Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Songs With Booze in the Title

If you're like me -- and you better pray to Jupiter you're not -- you had some trouble getting back into the flow of working today, in a little bit of a post-holiday hangover.  With Memorial Day now behind us, not only is it socially acceptable to wear white pants again, but we have also entered the drinking season.  Maybe those of you who live in warmer climates don't understand as well because you can have a beer outside all year long, but we Midwesterners really grab on to summer, cling to it like sweet death, and squeeze it dry.  From street festivals to backyard BBQs to bar patios to just being able to sit on someone's porch with a cocktail in your hand and shoot the shit, the summer is our reward for suffering through negative wind chills, snow in April, and being forced to wear scarves on a regular basis.  I hate scarves.

In honor of the fun we're going to have during the next three months, I have tried to come up with a list of the ten best songs with some type of alcohol (beer, wine, whiskey, etc.) or a brand of alcohol in the title.  I'm excluding songs that have a more general term (alcohol, liquor, etc.) in the title or that just discuss alcohol or drinking in the lyrics (since it would be damn near impossible to narrow that list down to ten).  Here are my top ten (in alphabetical order by artist):

1.  "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett
I don't know if there has ever been a song that has so perfectly summarized its singer's lifestyle (or perceived lifestyle) than "Margaritaville."  Sure, it was largely derivative of Coconut Pete's "Piña Coladaburg," but Jimmy Buffett has built an empire because of this song.

2.  "Tequila" by The Champs
Chances are, the first time you ever heard of tequila was because of this song.  It's a classic early rock song, and who could forget when Pee Wee won the respect of the bikers by dancing to this song?

3.  "Nightrain" by Guns N' Roses
When I was a kid, I assumed that this song was about a train that ran after dusk.  Turns out, it's about a cheap, rot-gut wine (Night Train Express) that the band used to drink before they had made it, due to the alcoholic bang you could get for your buck.  The band came up with the chorus while drunkenly walking down the street sharing some Night Train.  One of the band members yelled "I'm on the Night Train!," and then the other guys in the band came up with the "bottoms up," "fill my cup," "I can never get enough," and other phrases that follow in the chorus.

4.  "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes
This song has to be one of the biggest guilty pleasure songs ever.  In theory, you should not like it.  It's cheesy, kitschy, and sounds like it was made in 1979 (which it was).  But there's just something about it.  Maybe it's the synthesizer solo.  Maybe it's the chorus.  Maybe it's the story -- a man who wants to cheat on his woman and a woman who wants to cheat on her man, so they take to the personal ads, eventually bringing them to meet clandestinely, only to realize that the person on the other end of their personal ad back-and-forth was their own significant other.  They must have had a good laugh, as they realized that they were so bored with their current relationship that they were forced to turn to personal ads, and they were so focused on their own wants and needs that they forgot about what brought them together in the first place:  a horrible, high-calorie, sugar-laden drink made from coconuts.  And banging at midnight.

5.  "Cold Gin" by Kiss
Ace Frehley wrote this song for Kiss's debut album, but he wasn't yet confident enough to sing, so the famously teetotaling Gene Simmons handled the vocals.  The song itself is about a man's apartment being so hot that he gives himself but one option to cool himself off:  drinking gin.  Hell no.

6.  "Gin and Juice" by Snoop Doggy Dogg
It's impossible for me to hear this and not immediately want to be in someone's back yard during the summer with a drink in my hand.

7.  "Whiskey in the Jar" by Thin Lizzy
The quintessential St. Patrick's Day song can actually be enjoyed all year round, just as whiskey in a jar can be.

8.  "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" by George Thorogood & The Destroyers
I like the John Lee Hooker version, but I love the George Thorogood version, especially the whole thing about getting kicked out of his apartment, not having a job, and then heading to the bar to take his mind off of things.  In one sense, I suppose this song taught me that, when things get rough, you can always turn to alcohol to escape.  In another sense, this song taught me that everybody's funny, now you funny too.

9.  "Red Red Wine" by UB40
Masters of covering songs and turning them into their own, UB40 probably hit its peak with their cover of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine."

10.  "Spill the Wine" by Eric Burdon and War
Hearing this song last week actually inspired me to write this list.  What a great song. Ex-lead singer of The Animals, Eric Burdon, teamed up with funk/Latin/jazz/rock band War for a couple albums in the early '70s, and "Spill The Wine" is the most enduring song of their brief collaboration.  It's a funky, soulful, psychedelic song about me, an overfed, long-haired, leaping gnome.

Honorable mention:  "Bottle of Red Wine" by Eric Clapton; "Me and My Wine" by Def Leppard; "Gin & Milk" by Dirty Pretty Things; "Quiet Whiskey" by Wynonie Harris; "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers" by Motörhead (or ZZ Top); "Champagne Supernova" by Oasis; "Streams of Whiskey" by The Pogues; "Take Your Whiskey Home" by Van Halen; "Oh Gin" by The Velvet Underground; "Screwdriver" by The White Stripes

I'm sure there are some that I'm missing, so feel free to comment with some others.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 5/27/16

1.  "Thrill That Kills" by BulletBoys

2.  "Live and Let Die" by Guns N' Roses

3.  "Fistful of Diamonds" by W.A.S.P.

4.  "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection" by Nelson

5.  "Top Jimmy" by Van Halen

6.  "Cupid's Dead" by Extreme

7.  "It Don't Matter" by Def Leppard

8.  "Dirty Rhythm" by Vinnie Vincent Invasion

9.  "I Can't Explain" by The Scorpions

10.  "Woman In Love" by Bon Jovi

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Chicago Handshake

So last night, I went to see The Eagles of Death Metal at The Metro.  Before the show, as is the custom, my friends and I had a drink at the G-Man Tavern, which is next door.  One of the "specials" listed was a "Chicago Handshake," which is an Old Style and a shot of Malört, for $7.

Frankly, seven dollars for two horribly tasting alcoholic beverages is probably too much, but then again, if someone wants to pay that for the kitsch of saying they had a Chicago Handshake, who am I to argue?  I also think it's funny to imagine a tourist who has never had either Old Style or Malört ordering this and assuming that all Chicagoans like both drinks.  And of course, I always support buying an out-of-towner horrible local drinks, so 

Old Style is the kind of swill that large breweries could pawn off on the masses several decades ago, when there were only like ten beers, and they were all basically the same.  And, even then, Old Style was a notch below most of the others.  I'm pretty sure Old Style has survived only because they sell it at Wrigley Field.  And God help you if you've ever gotten an Old Style at a Cubs game on a hot day and have not finished it within about ten minutes.  If there is a hell, all there would be to drink would be warm Old Style.

Malört is in its own category.  Made with wormwood, pig sweat, and the tears of several Swedish serial killers, 
Malört describes itself on its bottle as a "two-fisted liquor."  The label proudly proclaims that only 1 in 49 people who drink it will try it a second time.  It is a drink that is so bad, people use it as a prank shot to give to unsuspecting friends.  It's one of those things that you have to try at least once, just so you can experience for yourself just how bad it tastes.  But make no mistake, it truly is one of the worst-tasting liquids you will ever consume.  I have heard the taste described as follows:
-"a shot of earwax"
-"melted plastic"
-"You know those jogging suits that wrestlers wear to help them lose weight? Well, imagine someone was jogging in one of those for five miles, then they lifted one of the pant legs and gathered leg sweat into a shot glass."
-"a burnt band-aid"

If you want a funny read, check out this article -- sent to me by a friend of mine who is one of the few people on Earth who actually likes Malört -- which describes three Chicago sommeliers' reactions to and descriptions of Malört.

In sum, if you're looking for a new and potentially vomit-inducing way to honor the Second City's fallen veterans this Memorial Day weekend, the Chicago Handshake might be just what the doctor ordered, especially if that doctor is not a doctor at all, but rather a hipster asshole who drinks awful-tasting beverages because it's ironic.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" by Michael Bolton

Many apologies for not posting a Tuesday Top Ten yesterday.  I was busy with work, parenting, eating, and practicing with my pop grindcore band, Adorable Apocalypse, as I do every Tuesday night.

But enough about me.  Let's talk music chart history.  Twenty-five years ago today, the Billboard album chart -- then known as The Billboard 200 Top Pop Albums, and now known as The Billboard 200 -- changed the way albums were tracked on the charts.  Prior to May 25, 1991, I kid you not, Billboard tracked album sales by calling record stores across the country and asking the record stores about album sales.  As you might imagine, that was not the most reliable way to track album sales.  For instance, if a record store owner really hated Quiet Riot (which is hypothetical, of course, since Quiet Riot is incapable of being hated), he or she might say that the store only sold ten copies of Metal Health that week, when it actually sold 400.  Or, on the flip side, a record store owner who was a huge Milli Vanilli fan might drastically inflate the sales numbers for Girl You Know It's True, in an attempt to get that album a higher position on the chart.

All of that nonsense ended on May 25, 1991, when Billboard switched to the Nielsen SoundScan system, ushering in the "SoundScan era."  SoundScan used technology to track actual cash register sales at thousands of retailers across the country, resulting in a Billboard album chart that much more accurately reflected the popularity of a particular album.  The added benefit is that record labels could use SoundScan data to try to convince radio stations to play songs by artists whose albums sold well, but who were relatively underrepresented on radio, including alternative rock, which, of course, exploded not too long after the SoundScan era began.

But there is only one man who can say his album was the first #1 on the Billboard album charts during the SoundScan era.  I'm sure you celebrate his entire catalog, but it was Michael Bolton's seventh studio album, Time, Love & Tenderness, that took the honors, hitting #1 on May 25, 1991.  After not finding huge success as a hard rock and heavy metal singer in the late '70s and early '80s, Bolton started writing songs for other artists and then eventually switched his own genre to the mother-pleasing easy listening songs we associate with him.  Feeding off the breakout success of his sixth album, 1989's Soul Provider, Bolton kept the momentum going on Time, Love & Tenderness.  The album has sold 8 million copies in the U.S. and 16 million worldwide, spawning four songs that cracked the Top 12 of the Billboard Hot 100:  "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" (#4), "Time, Love and Tenderness (#7), "When a Man Loves a Woman" (#1), and "Missing You Now" (#12).  It should also come as no surprise that all four songs topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.  

I'm going with "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" as this week's Retro Video of the Week because The Isley Brothers sued Bolton and the other songwriter (and Sony Music) for copyright infringement, due to similarities between this song and an Isley Brothers song of the same name.  The Isleys won, and now this album is out of print as a result (although can be purchased digitally, apparently).  But you can always see the video on YouTube.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 5/20/16

1.  "When Will It Rain" by Jackyl

2.  "Tall Cool One" by Robert Plant

3.  "The Warrior" by Scandal

4.  "CDFF-Lucky This Time" by Mr. Big

5.  "Little Fighter" by White Lion

6.  "While The City Sleeps" by Kiss

7.  "Bottom Line" by Ratt

8.  "Eyes Of A Stranger" by Queensrÿche

9.  "Little Guitars (Intro)" by Van Halen

10.  "Steeler" by Judas Priest

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "The Difference" by The Wallflowers

Before getting to this week's Retro Video of the Week, I have to return to the age-old question posited two weeks ago in my Retro Video of the Week post:  Which Hanson song is better: "MMMBop" or "Where's The Love"?  According to the very scientific poll conducted on this here blog (open for a week after the aforementioned post), "MMMBop" is the hands-down winner, garnering a near-perfect 100% of the votes (margin of error is 0%).  So there you have it, Gregerson.

Now onto this week's video.  Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the release of The Wallflowers' multiplatinum album Bringing Down the Horse -- a prominent fixture in dorm rooms across Indiana University's campus that next fall (my freshman year) and presumably across many other campuses.  Of course, the kitsch of The Wallflowers was that Bob Dylan's son, Jakob, was the lead singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist.  But don't think that Jakob rested on his family name.  Produced by T Bone Burnett, Bringing Down the Horse was a great alt rock album that charted in the Top 5 of the Billboard album charts and eventually went quadruple platinum in the US.  The album spawned four radio hits:  "6th Avenue Heartache" (featuring Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz on backing vocals and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers' Mike Campbell on slide guitar), "One Headlight," "Three Marlenas," and "The Difference."  All but "Three Marlenas" were nominated for a Grammy, and "One Headlight" took home two Grammy Awards.

I'm going to go with "The Difference" as this week's Retro Video of the Week because it's my favorite song off the album.  It's a driving, uptempo, pretty straightforward rock song.  While it didn't have the success of "One Headlight" or "6th Avenue Heartache," "The Difference" still did pretty well, cracking the Top 20 of the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart (#19), Mainstream Rock Tracks chart (#3), Modern Rock Tracks chart (#5), and Adult Top 40 chart (#14).  The video is a nice homage to '60s psychedelic concert posters.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Feel-Good '80s Songs

The 1980s were, in my opinion, the golden era of pop music.  In a decade that celebrated mass consumption and consumerism, music followed suit with fantastically catchy results.  Hooks ruled the airwaves, whether the music was new wave, R&B, rap, rock, pop, or even hard rock and metal.  Maybe it's just nostalgia, but there were so many songs in the '80s that seemed to have been written to make the listener feel good –- as opposed to what followed in the '90s, which was more serious and somber.  Thanks, Cobain.

I have done my best to compile the ten best feel-good songs of the '80s.  These are the songs that come on the radio or on the mix tape you've got in your Walkman, and you can't help but be put in a good mood.  Here are my top eleven (because narrowing it to only ten was just too hard), in alphabetical order by artist.

1.  "Sussudio" by Phil Collins
Back when I was 7, this was my favorite song.  It's just gibberish, but it's catchy gibberish. And as adult, I certainly enjoyed its role in American Psycho.  Don't just stare at it; eat it!

2.  "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club
The subject matter of the song isn't overly happy (it's about karma paying you back for being too afraid to not go with the flow), but it always puts a smile on my face because it's just so damn catchy.

3.  "Rhythm of the Night" by DeBarge
An upbeat song sung by a man with some of the most spectacular hair you've ever seen.

4.  "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston
If this song comes on at any bar, any female, age 17 to 60, will, in fact, be unconsciously compelled to dance.

5.  "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina & The Waves
The song is about walking on sunshine (metaphorically), and could potentially be the happiest song ever.

6.  "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins
If this song doesn't make you want to dance, you need to reevaluate your life, and specifically, things that inspire you to dance. For Christ's sake, the whole song and movie are about dancing.

7.  "Conga" by Miami Sound Machine
I will never forget the time I was at a club in Munich and, after some relatively unexciting music, the DJ played this song, and everyone went fucking nuts.  People were dropping beer bottles and knocking over tables as they ran to the dance floor.

8.  "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" by John Parr
Known as the theme to the film St. Elmo's Fire, this is a great song, and the fact that I think of the Brat Pack whenever I hear it only makes it happier.

9.  "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham!
How can you hear this song and not get a smile on your face and a hop in your step?

10.  "Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder
The whole point of this song is that, no matter what happens in life, you can't let it get you down.

11.  "Panama" by Van Halen
David Lee Roth-era Van Halen sounded like the soundtrack to a backyard party during the summer in Southern California, and "Panama" is probably the song that, when it comes on the radio, most makes me wants to roll down my windows and crank my radio to embarrassingly loud levels.

Honorable mention:   "Walk Like An Egyptian" by The Bangles; "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ EZ-Rock;  "Vacation" by The Go-Gos; "Dancing With Myself" by Billy Idol; "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson; "Crush On You" by The Jets; "Girls Just Wanna have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper; "Nothing But a Good Time" by Poison; "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police; "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince; "Call Me Al" by Paul Simon; "Let's Hear It For The Boy" by Deniece Williams; "Bust a Move" by Young M.C.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Thirtysomething male at a baseball game: "I think your father-in-law really wants to find some cocaine. Well, future father in law."
--Chicago, Wrigley Field
Eavesdropper: Apollo Creed

Two twentysomething males converse while standing next to each other peeing in a trough:
Guy 1: "I'm seriously gonna fuck Casey's mom."
Guy 2: "After me."
Guy 1: "She's about to get two three-and-a-half-inch dicks."
Guy 2: "We can share the condom."
Guy 1: "We'll share that condom so hard."
--Chicago, Wrigley Field
Eavesdropper: Apollo Creed

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 5/13/16

1.  "Speak" by Queensrÿche

2.  "Outta Love Again" by Van Halen

3.  "Little Bit of Soul" by Bon Jovi

4.  "Just Like A Devil" by Jackyl

5.  "Fallen Angel" by Poison

6.  "Young And Wasted" by Kiss

7.  "Piece of Me" by Skid Row

8.  "You Don't Have To be Old To Be Wise" by Judas Priest

9.  "City Boy Blues" (demo) by Mötley Crüe

10.  "My Kinda Woman" by Mr. Big

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins

This Friday will mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the Top Gun soundtrack, a few days before the film hit theaters and changed the way we looked at Naval aviators.  Top Gun is one of the most iconic movies from the '80s, and the theme song to the movie -- Kenny Loggins's "Danger Zone" -- is one of the most recognizable movie theme songs ever.  You can't hear the song without thinking about Maverick buzzing the tower, improperly dropping below the 10,000-foot hard deck in order to defeat Jester, or riding a motorcycle without a helmet (which is, in fact, a danger zone).

The song was written by the film's soundtrack producer Georgio Moroder and songwriter Tom Whitlock.  (The pair also wrote the movie's love theme, "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin, which garnered an Oscar for best song.)  "Danger Zone" was offered to Toto, Bryan Adams, and REO Speedwagon, all of whom declined for different reasons (and are probably regretting it).  Then, they offered it to Loggins, and the rest is history.  

"Danger Zone" peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Loggins his fourth Top 25 hit (and third Top 10) from movie soundtrack songs -- the others being "I'm Alright" from Caddyshack (#7), and "Footloose" (#1) and "I'm Free (Heaven Helps The Man)" (#22) from Footloose.  He would have two more, by the way:  "Meet Me Half Way" from Over The Top (#11) and "Nobody's Fool" from Caddyshack II (#8).  And "Playing With The Boys" -- featured during the blatantly homoerotic beach volleyball scene in Top Gun -- hit #60.

The video is directed by Top Gun's director, Tony Scott, and it features ample clips from the movie, as well as shots of Loggins's fantastic hair, which I can only describe as a cockatiel mullet.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Stand-Up Comedians

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently finished reading Judd Apatow's book, Sick In The Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy.  Many of the people Apatow has interviewed over the years were stand-up comedians, either earlier in their careers, currently, or both.  When I was a kid, I wasn't quite as maniacally obsessed with comedy as Apatow was, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching stand-up comedy.  There was a show on Saturday nights on Fox (I think) that featured several stand-up comics performing at The Laugh Factory in LA, and I would watch it religiously, even though I'm sure I didn't understand half the jokes.  I actually wanted to be a stand-up comedian when I was a kid, but then grew into my shyness.

I'm limiting this list to what comedians did as stand-ups, as opposed to any success they've had on TV or in movies (and setting aside any alleged drugging and sexual assaulting).  For instance, Seinfeld is one of my favorite TV shows ever, and I love Jerry Seinfeld, but I honestly haven't seen enough of his stand-up to put him in my top 10.  Same with your Steve Martins, your George Carlins, and your Richard Pryors.  I have nothing against them, and I think they are all hilarious, but they were before my time and, for one reason or another, I didn't see their stand-up shows as much as I may have seen others.  So, the bottom line is that this list isn't intended to be a "best stand-up comics of all-time" list, but just a list of my ten favorite stand-up comics.  With that in mind, calm your shit down, and enjoy my list (in alphabetical order, with a clip and/or full show from each comic, to boot):

1.  Dave Chappelle
I've seen Dave Chappelle live more often than any other stand-up comic.  But my biggest regret in life, as far as you know, is the time I didn't see him.  You see, when I lived in Dayton, the IU Alumni Association's local chapter had reserved the local comedy club for itself on a Monday or Tuesday night to see a few Indiana-based comedians called The Hoosier Daddies.  Jester and I didn't go.  At some point that night, I got a call from my buddy Holt, who didn't say anything, and all I could hear was him laughing.  I hung up.  The next day, he tells me that, at the end of the last Hoosier Daddy's set, the guy says something like, "Well, we're the Hoosier Daddies, and if you have some more time tonight, we'd like to introduce an Ohio daddy."  Chappelle walks onto the stage.  Now, this is during his "lost weekend" phase, where he had stopped doing Chappelle's Show and kind of freaked out and went off the grid for a year or two.  Apparently, he did like an hour and a half that night, in front of 10-15 people who had paid no more than $20.

2.  Louis C.K.
I like Louis C.K.'s semi-autobiographical TV show Louie, but I'm a much bigger fan of his stand-up.  He's not afraid to talk about really weird topics, and he has managed to tap into a great, slightly demented point of view as an adult and a parent.

3.  Bill Cosby
If you are a parent, and you haven't seen Bill Cosby: Himself, you are doing yourself a disservice.  Hell, even if you're not a parent, you'll probably think it's hilarious.  In addition to adeptness at alliteration, I have a pretty prolific potty mouth, so I tend to gravitate towards comedians who are more on the "blue" side. I don't think there has ever been a comedian who never swore in his acts that I found so funny, and I probably unknowingly quote Himself on a daily basis when dealing with my own kids, especially the bit about repeating "come here."  And I think you'd be kidding yourself if you thought I've never given my kids chocolate cake for breakfast.

4.  David Cross
David Cross is a the perfect combination of smarts, sarcasm, atheism, liberalism, and facial hair.  I saw him about two months ago here in Chicago, and he did not disappoint.

5.  Jim Gaffigan
Gaffigan has kind of become the new Bill Cosby.  Not so much with the sedatives and raping, but more with the working his (quite large) family masterfully into his comedy and not swearing too much in his act.  He is hilarious, and it is a travesty that Hot Pockets hasn't yet tapped him as their spokesman.

6.  Sam Kinison
I remember my friend Jeremy and I renting a Sam Kinison stand-up video when were were probably in fifth or sixth grade.  Clearly, our parents didn't know who Kinison was.  A former Pentecostal preacher, Kinison realized his true calling was yelling profanities into a mic instead of yelling about Jesus at church goers.  He was loud, brash, and politically incorrect -- certainly an eye-opener for an 11- or 12-year-old.  What's insane is that he died when he was 38, which is how old I am now.  Until I just looked that up, I would have assumed that he was in his late 40s or early 50s.  What I'm getting at is that he was not a healthy man.

7.  Eddie Murphy
As a child of the '80s, Raw and Delirious were like the Holy Grail of stand-up comedy shows.  They were the stuff of legend -- like someone's older brother might have a taped copy of one of them (because, Millennials, in the 1980s, you had to use VCRs to physically record something onto videotape if you wanted a copy of it), and you may have been able to watch it at a sleepover after your friend's parents went to bed.  But God help you if you got caught, because it was all "fuck" and R-rated subject matter.

8.  Chris Rock
There probably isn't a funnier person on the face of the Earth.  Rock has such a smart, pointed, polished act.  He makes what I assume is one of the most stressful things to do look effortless, and he kills it every time.

9.  Sarah Silverman
I always thought she was the younger sister of Weekend At Bernie's co-star Jonathan Silverman, but it turns out she's not.  But she's much funnier.  Then again, I tend to go for the skinny, foul-mouthed ones.

10.  Steven Wright
He is the king of deadpan, and the first comedian I remember watching with a deadpan delivery.  It was a revelation.  When you're young, everything funny is over-the-top and boisterous, and then here was this guy that was hilarious who never wavered from his monotone voice.

Honorable mention:  Dave Attell; Lewis Black; Jim Carrey; Andrew Dice Clay; Mitch Hedberg; Jim Jefferies; Robin Williams

Monday, May 09, 2016

New Book: Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories by Chuck Palahniuk

Probably about a month ago, I finished reading Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow.  The book is a collection of interviews Apatow has done over the years with comedians.  He started interviewing comedians (including Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno) in the early '80s for his high school radio station, and he has continued to do so throughout his prolific and highly successful writing/producing/directing career.  He has interviewed stand-up comedians, TV stars, movie stars, directors, writers, and producers, including Chris Rock, Louis C.K., Mel Brooks, Amy Schumer, Seth Rogen, Steve Martin, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, Roseanne Arnold, Sarah Silverman, Adam Sandler, James L. Brooks, Mike Nichols, and many others.  The book is a really good read, as Apatow often explores what made these people go into comedy, and what inspires their comedy.  As someone whose main goals in life are to laugh and make other people laugh, I really enjoyed the book.

I then took a few weeks off of reading, since cell service has gotten markedly better on the L's underground lines, allowing me to play Words With Friends while riding to and from work.  Last week, I decided that I should probably start reading again.  I went with Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories by Chuck Palahniuk, which I've been wanting to read for about ten years, but just have never gotten around to doing it.  Palahniuk -- whose name I have no idea how to pronounce -- is, of course, the famously demented author of Fight Club, Choke, and many other novels.  (I read Haunted a few years back, and really liked it.)  Anyway, Stranger Than Fiction is a collection of nonfiction essays and stories on a diverse array of topics.  Should be interesting.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Hair Band Friday - 5/6/16

1.  "Women In Love" by Van Halen

2.  "Gods of War" by Def Leppard

3.  "When You Close Your Eyes" by Night Ranger

4.  "Can't Hold Back" by Junkyard

5.  "Anarchy-X" by Queensrÿche

6.  "Shout At The Devil" (demo) by Mötley Crüe 

7.  "Blame It On You" by Poison

8.  "There's Only One Way To Rock" by Sammy Hagar

9.  "Play Rough" by Trixter

10.  "It's Over" by White Lion

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "MMMBop" and "Where's The Love" by Hanson

In honor of yesterday's Tuesday Top Ten about teenage rock stars, today's Retro Videos of the Week will be two of the songs discussed in the post:  "MMMBop" and "Where's The Love" by Hanson.  Perhaps, for Gregerson's sake, we can finally settle the debate about which is the better song.  For the next week, there will be a poll at the top of the right sidebar (above my profile), so you, fair GMYH reader, can vote for whether you think "MMMBop" or "Where's The Love" is a better song.

Both songs come from Hanson's multi-platinum major-label debut album, Middle of Nowhere.  As I mentioned in yesterday's post, when "MMMBop" hit #1 in May 1997, the Hanson brothers ranged in age from 11 to 16.  That's insane. The song was originally a ballad, but then famed producing duo The Dust Brothers reworked it with the band to make it into the happy-go-lucky megahit that it became. Yes, the same Dust Brothers who produced Beck's Odelay, The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, and, of course, Tone Lōc's Lōc-ed After Dark, produced "MMMBop." Of course, if you listen to the lyrics, they don't seem to make any sense whatsoever. In fact, I think an reputable horticulturalist or botanist should be able to tell you whether a daisy or a rose will grow faster, so, pardon my double negative, but that is NOT a secret no one knows.

"Where's The Love" was Hanson's follow-up single to "MMMBop."  It didn't quite have the same success as "MMMBop," but it's tough to top a song that was #1 in 27 countries.  "Where's The Love" did manage to get to #27 on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay charts, but failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 meaning that, while it received a good amount of airplay on radio stations, it did not sell well enough to make it onto the Hot 100.  I think this song does a better job of featuring all three brothers than "MMMBop," which we can all agree is a little Taylor-heavy.

The videos for both songs are below.  Listen to both and vote, as this may be the only time in history you will be able to choose which song you like better.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Teenage Rock Stars

Sunday afternoon, I took Daughter and Lollipop to local live music venue Schuba's for their first ever rock and roll concert.
They were super-excited, even though we didn't know any of the musicians playing.  You see, a good friend of mine named Chris is a music teacher at York High School in Elmhurst.  A couple years ago, he came up with a wild idea to let his music students write and record their own original songs, and then release an album with all the songs.  With the support of the school, the idea came to fruition, and the York Album Project was born.  This is one of the coolest things I have ever heard of. 

Last year, they had 15 musicians or groups contribute songs to the album, which was called We Are The Music.  This year, that number grew to 23 (with a few repeats from last year), and the album is called This Is Amateur.  Sunday was the album release party for This Is Amateur, with most (if not all) groups and musicians in attendance, performing two songs each.

I hadn't listened to the album before going to the show, so I didn't know what to expect.  I gotta say that I was blown away at how talented these kids were.  They were all really damn good.

I was also amazed at the diversity of the songs.  On the album, there are songs that I would classify as rock, folk, ukulele folk, Andrews Sisters-esque harmonic pop, garage rock, indie rock, punk, Nick Lowe-esque power pop, grunge, a capella doo wop, alternative rock, gypsy jazz, electric blues, singer-songwriter ballads, pop, acoustic instrumental, acoustic pop, EDM, and songs that could be in a Disney princess movie.  They are all really well-crafted songs, even the songs in genres I wouldn't normally

We were listening to the album yesterday at dinner, and I made a comment about how the musicians were really good.  Daughter looked at me and said, incensed, "They're not just good, Dad; they're awesome."  Touché.

So, if you want to support a very cool project, I encourage you to download the albums using the links above.  This Is Amateur is $10, and We Are The Music is $5.

Seeing all of these high schoolers who have more musical talent than I will ever have got me thinking about rock and rollers who found success as teenagers.  So that was a long introduction to this week's Tuesday Top Ten:  teenage rock stars.  For this list, I am going to give you what I think are the eleven best examples of musicians age 18 or under who made a mark on music or had crazy success before they were of legal drinking age in Canada.  I'm limiting the list to musicians who played their own instruments (sorry Kyla, that means no Britney).

Here are my top eleven (in alphabetical order).

1.  Rick Allen
Allen is, for better or worse, known for the fact that he is a one-armed drummer.  A lot of idiots believe that he always had one arm when, in fact, he his left arm was amputated after a horrific car accident in 1984.  Anyway, Allen joined Def Leppard in 1978, on his 15th birthday.  He didn't turn 18 until after the band released their first two albums, On Through the Night and High 'n' Dry.

2.  Dave Davies
Along with his older brother Ray, Dave Davies founded The Kinks in 1963, when he was 16.  When he was 17, Dave Davies invented the power chord with his iconic distorted riff on "You Really Got Me," which topped the charts in the UK and went to #7 on the Billboard charts.  When he was 17 and 18, The Kinks had 7 Top 20 hits in the UK (including 6 Top 10s and 2 #1s) and 6 Top 40 hits in the US (including 3 Top 10s).

3.  Hanson
There are two kinds of people in the world:  people who like "MMMBop" and dead people.  It was the feel-good song of the summer of 1997, topping the Billboard charts for three weeks in May and June that year (and topping the charts in a ridiculous 26 other countries as well).  At the time, the brothers Hanson -- Isaac, Taylor, and Zac -- were 16, 13, and 11, respectively.  Of course, Pete Gregerson will tell you that "Where's The Love" is a better song than "MMMBop," and that's a debate I'd rather not have sober.  What's not debatable is that, by the time Isaac turned 18, the band had three platinum albums.

4.  The Jackson 5
When The Jackson 5 released what would become their first #1 hit, "I Want You Back," in October 1969, Jackie Jackson had just turned 18 five months earlier, while most of his younger brothers Tito (16), Jermaine (14), Marlon (12), and Michael (11) were still going through (or had not yet started) puberty.  Not only could they sing and dance, but they could also play their own instruments (although they didn't always play the instruments on the recorded versions of the songs).

5.  The Runaways
The all-female Runaways were pioneers in the mid '70s, melding punk and hard rock to inspire generations of female rockers after them and kickstarting the careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford.  In June 1976, when the band's debut album -- featuring arguably their biggest song, "Cherry Bomb" -- was released, Jett and Ford were both 17, while the rest of the band, Cherie Currie, Jackie Fox, and Sandy West, were all 16.

6.  Silverchair
I remember when Silverchair's debut single, "Tomorrow," was released because all of the guys in the band were younger than my friends and me –- and still are, for that matter.  When "Tomorrow" came out in September 1994, Daniel Johns (lead vocals and guitar) was 15, while Ben Gillies (drums) and Chris Joannou (bass) were only 14.  "Tomorrow" topped both the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts, and helped propel their debut album Frogstomp into the Top 10 of the Billboard album charts.  That's pretty impressive for three Aussie kids who couldn't even get drivers licenses yet.

7.  Tommy Stinson
I saw The Replacements last year and I thought, "Man, Tommy Stinson looks great for his age," figuring he had to be in his mid 50s.  Then I looked him up, and it turns out he was only 48.  And then I did the math in my head about when The Replacements released their first couple albums and thought "that can't be right."  It was.  The guy was 11 when he and his older brother Bob formed the band's predecessor in 1978, and 14 when the band released their first full-length album in August 1981.  By the time he turned 18, the band had already released three albums and an EP, and he wasn't even 18 yet on that iconic photo on the cover of the Let It Be album, taken on his parents' roof.

8.  Ritchie Valens
When Ritchie Valens died tragically on February 3, 1959, along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, he was three months shy of his 18th birthday.  His first single, 1958's "Come On, Let's Go," charted just outside the Top 40 at #42, but then his next single "Donna" got all the way to #2 and its B-side, "La Bamba," got to #22, but has endured as one of the most recognizable songs in rock history and, of course, was the name of the 1987 biopic about Valens's life.  (Lou Diamond Phillips, by the way, was 25 when he portrayed Valens in the film.)

9.  Carl Wilson
As a founding member of The Beach Boys, along with his older brothers Brian and Dennis, cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine, Carl Wilson was the lead guitarist, responsible for that Chuck-Berry-meets-surf-rock guitar sound that is as much of a staple of The Beach Boys' sound as those delightful harmonies.  The Beach Boys' first single, "Surfin'," was released a month before Carl turned 15.  The first album The Beach Boys released after Carl turned 19 was Pet Sounds.  So, when Carl was 15 to 18 years old, he was a member of a band with 9 Top 10 albums and 17 Top 40 songs on the Billboard charts, including 10 Top 10s and 2 #1s.

10.  Steve Winwood
If you're a Gen Xer or younger, you probably associate Steve Winwood with his '80s hits, like "Valerie," "Roll With It," and "Back in the High Life."  But long before that, and before he was in Traffic, and before he was in Blind Faith, he was the lead singer of the Spencer Davis Group, which he joined when he was 14.  As the lead singer and organist of the group, Winwood sang and played on two #1 hits in the UK, "Keep On Running" and "Somebody Help Me," before he turned 18.  And that Ray Charles-esque voice you hear on "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man" was that of an 18-year-old Winwood.

11.  Stevie Wonder
In 1963, at age 13, Wonder became the youngest artist to top the Billboard Hot 100, with his song "Fingertips –- Part 1 & 2."  When he was 15, he recorded and released his second Top 5 song, "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" (which peaked at #3).  He recorded his second #1, "For Once in My Life," when he was 17.  All in all, before he turned 18, he had released 13 Top 40 hits, including 6 that made it into the Top 10.

I'm sure there are some others I'm forgetting, so feel free to chime in.