British Acts that Weren’t One Hitters

One of my pet peeves when talking about music from the 1980s is when people assume acts were One Hit Wonders because their most popular song is constantly played on radio stations or on compilation CDs (along with the term “Hair Metal,” which really drives me nuts, because the band’s hair had nothing to do with their musical talents).  Some people may not know but the radio format plays the same songs almost every hour, even during “Time Warp” Weekends (where radio stations play all songs from the 1980s), so it’s easy for newer listeners to assume that some of these music acts only had one hit, for instance when people  think of the band Mr. Mister, they think of “Broken Wings,” but forget about “Kyrie” or “Is It Love,” which both hit the U.S. Charts, or the Australian band Icehouse, who recorded the song “Electric Blue,” but forget about my favorite of the band, “Crazy,” which hit #14 in 1987. Or even the Canadian band Men Without Hats, who we know from “The Safety Dance” hitting #11 on the U.S. Charts, but do you remember their other 1987 hit “Pop Goes The World” that charted at #20?

We can blame it on ignorance (not everyone studied music like I did, trying to know who wrote the songs or its chart position due to my childhood listening to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” every Saturday Morning), or due to the format of radio today, but I thought I’d look (an hopefully inform) at a few British acts that are usually viewed as One Hit Wonders, but really weren’t.

 

  1. Cutting Crew. This act’s big hit “I Just Died In Your Arms” was recently used in “The Lego Batman Movie”.  The group broke in the U.S. with the 1986 album “Broadcast,” which had this famous song. However, the band hit the U.S. Charts with the #9 “I’ve Been In Love Before,” which is my favorite of the band. The song was actually the third single in the U.S., but was a huge hit for them.  The band also was in the Top 40 with a second single from the album, “One For The Mockingbird”, but it wasn’t until they took another chance with “Been In Love” after it only hit #31 in the UK as the follow up song for “I Just Died In Your Arms.”  The band still records and tours with lead singer Nick Van Eede and different lineup changes through the years. I still prefer the second single, “I’ve Been In Love Before” over the first breakout single that most people remember of the band.
  1. The Escape Club. This band hit #1 on the U.S Charts with the single “Wild, Wild West,” but many may not know that they had another in 1991, “I’ll Be There,” which charted at #9.  The band formed in 1983, and as of 2012, is still performing with singer Trevor Steel, and guitar player John Holliday. Steel was also an A&R person for Universal Records in Australia after the band’s spotlight died down. As with Cutting Crew, I prefer the second single, “I’ll Be There,” which is a better song than the first single that broke the band. “I’ll Be There” is a darker song about a death of a friend, but still has positive lyrics to the song. The song has an eerie type melody, almost a goth- feel to it, but was still main stream enough to hit the Top 10. Whenever the band comes up in my music conversations, many people have never heard this second song, which is a shame, because it is really well written.
  1. Johnny Hates Jazz. This act hit #2 in the U.S. with the song “Shattered Dreams” in 1988, but was first released in 1987 (back in this era, it took usually time for the released song to gain airplay and move up the charts, unlike today).  The act also recorded “I Don’t Want to Be A Hero”(#31) in 1988. My favorite song of the band did not chart on the Top 100 Singles, but charted at #5 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary Charts, along with #12 in the U.K., called “Turn Back The Clock.” I remember seeing this video all the time on my local video channels (we didn’t have MTV at first-it was a pay channel- but watched shows like “Friday Night Videos,” and the video show on WAKR Channel 23 in Canton, Ohio with Billy Soule as the host).  To this day, it is one of my favorite videos, which shows the band looking back at their childhood and the things that they did, like hang out in a tree house. The single had backing vocals by Kim Wilde, who hit #1 in the U.S. with a cover of the Supremes’ “Keep Me Hanging On” in 1987.  This song is a lost gem in my eyes of singles of the decade that many do not remember.
  1. The Outfield. This British band had 5 Top 40 singles from 1986-1990, but yet the band is still considered One Hit Wonders due to the smash #6 hit “Your Love,” from their “Play Deep” Album.  I still crank up the song whenever I hear it playing to this day. I love their 1990 album “Diamond Days,” which I happened to get the CD at a bargain bin for a great price. I loved all the songs on the CD, including the 1990 hit “For You,” which charted at #21 in the U.S. This band is underrated when it comes to 1980s band Nu-Wave Acts. They had Nu-Wave and Pop mixed together with some straight ahead Rock feel to it. Bass player and singer Tony Lewis has a great voice, and I remember seeing the cover of their 1986 Album “Play Deep” all over the record stores at the time.
  1. O.M.D.   This is another band that had several hits from 1985 -1988, including the #4 song “If You Leave” from the 1986 movie “Pretty in Pink.” The band also hit in 1985 with “So In Love,” and “Forever” in 1986, but my favorite song by the band was called “Dreaming,” that charted at #16 in 1987 in the U.S.  The song has the band’s Synth-Pop beat like their other songs, but “Dreaming” just had some great lyrics in my opinion, especially the opening stanza. The band may have had a long name (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark), but the band’s hits are still played today, even though “Dreaming” seems to be lost in that list.
  1.  Breathe.  I remember hearing this London band’s single “Hands To Heaven” when it first came out and thought it was very soulful, as opposed to some of the other songs that were hitting the charts during 1987. The song charted as high as #2 in the U.S. in 1988. I also remember seeing their album “All That Jazz” all over the record stores at the time.  Even though the second single in the U.S. did not chart as high on the Pop Charts, “How Can I Fall” hit #1 on the U.S. AC Charts, and #3 on the Pop Charts.  Unlike some of the other acts on this list, where I liked the second single better than the first, I liked both of these singles equally. A third single from the album, “Don’t Tell Me Lies,” hit #10 on the Pop and # 5 on the AC Charts, but isn’t as played as the other two singles (in the UK, “Lies” was the first single released from the album) The band continued to record until 1992, but their three singles was the only hits they had in the U.S. The band’s work should be rediscovered for fans that like Air Supply and Rick Astley, who linked soul and jazz to their Pop sound.  I really liked these songs, and still shocked why I never owned the cassette or CD in my collection.

When people think of the 1980s British acts, artists like Duran Duran, Elton John, Rick Astley, and George Michael come to mind. However this list above is often misjudged as One Hit Wonders, when in reality, they had great success. I encourage you to check out these acts’ other songs-you may find some more gems to add to your playlist that you don’t hear on local radio.

 

 

DVD Movie Picks You Need To See

The summer season of movies used to be when the big blockbusters would come out. It used to be a major event each summer, but that has changed. Movies put out blockbusters all year long, which can wear thin on some movie goers.  That is why some movies are expected to do well, and fail, or on the other extreme, movies that aren’t expected to do well, perform better than expected that leaves the so called critics scratching their heads. If you are tired of the normal movie trends that are out there right now, try taking these films in account. These are my suggestions on some great films that have been overlooked this past year that are all available for your home watching.

  1. “The Great Wall” (2016). There are not many films that I really like that stars Matt Damon, with the exception of The Bourne films (although I didn’t care for the last one , titled  Jason Bourne), but The Great Wall was a surprisingly good film. Even though this film was viewed as a disappointment at the box office, it still made over $300 Million worldwide (It did well in China).

Damon plays a mercenary in China, who ends up helping soldiers fight against monsters while searching for the secret to making gunpowder. The film has quite a bit of subtitles, due to the Chinese soldiers that they help, but the film was good overall.  Basically the film is a mix of Dungeons and Dragons meets Aliens. There are humorous parts in the film as well, thanks to Pedro Pascal’s character Pero, who is Damon’s best friend. The action is good, along with a unique fighting style that the soldiers use in the early fight scenes. This was an underrated Action/Fantasy film.

  1. “The Institute” (2017). I have never been a fan of James Franco’s work, but in this film, I enjoyed his work as a doctor who uses questionable methods to treat his patients. Franco stars and co-directs this film based on a true story about The Rosewood Institution in Maryland. Lori Singer, from the 1984 movie Footloose is also in this film.

A girl checks herself into the institute after her parent’s death and ends up seeing, and being subjected to, strange medical therapies, such as brainwashing and mind control. This film is almost like a throwback horror film, however there is quite a bit of nudity in the film. There are parts of this film that reminded me of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s film Eyes Wide Shut, dealing with a secret society. If you can get through the nude scenes, the film is really good. If you can’t, I suggest the film with Kate Beckinsale called  Stonehearst Aslyum that came out several years ago, which is similar to this film.

  1. “Morgan” (2017). This film was directed by Luke Scott and stars Kate Mara, who was not cast right in the reboot of The Fantastic Four, is a good actress.  The film is about an experiment named Morgan, who is a hybrid with an advanced growth rate. She looks around 19 or 20, but is really 5 yrs old. After murdering a researcher, it is decided that the Morgan project should be terminated. Mara plays a government agent sent to watch and then end the project. After it is determined the project should end, the chase is on with Morgan attacking other people and trying to escape the compound where the tests are being held.

The cast also includes Brian Cox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Giamatti. I thought the ending was predictable, but it doesn’t take away from the film.  It actually made its budget back, although it was not viewed highly. This film was underrated that is a good DVD watch.

  1. “Keeping Up With The Joneses.” (2016). With her success in the film Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot is the current “It “ girl in Hollywood. This film was shot after her debut of the character in Superman vs Batman, but before the solo Wonder Woman film. The film was a DVD library choice for me, and I actually enjoyed it. It also stars Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, and Isla Fisher.

This comedy is about a couple (Hamm and Gadot) who moves into the neighborhood, with Fisher and Zach’s characters assuming that they are secret agents. Fisher and her husband start watching and following the new couple and chaos ensues when they get mixed up in the case.  When the trailer for the film came out, I thought it was a Mr. and Mrs. Smith remake, but the film was pretty funny, thanks to Gadot’s acting. She has some good comedy skills as well as being an action star. This film bombed at the box office, but don’t let it stop you from checking it out if you want to see more of Gadot.

  1. “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” (2017). I first heard about this film when it came out, and then forgot about it. Several months later, I was listening to a Christian Radio Show that was giving out the DVD as a prize, and went to the library to check out the film. It was a great movie.

Some Christian films are too cheesy, and there is a reason why some only last 2 weeks in the theaters. However, this film was enjoyable and funny.

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton from “Marvel’s Agents of Shield”) is a child actor who ends up in trouble for his excessive partying and must do community service in order to avoid jail time. He ends up going back to his hometown, where he takes work at a church, and lies about being a Christian in order to earn his time by playing Jesus in an upcoming play after seeing the bad acting during the auditions. Stone ends up meeting many people in the play, including  former WWE Wrestler Shawn Michaels (The film is put out by WWE Films, which is why Michaels is on the cover, but he has a small role in the film). Since the word “resurrection” is in the film, there becomes a coming of age moment for Stone and his lies.

The film is touching, yet funny. I remember reading some reviews of the film that some Christians did not like it due to scenes making fun of the typical Christian stereotypes and their church language, which is what I think makes the film enjoyable. If you have been a part of a church play or community theater, you know what unexpected things or ideas can come up, which makes the film even funnier.  You do not have to be a Christian to like this film, and just want to see a decent film without violence or cussing that the family can watch, this is a great pick.

  1. “War and Peace’ (2016 Miniseries). If you are a fan of the BBC type films, this is a must watch. This series, based on the Leo Tolstoy book, is so good, I not only watched most of it in one day, but makes me want to read the 1000 page book.  This show aired on the BBC, then on A&E, Lifetime, and The History Channel.  I picked it up on an impulse at my local library, and as mentioned earlier, couldn’t stop watching it. (I think I watched 4-5 hours in a sitting).

This series stars Paul Dano (who was also great in the Brian Wilson film Love and Mercy), Lily James (from Disney’s Cinderella) Brian Cox, and Gillian Anderson. The film does not have much war scenes in it until the later episodes, but the show draws you in, and makes you involved in the characters and their actions. James is just adorable in her role as Natasha, while Dano’s acting is great as Pierre (although I’m not sure what to think of the character overall-like him, hate him??) This is a series I highly recommend that people add to their movie collection.

 

On a final note, if you haven’t seen the film “Split” with James McAvroy, it is worth watching, although the trailers were misleading in making it look like a horror film-it’s more of a thriller. I didn’t rank it above since the film did very well at the box office.

 

Maybe these suggestions will help you the next time you are looking at Redbox, the library, or wherever you get movies to watch at home.  I have seen some good films (Wonder Woman) and some overrated films (Beauty and The Beast, Spiderman Homecoming, Get Out) to just bad (The Mummy).  Consider these films if you want something different or can’t decide the next time you go to watch a movie.  You may be surprised.

CD Reviews: Foreigner,Berry,Styx, Buckingham/McVie

 

The frequent followers of this page know that I sometimes miss the days when music was Pre-Internet. Not that the Internet doesn’t have its uses, especially when I want to watch some old wrestling footage or look up research, and it influenced music and artists for good , but there are plenty of bad. Music fans today don’t understand how an act could get a record deal and have to tour for years to get noticed, or how songs took a year to hit the top of the charts, which was based on sales and radio play, not downloads. Also, people today can’t fathom that there were record stores at malls and shopping plazas. Just looking at today’s stores where people can get music, there’s Wal Mart (where the music is 90 % Country), Target (which is very limited) and Best Buy (which at our local stores, half of the time the CD section is empty shelves). All of these stores also do not have many CDs that are over a year old, more less something that has been out for over 5 years.

The tales I can tell about how as a kid growing up I could spent hours at a mall, just browsing through bookstores and music shops like National Record Mart, Camelot Records, or Oasis Records (a local store in a plaza in Boardman, Ohio that ended up turning into a National Record Mart-we could also get tickets to concerts and wrestling there).

I have spent little time in the past few years listening to music. There are a few acts I like (Taylor Swift, Rob Zombie, Kacey Musgraves, Michael Buble), but most music I listen to are acts that have been established for years-in fact my favorite CD of last year hands down was “Good Times” by The Monkees.  I know some people just say that there are still great albums out there, you just have to look harder than before, but even those acts that are suggested to me have only 1 or 3 good songs and the rest are fillers. This past few months I have been listening to more CDs than I have in years, out of curiosity and due to press reviews and I thought I’d review a few CDs I have recently listened to and give a take on these 2017 releases.

  1. “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie”- Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie

I have always respected Lindsey Buckingham and love watching him play guitar-he has such a unique way of playing. When I was playing in a local cover band in the 1990s, one of my favorite songs to play was Fleetwood Mac’s “Blue Letter.”  When I saw this duo recently on CBS “Saturday Morning” Show, I wanted to check out the CD.

I am not a huge Fleetwood Mac fan; I like some of the hit songs they recorded, nor am I familiar with all the workings of the band, or its inner history. I don’t know if it’s a legal issue, but this album is basically Fleetwood Mac without Stevie Nicks, because Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie both are the musicians on the album. Anyway, my overview of this album is very good- there are 6 out of the 10 songs I really enjoyed, including the songs “Too Far Gone,” which has a 70s funk/dance feel to it,  “Feel About You” which has a 1960s female pop sound to it, and the nice guitar work that is on “Red Sun.”  The ballad “Game of Pretend” shows the best of Christine’s vocals, which reminds me of The Eagles 1994 song “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”

The bad part about the CD is that the few songs that I didn’t care for are really bad or below average and cringe worthy. I think there are a few filler songs on here, even though there are only 10 songs, such as “Lay Down For Free,” the ending “Carnival Begin,” and the cheesy lyrics of “Sleeping Around The Corner.” There is also a lack of guitar solos on the album, which I expected more due to Buckingham’s talent. However, since the CD is about 40 minutes run time, the few bad songs aren’t as painful for long. I think die hard Fleetwood Mac fans would love the CD, and for the casual fan, the CD is a good listen that you may want to check out, if you can handle some filler songs. This does not have every track a winner.

  1. “The Mission” –Styx. Similar to the above choice, I have limited knowledge of the band Styx, besides the hits (I still love 1983’s “Don’t Let It End”) and the fact that singer Dennis DeYoung left the band in 1999, after saying the stage lights would affect the health problems he was experiencing at the time (He had an 1984 solo hit “Desert Moon”). I saw the band in 2010 with Foreigner and Kansas on a triple bill, but that did little to impress me of the band.

With that said, this CD was a huge surprise to me. I enjoyed this concept album about a mission to Mars, and the liner notes give the overall story of the tale, along with an in -depth intro before the lyrics of each song about what the song was telling. The story was written by guitarist and vocalist Tommy Shaw and Will Evankovich. This album could have turned into a bad Rush album, but the whole run time is just about 40 minutes, which I love, because there is not much of extra fill to the story and songs-no 10 minute solos here. Since the CD is a concept album, it’s hard to review just a few songs, so I’ll jump to the overall grade.

The musicianship is very good; with Tommy Shaw proving he is an underrated vocalist, and Todd Sucherman’s drumming proves why he is constantly praised in the drum magazines.  The album as a whole is what the listener needs to experience, not judging by a single song via music sites. To truly enjoy the album, the listener needs to hear the whole thing to get the story. However, that is also the downside to the album- concept albums in 2017 is hard to sell to the listeners who want their downloaded songs instantly, not to sit and listen to 40 minutes of an album, like in the 1970s.  Veteran bands like Styx are at a point in their careers where they are not trying to gain new fans, so their long time fans will love this CD, but I advise anyone to take a chance on this album, because I was impressed and surprised. The reviews for this CD have been positive, and I can see why.

  1. “Chuck”- Chuck Berry. This CD may be my favorite of the year so far. I respected Chuck Berry for being one of the early pioneers of Rock N Roll, and this CD proves why he was a legendary musician. “Chuck” was the last album he recorded before his death, and his first since 1979. The opening song “Wonderful Woman” is a great choice to start the CD, with the classic Berry 1950s rhythm. Guest guitar players Gary Clark Jr (who I really like his work) and Charles Berry III help out on the track. The CD is full of gems like “3/4 Time (Enchiladas)”, which shows Berry’s humor (much like he did on his hit “My Ding A Ling”),  the rocking “Big Boys” which has a “Johnny B Goode” feel to it , and “Jamaica Man” has a grooving mood to the song. Speaking of “Johnny B Goode,” Berry’s track “Lady B. Goode” is a sequel to the classic hit, which discusses the girl who was behind the legendary Johnny.

Overall, there is only 3 bad songs on the CD, including the strange lyrically phrasing of “She Still Loves You’ and the straight talking verses of “Dutchman.”  My views on the bad songs still shows a music creativity aspect to it, so it’s not like they are overall badly written, or have a lack of musicianship to it- I just think they are a little flat compared to the other 7 songs.  The run time of the CD is short-at almost 34 minutes-so whatever songs that did not appeal to me, did not hinder the total flow of the CD. This is a must have CD in my opinion.

  1. “40: Forty Hits From Forty Years 2017”- Foreigner. This Double Disc was a difficult one for me to review. Let me first start off by saying I knew of the Foreigner “hits, “ and “Waiting For A Girl Like You” was one of the very earliest songs I can remember hearing on a 45 record, which was an introduction to Rock Music.  Whenever music fans bash the fact that the original singer or members are not in a band, I argue that this lineup of Foreigner is just plan awesome, and former Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson, and singer Kelly Hanson are amazing to watch. I have seen the band twice, as mentioned earlier, on the Styx tour in Burgettstown , PA in 2010, and I saw them in Chester, West Virginia in 2013 (Mick Jones was not at that show due to sickness), and they rocked both times.  I am also a HUGE fan of their 2009 CD “Can’t Slow Down,” which is one of the best CDs in years (I personally loved the AC hits “When It Comes To Love” and “In Pieces, among other songs from that album).

After admitting my love for the current lineup, the band has only released Greatest Hits, Acoustic, or Live CDs with an occasional new song added to these collections since 2009.  I understand the music business idea that certain bands do not want to go into a studio with the financial costs only to put out CDs that barely get noticed or take a profit loss, but I really wish this band would produce another album, because “Can’t Slow Down” was so good.

“40” is a Double Greatest Hits CD (some stores also add a 3rd live bonus disc) to celebrate the band’s 40 year anniversary. The songs are either remastered, a few are redone, or radio edits, and start chronological from the band’s first album to the newest lineup. This Greatest Hits collection has a remade version of the hit “I Don’t Want To Live Without You, “which falls flat compared to the original due to this version’s percussion sampling that sounds like a Casio keyboard from the 1980s. The song is overproduced with these samplings that distract me from Hanson’s underrated singing.

The CD also has a new recording called “Give My Life For Love,” a ballad that has way too much keyboards for my liking, along with the song “The Flame Still Burns,” which was released on an EP from 2016, and is a mid tempo ballad that ends the second disc. I understand that the order of songs deals with the order of the history of the band, but I would prefer perhaps a new rocker to end the collection, but the song is the best of the newer songs.

The overall opinion of this collection is mixed for me. As much as I would like to see another album in the vein of “Can’t Slow Down,” the few newer songs that are on this collection are suspect and too mellow for me. It seems like they are content to be an Adult Contemporary band as of late. The CD is a good collection for someone new to the band that would like to check out some rarer songs that aren’t on the normal Greatest Hits CDs, or that are not played on the radio, such as songs like “HeadKnocker,” “Luanne,” or “Women.” Also, if the listener missed the “Can’t Slow Down” CD, it is represented by the radio hits I mentioned before from the CD.  I was not familiar with “HeadKnocker,” so that was a surprise to me. I understand the logic of die- hard fans liking the song, but I don’t get the song “Starrider” being added to this collection-I was never a fan of the song, and with it being the second song on the first disc kills the flow after the opening rocker “Feels Like The First Time.” My personal opinion is that I don’t see the reason for remastering songs in the digital age (I understand why bands do it); to me it loses the fullness of the songs and feels compressed that it’s hard to rock out to the songs.

The fans that have all of the Foreigner studio albums will wonder why the band released yet another Greatest Hits CD. Much like Kiss releasing multi GH CDs(a band I love), the fans don’t need another GH CD from Foreigner. Since this collection is released by Atlantic Records and Rhino Records (who is known for just releasing GH CDs, besides last year’s CD by The Monkees), maybe there is a contractual aspect that the band released the CD (or they got a good deal with Rhino to help costs for the 40th Anniversary). I just feel that if a fan of the band has the studio albums through “Can’t Slow Down,” they can just get the occasional single via download for the collection and save the money of buying a double or triple disc.

 

These four CDs are not only different genres, but they have different results. I like some of these, and parts of other, and parts I do not care for. Maybe this review would help your decision in choosing what to put your money towards if you feel like you want to check out some music

My Comic Book History and Two Titles You Should Consider

My introduction to the world of comic books started when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s. I started collecting comics as a reward when my grade school would have Read-A Thons, where you would pledge to read so many books at a certain time, and the solicited pledges would pay you so much money per book. At the end of the session, you could get prizes, including comic book subscriptions, along with another school project where the student would sell subscriptions of magazines at a discounted price. It was at this time I had subscriptions to Marvel’s Star Wars and GI Joe comics, and I remember my brother having the Conan The Barbarian series (Yes you could get comics sent to your mailbox).  I also would buy certain issues like The Transformers and DC Comic’s digest books, which had titles like “Batman The Brave and the Bold”, “Superboy”, and “The Legion of Superheroes”.

My DC Comic digest collection.

When I hit junior high school, another collecting habit started for me, along with a new love; Professional Wrestling.  Many of my school mates followed wrestling (it was a huge thing in the 1980s as opposed to the product now), and my local newsstand carried several of the famous Stanley Weston owned magazines, like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Sports Review Wrestling, and even the WWF had their own magazine (along with some other non remembered knock off brand mags). I started trading off my comic books for the wrestling magazines, which also helped me in writing my own wrestling fanzine at the time. The comics were worn out and had writing in them, so they weren’t worth anything, and at that age, we didn’t think of keeping them for future use. Even though I still have my magazines, the few comics I have left are also worn out and were water damaged due to a basement issue, but I still enjoy reading some favorites like DC’s “Shadow War of Hawkman”, and the few Avengers issues, one where they battled on Mount Olympus.

Being a wrestling fan is not that different from being into comic books. Both have outrageous characters and villains, and the good vs evil story is always present. In the 1980s, comic books were not considered “legitimate “reading from our teachers, and neither was wrestling magazines, with the exception of one teacher I had, who encouraged me to read my wrestling magazines. When I started teaching high school English, I encouraged my students to read comics, graphic novels, magazines, Magma etc. Now comics are considered the norm and popular from the successes of movies to TV Shows.  Many pro wrestling personalities are comic book people, from Jim Cornette and Jerry Lawler (who actually owned a Batmobile), to wrestlers like The Rock (GI Joe) and Batista (Guardians of the Galaxy) are used in the films. Former wrestler CM Punk and the late Ultimate Warrior also had their own comics or have written for comic companies.

I was brought into the comic world in the mid 1990s when my brother created his own comic, which was featured as AR Comics, and had a premier issue that took him to many comic conventions. His cover had a hologram cover, which you could move the book back and forth that made the characters jump out at you (A few years ago DC used this method- maybe my brother was too early for that to catch on). He also created a comic strip for the Kent State University daily paper, called “Hunt”, which featured my likeness as a weasel animal that wears a KISS shirt. The comic was popular among the students and was right on the same page as Peanuts and the other national comics.

Some of my favorite characters growing up in the comics was Batman, Superman, Thor, Dr. Doom (although I hated how he was used in the movies), The Joker, and Hawkman (once again, not a fan of how he was used in the few episodes I have seen on TV of “Legends of Tomorrow”).  I was a big fan of a short run series from Marvel called Team America, which had the heroes riding motorcycles. I was also a fan of The X-Men’s Beast, being a mutant that read books (which is ironic now since most people don’t read anymore, and are considered mutants if they do).

A few years ago, I started getting back into the comics, and became a fan of the DC’s New 52 series “The Birds of Prey”. I’m sure purists have their problems with the New 52 series, but I really liked the story and the artwork. Right when I started to get into the series (I started in issue #28), the series was shut down. I also would get some novelty issues from Kiss and Alice Cooper, but the storyline wasn’t that exciting to me. I then started collecting for a Christmas gift the reboot of Marvel’s Doctor Strange for a friend of mine who was a huge fan of the character (this was before the Marvel movie came out). I didn’t think the artwork was that great (it seemed he had no face).

It wasn’t until recently I went to a local comic store for the “Free Comic Book Day” and picked up a few comics, like Dr Who and Wonder Woman, that I started to like where some comics were heading.  There are two titles that I want to review that may peak your interest that I found very interesting.

  1. X-Men Blue (Marvel Comics). This series just started in 2017 (As of the writing it is on issue #6), so there is plenty of time to get hooked on this series. As I mentioned earlier, I was a fan of The Beast character, and when researching the character, I found out that in one storyline, he leaves the X-Men to be a professional wrestler.  This story involves the members in their younger selves in a separate timeline and the group teams up with their normal villain Magneto. The group is led by Jean Grey, and involves The Beast and some other pop up villains and characters in the X Men Universe.  According to the Issue #1 front page, the storyline states :

Fearing a war among the mutants was on the horizon, Hank McCoy, A.K.A. The X-Man known as Beast, pulled the Original X-Men, including a younger version of himself, forward through time. Now they are trapped here. Separated for a while, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast and Angel have been reunited and are determined to show the world that they are the heroes they were always meant to be.

The comic is a great storyline, written by Cullen Bunn, having the younger versions of X Men battle people and encounter things that they know from the future. The artists, Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni, have some great work-better than some of the other comics out there. The book keeps you turning page after page, and unlike some books out there, keeps the reader wanting the next issue.  Keep in mind that Beast is his younger self, not the furry blue creature seen in the movies, but that does not hinder the storyline. As mentioned before, the series is still new in the series, so finding them should not be a problem, and like many DC and Marvel Comics, a collection of the issues 1-6 should be out soon, if you want it in one collection.

If you are fans of other X-Men characters, there is also an X-Men Gold series that also is pretty new, with Colossus, Nightcrawler, Logan, Storm,  and Prestige, with Kitty Pryde as the leader.  I haven’t seen this collection or know what it’s about, but X-Men Blue is my pick for someone who likes the characters (of course there is the normal X-Men comics out there too), and would like to have an original story.

  1. Deadman : The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love (DC Comics). I think sometimes DC Comics gets a bad wrap on its characters.  Some people think of the characters like Batman from the 1966 TV Series (which I loved and wrote a blog here that you can find in the archives, with contributor comic creator Chris Yambar), or the Batman vs Superman movie (go see Wonder Woman movie and it will change your mind).  There are some really cool characters from DC, and Deadman was one for me.

I first discovered Deadman in the 1980s from the previous mentioned “The Brave and the Bold” Digest series, where he teams with Batman. The character has recently been used in the DVD Movie “Justice League Dark,” along with Swamp Thing and John Constantine.

Deadman, whose name is Boston Brand, was a trapez artist who was murdered during a performance by a person called “The Hook.”  His spirit is given power to possess any living being to search for the murderer. His debut was in 1967, so he is not a new character, but is not used that often (maybe the creators used the Dick Grayson family story to create a new character?)

Deadman

“Dark Mansion” is a 3-issue series where Deadman is trapped in a mansion, along with female Berenice, who has the skill of being able to communicate with the dead.  She has a complicated relationship with her boyfriend Nathan, who is a writer that hides in an office in the house while trying to write a book.  The spirit in the house, named Adelia, along with another dark spirit shows up at the house.  When the spirits show up, Nathan starts experiencing bad headaches.  It is up to Deadman and Berenice to unravel the spirit, the health of Nathan, and find out why Adelia is trapped in the house.

This comic has an old gothic feel to it, from writer Sarah Vaughn’s plot, to artist Lan Medina’s wonderful work. The artwork is so good that it looks almost like paintings, which also helps the gothic dark look of the series.  The glossy pages are just as wonderful that add to the comic. This book series has a Dark Shadows type feel to it, or a throwback to the early horror comic days. This is only three issues long, so the tale is wrapped up nicely without having the reader run back for a 20 issue arc before seeing how the mystery is unraveled.  This was a wonderful comic series that had me spending a lot of time just staring at the artwork and taking my time getting through the book. Seek this out if you are a horror/mystery fan.

These two titles made me see that there are some good comics out there, besides the normal titles of Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Avengers titles. If you have not considered comic books lately, or are not sure what comics to look at, maybe these titles can help you start. Also, go to your local comic store. I’m sure they would be happy to help you out-that’s how I found out these titles-by visiting a local comic store, in my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio, called WatchTower Heroes, and just talking to the owner. Unlike some other comic book stores in my area, the owner was pleasant and very helpful in my choices. It is at WatchTower that the owner recommended me to these choices, which lead to me writing this page (for more information go to http://www.WatchtowerHeroes.com, check out their facebook page, or @WatchtowerHeroesComics)

Comics books have grown with many unique story lines and characters, not just the good guys and bad guys (there are still those out there), but there are many books out there that there is something for you or for gifts. Search them out and you may find something of your liking.

 

Classic TV? Grading The College Years

If you were a child growing up in the 1980s, there were several TV shows that were built into your mandatory watching; Miami Vice, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Cheers. There was also Saved By The Bell, the show about a group of high school students and their daily situations (some extreme, but hey it’s television), and how they ended up at the end of the day all one big happy group of friends. Everyone loved Mark Paul Gosselaar’s Zack Morris and his scheming to get the short cut while still being able to get the girl, which was Tiffani Amber Thiessen’s Kelly Kapowski.  There was also Mario Lopez’s A.C. Slater, Dustin Diamond’s goofy Screech, and the school principal Mr. Belding, played by Dennis Haskins.

The show ran from 1984-1993, and then created two spinoff shows, “The New Class,” where only Diamond and Haskins was in, and before that, “The College Years,” which starred the four main characters of Morris, Kapowski, Slater, and Screech at the same college and roommates. Even though “The College Years” only lasted one season, it was the only part of the series that was shown on prime time television on NBC. I remember watching it every week when I was at college (and even taped it on VHS) my college friends and I could watch it during the week until the next episode.

The show had newer characters, like dorm advisor Bob Golic (the former NFL Football player) as Mr. Rogers, Anne Tremko as Leslie Burke, Kiersten Warren as Alex Tabor, and Patrick Fabian as Professor Jeremiah Lasky.  In the pilot episode, another character was the roommate of the girls, Danielle, but was replaced when Kapowski came on the show.  I have owned the DVD Box set (which does not include the Zack and Kelly wedding special, which is on a separate collection), and thought I’d recently watch the show again and list some of my favorite episodes from the show.

Zack and Mike Rogers
  1. “The Pilot” (May 23, 1993 Episode 1). Usually the first episodes of a series are usually slow and not very good, but I liked this episode. The normal premise is there from the original series, with Zack talking to the camera as if we are right there with him. Zack does his best in this episode to get in good with new roommate Leslie, and things fall apart, with him trying to use his old high school tricks and schemes thinking it will work in college. The episode has a touchy feel to it, where the big names in high school (Zack and Slater) are trying to fit in among the other college students, realizing that it’s a different playing field, especially when Zack says college is a full of first, like “The first time I didn’t get the girl.” The show could’ve been like other shows where the leads just walk onto campus and are still the big shots, but this showed an early struggle to fit in with the characters.
Professor Jeremiah Lasky
  1. “Zack, Lies, and Videotape” (Sept 14, 1993 Episode 3). I liked this episode because it has the debut of Professor Lasky and his classroom antics, like trying to sell Zack a copy of his midterm while sitting among the students, with Zack falling for it before realizing he is the teacher. The Lasky character was a great addition to the show, and Fabian’s acting is funny as an eccentric college professor. Of course, the episode has all the girls in the class falling for the professor, which was something I witnessed in some of my college classes (later in the series they explore a Kelly and Lasky relationship).  The episode also shows Zack realizing his short cuts won’t always work in college, where Lasky allows him to complete a field study on the topic “What Women Want,” in order to get a B for the class, and sleep in the rest of the semester. The episode starts the Zack and Lasky humor in the show. I remember watching this episode over and over at college with my friends wishing they too could do a field study on the topic to hit on girls and get a grade for it.

  1. “Professor Zack” (October 19, 1993 Episode 8). In this episode, Zack pretends to be Lasky in order to impress a girl named Jennifer, who happens to be the Chancellor of the college’s daughter.  There is a funny scene in the classroom where Jennifer tries to sit in on the class to see Zack teach, and Lasky is in the room talking to Zack, her, and Screech. Zack informs her that Lasky is an older student, and the scene plays out like a Marx Brothers skit. The rest of the show deals with Zack trying to find a way to break up with the girl before the Chancellor, and Laksy, find out.
Zack, Leslie, and the back to life Kelly
  1. “Guess Who’s Coming To College” (September 14, 1993 Episode 2). Zack is still trying to impress his roommate Leslie, while his old flame, Kelly Kapowski, shows up to college. Screech pulls some strings and Kelly is now the crew’s new roommate. Chaos starts when Zack can’t decide on whom he likes more; Kelly or Leslie. One funny scene is when Zack finally sees Kelly at the college right after he tells Leslie that Kelly died on a ship. While trying to get rid of Zack, Leslie forges her class schedule so Zack ends up in an advanced Chinese class where no English is allowed. I liked this episode because it gave Zack and new interest in the rich girl Leslie, as opposed to just starting the show with Zack and Kelly. These early episodes show an attraction at first of Zack and Leslie that may or may not be explored and keeps the audience guessing.
Dr. Hemmings
  1. “A Question of Ethics” (December 21, 1993 Episode 14). I loved this episode, and it is one of the top ones on the short lived series.  After the original ethics teacher wins the lottery and retires, the class is stuck with the toughest teacher on campus, Dr. Hemmings, played by Robert Guillaume (who played TV’s Benson).  The crew has to decide whether or not to cheat on his midterm after finding copies of the test all around campus.  Zack has to decide if his shortcuts are worth it or not. I liked the character of Hemmings, not only because it brought a well known actor to the show (and showed his humor), but the character was very much like a real college professor, one that was hard but yet ended up making the student think. My friend and I were also taking an Ethics class at the time the show was on, which also resonated with me.

  1. “Bedside Manner” (January 11, 1994 Episode 16). This was one of the last episodes I remember watching when it was on TV (for some reason, the last few episodes were not shown on my local NBC Channels). The episode is a throwback to the original series, with a bunch of antics going on at one time. Zack ends up faking an illness to try and get closer to Kelly after she had her heart broken by Professor Lasky. Lasky ends up sick as well in the student health center, where Kelly is working. Kelly tries to take care of Laksy, while Zack tries to interfere, along with the Dean of the college also playing a role as she ends up at the center. I was not a fan of the Dean character in the show, who was always trying to catch Zack in a scheme to kick him out of the college. The recurring Dean character was a little too much for me- we had Lasky a major part of the crew, so why would a Dean of a whole college focus only on Zack? Yes it’s TV, but I don’t think I ever met the Dean of my college even once (I dealt with a few Associate Deans, but never the Head Dean). This episode was 30 minutes of crazy antics, as fans of the original show would love.

 

Since the “College Years” only ran one season, it is hard to just choose a few episodes. There were some other good things I liked about the show, like Golic’s character as a former football player, who would rather help students and get his Master’s Degree than go back to football, has heart to it (and the episode of him trying to date an English Professor is funny), and I loved the bloopers at the end of the shows while the credits rolled each week.  I liked the characters of Leslie and Lasky the most in the show. Alex Tabor was portrayed as a theater major dead on, with the emotional outbursts and viewed everything as a crisis, which were similar to the theater people I encountered at my college).

There were some bad things in the show as well, such as how Kelly was portrayed as clueless and dumb (the head high school cheerleader can’t handle the intellects in college- nice stereotype), along with the Screech character being the goofball he was in the original show.  It seemed like they had to have some stereotypes kept in from the original shows, instead of having the characters mature a little.

“The College Years” was better than the second spin off, which was just like the original show-shown on Saturday Mornings. Instead of rehashing old storylines (which seemed the case in “The New Class”), “The College Years” dealt with several issues that were relevant on campuses, like ethics and racial heritage.  The series ran from 1993-1994, and after watching it again recently, it still holds up as a funny show with some heart in it. If you haven’t seen this show and loved the original show, search the episodes out. You may enjoy the show that may bring back memories of your college days.

I Love It Loud:Ranking The Best Kiss Albums

 

Kiss has always been one of my favorite bands. Along with The Beach Boys, The Bay City Rollers, and The Oak Ridge Boys, the band was an early influence on me as a fan, and even as a drummer.

            My early encounters with Kiss involved my older cousin, who had many of their albums lying around when I would visit his house to play LEGOs. I remember him scaring me with the picture of Gene Simmons from the “Alive II” album, along with him playing me the song “God of Thunder.” I would stare at his Kiss Bubble Gum Card collection in awe wondering what it was I was seeing.  I remember years later in junior high, when I walked across town with my friend to look at the bargain bin cassette tapes at the local Fishers Big Wheel (which was like a K-Mart). It was there I bought my first Kiss cassette, “Destroyer.” Throughout the 1980s, I became a bigger fan of theirs, including drummer Eric Carr, and how cool he looked after reading stories about him in Metal Edge Magazine, along with other music magazines.

            I was also a huge fan of Gene Simmons, who was all over my TV at the time with his movies “Runaway” and “Trick or Treat,” which I watched all the time with another drummer friend of mine (Many years ago I got the DVD of the movie at a Walmart bargin bin and still love the film, and the music of Fastway who performed the soundtrack).  I remember almost wearing out my VHS copy of “Kiss Meets the Phantom of The Park” when I taped it from a late night Pittsburgh TV Channel.  I still have many Kiss T-Shirts and items (one of my favorite still is my Eric Carr Figure, and the “Crazy Nights” Program Book a college friend sold to me, who is even a bigger Kiss fan than I am). I saw them on the Reunion Tour in 1996 in Pittsburgh PA, “The Psycho Circus” Tour in 1998 at the same arena, and the “Farewell Tour” in Cleveland, Ohio in 2000. Even though I saw drummer Eric Singer with Alice Cooper, I have not seen him with Kiss (who happens to be my second favorite drummer behind Eric Carr, and got to talk to Singer at the Cooper show).

            Since Kiss was such an important part of my music listening and drumming career, I thought I’d rank my Top Kiss Albums. As passionate as Kiss fans are, I am sure this will cause some debate, but this is my ranking of my favorite albums by the band. I am not counting any Greatest Hits Collections or Live Albums on this list-this is strictly their studio work.

6. “Rock And Roll Over” (1976).  This album also has one of my favorite covers of the band, although many may choose “Destroyer” as the best, I love the cover so much that my girlfriend got me a coffee mug of the cover of the album.  This album charted at #11 on the U.S. Album Charts, and has great songs like “Mr. Speed” (probably my favorite lesser known Kiss song ever), “Love Em, Leave Em,” and “Makin Love,” which closes the album.   The song also has “Hard Luck Woman,” which became a hit for the band, which has a Rod Stewart feel to the song. There are a few songs that wear on me, but overall this is one of my tops.

5.  “Love Gun” (1977).  This album is great all throughout with no fillers on the album. What is amazing about Kiss during the early years is that they were releasing two albums a year while touring. Today’s acts can hardly put out an album once a year.  Once again, the cover is great, with the band surrounding by women in Kiss makeup. I always loved the cover just because of how Gene looks so menacing, like Count Dracula or another horror character in the painting.  This was a time when the album covers meant something to the product.

            Another aspect of the album I love (no pun intended) is the fact that it is a short album, with a run time of a little over 32 minutes, which leads no time for filler solos or songs just to plug up the album. I remember getting this album on cassette at a bargain bin, and practicing the parts on my drum set for hours. Although many love the album due to Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me,” I love the songs “Plaster Caster,” Christine Sixteen,” and the bands remake of “Then She Kissed Me,” a re-working of  then “Then He Kissed Me” hit by The Crystals.  I also like “Hooligan,” with drummer Peter Criss singing lead, which is a song I liked better than “Beth.”  The album also reminds me of “The Phantom of the Park,” when some of the songs from the album was used in the film.

4. “Destroyer” (1976).  Most people love this album because of the famous album cover, and because it has the staples like “Beth,” Detroit Rock City,” and “Shout It Out Loud,” which are all good reasons. However, when I listen to this album, I think of songs like “King Of The Night Time World,” and “Flaming Youth.”  My memories of the album is more being able to purchase my first Kiss cassette, as mentioned earlier, and the fact that so many songs are still played live today by the band shows its importance. However, some of the songs are overplayed that I need a break from hearing them, but that does not take away from how good the album is from start to finish.

3. “Hotter Than Hell” (1974).  This album is my favorite of the original lineup.  This was their second album and has a dark theme to some of the songs, which made me afraid of the band (along with many other parents at the time when they heard and saw the band). Songs like “Parasite,” Got To Choose,” and “All The Way” are my favorites.  “Watching You” and “Goin Blind” are also great in keeping with a dark tone.  Even though the album only charted around #100 on the Albums Charts (they didn’t get their break until “Alive I” a few years later), this is my favorite of the originals.  The cover isn’t as awesome as “Love Gun” or “Destroyer,” but the songs are what counts.

2. “Crazy Nights” (1987). Now this is where Kiss fans will start attacking me, but I think this album is underrated, and it was a major part of me growing up in junior high. The song “Crazy Crazy Nights” was played at every high school dance I went to, along with the junior high dances (certain dances junior higher students were allowed to attend the high school ones).  This was the album that I discovered Eric Carr’s drumming as well, who became my all time favorite drummer.  I loved the shattered glass image for the cover, and thought Eric looked cool with his drummer gloves, which I didn’t see many drummers use before. Many fans think this album is too polished and Pop sounding, but when the album came out, it was no different from the stuff that was being released at the time.  I still think “Reason To Live,” and “Turn on The Night” are great songs, along with the drumming on “I’d Fight Hell To Hold You.”  This album gets too much criticism in my opinion (almost as much bashing as “The Elder” or “Dynasty”), but it gets high ranking for me due to the memories I have of the album growing up.

1.     “Revenge” (1992).  It’s hard to believe this album is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. I remember when the video for the single “Unholy” was shown on MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” and I was floored by it. Gene Simmons was back in my eyes, looking mean and street-like, as opposed to the glam look he was sporting in the 1980s.   This album brought back many Kiss fans that left the band in the 1980s, and made the album hit #6 on the U.S. Album Charts.  I got the cassette when I was a member of the BMG Music Club, where you would get 12 cassettes for the price of one, as long as you bought it within the year. When I finally got a CD player, one of the first CDs I got from the club was “Revenge” as well.  Paul Stanley recently mentioned on Chris Jericho’s podcast that the band finally was at a common cause, as opposed to the years where he was doing most of the work, while Gene was doing movies.  Stanley also calls the album a rebuilding of the Kiss brand, to get back the fans that left them in the 1980s. This album was the first for Eric Singer, who fit in great with the band.  This album could have been a disaster, in the fact that the fans (and the band) were just coming off of the death of Eric Carr, but this album is my favorite non-makeup era album.

     The album is heavy oriented, which was needed in the band, just like “Creatures of the Night” brought a new direction for the band in the 1980s.  Songs like “Domino,” “Thou Shall Not,” and “Heart of Chrome” (which Stanley recently stated is his favorite song on the album), shows more edge to the band, and that they were still able to compete with the grunge music that was started to break at the time.  This album also had the ballad “Every Time I Look At You” and the catchy “I Just Wanna” for the fans that were still loving the 1980s stuff that followed out of the “Hot In The Shade” Album that was before this one.  The band also brought former member guitar player Vinnie Vincent for the songwriting process, which shows that Vincent was still a great writer.  The album also shows how underrated guitarist Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer really are as musicians, who do not get enough credit in the music world.  I challenge anyone who doubts Singer’s work to check this album out, because he is definitely a great drummer.

This album also has a special memory for me, not just because of the music club, but I also bought my first T-shirt from online rock site Rockabilia. Back then, the company sent a catalogue through the mail, and I remember my excitement seeing the package at my college mailbox, and inside was a shirt of the band photo from the back of the CD. I wore that shirt proudly, and still have the shirt in good shape. The album was played constantly through my walks to and from classes on the college campus of Kent State University (this was before IPods and we had Walkmans).

There are many great Kiss albums like “Creatures of the Night,” “Carnival of Souls,” and “Dynasty,” and even the debut album, but there are songs I skip over on all those. (Plus I was tired of the “Carnival of Souls” after listening to bootleg copies of it for a year until the actual release).  The fact that Kiss started in 1974 and is still playing today is a testament to their musicianship.  The band will always have their critics, even those that refuse to accept the original lineup is not together, but I have enjoyed albums from each of the lineups. It is rare that a band with several lineups have been able to stay relevant and produce good music. Kiss is truly a musical phenomenon that has proven its longevity throughout several decades.

 

Back To The Beach: My Favorite Rarer Beach Boys Songs

A few remaining Capitol Record Cassettes and “Problem Child” Single from my collection.

One of my fondest summer memories growing up was when I would go to my hometown Fisher’s Big Wheel (which was similar to K-Mart) and go to the music section. The store had albums, 45s, and cassettes. It was at the bargain bin where I got “Destroyer” by Kiss on cassette, along with several from The Beach Boys that were thrown together by Capitol Records. I would walk to the other side of town with my best friend, buy the cassettes and rush home to put it in my boom box player and practice playing drums to the songs.

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys have always been one of my favorite bands of all time, and I wanted to list a few of my favorite Beach Boys songs that some may not know about. Everyone knows about their surfing songs like “Surfin USA” and car songs like “Little Deuce Coupe,” but these ones are unique in their own right, especially when some fans may have stopped listening to them in the 1980s.  So here are some of my favorite underrated Beach Boys songs (and the album it was on):

  1. “Getcha Back” (The Beach Boys-1985). I constantly write on this site how much I LOVE this album, which was the first album after drummer Dennis Wilson’s death. Some fans do not like the album, but for me, it was a big part of my summers growing up in the 1980s, and since my best female friend was a fan of the band as well, it brings back good memories.  The song deals with a guy reminiscing after hearing “their” song from an ex (remember when couples had their song?). Written by Terry Melcher, the song hit #26 on the U.S. Charts and brought a new audience to the band with their appearances on shows like “Solid Gold” for younger listeners.  To this day, it is one of my favorite songs of the 1980s.
  1. “She Believes In Love Again” (The Beach Boys- 1985). From the same album, this ballad was written by Bruce Johnston, who sings lead on the song. Carl Wilson helps out on the chorus, which shows no matter how polished and produced this album is, with its 1980s drum machines and synthesizers, Carl still had a great, pure voice. Gary Moore also played on the song, which fits in with any Pop Ballad of the time. This is one of my favorite songs on the album.
  1. “Rock And Roll to the Rescue” (Made In USA -1986). This song was part of a Greatest Hits package, which a friend of mine had when we were growing up. I loved the autobiographical tone to the song, which could be an example of any musician that fell in love with music. I also loved the fact that the story starts off about a shy boy who ends up playing to concert arenas by the end of the song. Brian Wilson sings lead on this song, but still kept the vocal harmonies of the band, even in the 1980s.
  1. “Do You Remember” (All Summer Long- 1965). I discovered this song on one of the Capitol issued cassettes I mentioned earlier, which was on 1983’s “Summer Dreams.” I fell in love with this song which tells a small history of Rock and Roll, because of my professional wrestling infatuation. One of my favorite tag teams was The Rock and Roll Express, who came out to ELO’s “Rock and Roll is King” song. I also thought this would be a good song as theme music when I used to play with my AWA Wrestling action figures. The song also has a feel to it similar to Danny and The Junior’s “At The Hop.” The song was part of the lawsuit that Mike Love ended up getting credit for that was uncredited for years.
  1. “Girl Don’t Tell Me” (Summer Days and Summer Nights-1965). Another song that was on the “Summer Dreams” cassette that I loved. This song was one of the early songs Carl Wilson sang lead on, and it was different from their other work, due to the acoustic guitar vibe to it. I used to listen to this song and think Carl was sitting on a beach by a fire playing the song. There is also a lack of the other members singing on the chorus, which makes the song unique. The song reminds me of the days when a person would have a friend from another school or state that would visit for the summer and then go back home and refuse to continue to stay in touch, or when people used to have pen pals. The line “I’ll see you this summer and forget you when I go back to school” and “Girl don’t tell me you’ll write me again this time” are in that theme.
  1. “Problem Child” (Released as a cassette single-1990). This was the theme song from the movie with John Ritter, which was written by Terry Melcher. I bought the cassette single, even though I still haven’t seen the movie. This was in the 1990s, when the band was fading with their audience, except for the diehard fans. John Stamos played drums on the song. The lyrics deal with how people can change and dispel labels being put on them. The lyrics like “Who wants to work until you’re 93” and talking about the girl next door may “Turn into a work of art” still showed that the band could find great lyrical content. The arranging of putting the children’s “Na Na” chant in the song was clever, which is what great Pop songs need. Even the video was fun to watch.
  1. “The Private Life of Bill and Sue” (That’s Why God Made the Radio- 2012). This album was their first since the death of Carl Wilson, and the first with returning member David Marks since 1963. Written by Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas, the song talks about how obsessed our culture is with fake celebrities and reality stars. The song is similar to the song “South American” off of Wilson’s 1998 Solo CD “Imagination.” Even though the rest of the album is OK, due to the fact that it seems scattered all over the place, this is my favorite off the album. This is a fun song.

Maybe these songs will make you check out some of the rarer songs by the band, or any band. These show that The Beach Boys were not all about surfing, cars, and higher pitched vocals.

 

 

A Dynamic Duo: My Favorite Songs By Daryl Hall And John Oates

Daryl Hall and John Oates

As much as I have been an outspoken critic about The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their inductees, the year 2017 brought a few deserving acts that were inducted , including Daryl Hall and John Oates. I have been a fan of their music for years, especially in the 1980s when they dominated the radio, MTV, and other video programs. I remember seeing their album covers all over the record stores during the time. The duo had around 30 Top 40 Hits in the U.S. from 1976-1990.  After finishing reading the recent memoirs of John Oates, I decided to focus on some of my favorite songs by Hall and Oates. In no particular order, here are a few of my suggestions to check out of their vast collection.

 

  1. “So Close” (1990). This song was from their “Change of Seasons” Album. It was the lead single released, hit #11 on the U.S. Pop Charts, and also hit on several other charts, including the AC Charts.  One of the co-writers of the song was Jon Bon Jovi.  I like the opening line of “They met on the dance floor in the old high school gym,” which brings back a bygone era where gym dances were the place where memories were made. I also love the chorus line that says “We believe in tomorrow/Maybe more than today.” Even though the song did well on the charts, it seems to be a forgotten mention when discussing the duo’s work.
  1. “Getaway Car” (2003). The duo’s “Do It For Love” is one of my favorite albums that they recorded, especially the post 1980s. There are many great songs on the album, but one of my favorites is “Getaway Car,” which wasn’t written by either Hall or Oates. The song was written by Billy Mann and Gary Haase, and has been recorded by country acts.  The song hit #21 on the AC Charts for Hall and Oates. The song is a great tale of a guy and girl being frustrated with their lives and wants to start anew, which is shown in the line “Let’s disappear and start all over again.” I can picture the couple driving out of the city limits into the county with the radio playing this song. The tempo of the song is great for the telling on the song. This is one of my favorite all time songs that the duo recorded.

  1. “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” (1984). This song is another one that hit the charts but seems to be not played as often on 1980s Radio shows.  This song was off the mega album “Big Bam Boom,” and hit #18 on the U.S. Charts. The slow build at the beginning of the song ends up with a big, loud ending.  I used to use the chorus of the song for using song lyrics as poetry when I taught as an English Teacher, with the lines like “Some lies are better off believed,” and “Some hearts are better left unbroken.”  Even though the album gave hits like “Out of Touch” and “Method of Modern Love,” this song, written by Hall, should not be overlooked.
  1. “Method Of Modern Love” (1984). This song makes my list, off of “Big Bam Boom,” because of the memories I have hearing the song when it first came out. I remember the video of the song, along with the video for “Out of Touch.”  The song peaked at #5 on the charts, and stayed on the charts for 19 weeks. Today’s music fans may not know that during the 1970s and 1980s, songs did not just debut at number one, and then disappear like in today’s downloadable music times. Many songs worked their way up to make the Top 40 and slowly moved up to the Top 10. I remember standing on the corner of our school parking lot in junior high singing this song along with the cassette tape my buddy would bring in and play on his boom box radio.  We would mimic the videos of the songs that we saw on our local music channel (Channel 23 in Ohio was our popular one, with host Billy Soule, because we didn’t have MTV), and this song was one I always sang along with during recess. The song also shows Hall’s soulful voice in the time when music was more about image.
  1. “It’s A Laugh” (1973). This song came off of the album “Along the Red Ledge” and was a Top 20 single for the duo. The album had guest musicians such as Todd Rundgren, George Harrison, Rick Nielsen, and Robert Fripp.  I love the introduction of the song with the saxophone solo, along with the lyrics about a man looking back at a failed relationship.  This was a great song from 1970s.
  1. “One On One” (1983). As I said in the introduction of this blog, posters of Hall and Oates Albums were all over music store during the 1980s, including the “H2O” Album, which is where this song can be found. I can’t listen to this song without picturing the cover of the album in my mind.  This song hit #7 on the Pop Charts, along with #4 on the AC Charts. The song is a great life reference by using basketball themes. The soul, smooth voice of Hall helps the song not be outdated, and could been a hit in the 1960s-1990s.  I also love the basic line of “It seems I don’t get time out anymore,” which is what many of us want in our busy lives, and is not just an athletic reference.  This is a great song combining love, life, and sports.
  1. “Did It In A Minute” (1982). This single was off the album “Private Eyes,” which was the album the MTV Generation of fans started jumping on the Hall and Oates train, even though the band was recording for years. The song hit #9 on the charts, and was the next to last single released from the album.  I love the line “And if two can become one/who is the one two becomes.”  This has the Pop feel of the duo, as opposed to their Soul records. The song fit along the others that were being released at the time, with a focus of the keyboard up front and center of the songs.  This is one of my favorite early 1980s songs by the duo.

Hall and Oates are still touring today as a duo, and releasing songs as solo acts. There are many great songs that the duo has recorded that I love, like “Rich Girl,” “Say It Isn’t So,” “Out of Touch, ” and Hall’s solo “Dreamtime,” but I wanted to focus on some of the songs that are rarer or not played as much on 1980s flashback radio channels. The duo finally getting into the Hall of Fame is something that should have happened years ago, but deserving nonetheless.  This duo has had successful and memorable songs that have lasted many decades.

Book Review: “Crazy” Is A Super Book!

“Anyone who knows me knows the best way to ensure I do something is to tell me I can’t.”

 

Those words definitely describes AJ Mendez Brooks, who takes the reader through her life in her book “Crazy Is My Superpower” (Crown Archetype Books, 2017). Her book covers not only her time in the wrestling ring, but also how she overcame adversities through a rough family life and her struggles with bipolar disorders.

Brooks writes about her early life as a child moving from several apartments after being evicted due to her parents failures to pay rent and the normal bills, to living with friends and family members houses or apartments (with her whole family living in one room). She describes her parents marrying and having children at a young age as one reason for her growing up fast without a normal childhood, moving to motels and dealing with her father’s drug and alcohol abuse, along with getting toys that were brought home from the dumpsters.

Brooks , however, does not make the reader feel sorry for her upbringing, but ads some great humor in the book, such as the time she was in grade school and writes about her early story-time experience at school. She writes that “The only story-time experience I have ever enjoyed was last year, when I swiped Stephen King’s Cujo off my 1st grade teacher’s desk and began reading it out loud during recess.”

Brooks writes in most of the book how she found out her mother was bipolar, but they refused to discuss it, nor get treatment for it. It was only later that Brooks found out that she herself was bipolar as well.

Brooks writes about how she overcame her pre-wrestling days by having good grades that landed her into a prestigious college, only to find out her mother spent the money that Brooks was saving for the admissions fee.  She talks about how her brother and sister ended up leaving the family after they graduated high school in order to get away from the lifestyle, leaving her to try and care for her family while chasing her dreams of school.

If the reader is looking for a normal wrestling biography, this is not the book. The majority of the book talks about her struggles with the disease, while at times, using humor or references to Pop Culture, such as comic book characters like The X Men, Harry Potter, and other 1990s TV Shows like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” However, there is several chapters on her stay at the WWE’s Developmental League in Florida (FCW), where she gets several offers to move up to the main roster, only to have it yanked away from her. She ends up staying in FCW so long that she becomes the girl for all the other female wrestlers to have their matches with before they moved up to the main roster.  She writes that she was so in love with her dream of being a wrestler that  “Day in and day out, every second not sleeping or eating” was focused on wrestling or watching wrestling tapes in Florida.

Once Brooks made it to the WWE, she was put in storylines with Kane, Daniel Bryan, and future husband CM Punk, and discussed how management thought she was not only too small, but not marketable, where she ended up being so popular she became one of the top selling wrestlers in the company for merchandise.  She writes briefly about when she and Punk started dating after being thrown together in a storyline, along with their friendship before they started dating, and finally their wedding where she writes, “And the rest of the story is just for us.”

Brooks discusses her friendship with former wrestler Kaitlyn (real name Celeste) and Brooks’ decision to retire after several injuries. She also tells stories of her love for animals, along with advice for women on various subjects via journal entries.

Normally the lack of wrestling stories would distract me from the book, but Brooks is such a great writer and combines humor into a serious topic that the book is wonderful.   The book deals with someone embracing the disease and conquering it as best she could, along with overcoming her background without making the reader feel sorry for her (although it’s a wonder how she made it through some of her childhood). This book is a great tale of overcoming obstacles and ending up on top of the world, no matter how big the dream may be. Even if you are not a wrestling fan and have no idea who AJ Mendez Brooks is, this is a book that keeps the reader turning each page without slow spots in the book.  Maybe Brooks will write more books in the future (maybe with more wrestling stories), because she has the talent to be just as successful a writer as she was a wrestler.

 

“Crazy Is My Superpower” is available now at any bookstore and online sites.

My Buddy: The Underrated “Nature Boy” Of Wrestling

Growing up a major wrestling fan in the 1980s, I tried to watch as many of the territories I could (for those that may not know, as opposed to today, there were many wrestling leagues throughout the U.S. and Canada before the WWE bought most of them out).  As a kid in junior high when I started watching, I was usually cheering for the fan favorites, aka the “Faces,” such as Hulk Hogan, Sting, and The Rock N Roll Express among many. However, there were a few of the bad guys, called “Heels,” that I always cheered for, like managers Jim Cornette and Bobby Heenan, and wrestlers like Nick Bockwinkel, The Midnight Express, Curt Hennig, and Bill Dundee (when they were Heels-they were also Faces too in their career) There was an wrestler who I enjoyed watching as a heel and thought he was so underrated, and that was “The Nature Boy” Buddy Landel.

Newer fans may not know that many wrestlers used the same nicknames when they were in the different territories, unlike today where a wrestler would leave, the league has copyright property to the name (there are times when the wrestler owns their name, but that is becoming rare).  This is why when fans think of “The Nature Boy” gimmick, they think of Ric Flair. Flair actually took the gimmick from Buddy Rogers, who was the first WWWF Champion in 1963 (losing to Bruno Sammartino) and the NWA Title in 1961. Other “Nature Boy” wrestlers were Flair, Paul Lee, and Landel.

Landel started wrestling in 1979 in Bill Watt’s Mid South territory, where he started out as a jobber and caught my eye when he joined Jim Crockett’s NWA in 1985. I remember my first issue I ever bought of the wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated covering the Great American Bash of 1985 (before Supercards on PPV, this was Crockett’s big summer card). At the time, Landel was teaming with Cowboy Ron Bass as part of J.J. Dillon’s stable. The storyline started that Dillon was paying more attention to Landel than Bass, which created Bass to turn good and face Landel at the Bash, which was declared a draw. Although some people thought of Landel as a fake Ric Flair, I loved watching his matches and interviews at the time, along with his “corkscrew elbow,” which set up his other finisher, the Figure Four, which Flair and Rogers also used. Wikipedia writes that a match in 1985 between Flair and Landel broke a North Carolina record held by Elvis Presley, so Landel wasn’t just a wanna-be star.

Landel won the NWA National Heavyweight Title at Starrcade 1985 in a decent match against Terry Taylor, when Dillon grabbed Taylor’s foot when Taylor was trying to do his finish, a superplex off the ropes. I remember the NWA showing the match on free TV after the card weeks later, and even then I was rooting for Landel over Taylor, which went against most of my young views that the Heels were bad.

Landel left the NWA when he refused to show up for a TV Taping on time and was fired that day. Landel said on a podcast later that he was tired of the management and other wrestlers playing politics, although he admits that he was having drug problems on top. He claims on that podcast that plan was that NWA Champion Flair was to drop the belt to Landel, and he was to either drop the belt to Magnum T.A. or Tully Blanchard. He also states that Blanchard’s manager at the time, Baby Doll, was to manage him, while Tully was to be paired up with Dillon. Nonetheless, Landel was fired from what was his shot at the big time.

Landel then went to the Memphis area in 1986, and then back to WCW (for a small time), before going to Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and the WWF before getting injured, and released. Landel’s time in Jerry Lawler’s Memphis area was very exciting, where he had some of his best work, especially teaming with Bill Dundee. One of my favorite spots at this time was when Landel and Dundee decided that they would announce the matches themselves, instead of Dave Brown and Lance Russell, and brought out their own table that had a sign titled “The Bill and Buddy Show.”  I remember watching this 1986 Memphis run with Landel and Dundee fighting Lawler and Dutch Mantel.  This territory was so different from the WWF, AWA, World Class, and NWA that I was used to, and was actually annoyed when my TV Station would pre-empt the show during some weeks where I live in Ohio.

Landel was a major reason, along with The Rock N Roll Express and Jim Cornette, that I was a huge fan of the Smoky Mountain Wrestling territory in the 1990’s, run by Cornette.  Just like the Memphis TV Show, I was not able to see Smoky Mountain every week, but with the Internet, I have gotten see every Smoky Mountain show in order. Landel came in Smoky Mountain in 1992, and then again in 94-95 before the league closed. Landel was the Smoky Mountain Champion as a Heel, and right before they closed, Landel was a Face, going against Cornette’s Militia group. I asked Cornette via his podcast, “Corny’s Drive Through” Podcast on MLW Radio (March  14, 2017) if there was plans for Landel to win back the title if the league didn’t close. Cornette said that was the plan. A memorable Smoky Mountain moment was an interview Landel gave admitting to his past mistakes with drugs and being unreliable to the bookers. His run in Smoky Mountain, especially his second run, included a great match with  WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels. His WWF run included matches against Bret Hart, a young Matt Hardy, and HHH.

One interesting time in his career that I forgot about, but then rediscovered, was his time in USA Championship Wrestling in Knoxville, Tennessee (1988), run by Ron Fuller. Landel was usually paired with Hector Guerrero. This TV Show was interesting because the wrestlers sat at the announcer’s desk for their interviews. Several of the Smoky Mountain Wrestling stars were here at the time, such as The Armstrong Family, The Mongolian Stomper, and Ron Wright. The wrestling was decent, ( I believe it ended up being a part of Continental Wrestling) but Landel’s character was that he had an injured arm and wore a black arm band, that he “loaded” it with some foreign object. Although the fans bought into the gimmick, yelling at the referee every time Buddy would turn his back to the ref, I think it diminished the fact that Landel really was a great in ring worker that did not need to use a cheap prop gimmick to get over.

Buddy Landel was one of the most underrated wrestlers of the 1980s-1990s. He was still wrestling Indy Shows after he was released from the WWF. He had a short stint in the AWA in 1987 as well.  Some of the big names he wrestled during his career were: Magnum T.A., Sting, King Kong Bundy, Tommy Rich, Jerry Lawler, Tully Blanchard, Bobby Eaton, Ron Bass, Kamala, Jim Duggan, The Rock N Roll Express, and more.

I asked Hall of Fame Announcer Jim Ross, via his website, his opinion of Landel and if he was underrated. He replied, “ Buddy was a naturally talented wrestler whose own demons hurt him but Buddy was a good hand without question.”

I also asked Slam Sports Wrestling’s Producer and Author Greg Oliver (who helped give me my break in writing about wrestling) his views on Landel. Oliver writes via email:

Buddy Landel was criminally underrated as a performer. He had all the skills to make it to the top — look, microphone skills, in-ring magic (the story he told me for The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels about wrestling The Invisible Man is proof he could do anything). What he didn’t have was discipline or his head screwed on straight. To his credit, he always owned up to his shortcomings later in life, never bemoaning what could have been.

 

Buddy Landel died in 2015, at the age of 53, due to complications of a car accident.  Even though he was one of the few “Nature Boys,” his work and interview skills were not of a cheap knock off. Wrestling fans, go back and discover this talent. He was not only one of my favorite wrestlers growing up, but even now, going back and watching his matches still entertains me.

If you’d like to be notified when a new post comes up, click the “Follow Button” and fill out the form. I do not see the information. Or better yet, tell your friends about this page! (Or tell a wrestler to really help my numbers!!)

 

A special thanks to Greg Oliver for helping contribute to this page.

You can find Greg Oliver, and the rest of the great Slam Sports Wrestling writers, at http://slam.canoe.com/Slam/Wrestling/home.html

Jim Ross at http://www.jrsbarbq.com , and Jim Cornette’s Podcasts at http://www.mlwradio.com .

 

Here is another one of Landel’s best promos.