Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "No Rain" by Blind Melon

Friday will mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Blind Melon's self-titled debut album.  Blind Melon was fronted by Shannon Hoon, whose sister was one of Axl Rose's high school friends in Lafayette, Indiana (although Hoon and Rose did not connect until they were both in LA in the early '90s).  Hoon sang backing vocals on two songs off of GNR's Use Your Illusion I album -- "Don't Cry" and "The Garden."

But he would make his biggest splash (rain pun intended) as the lead singer of Blind Melon.  Of course, the band's biggest (and only) hit was "No Rain," a happy-go-lucky song with a memorable video.  The song reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100, but was also #1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart, #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, #4 on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart, #1 in Canada, #8 in Australia, and in the Top 40 in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK.  On the strength of "No Rain," the album reached as high as #3 on the Billboard album charts and went quadruple platinum in the U.S.  Sadly, Hoon died of a cocaine overdose in 1995, just a few weeks after he turned 28.

Here is the iconic "Bee Girl" video for "No Rain."  If realizing that this song is 25 years old doesn't make you feel old, then you should know that the "Bee Girl" from the video, Heather DeLoach, is 34 years old.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Pops

Whether you call it pop (which is the correct term), soda, soda pop, sody pop, or Coke, Chicago is no longer it's friend.  As you may have heard, Cook County -- the adorably fiscally irresponsible county home to over five million residents, including yours truly -- recently enacted a "sweetened beverage tax."   Now, with a few limited exceptions, whenever you buy a "sweetened" beverage -- whether sweetened with sugar or artificially -- you now pay one cent per ounce in tax (in addition to the 10+% sales tax you're already paying).  So, if you're buying a case of Diet Coke, that's an extra $2.88.  This is all supposedly for the kids.  You know, because an extra 20 cents is going to prevent a kid from buying a bottle of Mountain Dew.  Hell, even Gatorade and Propel are being taxed.  Does the Cook County Board not want us to replenish electrolytes while working out?  Now that seems irresponsible.

The worst side effect for me is that the 7-11 across the street has now removed unsweetened iced tea (which is not part of the tax) from its fountain drinks because it doesn't have a way to systematically distinguish in its cash register system what's in one Big Gulp versus what's in another.  So now the healthiest option on the tap has been eliminated.  I used to be able to walk in with a dollar, get a Big Gulp of iced tea, slap a dollar down, tell them to keep the two cents in change, and strut out like I was the cock of the walk (which I was).  Now, I either have to buy a fucking bottle of unsweetened iced tea (which is never quite as good as the fountain) for $1.89 or I have to pay $1.18 for a fountain Diet Mountain Dew.  This is a choice no one should have to face, not even Toni Preckwinkle.

As I enter the Post-Pop Era in Chicago, I fondly remember what it was like to drink pop without being taxed, something my children will never have the pleasure of experiencing.  With that, here are my ten favorite types of pop (in alphabetical order).  Some are specific brands, while others are general types.
  
1.  Cherry Coke
I remember when Cherry Coke was introduced in 1985.  My mom and I (and presumably my brother, because who leaves a 3-year-old at home unattended?) walked to the Circle K a few blocks away and bought a couple cans of Cherry Coke.  It was awesome then, and it's awesome now.

2.  Cream Soda
I am a huge fan of cream soda, although not when it has too much vanilla (looking your way, A&W).

3.  Diet Coke
At some point late in college, I realized that drinking regular Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper probably wasn't good for my waistline.  I stopped drinking coffee because it gave me the jitters and the shits, which is an unpleasant combination when trying to sit through a history lecture.  So I switched to Diet Coke, and never looked back.  Of course, McDonald's has the best Diet Coke.  That's just a fact.

4.  Diet Mountain Dew
I used to drink a good amount of regular Mountain Dew, but decided that wasn't good for me either (see Diet Coke, above), so I went with Diet Dew.  Even with the extra 20 cents tacked on, I'll still get a Big Gulp of this now and then, if I need a pick-me-up on a Saturday afternoon.

5.  Diet Vernor's Ginger Ale
Growing up, I would visit my grandparents in the Detroit area, where there was this insanely effervescent ginger ale called Vernor's.  I like regular Vernor's, but it's usually too bubbly.  Diet Vernor's, on the other hand, still has the gingery power of regular Vernor's, without the risk of making me cough up my drink.

6.  Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb
I don't know how any one dislikes Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb, even if the latter has changed its name to Pibb Xtra.

7.  Faygo Rock N' Rye
This is another holdover from my trips to Michigan as a kid.  It's kind of it's own beast, so I'm not sure exactly how to categorize it -- maybe a cherry cream soda.  Whatever it is, it's fantastic.

8.  Green River
Green River is a Chicago institution.  It's a Kelly green lime soda that I'm pretty sure you can only find in the Chicagoland area -- often on the fountain of a mom and pop hot dog stand or Italian beef spot.  The best part is that the CCR song and album of the same name were inspired by the pop.

9.  Orange Soda
I love a good orange soda, which I realize is redundant, whether it's Fanta, Crush, Sunkist, Slice, Jones, Jarritos, or generic.

10.  Root Beer
Root beer is another one of those pops that I find it impossible that anyone could dislike it.  I could drink root beer at any time, with or without ice cream.  There isn't any one particular brand of root beer that I prefer over others, but I'd say a list of brands I enjoy includes, in no particular order, Dad's, Mug, Barq's, Goose Island, IBC, Sprecher, and Faygo.

What about you fine folks?  Is there any kind of pop I should try, when outside the confines of the second-largest county in the country?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 9/15/17

1.  "Party's Over" by Tesla


2.  "The Razor's Edge" by AC/DC


3.  "Love Ain't No Stranger" by Whitesnake


4.  "Excitable" by Def Leppard


5.  "Exciter" by Kiss


6.  "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar


7.  "Dangerous But Worth The Risk" by Ratt


8.  "Blood On Blood" by Bon Jovi


9.  "For A Million Years" by Lynch Mob


10.  "Warsong" by White Lion

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany

Apologies for not posting a Tuesday Top Ten yesterday.  We were celebrating Lollipop's birthday by tying helium-filled red balloons to sewer grates, doing the worm in supermarket parking lots, and vomiting fake blood on out-of-town Cubs fans riding the L.  You know, typical six-year-old stuff.

Friday marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Tiffany's eponymous debut album.  Along with Debbie Gibson, Tiffany was the queen of mall pop.  Her debut album took the charts by storm, climbing all the way to #1 in the US and Canada, and eventually going quadruple platinum.  All four singles released from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100.  The first two -- her cover of Tommy James and Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Could've Been" -- hit #1, while her reworking of The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" (replacing the "Her" with "Him") got to #7 and "Feelings of Forever" topped out at #50.  Her next album would have two more Top 40 hits ("All This Time" (#6) and "Radio Romance" (#35)), and then she was gone almost as quickly as she came -- not to be heard from again until she appeared in Playboy in 2002.

I decided to go with "I Think We're Alone Now" because it's her most recognizable song, even though it's not her song.  The video is about as Tiffany as it gets, as it's filmed in various malls in which she was performing.  Such was the life of a 16-year-old pop singer in 1987.  One of my favorite tidbits of useless rock and roll trivia is that covers of Tommy James and The Shondells songs were back-to-back #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987.  This song was #1 for two weeks, followed by Billy Idol's cover of "Mony Mony."  Be sure to break that out at your next cocktail party if you want to pull some wool.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Twentysomething hirsute homeless male on a street corner holds a sign that says:  "Ninjas murdered my family.  Need $$ for kung fu lessons."
--Chicago, State & Grand
Eavesdropper:  GMYH

Friday, September 08, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 9/8/17

1.  "Broken Dreams" by Lita Ford


2.  "You Really Got Me" by Van Halen


3.  "Standing In The Shadow" by Whitesnake


4.  "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne


5.  "I Won't Forget You" by Poison


6.  "Ten Seconds To Love" by Mötley Crüe


7.  "Love Song" by Tesla


8.  "I've Had Enough (Into The Fire)" by Kiss


9.  "Price You Gotta Pay" by Mr. Big


10.  "Poison" by Alice Cooper

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Nearly Lost You" by Screaming Trees

Twenty five years ago, grunge was in full swing.  This Friday in 1992, Screaming Trees released their sixth studio album, Sweet Oblivion.  The band was formed in Ellensburg, Washington, about 100 miles from Seattle, in 1985, and they were considered one of the forefathers of grunge.  While most of their fame was "underground," their song "Nearly Lost You" was included on the grunge/alternative-laden Singles soundtrack, propelling the song to a #5 position on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart and #12 on the Mainstream Rock chart.  It's a really good song, and for me, it's one of the songs that most epitomizes the grunge era.  Whenever I hear it, I'm immediately taken back to the early '90s.  I see flannel and oversized t-shirts, and I'm totally fine with that.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Replacements Songs By Album

As you may know, I recently finished reading The Replacements' biography.  I listened to all of their albums in chronological order as I was reading the book, which was a great way to complement the book.  My review of the bio was mainly focused on the band's self-sabotage, but this post will be focused on the band's music.

Comprised of singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg, the Stinson brothers (Bob on guitar and Tommy on bass), and drummer Chris Mars, The Replacements were one of the main players in Minneapolis's punk scene in the early '80s.  Westerberg was the main songwriter, and his lyrics were often self-deprecating and relatable.  Tommy Stinson wasn't even 14 when the group released its first album, and basically had to drop out of high school to become a rock star.  Older brother Bob was kind of a wildcard, and his musical interests trended towards the harder stuff.  His issues with drugs eventually go him kicked out of the group, which is saying a lot, given the very low sobriety bar that was set by the others in the band.  Mars was the artist of the group, but just as crazy as the others.

The Replacements started off as punk, often bordering on hardcore.  But even with their second full-length album, Hootenanny, the band was experimenting with various genres, and experimenting well.  By their third album, Let It Be, they were hitting on all cylinders, making great alternative rock, with some punk mixed in.  Their latter four albums were what would probably be considered "college rock" back in the day -- songs that were really good, but didn't fit the mold of what Top 40 stations were looking to play in the late '80s.  Had the band not broken up, I think they would have flourished in the '90s.

The band was a major influence on alternative bands and indie rock bands from the late '80s until today, including Goo Goo Dolls, fellow Minnesotans Soul Asylum, Nirvana, The Hold Steady, and The Gaslight Anthem, among many others.

Like I did a couple months ago with another Minneapolis-bred band, The Hold Steady, I'll give you my favorite song off of each of the band's seven studio albums (and an EP), as well as a couple wildcards.

Favorite song off of each album
1.  "I'm In Trouble" (Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, 1981)
The band's debut album was an energetic mix of straight punk and hardcore, but there is still something below the breakneck pace that gives you a hint of what's to come with Westerberg's songwriting.  There are a lot of great punk songs on the album, but my favorite is "I'm In Trouble," which is a two-minute frenetic number about a guy who is trying to avoid a woman (and perhaps his own feelings).  "You're in love / And I'm in trouble."  We've all been there.


2.  "Kids Don't Follow" (Stink, 1982)
Technically, Stink was an EP because it only had 8 songs on it, but I'm including it on this list because I can.  I'm going with the opening track, "Kids Don't Follow," not only because it's a great punk song, but also because the beginning of the track features audio of the Minneapolis police breaking up a party at the band's record studio that was apparently too loud.  The cop speaking into the mic has a great Minnesota accent, and you can hear someone in the background yell "hey fuck you, man!"  Legend has it that was Soul Asylum lead singer Dave Pirner.


3.  "Color Me Impressed" (Hootenanny, 1983)
With their second full-length album, the band's direction already started to change.  Yes, there are some thrashing punk songs ("Run It," "Take Me Down To The Hospital," "You Lose," "Hayday"), but Hootenanny is an eclectic album.  The title track is kind of a bluesy joke track, with Westerberg basically just repeating the word "hootenanny."  "Willpower" is a slow, trippy song that sounds like it should be played in a hall of mirrors.  "Within Your Reach" is synthed up love song that is pretty much just a guitar and a drum machine.  "Buck Hill" is a fun instrumental.  "Lovelines" is a tongue-in-cheek, rockabilly song that is basically a reading of the personal ads in a newspaper.  But "Color Me Impressed" is my favorite song on the album.  It rocks and it's catchy, and I definitely see it as a harbinger of what was to come with The Replacements' sound.


4.  "Favorite Thing" (Let It Be, 1984)
This was the first Replacements album I bought, and it's still probably my favorite.  I don't remember when I first heard of The Replacements or what prompted me to buy Let It Be, but I did.  When I heard the jangly guitar intro to "I Will Dare," I felt like that was exactly what I expected The Replacements to sound like.  It was catchy and alternative all at the same time.  It all made sense.  But that's not really what they sound like all the time.  As this album shows, they also had punk chops ("We're Coming Out", "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out"), but they could write tongue-in-cheek songs ("Gary's Got a Boner"), ballads ("Androgynous," "Sixteen Blue," "Unsatisfied"), and heartfelt, guitar-heavy rockers ("Seen Your Video," "Answering Machine"), and they could cover KISS, quite well at that ("Black Diamond").  It was a schizophrenic album, but it all worked together.  I really like "I Will Dare," "Answering Machine," and "Gary's Got a Boner," but my favorite song is "Favorite Thing."  It's punkish and edgy, but catchy and has a sing-along chorus -- and it has the fantastic line "rock don't give a single shit."


5.  "Left Of The Dial" (Tim, 1985)
Tim is a great album -- and the band's major label debut -- but unfortunately, it was Bob Stinson's last, as he got kicked out after this record was made.  It was a tough choice between "Bastards of Young," "Little Mascara," "Left Of The Dial," and "Lay It Down Clown," but I'm going with "Left Of The Dial." It is kind of an anthem for college rock, since the kind of radio stations that would play The Replacements and similar bands were often the college stations to the left of the radio dial.  You see, kids, back in the '80s, your car radio had a tuner, with a dial that you would turn, moving the tuner from left to right, until you landed on a station that suited your needs and wants.


6.  "Alex Chilton" (Pleased To Meet Me, 1987)
The band made this album as a trio, after kicking Bob Stinson out of the band.  I actually just bought this one while I was reading the biography, and it has quickly become my second-favorite Replacements album.  Top to bottom, it's solid.  "I.O.U" is a great, rocking song that kicks the album off.  "Can't Hardly Wait" inspired the title to the 1998 Jennifer Love Hewitt/Ethan Embry vehicle that might be one of the best teen party movies ever.  "The Ledge" is a dark song, song from the point of view of a teenage boy standing on the ledge of his school, about to commit suicide.  I'm going with "Alex Chilton," the catchy as hell song about former Box Tops and Big Star lead singer Alex Chilton (who played guitar on "Can't Hardly Wait," by the way).  Like The Replacements, Big Star was one of those bands who influenced a ton of other bands, but never quite made it as big as they should have.


7.  "I'll Be You" (Don't Tell a Soul, 1989)
Topping out at #57 on the Billboard album charts, this was the band's highest-charting album.  It was the first album and only album with guitarist Slim Dunlap, who joined the band after they recorded Pleased To Meet Me.  I also bought this one while reading the band's biography, but unfortunately, the CD (yes, I still buy CDs) didn't upload to iTunes well, and most of the songs are scratchy to the point that I can't really hear them.  Thus, I have the least familiarity with this one.  As a result, I'm going with "I'll Be You," which was the band's only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (#51) and also hit #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and Album Rock Tracks charts.


8.  "My Little Problem" (All Shook Down, 1990)
For all intents and purposes, All Shook Down was a Paul Westerberg solo album.  The band was all but broken up at this point, and while some combination of Mars, Tommy Stinson, and Dunlap played on most tracks, there was only one song on the album on which all four of the band played ("Attitude").  It's pretty stripped down and acoustic-heavy, but it does have it's moments of rock, one of which is "My Little Problem," on which Concrete Blonde lead singer Johnette Napolitano shares the vocals with Westerberg.


Wildcards
It was difficult to narrow it down to only two songs, so I didn't.  I'll go in chronological order.

9.  "A Toe Needs A Shoe" (Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, 1981)
This is an outtake that was a bonus track on the reissue of Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, and it's really a great instrumental, showcasing Bob Stinson's guitar skills.  Also, when this song plays at home, my kids can't help but stop whatever they're doing and start dancing.  Son, particularly, just gets into the rhythm and shakes his ass like he just don't care.



10.  "Within Your Reach" (Hootenanny, 1983)
I mentioned this above, but it's just such a mesmerizing song that I can't leave it off the list.  It's unlike anything else in the band's catalog.  And apparently, it was used in the movie Say Anything.



11.  "I Will Dare" (Let It Be, 1984)
I discussed this song above, as well.  It's just a great pop song, and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck lent his guitar to the jangly guitar solo in the middle of the song.  Like I said above, I think this song kind of epitomizes '80s "college rock." If this song was released six years later, it probably would have been a Top 10 song.


12.  "Answering Machine" (Let It Be, 1984)
The riff of this song grabbed me the first time I heard it.  It's loud and distorted, and then the lyrics kick in, and it's quite heartfelt.  Those of us who grew up before voicemail and text messages can relate to the sentiment of the song:  "how do you say 'good night' to an answering machine?"


13.  "I.O.U." (Pleased To Meet Me, 1987)
This is the first track off of Pleased To Meet Me, and it was inspired by Iggy Pop, who was said to have signed an autograph "IOU Nothing."  The song is a blistering rocker, and the message of the song is pretty in tune with the band's attitude towards everyone and everything ("I owe you nothing").

Friday, September 01, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 9/1/17

1.  "Come Again" by Damn Yankees


2.  "Panama" by Van Halen



3.  "Rock Rock (Till You Drop)" by Def Leppard



4.  "Girlschool" by Britny Fox



5.  "I'm Leaving You" by Scorpions



6.  "Live Wire" by Mötley Crüe



7.  "Sacred Heart" by Dio



8.  "Cold Blood" by Kix



9.  "Unskinny Bop" by Poison



10.  "Back in Black" by AC/DC

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister

I haven't had much time over the last few days to commit to this blog, but apparently Kyrie Irving was recently traded, and now the Cavs are pissed because Isaiah Thomas was more injured than what they believed when they made the trade.  It reminded me of my favorite Mr. Mister song, "Broken Wings."  You know, because it's like Thomas has a broken wing or something.  Then I'm like, "You numb nuts.  They have a fucking song called 'Kyrie.'"  "Yeah, but isn't that pronounced 'key-ree-ee-aye,' not 'kye-ree'?"  "Don't be a dick."  "I'm done with this conversation."