Book Review: Myth Book Loses Some Magic

Image result for myth and magic in heavy metal music
Front cover photograph by Jonas Rogowski

 

 

Robert McParland’s Myth and Magic in Heavy Metal Music (McFarland, 2018) is an informative book that covers some aspects of heavy metal music, while comparing them to literature and history outside of music.

When first hearing about this book, I thought the book would discuss how bands like W.A.S.P., Iron Maiden, Slayer, and King Diamond (among others) incorporated their studies in the occult, history, and other mysterious areas into their characters, music, and stage shows. This is not the case as a whole of McParland’s writing.

The book covers the bands Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden in detail, discussing how Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were fascinated with mythology, the occult, and symbolism, which they used in on their album covers and song lyrics. Sabbath is covered with a brief history of the band, especially their gloomy hometown which was filled with factory work, and the use of tuning down their guitars to get the mode of the songs. The section on Iron Maiden deals with the love of history, mystery, and horror in their work.

The rest of the book briefly names bands , including, Manowar, Celtic Frost, and Slayer. There is brief name dropping like Metallica, Anthrax, and even Christian metal bands like Stryper, which is referred to as “White Metal.” These is a small history of the bands, besides Sabbath, Maiden, and Zeppelin, and a quick summary of what makes them a part of the subject covered.

Some of the lengthy chapters in the book covers topics like defining Gothic Romanticism, and histories of mythology, using reference to books and psychologists’ theories on the subjects. During the chapter on Black Sabbath, McParland compares the band to the Brothers Grimm, where they both describe a world that is broken and dark.    The book would have been more interesting if these types of comparisons were used more often, along with the topics of maybe using interviews (via magazines, and such) of band members discussing their use of magic, and mythology in their music, instead of the in depth literary sections. The book gears away from the actual music acts and artists to focus more on being historical writings of how literature and psychology is used in metal music, as opposed to diving into why the acts use this in music.

However, if you are a reader in learning more about the literature aspects on the topic, you will find the book a nice read. The chapters are mostly short, and the book is slightly over 200 pages. Having an English degree, I found some of the deeper chapters a nice journey, but music fans may be turned off by the in-depth criticisms due to the small name dropping of some bands, and the misleading title of the book. There is a nice section dealing with the PMRC’s attack on metal music, which is a turning point in music history.

Overall the book deals with literary and psychology criticisms using metal music as a backdrop, where the title may mislead readers into thinking that the book will have detailed , in depth look, and the music acts, not just listed some song titles , and brief mentions on some acts.

 

This review copy was courtesy of McFarland.

 

Myth and Magic in Heavy Metal Music by Robert McParland (McFarland, 2018 pISBN: 978-1-4766-7335-6 eISBN: 978-1-4766-3298-8) can be found at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or calling 800-253-2187

For more about the author, visit: http://www.robertpmcparland.com

 

The Overall

 

Pages: 210 pages

Language: None

Geared for: 15 and up.

For fans of: Music, Magic, Mythology history, Critical essays

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The Best And Worst of 2018

Besides my annual Halloween post, one of the other constants is my year end review of the best and worst in film, music, and books of the year. The only criteria is they had to have been released during the year 2018. In some categories I have put a Best, Worst, and “Surprising” category, which was I felt needed to be noted for whatever unique reason (mainly something I thought would not be good that ended up being wonderful).

So here are my Best (and Worst) of 2018:

Movies

The Best:

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  1. Halloween

My experience with Michael Myers stopped after the first three films (Halloween 3 doesn’t have Myers in it, but is still a creepy awesome film), and the Rob Zombie remakes. I was more of a Freddy Kruger fan growing up. When the news was out that a new Halloween was being made with Jamie Lee Curtis, with the setting 40 years after the original, I had to see this.

One aspect that I enjoy in having some of the original actors replay their roles (such as Rocky Balboa) is that the directors can make them tough, but still give limitations and faults in the characters. Laurie Strode is living in her home isolated pretty much from everyone and has become a hermit of sorts away from her family, preparing for Myers’ return. The film has the classic horror feel to it, without being dated, and Curtis shines throughout the film. The other great thing of the film is one doesn’t have to follow all ten other films in the series to get what’s going on. This has a classic horror feel throughout, and was enjoyable from beginning to end.

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  1. Aquaman

Some people will just hate any movie put out by the DC Universe. I personally liked Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad ,and really enjoyed Justice League-all films that were bashed by critics and fans. I am one of the people that think CG has destroyed a lot of the films, where the director rely on too much of it. However, you know going into Aquaman that there will be plenty of CG- I mean 90% of it is underwater. This is a film that is just fun to watch- there are comical moments, good acting, and great visuals. When you think the scene is going to have tied down language, something happens that kicks the action up again.

Nicole Kidman shows in this film that she is still a wonderful actor, and Jason Momoa has found his character in films. The cast is full, with Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe, all who help make the film exciting and entertaining. The underwater visuals are astonishing. This is a film that reminds me of past summer films, where you just go watch and be amazed, regardless of those critics that want to dissect every plot point.

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  1. Mission Impossible: Fallout

          One would think after 6 movies, this series would get stale (I’m kind of burned out of the Marvel Comics movies, especially The Avengers series-although End Game was great, but had some slow parts to it), but Tom Cruise still creates ways to keep this series fresh with magnificent stunts (which he did himself at age 50, and broke his ankle while filming!) The crew is back for another mission, featuring Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and the obnoxious Alec Bladwin (in real life and in acting) along with Henry Cavill, who was filming this while doing the Justice League re-shoots. Cavill shows a depth to his character that those who only see him as Superman may be surprised. The basic themes are still here- breathtaking stunts, great fight scenes, creative camera work, and character swerves. Cruise once again shows that one doesn’t need tons of CG in the films to stay with the times. I have always been a Cruise fan and Fallout may be the best in the series.

 

The Worst:

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  1. A Wrinkle In Time

Even though I had problems struggling through the book, I still decided to see how the book would be changed into a film. Although I had my doubts with the casting of people like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, I decided to be open about the film. I should’ve been opened to what I could have been doing instead of watching this disaster. Not only were most (if not all) the religious aspects of the book taken out (which has major importance in the story), but the other changes of the story were plain awful. I get that sometimes movies change characters and ages (like hair color, etc) but this was almost nothing like the book. Not even Chris Pine’s acting (who is great in the Star Trek and Wonder Woman films) made this enjoyable. His cardboard acting made me wonder how he was talked into this film. Oprah has been viewed as a champion for literature (I’ll keep my views on that silent here), so you’d think she’d have a problem the changes in the film from the book-I’m sure the director would listen to her views. Besides all of the changes made from the novel, nothing could save the bad acting throughout, along with the casting choices, and pathetic special effects.

2018 had some dud movies, like Red Sparrow with Jennifer Lawrence (who needs to stop preaching her politics and spend more time reading scripts after several flops in a row), Samson, and Tomb Raider, but A Wrinkle In Time made me want to time travel back and get the 109 minutes back from my day. This film has it all: bad acting, bad script, and bad effects. The basic plot from the book was taken , kept the names of some characters, and was destroyed to offend book readers and film watchers all at the same time.

 

Surprisingly:

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1.Winchester

This horror film is more psychological in nature about the widow of gun manufacturer William Winchester, who builds a huge mansion after being convinced she see ghosts from people who dies from the firearms. This 1900s story line has wonderful acting by Helen Mirren (who plays the widow Winchester), and was at one time supposed to be a Hammer Film. This is not a gore slasher film, which gets over saturated in the horror genre. If you want something that is a good throw back to earlier days of horror, check this out.

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  1. The Strangers: Prey At Night

This sequel to the 2008 is a fun ride if you like humor added to your slasher films. The story is common- a group of masked strangers attack a trailer park where a family is visiting relatives- but just like the Deadpool movies, the music in the film help make this enjoyable. The film takes two of my favorite songs from the 1980s, by Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler, and put them into key parts of the film where they become almost laughable, but in a good way. I have never seen the 2008 film, but it is not needed to enjoy this entertaining film. This film will be a guilty pleasure for many for years. Sometimes films don’t need a major plot , and just need to get the audience to relax and enjoy. This is one film that does just that.

 

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  1. The Least of These: A Christmas Story and God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

            Sometimes Christian films are just bad. Some religious people will not admit this fact, stating that just because a film is Christian based, means it is a good film. Samson was just awful, and I Can Only Imagine was pretty dull when converted to a movie. This years installment of the God’s Not Dead series brings some nice humor to the story with John Corbett playing a lawyer brother to the preacher in the film, played by David A.R. White. Even though this movie did worse than the other two, it is the second best one, behind the original. This is a more complete film that people need to check out.

The Least of These is a Christmas themed film, based around a homeless woman and her daughter trying to make ends meet during the Christmas season. This is a more darker themed movie (it’s not a Hallmark happy love story), but has some humorous parts and a great overall theme in the film on forgiveness and overcoming odds while keeping faith.

One of the  bright spots of the film is the breakout debut of Duane Allen of The Oak Ridge Boys, whose character plays an important role towards the end of the movie. His scenes are just as good as one of the lead actors G. Michael Nicolosi’s character (who believes he is Santa Claus). The movie may take some searching to find, but it is well worth it if you like holiday films with a faith based story.

 

Books 

The Best : (TIE)

  1. The Boy Is Gonna Rock by Bobby Rock

The current Lita Ford drummer takes his reader through the journey of playing in local bands to major arenas with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. This wonderful read is one of the best music biographies I have read in years, filled with humor, honesty, and regrets on the inner workings of the music business. Rock’s take on why the Invasion band did not reach its expected levels, along with covering his time with the Nelson Brothers and currently with Lita Ford. This book was written by Rock, who shows he has another skill besides drumming. This is a must read for music fans.

 

  1. Death of The Territories by Tim Hornbaker

There are many great wrestling books that have been released, but Hornbaker’s book is the best one this year. Filled with a historical look at how Vince McMahon Jr. went to the many wrestling territories in the 1980s, bought up the major stars, and turned them into household names in the wrestling boom. The book is easy to read, and has information that I never knew to top. Classic wrestling fans should get a copy of this book, because it is an entertaining look at how the territories crumbled. Hornbaker takes the popular theme of classic wrestling, which is all over pod casting right now, and puts it in a nice package that you’d want to read over and over and keep on your shelf.

 

Surprisingly:

1.Creating The Mania by Jon Robinson

Most WWE sponsored books tend to deny the history of the company’s past, along with keeping those interviewed in character at all times. Robinson’s book takes the reader through a year of building up to Wrestlemania, the biggest card in wrestling, and how storylines and the behind the scenes events are created. If you think there is not that much work into putting a wrestling show together, read this book, because it is filled with interviews and stories by wrestlers, production people, writers, and public relation workers that are expected to put on the best show for the company, while working a year on the build up (along with their weekly and daily duties in between). This book is not only wonderfully written, but was a surprise at how honest and behind the scenes Robinson was allowed to get to get his story. This is different than the old WWE books from the past.

READ THE BOOK! SEE THE MOVIE! FROM NOVEL TO FILM VIA 20TH CENTURY-FOX (HARDCOVER EDITION) by Gary A. Smith

 

 

  1. Read The Book! See The Movie! by Gary A. Smith

Gary A. Smith has become one of my favorite movie writers, and his latest is just as well written and researched as his horror film books. His latest deals with novels that were turned into movies by 20th Century Fox. Books such as Dragonwwyck, Anna and the King of Siam, and The Robe that were turned into movies are covered, along with others. I was not sure I’d enjoy this book as much, because it did not deal with horror films, but it still has the things that I love about Smith’s writings; well researched material in which I learn something new on every page, which keeps the pages turning until I am done reading. If you are a film fan , but do not know his work, check out Smith’s writings.

(A future in depth review is coming soon on Smith’s book, but you can find his other books reviewed here, along with my Q&A, in the archives)

 

MUSIC

17th Avenue Revival- The Oak Ridge Boys.

This is a no brainer for me. This is by far the best release of the year in ANY genre. The Oaks have proven not only that they still have the vocal chops in their older years (they are in their 70s) , but have put a new spin on their music, thanks to producer Dave Cobb. This album is filled with an old country/rockabilly take on Gospel songs in the vain of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Johnny Cash. The songs are brief without unnecessary fillers, and contains the classic harmonies that The Oaks have been blessed with throughout the decades. In an era where most of older artists are refusing to bother with releasing new music, instead just relying on the Greatest Hits packages, The Oaks are putting out quality, wholesome entertainment. Michael Buble’s “Love” and Judas Priest’s “Firepower” are my other top picks in the music genre, but if you’re looking for an album where EVERY single track is quality, get 17th Avenue Revival. Just like the title says…..after listening to this, you will be revived!

(An in depth review of 17th Avenue Revival can be found in the archives)

 

Thanks to everyone who have followed my page throughout the year, along with all the writers and publishers who have allowed me to review their books. Hopefully 2019 will be just as great (hopefully greater), and hope everyone has a safe New Year. Now go seek my picks out and tell what you think!

Book Review: Kiss Member’s Look at Club May Surprise Readers

 

I have not been shy about my respect for Gene Simmons. I grew up a Kiss fan (especially my love of the 1980s lineup with drummer Eric Carr), and have seen them live 3 times with the original members. Simmons has branded himself a successful businessman, writer, and musician. I compare him to the Tom Brady of the music world, where many criticize him for being a success, watch his every move, yet buy his products.

Gene’s new book, 27: The Legend & Mythology of the 27 Club (powerHouse/Simmons books, 2018), covers his take on some of the artists who died at the age of 27.

Simmons, along with help from his son Nick, take the reader through brief summaries of the artists covered, their successes, and how they died at the young age, putting them in a glamorized “club” among fans. Simmons then takes a look at why these artists died at the age that they did, whether it being alcohol and drugs, along with the mental aspect of the deaths, which may have been overlooked at the time (either due to lack of knowledge, or by ignoring signs).

Even non-Kiss fans know how outspoken Gene has been on topics like drugs, booze, and mental issues, including stating his opinions on the deaths of rockers like Kurt Cobain in the past. However, readers would be surprised by his take on these issues now. As stated in the Introduction section, Simmons states that although he believes these artists should not be glamorized for their drugs and deaths, which is considered a badge of honor among rock stars, he withholds judging the people. Gene still maintains his views on drugs and alcohol , and admits to having a more sensitive look once he studied their lives in more detail.

Each chapter deals with a separate musician or artist, such as Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Amy Whinehouse. There is a brief history of each artist, along with some quotes by the artists or those that knew them, along with interview snippets thrown in.

Even though the topic is a serious one, there are some entertaining stories put in throughout the book, such as the time Gene thought he was talking on the phone to Kurt Cobain to get his band Nirvana to play on the Kiss tribute album, to an interesting interview at the end of the book by Nick, who discusses the topic with Dr. James Fallon, Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology.

27 is an easy to read book, with short chapters, filled with some great information on what may have been going through the minds of these artists, including their childhood growing up. The two major things that intrigued me about the book was the interview with Dr. Fallon and his take on the so called “club,” and Gene’s discussion on the topics , which shows his maturity in showing the respect of the artist’s skills, and not just the tragic life they led.

An ironic part of the book is how Gene uses information from biographies and magazines to help his research. One of sources he uses several times are interviews from Rolling Stone Magazine. I found this take somewhat entertaining because Simmons has always bashed that magazine for their lack of acknowledging the success and talents of Kiss (personally, I side with Simmons’ past views on the magazine as a whole). Maybe I am reading too much into this part (maybe it’s the only interviews he could find by the artists on the subject), but it was just something that popped into my head when I read the footnote sources.

27 is an entertaining and thought-provoking book that may show why some of these artists ended up dying at the same age, but still shows the respect of the talents these musicians and artists. Do not let the past views of Gene Simmons prevent you from getting this book, because you may be surprised at what these pages hold. Simmons still does not condone the lifestyles of the artists, but does show he is wiser on the topic of mental issues and substance abuse.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of Powerhouse/Simmons books

 

27: The Legend & Mythology Of The 27 Club by Gene Simmons (powerHouse/Simmons books, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-57687-886-6) can be found at bookstores and at http://www.powerhouse.com.

For information about Gene Simmons, go to: http://www.genesimmons.com

 

The Overall

Pages: 261

Language: Moderate (Artists interviews uses some language)

Geared For: 13 and Up

For fans of: Music biographies, Music History, Psychology,  Gene Simmons

 

 

Book Review: Heavy Duty is A Mighty Tale

Looking for a wonderful rock and roll memoir? Look for “Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest” (Da Capo Press, 2018) by ex- Judas Priest guitar player K.K. Downing and writer Mark Eglinton. This book tells the rags to riches story of how Downing formed the legendary band, and helped lead the band to heavy metal immortality.

“Heavy Duty” starts by detailing Downing’s childhood with a father, who had what is now called OCD, along with being a hypochondriac. His father refused to let his children near other kids, due to the fear of them catching some illness. His father would also make the children help out in his gambling addiction by having them pick up paper receipts on the street (thrown away by people leaving shoe stores) to prove to the government he bought shoes for his children with government assisted money, while spending the money on racing bets.

Downing describes his early musical influences with bands like The Troggs, The Rolling Stones, Them , and Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix became his early idol, after seeing him in concert several times, which lead him to buy his first guitar. After quitting school at age 15, Downing worked at a hotel while attending many concerts, which created a deeper love for music, and also got him his stage nickname.

The book takes the reader through the early years of Downing’s guitar playing in many bands, ending up auditioning for the band called Judas Priest, who he auditioned for. The singer left Priest, and joined up with Downing and bass player Ian Hill, bringing the band name with him, which started the groundwork for the iconic band.

“Heavy Duty” is full of great rock and roll stories, from how Judas Priest working their way through the music industry, to stories of being the opening act for many bands, along with their treatment by the headliner acts like Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, and Foreigner . The book covers the several lineup changes of drummers, to the behind the scenes recordings of the legendary albums of the band.

There are many great aspects of the book, including Downing describing rejected names for album titles, the decisions of the cover art work (which defines the band to this day -during the times where artwork was key to the overall product of selling records), and his views on his strained relationship with the second guitar player in the band, Glenn Tipton. The book goes into the famous court case where the band was charged with the deaths and injuries of two teens , to the band having to deal with singer Rob Halford leaving (and coming back to) the band, and the band’s short tenure with replacement singer Tim “Ripper” Owens.

Another entertaining part of the book was how the band was approached to submit a song for an unknown movie called “Top Gun,” and the results which shaped the band’s views on giving songs to soundtracks in the future. The recording of the band’s famous album “British Steel” is also a great read, from how the groundwork for the song “Living After Midnight” was created, the original cover that was proposed, interactions with some of history of The Beatles in the building where it was recorded, to the use of cutlery on the record.

The best thing about this book is the heart filled honesty Downing and Eglinton add to the book. Downing’s book is not a bash-fest, but he states his views honestly, and still shows respect for the band members. Even though he had strained relationships with band members, he still acknowledges that the members were all a part of the whole in the early development of the band, along with his admittance to making mistakes in the career path of the band. When discussing reasons for departing the band in 2011, along with opinions of the band’s nomination of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to his thoughts of the band now, the writers show a man that worked hard to get where he was in one of the greatest metal bands , along with a grateful attitude. Downing and Eglinton describe a man who lived out his dreams of a musician.

Although there are some stories about the rock and roll lifestyle, this book is not a graphic detailed book (like some rock memoirs that are filled with stories of groupies and drugs). “Heavy Duty” is a book about a young boy who had struggles in his childhood, and overcame them for the love of music and to be on top of the world.

This book is for the die hard fans of the band, along with those that casually know the band’s work (I own 6 of the band’s CDs, and did not know how many drummers the band went through). If you like reading rock memoirs, or tales of overcoming obstacles to conquer the world, this is the book to read.

 

The Advanced Reading Copy was given courtesy by Da Capo Press

 

“Heavy Duty Days And Nights In Judas Priest” by K.K. Downing with Mark Eglinton (Da Capo Press, 2018 ISBN: 9780306903311 -Hardcover, 9780306903298- eBook) can be found at http://www.dacapopress.com.

 

For information about K.K. Downing, visit: http://kkdowning.net/steelmill/

For information on Mark Eglinton,  go to his twitter @MarkEglinton

 

 

Book Review: Rush Drummer is in Sync with the Road

Cover design: Hugh Syme

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of ECW Press.

 

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

 

For more info about the author, go to : http://www.neilpeart.net

 

Music: Albums That Influenced Me.

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

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

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

    Me holding my Oak Ridge Boys record Christmas 1980

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Book Review: Heavy Metal Star Gives a Lighthearted Entertaining Book.

Book design by Jane Raese. Jacket design: Kerry Rubenstien and jacket photographs :Scott Ian c. Travis Shinn

 

I admit , even though being a music fan growing up in the 1980s, I do not know much about guitarist Scott Ian. I know he is in the band Anthrax, was featured on the many VH1 specials, married singer Meatloaf’s daughter, and was in the show “Supergroup” with Sebastian Bach and Ted Nugent. Anthrax was not a band I listened to (they were too heavy for my likings, as I listened to more of the glam music from the area), but he seemed to an interesting person. In his latest book “Access All Areas: Stories from a Hard Rock Life” (Da Capo Press, 2017), Ian takes the reader on a fun (and wild) ride with some of his tales from the road and the people he met on the way.

The book’s chapters are not chronologically set, and just filled with stories that Ian wanted to tell, which makes the book more enjoyable. The book feels like the reader is sitting in a room while Ian is just letting stories fly, filled with humor and tales that only musicians could experience.

One of the early tales that he tells is how he grew up in New York as a KISS fan, and being made fun of for liking the band (even though he was a fan of bands that his other classmates enjoyed, like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin). This tale, much like the many KISS fans around the world experienced growing up, as many early Kiss fans were bullied and ridiculed for liking the band which most radio stations and critics hated. The touching story goes on to discuss how Ian would go to his local record store and await the latest KISS album to come out, along with asking every day if the band was coming to their area in concert. Ian tells the reader about the time he ended up giving his father KISS “Alive” album for his father’s birthday. The chapter goes on to describe finally seeing the band live for the first time, along with a few problems that occurred before the show with one of his friends that went to the show with him.

“Access All Areas” goes on to describe the events when Ian went to see the band Rage Against The Machine with Pop star Madonna, and the rest of the night’s festivities, to him and his friends searching for the ghost of actor John Belushi, when the band was on the television show “Married With Children,” and being cast on the show “The Walking Dead.”

Ian covers funny stories that the reader will enjoy, like the time hemet R.E.M. Singer Michael Stipe, Ian partying with celebrity chefs, baseball players, the time he broke into Metallica’s Kirk Hammett’s house to jam, and when he was recording an album with Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister was in the same studio (it would not be a crazy Rock and Roll book without a Lemmy encounter!!). The one chapter tells what Ian considers his wildest moment that he’s been a part of, which involves Nine Inch Nails Singer Trent Reznor.

Besides the touchy story about his love for KISS, another favorite story involves Dimebag Darrell’s pranking Ian late at night (along with Drowning Pool’s “Dave Williams), along with Ian’s revenge prank later.

The book is not all Rock and Roll stories. The book covers quite a bit of Ian’s love for poker, where he ended up being on several poker competitions. The longest chapters in the book actually covers how he first got into poker, along with his love of playing, including playing online while Anthrax was performing on stage, and the time he played online poker without knowing it after partying all night. Even though Ian tries to explain some of the terms and parts of the game to the reader (for understanding the stories he was telling), this was the least exciting part of the book. This is not a knock on the author (it’s his book- he can write what he wants), but even after the explaining of the terms, this reader was still lost. However, even though I am not a fan , nor understand the poker terms of the game, this just shows that the uniqueness of Scott Ian, not being just a rock guy who plays loud, fast music, and shows his depth as a person in his love for other hobbies.

Overall, the book is one of the better music books that I have read in a while, especially since I was not that familiar with Ian, aside from the facts listed earlier. The book comes in at 243 pages, and has mostly short chapters (besides the poker ones), which makes it a read without unnecessary parts just to fill pages. The writing keeps the reader engaged throughout (I read the whole book in less than three days), and was surprisingly entertained throughout. Even if the reader is not too familiar with Ian or Anthrax (which isn’t needed to read the book-there is not many references that one needs to know the history of the band), there are great stories that will make the reader laugh out loud.

 

Thanks to Da Capo Press  and Hatchette Book Group for the copy of this book to review.

 

“Access All Areas: Stories from a Hard Rock Life” by Scott Ian (2017, Da Capo   Press ISBN: 978-0-306-82523-1) can be found at : http://www.dacapopress.com .

For more about Scott Ian, go to: http://www.scott-ian.com

Book Review: Get Hip to the History of Canada’s Underrated Band

Cover design : David A. Glee Cover images: ZUMA Press Inc./Alamy

Michael Barclay’s “The Never Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip” ( ECW Press, 2018) is a different kind of music biography fitting for a band that had a different appeal in music.

For those who do not know about The Tragically Hip, they were a Canadian band who fans adored and topped the charts in Canada by doing things their way, not taking the normal path bands took. While many Canadian acts like Loverboy, Bryan Adams, Gordon Lightfoot, and rush made their way to the U.S. and had success, The Tragically Hip was always considered among some Canadians as one of the bands that never made it big in the U.S. but was loved in Canada, much like fellow musicians Blue Rodeo.

I first heard of The Hip (the name the fans gave the band) when I was in my first band in 1992. We covered the songs “New Orleans” and “She Didn’t Know” from the 1989 debut album “Up to Here.” Although my guitar player and his girlfriend were big fans of the band, that was the only cassette I got of theirs. I respected them, but was into so many other bands at the time. Last year when I heard about their last tour (which was not called a “Farewell Tour”) after the medical condition of singer Gord Downie, I started listening to more of their music before the final show was aired on Canadian TV. When I saw that Barclay had a book out, I had to get a review copy.

Barclay’s book is not a typical rock biography of the band, the band had no involvement of this book, and never wanted a book out about them; they were always about the next tour or album, not wanting to look back, according to the author. The band did not cater to the media, nor did they care about awards like the Junos (the Canadian version of the Grammys), and did not follow the normal path of marketing to get big in the U.S. like other bands, such as starting out as an opening act and touring with big names, which is mentioned in the book. The band played smaller theaters that they knew they could fill by being the headliners. The band’s management decided that if The Hip would sell out smaller theaters, word of mouth would come around that people couldn’t get tickets to see The Hip, and make them in demand the next time they came to the city.

The book covers the early days of Downie and other members of the band, where Downie played junior hockey and some of his first bands were cover bands playing R&B songs. It details the making of their albums, and some of their tours, including the solo albums Downie recorded through the years. When the band started, they decided that all the songs would be credited to the band equally, instead of listing only the songwriters, which shows the band’s friendship and down to earth feel to them. There are stories about how the band was kind to those acts that opened for them, hanging out with them before and after the shows.

“The Never Ending Present” also takes the reader through stories by some of the road crew and friends of the band, with in depth stories about these people to give a feel of the members the public may not have seen. There is also stories and chapters comparing the band to other acts, such as a chapter comparing The Hip to other Canadian acts by comparing The Hip’s Canadian, U.S. and worldwide music sales. There is a chapter questioning why The Hip never made it big in the U.S. , even though they had big followings in places like Texas.

Barclay even writes a chapter about how some critics and fans (and other musicians) just did not see the appeal of the band, and how other Canadian towns despised the band, and covers the topic of if the band was “too Canadian” for most listeners.

Barclay gives some great comparisons and quotes from members of other Canadian bands, including Blue Rodeo, which is another Canadian band that I enjoy. There are many band and artist references in the book that music fans in America may not know, which some detail in the bands would be nice (saying this person who played in this band, as opposed to just mentioning the person’s name), but the book is published by a Canadian publisher, and with it almost 500 pages long, so one can’t complain too much.

This is a different type of rock biography. The writer covers complaints by critics and other musicians about what was the appeal of the band, which is something that most authors may not cover in a book about the band they are writing about. The chapters comparing The Hip to acts like Shania Twain (and other Canadian acts who made it in the U.S.) gets a bit overwhelming, along with some of the very detailed background information about some of the producers on the albums, managers, and other friends of the band. At times I felt like I wasn’t reading a book about the band and more about a guy who went on tour with Downie, and wanted the writer to get back on track focusing on the band. When discussing Downie’s last tour, the writer has a chapter comparing him to acts like Glen Campbell, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Lemmy from Motorhead, and Sharon Jones (all acts that were sick and died when most of the public did not know about their illnesses). With that said , though, Barclay shows great research and fans wanting to know everything about the band will enjoy this, more so than a casual U.S. fan like myself.

“The Never Ending Present” will appeal to fans of The Hip, especially since there are not many books written about the band, and at almost 500 pages, it will not disappoint the readers in dealing with the history of the band. However this is not a basic biography of the band, with comparisons and criticisms of the band added in that may throw some readers off. But one can not question the research and detail the author puts into this book. Non -Canadian fans may have to do extra research in some of the names that are dropped and interviewed in the book, but the fans of the band up north will enjoy this nonetheless, and even those that want a book of the band here in the States.

 

Thanks to ECW Press for the Advanced Reading Copy of this book.

 

“The Never Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip”     by Michael Barclay (2018 ISBN: 9781770414365) is available at ECW Press.

 

For information on ECW Press, go to http://www.ecwpress.com.

 

For information about the author, go to his blog page at :                        http://radiofreecanuckistan.blogspot.com/

 

Book Review: Orbison Book Is More Than Just Pretty Paper

” 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.

What’s Odd About Christmas? Novelty Songs For The Season!

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).

 

  1. “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.
  1. “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.
  1. “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.
  1. “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.

  1. “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!