If My Batting Average Were Anywhere Near What My RRHOF Prediction Average Is…

Let’s just say I would have won a Most Valuable Player Award. Yesterday, I predicted that the Performers who would be in the Class of 2021 to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would be Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, Jay-Z, Carole King and Tina Turner, with Todd Rundgren getting the Musical Excellence nod. Well, out of my seven, six of them are being inducted as Performers, with Iron Maiden curiously being left on the outside. Unfortunately, Maiden’s denial might be a sign that metal artist are going to have a very difficult time getting inducted, which is a shame. But, the whole divide on metal and alternative music from the 80s and 90s are topics are another day, since Devo was left out for a second time. The induction ceremony will take place in the Hall’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, on October 30, 2021 at 8:30 pm at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Tickets are available from the usual suspects.

So, finally, we have a relatively large class, but one class does NOT clear out such a large logjam of artists awaiting induction. And now, here is the Induction Class of 2021.

Performers: Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Jay-Z, Carole King, Todd Rundgren and Tina Turner.

Early Influences: Kraftwerk (the German synthesizer innovators are FINALLY being inducted!), Charley Patton (“Father of the Delta Blues,” a multi-racial early influence who is cited by musicologists as one of the most important artists of the 20th Century, as well as its most musically diverse) and jazz great, hip hop pioneer and political activist Gil Scott-Heron (another artist who is well-deserving of this honor).

Musical Excellence: This award is given to artists, performers, songwriters and other creative types for their contributions. This year, LL Cool J, Billy Preston (solo work AND session work, especially with The Beatles) and former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, the late Randy Rhoads.

Ahmet Ertegun Award: This award is given to those who are non-performer industry professionals who have spent their careers supporting those artists who have changed the course of musical history. This year’s honoree is referred to as “The Black Godfather” (watch the excellent Netflix documentary to learn more about the man) since he has played a role in the success of nearly every black artist and entertainer who has made it big, Clarence Avant.

Overall, this is a more diverse class than most of them have been lately. I would still love to see more women and more artists of color being inducted, but this is a solid start. I would love to see the day when the great bassist Carol Kaye of the L.A. coterie of session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew is given the Musical Excellence honor. Additionally, I long for the day when Sugar Hill Records founder and chairperson Sylvia Robinson is given the Ahmet Ertegun Award for her role in putting hip hop in the mainstream. And, my female list can go on for days.

Likewise, I would love to see both artists of color and those whose success did not rely upon North Americans to determine their importance. Latin artists like War, Selena and Los Lobos, African artist such as Fela Kuti and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and European-focused artists like Paul Weller (and his bands The Jam and The Style Council), along with many Britpop bands of the 90s and the transcendent Kylie Minogue, all deserve recognition for their work, along with so many others. And, don’t get me started on the Early Influences the Hall has been dragging their feet on. Finally, there DOES seem to be a bias against metal, alternative, pop and progressive rock, so those artists are under-represented.

As you probably ascertain, I could drone on and on ad nauseum. But, I won’t! For today is a celebration of this baker’s dozen of people who exerted lasting influence on the music we love and enjoy today. Congratulations to the whole Class of 2021! You all deserve this honor. And, to my favorites like Devo, Paul Weller and his bands, Soundgarden, Weezer, Pat Benatar, Rage Against the Machine, Duran Duran, The B-52’s, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü/Sugar/Bob Mould, Pixies. XTC, The Time, Rick James and all the others that I have argued for in the past and will continue to argue for in the future, cheers to you all because you should be inducted as well.

Who Are Going to Make Up the Class of 2021 Inductees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

When the nominee list for this year’s inductee class for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF), I immediately noticed a couple of things. First, finally, there were more women and people of color nominated, as the last decade or so has been fairly whitewashed and definitely been more testosterone-oriented. So, that was a good thing. Second, my beloved Paul Weller or either of his great bands, The Style Council or, more importantly, The Jam were on the nominee list once again. Seriously, no Jam, arguably the third, more successful leg of the English punk movement stool. But, I refuse to be sucked into yet another rant about Paul Weller, The Jam or the criminally overlook Style Council. But, RRHOF, I want it noted that my patience is running thin with you!

So, I know my Hall Watchers peeps out there have the nominees memorized. But, I do have some readers, such as most of my friends and family, who read this blog just dying for me to rehash the list, followed by who I think will get inducted later in the year. On more time, here are the nominees: Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, Devo, Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, Jay-Z, Chaka Khan, Carole King, Fela Kuti, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Rage Against the Machine, Todd Rundgren, Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick. If you peruse the names on the list, you first probably cannot believe that some of them are not in the RRHOF, like Tina Turner or Carole King. Also, you might be surprised by those who made a great showing in the fan voting last year, like Pat Benatar and Judas Priest, being completely left off this year’s ballot. But, overall, I feel it is a solid ballot, with all of the nominees being worthy of induction. And, if there were ever a moment in which the Hall could just induct everyone, this is the class that could be done with little bitching from my Hall Watching friends and me.

Let me begin by explaining who a couple of the less familiar names are to the general readers. First, you might be asking, “Who is Fela Kuti?” And, in North America, that is a legitimate question. Well, in short, Kuti is the African version of Bob Marley. What Marley generally means to the Western Hemisphere in terms of political stances, Kuti holds the very same stature on the African continent. But, more importantly for the RRHOF, Kuti, much like Marley did for reggae, essentially popularized the Afrobeat sound that has been incorporated into so many facets of American popular music that it is difficult to actually point all of them out. In my record collection, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light album would have sounded much different if David Byrne and producer Brian Eno had not discovered the music of Kuti. You could say the same thing for the careers of Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow and a host of R&B and hip hop artists. Kuti did this by incorporating his native African rhythms and integrating the sounds of jazz and funk into his mix. I liken his music to being if Parliament/Funkadelic had grown up in Africa instead of North America. Then throw in his lyrics about freeing his people from European control, and you have a man in music with the political stature of a Bob Marley.

Another artist many of you may be unfamiliar with is British chanteuse Kate Bush. In her native England, Bush is, much like Paul Weller, a national treasure. Her music, much like the music of Peter Gabriel, is very theatrical and poetic. Remarkably, her influence is growing by leaps and bounds these days here in the States as younger artists have been discovering her impeccable catalog. Back during her heyday, I personally on heard her music on college radio and MTV, not the Top 40 or Album Oriented set. Yet, just the other day, I heard her “Running Up That Hill,” the closest thing she had to a hit song here in the States, twice on two different stations in a twenty-four period, so I believe her time is coming.

If the RRHOF were going to actually do something about the massive backlog of deserving artists and had a large class of ten inductees, I would expect both to get the call. Unfortunately, and most frustratingly, the Hall probably won’t do that, which will lead to an outcry from Hall Watchers Nation. Lately, the Hall has gone to six inductees, but I actually have an inner inkling that they might actually induct seven artists and an eighth one for Musical Excellence (the cop-out move they used to get Nile Rodgers inducted without his fantastic band Chic. I am still calling “B.S.!” on that move RRHOF!). I will list my six artists, then ranked the others including designating an artist for Musical Excellence.

After reading article after article, in addition to all the predictions by my Hall Watching colleagues, I believe these six artist will be announced very soon as being members of the Class of 2021. My six inductees are, in alphabetical order, Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, Jay-Z, Carole King and Tina Turner.

As far as Tina Turner and Carole King are concerned, the whole world will unite in saying, “It’s about G.D. time!” Next, The Go-Go’s, you can say what you want about them, but this is the first all female band who played their own instruments AND wrote their own songs to ever have a number one album with Beauty and the Beast all the way back in the spring of 1982. They opened up the door for the likes of The Bangles, Bikini Kill, L7, Sleater-Kinney and HAIM to rock the world. And, with the cries for more female representation in the Hall (it’s a shocking 7% of the inductees are female!) and the critical acclaim for the band’s Showtime documentary, the stars are aligned for The Go-Go’s to finally be inducted.

Both Jay-Z and Foo Fighters have been nominated during their first year of eligibility. Of course, Jay-Z will get in, since he is considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all-time AND has transcended his genre in becoming a mogul. On the other hand, I would have never predicted the Foos being first year inductees, but their stature has grown as leader Dave Grohl’s reputation of being rock’s nicest guy and the band becoming SNL‘s first call öin a pinch to be a musical guest have all conspired to make the band a popular inductee. Plus, who would be better opening the whole ceremonies that Dave Grohl and his gum-chewing smile on stage?

And that leaves the sixth spot for arguably the greatest band from a much maligned genre, heavy metal, to be inducted and that’s Iron Maiden. First, that would shut up the man with the most limited musical tastes in the world, Eddie Trunk, which is enough for me. Second, this would make up for Judas Priest’s snub last year. And, third, but perhaps most importantly, Iron Maiden flat out rocks! They deserve this moment nearly as much as King and Turner. Plus, it might finally open the floodgates for other deserving metal artists like Priest,  Motörhead, Mötley Crüe and so others. Plus, they could close the show since the Hall waited TOO LONG to put a healthy Tina Turner on the stage.

There’s my Top Six. Additionally, I do think there will be a Musical Excellence inductee, but I’m afraid that my brilliant colleague Michell Bourg will have to wait for Big Mama Thornton to finally get her overdue induction. Instead, the Hall will use this designation as a consolation award to one of my favorites, Todd Rundgren. I know how cantankerous he can be, I saw it first hand back in 2008 at a venue in Indianapolis with my older son. But, the man has been a part of my life’s soundtrack and has produced some of the biggest selling albums ever (Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf alone has probably paid for every house he has owned over the years).

But, what if the Hall went over six inductees? Who would I expect to see? Well, here they are in order as I see it. The first one in would be Devo, especially since their hometown of Akron, Ohio, has been openly campaigning for their induction. After Devo, I see Dionne Warwick, New York Dolls, Fela Kuti, Kate Bush, LL Cool J, Chaka Khan, Rage Against the Machine and Mary J. Blige, in that order. Would I be surprised if I were wrong? Not all at. The other thing that would shock me would be Tina Turner not being inducted. That would be shocking to me. The rest are interchangeable as far as I am concerned.

Now, if I had all the say as to who the inductees were, I would induct Devo, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, Carole King, Todd Rundgren and Tina Turner, followed by New York Dolls, Fela Kuti, Jay-Z and Foo Fighters. Honestly, I thought my beloved Weezer would be nominated before Foo Fighters, but then again, what do I really know? That’s what makes this prognostication so much fun.

Now, I’ve done my part to hype this year’s inductee announcement, which could be as early as tomorrow. If I’m right about the day, then I timed this blog correctly. It would be pure serendipity.

Ya Keep a Little Soul: My 100 Favorite Tom Petty Songs, Day 4

Since the Eighties turned into the Nineties, my ability to keep up with music slowed greatly. Compared to most my age, I am way ahead of the curve. But, much like my athletic ability, my best rock & roll days are behind me. Yet, Tom Petty’s continued to be one of the artists whose music I continued to consume. Actually, there are about 10 artists or so whose new material I will pre-order unheard. If you have been following this blog for a while, you know just how big of a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M.,  Daryl Hall & John Oates and Paul Weller I am. Same goes for U2, Todd Rundgren, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp and The Bangles. Everyone else has their time periods which interest me.

Still, Petty is right there for me. Okay, Costello and Rundgren are a little more hit and miss through the Nineties and the Aughts, but the rest I am thoroughly crazy about. Unfortunately, I do not own a PhD in any of them, but I probably am a Masters Level in each of those artists.

1976
Live Aid 1985

After the Day 3 in this series, one of my high school buddies wrote to me on Facebook predicting that all of the songs on Hard Promises would be on this list. Well, Mark, sorry to disappoint you, but that will not be happening. I believe the album on which I lean the most is Damn the Torpedoes as it is loaded with songs that would have been major hits if the album had been released in the MTV era. On the other hand, Hard Promises spoke to me like few albums ever had before or since, outside of London Calling, Prince’s Big Three of 1999, Purple Rain and Sign ‘o’ the Times or Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A. by The Boss. Honestly, Hard Promises and Mellencamp’s The Lonesome Jubilee both touch me on a deep personal level that could never be conveyed by words. I suspect we all have albums or songs that stir something deep within our individual psyche which causes you to think for a brief moment that someone else has had the exact same life experiences as you. Unfortunately, you realize that the artist went through something similar but had worded his or her lyrics in a manner with enough openness for anyone to project their history into to gain insight into themselves. That’s why no one should ever be burdened with the declaration of being the Voice of one’s generation. The artist, be it Petty, Carole King, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain or Taylor Swift, does not have the answers. They only possess the same questions about a similar situation in THEIR lives. Yet, somehow, Tom Petty seemed to possess a gift that allowed him to describe situations we have all been in at one time or another. Then, he added memorable melodies that were embellished by one of the finest coterie of musicians an artist held together this side of the E Street Band.

The 80s
2016 Publicity Shot

That is why it was so much fun for me to go bad through all of Tom Petty’s albums (I have most of them on vinyl! I do have his big compilations and Mojo, along with both Mudcrutch albums on CD. Still, I do intend to replace all of his CDs with vinyl one day, the way God intended music to be heard.). Listening to his albums all over again allowed me to remember just what I was thinking as a teen or twenty-something or a new parent and every other role I undertook in my life. Petty’s albums always seemed very appropriate for that particular stage in my life. That’s why Tom Petty is so special to me.

And now, it’s time to unveil my Top 25 favorite Tom Petty songs.

25. “Free Girl Now” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Echo, 1999)

24. “Here Comes My Girl” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

23. “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hard Promises, 1981)

22. “You Got Lucky” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Long After Dark, 1982)

21. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” – Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, 1989)

20. “Refugee” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

19. “Room at the Top” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Echo, 1999)

18. “I Won’t Back Down” – Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, 1989)

17. “Wildflowers” – Tom Petty (Wildflowers, 1994)

16. “Swingin'” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Echo, 1999)

15. “Free Fallin'” – Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, 1989)

14. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Southern Accents, 1985)

13. “Listen to Her Heart” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (You’re Gonna Get It! 1978)

12. “Saving Grace” – Tom Petty (Highway Companion, 2006)

11. “Walls (Circus)” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Songs and Music from ‘She’s the One’, 1996)

10. “Keep a Little Soul” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (An American Treasure, 2018)

9. “Breakdown” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1976)

8. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Greatest Hits, 1993)

7. “Learning to Fly” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Into the Great Wide Open, 1991)

6. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” – Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Bella Donna, 1981)

5. “American Girl” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1976)

4. “You Don’t Know How It Feels” – Tom Petty (Wildflowers, 1993)

3. “Even the Losers” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

2. “Insider” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers with Stevie Nicks (Hard Promises, 1981)

  1. “The Waiting” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hard Promises, 1981)

And that’s my list of Tom Petty songs. And your list is probably WAY different than mine, since we all experience his wonderful catalog of music. Let me know which of your favorites I left out of my Top 100. Nobody is perfect it comes to a list like this. At the very least, I hope it stimulates discussions and maybe some playlist creations. Peace!

Them Indiana Boys on Them Indiana Nights: My 100 Favorite Tom Petty Songs – Day 3

Since I am something of a long-time Tom Petty fan, I was one of the few fans who saw the band perform in a half-filled Market Square Arena in August of 1981. Back then, The Heartbreakers were not getting much radio air play in the Indianapolis/Central Indiana market, which never made much sense to me. Subsequently, when Tom and the guys came to town during the summer of 1981, concert ticket sales were soft.

Wanna know the crazy part of this? When the concert was announced, I went to the local record store which sold concert tickets and picked up two, one for me and one for my last high school girlfriend. The concert was originally scheduled for mid-June 1981 but got postponed due to Tom have throat problems. Shortly after the concert was postponed and rescheduled, I broke up with that young lady and had an extra ticket. Now, you would think 40 years later how many people would have been begging for a chance to see Tom Petty, especially when we would only be 2 rows off the floor stage left. Unfortunately, I had the hardest time trying to find someone to go with me. None of my friends wanted to see this “new” artist. Can you believe that? Eventually, I found a younger guy from my church youth group who wanted to go to the concert.

Looking back on it, that concert was magical. The band had no opening act, so when the emcee introduced them as “From the United States of America, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!” as The Heartbreakers opened with “American Girl” to Tom running out to begin singing at the last second, the band gave notice that they were going to lead us into a brave new world called Eighties music. The playing that night was as if each band member’s life was at stake. Among the highlights of that night, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, while performing “Breakdown,” inserted a brilliant cover of Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack,” paying homage to their rock and roll forefathers all the while taking rock to new heights. By the time the concert ended, with the band whipping the eight thousand or so crowd members into a frenzy with another cover, The Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” Tom Petty and his Gainesville, Florida cohorts had converted another large number of people into believers.

In 1983, Petty & the Heartbreakers were once again touring behind a new album, this time Long After Dark. While the album gave the impression that the band was tired and had yet to fully integrate new bassist Howie Epstein into band, by the time they hit Indianapolis, they were hitting on all cylinders. This time through the Circle City, MTV’s heavy reliance upon the guys’ videos had introduced them to more people in my age group, so this time Market Square Arena was nearly sold out. Additionally, I had NO trouble finding college friends to caravan down from Muncie to watch Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers with special guest Nick Low & Paul Carrack, all for the low, low price of $9.

Lowe and Carrack were great openers as they traded hit song after hit song for their big 30-minute set. Then, The Heartbreakers came out with guns a-blazin’. Once again, their live performance melted minds and converted the unbelievers. It was after this concert that Tom Petty tickets became hot items in Indianapolis. Yet, the first two times I saw him, I never had problems getting great seats at the old, now-demolished Market Square Arena (MSA).

After my wife and I got married, we really didn’t attend many concerts until the boys got older. And when we did got to concerts, my wife never wanted to go see Tom Petty. From the moment we met in 1984 through 2009, she refused to go see him, even though I assured her she would walk out of the concert a bigger fan than when she entered. After Tom and the Heartbreakers played during the Super Bowl halftime, they announced a big tour, and they were going to play in Indianapolis. Of course, my boys wanted to go see him “as a family for Dad’s birthday.” Reluctantly, she finally gave in, but it took our sons to get her there.

Needless to say, by 2009, Petty & the Heartbreakers were an institution and brilliant live performers. And, just as I had prophesized back in the mid-Eighties, my wife walked away a huge Petty fan. Now, I hear her streaming Petty, along with her long-time favorites Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Hall & Oates and U2, as well as new current favorite Fitz & the Tantrums. Of course, we all tease her about not wanting to see Petty for so long and now being a fan.

Unfortunately, that concert in the summer of 2009 was the last time I saw him live. My boys both saw him a couple more times each, but my back kept me from going to see him during those last seven years. That’s why I will always tell people that while his studio albums are outstanding, the best way to experience Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers is live. Therefore, in order to get a small taste of the band live, I recommend the Live Anthology box set along with the Running Down a Dream documentary. Between those two mega-sized collections, you will get a better feel for this talented coterie of musicians that the Greatest Hits compilation from 1993 only hints at.

Personally, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers are right up there with Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band (The Born in the USA Tour) and Prince (The Lovesexy Tour) as the best live performers I have ever seen in my 40-some years of concerts. With that said, let’s continue my countdown of my 100 favorite songs by Tom Petty by covering 50 through 26.

50. “Trailer” – Mudcrutch (2, 2016)

49. “So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Pack Up the Plantation: Live! 1985)

48. “Flirtin’ with Time” – Tom Petty (Highway Companion, 2006)

47. “What Are You Doin’ in My Life” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

46. “You Can Still Change Your Mind” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hard Promises, 1981)

45. “Peace in L.A.” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Non-album single, 1992)

44. “A Thing About You” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hard Promises, 1981)

43. “Christmas All Over Again” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (A Very Special Christmas 2, 1992)

42. “The Wild One, Forever” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1976)

41. “Rebels” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Southern Accents, 1985)

40. “Scare Easy” – Mudcrutch (Mudcrutch, 2008)

39. “Don’t Do Me like That” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

38. “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

37. “Louisiana Rain” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

36. “I Need to Know” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers ( (You’re Gonna Get It! 1978)

35. “Dreamville” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (The Last D.J., 2002)

34. “Change of Heart” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Long After Dark, 1982)

33. “Leave Virginia Alone” – Tom Petty (Wildflowers & All the Rest, 2020)

32. “It’s Good to Be King” – Tom Petty (Wildflowers, 1994)

31. “Southern Accents” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Southern Accents, 1985)

30. “Jefferson Jericho Blues” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Mojo, 2010)

29. “Jammin’ Me” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), 1987)

28. “Century City” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes, 1979)

27. “Honey Bee” – Tom Petty (Wildflowers, 1994)

26. “American Dream Plan B” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hypnotic Eye, 2014)

And that’s a wrap on Day 3. Catch ya later!

Don’t It Feel like Heaven Right Now: My 100 Favorite Tom Petty Songs – Day 2

In the spring of 1981, my high school days were quickly wrapping up, and I was walking through Target with my mom and younger brother. As we neared the music department of the store, jokingly I started yelling “Magnetic draw!” and feigned the magnetic pull of the albums and cassettes on my body. I had them laughing a bit until I turned my head to see that a new Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album was on display (and on sale for $6.98! Those were the days.). All I said, apparently in a longing voice, was, “Tom Petty…” Bless her heart, Mom took the album from my hands and said that I owed her one more good race tomorrow at the Sectional. It was my final year of track and the big Sectional meet was happening. Unfortunately, it just so happened that four of the top six runners in the State meet that year were all in my event, the 800-meter dash. So, running against these guys was equal to running at the State meet each week. For me to advance, I would have to run a great race, but it was not out of the question since I was state-ranked as well.

In 1980, I had placed sixth in the Sectional meet, and was one of five underclassmen in that race. So, it was not out of the question that I could pull off some magic. The bad thing was that I was suffering from the beginning stages of the back issues that have now full-on plagued me through the twenty-first century. Still, I did have a reputation for popping a big performance on big stages.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 1981

Unfortunately, that Thursday night on the track of a small sized high school named Elwood High School, I finished eighth with my personal best time. I had given it my all, but my state meet dream ended right there and then. I can still feel the empty pain in my body as I walked off the track for the last time as a high school athlete. The crazy thing is that you could have entered me in any other Sectional in the state that year and I would have been a top 4 finisher and qualified for the Regional meet the following week. But, I had the unfortunate luck of going to a school that was in a loaded Sectional.

After I got home late that night, I took a shower, put my uniform and sweats in the washer, then went to my bedroom to reflect, known to athletes as sulking. That’s when I put Tom Petty’s new album Hard Promises on my turntable and stared at the ceiling. And, that album got me through that rough patch of my once-promising running career coming to an end, not to mention the end of much of adolescent life in my hometown. I really would not come back to this town for another decade as a husband and father who was studying to become a teacher and coach.

Mudcrutch

You see, Tom Petty’s music got me through all of that stuff. He got me through the end of the high school athletic career in basketball, cross country and track that year. Petty got me through the break-up with my girlfriend with whom I had be with my whole senior year. In retrospect, I handled the whole thing terribly, but my sudden break-up only allowed the two of us get on with life much sooner than we probably could have. And although I was only going to be a half-hour drive from home at Ball State, it might as well been ten states away as calls to the hometown were long-distance rates, plus I did not have a car to run home whenever I wanted. I was gaining my own identity without having to settle for the one I was given in my hometown.

The best part was that Tom Petty’s lyrics seemed to anticipate and understand my state of mind at the time. Even today, 40 years later, I can put Hard Promises on my turntable and feel that very same pit in my stomach telling me that one chapter of my life was ending and that it was time to begin writing the next chapter.

Traveling Wilburys

Hard Promises was such an influence on me, that I wrote a theme in my first college English class about how the lyrics to Petty’s overlooked duet with Stevie Nicks “Insider” related to my life. I remember getting an A on the paper, and the professor writing some very nice and encouraging things about this paper and my abilities. Unfortunately, that paper has been lost to time. Sometimes, I wish I had taken my journals and other forms of writing seriously and kept them because their might actually be some gems in those ghosts. Someone along the way had put the idea in my head that I was not a very good writer and should stick with something else. That teacher hated everything I turned in, so I got it in my head in high school that I was not a good writer. Today, I believe my writing is similar to my early days of running in that it is promising but I need to take it more seriously if I want to get better.

Still, Tom Petty taught me that a better day was around the corner and embrace it when it finally arrives. No matter how much bitching and complaining Tom and I do in our writing/lives, we still held on to the idea of hope, of a better future, a better life, a better humanity, a better song (in his case), a better race (in mine).

Rocking Live Aid 1985

2016 absolutely sucked for rock music. We lost so many of the great ones, including David Bowie and George Micheal. But for those of us who love Prince and Tom Petty, 2016 blew hard. For me, I lost my two favorite artists of all time. The cool part is that their legacies continue to live on in my music collections.

Now, let’s do the second part of the countdown! Here’s numbers 75 to 51.

75. “Nowhere” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes (Expanded Edition), 2010)

74. “Heartbreakers’ Beach Party” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (B-side of “Change of Heart,” 1983)

73. “Down South” – Tom Petty (Highway Companion, 2006)

72. “Good Enough” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Mojo, 2010)

71. “You and Me (Clubhouse Version)” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (An American Treasure, 2018)

70. “Deliver Me” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Long After Dark, 1983)

69. “Yer So Bad” – Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, 1989)

68. “You Wreak Me” – Tom Petty (Wildflowers, 1994)

67. “Surrender” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes (Expanded Edition), 2010)

66. “Needles and Pins (live with Stevie Nicks)” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Pack Up the Plantation: Live! 1985)

65. “Nightwatchman” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hard Promises, 1981)

64. “The Last D.J.” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (The Last D.J., 2002)

63. “Gator on the Lawn” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (B-Side of “A Woman in Love,” 1981)

62. “Think About Me” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), 1987)

61. “Gainesville” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (An American Treasure, 2018)

60. “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Southern Accents, 1985)

59. “Shady Grove” – Mudcrutch (Mudcrutch, 2008)

58. “Into the Great Wide Open” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Into the Great Wide Open, 1991)

57. “Hometown Blues” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1976)

56. “Letting You Go” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hard Promises, 1981)

55. “Handle with Care” – Traveling Wilburys (Volume 1, 1988)

54. “Asshole” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Songs and Music from ‘She’s the One,’ 1996)

53. “A One Story Town” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Long After Dark, 1982)

52. “Casa Dega” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (B-Side of “Don’t Do Me like That,” 1979)

51. “The Best of Everything (Alternate Version)” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (The Best of Everything, 2019)

Have a great weekend! Peace!

Even the Losers Get Lucky: My 100 Favorite Tom Petty Songs – Day 1

I’d really love to say that in 1976, I went into a record store, plopped down a five-dollar bill, and walked out with the debut album of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers after reading about them in Creem magazine. Unfortunately, I did not discover Tom Petty and his ironically named band, The Heartbreakers, until the summer of 1978. Sometimes, we writing this blog, I try to come off as some cool Midwesterner, when in fact nothing could be further than the truth. Still, after discovering Petty in 1978, I developed an immediate musical kinship with the artist and his art, which still put me well ahead of my friends’ tastes in music.

So, how did I discover the magic of Tom Petty’s music? In retrospect, 1978 seemed to be the year of the movie soundtrack. After all, earlier that year, record company impresario and talent manager Robert Stigwood and his favorite band on his roster, Bee Gees, had just struck platinum, as well as a cultural chord with the public, with a soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever. Suddenly, the music industry was willing to stuff a soundtrack full of rock songs recorded by a multitude of artists in order to strike upon some hidden formula that Stigwood and the Bee Gees had stumbled across. During 1978, it seemed as though soundtracks were bring dropped every month. Some of the more memorable of these collections were Grease and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (both of which were created under Stigwood’s leadership), the Fever-influenced disco soundtrack Thank God It’s Friday and the soundtrack that was much better than the movie from which it came FM. 

FM, as the title implies, was a collection of songs by artists who continue to be heard on classic rock radio to this day. Seriously, how could an album possibly fail when it has classic rock cuts from the likes of Boston, Doobie Brothers, Eagles, Foreigner, Billy Joel, Steve Miller Band, Queen, Bob Seger, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Joe Walsh, to list a few found on these two slabs of pressed vinyl. Still, squirrelled away between the likes Foreigner and former Eagles singer/bassist Randy Meisner was this relatively unknown group called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with their eventual classic “Breakdown.” Back then, unfortunately, many of my friends would simply pick up the needle on the album before Petty’s song came through the speakers. Yet, of all the music packed on these two records, I was most taken with this song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called “Breakdown.” It got to the point where I was only listening to that single cut on the album, while not listening to the rest. I was hooked, yet I never purchased the Heartbreakers’ eponymous debut album for another three years.

You see, as much as I adored “Breakdown,” I was still not a daring listener when it came to music. I was not really admitting to too many people in my life just which artists I preferred: Queen, Petty, the punk artists of the day, disco, etc. Instead, I maintained a façade in which I loved Rush, Skynyrd, Foreigner, and so on. In reality, I was a combination of tough music with a power pop bent and tough yet sensitive lyrics. And guess who filled that void rather nicely? Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, of course.

Fast forward to Christmas 1979. I was in love with a big radio hit of the day entitled “Don’t Do Me like That.” So, the Dunwiddie sisters from down the street, who were like my own sisters, got me Petty’s third album Damn the Torpedoes for Christmas. And, I LOVED that album. It was the first in a series of albums that were released during a four year period which changed my life forever. From that moment onward, I was a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fan.

So, today, I finally comeback from my two-month hiatus in order to bring you numbers 76 through 100 on my Top 100 Tom Petty Songs. This list has songs from all versions of Mr. Petty, with and without The Heartbreakers, part of Mudcrutch and the Traveling Wilburys, that supergroup in which Petty joined forces with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and ELO leader Jeff Lynne. I understand there are some more devoted Petty fans out there whose list would be way different, and perhaps more valid, than mine. I make no apologies for the fact that I am mostly a Top 40-kind of guy. I will always dig those classic radio hits from the days of long ago, so that will constantly influence my lists.

100. “Wilbury Twist” – Traveling Wilburys (Volume 3, 1990)

99. “Somewhere Under Heaven” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Non-album single, 2017)

98. “Built to Last” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Into the Great Wide Open, 1991)

97. “Jack” – Tom Petty (Highway Companion, 2006)

96. “U Get Me High” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hypnotic Eye, 2014)

95. “Rockin’ Around with You” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1976)

94. “Kings Highway” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Into the Great Wide Open, 1991)

93. “Accused of Love” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Echo, 1999)

92. “Hungry No More” – Mudcrutch (Mudcrutch 2, 2016)

91. “Alright for Now” – Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, 1989)

90. “Victim of Circumstance” – Mudcrutch (Mudcrutch 2, 2016)

89. “Have Love, Will Travel” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (The Last D.J., 2002)

88. “For Real” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (The Best of Everything, 2019)

87. “This One’s for Me” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Echo, 1999)

86. “Climb That Hill” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Songs and Music from ‘She’s the One’, 1996)

85. “Love Is a Long Road” – Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, 1989)

84. “Don’t Pull Me Over” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Mojo, 2010)

83. “Something Big” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hard Promises, 1981)

82. “Fault Lines” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hypnotic Eye, 2014)

81. “Two Gunslingers” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Into the Great Wide Open, 1991)

80. “Forgotten Man” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Hypnotic Eye, 2014)

79. “I Should Have Known It” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Mojo, 2010)

78. “Big Weekend” – Tom Petty (Highway Companion, 2006)

77. “Anything That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1976)

76. “Runaway Trains” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), 1987)

And that wraps up the first of four days honoring the greatness of one Tom Petty!

My Alice Cooper Top 40

3.12 alice cooper 70s

You know, it’s been two years since my mother passed away, but I have only gotten serious about cleaning out her stuff out of the house in which I grew up. Mom and my stepfather are pack rats, or probably more appropriately, hoarders. Now, I have been taking my time as I separate the “treasures” versus the crap, which has caused me to discover some interesting things that were buried in closets and dresser drawers. The crazy thing is that I found some artwork that I made back when I was 9 or 10. As I quickly flipped through this drawing pad, I came across a quick sketch of Alice Cooper, the man, from his School’s Out or Billion Dollar Babies era. I am not sure if I have stated this in the blog or not, but the first rock artist that I was a big fan of was Alice Cooper.

Back in 1972, I was totally into “School’s Out,” the song. I bought the single because I never had enough money to purchase the album. Still, throughout the year, I kept reminding my parents that I wanted that album of the same title. Finally, when Christmas 1972 rolled around, I was given a portable 8-Track tape player by my parents. Then, a couple of days later, my aunt and uncle on my mom’s side of the family give me a present that have THREE 8-track tapes in it. 

3.12 alice cooper band live 70s

First, I pulled out a tape by none other than Elton John. Immediately, I was pumped. Then, I pulled out Goat’s Head Soup by The Rolling Stones. According to my beloved Uncle Dick, he asked his high school students which tapes to give to me, and these were their top three. At the time, to be perfectly honest, I had little idea who The Stones were, but that would soon change. Finally, the last tape I pulled out was specially wrapped. Quickly, I tore through the paper, shredding it to pieces. As soon as I broke through the paper of vintage ’70s Christmas wrapping paper, I discovered that I had another tape. I flipped the tape over to see the cover, and it was the tape I had been coveting for nearly 10 months – School’s Out  by Alice Cooper. Yes!

As soon as the extended family gift exchange commenced, I picked up my tapes, a book I had gotten from my grandparents and my tape player to the room I slept in at my grandparents, the little upstairs guest room above the garage. That was the very same room that Uncle Dick lived in before he got married. This room was the coolest place on God’s green Earth. First, I was at the furthest point away from the rest of the family. And, because of that, I was free to listen to music as loud as I wanted. Of course, loud was the perfect way to experience Alice Cooper’s music.

3.12 alice cooper execution

While listening to this exciting music, I dreamt of what it be like to see this band perform live in concert. Over the course of 1972, I had listened to the high school kids paint a vivid picture of the band’s onstage antics, specifically those of the lead singer who went by the same name as the band, Alice Cooper. While much of their stage performance seemed to provoke parents, my mom recognized much of their antics being similar to “carnival folks” performances at the country fairgrounds in the town in which she grew up. So many of those acts were out to shock their audiences, so she had no problem allowing me to follow this band. So, for an educator, my mom’s acceptance of my rock artists showed her progressiveness when compared to some of my friends’ parents.

Through my Alice Cooper fandom, I was able to quickly discover Kiss, which led to Rush then to AC/DC, Boston, Foreigner, Styx, etc. And, if there was an album that helped me deal with the dissolution of my parents’ marriage, ironically, it was Alice Cooper’s second solo album, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, that helped me out lyrically. Actually, that album chronicles Cooper’s trip through drug and alcohol rehab and the psychological toll the whole journey took on the man who took on the character known as Alice Cooper. While the lyrics dealt with mental illness and addiction, I could relate to the mental illness aspect as I was dealing with depression throughout my life, but the lyrics resonated in my head and heart through 1976. And, because of that, I will always have a special place in my heart of that album. I would love to meet the man to thank him for that album, even though I recognize that the album is not really a classic piece of art. Simply, it was the right album being released at the right time in a young person’s life to help that person through a very difficult period.

3.12 alice cooper & muppets

So, Alice Cooper, thank you for, first, getting me interested in rock; second, to develop me into a fanatic about it; and, finally, to help me survive the initial year of my parents’ divorce. I definitely would not be the person I am today without Alice Cooper’s three albums, School’s Out, Billion Dollar Babies and Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, although I loved Killer, Love It to Death AND Welcome to My Nightmare as well. And, I would love to apologize to all my teachers, classmates and relatives who I bugged with my Alice Cooper obsession.

Now, to celebrate this rediscovery of the music of my past, let’s take a look at my 40 favorite Alice Cooper songs. So, on with the countdown!

3.12 Brutal planet

40. “Brutal Planet” (Brutal, 2000)

39. “From the Inside” (From the Inside, 1978)

38. “Keepin’ Halloween Alive” (Non-album single, 2009)

37. “Love’s a Loaded Gun” (Hey Stoopid, 1991)

36. “Detroit City” (The Eyes of Alice Cooper, 2003)

35. “Desperado” (Killer, 1971)

34. “Rock and Roll” (Detroit Stories, 2021)

33. “You’re My Temptation” (The Last Temptation, 1994)

32. “Might as Well Be on Mars” (Hey Stoopid, 1991)

31. “Dead Babies” (Killer, 1971)

3.12 wicked young man

30. “Wicked Young Man” (Brutal, 2000)

29. “Muscle of Love” (Muscle of Love, 1973)

28. “Hurricane Years” (Hey Stoopid, 1991)

27. “Hello Hurray” (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)

26. “Teenage Lament ’74” (Muscle of Love, 1973)

25. “Teenage Frankenstein” (Constrictor, 1986)

24. “Dangerous Tonight” (Hey Stoopid, 1991)

23. “Social Debris” (Detroit Stories, 2021)

22. “Department of Youth” (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975)

21. “Clones (We All Are)” (Flush the Fashion, 1980)

3.12 be my lover

20. “Be My Lover” (Killer, 1971)

19. “Is It My Body” (Love It to Death, 1971)

18. “Billion Dollar Babies” (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)

17. “Welcome to My Nightmare” (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975)

16. “You and Me” (Whiskey and Lace, 1977)

15. “Poison” (Trash, 1989)

14. “The Black Widow” (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975)

13. “I Love the Dead” (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)

12. “Cold Machines” (Brutal, 2000)

11. “Sick Things” (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)

3.12 How_You_Gonna_See_Me_Now_-_Alice_Cooper

10. “How You Gonna See Me Now” (From the Inside, 1978)

9. “Generation Landslide” (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)

8. “Elected” (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)

7. “Under My Wheels” (Killer, 1971)

6. “Feed My Frankenstein” (Hey Stoopid, 1991)

3.12 i never cry

5. “I Never Cry” (Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, 1976)

4. “I’m Eighteen” (Love It to Death, 1971)

3. “Only Women Bleed” (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975)

2. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)

3.12 Alice_Cooper_School's_out_45

1. “School’s Out” (School’s Out, 1972)

And that’s a wrap! Thank you must go to Alice Cooper and his former band for 50 years of some terrific music. This is my tribute to the heir to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins shock rock throne. Peace!

 

What Is Rock & Roll?

3.1 rock_and_roll

Every year, when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announces its list of nominees, a few of my friends always want to know why a pop artist such as Madonna or ABBA or hip hop artists like N.W.A or Tupac are nominated. They say, “Janet Jackson is R&B and pop, so she should be inducted into those Halls not the Rock & Roll one.” In the past, I have attempted to answer these questions with a historical view, or go on a self-serving treatise about how the term “rock & roll” was a term for the music of the Fifties that is basically useless today. And, all it does is leave all parties unsatisfied why those artists matter as much as Pink Floyd, the Stones and Aerosmith.

So, for the better part of the past six weeks, I have researched this topic in an attempt to assimilate this whole concept into a coherent essay. Unfortunately, each time I attempted this feat, something along the lines of a writer’s block crept in. Only, it’s not a writer’s block but more of a thinker’s block. For weeks on end, I have been turning to my music collection, be it vinyl, CD or mp3, and streaming in an effort to put this thing altogether into words. Along the way, I have absorbed disparate music from the likes of David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Motown, Cheap Trick, Queen, Parliament/Funkadelic, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and so many others. Then, this morning, I streamed Eddie Kendricks’ greatest hits, some Chaka Khan and Fugees, then watched a concert film of The Who and started to watch a Bowie film on Hulu when I decided enough was enough. I HAD to write.

3.1 sly-family-stone

Back in the early-Eighties, some important players in the music industry decided they wanted to create a Hall of Fame to honor many of the artists from the beginning so they would never be forgotten. It was a noble thought and idea, but I remember immediately upon learning this that the Hall could end up being controversial in who gets into it after the Fifties giants are inducted. Look, unlike jazz, the blues and country, the basics of rock & roll have evolved, mutated and changed into something completely unrecognizable by my parents standards for whom much of the early rock & roll sounds were geared.

When did rock & roll begin? Honestly, no one really knows. The term “rock & roll” was a common euphemism for sex in the black community of the early half of the twentieth century. Seriously, music historians have discovered recordings from as far back as the first decade of the twentieth century in which rock & roll was used in the titles of the songs. But, the phrase was never attached to a type of music until the Fifties. DJ Alan Freed, one of the first white DJs to embrace, promote AND play this music, is the man that is credited with attaching “roll & roll” to the music he was playing.

3.1 alan freed

Now, for a little history, Fifties-era America was NOT a shining beacon of gracious racial integration, not that it’s much better today, so this new music, which was initially coming from the black communities across the nation, was labeled as “Rhythm & Blues” or by the more troubling label “Race Records.” And, labels would slap the “Rock & Roll” anointment upon cover versions of these “race records” by cleanly-scrubbed white artists like Pat Boone. God bless her, but my mom, for whatever reason, had left me copies of “Tutti Frutti” by both Little Richard and Pat Boone. Of course, I immediately knew that Little Richard would have scared the white folks of my mom’s hometown, and that Pat Boone would sound more acceptable. Those two records taught me more about America than anything I learned in history classes. At the dawn of rock & roll, the public was being trained that white musicians were playing rock & roll and black artists were doing R&B. Yet, for all the differences I heard in those two records, the one that stuck out the most to me was that the Boone version lacked the whole “roll,” or rhythm, that the original Little Richard version contained. Immediately, at the age of 16, my mom’s record collection taught me an important lesson: you cannot have rock & roll without the “roll.”

3.1 cat stevens

This thing called rock & roll was more than simply the rock side of things, which predominantly white musicians focused and developed beginning in the mid-Sixties, while mainly black artists continued to keep that roll going in their contributions to modern music. Now, that’s not to say that the two never met or interacted with each other. No, those was continual cross-pollination happening all the time. Additionally, artists would spring up attempting to bridge the two sides in the form of Sly & the Family Stone or Prince & the Revolution or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. While others purposefully developed sounds that belied their skin color. For example, the hard rock Eighties band Living Colour were an all-black band and the Beastie Boys were all-white hip hop crew. The Average White Band were doing funk, while KC & the Sunshine Band was creating disco. And on the flip side, The Chambers Brothers and Love were rocking every bit as hard as white bands during those eras. You see, this is not a race thing, it’s a music thing.

3.1 rrhof

Personally, when I was a teenager, I too that that only the rock portion of rock & roll was worth listening to. But, Mom’s records taught me a little, as did reading books about music. Recently, I mentioned that I bought The Book of Rock Lists, which I attribute me influencing my current definition of rock & roll. Still, I will leave it to the words of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame itself:

“The more immediate roots of rock and roll lay in the so-called “race” music, or rhythm and blues, and “hillbilly” music, or country & western, of the Forties and Fifties. Other significant influences include blues, jazz, gospel, boogie-woogie, folk and bluegrass…

Over the past five decades, rock and roll has evolved in many directions. Numerous styles of music — from soul to hip-hop, from heavy metal to punk, from progressive rock to electronic — have fallen under the rock and roll umbrella.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognizes these different types of music and looks forward to seeing how rock and roll will continue to reinvent itself in the future.”

So, this is why I have no problem with artists like Whitney Houston getting in the Hall. Actually, I wish the Hall would loosen their stupid induction requirements, or at least set it up to be similar to the Baseball Hall of Fame, so more artists would be inducted, all of which might alleviate this whole feeling of metal artists or prog rockers feeling ripped off because the Hall might induct Dionne Warwick or Kate Bush or Devo instead of them. And, actually, I think it’s more of a fan issue than it is a musician’s, though there are musicians with this attitude (Gene Simmons, I’m looking at you!).

But, that’s what is so cool about music. All of this stuff speaks to each of us individually. For me, there are days when Tom Petty knows exactly what I am battling. Then, there are others when it’s Earth, Wind & Fire to do the trick, or it could be The Flying Burrito Brothers. Or Fishbone. Or ABBA. Or Pat Benatar.

3.1 fishbone

Whoever your favorite musical artist is, they will always maintain their rightful place in the most important Hall of Fame, your heart. Personally, I follow the words of the prophet Billy Joel in his great classic “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”: “Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk/It’s still rock and roll to me.”

It’s the End of My Motown 150: The Top 50 Songs

2.16 Motown Magic

Very few record companies had the impact that Motown as had. Over the years, we had watched as artist after artist attempted to cover songs from the Motown cannon to varying levels of success, with few of them actually coming close to the level of artistic integrity of the original. So, where did the magic come from?

Some have opined that it was the studio, only to have artist after artist try to record there with little success. Others claimed it was their record producers, only to use one of those men to produce an album with little success. And artist after artist attempted writing sessions with some of the big songwriters of the day, only to leave the sessions stymied. So, what was it?

2.16 Stevie Wonder with the Funk Brothers

If you have watched the excellent-though-dated documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, you probably know the answer. You see, back in the post-World War II years, there was a migration of poor blacks and whites from the South to Detroit in search of jobs in the automobile factories there. Of course, when a huge influx of people enters an area, so does an influx in musical talent. So, when Barry Gordy Jr. decided to start his own record label, he went in search of the best musicians in the area to become his “house” band. These men were seasoned veterans of the Detroit blues and jazz scenes and were all virtuosos at their craft. The beautiful thing was that they were both black and white musicians who appreciated each other not only for their musical talents but for each other. For some reason, these men, who became known as “The Funk Brothers,” had a chemistry that extended beyond the studio, regardless of the color of their skin. And, they brought a spirituality to their sessions by praying before each one.

No, it wasn’t just the studio or songwriters or producers or songs, it was the musicians who brought it all to life that made Motown special. It was the Funk Brothers. And, this is true of all the great recording studios throughout the history of rock and roll. From Stax to Atlantic to LA to Muscle Shoals, all of the big successful recording studios and record labels of this era had crack studio bands with great chemistry. And the Funk Brothers, in my humble opinion, were the greatest of them all. That is why I have been proposing for the better part of a decade that the whole group known as the Funk Brothers be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

2.16 Funk Brothers recently

You know that The Temptations, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Four Tops and all the rest were unbelievably talented vocalists, and in the case of Gaye and Wonder, talented musicians in their own right. But it was the Funk Brothers who made those songs jump from the speakers. Those guys played uncredited on more hits than Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. Yet, few know about them.

So, the next time you have a hankering for some Motown music and begin to listen to the music on your prefer mode of audio entertainment, remember that the music of this fabled label was arranged and played by some of the most incredibly talented musicians ever collected in one room. And they like to call themselves the Funk Brothers.

2.16 Motown record labels

So, let’s take at look at the work of the Funk Brothers, who can be found on all the classic music recorded before 1971. By 1972, Motown had left behind Detroit for the glitz of Los Angeles. Not only did Motown abandon Detroit upon their move, they abandoned their crack coterie of blues/jazz/R&B/funk players collectively known as The Funk Brothers.

Now, for the countdown.

2.16 50.Boyz_II_Men_End_of_the_Road

50. Boyz II Men – “End of the Road” (1992)

49. The Undisputed Truth – “Smiling Faces Sometimes” (1971)

48. The Supremes – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (1966)

47. The Temptations – “Cloud Nine” (1968)

46. Four Tops – “Baby I Need Your Loving” (1964)

2.16 45.Isn't_She_Lovely_-_Stevie_Wonder

45. Stevie Wonder – “Isn’t She Lovely” (1977)

44. Diana Ross – “I’m Coming Out” (1980)

43. The Miracles – “Love Machine (Part 1)” (1975)

42. Diana Ross – “Love Hangover” (1976)

41. Jackson 5 – “Never Can Say Goodbye” (1971)

2.16 40.my cherie amour

40. Stevie Wonder – “My Cherie Amour” (1969)

39. The Supremes – “Baby Love” (1964)

38. The Miracles – “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (1962)

37. Four Tops – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” (1965)

36. The Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go” (1964)

2.16 35.boogie on reggae woman

35. Stevie Wonder – “Boogie On Reggae Woman” (1974)

34. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – “I Second That Emotion” (1967)

33. Marvin Gaye – “Got to Give It Up (Part 1)” (1977)

32. The Miracles – “Shop Around” (1960)

31. Marvin Gaye – “Let’s Get It On” (1973)

2.16 30.Tracks_of_my_tears

30. The Miracles – “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965)

29. The Marvelettes – “Please Mr. Postman” (1961)

28. Barrett Strong – “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1959)

27. The Supremes – “Stop! In the Name of Love” (1965)

26. Stevie Wonder – “Higher Ground” (1973)

2.16 25.Easy_by_Commodores

25. Commodores – “Easy” (1977)

24. Jr. Walker & the All Stars – “Shotgun” (1965)

23. Martha & the Vandellas – “(Love Is Like a) Heatwave” (1963)

22. The Contours – “Do You Love Me’ (1962)

21. The Temptations – “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” (1971)

2.16 20.Four-tops-reach-out-1966

20. Four Tops – “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” (1966)

19. The Miracles – “Ooo Baby Baby” (1965)

18. Mary Wells – “My Guy” (1964)

17. The Temptations – “My Girl” (1964)

16. The Supremes – “You Can’t Hurry Love” (1966)

2.16 15.Stevie_wonder-superstition

15. Stevie Wonder – “Superstition” (1972)

14. Jimmy Ruffin – “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” (1966)

13. Martha & the Vandellas – “Dancing in the Street” (1964)

12. Edwin Starr – “War” (1970)

11. Rick James – “Super Freak” (1981)

2.16 10.ain't-too-proud

10. The Temptations – “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” (1966)

9. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1967)

8. Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On” (1971)

7. Jackson 5 – “I Want You Back” (1969)

6. Stevie Wonder – “Sir Duke” (1977)

2.16 5.Standing_in_the_Shadows_of_Love

5. Four Tops – “Standing in the Shadows of Love” (1966)

4. The Temptations – “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (1972)

3. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – “The Tears of a Clown” (1970)

2. Martha & the Vandellas – “Nowhere to Run” (1965)

2.16 1.i heard it through the grapevine

1. Marvin Gaye – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968)

And, there you have it! My Top 150 Motown Songs. Peace.

Day 2 of My 150 Favorite Motown Songs, #51-100

2.16 motown kids

When it comes to music, there are singles, album cuts and albums that have played an important part in the development of my musical tastes. However, the one thing that truly did more in my rock music development was a book entitled The Book of Rock Lists written by former Creem magazine editor Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein. Now, in the Seventies and Eighties Books of Lists were quite the rage, but no one had focused upon rock and roll. That book single-handedly changed everything for me.

Prior to reading The Book of Rock Lists, I mainly listened to Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx, though I had been discovering artists like Cheap Trick, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Devo, The Police, Parliament/Funkadelic and Chic. But, perhaps, nothing changed my musical life more than Chapter 33, entitled “Top of the Pops.”

2.16 Motown package tour

Let me begin by saying, I had no idea at the time the authors were referencing the great weekly British program of the same name with that title. More importantly, Marsh and Stein made an effort to list the best 40 songs and albums for each year of the rock era, which at the time spanned from 1955 through 1980. They used the criteria that each song and album had to have reached the Top 40 of Billboard’s charts for albums and singles. As I read those lists, I discovered that the definition of rock and roll was far more inclusive than I had previously been lead to believe. When I finished that chapter, I gained the confidence that my tastes in music were in line with some of my favorite rock critics. At that moment, my definition of rock and roll expanded to include my beloved Hall & Oates, and that rock and roll included not only poppish artists but black, jazz and country artists as well. So, instead of focusing upon a small, white (artist)-based sound, I was free to include disco, R&B, the Raspberries, southern rock, the Jackson 5 and folk musics in my definition of rock and roll. Suddenly, music went from a thing of relaxation and enjoyment to something of an obsession. And, it remains that way today.

It was while reading this book that I learned how an important of a role Motown played in the development of rock and roll both directly and indirectly. These men showed me the company’s importance by the number of singles and albums recorded by their artists found in their yearly lists in Chapter 33. Suddenly, this skinny lad from the flatlands of Central Indiana found it enrichening as he played Alice Cooper, followed by Thelma Houston, then Journey, Tom Tom Club, Kenny Loggins, Heart, Marvin Gaye, etc. while making mixtapes.

2.16 MJ steals Motown 25

This revelation influenced by DJ-ing as well. Suddenly, I found it musically amusing to watch kids dancing to dance tunes by Donna Summer and Frankie Smith, only to have songs by The Clash or Devo or, God forbid, Foreigner slid into the mix without anyone leaving the dancefloor. All of this was possibly due to The Book of Rock Lists, especially that now-fabled Chapter 33.

Rick James At Home

And Motown, especially that classic stuff from the Sixties, was still so good that kids of the early-Eighties continued to dance to those joyous, carefree songs. Plus, Motown seemed to just put a smile on the faces of those on the dancefloors. And, I’ve kept those memories locked with the sounds of those classic songs.

So, let’s get that countdown restarted, beginning with number 100 on my list of my 150 favorite Motown songs. 

2.16 100.The_Way_You_Do_the_Things_You_Do_-_Temptations

100. The Temptations – “The Way You Do the Things You Do” (1964)

99. Lionel Richie – “All Night Long (All Night)” (1983)

98. Teena Marie – “I Need Your Lovin’” (1980)

97. The Supremes – “Love Child” (1968)

96. The Temptations – “Runaway Child, Running Wild” (1969)

95. Stevie Wonder – “I Wish” (1976)

94. Rare Earth – “I Want to Celebrate” (1971)

93. Mary Jane Girls – “In My House” (1985)

92. Mary Wells – “Two Lovers” (1962)

91. Jackson 5 – “ABC” (1970)

2.16 90.quiet storm

90. Smokey Robinson – “Quiet Storm” (1975)

89. Stevie Wonder – “That Girl” (1982)

88. Diana Ross – “Touch Me in the Morning” (1973)

87. The Temptations – “Psychedelic Shack” (1970)

86. Martha & the Vandellas – “Jimmy Mack” (1967)

85. The Supremes – “Stoned Love” (1970)

84. Gladys Knight & the Pips – “I Don’t Want to Do Wrong” (1971)

83. Lionel Richie & Diana Ross – “Endless Love” (1981)

82. Marvin Gaye – “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” (1964)

81. Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me” (1984)

2.16 80.boogie down

80. Eddie Kendricks – “Boogie Down” (1973)

79. Jackson 5 – “I’ll Be There” (1970)

78. Gladys Knight & the Pips – “If I Were Your Woman” (1970)

77. Commodores – “Nightshift” (1985)

76. The Temptations – “(I Know) I’m Losing You” (1966)

75. Little Stevie Wonder – “Fingertips (Part II)” (1963)

74. Marvin Gaye & Kim Westin – “It Takes Two” (1966)

73. Stevie Wonder – “For Once in My Life” (1968)

72. Smokey Robinson – “Cruisin’” (1979)

71. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” (1968)

2.16 70.Neither_One_of_Us_(Wants_to_Be_the_First_to_Say_Goodbye)_-_Gladys_Knight_&_the_Pips

70. Gladys Knight & the Pips – “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972)

69. Stevie Wonder – “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” (1965)

68. Isley Brothers – “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” (1966)

67. Four Tops – “It’s the Same Old Song” (1965)

66. The Temptations – “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” (1970)

65. The Marvelettes – “Beechwood 4-5789” (1962)

64. Marvin Gaye – “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” (1971)

63. Dazz Band – “Let It Whip” (1982)

62. The Supremes – “Come See About Me” (1964)

61. Commodores – “Brick House” (1977)

2.16 60.master blaster

60. Stevie Wonder – “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” (1980)

59. David Ruffin – “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” (1969)

58. Diana Ross – “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” (1975)

57. Eddie Kendricks – “Keep on Truckin’ (Part 1)” (1973)

56. Thelma Houston – “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (1976)

55. The Temptations – “I Can’t Get Next to You” (1969)

54. Gladys Knight & the Pips – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1967)

53. Johnny Gill – “Rub You the Right Way” (1990)

52. David Ruffin – “Walk Away from Love” (1975)

2.16 51.three times a lady

51. Commodores – “Three Times a Lady” (1978)

I hope to finish this off this week. Peace.