Remember When ‘Come On Eileen’ Ruled The World?

A. DexysMidnightRunnerComeOnEileen7InchSingleCover

During the Fourth of July weekend, I spent those days up at my fraternity house rather than lead a bunch of little kids in my mom’s neighborhood with lighting their fireworks. I had done that for nearly twenty years, and I wanted a different experience, such as unsupervised late-teens/early twenty-somethings with access to booze and illegal in Indiana fireworks. At the frat house, the weekend had success written all over it. So, when I arrived, imagine my surprise when I walked into the house to a dozen guys laying around the living room, watching T.V. and a new station called MTV. And my brothers knew I would be hooked on it. And, they were right! For the next 36 hours straight I watched the original seven V.J.s introduce odd-ball British pop stars singing their soon-to-be-hit-songs on this awesome new station.

Finally, I was getting to hear artists that I had only read about like Adam & the Ants (and without the Ants too!), Duran Duran (“Hungry Like the Wolf” captured me musically and visually) and a little Irish band with one helluva pop song that stuck with me forever. The band was the crazily named Dexys Midnight Runners, and the song was their pop/new wave classic “Come On Eileen”. My eyes were captured by the band’s dress in overalls, all the while miming and lipsynching a life-or-death love song to the ever-mysterious Eileen. I was captured by the unique sound of the singer’s vocals, and I loved the mixed of the Celtic-folk sound and instruments with classic American soul music. I could not believe that someone was FINALLY attempting to bridge the musical gap between Van Morrison and the rest of the world.

A . Dexys_Midnight_Runners_Too-Rye-Ay

First thing I did after that crazy weekend was to purchase the single, since that was all I could find in the lovely tall. I could tell that it was going to be a huge hit, as it had been a huge hit in the UK and all over Europe. Unfortunately, the song took nearly another year to finally hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It was then that I finally found a copy of the album with this brilliant hit song. The album’s title is Too-Rye Aye. And after listening to it, I discovered that the creative mind behind Dexys, Kevin Rowland, was a musical genius, who was set to continue Van Morrison’s venture into the melding of American soul and Celtic folk. It took me another 30 years, but I finally found the band’s debut album, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, an album that had been released in the UK back in 1980. It too was brilliant.

A. Dexys_Midnight_Runners_Searching_for_the_Young_Soul_Rebels

However, in 1985, the band disappeared. They had released a third album in the UK and Europe, but not in the States. Over the next 27 years, I had heard that the band’s leader, Kevin Rowland, had released two solo albums, but once again, not in the States. But, in 2012, I discovered that a new version of this band had be formed and released an album under the name of Dexys. The album was very good, but it shared very little with the version of the band with which I fell in love.

A. Dexys Let the Record Show

Then it happened. Dexys just came out with an album! The album is entitled Let the Record Stand: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul, and it is a revelation! Finally, Rowland got back to his wheelhouse by combining soul with that Irish Celtic folk sound. By jumping on cover songs, it frees Rowland up to find his soul muse and apply it to the Celtic folk tradition. No, Dexys will no longer burn up the American airwaves, just like all of our other favorites of yore. But, isn’t it comforting to know that we can go back, find one of our favorite artists from our teenage/twenty-something years and know they are going to deliver a grown-up version of the original musical vision. It’s like they all are collectively discovering this notion right now as many of their peers are dying off. Yes, David Bowie, Prince & Glenn Frey are all gone, but we still have so many artists from our youth that are creating great music in what used to be described condescendingly their Golden Years. They are all making statements that they are vital artists.

A. Dexys in the early days

The moral of this week is that no matter how much that Van Halen album called Third sucked back in the Nineties, artists that were popular in and around our generation are creating some of their most vital work in ages. Lately, I have reviewed The Monkees, Tom Petty’s other group Mudcrutch, and now Dexys, other artists that we can calls ours have released great pieces of music recently. I am talking about Paul Simon, Cheap Trick, Weezer, Santana, Electric Light Orchestra, Duran Duran, Eric Clapton, Prince (4 albums released in 2014 and 2015!), and former Hüsker Dü leader Bob Mould.

A. Dexys in concert

What I am saying is don’t be scared by the old adage that old artists only make crappy music as they get older. If you see a new album by your old favorite artist, go ahead and pick it up. It might remind you of your rocking youth!

Tom Petty’s Third Personality

3. mudcrutch 2

My three favorite artists are Cheap Trick, Prince & Tom Petty (in ALL of his incarnations). And, if I were to sprinkle in some R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen, Hall & Oates and Talking Heads, you would have the backbone of my music collection. To some, those artists make for an odd menagerie. But, for me, it’s all normal and logical. Today, I would like to focus on Tom Petty.

I discovered Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers back in 1978 on the FM Soundtrack. Now, while the movie was the typical “let’s stick it to the Man!” message of the Seventies, the soundtrack was the first collection of songs that we would now call Classic Rock. The album had songs from such west coast mainstays as Steely Dan, Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett, Eagles, among many others that were standards at the time and are still today. At the time, any record that had Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” on it had to be a classic. At the time, and still today, I was hooked on the song. But the song that changed my listening habits forever was “Breakdown”, the now-classic song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. That three-minute slice of bluesy rock was different than anything else being played on the Indianapolis radio. And I wanted, or was it needed, more.

Over the next year, I became a huge fan of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers after acquiring his first three albums: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, You’re Gonna Get It and, a gift from my second family down the streets, the Dunwiddies, Damn the Torpedoes. I was now on my way to become a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fan.

Petty with the Heartbreakers is a rock and roll machine, rhythmically based in the rock lessons of late-Sixties era Rolling Stones, mixed with the jangling guitars of the Byrds and the melodicism of The Beatles. The motto, as expressed by long-time guitarist Mike Campbell has always been “don’t bore us, get to the chorus.” And the band has lived by that credo throughout their career.

However, it was by the late Eighties that Petty had an itch to scratch. That itch was creating a solo career. Now, this solo career would still hold on to Petty’s basic songwriting sense, but it would allow him to scratch his inner Bob Dylan and Neil Young itches that he wanted to scratch. Where Petty with the Heartbreakers was a full-born blast of American rock and roll, solo Petty was more of a songwriting and singing troubadour living out a rocking folkie dream of creating music. And, some of his most powerful music he ever created was done so as a solo artists. C’mon! Just ask yourself, would have the album Wildflowers been as powerful as a full-fledged Heartbreakers album? No, because some of the intimacy of that album would have been lost in the Heartbreakers’ bombast.

3. mudcrutch

Still, little did we know that lurking in Petty’s psyche was a third voice. And that voice included his original early-Seventies band Mudcrutch. You see, Petty and Campbell arrived in Los Angeles in the early Seventies to land Mudcrutch a recording contract. Instead, Petty got the contract, and he created the Heartbreakers as his backing band. As the years past, Mudcrutch became a fading memory. That is, until 2008, when Petty wrote some songs that seemed suited for his original band. So, he gathered his old mates: Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, along with guitarist Tom Leadon, brother of former Eagle Bernie Leadon, and drummer Randall Marsh. This configuration allowed Petty to move back to first love, the bass guitar.

Now, Mudcrutch was the third portion of Petty’s musical talent. Where the Heartbreakers were rock side and solo Petty was more of his folkie side, Mudcrutch was his country rock side. Now, I am NOT defining country rock in the sense of the Eagles but more along the lines of Gram Parsons’ vision, though with more leanings on the rock portion. These guys were all Southerns, raised on both rock and country, and were FINALLY ready to put it all together in a way that they just missed upon back in the early-Seventies.

In 2008, Mudcrutch released their first album, a full 35 years later than they had expected too. That album was a group’s typical tentative first album. We played it, enjoyed it and then put it back in the collection to gather dust. Oh sure, occasionally I’d pull it out and play it, but to be honest, I still preferred his third solo album from two years earlier than this Mudcrutch thing. And, then, he started back up with the Heartbreakers, in the configuration that most people prefer.

So, after the first Mudcrutch album, called Mudcrutch, was released in 2008, Petty performed at the Super Bowl, where he and the Heartbreakers killed the audience. He and the Heartbreakers released a couple of very good, working man’s American rock and roll.

3. mudcrutch trailer

But, I was NOT ready for what he would drop on us this Spring of 2016: a new Mudcrutch album. And, this thing was NOT a Petty ego project but an actual band effort. Oh, sure, Petty wrote or co-wrote most of the songs. But, when you have one of history’s greatest rock song writers, you tend to want him to bask in the glow of his muse and fire off tailor-made songs. But, Petty encourage the others to write, and they responded with some of the best country-rock music of the 21st Century. This album actually seems like a band working together to create their finest music to date. Now, finally, Mudcrutch was becoming Tom Petty’s third personality. Mudcrutch is soothing and laid-back. They are not fighting for a position in the rock hierarchy, but simply enjoying each others company in order to create some of the finest music of their career, Petty included. My favorite Petty songs are an old  number called “Trailers”, another song, “Beautiful Blue”. But, it is the songs written by the other band members that give this album is depth and beauty. Randall Marsh contributed the enjoyable “Beautiful World” and Tom Leadon wrote the banjo-rocking “The Other Side of the Mountain”. And the two Heartbreakers even got into the act, as Tench contributed the rockabilly-styled “Welcome to Hell” and Campbell threw in his own rocking “Victim of Circumstances”.

3. mudcrutch rehearsal

And, Petty, being the consummate team player, writes songs that allow his bandmates’ songs to seamlessly blend together with his contributions being found between the others. This album is so much fun that you can envision the guys hanging out in a garage, reliving their long lost youth. The new Mudcrutch album, the appropriately titled Mudcrutch 2, is easily Petty’s best album of the 20-teens.

Mudcrutch has created an album that was made for American barbecues, cookouts and summer parties. Put it out and just enjoy!

I’m A Believer: The Monkees Are Back

2. the-monkees-good-times-cover

I kid you not! Our favorite Saturday morning re-run rock band just released a new album, their first in twenty years. And, this year marks the 50th year of this band. Critics wrote them off in their heyday, even though the band sold millions of albums and singles. And, who cares if none of them could write them own songs, or few their instruments. They had some of the greatest rock and pop songwriters writing hit after glorious hit for them. I think it’s about time that we all re-evaluate one of the finest bands of all time, The Pre-Fab Four: The Monkees!

Go ahead and admit it! “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, “Last Train to Clarksville”, “Daydream Believer”, and the rest are classic slices of pop and power pop. You just give them their due for their status in the lives of older Gen X-ers. Go back and you will discover that many of the punk artists cut their teeth on old Monkees songs. The Monkees have a unique legacy in the rock world. They were MTV before MTV, Glee before Glee and Nashville before Nashville all rolled up in one glorious show with a shot of ’60s era camp from the Batman show and some timeless slapstick from the Three Stooges. And, they did this with the help of two or three songs per episode. And, we were lucky because we got to watch these shows in Saturday morning syndication. Jackpot!

After the TV show ran its course, the band worked hard to learn how to play their instruments in order to begin writing their own songs. And those little buggers were successful in reinventing themselves with the times of the late Sixties. They became of one the innovators of country rock, thanks to the musical vision of reluctant Monkee Michael Nesmith. Peter Tork’s writing turned the band toward a folk rock bent, all the while Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz continued the band in the pop vein. In other words, The Monkees, in their post prime time TV and during their pre- Saturday morning debut, were becoming rock visionaries.

2. monkees2014

So, on Friday, May 27, right at the beginning of the Memorial Day three-day weekend, The Monkees dropped their first album in twenty years in order to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. The album is called Good Times!, and this time their album was headed by the sympathetic ears of early Gen X-er Adam Schlesinger of the great alternative/power pop band Fountains of Wayne (“Stacy’s Mom”).

Schlesinger’s genius was to uncover gems by original writers Carol King & Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson and Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart. Then, Schlesinger employed Monkees fans such as Weezer song-smith Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge of XTC, Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab For Cuties and Schlesinger himself. He also allowed each of the surviving Monkees (Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork) to write a song. Finally, the producer uncovered a Davy Jones-penned song with his vocals, in order to make the album seem as those all of the original members where involved even though Davey left us a couple of years ago.

2. the-monkees-performance-2013-billboard-650

Now, does this album hold up to the original years? No. But, it does not tarnish their reputation one bit. As a matter of fact, I would say that Good Times only enhances The Monkees’ reputations. Take the opening song, and title song, Good Times. The song was a nugget written and demoed back in the Sixties by Harry Nilsson, and Schlesinger made the demo into a full-fledged duet with Dolenz, which makes the whole thing seem timeless. And, pretty much, that is the album in a nutshell: timeless. My favorite songs are “You Bring the Summer” (written by Andy Partridge), “She Makes Me Laugh” (Rivers Cuomo), “Our Own World” (Schlesinger) and The Beatles/Beach Boys homage “Birth of an Accidental Hipster” (written by Oasis leader Noel Gallagher AND The Jam/The Style Council leader, The Modfather himself, Paul Weller). But, there are other gems on the record, such as Gibbard’s “Me & Magdalena” and Nesmith’s “I Know What I Want”.

2. the monkeesmobile

Although I have only owned this album for a week, I have not tired of it. This album is much better than it ever has a right to be. But, thank God that The Monkees created this gem. I give this album a B+. It is not a classic album, but it is no where near the embarrassments that those albums released in the Eighties and Nineties. Go get it now so you can play it during your upcoming barbecues and pool parties! May The Monkees live long and prosper. And may we all be as cool as “The Monkees Mobile” is today.

The 50 Most Important Albums Of My Life, Part 5

Here it is: Day 5 of this little looksie through my music collection. Once again, these choices are the albums that have played the most important roles in my life, not the albums I believe are the best ones ever release. So, let’s get this party started.

41. run dmc raising hell

41. Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986). This is the album when rap became an album-oriented art. Not only that, but Run-DMC made rap palatable for suburban white teens by teaming up with Aerosmith to update “Walk This Way” into a rap classic.

42. Never_Mind_the_Bollocks,_Here's_the_Sex_Pistols

42. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977). The Pistols took the Ramones’ music and coupled it with the working class angst of the English working class of the Seventies. And when they sang “Anarchy in the U.K.” or “God Save the Queen”, you knew this was the new world order.

43. The-Queen-is-Dead-cover

43. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986). The US had R.E.M., and the UK had The Smiths. Both were bringing back the classic guitar sound of each home country. The Smiths invented a sound that would be called Brit Pop in the Nineties. Although The Smiths were a cult band in the States, this album opened up a whole another continent’s worth of modern rock music and introduced me to the haunting lyrics of Morrissey as well as the swirling guitar sound of Johnny Marr.

44. bruce springsteen - born to run

44. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975). I must say that when I heard the title song on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 while helping my parents decorate our Christmas tree for one last time before my parents split. My ears could not believe what was going in them. My music tastes took an immediate change at that moment. By the way, this was the first song that I taught my boys. Seriously.

45. b. The_Name_of_This_Band_Is_Talking_Heads45. a. The_Name_of_This_Band_Is_Talking_Heads

45. Talking Heads – The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads (1982). First off, I never can remember which side of the cover is the front and which is the back, so I’m showing both. Anyway, why doesn’t anyone remember this album? C’mon! On this double album, we get to listen to the “LIVE IN CONCERT” evolution of this band from a three-piece band of nervous energy to an expanded band of virtuosos that were taking their original sound and adding the funk of the Parliafunkadelicment Thang. This is my favorite Talking Heads album since you get it all, warts and all. After all of these years, the album still takes my breath away.

46. U2 - The_Joshua_Tree

46. U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987). U2 moved into the upper threshold of the rock hierarchy thanks to this album. U2 perfected their sound on this album, all before they truly became great artists by ripping the formula apart and reinventing themselves on their next studio album. But, in 1987, U2 released a great album that stayed on my turntable for at least a month. That is, until Prince released Sign ‘O’ the Times.

47. Van_Halen_album

47. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978). All of a sudden, metal was no longer going to be taking itself so seriously. Finally, humor and fun was being injected into the formula, as well as a brand new guitar hero who smiled instead of sneering. David Lee Roth brought the game show host MC-ing, while Eddie Van Halen brought the guitar fireworks. And, the rhythm section, bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen brought the rock-steady beat foundation. All metal should sound like this. Oh, right, in five years it sure will sound like its trying to.

48. hitsville usa 1959-1971

48. Various Artists – Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 (1992). You can never have enough Motown music that was created in Detroit, Michigan. That is “The Sound of Young America”. This music was covered by bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, etc., as well as included on such classic movie soundtracks like The Big Chill and Dirty Dancing. You cannot go wrong with this box set.

49. Nuggets,_Volume_1

49. Various Artists – Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 (1972). This double album was first released in 1972 and was not very successful. But, like what has been said about albums released by Velvet Underground or Big Star, those who bought the album all started bands. Nuggets collected great garage band singles of the mid-Sixties that have all been recognized as the influences on the initial run of punk rock in New York City and London a decade later. You are hearing the beginnings of punk rock right here in the grooves of this one.

50. The Who - Who's Next

50. The Who – Who’s Next (1971). If it wasn’t for this album, all of those CSI TV show would never have a theme song. Seriously, The Who finally lived up to the bombastic promise of their earlier albums. The whole album is the perfected sound of hard rock. Plus, The Who added the sound of the synthesizer to the mix, which would become the instrument of the Eighties.

There you go! That’s my list of the albums that have played the most important role in my listening life.

The 50 Most Important Albums Of My Life, Part 4

1. Long live rock n roll

Welcome fans to Day 4 of this special countdown of the albums that have played the most important part of my life. They music on these long-players may have gotten me through difficult periods of my life or they introduced me to new sounds. Regardless, all of these LPs deserve some recognition from me, and the creative artists deserve a big “Thanks” from me. Sorry about the cheesy opening paragraph! I’m being influenced by the cheesy bubblegum music I am currently listening to. Hang on! I’m going to put on something more like the music on my list, such as an actual album from the list.

With the creative music changed (I must say, Jellyfish makes a better writing companion), let’s get on with today’s countdown.

31. Pixies-Doolittle

31. Pixies – Doolittle (1988). During those heady days when my favorite alternative bands just began to make a dent on the Billboard charts, this Boston band popped up and stole my ears. Truthfully, if you want to hear where Nirvana got their idea to alternate a quiet verse with a loud chorus, this is the album they got the idea from. There is nothing like the cathartic release of a loud chorus after quiet verse. It just increases the intensity of the song, even if it is about a “Monkey’s Gone to Heaven”.

32. Police-album-zenyattamondatta

32. The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta (1980). This album broke The Police here in the States. And even though it was the third album of theirs I owned, it was the first one that I played all of the time. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” is a great pop song; while, Sting showed us his dark side with the Lolita-influenced “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”. Personally, I love “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” for its lack of succinctness.

33. Prince-1999

33. Prince – 1999 (1982). This is Prince’s SECOND masterpiece, but it was the first one to get radio airplay in the Indy market. Plus, it was such a great album, that I actually began to listen to his protégés, The Time and Vanity 6. This is the album that made me the obsessed Prince-ophile I am today. B-sides, 12-inch singles, Prince-penned songs, I had to collect them now because of 1999.

34. Queen_A_Night_At_The_Opera

34. Queen – A Night at the Opera (1975). This was the first album to incorporate the camp of the Batman TV series with the bombast of a KISS album all sung by a guy who could have been teaching one of my mom’s master’s degree art classes that I accompanied her to. This was the best well to rebel against so many things and people at the same thing. Everyone should get to have a band like Queen pop into their lives.

36. Ramones_-_Ramones_cover

35. Ramones – Ramones (1976). This is the official ground zero album for the New York City punk scene. But, not only that, it was ground zero for many people my age to become punk fans alone. Look at this list of artists who wanted to “Beat the Brat”: The Clash, Sex Pistols, Motörhead, Poison, the whole new wave scene, Husker Du, et al. When one album is able to building a community for the misfits, nonconformists and revolutionaries, God bless ’em.

37. Raspberries_album

36. Raspberries – Raspberries (1972). I loved “Go All the Way” back when I was a small lad, but never understood the lyrics I was caterwauling at the time. Later, after Cheap Trick popped in my life, I searched for the band’s influences, which lead me to Cleveland’s Raspberries. And I was hooked!

35. R.E.M._-_Murmur

37. R.E.M. – Murmur (1983). I remember hearing R.E.M. for the first time and not believing what I was hearing. Could it really be possible that this band was so confident in themselves that their vocals were being positioned as an instrument and not a method of intellectual influencing. Plus, they brought back The Byrds’ 12-string guitar sound. And there was so much more to love their music. This was an alternative to alternative music that sounded like it was true classic rock without being classic rock. You dig?

38. The_Replacements_-_Let_It_Be_cover

38. The Replacements – Let It Be (1984). The third artist of the Minneapolis musical triune god, with Prince and Hüsker Dü being the others. What the ‘Mats brought to this table was a drunken professionalism to their playing not seen since the Faces while clobbering the listener over the head with their version of Tom Petty populism. On this album, the band melded a KISS cover (“Black Diamond”), an ode to male horniness (“Gary’s Got a Boner”) and a call-to-arms for Gen X-ers everywhere (“I Will Follow”). Everyone loves sloppy rock and The ‘Mats bring it in spades.

39. Rolling Stones - Some_Girls

39. The Rolling Stones – Some Girls (1978). I did not enter the Stones’ world of rock music until 1978, when they released what many say is their last classic album. But, if you are going to be turned onto the Glimmer Twins’ music late, this is a great album to become a fan of the band, especially with songs like “Miss You”,”Beast of Burden”, and the jam of my Class of ’81 “Shattered”. And, there could have been many more hits pulled from the album that amazing too.

40. Todd Rundgren - Somethinganythingcover

40. Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? (1972). This double album displayed the Runt’s prowess in all areas of rock. Of course, he self-produced it. And, he wrote everything, from hard rockers to power poppers to blue-eyed soul love songs. I became a fan of Todd after hearing this album. When an album sports “I Saw the Light” and “Hello, It’s Me”, you know it’s a masterpiece.

Now, we have 40 albums complete, and only ten more to go, I have enjoyed opening myself up to everyday. Plus, it allows me to go back in time and rediscover the magic of these masterful classics. See you tomorrow…on a Saturday, no less. God bless you all!

The 50 Most Important Albums Of My Life, Part 3

Like I have stated previously, this exercise has been extremely fun. I have been pulling out old albums and CDs, going through the liner notes and playing the music. I would recommend this exercise for any lover of music. So, let’s get on with the next ten albums on my chart.

21. Elton_John_-_Goodbye_Yellow_Brick_Road

21. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973). Here it is, my ground zero into the rock world thanks to my uncle and aunt. This album exposed me not only to the pop genius of Elton John, while getting some side exposures to rock (“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”), glam (“Benny and the Jets”) and surreal balladry (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”). This was my first double album, and it set the bar extremely high for such an artistic endeavor.

23. Kiss_destroyer_album_cover

22. KISS – Destroyer (1976). The battle for me was between Alive! and this one. On Destroyer, KISS discovered how to nearly make a concept album, though it’s not one. They used Pink Floydian sound effects while maintaining their hard rock/glam rock roots. This was their studio masterpiece. From here, it was on to prog rock (Rush), glam rock (Slade, T. Rex), metal (Sabbath, Judas Priest), power pop (Cheap Trick) and hard rock (AC/DC).

22. Get_The_Knack_album_cover

23. The Knack – Get the Knack (1979). Sure, The Clash referred to them as “that phoney Beatlemania” in the lyrics of “London Calling”. But to an American teenager, The Knack hit the gong signifying the beginning of the age of new wave, power pop and punk. C’mon people! Give these guys their due!

24. Madonna,_debut_album_cover

24. Madonna – Madonna (1983). To be honest, back in 1983, I thought I would be writing about Cyndi Lauper over Madonna. But through her shear will, Madonna became a pop music icon by bringing back disco music wrapped up in Eighties new wave. And, then she threw some sexual controversy and girl power into her music to make her a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

25. BobMarley-Legend

25. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Legend (1984). Marley invented reggae throughout the Seventies, but the American public had been slow to warm to this brand of music. And then, Legend was quietly dropped on an unsuspecting public, and it filled a need for warm, beautiful, exotic transcendent music. This album should be in EVERY home.

26. Greatest_Hits_(1995_The_Monkees_album).coverart

26. The Monkees – Greatest Hits (1995). To my generation, the Monkees’ TV show was our MTV, albeit with some cheesy humor. But, as we know now, their music was “A” level stuff and has been acknowledged as a power pop forerunner.

27. Van Morrison - The Best of Van Morrison

27. Van Morrison – The Best of Van Morrison (1990). I am a Johnny-come-lately to Van Morrison. Thank you Rod Stewart for covering Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately”, because his version made me seek out this CD and not Stewart’s. And, I got so much more out of this album than nearly any other. I discovered the genius of Morrison’s work, not just on this album, but throughout his catalog.

28. pearl jam - ten

28. Pearl Jam – Ten (1991). I loved the whole grunge scene of the early Nineties. And, yes, Pearl Jam was the least grungy of the Seattle bands. But, at least Gen X-ers around the world got their own version of Led Zeppelin IV. See you in the RRHOF Pearl Jam!

29. tom petty - damn the torpedoes

29. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes (1979). In a pivotal year such as 1979, Tom Petty burst into my life thanks to a Christmas present from the former Kim & Lori Dunwiddie, my two “sisters” from down the street. This album literally got me through 1980 and part of 1981, until Petty released Hard Promises. Along with Springsteen, Petty opened my ears to the powerful working man’s singer, like Mellencamp, Seger and Adams.

30. pink floyd - the wall

30. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979). Yet another album from 1979, but who has not fell under the spell of this Floydian trip through your psyche. This album and the book Catcher in the Rye are must-haves for the teen-angst years. I know “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” was the hit, I’ll take my Floyd as “Comfortably Numb” and “Run like Hell”.

Now that was a major group of ten albums! Can’t wait to continue this tomorrow. So, in the words of the prophet Casey Kasem, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the sky.”

The 50 Most Important Albums Of My Life, Part 2

Yesterday, I began a little journey through my music collection of albums, singles, CDs and mp3s to determine the 50 albums that had made the greatest impact upon my life. Let me clarify something about this list: it is NOT a list of which albums I feel are the best albums ever released. Instead, this list represents the albums that influenced me to change my listening habits or had something to them in their lyrics or music that changed me in some manner. I could never envision my listening habits being what they are today without these albums coming into my life. Many of you may be surprised to find out when I discovered some of these albums for the first time when compared to the album’s original release date. Yesterday, I released my first ten albums, so today I will give you my next ten.

11. elvis costello - my aim is true


11. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977). This was Costello’s debut album, and all of the music magazines that I was reading at the time were all singing the praises of this one. Needless to say, I HAD to go out and get this one. I was NOT ready for the energy of the songs, be it a reggae song (“Watching the Detectives”), power pop (“Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes”) or ballad (“Alison”), no artist before Costello convey the same passion in every song on the album. This one opened me up to the wonders of Graham Parker and Joe Jackson, to name check a couple.

12. the cure - standing on a beach

12. The Cure – Standing on a Beach (1986). We moved to Oxford, Ohio, back in 1986, so I could take my first job as a medical technologist at the tiny hospital in town. Oxford is a wonderful town of contradictions, like being the size of Pendleton, Indiana, but having a major college of 15,000 students living around town nine months of the year. Back then, the town also had one of the greatest independent radio stations in the USA, 97-X, that played alternative music. This Cure album was my third purchase from the record store our first weekend living in town. Next to R.E.M., The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, this album was my entry into alternative music. By the way, this one is a “greatest hits” collection from the first half of their career.

13. david bowie - scary monsters

13. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (1980). I got this one after I became a college student, thinking that my music choices indicated maturity. Maybe my ears were more discerning, but I was still that squirrely, hyperactive Keller that I was in high school. But, this was my entrance into the world of Bowie, and what a trip it was. Once again, I took the path less traveled.

14. devo - q are we not men

14. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. (1978). Saw them on SNL during the 1987-79 season but did not buy the album until 1980. First, I must have driven my girlfriend at the time crazy with my constant playing of the album. Second, it introduced me to the production work of Brian Eno, who would be producing many of my favorite albums of the late-Seventies and Eighties. But, it also gave me my entry ticket into the world of nerd rock that so many of my male colleagues in the science building would be listening to in the laboratory preparation rooms.

15. fleetwood mac - rumours

15. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977). This spot was a battle between Eagles’ Hotel California and this one. I went with the Mac because this was an album about divorce that came out while my parents’ marriage was imploding. Sometimes, this album was the only thing that could ease that pain. I related to this pain, more than the Eagles’ brand of “I’m-so-successful-yet-still-so-depressed” music. Yes, there is a time and place for that brand of Hamlet inward looking, but not while your parents’ situation is the main cause of your brand of adolescent angst.


16. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (aka 3 or ‘Melt’) (1980). Wow! Someone was actually attempting to take an African drum sound, a funk bass sound, and tried to mess the two with some of the most stimulating new-sounding music called rock that I had heard up to that point. Gabriel finally took what he learned in Genesis as far as art rock was concerned and melded a metropolitan feel with some old world sounds. Plus, he introduced me to South African activist Steven Biko.

17. Hall_and_Oates,_Daryl_Hall_and_John_Oates_(The_Silver_Album),_1975

17. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates (aka ‘The Silver Album’) (1975). Yes, I was a middle school kid who loved “Sara Smile” and wanted to remind myself of the slow dances of that song. Then, I discovered that this duo was creating some of the most sophisticated and challenging rock-wrapped-in-soul pop music ever. I became a HUGE Hall & Oates fan after that album, though I tried to keep it quiet until college.

18. Michael_Jackson_-_Thriller

18. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982). Sure, I loved the old Jackson 5 singles, those by the Jacksons, as well as most everything by a young Michael Jackson. Then, he release Off the Wall in 1979. But, nothing prepared me for the overnight change in the sound of Eighties pop music after Thriller was dropped. Go back and listen to it. It’s no wonder that it is the biggest selling album of all-time.

19. A. Snap!_(The_Jam_album)19. B. Style Council - my ever changing moods

19. (tie) The Jam – Snap! (1983) and The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (1984). Since I purchased these gems so close together, and both groups are lead by the great Paul Weller, I had to include both of them together. Once you listen to The Jam’s career overview with Snap!, go right into My Ever Changing Moods (the American version of the album; in England it is called Café Bleu) to hear Weller’s musical vision maturing right before your ears. These two albums seem like bookends to Weller’s career up to that point. When the Jam begins, they sound like a punk band with strands of R&B, while the Style Council sounds as though they are a R&B band with some rock leanings. The change is staggering.

20. jellyfish - bellybutton

20. Jellyfish – Bellybutton (1990). The first thing you notice on the album cover is that the band is visually influenced by some hippy-dippy version of Alice in Wonderland. Then, you put the record on, and your hear all kinds of influences, from Raspberries and Badfinger to Queen and ELO, with Squeeze sprinkled all around. Now, I have name-checked five of my favorite artists of all-time. Jellyfish lived up to the hype by creating some very sophisticated pop and power pop that at the time I thought was a lost art form. I was so very glad to find them during my hair metal malaise.

There you go fans! Twenty down, thirty to go. This list has been fun and a little bit revealing. Yes, I am a sucker for great pop music, yet I still love to rock out too! I guess that I’m a complex man. Oh well…

See you tomorrow!