Tag Archives: AC/DC

Birthday Party

Why do certain dates feature a gaggle of celebrity birthdays?

Maybe it’s just that a lot of people are born in early July, which…hmmm…would be nine months after the kids finally go back to school. Coincidence? Frightening to track your own conception back nine months and try to find a reason. I’m a week off from being an obvious St. Patrick’s Day conception myself.

Songwriter and producer Lee Hazlewood would have been 82 today. Singer Marc Almond, drummer Mitch Mitchell and even Root Boy Slim (of the Sex Change Band – that one’s for you, Billy Campbell) would be sharing a cake. Bon Scott died at 33, so it’s hard to picture him fronting AC/DC at 65, but that’s’ what he would have been doing today. Jack White, who is helping to coordinate the Michigan Music Festival I wrote about, is still a spry 36.

Some great actors were born today – Brian Dennehy, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Smits, the underrated and magnificent Chris Cooper. Fred Savage, who survived child stardom to become a solid director and producer, is still only 35. Pam Adlon – so wonderful as Louie CK’s wife in Lucky Louie and a producer and recurring character on his current show Louie (they really have to work on their show names) turns a MILF-y 45.

Of course, not all celebrants are nice people. Some might have even offed their spouses and gotten away with it, like this guy and that chick.

Odds are it’s someone’s birthday among the Prescription readers. So if you don’t have any plans, at least now you know some parties you can crash. (It’s going to be a little quiet at the Scott and Mitchell houses, but the rest should be rocking…)

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The Rock And Roll 500

The windowless white van rumbled eastward on Route 90, soon to take a dogleg right and hook up with its brother highway, The Mass Pike. A six-hour trek that normally would clog at one end or another, but on the two interior days of a four-day holiday, traffic was pretty much non-existent. Most people were already where they wanted to be. I was just going back and forth, as usual.

When I was her age, I moved a few times, and always with the help of friends. Someone always had a truck. Everyone would focus on the beer and pizza at the end of the run, and were it not for my abnormal amount of vinyl albums, we could probably have been in and done in a couple of hours. But I forgot what it’s like to live in a major city where public transportation is the norm, where not only do you not have a car, but no one you know does, either. And besides, isn’t this what Dads do?

The rental van was reasonably priced but came with its limitations. No power locks, so each of the five doors had to be constantly checked. No power windows, either – do they really still make hand cranks? And much to my horror, just a radio. No CD player, not even a cassette, and certainly no input for a digital device to be plugged in. Nope, the front end of the trip would be a hollow metal can bouncing down the road (what, you expected soundproofing?) and me alone with my thoughts, unless I could find something decent on the radio. I had given up trying to do that years ago.

But it’s Memorial Day Weekend, so rock stations across the country are broadcasting their own version of the Rock And Roll 500, a countdown of the five hundred greatest rock songs ever made. And although I constantly have to hit the scanner, as signals fade and ebb between markets or on each side of a mountain pass, sooner or later it’s there. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Cream, U2, Bruce Springsteen, The Cars, The Who, The Police, The Ramones…song after song that I know like the back of my hand, whether I like them or not. It’s a bit 60s and 70s heavy, but rightfully so, because that’s when the apex took place.

I remember selling my Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin albums in a used record store, not so much because I needed the money but because radio had played “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven” so often that I couldn’t bear to hear either band again. This egregious life choice was eventually recanted, of course, even though those two particular songs have long worn out their welcome. But the punk ethic of the time was to burn the past, and somehow I got caught up in the moment. I mean, really – I have never disliked the first four Led Zeppelin albums, they are incredible…but there they went across the counter.

It was a mistake I would not repeat; the day my senses came back to me and I repurchased them was also the day I realized that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. I like what I like, period. I don’t owe you an apology for that just because you disagree.

I thought of that a lot during the six-hour drive as I beat rhythms on the dashboard and heard my voice echo through the empty metal canister (reverb!), singing along as a large part of my childhood was played out for me one track at  a time. I remembered the boxes of 45s that I meticulously catalogued, the first albums I listened to over headphones, juggling prog and pop and glam and blues in college. Even the glee with which Roger and I would pore through the new punk singles arriving at Record Theatre – usually one scooped up by him and one by me, leaving none to be placed in the racks for sale. There was always an insatiable taste for great songs, and there was always the bedrock of what had come before.

I thought of the music I wasn’t hearing on the trip; were there really no J. Geils Band songs, even on the Boston station? And Tom Petty, who quietly went from ignored to elder statesman just by never stopping – would I hear “American Girl“? I already knew that The Dictators, Billy Bremner, Dwight Twilley, John Hiatt, and other lifelong favorites would probably not be heard from, but how was I not hearing a Kinks song?

Heading westward was a different story; the stations seemed less numerous and the song selections started to get downright odd. Even Eli turned to me at one point with her face scrunched up as a Candlebox song came in at number 168. I was incredulous. “The entire Kinks catalogue is better than that song“, I told her, and as “Everything Little Thing She Does is Magic” followed at #167 I imagined Sting sighing, relieved that when the great books were tabulated, someone gave the nod to his fine effort to move ahead – just ahead – of the mighty Candlebox.

Eli and I talked about many things on the way back, and the conversation turned to Lady Gaga. I don’t really care for him/her in the same way that I was never a Madonna fan – I’m much more centered on the music than the spectacle. Eli grew up listening to her own music but also getting the aural second-hand smoke of mine. My rule was and is that the driver picks the music, not the passengers. “I don’t think it’s great music per se“, she said, “but when I feel like dancing in a club it’s really fun and gets everyone going. It’s great for what it is, and I like it for that.” No guilt, just pleasure. A chip off the old block.

The sun had long set and we still had a couple of hours to go when “Going To Califormia” came on the radio, and I let it wash over me. I wasn’t going anywhere but home, but I must have channeled a dozen road trip memories in my mind. Had Eli turned to her left she would wonder why I had a shit-eating grin on my face after the long day, but someday she’ll do that herself. If there’s a better song to hear when you’re in a pensive mood on a long car trip, I can’t think of one right now.

And to think I once sold that album for a dollar. What fools these mortals be.

Led Zeppelin: “Going To California

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #6

The words “country blues” get thrown around a lot; I do it myself when describing music from Steve Earle to the apex of the Rolling Stones catalogue (Let It Bleed, Exile on Main Street, Beggars Banquet, Sticky  Fingers). But my god, when the form gets attacked by a band featuring a singer with the pipes of Teal Collins and a guitarist with the amazing chops of Josh Zee, the phrase redefines itself. This is flat-out goosebump material. I don’t recall witnessing Janis Joplin jamming with Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, but I imagine it might have gone down something like this:

Video: “Love Me Like A Man

The Mother Truckers are an incendiary band from Austin who just keep getting better and better. Last year “Dynamite” was my favorite song of the year, and there were three or four on Van Tour that could have made my top ten this year (if I didn’t concede the whole thing to Ce Lo Green). I mean, listen to this guy shred and this girl wail!

Video: “Dynamite

Van Tour, their fourth release, is a concept album of sorts; on the surface there are surreal songs about aliens and invasions, but it’s just a framework for honky tonk cowpunk, roots rock stompers and a master class in getting your jaw to drop. The Mother Truckers ferociously blend Americana, Patsy Cline and classic fingerpicking roadhouse hoedown with the force of AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Rolling Stones. But when Collins wants to get all sweet’n’low, she can simmer a ballad or blues song as well as just about anyone (listen to “Keep It Simple” – it  made my spine sweat!) And if Zee didn’t just launch himself onto your short list of great guitar players, well…

This is first-rate chops-meets-attitude. Van Tour might be their best yet.

Listen to clips on Amazon

Video: “Alien Girl” from Van Tour

The Mother Truckers on MySpace

Zep-KISSing “Hot Legs” and making it sound legit.

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Under The Radar: The Sleepers

If I were going to start a rock band, I’d want the boozy swagger of The Faces and The Rolling Stones mixed with the glam punch of Bowie and The New York Dolls plus the bombast of AC/DC and the stoner buzz of The Black Crowes and Izzy Stradlin. Looks like The Sleepers beat me to the punch.

Featuring a twin guitar attack over a kinetic rhythm section and an emotive (yet not preening) lead vocalist in Tommy Richied, their album Comeback Special distills all those influences through a combination ’77 punk attitude and a Sunset Strip hair metal glitz. And although it’s hit and miss – largely hit – it has that indescribable sound that wants to make you roll down the car window and blast it so the guy next to you can offer a knowing nod and smile.

I’m not one to fall for hyperbole without a second look, but I must admit that “what would happen if Jerry Lee Lewis married Appetite For Destruction instead of his cousin” is a hell of a description.

If that doesn’t do it for you, how about song titles? Any band that titles their songs “She Is My Drinking Problem” (think Poison amping up a country weeper), “Dirty Cop” and “Jailbait” has a sense of humor, at least, but while song subjects might not call Dylan to mind, they’re vehicles to set the tone for some great back-beats and some guitar noodling.

Tony Manno and Kevin Bannon interplay well on guitars, while Chris Cormier on bass and (I am not making this up) Johnny Action on drums are rock-solid. Kudos also to Elisa Carlson who adds piano and organ on a few tracks; they might want to bring her on full time. (This album came out in 2008; according to their website, Richied is no longer in the band and Bannon has taken over lead vocals).

Sometimes you need to remember that rock’n’roll can be straightforward and simple. I never heard the Chicago based band’s one previous album (Push It Nationwide) but after blasting this one a few times I’ll be seeking it out.

Listen to The Sleepers on Amazon.

The Sleepers on MySpace

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Rousing Rockers

It’s involuntary, almost Pavlovian.

You’re somewhere – anywhere – and that song comes on. You find yourself smiling no matter what the discussion is about…the hips start to shake a little bit…the air guitar is sitting there in the case ready to go. And sure enough, whether you’re bellowing out your car window or softly singing the words under your breath in the store, you’re all in. If you’re in a lively pub, you join in with several other people you don’t even know, as all inhibitions disappear and you bond in the most common language this planet has…music.

I thought about this the other day when I was howling out the car window with Warren Zevon as “Werewolves of London” was blasting out of the speakers. Some songs just…resonate. They don’t have to be very lyrical (“Hang On Sloopy” isn’t exactly Shakespeare); in fact you might not even understand a word you’re saying (“Louie Louie“). But the best ones are usually a song that was massively popular but also resonates with some feeling of angst – lost love, alienation, rebellion.

Lots of people sing along with the final chorus  of “Hey Jude“, but not with as much passion as they will when”What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding” or  “Rockin In The Free World” comes on the jukebox (at least not where I hang out!)…and if the song was a monster when you were in your prime bar-trolling years, so much the better.

So here are Ten Rousing Rockers will release your inner teenager and break the ice in any social situation as you raise your glass, throw your arm around a stranger and share a moment. And since it’s Friday, why not start right this minute? Life’s too short to wait for five o’clock.

01)Brown Sugar” (The Rolling Stones) I said yeah..yeah..yeah…whooooo!

02)Born To Run” (Bruce Springsteen) Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

03)Love Shack” (The B-52s). I got me a car as big as a whale!

04)Rock and Roll All Night” (KISS) And party every day!

05)Maggie May” (Rod Stewart) Maggie, I wish I never seen your face!

06)You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC) She was a fast machine, she kept…what clean?

07)Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Southern Man don’t need you around anyhow.

08)We Gotta Get Outta This Place” (The Animals) If it’s the last thing we ever do!

09)Love Stinks” (J. Geils Band) And so it goes ’til the day you die.

10)Wild Thing” (The Troggs) You make everything…groovy.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Glee Greats!

...and here are eight of them.

 

Unless you’re living under a rock – and maybe even that isn’t sequestered enough – you know that Glee has returned from hiatus to complete its run of episodes this Spring.  

This week’s show was a bit of a mixed bag, with the obligatory re-establishment of the key plot points, the introduction of new characters (including Idina Menzel from Rent and Wicked), and the trucking out of one of the most dreadful songs ever written, Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello”.  

I realize that the script occasionally needs to twist uncomfortably to work in the theme for the songs, and there’s enough about the show that’s enjoyable that I can roll with it. But even though “Hello” is a viable duet that fits the concept, a shitty song is a shitty song is a shitty song. Music is subjective. Your mileage may vary.  

And speaking of shitty songs, there’s “Vogue” by Madonna. Hate, hate, hate that song. But Jane Lynch knocked that bitch out of the park. Then again, Jane Lynch can do no wrong. Next week is a whole Madonna-themed episode, so I’ll have my sick bag at the ready.  

But that got me thinking…they’ve already tackled Queen, Journey, The Doors, AC/DC, The Pretenders, John Lennon…hell, even Generation X! They’s as unafraid to toss out a classic rock song as they are to pomp with fluff. So here are ten terrific tunes that I’d like to see Glee-ified…  

01: “Pushin Too Hard” (The Seeds) – perfect for Artie, I think. Especially since “Wheels” would be too Americana for Glee

02: “Can’t Hardly Wait” (The Replacements) – a back beat made for dancing, plus they get to use the horns and strings that always seem to be available. 

03: “Better Things” (The Kinks) – Any show about high school deals with overcoming adversity or at least hoping that things will turn around. And what better song for that than this? 

04: “One Way Ticket To Hell and Back” (The Darkness) – man, they missed the boat by leaving this one out this week. Perfect blend of AC/DC and falsetto would have provided great solos for many in the cast. 

05: “It Wouldn’t Have made Any Difference” (Todd Rundgren) – they do like their power ballads on the show, emotional vocal drama helps sustain the plot. Given the current relationship angst, is there a better choice than this classic? 

06: “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” (Morrissey) – because this sentiment is high school in a nutshell. Maybe even  “I Know It’s Going To Happen Someday”? But they’ll never do “You’re The One For Me, Fatty”. 

07: “Come On Eileen” (Dexy’s Midnight Runners) – actually, I can’t believe they haven’t done this one yet! Not certain who would sing it, but I want to see some of these people rocking the overalls. 

08: “Teacher Teacher” (Rockpile) – “Schools Out” would be too corny, and “Hot For Teacher” might be too risqué…but this little Rockpile ditty would be perfect

09: “Doll Hospital” (John Hiatt) – we need a song for the Cheerios girls, don’t we? Not to mention this could be the subplot for the one who’s preggers. (I’d use the studio version in the show, but any excuse I get to pimp Sonny Landreth is worth taking). 

10: “September Gurls” (Big Star). Because Alex Chilton deserves a wider audience for posterity. Because it’s one of the most perfect pop songs ever written. And because, like Alex, I can vouch that December Boys got it bad

You can already grab the first part of the season on DVD, not to mention the first and second albums collecting songs from the show.  

And here’s your Glee episode guide, courtesy TV.com.  

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Birthdays

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been thirty years since Bon Scott died. For a man who used to mark time based upon how long ago the Kennedy Assassination occurred, imagine how old I felt this morning when I realized that AC/DC has had a new singer for three decades.

So let’s accentuate the positive, shall we? I don’t know what it is about Memorial Day that causes such a spike in famous conceptions – maybe the exuberance of getting out of school – but February 19th has given us a boatload of charismatic, talented artists over the years. Here are ten people born today who bring me great joy, chronologically by birth year:

Louis Calhern, 1895 – You might not recognize his name if you aren’t a film buff, but Calhern was a solid and versatile actor that kept popping up in some of my favorite movies, from James Cagney flicks to Marx Brothers romps (Duck Soup) to classic film noir like his sleazy lawyer crime boss in The Asphalt Jungle.

Lee Marvin, 1924 – A tough guy’s tough guy and one of the best actors of his time. Far too many great movies to list – my favorite remains the lesser rated version of The Killers – but unforgettable in The Dirty Dozen, Cat Ballou and The Professionals as well as hundreds of TV appearances, including his own classic police series M Squad.

* The finale of The Killers – including the greatest last line ever.

John Frankenheimer, 1930 – One of my favorite film makers and one of the best action movie directors (Grand Prix, Ronin) who got his start filming over a hundred live television dramas. Some of his classics include The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz and the political thriller Seven Days in May.

Sam Myers, 1936 – Sam grew up in Chicago and sat in with the cream of the blues legends from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James; he was an incredible drummer and harp player and vocalist. Perhaps better known more recently as a key member of Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets, one of the best live blues bands around. Sam passed away in 2006.

* Video: Sam Myers

Smokey Robinson, 1940 – The word genius gets passed around far too freely, but Smokey Robinson is a genius. Equally adept as a songwriter and as a sweet soul singer, he helped put Motown (and several of its groups) on the map in the 60’s, and his catalogue of great music is simply staggering. Check out his entry at the All Music Guide where the list of covers of his material is forty-six pages long.

Lou Christie, 1943 – Christie’s trademark was singing the verses in his normal voice and then rocketing to a powerful falsetto voice for the dramatic chorus, and although “Two Faces Have I” was the first hit, it was “Lightning Strikes” that jumped out of that transistor radio for me. He only had  two more hits ( “Rhapsody in the Rain” and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”) but he remains a favorite of mine to this day.

Tony Iommi, 1948 – Hearing the first Black Sabbath album upon its release was a revelation, and Iommi’s signature guitar sound was the key ingredient in that mix;  some credit him with inventing heavy metal guitar. I was never a big fan of the post-Ozzy group (or Ozzy post-Sabbath, for that matter) but the first four albums were incredible.

Mark Andes, 1948 – Not a household name by any stretch, but any music fan knows Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne and Firefall and Heart; not a bad track record for a wandering bass player. Most recently a member of Ian McLagan’s Bump Band, his first solo album was released last year.

* Listen to “Run Run Run” by Jo Jo Gunne

Ray Winstone, 1957 – For his own generation, a combination of the aforementioned James Cagney and Lee Marvin. Long revered by his homeland, roles in Sexy Beast and The Departed might be more familiar, plus he steals Mel Gibson‘s new film out from under him.

Benicio del Toro, 1967 – Quietly building an incredible resume of performances – although maybe not that quietly based on the award hardware he’s racked up. First saw him as Kevin Spacey‘s assistant in Swimming With Sharks, and he’s made great choices including Traffic, Sin City and The Pledge. Hell, he’s going to play Moe Howard in the upcoming Three Stooges movie! But I’ll always think of him as marble-mouthed Fred Fenster in that perfect film The Usual Suspects. (Check out this amazing Fenster montage someone put up at YouTube).

No slight to Seal, Jon Fishman, Justine Bateman, Jeff Daniels, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Merle Oberon, Carson McCullers or even Copernicus, but ten is ten.

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