There’s Something ‘Electric’ About Today


Earlier today, while taking the dogs on one of our very short walks, something in the air made me have a flashback to the Spring of 1987. I’m not sure what it was, the smell of clean country air, the tinge of above normal warmth, whatever it was, I was being reminded of that Spring when my oldest was just getting closer to his second birthday. That was the first Spring we had spent in Oxford, Ohio. That was the Spring in which our silver 1975 Mercury Monarch threw a rod in the engine and was pronounced dead at one-in-the-morning on the “south side” of Oxford, like there is such a thing.

I was on my way home from working down in Cincinnati at Good Samaritan Hospital second shift in the lab’s Hematology Department, so that is why I was out so late. My car broke down right outside the drive-through liquor store in town. Fortunately for me, a friend of mine who worked at the town’s hospital, McCullough-Hyde Hospital, pulled out of the liquor store and was able to drive me home. Right before the car died, the last song I heard on the Oxford FM radio station, WOXY (also known as 97-X) had been playing the final few seconds of The Cult’s great goth-metal hit “Love Removal Machine”. I’m not kidding! All of that came rushing back to me on my morning walk with my Shih-Tzus.


So, since I had a yearning to hear that particular song by The Cult, I decided to first play the first song that exposed me to the music of The Cult, called “She Sells Sanctuary”. During the Summer of 1985, you could not go up to Muncie and not hear that song at the bars and clubs in and around campus. But, that specific song, as well as the rest of the album from which it comes, Love, was a Gothic, new wave-ish, mid-80s acid-dripping psychedelia with a hint of some hard rock found underneath the production layers for goo measure. Plus, you could dance to it! So, I bought the album after we moved to Oxford, since they had quite possibly the great new/used record store.

After we got another car (a gold 1978 Malibu Classic, that had a 350 V-8 engine and the catalytic converter removed – that nugget was for you Mark Kline!) from my wife’s cousin who loved to work on and race cars, I decided I needed to get The Cult’s new album, Electric, since the old car died while playing a cut from this very album. What I first noticed before ever playing the record was that it was produced by Rick Rubin. Yes, that very Rick Rubin who had just was receiving kudos for his production work on two hip hop classics, Run-DMC’s Raising Hell and the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill, in addition to thrash metal’s up-and-coming band Slayer’s classic metal album Reign in Blood. Even though I loved the new song’s Led Zeppelin-channeled-through-AC/DC sound, I had no idea what to expect from Rubin’s influence. Would their music now have hip hop beats and Slayer solos or what? What I heard was the beginning of Rubin’s production genius.

The Cult 1986


When Rubin produces an artist, be it Run-DMC, the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Johnny Cash, Rubin lets the artist be true to the artist, without using any trendy embellishments. So, upon first listen to The Cult’s Electric album, I could finally hear lead singer Ian Astbury’s Jim Morrison-influenced vocals and his goth lyrics about red witches and “the zany antics of the beat generation”. Also, I could finally hear a real living-and-breathing rhythm section holding down a hard rock-yet-dance able beat. Finally, I could hear Billy Duffy’s limited-yet-distinctive guitar solos wail instead of drone, like they did on the Love album.

No, this was not really that Gothic post-punk group any more. In it’s place was an alternative-based hard rock band that was equal parts Siouxsie & the Banshees, Billy Idol and AC/DC. What we heard on this album was not another Poison or Bon Jovi. What we heard was something new, something that, in hindsight, influenced up-and-coming bands like Jane’s Addiction, or set the stage for the whole 90s grunge sound (just ask Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains!), or even mentored a young band that opened for The Cult on their 1987 Electric tour called Guns N’ Roses. Hell, GNR even went so far as to cop The Cult’s drummer Matt Sorum after GNR fired Steven Adler. So, tell me this album is not important in the annals of rock history?

the cult live

Electric rocked from the opening song “Wild Flower” right to the ending song “Memphis Hip Shake”. No longer did hard rock or metal have to be solely about partying or chasing girls, or whatever. The Cult introduced some intelligence into the genre that made it okay for the outcast nerds to actually have some music to rock to, without feeling like they need to lower their IQs by 100 points. Heck, The Cult even brought the 60s hard rock anthem “Born to Be Wild” back to relevancy in the Party Decade of the Eighties.

Still, to this day, there are very few hard rock songs like “Love Removal Machine”. Few songs ever took hold of a campus like that song did at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. On those unseasonably warm Spring days of 1987, you could hear that tune blaring out of car windows, on the Quad while undergrads played Frisbee, out of the front doors of the frat and sorority houses and on the boombox of some older guys playing basketball in the ancient gymnasium on the Miami campus. Even though my family still had not added Seth to the mix at this point, life was pretty good.

Getting ‘Under the Covers’ With Sid & Susie


Many of you know how much of a power pop fanatic I am. If the song has a catchy melody while maintaining some muscularity in the music, I am a sucker for it. Who cares were power pop began, I’ll save that topic for another time. For me, there is nothing like a great power pop song, whether performed by artists you know like Cheap Trick, Raspberries or Bangles, or those you probably don’t know like Matthew Sweet, Velvet Crush or Myracle Brah. In 2006, I discovered that the aforementioned Matthew Sweet, whose 1991 Girlfriend is considered a power pop classic, was teaming up with Susanna Hoffs, the little brunette of the Bangles, to record some Sixties pop-rock classics that influenced their musical tastes. Originally, the duo was going to be known as “Sid & Susie”, but they decided to go by their real names.


Their first album is called Under the Covers Vol. 1. On this album the duo records some great pop-rock songs from that golden decade. They cover songs by The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Neil Young, but they truly shine on songs like their remake of Linda Ronstadt’s first hit song as a member of the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum”. Hoffs nails the longing romanticism of the song’s lyrics in order to make the song their own. Likewise, the duo makes The Marmalade’s “I See the Rain” and The Beatles’ classic “And Your Bird Can Sing” their own. Overall, Sweet and Hoffs sound as if they are having the time of their lives recording this batch of songs.


Since the first album of covers was fun for Sid & Susie, as well as being an artistic success, the duo decided to record a second album of covers, though this time the songs would be their favorites from the Seventies. On Under the Covers Vol. 2, Sweet and Hoffs tackle songs by Big Star, Little Feat, the Grateful Dead, Todd Rundgren, Tom Petty, to name just a few. Their loose play and sense of playfulness infect all the songs with a stamp all their own. But, for my money, they were at their best covering the Raspberries’ classic song “Go All the Way”. To me, their is nothing like hearing Hoffs begging her boyfriend to go all the way with her. With the tables turned, the song takes on much different meaning with the girl begging the boy to get intimate with her, which is not usually the way it goes in your teens. The second album was released in 2009.

If you purchased this second album of theirs on iTunes, you would have had the option to download a deluxe edition that contained ten more covers, from “Dreaming” by Blondie, Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” and the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”. I found that having those ten extra songs made the album stronger and more enjoyable.

sweet & hoffs in concert

Due to the relationship that Hoffs had developed with Sweet, Sweet became the natural selection to be the producer of the Bangles’ 2011 album, Sweetheart of the Sun. On that album, the Bangles rediscovered the muscular musicianship of their first album, 1984’s All Over the Place, and combined it with the sweet harmonies the women had developed over the years. Sweetheart was the band’s most acclaimed album since that first one nearly three decades ago.


Finally, in 2013, Sid and Susie returned with their third covers album, entitled Under the Covers Vol. 3. This album seemed to be the most comfortable for the duo to record. First, this was their third album. Second, this was the music of Hoffs’ peers and Sweet’s teenage years. And third, these tunes were best suited for their vision. Hearing the pair duet on the R.E.M. classic “Standing Still” is a revelation, and that is the first song. They go on to nail more Eighties classics like Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” and “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckingham. They also surprised me by successfully covering “Save It for Later”, originally done by The English Beat, and Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon”. But, their best was saved for Kirsty MacColl’s UK hit and Tracey Ullman’s surprise cover hit in the USA “They Don’t Know”. Sid and Susie do the song like MacColl’s original version, with Hoffs stressing the romantic side of the original version’s lyrics. And much like the second album, you could download three extra songs, which in the songs original versions are three of my all-time favorites: “Train in Vain” by The Clash, “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time” by Marshall Crenshaw and Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”. Those three songs end up being better than most of the songs on the official CD release. Personally, “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time” ends up being a pop classic.


Last year, the company that released these Under the Covers, Shout Factory, as a box set called Completely Under the Covers. In the box set, all of the songs that were only available through iTunes, are now available on CD for those crazy completists like myself, though I still do not own the box set. Also, all three CDs were released on colored vinyl for Record Store Day 2016. Once again, the vinyl is something that still is not in my collection.

sweet & hoffs

Overall, the Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs trilogy of cover songs was a success. They are fun and make you go back to listen to the original versions. These three CDs are everything I hoped for and more. These are quiet classics that I love to pop into my CD player or pick to listen to on my iPod. My ears just love these pop and power pop classics in the hands of two masters. Maybe, one day, the duo will choose to redo some Nineties songs. I have my fingers crossed.

Some High Quality ‘H2O’: The Album That Made Hall & Oates


One day in the Fall of 1982, I came back from my periodic trip to the record stores of the Village near Ball State University’s campus with three albums: Peter Gabriel’s fourth self-titled album that his record company insisted on calling Security by slapping a sticker on the shrink wrapping enveloping the album, Joe Jackson’s now-classic pop-new wave-rock take on New York City late night jazz called Night and Day and an inconspicuous Daryl Hall & John Oates albums called H2O. Of the three, I was most excited at the time about getting Peter Gabriel, since I had LOVED his previous album. I was also excited about Joe Jackson, because each new release of his was such a great advance upon the previous release. The third one, Hall & Oates’ new album, was my purchase because I had loved them so much from the previous year’s concert that I knew I had to pick it up. Those were the days when an album would be on sale for five or six dollars when it was first released, so you could always stock up on some new ones back in the day.

Hall & Oates - H2O back cover

Can you imagine my surprise when I finally put H2O on my Technics turntable only to discover that the dynamic duo of the Eighties, Daryl Hall & John Oates, had actually created their third classic album in a row, with this one being the best one of the trio. Finally, we got to hear a great touring band playing great music in the studio. The three years of this group of musicians constantly touring were finally paying off. Finally, Hall & Oates had the right band to bring their mix of pop, rock and soul together seamlessly.


Now, much has been made about the title of the album, from its release date to present time. H2O has been interpreted as being there are twice as many Daryl Hall songs as John Oates. Whatever the formula, it was working at the time. And those songs, be they written by Hall; Oates; Hall &  Hall’s former girlfriend Sara Allen; Hall & Sara’s sister Janna Allen; or some other combination of the four, with or without the late great bassist T-Bone Wolk, the songs were magic.


The album opened with the first song, and biggest hit on the album, with that catchy yet haunting bassline from the magical hands of Wolk, leading into a sax teaser by Charlie DeChant, all acting as the appetizer for Daryl Hall’s lyrics about this dangerous vixen who has ripped the hearts out of many of a young suitor called “Maneater”. This is a classic Hall & Oates song in that it pays tribute to their Philly soul and Motown backgrounds all the while bringing everything into the Eighties in order to create a timeless pop song. During a time of songs about men stalking former lovers (The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” comes to mind as the best example), it is interesting to get a play on a nearly black widow-type of woman who doesn’t necessarily kill her men, but leaves them brokenhearted and wishing they were dead. For the record, this song represents a collaboration between Hall, Oates and Sara Allen.

The album’s mood is maintained by another song about a woman who breaks hearts called “Crime Pays”. This song is a stripped down version of “Maneater”, in that the song relies on mostly keyboards and vocals by Hall and background vocals by Oates. This is a good lead-in to “Art of Heartbreak”, yet another woman on the prowl to break a man’s heart that features more band interplay and, thus, a perfect concert song that could be stretched to highlight each musician’s skills, especially bassist Wolk, saxophonist DeChant and guitar god G.E. Smith.


All of this sets up the ballad “One on One”, which attempts to forge a little basketball imagery with some bedroom metaphor. Being a former basketball coach and player, I can appreciate the effort, but I’d rather let myself go to the soul slow-dancing groove that the band has set, complete with another sax solo by “Mr. Casual” himself, Charlie DeChant, who may be the most underrated musician on the album, besides drummer Mickey Curry who continues to set a solid rhythmic foundation for each song.

Side One of the album ends with what might be considered a typical Hall & Oates song, “Open All Night”. Now, what I mean by that statement is the song can be confidently lined up with “Sara Smile”, “She’s Gone” & “Everytime You Go Away” as being part of the soulful ballads that the duo was known for.


When you flip over the album, you get a taste of the rock side of the band with the first song “Family Man”. The song lyrically fits the mood of the other songs with the dangerous woman set to destroy a man’s life. The song is set to a jaunty pop-rock beat complete with a tasteful screaming guitar solo from Smith. This song could almost be a Cheap Trick song if the rockier side were played up and the soul side downplayed.

“Family Man” gives way to Oates’ “Italian Girls”, another song on the rock side of the group. Lyrically, it is nice to hear John lamenting Italian Girls in much the same way the Beach Boys immortalized California girls twenty years earlier. The song is another song whose restraint works well within the context of the album, but you know its itching to break loose in concert. The third song is “Guessing Games”, which falls into the typical upbeat Hall & Oates song, much like “Rich Girl” or “Kiss on My List”. It is simply a pleasant pop-rock song that has a ear-worm ability to get stuck in your head.

Again, proving that Side Two is the rock side of the album, the duo places “Delayed Reaction”, which honestly is a slightly weaker song. I have always considered the song to remain one of their little played deep cuts. Next, the album bounces back with a John Oates song called “At Tension”. This song is a really good rock song, the kind you would pull out to show how big of a Hall & Oates fan you are. It is a moody rock song reminiscent of those slow-boiling songs that work great in concert because it is perfect for the musicians to strut their talents. You stick in the middle of the set list, use some moody lighting and a little smoke machine action, all the while the band grooves through solos and building the tension throughout the song. This is the one true rock song on the album in the purest sense, and it rocks as hard as most of the stuff the hard rock crews were putting out. Now, the album has been set up for its ending.

Unfortunately, it is not the ending I was hoping for. The album ends with “Go Solo”, which seems to be conveying Daryl Hall’s desire to do another solo album (as a matter of fact, he will release his second solo album four years later in 1986). The song is a very good song, but the way the album was sequenced, I was honestly expecting to be blown away with a song like Daryl did with Robert Fripp on Fripp’s 1977 album Exposure called “You Lit Me Up I’m a Cigarette”. “Go Solo” would have worked better earlier in the album, not as the closer. The other song I mentioned is a flat out thrash-metal, punk-like pop song that predicted much of the career of Green Day or The Offspring as anything else released during the punk years.

Hall & Oates t shirt

Still, if that is my complaint, H2O must still be one helluva album, and it is. Where, Voices from 1980 was Hall & Oates absorbing the sounds of New York City into their pop-rock-soul sound, and Private Eyes took those lessons to higher levels of sophistication by strengthening their pop-rock credentials, H2O put it all together. This album is an overlooked classic that should be remembered by all lovers of music.

Daryl Hall’s ‘Sacred Songs’

Daryl Hall - Sacred Songs

Being a huge Daryl Hall and John Oates, I will forgive those of you who are only familiar with those pop songs that were hits for the most successful duo in rock history. Many of you might be turned off by the fact that they are mostly known for their pop songs of the Seventies and Eighties. I can understand that.

For me, I always loved their music. But, it was not until I saw them live in the Fall of 1981 at Indiana University as the opening act for the majestic Electric Light Orchestra. To me, this concert was a pop-rock match made in Heaven. Plus, being the great older brother that I am, I took my younger brother, who was a HUGE ELO fan, down to Bloomington, Indiana, for the concert.

Like most artists, Hall & Oates are so much better live. They not only display there pop/soul chops, but you get to witness the rock and folk sides that remain restrained on most of their studio work. After seeing them live, you will gain a whole new appreciation for their influences.


But, my story goes back to the mid-70s in New York City. That town was exploding with all kinds of new sounds that music artists from all over were being attracted to the Big Apple. You had the glam rock of KISS and the New York Dolls exploding, the hip hop sounds of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five and the all the different punk sounds being heard down in the Bowery at CBGBs. At the fertile moment, cross-pollination was being to take place. It was in that environment that an innovative guitarist from England, former King Crimson leader Robert Fripp met up with budding pop star Daryl Hall. Hall was coming off a mega-hit in “Rich Girl”, but was feeling frustrated by the fact that their label was the duo to record with session musicians instead of their touring band. As a matter of fact, Hall felt his creative voice that being held back by the corporate structure of their music label, when he ran into Robert Fripp, the guitarist who had just invented a new guitar recording technique called Frippertronics, which used tape loops of his guitars moaning for what seemed an eternity. What this collaboration resulted in was originally envisioned by Fripp as a trilogy of albums: one a solo Fripp albums, another the second album by Peter Gabriel and the third a pop album by Daryl Hall. All three albums were to highlight Fripp’s Frippertronics within the context of pop songs.

fripp - exposure

gabriel - scratch

So, in 1977, all three albums were recorded, with the Fripp album & Hall’s debut both being produced by Robert Fripp, while Peter Gabriel’s second solo outing, commonly called “Scratch”, since Gabriel appears to be scratching the air on the cover shot. Now, Fripp and Gabriel’s albums were released to great reviews. But, Hall’s album was shelved by his label because they were worried about the lack of hit songs on the album and the damage that album who do to his Hall & Oates career. After a huge writing campaign, the album was finally released in 1980.

To be perfectly honest, much of the album sounds like a regular Hall & Oates album only with some innovative guitar tracks. Additionally, the album had the feel of the punk esthetic from 1977, where the rock side of Hall’s songs are being emphasized. The whole project just seems that it would have succeeded more in 1977 than it did in 1980.


But, if you can find this album, buy it! It is a rock classic, albeit one that has been an unrecognized classic. Fripp only adds his trademark guitar touches when they enhance the song. Through the album, you can hearing the budding of the sounds he would explore with John Oates on their next few albums, such as 1978’s hodgepodge Along the Red Ledge, 1979’s New Wave classic X-Static and the duo’s commercial 1980 breakthrough Voices.

Sacred Songs contains all the musical nods of 1977 to the punk scene that would have made the songs sound more vital if they had been played on rock radio back in the day for which they were intended. As the years pass, this album continues to climb my list of favorite albums of all-time. Perhaps, the album needed to fail commercially so we would have gotten all of that great music by the duo. If this solo album had succeeded, who knows what Daryl Hall would have done in the Eighties. Maybe, Daryl Hall would have, as Robert Fripp recently suggested, become recognized as a musical innovator like a David Bowie than the pop genius he his known as today. Whatever the case, Sacred Songs is a classic album that deserves to be heard. Take my word, you will enjoy it!




The Band’s ‘Last Waltz’: My Rx For Being Down


Let’s see, it had to be Halloween night 1976 when I saw Saturday Night Live for the first time. I believe I was at my buddy’s house for a big sleepover. He lived just a few homes from a very old, historical cemetery, and his crazy dad was offering twenty bucks each to sleep the night over there. Being loud, idiotic teenage boys, everyone was talking a big game, but none of us seemed to be able to stay there more than an hour. Personally, I knew my limitations and came back to watch this newer show.

That night, the host was Buck Henry (it seemed like he or Steve Martin were on all the time back then), and the musical guest was The Band. Now, I had only heard of The Band through some music magazines, whose writers were always disparaging them for being over-the-hill hippies. As I began to watch them, I was mesmerized by their unique sound. It had an earthy, nearly country sound that still had touches of rock, gospel and R&B. Earlier that week, in my journalism class, the hip young teacher was teaching us about the songwriting styles of Bob Dylan with and without The Band. Needless to say, the seeds were planted in my head about The Band, but I never purchased one of their albums. Back at the time, I was more of a KISS and Queen man, but I was intrigued by the music my teacher played and the performance I saw on that early SNL show.

Now, let’s fast forward to the fall of 2002. I was getting ready for my first back surgery, an outpatient procedure that would removed the “junk” that was pressing on my sciatic nerve. Since I was going to be off work for six weeks, my boys bought me a DVD of The Band’s Last Waltz. This concert motion picture had been released in theaters back in 1978. I remember looking at the ads in the newspapers and wondering what that movie was like. The movie documented the last concert that The Band performed, with the help of many rock stars of the time, such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell, to name a few. Instead, I went to see Grease or Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke or some other movie geared toward teens.And, many times during the that time, I went to the record stores to look through the selections, and often contemplating the purchase of the triple album soundtrack to The Band’s Last Waltz. Yet, I never could justify purchasing a triple album.

Now, in the Fall of 2002, suffering through the beginning of my chronic back spasms, I was laying on my back, watching the DVD of The Last Waltz. The more I watched, the more I fell in love with the music. The Band was unique in that they had three lead vocalists who all sounded different, whose harmonies sounded as if they were competing with each other while complimenting the others. Vocally, they were acting like the Staple Singers. But, then there was the music that I described earlier. Here were four Canadians and an American playing music that seemed steeped in the past but still of its time and the future. Their music is simply timeless.

The Band - The Last Waltz LP

From the yearning of “It Makes No Difference” to the Post-Civil War Southerner’s lament of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, from the gospel remembrance of others in “The Weight” to the terror of solitude of “Stagefright”, The Band gave voice to more than a generation. They were giving a voice to something that was genuinely American. In other words, The Band invented a genre that we now call “Americana”, which includes groups like the Lumineers and Uncle Tupelo. But, I have yet to find a group that has been able to capture the essence of The Band and re-conceptualize it into a new sound. Nope, The Band stands alone with their sound. And, on the night they performed their last concert that was called and immortalized as The Last Waltz, you are listening to the influences, peers and genius of The Band all in one concert.

Their are so many highlights: Neil Young leading The Band through a great version of “Helpless”, “Mannish Boy” with the immortal Muddy Waters, performing “Caravan” with the Celtic mystic himself Van Morrison, and my personal favorite, a pairing of The Staple Singers with The Band on “The Weight”. But, The Band proves their own rock and roll immortality with live versions of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, Richard Manuel dueting with Bob Dylan on “I Shall Be Released” and bassist Rick Danko displaying his insecurities while singing “Stagefright”.


To me, there is nothing like The Band. Not ever in the past, the present or in the future, The Band is a once in a lifetime happening. Their Last Waltz album and DVD always seems to release me from whatever is bothering me and helps me not only find joy in music but in life. Truthfully, how many artists can you say will do that for you? Very few, I am certain.

Wait A Second! You Love A Band Called “Jellyfish”?

jellyfish - live long and prosper

Remember what radio and MTV sounded like in 1989? As Ia reminder, we were getting the rest of the crappy hair metal bands that had not been signed at the beginning of the craze. I am talking about bands like White Lion, Firehouse, Nelson, Winger, Tesla and all of the other look-alike/sound-alike Sunset Strip crap bands that were left-over after all the better bands had been signed and had success. Also, we were being fed such ear-food by the likes of Taylor Dayne, Paula Abdul and Milli Vanilli. You know, those synthesizer-based dance artists. Here and there were rays of hope in the form of Tom Petty, who released his highly successful Full Moon Fever that year. Additionally, there were hit songs by alternative artists such as Love & Rockets (“So Alive”) and The Cure (“Love Song”). Heck, things were so bad on the radio that when The B-52’s made a comeback album, we gave them two hit songs: “The Love Shack” and “Roam”.

When 1990 rolled around, I was hoping for something to break through and inspire my musical appetite. Things were moving slowly at the beginning of the year. Sinéad O’Connor released an excellent album, I Do Not What I Haven’t Got, that contained the great Prince cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U”. Sure, Faith No More released the great song “Epic” from their classic album The Real Thing.

However, one day after taking Graham to school, I came home before I left for my second shift job in the hospital lab. I turned the TV over to MTV, when VJ Adam Curry was babbling on and on about this new L.A. band whose video they were going to debut right then. At that moment, I was thinking, “Oh great, another hair metal band.” Then, he announced the song being “The King Is Half-Undressed” by Jellyfish.


What first captured my attention was the psychedelic paisley swirl of colors in a Lewis Carroll-esque world. That piqued my interest since I loved all of those Lewis Carroll stories. As the video continued, I began to take in the music, which reminded me of the great Eighties band Squeeze. That meant this new band, called Jellyfish, was a power pop band. And, boy, do I love power pop music!

jellyfish - Spilt_Milk_albumcover

During that year of 1990, I could not find the Jellyfish album anywhere I went in Central Indiana, so I merely put the band Jellyfish in my memory bank. And, the band remained there until June of 2009. That was when I found that first Jellyfish album, called Bellybutton, on iTunes, along with their second (and last!) album, Spilt Milk, which was released in 1993. So, I downloaded both albums, put them on my iPod, and totally fell in love with this band called Jellyfish.

As I listened to Bellybutton, I heard a band that should have been HUGE. I heard all of their influences, such as the Beatles, Squeeze, Badfinger, Queen, Raspberries and Big Star. That was so very important to me, the latent power pop fan. Next, I played Spilt Milk. I heard those very same influences along with some Wings and Klaatu. I was hooked on both albums. I kept playing them and playing them throughout my last fusion surgery recovery time. I kept hearing more and more interesting touches in the production. I was now a full-fledged fan of Jellyfish. Unfortunately, the band broke up shortly after the release of their second album. Since that time, I have been collecting Jellyfish music.

Jellyfish - Live at Bogarts

Omnivore Recordings began releasing vinyl and CD versions of the music of Jellyfish. The company has done a terrific job with the CDs they have released. In addition to the two studio Jellyfish created, Omnivore released a live recording called Live at Bogart’s. On that album, you get to hear the band fortifying their sound with covers of some great Seventies power pop covers.

jellyfish - stack-a-tracks

On Black Friday Record Store Day 2012, Omnivore released a special, numbered release called Stack-a-Tracks, which happened to be the instrumental tracks of the songs from Jellyfish’s two studio albums. At first, the listener may have trouble finding his or her bearings without the vocals. But, once the tracks have been relieved of the vocals, the listener begins to hear all kinds of instruments utilized in the mixes that those faultless vocal harmonies used to cover up. Jellyfish’s songs were much more complex than their melodies allow you to believe.

jellyfish - radio jellyfish

Finally, Omnivore released another living recording, this time from the band’s radio performances, which is called Radio Jellyfish. Once again, it was interesting to hear a band that is mostly a studio concoction turning into a live force.


Once again, I have another band that I love who very few have heard or even heard of. Just like the Raspberries and Big Star, I have a favorite that has not received the success it deserves but has become a cult phenomenon. All I can say is “CHECK OUT THIS BAND!” Or, you could print off this coloring picture of the band and color to your heart’s content. At least a new book is going to be released about the history of Jellyfish, and I have mine pre-ordered. At least I got that one going for me.

Jellyfish book

31 Years Ago, I Had Hope For My Generation

usa_for_africa life magazine cover

Sunday, I was riding home from church with my wife and we were listening to an old replay of a Kasey Kasem’s American Top 40 from this week in 1985. We spent the trip home laughing and reminiscing about the songs being played. All of these songs were popular in the first couple months of our marriage, so it was fun to remember some of the stupid things we were doing at the time. But, the biggest charge came when we heard what was the number one song at the time, ending it’s four-week reign. The song was the mega-charity hit “We Are the World”.

Back in the winter of 1984, Bob Geldof, the lead singer of the new wave band the Boomtown Rats, watched a BBC news report concerning the famine in Ethiopia at the time. He was so moved that he wrote a song with Midge Ure of the band Ultravox that became “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by the one-off supergroup Band Aid. The way the English musicians came together to record this now-Christmas standard influenced American singer and philanthropist Harry Belafonte to do the same with American musicians.

According to legend Belafonte approached Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie about the endeavor. Lionel was charged with writing a song. Richie called Stevie Wonder in order to add some star power. Belafonte got Quincy Jones to sign on to produce. Then, Richie contacted the white-hot Michael Jackson to join in. Jackson said he would if he could help Richie write the song. After that Richie and Jackson buckled down to write the song, which they wanted to sound stately, like a national anthem. Jones, Belafonte and Rogers recruited the other singers and musicians.

As many of know by now, Prince did not participate. Richie says that Prince was nervous about performing with all of the superstars, while his Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin, said that Prince thought the song sucked and that he did not want to hang around the others. I tend to believe that it may have been a combination of those reasons. The idea was that Michael Jackson and Prince would sing back to back lines to hype the battle that was going on concerning which artist was the greatest at the time. So, instead of Prince, we got a working man’s line from Huey Lewis. Oh, but what might have been. That may have been Prince’s biggest mistake.

USA for Africa

On another interesting note, the hottest artist at the time was Madonna. Unfortunately, she was never approached about the gig. Also missing were any of the popular hair metal singers. For some reason, the only current rock artist with any pedigree at the time that was invited was Bruce Springsteen. That means that John Mellencamp, Tom Petty and Bob Seger were all also uninvited, as well as Peter Cetera of Chicago (who were in the midst of a big comeback at the time), the guys from the Cars, neither David Lee Roth nor Sammy Hagar of Van Halen, and none of the Go-Go’s OR the Bangles. So, there was a galaxy of current star power left on the sidelines in order to use mostly artists whose major popularity was behind them.

What I have decided to do is rank the artists’ solo performances. After you read this, go back and listen to the song to hear what I am talking about. Twenty-one artist had solo parts, so I will be going in descending order.

21. Billy Joel – At the time of this song’s recording, Joel was between hit albums. He was coming off a major hit with An Innocent Man, this was before the sessions for The Bridge. Whatever the reason, Joel just seems like he is going through the motions as he finished up the second verse of the song.

20. Kenny Loggins – Mr. Soundtrack was in the middle of a hot hit streak with songs from Caddyshack (“I’m Alright”) and the theme song from Footloose. But, he rarely had hits from his own albums. And, now he was being thrown in with all of these all-stars. Unfortunately, Kenny seems like he is trying way too hard. If he had simply relaxed a bit, his true talent would have shined. Instead, we got a shrill line between Bruce Springsteen and Steve Perry in the third verse.

19. Paul Simon – I love Paul Simon, but at the time he was just a regular musical guest on SNL. All of this was before he released his masterpiece work Graceland. Maybe, this session work motivated him.

18. Steve Perry – Perry has golden pipes, but this song was not made for his soaring grandeur.

17. Daryl Hall – Can you believe I am ranking my man Daryl Hall so low?!?! Hall is a soul singer, and this is NOT a soul song.

16. Kim Carnes – Really? She got invited? Sure, she did a serviceable job. Wasn’t Whitney Houston available?

15. Kenny Rogers – Country music’s Santa Claus came in, sang his line well, and then we forgot about him being on the record. Sounds like his career in a nutshell to me.

14. Tina Turner – Miss Turner was on one of the greatest rock comebacks of all time, and this is the line she was given?!?! Just like Daryl Hall, Turner’s a soul singer, so give her some soulful lines.

13. James Ingram – The least famous name in this line-up does a good job. Ingram had a hit off of Quincy Jones’ hit album a few years earlier, so he was a Jones pick. Still, the man holds his own between Kenny Rogers and Tina Turner. Ingram was one of those vanilla-sounding R&B singers that were sort of popular at the time. I guess Luther Vandross couldn’t be pulled away from a KFC to sing that line.

12. Al Jarreau – The great jazz singer got his moment on a pop song and did good job after Willie Nelson.

11. Huey Lewis – If Prince won’t sing, who ya gonna call? Huey Lewis! Lewis was stepping into an epic row by singing after Michael Jackson and before Cyndi Lauper’s otherworldly performance.

10. Lionel Richie – The man who co-wrote this song set the whole song up with his usual affable vocals. Someone has to lead off, and Lionel did a great job setting the table, so to speak.

9. Diana Ross – Miss Ross was not the mess back then; she was a diva. And, she sang her part majestically.

8. Dionne Warwick – Long before Miss Warwick became a spokeswoman for some pychic’s phone network, she was a legendary singer. And, she proves why she is a legend with her vocals beginning the third verse.

7. Willie Nelson – So, Warwick sets the tone for verse three and hands it off to none other than country music’s grand old outlaw singer/pothead Willie Nelson, who nails the line like he actually wrote it.

6. Bob Dylan – Bob was scared to sing this song. It was nothing like he had ever sang before. So, Stevie Wonder, imitating Dylan’s voice, showed Bob how to do it. When Dylan sang, it gave the song some authority from the legends of rock music.

5. Michael Jackson– How can I rank him so low? He was THE musician at the time, along with Prince. And, he did his usual stellar job. It’s just four others did it with urgency.

4. Stevie Wonder – Stevie was the MVP of the recording session. The man displayed his talent throughout the song. If it wasn’t for the other three’s performances, then this song would be remembered for Stevie.

3. Bruce Springsteen – The Boss showed everyone why he was called The Boss. After pulling up in his truck and parking across the street, while the others arrived by limo, Springsteen walks in and delivers his lines with the passion that he always sang. Personally, I feel like this song set him up to have the big year that he ended up having.

2. Cyndi Lauper – Between Lauper and Madonna, many thought Lauper was going to be the long-term success. Guess we were wrong. But, man, did she ever deliver a soulful line that defied anything else she had recorded.

1. Ray Charles – Brother Ray, all ready a living legend, came in and was the person to whom all other singers and musicians deferred. He was the calming influence, the cattle prod, and the zen master all wrapped up into one. And then he did his call-and-response thing with the choir that still brings chills up and down my spine. And, Ray had been doing this his whole career. His was the best performance.


For a song that was recorded in the wee hours after the 1985 American Music Awards, this song is a standard for all times. The motivation for the song was unparalleled, though the unity the song brought about has long since been broken by greed and selfishness. I hold the song up as a standard to which to appeal. Maybe, one day, we will come together as one.

The Grand Illusion, Or I’ve Got Dem Pre-Primary Blues


Innocently enough, I picked up Styx’ 1977 classic album The Grand Illusion and put it on my turntable. After cleaning the vinyl, a fine habit I picked up during my college years, I began to listening. And, all of a sudden, I got hit upside my head with lyrics ironically reminding me that tomorrow is the primary in Indiana. Over the years, beginning way back in elementary school when I first became aware of political science, I have seemingly always been fascinated by the political process. And, even though I graduated with degrees in Biology (an emphasis on Microbiology)/minor in Chemistry, another degree in Medical Technology, as well as earning my teaching certification for Biology, Chemistry & Life & Physical Science, I took many political science and history classes. Why? Because I am fascinated with the whole thing and how science fits neatly into all things political.

Therefore, Styx’ The Grand Illusion seemed to be a great album to write about today. Historically speaking, our people will vote against our best interests in order for attaining an illusion that may be nearly impossible to attain. But, history is on my side to say that. And, that’s what Styx was getting at during this album, The Grand Illusion.

styx tgi tour t shirt

The album begins with the title song, a rocker that works well on two levels. The first being that it musically sets the stage for the beginning of the album, or even the concert. It works well on the album that it sets the tone for the album lyrically. Throughout the song, the band describes mankind as a group of people looking to emulate the rich and famous all the while attaining this status without working hard. Basically, the band was able to read the tea leaves of what it goes to happen throughout the Eighties and beyond. Let’s use credit to reach out level of status, screw the consequences because it would NEVER happen to us. As we all know, the market went bust in 2007 and 2008, and millions of people lost their homes and their retirement nest eggs. The song describes the whole economy, and dare I say society, as part of this Grand Illusion.

styx belt buckle

Next, Styx follows up their album’s thesis statement with an individual’s first attempt to adhere himself to the philosophy of Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged) where the individual completely ignores others in order to grab wealth for himself. Yet, this man ends up angry all the time. The hero of the song “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”, is going against the talents with which he was given: the ability to care for others. What our hero is missing is that his happiness will not come from the things that society wants him to believe are good, but rather he should follow where his heart is leading him in order to find that place in society where he will do the most good.

So, our angry young man now finds himself in the album’s third song as a “Superstar.” Now, he has reached the pinnacle of success, but he is unhappy and unsatisfied. And he discovers what is missing in his life is love. He is missing a love for another human, love for a profession, love for life.

The rest of the album is the journey of our hero toward self-realization, which in turn shows him his true place in society. It’s almost like when you give up your ego in order to play second base instead of strengthening your team by moving to center field. Or, giving up the lead guitar in your band to play bass so your band can hire an exceptional guitarist to take your place but make your band better.

Styx promo shoot the grand illusion

By the end of the album, our hero has found happiness by making his team better than grabbing headlining success for himself. Therein is The Grand Illusion. Plus, how many albums have three classic songs all on Side 1 of the album? This one does!