Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "No Rain" by Blind Melon

Friday will mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Blind Melon's self-titled debut album.  Blind Melon was fronted by Shannon Hoon, whose sister was one of Axl Rose's high school friends in Lafayette, Indiana (although Hoon and Rose did not connect until they were both in LA in the early '90s).  Hoon sang backing vocals on two songs off of GNR's Use Your Illusion I album -- "Don't Cry" and "The Garden."

But he would make his biggest splash (rain pun intended) as the lead singer of Blind Melon.  Of course, the band's biggest (and only) hit was "No Rain," a happy-go-lucky song with a memorable video.  The song reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100, but was also #1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart, #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, #4 on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart, #1 in Canada, #8 in Australia, and in the Top 40 in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK.  On the strength of "No Rain," the album reached as high as #3 on the Billboard album charts and went quadruple platinum in the U.S.  Sadly, Hoon died of a cocaine overdose in 1995, just a few weeks after he turned 28.

Here is the iconic "Bee Girl" video for "No Rain."  If realizing that this song is 25 years old doesn't make you feel old, then you should know that the "Bee Girl" from the video, Heather DeLoach, is 34 years old.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Pops

Whether you call it pop (which is the correct term), soda, soda pop, sody pop, or Coke, Chicago is no longer it's friend.  As you may have heard, Cook County -- the adorably fiscally irresponsible county home to over five million residents, including yours truly -- recently enacted a "sweetened beverage tax."   Now, with a few limited exceptions, whenever you buy a "sweetened" beverage -- whether sweetened with sugar or artificially -- you now pay one cent per ounce in tax (in addition to the 10+% sales tax you're already paying).  So, if you're buying a case of Diet Coke, that's an extra $2.88.  This is all supposedly for the kids.  You know, because an extra 20 cents is going to prevent a kid from buying a bottle of Mountain Dew.  Hell, even Gatorade and Propel are being taxed.  Does the Cook County Board not want us to replenish electrolytes while working out?  Now that seems irresponsible.

The worst side effect for me is that the 7-11 across the street has now removed unsweetened iced tea (which is not part of the tax) from its fountain drinks because it doesn't have a way to systematically distinguish in its cash register system what's in one Big Gulp versus what's in another.  So now the healthiest option on the tap has been eliminated.  I used to be able to walk in with a dollar, get a Big Gulp of iced tea, slap a dollar down, tell them to keep the two cents in change, and strut out like I was the cock of the walk (which I was).  Now, I either have to buy a fucking bottle of unsweetened iced tea (which is never quite as good as the fountain) for $1.89 or I have to pay $1.18 for a fountain Diet Mountain Dew.  This is a choice no one should have to face, not even Toni Preckwinkle.

As I enter the Post-Pop Era in Chicago, I fondly remember what it was like to drink pop without being taxed, something my children will never have the pleasure of experiencing.  With that, here are my ten favorite types of pop (in alphabetical order).  Some are specific brands, while others are general types.
1.  Cherry Coke
I remember when Cherry Coke was introduced in 1985.  My mom and I (and presumably my brother, because who leaves a 3-year-old at home unattended?) walked to the Circle K a few blocks away and bought a couple cans of Cherry Coke.  It was awesome then, and it's awesome now.

2.  Cream Soda
I am a huge fan of cream soda, although not when it has too much vanilla (looking your way, A&W).

3.  Diet Coke
At some point late in college, I realized that drinking regular Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper probably wasn't good for my waistline.  I stopped drinking coffee because it gave me the jitters and the shits, which is an unpleasant combination when trying to sit through a history lecture.  So I switched to Diet Coke, and never looked back.  Of course, McDonald's has the best Diet Coke.  That's just a fact.

4.  Diet Mountain Dew
I used to drink a good amount of regular Mountain Dew, but decided that wasn't good for me either (see Diet Coke, above), so I went with Diet Dew.  Even with the extra 20 cents tacked on, I'll still get a Big Gulp of this now and then, if I need a pick-me-up on a Saturday afternoon.

5.  Diet Vernor's Ginger Ale
Growing up, I would visit my grandparents in the Detroit area, where there was this insanely effervescent ginger ale called Vernor's.  I like regular Vernor's, but it's usually too bubbly.  Diet Vernor's, on the other hand, still has the gingery power of regular Vernor's, without the risk of making me cough up my drink.

6.  Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb
I don't know how any one dislikes Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb, even if the latter has changed its name to Pibb Xtra.

7.  Faygo Rock N' Rye
This is another holdover from my trips to Michigan as a kid.  It's kind of it's own beast, so I'm not sure exactly how to categorize it -- maybe a cherry cream soda.  Whatever it is, it's fantastic.

8.  Green River
Green River is a Chicago institution.  It's a Kelly green lime soda that I'm pretty sure you can only find in the Chicagoland area -- often on the fountain of a mom and pop hot dog stand or Italian beef spot.  The best part is that the CCR song and album of the same name were inspired by the pop.

9.  Orange Soda
I love a good orange soda, which I realize is redundant, whether it's Fanta, Crush, Sunkist, Slice, Jones, Jarritos, or generic.

10.  Root Beer
Root beer is another one of those pops that I find it impossible that anyone could dislike it.  I could drink root beer at any time, with or without ice cream.  There isn't any one particular brand of root beer that I prefer over others, but I'd say a list of brands I enjoy includes, in no particular order, Dad's, Mug, Barq's, Goose Island, IBC, Sprecher, and Faygo.

What about you fine folks?  Is there any kind of pop I should try, when outside the confines of the second-largest county in the country?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 9/15/17

1.  "Party's Over" by Tesla

2.  "The Razor's Edge" by AC/DC

3.  "Love Ain't No Stranger" by Whitesnake

4.  "Excitable" by Def Leppard

5.  "Exciter" by Kiss

6.  "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar

7.  "Dangerous But Worth The Risk" by Ratt

8.  "Blood On Blood" by Bon Jovi

9.  "For A Million Years" by Lynch Mob

10.  "Warsong" by White Lion

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany

Apologies for not posting a Tuesday Top Ten yesterday.  We were celebrating Lollipop's birthday by tying helium-filled red balloons to sewer grates, doing the worm in supermarket parking lots, and vomiting fake blood on out-of-town Cubs fans riding the L.  You know, typical six-year-old stuff.

Friday marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Tiffany's eponymous debut album.  Along with Debbie Gibson, Tiffany was the queen of mall pop.  Her debut album took the charts by storm, climbing all the way to #1 in the US and Canada, and eventually going quadruple platinum.  All four singles released from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100.  The first two -- her cover of Tommy James and Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Could've Been" -- hit #1, while her reworking of The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" (replacing the "Her" with "Him") got to #7 and "Feelings of Forever" topped out at #50.  Her next album would have two more Top 40 hits ("All This Time" (#6) and "Radio Romance" (#35)), and then she was gone almost as quickly as she came -- not to be heard from again until she appeared in Playboy in 2002.

I decided to go with "I Think We're Alone Now" because it's her most recognizable song, even though it's not her song.  The video is about as Tiffany as it gets, as it's filmed in various malls in which she was performing.  Such was the life of a 16-year-old pop singer in 1987.  One of my favorite tidbits of useless rock and roll trivia is that covers of Tommy James and The Shondells songs were back-to-back #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987.  This song was #1 for two weeks, followed by Billy Idol's cover of "Mony Mony."  Be sure to break that out at your next cocktail party if you want to pull some wool.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Twentysomething hirsute homeless male on a street corner holds a sign that says:  "Ninjas murdered my family.  Need $$ for kung fu lessons."
--Chicago, State & Grand
Eavesdropper:  GMYH

Friday, September 08, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 9/8/17

1.  "Broken Dreams" by Lita Ford

2.  "You Really Got Me" by Van Halen

3.  "Standing In The Shadow" by Whitesnake

4.  "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne

5.  "I Won't Forget You" by Poison

6.  "Ten Seconds To Love" by Mötley Crüe

7.  "Love Song" by Tesla

8.  "I've Had Enough (Into The Fire)" by Kiss

9.  "Price You Gotta Pay" by Mr. Big

10.  "Poison" by Alice Cooper

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Nearly Lost You" by Screaming Trees

Twenty five years ago, grunge was in full swing.  This Friday in 1992, Screaming Trees released their sixth studio album, Sweet Oblivion.  The band was formed in Ellensburg, Washington, about 100 miles from Seattle, in 1985, and they were considered one of the forefathers of grunge.  While most of their fame was "underground," their song "Nearly Lost You" was included on the grunge/alternative-laden Singles soundtrack, propelling the song to a #5 position on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart and #12 on the Mainstream Rock chart.  It's a really good song, and for me, it's one of the songs that most epitomizes the grunge era.  Whenever I hear it, I'm immediately taken back to the early '90s.  I see flannel and oversized t-shirts, and I'm totally fine with that.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Replacements Songs By Album

As you may know, I recently finished reading The Replacements' biography.  I listened to all of their albums in chronological order as I was reading the book, which was a great way to complement the book.  My review of the bio was mainly focused on the band's self-sabotage, but this post will be focused on the band's music.

Comprised of singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg, the Stinson brothers (Bob on guitar and Tommy on bass), and drummer Chris Mars, The Replacements were one of the main players in Minneapolis's punk scene in the early '80s.  Westerberg was the main songwriter, and his lyrics were often self-deprecating and relatable.  Tommy Stinson wasn't even 14 when the group released its first album, and basically had to drop out of high school to become a rock star.  Older brother Bob was kind of a wildcard, and his musical interests trended towards the harder stuff.  His issues with drugs eventually go him kicked out of the group, which is saying a lot, given the very low sobriety bar that was set by the others in the band.  Mars was the artist of the group, but just as crazy as the others.

The Replacements started off as punk, often bordering on hardcore.  But even with their second full-length album, Hootenanny, the band was experimenting with various genres, and experimenting well.  By their third album, Let It Be, they were hitting on all cylinders, making great alternative rock, with some punk mixed in.  Their latter four albums were what would probably be considered "college rock" back in the day -- songs that were really good, but didn't fit the mold of what Top 40 stations were looking to play in the late '80s.  Had the band not broken up, I think they would have flourished in the '90s.

The band was a major influence on alternative bands and indie rock bands from the late '80s until today, including Goo Goo Dolls, fellow Minnesotans Soul Asylum, Nirvana, The Hold Steady, and The Gaslight Anthem, among many others.

Like I did a couple months ago with another Minneapolis-bred band, The Hold Steady, I'll give you my favorite song off of each of the band's seven studio albums (and an EP), as well as a couple wildcards.

Favorite song off of each album
1.  "I'm In Trouble" (Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, 1981)
The band's debut album was an energetic mix of straight punk and hardcore, but there is still something below the breakneck pace that gives you a hint of what's to come with Westerberg's songwriting.  There are a lot of great punk songs on the album, but my favorite is "I'm In Trouble," which is a two-minute frenetic number about a guy who is trying to avoid a woman (and perhaps his own feelings).  "You're in love / And I'm in trouble."  We've all been there.

2.  "Kids Don't Follow" (Stink, 1982)
Technically, Stink was an EP because it only had 8 songs on it, but I'm including it on this list because I can.  I'm going with the opening track, "Kids Don't Follow," not only because it's a great punk song, but also because the beginning of the track features audio of the Minneapolis police breaking up a party at the band's record studio that was apparently too loud.  The cop speaking into the mic has a great Minnesota accent, and you can hear someone in the background yell "hey fuck you, man!"  Legend has it that was Soul Asylum lead singer Dave Pirner.

3.  "Color Me Impressed" (Hootenanny, 1983)
With their second full-length album, the band's direction already started to change.  Yes, there are some thrashing punk songs ("Run It," "Take Me Down To The Hospital," "You Lose," "Hayday"), but Hootenanny is an eclectic album.  The title track is kind of a bluesy joke track, with Westerberg basically just repeating the word "hootenanny."  "Willpower" is a slow, trippy song that sounds like it should be played in a hall of mirrors.  "Within Your Reach" is synthed up love song that is pretty much just a guitar and a drum machine.  "Buck Hill" is a fun instrumental.  "Lovelines" is a tongue-in-cheek, rockabilly song that is basically a reading of the personal ads in a newspaper.  But "Color Me Impressed" is my favorite song on the album.  It rocks and it's catchy, and I definitely see it as a harbinger of what was to come with The Replacements' sound.

4.  "Favorite Thing" (Let It Be, 1984)
This was the first Replacements album I bought, and it's still probably my favorite.  I don't remember when I first heard of The Replacements or what prompted me to buy Let It Be, but I did.  When I heard the jangly guitar intro to "I Will Dare," I felt like that was exactly what I expected The Replacements to sound like.  It was catchy and alternative all at the same time.  It all made sense.  But that's not really what they sound like all the time.  As this album shows, they also had punk chops ("We're Coming Out", "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out"), but they could write tongue-in-cheek songs ("Gary's Got a Boner"), ballads ("Androgynous," "Sixteen Blue," "Unsatisfied"), and heartfelt, guitar-heavy rockers ("Seen Your Video," "Answering Machine"), and they could cover KISS, quite well at that ("Black Diamond").  It was a schizophrenic album, but it all worked together.  I really like "I Will Dare," "Answering Machine," and "Gary's Got a Boner," but my favorite song is "Favorite Thing."  It's punkish and edgy, but catchy and has a sing-along chorus -- and it has the fantastic line "rock don't give a single shit."

5.  "Left Of The Dial" (Tim, 1985)
Tim is a great album -- and the band's major label debut -- but unfortunately, it was Bob Stinson's last, as he got kicked out after this record was made.  It was a tough choice between "Bastards of Young," "Little Mascara," "Left Of The Dial," and "Lay It Down Clown," but I'm going with "Left Of The Dial." It is kind of an anthem for college rock, since the kind of radio stations that would play The Replacements and similar bands were often the college stations to the left of the radio dial.  You see, kids, back in the '80s, your car radio had a tuner, with a dial that you would turn, moving the tuner from left to right, until you landed on a station that suited your needs and wants.

6.  "Alex Chilton" (Pleased To Meet Me, 1987)
The band made this album as a trio, after kicking Bob Stinson out of the band.  I actually just bought this one while I was reading the biography, and it has quickly become my second-favorite Replacements album.  Top to bottom, it's solid.  "I.O.U" is a great, rocking song that kicks the album off.  "Can't Hardly Wait" inspired the title to the 1998 Jennifer Love Hewitt/Ethan Embry vehicle that might be one of the best teen party movies ever.  "The Ledge" is a dark song, song from the point of view of a teenage boy standing on the ledge of his school, about to commit suicide.  I'm going with "Alex Chilton," the catchy as hell song about former Box Tops and Big Star lead singer Alex Chilton (who played guitar on "Can't Hardly Wait," by the way).  Like The Replacements, Big Star was one of those bands who influenced a ton of other bands, but never quite made it as big as they should have.

7.  "I'll Be You" (Don't Tell a Soul, 1989)
Topping out at #57 on the Billboard album charts, this was the band's highest-charting album.  It was the first album and only album with guitarist Slim Dunlap, who joined the band after they recorded Pleased To Meet Me.  I also bought this one while reading the band's biography, but unfortunately, the CD (yes, I still buy CDs) didn't upload to iTunes well, and most of the songs are scratchy to the point that I can't really hear them.  Thus, I have the least familiarity with this one.  As a result, I'm going with "I'll Be You," which was the band's only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (#51) and also hit #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and Album Rock Tracks charts.

8.  "My Little Problem" (All Shook Down, 1990)
For all intents and purposes, All Shook Down was a Paul Westerberg solo album.  The band was all but broken up at this point, and while some combination of Mars, Tommy Stinson, and Dunlap played on most tracks, there was only one song on the album on which all four of the band played ("Attitude").  It's pretty stripped down and acoustic-heavy, but it does have it's moments of rock, one of which is "My Little Problem," on which Concrete Blonde lead singer Johnette Napolitano shares the vocals with Westerberg.

It was difficult to narrow it down to only two songs, so I didn't.  I'll go in chronological order.

9.  "A Toe Needs A Shoe" (Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, 1981)
This is an outtake that was a bonus track on the reissue of Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, and it's really a great instrumental, showcasing Bob Stinson's guitar skills.  Also, when this song plays at home, my kids can't help but stop whatever they're doing and start dancing.  Son, particularly, just gets into the rhythm and shakes his ass like he just don't care.

10.  "Within Your Reach" (Hootenanny, 1983)
I mentioned this above, but it's just such a mesmerizing song that I can't leave it off the list.  It's unlike anything else in the band's catalog.  And apparently, it was used in the movie Say Anything.

11.  "I Will Dare" (Let It Be, 1984)
I discussed this song above, as well.  It's just a great pop song, and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck lent his guitar to the jangly guitar solo in the middle of the song.  Like I said above, I think this song kind of epitomizes '80s "college rock." If this song was released six years later, it probably would have been a Top 10 song.

12.  "Answering Machine" (Let It Be, 1984)
The riff of this song grabbed me the first time I heard it.  It's loud and distorted, and then the lyrics kick in, and it's quite heartfelt.  Those of us who grew up before voicemail and text messages can relate to the sentiment of the song:  "how do you say 'good night' to an answering machine?"

13.  "I.O.U." (Pleased To Meet Me, 1987)
This is the first track off of Pleased To Meet Me, and it was inspired by Iggy Pop, who was said to have signed an autograph "IOU Nothing."  The song is a blistering rocker, and the message of the song is pretty in tune with the band's attitude towards everyone and everything ("I owe you nothing").

Friday, September 01, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 9/1/17

1.  "Come Again" by Damn Yankees

2.  "Panama" by Van Halen

3.  "Rock Rock (Till You Drop)" by Def Leppard

4.  "Girlschool" by Britny Fox

5.  "I'm Leaving You" by Scorpions

6.  "Live Wire" by Mötley Crüe

7.  "Sacred Heart" by Dio

8.  "Cold Blood" by Kix

9.  "Unskinny Bop" by Poison

10.  "Back in Black" by AC/DC

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister

I haven't had much time over the last few days to commit to this blog, but apparently Kyrie Irving was recently traded, and now the Cavs are pissed because Isaiah Thomas was more injured than what they believed when they made the trade.  It reminded me of my favorite Mr. Mister song, "Broken Wings."  You know, because it's like Thomas has a broken wing or something.  Then I'm like, "You numb nuts.  They have a fucking song called 'Kyrie.'"  "Yeah, but isn't that pronounced 'key-ree-ee-aye,' not 'kye-ree'?"  "Don't be a dick."  "I'm done with this conversation."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Book: Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

About a month ago, I finished reading Trouble Boys:  The True Story of The Replacements by Bob Mehr. It was a fascinating and depressing biography of a band that could have and should have been one of the biggest alternative bands of the late '80s and early '90s. The Replacements were basically on the same career arc as R.E.M. -- and were much better and edgier, in my opinion. But where R.E.M. actually made wise career decisions, The Replacements engaged in self-sabotage like no other band in rock history.  Aside from the band's rampant alcoholism and drug abuse:  

  • They purposely tanked auditions for record labels.
  • They destroyed and regularly pissed all over their own tour bus (which they had to pay for).
  • They refused to release videos during the formative years of MTV.
  • They would show up wasted to meetings with records labels and do their best to piss off the people who could have given them record deals.
  • When they were given the chance to tour as openers for bigger acts (like Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers), they tried to alienate audiences.
  • They swore live on air when they were the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in 1986 (resulting in being blackballed from network television).
  • When they finally released a video, it was a song about teen suicide ("The Ledge"), right around the same time as several high-profile teen suicides around the country, so MTV refused to play it
  • They would play "pussy sets" when they didn't like the way a concert audience was reacting, basically bombing on purpose and playing random songs that they thought the audience would hate.
  • They would literally burn the money they got for their per diems.
  • When ostensibly promoting a record by doing radio interviews, they would often purposely piss off the very DJs who would have otherwise played their songs on the air. 

At the recommendation of a friend, I listened to the band's albums kind of chronologically as I was reading about the band making each album, and I definitely recommend doing the same. If nothing else, the band was a huge influence on the alternative rock scene in the late '80s and '90s, and the book was a great read, particularly if you are looking to read about one of those bands that people always say "why didn't they ever get big?" The answer here seems to be booze, drugs, and a paralyzing fear of success, but it's a hell of a ride. 

After four rock and roll biographies in a row, I decided to switch it up, going back to some horror/suspense.  I started reading The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King. It's another collection of King's short stories. I read Night Shift last fall and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then again, I don't think there's anything I've read by Stephen King that I haven't enjoyed. 

Books read in 2017:

-X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Ray Davies
-Phil Lynott: The Rocker by Mark Putterford
-I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman
-Trouble Boys:  The True Story of The Replacements by Bob Mehr

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 8/25/17

1.  "Thrill That Kills" by BulletBoys

2.  "Winds of Change" by Cinderella

3.  "14 Years" by Guns N' Roses

4.  "I'll Wait" by Van Halen

5.  "Save Your Love" by Great White

6.  "Long Way To Love" by Britny Fox

7.  "Lightning Strikes Again" by Dokken

8.  "The Whole World's Gonna Know" by Mr. Big

9.  "Crying In The Rain" by Whitesnake

10.  "Spend My Life" by Slaughter

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler

Apologies for not posting a Tuesday Top Ten yesterday.  I was busy making my triumphant return to bar trivia at Rocks last night.  But anywho, enough about me.  With the solar eclipse mania that has gripped the country and the world this week, there is only one song video I can play in good conscience.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 8/18/17

1.  "Down Boys" by Warrant

2.  "Stevie" by Britny Fox

3.  "November Rain" by Guns N' Roses

4.  "Brain Drain" by Jackyl

5.  "Jump" by Van Halen

6.  "Animal" by Def Leppard

7.  "More Than Ever" by Nelson

8.  "Rattlesnake Shake" by Skid Row

9.  "Love Don't Come Easy" by White Lion

10.  "Blood Pollution" by Steel Dragon

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Only In My Dreams" by Debbie Gibson

This Friday is the 30th anniversary of the release of Debbie Gibson's debut album, Out of the Blue.  If you were alive in the late '80s and listening to the radio, Debbie Gibson was ubiquitous.  Her catchy, dance-friendly "mall pop" songs were hugely popular, as all but one of the first ten songs she released in the U.S. hit the Top 40, including five Top 10 and two Number Ones ("Foolish Beat" and "Lost In Your Eyes").

Released when Gibson was two weeks shy of her 17th birthday, Out of the Blue was pretty much a success right out of the bat, getting up to #7 on the Billboard album charts and spawning five Top 40 hits in the U.S.:  "Only In My Dreams" (#4), "Shake Your Love" (#4), "Out of the Blue" (#3), "Foolish Beat" (#1), and "Staying Together" (#22).  The album eventually went triple platinum in the U.S., and is still Gibson's best-selling album.  Most impressive is that, unlike a lot of teen pop stars (both in the '80s and continuing through to today), Gibson wrote all of her songs.  In fact, when "Foolish Beat" hit #1 in June 1988 (when she was still 17), Gibson became the youngest female artist to write, produce, and perform a #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Whenever I hear a Debbie Gibson song, it immediately takes me back to fourth to sixth grade, when her songs were in heavy rotation on Top 40 radio.  Say what you will about "mall pop" or the superficiality of '80s pop music, these were some damn catchy songs.  I'm going with her debut single, "Only In My Dreams," because that's what I feel like going with.  Of course, we are still waiting for that Gibson vs. Tiffany celebrity boxing match.  Well, I am anyway. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Lollapalooza 2017

A week and a half ago, hundreds of thousands of music fans descended on Chicago's lakefront for the 13th edition of Lollapalooza in Grant Park.  It was my 12th in Grant Park and 13th overall (shout out to Lollapalooza '94!), and as always, it was a blast.  For the second year in a row, Lolla was four days, stretching from Thursday through Sunday.  I'm not sure that fourth day is necessary, but I'm sure they're making money, or else they wouldn't do it, and who am I to complain about another day of great live music?

While I had to ditch out on Sunday due to some travel conflicts, in the three days I did attend,  I saw some great bands, and did some even better people watching.  Aside from some dicey weather Thursday night, it was a pretty nice weekend weatherwise.

Thursday, as I did last year, I took Daughter and Lollipop down to the fest for the afternoon, so that they can witness what not to wear and how not to act when they are teenagers.  Seriously, how can a 17-year-old girl wearing basically just a bra and short shorts be so drunk/high at 1 p.m. that she can't stand up?  It's fucking Thursday.  Pace yourself.

Anyway, the Kidzapalooza area was fantastic again.  The girls got free tattoos, free hair coloring, free balloons, not free sno-cones, and a free Kidzapalooza pin.  They also got to paint on a giant plywood contraption.  Both painted pizza-related images.  We are from Chicago, after all. 

The girls even watched a few real bands this year, including White Reaper and The Oh-My's, and unknowingly took in their first (and second and third and fourth and fifth) smells of weed.
Around 4:30, I had to take the girls to meet Jester when she was done with work, which meant that, unfortunately, I missed Liam Gallagher's meltdown.  In case you didn't hear, the mercurial Oasis frontman played about four songs before quitting because the crowd watching him apparently wasn't large enough.  I had a work function to attend, so I also unfortunately missed Cage The Elephant, who I hear put on a great show (they always do).

Upon my return, I met up with my friends Chandler, Daniel, and Meredith in time for Spoon.  Then it started to rain.  Muse was one of the headliners that night, and after their fourth song -- as lightning was flashing on both sides of Grant Park -- all of the shows going on that night were canceled, and the fest was evacuated.  Fear not, we made our way to a local establishment, so that we could imbibe a few more beers.  Sadly, my Bulls flip flops -- which, as you may recall, were wounded last year -- fell back apart, so I spent my walk back from the L to my house with one flip flop on and one off.

Friday, we gained a few more compatriots, as Jester, Kyla, and Jen joined us.  It was only in the 60s, so for the first time ever (and quite begrudgingly), I wore pants and shoes to Lolla.  At least it didn't rain.  Unfortunately, the band I was most looking forward to seeing -- The Pretty Reckless -- had to cancel their set because their flight the night before got canceled.  But nevertheless, we persisted.

The downfall of cooler weather is that, instead of needing to drink liters and liters of water to stay hydrated, we gravitated towards beer.  We also discovered the cocktail tent right around 4 p.m.  Quite prophetically, we predicted this would be the turning point.
The margarita was very good -- and very strong.  We declined from there, going with our standard "sport bottles of wine when the sun goes down."  They added rose as a wine option this year because, you know, white chicks love rose.  Jester's brother Willie eventually met up with us at some point.  Blink-182 headlined that night and was great.  Kyla may or may not have been slipped a mickey by a stranger.

That night, Foo Fighters were playing an aftershow at The Metro.  While we didn't have tickets, we decided to head to the G-Man Tavern, which is right next door, hoping that maybe a Foo or two would stop by before or after the show.  The show started at 11.  We closed it down at 2.  The Foo Fighters were still playing for another half hour after that.  Willie and I grabbed some much-needed Mexican food on the way home.  I miss late-night burritos.

Saturday, the weather was just about perfect.  Mid '70s, mostly cloudy.  It was a nice full day of music, capped off by lovable local hero Chance the Rapper.  During Chance's show, we staked out our usual spot on the little hill to the left of the stage.  Some dude was lying down and full-on puking into a sewer grate about 15 feet away from us for a good five minutes.  I offered him a water, and his eyes were focused on something that was apparently 20 feet behind my eyes, but he nodded "yes."  When I got back less than two minutes later with said water, he clearly had no recollection of our exchange, but he took the water nonetheless.  After a few minutes of lying on the ground and appearing nearly comatose, he popped up and danced his way into the masses of the crowd.  Such is Lolla.

Here's a panoramic shot of the field Saturday night before Chance the Rapper started.

Here are the bands and artists for which I saw two or more songs over the course of the weekend:

Thursday:  White Reaper; The Oh-My's; Middle Kids; Spoon; Muse

Friday:  PUP; Cloud Nothings; Tegan & Sara; Ryan Adams; Run The Jewels; Moksi; Blink-182

Saturday:  Blossoms; Ron Gallo; 888; Highly Suspect; Colony House; The Shelters; Royal Blood; The London Souls; Live; The Head and The Heart; Chance The Rapper; Kaskade

Here are my top ten shows that I saw over the course of the weekend:

Honorable Mention:  Blossoms; The London Souls; PUP

10.  Muse
These guys probably would be higher on the list if they played more than four songs.  They were just starting to ramp up when the lightning began.  Muse is one of those bands that is made for large crowds.

9.  White Reaper
Even though they were too loud for Daughter and Lollipop, I thought they were great.  They were energetic, and their music was a nice blend of punk, power punk, pop punk, power pop, and garage rock.

8.  The Shelters
I missed their regular set Saturday afternoon, but thankfully they were playing at the Toyota tent Saturday evening, so I caught some of their set.  Good, catchy, California rock and roll.

7.  Cloud Nothings
I have liked these guys for a few years.  Another good, garage-y punky band.

6.  Chance The Rapper
I'm not going to pretend that I'm some huge Chance fan.  I think he's a great dude, he does a lot for the community, and he's a Sox fan, so you know he's okay in my book -- but I don't know any of his songs.  That said, I really enjoyed his set.  He commanded the crowd, and there was a really cool moment when he asked everyone to put their cell phones up, with the screen facing the stage.  Nothing like 50,000+ cell phones shining in the night.

5.  Blink-182

I had never seen Blink-182, so I was excited to see them.  They didn't disappoint, even if Tom is no longer in the band.

4.  Royal Blood
I love Royal Blood, and was pissed I didn't get tickets to their aftershow at Lincoln Hall.  Regardless, I'm always amazed at how they get that much sound out of only a bass and drums.  They rock, plain and simple.

3.  Run The Jewels

They were fantastic.  The whole set was full of energy, and they even brought a fan up on stage to rap one of the songs (see pic below), and the guy killed it.  We had a lot of fun watching these guys.

2.  Live
Live was another band I was pretty excited to see, since I've never seen them.  I gotta tell you, they brought it.  We got relatively close (or at least closer to the stage than we usually bothered to get), and enjoyed the hell out of their set.  In addition to their classic hits, they covered Johnny Cash and Audioslave (the latter, obviously, in honor of Chris Cornell).  The band looked like they were having fun, and I know all of us Gen Xers in the audience were having fun.

1.  Ron Gallo
This was our annual "discovery of Lolla."  My favorite thing about Lollapalooza is discovering new bands.  Ron Gallo and his band were awesome.  It was fuzzed-out protopunk and rock, full of visceral energy, reminiscent of The MC5.  Their songs not only rocked, but had a bit of irreverence, which I liked.  Definitely check them out if they come to your city.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 8/11/17

1.  "Suzie (Wants Her All Day What?)" by Extreme

2.  "Widowmaker" by W.A.S.P.

3.  "Back Off Brother" by Jackyl

4.  "Top Jimmy" by Van Halen

5.  "Unskinny Bop" by Poison

6.  "You're No Different" by Ozzy Osbourne

7.  "Exciter" by Kiss

8.  "No Bed of Roses" by Lynch Mob

9.  "I Want You" by Bon Jovi

10.  "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" by Mötley Crüe 

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Vacation" by The Go-Go's

I have spent most of the last six days at Lolla or traveling, so I haven't had any time for a Tuesday Top Ten.  That means you will have to wait until next Tuesday for my Lolla recap.  Let the anticipation build.

In the meantime, this Friday marks the 35th anniversary of the release of the second studio album by new wavers The Go-Go's.  Vacation didn't top the Billboard album charts like its predecessor did, but it still hit #8, so it's hardly a sophomore slump.  Despite their grammatically incorrect name, I have always enjoyed The Go-Go's.  Their music is catchy, but with a little bit of an edge.  It's definitely one of those bands that, when I hear them, I am immediately transported to early '80s suburban life.

The album's title track also hit #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.  "Vacation" (the song) is probably the band's most recognizable video, with the waterskiing and all.  Sadly, it would be the band's last Top 10 song, as they broke up after their next album, Talk Show, although lead singer Belinda Carlisle, of course, found huge success in the later half of the decade as a solo artist, with four Top 10 songs between 1986 and 1988 (including the #1 hit "Heaven Is a Place On Earth").  But I digress.  Just enjoy the "Vacation" video, already.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard

Two weeks ago, it was the 30th anniversary of Appetite for Destruction.  This week (tomorrow, to be exact), it's the 30th anniversary of Def Leppard's mega-album, Hysteria.  That's right.  Arguably the two best albums of the hair band genre and two of the best hard rock albums of the '80s were released a mere two weeks apart.

If there was ever a band that went through hell and deserved huge success, it was Def Leppard between the Pyromania and Hysteria albums.  After the Pyromania tour, the band went home for the holidays in 1984, when drummer Rick Allen got into that fateful car accident in the English countryside that resulted in the loss of his left arm.  He had to basically build his own drum kit (part regular drums and part electronic drums), so that he could play the parts that he had played with his left hand by using pedals with his left foot -- and then he had to reteach himself how to play the drums that way.  That's pretty fucking amazing, if you ask me (not to mention that his bandmates stuck by him the whole time, rather than get another drummer).  And then, while making Hysteria, the band went through a few producers before Mutt Lange finally came back on board.  And then Lange got into a car accident of his own.  And then lead singer Joe Elliott got the mumps.

After Hysteria was finally released in August 1987 -- four and a half years after Pyromania had been released -- it struggled to gain momentum, and it was said that the band needed to sell 5 million copies just to break even.  Enter "Pour Some Sugar On Me" -- the third single released off of the album.  I remember the first time I heard it.  I only caught part of the song, and the DJ didn't say who sung it.  But I immediately fell in love with it, and I was determined to buy the tape of whoever sang it as soon as possible.  During my next trip to Phar-Mor, I flipped through all of the tapes, looking for a song called "Burning Like a Flame" because that's what I misremembered the "love is like a bomb" lyric as being.  As a result, I nearly bought a Dokken tape, since they had a song called "Burning Like a Flame," but I didn't pull the trigger because something told me that wasn't the right band.  When I finally figured out it was Def Leppard, I bought Hysteria and have never looked back.  I credit the Hysteria album with turning my musical focus from pop and the Beach Boys to hard rock and hair bands.  

It's an amazing album, top to bottom, that has sold 25 million copies worldwide and 12 million in the U.S.  Hysteria topped the album charts in the U.S., UK, Canada, and Australia, among others, and it ended up spending 96 weeks in the Top 40 of the Billboard album charts -- tied with Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. for the most weeks an album spent in the Top 40 during the '80s.  It spawned an unheard of (for a hard rock band) seven songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100, including six Top 20, four Top 10, and one #1.  They were, in order:  "Women" (#80), "Animal" (#19), "Hysteria" (#10), "Pour Some Sugar On Me" (#2), "Love Bites" (#1), "Armageddon It" (#3), and "Rocket" (#12).  With Hysteria and Pyromania, Def Leppard has two RIAA-certified diamond albums, making it one of only three hard rock bands that can say that (along with Led Zeppelin and Van Halen).

"Pour Some Sugar On Me" quickly became my favorite song, and that hasn't changed since.  It is, to me, the perfect rock song.  It's about sex (which was way over my head at the time), it's catchy, it has a snarling riff, it has a sing-along chorus, and it just fucking rocks.  And there are two videos for the song (the original was a UK-only release).  Because I love you, I'm posting both.  With that, step inside, walk this way . . .

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: That's What She Said

I don't have time (yet again) for a proper Tuesday Top Ten, but I won't leave you empty-handed.  I was a big fan of The Office, and I'm still a big fan of a well-timed "that's what she said" joke.  Thankfully, the good people at The Office US YouTube account have compiled all of the "that's what she saids" from The Office's entire run (thanks to Trashton for the link).  So, here it is.  I think you'll find it quite satisfying. That's what she said.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 7/28/17

1.  "High Enough" by Damn Yankees

2.  "Do You Like It" by Kingdom Come

3.  "Bad Boys (Of Rock 'N' Roll)" by Twisted Sister

4.  "After The Rain" by Nelson

5.  "Best of Both Worlds" by Van Halen

6.  "Feels Good" by XYZ

7.  "Cum On Feel the Noize" by Quiet Riot

8.  "Too Fast For Love" by Mötley Crüe 

9.  "Hangin' On" by Winger

10.  "Rockin' Horse" by Roxx

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Retro Video of the Week: "Brian Wilson" by Barenaked Ladies

Apologies for not posting a Tuesday Top Ten yesterday.  Work has been insanely busy lately.  I guess that's the blessing and curse of being an in-demand fluffer.  Sometimes it really sucks, but other times it just blows me away.

But anywho, Friday is the 25th anniversary of the release of Barenaked Ladies' debut album, Gordon.  The album featured some of those clever Canadians' most memorable songs, like "If I Had $1,000,000" -- which has single-handedly kept the K-Car in the American and Canadian consciousness -- "Hello City," "Be My Yoko Ono," "What a Good Boy," and "Brian Wilson."  The latter is the only one with a video, other than "Be My Yoko Ono," so that's what I'm going with -- not that it wouldn't have been my first choice anyway.  It's a great song about a great man.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 7/21/17

1.  "My Michelle" by Guns N' Roses

2.  "My Generation" by Gorky Park

3.  "Bits And Pieces" by Nelson

4.  "Love Bites" by Def Leppard

5.  "Tell The World" by Ratt

6.  "Hole Hearted" by Extreme

7.  "Creepshow" by Skid Row

8.  "Runaround" by Van Halen

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

10.  "Sweet Sister Mercy" by Lynch Mob

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hair Band Friday - 7/14/17

1.  "No One Like You" by Scorpions

2.  "Say Your Prayers" by BulletBoys

3.  "Hellion" (live) by W.A.S.P.

4.  "Cathedral" by Van Halen

5.  "Warheads" by Extreme

6.  "Waiting For Darkness" by Ozzy Osbourne

7.  "Gettin' Better" (live) by Tesla

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

9.  "Hiway Nights" by Great White

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