Pop-Punk, the Sound of a New Millennium: Day 1 of My Top 50

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Green Day

Remember when the whole Y2K was taking up some much energy? Don’t you just look back and laugh at what society gets hung up on. Seriously, people were preparing for the breakdown of the world’s infrastructure since computers were originally programmed to recognize years with two digits! And, that was a relatively quick fix, albeit one that cost businesses some cash. Yet, fast-forward to today, and we have analytics companies using our online data to use in order to compile a fairly accurate personality profile in order to market goods and political views in order for the corporation or desired politician to become elected, and we collectively turn a blind eye to this revelation since our Facebook entries are telling us this is actually Fake News. I just shake my head. No, there were no ancient aliens! No, you are NOT ancient astronauts theorists (to be a theorist, you have to have TESTABLE data)! And, no, vaccines will not make a sudden change in your child’s DNA structure causing autism; unfortunately, those children were genetically pre-programmed for the affliction.

Anyway, back to Y2K. Let’s see, my older son was in middle school at the time and just learning to play guitar and bass, while my younger son was still in elementary. But, in an eerie parallel, they were listening to a lot of the pop-punk of the day. Man, if I had a dollar for every blink-182 song I heard in those years, I could have retired before I ever took my fourth teaching position. But, I actually enjoyed those songs, since they reminded me of my days listening to The Jam, The Clash, The Undertones, Ramones and all the other pop-oriented punk bands of the day. Most surprisingly, and annoyingly to my boys, I heard a lot of Cheap Trick in those bands. So, although my boys were getting their initial dose of “punk” from bands such as blink, Green Day and The Hives, I was turning them on the original punk artists of my era.

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The Ataris

Now, my older son, Graham, was in a little pop-punk band in high school. That band played in a talent show and won first prize over a blues guitar prodigy who was playing in bars as a 14-year-old. At least my son could realize the kid was the one with the talent and apologized for his band winning the contest by playing those pop-punk songs. Still, what Graham’s band lacked in talent, they made up in personality by pandering to the girls in the audience. Perhaps, the biggest two memories I have of that performance was Graham wearing a pair of Seventies-era short-short basketball shorts with his bass hanging low to make it seem as if he had no pants on, and his mother, my wife, gushing about “how cute he looks.” I have to admit that I literally laughed my ass off doing the set. It was obvious they had learned their lessons from blink-182’s videos.

Still, there was something enjoyable about that music to me. Did it tap into a little nostalgia trip within me? Probably. But, the genre was taking what I loved about power pop music and making it much more aggressive. And, the music was everywhere, on the radio, on TRL, laying all over the floors in my boys’ rooms. And, maybe, I miss those days when those two and I were driving their mom crazy. But, now, they are men with budding families, while we argue about the merits of many of these bands [Let me say it now – you two have convinced me that blink-182 belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, something I have argued against since 1998.]. And, like any musical movement, this one got over-saturated as well. For every brilliant song by Anderson, Indiana’s own The Ataris (their cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”) there were some real “sucky” ones by all kinds of bands I have purposely forgotten, like Fenix TX or Dashboard Confessional.

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Avril Lavigne

Still, the genre is worth a good “going over.” So, today I give you Part 1 of my Top 50 pop-punk songs. I hope it triggers some nostalgia in my younger readers and some interest in my older ones.

7.31 50.about a girl

50. “About a Girl” – The Academy Is…

49. “There Is” – Boxcar Racer

48. “Highly Evolved” – The Vines

47. “Out of Control” – Hoobastank

46. “Superman” – Goldfinger

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45. “Best of Me” – The Starting Line

44. “Take It Off” – The Donnas

43. “Gives You Hell” – The All-American Rejects

42. “Cute Without the ‘E'” – Taking Back Sunday

41. “Dear Maria, Count Me In” – All Time Low

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40. “I’d Do Anything” – Simple Plan

39. “Punk Rawk Show” – MxPx

38. “Miss Murder” – AFI

37. “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” – Good Charlotte

36. “Smooth Criminal” – Alien Ant Farm

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35. “What’s My Age Again” – blink-182

34. “Thnks fr th Mmrs” – Fall Out Boy

33. “Minority” – Green Day

32. “The Impression That I Got” – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

31. “Mrs. Robinson” – The Lemonheads

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30. “Sugar, We’re Going Down” – Fall Out Boy

29. “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” – My Chemical Romance

28. “Time Bomb” – Rancid

27. “Misery Business” – Paramore

26. “Sell Out” – Reel Big Fish

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25. “Self Esteem” – The Offspring

24. “My Own Worst Enemy” – Lit

23. “Sk8r Boi” – Avril Lavigne

22. “My Friends Over You” – New Found Glory

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Good Charlotte

21. “The Anthem” – Good Charlotte

Let Go of My Aqua Net! Here’s My Hair Metal Top 20

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Bon Jovi

Actually, I feel pretty good about my picks for my Top 25, though the order can be debated ad nauseum. But who cares?!?! This is MY blog, so I’m sticking to it! [My apologies to the great Colin Quinn for stealing his Weekend Update sign-off!]. And, even though I found the majority of the artists of this genre repugnant, when you look at it as a singles genre, much like bubblegum music or the majority of new wave, then it becomes quite fun. So, for every lame hit by White Lion or FireHouse, there’s a gem by Autograph or Lita Ford. So, let’s get this party started!

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20. “Girls, Girls, Girls” – Mötley Crüe. This ode to strippers everywhere happens to be one of the first songs that my year-old granddaughter “danced” to in her highchair. It has me a bit concerned, but then her daddy asked Santa for a Bon Jovi tape at age two-and-a-half, getting that out of his system early.

19. “Just like Paradise” – David Lee Roth. This is Diamond Dave’s finest moment as a solo artist, even though he is teetering on Huey Lewis turf.

18. “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” – Great White. This is an instance when the cover is actually better than the original, even when it’s an Ian Hunter song.

17. “Panama” – Van Halen. Honestly, Van Halen just stumbled upon this sound in the mid-Eighties, much like REO Speedwagon stumbled upon their arena rock classic Hi Infidelity. But, “Panama” is just so much damned fun!

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16. “No One like You” – Scorpions. I saw Scorpions in 1979 opening for Ted Nugent and AC/DC. I thought they were a joke, but they got better and recorded this classic three years later.

15. “Welcome to the Jungle” – Guns N’ Roses. Okay, it’s a little unfair to lump GNR with the Hair Metal bands since they were so much more. But, then, you remember how big their hair was in those early videos, and you just have to throw them in the countdown.

14. “Photograph” – Def Leppard. One of the two songs that kicked this whole thing off on MTV. It’s a great pop song, even if you can find the influences in the verses (Styx), chorus (Journey) and middle-eight (Judas Priest). But, they did it so well.

13. “Sister Christian” – Night Ranger. Weeks before I met my wife, I was asked by Ball State’s quarterback to take his girlfriend out with some friends and “show her a good time.” Now, I was pretty good friends with him and didn’t want my skinny butt kicked by him, but I did slow dance with her to this song at a club. That might have be a high point for me dancing with a girl who looked like her. I was out of my league. Now, I still wonder how I got my wife, for that matter.

12. “Kiss Me Deadly” – Lita Ford. Ford is an all-timer in my book since she had been a member of The Runaways. Then, she released this song with one of the greatest opening lines in rock history, “Went to party Friday night, Didn’t get laid, Got in a fight.” What?!?! Yep, she sang that.

11. “Wanted Dead or Alive” – Bon Jovi. The one time Bon Jovi was not pandering to the female audience. Too bad they couldn’t write more songs like this one.

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10. “Rock of Ages” – Def Leppard. This song made me re-evaluate my initial opinion of the band. I loved that they counted down in Swedish or Norwegian or whatever language it was just to provoke adults into thinking it was a backmasked Satanic message.

9. “Livin’ on a Prayer” – Bon Jovi. I rank this one higher than “Dead or Alive” only because of the memory I have of my older son, with his little play guitar around his body singing into the handle of his Fisher Price vacuum cleaner as if it were a microphone, singing this song and reaching out to his mom as he sang “Take my hand we’ll make it I swear!” But, best of all, he thought the lyrics were, “Shot through the heart and your toupee.” Classic!

8. “Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake. The band with the most racist AND sexist name in history actually created a great power ballad. And, I didn’t need to see Tawny Kittaen writhing on the hood of a car to this song was pretty good. But, the visual was pretty provocative indeed.

7. “Look That Kill” – Mötley Crüe. Remember when the Crüe began as a lightweight KISS? Expect this song rocked!

6. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Twisted Sister. Ah, this takes me back to the days of the PMRC. Come on people! The video was a cartoon come to life. People can be so stupid! Still, it’s a great song about teen rebellion, no matter how far the band’s tongues were in their middle-aged cheeks.

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5. “Cum on Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot. This song just took off like a Roman candle on the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, few knew the song was a Slade cover here in the States. But, I knew it was a hit the first time I heard it. Unfortunately, it opened the floodgates for every other two-bit Sunset Boulevard hair band to get signed and release some pretty crappy music.

4. “Jump” – Van Halen. I don’t think this song has even aged over the years, even if I have heard it nearly every day for 35 years now.

3. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – Guns N’ Roses. Arguably, the guitar riff of the Eighties is also one of the greatest songs ever. Nuff said.

2. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” – Def Leppard. Once again, my older son came to the rescue of this song for me. Every week day, my wife would leave home for her aerobics class. And, every day, right before Remote Control came on MTV, it seemed like this video was playing. One day, he turned to me and said, “Dad! Here’s our song!” Still makes me smile today.

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1. “Talk Dirty to Me” – Poison. I know! I badmouth Poison all the time! But, for one shining moment, they created the best Cheap Trick song since “She’s Tight,” containing all the sexual innuendo that made Cheap Trick’s songs so great. Plus, Poison sounded an awful like Trick. Still, this is hair metal’s finest moment, for what it’s worth.

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Whitesnake

The Final Countdown: Day 1 of My Top 50 Hair Metal Songs

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Poison

Well, people, I am going to compromise whatever musical integrity I ever had with the next two blog entries. I have been accused of not giving enough love to Eighties metal. Well, I have a real good reason for it. Basically, it sucked as bad as most country music produced since the Outlaw days of Willie, Waylon and the rest. Sure, Eighties metal gave us fantastic artists such as Metallic, Guns N’ Roses, Anthrax, Slayer and, to a certain extent, Megadeth, but the stuff that was all over MTV and radio from the mid-Eighties until Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, et al, rescued us at the dawn of the Nineties, primarily just made my skin crawled. This is the stuff that I call Hair Metal, while rock historians have given it a much kinder name, Glam Metal. I have even seen it referred to as Pop Metal. Regardless, it is not one of my favorite genres, and generally represents a time in music that I wish to forget. Yet, I have some very good friends who remain fans of this music to this day. And, I kind of get it, because it does represent a time when many of my age group were still sowing their wild oats.

Now, Hair Metal can be generally traced back to a couple of Seventies bands, one huge and one generally forgotten. KISS was the huge one, of course. They popularized this type of metal that was consumable to all of us who were middle school students when Alive! broke the band. For about three years, KISS was the center of my musical universe like most people my age. But, then I began to branch out to Rush, Queen, among others, until I heard the Ramones and Sex Pistols. When I caught wind of punk, I was generally done with KISS.

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Def Leppard

The other band who influenced Hair Metal was a relatively overlooked band called the New York Dolls. The Dolls were the first band to basically cop the whole genre-busting wardrobe as they actually dressed up like women for their performances. Now, their music had little to do with Hair Metal’s sound, as they were a proto-punk band. But, the whole makeup and teased hair on the musicians was totally out of The Dolls’ playbook.

Now, to me, a third band played a huge role in the development of Hair Metal’s sound and that was Cheap Trick. No band in the Seventies had really tapped into a sound that blurred the boundaries between metal and pop like Cheap Trick did. Why do you think so many Hair Metal artists held Cheap Trick in such high regard? They were stealing the Rockford, Illinois band’s sound. As a matter of fact, go listen to Poison’s first hit “Talk Dirty to Me.” When I first heard that song, I literally told my wife that the song sounded like a bad Cheap Trick tribute band. Then, I saw the video, and my suspicions were confirmed. Poison WAS a bad Cheap Trick tribute band, but that damn song was pure gold. I actually hated myself for liking it. But, then I remembered how much I loved the bubblegum music of my youth, so I felt justified in my fandom of the song.

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Guns N’ Roses

So, what made me have such a negative visceral adverse reaction to Hair Metal? To me it typified everything I hated about the Eighties and how it capitulated to economic lies and always wanted to cater to society’s basic need to be true only to oneself, as if we were giving in the Ayn Rand view of the individual being glorified over everything else. Yet, I was going to work in a hospital where I was seeing young people dying from AIDS and drugs, drawing blood from babies addicted to crack and generally observing society turning their collective backs on each other for their own hedonism. So, I dove into College Rock and the message in that music in order to find some comfort and to help me make sense of what I was witnessing. To me, Hair Metal represents the ultimate outcome of the Seventies’ Me Decade and a last-gasp effort by the Baby Boom generation to hang onto their long-gone youth. That’s why I could never ever embrace Hair Metal. And that also means I have never sat through the whole Rock of Ages debacle. There’s nothing romantic about that era to me.

However, I do like some of the music that came from the era. Additionally, I do feel that Mötley Crüe should be the last of the Hair Metal bands to get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Basically, those guys perfected the genre and need to be recognized for taking what KISS, Van Halen and Aerosmith had given them and made something slightly interesting out of it.

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Lita Ford

So, for the next couple of days, I will give you my Top 50 Hair Metal Songs. Today, I am counting down numbers 50 to 21. Enjoy!

7.29 50.Nelson

50. “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” – Nelson

49. “I Remember” – Skid Row

48. “Patience” – Guns N’ Roses

47. “High Enough” – Damn Yankees

46. “I Wanna Rock” – Twisted Sister

45. “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” – Cinderella

44. “Metal Health” – Quiet Riot

43. “Something to Believe In” – Poison

42. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Poison

41. “18 and Life” – Skid Row

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40. “The Final Countdown” – Europe

39. “Dr. Feelgood” – Mötley Crüe

38. “Sentimental Street” – Night Ranger

37. “Edge of a Broken Heart” – Vixen

36. “Fly High Michelle” – Enuff Z’Nuff

35. “Nobody’s Fool” – Cinderella

34. “Unskinny Bop” – Poison

33. “Home Sweet Home” – Mötley Crüe

32. “Rock You like a Hurricane” – Scorpions

31. “I’ll Wait” – Van Halen

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30. “Paradise City” – Guns N’ Roses

29. “Bringing on the Heartache” – Def Leppard

28. Kickstart My Heart” – Mötley Crüe

27. “Why Can’t This Be Love” – Van Halen

26. “Close My Eyes Forever” – Lita Ford with Ozzy Osbourne

25. “Turn Up the Radio” – Autograph

24. “You Give Love a Bad Name” – Bon Jovi

23. “Love Bites” – Def Leppard

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22. “Round and Round” – RATT

21. “Nothin’ but a Good Time” – Poison

Let’s Give Duran Duran Some Love! Here’s My 20 Favorite Songs

7.27 duran duran live 2017

As I stated earlier this week, 1982 was the year MTV hit my boring life here in Central Indiana. Shortly after that Fourth of July weekend blowout at the frat house up at Ball State, complete with a bottle rocket fight in the house, Mom’s house cable service had a couple of changes in the programming, including MTV! That meant that I had a couple of weeks of MTV programming at Mom’s house before going back to Ball State after Labor Day. Now, I did not spend a full 24 hours watching the programming, but I did spend many hours switching between it, ESPN’s Sports Center and CNN news. This cable thing was a whole new world of programming. I could flip on the USA Network to caught old SNL shows or go get my Nina Blackwell fix on MTV.

Now, the full impact of MTV on a college campus was not realized until Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video was released. MTV would have the countdown clock on the screen until it would be played, so the TV would be on at a party, but my mixtapes would keep things going until “Thriller” came on. Then, the “fellowshipping,” as we called it, would stop so everyone could watch the video. But, every time the fellowshipping would start over, I made sure that the first song back would either be Duran Duran’s “Hungry like the Wolf” or “Rio,” mainly because the chicks dug D-squared!

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That fall, Duran Duran was just catching on with the college crowd but had not hit with the high schoolers yet. But, after winter break, as 1983 began, it seemed as all the young ladies in the accompanying dorms came back with Duran Duran posters for their dormitory room walls. I cannot emphasize how all of sudden those guys’ images were EVERYWHERE! And, some of the guys on this conservative campus were beginning to dress like them too. And, yes, I had parachute pants and a couple of DD-inspired outfits. It was a fun time.

I once read in a magazine that Duran Duran’s original intent for their sound was to become a hybrid of the Sex Pistols and Chic. By the time of “The Reflex” Nile Rodgers remix single’s 1984 release, the band finally attained that level. Bassist John Taylor had become a funky beast with his playing, while guitarist Andy Taylor was on his way to becoming something of a pop/rock guitar god. Like all artists coming out of the UK at the time, Duran Duran was heavily influenced by David Bowie and Roxy Music, thus the band’s inclusion in the New Romantic movement in the early-Eighties. But, the band was able to transcend that sub-genre through sheer will. That, and a little video magic.

7.27 duran duran with nile rodgers 2017

Now, bare with me a bit, but Duran Duran were the Pink Floyd of the video age. You know how Pink Floyd sonically changed the sound of the Seventies with their clever use of sound effects and seguing techniques on Dark Side of the Moon? Well, Double-D did similar things with music videos, from the use of glamorous models, filming in exotic locations and utilizing mini-musical movie scripts. They were able to make their terrific music, which seemed to explode from your speakers, to become riveting visuals on your television set. After those early Duran Duran videos, every other artist was playing catch up. But, man, Duran Duran’s ability to combine terrific modern pop/rock/dance music with the visual median was their genius. And, that my friends, is why Duran Duran is so very important to the history of rock music and deserve their place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But, most importantly, the band continues to create terrific music to this day. As a matter of fact, their latest album, Paper Gods, released in 2015, stands alongside Rio as one of their finest albums.

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So, in an effort to keep these icons of the Eighties in the public’s mind, here are my 20 favorite Duran Duran songs.

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20. “Paper Gods (featuring Mr. Hudson)” (Paper Gods, 2015)

19. “Come Undone” (Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), 1993)

18. “All She Wants” (Big Thing, 1988)

17. “New Moon on Monday” (Seven and the Ragged Tiger, 1983)

16. “A View to a Kill” (A View to a Kill OST, 1985)

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15. “Skin Trade” (Notorious, 1986)

14. “Girls on Film” (Duran Duran, 1981)

13. “Union of the Snake” (Seven and the Ragged Tiger, 1983)

12. “Electric Barbarella” (Medazzaland, 1997)

11. “All You Need Is Now” (All You Need Is Now, 2010)

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10. “Pressure Off (featuring Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers)” (Paper Gods, 2015). What a great late-career single. Too bad Gen Y doesn’t know great music when they hear it.

9. “Rio” (Rio, 1982). Any song that has a sax in it will ALWAYS get my attention. It’s a great song but an even better video.

8. “Wild Boys” (Arena, 1984). This is Duran Duran at their creative peak, both sonically and visually, even though I still don’t understand the whole thing. Plus, John Taylor’s bass is so funky.

7. “Save a Prayer” (Rio, 1982). This is a forerunner to INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart,” both being beautiful, Roxy Music inspired ballads. This is something that Duran Duran is extremely underrated for doing: moody, sexy slow songs.

6. “Is There Something I Should Know?” (Non-album single, 1983). So, Rio had just exploded in the States, so the boys come back with one of their toughest-sounding singles as a stopgap before the release of their next album. This is just one great pop single.

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5. “Hungry like the Wolf” (Rio, 1982). This is the single that allowed the boys to take hold of America. This song is the band’s calling card. And, the video alone should get this band in the RRHOF. Together, this is one sexy package deal.

4. “Notorious” (Notorious, 1986). At this point, Duran Duran had been reduced to a trio. Yet, I contend this album is truly a lost classic. Just listen to this song and you will hear how John Taylor had developed into the second coming of Bernard Edwards, Chic’s late bassist.

3. “Ordinary World” (Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), 1993). Just as grunge was about to make Duran Duran an Eighties relic, along comes another one of their great ballads that only “Save a Prayer” could have predicted.

2. “The Chauffeur” (Rio, 1982). This song is the last one on the Rio album, was never released as a single yet remains the beating heart of the Rio album. It is a masterpiece of moody, icy synthpop that utilizes the new technology of the day, such as samples and loops. This is the fruition of Kraftwerk’s influence on popular music. Once you hear it, you realize where the American band Berlin got their whole sound.

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1. “The Reflex” (Seven and the Ragged Tiger, 1983). I should emphasize that I prefer the single remix of the song that Nile Rodgers did. The album cut is okay, but the remix is so much more fun. Plus, the video, just a “live” performance clip, is so compelling with its quick jumps that continues to ripple through videos and movies to the very day.

Raise Your Hand If You Miss INXS! Here’s My 20 Favorite Songs by Them

7.23 INXS-1991

As I have stated previously, I spent the summer of 1983 working as a busboy and waiter at a resort in Southern Wisconsin. Unfortunately, I could not finish the season because I needed to get my impacted wisdom teeth removed. By the time I left, I was financially set for the upcoming year in college. When I got home, my younger brother was still complaining that I had not obtained tickets the previous Fall for him to see his beloved band The Who. That’s all I heard from him when I got back, that and him playing that blasted first Men at Work album. Don’t get me wrong, I love that album. But, by the summer of 1983, I had all ready played that album out and moved on. Additionally, Men at Work had released a newer album in the spring so I kept wondering why he just didn’t go out to buy that album. No, instead, I got a steady barrage of “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now.” Of course, I know I deserved a little payback in the music department, but I had the decency to give an album a rest!

Anyway, one day while at the local Record Store, I noticed that Men at Work was going to have a concert at old Market Square Arena (Trivia: the live place Elvis Presley performed live before his death!) in Indianapolis. So, I got permission to give him an early birthday present to take him and a couple of friends to see the concert. Personally, I was eager to see Men at Work, but I was definitely more interested in the opening band INXS. INXS was coming off a big MTV hit “The One Thing” and another lesser video “Don’t Change.” There was something about that band which piqued my interest.

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So, here I am, a college “man” with a couple of college friends and my high school brother and a couple of his friends. Well, I was not prepared for what transpired. INXS came out and kicked ass! It was a take no prisoners type of performance that only a young hungry talented band could give. Honestly, it reminded me of a similar situation that AC/DC was in when they were the opener for Ted Nugent. In both cases, the people who were in the audience came away INXS fans. All I can say, though, is that Men at Work were WAY better than Ted Nugent. And as good as Men at Work were, they did not compare to INXS. This may cause some controversy, but I would rank INXS right up there with AC/DC and Bee Gees as the finest artists to come from Down Under, followed by Midnight Oil, Kylie Minogue (ooh la la!) and, of course, Men at Work.

Spring forward a couple of years, to 1986 and the release of “What You Need.” All of sudden the band stumbled upon their signature sound. The band finally canned that rock energy from the stage and reproduced it in the studio. Gone were the new wave flourishes of their previous album, replaced by a more dance-oriented Stonesy sound that capture the muscularity of the band’s musicians while opening room for lead singer Michael Hutchence’s Eighties version of Jagger/Jim Morrison sexuality to burst through. Now, the band was poised to conquer the world.

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Sure enough, INXS followed U2 into the rock stratosphere upon the release of Kick in 1987. For me, the band was the ultimate Eighties outcome of what Grand Funk moved toward with “Bad Time” and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” a sound with definite funk/dance undertones all wrapped up in a rock sound with definite pop tendencies. INXS had the sexy lead singer for the ladies and the muscular rock sound for the guys, plus their records played well in the dance clubs. But, unlike U2, INXS’ attempts to adapt their sound to the Nineties fell upon deaf ears, causing them to become relics of the past. And then tragedy struck when Hutchence was found dead in a hotel room either from a suicide or from a dangerous form of self-pleasure. Either way, the band’s visual centerpiece who coupled sexy looks with a dark inner self was gone. Unfortunately, no matter how hard the band tried, they just could not replace Hutchence. And that is a shame because, first, those musicians pack an unparalleled punch, and, second, their catalog of brilliant music should be continued to be brought to the masses in its most compelling environment – on stage live! Sadly, just like with Freddie Mercury or Kurt Cobain, there is just no replacing that snuffed out flame.

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Ultimately, I believe that INXS belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Their sound defined the latter half of the Eighties, as well as making a prediction of the Nu Metal sound that followed a decade later. So, let’s take a look at their twenty best songs, and I will let you decide whether these Aussies belong in the RRHOF with AC/DC and Bee Gees.

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20. “Pretty Vegas” (Switch, 2005) [leader singer JD Fortune’s only entry]

19. “The Strangest Party (These Are the Times)” (The Greatest Hits, 1994)

18. “Not Enough Time” (Welcome to Wherever You Are, 1992)

17. “Bitter Tears” (X, 1990)

16. “The Gift” (Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, 1993)

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15. “This Time” (Listen like Thieves, 1985)

14. “Beautiful Girl” (Welcome to Wherever You Are, 1992)

13. “Heaven Sent” (Welcome to Wherever You Are, 1992)

12. “Disappear” (X, 1990)

11. “Listen like Thieves” (Listen like Thieves, 1985)

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10. “New Sensation” (Kick, 1987). This is the band’s arena anthem.

9. “The One Thing” (Shabooh Shoobah, 1983). The breakthrough song that got INXS’ foot in the door here in the States.

8. “Devil Inside” (Kick, 1987). This may be the perfect INXS song: thick, funky bass; rocking guitar work and dark lyrics. The song just might be the anthem that best summed up the whole decade of the Eighties, both lyrically and musically.

7. “Good Times” – Jimmy Barnes & INXS (The Lost Boys OST, 1987). This little-known track from that Brat Pack vampire movie is such an outstanding rocking song that it leaves me so perplexed why it never became a huge hit here in the States. And, this song just might be fellow Aussie Jimmy Barnes’ finest vocals ever. This is a lost classic!

6. “What You Need” (Listen like Thieves, 1985). I still remember hearing this song for the first time during the spring of 1986 and hearing it just jump from the little speakers in my 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit. Now, that was pure exhilaration!

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5. “Suicide Blonde” (X, 1990). My thoughts at the time were like “Did INXS just go J. Geils on me with that harp blowing?” What a perfect effect! The boys just took their game up to 11.

4. “Original Sin” (The Swing, 1984). This great funk song is found a totally overlooked transition album. You can hear the underpinnings of what would happen on the next album. Plus, this song has the most socially redeemable lyrics of the Eighties, making a plea for interracial relationships. Sure, it may seem antiquated today, but you cannot believe the blow-back INXS got for this song.

3. “Never Tear Us Apart” (Kick, 1987). This is a beautiful ballad that contains a touch of darkness that separates it from the crappy ballads by Tiffany and Debbie Gibson that were popular at the time. Stark, dark and lovely.

2. “Need You Tonight” (Kick, 1987). Just might be THE signature song of INXS. It contains everything that made the band so compelling and great.

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1. “Don’t Change” (Shabooh Shoobah, 1983). Am I the only person in the world who absolutely loves this song? I just love everything about it, from its new wave flourishes to the Cold War pall hanging throughout the lyrics, all tamed with a touch of hopefulness. Only someone who battles mental illnesses, as I do, might understand just how important that message is within those lyrics. Yet, it still makes me sad to know Michael might not have been able to control his demons. Still, I have a great memory of the band ending their set with this song, and how it unified a crowd for a brief moment.

Screw Jagger! I Had Moves Like Billy Idol! Here’s My Top 15 Billy Idol Songs

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I really don’t know where to start about this artist. Throughout college, for some reason, this man’s music and I became entwined. Back then, some people said I looked like some triangulation of Tom Petty, Sting and Billy Idol, which I never knew how to take. Did that mean I was a good-looking Tom Petty or an ugly Sting? When in reality, I was a much shorter dead ringer for Larry Bird with the same jump shot (That’s semi-sarcasm! I had a coach actually help me develop my whole release to be exactly like Bird’s, but that’s another story.).

Anyway, when Billy Idol was first being heard in the Midwest, I was able to mimic his moves, his lip curl and his mannerisms to such effect that I could entertain my friends at parties by “doing Billy Idol.” Honestly, I did love his music. And, what’s not to love? His music was steeped in his punk background but with added elements of metal and dance, making it perfect music for the time for a bunch of energetic college kids. Seriously, the dude’s music would absolutely kill at parties when I either DJ’ed or used my party tapes. I am not sure where to put my finger on the source of all of this craziness, but whatever it was, it spoke directly to our groins since it made everyone dance.

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So, back to the whole imitation thing. Anyone else remember those fantastic Air Jam contests that seemed to be sweeping the nation back then. I am certain that every college campus had at least one per year in the Eighties. At Ball State, since there is very little to do in Muncie, Indiana, for the under-aged college students, the Student Association, or whatever they called themselves, would sponsor two contest per school year. One was held during Homecoming Week, while the other was held sometime in the dead of winter. The Homecoming contest was always packed and full of energy. A group of us attended the contest which was held in the smaller campus theater then known by the creatively-named University Hall. It’s probably now known as Taco Bell Auditorium or Letterman Hall, who knows (remember David Letterman is our most famous alum!)? Well, some lame group won the competition doing some lame Journey song. This caused some of the most brilliant minds of our time to decide that I needed to do my Billy Idol at the next competition. I figured they would all forget since they were under the influence of joyful juice.

But, forget they did not! No, immediately when the advertisements began popping around campus and in the, sticking with BSU’s fricking creative streak, campus newspaper, The Daily News, which despite its unappealing name is a damn good student paper, my dormitory room began accumulating these announcements. So, I got my “backing band,” who was my roommate on drums, a guy we all called “Wild Ass” on guitar and a mild-mannered friend who became a wild rocker when chemically altered. So, I got us entered into the competition. Long story short, I guess I went nuts during the performance, going all over the stage like a coked-up Billy Idol, only I was clean. I went running through the audience, dancing with people all over. It was so overly energetic, the writer for the “Snooze” even mentioned my performance. The problem was “Dancing with Myself” did not resonate with the audience as we had to follow a great group of guys who performed The Time’s “The Walk,” with terrific choreography and individual dancing. They took everything to a whole other level. It was not enough just to do a concert performance. No, now the Air Band contests had to be MTV-like productions.

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So, we finished fourth. Obviously, the dudes who did The Time won, with the campus sex symbol guy who did Adam Ant getting second (he was so good-looking but a really cool guy) and some group of frat guys doing Night Ranger with better props than us but really not better than us. Now, yes, I was a frat guy too, but my ragtag group was better! Anyway, that’s when the campus caught wind of my Billy Idol impression and kind of got me recognized on campus. Too bad I was an introverted dingus because I probably could have parlayed that temporary notoriety into some dates, but once again I digress.

Right after that performance, I did tell my friends that if I ever went to see Billy Idol live, the girl who went with me would probably end up being my wife. Not sure why I said that, but I did. It just so happens that a year or two later, I did go see Billy Idol in Indianapolis. It was a great August 1984 since I got to see The Cars, The Stray Cats and Billy Idol in separate concerts. And, the girl who accompanied me to each? She’s my wife now. Talk about some weird foreshadowing! I’m just glad I didn’t see Billy Idol with some of the other college women I dated. I prefer being a prophet.

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So, that’s my Billy Idol story. I never have met the man, but I want to thank him for some great music. I have to admit that I am a bit conflicted as to whether he deserves a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction. To me, Billy Idol personifies the Eighties. If you don’t believe me, just watch Adam Sandler’s Wedding Singer. But, does he warrant that huge honor? If he were to be inducted, I wouldn’t argue, but I will not go all in on him either. Still, and perhaps most importantly, the man and his music has a special place in my heart and record collection.

With that said, let’s do my Top 15 favorite Billy Idol songs!

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15. “Catch My Fall” (Rebel Yell, 1983)

14. “Love Calling” (Billy Idol, 1982)

13. “Blue Highway” (Rebel Yell, 1983)

12. “L.A. Woman” (Cradle of Love, 1990)

11. “Hot in the City” (Billy Idol, 1982)

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10. “Don’t Need a Gun” (Whiplash Smile, 1986). A nice little mid-Eighties new wave flashback.

9. “Sweet Sixteen” (Whiplash Smile, 1986). This is Idol’s “cowboy song.” I am not sure why some legitimate country artist hasn’t remade this one yet.

8. “Cradle of Love” (Cradle of Love, 1990). This is Idol’s way to enter the Wayne’s World hair metal sweepstakes.

7. “Mony Mony” (Vital Idol, 1987). Even though Idol covered this song six years earlier on his Don’t Stop EP, this song became his only American number one song. The Eighties were a great time for a mini-Tommy James & the Shondells revival as Billy Idol, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and teen superstar Tiffany all had big cover hits.

6. “To Be a Lover” (Whiplash Smile, 1986). What a great rockabilly song done on a synth! I still think this is a pretty cool song.

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5. “White Wedding” (Billy Idol, 1982). This song has become something of a calling card for Billy Idol. While I love it, I still believe there are better songs. Just bein’ honest.

4. “Flesh for Fantasy” (Rebel Yell, 1983). Is this a dance song? A funk song? A stripper’s theme song? Is it even a “song”? To quote Jack Nicholson’s Joker, “I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it!” Plus, I love the phat bass in it!

3. “Rebel Yell” (Rebel Yell, 1983). “Rebel Yell” is Idol’s other iconic number. Between “White Wedding” and this one, Billy Idol will remain immortal.

2. “Eyes Without a Face” (Rebel Yell, 1983). This might be a surprise, but, honestly, who knew Idol could create such a sexy song? Then again, the sexiness of the music counters the unsettling lyrics. Still, the song will maintain a permanent position on my all-time “Make Out Music” mixtape. No playlists please!

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1. “Dancing with Myself” (Billy Idol, 1982). After my introduction, was there any doubt? Seriously, this song, perhaps, invented the whole pop punk genre a good twenty years in advance. Plus, the lyrics are a fantastic yet subtle metaphor for, uh, well, if you don’t know by know then just Google it yourself. This song should have been Billy’s biggest hit!

 

Would I Lie to You? My Eurythmics Top 25

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Just a scant eleven days ago, my younger son and his wonderful wife welcomed to the world their first child, a beautiful boy named Crosby. Crosby follows his female cousin by a year and two weeks, Sloane, the beautiful and crazy daughter of my older son and his beautiful wife. Now, my wife and I are the grandparents of two children, and it’s the best! It’s a great feeling to know that your boys are turning into the men that you knew they were always destined to become but like every teen before them, fought like hell not to become them. I am so very proud of all four of the young parents, but all of this has made me a little nostalgic lately. So, bare with me people as I take us back to the Eighties, when I was much more naive and a lot more irresponsible.

Back around July 4, 1982, I was working as a corn detassler, an old-time job that kids in Indiana grew up doing, where you manually pulled the tassles from the tops of corn stalks to ensure the corn’s hybrid purity, keeping the plants from being pollinated from other corn species from miles away. It was always a short season, but you could make a couple of grand in those four weeks, paying for college expenses all year long thus making your college job mostly play money. Anyway, about two months earlier I had been activated as a brother in my college fraternity, and the guys who were living in the house at Ball State to take summer courses were planning a Independence Day celebration. Since work was off that weekend, I naturally went up for the festivities.

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When I arrived, the house was uncommonly subdued, even for the summer sessions. It seems the guys had just hacked into the cable service and wired the house’s television with some pirated cable programming. Walking in I noticed the six young men sitting in front of the glow of the television like zombies, mesmerized by what they were watching. Since my mom had gotten cable a few years earlier at our house, I just figured they had discovered the quality soft-core programming of Cinemax with their constant moving pictures of naked female breasts. I was all set to give them crap when one brother mindlessly said, “Keller! Sit! It’s MTV!”

Immediately, I watched as Bow Wow Wow performed “I Want Candy” right there in Muncie, Indiana, on television! Slowly, I sat down on the couch as I too became a zombie in front of the television. When the first commercial break finally happened fifteen minutes later, I looked at all six guys sitting in the front room and noticed that they all looked like hell-warmed-over. Finally, I asked, “How long have you all been watching this?” Someone replied, “Since 10 o’clock last night.” Quickly, I looked at my watch, and it read 6:00 pm. “Shit! You guys have been up for 20 hours straight?!” And, in unison, they all said, “Yes.” Needless to say, I called Domino’s to order a couple of pizzas for us, collected the money, went to the refrigerator for some refreshments for everyone, and took my place back on the couch. I figure right then and there that it was going to be a very long night.

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I will admit that the nineteen-year-old version of me, a guy I must have eaten years ago, stayed up all night watching MTV, eating pizza, consuming refreshing beverages, never realizing how hot it was in the house, and not responding to the girls who were popping in and out that day. One of my pledge brothers and I spent 12 hours watching MTV that first time. I was finally hearing all these great English artists from the UK that I had read about for the past couple of years but had yet to actually hear. But, they all were getting played on this country’s first nationwide radio station, only you could see how cool these artists looked and what the VJs looked like. Immediately, like males all over the US, I was infatuated with Martha Quinn, who looked like nearly every girlfriend I ever had (brown hair and petite).

Over the next couple of years, MTV influenced music and fashion everywhere. All of a sudden, and finally in my mind, much of the music that had dominated my high school days were out and all these cool new wave artists were in. Now, we were dancing at frat parties to the sounds of Prince, Eurythmics, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, INXS, and the rest, setting the stage for some of the finest pop music ever produced during that decade. Lyrically, things were equally cynical and pure, while musically we were all over the place with technology pushing music into directions never before imagined. Much like most teens and twenty-somethings coming of age, Gen X believed they were living through something of a Golden Age in music. And, to this very day, I believe we did. This belief stems from the fact that we took the Boomers’ pop/rock music and made it our own, much to the chagrin to those very same supposedly open-minded Boomers, who took constant pot-shots at our music much like their parents did to their music in the Sixties and Seventies.

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So, this week, I am going to turn back the clock to my era, those Eighties. But, first, how about a quick disclaimer. The Eighties sucked in many social manners, what with AIDS, a continued ingrained bigotry toward other races and sexual orientations, the Cold War antics, the Iran-Contra crap, the coke and crack epidemic and its aftermath, among so many other ills. But, the music was often magical and transcendent. And, MTV led the way. Without it, how quickly would have new wave, alternative rock, hair metal, dance music and all the rest been disseminated?

So, today, I would love to look back at the career of a duo who I likened to Ike & Tina Turner in that this group had one compelling, soulful big-voiced female focal point of a lead singer backed by a musical genius guitarist/keyboardist. I am talking about the great Eurythmics. This duo began as a synthpop group yet ended the decade by making some of the most compelling and dramatic yet soulful pop/rock of rock’s history. Annie Lennox was the beautiful yet androgynous lead singer who was backed by the musical genius of multi-instrumentalist and producer David A. Stewart. Together, Eurythmics created the soundtrack of many of our lives and continue to do so.

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Unfortunately, I never got to see them live though I have read epic tales of their performances. If you doubt Stewart’s musical genius, just remember that he co-wrote AND co-produced Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ classic “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” And, Lennox’ powerhouse house vocals could keep up with anyone in the business as she proved when the duo teamed with Aretha Franklin for the great “Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves.” And, as a reminder, both of those songs were released in 1985!

Therefore, in an ulterior motive to keep Eurythmics in the minds of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters, allow me to remind you of this duo’s greatness with my favorite 25 songs by Eurythmics.

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25. “Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)” (Savage, 1987)

24. “The Walk” (Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), 1983)

23. “The King and Queen of America” (We Two Are One, 1989)

22. “You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart” (Savage, 1987)

21. “The Miracle of Love” (Revenge, 1986)

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20. “When Tomorrow Comes” (Revenge, 1986)

19. “Julia” (1984 (For the Love of Big Brother), 1984)

18. “Never Gonna Cry Again” (In the Garden, 1981)

17. “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)” (1984 (For the Love of Big Brother), 1984)

16. “17 Again” (Peace, 1999)

15. “Don’t Ask Me Why” (We Two Are One, 1989)

14. “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)” (Revenge, 1986)

13. “I Need a Man” (Savage, 1987)

12. “I Saved the World Today” (Peace, 1999)

11. “Thorn in My Side” (Revenge, 1986)

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10. “I’ve Got a Life” (Ultimate Collection, 2005). The swansong, so far. This is Eurythmics at their most soulful and vulnerable.

9. “Right by Your Side” (Touch, 1983). This song is so underrated. This is the duo at their most playful, doing a little calypso number via synthesizers, displaying just how magically real Stewart could make those synthetic musical notes sound.

8. “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves (with Aretha Franklin)” (Be Yourself Tonight, 1985). This is the powerhouse soul standard of the Eighties, matching the Queen of Soul with a truly worthy duet partner.

7. “There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)” (Be Yourself Tonight, 1985). This song is special in my household since I would often come home from med tech school to find my young wife singing this song to our older son when he was a baby. For as cynical as I normally am, I do have a soft, gooey side.

6. “Missionary Man” (Revenge, 1986). This song represents the tough, arena rock side of this band, with some of Annie’s strongest feminist vocals backed by Stewart’s chunkiest guitar riffs and that fantastic harp-blowing just takes the song to a whole new level. I can’t believe this was not a big hit here in the States.

5. “Here Comes the Rain Again” (Touch, 1983). This is the ultimate endgame of the cool, detached synthpop sound with some terrific vocals.

4. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), 1983). This song is so iconic, that I probably will catch hell for placing it so low. I mean, it’s been covered by seemingly everyone: Marilyn Manson, Fitz & the Tantrums and Weezer, to name a few. And while it kicked off the band’s career with a number one, I still find the next three songs more compelling.

3. “Who’s That Girl?” (Touch, 1983). Oh my! Where do I begin? Annie’s been done wrong, and she’s not taking any crap any more! Uh, I was in this guy’s position several times when I was dating girls, and it’s no fun. No man ever wants to be in this position for the lyrics to ring true. Seriously, all of that changed when I met my wife.

2. “Love Is a Stranger” (Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), 1983). This is a fun synthpop dance song containing some slightly unnerving lyrics. I want to dance to it, but Annie’s lyrics are so haunting that I take pause these days. But, it’s cynicism seems to be a perfect metaphor for Gen X.

7.22 Would I Lie to You

1. “Would I Lie to You?” (Be Yourself Tonight, 1985). I am a HUGE sucker for soulful guitars, horn sections and flat-out Stax/Motown-influenced pop/rock songs. And, this song has everything in spades! You can dance, jam, air-guitar, air-band, karaoke, pick your poison, to this song, and that’s what I love about it. This is the Eurythmics at their most seemingly uncontrolled, reckless and rock & roll ever. This song alone should be reason enough to induct them in the RRHOF, let alone the other 24 songs I listed.