Friday, April 29, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 4/29/16

1.  "Get Your Shit Together" by Danger Danger

2.  "Ice Cream Man" by Van Halen

3.  "Used to Love Her" (live) by Gun N' Roses

4.  "Live Wire" by Mötley Crüe

5.  "Overture" by Def Leppard

6.  "Mr. Gone" by Mr. Big

7.  "Kid Ego" by Extreme

8.  "Midnight/Tornado" by Skid Row

9.  "Got Me On The Line" by Ratt

10.  "Shine On" by Britny Fox

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Retro Videos of the Week: "Manic Monday" by The Bangles and "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinéad O'Connor

Continuing the Prince love fest, this week, we're going to have two Retro Videos of the Week.  Both are songs Prince wrote, but that became hits for other artists.

When you hear "Manic Monday" by The Bangles, it sounds like a classic mid-'80s Prince pop hit.  Because it was.  Prince originally wrote the song in 1984 for the band Apollonia 6, but then pulled it from their album.  A couple years later, he offered it to The Bangles (allegedly in an attempt to bed Susanna Hoffs, which I have to assume was a worthy trade for both sides), under the pseudonym Christopher (his character's name from Under the Cherry Moon).  The Bangles took it, and it became their first hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986 -- starting a string of 8 consecutive Top 40 songs for the band in the U.S. -- and cracking the top five in several other countries.

Four years later, cue ball Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor covered another Prince song and basically made it her own.  "Nothing Compares 2 U" was originally written in 1985 as part of Prince's side project, The Family, but it was never released as a single.  O'Connor covered it five years later -- apparently without letting Prince know beforehand, which isn't unlawful or anything, but maybe just a common courtesy thing in the music industry.  From what I have read, Prince and O'Connor got in a fight about it.  But regardless, O'Connor's version became a huge hit, so Prince couldn't be too mad about it, given the songwriting royalties he reaped from its success. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in April and May 1990, and hitting #1 in 14 other countries.  And it's almost impossible to hear the song without getting a mental image of the now-classic video, with the close-up of O'Connor's pained face as she sings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Prince Songs and Album Covers

Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last
--Prince, "1999"

If you live outside Minneapolis, you may not have heard that Under the Cherry Moon star and director, Prince Rogers Nelson, died last week.  In addition to acting and directing, "Prince," as he was known, was one of the most successful musicians of all-time.

In a five-month period in which the music world has lost Lemmy, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, two founding members of Jefferson Airplane, Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, Pfife Dawg, Merle Haggard, and now Prince, I'd have to say that Prince is the biggest loss of them all (and that's certainly not meant to be a knock on any of the other musicians). 

Prince was an insanely talented musical wizard, who could play just about every instrument, which he did on most of his albums (on top of writing, arranging, and producing all the songs).  When you hear the phrase "guitar god," you don't necessarily think of Prince, but good Lord, he could shred with the best of them (see his solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" during the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction concert).  I think it's hard to categorize his music because it spanned genres, from pop to soul to funk to R&B to gospel to hard rock to new wave to jazz to disco, and many others –- and often with multiple genres fused together in the same song.

I'm not going to pretend that I was some gigantic Prince fan, or that I have a ton of his albums (after all, he did have 39 studio albums).  I have a handful of Prince's albums, and I like them all.  I will probably buy more, now that I've been listening to a lot of Prince lately.  Frankly, I don't know how it's possible to hate Prince, unless your name is Tipper Gore.  The man was a one-of-a-kind talent, and I'm sad I never got to see him live, since the clips that I have seen seem to indicate he put on a hell of a show.

In honor of the Purple One, I'm going to list my ten favorite Prince songs, followed by what I think are the ten best Prince album covers.  His album covers were often as interesting and diverse as his music, ranging from the avant garde to the funky to the just plain weird.

Here are my ten favorite Prince songs, in alphabetical order:

1.  "7"
This was a top 10 song in 1993, but I honestly have no recollection of hearing it until I was in college.

2.  "1999"
This song still feels as fresh now as it did when it was released.  What's crazy to think about is that, when the song came out in 1982, it was 17 years until 1999.  As a kid, that seemed like such a long time away, and perhaps because childhood seems like it lasts forever, it felt like it took a lot longer than 17 years to get to 1999.  Now, it's 2016 –- 17 years after 1999 –- and it felt like the last 17 years have flown by in comparison.  Such is life.

3.  "Bambi"
Unlike most of the songs on Prince's 1979 self-titled sophomore album (which are relatively soft and mellow), "Bambi" is a glammy hard rocker, showcasing Prince's guitar skills and showing the world that this little man from Minneapolis could rock.

4.  "Darling Nikki"
If it weren't for this song (or at least a Senator's daughter listening to it in front of her mother), we may not have "Parental Advisory" stickers on albums.

5.  "Let's Go Crazy"
This is probably my favorite Prince song.  It always puts me in a good mood.  And if you haven't seen the slowed-down bluesy version he performed at four in the morning during the SNL 40th Anniversary after-party, click here for a treat.

6.  "Little Red Corvette"
When I was a kid, I obviously didn't understand what 75% of Prince's lyrics meant.  For instance, I assumed "Little Red Corvette" was about a little red Corvette.  It never occurred to me that there are no little Corvettes.  Now that I'm older, things are slightly less muddy.  For instance, I now understand following stanza:  "I guess I must be dumb / 'Cause you had a pocket full of horses /Trojan and some of them used."  Turns out, it's not about having small wooden horses in one's pocket.  Not only is it a great song, but Chevy's full-page ad after Prince's death, inspired by the song, was pretty spectacular.

7.  "Purple Rain"
The title track to Prince's most successful album (complete with accompanying feature film!) is a heart-wrenching, soulful classic, with a wicked guitar solo.  And my buddy Daniel does a killer karaoke version of this.

8.  "Raspberry Beret"
If there has ever been a sweeter-sounding song about a drugstore clerk who bangs a strange chick wearing a French hat made of small fruit in a barn, I haven't heard it.

9.  "Sexy MF"
This song is pure James Brown funk.

10.  "When Doves Cry"
Just a great song.  I always wondered how Prince's parents felt about the lyrics describing them as "too bold" (father) and "never satisfied" (mother).

And now, here are my ten favorite Prince album covers.  Some are pieces of art, some are ridiculous, and some are hilarious.  These are in reverse chronological order because the last three are the best three.

10.  Art Official Age (2014)
If anyone can pull of the three-eyes-and-shiny-gold-suit-from-the-future look, it was Prince.  I also think he kind of looks like Tony Iommi on this album.

9.  LOtUSFLOW3R (2009)
This could be a Jimi Hendrix album cover, wrapped in an early '80s Journey album cover, wrapped in mid '70s Rainbow album cover.

8.  Trax from The NPG Music Club, Volume One: The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
Fantastic '70s vibe on this one.

7.  The Rainbow Children (2001)
This one has a very cool painting of four musicians that reminds me of New Orleans for some reason.  New Orleans makes me happy.

6.  Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)
Is that Prince or Sacha Baron Cohen?

5.  Lovesexy (1988)
There's not much you can say about this one, other than, well, it's Prince, naked, on a giant flower.  At least he has the modesty to cover his nipples

4.  Around the World in a Day (1985)
This one is a cool, psychedelic album cover, inspired by The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

3.  Purple Rain (1984)
One of the most iconic album covers of the '80s.

2.  Dirty Mind (1980)
At the dawn of Prince's decade, he needed to make a bold statement.  This is how Prince made a bold statement:  bandannas and thongs.

1.  Prince (1979)
This is just hilarious.  He looks like an exploited 16-year-old trying his damnedest to grow a mustache.
But then when you flip the album over to the back, you realize this is no boy.  No, no.  This is a man who owns and rides a fucking Pegasus.  Naked, of course.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Mini Hiatus

I would just like to let you all know that I am going to be in America's Wang next week, a portion of which will be spent stalking three-toed cats in Key West, so I won't be posting anything, other than maybe some Midwestern Eavesdropping if the opportunity presents itself.  I hate to leave you all empty-handed for a whole week, so I invite you to read every post on this blog from the very beginning.  Or, if you actually have things to do over the next week, but you want to waste 15-20 minutes, you can just read about the last time I was in Key West, ten years and one week ago.  Hopefully, I won't end up in the Truman Medical Center this time around.

Hair Band Friday - 4/15/16

1.  "How Can Yo Do What You Do" by Mr. Big

2.  "Miss You In a Heartbeat" (acoustic) by Def Leppard

3.  "What About Love" by Heart

4.  "Texas" by Junkyard

5.  "Sinner's Swing!" by Van Halen

6.  "Gettin' Better" by Tesla

7.  "Shotgun Blues" by Guns N' Roses

8.  "Talk To Your Daughter" by Bulletboys

9.  "Spiders" by Ozzy Osbourne

10.  "Tonight (We Need A Lover)" by Mötley Crüe

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Flashdance . . . What a Feeling" by Irene Cara

This morning, we happened to be listening to the radio during breakfast.  For some reason, Jester refuses to listen to grindcore in the morning, so she put the radio on a station that plays more variety from the '90s til now.  Despite the station's slogan, they also play songs from the '80s now and then.

This morning, they played the inimitable "Flashdance . . . What a Feeling" by Irene Cara. My two-year-old son, Son, is unable to hear any song without dancing or moving his body in some manner, so when this song came on, he threw his sippy cup of orange juice across the room, swiped his waffle off the table, and got out of this chair.  He then proceeded to gyrate to the song, and pump his fists in the air back and forth as if he had just learned that a Paw Patrol marathon was about to start on Nick, Jr.

I wish I had taken video of that, but I didn't, so you'll have to settle for the actual music video to "Flashdance . . . What a Feeling," which was the de facto theme song from the 1983 Jennifer Beals-Michael Nouri vehicle Flashdance.  Flashdance, of course, was the story of a typical Pittsburgh young woman in the early '80s.  Her name was Alex, but it may as well have been any other female name because you've heard the same story a thousand times.  By day, she works as a welder in a steel mill.  At night, she pursues her dream of becoming a dancer by performing in a cabaret and dousing herself with buckets of water.  Despite having no formal training in dance, with the help of her boss at the steel mill, she manages to get an audition with the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory.  I don't want to spoil what happens next, so you'll just have to watch the movie to find out how things end up for Alex. Spoiler alert: she makes it in!

"Flashdance . . . What a Feeling" was Cara's only #1 hit, and it was a pretty huge song.  Not only did it top the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks in a row in 1983, but it also hit #1 in ten other countries, was in the top 5 in four other countries, and was in the top 25 in three other countries.  It won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.  It was even ranked as the #26 song on Billboards All Time Top 100.  Enjoy.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Guns N' Roses Songs

I'm posting this a little bit early (for those of you west of the Eastern time zone anyway) because I have a lot of shit to do tomorrow. Just so we're clear, I will not be having sex with feces tomorrow. "Shit," in that context, is a synonym for "things," and "do" can be read in its common usage, rather than as a slang term for "bang," "pork," or "give the pickle tickle."

As you may have heard, Guns N' Roses is embarking on a stadium tour this summer.  Axl, Slash, Duff, and Dizzy Reed have gotten together for the first time in 20+ years (and maybe some other GNR members may join in on the fun).  Having never seen GNR back in the day, I have dreamed about this moment since I was in high school.  They are coming to Soldier Field on July 1, and I may have gone a little overboard and bought a VIP package that includes front row seats.  Needless to say, I'm more excited for this concert than I have been for any other concert I can remember.  Now please, Axl, be cool.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I am bestowing on you my ten favorite Guns N' Roses songs.  As you can tell, Appetite for Destruction is one of my favorite albums ever.

10.  "Paradise City" (Appetite for Destruction)
This is a classic. That unmistakable opening riff and drum beat always puts me in a happy place. "Paradise City" is essentially two songs. The verses are fast and rough and often unintelligible, but that chorus is one of the greatest sing-along choruses in rock history. And then the last part of the song is in double time, turning into a debauched jam, and everyone gets laid. Because that, my friends, is what happens in Paradise City.

9.  "Get in the Ring" (Use Your Illusion II)
If there was one thing about Axl Rose that a lot of people realized pretty quickly, it was that you should not piss him off.  From showing up late for shows or throwing beer bottles at fans, he was mercurial.  "Get in the Ring" is his "fuck you" to all the haters.  Apparently Axl did not like the way that certain metal magazines were "rippin' off the kids," so he did what any self-respecting musician would do: challenged them all to a fight. Most prominently, he posited that Bob Guccione, Jr. of Spin (son of Penthouse founder Bob Guccione, Sr.) is "pissed off 'cause [his] dad gets more pussy than [him]." Axl then invites Guccione to fuck him and suck his fuckin' dick. Interestingly, Guccione accepted Axl's invitation, although the two never actually fought, which is unfortunate because I would have liked to see Axl kick Guccione's bitchy little ass.

8.  "November Rain" (Use Your Illusion I)
The last epic of the hair band era, "November Rain" is one of those songs that I just can't turn off whenever it comes on the radio or my iPod.  It's GNR's "Stairway to Heaven."  It starts slow and orchestral, and then builds and builds and builds until Slash is just fucking wailing out a solo as Stephanie Seymour's body is laid to rest.  And on that note, let's not forget how amazing the video was.

7.  "Nightrain" (Appetite for Destruction)
When I was a kid, I thought this song was about the band's journey on a very fast train.  As it turns out, it's about a cheap wine that was one of the only things the band could afford to drink before they made it big.  One of the highlights of my adult life is drinking Night Train while listening to "Nightrain."

6.  "Yesterdays" (Use Your Illusion II)
One of the more sentimental songs in the GNR catalog, "Yesterdays" is about not looking back ("yesterday's got nothing for me").  Axl belts out the song, and you can understand why he's so adamant about forgetting his past.  After all, he did grow up in Lafayette, Indiana.  The stench from nearby West Lafayette must have been unbearable.

5.  "Nice Boys" (G N' R Lies)
This one is off of the "live" side of Lies, and it's a cover of Australian hard rockers Rose Tattoo.  (By the way, Axl Rose has a rose tattoo.)  The song is all energy, culminating with the all-too-perfect chorus of "nice boys don't play rock and roll."

4.  "My Michelle" (Appetite for Destruction)
As you can imagine, as a ten-year-old, hearing the first line of this song was eye opening.  "Your daddy works in porno / Now that mommy's not around / She used to love her heroin / But now she's underground." I mean, holy shit.  Does it get more real than that?  Interestingly, "My Michelle" is based on a woman named Michelle Young that the band used to hang out with. Axl originally wrote it as a romantic song, but then decided to be honest about Michelle's life and completely changed the song into the dark and raunchy song it became.

3.  "Mr. Brownstone" (Appetite for Destruction)
I used to think this was just about some dude who was lazy who had a mean landlord named Mr. Brownstone. It turns out it's about two dudes who were lazy who had a mean heroin habit. Either way, it's a badass song, and I think it is the perfect embodiment of GNR.  It rocks, it's catchy, and it's about hard drugs. And even if it's about becoming a heroin addict, the song does have some of the best advice you can get: "I don't worry about nothing because worryin's a waste of my time.

2.  "Used to Love Her" (G N' R Lies)
"Used to Love Her" is on the acoustic side of Lies, and it's a tongue-in-cheek, good time song about a guy who killed his woman and buried her in his back yard.  Because she. Would. Not. Shut. Up.  We've all been there. I've always liked this song, not only because I think it's funny and catchy, but also because it reminds me a lot of the Beach Boys' version of "Barbara Ann," where it sounds like there's just a group of guys sitting around a room, jamming, and having a good time. Of course, in lieu of playing "Al's famous ashtray," the guys from GNR were probably playing a coke mirror, but I don't think we should judge.

1.  "Rocket Queen" (Appetite for Destruction)
"Rocket Queen" was, is, and will always be my favorite Guns N' Roses song.  As the last song off of Appetite, it's a suitable ending to the greatest selling debut album of all-time.  The song is apparently about a chick the band knew in LA, Barbi Von Greif, who wanted to form a band called Rocket Queen, and it's kind of an ode to her.  What a perfect name for female '80s Sunset Strip scenester, by the way.

There are two distinct parts to the song.  The first part starts off with a bang, as Steven Adler drives the song with a relentless drum beat, followed by Duff's driving bass line.  Then you get that raunchy riff from Slash that repeats throughout the first part of the song, before Axl breaks in and does what Axl does.  I have always loved the first lines of the chorus:  "Here I am, and you're a rocket queen / I might be a little young, but honey, I ain't naïve."  As a 10-year-old, I could relate –- not to the part about the rocket queen, but about being young, but not naïve, honey.  Then again, I'm pretty sure Appetite for Destruction was the sole reason I was no longer naïve when I was 10 years old.

During the break, right around the 2:20 mark to the 3-minute mark, you can hear a woman moaning, which is, in fact, the sound of Steven Adler's girlfriend at the time, Adriana Smith, copulating (or pretending to copulate) while getting banged in the studio.  The only problem was that it was Axl Rose, and not Steven Adler, who was banging her.  Needless to say, things between Adler and Smith kind of deteriorated after that.  Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that things between Adler and everything deteriorated after that.

Then, around the 3:25 mark, the song kicks into the second part, which is essentially a different song, but the parts flow together quite well.  The second part is a relatively touching message of hope and friendship from Axl, who explains that he'll be there for this chick whenever she needs him.  "If you need a shoulder / Or if you need a friend / I'll be here standing / Until the bitter end" has to be one of the genuinely nicest and supportive lines in the Guns N' Roses catalog.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Random fortysomething European woman: "You can never be to old to laugh about farts."
Eavesdropper: RDC

Hair Band Friday - 4/8/16

1.  "Keep Your Eye on the Money" (demo) by Mötley Crüe

2.  "Rest In Peace" by Extreme

3.  "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" by Bon Jovi

4.  "Best of Friends" by Dangerous Toys

5.  "You're In Trouble" by Ratt

6.  "I Still Think About You" by Danger Danger

7.  "18 and Life" by Skid Row

8.  "I Love Rock & Roll" by Joan Jett

9.  "Shake & Tumble" by FireHouse

10.  "Don't Damn Me" by Guns n' Roses

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "The Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden

Last night, I saw Iron Maiden at the United Center.  Those guys are still amazing. The stage show and backdrops (and Eddie) are  Musically, they have not lost a step.  All three guitarists still kill it.  Nicko McBrain effortlessly plays about 150 drums.  Steve Harris is still the best bassist in the world, and I'm pretty sure he hasn't aged in 35 years.  Bruce Dickinson can still hit every note he did thirty years ago.  I'm hard-pressed to think of anyone else 57 years old (or older, or probably younger) who has a more powerful voice.  And he flies a 747!  

In honor of Maiden, I'm going with the title track to their 1982 album, The Number of the Beast.  The song "The Number of the Beast" is a classic metal anthem, with Dickinson giving us one of the best wails in music history at the end of the introductory verse.  In true Maiden fashion, combining influences from pop culture and classic literature, the song was inspired by both the movie Damien: Omen II and a poem by Robert Burns.  And, of course, the song -- with its references to Satan and 666 -- was a target for religious groups, who accused the band of being Satanists (and, in doing so, helped drive record sales higher).