A Little Stroll Down Memory Lane Behind the Hoosier Band Roadmaster

3.27 Roadmaster group
Roadmaster, the glory days

I know we live in an ever smaller world mainly because of our easily ability to connect with each other via smart phones, whether actual phone calls, texting, FaceTiming, Skype, social media, et. al. And while we can connect with a vast number of people, our social gatherings remained lower then previous times in history, even before this COVID-19 pandemic. Still, of all the people we have met over the period of our lives, outside of your immediate family, usually the people who know us the best are those with whom we grew up. You know, that group of people you first met when you turned five or six years old and began school, who saw you go through those awful, painful teenage years and who you all entered a budding adulthood together.

I guess I have noticed this from two different perspectives during this time of social distancing. Now, this observation is taking place on social media, mainly Facebook, but I think it could be applied elsewhere, including at class reunions, weddings, funerals and the like. First, I have observed this first hand with all the people with whom I am still connected on the medium. We all still know what buttons to push on each other to keep things stirred up. And, we have that collective memory of each other. And, we all rely on the very same knuckleheads to make us laugh just as we did while growing up.

3.27 1st album promo
A promo poster of the original lineup

The other way is through the interactions of all of my former students. It doesn’t matter when they graduated, or from which high school, or if they even went to college or not, those people are still connected on some other level, no matter how difficult those teen years. In a way, it is comforting to know that no matter what you have achieved in life, those people with whom you came of age still value you.

In preparing for today’s entry, in addition to researching my subject matter, I actually attempted to reach other to my high school friends to help me out. Now, in retrospect, I should have realized for what I was setting myself up. As part of the research, I was attempting to discover some photographs (pics, for the Millennials) of a concert that took place at our high school or a pic of the ticket from said concert. Instead, I got messages such as, “check the yearbook” or “I was probably in the parking lot (smoking)” or, my personal favorite, get pics of random classmates not at the concert but outside the school two years later and of random concerts from our high school years.

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As the runner-up in the class voting for Class Clown, I deserved this treatment. I have kept this reputation pristine through the years, especially recently as I love to troll my friends with smart ass comments. Plus, after that yearbook research proved fruitless, I did realize that my high school friends had uniformly used one adjective to describe me: crazy. No, not intelligent, sweet, athletic, kind, or even cute (which I am not), they went with crazy. So, I guess I earned 50 years of those comments and pics. I’m cool with it. Fair is fair. Still, one friend DID come through! Mr. Gerry Purkey, thank you for your contribution to this blog entry! The rest of you, Keller is declaring open season on you.

Now, growing up in the cornfields of Indiana (yes, although I grew up in a large subdivision, there was a cornfield just a block behind my mom’s house), you discover some pretty interesting characteristics about Hoosiers. Primarily, if a person has ANY kind of connection to the state, like being born here, moving here for college or having your tire blow out while traveling through the state requiring you to stay for more than 48 hours, you are a Hoosier. That’s why we stick behind most people from Indiana (fun fact: Vice President Mike Pence would probably have lost re-election as governor if Donald Trump had not picked him to be his VP. Then, for some reason, Pence made a better VP candidate? Go figure that logic!). Look at the people who have Indiana ties: Abraham Lincoln, Axl Rose, Gil Hodges, Oscar Robertson, that dude who won The Voice a few seasons ago. And, Hoosiers have left their mark on music as well, from Hoagy Carmichael to Michael Jackson to Shannon Hoon (of Blind Melon) to two-thirds of the Blake Babies to Babyface. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Hoosiers have always backed their local people.

3.27 pinic jam
Standard fare back in the day

Back in the mid- to late-Seventies, Indianapolis had a pretty vibrant local rock scene. The big names that you heard on local radio back in the day were Faith Band (who had a regional hit song called “Dancing Shoes,” which Elton John’s drummer Nigel Olsson turned into a Top 20 hit in 1979, though I prefer the original!), forgotten power pop heroes The Late Show, former basketball player and future late-Eighties hit-maker Henry Lee Summer, future Rock & Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp (then being called John Cougar) and perhaps the band with the biggest following at the time, Roadmaster.

Back when I first started this blog, I had written a crappy entry about Roadmaster. Today, I want to improve that entry. To nearly every young person in Central Indiana, Roadmaster was, to use the term from the day, the shit. They had the musicianship in the late guitarist Rick Bennick, bassist (and future Mellencamp glory days sideman) Toby Myers, keyboardist Michael Read, drummer Steve Riley (who left after the first album and eventually played for W.A.S.P. and L.A. Guns) and singer, and future DJ über alles, Asher “Adam Smasher” (or “Atom Smasher” or, MTV fans might remember his brief late-Eighties stint as the VJ called “The Smash.”) Benrubi. Hell, these road warriors were even being marketed as discovered by Todd Rundgren, who produced three songs on that stellar self-titled debut.

3.27 roadmaster ticket
That’s NOT a misprint!

It was a strong debut album that showed glimpses of the Doobie Brothers, Styx and even straight up blues. But, the guys couldn’t break nationally. So, Riley bolted, and was replaced by Bobby Johns, while Smasher went to the big radio station in Indy at the time, WNAP-FM, to become the most popular DJ of the era in the city. Of course, that ended up being an excellent move for him. So, The Smash was replaced by a man with the vocals more suitable to the Album Oriented Rock sound the band was moving toward, the late Stephen “Mac” McNally. Now, the band was set with its classic lineup, so big things were expected.

Immediately, the band released their sophomore album in late 1978 to enthusiastic work of mouth reviews. The local rock stations, WNAP and WFBQ-FM, both played cuts from Sweet Music. Teens all over Central Indiana were going crazy for this band who now was playing a Rush/Styx/REO Speedwagon/Foreigner-influenced sound that was perfect for the time. The band was touring the country as an opening act for many of those aforementioned bands, along with opening slots for any big artist of the day coming through town. Hell, Roadmaster even HEADLINED a concert at the old Indianapolis Convention Center with Cheap Trick AND AC/DC, whose lead singer was Bon Scott at the time, as the opening acts. Imagine that! Being so big in a town that your opening acts were TWO future Rock & Roll Hall of Fame artists.

3.27 roadmaster tee
Common fashion ware of teens back in the 70s

Still, they weren’t breaking. Roadmaster was still touring the bar/high school/college circuit. Which, leads up to that snowy night in January 1979, when Roadmaster played a post-basketball game concert in the cafeteria of our high school. Needless to say, that cafeteria was packed with the hot sweaty bodies of teenage high school students, along with the unfortunate adult supervision crew who had to smell that malodorous aroma wafting from the band’s audience.

What I recall from that night were a couple of things. Foremost, I was with my basketball buddies, since we were able to get into the concert for free since we had access directly from the gymnasium to the cafeteria. Yet, another reason for people to hate basketball players in high school, but, I will tell you who to blame for this discovery. Guys, it was me. I discovered that the door from the gym to the main hall was left unlocked for some reason, so all 24 players got into the concert for free. Hence the reason I was looking for a pic of the ticket since I never had one. We just individually walked quickly behind the “ticket gate” set up, blended in with the crowd and walked into the cafeteria.

3.27 roadmaster pic

Honestly, I really don’t think there was a ticket from the concert that night since there had not been any pre-sales. So, what I got from Gerry was a ticket to a big Labor Day blowout at a drive-in movie theater on the northside of Anderson, which only proves to what lengths these guys were willing to go to keep the band afloat.

The other thing I remember was how the band really elevated their music in the live setting. Before the concert, I really loved Sweet Music, but afterwards, I FELT that music. Little did I realize at the time as a sixteen-year-old, concerts are best in small venues. That lesson took decades to learn, but it is true. Anyway, when you are an impressionable teen, many of us at our first concert, you cannot separate the emotion from the performance so it seemed so larger than life itself. Plus, these five guys were like us, stuck in these cornfields, but attempting to use music to get out.

Like many bands and artists before them, things did not break for Roadmaster as a collective. Their local record company, Village Records, was purchased by Mercury Records, who only gave the band two albums to connect with a national audience. I am not sure if the pressure caused this, or if the chemistry between the band members was diminishing, or if it was the changing tastes of the fickle public, but their next two albums were underwhelming, even to this teenage fan. The band’s third album, Hey World, did yield a minor hit in the title song, but the magic was gone by the release of Fortress in 1980. On that last album, the band attempted to move toward a harder-edged sound, but it just fell flat in comparison to Rush’s Permanent Waves or Foreigner’s Head Games, both of which included touches of New Wave productions in their sounds. Roadmaster now sounded out of date and tired. That meant their days were numbered.

3.27 Live + 5

Of course, the band reunited for a well-received concert at a local club, The Vogue in 1989, which was recorded and released as the CD Live + 5. If you don’t have that CD, it will cost you about $100 for a used version of it.

In honor of the biggest local band of my youth, I present my Top 20 favorite songs by the band. I dedicate this list to all of my high school friends who made this blog possible.

3.27 Hey World
Hey World, 1979

20. “Looking for the Day” (Hey World, 1979). This tune is a Survivor-like song recorded before their was ever a band known as Survivor, from the positivity of the lyrics to the sound of the band.

19. “Higher and Higher” (Sweet Music, 1978). One thing Roadmaster could do was soaring epics. This one has Styx DNA running throughout.

18. “Love Me Baby” (Roadmaster, 1976). This song was screaming to be covered by a hair metal band in the Eighties for their big power ballad. It was a good decade ahead of its time.

17. “It’s Been So Long” (Roadmaster, 1976). I can imagine the boys opening up their sets with this song, which reminds me of some lost Doobie Brothers song. One of three songs produced by Todd Rundgren.

16. “I Still Wanna Love You” (Roadmaster, 1976). Smash’s vocals are more soulful and funky than the late Mac’s, which are used to great effect here. This was the second Rundgren-produced song.

15. “You Come See Me” (Sweet Music, 1978). A great slice of AOR, this song just wailed in the live setting.

14. “The Swan Song” (Sweet Music, 1978). The boys showed their sensitive side with this acoustic bit that would have sounded right at home on Heart’s Dog & Butterfly album.

3.27 Roadmaster LP
Roadmaster, 1976

13. “A.M.-P.M.” (Roadmaster, 1976). The boys’ blues workout is a fantastic display of their musicianship.

12. “Ya Move Me” (Sweet Music, 1978). A throwback song to the Smash hits that soars way higher because of Mac’s vocals. Still, there is some vocal help from Smasher on the chorus, which only adds to the looseness of the tune.

11. “Been Gone Too Long” (Sweet Music, 1978). If my memory serves me well, I think this was the set opener at our high school concert. If not, it should have been.

10. “I Must Be Dreaming” (Sweet Music, 1978). The second cut on the band’s best album is one of their most rocking Styx-influenced songs.

9. “Who Can Sing like the Fat Boy Do” (Roadmaster, 1976). This was Adam Smasher’s calling card. He used it at the beginning of every DJ show in the early days. In it, Smash proclaims that no one has a voice like him, he plays the “Electric Throat.”

3.27 Fortress

8. “New York, New York” (Fortress, 1980). This song was the only throwback to the band’s original sound on their last studio album. Too bad it was buried in some truly uninspiring work.

7. “Say You Wanna Be with Me” (Hey World, 1979). Toby Myers wrote this rocking gem that would have been worthy of a Night Ranger cover.

6. “Sunala Jones” (Roadmaster, 1976). This one kind of reminds me of Pablo Cruise or Ambrosia but in a great way.

5. “Circle of Love” (Sweet Music, 1978). One of the highlights of the band’s sets, “Circle” allowed the band’s musicianship to absolutely shine in the studio and in concert.

4. “Hey World” (Hey World, 1979). This song was such a perfect summer song in 1979 that I remain baffled why it never caught on outside of Indy.

3. “That Magic Feeling” (Roadmaster, 1976). The absolute best song on their debut album. Once again, I will never understand why radio did not jump on this Todd Rundgren-production that year. Remember, this was the year that “Convoy” hit number one.

2. “Sweet Music” (Sweet Music, 1978). No matter how you cut it, this song is the band’s calling card. The boys could stretch out in the live setting and simply go wherever they wanted to take it and still the song remained fantastic. It falls somewhere between Zep’s “Dazed and Confused” and REO’s “157 Riverside Ave.” In other words, it’s long, musical and fun.

3.27 sweet music

1. “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing” (Sweet Music, 1978). THE lost Hoosier artist single of all-time. Period. It is the kind of song that if it had been done by Styx, would have gone to the top of the chart. But, because it was recorded by some Hoosiers who named their band after either a Buick or a bicycle, radio stayed away from it. To this day, if I get a song stuck in my head, fifty percent of the time it is still this song.

If you are from Indiana, I hope you go back to listen to these albums again; I know you still have them. And, if you are outside of here, please find these songs because I feel as though they will give you the best overview of the band’s catalog. One day, I am going to write that worthy screenplay where the soundtrack will consist mainly of songs from Hoosier musical acts, beside the transcendent Michael Jackson and his family. And, rest in peace band members Stephen “Mac” McNally and Rick Bennick. And, a big thanks to the surviving guys from those four albums: Toby Myers, Michael Read, Bobby Johns, Steve Riley, and, of course, Adam Smasher. Long live Roadmaster!

My Green Day Top 40

3.26 green day 2020

I hope everyone is still healthy and sane during this time of quarantines, whether self-imposed like mine or mandatory. These are truly unprecedented times, though, unfortunately, the microbiologist in me has been awaiting this for decades. Fortunately, a sense of humor, no matter how dark, is necessary for one to maintain his or her sanity. Of course, on social media, I have been turning to my comedic favorites for their words. Let’s just say that the man to whom I turn is the brilliant John Cleese of Monty Python fame. I highly recommend his feeds for a great laugh.

Let me begin by apologizing for a lack of humor in this blog. Unfortunately, I have yet to master anything longer than a humorous incomplete sentence. Instead, I tend to stick with musings and memories surrounding my subject matter since many of you rockaholics now the histories of these bands.

3.26 green day live 2000

Lately, I have been catching up with former students, since few of them are actually designated as “essential” workers, though those who are labeled with that term, well, you should have known them as teenagers. Honestly, I feel much safer with them on the frontline and hope they stay healthy.

Twenty-five years ago, I was finishing up my first year in education. The Class of 1998, the first of two classes at Alexandria Monroe High School with whom I remain in contact with many of those former students and athletes, were freshmen and the Class of 1999 were eighth graders. One of the things burnt into my memory bank about those former teens was how competitive they were at everything, from sports to academics to Bio Jeopardy. The other characteristics they shared was a cynical worldview, a love of sarcasm and nearly all of them were music fiends. In other words, we were all cut from the same cloth.

3.26 green day 1994

One band’s music, no matter what I am doing, that always reminds me of those times has got to be Green Day. Regardless of whether the flavor of the moment was Tupac, Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony or No Doubt, Green Day always seemed to be the meeting point for a majority of them. Or maybe, that’s wishful thinking. No, no, hell, the 1999ers had one of their classmates, the great Brent Adams (he occasionally posts songs on YouTube!), sing “Good Riddance” at their graduation, which was poignant then but now a cliche. That’s how cool these kids were.

Now, here in 2020, I find it utterly unimaginable that Green Day, along with Pearl Jam, are the two big survivors of the Lolapalooza Nation of the Nineties. Think about it! Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc., have all imploded, lost important members or faded into irrelevancy. Yet, Green Day survived. I think we all kinda knew Pearl Jam would survive and thrive. But, besides Mr. Adams, who would have thought Green Day would have matured from snotty second-generation punks into world conquerors? As much as I loved Dookie, I was beginning to ignore them when American Idiot was released. And, it was that album that got the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

3.26 green day 2004

You see, although the rock world did have a punk rock opera back in 1984 with Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, Green Day actually captured the zeitgeist of the youth at that moment. In retrospect, it just might be the truly last great rock album, let alone rock opera, ever released. And, to think, American Idiot was written and recorded after the tapes of their completed Cigarettes & Valentines were stolen. Conveniently, the band’s fortunes were turned on that now fortuitous event. It forced the band to look around and decide to comment on the moment at hand: how the second Bush administration was conducting itself. And, the album’s themes continue to resonate today.

Green Day In Concert -  New York, NY

Recently, the band released its thirteenth album, Father of All Motherfuckers. Now, the album is not the cultural milestone that Dookie or Idiot were, but it is an excellent slice of Glam-infused punk. The album is short and to the point, lacking the experiments and the lethargy of the ¡Uno!/¡Dos!/¡Tré! or Revolution Radio. Now, they sound like an enthusiastic heir to the pre-CBGB’s days of the New York Dolls. It’s fun, not necessarily world-stopping. But in these days of COVID-19, I do think we could all use some fun.

Today, let’s honor a favorite Nineties band of mine by doing a Top 40 songs of Green Day.

3.26 40.the saints are coming

40. “The Saints Are Coming” – U2 + Green Day (Non-album single, 2006)

39. “Working Class Hero” (Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, 2007)

38. “Going to Pasalqua” (1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, 1991)

37. “Kill the DJ” (¡Uno!, 2012)

36. “Back in the USA” (Greatest Hits: God’s Favorite Band, 2017)

35. “Walking Contradiction” (Insomniac, 1996)

34. “Junkies on a High” (Father of All Motherfuckers, 2020)

33. “Let Yourself Go” (¡Uno!, 2012)

32. “Warning” (Warning, 2000)

31. “Hitchin’ a Ride” (Nimrod, 1997)

3.26 30.stab you in the heart

30. “Stab You in the Heart” (Father of All Motherfuckers, 2020)

29. “Pulling Teeth” (Dookie, 1994)

28. “Oh Love” (¡Uno!, 2012)

27. “She” (Dookie, 1994)

26. “When I Come Around” (Dookie, 1994)

25. “Bang Bang” (Revolution Radio, 2016)

24. “Jaded” (Insomniac, 1996)

23. “Oh Yeah!” (Father of All Motherfuckers, 2020)

22. “Still Breathing” (Revolution Radio, 2016)

21. “J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)” (Angus OST, 1995)

3.26 20.21st_Century_Breakdown

20. “21st Century Breakdown” (21st Century Breakdown, 2009)

19. “Whatsername” (American Idiot, 2004)

18. “Brain Stew” (Insomniac, 1996)

17. “Bouncing Off the Wall” (Revolution Radio, 2016)

16. “21 Guns” (21st Century Breakdown, 2009)

3.26 15.Holiday

15. “Holiday” (American Idiot, 2004)

14. “Stop Drop and Roll” – Foxboro Hot Tubs (Stop Drop and Roll, 2008)

13. “Welcome to Paradise” (Dookie, 1994)

12. “Geek Stink Breath” (Insomniac, 1996)

11. “Fire, Ready, Aim” (Father of All Motherfuckers, 2020)

3.26 10.Know_Your_Enemy

10. “Know Your Enemy” (21st Century Breakdown, 2009). Hands down, this is the best thing on the album, which is a full-blown artistic attempt to top American Idiot.

9. “Good Riddance” (Nimrod, 1997). This tune seems to have outlasted everything else in the Green Day cannon, which unfairly pigeonholes the band as pop punks.

8. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” (American Idiot, 2004). Who doesn’t feel the lyrics of this song at least once a week these days.

7. “Jesus of Suburbia” (American Idiot, 2004). This isn’t just a song but a suite, not unlike something by Rush or Yes, but filtered through a punk ethos. I haven’t seen the band live in 20 years, but I bet this one is epic in concert.

6. “2000 Light Years Away” (Kerplunk!, 1992). This is just a classic snotty punk song that you could hear the Dead Boys playing back in the late-Seventies.

3.26 5.Longview

5. “Longview” (Dookie, 1994). The one that blew up the band in 1994, this song just breathed new life into the whole punk sound I grew up on. Plus, the bass is just killer!

4. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (American Idiot, 2004). The emotional climax of the Idiot album also stands alone as a terrific single.

3. “Minority” (Warning, 2000). This song just may be Green Day’s best statement not only for disaffected youth but for all humans.

2. “American Idiot” (American Idiot, 2004). “London Calling” for the new millennium, and I am not speaking in hyperbole either.

3.26 1.Basket_Case

1. “Basket Case” (Dookie, 1994). This song encapsulates every emotion that makes us all feel like outsiders, especially as teenagers. Plus, any song that opens with the line, “Do you have the time/To listen to me whine?” has me right away!

Still the Only Band That Matters – The Clash!

3.24 the_clash live

Hello outside world! This is COVID-19-Free Music Blog coming to you from the quarantined Midwestern home of this writer. As of this writing, my wife and I are hunkered down for a little self-quarantine action as our beautiful daughter-in-law, a respiratory therapist, was exposed to a patient who later tested positive for the virus. Since she is a healthcare worker, she is required to continue working until she displays symptoms. Our son, on the other hand is now a stay-at-home dad for an indefinite period of time until this whole thing blows over. Of course, our indirect exposure came from contact with the two of them because we take care of their son. Needless to say, our concern over the past couple of days has been our family and not really keeping up with this blog. Though from the spike in my traffic stats, it seems that people are looking for ways to pass their time during this world-wide crisis.

Just a friendly reminder from the old medical technologist here, wash your hands often, clean your work areas and keep your distance from strangers. Oh, and I know how some of you are, but no hugging and handshaking with others outside of your home.

Enough of this! Let’s take our minds off this whole thing for a minute or two.

3.24 broken bass

 

As I have stated often in this blog, my favorite album of all-time is without question London Calling by The Clash. Everything about the album was perfect. From the cover art, that iconic photo of bassist Paul Simonon in the process of smashing his bass guitar to the co-opting of the artwork of Elvis Presley’s debut album, to the fanzine feel of the lyric sheets to the hype sticker proclaiming The Clash to being “The Only Band That Matters” to the music itself, the whole thing was pitch perfect in cluing the listener that this was going to be an experience like none other. And, I gotta admit, I was hooked from the opening strains of “London Calling” through all four side to the very last song, the hastily added (and unlisted on the track listing) “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)”. This was a major statement by a band poised to take over the world.

3.24 clash logo 2

That album sent me on my journey with The Clash. Of course, I had to backtrack a bit and discover their first two albums, the punk classic self-titled debut and their transition album Give ‘Em Enough Rope, followed by their mini-album of odds and sods, Black Market Clash. They followed up London Calling, that double album of perfection, with a sprawling triple album of craziness, experiments and gems called Sandinista! That one may just be their White Album, that messy, jointed double album by The Beatles, only with much cooler songs and experiments.

3.24 the clash

Then, the classic line-up unknowingly released their last album in 1982, their commercial breakthrough, Combat Rock. With that album, the band was all over MTV, on Fridays! and SNL, had a Top 10 hit song, opened for The Who on their first of many farewell tours, and seemed poised to actually become the biggest and most important band in the world.

3.24 The Clash - Live @ Lochem Festival, Netherlands, 20-05-1982

And, then, it was over. Just like that, a void opened, and U2 filled it. There’s much debate as to what caused the band to implode. Management? Probably. Ego? Yes. Drugs? Without a doubtWhatever the causehappened and history is what it is. Yet, these five albums, along with a smattering of singles and B-sides, The Clash’s catalog of music is nothing short of greatness and should be required listening by every rock fan until the end of time.

Clash

This week, I received a text message that my older son and his wife were going to slowly listen to Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Albums, skipping the greatest hits compilations. As they listened, his wife would re-rank the albums. Well, as of this writing, London Calling is number one on her list, but I have an inkling that Abbey Road will be more to her liking. But, I did receive a series of four short videos of my granddaughter dancing to “London Calling,” just spinning, wiggling her booty and squealing in delight as the song continued. Then, as the song concluded, that tiny girl turned to the stereo and began clapping. Right there, I knew the torch of The Clash had been passed to the third generation of my family. Those videos filled my heart to see the joy of music being expressed by the 20-month-old child.

So, after spending a few days spinning some vinyl, though I do listen to London Calling about once every other week, I have compiled my Top 50 songs by The Clash. So, let’s get this party started!

3.24 50.charlie-don-t-surf

50. “Charlie Don’t Surf” (Sandinista!, 1980)

49. “Tommy Gun” (Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978)

48. “Safe European Home” (Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978)

47. “Hate & War” (The Clash, 1977)

46. “Washington Bullets” (Sandinista!, 1980)

45. “Cheat” (The Clash, 1977)

44. “The Call Up” (Sandinista!, 1980)

43. “Stay Free” (Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978)

42. “English Civil War” (Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978)

41. “Bankrobber” (Non-album single, 1980)

3.24 40.spanish bombs

40. “Spanish Bombs” (London Calling, 1979)

39. “This Is England” (Cut the Crap, 1985)

38. “Janie Jones” (The Clash, 1977)

37. “Ivan Meets G.I. Joe” (Sandinista!, 1980)

36. “Armagideon Time” (B-side, 1980)

35. “Pressure Drop” (B-side, 1979)

34. “Remote Control” (The Clash, 1977)

33. “Brand New Cadillac” (London Calling, 1979)

32. “Groovy Times” (Non-album single, 1979)

31. “Garageland” (The Clash, 1977)

3.24 30.death or glory

30. “Death or Glory” (London Calling, 1979)

29. “Tommy Gun” (Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978)

28. “1977” (Non-album single, 1977)

27. “London’s Burning” (The Clash, 1977)

26. “Clash City Rockers” (The Clash, 1977)

25. “The Magnificent Seven” (Sandinista!, 1980)

24. “Clampdown” (London Calling, 1979)

23. “Capital Radio One” (The Clash, 1977)

22. “Know Your Rights” (Combat Rock, 1982)

21. “Career Opportunities” (The Clash, 1977)

3.24 20.somebody-got-murdered

20. “Somebody Got Murdered” (Sandinista!, 1980)

19. “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” (London Calling, 1979)

18. “Complete Control” (The Clash, 1977)

17. “Jimmy Jazz” (London Calling, 1979)

16. “Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad” (Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978)

3.24 15.Rudie_Can't_Fail

15. “Rudie Can’t Fail” (London Calling, 1979)

14. “Lost in the Supermarket” (London Calling, 1979)

13. “Rock the Casbah” (Combat Rock, 1982)

12. “White Riot” (The Clash, 1977)

11. “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” (The Clash, 1977)

3.24 10.hitsville uk

10. “Hitsville U.K.” (Sandinista!, 1980). I loved the fact that The Clash took the Motown theme of Hitsville USA and turned it around into a gem of a pop song buried in that eclectic musical statement of a fourth album. This tune may be one of the lost hits of the Eighties.

9. “Police on My Back” (Sandinista!, 1980). This is a punk song through and through. Green Day based their whole sound on this song.

8. “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)” (London Calling, 1979). The song that first put The Clash into the American Top 40. This is a great rolling pop song based upon the rock tradition of the sound of a rolling train.

7. “Police & Thieves” (The Clash, 1977). Reggae producers have often been quoted as saying that The Clash were the only white boys who could actually play reggae, which is a high compliment. This cover of a huge reggae hit is the proof. A perfect song at a perfect moment in time.

6. “Straight to Hell” (Combat Rock, 1982). Much praise has been heaped upon the songwriting talents of guitarists and vocalists Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. And, the world knows the Topper Headon was a world-class drummer. But, I believe Paul Simonon’s bass playing is totally underrated. So, here is example A for this honor as it was his bass that MIA sampled for her classic hit “Paper Plane” a decade or so ago. That’s right! This is the source! I remember blowing my younger son’s mind when I played it for him. He totally had forgotten.

3.24 5.should i stay or should i go

5. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (Combat Rock, 1982). If I were to pick a song to be an example of punk energy, I would have a difficult time choosing between this song and the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Both were my go-to songs for an energy pickup on the dance floor during my Dj-ing days.

4. “I Fought the Law” (The Clash, 1977). Yes, it’s a cover of the Bobby Fuller Four song, but The Clash made it all their own.

3. “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” (The Clash, 1977). This song broke the band in England with its description of a riot in a London ghetto. How punk is that?

2. “This Is Radio Clash” (Non-album single, 1981). At the time, our heroes were hanging in New York City, and, especially in the case of Mick Jones, were under the influence of hip hop music. And, in response of the cross-pollination that was taking place between punk, new wave and hip hop, The Clash created this totally underrated fusion that continues to enthrall me nearly 40 years later.

3.24 1.London_Calling

1. “London Calling” (London Calling, 1979). Where “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” was a call to arms to the youth of England, “London Calling” was the world-wide mission statement. Basically, The Clash weren’t messing around, and they were going to call out all the hypocrites and phonies and abusers in the world. This was the truth and remains so to this day.

Viva la Clash!

Prince Proteges & Cover Songs: My Top 40

3.16 The Time
The Time

COVID-19!

Sorry! I just had to get your attention. I know! It was juvenile, and I am NOT making light of the situation. Remember, I am a medical technologist and microbiologist, so this thing is right in my wheelhouse. And while I am “nerding out” on the whole structure, life cycle and pathology of this novel virus, I understand why so many of you are burnt out on the news coverage. To which I say, turn off your television, or at least stopping watching the news channels or listening to Trump stumble through a sixth grader’s non-researched report on a viral disease. As I have discovered, HULU has a huge number of terrific music documentaries to watch, or start thumbing through your music collection for the lesser played albums.

As you know by now, I am a HUGE Prince fan. And, I plan to go through all of his albums to eventually attempt to rank his release songs. It is a daunting task, and I’m not sure why I want to undertake such a massive amount of listening and critiquing. But, I figure that if Isaac Newton could invent calculus or Shakespeare write King Lear while quarantined during a bubonic plague outbreak, then I could attempt something truly insane as well. Certainly, I know it is not an original idea, as there is a blog that does 365 Prince songs each year. So, who knows how I will spin this or if I will even carry this idea to the finish line, but it is an idea.

3.16 vanity 6
Vanity 6

In the meantime, I thought it would be kind of cool to compile a list of my favorite Prince songs, either done by other artists or covered by other artists. Now, I am not limiting myself to those artists whom the Purple One had in his Paisley stable, like The Time, Sheila E. or Vanity/Apollonia 6, but other artists with whom he collaborated, gifted with a song or allowed them to cover one of his hits. To be honest, few artists have been able to top a Prince recording of one of his songs; yet, when they do, the moment is truly magical. So, it is those truly transcendent moments in which the student becomes the teacher that I want to honor with this list.

3.16 mazarati
Mazarati

Over the years, in addition to the aforementioned band of artists in his arsenal, there have been some truly great recordings of his songs that have left their mark on rock music. From Chaka Khan and Cyndi Lauper to Chris Cornell and Foo Fighters, many people have successfully tackle this rock immortal’s tunes.

3.16 sheila e
Sheila E.

First, in 1982, which is the breakout year of His Purple Highness, two of his most famous associates released their most highly regarded albums, The Time (What Time Is It?) and Vanity 6 (Vanity 6). These were eventually followed by a whole slew of diverse of artists such as Sheila E., The Family, Jill Jones, Mazarati, Carmen Electra, Mayte, Támar Davis, Bria Valente, among others. Additionally, Prince attempted to revive the fortunes of Mavis Staples, Larry Graham and George Clinton along the way. We also know how he gifted the likes of The Bangles and Sinéad O’Connor with hit songs as well. And, then there are the lesser known covers by the Goo Goo Dolls, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys which became well known in their own right.

3.16 apollonia 6
Apollonia 6

Of all the great artists with which Prince work both directly and indirectly, I feel like the best and most overlooked is The Time. These guys were originally put together by Prince, recorded and played songs written by Prince, rehearsed and mentored by Prince, and totally controlled by Prince. The Time was Prince’s opening act during his 1981 and 1982 tours. By the time the 1982 tour was winding, The Time were pressuring their mentor for who was actually the better act on that last tour. So, what did Dr. Frankenstein do to his monster? He reacted by trying to kill it. He fired keyboardist Jimmy Jam and bassist Terry Lewis because they had the audacity to produce another band, the S.O.S. Band. In reaction, the other keyboardist and backup vocalist Monte Moir quit, thus removing half the musicians of this quickly improving band.

3.16 jill jones
Jill Jones

Once the smoke cleared, long-time Prince associate and lead vocalist Morris Day was left, along with his on-stage valet Jerome Benton, drummer Jellybean Johnson and hot guitarist Jesse Johnson. The replacement players, as good as they were, did not have the time to jell in the same way the original band did. So, they became an easier band for Prince & the Revolution dominate in the film Purple Rain. Shortly after the film and their 1984 album, Ice Cream Castles, were complete, the band broke up. In 1990, original lineup of The Time reformed in the wake of Jam & Lewis’ mega-success as producers, but the magic was missing probably due to the fact that they were still relying on Prince’s songs. To me, they represent one of the truly great lost bands of the Eighties. And, since this band was jammed with some many exceptional players fronted by one of the greatest front men of all time with a valet, I feel like The Time should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To this day, The Time has NEVER had a compilation disc released to honor them.

3.16 The-family
The Family

Needless to say, Prince’s influence has been felt all over the music world. Obviously, his music will be as enduring as Mozart, Woody Guthrie or The Beatles, though I honestly doubt many of his hits will be sung by elementary kids in the future. I doubt the appropriateness of my grandchildren singing “Sexy MF” in kindergarten. But, “Purple Rain” could be.

Let’s take a look at my 40 favorite Prince songs done by other artists.

3.16 40.mia bocca

40. “Mia Bocca” – Jill Jones (1987)

39. “G-Spot” – Jill Jones (1987)

38. “Melody Cool” – Mavis Staples (1990)

37. “High Fashion” – The Family (1985)

36. “When You Were Mine” – Cyndi Lauper (1983)

3.16 35.Jerk_Out

35. “Jerk Out” – The Time (1990)

34. “Time Waits for No One” – Mavis Staples (1989)

33. “100 MPH” – Mazarati (1986)

32. “Cool” – The Time (1981)

31. “Never Take the Place of Your Man” – Goo Goo Dolls featuring Lance Diamond (1990)

3.16 30.the beautiful ones

30. “The Beautiful Ones” – Beyoncé (2011)

29. “Drive Me Wild” – Vanity 6 (1982)

28. “Love Song” – Madonna (1989)

27. “Sugar Walls” – Sheena Easton (1984)

26. “The Screams of Passion” – The Family (1985)

3.16 25.darling nikki

25. “Darling Nikki” – Foo Fighters (2003)

24. “He’s So Dull” – Vanity 6 (1982)

23. “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Chris Cornell (2015)

22. “Sex Shooter” – Apollonia 6 (1984)

21. “If I Was Your Girlfriend” – TLC (1994)

3.16 20.the dance electric

20. “The Dance Electric” – André Cymone (1985)

19. “Jungle Love” – The Time (1984)

18. “Get It Up” – The Time (1981)

17. “Round and Round” – Tevin Campbell (1990)

16. “Erotic City” – George Clinton (1994)

3.16 15.when doves cry

15. “When Doves Cry” – Patti Smith (2002). Somehow, Patti found an even lonelier emotive take on the lyrics that Prince wrote. If you thought the original sounded sparse, check this one out.

14. “Stand Back” – Stevie Nicks (1983).Back when Prince was breaking big, everyone wanted to work with him. I remember reading how John Cougar was stopping his concerts to play “Little Red Corvette” on a boombox to his crowd and saying he wanted to record a song with him. Of course, Nicks wanted the same, and she’s much easier on the eyes than John. So, Prince came in, laid down the synth track and left.

13. “The Sex of It” – Kid Creole & the Coconuts (1990). Kid Creole was an underground legend who, not unlike Prince, was known for taking popular sounds and bending them around his will. Prince gave him this song and the original Kid knocked it outta the park.

12. “Nasty Girl” – Vanity 6 (1982). This is the perfect stripper song, and I mean that as a compliment.

11. “Kiss” – The Art of Noise featuring Tom Jones (1988). This is the funnest song in my countdown. I have always loved The Art of Noise deconstruction of music, not unlike an English version of Devo. Then, to take not only a Prince song but a legendary Prince song, deconstruct it all the while have Sixties musical icon Tom Jones take on the vocals, you get a classic version out of something that should have been a novelty song.

3.16 10.how come you dont

10. “How Come You Don’t Call Me” – Alicia Keys (2001). Did any of you Millennials realize that Keys was singing a Prince song? Honestly, she did one helluva job.

9. “A Love Bizarre” – Sheila E. (1985). Technically, this is a Sheila E./Prince duet. Yet, it is one terrific funk workout.

8. “The Bird” – The Time (1984). This song will live on in infamy as it was played at every party and in every club I attended from the summer of 1984 until the end of 1985. “You all got ten seconds to get on the dance floor!”

7. “The Walk” – The Time (1982). This song personifies the cool of The Time. The lyrics are all about the band’s clothing, style and pimp attitude.

6. “Purple Rain” – Phish (2003). Laugh at your own peril, but if Phish covers you, they are rarely not going to rise to the occasion. These guys just tear this song apart. Does it top the original? Hell no! But, it does make you appreciate the greatness of the tune.

3.16 5.i feel for you

5. “I Feel for You” – Chaka Khan (1984). Morris Day writes in his autobiography that the first band he played in with Prince, Graham Central, would share vocals on the different covers they performed. And Prince always sang the Chaka Khan & Rufus songs. So, it makes perfect sense that he would allow Khan to take on one of his songs. And when she added the Melle Mel rap hook of her name, the song took off.

4. “Manic Monday” – The Bangles (1986). In 1985, Prince was doing his psychedelic, baroque funk thang that seemed to be influenced by The Beatles. So, what would be better than to write a great pop song for the best pop band of the L.A. Paisley Underground scene. Of course, Prince was smitten with rhythm guitarist/vocalist Susanna Hoffs, but, then again, what man wasn’t? Still, The Bangles’ harmonies took this song to a completely new level.

3. “The Glamorous Life” – Sheila E. (1984). If you’ve heard the original version of this song by Prince, you know it was a pretty good song. But, Sheila E. added her unparalleled percussion to it and sang the hell out of it, making the song transcendent.

2. “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinéad O’Connor (1990). This song was demoed by Prince and given to one of his protege bands, The Family, whose lead singer was his girlfriend at the time, Susannah Melvoin, Revolution guitarist Wendy’s twin sister. The song was good but overproduced. O’Connor took the song, stripped it to its emotional core and just sang the crap out of it. Then, she created an emotional video in which she cries a single tear that streams down her cheek. And the rest was history.

3.16 1.777-9311

1. “777-9311” – The Time (1982). This is the funkiest song Prince may have ever written. Then, he turned it over to the funkiness funk band in the world and the song became the band’s centerpiece of their live set. I will never be able to listen to another artist’s version of it. Nobody will be able to touch it.

The Greatest Band of My Generation? R.E.M., of Course!

3.10 REM_1994

Sometimes, music can be so comforting, especially music that was important to you when you were young and carefree. So, forgive me if I am feeling a bit nostalgic today to a seemingly simpler time, it’s just the head space I am in today. It’s not like I really want to go back to that time, I just want my body to behave like it did when I was twenty. I’d love to be rediscovering all the great music once again.

As you know, social media is full of all kinds of stuff. Yesterday, one of my fraternity brothers posted a great meme about a dive bar near the Ball State campus located in The Village. Who really knows how long that bar has been located in that same location, but it’s been there since before I got to Ball State in 1981. And, every time I visit the place, at least once a decade, it remains the same grungy place. Of course, the meme has a photo of The Chug, as it is known, and says, “If you’ve been here you can survive the Coronavirus.” And, it is true. I think I should have done my environmental virology experiments on that place. If you didn’t pick up something there, then you probably didn’t frequent the place. And, that statement speaks for itself. Remember, I said it’s a dive bar near a college campus in Indiana. What more of a warning can I give you? But, it was the place of legends and, back when I was there, quarter beer nights.

3.10 rem 1991 unplugged

Now, in the fall of 1983, I started my junior year. That summer, I had worked up in Wisconsin and came back with albums by new artists like the Violent Femmes (from Milwaukee) and R.E.M. For me, it was an exciting time to hear new wave music beginning to morph into a more adult version that would eventually be called alternative music. For some reason, R.E.M. spoke to me. I was mesmerized by their use of a twelve-string guitar within a more acoustic setting based upon the music of The Velvet Underground, the Patti Smith Group and Sixties-era Byrds. I found the combination, along with the impenetrable lyrics, to be absolutely thrilling. Where Prince was filling my futuristic sonic needs, R.E.M. was showing me the future by taking an Americana step backward.

So, the band’s first album, Murmur, was the soundtrack for most of the year, and I actually loved “Radio Free Europe” so much that it remains one of my favorite songs of that year. When 1983 became 1984, I quickly turned 21 in February. My twenty-first birthday bar crawl began at that infamous Ball State off-campus institution The Chug. There, my entourage of dorm friends and frat brothers met up with my burly Canadian chemistry lab partner for my first drinks of the night. Now, I remember a couple of things at this point but keep in mind that I started my day with a lunch beer from my father, followed by several pre-basketball game beers since Ball State had a home basketball game that afternoon and then a couple of post-game drinks before a nap and dinner.

3.10 rem 2001 unplugged

Needless to say, I was feeling fine. So, at The Chug, like I said, I had a beer. Then, I walked over to the jukebox, which, lo and behold, actually had “Radio Free Europe” on it! So, of course I put my money in, and pushed the buttons for that song along with a couple others that would not be normally played in a Central Indiana bar (let’s just say that I was NOT playing ZZ Top, Loverboy or Lynyrd Skynyrd!). I sat down to enjoy the music, when big burly Brian came over to my roommate and me with 21 shots of Canadian Mist. Of course, I used the exclamation I learned from my father by yelling out, “Jesus Christ!” You see, I heard that so much, I actually thought I was the Son of God, you know the bit. Brian goes, “Don’t worry! There’s three of us to split this Canadian tradition.” Now, who knows if 21 shots of Canadian Mist is really a Canadian tradition, but you only turn 21 once. Of course, we were off to the races. From that point on, I remember nothing, though I was told that I was singing “Radio Free Europe” and leading Donna Summer dancing at another establishment. As I have said many times, thank God we didn’t grow up during the smartphone era.

A couple months later, R.E.M.’s sophomore album, Reckoning, was released and moved into the pole position of my album collection until Purple Rain was dropped. Of all the artists in my 1,000 album collectionR.E.M. seems to be the one group that grew up with me. They are all close to the same age as me, so we all share the same college educated sensibilities of inclusion, intelligence and compassion. Eventually, I went on to see them live on two separate occasions, first in Oxford, Ohio, in 1987 and then again in Indianapolis in 1995. I stuck with them through the departure of drummer Bill Berry (I still say the band was never the same again!) until the very end of the band in 2011, thirty years into their career. And, R.E.M. remains the old artist that I own all of their albums, if possible, on both vinyl and CD. That includes Prince too!

28th Annual Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards - September 16, 2006

Right now, I feel like the world needs R.E.M. They helped me navigate life through the whole conservative era of the past thirty years with their music and lyrics. Maybe, when they broke up in 2011, they thought the world had finally began to shift back toward the left with the election of Obama and felt their work was done. But, now, we are nearing an important election of 2020, and the world needs R.E.M.’s voice of reason once again. I know it’s a pipe dream. So, I will continue to dig through my collection to find nuggets like “World Leader Pretend” and “Exhuming McCarthy” to help get through these days of the Orange Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

Here it is! My ranking of all the studio albums by the ever-eternal R.E.M.

3.10 16.Around_the_Sun

16. Around the Sun (2004). I get it! Every band needs to evolve. But, sometimes, not every experiment needs to be released. This was the band’s only true misstep.

3.10 15.Collapse_into_Now

15. Collapse into Now (2011). How can I rank this terrific swansong so low? As great as it is, this band’s bar is just that high.

3.10 14.Reveal

14. Reveal (2001). This is the band’s Pet Sounds. Wanna know why it never reaches the heights it strives for? They simply needed Berry back on the skins. Sometimes, chemistry can be inexplicable.

3.10 13.New_Adventures_in_Hi-Fi

13. New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996). This was the last album with Bill Berry and was recorded during soundchecks during the Monster Tour. While I love the looseness and rawness of the live settings for the songs, I just could not embrace this fully. Something was missing in the recipe.

3.10 12.Up

12. Up (1998). This was the first album of the post-Berry era. Still, the songs are strong. The only thing that keeps this from being a Top 10 album is that Berry is missing. For some reason, I can feel it in every album after this one, except for one…

3.10 11.Accelerate

11. Accelerate (2008). This is the rocking album the band hand be promising the public ever since Green was released in 1988. Twenty fricking years, I’m telling you! This is a fantastic album that made me feel like I was traveling back in time to that first concert in which I saw them back in 1987.

3.10 10.Out_of_Time

10. Out of Time (1991). This album has the band’s most famous song “Losing My Religion.” Yet, I never felt this was the band at there best. Don’t get me wrong! If another band had released it, it would be a classic. The moody songs are my favorites on this one. But, as a R.E.M. album, it’s just good.

3.10 9.Chronic_Town

9. Chronic Town (1982). The E.P. that quietly announced that something new was happening in Athens, Georgia, and we better get ready.

3.10 8.Monster

8. Monster (1994). This glammed-out album gets an unfair rap. I love it that they followed up the majestic darkness of Automatic for the People with this grungy nod to the early-Seventies UK music scene.

3.10 7.Green

7. Green (1988). This album was released on Election Day 1988, the day that the first George Bush was elected. I have so many great memories of this album as it was the soundtrack of my younger son’s first year or so of life and of the whole environmental/climate change movement that was big in Oxford that year. I wish we could get that back quickly.

3.10 6.Fables_of_the_Reconstruction

6. Fables of the Reconstruction (1985). How cool would it have been if R.E.M. had been invited to perform at Live Aid? Why didn’t that happen? C’mon! This album would have blown up if they had. This just might be the band’s most underrated album. Of course, it was the soundtrack to my older son’s first year of life.

3.10 5.Reckoning

5. Reckoning (1984). When I heard this album for the first time I was blown away by the band’s growth in one calendar year. Love this album so much!

3.10 4.Document

4. Document (1987). Now, I am splitting hairs. I loved the heaviness of this album’s songs. I love that the band’s first hit is an oft-misinterpreted vicious “love” song. I love that in the Nineties that I listened to this album and realized that maybe R.E.M. invented grunge rock on Document. And, I still love “It’s the End of the World (And I Feel Fine),” no matter how many times it’s used in movies and TV shows.

3.10 3.Automatic_for_the_People

3. Automatic for the People (1991). From the first strains of “Drive” to the closing number “Find the River,” this album represents the band’s most mature and direct statement. Also, I will go to my grave yelling that R.E.M. got screwed when they did not win the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1992. Complete BS! This one has some of the band’s greatest hits: “Drive,” “Everybody Hurts,” “Man on the Moon,” the incomparable “Nightswimming” and my favorite, the quirky “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite.”

3.10 2.Murmur

2. Murmur (1983). From the Gothic feel of the album cover to the completely muddied sound to the mumbling vocals, this album signaled there was a new sound coming. And, I was totally in! Once again, another album of pure perfection.

3.10 1.Lifes_Rich_Pageant

1. Lifes Rich Pageant (1986). This one does not get the love I feel it deserves. Finally, singer Michael Stipe’s vocals are clear, the lyrics are poignant, Peter Buck’s guitar licks are advancing beyond his Byrdsian fixations and secret weapon Mike Mills, rock’s most underrated bassist AND vocalist, is finally pushed to the forefront throughout. And, of course, drummer Bill Berry is stellar throughout. Plus, the band came to Indiana to use John Mellencamp’s studio and producer, the underrated Don Gehman, to create this album, giving it a subtle Hoosier influence. Plus, one of the best memories I have of this album is my older son singing “Superman” to a bunch of college kids at the local soft yogurt store in Oxford when he was three. It was the perfect album at the perfect time for me.

The Doobie Brothers: My 25 Favorite Songs

3.9 Doobie-Brothers-Lineup-Changes

Despite the fact that my parents were educators, I rode the bus to school every morning until I got my driver’s license. School buses seemed like a right of passage, especially back in the Seventies. Back then, everyone rode the bus, including high school kids. Most of the high school kids then did not have cars so they had to ride the bus with us annoying grade school kids.

Those older kids were something of cultural heroes to me. For Central Indiana, they wore the coolest clothes, had awesome hair and listened to the greatest music at the time. Oh, and the guys told the best jokes. Of course, since I was a loud-mouthed hyperactive kid, I was often the butt of those jokes and pranks. Still, I learned the secrets to the most mysterious being in the world from those adolescent males: the teenage girl. If even half of their stories were true, they were some of the most promiscuous males this side of those mustachioed porn stars of the day. According to them, they were all Lotharios. As I grew up, I was disappointed to discover they were all living in that great world of the testosterone-drenched brain of the horny male.

3.9 Doobie Brothers 70s

Yet, for all of their weaknesses, that group of males did teach me about the music of the era. Through them I discovered the strength of a great make-out song, the power of a cruising song for the car and the sheer joy of watching artists perform on Midnight Concert and In Concert. The music of the early Seventies is full of diversity. I was introduced to the first strains of heavy metal through Black Sabbath, the singer/songwriter movement with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the pop perfection of Elton John, the soul of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, the comedy of Cheech & Chong and the boogie of The Doobie Brothers.

You see, in the early Seventies, The Doobie Brothers made the songs that I remember hearing all of those guys playing from the 8-Track tape decks in their parents’ cars when they were cruising up and down the streets in search of girls in the neighborhood. Countless times, those same guys were parking those cars in the street around my house, all blaring the same great radio station of the day, WNAP-FM (“The Buzzard”!), just to play basketball in our driveway with me. I think it was because we had the best goal in the neighborhood. Everyone stopped to play with the fourth-grade prodigy with his spanking new crank adjustable basketball goal. Shoot, even their friends who were the stars on the high school basketball team of the day stopped at my house for some driveway hoops. But, the best memories were hearing those cars all blaring The Doobies at the same time. You won’t understand just how cool it was for a little kid to be shown some attention from a group of older guys all the while hearing the latest and greatest tunes of the day.

3.9 Doobie-Brothers 80s

Still, for my untrained ears, The Doobies sounded so great on those hot summer evenings as the soundtrack to our basketball games. Seriously, how could you NOT enjoy basketball with “Long Train Runnin'”, “China Grove” or “Rockin’ Down the Highway” blaring away? Sure, Alice Cooper, Elton John and Seals & Crofts were fun, but basketball with the Doobies was transcendent. Could it all be the romanticism of a young boy getting attention from some older kids? Probably. Or, was it the fact that so many hot high school girls were hanging out in my yard as we played? Uh, definitely! I had no idea what a doobie was then, but I knew that these brothers sure were making some fantastic music that made those summer evenings seem so magical.

3.9 Doobie Brothers main members

Now, in 2020, this band of what seemed like vagabonds who I later learned were not brothers in the sense of genetics are finally receiving their due by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No, this is not one of the legendary innovative bands of all-time. What they represent is a working man’s approach to rock music, although individually these men are extraordinary musicians. And, they created a catalog of music that represents the soundtrack of Baby Boomers and older Gen X-ers that just may be generally underappreciated when you move past four or five of their most well-known tunes. Dig deeper and you will find the artist that bridges the gap between the fledgling Americana of The Band, the country rock of the Eagles and the boogie bombast of Bachman Turner Overdrive, and, to me, there’s nothing more American than that. Behind Chicago, these guys represent the best of a particular moment of time in rock music. And, that’s why the Doobie Brothers will be immortalized this spring.

To honor the band, I give to you my 25 favorite songs from the whole career of The Doobie Brothers, a band that transitioned from the boogie band of the early Seventies to the purveyors of the soft rock/white soul mix now known as Yacht Rock. This list should stop all the whining as to why they are getting a place in the RRHOF.

3.9 25.one step closer

25. “One Step Closer” (Real Love, 1980)

24. “One by One” (Real Love, 1980)

23. “Wheels of Fortune” (Takin’ It to the Streets, 1976)

22. “Nobody” (The Doobie Brothers, 1971)

21. “Little Darling (I Need You)” (Livin’ on the Fault Line, 1977)

3.9 20.the doctor

20. “The Doctor” (Cycles, 1989)

19. “Echoes of Love” (Livin’ on the Fault Line, 1977)

18. “Eyes of Silver” (What Were Once Vices Are Now Habit, 1974)

17. “Cheat the Hangman” (Stampede, 1975)

16. “Dependin’ on You” (Minute by Minute, 1978)

3.9 15.minute_by_minute

15. “Minute by Minute” (Minute by Minute, 1978)

14. “Real Love” (Real Love, 1980)

13. “South City Midnight Lady” (The Captain and Me, 1973)

12. “Without You” (The Captain and Me, 1973)

11. “Jesus Is Just Alright” (Toulouse Street, 1972)

3.9 10.take me in your arms

10. “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)” (Stampede, 1975). How could anyone pull off a sexy fast song that rocks like this? The Doobies did.

9. “Takin’ It to the Streets” (Takin’ It to the Streets, 1976). The beginning of Yacht Rock can be found here as Michael McDonald joins the band.

8. “Listen to the Music” (Toulouse Street, 1972). Arguably the band’s calling card number.

7. “Rockin’ Down the Highway” (Toulouse Street, 1972). Speed it up and you have the blueprint for Bachman Turner Overdrive.

6. “It Keeps You Runnin’” (Takin’ It to the Streets, 1976). The party band of the Seventies unwittingly unleashed one of the greatest distance runner’s anthems of all time.

3.9 5.another park another sunday

5. “Another Park, Another Sunday” (What Were Once Vices Are Now Habit, 1974). This now-forgotten gem is one of the great summer breezy songs of the mid-Seventies. Takes me back every time I hear it.

4. “China Grove” (The Captain and Me, 1973). My wife is from a tiny town in Southern Indiana called Cedar Grove. Over the years, every band that plays a wedding or some other party is required to play this song and change the lyrics from “China Grove” to “Cedar Grove.”

3. “What a Fool Believes” (Minute by Minute, 1978). THE quintessential Yacht Rock song is a damn great song too.

2. “Black Water” (What Were Once Vices Are Now Habit, 1974). The theme song of sixth grade for me.

3.9 1.long train runnin

1. “Long Train Runnin’” (The Captain and Me, 1973). I still say this is a better song than “Summer Breeze” Tom Hunt!

A Bob Mould Overview

3.6 bob mould today

Back in the summer of 1984, I had just moved into my fraternity house for the summer as I wanted to take some classes during the summer. Mainly, I no longer wanted to live at home, so I took a few of the more boring classes in my microbiology major simply to get them over in a four-and-a-half week period of time. Back then, Ball State was on the quarter system, so the summer quarter was divided into two sessions so I was able to take two classes each session. I took an Ecology class, an advanced Botany class (God, I hate plants!), Developmental Biology (essential a class on evolution through the scope of a mammalian embryo developing) and Bacteriology because I had screwed up and gotten a C in it by not showing up enough, so I wanted a better grade.

That summer was the summer in which I met my wife. Now, back then I was a total screwball, though some will correctly argue that I remain one to this day. The cool thing about a college summer school is the fact that the classes go by quickly, AND you don’t really have that much time in a class. All of this adds up to an abundance of free time, which can be dangerous for a 21-year-old. In my Ecology class, we had a weekly test over five chapters. As I have stated, I have the uncanny ability to remember things that I hear in class, read or write down. By this time in my college career, I discovered that if I recopied my notes every night, I would remember nearly everything from class.

Paul Natkin Archive
Hüsker Dü

So, that first Thursday night, I had my notebook out but was busy engaging in the Ball State ritual of playing Beer Traffic. In Beer Traffic, the contestants sit in the front lawn of the house in chairs (either lawn chairs or some from inside the frat house or maybe even a couch or love seat) and choose the color of a car. When a car of that color drives by, you have to drink from the alcoholic beverage of your choice. Now, the purpose is to get a buzz, of course, so you better choose a common car color such as white, red or black and not mucus green or orange.

Now, my wife, who I had only known for a week now, came over from the house she and some girls were renting to talk. At that moment, she asked me why I had a notebook in my lap. I told her I was studying for a test. On cue, my roommate, who is a successful physical therapist and had a perfect 4.0 GPA, just burst out laughing. Since she was an education major, she began to berate me about my study habits. I told her my usual phrase I used back then, “I have everything under control.” It was obvious to everyone that I was a little thick-tongued when I said that, which of course made about a dozen buzzed college kids to begin laughing out loud.

Rock Band Sugar
Sugar

Well, before I could say anything else, Jill grabbed my notebook and began reading through the notes. Defiantly, she started ripping into me much like she does her struggling students to this day. Then, she told me that she was going to quiz me. At that moment, my roommate, Bruce, told her she really didn’t want to go there with me, since he knew we both had the same unconventional study habits. Unconvinced, Jill was out to prove a point. Immediately, she began quizzing me on my notes. Question after question, I answered everything correctly, adding details that were missing from the notes that she had to refer to the textbook to see if I was telling her the truth or bullshitting her. When she was done, she slammed the books down and walked off, which only triggered another outburst of laughter from my roommate and me.

Now, what does this story have to do with anything? Well, there is a point! You see, that summer I spent much of my spare time discovering many of the great alternative rock artists of the Eighties, thanks to my love R.E.M. Through their interviews, I had discovered Minutemen, The Replacements, The Smiths, and so many other artists. But, the one that has stood the test of time was Hüsker Dü. You see, I was determined to annoy everyone at the house that evening my blaring Hüsker Dü from the stereo as the soundtrack to our game. Needless to say, it was NOT a popular choice, but as the buzzes grew, my friends’ reluctance faded. Little did I realize that I was developing a lifetime habit of irritating that young lady with my study and music listening habits.

3.6 bob mould 80s
We were so cool back in the 80s

I will admit it that Hüsker Dü can be a bit of an acquired taste for most people. Their very harsh and abrasive take on pop music flew in the face of the great pop sounds that were being pimped all over MTV at the time. And, although they were a Minneapolis band, they sounded nothing at all like Prince and his purple sound. No, Hüsker Dü took the sound of the Ramones to its natural extreme conclusion by speeding up the instruments and cranking up the volume to 11 for maximum distortion. This was hardcore at its hardest and fastest, which made for a delightful change of pace to my normal listening habits of the day.

As the years went by, the more Hüsker Dü grew in stature to me. 1985 was perhaps their finest year as a band, what with the release of TWO classic albums, Flip Your Wig and New Day Rising and a terrific non-album single “Eight Miles High,” a very hardcore cover of The Byrds’ terrific song. They followed all of that with their major label debut, Candy Apple Grey, in 1986. Then, they pulled a Prince-like move by releasing their SECOND double album in three years, the very polished and tame Warehouse: Songs and Stories. Abruptly afterwards, the band announced that they were disbanding. And, all I could think was that I was just discovering them!

Fast forward a couple of years to 1989, around the time my younger son was born, former Hüsker Dü guitarist and vocalist Bob Mould released his first solo album, Workbook. Much like his former band before, this album’s cuts were in massive rotation on the late great Oxford, Ohio, alternative rock music station 97-X, WOXY. Immediately, I was thrown for a loop and the songs were acoustic guitar-based and had a cello in them. WTF?!?!? Yet, I loved it, as one again Mould’s music was flying in the opposite direction of what alternative music had become. Naturally, that album became one of my absolute favorite albums from that year. It was every bit the revelation that Zen Arcade had been in 1984.

3.6 Bob_Mould
Our hero aging ever so gracefully

From that moment onward, I was a Bob Mould fan. I followed his career as he formed a new power trio Sugar in the mid-Nineties. Once again, just as that band was beginning to emerge commercially, he broke it up and went back to his solo career. Truthfully speaking, his solo career was not much to be interested in during the post-Sugar years until Mould found adult contentment in the 2010s. Since the beginning decade, the man has grown into a very creatively satisfying elder statesman of the music world. He has written one of rock’s finest autobiographies, had a fantastic documentary produced about him and released some of his finest music to date. For a gay man to finally be comfortable in his own skin as he nears 60 years of age should be an inspiration to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, skin color, political bent, etc. The man is a survivor and is at the top of his game.

Therefore, today, I am going to rank all of Bob Mould’s solo albums, along with his Hüsker Dü and Sugar discography according to my preferences. And one last thing: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Put Hüsker Dü into the Hall! If it wasn’t for them, and then the Pixies, we would NOT have had the alternative sound of the Nineties. PERIOD!

3.6 25.Modulate

25. Modulate – Bob Mould (2002)

24. Land Speed Record – Hüsker Dü (1981)

23. The Living End – Hüsker Dü (1994)

22. Body of Song – Bob Mould (2005)

21. Black Sheets of Rain – Bob Mould (1990)

3.6 20.blowoff

20. Blowoff – Blowoff (2006)

19. Metal Circus – Hüsker Dü (1983)

18. Everything Falls Apart – Hüsker Dü (1983)

17. The Last Dog and Pony Show – Bob Mould (1998)

16. Life and Times – Bob Mould (2009)

3.6 15.beauty & ruin

15. Beauty & Ruin – Bob Mould (2014)

14. Candy Apple Grey – Hüsker Dü (1986)

13. Patch the Sky – Bob Mould (2016)

12. Bob Mould – Bob Mould (1996)

11. District Line – Bob Mould (2008)

3.6 10.Sugar_Beaster

10. Beaster E.P – Sugar (1993). A fantastic gap-filler between the two formal Sugar albums. This E.P. only made me more excited about the band.

9. Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987). A totally awesome swansong to one of the 80s truly great innovators.

8. File Under: Easy Listening – Sugar (1994). The joke of the title was on those big box retail stores that were carrying this album as it was more reminiscent of Mould’s first band that the power pop trio of Sugar’s now classic debut album.

7. Sunshine Rock – Bob Mould (2019). What?!?! Did Mould go positive? Hell no! Yet, this album is perhaps his most satisfying as it seems to be an excellent summation of all his various sounds of his excellent career.

6. Zen Arcade – Hüsker Dü (1984). I can emphasize enough how much of a game-changer this album was. It was alternative rock’s first rock opera, in addition to its first double album. They were the first to bring the whole Sixties rock excess art form into the early Gen X era. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for this album, would we have gotten Smashing Pumpkins’ classic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness or American Idiot by Green Day? Trust me, the answer is an emphatic NO!

3.6 5.silver age

5. Silver Age – Bob Mould (2012). This is the best album from Mould’s renaissance years. I still go back to this album for a spin every now and then. This is the sound of a legend comfortable in his own skin.

4. Flip Your Wig – Hüsker Dü (1985). Did Hüsker Dü really just use an acoustic guitar on this album? What could be more punk rock than that at the time? More please!

3. New Day Rising – Hüsker Dü (1985). Are you kidding me?! Two classic albums in one year from one band?! You bet! Put those two 1985 albums together and you still would not diminish the growth and artistry of Hüsker Dü that year. Throw in that aforementioned single, and you have one of the greatest years for a band since The Beatles in 1964.

2. Copper Blue – Sugar (1992). 1992 was such a heady year for rock music that this one almost falls through the cracks. Mould’s vision had to be to take the songs of 1977-era Cheap Trick and funnel it through Hüsker Dü’s distortion to create power pop for the Nineties. A classic album.

3.6 1.Workbook

1. Workbook – Bob Mould (1989). I only give this one a slight nod over the previous four only because it was such a mind-blowing affair to hear Mould most discard the distortion and speed for a more rural, laid-back folkie sound. It was every bit as jolting as hearing “Makes No Sense at All” back in ’85.