. Over time Jeff Lynne proved himself to be a musical genius, and in addition to his ELO stuff he produced some amazing music for George Harrison and was a member of the legendary super group The Traveling Wilburys with George, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison.

Elite company indeed.

And yes, this past summer the Electric Light Orchestra was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sure, they were elected about 25-years too late, but still.

Which leads me to the point of this blog – my favorite ELO songs. Since Jeff Lynne was ELO, I’ll include his solo stuff along with his group releases. Let us commence:

Save Me Now – This is a great tune hidden at the end of Jeff’s great 1990 solo album Armchair Theatre. It’s a simple, acoustic little number about the environment, Just beautifully written and gorgeous in its simplicity.

If you liked that, here’s an electric version. You’re welcome.

Mama – From ELO II in 1973, it’s a long, haunting song about losing your mother. Again, just achingly beautiful.

It’s Over – From the great Out of the Blue double album in 1977, this song was played by yours truly after every gut-wrenching break-up of my young, relationship troubled life.

It’s all over now, and the way you look don’t even mean I’m down.

Oh yes it does, Jeff. Oh yes it does.

Can’t Get It Out Of My Head – From 1974’s ungodly album Eldorado. I’ll let Jeff Lynne himself describe this one – “It’s about a guy in a dream who sees this vision of loveliness and wakes up and finds that he’s actually a clerk working in a bank. And he hasn’t got any chance of getting her or doing all these wonderful things that he thought he was going to do.” Fun Fact #1: The song does NOT include the line, “Walking on a wave she came” but rather “Walking on a wave’s chicane” which is the peak of a wave. That line is widely misheard and often repeated even when you look up the lyrics. Fun Fact #2: The album cover to Eldorado, a screenshot of Dorothy’s shoes when the witch tried to take them in The Wizard of Oz, is one of my all-time favorites.

Poker – A little-known but blistering track from 1975’s Face the Music, this tune begins, continues and ends with straight-ahead rock fire.

Showdown – An ominous, sort of threatening song, also from 1975’s Face the Music, about a looming conflict.

She cried to the southern wind,

About a love that was sure to end, every dream in her heart was gone, heading for a showdown.

Roll Over Beethoven – As I mentioned before, this is the song that introduced me to ELO back in 1972. A cover, it begins with those strings, followed by Lynne’s searing guitar. An American classic. So. Damn. Good.

Steppin’ Out – Another song from Out of the Blue, this song has always struck a chord deep inside me. The lyrics speak of getting away, just packing up and rolling out. And not only that, you’re going to prove all your doubters wrong.

Did you hear what he said?

He said they sold me down the river,

They thought I thought I was a fool,

They said the rain would fall,

What did they know?

Hold On Tight – A rocker from 1981’s Time album about holding on tight to your dreams. Who can argue with that sentiment?

When you get so down that you can’t get up,

And you want so much but you’re all out of luck,

When you’re so downhearted and misunderstood,

Just over and over and over you could.”

Hold on tight, man.

Do Ya – An absolute rock and roll song that blows the roof off the joint live. And oh, those lyrics:

In this life I’ve seen everything I can see woman
I’ve seen lovers flying through the air
Hand in hand
I’ve seen babies dancing in the midnight sun
And I’ve seen dreams that came from the heavenly skies above
I’ve seen old men crying at their own grave sides
And I’ve seen pigs all sitting watching
Picture slides
But I never seen nothin’ like you.

Evil Woman – ELO’s first big-time hit, this is a song that rips a poor former girlfriend to shreds. The lyrics are brutal, man.

Evil woman how you done me wrong
But now you’re tryin’ to wail a different song
Ha-Ha funny how you broke me up
You made the wine now you drink a cup
I came runnin’ every time you cried
Thought I saw love smilin’ in your eyes
Ha-Ha very nice to know, that you ain’t got no place left to go.

Ouch.

Telephone Line – Just a simple, beautiful song about trying to contact somebody you love and not being able to get through. It sort of has an old, 50s doo-wop feel to it, and Lynne’s vocals and harmonies are stellar.

Note: Now that I think about it, he actually sings the words “doo-wop” in the lyrics. Cool.

Rockaria! – A rock opera of the highest order, complete with, well, an opera singer. It’s hard to explain, but the song begins with a woman singing opera, she’s soon joined by ELO, and then they all come together for the ending. Hell, just listen:

Shangri-La – This is the last song of the great 1976 album A New World Record, and I love these lyrics:

My Shangri-La has gone away
Faded like The Beatles on “Hey Jude”
She seemed to drift out on the rain
That came in somewhere softly from the blue.

I’m getting out of love . . .

Just a very, very pretty song.

Oh No Not Susan – From the band’s third album, On the Third Day. It’s about a young woman who lives amongst the wealthy in a society she despises.

Susan met the lords and dukes of everywhere
Smiling kissing wishing that they’d go to hell
And then she’d laugh – wonder why
Take a nap – sit and cry
Oh no not me – I wouldn’t
Oh no not me – I couldn’t
That’s all she says, her money and her place
They just don’t mean a fucking thing.

Rock and Roll is King – Another Lynne rocker from the underrated 1983 album Secret Messages. It’s just a simple song about a girl who loves her some rock and roll.

It rolls like a train that’s comin’ on down the track
She rolled over Beethoven and she gave Tchaikovsky back
Oh, she loves that drivin’ beat, she goes dancin’ on down the street
She said rock ‘n’ roll is king.

Bluebird is Dead – Another great, relatively unknown song from On the Third Day. It’s a song about a lost love, one who passed away, and man is it sad . . .

Why do they say, Bluebird is dead?
I can still see her, touch her, my Bluebird.
The love that she gave, I don’t believe, no, no, I don’t believe . . .

Moment in Paradise – From the amazing comeback album Zoom in 2000, this is a song about finding a new love that gives you a new perspective on life. Lovely melody.

She said that it’s your duty to save your soul,

To save it for someone . . .

Stranger – Another beautiful song from Secret Messages, it’s sort of a an enigmatic tune about seeing the world through the eyes of someone else. Love the guitars in this song.

The streetlights looked so pretty
As they spread into a town
I was lookin’ for another sundown
And my head was spinnin’ round and round
Round and round . . .

When I Was a Boy – This was the single from the band’s 2015 album Alone in the Universe, and it’s basically the story of Jeff Lynne’s life. Love it.

When I was a boy, I had a dream
Finding out what life could really mean
Don’t want a job cause it drives me crazy
Just wanna sing, “Do you love me, baby?”
When I was a boy, I had a dream.

PS- After seeing ELO live several times from 1973 to 1985, I’m going to see them again next summer in Detroit. Can. Not. Wait.

 

“And all over town, little kids will get down.”

“Baby Jesus, born to rock.”

Oh hell yes.

Word for word.

As many of you know I’ve had an incredible streak of luck at rock shows and with rock stars over the course of my lifetime. I’ve run into Todd Rundgren in a mall, Mark Oliver Everett on the street, and David Crosby in a hotel elevator, among others. I also saw Eminem in the Detroit airport once, and were it not for two behemoth bodyguards I’d have had a nice, civil chat with him. I’ve also bumbled my way into being Beck’s bodyguard, and Jeff Lynne once asked me to get him some tarts (I swear I thought he meant pop tarts – true story) backstage at an ELO rock show. At many a concert I’ve simply walked by security to get to the front of the stage, usually by just acting like I belonged there. Hey, you can’t argue with my success rate.

Note: I wrote about all this in a blog titled Lines and How I’ve Avoided Them: A Retrospective. Read it, and keep a pen or pencil handy to take notes. I also wrote about my rock encounters in an award winning retrospective titled Random Rock Encounters, a must-read if one ever existed.

Which brings us to last night.

Although I knew the Foo Fighters were coming to Cincinnati, for whatever reason I didn’t pull the trigger on getting tickets. Then, at about 2:00pm on the day of the show I got online and scored a ticket, albeit behind the stage. Hey, I wasn’t worried, I thought just getting into the arena would be enough. I’d figure the rest out when I got there.

Upon arrival I went down to my seat, and sure enough I was smack dab behind the stage with a backdrop blocking everything in front of me. Seriously, the fact that they sell tickets for those seats is an absolute sham and a rip-off of the highest order.

For most, that is. Not me of course.

As I stood there planning my next course of action, an usher walked up to me and asked if I needed help. It was then I just shrugged my shoulders, pointed to the humongous backdrop in front of me and asked, “I can’t see a thing from here. Is there anything you can do for me?”

Turns out there was. She looked around nervously, reached inside her jacket, pulled out a wristband, and put it around my wrist. Incredulous but not really, I asked her where it would get me.

Her response? She pointed down to the floor in front of the stage.

Boom. Floor pass baby. Seriously, within 30-seconds of showing her my ticket I’d gone from the worst seat in the house to, arguably, the best.

All I could do was give her a hug, tell her “Bless your heart” and head on down to be with my people in front of the stage, where I most certainly belonged.

The next 4-hours were rock and roll bliss, from the opening act The Struts to the freakin’ Foo Fighters, who gave one of the top five concert performances these eyes have seen and these ears have heard. Dave Grohl? National Treasure, man.

And I got to see it all up close.

But how did I get there? I really have no damn idea.

Singing for his daughter. Cute. Also amazing.