” Roy Orbison:The Authorized Biography” (Center Street Publishing, 2017 ) by Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison, with Jeff Slate is a wonderful in depth collection of one of the greatest singers of all time.
The book is filled with photographs of Roy Orbison, his friends, and record covers, along with capturing the life of one of the early Rock Music pioneers. The book takes the reader through the early days of his life, when Orbison was influenced by musician Lefty Frizzell, his high school bands, and the day he discovered Rock Music by listening to Elvis Presley. Orbison’s story journeys through his heartbreaks, from his struggles with his record labels (where one label released older material of his when he was on a newer label to cash in on his success), to taking management to court, and his personal heartbreaks with the death of his first wife and kids.
This coffee table book is filled with beautiful glossy pages with photographs of his performances, some famous friends he met on the way (The Beatles, Johnny Cash), and album/single covers, and promotional events. The photographs are wonderfully put in order of the timeline of the story, which adds to the collection.
The authors add great stories in the book within the telling of the biography, like when Johnny Cash told a young Orbison that he should lower his voice if Roy wanted to make it in the music business (which his signature voice later was one of a kind and separated him from other acts), to Sun Records Owner Sam Phillips told Roy, after Orbison called him for a record deal via the advice of Presley, responded by hanging up on Orbison and told him that he (Phillips) ran the label, not Elvis. For fans of the later years of Orbison, the tale of him joining the super group The Traveling Wilburys with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynn, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan is definitely worth the read alone (along with the story of how the band name and first single “Handle With Care” came about). There is also the story about how his smash hit “Pretty Woman” was created. The book follows how Roy’s Cinemax black and white concert in 1986 led to his major comeback in the U.S.
This book is a perfect mix of photographs and text, which is not seen in many Rock Music coffee table style books. They usually carry more photographs and little to no text, however there is a great balance of the two in the 252 page volume, along with a nice discography, with the record release dates and the label included in it.
“Roy Orbison” is not just a nice picture book, but one that has great stories as told ,and put together, by his family members. The text covers the story of Roy’s life from his early beginnings to his rise to stardom, and his return right before his death. The authors state that they put the book together so Roy’s story could be told, and to “put the record straight.” This is not just a book for Roy Orbison fans, but for fans of the history of Rock and Roll. The authors of this collection have compiled a wonderful tribute to a Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest singer in music history. There is so much to learn in this book that it should be a required use in any Rock and Roll History class.
“The Authorized Roy Orbison” by Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison with Jeff Slate is available by Center Street Publishing, an imprint of Hatchette Books (ISBN: 9781478976547). Visit Hatchette Books at: http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.
Thank you to Hatchette Books and Center Street Publishing for the reading copy of this book.
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!
One aspect of music is that it is subjective. One person thinks is a great song, another may hate. Granted, musicians may have more liking to songs due to its complexity or lack of, but music is a major part of life. We remember where we were when a song is released (back in the day, when it was actually released on radio and was charted, unlike the downloaded society we have now). The song brings back certain memories of where we lived, what we were doing, or who were with when that song has that special meaning.
However, songs end up being overplayed throughout the years, and with today’s limited radio format, the same songs get played every hour. That is why I made this list of overplayed songs of the 1970s (I will do one of the 1980s later). Keep in mind that a regional aspect is also in play in my list. I may hear this song every hour in Ohio, but someone in California may not hear these on their radio stations. I do not have satellite radio either, so that is a non-factor. The qualifications are that it is overplayed throughout the years in my area. I also want to state that these songs are not bad songs-they are remembered throughout the years for a reason, but I would like a break from these songs.
So here are my picks for the Most Overplayed Songs of the 1970s (in no particular order). Feel free to dispute them.
Hotel California-The Eagles (1977). I like the Eagles, and a lot of their songs are classics. This song made it to #1 on the charts, but it is long and a guitar player’s song. As a drummer, I can’t tell you how many bands I was in that had to play this song just because the guitar player wants to solo for 5 minutes. The audience got bored very quick playing this in a cover band. Many people still dispute what the song is about (Christians claim it’s about the church, which was disputed by the band themselves, to others saying it’s about the record company). Regardless of what the song is about, this is a song that the deejay steps out of the booth to take a lunch break. There are other great songs that the band does not get played on the air (I love 1974’s “James Dean” and “Ol ‘55” from “On The Border” album). This Hotel needs to shut down for a season.
We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions- Queen (1977). This song is played together at every sporting event in the world it seems. I think it is one of Queen’s lesser quality songs. I can’t name the many Queen songs that I’d rather hear than this one (“Bohemian Rhapsody” is another one that can be added to this list). Freddy Mercury was one of the greatest singers is all music, and I feel gets ignored in the Greatest Rock Singers of all time argument. I think many people are tired of this song.
Freebird- Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974-1977) . This song charted a few times, with the most famous in 1975 at #19. The live version hit #38 in 1977. Like “Hotel California,” this is a guitar player’s song, and when it comes on the radio or a band plays it, it is bathroom break time. The song is very long, and I got tired of it being a pro wrestling fan when The Fabulous Freebirds used it during their runs. I have never been a fan of Southern Rock and every band ends up playing the song if they play covers. By the time the song is over, the band could have played 2-3 more songs in their set list. The song is usually played late at night or after midnight on the radio stations. Some stations have limited it’s play due to it being so long, but it’s still play too much. If I don’t hear this song for 20 years, it’ll still be too soon. Plus the fact that every person on the planet shouts out the name of the song at every concert, regardless of the artist, makes me hate the song even more.
Turn The Page-Bob Seger (1977 studio track, 1979 live version). Much like other songs in the 1970s, this song was never released as a single, but the way it gets played, you’d think it was a #1 hit worldwide. It seems everyone has done a version of this song. I saw Garth Brooks perform it when I saw him in concert once. Seger is another artist that I am not a major fan of, so it may sound bias, but this song is another too long to be played on radio. Yes, I know albums were huge in the 1970s and people wanted longer songs, and listened to the album in whole, as opposed to today’s single downloaded songs. This song is as long as the road trip it describes in the song. The song is slow and boring-it does not rock.
I Want You To Want Me-Cheap Trick (1977 studio, 1979 live). I love Cheap Trick, and even though they have been finally inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, they are still underrated. I have seen them in concerts several times, and I know they have to play some of the hits, but this is a song I could handle if it was retired for a while (it’ll never happen even though the band does a great job mixing their set lists). Most casual fans do not know that the studio version is different and is used to the live version. This song was tough for me to add to the list because it rocks, and has a catchy guitar and drum beat, but it seems to be the only song played on radio by the band besides “Surrender” or “The Flame.” I’d love to hear “Voices,” or “I Can’t Take It” played on the radio.
Rock and Roll All Night-Kiss (1975 studio, 1976 live). I love Kiss. Kiss, The Beach Boys, and The Oak Ridge Boys were the earliest music experiences I had as a child. I like all the versions of Kiss- I am particularly a big fan of the Eric Carr Years. I am not one of those fans that say that Ace and Peter are not in the band, so Kiss does not exist. That being said, I know this is a song that put the on the map and is a Rock and Roll Anthem, but I could handle the song being less played on radio and at events. Even though the live version is better than the studio version, I was never a huge fan of the song. The same goes for “Detroit Rock City.” I would love to hear songs like “Mr. Speed” or “Crazy, Crazy Nights,” or “Reason to Live.” Radio stations; play something from Revenge album, which I feel was one of their best albums. I am older now, and don’t need to Rock and Roll All Night.
Stairway To Heaven –Led Zeppelin (1971). This is another song that you’d think was a huge hit all over the world, but the song did not chart in the U.S. Another thing that amazes me is how some people claim that this band is the greatest band in music history. I have nothing against the musical talents of the band members, but I would state bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, and The Who could be listed before I’d named Zeppelin. The song is credited as one of the greatest songs of all time, but there has been several lawsuits stating the song was ripped off (as of this writing, the matter has enough steam to go into the courts). If it is the greatest songs of all time, what is it about? Many cannot even tell you what all the words are to the song either. I think the greatest Rock and Roll Song should actually be Rock and Roll, not an orchestrated ballad.
China Grove-The Doobie Brothers (1973). This song has been taught in many guitar lessons ever since it came out and hit #15 on the U.S. Charts. The song has a basic beat to it, but is played to death in my area. To me the song bores me musically. If someone was going to have me suggest a song by the band, I’d choose “The Doctor” from 1989, which was their last hit on the charts. China Grove is another guitar player song, where guitar players in cover bands always want to play the song. From the Classic Rock to the Oldies Radio stations, this song is heard almost every hour or two hours of the day, and always ends up being played on top of it whenever the stations have caller requests. This song amazes me of its popularity and it’s continued playing.
Show Me the Way-Peter Frampton (studio 1975, live version 1976). Most people know this song by the use of Frampton’s talk box effect during the song, which helped the song go to #6 on the U.S. Charts. Frampton wasn’t the first artist to use the effect, but many fans of the 1970s think of him when that effect is discussed. This song has been covered by many artists, but it seems this song is played almost every hour on Classic Rock and Oldies radio stations. This is another song that can retire for several years from radio rotation.
Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Feel free to comment and subscribe to this page!
There are several early childhood memories I have concerning music. I started playing drums around 5 or 7 years old, and have gotten to play with some great musicians throughout the years. Some early records I can remember are The Oak Ridge Boys, The Bay City Rollers, Andy Gibb, and even The Village People. I remember seeing the cover of Kiss’s “Alive II” at my older cousin’s house, and my uncle had his own record store for a while, where I remember seeing some of the posters and album covers throughout the store.
One artist I remember listening to in my grade school and junior high years was Barry Manilow. My parents had 2 of his 45’s in the house, “The Old Songs/”Don’t Fall in Love with Me,” and his “Memory”/”Heart of Steel” singles. I would listen to them many times over, and even though I was into the Pop Hits of the time, I still enjoyed these two records.
Flash forward to my first year of college, and I somehow stumbled onto his music again. I’m not sure how or why, but I just had to see him in concert. In 1994, I was convinced I had to see him live. I stood outside of the local National Record Mart store and waited in line to get my tickets. I had my cash with me, and I remember that the price was expensive for me, including the service charges (at the time it was $40.75 a ticket, not sure what the charge was). My mother just happened to have some extra money, and I’d never forget that she helped me cover the rest of the cost. After seeing him live at the show, I was hooked even more on his music.
The first Manilow CD I ever purchased was his 1989 “Barry Manilow” album, the first cassette I bought when I joined Columbia House Record Club in college was his red covered Greatest Hits. I have seen him in concert a total of 6 times, more than any other artist. He was also the only artist I paid over $100 to see (the tickets with the service charge combined sent it over that number).
Even though I listen to different types of music, from The Beach Boys and Kiss, my friends still wonder why I like Manilow so much. Besides the small history I just gave, his music shows not just sappy love songs, but themes such as mistakes, missed and failed friendships, to fighting for your dreams when no one else believes in you, or everyone wants to hold you down.When I felt like nothing went right in college, to feeling there were no friends around, he was the one artist I could listen that kept me going. He was also the only artist that my parents, my uncle, and my grandmother seemed all to like-it was a common thread. My father took me and my Uncle to see Barry in 2004 with a company he worked with and we saw his concert at The Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, in the lodge seats. I have seen Manilow in Pittsburgh, PA, 4 times, Cleveland, Ohio, once, and in Youngstown Ohio with the Youngstown Symphony.
One of my best concert experiences ever happened in Pittsburgh the first time I saw Manilow when I took my friend to see Barry in concert days after he broke up with a girl named Amy. Thinking he would like to get out of the house and see someone (not the best artist for a breakup looking back), Manilow was going into a Broadway song he recorded called “Once in Love with Amy.” We were back 12 rows back from the stage and he yells “NOOOO!” Barry laughed and said something like “I guess someone knew Amy.”
There are many big hits that Manilow has recorded by I’d like to list a few of his maybe not well known songs that I like, and the album you can find them on. Maybe you’ll like some of these underrated ones.
1.”Lay Me Down” (1975 “Trying to Get the Feeling Again” Album). This song was written by Larry Weiss, who also wrote “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Bend Me, Shape Me,” and the theme to the TV Show “Who’s The Boss.” I first heard this song when Trisha Yearwood sang it on CMT’s 2000 Special “Manilow Country” and the lyrics blew me away. The song is about a man who’s reading the goodbye letter to himself and fighting to get over the girl when he runs into her on the street with a new person. The song was also recorded by Anne Murray and Glen Campbell. But Manilow has the touch one this one. Very Sad song.
2. “The Old Songs” (1981 “If I Should Fall in Love Again” Album) As I mentioned earlier, this song was one of my first experiences to Manilow’s music. The song dealing with trying to get a relationship going and if nothing works, he’ll try the old records to help him out. This song shares the power of music in people’s lives, and has so many memories for me. It hit #15 on the Pop Charts, but it is not well talked about when Manilow’s music comes up.
3.”Read Em And Weep” (1983 “Greatest Hits Vol. 2” Album). This song was originally written and recorded by Meatloaf for his 1981 “Dead Ringer” album, but was not a hit until Barry took it over. Written by Jim Steinman, the song takes a love song and ads a literary and acting aspect to it. I just recently discovered the Meatloaf version last year, and although it is good, it seems to lack the emotion that Manilow adds to it. This was also Barry’s last Top 40 Hit on the Pop Charts, hitting number #18.
4. “Why Don’t You See The Show Again” (1976 “This One’s For You” Album) Even though he didn’t write the lyrics, he did write the music, and has to be autobiographical about a man that is surrounded by people when he plays his music onstage, but once the show is over, what’s next? This song is a favorite because usually when played, it’s just Manilow and his piano. Frank Sinatra recorded this song later on. I discovered this one during his “Music and Passion: Live From Las Vegas DVD.” This song any musician can relate to.
5. “The Best Seat in the House” (1990 “Live on Broadway” and 2012 “Live in London” Albums). Much like “See the Show Again,” the song combines the musician on stage with love for a person. This song can not only be interpreted for a lover, but even a friendship. Being a drummer, I was able to look around the crowd or people while playing in the audience and maybe see friends out there that I had great memories with that I can sit and reminisce. This is just a great song with symbolism in it.
Some other Honorable Mentioned songs- “”Sweet Heaven “ (1985 “Manilow,” “2 Nights Live,”), “You Ought to be Home With Me” (1976 “This One’s For You”).
Maybe you haven’t heard these songs before, or maybe you had the albums and forgot about them, but give these songs another chance. You may find a new appreciation to them. With that, I wanted to add a final video, which is one of my favorites, found on his “Live on Broadway.
It wasn’t really until the 1990s when Christian Music was hitting the Mainstream Charts and selling millions of copies. Yes there were a few charted albums or songs in the 1980’s or before, but in my opinion, Christian Music was starting to be accepted by the music community in the 1990s. “Accepted” may not be the best of terms, because even during this time, several people in the Christian community denounced artists for “selling out” or were “on their way to Hell” because they were on the Pop Charts, which seems unheard of now, because churches cover Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and Mercy Me in their Praise Music on any Sunday Morning and they are on Billboard Charts.
The reason I mention this is because I decided to rank the Top Christian Albums, and most of mine choices came from the 1990s. In ranking these choices, I based it on a few qualifications: 1. The artist must be on a Christian Label (for example, someone may be a Christian, like Alice Cooper , The Oak Ridge Boys, or the last few W.A.S.P. CDs, but they are not on a Christian Label, ), 2. The choice is the full album throughout, not just having a few good songs (I like “Love, Liberty, Disco” by The Newsboys song, but not a fan of the whole album), 3. I am not using Greatest Hits, Live, or Movie Soundtracks, just full studio recordings 4. My personal preference, which may be based on music, or songwriting, or where I was personally when the album was released (not necessarily a major qualification, but hey, it’s my blog!!) Even though they are numbered, it does not mean that is the order. Any could be interchangeable.
Now, here are my picks for Best Christian Albums:
6. Guardian- “ Swing, Swang, Swung” ( 1994). This record was coming off one of the band’s popular albums, “Miracle Mile,” and had rotation on MTV at one time. The band toured with Styper and was known for their Metal and Hard Rock, until this album, which was a stripped down, acoustic album. Even though the album lost many die- hard fans, I enjoy this one the best of their CDs (I did not care for “Miracle Mile” or the later “Bottle Rocket.”) In the era where Unplugged Albums were starting to break in the mid to late 1990s, this is the Christian version of Unplugged. My favorites on the album are “See You in Heaven,” “Like The Sun,” which reminds me of The Beatles “Here Comes The Sun,” and “Come On Everyone.”
5. Steven Curtis Chapman “Speechless” (1999). It is hard to have a Christian list without probably the top selling Artists in the genre. Chapman, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith dominated the Christian market in the late 1980s-1990s, and all three are still recording. There are many choices in Chapman’s catalog, but I think Speechless is the most solid throughout the whole album (His “Heaven in the Real World” is my second favorite, but there are a few weak songs on it). “Speechless” was probably his best album, with 7 of the 13 tracks went to #1 on the Christian Charts, and won a Grammy. I got to see Chapman in concert in Akron, Ohio, on my Birthday for this tour in 1999, and it is one of my favorite concert memories ever. My favorites include “Fingerprints of God,” “The Invitation,” “Whatever” and “Dive.” I would choose this CD as the starting point in introducing someone to Chapman’s music, even more so than his “Great Adventure” album.
4. Rebecca St. James- “Transform” (2000). Even though many fans of St. James like her earlier albums “God” or “Pray,” this is her most solid work (Although her Self-Titled CD is just as solid as “Transform.”) This album has her signature song “Wait For Me,” which turned her into a spokeswoman and author for the female Christian voice. I enjoy the songs “Stand,” “Don’t Worry,” and the catchy “One,” which is similar to a Britney Spears type beat. This has the Pop and Ballad mix that flows through the album. I remember listening to this CD many times when I worked in Christian TV. Rebecca St. James became one of my top favorite Christian Artists, from her music, her books, her acting, and her concerts, which I saw her twice in 2004.
3. Michael W. Smith -“Go West Young Man” (1990). Even Non-Christian Music fans, and those that never stepped into a church, was jamming to this album, which feature the pop hit “Place In This World,” which made Smith into a Pop singer, due to it hitting #6 on the Pop Charts. Another song, “For You,” was popular, but did not chart on the Pop Charts. Even though there was backlash from the Christian Community in regards to his popularity, Smith’s album brought more people to his shows and to following his work (His “I Will Be Here For You”, co-written by Diane Warren on his next album, gave him another Pop Hit). Personally, I remember playing this album all the time, and even was allowed to play it in my High School Journalism class, where my writing partner and I for the Entertainment Section of our school paper would praise the album constantly. Songs like “Love Crusade,” “Emily,” and “How Long Will Be Too Long” are some of my favorites on the album. It was this album, and Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion,” brought more masses to have a respect for Christian Pop Music.
2. Styper -“To Hell with the Devil” (1986). One of the first Christian Bands to ever to have their music video to have steady MTV rotation (at one time MTV showed music folks), Stryper was inescapable in the 1980s. With the Pop hit “Honestly” reaching on the Pop Charts, this album was popular and was seen in the record stores next to bands like Van Halen, Bon Jovi, and Poison. The band is still releasing great albums, and many choose earlier works like “Soldiers Under Command,” or “The Yellow and Black Attack,” over this album, but this is still my favorite. I was not a major fan of the band when they were popular, but I picked up ‘In God We Trust” (their next release after this one) in college when the band was split up, and went back into their works. Like Cinderella said “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone,” I became more of a fan of the band when I was tired of the music coming out in the Grunge era. I think this album flows the best of their work, with “Calling On You,” “Holding On,” and “Free.” This album was released in 1986, and became the top selling Christian Hard Rock/Metal album of all time until 2001, when P.O.D. beat it. That should say something about this album.
1.Al Denson -“Be The One” ( 1990). This choice was not a tough one for me. There has not been a Christian Album that has made a bigger impact on my life than this one. A friend of mine took me to see the band Petra on their “Beyond Belief” tour in 1991 at the Akron Civic Theater. We were both blown away by the opening act (more than the headliners, who I was not impressed with at all), which was a guy and his keyboard. His name was Al Denson, and he had great songs, and kept the audience cheering the whole set. When the show was over, my friend ran to the merchandise table and had to buy this album. This album was also played a ton with my writing partner in high school journalism class, just like Michael W. Smith. Denson’s Title Song “Be The One” was sung at my first youth convention that I went to, played all through that weekend, was the song played when I became a Christian, and was the song I used to sing when auditioning for my first ever high school musical (my senior year, and I got the part). I still own the cassette tape of this album (and his others). Denson, years later, would be in my life when I worked in Christian Television when we played his TV Show. I have seen him in concert twice, in 1991, and again in 1998 when he played after a Pittsburgh Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium, and own his books. The whole album flows with great Pop and Ballads, with songs like “Nothing Can Separate Us,” “Tested By Fire,” and “Never Out Of His Love.” It still amazes me that many people did not know of him in my circle of friends in the church at the time, and his still not as well known, even though he has 19 Top Ten and 11 #1 Hits in the Christian Charts, and was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2009. His 1995 “Take Me To The Cross” is another solid album, but “Be The One” is still my favorite.
Regardless of your religious views, there is still some great Christian Music out there today. Artists like David Crowder, Chris Rice, Natalie Grant, and others are putting out music, along with established acts like The Oak Ridge Boys are putting out Gospel Records. Even though some may think my picks are dated, there are acts out there that are quality musicians. Maybe you will check out some of my picks. Feel free to contact me and give me your choices.
In keeping with the music theme, I decided to rank my Top Underrated Artists of the 1980’s. I am focusing on the time these acts were in their most commercial success. Some of the acts started out before the 1980s, but they hit their stride in the decade, which is what I am focusing on. Some may think that some of these artists were One Hit Wonders, but really were not (I always laugh at the term One Hit Wonders because even if they hit the charts once, we still know the songs, regardless if they charted again in the U.S.). I am also focusing on their success in the United States mainly when I talk about the chart positions. I also list the years when the acts originally was started if they were a band.
Hopefully you will discover the music of these artists through whatever music access you have, because the talent here is amazing. In no particular order, here is my list:
1. NRBQ (1967-Current) . This band has a strange name, but their songs are known. This band has no category; they are Rock, Blues, Country, Rockabilly and everything in between. Guitar player Al Anderson left the band in 1994 to write with Country acts including George Strait, Carlene Carter, Diamond Rio, The Mavericks, and Garth Brooks’ guitarist Ty England. NRBQ’s songs have been covered by numerous acts, including She and Him (“Ridin in My Car”). Wrestling fans will remember the band for having an album with legendary manager Captain Lou Albano, who became the band’s manager for a time. The band still performs with a different lineup, but this band has influenced many acts and if it weren’t for the fact they were not on the charts, they should be in the (so called) Rock Hall of Fame.
2. The Georgia Satellites (1980-1990). Most fans remember this band for the hit “Keep Your Hands To Yourselves,” but they also had a minor single of the remake “Hippy Hippy Shake” from the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail.” This band had a harder Southern Rock feel to them that didn’t sound redneck-ish but straight ahead Rock. Songs like “Battleship Chains” and from their 3rd CD “Six Years Gone,” “Days Gone By,” are great rock tunes. Also check out the ballad “Sweet Blue Midnight.” This band only had 3 major studio albums before singer and guitarist Dan Baird left for a solo career (Get his first one 1992’s “Love Songs For The Hearing Impaired,” which was full of songs that I played in a cover band with at that time). Baird still performs with his band, and the Satellites still perform separately with different members.
3. Henry Lee Summer (1988-1989). This artist had two great CDs, including the hit “I Wish I Had A Girl” from his self titled-album. The self -titled also had great songs like “Hands On The Radio” and the ballad “Darling Danielle Don’t.” Summer was underrated as a guitar player with great Pop and Blues feel to the album. Although the second CD is not as great, it did have another hit, “Hey Baby” in 1989. Although he has been in the news the last few years because of some personal problems, it doesn’t diminish how great this artist is.
4. Blue Rodeo (1984-Current). Anyone in Canada knows this band. Founded by Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, I discovered this band on a DVD of the Canadian concert of Live 8, where they performed the 1987 hit “Try,” a great ballad. I picked up their “Greatest Hits Vol 1” CD, and loved it. This band has a Country-Rock feel to it. This band has been given almost every major award available in Canada. Cuddy also has recorded as a solo act as well. I sometimes can pick up Canadian radio Station where I live, which plays the song “Bad Timing” from 1994. Great songwriting from this band.
5. Enuff Znuff (1984-Current). This band was lumped into the Hair Metal era when they broke nationally (I apologize to those that know how much I HATE the term “Hair Metal” ), with their hits “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing” from 1989. Even though the band looked at first like 1960s hippies, the vocals and production on the songs were almost Beatle-like. The band had solid airplay on MTV during this time (MTV actually played videos), and I got to see the band on Poison’s 2001 Summer Tour, and they were amazing. They also have gone through lineup changes, with Donnie Vie leaving around the early 2000s. The band is currently a 3-piece band with Chip Z’Nuff heading the band. VERY underrated band and is respected among many musicians but never got the mainstream fan support.
6.Dokken (1976-Current). Just like the band above, this band was during the Hair Metal acts but for some reason, they are still not given the respect of that era, even though the band had around 10 singles that charted in the U.S. The most successful lineup of the band was from 1983-1988. Band member Juan Crouicer left in 1983 to join the band Ratt, and was replaced by Jeff Pilson. The most success of the band was with the albums “Tooth and Nail” (1984), “Under Lock and Key” (1985) and “Back For The Attack” (1987). Horror fans will remember the band for “Dream Warriors”, which was the theme song for the same title in the Nightmare on Elm Street Series. Band members Don Dokken and George Lynch had one of the most stressed relationships in music and Lynch left the band in 1989 and started Lynch Mob, and Dokken continued. Even though they have tried since to patch up differences, it has seemed to work, with Dokken still playing and Lynch is in several projects, including recording with Stryper’s Micheal Sweet. (Stryper is another band you need to check out) Jeff Pilson has been in Foreigner for the past years. Check out the band’s 1999 “Erase The Slate” as well, with Winger’s Reb Beach on guitar, but the bands 1980s stuff was very good, and it is surprising that they had success but seem to be forgotten the era.
6. Rick Astley (1987-1993). It shocks me when people think this guy was a One Hit Wonder with being known for one song “Never Gonna Give You Up” from 1987. This song was #1 in many countries, along with “Together Forever” from the same album. Astley had a sound that would be like Michael Buble or a Sam Smith style, with a soul R&B sound. Maybe he was before his time. His second album, 1988’s “Hold Me In Your Arms” had two hits on it, “She Wants To Dance With Me,” and “Giving Up On Love.” Also on the album is a great version of “Ain’t To Proud To Beg,” which is slowed down to show his ballad soul voice. Astley retired from the business for a while, and later became a DJ in London. He still has recorded in the past decade, but the first two albums were great for him. He did chart in the 1990s in the U.S. but I still like the first two. Also check out “It Would Take A Strong Man” from the first album as well, which I remember seeing on MTV.
This is my list of the underrated acts from the 1980s. Don’t forget bands like Stryper, who were one of the first Christian acts ever on MTV, and still are around. Even though many know the big acts of the 1980s, maybe this list will let you check out some different acts as well.
I had a few people submit me some topics for future writings, and this one caught my eyes when I read this. Being a drummer since I was around 6 or 7 years old, and being a lover of all music, I was asked about albums that I could listen all the way through without skipping a track. Now we all have favorite artists but sometimes they have filler songs on albums that were just made to complete the project, or use a B-Sides of singles. So I thought I would list some that have no bad songs on it (in my eyes, or ears if you want to be technical). Keep in mind that Greatest Hits and Live projects are not counted in this list, only official studio albums. (U.S. compilations that were from other foreign albums do not count either). Some may be rare and surprise you. Now, in no particular order:
1. Kiss “Love Gun” (1977). Even though my favorite KISS albums of all time are “Revenge” and “Crazy Nights,” they have a few songs that I skip over. However “Love Gun” is pure joy to listen to, and at a run time of under 33 minutes, it doesn’t drag on. Of course many die hards like this because of Ace’s “Shock Me” on the album, I like everything on it, including Peter’s “Hooligan.” I remember getting this on cassette and listening to it constantly (I still have the cassette).
2. Rick Springfield “Working Class Dog.” (1980). This is the album many discovered Rick, even though he had several albums before this. This one made him into a star. Even some of us who weren’t familiar with him as Noah Drake on General Hospital, were hooked on this album, which had the #1 Hit “Jesse’s Girl”, and the remake of Sammy Hagar’s “I’ve Done Everything For You.” However, the deeper cuts like the ballad “Inside Silvia” and “Daddy’s Pearl” are true pop gems. This album was s staple growing up for me in Grade School and even in my college days. A true masterpiece.
3. The Beach Boys “The Beach Boys” (1985). This album was, again, a big album of my childhood (on cassette). This was the first album since the death of drummer Dennis Wilson, and went into the 1980s synth-pop sound, but the harmonies and summer feel is still intact. It only had 1 Top 40 Hit, the underrated “Getcha Back,” which is a classic boy loses girl, boy meets girl years later. I still listen to this on CD and takes me back and reminds me of my best friend growing up in Junior High.
4. Huey Lewis and The News “Picture This” (1982). This album is where most people discovered the band (they had one before this one). Even though most think of “Sports” as THE Huey Lewis album (it was the most popular), this one still is my favorite. It is not as polished as “Fore” (another one with no bad songs), keeping it raw feel to it. It only had 2 Top 40 Hits, with the most popular being “Do You Believe In Love,” but songs like “The Only One,” and “Is It Me” are my favorites.
5. The Oak Ridge Boys “Fancy Free” (1981). The first album I ever had was their “Greatest Hits”, but this studio record (which I still have on vinyl) is true Oak classic. The self titled single, along with their best-known hit “Elvira” both topped the Charts. However the deeper cuts like “When Love Calls You” and “Somewhere in The Night” show not only how underrated Duane Allen’s voice is, but also the arrangements that he helped orchestrate the band to become one of the biggest acts in the 1970s-1980s. The last track “I Would Crawl All The Way” keeps their Gospel roots history going, which is something since they were considered a Country-Pop act. Good vocals hold up in any era, and this never sounds outdated.
6. Warrant “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” (1989). In the so called Hair Metal decade (I do hate that term!!), one of the big acts was Warrant. This was their first CD, and I remember proudly wearing their T Shirt in High School, much to be laughed at by the die-hard Metal fans. However, to this day, the CD holds up. It had 3 Top 40 Hits, including the famous “Heaven,” but there is not a song that can be skipped. Cuts like “In The Sticks,” and “32 Pennies” still rock. Most forget the lead single “Down Boys,” but I was hooked on them when I first saw that video on MTV.
7. Skid Row “Skid Row” (1989). Also the same year was this band that somehow got lumped in the Hair Metal genre, even though they changed that with their second album a few years later. I cannot really name a bad Skid Row album with the first singer Sebastian Bach, but I’m picking this one as one that I cannot skip a track. Most know “Youth Gone Wild,” and the ballads “18 and Life” and “I Remember You,” but “Can’t Stand The Heartache” and “Big Guns” are true Metal classics. I liked this band from day one, and still like the stuff they are putting out.
8. Van Halen “Van Halen II” (1979). Van Halen is a strange band for me. I LOVED them in my High School Days, especially with Sammy Hagar as the singer (it was the first concert I ever saw in 1991). But throughout the years, the band has just dulled me out. I still think Sammy was a better VOCALIST but David Lee Roth was a great front man, and very few of their albums I can listen to anymore without some of the songs sounding dated. However this one still has the great songs on it, such as “Dance The Night Away” and “Bottom’s Up.” Even though “You’re No Good” as the opener is a cover, it’s not bad that you have to skip it. Ending the album with “Beautiful Girls” is a nice touch of some humor added that Van Halen sneaked into their songs. I still enjoy “Women In Love.” Most people pick the first album as their favorite, and I have no problem with it, but I think “Running With The Devil” is very overplayed so it lessens my love for the album. This one I still don’t get tired of.
9. Nelson “After The Rain” (1990). Most people laugh when I say I am a huge fan of the Nelson Brothers. I loved Rick Nelson, their father, and his music as well. Most people unfairly judged them by the hair, but not realizing 1. They haven’t had the hair for years and 2. They paid their dues just to get to the first record. This album had 3 Top 40 Hits (most people wrongly thought they were a One Hit Wonder), and was some great Pop Hard Rock tunes on it, along with some ballads, all with vocal harmonies thrown into the mix. Songs like “Everywhere I Go” and “Only Time Will Tell” are great ballads that would fit in that era’s Power Ballads. One of the best concerts I have gotten to see in the past 10 years was getting to see the brothers perform, although it was a tribute to their Dad’s work, it was still a great show. These guys are great musicians as well. For those that always made fun of them, this album put them in the Guinness Book of World’s Records for being the first 3rd Generation Act to have Top 40 Hits.
10. Poison “Open Up and Say..AHH!” (1988). This was the album, like many that got hooked on the band, with the hit “Nothin’ But A Good Time” and “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.” Although one of my favorites is their first album, it had some fillers that I tend to skip. Even though I think “Rose” is overplayed (I was a roadie for a local Country Band that played the freaking song-Line Dancers and Power Ballads-made me sick!), I can still tolerate it. The rare songs on here like “Back To The Rocking Horse” and “Bad To Be Good” are enjoyable. I always thought that “Fallen Angel” never gets the respect it should when it comes to Poison songs. I never get tired of hearing “Good Love” on the album. From beginning to end, this was a solid Poison album, which is not always the case in their catalogue in my view, but I still like the band.
There are some of my picks for albums that I do not skip a track on. What’s your take? Care to tell me some of yours? There are a few others I probably could name, so maybe that’ll be another time.