Three Sure Things In Life: Taxes, Death And AC/DC


Back in 1979, I was the proud owner of two AC/DC albums: If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It…Live and Powerage. I loved listening to those albums before I left the house to go to Friday or Saturday night basketball games in order to get psyched to play. That is, until I realized their music got me too hyped, and I would begin a game cold as ice. That was when I turned to funk music, which always seemed in the rhythm of basketball. But, I digress about my long gone athletic career. Let’s get back on track.

In July 1979, the local rock station, WFBQ, or Q-95, began playing a new song by AC/DC could “Highway to Hell” from their upcoming album of the same name. Even better, the DJs were announcing that AC/DC was the middle band in a triple-band concert coming up on August 1, 1979. And, since Cross Country season had yet just started, a few of us went to the concert of Ted Nugent, AC/DC and this newer band from Germany, Scorpions.


Of course, I bought the Highway to Hell album when it came out and purchased a ticket for the concert, which was $7.50 back then! Although I had a couple of Nugent albums, I was more excited for the men down under, AC/DC. So, we waited for the concert by listening to the album at each others’ houses and constantly talking about the concert out on our eight-mile morning runs.

Finally, the day rolled around. Another guy, Jeff, and I went down to the old Market Square Arena together to meet up with the rest of the guys from the old hometown. It was back in the days of festival seating, before the horrible deaths that occurred before The Who concert in Cincinnati later that year. I cannot begin to tell you how different things were back then. Drugs and drinks were openly used back then. When I walked into the restroom after arriving, some stoned dude was leaning up against the wall, just saying to anyone who entered that he had drugs of all sorts for sale and opened his large hand to show us. Being a naive guy from a small town, I kind of had my mind blown. But, then I shrugged, told my would-be dealer no thanks and left after doing my intended task.

The first band on was Scorpions. I didn’t like them then and still don’t care for them now. They did produce a couple of good songs in the Eighties, but I honestly can’t recall their titles. Oh well! After they played for 15 minutes, they left the stage, much to the pleasure of the crowd.


Next up was AC/DC, and they kicked ass! It was a tight 30-minute set complete with all of the famous antics of lead guitarist Angus Young, like mooning the crowd, being carried through the crowd on the back of singer Bon Scott (Yes! I saw Bon Scott! I’m old, I told you.), etc. It was a magical set that kept me a fan of theirs forever, sans a few albums between For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) and Razor’s Edge, when the band re-discovered their mojo. Like I’ve always told my boys, there are three sure things in life: taxes, death and the AC/DC power chord riff. By the way, Ted Nugent did headline and sucked. That was the last time I really paid attention to Nugent, or “Uncle Ted” as my oldest son calls him.


Unfortunately, it was a mere seven months when Bon Scott died after going on a bender. I remember the next day at school it seemed as though every male student, and a few females, were wearing an AC/DC concert T-shirt. They were one of the two biggest bands in popularity at my school, with the other being the original Lynyrd Skynyrd. For me, I prefer AC/DC and how throughout their career they have remained true to themselves. Very few bands can actually make that claim, even when they have brought in new singers and musicians.

By the way, I ended up taking my oldest son to see AC/DC for his sixteenth birthday in 2001, for the Stiff Upper Lip Tour. But, I had to hold my breath to make sure singer Brian Johnson did not die seven months later. WHEW! Lightning did not strike twice. Vive AC/DC!

This Is The Only Time I Will Enter Through The Out Door


Back in mid-August 1979, school was beginning. As what had become my tradition, I bought an album that week to commemorate the occasion by buying an album. Although my summer of ’79 had been a new wave summer, what with Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, The Knack and Bram Tchaikovsky to purchase, I knew I was awaiting one of the Big Three releases anticipated for the fall. Fleetwood Mac (Tusk) and Eagles (The Long Run) had yet to drop, but perhaps the biggest, most anticipated album of the year was Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door. And, being a Zep fan since 1975, I was psyched.


So, I borrowed Mom’s Buick Skylark, AKA “The Green Ghost”, to drive over to the local record store to make my big purchase. When I got to the store, the display had been ransacked by purchases, but it always helps to make friends with the proprietors of these establishments because my man had held a copy back for me without me even having to tell him. But, when he handed me this brown-paper bag-covered record, I looked at him quizzically. He said there were SIX different album covers, so the bag kept the secret of which cover you were getting. So far, TWO awesome gimmicks! He then said that both sides of the inner sleeve were black and white drawings that if you “painted” water on them would change colors. WOW!!! THREE COOL GIMMICKS!


My question was if the music was better than their last studio album, Presence, released in 1975. He said it was, but that the music was nowhere near anything like what had made them famous in the first place. He actually told me that he felt their music was growing up. I thought to myself that this sounded interesting, and couldn’t wait to get home to crank up the volume in my room.


After I pulled the Ghost into the garage, I literally ran into the house and straight to my bedroom to open up the album. Now, I have not yet begun to collect all six LP covers, I must have one of the rarer ones according to, which allows you to determine the “worth” of you albums. Mine happens to be somewhere in the middle in the worth of the six covers. So, the packaging was pretty cool, and I have kept the brown-paper bag ever since. That bag is supposed to give the album a bootleg feel, which made it cool to me.

So, anyway, I listened to the album. It opened with a natural concert opener “In the Evening”. In that moment, I knew the Zep was still able to rock. Then came the change-ups, like they had all been listening to punk, new wave and reggae, and were attempting to incorporate those sounds into their sound, which was all ready an amalgamation of blues and heavy rock. They were incorporating calypso into “Fool in the Rain” (still one of my favorites) and rockabilly on “Hot Dog”. Yet, they were still the Zep we all grew up on when it came to “All of My Love”, a great ballad if there ever was one.

I have to be honest. While I know critics don’t care for this album, this was the first Zeppelin album that spoke to me. Maybe, that’s why it was a fitting last album for them after drummer John Bonham passed away early in 1980. At the time, I was so bummed that I would never get to see them live, since I was too young to go see them in 1975 (Thanks Mom and Dad for that one!). To this day, In Through the Out Door remains my “go-to” Led Zeppelin album.


Led Zeppelin never released a single in the U.S. after “Whole Lotta Love” hit the Top 10 in 1970. In 1979, they released “Fool in the Rain” as a single, but it never really caught on here in the States. If my memory serves me well, I think I heard it peak around #28 or 29 on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. Fortunately, Classic Rock has it in rotation throughout the U.S.A. I personally just love that calypso sound they incorporated into their rock sound. Unfortunately, it seems like 1980s Americans were not ready for that sound since Blondie’s “Island of Lost Souls” did the same thing from the punk side, and that song too failed to make a dent on the charts. I guess we just weren’t ready for such obvious incorporation of world music sounds. As we know, that would change in 1986 with Paul Simon’s masterpiece, Graceland.

I am so thankful that Jimmy Page remastered all of Zep’s albums AND added a disc or two of rarities to each album a couple of years ago. These albums sound so awesome now. You can finally hear what a fantastic bass player John Paul Jones really is, as I further discovered on the Them Crooked Vultures album from a few years ago. Jones was joined by Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), a worthy successor to the Zeppelin mantle if there ever was one.

In Through the Out Door is a great Led Zeppelin album, and it continues to reveal new layers in its music with each listen, especially on the remastered version. All I am saying is give it another chance. I like you’ll hear what I mean.

Some ‘Sweet Music’ From Roadmaster


Back in January 1979, we had two bands from Central Indiana that seemed to be poised to hit the “big time”. The bands were Muncie/Yorktown’s Faith Band, who’s timeless song “Dancing Shoes” had just hit the Top Twenty in a cover version by Elton John’s drummer Nigel Olsson. Faith Band was a more mellow of a band that would be a natural on Yacht Rock radio formats and playlists. The other band, Roadmaster, was like many of the “faceless” bands that I covered earlier this summer. You could hear the influences of Styx, REO Speedwagon and Head East in Roadmaster’s music. My high school LOVED Roadmaster. And, that loyalty was reinforced after Roadmaster played a concert after a basketball game that month.


Roadmaster had just released their best album Sweet Music back in 1978. And, somehow, our high school got a concert performance by the band. At the time, the band had taken on a new lead singer, Stephen “Mac” McNally. Mac was replacing Adam Smasher, who was becoming one of the biggest DJs in the Indy radio market. That change gave the band a lead singer with a soaring voice like that of Tommy Shaw of Styx. The band had great musicians too. Of note is bassist Toby Myers, who went on to join John Mellencamp’s 80s touring band. The rest of the band would go on to join Henry Lee Summer’s band or other lesser known artists.

But, that cold January night in 1979 was magical. The band, unfortunately for them, were stuck in the school cafeteria for their concert, that was stuffed with sweaty teenagers everywhere you looked. My buddies Mike, Doug, Jeff and I walked over to the cafeteria from the gym, where we had just gotten with our home basketball game. Since we played JV, we were cleaned up before the varsity game. We got in quickly to save some seats for the other players who were showering after their loss (For the record, the JV had won that night!).

As you probably can guess, even though there were no alcoholic beverages being sold that night, the band was probably thankful for the hyper enthusiasm of the high schoolers. That night, my untrained ears were certain that I was witnessing a band that was going to become as huge as Foreigner. Their set was tight, as they focused on songs from their great second album Sweet Music. And, when they played their epic title song, they were able to display the individuals’ musical prowess.

After the concert ended, I swear that snow was instantly melting as hundreds of teens came walking out all hot and sweaty from one of the most glorious musical night ever held at the high school. The great thing about the concert is that you can strike up a conversation with any of my classmates and they were probably there. For me, the concert was the one non-athletic school events that sticks in my mind to this day.

As I go back to listen to Roadmaster’s catalog as an adult, I understand a little more why they did not hit. While their songwriting was good, it was rarely tight. Plus, they unfortunately were picked up by Mercury Records in 1980, just in time for their fourth and final album was about to be released. At the time, record companies were looking for new wave artists and were not going to put any more energy behind a band like Roadmaster. So, that album stiffed nationally, yet was still a big seller in the Indianapolis area.

You can still find their vinyl albums at used record stores and record shows. Recently, an English music company by the name of Rock Candy has re-released Roadmaster’s last three albums with Mac on CD, though you cannot find the first one on CD. Additionally, the reunion album from 1990, Live Plus Five, is difficult to find and will cost a pretty penny here in Central Indiana, though it’s probably much more reasonably priced throughout the rest of the U.S.


While Roadmaster did not make the history, one Hoosier did, the aforementioned John Mellencamp. Mellencamp has developed nicely as an artist here in the last decade as he has begun to take on a more southern acoustic blues sound. Unfortunately, Faith Band did not hit either. Ironically enough, one of their band members, the ultra-gifted John Cascella also joined Mellencamp’s 80s touring band. Unfortunately, John passed also passed away in the mid-90s.

Unfortunately, I no longer have my Roadmaster T-shirt, but I could NOT fit in it today either. But that night in January 1979, I really did think I had just seen the world’s greatest band. Long live Roadmaster!

Springsteen Is As Vital Today As He Was In 1984

There are days when I have no idea what I am going to write about. And, today was one of those days. So, I got to thinking about my seven favorite artists to determine who I have yet to write about. So, as I took stock, I realized that I had written about Cheap Trick and Prince, R.E.M. and Talking Heads, Tom Petty and Daryl Hall and John Oates, but I had yet to write about a man called “The Boss”, Bruce Springsteen.

Now, if you were expecting me to write about his output from his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. up to an including Tunnel of Love. I feel like that area of his during which he was chasing the golden ring of rock immortality and actually attaining it has been run into the ground. It is an era of his that I still hold dear to my heart. I mean, who doesn’t love the romanticism of his “Rosalita” and Born to Run period? Or, how about his punk-influenced days of Darkness on the Edge of Town? Or, what about the frat-rock sound of The River? Or, even the stark folkie turn of Nebraska? And, few who came of age during the mid-80s were not inspire by the grandeur of Born to Run. And, finally, who wasn’t moved by the sound of a marriage falling apart during Tunnel of Love.

Then the Nineties rolled in, and Springsteen retreated from his E Street Band, and released two albums of lackluster music with session musicians. And, then he kind of followed up the brilliant Nebraska album with another folkie turn called The Ghost of Tom Joad. The Boss seemed like he did not know what to do next, so he release an underwhelming Greatest Hits album. Then, unexpectedly, in time for his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he summoned his original backing band of street-wise musical aces and performed several shows at Madison Square Garden that was documented on his second live album.

So, as the new millennium opened, Springsteen and the E Street Band were finally back together, trying to make some sense of what happened on 9/11/2001, by releasing the meditative album The River. Surprisingly, what that did was open up Springsteen to his most creative run ever. Early on, Springsteen was a studio perfectionist. Now, as an elder statesman of rock music, “The Boss” had learned to write and work more quickly than he ever has. This albums are not the anthemic monsters of his initial era. But, the 21st century Boss has been delightful with a maturity and contentment that has never before been present in his music before. Many people do not enjoy his new stuff, yet I find my adult self enjoying the new music in. a much different manner.

His We Shall Overcome album reminded me of The Band. Magic was a pissed off uncle complaining about the changing face of society, sad in the failure of his generation not leading society to true progress. I love Working on a Dream as it sounds mostly like it was written for grandchildren (“Outlaw Pete”), although he has written a song about how adults react to each other as a couple who are in life together for the long run (“Queen of the Supermarket”). Finally, his last two studio albums have been about our purpose within a society in order to make it better. Those albums (Wrecking Ball and High Hopes), lay down clues in the lyrics as how to treat others in our communities (“We Take Care of Our Own” on Wrecking Ball) along with how to maintain our sense of purpose from our youthful idealism (“The Ghost of Tom Joad”, which has guitarist Tom Morrello of Rage Against The Machine on this version, that can be found on High Hopes).

Throughout Bruce Springsteen’s career, his music has been totally full of hope, even in his most desperate times, like on Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devil and Dust. His optimism will never wane, even in his darkest hours. We has always valued his family and friends, even replacing fallen members (Danny Federicci and Clarence “The Big Man” Clemmons) with blood relatives. He must bring out the best in each musician since they all stick around, even as he adds more members to his band. And, if you ever get the opportunity to see him play live, take that opportunity! Jill and I saw him in 1985 at the old Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. I could have cared less that the concert was in such a large venue because that band made the concert seem so intimate.

That is Springsteen’s genius. His music seems to be has been created to comfort the listener. And, he is still comfortable letting us hang out with him as we listen to his music. Personally, I have grown up with him, from the first time I heard “Born to Run” in the days leading up to Christmas in 1975 to today. Thank you Bruce Springsteen for enriching my life with your music.

Oh, No Keller! Let It Go!

For those who have been reading this blog since the Facebook days, you know I have been obsessed with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. At least, I said I would be until Cheap Trick got in. Now, my one-man crusade is over. It only took 14 years, but it happened this year when my men from Rockford, Illinois, finally got inducted, even if the night was mainly a classic rock radio induction (Thank the Good Lord for N.W.A for breaking that thing up!).

Now, I have two artists that I will put my energy behind. Both are artists about whom I have written. I really think the Hall will NEVER be close to complete until The Cars and The Jam are inducted. Honestly, I think The Cars will get nominated again after last year’s surprise nomination. I think that nomination put The Cars back into the public’s conscious, along with their boxed remastered Elektra catalog being released, along with the closest to a “true” single-disc greatest hits compilation called Moving in Stereo: The Best of The Cars. On the other hand, The Jam were a U.K. phenomenon, who never broke over here. For some reason, many of those important artists are overlooked by the nominating committee. Personally, I love Goldmine magazine’s criteria for their Hall of Fame. If you have the hits, world-wide or in the U.S., they induct you. That’s why they have a truer view of rock’s immortals, such as Bananarama, Paul Revere & the Raiders and Chic are all in. With Jann Wenner’s Hall (he’s the publisher of Rolling Stone), Wenner tries to induct the artists that he likes and the heck with the rest. Let’s face it, the baseball hall of fame does not have the inventor of the curveball in the hall. Nope, just the pitchers who perfected it statistically. See what I mean?

With that rant out of the way, here is my early list of my 15 nominees, if I had a ballot. These musicians are listed in alphabetical order.

  1. The Cars – After four classic rock inductees, let’s try to keep the number of nominees down. Sorry Def Leppard and Bon Jovi.
  2. Chic – Ten times nominated and still not in! This is a joke! Put them in all ready! Barry White, you will be next up.
  3. Janet Jackson – Another one of those “she’s not in the Hall?” questions. Unfortunately, it’s true. Women are so difficult to induct, which is so unfair. I could have put Chaka Khan or Whitney Houston in this spot.
  4. Judas Priest – Let’s start getting the metalheads in the Hall. Let’s start with the Priest, then Iron Maiden, Motorhead, etc.
  5. Kraftwerk – New wave, electronica, ambient music, EDM, electrofunk and rap all need to give this band their props.
  6. The Marvelettes – The only great Motown artist that has not been inducted. My other 60s girl group I considered for this spot was The Shangri-La’s. They both need to have their days.
  7. The Monkees – You saw that correctly! It’s the 50th anniversary of the Pre-Fab Four’s TV show’s debut. Plus, the new album is still one of my favorite albums of 2016. What a celebration that would be.
  8. Nine Inch Nails – My son claims that he remembers me blaring “Head Like a Hole” in the car when he was four. I don’t quite remember it that way, but Trent Reznor has always been big with the critics. Unbelievably, The Replacements were my second choice for 80s college rock artists.
  9. Gram Parsons – The Keller household, extended as it is now, have been big on the Cosmic American Rock sound produced by Parsons. Other country artists that were considered were Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, any of whom are deserving.
  10. Pearl Jam – It’s their first year to be eligible, but they WILL get in. Green Day got in during their first year, and Pearl Jam ARE the greatest band from the 90s.
  11. The Smiths – Here we go again, a British-centric band that should be inducted since they are ground zero for Britpop. I gave them the nod over The Cure.
  12. The Spinners – I hate that I am making slots for artists. I just realized that. I’m so sorry, but my 70s R&B choice is this great long-running band. I choice this Philly band over Commodores (“Brick House”) and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (“Wake Up Everybody” and another Philly band).
  13. War – The Hall is lacking a Hispanic touch, so why not this great multi-racial but mainly Hispanic funk band from L.A. My beloved Los Lobos could have been in this spot.
  14. Yes – Prog rock has been long neglected. Check out the list of those not in the Hall in addition to Yes: the Moody Blues, Procol Harum, King Crimson and Roxy Music, to list but a couple.
  15. 2pac – Yes, you saw that right. But, it’s his first year of eligibility! I know. But when are considered one of the greatest of all time, then I say, “Welcome to the Hall!” Of course, we are stepping all over De La Soul, LL Cool J, Eric B & Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers to get ‘Pac in. I hope ?uestlove can pull off his magic with the hip hop world!

There you go ladies and gentlemen! Let me hear your thoughts! Put your 15 nominees down in the comments! Have a great weekend!

We Need The Funk!


The Summer of 1976 was a stellar moment in time for the development of my musical tastes. That summer I discovered KISS’ Destroyer, Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “Silver Album” & Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy. It was also the summer that some of the high school distance runners began to take me under their wings and took an in-coming seventh grader out with them on runs. Our school’s high school runners were encouraged to take the “good” middle school runners out on runs with them to get the youngsters acclimated to the training required to become good high school runners. But, perhaps the discovery that had the most lasting affect on me was I discovered funk that summer.

Now, when you grow up in a rural area in Indiana, you never say you discovered funk music to others, since 98% of the people around are country music lovers. So, I kept this love under wraps until I got to college. Now, I had loved the funk music by War, the Ohio Players and Earth, Wind & Fire, but what caught me attention that summer was funk in the form of”Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” by Parliament. When I first heard that song, I knew I wanted the funk, that I wanted the funk, that I had to have the funk! Seriously, I was hooked.


So, I looked for Parliament’s album Mothership Connection. First, of course, I was taken by the cover. On it was some flying saucer with some space-age funkateer sitting in the open door of the space ship, snapping his fingers to some obviously funky music. Now, that was a visual that was right up with anything KISS was throwing on their albums. As I flipped the album to read the back, I noticed that these space-garbed African-Americans were dressed every bit as crazy as KISS. Cool! They are carrying the visual all the way! Then, of all things, I noticed that the band’s label was Casablanca, the same as KISS AND Donna Summer. Wait a second! Am I holding an album of funk freaks or what? All I knew is I had to buy it.


Man, was I NOT ready for this! HAHAHAHA!!!! This was almost a Richard Pryor album set to Ohio Players music being played by Frank Zappa. This was the real thing! Finally, I was hearing what a bass guitar was made to do. Oh, wait! They had guitarists who could play better than Hendrix. I could not believe what I was hearing. But, I was into the single, “Give Up the Funk” the most. Began to listen to funk before I ran or I played basketball or I played baseball that summer. It seemed as though listening to the funk helped to get in touch with a life force that was perfect for sports.

After that album, I began to see Parliament in the pages of Creem and Circus magazines. Then, I learned that this group of genius musicians performed and recorded as a horn-based funk band called Parliament, but also recorded for another label as a guitar-heavy funk band called Funkadelic. Oh, I needed to get me some of that, but I waited three years until, in 1978, when I was out in Fort Collins, Colorado, for some national “Olympics” event. While at the disco, I not only got to dance to Parliament’s latest dance ditty “Flash Light”, I also danced to what became Funkadelic’s biggest selling single on the R&B Chart, “One Nation Under a Groove”. Oh my! I needed that one too! So, when I got home, I went out to purchase Funkadelic’s new album One Nation Under a Groove. Now, I was into the whole P-Funk Thang. The problem was that by this time, there was little difference in the sounds of the two bands. I had to go back to the older Funkadelic albums to hear the difference, which by the way is mind-blowing in and of itself. Guitarist Eddie Hazel may be the greatest guitarist that few have heard.


Now, by the time I got to college, the whole P-Funk empire was crumbling under musician fighting, drugs, and all the rest of the rock life cliches. So, while in college, I tried to go a little back-catalog diving in order to learn more about leader George Clinton’s vision. By 1978, the empire not only included the two aforementioned groups, but also released albums by guitarist Eddie Hazel, bassist Bootsy Collins (Bootsy’s Rubber Band), trombonist Fred Wesley & the Horny Horns, two all-female trios (like a funky Supremes on acid) called The Brides of Funkenstein and Parlet. And, those are just a few of the artists under George Clinton’s umbrella. But, by 1980, things were crumbling.


So, in 1983, Clinton released his first “solo” album called Computer Games. Once again, Clinton was using many of the same musicians from his bands in the Seventies, but he was sly enough to read the tea leaves to hear that funk music in the Eighties was going to be more electronically sounding, in addition to being more minimal in its sound. He took Prince as his jumping off point, all the while anticipating the sound of hip hop that was currently bubbling underground as he created his last society-changing hit song, “Atomic Dog”. Clinton had done it and brought the funk back! Long live Funkateer Supreme George Clinton!

Well, as we know now, next to James Brown, George Clinton’s bands have influenced more hip hop songs than any other artist. Thanks to Dr. Dre, both while in N.W.A and solo, sampled P-Funk songs for his hit songs, most famously using “Atomic Dog” as the basis of Snoop Dogg’s “What’s My Name”. And to his credit, Clinton was totally good with sampling, since he found a new method for income. And, now, his music lives in different forms in the songs of Tupac, Digital Underground, and so many others that I would be listing rap artists for what would seem like a month. By the way, George Clinton also influence artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as he produced the band’s 1985 album Freaky Styley.

In addition to Clinton’s influences, we all know that Bootsy had been everywhere, especially when he guested on Deee-Lite’s 1990 hit “Groove Is in the Heart”. Also, keyboardist Bernie Worrell and percussionist Steve Scales recorded and toured with Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. So, their fingerprints are all over rock music. I’m just thankful I discovered the funk 41 years ago. Music would be very bland without George Clinton in my life. “Gotta keep the funk!”

It Ain’t No Disco! It’s A Sauna!


In college, I had a series of pretty great roommates. I had great fun with my sophomore roommate, Ron, but my junior roommate, Bruce, and I took fun to a whole other level. For some reason, once a month or so, Bruce and some other guys would turn our dormitory’s floor shower into a sauna. Everyone would bring their favorite beverage into the sauna and sit while our room would blare my latest mixtape. But, for some reason that I cannot give rhyme or reason to, we had to have a certain Talking Heads song on the tape. After a couple of random songs, you would begin to hear the famous opening bassline, which Bruce would always “sing”: “Bomp, bomp, bomp, ba bom, ba bomp, bomp…”, and we were off and singing with David Byrne, the Heads’ version of “Take Me to the River”. For what ever reason, they song will always remind me of a group of college men sitting in a make shift sauna and singing this song. It simply became a ritual.


Why I love that story so much is because Talking Heads are not known as a band that inspires unity. Au contraire, I found that the band is more about isolation than community. But, this unique cover version of an Al Green song brought together such a disparate cast of characters, making the memory out of a random act of stupidity.


Yet, the rest of the album was something I mainly enjoyed on my own. Most of my friends were not ready for the music of my beloved Talking Heads. The first Talking Heads’ album I owned was the LP with “Take Me to the River”, More Songs About Buildings and Food. Being the son of an art teacher mom, I had an appreciation for the artist point-of-view, and I could hear that training in the music of Talking Heads. I mean songs like “The Girls Want to Be with the Girls” or “Found a Job” scream to me art students making music. Why? I cannot put my finger on it, I simply recognize a sensibility in the music that I remember Mom being taught in her Master’s-level classes (She would often bring me with her when the babysitter wasn’t available, and being something of a sponge, I soaked in the mentality. I also had my first experience in dealing with people of color and of different sexual orientation. I was really too young to understand what was happening, but the kind manner in which everyone treated me stuck with me forever.

Now, another thing I noticed on this album, the band’s second, is that they must have a love of early Seventies bubblegum music, because the Heads used the same simplicity in which they played their music. Yet, instead of the easy, free-following danceable pop music of bubblegum, the Heads stood the genre on its head, making the rhythm more jaunty. The other thing I noticed is that the band had a love of funk music. Once again, you would never confuse their music with that of Parliament or Rick James, yet the rhythm section contained a bouncy fluidity found in funk.

To top off the band’s sound, they used the futuristic squeaks and squawks of their keyboards and guitars that completely screamed to me, “We are former art students”. To me, this is the well from which they greatness came. No one in Talking Heads is a traditionalist when it comes to their music. Finally, we have originality in a band that lacked the pretension that I always felt Frank Zappa displayed, though I do love me some Zappa! Talking Heads were more for my mind than my booty. Yet, they will eventually figure out how to make people dance (1983’s Speaking in Tongues).

17th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

For purely selfish reasons, I wish Talking Heads would make amends for one tour during which they have to come to Indy so I can finally mark them off my bucket list. Still, they remain broken apart, which is a shame because few will actually sense the acrimony between the members of the band through their emotionally detached performances. Until then, Viva Talking Heads!

Tell Me Why Marshall Crenshaw Is Not A Rock God!


Damn it! Every time I listen to a Marshall Crenshaw album I get pissed off because (1) he is not ever going to be considered for the stupid Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and, more importantly, (2) why isn’t the man ever referred to as America’s Elvis Costello?

Crenshaw released his eponymous debut album during the Spring of 1982, arguably one of the greatest years for rock music. Yes, I found out about the album in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, so I took Mom’s Chevy Chevette over to the local independent record store-slash-head shop, the long defunct Sun Records. As I walked in, the owner of the store, Steve, immediately says to me, “Have you heard this Marshall Crenshaw album? I just put it on. Let’s listen to it!” Talk about serendipity! So, I pulled up a seat and listened to this brilliant album with the owner of the local record, who, by the way, would never hire me. I often wonder if one of my parents told him not to hire me since I probably would have just taken my pay in albums. But I digress.


When Side One was over, I knew I had to have the album. I turned to Steve, and he gave me a knowing nod and pointed to the small display he had for the album, which meant it was his album pick of the week. I picked up a copy and purchased it from him. Then, I sat back down as Steve played Side Two. The whole album was nothing but power pop bliss. You could hear the same influences in Crenshaw’s music as Costello’s, yet there was an American exuberance in “The Marsh’s” music that was lacking in Costello’s stuff, which may simply have to do with a difference in cultures. By the way, the small Ball State coterie that loved Crenshaw I was a part of referred to him as “The Marsh”. From songs like “Someday, Someway” and “Mary Anne” to “Cynical Girl” and ” There She Goes Again”, I felt like I finally found the perfect voice for my romanticized views of life. This album was definitely one of my Top Five albums of 1982, if not ever. So, needless to say, I could NOT wait to hear his sophomore album.


Well, Marshall Crenshaw’s second album was released in the Fall of 1983, yet another great year for albums. Anyway, the lead single from the album was the pitch-perfect “Whenever You Are On My Mind”, which had been released weeks in advance. From the moment I heard the new song, I was certain that the song was destined for the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. When I heard the album, I was a little disappointed with the production. Crenshaw had been forced to use Richard Gottehrer, who had just done wonders with The Go-Go’s debut album, Beauty and the Beat, in addition to Kim Carnes’ new wavy hit album Mistaken Identity that contained the huge hit “Bette Davis Eyes”. So, Crenshaw, who loved the XTC album English Settlement, choose the producer of that album, Steve Lillywhite to produce this one.

While the songs were once again great, some of the enthusiasm that had made his debut so endearing was missing. Sure, the drums sounded great, which is what Lillywhite was known for back then, but Steve sure did not understand the American’s music. Where the English come from a very dry sarcastic point of view, American’s like Crenshaw were paying an undying love of all music American, such as Buddy Holly. So, that damn drum sound Lillywhite was known for, in my opinion, curtailed the momentum behind Crenshaw’s career. Which was too bad, because Crenshaw went on to make some of the finest music of the Eighties and Nineties that very few heard because of the minor misstep.


Now, what I love about his first Greatest Hits album, called This Is Easy! The Best of Marshall Crenshaw, is that the songs are in chronological order so you can hear his growth. Plus, you can compare the sound of his Lillywhite songs, minus “Whenever You’re on My Mind”, which is perfect, to those from the rest of his career to hear what I am talking about. Plus, the CD also includes some of his B-sides, including the absolutely brilliant “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time”, arguably his finest single. Sure, he lacks the acerbic view of Costello’s songs, but Americans tend to use a poison pen less often than the Europeans. Still, Crenshaw should be mentioned in the same breath as Elvis Costello, nothing more, nothing less.

Let me say one last thing about Marshall Crenshaw. His songs “Cynical Girl”, “Whenever You’re on My Mind” and “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time” are all songs that remind me of my wife. Those lyrics just describe our relationship from my point of view. What more can an individual ask of an artist?

I’m Diggin’ This Retro-Soul Thang

Back in the early Seventies, I remember riding in the car on the way back from the country club swimming pool and hearing on Indy’s big AM radio station some sophisticated sounding music that I later learned was called soul music. I absolutely LOVED this stuff I was hearing from the likes of Al Green, The Chi-Lites, The Spinners, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, to list but a few. For some reason this music was reaching into my pale, white boy’s heart and leaving an undeniable mark. All I could do was dream about slow dancing with my special woman to this type of music.

Well, like all musical trends, soul music fell out of favor as funk and disco started to grab the attention of listeners every where. As usual, I followed the current trends while leaving the past where it was – in the past. At least, that was until the New Romantic movement in London in the early Eighties, where these bands were reaching back to the past, particularly to Motown, in order to create a new sound. This was followed by my second favorite punk band, The Jam, recording their last album that was full of the sounds of soul. After The Jam’s Paul Weller broke up the band, he formed a new band, The Style Council, which was totally influenced Seventies soul music. For a brief moment, I was able to reconnect to this soul music, albeit by white artists. For a couple of years, those bands like Culture Club and Wham! filled that soul void. And, then again, like every other musical trend, it was over. And soul music lay dormant for the rest of the Eighties and much of the Nineties. Oh sure, we’d get a sprinkling of hits that reminded me of soul when Eddie & Charles hit with “Would I Lie to You” or Lenny Kravitz scored with “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”. Additionally, Tony! Toni! Tone! attempted to fill the soul void during their brief career.

Now, in the Twenty-first century, music is experiencing a full-blown soul revival under the title of Retro-Soul. This new genre has been described in MOJO magazine this way:

“Retro-Soul is soul music that was made after the heyday of soul music had passed. Although deep soul had fallen out of the spotlight in the early ’70s, there were a number of artists that never stopped singing in that raw style. In the mid-’80s, a small but dedicated audience for new recordings by such masters as Johnnie Taylor and Little Milton had developed, and labels like Ichiban and Malaco began releasing new albums by these artists. Soon, they had found new vocalists that performed in the same style, and by the early ’90s the entire genre of retro-soul was flourishing.”

Now, we have artists such as Leon Bridges, Charles Bradley and Mayer Hawthorne making some sweet soul music that harkens back to the early Seventies heyday of the genre. In addition to the aforementioned three, I have 12 more artists that are keeping the soul flame alive. The first artist is no longer with us, but at least Amy Winehouse left us with three classic albums that are “must listens” for the soul lover.

The first artist to capture my attention is century was Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. This band is like a musical time capsule, only containing modern lyrics. Although Sharon has been battling cancer, the band continues to record and tour, bringing their brand of soul music to the public.

Other notable artists include Maxwell, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, The Suffers, Anthony Hamilton, Andra Day, Michael Kiwanuka, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Allen Stone, Lake Street Dive and Son Little, to name but a few that I am listening to. If you loved that Seventies soul music, these are the artists to check out. Of course, I have many more artists that I am ready to endorse, so just ask if you want to know some more artists after falling in love with the ones I have given you.

Fortunately, I married a woman who loves to slow dance, especially to soul music, since soul has that special groove to it that Eighties power ballads lacked. Go ahead, pop in a Mayer Hawthorne CD and tell me I’m wrong!

Who Is This Hüsker Dü You Speak Of?


In 1984, I was all over the purple artists that came from Minneapolis. In other words, I was into anything Prince and his proteges, such as The Time and Vanity/Apollonia 6. Still, Minneapolis was fertile ground for alternative bands, the big three being Hüsker Dü, The Replacements and Soul Asylum. Personally, during the Eighties, I love the first two, while to me Soul Asylum was just The Replacements-lite. By that, I mean, Soul Asylum sorta sounds like The Replacements, only without the calories (or good songwriting). But, Hüsker Dü was a different animal altogether.


I first heard Hüsker Dü in another guys’ dorm room after a long afternoon bike ride. The album was their now classic Zen Arcade. If you thought the Ramones played fast and wild, then you were not prepared for the maelstrom sound of  Hüsker Dü. In comparison, the Ramones sounded like they were on Quaaludes next to  Hüsker Dü, who sounded like a band on speed, steroids AND Ritalin. But, that underlying punk sound with a pop melody was intact if you could take the aural assault. And, sometimes, I just needed this American hardcore.


In 1985, Hüsker Dü reached their pinnacle creatively speaking. They released two more albums on the independent SST label, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig. While the band maintained the break-neck speed of their songs, while slowing down a few to form a sound that Green Day would successfully mine during the Nineties. Additionally, the Pixies would also take the loud part of the Hüskers’ sound and alternate “quiet” choruses to complete their sound, which Nirvana would bring to the masses in the Nineties. That means that Hüsker Dü created the alternative nation of the Nineties and the pop-punk sound that followed Green Day’s initial success.

Personally, I loved that aggressive buzzsaw guitar sound, especially back in 1984, when it re-awoke that love of all things that were alternative. In 1988, Hüsker Dü broke up acrimoniously. Lead singer and guitarist Bob Mould went on to begin an acoustic solo career that eventually reverted back to the aggressive sound of his original group. After two solo albums, Mould formed another power trio called Sugar, whose sound was a more tamed version of  Hüsker Dü. Drummer Grant Hart has recorded a couple of pop-punk music, while bassist Greg Norton recorded one power pop album with his group Nova Ebb before beginning a career as a chef.


Unfortunately, Hüsker Dü probably will never get back together, let alone agree to work together in order to remix their catalog. What a shame for the second most important artist to come from Minneapolis.

Hey Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! Hüsker Dü is ready for its rightful place!