Review: Depeche Mode ‘Memento Mori’ – A Dark Record That Will Just Have To Grow On You…


Some records take time… Like any work of art – be that a movie or a book – sometimes it takes a while for the work to “grow” on you. Depeche Mode’s new album Momento Mori, which came out a few weeks ago, is that type of record. I had to listen to it repeatedly to crack the code. Many records click in my head on the first listen but that didn’t happen with Memento Mori. I realize not everybody is going to be willing to work for the rewards this album will bring but for those who are patient, this is a really good album.

I will admit, anticipation for this new Depeche Mode album, their 15th studio record, was running high here at B&V. We absolutely loved their last LP, 2017’s Spirit. That album was full of rousing anthems like “Where’s The Revolution” and “Going Backwards.” Some critics were put off by Depeche veering into the realm of political commentary in song but I felt it was perfect for the times. Some artists just have a knack for capturing the zeitgeist of a particular moment in time. The Rock Chick and I were so enamored with Spirit, we traveled twice to see them in concert, both in Denver and then in Tulsa.

I’ve been a fan of most of the band’s records from this new millennium, especially Delta Machine. Depeche has been on the track where they deliver an album about every four years. But it’s been six years since Spirit. That long wait probably also fueled our anticipation but as I’m fond of saying anticipation can be tricky. Unchecked anticipation will easily lead you to disappointment. One of the reasons for the longer gap between record had to be the death of founding member Andy Fletcher (keyboards) who did not play on any of the tracks on Memento Mori. And of course the world faced a global pandemic during that stretch of time which obviously had a huge impact on the tone and subject matter of the record. Principle songwriter Martin Gore (guitar/keyboards/vocals) began writing these songs during the lockdown. He started writing many of the tracks with Psychedelic Furs front man Richard Butler. Gore was originally going to release those tracks on a side project, but ended up sending them to lead singer Dave Gahan and they ended up on Momento Mori.

Based on the cover art, a photo of two flower arrangements in the shape of angel’s wings, I figured this album would be a requiem for Fletch. I certainly thought so after hearing the great first single, “Ghosts Again,” which I previously reviewed. But I think the darkness on this album is more universal. These songs were born out of the pandemic, a real low point in my lifetime, and they reflect that dark energy. While Spirit was full of rousing, fighting anthems, Memento Mori is more midtempo throughout. The sound is more industrial rock (albeit on the mellower end of the spectrum) than their previous smoother rock n roll. Perhaps Depeche – now just Gore and Gahan – have once again captured the world’s zeitgeist but it’s just heavier. This album is all about mortality. That can be tough for people to get into. There are many examples of an artist turning their mind towards mortality and I’ve always found it fascinating: Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, Springsteen’s Letter To You, and McCartney’s Dance Tonight while wildly different musically than Memento Mori, cover the same topic. And honestly, it’s not all mortality. There are also songs about obsession and unrequited love.

Musically I must say Gahan’s voice is still magical. The guy has not lost anything over the years. Gore has created such a layered and intricate set of musical textures and moods for Gahan to sing over. Gore will never end up on anybody’s “greatest guitarists of all time” lists but I’ve always been intrigued by the sounds he conjures. Whether it’s an accent or a full on Nine Inch Nails assault on the ears, the guy does interesting things with the six string. The best tracks are where Gahan sings and Gore provides a harmony. Again, if you’re willing to put in the work, this album will grow on you and get under your skin.

The album begins with “My Cosmos Is Mine,” that creeps over you like a sinister fog enveloping a city. Gahan sounds otherworldly on this track. It certainly sets the table for whats coming. At one point it sounds like prayer in desperate times, “No war, no war, no war, No more, no more, no more, no more, No fear, no fear, no fear, no fear, Not here, not here, not here, not here…” That track leads to the second, “Wagging Tongues,” considerably less dense track. This is where Gahan sings with Martin on harmony and it’s money. It’s got a skipping keyboard figure and tinny percussion. “Watch another angel die…” The next track is the sensational new single, “Ghosts Again.” I may have described it as mellow but it’s one of the more upbeat moments here.

“Don’t Say You Love Me,” where Gahan comes on as a chanteuse, is like a song from the most depressing ballroom on the planet. It starts with glacial guitar and keyboards. It’s a powerful torch song/ballad. They then turn on the next track to a more industrial/NIN kind of sound for “My Favorite Stranger.” It’s got tortured guitar and jittery percussion. “My favorite stranger, stand in my mirror, puts words in my mouth…” It sounds like Gahan is a serial killer singing to himself in front of a full length mirror. It certainly begs the question, can we ever know ourselves completely? “Soul With Me” is the Martin lead vocal song. He’s like Keef in the Stones, he gets a track on every album. He’s warbling here and I don’t really dig it. I do like the chorus… “Caroline’s Monkey” is next and it’s really elevated by Gahan’s vocals. I feel like the song never takes off the way it was supposed to but it does pick up in the middle.

“Before We Drown” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s more sweeping and grand. “I’ve been thinking, I could come back home…” It’s all about reaching back to a lover and asking, let’s try again. Gahan’s vocal on the track is certainly something special. “People Are Good” harkens back to early Depeche and “People Are People” only this track is more cynical. Over metallic percussion Gahan sings “People are good, keep fooling yourself.” It’s another highlight. “Always You” is a love song bordering on obsession. It turns the concept of the love song on it’s head. Is it romantic or menacing? It’s another great song. The best tracks on this album all seem to be toward the end. “Never Let Me Go” is another NIN squalling guitar song. It also lyrically calls to mind “Never Let Me Down Again,” although not musically. It’s marinated in romantic frustration. The music is discomfiting. Gahan almost spits out the words “I’ve been so patient, I have been so calm.” The album ends on the chilling ballad “Speak To Me” in the same vein as the aforementioned “Don’t Say You Love Me.” I love the line “You’d be my drug of choice.” While it’s a very slow song it builds to a wonderful crescendo.

Any Depeche Mode album the critics love tends to be described as “their best album since Violator.” I think Depeche has put out a number of great records since that landmark album so I shy away from that description. If pressed, I’d admit that I liked Spirit better but it was an easier, more accessible listen. I know not everybody is going to take the time to let this album grow on you – the Rock Chick gave it one listen, described it as “music to weep to,” and left it behind. But it’s albums like this – that grow on me – that tend to stick with me the longest over the years. Everybody should listen to this album, but do so more than once or twice. It wasn’t what I expected but anticipation leads to expectations and no album should be listened to through the filter of expectations. Listen to this one with the headphones on and eventually, like a flower opening, it will reveal itself to you.



Rock Bands With A Disco Song – Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em And Dance All The Way To The Top Of The Charts


It was roughly 1977-1978 when I stopped using my nightstand clock/radio – who needs Apple? – to exclusively listen to Royals games at night and started listening to rock and roll music. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I’d gone from not listening to music at all, unless my brother had extorted my mom into turning on one of the two rock stations in town while we were going somewhere in the Oldsmobile, to constantly listening to music in my room. By that point I had a lot of catching up to do in terms of rock n roll. But during that particular time in music, disco was king. I didn’t know much about music, but I understood early on that if you wanted to be considered “cool” you didn’t listen to disco.

Disco, as defined by Wikipedia is “a genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s from the United States’ urban nightlife scene. Its sound is typified by four-on-the-floor beats, syncopated basslines, string sections, brass and horns, electric piano, synthesizers, and electric rhythm guitars.” As a junior high school aged kid, all you needed to know was that disco was dance music and dancing was well, “for chicks.” At least it was if you were a white, teenage boy in the Midwest suburbs who couldn’t dance. Of course, I’ve never been able to dance. It was my destiny to be a wallflower. It’s hard to describe how pervasive disco really was. The radio was full of Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band and of course, the Bee Gees. If you were a teenage “dude” trying to establish an identity, you didn’t want to be caught dead owning or listening to any of these bands’ music. I certainly wasn’t humming along to “Boogie Shoes.” We liked loud guitar to express our existential angst at becoming young men. Something more aggressive like say, AC/DC… which I guess you could actually dance to… if you’d wanted to?

While disco had been around since the early 70s, the apex of disco was probably when the movie Saturday Night Fever came out in 1977. The soundtrack featuring the aforementioned Bee Gees exploded. John Travolta in a white suit, dancing around like he was being electrocuted was iconic. Of course anything that gets as big as disco is going to cause backlash. Wasn’t Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.” Well, that was certainly true of disco. It created the whole “Death Before Disco” movement… trust me, it was a movement, there were t-shirts. There was a DJ on our local station, Max Floyd, who went by the moniker General Max Floyd of the Rock N Roll Army whose shtick included playing the first few bars of a disco tune while playing exploding noises as if he were “blowing up” the song. Of course there was the famous Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago in the middle of a White Sox double-header where a DJ had an anti-disco rally where he actually did blow up a bunch of disco records… the destruction to the field during the ensuing riot caused so much damage to the field the Sox had to forfeit the second game of the night to the Tigers. Seems a tad extreme all these years later… but I bet there’s guys sitting at the Burwood Tap still bragging about being there.

While I didn’t own the t-shirt for “Death Before Disco,” I would have probably worn one had I the chance. I certainly tuned into General Max Floyd every day after school. When you’re a teenager going through puberty, you have no idea who you are so you just try to blend in. And none of us were confident enough to dance or even talk to a girl so forget about disco. But despite all of that macho posturing, in retrospect I’ve come to realize that all of our favorite rock bands were sneaking disco tunes past our defenses and worming their way into our ears. The Rock Stars we all worshiped were all hanging around in Studio 54 or some other famous disco, partying and yes, dancing with super models. That disco stuff had to seep it’s way into our Rock Star’s consciousness and eventually into their music. Unbeknownst to we “Death Before Disco” types, the biggest bands in the world were doing disco tunes: The Stones, Zeppelin, Rod, hell, even the Grateful Dead jumped on the bandwagon. Admittedly, in some cases this was just a crass financial move, calculated to climb the charts: Kiss, ELO, and Eddie Money. But in many of these cases, the bands liked the music and put their spin on it and were wildly successful doing so.

Here is a list of some of my favorite bands and their associated disco tunes. While these were the dread disco you can likely find each of these songs on the artist’s latest “greatest hits” compilation. Why? Because we didn’t, at the time, realize it was disco and loved it. Even a hardline wallflower like me will admit love for most of these tunes. Some of these songs may not be straight up disco, but you can’t deny the disco influence…

  • The Rolling Stones, “Miss You” – Leave it to Mick and the boys to do a disco tune but also bring in blues harp legend Sugar Blue on harmonica to make it feel bluesy. This tune, “Beast Of Burden,” and “Shattered” led me to my first ever LP purchase, Some Girls. Of course for the Stones, they lingered on the disco fascination on their next LP with “Dance (Pt. 1),” and “Emotional Rescue.” Hey, if it worked, can you blame them?
  • David Bowie, “Young Americans” – Bowie was early on the disco train, before it was huge. “1984” on Diamond Dogs was pure disco. I’ve always liked this one though. Of course Bowie would return to disco on “Let’s Dance” in 1983 when he wanted a “hit.”
  • Rod Stewart, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” – I would list this song under my guilty pleasures. But a song about a young man meeting a young woman in a club and going home to have a shallow 1-night stand was irresistible to a teenage boy dreaming of such things…
  • Grateful Dead, “Shakedown Street” – The most shocking artist on the list. The venerable Dead of the jam band and cult like fans had a strange fascination with disco… “Nothin’ shakin’ on shakedown street, used to be the heart of town.” I was more fond of their country rock stuff from the early 70s but I’ll admit hitting the volume knob when this track came on.
  • Led Zeppelin, “Dancing Days” – I can’t believe Houses of the Holy and this funky tune are 50 years old this year. “Sippin’ booze is precedent.” I love this song.
  • The Eagles, “One Of These Nights” – This is more disco influenced than disco. But if you listen closely, I defy you to disagree that Henley and Frey were influenced by dance music. “Lookin’ for the daughter of the Devil himself, looking for an angel in white…” I suspect you could find both at your local disco.
  • Pink Floyd, “Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2” – Another shocking entry. One doesn’t think of disco when you think of Pink Floyd. But this track does bear the influence of disco. I’m still grooving on the stuff released for the 50th anniversary of Dark Side Of The Moon.
  • The Kinks, “(Wish I Could Fly) Like Superman” – This is more rock n roll but you can’t deny the disco undertones. I feel like the Kinks don’t get the attention they should.
  • Elton John, “The Bitch Is Back” – A favorite of mine despite the disco trappings. I considered “Island Girl” as well, it could easily slide in on this list.
  • Queen, “Another One Bites The Dust” – A great, great Queen song. I had a chance to see them on this tour and I turned it down…
  • The Clash, “The Magnificent Seven” – Even these punk rockers, the World’s Most Important Band, the Clash, weren’t immune to the allure of disco. Of course Elvis Costello said of the Clash, they were only punk on the first two records and after that they just sort of played whatever was in Joe Strummer’s music collection.
  • Thin Lizzy, “Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In The Spotlight)” – At least Thin Lizzy were honest about their intentions, using “dancing” in the title. Great song though.
  • Robert Palmer, “Every Kind Of People” – Palmer before his big 80s, video superstardom, doing a song written by Andy Fraser, former bass player of the great band Free. For some reason I always thought this was a Sly and the Family Stone cover. Wrong!
  • Blondie, “Heart of Glass” – I feel like Blondie was a band who could do anything musically… and get away with it. This song is no exception.
  • Paul McCartney, “Goodnight Tonight” – Other than ELO, this may be the cheesiest tune on here. Macca just turns up the cheese-o-meter to 11. A dance song where the singer pleads to his partner not to get too tired for “love” later… Oh, Paul.
  • Kiss, “I Was Made For Loving You” – Kiss had a song for every fan of almost every music style… I’m surprised they didn’t go country. Good tune though.
  • Eddie Money, “Maybe I’m A Fool” – From Eddie’s uneven third album. He was clearly trying for a hit here. Catchy but betrayed what he did best.
  • Electric Light Orchestra, “Shine A Little Love” – While I’ve always found ELO to be derivative of the Beatles, they do have some great songs. This, is not one of them, but it was a big hit.
  • Jackson Browne, “Disco Apocalypse” – From his misguided Hold Out album. Was this a complaint, a protest against disco or just a disco-ish song? There’s a piece where he lets the back up singer take over lead vocals which was unfortunate. I was very confused by this one…
  • Frank Zappa, “Dancin’ Fool” – In typical Zappa fashion, he recorded this song as a parody of disco to ridicule it and it ended up being the second biggest hit of his career. Dancing all the way to the bank so to speak.

These are the best examples of our heroes, our favorite rock bands going disco. I’m sure many of you have other examples that I might have left out. If so, leave them in the comments section. I’m not sure but there may be a playlist lurking in here somewhere…

Cheers! Dance like no one is watching… yeah, not. No way. Never.

Review: The White Stripes Celebrate The 20th Anniversary of ‘Elephant’ With A Deluxe Version – And Meg White Is Indeed An Awesome Drummer


It’s no secret that we love the White Stripes around here at B&V. I was delighted to see the band release a deluxe version of their landmark 2003 album Elephant in celebration of it’s 20th anniversary. Included in Elephant – Deluxe is the original album and a concert recording from that tour recorded in Chicago. In the words of fellow Detroit native Bob Seger, I can only say, “20 years now, where’d they go, 20 years, I don’t know…” It seems like this record came out yesterday.

This deluxe set comes amidst some White Stripes controversy of late. I don’t feel I can post about the White Stripes without addressing the Elephant in the room. Apparently some idiot journalist wrote an article and made the audacious claim that White Stripes’ drummer Meg White was a terrible drummer. This of course caused a bunch of blow back on Twitter for the idiot. Leader of the White Stripes Jack White and Tom Morello, amongst others, immediately came to the defense of Meg. Let me state for the record that we here at B&V love Meg White’s drumming. She’s not going to get fancy like Neil Peart. She’s not all over the drum kit like Keith Moon. But her bedrock drumming was the foundation that allowed guitarist/singer Jack White to soar. Without Meg White’s drumming, there is no White Stripes. Her drumming is fierce, primal and visceral. Having listened to the White Stripes’ catalog thousands of times over the years and having seen them live I can testify (in my not so humble opinion) she’s one of the best drummers I’ve seen. You won’t see her floating in the air like Tommy Lee but she lifted me out of my seat more than once. Compare Jack’s solo work with his work in the White Stripes and you’ll hear the difference. And we dig most of Jack’s solo work, most recently Entering Heaven Alive.

I think I’m like most people, I discovered the White Stripes when their third album White Blood Cells broke big on the strength of the singles “Fell In Love With A Girl” and “Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground.” Like many bands, it was the magical third album that broke them big. The Stripes were riding the then current wave of “garage rock” that was supposed to have been to the 2000s what Grunge was to the 90s. I totally hear the “garage rock” part of the Stripes sound. With only the amazing Meg White on drums and Jack White on guitar/keyboards/vocals they were minimalists (to a degree). What I loved about the White Stripes is they have an old school, blues based sound. Most of what they did was rooted in the blues and we’re on record as loving the blues and blues rock here at B&V. Jack White plays the guitar with the grit and dexterity of Bluesmen from a generation (or two) before him. He made no secret of the fact that one of his biggest influences was legendary Bluesman Son House, who has influenced so many who came after him.

I purchased White Blood Cells shortly after I saw the White Stripes on an MTV Awards show, which is embarrassing but I wasn’t listening to the radio that much in those days. The Rock Chick had heard these guys on the alternative rock station in town and was all in. I knew White Blood Cells was the White Stripes’ third album but for some reason I didn’t do my usual “buy the back catalog” thing. I didn’t go out and purchase either The White Stripes (their debut) or De Stijl (their second and perhaps my favorite album). It would appear I was only putting my toe in the water on the Stripes. But then Elephant came out and all of that changed. The first track I heard was “Seven Nation Army” and that’s all it took. I was at the record (er, CD) store the day the album came out with my dollars in my hand.

After hearing Elephant those 20 years ago, I was blown away. It’s a blues rock bonanza. Jack’s musical vision finally came to full fruition. There were so many great songs on the record. “Ball And A Biscuit,” “The Hardest Button To Button” and the aforementioned “Seven Nation Army” are rock n roll standards in my book. “The Air Near My Fingers” and “Hypnotize” are epic guitar freakouts. “I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart” was a piano driven, almost country rock thing that was great. Meg took a turn on vocals for the torch song, “In The Cold, Cold Night” and I loved it. Elephant, in a word, is the perfect White Stripes album. It’s what catapulted them in my mind from a curiosity to a great rock n roll band.

But beyond that, it was on that tour that I saw them in concert for the first time. OMG, as the kids say. They played venerable Memorial Hall over in Kansas City, KS. It seats only 3500 people and as I recall there wasn’t an empty chair. Memorial Hall has seen great acts over the years: Pink Floyd played Dark Side Of The Moon in it’s entirety there, 5 months before the album had come out… Led Zeppelin played two shows there in one day, and no they weren’t booed off stage. Memorial is a small venue but it’s a great place to see a show…not a bad seat in the house. I saw the Rossington Collins Band there but I’m off topic. The Stripes walked on stage with what appeared to be a body guard – a giant man in a three piece, pinstripe suit and a fedora. The stage was simple, just Meg’s drum kit and the amps and Jack’s guitars. They proceeded to bring down the sky. What a concert. I remember hearing their Dolly Parton cover “Jolene” for the first time that night. Apparently they played the Bob Dylan song “Isis” and for the life of me I don’t recall that. Jack strapped on a beat up, gray, wide-body guitar and played a blues riff that sounded eternal and then launched into a song I didn’t recognize. It turns out it was “Death Letter,” a Son House cover. Jack hopped around the stage, always close to Meg’s drum kit and they rocked the house that night. The energy on that stage was contagious… I was convinced Jack White was an unhinged genius that night. I walked out of that concert knowing that the White Stripes were one of the greatest bands of all time. And, yes, the next day I went out and bought their first and second albums to complete my collection (at the time).

With the deluxe version of Elephant the White Stripes have included a full concert, from Chicago, from that very same tour that I saw them on for the first time. I really liked the Stripes “official” live album, Under Great Northern Lights. It’s great, but it didn’t make my list of the greatest live albums ever.  This live concert from Elephant – Deluxe would qualify to enter the discussion amongst the greatest live albums. The energy I experienced in Memorial Hall 20 years ago translate right through the speakers. From hard rocking songs “When I Hear My Name” and “Seven Nation Army” to the quiet moments like Meg’s turn on vocals “In The Cold, Cold Night” or “We’re Going To Friends” (that Jack says was written in the bedroom of a girl named Susie Lee who didn’t care about him at all) they just kill these performances. The setlist is similar but different from when I saw them on this tour. I was knocked out by the Dylan cover on this set, “Lovesick” from Dylan’s Time Out of Mind. They include “Stop Breaking Down” written by Robert Johnson (and covered by the Stones) that they’d included on their debut album. And then threw in another Robert Johnson cover “Stones In My Passway.”

There is so much rock n roll, blues and good times on this live disc it makes this Elephant – Deluxe set absolutely worth the price of admission. I’ve owned the album for 20 years and I’m buying this again just for the live show. This is a must hear, must have. The White Stripes were such a great band and their performances were legendary. I only saw them twice but it was enough to still make me long for Meg White to return from the wilderness, grab Jack by the hand and rock.

Cheers! And Jack, I knew plenty of women like Susie Lee…

Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ Turns 50 – Our Recollections Of The Iconic LP & The Wembley ’74 Full-LP Performance Gets It’s Stand-Alone Release


“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way…” – Pink Floyd, “Time”

I saw that Pink Floyd’s iconic album Dark Side Of The Moon turned 50 years old this month. That is, on many levels, astounding to me. I first started really listening to rock n roll in 1978 and the album, while only 5 years old at that point, already seemed like it had been around forever, like it was part of the air we breathed and the earth we walked upon. The band didn’t release much new for the “50th Anniversary.” They released pretty much everything they had in the 2011 Dark Side “Immersion Set” which was a box set so vast I can’t believe it had any mass appeal. However, there was a live performance of the entire Dark Side album in that 2011 box from Empire Pool, Wembley from 1974 which has now been released as separate album to celebrate the big 5-0. There isn’t much listenable live Pink Floyd out there other than Ummagumma (which is a “hybrid” album, half live/half studio) from the classic line up: David Gilmour (guitar/vocals), Roger Waters (bass/vocals), Rick Wright (keyboards/vocals), and Nick Mason (drums) so I guess being able to buy this live performance outside the massive box set is something. Of course it’s been heavily bootlegged for years as well, but that’s another story.

I remember the first time I heard Dark Side, or at least more than just the song “Money,” which was a staple on our local rock radio. I was in science class in junior high. For some reason our teacher, Mr. Hurtz (name changed to protect the innocent) would let us listen to music in class. I think this was more towards the end of the school year when he was just trying to hold his breath and make it to summer so he didn’t have to be around teenagers for three months. We were a precocious group of miscreants, er I mean students. Anyway, this guy from my neighborhood Micky (named changed to protect the guilty) had a portable 8-track player that he’d brought to school – who needed an iPod? – shaped like a detonator…try to get that past school security these days. The 8-track player was called “The Dynamite 8.” He’s playing Dark Side, but like all 8-tracks you could skip around the tape and he kept hitting the “plunger” on the top of the 8-track player to skip ahead. He’d apparently sat around his bedroom stoned and memorized the album and was in the habit of skipping to his favorite parts. I hated 8-tracks as they never gave you a real feel for the record. I remember this guy Dave, in class, asking if I thought the woman (Clare Torry) who sang on “The Great Gig In The Sky” was in the band? I don’t know why a woman in the band was astounding? Had he never heard of Fleetwood Mac? Dave too was a big fan of the hookah… Say what you want about the stoners – they were thought of derisively back in those days – but they were thinkers. Their minds had been “freed.”

As a young junior high school student with little beyond allowance in terms of cash it was hard to start a record collection. You had to buy “the right” albums. My father famously asked me why I needed more than one or two albums… like he didn’t realize each album had different music on it? Anyway, at the time (the late 70s), there were no bigger bands than Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. The majority of the black light posters hanging in junior high and high school bedrooms were those two bands. Sure the Stones were still big but Zeppelin and Floyd were the coolest!! Ergo, Dark Side Of The Moon was one of the first albums I ever bought. I’d only heard “Money” and snippets from Micky’s stoned 8-track but that was enough to whet my appetite. Buying the album for my collection felt, well, foundational. Like Dark Side was just one of those must have albums that every “serious” collector of rock n roll had to own. I have to say though, as a 13 year old, it took me a little bit to  warm to this album. Don’t get me wrong, the music was fabulous, hypnotic even, but the lyrics and themes… heavy.

Waters conceived the album as a “concept album” about all the things in the world that can make you go insane. I think the album has even deeper themes beyond mental illness that include stress, isolation, travel, greed, death and war. Waters included Rick Wright’s fear of travel in “On The Run,” and it was Wright who wrote about death on “The Great Gig In The Sky.” Waters wrote more directly about mental illness on the songs “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” which were inspired by founder Syd Barrett (vocals/guitar/songwriting) the genius who’d gone mad on acid and left the band pretty much after the first album. I read a review of Pink Floyd, many moons ago, and the guy said that Pink Floyd were at their best when they wrote songs about former band members. That’s certainly true of this album… and Waters has always said Wish You Were Here (my favorite Floyd album) was written to the other guys in the band who weren’t present after all the success Dark Side brought… but that album feels like it’s more about Syd (“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”) and the music business in general (“Welcome To the Machine”). The Wall, Pink Floyd’s magnum opus double-album, was basically a blending of Waters and Barrett’s life stories. Even the Waters-less Division Bell has a few really good songs where Gilmour complains about Waters… Some people you just don’t get over in life.

Anyway, the dark themes that Dark Side addressed were tough for me as a 13 year old to digest. I quickly moved on to Wish You Were Here. Eventually though, as I matured and understood the subject matter a little better, I returned to Dark Side and realized what a masterpiece it truly is. Recorded when the band still got along… According to Wikipedia, the album was on the Billboard charts for 976 weeks and sold an amazing 14 million copies in the U.S. alone. It’s the 4th best selling album of all time. As I somehow knew, inherently when I bought this record, one of the first ten LPs I purchased, it really is a foundational album for any collector. If you’re fan of rock, you own or better said, must own Dark Side. The song “Time” is such a momentous statement. The line I quoted above, “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day…” has meaning to everyone who has longed for more in their life, or to do more with their lives. When people speak of the “greatest rock n roll of all time” this album is among the music they’re talking about. Trippy, cerebral, intelligent rock n roll. And don’t get me started on the whole Wizard of Oz synch thing… probably discovered by the aforementioned stoners…

Oddly, I had never heard the live performance of the album from 1974’s Wembley concert. I’d have thought I’d come across the bootleg somewhere along the line, but no. Pink Floyd albums, for the most part, are better played in their entirety as a suite of songs. I still wonder how they’re able to put out a “greatest hits” package as each song on each album is crafted to blend to the next and so on. Performing an entire album from start to finish is a tough thing to do. I unfortunately saw Boston play Third Stage in its entirety, in the album’s running order, and it was the only concert to date that I dosed off dmid-show. However, the way Pink Floyd structures their albums makes it work much better. And well, the material on Dark Side, beyond being just better music is better heard played together as a whole. But make no mistake, this is far more than a “recital” like it’s classical music. Gilmour’s voice is more raspy and fierce in the live performance. His guitar is all over this thing, as it should be. He jams a little bit at the end of a couple of tracks like “Money” or “Any Colour You Like.” Clare Torry reprises her role on “The Great Gig In The Sky.” And no Dave, she wasn’t “in” the band. I think any Floyd fans, or fans of Dark Side, can and will certainly enjoy this live album:

I urge each of you Floyd fans out there to check out this live disc. And please, don’t “fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way…” Pick up a hobby, call a friend, have a drink with your spouse or better yet listen to an album you haven’t heard in a while… it’ll make you feel great again! Time is precious and life is fleeting – I learned this lesson again recently when a good friend passed – enjoy every moment. Or better yet, as Warren Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” And if you’re struggling with any form of mental health from anxiety to depression, please reach out for help. Nobody should struggle in the isolation and despair that this album describes. Pour something strong and turn this live Pink Floyd from 1974, a galaxy far, far away, up as loud as it can go.

Cheers! Take care of each other out there.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers! Take care of each other out there…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


The Allman Brothers Band, At The Fillmore East

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


Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Live Bullet

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


Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive!

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


Kiss, Alive!

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


Thin Lizzy, Live And Dangerous

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


Jackson Browne, Running On Emtpy

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


Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense

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


Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick At Budokan

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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