A Closer Look at the Chic Organization

1.12 Autographs Chic Organization

I was in the early grades of my high school tenure when Chic hit the local radio airwaves with their first hit song, “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” in the winter of 1977. Back then, I did not have a stereo system as I had in college and beyond. Heck, back then I had a record player and a big transistor radio that pulled in AM stations from all over the Midwest and some New York stations, in addition to the local FM stations. I loved to dial in Chicago’s legendary WLS-AM at night to hear their DJs and their playlist. One thing that I loved about the top hits of those days was that no matter whether I listened to them on the transistor or my mom’s console stereo, they all seemed to jump from the radio. And, this song from Chic absolutely jumped from the crappy radio in Mom’s 1972 Buick Skylark, my transistor and the console stereos of my Mom and the parents of my friends. This record was hot and had that great throwback hook of “Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah” that reminded me of the old big band records my Mom and her brother would play whenever we visited my beloved Uncle Dick.

1.12 Chic 1979

After that, I kept an ear out for Chic on the radio, and during that time period of 1977 through 1979, they were dominating the radio with dance hits like “I Want Your Love,” “Everybody Dance,” “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” to list a few. While I loved that funky brand of disco they played, it was their sly lyrics that separated them from the average disco artist who wanted to boogie all night long. Historically speaking, I have learned just how subversive the whole disco movement was, but I never really got past the music. Plus, I was in my full-blast AC/DC and Kiss phase and had not begun to branch into the punk and new wave stuff beginning to be covered in my favorite rock magazines like CREEM.

1.12 Chic live back in the day

Then that whole awful Disco Demolition night happened up in Chicago in the summer of 1979. Just the year prior, I was dancing the nights away in Fort Collins, Colorado, at a national sports event with young ladies from all over the States. When I came home, I was quietly listening to Chic, Village People and Heatwave at home, while still maintaining my high school cred by still espousing a love for all things hard rock, since all my friends and I were in retrospect harboring some racist tendencies that I personally blamed on naivety. When I got to college, I began to slowly uncloak my true likes and dislikes, at first in the entertainment industry, especially music. That’s when I began to stock up on Chic, Parliament/Funkadelic, Rick James, Prince, Bee Gees, etc., with no irony or care.

1.12 Pic Chic Organization

Over the years, I have begun to noticed just how subversive Chic’s lyrics and music truly were. These guys, first, were creating a version of funk that just so happened to work in discos. Not all funk could do that. Plus, they were not afraid to push the boundaries on  music with drumming that came right out of a Led Zeppelin concert thanks to a Zep-loving drummer named Tony Thompson. Then, the had the funkiest bass this side of Bootsy Collins thanks to Bernard Edwards, who had the ability to sit in that rock-based rhythmic pocket of Thompson’s and funk up the beat with a jazz-like smoothness. On top of all of that was Nile Rodgers’ supped up Steve Cropper-esque scratching that put a rock cherry on top of that R&B-based guitar sound. Plus, he could throw in a Jeff Beck-influenced rock guitar solo that would eventually be expanded by no other than Prince. These guys had the chops of jazz musicians, streamed through the ears of true rock and R&B artists of the past and present. Rodgers claims Chic’s vision and music was influenced by Roxy Music, but I cannot get away from the fact that they seem to be the flipside of Steely Dan more than anything else musically speaking. Either way, this is a band that has gone on to become influences on artists like Sister Sledge, Duran Duran and Prince, to list a couple.

1.12 Chic live 2019

But the true genius of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the heart and soul of Chic was the visionary reach of this creative partnership as a whole production company that worked under the guise of The Chic Organization. You see, Chic in essence was a band that originally consisted of Rodger, Edwards, Thompson, and two female singers, Norma Jean Wright (a solo artist in her own right) and Luci Martin. Unfortunately, some legal conflicts eventually saw Wright leave the band and be replaced by Alfa Anderson. But, The Chic Organization had a coterie of musicians, singers, arrangers, engineers, etc. form around New York City who not only worked on the Chic records but also on the outside productions that Rodgers and Edwards did together and separately. Eventually, The Chic Organization crafted the Eighties dance/rock sound that dominated pop music and the dancefloors throughout the decade. Success collaborations happened with disparate artists such as Debbie Harry, Sister Sledge, David Bowie, Duran Duran, The B-52’s, Jeff Beck, Robert Palmer, to name a few. Additionally, Edwards produced a supergroup called The Power Station, whose members included bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor from Duran Duran, singer Robert Palmer and Chic drummer Tony Thompson. During Live Aid, Thompson played drums for The Power Station and his heroes Led Zeppelin, while Nile played with both Madonna and Thompson Twins, whom he had produced recent records. Throughout that decade, while Chic was no longer the hit factory it was during the late-Seventies, you could hear the influence of the band’s three musicians all over the radio and beyond.

1.12 Chic today

In 2016, Chic was nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a record eleventh time, but, for what I believe is an anti-disco faction of the voters, never got the call for induction. Since the Hall was facing growing pressure from a group of Twitter followers loosely self-labeled as Hall Watchers (of which I am proudly one), the administrators decided to induct Nile Rodgers for his Musical Excellence. I think that one ticked me off even more as the Hall ignored the contributions of Edwards, Thompson and the trio of female singers of Wright, Martin and Anderson. Like the Bee Gees and Donna Summer before them, Chic should never be pigeonholed as a disco artist. All three, as well as KC & the Sunshine Band, Sylvester and the Village People, transcended the genre, not merely defined it and should be recognized for that feat.

While I would love to dwell on my Chic fixation, I am going to broaden my argument for their influence over music by listing my Top 40 songs from The Chic Organization, which gives the fullest picture of the band Chic. Please, Rock Hall Nominating Committee and voters, Do Not Forget Chic!

1.12 40.Roses - Adam Lambert

40. “Roses” – Adam Lambert with Nile Rodgers (2020)

39. “Lay Your Hands on Me” – Thompson Twins (1985)

38. “Till the World Falls” – Chic feat. Mura Mosa, Cosha & Vic Mensa (2018)

37. “Saturday” – Norma Jean Wright (1978)

36. “Sea of Love” – The Honeydrippers (1984)

35. “When Smokey Sings” – ABC (1987)

34. “Just Another Night” – Mick Jagger (1985)

33. “Why” – Carly Simon (1982)

32. “Dress You Up” – Madonna (1984)

31. “Backfired” – Debbie Harry (1981)

1.12 30.Looking For A New Love - Jody Watley

30. “Looking for a New Love” – Jody Watley” (1987)

29. “Notorious” – Duran Duran (1986)

28. “Forever Young” – Rod Stewart (1988)

27. “You Can Leave Your Hat On” – Joe Cocker (1986)

26. “Upside Down” – Diana Ross (1980)

25. “Pressure Off” – Duran Duran feat. Janelle Monáe & Nile Rodgers (2015)

24. “Savoir Faire” – Chic (1978)

23. “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” – The Power Station (1985)

22. “The Original Sin” – INXS (1984)

21. “Tick Tock” – The Vaughan Brothers (1990)

1.12 20.It Didn't Mean to Turn You On - Robert Palmer

20. “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” – Robert Palmer (1986)

19. “Material Girl” – Madonna (1984)

18. “Modern Love” – David Bowie (1983)

17. “My Forbidden Lover” – Chic (1978)

16. “Roam” – The B-52’s (1989)

15. “Addicted to Love” – Robert Palmer (1986)

14. “People Get Ready” – Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart (1985)

13. “I Want Your Love” – Chic (1978)

12. “He’s the Greatest Dancer” – Sister Sledge (1979)

11. “Some Like It Hot” – The Power Station (1985)

1.12 10.We Are Family - Sister Sledge

10. “We Are Family” – Sister Sledge (1979)

9. “Love Shack” – The B-52’s (1989)

8. “Like a Virgin” – Madonna (1984)

7. “Let’s Dance” – David Bowie (1983)

6. “The Reflex (single remix)” – Duran Duran (1984)

1.12 5.Dance Dance Dance - Chic

5. “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” – Chic (1977)

4. “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk with Pharrell & Nile Rodgers (2012)

3. “I’m Coming Out” – Diana Ross (1980)

2. “Le Freak” – Chic (1978)

1.12 1.Good Times - Chic

1. “Good Times” – Chic (1979)

Unfortunately, Bernard Edwards passed away in 1996 at the age of 43 while the band was on tour riding a wave of disco renaissance then. Recently, Rodgers has put together a touring band that has been storming across Europe and Asia where disco never died. In 2012, interest in the band was piqued by Rodgers hooking up with Daft Punk to blend the styles of the electronic band with that of the disco master on Daft Punk’s brilliant album Random Access Memories. Finally, in 2018, Chic release a great album entitled It’s About Time, which led to a successful tour of North America as the opening act for Cher in a brilliant double-billing of the oft-overlooked but continually brilliant acts.

As I typed this blog, I was listening to the playlist I made from this list (Amazon is missing “Tick Tock”! C’mon Jeff! Surely, you could afford to add The Vaughan Brothers’ Family Style album on your service.), and it all sounds fresh today! It’s time for Chic, both the band AND the organization, to receive their due. Peace.

My Favorite Rockumentaries, Part 2

1.9 Rockumentaries

Sorry that my blog has gotten off to such a slow beginning this year. Having your father in the hospital with COVID just takes up so much time. By the way, he is slowly improving, which is miraculous. For an 85-year-old man, he was in great shape, so maybe all those years of taking care of himself are paying off for him. And, maybe it is all the prayers and positive thoughts being sent his way. I prefer to think it is a combination of all of the above. Hopefully, he will continue to improve.

Now, back to my rockumentary list! I cannot lie! I LOVE a good rockumentary. There is nothing better than a great story about a musical artist bringing said artist to life. Let’s face it that there is nothing better in my book than a great biography being brought to life with music and visual. Rock music was meant to be documented in such a manner. By the way, I am still awaiting for a rockumentary based upon the terrific Ken Sharp series of books about power pop called Play On! Power Pop Heroes (There are four volumes, with one more promised that I have been anxiously awaiting Ken!). Additionally, I would love to see documentaries created about disco, new wave, a more in-depth MTV, John Mellencamp, a professional Cheap Trick, Wham!, The Time, to name a few subjects.

Yet, today, I am presenting my Top 25 rockumentaries. So, let’s get this thing going.

1.6 25.Echo in the Canyon

25. Echo in the Canyon (2019). During the Sixties, musicians felt the urge to move West, so they all seemed to settle outside of LA in Laurel Canyon. And, the congregation of so many outstanding songwriting talent led to what we now refer to as the California Sound, that laidback mixture of rock, folk, country and R&B, as popularized by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Joni Mitchel to Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac. Directed by Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers and son of Bob.

24. Joy Division (2007). This film gives brilliant insight into one of Britain’s greatest post-punk bands that eventually evolved into New Order.

23. Punk (2018). Showtime‘s brilliant series about one of rock’s more notorious genres and how it’s revolution is still affecting music today.

22. Airplay (2012). PBS did an excellent job documenting how radio and rock music both rose and fell together. This is great look at this symbiotic relationship.

21. Amy (2015). Sometimes, certain rock artists burst onto the scene like a hot-burning meteor, streaking across the sky before exploding before our eyes. Amy Winehouse was such a talent, who, in essence, set the stage for the arrival of Adele. Once again rock fans are left to play the “What If?” game.

1.6 20.The Go Go's

20. The Go-Go’s (2020). This documentary may very well become a catalyst for The Go-Go’s to finally be inducted into the Rock Hall. Maybe Showtime could do something similar for Pat Benatar, The Shangri-La’s and Paul Weller/The Jam/The Style Council.

19. REMTV (2014). Two great tastes that taste great together: R.E.M. and MTV. What better way to document the rise of one of Gen X’s most beloved bands.

18. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (2019). CNN pulled off a pitch-perfect documentary about the woman with a pitch-perfect voice.

17. CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine (2020). CREEM magazine truly had the spirit of rock music in its pages. And this film shows us just how crazy this cast of characters really were. CREEM was my entry rag into the world of rock, and gonzo, journalism. And they were the reason I was always getting in trouble with my journalism teacher for constantly editorializing in my sports articles.

16. Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017). A behind-the-scenes look at Gaga getting prepared to knock us out during the Super Bowl. Gaga rules!

1.6 15.Bee Gees - HCYMABH

15. Bee Gees: How Do You Mend a Broken Heart (2020). The most recent documentary on this list, but there was no denying its greatness. My favorite section of the film occurs as the brothers were dominating the music world, the disco backlash was bubbling up into public view. So, the visual juxtaposition of the trio being joined onstage by their younger brother Andy Gibb in a triumphant concert as the Disco Demolition promotion was being played out in centerfield of Chicago’s Comiskey Park. That crescendo shows the Gibbs’ concert reaching its climax with the fake explosion during “Tragedy,” just as the Chicago DJ Steve Dahl blows up a huge box full of disco records that incited a riot. Simply a breath-taking sequence.

14. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011). Getting to watch the rise and fall of one of hip hop’s greatest artists is simply a privilege. Just a great film.

13. All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records (2015). A great story about arguably the greatest chain of record stores in the history of mankind reinforces how much we could use Tower Records today.

12. 20 Feet from Stardom (2013). This films tells us the story of how backup singers often have as good of or even voices than the singers for whom they work, but there is just something these people lack in the charisma department that keep them from becoming household names. Still, they press on. This is a more compelling story than Hired Guns.

11. Pearl Jam Twenty (2011). Former rock journalist-turned-successful film director Cameron Crow unfurls the dramatic story of the rise of Pearl Jan from the ashes of Mother Love Bone. Pearl Jam are rock & roll survivors.

1.6 10.Rush - BTLS

10. Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010). Whenever a movie can make a notoriously off-stage boring band as Rush seem like the most compelling cast of characters, you have a brilliant film. And this documentary IS brilliant.

9. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2013). A fantastic look at one of rock’s greatest lost bands. Watch this and become an instant fan.

8. Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991). Any time you get a total access, behind-the-scenes look at one of rock most compelling figures, you know it’s going to be great. But when the subject is Madonna, the film become transcendent.

7. Naptown Radio Wars (2012). Naptown is the old nickname for Indianapolis, back when it was a very boring town. In the 60s, one radio station, WIBC-AM, ruled the airwaves of Central Indiana. Then, WIFE-AM burst onto the scene with some slick-talking DJs and a lively Top 40 playlist. So, the company that owned WIBC created a FM station on this fledgling radio band call WNAP to combat the success of WIFE and to protect WIBC. WNAP, or The Buzzard as the station was known to us fans, not only protected WIBC but also created a whole new format that was adopted by stations across the country. This is the local story about the local radio market yet is so compelling that I feel the message is universal.

6. I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store (2010). The story of record collecting and the independent record store.

1.6 5.Stop Making Sense

5. Stop Making Sense (1984). One of the greatest in concert films ever by one of the most visually arresting bands in history. Visually compelling in the band’s presentation and fashion statement that is matched by the musicianship of one of rock’s most overlooked bands.

4. Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2007). Some may say this film runs long, but fans will be left with the feeling that we want even more! This is a brilliant chronological ride to the top with one of America’s greatest rock bands. As a long-time Petty fan, this is perfect.

3. The Last Waltz (1978). What is a better way to celebrate the last concert of one of rock’s greatest bands? Of course, you invite your favorite musician-friends to play a song or two with you and hire one of film’s greatest directors (Martin Scorsese) to film the whole damn thing. This should be mandatory viewing for every household on every Thanksgiving (it was filmed on Thanksgiving 1976). This is most compelling concert film of all-time.

2. This Is Spinal Tap(1984). This film coined the term “rockumentary.” Now, is this about a real band or not? Since we all know this is a parody, the improved dialogue is just fantastic. I love to lump this both as a documentary and a scripted film. Either way, this is the most influential film, arguably, of all time (Think about it: Best in Show and A Mighty Wind were created in the same manner. Additionally, rock stars everywhere praise the accuracy of characters’ actions.).

1.6 1.Standing in the Shadows of Motown

1. Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002). Before this movie, who knew who the Funk Brothers were? Be honest. That’s what I thought, just a handful. Then you watch this joint, and you can’t believe that this group of otherworldly talented musicians who created the Motown Sound were totally left out of the financial pot of gold they made. This is a fantastic story about the brotherhood of a group of black and white men who were brothers in the truest sense. I must watch this documentary every three months, and I’d probably watch it more often if I could stream it for free.

And, that wraps it all up! I hope I have inspired you to watch something new. Peace.

COVID and My 100 Favorite Rockumentaries

1.5 Rockumentary

Goodbye 2020! You have gone down in history as the worst year I have ever experienced. And, even though we are now officially in 2021, I still feel as though I have discovered an unlisted bonus track for 2020. You see, my father, who has been so very careful throughout the pandemic at my urging, still contracted COVID and has been hospitalized essentially since December 30. I don’t wish this experience on any of you and your loved ones. Although he is 85 years old, Dad has been an example of great health during his retirement years. I firmly believe he is alive today because he walks three miles a day, five days a week. And, every day he stretches, does 50 pushups and 50 sit-ups. The man is in much better shape than I am these days. But, COVID does not care and affects everyone differently as his wife, my step-mother, was the first to become sick, but her course of the disease was mild and relatively short. So, if you could send my dad, Karl, some positive thoughts or prayers or whatever you do, it would be appreciated.

Several years ago, back when this blog was on Facebook and only some of my friends read it, I did a rather undisciplined ranking of my favorite rock documentaries of all-time. For some reason, one of my former high school friends took massive offense to my ranking and blocked me because I categorized A Hard Day’s Night and the biopic The Runaways as rock feature films, he literally blew a gasket, said some awful things in a post, then blocked me. I was taken aback, but I quickly learned that everyone is passionate about their music, so when you blog about music you will occasionally come under attack. I’m just glad I chose to write about music rather than politics or religion or some non-controversial topic.

Anyway, over the past four or five years, I have watched way more documentaries and in-concert films than I care to admit (but thank goodness for Quello/Stingray and Amazon Prime!), but I definitely feel like I can do the subject more justice than I did in the past. Of course, this will not be in the same category as my Rock Hall observer colleague, Nick Bambach, does in this category, but I will try my best.

This is Day 1 of a two-day miniseries. So, let’s get this thing going.

100. Soul Power (2008)

99. Scott Walker: 30th Century Man (2008)

98. Super Duper Alice Cooper (2014)

97. Until the Light Takes Us (2008). A little film about the Norwegian death metal scene.

96. Supersonic: The Oasis Documentary (2016)

95. The Damned: Don’t You Wish We Were Dead (2016)

94. Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

93. Crossfire Hurricane – The Rolling Stones (2012). A look-back at the band on their fiftieth anniversary as a band.

92. Don’t Look Back – Bob Dylan (1966). The granddaddy of all rockumentaries.

91. New York Doll (2005).

90. Upside Down: The Creation Records Story (2010)

89. The Filth and Fury (2000). The real story of the Sex Pistols…or is it?

88. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story (2019)

87. Dig! (2004). A look at two bands who came out at a moment when fewer people were listening to rock music. The bands? The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

86. Depeche Mode: 101 (1989). A perfectly timed look into the rise of Depeche Mode into a stadium-filling act.

85. Mystify: Michael Hutchence (2019). All about the charismatic lead singer of INXS.

84. Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006).

83. When You’re Strange (2010). A documentary about The Doors.

82. Quincy (2018). Quincy Jones has every right in the world to have a huge ego.

81. Looking for Johnny – The Johnny Thunders Story (2014)

80. Long Strange Trip (2017). Of course it’s about the Grateful Dead.

79. Let It Be (1969). If it was only the last Beatles’ live performance on the rooftop of the Apple Building, this would be noteworthy. And, still it’s more.

78. Athens, GA: Inside and Out (1987). A look at the rock scene of a college town at the dawn of the 80s.

77. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (2016)

76. ZZ Top: That Little Old Band from Texas (2019)

75. A Band Called Death (2012). An ode to the Detroit punk band that imploded before they could get their due in the 70s.

74. The Decline of the Western Civilization (1981). The first entry by future Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris’ look into the LA punk/hardcore scene of the early 80s.

73. Herb Alpert Is… (2020)

72. Marley (2012). It’s about Bob, not that dog in that lame movie with Owen Wilson.

71. Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (2018)

70. Live Aid (2004). The concert event of my generation.

69. Urgh! A Musical War (1981). This was the punk world before there was MTV.

68. This Is It (2009). A look at Michael Jackson’s preparation for his big concert comeback at the O2 in London in the weeks leading up to his death.

67. Dave Chapelle’s Block Party (2006). Exactly what the title says!

66. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco (2002)

65. New Order: Decades (2018)

64. U2: Rattle and Hum (1988)

63. Searching for Sugarman (2012)

62. Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986)

61. The Secret to a Happy Ending: A Documentary About the Drive-By Truckers (2011)

60. Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (2020)

59. The Beatles Anthology (1995-1996)

58. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019)

57. Muscle Shoals (2013). The magic was in the studio’s musicians, a coterie of forward-thinking good old Southern boys.

56. The Wrecking Crew (2008). The best of the LA session players.

55. The Black Godfather(2019). Clarence Avant is the mastermind and mentor behind nearly every black person in the entertainment industry.

54. Shut Up and Play the Hits (2012). Follow the LCD Soundsystem as they prepare for their “farewell” concert.

53. Jingle Bell Rocks! (2014). All about the everyday Joes who collect Christmas music.

52. American Hardcore (2006). The whole American alternative nation began with these bands, like Black Flag, Hüsker Dü and the rest.

51. Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (2019)

50. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (2007)

49. Sound City (2013). Dave Grohl! Was it the soundboard or the building that made the studio so great?

48. It Might Get Loud (2008). Answers the unasked question as to what would happen if Jimmy Page, The Edge of U2 and Jack White all got together with their guitars?

47. Pick It Up! – Ska in the 90s (2020). Of course, No Doubt’s in it! Gwen Stefani sells.

46. If I Leave Here Tomorrow – A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd (2018)

45. Oil City Confidential (2009). A look back at the big pre-punk English band Dr. Feelgood and why they never reached the stardom that many thought they were destined for.

44. Sign o’ the Times (1987). Nothing better than Prince in concert.

43. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)

42. Duran Duran: There’s Something You Should Know (2018)

41. Monterrey Pop (1968). The first really big rock festival gets the documentary treatment.

40. End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2003)

39. Seven Ages of Rock (2007). A British mini-series that attempted to tell the story of rock history from 1965 to the then-present.

38. The History of Rock & Roll (1995). Under the supervision of Quincy Jones, Time/Life satisfyingly tackles a huge chunk of history in music. Sure, there are holes, so I would love to see this series updated.

37. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2009). Anvil, one of those heavy metal also-rans continue to chase the golden ring, showing the love between the two original members. Heartwarming, funny and maybe a little sad all at the same time.

36. What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015). Nina Simone is one of music’s most compelling characters.

35. The Kids Are Alright (1979). A great look into The Who.

34. Hip-Hop Evolution (2016 – 2019). Netflix did a fantastic job with this series about the history of rap music.

33. Woodstock (1970). No way this one could be left off the list.

32. Amazing Grace (1972). Aretha Franklin, at the height of her powers, going back to her gospel roots? Yes please!

31. ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke (2019). Netflix’ ReMastered series has had some excellent episodes, but this one about Sam Cooke is mesmerizing.

30. Hired Gun (2017). Being hired to be in a star’s band includes many highs and lows.

29. The Decline of the Western Civilization: The Metal Years (1988). Spheeris really solidified her documentary credentials with this look at the hair metal scene on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in the mid-80s.

28. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005). Dylan gets his first Scorsese treatment.

27. Gimme Shelter (1969). Many consider this to be the definitive film about The Stones.

26. Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America (2019). Who better than ?uestlove and Black Thought to tell the history of hip hop through the most important songs of the genre. Absolutely brilliant!

Well, folks, we’ll pick up here tomorrow! Peace.

My 2020 Christmas Playlist

Wow! This poor head space I had been in for the better part of a month seems to be finally clearing a bit. I’ve tried all of my usual methods of clearing it that I’ve learning over the years. The best? For me, it was always physical exercise. But, did you hear? I’m disabled, though my younger son is trying to get me to join him in shooting a basketball with him. The gym was always my sanctuary growing up. Inside those magical rectangular lines was a universe of possibility where creativity worked arm-in-arm with good old left-brained strategy. Even today my brain awakens me from slumber with ideas for basketball offenses and defenses. And, I cannot remember a day in my life when that hasn’t been true, though I suspect my youthful dreams were very juvenile.

Today, music is my refuge. Everything I write today has basis in the music I continue to listen to. Whenever I finish my book, every scene in it goes with a specific song, be it from my youth or today. Every one of them! And, each and every character has a specific song to describe them. It’s easier for me to envision their personalities this way. It’s a crazy method in which to write, but it seems to be working, when I don’t get pissed about how it reads and delete chapters of it. For all the appearance of me being laidback, I am really intense about everything I do, and highly critical of it. It’s an interesting paradox between an appearance of not giving a damn about what people think and letting every bad thing someone has said about me keep whispering those things in my ears. I know the story is there, and I know I am NOT John Irving or Cameron Crowe, or even Lester Bangs, but I gotta get this stupid story out of my brain.

So, I felt that today would be a great day to wrap up another year of blogging with my 2020 Christmas Playlist. We use it around here so we can wrap packages, decorate the homestead and wind up our grandkids, though our granddaughter has not been around here since August due to the fact that people think a mask is some infringement on their constitutional rights. Remember, your personal freedoms end when they begin to infringe on the freedoms of others. So, Americans, put your damn masks on.

Sorry! Got off track again! Where was I? Oh yeah! Christmas! I’ve always loved Christmas, though this pandemic is attempting to take the joy right out of it. Unfortunately, only my younger son, his wife and their son will be over for gift exchange. Obviously, my dad and step-mother, my step-dad and his friend and my aunt, who are all over 80, will not be here with us. Of course, my older son and his family are staying away to protect us. We will hang with our other son because we watch Crosby for a couple hours a couple times a week so they can work. That means we are in a bubble with them and her parents.

Now, this playlist is intended to be used often over the course of the days leading up to Christmas, including Christmas day. Personally, I use Amazon Music Unlimited for my streaming, but I’m sure these songs are available on other formats. Keep in mind, this list is for the classics, not my annual mixtape of holiday horrors that I unleash on my family with unusual “gems” that I have uncovered during the year or some “nuggets” that needed to be included to make my “Aural Eggnog” more unbearable, yet somewhat treasured to the few that receive one.

So, this is how my household keeps the mood festive here in Central Indiana. Enjoy!

  1. Al Green – “The First Noel” (1990)
  2. Andy Williams – “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (1963)
  3. Aretha Franklin – “O Christmas Tree” (1992)
  4. Ariana Grande – “Santa Tell Me” (2013)
  5. Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984)
  6. Big Star – “Jesus Christ” (1978)
  7. Billy Squier – “Christmas Is the Time to Say ‘I Love You'” (1981)
  8. Bing Crosby – “White Christmas” (1947)
  9. Bing Crosby & David Bowie – “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” (1982)
  10. Brenda Lee – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958)
  11. Britney Spears – “My Only Wish” (2000)
  12. Bruce Springsteen – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1975)
  13. Bryan Adams – “Run Rudolph Run” (1987)
  14. Carpenters – “Merry Christmas Darling” (1970)
  15. Carrie Underwood – “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” (2009)
  16. Charles Brown – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1960)
  17. Cheap Trick – “Merry Christmas Darlings” (2017)
  18. Cheech & Chong – “Santa & His Old Lady” (1971)
  19. Chicago – “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (1998)
  20. Clarence Carter – “Back Door Santa” (1968)
  21. Cocteau Twins – “Frosty the Snowman” (1992)
  22. Coldplay – “Christmas Lights” (2010)
  23. Dan Fogelberg – “Same Old Lang Syne” (1980)
  24. Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1963)
  25. Dolly Parton – “Hard Candy Christmas” (1982)
  26. Donny Hathaway – “This Christmas” (1970)
  27. Eagles – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1978)
  28. Elmo & Patsy – “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (1979)
  29. Elton John – “Step into Christmas” (1973)
  30. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas” (1957)
  31. Eurythmics – “Winter Wonderland” (1987)
  32. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again” (1992)
  33. Faith Hill – “Where Are You Christmas” (2000)
  34. Fitz & the Tantrums – “Santa Stole My Lady” (2010)
  35. Gene Autry – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949)
  36. Greg Lake – “I Believe in Father Christmas” (1975)
  37. Gwen Stefani feat. Blake Shelton – “You Make It Feel like Christmas” (2017)
  38. Harry Simone Chorale – “Little Drummer Boy” (1958)
  39. James Brown – “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” (1968)
  40. John Legend & Kelly Clarkson – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (2019)
  41. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (1970)
  42. John Mellencamp – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1987)
  43. Johnny Cash – “O Come All Ye Faithful” (1980)
  44. Jon Bon Jovi – “I Wish Everyday Could Be Christmas” (1992)
  45. Jonas Brothers – “Like It’s Christmas” (2019)
  46. Joni Mitchell – “River” (1971)
  47. José Feliciano – “Feliz Navidad” (1970)
  48. Justin Bieber – “Mistletoe” (2011)
  49. Kacey Musgraves feat. Leon Bridges – “Present Without a Bow” (2017)
  50. Kenny Loggins – “Celebrate Me Home” (1977)
  51. Kurtis Blow – “Christmas Rappin'” (1980)
  52. Madonna – “Santa Baby” (1987)
  53. Mariah Carey – “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994)
  54. Megan Trainor feat. Earth, Wind & Fire – “Holidays” (2020)
  55. Mike Love & Hanson – “Finally, It’s Christmas” (2018)
  56. moe. – “Together at Christmas” (2002)
  57. Nat “King” Cole – “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)” (1960)
  58. OneRepublic – “Christmas Without You” (2012)
  59. Otis Redding – “Merry Christmas Baby” (1968)
  60. Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christtime” (1979)
  61. Pentatonix & Jennifer Hudson – “How Great Are You” (2017)
  62. Pretenders – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1987)
  63. Prince – “Another Lonely Christmas” (1984)
  64. Queen – “Thank God It’s Christmas” (1984)
  65. Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” (1989)
  66. Run-DMC – “Christmas in Hollis” (1987)
  67. RuPaul – “Hey Sis, It’s Christmas” (2018)
  68. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects” (2011)
  69. She & Him – “Christmas Waltz” (2011)
  70. Sia – “Candy Can Lane” (2017)
  71. Slade – “Merry Xmas Everybody” (1973)
  72. Stevie Wonder – “Someday at Christmas” (1967)
  73. Stevie Wonder – “What Christmas Means to Me” (1967)
  74. Sufjan Stevens – “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” (2006)
  75. Taylor Swift – “Christmas Tree Farm” (2020)
  76. Tevin Campbell – “O Holy Night” (1992)
  77. The Band – “Christmas Must Be Tonight” (1977)
  78. The Beach Boys – “Little Saint Nick” (1964)
  79. The Chipmunks – “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Time Is Here)” (1958)
  80. The Drifters – “White Christmas” (1954)
  81. The Jackson 5 – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1970)
  82. The Kinks – “Father Christmas” (1977)
  83. The Monkees – “Unwrap You at Christmas” (2018)
  84. The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl – “Fairytale of New York” (1988)
  85. The Regrettes – “Marshmallow World” (2016)
  86. The Ronettes – “Sleigh Bell” (1963)
  87. The Royal Guardsmen – “Snoopy’s Christmas” (1967)
  88. The Staple Singers – “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas” (1970)
  89. The Supremes – “Silver Bells” (1965)
  90. The Temptations – “Silent Night” (1970)
  91. The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping” (1982)
  92. TLC – “Sleigh Ride” (1992)
  93. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Christmas All Over Again” (1992)
  94. Train – “Shake Up Christmas” (2010)
  95. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” (1995)
  96. Tyler, the Creator – “I Am the Grinch” (2018)
  97. U2 – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1987)
  98. Vince Vance & the Valiants – “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1989)
  99. Weezer – “Christmas Celebration” (2000)
  100. Wham! – “Last Christmas” (1984)
  101. Whitney Houston – “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (1987)
  102. Wizzard – “I Wish Everyday Could Be Christmas” (1973)

Happy Holidays, which ever one you are celebrating! Peace!

My Top 40 Albums for 2020

12.9 2020

The other day, one of my high school friends posted a meme on his Facebook wall. You’ve probably seen it, but it sums up my attitude about this year. It said, “I’m staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Not to ring in the New Year, but to make sure this one leaves.” This year has been the most grueling and overwhelming year, not simply for me but for all Western society. Many of the comforts that we took for granted are now missing leaving us to reevaluate just exactly what is truly important to us in our lives. Family? Jobs? Healthcare?

As a microbiology student in college, we seemed to always discuss what should be done during a pandemic. Often, we would look back to the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 for what they did correctly and what they didn’t. Every time the discussion came up, it always started with our initial defense being mitigation efforts, such as wearing a mask, social distancing (though back in 1918, scientists believed that six feet was NOT enough distance between individuals, but we’ve learned much since then) and locking down communities/counties/states/countries for 100 days. Back in 1918, the trouble was the ability to disseminate the information to the public, since there was a lack of a mass media as we have today. Today, we have the mass media, but we have much misinformation being passed along which confuses the less informed.

For us to put this pandemic in our collective rearview mirror, we need 90-95% of the world’s population to get vaccinated. And, that will take a Herculean effort and cooperation not only by the population in the States but throughout the world. From what I’ve been reading, experts are anticipating this will take a couple of years to complete. Remember while our friends in the UK are getting vaccinated now, we should celebrate the beginning of the end. However, the end is still off in the distance, especially in this time of world travel and economics. But, as they say, the lady is finally warming up her vocal cords for her long-anticipated solo.

All of this created frustrations in all of us. It seems an eternity ago that all of the NCAA basketball games were being cancelled, but that was just in early March. Now, the NFL and NCAA are getting a majority of their games in, while the NCAA allowed basketball to open their season. And mere months after the Lakers claimed the NBA in a bubble championship, the NBA is getting ready to start thing up again. However, all of these games are being played in near-empty stadiums.

And, the music world has been very strange this year. Many artists had to delay the release of their physical albums due to COVID (It took me two months before I finally received my vinyl three-record set of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers & All the Rest, but I have it now!). Then, all forms of touring were delayed for AT LEAST a year, we affected some many music fans out there. The Kellers had quite a lineup set this summer with Billy Joel, Hall & Oates/Squeeze, Rage Against the Machine and Guns ‘N Roses.

Initially, artists offered to submit acoustic performances for special broadcast shows. Then, other artists began various special broadcasts and streams of one-off concerts. There were drive-in concerts at some outdoors concert venues and drive-in theaters (remember those?) with performances projected on a big screen. Everyone was trying, though the communal experience was still missing.

Then, by summer, artists, who suddenly were at home with little to do, began writing and recording and dropping albums left and right. Big names like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and the Drive-By Truckers led the way with this. Others had records that were recorded before the beginning of the pandemic started that were going to be dropped regardless.

To be honest, the music released during 2020 was solid, not spectacular, just solid. Maybe, it’s because I’m a grumpy old man now and haven’t seen my granddaughter since August, or maybe I am sick and tired of not going anywhere for some fun. The music of 2020 has been soothing and comforting, but none of it excited me to get off my ass and do something. Then again, maybe that’s what was actually needed to keep us calm during this most stressful moment in time.

I cannot remember needing to work this hard to listen to so many albums. It was easy in my youth because it was all new and exciting. Now, I just don’t have the patience to wait for the hook. It could be a societal/Information Age thing or it could be my age, I don’t know (Personally, I think it’s a little of both.). So, folks, my Top 40 list is jammed full of artists with whom are “old,” with very few of the cool artists that the kids would be into.

So, let’s jump in and get this countdown going!

12.9 kylie minogue - disco

40. Kylie Minogue – DISCO. The former-teen star has comeback with a terrific album updating the disco era for a whole new generation.

39. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is King. The Wilco leader turns in a solid set that doesn’t travel far from the sound of his band over the past two decades.

38. Thundercat – It Is What It Is. Arguably this generation’s greatest bassist nails his jazz/yacht rock sound once again.

37. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately. I know the younger critics LOVE this album and it IS good. But, to me, it is a solid indie pop album from the 2000s.

36. Ariana Grande – Positions. Yes, little Ariana is all grown up now. And, her music is maturing as well. Makes sense that she would be making solid albums at this point in her career.

35. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now. I’ve been waiting nearly a decade for this talented woman to finally breakthrough to massive commercial success. Is she becoming another Janelle Monaé?

34. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Ms. Apple’s albums are so damn consistently good, it’s nearly unbelievable. This one happens to be the album of the year on many lists.

33. Megan Thee Stallion – Good News. After the great Kendrick Lamar, MTS may just be the best rapper of her generation.

32. Fleet Foxes – Shore. The critical darlings of a decade ago are back with a quiet roar on this album, their best since their debut.

31. Paul McCartney – McCartney III. 50 years after McCartney and 40 since McCartney II comes the third in the trilogy of albums where Sir Paul plays everything himself while experimenting in the studio. I love it when he is truly inspired.

12. 9 Phoebe_Bridgers_Punisher_(2020)

30. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher. This album just may get her the Grammy for Best New Artist coming up.

29. Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling. My favorite Southern Rock band dropped this at the beginning of the year as an attempt at rectifying their southern roots in the 21st century.

28. The Chicks – Gaslighter. While DBT attempt to square their rural upbringing with their liberal leanings, The Chicks got that straightened out a long time ago. So, the Trump era was the perfect time for these woman to come back with a vengeance.

27. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor. The lead singer of pop punk band Paramore finally released her long-anticipated album and it’s a good one.

26. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy. Like Johnny Cash before him, Dylan has been going through something of a late-in-life renaissance. And, I am thankful for that.

25. Billie Joe Armstrong – No Fun Mondays. At the beginning of the pandemic, Armstrong started digging through his record collection and began recording and releasing a video of him doing a cover of some of his favorites. This album is much edgier, and perhaps better than Weezer’s like-minded Teal Album from a year ago.

24. Drive-By Truckers – The New OK. DBT were not content to rest upon the laurels of their first album of the year, the aforementioned The Unraveling. This album is an even stronger extension of the previous one the band released in 2020.

23. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Reunions. Since leaving DBT, Isbell has become the best Americana artist going, including his former band.

22. The Killers – Imploding the Mirage. Yes, I love all the artists who remind me of the Eighties. While The Killers have been kind of sleepwalking through their career since their excellent debut Hot Fuss, the band had me immediately with “Caution,” their first single from this album. And, it is comforting that they have finally gotten their standards back up to that transcendent first one.

21. Halsey – Maniac. I know I am not in Halsey’s target audience, but I sure do love how she works her demons out through her art. This young lady is a major talent who has yet to hit her creative stride.

12.9 Pearl_Jam_-_Gigaton

20. Pearl Jam – Gigaton. Can you believe that the two greatest surviving bands of the Nineties, Green Day and these guys, both released albums in the same year? And for a brief moment, my boys were back in elementary, and we were jamming in the mini-van. Talk about a Nineties cliché.

19. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over. Understatement of the year: this guy is so good!

18. Neil Young – Homegrown. Hey Neil! Thanks for finally releasing this g.d. album! This is brilliant. How could you let it sit on the shelf while you were releasing Trans? Sometimes, you just really piss me off. 

17. Childish Gambino – 3.15.2020. I know you are still pissed that you didn’t get selected for a SNL cast, but I think things have worked out much better for you. Oh, and this album is super fine too!

16. Run the Jewels – RTJ4. This is hip hop’s best duo going right now. To me, they are rap’s version of The Clash, making one spot-on political statement after another in their music. Thanks guys! We needed it.

15. AC/DC – Power Up. The first band I saw in concert in an arena in 1979. They’ve survived the death of first lead singer Bon Scott and now rhythm guitarist and riff-meister Malcolm Young and still made a great album in 2020. This one is the band’s best since their salad days of the early-Eighties.

14. Green Day – Father of All Motherfuckers. Green Day reminded me just how much I love power pop music with this album. No, it’s not Dookie nor even American Idiot, but it’s better than anything they’ve the past decade. Why? The guys sound like they are having fun.

13. The Strokes – The New Abnormal. I remember when my older son brought The Strokes’ first album home when he was in high school and played it for me. That lead us to listen to my old CBGBs bands, like Talking Heads, Blondie, Johnny Thunders, Television, Dead Boys, etc. Man, it is so good to have them back to form so I can get some flashbacks going.

12. Elvis Costello – Hey Clockface. The last concert I went to was Elvis in November 2019. During that stellar show, he debuted some of the songs on this album. So, I was anxious to get a copy of this one and it did not disappoint. And, all is right in the world again.

11. X – Alphabetland. If you had told back in 1990 that X would reform in 2020 and make a punk record that stands up to everything they recorded in the Eighties, I would have bet against you. Well, I lost. This album should make X the comeback story of the year.

12.9 Miley_Cyrus_-_Plastic_Hearts

10. Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts. Now, this is NOT the rock album that the critics are saying it is. But, it IS rock-tinged and does rock, which is a great texture for an excellent pop-rock record. Kudos to Miley for continuing to take career risks. But, this sound suits her well.

9. Taylor Swift – Folklore. This is the same young lady who is around my younger son’s age who’s career began as a pop country artist? Wow! While I’ve respected her past work, this is the actual visceral stuff that true artists are made of.

8. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia. Ms. Lipa’s sophomore album is a triumph. This is a younger person’s take on Seventies and Eighties disco/dance music than Kylie Minogue attacked from a knowing perspective. It’s the innocence of youth that takes the music to another level.

7. Bob Mould – Blue Hearts. Once again, Mr. Mould has proven he has mastered his sound and knows how to craft outstanding songs that will sound fresh 50 years from now. He’s been on a roll for a decade now.

6. Lady Gaga – Chromatica. My favorite 21st century artist continues to impress with this album that does not have a ballad. She’s got some big balls after the mega-success “Shallow.” That’s what I love about her, the willingness to follow her muse and not chase album sales.

12.9 Tame_Impala_-_The_Slow_Rush

5. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush. Kevin Parker IS Tame Impala and this album is his crown jewel. I love the electronic flourishes of psychedelia in his take on the pop/rock medium. I continue to come back to this album day after day.

4. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II. I fell in love with this band when I heard their version of The Band’s “Makes No Difference” on a tribute compilation nearly 15 years ago. They have been up and down over the years, so when I heard they were releasing an album of outtakes from the sessions that created one of the band’s less interesting albums, The Waterfall. Well, I was very skeptical. Then, I heard it. I listened again. Then, I bought it. And I listen some more. How did MMJ ever leave this stuff off the original album? This is magnificent.

3. HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III. So, nothing on this sister trio ever prepared me for this album. Whoa! Obviously, they grew up absorbing all of the right music in their parents’ collection. Now, the Haim sisters have become their own women and artists. This is the finest album of a 21st century artist this year. I hope they win the Grammy for it, but I’m afraid Taylor will win yet another one.

Paul Weller – On Sunset. Of course, my top two are going to all-time favorites of mine. I was all prepared to give Weller the nod for #1, but I pulled back just now. This album is a perfect summer album. It’s not a Beach Boys or Eagles type of album. No, this one harkens back to the early-Seventies soul I used to listen to on my little transistor radio on the headboard of my bed. This is the music of the Chi-Lites, The O’Jays and The Stylistics channeled through Weller’s English rock base to create some excellent music for those of us middle aged folks. I was listening to some of The Style Council stuff yesterday and who would have ever guessed that Weller’s voice would mature to sound at times like Ray Charles, or at least Richard Manuel of The Band.

12.9 Letter to You

1. Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You. When it comes to my musical heroes, I try not to get worked up by the media hype behind their albums. Instead, I tend to listen to their newer albums with a pinch of trepidation. But, by the third song on this album, I swore I was back in my dorm room, listening to Springsteen with my roommate and others, bouncing around the room. Now, my bouncing days are long gone, but this is vintage Springsteen at his best. And, personally, it was the album I needed in 2020.

And, that’s a wrap on 2020. Let’s keep the music and throw away the rest of it. Peace!

Just Like Starting Over: Has It Really Been 40 Years?

12.8 lennon murder

As with every other teenage male, 40 years ago, I too was watching Monday Night Football. However, unlike most, I got bored with the game and went to bed. And, I slept.

Then, at 6:00 AM, Mom turned on her bedroom radio, which always woke me up. It was then that I heard the news, “John Lennon was shot and killed last night outside…” Immediately, I shot out of bed and yelled to Mom if I heard that right about John Lennon? Calmly, she replied, “I think so.” Shocked, I staggered to the shower. As I robotically performed exquisite personal hygiene, the news continued to sink into my uncomprehending brain that John Lennon, a complicated man who talked often and passionately about world peace, was violently murdered by a deranged “fan.” It just seemed impossible.

12.8 John & Yoko

Before I left for school for yet another day of my senior year of high school that Tuesday morning, I watched the local morning news for any tidbits on this story. After I finished eating breakfast, I got my stuff together to head out to Mom’s car in order to go to school. She let me drive her car so she never had to come pick me up after my practices. Instead, she carpooled with another teacher to school, while my younger brother took the bus.

As I drove down the street to pick up my sister-of-a-different-family Lori to take her to school, I listened intently to the AM radio for news. Since Lori and I had basically grown up together, she probably sensed that it was not a good time to be her usual bubbly cheerleader self. Quietly, perhaps for the first time ever, we made the eight-mile trip to school with the radio being the only source of sound. Now, Lori and I never dated. As a matter of fact, we were dating other people at the time. But, our forged sibling bond over the years perplexed many. So, when we got to school, we went our separate ways.

12.8 john lennon shot

Every morning, the seniors would hang out in the main hall as we sat on the bench as just socialized. That morning, many of us were stunned, few of us mature enough to honestly articulate what happened the night before. The murder of John Lennon meant something, but what?

Four decades on, that murder is one of the saddest events in the history of rock music, which is littered with many sad stories. During my freshman year in college, I wrote a research paper on this murder and the man John Lennon. What was cool was that my English professor’s husband taught a class on The Beatles, so we were constantly sending notes back-and-forth about this research as he would guide me throughout. Today, I think about how his wife, a tenured English professor, was reduced to an ancient email account. The bottom line was that I spent a major portion of the quarter attempting to answer that simple question but came away with little other than a man was shot to death by another suffering from mental health issues.

John & Yoko In Hyde Park
John Lennon and Yoko Ono attend a rally in Hyde Park, London, England, in 1975.

Now? I think it represents the end of the Boomers’ dominance over rock music. Sure, their generation discovered many of the possibilities, but we were eight months from a cable company called MTV from coming on air to set in motion the shift to a new generation’s musical tastes. And was that a good thing? Probably, since the idea is simply adhering to the laws of evolution, music has to keep evolving. Rock today shares little musically in common with the music of John Lennon and the rest of The Beatles. But, it does share the rebellious nature that is ingrained in the music of the youth.

12.8 John Lennon 1980

The downside to this shift has been the loss of a galvanizing sense that the music of the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties all spawned. It’s probably a good thing legendary rock music critic Lester Bangs never lived long enough to witness all these changes, since he appeared to be a conservative when it came to his vision of rock music. It’s strange to me to see how music has once again become background fodder as opposed to the voice of change it once represented.

Unfortunately, that’s what John’s death has come to represent: the simple end of an era. Like all artists cut down early, you are left wondering what directions he would have moved musically. Then, again, maybe Double Fantasy would have only been considered a nice little comeback with some good songs wedged between Yoko’s stuff. John would have always been revered since he was a Beatle and because of his initial solo material. And, maybe he would have just faded back into the crowd after 1980, becoming yet another artistic enigma.

12.8 john-lennon-memorial-in-central-park

What we are left with of importance is his great music and insightful lyrics. No one can ever live up to their writing, since it is just a two-dimensional portrait of one idea or memory. So, try not to extrapolate greatness out of those lyrics since the person who wrote them are much more complicated than those words. However, let the words become inspirations for a better you, and subsequently, a better world.

Perhaps his most poignant lyrics came not from “Help” or “Imagine.” I’d have to go with these words from “Beautiful Boy”:

“Life is what happens to you
While you’re busy making other plans”

Yet, another reminder that we need to slow down and savor those special moments each of us has that will never go down in a history book. All of this is what I missed about John Lennon in the immediate aftermath of his death as a nineteen-year-old in my term paper from 1982.

Here’s to a better world John. Peace.

Hey Funko Pop! I Have Some Ideas for Some Iconic Stars

12.2 Funko Pop Rocks

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog entry about this Funko Pop vinyl figurines of various icons from pop culture, from advertising characters and movie/television characters to athletes and musicians. Collectors of all sorts have jumped on these figures, including this music collector. Now, I have scaled back my collection, perhaps a bit too much, but, all-n-all, I am pleased with my current collection. As of 2020, there are over 200 Pops in their Rock collection.

12.2 Pop Prince

Back when I discovered these creations back in 2012, I purchased a set of the original Kiss figures for my mom’s doll collection. If Alzheimer’s had not taken her brain away from us, I know this line of Pops would have been right up her alley. She collected movie star dolls and advertising dolls, so those Pops would have been naturals in her collection. That’s why Kiss made perfect sense for her, as those four men in their iconic makeup would remind Mom of the teenage version of her older son. Unfortunately, she never really got to enjoy them as her mind was quickly wiped of her memories of all the years after 1970. By the time we put her in a nursing home’s memory care unit, I was a “nice man from church” while her older son was just a baby and my brother had yet to be born. So, it is no wonder that I am attracted to this line of unique collectables.

12.2 Pop Kiss originals

Now, when I downsized, I made a huge mistake by selling those Kiss guys, Alice Cooper and my Amy Winehouse figure. But, I was wise to keep Joey Ramone, Rick James, Kurt Cobain, all three versions of Prince, my Rush three-pack, the two versions of Elton John, Rivers Cuomo, all five members of Duran Duran, the three musicians of Queen plus a Seventies and an Eighties Freddie Mercury AND Debbie Harry of Blondie. Of the non-vaulted Pops in the Rock collection, I’d love to get The Police, the new Run-DMC and Billy Idol, since many of my college friends associate me with him.

12.2 Pop Run-DMC 2011

12.2 Pop Run-DMC 2020

But, something has been bothering me since I noticed that the company was beginning to do a couple of retreads from their early days, such as the aforementioned Run-DMC, Tupac, The Notorious BIG and now Elvis Presley. I mean, the newer versions are terrific, especially their details. But, they have all been done before. So, today, I am here to suggest 50 more rock stars (I have well over 100 possibilities!), along with a couple of lines that might pay off for Funko. In addition to the Rock line, I feel like they should start a Comedy line, along with a SNL Cast Member line and a Late Night Talk Show Host line. With that said, here are my initial suggestions for each line.

The Rock Line:

  1. ABBA (Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, & Anni-Frid Lyngstad)
  2. Beastie Boys (Mike D, Ad-Rock & MCA)
  3. Bee Gees (Barry, Maurice & Robin Gibb)
  4. Beyoncé
  5. Bob Marley
  6. Bruce Springsteen
  7. Cheap Trick (Rick Nielson, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson & Bun E. Carlos)
  8. Cyndi Lauper
  9. Daft Punk (both “robots”)
  10. Daryl Hall & John Oates
  11. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana)
  12. David Bowie (can be from several of his eras)
  13. Destiny’s Child (Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams)
  14. Devo (Mark Mothersbaugh, Jerry Casale, Bob Casale, Bob Mothersbaugh & Alan Myers)
  15. Donna Summer
  16. Elvis Costello
  17. Eurythmics (Annie Lennox & Dave Stewart)
  18. Fleetwood Mac (Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie & Stevie Nicks)
  19. Fugees (Lauren Hill, Pras, Wyclef Jean)
  20. Gwen Stefani
  21. Janet Jackson
  22. Jay-Z
  23. Lady Gaga
  24. Lana Del Rey
  25. Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham & John Paul Jones)
  26. Madonna (like Bowie, she has many eras that can be immortalized)
  27. Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament & Matt Cameron)
  28. R.E.M. (Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills & Bill Berry)
  29. Red Hot Chili Peppers (Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith & John Frusciante)
  30. Robert Smith (The Cure)
  31. St. Vincent
  32. Stevie Wonder
  33. Taylor Swift
  34. The B-52’s (Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson, Kate Pierson &
  35. The Bangles (Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, Vicki Peterson & Michael Steele)
  36. The Go-Go’s (Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock & Kathy Valentine)
  37. The Jacksons (Michael, Marlon, Tito, Randy, Jermaine & Randy)
  38. The Monkees (Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith & Peter Tork)
  39. The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Woods, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor & Brian Jones)
  40. The Runaways (Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Cherie Curie, Jackie Fox & Sandy West)
  41. The Supremes (Diana Ross, Mary Wilson & Florence Ballard)
  42. The Temptations (Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin & David Ruffin)
  43. The Weeknd
  44. Tina Turner
  45. Tom Petty
  46. U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen Jr.)
  47. Village People (Cop, Cowboy, Indian, Construction Worker, Soldier & Biker)
  48. Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips)
  49. Wham! (George Michael & Andrew Ridgeley)
  50. Whitney Houston

SNL Cast Member Line:

  1. Adam Sandler (SNL)
  2. Aidy Bryant (SNL)
  3. Amy Poehler (SNL)
  4. Andy Samberg (SNL)
  5. Bill Hader (SNL)
  6. Bill Murray (SNL)
  7. Billy Crystal (SNL)
  8. Chevy Chase (SNL)
  9. Chris Farley (SNL)
  10. Dan Aykroyd (SNL)
  11. Dana Carvey (SNL)
  12. Eddie Murphy (SNL)
  13. Fred Armisen (SNL)
  14. Garrett Morris (SNL)
  15. Gilda Radner (SNL)
  16. Jan Hooks (SNL)
  17. Jane Curtain (SNL)
  18. Jason Sudeikis (SNL)
  19. John Belushi (SNL)
  20. Jon Lovitz (SNL)
  21. Kate McKinnon (SNL)
  22. Kenan Thompson (SNL)
  23. Kristen Wiig (SNL)
  24. Laraine Newman (SNL)
  25. Lorne Michaels (SNL)
  26. Martin Short (SNL)
  27. Maya Rudolph (SNL)
  28. Maya Rudolph (SNL)
  29. Mike Myers (SNL)
  30. Norm Macdonald (SNL)
  31. Phil Hartman (SNL)
  32. Rachel Dratch (SNL)
  33. Tina Fey (SNL)
  34. Will Ferrell (SNL)
  35. Will Forte (SNL)

The Comedy Line:

  1. Abbott & Costello (Comedian)
  2. Amy Schumer (Comedian)
  3. Andy Kaufman (Comedian)
  4. Bernie Mac (Comedian)
  5. Bill Burr (Comedian)
  6. Bill Cosby (Comedian)
  7. Bill Hicks (Comedian)
  8. Bob Newhart (Comedian)
  9. Cheech & Chong (Comedy Team)
  10. Chris Rock (Comedian)
  11. Dave Chappelle (Comedian)
  12. Dick Gregory (Comedian)
  13. Don Rickles (Comedian)
  14. Eddie Murphy (Comedian)
  15. Ellen DeGeneres (Comedian)
  16. Gary Shandling (Comedian)
  17. George Carlin (Comedian)
  18. Gracie Allen & George Burns (Comedy Team)
  19. Jeff Foxworthy (Comedian)
  20. Jerry Seinfeld (Comedian)
  21. Jim Carey (Comedian)
  22. Jim Gaffigan (Comedian)
  23. Joan Rivers (Comedian)
  24. John Mulaney (Comedian)
  25. Jonathan Winters (Comedian)
  26. Kevin Hart (Comedian)
  27. Lenny Bruce (Comedian)
  28. Lewis Black (Comedian)
  29. Lily Tomlin (Comedian)
  30. Louis C.K. (Comedian)
  31. Mitch Hedberg (Comedian)
  32. Moms Mabley (Comedian)
  33. Mort Sahl (Comedian)
  34. Patrice O’Neal (Comedian)
  35. Phyllis Diller (Comedian)
  36. Redd Foxx (Comedian)
  37. Richard Pryor (Comedian)
  38. Ricky Gervais (Comedian)
  39. Robin Williams (Comedian)
  40. Rodney Dangerfield (Comedian)
  41. Sam Kinison (Comedian)
  42. Sarah Silverman (Comedian)
  43. Steve Martin (Comedian)
  44. Steven Wright (Comedian)
  45. The Marx Brothers (Comedy Team)
  46. The Three Stooges (Comedy Team)
  47. Tig Notaro (Comedian)
  48. Wanda Sykes (Comedian)
  49. Whoopi Goldberg (Comedian)
  50. Woody Allen (Comedian)

The Late Night Talk Show Host Line:

  1. Amber Ruffin
  2. Arsenio Hall
  3. Bill Maher
  4. Carson Daly
  5. Chelsea Handler
  6. Conan O’Brien
  7. Craig Ferguson
  8. David Letterman
  9. Dick Cavett
  10. Graham Norton
  11. James Corden
  12. Jay Leno
  13. Jimmy Fallon
  14. Jimmy Kimmel
  15. John Oliver
  16. Johnny Carson
  17. Jon Stewart
  18. Larry Wilmore
  19. Lilly Singh
  20. Samantha Bee
  21. Seth Meyers
  22. Stephen Colbert
  23. Steve Allen
  24. Tom Snyder
  25. Trevor Noah

12.2 Pop Queen

Now, let me know what you think. And, Funko, if you are out there, I am available for hire as an idea guy. Just contact me through this blog, then I will allow you to enter the World of Keller, which my family, friends and former students can all vouch is a rather weird place to inhabit. Of course, until next time, peace.

As Long as There Are Pre-Teen Boys, We Will Always Need KISS

11.30 Kiss UK 70s

Back in the early-Seventies, the first musical artist that became an obsession was Alice Cooper. That band was the perfect entryway artist into rock music. First, the band had a cartoon image, so the jump from the Banana Splits, The Monkees, The Archies and The Partridge Family was not that big of a stretch, at least image-wise, though it goes without saying that the boys in Alice Cooper were a bit more on the Charles Manson side of provocative. Plus, the band played a muscular version of the bubblegum music on which I was weaned.

11.30 Alice Cooper, 1975

Now, I had a band allegedly named after a witch, doing a freak side show from the traveling vaudeville show coupled with a touch of the B-movie horror shows you could watch on the local TV station hosted by Central Indiana legend “Sammy Terry.” And, the band was playing that bubblegum music run through a touch of Black Sabbath/Deep Purple guitars. And, their lyrics were NEVER going to win a Noble Prize for Literature. Yet, the teens and emerging group of kids called “tweens,” who were too old for “kiddie stuff” but never cool enough to hang in the back of the school bus with the high school teens. Alice Cooper was the perfect music for the annoying pre-teen kids like me.

11.30 Kiss in concert 70s

So, following in Alice Cooper’s wake were a multitude of visually dazzling artists who garnered a small but fervent following. And, I am talking about the English glitter artists, none of whom caught the mass fancy of the Stateside kids like Cooper did. Then, in 1975, a live album exploded like an atomic bomb in the lives of kids my age, meaning around 12. This was must-listen music! The album was Alive! and the band was KISS.

11.30 Kiss Alive

My initial exposure to this album occurred down the street at my second home where my non-family sisters lived. The Dunwiddie girls were two of my closest friends in my neighborhood. Almost every day, I walked down to their house and hung out with Kim and Lori. We sat in the living room, talked, did homework and listened to music. Boy, did we ever listen to music! In retrospect, these moments seemed to last hours. But Kim and Lori were my free teenage therapists, as their home became a refuge for me from the stress of the meltdown of my own nuclear family. At their home, God bless their parents, I had some place to get away from the negativity that gnawed at me on a daily basis.

11.30 Kiss on That 70s Show

Anyway, it was at their home in which I was introduced to this Seventies pot of aural nirvana called Kiss Alive! I remember just being blown away by the energy of the sound of the crowd and the performance of the band. And, no, the current knowledge that all of it was doctored up in the studio will NEVER diminish the impact of that album after Kim cued it up on her family’s console stereo. I can only imagine what a hyperactive mess of pre-teen display of testosterone-driven tribal dance I was displaying. And, my own natural inclination to this music was reinforced when Kim’s varsity basketball star boyfriend told me he loved that album too as he cued it up on the console while he was visiting her.

11.30 Kiss in concert 2019

Let’s see! First, the girls, who owned it, loved it. Then, the older boyfriend who was a basketball hero of mine, said he loved it and that some of the team were going up to Fort Wayne to see the band in concert during Christmas Break, well, I must be cool because I LOVED this band. At that moment, I became truly obsessed with my first musical group. And, that’s when I started buying Creem, Circus, Hit Parader and Rolling Stone magazines, seeking more and more information on Kiss. And, within a year, I became a card-carrying member of the Kiss Army, complete with a Pacifica belt buckle and a T-shirt that my mom created for me.

11.30 Kiss Army logo

And, that light burned bright for the band until 1979. By then, I was struck by the punk/new wave bands of the era, that Kiss seemed more like sell-outs than a band ready to take on the world. Seriously, I did not need my favorite band on a lunch box, nor did I need to purchase G.I. Joe/Barbie-sized dolls of Kiss or a make-up kit. Like many kids my age, I did go down the initial supply-side rabbit hole of Kiss merchandizing, as I stated previously that I owned a belt buckle, all of their albums, a couple of posters and wore a homemade T-shirt. Oh, and I did have the first two or three comic books the band appeared in, like the two books of my favorite Marvel character, Howard the Duck, in addition to the band’s own comic book. But, those lame solo albums burnt me out on the band. Plus, I was beginning to hear new music from Elvis Costello, Blondie, The Cars, The Clash, The Police, Sex Pistols, etc., and they were a breath of fresh air when compared to the tiresome sound of Kiss. But, from Christmas time of 1975 through the fall of 1978, I was a huge Kiss fan. After that, I was never as passionate about another artist again, even though I grew to love Prince, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M. and Queen more than I loved Kiss back then. But, I was never as passionate about an artist the same way again.

11.30 Kiss pacifica belt buckle 1978

Whatever the reason, I was feeling a bit nostalgic, so I pulled out the old Kiss vinyl, cleaned them up and began playing them. Then, I saw the snow coming down, reminding me of that snow flurry-ridden day on which I first heard the band on vinyl. So, I cranked up my little stereo and took a brief trip in the Wayback Machine. With the Christmas decorations up in our home and the first snow flurries landing on the warm ground outside, the music mixed with those visuals to conjure up some memories that are getting smaller in my review mirror of life. But, there’s just something about Paul Stanley’s yelps that moves my soul away from its darkness toward a lighter, brighter attitude.

11.30 howard the duck meets kiss

So, with that introduction, let’s take a look at My Top 50 Favorite Songs by Kiss. A quick disclaimer: I am by NO stretch of the imagination a Kiss expert these days. Today, I am more of a passing fan, so I am not a Einstein of Kiss Trivia. However, I do appreciate the band’s music. And one last admission: I have NEVER seen the band in concert. Always wanted to, but never had the right circumstances to see them. Oh well! At least I have this list.

50. “Let’s Put the X in Sex” (Smashes, Thrashes & Hits, 1988)

49. “I’m a Legend Tonight” (Killers, 1982)

48. “Shandi” (Unmasked, 1980)

47. “Psycho Circus” (Psycho Circus, 1998)

46. “Unholy” (Revenge, 1992)

45. “Forever” (Hot in the Shade, 1989)

44. “Hell or Hallelujah” (Monster, 2012)

43. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II” (Revenge, 1992)

42. “Creatures of the Night” (Creatures of the Night, 1982)

41. “Modern Day Delilah” (Sonic Boom, 2009)

40. “Rocket Ride” (Alive II, 1977)

39. “Plaster Caster” (Love Gun, 1977)

38. “Shock Me” (Love Gun, 1977)

37. “Ladies Room” (Rock and Roll Over, 1976)

36. “Tears Are Falling” (Asylum, 1985)

35. “I Stole Your Love” (Love Gun, 1977)

34. “Rock Bottom” (Dressed to Kill, 1975)

33. “100,000 Years” (Kiss, 1974)

32. “Hard Luck Woman” (Rock and Roll Over, 1976)

31. “Goin’ Blind” (Hotter Than Hell, 1974)

30. “Makin’ Love” (Rock and Roll Over, 1976)

29. “She” (Dressed to Kill, 1975)

28. “Great Expectations” (Destroyer, 1976)

27. “Got to Choose” (Hotter Than Hell, 1974)

26. “Nothin’ to Lose” (Kiss, 1974)

25. “I Love It Loud” (Creatures of the Night, 1982)

24. “King of the Night Time World” (Destroyer, 1976)

23. “I Want You” (Rock and Roll Over, 1976)

22. “Parasite” (Hotter Than Hell, 1974)

21. “Heaven’s on Fire” (Animalize, 1984)

20. “Crazy Crazy Nights” (Crazy Nights, 1987)

19. “Christine Sixteen” (Love Gun, 1977)

18. “Cold Gin” (Kiss, 1974)

17. “Firehouse” (Kiss, 1974)

16. “Beth” (Destroyer, 1976)

15. “Calling Dr. Love” (Rock and Roll Over, 1976)

14. “Lick It Up” (Lick It Up, 1983)

13. “Black Diamond” (Kiss, 1974)

12. “Hotter Than Hell” (Hotter Than Hell, 1974)

11. “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll” (Hotter Than Hell, (1974)

10. “Do You Love Me” (Destroyer, 1976)

9. “C’mon and Love Me”(Dressed to Kill, 1975)

8. “Strutter” (Kiss, 1974)

7. “Love Gun” (Love Gun, 1977)

6. “God of Thunder” (Destroyer, 1976)

5. “I Was Made for Loving You” (Dynasty, 1979)

4. “Deuce” (Kiss, 1974)

3. “Detroit Rock City” (Destroyer, 1976)

2. “Shout It Out Loud” (Destroyer, 1976)

1. “Rock and Roll All Nite” (Alive! 1975)

Even though Kiss no longer is my favorite rock artist, they remain a band that continues to strike a pleasant chord for a day or so of nostalgia. Maybe this list will give you the subtle push to put a little Kiss back into your life. Until next time, peace.

My Quarantine Thanksgiving Playlist

Thanksgiving Peace Love & Rock

Back in the early-Eighties, while taking a college history/political science class, I was required to read a relatively new book at the time by a professor named Howard Zinn. That book was People’s History of the United States. That book changed my life. I had been aware of various “forgotten” stories in our nation’s history since my dad and uncle were both history teachers. Additionally, my favorite high school teacher, next to another one of my moms-away-from-home, journalism teacher Imy Rhule, who was the mother of a set of twins with whom I ran track and cross country for YEARS, American History teacher Denny Wallace encouraged me to delve deeper into the history of this country. Between those three men, I really got the sense of America’s atrocities in addition to her triumphs. Then, I read Zinn’s book.

Well, I bring this up because the American holiday of Thanksgiving is fast approaching. And as I aged, I came to appreciate this holiday. While I no longer buy into the American myth of Christopher Columbus “discovering” this continent or the Pilgrims coming to America in “peace.” I am fully aware of how white European settlers committed genocide on and unwittingly introduced their diseases to Native Americans that we could never repay those people.

Thanksgiving Norman Simmons

Instead, I chose to enjoy this holiday as a day of family. When I was younger, I would have two Thanksgivings celebrations, with each relatively small side of my family. After getting married, I then spent the next 25 years or so celebrating with my in-laws, until my mother-in-law became in capacitated. Still, my wife’s side of the family kept things going in the 2010s by holding the ever-expanding celebration at various places. First, after my mother-in-law passed away, things were weird. But, we kept going, with my wife attempting to hold her family together. Now, as of August, her father has left us, so Thanksgiving was going to be especially strange this year.

But, now, with this country putting stupidity ahead of science, COVID-19 is EVERYWHERE! I cannot believe how many people I know who are either positive or have full-blown symptoms. Fortunately, none have been hospitalized, but those that have symptoms say they have never felt worse. Unfortunately, every one of those people refused to wear masks in public, mocking much of what the science says. So, because of COVID and all the idiots who think mask-wearing is weakness or being a socialist (those people were stoned during Government classes!), we will not be having our annual large gathering.

Thanksgiving Stones

As a matter of fact, we are not even having our little immediate family gathering this year. My dad is 85 and his wife is 87. While he is physically healthy, he is showing mental signs of aging, and she is beginning to have some physical problems. Therefore, they are staying home. My aunt is staying home as well, even though she does not have any kids. She’s elderly as well, so she is out. Likewise, my older son, his wife and daughter are still quarantining away from us (I haven’t seen Sloane since August and that drives me crazy!), so they’re out too. That leaves my younger son, his wife and son to come over. We watch Crosby one or twice a week as the two work different shifts. So, they are included in our bubble. So, Thanksgiving will be so different this year.

But, one thing we can turn to in order to escape the bummer of this coronavirus pandemic is music. Today, I created a Thanksgiving playlist and thought I would share it with you good people. Of course, I have removed ALL of the little kids Thanksgiving songs from this list. Anyway, if you want to add “Thanksgiving Shark,” you can, but it is as annoying as the original version. So, this Thanksgiving, let’s bring a little peace, love and understanding to the world and try to unite to make things better.

Thanksgiving Filter

  1. “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” — George Winston
  2. “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” – Arlo Guthrie
  3. “Almost Thanksgiving” – Graham Parker
  4. “American Pie” — Don McLean
  5. “Autumn in New York” — Billie Holiday
  6. “Be Thankful for What You Got” – William DeVaughn
  7. “Biscuits” – Kasey Musgraves
  8. “Check It Out” – John Mellencamp
  9. “Cooking Up Something Good”—Mac DeMarco
  10. “Cornbread” – Dave Matthews Band
  11. “Dinner” — Blood Orange
  12. “Do the Mashed Potato” — Danny & the Juniors
  13. “Family Business” — Kanye West
  14. “Family Tradition” — Hank Williams Jr.
  15. “Flying Turkey Trot” – REO Speedwagon
  16. “Give Thanks & Praises” — Bob Marley & the Wailers
  17. “Give to Live” – Sammy Hagar
  18. “Harvest Moon” — Neil Young
  19. “Home” — Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
  20. “Home” – Phillip Phillips
  21. “I Thank You” – ZZ Top
  22. “I Want to Thank You” – Otis Redding
  23. “I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For” — Bing Crosby
  24. “Keep the Family Close” — Drake
  25. “Kitchen”—Mary J. Blige
  26. “Let’s Turkey Trot” – Little Eva
  27. “Macy’s Day Parade” — Green Day
  28. “Ode to My Family” — The Cranberries
  29. “Red Red Wine” – UB40
  30. “Roll Plymouth Rock” — Brian Wilson
  31. “Shower the People” — James Taylor
  32. “Sweet Potato Pie” — Ray Charles
  33. “Thank U” – Alanis Morissette
  34. “Thank U, Next” — Ariana Grande
  35. “Thank You” — Dido
  36. “Thank You” – Led Zeppelin
  37. “Thank You for Being a Friend” – Andrew God
  38. “Thank You Friends” – Big Star
  39. “Thank You Too!” — My Morning Jacket
  40. “Thankful” – Kelly Clarkson
  41. “Thanksgiving” – Loudon Wainwright III
  42. “Thanksgiving Day” – Ray Davies
  43. “Thanksgiving Prayer” – Johnny Cash
  44. “Thanksgiving Song” – Mary Chapin Carpenter
  45. “The Thanksgiving Filter” — Drive-By Truckers
  46. “The Thanksgiving Song” — Adam Sandler
  47. “Thursday Girl” — Mitski
  48. “Turkey Dog Coma” — Flying Lotus
  49. “We Are Family” — Sister Sledge
  50. “Young Pilgrims” — The Shins

Happy Thanksgiving! Peace.

Let’s Spice Up Record Store Day Again

11.13 RSD Logo

As if we need more heartache in 2020, the mother of my longest friend passed away a couple of days ago, and it honestly has me back in a funk. Judy was a good woman who tolerated so many shenanigans from Mike and me as we were growing up. Not to mention that she was the mother of my friend, she cut my hair all through middle and high school. It seemed like she cut my hair whenever she could corral me for twenty minutes or so each month I was there. What I didn’t realize at the time was she was the hairstylist for the high school basketball team. By getting my hair cut by her back in middle school get me in with the varsity players who went to her. When you are an awkward teen getting on the “good” side of the older guys was always a plus. And, it got you picked in pick-up games.

As Mike and I went to college, we drifted apart, mainly because I was attempting to break away from my hometown, and he was splitting too much of his time between the two worlds. I know he regrets this now, but why should he? He’s had one helluva a career and currently lives in St. Louis. Around 2000, we had a chance meeting at the hometown high school and renewed our friendship as if we never missed a beat. It seems we have a connection that is rare, from our senses of humor to our obsessions with music and sports. Still, my heartbreaks for him, and for me too since she was another of my away from home moms. Likewise, I mourn with his dad, brother and sister and all the spouses and grandchildren. Plus, the man drove all the way back from the Arch for my mom’s funeral, so how can I not be there for him when I’m right here. So, here’s to Judy! Godspeed!

11.13 RSH Black Friday

Now, Monday, I was suggesting a series of seven-inch singles that could be released to spark new interest in Record Store Day. In all honesty, the record companies could rotate odd releases by the Grateful Dead, Phish and Kiss, and that would awaken giant fan bases every three years. Then, you could always do something with the current darlings of the industry, like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and the rest.

But, what would interest the money from the Boomers and Xers? First, you could due a little series with all the old MTV Unplugged shows. If Pearl Jam’s recent release of their legendary set was any indication, there is a market for the vinyl versions. But, there are a bundle of unreleased albums by established artists from over the years that was excite vinyl collectors to get their hands on these albums. So, here is my next suggestion of vinyl that could be released on future Record Store Days.

  1. Amy Winehouse – unreleased material. The rumor is that there is more shelved material from Ms. Winehouse not included on the odds-and-sods collection that was released shortly after her untimely passing.
  2. Andre 3000 – solo album. Allegedly, the big personality of OutKast has a solo that is in the can, but has been shelved indefinitely.
  3. Ariana Grande – This lady has improved with each release. Still, she released a couple of EPs of Christmas music for downloads only. I bet her fans would love it on vinyl.
  4. Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash – The Dylan/Cash Sessions. Even the Johnny Cash biopic alluded to this collaboration. C’mon Bobby! This is one people have been pining for since reports of the two working together got out.
  5. Bruce Springsteen – Electric Nebraska. The Boss’ first solo album, Nebraska, was essentially the demos of the songs. Legend has it that the E-Street Band initially fleshed these stark tunes together, but Bruce shelved the tapes. The Springsteen Nation would LOVE this one.
  6. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Human Highway. Of course, this one remains on the shelf since Neil Young was going through one of his cantankerous moments. Now that Homegrown finally saw the light of day, let’s get this one out.
  7. D’Angelo – James River. After the success of Voodoo, D’Angelo began working on this album which supposedly is 95% finished. Of course, mental health and addiction problems shelved this one.
  8. Dr. Dre & Ice CubeHelter Skelter. Word on the street was the the two former N.W.A mates had collaborated on this one after their individual solo successes. Who wouldn’t want to hear these two at the height of their powers?
  9. Duran Duran – Reportage. By the middle of the 2000s, The Beatles of the Eighties had made a dramatic comeback with a well-received tour of the original line-up. So, they went in the studio and created an album that all members felt finally represented how they sounded on stage. Then, the label wanted them to be produced by some current hot-shot producers who ruined everything, causing guitarist Andy Taylor to leave the band again.
  10. Ghostface Killah & MF Doom – Swift & Changeable. Two of alternative hip hops best forces of nature joined forces to create an album that piques the interest of the hip hop world.
  11. Green Day – Cigarettes & Valentines. According to the story, this album was ready for pressing, when the tapes were stolen. Distraught, the band went back and wrote a completely new album, which ended up being their crown jewel American Idiot. Still, it would be cool to hear this if the guys would re-record the songs.
  12. Jeff Beck – The Motown Album. In the late-Sixties/early-Seventies, Beck went to Detroit to work with the Funk Brothers in order to come up with a combo of their funk and his metal. The trouble was Beck brought HIS drummer, eschewing the great timekeepers of all those terrific Motown hits. Of course, tensions ensued, and Beck took off with the only copy of the tape.
  13. Jimi Hendrix – Black Gold. This was the album that Hendrix was working on when he died. I cannot count how many times I have heard that this album was poised to be finally released. There’s no better time…
  14. Marvin Gaye – Love Man. Leave it to Gaye to plan a “dirty” album in which to stage his comeback. Unfortunately, he got divorced instead and released Here My Dear, an album whose royalties went to his ex-wife in a divorce agreement.
  15. Mick Jagger – The Red Devils collaboration. Back during the Nineties, producer Rick Rubin suggested to Jagger that he team up with an up-and-coming band called The Red Devils. They hit the studio and allegedly created some magic. Then, everything stopped, including the Red Devils’ career.
  16. OutKast – 10 the Hard Way. Here is the follow-up to their huge album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
  17. Paul McCartney – Cold Cuts. Who wouldn’t love to hear the best outtakes by Sir Paul from his best years of the Seventies and early Eighties? I know I would.
  18. Pink Floyd – Household Objects. After the game-changing The Dark Side of the Moon, the Floyd wanted to get back to their experimental roots. So, the idea was to create music with ordinary objects found around the house. Seriously!
  19. Prince (or is it The Artist?) – The Dawn. For some reason, the Purple One had a running fantasy to release a triple album, which he finally fulfilled with Emancipation. In the year or two before that aforementioned album, Prince had The Dawn, which part of it ended up as The Gold Experience and another part as Chaos & Disorder. Bootlegs are around with the whole thing on CD. It is a tour de force and would be terrific on vinyl in a box set.
  20. Prince – Dream Factory. After Prince broke up The Revolution, he went nuts in the studio. During that time, he created THREE complete albums: the altered vocals on Camille, a triple album opus called Crystal Ball (not to be confused with the 3-CD set of unreleased material he released in the late-Nineties) and a double-album called Dream Factory. All three were cannibalized for the terrific Sign ‘o’ the Times double album. At the end of September, his Estate released a super deluxe set that contains many of the songs supposedly recorded for Dream Factory. What would it take to just release the damn thing?
  21. The Beach Boys or Brian Wilson solo – Adult/Child – It is said that during lead Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s mental breakdown, he actually created this album that has been attributed to being a solo album and a Boys album. Either way, since SMiLE was finally released, this is the next Holy Grail in America’s first great band’s vault.
  22. The ClashRat Patrol from Fort Bragg. So, as The Clash were hitting the big time in 1982, the band was suffering from extreme tensions between its two creative forces, Joe Strummer (the rocker) and Mick Jones (the pop artist-turning-into-a-hip hop-aficionado).  Initially, the sessions that would become Combat Rock were more like the one-off single “This Is Radio Clash,” a mash-up of hip hop and punk rock, not unlike what was being heard in the NYC hip hop clubs drawing mixed crowds of punks, new wavers and hip hoppers. The Clash’s manager gave the tapes to a different producer who stripped much of the experimentation of the original recordings. Who would have needed Big Audio Dynamite if this one had been released?
  23. The Killers – The best Eighties band of the 21st century spent the first decade of their career releasing download-only Christmas originals to raise money for AIDS research. Now, it would be fantastic for the Christmas music crowd to get this material on vinyl.
  24. The Strokes – Post-First Impressions of Earth recordings. These recordings were intended to be on their third album. Then, all the usual rock star problems cropped up, ending the sessions. We all know now how lackluster that third album was. This stuff had to have been better because they were in a groove at the time.
  25. Weezer – Songs from a Black Hole. Ah, that nutty musical genius-nerd Rivers Cuomo. His original idea for the second album was to create a sci-fi rock opera. Then he changed his mind when it was completed. The band recorded new material, and we got the lasting classic Pinkerton. Oh, but what might have been…

So, there’s a few shelved albums that might get people back to attending Record Store Day, be it on its usual day in April or on Black Friday. Either way, just go support your local independent record store. I can’t wait to go bin diving again! Peace.