Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Retro Video of the Week: "Rock and Roll Christmas" by George Thorogood & The Destroyers

This week's Retro Video of the Week is kind of a hidden holiday gem, "Rock and Roll Christmas" by George Thorogood & The Destroyers.  It's a great Christmas song, combining holiday cheer with references to some of the greatest rock and rollers of all-time.  The video is a classic '80s cheesy MTV jamboree.  It's kind of a live in-studio thing, with guest appearances by MTV VJs Martha Quinn, Adam Goodman, and Alan Hunter, who are dancing in the crowd (with the latter two both successfully making out with chicks under mistletoe), and what appears to be John Lee Hooker as Santa.  I didn't see Nina Blackwood or J.J. Jackson in the crowd, although that doesn't necessarily mean anything, other than that I can name and recognize the first five MTV VJs.  After doing some digging, it appears that this was made in 1983, which would seem about right given the haircuts and fashion.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Top Ten: Bands and Artists Who Deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Today, the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were announced.  The KISS Army and hard rock and metal fans (Eddie Trunk, undoubtedly included) are rejoicing, as KISS was finally inducted.  It was only about 15 years too late, but better late than never.  Gene Simmons was surprisingly grateful, and even said that he was very open to a reunion with the original line-up for the induction ceremony and concert.

Joining KISS will be Nirvana, Hall and Oates, Peter Gabriel, Linda Ronstadt, and Cat Stevens.  In addition, The E Street Band will be getting the Award for Musical Excellence, and Beatles manager Brian Epstein and original Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham (who managed the Stones from 1963-1967) will both be receiving the Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-performers (posthumously for Epstein, who died in 1967).

The induction ceremony is going to be at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn on April 10, 2014, and it is going to be the largest venue that has hosted an induction ceremony to date.  Sadly, it looks like Linda Ronstadt is not going to be able to make it or perform, due to her worsening battle with Parkinson's Disease.

Further proving that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters read GMYH, they voted in four of the six artists or groups that I argued back in October most deserved to be in (Hall and Oates, KISS, Nirvana, and Ronstadt).  Back in January 2012, I posted a list of the ten artists and bands who I thought most deserved to be in the Rock Hall, but were not -– which, for all intents and purposes, was written just to mention how ridiculous it was that KISS had not yet been inducted.  Several bands and artists on that list have since been inducted, and there have also been a couple more Hall-worthy bands and artists that have become eligible since then.  Given my clear influence over the rock and roll intelligentsia, I feel compelled to keep fighting the good fight.  With that, here is my list of the top ten Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubs, in alphabetical order, with the year of the band's first album in parentheses.  I have, for the most part, just copied and pasted what I have already said about them, so deal with that.

Other snubs (in alphabetical order): Boston, Jimmy Buffett, Cheap Trick, Joe Cocker, The Cure, The Doobie Brothers, Duran Duran, ELO, The Guess Who, Jethro Tull, Journey, LL Cool J, The Monkees, The Moody Blues, Motley Crue, Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne solo, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Steppenwolf, Styx, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Yes

1 and 2 (tie).  Pat Benatar (1979) and Joan Jett (1980)
I wouldn't feel right advocating one over the other, so I'm including both.  Both Benatar and Jett were pioneering female rockers.  That is, they were females that rocked (as opposed to played folk music or were singer-songwriters), and there is a noticeable shortage of rocking females in the Rock Hall.  Jett, of course, was a member of the all-girl rock group The Runaways in the '70s before having a successful career in the '80s fronting Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.  While she only had two platinum albums and 4 Top 40 studio albums, you can't deny the impact (and the balls) of songs like "I Love Rock and Roll" (a #1 hit in the US and several other countries), "Bad Reputation," and "I Hate Myself for Loving You."  All in all, she had 9 US Top 40 hits, 3 Top 10 hits, and one #1.  Benatar was more successful from a sales and charting perspective.  A mainstay of the early MTV era, she has 6 platinum albums, 9 Top 40 albums in the US, including 6 that hit #14 or better, three Top 5 albums, and one #1 (1981's precious time).  Between 1979 and 1988, she had a pretty solid run of singles, with 15 Top 40 hits in the US, including four that cracked the Top 10.  Songs like "Heartbreaker," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Love is a Battlefield," and "We Belong" were not only big hits, but also songs that have held up pretty well.  Both Benatar and Jett showed that hard rock was not just a boys' club, and they have certainly influenced female rockers over the past three decades.

3. Bon Jovi (1984)
Bon Jovi, like Def Leppard (see below), is lumped negatively into the hair band genre. Both were bigger than the genre, in my opinion. Bon Jovi has sold an estimated 142 million albums worldwide, and has managed to weather the '90s and beyond better than just about any other band that can be labeled a hair band. They have 10 platinum albums, 15 Top 40 albums, 11 Top 10 albums, and 4 #1 albums -- including Top 5 albums in the '80s, '90s, '00s, and '10s and a #1 album this year.  Their worst-charting studio album of their ten since 1985 went to #9.  They also have 17 Top 40 hits (8 of which were in 1992 or after), 10 Top 10 hits, and 4 #1s. When they come to Chicago, they play Soldier Field, which few other bands can do.

4. The Cars (1978)
The Cars get lumped into new wave and the '80s, but they were unique in that they had the new wave look and certainly used synthesizers, but also had more of a rock legitimacy to their music than a lot of new wave bands.  I would say that they are more critically acclaimed and accepted than a lot of other new wave bands.  "Just What I Needed" has held up better than most other songs that you might consider "new wave." The Cars released 7 studio albums (6 between 1978 and 1987 and one in 2011), and their lowest charting album still hit #26, with all but one of the remaining albums (their debut) breaking the Top 10. Between 1978 and 1987, they had 13 Top 40 hits and 4 Top 10 hits. You can hear (or at least I can hear) their influence in bands like The Strokes, Hockey, and Franz Ferdinand.

5. Chicago (1969)
Chicago is another one of those bands that is sneakily successful. The only American band with more success on the Billboard singles and albums charts is the Beach Boys. They have sold over 120 million albums worldwide, with 18 platinum albums, five #1 albums, three #1 songs, and 21 Top 10 songs. They were the leading US singles charting group during the 1970s. They released 12 albums in the '70s, five of which hit #1 and ten of which were in the Top 10. All but one of the 30 singles they released in the '70s charted on the Billboard Top 100, with 22 Top 40 hits, 13 Top 10 hits, and one #1.

6. Deep Purple (1968)
Deep Purple is one of the most underrated bands in rock history, in my opinion. The band was one of the pioneers of heavy metal, and a huge influence on the genre, be it Richie Blackmore's guitar, Ian Gillan's soaring vocals, or Jon Lord's fuzzed-out organ. They found success with various different line-ups, with 8 Top 40 studio albums in the US and 10 in the UK (and 22 total Top 40 albums in the UK including live albums and compilations). Songs like "Smoke on the Water," "Woman From Tokyo," "Hush," and "Highway Star" are hard rock staples.

7. Def Leppard (1980)
Def Leppard is one of my favorite bands, so I am admittedly a little biased, but then again, they deserve a spot in the Rock Hall. They are one of the most successful bands of the '80s, with both 1983's Pyromania and 1987's Hysteria being certified diamond albums by the RIAA, making them one of only five rock bands with two RIAA certified diamond albums (the others being The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Van Halen, all of whom are in the Rock Hall). Def Leppard has sold an estimated 65 million albums worldwide, and has 8 certified platinum albums, 6 Top 10 albums in the US (12 Top 20) and 7 in the UK, and 15 Top 40 hits in the US and 19 in the UK. Musically, they were much more complex than other bands from their genre, and unlike nearly every other band from the hair band era, Def Leppard has stayed together, continued to make music, and still tour successfully. Frankly, any band that can make a certified diamond album after its drummer loses an arm in a car accident deserves a nomination.

8 and 9 (tie). Iron Maiden (1980) and Judas Priest (1974)
Like Benatar and Jett, you can't in good conscience induct one without the other, so I am including both. They are two of the most influential bands in heavy metal history, hands down. Iron Maiden is a tour de force, with over 80 million albums sold worldwide and a rabidly loyal following across the globe, selling out stadiums and arenas for 30 years. They define the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Despite having virtually no airplay in the US, they have 8 gold or platinum albums, 13 Top 40 albums, and 2 Top 10 albums in the US. In the UK, they have 27 Top 40 albums, 14 Top 10 albums, 4 #1 albums, and 35 of the 41 songs they have released as singles have hit the UK Top 40, with 17 Top 10 hits and one #1. Judas Priest is the band that gave metal its black leather and pushed metal from the early sounds of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple towards the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, thrash, and hair bands. With their twin lead guitar attack and soaring vocals, Priest, like Maiden, achieved huge success with little airplay in the States. They have 11 Top 40 albums in the US. As with Iron Maiden, they achieved more success in their native UK, with 14 Top 40 albums, 2 Top 10 albums, and 5 Top 40 hits. There aren't too many hard rock or metal bands since these two came along that don't list them as major influences.

10. Steve Miller Band (1968)
The Steve Miller Band is one of those bands that you forget how successful they were, but if you turn on a classic rock radio station, you are almost guaranteed to hear one of their songs within a couple of hours, whether it's "The Joker," "Jet Airliner," "Jungle Love," "Take the Money and Run," "Rock'n Me," "Swingtown," "Abracadabra," or "Fly Like an Eagle." They had five platinum albums (out of six released) between 1973 and 1982 (four of which hit the Top 3 on Billboard's album charts). During that same span, they had 13 Top 100 hits, 9 Top 40 hits, 5 Top 10 hits, and 3 #1s. As a drunk chick once said, "Steve Miller is the soundtrack of my life."  I think that statement is probably true of a lot of people who grew up between the mid '70s and early '80s.

11.  N.W.A. (1988)
I really thought N.W.A. was going to be inducted this year, which was their first year of eligibility.  Like I've said before, I have no problem with rap and hip hop acts being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and N.W.A. is probably my favorite rap group ever. They represent everything that is "rock and roll," from their innovative and gritty music to their fuck-the-establishment (and the police) attitude to their dissolution due to members being prima donnas.  They changed rap and hip hop, ushered in gangsta rap, and produced two of the most important names in rap and hip hop history, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.  Frankly, I can't think of more than a handful of rap or hip hop acts that I would consider more important and worthy of Rock Hall induction than N.W.A. (and most of the others are already in the Hall).

Monday, December 16, 2013

BAM!: Brussels Day 2 (Sunday)

Prior BAM! posts:

When we arose on our second day in Brussels, the air was clean and the promise was great.  We were well-rested and hungry to see some quaint medieval European shit.  There seemed to be only one way to remedy our hunger:  Bruges.

We made our way to the train station, grabbed some breakfast, and hopped a train that would take us the 45-60 minutes to Bruges.  Most Americans are familiar, if at all, with Bruges as a result of the 2008 dark comedy In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two Irish hitmen who are hiding out in the gorgeous city of Bruges.  Throughout our time in Bruges, it was not uncommon to hear any of us, in our best (which is also our worst) Colin Ferrell/Pikey accent, exclaiming "iiinn Bruges!" out of sheer appreciation for how awesome the city ended up being.

From the train station in Bruges to the center of the city, it's probably a 20-minute walk through winding parks and pathways, across canals lined with trees, swans, and vomiting horse statues.  

If you're lazy, you can take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage through Bruges's cobblestone streets, admiring the medieval buildings that, for the most part, are uniformly set at about three stories.  Bruges has so much European kitsch you don't know what to do.  Thankfully someone –- or should I say something -- did.

Shortly after arriving in the main downtown area of Bruges, we ran into an anthropomorphic cone of pommes frites perched on a wall outside a storefront.  His name was Pieter.  

He could see that we were new to Bruges.  Only the six of us could hear him or see him move.  He spoke quickly and with an accent of unclear origins.  It wasn't quite French, it wasn't quite Dutch, and it wasn't quite angry goat, but it was somewhere in between. 

"Welcome to my home.  I am Pieter van Hooterfrite.  I have lived in Bruges my entire life.  If you listen to me and do everything I say without any deviation, you will have an unforgettable visit –-the kind of thing you will blog about.  If you do not do exactly as I say, you will leave this city with no memory of it, but a very painful foot fungus that will take months to alleviate.  It has been proven time and time again.  Heed my warning, dear travelers.  Do you accept?"

We nodded with nervous excitement.

"You have chosen wisely, Americans.  Before we get started, I must make a very important point.  You must take pictures of everything.  GMYH and Colleen, I'm talking primarily to you.  Daniel and Chandler, you should take some too.  Bonham and Gregerson, your fingers shall not touch a camera today, unless specifically asked by another in your group.  Don't test me on this one."

"How do you know our names?" I innocently asked.  Pieter hissed back, "I don't come to your job and slap the balls off your chin, so please do not interrupt me.  Capice?"

"Capice," we said in unison.  After that, none of us spoke a word until Pieter was finished.  We feverishly scribbled his rambling instructions, taking down as much as we could and committing the rest to memory.

"First, you will walk towards the central market.  On the way there, you will pass a museum suggesting that it contains an exhibition regarding Picasso in Bruges.  Take one picture of the advertisement and continue walking past it.  The museum is no more than a giant rape shed.  Do not tell this to any of the people waiting in line to get in.

Continue walking towards the central market until you get to the Belfort.  It is the tallest building around.  You can't miss it.  

You saps looks like the kind of people who watch movies.  The Belfort is the bell tower in the movie In Bruges from which Brendan Gleeson's character commits suicide.  It's all any Americans every really talk about when they see it.  Nevermind the fact that it's over 700 years old and has over 27 tonnes of bells.  No, all you Americans care about is the horrific, gory, depressing scene from a movie starring two Irishmen, you insignificunt piece of shit.  See what I did there?  I must make a confession.  I love the movie.  It has done nothing but bring much deserved attention to our wonderful town, even if people associate our most famous landmark with death.

But I digress.  You will climb to the top of the Belfort.  Wait in line.  Pay your admission fee.  Do not tell anyone that you spoke with me.  While climbing the Belfort, take as many pictures as you want.  Shit, I don't care.  It's your trip.  When you reach the top, however, you must take pictures of the landscape below from every side.  GMYH, take one panoramic and one only.  Be sure Bonham is in it.

Upon your return to the ground level, whether or not you are hungry, go to the closest pommes frites stand.  Chandler, order pommes frites with some sort of delicious gravy.  Colleen and Gregerson, you can share an order, and make sure to get both mayonnaise and ketchup.  GMYH, get mayonnaise and pickle sauce. 

Do not ask what "pickle sauce" is, and do not be alarmed by the amount of mayonnaise the vendor puts on your frites.  Just order as I tell you and eat your frites.  You will not be disappointed.  In fact, it is unlikely that you will ever be able to each what you call French fries without mayonnaise again.  Accept this fact.  Daniel and Bonham, you cannot order your own pommes frites, but you may each get one of those tiny little forks –- a red fork for Daniel and a green fork for Bonham -- and sample your fellow travelers' frites.  Don't hold back.

When you are finished eating, stroll around the market plaza.  Soak it in.  Take a panoramic picture of the market from the middle, and a nicely framed picture of the Belfort, and at least one picture of a bronze lion.

As soon as the third picture of a lion is taken, it is essential that you get a beer.  Go to the southeast corner of the Market, to Breidelstraat. 

You will pass a silver-painted devil standing on a drum, carrying a much smaller silver-painted devil.  He will beckon you.  Do not heed his siren calls.  GMYH, give him 50 cents Euro, back away, and take one picture of him.  This is all he needs from you.  Colleen, do not look at him.  In fact, turn your head in the opposite direction as you pass him.  If not, he will misinterpret your glances and things will get awkward.  We wouldn't want to get silver all over that blue jacket now, would we?

Go forty-two paces past the silver-painted devil, and turn right down an alley.  It will appear that nothing is down the alley, but you must enter it and go about twenty-five more paces, where you will reach De Garre.  This is the bar where you will have your first drink in Bruges.  

The bar itself is pretty small, and at first you will not think there is any room for your group.  First survey the room downstairs.  There will be no open tables.  Chandler, check upstairs.  There will be no open tables.  Gregerson, ask the bartender downstairs if you are allowed to drink without being seated.  He will say "no."  That's exactly what he's paid to say.  Be polite and patient.  He will come in handy later.  Make everyone downstairs think that you are considering leaving.  Step out of the bar and discuss openly whether you should move onto another location.  A table of middle-aged sloths sitting at a table downstairs will hear you.  Although they speak little English, they understand.  Return inside.  They will get up and leave, offering you their table. 

As soon as you sit, order a round of their house beer, called Garre.  Dear God, it will be some of the best you will ever have.  At 11% ABV, it goes down way too easily.  This little bar is the only place in the world where you can get it.  Over the next 90 minutes, you will each order at least three.  The bartender will serve them to you in Gulden Draak goblets, even though you are not drinking Gulden Draak.  Your drinks will come with cheese.

No more than 45 minutes after you arrive, a gaunt, bearded man will enter the bar and sit down at the table next to you.  GMYH, I want you to try to convince the others that this is Harry Dean Stanton, even though it is not.  Clandestinely take a picture of him.

After you have quenched your respective thirsts and gotten a little buzz on, pay your tab and exit the bar.  Go back out to Breidelstraat and take a right, towards the Burg.  There will be a copper-painted devil.  Go to him, Daniel.  Let him caress your shoulder.  He will grunt.  Do not be alarmed.  It is natural.

Then go the Burg immediately.  GMYH, take a picture of the Burg.  Bonham, look directly at him.

From there, wander around for 38 minutes, hugging the canals.  Walk through the antique market along that one canal whose name escapes me.  You'll know it when you see it.  Do not buy anything.

Gregerson and Colleen, it is at this point that you must leave Bruges.  Do not ask why, and do not hesitate.  A train will await you at the same station from which you arrived.  It will take you back to Brussels without incident.  Just know that it is nothing I have against you.  It simply has to be this way.

Daniel, GMYH, Bonham, and Chandler, do not cry for Gregerson and Colleen, for you will see them later tonight back in Brussels.  Salutations will be exchanged, and a warm and joyful night will be had.  Your work in Bruges, however, cannot be completed if they are still here.  If they do not leave on the 3:21 train, you will all be dead.  That is not a threat; it is a fact.

Daniel, Chandler, GMYH, and Bonham, go to Café Vlissinghe.  GMYH, it is in your guide book.  Chandler, it is in yours, as well. It is the oldest bar in Bruges.  On your way there, stop at a canal -– any canal.  Daniel, take a selfie.  GMYH, take a picture of Daniel taking a selfie.  Chandler, take a picture of GMYH taking a picture of Daniel taking a selfie, but under no circumstances are you to provide this picture to GMYH or Daniel. 

Also, find the blue door with the lion knocker and take a picture of it.

When you arrive at Café Vlissinghe, say nothing.  Go to the beer garden.  Order some olives, cured meats, cheese, and the tiniest onions they have, but only after you've ordered beers.  After a few beers, go to 't Brugs Beertje.  There was a fight scene in In Bruges filmed in this bar.  Several other tourists will make sure you know that.  Sit at the bar.  Pay no attention to the glass bear staring at you.  At both bars, take a picture of every fucking beer you order.  Each one will be better than the last, culminating in the Black Albert, a Belgian royal stout.  Take three pictures of it.

Once you have finished the Black Albert, you will have exactly enough time to walk back to the train station and catch the next train back to Brussels.  Once you are on the train, Chandler, get a window seat and fall asleep.  Daniel, as soon Chandler falls asleep, flash a peace sign.  Then move Chandler to the aisle seat, sit in his window seat and cover your head with your jacket.  After that, you will arrive in Brussels, and you will be on your own.  Hurry, my friends.  I have wasted enough of your time.  Oh, one more thing.  Do not speak French to anyone in this town."

We did exactly what Pieter said and enjoyed every damned minute of it.  Upon our return to Brussels, we freshened up, met up with Colleen and Gregerson, and then went to a restaurant named Chez Leon (after my as-yet-unborn first-born son), where I got the only staple of Belgian cuisine that I had not yet enjoyed:  mussels.  I got them in garlic butter, and I made quick work of them. 

All that eating made us thirsty, so we decided to head back to the Delirium Café.  After all, there were about 2,000 beers that each of us had not yet tried.  It was once again hopping, although a little less so than the night before.  

We were able to snag a table downstairs in the main part, next to Mephistopheles.

This time, we also had at our table a copy of their famed beer list.  Really, it's more of a beer book.  255 pages of malty and yeasty goodness. 

Among others, I went with The Trooper, Iron Maiden's beer, which was pretty good, although not as good as the many Belgian beers I had throughout the day and night.

The mood in the bar was electric.  A nearby table of Spaniards was there for a bachelor party, and they did not hesitate to start singing songs, which prompted others to do the same.  Feeling haughty, I started a "Seven Nation Army" chant.  The Spaniards picked it up, as did the rest of the bar.  It was the best chant I've ever started in Belgium, and a crowning moment on a great day.  After a few beers, we had a wheelbarrow race back to the hotel and went to sleep.

In the next installment of BAM!:  high-speed rail, Amsterdam, and advice on sex shows from a Scot.