Archive for the ‘Rock Music’ Category

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.

 

 

It’s pretty interesting to witness how rock groups have changed over the past 40-50 years. Some seem to age like a fine wine, others . . . not so much. After some deep research by my crack staff here at Shoe: Untied, we came up with some interesting comparisons of rock stars, then and now. We’ll be comparing them singing the same song, because that just seems to be the way we should do it.

Let’s do this . . .

The Cowsills (1967)

The Cowsills (2013)

I think it’s safe to say The Cowsills aged well. They sound pretty great.

Aerosmith (1974)

Aerosmith (2019)

Yep. The boys are just as good as ever.

Paul McCartney (1965)

Paul McCartney (2014)

Sure his voice strains a tad at times, but what did you expect? He’s 77-years old, man. He’s still Paul.

Bruce Springsteen (1978)

Bruce Springsteen (2018)

Well, that video gave me chills. Yes, I’ll say it out loud – Bruce is better now.

Bob Dylan (1965)

Bob Dylan (2019)

Not gonna lie. I love Bob Dylan and I appreciate his genius, but I have no idea what the hell he’s doing half the time these days. That second video is just a weird version of a classic song.

Alice Cooper (1972)

Alice Cooper (2019)

Pretty much the same Alice we’ve seen over the past 40-years, amirite?

These videos have got me to thinking. I wonder what other artists who have passed away would sound like today? Jim Morrison? Freddie Mercury? John Lennon? Sad to think about, man.

Dave Grohl, the greatest rock star alive, went on The Street recently and proceeded to burn the neighborhood down with a song that was quite possibly the greatest ever written. With Elmo and Big Bird helping Dave on vocals, this beat will have you repeating that chorus for days. Listen to this burner and try not to tap your foot. You can’t.  Truly a rock classic.

PS- Elmo is shredding on the axe, man. And Big Bird is playing a tamborine the size of an extra latge pizza.

Yeah, I probably disagree with about half of these. I realize that “iconic” doesn’t mean “best” but come on. In my opinion they were about 3 for 10 in the 90s. Still, a fun video. Enjoy and give me your thoughts.

So my sister and I have been cleaning out my Mom’s house and property and I found some boxes I’d stored in the pole barn. Some of them had all my old cassette tapes, and there were a lot. Like hundreds. And hundreds. And hundreds. Anyway, included were a lot of mix-tapes I’d made or that people had made for me, and man did they bring back a ton of memories. By the way, a couple of guys made me the large majority of tapes I’d been given, so thanks to Jed and Goose. They both helped form my musical tastes back in the 80s and 90s, the glory days of the mix-tape if you will. Included are quite a few bootlegs, mostly of R.E.M. that were somehow procured by the aforementioned Jed, Goose or myself. Anyway, I thought I might post just a few photos of the tapes because I know they’ll jog some memories of quite a few former students and friends. Let’s begin with those R.E.M. bootlegs.

Trust me, there are some rare recordings in there, and I bet not too many exist anymore. Stellar stuff.

Here are some other notables. Some aren’t actually mix-tapes but just copies of regular tapes. Since these were spread around to a lot of people, anyone recognize anything? Click to enlarge and scroll.

Memories, man.

Click and scroll for the insanity.

For various reasons many cities have been the center of musical revivals, places where something special either started or was centered. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme (get it, rhyme?) or reason why the seed was planted there, but planted it was. Sometimes big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Cleveland are New York City are involved, other times it’s a small college town like Austin, Texas. Some of the most famous musicians in the world came from places we don’t even associate with music. Hell, John Mellencamp grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. James Brown? Macon, Georgia. And although everyone thinks of Manhattan when hearing the Velvet Underground, they’re actually from Long Island. Of course, we all know what that hot-bed of music, Tupelo, Mississippi produced, right? The King himself, Elvis Presley. And Cleveland? While the term Rock ‘n’ Roll actually originated there with legendary DJ Alan Freed, it doesn’t really have its own sound, right?

I guess the old saying is true – it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. 

Anyway, what follows are 10 of the most influential musical cities, cities that changed the world of music as we know it. Let’s start our travels now . . .

DETROIT

  • We’re talkin’ Motown, baby. The Jackson 5, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Smokey

    Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

    Robinson, and Stevie Wonder all began their careers in Detroit in the 1960’s. Berry Gordy started Tamla records there in the early 60’s, and it eventually evolved into the legendary Motown Records. Without Motown we wouldn’t have songs like “Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas, “Please Mr. Postman”by the Marvelettes, “My Girl” by the Temptations, “Super Freak” by Rick James, or “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. ‘Nuff said.

LIVERPOOL

  • Back in the 1950’s Liverpool was one of England’s biggest seaports. Sailors brought all sorts of American goods into the United Kingdom, including books, clothes . . . and records. A lot of these records were of the R & B variety. This made Liverpool one of the centers of American culture and American R & B music, and a couple young men named Paul McCartney and John Lennon were listening. The rest, as they say, is history. The British Invasion was on. Soon came not only The Beatles, but Gerry and the Pacemakers, Echo and the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, The Las, The Searchers, The Wombats and more.

The King

MEMPHIS

  • Come on, man, Memphis could be argued as the birthplace of Rock and Roll. It had two legendary record labels, Sun Recored in the 50’s and Stax in the 60’s. The Memphis Sound was an eclectic mix of country, swing, gospel, and blues, and when you put them all together you got Rock and Freakin’ Roll. Legendary producer Sam Phillips once famously said this – “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.” Two years later Elvis Presley walked into his studio, and the rest was history.

NEW ORLEANS

  • I mean, the Birthplace of Jazz has to make the list, right? Not only Jazz, but Ragtime, Dixieland, Cajun and Zydeco all have strong bases in The Big Easy. Want some names? How ’bout none other than Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, Fats Domino, Harry Connick Jr. and Jelly Roll Morton? And oh yeah, we can’t forget a famous rapper – Lil’ Wayne.

NEW YORK CITY

  • Hip-Hop, Punk, and Disco all have strong roots in The Big Apple, and the artists from NYC are as diverse as music itself. What city could boast such wide-ranging artists such as Lady Gaga, Simon & Garfunkel, Beastie Boys, Santana, Billy Joel, Lou Reed, Talking Heads, KISS, The Ramones, and Jay-Z? New York has so many different sounds that you can’t really choose just one. PS- I can choose one because it’s my website – Punk. 

PHILADELPHIA

  • Now you’re in my wheelhouse, baby. The Philly Sound! The Philly Sound combined the rhythms of Motown but added symphonies and dare I say Beatlesque production to make some of the best damn sound ever created. God how I loved the music coming out of Philadelphia during the early 70s. I loved a million of these artists, but I’ll list my absolute favorites – Blue Magic, the Delfonics, Hall & Oates, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the O’Jays, The Spinners, and The Stylistics. Also, there’s another legend that emerged from Philly during this time that doesn’t really fit any musical genre – Mr. Todd Rundgren. Put him in the Hall of Fame! Fun Fact: The O’ Jays were originally from Ohio!

R.E.M.

ATHENS

  • As in Athens, Georgia to be precise. In the late 70s-early 80s Athens became the city that produced a big part of the sound that was to be called Alternative Music. Bands like The B-52s, Love Tractor, Drive-By Truckers, Pylon, Widespread Panic, The Whigs, and the greatest of all, R.E.M. began playing in the little college town of Athens.

MINNEAPOLIS

  • Around the same time Alt Music was kicking off in Athens, another alt music revolution was taking place up north in Minneapolis. Bands such as Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Babes in Toyland and Semisonic all came blasting out of the Twin Cities with their unique take on Alternative Music. Oh, and there was another sound coming out of the area as well – a nasty blend of funk-rock by some dude who called himself Prince.

CHICAGO

  • Although being famous for a lot of genres, Chicago is probably most famous for one – The Blues. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, and Bo Diddley all sharpened their skills in the Windy City. Other famous bands or artists that originated there? How about Chicago, The Chi-Lites, Rufus, REO Speedwagon and Cheap Trick?

SEATTLE

  • Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Need I say more? Actually I need to. Why? Because bands

    The Melvins

    like Mudhoney, Green River, Screaming Trees and most notably The Melvins, all started the whole Grunge movement of the early-80s to mid-90s. Alice in Chains too! By the way, Grunge music was, in a nutshell, music that was loud, tough . . . and molasses slow.

So there ya go. My Top 10 Cities that influenced music. What did I miss? Who ya got? Lemme hear it.

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.

 

 

I’m not generally a fan of covers. I just normally prefer originals, especially where The Beatles are concerned. After all, you cannot top perfection, ya know? That said, there are some pretty amazing covers out there, even of the legendary Fab Four. Let’s get right to it . . .

Paul Westerberg – Nowhere Man

Love this version of Nowhere Man. Simple, acoustic, with plaintive vocals. This was on the “I Am Sam” soundtrack and it’s simply majestic.

 

Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison and Prince – While My Guitar Gently Weeps

This live cover was performed at a tribute concert for George Harrison, and Prince absolutely shreds on guitar. Great, great version.

 

Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman – Hey Jude

What a pairing, and what an amazing cover. Just listen . .

 

Beach Boys – I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

This was recorded during one of Brian’s absences from the band so Bruce Johnston sings lead, and it sounds pretty much exactly how you’d expect it to sound. Good stuff.

 

Elton John – Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds

Elton and John Lennon had become good friends, so it’s no surprise Elton performed this cover. He sticks to the original pretty closely, and Lennon himself actually sang on the single.

 

Black Oak Arkansas – Taxman

Bet you’ve never heard this blistering, badass version of Taxman from the Black Oak boys. Better buckle in first.

 

Elliott Smith – Because

Great Abbey Road cover by another artist we lost way too soon. This song was on the American Beauty soundtrack.

 

Pixies – Wild Honey Pie

More proof that the legendary Pixies were the psychotic version of The Beatles. Don’t be scared to listen to this cover from the White Album.

 

Link Wray – Please Please Me

Wonderful instrumental cover by the legendary Link Wray.

 

U2 – Helter Skelter

Pretty faithful version of quite possibly the first ever metal song.

 

Amy Winehouse – All My Loving

Beautiful cover performed as only Amy could perform it.

 

The Carpenters – Ticket to Ride

Karen Carpenter had the voice of an angel and it’s on display here. A good example of how the music of The Beatles can be performed in a variety of ways.

 

Jeff Lynne and Dave Grohl – Hey Bulldog

Oh, hell yes. Love the introduction by Dave Grohl too. So good.

 

Otis Redding- A Hard Day’s Night

This sounds exactly how you’d imagine Otis Redding singing “A Hard Day’s Night” to sound. Amazing stuff.

 

Michael Jackson- Come Together

I know, I know. But I like this cover even more than Aerosmith’s. So shoot me.

Yeah, I know I left out Aerosmith’s cover of Come Together, Joe Cocker’s cover of With a Little Help From My Friends, and all those horrible covers in that god-awful Sgt. Pepper’s movie from the late 70s. There are others as well. So, whaddaya got? Let me know what you think I missed.

This the latest in my series of Top 10 songs (or with The Beatles a Top 30 because it’s The Beatles damn it) of some of my favorite musical artists. It’s sort of a silly exercise really because taste in anything is pretty arbitrary, ya know? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that. Anyway, what follows are my personal favorites and nothing more, and if you don’t like them you can go to hell.

Kidding. Feel free to let me know your favorites. Here we go . . .

My Hero (1997)

Everlong (1997)

The Sky is a Neighborhood (2017)

Long Road to Ruin (2007)

Best of You (2005)

Monkey Wrench (1997)

Big Me (1995)

 

Times Like These (2003)

Learn To Fly (1999)

M.I.A. (1999)

These Days (2011)

Next Year (1999)

OK, I lied. I listed 12. I couldn’t break it down to 10. Live with it. Anyway, Foo Fighters man. Keeping rock ‘n’ roll alive.

Woodstock 50 has been cancelled. Earlier today officials with Dentsu Aegis Network, which is funding the festival, released the following statement to Billboard:

“Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.”

The statement goes on, “As a result and after careful consideration, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival. As difficult as it is, we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved.”

Big shocker here, huh? This is so 2019 it hurts. “A event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name?” BWAHAHAHAHA! They realize the original Woodstock was held in a torrential downpour, without adequate lodging or toilet facilities, little medical staff, and everyone in attendance was risking death by electrocution, correct? Still, the show went on. Hell, people gave birth in the mud, muck and human waste as Hendrix, Joplin, The Band, The Who, CCR and others rocked on.

Good God, man. 2019, 1969 if laughing in your face right now.

Note 1: Promoter Michael Lang, does not agree Woodstock 50 is sunk. He says Dentsu’s announcement was a “complete surprise,” but adds “we’re not giving up on the festival yet.”

Note 2: Does Fyre Fest really have people that skittish? Sad really.

Note 3: Have you ever really taken a hard look at the original Woodstock 3-day lineup? Sweet Mother of Rock. And these bands are just the highlights:

Friday:

  • Richie Havens
  • Ravi Shankar
  • Arlo Guthrie
  • Joan Baez

Saturday

  • Country Joe & the Fish
  • Santana
  • John B. Sebastian
  • Canned Heat
  • Mountain
  • Grateful Dead
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Janis Joplin
  • Sly & the Family Stone
  • The Who
  • Jefferson Airplane

Sunday

  • Joe Cocker
  • Ten Years After
  • The Band
  • Johnny Winter
  • Blood, Sweat & Tears
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Jimi Hendrix

 

Yeah, I know, many of you will know some of these. I mean, everyone knows how the Rollling Stones got their name, right? That original guitarist Brian Jones was doing an interview over the phone for Jazz News and was asked what the name of his band was. On the floor was a Muddy Waters LP and Jones noticed the track “Rollin’ Stone” on the case. He promptly said that was the band’s name, and they stuck with with it, only modifying it to The Rolling Stones. That said, some band name origins are not well known at all. Hence, this blog. Enjoy . . .

The Beatles: Who else did you think I’d start with, man? The Beatles name was inspired by Buddy Holly, whose backing group was called the Crickets. All four Beatles were big fans, their earliest shows often featured his music and Paul McCartney later purchased the publishing rights to Holly’s songs. Prior to this The Beatles were called The Quarrymen and The Silver Beetles. They ditched the “Silver”, changed “Beetles” to “Beatles” (get it? Beat?) and the rest is rock history.

Nirvana: Kurt Cobain himself stated that they went with Nirvana because “I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk name like the Angry Samoans.” Previous band names – Ted Ed Fred and Pen Cap Chew. So yeah, Nirvana is much better.

Eels: I’ve heard Mark Oliver Everett explain this many times. Before Eels, Everett was known simply as E and had released two excellent albums under that name. When he formed a band he wanted a name that would allow his new CDs to sit alongside his old ones in the record stores (E, then Eels). What he didn’t consider was band names like The Eagles that would make his name choice inconsequential.

R.E.M.: No, REM doesn’t stand for Rapid Eye Movement. The truth is the band got its name by way of a random dictionary grab by Michael Stipe. Previous band names- Twisted Kites and Cans of Piss. True story.

AC/DC: Malcolm and Angus Young’s sister Margaret came up with this one. She suggested it to the guys after seeing the letters “AC/DC” on a vacuum cleaner or sewing machine, nobody can remember exactly which. Not the most exciting story in the world, but there it is.

The Doors: The boys got this one from Aldous Huxley’s book “The Doors of Perception,” which Jim Morrison particularly liked. By the way, it is an amazing book.

Pink Floyd: Syd Barrett named Pink Floyd by combining the names of two bluesmen from his record collection: Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Anderson Council didn’t sound right, hence Pink Floyd.

Meat Loaf: Meatloaf was the nickname given to Marvin Lee Aday by his high-school football coach. Original band name- Meat Loaf Soul.

They Might Be Giants: I’ll let TMBG’s John Linnell explain this one: “It’s the name of a movie. It’s not a good movie and it doesn’t hold that much significance for us.” Alrighty then.

Guns N’ Roses: Hollywood Rose member Izzy Stradlin spent some time in the mid-’80s as roommates with L.A. Guns member Tracii Guns. When L.A. Guns needed a new singer, Hollywood Rose’s Axl Rose came aboard. This led to the 1985 formation of Guns N’ Roses. Previous ideas for a name- Heads of Amazon and AIDS. Yikes.

Bob Dylan: Young Bobby Zimmerman was a fan of Matt Dillon – the sheriff on the TV western Gunsmoke. In 1958 he told his high-school girlfriend that he planned to devote his life to music and assume the name Bob Dillon. He changed the spelling because he thought it looked better.

Badfinger: Once the band was signed to Apple Records by The Beatles the band took the opportunity to change their name. The name “Badfinger” was derived from “Bad Finger Boogie,” the working title of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends”. Original band name – The Iveys.

REO Speedwagon: The REO Speed Wagon was introduced in 1915 as a predecessor of the pickup truck. Fast forward to 1967 and keyboardist Neal Doughty was in a college class that studied the history of transportation. One day he walked in and REO Speed Wagon was written on the blackboard. Boom. Band name born.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: This name was a tongue-in-cheek swipe at Leonard Skinner, their high-school gym teacher who had often clashed with them for having long hair and being rebellious hippies.

Alice Cooper: Alice Cooper was originally the band name, selected as a replacement since the Nazz had already been taken by Todd Rundgren. The fictional Alice was envisioned as a demented, possibly homicidal elderly woman, and singer Vince Furnier played the part onstage so well that he ultimately became more associated with the name than the band did.

KISS: When Peter Criss brought up the fact that he had previously played in a band called Lips, Paul Stanley chimed in with the name that would accompany the band to superstardom – KISS. Original name – Wicked Lester. Note: KISS does not stand for Kids In Satan’s Service as many believe.

Three Dog Night: Supposedly, it was June Fairchild, then girlfriend of Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton, who came up with the name. She’d heard a story about Australians sleeping with dingos for warmth on the coldest nights.  The colder the night the more dogs they slept with, and a really cold night was a 3-dog night.

Led Zeppelin: The Who’s Keith Moon and John Entwistle joined Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones on the Jeff Beck single “Beck’s Bolero” in the summer of 1966 – leading to studio chatter about the prospect of forming a new group. Moon joked that it would go over like a lead balloon. While trying to come up with a name for a new group featuring Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant two years later, Page remembered Moon’s line – and thus became Led Zeppelin.

Def Leppard: Singer Joe Elliott initially coined the name “Deaf Leopard” while writing reviews for imaginary rock bands in his high-school English class. Tony Kenning, percussionist for the band’s original lineup, suggested modifying the spelling to make the name seem less “punk.” Def Leppard was born.

Steely Dan: It should come as no surprise that literate rockers like Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were reading some pretty twisted stuff in their college days. They got their name from William S. Burroughs’ legendary 1959 novel ‘Naked Lunch,’ in which a steam-powered, strap-on dildo is referred to as the “Steely Dan III from Yokohama.” Glad they chose Steely Dan over Strap-On Dildo.

So there ya go. Have anything to add? Let me know!

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:

Good stuff.

Obviously that’s Freddie Mercury on the left, actor Rami Malek on the right. If Malek doesn’t win an Oscar for his performance it’ll be a shame. For a little insight, due to throat problems Freddie had been advised by his doctors not to perform, and in rehearsals he couldn’t hit the notes. Hence, the looks of astonishment from his bandmates. Elton John met Freddie as he left the stage and said, “You bastard, you’ve stolen it”, as in stolen the show. Which he absolutely had.

 

Here’s the dilly. I’ll list the names given at birth to famous musical artists and you tell me the name they became famous under. Take the test, then tell me your score. There are 50 names so you’ll get 2-points for every correct answer. Don’t cheat by Googling names, ya filthy animals! WARNING: Some names will surprise you.

Answers are below. And seriously, don’t cheat. As a seasoned educator I’ll be able to tell, and you will be called out.

ORIGINAL NAMES

  1. Saul Hudson
  2. James Osterberg
  3. Calvin Broudus
  4. Christopher Bridges
  5. Ellen Cohen
  6. Otha Bates
  7. Faroukh Bulsara
  8. Eric Patrick Clapp
  9. James Todd Smith
  10. Trevor Smith Jr.
  11. Jeffrey Isbell
  12. William Broad
  13. Barry Allan Pincus
  14. John Francis Bongiovi Jr.
  15. Ann Mae Bullock
  16. Vincent Furnier
  17. Edward Louis Severson III
  18. Hugh Cregg III
  19. David Evans
  20. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
  21. Henry John Deutschendorf
  22. John Anthony Gillis
  23. O’Shea Jackson
  24. Joan Marie Larkin
  25. Paul Hewson
  26. Eilleen Regina Edwards
  27. Steveland Morris
  28. David Robert Jones
  29. Cherilyn Sarkasian La Pier
  30. Marvin Lee Aday
  31. Curtis Jackson
  32. Steven Victor Tallarico
  33. William Bailey
  34. Alecia Moore
  35.  Yvette Stevens
  36. Brian Warner
  37. John Beverly
  38. Gordon Sumner
  39. Stanley Burrell
  40. Lesane Parish Crooks
  41. Declan McMananus
  42. Robert Van Winkle
  43. Richard Penniman
  44. Robert James Ritchie
  45. Katheryn Hudson
  46. John Baldwin
  47. Ronald Belford
  48. Steven Georgiou
  49. Paul Charles Caravello
  50. Joseph Saddler

ANSWERS:

Saul Hudson – Slash (Guns ‘n’ Roses)

Easy one, right? Trust me, they get harder.

James Osterberg – Iggy Pop

Sadly, James grew up in Michigan. I’ll let it slide for Iggy though.

Calvin Broadus – Snoop Dogg

Another fairly easy one I think? Love Snoop. I once named a cat after him.

Christopher Bridges – Ludacris

Yep. Chris Bridges would never do.

Ellen Cohen – Mama Cass Elliott (Mammas & The Poppas)
Otha Bates – Bo Diddley
Faroukh Bulsara – Freddie Mercury (Queen)

Good call Faroukh.

Eric Patrick Clapp – Eric Clapton

Trust me on this one – Clapp was not a great name to have in the 60s.

James Todd Smith – LL Cool J

Again, James Todd just destroys your street cred.

Trevor Smith Jr. – Busta Rhymes

See LL Cool J and Ludacris.

Jeffrey Isbell – Izzy Stradlin
William Broad – Billy Idol
Barry Alan Pincus – Barry Manilow
John Francis Bongiovi Jr. – Jon Bon Jovi

Another easy one.

Ann Mae Bullock – Tina Turner
Vincent Furnier – Alice Cooper

In an odd way his real name sort of fits his image.

Edward Louis Severson III – Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)
Hugh Cregg III – Huey Lewis
David Evans – The Edge (U2)

Hard to top a name like “The Edge”, amirite?

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – Lady Gaga

Did you know Lady Gaga is named after the Queen song “Radio Gaga”?

Henry John Deutschendorf – John Denver

Yeah. Good choice John.

John Anthony Gillis – Jack White
O’Shea Jackson – Ice Cube

Oh Good Lord. That wouldn’t do at all. Couldn’t have a bro named O’Shea in NWA.

Joan Marie Larkin – Joan Jett

Love Joan. She’s still rockin’.

Paul Hewson – Bono

U2 was good with their name change choices.

Eilleen Regina Edwards – Shania Twain
Steveland Morris – Stevie Wonder
David Robert Jones – David Bowie

David Jones changed his name to David Bowie because there was already a famous rocker with that name – Davey Jones of The Monkees.

Cherilyn Sarkasian La Pier – Cher
Marvin Lee Aday – Meatloaf

Have you seen Meatloaf? The name fit.

Curtis Jackson – 50 Cent
Steven Victor Tallarico – Steven Tyler (Aerosmith)

I read his book, and he grew up in an affluent neighborhood. Fun Fact: He’s 5-10. Seems taller to me. Oh, and I met him once.

William Bailey – Axl Rose (Guns ‘n’ Roses)
Alecia Moore – Pink
Yvette Stevens – Chaka Khan
Brian Warner – Marilyn Manson

Young Brian was an Ohio boy as you probably know. Grew up in Canton.

John Beverly – Sid Vicious
Gordon Sumner – Sting
Stanley Burrell – MC Hammer
Lesane Parish Crooks – Tupac Shakur

Lesane is an odd name. That’s all I got.

Declan McMananus – Elvis Costello

Fun Fact: Before he hit the big-time he worked as a Data Entry Clerk. True story.

Robert Van Winkle – Vanilla Ice

There’s something so awesome about that.

Richard Penniman – Little Richard
Robert James Ritchie – Kid Rock
Katheryn Hudson – Katy Perry
John Baldwin – John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
Ronald Belford – Bon Scott (AC/DC)
Steven Georgiou – Cat Stevens

And he later became Yusaf Islam.

Paul Charles Caravello – Eric Carr (KISS)
Joseph Saddler – Grandmaster Flash

An alt classic.

We all know that instruments can cover up some god-awful vocals. Just ask Taylor Swift or Britney Spears, amirite? On the other hand, taking away instrumentation can reveal what amazing talent some singers really possess. That said, what you’re about to hear below may surprise you. But enough babbling, let’s take a listen . . .

Let’s start with the Voice of an Angel himself, Mr. Carl Wilson. Oh, and wait for the rest of the boys to jump in after the first verse . . .

Sticking with the Beach Boys, listen to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and for the love of God wait for the group harmonies. They nearly bring tears to my eyes.

If you enjoyed those, just go to YouTube and type in “Beach Boys Isolated Vocals” to have your mind and ears blown.

Next up we have none other than Kurt Cobain singing lead on “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. In a way, it’s even better this way. Love it.

Here we have the King of Pop singing “Beat It.” Not bad, but I really miss Eddie Van Halen’s searing guitar solo.

I really like listening to Soungarden’s “Black Hole Sun” with just Chris Cornell’s amazing vocals. So beautifully haunting.

I absolutely love the acapella version of “Your Imagination” from Brian Wilson’s 1999 comeback album. So pretty.

Want some hip-hop? Here ya go . . .

Alicia Key’s doesn’t need any damn instruments to sound gorgeous. Wow . . .

Oh, you’ve been waiting for this one. Stunning. Freddie Mercury was the best. PS- If you like this one check out “We Are The Champions” isolated vocals on YouTube. Stellar.

Here’s an old school Kansas track. You never realize the space between actual vocals in this tune until the instruments are taken out. Wild.

Aw, man. How I love this song. Grace Slick does perfectly fine without the music, thank you.

Back to Freddie, this time with Bowie on “Under Pressure.” So damn good.

Let’s finish up with Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham. Good stuff.

We could go on all day with this stuff, and let’s just say you can find some pretty cringeworthy stuff if you look around a little. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed. Have a good one.

Ah, the 60s. I entered them as a 4-year old listening to my Dad’s Al Martino records and left them rocking out to Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Creedence Clearwater. And in between, of course . . . The Beatles. Hell of a decade for music, man, because the leap was incredible and music hasn’t changed so dramatically since. Narrowing down my list wasn’t easy, but nevertheless it was done. Without further ado . . .

The Beatles

Der. No brainer, kids. Everything you hear today owes something to The Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo were all individual talents in their own right. As a band they were the best ever and if you say otherwise I will fight you. Favorite song: Nowhere Man. Favorite album: Abbey Road.

The Beach Boys

Probably the most underrated band in rock history. The Boys are much, much more than songs about the beach, girls and fast cars. And Brian Wilson? Genius. Favorite song: Caroline, No. Favorite Album: Pet Sounds.

The Band

The Band had a unique, never duplicated sound. They were the greatest collection of musicians since The Beatles. Favorite song: Acadian Driftwood. Favorite album: Music From Big Pink.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Swamp rock from a bunch of California boys, mainly John Fogerty. Again, a unique sound. Favorite song: Bad Moon Rising. Favorite album: Green River.

The Doors

Another band with an amazingly new and different sound, and the combination of Jim Morrison’s vocals and Ray Manzarek’s keyboards made it all happen. Favorite song: Touch Me. Favorite album: The Soft Parade.

Bob Dylan

The greatest rock poet ever, period. He changed the music world with his intelligent, thoughtful lyrics. Favorite song: Positively 4th Street. Favorite album: Highway 61 Revisited.

The Byrds

The favorite American band of The Beatles. Their jangly guitars were legendary and influenced future artists like Tom Petty and REM. Favorite song: Bells of Rhymney. Favorite album: Turn! Turn! Turn!

Led Zeppelin

When Zep released their first album it was pretty clear they brought a different vibe. By their fourth album and Stairway to Heaven they were legends. Favorite song: Battle of Evermore. Favorite album: Led Zeppelin IV.

The Who

LOVED The Who. They had the knack for combining hard rock with catchy melodies and hook-filled songs, not as easy task. Roger Daltrey’s voice and Pete Townsend’s guitar was one helluva combination. Favorite song: Won’t Get Fooled Again. Favorite album: Tommy.

Van Morrison

Van the Man brought a bluesy mood to 60s rock that was fresh and exciting. I heard Brown-Eyed Girl and I was done. Favorite song: Already told ya – Brown-Eyed Girl. Favorite album: Astral Weeks.

Special Mention:

The Animals

We Gotta Get Out of This Place rocked my world., and Eric Burdon’s voice is amazing.

The Rolling Stones

I’ve always liked but not loved The Stones. So shoot me.

Elvis Presley

I liked 50s Elvis (Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock) mush better than 60s Elvis (Suspicious Minds, In the Ghetto).

Honorable Mention:

Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bee Gees, Jimi Hendrix, The Four Seasons, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, the Grass Roots, Herman’s Hermits, Neil Young, The Rascals, The Hollies, The Righteous Brothers, The Guess Who, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Tommy James & the Shondells, Steppenwolf, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Buffalo Springfield, Stevie Wonder, Chuck Berry, The Yardbirds, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Velvet Underground, Sly & the Family Stone, The Kinks, Cream, Marvin Gaye.

So, I showed you mine. Now you show me yours.

I hate myself for that title right now. Anywho, there was a brouhaha, a kerfuffle if you will, at the Rockets-Lakers game the other night, and guess who wanted a piece of Rocket Chris Paul? None other than Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Keidis, who went after Houston’s point guard with a flurry of profanity as he was ushered off the court. His buddy and bandmate Flea, who was sitting with him, stayed out of the fray. Keidis was tossed too, but no

t before shooting Paul an aggressive and ill-intentioned bird. Good times, man.

PS- I just posted this because I wanted to write that title.

The Beatles were the most innovative band in rock history, and it wasn’t limited to the music. Their dress, their hairstyles their album covers and more all influenced the world. Below you’ll find, in no particular order, my favorite Beatle album covers, with a little commentary and factoids thrown in for good measure. Enjoy, my Beatlemaniac friends.

[click on the cover to read the caption]

Bonus covers! I like these because The Beatles recreated an early 60s cover with a new photo of the band in 1969. Cool look.

The Beatles notoriously hated lip-synching, and it’s never been more evident than in this video. There’s John, barely containing his disgust. Then we have Paul and George, gamely trying to stay professional. Finally we have Ringo, at times not even pretending to play drums. Classic stuff, man.

PS- Beatle videos are notoriously short-lived on YouTube. Watch this while you can.

The one and only Freddie Mercury of Queen. He would have been 72 today. Legend has it that when Queen was trying out vocalists they told him they were planning to be the biggest band in England. His response?

“England? We’re going to be the biggest fucking band in the world.”

And he was right. Youngbloods, watch this video.

You’re never too old to rock out. Two elderly German men proved this to be true when they snuck out of their nursing home to attend the Wacken Open Air music festival, which is considered the biggest heavy metal festival in the world. The men didn’t go unnoticed, however, as the nursing home called the police to report them missing. Police finally found the two headbangers 25-miles from their nursing home at the music festival at about 3 a.m. where Merle Neufeld, a police spokesperson, told the press they were “disoriented and dazed.” 

First of all, Merle Neufeld, the phrase is “dazed and confused.” Get it right, dumbass. Secondly, what the hell, man? These heavy metal bros weren’t in jail, they were in a damn nursing home. If they want to go rock out to Warpig or Rammstein I say let ’em rock, man. No need to get the po-po involved. Just be careful to not, you know, snap a fibula or slip a disc or something.