Hey Angie Cannell! Here’s Some GNR!

12.21 Guns-N-Roses-1986

Back in the late-Eighties, we had four artists that totally scared the crap out of Baby Boomer parents across the nation. Half of them were from the “scary” world of rap music, Public Enemy and N.W.A, one was from the equally “frightening” world of speed metal, Metallica, and the last one were a bunch of seemingly street urchins who played a mix of classic hard rock merged with the ever dangerous punk and foreign punk music, Guns N’ Roses. Personally, I found all four artists so much fun, if only they all represented music that was, one, foreign to the music Boomers had claimed as their own, and, two, and perhaps most importantly, Boomers found loathsome and out of step with their parameters on music. As far I as was concerned, Gen X had their first true voices as forceful and poignant as anything the Boomers’ culture put forth.

12.21 GNR_London_Stadium_2017

Sure, Public Enemy and N.W.A did not get the financial boom their music deserved, yet their legacies were set in stone as they became something of a Sex Pistols for the hip hop nation. And, Metallica, at the time, was the finest metal band on Earth, although the faced the indignity of losing the Grammys’ first Best Heavy Metal award to the arguably the least metal band of all-time, a Boomers favorite Jethro Tull. That slight probably only made Metallica that much cooler to the kids. And, Guns N’ Roses were The Beatles of the bunch, selling boatloads of records much to the chagrin of my Boomer-aged brothers-in-law, whose kids were caught up in the mania surrounding the band. In all four cases, their lyrics and music spoke viscerally to a cynical generation who had been raised on commercialism, Reaganomics and alienation. And, in all four bands, the artists were “real,” meaning that they all appeared to walk onto the stage in clothes they wore on the street. It was a case of what you see is what you get, which carried on into the Nineties.

12.21 GNR 2002 VMAs

Today, I’d like to focus on GNR. First off, these guys were NOT hair metal bands. Sure, they did come from the Sunset glam scene that gave us such musical Goliaths as White Lion, Warrant, Winger, Poison, and the rest of the shitty hair metal bands that were the favor of month at the time. With GNR, they combined the hard rock of Aerosmith with the punk fervor of The Clash, which not only separated them from those aforementioned pretenders, but also made them sound as dangerous as a modern day Rolling Stones. Then, throw in to the mix the fact that these guys could give a crap if you liked them or not, AND the own intra-band chemistry was as volatile as the Sex Pistols’ were a decade earlier. All of this made for some excitement to the young rock lovers, not just for their legendary alcohol and drug abuse, womanizing and infighting, but their musical prowess. If you did not live through this era, these guys were a musical form of a Molotov cocktail.

And, the whole thing made for exciting times. Sure, I never had to wait for lead singer Axl Rose to get his ass on stage for two hours just because he was having another existential crisis. I would have rioted too! But, when these guys pulled their collective crap together, they could move mountains. Guns N’ Roses were what The Replacements were only blown up to a steroidal Rambo-type size that could have only happened during the Eighties.

12.21 GNR live

For my money, GNR will always be the original quintet of Rose, lead guitarist Slash, bassist, resident punk and perhaps their best musician Duff McKagan, rhythm guitarist and best songwriter Izzy Stradlin and drummer with the best “feel” Steven Adler. All of this makes me ask the eternal question, “Just how bad was Adler’s drug and alcohol use to get kicked out of the band?” Now, this is no slight to all the band members who have come and gone since Axl’s coup, but the original five had the magic. Simply, go back and listen to Appetite for Destruction, their brilliant debut. Now, this is no slight to the Use Your Illusion albums. Those two double albums are brilliant in their rock excesses, but they just pale in comparison to the debut. After those LPs, it was all downhill. Oh sure, if almost any other band had done The Spaghetti Incident? or Chinese Democracy, we’d all be singing their praises. But, when they are part of the GNR discography, well, you know what I mean.


Today, I’d like to fulfill a promise to a former student that I would do a blog about Guns N’ Roses by listing my 25 favorite songs.

12.21 25.since i dont have you

25. “Since I Don’t Have You” (The Spaghetti Incident?, 1994)

24. “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” (The Spaghetti Incident?, 1994)

23. “Estranged” (Use Your Illusion II, 1991)

22. “The Garden” (Use Your Illusion II, 1991)

21. “Out ta Get Me” (Appetite for Destruction, 1987)

12.21 20.knockin on heaven's door

20. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Use Your Illusion II, 1991)

19. “Locomotive” (Use Your Illusion II, 1991)

18. “You Ain’t the First” (Use Your Illusion I, 1991)

17. “Don’t Cry” (Use Your Illusion II, 1991)

16. “Ain’t It Fun” (The Spaghetti Incident?, 1994)

12.21 15.shackler's revenge

15. “Shackler’s Revenge” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)

14. “Civil War” (Use Your Illusion I, 1991)

13. “Yesterdays” (Use Your Illusion II, 1991)

12. “You Could Be Mine” (Use Your Illusion II, 1991)

11. “Rocket Queen” (Appetite for Destruction, 1987)

12.21 10.patience

10. “Patience” (G N’ R Lies, 1989). Acoustic GNR? Hell yes! This might have been the prom song for the year.

9. “Paradise City” (Appetite for Destruction, 1987). This song is a perfect set closer. It has the AC/DC opening, the Aerosmith after-whistle free-for-all and the punkish chorus. If this had been on Chinese Democracy, it was have been a piecemeal montage. With the original lineup, its rock heaven.

8. “It’s So Easy” (Appetite for Destruction, 1987). I have a feeling this one is more important the my older progeny than me.

7. “Nightrain” (Appetite for Destruction, 1987). If you were to hold up one song to encompass everything about GNR, this may be THE song.

6. “Live and Let Die” (Use Your Illusion I, 1991). I was so pissed that the band covered this song until I heard it. Not the first time I’ve ever had to swallow my words. Nor was it the last time.

12.21 5.mr brownstone

5. “Mr. Brownstone” (Appetite for Destruction, 1987). Wanna hear a funky bass on a hard rock song? Here you go!

4. “Better” (Chinese Democracy, 2008). Easily the best song on GNR’s (or was it an Axl solo outing?) last album. I just wish the original band, or at least the Use Your Illusion band, had recorded it.

3. “Welcome to the Jungle” (Appetite for Destruction, 1987). Yes, this one has be overplayed on the radio, streaming services and at athletic events, but it is still a great statement by a hungry band.

2. “November Rain” (Use Your Illusion I, 1991). If you were to choose ONE song to represent overblown rock at its Phil Spectorian best (meaning the production has everything in it except for spoons, then again, it just might), this is the song. Epic is too small a word for it, since that describes “Stairway to Heaven.” And, to say it has a little Elton in it also minimizes the nature of the song. This is the greatest overblown song ever.

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1. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (Appetite for Destruction, 1987). I only placed this one at #1 because it contains THE guitar riff of the Eighties, plain and simple.

It’s Not a Secret Any Longer: Carpenters Rule!

12.19 Carpenters-at-Christmas-1977

Hi! I’m Scott Keller, self-appointed arbiter of musical tastes and self-confessed vinyl junkie, and I am about to pull back the curtain a bit on my musical history. Over the course of this self-help therapy I call a blog, I have dropped hints of my developing musical tastes over the course of my first 13 years of my life. First off, I am the older of two sons born to educator parents. My dad was a high school history teacher, athletic director, varsity basketball and baseball coach who eventually became an elementary principal at three schools, the last one for 25 years. The man remains one of my best friends, my mentor and my role model, even though our relationship was very strained after he and Mom got a divorce. He warped me for life because I thought all coaches were like going to be like him, but they weren’t. Now, the whole sports thing might make sense because of him, but the music did not. His idea of great music was Barbra Streisand, which is great, but he really didn’t like rock music at all. Mom, on the other hand, was the art teacher, and did she ever love her music. But, her collection, if you could call it that, consisted of show tunes and stuff I’d call lame. But, she never judged my music.

12.19 richard-carpenter-and-karen-carpenter 1972

Growing up, the only radio stations I ever heard where two AM stations. The first was  WHBU in Anderson, Indiana, which played the softer side of rock music but had great high school basketball coverage. I actually remember being three and listening to Dad’s team playing some large school in Indianapolis on the radio as his school, which had about 100 students, kick the butts of those Indy kids. The other was the very conservative WIBC in Indianapolis, which was known for their stellar news reports, very non-rock music playlist and an out-and-out cynicism toward rock music. All of this makes it difficult to say, but my entry into the music of the Beatles was NOT direct. It came through those cover versions played on those stations, in particular the cover of “Ticket to Ride” by the Carpenters. That’s right, the Carpenters.

12.19 Horizon_(Carpenters_Album)

Now, when you are in elementary school in the early Seventies, radio hits were everything. Then, by the time you reach your teen years, your tastes change. So, after I discovered Elton John, Alice Cooper and Kiss, I started to think that the Carpenters were wimpy. And, I held onto that view until the Nineties when I was forced to reevaluate my opinion upon the release of that Carpenters cover album recorded by a bunch of alternative artists at the time. And, when I heard Sonic Youth’s powerful version of “Superstar,” I thought wait a second! There was something substantive with the Carpenters. So, I went back and re-listened to all those old LPs. Sure, on the surface, there seems to be a glossy pop sheen to the production of their music, but when you started to listen more deeply, you hear it. And, that “it” is Karen Carpenter’s voice. As I said, on the surface it’s an All-American voice, non-threatening and tamed, very soothing to the average listener. But, then you begin to hear the pain behind those lyrics she is singing, and suddenly her tragic life makes sense. It’s all right there before us, those demons that afflict so many of us, being shown to us, the listeners. “I Won’t Last a Day Without You,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “Goodbye to Love,” hell, even “Ticket to Ride,” foretold us that she was never going to be long for the world.

12.19 carpenters live

Then, you begin to hear something else. Christ! I can’t believe this, but Richard Carpenter was not simply riding on the coattails of his sister’s voice. The guy is a musical genius! His orchestration and arrangements were innovative and light years ahead of everyone else at the time. Oh sure, the music is soothing, but it the perfect juxtaposition to Karen’s painful vocals. It’s a total yin and yang, tug and pull type of thing. It actually becomes something as subversive and the Ramones doing “I Wanna Be Sedated” in a manic manner or Boy George singing love songs in his garb and make-up. Once I got all of that, I returned to my fandom.

12.19 carpenters 1970

Now, are they going to ever have a place in my heart like Prince, Tom Petty or R.E.M.? No. But, they do have a frequent place in my musical library. And, this re-evaluation all began with If I Were a Carpenter back when my boys were little and wanted to listen to alternative music.

So, there you have it. My whole love/hate relationship over the years with the Carpenters, and how they were my entry drug into the world of The Beatles. So, today, I present my 25 favorite Carpenters songs. FYI: I prefer the duo’s minor hits as opposed to their #1 hits, generally speaking. I am placing the chart peaks for each song on my list, if there was one.

12.19 25.there's a kind of hush

25. “There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)” (1976) #12

24. “Bless the Beasts and the Children” (1971) #67

23. “Please Mr. Postman” (1975) #1

22. “A Song for You” (1971) —

21. “Solitaire” (1975) #17

12.19 20.i need to be in love

20. “I Need to Be in Love” (1976) #25

19. “This Masquerade” (1974) —

18. “Sing” (1973) #3

17. “Ticket to Ride” (1969) #54

16. “For All We Know” (1971) #3

12.19 15.Top_of_the_World_(The_Carpenters_song)_coverart.jpg

15. “Top of the World” (1973) #1

14. “Merry Christmas Darling” (1970) —

13. “Touch Me When We’re Dancing” (1981) #16

12. “Make Believe It’s Your First Time” (1983) #101

11. “Only Yesterday” (1974) #4

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10. “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” (1977) #32. What can be weirder than the Carpenters covering a sci-fi song by a Canadian pop/rock band who had been riding a wave of rumors that said they were a secret reunion of The Beatles? And, I almost did not get the joke!

9. “Rainy Days and Mondays” (1971) #2. Sure, this title became something of a punchline, but it is a cry for help that few only heard.

8. “It’s Going to Take Some Time” (1972) #12. Seriously, did anyone really hear how Karen was singing this song? To quote my dad, “For Chrissakes!”

7. “Yesterday Once More” (1973) #3. Why did the best Carpenters songs not hit the top spot? This song has become more poignant as I have gotten older.

6. “I Won’t Last a Day Without You” (1974) #11. Simply put, Karen at her most vulnerable.

12.19 5.Carpenters_-_Hurting_Each_Other

5. “Hurting Each Other” (1972) #2. Only a person who has been in a crappy relationship understands this one. It’s a shame Karen did.

4. “Goodbye to Love” (1972) #7. We’ve all been there, especially as a teen and young adult. It’s as if Karen took on all of our pain while recording her vocals.

3. “We’ve Only Just Begun” (1971) #2. This song was so ubiquitous when I was a kid that I thought it was mandatory for it to be played at every wedding my family attended. And, did you know that the song was originally used in a commercial out in California before the Carpenters recorded it and made it a milestone Seventies love song?

2. “(They Long to Be) Close to You” (1970) #1. More of a sentimental choice than anything else. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

12.19 1.Superstar

1. “Superstar” (1972) #2. This song kickstarted the whole power ballad fad that last well in the Nineties without many even noticing. This song was perfect BEFORE Sonic Youth covered it and turned it inside out. It is truly one of the great overlooked songs of the rock era!

There’s Dylan, Costello & Cohen, yet I’ll Take Randy Newman

12.17 randy newman 1970

Sometime in the spring of 1983, I officially became something of a fan of Randy Newman. I honestly cannot remember why, but I just happened to pick up a copy of his latest album Trouble in Paradise. However, I do remember being the only person in my circle who liked the album, outside of the hit song “I Love L.A.” Personally, I found the album to be full of warped humor that either entertaining to others with like minds or was off-putting to those who took the lyrics at face value.

12.17 randy newman live

Sure, I had lived through the whole “Short People” controversy just five years earlier and found it amusing that so many people got so worked up about a song, albeit a song with acerbic lyrics that could lead to misinterpretation. It was during this time that I began to truly notice that maybe I was going to be an outlier in society. Now, that’s something which is not easy to handle as a teen. As a matter of fact, it is a factor that takes a very long time to come to grips with. So, it makes sense that this odd bent in my way of thinking allowed me to see patterns in the scientific and political worlds that academically put me ahead of my peers but also isolated me as well.

Which all simply brings me back to Randy Newman and his music. As a high schooler, I was off-put by his music, thinking he was simply writing show tunes for Broadway or movies. While, I, on the other hand, was a rocker through and through. But, while in college, I finally discovered the joke. Randy Newman was making wry commentary on the world around us while dressing it up in a soundtrack setting to make the lyrics palatable to his targets. Once I had that light bulb moment, I began to bow at the alter of Newman’s music.

Ironically, I noticed the exact same thing occurring in my older son’s musical tastes. In high school, he played in a band that only played pop-punk and material by Incubus and Linkin Park, stretching their chops so far as to add a Rage Against the Machine song to their set. But, when that band broke up, he started to branch out into Phish, Bob Dylan and The Band. Then, once he came back from college, Graham was espousing his love for Randy Newman. Remember, I went down a similar path, although I never learned to play an instrument as he had.

12.17 Randy-Newman poster

No, Randy Newman will never be a Top of Pops-type of artist. Sure, he will probably be more remembered for his soundtrack work, particularly Toy Story. But, for me, I will forever attached to his work from the Seventies and Eighties, although he has released two terrific studio albums in the past ten-to-twelve years.

12.17 randy newman snl mardi gras special

Ironically, Graham and his wife went to see Newman perform at the newest venue in Central Indiana a few years back. This place, The Palladium, is a very opulent musical theater, that looks as if it were built centuries ago, not just years ago. Anyway, Graham says that early on in Newman’s performance, he looks around at the place, taking in its beauty. Then, he announced, “Wow! This place is a dump,” and went on with his next song. My son said it was a perfect moment, since the section of this Indianapolis suburb is notorious for its stereotypical haughtiness. He knew I would love to hear the piss being taken out of the place. We laughed and laughed, while my wife just looked at us annoyed. She is not a Randy Newman fan.

So, I thought I would attempt to list my 30 favorite Randy Newman songs. I have even included a “Christmas” song for the holidays.

12.17 30.land of dreams

30. “New Orleans Wins the War” (Land of Dreams, 1988)

29. “The World Isn’t Fair” (Bad Love, 1999)

28. “Little Criminals” (Little Criminals, 1977)

27. “Sigmund Freud’s First Impressions of Albert Einstein in America” (Little Criminals, 1977)

26. “Baltimore” (Little Criminals, 1977)

12.17 25.Randy Newman 12 Songs

25. “Uncle Bob’s Midnight Blues” (12 Songs, 1970)

24. “It’s Money That I Love” (Born Again, 1979)

23. “The Story of a Rock & Roll Band” (Born Again, 1979)

22. “Wedding in Cherokee County” (Good Old Boys, 1974)

21. “My Life Is Good” (Trouble in Paradise, 1983)

12.17 20.korean parents

20. “Korean Parents” (Harps and Angels, 2008)

19. “Dixie Flyer” (Land of Dreams, 1988)

18. “Christmas in Cape Town” (Trouble in Paradise, 1983)

17. “The Great Debate” (Dark Matter, 2017)

16. “Memo to My Son” (Sail Away, 1972)

12.17 15.my old kentucky home

15. “My Old Kentucky Home” (12 Songs, 1970)

14. “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” (12 Songs, 1970)

13. “Putin” (Dark Matter, 2017)

12. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (Toy Story OST, 1995)

11. “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)” (Sail Away, 1972)

12.17 10.its money that matters

10. “It’s Money That Matters” (Land of Dreams, 1988). This is the closest Newman ever got to doing a “Weird Al” type of parody, yet it is still light years away from a “Weird Al” song. Newman’s target was Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” and the whole MTV phenomenon.

9. “You Can Leave Your Hat On” (Sail Away, 1972). Yes, Joe Cocker does a fairly sexy version of this slice of satire, but Cocker missed the whole point of this tale of lurid lust.

8. “Louisiana 1927” (Good Old Boys, 1974). A great song about a famous flood whose lyrics proved eerily prophetic during the Katrina fiasco.

7. “I Love L.A.” (Trouble in Paradise, 1983). I just thought it was hilarious that the Lakers played this song during timeouts to fire up their crowd when the whole song is making fun of the whole L.A. image. As a Pacers and former Celtics fan, nothing was more subversive.

6. “Short People” (Little Criminals, 1977). This tune should tell you just how crazy the Seventies hit charts were when you realize this was a #2 hit. And the fact that people were livid about the lyrics just made my life.


5. “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country” (Harps and Angels, 2008). You know, Newman wrote this for George W. Bush, but it seems even more applicable to Donald Trump. Now, that’s genius! And, it’s NOT even close to being jingoistic. HAHAHA!!!

4. “Political Science” (Sail Away, 1972). I am much less sophisticated than Newman, because I just simply say that people my age were just stoned during our high school government class. Yet, Newman does it with a poison pen that makes seem as if he is condoning the views of the ill-informed.

3. “Sail Away” (Sail Away, 1972). The beautiful nature of the Newman’s music on this song hides the fact that the lyrics are NOT describing a Neil Diamond view of coming to America, but that of the slave trade. This is subversiveness at its greatest.

2. “Burn On” (Sail Away, 1972). I have always laughed whenever I hear this song being played at the beginning of one of my all-time favorite films, Major League. What a great song about environmental issues.

12.17 1.Randy_Newman_-_Good_Old_Boys

1. “Rednecks” (Good Old Boys, 1974). You know, if Lynyrd Skynyrd were truly sophisticated Southern boys, this is the song they should have attached in “Sweet Home Alabama” instead of Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” But, they probably just thought Newman was praising them. Oh, the joke was on them!

After doing this blog entry, I think I would want Randy Newman to write a sardonic campaign anthem if I were to ever run for Congress or President. I want it to seem like I am all about my Hoosier background while eviscerating it. Now, that would be performance art!

Blondie: It Doesn’t Get Any Better

12.16 blondie 1980

Today is one of those crappy pain days for me, so please bear with me as I try to fight through this crap for a couple of hours as I try to do this thing. My latest pain battle is the toll I now feel in the days and hours leading up to a storm, depending on the severity of the upcoming weather event. I don’t know about you all around the world, but here in the backwoods of Middle America, people around my age and older have all heard stories of our grandmothers having a foot bunion, or corn, that would ache during the time leading up to a storm. Those old wives’ tales used to crack me up as a scientist, that is until recently. For some reason, my nerve-damaged legs have become something of barometers for upcoming storms. All weekend long, I have been suffering muscle spasms up and down my legs while we learned of an impending set of back-to-back snow storms heading our way. The worse the storm, the more painful my spasms become. I should be taking a muscle relaxer, but I really wanted to try to write this blog. That’s right! I’m something of a martyr.

12.16 blondie live 1978

Honestly, that’s probably why I suffer from chronic pain since I was attempting to prove to the world how I could play through injuries when I was a stupid teenage athlete. I thought pain tolerance was my superpower. Looks like God, or Fate, or Karma, or whatever you want to call it, is having the last laugh as now I cannot tolerate. Sometimes, my language gets worse, sometimes my musical choices get more aggressive and brutal sounding as my pain increases. However, when it’s at its worse, I get quiet and tend to curl up in a ball and just withdraw from humanity. Right now, I’m putting up a fight, mainly because I’m a competitor. And, that competitor may shorten my life, but that’s how I’m wired.

12.16 blondie live 1976

So, since my legs have become something of a meteorological wonder in predicting incoming storms, like the one that dumped about 4 inches of snow on us last night as well as the incoming one that is just beginning with put down another couple inches, I have been doing a little nostalgia today. On this day, with only eight shopping days left before Christmas, I have decided to venture back to my new wave days of the late Seventies and early Eighties for a little Blondie.

I first read about Blondie back during my Creem magazine days of 1976, when there seemed to be all kinds of coverage of the bands who were playing at the great CBGB’s night club in New York City. In those articles, I recall reading about artists such as the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, Dead Boys, Devo, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, among others. At the time, in those circles, Blondie was the pop group, but Lester Bangs loved them. And, if Lester Bangs or Lisa Robinson gave his/her stamp of approval on an artist, then I would have to check that artist out. That meant that I quietly purchased Blondie’s self-titled debut album back in 1977, since it took that long for me to find the record at a store, any store, here in Indiana.

12.16 blondie 1976

Did I become an immediate fan? Honestly, no. Oh sure, I found it interesting, but my tastes were not ready for the band. So what happened to the album? I sold it in a garage sale. That’s right! I sold the damn thing, along with The Runaways’ debut album. So stupid! Especially since I ended up purchasing the damn album again a few years later.

12.16 Blondie 1999

Fast forward to the Spring of 1979 when the band’s “Heart of Glass” hit the airwaves to become one of the first hits that divided the early Gen X generation kids from their older Boomer friends and family. This was especially true in the American heartland. You wouldn’t believe how many derogatory names I was called because I listened to that album all the time. Most of the names are not used by today’s youth. Yet, like in every generation, there will always be a pocket of rebels, misfits and nonconformists who will find each other and this music simultaneously. And a few of us were actually working on the high school radio station and writing for the school newspaper, so we would inform our peers of new artists like Blondie. And, eventually “Heart of Glass” jump-started a five-year run of hit songs and albums for Blondie, eventually making them one of the world’s most popular bands.

12.16 blondie 1978

Now, what I have always loved about the band, in addition to Debbie Harry’s hotness, was their updated take on early Sixties pop music. The basic melodies of those terrific Brill building and Phil Spector hits from that time period remained, simply sped up and containing the detached irony-ridden lyrics that became a hallmark of the music of my youth. And, as the band became better musicians, they stretched beyond that poppish punk music into the worlds of disco, reggae, calypso and, perhaps most importantly, rap. Blondie’s leaders were singer/focal point Harry and guitarist Chris Stein, who wrote a significant number of the hits that band had, were two of the biggest proponents of the burgeoning hip hop scene in NYC, as was The Clash’s Mick Jones. Suddenly, new wave, punk, rap, R&B and rock were all cross-pollinating resulting in some of the most exciting music ever recorded. It truly was an exciting era in which to grow up, especially as MTV began sending these sounds into our living rooms.

12.16 blondie 2017

And, Blondie was the band that opened the floodgates that first hit us in the U.S.A. in 1979, and then again, after MTV signed on the air from 1981 to 1983. Over the years, Blondie gave us many great singles and album cuts which have endured to this day. Additionally, since they reformed in 1999, Blondie have been blessing us with some strong albums containing some very strong songs.

All of this leads me to present my 25 Favorite Blondie songs. Sure, we can quibble as to the order of these songs, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better representation of an artist’s career as these hits indicate Blondie’s per-eminence in rock’s pantheon.

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25. “War Child” (The Hunter, 1982)

24. “Good Boys” (The Curse of Blondie, 2004)

23. “Sugar on the Side” (Ghosts of Download, 2014)

22. “Long Time” (Pollinator, 2017)

21. “Rapture Riders” (Greatest Hits: Sound + Sight, 2005)

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20. “The Hardest Part” (Eat to the Beat, 1979)

19. “(I Am Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear” (Plastic Letters, 1978)

18. “Denis” (Plastic Letters, 1978)

17. “Picture This” (Parallel Lines, 1978)

16. “In the Flesh” (Blondie, 1976)

12.16 15.Blondie_-_Fun

15. “Fun” (Pollinator, 2017)

14. “Sunday Girl” (Parallel Lines, 1978)

13. “Rip Her to Shreds” (Blondie, 1976)

12. “Island of Lost Souls” (The Hunter, 1982)

11. “X Offender” (Blondie, 1976)

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10. “The Tide Is High” (Autoamerican, 1980). 1980 was a unique year as reggae music was finding its niche here in the States. Marley was getting airplay here in the Midwest, ever so briefly but it DID happen. Then, Stevie Wonder hit #1 with his Marley tribute “Master Blaster” and Blondie hit #1 again with this reggae tune. Oh, how my heart was full!

9. “Maria” (No Exit, 1999). I used to catch hell from my boys concerning my love of this song, but it was such a breath of fresh air at the time. Sure, the urgency of youth had been tempered, but it was simply a great comeback single that flew over the heads of the Millennials.

8. “Union City Blue” (Eat to the Beat, 1979). In many ways, Eat to the Beat was Blondie’s Mod album, as if they let loose of their early Who and current Jam influences all at once, all the while remaining a Blondie album. This song truly projects all that I am describing.

7. “Call Me” (American Gigolo OST, 1980). This may or may not be an actual Debbie Harry solo single. Regardless, this collaboration between Donna Summer producer Giorgio Moroder and the creative side of the band is a perfect mix of Eurodisco punk and NYC cool. No wonder it seemed like it stayed at #1 all summer long in 1980.

6. “Hanging on the Telephone” (Parallel Lines, 1978). Actually, this is a cover of a song originally recorded by LA power pop pioneers The Nerves. But, Blondie brought the attitude and the urgency to the song that was lacking in the original. I love to place this song right next to Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” and Richard Hell’s “Blank Generation” as the best songs from the CBGB’s punk scene.

12.16 5.Blondie_-_Atomic

5. “Atomic” (Eat to the Beat, 1979). This song, my friends, is the forerunner to “Call Me.” It is that song’s punkier, tougher brother.

4. “Dreaming” (Eat to the Beat, 1979). The star of this tune is not Harry but drummer Clem Burke. He channels Keith Moon to great effect here, driving this song from another really good Blondie rock tune into rock immortality.

3. “One Way or Another” (Parallel Lines, 1978). Arguably, this song is Blondie’s signature rock song. At the very least, it is their most enduring rock-oriented song.

2. “Heart of Glass” (Parallel Lines, 1978). What started out as a disco parody song became what perhaps may be one of the top five greatest examples of a perfect disco song ever. Who knew what was truly inside this band.

12.16 1.Blondie_-_Rapture

1. “Rapture” (Autoamerican, 1980). This song is not only a landmark song, signaling the ascent of hip hop culture, but it is just a terrific hit. It has everything, from the name-dropping of Fab Five Freddy to the NYC disco scene to a punk/metal guitar to Debbie Harry’s cool vocals AND rap. This IS the beginning of Gen X.



The First Ladies of Seattle, Heart

12.10 ann & nancy 70s

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been in a writing funk recently. I feel like I’ve been just going through the motions with this blog. Honestly, lately I have not been finding the solace in music as I had always done in the past. I’m not sure what to make of this. Of course, I always get a little concerned when this happens because it might mean that I’m at the beginning of a downward spiral in my mental health. Additionally, I do get in an emotional funk during two times of the year: at the beginning of November, which coincides with the beginning of high school basketball season in Indiana and again in the middle of February, which signals the beginning of high school track and field season. Although I enjoy writing at times, nothing has come close to filling my soul the way those two coaching endeavors filled me.

12.10 Heart 70s

But, at this moment, I do not feel I am having a delayed reaction to basketball because I have been watching more basketball than I have since my early retirement from teaching. No, something else is bugging me, therefore, I will use this platform to fight my way through this funk. I must admit that getting the Prince and R.E.M. remasters recently have gotten me back in my music room to play music lately. Hell, I even put up the black rock & roll Christmas tree in the room complete with my string of dancing Grateful Dead bear lights and various music-oriented ornaments.

12.10 Heart 1980

So, I went back into my archive of blog entries to see which artists I have not written up. You know what I discovered? I’ve repeated myself several times! God! It’s just like me telling my friends and students the same damn stories time after time, and I don’t have dementia like Mom did…yet! You know, Mom would have appreciated that line! She had a dark and warped sense of humor. So, my question to you the reader is why haven’t you called me out on these repeats?!?! Am I just the weirdo old guy who’s allowed to drop food down the front of his clothes (Note to self: you gotta figure out how to get food stains down your back simply to confuse your future caretakers.)? C’mon! Help a (very white, almost translucent) brother out!

12.10 Heart 1985

Over the years, I’m certain I have praised the band Heart, but for reasons unknown I have never written about them. Now, everyone knows their story such as getting their big break in 1976 with their Zeppelin-esque debut album, Dreamboat Annie. At the time, the beautiful Wilson sisters were the victims of a sexist scheme to portray them as some sort of male fantasy lesbian sister sicko crap at the time. Slowly, they overturned that stupid image to become a vision of female strength in the music biz, but it took time.

12.10 lovemongers

In all honesty, I did not become a big Heart fan until I saw them live in 1982. By that time, the band was nearing the end of the first phase of their career, the one upon which their enduring fame is built. At the time, I truly loved their most recent album, the much-maligned Private Audition. A friend of mine had turned me onto the album, and I thought the band was showing some real growth by showing off their R&B influences. However, the majority of the listeners were off-put by this detour in their sound. Anyway, I went to their concert mostly to see their opening act, fellow Hoosier rock sensation John Cougar (Mellencamp). He was riding high with his American Fool album and those timeless hits “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane.” And, of course, that concert being his triumphant homecoming concert, the crowd was hyped. And, John and his band were terrific.

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So, I wasn’t expecting much when Heart took the stage. Yet, that band rose to the occasion and just became bigger than life. I literally was blown away. This band was so much more than the hits on the radio, as great as they were. To this day, I have yet to hear a vocalist as great as Ann Wilson was in concert. Granted, I never saw Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin or Mariah Carey live, but I have seen Pat Benatar. And, as great as Pat is, she is no Ann Wilson. Hell, she was better than Robert Plant, Roger Daltry and Robin Zander for that matter. Ann just may be the most underrated singer of all-time! She could literally raise the roof of the arena in which I saw her. That woman is blessed.

12.10 heart 2000s

But, Ann is not the sole attraction. Sister Nancy Wilson is a showstopping performer in her own right. Her guitar playing is subtle and tasteful during the acoustic songs and thick and meaty during the arena rocking songs. I truly believe Heart is overlooked by people for two reasons. Foremost, I think there is a definite sexist thing with Boomers. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard WOMEN say they don’t like to listen to female rock singers. WTF!?!?!? Second, and I can be guilty of this, people hold their use of outside writers against them during their second phase that lasted from 1985 to 1990. Sure, they had HUGE hits, some of them I love, but, and I’ve read the ladies saying the same thing, they were barely distinguishable from other hits of the era by hair metal bands, Michael Bolton and others who had hit songs written by Dianne Warren.

12.10 Heart performs at Induction Ceremony

To me, what makes Heart so compelling is how they handled their next two career phases. During the third phase, they became something of elder stateswomen to the whole Nineties Seattle grunge scene. Those musicians love and respected the Wilson sisters for putting the Pacific Northwest on the musical map. It was during that time that the sisters got back to the clubs thus setting themselves up for the current phase of their career as caretakers of their legacy. You see, they have released some excellent new music during the 2010s. Their last two albums are stuffed full of the kind of music that got them inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

12.10 heart 2019

I love Heart! They are my favorite arena rock band. There is such much more to them than their peers like Journey or Styx. Go back to your collection and dig out those old classic Heart albums and listen to them again. And, millennials, go buy their albums from the Seventies and Eighties to hear their talent. Heart is one band for the ages that does not get enough love as far as I’m concerned.

So, with all that said, let me honor one of my favorites from my youth Heart with my 30 favorite songs they have released over the years.

12.10 30.you're the voice

30. “You’re the Voice” (single, 1991)

29. “Fanatic” (Fanatic, 2012)

28. “Stranded” (Brigade, 1990)

27. “Tell It like It Is” (Greatest Hits/Live, 1980)

26. “Back to Avalon” (Desire Walks On, 1993)

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25. “Who Will You Run To” (Bad Animals, 1987)

24. “City’s Burning” (Private Audition, 1982)

23. “WTF” (Red Velvet Car, 2010)

22. “Black on Black II” (Desire Walks On, 1993)

21. “Beautiful Broken (with James Hetfield)” (Beautiful Broken, 2016)

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20. “Stairway to Heaven (live at the Kennedy Center Honors)” (single, 2013)

19. “Heartless” (Magazine, 1978)

18. “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” (Brigade, 1990)

17. “Love Alive” (Little Queen, 1977)

16. “Mistral Wind” (Dog & Butterfly, 1978)

12.10 15.Heart - What About Love

15. “What About Love” (Heart, 1985)

14. “Nothin’ at All” (Heart, 1985)

13. “Never” (Heart, 1985)

12. “Straight On” (Dog & Butterfly, 1978)

11. “Barracuda” (Little Queen, 1977)

12.10 10.little queen

10. “Little Queen” (Little Queen, 1977). I don’t care whether Ann is singing a ballad or belting a rocker, the woman has the most powerful yet sexiest voice in all of rock. She shakes men to the core probably like what women felt like when Robert Plant sang. Oh, and this is Heart at their funkiest.

9. “Dog & Butterfly” (Dog & Butterfly, 1978). This is Nancy at her acoustic best. Her guitar playing truly shines on the songs when she plays acoustic guitar, which is NOT a knock on her outstanding electric guitar playing. There’s just something fierce yet sexy about her acoustic play.

8. “Alone” (Bad Animals, 1987). This song is immortal, and that’s all I need to say.

7. “Dreamboat Annie” (Dreamboat Annie, 1976). I love the softer side of Heart. And, this song shows that they were WAY more than a Zeppelin knock-off.

6. “Magic Man” (Dreamboat Annie, 1976). This song taught me in no uncertain terms that women do feel lust, no matter what my mom tried to tell me.

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5. “Even It Up” (Bébé le Strange, 1980). Brings back so many memories of running track in high school.

4. “This Man Is Mine” (Private Audition, 1982). If I were truthful, I probably would have put this ode to Motown at #1 since it is my go-to Heart song.

3. “These Dreams” (Heart, 1985). What can I say about Heart’s first #1 song? Except, did you know that it was Nancy singing? WTF?!?!

2. “How Can I Refuse?” (Passionworks, 1983). This song was all over Milwaukee radio during the summer of 1983. We used to play it to death on the jukebox at the nearby dive bar, along with Ramones, The Clash and Culture Club. Yeah, that’s right! I said Culture Club!

12.10 1.Crazy_on_You_-_Heart

1. “Crazy on You” (Dreamboat Annie, 1976). There’s nothing better than women singing about lust.

My Favorite Albums of 2019

12.9 2019

Time for the big cliche: I can’t believe we are in December 2019! So much has happened this year, from my mom’s passing, to my younger son and his wife both turning 30 and my granddaughter celebrating her first birthday, to the birth of my first grandson, to living the third impeachment hearings in my lifetime, to the loss of a long-time coach/friend/mentor, to the craziest list of Rock Hall nominees, to a weird year of music, to the remastered releases of Prince’s 1999 and R.E.M.’s Monster. In the words of Ben Fong-Torres in Almost Famous, “Crazy!”

12.3 prince-1999-super-deluxe-cd-product-shot

Overall, I’m still not sure what to make of the new music release this year. If I were to cheat a little bit, I’d say the best album of “new” music was the stuff from The Vault found on discs three and four on that aforementioned 1999 super deluxe box set. Very little seemed as fresh, forward-looking and just plain moving as those two discs that have not left my turntable/CD player since the mail carrier delivered it ten days or so ago. But, that declaration would probably be unfair to all the artists who released new material this year. Then, again, why should I really care? Hell, Kanye released some “gospel” crap that only emphasized to me that he might have lost touch of his muse over the past five years. It happens to everyone. However, he is NOT the genius he thinks he is. Sorry, he’s no Prince, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, or Run-DMC. But, that’s another blog.

12.9 Lizzo

While I’m raging against the machine (though I AM happy they are reuniting, since we NEED them now!), is it just me or is the industry over-hyping some artists right now? Don’t get me wrong, I think Taylor Swift has had a nice career, but I really don’t get her. Also, Ariana Grande? I like her better when she was Mariah Carey, the real one. I kinda like Billie Eilish, but I still believe she needs a couple albums to develop her sound better; hopefully, she will get that opportunity. Maybe the problem is that, as my older son has told me on a couple of occasions, that today’s music isn’t for me anymore. I guess I just didn’t die before I got old.

12.9 charly bliss
Charly Bliss

So, I thought I would keep with my tradition of releasing my year-end Top 50 albums for 2019. I started doing this in my private journals back in 1975 when I was twelve, and I am not really ready to call it quits. However, I will concede that this is getting more and more difficult to fill my list. Up through the Nineties, I could fill a Top 50 easily. Now, I simply trust my boys more for the bottom part. What’s an aging Gen X-er, or am I a Boomer (God! I hope not!), to do? Enough of this! Let’s see the damn list!

50. Weezer – Weezer (The Teal Album). Mainly for nostalgia.

49. Anderson. Paak – Ventura. He might be a more boring version of Maxwell.

48. Kanye West – Jesus Is King. See my previous comments.

47. Bon Iver – i, i. I keep trying, but I fall asleep during everyone of his albums.

46. Tinashe – Songs for You. I think she is still searching for her sound.

45. Yola – Walk Through Fire. I like this album, even though the songwriting has yet to catch up to her ambitions. Keep an eye on Yola.

44. Tanya Tucker – While I’m Livin’. The original Miranda has made a strong comeback, though she keeps doing her best LL Cool J by saying it’s not a comeback.

43. that dog. – Old LP. The power poppers from the Nineties made a nice little comeback album that few have heard but should.

42. Miranda Lambert – Wildcard. Our friends’ oldest daughter roomed with a young lady who competed on the first season of Nashville Star when Miranda Lambert was a contestant. My older son, once again, said Miranda was the only contestant who would have a career out of that bunch. I really need to start listening to him sometime.

41. Kim Gordon – No Home Record. Again, this was a nostalgia pick because I’ve always loved her songs on Sonic Youth’s albums.

40. White Reaper – You Deserve Love. When in doubt, I put on a power pop band.

39. Chance the Rapper – The Big Day. Sure, Chance is a little on the pop side of hip hop, but I like him. Plus, he not bad when he’s on SNL. Back to you!

38. Thom Yorke – ANIMA. Do I really like this or do I just WANT to like it?

37. FKA twigs – Magdalene. This artist is somewhere in the sweet zone between Kate Bush, Bjork and Nineties Madonna. She continues to pique my interest.

36. Wilco – Ode to Joy. I will always love what these guys do, even if they might be starting to rest on their laurels a bit.

35. Santana – Africa Speaks. This is a good album, but it’s not Supernatural, let alone Abraxas. Not even Zebop!

34. Taylor Swift – Lover. Is Taylor beginning to slip a bit in her songwriting? Time will tell.

33. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow. Van Etten is a nice little singer-songwriter, but she needs a little lesson in Carole King and Joni Mitchell in order to raise her game.

32. Tyler, The Creator – Igor. This is the best hip hop album of 2019, but he is no Kendrick Lamar.

31. Big Thief – U.F.O.F. This is the first of two albums the band released this year. Neither are great, but there is much to like about the future for this band.

30. Big Thief – Two Hands. These two albums fall somewhere between GNR’s Use Your Illusion I and II, Weezer’s Black and Teal Albums and those stupid Springsteen’s albums from the Nineties.

29. Priests – The Seduction of Kansas. Just when you thought no one was doing pop punk anymore, this album found its way into my stream.

28. Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next. This one is her best, but it’s not the best album of the year. Sorry to the folks at Rolling Stone.

27. Ex Hex – It’s Real. Sometimes, you just gotta have some great alternative music…

26. Tool – Fear Inoculum. It’s always great to have a true comeback by a great band.

25. The Black Keys – Let’s Rock. The Keys’ last four albums have been outstanding and exciting. This one is just a little lackluster. Still, it’s solid.

24. Carly Rae Jepson – Dedicated. THIS is the female pop singer to listen to!

23. Solange – When I Get Home. Beyonce’s little sis is becoming a damn good artist.

22. Beck – Hyperspace. I really wanted to like this album more than I do, but it’s still better than many released this year.

21. Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee. Will someone please explain to me why this guy doesn’t sell more records? Saadiq is the true heir to Prince right now.

20. Fitz & the Tantrums – All the Feels. I keep waiting for this band to break big. They are the Hall & Oates of the 21st century.

19. Maggie Rogers – Heard It in a Past Life. Mark my words, this girl’s gonna be a star! Of course, I’ve been wrong before…

18. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? I’m just glad that young people are listening to something fresh.

17. Charli XCX – Charli. Here’s another great artist who should be huge.

16. The Highwomen – The Highwomen. A nice country album that sounds more like a West Coast album from the Seventies.

15. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride. I love this band, but this is their weakest album to date. Still, it’s stronger than most this year.

14. Coldplay – Everyday Life. I have to give these guys some love. They are following U2’s career’s trajectory perfectly.

13. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka. This guy is the real deal! He keeps getting closer to delivering a blockbuster. He is something a Bill Withers for the new millennium.

12. King Princess – Cheap Queen. I really love this album! She has something of a Teena Marie vibe to her.

11. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors. Olsen is beginning to blossom in her songwriting.

12.9 10.Ghosteen_-_Nick_Cave_and_the_Bad_Seeds

10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen. To me, the best comparison of Nick Cave would be Leonard Cohen, only if Cohen had come up during the punk era like Cave. Cave has a dark beauty to his music that has been unmatched since the middle of the Eighties. I highly recommend this one.

12.9 9.Sturgill-Simpson-Sound-And-Fury

9. Sturgill Simpson – Sound and Fury. If you are an old geezer like me, you remember when artists took chances with their music. For the uninitiated, Simpson is a terrific outlaw country/southern rock artist. But, on this album he does a southern-fried version of LCD Soundsystem that is both challenging AND totally awesome!

12.9 8.bruce springsteen - western stars

8. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars. I absolutely love the laidback nature of this album. This was a great album to listen to outside, as the evening changed to night during the summer.

12.9 7.Sleater-Kinney_-_The_Center_Won't_Hold

7. Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold. The second best power trio of the Nineties has been on a creative roll since reforming a couple years ago. This is a terrific album.

12.9 6.charly bliss.young enough

6. Charly Bliss – Young Enough. If you need a Cheap Trick fix, Charly Bliss will fill the need. I loved their last album, but this one’s even better!

12.9 5.Brittany_Howard_-_Jaime

5. Brittany Howard – Jaime. Remember when Alabama Shakes burst onto the scene at the beginning of the twenty-teens? Wow! How could have ever forgotten what a great singer Howard is?

12.9 4.On_the_Line_(Jenny_Lewis_album_cover)

4. Jenny Lewis – On the Line. If you ever miss Tom Petty’s music, just listen to Lewis and that will fill the void. And, this my friends, is her best album hands down. A very underrated artist who would sound perfectly on classic rock radio.

12.9 3.bob mould_sunshinerock

3. Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock. Bob Mould’s music has been a part of my life since 1984, be it with Hüsker Dü, Sugar or solo. But, what he has been doing since the turn of this decade is a revelation! And, so is this album!

12.9 2.Lana_Del_Rey_-_Norman_Fucking_Rockwell

2. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell! After her disastrous debut on SNL several years back, I had written her off. I thought she was simply an artist that was pushed through the star-making machine and would be exposed as a fraud. But to her credit, she kept coming back. And, now, in 2019, Del Rey has created her masterpiece. See what a little humble pie can do for you if you keep grinding it out?!?!

12.9 1.Lizzo_-_Cuz_I_Love_You

1. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You. I was blown away when I saw her perform “Juice” on The Tonight Show. But, then I just thought it might be the case of a great single being lost on an album of okay material. But, boy howdy, was I ever wrong! Finally, an album was released that took me back to the days of disco, Prince and Earth, Wind & Fire! Yowsah! This is the best album of the year, and, quite possibly, the whole decade. I sure hope this woman is NOT a flash in the pan!

The 1999 Remaster Is Here! Boy, Do I Have Issues (and Reissues)

12.3 prince 1999 remaster

Finally! It arrived in the mail today! I ordered it back at the end of the summer, but it is here. Now, everything in the world is right again. That’s right, folks, my remastered version of Prince’s second masterpiece, 1999, arrived today from his Estate. Oh, the vinyl packaging is beautiful, a four-LP set with a metallic cover. And, since I am such a Prince completist, I also got the super deluxe 5-CD/1-DVD box set with a metallic SILVER cover. You all do NOT realize how important this album was in my life.

12.3 prince 1999 remaster cd

Once again, let’s board Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and set the date for November 22, 1982. That day was the twentieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but that’s not why I wanted to go there. No, I chose that day because I was a stupid nineteen-year-old college sophomore, who had given up college athletics for an actual college life of intramural basketball, competitive cycling and the party life. Anyway, a couple of my high school buddies and I were back in town on Quarter Break around Thanksgiving and were going to a nearby mall to meet up with some college girls from Ball State to hang out for the day.

Since I was one to NEVER waste a moment when the opportunity knocked, I convinced everyone to go to the local record store for a visit. You see, back then even the most casual music listener loved to wander through a record store since they often carried much more than music. Oh, sure, I was there for the albums, not so much for the cassettes or 8-track tapes, nor was I there for the T-shirts and other rock-related merch. And, I wasn’t really interested in the drug paraphernalia that was sold there either. Nope, I was ready to do some bin diving. However, I never really got started. Because, there it was, on the wall, just begging me to purchase it and leave.

12.3 prince & the revolution

You see, there on the wall, in the prime position of “The Album of the Week” was Prince’s 1999, a double album for the low, low price of $9.99! Remember, single albums back then were normal around $8.99, and double albums were rung up for $12.99. So, I would have been LOSING money if I hadn’t picked up that album right there and there. The question was do I buy the album and cut my week’s beer money by two-thirds, or to I go for an album that could potentially be a gift that keeps on giving. Of course, I bought the album. This very day became notorious for being the ONLY time in my life when I was ready to leave a record store before everyone else. Nope, no one was dragging me out today! I was in and out in ten minutes! I think my friends were all giving a collective sigh of relief.

As you might guess, it was several hours before I got back to Mom’s house. I called it Mom’s house because it never felt like home again after I went to college. Much to Mom’s chagrin, I had lugged my Technics component stereo home for the week, because, to paraphrase LL Cool J, I can’t live without my stereo. Remember, I was NOT a Prince-newbie by any stretch of the imagination, as I had all of his LPs to that point. But, for me, 1999 represented a whole new level of musical brilliance. This was a milestone record, much like London Calling by The Clash had been in the Spring of 1980. Screw Thriller! 1999 was THE party record of 1982 AND 1983 for me.

12.3 prince 1999 tour

From the moment the needle hit the groove on the first record, and I heard the infamous words, “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you! I only want you to have some fun,” I knew this was a totally new trip. There might not be a better side of three songs than Side A of 1999 with the title song, “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious.” “1999” represented exactly what every member of the early Gen X crew was thinking about what seemed to be an impending nuclear apocalypse: if it’s going to happen, we might as well party! That was segued into “Little Red Corvette,” perhaps the dirtiest covert song ever to become a Top 10 hit (“You had a pocket full of Trojans, horses, and some of them used.” Are you kidding me?!?!). And, that broke into “Delirious,” a neo-rockabilly/synth pop/dance amalgam. When that side ended I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. I knew when I got back to campus, that this album side would stuff people onto the dance floor.

But, I was NOT ready for Side B, arguably Prince’s finest moment. Remember, there are only two songs on this side, yet they are perfect! Neither was a hit, in the sense that radio would play them. But, you couldn’t edit either, sensor them for that matter, without ruining the urgency of their message. Seriously, if Side A was the pop/rock side, then Side B was the funk/dance side. The songs, which flow seamlessly into each other, were “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “D.M.S.R.”. Basically, if a DJ had Record 1 of 1999 and Thriller, you didn’t need much else to have a great night of dancing. So, when that first record ended, I thought that if Record 2 is just average, this is still a great album.

12.3 Prince - 1999 (Live in Houston, 1982)

Record 2? Hell, Prince gave us six more classic R&B/dance songs. There is absolutely NO drop-off in the brilliance of his touch on 1999. Side C, much like Side A, is a three-song suite of minimalist funk and R&B brilliance that only Michael Jackson, James Brown, George Clinton, Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix could only partially dream of. “Automatic” bleeds into “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)” slows down to the worldly political comment of “Free.” If I was unsure that I might be listening to my generation’s Sgt. Pepper, Side D convinced me that it might just be more than that.

That’s because Side D is nothing but dirty, lowdown, sexy funk. “Lady Cab Driver” is the dirty funk and dirty lyrics to boot. And, “All the Critics Love U in New York” introduced us all not only to Prince’s invention of text messaging spelling but of the slow-burn funk of a new wavish “Stairway to Heaven” epic that sounds as if Berlin met The Time and birthed this dance song. Finally, Prince shows that he is the Gen X loverboy on the final song, “International Lover.”

12.3 the time12.3 Vanity6-band

If nothing else, 1999 was the blueprint for Prince’s career, whether we knew it at the time or not. First, you can hear the groundwork that he laid for the careers of The Time and Vanity 6 on this album. Additionally, if you were really listening to this album at the time, then the so-called surprise sounds of Around the World in a Day, Parade and Sign ‘O’ the Times were not really that shocking. The skeletons were all there, just the increasing lushness of his subsequent sounds were awaiting to be added.

12.3 prince 1999 vinyl deluxe

Now, as far as the Super Deluxe version is concerned, it’s made for the Prince fanatics like me. In addition to the remaster, you get a disc of all the radio edits of the hits, 12-inch remixes and all the great B-sides, two discs of songs from the famous Vault that are only for weirdos such as me, and a live recording of a concert from Detroit that has been bootlegged for years. To top things off, there’s a DVD of the December 29, 1982, concert in Houston, Texas, which is a great addition to the old Prince collection.

12.3 prince-1999-super-deluxe-cd-product-shot

Now, remember that I am a fan of Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Daryl Hall & John Oates and Queen, but all pale in my heart to Prince. The cynic in me wants to lash out at the Prince Estate for all of these seemingly cash-ins of vinyl releases of albums from the CD- and digital-eras and these remastered packages, but the true Prince-ophile in me truly appreciates it.

Hi! My name is Scott, and I am a Prince addict…

The Musical World According to SNL

12.2 David Bowie SNL 1979

Mr. Peabody! Could you please tell your pet boy Sherman to set the Wayback Machine to October 30, 1976?

You see, ladies and gentlemen, that very day, I was spending the night at Mike Bond’s house, along with about 10 to 15 other seventh grade boys, to celebrate Mike’s fourteenth birthday. That night, the usual teenage shenanigans took place like football, basketball, exploring the trails that went from behind his parents’ home down to the park in our hometown, running around the nearby cemetery because it was old, spooky AND the night before Halloween, and any other dumb stuff a teenage boy does with a bunch of guys. Of course, our collective IQ dropped precipitously, but that always happens with any group of boys between the ages of 8 and 25.

Now, with all due respect to Mike, perhaps my oldest friend (He’s not old, only four months older than me. We met at the first game that our old high school had and have been friends ever since. Our school opened in 1969, so that’s a fricking LONG time. Crap! It’s 50 years now!), that night was significant for a whole other reason. While his deviously dry father was attempting to pay one of us twenty dollars to sleep the night in that old cemetery, I stumbled through their family and noticed Mike’s high school age older sister watching TV. I asked her what was on, and she said it was some new comedy show called NBC’s Saturday Night. First off, Saturday Night Live was the name of some lame sketch comedy show on ABC the previous year that was hosted by Howard Cosell, not a name associated with comedy though Bill Murray was originally in that cast. Now, I was still cutting my comedic teeth at the time which translates into I thought Jimmy Walker on Good Times was gold.

12.2 U2 SNL 2004

Needless to say, I sat down to watch this mind-blowing show. I really did not know what to think when I saw it. But, I watch it anyway. Then, about halfway through this show, the host (it was the legendary Buck Henry) announced the musical guest The Band. Now, at the time I was just discovering KISS, so I had no idea who The Band was. However, I was just blown away by their performance of “Life Is a Carnival,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (I only knew Joan Baez’ version, even if I had NO context concerning her or the song) and, then what soon became my favorite “Stage Fright.” I sat there mesmerized by this group of men who played so differently than what was popular at the time. Nope, this was WAY different than “Chevy Van” or “Run Joey Run.” And, this comedy thing was so much funnier than the stuff I thought was funny on Welcome Back Kotter. That night changed my life in, oh, so many ways.

From that night forward, the show that eventually became Saturday Night Live, became my go-to show. I stuck with it during those lean years in college, though Eddie Murphy, arguably the most important cast member of all time, kept the franchise afloat while Fridays and SCTV were the sketch shows to watch. Yet, the thing that kept me coming back, week after week after week, was not the comedic genius, because that only worked on occasion. No, I was always keeping an eye on who the musical guests were, especially in the first twenty years, when those guests could be daring and off-the-wall.

Since this is mainly a live show, most of the musical guests perform live, though in the early days, ABBA did do their performance as if they were on The Carol Burnett Show and lip-synced their hit “S.O.S.” during a sketch. During that initial five-year run, the musical guests ranged from Gil Scott-Heron, jazz great Sun Ra, punk pioneer Patti Smith, Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, reggae god Jimmy Cliff, Talking Heads, The B-52’s and so many others. And during the Eighties, we got to watch L.A. punk pioneers Fear, Cowboy Junkies, Living Colour and so many others. Heck, rap artists were even booked as early as 1981 (The Funky 4+1)! Nowadays, we mostly get the artists who are making a noise on the pop chart, but back in the day, kids, we got our musical minds blown.

What I want to present to you is a list of my 50 favorite musical performances over the first 44 seasons of Saturday Night Live. I have decided to list these chronologically because how do you separate Elvis Costello stopping his band early in a record company requested song to play his immortal “Radio Radio” instead, Patti Smith screaming “Jesus Christ died for our sins but not mine!” before going into “Gloria” early Easter morning 1976, Fear’s Halloween 1981 full-on punk onslaught that included onstage slam-dancing and got the whole performance cut away from live or Rage Against the Machine’s 1996 performance when they unfurled an upside down American flag on national TV only to get their second song cut.

12.2 Arcade Fire SNL 2013

So, buckle your seat belts! And, away we go!

18 October 1975: Simon & Garfunkel reunion – “The Boxer,” “Scarborough Fair” and “My Little Town”. Paul Simon almost seems like a cast member on SNL. He was the host on the second show ever and did a reunion set with his old partner Art Garfunkel.

17 April 1976: Patti Smith Group – “Gloria”. There’s something better in the music world than what’s on the radio, and this was when I found out.

12.2 The Band SNL 1976

30 October 1976: The Band – “Life Is a Carnival,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Stage Fright” and “Georgia on My Mind”. The Band was the greatest band ever, and they played on SNL!

20 November 1976: George Harrison & Paul Simon – “Here Comes the Sun” and “Homeward Bound”. Everyone forgets this because Simon was hosting and did his monologue in a turkey costume. But, Harrison’s first comeback was special due to this duet.

12 November 1977: Ray Charles – “I Can See Clearly Now,” “What’d I Say” and “Oh, What a Beautiful World”. This man was truly a genius!

12 December 1977: Elvis Costello & the Attractions – “Radio Radio”. Instead of Sex Pistols, who were battling visa issues, SNL got Costello when he was arguably the most pissed off man in music. So, instead of playing “Less Than Zero,” as his record company wanted, he stopped the band and made SNL history with this rousing version of a song “biting the hand that feeds them.”

18 February 1978: Billy Joel – “Only the Good Die Young”. Before that night, Joel was a struggling singer/songwriter. After that night, he became BILLY JOEL, future Rock & Rock Hall of Famer.

14 October 1978: Devo – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. This disjointed, robotic cover of the Stones’ classic changed my generation forever. Every nerd like me had five new heroes after that night.

10 February 1979: Talking Heads – “Take Me to the River”. Another real game-changer in my musical tastes.

10 November 1979: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee”. The night I became a HUGE Tom Petty fan.

18 December 1979: David Bowie – “The Man Who Sold the World,” “TVC15” and “Boys Keep Swinging”. Three songs, three mind-blowing performances. One in a blow-up outfit, one in a dress and one with Bowie’s head superimposed on a dancing puppet’s body. I knew the Eighties were going to be cool!

12.2 funky-4-1 1981

14 February 1981: The Funky 4+1 – “That’s the Joint”. Ground zero of the rap explosion thanks to host Debbie Harry’s request.

21 February 1981: Prince – “Partyup”. This was Prince telling us that a whole new thing was happening, but we just didn’t realize it.

31 October 1981: Fear – “Beef Baloney” and “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophone”. SNL proved once and for all that they had the most guts when booking talent. They get thumbs down from me for breaking to commercial when the mayhem just started getting good.

25 September 1982: Queen – “Under Pressure”. Sure, Bowie didn’t perform with the band, but they proved that night they were still a force to be reckoned with.

9 October 1982: The Clash – “Straight to Hell” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”. Any time The Clash were on TV, it was a MUST SEE night.

8 October 1983: John Cougar Mellencamp – “Pink Houses” and “Crumblin’ Down”. Our favorite Hoosier finally made the big time!

5 May 1984: Spinal Tap – “Christmas with the Devil” and “Big Bottom”. Are they a real band or not? Who cares!

2 February 1985: Tina Turner – “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” “Private Dancer” and “Better Be Good to Me”. Turner capped off her phenomenal comeback year with this performance, showing all of us her full musical range from R&B vixen, to moody sultriness to the Queen of Rock and Roll.

18 January 1986: The Replacements – “Bastards of Young” and “Kiss Me on the Bus”. Yes, The Mats were hit and miss. Yes, they were drunk. Yes, they dropped the third “f-bomb” on air in the show’s history. But, man, they were so cool that night.

18 October 1986: Run-DMC – “Walk This Way” and “Hit It, Run”. This was the game-changer because when Malcolm-Jamal Warner announced Run-DMC and the guys tore it up, rap was now a financial boom in addition to a musical force.

24 November 1986: Paul Simon & Ladysmith Black Mambazo – “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”. This was the night Weekend Vampire got their career. Paul Simon CAN do anything!

24 October 1987: LL Cool J – “Go Cut Creator Go”. The Funky 4+1 knocked down the doors. Run-DMC showed there was no denying rap. And LL said, “Rap is here to stay!”

15 October 1988: The Sugarcubes – “Birthday”. Hello world! There IS rock music in Iceland, and Björk is their lead singer.

30 September 1989: Neil Young – “Rockin’ in the Free World”. Just when you want to write off Young, he comes back stronger than ever to change the world in more ways than you can count.

12.2 mariah carey snl 1990

27 October 1990: Mariah Carey – “Visions of Love”. Carey was just three years out of high school, when she showed all of us that she was next in line behind Whitney Houston on the Gen X diva scale. And, Mariah looked like she was on her way back from shopping at the mall the way she was dressed.

1 December 1990: Faith No More – “Epic”. Rap and Metal?!?! Who knew that someone other than Run-DMC could concoct the Reece’s Cup of the rock world!

13 April 1991: R.E.M. – “Shiny Happy People”. With a little help from The B-52’s Kate Pearson.

14 January 1992: Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Territorial Pissings”. There’s a new sheriff in town, and the name’s Nirvana!

11 April 1992: Pearl Jam – “Alive” and “Porch”. Now, grunge IS here to stay. At least for another two years.

13 October 1992: Sinead O’Connor – “War”. Perhaps, the most infamous performance in which O’Connor rips up a photo of Pope John Paul II after her a capella version of the Bob Marley song.

19 November 1994: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and “Honey Bee”. Original drummer Stan Lynch had left the band, so Tom called up the not-yet-ubiquitous Dave Grohl to fill in and history was made.

12.2 RATM SNL 1996

13 April 1996: Rage Against the Machine – “Bulls on Parade”. The most incendiary band of the Nineties provoked not only NBC but the country by placing an upside down American flag on their speakers. Boy, do we need this band more than ever now!

6 December 1997: Metallica – “Fuel” and “The Memory Remains”. It took SNL ten years to get Metallica in Studio 8, but when they finally got there it was magical.

14 October 2000: Radiohead – “Idioteque”. Was singer Thom Yorke actually having a seizure during this performance? Who cares! It was so rock and roll!

19 May 2001: Weezer – “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun”. My boys were like “Weezer’s on SNL!” It was their Clash moment. Still, they were fantastic! Weezer, that is!

2 March 2002: Outkast – “Hey Ya!” and “Ms. Jackson”. My favorite rap duo of all-time conquered SNL and became the biggest rap group in the process.

19 October 2002: The White Stripes – “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”. Finally, garage/punk rock was back!

20 November 2004: U2 – “Vertigo,” “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” and “I Will Follow”. The biggest band in the world came, they saw and they kicked our ass!

15 September 2012: Frank Ocean – “Pyramids”. This man came on like gangbusters. And while guest guitarist John Mayer was ripping a hot solo, Ocean played a video game on an arcade set.

18 May 2013: Kanye West – “Black Skinhead”. Anyone else remember when Kanye was cool and not crazy? Man, I miss those days!

28 September 2013: Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”. I really thought Arcade Fire was going to be the Millennials’ U2 on this night.

29 March 2014: Sam Smith – “Stay with Me”. Before the show, I was “WTF?!?! Who is Sam Smith?” After this first song, I was like “This guy is the new Boy George!” That’s a huge compliment from me!

12.2 st-vincent snl 2014

18 May 2014: St. Vincent – “Birth in Reverse”. While she was killing it, I kept thinking that I finally found my new Talking Heads!

1 November 2014: Prince & Third Eye Girl – “Clouds,” “Plectrum Electrum,” “Marz” and “Another Love”. The Purple One has had four classic performances on SNL, but this one was the most poignant of them all.

15 November 2014: Kendrick Lamar – “I” and “Pay for It”. The best Millennial rapper kills showed the world just why he is who he is.

17 January 2015: Sia – “Elastic Heart”. Sia showed that she was an ARTIST.

30 January 2015: D’Angelo & the Vanguard – “Really Love”. D’Angelo had been quiet for 15 LONG years when he came back and blew us away. Then, he retreated into the mist again.

19 December 2015: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Meet Me in the City,” “The Tie That Binds” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. It’s The Boss, ’nuff said!

5 May 2018: Childish Gambino – “This Is America”. The musical alter-ego of the brilliant Donald Glover just destroyed this song that night. It’s no wonder this song got a Grammy.