Dare I Say It’s a Beautiful Love Letter to Hall & Oates

Hall & Oates Perform At Resorts World Arena Birmingham

EEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOWWWWW! Did you hear the news that’s totally made me forget about the whole Rock Hall situation? Daryl Hall & John Oates are going out on tour this summer!

As my wife and I were traveling down to her hometown in southeastern Indiana to see her ailing father, she kept asking me what I wanted for my birthday. And since I am a man of very limited interests, she started throwing out the usual stuff that I enjoy: a Pacers, Butler or Ball State basketball game. I countered with a high school game in order to take the grandkids to get them hooked since there’s nothing like a high school game in Indiana for kids. Then, she asked if I wanted to go to a record store, and I’m like of course! Then, she started bringing up concerts for the summer, joking that we could get some country music package for the nearby music shed. Of course, I about threw up. Sorry fans, but I hate the current state of country music. As I have quoted before, Tom Petty once said that country music today is like bad Eighties music with a fiddle.

1.22 H & O live 1977

So, then she asked me about seeing The Doobie Brothers, and I told her I am lukewarm on them, especially if the ticket prices are astronomical. Actually, I said that I definitely wanted to see The Boss, no matter the cost. And, I would go see Hall & Oates again, knowing that at our ages, no one would get pregnant (see one of my previous posts about how dangerous Hall & Oates music and concerts can be with us). I told her I have signed up for alerts for both artists. She gave a courtesy laugh, shook her head, then we changed the subject.

Then, yesterday, it happened. My phone started blowing up with alerts from every conceivable source saying that our favorite duo were announcing a tour with Indy on the docket. Immediately, I text her the news. She was pumped up because she text back immediately, even though she probably was working with a student at the time. Priorities are priorities.

1.22 H & O live 1981

So, I have been trying to figure out this whole Hall & Oates fascination and how it all started. Well, it is a very easy story. For the last six years of my hometown schooling years, I used to go down to the neighbors’ house almost every day to hang out with their daughters, both of whom were around my age. Lori was my age, and the two of us looked so similar that people often thought we were brother and sister. And, Kim was a couple of years older than Lori and me. Anyway, Kim LOVED Hall & Oates from the moment “Sara Smile” was a huge hit. She was the first person I knew that actually saw them in concert back in the Seventies.

Initially, I did buy that silver eponymous titled album with “Sara Smile” and took it down to the girls’ house to listen to it often. Although both girls loved the album, Kim became obsessed. I can vividly remember Kim making me dance with her every time she bought a new Hall & Oates album. I was dancing, in private, to “Rich Girl” and “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” back in the mid-Seventies. Eventually, Kim graduated from high school and moved to Ball State. But, Lori and I continued to listen to Hall & Oates, burning them deep into my psyche.

1.22 Hall & Oates live 1988

When I got to Ball State in the fall of 1981, I couldn’t believe how many people loved the duo, unironically I might add. Here I was, a guy who was mainly into punk, new wave and hip hop, but I loved Daryl Hall & John Oates. That November, I took my brother down to Indiana University to see the Electric Light Orchestra, since he was a huge fan, while I went to see Hall & Oates open. And, that night, I became a HUGE Hall & Oates fan. They were not simply a slick studio concoction, but the total live package. That night, they announced that “Private Eyes” had just hit number one, so when they played it the audience went nuts. The duo’s band was hot, with über guitarist G.E. Smith, creative collaborator and bassist the late Tom “T-Bone” Wolk (my all-time favorite bassist), future Bryan Adams drummer Mickey Curry and longtime multi-instrumentalist and saxophonist supreme Charlie “Mr. Casual” De Chant. These guys were the real deal, and I’ll be damned if I won’t spend the rest of my life giving them their due.

Guys, Daryl Hall and John Oates are not some Yacht Rock relic, nor are they an Eighties mustache caricature. Go listen to any of their albums and you will hear rock experimentations; hip hop influences; folk and acoustic tinges; and soul, funk and disco flourishes in addition to their trademark rock ‘n’ soul pop sound. Then, you hear their voices come together, with John’s lower folk register versus Daryl’s superman soul quality. It’s as though the two differences made the whole amalgamation greater than the individual parts, as great as those individuals are solo.

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In retrospect, I loved Daryl Hall and John Oates’ music in the Seventies, but they took it to a completely different level in the Eighties. It seemed like the duo were energized by the dawn of a new decade. Surprisingly, their 1980 album Voices had a slow rise to the top. But, when “Kiss on My List” exploded to #1 in the spring of 1981, followed by the pure pop pleasure of “You Make My Dreams” that summer, Hall & Oates were on the cusp of becoming one of the dominant forces of rock music in the early-Eighties. Few artists have experienced a run like these guys had from 1980 through 1985, when their fifth album during that time finally ran out of steam. They had racked up five number one songs, along with a huge list of Top Twenty hits in addition to the albums Voices, Private Eyes, H2O, Rock ‘n’ Soul: Part 1 and Big Bam Boom.

1.22 Hall & Oates Tour 2020

I know I probably have done this in the past, but I thought I would present a longer, fresher list of my 50 favorite songs by the greatest duo of the rock era, Daryl Hall and John Oates. Kim Gill and Lori Eppert, this is for you two, with my brotherly love!

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50. “Philly Forget Me Not (with Train)” (Non-album single, 2018)

49. “Ooh Child” (Our Kind of Soul, 2004)

48. “Forever You” (Do It for Love, 2002)

47. “Promises Ain’t Enough” (Marigold Sky, 1997)

46. “Downtown Life” (Ooh Yeah!, 1988)

45. “Don’t Hold Back Your Love” (Change of Season, 1990)

44. “It’s Uncanny” (No Goodbyes, 1977)

43. “A Night at the Apollo Live! The Way You Do the Things You Do/My Girl (with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks)” (Live at the Apollo, 1985)

42. “Missed Opportunity” (Ooh Yeah!, 1988)

41. “Romeo Is Bleeding” (Marigold Sky, 1997)

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40. “I Can Dream About You” (Our Kind of Soul, 2004)

39. “Man on a Mission” (Do It for Love, 2002)

38. “When the Morning Comes Around” (Abandoned Luncheonette, 1973)

37. “Your Imagination” (Private Eyes, 1981)

36. “How Does It Feel to Be Back” (Voices, 1980)

35. “Las Vegas Turnaround” (Abandoned Luncheonette, 1973)

34. “Do What You Want, Be Who You Are” (Bigger Than Both of Us, 1976)

33. “Possession Obsession” (Big Bam Boom, 1984)

32. “Everything Your Heart Desires” (Ooh Yeah!, 1988)

31. “The Woman Comes and Goes” (X-Static, 1979)

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30. “Jingle Bell Rock” (Non-album single, 1983)

29. “Head Above Water” (Private Eyes, 1981)

28. “Why Do Lovers (Break Each Other’s Hearts?)” (Beauty on the Back Street, 1977)

27. “Don’t Go Out (unreleased song, 1981)” (Do What You Want, Be Who You Are, 2009)

26. “Do It for Love” (Do It for Love, 2004)

25. “Method of Modern Love” (Big Bam Boom, 1984)

24. “Italian Girls” (H2O, 1982)

23. “Back Together Again” (Bigger Than Both of Us, 1976)

22. “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” (Big Bam Boom, 1984)

21. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (Voices, 1980)

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20. “One on One” (H2O, 1982)

19. “Family Man” (H2O, 1982)

18. “It’s a Laugh” (Along the Red Ledge, 1978)

17. “Did It in a Minute” (Private Eyes, 1981)

16. “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” (Along the Red Ledge, 1976)

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15. “So Close” (Change of Season, 1990)

14. “Adult Education” (Rock ‘n’ Soul: Part 1, 1983)

13. “Private Eyes” (Private Eyes, 1981)

12. “Dreamtime” – Daryl Hall (Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine, 1986)

11. “Say It Isn’t So” (Rock ‘n’ Soul: Part 1, 1983)

1.22 10.Rich Girl - Hall & Oates

10. “Rich Girl” (Bigger Than Both of Us, 1976). The duo’s first number one song, The Killers’ Brandon Flowers claims he learned everything there is to know about writing a hit song from this one. Who knows, he may be right. Then again, when was the last time Flowers or his band had a hit song? He may need to listen to more of their songs. Still, this is a nearly forgotten classic.

9. “Wait for Me” (X-Static, 1979). Damn it! I will never understand why this song did not become a bigger hit. Oh wait! That’s right! Schlock meister David Foster produced the damn thing, nearly sucking the life out of it. Regardless, I love it!

8. “Kiss on My List” (Voices, 1981). I love it when the general public misses sarcasm. I remember the girls in my high school wishing their beaus would think this way about them. Even the girl I was dating at the time thought that way. Little did she know that I actually was.

7. “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” (Private Eyes, 1981). This song has been sampled by so many hip hop artists that you would not believe the legs it continues to have. Hall & Oates were never as big on Urban Radio, as it was called then, than with this song. It’s no wonder why ?uestlove pushed for Hall & Oates for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

6. “Out of Touch” (Big Bam Boom, 1984). The duo’s last number one held Wham! back for a couple of weeks before the English duo briefly took Hall & Oates’ mantle.

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5. “Maneater” (H2O, 1982). I remember when this song was released, the Boomer critics were bitching about the Motown bassline. Who cares!?!?!? They synthesized a sexy pop/rock/soul hit song using it.

4. “Sara Smile” (Daryl Hall and John Oates, 1975). “Sara Smile” broke Hall & Oates as a hit-making machine with their unique blend of soul cool and pop slickness with touches of rock and folk thrown in for good measure.

3. “You Make My Dreams” (Voices, 1980). THE perfect pop rock songs of the Eighties, “You Make My Dreams” has taken on a life of its own. The song is both of its time AND timeless.

2. “She’s Gone” (Abandoned Luncheonette, 1973). While it took three years before the song became a hit, it is now perhaps one of their five most recognizable hit songs in their cannon.

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1. “Everytime You Go Away (live in Tokyo 1996, unreleased)” (Do What You Want, Be Who You Are, 2009). I now prefer this version of their stellar studio version because this song epitomizes the live Hall & Oates experience. As Daryl says while announcing the song, “Taking ya ta church.” And the listener gets to hear the song in all its gospel and blues glory, highlighting Daryl’s scorching vocals. That man is peerless. This version showcases everything that is great about this duo: impeccable songwriting, masterful musicianship and otherworldly vocals.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2020

1.15 RRHOF Class of 2020 Inductees

What has my life become?!?! Eight years ago, I retired from teaching, very begrudgingly, due to some stupid complications to a failed back surgery. Up to that point, I had transitioned from a high school athlete to a college student who still dabbled in sports to a medical technologist to a teacher and coach, and I was truly digging my life. I was a very fortunate person as I was following a calling into teaching and coaching when I could have been making some serious cash if I had stuck with the science world. But I felt I had to teach, and coach. And, I got to play a role, albeit a very minor role, in the lives of some terrific young people who are now great parents and people. As one of my colleagues once told me that my disappointment with this new path was that I never got to control when I bailed on the professions. There is nothing more frustrating than waking up from a dream in which you have developed a new basketball out of bounds play or a training method for a pole vaulter only to realize that you can no longer do those things. And, boy, did I ever have teaching down to a scientific art form. I was on the cusp of getting this gig mastered, only to have the rug pulled out from under me. And, I must admit, I did spend many years pissed off by the whole thing.

Then, one day, a dear friend of mine, Larry Wilson, and his former wife, Heather Gemmen, suggested that I should begin writing. Larry wrote a blog that I liked to contribute to in the comments. Since both were writers, they thought I might have some untapped talent and encouraged me to develop it. Now, I had been on the high school newspaper staff where I was constantly being told to stop editorializing in my sports articles. And, I really don’t remember how many times I was told to stop my snide sarcastic comments in those very same articles. Yet, for some reason, I was named the Sports Editor my sophomore and junior years, giving me a monthly column for all of those silly comments. And, I also got to write my first album reviews under the very original “Dr. Rock N Roll” moniker (See?!?! Juvenile!). Writing was always something of a joke to me, a subversive method to see just how far I could push the boundaries. My theme papers were mostly written to get under the skin of some of my English teachers or to humor my classmates. But, if you properly used a semi-colon and sentence and paragraph transitions, cut down on the run-on sentences and had creative moments of insight and use of metaphors, you could easily get great grades. If I had only known that you could really make a living doing this if I had properly honed my skills, I might have been writing for The National Lampoon.

Anyway, Larry suggested that I write about music or sports. Now, being a former coach and something of a former athlete, sports would have seemed to be a more natural place for me. But, watching sports at the time was an emotionally painful activity for me, so I went with my hobby, which had always been an emotional refuge for me. So, now, here I am writing about music as though I really know what I am talking about.

In addition to science and math, I have had a long love of history, so I began tackling rock history with great vigor in college. Originally, I did it to earn a place on a college bowl team that I ended up not trying out for. Subsequently, I have spent nearly 40 years devouring all kinds of books on rock music all the while never learning to play any instrument (Fear of failure? Probably!). Now, I have nearly a thousand vinyl albums and another thousand or so CDs, with a whole bunch of 7-, 10- and 12-inch singles and EPs. Needless to say, I have an issue, but it does give me a perspective that I now share. So, here we are.

Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally announced their inductees for the Class of 2020. In the past, they used to announce the class before Christmas, but for some reason decided to extended their inanity for another month. The whole process is wrought with problems, which is a whole other issue, but we do finally have the nominee list of 16 artists pared down to six inductees. Why six? I have NO idea. All I know is that there is a HUGE backlog of artists awaiting their moment, and no one has a plan with how to deal with it.

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Anyway, the six artists being inducted are Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G. and T. Rex. At first glance, I am both satisfied and underwhelmed. First, I am satisfied that each artist deserves to be inducted. But, I am underwhelmed by the lack of female inductees and the lack of truly landmark artists. Sure, we got some musical and racial diversity, but the whole class seems a little vanilla to me. We are not getting arguably the most influential band of the past 40 years, Kraftwerk, inducted. We are not getting one of the first dominant female rock voices in all history, Pat Benatar, inducted. We are not getting one of the pioneers of punk rock, The MC5, inducted. We are not getting one of the first heirs to Aretha Franklin’s throne, Chaka Khan, inducted. We are not getting a true rock renaissance man in Todd Rundgren inducted. Hell, we are not getting two of metal’s most important cornerstones, Judas Priest and Motorhead, inducted. And, finally, the fans’ top vote-getter, Dave Matthews Band, wrongly or rightly, is not being inducted for the first time in history.

I mean, WTF!?!?!? It’s no wonder the Hall gets blasted by the critics and Hall watchers on an annual basis. And, the whole nomination and voting process is completely done in secret. At least the Baseball Hall of Fame, which has its insipid reputation, has a voting process that is somewhat open; we at least get to see some ballots and percentages are released for every player receiving a vote. But, the Rock Hall, based upon the music of the people, is done behind closed doors? What?! Is this a Russian thing? Or a Trump White House thing?

It’s okay Keller! Come down, or you will have to double up on your blood pressure meds! Deep breath! Remember: stress leads to back spasms, and God knows you don’t want those again! Be in the moment. Exhale. Deep inhale! Slow exhale. Calm. Down.

Okay, the BP is down, but I’m still pissed. Anyway, let’s take a look at the inductees.

Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode. The synth poppers who morphed into goth rockers influenced everyone from Nine Inch Nails to heavy metal icons to even having Johnny Cash cover “Personal Jesus.” I have been a huge backer of DM and am very excited for their induction. Remember, their career would not have happened if Kraftwerk weren’t around to influence them! And, they would admit it too.

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The Doobie Brothers. Many people my age grew up on the Doobies. They were a great boogie band at the beginning of their career who evolved into one of the first Yacht Rock masters after some lineup changes. I do remember arguing with a high school-aged neighbor that “Long Train Running” was a better song than Seals & Crofts’ “Diamond Girl.” I was a fourth grader, so how would I have ever understood at the time what a make-out song was? Throw in “Black Water” and “What a Fool Believes” and you’ve got a pretty good case for the band without ever bringing up their stellar compilation Best of the Doobies. I am wondering if the inducted members number will rival the number inducted with Parliament/Funkadelic?

1.15 whitney houston

Whitney Houston. The Voice of My Generation. Next!

1.15 Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails. Mastermind Trent Reznor took the angst of The Cure, the Goth stylings of Depeche Mode and Siouxsie Sioux with the industrial sounds of Ministry and KMFDM to create the sound of the Nineties. NIN set the stage for Marilyn Manson and so many others. Plus, you can now hear Reznor’s influence in his thrilling soundtrack work and in that sample of his in that stupid Lil Nas X song that’s everywhere.

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The Notorious B.I.G. Oh, I can hear a couple of my former athletes now filling up my inbox that Biggie and Whitney are NOT rock and roll. And, no matter how many times I try to explain that “rock and roll” and “pop” are synonymous terms, I just tell them that it’s classic rock radio’s fault for their limited definition. Anyway, Biggie’s casts a huge shadow over hip hop, and rock. Too bad that Kurtis Blow,LL Cool J, Eric B & Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Wu Tang Clan are all still on the outside.

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T. Rex. I can hear it now, “What the heck is T. Rex getting into the Hall for?” C’mon now! They are a very important band in the whole Glam Rock movement of the early-Seventies, which begat that stupid Glam (or Hair) Metal movement of the Eighties. T. Rex was as important an artist in the UK as Bowie to a whole lot of musicians, from Def Leppard, the New Romantic bands to Oasis and the other Britpop artists. Sure, we Americans only know “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” but their story is so much larger.

Well, there you have it, the RRHOF Class of 2020, for better or for worse. This is what they gave us, and we’ll have to live with it for another year. And will I watch the HBO Special this spring? You bet! I’m that sucker that’s born every minute Mr. Barnum.

R.I.P. Neil Peart: Here’s 25 by Rush

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It’s happened again. We’ve lost yet another giant from the rock world. And, not just any giant, but arguably the greatest drummer of all-time, Rush’s Neil Peart. Peart has been long held alongside Buddy Rich and The Who’s Keith Moon as the three greatest drummers ever. And as great as those men were, Peart was actually a man with no peer, as he took what those other two men accomplished, mastered their techniques, amalgamated them, and took them light years beyond. As many have stated in their own tributes to the man, Neil Peart was the Maestro.

As all rock know, Peart was not the original drummer of Rush. No, that honor belonged to John Rutsey. But, when Rutsey abruptly bolted the band due to health reasons after the first album, guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Geddy Lee regrouped with Peart before the second album, and the rest was history. Finally, Rush had a drummer who could push the others sonically and lyrically, allowing the band to bridge the gap between hard rock, heavy metal, progressive rock and jazz.

1.13 neil peart drum set

Just like most people my age, I discovered Rush during the summer of 1976 when a friend of mine told me about their album 2112. Personally, I was blown away by the science fiction lyrics, as I was a science fiction nerd at the time. The playing was like a cross between Yes and Led Zeppelin, making it doubly cool to a teenage boy. Sure, I recognized the lyrically allusions to Ayn Rand’s writings, as I was reading her stuff too. Now, every teen is totally moved by the fact that they feel as though every adult is trying to stifle them, so Rand’s writing should appeal to them. And, when a band’s lyrical content is based upon her philosophy, then you gotta listen to them.

Now, as I got older and studied more and more literature, history and science, I noticed the major faults in Rand’s philosophy, as did lyricist Neil Peart. So, as the years passed, the band’s music and lyrics moved onward. Sure, Peart remained a libertarian as such, but the band’s musicianship continued to evolve. Now, I am no Rush fanatic, just a rock fan who admired the band’s evolution from prog metalists to prog pop/rockers to prog synth rockers back to prog metal gods. Their evolution has been one of the more fascinating travels in rock history, and all along they maintained their rabid fan base in addition to their integrity. And, for that, the band should be respected.

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Now, in retrospect, I fully understand why Peart said at the end of the band’s last tour that he was retiring, although Lee tried to say otherwise. At the time, I thought Peart was simply ready to move on toward other life goals, when in reality he was beginning his last stand against brain cancer. Unfortunately for us, his drum set has been silenced.

Now, to really get a full appreciation of Peart’s abilities, go back and listen to any of the band’s hundred or so live albums, all of which have yet another example of his drum solos. But, to get a full overview of his important place within Rush, I present my 25 favorite Rush songs in honor of the Maestro. Oh, and Rush fanatics, please give me a break for not placing your favorite piece on my list.

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25. “Roll the Bone” (Roll the Bone, 1991)

24. “Clockwork Angels” (Clockwork Angels, 2012)

23. “Distant Early Warning” (Grace Under Pressure, 1984)

22. “Anthem” (Fly by Night, 1975)

21. “Workin’ Them Angels” (Snakes & Angels, 2007)

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20. “Nobody’s Hero” (Counterparts, 1994)

19. “Fly by Night” (Fly by Night, 1975)

18. “Finding My Way” (Rush, 1974)

17. “YYZ” (Moving Pictures, 1981)

16. “Subdivisions” (Signals, 1982)

15. “A Passage to Bangkok” (2112, 1976)

14. “Time Stand Still (with Aimee Mann)” (Hold Your Fire, 1987)

13. “Freewill” (Permanent Waves, 1980)

12. “Far Cry” (Snakes & Arrows, 2007)

11. “Jacob’s Ladder” (Permanent Waves, 1980)

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10. “Working Man” (Rush, 1974). The song that started everything for the band. May have taken a couple of years, but the rest is history.

9. “The Trees” (Hemispheres, 1978). This lyrical allegory for the cession movement of Quebec from Canada back in the Seventies is the start of Rush applying their sound to pop structures.

8. “Red Barchetta” (Moving Pictures, 1980). Once again, this song about a car carries a much deep meaning about one’s self as well as society.

7. “Closer to the Heart” (A Farewell to Kings, 1977). This song should have been a big pop hit, even with all the prog rock flourishes it contains.

6. “New World Man” (Signals, 1982). The great thing about Rush is how while they were musically embracing new technologies, lyrically their were displaying skepticism in those same technologies.

5. “Tom Sawyer” (Moving Pictures, 1981). Mark Twain’s most famous title-character is the perfect lyrical starting point for Rush. In the fantastic band documentary, Beyond the Lighted Stage, Peart even admitted that this song was a nightly challenge for him to play perfectly. Imagine that! And, it sounds so easy.

4. “Limelight” (Moving Pictures, 1981). Once again, a seemingly brilliant pop song has a complex musical arrangement along with lyrics that bare Peart’s uneasy toleration of being a rock star. After nearly 40 years, this song is still so perfect.

3. “La Villa Strangiato” (Hemispheres, 1978). This song (or is it a suite?) was the culmination of Rush’s most prog rock tendencies taken to its ultimate conclusion in the studio. Once again, according to Beyond the Lighted Stage, the band recorded this song in three parts and spliced it together. Then, they had to learn to play it live, with all of those crazy changes in time signatures. This just might be the band’s ultimate calling card.

2. “2112: Overture/The Temple of Syrinx/Discovery” (2112, 1976). 44 years after the fact, how could one band made of three musicians ever create this? This song blew away all of my preconceptions of what rock could be and could do. Rush may have started this whole prog Zeppelin thing on “By-Torr and the Snowdog” and perfected it on “La Villa Strangiato,” but this became the band’s mission statement of sorts.

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1. “The Spirit of Radio” (Permanent Waves, 1980). Now, if you cannot sit through a whole side of a Rush suite and want to hear the band’s sound distilled to the length of a radio pop song, then this is the song for you. You get everything that makes Rush great: crazy time changes, prog rock posturing, lyrics that only a middle class suburbanite kid could understand and a not one, but two hooks within one song. You get the whole Rush vision in a song too short for a radio DJ to take a restroom break. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Turn! Turn! Turn! There’s a Time to Protest

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Marvin Gaye

When I was a runner as a healthy young man, I was taught to run against the traffic when doing my roadwork. It was a matter of safety. The only problem is that I seem to have been literally doing that all my life when it comes to my life’s philosophy. And, I totally understand that my appearance from afar is that my philosophy is totally hypocritical. To many, I seem to be aloof, but it is probably due to me being on the autism spectrum somewhere. No, I have never been diagnosed, but I do have trouble with my emotive nature that keeps me at an arms-length from others. Yet, most of my personal political and spiritual philosophy has been always geared toward others in a very sincere altruistic manner. And, although I am extremely competitive, I am also a pacifist and mostly a conscientious objector. And, how did this happen in the middle of a family full of military conservatives. I’m not sure, but my heart is much bigger than my personality seems to be.

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John Lennon

From a very young age, I felt an attraction to the music of so-called protesters like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Nina Simone and the Staple Singers. Their music and lyrics appealed to me much like Matthew 25:31-46 convicted me during my confirmation classes. People such as Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, among many others, became important public role models for my life. Then came the music of John Lennon, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the rest to influence me. Growing up, I watched and followed sports avidly and saw people of all colors working together for success. But, perhaps most importantly, my maternal grandmother seemed to have all kinds of people from all backgrounds and nationalities coming to her home when I was little. So, it was no big deal for me to play with kids from different classes and races. Grandma simply told me that everyone were people, so treat them all with respect.

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Bob Marley

To me, music and sports may have been the most important areas which have done the most to alleviate racial tensions, though we still have far to go. In my small world, I feel like I had the most influence on those marginalized kids, be it there race, creed, sexual orientation, class or whatever. Yes, I know there were differences between us, but I had an empathetic heart and tried to use it. Did it work every time? No. However, I did try to bridge that gap with the kids. But, much as Johnny Cash used to say, I saw my own flaws in myself first and tried to be cognizant of them when dealing with others.

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Sex Pistols

So, I’m very passionate about protest music, whether it’s a social observation, an anti-war statement or an environmental plea. Yes, I am a cynical person, yet I still hope for better. But when I watch a social injustice occurring, I need to speak out. Right now I feel as though we are moving backward in time here in the States. Remember, I am a huge sinner in all areas of my life, but that does not mean our society is without blame. What’s going on?!?!

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Nina Simone

So, today, I am presenting my favorite 100 protest songs since the late-Seventies. And, just for fun, I tried to stay away from the obvious choices, though I will always list Elvis Costello’s version of “(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” since it was the first song of my generation to move me to tears. It remains my “Imagine.”

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Gil Scott-Heron
  1. “(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” – Elvis Costello & the Attractions (1979)
  2. “19” – Paul Hardcastle (1985)
  3. “1999” – Prince (1982)
  4. “21 Guns” – Green Day (2009)
  5. “4 Minute Warning” – Radiohead (2007)
  6. “99 Luftballons” – Nena (1983)
  7. “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” – Don Henley (1984)
  8. “American Idiot” – Green Day (2004)
  9. “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” – Pink Floyd (1979)
  10. “Ask” – The Smiths (1986)
  11. “Bastards of Young” – The Replacements (1985)
  12. “Beds Are Burning” – Midnight Oil (1988)
  13. “Between the Wars” – Billy Bragg (1985)
  14. “Biko” – Peter Gabriel (1980)
  15. “Black Steel in the House of Chaos” – Public Enemy (1989)
  16. “Blackened” – Metallica (1988)
  17. “Blue Sky Mining” – Midnight Oil (1990)
  18. “BOB” – Outkast (2000)
  19. “Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen (1984)
  20. “Bullet the Blue Sky” – U2 (1987)
  21. “BYOB” – System of a Down (2005)
  22. “Civil War” – Guns N’ Roses (1991)
  23. “Dear Mr. President” – P!nk (2007)
  24. “Der Kommissar” – After the Fire (1983)
  25. “Don’t Change” – INXS (1982)
  26. “Dropping Bombs on the White House” – The Style Council (1984)
  27. “Enola Gay” – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (1980)
  28. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tear for Fears (1985)
  29. “Exhuming McCarthy” – R.E.M. (1987)
  30. “Fall on Me” – R.E.M. (1986)
  31. “Fight the Power” – Public Enemy (1989)
  32. “For America” – Jackson Browne (1986)
  33. “Free Nelson Mandela” – The Special AKA (1984)
  34. “Fuck Tha Police” – N.W.A (1988)
  35. “Games Without Frontiers” – Peter Gabriel (1980)
  36. “Ghost Town” – The Specials (1981)
  37. “Glad to Be Gay” – Tom Robinson Band (1978)
  38. “Going Underground” – The Jam (1980)
  39. “Goodnight Saigon” – Billy Joel (1982)
  40. “Hammer to Fall” – Queen (1984)
  41. “Holiday in Cambodia” – Dead Kennedys (1980)
  42. “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” – Megadeth (1990)
  43. “Home Front” – Drive-By Truckers (2008)
  44. “I Melt with You” – Modern English (1982)
  45. “Idioteque” – Radiohead (2000)
  46. “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” – Manic Street Preachers (1998)
  47. “Invisible Sun” – The Police (1981)
  48. “Iron Sky” – Paolo Nutini (2014)
  49. “It’s a Mistake” – Men at Work (1983)
  50. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” – R.E.M. (1987)
  51. “Ivan Meets G.I. Joe” – The Clash (1980)
  52. “Joe McCarthy’s Ghost” – Minutemen (1984)
  53. “Killing in the Name” – Rage Against the Machine (1992)
  54. “Land of Confusion” – Genesis (1986)
  55. “Land of the Free” – The Killers (2017)
  56. “Let’s Impeach the President” – Neil Young (2006)
  57. “Monkey Gone to Heaven” – Pixies (1989)
  58. “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)” – Ramones (1986)
  59. “My Ever Changing Mood” – The Style Council (1984)
  60. “New Year’s Day” – U2 (1983)
  61. “Nina Cried Power” – Holzier & Mavis Staples (2018)
  62. “No One Would Riot for Less” – Bright Eyes (2007)
  63. “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” – X-Ray Spex (1978)
  64. “Oliver’s Army” – Elvis Costello & the Attractions (1979)
  65. “One” – Metallica (1988)
  66. “Orange Crush” – R.E.M. (1988)
  67. “Panic” – The Smiths (1986)
  68. “Paper Planes” – M.I.A. (2008)
  69. “Psycho” – Muse (2015)
  70. “Red Skies” – The Fixx (1982)
  71. “Right Here, Right Now” – Jesus Jones (1990)
  72. “Rock the Casbah” – The Clash (1982)
  73. “Ronnie, Talk to Russia” – Prince (1981)
  74. “Russians” – Sting (1985)
  75. “Seconds” – U2 (1983)
  76. “Shipbuilding” – Elvis Costello & the Attractions (1983)
  77. “Showdown at Big Sky” – Robbie Robertson (1987)
  78. “Something to Believe In” – Poison (1990)
  79. “Song for the Dead” – Randy Newman (1983)
  80. “Straight to Hell” – The Clash (1982)
  81. “Sun City” – Artists United Against Apartheid (1985)
  82. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” – U2 (1983)
  83. “The Call Up” – The Clash (1980)
  84. “The Eton Rifles” – The Jam (1979)
  85. “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” – Timbuk3 (1986)
  86. “The Message” – Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (1982)
  87. “The Walls Came Down” – The Call (1983)
  88. “The Way It Is” – Bruce Hornsby & the Range (1986)
  89. “Travelin’ Soldier” – Dixie Chicks (2002)
  90. “Two Tribes” – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984)
  91. “Under Pressure” – Queen & David Bowie (1981)
  92. “Viet Nam” – Minutemen (1984)
  93. “Waiting on the World to Change” – John Mayer (2006)
  94. “Walls Come Tumbling Down” – The Style Council (1985)
  95. “When the President Talks to God” – Bright Eyes (2005)
  96. “Where Is the Love?” – The Black Eyed Peas featuring Justin Timberlake (2003)
  97. “Wind of Change” – Scorpions (1990)
  98. “World Leader Pretend” – R.E.M. (1988)
  99. “Yellow Ledbetter” – Pearl Jam (1992)
  100. “Zombie” – The Cranberries (1993)

Got Live If You Want It: My 40 Favorite Live Albums

1.6 kanye west live
Kanye West

Happy New Year and welcome back to the working week! It’s been a busy couple of weeks back here in Indiana over the holidays, but I think we’ve survived. Of course, in the post-holidays slowdown, my body is in full revolt, making me feel as though I played a day of basketball after a strong 15-mile run followed by a session of college baseball players taking turns with practice swings into my back and legs. So, yeah, I guess I feel like shit, no other way to put it. It’s during these days that I simply would rather curl up in a ball and die or sleep. And, it’s also one of those days in which I just might kill the next person who suggests that I get up and do something. Fortunately, my wife has not suggested it. I think she does it just to test how far gone I am.

1.6 prince live

So, today, I have finally retreated to the music room to listen to some music. You’d think on days like today that I would only want to listen to soothing music. But, for some reason, maybe it’s the competitor in me, but I’d rather either rage through with Metallica or turn to disjointed music. Therefore, today is a Talking Heads day. It’s one of those days like when I ran, when you knew from the outset that this was not going to be an easy race but also a battle against my mind and body. And, those, my friends, were your worst enemies. But, those were also the races when success could be even sweeter, though I honestly preferred the easy days when the mind let go, and it was just my body cutting through the air molecules with ease. Unfortunately, those races were rare and usually came at the end of the season when your training was allowing you to give your peak performance.

1.6 weezer live

You know, as a member of that lost couple of years in which some sociologists label you as either a young Baby Boomer (I have NO memories of the major Boomer touchstones!) or an old Gen X-er (I check off more boxes for this generation!), I grew up during a time during which concerts and music were inexpensive. And, I lived through the whole original soft rock thing, the rise and fall and rebranding of disco, the punk and post-punk movements, etc., just a great time to listen to music. Additionally, my generation arguably may have produced the greatest batch of basketball heroes, such as Jordan, Barkley, Mullins, you know, The Dream Team, as well as some damn good athletes in other sports, like Barry Larkin (I am Reds fan!), Wayne Gretzky, John Elway, et al.

1.6 rem live

But, one thing I noticed while digging through my record collection is that there were a bunch of live albums released during my middle and high school years. I mean, come on! People my age all remember one of their first album purchases being Kiss Alive! or Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive! It seemed as though everyone was releasing live albums in the mid-Seventies, which got me thinking over the past couple of days, “What are my favorite live albums.”

1.6 George-Clinton-Parliament-Funkadelic live
George Clinton & P-Funk

You know, the live album is a mixed bag. First, the performance could actually be cobbled from many recording and not one concert. Additionally, the crowd noise and performances could all be doctored to enhance the experience (the dirty secret of Kiss Alive!). Next, the performance could have just sucked, and the record company demanded a record right away, so they gave us this crappy record (listen to Bob Dylan’s At Budokan). Or, maybe the artist has released so many live albums that you cannot possibly choose one to focus on (Seriously Grateful Dead, Phish and Pearl Jam! One more live album from you guys and I will scream!!!). And then, there are some absolutely terrific artists who have NEVER released a live album (Prince!) or at least not during their prime (R.E.M., but I do have an excellent bootleg from their early days, and John Mellencamp). Finally, some genres are just not conducive to the live setting (like rap, except The Roots and Jay-Z have released some pretty good live material).

1.6 Talking Heads live
Talking Heads

Still, when everything does come together, the live album can be transcendent. And, in today’s musical environment, maybe the live album has become a relic of the past when music was still communal experience. The concert has moved away from a place of stretching one’s musicianship to a Vegas-like entertainment experience with clothing and set changes, dancing, multimedia and precision music set not to move the concert goer to another level but to give you a sugar high. So, until Roger Waters finally releases an album version of his triumphant The Wall tour from nearly a decade ago, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here are my 40 favorite live albums. Rip it to shreds, if you must!

1.6 40.Bob_Dylan_-_The_Bootleg_Series,_Volume_4

40. The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert – Bob Dylan (1998)

39. Live at the Harlem Square Supper Club, 1963 – Sam Cooke (1985)

38. Made in Japan – Deep Purple (1972)

37. No Sleep ’til Hammersmith – Motörhead (1981)

36. Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out: The Rolling Stones in Concert – The Rolling Stones (1970)

35. Live! – Bob Marley & the Wailers (1975)

34. The Shit Has Hit the Fans – The Replacements (1985)

33. Live! At the Apollo – James Brown (1963)

32. Parliament Live/P-Funk Earth Tour – Parliament (1977)

31. The Jacksons Live – The Jacksons (1981)

1.6 30.Devo live

30. DEV-O Live – Devo (1981)

29. Stand in the Fire – Warren Zevon (1980)

28. Back to the Bars – Todd Rundgren (1978)

27. Live! Blow Your Face Out – The J. Geils Band (1976)

26. Live at Wembley ’86 – Queen (1986)

25. Live at Leeds – The Who (1970)

24. Frampton Comes Alive! – Peter Frampton (1976)

23. Live and Dangerous – Thin Lizzy (1977)

22. Kick Out the Jams – MC5 (1969)

21. At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash (1968)

1.6 20.Led_Zeppelin_-_How_the_West_Was_Won

20. How the West Was Won – Led Zeppelin (2003)

19. Live Bullet – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band (1976)

18. Metallic K.O. – The Stooges (1976)

17. One More from the Road – Lynyrd Skynyrd (1976)

16. A Live One – Phish (1997)

15. Waiting for Columbus – Little Feat (1978)

14. If You Want Blood You Got It – AC/DC (1978)

13. It’s Too Late to Stop Now – Van Morrison (1974)

12. Running on Empty – Jackson Browne (1977)

11. The Last Waltz – The Band (1978)

1.6 10.Billy_Joel_-_Songs_in_the_Attic

10. Songs in the Attic – Billy Joel (1981). This is NOT a normal live album. Instead, Joel digs through his catalogue to find his true gems that breathe so much better in the live setting. This is one of my dark horse favorites.

1.6 9.live anthology

9. Live Anthology – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2009). On the heels of their box-set documentary triumphant, Petty and the other Heartbreakers painstakingly choose their favorite versions of their hits and some tasty covers that cover career up to that point. In retrospect, this was a perfect gift from Tom to his fans.

1.6 8.Stop_Making_Sense_-_Talking_Heads

8. Stop Making Sense – Talking Heads (1984). Personally, I view this album as more of a movie soundtrack that just so happens to be a great concert. Nonetheless, this a terrific document of a band that broke up much too soon.

1.6 7.Nirvana_mtv_unplugged_in_new_york

7. MTV Unplugged in New York – Nirvana (1994). The perfect swansong to the voice of Generation X, this is the best “unplugged” performance of the era.

1.6 6.Ramones_-_It's_Alive_cover

6. It’s Alive – Ramones (1979). Simply put, the greatest live punk album – ever!

1.6 5.Bruce_Springsteen_Live_75-85

5. Live/1975-85 – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (1986). This is the only way The Boss and his Jersey shore hoodlums could have done a live album, as a huge box set. It is almost perfect, as I will always complain that it left off my personal favorite “Rosalita.” And, including “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” would have been cool too.

1.6 4.U2uabrs

4. Under a Blood Red Sky – U2 (1983). Okay, War put the band in our conscience. Then, the video of their performance at the US Festival compelled us. But, for me, this EP told me this band was special.

1.6 3.kiss alive

3. Alive! – Kiss (1975). The granddaddy of live albums, this album made Kiss rock heroes for Generation X. And, this was the sound of a band with their backs to the wall because if this album had not hit, Gene Simmons may have had to go back to teaching which saved a generation of kids from being scared by their teacher.

1.6 2.CheapTrick_Live_atBudokan

2. At Budokan – Cheap Trick (1979). This album put the Rockford, Illinois band on the map. The band owned their material in those days and had one of the more exciting shows as this album documents. Originally, this album was only for their Japanese fans, but import sales were so massive that Epic had to release it. And, the rest, they say, is history.

1.6 1.The_Name_of_This_Band_Is_Talking_Heads

1. The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads – Talking Heads (1982). Someone please tell me why no one remembers this album? This is not just a live album but a live historical documentation of the evolution of a great band, from their minimalist bubblegum/funk CBGB’s days to their expanded lineup world music funk/rock explorations of their next-to-last tour. This is simply one exciting live album to hear this development.