We Could All Use Some B-52’s Today

2.28 The B-52's

On January 26, 1980, while watching Saturday Night Live at a high school girlfriend’s house after a pretty rough basketball game during which a friend of mine had his nose broken after which HE got called for a technical foul (such was high school basketball in Indiana back then), I watched a new band whom I had read about. This crazy new band from Athens, Georgia, called The B-52’s were ripping through this great new song called “Rock Lobster.” I was mesmerized, while the young lady was asking me if this was good. I really thought I was watching something totally alien to me but still strangely compelling. I have to admit that I was hooked.

2.28 The B-52's Live

I left the young lady’s house after the performance because our coaches were known to call your house to see if you were home by 12:30 pm. I am NOT kidding! These clowns were trying to control every aspect of our lives, which the rebel in me found ridiculous and a waste of time and energy. And, when I became a coach, I tried to show that I actually cared about my athletes, which my coaches never did. But, I digress.

2.28 The B-52's first album

The B-52’s came into my life at the perfect time. Devo’s second album was not as fun as the first one, so I felt like I needed a little fun in my life. Basketball was a disaster as we were horrible. My girlfriend was very insecure, and I was still angry about my parents’ divorce three years earlier. Plus, I was just dissatisfied with my high school and all the drama that seemed to take place at the time. So, The B-52’s became a breath of fresh air in my musical life. And, they remained that way until the band finally ran out of creative gas in the early Nineties. But, those first two albums, along with their terrific comeback album from 1989, the sublime Cosmic Thing, remain required listening in my book.

2.28 The_B-52's_-_Cosmic_Thing

The B-52’s paved the way for the New Wave Renaissance of the early Eighties, along with some great bands from Athens like R.E.M. and Pylon. Yet, no band has ever come close to displaying the shear joy that The B-52’s displayed in their early days. And, that is the band I wish to remember for the rest of my days on this planet. I’m telling you now that if you want to regain a smile after watching the news or a replay of the Republicans making asses of themselves while questioning Michael Cohen, then plop a B-52’s record on the turntable and sit back. That smile will return to your face! Now, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has to get the stick out of their collective ass and put this band, along with Todd Rundgren, Devo, New York Dolls, The Jam, The Replacements, Pixies, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Weezer, Beck, Warren Zevon, The Go-Go’s, The Bangles and Duran Duran in the Hall soon or we should revolt!

2.28 The B-52's live in athens

So, it is my pleasure to bring to you my 20 Favorite Songs by The B-52’s! Let’s get this party out of bounds! Now!

20. “There’s a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)”

19. “Cosmic Thing”

18. “Downtown”

17. “Planet Claire”

16. “Dance This Mess Around”

15. “Strobe Light”

14. “Quiche Lorraine”

13. “Channel Z”

12. “Mesopotamia”

11. “Good Stuff”

10. “Summer of Love”

9. “Song for a Future Generation”

8. “Dead Beat Club”

7. “52 Girls”

6. “Private Idaho”

5. “Party Out of Bounds”

4. “Roam”

3. “Love Shack”

2. “Give Me Back My Man”

1. “Rock Lobster”

Was there ever any doubt about #1? I didn’t think so!

Remember When Tears for Fears Ruled the World?

2.27 Tears for Fears - Songs from the Big Chair

1985 was one crazy year in music. That year, I discovered artists such as Hüsker Dü and The Replacements. Duran Duran was peaking as a pop powerhouse. Whitney Houston burst onto the scene with unbelievable beauty, grace and the voice of a generation. Prince gave us his follow-up to Purple Rain a psychedelic Paisley Easter Egg of an album, Around the World in a Day, that I actually loved. Tom Petty couldn’t decide if he wanted to follow The Band into some southern-fried epic or due a new wave funky chicken with the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart on Petty’s Southern Accents LP. Bruce Springsteen was the dominant sound, with sound-alike hits by artists like Bryan Adams and that song from the movie Eddie & the Cruisers (“On the Dark Side” by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band). Even an old parody song by Rick Springfield spoofing on the similarities between his name and The Boss’ name was a minor hit (“Bruce”). And, then, there was the charity songs, led by Band Aid and USA for Africa. And, perhaps, the most important event of our lifetimes with Live Aid taking place at Wembley Stadium in London AND at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia that had the biggest global audience watching led by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. That year was sure some heady times.

2.27 Tears for Fears live

But, lest we forget, an album from a little known UK band was released to little fanfare, but eventually shot to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in the US, I think we have really forgotten just how great of an album Tears for Fears released that year. Songs from the Big Chair was the album that captured the imagination of people in that important 18 to 30 year-old demographic at the time. I know that I had totally let my vinyl collect some dust without pulling out much over the 30-plus years since its release. But, thanks to Weezer’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” on their recently released “Teal Album,” I went back in re-evaluation mode.

2.27 Tears for Fears - Everybody

Guess what?!?! Tears for Fears made one terrific album. Why is it that only pop oldies stations are only embracing the band’s three mega-hits (“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Shout,” and “Head over Heels”) when classic rock radio has totally forgotten about this terrific album? I cannot believe that the band’s management did not try to milk a couple more hits out of it here in the States, because this album should be mentioned among the all-time greats.

2.27 Tears for Fears - Shout

Of course, the trio of hits are the biggies on the album, but the whole thing is a seamless statement of purpose, philosophy and talent all in one recorded package of pop-rock heaven. Even with the use of Eighties-styled synths and drum machines, this album continues to sound fresh today. Mainly because main Tears Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal turned those sounds inside out, refusing to make those standard Eighties instruments sound almost organic.

2.27 Tear for Fears - Head over Heels

And, the band was not just new wave synth poppers that they are labeled today. No, they ventured into Style Council-like sophistipop ballads, lite-jazz numbers and flat-out Roxy Music areas of art-rock. This duo truly created a modern classic which most people have forgotten about.

2.27 Tears for Fears pic

So, old music fans, I know you have this album! Go dig it out, clean it up real nice and give it another spin on the old turntable. It will serve up some great memories while maintaining its freshness. And, all you young’uns out there! It’s time to go to your local independent record store, you know, the one with those vintage records and go record bin diving to find this album. You will NOT regret it. Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair IS a classic album that I have neglected for WAY too long. Let’s bring this album back to the respect it deserves.

It’s Weezer Week! How About 20 Cover Songs!

2.26 Weezer Black Album Release Photo

Finally, I feel like writing. I have to admit that my mother’s death last took the wind out of my sails. It was gut punch of reality that although I thought I was ready for it, I really wasn’t. No matter how logically and medically looked at the situation, it was still my mom. But, I am doing better. I am still tweaking the playlist for her visitation. Although it is dominated by her favorites like Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond, I still have thrown in a couple of Motown songs I remember her loving in the Sixties, along with a couple of songs from my days in the house. Plus, our Pastor wanted me to choose a secular song to put in the service, so I made it one that fit her personality of a fun-loving, non-wallflower of a person. But, I am not giving away the secret yet. That, along with writing her eulogy, have given me the peace and calm I had been searching for.  Wait! Should I throw in some U2? Hmmmm. Mom wouldn’t care. Hell, I always teased her that I would play the Pat Travers Band’s live version of “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” at her funeral, and she would always say, “Go ahead!” and just laugh.

So, this week is Weezer Week for me as the Black Album with be released on Friday. Hopefully, it will arrive that day, as well as a copy of the Teal Album. They are my boys’ version of my Cheap Trick. They both take a great pop song and turn it inside out with power cords and irreverence. Only, Weezer might be a bit better because leader Rivers Cuomo puts more effort in writing a great song, most of the time.

2.26 Weezer live

With that said, I thought I would, due to the release of the Teal Album, release my list of my 20 Favorite Cover Songs by Weezer. From all the covers the band have recorded over the years, you can tell that Rivers once kept a notebook detailing why certain pop songs were hits. The man studied the hits, and it shows in his choice of covers that the band has recorded and performed in concert over the nearly 25 years of rocking this world. I always find Weezer’s cover choices interesting and nearly impeccable.

2.26 Weezer today

With that said, let’s begin my countdown. I will list the original artists in parentheses after each songs on my list.

20. “Paranoid Android” (Radiohead)

19. “Velouria” (Pixies)

18. “Worry Rock” (Green Day)

17. “Billie Jean” (Michael Jackson)

16. “Paranoid” (Black Sabbath)

15. “Unbreak My Heart” (Toni Braxton)

14. “Pumped Up Kicks” (Foster the People)

13. “Rosanna” (Toto)

12. “The Weight” (The Band)

11. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (Eurythmics)

10. “You Might Think” (The Cars)

9. “Happy Together” (The Turtles)

8. “No Scrubs” (TLC)

7. “Rainbow Connection (with Hayley Williams)” (Kermit the Frog)

6. “Africa” (Toto)

5. “Take on Me” (a-ha)

4. “Viva la Vida” (Coldplay)

3. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (Tears for Fears)

2. “Mr. Blue Sky” (Electric Light Orchestra)

1. “Kids/Poker Face” (MGMT/Lady Gaga)

I think you can find all of these on Spotify and iTunes but I am by no means an expert on either. If I like, I find a way to get a hold of it. Still, Weezer’s take on “Kids/Poker Face” is impeccable! Enjoy the search!

My Ode to My Mom’s Musical Tastes

2.20 Queen at live aid

My mom died Monday evening on my birthday. I’m really cool with it, kind of a circle of life thing without the snowstorm my parents drove through to get to the hospital for my birth. Today, I would like to publicly acknowledge that my love of music was encouraged by Mom.

Mom came of age in the Fifties, but since she was from a small town south of Indianapolis, she really never heard of Elvis Presley or many of the other gods of rock & roll from the time period. She had around 100 singles by the likes of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, but mostly Pat Boone. I guess Mom just loved those watered-down versions of the great “race” records of the time.

Growing up, I remember Mom watching many rock & roll shows in the afternoons, such as ‘American Bandstand’ and the other dance shows. She claims that I loved to dance to Paul Revere & the Raiders whenever they were on TV. She also claims that we watched the Beatles on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show,’ but I was only a year-old at the time.

Mom was the person who took me to the local K-Mart to buy my first “real” rock album, Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies. She never tried to censor my tastes in music, except for the time I was playing “Bobby Brown” by Frank Zappa the summer after my freshman year in college. She calmly knocked on my door, walked in, and said that if I ever played that song in her home again that I could pack up and leave or she would break the record over my head. I preferred the former at the time, but was really afraid she do the latter. Other than that, she never cared whether I was playing the Sex Pistols, Ted Nugent, Journey or The Clash, she actually loved it.

2.20 Bohemian_Rhapsody single

The one artist that she really enjoyed was Queen. Since she was an art teacher for 35 years, the whole Queen image was amusing to her. Then, when she heard “Bohemian Rhapsody,” she became a quiet fan while I was hanging the band’s posters in my room and cranking up every album they released. From 1975 to 1984, Queen was on of my musical obsessions and Mom joined in. While I was living at home, I got the privilege of seeing Queen twice in concert. Fortunately, Mom did not join me, but something said that she wanted to go see Freddie, whom she loved.

2.20 queen-bohemian-rhapsody-soundtrack

You know, Mom would have loved the new Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s took away her memories a couple of years ago, so she did not remember the band when I mentioned that my whole family went to see that movie. For my birthday, my wife and I purchase the Blu-Ray version and were about half-way through the movie when the call came from the nursing home that Mom had passed. We stopped the movie and rushed to the nursing home. There, we were met by my stepdad and my younger son and his wife as we mourned. After a couple hours of laughing and crying, we left.

In a daze, I put the movie back on, turned to my wife and said, “Mom would have loved this movie.” All she said was, “I know.”

I’m a Sucker for a Good Pop Song

WOW! What a past month-and-a-half I’ve had! Electronic devices are a wonderful thing, but when you health depends on one and it’s not working well, those things can sure mess you up. Now that it is cleared up, hopefully I can get back into a routine writing about music. For better or worse, my life circumstances have made me a bit nostalgic lately, as my mom lies in her nursing home bed making a slow exit from this life to the next, while attempting to celebrate my latest birthday, all I can think about is the music that entered my life that made me happy.

When you are a physically awkward teenager, even though some friends might say that I was blessed with some athletic abilities that would automatically disqualify me from being a nerd, I was an academic nerd first. And, although I have always played something of a “paid extrovert,” my students were always amazed by my quietness whenever they saw me in public. And, although I was blessed with absolutely ZERO musical abilities, I have always loved a great pop song. One of the first songs I remember loving was Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” My mom would talk about me “dancing” in my playpen every time Paul Revere & the Raiders would come on the television or radio.

Today, I would love to honor all of those great pop songs that few love yet have always meant something to me. The Seventies were full of cheesy songs, still some are considered great by me. I’m talking about such so-called schlock to many but nirvana to me like “Mandy” by Barry Manilow or “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse or anything by Tommy James & the Shondells. And, who else finds The Cowsills’ “The Rain, the Park & Other Things” just a little irresistible?

For every “God Save the Queen,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Friend of the Devil,” I still found Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again,” “Jive Talkin'” by Bee Gees and “You’re the One That I Want” by Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta just as important. Tom Petty may be one of my favorite artists, but Cheap Trick is just as important to me.

I simply want to get off my chest that I love these silly little pop songs as much as the so-called classics that I tend to write about. My tastes in music are not as cool as the articles as I write. Abba’s Gold is every bit the equal to my beloved Elton John’s first Greatest Hits album to me.

So, here’s to the nerdy side of my music tastes. By the way, if push were to come to shove, there’s not an album set as my new wave pop song 15-CD set by Rhino entitled Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80s or a CD as good as my Billboard Pop Hits 1983 disc.

Let’s hear for the disposable hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s!

When Facing Life’s Darkness, We All Need a Little ‘Sunshine Rock’

2.12 Bob Mould

As I write this blog entry, I know only one definite item: my mom is dying. Unfortunately, I lost Mom to Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago, but her body now is not supporting her, and I, as her Power of Attorney, had some decisions to make. First off, I am a Medical Technologist who specialized in Microbiology and Hematology, which was my first profession before becoming a high school chemistry teacher. So, I am a pragmatic person.

After finally getting my own health issues under control over the weekend, I went to the nursing home for a fact finding mission and to quickly observe my mother. After talking with everyone and seeing Mom, I knew what I had to do. First, I text my brother in California to call me ASAP. Then, I went into my music room looking for comfort. So, I pulled out the mid-Eighties compilation by The Cure, Staring at the Sea. As I laid in my recliner, I simply let Robert Smith’s brilliant music wash over me, without ever turning on the light in my little sanctuary. Oddly, the whole experience was cathartic.

Next, my brother called. I gave him the lowdown on Mom, and what I wanted to do, which was to quit testing Mom for things that were not going to be treated. We cried, and consoled each other, then something was said, and we belly-laughed as only brothers can do. The bottom line is that he agreed with my assessment: it was time simply to keep Mom’s body comfortable until she is ready to leave this world.

Now, that I was comfortable with that decision, the next intervention in my life showed up when our mail carrier delivered the latest album Bob Mould, Sunshine Rock. Not sure if this is a moment of the ‘Right Album at the Right Time for me,’ but Bob has given us a musical gift here in 2019. From the moment of the title song kicks off the album until the album closes, I was transported to all stages of my life.

2.12 bob mould_sunshine rock

Sunshine Rock plays as if this were his greatest hits compilation, yet all of the songs are new! There’s old Hüsker Dü buzzsaw noise pop (“What Do You Want Me to Do”), B0b Mould solo rock (“Sin King”) and Sugar-esque power pop, with the emphasis on power (“Lost Faith”, “Thirty Dozen Roses”). Yet, this is much more. Permeating from the lyrics is a sense of happiness, confidence, dare I say optimism, that is not usually associated with Mr. Mould. Still, lyrically and musically he is looking all around his world and seems to finally be at ease with his lot in life. And, that contentment is what makes Sunshine Rock Mould’s masterpiece. As he sings in “Camp Sunshine,” he tells us to “We can’t predict the future…just enjoy the moments we have.” I am not going to speculate as to why Mould would say such a thing, yet I am left wondering if he has lost someone significant in his life, since I find myself relating to those lyrics.

2.12 bob-mould-sunshine-rock-tour

This glorious album ends the same way it begins: on a positive high! I have not had a deep emotional response to an album of new music since I was in my twenties, but, by golly, Bob Mould has done it on Sunshine Rock. I can feel my 55-year-old body wanting to get up to dance, pogo style at times, rougher at others. This is the greatest adult album I have ever heard. And, it’s one that I can place rightfully next to London Calling or Born to Run without the embarrassment of trying to justify it’s status. Bob Mould has truly given us a gift that needs to be shared with the world.

Bob Mould’s Sunshine Rock is an album for the ages!

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Band!

2.7 The Band pic

I am no expert. I simply enjoy blowing off my opines on music. With that obvious disclaimer, I’ve been approached by some friends as to which band in the history of rock music is the most talented. I thought I would tackle the topic, only because I think this article could become my most controversial.

First off, ALL popular artists are fine-oiled machines. These people are the Olympic and professional athletes of the music world. They are otherworldly to me, much like Michael Jordan or Tom Brady or any other athlete at the top of their game. Usain Bolt? He has speed, but how about the dexterity of Rush drummer Neal Peart? And speaking of Peart, I feel that many of you will be pointing to his band as my pick. And, while that trio is extremely talented, Rush fans please do NOT kill me or, at least, fill up my box with vicious attacks. There may not be a rock trio as talented, though Cream is in the running for trios.

2.7 The-Last-Waltz

Let’s turn back the clock to the Sixties, when all things in rock were possible. Sometime, in the mid-Sixties, Bob Dylan decided to leave his folk life behind to join the “song-and-dance man” in the rock world. For this tour, he decided to grab a group of four young Canadians and a hillbilly from rural Arkansas who were known as Levon and the Hawks at the time. Without going into detail about Dylan constantly being called “Judas” throughout the tour, and all that rot, Levon and the Hawks eventually followed Dylan to Woodstock, New York, where Dylan kept encouraging this group of musicians to form a band.

So, they did. They ended up calling themselves The Band, only because everyone in Woodstock kept calling them that. Who knows if it was irony, ego or laziness to go with that name? But, who cares?

2.7 Levon

So, who is this band I speak of? The members were guitarist Robbie Robertson, drummer Levon Helms, bassist/fiddler Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and multi-instrumentalist, or the man whom the others referred to as the Maestro, Garth Hudson. And, when I say Hudson could play anything, he could literally play ANYTHING! All of these guys were mandolin players, guitarists and piano players, while Levon, Richard, Rick and Robbie were all considered to be lead singers, influenced in a singing style by the great Staple Singers. Their voices never harmonized. They sang as if they were pulling at each other to make the others step up their game. Richard Manuel sounded like Ray Charles, Levon Helm took on the country sound, while Rick Danko had a pained voice. And Robbie Robertson, took on the bluesy side.

2.7 music from big pink2.7 Brown album

While other artists of the day were fully immersed in the psychedelic sound of the day, The Band was inventing the gameplan for a new sound altogether: Americana music. Rustic, dirty, bluesy, country-ish, something totally American. Albums like Music from Big Pink, The Band, Stagefright and The Last Waltz are their note-worthy albums. With enduring songs such as “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” “Stagefright,” “It Makes No Difference,” “Rag Mama Rag,” “Tears of Rage,” and “I Shall Be Released,” The Band proved their mettle.

Unfortunately, only two of the former members of The Band are still with us, Robertson and Hudson. Unfortunately, Manuel was the first to leave us by his own choice, and if you ever hear the pain in his Ray Charles-influenced voice, you knew his pain. Then, Danko passed in the Nineties from a heart attack, while in the early part of this decade, we lost Helm to cancer.

2.7 Last Waltz

For footage of The Band, check out their The Last Waltz film, in my humble opinion, the greatest rock concert film ever. Additionally, a great watch is the concert film Love for Levon, an all-star concert in honor of the man, Levon Helm.

Please go out and download these guys to check out what I mean. For most of you, this might not be for most of you all. That’s cool! But, The Band holds a very special place in my heart.