My 2020 Christmas Playlist

Wow! This poor head space I had been in for the better part of a month seems to be finally clearing a bit. I’ve tried all of my usual methods of clearing it that I’ve learning over the years. The best? For me, it was always physical exercise. But, did you hear? I’m disabled, though my younger son is trying to get me to join him in shooting a basketball with him. The gym was always my sanctuary growing up. Inside those magical rectangular lines was a universe of possibility where creativity worked arm-in-arm with good old left-brained strategy. Even today my brain awakens me from slumber with ideas for basketball offenses and defenses. And, I cannot remember a day in my life when that hasn’t been true, though I suspect my youthful dreams were very juvenile.

Today, music is my refuge. Everything I write today has basis in the music I continue to listen to. Whenever I finish my book, every scene in it goes with a specific song, be it from my youth or today. Every one of them! And, each and every character has a specific song to describe them. It’s easier for me to envision their personalities this way. It’s a crazy method in which to write, but it seems to be working, when I don’t get pissed about how it reads and delete chapters of it. For all the appearance of me being laidback, I am really intense about everything I do, and highly critical of it. It’s an interesting paradox between an appearance of not giving a damn about what people think and letting every bad thing someone has said about me keep whispering those things in my ears. I know the story is there, and I know I am NOT John Irving or Cameron Crowe, or even Lester Bangs, but I gotta get this stupid story out of my brain.

So, I felt that today would be a great day to wrap up another year of blogging with my 2020 Christmas Playlist. We use it around here so we can wrap packages, decorate the homestead and wind up our grandkids, though our granddaughter has not been around here since August due to the fact that people think a mask is some infringement on their constitutional rights. Remember, your personal freedoms end when they begin to infringe on the freedoms of others. So, Americans, put your damn masks on.

Sorry! Got off track again! Where was I? Oh yeah! Christmas! I’ve always loved Christmas, though this pandemic is attempting to take the joy right out of it. Unfortunately, only my younger son, his wife and their son will be over for gift exchange. Obviously, my dad and step-mother, my step-dad and his friend and my aunt, who are all over 80, will not be here with us. Of course, my older son and his family are staying away to protect us. We will hang with our other son because we watch Crosby for a couple hours a couple times a week so they can work. That means we are in a bubble with them and her parents.

Now, this playlist is intended to be used often over the course of the days leading up to Christmas, including Christmas day. Personally, I use Amazon Music Unlimited for my streaming, but I’m sure these songs are available on other formats. Keep in mind, this list is for the classics, not my annual mixtape of holiday horrors that I unleash on my family with unusual “gems” that I have uncovered during the year or some “nuggets” that needed to be included to make my “Aural Eggnog” more unbearable, yet somewhat treasured to the few that receive one.

So, this is how my household keeps the mood festive here in Central Indiana. Enjoy!

  1. Al Green – “The First Noel” (1990)
  2. Andy Williams – “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (1963)
  3. Aretha Franklin – “O Christmas Tree” (1992)
  4. Ariana Grande – “Santa Tell Me” (2013)
  5. Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984)
  6. Big Star – “Jesus Christ” (1978)
  7. Billy Squier – “Christmas Is the Time to Say ‘I Love You'” (1981)
  8. Bing Crosby – “White Christmas” (1947)
  9. Bing Crosby & David Bowie – “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” (1982)
  10. Brenda Lee – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958)
  11. Britney Spears – “My Only Wish” (2000)
  12. Bruce Springsteen – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1975)
  13. Bryan Adams – “Run Rudolph Run” (1987)
  14. Carpenters – “Merry Christmas Darling” (1970)
  15. Carrie Underwood – “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” (2009)
  16. Charles Brown – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1960)
  17. Cheap Trick – “Merry Christmas Darlings” (2017)
  18. Cheech & Chong – “Santa & His Old Lady” (1971)
  19. Chicago – “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (1998)
  20. Clarence Carter – “Back Door Santa” (1968)
  21. Cocteau Twins – “Frosty the Snowman” (1992)
  22. Coldplay – “Christmas Lights” (2010)
  23. Dan Fogelberg – “Same Old Lang Syne” (1980)
  24. Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1963)
  25. Dolly Parton – “Hard Candy Christmas” (1982)
  26. Donny Hathaway – “This Christmas” (1970)
  27. Eagles – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1978)
  28. Elmo & Patsy – “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (1979)
  29. Elton John – “Step into Christmas” (1973)
  30. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas” (1957)
  31. Eurythmics – “Winter Wonderland” (1987)
  32. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again” (1992)
  33. Faith Hill – “Where Are You Christmas” (2000)
  34. Fitz & the Tantrums – “Santa Stole My Lady” (2010)
  35. Gene Autry – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949)
  36. Greg Lake – “I Believe in Father Christmas” (1975)
  37. Gwen Stefani feat. Blake Shelton – “You Make It Feel like Christmas” (2017)
  38. Harry Simone Chorale – “Little Drummer Boy” (1958)
  39. James Brown – “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” (1968)
  40. John Legend & Kelly Clarkson – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (2019)
  41. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (1970)
  42. John Mellencamp – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1987)
  43. Johnny Cash – “O Come All Ye Faithful” (1980)
  44. Jon Bon Jovi – “I Wish Everyday Could Be Christmas” (1992)
  45. Jonas Brothers – “Like It’s Christmas” (2019)
  46. Joni Mitchell – “River” (1971)
  47. José Feliciano – “Feliz Navidad” (1970)
  48. Justin Bieber – “Mistletoe” (2011)
  49. Kacey Musgraves feat. Leon Bridges – “Present Without a Bow” (2017)
  50. Kenny Loggins – “Celebrate Me Home” (1977)
  51. Kurtis Blow – “Christmas Rappin'” (1980)
  52. Madonna – “Santa Baby” (1987)
  53. Mariah Carey – “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994)
  54. Megan Trainor feat. Earth, Wind & Fire – “Holidays” (2020)
  55. Mike Love & Hanson – “Finally, It’s Christmas” (2018)
  56. moe. – “Together at Christmas” (2002)
  57. Nat “King” Cole – “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)” (1960)
  58. OneRepublic – “Christmas Without You” (2012)
  59. Otis Redding – “Merry Christmas Baby” (1968)
  60. Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christtime” (1979)
  61. Pentatonix & Jennifer Hudson – “How Great Are You” (2017)
  62. Pretenders – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1987)
  63. Prince – “Another Lonely Christmas” (1984)
  64. Queen – “Thank God It’s Christmas” (1984)
  65. Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” (1989)
  66. Run-DMC – “Christmas in Hollis” (1987)
  67. RuPaul – “Hey Sis, It’s Christmas” (2018)
  68. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects” (2011)
  69. She & Him – “Christmas Waltz” (2011)
  70. Sia – “Candy Can Lane” (2017)
  71. Slade – “Merry Xmas Everybody” (1973)
  72. Stevie Wonder – “Someday at Christmas” (1967)
  73. Stevie Wonder – “What Christmas Means to Me” (1967)
  74. Sufjan Stevens – “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” (2006)
  75. Taylor Swift – “Christmas Tree Farm” (2020)
  76. Tevin Campbell – “O Holy Night” (1992)
  77. The Band – “Christmas Must Be Tonight” (1977)
  78. The Beach Boys – “Little Saint Nick” (1964)
  79. The Chipmunks – “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Time Is Here)” (1958)
  80. The Drifters – “White Christmas” (1954)
  81. The Jackson 5 – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1970)
  82. The Kinks – “Father Christmas” (1977)
  83. The Monkees – “Unwrap You at Christmas” (2018)
  84. The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl – “Fairytale of New York” (1988)
  85. The Regrettes – “Marshmallow World” (2016)
  86. The Ronettes – “Sleigh Bell” (1963)
  87. The Royal Guardsmen – “Snoopy’s Christmas” (1967)
  88. The Staple Singers – “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas” (1970)
  89. The Supremes – “Silver Bells” (1965)
  90. The Temptations – “Silent Night” (1970)
  91. The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping” (1982)
  92. TLC – “Sleigh Ride” (1992)
  93. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Christmas All Over Again” (1992)
  94. Train – “Shake Up Christmas” (2010)
  95. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” (1995)
  96. Tyler, the Creator – “I Am the Grinch” (2018)
  97. U2 – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1987)
  98. Vince Vance & the Valiants – “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1989)
  99. Weezer – “Christmas Celebration” (2000)
  100. Wham! – “Last Christmas” (1984)
  101. Whitney Houston – “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (1987)
  102. Wizzard – “I Wish Everyday Could Be Christmas” (1973)

Happy Holidays, which ever one you are celebrating! Peace!

My Top 40 Albums for 2020

12.9 2020

The other day, one of my high school friends posted a meme on his Facebook wall. You’ve probably seen it, but it sums up my attitude about this year. It said, “I’m staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Not to ring in the New Year, but to make sure this one leaves.” This year has been the most grueling and overwhelming year, not simply for me but for all Western society. Many of the comforts that we took for granted are now missing leaving us to reevaluate just exactly what is truly important to us in our lives. Family? Jobs? Healthcare?

As a microbiology student in college, we seemed to always discuss what should be done during a pandemic. Often, we would look back to the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 for what they did correctly and what they didn’t. Every time the discussion came up, it always started with our initial defense being mitigation efforts, such as wearing a mask, social distancing (though back in 1918, scientists believed that six feet was NOT enough distance between individuals, but we’ve learned much since then) and locking down communities/counties/states/countries for 100 days. Back in 1918, the trouble was the ability to disseminate the information to the public, since there was a lack of a mass media as we have today. Today, we have the mass media, but we have much misinformation being passed along which confuses the less informed.

For us to put this pandemic in our collective rearview mirror, we need 90-95% of the world’s population to get vaccinated. And, that will take a Herculean effort and cooperation not only by the population in the States but throughout the world. From what I’ve been reading, experts are anticipating this will take a couple of years to complete. Remember while our friends in the UK are getting vaccinated now, we should celebrate the beginning of the end. However, the end is still off in the distance, especially in this time of world travel and economics. But, as they say, the lady is finally warming up her vocal cords for her long-anticipated solo.

All of this created frustrations in all of us. It seems an eternity ago that all of the NCAA basketball games were being cancelled, but that was just in early March. Now, the NFL and NCAA are getting a majority of their games in, while the NCAA allowed basketball to open their season. And mere months after the Lakers claimed the NBA in a bubble championship, the NBA is getting ready to start thing up again. However, all of these games are being played in near-empty stadiums.

And, the music world has been very strange this year. Many artists had to delay the release of their physical albums due to COVID (It took me two months before I finally received my vinyl three-record set of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers & All the Rest, but I have it now!). Then, all forms of touring were delayed for AT LEAST a year, we affected some many music fans out there. The Kellers had quite a lineup set this summer with Billy Joel, Hall & Oates/Squeeze, Rage Against the Machine and Guns ‘N Roses.

Initially, artists offered to submit acoustic performances for special broadcast shows. Then, other artists began various special broadcasts and streams of one-off concerts. There were drive-in concerts at some outdoors concert venues and drive-in theaters (remember those?) with performances projected on a big screen. Everyone was trying, though the communal experience was still missing.

Then, by summer, artists, who suddenly were at home with little to do, began writing and recording and dropping albums left and right. Big names like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and the Drive-By Truckers led the way with this. Others had records that were recorded before the beginning of the pandemic started that were going to be dropped regardless.

To be honest, the music released during 2020 was solid, not spectacular, just solid. Maybe, it’s because I’m a grumpy old man now and haven’t seen my granddaughter since August, or maybe I am sick and tired of not going anywhere for some fun. The music of 2020 has been soothing and comforting, but none of it excited me to get off my ass and do something. Then again, maybe that’s what was actually needed to keep us calm during this most stressful moment in time.

I cannot remember needing to work this hard to listen to so many albums. It was easy in my youth because it was all new and exciting. Now, I just don’t have the patience to wait for the hook. It could be a societal/Information Age thing or it could be my age, I don’t know (Personally, I think it’s a little of both.). So, folks, my Top 40 list is jammed full of artists with whom are “old,” with very few of the cool artists that the kids would be into.

So, let’s jump in and get this countdown going!

12.9 kylie minogue - disco

40. Kylie Minogue – DISCO. The former-teen star has comeback with a terrific album updating the disco era for a whole new generation.

39. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is King. The Wilco leader turns in a solid set that doesn’t travel far from the sound of his band over the past two decades.

38. Thundercat – It Is What It Is. Arguably this generation’s greatest bassist nails his jazz/yacht rock sound once again.

37. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately. I know the younger critics LOVE this album and it IS good. But, to me, it is a solid indie pop album from the 2000s.

36. Ariana Grande – Positions. Yes, little Ariana is all grown up now. And, her music is maturing as well. Makes sense that she would be making solid albums at this point in her career.

35. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now. I’ve been waiting nearly a decade for this talented woman to finally breakthrough to massive commercial success. Is she becoming another Janelle Monaé?

34. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Ms. Apple’s albums are so damn consistently good, it’s nearly unbelievable. This one happens to be the album of the year on many lists.

33. Megan Thee Stallion – Good News. After the great Kendrick Lamar, MTS may just be the best rapper of her generation.

32. Fleet Foxes – Shore. The critical darlings of a decade ago are back with a quiet roar on this album, their best since their debut.

31. Paul McCartney – McCartney III. 50 years after McCartney and 40 since McCartney II comes the third in the trilogy of albums where Sir Paul plays everything himself while experimenting in the studio. I love it when he is truly inspired.

12. 9 Phoebe_Bridgers_Punisher_(2020)

30. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher. This album just may get her the Grammy for Best New Artist coming up.

29. Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling. My favorite Southern Rock band dropped this at the beginning of the year as an attempt at rectifying their southern roots in the 21st century.

28. The Chicks – Gaslighter. While DBT attempt to square their rural upbringing with their liberal leanings, The Chicks got that straightened out a long time ago. So, the Trump era was the perfect time for these woman to come back with a vengeance.

27. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor. The lead singer of pop punk band Paramore finally released her long-anticipated album and it’s a good one.

26. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy. Like Johnny Cash before him, Dylan has been going through something of a late-in-life renaissance. And, I am thankful for that.

25. Billie Joe Armstrong – No Fun Mondays. At the beginning of the pandemic, Armstrong started digging through his record collection and began recording and releasing a video of him doing a cover of some of his favorites. This album is much edgier, and perhaps better than Weezer’s like-minded Teal Album from a year ago.

24. Drive-By Truckers – The New OK. DBT were not content to rest upon the laurels of their first album of the year, the aforementioned The Unraveling. This album is an even stronger extension of the previous one the band released in 2020.

23. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Reunions. Since leaving DBT, Isbell has become the best Americana artist going, including his former band.

22. The Killers – Imploding the Mirage. Yes, I love all the artists who remind me of the Eighties. While The Killers have been kind of sleepwalking through their career since their excellent debut Hot Fuss, the band had me immediately with “Caution,” their first single from this album. And, it is comforting that they have finally gotten their standards back up to that transcendent first one.

21. Halsey – Maniac. I know I am not in Halsey’s target audience, but I sure do love how she works her demons out through her art. This young lady is a major talent who has yet to hit her creative stride.

12.9 Pearl_Jam_-_Gigaton

20. Pearl Jam – Gigaton. Can you believe that the two greatest surviving bands of the Nineties, Green Day and these guys, both released albums in the same year? And for a brief moment, my boys were back in elementary, and we were jamming in the mini-van. Talk about a Nineties cliché.

19. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over. Understatement of the year: this guy is so good!

18. Neil Young – Homegrown. Hey Neil! Thanks for finally releasing this g.d. album! This is brilliant. How could you let it sit on the shelf while you were releasing Trans? Sometimes, you just really piss me off. 

17. Childish Gambino – 3.15.2020. I know you are still pissed that you didn’t get selected for a SNL cast, but I think things have worked out much better for you. Oh, and this album is super fine too!

16. Run the Jewels – RTJ4. This is hip hop’s best duo going right now. To me, they are rap’s version of The Clash, making one spot-on political statement after another in their music. Thanks guys! We needed it.

15. AC/DC – Power Up. The first band I saw in concert in an arena in 1979. They’ve survived the death of first lead singer Bon Scott and now rhythm guitarist and riff-meister Malcolm Young and still made a great album in 2020. This one is the band’s best since their salad days of the early-Eighties.

14. Green Day – Father of All Motherfuckers. Green Day reminded me just how much I love power pop music with this album. No, it’s not Dookie nor even American Idiot, but it’s better than anything they’ve the past decade. Why? The guys sound like they are having fun.

13. The Strokes – The New Abnormal. I remember when my older son brought The Strokes’ first album home when he was in high school and played it for me. That lead us to listen to my old CBGBs bands, like Talking Heads, Blondie, Johnny Thunders, Television, Dead Boys, etc. Man, it is so good to have them back to form so I can get some flashbacks going.

12. Elvis Costello – Hey Clockface. The last concert I went to was Elvis in November 2019. During that stellar show, he debuted some of the songs on this album. So, I was anxious to get a copy of this one and it did not disappoint. And, all is right in the world again.

11. X – Alphabetland. If you had told back in 1990 that X would reform in 2020 and make a punk record that stands up to everything they recorded in the Eighties, I would have bet against you. Well, I lost. This album should make X the comeback story of the year.

12.9 Miley_Cyrus_-_Plastic_Hearts

10. Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts. Now, this is NOT the rock album that the critics are saying it is. But, it IS rock-tinged and does rock, which is a great texture for an excellent pop-rock record. Kudos to Miley for continuing to take career risks. But, this sound suits her well.

9. Taylor Swift – Folklore. This is the same young lady who is around my younger son’s age who’s career began as a pop country artist? Wow! While I’ve respected her past work, this is the actual visceral stuff that true artists are made of.

8. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia. Ms. Lipa’s sophomore album is a triumph. This is a younger person’s take on Seventies and Eighties disco/dance music than Kylie Minogue attacked from a knowing perspective. It’s the innocence of youth that takes the music to another level.

7. Bob Mould – Blue Hearts. Once again, Mr. Mould has proven he has mastered his sound and knows how to craft outstanding songs that will sound fresh 50 years from now. He’s been on a roll for a decade now.

6. Lady Gaga – Chromatica. My favorite 21st century artist continues to impress with this album that does not have a ballad. She’s got some big balls after the mega-success “Shallow.” That’s what I love about her, the willingness to follow her muse and not chase album sales.

12.9 Tame_Impala_-_The_Slow_Rush

5. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush. Kevin Parker IS Tame Impala and this album is his crown jewel. I love the electronic flourishes of psychedelia in his take on the pop/rock medium. I continue to come back to this album day after day.

4. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II. I fell in love with this band when I heard their version of The Band’s “Makes No Difference” on a tribute compilation nearly 15 years ago. They have been up and down over the years, so when I heard they were releasing an album of outtakes from the sessions that created one of the band’s less interesting albums, The Waterfall. Well, I was very skeptical. Then, I heard it. I listened again. Then, I bought it. And I listen some more. How did MMJ ever leave this stuff off the original album? This is magnificent.

3. HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III. So, nothing on this sister trio ever prepared me for this album. Whoa! Obviously, they grew up absorbing all of the right music in their parents’ collection. Now, the Haim sisters have become their own women and artists. This is the finest album of a 21st century artist this year. I hope they win the Grammy for it, but I’m afraid Taylor will win yet another one.

Paul Weller – On Sunset. Of course, my top two are going to all-time favorites of mine. I was all prepared to give Weller the nod for #1, but I pulled back just now. This album is a perfect summer album. It’s not a Beach Boys or Eagles type of album. No, this one harkens back to the early-Seventies soul I used to listen to on my little transistor radio on the headboard of my bed. This is the music of the Chi-Lites, The O’Jays and The Stylistics channeled through Weller’s English rock base to create some excellent music for those of us middle aged folks. I was listening to some of The Style Council stuff yesterday and who would have ever guessed that Weller’s voice would mature to sound at times like Ray Charles, or at least Richard Manuel of The Band.

12.9 Letter to You

1. Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You. When it comes to my musical heroes, I try not to get worked up by the media hype behind their albums. Instead, I tend to listen to their newer albums with a pinch of trepidation. But, by the third song on this album, I swore I was back in my dorm room, listening to Springsteen with my roommate and others, bouncing around the room. Now, my bouncing days are long gone, but this is vintage Springsteen at his best. And, personally, it was the album I needed in 2020.

And, that’s a wrap on 2020. Let’s keep the music and throw away the rest of it. Peace!

Just Like Starting Over: Has It Really Been 40 Years?

12.8 lennon murder

As with every other teenage male, 40 years ago, I too was watching Monday Night Football. However, unlike most, I got bored with the game and went to bed. And, I slept.

Then, at 6:00 AM, Mom turned on her bedroom radio, which always woke me up. It was then that I heard the news, “John Lennon was shot and killed last night outside…” Immediately, I shot out of bed and yelled to Mom if I heard that right about John Lennon? Calmly, she replied, “I think so.” Shocked, I staggered to the shower. As I robotically performed exquisite personal hygiene, the news continued to sink into my uncomprehending brain that John Lennon, a complicated man who talked often and passionately about world peace, was violently murdered by a deranged “fan.” It just seemed impossible.

12.8 John & Yoko

Before I left for school for yet another day of my senior year of high school that Tuesday morning, I watched the local morning news for any tidbits on this story. After I finished eating breakfast, I got my stuff together to head out to Mom’s car in order to go to school. She let me drive her car so she never had to come pick me up after my practices. Instead, she carpooled with another teacher to school, while my younger brother took the bus.

As I drove down the street to pick up my sister-of-a-different-family Lori to take her to school, I listened intently to the AM radio for news. Since Lori and I had basically grown up together, she probably sensed that it was not a good time to be her usual bubbly cheerleader self. Quietly, perhaps for the first time ever, we made the eight-mile trip to school with the radio being the only source of sound. Now, Lori and I never dated. As a matter of fact, we were dating other people at the time. But, our forged sibling bond over the years perplexed many. So, when we got to school, we went our separate ways.

12.8 john lennon shot

Every morning, the seniors would hang out in the main hall as we sat on the bench as just socialized. That morning, many of us were stunned, few of us mature enough to honestly articulate what happened the night before. The murder of John Lennon meant something, but what?

Four decades on, that murder is one of the saddest events in the history of rock music, which is littered with many sad stories. During my freshman year in college, I wrote a research paper on this murder and the man John Lennon. What was cool was that my English professor’s husband taught a class on The Beatles, so we were constantly sending notes back-and-forth about this research as he would guide me throughout. Today, I think about how his wife, a tenured English professor, was reduced to an ancient email account. The bottom line was that I spent a major portion of the quarter attempting to answer that simple question but came away with little other than a man was shot to death by another suffering from mental health issues.

John & Yoko In Hyde Park
John Lennon and Yoko Ono attend a rally in Hyde Park, London, England, in 1975.

Now? I think it represents the end of the Boomers’ dominance over rock music. Sure, their generation discovered many of the possibilities, but we were eight months from a cable company called MTV from coming on air to set in motion the shift to a new generation’s musical tastes. And was that a good thing? Probably, since the idea is simply adhering to the laws of evolution, music has to keep evolving. Rock today shares little musically in common with the music of John Lennon and the rest of The Beatles. But, it does share the rebellious nature that is ingrained in the music of the youth.

12.8 John Lennon 1980

The downside to this shift has been the loss of a galvanizing sense that the music of the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties all spawned. It’s probably a good thing legendary rock music critic Lester Bangs never lived long enough to witness all these changes, since he appeared to be a conservative when it came to his vision of rock music. It’s strange to me to see how music has once again become background fodder as opposed to the voice of change it once represented.

Unfortunately, that’s what John’s death has come to represent: the simple end of an era. Like all artists cut down early, you are left wondering what directions he would have moved musically. Then, again, maybe Double Fantasy would have only been considered a nice little comeback with some good songs wedged between Yoko’s stuff. John would have always been revered since he was a Beatle and because of his initial solo material. And, maybe he would have just faded back into the crowd after 1980, becoming yet another artistic enigma.

12.8 john-lennon-memorial-in-central-park

What we are left with of importance is his great music and insightful lyrics. No one can ever live up to their writing, since it is just a two-dimensional portrait of one idea or memory. So, try not to extrapolate greatness out of those lyrics since the person who wrote them are much more complicated than those words. However, let the words become inspirations for a better you, and subsequently, a better world.

Perhaps his most poignant lyrics came not from “Help” or “Imagine.” I’d have to go with these words from “Beautiful Boy”:

“Life is what happens to you
While you’re busy making other plans”

Yet, another reminder that we need to slow down and savor those special moments each of us has that will never go down in a history book. All of this is what I missed about John Lennon in the immediate aftermath of his death as a nineteen-year-old in my term paper from 1982.

Here’s to a better world John. Peace.

Hey Funko Pop! I Have Some Ideas for Some Iconic Stars

12.2 Funko Pop Rocks

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog entry about this Funko Pop vinyl figurines of various icons from pop culture, from advertising characters and movie/television characters to athletes and musicians. Collectors of all sorts have jumped on these figures, including this music collector. Now, I have scaled back my collection, perhaps a bit too much, but, all-n-all, I am pleased with my current collection. As of 2020, there are over 200 Pops in their Rock collection.

12.2 Pop Prince

Back when I discovered these creations back in 2012, I purchased a set of the original Kiss figures for my mom’s doll collection. If Alzheimer’s had not taken her brain away from us, I know this line of Pops would have been right up her alley. She collected movie star dolls and advertising dolls, so those Pops would have been naturals in her collection. That’s why Kiss made perfect sense for her, as those four men in their iconic makeup would remind Mom of the teenage version of her older son. Unfortunately, she never really got to enjoy them as her mind was quickly wiped of her memories of all the years after 1970. By the time we put her in a nursing home’s memory care unit, I was a “nice man from church” while her older son was just a baby and my brother had yet to be born. So, it is no wonder that I am attracted to this line of unique collectables.

12.2 Pop Kiss originals

Now, when I downsized, I made a huge mistake by selling those Kiss guys, Alice Cooper and my Amy Winehouse figure. But, I was wise to keep Joey Ramone, Rick James, Kurt Cobain, all three versions of Prince, my Rush three-pack, the two versions of Elton John, Rivers Cuomo, all five members of Duran Duran, the three musicians of Queen plus a Seventies and an Eighties Freddie Mercury AND Debbie Harry of Blondie. Of the non-vaulted Pops in the Rock collection, I’d love to get The Police, the new Run-DMC and Billy Idol, since many of my college friends associate me with him.

12.2 Pop Run-DMC 2011

12.2 Pop Run-DMC 2020

But, something has been bothering me since I noticed that the company was beginning to do a couple of retreads from their early days, such as the aforementioned Run-DMC, Tupac, The Notorious BIG and now Elvis Presley. I mean, the newer versions are terrific, especially their details. But, they have all been done before. So, today, I am here to suggest 50 more rock stars (I have well over 100 possibilities!), along with a couple of lines that might pay off for Funko. In addition to the Rock line, I feel like they should start a Comedy line, along with a SNL Cast Member line and a Late Night Talk Show Host line. With that said, here are my initial suggestions for each line.

The Rock Line:

  1. ABBA (Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, & Anni-Frid Lyngstad)
  2. Beastie Boys (Mike D, Ad-Rock & MCA)
  3. Bee Gees (Barry, Maurice & Robin Gibb)
  4. Beyoncé
  5. Bob Marley
  6. Bruce Springsteen
  7. Cheap Trick (Rick Nielson, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson & Bun E. Carlos)
  8. Cyndi Lauper
  9. Daft Punk (both “robots”)
  10. Daryl Hall & John Oates
  11. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana)
  12. David Bowie (can be from several of his eras)
  13. Destiny’s Child (Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams)
  14. Devo (Mark Mothersbaugh, Jerry Casale, Bob Casale, Bob Mothersbaugh & Alan Myers)
  15. Donna Summer
  16. Elvis Costello
  17. Eurythmics (Annie Lennox & Dave Stewart)
  18. Fleetwood Mac (Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie & Stevie Nicks)
  19. Fugees (Lauren Hill, Pras, Wyclef Jean)
  20. Gwen Stefani
  21. Janet Jackson
  22. Jay-Z
  23. Lady Gaga
  24. Lana Del Rey
  25. Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham & John Paul Jones)
  26. Madonna (like Bowie, she has many eras that can be immortalized)
  27. Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament & Matt Cameron)
  28. R.E.M. (Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills & Bill Berry)
  29. Red Hot Chili Peppers (Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith & John Frusciante)
  30. Robert Smith (The Cure)
  31. St. Vincent
  32. Stevie Wonder
  33. Taylor Swift
  34. The B-52’s (Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson, Kate Pierson &
  35. The Bangles (Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, Vicki Peterson & Michael Steele)
  36. The Go-Go’s (Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock & Kathy Valentine)
  37. The Jacksons (Michael, Marlon, Tito, Randy, Jermaine & Randy)
  38. The Monkees (Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith & Peter Tork)
  39. The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Woods, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor & Brian Jones)
  40. The Runaways (Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Cherie Curie, Jackie Fox & Sandy West)
  41. The Supremes (Diana Ross, Mary Wilson & Florence Ballard)
  42. The Temptations (Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin & David Ruffin)
  43. The Weeknd
  44. Tina Turner
  45. Tom Petty
  46. U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen Jr.)
  47. Village People (Cop, Cowboy, Indian, Construction Worker, Soldier & Biker)
  48. Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips)
  49. Wham! (George Michael & Andrew Ridgeley)
  50. Whitney Houston

SNL Cast Member Line:

  1. Adam Sandler (SNL)
  2. Aidy Bryant (SNL)
  3. Amy Poehler (SNL)
  4. Andy Samberg (SNL)
  5. Bill Hader (SNL)
  6. Bill Murray (SNL)
  7. Billy Crystal (SNL)
  8. Chevy Chase (SNL)
  9. Chris Farley (SNL)
  10. Dan Aykroyd (SNL)
  11. Dana Carvey (SNL)
  12. Eddie Murphy (SNL)
  13. Fred Armisen (SNL)
  14. Garrett Morris (SNL)
  15. Gilda Radner (SNL)
  16. Jan Hooks (SNL)
  17. Jane Curtain (SNL)
  18. Jason Sudeikis (SNL)
  19. John Belushi (SNL)
  20. Jon Lovitz (SNL)
  21. Kate McKinnon (SNL)
  22. Kenan Thompson (SNL)
  23. Kristen Wiig (SNL)
  24. Laraine Newman (SNL)
  25. Lorne Michaels (SNL)
  26. Martin Short (SNL)
  27. Maya Rudolph (SNL)
  28. Maya Rudolph (SNL)
  29. Mike Myers (SNL)
  30. Norm Macdonald (SNL)
  31. Phil Hartman (SNL)
  32. Rachel Dratch (SNL)
  33. Tina Fey (SNL)
  34. Will Ferrell (SNL)
  35. Will Forte (SNL)

The Comedy Line:

  1. Abbott & Costello (Comedian)
  2. Amy Schumer (Comedian)
  3. Andy Kaufman (Comedian)
  4. Bernie Mac (Comedian)
  5. Bill Burr (Comedian)
  6. Bill Cosby (Comedian)
  7. Bill Hicks (Comedian)
  8. Bob Newhart (Comedian)
  9. Cheech & Chong (Comedy Team)
  10. Chris Rock (Comedian)
  11. Dave Chappelle (Comedian)
  12. Dick Gregory (Comedian)
  13. Don Rickles (Comedian)
  14. Eddie Murphy (Comedian)
  15. Ellen DeGeneres (Comedian)
  16. Gary Shandling (Comedian)
  17. George Carlin (Comedian)
  18. Gracie Allen & George Burns (Comedy Team)
  19. Jeff Foxworthy (Comedian)
  20. Jerry Seinfeld (Comedian)
  21. Jim Carey (Comedian)
  22. Jim Gaffigan (Comedian)
  23. Joan Rivers (Comedian)
  24. John Mulaney (Comedian)
  25. Jonathan Winters (Comedian)
  26. Kevin Hart (Comedian)
  27. Lenny Bruce (Comedian)
  28. Lewis Black (Comedian)
  29. Lily Tomlin (Comedian)
  30. Louis C.K. (Comedian)
  31. Mitch Hedberg (Comedian)
  32. Moms Mabley (Comedian)
  33. Mort Sahl (Comedian)
  34. Patrice O’Neal (Comedian)
  35. Phyllis Diller (Comedian)
  36. Redd Foxx (Comedian)
  37. Richard Pryor (Comedian)
  38. Ricky Gervais (Comedian)
  39. Robin Williams (Comedian)
  40. Rodney Dangerfield (Comedian)
  41. Sam Kinison (Comedian)
  42. Sarah Silverman (Comedian)
  43. Steve Martin (Comedian)
  44. Steven Wright (Comedian)
  45. The Marx Brothers (Comedy Team)
  46. The Three Stooges (Comedy Team)
  47. Tig Notaro (Comedian)
  48. Wanda Sykes (Comedian)
  49. Whoopi Goldberg (Comedian)
  50. Woody Allen (Comedian)

The Late Night Talk Show Host Line:

  1. Amber Ruffin
  2. Arsenio Hall
  3. Bill Maher
  4. Carson Daly
  5. Chelsea Handler
  6. Conan O’Brien
  7. Craig Ferguson
  8. David Letterman
  9. Dick Cavett
  10. Graham Norton
  11. James Corden
  12. Jay Leno
  13. Jimmy Fallon
  14. Jimmy Kimmel
  15. John Oliver
  16. Johnny Carson
  17. Jon Stewart
  18. Larry Wilmore
  19. Lilly Singh
  20. Samantha Bee
  21. Seth Meyers
  22. Stephen Colbert
  23. Steve Allen
  24. Tom Snyder
  25. Trevor Noah

12.2 Pop Queen

Now, let me know what you think. And, Funko, if you are out there, I am available for hire as an idea guy. Just contact me through this blog, then I will allow you to enter the World of Keller, which my family, friends and former students can all vouch is a rather weird place to inhabit. Of course, until next time, peace.