Book Review: Rush Drummer is in Sync with the Road

Cover design: Hugh Syme



One of the many things that I find interesting about musicians are some of the hobbies they have outside of the music world, or how they spent their time after a tour. Ron Wood and Paul Stanley paint, Rod Stewart collects trains and follows soccer, and William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys, along with Bryan Adams are avid photographers. In his book “Far And Wide: Bring That Horizon To Me,” (ECW Press, 2016) Neil Peart takes his readers through his motorcycle rides throughout North America, while giving his thoughts on the road about what was possibly his last tour being the drummer for the band Rush.

Peart has written several books of this nature, but this was the first one I have read, especially because I wanted to see how his views about no longer touring with the band came about. The early chapters of this book gets into the mind of one of (if not THE greatest Rock drummer of all time) and how he views one final tour with the band. What was interesting is that the previous tour is when Neil wanted to stop playing, but due to guitar player Alex Lifeson, Peart decided on one more tour.

Peart’s sense of humor is shown throughout this travel book, including some humorous text messages between him and Police drummer Stewart Copeland, mishaps while riding on the road, and some heart-filled comments made by Peart’s young daughter when seeing the band for the first time. The book covers also Neil’s suggestions for naming the final tour, along with his health issues before and after the shows. There are stories about Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, and roller skating at the backstage at the arenas.

Although there are plenty of Rush stories, the book is mainly about his traveling throughout the tour on his motorcycle with fellow bike riders and the scenery he encounters along the way, with wonderful colored photos of the roads and monuments they come across. The book is filled with beautiful glossy photos (some black and white for the older Rush photos, but mostly in color). The reader gets into Peart’s mind as he rides and plots out his routes, along with the philosophy and his world views he believes, while riding down the long side roads of the U.S. and Canada, without sounding preachy or having an in your face style of stating his opinions.

Throughout the book I wondered how Peart could handle not only the stress on his body by playing his complex music (being an ex drummer myself), but how he managed to plot the routes needed to be taken , all with a few health issues along the way, while still making it to every show and play as well as he does, then do it over again the following night (especially since Peart is in his 60s).

There was quite a bit of things I learned from this book, from some of Peart’s thoughts on how he approaches the drums and his shows, to his knowledge of historical landmarks, and even his opinions on why he never took selfie photos with fans. There are stories about him taking his American Citizen’s Test, describing “the worst crash ever” he took on his bike, to what cities Rush originally wanted to play for the last show of their final tour. I was also entertained by Peart’s mention of the band Icehouse, drummer Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys, and having “George Harrison eyes”. Peart’s taste in music while traveling in his cars is also an interesting read.

“Far and Wide” is a splendid book filled with rock stories and traveling. The reader does not have to be a Rush fan to enjoy this road trip throughout the U.S. and Canada. The pictures alone in this 282 page glossy book is worth the view alone, along with the suburb writing style that Peart possesses. Readers of motorcycles, cars, music, and travel will all find something to enjoy in this book. Peart may have retired from music touring, but he has proved with this book that he does not have to retire as an author.



This review copy was sent courtesy of ECW Press.


“Far And Wide: Bring That Horizon To Me” by Neil Peart (ECW Press, 2016 ISBN: 978-1-77041-348-1 (hardback) 978-1-77041-366-5 (special edition) 978-177090-894-9 (PDF) 978-1-77090-893-2 (ePub) ) can be ordered at


For more info about the author, go to :


Music: Albums That Influenced Me.

Many of my posts I write about music that influenced me as a child growing up. As a drummer in local bands in the Youngstown, Ohio area, I was exposed to many different types of music. I played jazz, country, rock, blues, and even some polkas. I listened to oldies and country when I got my first drum set, along with the Top 40 hits of the time. I have seen on Facebook recently challenges to list albums that influenced the person that they still have on rotation. Although there are many albums that have influenced me that are not one this list, such as Garth Brooks’ “No Fences,” Andy Gibb’s “Greatest Hits,” Huey Lewis and The News’ “Sports”, and Rick Nelson’s “Live At The Troubadour,” these are my top influential albums in my life that I still listen to today.

  1. Rick Springfield ” Working Class Dog” (1981). This was the album that most people fell in love with Rick’s music, although it was his 5th album. I was introduced to him when my next door neighbors (all girls) and I would hang out after school at their house listening to their records. They were the first people I knew that got MTV, along with cable TV. They had a bunch of records, and I remember the first time hearing Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” over there. They would watch the TV Show “General Hospital” and be in awe of Dr. Noah Drake (Springfield’s character on the show). When Springfield broke out with “Jessie’s Girl,” everyone knew who he was. This album influenced me not only because he was an actor that put out great music (this will be a common theme throughout this post), but there is not a bad song on the whole album. I remember listening to the CD way into college, especially deeper songs such as “Daddy’s Pearl,” which was played constantly in my elementary days at school (I had a crush on one girl who was madly in love with him and just to play this song at school), but I always thought “Inside Silvia” was such a great written song. This album also introduced me to Sammy Hagar’s music with Rick’s cover of “I’ve Done Everything For You.” The album was one of my earliest introduction to an actor who could also rock out. To this day, I love this album especially with the great songwriting and catchy tunes.

  1. The Oak Ridge Boys “Greatest Hits” (1980). It’s hard to pick one Oaks album that influenced me, more less choosing a “Greatest Hits” one, but this was the first record I got that was all mine, and not shared with my brother. It was also the first album I received (as a Christmas gift) along with my first drum set. I remember my parents putting the needle on the record and walking into the kitchen to get their breakfast tea, and by the time they walked back into the room, I was playing beat to beat along with the record, without hearing most of the songs before (I was around 7years old- call it “A God Thing”). I’m not sure how I wanted the album, maybe seeing the band on TV, but this album not only introduced me to the band, and my first memories of drumming, but it is still one of my go to albums to listen to orchestration and production on songs, along with studying vocals. I can’t say how many hours I spent in my childhood playing drums along to this album. To this day, The Oaks are one of my all time favorite music acts, and even though I upgraded it to CD, I still have the worn out record with the ripped cover, just for memories.

    Me holding my Oak Ridge Boys record Christmas 1980


  1. “Grease The Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture.” (1978) Once again, my childhood neighbors are the ones that introduced me to this album. I remember staring at the double album intensely when they showed it to me, and I fell in love with the music. “Grease” is also my all time favorite movies of all time, so much that I refused to even see it on stage or the remade “live” version on television from a few years ago. To me “Grease” is Olivia -Newton John, John Travolta, and Sha Na Na. Loving the 1950s music, especially in my early years, this album combined the early rock era songs with a Broadway play. I remember playing along with my neighbors, singing Danny’s parts as they took turns singing the female parts on the album. This influenced me as not only exposing me to vocal ranges, but also into (once again) actors being able to sing (and vice versa). The record, along with the hit “Islands In The Stream,” made me discover the Bee Gees, and Barry Gibb’s songwriting, who wrote the theme to the movie.

  1. Al Denson “Be The One” (1990) and Michael W. Smith “Go West Young Man” (1990) – TIE.

Christian music was considered mainly cheesy growing up, with the exception of the Gospel sounds of The Oaks. It wasn’t until bands like Stryper came along that showed that Christians could rock out. I did not enjoy Stryper until later on, even though my buddies were huge fans. In 1990, two acts really inspired me with their albums.

I saw Al Denson in concert opening for the band Petra, and in my opinion, he blew Petra off the stage and he only had a keyboard. After going to a church retreat that summer, I became more of an Al Denson fan with this album, with my buddy playing it constantly in the car all the way to and from the retreat, along with the theme of the retreat being “Be The One.” I even used the title track “Be The One” as my audition song when I tried out for my senior musical as a dare from one of my friends (I got a part in it). The same friend and I wrote for the school paper, covering the entertainment page, and we constantly raved about the songs on this album. Denson’s work helped me get serious about my religious views, and saw him several times in concert.

Michael W. Smith’s “Go West” album gave him exposure to the pop world with his single “Place In This World.” To this day, it is one of the albums that doesn’t seem too dated to me from this era. Just like Denson’s release, songs from this album helped shaped me spiritually, including singing several of the songs on cassette soundtracks on church concert nights (back when vocal track cassettes were the rage, along with the Al Denson tracks). Songs like “Love Crusade” and “How Long Will Be Too Long” were also mentioned by my friend and I in the newspaper, and he even used the song during his magic act at one time. It’s hard to pick just one of these albums so that is why it’s a tie for helping me on my journey.

  1. Barry Manilow” Greatest Hits” (1978). My earliest exposure to Barry Manilow was listening to a couple 45s that my parents owned; one was “Memory/Heart of Steel” and the other was ” The Old Songs”/Don’t Fall In Love With Me.” When I was in college, I joined the BMG Music Club, and one of the first cassettes I got was this greatest hits package. I would listen to this album walking to and from classes, and once I got to actually see Manilow in concert, I proudly wore my T shirt as well on campus afterwards (most people didn’t know who he was, and thought it was Rod Stewart-college kids!!). Just like The Oak Ridge Boys, it’s hard to put in words the influence Manilow has had on me as a musician and a person. Most of my relatives like his music, so it ties us together, which is rare among parents, grandparents, and children. This release helped me through days in college when I was struggling with life, and his music also combines hope, good feelings, and reminiscing of younger days. This was the first full album I got of his, and made me want more and more of his catalog.

6.The Bay City Rollers “Rock N’ Roll Love Letter” (1976) . Growing up in the 1970s-1980s, before cable television, kids would spend Saturday Mornings watching cartoons. One of the big shows in my youth was the “Sid and Marty Kroft” show, which due to the popularity of this band, was renamed “The Bay City Rollers Show.” The show featured childhood favorites like H.R. Pufnstuf, “Horror Hotel,” and footage of the band performing. The show was one of the first memories I remember of seeing a show with pyro, a huge lighted stage, and screaming girls throughout the songs. Singer Les McKeown was an underrated front man, and the production of the concert parts of the show was well done. This album in the U.S. combined two of their UK releases into one package. Even though they were teen idols, the music (to this day) is still good pop music. They wrote their own songs, and played their own instruments. I remember drumming and singing along to this album, and it influenced me not only drumming, but vocals as well. It also introduced me to different types of instruments, including acoustic work on the song “Eagles Fly” and the use of a voice box on “Wouldn’t You Like It” (I was not exposed to the use of it by artists Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton until decades later). This band was one of my early heroes in music, along with the Oaks, Andy Gibb, and David Cassidy. Although many think they were One Hit Wonders (which they weren’t), the band was a major influence on me, to the fact that years ago I purchased the two UK releases so I could combine them so I had all the songs from that U.S. release.

  1. Kiss “Destroyer” (1976). There are many Kiss recordings that have influenced me. My early experiences with the band was when my cousin would play their music while we would visit them, and had Kiss posters all over his wall. I never got their music until the late 1980s when I became a huge fan of drummer Eric Carr. The first cassette I got of the band was “Destroyer,” which I found in a bargain bin at the local Fishers Big Wheel (which was like a K-Mart)in my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio. My friend and I would walk across town and browse the bin of cassettes. He would buy Rush tapes and I started collecting the Kiss ones. Although this is not my all time favorite release of the band, it was still my first purchase, which I drummed along with for many hours. The band was a major influence on me , especially since each member sang, played, and had an individual identity.

  1. John Schneider “Now Or Never” (1981). Another actor turned singer, John Schneider’s album was filled with Pop, Adult Contemporary, and Country songs. I actually like his cover of Elvis Presley’s “Now Or Never” more than other acts’ covers of Presley’s songs. The album also had songs written by Eric Carmen and Lionel Richie, which introduced me to those artists. Being a huge fan of the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard” growing up, when I saw his record in the stores, I begged my parents to get it for me. I would sing and play along with the album many many times, and throughout the years, still listen to it. There are many good songs on it, and one of my favorites (to this day is) “No. 34 In Atlanta,” about the singer’s record isn’t charting well in the major markets, but he’s proud to play music his way.This was another early childhood memory for me, buying albums and spending my summers practicing my drumming.


  1. The Blues Brothers “Briefcase Full Of Blues” (1978). Being a fan of acting and music growing up, I always watched comedy acts like Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason, and “Saturday Night Live” (back when it was actually funny). One of my favorite acts on the show was The Blues Brothers. This album introduced me to blues music before I played in my first blues band in 1992. The great thing about this album was that not only did it have two of my favorite comedy actors in John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, but they took the act seriously that they went out and got some of the best blues players to be in the band. In my junior high years, I would wear a Blues Brothers T Shirt, and I played this cassette while playing drums. I also was a big fan of the movie, along with my brother and our friends. During school recess I would imitate Akroyd’s Elwood Blues by singing my version of the album’s cover of “Rubber Biscuit.” This was my earliest memory of blues music. Guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy recently passed away who plays on this album. This record is one of the all time best selling blues albums ever, and it is never mentioned when people discuss great blues records for some reason. This was the album that later helped my playing in later years playing in blues bands.

  1. The Beach Boys “The Beach Boys” (1985). This, as mentioned many times on this page, was one of my favorite albums of the 1980s. I knew of the Beach Boys growing up, hearing their songs on the oldies radio channels, but this was the cassette that really got me into the band, thanks to the single “Getcha Back.” I remember seeing the band perform it on the TV show “Solid Gold,” which was a staple must watch show for me on Saturday Nights every week. The album was the first release after the death of drummer Dennis Wilson, but this album made me go back and re-discover their work, going to the Fisher’s Big Wheel and buying bargain bin cassettes of the band, from the many Capitol Records compilations that were put out (like “Your Summer Dreams,” and “Surf’s Up”). Even though the album driven by drum programming, there is still the big sound that made the songs fun to play along with. My summer days were filled with practicing my drum playing in the morning, then hanging out with my friends at the local pool, then riding bikes until dusk. This was an introduction to the band for me in the era where many of us were listening to Duran Duran and other pop acts.

  1. “Sha Na Na” Sha Na Na (1971). This act got their start as a comedy act at Columbia University and grew in popularity, that they ended up with their own television show that lasted from 1977-1981. The act opened for acts like The Grateful Dead, John Lennon, and Frank Zappa. They were also the act before Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. The act was mainly remembered for the singer Jon “Bowzer” Bauman who had a deep voice and dressed like a greaser. However, one of the original guitar players was Henry Gross, who had the hit “Shannon” in 1976.

The reason this album influenced me was not only was I a huge fan of the television show, this album was another one of my very first albums. Side 1 was a live set recorded in 1971, and Side 2 was original work in the studio. This was the first record that I remember having a live side and recorded side (and this came out before Kiss “Alive 2” who used the concept as well). Side 1 had a great version of the hit “Tell Laura I Love Her,” which is my favorite version of the song (even better than the original). Side 2 had some great original songs mostly written by “Screamin’ “Scott Simon. The songs “Only One Song” (which is a Beatles like song) and “Canadian Money” are still songs I play often off the record. Years ago, I was excited to get a copy of this on CD ( a double album pack). The album , made me love the band and the cover arrangements,, while combining original work, which lead me to loving the “Grease” soundtrack and movie (they play Johnny Casino and The Gamblers in the movie and provide most of the second side of the album soundtrack, in fact Simon co wrote the song “Sandy” in the film). This band may have been seen as a novelty act in the 1970s, but the music was very underrated, and I still enjoy watching their work on YouTube from the past, including the TV show. This was a major album from my childhood, from enjoying oldies music with an updated feel to it.



There are many albums that I like, and have special memories of, but these are some of the major albums that influenced me as a person, drummer, and learning music in general. From childhood memories to practicing the artist’s on the albums, these are just a few of the ones that I remember. One great aspect of music is that it not only provides the listener with great songs, but lasting memories.

Music Playlist: Do You Have These Songs on Your Summer List?

Summertime is one of the most anticipated seasons , especially in the Northeast, where we deal with cold winters filled with snow and bitter temperatures. Summertime was filled with great memories as a child; hanging out with friends at the park pool, playing my drums to the radio, and in later years, going to concerts. In honor of the first day of summer on June 21, I thought I would list some of my favorite songs of summer.

There are a few criteria I use for this list. First, the song needs to have a summer feel, or mention summer in the song; it can’t be a song that was released only in the summer (like Huey Lewis and The News “The Power of Love,” which was released during the summer movie season). I first heard Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You) in the summer, and telling all the lifeguards at the pool that is was going to be a smash (they disagreed with me), but it doesn’t have a summer feel to it, even though I have summer memories of that song. Next, it has to have summer as the setting (Richard Marx’s “Endless Summer Nights” actually takes place in the winter time looking back on the summer-the same goes Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” in which summer is over which is why these are missing, or I’d put them on the list).      There are many summer songs that people associate with the season, such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Summer In The City,” “In The Summertime,” and every Jimmy Buffett or Jan and Dean song (“Dancing In The Streets” is another). As great as these songs are, I want to try and escape the obvious choices , although it is hard not to include a few of them on this list, but maybe suggest a few songs that some may not put on their normal play list. With that in mind, here are some of my best summer song choices from the 1960s-today (In no particular order).

  1. “Getcha Back” -The Beach Boys (1985). I constantly mention this album by The Beach Boys as my favorite album they have done. This album has so many memories for me as a youth when it was released; spending my summer days playing my drums to the cassette, along with spending time with my best female friend, who was a big fan of the band as well. Any summer list has to have a Beach Boys song on it, and this one is my pick because it talks about reminiscing about the past when the narrator breaks up with the girl and tries to see if they can re-connect. Even though it doesn’t have the summer themes of a beach or surfing, it talks about a guy in his fancy car wooing the girl with his money. Summertime in my youth was filled with the couples breaking up at the end of school to have their summer flings or be free. This has many summer for me.

2. “Cruel Summer”-Bananarama (1984). This song has a darker feel of summer to it, filled with the hot streets and being left all alone for the season. This song actually was released a year earlier, but gained momentum when it was played in the movie “The Karate Kid” in the U.S., although it wasn’t on the soundtrack. Several other acts recorded it after, but the original is still the best. This is for those that need a song that’s not all sunny and beaches.

  1. “Goodbye” -Night Ranger (1985). A summer play list needs a power ballad on it, and this was my choice by Night Ranger. It is actually about the death of a relative of Jack Blades, but mentions the 4th of July in the lyrics. People mistake the song for a failed relationship, which is how good the lyrics are, that it can be interpreted as a failed summer romance. I like the guitar solo at the end of the song as well. I can picture this song played at a beach party at night for a slow dance.

  1. “Summer of ’69”- Bryan Adams (1984). This is one song that’s an obvious choice for the list, but it has to be on a play list. The Adams/Jim Vallance penned song is filled with reminiscing about the best summer of their lives (among other themes to it). Playing in bands during the summer was a big part of my life, so trying to get a band together and play out in the clubs is a familiar part of the song I can relate to. The song hit #5 in the U.S. gave Adams a bigger success than his last album. The song is filled with Drive Ins, being young, and working in the summer. Summer is all over this song.


  1. “Summer Nights” -Olivia-Newton John, John Travolta (1978). Another obvious choice for some, but how can this song NOT be on the list? “Grease” is one of my favorite movies of all time (no I won’t watch the remade “Live” show that was on TV due to my loyalty), and this song is one of the most sung song for karaoke ever. The song hit #5 in U.S. and is filed with summer romance, going bowling, visiting the arcade, and being at the beach. If this is not on your summer play list, your list is not complete.


Van Halen’s 5150- the album “Summer Nights” is on.
  1. “Summer Nights”- Van Halen (1986). This track off of the first Sammy Hagar era Van Halen song is another song that must be on a play list. Hard Rock fans need to be represented as well, and this song has summer written all over it , with the lyrics “Summer Nights and my radio.” This was one of the first songs Hagar recorded with the band, according to his book. This song brings back the time friends and I would sit in the park and jam cassettes during the summer days, and this was one of the cassettes we always had on hand, just for this song.


  1. “Tender Years”- John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band (1983). This band is mostly remembered for the song “On The Dark Side” from the soundtrack for “Eddie and The Cruisers,” but this song was also released from the movie, and is a great summer ballad. The lyrics talk about a summer romance on the beach, or boardwalk (since the band is from New Jersey). A pop ballad with a great saxophone solo in it brings a throwback to the 1960s style music in ways without it sounding dated. I first heard the song when the band appeared on the TV Show “Solid Gold,” which was a favorite of mine, and it got a lot of local radio play where I live in Columbiana, Ohio. This is one of my favorite ballads form the 1980s and is one of the most overlooked from the time.

8.”Guess You Had To Be There”-Brian Wilson/Kacey Musgraves (2015). Most of this list has been from the 1980s, and I tried to get a few other decades in here as well. This song was from the Brian Wilson album “No Pier Pressure,” and has several interpretations to it- a relationship being failed, or just missing a great party (or both). Country fans will like this due to Musgraves’ singing (who is one THE best thing in Country Music today). Granted the song doesn’t mention summer directly, but the setting could be in the summer after a great beach party. This song may go against my criteria, but this is a great song to be played in the summer, with a swing feel to it that people missed when this album was released. A good feel good song with the melody.

  1. “Wasn’t That A Party”- The Rovers (1980). Another Country act (this song was a Country cross over hit) by the Irish/Folk singers The Irish Rovers, who had a big hit in 1968 with “The Unicorn.” This is a total party song, and I remember my uncle playing this song when deejaying at parties, and weddings. The song is filled with drinking, running down the road, and having the police called on them. The singer forgets half of the stuff that went on at the party as well. I’m not supporting these activities, but it has a good party vibe to it. The actions of the singers could usually be done in the summer (who has track meets and cuts down trees in the winter?). The song reminds me of a bunch of people hanging out by a bonfire trying to outdo themselves with crazy stuff. The song has humorous lyrics to it.


Rush : Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.


  1. “Lakeside Park”- Rush (1975). Classic Rock fans need their summer songs as well, and this is a Rush song that fits nicely. The song is not a 20 minutes epic, like some of their other songs, and talks about hanging out in the summer at parks (this one being in Canada where drummer Neil Peart hung out as a child). Even though singer Geddy Lee has stated he does not like the song , it’s a great slow grooving song that deserves on a summer play list. It even talks about the month of May, referencing Queen Victoria’s birthday.


  1. “Palisades Park”-Freddy Cannon (1962). The 1960s was filled with summer-filled songs, and this song gets overlooked at times. Written by Chuck Berris (yes the host of “The Gong Show”) this song talks about amusement parks, rides, and falling in love at the local festival. The song has references to roller coasters, hot dogs, and dancing to a local band-all things needed for summertime. The song was also recorded by The Beach Boys, Gary Lewis, and the Ramones, but Cannon’s is the best version. Berris wrote in his book that the money he received from this song helped him finance the TV shows he created. This was Freddy Cannon’s biggest hit, but he had other good songs as well.


  1. “Saturday In the Park”-Chicago (1972). What other season can people have picnics and parties in the park than summer? This song hit #3 in the U.S., written by Robert Lamm, who was watching film footage that he shot years earlier and created the song by what he saw. Sung by Lamm and Peter Cetera, the song talks about bands playing, people singing, ice cream, and more. This list covered pop, country, musicals, oldies, so why not throw in a song with lots of horns? The song is not a rocker, but a peaceful, mellow song (the listener does need a break time to time). The setting in this song is totally summer and filled with enjoying the outdoors.

13. “Anything But Mine”-Kenny Chesney (2005). This is a perfect song for either the end of summer or during, with all the fairs and festivals that go on. The song was written by Scooter Carusoe, who has worked with Rascal Flats, Dierks Bentley, and other acts. The video is focused more on the end of summer (the single was released in January) , but unlike Henley’s or Richard Marx’s songs about summer, this song’s setting could be at anytime. Even though us in Ohio like the line about the city of Cleveland, it’s actually the Tennessee city, not Ohio, but we can claim it anyway. Just like the John Cafferty song, this has the boardwalk carnival theme to it, along with the summer romance. This is one of my favorite Chesney songs, where I couldn’t see another act giving the song the special touch like Chesney, especially since he is known as the summertime guy in Country.


There are many other summer songs that I could have put on the list, from Country, Pop, and even Rap songs (which I will not do-I’m not a Rap fan, so no Will Smith songs here). These are a few songs that are obvious choices, but a few suggestions that you may not have thought to add. I tried to show a variety of genres as well. Maybe some of these will make it on your play list for this summer!


Feel free to send me your summer play list songs here, or follow me on Twitter @lovelylancel



Rare Rick: Songs From The Original Teenage Idol


Rick Nelson has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.



I knew the early career of Ricky Nelson growing up from my love of studying Pop music and playing as a drummer in local bands. I knew of the hits like “It’s Late” and “Hello Mary Lou,” but it wasn’t until I was playing in a band in 1996 that I truly dug deeper into his later years. I was a big fan (and still am) of his twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar, and it was due to my band’s guitar player bringing in Rick’s song “Easy To Be Free” that I had to start getting more of Rick’s CDs. I loved playing that song in the band, and it was a thrill for me to hear the Matthew and Gunnar play the song in 2010, when I saw their “Ricky Nelson Remembered” tour in Kent Ohio.

Rick (he started going by a more older name than his teen “Ricky” ) was an actor, songwriter, musician, and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had a great smooth voice, especially in the later years. I want to share my some of my favorite lesser known songs that he recorded that I think people should check out.

  1. “Easy To Be Free” (1970). In the opening I discussed that this was the song that got me really into Rick’s music again, from the album “In Concert: Live at The Troubadour.” I am not a huge fan live albums, but this album is one of my favorites live releases. The famous Troubador club was a hotspot in LA that helped launch people like Elton John, The Eagles, Linda Rondstadt, Jackson Browne, The Byrds, and Steve Martin among others. This album was the debut of Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, where he started merging the Country-Rock sound that Don Henley and Glen Frey took to mega success with The Eagles. The Stone Caynon Band featured Randy Meisner on bass, who played in The Eagles and Poco as well. I argue that Nelson helped start that genre, even though he’s never really credited when it comes to that sound.The song has a poetic feel to it (in fact I used the lyrics when teaching poetry when I taught English), with lines like “Did you ever want to fly/over rainbow skies so high/Did you ever wonder why/people tell you not to try.” The song has a positive message to it, going against what others say about you and your dreams. This song is one of my all time favorite songs that Rick performed. Here is the footage I shot at the show of the song form my camera (pre-smart phones) that I posted on youtube.  (A funny side note about filming the song was it was the first time I figured out the video function on the camera, and the two brothers were smiling and got into the fact that I was trying to film it while rocking out the the song, which many people there did not know the song).
  1. “You Tear Me Up” (1959). I discovered this song after buying the DVD collection of Nelson’s performances on the Ozzie and Harriet Show, called “Ricky Nelson Sings.”. This was an early hit for him, and was written by Baker Night, who also wrote “Lonesome Town.” The song was on Nelson’s 3rd album, “Ricky Sings Again,” and had The Jordanaires on backing vocals. The song is a typical love song that was common during the time in music, but the guitar work and lyrical phrasing of the song is different than the love songs on the charts. This has the classic early 1950s rock sound to it.
  1. “I Can’t Take It No More” (1981). Some people forget that Nelson was still recording throughout the years and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was prepping for a comeback. After he hit with “Garden Party,” and a minor hit with his cover of “Dream Lover,” Nelson was (if it wasn’t for his record company dragging their feet on the release of “Dream Lover” after his Saturday Night Live appearance which stalled the momentum of the comeback), still touring around the U.S. This song was off his “Playing To Win” album, which is one of my favorites he ever recorded. It is hard to pick just one song off that album, but this song could have been played on the radio at the time with anything else being released at the time. I love the lines “When you’re lost in all your dreams/ and it seems so hard to please/ and things don’t work out the way you planned.” The album broke the Top 200 in the U.S., and according to his website, it made Nelson the only artist to have an album of original music from the decades 1950-1980s.
  1. “Life” (1971). In the 1970s, Nelson was writing his own music, along with recording songs by Bob Dylan. When I saw his sons in concert years ago, they made the comment that Rick really started enjoying writing his own music during this time. Right before he’d hit with “Garden Party,” he wrote this song called “Life,” off of “Rudy The Fifth” album (which also has a great song called “Sing Me A Song” on it). The song hit #15 on the AC Charts and features the Stone Canyon Band. The song is about a guy writing to Life, which as a literary lover, the personification of Life as a person is great. Lines like “Life, before you’re over/I want something to show for/All my trouble” and at the end of the song “Life, if you keep goin’/I’ll try to throw in/a little love” has more depth than just a normal Pop song. No matter what life throws at us, we still keep going on.
  1. “Stay Young” (1976-1978). The dates here may be confusing, but this song was written not by Nelson, but by Benny Gallagher and Gordon Lyle (Lyle also wrote later the hit “What’s Love Got To Do With It”). The song became a #1 Country Hit for Don Williams in 1983. This song was recorded sometime during the few years that Rick was working with Epic Records, which has been released several times on CD, and has some wonderful work on it. The song seems autobiographical for Nelson, where his spotlight fame was pretty much over, but he was still playing and doing what he loved to do. The opening lines of “don’t lose you that light in your eyes/never to late to love, never to late to try” is a great opener. The lines of “Don’t you feel like you’re playing the fool/ step out of line break all the rules/Don’t let them tell you it’s not for you/Don’t go growing old before you do” is perfect example of Nelson’s career when the critics told him he was done after his teen years.
  1. “One X One” (1976-1978). This song was another one from his Epic Record years of recording. How many Pop Songs start off with lines like “Have you ever been so down /every time you looked around/despair is like a silently cloud beside you” back at this time? (It sounds like lyrics to a Grunge era song). But the song isn’t a dreadful song because it actually give hope with the chorus line “ You can’t look back, what’s done is done/and the time you spent on yesterday/today is halfway done.” I also used this song in studying poetry in music when I was teaching English, and loved the second verse opener “Have you ever loved so hard/you opened up and dropped your guard/and fell to earth your feelings burned and branded.” Dennis Larden’s writing and Rick’s voice is a perfect combination for the song, that I could picture being played in coffee houses.

Rick Nelson had 35 Top 40 Hits in the U.S. and was the original act to be termed “Teen Idol.” However, his work went far beyond a teen act whose parents had their own TV Show. Nelson is still considered underrated in my opinion (how many books or releases are made of him anymore compared to Elvis and other early Rock Acts-not many). I love his later years maybe more so than his early work, with his more mature voice and attempts at writing his own songs. If you are not familiar with Rick’s later work, hopefully you will check it out-there are many hidden gems that most have not heard or discovered (other songs like “You Can’t Dance,”  “So Long Mama,” and his version of “She Belongs to Me” are some) My love for his music all started with a guitar player who I looked up to, and will be forever grateful that he turned me on to his music.


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Book Review: Young Adult Horror Book Not To Be Read Alone Near Campfire

Campfire will be released in July 2018


#sponsored by Jimmy Patterson Books


The Jimmy Patterson series for young adults has brought out several great books and writers. Reviews of several books in this series have been reviewed on this page, and have been positive so far. Shawn Sarles is another writer in the Patterson books with his book “Campfire” (Jimmy Patterson 2018), which is a mix of horror and mystery.

The cover of the book is attention getting with a face and an image of a campfire in the eyes of a girl, with the subtitle “Be Careful What Stories You Tell Around The Fire.” Since covers sell books, this should grab readers off the bat.

The story follows the main character, Maddie Davenport, along with her family and friends who go on a camping trip scheduled for a week. The families and friends have been close for many years, being introduced years earlier by Maddie’s mother, who has since passed away in a fire accident. The group includes Maddie’s father and brother, her best friend Chelsea (who has also lost her mother), Kris (who has taken over Maddie’s mother’s real estate business) and her husband and children. Maddie’s Aunt and Uncle, with their son, along with their guide in the wilderness, Caleb, who Maddie starts to feel attracted to, is also in the party.

The families decide to tell scary stories around the campfire one night, which ends up having parts of the tales come true. The two major stories that are told at the fire are good tales and descriptive, especially for a horror fan like me. Several events unfold (NO SPOILERS HERE), which ends up having similarities to the stories, that shows a horror and mystery of who is doing certain things to several family members.

“Campfire” has a few flaws to the book. First, the ending was predictable with the person behind the mystery, maybe because I have seen many horror and mystery films (along with read many books in the genre), and since this was a Young Adult book, this reviewer figured out what was going on. Another part that helped figure out what was going on was a few of the writing segments seemed rushed, which had this reader asking “Why didn’t (this person) do this?” By the end of the book , it made sense once the big reveal happened. Second, the language is geared for the ages 16 and up. This is not for, say a 13 year old, due to some material in the book. It is not vulgar by any means, but some language and innuendos may not be for everyone. Even with these two flaws, the book keeps the reader engaged, which is what a good horror/mystery should do. Also, once again, the stories told at the fire are great enough that the reader would want to pass on when they are sitting at the fire, or just want to tell a neat story. Although I thought the Maddie character was not as strong a person as she tended to be made out to be, it was kind of hard for me as a reader to give her sympathy. The book has a unique theme to it, and the writing is as good as the other Jimmy Patterson writers. Fans of R.L. Stine would like this book.



“Campfire” by Shawn Sarles (Jimmy Patterson Books, 2018 ISBN: 978-0-316-51506-1 ebook: 978-0-316-51507-8) is available in July 2018.


This review copy was given courtesy of Jimmy Patterson Books/ Little, Brown & Company, and Hatchette Books Group, Inc. For information about this book, and other titles, go to:

For information on the author, visit his Twitter site at: @shawn_sarles

Book Review: A “Lovely” Look At The World by Designing And Faith

Cover design by Aaron Campbell & Faithwords. Cover photography by Trina McNeilly.

#Sponsored by FaithWords


Trina McNeilly’s “La La Lovely: The Art of Finding Beauty In The Everyday” (Faithwords, 2018) is a Christian Living book geared towards woman, filled with wonderful pictures and ideas about decorating and in life.

McNeilly is a blogger and decorator whose web page, “La La Lovely,” shows creative ways in designing homes. The creativeness is shown just in the book alone, which is beautifully put together, with glossy pages and artistic photographs throughout the easy reading. The writing encourages the reader to find beauty in everyday life, while McNeilly uses her past life experiences to help the reader go through their own dark times. She writes about trying to juggle motherhood while continuing her creative goals and dreams, her past heartbreaks in health related problems, and also discusses handling the divorce of her parents during another difficult time in her life.

“La La Lovely” gives decorating ideas throughout the book, as well as life lessons, where the writer uses symbolism of redecorating a living space with the human mind and body. A great story used by McNeilly is when she writes about how people in France used to walk turtles just to slow down their lives. Other interesting suggestions include people finding their own quiet place in their homes and asking God into that place, clearing mental clutter everyday (just like when a person’s home is filled with clutter) using bookshelves as a symbolic tool in dealing with past issues, and that a person must be “lost before they are found.”

Since the book is a Christian Living writing, McNeilly uses Bible verses and stories of her faith to help out in her journey. However, there is not much in depth detail in most of the Bible references, which is neither good or bad. If the reader is looking for detailed Biblical analysis, this book is not for them, however, if something lighter is wanted, along with down to earth examples, this is a good book for the reader. “La La Lovely” can be read as a whole, or as a devotional, reading one or two chapters a day. The writing is easy to read, with humor (at times), along with heart-filled tales added.

The layout of McNeilly’s book is artistic and creative. The reader can go back after reading and just look at the photographs throughout the book, or re-read the redecorating tips at the end of some of the chapters. This book is geared towards women, especially mothers. The Biblical aspect is not mind blowing academia based , which can be good for those looking for a lighter devotion. Overall “La La Lovely” is nice book geared for the specific audience it sets out to reach. Take the time to look for this book at the store, even just to admire the layout it.



Thanks to Faithwords Books and Hatchette Books for the reading copy.


“La La Lovely” by Trina McNeilly (Faithwords, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4789-2076-2 eISBN: 978-1-4789-2077-9) can be found at : .


For more about the author, go to: or at