Playlist: We Once Again Reluctantly Look Back 40 Years: 1983 In Rock N Roll


As long time readers know, we love our playlists here at B&V. Who doesn’t like a little music to help wile away the hours? Inspired by Bob Dylan’s ‘Theme Time Radio Hour,’ we’ve typically designed our playlists around a certain theme instead of trying to capture a certain mood or tone for a party or a workout. I like to find a group of songs that tackle the same idea or concept. For example, we’ve recently published playlists centered around songs about the Music Business/Show Business and another for those folks about to renege on their expensive New Year’s Eve gym memberships, songs about Walking. Our playlists tend to be all over the place, from metal to straight-up rock n roll to folky stuff to soul music. We like variety here at B&V, I mean, you only live once, savor everything. Our goal is always to put a song in your ear that hasn’t been there for a while – perhaps you’ve forgotten about the track – or better yet, we want to turn you onto something you’ve never heard. And more basically, we aim to entertain you. Nothing like a good playlist in the background when you’re having a drink after a long, arduous week, or in the background while you complete some household task that’s been unfairly assigned to you… And who doesn’t like a bit of music when you’re sitting up late at night with a tumbler of the good stuff contemplating… whatever it is you contemplate in the “wee, small hours,” as Frank sang.

A couple of years ago, inspired by an article about all the great albums that came out in 1971, I did my first chronologically themed playlist, creatively entitled 1971. I built that playlist with songs from albums that were released in that banner year for rock n roll. While we post about singles and concerts and all sorts of things, I tend to really focus on albums. I enjoyed building that 1971 playlist so much, the following year I decided to do the research and build another one celebrating 1972. Ironically the Black Crowes released, shortly after I released my playlist, an EP of cover songs entitled, 1972. Three of the tracks they covered were on my playlist… Are they reading B&V? Over beers with my best buddy Doug last year, I realized that 1982 was a somewhat momentous year for both of us… and I reluctantly decided to do a rock n roll playlist from that stormy year (stormy for me at least), entitled (again, creatively) 1982. There’s just something about those big anniversaries with “0’s” at the end… 40 years, 50 years, etc. that make a playlist seem more important.

This year, to kick off 2023, I decided to start the fresh, new year by looking backwards 50 years for a playlist created from albums released in 1973. Obviously, I have way too much time on my hands if I have the bandwidth to go out and research music from 50 years ago. And let’s face it, in 1973 I was, as Tom Petty sang, “a boy in short pants.” Sure, I was in grade school but I wasn’t listening to Dark Side Of The Moon in the actual year of 1973. I likely would have been terrified by that album at that tender age with no substances to comfort me. In ’73 I’d get up, put on my polyester heavy clothing and head to school, come home for lunch, go back to school, come home for dinner, rinse, repeat. It’s not like I was out protesting the corrupt Nixon administration or celebrating Jackie Stewart’s World Championship in racing and cranking up Aladdin Sane. I don’t think I was even following the local NFL team yet. I was an unformed lump of clay in 1973. Ergo, any emotional attachment I formed to the music of ’73 was formed long after that year was in the record books… But I’m getting off track here. I enjoyed looking back at 1973 that I thought I’d repeat what I did last year and also look back 40 years to 1983…

Obviously when it comes to the stuff from 1983, I do have more of an emotional connection to the music. While we still lived under the threat of the Soviet Union’s nuclear annihilation of the world and Reagan was busy dismantling of the middle class, my concerns were more personal. I was, in the eyes of the legal system, an adult by then. Although mentally, who amongst us in our teens thinks like an adult? As I mentioned when I posted my 1982 playlist about that year, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The first half of ’82 was great, the second half, not so much. 1983 was like a reverse negative of ’82 with the first half bad, the second half relatively better. I was a young adult away at college for the first time in ’82/’83 and it went predictably horrible. I made the wrong choice on every decision. Learning the hard way seems to be my only way for me to learn. Early ’83 ranks amongst the worst era’s of my life, much like living in Arkansas a few years later. But, with the help of Bacardi mixed with Coca-Cola, my pal Doug, and a lot of rock n roll, I got through it. All of that said, it makes it a little hard to look back to ’83 and the music that evokes so many memories. By summer 1983 I was on the mend… although still with large amounts of Bacardi & Coke. I came out of the darkness looking for any self-destruction I could find…and I fear it wasn’t only myself I harmed back then… regrets, yeah, I’ve had a few. If you’re going through some personal change out there and you’re struggling with it, don’t self-medicate, get some help. It’s less expensive and there are much fewer hangovers. By fall of ’83 life was back on the track it was supposed to have been, albeit with some real battle scars, not only for me. And to top all that off, Margaret Thatcher was re-elected so things weren’t exactly rosy for anybody…

Ah, but the music was still pretty great. By ’83 the music we think of as the ’80s was in full swing. There were no vestiges of that great 70s music we’d all grown up on. The sound of synths were to be found everywhere and drum machines were creeping in. Hair metal had begun to ascend. There was so much music from ’83 I had remembered that I had over 100 songs on the initial version of this playlist. I was surprised, after I’d winnowed this down that Bryan Adams and Quiet Riot had made the final cut while songs from Greg Kihn, Loverboy and Nightranger didn’t. I’m not crazy about any of those acts mentioned in that sentence, but the Adams and Quiet Riot songs held some memories. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure I guess? There were some great acts who just made bad records in ’83: Rod Stewart released his worst, Body Wishes; Styx were dead to me after Mr. Roboto; Billy Joel put out the abysmal An Innocent Man; even Aretha Franklin, my Queen, put out a lackluster album produced by Luther Vandross no less, Get It Right. Even Neil Young let me down with the Shocking Pinks and Everybody’s Rockin’. Linda Ronstadt had gone all show tunes on What’s New. No songs from those albums will be found here…

There were some great albums put out by bands I really like but feared no one else would. I ended up cutting tracks from Lou Reed, Thin Lizzy, Roxy Music (whose cover of “Jealous Guy” by John Lennon is fabulous), and Van Morrison. I even cut the title track from Social Distortion’s Mommy’s Little Monster, a track I almost always dedicate to my wife’s cat when I play it here at the house. I wanted to keep Robert Palmer’s song “You Are In My System” but figured no one but me would miss it except me. I guess I could have included a track from Madonna as she released her debut album in 1983 but I just… don’t like Madonna… and this is a rock music blog. Although to prove I’m not a completely sour dude I did include a track from Cyndi Lauper. There were those in ’83 who thought Lauper was going to be the long-term superstar and Madonna was a flash in the pan. The Eurythmics book end the playlist as they put out 2 outstanding albums that year… that’s 70s era output from those guys.

As usual, this playlist is best played on “random.” It can be found on the dreaded Spotify, at the name below (obviously), “ 1983 In Rock N Roll.” If there’s a track that doesn’t suit your fancy, hit fast forward. If there’s a track you love from that year, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the playlist. This did end up being one of my longest playlists. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster to put together, frankly. Without further adieu, put on your Wayfarer shades, your Members Only jacket, and stone-washed jeans and enjoy this gnarly playlist… from 1983. The full list, with my pithy comments about each song are below.

  1. Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” – Is there a more iconic synth riff than the one that opens this track. I included this song on my playlist on Dreams. I can close my eyes when I hear this and I’m back in my dorm room. I feel like this track really encapsulates what was happening in music in the ’80s and ergo it’s the perfect place to start.
  2. Dire Straits, “Twisting By The Pool” – One of my favorite “deep tracks” from Mark Knopfler and company. I just commented on my review of Starcrawler’s recent EP Acoustic Sessions – EP that EPs weren’t that big of a deal when I got into music… I guess this EP proves I was wrong. And who doesn’t like a little “twisting” by the pool…
  3. Bryan Adams, “Cuts Like A Knife” – I’m not a huge Adams fan. But this song was everywhere and I did like it back in the day. It resonated for me with things I’d recently slogged through. I always thought he wanted to be the Canadian Springsteen.
  4. Def Leppard, “Photograph” – I could have picked any track on this album but I was fond of this one. The Mutt Lange magic took full effect on this album. “All I’ve got is this photograph…”
  5. Randy Newman, “I Love L.A.” – I know a lot of people don’t like Randy Newman because of the song “Short People,” but I think of him as a modern day Twain, a brilliant satirist. I included this happy song on my playlist about Los Angeles.
  6. Triumph, “Never Surrender” – From the follow-up album to the great Allied Forces. I always thought this was a tamer rewrite of the song “Fight The Good Fight.” But I still dug it though. Very dramatic arrangement.
  7. Journey, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” – Frontiers was where I started to get off the Journey bandwagon… although I did see them on this tour. Netflix’s last season of ‘Stranger Things’ got me back into this song.
  8. U2, “New Year’s Day” – War was my first U2 album. It was just the first in a long string of their LPs for me. I still have my vinyl copy. I wish the Edge still played guitar like this…
  9. Quiet Riot, “Cum On Feel The Noize” – Clearly a band with problems spelling wirds.
  10. Eric Clapton, “I’ve Got A Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart” – Clapton’s first album after getting sober. I always thought it slightly mellow but it’s a solid record.
  11. Joan Armatrading, “Drop The Pilot” – Every once in a while I just have to keep I song maybe only I dig on a playlist… this is one of those.
  12. The Tubes, “She’s A Beauty” – Oddly enough this song popped up the other night and the Rock Chick and my friend RJ couldn’t talk enough about their love of the song. And the Rock Chick is a beauty…
  13. Pink Floyd, “The Gunners Dream” – The swan song for Roger Waters as leader of Pink Floyd. I posted about his updated version recorded during Covid. This song sums up what he’s been trying to say about war better than just about everything else he’s done.
  14. ZZ Top, “Got Me Under Pressure” – From their mammoth Eliminator album. I think this was the only single without a video with three girls and that old car. I love the guitar on this song. Other than “TV Dinners,” which I was living on at the time, this might be my favorite song on the album.
  15. Naked Eyes, “Promises, Promises” – Were these guys a 1-hit wonder? I love this song. I’ve been waking up every morning with it on my “Mental Jukebox.” I vaguely remember the rather dark video. “You made me promises, promises, you knew you’d never keep.” We’ve all been there.
  16. Fastway, “Say What You Will” – This is one of the greatest rock songs of all time. I don’t know anybody who loves rock n roll who doesn’t love this song.
  17. R.E.M., “Radio Free Europe” – From their great debut album simply one of the best debut albums ever.
  18. Violent Femmes, “Blister In The Sun” – The Rock Chick hates the Violent Femmes. I always liked this song, it’s somewhat iconic in my mind. I think I had a copy of this album taped to a blank cassette for a while that I kept hidden from my friends. We were all metal heads and I didn’t want to fall out of step.
  19. David Bowie, “Modern Love” – Let’s Dance was my first Bowie album. I was drawn to it by the title track. I loved the lyric, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” But this song almost outshines it for me… One of Bowie’s best songs even for the casual fan.
  20. Men At Work, “It’s A Mistake” – A heavy anti-war track that’s light on it’s feet from a band that was everywhere for a few years.
  21. Dave Edmunds, “Slipping Away” – Dave Edmunds never gets the credit he deserves. Great song here. I’m pretty sure this was written by Jeff Lynne of E.L.O. fame.
  22. Martin Briley, “The Salt In My Tears” – This track might be slightly obscure but it’s a great one. “You ain’t worth the salt in my tears,” indeed. Great little riff too.
  23. The Fixx, “One Thing Leads To Another” – I always marveled at how tall the lead singer was. The Fixx had some great songs and this is foremost amongst them.
  24. Iron Maiden, “Flight of Icarus” – One of my favorite Maiden tracks. A re-telling the Greek myth of Icarus who flew too close to the sun, against the advice of his father, to tragic consequences. Perfect fodder for a metal song.
  25. Joe Walsh, “I Can Play That Rock & Roll” – A track so good I included it on my previous playlist about the Music Business/Show Business. And, for the record, Joe certainly can play that rock n roll. I hope he does something soon.
  26. Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Buffalo Soldier” – I can’t believe Bob left this iconic track in the vault and it was only released posthumously. He included it on his greatest hits Legend, which really helped me as a stepdad…
  27. Dio, “Rainbow In The Dark” – After two phenomenal LPs with Sabbath, Dio launched his solo career with Holy Diver and this song. Dio was such a great vocalist it’s a shame he left us so soon.
  28. Elton John, “Kiss The Bride” – This song, with it’s slightly off sounding guitar riff, has always been a favorite. Proof there was still rock n roll life left in Elton.
  29. Talking Heads, “Girlfriend Is Better” – “Burning Down The House” was the big single and was partially responsible for turning me onto the Heads, but I’ve always loved this jittery tune. “I got a girlfriend that’s better than that and she goes wherever she likes (there she goes)…” Indeed.
  30. Peter Tosh, “Johnny B. Goode” – Reggae giant Peter Tosh doing a Chuck Berry cover? Sign me up.
  31. The Kinks, “Come Dancing” – I remember the video to this track more than the track itself. Although I do believe this song was included on my playlist for wallflowers, songs about dancing.
  32. Stevie Nicks, “If Anyone Falls” – From her second, fabulous solo record The Wild Heart. I could have picked any number of songs from this album but I like this slinky, synth heavy track.
  33. Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Pride And Joy” – From Stevie Ray’s debut album. He refused to tour with Bowie for Let’s Dance so he could record his own album. I’m kinda glad he did. Although the thought of Bowie and Vaughan on tour… what a live LP that’d have been.
  34. The Police, “Every Breath You Take” – Their best song. Bone crushing emotion in this song. It made me a Police fan… this was my first Police LP purchase. And, for the record, I knew this was not a love song the moment I heard it. At the time, I could uh, relate to it.
  35. Rickie Lee Jones, “Hey, Bub” – This is another track maybe only I know. It’s a beautiful ballad, beautifully sung. Plus I can’t resist Rickie Lee’s use of 1940’s vernacular. My thanks to the person who turned me onto it.
  36. Electric Light Orchestra, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King” – Regrettably I once described E.L.O. as derivative of the Beatles to which my friend Doug reacted… badly. I am now forced to include them on any playlist where they have an eligible track. That said, I always liked this one.
  37. Robert Plant, “Other Arms” – “Big Log” was the big single with the cool video but I can not resist this rocker.
  38. Big Country, “In A Big Country” – I’m guessing I wasn’t crazy about Big Country in 1983. But this song has grown to be a favorite of mine.
  39. Asia, “Don’t Cry” – Their second album was a far cry from their debut but this was a great song…
  40. Joan Jett, “Fake Friends” – There’s so much great Joan Jett out there. By ’83 I was aware that I too perhaps had a few fake friends…
  41. Metallica, “Seek And Destroy” – An epic track from their epic debut. Nobody, and I mean nobody, rawked like this in 1983. They’re still at it all these years down the road with new songs like “Lux AEterna.” Looking forward to next month’s new LP!
  42. Kansas, “Fight Fire With Fire” – Local Kansas boys who did well for themselves!
  43. Jackson Browne, “For A Rocker” – Lawyers In Love and it’s title track were largely a disappointment for me. I was a big Jackson Brown fan, especially coming off “Somebody’s Baby.” I did like this song and “Tender Is The Night,” proving that even if an artist drops a dud LP, there’s always a good song or two.
  44. Elvis Costello, “Every Day I Write The Book” – One of Costello’s best tunes ever.
  45. Black Sabbath, “Trashed” – This is where I decided lead guitarist Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath was a moron. Who fires Ronnie James Dio and hires… Ian Gillan from Deep Purple? There are fans of this record and I like this song but it never took me to the heights of “Heaven And Hell”or “Sign Of The Southern Cross.”
  46. AC/DC, “Guns For Hire” – AC/DC, to me, started to hit a downward slide on this album. Luckily they pulled it all back together and released a string of great, late career records.
  47. Rainbow, “Street Of Dreams” – Meanwhile, another ex Deep Purple member, Ritchie Blackmore was hitting his stride with Rainbow.
  48. Cheap Trick, “I Can’t Take It” – Cheap Trick has always solidly delivered. This track is no exception.
  49. Stray Cats, “(She’s) Sexy + 17” – We didn’t like the Stray Cats much in ’83 but I’ve come to really dig their stripped down rockabilly. Brian Setzer is seriously one of the greats on guitar. Of course if they’d recorded this song today a few cops might drop by the studio… “Keep your hands off the kinder.”
  50. Depeche Mode, “Everything Counts” – A great earlier track from Depeche. I’m really digging “Ghosts Again,” their newest song and am looking forward to the new LP Memento Mori!
  51. Tom Waits, “In The Neighborhood” – Swordfishtrombones is one of my favorite Waits’ albums… although I’d have been hard pressed to say that in 1983. It is amazing how tastes grow and expand and change. Thank god they do.
  52. UB40, “Red Red Wine” – Perhaps a track I should have included on my playlist, Songs About Drinking.
  53. Huey Lewis & the News, “Walking On A Thin Line” – Like I said of Bryan Adams on this list before, I wasn’t a big Huey Lewis fan either. However, this track from Sports, about a Vietnam veteran struggling to acclimate back into society has a lyrical heft that I never found elsewhere in their music. Great song, great subject.
  54. The Motels, “Suddenly Last Summer” – Steamy, sexy summer song… oh and what a summer it was.
  55. Kiss, “Lick It Up” – I’m probably the only one who liked Kiss more without their make up vs with it.
  56. Motley Crue, “Too Young To Fall In Love” – I still love Motley Crue. Certainly one of the best bands to come out of the hair metal scene.
  57. The Romantics, “Talking In Your Sleep” – A song so good it was on our playlist about Sleeping too… even though I don’t sleep.
  58. Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” – Like I said earlier, I felt I had to include this one. Lauper was so much more edgy than Madonna…
  59. Genesis, “Home By The Sea” – My favorite track from one of their biggest LPs. So many singles from this album and yet I picked a deep track?
  60. John Mellencamp, “Crumblin’ Down” – The first album where we see the name “Mellencamp” on the cover. John was clearly lamenting the false trickle down economic policies of Reagan which led to our crumbling infrastructure in America.
  61. Bob Dylan, “Sweetheart Like You” – One of my favorite ballads from Dylan. Rod did a great cover of this as well. Infidels was such a great album. “Got to be an important person to be in here, honey, Got to have done some evil deed…” The whole sitting in a seedy bar talking to a woman theme was sort of the backdrop of my 20s.
  62. Paul McCartney, “The Other Me” – I had so loved Tug Of War. Pipes of Peace and the presence of Micheal Jackson upon it were so disappointing to me… This song is a little cheesy but it works.
  63. Paul Simon, “Hearts And Bones” – A great, oft overlooked gem of an album from Simon with some of his most personal lyrics.
  64. The Rolling Stones, “She Was Hot” – I’m probably one of the only really big fans of the Stones’ Undercover album. There were many deep tracks here that I could have included but I picked this one… it was a single I think? I recall a video…
  65. Billy Idol, “Eyes Without A Face” – “Steal a car and go to Las Vegas…” Indeed.
  66. Duran Duran, “New Moon On Monday” – Even when I didn’t like Duran Duran, I liked this song.
  67. Corey Hart, “Sunglasses At Night” – Another song that was “of it’s time.” It did inspire a lot of drunk frat boys to wear their sunglasses after the sun had gone down… sigh.
  68. Robert Cray, “Phone Booth” – This was before Cray’s big break-through on Strong Persuader. I heard this song on the juke box of the Grand Emporium (if they even had a juke box?) and loved it. The image of being in a phone booth (which are all gone now), spending your last time to try and get a someone to let you come over after midnight… Well, we’ve all been there.
  69. Yes, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” – I just posted about 90125, but what a riff, what a comeback for Yes.
  70. Ozzy Osbourne, “Bark At The Moon” – Ozzy’s first post-Randy Rhoads LP proved he could find guitar talent anywhere. Jake E Lee was the new guitar slinger here and acquits himself well. And starting in the summer of ’83 I was likely found most nights out somewhere doing exactly this… perhaps more howling at the moon than barking but it works.
  71. U2, “Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live)” – I don’t usually include live LPs on these playlists dedicated to a certain year, but Under A Blood Red Sky, the live LP that followed War can almost be equally credited for making U2 famous… Those videos of Bono with the flag on the stage at Red Rocks… iconic.
  72. Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Dear Prudence” – One of my favorite Beatles’ covers. I will freely admit it was the Rock Chick who turned me onto Siouxsie. Oddly, I always got her mixed up with that singer in Bow Wow Wow. Proof I’m daft?
  73. Eurythmics, “Here Comes The Rain Again” – We end where we began… with a song I included on my playlist, All the Rain Songs. This is such a brilliant song about a break up… “Here comes the rain again, Falling on my head like a memory, Falling on my head like a new emotion… is it raining with you?”

There it is! Our 1983-dedicated playlist. Again, it’s long, one of our longest. Put it on, hit “random,” and let it shuffle through the music. You might even pour something strong for the listen. If there’s something you don’t dig, skip it. But I think for all of you who were old enough to own a clock/radio in ’83 are going to like most of this rock n roll. I consider all of my playlists to be “living things.” I add songs suggested by readers to every playlist I put out there. In the end they’re really “our” playlists not mine. I’m just the music obsessive who puts them together. If I could to do things differently in 1983, I certainly would change almost everything… but not the music.

Cheers! Take care of each other out there…


The B&V List Of Our Favorite Rhythm Guitarists – “Strictly Rhythm…” – The Riff Meisters Of Rock N Roll


“You check out guitar George, he knows-all the chords, Mind, it’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing” – Dire Straits, “Sultans of Swing”

I believe it was John Mellencamp who once sang, “Let me give you some good advice young man, you better learn to play guitar.” Every rock n roll fan wants to be the guitar player. Oh, sure I had those weird friends who played “air drums” but for the most part the guitar is the star. And I suppose a number of us have held a beer bottle in our hand and pretended it was a microphone as we lip-synced along. But for my friends and I, we all imagined being Hendrix and melting faces off with our epic, gnarly solo where we finish by playing the strings with our teeth. In most of our imaginations we were all the lead guitar player. Some of us – my friend Brewster or my friend Drew – actually owned a guitar. OK, Drew’s was a bass guitar but he owns a number of guitars now. Drew has what appears to be an awesome music room which unlike mine, has actual instruments in it. Brewster’s guitar had the neck snapped by a guy named Mickey (named changed to protect the guilty), karmic retribution for taking Mickey to see Springsteen on The River tour. My brother used to play an acoustic guitar but I don’t know if he still plays? I can’t play the radio.

But my utter lack of musical ability with an instrument didn’t stop me from dreaming. Other than lead singers – who often suffer from LSD, “lead singer disease”  – when I was a teenager, I always held the dream of being the lead guitarist in a band. Whether I was Hendrix or Clapton in a power trio or Eddie Van Halen, the wizard, on guitar in a four piece, that was what I wanted to do… in my head at least. You’re in the spotlight but you’re sharing the spotlight with David Lee Roth, er, or whoever is singing. Some bands – the Allman Brothers Band, Thin Lizzy or the Paul Butterfield Band – had two lead guitar players. Oh, my… guitar nirvana. However, there are many, many bands that play as a five piece with two guitar players where there’s only one lead. That second guitarist is usually listed in the credits as playing “rhythm guitar.”

The Stones were always my gateway drug into rock n roll and while early on I had a Mick Jagger fetish, I quickly shifted my focus to Keith Richards. I couldn’t dance like Mick, but who can? At my most inexperienced, I assumed like most my guitar heroes, Keith was the lead guitar player. Paging Brian Jones… Mick Taylor… Ronnie Wood, but I digress. As time went on, the more liner notes I read taught me that there was such a thing as this fabled rhythm guitar player and that’s what Keith played (mostly). While playing solo’s gets all the attention the rhythm guy is just as important. He’s the guy that sets the riff which is the foundation of the song. It’s the riff that allows the soloist to soar, so to speak.

I’ve always thought of the rhythm guitar player as being the linchpin in any five piece (with two guitarists). He’s part of the front line of any band along with the lead player and the lead singer. That front line is face to face with the crowd. But he’s also part of the rhythm section with the drummer and the bassist. And as any true rock fan knows, the rhythm section is the engine of any band. In the parlance of the restaurant industry, the rhythm player is working the front of the house and the back room. He’s helping set – with the aforementioned drummer/bass player – the foundation upon which the singer and the lead guitarist “stand” upon.

Sadly, true rhythm players never get the glory, outside of a very few. If you google rhythm players the lists you’ll find are littered with lead guys. And yes, there are plenty of lead guitar players – Eddie, Jimi, Angus Young – who play fabulous rhythm guitar. Many of the lead guys are the only guitar player in the band so they do double duty. For the purposes of my list, I wanted to focus on the guys who are dedicated rhythm guitar players. And yes, occasionally the rhythm guy might step forward and take a solo… heaven knows they’ve earned it. Without further adieu, these are my favorite (predominantly) rhythm guitar players. These guys might be hanging out in the shadows by the drum riser having a smoke, but they certainly deserve some attention and love… I’ve listed the player and the band(s) they played with below.

  • Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones/Xpensive Winos – Keef! Well, any long time reader would know this would be where my list started… Keith is the self described “Riff Meister.” He’s got so many iconic riffs that he and Mick built into songs, “Satisfaction,” “Jumping Jack Woman,” and “Honky Tonk Woman” to name but a few. When I think of sublime rhythm this is what I think of. He’s admitted playing with a virtuoso like Mick Taylor allowed him to perfect the rhythm guitar. Indeed.
  • Malcolm Young, AC/DC – We lost Malcolm only a few years ago which truly makes me sad. While his brother Angus gets all the glory in AC/DC for his amazing solo’s (check out “Whole Lotta Rosie”) it’s Malcolm whose the hero in that band. AC/DC is all about riffs and feel and that starts with Malcolm.
  • Stone Gossard, Pearl Jam – I feel Stone Gossard is sometimes the forgotten member of Pearl Jam. The chicks all dug Eddie Vedder and the guys like Mike McCready’s wicked solos but I always dug the riffs coming from Stone. He wrote most the music on their epic debut Ten. They’ve gone through a number of drummers but they couldn’t survive losing Stone in the engine of that band!
  • Izzy Stradlin, Guns N Roses/solo – I’m still pissed the greedy Axl Rose hasn’t included his old Indiana buddy Izzy in the GnR reunion. When Slash, Duff and Adler first teamed up with Axl, he made Izzy’s being in the band a condition. Slash wasn’t too happy about it but Izzy wrote a lot of the songs and played fabulous riffs that Slash could play off of. He’s truly a great player. I saw Izzy and the Juju Hounds from right in front of the stage and oh, my, the riffs!
  • John Lennon, The Beatles/solo – Sure John gets credit for his singing and songwriting and he was the front man of the Beatles, at least in the beginning, but he never gets credit for his great rhythm guitar. Ringo said he always played too fast but I love the way he plays. It’s an under appreciated part of the juggernaut of the Beatles.
  • Joe Strummer, The Clash/solo – Much like Lennon, Joe sang most of the Clash tunes. He was another great songwriter. But he was also a great rhythm player. He didn’t adopt the last name “Strummer” for nothing. I love his playing on the early stuff like The Clash or Give ‘Em Enough Rope.
  • James Hetfield, Metallica – Hetfield is perhaps the greatest rhythm player in all of heavy metal. He plays some lead with Kirk Hammett but I love the aggressive, in  your face rhythm the guy plays. When he and drummer Lars Ulrich lock into a groove, look out.  I’m really digging the new songs they’re putting out from “Lux Aeterna” to “If Darkness Had A Son.”
  • Bob Weir, The Grateful Dead/various bands – The Dead were like the Allman Brothers in that they played rock n roll with an almost jazz sensibility. Bob Weir would probably have been a lead guy in other bands but he was in a band with genius Jerry Garcia. He developed into one of the most original, extraordinary rhythm players in the game. I’m not a huge Dead fan but I do dig Weir. I do like the Dead’s country rock stuff.
  • Brad Whitford, Aerosmith/Whitford St. Holmes – Whitford is another guy who might have been the lead guy if he wasn’t in Aerosmith with Joe Perry. Indeed he was the lead player in his short lived band Whitford St. Holmes. Check out their tune “Sharpshooter.” And, in truth Whitford does play lead on songs he co writes. But for the most part he’s playing those dirty blues rock riffs that allow Perry to solo to his hearts content. When asked who his favorite guitar players were, Joe Perry included Whitford… rightly so.
  • Joan Jett, Runaways/Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Whether with the Runaways or solo Joan Jett’s rhythm guitar is the foundation of all her music. I saw her recently with Cheap Trick opening, and man does she play the riffs. She’s more known as the front woman of the Blackhearts but close your eyes and listen to that rhythm guitar, it’s super rich.
  • Nile Rodgers, Chic/producer/session player – Most of us rockers probably don’t own a lot Chic records. But Nile Rodgers who went on to become a big time producer started in that iconic band. The rhythm guitar that Nile laid down when he produced Bowie’s Let’s Dance with Stevie Ray Vaughn playing lead is enough to land him on this list. I love what he played on “China Girl.”
  • Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders/solo – Like Joan Jett or John Lennon, Hynde is known more for her singing and songwriting. But, if you listen to the punchy punk rock of the Pretenders you know it’s all about her pugnacious riffs. I love the way she plays. I saw the Pretenders open for the Stones once and she was so impressive on guitar.
  • Bob Marley, Bob Marley & The Wailers – Bob is so iconic, he’s on posters and t-shirts everywhere I turn. Especially when I vacation in warmer climes. And he’s known for his singing and onstage dancing. But I really dug his rhythm guitar playing especially in the early days when Peter Tosh was playing the lead. “Positive Vibrations,” indeed.
  • Tom Petty, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers/solo – Petty always shied away from lead guitar because he was standing next to guitar maestro Mike Campbell in the Heartbreakers. But he was quite a good guitar player in his own right. He was such a great singer and songwriter nobody noticed he was playing all these iconic riffs. I can’t help but think of “Change Of Heart,” one of my all time favorite riffs…

That’s our list folks. It was high time we turned a bright, hot spotlight onto these great players. All of these rhythm guitar players are legends in my mind. Do you have a favorite I might have missed? Drop them in the comments section. I love to talk about the nooks and crannies of rock n roll. And sadly, I fear the rhythm guys have been wrongly pushed into the background of rock n roll.

Cheers and I hope everyone is recuperating from their St. Patrick’s Day festivities with Bloody Mary’s and bloody good rock n roll.

Review: Starcrawler’s ‘Acoustic Sessions – EP’ – Stripped Down Country-Rock Versions Of Songs From Last Year’s ‘She Said’


I haven’t seen a lot on this, but Starcrawler just released an EP of acoustic versions of songs from their last album, She Said. The new EP is entitled, creatively, Acoustic Sessions. The whole EP thing seems to be a lot more prevalent and popular these days. A lot of bands released EPs last year – Billy Idol (The Cage), the Black Crowes (1972) and we even got an EP from the Neil Young vaults (Eldorado, recorded in 1989). I don’t remember seeing a lot of EPs when I started collecting music “back in the day.” I have vague memories of R.E.M.’s Chronic Town, but that was more in retrospect after they got bigger. I wasn’t cool enough to have owned that EP. On a record (yes, vinyl) EP means Extended Play. That just means there are more songs than a single which only had one song on each side but shorter than a Long Player also known as an album. Starcrawler’s Acoustic Sessions contains stripped down versions of 5 tracks.

Of course B&V is on record as being big fans of Starcrawler. It was the Rock Chick who turned me on to the band after having seen them at a festival out in Denver with our daughter. She was slightly amused/taken aback by the on stage antics of lead singer Arrow de Wilde who spat fake blood on the crowd before leaping head first into the front row. I remember watching YouTube videos of the band in performance and thinking, “These guys are fantastic.” I immediately purchased their first album, Starcrawler. I finally saw them live for the first time at the Riot Room in KC around the time of the release of their second album Devour You. That concert and that second album were both fantastic. I actually saw them for the second time, shortly before the release of their latest LP, last year’s She Said. I had certainly hoped, that like so many other bands, the third time (album) would be the charm and it would break big, giving Starcrawler more attention. Again, I really enjoyed that second show we saw last fall and even the Rock Chick said, as we strolled out of the venue, “That was a great show.” I really felt they were evolving as a band. I would have classified them as punk rock or a mix of punk and classic after the first two records. But I’ve started hearing a classic rock, Stonesy thing in their music.

Live, de Wilde and lead guitarist Henri Cash have really developed a cool chemistry on stage, very 70s Mick and Keith or Plant and Page. I actually just saw Starcrawler open up for Bush a month or so ago and they were as usual, great. Although it was clear by her comments to the crowd toward the end of the set that Arrow would have liked a more animated response from the KC crowd… Call us boring Arrow, but please, don’t insult our BBQ. When we told our daughter that we’d seen Starcrawler yet again she laughed and said, “I think you’ve seen them every time they’ve played KC…” Anyway, for the last LP the band brought in a new drummer, Seth Carolina, who replaced founding member Austin Smith. They also brought in Henri’s younger brother Bill Cash to play rhythm guitar and more importantly, especially for this EP, pedal steel guitar. Tim Franco rounds out the lineup on bass.

Starcrawler’s music can usually only be described as raucous. These guys on vinyl are taking no prisoners. I am not exaggerating when I say Acoustic Sessions is a radical re-imagining of the She Said tracks. The first track on the EP, “Broken Angel” was a bit of a ballad in it’s original form and it didn’t surprise me that it was included, but nothing prepared me to hear plaintive, sad piano and pedal steel on this acoustic version. This version of “Broken Angels” is as sad as Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris in the 70s. de Wilde sings in an almost whisper. Henri Cash does add a few electric guitar textures. They traded loud rock for country-ish rock. I may have to consider putting a track or two from this EP on my “Rockers Going Country-ish” playlist… and when I say country rock I mean classic 70s country rock (Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield), not this new country crap you hear today.

The next track, “Runaway,” in it’s original form is a “meet me at the finish line” rocker. Fast and hard. It’s a jittery, throbbing tune. It’s gone from a haymaker, rabbit punch to a caress. On Acoustic Sessions, it sounds like something off The Good, The Bad And The Ugly soundtrack. Bill Cash’s pedal steel on this track is the definition of “plaintive.” de Wilde’s vocals are again quiet and almost whispered. There’s a grit to her voice on these versions that is so appealing. Henri provides a nice harmony vocal. Hearing these songs slowed down changes my whole perspective on Starcrawler’s lyrics. There’s no sneering here it’s been replaced with, well, sincerity. The call and response of the chorus, “Take me home, take me home” between de Wilde and Cash is sublime.

The third track, “True,” has gone from a live-wire pounder to a strummer. Where it charged after you in it’s original form it waltzes past now. I did see some press stuff on how the band, when they write tunes, write and arrange them acoustically and then convert them to electric rocking songs. I must admit I like this version of “True” better than the original. It sounds like Seth Carolina is playing brushes on the drums. He really is nimble here.

The fourth track is the first single from She Said, the rollicking “Roadkill.” Where the original version was like a race car this version is like a hay-ride. de Wilde and Cash harmonize really nicely on this track. This version could not be more different than the original. Although I must admit, the lyric “You want mommy to hold your hand” does maintain the sneering, put-down vibe of the original. The song verges on, dare I say, “twangy,” and I say that in a good way.

The band wraps up with “Stranded.” It was one of my favorite tracks on She Said and I’ll admit it’s a favorite track here. A few mornings since I bought this thing I’ve woken up with this acoustic track playing on my “Mental Jukebox.” Again, I’m not sure whose playing the piano on this track – I assume it’s Henri Cash – it’s a perfect accent. The chorus, while much quieter than the original, still comes across with a lot of force… “Stranded on the side of a one-way street, The stars in her eyes won’t shine on me, Whisper in the night hoping someone sees, Shine on me, shine on me… oh shine on me…” Great stuff!

I’m hoping as this band develops they’ll incorporate more of these acoustic touches in their music, maybe the same way as Zeppelin used to do, blurring light and dark, acoustic and electric. They’ve got an under-used asset in Bill Cash’s pedal steel. I will admit I’d have liked to hear them take a few more chances here – like maybe a version of the cover they do in concert, “If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough,” or some other classic cover song… maybe a Stones cover. But other than that nit of a complaint, I really dig this EP. It’s a little, late night listen for when you’re sipping whiskey and you don’t want to go to bed and you don’t wanna wake anybody kinda jam. And I have to admit, this is a very “classic rock” move, re recording songs in acoustic versions and I’m all for anything classic rock!


Artists For Whom It Was Their Live Album That Catapulted Them To Stardom (Or Perhaps Superstardom)


I’ve often said over the years, that sometimes you just need to see a band live in concert for their music to make sense. I certainly know that was the case for me on certain bands associated with the Grunge era. The first time I saw Bush in ’97, something in my head just clicked and I was on the bandwagon. And by the way, I just saw Bush live again recently and consider me back on the bandwagon. I was the same way with the Stone Temple Pilots, a band I used to derisively describe as “Pearl Jam-lite,” before I saw them live and was blown away. I’m always late to the party.

Some artists just take some time to find their groove in the studio. Hollywood, in countless bio-pics about artists (real and fictional), always shows the artist sitting down with an acoustic guitar (or piano) and delivering a completely realized song off the top of their head. They record it in the studio, perfectly of course, and it’s suddenly a big hit. More often than not artists, especially newer bands, struggle to find their groove in the studio. Sometimes the band just can’t capture that magic they have on stage in front of a group of people in a tiny windowless room. The confines of a 3 minute hit song are sometimes too restrictive for some bands. They don’t get the tempo right or the riff is just slightly off or the vocals sound stiff. Let’s remember an artist as big as Paul McCartney only had a hit song in “Maybe I’m Amazed” – now considered one of his best singles – when he released the live version of the song from Wings Over America as a single and not the original studio version from McCartney. Maybe that’s why the Faces, when they covered the track, used a live version too?

There are a number of artists who went through what I’m describing here. They recorded a studio album – or several studio albums, for that matter – that just didn’t click with a broad audience. Back in the day the formula was for a band to put out albums and grind it out on the road… record album, tour, rinse, repeat. These bands were out there on the road in sweaty theaters trying to win fans through the sheer force of their live performance. It seems elementary that these bands would turn to the “live album” as a way to capture that magic they have as a unit that they couldn’t seem to catch in the studio. Some band have chemistry that can only be truly captured live, versus piecemeal in a studio where they might record the drums separately from the guitars etc. Bruce Springsteen, after failing to catch on with his first two albums, was going to put out a live album – which I would have loved – but was talked into making Born To Run instead. I guess that’s a situation where we won either way.

The other day, I snuck up to the B&V labs because I just needed to hear some Allman Brothers. Naturally I chose their landmark album At The Fillmore East. I had recently listened to their first two albums. I’ve just been in that Allman frame of mind. I was stunned that it wasn’t until they released At The Fillmore East that they broke wide and far. It was the album that made them famous. I thought to myself, well, that’s nuts. But, thinking about it, the live album has made more than one band famous. As I naturally do, I obsessed on the topic for a while and before I knew it I had a list in my head… and yes, I was sitting around in my spare time listening to live albums. Of course, we’re documented as loving the live album around here… but this list of artists and the live albums that made them famous are all worth a spin.


The Allman Brothers Band, At The Fillmore East

The Allmans were the quintessential band that could not be captured in a 3 minute hit song. Well, other than maybe “Midnight Rider.” I still can’t believe their first two albums, The Allman Brothers Band and  my personal favorite, Idlwild South, weren’t big hits. The Allmans played southern blues with a jazz ethos to great effect. It’s a double album and features only seven songs. Doing a live album was the only way to capture the incendiary chemistry of this band. Duane Allman and Dickey Betts’ soaring guitars are simply captivating. Gregg Allman’s vocals are impassioned. Everything you need to know about the Allmans is right here.


Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Live Bullet

I have occasionally referred to Bob Seger as the “Rodney Dangerfield” of rock n roll… the man can’t get the respect he deserves. Well, maybe he does in the Midwest. Seger couldn’t get a break. He’d already released 8 albums prior to hooking up with the Silver Bullet Band and none of them caught hold. He just couldn’t find the magic in the studio.  I’ve always loved his early albums but Bob refuses to even remaster and release them. Sigh. If you can get your hands on Back In ’72 or Seven, grab them. Live Bullet, recorded on his home turf at Cobo Hall in Detroit rock city it showcases all of the things Seger could do. From the road weary ballad of “Turn The Page,” the Chuck Berry influenced “Get Out of Denver,” and the spectacular 2-song medley “Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser,” it’s Seger in all his glory. Songs that he’d done over the years all find their definitive versions on this album. This made Bob a star across America, not just in lower peninsula of Michigan. It’s amazing to me after only 3 more studio albums Seger did another double-live album and only repeated 1 song, the epic Chuck Berry cover “Let It Rock.”


Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive!

Peter Frampton suffered from the same malady as Bob Seger. He’d recorded four solo albums after leaving Humble Pie and the man couldn’t get arrested. He had this beautiful melodic guitar sound. His solos were fabulous but nobody got on the bandwagon. Enter Frampton Comes Alive! Boy, did he. This was the biggest live album of all time for a while. My grandmother – yes, my grandmother – bought this album for me as a gift. It was that ubiquitous. I have come to love Frampton’s early studio solo albums but I’m in the minority there. This album changed Frampton’s career 180 degrees. Hard to follow up this kind of success… and he didn’t. He mellowed out his sound for a while to kind of, well, escape fame.


Kiss, Alive!

Kiss was fairly successful over their first three albums. They’d all three gone gold. but if you were a kid in the 70s, and it just so happens I was, it was Alive! that made them cool. This was the album all my friends seemed to own. While it was Kiss’ second live album, creatively named Alive II, that went double platinum, without Alive! they wouldn’t have broken so big on their following album Destroyer, which went double platinum, their first LP to do so.


Thin Lizzy, Live And Dangerous

The Thin Lizzy story is a bit like the Kiss story. They’d released 7 or 8 albums prior to deciding to do a live album. They’d started to gain some momentum and their previously three LPs had gone gold: Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox and Bad Reputation. I’ve always been partial to their earlier LP, Fighting where they’d started to really pull it together. But Live And Dangerous was their masterpiece. The twin lead guitar attack of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson is the most amazing guitar playing you’ll hear this side of the Allman Brothers. They even throw in the great Seger cover “Rosalie.”


Jackson Browne, Running On Emtpy

I may be cheating a bit here. Jackson Browne had had a very successful run over his four previous LPs before this live album that was actually a concept album about being on the road. His first three albums were all platinum. His fourth album, The Pretender, where Jackson had decided to be “a happy idiot, and struggle for the legal tender,” went three times platinum. That’s a lot of legal tender, indeed. Jackson was already a star when he released Running On Empty, clearly. But this album made him a superstar. It went a staggering 7x platinum. That’s 7 million records sold. That was quite a jump. The “concept” not only holds together the music is awesome. The crowds go crazy and what you must remember – most of them had never heard this music before. That ain’t easy.


Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense

The Talking Heads, like Kiss and Thin Lizzy above, had career momentum before they’d released Stop Making Sense. It wasn’t even their first live album. Their previous studio album, Speaking In Tongues with the hit song “Burning Down the House,” had gone platinum. But for many people, like me, this was the first Talking Heads album we purchased. It was like an even twitchier greatest hits album. I bought it after I heard it down in my friend RK’s room on cassette. It went double platinum and for a post punk band that’s a lot of records.


Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick At Budokan

Cheap Trick was coming off two platinum albums in a row, In Color and Heaven Tonight. They hadn’t originally intended to release a live album. And indeed, at first they only released this record in Japan as a tour souvenir. People started ordering it in the States and the next thing I knew, it was playing on 8-track in my buddy Brewster’s Monza every morning on my way to high school. I honestly had never heard of Cheap Trick until At Budokan came out. It eventually went 3x platinum catapulting Cheap Trick into the super star category… for a while at least. Cheap Trick has put out a couple of great LPs lately, worth checking out: We’re All Alright! and In Another World.

Maybe you’re like the Rock Chick who I’ll quote, “Live albums just aren’t my thing.” That’s cool, but to paraphrase an old Elvis greatest hits LP, “millions of fans can’t be wrong” about these albums. They helped these iconic bands listed above launch or solidify their careers. One might say these live albums are “next level,” as they helped the artists reach that next level in their career. Each of them are worthy of playing at very loud volumes with a tumbler of dark and murky fluid! In case you were looking for something to do this weekend…


Something Different: March Weather, Love And Relationship Wisdom From the Texaco Clerk


“Should we talk about the weather?” – R.E.M., “Pop Song ’89”

As longtime readers know, we’re obsessed with rock n roll here at B&V but every now and then, to shamelessly steal from Monty Python, we have to say, “And Now For Something Completely Different.” Don’t get me wrong, there’s been some great songs released lately from Beck to Dave Matthews to Depeche Mode… but it’s time to step outside our lane for a moment…

I can’t believe it’s already March. Winter officially starts on December 21st (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). And while I’m on record as not being a huge fan of the holidays, they are a great distraction from the awful winter weather. People actually wish for a “white Christmas.” Sigh. It doesn’t take long after Christmas when here at the house all the decorations and trees (yes, plural trees) come down and it’s like it never happened. The Rock Chick goes into her post Christmas, winter funk, staring out of the window and bemoaning the lack of sunshine. I wake up on January 1st, usually with a bourbon headache, and all I can see laid out in front of me is two months of dreaded Winter. It’s hard not to think of what the Stones sang,

“It sure been a hard, hard winterMy feet been draggin’ ‘cross the groundAnd I hope it’s gonna be a long, hot summerAnd a lotta love will be burnin’ bright.”

I keep a running tally in my head of the days left in the dreaded months of January and February. I start with 59 and start counting downward. I’ve always thought of March 1st as the finish line on the harshest part of winter. And so I trudge through the cold and damp snow thinking, only 47 more days… only 46 more days… I don’t know why I’m bitching, global warming has seen to it that winter hasn’t been that bad around here these days. I think it snowed twice and it was barely any accumulation. I certainly didn’t have to shovel anything this year.

But here it is March 3rd and it’s cold today. It was raining and we had gale force winds this morning. Two days ago it was 60 degrees. I saw people out walking their dogs in shorts. Seemed a little extreme to me… the wind is still cold but maybe my blood is still a little thin. Since it’s March I’ve obviously stopped my Winter Doomsday Countdown but I’ve started to think maybe I’m wrong to think March 1st is the finish line on the harshest part of winter. March is probably the most schizophrenic of the months. “In like a lion, out like a lamb” is the old saying. I can’t help about John Belushi on the original SNL and this skit:

In the old days, before the Rock Chick, my love life was almost as crazy as March weather. Who am I kidding, my whole life was like March weather. “One step up, one step back” as Springsteen sang. I remember the early 90s when I’d just completed the “moving back in with my parents” phase of my life – always a sure sign that things are going well. I was living in an apartment up on the bluffs overlooking the intersection of two Interstate highways. I’d lay in bed at night, in March no less, with the windows open and listen to the semi trucks rumbling by… that and the sound of trains running in the nighttime distance. I’d wonder where everybody was headed… I certainly didn’t seem to be heading anywhere in any kind of hurry.

I was selling medical supplies for a criminal outfit out of Chicago and had just gone through another messy split with a young lady I’d known in college. I was running late as was my habit in those days. It was early March, about the same time of year it is now, all these years later. There was a Texaco station down the main commercial street in my neighborhood. I had stopped there often. There was an older lady who worked there as a clerk. I had a long drive in front of me so I pulled in to gas up before I hit the road to ply my wares as a traveling salesman. The day prior it had been 70 degrees. I had jogged outside in shorts. This particular morning it was still sunny but it had turned cold and worse, windy.

I strolled into the store to grab some caffeine and pay the nice lady behind the counter who I found out was Chinese. My hair looked like I’d suffered an electrical shock and she was kind of looking up at my hair with a smile but just at the corners of her mouth. Feeling self conscious I said, “I thought it’d be warm and nice like it was yesterday…guess I was wrong,” as I pointed to my windblown locks and flashed her what I thought was my charming smile. Back then with all that hair the wind had blown every which way, my smile probably made me looked unhinged. Luckily I was wearing a suit and tie so she wasn’t worried I was there to rob the convenience store.

It was then that the Texaco clerk, the sweetest old woman in the world, laid some wisdom on me. Perhaps she could see that I needed a little wisdom that day to help me down the road. Heaven knows, I was in need of some wisdom in those days. She smiled at me and said, “March weather is like a woman’s heart, always changing and completely unpredictable.”

I don’t know why but it put a smile on my face. It not only helped me cope with the harsh March weather that day, it sort helped shock me out of my funk over the latest break up. And let’s face it people, men’s heart’s aren’t always that steady either… I live in a glass house, I’m not throwing any rocks.

If you’re out there and the crazy, ever-shifting March weather gives you fits, hopefully this bit of Texaco gas station wisdom will help get you over the hump. While it was cold and raining this morning, it’s now sunny and almost 50 degrees. Like many folks say, if you don’t like the weather here, wait an hour… If you suffer from the awful seasonal affect disorder, I hope this story puts a sunny smile on your face. And while, to paraphrase, people’s hearts are always changing and completely unpredictable there are some good hearts still out there… just keep on rumblin’ down the road. Summer will eventually make it here.


Album Lookback: Forty Years Ago, Yes’ Stunning Rock N Roll Resurrection, 1983’s ‘90125’


There is plenty of new music to listen to these days. I’m still in a post concert euphoric haze from seeing both Springsteen and Bush recently and those bands are still in high rotation here at B&V. Additionally many bands have put out great new singles this year (Depeche Mode, Beck, and Dave Matthews Band) and Iggy Pop’s new album is fabulous and yet I find myself drifting into my musical past to listen to Yes’ landmark album from 1983, 90125. Last year when I did my “50 year lookback” playlist for 1972 it sparked the idea of looking back 40 years to 1982 with another playlist dedicated to that specific year. Since I recently did my 1973 playlist perhaps that has sparked similar thoughts about 1983.

I started seriously listening to music in approximately 1978. When I say “seriously listening to music” I mean something beyond being in the car and asking mom to turn the radio to the local rock radio station. I had started to collect music. When you start buying albums (or cassettes or 8-tracks in the case of my friend Brewster)  you’re always a product of the time and place you’re in. For me, it was the late 70s in a large Midwest city. I’m like everybody else, I consumed the music that was on the local radio. While some of Yes’ classic stuff made it on the radio I can’t say they were huge. Although I remember my brother had Fragile and a few other of their albums. Somewhere along the line I picked up The Yes Album, I really dug “Yours Is No Disgrace,” but who amongst us didn’t? I guess Yes was part of the rock n roll canon but they weren’t revered in any sense of the word.

By the late 70s much had changed for Yes and for rock n roll. In Yes, founding drummer Bill Bruford had been replaced by Alan White (who recently passed, sadly). On keyboards it was a revolving door between Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye. The only solid members who had stayed around for every album were bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe and singer Jon Anderson. In terms of rock n roll, Yes was prog rock, short for progressive rock. When you listened to prog rock you were usually in store for either some Dungeons And Dragons themed tunes or some really, really long songs or both at the same time. Rush was about the only prog rock band around that we all liked in my high school gang.

By the late 70s, rock n roll had taken the brunt of the punk rock attack. Many bands changed up their sound and music by absorbing the punk ethos and energy. It was not a great time for prog rock. Even Genesis had morphed from the long-song, twee, reverse-Mohawk Peter Gabriel prog to a more radio friendly Phil Collins rock. The thrust of punk was that it was a rebellion against the bloated, self-indulgent rock n roll of the mid 70s. It’s hard to think that Yes weren’t a prime target for that. It’s true I loved “Yours Is No Disgrace” but it was over 9 minutes long. It’s actually a few seconds longer than “Free Bird.” Yes responded to the changing music landscape with Tormato, an ill-advised album title if I ever heard one. With songs like “Madrigal,” and “Arriving UFO” I can’t imagine it was well received.

After that failed album, singer Jon Anderson split as did keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Trevor Horn, who later went on to become a producer of some renown, came in to sing and Geoff Downes of the Buggles (“Video Killed The Radio Star”) came in to play keyboards. This line up of the band released 1980’s Drama. My brother owned that record and I’d go in his room and listen. I liked “Tempus Fugit” and “Into the Lens.” It wasn’t terrible. At that point guitarist Steve Howe took Geoff Downes and formed Asia, a “super group” that broke big with their debut album. Meanwhile Jon Anderson had done a series of albums with Vangelis, billed as “Jon and Vangelis.” They had a weird hit “Friends Of Mr. Cairo,” that oddly was played on the radio. That song was like musical theater.

With only bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White left, what was Yes to do? Originally they jammed with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant who were fresh from the dissolution of the mighty Led Zeppelin. There were rumors they were forming a new band, XYZ (ex-Yes and Zeppelin). That venture fell through when Plant, still mourning Bonham’s death, pulled out. Producer Trevor Horn then introduced Squire and White to a guitarist named Trevor Rabin. They started jamming and realized they might be onto something. They pulled erstwhile keyboardist Tony Kaye into the mix. Although I think he left and came back a few times. They were going to call themselves Cinema. Rabin was pumped about launching this new band. But at the last minute – at the behest of the record company – Squire pulled Jon Anderson back into the fold and they reverted back to Yes. Rabin wasn’t pleased about the reboot.

However, everybody else was. I remember the first time I heard the first single, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” and that iconic riff that opens the song. I’m embarrassed to admit the first time I heard it was when I saw the video. I was back at Kansas State in the fall of ’83 and MTV was the only viable music outlet. The radio sucked in Manhattan, Kansas. I saw Jon Anderson interviewed and he said, “I just missed the sound of a guitar.” Well, he got it in spades with Trevor Rabin on 90125. I used to jokingly refer to this album as “90210” after that horrible night time soap opera that I literally never watched. They got the album title from the UPC code. If you look at the barcode, the number embedded was “90125.” For a band, this far along, to pull together with a new guitarist and some old members and to reinvent themselves from prog rockers to arena rockers was nothing short of miraculous.

Despite the rather “gross out” video for “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” the track took off. I can remember walking down the hall where I lived and hearing it pouring out of several rooms. I taped my buddy Drew’s copy of the LP and I can remember walking out in a snow storm with my Walkman (the size of a brick) listening to this album and feeling like I was the only person on the planet. Sometimes rock music is transformative and will take you to another place entirely. “Leave It” was another song that I used to like to sing at the top of my lungs as loudly as I could whenever it came on. Anderson had only come in for the last few weeks of recording the album and it’s thought that his input was minimal and that’s why this album rocks as hard as it does. Rabin was originally going to sing all the lead vocals with Squire on harmony. When you bring in Anderson and he and Rabin share the lead vocals, like on “Changes,” it creates a real sense of drama in the song. It’s really a knock out track. “Changes” may be my favorite Yes song and perhaps Anderson’s finest moment on the album.

It’s not just the singles that caught fire. The deeper tracks are all great. There’s not a dud on this record. “Hold On” has arena sing-along written all over it. While they weren’t a prog band anymore there were still prog accents on this record. “Hold On” has an A Capella breakdown in the middle. Several of the songs were over 5 minutes and one was over 6 minutes and another over 7 minutes. The thing that caught me about this record wasn’t only the harmonizing but the strong guitar playing of Rabin. The guy just rocked. He played with so much more muscle than Steve Howe. “It Can Happen” is another great song. The guitar sound that opens the track sound like a sitar, like something Jeff Beck would play when he was in the Yardbirds.

There is an instrumental track, “Cinema.” You can take the band out of prog rock but you can’t take the prog rock out of the band. One has to wonder if the band had gone with the name Cinema would it have been as big? I don’t think with White/Squire/Anderson and sometimes Kaye in the band that you could avoid using the Yes name. “Hearts” is a beautiful love song with a great message that is another stand-out. “City of Love” with it’s chorus, “We’ll be waiting for the night to come…” is another personal favorite. It’s grittier than what you think of when you think of Yes.

I actually got to see Yes on this tour. They had a giant round stage that sloped down from the back towards the audience. The only flat parts of the stage were the drum riser and the keyboards. Jon Anderson pranced around and kept throwing his arms out with a dramatic flair typically reserved for the ballet. His fey act aside, I was really impressed with the band and especially Rabin as a player. Although I can’t say enough about Chris Squire’s amazing bass playing. He was like a stoic Flea, standing in place hammering his bass. They played older, classic Yes tracks – which I’m sure Rabin wasn’t happy about – but they were stronger, more arena rock in style. It was an absolutely great show.

Alas, the magic they captured on 90125, like lightning in a bottle, was hard to recapture. The next album from this line up of Yes, Big Generator, had some great moments but just wasn’t as strong. At one point after Big Generator, Anderson left and with other ex-members of Yes formed Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe who I liked to refer to as Larry, Moe and Curly. Eventually those four reunited with what was left of the Rabin-led Yes and they put out the record Union. I saw Anderson interviewed and he said he got the idea of joining both bands together under the Yes banner in a dream. So, yes, it was terrible.

But regardless of all of that, 90125 is really the best album Yes ever did, in my opinion. I’m sure there are a bunch of Tales From Topographic Oceans fans out there who will argue with me. Talk about self-indulgence. The resurrection that Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire and Alan White engineered on this album is nothing short of spectacular. I would have never predicted this one. It’s a phenomenal album that everyone should listen to at high volumes.


Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Kansas City, T-Mobile Center, February 18, 2023


“There hasn’t been a tally since Sally left the alley…” – Bruce Springsteen, “Kitty’s Back” – Photo by your intrepid blogger

O.M.G. I am so happy that I got to see Bruce Springsteen and the legendary E Street Band last night at the T-Mobile center here in Kansas City. My god, the energy in that room was fantastic. There’s been a lot of talk about ticket prices, his expanded band (4 back up singers, 4 horns and a percussionist added to the already crowded stage). All of that is just talk. The truth is in the performance. And it was, in a word, amazing. Go see this man in concert.

February 5th of 1981 a much younger Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played at old Kemper Arena in the West Bottoms here in KC – I was not at that show due to a clerical error on my friend Brewster’s part – but I remember the review. I’d become a closet Springsteen fan when The River came out in 1980, about six months prior to the KC show so I was real interested to see what the reviewer said about Bruce. He said, and I’m quoting from memory which is sketchy, “I know it’s only February but we’ve just seen the concert of the year in Kansas City in Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.” Not to plagiarize, but it’s February 2023 and we’ve just seen the concert of the year here in Kansas City in Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

The lights dropped at 7:45 local time as each member of the E Street Band filed onto the stage. I think I saw pianist Roy Bittan walk out first. One by one the gang assembled on the stage. I was surprised how thin Little Steven looked, he was heavier when I saw him on tour in support of his solo album Soulfire. Sax player Jake Clemons, nephew of legendary Big Man Clarence Clemons, was absent due to Covid. Longtime E Street back up player Eddie Manion stepped forward to take the sax solo’s and I think Jake may need to update his resume. Bruce & the Band played last night like a younger, hungrier band setting out to conquer the world, not an established institution who already have conquered the world several times over. I can’t say enough about the setlist. They played all the big songs you’d expect but a lot of the songs while recognizable, were deeper cuts. It was a lifelong fanboy like me’s dream set. Although he’s dropped “If I Were The Priest” from the setlist, which I wish I’d seen but now I’m splitting hairs. This was one of the best Springsteen shows I’ve ever seen.

They opened with the battle cry “No Surrender” which I’d only seen previously on the Born In The U.S.A. tour performed acoustic and alone by Bruce. It was a treat to hear the full band treatment. That led into one of his later tracks “Ghost” from Letter To You, and it was awesome live. It was clear mortality was on Bruce’s mind… These were just the opening salvo’s in a 2 hour and 45 minute ass kicking, booty shaking, dancing in the aisles rock n roll assault. He hit so many highlights – the Darkness On The Edge Of Town tracks “Promised Land” and “Prove It All Night” were taught and wired with energy. “Badlands,” from that same LP, ended the main set on a real high. “Out In The Street” was the only track from the aforementioned The River album and it was a giant sing along.

After destroying the room with “Candy’s Room” the band launched into an epic version of “Kitty’s Back.” I was so joyful during that performance it’s as close as I’ll ever come to religious ecstasy. I”d never seen it played live before. Every horn, every keyboard got a solo. “Little angel starts to shuffle like she ain’t got no brains…” yeah, that sums me up. Springsteen played a lot of solo’s and he was red hot on guitar. He played the classic fender from the cover of Born To Run most of the night. After “Kitty’s Back” he did “Nightshift” from his latest soul covers album. OK I’ll admit I hit the bathroom at the bar during that track but I hurried back as I wanted to be in my seat for my first ever hearing “The E Street Shuffle.” And yes, it was brilliantly faithful to the original. Three tracks in all from The Wild, The Innocent, And The E Street Shuffle is as close as I can come to Springsteen Nirvana. I think Bruce brought this horn section with him and thought, why not dust off these great tunes that need a horn section.

At that point Springsteen hit the only sour note of the night. He played “Johnny 99” the dour Nebraska track like it was a Vegas review. When it started to my ears it almost sounded like a country song but then the horns kicked in. They’re singing about a guy who lost his job, got drunk on Tanqueray and shot a night clerk… and dancing on the ramp off the front of the stage? I was like, listen to the lyrics folks…

At that point things got back on track with a solo acoustic version of “Last Man Standing.” It was an incredibly poignant performance and was preceded by a story from Bruce about his first band. It was one of the rare moments when Bruce spoke to the audience. He was old school last night – just barreling from tune to tune with no banter – and it made for a great performance. At that point the band just continued to blow me away – the great songs just kept coming, again, I can’t say enough about this setlist – “Backstreets,” “Because The Night,” and “She’s The One.” At one point I caught myself wiping tears away from my eyes. He played a song from one of my favorite late period LPs, “The Rising.” Moving track.

The “encore” – the band never left the stage – was an hour. “Thunder Road” led into a spirited sing along – with the lights on – of “Born To Run.” “Born To Run” is a bit of a warhorse but it sounded fresh last night. Then, for my first time ever, I got to hear Springsteen play “Rosalita.” It was sublime. Such a great performance! Just when you thought it was over they launched into “Glory Days” and then “Dancing In The Dark.” One of my favorite moments of any Springsteen show was next with “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” complete with tributes to Clarence and organist Danny Federici on the TV screens. Tears in my eyes man, tears. The final performance was Springsteen once again alone and acoustic for “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” If you weren’t moved by that performance, you’ve got something wrong with you.

And just like that, as ferociously as he’d come on stage, Bruce was gone. I stood in line and bought a T shirt. I had to have a tangible souvenir of the evening. Even the Rock Chick, who had had a bad experience at a Springsteen concert back in his “Reverend of Rock N Roll” shtick days, said to me, “Wow, that was an amazing performance.” Yes, it was dear, yes it was.

As I’ve said before in these pages, buy the ticket see the show. These legends of rock n roll aren’t going to be around forever. Time is fleeting. As Bruce said last night, enjoy right now, enjoy life, enjoy every moment. I can say that last night, I enjoyed every moment I got to spend with Bruce and his legendary E Street Band. Just an amazing, old school concert. Simply wonderful. Nobody plays rock n roll like that anymore… It was worth every penny. I’m even going to buy the CD of the performance – Bruce puts out every show now – when it’s available. It was that good.


Playlist: The Ups And Downs Of… The Music Business/Show Business… Songs About Being In A Band


Music + Business

This may be my most eclectic group of songs on a playlist ever…

Who amongst us wouldn’t want to be a Rock Star? Even at work sometimes I hear people who are good at their job – or who have done something particularly well – described as a “Rock Star.” It’s looks like wonderful job from up here in the cheap seats. A friend of mine, who I worked with, was in a hotel bar out on the road. That’s the life of we Traveling Salesmen… He was sitting next to a group of guys with long hair who were drinking in the bar. There was a line of young women standing outside the bar making quite a commotion. He struck up a conversation with one of the long haired gentlemen whose name was Joe. He asked what my friend did for a living and asked how he liked his job? Typical “on the road,” hotel bar chatter. My friend asked Joe what he did, was he in a band? Turns out it was Joe Elliott of Def Leppard. My friend asked if he liked his job? Joe said, “Well, it’s a job,” and then pointed to the young women outside the bar and added, “but it doesn’t suck.” I’ve always loved that story.

I think it’s easy for we the fans to look at the Rock Star with nothing but pure envy. In the movies it always looks like an easy path to stardom and riches. “Money for nothing,” as the song goes. We see the Rock Star with a beautiful model or actress on his arm, living in a house with a pool in a sunny climate. They have the best clothes – Rod Stewart especially – and the best cars. It looks so easy we’re always surprised when an artist struggles with fame, or radically changes their music to avoid the pressure of having to repeat their success… pressure? for a Rock Star? Fame may be cool but it’s fickle and hard to maintain. Many Rock Stars begin to lament ever becoming famous. They just wanted to be musicians… bring a little joyous noise into the world.

That’s how it all starts, I assume. A young kid gets turned on by music or discovers he has a talent – singing or with an instrument – and wants to do that for a living. The kid gets an instrument and practices and practices. Maybe he puts the Malcolm Gladwell “10,000 hours” into it. Maybe in that little room the kid starts writing songs…  Pretty soon the young kid meets some like minded individuals and they form a band. Maybe they’re already friends or maybe they meet at a subway station like Mick and Keith. After line-up changes, just maybe the chemistry clicks. Joe Strummer always said, “Never underestimate the chemistry of four guys in a room.” Pretty soon this gang of guys/gals start playing in front of people. Maybe they’ve struck lightning and like Eddie Vedder once said, “I was on stage in front of an empty room and I closed my eyes… when I reopened them the room was full.” It’s music, it’s art, it’s performing… what’s not to love?

Ah, but then commerce appears. A manager usually shows up in the story at this point. And then the record company. You put out your debut song or album. It’s hitting “paydirt,” the dream of a lifetime. But if you’re successful there’s the pressure to repeat that. Behind the glamour, it really is a job. “You wrote “Let’s Dance” David, what’s next? We need another hit.” Or people start asking, “Oh and by the way, which one’s Pink?” The young kid who was sitting in his room, writing songs has become a product. I think artists today have more control over their careers. They can release music straight to the people. They don’t have to hear an A&R (artists and repertoire) man from the record company say, “I don’t hear a single.” As if they’ve come full circle, many of the Rock Stars simply write about it – whether it’s fame, crappy record execs, being on the road (enjoyably or fried from the miles) or the writing process… so many bands/artists have written songs about what it’s like to be in a band – or the process they took to becoming stars – I had to compile them. I thought of this playlist idea from hearing the Who’s “Success Story” and the line, “Remember when this used to be fun.” How many artists go through that? There are also so many songs that I call “origin stories” where the artist sings about his past or is self referential. Those songs seem to fit on this as well.

So here is my playlists based on songs about the Music Business/Show Business. You can find it on the dreaded Spotify. I always suggest shuffling the list vs playing it in order. Although, both ways work… whatever brings you joy. As always, our goal here is to put a song you haven’t heard in a while back in your ear or better yet – turn you onto something you haven’t heard. If you have a song that fits the theme, by all means drop it in the comments section. I like to think of these playlists as “our” playlists. Turn this one up loud… oh and by the way, “Welcome to the Machine.”

  1. Pink Floyd, “Welcome To The Machine” – When art means commerce. This describes Floyd’s harrowing experience of going from a cult band to a world wide phenomenon after Dark Side of the Moon. .
  2. The Band, “Stagefright” – Robbie Robertson’s ode to the pressure to write the next “hit.”
  3. John Fogerty, “Vanz Kant Danz” – Written for the music exec who “stole” the rights to his songs. He was actually sued for this song and changed the title.
  4. Eddie Money, “Wanna Be A Rock N Roll Star” – Eddie expressing the exuberance we all feel when we think about being the proverbial rock star.
  5. Paul McCartney, “The Song We Were Singing” – A great tune where Paul reflects on his first band, a little outfit known as the Beatles. He’s always said they could agree on music, it was the business stuff that made them fight. I don’t think this made Paul’s box set full of singles but it could have been a hit…
  6. Van Morrison, “They Sold Me Out” – Is there a rock star more bitter about the business aspect of things than Van?
  7. Boston, “Rock N Roll Band” – An origin story worthy of the Marvel Universe. I’d always been told that Boston’s first album was all Tom Scholz and Brad Delp. The record company recruited players to fill out the band so they could tour. This song makes for a better story.
  8. AC/DC, “Show Business” – I loved Bon Scott. This is from the EP ’74 Jailbreak released after their first LP with Brian Johnson, Back In Black, as a tribute to the fallen lead singer.
  9. Fleetwood Mac, “Show Biz Blues” – From the glorious, bluesy Peter Green-era of the Mac.
  10. Neil Young, “For The Turnstiles” – (*not on the Spotify list) A great, philosophical treatise on the perils and fleeting nature of fame.
  11. Aerosmith, “No Surprise” – Any song that mentions Clive Davis and Max’s Kansas City (the famous rock n roll bar in New York) had to be on this list.
  12. Elvis Costello, “Radio Radio” – From the era when radio was actually important before it became, as Bruce sang, “Radio Nowhere.” Classic Costello, “I want to bite the hand that feeds me…”
  13. Jackson Browne, “The Road” – A classic weary song from the road from a classic live album Running On Empty. But we do so love our live LPs here.
  14. The Byrds, “So You Want To Be A Rock N Roll Star” – Also done capably by Tom Petty. The classic “be careful what you ask for” song.
  15. Prince, “Baby, I’m A Star” – Prince’s happiest song? The joy of the artist who finally becomes a star. We still miss Prince here at B&V. At least we’ve his vault releases like Sign O The Times Deluxe Edition to keep us comforted. While most artists at some point lament their fame… let’s not forget, it doesn’t suck to be a Rock Star.
  16. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Me And My Friends” – A song where the Peppers name-check original guitarist Hillel Slovak had to make this list. Often band members start as friends… Alas not every band stays friends the way Rush did.
  17. The Rolling Stones, “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” – A very funny Stones tune that was a send up of a record exec who thought he was as hip as they were. I don’t know if this made my Stones’ Deep Cuts playlist but it should be there.
  18. AC/DC, “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock N Roll) – A harrowing tale of slugging it out, smokey club by smokey club as an up and coming band.
  19. Neil Young, “Buffalo Springfield Again”* – (*Not on Spotify list) – Neil fondly remembers his first big band.
  20. Motley Crue, “Down At The Whisky” – The Crue fondly remember their days on the Sunset Strip. This song tells the story better than The Dirt did.
  21. Steely Dan, “Show Biz Kids” – “While the poor people sleepin’, all the stars come out at night.”
  22. Bob Seger, “Turn The Page (Live)” – Originally from one of Seger’s early, now out of print LPs Back In ’72. A song about the grind of the road.
  23. Motley Crue, “Welcome To The Machine” – It’s interesting that they use the same title as Pink Floyd but Nikki Sixx did that a lot. Same machine, different band.
  24. Soul Asylum, “Misery” – “Frustrated, Incorporated.”
  25. Paul McCartney, “That Was Me” – A 2:39 resume in song.
  26. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Workin’ For MCA” – Skynyrd singing about their record label… reminding us that being a Rock Star is still a job… not a bad one, but still a job.
  27. George Harrison, “When We Was Fab” – George in a similar vein as Paul on #25 on this list.
  28. Van Morrison, “Big Time Operators” – Of all of Van’s “complaint” songs, this might be my favorite. But then, it’s kind of bluesy and I love rockers singing the blues.
  29. Paul Simon, “Late In The Evening” – Where Paul traces music history back to his infancy listening to the radio along with his mom all the way to playing guitar in a funky bar after getting high.
  30. The Clash, “Complete Control” – So pissed at the record company for releasing “Remote Control” were the Clash, they wrote this anti record company screed which became one of their most beloved songs.
  31. Billy Squier, “The Stroke” – From the gem Don’t Say No.
  32. Tom Petty, “Money Becomes King” – Dark record company juju from Tom. When commerce overwhelms art.
  33. Joe Walsh, “I Can Play That Rock N Roll” – He certainly can. Joe takes us through all the prevailing genre’s from back in the day to conclude that rock n roll is best. He’s not wrong.
  34. The Who, “Success Story” – “Remember when this used to be fun…” Says it all.
  35. Oasis, “Rock N Roll Star” – One of the Rock Chick’s favorite bands… seemed appropriate here.
  36. The Beatles, “Baby, You’re A Rich Man” – Not sure who this was for but it sounds like a record exec.
  37. Foreigner, “Juke Box Hero” – From kid outside the arena to the stage. Quite a musical journey.
  38. Joe Walsh, “Life’s Been Good” – The ultimate “this is how rock stars live” song.
  39. Rod Stewart, “When We Were The New Boys” – I like to think he was singing about the Faces here…
  40. Pete Townshend, “Sheraton Gibson” – Pete from his first solo LP, Who Came First, singing about the simple joy of playing his acoustic guitar (a Gibson) in a hotel on the road (the Sheraton).
  41. Van Halen, “I’m The One” – It’s always difficult to decipher the lyrics of David Lee Roth. On this track, from their debut, he’s singing to a woman, but then he says, “Look at all these little kids, takin’ care of the music biz, do their business take good care of me?” I’m always looking to include Van Halen songs on a playlist… so I did.
  42. No Doubt, “Snakes” – Brutal take down of their corporate masters.
  43. Randy Newman, “My Life Is Good” – A brutal, politically incorrect satire of the bloated life of the rock star. At the end of the song, Bruce Springsteen decides he doesn’t want to be the Boss anymore and turns it over to Randy.
  44. Billy Joel, “The Entertainer” – “Another serenader and another long haired band…”
  45. Tom Petty, “Into The Great Wide Open” – About a fictional artist’s climb to the top… “Their A&R man said, “I don’t hear a single.”
  46. George Harrison, “Cockamamie Business” – (*Not on the Spotify list) George was known as the quiet Beatle. Perhaps he should have been known as the grumpy Beatle.
  47. Heart, “Barracuda” – Had to be about a manager.
  48. Fitz & The Tantrum, “Money Grabber” – Had to be about a manager.
  49. Elton John, “Bitter Fingers” – About the difficulties of writing a song.
  50. John Mellencamp, “Pop Singer” – “Never wanted to be no pop singer, never wanted to sing pop songs…”
  51. Warren Zevon, “Even A Dog Can Shake Hands” – Had to be about a manager. Thanks to all of you out there voting for Zevon for the Rock Hall of Fame.
  52. Pink Floyd, “Have A Cigar” – The quote “And by the way, which one is Pink” was supposedly something a record company exec actually said to one of the band.
  53. Bad Company, “Shooting Star” – The careers of most rock stars, most bands really, is as fleeting as a shooting star…
  54. Genesis, “Duchess” – A great song about what happens to a band/artist when they stop making music from the heart and start chasing “hits” or what’s popular. U2 should listen to this song.
  55. The Who, “Guitar And Pen” – Another track about writing songs. To me the magic of writing songs is like alchemy.
  56. Bruce Springsteen, “Last Man Standing” – Bruce writing about being the last man left from his first ever band… as Dylan said, “time is a jet plane, moving way too fast.”
  57. The Who, “Daily Records” – Did anybody write more songs about being in a band than Townshend? This is a great song on one of the albums maybe only I like, about just wanting to go into the studio every day and record a new song.
  58. Bruce Springsteen, “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” – On Born To Run, after the invitation to join him on his journey, “Thunder Road,” Bruce tells you the story of the band that’s going to take the ride with you on this song. “I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh when Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half…” I still tear up when I hear the line, “When the change was made up town and the Big Man joined the band…” We miss you Clarence Clemons…
  59. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Travelin’ Band” – Sure, there are a lot of songs on this list about what a bummer it is to be on the road… but it’s not all bad. This is one of the most joyous tracks about being in…well… a traveling band.

That’s our list! Again, if you have a song that fits the theme, let us know in the comments section and I’ll add it to the Spotify list. As I said before, this may be my most eclectic playlist of all. If you’re out there somewhere on the road with guitars and drums and keyboards, headed to that next gig – or even if you’re just driving down the highway – I hope this playlists gets you a little further down the road. Whoever you are, keep rock n roll alive, support your local musicians.


New Song: Beck The Achingly Beautiful Ballad “Thinking About You” – One of His Greatest Ballads


Beck recently released a quiet new single and it may be the most achingly beautiful song he’s ever done, “Thinking About You,” and no, it’s not another Neil Young cover. The track is very low-key and frankly was released in an equally low-key manner. I didn’t see much fanfare. I wouldn’t have known about it if it weren’t for Instagram which I originally joined for the exact purpose of finding out about new music… and to share pictures of my wife’s cat. Aren’t cat pics what Instagram’s true purpose is? I’m beginning to wonder, with the low key approach Beck is taking these days – he hasn’t released an album since 2019’s Hyperspace – if maybe he considers himself on the “back 9” of his career, headed for the clubhouse. (I don’t golf so I hope that reference makes sense). I don’t even know if there’s a new album coming? I actually wrote about Beck’s cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man” and it didn’t get much attention. I thought it was a great, if overly faithful cover – all of Neil’s anti commercial use aside – but again it didn’t generate much buzz. It didn’t help that the commercial it was used for was about Tom Brady… gads. I’m beginning to wonder if 90s artists like Beck and even Dave Matthews who recently released a single “Madman’s Eyes” are fading into the woodwork? Maybe they’re considered merely live acts now to be seen in the summer sheds? I hope not. They’re great artists with great careers who are still releasing great stuff.

I got in pretty early on Beck. I’d like to tell you I was cool enough to jump in during the Mellow Gold period. I was a fan of “Loser” but I figured like the Beastie Boys after their first album, that Beck would be a 1-hit, novelty song wonder. Like the Beastie Boys who took an enormous leap forward on their second album, Paul’s Boutique, when Beck released Odelay in 1996 it was utterly unexpected. It’s truly a masterpiece. He was like a young, sampling, hip Dylan. The word play was mind blowing. It turned out, unbeknownst to me at the time, Beck had two sides much like the aforementioned Neil Young. He had his new, modern, electric stuff but he was also a closet folky. He’s put out a number of wonderful acoustic based albums. I’m to the point where I almost like those acoustic albums better. I jumped on his 1998 release Mutations. His “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” was a favorite. However that CD may have taken off when I broke up with the woman I was seeing at the time… Fitting that I would be writing about a break up on Valentine’s Day… I was indeed the king of breakups… “Darlene, I hate that sweater, it’s over…” but I’m off topic here.

I followed the louder side of Beck through the the years since the 90s. I liked Midnight Vultures, I thought it was a hysterically funny album. “Debra” was a favorite. “I came at her, with a fresh pack of gum…” Guero (2005) was wonderful as was The Information (2006) and Modern Guilt (2008). Beck book-ended those three great records with what I consider to be his two best records, this side of Odelay. In 2002, after splitting with his then wife, he released the heartbreaking Sea Change. When I heard the first few strums of the acoustic guitar, the pedal steel and the words, “Put your hands on the wheel, let the golden age begin…” on the opening track, “The Golden Age,” I was in. You’d have to dial up Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” to find that kind of heartbreak. Yes, I am still a sucker for heartbreak music. Had I had not been living with the Rock Chick, engaged by that point, I’d have locked myself in my apartment with Sea Change on repeat, a fifth of Woodford Reserve and a pack of Marlboro Lights – and I never even smoked.

After then releasing the aforementioned three LPs from 2005 to 2008, Beck returned to the color palette he used for Sea Change for the sequel, Morning Phase. While acoustic and low key like Sea Change, it didn’t have the inherent heartbreak. The music on Morning Phase reaches out like a warm hug after a long, cold hike. It’s some of the most comforting music I own. No coincidence that the Rock Chick, who didn’t like Sea Change, loves Morning Phase. She played that as much as she’s been playing The Art of Survival since we saw Bush last week, and that’s a lot.

Since Morning Phase, Beck has released a couple of his more upbeat records. While Colors had a few really great moments, I frankly thought it was a bit disjointed. I was disappointed with the album, although the ex who may have taken off with Mutations told me via email I was crazy and it was “a great album.” I take all feedback here at B&V, good and bad. I was greatly anticipating Beck’s last album Hyperspace, but alas I was once again disappointed. While I really liked the lead single, “Saw Lightning,” I didn’t even review the album. I try not to put negative stuff out there, there’s enough negativity in the world. As my sainted mother told me long ago, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”

Since then we haven’t heard much from Beck. He’s likely producing other bands. He’s probably very busy but I’m not hearing much of that. He popped up on a Cage the Elephant song I liked, “Night Running.” Then last year we heard his take on “Old Man.” I wondered if this heralded his return to his acoustic sound that I love so much. Enter, “Thinking About You.” I love this song – but then I’m on record as a lover of sad songs. The first part sets the scene:

“I pull the curtains
And lay in bed
I’ve got 15 movies of you
Playing in my head
Chasing the moonlight
Watching the ocean turn blue
Just thinking about you
Thinking about you…”

God, I’ve been there. Back in the 90s, my famous relationship flame out decade, was spent like this. The track is all Beck’s haunting voice, plucked acoustic guitar, strings and a wonderful harmonica. This song is earnest and without a single saccharine moment to complain about. This is aching heartache that you can feel with your hands. I’ve always loved music with strong lyrics that set a mood and a scene and Beck has killed it on this track. The finality in the line, “…and she’s gone, she’s gone” is all eclipsing. While she’s far less sentimental than I, when I played this song for the Rock Chick, she blinked a few times and said, “That’s devastatingly beautiful.” Here is the link to the track:

I hope this means Beck is finally putting out another album. I know he’s got some great music left in him despite my disappointment with his last two louder records. Regardless of whether there’s an album in the near future or not, this song will always rank amongst Beck’s finest tracks here at B&V.

Happy Valentine’s Day for all of you out there. I hope, if you so desire, you’ve got someone to hang out with. If not, remember like Miley Cyrus says, “I can buy myself flowers…” And if you’re like me in the 90s and you hate Valentines Day, you can always check out our Anti-Valentine’s Day playlist… It’s a tad more aggressive… If you’re lonely call a friend, reach out. Don’t let love bring you down, even if you are “thinking about” someone who’s not thinking about you. You’re likely better off… and good things are right around the corner. My love life was like George Washington’s military career. I lost every battle except the last one. If I can meet the Rock Chick, you’ll be fine. Take care of each other out there.


New Song Alert: Depeche Mode, “Ghosts Again” From The Upcoming LP ‘Memento Mori’ – Understated Requim For Fletch?


While I was recovering from seeing Bush this Tuesday, I found that Depeche Mode have finally returned after six years with a new song “Ghosts Again” that heralds the coming of a new album Memento Mori. Depeche Mode is a band I was always kind of “only aware of” before I met the Rock Chick. I’d hear “Personal Jesus” or “A Question of Lust” on the radio and always liked those tracks. I don’t know why I didn’t delve deeper? Then I met the Rock Chick and she was a huge Depeche fan. She really deserves credit for turning me onto them. I went from being the most casual fan to becoming a huge fan which culminated in me seeing them twice on the Spirit tour in 2017 both in Denver and Tulsa. They were amazing in concert.

I thought Spirit was an absolute late-career masterpiece. It was a dark reflection of very dark times in the world. Much has changed for Depeche Mode since that album. Founding member and perhaps the nicest guy in the band Andy Fletcher, simply “Fletch” to millions, passed away last year. Singer Dave Gahan and guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Martin Gore decided to soldier on without Fletch. I read that they had started recording Memento Mori prior to Fletch’s passing and I hoped that there would be some of Fletch’s keyboard on the record – like the Stones are saying there will be drumming from Charlie Watts when/if they release their new album – but alas, Fletch didn’t play on this album.

It’s hard to hear this song and read the album title without thinking that mortality and Fletch’s loss isn’t weighing heavily on Depeche Mode’s mind. Memento Mori is Latin and it roughly translates to “remember that you have to die.” And people think I get heavy in my writing sometimes. Even the artwork for the album cover seems to recall a funeral. It’s a picture of two flower arrangements in the shape of angel’s wings. Gahan sings in “Ghosts Again.” “A place to hide the tears that you’ve cried, everybody says goodbye.” I have to admit, I lost a dear friend of mine a month ago and his memorial was last Saturday so this song hits me a little different than most people. The new video for the song is a take on Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal that tells the story of a knight during the Black Plague who plays a game of chess against Death… talk about heavy stuff.

I really like this song. It’s on the mellow end of the spectrum. The keyboards are absolutely lovely. A ballad where they say goodbye to Fletch, whose not going to like that? Gahan, as usual, is in wonderful voice. I like how Martin Gore plays guitar – it’s always reminded me of the Edge from U2 – its more about mood and tone instead of shredding. “Hello’s, goodbyes, a thousand midnight’s lost in sleepless lullabies.” Such beautiful lyrics. The keyboards build throughout the song. You can hear the pain in Gahan’s voice. Here is the video:

I don’t usually comment on videos, but I just have to say, I love the walking sticks with the shiny skull heads.

I’m always curious about how bands pick their first singles. While I like “Ghosts Again” it is a curious choice for a first single. It’s very mid-tempo at best. I always like to look back three or four albums at a bands’ first singles and compare. If we look back to 2005’s Playing the Angel the first single was “Precious.” I absolutely loved that song. It ranks amongst Depeche Mode’s finest work in my opinion. The stabbing keyboards bore into my brain.

2009’s Sounds Of The Universe the first single was “Wrong.” I love how they sing the title at the first of the song. It reminds me of my parents when I was a kid. After repeating the word “wrong” several times the song kicks in for real. Over an almost funky cacophony of sound Gahan passionately delivers the vocals. It again, is one of their greatest songs.

From 2013’s Delta Machine Depeche also chose a ballad, the aching “Heaven.” Again, this song is one of their best. It’s a tearjerker of a tune. With this tune, Depche proved you can release a ballad and get away with it. Martin Gore’s harmony vocal makes the song.

Finally, from late career masterpiece Spirit, Depeche Mode went big with the anthem, “Where’s the Revolution?” This song grabbed me immediately. It was the perfect song for 2017. It set the tone for what was a spectacular album.

Will we look back on “Ghosts Again” as one of their finest songs – as we do these four fabulous previous first singles? Only time will tell. Or as Sammy Hagar once stupidly sang, “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.” Think about that lyric for a while. All I can tell you is that Depeche have been on an absolute roll in this millennium. I was only turned onto this band around 2000 and every album they’ve put out since then has delivered. I think there will be a diversity of sound on Memento Mori but I doubt there will be a shortage of dark tunes like “Ghost Again.”

I’m so happy Depeche has decided to keep going. My heart goes out to them over their fallen comrade Fletch. I look forward to the album and can’t wait to see Depeche Mode, who at this point feel like old friends, again on a stage near me.