Friday, July 21, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 7/24/17

1.  "My Michelle" by Guns N' Roses

2.  "My Generation" by Gorky Park

3.  "Bits And Pieces" by Nelson

4.  "Love Bites" by Def Leppard

5.  "Tell The World" by Ratt

6.  "Hole Hearted" by Extreme

7.  "Creepshow" by Skid Row

8.  "Runaround" by Van Halen

9.  "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" by AC/DC

10.  "Sweet Sister Mercy" by Lynch Mob

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Paradise City" by Guns N' Roses

Apologies for not posting a Tuesday Top Ten yesterday.  I was busy from 7 a.m. to midnight, which is always pleasant.  As an olive branch, I extend to you an article my friend Hess sent me, entitled "Remember That 2004 Episode of 'The O.C.' Where They Go to L.A. and Meet Paris Hilton? We Do."  I do, too, and the article is a fantastic recap of a great episode in what some would call the greatest teen drama ever made.  The layers of meta awareness in that episode are thick and plentiful.

Speaking of L.A., Friday marks an important anniversary -- 30 years since Guns N' Roses released their megahit debut album Appetite for Destruction.  I would argue that Appetite is the greatest debut album in rock history, and apparently consumers agree with me, since it is the best-selling debut album in music history, selling 18 million copies in the U.S. alone and about 30 million worldwide.

Appetite's importance cannot be understated.  It was raw, it was powerful, it was rock and fucking roll.  I remember buying the tape at Phar-Mor.  Somehow, my mom let me buy it, even though it had a "parental advisory" sticker on it and featured five skulls on a cross.  Maybe it was because the cross wasn't upside down.  Either way, it was allowance money well spent.  Hearing "It's So Easy" -- and it's "why don't you just fuck off!" -- for the first time was an eye opener for a prepubescent suburban lad, but I absolutely loved it.  And then, there was the artwork on the inner sleeve, showing what appears to be a flying robot dragon with knives for teeth about to exact revenge on a skeleton with a gun attached to his head who just raped a blindfolded woman.  I still don't quite understand what's going on there.

But I digress.  There is not a bad song on Appetite, and it spawned some of GNR's most beloved and well-known songs:  "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Welcome to the Jungle," "Paradise City," and "Nightrain," to name a few, not to mention "Mr. Brownstone," "It's So Easy," "My Michelle," and my personal favorite, "Rocket Queen."  I'm going with "Paradise City" because it's an awesome song and a classic "on the road" video.  The song became the band's third Top Ten hit in a row off of the album, clocking in at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 (following "Welcome to the Jungle" (#7) and "Sweet Child O' Mine" (#1)). And even squares recognize that iconic chorus. If you say "take me down to the Paradise City" and someone doesn't respond "where the grass is green and the girls are pretty," you have my permission to walk away, head to the nearest Sam Goody, purchase a copy of Appetite, and then return to your original location and provide said copy of Appetite to that person, making it imperative on him or her to listen to the album repeatedly until all songs are memorized. That will assure such a shameful occurrence never again happens.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 7/14/17

1.  "No One Like You" by Scorpions

2.  "Say Your Prayers" by BulletBoys

3.  "Hellion" (live) by W.A.S.P.

4.  "Cathedral" by Van Halen

5.  "Warheads" by Extreme

6.  "Waiting For Darkness" by Ozzy Osbourne

7.  "Gettin' Better" (live) by Tesla

8.  "If You Don't Like It" by Cinderella

9.  "Hiway Nights" by Great White

10.  "Love Is On The Way" by Saigon Kick

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Symphony of Destruction" by Megadeth

Twenty-five years ago this Friday, Megadeth released the Countdown to Extinction album, which ended up being the band's most successful studio album, going double platinum in the U.S. and getting all the way up to #2 on the Billboard album charts.  It is generally recognized as being in the upper echelon of thrash metal albums. This is particularly timely for me, as I will be seeing Megadeth this Friday at Chicago Open Air, where they will presumably (and hopefully) play "Symphony of Destruction," which was on Countdown to Extinction and is their only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (#71).  Like many of Dave Mustane's songs, "Symphony of Destruction" is has sociopolitical themes and kickass guitars.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: All 213 Beatles Songs Ranked

I don't have time to write my own Tuesday Top Ten this week, but thankfully my friend Chenandler Bong -- excuse me, Ms. Chenandler Bong -- sent me a link to a recent article on MSN/Vulture entitled "All 213 Beatles Songs Ranked, From Worst to Best."  It says it's written by Bill Wyman, but I'm not sure if that's the same Bill Wyman who was the bass player for the Rolling Stones for 30+ years.  As you may recall, back in 2010, Rolling Stone magazine issued its list of the top ten Beatles songs, which prompted me to provide my own list of my ten favorite Beatles songs.  

Here are Wyman's Top Ten:
10.  "Rain"
9.  "Eleanor Rigby"
8.  "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown")
7.  "Here, There, and Everywhere"
6.  "Dear Prudence"
5.  "Please Please Me"
4.  "She Loves You"
3.  "Penny Lane"
2.  "Strawberry Fields Forever"
1.  "A Day In the Life"

It's not a bad top ten, but music is quite subjective, and different Beatles songs resonate more with some than others.  You certainly can't fault the top two songs.  After that, I'd say his top ten is, well, not what I would have gone with.  "Dig A Pony" was tied for #4 on my list, and it came in at #209 on Wyman's list, so clearly I don't agree with everything in Wyman's list. The fact that "Revolution #9" isn't ranked #213 (and that Wyman thinks there are about 100 Beatles songs worse than that one) is a bit of a surprise.  Regardless, it's a really detailed and insightful list, even if I don't agree with all of the rankings.  It's a good read for any Beatles fan.

Saturday, July 08, 2017


Today, one of my oldest friends turns the big 3-9.  It wasn't always a guarantee that Dan would make it to this age.  Despite growing up in an idyllic middle/upper-middle class suburb, Dan's upbringing was different than the rest of ours.  Victorian houses, big side yards, and basketball hoops in the driveway surrounded Dan's family's plot of land on all sides, but his family decided to make use of the land, tearing down the large five bedroom house with a finished basement and putting up a small, three-room shack.  That gave them plenty of room to turn the yard into a turnip farm.

Despite being a partner at an AmLaw 50 law firm, deep down, Dan's dad was hurting.  Still reeling from the beatings he suffered at the hands of the Taylor Street Gang as a youngster on the South Side, he was upwardly mobile, but fiercely protective and prone to bouts of paranoia.  Ignoring the FBI's warnings, he would pirate movies, copying nearly every film in All-Star Video's catalog onto VHS -- sometimes three movies to a tape.  "That way, no one will ever know what movies I watch more than once," he would proudly say.  He would get eaten by a pack of wolves when Dan was 10, leaving Dan's mom to care for Dan and his two sisters, Penny and Kath, as well as their mentally disabled dalmatian, Sparky, who spent most of his days performing autofellatio.

Dan -- or Patches, as he preferred to be called -- was an earnest boy.  If you did something nice for him, you were bound to get a "thanky" in return.  Of course, he was subject to some ribbing at school, on account of his ragged clothes, the ax scar on his forehead, and his inability to correct pronounce "Detroit."  "DET-roit," he would say, the second syllable almost an afterthought.  He would also refer to having a bowel movement as "taking a bum."

Every morning before he went to school, he would tend the turnip field, picking up the dung left behind by Sparky, mashing it with his bare hands, and spreading it on the field.  Man, that dog shit a lot -- both in frequency and volume -- but that only helped fertilize the crops.

Dan's hard work on the turnip field helped lead Dan to success on the athletic field.  He became the starting tight end on the conference champion freshman B football team at our high school, earning him a full academic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, from which he graduated in four years with a 4.0 GPA and degrees in physical education, philosophy (with a concentration in nihilism), and physics.  Six years ago, he achieved every man's dream when he married a doctor.

On Thursday morning, I received a string of text messages from Dan, and I'd like to share them with you now (with some names changed):
So short version . . . .Dream last night was about our high school.  Last days of school.  After many weird things I ended up at Gail Stanwyk's [a girl we went to grade school through high school with, who is not a baker] bakery with many sorta girls from HS.  Anyhow after earlier in the dream I was extremely popular due to a song that I composed and sang and Gail was interested in me.  You appeared and were interested in Gail.She chose me (again extremely short version) after your attempts at resting your head on her back didn't succeed.  You left very upset.She needed to close up the shop before we were probably going to hook up so I went over to your mom's house to console you.Your mom let me in and told me you were upset.  So naturally you were on a Nordic Track and while upset you understood by telling me to "earn this" and to "get your fuckfest on this summer."I left very confident that I would.This was about 3% of the total dream.
You deserve every fuckfest you get this summer, in dreams and in real life.  Happy 39th, buddy.  This one's for you.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 7/7/17

1.  "Bark At The Moon" by Ozzy Osbourne

2.  "Wild In The Streets" by Bon Jovi

3.  "Too Young To Fall In Love" (demo) by Mötley Crüe 

4.  "Hell On Wheels" by Cinderella

5.  "Sometimes She Cries" by Warrant

6.  "Reach For Me" by Jackyl

7.  "One Way Ticket" by L.A. Guns

8.  "Ptolemy" by Blue Murder

9.  "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)" (live) by Tesla

10.  "Kick 'n' Fight" by Britny Fox

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Touch of Grey" by Grateful Dead

In a timely coincidence, given The Dead & Company's two-night stand at Wrigley Field this past weekend, thirty years ago tomorrow, the Grateful Dead released their twelfth studio album, In the Dark.  The album sparked a rejuvenation for the band.  They hadn't released a studio album since 1980, and In the Dark ended up going double platinum, getting up to #6 on the Billboard album charts -- the band's highest-charting album.  Much of the album's success is traced to the surprise hit "Touch of Grey."  The song didn't really sound like anything else on the radio in 1987, although it sounds very Dead-esque and could be on pretty much any of their other albums and fit in.

"Touch of Grey" is catchy as hell.  That memorable sing-along chorus -- "I will get by / I will survive" -- definitely captured the essence of how the flower-power Boomers must have felt as they entered their 40s in Reagan's America.  The song marched all the way up to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, which is still the Grateful Dead's only Top 40 hit.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Think I'm In Love" by Eddie Money

This was a tough week for Retro Video of the Week because there were more than a handful of pretty solid albums released this week 20, 25, 30, and 35 years ago, including Eddie Money's No Control (1982), Men Without Hats's Pop Goes the World (1987), the soundtrack to the movie Singles (1992), The Prodigy's The Fat of the Land (1997), Puffy Daddy's No Way Out (1997), and, of course, Cherry Poppin' Daddies' Zoot Suit Riot (1997).  There's a lot to choose from in there, but I'm going with the Money Man.

No Control was Eddie Money's fourth studio album, eventually going platinum.  It featured two songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 -- "Shakin'" (#63) and "Think I'm In Love" (#16), the latter of which was Money's fourth Top 40 hit in the U.S. and second-highest charting song to that point, behind 1978's "Baby Hold On" (#11).  "Think I'm In Love" is a great, catchy early '80s rock song, featured years later in the David Spade/Brittany Daniel vehicle Joe Dirt, which itself featured one of my favorite movie lines of all-time, uttered by Christopher Walken's character (Clem) to Kid Rock's character (Robby):  "Hey! You're talkin' to my guy all wrong.  It's the wrong tone.  Do it again, and I'll stab you in the face with a soldering iron."  Who has a soldering iron readily accessible anymore?!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Hold Steady Songs By Album

Father's Day weekend was a good one for me, as I got to go to three awesome shows in four days.  Oh, and I guess I also got to spend time with my lovely wife and children, without whom I wouldn't be a father, as far as I know.  That Thursday night, I saw The Hold Steady at Thalia Hall, followed by a night off, followed by another Hold Steady show at the Empty Bottle Saturday night, and capped off with a Metallica Father's Day show at Soldier Field.  All three concerts were fantastic in their own way, but I'm here today to talk about The Hold Steady.

One of my favorite bands of the last 15 years (and period) is The Hold Steady.  I've been a fan since the Separation Sunday days, and according to my stats, I've seen THS 14 times -- nearly twice as many times as the runner-up, Def Leppard (who, coincidentally, I saw live this past Saturday).  Hell, I've even paid money (for a good cause) to have the drummer, Bobby Drake, over to my house to change my oil

The band played three nights in a row in Chicago as part of a "Chicago Seemed Wired Last Night" weekend (a nod to a lyric in the band's song "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night").  The Thursday and Friday night shows were at Thalia Hall down in Pilsen.  As I mentioned, I went to the Thursday show.  I had never been to Thalia Hall, and I thought it was a pretty cool concert space (as most old theaters converted to concert halls tend to be). A couple superfans got engaged at the show.  Here's a picture -- not of the engagement, but of my general vantage point of the stage:
The Saturday night show was at The Empty Bottle, which is having a bunch of great bands play this year in celebration of the club's 25th anniversary.  If you've never been there, The Empty Bottle has a capacity of about 300 people, and it's a fantastically dingy rock club.  It's definitely the smallest venue in which I've ever seen The Hold Steady.  Because I'm in the fan club, I was able to score tickets in the presale, but apparently the show sold out in only a few minutes.  I was pretty damned excited about going, and the band didn't disappoint.  We were about five feet from the stage, on the side with keyboardist Franz Nicolay.  It was hot, and we were pounding Shiner Bocks and High Lifes to keep us hydrated.  During two of the songs, fans in the front row always throw confetti at a specific point in each song, and we were lucky enough to be part of the confetti mafia this time around.  Of course, we were so sweaty that when we threw the confetti in the air, half of it just stuck to our hands.  I was finding pieces of confetti on my body for the next day or two.
This concert was a top ten lifetime show, for sure, and maybe top five.  It was a show for the hardcore fans, and the band killed it.  By the end of the show, lead singer Craig Finn's bandmates had ripped the sleeves and the sides of his shirt right off.  During the last song, the band invited everyone up onto the very small stage.  It was a party and a hell of a fun time.  Here are a few more pictures and my video of Finn talking to the crowd during the intro of the last song ("Killer Parties"), right before everything got crazy, followed by someone else's video starting just about where mine left off, and finishing out "Killer Parties," showing you some confetti and the mess of people on stage. What a great show.

If you've never heard of The Hold Steady or if you've heard of them but never listened to their music, I highly recommend you check them out.  I suppose they would be described as indie rock, whatever the fuck that means, but I just consider them a rock and roll band.  I remember the first review of theirs that I read described them as being a band that you would like if you used to really be into AC/DC, but now you read a lot.  I've also seen them described as the best bar band in the world.  I'm not sure if either is totally accurate, but it paints a decent enough picture of what the band is all about.  Lead singer Craig Finn and guitarist Tad Kubler handle most of the songwriting, crafting intricate, amazing, Springsteen-esque stories about drugs, booze, strange characters, religion, Midwestern teenage life, growing up, and being past your prime.  I mean, who writes a concept album about the traveling partying exploits of a born-again hooker/addict named Hallelujah (her parents named her Holly), a pimp named Charlemagne, and a skinhead named Gideon?  The Hold Steady, that's who.

On top of that, they are one of the best live bands out there.  I've never seen them put on a bad show, and they always seem like they're having a good time.  When Craig Finn tells the crowd "there is so much joy in what we do up here" -- as he does at most shows -- you have to believe him.

But enough talking, let's get to the music.  I decided to pick my favorite song off of each of the six Hold Steady albums, along with another four wildcards.

Favorite song off of each album:
1.  "The Swish" (Almost Killed Me, 2004)
The first song off the band's debut album, Almost Killed Me, is called "Positive Jam," and it's kind of a plodding, Velvet Underground meets slam poetry meets grunge song with a '70s rock outro.  It makes sense if you hear it.  But that feeds into the second song on the album, "The Swish," which is a more of a straightforward rock song that would be a harbinger of things to come for the band.  It's a song with great guitars, a driving beat, and Finn's half-speaking, half-singing voice slinging random pop culture and geographic references set against a backdrop of drug abuse.

2.  "Banging Camp" (Separation Sunday, 2005)
The band's sophomore album, Separation Sunday, is the aforementioned concept album.  This was the first Hold Steady album I bought, and I was immediately taken aback by these strange, druggy stories about Catholicism.  It was also the first album where keyboardist Franz Nicolay was a full-time member of the band, and the piano and organ adds a fullness to the songs, really making the band sound like a demented, Midwestern modern version of the E Street Band.  Picking my favorite song off of this one was tough because there are several that are close to the top -- "Banging Camp," "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," and "How a Resurrection Really Feels."  Out of those, I'm going with "Banging Camp," just because I have to choose.  It's another great rocker, that sounds like if The Replacements played glam, produced by Phil Spector.  "I dig those awkward silences / 'Cause I grew up in denial / I went to school in Massachusetts."  I don't know why that line has always struck me as funny.

3.  "Massive Nights" (Boys and Girls in America, 2006)
This is my favorite Hold Steady song off of my favorite Hold Steady album.  With Boys and Girls in America, the band made an opus to the ups and downs of young love.  "Massive Nights" is about getting blasted and going to a school dance, with a groovy bassline, sneaky little organ snippets, and a raucous chorus that is meant to be sung at the top of one's lungs.  This is a great live song.

4.  "Constructive Summer" (Stay Positive, 2008)
Stay Positive is probably my second favorite Hold Steady album.  Top to bottom, it rocks.  And "Constructive Summer" kicks the album off on a great tone.  The song is a fast-paced rocker about drinking and building shit during the summer, probably. 

5.  "Hurricane J" (Heaven is Whenever, 2010)
Heaven Is Whenever was the first album the band made after Nicolay left the band.  I had expected it to be a little big harder, as a result, but it wasn't.  That's not to say it's a bad album, but I didn't like it as much as the previous albums.  "Hurricane J" is a song about a mess of a girl named Jessie.  As far as I know, it's not written about my wife, but I do enjoy referring to my wife, when drunk, as Hurricane Jessie.  I also like telling her, "You're a beautiful girl / And you're a pretty good waitress / Jessie, I don't think I'm the guy."

6.  "Spinners" (Teeth Dreams, 2014)
The band's most recent album, 2014's Teeth Dreams, was the first to feature second guitarist Steve Selvidge.  I like Teeth Dreams better than Heaven Is Whenever because it has more of an edge to it.  You can definitely tell the band was writing songs about darker themes about aging and being past your prime.  "Spinners" is an example, about a woman on the rebound who needs to get back out there in the big city, get drunk, and get laid -- but don't go overboard.

7.  "Killer Parties" (Almost Killed Me, 2004)
This is the last song on the band's first album, and it's usually the last song they play during live shows, turning it into an extended jam.  It's a Pixies-esque, slower, fuzzy song about, well, parties. This unofficial stop-motion animation video set to the song is also pretty nifty.

8.  "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" (Separation Sunday, 2005)
What a great song title.  It's another fascinating and rocking song off of Separation Sunday. I'm not sure why the sound is so soft on the video.

9.  "You Can Make Him Like You" (Boys and Girls in America, 2006)
A song about young love gone stale, with the hope that there are always other fish in the sea.  The first stanza is magnificent:  "You don't have to deal with the dealers / Let your boyfriend deal with the dealers / It only gets inconvenient / When you wanna get high alone." This is another unofficial video, which appears to have nothing to do with the actual song, but is nonetheless interesting.

10.  "Stuck Between Stations" (Boys and Girls in America, 2006)
This is the first song off of Boys and Girls in America, and the band often starts off shows with this one.  It's a clever, rollicking song.  I hate to make another Springsteen comparison, but this is Springsteen-esque in its sound, but uniquely Hold Steady in its lyrics.  "She was a really cool kisser / But she wasn't all that strict of a Christian / She was a damn good dancer / But she wasn't all that great of a girlfriend."  Things to think about when picking a mate, kids.

11.  "Ask Her For Her Adderall" (non-album track, 2008)
This is a bonus track on the Stay Positive album, and now it's a bonus track on this list.  I don't know why this didn't make the cut for the album, as it's a good, rocking song that would seem to have fit well on the album.  It's about a guy who's telling his friend what to tell his presumably ex-girlfriend or a hanger-on who wants to be his girlfriend.  "If she happens to suggest a love based on truth and respect / Tell her I've been wasted since last week."  That sums up most of my potentially serious college relationships, or lack thereof. This is another unofficial video, and it's also pretty good.