All I Am Saying Is Give Culture Club’s ‘Colour By Numbers’ A Chance


1983 was one of my favorite years for music. It’s nearly a perfect year in which the best music was also the most popular. Look, we were living through the days of Thriller, 1999 and The Police’s best selling album, Synchronicity. We had Def Leppard and Quiet Riot holding down the metal side, along with the debut of Metallica. New Wave was dominating the Hot 100 chart with the likes of Duran Duran, Dexys Midnight Runners and Men At Work. Even old stalwarts such as The Rolling Stones and ZZ Top successfully brought their music up-to-date with their respective albums Undercover and Eliminator. Even soundtrack albums were hot, like Flashdance.

The planets had aligned that year. I would like to think MTV had influenced this confluence of artistry, but I honestly think it may have run more simply than that. The big thing that everyone seemed to be doing was looking back to by-gone days of music, but updated the sound with electronic instrumentation. It’s like Kraftwerk was being mixed in with the blues (ZZ Top) or Motown (ABC). You could not turn on a radio to hear soulful music being mixed with synthesizers, drum machines, clap machines and electronic drum sets. Eventually, the soul would be driven out of the music by the end of 1984, but for a short period of time, the new sounds were invigorating and exciting.

Case in point, one of my favorite albums from 1983, if not my absolute favorite of that year, was Culture Club’s second album Colour by Numbers. The album was perfect in its execution of an updated Motown sound, with the use of organic instrumentation of pianos, saxophones, bass guitars, and guitars, while sprinkling in all of the synthesized sounds in the most tasteful and understated manner. And the instrumentation snuggled itself around the soulful voice of the incomparable Boy George, whose vocal likeness to Smokey was covered by the musical press, and his backup singer, Helen Terry.

Colour by Numbers kicks off with one of the Eighties’ most iconic songs, “Karma Chameleon”. One would think that an album would be crushed by such a strong song opening it, but that’s Culture Club’s secret weapon. The other nine songs are all strong enough to hold up that super opener.

In all honesty, I feel that every song on this album could have been a hit, though “It’s a Miracle”, “Church of the Poison Mind” and “Miss Me Blind” were the US hits in addition to “Karma Chameleon”. Once again, Motown is the sound that was being mined by the band.

If you were to listen to the album on vinyl, you would get the sense that both sides began with a mega-hit, with Side 2’s opening song being “Church of the Poison Mind”. But, both sides end with mega-monsters of emotion. Side 1 ends with a song that would not be out of place on a Seventies Elton John album, “That’s the Way (I’m Only Trying to Help You)”. It is a simple piano accompanying George’s voice until the halfway mark. That’s when the powerhouse vocals of the near-Aretha gospel Helen Terry provides counterpoint that enhances the emotional pain of the song. It is moment that would scare off the “would-bes” of The Voice. Then, there’s the closer on Side 2, called “Victims”. Once again, George goes back to the piano accompanying his jilted-lover vocals, which only enhances his isolation from his forlorn lover to whom he is singing. Now, this song used light string treatments to enhance its power as the band joins in. The irony of the band pulling against George’s vocals only creates more isolation during the song. This song is the perfect counter-point to the “Karma Chameleon” opener, during which Boy George was lyrically a little more optimistic about the relationship that his disintegrated by the end of the album.

It is often said that great art comes from great pain, and this is an album describing the breakup of a couple. And, that is a universal feeling we have in early, immature relationships, where the whole thing is spinning out of control toward inevitable destruction. And, Boy George takes us on this journey that we all understand.

Colour by Numbers by the Culture Club is a classic album that is beginning to be buried by time and distance and deserves to be rediscovered. So, if you have it, pull it out and listen to it. Allow the music to soak through your pores and into your soul in order to find the beauty as the lyrics enter your ears and conjure those old feelings of the past being lost. Then, remember, that your present is awesome as you came out of the fires of your teens forged into the adult that you are now.

Man, does this album ever make me philosophical. Plus, it’s just a terrific pop album!

Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’


About a year ago, while I was finally taking stock of the music I own, I noticed something that may not be that peculiar to music lovers around the world. I own FIVE versions of Pink Floyd’s epic double album The Wall. Of course, I still have the vinyl version from my high school days; an anniversary CD version from around 2000, I think; the live CD version commemorating the original band’s two city 1980 “world” tour that my boys got me for Father’s Day several years ago; my 2012 remastered 3-CD The Wall: Experience Edition that I purchased after seeing Roger Waters’ solo tour performance that I saw with my long-time buddy Mike Bond in St. Louis; and the thumb-drive copy of that aforementioned St. Louis performance that Mike gave me.

So, what is it about this album that has captured the imagination of not just my age group, but the imagination of nearly people of ALL ages, from Millennials to Gen X-ers to many Baby Boomers. Roger Waters, the former bassist and main song visionary for Pink Floyd after Dark Side of the Moon, spilled out his soul throughout this epic album.

The angst that is lyrically described throughout the album is a theme that everyone experiences, whether the angst being experienced is of the teenage, young adult or mature adult nature, this album covers it. Of the 26 songs that make up the album, 23 songs detail nearly all the difficulties that one experiences in life. Side 1 of the vinyl album is how psychologically damaged we are through our teen years. Sides 2 and 3 are how we continue to faced damaging circumstances through adulthood that causes us to build a psychological wall around our egos in order to “protect” us from the hurt that others will inevitably cause us. Then, on Side 4, if we are lucky, we will all finally learn that the wall must come down for us to grown. So, like an emotionally-stronger butterfly, we break through that wall to show the self we are meant to be.

Unfortunately, in life, too few of us will ever get through Side 4 in our lives, which is too bad. Those walls we all have must come down so that we can Love and be Loved. Life outside the wall is so much better than inside the wall. We are freer to live outside the wall than we were ever able to live inside the wall.

And Pink Floyd touched upon that universality in human growth on their classic album The Wall. That is what makes the album, movie and tour show so breathtaking to us. Everyone of us has experienced the lyric themes that Roger Waters wrote way back in 1979. And, as long as humans continue to experience these emotions, The Wall will continue to entertain. That is the secret to the continued success of that album.

If ELO Is Inducted Into The RRHOF, The Traveling Willburys Would All Be In


Greetings and salutations to all of my fellow rock music lovers out there! I hope you all had a terrific Turkey Day with your loved ones. I know that I sure did. Now, that November is about to give way to December, we are about to find out which nominated artists are going to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. If you have never been there, you should go. Even those of you with only a passing interest in rock music will enjoy the place.

Now, I still believe that Pearl Jam and Tupac will be inducted, along with Janet Jackson, Chic and The Cars. But, if I could choose another artist for induction, I would choose the Electric Light Orchestra. Finally getting leader Jeff Lynne would mean that all five members of the Traveling Wilburys would be RRHOF members, without the band being inducted. Now, that would be interesting for the nominating committee having to seriously consider that “supergroup” for eventual induction.


As far as I am concerned, ELO deserves induction. I understand that the band’s sound is a continuation of the sounds initiated by The Beatles during their Magical Mystery Tour days. As a matter of fact, my oldest son has always said if he wanted to listen to ELO, he would listen to the post-Sgt. Pepper Beatles’ albums. And, he has a point. But, those of us that got to hear ELO first-hand, without much Beatle knowledge, Jeff Lynne’s band was pure pop heaven.

I always say that my love of music began to blossom in 1974, which is fortunate since that was the year ELO had a Top 10 with”Can’t Get It Out of My Head”, the near perfect John Lennon-sound-a-like song. The following year, the band had Top 10 hit songs with “Evil Woman” and the sublime “Strange Magic”, which I bought as a 7″ single.


Then, for the USA’s bicentennial year, ELO released my favorite album of theirs, A New World Record. I remember wearing out that album, as I nearly played it every day for three months straight. That album was packed with three hits that Casey Kasem played on his American Top 40 radio show: “Livin’ Thing”, the majestic “Telephone Line” and a cover of Jeff Lynne’s original band’s, The Move, UK hit “Do Ya”. I think it might have been my playing that album that caused my brother to become an Electric Light Orchestra fan. It was back then that I promised him I would take him to see ELO the next time they came to Indy. I fulfilled that promise in the Fall of 1981 when I took him down to Indiana University to see ELO and Daryl Hall & John Oates.


In 1977, ELO released their tour-de-force double album Out of Time. That album had three more hits in “Turn to Stone”, “Sweet Talking Woman” and the greatest Beatle-sounding song never written by a Beatle, “Mr. Blue Sky”. The big surprise about those songs is that “Mr. Blue Sky” was NOT a Top 10 hit. Just writing that sentence seems incredible since the song is the most perfect Beatlesque song ever written. As far as I was concerned, that song is Jeff Lynne’s masterpiece.

It was during the Out of the Blue Tour that ELO introduced their “spaceship” stage. The spaceship was based upon the craft on the cover of Out of the Blue. The ship would “fly” at the beginning of the concert, only to land and open up into a stage on which the band would perform. Then, upon the conclusion of the concert, the spaceship would close, only to “fly” off. It was a fantastic concert prop, one of the better ones from the Seventies, which included KISS’ whole stage production and Parliament/Funkadelic’s “Mothership Connection” spaceship. That tour took the band on a nearly two-year trek around the world. Obviously, Jeff Lynne, the creative force behind ELO came back burned out from the tour. But, the record company, who was constantly looking for more hit songs.


So, in 1979, ELO released the very weak Discovery album, although the album still contained two Top 10 hits and another song that stalled before reaching too high in the Top 40. The big hits were “Shine a Little Light” and the last mega-hit of the band’s career, “Don’t Bring Me Down”. The third song was the disco-fied “Last Train to London”. That appeared to the trend for the “tired” artists who were the Seventies’ rock hit masters to do, as Rod Stewart, KISS and the Rolling Stones, were among those who dabble with disco sounds. To me, ELO made a nice disco song, but not a good ELO song. I enjoy that song only a little bit more today than I did then. To me, it was simply filler because Jeff Lynne was tired.

In 1980, ELO was one-half of the musical minds behind the Xanadu soundtrack, which may have only caused the band to fall further from its rock roots while becoming a pop band. In spite of that, they had one hit song from that soundtrack that was a duet with the movie’s star Olivia Newton-John. The song was the title song of the movie’s soundtrack, “Xanadu”.

The following year, 1981, the band bounced back one more time to create more of a rock album than they had since Out of the Blue, when ELO released Time. The album hearkened back to the sound of the mid-70s, only instead of an actual string section, the band employed synthesizers. It was an attempt to update their sound, but only made them seem a little desperate. Additionally, Lynne was getting in touch with his musical youth, which was reflected in the sound of their only hit song on the album, the slightly rockabilly-sounding “Hold on Tight”. Back in 1981, before they became huge in their homeland, the USA, the Stray Cats were big in the UK, bringing their brand of neo-rockabilly, which only influenced the older British artists like Jeff Lynne.

ELO released two more albums during the 1980s. Both were boring and weak, though the 1983 LP, Secret Messages, spawned the band’s last Top 40 hit song, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King”. Once again, Lynne dipped into the Stray Cats’ playbook to come up with a song that sounded like what it was, ELO playing rockabilly. Don’t get me wrong about the band’s last two hit songs. I loved them at the time, and they continue to stand up today. But, in both cases, the songs sounded like the last gasps of a talent who relied upon himself too much as he got older. Gone was the chemistry between musicians that had made ELO such a unique and interesting band. The last album, Balance of Power, came out in 1986, but nothing from the album was the least bit interesting. ELO’s sound had become as sterile as much of the mid-80s music sounded.

Since that time, Jeff Lynne has picked up the ELO moniker in order to release two more albums during the Twenty-First Century. In 2000, ELO released the excellent album called Zoom. That album sounded like long-lost Electric Light Orchestra songs from the mid-70s. Then, last year, Alone in the Universe, was released under the moniker “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”. Both albums were essentially Jeff Lynne solo albums, only their releases were followed by full-band versions of the Electric Light Orchestra out on tour. I have seen video of the latest tour and it appears that Lynne has finally integrated the real strings of ELO’s 70s version with the synthesizer-based versions of the 80s. The current touring band seems to be large enough to capture the sounds in Lynne’s ears to finally pay off more as a live band.

So, if my generation’s greatest band of purveyors of the post-Sgt. Pepper Beatles’ sound stands a chance getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, this year might be their best chance. At least until after the rap, soul and alternative artists get caught up with the classic rock artists who have dominated the induction ceremonies lately. 2017 would be a great year to induct more than five artists.

Happy Thanksgiving


The Thanksgiving week begins today as my brother and sister-in-law arrive today from out of town.Then, tomorrow, my oldest son and his wife arrive. I am so very excited to see them all that this will be my last post until next week.


The first big tradition that will be back in play is Black Friday Record Store Day. If you are a lover of vinyl and special releases of said vinyl then the Record Store Day celebrations are for you. On Friday, there will be many first time. On the Black Friday edition, I am usually looking for the latest Christmas music releases, such as a 7″ Bob & Doug McKenzie (remember them from SCTV from the early Eighties?) of their Christmas classic “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and a special edition 12″ single of Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”. Plus, there are a couple of special releases that I am looking forward to. Go to to see the full listing of special edition vinyl releases.


Now, as far as Thanksgiving is concerned, I have a tradition of watching three things on TV. First, I always watch the Thanksgiving show of Saturday Night Live from the 1976-77 season in which Paul Simon is the host AND musical guest. This is the famous episode in which Paul Simon wears a Turkey suit while singing “Still Crazy After All These Years.” It is a classic monologue, as is the rest of the show.


Next up for me is the Thanksgiving episode of WKRP in Cincinnati in which the insipid station manager, Mr. Carlson, decides to hold a “top secret” Thanksgiving Day radio station promotion stunt with trusty but inept new director, Les Nesman, and radio advertising salesman Herb Tarlek. What happens is a parody of the Hindenburg crash and much more comedic bedlam. The show should be shown EVERY Thanksgiving on network television. The writing and acting is inspired and cannot be matched by vary many shows in the history of television.


The final TV tradition is something that I share with my boys, and that is to watch The Band’s The Last Waltz. This concert film is directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese that documents The Band’s last concert, which took place on Thanksgiving Day 1977. And, even though none of us really need an excuse to watch the video, and I am thankful for the gift of music that all these terrific musicians have give to us on a daily basis. And this documentary presents a lasting and loving tribute to one of the greatest bands to ever grace a stage. I highly recommend this film to all music lovers, because once you see, and hear, The Band perform “The Weight” with The Staple Singers, you literally get a small glimpse of Heaven.


Now, it’s no longer a holiday without a playlist for said holiday, so here’s my suggestions of a great mix of “soon-to-be-Thanksgiving classics”. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


My Thanksgiving Day Playlist

  1. Graham Parker – “Almost Thanksgiving” (2004)
  2. Simon & Garfunkel – “Homeward Bound” (1966)
  3. Neil Young – “Harvest Moon” (1992)
  4. Lady Gaga – “Orange Colored Sky” (2011)
  5. Loudon Wainwright III – “Thanksgiving Day” (1993)
  6. Phillip Phillips – “Home” (2012)
  7. Johnny Cash – “I Am a Pilgrim” (2003)
  8. Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World” (1993)
  9. Brave Combo – “Thanksgiving Day” (2005)
  10. Neil Young – “Harvest” (1972)
  11. The Band – “King Harvest (Surely Has Come)” (1969)
  12. John Mellencamp – “Check It Out” (1987)
  13. My Morning Jacket – “Thank You Too” (2008)
  14. Poi Dog Pondering – “Thanksgiving” (1990)
  15. Phish – “Farmhouse” (2000)
  16. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – “Home” (2009)
  17. Adam Sandler – “Thanksgiving Song” (1993)
  18. REO Speedwagon – “Flying Turkey Trot (live)” (1976)
  19. The Drive-By Truckers – “The Thanksgiving Filter (2011)
  20. Willie Nelson – “The Pilgrim: Chapter 33” (1979)
  21. Mary Chapin Carpenter – “Thanksgiving Song” (2008)



I’ve decided that I want to tackle the monster of all albums: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I cannot emphasize enough to my younger readers how significant this album was and continues to be to this day. There’s really pre-Thriller days, and the post-Thriller days that we continue to be in.


In 1978, Michael had planted the seeds in fertile ground for his solo career, when he and his brothers, minus Jermaine who remained at Motown for marital reasons, released their dance classic album, Destiny. The big song was the dance floor workout “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground”. That song, as well as the rest of the strongest songs on that album were written by Michael.

Toward the end of 1979, Michael unleashed what we all thought was masterpiece, Off the Wall. That album had FOUR Top 10 songs: “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, “Rock with You”, “She’s Out of My Life” (“Tito get me a tissue.”) and “Off the Wall”. The man proved that disco was never going out of style, but let’s call it dance music now. Whatever you call it, the stuff was primo!


Once Michael had his first brush with mega-stardom during the Off the Wall-period, the brothers decided, or was it their father Joe, they wanted a little Michael magic a full Jacksons album. So, in 1980, the brothers released what was thought to be their last album with Michael called Triumph. Though the album was successful, it was not solo Michael successful. Everyone knew that Michael had saved his best stuff for his solo album. But, that album did spawn a couple of hits: “Lovely One”, “Can You Feel It” and “This Place Hotel”.

By the time Thriller was released in the Fall of 1982, Michael’s place on the mantle of rock, soul and pop was starting to be challenged by a purple-clad whiz kid from Minneapolis named Prince. Prince was able to play anything, in addition to sing and dance like Michael. Michael obviously took notes to what his Purple Highness was creating between the years of 1979 and 1981, because Thriller definitely reflected that influence.

Thriller got off to a very inauspicious start, as a very high profile duet yet very saccharine-sounding single was released first. Michael teamed up with Paul McCartney for the silly “The Girl Is Mine”. Oh boy, not another “Ebony and Ivory” Paul! Geez! What’s happened man?!?! When I heard that song, I thought that there’s NO WAY I was going to buy that album.

Then, you started hearing rumors about the album. First, there’s some pretty tough dance numbers. Second, someone said Eddie Van Halen plays on a song (Take that Prince!). Finally, MTV began playing Prince’s and Michael’s videos. And, while Prince went the performance route, Michael decided to blow our minds.

On the radio, “Billie Jean” was a revelation. But, when you saw the video, it was a game-changer. Now, my generation actually had its own “I Want to Hand Your Hand”. Plus, Michael’s lyrics were his most personal to date. Gone was the awkward kid singing to a rat in “Ben”. Now, we are hearing about a young man being stalked by a young woman with a baby who claims its Michael’s kid! Wait sec! I thought Michael was asexual! Did I miss something? (I might have been on the right track, just the wrong lane). And, man, could you dance to it.But nothing prepared us for what he unveiled on that silly Dick Clark-produced TV show honoring the history of Motown music (Sure, Clark could pick the hits, but man, his shows about music sure were hokey! Case in point: all of his Rockin’ New Year’s Eve shows.). Still, when Micheal whipped out that Moonwalk move during his performance of “Billie Jean”, we had just witnessed the coronation of a new King. Little did we realize that it was the King of Pop.

The next single solidified Thriller’s importance in culture. “Beat It” took the dance beat with a rocking guitar solo that Prince had been perfecting in near oblivion to the public behind Eddie Van Halen’s blazing guitar solo. Now, metalheads, including Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth knew Eddie had whipped up greater solos in his sleep, but this one was attached to a great pop/dance song with yet another transcendent video. Now, Michael was in rarefied air that only Elvis Presley and The Beatles understood. From this point on, everything that was released from Thriller was guaranteed to be a Top 10 hit song.

Over the Summer of 1983, with The Police enjoying their greatest success of their career with Synchronicity, Thriller was still jumping off the shelves enough to eventually go back to number one after The Police album ran its course, as well as a quickie stay at #1 by the Flashdance soundtrack. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, “P.Y.T.” and “Human Nature” carried the album’s momentum until the last earth-moving event came.

And, it came in the form of a half-hour masterpiece of a mini-musical film of the title song of the album, “Thriller”. That video is easily the greatest video of all-time. I literally witnessed frat parties and dance clubs stop to watch the playing of that video on MTV. MTV would have a countdown to the next time that video would be played. I could not believe what I was witnessing. People were taking a break from festive fellowship to watch this video. And, it was released during the time leading up to Halloween, which only increased its effectiveness.

Once, people were buying Thriller like no album before it. Or since. It happened at the right time, that no one, not even Michael could duplicate. And, he sure tried with his Bad album.


Unfortunately, this was the last time period during which Michael still looked human. Afterward, drug-addiction, skin-color disease and what appeared to be an addiction to plastic surgery all conspired to change his appearance for every successive album. The man was tortured by some demons to someone from afar. I find it a shame that his talent was extinguished so early in his life.

In conclusion, Thriller was a cultural milestone in time that will NEVER be repeated again, much like the success of Elvis and The Beatles. It was heady times. I only wish someone could do this nowadays. But, music just is not that important to young people today. So, raise a glass to Thriller. I just want it to outsell the Eagles’ first Greatest Hits album long term, but I doubt it will.

My Favorite Album of All-Time


Friends have often asked me what my favorite album is of all time. My boys definitely know, because I have one copy for each one after I am gone. One of my long-time buddies, Mike Bond, may know, but few others will know. I’ve spent hours and hours writing about albums on this blog, but never have I tackled my favorite of all. And believe it or not, the album is NOT by my beloved Cheap Trick or Prince. Nor is it by R.E.M., nor Tom Petty, nor Bruce Springsteen, nor Daryl Hall & John Oates (that’s how you say it, nephew Tim!), nor Talking Heads, nor Queen.

No, this album is by an artist that I have yet to give credit to. As the years pass on, this classic album’s stature has only grown with music lovers. To my ears, this album is perfect in every way: songwriting, order of songs, diversity of music, and growth in the artist’s playing. It was the album we needed upon its release, as much as it is needed today, not to mention all days in between. I expressed my love of the album upon its release in my album review in the school newspaper back in 1980. The album is London Calling by The Clash.

The album cover drew me in as teen, a photo of bassist Paul Simonon getting ready to wreck his bass. The artwork around the picture paid homage to Elvis Presley’s first album, along with a sticker proclaiming that this album was by the only band that matters. I had loved The Clash’s first album, but I was not ready for the beautiful musical onslaught that awaited me when I first dropped the needle on my record.

And, although the band stayed true to its punk ethos, the band was delivering an American musical lesson as distilled through British musicians. For the first time, I understood why the Boomers loved The Beatles or The Stones so much. London Calling was made for the early Gen X-ers and late Boomers. Unfortunately, radio had just been taken over by the bean counters, so The Clash, with their strange name and challenging sounds could never displace Neil Diamond or Kenny Rogers on their playlists.

So, it was word of mouth that passed on the greatness of this album. First off, it was a double album sold for the price of a single album, at the time. Second, the first hit from the album was added so late that it is not even listed on the album’s track listing. That song, “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)” barely scratched the Top 30, yet has become somewhat loved as the years have passed. Likewise, the title track, which was NEVER played on Central Indiana radio, is commonly listed among the Eighties best songs ever.

There is not a clunker on this masterpiece. Some of my favorite songs include “Jimmy Jazz”, “Rudie Can’t Fail”, “Lost in the Supermarket”, and “Wrong ‘Em Boyo”. I’m listening to the album right now, and I’m every bit as moved by it as I was when I first listened to it 36 years ago.

Yet, I do feel a little bit sad, knowing that the band would fall apart just three years later as they were on the cusp of becoming the biggest band in the world. Seriously, if The Clash had soldiered on making great music, would there have been a musical need for U2? Or could the world have supported two sincere, over-reaching rock bands at the same time?

Back in the summer of 2002, my family made it first journey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There were signs of The Clash all over the place, from the trashed bass guitar to actual lyrics written by Joe Strummer. But nothing rang truer than the words that Strummer said in a film played at the RRHOF when he simply stated that when you have a great band, you should do everything in your power to keep it together, not to break it up over some stupid purity of punk ethos. I remember tears welling up as he spoke those words. He had broken up one of the great bands of all-time just because Mick Jones was dabbling in the Hip Hop scene of New York City. While, it was perfectly normal for them to play reggae, Strummer was scared to travel further into this culture than what was recorded on their next album, Sandinista! But, during that moment of clarity recorded for posterity, Strummer was able to look back clearly to see where he made mistakes and only wished them away. Unfortunately, he passed a short time after that interview, forever putting the final nails in The Clash’s coffin.

But, for that heady moment of time in 1979 when the band recorded London Calling, The Clash were the only band that mattered. At least we still have their music find comfort in to this very day. For that, I am thankful.

I Hold Def Leppard Responsible For Hair Metal

Back in 1980, I started to hear bands who were lumped together under the banner of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. When I first heard these bands, I honesty could have cared less. After living through Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin, KISS and all sorts of other hard rock/heavy metal bands, I was just plain sick and tired of the sound. To my ears, next to the sound of country music, heavy metal has got to be the most conservative of the genres. To prove my point, all I have to do is remind my metal brethren that Metallica cut their hair in the Nineties, and they all go crazy.

Back in 1980, I was personally embracing what was once known as punk rock and new wave. I loved the idea of bands getting back to the basics of a three-minute pop song. So, when I heard Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Mötörhead for the first time, I simply yawned and said that I had heard that all before. Sure, the first two used two lead guitars, but so did every Southern Rock band after Lynyrd Skynyrd’s three-headed guitar attack. Then, Lemmy’s band was sort of cool since their drummer used a double kick to speed up the song’s tempo, but Rush would do that too from time to time for art’s sake.

Then, something happened. Some metal bands began to incorporate pop structures to their songs, as well as dressing like they were part of the old early Seventies English glam rock scene. So, these hair metal bands like Def Leppard, Motley Crüe, Bon Jovi and Quiet Riot began popping up. Since they were essentially bubblegum versions of heavy metal bands, they started selling records by the busload.

Hair, or glam, metal first came to prominence in 1983 when Def Leppard released their epic Pyromania album. The album rocketed to the Number Two position on Billboard’s Album Chart, being held out of the top position on the chart by a little album known as Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Still, Pyromania coughed up three hits songs, a metal record at the time, which the Leppards themselves would break with their new album, Hysteria. Now, the record companies had a commodity that could sell decadence in a “clean” manner to the youth of the Eighties: hair metal.

The pop potential of hair metal was realized when Def Leppard’s first single off their Pyromania LP, “Photograph” was released and hit Number Two on the Hot 100. It is a perfect pop metal song, as they travel down the hard rock road in one song by beginning with a Van Halen opening, that seamlessly moves into a Loverboy-like verse, and ends with a type of Journey chorus, nothing of which will alienate girls from the boys’ testosterone-driven guitars, basically becoming a song that is everything to all people. The only thing is that it sounded contrived to me.

But once Def Leppard unlocked the code, the hair metal bands climbed out of the woodwork. Little did we know that Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood was crawling with dudes who were teasing their hair as big as their girlfriend’s hair, while playing this water-down version of Van Halen I. By the end of 1983, Quiet Riot became the first “metal” band to have a number one album. We also had the privilege of the Crue’s second album being purchased by the masses, along with Ratt and Twisted Sister having hit singles. In 1984, Bon Jovi joined the parade with their first Top 40 hit “Runaway”. Now, music fans were being subjected to a new era of the pop single, only being advertised as heavy metal, when, in fact, most of the music of the mid- to late-Eighties was really just poor imitations of the great metal and hard rock of the Seventies. Yet, some of the members of those bands might even looked better than your girlfriend or wife.

Things appeared bleak, until Metallica and Guns N’ Roses popped up to save the day for good metal music. We could go as far as passing on some credit to Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth for ushering an era of metal that hearkened back to its roots. Looking back, hair or glam metal went the way of new wave. When it first started being heard, the sounds were exciting and new. Then, the record companies produced a glut of one-hit wonders and other crappy bands, until the scene was picked clean and died off.

I will give Def Leppard credit for discovering the formula, thus paving their way for future induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Additionally, I hear Jon Bon Jovi is upset that his band has not been inducted. Really!?!? I’m sure they will get in, but not because I back them. But, they have nothing to whine about! I bet I can name 50 artists who deserve induction before Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard is one. I just was never a fan of hair metal.

And, don’t get me going about power ballads…

The Day Daryl Hall & John Oates Became Immortal In My Eyes

Now this shirt is part of a T-shirt quilt

I literally just got back from visiting my mom who is staying at the local rehabilitation center after breaking her hip and having full hip replacement surgery to repair that hip. And even though she has been showing signs of dementia, she has been a fairly active 81-year-old until this, her first broken bone. I have always been in awe of that woman who was able to raise two boys from the ages of 14 and 11 into adulthood on her own, after my parents divorce. Now, my dad was always around, but I was pretty mad at him during those years, so let’s just say that we were barely communicating at the time. Still, how Mom was able to corral my brother and me during those years was amazing. The three of us shared the use on her 1978 Chevy Chevette, with four-on-the-floor manual drive.

You see, it was around this time of the year, Friday, November 6, 1981 to be exact that I was allowed to use Mom’s car to take my brother, who was a freshman in high school at the time, down to Indiana University to visit a very good friend of mine and to see my brother’s favorite band, the Electric Light Orchestra, with Daryl Hall & John Oates as the opener. I had bought the tickets for my brother for his birthday, and was he excited about seeing ELO. I liked ELO all right and was excited for Hall & Oates, even though my opinion of them at the time was they were a great pop band. I was not prepared for what I saw.


Just a few weeks before the concert, Hall & Oates released their now classic album Private Eyes. But, I was so unprepared for what I witnessed that night. The Hall & Oates Band was their now-classic line-up of the late bassist Tom “T-Bone” Wolk (also referred to by Hall & Oates as the “&” of the band); rock/punk guitar great G.E. Smith (who has gone on to play with Bob Dylan, Roger Waters and was the leader of the SNL band for many years in the Eighties and Nineties), rock drummer Mickey Curry (who ended up with Bryan Adams during his heyday) and saxophonist/keyboardist Charlie “Mr. Casual” DeChant (who still performs with the band). The make-up of this band was key, in that they could beef up these pop/soul songs into tougher and meatier live versions. Wolk, who had played in the Sugarhill studio band, making his name in the hip hop and R&B worlds before joining creative forces with Daryl and John, laid down a much funkier foundation for those terrific hit songs we all know and love, allowing Hall & Oates to be “street-worthy”.

G.E. Smith lead the band with his searing guitar solos, showing everyone that this band could keep up with punks, rockers and new wavers when it came to guitar slinging. Curry was simply caveman-like in his aggressive drum pounding, while displaying an almost jazz-like finesse that the songs of Hall & Oates needed. And, the secret weapon to the band’s live performance was DeChant’s sax playing and background keyboard work. Like all great sax players, “Mr. Casual” was a very skilled and flamboyant player, holding notes for what seemed like eternities. But, none of this would have worked if Daryl and John wrote some of the greatest pop/rock/blue eyed soul songs of any generation. Plus, the duo’s vocals blended perfectly and soulfully. They were equally influenced by the Philly soul sound in which they grew up, the rock that was all over Philly radio in the Sixties and, the true secret to their vocal prowess, the folk on which they cut their teeth.

In November of 1981, this was a formidable a band as there was, but who was unfortunately knocked for having pop hits until people my age, who had seen the band live, became writers and started telling the world about this band’s greatness. The night we saw Daryl Hall & John Oates perform, they informed the crowd that their latest single, “Private Eyes”, had just reached Number One on Billboard’s Hot 100. At the time, it was their third Number One hit song, but the band played the song like it was a new song in their setlist. And as they played, the whole crowd knew song after song. Most of the songs were from their mid-Seventies peak, but we were witnessing a band that was on the cusp of becoming rock and roll immortals. Let me rattle off a few song titles from that night: “Sara Smile”, “She’s Gone”, “Wait for Me”, “How Does It Feel to Be Back”, “Private Eyes”, “Kiss on My List”, “You Make My Dreams”, “Rich Girl” and “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”. Most artists would kill for that list, but the band soldiered on this new hot streak for four more years before taking a needed break that killed the momentum.

But, it was that very night during which I went from a passing fan into a huge fan. That night lightning struck me, indicating that Daryl Hall & John Oates were artists that would appeal across generations, as proven by the love the millennials have for a band of their parents’ youth.

Yep, just like mine!

Soon, I will have to do a ranking of Hall & Oates albums. Until then, pull out those classics from 1975 through 1984 in order to enjoy them over and over again. Hall & Oates seem to have been the antidote to the funk I have been in since mid-October. Try it out yourself.

Remember When Foreigner ‘4’ Ruled The Day?

The music from the Summer of ’81 was full of great, yet eclectic, music. Although MTV was launched on August 1 that year, it was another year before cable companies began adding it to the basic cable selection. So, 1981 was the last gasp for arena rock. That summer we got albums from the likes of Journey, Pat Benatar, Loverboy, Billy Squier, Stevie Nicks and Foreigner. Oh, Foreigner 4. That magic number placed on the cover of that album says it all to those of us that lived through that summer.

Everywhere I went, I heard that album being played: the swimming pool, blaring out of everyone’s cars as they cruised town, the video arcade, on the radio, seemingly all around. You see, Foreigner was big with my age group, but Foreigner 4 was something altogether different. Here was a band that, like Styx and Journey, was a bonafide hard rock group that scored Top 40 hits. Their first two albums were big with the kids at my school, but their third album was trying too hard to assimilate touches of New Wave into their sound. It was a great attempt because that album, with hit songs like “Dirty White Boy” and “Head Games” signaled to the band that they needed to downsize the number of members of the band from seven to four, hence the title of their fourth album 4.

By doing so, and asking keyboard whiz kid Thomas Dolby to add “modern” synthesizer sounds, Foreigner actually toughen AND modernized their sound. The first single from the album immediately capture the attention of Young America, better known as “Urgent”. Foreigner had never sounded this lean yet soulful. So much so that the band hired Motown great Jr. Walker to lend a powerful sax solo to this rollicking song. To me, this was Foreigner’s coupe d’etat. Yet, that song did nothing to truly prepare the world for the depth of this album.

In addition to “Urgent”, Foreigner’s second single, “Waiting for a Girl like You”, one of the more tasteful power ballads of all-time, captured the imagination of women all around without chasing away male fans. This song should have been their first number one song. The only problem was that “Waiting” was held at the number two position on the Hot 100 by Olivia Newton-John’s megahit “Physical”, which was number one for ten weeks. And, for eight weeks, somehow Foreigner’s most beautiful and heartfelt ballad was kept at number two by Newton-John’s most forgettable song.

The other song that anchored the album was a huge hit on album oriented rock radio, the indomitable “Jukebox Hero”. That song appealed to most males twenty-one and under. The song is a perfect tale of a boy attending a concert and becoming so motivated to become a rock star in his own right. The song touched all the male fantasies of the time. Many of us who grew up in the late-70s/early-80s aspired to the rock and roll dream, so that song became something of a theme song to a generation’s fantasy.

This album was so ubiquitous with my age group that my wife who only has a passing interest in music fondly remembers that album. By the way, I saw Foreigner on the Foreigner 4 tour. Several of my new friends and I traveled the 60 miles from our university to Indianapolis to see this concert. There must have been a caravan of five to ten vehicles making the trip, especially since the opening act was Billy Squier, who was ultra hot at the time. That pairing made of a terrific night of AOR music being played by the artists at the peak of their powers.

I urge you to go back and listen to the Foreigner 4 album. It is truly an album of its time yet timeless at the same time. Maybe after Journey gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, Foreigner will join them. Remember this about Foreigner: all you need to own by them is 4 and their greatest hits compilation called Complete Greatest Hits. And you big Foreigner fans will have their eponymous debut, Double Vision and Head Games. Unfortunately, Foreigner lost their way after 4. But, other bands who have killed to have an album like 4. They just don’t make ’em that any more, right Greg Kihn?

The Kinks”Low Budget’ Just Might Be An Album For The Ages


I really thought that my music would help me today. So, I looked for comfort in the Bible, especially my life motivation from Matthew 25. Sure, it reinforced my life motto, but it really didn’t pull me out of my funk.

Initially, I thought I would go to Bob Dylan for some insight, but his words only added to my melancholia. Then, I thought R.E.M. would help, since they are the reason I made it through the Eighties intact. I stayed away from the “It’s the End of the World” since it was too obvious. Then, “Exhuming McCarthy” popped into my head, with the lyrics “Enemy sighted, enemy met, I’m addressing the realpolitik.
Look who bought the myth, by jingo, buy America.” But, it was too real. Instead, I spent my morning looking for comfort, and, lo and behold, I found what I was looking for came from a British band The Kinks and their 1979 comeback album, of sorts, Low Budget.

The Kinks blew onto the scene during the heady days of the British Invasion, who ended up influencing much of American music in the 70s and 80s, be it metal, power pop or punk. For most of the late 60s and early 70s, Kinks songwriter Ray Davies spent his time writing about his observations of British life or his yearning for by-gone days in Britain, to most of which few Americans could relate.

But, The Kinks were signed by Arista Records in the mid-70s. The head of the company, the great Clive Davis told the band to stop the concept albums and to just focus on rocking out. So, Ray Davies followed Clive’s advice. They released two albums of “arena rock”, 1976’s Sleepwalker and 1978’s Misfits. But, it wasn’t until the band decided to simply stay in the States to create a new album, which was released in 1979 and called Low Budget.

Most of Low Budget was dealing with the beginning of the decline of the United States within the world order. The album begins with the anti-conformist “Attitude”, showing at least a lyrical nod, if not a musical one, toward punk. Most the lyrics are written from the point-of-view of the non-conformist yelling at a young person attempting to be true to him- or herself, when it appears that the antagonist is really yelling at himself for his “attitude”. Okay, well, self-reflection is not too big here in the States, but let’s go on.

The second song on the album is the one that caught me off guard. The song was written about the States’ fall from grace during the 1970s. As I read the lyrics, all of a sudden it dawned on me that we are reliving these lyrics. “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” describes Captain America who lost his moral compass and now, whether he realizes it or not, needs his friends from NATO and around the rest of the world more now than ever. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! America needs help?!?! I doubt it. Wait…I think we really might need our friends to hold up a mirror to us so we don’t travel a similar path that 1930s Germany. I’m not saying that we are on that road after yesterday’s election, but the potential is there.

“Catch Me Now I’m Falling” is the song that tells me the rest of the world wants to help the USA from tumbling because they believe in our overall moral compass. They admire our selflessness, not our self-centeredness. The world wants us to fly like Superman, as The Kinks described in the albums near-Top 40 hit “(I Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman”. The Kinks went further on this album questioning nearly 40 years ago why this country did not have a single-payer healthcare system on “National Health”.

Songs like “Pressure”, “Low Budget” and “Misery” all describe the anger the working man has since their jobs have been taken away and moved to another country. The Kinks even go so far as to tell everyone that it’s so much easier it is to score some drugs than to get a gallon of gas on “Gallon of Gas”.

The whole album was written during the malaise of the late-Seventies, yet is so applicable today. And, for some reason the album brought me comfort. But that comfort today must be followed by action tomorrow. When did it become acceptable for the stolen goods of one person to be used against that person? I thought Moses brought down two tablets with some Commandments, with one Commandment telling us not to steal. But, I guess hacked information is not the same as stealing. C’mon Captain America! You’re better than that. The world needs us to remain the moral, non-religious, intelligent compass that we once were.

I don’t care if we get the reminder from The Kinks’ 1979 album Low Budget or from the latest Captain America comic book or movie, or from the book of Matthew, Chapter 25 from The Holy Bible. We need to look in that mirror with a clean heart.

Who knew The Kinks would bring me the comfort I was looking for.