Friday, January 29, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 1/29/16

1.  "You Can't Kill Rock And Roll" by Ozzy Osbourne

2.  "City Boy Blues" by Mötley Crüe 

3.  "Dirty Girl" by Y&T

4.  "The Way It Is" (live) by Tesla

5.  "Unchained" by Van Halen

6.  "Oughta Be a Law" by FireHouse

7.  "Givin' the Dog a Bone" by AC/DC

8.  "Mr. Big" by Mr. Big

9.  "Rock of Ages" by Def Leppard

10.  "Peace In Our Time" by Gorky Park

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Rico Suave" by Gerardo

My apologies for not posting a Tuesday Top Ten yesterday.  As I do every January 26, I spent the entire day contacting all living members of the 1985 Chicago Bears roster and coaching staff to wish each a happy Super Bowl XX anniversary.  That Henry Waechter still has a few choice things to say about Steve Grogan!

Anywho, this Friday is the 25th anniversary of the release of Ecuadorian-American wunderkind Gerardo's seminal debut album, Mo' Ritmo.  Of course, the biggest song off of the album (and the biggest Gerardo song, period) was "Rico Suave," an adventure in Spanglish that, if you can believe it, was Interscope Records's first release.  The song was a huge success, reaching #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks charts.  

The video is a nice little piece of early '90s nostalgia.  Gerardo wears a bandanna, an earring in his left ear (to indicate that he wasn't gay, presumably), a leather jacket without a shirt on underneath (to indicate that, even if he wasn't gay, he wanted the gay market's attention, presumably).  Scantily clad girls abound.  The apparently middle-aged male back-up dancers' mullets are, quite simply, fantastic.  Despite Gerardo's declaration early in the song that his "only addiction has to do with the female species," resulting in him "eat[ing] 'em raw like sushi," it appears later in the video that he has a somewhat steady girlfriend, who is white and wants Gerardo to meet her parents, who just can't believe this no-shirt-wearing cholo is dating their daughter (although the father appears to be Hispanic).  He then proceeds to make fun of the father's double chin, insult the mother's cooking, and explain to them in so many words that he will be banging their daughter tonight.  Rico suave, indeed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Waitress to customers:  "I'm a sassy red head, not a fluffer."
--Key West, FL
Eavesdropper: Joey Baits

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 1/22/16

1.  "Stop the World" by Extreme

2.  "Red Hot" by Mötley Crüe 

3.  "Street Fighting Man" by Lynch Mob

4.  "Night Songs" by Cinderella

5.  "So Tired" by Ozzy Osbourne

6.  "Mad About You" by Slaughter

7.  "Bed of Roses" by Warrant

8.  "Poison" by Alice Cooper

9.  "It's So Easy" (live) by Guns N' Roses

10.  "Now" by The Scorpions

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Book: The Dog by Joseph O'Neill

About a fortnight ago, I finished reading Destiny of the Republic:  A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.  It's about the assassination of President James Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881, and died only about six months after being inaugurated.  It was a really interesting and easy-to-read book about a president about whom most people know very little.  It turns out, he wasn't even interested in running for president when he was nominated, but he reluctantly accepted the Republican nomination in 1880.  This was back when the Republicans were the more progressive party, and Garfield was a champion of racial equality and seen as someone who could help heal some of the wounds of the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Then, some sociopath named Charles Giteau came to the conclusion that God wanted him to murder Garfield, so he shot Garfield a couple times in July 1881.  Back then, American doctors had not yet accepted the concept of sterilization, so thanks to Garfield's doctors' probing of Garfield's wounds, Garfield developed various infected abscesses that ended up spelling his ultimate demise a couple months after he was shot.  And even Alexander Graham Bell got in on the fun, inventing a metal detector to help determine where the bullet inside Garfield was located -- a predecessor to the x-ray.  Had Garfield been shot 10-20 years later, he probably would have been recovered within a few weeks.  Sadly, even people at the time predicted that Garfield would be largely forgotten, despite his incredible popularity, due to his short time in office.

I have since started reading The Dog by Joseph O'Neill, which is another one recommended to me.  It's a first-person narrative novel about a New York lawyer who randomly runs into a friend from college, who ends up offering the lawyer a job as kind of a trustee for the college friend's extremely wealthy family in Dubai.  So, he moves to Dubai, and oddness ensues.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" by Janet Jackson

Sometimes, Janet Jackson's accomplishments get overshadowed by her older brother. But as far as I know, Michael never played Charlene on Diff'rent Strokes, and on top of that, little sis had some musical feats that not even Michael (or anyone else) has matched. Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the day that Janet Jackson's "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Janet's fifth #1 of her career (she now has ten).

With this accomplishment, Jackson's seminal 1989 album, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, became the first (and still only) album to have seven songs that cracked the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 -- "Miss You Much" (#1), "Rhythm Nation" (#2), "Escapade" (#1), "Alright" (#4), "Come Back to Me" (#2), "Black Cat" (#1), and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" (#1) -- and the first (and still only) album to have #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 in three consecutive years ("Miss You Much" in 1989, and "Escapade" and "Black Cat" in 1990 being the others).  Not too shabby.

I remember this video because, in contrast to the done-up, dance-routine-heavy, big productions that she often had in her videos, this one was pretty simple, just showing Janet looking naturally great in a crop top and jeans, dancing with a couple dudes in the dessert or possibly a salt flat.  The video won Best Female Video at the 1991 MTV VMAs, and it has since graced various lists of the Top 100 videos ever.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Concerts of 2015

After 2014's relatively sparse concert attendance (only 12 shows, which is an even, if not pathetic, monthly average), I roared back in 2015 with 23 shows (and I even took January and November off!).  2015 was a really good concert year.  It started off strong with Billy Idol, and ended even stronger with Diarrhea Planet and JEFF The Brotherhood.  In between, I saw the likes of Paul McCartney, The Who, Metallica, Gregg Allman, Slash, Neil Diamond, The Replacements, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, AC/DC, and The Darkness, among others.

2016 is looking bright, as well.  Tickets have already been purchased for Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Gary Clark, Jr., and Wolfmother, with Weezer, Cheap Trick/Heart/Joan Jett, and some others recently announcing tours.  (Unfortunately, I was unable to procure tickets for Bruce Springsteen's show tonight at the United Center.)  Of course, I am cautiously optimistic about the purported Guns N' Roses reunion.  I would lose my shit (figuratively, hopefully) if I saw them.

Anyway, here are my top ten concerts of 2015 (not including the shows I saw at Lollapalooza, which I separately ranked here).

Other shows attended (in chronological order)
-Communist Daughter, American Grizzly, and Black Oil Brothers - February 19 - Martyr's
-Tin Lynott - March 14  - Martyr's
-Gregg Allman - March 20 - House of Blues
-Neil Diamond - April 14 - United Center
-The Replacements and The Smoking Popes - April 30 - The Riv
-Fort Frances - May 9 - Lincoln Hall
-JEFF The Brotherhood and Flesh Panthers - June 17 - Double Door
-Weezer and Saint Motel - July 8 - Petrillo Music Shell
-Rusted Root - July 18 - Sheffield Garden Walk
-Freddy Jones Band - July 25 - Taste of Lincoln Avenue
-Craig Finn and Esme Patterson - October 22 - Old Town School of Folk Music
-Black Pistol Fire and The Erers - December 2 - Lincoln Hall

10.  The Who and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - May 14 - Allstate Arena
I saw The Who a couple years ago when they played the Quadrophenia album in its entirety, and I thought that show was just okay, probably because that's not one of my favorite Who albums.  On the bright side, Vintage Trouble opened up for The Who that time around, so I can thank The Who for helping me discover Vintage Trouble.  This time around, they brought Joan Jett & The Blackhearts as their open, and Jett and the gang were awesome.  The Who played a wider range of songs, as I had hoped they would, and the band sounded great on their 50th anniversary tour.  And the guest appearance by Eddie Vedder was a nice touch.

9.  Ghost and Purson - October 3 - The Riv
Ghost has gotten better each time I've seen them.  With new singer Papa Emeritus III, the band was on their A game when we saw them at The Riv.  Seeing them a few weeks before Halloween was particularly cool.  The theatrics, combined with the great music and witty Swedish banter with the crowd, makes for a great show.

8.  Foo Fighters, Cheap Trick, Naked Raygun, and Urge Overkill - August 29 - Wrigley Field
This was one of the longest non-festival shows I've attended, as it started at 5 p.m. and went until about 11.  We walked in to "Sister Havana," watched Chicago's Naked Raygun plow through their set (kitty corner from the Cubby Bear, where Dave Grohl saw them play when he attended his first ever concert), rocked throughout Cheap Trick's wonderful power pop, and then enjoyed almost two hours of Foo Fighters, with Grohl sitting in his throne of guitars, still recovering from a broken leg.  Foo Fighters are, in my opinion, the best hard rock band of the last 20 years, and even with Grohl in a seat, they managed to rock the shit out of Wrigley.

7.  Billy Idol and Broncho - February 7 - The Riv
I saw part of Billy Idol's set at the first Lollapalooza at Grant Park back in 2005, and I have wanted to see him live since then.  He didn't disappoint, playing a great set with a lot of energy.  His guitarist, Steve Stevens, is one of those underrated guitarists for hire that can absolutely shred.  And Idol looked and sounded great.  We can all only hope to be able to dance around on stage at age 59 with a six pack.  Well, I plan to dance around on stage at age 59 with a six pack, but it will probably be some imperial porter, and I'll probably be quickly arrested.

6.  Royal Blood and Mini Mansions - June 3 - The Metro
How hard can a duo consisting only of a bass player and a drummer rock?  Very, as it turns out.  Royal Blood is just that:  two dudes.  Like many fantastic duos before them, they get a whole hell of a lot of sound out of two people, but what makes them unique is that lead singer Mike Kerr doesn't play a guitar, but rather a bass.  That said, he often plays the bass like a guitar, and he gets some pretty amazing sound out of it.  With soaring vocals and some Sabbath-esque riffs and drumming, I'd describe their music as garage metal, although they hit other genres as well.  I'll always have a fond place in my heart for this show because Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was going on during the show, and in between songs, everyone was checking their phones for the score.  The band must have been very confused when people started randomly cheering louder after a Hawks goal.

5.  The Darkness - October 20 - House of Blues
The Darkness is one of my favorite live bands.  They play their balls off every night, and I will see them every time they come to Chicago.  We were able to mosey up to pretty close to the stage, which turned out to be fortuitously fortunate because one of my friends caught a drumstick, and I caught a pick from none other than the hand of Sir Justin Hawkins himself -- a concert-going first for me.

4.  Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators and Fozzy - May 18 - Concord Hall
I am a huge GNR fan, and until this year (keeping my finger crossed they come to Chicago), I had never seen any of the band members live.  Slash is one of my favorite guitarists, so seeing him in a relatively small venue was a no-brainer.  He was awesome.  And when I say that, I mean that he inspired awe in me.  My buddy and I positioned ourselves pretty close to the side of the stage where Slash was stationed, and I spent most of the concert staring at his fingers, as he hammered out some of my favorite songs.  And don't discount Myles Kennedy, either.  He can hit the same notes Axl can, and he is a formidable force on stage.  A nice bonus was the opener, Fozzy, which is a hard rock and metal band fronted by WWE superstar Chris Jericho, who himself can hit some high notes.

3.  AC/DC and Vintage Trouble - September 15 - Wrigley Field
I have been waiting a long time to see AC/DC.  Last time they came through town (which I want to say was 2008 or 2009), they were playing out at Allstate Arena and charging too much for the pleasure of driving to and from Rosemont, so I didn't go to the show.  This time, they were playing at Wrigley Field, and my friends and I were able to get general admission field tickets when they went on sale, and the show was phenomenal.  We had a great view of the stage, and the band kicked as much ass as I had hoped they would.  The stage presentation was top notch, too, from the video screens to the giant hell's bell to the cannons for "For Those About To Rock" to a giant inflatable Rosie.

1 (tie).  Diarrhea Planet, Left & Right, and Wax TV - March 27 - Lincoln Hall
1 (tie).  Diarrhea Planet and JEFF The Brotherhood - December 30 - Lincoln Hall
On a night when Bruce Springsteen is currently playing in my city, to paraphrase Jon Landau's description of The Boss upon first seeing him in May 1974, I have seen the future of rock and roll, and its name is Diarrhea Planet.  With four -- yes, four -- guitars, Diarrhea Planet plays with the energy of punk and the technical proficiency and guitar solos of metal.  They are like a combination of Weezer, Van Halen, Thin Lizzy, and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.  It's frantic and energetic, and the show is a lot of fun to watch, even if you don't know the songs, because the guys in the band look like they're having a blast on stage.  I have some video of the March show, but unfortunately, the sound on my phone was not so good, but check them our on YouTube.  With a name like Diarrhea Planet and song titles like "Ghost With a Boner," I'm not expecting these guys to play stadium tours anytime soon, but that works out well for fans because we get the chance to see them in smaller venues.  If they come to your town, see them.  You won't be disappointed.  Hell, I loved their show so much in March that I went to see them again in December at the same venue, and they were even better the second time around, which I didn't think was possible.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 1/15/16

1.  "Bitter Pill" by Mötley Crüe 

2.  "I Did It For Love" by Night Ranger

3.  "Cry Tough" by Poison

4.  "Gettin' Better" (live) by Tesla

5.  "Mystery" by Dio

6.  "Big Love" by Mr. Big

7.  "Gypsy (Black-N-Blue Valentine)" by Dangerous Toys

8.  "Falling In and Out of Love" by Lita Ford

9.  "Personal Property" by Def Leppard

10.  "Warheads" by Extreme

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Ashes to Ashes" by David Bowie

In honor of David Bowie's recent return to the mothership, a Bowie video seems appropriate.  I went with "Ashes to Ashes" because it's super weird, and the title is timely.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: David Bowie Songs

"Time May Change Me" by artist Helen Green
I had planned on using this Tuesday Top Ten for my annual ranking of my concerts from the previous year, but that will have to be postponed for another week.  Yesterday morning, I was taking Daughter and Lollipop to school.  We were listening to XRT, and "Heroes" by David Bowie was on.  I didn't think it was odd because XRT plays a decent amount of David Bowie, and Bowie's 69th birthday was this past Friday.  After the song was over, the normally soothing voice of Lin Brehmer revealed that Bowie had died the night before from cancer.  I yelled, "What?!"  My girls asked what I was yelling about, and I told them that David Bowie died.  They took it surprisingly well.

Bowie was rock's chameleon, reinventing himself, his look, and his sound so many times throughout his career -- and doing it successfully each time.  On top of that, he was always cool.  He always seemed like a guy you'd want to know because anyone who wrote those songs had to have an interesting perspective on life.  The first Bowie song I really remember hearing was "Space Oddity," and I thought it was fascinating and terrifying all at once.  I mean, what happened to Major Tom?!  At some point in junior high, I obtained my first Bowie tape, the excellent greatest hits compilation ChangesBowie, which I undoubtedly purchased from Columbia House for one-twelfth of a penny.  ChangesBowie became a staple in my Walkman and, later, it was one of the 15-20 tapes I kept at all times in a shoebox in my car.  Blaring "Ziggy Stardust" with the windows rolled down has never seemed improper.

Depending on your age or how/when you discovered Bowie, I imagine that there are a lot of Bowie fans whose fandom is very different from other fans.  He means different things to different people.  At once, he was the voice of the mods, Ziggy Stardust, the voice of glam, an open bisexual, the Thin White Duke, and the voice for disaffected '80s teens spending their Saturday morning in detention.  His influence is as diverse as his music.  From punk to art rock to alt rock to glam metal to hard rock to grunge to new wave to '80s pop to goth to industrial to hip hop, bands and artists cite Bowie as an influence, be it his music, fashion, attitude, or some combination of all three.

Below are my ten favorite Bowie songs, with the album and year in parentheses following each song.  As you can see, I personally prefer his early '70s era, although I enjoy songs from nearly every Bowie era.  If you don't have The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, you are doing yourself a disservice.  That album is unquestionably one of the best in rock history.

Honorable Mention:  "Space Oddity" (Space Oddity, 1969), "Changes" (Hunky Dory, 1971), "Oh! You Pretty Things" (Hunky Dory, 1971), "The Man Who Sold The World" (The Man Who Sold The World, 1970), "Starman" (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, 1972), "Suffragette City" (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, 1972), "Cracked Actor" (Aladdin Sane, 1973), "Drive-In Saturday" (Aladdin Sane, 1973), "Panic in Detroit" (Aladdin Sane, 1973), "Young Americans" (Young Americans, 1975), "'Heroes'" (Heroes, 1977), "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (with Bing Crosby, 1982)

10.  "Jean Genie" (Aladdin Sane, 1973)
For me, this is one of the quintessential '70s glam songs.  It has that glammy snarl, with crunchy guitars, hooks, hand claps, and lyrics about sex.  What else could you ask for in 1973?  No, seriously, let me know.  I wasn't born yet, so I am unfamiliar with the wants of persons alive in 1973.

9.  "She Shook Me Cold" (The Man Who Sold The World, 1970)
This song is straight doom metal.  If the voice behind this was Ozzy Osbourne instead of David Bowie, it would fit on any of Black Sabbath's first six albums. Sure, the boys in Sabbath might not have worn a full-length satin woman's dress and splayed out on chaise lounge on the cover of their albums, but that's the difference between David Bowie and Black Sabbath -- the only difference.

8.  "Modern Love" (Let's Dance, 1983)
In the '80s, Bowie reinvented himself as a pop superstar (again) with the Let's Dance album, which was a Top 5 album in 13 countries (and #1 in 7 of those), spawning hits out of the title track (#1 in the US and UK), "China Girl" (#2 in the UK and #10 in the US), and "Modern Love" (#2 in the UK and #14 in the US).  I like "Modern Love" the best of the '80s Bowie songs.  It has that new wave guitar riff (courtesy of, yes, Stevie Ray Vaughan) that grabs your attention, and then the rest of the song is a sax-laden, catchy early '80s tune about the struggle between God and man –- or should I say between Bowie and Bowie?

7.  "I'm Waiting For The Man" (Live Santa Monica '72, 1994/2000/2008)
I don't know what it is about this Velvet Underground cover, but I just really like it, probably as much as the original –- which may be the best song about buying heroin ever written.  I like that Bowie's version stripped down and subdued, but pretty true to the original, until the guitar growls and Bowie unleashes his vocals in a way that Lou Reed didn't on the original.

6.   "Hang On To Yourself" (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, 1972)
This is one of the many great songs off of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.  It's a fast-paced, seething rocker that highlights the fact that Bowie could kick ass just as easily as he could put out an introspective slower song.

5.  "Golden Years" (Station to Station, 1976)
As the Thin White Duke, a coked-up Bowie pursued his interest in American soul, funk, and R&B in the mid '70s, and "Golden Years" is the gem of those years, in my opinion.  It's a funky, catchy song that borders on disco, yet somehow maintains its coolness.

4.  "Moonage Daydream" (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, 1972)
"I'm an alligator / I'm a mama papa comin' for you / I'm a space invader / I'll be a rock-and-rollin' bitch for you."  What a great, attention-grabbing opening stanza.  "Moonage Daydream" is a trippy, glammy rocker that always makes me nod my head or at least wonder what life would be like in the future, on mescaline.

3.  "Rebel Rebel" (Diamond Dogs, 1974)
That opening guitar riff has to be one of the most recognizable in rock history.  For one reason or another, I find this song in my head when I'm walking down the sidewalk to and from work.  Maybe the tempo matches up with my stride, or maybe I've got my mother in a whirl because she's not sure if I'm a boy or a girl.  Probably the former.

2.  "Queen Bitch" (Hunky Dory, 1971)
What a badass song.  It's 3:18 of frantic energy, with acoustic and electric guitars complementing each other.  I don't know the exact circumstances of how the narrator came to find himself in this position.  He's up on the 11th floor, watching the cruisers below, talking about, not just any bitch, but the queen bitch, who teases the boys even though she doesn't make false claims, and then he throws some other dude's bags down a hotel hall after spending some time staring at a wall in his room.  I listen intently each time I hear the song, so that maybe I can figure something else out.  Even if I don't, it's an empowering song (I think) that has been on my running playlist for years.

1.  "Ziggy Stardust" (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, 1972)
This has been my favorite Bowie song for a long time.  From the majesty of Mick Ronson's opening guitar riff to the ethereal quality of Bowie's voice to the story of the song about Ziggy and his band, this is just a fucking awesome rock and roll song.  The choruses are the highlight of the song for me.  Bowie steps up the intensity and, in a controlled scream, asks us where the spiders were "while the fly tried to break our balls" and tells us that Ziggy is akin to a "leper messiah."  But in the end, what's most important is that Ziggy played guitar.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 1/8/16

1.  "Living After Midnight" by Judas Priest

2.  "Panama" by Van Halen

3.  "Perfect Crime" by Guns N' Roses

4.  "Naughty Naughty" by Danger Danger

5.  "Anything For You" by Mr. Big

6.  "Fly To The Angels" (acoustic version) by Slaughter

7.  "Wind Me Up" by Extreme

8.  "Lodi" (live) by Tesla

9.  "Wind of Change" by The Scorpions

10.  "Enslaved" by Mötley Crüe

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Wind of Change" by The Scorpions

I recently started watching The Man in the High Castle a couple nights ago.  If you don't know, it's an Amazon original series based on the 1963 novel by Phillip Dick that presents an alternate history in which the Axis won World War II.  Set in 1962, what was the United States has been divided between the Nazis and Japan.  Everything east of the Rockies is part of the Reich, everything west of the Rockies is part of the Empire, and what's in between is kind of a lawless no-man's neutral zone.  I've only watched the first two episodes, but so far so good.

In real life, a mere three years later, The Scorpions, Germany's greatest rock band formed.  In January 1991, they released their best-selling single -- and  -- "Wind of Change."  Written about glastnost in the USSR, little more than a year after the Berlin Wall was torn down, "Wind of Change" became the unofficial anthem of the fall of communism in Europe.  It was a massive hit, becoming the best-selling German single of all-time, not to mention one of the best-selling singles worldwide ever (with over 14 million copies sold throughout the world).  It was a Top 10 hit in 14 countries, Top 5 in 12 of those, and #1 in 7 of those.  Here's to freedom.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

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

I meant to post this two weeks ago, but things got away from me at the end of the year.  Beer.  Cured meats.  Festivus.  Christmas.  You know how it goes.  A couple weeks ago, the 2016 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced, with Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, and N.W.A. getting nods.  For the first time in recent memory, I think the induction committee hit a home run.  All five inductees are worthy.

Cheap Trick:  The pride of Rockford, Illinois, Cheap Trick basically invented power pop, melding hard rock and hooks to produce some of the catchiest rock songs of the late '70s, like "I Want You to Want Me," "Surrender," and "Dream Police."  And let's not forget their 1988 Top 5 hits "The Flame" (#1) and their cover of Elvis's "Don't Be Cruel" (#4), as well as "Mighty Wings," which was the ending credits song in Top Gun.  The band's 1979 live album Cheap Trick at Budokan is rightfully recognized as one of the best live albums in rock history (and was the band's highest-charting and best-selling album), and the band has influenced musicians in a multitude of genres, from hard rock to glam metal to punk to alternative rock and grunge.

Chicago:  No American band other than the Beach Boys has had more success on the Billboard singles and albums charts than Chicago. 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.  And, if memory serves me correctly, they are the only band in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 with a Top 40 hit in four consecutive decades ('60s-'90s).

Deep Purple:  Deep Purple 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.

Steve Miller:  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.

N.W.A.:  N.W.A. should have been inducted two years ago, which was their first year of eligibility.  Perhaps the success of the Straight Outta Compton movie this past summer helped push voters over the edge.  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).

Once again, I have proven my unending influence over the Rock Hall voters, as I argued last year that ALL FIVE groups should have already been inducted.  Since the voters have clearly been heeding my advice, it would be a disservice to everyone if I didn't once again inform their voting.  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, Joe Cocker, The Doobie Brothers, Duran Duran, ELO, The Guess Who, Jethro Tull, LL Cool J, The Monkees, The Moody Blues, Willie Nelson, Nine Inch Nails, Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne solo, The Replacements, The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Steppenwolf, Styx, and Yes

1.  Pat Benatar (1979)
As I have said in years past, there is a noticeable shortage of rocking females in the Rock Hall.  With Joan Jett's and Heart's inductions in recent years, the Rock Hall voters are righting the ship, but there is still one glaring omission:  Pat Benatar.  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.  She has unquestionably influenced female rockers over the past three decades.

2. 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 in 2013.  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.

3. The Cars (1978)
I really thought The Cars were going to be inducted this year.  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.

4.  The Cure (1978)
Goth gets a bad rap, but The Cure is the undisputed king of goth.  And if you're one of the best and most influential bands of your genre, why shouldn't you be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  They were popular alt rock before there was such a thing as popular alt rock.  In their native UK, they have 14 Top 20 albums (including 11 Top 10 and one #1), along with 23 Top 40 songs (including 4 Top 10 songs).  In the US, it took them a little longer to catch on, but they have had 7 Top 20 albums on the Billboard charts, as well as 3 Top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 (with 1989's "Lovesong" charting highest at #2) and 10 Top 10 songs (and 4 #1s) on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks charts.

5. 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, 7 Top 10 albums in the US (13 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.

6 and 7 (tie). Iron Maiden (1980) and Judas Priest (1974)
You can't in good conscience induct one without the other, so I am including both. Maiden and Priest 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, 14 Top 40 albums, and 3 Top 10 albums in the US. In the UK, they have 28 Top 40 albums, 15 Top 10 albums, 5 #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.  Of course, the Rock Hall has been behind the curve when it comes to heavy metal, so I'm not holding my breath on either of these.

8.  Journey (1975)
It's time.  I think Journey will be the next KISS as far as fan support clamoring for a band to be inducted, and I think it would be well-deserved.  Journey is one of those bands that rockers across genres tend to like.  Founded in 1973 after Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon left Santana, Journey went on to be one of the more successful rock bands of the late '70s and early-to-mid '80s, particularly after Steve Perry came on board in 1977.  The band has 11 platinum albums, 10 albums that cracked the Billboard Top 20, including 8 Top 10 albums and one #1 (1981's Escape).  They have had a Top 20 studio album in each of the past 5 decades.  On top of that, they have had 18 Top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, including 6 Top 10 songs (with 1982's "Open Arms" being their highest-charting song, reaching #2).  Over approximately a five-year span between 1981 and 1986 -- between "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Girl Can't Help It" -- all eleven of the singles the band released made the Top 25, and their worst-charting song over that time still made it to #23. "Don't Stop Believin'" is the best-selling song on iTunes not released in the 21st Century.

9. Mötley Crüe (1981)
Mötley Crüe just disbanded -- this time for real.  Hell, they even signed a contract saying they would never tour again.  It's a shame because they're a hell of a live band.  More than that, they are probably the most successful and enduring of the Sunset Strip glam metal bands.  Of their 9 studio albums, only two didn't crack the Top 10 of Billboard's album charts, and 6 were Top 10, with one #1 (Dr. Feelgood).  All in all, including studio, live, and compilation albums, they have nine platinum albums.  They also had 7 Top 40 hits on the Billboard charts, and they were a mainstay on MTV.  For better or worse, with "Home Sweet Home," they invented the hair band power ballad, and the video to the song was the first big "on tour" video on MTV.  It was so popular on MTV's daily request countdown (#1 for three months) that MTV had to institute a "Crüe Rule" that limited videos to 30 days on the daily request line.  For me, Mötley Crüe deserves to be in the Rock Hall because they represented the attitude of rock and roll more than probably any other band from the '80s.  They fucked more women, did more drugs, smoked more cigarettes, and gave fewer shits than anyone else.

10.  The Runaways (1976)

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is full of bands that didn't necessarily have chart success, but were highly influential.  Okay, maybe not full of bands like that, but there are several.  The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Frank Zappa, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, and Leonard Cohen come to mind.  The Runaways -- the late '70s all-girl hard rock group that spawned Joan Jett and Lita Ford -- never had a song that cracked the Billboard Hot 100 and never had an album that got higher than #172 in the US, but they were massively influential on female hard rockers for decades to come, from The Go Gos to L7 to Courtney Love to The Donnas to The Pretty Reckless's Taylor Momsen.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Three monsters (aka cougars with so much plastic surgery they now look like monsters) have breakfast, and one says: "Do you know what it means if Bernie Sanders raises taxes 30%?  No more golf. That's what that means."
--Blu Jam Cafe, 7371 Melrose, Los Angeles, CA
Eavesdropper: Tail Pipe

Sunday, January 03, 2016

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer: Ballast Point Peppermint Victory at Sea and Unibroue La Résolution

Ballast Point Peppermint Victory at Sea

The last two days of 2015 were spent merrily.  On December 30, I spent most of the day doing burpees, chasing the kids around, and working on my Wham! rock opera.  That night, I went to see Diarrhea Planet and JEFF The Brotherhood at a local music hall (Diarrhea Planet is phenomenal live, by the way, but that's a story for another post).  Before heading to the show, my concert-going compatriot and I enjoyed a couple beers, one of which was Ballast Point's Peppermint Victory at Sea.  Located in a whale's vagina, Ballast Point makes some fine ales.  Victory at Sea is an imperial porter brewed with coffee, and they made a special edition with peppermint.  I don't really like coffee, yet I like coffee stouts and porters.  I'm a walking contradiction.  This one, however, was overpowering.  It basically tasted like black coffee with a splash of porter.

Name:  Peppermint Victory at Sea
Brewery:  Ballast Point Brewery and Spirits
Location:  San Diego, California
ABV:  10.0%
IBU:  60
Good for drinking if:  you want some beer with your coffee
Rating (out of 5 stars):  3.75 stars

Unibroue La Résolution
On New Year's Eve, we had a party.  While over a dozen children ransacked our house, the adults got elegantly wasted on cocktails, champagne, and bombers -- or all three, in most cases -- while eating the finest of cured meats.  One of the bombers was Unibroue La Résolution.  Unibroue is in Québec, and I love pretty much everything those separatist bastards brew.  You can't go wrong with a La Fin du Monde, Maudite, or Trois Pistoles.  They are all strong, Belgian-style ales.  La Résolution is just as strong (10% ABV), and just as delicious.  It's also Belgian-inspired, but it is a winter warmer, so it's dark and has some maltiness.  It was a perfect way to finish the 2015 edition of It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Beer.  There's a gym that is basically across the street from me.  I joined it two months ago, and I have yet to step foot inside.  After the last month, perhaps now is the time.

Name:  La Résolution
Brewery:  Unibroue
Location:  Chambly, Québec, Canada
ABV:  10.0%
IBU:  21.5
Good for drinking if:  your New Year's resolution is that you want your New Year's Eve to be a night you will not soon remember
Rating (out of 5 stars):  4.5 stars