Tag Archives: Madonna

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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Rocky Horror Glee Show

There are some things that I’ll never understand.

I don’t get the fascination people have with reality television and celebretards. Nor do I get why there have been seventy-six editions of the Now That’s What I Call Music series to date, with no sign of stopping.

I also don’t understand how the CD releases from Glee have sold over five million copies so far, presumably to the same people who watch the show religiously. They’re simply collections of cover songs, organized by theme or artist, marketed to the same people who watch the show and buy the DVDs. (And Gleeks, you know that you are buying the DVDs and all the CDs.) Television hasn’t sold music this well since The Monkees.

The songs are well produced and arranged, of course, and the vocals are usually very good but (1) they’re usually straightforward covers, not reinvented arrangements and (2) the thrust of the show is the melodramatic, over-the-top theatrical production surrounding it. You’re not capturing that on an audio CD.

But I soon might have to make an exception.

 In October, Glee will broadcast a Rocky Horror Show episode. After wading through terrible rap tunes, Lady GaGa drivel, overblown Journey crap and an entire episode of Madonna dreck (saved only by the brilliant Jane Lynch performing “Vogue“), I’m thrilled that the majestic, fantastic Richard O’Brien opus will get its due. Hell, thirty five years later it’s still an iconic classic whose songs never fail to get me going…high praise after dozens of post-midnight screenings with props and audience participation.

The full track listing for  ”Glee: The Music, The Rocky Horror Glee Show” is as follows:

  1. Science Fiction Double Feature
  2. Damn It, Janet
  3. Whatever Happened To Saturday Night?
  4. Sweet Transvestite
  5. Touch A Touch A Touch A Touch Me
  6. There’s A Light (Over at Frankenstein Place)
  7. Time Warp

Glee has had three consecutive number one album releases and I suspect this will be their fourth. Hell, I might even have to break down myself and grab one.

I think my cat is reading my diary.

Meantime, tonight I will survive an onslaught of Britney Spears horse shit just for the ability to see the incredible Heather Morris (who plays Brittany, the dimmest bulb on television) get her turn in the spotlight. That should hold me over until Neil Patrick Harris returns for another guest spot.

Admittedly, my initial enthusiasm for the show has waned, but Lynch and Morris are consistently funny and the dynamic between gay Kurt and his dad (Mike O’Malley in a flawless performance) is some of the best work on TV, period.

And please…can Tim Curry make an appearance on October 26th?

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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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Rock’n’Roll Hall of Shame (Again)

The Mistake By The Lake

The Mistake By The Lake

I don’t know why I even bother getting agitated anymore. 

I don’t take it seriously, and it’s been a long time since I have gone out of my way to look for the list of nominees, let alone actually root for someone to make it in. It’s a sham, a political clusterfuck of a process, and certainly bears no resemblance to a recognition of the truly worthy. But the other day an email hit my mailbox listing some of the nominees, and well…here we go again.

Some of the finalists this year include The Stooges (again), and KISS (finally), two bands that have obviously made an impact on rock’n’roll, albeit in very different ways. Even The Hollies surfaced after being eligible for over two decades.

But Donna Summer? Disco-thumping, heavy-breathing Donna Summer? Are you kidding me? Sure, she sold a lot of records in the 70s, but so did Cheap Trick and Deep Purple. She might get in before them? They haven’t even hit the finalists list yet! Hall and Oates were way bigger than Donna Summer could ever dream of, with a long string of hit singles that dominated the charts, but I don’t see their name.

And L.L.Cool J? Why- because he stars in a new CSI spin-off show? I like the guy, but not only does his music have nothing to do with rock, there are tons of deserving artists with longer careers who sold more records – what’s the criteria here? And how are rap artists more rock than progressive rock veterans like Yes and King Crimson? Where are The Moody Blues and  Procol Harum?

And before you start tossing the race card at me, I’m not rushing to send Laura Nyro in there, either. At least she has been an influence on a number of rock artists, but until the day Carole King walks through that door, don’t talk to me about great female songwriter/performers. (I wouldn’t have voted Bonnie Raitt in that quickly – yes, she’s had a lengthy and brilliant career, but she’s far from a household name. John Hiatt is a far better songwriter and he’s not in; and if you want to talk underappreciated musical geniuses, where’s Rory Gallagher’s name on that wall?)

And I’m still appalled that bands like R.E.M. – worthy eventually – are in while earlier artists aren’t.  No J. Geils Band, Humble Pie or Johnny and Edgar Winter? All those record sales and The Guess Who, The Turtles and Tommy James are waiting? No Small Faces? Where the hell is Lou Reed?

Some of the elections are artists who also have success as producers, but Todd Rundgren and Rick Derringer have done both – where are their names on the ballot? And if the anything-but-rock Madonna is in because of cultural impact and huge record sales, why not The Monkees?

No idea who the final five will be, but since it’s the 25th Anniversary you can be sure that fanfare will trump honest voting (just ask The Dave Clark Five about that one) because they gotta sell those dinner tickets. Predictability? You’ll see a female artist or female fronted band, a disco or rap artist, a blast-from-the-early-days, a hugely famous artist/band, and one crapshoot. That’s how they roll in Cleveland…well, actually New York, where Jann Wenner and his cronies run the floating crap game. They need to uproot the damned thing and move it to Detroit where it belongs.

The absurdity can be summed up in five words: Alice Cooper isn’t in it.

Here’s a list of the current inductees. For a list of the truly worthy artists and a real Hall of Fame, do what I do – look at your record collection.

If not, enjoy your Eminem and Beyonce inductions. Maybe you can hang on until 2034 when Chickenfoot is eligible.

Without some of this kind of DNA, you ain't rock'n'roll

Without some of this kind of DNA, you ain't rock'n'roll

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T.G.I.F. – Mashup!

Puree and Easy

Puree and Easy

Mashup!

Sure, sometimes it comes out like a mess, but often it’s inspired. Here is a ten-spot plus a bonus round – enjoy!

===

Every Car You Chase

Smells Like Billy Jean

We Will Rock And Roll You In Beverly Hills

Madonna For Nothing

We Will Rock Your Mama

Do You Believe We Will Shake You All Night Long?

Owner Of A Lonely Bad

Toxic Love Shack

Never Gonna Give Your Teen Spirit Up

Take Me Out For A Milkshake

Hey We Will Rock Ya

clap fly

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Blast From The Past: Masters of Reality

Bunnytime, a decade before Donnie Darko

Bunnytime, a decade before Donnie Darko

Although often described as stoner-rock (that was an redundant statement back in the day), Masters of Reality have proven to be an inventive, morphing amoeba of cool over the years. But yeah, they’re trippy, bluesy, psychedelic, fragile and rocking. Sometimes all on the same record.

The original Masters of Reality, a powerhouse band from Syracuse, NY, had an acrimonious split which led to Chris Goss and bassist Googe keeping the moniker while guitar wizard Tim Harrington and drummer Vinnie Ludovico formed The Bogeymen. I remember that Goss took a lot of shots that the Masters were just aping Cream, so he probably figured “fine…why not“?

You could drop the figurative needle on this album in a room full of blindfolded people, and by the tenth second of  “She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On)” I guarantee you anyone with a brain would recognize that Ginger Baker is pounding the skins. (The rest of them will probably incorrectly yell out “Radar Love“!!).  That slide-step, that tom-thump, that goddamned swing that so few drummers posess these days is Baker incarnate, and he levitates this band to great heights throughout Sufferbus. He even reanimates the oddball Cream track  “Pressed Rat and Warthog” with “T.U.S.A.”, a lament that Americans can’t follow the simplest instructions to make his daily brew (“pour boiling water/over the tea/how simple and clear/can instructions be?”)

But it’s a democratic effort –  Goss’s vocals are stellar, whether rocking out on “Tilt-A-Whirl” or chanelling Ram-era Paul McCartney on “Jody Sings” and the brief but hilarious “Madonna”. He and Googe easily lock into a groove with Baker, with hybrid jazz rock (“Ants In The Kitchen”), trippy musings (“J.B.Witchdance”, “Rabbit One”) or the self-described “blues acrobatics” of “Gimme Water” and the Black Sabbath-sounding “V.H.V.”.  And much like The Bogeymen saved their best moment for last with “Damn The Safety Nets“, the Masters saved “Moon In Your Pocket” for last to put the bow on the package.

The album title reportedly comes from Goss and Baker’s insomnia on the tour bus, although the cover art seems to predate Donnie Darko by a decade. (Or…did…Donnie…time-travel?). But whatever the inspiration, it was lightning in a bottle, at least with this band configuration; Baker moved on after this. Both their careers are definitely worth tracking before and since, but this crossroads produced a real gem of an album.

New album Pine/Dover due from Chris and the Masters this August, so bide your time until then with Sufferbus. It’s sixteen years old and still sounds as fresh as a morning muffin (and nothing like gnat’s pee).

Masters of Reality website, MySpace and Wikipedia.

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