A True Classic for Fifty-Somethings: Meat Loaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’

2.13 meat loaf - bat out of hell

On March 25, 1978, the older members of Generation X may not remember the date, but they may remember the musical guest on that night’s episode of our collective favorite show, Saturday Night Live. The most successful late night sketch comedy show turned away from its usual guests that appealed to the aging Woodstock Nation to bring us our first portion of Meat Loaf. That night, we all were grabbed by the throat of this sweaty, long-stringy haired behemoth with one of rock’s most powerful voices that seemed more suited for Broadway than rock music. Yet, something grabbed us all. It wasn’t all at once, since Meat’s first album, the now-classic Bat Out of Hell, was a slow burner. Yet, that one album, along with maybe Pink Floyd’s The Wall, collectively defined a group of people coming of age with its very own rock opera that was never a Broadway hit, but a much bigger hit in the hearts of these people who are now entering their mid-Fifties.

2.13 meat and steinman

As usual, that night on SNL, Meat, the album’s songwriter and visionary Jim Steinman, and a band of crack session musicians lit up “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, that first power ballad that struck a unifying chord within all of us at the time, and an in-concert video of the album’s penultimate song “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. In the months and years following our first exposure to this creature with the emotive vocals touched what some critics cried at the time a schmaltzy place in our hearts. I dare you to find someone from the Western world who is in their mid-Fifties who does not like Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell. Hell, even my beautiful wife, who “tolerates” my pastime, loves this album.

Like I said earlier, a young, nerdy Jim Steinman had written a batch of songs that were his attempt to update those teen operas that were so popular in the music of the early-Sixties. His vision was to create an off-Broadway show, but after he met his rock voice, this man called Meat Loaf, the former high school football star who was hit in the head by a shot put, a solid twelve-pound ball of steel, ending his career and forcing down a path of performance, the two worked on this set of overblown rock songs that coupled art rock, Broadway, Springsteen, punk and AOR into one glorious piece of music.

2.13 rundgren and steinman

Eventually, rock music renaissance man Todd Rundgren caught wind of this project and offered to produce it. Rundgren, a half-rebel and full-genius, innately understood the project and worked with the pair to create this magnificent album. So Rundgren called in some ringers that could pull off the music. Notable names like E Street pianist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg; Utopia and Rundgren sidemen bassist Kasim Sultan and drummer John Wilcox; Edgar Winter added sax; powerhouse female vocalist Ellen Foley (who would go on to star in the TV show Night Court) to list a few of the bigger names. Shoot, even New York Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto, doing a double entendre radio broadcast of a baseball game (or was it about the couple who were parking at the time in the song), performs on the album.

2.12 Meat Loaf recording touring band

The album as a whole is a magnificent piece of fantasy as a coming-of-age story. During the first song, “Bat Out of Hell”, our hero is changed, a la puberty, into a hyper-male ready to take on the world by the end of the song. By the second song, “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)”, our hero is running into his first bout of sexual frustration. By the end of Side One, the hero, is it Meat Loaf or is it Jim Steinman, has found his first love and now is full of testosterone and ready to party.

Side Two, begins with the big hit “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” one of the greatest break-up songs of my time period. Sure, it’s a bit callous, but really, how many of us were good at breaking up back then? Finally, we get to THE song for which this album is best remembered, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” This is the old tale of the male’s cavalier attitude toward sex versus the female’s emotional response toward the act of making love. Throughout this song, our hero is weighing his options between this beautiful woman in front of him who wants a commitment and the possibility of a future smorgasbord of women, which we all know is a false reality. Yet, by the end of the song, our hero gives into his desire and promises to love this woman until the end of time. Unfortunately, the relationship has soured and both are praying for the end of time, as life is wont to be.Finally, the album ends on another big Meat Loaf ballad “For Crying Out Loud,” during which our hero finds out that life is worth living and accepts reality as is and gets on with living. Bat Out of Hell is an album for the ages, inadvertently about growing up.

2.13 ellen foley
Ellen Foley


2.13 Karla-DeVito-creem
Karla DeVito

Of course, the history of the album is wrought with controversy. Though the great Ellen Foley sang on the album, Karla DeVito is the woman best remembered for her performance in the video for “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” who lips syncs while Foley’s voice is heard. Foley could not tour, so DeVito was hired for the tour. And, when management decided that the song need a video, well those in charge told the touring band to make the performance video. Of course, this is a very sore point between the two female singers that remains sensitive to this very day.

2.13 Meat-Loaf on SNL
Meat Loaf on ‘Saturday Night Live’ back on March 25, 1978

Bat Out of Hell has sold over 20 million copies to date, which is not bad for an album that never reached the Top 10 during its time. In the UK, at one time, the album held the record for the most consecutive weeks on their album chart. And in the States, the album is still showing up on occasion on the Catalog Album Chart for older albums. It is a classic album that made a bundle of money for the three main creative forces involved: Rundgren, Steinman and Meat Loaf. And, as Rundgren went on his way producing other artists and recording albums with Utopia and a solo album, Steinman became a big time in-demand producer in the early-Eighties. Meat Loaf, on the other hand, has been up and down. Eventually, in the early-Nineties, these creative minds re-convened for the follow-up Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell. It was a solid album, but, unfortunately, lightning did not strike again like the original did. But, then again, you usually only get one album with which to change music history. And, Meat Loaf and the gang did it back in 1977 with the release of Bat Out of Hell.

You Read Here First: Kai Danzberg’s ‘Pop Up Radio’ Is a Winner

2.12 kai danzberg - pop up radio

I recently discovered a new artist to whom the more I listen the more I enjoy. The artist is German musician Kai Danzberg, a power popper who has released several albums. However, I discovered him while I was browsing Bandcamp, a downloading website where indie artists can posted their work and charge whatever they would like for their work. Many times, I have discovered free downloads on their, which has lead me to purchase the whole album download. What happened in the case of Herr Danzberg is that a power pop website had led me to his Bandcamp site. About a week after getting a free download of his new album, Pop Up Radio, I got an email from his people in order to purchase a limited CD printing of this album. Well, I jumped on the offer and paid the ten bucks to get a physical copy of this album.

2.12 kai danzberg - welcome to the show
A scene from Kai Danzberg’s “Welcome to the Show” video.

Well, the official verdict is in, and Pop Up Radio is officially my favorite album of 2018! How can I possibly not love an album that begins showing its influence as ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” and name checks The Beatles, Jellyfish, Bee Gees and Queen in its second song, and first single, “Welcome to the Show.” By the end of the album’s fourth song, “Just Listen to Me, I am absolutely hooked on this pop album that sounds as if Danzberg was raised on artists like the Beach Boys, Cheap Trick and Raspberries. The whole is drenched in ELO’s post-Sgt. Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour pop sheen that you might miss the other influences. But, unlike other artists, Danzberg does not forget to forge his own identity throughout this album.

After the first listen, I was excited to bring this album to everyone’s attention. After the fourth time, I realized that Pop Up Radio may be showing off many influences, but it never ceases to be of its own time and era. Danzberg sounds as if he wanted to make the ultimate album that could almost sound as if it were a concept album, telling tales that reminds one of Queen’s A Night at the Opera/A Day at the Races at their most pop, with a a healthy dose of ELO’s Out of the Blue, of course, along with some Spilt Milk by Jellyfish, a pinch of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and a sprinkling of Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

2.12 kai danzberg playing guitar

Still, all in all, this is Kai Danzberg’s statement of his commitment to pop and power pop, and the saving grace of rock music. And, in this age of cynicism and Trump, maybe we need to hold onto our pop innocence, and follow Kai Danzberg into this beautiful pop world he is giving us on Pop Up Radio. This is the standard against which all other 2018 releases will be measured. This album deserves to be heard by the masses.

The Stones Stumbled on ‘Emotional Rescue’

2.9 Rolling Stones - Emotional Rescue

Let me preface this blog entry by saying to my long-time friend and big-time Rolling Stones fan, Troy Swafford, this is for you buddy!

Back in the Summer of 1980, I was getting ready to spend my last year in high school, living life as the “son of my father and/or mother”. You see, my father was the principal at one of the elementary schools that fed into our middle school, and my mother was the art teacher at the other elementary school. So, nearly everyone I graduated with had either one or both of my parents at one time during their school days. What made it so awesome was if one of my parents had “unfairly” disciplined a classmate, then I was the perfect target (or my brother) for retribution. It basically sucked, because no matter how hard I worked in sports, which was very hard, or in the classroom, which was very little, I succeeded because of my parents not the hard work, not the hundreds of miles I ran each week or the hundreds of shots I put up each day, nor the hours of ball-handling drills I did each day. Nope, teenagers would tell me to my face that I was lucky because I could do anything and not get in trouble. To say I was ready to get to college and become just another student was so very appealing to me. So, that summer, I had one foot in my hometown and one foot out of there.

2.9 Emotional Rescue Video

Anyway, that year was very significant, musically speaking. In the space of a month, between the end of June and the end of July 1980, three very significant albums of the moment were released. The first one released never hit number one at the time but is one of the biggest-selling albums of all-time, AC/DC’s landmark album Back in Black. Shortly there after, Queen released their most successful album of their career in the US called The Game. Then, the third album that had rock fan’s abuzz was The Rolling Stones’ follow-up to their surprise masterpiece of 1978’s big seller Some Girls. That follow-up, Emotional Rescue has been ridiculed throughout the decades as a mess of an album, exactly the kind of thing that happens when the Stones are lazy, stoned and unfocused. Oh sure, the band could still whip up a couple of great singles, like they did on this album. But, for the most part, Emotional Rescue seems like an album of two pieces of Stone’s magic and a whole bunch of half-baked crap.

2.9 Emtional Rescue Single

Just like anyone else my age, I was captivated by the album’s first single, “Emotional Rescue”. The title song was an obvious attempt at making another rock-disco crossover hit that the band did in 1978, with the now-classic “Miss You”. And, even though we all knew what the Stones were up to with “Emotional Rescue”, no one cared because it was a great song that showcased singer Mick Jagger’s falsetto, though we all know he is no Eddie Kendrick of The Temptations. Still, the song was a fun sexual come-on that could be easily parodied in the high school hallways and varsity locker rooms all across this great nation to great comedic effect, especially Jagger’s improvised sexy come-ons near the end of the song.

2.9 Shes So Cold Single

The other great song was the typical Stones-sounding “She’s So Cold”, which would be the theme song of every teenage male virgins throughout the States. The song had teenage boys laughing hysterically every time they listened to it. And, even though the song is not a Stones classic, it is worth remembering because of the fun it elicits. I really don’t remember how many times I sneaked this song into a dance mix to great effect. Nothing like a bunch of drunk college kids yelling the words of this song to each other.

Unfortunately, those were the only highlights, even though the album does end with a pretty good Keith Richards ballad that pleads for a girl not to dump him and he was sorry for the stupid shenanigans he put her through. This song is ironically called “All About You”, even though Richards never apologies nor says he won’t do something stupid again. It might represent the last time Richards sounded this good on a Stones album. But, at this point in his career, these were the type of songs at which he excelled.

2.9 Shes So Cold Video

But, honestly, outside of those three songs, the rest of the album seems like we all got shafted by the Stones. Maybe, that’s why I was moving toward punk and new wave music. At least they wouldn’t just rest on their laurels. That ended up coming when they all discovered the “joys” of drugs.

2.9 Emotional Rescue Poster

I should have realized that Emotional Rescue was going to be crappy. It had a free poster included in the album. Very few classic albums have posters, though Purple Rain did. That has always been a clue that someone was trying to make up for the crappy music on this new album your just plucked down ten bucks for.

A Power Pop Blast from the Past by The Records

2.8 The_Records_debut_album_US_version2.8 The Records - Shades in Bed [UK Edition]

During those heady days during the years 1977 through 1980, power pop music was undergoing its first renaissance since the early-Seventies when a bunch of renegades such as Todd Rundgren, Raspberries, Emmit Rhodes, Electric Light Orchestra, Big Star and some other lesser known names turned their backs on the overbloated blues-based virtuoso jams popularized by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin by taking the melodies from early Beatles and Beach Boys’ records and set them to the power chords of the Who, Kinks and Small Faces. Thus, those rock outlaws gave birth to this thing called power pop, which gives the listener the sweetness of pop melodies surrounded by those squealing and jangling electric guitars mixed together with beautiful two-, three- and even four-part harmonies.

This era of power pop is often referred to as the Golden Age of Power Pop. No matter how its labeled, all I know is that everywhere I turned, there was yet another fantastic power pop album being released as I was coming of age during high school, prior to the go-go days of MTV. During these years, fantastic records were released by Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe, Bram Tchaikovsky and, of course, The Knack. One band, The Records, released their debut album in 1979 to much fanfare. In their native England, the album was titled Shades in Bed, while in the States, it was given an eponymous title and packaged with a four-song, seven-inch EP of cover songs from the initial power pop era as well as influential songs from the Sixties. There was no difference between the songs on the two albums, except that the UK version had “Girl” as the first song on Side 1, while “All Messed Up and Ready to Go” was the first song on Side 2. On the LP version released here in the USA, those songs were the first songs on the opposite sides of the album.

2.8 the-records-abracadabra-have-you-seen-her-virgin

Now, this album is known for one bonafide, absolutely class power pop single called “Starry Eyes.” This song has everything that one wants to hear in a power pop song. There’s the jangly of a 12-string guitar, a driving rhythm section, Beatlesque vocal harmonies, a soaring chorus and lyrics describing unrequited love in a very modern manner: “Take those starry eyes and be on your way.” The song is nearly four-and-a-half minutes of pure pop heaven with a melodic guitar solo that only enhances those frustrations of teenage lust, uh, I mean love.

That is the best thing about power pop, whether it is Cheap Trick or Badfinger or The Records. When these artists are describing the frustrations of love, it really sounds like “love”. However, the lyrics, upon closer inspection, tell us a much different story. That’s when these love stories become tales of lust and sexual frustrations, all of which heightens the intensity of the songs. Maybe that’s why power pop appealed to me. I related more to those guys’ lyrics than the tall tales being sung by those glam metal cross dressers, though some of their songs are more power pop than metal (“Talk Dirty to Me” comes to my mind!).

2.8 The Records - Crashes

Anyway, The Records hit upon a brilliant power pop sound that they were not able to duplicate in subsequent albums. And, outside of Cheap Trick, few power pop artists have parlayed the genre into a lengthy career, though Trick, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is OPENING for Def Leppard (not in the HOF!) on tour the summer. There is just something wrong about. The Records sophomore album, Crashes, is a strong album, it lacks a standout track such as “Starry Eyes”. But, few albums ever have a classic like that one. But, The Records did set a high standard that they were not able to touch again. But, thank God they bottled lightning once.

And, that’s why you need to hear this debut album by The Records. And I really do NOT care whether you hear the US or UK version of the album. You will hear greatness on either version. My advice is to troll your favorite used record store to find this album. And, then wear it out on your turntable! It’s so much more than one song.

The Clash’s ‘Sandinista!’ Is a Beautiful Sprawling Mess of an Album

2.6 The Clash - Sandinista

In 1980, I became a HUGE fan of The Clash. London Calling was, and probably continues to be, my favorite album – EVER! That album spoke to me emotionally, psychologically, politically, sociologically, just to list a few of the levels on which this perfect album influenced me. Lyrically, The Clash freed my mind, while rocking me like no other album before it had. London Calling, in case you do not remember, was a double album that was sold for the price of a single album, a bargain in any way you look at it. Then, you throw in the fact that it is now considered to be a rock classic, it was, for a lack of a better word, a steal.

2.6 The Clash - The Call Up

So, being one of the first converts to The Clash in my school in Central Indiana, I was kind of look at as an odd ball. But, I was looked at that way regardless of the band I was listening to, be it Journey, Funkadelic, Chic or The Clash. In my first attempt to write album reviews in our school newspaper, I wrote a glowing review of London Calling. In the aftermath, the good news of The Clash was spread to couple more music aficionados, who bought the album. I doubt it that they told two friends, who then told two friends and so on and so on. My influence has NEVER been that viral.

So, imagine my surprise when I picked up a Rolling Stone magazine at the end of 1980 and discovered that The Clash was releasing a new album called Sandinista! After that, I was scouring the record and department stores in the area searching for the album, which was a triple album being sold for the price of one-and-a-half albums! Finally, in early 1980, I found Sandinista! And, what a glorious mess it was!

2.6 The Clash on Fridays 4.25.1980

First, what kind of balls did it take for a band from England to title their new album after the group of left-wing rebels who were trying to overthrow the corrupt US-backed right wing regime in the small Central American country of Nicaragua. I loved that this album, based upon its title alone, was flying in the face of our recently elected President and his short-term view of democracy. You see, the majority of people in Nicaragua wanted the Sandinistas to run the country. But, Reagan’s view of democracy did not really include the will of the people. It, much like today, was and is the will of the few, powerful and rich.  In this climate, The Clash was determined to make the ultimate statement of left-wing-based democracy. Nothing was off the board, except, maybe, for cohesiveness.

2.6 The Clash - The Magnificent Seven

You see, 1980, The Clash had proven they had learned how to play their instruments and wanted to go in any direction their collective muse took them. Unfortunately, that led to the beginning of the fission of the band. Mick Jones, the big Mott the Hoople fan he was, wanted to follow his pop side, as well as the new hip hop sounds he heard while on tour in New York City. Joe Strummer, on the other hand, wanted to take this punk ethos further in basic rock sounds and reggae. And, this division in vision is all over this album. You get a reggae song here, a funk workout there, a jazz tune, followed by a Motown-via-The Jam song. The album is chalk full of dub experiments, hip hop-sounding trials, a power pop track or two, and even a gospel song. It’s as though the boys were on a manic high and could not focus on the best songs, so they just released everything. Everything, that is except for their most glorious statement of the time period, the 12″ single “This Is Radio Clash”.

2.6 The Clash in NYC 1980

For a person who has been described as the poster child of ADHD, this mix is spectacular. But, after six sides of this mania, you just come away exhausted. And, therein, is the rub. Where the double-album tour-de-force of London Calling‘s eclectic nature is laser focused, Sandinista!‘s “throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks” mentality becomes overwhelming, even for the biggest of Clash apologists out there. Still, in the midst of the plethora of music on these six sides, there is one album’s worth of great music. But, you have to be patient to find it. Still, it is a fun listen if you have a couple of hours to do so.

2.6 The Clash - Hitsville UK

No, Sandinista! is NOT London Calling on steroids. Instead, it is a sprawling forerunner to U2’s “I Love America” experiment on Rattle & Hum. Those two albums are of the same kindred spirit. Both bands were coming off their career-making albums, where they displayed a mastery of their instruments. Then, both bands stayed in the States to make these albums that showed their excitement for all the different types of music this country has produced. Unfortunately, both failed because they lacked focus.

Still, I would much rather listen to a band trying to reach for something great and fail, than listening to an artist simply riding the latest musical trend. Did you hear me Mr. Timberlake?

I Should Be Ashamed That I Wrote Off Blondie’s ‘Autoamerican’ Back in the Day

2.6 Blondie - Autoamerican

I will NEVER care how much crap and teasing I have taken over the years, and will continue to take in the future, from my boys for what I am about to announce to everyone, but I am a HUGE fan of the band Blondie. There, I said it! And, it feels great! Quietly, since 1976, when I first read about them in Creem magazine, I have been intrigued by the sound and look of the band. I remember having a collage of photographs taken from magazines on the back of my bedroom door with images of rock stars, athletes, models, famous scientists, authors, artists, astronauts, etc. It was a nice piece of artwork that lasted from the Summer of 1976 until I got bored with it in 1980. Yet, it was a pop culture masterpiece of the rich and famous, with Blondie’s lead singer, Deborah Harry having the most images on the “Door of Fame.” She was my punk rock crush, someone so cool, yet so unattainable. But, man, did I dig her band’s music.

I did not get a Blondie album until my mom bought me Parallel Lines for Easter 1979. Then, I picked up Eat to the Beat and The Best of Blondie over the next couple of years. Between the releases of the two aforementioned albums, I had bought a cassette tape of Blondie’s Autoamerican album for reasons unknown to me today. That stupid tape got eaten by my mom’s car’s tape player, so I went all these years without owning a copy until right after Christmas, when I FINALLY found a copy of the album.

2.6 Blondie on American Bandstand 1979
Blondie plays on ‘American Bandstand’ in 1979.

Critically speaking, this album was not glowingly received. But, something about the songs’ diversity appealed to me. Blondie was basically a pop band, with their roots springing from the likes of Phil Spector’s girl groups, The Shangri-La’s, the bubblegum groups of the late-Sixties, Motown’s girl groups and those great garage bands immortalized on that early-Seventies Nuggets LP, all mixed together with a bit of Deborah Harry’s NYC urban cool. That is why the band was able to transcend the CBGBs punk scene of the Seventies, when great bands like Television, the Dead Boys and Richard Hell & the Voidoids could not.

2.6 Blondie on SNL 1979
Blondie on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 1979.

So, back to the Fall of 1980, and the release of Blondie’s fifth album, Autoamerican. In 1979, the band had hit number one with their disco parody song “Heart of Glass”, from what many consider to be the band’s classic album Parallel Lines. Blondie followed that song with two more songs that were more in line with their punk background, “One Way or Another” from Parallel Lines and “Dreaming” from Eat to the Beat. But, it was the fourth release from Eat to the Beat that may have changed the band forever. Instead of sticking to the punkish sound update of Sixties girl groups, Blondie again scored, albeit a minor hit, with the urban punk disco hit “Atomic”. Since that song made a dent on the Dance Chart, factions in the band formed. One side wanted to stick to their punk roots, while the other side wanted to try new sounds that they were hearing at Studio 54, New York City’s hottest disco club. Since Harry and lead songwriter Chris Stein were in the latter faction, they were going to win, especially since original powerhouse drummer Clem Burke and original keyboardist Jimmy Destri were sticking with the other two original members, they were going to win the tug-of-war.

Now, during the time between Eat to the Beat‘s Fall 1979 release and the late-1980 release of Autoamerican, Blondie released an experimental single that became the biggest hit of their career, which ended up being the number one song for the whole year of 1980. That song was “Call Me”. That single was originally done as an experimental one-off between the band and Donna Summer producer Giorgio Moroder, for a cut on the upcoming movie soundtrack for the Richard Gere film American Gigolo. Surprisingly to everyone involved, the song AND the movie took-off. Outside of “Call Me”, the soundtrack was a little thin on melodic music, but did include several electronic based sounds that would, when coupled with the work of Kraftwerk, go on to influence much of the music of the Eighties. “Call Me” solidified Blondie as the premiere rock/dance band of the era. So, the stakes were high for Autoamerican.

2.6 Blondie - The Tide Is High2.6 Blondie - Rapture

Unfortunately, at the time of its release, Autoamerican was considered a big disappointment, even though it did spawn two more number one hits, the reggae-influenced “The Tide Is High” and the first “rap” song to hit number one “Rapture.” Instead of sticking to the formula of the previous two albums, Blondie pushed their sound on Autoamerican. Their punk side, in the form of the obvious 100 miles-per-hour songs like “Hanging on the Telephone”, was downplayed. In its place were sounds that might have been found on a Talking Heads’ album, as well as other forms of music I imagine one would hear back in 1980 as he or she hopped from one night club to another. It was not appreciated at the time, but, much like their CBGB brethren Talking Heads, Blondie was going to experiment with the sounds they were hearing all over the Big Apple, most of all this relatively new sound called rap music or hip hop.

Back in the beginning of the Eighties, the rap and punk/new wave worlds would hang out together, accepting each other’s sounds, and then incorporating these “foreign” sounds into their own music. Go back and listen to The Clash’s triple-album urban masterpiece to hear another one of these famous cultural exchanges. Or listen carefully to Afrika Bambaataa’s music from this same time period to catch all the so-called “white” music he was incorporating into his hip hop sound. The cross pollination that was taking place back then was underappreciated at the time, and barely acknowledged.

2.6 Blondie on Solid Gold 1981
Blondie plays on ‘Solid Gold’ in 1981.

But, Blondie did not stop with rap and reggae. They recorded a couple of torch songs, that put Ms. Harry’s vocals on full display with pastiches. The range of music Blondie successfully recorded on Autoamerican is both impressive and innovative. It’s no wonder the album was “pooh-poohed” at the time. No one wanted Blondie to change and develop. Blondie’s original sound had eventually won us all over, so we wanted them to stick with that route. Instead, Blondie may have actually made an album that would actually take decades to fully appreciate it.

2.6 Blondie Group Pic 1977
Blondie, the original band, back in 1977.

Listening to Autoamerican today, leaves me in a state of wonderment, as if I had honestly missed the whole point of this album back in 1980. The songs on the album were too mature for my 17 to 18-year-old ears to fully appreciate. But, now, in 2018, the album sounds much more enjoyable. And, the album sound like a band that was hitting its stride as a creative force for the ages, not just a great rock band.

And isn’t that what all great art aspires to be?

My Humble Super Bowl Halftime Show Rankings, 1993 to Last Night

2.5 Super Bowl I Halftime Show
The first Super Bowl Halftime Show was a marching band, some pigeons released and two guys hovering over the field for 20 seconds with jet packs. It’s so different now.

Last night’s Super Bowl was outstanding! The game was one for the ages, matching the Giants’ big upset victory over a then-undefeated Patriots. Or the Super Bowl that ended with the Patriots intercepting a near touchdown pass that would have given the Seahawks their second consecutive Super Bowl victory.

And the Halftime show, performed by Justin Timberlake was fun to watch, but after 52 Super Bowls, where did Timberlake’s halftime show rank within historical context? Well, we will attempt to figure this out. But, first, let’s remember that from the very first Super Bowl through 1992, the Super Bowl halftime shows were very lame. Either a local university band who perform, some old Broadway performer would sing (anyone remember Carol Channing) or several performance by that lame group of fake-positive attitude youths called Up with People.

But, in 1993, everything changed when the Super Bowl got the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, was tapped to perform. Unfortunately, the producers of the Super Bowl did not know what they were doing at the time, and actually had a commercial break in the middle of performance. Additionally, Michael decided to make a new song of his the centerpiece of his set that he left all of us wanting some of the hits. Eventually, he did end his set by playing one song from his legendary past, “Billie Jean.” Unfortunately, Michael could have furthered his grip on the world. Instead, the weirdo allegations and claims of sexual abuse with little boys came out in the aftermath. But, the Super Bowl halftime was changed forever.

So, what follows, is my rankings of all the Super Bowl halftime shows since 1993, when Michael Jackson unwittingly changed everything forever. The halftime show has become a spectacle unto itself, going through its own evolution from a oldies variety show to a MTV-driven youth movement to a classic rock revival to its current pop-driven show with the hopes of boosting the ratings by appealing to the emerging youth demographics.

So, let’s start the countdown of 26 halftime shows.

Phil Collins

26. Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton (2000). Sure, the line up seems great, but Disney was in charged so it forced these artists to see Disney music. It was lame and left the world clamoring for anything by Collins, even “Sussidio,” instead of this crap.

2.5 travis tritt clint black

25. Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt & the Judds (1994). So, how did the Super Bowl follow-up their successful Michael Jackson halftime extravaganza? They staged a country music hoedown that appealed to such a small section of the viewing audience that there was a huge clicking off of the Super Bowl at the time that the numbers Nielsen ratings reflected this in a measurable way. Have you noticed any country artists ever being invited back? Nope.

2.5 blues brothers james brown zz top

24. Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, James Belushi, ZZ Top and James Brown (1997). Was anyone really clamoring for a Blues Brothers revival, especially since the death of John Belushi. Uh, no! Things were so bad that neither ZZ Top nor James Brown could save the night with their single songs each.

2.5 shania twain

23. Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting (2003). What?!?!? This was quite a random line-up. It seems like the producers just grabbed names out of a hat in an attempt to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The outcome? Confusion. And, left wanting more of No Doubt or Sting, and less Shania.

Miami Super Bowl XxxIII In Miami Gloria Estefan And Stevie Wonder Perform At

22. Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (1999). Yes, you read that correctly! Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, that middling swing revival band played a Super Bowl halftime show. The bad part was that we were not given enough of Stevie Wonder, let alone Gloria Estefan.

US Singers Tony Bennett (L) and Patti LaBelle perf

21. Patti LaBelle, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval, Teddy Pendergrass and Miami Sound Machine (1995). Once again, the people at the Super Bowl tried a hodge-podge of artists in an attempt to appeal the widest audience as possible. Except, few were left impressed with too many cooks in the kitchen.

2.5 paul mccartney

20. Paul McCartney (2005). In the aftermath of Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate from the year before, the halftime show became a classic rock show for a brief period. No one questioned the selection of one of history’s greatest singer/songwriters and former Beatle. We just questioned why he did an acoustic set during a Super Bowl halftime show, except the television channel did NOT want another nipple being shown on TV for fear of the corruption of our precious youth. Lame.

2.5 bruno mars

19. Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014). If only the roles had be changed. Instead, we got hits from Mars’ TWO albums at the time. It’s not Mars’ fault. He was not ready to be the Super Bowl Halftime Show headliner. But, the Chili Peppers were…

2.5 Katy Perry

18. Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott (2015). I’m sorry Katy Perry fans, but I’m not. And even Kravitz and Elliott’s fantastic appearances could not make me forget those stupid dancing sharks and Perry’s lame songs from her terrible third album.

2.5 black eyed peas

17. Black Eyed Peas, Usher and Slash (2011). I don’t get it. Are the Black Eyed Peas really that important to the millennials? I think they are weak in their studio releases, but absolutely horrible during their live performances, whether on the Grammys, Saturday Night Live or this night during the Halftime Show. And, Usher and Slash could not save it, though I still haven’t figured out why Slash did the show.

2.5 the who

16. The Who (2010). Let’s face it. Now that The Who’s rhythm section is dead, the band is truly a shell of what it once was, even though the musicians replacing the originals are nearly as talented as the men they replaced. But, this performance was flat and seemed like a CSI TV show theme song medley performed to lasers.

2.5 coldplay

15. Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars (2016). Coldplay is boring, but they were smart when they turned things over to Queen Bey and Mars, who saved the day.

2.5 boyz ii men

14. Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations and Queen Latifah (1998). I LOVE Motown! Even Boyz II Men’s update version of that sound. This was a great way to show how the past and the present fit together. Even Queen Latifah was terrific that night.

Diana Ross

13. Diana Ross (1996). The original diva was still up to setting the standard in the mid-Nineties, and she nailed it. This was the first transcendent halftime show. The thing I remember the most is that Miss Ross walked out onto the football field, got into a helicopter and continued to finish her song as the helicopter took off. Now, that’s a Super Bowl Halftime Show Spectacle worthy of the name.

Sprint Super Bowl XL Halftime Show

12. The Rolling Stones (2006). The Stones had released an album around the time of this performance that had the critics giddy with excitement. I found that giddiness a little premature, but at least the hype got the Stones the Halftime Show. Unfortunately, it just proved the band was a bunch of old guys.

2.5 justin timberlake

11. Justin Timberlake (2018). JT was good last night, but I was a little bored until he did the little pandering bit to pay homage to the hometown’s (Minneapolis) musical hero Prince. Then, the spectacle happened outside, when Minneapolis was lit up with the Prince “Love Symbol”. That was cool, as was Timberlake going into the crowd to do selfies with that kid. Was that a Make-A-Wish Foundation-thing?

2.5 janet jackson

10. Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock, Nelly and P. Diddy (2004). If we all could forget the whole Nipplegate-thing, this was a crazy collection of characters who absolutely killed it. That is, until Timberlake exposed Janet’s nipple. What if it had been Jessica Simpson’s? Would the outcry been as great? Who knows? Who cares?

2.5 aerosmith

9. Aerosmith, NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly (2001). Another strange collection of artists that put on a great performance, as they all worked together to pull off “Walk This Way” without Run-DMC there.

2.5 michael jackson

8. Michael Jackson (1993). Yes, this did NOT have the same impact as his moonwalking performance did on the Motown 25 TV Special a decade earlier. But, it was still the King of Pop doing what he does best: performing. I just wish he had played his hits.

2.5 madonna

7. Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, Cee Lo Green and M.I.A. (2012). Okay, who’s idea was it to have LMFAO perform? That would have been like inviting Rockwell to perform back in 1984. Anyway, Madonna put on a spectacle worthy of a Super Bowl Halftime Show, that was only tainted a bit by M.I.A.’s decision to flip the bird at the Indianapolis crowd. And, Madonna came away from the performance on the Injury List as she pulled a “hammy” during the show.

Super Bowl XXXVI - Halftime Show

6. U2 (2002). For the first Super Bowl since the 9/11 tragedy, the producers turned to the biggest rock band in the world at the time, U2. And, they came in and set the right mood with “The Streets Have No Name.” Sure, Springsteen might have been a better fit, but these Irishmen love the IDEA of America so much that they were perfect for that night.

2.5 Bruce Springsteen

5. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (2009). Few artists are made for the moment like The Boss and his band of East Coast cosmic visionaries. And, even though they are made for those two-and-a-half to four hour marathon concerts, they sure know how to knock these things out of the park. And, this just adds to his legend.

Bridgestone Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show

4. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2008). Heartbreaker lead guitarist Mike Campbell has described the Heartbreaker sound as “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”. And, that’s exactly what the band did that night. And, of course, they stuck to what they did best and that was play the hell out of the great timeless songs Petty had written for them. If you were looking for a show of guests, that’s night Petty’s thing. But, if you were looking for a transcendent Heartbreaker performance, you were not disappointed.

Lady Gaga

3. Lady Gaga (2017). This little stick of dynamite is one of my favorite performers to have come out of the new millennium. I love how she innately understands what it takes to write great music AND how to be a visual performer, a la David Bowie or Freddie Mercury or Elton John. Wait a second, did those guys somehow give birth to her? Regardless, Miss Gaga gave the audience a spectacular worthy of a Super Bowl Halftime Show. I cannot how many risks she is willing to take. Thank you Lady Gaga, for making me believe in music again!

Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show

2. Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child (2013). I am not really a fan of Beyoncé, but I give credit when credit is due. And, Queen Bey is a great performer. She nailed everything that night, including the brief Destiny’s Child reunion. As far as that stupid Illuminati controversy crap, I say that Jay-Z, her husband, co-opted that hand symbol for his and her empire, not some stupid make believe group of rich people running the world. That’s known as the Koch Brothers and FOX News and the Russians. How else do you explain Trump?

2.5 Prince

1. Prince (2007). This is NOT because my beloved Colts won the championship that night or that Prince performed in the rain. No! It was because Prince proved he was the Greatest Artist of All-Time that night. He was funky, inventive, innovative, rocking and transcendent. In other words, he summed up his career in one moving performance back in 2007. This is the standard against all other Super Bowl Halftime Shows are measured.

The Super Bowl Halftime Show has come a long way since the days of a university marching band performing. Now, we all look for those special performances given to us by the biggest artists of that era. I cannot wait to see how future artists respond, and when will we finally give a rap artist the headlining position. I am waiting for that to happen. It’s a shame Freddie Mercury died before this era, because Queen was made to headline the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Am I not right?

Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ Is Magical After All These Years

2.2 prince - purple rain deluxe expanded edition
The expanded deluxe edition of ‘Purple Rain’

If you only know me from this blog, then you might not realize that one of My Top 10 Favorite Albums of All-Time was a “little” album that arrived in stores across the country during the Summer of 1984. That summer, the world became a deeper shade of purple as Prince crawled out the underground and walked proudly right down the middle of Main Street all through the Midwest AND the rest of the world. The album, Purple Rain, was Prince & the Revolution’s third masterpiece in their brief career, following 1980’s Dirty Mind and 1999 from 1982.

Purple Rain hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was finally hearing the fruition of Prince’s massive talents. And as I played the album for the first time, I immediately realized I was listening to something special, something that I really had not felt since the first time I listened to The Clash’s timeless double album from 1980 called London Calling. And where London Calling was The Clash’s celebration of American music filtered through four English punks, Purple Rain was the sound of an amalgamation of rock, soul, funk, rock and new wave into a brand new sound labeled by critics at the time as the Minneapolis Sound, since that was where Prince had been raised. But, when you hear other artists either from Minneapolis or produced by someone from the Twin Cities, then you know what I’m talking about. The sound entered the American Psyche when Prince hit #11 in January of 1980 with “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, only to be followed by the big #1 of that very summer “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. In the aftermath, the floodgates opened, an, d we were buried by the Sound as hits by Apollonia 6, The Time, SOS Band, Ta Mara & the Seen, The Family, Sheena Easton, Chaka Khan, the Jesse Johnson Review, Martika, Morris Day, Mazarati, the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Janet Jackson, as well as smaller artists whose rode the coattails of Prince.

2.2 prince - when doves cry2.2 prince - let's go crazy

Let’s face it. Purple Rain is a landmark album, much like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experience?, Nevermind by Nirvana or The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem for other generations of music fans. All of us in the early portion of Generation X hold Purple Rain in such esteem. And, I’m certain that everyone reading this blog is familiar with this album. Purple Rain spawned two number one US hits with the first two singles, “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” which might be the greatest album opener since Bob Dylan opened his classic album Highway 61 Revisited with his trademark anthem of the Baby Boom Generation “Like a Rolling Stone”. Then, Prince followed those two chart toppers with his own trademark song “Purple Rain,” his attempt at writing a Bob Seger-like ballad. All three of these hits show off Prince’s masterful guitar work, all showing off different aspects of his six-string talent.

2.2 prince - purple rain single2.2 prince - take me with u

Yet, the full vision that Prince wanted to hit us with remained commercially unavailable until June 2017, when after years of rumors, the keepers of Prince’s estate allowed a remastered and expanded deluxe version of Purple Rain to be released. Now, thanks to the remastering job, the original album jumps from my speakers, nearly giving me the experience of sitting in the studio as Prince and the Revolution recorded the album. But, the real treasure trove is the second disc that is included as the finished songs that Prince had to cut from the album’s original configuration, as well as a third disc that includes all single edits AND B-Sides from the era. That’s right! THREE CDs worth of Prince music, AND a DVD entitled Live at the Carrier Dome, which was recorded during the ‘Purple Rain Tour’ in Syracuse, New York on March 30, 1985.

2.2 prince - purple rain tour

On Disc Two, we get to hear the long-rumored and oft-bootlegged extended funk work-out “The Dance Electric”. Other previously unreleased gems from the vault, including the absolutely brilliant “Electric Intercourse,” the sound of future Prince on “Possessed”, the absolutely dirty funk workout on “Wonderful Ass” and the fun Gary Numan-sounding synthpop workout “Velvet Kitty Cat”. I absolutely love to hear Prince’s unreleased songs because those songs often showcased hidden parts of his enormous talent.

Everything on Disc Three is old to me, as I have collected most of those songs on vinyl. But, Disc Two is worth the price of admission. If you are to purchase this remastered album on vinyl, I have read that the vinyl is an opaque vinyl, which is awesome to see. I have not read about it, but it this new album has Disc Two on vinyl, then I will HAVE to purchase it.

2.2 prince - purple rain movie

You know, every time I re-listen to this album, I fall in love with Purple Rain all over again. And, I feel the same way about the movie too. Purple Rain represents Prince discovering his commercial appeal and power, just before he is ready to thumb his nose at the success in order to more closely follow his muse and take the portion of his audience to special places of his artistry. In retrospect, it is so very admirable and inspiring that Prince was able to turn his back the massive success of Purple Rain in order to more fully develop his artistry that will peak in 1987 with Sign ‘o’ the Times, and again in 1996 with the unreleased sprawling triple-CD set known as The Dawn in bootleg form.

Once again, Prince is another artist who died way too young and far too soon.

During the Summer of 1983, The Kinks Made a Brief Comeback with a MTV Hit

2.1 kinks - state of confusion

When punk rock steamrolled through rock music in the late-Seventies and early-Eighties, many of the bands that inspired punk to react against were imploding. Led Zeppelin, Eagles and Jethro Tull were either breaking up or were about to break up do to the release of crappy albums that may or may not have been influence by an overindulgence of cocaine. And, while that was happening, three artists who were being touted as influences on the punk/new wave movements were flourishing. David Bowie had finished recording four of his most influential albums: “Heroes”, Low, Lodger and Scary Monsters. Simultaneously, former fellow glam and art rockers Roxy Music were flexing their New Romantics muscles by releasing Avalon in 1982. And, believe it or not, former first British Invasion rockers turned late-Sixties British society commentators turned late-Seventies, early-Eighties punk rock godfathers, were releasing some of their most vital music in a decade was The Kinks. From 1977 through 1984, The Kinks were on a new lease in rock life as they released seven consecutive albums that straddled AOR, hard rock, new wave, punk rock and timeless pop/rock that allowed a second generation of rock fans discover the band.

The Kinks, who had for practical purposes been whittled down to brothers Ray Davies and Dave Davies, had finally remembered how to rock out during this period. Additionally, the Davies brothers, who invented the whole brotherly rivalry schtick that the Gallagher brothers of Oasis would popularize in the Nineties, were communicating both personally and musically. Ray, the main songwriter, was the man whose lyrics allow the band’s music transcend time with his wry observations of post-World War II British society, and Dave was the hard-rocking guitarist who ultimately popularized the feedback sound of his guitar by cutting the cones in his guitar’s speaker in order to “improve” that static feedback sound he popularized on The Kinks’ initial hits of the Sixties. It was all of that work that got the original line-up of the band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, the fifth class inducted.

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On Saturday Night Live, 1978

By 1983, The Kinks were hitting their AOR stride that made they seem poised for a break-out hit song. Sure, during the time prior, The Kinks appeared ready, but for some reason nothing really caught on. Between 1977 and 1983, The Kinks released four studio albums and one live album. And, what they got from their singles were several radio hits, like “A Gallon of Gas”, “I Wish I Could Fly like Superman”, “Destroyer” and, arguably their most enduring hit ever, “Father Christmas”.

2.1 kinks - come dancing

In 1983, The Kinks released arguable their best album of the Eighties when they dropped State of Confusion. The first single released from the album was a song that hearkened back to their late-Sixties sound, “Come Dancing”. That single sounded like a perfect fit between much of the new wave or new wave-influenced singles of the year. Plus, The Kinks made an endearing video that probably spoke more to their English audience than us in the USA. Yet, the Americans embraced the pop brilliance of Ray Davies, while the critics were acknowledging the band’s, and particularly Ray Davies’, influence on new wave music that was popular at the time. Unfortunately, the other terrific singles that were released from State of Confusion never struck the nerve like “Come Dancing”, which ultimately became the band’s last US Top 10 hit.

In the wake of the failure of other songs released from State of Confusion only allowed a wedge to grow in size between the Davies brothers. A slow song by Ray, “Don’t Forget to Dance”, which mined a similar strip of nostalgia as “Come Dancing” did not catch on, as did the next song, the album’s title track which showcased Dave’s hot guitar work. In the aftermath, the Davies brothers continued to argue, literally have physical fights, and, ultimately, drifted apart, even though The Kinks continued to release albums into the Nineties, when the band finally imploded. After the band’s break up, the brothers released their own solo albums, though never at the rate at which they were creating Kinks albums.

2.1 kinks - snl 1981
On Saturday Night Live, 1981

Sadly, a few years ago, Dave suffered a stroke. Ray had not spoken to Dave for several years prior to the stroke and , unfortunately, has continued not to speak to his brother. You would think that grown men who were nearing the ends of the lives would let bygones be bygones and get on with the few years they have left.

Last year, Ray Davies released a fine album called Americana, which, like Robert Plant’s recent work, is totally in the sound of Americana music. Americana is the type of music at which musicians can grow old playing. But, The Kinks were an early force of nature that influenced three generations of musicians that delighted music lovers of any age. But, who wouldn’t enjoy one more album by The Kinks. I would love to hear an album by the band who gave us “David Watts”, “Lola”, “You Really Got Me”, “All Day and All of the Night” and “Waterloo Sunset”, to name a few.

C’mon guys! Cut the crap and make up! You’re brothers, for crissakes!