Into the Funked Up Mind of George Clinton

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Wow! Just when you think things can’t get any crazier in your life, a couple of tornadoes rip through your hometown during the evening of Memorial Day this past Monday. We live two miles (or 3.20 kilometers) from the hit area. My younger son and his wife were only a half-mile (or 800 meters) away, and he tried to video the storm, only for the moment to devolve into an argument between them, which ended with him just laughing. Anyway, the National Weather Service declared it to be an EF-2 tornado, which is not the strongest (EF-5) nor the weakest (EF-0). However, the tornadoes demolished so many trees that made the town so uniquely beautiful. Amazingly, there were no deaths or serious injuries. As I am writing this, my wife is going to town to volunteer with the cleanup. Unfortunately, my stupid back condition prevents me from doing anything.

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So, originally, I thought I was going to write about some boring old artist from the Seventies or Eighties, but I decided to move up my topic a day. I figured we could use some fun. So, today I would like to tackle one monster of a musical empire: George Clinton’s P-Funk Thang. Clinton’s influence can be felt everywhere, from the whole history of hip hop to the Red Hot Chili Peppers through nu metal to Fishbone and Beastie Boys. Now, Clinton is taking his current version of this musical monstrosity out for one last tour, and my older son got us tickets to see them this weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio. Needless to say, this is yet another artist being checked off my bucket list.

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The Mothership lands

Now, Clinton is a somewhat controversial yet still beloved personality. He is a musical genius who brought together many of the finest musicians of his generation under one umbrella, only to be accused of not paying them properly, cheating them out of royalties, mismanaging them and himself, hooking them on drugs and even sexual abuse. On the other hand, only he had the vision to see what these people’s talents could do within the contexts of not just one band, but a multitude of off-shoot groups. At the top of the pyramid were Parliament, the horn-influenced funk version, and Funkadelic, the rock-based version, with the very same musicians and singers participating in both. Then, what followed was a crazy array of solo pursuits and constructed groups in Clinton’s effort to create a funk version of Motown. From this same musical pool emerged Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Parlet, the Horny Horns, the Brides of Funkenstein, Eddie Hazel, Bernie Worrell, the P-Funk All-Stars, Zapp, Roger (Troutman) and Bootsy Collins. This massive musical conglomeration provided much of the greatest funk music of the Seventies and Eighties, as well as the basis for a vast array of hip hop music recorded by diverse artists like De La Soul, N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Digital Underground, Kirk Franklin, Warren G and Nate Dogg, among so many others.

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If you over look the controversial parts of this story, these people created some very enduring music. My first memory, much like many young white kids from the ‘burbs, was hearing “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” on the radio. I literally thought I was hearing the funk version of Frank Zappa coming through the airwaves. I wanted to laugh and dance at the same time. It was not the precision funk of Earth, Wind & Fire or Commodores, nor was it Sly & the Family Stone. No! This was completely different and definitely Afrocentric. And, when I was the album cover for Mothership Connection, I thought we have got something along the lines of a funky, more talented Kiss. The group photos I would see of Parliament would be like watching a baseball team taking the stage. That music, coupled with the visual, was a teenager’s dream.

Diaperman, aka Gary Shider, wails with the Horny Horns in the background

Later, I found out that this band, Parliament, played initially in two distinct styles, as Funkadelic. Eventually, the lines blurred between the sounds of the two bands. Still, I remember my time in Colorado during the Summer of 1978 with Parliament’s “Flash Light” and Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” lighting up the disco at that national track meet I ran in. Then, coming back to Ball State in the Fall of 1982 and hearing Clinton’s first solo hit, “Atomic Dog,” being blasted all over campus. More recently, when Napster first came around, I finally heard Funkadelic’s epic guitar workout “Maggot Brain” and literally had my mind blown by Eddie Hazel. That is the greatest guitar solo of all-time folks! Sorry Jimi, Eric, Eddie Van Halen or Terry Kath. Hazel’s my man!

In an effort to get ready for my next musical experience, and to inject a little funkiness into my white-bread yet devastated hometown, here is my Top 30 Parliament/Funkadelic/George Clinton Empire songs.

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30. “Ridin’ High” – Parlet (1979)

29. “Hardcore Jollies” – Funkadelic (1976)

28. “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)” – Parliament (1978)

27. “More Bounce to the Ounce” – Zapp (1980)

26. “Disco to Go” – The Brides of Funkenstein” (1978)

25. “Red Hot Mama” – Funkadelic (1974)

24. “Stretchin’ Out (In a Rubber Band)” – Bootsy’s Rubber Band (1976)

23. “Funkentelechy” – Parliament (1977)

22. “Bop Gun (Endangered Species)” – Parliament (1977)

21. “Undisco Kidd” – Funkadelic (1976)

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Eddie Hazel

20. “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” – Funkadelic (1970)

19. “Chocolate City” – Parliament (1975)

18. “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” – Parliament (1975)

17. “Cosmic Slop” – Funkadelic (1973)

16. “(I Wanna) Testify” – The Parliaments (1967)

15. “Up for the Down Stroke” – Parliament (1974)

14. “Bootzilla” – Bootsy’s Rubber Band (1978)

13. “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” – Parliament (1975)

12. “Standing on the Verge of Getting It On” – Funkadelic (1974)

11. “I’d Rather Be with You” – Bootsy’s Rubber Band (1976)

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Bootsy Collins

10. “Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic?” – Funkadelic (1970). This is the calling card of Funkadelic’s spaced out version of Hendrix’ funk rock.

9. “Super Stupid” – Funkadelic (1971). This one is so good that I cannot believe it was left off the band’s best compilation.

8. “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?!” – Funkadelic (1978). Exactly! Especially when you have the musicians you have George.

7. “California Dreamin'” – Eddie Hazel (1977). Go find this one! I mean, right now! Who knew that this song could rock so hard while being so funky?

6. “(Not Just) Knee Deep” – Funkadelic (1979). The last big hit of the Seventies for P-Funk is a killer that’s been sampled for a variety of hit songs, most notably De La Soul’s masterpiece “Me Myself and I.”

5. “Maggot Brain” – Funkadelic (1971). Eddie Hazel’s moment of many moments to shine.

4. “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” – Parliament (1975). The big funk song that kicked off my Clinton obsession.

3. “One Nation Under a Groove” – Funkadelic (1978). The monster jam of 1978 has been sampled by all kinds of artists, most effectively by Kirk Franklin for his funky gospel crossover hit “Stomp!”

2. “Atomic Dog” – George Clinton (1982). Just when everyone thought Clinton’s days were long gone, he comes up with one of his most enduring hit songs. Snoop Dogg made a career out of this song when he and Dr. Dre sampled it for Snoop’s big solo debut hit jam “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?”

1. “Flash Light” – Parliament (1977). I don’t care what you all say! This song is the one that got me on the dance floor when I was a very shy fifteen-year-old. And, it still brings the funk this very day.

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Now, I’m ready! Punch my ticket, cuz I need da funk, gotta have da funk!

Long Live Cheap Trick! Here’s My 50 Favorite Songs by My Favorite Band!

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Finally! Today, I am bringing you my favorite band of all-time, the Pride of Rockford, Illinois, Cheap Trick. Sure, I continue to bring them up periodically, but I have never tackle their songs. So, here I am, ready to present not just 15, 20, 25, 30 or 40 songs, but 50 of my favorite Cheap Trick songs from the past 42 years of their career. And, this is a career in which I have been immersed for nearly the whole time.

My devotion to Cheap Trick is well established among my family, friends and former students, athletes and coaches, as well as pretty much anyone who has ever come in contact with me over the past four decades. So, what exactly is it about this band that grabbed my listening ear, first, and my soul, figuratively speaking? First off, I was attracted the punkish sound of their music. Remember, when I discover Cheap Trick, the whole punk revolution in New York and London was in full tilt mode, and I was vicariously living the scenes via Creem, Circus, Rolling Stone and Hit Parader magazines, while listening to the vinyl I was voraciously consuming. Then, you throw in Cheap Trick’s ability to throw in some album-oriented rock sounds, a touch of metal, a whole lotta power pop, a whole lot of Beatlesque and Who-like music, great vocals, terrific musicianship and a great visual presence, and they became the embodiment of cool to this Midwestern kid. Like one of my former teaching colleagues, and fellow Cheap Trick fan, “It was like they invented alternative music, grunge and hair metal, while keeping The Beatles and The Who totally cool in our generation’s mind.”

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And, the band had EVERYTHING! 12-string bass guitars, five-neck guitars, large drum sticks, soaring vocals, it was ALL there. They had a guitarist who looked like an amphetamine nerd, a drummer dressed to place in a show band and two pop idol guitarists/vocalists. It was the perfect band with the perfect look at the perfect time for me. And, I cannot get them out of my system to this day!

So, let’s get this countdown going! If you don’t know Cheap Trick, go buy their first five albums right now. They are mandatory listening for any rock fan. Then, find these songs, all of which are classics in my book. Feel free to join me on the Cheap Trick bandwagon.

5.22 Cheap Trick 1978

50. “Pop Drone” (Special One, 2003)

49. “Baby Talk” (Sub Pop single, 1997)

48. “Don’t Be Cruel” (Lap of Luxury, 1988)

47. “Ghost Town” (Lap of Luxury, 1988)

46. “Anytime” (Cheap Trick, 1997)

45. “Take Me to the Top” (The Doctor, 1986)

44. “She’s Alright” (We’re All Alright!, 2017)

43. “Woke Up with a Monster” (Woke Up with a Monster, 1994)

42. “Won’t Take No for an Answer” (Next Position Please, 1983)

41. “California Girl” (The Latest, 2009)

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40. “When I Wake Up Tomorrow” (Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello, 2016)

39. “You Got It Going On” (We’re All Alright!, 2017)

38. “Clock Strikes Ten” (In Color, 1977)

37. “Time Will Let You Know” (Silver, 2002)

36. “Perfect Stranger” (Rockford, 2006)

35. “Gonna Raise Hell” (Dream Police, 1979)

34. “The Flame” (Lap of Luxury, 1988)

33. “I Know What I Want” (Dream Police, 1979)

32. “Brontosaurus” (Sub Pop single, 1997)

31. “Hard to Tell” (Cheap Trick, 1997)

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30. “Reach Out” (Heavy Metal OST, 1981)

29. “Auf Wiedersehen” (Heaven Tonight, 1978)

28. “Just Got Back” (All Shook Up, 1980)

27. “Eight Miles Low” (Cheap Trick, 1997)

26. “Lookout” (Cheap Trick bonus track, 1977)

25. “Walk Away (with Chrissie Hynde)” (Busted, 1990)

24. “Southern Girls” (In Color, 1977)

23. “California Man” (Heaven Tonight, 1978)

22. “Ain’t That a Shame” (At Budokan, 1979)

21. “Way of the World” (Dream Police, 1979)

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20. “Everything Works If You Let It” (Found All the Parts EP, 1980)

19. “Can’t Stop Falling in Love” (Busted, 1990)

18. “He’s a Whore” (Cheap Trick, 1977)

17. “Downed” (In Color, 1977)

16. “Dream Police” (Dream Police, 1979)

15. “Voices” (Dream Police, 1979). I never understood why this ballad about hearing voices in your head was never a hit. And, I don’t blame Robin Zander to singing this song, and “The Flame,” to my wife at a concert. She’s beautiful woman. I’m just lucky she didn’t leave the concert for a couple of weeks with him.

14. “She’s Tight” (One on One, 1982). When I heard this song in Texas at the beginning of the Summer of 1982, I thought Cheap Trick was back! I was right, but the record-buying public didn’t really join me in my enthusiasm.

13. “Tonight It’s You” (Standing on the Edge, 1985). My wife loves the song but hates the lyrics. I guess nobody wants to be picked during last call at a bar.

12. “You’re All I Wanna Do” (Woke Up with a Monster, 1994). For whatever reason, the title song got all the airplay. But, I will go to my grave that this song is the centerpiece of this album.

11. “Come On, Come On” (In Color, 1977). This is the rockin’ side of Cheap Trick on an album that was a little overproduced.

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10.  “Tell Me Everything” (Woke Up with a Monster, 1994). A very underrated song from a lackluster album. This song should have been a monster hit, but that’s the story of my favorite band.

9. “When the Lights Are Out” (The Latest, 2009). I will NEVER understand why this Slade cover song never got any airplay on classic rock radio. This version rocks!

8. “Sick Man of Europe” (The Latest, 2009). None other than Little Steven called this a modern day garage rock song a decade ago. The album is brilliant as it placed TWO songs in my Top Ten.

7. “If You Want My Love” (One on One, 1982). This song jumped out of my speakers back in 1982 as a possible hit song. What is it about Cheap Trick that kept them from having huge hits?

6. “Stop This Game” (All Shook Up, 1980). I was obsessed with this song back in high school. I won’t say it! It’s a common theme with me.

5. “Say Goodbye” (Cheap Trick, 1997). Want to know how good this song is? When it came out, my older son was 12, and he thought it was great. He was the one that said, “Dad! Isn’t that a new song by your favorite band?” “Sure is,” I replied. “We gotta get that CD!” A preteen’s endorsement is what I hang my hat on to this day.

4. “Surrender” (Heaven Tonight, 1978). THE teen anthem of all teen anthems from my high school days. This song was played ALL the time on our high school radio station, yet never even broke the Top 60 in Billboard’s Hot 100. This is killing me!

3. “Oh, Candy” (Cheap Trick, 1977). This little power pop gem from the band’s debut album has been left off every one of their compilations! For crying out loud, WHY?!?!?!

2. “I Want You to Want Me (live)” (At Budokan, 1979). Oh! Did I just trip you all up my friends? I know that I have always been a huge champion of this song, but it’s been my second favorite since the Eighties.

1. “I Can’t Take It” (Next Position Please, 1983). From the moment I first heard this song up in Wisconsin during the Summer of work and hedonism of 1983, this song has been my absolute favorite Cheap Trick anthem. It is the most perfect song, encapsulating everything I love about the band.

Photo of Cheap Trick

At least I no longer have to bitch about these guys not being inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That’s a load off my shoulders. Now, I am yelling into the void about Paul Weller/The Jam and Todd Rundgren.

Creation or Evolution: The Music of Todd Rundgren

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Honestly, I cannot remember not loving the music of Todd Rundgren. I remember going to the swimming pool during the Summer of 1972 as an impressionable nine-year-old and hearing the hit songs from Todd’s early masterpiece, Something/Anything? Let’s rattle them off: “I Saw the Light,” “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” and the great “Hello It’s Me.” All of those songs were played by the older kids on the jukebox that provided the soundtrack of those summer days. Play those songs, along with others by Badfinger, Deep Purple, Steely Dan, America, Elton John, and so many others, and I am transported to those long, hot summer days of learning to do flips off the diving board.

Now, I did not purchase my first Todd album until I was in high school, his classic Hermit of Mink Hollow from 1978. That was a summer of hits that barely made a dent in the Top 40 here that I loved. I am talking about Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends,” “Follow You, Follow Me” by Genesis and Springsteen’s “Prove It All Night,” all found on great albums from that year. But, for some reason, not sure if it was the melancholy singer/songwriter sound Todd was mining at the time, but I became a fan of his music. Shortly thereafter, I discovered his alter-ego band, Utopia, with their classic album Adventures in Utopia from late 1979, which completely opened up a whole new world to me. Now, I was able to consume solo Todd and Utopia Todd, which rarely mixed themselves sonically.

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Utopia, 2019

Utopia went all over the map, but the same could be said of Rundgren’s solo career as well. But, as a follower of his music, I have found the journey that much more enriching. Who else has had as diverse of a career as Todd Rundgren, whether pursuing his muse as a solo artist, within the players’ heaven of Utopia, as the producer of some of the finest albums by a variety of artists or as a pioneer in the field of music videos. The man’s accomplishments are legendary and should be recognized by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For the life of me, how did he NOT get inducted in 2019? The man finished in the Top 3 in the fan balloting, yet he was left off the induction list? Come on Jann Wenner and Little Steven! Suck up your egos and let this caustic, opinionated genius of a musician into the rarefied air of the rock immortals.

Before we look into his best songs, let’s just take a look at the artists Todd Rundgren has produced. This is not a complete list, but a quick look at the classic songs AND albums the man has been involved with, none of which are solo or Utopia albums. Let’s begin with Grand Funk’s We’re an American Band, the album and title song, and “The Loco-Motion;” Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell blockbuster album, which alone probably put his children through college; the New York Dolls’ landmark debut album; the Patti Smith Group’s 1979 swansong; the most eclectic album ever made by Daryl Hall & John Oates, War Babies; The Psychedelic Furs’ most successful stateside album, Forever Now; Cheap Trick’s excellent 1983 album Next Position Please; The Pursuit of Happiness’ late-Eighties debut album and XTC’s masterpiece long-player from 1987, Skylarking. And, those are just off the top of my head!

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Then, you throw in all the great music he created as a teenager with Nazz, then his classic Seventies work as a solo artist, and wrap it all up with the boundary-pushing and genre-jumping of his Utopia work, and we have been given some of the richest, most diverse music from one individual in the modern era of music. Oh, sure, Billboard will tell us that most of his songs fell well short of the Top Ten. But, who cares! Hell, the Sex Pistols and the Velvet Underground were not big sellers, but they are still in the Hall based mainly on their influence. To this very day, music fans are still discovering new artists who have co-opted Rundgren’s sound into theirs. Tell me that Kanye’s Sunday Morning Service performance at Coachella back in April did not have a touch of Rundgren shining through, then I must be deaf.

So, today, I bring forth my 30 favorite songs that Todd Rundgren and/or Utopia have recorded throughout the years.

Todd Rundgren

30. “Just One Victory” (A Wizard, a True Star, 1973)

29. “A Dream Goes on Forever” (Todd, 1974)

28. “Personality Crisis” ((Re)Production, 2011)

27. “Truth” (Liars, 2004)

26. “Lysistrata” – Utopia (Swing to the Right, 1982)

25. “Disco Jets” – Utopia (Disco Jets, 2016)

24. “Hideaway” (The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, 1983)

23. “Play This Game” (P.O.V., 1985)

22. “Love in Action” – Utopia (Oops! Wrong Planet, 1977)

21. “Libertine” – Utopia (Utopia, 1982)

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20. “Love Is the Answer” – Utopia (Oops! Wrong Planet, 1977)

19. “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” – Utopia (Utopia, 1982)

18. “Love of the Common Man” (Faithful, 1976)

17. “Tin Foil Hat (with Donald Fagen)” (White Knight, 2017)

16. “I Just Want to Touch You” – Utopia (Deface the Music, 1980)

15. “Chance for Us (with Daryl Hall)” (White Knight, 2017)

14. “Crybaby” – Utopia (Oblivion, 1984)

13. “Real Man” (Initiation, 1975)

12. “The Very Last Time” – Utopia (Adventures in Utopia, 1979)

11. “Time Heals” (Healing, 1981)

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10. “Be Nice to Me” (Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, 1971). Okay, Todd loves to downplay the early music of his career as it being from a love-lorn, Joni Mitchell-loving romantic teen, but teens don’t convey heartache and loneliness in such mature manners.

9. “Open My Eyes” – Nazz (Nazz, 1968). This Todd’s most enduring power pop song, but he is much more than a power pop artist, as this list tries to prove.

8. “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” (Something/Anything?, 1972). C’mon Todd! This stuff is brilliant!

7. “I Saw the Light” (Something/Anything?, 1972). This song has got to be what Daryl Hall and John Oates based their whole career on, or I have NO idea what I am talking about.

6. “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” (Something/Anything?, 1972). This song is my explanation for never asking out certain girls while in high school. I just lacked confidence.

5. “Bang on the Drum” (The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, 1983). Shortly after getting married, my wife said this was my life’s theme song. ‘Nuff said!

4. “Set Me Free” – Utopia (Adventures in Utopia, 1979). Technically, this is bassist Kasim Sultan’s song, but it is still a terrific take on Arena Rock. Still, I will never understand why it wasn’t a bigger hit than anything by Foreigner.

3. “Hello It’s Me” (Something/Anything?, 1972). I hear so many people my age saying this is one of their favorite songs of all time. That speaks volumes of how great a song it is, when we were all eight or nine when it was a hit.

2. “We Gotta Get You a Woman” (Runt, 1970). First, this song is the reason I have always called everyone “Leroy.” Second, I love how the whole song is about finding a buddy a girlfriend, but ends on the ironic note that “we’ll get me one too.” I love the lyrical twist, because it touches upon an eternal teenage truth: we were all that seemingly altruistic and selfish at the same time. Perfection!

1. “We Gotta Get You a Woman” (The Hermit of Mink Hollow, 1978). A perfect break-up song that speaks volumes of wanting to keep that special someone in your life even after the intensity of the flame of love has been extinguished. You’ve become so comfortable with that person that you never not want them out of your life completely. Yet, you know deep down that this relationship has got to be a total break with the person for both of you to maintain your sanity. The lyrics are so simply stated, yet so profound and elegant. Absolute pop perfection, and should be utilized in a coming-of-age movie soundtrack.

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Todd Rundgren is a worthy musician of all accolades that come his way. I just hope he gets his rightful place in the Hall soon.

Happy Birthday to Son #2! Here’s Some Talking Heads for You

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Today is my younger son’s, Seth, 30th birthday. That means I am old! Thirty years ago, around one in the morning, my wife’s water broke. We were awaiting her parents to get to our house so they could stay with our older son Graham. Since I was working at the local hospital in Oxford, Ohio, I called ahead and told the Labor & Delivery department to be ready for us. When my in-laws finally arrived, we rushed out of the house because we were afraid that the baby could be delivered at any moment. It only took us ten minutes to get the hospital, so, according to the chart, which I read, Jill was admitted at 2:30 am. Long story short, Seth was born at 2:36 am. No, Jill never had what women have called “real” labors, but she deliver a 9-pound, 3-ounce, 23-inch monster when is now a 6-foot-one man about to become a father at an age when we had officially pulled out of the baby-making business. I was a skinny distance running basketball player who produced a quarterback in American football-turned-soccer playing basketball player, and he and his beautiful wife are about to have a boy in a couple of months. If my wife, who is small and petite can have a monster like him, then I feel sorry for his much taller wife!

So, today, I am presenting one of Seth’s favorite bands and my 30 favorite songs of theirs. First off, I have to take credit for his tastes in music, for the most part. Obviously, this band is one of my favorites and is one of both of my boys’ favorites. I guess all of those days of playing Talking Heads music to my wife’s belly while she was pregnant with them helped! And, I don’t know how many times I caught them playing my Talking Heads albums when they were still in elementary school (Graham was well-versed in the proper care of vinyl, if only by my meticulous care of my records).

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Personally, I got hooked on Talking Heads in two ways. First, I saw them play on Saturday Night Live back after a basketball game in the winter of 1979. They performed the Al Green hit “Take Me to the River,” and I was smitten. But, fast-forward around six months, when the local radio station actually began playing “Life During Wartime.” That song got me to go out to purchase the band’s newly released Fear of Music album. Right there and then I became a fan!

After that, I bought every album that came along, and I still think that their 1982 live compilation, The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, remains their best document of the power and evolution of the band. Yes, Remain in Light is one of my ten favorite studio albums of all-time, and I love all of their albums. But, I feel the record-buying public missed out on how great of a singles band Talking Heads was. They personified everything that I loved about music: punk energy, pop sensibilities, rocking guitars, abstract yet bubblegum-ish lyrics and a funky rhythm section. To my ears, that’s a perfect combo.

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So, Happy Birthday Seth! This Top 30 is for you every bit as it’s for Graham and me and the rest of you.

30. “Blind” (Naked, 1988)

29. “Artists Only” (More Songs About Buildings and Food, 1978)

28. “Found a Job” (More Songs About Buildings and Food, 1978)

27. “Love –> Building on Fire” (Non-album single, 1977)

26. “Cities” (Fear of Music, 1979)

25. “Stay Up Late” (Little Creatures, 1985). This song was perfectly timed to coincide with the birth of my first son.

24. “Born Under Punches” (Remain in Light, 1980)

23. “Making Flippy Flop” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983)

22. “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” (More Songs About Buildings and Food, 1978)

21. “Don’t Worry About the Government” (Talking Heads: ’77, 1977)

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20. “New Feeling” (Talking Heads: ’77, 1977)

19. “(Nothing But) Flowers” (Naked, 1988)

18. “Girlfriend Is Better” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983)

17. “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town” (Talking Heads: ’77, 1977)

16. “And She Was” (Little Creatures, 1985)

15. “Slippery People” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983)

14. “Swamp” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983)

13. “Wild Wild Life” (True Stories, 1986)

12. “The Great Curve” (Remain in Light, 1980)

11. “Crosseyed and Painless” (Remain in Light, 1980)

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10. “Heaven” (Fear of Music, 1979). An OCD view of Heaven, which I find hilariously hitting close to home. Am I or am I not OCD? I prefer control freak.

9. “Road to Nowhere” (Little Creatures, 1985). What twenty-something doesn’t feel like they are on this road?

8. “Memories Can’t Wait” (Fear of Music, 1979). This sly little song reached me through the backdoor, figuratively speaking.

7. “I Zimbra” (Fear the Music, 1979). My first thought was “WTF!?!?!?” But, then I played it again. And again. And again. And, now, I know it was a preview of Remain in Light and Byrne & Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. But, man, the song is mesmerizing.

6. “Psycho Killer” (Talking Heads: ’77, 1977). What!? This low? WTF Keller! While I love this ode to Alice Cooper, I just love the Top 5 better. F-f-f-f-far better!

5. “Take Me to the River” (More Songs About Buildings and Food,1978). THE song that kickstarted this whole obsession! Still have great memories of a bunch of guys singing this song in the dorm shower. I know, weirdos!

4. “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983). The band best love song. Seth almost chose this song for the first dance at his wedding. Honestly, I was pulling for it, but Leon Bridge rightfully won out.

3. “Burning Down the House” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983). Next to Prince’s 1999 and Michael Jackson’s Thriller albums, this song was the best dance song of 1983.

2. “Once in a Lifetime” (Remain in Light, 1980). Back in 1980, I was trying to tell everyone at my high school who would listen just how great this song and album was. And, at the time, it fell on deaf ears. I could almost hear my high school radio listeners turning the station dials whenever I played this song. But, listen to Central Indiana radio now and tell me who was right back then? Hmmmm.

1. “Life During Wartime” (Fear of Music, 1979). This song actually changed this for my album collection and my listening habits. I STILL love listening to it! And, it’s lyrics are still terrifying to me as it describes a post-apocalyptic America that I thought would have been here sooner.

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My Teenage Self Was Wrong About the Eagles

5.17 Eagles-Lineup-Changes-Complete-Guide
All the members of the Eagles who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Can I speak honestly? I hate to write about the legends of rock music, mainly because how could I possibly enlighten you, my readers, anymore on The Beatles, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Dylan, and the like? I am by no means a PhD. in any rock artist. On the contrary, I might be a Master’s level in knowledge of Billboard’s Top 40 hits from the years 1975 through 1984, but that’s as close as I get to a level of a true expert. Plain and simple, I am just a fan. My writing lacks the insight required of the fine journalists writing for Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Mojo and the other musical outlets. No, I am quite content bringing a little music information to the few people who know me and/or enjoy this lame perspective of a great era of music that seems to be coming to a close, like any great musical movement throughout history.

But, today, I am tackling an American band from the Seventies Southern California heyday who brought country rock to the mountain top, but also, inadvertently lead to Yacht Rock, for all its schlocky glory. I have never really been much of a fan of country music. Oh sure, I love the classic artists such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, but I hear so much more in their music than country. And, when it comes to country rock, I have always preferred Gram Parsons as a solo artist, along with his work with The Byrds, The Stones and, best of all, The Flying Burrito Brothers. But, I didn’t discover him until I listened to Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue album. But, that’s another story. No, today, I am tackling my ambivalent feelings for one of America’s favorite bands, Eagles.

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Much like John Goodman’s character in The Big Lebowski, I have always thought, “F@*k the Eagles!” I don’t know why. I sure loved slow dancing to “Best of My Love” with my seventh-grade girlfriend at school dances. And, I loved the sound of “One of These Nights” at night during a thunderstorm, or how “Take It Easy” reminds me of the teasing that would go on in the locker room when we’d tease each other about all the lack of girlfriends we had at the time. (The line of “I got seven women on my mind…” was the source of much ridicule with high school guys like me.) Sure, I appreciated their music, but I NEVER once bought an Eagles album. Someone gave me The Long Run for Christmas 1979, but I never really got into it. I preferred Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes then, and today. So, I sold that album in college for some beer money.

And, yes, I know that their 1975 Greatest Hits album is the biggest selling album of all-time, yet I still do not own it. However, I DO own their double-CD compilation from 2003, The Very Best of the Eagles. I bought it on my way to bring my wife back home from the hospital after her neck surgery, during a moment of weakness. I listened to it, then put it away until this week. And, I am not sure why, but I pulled it out again. Now that I am no longer besieged by an inordinate amount of testosterone raging through my body, the mellowness of their sound, coupled with the warmer weather of late-Spring here in the Midwest has been comforting. Maybe, like I thought when I was younger, the Eagles were really designed for old people.

5.17 Eagles 1975

Now, I do own, and completely enjoy, the band’s documentary about their history. To me, the Eagles are the poster child for Seventies rock excess, and that warts-and-all film shows it. And, to the band members’ credit, they all admit to it. But, did they go through so many members along the way. I guess that’s the perils of becoming super-successful at a young age, when every member was an alpha male. Lord knows I could not have handled it. Hell, I had difficulty handling the little athletic success I experienced growing up, let alone increasing the craziness of going to their level of craziness.

But, I do have to hand it to the Eagles because they wrote some very enduring songs. And, when Glen Frey and Don Henley were receiving the lion’s share of credit for their songwriting, and rightfully so, Bernie Leadon was getting kudos for his acoustic playing, and, later on Joe Walsh and Don Felder were being held up as guitar gods, the band has been anchored by two very underrated bass players who both possess soulfully soaring voices, first Randy Meisner, then Timothy B. Schmit. Those two, I feel like, have not gotten their true due for what they have brought to the band. They have been the glue to the rhythm section as well as bringing the top end of those outstanding harmonies the Eagles are known for. It’s easy to write this band off at the time, because I was more interested in punk rock at the time. But, now that I am older, and maybe a bit wiser, I respect the band.

5.17 Eagles 1977

So, once again caving to the change in the weather and a little nostalgia, let’s do an Eagles Top 30 countdown today.

30. “How Long” (Long Road Out of Eden, 2007)

29. “Love Will Keep Us Alive” (Hell Freezes Over, 1994)

28. “Doolin-Dalton” (Desperado, 1973)

27. “Please Come Home for Christmas” (Non-album single, 1978)

26. “The Last Resort” (The Long Run, 1979)

25. “Ol’ 55” (On the Border, 1974)

24. “James Dean” (On the Border, 1974)

23. “Victim of Love” (Hotel California, 1976)

22. “Pretty Maids All in a Row” (Hotel California, 1976)

21. “On the Border” (On the Border, 1974)

5.17 Eagles 1980

20. “Already Gone” (On the Border, 1974)

19. “Heartache Tonight” (The Long Run, 1979)

18. “New Kid in Town” (Hotel California, 1976)

17. “In the City” (The Long Run, 1979)

16. “Witchy Woman” (Eagles, 1972)

15. “Seven Bridges Road” (Eagles Live, 1980)

14. “Lyin’ Eyes” (One of These Nights, 1975)

13. “After the Thrill Is Gone” (One of These Nights, 1975)

12. “The Long Run” (The Long Run, 1979)

11. “Life in the Fast Lane” (Hotel California, 1976)

5.17 Eagles 2007

10. “Tequila Sunrise” (Desperado, 1973). Whenever one of the guys who lived next door to me in the dorm got wickedly drunk the night before, his football-playing roommate would come back from his mornings in the weight room and crank this song just because. Every time I awoke to that damn song I would just laugh, because you’d hear Max whining over the music, “Mike! Turn that f—king song off!” My roommate and I would be doubling over in laughter at the 8:00 AM Saturday morning wake-up song.

9. “Desperado” (Desperado, 1973). By now, I have heard this song a billion times, but it is still a pretty good “rock musicians as country outlaws” song.

8. “Wasted Time” (Hotel California, 1976). How could guys in their twenties and thirties ever write such a poignant song about a yearning for one’s youth? Unbelievable!

7. “One of These Nights” (One of These Nights, 1975). I remember hearing this song for the first time down at my friends’ house down the street and just feeling like I was hearing some alien sound. Like I said, this song is even better during a storm.

6. “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (Eagles, 1972). This song got to the zeitgeist of people coming of age in the early-Seventies.

5. “Best of My Love” (On the Border, 1974). Remember when you first started slow dancing at middle school dances and that silly electricity firing through your body in potentially embarrassing ways? Here is one of those culprit songs from the mid-Seventies for me.

4. “Take It Easy” (Eagles, 1972). The quintessential Eagles song of their country rock phase, “Take It Easy” is the perfect cruising song as you were trying to pick up girls. “Oh, my Lord! There’s a girl in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at me.” Man, I always wished that happened to me!

3. “I Can’t Tell You Why” (The Long Run, 1979). Easily the sexiest song the Eagles ever recorded. And, Timothy B. Schmit proved he was a worthy successor to Randy Meisner.

2. “Take It to the Limit” (One of These Nights, 1975). Speaking of Meisner, this was his song. That high note he hit at the end is stuff legends are made of. This is the Eagles’ most beautiful song.

1. “Hotel California” (Hotel California, 1976). THE emotional and thematic centerpiece to the band’s long-playing masterpiece is a rock monstrosity right next to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This is the sound of Classic Rock in the Seventies, from Henley’s abstract poetry to the soulful rhythm section to the soaring guitar god duel at the end, this is a song that truly deserved the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Nothing else will ever compare to this song in the band’s catalog.

The Eagles


When Huey Lewis & the News Were Good, They Were Good; Unfortunately, the Converse Was True as Well

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Back in the Spring of 2012, I decided that I could no longer physically and mentally make my body respond to my will to teach any longer. I was wracked with pain from my back with arthritis having developed in the little joints in my spine after going four years of complaining to physicians that my supposedly fused vertebrae in my lower back felt unstable. When I finally got a physician to actually listen to me while not trying to get me addicted to the pain medications they were pushing, since they all get a kickback from their respective pharmaceutical companies (No wonder physicians don’t want universal healthcare! No one reports that they really don’t know whether one drug is better than another; they only know how much extra cash in flowing into their coffers from the drug company.), we all discovered that I knew what was wrong with me: my spine was unstable. Unfortunately for me, the damage was done by this neglect, for which the statute of limitations had all ready run out.

Now, even though I have two electronic devices implanted in my body to help lessen my pain, I still have bad days. Normal people get a headache or backache, they pop a couple of Tylenol and go on their way. Me? I hit my pain pump upwards of ten times a day to send a micro-dose of morphine to my back to momentarily kill the pain. I also have an electronic device that kills the nerve pain down both of my legs. It constantly runs to kill the pain. Occasionally, I have to get it adjusted because my body will get used to the sensation and stop working. Additionally, I have to get my pain medication changed out of my pump every four to six months to keep it fresh. Unfortunately, the way my people empty and refill the pump is to poke a needle through the skin to the right of my bellybutton where the reservoir the size of a hockey puck resides under my once firm skin. Unfortunately, my people don’t always hit the small three centimeter port on the first or second attempt, but, eventually, I will get a new 50-milliliters of morphine solution injected into my pump.

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Even with all of that stuff, I still need to take four Extra-Strength Tylenol and four Aleve per day to help with the pain, as well as a muscle relaxer at night to temporarily lesser my constant source of muscle spasms in my back. The reason I bring this up is that there are days where I simply cannot function. Sure, most days I fake it pretty well for an hour or two, so I can keep it together for a short period of time. But, there are the days in which I will go from the bed to the couch to the recliner to the couch to the recliner in my music room to the couch without ever having the energy to write. Sometimes, my loved ones don’t fully understand this condition, but they all try to be sympathetic. And, when it comes to family functions, I, using a sporting term, am always a game time decision. Except for my granddaughter and soon-to-be-here grandson, I will suck it up for them.

So, that’s why there will be gaps in my blog entries. I don’t want your sympathy. I simply wanted to let you all know why I can go a while without a blog entry. So, enough of my personal sob story, let’s get to some music!

As usual, I have been living in my past lately as far as music is concerned. I have been thinking about the successful artists of the Eighties, while doing some rearranging of my albums. That day, I was looking at the cover of my copy of the We Are the World album. Now, what Eighties music fan does NOT have this album? It should be required ownership by all fans of the music of that decade. This song itself is a classic line-up, a virtual who’s who of music at the time. And, yes, Prince was conspicuous with his absence, which might actually have lead to his decline in popularity. But, the artist who WAS there was Huey Lewis & the News.

5.16 huey lewis live

Speaking honestly, I have never really been a fan of the band. Personally, I like my music served with a little danger or rawness. And, Huey and his band were the exact opposite of that. They all seemed like good guys, which is a great marketing tool (just ask the Monkees!), but there music was mostly too slick for my tastes. Seriously, I have ALWAYS hated “The Heart of Rock & Roll,” “Back in Time,” and “Hip to Be Square.” I remember a conversation in a bar with a couple of buddies of mine during the Summer of 1984, when it turned to Huey Lewis. Now, one of my friends was this hulking man, a former Marine-turned steroid-infused bodybuilder with a brilliant mind. When “The Heart…” came on the bar’s jukebox, he ran over to it and shook it until the song changed to another one. After he did that, he yelled, “Is someone just trying to change me into a little girl?!?!” I just sat at our table laughing while the other patrons were worrying that Bruce Banner was truly turning in the Hulk right before their eyes. At that moment, I figured out what it was that I disliked about Huey. He had sanitized the music of Springsteen, Mellencamp and Seger, and distilled it to its bare essence, making it palatable to the middle school and elementary crowd, and people my age whose musical tastes had not matured beyond those tastes.

Still, I did find several songs by the band to be brilliant pop versions of the early-Sixties frat rock sound, that kept me a little interested in the band, enough so that I do own a couple of their albums  on vinyl and a compilation on CD. So, when the band was good, they were very good. But, when they were bad, they could make my skin crawl. Therein lies my problem. How do I balance this either/or reaction to the music of this pretty talented band? Well, I skip the songs I hate and stick to the ones I like.

5.16 HueyLewisAndTheNews-1983

So, with that opening, let’s get to my 15 favorite songs by Huey Lewis & the News. I feel like I picked the perfect moment in time to cover these guys because I have always associated their music with warm spring days while in college. There best music is perfect for cruising with your windows rolled down in your car blaring these songs, or listening to Huey while the college girls were sunning their bodies out front of their houses or by the duck pond on the Ball State campus. Their music can evoke that nostalgic feel of one’s lost youth. So, let’s get this party rolling!

15. “The Power of Love” (Back to the Future OST, 1985)

14. “Doing It All for My Baby” (Fore!, 1986)

13. “Perfect World” (Perfect World, 1988)

12. “Stuck with You” (Fore!, 1986)

11. “Heart and Soul” (Sports, 1983).

10. “Jacob’s Ladder” (Fore!, 1986). The sound of Huey and the boys trying to answer their critics.

9. “It’s Alright” (People Get Ready: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, 1991). This version of the Curtis Mayfield standard is outstanding, making me wonder where THIS Huey Lewis was all along.

8. “Some of My Lies Are True (Sooner or Later)” (Huey Lewis & the News, 1980). A little-known gem found on the band’s debut album.

7. “I Want a New Drug” (Sports, 1983). THE song of the Winter of 1984 on Ball State’s campus, as it spoke to the burnouts of my generation. It WAS fun at parties, though.

6. “Walking on a Thin Line” (Sports, 1983). Once again, another little played song that I just love. This song about the perils of a Vietnam veteran may just be the best of its kind from the Eighties, including “Born in the USA.”

5. “Cruisin'” – Huey Lewis & Gwyneth Paltrow (Duets OST, 2000). Well, how did this duo top Smokey’s version? I don’t know, but I think they did!

4. “Hope You Love Me like You Say You Do” (Picture This, 1982). This little known R&B bar band song is a terrific little ballad that only continues to grow in stature with me every time I hear it. Why wasn’t this song a hit back then?

3. “If This Is It” (Sports, 1983). Evokes more of a great memory of a great summer than the quality of the song. Like I said earlier, these kind of summer songs are what the guys did the best.

2. “Trouble in Paradise (live)” (We Are the World Album, 1985). Who knew that the band would have the best cut on this album? But, this song just pops in this live version.

1. “Do You Believe in Love” (Picture This, 1982). The band’s first little pop/rock ditty continues to be my favorite. They just did what they do best perfectly on this song.

Is the Rock Hall Strong Enough for Sheryl Crow?

5.13 Sheryl Crow beach

Happy Monday everyone! It’s back to the Terror Dome, which means that I’m going to do my part to waste everyone’s time to once again write about some rock artist who I think is being wronged by the “brains” behind the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And, since I have been on a little roll with women lately, I am throwing my weight behind another deserving lady, who just happens to be a former educator, Ms. Sheryl Crow.

When Sheryl Crow burst onto the scene back in 1994, many thought she was an overnight sensation (my apologies to the great Eric Carmen!), when in reality she was far from that. Sheryl got her big break as a singer on Michael Jackson’s Bad Tour, during which she sang the duet “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” with Jackson. From there, Crow got invited to do backing vocals for a variety of established artists of the late-Eighties and early-Nineties, most notably Don Henley. From there, she hooked up with a variety of producers to try to make a debut album, recordings which all got shelved by Crow herself.

5.13 Sheryl Crow

It was then that she got hooked up with a variety of L.A. musicians who would meet and jam under the moniker the Tuesday Night Music Club. The biggest name of the bunch was David Baerwald, a former member of mid-Eighties duo David + David who had a noteworthy album, Welcome to Boomtown, as well as a alternative rock radio hit “Boomtown.” Baerwald ended up helping Crow write and pick songs that would establish Crow’s sound on her new debut album, the Grammy-winning Tuesday Night Music Club. The success of the album established Crow as a major singer/songwriter talent of Generation X.

From there, Crow has constantly expanded and evolved her music’s sound over the 25 years she has been on the scene. If you are going to compare her to someone in rock history, she is of the same bloodline as Stevie Nicks. She is fiercely independent and totally dedicated to her muse, creating a cache of songs that has made the world sing. Is she country or rock? Is she urban or a hippy country gal? In reality, she all those things and much more.

5.13 SherylCrowCrossroads2007

As a former high school boys’ track & field coach, I can tell you the boys on my teams loved her music, as we used to listen to her greatest hits compilation while working out during our “laidback” Saturday morning workouts. Her music mixed beautifully with songs by the Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Little Feat on those dewy Saturday morning workouts. Additionally, the boys on my Nineties teams loved to watch her videos in my classroom before a meet, but I think that may have been based more on their hormones. Whatever the reason, I believe she played a minor role in the success of those teams of mine, so thank you Sheryl.

Today, I am presenting to you my Top 20 Favorite Sheryl Crow songs, if nothing else, to remind the Hall voters to remember her when it is time for them to vote.

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20. “Can’t Cry Anymore” (Tuesday Night Music Club, 1994)

19. “Easy” (Feels like Home, 2013)

18. “Run Baby Run” (Tuesday Night Music Club, 1994)

17. “Wouldn’t Want to Be like You (with Annie Clark)” (2018)

16. “Halfway There (with Gary Clark Jr.)” (Be Myself, 2017)

15. “Redemption Day” (Sheryl Crow, 1996)

14. “Water Proof Mascara” (Feels like Home, 2013)

13. “Picture” – Kid Rock with Sheryl Crow (Cocky, 2002)

12. “Steve McQueen” (C’mon, C’mon, 2002)

11. “Safe and Sound” (C’mon, C’mon, 2002)

10. “Leaving Las Vegas” (Tuesday Night Music Club, 1994). The song that kicked off my Sheryl Crow obsession.

9. “A Change Would Do You Good” (Sheryl Crow, 1996). The song that truly established the fact that Sheryl Crow was cool.

8. “Sign Your Name” (100 Miles from Memphis, 2010). Anyone who has the balls to cover a Terence Trent D’Arby song has my attention!

7. “The First Cut Is the Deepest” (The Very Best of Sheryl Crow, 2003). Crow does Rod Stewart better with this song.

6. “Everyday Is a Winding Road” (Sheryl Crow, 1996). What a great song from my favorite album of hers.

5. “All I Wanna Do” (Tuesday Night Music Club, 1994). The song that broke Sheryl Crow open.

4. “My Favorite Mistake” (The Globe Session, 1998). Easily the best song on an otherwise unusually weak album.

3. “Soak Up the Sun” (C’mon, C’mon, 2002). The song most associated with those Saturday morning track workouts, as it summed up the whole laidback vibe of those mornings.

2. “Strong Enough” (Tuesday Night Music Club, 1994). This is the song of a strong woman telling all the players out there just to back off. Only the strongest may apply!

1. “If It Makes You Happy” (Sheryl Crow, 1996). I have heard many versions of this song, and no matter how Crow plays it, I love it! This song will be played at my funeral.

The Question of My Generation: Van Halen or Van Hagar?

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No one of my generation, those born after 1960, will ever forget that iconic scene toward the end of Fast Times at Ridgemont High where it says that Jeff Spicoli saved Brooke Shields from drowning and blew the reward money on Van Halen playing at his birthday party. I distinctly remember the packed movie theater breaking out in uncontrolled applause since that may have been the dream of every one of us at the time. Let’s face it, to my peeps, no band represented everything about us who were in our teens and early twenties at the time: party hearty and loud music!

Also, I remember the rock radio station, the once great and mighty Q-95, WFBQ in Indianapolis, having a promo with Van Halen that had the band yelling, “Hey! We’re the members of VAN HALEN! And when we’re in Indianapolis, we’re listening to the Q, Q-95!” For some reason, that become a catchphrase in my little hometown in the late-Seventies and early-Eighties. Plus, who in their right mind did NOT think Eddie Van Halen was THE guitar god of our generation?

The controversy with Van Halen came when David Lee Roth left the band and was replaced with Sammy Hagar. David Lee Roth was the consummate front man, while Hagar was a journeyman vocalist who, to many my age, was the antithesis of DLR. So, the line was drawn in the sand with many Van Halen fans left on one side or the other, with few in the middle, though record sales might be the empirical proof that most did not care one way or another. Maybe, as DLR’s solo career showed, the general public might have tired of his antics, and, at least, Hagar extended the band’s popularity a decade longer. Although I am NO fan of Hagar, I thought his place in the band did extend the band’s career, though in the long run, it may have delayed what many thought might have been a first ballot induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by a few years. Who knows how history will view these two time periods?

Personally, I go back to the original Van Halen albums, especially when the temperatures rise since I associate them with Spring and Summer. However, I do love the Van Hagar singles since I used to listen to them while I ran and cycled. I actually found Hagar’s lyrics inspiring for training, though I am not a fan of his politics. Still, the merger of the two time periods are played to great effect on the two-disc compilation from 2004 The Best of Both Worlds.

So, today, I want to present my Top 15 Favorite Songs of both versions of Van Halen, and I will let the people decide which version they prefer. Maybe, one day I will grow a set and give you a combined list, which might be even more provocative. But, until that day, here are my favorite songs by Van Halen and Van Hagar, in separate lists.

Van Halen Singing at a Concert

My Top 15 Favorite Van Halen Songs

15. “And the Cradle Will Rock…” (Women and Children First, 1980)

14. “(Oh) Pretty Woman” (Diver Down, 1982)

13. “Dance the Night Away” (Van Halen II, 1979)

12. “I’ll Wait” (1984, 1984)

11. “Jamie’s Cryin'” (Van Halen, 1978)

10. “Unchained” (Fair Warning, 1981)

9. “Eruption” (Van Halen, 1978)

8. “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” (Van Halen, 1978)

7. “Hot for Teacher” (1984, 1984)

6. “Ice Cream Man” (Van Halen, 1978)

5. “Beautiful Girls” (Van Halen II, 1979). This song was great to begin with but became iconic when it was originally used in the SNL “Schmitt’s Gay” commercial parody with the great Chris Farley and Adam Sandler. I just wish Eddie would give the show permission to use it again in the reruns.

4. “Jump” (1984, 1984). That Winter and Spring of 1984, you could NOT escape the song. It was everywhere: in the dorms, on the radio, in the clubs, even little kids were playing it. Hell, my mom loved it! I docked it because some asshole in the dorm played it over and over for three straight hours one night. I tried to tell him there were other songs on the album, but his door was locked and never answered it. The incident ended when the Dorm’s Director broke up his annoying little stunt.

3. “You Really Got Me” (Van Halen, 1978). My apologies to The Kinks, but Van Halen made this song theirs.

2. “Runnin’ with the Devil” (Van Halen, 1978). The song that sold me on the band.

1. “Panama” (1984, 1984). THE party song of the Summer of 1984, which was chalk-full of party anthems!

5.8 Van Hagar

My 15 Favorite Songs by Van Hagar

15. “Black and Blue” (OU812, 1988)

14. “Love Walks In” (5150, 1986)

13. “Runaround” (For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, 1991)

12. “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)” (Balance, 1995)

11. “Summer Nights” (5150, 1986)

10. “Feels So Good” (OU812, 1988)

9. “Poundcake” (For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, 1991)

8. “Top of the World” (For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, 1991)

7. “When It’s Love” (OU812, 1988)

6. “Finish What Ya Started” (OU812, 1988)

5. “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” (Balance, 1995). I’m a romantic at heart, so this one actually moves me.

4. “Best of Both Worlds” (5150, 1986). I think I like the video more than the song.

3. “Why Can’t This Be Love?” (5150, 1986). That opening guitar sound got me thinking the Eddie was on to something new. Even though it didn’t totally meet my expectations, the song was great.

2. “Right Now” (For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, 1991). Yes, I am a sucker for sports anthems, but this is one of the best ones. Plus, the video was pretty cool. The only bad thing is it reminds me of Crystal Pepsi and Zima beer. YUCK!

1. “Dreams” (5150, 1986). Like I said, I love those inspirational lyrics that Hagar could write. Plus, the band was at its true peak when this was recorded.

Now, it’s up to the people: Van Halen or Van Hagar? You decide. Tomorrow, I will give you MY verdict.

The 40 Most Underrated Albums of the 80s in My Collection

My wife thinks there is no way I have listened to all of my albums, CDs and singles. Well, I have, all 2000+ of them. It happened over time as I collected them, not simply during this century. Of course, I have my favorites, who doesn’t. And, many of them, I have documented in this blog over the past couple of years. Still, there are many that probably are not familiar to many of you. I have gone through my collection to pick out the 40 albums that I love that you should check out before you die. And, these albums are only from the Eighties. Long live the music of the Eighties!

So, without further ado, here are the 40 albums from the Eighties that have been overlooked over time. No, I have not included underrated Prince albums or anything by The Bangles, Cheap Trick or any other artist I love. I have tried to bring to light some outstanding albums by artists with whom you should become familiar. So, here we go!

5.7 ABC

1. ABC – How to Be a Zillionaire (1985). ABC took its original Motown sound and combined it with the then-state of the art sounds of the Art of Noise to create a whole new dance music.

5.7 Aldo Nova

2. Aldo Nova – Aldo Nova (1982). This album was the sound a fresh take on hard rock and metal by a long-forgotten artist.

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3. Cameo – Word Up! (1986). The funk of the Eighties.

5.7 Cowboy Junkies

4. Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Sessions (1989). A haunting cross of country blues and the Velvet Underground. Simply stunning.

5.7 David_+_David_-_Boomtown

5. David + David – Boomtown (1986). These two Davids went on to greater heights as producers and songwriters, but they left us with a timeless critique of modern life.

5.7 fine young cannibals

6. Fine Young Cannibals – Fine Young Cannibals (1985). A fantastic debut that I prefer over the more popular follow-up.

5.7 Game-Theory-Big-Shot-Chronicles

7. Game Theory – The Big Shot Chronicles (1986). This pop masterpiece was wrongly overlooked at the time and continues to be overlooked. Is it a modern Pet Sounds? No, but it’s awfully good.

5.7 heart

8. Heart – Private Audition (1982). This is the sound of a great band expanding their palette.

5.7 henry lee summer

9. Henry Lee Summer – Henry Lee Summer (1988). Indiana’s greatest secret finally got the national deal he always deserved, and Henry Lee delivered.

5.7 Hooters - Nervous Night

10. Hooters – Nervous Night (1985). The sound of a power pop band at the height of their abilities.

5.7 jeff healey band

11. Jeff Healey Band – See the Light (1989). The debut of this blind blues gunslinger is as impressive as anyone at the time.

5.7 Jerry Harrison

12. Jerry Harrison – Casual Gods (1988). Sure, this is the sound of a former-Talking Head burying his past while expanding upon it.

5.7 Jesse_Johnson_-_Jesse_Johnson's_Revue_album_cover

13. Jesse Johnson’s Revue – Jesse Johnson’s Revue (1985). You think Prince had the only unique pop/rock/funk sound in Minneapolis? This former-Time guitarist proved he had his take on the Purple sound.

5.7 john hiatt

14. John Hiatt – Bring the Family (1987). Another Hoosier finally honed his songwriting with the help of a stellar backing band.

5.7 Katrina_&_the_Waves_-_Walking_on_Sunshine

15. Katrina & the Waves – Katrina & the Waves (1985). This power pop album is way more than “Walking on Sunshine,” which means the album should be a classic too.

5.7 keith richards

16. Keith Richards – Talk Is Cheap (1988). Mick and Keith were estranged at the time, so Keith proved his songwriting skills.

5.7 King's_X_Gretchen_Goes_to_Nebraska

17. King’s X – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989). This was the new sound of metal at the end of the whole metal scene.

5.7 kiss

18. Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1982). Kiss’ last great album before they removed their makeup.

5.7 little steven

19. Little Steven – Voice of America (1984). The reason Steve Van Zandt left the E Street Band, giving voice to some of the most gripping political rock statements of the Eighties.

5.7 los lobos - By the Light of the Moon

20. Los Lobos – By the Light of the Moon (1987). This album represents Los Lobos at their most accessible while maintaining their artistic dignity.

5.7 love & rockets

21. Love & Rockets – Love & Rockets (1989). Love & Rockets, a darling of the college rock scene in the Eighties, had a fluke hit with “So Alive.” Little did people realize just how great this album was.

5.7 Neneh_Cherry_Raw_Like_Sushi_cover

22. Neneh Cherry – Raw like Sushi (1989). Jazz great Don Cherry’s daughter released one terrific pop/soul/hip hop/rock mix of an album, topped off by the single “Buffalo Stance.”

5.7 Nushooz_poolside1

23. Nu Shooz – Poolside (1986). This husband/wife duo create one enduring dance album that was so much more than just “I Can’t Wait.”

5.7 peter wolf

24. Peter Wolf – Lights Out (1984). The former lead singer of the J. Geils Band ventured out on his own to create an updated sound of the old blues rock Geils standard.

5.7 ric ocasek

25. Ric Ocasek – Beatitude (1982). Much more experimental than The Cars while maintaining his pop vision.

5.7 Pirates_-_Rickie_Lee_Jones

26. Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates (1981). Jones created her masterpiece before she withdrew from the spotlight. The only problem is that this album lacked a hit song like “Chuck E.’s in Love.”

5.7 robbie nevil

27. Robbie Nevil – Robbie Nevil (1986). Nevil is remembered for his great pop hit “C’est La Vie,” but this album is so much more.

5.7 Robert_cray_-_strong_persuader

28. Robert Cray – Strong Persuader (1986). We all know “Smoking Gun.” But, Cray brought the blues into the Eighties.

5.7 simply red

29. Simply Red – Picture Book (1986). Forget Culture Club. The real white soul singer of the Eighties was Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall. And, Picture Book proves it.

5.7 terence trent darby

30. Terence Trent D’Arby – Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby (1987). D’Arby claimed this album was greater than Sgt. Pepper. He may have been correct as his take on the Prince mix of rock and R&B is timeless.

5.7 The_Cult-Electric_(album_cover)

31. The Cult – Electric (1986). These college rock darlings took on the Zeppelin sound and made it their own.

5.7 the outfield

32. The Outfield – Play Deep (1986). Power pop was predominantly an American thing, at least, until The Outfield co-opted the sound perfectly. Might be the best Cheap Trick album of the Eighties.

5.7 the pursuit of happiness

33. The Pursuit of Happiness – Love Junk (1988). Honestly, I thought this was a Todd Rundgren album when I first heard it. That’s probably because the album was produced by the man himself.

5.7 the waterboys

34. The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (1988). Scotland’s own version of U2 goes a little Celtic folk on this album, making the band’s sweeping cinematic sound even more gripping.

5.7 toni childs

35. Toni Childs – Union (1988). This woman should have been as huge as her voice. She is the great lost diva of the Eighties.

5.7 tubes

36. Tubes – The Completion Backwards Principle (1981). Everybody’s favorite performance art band of the Seventies went for a parody of the corporate rock (AOR) sound popular in the early Eighties. I think the joke was lost on many.

5.7 krush groove ost

37. Various Artists – Krush Groove OST (1985). One of the finest documents of the early rap scene.

5.7 warren zevon

38. Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene (1987). Zevon enlisted R.E.M. to help him bring his latest music to life, creating his best album since 1978’s Excitable Boy.

5.7 X - More Fun In The New World

39. X – More Fun in the New World (1983). X, L.A.’s favorite punks, deliver their most accessible album, while it fell on deaf ears.

5.7 ZiggyMarley-ConsciousParty

40. Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers – Conscious Party (1988). Reggae’s first son and his sisters joined forces with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club to brought reggae into the modern era.

May I Present My Queen, Pat Benatar!

5.6 Pat Benatar Grammy

I am quickly coming up on many anniversaries. Within the next couple of years, I will be celebrating my 40th high school class reunion, my 35th college graduation and, a year later, my 35th medical technology school graduation. Plus, if I could have remained a teacher, I would be celebrating my 25th year in education. God, I am old.

So, since Mom died, I have been slowly rummaging through some pictures, which got me thinking about the Summer of 1981, during which I was transitioning from high school to college. In that time between the turning of my tassel to matriculating at Ball State University with the hopes of my family of me becoming a physician, I did find the time between my summer job of being in charge of getting kids to detassle corn (used to be a big way for poor kids in the Midwest to make big bucks in a short time) to attend three concerts. I got to see Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in a half-full Market Square Arena, then a couple of weeks later, sat ten rows back from Pat Benatar with a bunch of high school buddies for one last hurrah at MSA, then, to top off that AOR summer, it was Foreigner & Billy Squier back in the home of the Pacers. Now, it wasn’t as cool as the Summer of 1984 line-up of the Stray Cats, The Cars and Billy Idol, but it was strong nonetheless. Now, you might be asking, what the hell does this have to do with anything?

5.6 PB 1981 tour

Well, ever since watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, I have been obsessed with the women of rock music, and how the industry has screwed them in so many ways that it isn’t funny anymore, if it ever really was to begin with. Wake up Hall! How can you justify not having Carole King, Tina Turner, Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, The Shangri-La’s, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, The Go-Go’s, The Bangles and so many other deserving women in the Hall? This is an outrage to true lovers of all kinds of genres of music that the British press correctly calls “pop music.” I am so sick of Eddie Trunk’s limited definition of rock being only metal music. Likewise, I am tired of the classic rock artists only voting for their peers. Sure, many SHOULD be recognized, but how can everyone just turn a blind eye to 50% of the population? Women can, and do, rock! Case in point, Pat Benatar!

When I was in my listening prime, Pat Benatar was THE queen of rock music, the toughest chick on the planet with an unparalleled voice. When I saw her in concert, it was one of the best shows I hard ever seen. Her band just came out and slayed the audience. And, next to Heart’s Ann Wilson, she had the best vocals of anyone I had ever seen, including my man Freddie Mercury. And, these were the days before autotune!

5.6 pat-benatar-today

Everyone remembers when each one of us heard “Heartbreaker” for the first time, blown away by the power of the music and her voice. Then, she followed that one up with perhaps her signature song “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” Benatar seemed to be in touch with the AOR/hard rock/new wave zeitgeist of the time. Right now, I am listening to a compilation of her best songs of the Eighties and am absolutely blown away by the timelessness of her music. She had the same appeal as Blondie’s Debbie Harry, Patti Smith and the aforementioned Ann Wilson rolled up into one tiny physical package, proving that dynamite does come in small packages. Her whole sound was a take-no-prisoners rock sound that many male-dominated bands only wished they could duplicate. So, when all of that is said, then someone please explain to me why she has been forgotten by the Hall and by classic rock radio? Seriously, when was the last time you heard “Promises in the Dark,” “Fire and Ice” or “Shadows of the Night” on the radio? Sure, you can her “Hit Me” or “Love Is a Battlefield” during an Eighties weekend, but what about “Little Too Late,” “We Live for Love” or “Hell Is for Children,” all of which used to be played in heavy rotation? Pat Benatar is a national treasure, and we should ALL recognize it today!

5.6 Pat Benatar 1980

So, in an act of defiance to someone, anyone, I am moving all of my chips in for Pat Benatar’s induction in to the RRHOF this winter! No, I am NOT giving up on Toddy Rundgren. He will get in soon, or, at least he better! But, come on people, I am talking about Pat “Freakin'” Benatar, the voice of my high school and college years! So, as a little refresher course, here are MY 20 favorite Pat Benatar songs of the Eighties, when she ruled the world. Pat, if I had a vote, you and your band would be immediately inducted into the RRHOF, plain and simple. All hail the Queen of Rock!

20. “Take It Anyway You Want It” (Precious Time, 1981)

19. “Precious Time” (Precious Time, 1981)

18. “Sex as a Weapon” (Seven the Hard Way, 1985)

17. “All Fired Up” (Wide Awake in Dreamland, 1988)

16. “I Need a Lover” (In the Heat of the Night, 1979)

15. “Invincible” (Seven the Hard Way, 1985)

14. “Ooh Ooh Song” (Tropico, 1984)

13. “Anxiety (Get Nervous)” (Get Nervous, 1982)

12. “You Better Run” (Crimes of Passion, 1980)

11. “Treat Me Right” (Crimes of Passion, 1980)

10. “We Belong” (Tropico, 1984). Yes, this song has been over-used by good high school/college choir singers on singing contest shows, which only proves two things: (1) Pat Benatar’s vocals are unequaled, and (2) these people are undiscovered for a reason…they are NOT Pat Benatar!

9. “Shadows of the Night” (Get Nervous, 1982). Am I the only person that loves this album? This was the first Benatar album that the public turned their collective noses up at a bit. Personally, I loved the power pop show of force on this album, especially on this song.

8.”Fire and Ice” (Precious Time, 1981). This song just might prove everything I ever said about Pat Benatar’s vocal prowess and sheer musical muscularity.

7. “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” (Crimes of Passion, 1980). How could I rank this song so low? I’ll tell you why. While it is great, I think the other songs show off her and her band’s abilities better. However, this song may well remain her signature song.

6. “Love Is a Battlefield” (Live from Planet Earth, 1983). This was Pat’s big MTV hit video. It is a great song that has aged much better than I initially thought it would. This song made me scared of women who were a foot shorter than me, even though I married one who is nearly that small. They all have a little attitude about them (very nervous laughter here).

5. “We Live for Love” (In the Heat of the Night, 1979). This rock/disco/new wave song should have been a huge hit. It still baffles me why this song, Blondie’s “Atomic,” and The Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket” were ignored by US radio, while Kiss had a big hit with “I Was Made for Loving You” or Rod Stewart’s lame “Passion” was plastered all over radio.

4. “Hell Is for Children” (Crimes of Passion, 1980). Only the dumbest people in the world thought this was an anti-child song. Christ! The thought of this song getting banned still pisses me off today! It’s an anti-child ABUSE song you morons! And, it rocks!

3. “Promises in the Dark” (Precious Time, 1981). The most dramatic song in Benatar’s cannon. God, this song was so cool in concert, with that false ending, blazing guitar work by her husband Neil Giraldo and that rock solid rhythm section. I have always felt that her drummer Myron Grombacher seemed like the second coming of Keith Moon in concert and has always been overlooked by cognoscenti.

2. “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” (In the Heat of the Night, 1979). The song that kicked off her career, telling the world that this five-foot-nothing woman was NOT to be trifled with. What a great song!

1. “Little Too Late” (Get Nervous, 1982). See? I told you I had a surprise for you! I LOVE THIS SONG from the moment I first heard it. It is the toughest power pop song known to mankind. We should be making ALL garage bands learn this song right along side The Who’s “My Generation” and “Go All the Way” by the Raspberries.

Sorry, Khaleesi! I only bend the knee for Pat Benatar!