Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)" by Fu-Schnickens featuring Shaquille O'Neal

Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Brooklyn-based hip hop group Fu-Schnickens' second and final album, Nervous Breakdown.  The lead single off of that album (which was actually released the year before) was "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)" the group's collaboration with a then-young-and-budding NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal.  The song cracked the Top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100, topping out at #39.  Unfortunately, for Fu-Schnickens, by the time Nervous Breakdown was released, rap and hip hop had gone the way of the gangsta, so their clever, lightning-fast, kung fu and pop culture-inspired lyrics were apparently not what the kids wanted to listen to anymore. 

I will say that I had the Fu-Schnickens' first album on tape, and I absolutely loved it.  In fact, I am going to Amazon right now to check on its availability.

Rocktober Deep Cut P: "Smile" by Pearl Jam

Even though Pearl Jam's 1996 album No Code hit #1 on the Billboard album charts, it has been received with mixed reactions since it was released.  It was the band's first album not to go multi-platinum, and it didn't have the radio success that the previous albums had.  "Who You Are" was a Top 40 hit, but I don't think most people would put that on a list of the 25 or 30 most recognizable Pearl Jam songs.  Other than that, "Hail Hail," "Red Mosquito," and "Off He Goes" all made the Top 40 of the US Mainstream Rock charts, and seem to find their way into live albums and greatest hits albums.  Those are all great songs, but "Smile" is probably my favorite song off of No Code.  It's almost like grunge meets Tom Petty, with a crunchy guitar riff, well-placed harmonicas, and a great, wailing chorus.  When I hear it, it reminds me of college, which makes me -- wait for it -- smile.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: Most Awesome Things I Did Today

10.  Had cake.  For breakfast.

9.  Checked out the spot where a Wallenda might plummet to his death in less than two weeks.

8.  Drove to Joliet and back, if for no other reason than I would have committed legal malpractice and would have been fired if I hadn't done so.

7.  Had a breakfast sandwich.  For lunch.

6.  Listened to some Ozzy.

5.  Had chicken and dumplings.  For dinner.

4.  Went to one of those temporary Halloween stores to close up some loose ends on my costumes and to get some Halloween decorations for our upcoming Halloween party.  I love those temporary Halloween stores.

3.  Took Daughter to the Halloween store with me, after which we went to the grocery store, where she had to go to the bathroom twice.  The men's room at the grocery store had that overpowering wet dog smell that you would never expect to encounter anywhere outside of a dog bath.

2.  Bought some beer at the grocery store, you know, because they sell beer at the grocery store.

1.  Disobeyed my wife's directive that I not spend more than $15 on any one Halloween decoration at the Halloween store because, if I had obeyed her, someone else would have purchased the floor model fog machine for $45.  Now, our Halloween party just went from not foggy to somewhat foggy.

Rocktober Deep Cut O: "You Lookin' At Me Lookin' At You" by Ozzy Osbourne

For "O," especially in October, you can look no further than the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.  The Ozzman has a plethora of hard rock and metal classics that you can hear on classic rock and hard rock radio stations. 

His debut solo album, Blizzard of Ozz, hit the shelves a little over 34 years ago, in September 1980, and eventually went platinum four times over.  It gave us what is probably Ozzy's most recognizable solo song, "Crazy Train," as well as another Ozzy staple, "Mr. Crowley," and the infamous "Suicide Solution," which is unfortunately famous, not because it's a sad commentary about AC/DC frontman Bon Scott's death by alcohol or Ozzy's own struggles with alcohol abuse, but because a depressed teenager allegedly killed himself listening to the song, and then his parents sued Ozzy, claiming their son's death was his fault.  Thankfully, the case was dismissed on First Amendment grounds.

But anyway, the Ozzy song that I'm going with is "You Lookin' At Me Lookin' At You," which was the B-side to the "Crazy Train" single, but not on the original Blizzard of Ozz album.  A remastered version appeared on the 2002 reissue of the album, and I can't believe it wasn't a single in its own right.  The song has everything someone (or a record label) could want in an early '80s hard rock song.  It's catchy, it rocks, it has an easy-to-remember chorus, and it has a sweet Thin Lizzy-esque guitar solo (albeit with one guitarist instead of two).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rocktober Deep Cut N: "Breed" by Nirvana

It's crazy to think that there was a time in the early '90s when you had to define yourself as a grunge fan or metal and/or hair band fan.  You can guess which camp I fell into.  I didn't necessarily dislike grunge, but if given the choice, I would go hair band and metal all day.  Of course, it turns out that a lot of grunge is essentially hard rock, some of which even borders on metal, so now it seems silly that society made us choose between the two.  All of this is to say that it took me a couple years before I was comfortable listening to grunge, and I found that I really liked a lot of it, including the reluctant spokesband of the genre, Nirvana.

Their record company was hoping their second album, Nevermind -- the cover of which featured someone fishing for human babies with dollars -- would sell around 250,000 copies.  It is now certified diamond, meaning it has sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone (and 30 million worldwide).  The singles from the album -- "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Come As You Are," "In Bloom," and "Lithium" –- are all great songs, but, much in the same way I think the non-singles on Appetite for Destruction make it so good, it's the non-singles on Nevermind that really make the album for me.

Of the non-singles, "Breed" –- the fourth song on the album, sandwiched between "Come As You Are" and "Lithium" –- is my favorite.  It's probably the fastest-paced song on Nevermind.  It starts off with feedback, and then bursts into a great hard rock riff, followed by machine gun drums and a driving bass line that kind of acts as the song's locomotive.  The lyrics are about some chick explaining that you don't have to breed if you don't want to, but instead, you can plant a house or build a tree.  Or you can do all three, even if the latter two are impossible without the help of hallucinogens.

I used to listen to this song before flag football games in college.  (And yes, I used to psyche myself up before intramural flag football games.  You may laugh, but did you score three touchdowns in the intramural championship game, leading your team to its first-ever all-campus title, after listening to "Breed"?  Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novselic may as well have been on the team.  Well, not Cobain, you know, because of the shotgun to the face and all a few years prior.)  "Breed" is a mainstay on my running/workout mix, and I don't foresee that ever changing.  It's one of those songs that I hope comes on when I'm about three-fourths of the way through a run and I need some extra pep to take me the distance.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rocktober Deep Cut M: "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)" by Mr. Big

You probably assumed I was going to go with something from Mötley Crüe, given that it's Hair Band Friday and all.  You were wrong.  Don't pigeon hole me, man.

I decided to go with Mr. Big, who hit it big (no pun intended) in the early '90s with their megahit, "To Be With You" -- which went to #1 in 15 countries, including the U.S. -- off of their second album, 1991's Lean Into It. Everyone knows that song, and you may also know "Just Take My Heart" off of the same album, which hit #16 on the Billboard charts, or their cover of Cat Stevens's "Wild World," which hit #27 in 1993.

"To Be With You" and "Just Take My Heart" are both ballads, and "Wild World" isn't exactly hard rock.  Unfortunately for Mr. Big, like so many other hair bands, they were forced to release their ballads as singles, so the world isn't aware of their propensity to rock.  Paul Gilbert is a phenomenal guitarist, and Billy Sheehan can play the bass with the best of them.  Eric Martin's voice has a lot of soul, and Pat Torpey was a pretty good drummer.

For Mr. Big's sake, I am including their most-rocking song off of Lean Into It, "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)," even though it's technically on their greatest hits album, since it wasn't released as a single and chances are, you've never heard it, unless you live in Japan, where Mr. Big is huge (that's not a joke).  The song proclaims, "I'll be your daddy, your brother, your lover, and your little boy."  I'm not sure I want to delve into exactly what the implications of that statement might be, but the song rocks.

Listen to Hair Band Friday - 10/17/14

Hair Band Friday - 10/17/14 by GMYH on Grooveshark

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rocktober Deep Cut L: "Out On The Tiles" by Led Zeppelin

When I conceived the idea for a "deep cut" Rocktober, the first song that came to my mind was "Out On The Tiles" by Led Zeppelin.  This is such a great song, and I really have no idea why it isn't played more often (or at all) on classic rock radio.  The song is ballsy and aggressive, with a great riff.  "Out on the tiles" is a British phrased often used by John Bonham, meaning a night out on the town getting sauced.  So musically and lyrically, the song is everything I would want from a great rock and roll song. 

It was the last song on side one of Led Zeppelin III (the "heavy" side of the album), which is an underappreciated album, in my opinion.  My first thought about the lack of airplay when it was released was that it might have been too heavy for radio back in the day, but "Immigrant Song" was on the same album, and it was a Top 20 song on the Billboard charts.  

As for nowadays, despite the fact that you can hear 75% of the Led Zeppelin catalog on classic rock or hard rock stations, somehow this isn't one of those songs.  You even hear some of the other more obscure songs from Led Zeppelin III on the radio now and then, like "Friends," "Since I've Been Loving You," and "Gallows Pole."  You might even hear "Tangerine" or "Celebration Day" once in a blue moon.  Hell, you even hear the non-album b-side to "Immigrant Song" -- "Hey Hey, What Can I Do?" -- on the radio (which you should because it's an awesome song about a whore).  Yet somehow, you never hear "Out On The Tiles."  Oh well, I guess it makes it more special -- kind of like I know about this secretly awesome song that only several million others (as opposed to several hundred million others) know about.  Listen to it and see what I mean.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "Too Late For Goodbyes" by Julian Lennon

Thirty years ago today, John Lennon's older son, Julian, released his debut album, Valotte.  The album cracked the Top 20 on both the US and UK album charts, and it featured three songs that made the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, including the title track (#9), "Say You're Wrong" (#21), and "Too Late For Goodbyes" (#5).  I went with the last one because it's the only one I know, and I distinctly remember seeing the video on MTV as a kid.  Of course, as a 7-year-old, I had a vague notion of who John Lennon was, but didn't really grasp his majesty until many years later.  Now, of course, when I see this video, all I see is John.  Julian looks like him and sounds like him -- and that's not meant to be a slight on Julian.  Sons tend to look and sound like their fathers.  Oddly enough, I think the song itself sounds more like a Paul song than a John song.

Rocktober Deep Cut K: "War Machine" by KISS

You knew "K" was going to feature a KISS song.  This was a tough decision, given the breadth of the KISS catalog.  I was going to go with "Rip It Out" off of Ace Frehley's solo KISS album (which might be my favorite KISS song).  But, even though it's technically a KISS song, going with a song off of any of the four solo albums didn't seem right because the full band didn't play on the respective solo albums.  

So, I decided to go with "War Machine" off of 1982's Creatures of the Night, the last album before KISS took off their make-up.  It's actually a pretty decent album, and I think it probably would have done better if it had been made by a band other than KISS (meaning that KISS was kind of falling out of favor in the early '80s, not that KISS did a bad job on the album).  Even though Frehley is pictured on the album cover, his replacement, Vinnie Vincent, did all of the guitar work on the album.  "War Machine" is one of the better early '80s KISS songs, which I realize isn't saying much (looking your way, Music From "The Elder").  It's a Gene song, with a guttural riff and gritty vocals.  That's about all I have to say about it.