Not an Original One in the Bunch: My Favorite Covers (and Tribute) Albums

I’m not really sure when my minor obsession with cover songs came about. Maybe, it happened in middle school when Elton John had two big radio hits on Central Indiana radio with “Pinball Wizard” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Back then, I had absolutely NO idea that either song was a cover. Hell, for all I knew that Elton had written the songs with some guy named Bernie Taupin and recorded them with his crack band.

Then, it happened. One Sunday morning while listening to Casey Kasem bring me “American Top 40” on the nearby station WERK-AM in Muncie, Indiana, Casey said that The Beatles had originally recorded “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” for their classic Sgt. Pepper album. Being the weirdo that I continue to be today, I went to a neighbor’s home who I knew that owned Sgt. Pepper. Once I discovered that this high school-aged young man was home, I asked him to play me The Beatles version of the song on his stereo. He told me, “Okay,” and invited me in. I stepped into his parents’ home, but the place was devoid of all humans. Instead, Pat put the record on his parents’ console television/stereo set and cranked the volume. As I listened to the song, I got the immediate impression that we were dealing with a band that was much deeper than Elton was with the very same song. Where Elton found the pop sound in “Lucy,” The Beatles original intent seemed to be at times wistful and childlike, with a side of helping of longing for a lost youth. 

After the song was done, Pat then said to me that Elton’s other “hit” at the time, “Pinball Wizard,” which I knew was from the Tommy soundtrack, was another cover tune. “No way!” He told me to hang on while he found the original LP. Pat came out of his room carrying a copy of The Who’s Tommy, of which Pat informed my impressionable brain was the original source of music for the new movie of the same new. And, he played me “Pinball Wizard” by The Who. Once again, my mind could not handle to the full extent what information Pat was throwing at me. Yet, I was hooked, and enthralled. Slowly, I began my current obsession of rock music. After that fateful day in which Pat introduced me to original versions of a couple of popular songs, I began to absorbed rock music information from all kinds of sources.

First, I started with magazines such as Circus, Creem and Hit Parader. Eventually, I graduated to Rolling Stone and various books written about artists like Zeppelin, Hendrix and The Beatles. Additionally, I picked up magazines geared toward musicians, like the aptly titled Musician. I devoured everything, including Billboard magazine, a weekly trade magazine that contained all the various charts for all of the radio formats of the day.

Today, I no longer take in so much information. I am not certain why that is, but now I’d rather write down what I’ve learned rather than attempt to read basically the same background story now being applied to a new artist’s life. And, maybe, it’s the constant sensation of pain wracking my body and those bloody muscle spasms that radiated out in all directions from the L4/L5 region of my spine which took several operations to repair correctly. And those days, like today, in which the spasms extend into my buttocks AND thighs, well, I simply feel as though I hit the physical lottery. So, as much as I would love to use my brain, that function seems to be limited by my dealing with the pain and attempting to remain awake after a night of maybe two hours of sleep.

I’m not asking for a pity party. I am simply stating some facts. So, albums of cover songs seems to be a great diversion for the time being. Basically, there are two general types of these covers. First, there are the albums in which an artist, usually but not always, may be going through a dry spell, so they go back to the songs of their youth. Then, they pick out a group of them and learn them. Occasionally, the artist will invent a new arrangement for a song or two because they heard something inspirational in the lyrics. Others may simply want to rock the songs out a big. No matter what type of spin the artist may put on a favorite song of theirs, the success of the song will depend on whether the current artist remembers the original OR if the arrangement transcends the song. 

Take for example the song “Love Hurts.” Personally, I remember it as a proto-power ballad for the neo-metal band Nazareth in the mid-Seventies. That version was quite a dance floor filler with slow dancers. On the other hand, the original was recorded by the Everly Brothers with the traditional early rock and roll sound. It was something that my college-age mother said she remembered hearing back in her days of being cool.

Eventually, artists began to fill up albums with cover songs in a method to rediscover their original voice. Or, sometimes, a group of artists will come together to record individual songs of a greater artist as a collected tribute. Their have been an overabundance of these tribute albums, especially during the Nineties. Most of them were fairly mundane, but a few were truly inspired artistic statements when the artist has enough songs to attract the best newer artists to cover their music. Over the years, tributes to the Eagles, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix were all commercially successful, although none of them are good enough for my list.

So, here is my Top 40 Best Covers or Tribute Albums Ever. This time, I am presenting them in alphabetical order according to the artists.

  1. Beck – Kick (2010). In 2009 and 2010, Beck did some informal recording sessions with some of the best musicians of the alternative rock scene. Together, they covered five different albums, the best of which was Beck’s version of INXS 1987 megahit Kick.
  2. Billie Joe Armstrong – No Fun Mondays (2020). At the beginning of the quarantine, Green Day’s Armstrong started digging through his record collection and recording versions of his favorites. This is the collection of those inspired choices.
  3. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006). During the Aughts, The Boss refused to rest on his laurels. On this album, he full head-first into Pete Seeger’s catalog and recorded versions of his own.
  4. Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things (1973). Although Roxy Music was riding high at the time, lead singer Ferry recorded this set of songs from his youth and gave the Glam covering.
  5. Chris Cornell – Nobody Sings like You Anymore, Vol. 1 (2020). The late lead singer of Soundgarden had this collection released posthumously late last year. This is an excellent collection showing just how versatile Cornell was. My one beef – the omission of his haunting version of the Michael Jackson classic “Billie Jean.”
  6. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Our Kind of Soul (2004). Right before Daryl was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease, rock’s great duo of all-time recorded an album of their favorite soul songs. The big surprise? The inclusion of Dan Hartman’s 1984 hit “I Can Dream About You,” which you always knew was written for the boys.
  7. David Bowie – Pin-Ups (1973). Around the same time that Bryan Ferry was doing his covers album, Bowie was deconstructing his favorite songs.
  8. Def Leppard – Yeah! (2006). What is an aging hair metal band to do in order to get their creative juices flowing again? Record their favorite songs of their youth, that’s what.
  9. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Almost Blue (1981). After proving his mettle as a singer and songwriter on some punk-fueled classic albums, Costello and his band takes their first creative left turn into their favorite country tunes in a very loving manner.
  10. Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974). Yes, Clapton wrote TWO songs on his big comeback album after getting clean. But, for the most part, Clapton covered other artist’s songs, including his hit version of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.”
  11. Guns N’ Roses – The Spaghetti Incident? (1993). GNR covers metal and punk classics.
  12. Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat (1987). Warnes covers her favorite Leonard Cohen songs.
  13. John Lennon – Rock & Roll (1975). Lennon covers songs that were influential to him.
  14. Johnny Cash – American Recordings (1994). Producer Rick Rubin gives Cash a stack of recent rock songs and Cash makes them his own.
  15. Juliana Hatfield – Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John (2018). Hatfield lovingly covers her favorite Olivia Newton-John songs.
  16. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – Completely Under the Covers (2015). Sweet & Hoffs cover songs that were influential to them from the 70s, 80s & 90s on this box set of their trio of covers albums.
  17. Metallica – Garage Inc. (1998). Metallica covers songs that were influential to them.
  18. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Kicking Against the Pricks (1986). Does Cave really need to do a covers album? No, but this is a fantastic album displaying his ability to re-interpret others’ songs.
  19. Patti Smith – Twelve (2007). Smith covers songs that were influential to her.
  20. Paul McCartney – CHOBA B CCCP (1988): McCartney covers songs that were influential to him.
  21. Paul Weller – Studio 150 (2004). Weller covers songs that were influential to him.
  22. Peter Gabriel & Various Artists – Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours (2013). Artists cover Gabriel songs, while Gabriel covers songs originally done by the artists.
  23. Rage Against the Machine – Renegades (2000). RATM covers songs that were influential to them.
  24. Rush – Feedback (2004). Rush covers songs that were influential to them.
  25. Ryan Adams – 1989 (2015). Adams covers Taylor Swift’s 1989.
  26. Shonen Knife – Osaka Ramones: A Tribute to the Ramones (2011). The all-female Japanese pop punk trio honors their favorite band, Ramones.
  27. The Black Keys – Delta Kream (2021). The band’s tribute to the blues.
  28. The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome (2016). The Stones’ tribute to the blues.
  29. The Smithereens – Meet The Smithereens (2007): Tribute to The Beatles.
  30. Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Cheek to Cheek (2014): Gaga teams up with Bennett to breathe new life into the pop standards.
  31. Tori Amos – Strange Little Girls (2002): Amos records versions of her favorite songs by other artists.
  32. UB40 – Labour of Love (1983): UB40 records their favorite reggae songs and become huge stars.
  33. Various Artists – A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector (1963): Phil Spector and his artists update Christmas standards for the rock era.
  34. Various Artists – Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International (2012): To honor Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary, artists came together to cover Bob Dylan songs.
  35. Various Artists – Drink a Toast to Innocence: A Tribute to Lite Rock (2013): This album answers the question of what yacht rock standards of the late-70s and early-80s sound like when recorded by current power pop artists.
  36. Various Artists – Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon (2004): Who cares who records Zevon’s music, the world needs to hear them.
  37. Various Artists – If I Were a Carpenter (1994): 90s alternative artists make the Carpenters hip.
  38. Various Artists – Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin (1991): Get some of the best artists since the late-60s onward and let them cover Elton & Bernie’s songs, and you’ll end up with one terrific album.
  39. Various Artists – We’re a Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones (2003): There’s nothing more fun than listening to disparate artists (from the Chili Peppers to Kiss) cover the Ramones.
  40. Weezer – Weezer (The Teal Album) (2019): Weezer quietly snuck out this covers album of some of their favorite songs of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Honorable Mention:

  1. Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones – Foreverly (2013). Covering the Everly Brothers
  2. The Bird and the Bee – Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates (2010)
  3. Duran Duran – Thank You (1995). As the title implies, D-squared thanks their heroes by recording their songs.
  4. Various Artists – A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (A Tribute to the Stars) (2007). Contains Prince’s transcendent “A Case of You.”
  5. Various Artists – Big Star, Small World (2006). The alternative stars of the Nineties and the Aughts pay tribute to one of the greater underappreciated bands.
  6. Various Artists – Day of the Dead (2016). It seems as though every artist has a favorite song by the Dead. This album is loaded with great performances
  7. Various Artists – Endless Highway: The Music of The Band (2007). This compilation of songs by The Band, including My Morning Jacket’s terrific cover of “It Makes No Difference.”
  8. Various Artists – Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved (1994). This is one of the more diverse tribute albums since it contains Garth Brooks doing “Hard Luck Woman,” which works quite well.
  9. Various Artists – Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons (1999). Unfortunately, few people outside of the music world knows Parsons’ work. This works as an excellent introduction, even though everyone knows “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones and written by Gram.
  10. Various Artists – The New Sell Out (2012). A great power pop cover tribute of The Who’s classic concept album The Who Sell Out.

Peace.

All Hail The Go-Go’s Countdown!

After the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF) announced their Class of 2021 Inductees, I found myself more excited than I ever expected. With some of my very favorite artists, such as Prince, Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, Springsteen, R.E.M. and Hall & Oates, I felt more vindication than excitement with those inductions. And, don’t get me wrong, and I love Todd Rundgren’s career, but, once again, I just feel like he should be there. And I feel exactly the same way about all of the other inductees, save one. That one inductee that cut through my cynical exterior was The Go-Go’s.

Why is that? I am not totally certain, but I do have a few reasons as to why this has elicited such an emotional response. First, The Go-Go’s began to bubbling just under the mainstream shortly after I started my college career. During the fall of 1981, you could go to various parties around campus and hear “Our Lips Are Sealed” or “We Got the Beat” mixed in with new or re-vitalized artists like Prince, Squeeze, Joan Jett, Ramones and The J. Geils Band. The Go-Go’s punk sound was tempered with strong pop melodies, so those two songs fit in well on a college student’s mixtape. So, I guess I really do have a nostalgic streak.

1981

Next, there’s the fact that The Go-Go’s were the first all-female band who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to have a number one album here in the U.S.A. Surprisingly, and frustratingly, The Go-Go’s remain the only all-female band to have accomplished this feat. Seriously! And, it’s been almost 40 years since they broke down that glass ceiling. And this band did this within a decade of the commercial arrival of two all-female bands Fanny and The Runaways, as well as prominent women finding success in the punk and hard rock realms, most prominently Patti Smith and Pat Benatar. So, now we can move into an equal rights era in order to get over ourselves. In other words, I hope this is a conscious effort by the Hall to induct more females and people of color than it had over the past decade or so.

1982

Finally, I hope The Go-Go’s induction represents some movement to induct more alternative and hip hop artists from the Eighties and Nineties. Honestly, I see a clearer path for those artists than metal and prog artists right now. The Hall needs to get over itself and begin a more than obligatory evaluation of artists from those four genres. Maybe, the RRHOF ought to induct ten artists a year for the next decade in an attempt to break up this logjam. Unlike sports Halls, which honor the immortals of those sports, the RRHOF should be as inclusive as the music itself. Let HBO, MTV and radio worry about ratings, while the Hall worries about the music of people, not just the critics and musicians.

1984

And, although those are my three reasons for my excitement concerning the impending induction of The Go-Go’s, I have to say that nostalgia may be the predominant driving force. I have so many great college memories tied to their music that I could never be able to describe them all in this space. Yet, The Go-Go’s allowed girls to enter Ball State Air Jam contests all over campus. No longer would they be lip syncing ballads by Olivia Newton-John, attempting some flowing lace twirling of Stevie Nicks or taking on a tough girl persona of Pat Benatar. With The Go-Go’s, young ladies could channel their inner effervescence to emphasize their bubbly personalities while performing to one of The Go-Go’s pop punk tunes. By 1981, all-female teams were rocking as hard as all-male groups miming Ramones, Cheap Trick, Adam Ant and The Time.

2002

Yet, now 40 years on, with the help of the stellar documentary of the band’s history that was shown on Showtime over the winter, it is obvious to see how these women (Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Charlotte Caffey) actually influenced future punk bands to incorporate pop melodies in their songs every bit as much as the Buzzcocks or Ramones did. Hell, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong continues to sing the praises of this group of L.A. punks.

2020

So, to honor The Go-Go’s, I have decided to rank all the songs they have released on their four studio albums, included in their compilations and various B-Sides during the Eighties. On with the countdown!

55. “Surfing and Spying” (B-Side of “Our Lips Are Sealed,” 1981)

54. “He’s So Strange” (Vacation, 1982)

53. “Girl of 100 Lists” (Vacation, 1982)

52. “Speeding” (Fast Times at Ridgemont High OST, 1982)

51. “I Think It’s Me” (Vacation, 1982)

50. “We Don’t Get Along” (Vacation, 1982)

49. “It’s Everything but Partytime” (Vacation, 1982)

48. “The Way You Dance” (Vacation, 1982)

47. “Kissing Asphalt” (God Save The Go-Go’s (Deluxe Edition), 2001)

46. “Beatnik Beach” (Vacation, 1982)

45. “Capture the Light” (Talk Show, 1984)

44. “King of Confusion” (God Save The Go-Go’s (Deluxe Edition), 2001)

43. “Good for Gone” (B-Side of “Head over Heels,” 1984)

42. “Insincere” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

41. “Automatic Rainy Day” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

40. “Vision of Nowness” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

39. “This Old Feeling” (Vacation, 1982)

38. “Good Girl” (Return to the Valley of The Go-Go’s, 1994)

37. “Daisy Chain” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

36. “Sonic Superslide” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

35. “Apology” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

34. “World’s Away” (Vacation, 1982)

33. “Skidmarks on My Heart” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

32. “Here You Are” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

31. “I’m with You” (Talk Show, 1984)

30. “I Think I Need to Sleep” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

29. “Cool Jerk” (Vacation, 1982)

28. “Can’t Stop the World” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

27. “Talking Myself Down” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

26. “Fading Fast” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

25. “Get Up and Go” (Vacation, 1982)

24. “La La Land” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

23. “You Can’t Walk in Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

22. “Throw Me a Curve” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

21. “Beautiful” (Return to the Valley of The Go-Go’s, 1994)

20. “Tonite” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

19. “This Town” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

18. “Beneath the Blue Sky” (Talk Show, 1984)

17. “I’m the Only One” (Talk Show, 1984)

16. “Yes or No” (Talk Show, 1984)

15. “Automatic” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

14. “Forget That Day” (Talk Show, 1984)

13. “Stuck in My Car” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

12. “Mercenary” (Talk Show, 1984)

11. “Club Zero” (Non-Album single, 2020)

10. “Turn to You” (Talk Show, 1984)

9. “The Whole World Lost Its Head” (Return to the Valley of The Go-Go’s, 1994)

8. “Unforgiven” (God Save The Go-Go’s, 2002)

7. “How Much More” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

6. “Vacation” (Vacation, 1982)

5. “You Thought” (Talk Show, 1984)

4. “Head over Heels” (Talk Show, 1984)

3. “We Got the Beat” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

2. “Lust to Love” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

1. “Our Lips Are Sealed” (Beauty and the Beat, 1981)

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.

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”