If Music Is Not Communal Any Longer, What Will Feed the Rebellion?

3.30 black keys drum logo

Happy Good Friday to my Christian friends out there, and a Happy Friday to my non-Christian friends! As a man who is closer in age to being one who yells at kids to get off his lawn, I realize that sometimes in here I complain about the state of music not being as important as it seemed to be when I was a kid. I guess my problem is rock music’s status within the millennials’ world of pop culture. If you look at the spending habits of Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, you notice they still buy the majority of concert tickets and physical carriers of music (CDs and vinyl), while millennials prefer to download their favorite songs, preferably for nothing. It is simply the difference in the technology available that accounts for the difference. Unfortunately, the downside to this is that music no longer brings groups of people together to listen to an artist’s latest release or to see another in concert with a group of friends. That has been replaced with your favorite songs on your smart phone, available for you to listen to it via Blacktooth technology in your car or as you walk via headphones or earbuds. Now, music is an isolating experience.

I find that aspect sad. I can remember cruising as a teenager, and nearly every car had their car radios tuned to the same station. There was nothing like a dozen cars full of teens blaring Foghat’s “Slow Ride” or “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears. Crazy memories that I wish all teens could have, but I guess the millennials are all eliciting some communal response from something collectively on their smart phones. I just don’t see how it works with the same emotional intensity of memories as music can elicit.

3.30 Black Keys-Attack & Release3.30 Black Keys - Brothers

3.30 The Black Keys - Turn Blue

Now, the state of music is not as dire as I would like to believe, it is only more difficult to find the good stuff, and not the stuff pushed upon the youth by Ryan Seacrest’s nationally syndicated radio station. Since the turn of the millennium, I have discovered a cornucopia of terrific artists who should be in your playlists. For the Grateful Dead and Phish Jam Band freaks out there, go listen to My Morning Jacket, while all of you who love STAX and other Seventies R&B should find the late Charles Bradley, Leon Bridges, St. Paul & Broken Bones, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats or the late Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. If you prefer Southern Rock, there’s the Drive-By Truckers and Blackberry Smoke. Want some Power Pop, check out OK Go, Fountains of Wayne, Derrick Anderson, Kai Danzberg, et al. For lovers of Rolling Stones-styled rock, go find The Struts, Alabama Shakes or The Black Keys. Seventies CBGBs-era Punk, try The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines or The White Stripes. New Wave? DREAMCAR, The Killers and Franz Ferdinand. Female art rock sounds ala Yoko Ono or Laurie Anderson, check out St. Vincent. And this paragraph could go on forever. The point is, great music that would have been played on album oriented rock radio back in the Seventies and early Eighties is not finding an all-inclusive outlet; therefore, making it extremely difficult for a new artists to make a pop cultural impact as artists in the past could.

3.30 The_Black_Keys_El_Camino_Album_Cover

Right now, although this band has not released an album of new material in several years, The Black Keys may be arguably the biggest rock band in the world. Unfortunately, few people know this. Since 2008, when The Black Keys released their first album produced by the great Danger Mouse, Attack & Release, the band made a quick ascent to the top of a much less lucrative rock mountain behind their three following albums: Brothers (2010), the band’s masterpiece El Camino (2011) and Turn Blue (2014). Each album built upon the success of the previous album only to continue this growth streak both creatively and financially. However, there is a new paradigm for bands to follow, and The Black Keys may have found the new formula. Instead of relying on radio airplay, or even big streaming gains, The Keys discovered that through the licensing of their music for use in commercials was much larger financial windfall for the band, which brought the band more widespread exposure, thus driving up their album sales.

But, to this old idealist, who stood with artists refusing to sell out their music to ad agencies, this crass example of capitalism is very disheartening. Oh well! Want me to yell, “Get off my lawn”? Or do I try to accept this. As a music lover, I simply accept it, continue to purchase the music I like and move on. The time’s they are a-changing’, as the prophet once sang.

3.30 The Black Keys live

The Black Keys are one of those bands who would have experienced success no matter when they would have appeared on the rock and roll timeline. Even though the musicians are young in age, they are old souls in the type of music from which they draw inspiration. And, although the duo sounds as if they are immersed in old Howlin’ Wolf records, you can also tell they are of the hip hop generation with the clues hiding in their rhythms, along with the rap-rock hybrid record they made nearly a decade ago with members of Wu-Tang Clan under the guise of their alter ego Blakroc.

And, although The Black Keys, much like The White Stripes, the band with whom they are compared, are a duo consisting of a guitarist (Dan Auerbach) and a drummer (Patrick Carney). The lack of a bassist in no way impedes the band’s ability to be funky. Plus, if they really want to add to their bottom end, they bring in a session bassist. But, to be perfectly honest, the band’s music rarely needs that augmentation. Somehow, the duo just does not need the extra musician.

3.30 Black Keys in studio with Danger Mouse
The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney (left) and Dan Auerbach (right), with super producer Danger Mouse in the back ground.

Additionally, as a fan of the band who discovered them before their career blew up, yet after they were being hyped in the early part of their career as the next White Stripes. Auerbach and Carney were able to maintain they artist compass throughout this development time. Originally, the duo hailed from Akron, Ohio, and that dying town’s DNA was prevalent throughout their artist development, much like it was always in LeBron James’ basketball brilliance. And, like LeBron, The Black Keys too began to feel stifled by the small town, so, in an effort to save their artistic souls just at the moment their were peaking, the duo packed up and moved to Nashville. This move allowed the boys to grow artistically, much like King James’ move to South Beach helped his game reach new heights. In the cases of these superstars, these moves helped them attain new heights, which, in the case of James, he brought back to Cleveland and helped them achieve the championship that immortalized LBJ forever.

3.30 Black Keys in concert

Who knows what heights The Black Keys will reach? The Black Keys have been on hiatus since their last tour ended in 2015. In the meantime, Auerbach has released a well-received solo album, as well as doing some production work for some bands on his label. Carney, on the other hand, has been spending his time by doing some session work, as well as doing his own production work, most notably on his current girlfriend’s, Michelle Branch’s, comeback album that was released last year. My guess is these geniuses are slowly gaining the artist experiences they each were seeking in order to eventually bring them back together for a monster Black Keys reunion. That is something I am awaiting.

There seems to be something of a hole in my rock and roll heart, the key is just may be black. Actually, it just might take two black keys to rev my rock and roll engine. Cheesy, yes. Sometimes, ya just gotta go with the clichés over originality, to make the art react properly. Or, more likely, I am just not that good of a writer. Deal with it.

Am I ‘Speaking in Tongues’ or Is It Talking Heads?

3.29 talking heads pic 1986
I choose this photo of the band because they look like they are auditioning for Roxy Music.

As I sit here attempting to write this entry, my mind’s eye goes back to all the “great” advice for getting my writing mojo. Thanks should go out to my long-time chemistry back row buddy Mark Kline for his advice to “breathe through your eyelids.” I was not ready to play Bull Durham quotes, but MLB Opening Day is a National Holiday in Cincinnati, so I should have been ready. Usually, the baseball quotes come from Major League, and they fly fast and furious between my boys and me (“Are you telling me Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?”). As I dug through my music collection, there were 7″ singles everywhere in my music room, along with albums strewn about along with CDs, both purchased and burned. I was even digging through my rock magazines just attempting to find a morsel of inspiration.

My iTunes collection? Worthless! My iPods? Archaic! So, let’s take a shower.

As I stood there with conditioner in my hair, letting the water run over me, suddenly it hit me like a bolt of lightning! Speaking in Tongues by Talking Heads! That little masterpiece of new wave, art rock, and left-field white man Parliament-influenced funk rock that was part of the soundtrack of the Summer of 1983 in Wisconsin. This ended up being the cure for my temporary condition. So, instead of plopping the vinyl on the turntable, I instead went for the CD version. When I do this, it is usually for lazy reasons: I don’t want to get up to flip the album. That’s right! This former long distance track star is too damn lazy to get out of his back-up La-Z-Boy to flip an album on his turntable. That’s totally true. But, I also did not want to break any momentum I might be building as I hunt-and-peck away at my laptop. No, I never make entries using my phone. I can’t see the small screen so well, and I am a much slower typist on that stupid thing. So, I do this thang old skool! At least I’m not handwriting this thing and scanning in the work.

3.29 talking heads - speaking in tongues

As far as this album, Speaking in Tongues, is concerned, it is the band’s fifth studio album, coming after a run of four studio albums, each which pushed the band’s talents and chemistry beyond the previous LP milestone. First, in 1977, the Heads debuted on Sire Records with their Talking Heads: 77 album, a collection of pared down funk and bubblegum songs each sung and played with an emotional detachment never before scene by a band. The following year, 1978, the band took the sound of their debut and added more instrumentation as well as making forays into soul music, via their cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” which peaked at #26 in Billboard‘s Hot 100 Singles Chart.

And, just when you thought you had this band pegged, they dropped Fear of Music on us in 1979. Nothing prepared us for the band bringing the funk more clearly than they had on this album. Still, there was one song which stuck out against all others on this album. The song was the first one you heard when you dropped the needle on Side One, “I Zimbra.” It was funky, yet it definitely had African rhythms that were not of the Burundi-type being popularized in the UK at the time by Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. No, these rhythms had not be Anglo-ized like those aforementioned bands’ sounds had.

3.29 burning down the house
Remains Talking Heads’ only Top 10 hit single.

Then, building upon the success of “I Zimba” the band hunkered down one more time with producer Brian Eno to create the whole African-funk-new wave workout called Remain in Light. Never before had popular music moved so blatantly in that direction, that the Talking Heads were being portrayed as musical geniuses. But, what followed was a short hiatus, with the members doing their own solo projects. Married rhythm section of bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz grabbed many of the members of the Remain in Light touring band to create their own side band called Tom Tom Club. That band’s debut was more successful than any previous Talking Heads album in sales, plus the duo created a single that has been massively influential over the past nearly 40 years, “Genius of Love.” Additionally, guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison released his own new wave classic album, The Red and The Black. Finally, Brian Eno and lead singer David Byrne collaborated on their highly influential album of samples, loops and out-and-out strangeness entitled My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, on which the pair used recorded vocals of late night talk radio, exorcism, reading of religious material and the like set to actual loops of African rhythms recorded during their visits to the continent.

3.29 speaking in tongues 3-D vinyl edition
Have you ever seen the highly collectible version of the Talking Heads’ ‘Speaking in Tongues’ LP? I still want to add this to my personal collection.

Finally, the band members regrouped to create a masterpiece that was the culmination of all their previous work that somehow was made palatable to the whole world, especially Middle America. Speaking in Tongues broke no new ground. There was no where else to go with their lessons other than to create their most accessible sound possible. And, on this album, Talking Heads succeeded. Finally, they had learnt to bring all of their ideas and distill them down to the most concentrated forms. Now, you have the funkiest white art band in the whole, one who totally opened the doors for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More to walk through. And, although, “Burning Down the House” was the big hit from the album, the dance clubs were full of the sounds of “Making Flippy Flop” and “I Get Wild/Gravity.” Plus, the band threw in a blues-ish, Howling Wolf-like song called “Swamp,” whose funkiness evokes the spirits of New Orleans’ sounds-past. And, then the band wraps up the whole album with their most mature statement ever with the sentimental “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).” Unfortunately, too many people missed out on a fantastically romantic song for their first dance at their weddings by over-looking this song, as well as flying over the heads of high school kids in need of a Prom theme (Fear not youngsters! My theme got rejected, as I suggested “A Touch of Southern Comfort.” I guess the product placement was too obvious.).

3.29 talking heads 2002 rrhof induction
Talking Heads perform at their 2002 RRHOF induction ceremony.

Little did I realize that my writing mojo would be so entwined with Talking Heads. I thought the band and me were too cool for any type of emotional attachment with each other. Au contraire! Live and learn. You never know, one day I might rediscover the brilliance of Dire Straits. Wait a sec! Foreshadowing? Who knows? I sure don’t.

It’s Not Writer’s Block! It’s Subject Block!

3.28 what can i say

I am so frustrated today! I am having writer’s block. Wait a second! It’s not really writer’s block, so much as it seems to be subject block. Have you ever had one of those days when you look at your collection, and nothing pops out at you as something that needs to be written about. I have more much than most people would ever say they need, and I cannot choose one damn album or CD about which to write.

Seriously, I have tried to listen to everything, and none of it has inspired me to write one single word about it. Let’s see, so far I have listened to David Bowie, in the hopes of finding a little Glam, proto-punk, new wave, neo-soul or Eighties pop. And, none of it worked! Next up, I tried a little classic rock with some Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan, but all I got was frustrated. Funk? Naw. How about your beloved Jellyfish? I’m trying, but it’s not really going anywhere for me. So, I tried visiting some of my favorite power pop website and Facebook walls, but nothing caught my fancy.

Right now, I have been attempting to find some interesting but great dance music to be played at Son #2 and his beautiful finance’s wedding reception. But, I am nowhere near being ready to write about that type of music.

FYI: I am now listening to Track 4 on the debut album by Jellyfish, Bellybutton, and I am still not inspired. The song is a great song, a lost classic. It’s title is “I Wanna Stay Home,” which my wife says is the theme song of my old age. You know, she may be right. But, I still don’t want to write.

Okay, let’s dig into the surefire stuff. How about the Police? No. What do you think about Paul Weller, The Jam or The Style Council? Nope.

Elton? Naw.

Queen?

Nyet.

Daryl Hall & John Oates?

Nein!

R.E.M.?

Springsteen?

Petty?

Cheap Trick?

No, no, no, no.

Wait! How about old faithful? Prince! No!

Then, I turned off my stereo and sat in silence. ARRRGGGHHH!!! I wanna rock! But to what?

Never mind! I’m walking away. Sorry guys. I’ll get back in the batter’s box again tomorrow to face live pitching again. I was an “oh-fer” today, and there’s no shame in that.

Later.

My Hair Metal Top 40

3.27 Hair Metal Logo

For the past month or so I have been immersed in Seventies Glam Rock, particularly the brand that originated in the United Kingdom with hits by T.Rex, David Bowie, Slade, Suzi Quatro, Sweet, among many others. What I have been reading about the English scene sounds like it was a fun time for both artist and fan, with both living their parts via fashion and within the clubs. Now, Glam Rock, or as I remember it being called back in the day, “Glitter Rock” really never caught on en mass here in the States. Sure, we all remember “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” by T.Rex or many of the early singles released by Bowie, but American Suzi Quatro was a superstar in the UK but unheard of in the States until her recurring role on the TV show Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero, as were other big UK rock stars like Slade, Mud and Gary Glitter. And, although American Glam Rockers like Alice Cooper and KISS both experienced mega-success, other American Glam artists such as the highly influential New York Dolls lay strewn on the side of the rock highways, as causalities to the fickle public.

Actually, it was not until the Eighties, when an Americanized version of Glam burst in the clubs on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. This version was a mix of the gender-bending dress of the musicians, added to spandex and lots of metallic material used in the band’s costuming. The bands all had long hair that appeared to be exploding from their heads, much like a stereotype of a New Jersey girl in the Eighties. These bands used cases of AquaNet, all the while borrowing their girlfriends’ makeup. This version of Glam Rock was mixed with a guitar-solo-worshipping virtuosos to form a poppier version of heavy metal, known as Pop Metal, Glam Metal, or, in a more derogatory manner, Hair Metal.

Now, in the States, Glam first became popular with the New Wave of the first artists played on MTV by the likes of Duran Duran and Culture Club. But, when that watered-down version of metal mixed with pop melodies (or good old English Glam Rock) started crawling out of L.A., first with Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz album, followed by Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe and Ratt, the floodgates were beginning to open. Then, at the US Festival in 1983, on the third day, the organizers held a “Heavy Metal Day” whose line-up was filled with many of the Sunset Boulevard bands that were making a scene at the time. And, that day was the most attended day of the three-day festival. Now, this Hair Metal thing was more than a scene, it was a happening. Record companies began to search everywhere for these bands. Def Leppard came from England, Bon Jovi from New Jersey, Poison from Pennsylvania-via-L.A. It seemed as if these Hair Metal band were everywhere by 1988. And, I was sick of the genre back in 1986! The whole thing offered little to me. It may have been the most conservative, same-sounding genre in the history of rock music. And, it’s success and excesses killed rock music, so much so that music no longer holds the same stature with the millennials that it once did with the Boomers and Gen X-ers.

But, in honor of this era, arguably the most decadent time in the history of rock music, I give to you, my reader, My Top 40 Hair Metal Hits. Enjoy!

40. Alice Cooper – “Poison”. This is the man who really started this genre finally getting a hit during Hair Metal’s heyday. This is poetic justice.

39. Aerosmith – “Janie’s Got a Gun”. What?!?! Someone is tackling a social issue in this genre? Heaven forbid!

38. Mötley Crüe – “Dr. Feelgood”. Okay, this is about their drug supplier and not their favorite strippers.

37. Bon Jovi – “You Give Love a Bad Name”. I’m sorry, but someone explain to me how Bon Jovi got into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

3.27 36 Van Halen - Hot for Teacher

36. Van Halen – “Hot for Teacher”. Van Halen was fun. Van Hagar was not. Any questions?

35. Mötley Crüe – “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”. Now, I will ALWAYS love this song because the lyrics show a sense of humor. Who hasn’t thought that when breaking up with a soon-to-be-former-partner.

34. Hanoi Rocks – “Tragedy”. This Finnish band was a fore-runner to this whole Hair Metal-thing, as they released this song in the early Eighties.

33. Autograph – “Turn Up the Radio”. Okay, here’s an ode to the use of a radio as music source for a party. How quaint.

32. KISS – “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II”. The perfect song to end Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.

3.27 31 Guns-N-Roses-Welcome-To-The-Jungle

31. Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”. See? GNR was so much more than the party band for a bunch of strippers.

30. Aerosmith – “What It Takes”. This song will always remind me of a buddy who had been engaged to two or three different young ladies when this song came out. “There goes my old girlfriend. There goes another diamond ring.” HAHAHA!!!

29. Night Ranger – “Sister Christian”. Does anyone really think this power ballad convinced the guy’s sister to hold on to her virginity? Not if she listened to the rest of Night Ranger’s catalog.

28. Lita Ford with Ozzy Osbourne – “Close My Eyes Forever”. Nice power ballad Lita! Nice use of Ozzy when he could still sing.

27. Skid Row – “18 and Life”. I just HAD to throw this song in my countdown. WHY?

3.27 26 poison nothin but a good time

26. Poison – “Nothin’ but a Good Time”. Anyone else think Poison might be a Cheap Trick tribute band in disguise?

25. Aldo Nova – “Fantasy”. Anyone remember this Hair Metal Prequel?

24. Aerosmith – “Livin’ on the Edge”. “Aerosmith” on the comeback trail. Okay.

23. Enuff Z’Nuff – “Fly High Michelle”. I am not really sure if this Chicago band is Hair Metal or not. Like Poison, they might be a better Cheap Trick tribute band.

22. Def Leppard – “Photograph”. This song has verses that remind me of Loverboy, choruses that remind me of Journey, a middle eight that reminds me Sammy Hagar, and guitars that remind me of Van Halen. No wonder it was a hit.

3.27 21 motley crue looks that kill

21. Mötley Crüe – “Looks That Kill”. The Crüe was more believable early in their career.

20. Poison – “Unskinny Bop”. Yawn! Here’s a song for strippers!

19. Def Leppard – “Rock of Ages”. I like that the band counted to four in Swedish, or some Germanic language, to make people think they were doing something satanic at the beginning of the song.

18. David Lee Roth – “Yankee Rose”. Roth’s first real song he released is a hard rock classic.

17. Great White – “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”. Great White did a cover of UK Glam band Mott the Hoople’s former lead singer’s solo song and made it a hit.

3.27 16 twisted sister were not gonna take it

16. Twisted Sister – “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. This video was funny, though Twisted Sister’s take on androgyny was scary.

15. Scorpions – “No One like You”. I saw this band open a concert in 1979, and I laughed at them throughout their set. The only band in the countdown who had a balding musician in a “Hair” metal band.

14. RATT – “Round and Round”. I knew this genre was trouble when the bands started recycling the old Aerosmith sound.

13. Whitesnake – “Here I Go Again”. Was this a hit because of Tawny Kitaen writhing throughout the video, or was it a nice little pop ditty? Might be the question of the era.

12. Bon Jovi – “Dead or Alive”. Jon Bon Jovi, do you really want me to answer that? Still, a good song.

3.27 11 lita ford kiss me deadly

11. Lita Ford – “Kiss Me Deadly”. The second most popular artist to come from the seminal L.A. all-girl band The Runaways.

10. Mötley Crüe – “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Strippers, Strippers Strippers. That’s why this genre became so boring to me.

9. Van Halen – “Jump”. Despite some guy in my dorm playing this song for two hours straight, I still like it.

8. Quiet Riot – “Cum on Feel the Noize”. This is a cover of Slade’s original Glam Rock classic that set the American charts on fire.

7. KISS – “Rock and Roll All Nite”. This is ground zero for the hair metal phenomenon.

3.27 6 bon jovi livin on a prayer

6. Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on a Prayer”. Will radio ever quit playing this song? I liked the song better when Son #1 was a two-year-old singing it to his mom.

5. Living Colour – “Cult of Personality”. Technically, not a Hair Metal band, but they are third best metal band from this era, behind GNR and Faith No More.

4. Def Leppard – “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. When Son #1 was three, he told me this was our song? Must have been because we saw the video everyday right after his mom left for her aerobics class.

3. Ozzy Osbourne – “Crazy Train”. “All Aboard!” Few could turn down that offer of public transportation. Especially, if Ozzy’s the conductor!

2. Poison – “Talk Dirty to Me”. The best Cheap Trick imitation of all-time. As a matter of fact, Poison might be the best Cheap Trick tribute band if they only chose to play Cheap Trick songs instead of all the crap Poison recorded.

3.27 1 gnr sweet child o mine

1. Guns N’ Roses – “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Once again, GNR is NOT a hair metal band. They have too much punk in them (Thanks Duff!) and too much street cred to be a hair metal band. They only perfected the sound.

And, there you go! The 40 Hair Metal Songs that I actually like. I really didn’t think I would find that many, but I did!

‘Alice Cooper Goes to Hell’ Is No Joke

3.26 Alice Cooper Goes to Hell

Remember back in the Nineties when Michael Jordan had retired from basketball to pursue his dream of playing minor league baseball? After doing that for a couple of years, he decided to come back to basketball by making a simple two-word announcement, “I’m back.” My wife and I had taken our boys up to Chicago for our Spring Break when that announcement came. And Chicago was abuzz with the news, no place more so than Niketown. The boys were so excited, especially #2 because Jordan was his favorite player. They bought Jordan clothing and hats that day. And, all seemed right in the Keller universe.

Well, I took last week off just to hang out with my wife during her Spring Break this year. And, instead of traveling, we spent the time getting ready for Son #2’s wedding and the arrival of our first grandchild this summer. It will be an exciting time in our home this summer.

So, what do all of those anecdotes have to do with my blog? Whenever we spend Spring Break at home, we clean the house. So, while during one of our cleaning sessions, for some reason, I was listening to an album that was important to me in 1976 and 1977. I am not sure why I played it, but something compelled me to put it on the old turntable. The album was Alice Cooper’s 1976 album about Cooper’s fight with mental illness and alcoholism entitled Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. And, who knew that this album, considered to be one of Cooper’s worst helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life.

3.26 Alice Cooper live

Let’s go back a bit to remember that the name Alice Cooper originally was the name of a rock band of five guys from the same high school track and field team from the Detroit area. But, as the group’s popularity rose, the band’s name became associated with the lead singer, the former Vincent Furnier, and less with the other four men in the band. That’s why Alice Cooper is now the stage name and character of Mr. Furnier. Anyway, like most kids my age, I became intrigued, then obsessed with Alice Cooper. Why? What kid doesn’t love to have their favorite artists push the buttons on our parents? These guys not only played great, loud, simple rock songs, but they put on a huge show. Now, you understand the popularity of Marilyn Manson back in the Nineties.

Now that I am forty-plus years removed from those days in 1976, I can analytically describe just how this album helped me through my parents’ divorce. I had always been close to my dad leading up to that last day of school in seventh grade, when he told my brother and me that he was moving out of the house to think things through. I was devastated. I felt betrayed because he was always my buffer between my mom and me. And, now, I was being thrust into a family leadership role for which I was not prepared.

3.26 Alice Cooper - I Never Cry

Enter Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. During the summer, I fell in love with Cooper’s ballad “I Never Cry,” which totally seemed to be describing my emotions at this juncture in my life. All of a sudden, I went from totally clueless to self-conscious in the snap of a finger. Now that I am older, I realize what my strengths and weaknesses are, but, as a teen, you have no clue of them unless something dramatic occurs to force them to the fore. Immediately, I discovered I was something of a “paid extrovert.” What I mean by that, is that I am very insular by nature, but when thrust into a group, I like to entertain. However, if it is a new group, I prefer to disappear. So, often, as a teenager, I was probably known as someone who was “stuck up” at worst, or “aloof” at best. But, I couldn’t help it. That is just my own brand of weirdness.

So, Cooper’s “I Never Cry” really described my reaction to the impending divorce of my parents. At the time, I was blindsided by the announcement from my dad, because I thought everything was fine. And, no matter how much I tried to turn on my emotions, I just couldn’t cry. I had purchased the seven-inch single of this song initially, but I immediately knew that I wanted to get the album.

3.26 Alice Cooper on Midnight Special

Since the album was entitled Goes to Hell, the public worked themselves up into a lather of ignorance thinking this was an album of Satanism, never considering in their narrow, ignorant minds that someone’s life could be considered “going through hell.” Oh no! Heaven forbid that artists use metaphors, because they aren’t smart enough. Maybe, it was the complainers who weren’t smart enough to understand what a metaphor is and how it is used. But, let’s not learn, let’s complain. I am so glad that my generation is carrying on with these acts of stupidity. That is why the Boomers and X-ers are so easily manipulated by Wall Street, Political Animals on FOX, and the mantra that business will cure all society’s ills. But, those are arguments for another day, so let’s stick to Alice Cooper.

The album, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (ACGTH), describes Vincent Furnier’s descent into mental illness and alcoholism. In the terrific opening song, “Goes to Hell,” a chorus of parents and concerned citizens condemn Cooper to Hell for leading our children astray, while this whole scene is simply a concoction in Furnier’s mind due to mental illness. As the voices in his head try to pull him in different directions, the music changes from a Broadway take on disco with “You Gotta Dance” to the faux confidence found in the bottle of “I’m the Coolest”. Those mental personalities seemed to be played by people in Alice’s life, whether it is protestors, radio kingpins, record producers, music agents, fans or family, you are witnessing the mental decline of Furnier along with Cooper’s own entertainment descent. When you begin to realize that this is a Shakespearean play taking place simultaneously within Furnier’s mind AND Cooper’s career, then you understand why the artist Alice Cooper made the musical choices he made as he was turning away from his bread-and-butter hard rock persona of just two years ago.

3.26 alice-cooper-and-the-muppet-show
Some say Alice Cooper lost rock & roll cred when he appeared on ‘The Muppet Show,’ but the kids understood! This meant he was a god. Look carefully as you can see Cooper descending further into his alcoholic hell.

Vincent Furnier made his most “real” album to date with ACGTH. And, while this album is often correctly described as “indulgent,” the critics have missed the big point of this being a rock opera of the state of one’s mind as well as one’s career. And, for some reason, I saw through the whole thing as a thirteen year-old suffering through the pain of the end of his parents’ marriage. ACGTH is a beautifully poetic album that in the right hands, and if coupled with Cooper’s previous album Welcome to My Nightmare, would make a terrific Broadway play, so long as the director can simultaneously play up the inner and outer dichotomy of oneself.

Thanks, Alice! Your willingness to make your art real saved me at juncture in my life when I needed it the most. You will never understand how important that album was to me. And still is, it appears.

THE TOP 10 NEW WAVE ALBUMS: Day 10

New Wave.9

We’ve made it! This is Day 10 of my countdown of the Top 100 New Wave Albums. Most of them will not be a surprise, while some may shock you. So, buckle up. This could be a wild ride. May not the wild ride of the Mueller investigation, but wild just the same. Let the countdown begin!

10. Dexys_Midnight_Runners - Too-Rye-Ay

10. Dexys Midnight Runners – Too Rye Aye (1982). That’s right! Dexys is number ten. Everyone knows the hit from this album, “Come on Eileen.” And, as fun and great that hit is, the album is just as strong. Band leader Kevin Rowland start Dexys as a soul band but abruptly adjusted the sound of the band by incorporating some Celtic folk instrumentation into the band’s sound. So, the overall-wearing street urchin look of the band in the “Eileen” video was not a gimmick; it was part of the image statement. This album continues to surprise me as I listen to it more and more.

9. The Cars - The Cars

9. The Cars – The Cars (1978). If you were a teen growing up at the time this album was released, you remember how ubiquitous the album was on radio after a slow six-month sizzle until it finally took off. This album plays like a Greatest Hits album, since nearly every song is still being played on Classic Rock radio. The genius of The Cars was how they were able to seamlessly blend the herky-jerky sounds of New Wave with the smooth production of Album Oriented Rock. That ability to straddle the two sides was the genius of this band. And, this album was The Cars greatest statement.

8. The Police - Synchronicity

8. The Police – Synchronicity (1983). The biggest album of 1983, which ultimately was the band’s final album, saw The Police showing all of us how New Wave should grow up. This album attacks some very adult themes in a literary manner. The biggest song of 1983 came from this album, “Every Breath You Take.” On the surface, it seems like a great love song. But, upon closer examination, this is a stalker’s song. “King of Pain,” “Wrapped Around My Finger” and “Synchronicity II” were the other hits, but darkness invaded each song. We are hearing Sting’s first marriage disintegrating, as well as the band’s partnership. If this album represents New Wave becoming an adult, then I must be following it at the time.

7. Elvis Costello - This Years Model

7. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – This Year’s Model (1978). How could I pick just one Elvis album? It was difficult as to which album to choose. But, This Year’s Model truly introduces Elvis as an angry New Wave singer. The iconic moment of his career happened on Saturday Night Live when told he could not perform his new single “Radio Radio” due to the show’s censors not liking the tone of the song (Elvis indicts the narrow-mindedness of radio programmers everywhere), Costello was supposed to sing another song. So, at first, Elvis seemed to acquiesce. Then, he abruptly stopped the band, and said, “There’s no reason not to play this song!” After which, he and The Attractions ripped into “Radio Radio”, spewing anger and venom. The result? A modest increase in sales. And, the rest is history.

6. Talking Heads - Remain in Light

6. Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980). If the Heads had not jumped into the whole African rhythm fad, then Paul Simon may not have recorded his masterpiece, Graceland. Those African rhythms helped turn this art punk band into a funk punk band, like an Ivy League Funkadelic. “Once in a Lifetime” is the hit song and video from the album, yet there is a reason Phish covered this album during one of their Halloween musical costume performances. The whole album remains rock, all the while the African rhythms screamed funk. And, then there was David Byrne’s lyrics.

5. The Style Council - My Ever Changing Moods

5. The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (1984). My apologies to my British brethren, but I prefer the American version of this album over your version. Our version has a different running order as well as different versions of the timeless songs of “You’re the Best Thing” and the title song. I will NEVER understand why none of Paul Weller’s bands or solo career have been accepted by Americans.

4. Prince - Dirty Mind

4. Prince – Dirty Mind (1980). This was Prince’s one rock album. It is a New Wave album, especially when you hear his Purple Majesty’s dominant instrument, the synthesizer. Prince was hinting at his musical greatness when he released this album.

3. The Smiths - The-Queen-is-Dead

3. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986). This album was Morrissey and Johnny Marr’s finest moment. Morrissey’s lyrics were fantastic and darkly humorous, while Marr’s swirling guitars were innovative in the mid-Eighties as an anti-dote for the overuse of synthesizers. So, were The Smiths England’s R.E.M., or was R.E.M. America’s answer to The Smiths.

2. R.E.M._-_Lifes_Rich_Pageant

2. R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant (1986). Isn’t it ironic that both The Smiths and R.E.M. released their finest albums during the same year? Or, was it? Anyway, R.E.M. traveled to Indiana for John Mellencamp producer Don Gehman to help the band put a little spit-shine on their Southern Gothic sound. Let’s just say, “Mission Accomplished.”

1. The Clash - London Calling

1. The Clash – London Calling (1980). What can I say? This is easily the greatest and most recognized album of the era. The Clash became the most exciting band in the world upon this album’s release. It was also the band’s most focused AND diverse album at the time. from the title song through “Lost in the Supermarket” to “Train in Vain (Stand by Me),” the single that was perversely left off the album’s tracklist. There was a sticker on the album that claim The Clash was the only band that mattered. And, then I played that album, and I sure fell for it. This is my hands down favorite album of all time. Period.

Well, there you have it. My apologies to you for leaving your favorite album off this list, or ranking it so much lower than you would have. This whole thing is subjective and totally for our enjoyment. I hope that this countdown was successful on the last level. Have a great weekend!

Top 100 New Wave Albums, Day 9 #11-20

New Wave.4

Today, we burst into the Top 20 of my favorite New Wave albums. I hope this ride has been as enjoyable as it has been for you as it has been for me. Each album represents a small stroll down memory lane for me, back to a simpler time. Well, let’s just jump into the countdown!

20. The B-52's - The B-52's

20. The B-52’s – The B-52’s (1979). This album was THE party album of 1979, while opening the door to a fantastic music scene down in Athens, Georgia with bands like R.E.M., Pylon and others. Supposedly, this album inspired John Lennon to re-enter the whole rock life. Lennon thought The B-52’s signified that rock music had finally caught up to his wife’s, Yoko Ono’s, music. “Rock Lobster” was the hit, but this album is stuffed full of party tunes.

19. David Bowie - Scary Monsters

19. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980). That’s right! The Godfather of most Eighties music released his best new wave album near the beginning of the show. This album is a slightly more commercial version than the three previously released albums known as “The Berlin Trilogy.” An album that contains “Ashes to Ashes” AND “Fashion” has got to be a great album. And, this album is great.

18. Times Square OST

18. Various Artists – Times Square Soundtrack (1980). Back in 1980, Robert Stigwood was on a something of a roll with movies and their soundtracks, like Saturday Night Fever, Grease and, to a certain extent, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Stigwood had the idea to base a movie around a nice collection of fantastic New Wave tunes from the likes of XTC, Talking Heads, Gary Numan and so many other great artist of the era. Too bad the movie was terrible because the soundtrack is timeless.

17. Tom Tom Club - Tom Tom Club

17. Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club (1981). After Talking Heads released their seminal world music-influenced Remain in Light album, the four heads went on to make great albums on their own. David Byrne and Brian Eno continued their foray into African music-rock and roll fusion on their terrific My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, while the versatile Jerry Harrison released his outstanding Red and Black album. The married rhythm section of drummer Chris Franz and bassist Tina Weymouth formed their own band that took the lessons from Remain in Light and set it to fun lyrics, while loosening the reigns on the musicians to create the highly influential Tom Tom Club album. At the time, rock radio said this band sounded “too black” (how racist!) for their playlists, yet, as if we are living through a revisionist’s history, their first single “Genius of Love” is played quite often on the radio in Central Indiana now. It should too! It’s one of the more sampled songs in rock history.

16. Culture Club - Colour by Numbers

16. Culture Club – Colour by Numbers (1983). While working in Wisconsin, Culture Club’s “Time (Clock of My Heart)” was riding high on the charts here in the States. A group of young Brits had just arrived to work at the resort the week that a whole bar sang “Time” together during the weekly “Talent” Show after party. I remember a young man from the British group telling me that if I like “Time”, then I will LOVE Culture Club’s next album. Boy, was he correct! This was a Motown-update tour de force. “Karma Chameleon” is the timeless hit. “Church of the Poisoned Mind” was a huge hit at the time. But, “Victims”, the closing song, is the heart and soul of the album. Unfortunately, the band never lived up to the expectations laid down by this album, as singer/songwriter Boy George succumbed to the dreaded drug monster. Still, Colour by Numbers stands as a testament to the greatness of this band.

15. Duran Duran - Rio

15. Duran Duran – Rio (1982). This album kicked off the whole “Beatles of the Eighties” thing. This album is arguably Duran Duran’s finest moment. And, coupled with their cutting edge videos, the singles “Hungry like the Wolf” and “Rio” stand out. Video-wise, the band might have been the Pink Floyd of the video era in that Duran-squared pushed the medium as much as the Floyd pushed the aural aspects on their albums. This album is ground zero for the Duran Duran-mania that followed.

14. The Knack - Get_The_Knack

14. The Knack – Get the Knack (1979). This album has gotten a raw deal over the years. The whole “Knuke the Knack” thing was funny, but not meant to put a hex on the band. I’m sure the Baby Boomers were not ready for New Wave to push their tired artists, such as Zeppelin, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. But, for a glorious two months during the Summer of 1979, The Knack ruled the charts, as both the album and their timeless single “My Sharona” topping the charts for extended periods of time. Of course, their management screwed up their whole career (who in the world tells the hottest band in the whole not to perform at the Grammys or on Saturday Night Live!), but this album is proof The Knack had the goods.

13. The Cure - Disintegration

13. The Cure – Disintegration (1989). Throughout the Eighties, I had fun calling the great music created by The Cure “mope rock.” You have to realize that I feel in love with this band’s music the moment I heard it for the first time after we moved to Oxford, Ohio, back in 1986. But, I always enjoyed their compilation Staring at the Sea more than their individual album, at least, until they released Disintegration. This album represents leader Robert Smith’s finest moment, as he balanced all of his dark moods with the lighter sides of life. This album is immortal if only for their sexy song “Lovesong” (and, no, Adele did NOT improve this song!), but the whole album is a great statement.

12. Devo - Q. Are_We_Not_Men A. We_Are_Devo!

12. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (1978). Like I have said before, everything changed for me the moment I saw Devo on Saturday Night Live. This band was made for the video era. But, you don’t need to see them to enjoy Devo. While the band created some outstanding albums, this one remains the game-changer. Plus, where else can you hear their version of the Stones’ immortal hit “Satisfaction” (this one really pissed off the Boomers!), as well as “Uncontrollable Urge”, “Jocko Homo” and the totally un-PC “Mongoloid”. This is a classic worthy of the word.

11. New Order - Substance

11. New Order – Substance 1987 (1987). Yes, this is technically a compilation album. But, it is a compilation of this alternative dance band’s 12-inch remix songs. And the remixes all pump more life into already lively songs. “Bizarre Love Triangle” remains my favorite New Order song, not matter how it is edited. The same goes for “True Faith” and “Celebration” and “Perfect Kiss” and “Blue Monday” and…

Whew! Those ten albums are STRONG! How did they not get into my Top 10? I really think I sat on this list a while, so I think you will like the Top 10 if you liked today’s list. Finally, wish me luck as I begin an endeavor to lose weight. As a sufferer of chronic pain, I can no longer run or play basketball or lift weights or anything much more than walking my small dogs about 100 to 200 meters (track and science people think in the metric system!). So, NutriSystem, here I go! Keep on rockin’ in the free world!