For years rock musicians have been treated in a different way than non-famous people. Rock stars have gotten away with trashing hotels, speeding, and drugs where many people would still be sitting in jail for the same offense. Celebrities in the music world do dumb things as well, in which many of us would not think up, more less actually do.
In his book Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and BehavingVery Badly (Grand Central Publishing, 2019), Jake Brennan details some of music’s biggest and well known stories . Taken from his podcast of the same name, Brennan walks the reader through some of the famous, and sometimes just plain strange, stories about music legends , tying each chapter together to provide a well written story.
Some of the tales in the book are about Elvis Presley and his struggle with manager Tom Parker in being a serious musician, while Parker continues to keep a hold on his money making star, how Jerry Lee Lewis’ two wives ended up dead not long after each other, and how Sam Cooke was killed in a motel room.
Not only are the stories, as mentioned before, strange and entertaining to read, but Brennan adds a fictional flare to the conversations between the characters to reenact what was going on at the time, as well as combining the end of each person’s chapter to lead into the following artists’ tale of death, sadness, and oddities. The illustrations by Matt Nelson also adds to the strange stories.
One of the strangest tales mentioned is detailing Black Metal musician Varg Vikernes, who stabbed Mayhem guitarist Euronymous, which also involves the death of vocalist Dead (who would do very strange things on stage and off to live up to his name),cannibalism, and church burnings. I have seen a few documentaries dealing with the Black Metal movement at the time, but these stories are almost so strange that it seems like a movie script.
Of course Axl Rose has to be covered in a book about bad behavior, which includes the St. Louis incident, where a riot was caused after Rose stopped a show short, and their 1999 incident at Donington, which caused the deaths of fans. One could write many tales about Rose’s behavior (not starting concerts until midnight or walking off before a show was finished) where a whole book could be featured on just him. The same could be said for Sid Vicious and Phil Spector, who are also covered in the book, along with a the final days of Gram Parson’s and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
The book reads nicely in a fictional style format, to where the stories are not just straight out facts, and the tying in each chapter from the previous star’s story is enjoyable as well. There is strong language throughout the writing, but the tales are what makes this book a nice read for rock fans. I have yet to hear the podcast , but this book gives a great introduction to some of rock music’s strange and weird personalities and lives that involves cover-ups, interesting facts, and just plain weird stuff.
This copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.
Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and Behaving Very Badly (Grand Central Publishing, 2019) by Jake Brennan ISBN: 978-1-5387-3214-4 (hardcover) 978-1-5387-3213-7 (ebook) can be ordered at : http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.
For information on the Disgraceland podcast, go to:www.disgracelandpod.com
Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com
After his last solo album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, which spawned hits like “Don’t Lose My Number,” “Sussudio,” “One More Night,” and a tour with band Genesis for Invisible Touch, Phil Collins was on a musical roll. He was charting hit after hit in the 1980s, and a question was how long could he continue? Those that have read his book know that a lot of the stories from the 1980s are basically him not remembering much about them, due to his massive schedule.
1989’s But Seriously was a more politically based album for Collins, with songs like “Another Day in Paradise” (which won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1991), and “Colours” (which is almost 10 minutes long). Many artists started to see that the fun time party music of the 1980s were coming to an end, and some started to use more social issues in their songwriting. Collins started to use more live drumming to some of the songs, as opposed to the drum programming from his 80s work.
The album starts off with the blaring horns of “Hang in Long Enough,” which has a rock style to it, with horns by The Penix Horns adding a flavor to it, similar to Earth Wind and Fire, along with an edgy guitar throughout the song.
The album then slows down immensely on track two with “That’s Just The Way It Is,” which has a similar opening to the following song, which makes it odd placing listening to it now. This style of ballads is in the classic style of Collins’ work in the 1990s into the 2000s, especially with his soundtrack work in movies.
One of my all time songs by Collins is track three. “Do You Remember” is a song I never get tired of decades later. The piano melody, and the lyrics on this ballad is a pop classic. Lyrically, talking about a relationship that has run its course, was used when I was an English teacher at a private school in Ohio, using the tag “People are funny sometimes/they just can’t wait to get hurt again, ” for a creative writing prompt, along with using the song in looking at poetry in music. The music video for the song is one of my all time favorites, with Collins being flash-backed to his school days when he befriends a girl and they become best friends, before she moves away. I can relate to this, due to the fact that one of my best friends growing up in junior high was female (she didn’t move away, but when high school hit, we went our own ways). If you have not seen the video, it is a must see. The song was a smash hit here in the U.S., hitting #1 on the AC charts, but still isn’t mentioned when people list some of his great songs, for some odd reason. Album flow wise, with this song being placed right after track two, which is so similar in structure, I’d say skip #2 and go straight to this one. It features Stephen Bishop on backing vocals, along with great guitar work by Daryl Stuermer. I think this is one of the best pop ballads of the 1980s.
The horn section takes over again with “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, ” along with a strong drum sound . Another hit off the album, this is another gem from the album. This is a strong powerful fun track with a big band rock feel.
The album also brought out the hits “Another Day in Paradise” with David Crosby helping out vocally, and “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” with Eric Clapton on guitar. I was never a fan of the first of these two, but the second has that crying guitar sound that Clapton is known for, which adds to the sadness of the song. Once again, the video, with Clapton having an appearance in it, is a throw back to the days of Collins’ acting days before branching into music (named Billy Collins) . It has a bluesy ballad to it with strong guitar playing. I am not against politically driven songs, but I always thought that compared to his other work, “Paradise” was a weaker song, yet it got more success critically for him, when previously the “experts” scoffed at Collins’ work.
“Heat On The Street’ is a more up tempo version of “Two Hearts” from a few years earlier, from the soundtrack to his film “Buster,” with its swing style rhythm, but with more political lyrics to it.
Two of the rarer cuts that are not usually discussed on the album is “All Of My Life,” a song that starts like a typical Phil slow ballad, but builds up with power during the choruses. The other rare song I love is the last song on the album, “Find A Way To My Heart,” which has personal meaning to it for me.
One my of best friends in high school was an illusionist, and was heavily inspired by David Copperfield. At the time I helped him write some jokes and give him some musical tips that may work for his tricks. After being influenced by a trick where Copperfield used the song “Mama” by Genesis, he decided to use this final track on this record as not only for a trick, but also was using it as his final song being played at his shows.
When I first got this release, there were many songs I skipped over, and only listened to some of the singles (except for “Find A Way..” which I always listened to with my friend). “Do You Remember” is still my favorite off the whole album. Although I do not have a bunch of Phil Collins’ releases in my collection (I have No Jacket Required on vinyl), besides this one and his 1998 Greatest hits (which for some reason doesn’t have “Don’t Lose My Number” which is a bummer), But Seriously is still an album that holds up years later. I stopped buying his studio releases after this, due to me not liking the soundtracks and too many of his songs sounding the same. The childhood memories of certain songs makes this album special for me, although I do not consider it a complete album track for track.
Hang On Long Enough 2. That’s Just the Way It Is 3. Do You Remember 4. Something Happened on the Way to Heaven 5. Colours 6. I Wish It Would Rain Down 7. Another Day in Paradise 8. Heat on the Street 9. All Of My Life 10. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning 11.Father to Son 12. Find A Way to My Heart
The Oak Ridge Boys have been putting out several great albums in the past few years. When the band announced they would be working again with producer Dave Cobb on two upcoming albums, I was excited to hear the news. Cobb helped the singing legends go in a different direction on their last CD 17th Avenue Revival (where you can read the review in the archives by typing in the search engine). When the act announced that one of the CDs was going to be another Christmas record, I was a little shocked, since they just put out a Christmas release in 2016, called Celebrate Christmas (again you can read my review in the archives).
I have stated here many times that I am not a huge fan of live CDs or Christmas records. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being a Scrooge here, but most Christmas records are the same standard songs that have been done so many times that there is no new way to approach a holiday release. I do enjoy several Christmas CDs (Barry Manilow, Michael Bublè , and the last one by the Oaks), but my collection of the genre is limited for that reason, preferring original songs for the season, as opposed to the standards.
The Oaks’ CD, Down Home Christmas, is a departure from those that purchased the last Christmas release of the singing group, where not only the vocals were upfront, but a powerful group of musicians and orchestration were also featured. Here, the focus is purely on the vocals, with limited musicianship, which gives the songs its appeal and a different take on the genre, using a throwback style to a simpler era and time.
There are eight new songs out of ten, with two being the standard songs, “Silent Night” and “Amazing Grace.” “Amazing Grace” has gotten quite a bit of media attention the past year for when the Oaks sang it at the funeral of their friend and former President George H.W. Bush. A lead in description on the song by Joe Bonsall gives the ending of the album an emotional flavor to a song many have heard before, dedicating the song to anyone who had lost loved ones in the past, and giving the listener a verbal hope that the people will be connected again in the afterlife, which also expresses the band’s Christian outlook in life.
The CD opens with “The Family Piano,” a song with strong piano and guitar, written by Aaron Raitiere, who helped contribute on the last album (co-writing the song “Brand New Star”). Raitiere also has written with Dave Cobb before, where acts like the band Europe recorded songs on their albums. This opener is more geared towards a Bill Gaither style audience, in which the song is not too forceful, but still a pleasant opener that takes the listener back to the living room days of singing music with the family for entertainment.
The song “Angels” is a wonderful tune that encourages being thankful that God has given angels to those that believe in him, regardless of how good and bad life has been so far. One of my biggest complaints about the Christmas season is that many are not thankful for what they have, when a month earlier they are “thankful” for one day. Duane Allen and William Lee Golden share lead vocals on this song. This will take you back to a small country church, with the vocals stripped down to basics that you could feel the echo of the voices coming through the rafters of the wooden roof. Duane Allen has long been one of the most underrated vocalists (and arrangers) in any type of music, and he just gets better every album at an age where many just don’t have the chops anymore.
“Bring Daddy Home For Christmas” is a touching song about a child that is missing their father (for reasons not really given), but combines commentary with singing. Allen starts telling the story, as if reading from a book, giving a throwback feel to us kids who grew up watching the old Rankin/Bass specials on television, or bought the records where the narrator would set up the song, and tell the listener what was going on in between the vocals.
The single from the CD, “Reindeer on the Roof,” is a fun sing along track that will be stuck in your head long after the song is over. The video is humorous with guest appearances and even masked men looking like lucha wrestlers singing along to the song. Bass man Richard Sterban sings lead on the song, which gives the group a new standard for the holidays, and could turn out to be the Christmas “Elvira” (The biggest hit of the group’s career that made the pop charts in the early 1980s) with its simple, but easy to remember chorus. Although I feel Sterban really shines on the ballads, this is up there with his best songs, I mean really, how many bass singers are still around today?
“Hallelujah Emmanuel” is one of the few songs with stronger drumming by Chris Powell, as most of the songs are played with brushes or barely heard. Once again, the power from the last CD is not here, but is more focused on the vocals this time around. Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban share vocal duties on here. Bonsall is known for his wonderful on stage presence, but his vocal skills shine here.
“Down Home Christmas” has all the members of the group singing together throughout the track, and is reminiscent of the style of John Denver. There is some humor in the lyrics, such as “Granny is a ‘cussin'” and that there is “Every kind of pie” a person would want on the table to eat. This song is about family and getting together for the season. This is not a religious song per say, but one that celebrates traditional family values that the band is known to promote.
William Lee Golden has gotten my respect within the past several years, where in my older age, I have gone to respect his vocal ability more than I did when I was younger. His style fits beautifully on the bluesy ballad “South Alabama Christmas,” which salutes those that do not have chimneys (the narrator lives in a double wide trailer) or snow during the holidays. Sterban can be heard nicely on this track as well, along with the nice piano playing on this song written by Jamey Johnson, Buddy Cannon, and Bill Anderson.
With the vocals being the focus on the CD, “Don’t Go Pullin’ on Santa Claus’ Beard” is another throwback to the 1950s novelty Christmas songs in style and feel. Joe Bonsall takes the lead, with help from Sterban on this humorous track. Fans of the film AChristmas Story would enjoy the style and lyrics on this song.
The Oak Ridge Boys have found a way to make a Christmas CD enjoyable with a new perspective on the over saturated genre. The run time of the total album is just around 30 minutes, with each song around the three to four minute mark, so there is nothing extended or fillers here. This is a multi-generational album, where the older fans of traditional, old time holiday music will enjoy its traditional flavor, but the current fans of the band will also enjoy the light-hearted songs. One could see the likes of Jimmy Stewart sitting in the living room with his children singing to the songs next to the piano, or the 1980s children who grew up on the humorous novelty acts while wrapping their gifts. Add some traditional Gospel music into the cookie mix here, and you have a new treat with fun, praise, and togetherness celebrating God, family, and a simple life.
For someone that has tired out of the standard Christmas releases, preferring original penned songs, this was a surprise for me, which shows the iconic Boys are still proving their talent and risk taking.
The Oak Ridge Boys Down Home Christmas is available now from Lightning Rod Records.
Track List: 1. The Family Piano 2. Angels 3. Bring Daddy Home For Christmas 4. Reindeer on the Roof 5.Silent Night 6. Hallelujah Emmanuel 7. Down Home Christmas
8. South Alabama Christmas 9. Don’t Go Pullin’ On Santa Claus’ Beard
10. Amazing Grace
The Oak Ridge Boys are: Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.
Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see some of those in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com.
In 1999, a shift in popular music was beginning to hit the mass markets. Some were tired of the grunge music that brought the end to many of the party time songs from the 1980s, and although it wasn’t a new concept (it was around since the 1960s and before), teen music was starting to hit MTV and the Top 40 radio stations. With the debut albums of Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears, labels started chugging out many bubblegum pop acts, with acts like 98 Degrees, The Pussycat Dolls, and Christina Aguilera. However, two of my favorites had debuts that year that did not have the biggest success compared to the others listed.
So Real was the debut of Mandy Moore for Epic Records (who is now beloved for her acting on the This Is Us television show, as well as her acting in chick flick movies), and although she was lumped in with Simpson, Spears, and Aguilera with the same format ( a young blond surrounded by dancers), I leaned towards Moore’s work for the beginning and have still enjoyed her music.
Opening the album with “So Real,” a nice little pop song that has a more enjoyable video, the second song, Candy” was a moderate hit for Moore which put her on MTV and was a popular video requested at the time. The song hit #27 on the U.S. Top 40 Mainstream charts, and #2 in Australia. The fact that the singer is craving the boy’s love “like candy” may sound cheesy today, but it had a different comparison to love than the other girls’ work that was out.
Most of her debut album has the normal pop/dance style to it that was released by other acts, but to me, Moore had better vocals and didn’t rely as much on effects on her voice than the other acts. “Walk Me Home” is one of the better ballads on the album (a song that didn’t chart well, and was re-released on her next album- a remix CD with a few new songs). “Quit Breaking My Heart” is another great ballad that is a hidden gem on the CD , which many don’t mention when talking about Moore’s early work. “Love Shot” should’ve been released after “Candy,” and is just as good as the breakthrough single. The only odd placing is ending the album with an acoustic reprise of “Quit Breaking My Heart,” which almost makes me think the label was really pushing hard for the song to be a smash, but the good thing about a stripped down reprise of the song is it showed Moore’s vocal talent which didn’t need all the effects on it like with her dance songs.
Although most of the songs Moore states she was not a fan of to this day, So Real still has some good tracks on it, for those that want to listen to the early rawness of her talents which grew into a wonderful talent. I have written in the past that her Wild Hope CD is a very underrated release (you can read the reviews by typing her name in the search engine in the archives), along with her covers album and her self titled pop release from 2001. Mandy had a more wholesome, non-offending style and look to her, as opposed to the other acts breaking out at the time. Even though most songs here are dated, there are still some songs on here that can still be able to enjoy today.
Track List: 1. So Real 2.Candy 3.What You Want 4. Walk Me Home 5. Lock Me in Your Heart 6. Telephone (interlude) 7. Quit Breaking My Heart 8. Let Me Be The One 9. Not Too Young 10. Love Shot 11. I Like It 12. Love You For Always 13 Quit Breaking My Heart (reprise)
Although he was already a well known act being in The New Kids On The Block, Joey McIntyre’s Stay The Same CD is one of the most underrated releases not only for 1999, but of the whole wave of this period. There are many rare gems on this release, which is a tale of two parts; the first half is amazing, and then a few misses towards the end. What made McIntyre unique, as opposed to some of the other acts, is that he co-wrote all but one song on the whole album, and like Moore, his vocals didn’t not need as much effects to them to show his talent.
Opening with the up tempo “Couldn’t Stay Away From Your Love,” with strong piano/keyboard, this CD has quite a bit of a mixture of pop/funk and soul to it. “I Can’t Do It Without You,” is a song where he sings about conquering the world, but needs the girl by his side to do it. The lyrics “I’m gonna play some golf with Tiger Woods/and be a big shot up in Hollywood” has some humor to it, but still is great lyric writing. This is a song (along with a few others) that I still listen to today.
The soul and funk comes into play with “Give It Up,” which has the influenced of Kool & The Gang. The groove keeps the album flowing, setting up for the well known songs off the release.
“Stay The Same” was the first single released , which made it to #10 on the U.S. Hot 100, and #19 on the Mainstream charts. A ballad with wonderfully positive lyrics about not being ashamed of who you are, could be an anthem for its positive outlook and hope. “Don’t you ever wish you were someone else/ you were made to be/who you are exactly” is just the opening line of this great song.
The second single “I Love You Came Too Late,” was the song where I discovered this CD after seeing the video on MTV, which has Joey singing in a diner when the ex-girlfriend comes in with her new man. To this day, I find myself singing this song with the catchy melody. Many forget about this song when it was played on the video shows, but even the video tells a great story, where videos were dying in storytelling when it came to visuals at the time, settling for just dancing in front of a camera.
The songs “The Way I Loved You,” which has a vocal R&B style similar to the band Surface, and “I Cried” fills the end of the wonderful first half of the release. “I Cried” became the third single off the CD, but did not get much airplay or attention, although it’s a different take on a breakup, where the guy admits that he cried when the girl left him, without shame. This song shows the vocal skills of McIntrye, which he incorporated years later when he released an album with crooning songs. To me, McIntyre is the most talented of the New Kids on The Block, and diversified his skills, from different styles of music to his acting (he was great as the English teacher on the BostonPublic TV show) . “I Cried” also shows a more stripped down live sound to the song, as opposed to having samples and technology throughout the singles.
“One Night” is the last great song on this release, after skipping several average songs. This is a must listen to, because of the 1970s soul style to it. This could have been played right after a song on the radio by Smokey Robinson and not be questioned.
Stay The Same has a great first half of the album, with his Top 40 pop, soul, and ballads, and is a question mark to me why this CD did not fare better than it should have (the same goes for his 2004’s 8:09 CD, which could go toe to toe with any Justin Timberlake release, and Mac’s 2002 acoustic live CD One Too Many is a great coffee house feel) . If you are looking for some 90s music, I suggest Stay The Same, which is not very dated in its musical style, even twenty years later.
Couldn’t Stay Away From Your Love 2. I Can’t Do It Without You 3. Give It Up 4.Stay The Same 5. I Love You Came Too Late 6. All I Wanna Do 7. The Way That I Loved You 8. I Cried 9. Because Of You 10. We Can Get Down 11. Let Me Take You For A Ride 12. One Night 13. Without Your Love
Richard Marx has been on top of the music in charts in many ways; he’s been a performer, songwriter, producer, and has sung backing vocals for many acts. He has worked with music acts like N Sync, Keith Urban, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Chicago, and many others. He has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters, especially in the 1980-2000s. Here are a few of my favorite Richard Marx songs (in no particular order).
“Satisfied” (1989). This song was released on his second album, Repeat Offender, and hit #1 on the U.S. Charts. It was the first single off of the album, and on a video discussion about the song (which he called “vlogs,” which stood for video blogs), Marx says it “reeks of ‘80s.” Marx actually stopped playing the song live for a while, but brought it back to his shows after a while when fans started demanding the song. The video featured boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who was from Youngstown, Ohio, which is not far from me.
“The Other Side” (2004). One of my favorite albums that Marx released is 2004’s My Own Best Enemy, which featured this song. The album is darker from his first several albums, but the songwriting is just as great. The song was written by Marx, and even though the album barely made the Top 200 Albums Chart, it did produce a single from the album. I like everything about this song, from the intro to the lyrics, which states “I really wanna know was it worth the ride/ and will you be waiting on the other side.” The song is about moving on, but struggling to do it.
“Angelina” (1989). This is one, if not my favorite, song Marx ever wrote. The song hit #4 on the U.S. Charts and #2 on the AC Charts. The song has a big sound to it for a mid tempo song about a girl. The name came from a girl who was an airline worker on a plane Marx was on, and he loved the name. Marx tells a story on his vlog that he was listening to Def Leppard’s Hysteria album at the time and tried to capture that feel to his work. He says that later on Phil Collen of Def Leppard said that the band loved this song so much that they tried to copy the sound for their next album. I love the lines “ Tried to be what you wanted/I gave you all I had/Girl, you left me with nothing/nothing but a photograph.”
“Endless Summer Nights” (1987). This song hit #2 on the U.S. Charts and was kept out of the Number One spot by Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” As often as this song was played, I was shocked it didn’t hit the top of the charts. This song was from his debut album, and was the third single from it. The song was an early written song for Marx, written when he was 21, before he got a record deal. Marx says that every record company turned down the song, which was a two song demo with “Summer” and “Should’ve Known Better” on it. The song isn’t actually about summer, but a guy looking back at a summer romance during the winter, but it became a standard during the summertime throughout the years. The saxophone solo intro by Dave Baruff is one of the memorable intros from the 1980s. This is probably my second favorite song by Marx in all of his collection.
“Lonely Heart” (1987). This song is rarer known off the debut album, but was originally going to be the fifth single from the album, but it was decided that Marx would just wait for the Repeat Offender album to release another song, which was already done. In his vlog, Marx stated that the song was written with Peter Cetera in mind, but Cetera passed on it. It was written by Marx, and Fee Waybill of The Tubes. Marx calls the song “dated,” but it is one of my favorites from the great first album.
“Until I Find You Again” (1997). This song was one of Marx’s strongest ballads, and hit #3 on the AC Charts. The song was from the out of print Flesh and Bone album, which was not one of my favorite albums, however, the song shows Marx’s great songwriting ability, with lines like “Will time be a fair weathered friend,” and “Should I call out to angels/or drink myself sober again?” This song, for me, moved Marx’s career into more ballads and the adult contemporary genre, getting away from the pop and rock music from his early songs.
“Someone Special” (2004). This song was featured on My Own Best Enemy album, but was originally released in 2000 off of the Days in Avalon release. Although I was not a huge fan of the Days album, I remember liking the song, and it fits well on the Enemy album. This is a positive song, which is full of hope, about someone believing in themselves when others do not see it. The song is perfect for junior high or high school students that are not a part of the in-crowd, with dating and being in the popular group, although I’m not sure Marx geared it for that. This song was kind of passed over, and I’m surprised it was not played often when it came out on either record. I love the line “Guess the joke hasn’t hit me yet/cause I’m still waiting on my Juilet/She must be held up somewhere”, and with the chorus stating “I still believe there’s someone special/waiting out there for me.”
There are so many great song that Richard Marx has written or sang on, from “Everybody,” which was a hit for Keith Urban (which I think Marx’s version is better), to “Don’t Mean Nothing” and “Hazard.” With all of his accomplishments, it’s a wonder why Marx is not in the Songwriters Hall of Fame yet. He is still putting out music and writing for other acts, as well as hosting a podcast. If you haven’t listened to Richard Marx past the second album, you should go and check out his other work; he has some stuff that is just as great as when he was on top of the charts.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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).
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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
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.
“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).
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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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One of the most successful (and one of my all time favorite) bands from the 1980 and 1990s was Huey Lewis and The News. This act had 18 U.S. Top 40 hits, 12 Top 10 hits, and 3 Number Ones. They also had two #1 albums. The band fused Pop Rock, Blues, Soul, and R&B into their music and are still putting out some great music and touring every year. I have seen them twice live and they were awesome. Their albums “Fore” and “Sports” were a major part of my childhood; in fact, we wore out several copies of “Sports” on cassette one summer alone during high school band camp and other events. Even though most people know the major hits like “The Power Of Love,” “If This Is It,” and “Stuck With You,” there are so many other songs by the band that many people forget or have yet to dive into. Here are some of my favorite Huey Lewis and The News songs (in no particular order).
“Is It Me” (1982). This ballad is one of my favorite songs off of the “Picture This” album. I have mentioned in past blogs how “Picture This” is one album that people need to know because there is not a bad song on the whole album. When people mention this album, they think of the songs “Workin’ For A Livin’,” “Do You Believe In Love,” or “I Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do,” but “Is It Me” is just as good as any of the ballads the band has made period. The song is similar in lyrics to “If This Is It” where the singer is telling the other person if he is the problem, let him know and he’ll leave. This song may have been on the AC or Pop Charts if it was released later when the band was on a streak, and was overlooked in my opinion on the album.
“He Don’t Know” (1991). Another album that is overlooked in the band’s work is “Hard At Play” (which I mentioned in the Underrated Albums blog). I listened to this album almost every day for a whole summer when it came out. I remember videotaping the band’s performance on “The Tonight Show” promoting the song as well and watching it over and over. The album produced two Top 40 singles, but this song did not chart when it was released. I like the Bluesy guitar work throughout the song, along with the opening where Huey is just talking before he starts singing. I also really love the ending guitar work, which shows the musicianship of Chris Hayes. One of the songwriters on the song, Jon Tiven, has had songs recorded by Rick Derringer, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy among others.
“Walking On A Thin Line” (1983). This song was off of the #1 album “Sports” and hit the charts in the U.S. at #18. It was the final single released off of the album, but yet for some reason is not remembered by many critics or causal fans, despite the chart position. The song discusses Vietnam Veterans, but some may not know that just by listening to the song. I like how the song has an edge to it, as opposed to the previous released Pop songs by the band. I remember the song was the start of Side Two on the album, and I used to love the opening even when it was played at band parties during my junior high years. This is one song that needs another listening to if you have forgotten about this song.
“When I Write The Book” (2001). This song was a Nick Lowe cover for the band’s “Plan B” Album. Not that Lowe’s version is bad, I just love the take Huey and The News take on the song made it more soulful with the organ and horns being more in front of the song. The song shows how Huey could have been a great singer in the 1960s right beside acts like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. “Plan B” has a few great spots on the album, and to me, some songs I have to skip over. However, this cover is one of the best parts on the album.
“Til The Day After” (1996). There are very few Greatest Hits and Live albums I will actually purchase. I am not sure why I ended up getting Huey’s “Time Flies..The Best Of” album at first, but I love this song off of the compilation. The Greatest Hits CD has four new tracks, and they are good, but this song should have been given a second chance (one song “So Little Kindness” was added to the “Plan B” album because Lewis wanted it to have a second chance). The acappella intro shows the vocal skills of the band, much like “Bad is Bad” from “Sports” but kicks into a mid tempo song with horns blaring. I always could picture this song being an opener (or encore) at their concerts, where the band starts off in the dark and then the house lights turn on when the music kicks in. The chorus of “I‘m gonna stay to the day after/After the sun turns off its light/The stars don’t shine at night/When God comes for my soul/I’ll politely say no/I’m gonna stay til the day after the world stops turning around” is just pure poetry. This song could be played at weddings it’s so great.
“Old Antone’s” (1988). The “Small World” album was a mix of good songs and some odd choices in my opinion. I loved the singles “Perfect World” and owned the 45 of “Give Me The Keys (And I’ll Drive You Crazy).” I was not a fan of the title song from the album, and it is the least listened to album I have of the band. The album did reach the Top 20 Albums Chart, but was not a major seller compared to the band’s other albums previously released. I do love “Old Antones,” which was written by Lewis and member Johnny Colla. The song has a Cajun/Zydeco feel to the song, and the lyrics are so well written that the listener can actually picture themselves sitting in the club watching the characters in the song. This is a great up tempo dance-able song, and shows the band’s growth from just their basic Pop Songs. The band experimented with the sound during this song, and I think it is one of the few bright spots of the album.
“I Know What I Like” (1987). When the “Fore” album came out, I listened to it so much that I got tired of it that I put it away for several years. A few years ago I took it back out and the CD never left my car player for a few months. I was amazed at how great the album held up years later. One of my favorites on this album was “I Know What I Like,” written by Lewis and Hayes. The backing vocals, along with a few others on the album, were done by members of the San Francisco 49ers football team. The song was a Top 10 hit for the band, but is overlooked by the hits “Stuck With You” and “Hip To Be Square” from the album. The song described me when I was younger (and parts are still true), like “I like staying up all night/watching old movies ‘til the morning light.” This song was almost like the band wrote this about me (I know they didn’t though!!) This song was missed by some when the “Fore” Album is looked at.
Huey Lewis and The News were such a major influence on my life, from my drum playing, to just admiring their different blends of music as a fan. There are many other great songs by the band, including their covers album of early Rock N Roll “Four Chords and Several Years Ago” from 1994, where I wore out the VHS copies I had (both bought from the store and taped from the PBS Special). When I started playing drums for local bands in Ohio, I always said that even though my favorite bands were The Beach Boys and Kiss, if I could ever model my dream band to play in, I’d model it like Huey Lewis and The News, where I could play Pop, Blues, Soul, and R&B. It surprises me that the band gets some bad press among the so-called critics, because they are without a doubt one of the greatest American Rock Bands of all time (Is anyone from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reading this????)
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Christmas music. Some love it, some despise it. There are some classic songs, and there are some that are so bad they are good. Some favorites songs of mine include 1988’s “Christmas Without You” by Tommy Page (the B-side of his first hit single “A Shoulder To Cry On”), “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Carpenters (which was released several times in the 1970s), and Barry Manilow’s “River” (which is a cover of Joni Mitchell’s song from his 2002 Christmas album). One can not go wrong either with the Michael Buble 2011 Christmas CD, and last year’s Oak Ridge Boys “Celebrate Christmas” CD (which you can read the full review in the archives). But for every great song (Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” or the version by the Muppets), there is awful ones (“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”).
Just like in the early days of Rock and Roll, Christmas time brings out the novelty songs. Some famous Novelty, or Oddity songs, throughout the years have been 1976’s “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees (who later became a host on “Solid Gold”) , 1950’s “The Thing” by Phil Harris (which hit #1 on the charts), and Los del Rios’ 1995 “Macarena.” Ray Stevens and “Weird” Al Yankovic made a career of parodies and novelty hits. So, to celebrate the season, here are some of my favorite Christmas Novelty songs. You may remember these, may never heard of them, or may never want to hear them again, but these are some of my favorite novelties that does not include singing chipmunks or barking dogs (in no particular order).
“The Heat Miser” (1974). Everyone loves the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials (at least you should). These show were, next to Charlie Brown, was the anticipated shows to watch when Christmas time came around. Shows like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” are classic shows in animation. The best one was 1974’s “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” where Santa decides to take a vacation after getting a cold before Christmas. In order to make things right with a town called Southtown USA, Mrs. Claus needs some help from Mother Nature’s two bickering sons, The Heat Miser (who loves the warm weather) and The Snow Miser, who loves the cold. The Heat Miser was voiced by George S. Irving, who was a Broadway actor, and later voiced the narration of the cartoon Underdog. For those that do not like the snow and bad weather, this is the song to keep the cheer if you don’t live in warmer climates.
“Superstar” (1977). This song was a re-recording from a 1972 album “Snoopy’s Christmas” from the Peter Pan Record Label, which produced novelty records, along with records and book combinations, where kids could listen to the record while following along with the book. This album featured the Peanuts characters (although not voice by the actual actors) with a Christmas theme, sung by the Peppermint Kandy Kids. This album did not have the Snoopy’s Chrismas song by The Royal Guardsmen that was released on the label Laurie. I used to listen to this cassette all the time when I was younger , especially this song. Snoopy is missing from the rest of the group while they are getting ready for Christmas, but is actually outside in the yard planning his own backyard concert to perform. Some may listen top this song and think it’s awful, but it brings back childhood memories of me dreaming to be able to play in a band (which I was able to do later on). The song “Children of The World Unite Tonight” is another good song on the record, which lets kids know they don’t have to wait to be an adult to help others, but “Superstar” is the one that I remember the most from this record.
“Even A Miracle Needs A Hand”-Joel Grey (1974). A song from another great Rankin/Bass production “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” about a family and their mice friends who offend Santa by writing him a letter saying he is a fraud. This song is sung by Joel Grey, who was a singer, actor, dancer, and stage talent (You can see him on the early Muppet Show TV Series). He voices a clock maker who tries to convince his children that even though it is close to Christmas Day, they can still help miracles occur. Another great childhood memory with a great message. Too bad this song isn’t play much during the Christmas Season on my local radio stations.
“Yelling at The Chrismas Tree”- Billy Idol (2005). This song was off his “Devil’s Playground” CD (which is not a Christmas Album) and was written by Idol and Brian Tichy, who has played drums for many bands including Foreigner. The story tells young Billy in London during Christmas time, where his father comes home drunk from his favorite English Pub. Just like Idol’s other work, it has a punk-ish feel to it. This is one of my favorite rock original songs and is not played , but it is still a great beat with humorous lyrics to it.
5″Rusty Chevrolet”- DA Yoopers (1987). I first heard this song on my local Youngstown Radio Station years ago, but don’t hear it much anymore. The band from Michigan, makes novelty and parody songs, along with running a gift shop, whose website claims to have the “World’s Largest Chainsaw.” Some of their songs have been played on the Dr. Demento” radio show. Anyone driving an older vehicle during the winter season can appreciate this song.
“What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)- 1980.
Star Wars and Christmas? Today that is not unheard of with all the Star Wars Christmas sweaters and clothing that are released now, but in 1980, Christmas meant getting the new Star Wars figures or play sets. RSO Records decided to release a Christmas Album based on Star Wars characters (called “Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album”) where droids were working in a factory to help Santa. Anthony Daniels gave his famous C3PO voice to the recording, and there was even a Star Wars Christmas TV Special in 1978, with the cast of the film, that many die hard fans still have nightmares over.
Most people will remember this album for being a young Jon Bon Jovi singing on the sing “R2D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas” (Jon’s cousin had a hand in producing the album). The album actually sold well at the time, and had several different printings with different covers, due to the Star Wars references being removed for a time being. This song actually reached #69 on the U.S. Charts when it was released in 1980. Die hard fans may not appreciate this song, but it’s a funny novelty song that mentions several of the original characters. I remember playing this 45 single over and over when I was younger.
If you are tired of hearing the same old Christmas novelties, like “I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas,” or ” I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” these are some fresher, and borderline strange, songs that you can add to your play list!