Third Time’s The Charm: The Artists Whose Third Album Was The Breakthrough

image1

*Only 5 LPs photographed because most of your intrepid blogger’s property is still in storage…

I don’t know if this is true or not, but it sure seems like bands have a lot more avenues to get their music out these days especially when compared to how they used to do it in the 70s or 80s… I’ve been sitting in the cheap seats watching my friend Drummer Blake work to establish his latest band the Sunset Sinners and those guys are a marketing machine. I don’t think they’re any different than any new band out there today. There are so many tools at a band’s disposal. Bands now have YouTube where they can release videos of live performances or just old school videos like Dirty Honey‘s latest. There’s so much more a band can do with social media today. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter new bands have a way of communicating directly with fans so when a record company comes calling, the band already has a built in fan base that can literally span the globe. And now with Tik Tok that social media reach may have even gotten broader… at least that’s what my friend James tells me, he loves Tik Tok. I’m only on a few social media platforms and Tik Tok ain’t one of them. Not yet anyway. I only got on Instagram to follow the bands I love…well that and to watch videos of cats and dogs doing adorable things. I’m like everyone else in that regard. 

In the old days a band’s social media consisted of the guys in the band wandering around downtown stapling cheap copies made at Kinkos to telephone poles to announce a gig. I think there was a scene in Motley Crue’s ‘The Dirt’ where they’re doing just that which had to be hot and exhausting in all that spandex. Typically to start a band a few like minded musicians who liked the same music might huddle together in a garage and start playing cover tunes. After a while and usually a few line up changes – often that involved someone answering an ad in the newspaper like Ace Frehley – the band might start doing gigs in front of actual people, not just distressed family members. A school dance here, a keg party there, it all helped the band to start to create a following. The band’s repertoire would expand and eventually they’d start to create their own, original music. Eventually some enterprising bar owner would let the band play on their stage… or perhaps give them a residency. Maybe Gene Simmons would show up and pay for a demo tape like he did for Van Halen…probably not but somehow  demo tapes would get made. If fortune and luck shone on the band, a record company would extend a contract… Oh, and a manager probably showed up somewhere in this process to take 10%.

When the record company would offer the band a contract you’d think all their dreams were answered. It’s the Cinderella story. Record companies today seem to only want bands who can deliver that mega-million dollar selling debut LP. Maybe record companies have always been that way? But for some bands that debut album fails to connect. Not every debut can be Boston or Appetite For Destruction (Pleased To Meet You… The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums). Some really classic debut LPs from the world’s biggest bands have been commercial failures. In meetings, the record company guys all act supportive, but the pressure is really on now. To make matters worse, there’s the sophomore slump that hangs over a lot of bands. Bono, in his Rock Hall of Fame speech was talking about being in a band and described the 2nd album (and he was speaking generally) as “the difficult second album.” The old saying, “You have your whole life to write your first album, and only a few months to write your second,” holds some truth. Even for bands whose debut LP had a hit single or two and sold well, a weak second album only brings more pressure. And there are a lot of weak second albums out there… U2’s October is a prime example. 

For a band whose first two albums hadn’t sold in big numbers, I can only imagine that the third album was a “make or break” situation. Today, I don’t think any current label would keep an act longer than two LPs if neither sold well. We live in an instant gratification world, and if a band’s first or second album doesn’t explode, it’s time to move on. Back in the 70s and even the 80s, record labels seemed to be slightly more patient. They would let a band develop, mostly by playing a shit ton of concerts on the road, but also in the studio and as songwriters. Sometimes all that was needed was a new producer. Maybe the band tweaks the line up. It just felt, without all the social media to help build in that fanbase, that record companies back in the day gave artists’ more time or a little more leash, if you will. 

Some of the world’s most renown artists took an entire three albums to break into that world wide fame and commercial success. If these bands were coming out today I’m not sure any record company would have stuck with them until that third album and that would be a damn shame. Here is my list of phenomenal third records that made the bands who recorded them famous. I consider each of these records essential rock and roll listening. 

Aerosmith, Toys In The Attic

While Aerosmith had the hit “Dream On” on their debut, the album didn’t make a dent. They moved in together so they could rehearse constantly and brought in renown producer Jack Douglas for their second LP Get Your Wings, which sold better. At that point Aerosmith became road warriors. They toured incessantly behind the 2nd LP which helped build their fan base but also improved their songwriting and chops. With the big singles “Walk This Way” (later redone with Run D.M.C. during their “comeback”) and my favorite “Sweet Emotion” Aerosmith became superstars. This, to me, is Aerosmith’s peak album. Even the deep tracks like “Uncle Salty” and “Adam’s Apple” kick ass. I love the first two Aerosmith LPs, but I can understand how this is the one that broke them wide and far. It’s telling that they re-released “Dream On” during this time period to try and boost sales of that debut. 

Lenny Kravitz, Are You Gonna Go My Way

While Lenny’s debut is now considered a classic, you never heard much of it on the radio. Every woman I met in the 90s, even casually, put his debut on for me to hear. Despite his unending support among 20-something aged women, his second LP, Mama Said was pretty much invisible. Then suddenly, the title track of this album exploded on to radio and MTV with an iconic video of Lenny rocking in a circular room and flinging his dreds everywhere. There are so many classic tunes on this album – “Believe,” “Heaven Help,” “Black Girl,” and “Just Be A Woman” to name a few. Yes, Lenny tends to wear his influences on his sleeve, but he distills all of them into a fantastic album here. I’m not sure he ever did anything as good as this essential third LP. 

No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom

I had no doubt back in the day that I didn’t like this band. Then the Rock Chick took me to see them live on their reunion tour and I was blown away by them. Guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal, and drummer Adrian Young were lean and muscular. I wasn’t prepared for how hard they rocked. Front woman Gwen Stefani who went on to totally disappoint me on her solo career was charismatic and energetic on stage… I was mesmerized by her performance…but I’m getting off topic. After that show, I went out and bought all their albums. Their eponymous debut LP got zero support from their record label and they asked to be dropped from their contract which the label refused to do. Their 2nd album, Beacon Street Collection can be thought of as songs about hating their record company. Finally on the third LP, they pierced the grunge consciousness of the era with Tragic Kingdom. Listening to this LP all these years later, it’s a staggering leap forward from the first two records. “Just A Girl” is a woman’s empowerment anthem for the ages and it actually rocks. From that to the ballad “Sunday Morning” this album is just about perfect. 

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Damn The Torpedos 

Petty’s first two albums had classic songs and hits – “Breakdown,” “American Girl,” “I Need To Know” and “Listen To Her Heart.” Listening to those albums today you could tell this was a band who was on the verge of breaking big. Damn The Torpedoes was that quantum leap forward and coincidentally the first Petty LP I ever purchased. My brother had it before I even did. “Here Comes My Girl,” “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee” were all monster hits but I like some of the deep tracks. “Even the Losers” (a personal anthem) and “You Tell Me” are stellar. I even dig “Louisiana Rain.” One of the greatest albums of all time. 

The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta 

Maybe some day someone will explain the title to me… I was in junior high when the Police’s debut album Outlandos D’Amor came out. We all loved “Roxanne.” I remember singing it like Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours, loudly, high-pitched and out of tune in study hall much to the chagrin of the teacher in charge. Outlandos was a classic despite the French title, but I didn’t know anybody who owned it. The second album, Regatta De Blanc boasted the hits “Walking On the Moon,” and “Message In A Bottle” but it didn’t seem to resonate with as many people. Frankly I thought both those tracks were on the debut. After a world wide tour, much like Aerosmith, that honed their playing and songwriting skills they returned with Zenyatta Mondatta and suddenly everyone was on the Police bandwagon. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” about the nonsensical nature of speeches by politicians, teachers and lawyers was the first single and despite probably not understanding that, we all loved that song. I think my friend Doug saw the Police on this tour. Every song on this album could have been a hit. Between the Police and Aerosmith I think it could be argued every new band should be sent on the road for at least a year to play as many shows as they can. 

Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run

Springsteen’s first album Greetings From Asbury Park is now seen as a classic. Groups from Manfred Mann to Bowie to Greg Kihn have covered tracks from this album. Commercially though, it was largely ignored. His second disc, The Wild, The Innocent And the E Street Shuffle, which gave his backing band its name, is my favorite Springsteen album. Oddly, the great epics on that album like “Incident On 57th St,” “Rosalita,” or “New York City Serenade” were largely ignored. With his back to the wall, Springsteen wrote his greatest batch of songs. He wanted lyrics like Dylan with Phil Spector’s “wall of sound.” I’d say he checked both those boxes! Like Damn The Torpedoes this is one of the greatest albums of all time. I’m just glad Columbia Records let Bruce have a third shot at an album. They would have dropped him if this record failed… 

Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells A Story 

After his brief stint as “vocalist extraordinaire” for the Jeff Beck Group, Stewart recorded his debut, The Rod Stewart Album, or as it was known in the UK, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down. It was part folk, part rock n roll which would set the template for the rest of Rod’s best work. It didn’t take off so he joined the Faces as their lead singer and after that, he’d release an album with the Faces and a solo album every year. It wasn’t until his third LP, Every Picture Tells A Story that he broke it big when a DJ in Cleveland flipped over the first single “Reason To Believe” to play the B-side, a little ditty named “Maggie May.” Rod became a superstar which was great for him, not so great for his mates in the Faces. I still hope Rod, Ronnie Wood and Kenny Jones can get a semi-Faces reunion together and do something. Rod was always better when he was working with a strong guitar player like Wood. 

U2, War

Boy, U2’s debut boasted the fabulous song “I Will Follow” that they still play in concert but it only made a little dent on the charts. The “difficult second album,” October didn’t do them any favors. Like Springsteen, with their backs against the wall, they retreated to Hawaii and recorded their breakthrough album. Sure, they had bigger and perhaps better albums, but War is the LP that broke them wide open… it’s also the first LP from them I purchased. The anthems “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” moved them in a political direction that I always loved. It’s amazing how many of these third LPs ended up being some of the greatest music ever recorded… Maybe it’s the pressure? 

The White Stripes, White Blood Cells 

Like a majority of people, this was the LP where I first discovered the White Stripes. I ended up going back and buying their previous 2 LPs almost immediately upon buying White Blood Cells. The eponymous debut was all garage-rock, meaning it sounded like it was recorded in a garage. It was raw and ferocious, naturally I loved it. Even I will admit however, I can see why that wasn’t an international sensation. Their second LP, De Stijl was, like Springsteen’s E Street Shuffle, my favorite Stripes album. It’s bluesy and punk… its blues punk. However, it also failed to resonate far and wide. White Blood Cells had the big hits that made them famous “Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground” and “Fell In Love With A Girl” that likely drove a lot of people like me to their first two records. They may have had bigger albums but this one is almost perfect. “We’re Going To Be Friends” is the best acoustic track they ever did. “I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman” has always been a personal fav. The Stripes just released a wonderful Greatest Hits album if you’re not obsessive about owning every LP but White Blood Cells is the perfect place to start with the Stripes. 

 

Most, if not all of these bands went on to storied, long careers. They all had “bigger,” better selling albums but these are such critical pieces of that later success. These are some of the greatest albums ever. I urge everyone who hasn’t heard these “third” records to do so immediately. Because as we’ve just learned, sometimes the third time is the charm. 

Cheers! Be safe out there, we’re getting closer every day to being able to some of this great rock n roll played live! 

 

 

Lookback: My Mixtape Days – Inventor of the Cassette Tape Dies at 94

unnamed

I got up one day last week, as I thankfully do every day, and I checked the news. I’m not a morning person so there’s no TV involved. I prefer a lot of silence in the morning so I just checked on-line. I was scrolling through headlines and I noticed a Dutch gentlemen named Lou Ottens had died at the age of 94. He was a scientist and inventor for the Philips company. In my still sleep riddled mind I couldn’t help but think, big deal some scientist passed in the Netherlands. I kept scrolling, still half-asleep drinking hot coffee as quickly as the scalding liquid would allow, when I stopped and went back to the Ottens’ article. It was then that I saw that Lou was the inventor of the cassette tape. Oh man, that took me back. In this age of streaming and MP3s people forget what a revolution cassettes were. Portable music was a reality. We weren’t all chained to the home stereo any more. 

Prior to Mr. Ottens’ invention, other than vinyl the only way to consume music was on those bulky reel-to-reel tapes, but lets be honest only beatnik, jazzbo types owned reel-to-reel tapes. I have an image of groovy dudes in black turtlenecks and shades even though they’re indoors, smoking joints and talking about Miles Davis’ feel as In A Silent Way spools through the reel-to-reel player. Although as I type that sentence I’m reminded that my father-in-law owned a reel-to-reel player and as a rancher/farmer he was only into country music like C.J. McCall…”Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy…” Gads. His reel-to-reel gear was long gone by the time I came along but I would have loved to hear what that sounded like. 

In an attempt to make music more portable, the industry had tried a more “compact” tape version of the album on the now legendary 8-track tape. If you couldn’t get a turntable into a car, by God, lets try 8-tracks. A lot of people jumped on the 8-track bandwagon, thankfully I was not one of them. First of all, I never thought they were very compact. They were the size of a small paperback novel. My buddy Brewster had an 8-track player in his car and we’d listen to Cheap Trick’s Live At Budokan all the time. I thought it was because Brewster loved that album but looking back it may have been the only 8-track he owned. I could never figure out 8-tracks. It was years before I learned what the actual playing order of that Cheap Trick live album was. 

Enter Mr. Ottens and his magic cassettes. I’ll be honest, I was a vinyl guy from the start. I only purchased two albums on proper cassettes. I purchased AC/DC’s Highway To Hell on cassette because I wanted to listen to that album in the car. I actually bought that LP on cassette for the reason they were invented – so you could take your music anywhere and you were free from having to have a turntable which would have been hard in the car considering what a reckless driver I was (am?). I also bought Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass on cassette prior to that because I saw that was how a lot of people were buying albums and I thought I was missing out on some sound sensation. Was there something I was missing? Well, no but it was still a nice portable way to consume music. If you were tired of your local radio station – or if you lived in a godforsaken place like Ft. Smith, Arkansas with terrible radio – you could just pop in a cassette and magically you were listening to your own music, arranged how you wanted it. 

The real magic in cassettes were the blank cassettes that allowed you to record anything you wanted to. It was indeed, a blank canvass. There were so many different brands of cassette tapes. Early on I purchased strictly TDK brand but quickly “upgraded” to Maxell who had an infinite number of different types of cassette tapes, each one of a higher quality than the last. Cassettes would hold 90 minutes of music – 45 minutes on each side. The average album back then was around 40 minutes, usually less. If it was a Van Halen album it was more likely 30 minutes long. You could put 1 album per side and leave the last bit of tape blank or you could add your own “bonus tracks” by the same artist at the end. Each tape had a small lead tape that wouldn’t hold music but was there to protect the cassette when fully rewound. You had to be careful if you were recording on vinyl that you’d gotten past those 10 seconds of lead tape or you’d cut off the first few seconds of the first track. The struggle was as real as the skills you needed to create a good tape recording. 

In the early days of my cassette taping, I was merely trying to collect music that I hadn’t purchased (for free). Cassette tapes were the early Napster, I suppose. My brother who had a crate full of albums before I’d even purchased my first album was my first source. I remember going into his room and plugging a cassette into his stereo – it was a turntable/radio/cassette tape all in one – and declaring I was going to tape some Beatles, but only the “good songs.” After filling up two whole cassettes to quote the movie Jaws, I realized, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat.” My mother had a friend, who  I’ll call Mrs. Smith, who had kids my age and my brother’s age. She brought over a stack of albums for me to tape that her kids owned. I’m still unsure why that happened. I think Mrs. Smith was trying to be cool. She appeared one day holding a can of beer with a cigarette dangling from her lips and handed me a stack of the heaviest metal I’d ever heard. Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Judas Priest… it was all too heavy. I was listening to blues rock… the Stones, ZZ Top, Foghat. I’ve always wondered what the hell was happening over at the Smith’s house. It was extraordinarily nice of her to share her kids’ music even though they were probably using it during human sacrifices, or so I wondered back then. I’ve grown to love metal but hey, I was 13 years old. 

After cannibalizing other people’s albums on cassette the thing that probably accelerated my cassette use was the Sony Walkman. I got a Walkman for Christmas one year and it really changed the way I listened to music. I had headphones on my home stereo, but to be able to pop a cassette in the Walkman and actually leave my room to wander around while tunes played was mind blowing back then. I remember walking around in a snow storm, we’d been let off school, and listening to Yes (The Yes Album) and feeling my brain expand. 

Pretty soon, with my cassettes I realized you didn’t have to be so linear in your thinking. You could mix up artists or songs from one artist on the cassette. You could mix music… ie, the mixtape finally occurred to me. My music collection had expanded to the point where I had enough Aerosmith LPs or Skynyrd LPs that I could cherry pick the tracks I liked from them from each album and put them on 1 cassette. I was making my own “greatest hits” album. I remember sitting in front of my first stereo, surrounded in a semi-circle of albums resting gently on their sleeves and rotating albums on and off the turntable as I carefully hit “record” or “stop.” If a band had a double-live LP, I’d typically use that as my guide to building a 2-sided 90 minute collection of their music. I had friends who made copies of my “greatest hits” mix tapes as by then the cassette industry had created the dual tape deck that allowed you to copy a cassette to another cassette… 

Eventually, even rock and roll nerds get girlfriends. By the time I was in college I was making the dreaded mixtapes for girlfriends. You always tried to find a song that said what you didn’t have the courage to say yourself. “You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel…” as the movie says. Mind you, my mixtapes were never terribly sappy. Often times it was just stuff I knew the lady liked. She’s into Sting, here’s a mix of Sting and the Police. I often tried to turn women onto the music I dug. It was always important. If she rejected my music, wasn’t she rejecting me? I know people think they’re doing much the same when they were burning CDs or putting together playlists on Spotify, but there was nothing like the engineering the perfect mixtape. There was no shuffle. The order you put the songs in was really, really important. I’ve always loved the scene from the movie High Fidelity where John Cusack explains the theory behind a great mixtape because it’s so accurate…

Nick Hornsby who wrote the novel this movie is based on is a real hero to the music nerd in me. 

I have an ex out there somewhere who now teaches yoga who occasionally emails me to thank me for turning her onto good music. I did a lot of that with the dreaded mixtapes. I actually used a mixtape to break up with someone in the early 90s… As I recall I started that tape with B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone.” Not my finest moment. I’ve even made tapes for some friends of mine way back when. I have a friend I met when I first moved to Arkansas who had no money and coveted my deep album collection. I’d tape stuff I thought he’d dig – Clapton, the Band, the Allman Brothers – and so on… I wonder what ever happened to those things… Although if I had one of those mixtapes, I couldn’t play it. As times have changed and technology has shifted, the Rock Chick forced me to finally give up the cassette player. The only cassettes I still own are some Springsteen bootlegs from the way back machine. Oh, but I do miss those wonderful afternoons in front of the stereo with a stack of vinyl on the floor and a blank cassette in the stereo… Simply glorious. 

I’m glad Mr. Ottens came along and invented the cassette. It gave me many countless happy hours. I try and share music now via playlists but there was something so intimate and personal about sharing your music with someone back when I was younger and the mixtape was my medium. The mixtape was the way I took something that was so personal – listening to music – and turned it into something more public to be shared, to help bring me closer to people, friends and lovers. Maybe I was just practicing for this blog. The mixtape will always be a part of my rock and roll experience and enabled me to start sharing music and my experiences with it that I will hold onto fondly for as long as I’m able to hit “play.” 

R.I.P Mr. Lou Ottens. Cheers! 

Review: Dirty Honey, New Track “California Dreamin'” – Crunchy Hard Rawk!

Unknown

I was delighted to see this week that it appears there might be a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel we find ourselves in and for once I’m beginning to believe it’s not an on-coming train. While we all need to exhibit caution, perhaps even an abundance of caution, we might actually have a summer this year. I can’t believe it was a year ago this very weekend that we realized “the shit has hit the fan,” to quote Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” It was one year ago this weekend that my daughter and her beau came back to Kansas City for our annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, a big deal here in town. We’d all heard of the dreaded Covid, but nobody clearly understood what was happening. At the last minute they cancelled KC’s famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which was a painful, personal blow to me and I’m not even Irish, not an ounce. Despite that, St. Patty’s is the only religious holiday I still observe. Wearing green and drinking in the streets is a critical “Rite of Spring.” That Sunday, a year ago, is when the news broke that we needed to start distancing ourselves and that we had a real problem on our hands… I quickly retreated to my attic, where I have remained ever since.

As 2020 passed into the history books I couldn’t help but reflect on what a great year for music releases it had been (B&V’s Best of 2020: New LPs And Live/Vault/Archival Releases, Bad Year/Good Music). But in truth my focus even as 2020 waned was on the future. I was banking on the fact that 2021 was going to give us a slew of new releases. All of these bands couldn’t tour, I was hoping they were writing and recording. I think we’re beginning to see some of my hopeful thinking confirmed with some strong vault releases from Neil Young and the Black Crowes, reviewed in earlier posts. I know those particular releases were scheduled for 2020 but who knew what would happen with the delays. As we shrug off the brutal winter and ease into spring, I’m starting to see some new releases popping up for us. Just a few weeks ago Cheap Trick dropped a single “Light Up The Fire” from their new upcoming album. We loved their last LP (not counting live stuff or that Xmas LP) We’re All Alright’

I discovered last weekend while I was listening to Petty’s new vault song “You Saw Me Coming” that a band I stumbled across in the depth of the pandemic Dirty Honey has released a new single, “California Dreamin’.” And no, this is not a Mamas and the Papas cover song. Last summer when I was never leaving the house, I finally ran out of reading material and convinced myself to risk a trip down to Barnes & Noble where I found something called ‘Classic Rock’ magazine. I was attracted to the the magazine because of a cover article on the Black Crowes. As I poured over every page, I stumbled upon this L.A. based band Dirty Honey: Marc Labelle on vocals, John Notto on guitar, Justin Smollen on bass and finally, Corey Coverstone on drums. I don’t why drummers always get listed last… I’ve gotta work on that. These guys are an old school guitar rock band. You just don’t hear new bands playing this great kind of music any more. They’ve got a real Guns N Roses or Aerosmith feel to them. I was absolutely knocked out by their EP released in 2019, which I quickly snapped up after reading about them, simply entitled ‘Dirty Honey – EP’. I had heard they were recording a new LP for 2020 but I’m sure they were forced to slow their plans up like, well, the rest of the planet did.

I’ll admit right off, a new LP from Dirty Honey is one of our most anticipated LPs down here at B&V. And, it appears last week they’ve dropped their new single, “California Dreamin'” and it’s another, great crunchy rocker. This L.A. band really takes me back to the Sunset Strip. “California Dreamin'” starts with a small drum roll and then the riff kicks in. I really like Labelle’s voice. The guitar solo reminds me of Slash, Notto shreds here. I think the lyrics capture the existential angst we all feel, “I’m California dreamin’, and it’s tearing us apart, it’s paranoia season, it’s in our minds and our hearts.” Amen, brother. And besides, who isn’t dreaming of travel right now… I’d love to jump in my car with the top down (if I had a convertible), crank up this tune and tear across a desert only to end up in California. While Dirty Honey get compared to Aerosmith, I get a real GnR vibe from these guys. It might be the trippy video they’ve released for the song which reminded me of GnR’s video for “Estranged.” Well, if “Estranged” had been made by happy, well adjusted people. As the band rocks out, we follow a fetching young woman through a magical doorway…

While this song didn’t grab me as hard as “Dirty 7s” or some of the other stuff on their EP, it did grab me. The more I listened to this the more I like it. I mean, who doesn’t love good ol’ guitar rock n roll. The album doesn’t come out until April, so we’ll have to just crank this tune as part of our B&V spring soundtrack until then. I would also tell you they’ve recently released a pretty faithful version of Aerosmith’s “Last Child” that is also quite tasty! I urge you all to check this tune out and turn it up!!

Happy St Patrick’s Day and stay safe out there! Rawk on!

Mental Jukebox: Songs In My Head When I Wake Up – January 2021… Come Inside My Mind

cropped-rsz_hires

*Image above from the internet and likely subject to copyright. 

According to the Urban Dictionary, the term “mental jukebox” refers to:

“the effect of a random song playing in your head for no reason, often followed by another song completely unrelated to the first, much like a jukebox on random. For example, “Why the hell was Rick Astley just playing in my head? I haven’t heard any of his music in ages! I had Slayer playing before that! Wtf!””

I’m not sure anybody has ever come up with a better encapsulation of the concept of the “mental jukebox” than the Urban Dictionary. I mean, when you describe a musical swing from Rick Astley to Slayer you’ve managed to capture the essence of the random, wild shifts the brain can take you through musically. I am no stranger to the mental jukebox. In fact, sleep or perhaps better described as my attempts to sleep, seems to be the trigger for my brain’s music center. I awake every day with a fresh, new song in my head. I don’t know if this is a common phenomenon, but I do know my friend Doug has the same thing happen to him. I can awake with the biggest hit from U2 or the Beatles to a deep album cut from the Black Crowes to a jingle from a commercial playing in my mind. I’ve awakened to the sound of show tunes ringing in my head and trust me, I despise musicals of any kind. I have to turn on music in the morning merely to cleanse my brain, much like mouthwash especially if I’m hearing “Oklahoma” in my mind. I never know what song I’ll wake up to in my head. I have no control over any of it. I seem to be at the mercy of my brain. As George Harrison once said, “It’s all in your mind.”

The mind or (if you will) man’s capacity for reason is what separates us from the other mammals. I’ve been reading, or rather trying to read, Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations. Marcus, if I’m reading him correctly, seemed to think that our reason was the godly part of us. He had a lot of thoughts about well, thinking. “You have the power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” I dig that, but I don’t think I have any power over the mental jukebox. Marcus also said, “The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.” Apparently we can all think ourselves happy according to Marcus… I think Oporah believes in this line of reasoning. Somehow I think it’s more complicated than that. I guess I’m less a Stoic like Marcus and more of a Hedonist. I certainly spend more than my fair share of time thinking about rock music. One quote I’ve always liked about the mind is Plutarch, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”

I have a friend who is into reading books about the structure of the brain. He likes to explain a lot of human behavior as being a function of the different parts of your brain reacting to stimuli. Of course he was an early adherent to the whole “evolutionary psychology” thing. I have begun to suspect that my friend reads so many books about brain chemistry because he’s trying to explain and rationalize some of his own behavior. Sometimes we do things because we want to… not because our hypothalamus is driving us to. Although in these pages I have often joked that music has hit me in the lower brain stem. I get it, brain structure and especially the frontal lobes can affect the way we think and behave but there has to be more to the story. We’re not just human lab rats with automatic or learned reaction to stimuli.

All of that said, I don’t think the mental jukebox is of the rational, conscious mind. I certainly don’t think it has anything to do with brain structure. There’s not a tiny little bar hidden in my cerebellum with a great jukebox in the corner. I like to imagine that if there is a bar hidden in my brain it’s the coolest dive bar you can find, with dark wood and peanut shells on the floor and a cool but gruff barkeep…maybe a menu with only hot wings. My thoughts are cluttered, why shouldn’t my imaginary brain bar be as equally messy? I’m getting off topic here… Since the mental jukebox is not structural or of the rational mind the only answer is that it stems from the unconscious mind. While he didn’t coin the term “unconscious mind” Sigmund Freud certainly made the concept popular. I was once bored in an airport waiting for a delayed flight when I picked up Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. I enjoyed the book, although it became a bit of a slow slog in the back half. It gave me my first real insights into the unconscious mind that I’d had since college psychology. Freud believed that things like verbal slips (aka Freudian slips) or dreams come from that uncontrolled, unconscious part of the mind where all of our hidden wishes and desires reside. Even Cinderella said “A dream is a wish your heart makes…” Oh God, I hope I don’t wake up with that song in my head tomorrow…

I will say, that reading Freud’s book on dreams has helped me interpret some of the wilder, more disturbing dreams my unconscious mind seems to conjure. I have a recurring nightmare where I’m visited from someone from my past. The nightmare always comes during times of great stress or loss. Freud’s book helped me realize that the person in the nightmare is merely a manifestation or symbol of pain and loss and has nothing to actually do with the person I’m seeing in the dream. It’s really helped me to shake off that particular nightmare. I wake up and realize my brain is trying to tell me I’m suffering and struggling and I just need to bear down. Even in the resolution of that nightmare, I’m not controlling the unconscious mind, I am merely using it as a tool to navigate obstacles in my life.

That all said, I wondered if the mental jukebox was trying to send me a similar message to ones that my dreams do? Is there some message or theme to the music that pops up in my head every morning? If so, what is my mind trying tell me? I decided to keep what I’m going to call a “Song Journal” during the month of January. Every morning when I woke up and some random tune assailed my brain I would stagger down the hall to my office – before even going for coffee – and I’d write down the song and any impressions of where it came from. Usually I had no idea but sometimes I’d merely heard the track the day before. While I hoped that this process would help me get to a deeper understanding of where my head is at, in the end I think it just tells me what I already know… I’m really into music. While I may not have discovered any fundamental truths about myself, it was an interesting process. I will say that I participated in my usual Dry January which may or may not have influenced how vivid the songs were and how varied the music selection was. I guess I’ll never know.

Here then, is my Song Journal from January 2021 chronicling every song I heard in my head every morning. I considered a playlist, but thought it was too disjointed, even for my disparate tastes. Most of these tracks came out of nowhere unless otherwise noted.

  • Jan 1st – Robert Plant, “Angel Dance” – I had actually heard this track the day before, so no real mystery.
  • Jan 2nd – Black Crowes, “Only A Fool” – I’ve been a little obsessed with the Crowes since I heard Shake Your Money Maker 30th Anniversary was coming out. This track is on a later LP, not sure where it came from.
  • Jan 3rd – AC/DC, “Big Gun” – From the soundtrack of a Schwarzenegger movie, something I was working on a post for…Playlist: Missing Going To The Movies?: Our Favorite Soundtrack Songs.
  • Jan 4th – The Police, “King of Pain”
  • Jan 5th – Stills-Young Band, “Long May You Run”
  • Jan 6th – Genesis, “I Can’t Dance” – I’m not crazy about this tune… I’d had a nightmare about a wedding I was being forced to attend. Could there be a connection?
  • Jan 7th – Kenny Wayne Shepherd, “Blue On Black”
  • Jan 8th – Eagles, “Too Busy Being Fabulous” – I’d read about this song online the day before. I think we can safely draw a straight-line between that and hearing it in my head.
  • Jan 9th – Steve Winwood (with Joe Walsh on guitar), “Split Decision”
  • Jan 10th – Foo Fighters, “My Hero” – I’m not a huge fan of the fighters of Foo and had to actually search to find the title of this track. Totally random stuff.
  • Jan 11th – Lindsey Buckingham, “Holiday Road” – Despite the holidays being well past me, this one popped into my head. Lingering issues over Xmas?
  • Jan 12th – Bruce Springsteen, “High Hopes”
  • Jan 13th – Beatles, “Across the Universe” – This track pops up often. It seems to be on regular repeat.
  • Jan 14th – U2, “Stuck In A Moment”
  • Jan 15th, Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Roadtrippin'” – Great acoustic track about friends on a road trip… I’d had a dream about some friends of mine from the old days.
  • Jan 16th – Elvis Costello, “Alison” – Was listening to LPs for my post on debut albums, Pleased To Meet You… The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums. This had to be a connection to that.
  • Jan 17th – Bruce Springsteen, “Ghost of Tom Joad” – Dreamt I was a cop investigating a murder at the inauguration the night before… Strange connection if there is one?
  • Jan 18th – Fiona Apple, “Extraordinary Machine” – I’d just repurchased this album, the title track seems to have lodged itself in my brain.
  • Jan 19th – Avett Brothers? “There Was a Dream”? – There’s a song that sounds like the Avett Brothers used in an insurance commercial that I see a few hundred times each night. I woke up with it in my head. Not sure if its the Avett Bros or what the name is. Ironically, I have no idea which insurance company.
  • Jan 20th – Pink Floyd “Not Now John” – The previous day I’d posted about “The Gunner’s Dream,” Roger Waters: New Recording/Video OF “The Gunner’s Dream” Originally From ‘The Final Cut’, and had listened to the whole album. This track stuck. Great riff, it came to me first.
  • Jan 21st – Neil Young & Crazy Horse, “Come On Baby Lets Go Downtown” – Danny Whitten from Crazy Horse on vocals.
  • Jan 22nd – Pink Floyd, “Gunner’s Dream” – This track stuck with me a few days. One of my all time favorites.
  • Jan 23rd – Moody Blues, “Lucky Man” – I despise the Moody Blues and this song. How this ended up in my head is a mystery. I’m just glad it wasn’t “Knights In White Satin.”
  • Jan 24th – U2, “Mysterious Ways” – Another common track I wake up with… I don’t know why but it may be Edge’s riff.
  • Jan 25th – Van Halen, “Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now” – Been thinking a lot of Eddie Van Halen lately.
  • Jan 26th – Black Crowes, “Welcome To the Good Times” – Same LP as Jan 2nd’s entry… no connection.
  • Jan 27th – Rod Stewart, “Man of Constant Sorrow” – From his debut. It was our first snow of the year… which always make me feel well, sorrowful.
  • Jan 28th – Blind Melon, “No Rain”
  • Jan 29th – Sam Cooke, “Chain Gang” – I’d to tell you this stems from the movie One Night In Miami but I haven’t seen it yet.
  • Jan 30th – Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York” – Perhaps feeling some little town blues since I can’t travel.
  • Jan 31st – Led Zeppelin, “Candy Store Rock” – The music came to me first and while I was laying in bed the lyrics finally popped in.

That’s my Song Journal for January. No real patterns of thinking that I can discern. My mental jukebox doesn’t seem to want to tell me anything, I guess it just wants to rock. I had hoped perhaps for some existential insight but as always that seems to elude me. As we move into February I wish all of you pleasant dreams and great music when you wake up. I know this post was something a little different but it’s winter and I figured, why not?

Cheers!

Pleased To Meet You… The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums

unnamed

*Picture of assorted debut LPs by the intrepid Rock Chick, who has an eye for this sort of thing…

Maybe it’s the way the cold, grey winter settles in on the midwestern plains, but I’ve always perceived January as a long continuation of that whole New Year’s Eve period of self contemplation. I’m not talking about the New Year’s Eve party here, I’m always a sucker for a good party… I mean the whole resolutions and goal setting that goes on. The new year always greets us with a fresh set of months, or if I may lapse into a sports/football analogy, January is like a new set of downs…first and ten to go. This year 2021 sort of started off with a bang, and not in a good way, but the second half of the month has been a bit of a slow slog. Maybe it’s my insistence on doing dry January every year that leads to my navel gazing. During this stretch I began to contemplate the meaning of the new year and all it could become. January always feels like its greeting me with opportunity and possibility.

As usual, when contemplating anything, my thoughts quickly turned to rock and roll. When I sat gazing out in my mind’s eye on the new possibilities held in January’s frosty greeting, I couldn’t help but start pondering rock n roll’s great “greetings.” By “greetings,” I mean the great debut albums that have been released over the years. For some reason I’ve always had a soft spot or call it a fondness for an artist’s first album. I have an old college roommate who is referred to in these pages as Drew who shares my love of the debut album. I especially love the debut album when it was a record I picked up when it actually, well, debuted. Like Van Halen… I was in junior high school when Van Halen came out and I jumped on that bandwagon early. Later it was Pearl Jam’s Ten that I bought as it came out. More recently I picked up Starcrawler’s eponymously titled debut. If it’s a band whose career I’ve followed since their first album they tend to stick with me longer. Don’t get me wrong, there were great debut albums that came out before my rock n roll “awakening” that I went out and purchased as well, and you’ll see some of those on here a well.

The debut album is a band or artist’s chance to make that very important first impression. As Will Rogers used to say, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Although perhaps Kafka said it better, “First impressions are always unreliable.” Kafka must have dated as much as I did, trust me Kafka knew what he was talking about… If we look at the rock and roll “first impressions,” they range in as many categories as you can imagine. For most bands they’re the blueprint for everything that comes after. In some cases they’re widely ignored except for a few hard core fans and the critics. Many of those debut albums that were ignored get some retrospective appreciation and in some cases belated commercial success. Occasionally the first record a band puts out is so big and popular they struggle to ever do anything that big again. There’s an old saying in rock n roll, that you get your whole life to write your first album and only a matter of months to write your second. In the old days, so many bands didn’t hit it “big” until their third album – one could think of Springsteen, U2 or the Police – that debut albums were seen as a mere beachhead towards bigger and better things. Bands were given more time to develop and record companies weren’t looking for that immediate, enormous success. The labels were willing to invest time and money in music…

All of that said, there are a ton of really great first records. When I started contemplating this topic, as I usually do, I started putting a list together in my head. When I sat down and put pen to paper, or more accurately, stylus to iPad, I had close to 80 titles. While nothing would have made me happier to list all of those records here like I did for the list of essential live albums (BourbonAndVinyl Comes Alive: The Epic List Of Essential Live Albums), I felt some editing was necessary… something I rarely engage in, editing. I decided to set some boundaries on the list this time. First and foremost, I limited myself to only 40 albums. Also, if an artist was in a band, especially if they were successful, and then embarked on a solo career, those debuts are not included. Think Robert Plant or Ozzy, those guys were established artists in Zeppelin and Sabbath before going solo. It would feel like cheating to compare Blizzard of Ozz to some newly minted band slogging away in a small independent studio, self producing some DIY project to a guy who’d already been dubbed the Prince of Darkness. I could put McCartney or All Things Must Pass on here except Paul McCartney and George Harrison had been um, sort of popular in their original band. You won’t see my beloved Faces here because half the band was in the Small Faces who were established already and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood had been in the Jeff Beck Group (Artist Lookback: The (Original) Jeff Beck Group – Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood). Perhaps I’m being too strict here but hey, its my list.

It is my goal, as always, to turn you onto something new. If you’ve only experienced a band through their greatest hits, or their most famous records, maybe I’ll give you something to check out. If there is a great debut that isn’t on this list – as I said, I limited myself to just 40 – please mention it in the comments. These are merely my favorite debut albums. Enjoy!

  1. The Allman Brothers Band, The Allman Brothers Band – Their epic Live At the Fillmore East gets all the attention on the “greatest albums of all time lists,” but this is one of the great blues/blues rock albums of all times. They set the template for southern rock. I love both their first two LPs, Artist Lookback: The Allman Brothers’ First Two Albums, 1969-1970.
  2. The Band, Music From Big Pink – Recorded while hanging out with Dylan in Woodstock… some albums are legendary because they deserve to be.
  3. The Beatles, Please Please Me – The birth of Beatlemania. It starts with “I Saw Her Standing There” and ends with “Twist And Shout.” The beginning of a love affair with the world that has lasted almost 60 years.
  4. Big Star, #1 Record – Criminally ignored upon its release, for years I thought they were a disco band. I have no idea where I got that notion. Such a huge influence on so many bands including Cheap Trick, this is a great overlooked album, The Music of Cinemax’s Quarry Led Me To Big Star’s “#1 Record”.
  5. Black Crowes, Shake Your Money Maker – I am currently obsessed with the Black Crowes and their debut. Great Stonesy album that I bought when I heard “Jealous Again.” (Black Crowes: New Song “Charming Mess” From The 30th Anniversary ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ Expanded Edition.
  6. Boston, Boston – Rock snobs and critics would snort at this one, but this is an awesome, arena rock masterpiece.
  7. Jackson Browne, Jackson Browne aka Saturate Before Using – Jackson’s first four albums are an amazing body of work. “Doctor My Eyes” was the big hit on this one but I love the quiet “Something Fine” and the rowdy “Rock Me On the Water.”
  8. The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man – 2020 saw me finally getting into the Byrds. I’d always thought they were a Dylan cover band… I was wrong. Gene Clark’s songwriting is their secret weapon. I was turned onto this band through Movie Review: ‘Echo In The Canyon’ – Flawed, Enjoyable Look at Cali ’65-’67.
  9. The Cars, The Cars – Rick Ocasek was perhaps correct when he joked, “We should have named the first album The Cars Greatest Hits.” 
  10. The Clash, The Clash – Not to sound like the aforementioned rock snobs, but I prefer the original U.K. version of this album vs the later altered U.S. version.
  11. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True – This might actually be my favorite Costello record. This was before he started recording with the Attractions.
  12. The Doors, The Doors – If you went through your teens without a rebellious phase where you idolized Jim Morrison and listened to this album constantly, did you really go through puberty? “This is the end my friend…”
  13. Foreigner, Foreigner – Give me all the shit you want about this album being on the list, but its fantastic and I know my friend Stormin’ agrees with me. I love “Headknocker” and “Long Long Way From Home.” “Fool For You Anyway” and “The Damage Is Done” are downright additive ballads.
  14. Guns N Roses, Appetite For Destruction – Epic, amazing, hard rock. I never get tired of this momentous album.
  15. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced? – The world’s greatest guitarist ever putting on a psychedelic blues extravaganza.
  16. Norah Jones, Come Away With Me – I realize I’m straying out to the mellow end, but this woman’s voice is just mesmerizing. This jazzy, traditional, gorgeous album only sold a kajillion copies. I love it still when I’m feeling mellow. You can’t listen to GnR all the time, or can you?
  17. Lenny Kravitz, Let Love Rule – There was a time when every woman I went out with would play this record for me. Eventually I had to buy it myself and am I glad I did. “Mr. Cab Driver” and the title track are my favorites.
  18. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin – This was the foundation of everything they did afterwards. They stretched blues and rock n roll until you’d have thought it’d break. This was the first LP of theirs I bought… after I’d purchased In Through The Out Door (LP Lookback: In Praise of Led Zeppelin’s ‘In Through The Out Door’), I wanted to start at the beginning.
  19. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd – The Allmans may have established southern rock as a thing but Skynyrd took it to the next level with three lead guitarists. “Freebird,” indeed.
  20. Metallica, Kill Em All – One of the best heavy metal albums ever committed to tape.
  21. Pearl Jam, Ten – I’m still in love with this album. I was super jazzed when they finally released their ‘Unplugged’ from this era last year, Review: Pearl Jam Release ‘MTV Unplugged’ (Finally!).
  22. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – It took until the third LP for these guys to become household names (Damn the Torpedoes) but if you were listening closely it’s all here on their debut. “Breakdown” and “American Girl” are the staples of their greatest hits but there isn’t a bad song on this record.
  23. The Police, Outlandos D’Amour – This was their punkiest, punchiest album. “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “So Lonely” are such great songs. They have more popular, probably better records, but this is a highlight for me.
  24. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley – An iconic from the King. RCA recorded some new tracks and gathered a few from his days at Sun Studios. It’s amazing.
  25. The Pretenders, The Pretenders – Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders’ masterpiece. Such a great punk record.
  26. The Ramones, Ramones – One of punk rock’s landmark albums. Harder, faster… the whole record doesn’t last 30 minutes.
  27. Otis Redding, Pain In My Heart – Such a huge influence on all that came after, including the Stones and Rod Stewart. This is an epic soul record.
  28. R.E.M., Murmur – Still, to this day, my favorite album by R.E.M., and I love R.E.M.
  29. The Rolling Stones, England’s Newest Hitmakers aka The Rolling Stones – When they were the anti-Beatles… a rough and ready blues band. I’d have loved to seen them in the Marquee Club.
  30. Smashing Pumpkins, Gish – Siamese Dream got more attention but this is one of the best debuts of the grunge era.
  31. Patti Smith, Horses – Poet, punk, rocker, female shaman, sorceress – it’s all on display for this record.
  32. Bruce Springsteen, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. – This album didn’t sell well but everybody knew the songs were awesome as evidenced by how many people covered them – from Bowie to Manfred Mann.
  33. Steely Dan, Can’t Buy A Thrill – The only Dan album with vocalist David Palmer. He only sang “Brooklyn” and “Dirty Work” but they’re great songs. This whole record is fabulous. “Change of the Guard” may be my favorite.
  34. Talking Heads, Talking Heads ’77 – The early stuff is so twitchy and anxious. This is before all the poly-rhythmic stuff. It’s simple but extremely affecting music.
  35. U2, Boy – They didn’t break it big until War but this is a great start. “I Will Follow” and “Twilight” are such great songs.
  36. Van Halen, Van Halen – I won’t expand on what I put in my post about this LP, Album Lookback: Van Halen – The Smirking Menace of Their Debut at 40.
  37. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Texas Flood – One of the all time great guitar, blues albums.
  38. Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico – The first night I owned this LP, I was drinking tequila and feeling paranoid. It was dark and stormy… I put this album on and ended up hiding under my futon. Despite that it’s one of the greatest albums of all time.
  39. Tom Waits, Closing Time – I’ll quote my friend Drew, who turned me onto Waits, “Waits’ first album ruins all his other albums and they’re all great.”
  40. The Who, My Generation – The birth of Maximum R&B. Heavy, spirited, I love the Who.

There it is folks. I hope this sends you to the turntable… god knows its too cold to go outside. Let me know if you’ve got any debuts that you just love and I’ll check ’em out.

Take care of one another out there. Cheers!

B&V’s Best of 2020: New LPs And Live/Vault/Archival Releases, Bad Year/Good Music

IMG_1192

I can’t believe 2020 is almost over. Most years I blink and the year is gone. I can’t really say that about this year. In a matter of two days I’ll be scribbling a “1” over the “0” in the date column on my checks… “Oh it’s 2021 not 2020, sorry.” Yes, I still use checks… you kids and your “apps.” At least this year, in Christmas cards, I didn’t have to read everybody’s not-so-humble bragging about what they did in 2020. This year we’re all just glad we survived. While 2020 was a long slow slog in most areas, it was actually quite a nice year for music. I find myself, in my prior year end retrospectives quoting Don Henley, “It was a pretty good year for fashion, a lousy year for rock n roll.” I certainly can’t say that this year. I will say there is one glaring exception to my 2020 rosy music view: concerts. I miss live music so much I can’t stand it. I’m hopeful, like I never was at the beginning of 2020 about anything, that in 2021 I will be standing in a darkened room in front of a band with my hands in the air, screaming wildly. If Springsteen and the E Street Band’s SNL performance is any indication… I think these musicians are ready to go and are going to come out firing once “the coast is clear” as they say.

It was, if I may say so, a great year at BourbonAndVinyl. I want to say a big Thank You to all the readers, commenters, and followers out there – both those joined us this year and to all of you have been around a while as well. I started this thing with a dialogue with fellow music (and bourbon) lovers in mind and this year that concept came to fruition. With musicians off the road this year, so many acts chose to put out new music or cull through their archives. I found myself writing a lot more than in previous years… sorry if that was a little overwhelming… I get excited about music and I have to share. If you’ve enjoyed B&V this year – tell a friend. All music lovers are welcome. Hopefully I’ve turned you on to something you might have missed which is our goal here at B&V.

There were huge losses this year in rock n roll, too many to enumerate. I was saddened to see Bill Withers pass away this year. “Ain’t No Sunshine” is still one of my favorite tracks. I’ve been hearing “Lovely Day” a lot on commercials lately. Glad to see Bill get some recognition. I was rocked this year by the loss of two titans of rock n roll in the B&V universe. Losing drummer/lyricist Neil Peart of Rush really rocked me. I can still remember the first time I air-drummed to 2112 in junior high school. Rush was so huge here in the heartland, Peart’s loss reverberated through everybody. Making things worse, this year we lost one of the greatest guitarists to ever strap on the instrument, Eddie Van Halen. That one left a mark. Van Halen’s music is such an integral part of my listening as young man it’s almost a part of who I am. Hard, edgy and yet funny at the same time. I loved that band from Van Halen to Fair Warning to 1984 to For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Eddie’s guitar playing was always the price of admission for me. He redefined the instrument and that doesn’t happen much, perhaps once every generation or so. His presence, warmth and smile will be missed.

So plentiful was music in 2020 it’s hard to think of an artist who didn’t put out something new or something from the archives. I barely scratched the surface this year. Elton John put out a box set entitled Jewel Box that was a 10 hour journey through demo’s, deep album tracks and rarities. It was great, albeit mellow, but I felt it was for fans only so I didn’t write about it. The King, Elvis Presley put out a 4-disc box Elvis In Nashville (clearly a play on the title his big LP Elvis In Memphis) that collected all of the country/country rock tracks that Elvis recorded over the course of 3 days in Nashville in 1970. Those songs made up the bulk of three albums including the wonderful Elvis Country. The first two discs had all the actual songs, without any studio sweetening but with the second two discs being demo’s – I love the studio chatter of Elvis hanging with musicians – it felt like a fans only kinda thing. It’s a rare year where I can pick/choose the stuff I write about… skipping Elton and Elvis, wow what a year.

There were some fun singles too. The Black Crowes re-released their Christmas classic “Dirty Santa.” I can only hope the brothers Robinson will record a new album in 2021. B&V favs Starcrawler released their cover of Petty’s “I Need To Know” with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell joining in. Greta Van Fleet released their first single “My Way, Now” from their upcoming album… All this is points toward a good 2021!

Here are my favorites from 2020. The first list is new music, stuff that musicians newly recorded. Below, I’ll furnish my list of vault/archive/live albums – where artists either went back and dug out previously recorded material or compilations and also any live albums that caught my attention. I wrote about a lot more than I’m listing here, these are just my favorites. They aren’t in any particular ranked order, it’s pretty random. Enjoy!

B&V’s Favorite New Albums of 2020

  1. Ozzy Osbourne, Ordinary Man – Ozzy returned after a decade’s absence with a great new record. With producer/guitar whizz Andrew Watt helming the project and RHCP’s Chad Smith on drums, GnR bassist Duff McKagan on bass as the backing band, you knew this would be great. Cameos by Slash and Elton John were icing on the cake, Review: Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ordinary Man’ – A Simply Extraordinary Album!.
  2. Pearl Jam, Gigaton – Like Ozzy, it had been a long time since these guys had released anything (7 years). I was a touch lukewarm on this record when it came out. It is definitely a “grower.” The more I listen to it the more I like it. The second half of the record gets a little mellow but those are some of my favorite songs. I’d love to see these guys live again, it’s been years, Review: Pearl Jam’s First LP In 7 Years, ‘Gigaton’ – My Conflicted Thoughts.
  3. Fiona Apple, Fetch The Bolt Cutters – It had been 8 years since genius Fiona Apple had released an album – I’m seeing a trend here in 2020 – but Fetch The Bolt Cutters was worth the wait. I think it may be the perfect “lockdown” album, thematically at least, Review: Fiona Apple, ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’ – Genius Unleashed.
  4. Bob Dylan, Rough And Rowdy Ways – Another artist with a huge gap since his last studio record – 8 years. Dylan had been releasing Sinatra cover LPs for much of that time so it was nice to hear self-penned stuff again. It was preceded by the mesmerizing 18 minute long “Murder Most Foul.” Great, late-period Dylan, Review: The White Stripes ‘Greatest Hits’ – A Lovingly Curated Romp Through Their Career.
  5. Pretenders, Hate For Sale – Original drummer Martin Chambers returns and he and Chrissie Hynde deliver the goods on this punchy, rocking album, LP Review: Pretenders ‘Hate For Sale’ – A Late Career Classic With Attitude!.
  6. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Letter To You – Bruce contemplates his own mortality, inspired by the death of the last surviving member of his first band, the Castiles. I loved Western Stars, his 70s southern California noir but it’s great to hear him back with the E Street Band, Review: Springsteen’s ‘Letter To You’ – Contemplating Mortality On E Street.
  7. AC/DC, Power Up – I would have never thought Angus would be able to pull Brian Johnson, Phil Rudd, and Cliff Williams back into the fold and record another spectacular album. Power Up may be my pick for album of the year – if I still picked albums of the year… Review: AC/DC’s Spectacular Return, ‘Power Up’.
  8. The Dirty Knobs, Wreckless Abandon – Former Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ guitarist and “co-captain” and current member of Fleetwood Mac, Mike Campbell’s side project finally releases their debut album. There are a lot of echos of Petty here but make no mistake, this is a guitar album. It’s a lot of fun, Review: Mike Campbell’s New Band The Dirty Knobs, ‘Wreckless Abandon”.
  9. Chris Cornell, Nobody Sings Like You Anymore, Vol 1 – I was tempted to put this in the “vault” list but this is all unreleased stuff that was recorded and sequenced by Cornell. He obviously planned to release it but alas didn’t live to do so. All well chosen covers, this LP underscores what a tragedy it was when his voice was silenced, Review: Chris Cornell Posthumous Release, ‘No One Sings Like You Anymore, Vol. 1’ – A Nice Surprise From An Old Friend.
  10. Paul McCartney, McCartney III – A homespun gem more in the manner of McCartney than McCartney II. This felt like a really welcome Christmas gift, Review: ‘McCartney III,’ A Homespun Gem.

B&V’s Favorite Vault/Archive/Live Albums of 2020 

  1. Neil Young, Homegrown – Another brilliant 70s era “forgotten” album from Neil. This guy has more unreleased classic albums than most artists have actual albums. This is included in the upcoming (for general release, it’s already been released to collectors) box set Archives II. If you can’t spring for the whole box set, this is worth picking up on its own, Review: Neil Young’s ‘Homegrown’ – The Lost Masterpiece, In The Vaults 45 Years.
  2. Liam Gallagher, Unplugged – The former lead singer of one of the Rock Chick’s all time favorite bands Oasis, Liam Gallagher finally redeems himself in the Unplugged genre with a great little live album, Review: Liam Gallagher, ‘MTV Unplugged (Live At Hull City Hall)’ – Unplugged Redemption?.
  3. The Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup Deluxe – The Stones revisit one of their sleazy-rock 70s classics. Light on bonus studio stuff it contains the great live concert recording Brussels Affair, a must for Stones fans, especially you Mick Taylor-era nuts out there, Review: The Rolling Stones, ‘Goats Head Soup Deluxe’ Box Set.
  4. Tom Petty, Wildflowers…and All The Rest – Petty’s vision of Wildflowers as a double LP finally realized. Some lovely stuff was left in the can, Tom Petty: ‘Wildflowers & All The Rest – Deluxe Edition (4 CDs)’ – A Petty Masterpiece Lovingly Revisited.
  5. Prince, Sign O The Times Deluxe – Prince’s creative peak? Maybe… There are so many great tunes that never saw the light of day in this box, it’s perhaps his last masterpiece, Review: Prince, ‘Sign O’ The Times – Deluxe Edition’ – An Embarrassment of Riches.
  6. Ozzy Osbourne, Blizzard of Ozz, 40th Anniversary – In my review I quibbled about the lack of unreleased studio tracks (really just one new track) and disjointed live stuff, but this is such a landmark album, everyone should check this out. Leave it to Ozzy to appear on both these lists in 2020, Review: Ozzy’s ‘Blizzard of Ozz, 40th Anniversary Expanded’ – Is It Worth It?.
  7. Lou Reed, New York – One of Lou Reed’s true masterworks. If you don’t have the album, you need this. If you do, you need this for the live tracks – the entire album played live, Review: Lou Reed ‘New York: Deluxe Edition’.
  8. U2, All You Can’t Leave Behind 20th Anniversary Box – An album with special meaning for the Rock Chick and I… I already had the bonus tracks but if you don’t they’re definitely worth a listen. The concert included from the tour, in Boston is incendiary, Review: U2, ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind (20th Anniversary Edition)’.
  9. Pearl Jam, MTV Unplugged – Only 7 songs long but soooo worth it. I’ve waited and hoped for years that Pearl Jam would finally release this spectacular performance, recorded shortly after their debut album. This is such a legendary performance…Review: Pearl Jam Release ‘MTV Unplugged’ (Finally!).
  10. Keith Richards, Live At the Hollywood Palladium – Keef takes his wonderful backing band, The X-Pensive Winos out on the road. This expanded edition gives us three additional tracks recorded that night. It’s just a great, live album, Review: Keith Richards + The X-Pensive Winos, ‘Live At the Hollywood Palladium’ Box Set.

If there is an album I missed on these list in your opinion, please share in the comments. I’m always open to new music and I do hate to think I missed something…

I hope everybody held it together during this rough and tumble 2020. Hopefully our little B&V corner of the rock n roll universe helped keep you moving down the road this year. I wish everyone a happy, safe New Year. I don’t think we’re out of the dark yet, but I think there is light at the end of the tunnel… and with any luck, it’s not an oncoming train.

It’s a dark ride, take care of each other out there. I’m certainly looking forward to a better 2021.

Review: Mike Campbell’s New Band The Dirty Knobs, ‘Wreckless Abandon”

image

While I could – on a very personal level – argue that 1994-1995 were my worst years, I believe I’m safe in saying that on a more universal level 2020 has been the worst year of all our lives. With all the general suck-iness and downright awful shit that has happened in 2020 I have to admit… and I don’t say this about many years… it’s been a great year for rock and roll. I looked back at some of my old “best of” lists for past years and more than once I fell into quoting Don Henley, “it was a pretty good year for fashion, a lousy year for rock and roll.” I certainly can’t say that about 2020. Unable to tour, many bands from AC/DC to Springsteen & the E Street Band put together new albums. If there wasn’t new music, many artists from Neil Young to the Stones put out great stuff from the archives. I’ve been so awash in new music (or vault stuff) that I’ve found myself writing twice a week this fall… which is probably better for me than the folks who actually read B&V… 😉

Lately, one vault release I find myself returning to most often is Tom Petty’s box set for his landmark album Wildflowers, entitled All The Rest, Tom Petty: ‘Wildflowers & All The Rest – Deluxe Edition (4 CDs)’ – A Petty Masterpiece Lovingly Revisited. It’s an easy box to get caught up in. While Wildflowers was a Petty “solo” album, just like all his other “solo” stuff, Petty’s “co-pilot” and main collaborator was guitarist Mike Campbell. Campbell can play pretty much any stringed instrument he chooses to pick up. I remember the first time I got to see Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert. It was June 26th of 1985 on the Southern Accents tour and man was I blown away. In retrospect the Confederate flag as a back drop was an awful mistake… I’m not sure we all understood the bad symbolic importance of that particularly odious flag. Also, Petty had those awful lamb chop sideburns. I heard his wife at the time offered to donate money at Live-Aid if he’d shave those off. I’m with her on that, I promised my sainted grandmother I’d never grow facial hair, but I digress. That hot June night in 1985 I was mesmerized by not only Petty but the tall, skinny guy with the curly hair standing to his right, Mike Campbell. When Campbell played the guitar solo on “Don’t Come Around Here No More” I almost swooned and I’m a pretty rugged guy or at least I like to think so.

That concert was the first time Campbell’s greatness really crystalized for me. I recognized him from, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, watching videos on MTV. I had most of Petty’s back catalog at the time and saw that Campbell co-wrote a lot of the best songs but I’m not sure I realized what a force of nature he was until actually seeing him “light the sky on fire” as my friend Stormin’ says. I quickly realized that night, all those great riffs (like on “You Got Lucky” a synth laden track where the guitar is the star) were courtesy of Mike Campbell. People talk about the great collaborators in rock and roll: Paul McCartney and John Lennon or Mick Jagger and Keith Richards but people ought to speak more about Petty and Campbell. I don’t think you could find two people with more synergy than those two guys. I’m not sure Petty realized what a truly valuable collaborator Campbell was until Mike co wrote “Boys of Summer” with Don Henley. It was a bigger hit than anything off of Southern Accents and at that point I think Petty decided to expand Campbell’s creative input. I’m just guessing on that. Rolling Stone magazine has Campbell at number 79 on their list of 100 best guitarists and frankly I think that’s low. Way low.

I wondered what would happen to Mike Campbell after the tragic death of Tom Petty (RIP Tom Petty, 1950 – 2017, A Devastating Loss: The Composer of the Soundtrack to My Life Is Gone). Mike is truly one of the most talented, important guys in rock and roll and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s an “unsung” hero, he should be getting more attention than he does. It was with some surprise that I heard that Campbell joined Fleetwood Mac after they’d cut ties with Lindsey Buckingham (Bummer News: Fleetwood Mac Tells Lindsey Buckingham To Go His Own Way). Campbell’s long association with Stevie Nicks probably made that a no brainer. I was excited to hear Campbell talk about playing some of that old Peter Green stuff from the Mac. Alas, it doesn’t look like this latest configuration of Fleetwood Mac will be doing any recording. Instead, Campbell has released a new album with a band he’s had as a side project for quite a while, the Dirty Knobs. I love the name. This isn’t Campbell’s first band on the side… The Rock Chick discovered and played me the great LP by the Blue Stingrays. It’s a surf rock gem, Friday Night Music Exploration With the Rock Chick: Blue Stones, Blue Stingrays, although Campbell and the rest of the Heartbreakers chose to remain anonymous on that album.

In the run up to the release of the Dirty Knobs’ new album, Wreckless Abandon, Campbell had said that this was a heavier, more raw-boned album than the Heartbreakers stuff. While that is mostly true, so alike were Campbell and Petty in their style and approach that it’s hard not to listen to this and hear an echo of the Heartbreakers. Well, the Heartbreakers without the keyboards, this is a guitar record. It would be easy to think of this as a recording of stuff that Campbell would turn over to Petty as a demo tape, not that there is any sort of an unfinished aspect to any of this great music. Even the Rock Chick said, upon playing this album, “Wow, he really sounds like Petty.” The Dirty Knobs, besides Campbell on vocals/guitar are guitarist Jason Sinay, drummer Matt Laug, and bassist Lance Morrison. One of them sings with Campbell on “Loaded Gun,” but I’m not sure who.

The album begins with the first single and title track, “Wreckless Abandon.” The track starts with a sitar and then the band kicks in with a great rocking groove. I will admit up-front that Campbell’s voice is a little thin and perhaps even reedy in a few places. I still like the vocals on this record. I know a lot of people get nervous when the guitar player steps up to the microphone. A lot of people head for the beer line when Keith Richards gets to the mic, but his tracks are always my favorites on Stones’ albums. I know that only I feel that way… well, me and my old roommate Drew. “Wreckless Abandon” is the kind of great rock and roll you just don’t hear anymore, sadly.

The band quickly goes country-rock for the duet with Chris Stapleton on “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” It’s a down home bunch of fun. It’s right back to the rock and roll for “Sugar.” “Sugar” is probably the heaviest song on this album. It reminds me a touch of “Honey Bee” by Petty. I love the lascivious chorus, “She’s got the sugar, oh yes she does…” As I tell the Rock Chick, I didn’t marry you because you could cook… ahem. “Southern Boy” is another great rocker. I’m considering adding it to our playlist about trains (Playlist: The B&V 50 Favorite Songs About Trains – “that lonesome whistle blows…”). “I Still Love You” is another heavy rocking track with some big riffs. I’ll say it again for emphasis, this is a guitar album!

Perhaps my favorite song on the record is, perhaps not surprisingly, the ballad “Irish Girl.” I love the acoustic guitar and harmonica. I had a girlfriend in college who told me one time that I was always drawn to ballads because I was a basically sad person but you can’t always trust your girlfriends. Certainly not that woman… Another personal favorite is a song that runs through my head every day at work – “Fuck That Guy.” Sure it’s funny and Campbell mostly speaks the lyrics vs singing them, but it’s just such an appropriate song for these days when civility has died. The world weary manner that Campbell says the title…”yeah fuck that guy” is priceless. “Don’t Knock The Boogie” is another spoken word track and is a bluesy tribute to John Lee Hooker. It’s really just an excuse to let Campbell riff and I’m ok with that. “Ana Lee” is another sweet, acoustic ballad. “Loaded” is another heavy rocker. This album is just loaded with guitar, as you would expect from Campbell.

If you’re like me and you’re missing Tom Petty, Wreckless Abandon may just scratch that itch. But more broadly than that, if you like guitar, riff-rock this is your album. There’s a lot of rock and roll but there’s also some blues, ballads and a little bit of country rock. It’s basically all the things Mike Campbell does well which turns out to be everything. Enjoy this one with the volume turned up to 11.

Cheers, and as always be safe out there folks. It’s a dark ride, take care of each other this holiday season, which for me is a season to be endured.

Playlist: Rock Songs About Dancing – For All The Wallflowers Like Me Who Can’t Dance

s-l400

“Just like you I’m wonderin’ what I’m doing here, just like you I’m wonderin’ what’s going on, wallflower, wallflower won’t you dance with me…”

 I saw an article on-line the other day about common phobias. I was always under the impression that public speaking was the most commonly cited fear. I know the Rock Chick and my daughter would rather be scalded with boiling oil than stand in front of a crowd of people and say something. I do that all the time at work, well, I used to before becoming Boo Radley and hiding in my attic for a year. I’ve given speeches at work, wedding toasts and to date one eulogy in front of 100s of people. Public speaking wasn’t even on the list. Actually, the number one thing people fear is heights. I can understand that. I get a twinge of vertigo when I’m up high. They say that vertigo is really a fear you’ll jump rather than a fear you’ll fall which I find wonderfully dark. The only thing I would describe myself as “phobic” about wasn’t even on the list… it’s dancing.

Webster’s defines “wallflower” as “a person who from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines of a social activity (such as a dance).” That pretty much describes me. I’ll even admit the “unpopularity” part of it hits closer to home than I’d care to admit. Dancing, in public anyway, was never much of an issue for me until I reached the seventh grade. When I was growing up, 7th grade through 9th grade was split off as junior high school. When we all reached junior high at the ripe old age of thirteen, they paraded us all into the cafeteria, which had been cleared of all the dining tables, and announced it was “the 7th Grade Dance.” They’d brought in a few girls from the 9th grade to “get the party started” as they say. These Amazonian women – and make no mistake there was a huge difference between 13 and 15, these weren’t girls in our eyes, they were young women – started knifing into the crowd like dobermans chasing a shoplifter searching for 7th grade boys to drag onto the dance floor. Sure, they were enticing but we ran like we’d just escaped a chain gang. I’d never seen boys scatter like that. I hid in the game room most of the day playing foosball. The last time I peeked into he dance hall, the majority of my class was just walking in a circle clapping rhythmically. It was traumatizing.

It was during those Junior High years that I discovered rock and roll. Sadly those years were the disco era. The Bee Gees and Donna Summer ruled the world. As a rock and roller and an unsure pubescent boy I wanted to avoid anything that was uncool or worse feminine. Disco was decidedly uncool. There were guys walking around with “Death Before Disco” t-shirts on and back then, they meant it. I remember seeing on the news some DJ up in Chicago did a “Disco Destruction” night at Comiskey Park in 1979. Seventy-thousand people showed up to blow up disco records. It turned into a riot and the White Sox had to forfeit the game. I was firmly with the rioters on that whole disco issue. I don’t know if that experience along with the horror of the 7th grade dance sealed my fate as a non-dancer or not. You can never be sure about these things. If you were as anti-disco as I was, it stands to reason that I’d be anti-dancing. I didn’t dance because I knew I couldn’t look cool doing it, not because I was a Baptist or anything weird.

Somewhere during those early junior high years – and I’m not proud of this – my friends and I discovered the joys of drinking beer. After one rather raucous night of beer drinking, which my parents caught me doing, I awoke hungover to discover my grandparents had arrived. No one had mentioned it but we had a family wedding to go to. I wanted to go out with my friends and run around the Ranchmart area and well, drink more beer and try to impress girls. I didn’t wanna hang out with my family. Once we got to the reception, my grandfather slipped me a glass of champagne. “One glass won’t hurt, you deserve this after your beer drinking adventure.” A short time later my grandmother dropped by and gave me another glass. “One glass won’t hurt.” To my surprise my mother came by and gave me a glass as well…”One glass won’t get you drunk,” At that point, I was smashed. I went up to the bar to get a coke and the cowboy dickweed bartender asked, “don’t you want some rum in that?” He later told the hostess that I’d been ordering drinks from him all night and he didn’t know they were for me. I had indeed ordered a number of rum and cokes, but hey, he started it.

The next thing I knew, I was on the dance floor, “cutting a rug.” I remember a lot of the extended family laughing. At one point I was up on stage with the band. They were playing some sunny pop tune and I was shouting the words to “Roll Out the Barrel.” The band did not dig me. I could see my father at the other end of the dance floor, red-faced glaring at me. I jumped back into the dance crowd and grabbed some guy’s stogie. I promptly burned a woman on the ass. I awoke the next day in my own vomit with my mother crashing into my room to announce I’d “disgraced my father and her in front of the entire family.” I had to go live at my grandparents for a week to avoid being flayed. I took shit about that for years, especially my “dancing.” Ironically, two years later, at the first family wedding I was allowed to attend again, I watched this young girl who was maybe 13 sucking down champagne. She hit the dance floor just like I had. She was spinning around in circles. I knew it was a matter of time… When she vomited, oh yes, it was explosive. She cleared the dance floor which was something I hadn’t been able to do and I’d literally scarred a woman’s ass with a cigar. The next day her parents were laughing about it. There’s a reason I call my dad “the Hard Guy.”

Being viscerally opposed to all forms of dancing really hurt me socially. I was single until I was 36 and not being able to dance was not an asset when trying to meet women. Every time I tried to dance it looked like I was running in place trying to gnaw my lower lip off. Either that or I’d only move my upper body, with my legs rooted to the ground like trunks of sequoia trees. I always moved with the grace of someone who had blown a hamstring. I half expected medical staff from the club I was dancing in to rush out, secure my neck and spine area, tie me to a board and drive me out of the bar on the back of a lawns keeping cart. I’d wave heroically to the crowd… The Rock Chick refuses to dance with me and I sense there was a time when she really did enjoy dancing.

All of that said, there are a lot of great rock tunes about dancing or dancers. Most of those tunes were not written with dancing in mind. Sure, there are a few you could probably dance to if you were, well, not me. I do think everything Motley Crue wrote and performed was likely intended to be played in strip clubs for exotic dancers. And yes, I get that many of these are merely thinly veiled euphemisms for sex. For the most part these tracks about dancing are upbeat, harder rocking tunes. I discovered a playlist I used to run to of about fifteen like-minded tracks about dancing. I blew that up here and extended it to sixty tracks that I believe actually hang together pretty well. As always with my playlists, it’s best to hit shuffle when you’re playing them. I have some recognizable tracks but as always I’m trying to expose folks to the deeper, album cuts that I’ve always liked in the hopes that I expose you to something new. As always you can find this playlist on Spotify under the title: BourbonAndVinyl.net Rock Songs About Dancing. If you have any suggested additions, please add them in the comments section.

  1. Aerosmith, “Same Old Song And Dance” – This may not exactly be about dancing but it was always the first track on my running dance playlist.
  2. Dire Straits, “Twisting By The Pool” – I’m reminded of a girl I met in junior high whose parents had a pool.
  3. John Lennon, “Do You Wanna Dance?” – From the covers LP Rock N Roll (B&V’s Favorite Cover Albums: Singing Other People’s Songs).
  4. Don Henley, “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” – Great little rock tune.
  5. The Rolling Stones, “Harlem Shuffle” – I love this track although I know many people do not. “Let your momma show you how,” indeed.
  6. Lenny Kravitz, “Dancin’ Til Dawn” – Somehow I don’t think Sexy Lenny is singing about dancing.
  7. Joan Jett, “I Love Rock And Roll” – Every girl in my high school would go nuts when this song came on. “Put another dime in the jukebox baby and dance with me.”
  8. The Traveling Wilbury’s, “Wilbury Twist” – Well now I’m just getting silly here.
  9. Van Halen, “Dance The Night Away” – I’m still not over the loss of Eddie Van Halen (Guitar Legend Eddie Van Halen Gone Too Soon at 65, RIP Eddie, #EVH).
  10. Motley Crue, “Dancing On Glass” – For the strippers out there.
  11. Sam Cooke, “Twistin’ The Night Away” – Rod does a really great version of this song, but you can’t beat the original.
  12. Mick Jagger, “Dancing In the Starlight” – From the great Goddess In the Doorway. 
  13. Tom Petty, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – “She had a good lookin’ mama who never was around.”
  14. The Donnas, “Better Off Dancing” – I love this girl band.
  15. Bob Seger, “Mainstreet” – Bob goes out and stalks a stripper in a melancholy manner.
  16. The Cult, “Dance The Night” – From the amazing Hidden City (Review: The Cult, ‘Hidden City’, A Late Career Gem). Looking forward to new music from these guys in 2021.
  17. The Rolling Stones, “Dancing With Mr. D” – Who doesn’t like a little dance with the Devil every now and again (Review: The Rolling Stones, ‘Goats Head Soup Deluxe’ Box Set).
  18. Neil Young, “When You Dance You Can Really Love” – Great, great Neil Young track.
  19. The Eagles, “Hollywood Waltz” – “So give her this dance, she can’t be forsaken…” Beautiful stuff.
  20. T. Rex, “Cosmic Dancer” – I’ve only recently started getting into Marc Bolan and T. Rex and I like what I’ve heard.
  21. Van Halen, “Dancing In The Street” – Nobody does this song better than VH.
  22. Bob Dylan, “Wallflower” – One for me…
  23. David Bowie, “John, I’m Only Dancing” – “It turns me on…”
  24. The Cars, “Shake It Up” – I actually am worried that I have “two left feet.”
  25. John Mellencamp, “Dance Naked” – Ok, now I’m interested.
  26. Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Shake Your Money Maker” – Good ol’ blues to shake your ass to.
  27. Fleetwood Mac, “Tango In The Night” – Again, probably not talking about dancing here… Epic guitar solo from Lindsey Buckingham.
  28. David Byrne, “I Dance Like This” – I loved American Utopia (LP Review: David Byrne, ‘American Utopia,’ A Surprise Gem).
  29. Patti Smith, “Dancing Barefoot” – Also done quite nicely by U2.
  30. Paul McCartney, “Dance Tonight” – One of my all time favorites by one of my all time favorite acts.
  31. Warren Zevon, “Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School” – From his great, first comeback album.
  32. The Faces, “You Can Make Me Dance, Sing, or…” – Rod, Ronnie Wood and the rest of the gang. They had more great singles that should have been on albums than anybody else out there.
  33. Robert Plant, “Angel Dance” – A roots-y cover of a Los Lobos tune.
  34. Paul McCartney, “Ballroom Dancing” – From the great Tug Of War. 
  35. Motley Crue, “Come On And Dance” – More stripper soundtrack stuff from the LA bad boys.
  36. The Rolling Stones, “Shake Your Hips” – If I shook my hips I’d need a hip replacement.
  37. Thin Lizzy, “Dancing In the Moonlight” – Borderline disco but catchy as hell.
  38. Led Zeppelin, “Dancing Days” – Funky Zeppelin?
  39. The Rolling Stones, “Dance Little Sister” – Great, great riffage from Keith.
  40. Van Morrison, “Moondance” – Again, probably not the type of dancing I’m thinking of…
  41. Robert Plant, “Dancing In Heaven” – Great late period Plant.
  42. Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing In The Dark” – The song that made him a superstar.
  43. The Beatles, “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” – I never was…
  44. Pearl Jam, “Dance Of the Clairvoyants” – From their latest album, Review: Pearl Jam’s First LP In 7 Years, ‘Gigaton’ – My Conflicted Thoughts.
  45. Steve Miller Band, “Dance, Dance, Dance” – The title says it all in this down home, front porch-y tune.
  46. David Bowie, “Let’s Dance” – Probably the most danceable of all the songs here. I love the line, “put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” Great Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar work.
  47. Billy Idol, “Dancing With Myself” – Early big hit. Originally done with Generation X.
  48. Otis Redding, “Shake” – Fabulous soul music.
  49. Pete Townshend, “Face Dances Pt. 2” – I’m too much of a fanatic for Pete’s solo work… I had to include this weird song.
  50. Bob Dylan, “Shake Mama Shake” – I love his raspy voice. I know it’s a lot like olives, an acquired taste.
  51. The J. Geils Band, “Southside Shuffle” – Funky, dirty, kinda bluesy.
  52. John Mellencamp, “A Little Night Dancin'” – From when he was still John Cougar. A great deep track.
  53. Joe Walsh, “Spanish Dancer” – I love Joe’s guitar work on this late period deep track.
  54. INXS, “Dancing On the Jetty” – Great early track from these guys.
  55. Lou Reed, “I Love You Suzanne” – “You broke my heart and you made me cry, when you said I couldn’t dance.” But, I can’t.
  56. The Ramones, “Let’s Dance” – Short, fast and hard.
  57. Rod Stewart, “She Won’t Dance With Me” – Containing the poetic line, “I’ve got a hard-on honey and it hurts like hell.” Ahem. Good Chuck Berry riff.
  58. The Beatles, “Twist And Shout” – Iconic.
  59. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Fat Dance” – A bonus track from Californication that I read Anthony Kiedis describes as “fuuuunky.”
  60. Elton John, “Your Sister Can’t Twist, But She Can Rock N Roll” – Elton plays so fast we must suspect amphetamine usage.

There you have it folks A little something to wile away the hours over your upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. In the words of Neil Diamond, “some of you may have the guts to stand, but how many of you have the guts to dance?”

Playlist: Favorite Country Rock Songs – Rockers Going “Country-ish,” Hidden Rhinestone Gems

gram-parsons_12748

*Image of Gram Parsons taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

If someone were to ask me today, what my favorite music is, I’d give the same answer I would have given when I was in my teens. I only hate two kinds of music – country and western. Especially today’s country. I mean I’ll admit as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten into Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and the late, great Johnny Cash. I saw Merle Haggard open for Dylan and frankly he blew Bob off the stage. His voice is liked aged whiskey, amazingly smooth. I was probably aided in my journey toward older country music by my sister-in-law who happens to be a country singer in a gigging band. That said, today’s country music is nauseating to my rock n roll sensibilities. It all sounds like re warmed Bob Seger played with an insipid twang.

However, I have to admit some of the greatest rock and roll bands/artists ever have done country songs. Or at the very least “country-ish” songs. They’ve all done tracks that are either overtly country or heavily influenced by country. I’m not talking about Bon Jovi doing a country album as a career move. I’m talking about the Stones, the Byrds or Neil Young making country rock, well, fashionable. Country rock was established in the late sixties… bands from the Buffalo Springfield to the Stones incorporated country-tinged tracks on their albums. No one more than the Byrds who did a straight-up country album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. That album came out when country music was considered the property of red-necks and hicks. Which, let’s admit, it is. The Byrds actually played a show at the Grand Ole Opry… their long hair was met with sullen, menacing silence. Country rock was born!

I actually started out tangentially listening to country. My dad had a stack of singles from when he was young and cool. He had some great music in that old wire rack of his. My brother kind of took ownership of those singles and played them all the time. I remember hearing Dion, Elvis Presley and yes, Johnny Cash. Oddly though I never associated Cash’s music with country music. It sounded more fundamental to me. I thought of Johnny Cash along the same lines as Elvis, as early, earthy rock and roll. There wasn’t that much separation between Elvis and Johnny to my novice ears. It all had a steady beat. Years later during his American Recordings era I started to hear people describe Johnny as the world’s first punk rocker. Weirdly, I sorta get that.

While I was as staunchly anti-country music as I was a “Death Before Disco” guy, I was actually listening to rock acts doing country without realizing it. I can be a little thick. On the first album I ever bought, the Stones’ Some Girls, one of my favorite tracks was always “Far Away Eyes.” I loved that it lampooned people for using religion for more…temporal purposes. In the song Mick prays and sends a donation to a radio church for a girl with “far away eyes.” Praying for sex? It actually makes some sense. It was years before I realized that song was basically a country song. I finally started to realize how many great country tracks the Stones did. That was mostly from the influence of Keith Richards’ friend, Gram Parsons. Gram was the driving force in his brief period in the Byrds and got them to record Sweetheart of the Radio. Gram turned Keith onto country music and he started writing songs in that country vein. Jagger once said that while the band played straight up country he always sang it in a mocking style. Tongue in cheek (rather than sticking out through thick lips like their logo) and rolling eyes. He said he considered himself more of a blues singer than a country singer. Only later did he get into in a serious way with tracks like “Wild Horses.” Whether its blues, country or reggae (B&V Playlist: Rockers Playing Reggae: It’s Not Just For Vacation Any More) Mick can sing anything.

When I was in college I had a music addict (like me) for a roommate, Drew. Drew was the one who turned me onto Neil Young. Prior to meeting Drew I’d have said, eh, Neil, no thanks on that voice. In 1985 Neil went full on country with his album Old Ways. It was during a bit of a creative and commercial lull in Neil’s career. Geffen Records had actually sued him for purposely making “uncommercial music.” As a “fuck you” to the record company he went full on country on Old Ways. I think there’s even a duet with Willie Nelson. To this day, I’ve never heard that record. In ’85 having just been turned onto Neil and his great early catalog, I went and found Drew to announce the bad news… “Oh my God, Neil has gone country, can you believe it?” Drew, ever the wise rock and roller, shook his head and said, “Have you been listening to Neil? What do you think he meant by “Are You Ready For The Country”?” My god, he was right.

In the years since then I’ve branched out in many ways musically. I’m still not a fan of most country music but I can dig country rock. It’s, to my ears, a lot like folk rock. I’ve really gotten into the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and similar acts. One guy who was critical to the whole movement, pictured above, was Gram Parsons. Gram was in the Byrds when they did Sweetheart, as I mentioned above. He hung out with Keith at Nellcote in France, while the Stones were recording the basic tracks for Exile On Mainstreet. From the Byrds he went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers with Chris Hillman, another hugely influential band. He dreamt of an “Cosmic American Music” blending rock and country. Frankly I think ex-Byrd Gene Clark came closer than Gram did… As I started to piece this playlist together, I realized I had to represent all that great music.

I’ve attempted in this playlist to compile my favorite country rock tunes. Some of these are really full on country, some are just country influenced or tinged. I think there are some real hidden gems here. My hope, as with all of my playlists, is that you’ll hear a song you might not have heard – or haven’t heard in a long time. My dearest hope is you’ll think, man I love that song. There are probably great country/country-rock songs I’ve missed here. I’m not into say, Poco. So if I’ve missed something you dig, put it in the comment section and I’ll add it to the playlist which as always is on Spotify. This one is under “BourbonAndVinyl.net Favorite Country Rock Songs.” I always recommend pushing the “shuffle” button. Put on your cowboy hat, put a piece of grass between your teeth, grab your favorite moonshine and groove on these tracks…The link to the Spotify playlist is below.

  1. The Rolling Stones, “Far Away Eyes” – This is where it all started for me so I had to start here.
  2. Neil Young, “Are You Ready For the Country?” – Apparently in 1985, I was not ready.
  3. Bob Dylan, “Lay Lady Lay” – Dylan doesn’t get enough credit for starting the country rock craze with his seminal album Nashville Skyline. 
  4. The Little Willies, “Fist City” – Norah Jones’ side project doing a Loretta Lynn cover.
  5. Mick Jagger, “Evening Gown” – Great, great solo Mick… covered gamely by Jerry Lee Lewis.
  6. Dillard & Clark, “Train Leaves Here This Morning” – Former Byrd Gene Clark was an underrated genius. Bernie Leadon recorded this song again when he was in the Eagles.
  7. Eagles, “Tequila Sunrise” – Speaking of the Eagles, this is one of my favs. Drinking your broken heart away, something B&V knows a lot about.
  8. Bob Dylan, “I Threw It All Away” – Another great track from Nashville Skyline. I love this song.
  9. Sheryl Crow, “First Cut Is The Deepest (Country Version)” – I wanted to incorporate more female voices and I love this version of a song made famous by Rod Stewart.
  10. The Allman Brothers, “Blue Sky” – “You’re my sunny day…” Great track.
  11. Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, “Girl From The North Country” – I avoided any overtly “country” artists but I had to sneak Johnny on here somehow.
  12. Neil Young, “Comes A Time” – Title track from a great album.
  13. Eagles, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” – What we all need in these troubled times.
  14. Gin Blossoms, “Cheatin'” – “Its not cheatin’ if she reminds me of you…” Great lyric.
  15. The Black Crowes, “Garden Gate” – From the great double album, recorded live at Levon Helms’ place, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze. 
  16. The Byrds, “Hickory Wind” – Gram Parsons’ signature track. One of the few he sang.
  17. Mike Ness, “The Devil In Miss Jones” – I love Social Distortion and Ness’ first solo album Cheating At Solitaire. There’s a great duet with Springsteen on there as well.
  18. The Flying Burrito Brothers, “Wild Horses” – It may seem like blasphemy to not put the Stones’ version of this song on here but I had so many other tracks by them to choose from.
  19. Norah Jones, “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” – Norah putting music to lyrics written by Hank Williams but never recorded.
  20. Hindu Love Gods, “I’m A One Woman Man” – Warren Zevon backed with 3/4 of R.E.M. doing an LP of great, eclectic covers.
  21. The Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers” – Also on our heroin playlist, B&V Playlist: Chasing the Dragon – Songs About Heroin.
  22. Neil Young, “Beautiful Bluebird” – From the great late period LP, Chrome Dreams II, seemingly a sequel to an album never released.
  23. Robert Plant, “If It’s Really Got To Be This Way”* – I put an asterisk here as its not on Spotify. If you haven’t heard this tune, seek it out somewhere.
  24. Fleetwood Mac, “That’s Alright” – By the time they reconvened for Mirage Stevie Nicks had become a solo sensation with Bella Donna. She made the band do a country tune for her father who loved country music. This track works for me.
  25. Gram Parsons, “Ooh Las Vegas” – He didn’t do a lot of solo stuff but what he did is worth checking out.
  26. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Southern Accents” – This is more “country-ish” than country, but Mike Campbell’s superb dobro playing puts this track on the list.
  27. Linda Ronstadt, “Love Is A Rose” – Linda always had great taste in songwriters, doing a Neil Young track here. (Documentary Review: The Sublime ‘Linda Ronstadt, The Sound Of My Voice’).
  28. Talking Heads, “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel (Country Angel Version)” – Weirdest track on here? Yes.
  29. Doobie Brothers, “South City Midnight Lady” – People forget the Doobies were HUGE. I love this song.
  30. Grateful Dead, “Box of Rain” – Easily for me, their best song (Lookback: Grateful Dead’s Americana 1970 – ‘Workingman’s Dead’/’American Beauty’).
  31. Neil Young, “From Hank To Hendrix” – Another great country track from Neil.
  32. Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes” – Every time I put a Neil Young track on this list it appears I have to put an Eagles’ song too. Gram Parsons, like the Dude, hated the Eagles. He described them unflatteringly as “a dry plastic fuck.” Not sure what that means but it doesn’t sound good.
  33. The Rolling Stones, “You Win Again” – Great deep track from the Stones (Playlist: B&V’s Favorite Rolling Stones Deep Tracks).
  34. Buffalo Springfield, “A Child’s Claim To Fame” – A dis track about Neil Young which caused him to write, “I Am A Child.” Musicians, what are you gonna do?
  35. John Fogerty, “Southern Streamline” – I could have gone with any number of CCR tracks but I like this Fogerty solo track.
  36. Randy Newman, “Rider In The Rain” – The Eagles sang back up on this standout track.
  37. Mudcrutch, “Orphan Of The Storm” – Great track from Petty, Campbell and Tench’s side project.
  38. Stephen Stills/Manassas, “Colorado” – One of the greatest country rock tracks ever.
  39. Doobie Brothers, “Black Water” – Another great Doobies track.
  40. The Rolling Stones, “Indian Girl” – “Little Indian girl, where is your faaaather?”
  41. The Little Willies, “Jolene” – Norah doing Dolly Parton this time.
  42. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” – Southern rockers had to be on here somewhere.
  43. CSNY, “Teach Your Children” – Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead’s pedal steel puts this track on the list.
  44. Rod Stewart, “What Made Milwaukee Famous” – Great cover of Jerry Lee Lewis.
  45. Elvis Costello, “Good Year For The Roses” – Elvis doing George Jones.
  46. Mike Ness, “Cheating At Solitaire” – The title track of his great first solo album.
  47. Stephen Stills/Manassas, “So Begins The Task” – Such a great double album, I had to double dip from it for this list.
  48. Grateful Dead, “Friend Of The Devil” – One of their best known tracks.
  49. Pete Townsend, “There’s A Heartache Following Me” – Pete covering Jim Reeves because it was his guru’s favorite song.
  50. Led Zeppelin, “Hot Dog” – I love this track from their last album.
  51. Sheryl Crow/Kid Rock, “Picture” – I despise Kid Rock but I dig Sheryl.
  52. Don Henley, “You’re Not Drinking Enough” – Advice I always follow.
  53. Eagles, “Girl From Yesterday” – Oddly most of the country rock tracks by these guys I’m drawn to were sung by Glenn Frey.
  54. Sting, “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” – Sting is a pretentious dick, but he captures the country ethos of my baby is gone and she took my dog here.
  55. Hindu Love Gods, “Vigilante Man” – A Hank Williams cover I believe.
  56. Peter Wolf (with Mick Jagger), “Nothing But The Wheel” – Great track with Mick on harmony vocals.
  57. Lucinda Williams with Elvis Costello, “Jailhouse Tears” – The funniest song on this list.
  58. The Rolling Stones, “Do You Think I Really Care” – Another great deep track.
  59. Elton John, “Country Comforts” – Also really well done by Rod.
  60. Stevie Nicks, “After The Glitter Fades” – All the pedal steel on here puts this track on the list for me.
  61. Social Distortion, “Like An Outlaw (For You)” – Full-on “cow-punk.”
  62. The Blues Brothers, “Theme From Rawhide” – If this song doesn’t make you smile, you’re on the wrong blog.

There ya go cowpokes! Enjoy! Stay safe out there!

Review: Showtime Documentary – ‘The Go-Go’s’… And How I Briefly Met Belinda Carlisle In 1984

maxresdefault

*Above image taken from the internet and likely copyrighed

I am not currently nor have I ever been a huge fan of the 1980’s girl group the Go-Gos. However, I think every woman who came of age in the early ’80s who likes music, loves the Go-Gos. I remember a girl I dated in high school who loved their debut album. It was one of the few albums she owned. Even now, all these years later, the Rock Chick digs the Go-Gos. I think she had their greatest hits CD when I met her. Every woman I’ve ever known loves that moment in “We’ve Got the Beat” when lead singer Belinda Carlisle yells, “Jump Back… Big Time!” I think it’s a chick thing. I have to admit, even though I’m not a die-hard fan of their music I was curious to see the new Showtime documentary creatively titled, The Go-Gos. When I hear their music these days, I admit I smile probably out of a hoary sense of nostalgia, but I smile nonetheless. Their music certainly evokes a specific time and place for me.

The concept of the “Girl Group” is as old as rock and roll itself. You can go back to the 50s to the Shirelles who may have been the first ever Girl Group, as far as I know. They launched a whole Girl Group movement, which ended up being a huge influence on, of all people, the Beatles. Most of the early girl groups were merely vocal groups, they didn’t play their own instruments. There was usually some shadowy producer in the background. Barry Gordy had the Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas. Phil Spector had the Ronettes. The shadowy producer wrote the songs, hired the session musicians. The “girls” just had to show up and  sing. Oh and then go out on grueling tours to perform live.

The concept of an all female band, who played their own instruments came later. I’m sure it was also considered a bit of a novelty at the time as well. I just hear fans saying, “Look girls playing guitar and drums… it’s like a dancing bear.” I can’t help but think of the Runaways – with Cherrie Currie, Joan Jett and Lita Ford – as an early example. They still had the shadowy producer/Svengali in the background, Kim Fowley who wrote much of their early stuff. I think in a lot of ways, punk rock helped take the novelty out of the girl group. Punk attracted and yes, welcomed all the outcasts. It didn’t matter who you were, you could pick up an instrument and play punk rock. There were bands with men and woman members like the Talking Heads or X.

The Go-Gos were, to my ears, always pop or pop-rock. One of the revelations of the documentary for me, was that they formed and grew out of the L.A. punk scene. Lead singer Belinda Carlisle, guitarist Jane Wiedlin, lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey all met at the same L.A. punk club, the Masque. After replacing original bassist Margo Olavarria and original drummer Elissa Bello with Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock respectively, the band’s line up crystallized.

The documentary follows the usual rise and fall narrative. I didn’t realize how quick and one might say, meteoric the Go-Gos rise to prominence was. After touring England they came back to the U.S. and recorded their debut, Beauty And the Beast in 1981 and it was, to put it mildly, a smash hit. I liked that they wrote and recorded their own stuff, no mysterious Producer lurking in the background. The Go-Gos were one of those bands whose rise coincided with that of MTV. The Go-Gos and MTV were made for each other. Many times girl groups were presented as “saintly” or “good girls.” I like that the Go-Gos were never like that. Or at least, I don’t remember them that way. The documentary talks a lot about their drinking and drug use. In my high school mentality, I never thought of these women as cheerleaders, I always thought they were the chicks smoking, drinking and making out in the parking lot.

Eventually the relentless touring, fights over song-writing royalties, and the drinking and drugs took its toll on the interpersonal relationships in the band. Charlotte Caffey’s deepening heroin addiction increasingly became a problem. I was amused to hear how many times reporters asking the group how they were getting along. You never heard people ask the Who that question and they didn’t really get on that well. Reporters always injecting drama. Jane Wiedlin eventually quit in a dispute over song writing credits. The band didn’t last too long after that.

The documentary interviews every member of the Go-Gos from their prime line-up. They also go back and interview the past members. Paula Jean Brown who replaced Wiedlin (although she played bass, Valentine moved to guitar, her first instrument), was also interviewed. Their first manager and their latter day manger Miles Copeland of I.R.S. records are both interviewed. Hell, even Stewart Copeland of the Police, who the Go-Gos opened for early in their career gets his 2 cents in. The documentary came off to me as an advertisement to get the Go-Gos into the Rock Hall of Fame. They do come across cooler than I remembered… hey, if you have a band member on heroin you gotta score some cool points somewhere. I thought it was an interesting and well done documentary. I think its definitely worth watching for any rock and roll fan.

As I watched the documentary, I couldn’t help but think of the time I saw the Go-Gos and actually went backstage, and met Belinda Carlisle. I wish this was a more salacious story, but alas, it’s pretty tame. In the fall of 1984 I had just moved back to Manhattan, Kansas to start my next year in college. The weekend after Labor Day, most of the people in the place where I lived had left for a big, organized road trip. I wasn’t allowed to go on the trip because I was on some  sort of “social probation” for debauched acts of some sort, I don’t recall. I was like anybody else in college, I had my clique or my gang. But on this particular weekend, I was sort of all by myself.

There was a guy we all knew, who was a few years older than I was, who I’ll call Dan (named changed to protect the guilty). Dan was a track & field athlete and was actually quite exceptional at his event. He had actually gone to an Olympics. Since he’d gone to the Olympics, his ego was through the roof. In short, he was a colossal asshole. He once came out and played a game of tackle football with us drinking schlubs. Trying to tackle him was like trying to tackle a horse. His knees came up to my chin and at one point his knees treated my skull like a boxer working the speed bag… There was never a weekend where I would have imagined I’d hang out with Dan the Olympian. But, I was on my own, which was never good in those days… there was always trouble lurking. Dan, who liked to say things like, “We’re going to the club tonight, I’ll probably have chicks all over me because I’m an Olympian, you guys will have to fend for yourselves,” burst into the living room where I lived. “Who wants to go to the Go-Gos tonight in Kansas City?” I had nothing else to do so I tepidly raised my hand. The next thing I knew, I was in a van hurtling toward Sandstone Theater – an outdoor venue, referred to in the trade as a “shed.”

I remember drinking a ton of beer in the ride up to KC. I was in the back of the van and wasn’t driving. Dan was driving which was good because he was really straight-laced. It was like going to a rock concert with a narcotics agent. He apparently had an Olympian friend who was romantically linked to Carlisle and she set him up with tickets. True to his word, there were tickets and to my surprise backstage passes waiting for us. We were down in the middle, some 20 rows back from the stage. This was September 7th, 1984 so the Go-Gos would have been touring in support of Talk Show, their third album. They had to be exhausted. I remember Belinda Carlisle danced maniacally. The place was probably 2/3’s full, so even I was dancing in the aisle, there was plenty of room… of course that may have been because we were surrounded by girls. It was a heavy female crowd… which was fine with me.

After the show we went backstage. There was one room that was full of adoring fans. Dan barged into a smaller, empty room where there was a food table – the supermarket trays of veggies and cheeses. I was too afraid to touch anything, thank God. I suddenly realized, we were in the Go-Gos dressing room. When the five band members came into the room, the looked at us with a combination of disdain and exhaustion. If Dan had been cooler maybe there might have been some partying to do here… but we were a bit of a band of misfits. Belinda, very diplomatically, introduced herself and asked us to give the band some space.

We quickly left the dressing room, to the delight of the rest of the band, (Jane Wiedlin, most notably, was aggressively pleased we were leaving), and probably secretly to the delight of Belinda Carlisle. We drove downtown to KC, as directed by Belinda to the Crown Center hotel, a posh spot in midtown. We hung around the bar. A couple hours later, cleaned up and looking lovely, Carlisle appeared. I remember thinking how classy she looked. She was so nice to us and we were nobody. Dan the Olympian was buying in order to impress Belinda so I started ordering Jack & Cokes 2 at a time. You gotta strike when the iron is hot, folks. Sitting there listening to Dan and Belinda chat about their mutual acquaintances who were in Europe somewhere I couldn’t help but think, I’m sitting here with this Rock Star… what should I say? What should I ask her?

I was barely 20. I was young and dumb. I wasn’t a huge Go-Gos fan so I had nothing to ask. All I could think to ask her was, “Do you know David Lee Roth?” That was the best I could come up with? Sheesh! She smiled politely but I think she had to be thinking, who is this moron? “Yes, he’s really intelligent.” She quickly turned back to Dan. I think that was all she said to me. Looking back, knowing what I know now, there’s so much I would have asked about touring, the grind of the road and the music business. But alas, all I could think to ask was a question about Van Halen’s lead singer. I blame the Jack & Cokes. There was no drugs or sex in this story, just stupidity.

You know, come to think of it… I probably would vote for the Go-Gos to get into the Rock Hall… they deserve it just for putting up with Dan, me and our band of rock and roll misfits in Kansas City on a hot September night in 1984.

Hats off to all of you, Ladies! And yes, God Bless the Go-Gos. Check out this Showtime documentary, its B&V approved!

Cheers!