Review: Billy Idol With Steve Stevens – The New EP ‘The Cage’ – Superb, Prime-Idol Rock n Roll, Yes!

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It’s been about a week and half since Billy Idol and his wonderful partner in crime, guitarist Steve Stevens, released their latest EP The Cage and man, it’s simply superb. It rocks so hard it makes me feel like it’s 1983 and I’m going to take the t-tops out of the Camaro and drive up and down Main Street with my car stereo turned up to 11… maybe grow my mullet back. I must confess, prime Billy Idol always puts a little steam in my stride.

I feel bad I’m only now getting around to writing about this new Billy Idol EP. With new LPs by Ozzy Osbourne (Patient Number 9) and Starcrawler (She Said) combined with going to see the Cult in concert here in KC last week (a very special evening) my rock n roll cup “runneth over” so to speak. Late summer and fall have always been my favorite times of year and this year is no exception. Great music to go with the great weather. Soon I’ll be sitting on the patio in the “wee small hours” with headphones and (yes!) a sweater on while nursing a tumbler of sour mash and ruminating on… everything.

Billy Idol burst onto the scene as a solo artist after leaving his first group, the English punk band Generation X in the early 80s. He somehow connected with guitarist Steve Stevens and things took off from there. His first album came out in the summer of 1982 and I’ll have to admit, I don’t remember hearing any Idol in KC on the radio at the time. Of course I was immersed in Van Halen, Journey and the Robert Plant at the time… I do remember after going to college in the fall of that year (gads, has it been that long?), seeing – not hearing – Billy Idol on MTV. You read all the time about how MTV helped certain artists’ careers and it’s true for many. For Billy Idol, to a bunch of beer drinkin’, Midwestern kids just out of high school I have to say Idol was kind of hurt by his videos in our circle. What can I say, we were small minded. Were we just afraid of punk rock? Punk had already affected all of our favorite bands, so why the fear? Idol’s blonde, severe crew cut and leather clothes put us off for some reason. He was always snarling and punching the air. We were used to rock stars that looked like hobos – long hippy hair, a couple of guys with beards (usually at least the bass player or the drummer), all dressed in blue jeans and tie-dye. Actually by the mid-80s it was more likely our rock stars were wearing spandex and yet we were still put off by Idol?

I remember working in the kitchen where I lived that fall of ’82 and hearing “Hot In The City” on the local (mostly pop) radio station and really digging it. Of course I had no idea it was Billy Idol. I remember thinking, while hearing the song and melting in the heat of the dishwasher (I could never get away from crappy kitchen jobs) and thinking, “This guy is a real crooner…he sounds a little like Jim Morrison.” Then I’d go to the common room and MTV would be on – because it was always on except football Saturdays/Sundays – and see “Dancing With Myself” and think, “This punk rock guy is crazy, he’s killing zombies.” I was listening with my eyes and not my ears. I don’t know if I’m the only one who let video imagery turn me off a band? I was the same way with Guns N Roses, I’m embarrassed to admit. If you’d blind folded me and tied to me a chair – and I had a girlfriend at the time who tried once – and made me listen to the music I think I’d have jumped right in on Billy Idol. I remember hearing “Eyes Without A Face” on my car stereo and then going to work and singing “Steal a car go to Las Vegas, oh the gigolo pool…” on the loading dock until my foreman Howard said, “Shut up and load the barrels on the truck.” It was then that I started to think Idol might actually be, well, “ok.” But of course by early 1984 everybody’s hair had kind of taken a step toward the more chaotic so maybe I was more emotionally prepared to accept a guy with a blonde crew cut by then. Finally, somewhere in there, a guy named Walt (name changed to protect the guilty) moved in with us and he had Rebel Yell on cassette. Man, we wore that thing out. “Blue Highway” is still my favorite track from that album and should have been a hit.

I have to admit, after Charmed Life in 1990, I sort of lost touch with Idol. He put out a couple album over the first 15 years of the new millennium and while I was hoping for the best I couldn’t connect with them. Then, last year in late summer he released an EP entitled The Roadside. I think he and Steve Stevens may have found the perfect vehicle to release new music. EPs only have four songs they have to focus on. The lead track from that one was “Bitter Taste” and it’s not only one of Idol’s best songs EVER, it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, period. Oddly, despite absolutely loving “Bitter Taste,” and shouting that fact from the rooftops, I didn’t review The Roadside. I’ve gone back and listened to it. “Rita Hayworth” and “You Don’t Have to Kiss Me Like That” are strong tunes. I remember being oddly disappointed when I heard the rest of the EP. I think “Bitter Taste” was so huge it eclipsed the rest of the songs to me. And admittedly, I didn’t like the ballad “Baby, Put Your Clothes Back On,” because… who says that?!? to anyone? But in retrospect The Roadside was a fine comeback for Idol.

The Cage is definitely a harder rocking affair than the previous EP. The lead off track, which is nominally the title track, “Cage” is just a huge hard rocking track that I can hear people in the arena singing along to. I can’t say enough about how great Steve Stevens’ guitar is. I have reviewed this song already, so I don’t want to beat the dead horse, but it’s a great rock n roll anthem. And I will say “Cage” was in high rotation here to end my summer.

The next track is “Running From The Ghost” and it’s a stunner. It covers a lot of the same themes that “Bitter Taste” did. A man looking back at his checkered past not with regret but perhaps more resolve. It’s a “yeah it was tough but it was what it was” kind of track. It starts with just Billy’s voice and a piano. I thought it might be a ballad. But then then some light percussion and strings come in. You can feel the track building. And then Steve Stevens’ guitar pops in and melts your face off. Guitar notes hitting you fast and furious. It’s a great, great song in the car. Billy sings over rumbling drums while Stevens weaves his guitar in and out through out the song. “I’m running from the ghost, the ghost inside of me, heavy on my mind.” Talking about ruminating over a tumbler of sour mash… Great guitar solo from Stevens on this track too. It ends the way it started, with just Idol’s voice (which may be treated) and that haunting piano. Splendid stuff.

The third track, “Rebel Like You” of course harkens back to Idol’s big song “Rebel Yell.” It starts with the sound of a motorcycle. It’s about the singer meeting his soulmate in the front row of a show. It’s an upbeat, bouncing rocker with an infectious chorus, “Yeah it’s alright, now you’re here.” I wish I could have written this track for the Rock Chick. I totally get the vibe. Like “Cage” I could see this track bringing the crowd to it’s feet with arms thrown in the air. I can’t get over how great Billy and Stevens sound on these rocking tracks. He obviously had some pent up energy to expend after the lockdown.

The last track is “Miss Nobody.” I’ll admit it’s a complete left turn. It’s still upbeat. Idol actually speaks the lyrics vs sings them. There are background singers… it’s kind of, well, Vegas-y. But I still really like it. I think the Rock Chick is a little more reserved about the track but while I blasted the new EP in her car on Saturday for her she could see I was into it and didn’t say much. Idol sets the scene in the first lyric, “I was walkin’ ’round MacArthur Park, It was late night and the streetlights sprayed the dark.” Idol just sounds like he’s having a great, naughty time and who isn’t down for that? The track is like nothing I’ve heard Idol do, and yes, when the back-up singers sing the chorus they overwhelm Idol’s voice a little and I understand if I alone dig this tune but I’m into it!

This is great new music from Billy Idol and I think none of us would have guessed he’d still be this vital in 2022… I’m sure many of us would have guessed he wouldn’t be here in 2022 but let’s not get negative. Everybody needs The Cage on high volume. When I reviewed the song “Cage” I said that Idol had arrived to “save summer.” He may just be saving my early fall as well! Turn this up to 11… get out the Camaro (but don’t drink and drive) and have a ball!

Cheers!

LP Review: Starcrawler, ‘She Said’ – They Expand Their Sound Palette On Their Strong Third Album

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I feel like I’m a little late to the game in sharing my thoughts on Starcrawler’s great new LP She Said. I think it’s been out a couple of weeks now and I’m just getting around to talking about it. It’s been a crazy two weeks. I had company here at the house so that always blows a hole in the music listening schedule. It’s frowned upon when I hide in the B&V labs listening to obscure B-sides on headphones when the house is full of company. And then, while I was drinking on the balcony with family, we had a flood of great releases: Ozzy’s new album Patient Number 9, CCR had their great vault release At The Royal Albert Hall, and then Beck surprised me Sunday night by releasing a Neil Young cover “Old Man,” on a commercial no less (terrible motive, great song). I had to comment on that one… And of course this week on Tuesday I went to see the Cult who roared into town and blew the roof off the Uptown Theater. How can a poor boy keep up with and listen to all of this rock n roll!! I think fall is going to be great for music!

A lot has happened in the world of Starcrawler since their last LP, 2019’s Devour You. Well, if I’m being honest a lot happened in the world since 2019. After the Rock Chick turned me onto Starcrawler, I actually got a chance to see them live right after Devour You came out. It was a great show and I really like Devour You. But then the pandemic and lockdown hit and like every other band out there Starcrawler was grounded. And like most bands they turned to writing the next album. I read a story about Arrow de Wilde (lead singer) being in her apartment and Henri Cash (lead guitarist) coming over and sitting outside her window, playing her the beginnings of “She Said,” the title track. She sang lyrics at him from the balcony “like Romeo and Juliet.” There were additional changes for Starcrawler since that last LP. Founding member Austin Smith (drums) left the band. He was replaced by Seth Carolina. I always worry a change in the line up can hurt band chemistry. Then Henri Cash’s brother Bill Cash joined the band to augment their sound. Bill not only plays rhythm guitar, he also plays pedal steel which I find fantastic. Tim Franco remains the band’s bass player. Starcrawler carries on now as a five-piece band.

Beyond all of that Starcrawler signed to a major label, Big Machine Records, after being on a small independent label for their first two LPs. I had forgotten their raunchy, punk rock debut was produced by creepy Ryan Adams but I’m off topic here. I couldn’t help but think about Social Distortion, another Cali punk band who made a huge leap forward between their second LP and their major label debut third LP. I mention all of this just to again frame the fact that a lot has happened to this band in the last three years. Not to mention they always seem to be on tour since the lockdown lifted. They’ll go from KC to Minny to NY to the UK to South Korea. They’re certainly putting in the roadwork. I actually just saw Starcrawler again a month and a half ago, before the new LP came out, and they were as usual, sensational. While they remain untamed rock n roll electricity on stage, they’ve toned down the blood spitting antics but they still bring it live. They’re thrilling to watch. Seth Carolina was great on drums and I love the addition of Bill Cash…chemistry intact. I wish I’d seen them right after the LP came out – I totally mis-identified an acoustic track they did and called it “Runaway” and it turns out it was “Better Place.” I didn’t have a setlist to go from. They played two acoustic songs and I do believe one of them was a stripped down version of “Broken Angels.” It was guess work and weak detective skills using the internet that caused the mistake. My apologies for the error.

I really like She Said. While the band has come a long way from the debut, especially in terms of songwriting (there are no songs like say, “Pussy Tower” about “head” on this album), I can still hear their influences: punk rock (maybe a bit of the Runaways), classic rock (Stones/Faces), and a dash of Glam Rock (Bowie’s more butch-y moments). The LP was produced by Tyler Bates who is more well known for doing movie scores. Perhaps he gives the LP it’s more cinematic scope. While I do think this is a step forward for Starcrawler, I see it as more of a consolidation of the large leap they made between the debut and Devour You. Some bands do defy the “sophomore slump.” Although as I think of this as a consolidation of gains made on the second album versus a large leap forward, I can’t help but think of all the new textures present on this album like acoustic guitar and pedal steel. They’ve got a new Gram Parsons/Stones ala “Dead Flowers” vibe that they only dabbled in on “No More Pennies” from the last LP. And I can’t say enough about how much more advanced Henri Cash’s guitar playing has become. The guy gets better each time out and that really helps propel the music forward. Lyrically many of the songs seem to point to a theme of longing – for a lover, for connection – which was perhaps influenced by lock down. I will say the production on this album is a leap forward for the band.

For fans of Starcrawler’s more punky, harder rocking stuff, you need not worry. While they’ve got a much more varied sound on She Said, they blast out of the gate with the lead off track, first single “Roadkill.” It’s a classic meet-me-at-the-finish line rocker. I really like Henri’s riff on this song. It’s fast and hard. There are plenty of songs that just rock out on this album. “Thursday” is another riff rocker. I like Seth Carolina’s drums on that one. Henri Cash’s guitar is kind of Stonesy on this one too with a brief, snarling solo. “You always leave me with nothing…” “True” is another of their hard driving rock songs. It’s got a frenetic energy that reminds me of the first album. “Runaway” is just a great hard rock tune. It may be my favorite of their driving, punk-influenced tracks.

The title track, second up on the LP, is where we start to hear some varied sounds from Starcrawler. I think “She Said” will go down as one of their more iconic songs. It’s more of a chugging rocker than their usual full-tilt attack. There’s so much longing in this song…”Please, please, come back to me…” It would have been a perfect pandemic track and is the first track they wrote for the album during that dark time. Henri’s guitar tone really opens up on this track and gives me that Stonesy vibe. “Stranded,” the following track continues that longing theme. I love the lyric, “I met a racetrack girl at a bus stop.” The chorus is infectious, “Stranded on the side of a one-way street, The stars in her eyes won’t shine on me.” Arrow hauntingly repeats the words “shine on me.” Wonderful track. Henri’s solo here may be my favorite.

Beyond those great tracks we really see Starcrawler expand their sound. “Broken Angels” is a ballad/midtempo track that I just love. There’s a haunting guitar figure and a hint of keyboards. If I’m not mistaken Bill Cash makes his pedal steel debut here. “Broken angel burn your wings, I’ll make you stay.” The wobbly solo makes me think of the Faces’ version of Chuck Berry‘s “Memphis.” “Midnight” is an acoustic based tune that is like nothing I’d heard them do before. Despite being slightly mellower, I heard this in the car and noticed I was driving very fast. “Better Place,” the final track borders on country-rock and is a lovely ending. Henri and Arrow duet on that song like Gram and Emmylou. That track is just a knock out, worth the price of admission.

Finally there’s a track I really like called “Jetblack.” It’s a real change of pace and kicks off the second half of the album. The song is almost dance-able. I’m not saying it’s their “Miss You” or anything It’s just got a funky drum going on. It’s very Glam rocky. I find my shoulders moving in my chair as I listen… I never dance so that’s as close as I’ going to come. It’s just a slinky, groove that I connected with immediately.

I urge everyone to jump on the Starcrawler bandwagon. These guys are putting out great rock n roll, playing real instruments and rocking out with a vengeance. They get better with every album and She Said is no exception. I recommend putting this one on and turning it up to 11.

Cheers!

Review: The Cult, Live In Concert At The Venerable Uptown Theater, Kansas City, MO September 27, 2022 – Sensational Show!

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*Photo above of Ian Astbury (vocals) and Billy Duffy (guitar) of the Cult taken by your intrepid blogger

I wish I could capture the elation I feel after a great, great rock n roll concert. I felt like I was walking on clouds as I left Kansas City’s venerable Uptown Theater after last night’s show by the Cult – Ian Astbury (vocals extraordinaire), Billy Duffy (guitar), John Tempesta (drums), Charlie Jones (bass) and Damon Fox (keyboards). I felt even more pumped up than I did after recently seeing Starcrawler live in August and that says something.

I do have to admit, I couldn’t help but turn to the Rock Chick last night and say, “What a difference 4 or 5 months make…” We had seen the Cult previously on this tour, in Denver in May, and it was not like last night. The band was awfully sluggish that night although Ian Astbury worked his ass off to get the crowd into it. That wasn’t the case last night. When this band is on and they all lock into a groove – as they did last night immediately – it’s like watching the Bill Russell led Celtics in the late 50s… (not that I’m old enough to have seen that, I just like the metaphor). Championship play indeed! I was thinking it’d had been a while since I’d seen a band twice on a tour. I used to try and catch the Stones twice or more on their big U.S. tours. I would always try and see Van Halen in both KC and Wichita. I saw Springsteen twice on the Born In The U.S.A. tour. But that was all long, long ago in a galaxy far away. But then I realized I did see Depeche Mode on the Spirit tour in 2017 in both Denver and Tulsa. I am so glad we decided to see the Cult again, it was so much better last night.

I don’t know what it is about the Uptown Theater that seems to bring out the magic for the Cult. It’s where I saw them the first time on the Beyond Good And Evil tour in 2001 and it was one Hell of a show as was last night’s concert. Last night may have been so much better than the show in Denver because admittedly I had much better seats – the 5th row – and that always makes you feel more a part of the experience when you’re that close. The Uptown is a slightly smaller venue than the cavernous Mission Ball Room so that gave it a more intimate feel and maybe the band picked up on that. The stage was smaller so maybe that made them play so tightly. Or perhaps it’s just as Billy Duffy said when he got on the mic after the show, when the band was taking bows, “We’ve got a lot of history in this room.” Billy, I’m just glad to have shared some of that with you!

Make no mistake, this was a great show last night. The Cult, as my friend Stormin’ used to say, “brought down the sky” last night. I don’t know if that was the best Cult show I’d ever seen – it’d be hard to pick just one – but it certainly ranks up there. I really liked the Love tour where they played that entire LP. And yes, I also dug the Electric tour. My first time seeing them, which is always special, at that very same Uptown Theater also ranks up there… While I criticized Billy Duffy’s guitar playing at the Denver show as sluggish, I have to say last night he was on fire. He didn’t miss a note. His solo’s were incendiary.

The Cult climbed on the smokey, incense laden stage a little after 9pm last night. Astbury had a long, baggy black jacket on with a black bandana tied around his head. The bandana was so low it was hard to see his eyes. As the Rock Chick said last night, “It felt like he was always looking directly at me…” The first track of the night was one of my all time favorites from the aforementioned Beyond Good And Evil, “Rise.” While the setlist was very similar to the setlist in Denver, everything just sounded “on” last night. The crowd immediately had their arms in the air. I will say, that was one of only 2 tracks they played that weren’t on their best known trio of 80s LPs Love (1985), Electric (1987), and Sonic Temple (1989). I was late to getting on the Cult bandwagon – it was the Rock Chick who turned me onto them – so if I had any complaint I’d have liked to hear something from this millennium – “Dirty Little Rock Star,” or maybe “For The Animals.” They’ve put out some great LPs over the last 20 years. It’s a shame they skipped over that. Or I’d have been happy for maybe even “Dreamtime” from their debut.

After “Rise” they went into a great 4 song run from Sonic Temple. “Sun King” has always been a favorite and last night’s rendition was sublime. I was thrilled to hear a deep cut in “Automatic Blues,” a real crunchy rocker. Again, Duffy’s playing was on fire. It became apparent to me right off the bat that the rhythm section of Charlie Jones and John Tempesta may be the best the Cult has ever had. I could feel the drums and bass through the sound waves rippling through the legs of my jeans. For “Sweet Soul Sister” they let Damon Fox lead it off with his keyboards and then in the middle of the song he had a keyboard solo that reminded me vaguely of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Ian went on a rap and I could swear he was quoting the Doors’ “Horse Latitudes.” I’m not convinced that having a keyboard player adds much to the Cult – I liked it when they had a second guitarist on stage, but then I like guitar. But admittedly “Sweet Soul Sister” was a cool moment in the show.

After a soaring rendition of “Edie (Ciao Baby)” the band launched into a series of tracks from Electric. “Li’l Devil” is always rocking good fun. They followed that with “Wildflower,” and then another deeper cut in “Aphrodisiac Jacket” (a personal favorite), and finally “Peace Dog.” “Peace Dog” was a real highlight as it turned into a sing along toward the end with everyone flashing a peace sign high above their heads, yours truly included. After the Electric tracks they played one of the new songs from the upcoming Under The Midnight Sun album, “A Cut Inside.” I had only heard it once but will admit I was surprised they didn’t play “Give Me Mercy” which has been out a little longer. Hearing “A Cut Inside” makes me that much more anxious to hear the whole new LP! I will say I feel like “A Cut Inside” is an “ok” track but it didn’t hit me like “Give Me Mercy.”

After an incendiary version of “Fire Woman,” Ian stood up on the riser at the front of the stage, held out his long braided hair and said, “Why the short hair bro’s?” I laughed out loud. Hey, I’d grow my hair long too if it looked like Ian Astbury’s. They then launched into “Revolution” a great deeper track from Love. They ended the main set with two more tracks from that LP, which were both absolute highlights from the night, with “Rain,” and then “She Sells Sanctuary” (my all time favorite Cult track).

The encore was only one song but they made it count with an AC/DC-esque version of “Love Removal Machine.” They stayed on stage to sing Happy Birthday to John Tempesta… they even had a cake for him. Then they announced the band. They seemed genuinely touched by the crowd’s reaction, especially Billy. Billy asked if any of us had been there for their first show at the Uptown… and went on to say it was a GA show, and only 4 people were there… It just felt like a really special show for these guys.

If you’re out there somewhere and the Cult is coming to your town, as I always say, “Buy the ticket, see the show.” It’s worth it, trust me.

Cheers!

New Song: Beck Covers Neil Young’s Classic “Old Man”… For A Commercial? And It’s Good!

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Sometimes good things can come out of bad ideas. Or maybe we should describe it as good things sometimes come from bad motives.

My lovely daughter and her boyfriend were in town this weekend. They came in for the local Art Fair which was nice but let’s be honest, it was more of a rolling bash. Yesterday we had a little gathering – I wouldn’t call it a party – that was half house warming and half NFL football game watch party. My parents were here. My aunt and uncle made a surprise cameo. It was a nice afternoon if you don’t count how my team lost. The weather was perfect, quite a few people showed up. I described it as a successful gathering to my father who quickly pointed out, again, our team lost. I had no response other than, “Well other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

As the Sunday Night Football game came on last evening and the crowd had thinned out here at the house, suddenly I heard a countdown and then the beautiful acoustic melody of one of Neil Young’s greatest tunes, (and the Rock Chick’s favorite Neil Young song and that’s a short list) “Old Man.” I couldn’t help but think, in stunned surprise, “Wait, is this a commercial?” I was surprised that Neil Young, a staunch anti-corporate guy would use his song in a commercial. I mean it was Young who sang “This Note’s For You,” a song that railed against selling your songs to Pepsi or Budweiser. The lyrics of that song were pretty on the nose, “Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi, ain’t singin’ for Coke, I don’t sing for nobody, makes me look like a joke.” I believe we’re all clear on where Neil stands on the issue. It turns out it wasn’t Neil Young, but as I quickly realized from the video, it was Beck. The song was being used to pimp next week’s SNF (Sunday Night Football) game that will pit Patrick Mahomes, a young star QB against Tom Brady the titular “old man.” What in the Hell were they thinking? Rock n Roll and football… “cats living with dogs, mass hysteria,” worlds colliding.

I am on record as being a big Beck fan. I wasn’t crazy about his last couple of LPs 2017’s Colors or 2019’s Hyperspace but he’s always good for a great song or two even on his weaker albums. I may not have liked Colors but I certainly liked the single, “Wow.” “Giddy up, giddy up,” indeed. And I thought “Saw Lightning” was a great track from Hyperspace. Beck always seems to be able to slip a little blues riff in on the occasional track and that always pulls me in. I’d like to tell you I was an early adopter on Beck. I liked “Loser,” his big breakthrough single, and still do, but couldn’t connect with the LP it came from, Mellow Gold. I remember hearing Odelay and thinking it was brilliant but I didn’t buy it until the Rock Chick re-introduced me to that record years after it was released. Frankly, I’ve always liked Beck’s more acoustic stuff than his more “dance-oriented,” electric tracks. In fact the first LP of Beck’s I purchased was the acoustic driven Mutations, although an ex absconded with it. I lost a lot of music in the 90s. There was a theory, briefly, that I only got married to keep a hold of my CDs.

When I think about Beck’s more acoustic side, I can’t help but immediately think of Sea Change, his brilliant breakup record. I can’t  believe it’s been 20 years this month since that album came out. Everybody should check out Sea Change. I probably should have included it on my list of grim and sad LPs everyone should hear. After Sea Change Beck was on a hot streak. He released three great LPs in a row: 2005’s Guero, 2006’s The Information, and finally 2008’s Modern Guilt. Those three albums, along with Odelay, for me anyway, cement Beck’s status as an important artist. In 2014 he finally returned to his acoustic side with his masterpiece, Morning Phase. I consider it a sister LP to Sea Change. With those 3 LPs sandwiched between them you might consider them “bookend” albums. Since then though, his output has slowed down and I haven’t been able to connect with more than the stray track or two.

Being the music obsessive that I am, I had to go out and buy this cover song… heaven knows how we do love our cover songs and albums around here… This may have come out of a bad idea – a commercial for a football game which is as bad an idea as me opening a bottle of wine last night after an afternoon of beer drinking (terrible idea) – but I have to admit Beck crushes this song. It’s a pretty faithful cover. Just Beck’s voice and an acoustic guitar. He does bring in somebody in on back up vocals for the high harmonies on the chorus, “Old man, take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you, I need someone to love me the whole day through, Ah, one look in my eyes and you can tell that’s true…” There are really two ways to approach a cover song. One is to turn it on it’s head and make it something completely different. The artist “makes the song his own” so to speak. The other approach is basically what Beck does here – record the song and remain faithful to the original. There’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s a beautiful song and it’s beautifully sung here. There are some people who don’t particularly care for Neil Young’s voice in general… and I may be married to one of those people. If you’re one of those folks you might like Beck’s vocal better. Beck manages to capture the angst of Neil’s original. To the Neil Young purists out there this all may seem like blasphemy. You don’t touch an iconic song. I remember a friend of mine who was literally disgusted that Metallica covered Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page.” I’ve never really understood his anger. It was like it was a personal affront to him. He stood around red faced with a furrowed brow and rage spittle hanging at the corner’s of his mouth. I was like, dude, it’s a song?

I remember Beck turning Hank Williams’ track “Your Cheating Heart” on it’s head and I would have welcomed a more experimental treatment of this song. At the end of the day, long after everybody has forgotten this commercial and the football game it’s advertising, we’ll still have this kind of cool cover song. Being a Chiefs fan, I’m certain I’ll be trying to forget this football game even before it’s over but then, the Chiefs have been breaking my heart my whole life (until recently, anyway). It may have been spawned by the most awful corporate motives but something good, a cool cover song, came out of it. You don’t hear a lot of simple acoustic music these days. I urge everbody to check it out:

Here’s to hoping your football team or whomever you’re rooting for in whatever sport you’re into wins their next game! Well, unless you’re a Tampa Bay Bucs fan… Cheers!

Playlist: Happy Labor Day Weekend – Songs For All The “Working Stiffs” & The Saga Of My Summer Jobs

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*Image above taken from the Internet and likely copyright

I can’t believe it’s already Labor Day Weekend. I guess Steve Miller was right, “time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” This coming Monday is Labor Day, a day to celebrate Labor and working people and is generally a day of vacation for people. Labor Day was established as a Federal holiday in the U.S. as the first Monday in September in 1894. Prior to that 30 states had an official state holiday honoring Labor. Oregon was the first state to declare a state holiday for Labor Day so good on them. Most other nations celebrate Labor on May Day, or May 1st. It’s comforting to know that we pause as a nation and celebrate working people. For a long time I thought Labor Day was just a holiday that signaled the end of summer. I mean, how else would local municipalities know it was time to close the city pool? Memorial Day is the start of summer in the U.S. and Labor Day wraps it up.

I’m a white collar guy now but I still consider myself a working class dog, as Rick Springfield once sang. As awful as my current job can be at times it beats being a coal miner but then I’m claustrophobic. I have the utmost respect for Labor – it’s working people who built this country. Organized Labor helped build the middle class in America between 1932 and 1980. Even though I’m now merely a traveling salesman (see playlist) I still think back to my younger, high school/college days when I had to work every summer to pay for school. I had a number of difficult, dirty jobs.

My first job ever lasted exactly two weeks. There had never been a discussion at the house with my father, nicknamed The Hard Guy, telling me I had to get a job. My buddies were starting to get jobs and they always had walking around money for illicit beer purchases and vinyl records. Ever ambitious I felt I had to follow suit and applied for and got a job at my local Dairy Queen. While the surprised Hard Guy muttered approvingly when I got the job, the owner/manager was a sociopath with eyes that looked in two directions at once. He was not a nice man. Were it today, I would have suspected meth amphetamine abuse. The heat and grease that hung over the grille while I attempted to cook burgers and fries did wonders for my acne. I looked like a burn victim. Finally after the boss descended into a screaming fit because I didn’t clean up something properly I decided the culinary arts were perhaps not my chosen path.

Despite that, my next endeavor was as a busboy at a steak joint in the mall. I wore a white shirt, a bow tie and a leather tunic. I was the fastest busboy they had. I could clean a table in the blink of an eye. Although I must admit I started having nightmares that I was trundling my cart out into the dining room and all the tables were covered in dirty dishes… I’d wake up sweating from trying to dream bus tables… dreams are crazy. Perhaps that was a sign I wasn’t going to handle stress well. The steak joint had the advantage of actually having female employees. I met a bunch of girls who went to different high schools than I did which was an advantage, believe me. The steak joint was managed by a bunch of reprobates which may explain why they’d only seem to hire pretty girls… The cops came into the restaurant during a lunch rush one Saturday and arrested one of the assistant managers… he’d found an abandoned car along the highway and allegedly stole the license plate. We never saw him again. We would typically spend our breaks at the restaurant on night shifts standing in the walk-in cooler drinking beer and talking trash to the hostesses. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. I worked at that place on and off even through my early college years.

While those indoor jobs were fine and dandy there wasn’t much over the “minimal” wage in those jobs. The real money lie in working outside. My buddy Brewster was always an enterprising young lad and he stumbled upon a yard crew mowing an apartment lawn and asked the guy for a job. The next thing I knew, Brewster got me hired and after school every day I’d jump in his car and we’d go mow lawns until it got dark. The guy paid like $5/hour vs the $3.50 an hour I was getting at the mall. I was in the tall cotton now. Never mind the fact that I ruined a number of pairs of blue jeans turning them green. Mom wasn’t thrilled but the Hard Guy seemed to enjoy those evenings at the house while I was out working a little more. The outfit was known as Lewis’ Quality Lawn Service (name changed to protect the innocent). His hiring practices were somewhat suspect… I’m pretty sure there were more than one convict on the crew. At one house in the rich neighborhood we serviced, an old lady approached Bob (the owner/foreman), Brewster and I and asked “Who took a shit in my window well?” Sure enough…someone did. Brewster always said it was a guy named Sanchez (name changed to protect the truly innocent) but I wouldn’t put it past him to do such at thing. Brewster, if you’re out there, time to confess.

It was in that lawn mowing job I began to realize the class system in the U.S. was alive and well. One house we mowed, the guy had a white Rolls Royce and he’d park it in the circle drive out in front of the house all the time to show it off, I guess? It was a Friday and one of the neighbors was throwing a party, merely houses away just down the street. I mean, even I could walk down there to the party and I’d been mowing lawns all day. The son of the Rolls owner was about my age. And he came out front cradling an iced tea, watched us mow for a second and then yelled in the screen door, “Daaaadddy are we taking the Rolls to the party?” I was like dude, c’mon, don’t be such a douche bag, you can walk. Or at least offer us some damn iced tea. Ends up the family took the Rolls to the party. I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to drive… probably because I was sweaty and dirty. It was tough work but man what a tan I had.

Finally, in college my best bud Doug saved me from hustling to find a job and got me work with his dad’s company. They built and resurfaced tennis courts. It was hot sweaty work on sizzling asphalt but it paid well and again, the tan was spectacular and that’s how I really judged these things. I typically worked with a guy named Howard and a couple of bikers he’d hired… well until one of the bikers was killed, but that’s another story… Dave was a nice guy and I was truly sad about that… Anyway, when I took the gig I thought I’d be working with Doug on a more regular basis. I love the man but frankly when it came to physical labor I realized he was insane. He would describe days where he put in 12 hours or more as “Iron Days.” I would describe 12 hour-plus days as a “Nightmare.” My job was to work hard for 8 to 10 hours and then go spend that money on beer. Or better yet, shower and take my girlfriend to the Motel 6, but those records are sealed.

The worst part of the tennis court gig was working with wet cement and this paint that was called, I believe, Plexipave. You mixed the Plexipave with sand and cement and if you got a dab of it on you it turned hard on your legs enveloping your leg hair. I’d come home with sandy, hard, green lumps on my legs. My mom would make me take off my work clothes in the garage. I’d wrap myself in a towel and head up to sit in a bath tub – and I was strictly a shower guy – so I could soak the Plexipave off my leg hair instead of tearing the hair out by the root. I don’t know how women get waxed… it’s painful. The struggle is real and beauty is hard, ladies.

Despite all of that pain, sunburn, acne and burns from a hot grille, I wouldn’t trade one day of my checkered history as a working stiff. Those were glorious summers either at the mall or in some giant rich guy’s yard, mowing or resurfacing his tennis court. I actually ended up at a party at one of the houses we mowed… I kept thinking, what if she found out I mowed her dad’s lawn. There’s something to be said about hard work and how good it feels at the end of the day to crack a cold beer and realize that you’d accomplished something. There was no worrying about the job at night – save for those crazy busboy nightmares. It was a glorious time.

I felt it was essential to honor all of you out there doing actual hard work with a Labor Day Playlist. It can be found currently on Spotify under “BourbonAndVinyl.net Labor Day” (I’m looking at moving off Spotify, finally, in support of Neil Young). Here are some of my favorite songs about working and working people. I’m not a “9 to 5” or “Take This Job And Shove It” guy, so those songs aren’t here. It works playing straight through or on shuffle, dealer’s choice. It’s not meant to be exhaustive and if you have a song you’d like me to add, please put it in the comment section. As you grille hot dogs and hamburgers and drink some cold beer this weekend celebrating the unofficial end of summer, enjoy cranking up these tunes!

  1. The Beatles, “Hard Days Night” – Always great to kick off with a Beatles track. “I’ve been workin’ like a dog…” I’ve always liked the Beatles but ever since the Get Back documentary, Let It Be box set and the roof top concert came out it seems to have reignited my Beatles fandom.
  2. The Clash, “Career Opportunities” – “Career opportunities, the ones that never knocks.” I can relate to that. I am currently at the zenith of a mediocre career.
  3. Dire Straits, “Money For Nothing” – Where two working guys delivering appliances envy the lifestyle of Rock Stars in videos. So 80s…
  4. Huey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ For a Living” – Rare that I’d turn to Huey and his News but couldn’t resist this track. “I’m takin’ what their giving as I’m workin’ for a living.” Truth.
  5. Styx, “Blue Collar Man” – As I’ve grown older I’ve grown more conflicted about Styx but this Tommy Shaw tune – like most of the stuff he wrote – is a little tougher and more guitar forward.
  6. Lou Reed & John Cale, “Work” – This is the weirdest track here. But I couldn’t resist Lou Reed singing about Andy Warhol lecturing him on his work ethic. Even artists have to put in the sweat.
  7. Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Work” – Everyone should explore Marley’s work beyond just the greatest hits compilation Legend. This is a great track that spirals itself around my mind. “Everyday is work – work – work – work.” Bob knew the struggle was real.
  8. Elvis Costello, “Welcome To The Working Week” – The ultimate Monday morning song.
  9. Bob Dylan, “Union Sundown” – Great blues-rock track where Dylan laments the decline of unions which fought so hard for the American worker, and the sad fact that most of what you buy is made elsewhere. “Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore, My flashlight’s from Taiwan, My tablecloth’s from Malaysia.”
  10. Randy Newman, “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)” – Randy Newman, the greatest satirist of his time, making a plea to the President for the working man.
  11. Pete Townshend, “Keep On Working” – Pete encouraging us all to just keep on working…
  12. The Rolling Stones, “Dirty Work” – Not exactly a fit but who can resist a great Stones’ deep track. “You let somebody do the dirty work, find some loser, find some jerk.” Somehow I can relate to this in my working life…
  13. The Who, “Dirty Jobs” – Great track about bad jobs from Quadrophenia, my favorite of their many “concept albums.
  14. Genesis, “Just A Job I Do” – A song about being either an assassin or a spy or perhaps both. Collins hits the drums hard to simulate a gun shot. Impressive. It sums up how I feel about work, it’s not a career it’s just a job I do.
  15. Lou Reed, “Don’t Talk To Me About Work” – Sometimes when you get home you just don’t want to talk about your job. Time to crack a beer and forget about it. “I’m up to my eye balls in dirt, with work.”
  16. Chris Rea, “I’m Workin’ On It” – This is one of my favorite tracks here. I know I could say this to my boss, “I got eight little fingers and only two thumbs, Will you leave me in peace while I get the work done.”
  17. Van Halen, “Get Up” – One of those early “trying-too-hard” rock tracks from the early Van Hagar era. “Get up and make it work.”
  18. Rush, “Working Man” – This is the ultimate song for the working man. Epic rock from one of the greatest bands of all time. Check out the live version on the Moving Pictures – 40th Anniversary Edition.
  19. Bachman Turner Overdrive, “Takin’ Care of Business” – Who could resist a little Bachman Turner Overdrive, “B – T – O!”? “I love to work on nothin’ all day.”
  20. Bruce Springsteen, “Working On The Highway” – Great track about building infrastructure until a young girl enters the picture. Very similar story to “Darlington County.”
  21. Prince, “Let’s Work” – This work doesn’t sound like what I’m talking about here but it’s Prince… get funky, baby.
  22. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Workin’ For MCA” – I would think having a record contract and “working” for a record company would be good news for a band but clearly Skynyrd didn’t dig it.
  23. The Police, “Dead End Job” – Rare early track about well, not wanting a dead end job. Sting was a teacher, maybe he’s talking about that? Helluva fast pace.
  24. Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm” – Where our narrator laments the working conditions on a family-owned agriculture concern. “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”
  25. David Crosby and Graham Nash, “Fieldworker” – Great track honoring the folks who work on big farms asking for dignity and to be “treated like a human.” Good stuff from Graham Nash here.
  26. Neil Young, “Union Man” – This track won’t be on the playlist because, well, Spotify. “Loud music is better, bumper stickers should be issued.”
  27. Jim Croce, “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” – This one is for my folks. My dad was a huge Jim Croce fan and he may have been the only artist who the Hard Guy owned more than one record from.
  28. Bon Jovi, “Livin’ On A Prayer” – Where a young dock worker and his girlfriend, a waitress, struggle against the vicissitudes of capitalism and turn to religion and prayer.
  29. Van Morrison, “All Work And No Play” – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull chap.” That sums it up. Slip out early and have some fun this Labor Day.
  30. Bob Seger, “Makin’ Thunderbirds” – Great track about the American autoworker and lamentations on how we don’t build Thunderbirds anymore.
  31. Gary U.S. Bonds, “Out of Work” – With unemployment at a record low, one can only hope that most people can find a job. And that it pays a living wage…
  32. Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, “Solidarity” – This lyric means the world to me: “Everybody wants to work for a living, Everybody wants to keep their children warm.” Indeed, everybody wants to work and take care of their family and earn a livable wage.
  33. Warren Zevon, “The Factory” – Warren Zevon, backed by R.E.M. on this album, singing about the hard life that factory workers face.
  34. R.E.M., “Finest Worksong” – Speaking of R.E.M., this is a great song from the first LP from them that I ever bought, Document. It actually is a fine work song.
  35. Bob Dylan, “Workingman’s Blues #2” – Dylan returning to the subject of the workingman. Does Dylan get enough credit for his mastery of the blues?
  36. Paul McCartney, “On My Way To Work” – McCartney reminiscing about his pre-Beatles working days.
  37. Godfathers, “Birth, School, Work, Death” – I was late to the Godfathers’ LP Birth, School, Work, Death but the title track sums up the circle of life for most of us.
  38. Todd Rundgren, “Bang The Drum All Day” – While I have no rhythm I’d rather bang a drum all day than work.
  39. Van Halen, “Beats Workin'” – Whatever you’re doing this Labor Day, it’s gotta beat workin’. What’s that bumper sticker, “The worst day fishing beats the best day workin'”? Truth. While Roth’s vocals could be described (as they were by my friend Dr. Rock) ” as the sound of a pet store full of animals burning down,” Eddie’s guitar work is always singular.
  40. Sam Cooke, “Chain Gang” – Sam singing about the deplorable practice of putting prisoners to work in chains. Watch the movie Cool Hand Luke if you have any doubts that this was a horrible thing.
  41. The Rolling Stones, “Factory Girl” – Dedicate one to the ladies… Rosie the Riveter, may I have this dance?
  42. Bruce Springsteen, “Factory” – Bruce writing about his dad and how hard he worked down at the factory.
  43. Van Morrison, “I’ve Been Working” – A great track that Bob Seger used to cover live. Funky, powerful… “I’ve been workin’, I’ve been workin’ so hard.” Even after a day of hard work, Van just wants to come and get some love.
  44. Chuck Berry, “Let It Rock” – A track where Chuck describes railroad workers and an impending accident. Where was OSHA?
  45. Steely Dan, “Dirty Work” – Again, a bit of reach here, as this is about a relationship instead of an actual job. But, if you think about it, relationships can be a lot of work. One of those early David Palmer on lead vocals Steely songs.
  46. Tom Waits, “I Can’t Wait To Get Off Work (And See My Baby On Montgomery Avenue)” – Beautiful ballad. I remember getting off whatever job I had, running home to shower and heading to see my baby. I love the lyric, “Don’t do this, don’t do that,” and then he speaks the line, “Tom don’t do that.”
  47. Neil Young & The Bluenotes, “Ten Men Working” – I listened to this on vinyl last night. It remains amongst those records maybe only I enjoy. This is a great track though.
  48. Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up” – Beautiful ballad with Peter sharing lead vocals with Kate Bush who has recently seen a resurgence through the series Stranger Things. The song chronicles the doubts and despair of a working man and his wife offering words of encouragement, “Don’t give up, I know you can make it…” The devastating loss of and search for work is palpable. It’s a dialogue between husband and wife that is so intimate it feels like eavesdropping.
  49. Pearl Jam, “Unemployable” – Great Pearl Jam deep track. About a man whose frustrations about his precarious work situation has led to violence and perhaps even a loss of his religious faith. That’s a lot for a 3 minute rock song to take on. “I’m scared of life, near death.” Heavy themes set to heavy rock.
  50. U2, “The Hands That Built America” – The ranks of Labor – many of whom were immigrants – built the skyscrapers the 1% could hide away in while forgetting about us.
  51. Billy Joel, “Allentown” – The classic Rust Belt song.
  52. Loverboy, “Workin’ For the Weekend” – I don’t like Loverboy although admittedly we all listened to them back in the day and this isn’t a bad song. I knew if I omitted this song, it’d be one of the first to be recommended so I bit the bullet and added it. More cowbell!
  53. Bruce Springsteen, “Workin’ On a Dream” – I included this on my Playlists about the Surreal Realm of Dreaming, and hesitated to add it to this one, but this lyric jumped at me, “Rain pourin’ down, I swing my hammer, My hands are rough from working on a dream…” That’s working, man.
  54. ZZ Top, “Just Got Paid” – Why do we work? To get paid. When I heard, “If you believe I like workin’ hard all day, Just step in my shoes and take my pay,” I realized it totally fit. This riff is greasier than a bacon sandwich on Wonder bread. Turn it up and pass the napkins.
  55. John Lennon, “Working Class Hero” – This is one of the most nakedly honest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s tough but he’s not wrong.
  56. Merle Haggard, “Workin’ Man Blues” – I saw Merle Haggard live opening for Dylan and his voice was like smooth, aged whiskey. I rarely include any country songs – outside of Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson – but this is a great song. Come for his voice, stay for lyrics like “I’ll keep workin’ as long as my two hands are fit to use, I’ll drink my beer in a tavern and sing a little bit of these working man blues.” Barkeep, another round for the working man at the end of the bar.

There you go! Again, turn this one up loud and enjoy your day off, God knows you’ve earned it. I welcome any and all suggestions for additions to the list in the comment section. Be safe this weekend!

Cheers!

The Struts Release Great New Song, “Fallin’ With Me” – Am I Finally On The Bandwagon?

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The Rock Chick came in last Friday and said, “I heard this new song this morning and I think you’ll like it…” Well, that’s always an invitation I can never resist. She’s turned me on to so much great music over the years – Oasis, Motley Crue (which I was shamelessly behind on), Green Day and more recently Greta Van Fleet. She is the Rock Chick, after all. The Struts – Luke Spiller (Vocals), Adam Slack (guitar), Jed Elliott (bass), and Gethin Davies (drums, and really you can’t get a more English name than Gethin Davies can you?) have been around a little less than a decade. Their debut LP Everybody Wants came out in 2014.

I have to tell you, I really like this new song, “Fallin’ With Me.” It made me wonder why I hadn’t gotten more into the Struts over the years. I’ve always been aware of the Struts and there are a few tracks that have pierced my consciousness over the span of their three released albums but I never quite completely embraced them. I remember listening to the debut when it came out and thinking Luke Spiller, the lead vocalist, might be Freddie Mercury’s illegitimate son. It’s uncanny how much he sounded like the late Queen-frontman on that first album. The guy trills his R’s so hard – which is kinda cool – one has to shudder when you think about him doing “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” I guess I could never decide if these guys were a serious rock n roll band or if this was some sort of really intense Rock Star cosplay they were involved in.

I think my hesitancy around certain groups can be traced back to when I first started listening to music. It was right around puberty and at that time in a man’s life you’re not terribly confident about anything. When it came to rock n roll, you didn’t dare be caught listening to the wrong acts. They had to be legitimate hard rock or you were looked down upon as a dilettante or worse “uncool.” You didn’t dare listen to anything that was deemed “pop” music. I think that’s why some people shied away from Cheap Trick back then because they were often described as “pop rock.” It wasn’t until Live At Budokan that suddenly the Rock Gods decreed Cheap Trick was an acceptable band. I don’t know why, I’ve always liked Cheap Trick from my early days listening to music up to their latest LP,  In Another World.

But even since growing up, leaving high school and college, I’ve always been wary of brand new acts. During the 80s when my musical tastes expanded way beyond the classic rock radio I’d grown up with, I was still kind of wary of certain bands. While all my friends were listening to Motley Crue and Def Leppard I was busy listening to the “rock canon” from the decades prior. I couldn’t be bothered with new bands when I was in the process of discovering David Bowie, the Velvet Undersground/Lou Reed, the Faces, Neil Young’s “Ditch Trilogy” and Springsteen’s early stuff. I could more often be found listening to Mick Taylor-era Rolling Stones than anything you’d hear on the radio. Videos didn’t really help. All the hard rock bands had identical videos – to my eyes anyway – tall hair, spandex, chicks dancing around and that same 80s production. Often times the band’s videos would put me off so terribly I’d avoid actually hearing the music. Billy Idol was certainly someone whose videos kept me from plunging into his catalog. He didn’t look like a good Midwest guy from next door with his bleach blonde, crew cut hair and curled lip. (His new song is amazing, btw, “Cage”). It took me all the way until “Paradise City,” Guns N Roses’ third single before I bought Appetite For Destruction. It’s like I was closed off from all things current or I had a fear of jumping on the bandwagon of a “fad.” Since those early days it seems I was always searching for authenticity. I didn’t want to be “duped.”

Well between listening to a bunch of B-sides and the new Chili Peppers’ track “Tippa My Tongue” this weekend I spent a lot of time listening to the Struts. I listened to all three of their LPs. I’m nothing if not methodical. I’m not sure if I’m ready to declare I’m on the bandwagon, I need more time, but I can tell you this new song “Fallin’ With Me” is a great song. The track has that classic, 80s, Sunset Strip trashy rock/metal sound. It starts with drums, bass and sing-along chorus that just earworms it’s way into my head. Luke Spiller is a great vocalist. When the guitar kicks in, oh yes, I’m taking this ride. The opening lyric, “You be my Alice, and I’ll be your Madhatter” is the perfect invitation to this hard rock good time. I love the way Spiller drags the “fa” in the word “Fallin'” so it sounds like a twisted Christmas carol, “Are you fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fallin’ with me?” Hell yes! This chorus just makes me want to rock out:

“You’re coming with meLet’s take a diveMeet at the Rainbow9:45Wear something trashyThat’s what I like (yeah)We’re on the rooftopJumpin’ off the sides (jumpin’ off the sides)”

I don’t know if I have any clothes that would be considered “trashy” but… Anyway, here’s the video for the track:

I don’t know if these guys have an album on the way – no one on the internet seems to know – but I will be listening intently if they do. Even if they don’t I’ll certainly be enjoying “Fallin’ With Me” for the rest of time. It often takes just one song or concert to suddenly change all of my heavy preconceptions about a band. Metallica clicked for me on Death Magnetic, really late in the game. I waited until “Paradise City” to buy GnR’s debut. I had to see No Doubt live before I went, “Hey, these guys are good…that bass player…” “Fallin With Me” may just be that epiphany moment for me and the Struts. It’s a great rock n roll song and I think everybody, however you feel about the Struts, should check it out and turn it up loud!

Cheers!

B&V’s Favorite B-Sides – Songs That Were Orphans But Found Fame Anyway

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*Photo of actual 45s, and actual B-sides, taken by your intrepid blogger

I think a lot of people, especially the casual music fan, can be put off by the term B-side. The term sounds like something you’d find in the discount aisle of your local retailer next to day old bread. It’s not an “A” it’s a “B” so it must be somehow… less valuable? Oddly, I actually understood what a B-side was before I started really getting into collecting music. My father had an old wire rack full of singles – known as 45s as that was the speed the turntable would have to be turned to in order to spin the smaller vinyl discs. An album is rated at 33 1/3 RPM (revolutions per minute), a single was 45 RPM’s. These old 45s that my father had amassed when he was still cool was a who’s who of 50s popular music: Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles. My little brother commandeered the collection as his own when he was really young and then enhanced it by buying Beatles’ singles…he was always years ahead of me on rock n roll…it’s a wonder he didn’t make my parents get his haircut in that mop top Beatles’ style but I digress. He had the little plastic insert that allowed him to play the 45s – which have a bigger hole in the middle – on the turntable. 45s only had one song per side unlike an album which has a number of songs on each side (well, typically… maybe not if you’re the Allman Brothers and it’s live and you’re really cooking, then it might be say, “Whipping Post” taking up one entire side of the LP). My brother and I shared a room in the early days so occasionally I’d wander in hand he’d be playing tunes. I think it was on one of those occasions that he explained what a B-side was to me before I even cared about music.

In the early days of rock n roll, like my dad’s collection, the music industry was focused on singles. Typically albums were merely a collection of previously released singles. When the artist in question had released enough songs to fill up an album the record company would lump ’em together and pump out the LP as another item to sell to the public. On those singles typically the A-side would be the song they wanted to release as the “hit.” What to do with the other side of the 7″ vinyl disc? Well, slap another song on the B-side! Typically the B-side would be a “lesser” tune, one the record company didn’t have high hopes for. The record company didn’t always get it right. Tony Bennett’s signature song “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” began as a B-side to “Once Upon A Time” a track none us can remember. “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” may be that first B-side to break out as a hit, I don’t really know. It was a DJ who decided to turn the record over to play the B-side and the rest, as they say, is history. Since it was left up to the record company, sometimes with input from the artist, B-sides weren’t always the “lesser” of the two tracks released. Record companies are rarely right about anything.

When the Beatles ushered in the “album” era of rock n roll the nature of B-sides changed. It really was the Beatles, especially after they stopped touring, who realized the artistic possibilities of a full length album. You listen to albums like Rubber Soul or Revolver and you realize there is a unity of sound and themes that enhance the listening experience over 12 songs instead of just the “hit” singles and some filler. When artists started releasing full length, thought-out albums the pool of tracks for use on B-sides – because people still bought a ton of singles back then – became a lot deeper. Typically the record company would pick a song to be a single, and then look for a deep album cut that in some cases might be “filler” on the album and slap it on the B-side. However, as usual, the record company didn’t always get it right. Rod Stewart’s signature song “Maggie May” was the B-side to “Reason To Believe.” And, exactly like “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” an enterprising DJ in America turned the single over and voila, “Maggie May” is a monster hit and Rod Stewart became a star.

In the pantheon of great, great songs that started out as B-sides the list is long. The Beatles chose to release the epic psychedelic track “I Am The Walrus” (mostly written by John Lennon) as the B-side to “Hello, Goodbye” a McCartney track. Obviously “I Am The Walrus” is a legendary track but they put it on the B-side? Which is too bad because Lennon was quoted later as saying something like, “that was when we all began to get tired of being Paul’s backing band.” That animosity festered… But “I Am The Walrus” is not an isolated case of great tracks ending up as a B-side. So many great tracks ended up as B-sides and went on to become monster hits, legendary in their own right. The Stones released “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as the B-side to “Honky Tonk Woman”; Bowie released “Suffragette City” as B-side to “Starman”; and finally the Byrds’ “Feel A Whole Lot Better” (a Gene Clark penned classic) was B-side for “All I Really Want To Do” a Dylan cover. The list is vast and I could go on and on.

Any of those tracks could have easily made it onto our list of “favorite B-sides,” but the stakes rose. In the 70s as bands became more prolific and often bands would have more music than they needed for an album. Many times they’d have a song that they really liked but it wouldn’t fit the confined space of vinyl or wasn’t the right vibe for that particular album or often they’d record a cover song just for the fun of it. Instead of putting out a deeper album cut as the B-side, the band would put out one of those unreleased tracks that didn’t make the album. For me the prime example of that was “Hey Hey What Can I Do,” a great acoustic driven track that Zeppelin left off Zeppelin III and instead put out as the B-side of “The Immigrant Song.” Suddenly, this opened up the possibility of non-album, previously unreleased gems out in the wild. Hunting for stray B-sides was a fun side project for my old roommate Drew and I as we built our album collections in college. I remember spending weekends on vacation in Chicago hunting for certain songs only found on that B-side single. Finding a cool B-side is frankly the only reason I lament the end of singles being released. I’ve always been an album guy.

While the hunt was fun, in the era of CD-box sets and compilations many of those orphaned B-sides have been released. Often CD releases and “deluxe edition” releases of classic albums contain those old hard to find B-sides. U2 has done two “greatest hits” LPs each with a complimentary disc of B-sides. Springsteen has Tracks that contained a lot of the B-sides that Drew and I were always chasing after back in college. R.E.M. released Dead Letter Office, a collection of strictly B-sides (and what a great title for that LP). Now, it’s bad enough singles are rarely if ever released, but there’s no scurrying around town to all the usual vinyl shops looking to locate that one copy of “Go Your Own Way” paired with “Silver Springs.” The hunt is over. Now if you want to hear Prince do “Irresistible Bitch” you merely have to download it from a box set. For those of us aware of and collecting B-sides it was like being a member of a cool club or subculture. I guess I still have hunting for great used vinyl purchases left to me… sigh.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Dr. Rock, commented on a post I’d done with a playlist of tracks from 1982. Or it might have been a comment on our post about Robert Plant’s solo debut, Pictures At Eleven. Regardless, he mentioned a track “Far Post” that has always been a favorite B-side of mine and naturally Dr Rock suggested I do a post on my 10 favorite B-sides. And as usual that stretched out to my 25 favorite B-sides. In between cranking up new songs from Billy Idol (“Cage”) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Tippa My Tongue”) this week I’ve been scouring through my old 45s and box sets looking for B-sides. As I indicated above, I chose B-sides that were orphans – songs that were originally left off of albums – songs that could only be found on the second side of a 45 or on the single CD release (from back when they would still put out singles on CD with a few extra tracks). I mostly avoided the “deep album tracks” as B-sides. My list is not meant to exhaustive but merely representative of a) my personal favorites and b) what kind of quality material is out there in the world by artists we all love but you may not have heard or worse, heard of. My list stems from the well known all the way to my usual obscure choices. If you have a favorite B-side that didn’t end up on a record, please post it in the comments section. I’m always looking for a good, unheard tune…

The Bourbon And Vinyl 25 Favorite B-Sides

  • Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog” – Elvis released “Hound Dog,” one of his most famous tunes, a few months after his second LP Elvis was released. It was originally released as the B-side of “Don’t Be Cruel.” The record company quickly changed the printing on the single sleeve to make “Hound Dog” the A-side, and “Don’t Be Cruel” the B-side… it didn’t really matter, both songs hit number 1. Elvis was aware of the original by the legendary Big Mama Thornton but was likely more influenced by a cover done by Freddie Bell and the Bellhops. It’s hard not to include one of the greatest songs ever on a favorite B-sides list. As Dylan said, “I’m standing on a chair proposing a toast to the King.” Surely he meant Elvis?
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience, “51st Anniversary” – I’ve always dug this track about a couple who have been married for well, 51 years. This track didn’t make it on Are You Experienced? but was released as the B side for “Purple Haze.”
  • The Beatles, “Revolution” – Another case where Lennon had his track relegated the B-side in deference to McCartney’s A-side “Hey Jude.” Maybe Paul should have let Lennon win a few of these battles. I get “Hey Jude” is epic but “Revolution” is probably my favorite hard rocking Beatles track. Both tracks were on the unreleased tracks, stop-gap U.S. LP Hey Jude.
  • Neil Young, “Sugar Mountain” – Neil liked this song so much he used it as the B-side for two different songs, “The Loner” from his debut and “Cinnamon Girl” from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere with Crazy Horse. “You can’t be 20, on Sugar Mountain with the barkers and the colored balloons…” It finally was included on Neil’s three-LP greatest hits package Decade a compilation album truly ahead if it’s time.
  • Paul McCartney, “Oh Woman, Oh Why” – McCartney has a myriad of great B-sides. It was hard to pick just one. I’ve always loved “Oh Woman, Oh Why” the B-side to his first ever solo single “Another Day.” The lyrics are a bit slight but McCartney sings like he’s Little Richard turned up to 11. This track is kind of a bluesy rocker and I’ve just always loved it.
  • George Harrison, “Deep Blue” – This rarity was finally released on the “deluxe edition” of Living In The Material World but began as the B-side for Harrison’s charity track “Bangla Desh.” I don’t think of the Beatles as being especially bluesy but I love this acoustic, blues shuffle. Harrison landed a few blues tracks on our Rockers Playing the Blues playlist… I should have included this quiet little gem. I’m a sucker for the blues. I think my brother may have played this song for me, he was a huge Harrison fan and might have had the “Bangla Desh” single.
  • Led Zeppelin, “Hey Hey What Can I Do” – This song, for me, was the beginning of my B-side awareness. Finding this song as the B-side on the single for “The Immigrant Song” was like finding the Ark of the Covenant for Indiana Jones. I can’t believe this track never landed on a proper Zeppelin LP.
  • AC/DC, “Carry Me Home” – This great, hysterical drinking song – that only Bon Scott could have written – was the B-side to the track “Dog Eat Dog” from Let There Be Rock. It was an early selection for inclusion on our Drinking Songs playlist and really is a centerpiece there of. We find our hero, the narrator, too drunk to drive home and it’s too late to find a bus or cab. His only solution is to ask a young lady he’s been drinking with to carry him home with her. Reminds me of my 20s. Rakish charm?
  • Fleetwood Mac, “Silver Springs” – Oh man, this is one of my all time favorite Mac songs. The Rock Chick preferred the live version from The Dance, but I’d been a fan of this song, the B-side to “Go Your Own Way,” that had been criminally left off Rumours, since the first time I heard it in the car driving back to Boston from Cape Cod during my summer after college. It just grabbed me from the beginning. When Stevie builds to the climax and sings/shouts “I know I could’ve loved you, but you would not let me, I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you…” she means it. The song does haunt me and I’m not even who she’s singing to…
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Casa Dega” – This song was left off Damn The Torpedoes and was originally released as the B-side to “Don’t Do Me Like That.” Petty has so many B-sides that have seen subsequently released on his various box sets it was hard to pick just one (and actually I picked 2) but I’ve always loved this song partially inspired by a Spiritualist camp in Florida.
  • Robert Plant, “Far Post” – As pointed out by the aforementioned Dr. Rock when we posted about Plant’s solo debut Pictures At Eleven, this amazing song was left off the album and released as a B-side to “Burning Down One Side” in the UK and eventually found it’s way to my local radio station. Great piano break in the song… it felt like Plant was already starting to stretch the boundaries of what he could do outside Zeppelin.
  • The Police, “Murder By Numbers” – The Police actually released this song on Synchronicity if you bought the cassette. Well, I’d purchased the vinyl, naturally. But they made up for it by releasing it as the B-side of “Every Breath You Take.” This was such a great song it never made sense to me they didn’t put it on the vinyl. They do include it on the CD version of Synchronicity.
  • R.E.M., “Pale Blue Eyes” – R.E.M., like so many bands who’ve recorded a ton of B-sides released an entire album of B-sides on the collection Dead Letter Office. I love that album as they do a ton of cover songs. Cover songs do have a way of popping up as B-sides. I especially love this song, a Velvet Underground track. Michael Stipe can sing almost any song better than any original singer. This track was a B-side to the great track “South Central Rain.” I really could have picked just about any song from Dead Letter Office… and heavily considered their cover of Aerosmith’s “Toys In The Attic” which has to be heard to be believed.
  • Prince & the Revolution, “17 Days” – This track was a B-side from “When Doves Cry” from Princes’ masterpiece Purple Rain. This was such an incredible album it’s no surprise that there were some incredible B-sides… Prince was so prolific. This is a classic funk, pop song about a break up. I was drawn to this kinda track back in the day. The chorus will drill into your brain… “Let the rain come down, let the rain come down…” I may be the only fan of this track but I had to include it. It just takes me back…
  • The Cars, “Breakaway” – The Cars buried this outtake from the Heartbeat City album as the B-side to the fifth(!) single “Why Can’t I Have You.” I first heard the song, once again, in the car as some friends of mine and I were driving over a high bridge on our way onto Padre Island for Spring Break. Can you think of a better theme song for a Spring Break? “The loud mornin’ in the small town cries…You gotta get away.” Actually the Spring Break was a disaster but I spent years looking for this track which I later found out was about heroin
  • Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, “Pink Cadillac” – The B-side to “Dancing In The Dark.” Oh man, we all bought the 45 with this as the B-side. Clarence Clemons on the sax is epic. I still drive a little faster when this song comes on the stereo.
  • Don Henley, “A Month of Sundays” – This is a little like “Murder By Numbers,” listed above. The track was on the cassette version of Building The Perfect Beast but not the vinyl version I had. It was released as the B-side of “Boys of Summer” and I remember being floored the first time I heard it. I did a tape to tape thing and recorded it so I could listen to it over and over. It’s a sad ballad about the death of the family farm but it just grabbed me.
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “Shut Out The Lights” – Bruce has so many B-sides it was hard to limit myself to just two… This is another Born In The U.S.A. B-side, to the title track. Both songs are about a Vietnam veteran but are very different vibes. “Born In The U.S.A.” was a huge, arena rocking anthem (that was widely misunderstood). “Shut Out The Lights” delivered the message more directly in my mind as it was a sad song about the mental health struggles our veterans faced when they returned from the war.
  • Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, “Fortunate Son” – Well, I did mention that cover songs do have a way of finding themselves on B-sides. This track was the B-side to “American Storm” from the Like A Rock album. I don’t know if there is a more fitting artist to cover Creedence Clearwater Revival than Bob Seger. Perfect song in the perfect hands. Smokin’ O.P.s indeed.
  • Rod Stewart, “Almost Illegal” – Rod had been doing middling pop for so long it was a big deal when he teamed up with Andy Taylor erstwhile guitarist from Duran Duran and released Out Of Order an album that actually… rocked! This song was the B-side to “Lost In You” and I was so enamored with both the LP and that song, I gave this 45 a chance and brought it home from the record store. And, yes, this song rocked and made me smile at the same time. This is probably the most obscure track on my favorites but I am who I am.
  • The Rolling Stones, “Fancy Man Blues” – When the Stones reunited for Steel Wheels we were all ecstatic. I was living in Arkansas at the time and I jumped a flight to Chicago to see them on that tour out at East Troy where Stevie Ray died… Anyway, I was in a bar the night before the show and whoever was in charge played “Fancy Man Blues” the B-side to “Mixed Emotions” and then I spent years trying to find it. The Stones always return to the blues.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Soul To Squeeze” – As I mentioned in my resent post on the Peppers’ new song “Tippa My Tongue,” the RHCP’s creative process includes a lot of jamming which leads to a plethora of unused material that ends up as a B-side. This haunting ballad – that has to be about Hillel Slovak’s death and Anthony Kiedis’ running away to Mexico and missing the funeral – was used as a B-side twice for both “Give It Away” and “Under the Bridge” before finding widespread fame on the Coneheads’ soundtrack. I’ve seen them do it live and man, goosebumps.
  • Pearl Jam, “Yellow Ledbetter” – Well, you knew this track would be on here, it’s only the most famous B-side released in the 90s. It was the B-side to Jeremy and I purchased the CD single just so I could own this track. It sounds like an homage to Stevie Ray Vaughn, at least when you hear them play it live, but that might just be me. I do relate to the lyric “I said I don’t know whether I’m the boxer or the bag.”
  • U2, “The Lady With the Spinning Head (UV1)” – The Rock Chick turned me onto this song. I love it. It was a demo that spawned both “The Fly” and then “Ultraviolet Light.” Eventually it saw release as the B-side to “One.” We put this on one of our party tracks and people always approach me and ask me about this song… and “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” but that’s another song for another day.
  • Tom Petty, “Girl On LSD” – Any long time readers of B&V know that this song was my “white whale” in terms of B-sides for a long time. I did have a bootleg version but I always want an official version if I can get it. It’s the funniest song Petty ever did. It finally saw release (in an alternative version) on Finding Wildflowers. Petty has another bluesy rocker named “Sweet William” that has become my new “white whale” B-side… I will find you “Sweet William,” if it kills me.

Many of these tracks you’ve probably heard before. But if there are ones you haven’t I urge you to seek them out and give them a spin. These sadly orphaned B-sides deserve to be heard. There are so many more B-sides out there that I didn’t list. I look forward to seeing if any of you out there have a favorite B-side to add to this list.

Enjoy the last bit of summer! Cheers!

Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Tippa My Tongue” From Their Upcoming Second LP of 2022 – No Bad Vibes Allowed!

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I don’t know what the first thought that popped into my head was when I heard the Chili Peppers had released a new song “Tippa My Tongue,” and that they had a second LP coming out this year but I’m sure I had the same surprised look that singer Anthony Kiedis has on his face in the picture above. I do remember thinking, “Ah, so Jack White – who released both Fear Of The Dawn and the sensational Entering Heaven Alive this year – isn’t the only one who put out two albums in 2022!” In the 70s it was actually expected that artists would put out at least one album every calendar year and most record companies wanted two albums a year. That fact was underscored to me when I was doing the research for my 1971 and 1972 themed playlists. Several artists have multiple songs on those lists because they put out multiple albums in those respective years. And often back then those 2 albums in a calendar year were both sensational… now that’s genius on a deadline. Nowadays two albums in one year is unheard of. The last time I can remember an artist doing something like this was in the 90s when Guns N Roses put out the two Use Your Illusions albums or when Springsteen released Lucky Town and Human Touch on the same day.

Of course where the Chili Peppers are concerned I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Their creative process has always been a jam-based process. That is probably even more true now that “once and future” guitarist John Frusciante is back in the fold. These guys aren’t like U2 where the Edge comes in with a riff, the band records a basic track and then Bono comes in and writes some lyrics. The Chili Peppers all get in a room and if somebody’s got something they start there and all join in with Kiedis standing to the side of the room scribbling stream of consciousness lyrics, all while they record the whole thing. Then they sift through the tape and find stuff they can build into songs. And since they use this jamming method to write songs they often have way more songs than they need for an album. That’s how Stadium Arcadium ballooned into a two-CD, 28 song album. And they still had a bunch of songs leftover that they put out as B-sides. “Mercy Mercy” was a b-side from “Tell Me Baby” that I particularly liked…

Even when Josh Klinghoffer was their lead guitarist they utilized their jamming method when recording the I’m With You album – an record I still dug despite Frusciante’s absence – and again they had a bunch of left over material. Eventually they released all of those “extra” songs as singles and B-sides. There were 9 “singles” released and 17 total tracks. They finally did a Record Store Day double-album release entitled, I’m Beside You. Having purchased all of the singles I have them on a playlist since I’m never lucky enough to snag anything at Record Store Day and I’m Beside You was no exception to my bad luck. You’ve got to get up pretty damn early on RSD if you’re going beat the vinyl fiends. I’m convinced you’ve gotta know somebody but even so I still go to my local vinyl stores on that glorious day… but I’m getting off topic.

I was thrilled when I first heard John Frusciante had rejoined the Chili Peppers. I didn’t have anything against Klinghoffer, it’s just that the chemistry between four very specific musicians is a delicate and very special thing. The Chili Peppers have reached all of their absolute pinnacles – creatively and sales-wise – with Fruciante on guitar. I greeted it as great news when I’d heard John had returned from the wilderness. I never thought he’d come back again and included Frusciante/the Chili Peppers on my list of reunions I’d never thought we’d see. I clearly thought he was gone for good. And I liked Unlimited Love, which has turned out to be only their first album of 2022, quite a bit. It’s a “grower.” I also really liked the dark, laid back first single “Black Summer.” It had a very “Slow Cheetah” vibe. I saw Frusciante interviewed and he said he wasn’t sure he even knew how to write rock songs any more when reunited with his erstwhile buddies. The Rock Chick would say he obviously doesn’t because Unlimited Love was too mellow for her. She is the Rock Chick.

Back when Unlimited Love came out I saw Kiedis interviewed in some magazine and he said they had another album with songs that were “looser” and he hoped they’d release it too. I figured, like with I’m Beside You, we’d just see a bunch of B-sides slowly trickling out with singles from Unlimited Love. So I guess I can’t claim complete surprise when I heard they were releasing Return Of the Dream Canteen as the rather immediate follow-up to Unlimited Love. I don’t think we should think of this new album as a “collection of B-sides” or “leftovers,” but rather a second collection of songs that perhaps fit together better. And one could argue that the songs on Unlimited Love all fit together pretty well too. I mean, I couldn’t imagine “Tippa My Tongue” on that earlier album. I don’t think any of us should be discounting this second LP, but we should rejoice that we get another taste of the Chili Peppers this year. I like my rock bands prolific. And Kiedis said they’d gone on a journey to discover who they were as a band… and perhaps that has led them back to their funk roots.

I have to admit, I first heard the teaser for “Tippa My Tongue” on the social media. It was just a quick snippet of the intro and then Anthony singing “Ya, ya-ya-ya…” I’m not gonna lie, it concerned me. In truth this song should be something I really don’t like it’s so… “pop” oriented? The album’s artwork is all soft psychedelic colors like an old Hippy’s faded tie-dye t-shirt. But damn this is a catchy tune. I actually really like this song. It’s 180 degree turn from “Black Summer” and feels more like a “No Bad Vibes” kind of song. It’s much more suited to summer… We have to remember the Chili Peppers started as a funky punk band. This song really takes them back to those roots, even back to the days of say, Hillel Slovak. Well, without the punk punch.

The track starts quietly with Chad Smith’s drums, Flea’s bass and Frusciante’s guitar all together building slowly. It almost summons the menacing beginning of “Dark Necessities.” But then the “ya, ya-ya-ya” thing starts. And yes, I would have appreciated the dark menace of that earlier first single but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great song. Frusciante’s guitar is more prevalent and I love his brief but soaring solo. With the title “Tippa My Tongue” Kiedis manages to tie together a drug reference and a sexual reference all in one phrase, so kudos. I will admit the lyric, “Funky monks are on the run,” sent me back to the Blood Sugar Sex Magik track “Funky Monks.” I guess the Chili Peppers have gone from “There are no monks in this band, there are no saints in this land,” to “We’ve only just begun, funky monks are on the run, I’m gonna get you with the tippa my tongue.” Perhaps after all these years the Chili Peppers are now lovers, not fighters. Here’s the colorful video:

After the serious heft of “Black Summer” I’m down for the Chili Peppers lightening up a bit. It certainly sounds like they’re having fun. And while I’m not sure what “Well, I believe in love, Perfectly receiving love, It’s vociferous, Then come and get a whiff of this, I’m at the pyramids, Never had a fear of kids” means, I feel so funky and good listening to this track I don’t really care. It’s like I read recently, “August is the Sunday of summer…” So maybe fill a glass of wine and dance around the backyard with this track cranked up… When I first envisioned Frusciante returning to the Chili Peppers I expected he’d come back as the Guitar God we all knew from Stadium Arcadium. But he’s come back on his own terms and the band seems like they’re in a better place. I have no idea what all this portends for Return Of the Dream Canteen but if the record is this much fun it’s going to be a great fall…

Cheers!

New Song Alert: Billy Idol Returns to Save Summer With “Cage” From Upcoming New EP, ‘The Cage’

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I like to think I keep my eyes on all upcoming new music… In my head I have a list of artists who I know are putting out new tunes and I go through that list every night at bedtime to help me get to sleep…like a rock n roll version of counting sheep. While I like to tell myself that I’m totally in touch with all new music coming out in truth new releases still have a way of sneaking up on me. Billy Idol put out a brand new song this week entitled “Cage” and I was blissfully unaware he had anything coming out. Like last year, Billy and his cohort guitarist Steve Stevens (one of the most underrated guitarists out there) are putting out a 4-song EP entitled The Cage. And like last year Billy has appeared out of nowhere to save summer!

Last year saw Billy releasing the EP The Roadside which was preceded by the great, great tune “Bitter Taste.” Man, that song is still in high rotation here at the house. It was an acoustic track with a haunting lead guitar thing done by Stevens. It was on the mellow end but it quaked with a sturdy intensity. It was one of the best tracks of Idol’s storied career. It was the sound of a man looking back on his life in an unapologetic way. “Should have left me way back, way back by the roadside… it’s a bitter taste.” That track is righteous. I still get goosebumps when I hear that song. I’ll admit I was not as taken with the rest of The Roadside and didn’t cover it on B&V. But if you haven’t checked out “Bitter Taste” I advise you to do so post haste.

Yesterday, in the early evening I was drinking a beer getting ready to meet my famed ex-roommate from college Drew for drinks. I was scrolling on “the social media” and saw Billy had put out a new song “Cage.” Billy was quoted as saying something like, “we’ve all been stuck inside for a while and now we’re breaking back out…” in an obvious but perhaps belated comment about the Covid lockdown. He promised that this new EP The Cage was going to be the opposite of last year’s mellower, darker The Roadside. He clearly intends to expend a little pent-up energy and let loose his rebel yell.

“Cage” is a glorious rock song. It’s got a chorus that sounds written for an arena to sing along to. Idol is in fine voice here… I can almost close my eyes and see him on stage punching at the air while he sings this track. It starts with just Idol’s voice behind a chugging guitar and drums. Then the chorus hits and it just explodes. “I’m coming out of my heartless, hopeless rage, I’m coming out of my cell, my broken cage.” Oh Hell, yes! He may be talking a out coming out of lockdown and not being able to tour but hearing this song as I was getting off work drinking a beer ready to head down to the tavern to talk a little treason with Drew… I can’t lie, it sort of fit the moment yesterday.

I dug “Bitter Taste” but as mentioned it was a mellow, dark tune. I love this rocking, upbeat song from Billy. If the rest of the EP rocks this hard it’s going to be a great treat. “Cage” in and of itself is a great song for the end of summer. I just want to drive down the street with this song blaring out of the windows while I wave to the ladies… Loud vocals and guitar, it’s all we want from Billy Idol. Here’s the video:

Wherever you are out there, this song ought to break you out of whatever is holding you back. I advise pouring something strong and turning this one up loud! Hearing that Billy Idol had a new track out was almost as good as the surprise text from my old buddy Drew stating he was in town and wanted to grab a gin… and while I may not be feeling very well this morning cranking this tune is helping me power through it all!

Cheers!

Review: Starcrawler Live In Kansas City 8/12/2022 – Incendiary Rock N Roll!

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*Photo of Arrow De Wilde and drummer Seth Carolina of Starcrawler at the Record Bar in Kansas City, taken by your intrepid blogger

I wish I could share just a percentage of the joy I feel when I see live music. To see an actual band play actual instruments and conjure magical sounds before my very eyes and ears is just so special. Crowded in a dark room, shoulder to shoulder with like-minded rockers is just so wonderful. Last night was no exception. The Rock Chick and I headed downtown to Kansas City’s Record Bar to see one of my favorite new-ish bands, Starcrawler. They absolutely did not disappoint. Starcrawler consists of Arrow de Wilde (singer), Henri Cash (lead guitar), younger brother Bill Cash (guitar/pedal steel!), Tim Franco (bass) and new drummer Seth Carolina. I was concerned about Starcrawler just a touch as original drummer and founding member Austin Smith had left the band during the Covid thing and you never know what that will do to the chemistry of a band. With a front woman like Arrow de Wilde and her on-stage guitar foil Henri Cash, I needn’t have worried.

I’d like to tell you I discovered Starcrawler on my own. That yes, I have my fingers on the pulse of new music such that I make these grand discoveries when a kick ass rock band emerges from the haze. But no, it was the Rock Chick who I must give credit for finding this band. She traveled out to Denver a few years ago to visit her offspring while I stayed home because of requirements from my corporate masters. Well, that and someone has to take care of the damn cat. Anyway, the Rock Chick returned from Denver with tales of a wild woman lead singer for this band Starcrawler. I went out and watched a bunch of clips on YouTube just to be amused. But then I started listening to the songs and realized, damn these guys rock! I immediately bought their first eponymously titled debut album and several stray singles like “Ants” and their Ramones’ cover, “Pet Sematary (sic).”

It was shortly after that Starcrawler came to Kansas City and played the Riot Room. They had just released their great second LP, Devour You. I had purchased and really enjoyed that album. You could hear how this band was developing and advancing as songwriters and musicians on that record. Needless to say I rocked out that night at the Riot Room… Starcrawler was just killer live! Can’t believe it’s been almost three years… I was in the front row and Arrow not only spat water upon me – pre-Covid I was down for that – she landed on me when she hurled herself off the stage. Sadly, she then jumped up on the bar and threw some lady’s cocktail on the Rock Chick and my friend RJ… Needless to say RJ sat out last night and the Rock Chick… well, like so much of our marriage, she’s best described as a reluctant participant. Marriage is a compromise. I will say as we walked to the car she did say to me, “That was a great show!”

We got to the Record Bar during the last moments of the opening act which was regretful. Dinner had taken longer than I thought it would. At approximately 9pm the band took the stage, everyone wearing pink shirts save the drummer. Those drummers, what are you gonna do? They started jamming and we all stood anticipating Arrow’s arrival on stage. She strode out from the side of the stage – a head taller than most the crowd, a lion-maned, blonde Amazon come to slay us with her rock n roll. She was wearing elbow length white gloves laced up with pink ribbon, a white/pink bikini top and white hip-hugging pants… half go-go girl, all rock star. She walked to the mic and we were off to the races. She moves like a snake, slithering around stage and then her body reacts to the music like it’s on a hinge. Her shoulders are evocative. She and Henri are great on stage together like a modern day Jagger/Richards. When they both get to rocking they’ll lean over and spin their long hair around and just bear down on the rock n roll. And can I just say, and this may sound weird, de Wilde has lovely hands. Her fingers are really long and elegant and she guides the crowd with them. Simply mesmerizing.

There were so many highlights. “I Love L.A.” is one of my favs so it’s no surprise I dug that song. There were several new tracks that I’d heard – “She Said” and of course the raging “Roadkill” that were also highlights. I really like the addition of Bill Cash who plays rhythm guitar but more importantly added some pedal steel guitar on several tracks which gives the songs a nice extra texture. Starcrawler played a couple of new songs – from the upcoming September LP She Said that haven’t been released yet. That’s always dicey but they brought those tracks home! After a great rendition of another personal favorite “No More Pennies,” which always conjures the Stones for me, they went to the acoustic guitar for two really great songs. Arrow stood still for those ballads and delivered the vocals. “Better Place” was straight acoustic guitar but “Runaway” had that plaintive pedal steel that took it to next level. Henri sings not only back up and harmony but full on duets and it conjures a whole Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris vibe. Simply wonderful. I can only wish that the new LP was out so I could be turning it up loud today.

There were so many other highlights. “Ants,” which I believe is their first single just RAWKED. I was up at the bar getting a drink and was close to the front and the audience went nuts. The aforementioned “Pet Sematary” was also a highlight. “You Dig Yours” is another great track from Devour You and it was just transcendent last night. They are so much more muscular in their delivery live than on record and that’s not a knock on their very strong studio work. Naturally they ended the main set with “Bet My Brains” which will probably be like their “Satisfaction.” It’s just a great rock anthem and so fitting for this band. They returned for the encore, the great “Chicken Woman” which is just fun to listen to. Arrow was first to leave the stage followed 1 by 1 by the rest of the band.

The Rock Chick and I escaped into the night… high on the stars and the cool evening air and the incendiary rock n roll we had just absorbed. I know Starcrawler is opening for Jack White tonight in Minneapolis… I had hoped Arrow would spot me in the crowd and I’d wake up on the tour bus this morning on my way to that gig. But alas, I am merely here at home reporting on the great music I heard. If you’ve got a chance to see these guys on this tour – as I always say – buy the ticket see the show. Some day these guys will be playing arenas and charging Springsteen money for tickets so see them in a small venue up close and personal… it’s worth every penny.

Enjoy the show, Cheers!