10 Overlooked Songs by Daryl Hall & John Oates

7.31 Daryl Hall John Oates 2018

Over the years, I have been perplexed by the fact that certain songs have become hits, such as Jim Stafford’s early-Seventies hit song “Spiders and Snakes,” while others have peaked in the nether regions of the Hot 100 Chart, like Modern English’s immortal “I Melt with You.” Seriously, when was the last time you heard the former yet NOT hear the latter on the radio? And, who does one go about explaining that to future generations, except by rewriting history bit by bit. And, with music, radio airplay and streaming have played a role with that. Shoot! If you came of age in the Sixties, Paul Revere & the Raiders played an important role on the radio. But, how many oldies stations have played one of their songs besides “Kicks.” On the other hand, Bow Wow Wow’s cover of “I Want Candy” is everywhere today, on the radio, streaming through all formats of Eighties music and in commercials, even though it peaked at number 62 in the Billboard Singles Chart.

So, today, I would like to present a list of ten songs by the most successful duo in rock history, Daryl Hall and John Oates that should have been HUGE hits. Some of these were released to a tepid response from the record-buying public or were never released for reasons that are beyond me. Either way, these ten songs have been criminally overlooked, and I want to present them so you might add them to your playlists. One or two of them may have hit the lower reaches of the Top 40, while most peaked somewhere in the lower half of the Hot 100, if they were released at all. One thing is for sure: none of these ten songs hit the Top 20. That’s why “It’s a Laugh” is not on the list, as it peaked at number 20, while another Hall & Oates favorite, “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” is left off my list, since it was a Top 30 song. One thing all of these songs share, besides not being hits, is they were all released during the duo’s salad days from 1973 through 1985.

7.31 Hall and Oates 70s

So, kick back and enjoy this list. I really hope this piques your interest to delve a little deeper into Daryl Hall and John Oates’ catalog for some great music. Now, let’s get this party started!

7.31 ELO with Hall & Oates concert poster for IU
I was at this concert way back in 1981. To my brother, Hall & Oates blew ELO off the stage!

10. “The Woman Comes and Goes” (X-Static, 1979). If this song had been saved for the duo’s NEXT album, Voices, the song would have blended in with the others and strengthened the album. Otherwise, it stuck out like a New Wave-influence ditty that it was on a transitional album that happened to be produced by a future schlock-meister before that man, David Foster, climbed upon said mantle.

9. “Go Solo” (H2O, 1982). After Daryl made his first solo album with futuristic guitarist Robert Fripp, Hall often wrote the occasional experimental pop song. “Go Solo” foots the bill as a weirdo-pop song that would sound natural on a CBGB punk band’s album.

8. “Possession Obsession” (Big Bam Boom, 1984). Yes, this song rose to number 30, but why did it stop there? This song should have been the second number one hit from their Big Bam Boom album.

7. “I’m Sorry” (Whole Oats, 1972). This was the first song where we got a glimpse of the now-familiar Hall & Oates’ rock ‘n’ soul sound.

6. “Camelia” (Daryl Hall & John Oates, 1975). Back in the mid-Seventies, it was rare to have more than a hit from one album. While “Sara Smile” broke this Dynamic Duo, this song should have been their Top 10 follow-up song, and not the re-released “She’s Gone.”

5. “Las Vegas Turnaround” (Abandoned Luncheonette, 1973). Why did it take THREE years for the centerpiece song of this album, “She’s Gone,” to become a major hit? And, if it took three years for THAT song to catch, then it’s no wonder why this one was not a hit.

7.31 It's Uncanny

4. “It’s Uncanny” (No Goodbyes, 1977). After Daryl and John released their first experimental album, War Babies, which was produced by Todd Rundgren, the boys decided to consciously make another blue-eyed soul song. But, they never put this song on an album until after they had left Atlantic for RCA. Then, this classic was placed on an Atlantic compilation LP, but the song stiffed. Why?!?!a

3. “Have I Been Away Too Long” (Along the Red Ledge, 1978). Not quite the eclectic pop experience of War Babies, but Along the Red Ledge does check many off-beat boxes on the quirky list. When the first two singles, “It’s a Laugh” and “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” both underperformed to the fantastic quality each one is, then we shouldn’t be surprised that this something of a Peter Gabriel-prototype ballad never was released. This song would have been a natural on college rock radio in the mid-Eighties, between the Cocteau Twins and Love & Rockets.

7.31 Head Above Water

2. “Head Above Water” (Private Eyes, 1981). What has always made me admired Daryl and John’s music together is that they never stuck solely with the pop/blue-eyed soul sound with which they are associated. Here, they show that they have do a Billy Squier/Cheap Trick-type of pop/rock song that flexes some musical muscles. Why a rockin’ new wave band never covered this song is beyond me. Hell, how about the Fall Out Boys, Panic! At the Disco or The Killers? This is a hit waiting to happen. Wake up people!

7.31 Every Time You Go Away

1. “Everytime I Go Away” (Voices, 1980). See? Paul Young removed the gospel-tinges and made it a mid-Eighties blue-eyed soul monster hit. But, I still prefer the gospel feel, the bluesy guitars and the dark foreboding feeling of isolation of this original. Maybe it was one of those songs that was TOO good and TOO personal to release, much like Springsteen’s ode to Little Steven “Billie Jean” from Born in the U.S.A. Regardless, this may well be Daryl Hall and John Oates’ masterpiece song. It really does transcend the band.

29th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony - Press Room

Well, folks, those are my ten Daryl Hall and John Oates songs that should have been hits. Some were never released. Some were released and stiffed. Some were released and underperformed. Yet, all can stand firmly next to any of their hit songs and only embellish a Hall & Oates compilation album. These are the songs that make Daryl Hall and John Oates not only stand out a pop stars, but as songwriters.

So, the next time you find yourself “jonsesing” for some Hall & Oates music, add these ten songs to your streaming service’s playlist. They will only enhance your listening experience.

Ranking John Mayer’s Albums

7.30 John Mayer in concert

Today is Mellow Monday here at the Keller Homestead. After researching various artists and genres over the past weekend, I decide to dig back in my notes a bit and just plain mellow out. Finally, the vacation has caught up with me. I literally will have days during which I do nothing but sleep. Hopefully, I will be able to dig deep to stay awake long enough to bring you a decent post today. But, as you all know, nothing groundbreaking ever comes from my writing. However, it seems that my readership has been picking up in the past month. Hopefully, I am appealing to new readers and not just the last of my former high school students on break from their post-graduate schooling and simply checking in on the life of their old mentor. By the way, I had very little to do with my students’ successful lives. These kids I was blessed to teach were all pre-programmed to succeed. I have lost count of the total number of doctors, dentists, engineers, PhDs, pharmacists, and other scientific personnel walked through my classrooms, but that number is fairly significant. I think I have somewhere around ten former students currently in medical schools throughout the country. Not yet for a hick from Central Indiana?

While on vacation, we used Uber for all of our transports. I bring this up not as an endorsement, though we had an awesome array of drivers, but one of the last drivers we had had only been in the US for six months, after leaving Cuba. And, although he could barely converse much in English, he got through to me that he loved “American Music,” and that most of the people in Cuba did as well. This man was learning English through Phil Collins and Chicago. He would throw out the names of artists, and I would say that I knew them. And, he would be so excited that I could figure out the artist he was describing. We were bonding over that universal language of rock music. It was a great little anecdote.

7.30 John Mayer 2000

Anyway, getting back on track, I bring up my former students because way back in 2001, my students turned me onto a new singer/songwriter named John Mayer. At the time, I just labeled him as a newer James Taylor, enjoyed his hits and forgot about him. To me, he was appealing to all those Dave Matthews Band fans I was teaching at the time. Now, I am NOT a fan of Dave. I find him much like Nickelback. You can sing all of their lyrics with any of their songs as those lyrics will fit in any of their songs. So, in a word, those two are boring. And, I swore that John Mayer was following in those foot steps. And, no matter how many times one of my track athletes or students would give me Any Given Thursday, I still thought the same thing: nice guitar work, whiny (or is it sensitive?) lyrics of unrequited love to women, and nonthreatening vocals, but not really rough enough to rock me. In a single phrase, I labeled John Mayer’s music as Chick Rock.

Of course, I usually live long enough to have to eat crow, but why did it have to be about John Mayer? First, he released that blistering blues-rock album, Try!, with his power trio in the the vein of Cream. Then, he turned around and released the millennials’ version of What’s Going On when he dropped Continuum on us at the height of Katrina and the Iraqi/Afghanistan Wars. All of a sudden, I became an admirer of John Mayer’s artistic vision.

7.30 Alessia Cara and John Mayer
Alessia Carra joined Mayer onstage last year.

No, he has not stayed and explored more deeply, the soul/blues veins that caught my attention, which is unfortunate. Yet, he has shown the fortitude to examine his own weaknesses in Battle Studies and lately embraced something of an Eagles-like country rock twinge in his music on his last three albums. The man continues to evolve, as a person and a musician. And, yes, I probably would have changed from a nerd to a womanizing party boy if women were throwing themselves at me as they were at John Mayer back in the Aughts. At least, he seems to be coming out of it with his musical integrity intact. And, no, I no longer lump him with Dave Matthews Band. Unlike Matthews, Mayer is the real deal.

7.30 John Mayer 2017

So, today, I thought I would rank Mr. Mayer’s albums, including his three live albums. Let the countdown begin!

10. Any Given Thursday (2003). I know the young’uns thought it was incendiary, but I found it boring. Please, Friday! Will you just get here already!

9. Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles (2008). Upon the artistic and commercial success of Continuum, Mayer releases his third live album. And, it is so boring! He even sucks the life out of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” I was expecting so much more.

8. Battle Studies (2009). Yes, we all know that John Mayer, the celebrity, indulged in women and the rock lifestyle during his initial burst of fame. And with the litany of women who were throwing themselves at him, what red-blooded male wouldn’t have partaken AND acted as he did. Sorry ladies! John was just being a male. Oh! And, this album is his apology for being one.

7. Heavier Things (2003). This album will always remind me of Son #1 going to college for the first time. That’s not because we were listening to it. No, some girl was. ‘Nuff said!

6. Born and Raised (2012). This is the sound of John Mayer embracing his inner Eagle, after gigging with the remaining members of the Dead. Who knew the Grateful Dead could be a positive influence?

5. Paradise Valley (2013). I just thought of this: Was John Mayer auditioning for a spot in the Eagles with this album? Hmmm…

4. Room for Squares (2001). “Your Body Is Wonderland” is the ultimate white boy-pantry dropper of the 21st century. And, the rest will one day be found on some college kid’s make out music playlist.

3. Try! The John Mayer Trio Live in Concert (2005). This album proved to me that Mayer was a guitar hero. Please go back to mine this rich vein of rock and blues!

7.30 The Search for Everything

2. The Search for Everything (2017). John finally puts his whole vision together. This album represents the maturing of an artist.

7.30 Continuum

1. Continuum (2006). When I said this was Mayer’s What’s Going On, I was being serious. This album was the sound of an artist finally opening his eyes to see what was going on around him was more than a beautiful female body. And, Mayer was not happy about what he saw. Unfortunately, he has back away from this statement. But, when he is ready, I am anxiously awaiting his music to fully embrace this album’s observations and disgust.

From the James Taylor sensitive-singer/songwriter mold of his first album, through the R&B-influenced soul singer of Continuum who was disgusted with society to the current musician staking out a section of rock that is somewhere in the middle of all his interests as on his latest album, The Search for Everything, John Mayer has continued to show artistic growth through the years. Sure, he may be the musician of the millennials, but at least they did not choose Nickelback for that role.

Four Nights in Vegas…

7.27 welcome-to-las-vegas-sign-at-dawn-wide-eric-evans

What a week I’m having! Wow! Just got back last night after a few days in Vegas, Baby! Yes, I am 55, and it was the first time my wife and I had gone. Really, our lives were set up for a backloaded couple’s life. You see, when we were in our early twenties and had only known each other for the past eight months, we were married with a child on the way. And, only a short month after we had just celebrated knowing each other for ONE year, we were parents. That first year, I completed my internship at a local hospital in what would be that hospital’s last class in their School of Medical Technology. Once that year was complete, I got my first job at a tiny hospital in the college town of Oxford, Ohio, where we resided for four years as I worked in two different hospitals during all three shifts at one time or another. Toward the end of that time, I decided to take education courses in order to take a fifty percent salary cut to become a teacher and coach.

After a couple lean years, we began to take small, family-oriented vacations with our growing boys. Our plan, as we stubbornly stuck together through thick and thin, was to enjoy life after the boys got out of the house, which, of took a bit longer than expected. Still, it has happened, but then there was my whole chronic pain which totally knocked our family on it collective ass. I really had been an active person before all of this. I ran often, lifted weights and played basketball a couple of times a week. But all of that came to a crashing halt on November 11, 2004, when, after church, I bent down to pick up a t-shirt off the floor and could not straighten my back. Now, I had had problems prior to this, including a discectomy/laminectomy at the L4/L5 level two years prior and was feeling pretty good. But, after that day, my life was permanently changed forever. The next surgery did not fuse the vertebrae, and for the next FOUR years, I argued with doctors that I had a structural problem going on to no avail. That is, until I found a doctor who would order a CT-Scan. That’s when it was discovered that I had Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, an unrecognized group of symptoms caused by a botched fusion surgery. Since I dealt with this instability for FOUR years, I was screwed even if the surgery was successful, and it was. And, I was still screwed. For the next three long years, I battled to remain a teacher, though I had tearfully resigned as a coach two years prior the anterior fusion surgery.

But, now, through an implanted Spinal Cord Stimulator, which blocks the damage nerve pain down both of my legs through bursts of electrical stimulation (but, for some reason, will not allow me to lie flat in a bed anymore), and a Pain Pump, which delivers small amounts of morphine solution directly to my back in the L4/L5 region, and the use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (and a nightly muscle relaxer), I am able to survive better than ever before. So, life is slowly beginning to take off as we finally did Vegas, WITHOUT ever gambling.

7.27 Brad Garrett

Although the first night was a wash, Day Two was better. Since I had trouble walking major distances, my brilliant wife rented a scooter for me. Let me just say that I have always tried to be conscious to those in wheelchairs and scooters, but I was amazed at how many looks of derision I received for being I assume a relatively young older man who looks somewhat able-bodied using a scooter. You know, if I had a choice, I would never use a scooter or chair, but I do have physical limitations now. But, people’s lack of a concern for others is society’s biggest issue. At least, that’s the way I see it. Anyway, we went to Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in the basement of the MGM Grand. The best part was that Brad Garrett himself was there as the MC. And, man, he was outstanding. My wife and I were in tears during his times on stage. His first comedian was LA DJ Frazer Smith, who really was not too funny. But, the headliner, Kathleen Dunbar, was outstanding. Her set consisted of great stories about the onset of menopause, that any couple can relate to.

7.27 Prince.The Time.Vanity 6 Tribute Show

Unfortunately, Day Three could be summed up with one word: PAIN. Unfortunately, all I could do was sleep and lay around the room, uncomfortable in any position I tried. But, by night, I rallied so we could go to the Tropicana to see a Prince tribute called Purple Reign. Since I am a HUGE Prince fan, imagine my disappointment when, after a long delay, the band came out to the Purple Rain-era anthem “Let’s Go Crazy,” but the band was only racially integrated but lacked any female musicians. Sure, some Prince songs may seem misogynist on a basic level, but after much listening, the feminine side of this man’s music is where his strength lay. And, having great female musicians in his band, whether Wendy, Lisa, Sheila E., Rosie Gaines, 3rdEyeGirl, etc., was an important statement that Prince had to make and was totally neglected by this band’s line-up. Now, I am in no way knocking these men’s talents. But, it was a necessary visual needed to stay true to Prince’s vision. There were also tributes to The Time and Vanity 6/Apollonia 6 during the show that were excellent. The men who portrayed Time singer Morris Day and valet Jerome Benton were spot on, as was the voluptuous young lady who portrayed Vanity/Apollonia. Besides her looks, she had a much better voice than either of the original singers in Prince’s all-female trio. But, the guy were was Prince really needs to check out more than the movie Purple Rain and his music videos, because Prince the man was much less aloof than The Kid character that Prince portrayed in Purple Rain. And, yes, the crowd was dead, yet, the singer did nothing to move the crowd that Prince the entertain would have. Sure, imitating a pop icon such as Prince is a daunting task, but it takes more work that memorizing a few moves and attempting to talk as Prince did in a movie. Watch some concert footage. Don’t worry about recreating the exact look of a video and just become the performer. There is so much potential in this show that is being unrealized. On the positive side, we thought the dancers were outstanding. Plus, my wife was impressed with one of the young lady’s butts enough to admiringly say that she had a perfect butt and should be showing it off now because one day it would be gone. See? It’s those insights that make me admire that woman after all these years!

7.27 The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil

Finally, we saw The Beatles’ LOVE, that famous Cirque du Soleil show set to a specially prepared mix of Beatles music by the Martin family. All I can say is that I am amazed by the choreography of what seems like controlled chaos. It was a multimedia orgasm of lights, projected images, high-flying acrobats and aerial dancers, dancers on the ground, gymnasts, clownish characters, bubbles, fog, and God knows what else. Oh, and robotic tricycles. It was a very whimsical take on the whimsical side of the Fab Four, that seemed to stay focused on the psychedelic era of the Liverpool boys’ career. By far, this was our favorite show. And, we were so glad that we ended our time in Vegas with this performance rather than that Prince Tribute Show.

7.27 Love Octapus Garden

7.27 The Beatles Love finale

Now, of course, we did get out to a record shop that was well off the Strip. I would like to give a shout out to my new friends at The Record Store on Sahara in downtown Vegas. I did find a couple albums there, including an unopened Utopia Anthology (1974-1989) album, along with a DJ Promo Copy of Daryl Hall & John Oates Todd Rundgren-produced third album War Babies, along with a near mint copy of Elton John’s best Eighties album Too Low for Zero. The guys there were awesome and gave me a big discount for “friending” them on Facebook while checking out. We had a great discussion about our stores here in Indy and Muncie. That was a fun hour out, as my wife chilled in a nearby Starbucks.

Overall, Vegas was pretty cool. But, we now have our sights set elsewhere for our next trip. Perhaps, in a year, my motility will have improved, so maybe the travel will be in even more historical places. Who knows?!?!

Classic Album: Cheap Trick – ‘At Budokan’

7.19 Cheap Trick At Budokan

It had to be Christmas Break way back in 1978 or the first week of 1979. I know we were not in school, and basketball practice was over. So, after a lunch at my late high school girlfriend’s house, I cruised up to my “home away from home,” the local independent record store just a couple of miles away from where I grew up. The place was a combination store of records, 8-tracks and cassettes, men’s designer clothes and T-shirt press-on decal store called The Browser. The place did not last too long into the 1980, but for a very brief time in my life, it was my to-go store for music. Plus, the guys that owned the place were both right out of college, music lovers and wanted to give this store a go. Unfortunately, they opened the place just as the car manufacturing cities in Indiana were laying off people, leading to an economic depression where I grew up. But, for that brief moment, The Browser was my “Cheers.”

7.19 Cheap Trick 1978

Anyway, back to late ’78/early ’79, I walked into The Browser, and, immediately, one of the owners called me over to the counter. Excitedly, he tells me, “Since you bought the first copy of any Cheap Trick album from this store (it was In Color) and we know how much you love them, we just got this import album in from Japan because we read it was selling large numbers in New York and L.A. After we listened to it, we were waiting for you to come in so we could play it for you.”

7.19 Cheap Trick - Ain't That a Shame

He then turned to his partner and yelled, “Cue up Side Two!” And, what I heard was the opening drum salvo from Cheap Trick’s cover of the Fats Domino standard “Ain’t That a Shame.” I was immediately taken by the sound of this album, which originally was entitled From Tokyo to You but called At Budokan for the American customers. There was an urgency in the live playing of this band from Rockford, Illinois. And, the sequencing of songs on Side Two was impeccably, as “Shame” gave way to the mega-Summer of ’79 hit song “I Want You to Want Me,” followed by “Surrender,” then “Goodnight” ending the set. The last song was the encore “Clock Strikes Twelve.” I was blown away. The music was unbelievable, making me totally give up my stance as KISS Alive! being the best live album I had heard to that point. The problem was the price of this import. It was totally out of my range. So, these guys did the coolest thing ever and dubbed me an 8-track tape of the import. They said they had read that this album was one of the best-selling imports up to that point, and the record company was going to release it in the States in a couple of months. They also promised to call me when it came in.

True to their word, I got the call when Cheap Trick At Budokan was released in February 1979. So, I waited until after my birthday and went to the store to buy the album. And, that album was magical in my hands! After getting back home, I ran back to my bedroom, carefully sliced open the shrink wrap, gently tore it away, exposing the gatefold cover with band pretty boys Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the cover and band “nerds” Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos on the back, just as they were marketed on the previous two studio albums.

7.19 Cheap Trick at RRHOF Induction

At Budokan may be Cheap Trick’s most famous album, and it made their career for them. But this album, which began as a “Thank You” to their rapid fans in Japan where they had just been treated like The Beatles at the height of Beatlemania 14 years earlier, ended up becoming the big hit the band wanted but not in the manner they desired. Yes, this album made the band a household name, but it also nearly killed them.

You see, back in 1978, Cheap Trick had blown away expectations in Japan during their first tour of the country. Their performance at Budokan was televised on Japanese TV to huge ratings, so the Japanese division of the band’s label decided to capitalize on the excitement by releasing the next night’s concert recording as the aforementioned “present” to their fans over in Japan with this live album known as From Tokyo to You. Of course, some big Cheap Trick fans in the major markets of the States heard the import album, and the rest was history.

7.19 Cheap Trick - I Want You to Want Me

So, the band, who were in the studio putting the finishing touches on their fourth studio album, Dream Police, were forced by Epic Records, their label in the US, to put that album on the back-burner in order begin a quick U.S. Tour in support of At Budokan, which was now selling like hotcakes in their native country.

Dumbfounded by the album’s surprise success, Cheap Trick followed instructions and toured in support of this live album. But, what the band failed to understand is the very same thing Peter Frampton faced just three short years earlier: Why is this album selling when the studio versions of these very same songs did not? Still, Budokan‘s sales soared, so did the band’s profile. By the time the Summer of 1979 peaked in July, so had the live album and it’s subsequent hit single, the perfect power pop confection “I Want You to Want Me,” as both hit the Top 10.

7.19 Cheap Trick - Budokan II

Now, At Budokan has taken on mythic proportions. In February 1994, a full fifteen years after its release here in the USA, other recordings made by the band from the famous 1978 Japanese tour were combined with a couple of songs recorded at the Budokan in 1979 and released as Budokan II. Although the music comes from that now mythical two-days worth of performances, Budokan II still sounded a little thrown together. But, since those performances were now lodged in the public’s memory and had grown in stature over the years, Budokan II was met with rave reviews. Still, this album did not save the band. Oh, sure, 1988 was very kind to the band as had their first number one song with “The Flame,” and the album from which it came, Lap of Luxury, performed very well, but nothing really sustained that initial success Cheap Trick experienced in 1979. Yes, Dream Police also went Top 10, but the band never had another Top 10 hit song. And, that happens to be one of the greatest crimes in rock history.

7.19 Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick at Budokan The Complete Concert

Anyway, in 1998, Epic, again attempting to cash in on At Budokan, put together the whole concert recordings and repackaged it as Cheap Trick at Budokan: The Complete Concert. Finally, we were able to hear what the fans had heard way back in 1978. Now, here was a recorded document of the full set the band played on those fateful nights back in the Spring of 1978. Unfortunately, the album was initially only released on CD. However, a couple of years ago, for Record Store Day, Cheap Trick authorized a special printing of the album on vinyl.

7.19 Cheap Trick - Budokan 30th Anniversary

Not to be left alone of the album’s 30th birthday, a special box set of three CDs and a DVD was released. Now, you can watch the televised concert, in addition to listen to recordings of BOTH night’s concerts. Honestly, it is more Budokan! than most people need. So, if you are just a music fan, buy the original album. But, if you are Cheap Trick fan, then The Complete Concert is for you. And, if you are a Cheap Trick fanatic, then the box set is for you. But, if you are afflicted with Cheap Trick-mania, as I am, then owing it all on CD, vinyl AND mp3 is the obvious way to go. Of course, I do need help.

Cheap Trick Bobbleheads

As you know, At Budokan is a classic album, as it gives the best overview of the band’s sound at the time. Additionally, it is a document of the synergy that can take place between a talented band when playing in front of a rabid audience. Those screaming Japanese girls push the performances into the immortal place they now reside.

And, although I am a rabid and loyal fan of Cheap Trick, I am no apologist. Have you ever heard their 1986 album The Doctor? Don’t bother. Same goes for their previous studio album called Standing on the Edge, along with their 1990 clunker Busted. But, you really cannot go wrong with anything else in Cheap Trick’s vast catalog, including their two most recent releases, Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello and We’re All Alright.

7.19 Cheap Trick 2018

Yet, it was At Budokan where the whole ball got rolling for Cheap Trick. Long Live Cheap Trick!

Here’s a New Artist for You: Lisa Mychols & Her New Album ‘Sugar’

7.18 Lisa Mychols - Sugar

Man, things sure have been busy around here, what with Son #2 getting married, Son and Daughter-in-Law #1 having their first child, and our first grandchild, the boys and I going to see Weezer and Pixies and my wife and I going to see Styx and Joan Jett, with an upcoming vacation for the Mrs. and me, leaving me little time to truly dive into a new CD that I bought LAST month! Lately, I have become more of an independent artist aficionado, so much so that I have been spending WAY too much time on Bandcamp, checking out new(er) artists. One such artist, I honestly discovered on a whim several years ago but allow this artist to get buried under an avalanche of music at the time. But, lately, I cannot take her newest album out of my CD player for very long. The only other artists who can claim this kind of treatment this year have been Kai Danzberg and his brilliant pop tour de force Pop-Up Radio and Janelle Monáe’s excellent new album Dirty Computer. Today, may I introduce you to Lisa Mychols and her new album Sugar.

7.18 The Masticators
The Masticators

Let me begin by simply saying, Ms. Mychols, “Bravo!” You have created one of the shiniest-sounding albums not simply of 2018, but one for the ages. Sugar checks all the boxes for me: power pop, jangle pop, pure pop, however you want to describe it. It reminds me of the early Seventies, when I was young kid listening to McCartney and Raspberries 45s, then another song may take me back to my teenage heyday of 1979, or it just allows me to take a moment in the present to simply enjoy the moment.

7.18 The Masticators - Masticate

Now, a little bit about the sunshiny Lisa Mychols. Back in the early Nineties, Mychols released a power pop lover’s classic album that may be the genre’s best Christmas album entitled Lost Winter’s Dream. Then, she bounced around the Los Angeles power pop scene by jumping from band to band, until she secured a place in the iconic early-Aughts L.A. power pop mainstays, The Masticators. This highly influential band, unfortunately, only released one album, Masticate!, which received widespread praise for its pop hooks and literary lyrics. Still, the band was unfortunately destined for a very short recording career. So, in response, Lisa picked up the pieces in order to re-establish herself as a solo artist.

7.18 Lisa Mychols - Let's Stay Together

Over the years, she has quietly released three really good albums, along with a recent remake of the Al Green standard love song “Let’s Stay Together.” Her cover of the song, to me, finally show the world, at least the small portion that heard it, that this woman was talented and soulful, and she should not be simply lumped as yet another power pop artist. This song was risky, yet it proved that she has soul in her voice. And, on Sugar, that lesson/discovery has been carried on into her latest collection of songs. As a matter of fact, this album proves that a forty-something can still learn new vocal techniques that only improve her chosen songs, all of which Mychols had a hand in writing.

7.18 Lisa Mychols

“One Revolution” kicks off Sugar. For some reason, I could hear this song bearing some Beck influence in it. As a matter of fact, if “One Revolution” simply had a few quirky Beck production techniques, it would BE a Beck tune. Quickly, “One Revolution” gives way to “Loving You,” a song that suits comfortably in Mychols’ power pop wheelhouse. And, this song is the one that would fit most comfortably in a playlist consisting of power pop classics such as “Go All the Way,” “Starry Eyes” and “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time.”

Mychols has a strong collection of power pop songs on Sugar, including my personal favorite, the bright and sunny “Don’t Wanna Close My Eyes.” Other standouts on this album are “Next to Impossible,” “Endless Daydream,” the sublime girl group feel (Hey Bangles! Cover this song!!!) of “He’s Got Me Dreaming,” the bubblegum pop song “Into Oblivion” and the moody, nearly Tom Petty-esque “Messages to the Muse.” This album is a pop tour de force. And, when I say power pop, I lean more to the softer end of the spectrum, where the artists express the influence of The Turtles, The Grass Roots and those great girl groups from the Sixties.

7.18 Lisa Mychols 2015

Without a doubt, Lisa Mychols, often referred to as the Queen of Power Pop, has grown as an artist. But, in doing so, she has created one of the year’s best albums. Sugar is definitely the right type of carbohydrate for your musical diet. Sugar is in the running for my year end listing of best albums. Let’s just say that you have to order this CD online from the artist’s website. The upside is that I actually got a thank you note from her for my purchase. That’s the kind of service that will get me to listen to your album. Hahaha!!!

Like I Said Earlier, the Only Sure Things in Life: Birth, Taxes, Ramones & Death

7.17 Ramones 1977
The original lineup in 1977

One of the biggest mistakes in my record collecting life has got to be NOT collecting the original run of Ramones albums, along with selling off my first pressing copies of Rocket to Russia and Pleasant Dreams back in the waning days for vinyl in the Eighties. I was depressed and wanted to give in to society’s demand that I switch to CDs all the while I still enjoyed playing my albums. And, after I switched careers from being a decently paid medical technologist to a vastly underpaid beginning teacher, I would periodically sell off an album or two at vinyl’s ebb just to supplement our money for the bills. This disaster is followed by my getting rid of of The Runaways eponymous debut and all of my KISS albums. Still, not collecting Ramones back in our heydays was the biggest collecting mistake, bar none.

7.17 Ramones 1987
The Richie Ramone era of 1987.

Honestly, I have NO good reason for staying away from the Ramones. I just if the albums did not make the Top 100, then I did not buy them. But, wait! I have the Sex Pistols and all of The Clash albums, except that last one they did after sacking Mick Jones. I made a HUGE mistake that is now number one on my want list: Ramones on vinyl. Fortunately, I do have the Ramones on CD, but there is something totally wrong about Ramones and digital technology. They were and are of the analog era and should be appreciated as such. I have gained so much insight to the bands’ talents of the analog era by listening to their albums on vinyl versus their albums on disc or, worse yet, mp3. In the latter two cases, something in the sound is missing. Now, I am no audiophile. Hell, I can’t pass a hearing exam any longer, so why waste the money. But, I can discern instrumentation better from a vinyl source than a digital source. And, in their crude simplicity, the Ramones were created for the analog era. That’s why you can hear the guitar in one speaker and the bass in the other, making the band one of the simplest band to learn to play their songs.

7.17 Ramones - Ramones

And, as I said last week, the Ramones belong with AC/DC and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts as being the most consistent artists in rock history as they were able to sustain a hugely successful career while mining the very same sound from album to album. And, it was that consistency that won fans for the band without ever being a force on the charts. And, therein lies the crime of the 20th century: the Ramones never had a hit single or album. And, this is a band whose first five albums each sound like a Greatest Hits package unto itself.

7.17 Ramones - Road to Ruin

By now, every rock fan understands the shadow the Ramones cast over rock music. Initially, they worked with Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Television and Johnny Thunders to make CBGB’s the heart of the New York City punk movement in the mid-Seventies. Then, in the aftermath of their tour of the UK in 1976, the whole UK punk scene broke wide open, unleashing the likes of Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, Buzzcocks and a host of other influential punk bands. Later, that punk energy and playing speed was co-opted by the UK metal scene, giving birth to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal artists like Motörhead and Iron Maiden to the fore, whether any of those guys want to admit to it or not. Then, a bunch of American kids who bought Ramones albums in their youth started forming their own bands in college, giving rise to the hardcore and alternative scenes that popped across the USA. Without Ramones, there would never have been two of my favorites, the Pixies and Hüsker Dü. Then, the whole Seattle grunge scene and alternative nation of the Nineties have Ramones DNA flowing through it, right Nirvana, Green Day, Weezer, The Offspring and The Presidents of the United States of America? And, the Ramones influence continues to be felt in the newer pop-punk bands such as Titus Andronicus, Sheer Mag and Car Seat Headrest.

7.17 Ramones - End of the Century

So, today, I would like to rank the fourteen studio albums that the Ramones released during their brief 20+ year career. Today, the original four (singer Joey died in 2001, bassist Dee Dee in 2002, guitarist Johnny in 2004 and original drummer Tommy in 2014) have all passed on to the great Punk Club in the Sky, leaving second drummer Marky (who was in and out of the band many times), third drummer Richie (only around for one album) and bassist for the final decade C.J. Remember, these guys were all from the same “family”, with the surname being Ramone. Sure, those seven people were the Ramones, along with 1987 tour drummer, Elvis (Blondie drummer Clem Burke), but weren’t we all Ramones? Their brilliance laid in the fact that they played with a simplicity that made many of us believe we could play too. Plus, there is an underlying joy in their music, although it may have come from suburban pain. Like I said, AC/DC, Ramones, Joan Jett, birth, taxes and death: the only things guaranteed in life.

7.17 Ramones - Rocket to Russia

  1. Rocket to Russia (1977). Normally, the debut album sits atop these lists, but this was the right album at the right time for me.
  2. Ramones (1976). This is the blueprint for punk. ‘Nuff said. Next!
  3. Road to Ruin (1978). Any album that has a song as great as “I Wanna Be Sedated” is a classic by default.
  4. End of the Century (1980). This is a notorious album, which proves the old adage that your shouldn’t meet your heroes. No, it wasn’t the classic that everyone hoped it would be when we found out Phil Spector was producing our boys. But listen to the album again! It’s pretty darn good.
  5. Leave Home (1977). This was the first Ramones album I ever heard, and I was hooked…on listening to my friends’ albums instead of buying my own. Stupid!
  6. Too Tough to Die (1984). This is the last good album from the band’s first decade and represents the end of the Golden Era.
  7. Pleasant Dreams (1981). I remember laughing so hard in the dorm with some friends as we listened to “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” Just a little too polished for my tastes.
  8. Subterranean Jungle (1983). Although nothing really stands out on this album, it is still consistently good.
  9. ¡Adios Amigos! (1995). The farewell album. At least the band did not go out with a whimper. But, it wasn’t a roar either.
  10. Acid Eaters (1993). This is the band’s tribute to the songs that influenced them. I told you that Nuggets album was a huge influence on punk!
  11. Animal Boy (1986). Much to conservative Johnny Ramone’s chagrin, this album contains the anti-Reagan anthem “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.”
  12. Halfway to Sanity (1987). None of the last three are really good enough to mention. These album almost take away from the legend of the band.
  13. Brain Drain (1989)
  14. Mondo Bizarro (1992)

7.17 Ramones - Leave Home

And, that, my friends, is my take on the discography of the beloved Ramones. I hoped it jogged some memories for you.

Here’s Some Love for Foreigner with My 25 Favorite Songs

7.16 foreigner logo

Summer in Indiana can be so strange. The old weather adage from around here is, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 12 hours.” But, this year it has been pretty hot (thanks climate change!). And, since I live out in the country, with a beautiful view of a soybean field just beyond the backyard. So, you mix together a hot summer along with a nearby soybean field, and you have the ingredients for another Indiana summer tradition: the housefly. These damn things are everywhere, bugging (pardon the pun) the crap out of us. Then again, it might be metaphorical for the type of music that has been traditionally strong around here. And, I am talking about arena rock, one of the more bland genres in all of rock history. Oh, sure, I like these bands too! They combined a hard rock sound with a pop melody, being a historical forerunner to the hair metal bands of the Eighties. Still, many of them were like these houseflies around my home. Usually, when the show up, they bother me.

7.16 foreigner 1977
Foreigner, in 1977.

For some reason, the bands of my teens are out on the concert trail in full force this year. And, when they tour, it’s as if they all have a meeting, throw their names in a hat, and pull out the names to determine which concert package each band will be part of this year. So far, Journey and Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick (THAT ONE SHOULD HAVE BEEN REVERSED!!!), Styx and Joan Jett (Yes, I went to it! I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite!) and Foreigner and Whitesnake have all rolled through here, with Chicago with REO Speedwagon and Kansas, as well Lynyrd Skynyrd, to follow soon. That means all the monsters of AOR from my youth will have come through this summer. Forty years ago, that would have been unreal, but now, it seems a little desperate. Sure, I understand that these guys deserve to make some money. And, I fully understand the whole nostalgia-thing being in my mid-Fifties. But, some of these bands only have one original member left in them. That fact is beginning to blur the line between the bands and tribute bands. Hell, there may even be a time when four blonde dudes in wigs and face paint will tour as KISS, with the estates of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons making change while those two are in a nursing home or buried in the ground. C’mon! Don’t tell me it won’t come to that! I even recently read an article about that scenario posed to Simmons, and, by his answer, you knew he had been thinking about it.

4 T
The more streamlined line-up of Foreigner in 1981

The cool thing is that Cheap Trick has released three albums in the past two years, if you count their Christmas album. But, their other two studio albums have been great. Additionally, Styx released an excellent new concept album (remember those?) last summer and is still pimping it in concert. So, a few of these classic rock bands are trying to remain relevant by creating new music. But, those bands with only one remaining member like Foreigner or Skynyrd really get under my skin for some reason. They are not really creating new music, they are cashing in on a reputation that is over 40 years old. Let’s face, the old, powerful and innovative Skynyrd died with Ronnie Van Zandt, while Foreigner stopped being Foreigner when singer Lou Gramm’s health prevented him from performing. And, then, there’s Journey, gallivanting around the world with a Steve Perry-imitator who was discovered on YouTube. Sure, Journey’s new guy sounds like Steve Perry, but there is something missing in his voice that Perry had that keeps me from accepting the new guy, no offense to him.

So, in honor of the bands who are touring this summer with only one original member left in the fold, may I present to you My Top 25 Songs by Foreigner. Oh, and for full disclosure, if my wife would have wanted to see any of these bands, we would have gone and probably enjoyed it. Remember, I AM a hypocrite! On with the countdown…

7.16 foreigner - urgent

  1. “Urgent” (4, 1981). Was there ever any doubt?
  2. “I Want to Know What Love Is” (Agent Provocateur, 1984). Can you imagine what this song would sound like if Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples or Whitney Houston would have sung it? Naw, it wouldn’t have been as awesome as this version.
  3. “Juke Box Hero” (4, 1981). I literally think I have heard this song every day on Classic Rock radio since the day it was released.
  4. “Waiting for a Girl like You” (4, 1981). The women melted when this song was popular.
  5. “Hot Blooded” (Double Vision, 1978). Sexist? Yes. Awesome? Of course!
  6. “Feels like the First Time” (Foreigner, 1977). What are they talking about?
  7. “Dirty White Boy” (Head Games, 1979). Racist AND sexist in the same song. And, it was a big hit too. Oh, things were so different back in the Seventies and Eighties.
  8. “Double Vision” (Double Vision, 1978). Another song about squinting, for some reason.
  9. “I Don’t Want to Live Without You” (Inside Information, 1987). This song quietly hooked me.
  10. “Head Games” (Head Games, 1979). Yet another double entendre.
  11. “Blue Morning, Blue Day” (Double Vision, 1978)
  12. “Cold as Ice” (Foreigner, 1977)
  13. “Say You Will” (Inside Information, 1987)
  14. “Women” (Head Games, 1979)
  15. “Headknocker” (Foreigner, 1977)
  16. “Long, Long Way from Home” (Foreigner, 1977)
  17. “Girl on the Moon” (4, 1981)
  18. “The Damage Is Done” (Foreigner, 1977)
  19. “That Was Yesterday” (Agent Provocateur, 1984)
  20. “Woman in Black” (4, 1981)
  21. “The Modern Day” (Head Games, 1979)
  22. “Heart Turns to Stone” (Inside Information, 1987)
  23. “Soul Doctor” (The Very Best…and Beyond, 1992)
  24. “Rev on the Red Line” (Head Games, 1979)
  25. “A Love in Vain” (Agent Provocateur, 1984)
7.16 foreigner - juke box hero live 1981 tour
Foreigner on tour in 1981 behind their classic album ‘4’ during their performance of “Juke Box Hero,” complete with blow-up Juke Box.

See what I mean? Foreigner’s music reputation was impeccable until guitarist and main songwriter Mick Jones took his tribute band to his band out on the road. Oh, who cares! Go see the bands you want to! They made great music back in the day, and those songs deserve to be played by talented musicians and not some two-bit cover band. Wait a second! What is wrong with me?!?!

33 Years Ago Yesterday, It Was Live Aid!

7.14 Live Aid Stage

Thirty-three years ago, my first son was born just a couple of hours before the 7:00 AM (US Eastern Standard Time) start of the London portion of the two-cities-on-two-continents concert to end the famine in Africa, known as Live Aid. To this rock lover, nothing seem more appropriate at the time that my first child being born on the day of rock’s biggest event to this point in its relatively short history. Honestly, the concert had captured the imagination of the MTV generation, known as Generation X. Radio stations were hoping on the bandwagon since nothing since like this had captured the imagination of popular music lovers since Woodstock happened in 1969, and to most of us, that is more of a history lesson than something we experienced, even if we did so through a television.

And, quite honestly, Live Aid was the culmination of a six- or seven-month endeavor first dreamt by Bob Geldof, lead singer of the UK band Boomtown Rats. And, although the Rats had only tasted minor success in the States, his charity single whose proceeds were used to buy supplies for the starving individuals in Africa. The song, which he co-wrote with fellow New Wave impresario Midge Ure of Ultravox, was “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” This modern day Christmas standard got the ball rolling for several types of charity singles and events in its wake. The charity supergroup Band Aid, consisting of pop stars mainly from the UK.

Following Band Aid in the charity single by a supergroup sweepstakes was USA for Africa and “We Are the World,” which was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. This highly successful single was followed a few months later by that aforementioned concert Live Aid. But, at 7:00 AM, hardworking, blue collar boogie rockers Status Quo got the ball rolling on Live Aid by kicking the concert off with their cover of the John Fogerty song, “Rockin’ All Over the World.” And, the marathon was off on that very hot Saturday in Cincinnati, Ohio, as I visited with my newborn son and my beautiful yet exhausted wife.

Now, with thirty-three years of perspective, I have gained the following insights that have come in the wake of that very day.

7.14 Live Aid Queen

1. Queen stole the day. What is now considered to be common knowledge, was totally unexpected back in 1985. You see, back in 1982, Queen released the most controversial album of their career, Hot Space. On that album, the band mostly experimented with dance rhythms in their rock songs, just as they had done on their worldwide hit “Another One Bites the Dust” just two short years earlier. Sure, the public could handle A song, but not a whole album of dance music. Sure, the band was simply trying to keep their sound youthful, like many of the new bands were doing on MTV. Unfortunately, America rejected the album, despite my protestations. So, when they took the stage at Live Aid, the band had nothing to lose. So, in typical Queen fashion, their prepared their set. And practice. And, totally made Wembley Stadium and living rooms throughout the world their own playground for the next 20 minutes. I am still blown away by that tight performance that only Queen could have done. And while a Led Zeppelin reunion went flat, and The Who reunion totally sucked, Queen saved the day for every classic rock artist performing that day and those that sat out the event.

7.14 Live Aid U2

2. U2 positioned themselves to take the mantle of the biggest band in the world. U2 was the greatest festival band of the Eighties. In 1983, the band stole the headlines from the likes of Van Halen’s million dollar payday, The Clash’s big, bad performance and the rise of heavy metal, when Bono climbed the scaffolding and sang “40” from atop the rails high above the stage. Once that move made the band a MTV name, the band then stole the hearts of a generation when, in the middle of the band’s performance of their song “Bad” had his roadies save a Middle Eastern-looking girl from being crushed along the wall in front of the stage and then slow danced with her briefly, signaling that their was going to be a new sheriff in town soon. After that day, rock slowly began to take on a browner appearance instead of the pasty white appearance of its heroes in the past. And, U2 was going to lead us into this new age of multiculturalism.

7.14 AUAA - Sun City7.14 Dionne_and_Friends_That's_What_Friends_Are_For

3. The charity single was here to stay. Cynics point to this phenomenon as being hollow since every one of these artists who participated in either of the first two charity single or performed at Live Aid all experienced spikes in there album sales, without really making a financial commitment to the plight of others. Oh, sure, some did make donations quietly, but many of these people got tax write-offs for their participation that outweighed their actual donations, while the fans were stuck paying the artists AND the charity. And, I am a big sucker for these charity singles, albums and concerts. I’m willing to admit it. This is evidence at how lazy I am when it comes to doing for others. But, at least I am willing to admit it. Look at all of the charity singles that followed in a short YEAR after Live Aid: Canada’s charity supergroup, Northern Lights released “Tears Are Not Enough”; Little Steven gathered punk, alternative, punk, rock, rap and jazz artists for a protest against South Africa’s apartheid policy under the guise of Artists United Against Apartheid to record “Sun City,” arguably the best protest/charity song ever (?); Hand Across Hand, the event, the song and the group, came out lame in an effort to raise awareness for the homeless; comedians banded together for the homeless as well under the Comic Relief banner for a series of annual shows; and Dionne Warwick gathered friends like Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and Elton John to record a cover version of Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager’s “That’s What Friends Are For” to raise money for AIDS research. Then, there was Farm Aid, Red Hot + Dance, and so many others that its difficult to list them all.

7.14 Live Aid Run DMC7.14 Live Aid Black Sabbath

4. Run-D.M.C. brought rap and Black Sabbath reunited to bring metal to the mainstream. In the mid-Eighties, both rap and metal were minor players in the sales markets. But, after these two token artists of their respective genres played Live Aid, those genres saved the music industry in the Nineties.

7.14 Live Aid Phil Collins

5. Phil Collins was literally everywhere. Phil was a surprise superstar during the Eighties. His great work as the drummer and singer for Genesis had recently been eclipsed by his success as a solo artist. With that in mind, Phil decided he was needed on both continents during Live Aid. I am not sure who told him that he was needed, but, apparently he was. So, he performed in mistake-filled piano version of his solo hit song “Against All Odds”. Then, he did a lame duet with Sting while Sting played guitar (Someone told Sting that we wanted to hear him play guitar instead of bass. Who kept telling these guys these things?!?!) on “Every Breath You Take.” And, that was bad too. So, Phil hopped on a helicopter to get to Heathrow Airport, so the balding wonder could jump on the Concord for a faster-than-the-speed-of-sound flight to Philly for the USA version of Live Aid. And, he got there just in time to help Chic/Power Station drummer Tony Thompson anchor Led Zeppelin with a second drummer for a out-of-tune version of “Stairway to Heaven,” which had probably been played by Philadelphia radio stations six times while the fans waited to get into the stadium. So, these people NEEDED to hear that damn song  AGAIN by a group of musicians who either hated each other, was hired to be there if Phil Collins couldn’t get there in time and a jet-lagged Phil Collins himself. And, still, Phil became even more popular in the aftermath of Live Aid. Go figure, poor geezer!

5. Other Winners and Losers After Live Aid.

7.14 Live Aid Bob Geldof

a. Bob Geldof – It’s a draw for Sir Bob. Sure, he’s been knighted for this whole Live Aid-thing and he’s continued commitment to fight hunger in Africa, which got him nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. But, neither he nor his Boomtown Rats ever became more than middling rock stars in the U.K. and just footnotes in the U.S.

7.14 Live Aid - Led Zeppelin

b. Led Zeppelin – It took them 20 years to shake off the bad taste of Live Aid, when they made was may be their final appearance in 2007 that has been immortalized on the CD and DVD titled Celebration Day.

7.14 Live Aid The Who

c. The Who – They have reunited and broken up so many times that you tend to forget how bad they were during Live Aid. But, unfortunately, my eidetic memory won’t let me forget.

7.14 Live Aid Tom Petty

d. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Even though they played during the daylight, they were their usual awesome selves. And, they continued to borrow themselves into our collective consciousnesses that day.

Daryl Hall,John Oates,G.E.Smith

e. Daryl Hall & John Oates – They were HUGE winners that day, as the Philadelphia natives got the big time late night spotlight. And, they grabbed the moment as only this gifted veteran duo could. How could we have known that the two of them looked at Live Aid as their crowning moment and not another step toward immortality. Plus, how could they have ever topped their performance of “Out of Time”? By, hooking up with former Temptations Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffian, and slaying us all with a medley of Temptation hits, that’s how.

7.14 Live Aid George Michael and Elton John

f. George Michael – Michael walked away from Live Aid ready to become the next big pop star on the planet after he pushed Elton John back into greatness during their rendition of Elton’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

7.14 Live Aid Madonna

g. Madonna – Madge walked in a fresh-faced pop star and walked out of Live Aid a bonafide star, plain and simple.

7.14 Live Aid Nile Rodgers

h. Nile Rodgers – Rodgers out-Phil Collins himself by adding his brilliant guitar to not only Madonna’s set, but Duran Duran’s AND the Thompson Twins’ sets. As a matter of fact, Rogers may have been the sole bright spot in the latter’s set.

Currie Bailey

i. Thompson Twins – Speaking the non-genetic relative Twins, what ever happened to them after Live Aid. Buh-Bye!

7.14 Live Aid CSNY

j. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Who thought it was a good idea to dust these guys off and put them on stage with all of these MTV-ready artists? Fire that guy! At least CSN had Woodstock.

7.14 Live-Aid-Tina-Turner-Mick-Jagger

Bonus Winners: Mick Jagger and Tina Turner were big winners, even though their post-concert sales continued to drop in the aftermath. After all, they put on the best show with their duet on “State of Shock,” the song Mick had recorded with the Jacksons that was a fairly big hit during the summer of 1984. At least, this performance made us forget Jagger and David Bowie’s video for their remake of “Dancing in the Streets”. Talk about a comeback!

Sure, the cynics have much to ridicule about Band Aid, USA for Africa, Live Aid and all of the other charity songs and concerts that have arisen in the aftermath. Still, at the time, we were all a little innocent, and it’s that innocence that I’d like to remember. Plus, there were so many missing artists from that time period, that it was no wonder there were so many lame performances, even those by the younger artists. I mean, where was Springsteen, Michael, Talking Heads, R.E.M., The Smiths, Bananarama, The Cure, Quiet Riot, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, Metallica, The Jacksons, Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross, John Mellencamp, Def Leppard, New Edition or Prince. Oh, wait! Prince would NOT have been there! That’s right! Okay, but what about the others? And, those artists who were M.I.A. that day could be a longer list, but those names were off the top of my head.

Guarantees of Life: Taxes, Death & Pure Rock by AC/DC, Ramones & Joan Jett

7.13 joan jett 2018 tour

As I said yesterday, I got to see Joan Jett & the Blackhearts open for Styx. Now, I did find the pairing to be a bit odd, it did pull some classic rockers in for Joan’s set and some punkers in for Styx, so I understand why they paired up. And, once again, I had seen Styx originally way back in 1979, right after my high school cross country team became the second team in school history to qualify for the Regional. I will always associate those two events. Why it was significant was that our team was the only one that was not ranked in the State’s Top 20 from our Sectional to qualify for the next round.

7.13 joan jett - i love rock n roll

On the other hand, I had not seen Joan Jett since she was opening for The Police on their 1982 Ghost in the Machine Tour. The crazy thing was Joan was in the midst of her biggest-selling days, as her cover version of “I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” which, according to a biography of her great and influential band, The Runaways, Joan tried to convince the band to record, was the number one song in the U.S.A. For some reason, and why I will NEVER understand, Jett never really came close to repeating those commercially successful days of 1981 and 1982. Because, like AC/DC and Ramones before her, she has been the most stylistic consistent artist of our time. When you pick up one of Joan’s albums, you know that you are getting some crunching guitars, driving rhythms, simple melodies and fun lyrics, in the manner of her punk and glam rock heroes before her, like Suzie Quatro, Slade, Gary Glitter, Ramones and AC/DC. This is plain and not so simple rock and roll music built upon the backs of Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, with some bubblegum music from Tommy James thrown in for good measure. So all the great ingredients are there, and Jett is able to add them together in different measures to create her consistent and beautiful sound. And, no one, and I mean NO ONE (!!!), rocks like Joan Jett & the Blackhearts!

7.13 the runaways

Thanks to Creem and Circus magazines, I bought a copy of The Runaways’ debut album. That album blew me away, and I became a fan of the band, and not simply because I was teen male and they were beautiful teen females. The Runaways rocked! And, the band rocked hardest on Joan Jett’s original songs. Shortly afterwards, The Runaways imploded, so Joan went solo, and as her debut attests, she became a star. In the wake, we now have many women out in the world rocking as hard as Joan has. But, it is short-sighted and a little sexist to say she only influenced little girls because I know plenty of men who wish we had just a pinch of her songwriting talent and onstage charisma to become a local rock star, let alone the rock god she is today. And, I personally thank God that the days have past since the guys from Rush would laugh at The Runaways as the ladies opened for the heavy-prog rockers once did back in the mid-Seventies on their joint tour. Still, in these days of the #MeToo movement with a US President who makes fun of the movement that we have a long way to still travel. Still, without Joan Jett, that road would still be blocked as chauvinistic pigs like the President. Now, those dinosaurs are solely dying off. I sure hope things will be better when my granddaughter is an adult.

Today, let’s honor the rock brilliance of Joan Jett with my Top 25 Joan Jett Songs. Keep on rocking!

7.13 Joan_Jett_-_Do_You_Wanna_Touch_Me_(Oh_Yeah)7.13 joan jett - i hate myself for loving you

  1. “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (I Love Rock ‘N Roll, 1981)
  2. “Bad Reputation” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Bad Reputation, 1981)
  3. “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Bad Reputation, 1981)
  4. “Cherry Bomb” – The Runaways (The Runaways, 1976)
  5. “Fake Friends” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Album, 1983)
  6. “I Hate Myself for Loving You” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Up Your Alley, 1988)
  7. “Nag” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (I Love Rock ‘N Roll, 1981)
  8. “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” – Joan Jett & Paul Westerberg (Tank Girl OST, 1995)
  9. “Crimson & Clover” (I Love Rock ‘N Roll, 1981)
  10. “Androgynous” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Naked, 2004)
  11. “Everyday People” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Album, 1983)
  12. “Light of Day” – The Barbusters [aka Joan Jett & the Blackhearts] (single, 1987)
  13. “Activity Grrrl” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Pure and Simple, 1994)
  14. “Good Music” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Good Music, 1986)
  15. “A.C.D.C.” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Sinner, 2006)
  16. “Little Liar” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Up Your Alley, 1988)
  17. “Dirty Deeds” – Joan Jett (The Hit List, 1990)
  18. “Any Weather” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Unvarnished, 2013)
  19. “Real Wild Child” – Joan Jett (We Will Fall: An Iggy Pop Tribute, 1997)
  20. “Baby Blue” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Fetish, 1999)
  21. “I Love You Love Me Love” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth, 1984)
  22. “Don’t Surrender” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Notorious, 1991)
  23. “I Love Playin’ with Fire” – The Runaways (Queens of Noise, 1977)
  24. “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Bad Reputation, 1981)
  25. “Victim of Circumstance” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (I Love Rock ‘N Roll, 1981)

7.13 joan jett - light of day7.13 joan-jett-and-the-blackhearts-fake-friends-blackheart-mca

This list could have been twice as long with nary a variation in the quality of the songs. I sure hope you all can appreciate the true status of this woman in the rock world. Music lovers everywhere are privileged to have lived through this Golden Era that gave us Joan Jett, with and without the Blackhearts and/or The Runaways. Joan Jett deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, so stop your complaining!

A Letter to My Grandchildren in Praise of Styx

7.12 STYX 2018

Dear Beloved Grandchildren:

Hiya kids! This is your crazy old Pop-Pop here. I know all of you are either too young to really understand this blog entry or have even been born yet, but I wanted to tell you about the concert your Nana and I saw last night. Now, neither of your Daddies are big fans of Styx or Joan Jett, but I personally got to relive my youth through these talented musicians’ music. Truth be told, I saw Joan Jett way back in 1982 when she opened for a well-loved band called The Police. Although, at the time I saw her perform, Jett had the number one song in the U.S. with the immortal “I Love Rock ‘N Roll.” But, it was very early in her Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-career that I only saw her play songs from her first two albums as well as choice cuts from her days as a member of the seminal all-female band The Runaways. Still, it was great to see a strong woman singing punk rock with the conviction that this music was going to save her life, as well as ours. Back in her heyday, I never gave it much thought as to how important she would become to generations of female musicians, as I was of the opinion that she played great music so she was great. Sure, as a male I knew she was a hot-looking female, but that never tainted my view of her talent, and subsequent place in rock history.

7.12 styx - ii7.12 styx - equinox

And as great as Joan Jett was last night, and she was, the night belonged to headliners Styx. Now, truth be told, Styx played a very important role in my life as a teenager. I remember some of my first middle school slow dances, as awkward as they were at the time, being to Styx’ immortal power ballad “Lady,” which, of course, the band played last night. You see, Styx is from Chicago, and, as a teenager, I would listen to Chicago AM radio station WLS at night since that station played the best music. So, Styx music found its way on the powerful WLS all of the time. Shortly after “Lady” ran its course nationally, the band had a minor hit with “Lorelei,” a song that grabbed me with its prog-rock leanings, Beatlesque vocals and solid arena-ready guitars, a description that could be applied to nearly any of their subsequent songs.

7.12 styx - crystal ball

But, in 1976, the band added guitarist/singer/songwriter Tommy Shaw, and the dynamics of the band changed for the better. All of a sudden, those vocals became magical as Tommy’s voice could soar over Dennis DeYoung’s and James “J.Y.” Young’s vocals, combining to make one powerful-sounding signature sound. The unique thing about Styx is how they could take the prog sounds popularized by the English art bands like Yes and melded them with hard guitars popular with Midwestern bands like fellow Illini REO Speedwagon and Cheap Trick and those beautiful angelic vocals within the context of a pop song making the first arena rock sound that would be popularized by several other bands, such as Boston and Journey.

7.12 styx - the grand illusion

Believe it or not, Styx became one of the biggest bands in the world in 1977 with the release of The Grand Illusion, which yielded two of their most beloved songs, “Come Sail Away” and “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”. While the former was the bigger hit, the latter played more of a role in my life as I was dealing with my parents’ divorce. The lyrics of “Fooling Yourself” spoke to me and my situation and helped me gain perspective. Plus, the song just flat out rocks!

7.12 styx - pieces of eight7.12 Styx - Paradise Theater

Styx’ popularity grew with the release of their next two albums, Pieces of Eight (1978) and Cornerstone (1979). Of the two albums, Pieces of Eight was the more “rock” album of the two. That album had two of my all-time favorite songs on it, “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” and the sublime “Renegade.” Unfortunately, Cornerstone has been, unfairly or not, remembered for the Dennis DeYoung ballad “Babe,” which was melting young ladies’ hearts all across the country. Sure, it was a great make-out song (Oooh!! Yuck Pop-Pop!), but it made DeYoung want to become a soft rock songwriter and Broadway-type of performer instead of the rocker he was. Of course, it was on 1979’s Cornerstone Tour during which I first saw Styx live in concert. And, that performance of the classic line-up, with the Panozzo brothers rhythm section was stupendous.

7.12 styx - kilroy was here

Unfortunately, my interest in Styx was waning by 1980. You see, kids, I was enthralled with punk, New Wave, Prince and any new sound that was coming out at the time. Plus, my thought at the time was Styx represented the Seventies, and the Seventies were ending. So, when the band released their first number one album, Paradise Theater, I was so over them. And, fortunately, Styx’ attempt at being contemporary on their 1983 album Kilroy Was Here only made the band sound sad and pandering. Today, I still think Paradise Theater has weak songs and Kilroy Was Here is still a disaster, I have mellowed a bit.

So, when your Nana suggested when go see Styx, I went, reluctantly. But, I am certainly glad that I did see them again, nearly 40 years later! Now, I see a professional band that actually appears to be enjoying the fame and fortune they earned through all of those timeless songs they wrote and are playing nightly for their aging yet adoring fans. Plus, although there are only two members of Styx left from the heyday, the new guys do a great job in their roles. Plus, even though original bassist Chuck Panozzo has health problems, the band brings him out to play a couple of songs each night in an act of healing and love. That’s it! Love! That’s what I noticed about Styx last night. Those men love each other as people and musicians, they love their music and they love bringing it all to their fans. And, you can tell throughout their set, even while they play music from their newest album, last year’s excellent concept album called The Mission.

7.12 styx - the mission

So, kids, I am back on the Styx bandwagon, no matter how much fun your daddies make of me. So, if you end up liking Styx in spite of your fathers’ opinions, remember how they got Styx in the first place: Pop-Pop gave it to them.

One more thing kids: don’t hold “Mr. Roboto” against Styx, as I did for a very long time. Every band has one of those embarrassingly cheesy songs in their catalog. It just so happened that Styx was so popular that they could have released a single of them singing the phone book and it would have been a hit.

So my beautiful and brilliant grandchildren, never miss a week without playing a Styx song or two. It’s good for the soul.