Led Zeppelin & The Kansas City Myth Of Their Being Booed Off Stage Early In Their Career

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*Photo taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

It’s hard to explain to young people, like say my daughter, what life was like before the internet. Nowadays you’re merely a few keystrokes away from the answer to any question you have. What time is it in Oslo? Easy, just ask the internet. Any mystery or quandary you have can be resolved in seconds. When I was a kid – and when I type that I realize I sound like the meme “old man yells at cloud” – and I was reading, if I came upon a word I didn’t know or a reference I didn’t understand I had to set the book down and pick up the dictionary or worse go into the den to the encyclopedias aligned from A to Z on the bookshelves. It’s how I learned a lot of things and yet it was a source of great amusement to my daughter when she found out I did that. She also made fun of the fact that I was a league bowler back in those days. It’s hard to make that sound cool.

In the absence of Google, a lot of what we knew was sort of a collective “conscious” if you will. Right out of college I read the long, epic poem/story The Iliad. It’s writing was attributed to the ancient Greek writer Homer. It was written down sometime around 800 B.C. or 600 B.C. I could probably look it up on the internet but it’s not that important. Anyway, I say written down because over the year it’s been acknowledged that those early stories attributed to Homer – The Iliad and also The Odyssey – were actually part of an “oral tradition.” Before you think I’m talking dirty, I merely mean that the stories, told in the form of a poem, were passed from generation to generation not by being written on stone tablets or papyrus, but by being spoken aloud. While I went to high school say, 3000 years later, I’ve come to realize we hadn’t really evolved much. There were certain stories and myths that got passed around from generation to generation.

One of those stories involve another epic artistic venture, Led Zeppelin. When I started listening to rock n roll in the late 70s, Zeppelin was, unbeknownst to us, nearing the tragic end. The first LP that they put out after I had become a rock music fan was In Through The Out Door, an album that I sometimes feel that I alone love. I remember they announced their U.S. tour in support of that album and the closest they were coming to Kansas City was Chicago. Some of the seniors in my high school were trying to organize a trip to go up there. They were going to rent a bus, everyone would chip in. It was very communal, Woodstocky if you ask me. I’m not sure how they intended to get tickets to the show. Sadly while they were rehearsing for the tour at Jimmy Page’s house John Bonham drank enough vodka to kill a small bear and choked on his own vomit – which is how true rock stars went out back then. I never knew if the senior gang got their deposit money back on the bus?

Before all that tragic shit went down, I remember asking a few people why Led Zeppelin wasn’t coming to Kansas City. I guess I wasn’t worldly enough to realize that KC was just a small tour stopover for most bands. I thought we were a big deal not just a cowtown. It was then that I began to hear what I call the “Kansas City Myth of Zeppelin.” People would speak in whispered, reverent tones about why Zeppelin didn’t play KC. I remember sleeping out for Van Halen tickets and this old hippy behind me in line, who may have been the first person to tell me the story, said to me with a wistful look in his eyes, “Oh Zeppelin will never come back to Kansas City… they’ve only played here once and they were booed off the stage.” This was stunning news to me. First, that the mighty Zeppelin would be booed off the stage and second that Kansas City would have been that rude to anybody. We’re friendly here, like Canadians. The story went that Zeppelin was an opening act for some other band and the fans were drunk and impatient for the headliner and so they booed so loud and obnoxiously Zeppelin left the stage and refused to ever play here again. I was incredulous but after asking around about it, it seemed that everybody told the same story. It had become gospel, part of our accepted, Kansas City collective wisdom.

That may sound crazy to everyone. It was made more believable because there was a similar story – that might have been equally untrue – about Bad Company being booed off the stage as headliners. They had Ted Nugent open for them and I guess Ted came out with his usual crazy blow the roof off the joint stuff. Bad Company rock but they’re a little more laid back and riffy than Nugent. The myth was that Ted had got the crowd so riled up that when Bad Co came out and opened with the mellow song “Bad Company” the crazed crowd was having none of it. I find it hard to believe anybody who shelled out money to see Bad Co would boo them off the stage because of… Ted Nugent? C’mon, it’s preposterous? But with that story out there it kind of made the Zeppelin myth seem somewhat truer. Maybe KC audiences were just crazed assholes?

As incredible as the Zeppelin story was, I saw Robert Plant the first time he played Kansas City on the Fate Of Nations tour. He had been scheduled to play KC on the Now & Zen tour but his guitarist or his bassist had slipped and fell of the stage in (I believe) Tulsa a few days earlier and he’d cancelled. So this deep into his solo career it was the first time he’d played KC which only had played into the “booed off the stage” myth. Anyway, on this night at Memorial Hall with Plant on stage – he played “Ramble On” early in the set and I heard my friend’s girlfriend (now wife) ask, “Why is this guy singing Zeppelin?” (Sigh) – he referenced the “Kansas City Myth of Zeppelin.” He said he had heard a story about why he hadn’t played here in a long time, if ever. I mean, that’s quite a powerful myth if you’ve got Robert Plant himself referencing it. I remember my ears pricked up immediately. He said something about making up for lost time and launched into “Calling To You” or some great Plant rock song.

I finally decided to scour the internet and find out if any of this was true. It turns out Zeppelin had played KC only twice but that was more than the “only played here once” myth. They played KC for the first time November 5th 1969. It must have been after the first LP, as the set is all culled from those songs. Apparently they’d played Ontario, Canada the night before and were playing San Francisco the night after. They’d shipped their equipment on to SF and had to borrow equipment from a local band. They were not openers, they were the headliners. Reviews were positive with a few minor complaints about the borrowed PA system. They apparently played two shows that night, 7pm and 930pm. Rumor has it Bonham got a little blasted on Scotch in between shows and almost missed the second gig. No booing.

They came back almost a year later on August 19, 1970. The set list I found online has them opening with the “Immigrant Song” but the rest of the tracks were from Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II. Again, reviews were very positive and even went so far as saying this was a much better performance than their debut shows a year earlier. At least they had their own equipment this time. Apparently several of the band members had grown beards (most notably Page, but also Plant and JPJ) and the reviewer couldn’t resist commenting on the “abundance of hair.” The reviewer sounds like my grandmother who abhorred facial hair. Anyway, he goes on to complement their more nuanced playing and how they’d developed some mellower stuff to go with the hard rocking stuff. Again, no mention of booing is made here.

Why didn’t Zeppelin ever come back to Kansas City? I think at this point we have to agree that it had nothing to do with KC crowds booing them. It was probably scheduling or money or maybe issues with local promoters. Kemper Arena – where most big shows took place in the 70s and 80s – didn’t open until 1974 and Zeppelin were too big to play Memorial Hall or Municipal Auditorium, they’d outgrown our ability to host them. And yet, it was taken as gospel they were booed off the stage and never returned. Even Plant might have bought into that story at his solo show. We all thought that story was true. Thankfully… no it was not. Although as I type this, I know there is a really old hippy out there somewhere still telling that story like a stoned Oracle of Delphi to young rock fans foolish enough to listen.

What have we learned people? First, KC audiences aren’t assholes. Secondly, Zeppelin did play here a couple of times and god bless you if you were old enough and lucky enough to see them. I was not. I was, as Tom Petty sings, “a boy in short pants” during that time period. What we’ve also learned – question everything, especially authority… even if that authority is a hippy in the Van Halen ticket line…

Cheers!

Black Keys Release Rocking, Sleazy New Single “Wild Child” & It’s Put a Twisted Smile On My Face

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“I’m just a stranger with a twisted smile…”

When I was in college, which believe it or not were the “heavy drinking” years, my friends and I used to all say when we weren’t studying or in school that we were social workers out doing “social” work trying to improve things for people. Which basically meant we were out doing crazy shit to help entertain other people whose lives might not be as interesting as they could or should be. Such is the hubris of youth… or of drunken youth. “We are the youth gone wild…” as the song goes. Or at least we were the youth gone wild. Anyway, as part of that whole boozy buffoonery, I remember saying to friends, “When I’m old I just want these memories to be a twisted smile on my face that no one understands but me… and perhaps people will wonder where it came from?” I guess I was powerfully channeling my inner David Lee Roth all the time. Remember how cool he was back in the 80s?

I took a friend to the doctor today. And while I was sitting in the waiting room – where I waited almost as long as I did at the DMV a few weeks ago, someone owes me a beer – I saw that the Black Keys had dropped a new single “Wild Child.” I may be a little late on this one as apparently it’s number 1 on some music chart… I don’t really pay attention to the “charts,” as I’ve mentioned before (12 Favorite Old School, Vinyl, Single- Album Greatest Hits LPs; The Struggle Was Real). I was just thrilled the Keys had a new song out. I had heard they had a new album coming out but didn’t have any other details… I do now, the album is called Dropout Boogie and it’ll be out May 13th. I can’t believe they’ve already got a new album coming out? It was just last year they put out the great blues cover LP Delta Kream. And only two years prior they’d released the fabulous Let’s Rock. To turn around and drop a new album already is 1970s level rock n roll output. Usually they take a break for guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach’s latest solo album… or he produces someone else’s music. To be fair, Pat Carney (drums) also does some outside producing as well. Good for them. Always nice to work with other people, get the juices flowing for the next band project.

I was delighted when I heard that first single and the opening lyric, “I’m just a stranger with a twisted smile…” It certainly took me back to sunny spring days a life time ago… Perhaps there’ll be a twisted smile on my headstone. “Wild Child” is another in a long line of great Black Keys songs. These guys are some of the most consistently wonderful rockers out there. The entire song is a “come on.” Boy meets girl and proceeds to attempt to woo said girl. The first 7 seconds are a funky, almost disco, little riff that wouldn’t be out of place in and old school porn movie… not that I know anything about that sort of thing. Then the song kicks in with one of those monster Auerbach riffs. “Your heart is in danger…” Oh, indeed it is. The guitars are fuzzy and sleazy which perfectly fits the track. Carney’s drums throb like a heartbeat. Between riffs you can hear Auerbach doing a wah-wah thing that gives this such a funky, fun underpinning. As usual there’s a great guitar solo – we’d expect nothing less from these guys. “Baby won’t you show me your wild child ways.” Yes, please. You can feel the lust and need dripping off this song… It’s the perfect Spring song – even if you live in Kansas City where Spring has basically been Winter 2.0.

Here is the link:

These guys have come such a long way since their early bluesy, punky rock n roll. I would really like to see these guys live. I actually saw them do 1 song with the Stones at their 50th Anniversary show in Newark… They certainly acquitted themselves well. This album is an automatic buy for me. It’s not that kind of Jack White, genius gone weird level stuff that I have to hear first (and hear a few times) before I’ll buy. There’s nothing wrong with being consistently kick ass. Tom Petty was consistently kick ass so that’s pretty fine company the Black Keys find themselves in. Petty was an American Treasure after all.

Cheers! And always…during these dark times, keep smiling even if it’s a little bit of a twisted smile!

Pink Floyd: First New Single Since 2014 – “Hey, Hey, Rise Up (Featuring Andriy Khylvnyuk)” For Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief

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I had to rub my eyes when I started seeing the stuff on line… A new song by legendary band Pink Floyd? That can’t be right. Perhaps it could be early on-set dementia catching up with me? Pink Floyd hasn’t done anything since 2014’s The Endless River, a mostly instrumental tribute to their then-recently passed keyboard player Rick Wright. And the songs on that album were crafted from jams they did when recording The Division Bell back in 1994. They just went in and did some creative editing and a little bit of addition to come up with the album. I dug The Endless River as it harkens back to that Floyd period after founding guitarist/vocalist Syd Barrett departed and before the massive fame that came with Dark Side Of The Moon. And let’s face it, Pink Floyd was always at their best when lamenting a departed band member be it Syd Barrett, Roger Waters or Rick Wright. But after The Endless River, David Gilmour announced, that’s it, Pink Floyd are done.

Hence my shock when I saw that there was a new Floyd song on the way. It turns out Gilmour has gotten Pink Floyd back together for the most noble of reasons. The song is for charity, namely Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief. All proceeds go to that. Gilmour could have released this as a solo track, but obviously he realizes that the creative/commercial reach of using the Pink Floyd name is far wider than just his solo stuff. Pink Floyd has always stood on the side of Peace and this is a perfect use of their clout. Joining Gilmour (guitar) is Nick Mason on drums – and if Gilmour and Mason are involved it’s Pink Floyd to me – with Guy Pratt whose played bass for Pink Floyd for a long time and Nitin Sawhney on keyboards. Gilmour’s daughter-in-law is Ukrainian so he obviously has a personal stake in all of this.

On vocals it’s Andriy Khlyvnyuk from the Ukrainian band Boombox. Gilmour sat in with Boombox a few years ago, although Andriy was absent that night, visa issues. More recently Boombox was touring, I believe in America, when the Russians launched their unprovoked invasion. He flew back to Kyiv to help defend his country. After being there a few days he posted a video on social media singing a Ukrainian song “The Red Viburnum In The Meadow.” It’s a “we will rise” kind of song. Very stirring. It was then that Gilmour got the idea of pulling Pink Floyd back together. Mason was immediately keen on the idea. Gilmour was quoted as saying, in a self-deprecating manner, “All I had to do was go in and play the “guitar god” part.” And he certainly does. There is also a very affecting video on YouTube, seen here:

I thought, “Charity single ok, I’m in,” but I didn’t expect to like this song as much as I do. Andriy’s vocal is as impassioned as you’d think it would be. I loved when U2 did that side project as The Passengers and did that song with Luciano Pavarotti, “Miss Sarajevo” so I found hearing someone sing in Ukrainian quite moving. And Gilmour’s guitar is, well quite inspired. He’s one of those guitar players who when I hear him, I know it’s him. His style of playing is so distinctive. He does not sing at all on the song, it’s all Andriy on vocals.

There are some who may argue whether this is “really” Pink Floyd. But it was the line up of Gilmour and Mason who were credited as Pink Floyd on A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Rick Wright played on the album but wasn’t an “official” band member so he could avoid the hassles brought on by Roger Waters lawsuit against the band… which he eventually lost. So if you want to get caught up in the debate of whether this is Pink Floyd or not, go right ahead. But here at B&V this is Pink Floyd.

This is a great song put together for an even greater reason, Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief. Anything that can help is positive. I love that Gilmour cranked up Pink Floyd in the cause of humanitarian relief. The Russians atrocities get worse every day. I can’t believe we’re seeing a war in Europe in 2022. If this great song can shine more light on it, I’m in. Come for the noble cause, stay for the impassioned vocal and searing guitar solos. And as we used to say in high school, “It’s Pink Floyd, man.”

“All we are saying is give Peace a chance” – John Lennon!

Cheers!

Review: Red Hot Chili Pepper’s ‘Unlimited Love’ – Frusciante Returns For A Midtempo, Groove-fest

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If you’re like me, you spent the weekend holed up in a room with big speakers listening to the highly anticipated new LP from the Red Hot Chili Peppers (complete with John Frusciante back on guitar) Unlimited Love.

A few weeks ago my daughter was in town and we went over to see my parents. My father, a half a glass of wine in, decided to drop some family trivia. Each member of our nuclear family was born in a different state. While true, it’s not something I think about a lot. My father was actually born in Los Angeles. His parents, my grandparents, migrated from Kansas to California during the Great Depression like so many people did. It wasn’t quite as Grapes Of Wrath as it sounds. My grandfather had a job in a factory waiting for him. My grandparents were comfortable enough they not only had my dad but my uncle both in L.A. Eventually they returned to the Midwest but I always wonder what would have happened if they’d stayed out West. Who knows, I might have gone to high school with Anthony Kiedis, Flea and Hillel Slovak. I’m about the same age as those cats. Maybe, despite no evidence of musical ability, I’d be in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Although my low pain threshold has kept me away from tattoos… and I’m not brave enough to appear on stage in only one sock. Dare to dream.

New music from the Chili Peppers is always a treat. Maybe it’s because (as mentioned) I’m roughly the same age, it always feels like getting an email from an old friend when they drop new music. Admittedly I was late getting on their bandwagon. I am probably the only Chili Peppers fan who discovered the band through the one album they did with Dave Navarro, One Hot Minute. Critics felt the songs on that album were under developed but I love that record. “Warped” is just an amazing song. “My tendency for dependency is up ending me…” From there I went back to their seminal line-up and most famous LPs featuring John Frusciante – Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Mother’s Milk. Those albums were a tour de force of guitar funk. Flea is the greatest bassist of his generation. It was fun following Kiedis’ development as a vocalist. He started as a rapper now he’s a fabulous vocalist. I was hesitant to buy Californication when it came out. I remember listening to samples of it at the Barnes & Noble on the Plaza. I walked out of there with that album and it solidified my place on their bandwagon.

I was terribly bummed after Frusciante left a second time after Stadium Arcadium. I’d seen them on that tour and he played with an almost religious ecstasy on his face. Everyone except my parents loved Stadium Arcadium. I had people significantly older than me at work tell me they were listening to that album. You could argue they were the biggest band on the planet at that point. A friend of mine at the time said to me, “I can’t believe I’m more into the Chili Peppers LP than the new Pearl Jam. If you’d told me 10 years ago that would happen I’d have told you you were crazy.” While I was bummed they’d lost Frusciante after that album and tour I stayed on the bandwagon. I thought Josh Klinghoffer who replaced Frusciante was a significantly less talented lead guitarist but I was in no way anti Josh. I loved I’m Beside You. However, I was really unimpressed with The Getaway, despite the sensational first single, “Dark Necessities.” The wheels came off on the second half of that album… Having listened to it for the first time in a long while this weekend, I stand by my opinion.

As I said, with Frusciante returning to the fold after an amicable split with Klinghoffer (Chad Smith played with Josh on Eddie Vedder’s new LP and tour) anticipation has been running high for this album. Anticipation is a tricky thing. If it gets to excessive it can interfere with how you perceive an album. I expected the same kind of guitar masterwork we got on Stadium Arcadium. There are moments of Frusciante’s transcendent guitar work but I would describe this album as more “Flea forward” than their last LP together. This album has a lot of funky bass and that is not a bad thing. These guys remind me of my old college roommates. There were five us in a tiny apartment. Rent was like $60 a month. We were wild men in those old days. When we get together for reunions these days they’re always fun but nothing as crazy as the college years. Maybe that’s what happened on this record. Old pals got together not to recapture old glories but reaffirm their bond and vibe. This album is a very midtempo affair. That doesn’t necessarily bother me, but the Rock Chick was not pleased.

The album starts with the first single, the somber “Black Summer.” It may not be as glorious as “Dark Necessities” but it’s a great track. It’s very “Slow Cheetah.” The first third of this record is just sensational. It’s as varied and melodious as anything they’ve ever done. “Here Ever After” is an upbeat, funky ear worm of a song. It gets in your head and it stays there. “Aquatic Mouth Dance” has some great horns that distinguish it. I do love Flea on trumpet. It’s another funky rocker. “Not The One” is just a gorgeous ballad. I love the line “I don’t look like myself in photographs.” Beautiful song, beautifully sung. “Poster Child” is a funky “We Didn’t Start The Fire” trippy trip through history. The chorus is another “stick in your brain” kind of moment. “I will be your poster child…”

“The Great Apes” is really the first track that Frusciante’s guitar dominates. The sounds he gets out of a guitar are so distinct. There are certain guitarists who I hear and just know who it is. It’s as unique as a vocal. David Gilmour and even Clapton are like that for me. I’m realizing Frusciante is as distinct as those guys. “It’s Only Natural” continues the hot streak. While it’s mellower it’s got some cool guitar sound effects. “She’s A Lover” is another bass heavy, funky up beat track. It’s another song I like a whole lot. “These Are the Ways” is probably the biggest rock song on the album. Frusciante lets loose with some heavy riffs on that track.

It’s after that, starting with “Whatchu Thinkin'” and “Bastards of Light” that the album falls into that midtempo vibe and they never really get out of it. I like Rick Rubin and I think he’s the perfect producer for these guys but he lets them get a little monochromatic at times, like Picasso in his “Blue Period.” The Chili Peppers’ creative process is jam based – most of their songs come out of sessions where they get together and jam. That jam based process doesn’t really lend itself to editing. They probably could have cut a few songs and it would have helped the album. It’s an hour and thirteen minutes long. “Bastards of Light” is the only track I didn’t connect with, it turns into Kiedis singing through a megaphone. “White Braids & Pillow Chair” is a pretty ballad but it meanders as did my mind at that point in the album. Taken by themselves each of these songs are great but as a whole the album does seem very midtempo. There’s nothing wrong with mellow it’s just not what I’d expected.

Things get back on track toward the end of the album with the upbeat “One Way Traffic.” “Will you be my traffic jam?” It’s got a great sing along chorus. That’ll be a big one live. I really love the song “Let ‘Em Cry.” It may be my favorite on the album. “Veronica” has great lyrics. “The Heavy Wing” is probably, yes, the heaviest track on the album. Frusciante takes over the vocals on the back end of that song which is an unfortunate choice. “Tangelo” wraps things up much like “Roadtrippin'” did Californication, with a beautiful acoustic guitar driven track.

This is certainly one of the biggest albums of the year and I urge everybody to check it out. I can’t wait to see these guys live again. I want the Rock Chick to behold the majesty of John Frusciante live. They purportedly put together 50 songs when recording this album and there are rumors they might release a follow up in short order. I’m for all the Chili Peppers with Frusciante I can get!

Enjoy this laid back groove of an album. I know it made my weekend! Cheers!

B&V’s 12 Favorite Old School, Vinyl, Single- Album Greatest Hits LPs – The Struggle Was Real

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I was never a guy who watched the music charts. As a decidedly rock n roll guy and not a “pop” music fan I didn’t look to see who had the number 1 song in the world, or any place else for that matter. What was popular didn’t matter to me. What rocked absolutely mattered to me (and still does)! There was one true rock n roll station in Kansas City at the time, KY102 and they didn’t play “hits.” The hits were all to be found on the pop station, Q104. My brother was diverse enough he’d listen to both stations, but I was all rock n roll, all the time… once I eventually got into music. My parents would play the Casey Kasem show American Top 40 on Sunday mornings on the way to church in an attempt to mollify my anger at having to get out of bed, bathe and go to Mass. I had gotten into music and I guess they thought playing pop music would soothe the savage (and apparently heathen) beast. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. Listening to pop music on the way to and from church was as close as I got to knowing anything about the pop music charts and what was popular. And yes, for those of you who missed him, Casey Kasem was even cheesier than you might imagine.

That all being said, even as a vinyl guy, I find myself going out to buy music on different platforms. I have a room full of vinyl, CDs and hard drives full of MP3’s. Every now and again I’ll find myself going out to Apple Music to buy a stray song. I recently bought the song “Soulmates to Strangers” by Joan Jett because while I dig her, I just wanted that song. I’m not “that” into her that I considered the entire LP… but I’m getting off topic here. On those occasions I’m out on Apple buying a single song, I find myself glancing at the “TOP SONGS” and “TOP ALBUMS” on the “Rock” home page. I can’t help myself. I’m always curious to see what people are buying. “TOP SONGS” doesn’t really interest me, although occasionally I do find some stray tune on the list I like but my eyes almost always head to “TOP ALBUMS.” The list of top LPs usually includes a few heavy metal titles – like really heavy stuff (keep rawking people!) – but invariably the list is dominated by greatest hits albums. Whether it’s Journey, CCR or the Eagles, it’s always a who’s who of classic rock “best of” compilations. At first I was surprised, but when I think about my own early experience collecting music, I totally get it.

I had my “rock awakening” somewhere around 1977 or 1978. The first LP I ever purchased was the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls and after that there was no turning back, I was hooked. Rock n Roll as an art form was a good twenty to twenty-five years old by that point. Granted the famous rockers from the 50s had all “aged out” by the time I was into music. Listening to 50s rock n roll was like watching old, grainy, black and white footage of baseball in the 1920s… jerky movements and small hats with big gloves. Even Elvis was on his last legs and eventually passed away in awful fashion. I did have a connection to that 50s music. My father had a wire rack full of old singles from Elvis, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles. It was hard to listen to those early Elvis singles (that I loved) and being able to connect that visceral, powerful music that sounded like life itself with the Elvis who died at the end.

If I put aside the 50s and limit the life of rock to 1963, the year “Love Me Do” by the Beatles came out, that’s still a good 15 years of rock n roll I had to catch up on. There was soooo much great rock n roll already extant and it was all I could do to keep up with stuff that was being released currently. How was I ever going to catch up and build a decent record collection? And lets not forget, at the time I was in middle school (or as we called it, Junior High). It’s not like I had a “9 to 5” job down at the bank that paid me a whole bunch. I got a pittance for an allowance from my folks. Most of my spare change went toward buying LPs from the rock groups who were then current. Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door, The Who Face Dances and Springsteen’s The River were all early purchases. That last one, the Springsteen record, was particularly dear as it was a double LP which was always a huge investment. Obviously, each of those groups (and so many others) had a rich history and big back catalogs. What’s a (relatively) poor boy to do to build a record collection of the music he loved?

As a young collector who couldn’t afford to buy all of the Beatles LPs, I did what we all did back then, I turned to greatest hits collections. You must remember that this was long before the 2-CD, wonderfully curated greatest hits packages that I see listed on the Apple Music “TOP ALBUMS” list. There was no Depeche Mode Singles 86 – 98 or Scorpions Deadly Sting. Sure, there were some double LP greatest hits packages out there – the Stones Hot Rocks and Neil Young’s Decade (which was actually 3 LPs) spring to mind – but double LPs were more than my tiny budget could afford. Even after I started working mowing lawns or busing tables I was leery of buying double LPs, greatest hits or otherwise… Pink Floyd’s The Wall was certainly a rare exception. Cassettes helped – I taped my brothers’ Hot Rocks and my parents Beatles’ 1967-1970 aka The Blue Album but I really had limited access to other people’s collections. There was no file sharing unless you count passing cassettes around.

I turned, as most of us did, to buying single-LP greatest hits collections. They never really contained every song I wanted or liked from an artist – they were rarely a complete picture of the artist’s catalog – but those greatest hits albums were the foundation of my early record collection. If I liked the greatest hits album I’d slowly delve deeper into the artist’s catalog until the greatest hits package became, well superfluous. Over the years as my collection grew, I divested of many of the greatest hits packages from those early days. But I wish I hadn’t. I loved so many of those albums. If the album was sequenced right, with a healthy dose of great tunes, it was almost like an original… Sometimes there was a bonus track you couldn’t find anywhere else or a single that hadn’t been released on an album up to that point. Those were always great to have. I thought I’d share the 12 “best of” albums that were my favorites. I’m sure some of you out there owned a few of these?

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  • The Doors, Greatest Hits – This LP got my entire generation into the Doors. It’s iconic to folks of a certain age. There were longer (double-LP) and perhaps better greatest hits albums from the Doors but this was the one we all owned. It was short but it had all the highlights. The biography of Jim Morrison No One Here Gets Out Alive also came out around this time and we all wanted to be the poet rebel. If I was ever in trouble I gave my fake name as Ken Morrison as an homage.

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  • David Bowie, Changesonebowie – Bowie was intimidating. He’d gone through so many stylistic (yes) changes I didn’t know where to start. This was the perfect primer for me on Bowie. I actually still have this one on vinyl. From “Space Oddity” to “Changes” I realized I dug Bowie. I had already purchased Let’s Dance and this album made me realize I’d only scratched the surface.

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  • Paul McCartney, Wings Greatest – This had a bunch of non album tracks like “Mull of Kintyre” and “Junior’s Farm” and it came with a cool poster that I hung on my wall. It was only the tip of the iceberg of McCartney’s post Beatles 70s work but man I wore this thing out. At the time I only owned Band On The Run and the then current Tug Of War and I thought this rounded it out nicely… I had so far to go.

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  • The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 – This album had a ton of their best tracks from the pre-Hotel California Eagles. As a youngster Hotel California was really all I cared about from the Eagles, but they had so many great songs, this LP, one of the biggest sellers of all time was a must have.

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  • Aerosmith, Greatest Hits – I actually bought their Live Bootleg LP thinking that it had more of their big songs on it. I love live LPs, but Live Bootleg was pretty raw. I ended up going back for this LP to augment my Aerosmith collection. The songs were edited but this was the perfect cassette for the car. The Rock Chick had this on CD when I met her and I knew we were destined to be together.

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  • The Who, Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy – Sure, I had Face Dances and I even plunked down the cash for Who’s Next but I couldn’t afford to go back and chase all these great early Who tracks down. The critics hoped for more unreleased stuff but I loved this record. It’s a perfect collection of early singles. And “Pinball Wizard” was on this album and I couldn’t afford the double-LP Tommy.

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  • Elton John, Greatest Hits – We were all a little leery of Elton – was he a pop or did he rock? Yes, of course he rocked. This was the perfect introduction to his vast catalog. I don’t know anybody who didn’t own this record. It wasn’t until I was in college, after I’d seen him live that I delved deeper into his catalog.

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  • The Doobie Brothers, Best of the Doobies – I was a huge fan of the Tom Johnston era of the Doobies but I had no idea where to begin… this was the place. While I’m one of the few people I knew who were into the Doobies in the late 70s, I really liked this record. And it was better than Minute By Minute which everyone owned but no one admitted they owned.

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  • Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits – Believe it or not, my first Dylan album was Slow Train Coming, his first in the “Christian Trilogy.” I dug his lyrics (that really was poetry) and wanted more but didn’t know where to start. So I started here. It was the only LP with “Positively 4th Street” on it… a song I love. “Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, You’d know what a drag it is to see you.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that about someone.

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  • ZZ Top, The Best of ZZ Top – ZZ had emerged from a short hiatus with Deguello an album I still just love. This was a perfect sampling of all their stuff prior. It had everything from “La Grange” to “Tush” which was a perfect for me at the time. I finally ended up owning all of their early records (except Tejas) so I sadly parted ways with this one. It was a great introduction to everything that had come before Deguello.

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  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Smash Hits – I had no idea the Hendrix Experience only had 3 LPs… if I’d realized that I probably would have just bitten the bullet and bought them all in high school. But I did love this album. It had “Stone Free” which wasn’t on any of his actual albums. And as mentioned, I always loved a stray single finding a home on an LP.

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  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, So Far – I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know this was a greatest hits LP when I bought it. It was the only album I could find “Ohio” on at the time and therefore I thought it was just a studio LP albeit an amazing one. It was indeed a great sampler of their biggest tracks but again with only 1 or 2 LPs to buy I could have foregone it… but I’m glad I didn’t. It wasn’t until college when my roommate Drew turned me on to CSN (Y) that I started to collect their first few LPs including Deja Vu.

I’m sure all of you out there had that LP or cassette of a greatest hits package that you just loved. Nothing that was exhaustive or complete but just a great record you liked to listen to at full volume on the headphones in your bedroom when you got home from school or in your car with the windows down (or if you had money maybe with the T-tops off. What were your favorites from back in the day? Let us know in the comments section.

I hope you all enjoyed this little stroll down memory lane! There is nothing wrong with owning a greatest hits package. It’s a great way to build up your collection. And like me, if you find some gems you weren’t aware of perhaps it’ll lead you to an LP you’d only paged past. To me greatest hits packages serve two great purposes – 1) it builds your collection, especially if you’re not so into the artist you wanna buy all their LPs and 2) it serves and a good introduction or primer into an artist’s catalog. You can’t lose.

Cheers!

Playlist: Our Favorite Songs About The Surreal Realm of Dreams/Dreaming

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*Image of Freud (apparently interpreting dreams) taken from the internet and likely subject to copyright

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Editor’s Note: Right before I went to bed last night I saw the terrible, terrible news that the world of rock n roll had lost another bright light. Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins, dead at 50. Such terrible, terrible sad news. My condolences to Taylor’s family (especially his 3 kids) and to Dave Grohl and all the Foo Fighter’s family. I’m not a huge fan of the Foo Fighters but this one did hit me kind of hard… fifty is still so  young.

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“To sleep, perchance to dream” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare

I’ve always had a more classical bent to my reading. While the Rock Chick is prone to reading murder mysteries I’m more likely to be found reading ‘The Canterbury Tales.’ I’m not suggesting that’s better, it’s probably just weirder. Don’t get me wrong, any more I’m as likely to be reading Michael Connelly as Ernest Hemingway. I had a History Professor in college who, along with an English Professor, had published a reading list which I bought for $2 and it has provided me a lifetime of entertainment. That’s all well and good, but it gets me funny looks.

I was in an airport with the guy who hired me to my current company, many years ago, and I purchased Freud’s The Interpretation Of Dreams at the airport news stand. The guy I was with – we are both Traveling Salesmen – was horrified. My mom had a friend who was a psychologist and I mentioned to him I was reading Freud and even he shuddered…”Find a nice murder mystery, it’s easier to read.” He’d clearly been traumatized somewhere along his educational path by having to write a paper about Freud. In truth I only finished about 2/3’s of the book. Freud gets down in the weeds of trying to break dreams down into a mathematical formula.

While most of Freud’s theories have fallen out of favor amongst the psychological community, you have to give the guy credit. He was really the first person to delve into the surreal mental area of dreams. Freud theorized that the events of your day inspire thoughts and those thoughts are the raw material of your dreams. You eat an apple for lunch and it reminds you of your mother baking a pie and that night you dream your mother is smoking a cigar while juggling pies. Hey, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” folks. I don’t know if anybody will ever be able to tell us why we dream what we dream but it’s certainly interesting to wonder.

Last year I posted a playlist of songs about Sleeping, or my inability to sleep anyway. Longtime readers know I’m a sucker for a thematic playlist… My playlists are really more about trying to expose people to deep tracks or songs they might not have heard (or not heard in a while, anyway). Like this post, I led it off with the Shakespeare quote from Hamlet, from his most famous soliloquy, “To sleep, perchance to dream.” Hamlet was actually contemplating death, that whole “To be or not to be” thing. By “to sleep” he meant “to die” and the dreams he spoke of, which actually terrified him, symbolized what you saw after death. Leave it to me to take a lighthearted rock n roll playlist and go heavy on you… but I guess that’s my M.O.

For this post, I don’t mean anything quite that heavy. I’m just thinking about dreams. It amuses me that they also use the word “dreams” for our aspirations. It makes our wishes seem unattainable. It was George Carlin who once said, “They call it the American Dream because you’d have to be asleep to believe it.” There are plenty of songs on this list that pertain to that whole aspirational dream thing. There are also a few tracks that are about day dreaming. But what is a day dream but a dream that you’re actually conscious for and can actively choreograph. For me, when I think of dreams, I’m thinking about the theater of the mind, when you’ve finally gone into that deep R.E.M. sleep and the subconscious takes over.

As an insomniac there are many nights I don’t dream. But when I do they’re vivid. And usually not hard to interpret. Many people have recurring dreams. I’ve had the dream of falling but not since I was a kid. I’ve had the dream where I’m being menaced and I try to run but my body won’t move… I usually start making horrible noises in my sleep and the Rock Chick wakes me, thank god. I used to have a recurring dream where I was naked in public – like down at the mall – and I was trying to get home… standing behind anything I can find so people can’t see me. I’ve never had the dream where my teeth are falling out but apparently that is a common one. Another common dream I’d like to have is the dream that you’re flying – without an airplane. How cool would that be?

The most common recurring dream I have is set in college. I’m my current age, yet I’m in college. I have to go take an English final (ironically, my weakest subject). But I haven’t been in the class all semester. Many times in the dream I struggle to find the right classroom. If I fail this exam I’ll have to stay in college another semester. In some versions of this recurring dream, I actually skip to the part where I’m looking to find a place to stay because I flunked the exam. The prospect of living with the Vikings I lived with back in the day horrifies me. These are not pleasant dreams. I’ve grown accustomed to an easier lifestyle where I actually bathe and don’t eat fast food all the time.

In good times I dream about being with all my old pals and drinking fine bourbon. Those are great dreams. I always know when I’m happy dreaming. Those are rare. My recurring bad dream involves loss. Sometimes I’m visited by dead relatives – or believe or not, a favorite pet – and they are trying to deliver a message. I’m lost in a parking lot, or some innocuous place and my grandfather shows up 40 years after his death to tell me I’m lost… yeah, grandpa I get that. There are some who might believe this is a visitation from the spiritual world. I just think those people we’ve lost symbolize something to us and their appearance in the dream is merely metaphoric, not some ghost contact. I lost my grandfather, my first close relative to pass, when I was in high school. It was tough. That left a mark and that wound surfaces in dreams…

The worst dreams I have are usually when I see a person whose relationship with me ended long ago. Sometimes it’s the deceased persons mentioned above but more likely it’s someone I’ve had a falling out with or a former lover I’ve broken up with. I’m not pining for anybody but those severed relationships, like the loss of my grandfather left a scar. Those people have come to symbolize loss and pain. Especially when the break occurred early on in your life. When things are going badly or I suffer a defeat or loss those “symbols of loss and pain” pop into my head to underscore the fact. My subconscious seems hell bent on torturing me. I struggle to sleep and if things are going bad my mind creates horrible dreams for me.

It’s not always a miserable dream like that. Last night I dreamed I was in a fine restaurant with the Rock Chick and some old buddies and we were eating and drinking and telling old stories – stories that didn’t really make sense in the context of the dream but hey, who cares. Sometimes things I see in my dream happen in real life later down the road. I know that sounds crazy. I used to think that was deja vu but I’m told it’s something called precognition. It’s probably just another trick my brain plays on me. I just hope last night’s dream was one of those that actually happen… it looked like a fun night.

Without further adieu, here are our favorite songs about dreams or dreaming. You’ll find this on Spotify under BourbonAndvinyl.net Dreams/Dreaming. I stand with Neil Young on the whole Spotify thing and that moron Joe Rogan but after all these years it’d be impractical to try and re-platform all our playlists. I’m still looking into it. Neil is on this playlist here in the B&V labs but obviously not on this playlist. As always, if you have a favorite “dream’ themed track, please put it in the comments section and I’ll add it to the playlist. The playlists are, as always, a B&V community thing, not just my purview.

  1. Rainbow, “Street Of Dreams” – I’ve always liked Rainbow, I need to get them on the playlists more often. For some reason this song always reminds me of ‘Nightmare On Elm Street.’
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “I’ll See You In My Dreams” – Great track from Letter To You about seeing his old bandmates in his dreams… I see my old pals in dreams as well.
  3. Alice Cooper, “Caught In A Dream” – Old Alice Cooper is just sooo damn good.
  4. Queensryche, “Silent Lucidity” – I know it sounds like a cop-out but this is my favorite Queensryche track.
  5. Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams” – This song has stuck with me from grade school and evokes the memory of being at the city pool and hearing it on the loudspeaker. I wonder if I’ll dream about that tonight…
  6. Arc Angels, “Living In A Dream” – I hear the Arc Angels (Doyle Bramhall III and Charlie Sexton w/ Stevie Ray Vaughn’s rhythm section) have reunited. I hope so.
  7. Neil Young, “Dreamin’ Man” – While not on the Spotify version of this list, this is still a great acoustic track from Neil.
  8. Ozzy Osbourne, “Dreamer” – I wanted the song “Nightmares” which is a bonus track and not on Spotify, so I went with this great, late-period, Beatlesque track.
  9. David Bowie, “Moonage Daydream” – Like I said, a daydream is just a dream we can choreograph…
  10. Fiona Apple, “Sleep To Dream” – One of two tracks that’s also on our Sleep playlist.
  11. Talking Heads, “City of Dreams” – Great track from an often overlooked LP.
  12. Depeche Mode, “Dream On” – The Rock Chick turned me onto this track.
  13. Alice Cooper, “Welcome To My Nightmare” – Sometimes dreams go bad… hence I had to include a nightmare track.
  14. Supertramp, “Dreamer” – You never hear Supertramp any more and that’s too bad.
  15. The Cult, “Dreamtime” – From their great debut LP. I’m going to see these guys later this spring.
  16. Cream, “Dreaming” – Surreal track fits this playlist perfectly.
  17. Judas Priest, “Dreamer, Deceiver” – An epic ballad with a great guitar solo. This one is for my friend Stormin’ as he loves this track.
  18. AC/DC, “Rock N Roll Dream” – Have AC/DC done a bad album? I think not. Great deep track here.
  19. Blondie, “Dreaming” – I’ve always dug Blondie.
  20. Stevie Nicks, “In Your Dreams” – Stevie Nicks is quietly having a late career resurgence that everyone should be checking out.
  21. Aerosmith, “Dream On” – Well, you knew this one was gonna be here.
  22. Talking Heads, “Dream Operator” – A second track from the aforementioned overlooked LP, True Stories.
  23. Neil Young, “Pocahontas” – This has got to be the description of a dream. There’s no way someone consciously comes up with “Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me…”
  24. Mudcrutch, “Dreams of Flying” – Great track. I wish I’d have a dream like this.
  25. Van Morrison, “These Dreams of You” – Van in happier, saner days.
  26. Crosby, Stills & Nash, “In My Dreams” – Another great CSN track that you won’t find on Spotify.
  27. Bob Dylan, “Dreamin’ Of You” – Great, late period Dylan.
  28. Python Lee Jackson (Featuring Rod Stewart), “In A Broken Dream” – Early Rod Stewart before he was well, Rod Stewart. He just sings the crap out of this song.
  29. Dave Matthews Band, “Dreamgirl” – Great boozy love song.
  30. Elvis Presley, “If I Can Dream” – Elvis making a huge statement about racism and the state of the nation. The King goes big and kills it!
  31. Bruce Springsteen, “Book of Dreams” – A quiet track from Lucky Town. The ballads from that era tended to be better than the rockers.
  32. Van Halen, “Dreams” – Van Hagar era track with keyboards.
  33. Joe Walsh, “Dreams” – The Rock Chick has been getting into Joe lately, which is awesome. We saw him open for Tom Petty the last time we saw him and Joe delivered.
  34. Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” – Another perfect fit.
  35. Cheap Trick, “Dream The Night Away” – Cheap Trick have so many great tunes.
  36. Beck, “Dreams” – Great song from a bad album.
  37. David Crosby & Graham Nash, “Cowboy of Dreams’ – Seek this deep track out. You’ll thank me.
  38. Van Morrison, “Call Me Up In Dreamland” – Another track from Van’s prime.
  39. Randy Newman, “Last Night I Had A Dream” – I love Randy Newman. “Last night I had a dream… you were in it and I was in it…”
  40. Bob Dylan, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” – Great track about Dylan and Captain Ahab finding America and getting busted by the cops.
  41. Cheap Trick, “Dream Police” – Great paranoid rock anthem.
  42. The Allman Brothers, “Dreams” – I shy away from tracks that run 7 minutes on my playlists but I couldn’t omit this seminal Allman Brothers track.
  43. Aretha Franklin, “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream” – The Queen of Soul’s birthday was this week… had to include her.
  44. R.E.M., “I Don’t Sleep, I Dream” – The second track that does double duty on this playlist and our Sleep playlist.
  45. Pink Floyd, “The Gunners Dream” – I love this track. A guy dreaming about a fellow soldier’s dream… Roger Water recently re did this song.
  46. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Dreamville” – A lighthearted moment from The Last DJ.
  47. Dave Matthews Band, “Sleep To Dream Her” – This track always stuck out to me.
  48. John Lennon, “#9 Dream” – There are so many great Lennon solo tracks out there.
  49. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Angel Dream (No. 4)” – Beautiful song from the She’s The One Soundtrack and the recently re-imagined version of the album, Angel Dream.
  50. Green Day, “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” – I’ve sort of lost touch with Green Day these days but this is one of their biggest tracks.
  51. CSNY, “Dream For Him” – Another great David Crosby penned track.
  52. Van Halen, “Little Dreamer” – From their legendary eponymous debut LP.

Reader Suggestions:

  1. Neil Young, “After the Goldrush” – A song that was on an early incarnation of this list that I just plum forgot. Great reader suggestion. Although you won’t find this on our Spotify playlist for obvious reasons.
  2. Lovin’ Spoonful, “Daydreamin'” – Another great reader suggestion.

That’s it folks. Let me know if you have anything to add! And, as always, may your dreams be pleasant and light… I’ll take care of the heavy bad dreams down here in the B&V labs…

Cheers!

Review: Keith Richards’ Second Album, ‘Main Offender – 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition’

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I’ve always loved Keith Richards. Oh sure, when I was a young teenager just getting into rock n roll and I bought my first LP, the Stones’ Some Girls, I wanted to be Mick Jagger. As a kid you always wanted to be the lead singer, they get the “chicks.” As I got older and saw more vintage footage of the Stones – and actually saw them live at Kemper Arena on the Tattoo You tour – my attention started to shift to Keef. Before I met the Rock Chick I had a great old pic of Keith that I tore out of a magazine and haphazardly taped to my bathroom mirror… I think there was drink involved with hanging that thing. Keith’s role in the band was so integral – he was out front leading the band with Mick but he mostly played rhythm guitar which tied him to Charlie Watts (RIP) in the back. His riffage was what propelled the band. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean to diminish Jagger’s contribution to the band. They’re always stronger together.

Speaking of “stronger together,” and sitting here thinking about the Mick vs Keith feud of the late 80s really takes me back. It looked like we were going to be living in a world without the Stones and what a grim world that would have been! Keith never really wanted a solo career, he was content in the Stones and occasionally sitting in with friends like Tom Waits. When Jagger refused to tour for Dirty Work (a wrongly maligned album) and went to record his second solo LP, Primitive Cool, I think Keith was backed into a corner regarding a solo career. He was downright pissed. He knew he likely couldn’t replace Watts but he knew he needed a strong “engine” to fuel whatever solo music he was going to come up with. He got Steve Jordan to play drums and co write with (who is now replacing Charlie on drums for the Stones as they embark on their 60th anniversary tour) and Charlie Drayton who played bass. That was a damn strong rhythm section. Keith knew he wanted a band and he knew to build it from the bottom up. He then pulled in Ivan Neville to play keyboards and in a real coup he pulled in Waddy Wachtel (Stevie Nicks, Warren Zevon, the Every Brothers) to play lead guitar. He added Sarah Dash for harmony and backing vocals and the X-Pensive Winos were complete.

Keith’s first solo LP, 1988’s Talk Is Cheap is nothing short of a masterpiece. Fueled by his anger with Mick and excited by the power of the band he’d discovered in the X-Pensive Winos he let loose. Shortly after that he reunited with Mick – who’s Primitive Cool had been a commercial and critical flop, especially when compared to Talk Is Cheap – and they recorded the amazing Steel Wheels which I consider a late-period Stones masterpiece. It also happens to be the Rock Chick’s favorite Stones’ album. She’s into the Ronnie Wood period and has impeccable taste but I digress. After being comforted that the Stones could still function together and seemingly O.K. with the concept of he and Mick doing solo stuff and then returning to the band, Keith decided to do a second album with the X-Pensive Winos.

The second album Main Offender came out in 1992. Like I said, a lot had happened in between it and Talk Is Cheap. The Stones had reunited, recorded an album and toured – very successfully I might add. Keith was no longer supremely pissed at Mick. While I really dug Main Offender it did lose some of the intensity without Keith’s anger that made Talk Is Cheap crackle. Main Offender is more of a groove album in my mind, a little like the Stones’ Black And Blue where the band just finds a riff and rides it out. That method can yield some great results – the opening track “999” is one of my all time favorite Keith songs. There’s a moment in the song where he sings, “Don’t panic…” In the early 90s I was going up to Chicago to see my friends a lot and my buddy who I’ll call R.K. used to randomly tilt his head back while sitting at the bar and yell, “Don’t panic…” in much the same way as Keith. Ah, the good ol’ days. But there are degrees to how far the groove approach can take you. Songs like “Yap Yap” and “Body Talks” are merely riffs that they ride for almost too long.

There is some wonderful reggae on Main Offender. “Wicked As It Seems” is a great, muscular reggae song. So is “Words of Wonder” which is all groovy reggae. “Eileen” was a great single and great song. It verges on pop rock. The album’s last track is one of the prettiest ballads Keith has ever written, “Demon.” That one was my theme song for quite a while… “Demon in me… I can’t live without it.” Yeah, those were some dark times. “Hate It When You Leave” is a great song that verges on soul. There is a lot to love on this album and if you’ve never heard it or owned it, this new 30th-Anniversary version is a must have.

For those of us who already own Main Offender, the question is as it always seems to be, is the bonus material worth it? Much like the Talk Is Cheap – Deluxe Edition, this deluxe set includes a concert from London in 1992. The X-Pensive Winos are such a great band. The first sound you hear on the show’s opener, “Take It So Hard” is Keith’s rhythm guitar which reached out and grabbed me. They do tracks from both of Keith’s solo records and dip ever so slightly into the Stones’ catalog with a gloriously sloppy “Gimme Shelter,” “Happy,” and “Before They Make Me Run” from the beloved Some Girls album. For me, I think any opportunity to hear the X-Pensive Winos play is worth the price of admission. I will admit though, this live stuff is likely for true Keef/Stones fans only. It’s a great concert document with great, crunching guitars and wonderful drums, but I don’t know how often I’ll return to it… well, who am I kidding, I’ll return to it, it’s live Keith, but normal people might not return to it that often.

If you’ve never experienced Main Offender or you’re a huge live Keith fan, this Deluxe set is for you. I heard Keith got the Winos together for a @LoveRocksNYC charity concert. Well he had Wachtel, Ivan Neville, Jordan all there… I think Will Lee from Letterman’s old band played bass. It’s always great to see those cats back together and jamming. I highly urge everyone to give this Main Offender 30th Annviersary a spin at maximum volume. Just hearing this live stuff makes me want to tie a head scarf on and unbutton my shirt a few buttons… maybe put on some dark eye make up…

Cheers!

Review: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs Return With Their Second LP ‘External Combustion’

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I think we were all devastated by the loss of Tom Petty but probably nobody more than Mike Campbell. Campbell had been Petty’s “co-pilot” and musical consort for over forty years. I’ve been a huge fan of Mike Campbell since the first time I saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live at Kemper Arena in 1985. I remember thinking, “Wow, this guitarist is one of the best I’ve ever seen.” I think Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at something like number 79 on their list of “best-guitarists-ever” and I think that was underrating him. I think when he co wrote Don Henley’s big hit “Boys Of Summer” it was the moment people started to more widely recognize what a talented guy Campbell was. I wondered what Campbell would do in a post-Petty world. He joined Fleetwood Mac for a tour but alas no studio record was forthcoming from that line up of the famously member-shifting band.

Fortunately for fans of rock n roll music played by talented musicians, Campbell and his long time side project the Dirty Knobs released their debut album Wreckless Abandon two years ago. The Dirty Knobs are Campbell (guitar/vocal), Jason Sinay (guitar), Matt Laug (drummer) and Lance Morrison (drums). The Knobs had been playing together for years but hadn’t released anything until that 2020 debut LP that we frankly loved down here at B&V. The Dirty Knobs are a guitar forward rock band who dabble in country rock. The sound of the Dirty Knobs conjures the feel of a roadhouse on the outskirts of town, perhaps at a crossroads, with dust and peanut shells on the floor and empty beer bottles strewn about… perhaps a tattoo’d waitress dressed inappropriately for her age and a bathroom you’re nervous about using. It’s gritty rock n roll played loud. You don’t hear good ol’ rock n roll like this much any more… there’s not even the rumor of a synthesizer.

I will admit, when I saw the album cover (pictured above) I wondered if this second LP from the Dirty Knobs, External Combusion, would see them head in a different direction. First and foremost, they’ve put Mike Campbell’s name on the cover. The original cover art of the debut was credited to just “The Dirty Knobs.” Now the band is Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs. He’s also pictured on the cover vs the Klaus Voorman artwork of the debut. I guess someone down in marketing at the label realized there was some brand recognition they could exploit from Campbell. Also, in the background of the cover, there’s a Rickenbacker guitar (a favorite of Petty’s) but it’s on fire. Is Campbell subtly saying good by to his former friend? Is he burning down his past? Or am I just reading too much into it? I’ve read this sounds less like a band-centric LP and more of a Campbell-centric LP but I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s a more varied sounding record than the first one but the sound is very similar to the debut. When a lead guitarist steps up to the microphone to do his own music it can often be guitar indulgent, like say Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell’s solo music, but I don’t get that here.

The album opens with what may be my favorite Dirty Knobs song, the rocking “Wicked Mind,” which we’ve reviewed previously. I can’t listen to this track enough. It’s a free wheeling rocker with lyrics I can totally relate to. “I don’t think you understand what kinda man I really am, I’m sinner with a rebel soul, got a wicked mind with a heart of gold…” Yeah, that sums it up for me. The next track “Brigitte Bardot” is a galloping country rocker. This may sound crazy but other than the lyrics it sounds like a classic train song to me. It has that locomotion thing happening. I love that groove. The next track “Cheap Talk” starts with drums that Cheap Trick would envy. It’s a riff rocker of a “baby done me wrong track.” For me, it’s not as good as the first two tracks but it’s a solid tune. “External Combustion,” the title track, is another great rock song much like “Wicked Mind.” “Tell me the truth, that’s all I want, external combustion…” It’s another track that just sticks in your mind. “Dirty Job” is another favorite. It’s another big rock song full of guitar riffs and funny lyrics and features Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople fame on co-lead vocals. Hunter’s gravely vocal turn on the duet adds some texture to a great track. “It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.” Oh, yes, “it might as well be me…” I think we’ve all been there.

The second half of the LP starts off on a mellow note with the beautiful ballad “State of Mind.” Oh man, this wonderful track slightly conjures Tom Petty “Southern Accents” to me… and probably only me. It’s a beautiful duet with country singer Margo Price. I don’t know much about her – we’re decidedly only old school country here at B&V – but we may need to look into her. It’s all beautiful vocals and pedal steel. I can see people drunkenly slow dancing to this track at closing time in the aforementioned imaginary roadhouse. Things get back to rollicking with the next track “Lightning Boogie” which is more of a vamp than a song, kinda like “Don’t Knock The Boogie” from the first album.

“Rat City” is another rocker like “Cheap Talk.” Big riffs and complaints about the music business. I like this hard rocker more than “Cheap Talk” and it features someone else in the band singing with Campbell – is it Sinay? I literally can’t find any documentation. “In This Lifetime” takes us back into ballad territory and I have to say, wow, another gorgeous mellow track. It conjures a George Harrison-like ballad landscape. It’s a mesmerizing track with an emotional depth that grabbed me. “It Is Written” is a jaunty travelogue sounding track that veers subtly into politics. “People are hurting, people of all ages, Mother Nature is angry and Cold War wages…” It’s another great track and really the first midtempo thing I’ve heard on this album. They wrap it up with another country tinged rocker “Electric Gypsy” that may serve as Campbell’s autobiography. It features some of the fiercest guitar solo’ing on the album.

Listening to External Combustion and the Dirty Knob’s debut album this week really brings home what a brilliant guitarist, songwriter and performer Mike Campbell is… and he’s found the perfect band as a vehicle. I hope these guys tour to a venue near me soon. I think they’ll be awesome live. If you’re a fan of rock n roll or a fan of Tom Petty this is a must hear of an album. This guy has too much talent to be ignored.

Cheers!

LP Review: Scorpions ‘Rock Believer’ – They Return To Rock You Like…It’s A 1984 Hurricane

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I think I’m like most people. I’m guilty of not taking Germany’s hard rock/heavy metal band the Scorpions seriously enough. I don’t know why that is? They’re a great, melodic hard rock band. Yet they’re not spoken of or thought of with that same reverence people seem to have for say, Aerosmith. They’ve always been more of a fun band than a menacing one, maybe that’s it? The Scorpions have rarely been dour. And the Scorpions’ lyrics – typical for heavy metal – fixate many times on sex – and that may make them seem “sophomoric.” At the end of the day, they’re a really stellar (or in the parlance of heavy metal, kick ass) band who deserve more attention and respect. With a lead guitarist as skilled as Rudolf Schenker, you’d think they’d get more reverence from the hard rock faithful.

Perhaps its my lack of taking them seriously that has caused me to lose track of them for large gaps of their career, as I alluded to when I reviewed their first single from the new LP Rock Believer a few months ago, “Peacekeeper.” I admitted in that post that I have lost track of the Scorpions several times over the years. Oh, and by the way, I dug “Peacekeeper.” The first time I saw them live, when I was in early high school, they opened for Nugent (and Def Leppard opened for them) and I was sufficiently impressed to buy Animal Magnetism. The album didn’t hit me like I thought it would, although listening to it now I love it. The cover art probably kept some of the female fans away… a woman kneeling in front of a guy with doberman and a cold beer probably didn’t win them any points… (pictured below),

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But Klaus Meine was a charismatic front man and Matthias Jabs and the aforementioned Rudolf Schenker were a dynamic dual lead guitar threat. Those guys ran around the stage opening for Nugent that night like meth addled maniacs and we ate that up! I almost enjoyed them more than Nugent. Of course at the time I had no idea they’d been around for a decade already. I still don’t know anybody who has any Scorpion’s LPs from prior to say, 1979.

After a few furtive spins of Animal Magnetism, (another album cover that disturbed my mother much like the cover for Sabbath’s Mob Rules that I was listening to around that time as well) I sort of spaced off the Scorpions. It wasn’t until I was in college that the Scorpions exploded with the metal masterpiece Blackout. We were all into that album. There was a guy from Dodge City who lived down the hall from us and he’d show up drunk in the middle of the night and beg us to play the Scorpions. He loved the song “Can’t Live Without You.” His name was Les (name changed to protect the guilty) and he was a big dude, so it wasn’t like we were gonna say “no” to him. He more demanded the Scorpions vs begged us to play them. He’d stand on a chair and JAM with is air guitar. It was actually quite terrifying. At that point I was all in on the Scorps, Les’ frightening, drunken displays of rock n roll intensity aside. I bought Love At First Sting the day it came out. Songs like “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Bad Boys Running Wild” were in high rotation on my stereo… and coincidentally also in high rotation on MTV. Although I do remember playing the Scorpions for my friends back home that summer of ’84 and one of the many friends named Steve derided me for listening to “cheesy metal.”

Regardless of that particular Steve’s opinion, the Scorpions were huge in the mid 80s. All hard rock enthusiasts dug the Scorpions. At the time, it was rumored that Robert Palmer was thinking of dabbling in heavy metal and after some exhaustive research had reached out to the Scorpions to collaborate, much in the same way he had with Little Feat at the beginning of his career…sadly it didn’t come to be. But talk about respect! I didn’t know many people who didn’t own at least Blackout. Love At First Sting was actually more popular with help from MTV and the pervasiveness of heavy/hair metal in those days. The Scorpions even dabbled in politics on Love At First Sting with the anti-war and at the time anti Cold War track “Crossfire.” The Scorpions, after years of toiling, had finally gotten near the pinnacle of hard rock. They were thought of like Van Halen or Motley Crue. It was around that time I heard the older LP from 1979 Lovedrive and was again impressed. But then… things changed. The Scorpions waited four years – a lifetime back then – to release the follow up to Love At First Sting, Savage Amusement. By then I had left college and had entered my corporate exile in Arkansas. I was an adult now… the party was seemingly over. I would hear “Rhythm Of Love” on the radio occasionally when I was driving from Ft Smith to Shreveport, Dallas, Kansas City or any place but Arkansas but it didn’t reach me. Maybe it was because I was living in a rock radio void but I completely lost track of the Scorpions.

I’m embarrassed to say it wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick around the turn of the millennium that I rediscovered how great the Scorpions were. She bought their 2-CD greatest hits album, Deadly Sting, on one of our first dates where we’d gone to a record store. We sat around jamming on that thing all summer. I did see the Scorpions a couple of times in that time after Arkansas and before the Rock Chick. I think I thought of them as more of a touring band – the type of act you go see live but don’t buy or investigate their LPs. Grunge had made my listening turn a little more serious. I felt at the time that the kind of anthemic, hard rock they played had no place alongside Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Silly me… there’s room for all kinds of music in someone’s collection. Play what you like, screw the trends. I took the Rock Chick to see the Scorpions but my friends got too drunk and we had to leave early… she still hasn’t forgiven me for that. They weren’t taking the show seriously. The Scorpions always delivered live. After the Rock Chick turned me back onto the Scorpions, I was actually paying attention again and picked up their 2010 LP Sting In The Tail, an album that to me was a real return to form. But as usual… after buying their Unplugged LP in 2013… I lost track of them again.

True to form, I didn’t even know they’d put out another studio album in 2015, Return To Forever. Oh well.. But I was thrilled when I heard that former Motorhead drummer Mikkey Dee had joined the band and brought back some of that early energy. They were re-energized enough to go back into the studio. They had been urged by a fan in Greece to get back to that sound of their 80s heyday. When I heard the first single “Peacekeeper” my thought was, “this could be from ’84-/85.” It’s a great first single and frankly with it’s theme of putting war behind us it’s even more relevant today than a few months ago when released.

2015’s Return To Forever was, by all accounts, a disappointment. If that album left you wondering if the Scorpions still had anything left, all you have to do is crank the opening track on Rock Believer, “Gas In the Tank” and you’ll have your answer. The Scorpions, re-energized by drummer Mikkey Dee (formerly of Motorhead) are still Klaus Meine on vocals, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs on guitars with Paweł Mąciwoda on bass. This album really does harken back to their heyday. If you dug them in the 80s you should absolutely check out Rock Believer. Oh yes, the Scorpions have plenty left in “the tank.” The aforementioned opening track’s lyrics include references to a “Trans Am,” and they actually say the words “Wham bam thank you ma’am.” What’s more 80s than that?

The album starts with a trio of classic sounding Scorpions’ hard rock tunes in their classic style. While the tracks feature squealing, crunchy guitars they are melodic and really drill into your brain through your ear. “Gas In The Tank” and the second track “Roots In My Boots” set the stage. They’re both big, arena-rock style tunes. You’re not going to find any introspective truths here, just fun. They follow those up with a crunchy rock song “Knock Em Dead” and I love that guitar sound. The songs are so upbeat they’re almost lilting.

The album shifts down to more midtempo, bigger riffing in the second stage. The title track is catchy as hell and I love that tune. I keep waking up with it in my head every morning. The song rocks but it’s a slower pace than the first three. “Scream for me screamer, I’m a Rock Believer, just like you…” Hell yes! “Shining Of Your Soul” is another slower paced rocker. I almost thought it would be a ballad, but with its big riffs and drums, its just midtempo. “Seventh Sun” has a slow, almost plodding, heavy riff but it builds and builds. The elastic guitar solo at the end is worth the journey on that song. The chorus is tailor made for a stadium full of drunken fans to sing along with. I’d be remiss not to mention that Klaus Meine’s vocals are still razor sharp. He hasn’t lost a step.

“Hot And Cold” takes it up a notch at that point. It’s a very standard Scorpions song and it rocks. It’s the only track that didn’t resonate with me and I have no explanation as to why not. Things really kick into high gear for the “meet-me-at-the-finish-line” of “When I Lay My Bones To Rest.” I can’t wait to listen to that one in my car on the highway. “Let me see your haaaaands!!” The album finishes on some (relatively) mellower notes. “Call Of The Wild” is a sexy “come on” kinda song again with a great solo at the end. The lyrics tell the story, “I will treat you right girl, it’s a summer night..” which takes me back to my college days on summer break. You had to be there. Finally they end the main album with a ballad, “When You Know (Where You Come From).” I think it’s a gorgeous track but I’ve always been a sucker for those power ballads… well, some power ballads… Aerosmith went a little nuts with them.

On the ‘Deluxe’ version of the album – and I think it’s the only one you can buy – there are five additional tracks on a second disc. At first I thought they should have omitted the bonus tracks. I really did not like “When Tomorrow Comes” or “Unleash The Beast.” However, upon repeated listens I really liked the rockers “Shoot For Your Heart” which is a great driving rock song that would also be fun to, yes, listen to in the car. “Crossing Borders” is a crunchy rock song about a woman vs anything political but it’s a great rocking song. Then the bonus tracks end with an acoustic version of “When You Know (Where You Come From)” which is a perfect bonus track. I might have cut out “When Tomorrow,” and “Unleashed” and just given thirteen tracks as the proper album with the acoustic track as a bonus, but hey, when the music is this good I’ll take what I can get from the Scorpions.

While many people won’t take this review or the Scorpions themselves very seriously, this is a great hard rock album. The 80s are much maligned, rightly so, but some of that hard rock from the era was really quite good. I mean, we can’t listen to Leonard Cohen all the time, right? This is great, beer drinking, head banging rock n roll. It’s precisely the kind of album B&V was founded on. I told the Rock Chick that no one takes the Scorps seriously and she said, “I guess we’ll see how the tickets to their Vegas residency sell…” I see a trip to the hated Vegas in my future… I have to make up for those two drunk friends who ruined the show I took her too all those years ago. Turn this one up, dance around with a bottle of Southern Comfort and enjoy yourselves! Good times require good time music. You’ve earned it!

Cheers!

Album Lookback: Billy Squier, ‘Don’t Say No,’ – Forgotten Gem Of An Album?

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I must apologize, I’ve been away for a while. The Rock Chick and I rented a U-Haul and moved all of our worldly possessions across town to a new abode. As I loaded everything I own into the truck I couldn’t help but wonder about the pioneers crossing the fruited plains. I don’t know how those guys made it out here to the Midwest, let alone all the way to California. I just moved across town and it about killed me. How anything could survive cross country in a covered wagon is a mystery to me. Luckily for me the Rock Chick really knows how to pack a truck. It’s the difference between people who grew up on a farm vs people who grew up in the suburbs – people from the country just know how to do things. My old roommate Stormin’ who was from rural Kansas could pack an entire house into the trunk of a car… Drew used to refer to him as “a master of time and space.”

There are certain inflection points in everyone’s life that cause deep introspection. For example, New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day tends to be one of those moments when people reflect on the passing of time. Memories tend to flood the brain. Temporary resolutions are made, goals are set as people take stock of where they are, where they’ve been and more importantly where they want to go. I tend to think of moving as one of those “inflection” points that also causes a temporary flood of memories and thoughts. I think what triggers it is the sudden realization that over the years you tend to accumulate an amazing amount of crap. When you’re moving it becomes very cut and dried – keep this, throw this away, or donate it to charity – with little thought of the sentimental value of the item. Everything we own is subject to that cut throat judgment when there’s only so much room in the van. Sure, it’s not exactly Sophie’s Choice, but I was fond of that bean bag chair from the 80s.

This moving phenomenon really struck me as I went through the act of moving my vinyl albums. I pack them all up, move them gently in the back seat of my car and then go through the ritual of re alphabetizing them by artist (and further, in chronological order for each artist). I realized that over time I’ve lost, given away or had stolen a number of albums that I really liked. From the day I went to college to now, my album collection has been like an accordion, swelling at some points, contracting at others. One album I did stumble across that I hadn’t heard in quite a while was Billy Squier’s Don’t Say No from 1981. Talk about a flood of memories. I never hear or see anything about Billy Squier any more. I began to wonder if Don’t Say No has become a forgotten gem… huge in it’s time but slowly disappearing over time…

I think the problem with Billy Squier is that after the huge success of Don’t Say No and the follow-up Emotions In Motion Squier started to change his sound from the straight up rock approach of those records to a more synth-laden, pop oriented approach. I don’t have any problem with an artist wanting to mix it up but perhaps Squier leaned a little too hard into the synths and lost his core audience. Squier was also notably short tempered in the studio. He was also unlucky on producers – he tried to hire Queen’s Brian May and Mutt Lange at different times but both were unavailable. If I’m being honest, the reason most people tie his fall from grace to is as simple as MTV. He did a video for the song “Rock Me Tonight” (a great tune, by the way) and it ruined him. He “dances” around in a pink tank top. Not even all by myself have I danced around to music like this…sure an occasional air guitar gets played at my place but this was… bad. The clip was voted worst video of all time. It caused people to recoil from Billy Squier. And that’s too bad. Here is the video:

As I said, it’s a shame something as insipid as MTV can ruin a guy. Before all that went down we all dug Billy Squier. Squier came out of virtually nowhere. He’d been in a band called Piper that no one I know has ever heard or heard of. The first I ever heard Billy was the first single from Don’t Say No, in the spring of 1981, “The Stroke.” At the time, we all thought Don’t Say No was his debut album. While on the surface “The Stroke” sounded like a song about what the kids call a “hand job,” it’s actually a scathing indictment of the record industry. I remember a girl I knew and her friend had a choreographed, rather vulgar dance they’d do to the song. It was a great, riff-y song. It just bore into your brain.

It’s hard to overstate how ubiquitous the songs from Don’t Say No were in 1981 and into 1982. I remember hearing “In The Dark” a synth heavy, atmospheric track and thinking, yes, I like this. “My Kind Of Lover,” an anthemic rock song, that came out around the time I was dating my first girlfriend and that was it, I knew I must buy the album. I actually bought it again on (gads) cassette and gifted it to the young lady. What a romantic I was, sigh. Everyone loved this album. I don’t know anybody who didn’t own it. “Two Daze Gone” was a great rocking party track that is best played at maximum volume. A rock album with 4 singles is a pretty impressive feat.

Beyond the singles, there were so many great rock songs. I think I heard most if not all of these songs on KY/102, the local rock station. “You Know What I Like” was a great riff heavy rock song. “You’re no stranger, you know what I like…” Squier snarls over the crunchy guitars. There are a few quiet or at least quieter moments. “Nobody Knows,” which was dedicated to John Lennon, as many tunes were in the early 80s, is a quiet, very pretty ballad. I like the Lennon/Beatles reference in that song, “You might think you see a lucky man who made the grade.” “I Need You” is a midtempo big riff track that’s also driven by a heavy bass line. “Whadda Ya Want From Me” and the title track are sloppy almost Stonesy rock tracks.

While there are moments that veer into that Big Star, Cheap Trick pop rock area, Don’t Say No is a great rock album. It certainly deserves more mentions and attention than it seems to get these days… and I realize we’re a lot of years down the road. It certainly conjured some very nice memories for me as I was taking the album out of a box and sliding it between Springsteen and Starcrawler on my newly minted album shelf. I urge everyone unfamiliar with this masterwork to check it out. And for those of you who remember the album… maybe slip it on the stereo tonight with a glass of wine and let those wonderful early-80s memories engulf you for a while… maybe tease up your  hair and put on some leg warmers… to each their own.

Cheers!