Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Mighty Van Halen

Van Halen is pure, unadulterated, kick-you-in-the-balls rock and roll. The end.

Just kidding, that’s not the end. Let’s talk some VH, shall we? 

I remember the first time I heard “Jump.” I was 12 or 13, and I remember thinking, “Whoa! What’s this?” I wanted the cassette—for the songs and for the picture of the baby smoking on the cover. It had to be something my parents didn’t want me listening to, it was a baby smoking for fuck sake.

I liked all the hits, “Jump” “Panama,” “I’ll Wait,” “Hot for Teacher,” but it was the non-hits that caught most of my attention — “Drop Dead Legs,” “Top Jimmy,” “Girl Gone Bad” — these were kickass songs. Enough guitar to make them metal. Enough synth to make them pop. Without that synthesizer I would’ve never heard this band. Those keyboards are what made Van Halen mainstream. And where I grew up, mainstream was all there was. The waves from the real rock radio stations couldn’t reach us out in the sticks. And MTV? Ha! Not on our rabbit-eared tv. I had to wait until I heard the money-making hits on Rick Dee’s Weekly Top 40 before Eddie’s riffs got their hooks in me. 

A couple years after 1984, 5150 happened, and it quickly became my favorite album of all time. The  flashy frontman with the high leg kicks and ass-less pants was gone. The dude who sang the cornball song about driving too fast was in. I’ve been a diehard fan since. 

It was never really Dave versus Sammy for me. They both had their place and time. Dave was the perfect frontman to get that band off the ground and launched into rock history. He wasn’t the best singer, but the guy knew how to command a stage. He was the right mix of rockstar and standup comedian. He never really made much sense, but he was perfect for those first albums. 

Sammy could sing. He took the band in a whole new direction and it worked. Probably better than some original fans care to admit. I appreciate Roth, but I prefer Sammy. For me, Sammy-fronted Halen is the superior Halen. And I’ll fight you on that if need be. And after we fight, we can both agree that you really can’t go wrong with either. Van Halen kicks fucking ass from the first album to the last. (The Cherone album doesn’t count and that last one they did with Roth would’ve worked much better as a collection of guitar solos. Roth's singing was embarrassing!) 

All the infighting, the breakups, the rehab stints, the teeth that fell out of Eddie’s head, the reunion tours that should’ve never happened — none of the extracurricular bullshit has ever mattered to me. To this day, when I listen to the top-to-bottom brilliance of 5150 or the approachable audacity of OU812, or when I go back to the bombast of the self-titled first release, or the street smarts of Fair Warning, it’s all about the dominance of one of the greatest rock bands of all time — no matter who was at the helm. (Again, I’m not counting Gary Cherone. That wasn’t Van Halen. That was the Van Halen brothers trying to prove to Sammy they could do it without him. They couldn’t.)

But no matter your opinion on the frontman, there’s no argument whatsoever that Eddie is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest rock guitarists to ever breathe. His playing style still influences bands to this day. There will never be another Eddie Van Halen. 

But if the rumors are true and Eddie is as sick as they say, we may have seen the last of this guitar god. The fact he’s made it this far is somewhat of a feat. He was never the picture of health. That smokey treat at the end of his Frankenstrat was always smoldering. The booze and booger sugar are behind him now, but they’ve done their damage. It’ll be a sad day when he’s gone. But his legacy will never die. 

Do yourself a favor while he's still here. Grab a VH album, any album—ok, ok, even the Cherone album—and just listen. (Shit, grab the Twister soundtrack if you want. “Humans Being” features one of the best guitar solos you’ll ever hear.) Listen to the genius and innovation. The whammy bar, the finger tapping, the way he made it seem like his guitar was another appendage. 

These guys are rock dinosaurs. Sammy just turned 72, Eddie might be on his last leg, and Roth has no idea where he is. (Michael Anthony looks healthy. He’s only 5’3”, but he looks healthy.) Allow yourself some time to appreciate what they’ve given us. Pure, unadulterated, kick-you-in-the-balls rock and roll. The end. For real this time. 

Long live The Mighty Van Halen!  

Sunday, June 9, 2019

He's the Boss

I’ve been a Springsteen fan since 1984 — the same year Born in the U.S.A. was released. That monster of an album just turned 35 last week. That means I’m old. It also means I’ve been listening to The Boss for a long, long time. 

As I get older, his music keeps getting better. To me, that’s the sign of a true artist. The guy doesn’t slow down and he’s always working on his craft. He’s not afraid to try new things and go in different directions. I’m grateful for that. 

I was too young to get into his early stuff when it first came out, but I grew up to appreciate the genius of those records — Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, Nebraska — classics, every one of them. 

But at the ripe old age of 13, it was Born in the U.S.A. that changed things forever.

The 12 songs on that billion-selling album took over the world. There was the title track that didn’t mean anything close to what so many “patriotic” Americans thought it meant. “Dancing in the Dark” ruled MTV and made Bruce a pop star. “I’m on Fire” is the best song under three minutes ever written. Everybody I knew, knew every word to “Glory Days.” “My Hometown,” “Darlington County,” “Working on the Highway” — hit after hit after hit. It’s one of those albums where you’re already singing the next song in your head before it even starts. Happy 35th birthday to you, one of the best albums ever. 

His next release, Tunnel of Love, holds a firm spot in my top five albums of all time. There was no E Street this time, but it didn’t matter. This is, in my humble opinion, The Boss’s best work. These were songs about heartbreak and loss, a huge come down from just three years earlier. But I guess a lot can happen in three years. He was dealing with some shit, the end of an uncertain marriage, and you could feel that in every song. “Ain’t Got You,” “Tougher Than the Rest,” “Spare Parts,” “Two Faces,” “Brilliant Disguise,” “One Step Up,” — not a bad song in sight. Pure songwriting brilliance, top to bottom.

Human Touch and Lucky Town were released together in the early 90’s. Solid, but not groundbreaking. I stood in line at Sam Goody for these two. Man, I used to love standing in line for new releases. I miss those days. Anyway… maybe it was the grunge state of mind I was in at the time, but those two albums didn’t burn themselves into my soul like so many of his others. But I still played the crap out of them. 

Then in ’95 Bruce hit us with the stark, desperate, angry but hopeful, acoustic treasure, The Ghost of Tom Joad. I remember road trips across the state with my brother on our way to visit a friend, listening to this one from first track to last. So many of these songs felt like a punch in the gut that you felt grateful for because they taught you a lesson you needed to learn the hard way. The guitar was simple and subtle so the lyrics could carry the weight. And some of them were a heavy load. The title song, “Youngstown,” “Highway 29,”Dry Lightning,” “Across the Border”   hard-life stories told in 4-minute increments. 

There was a little break. Actually a pretty long break. But in 2002 Bruce got the band back together, and the masterpiece known as The Rising was gifted to us. This was the post 9/11 record we all needed at the time. Again, probably in my top-five of all time. (That’s two out of five if you’re counting along.) From the opener, “Lonesome Day,” to the perfect closer, “My City of Ruins,” these were fifteen songs written as a response to the worst day in our country’s history, but their message is timeless: perseverance through pain and hope in the face of total devastation. I never get tired of this album. And never will. 

Then Devils and Dust, which was very good. The Seeger Sessions, meh. Magic, almost great. Working on a Dream, Wrecking Ball, High Hopes — just ok, for Springsteen. But his ok is still top-shelf stuff compared to so many other songwriter wannabes. 

Even his never-released songs were brilliant. Disc 4 from Tracks included Gave it a Name, Sad Eyes, Loose Change, Over the Rise, and Happy – these were some of the best songs ever written that no one had ever heard.

But it’s not just his music that makes me a lifelong fan.

He’s the best storyteller to ever take the stage. (Sorry, Dylan fans.) I mean, Springsteen on Broadway made me cry like a baby. The dude can tell a goddamn story!

He speaks his mind and stays true to his beliefs. Even though these days that might mean losing fans. I don’t typically like politics mixed in with my music, but when Bruce does it, it feels right, because it usually is right. At least in my mind. 

His battles with depression, and his willingness to talk about those battles, makes him relatable and real. Been there, done that. It’s reassuring to know one of my heroes has been there, too.

As a writer, or at least someone who tries to be a writer now and then, I’m in awe of his lyrical talents. The man has penned some of the most brutally affecting words ever put to song. The list is endless, but some of my favorites:
  • From “Brilliant Disguise”: “God have mercy on a man who doubts what he’s sure of.” Boom.
  • A simple little line from “Tunnel of Love” has given me the strength to get through many a shitty situation: “You’ve got to learn to live with what you can't rise above."
  • From “Loose Change,” quite possibly my favorite Springsteen song: “Now I'm sittin' at a red light, I feel somethin' tickin' way down. The night's moving like a slow train crawling through this shithole town. Got my bags packed in the back and I'm tryin' to get going again. But red just goes to green and green goes red and then. Then all I hear's the clock on the dash tick-tocking.” Jesus, that’s good stuff. 
  • “The River”: “Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse.” Ouch.
  • “Human Touch”: “In the end what you don't surrender, well the world just strips away.” Yep. 
I could list a thousand more instances of lyrics that say so much in so few words, but this blog post is already getting too long. 

Bruce never lived the lives of the characters in his songs. He never claims to have. He admits as much on stage in his Broadway show: “I’ve never done any hard labor. I’ve never worked 9-5. I’ve never worked five days a week until right now. I don’t like it. I’ve never seen the inside of a factory and yet it’s all I’ve ever written about. Standing before you is a man who has become wildly and absurdly successful writing about something of which he has had absolutely no personal experience. I made it all up. That’s how good I am.” Yep, that’s how good he is. 

So maybe he didn’t literally live those lives, but he knows what goes on inside of those who have. Because it goes on inside all of us, somewhere. He just knows how to write a really good fucking song about it. And his songs give those who have lived those lives a voice. 

To me, he’s a relentless force. A legend for sure, but more than that. He’s essential. I can’t imagine a world without him or his songs in it. 

Our heroes get old and Bruce is pushing 70, but I hope he lives forever. Because the day he’s no longer on this earth will be a very sad day. The great thing about musicians and songwriters — their songs will still be here even when they’re gone. 

His next release, Western Stars, is just days away, and I can’t wait. Once again he’s taking things down a different road. It’s a whole new sound emulating some of his own heroes. I’ll be in line for that one, too. Even though there are no more lines to wait in. 

Thanks for everything, Boss. Keep doing you. Even if “you” means something different every time. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

All Hail the Hair!

Hair metal — you know you love it. If you grew up in the 80’s like I did, you lived it. The glam, the glitz, the gobs of hair spray. The soaring vocals, screaming solos, and pompous power chords. The lumpy spandex, scrawny arms, and boots made for girls. Hair rock ruled radio for over a decade. And if not for Kurt Cobain, its reign might’ve lasted even longer. 

It’s a category that gets a bad rap, unfairly belittled by self-proclaimed aficionados. It’s the red-headed stepchild of the rock n’ roll world. And I think that’s bullshit. Some of the best musicians and vocalists to ever step on a stage came from this under-appreciated genre. 

Let’s take a look back, shall we? There’s so much hair flying everywhere it’s hard to know where to start.

Before we get too far, I want to clear things up about some bands wrongly labeled as hair metal: Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, The Cult and Def Leppard. Nope, not hair metal. None of them. I don’t care what you say. Van Halen? Not even close to hair rock. More like best-guitarist-to-ever-walk-the-earth rock. GNR? No sir. They were more grit than glam, even when Axl wore makeup. The Cult? No way. These guys were way ahead of the hair game and way too talented to lump into a single category. And Def Leppard? I don’t think so. Listen to those first three albums again and tell me if you still think they’re a hair band.

So, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s have a quick conversation about some real hair. 

There’s so much more to hair metal than just hair and metal. In fact, the label itself is weak. This was a much more diverse category of music than given credit for. 

There was the hair with a side of snarl. I’d throw Mötley Crüe, L.A. Guns and Skid Row in this crude pile of badasses. These bands had an edge that so many others back then lacked. The early Crüe albums were a raw, punk punch in the mouth. L.A. Guns sounded like they needed a bath and a shot of penicillin — and that’s what made them so good. And Skid Row was more thrash than hair — seriously, Slave to the Grind is some heavy shit. Damn, what a great album. 

If you preferred to use your brain when you banged your head, then the thinking-man’s hair metal was probably your go to. No  band fit this niche better than Queensrÿche — they were hair-metal bombast with prog-rock talent. Lead singer, Geoff Tate, could’ve easily side-gigged as a broadway star. 

If you liked your rock no assembly required, with the occasional cheesy ballad included, there were more than enough rockers ready and willing to deliver. Slaughter, Whitesnake, Warrant, White Lion, Cinderella — these dudes knew who they were and didn’t try to be anybody else. And that was just fine, because they put out some good shit. Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night” sounds just as good now as it did in 1987. And White Lion’s “Little Fighter” gets me fired up every time I hear it. 

Then there was the hair metal made for the radio, and girls. Bands like Bon Jovi, Poison and Winger — marketing geniuses who knew what their target market wanted to hear, so they gave it to them. Even if it sometimes sucked. I’ll admit it. I’ve seen all three of these bands live — more than once. So what. 

And last but not least, the hair metal you might not know, but should. Some of the best music of the era came right at the end of the era. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were on their way to becoming household names and a change was coming. But Lynch Mob, D.A.D., Dangerous Toys and Sleeze Beez didn’t give a shit. They were like Rogaine, doing everything they could to keep the hair alive. These bands were so late in the game I had their albums on cassette and CD — and played the crap out of them. 

I have many fond memories of the hair metal years (I also have many fond memories of my own hair) and I think we should all give this influential time in rock history a little more love. Listen to it for what it is. Don’t overthink it. Just turn it up, really loud, and let it flow. Go ahead, put on those spandex pants if they still fit. Hell, put ‘em on even if they don’t. We don’t judge here. 

Let’s rock.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

How to Be a Rockstar for Just a Minute

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ’n roll. And I never even got off the damn ground. But I tried. And I had a kickass time along the way. I think. 

I’d always wanted to be a rockstar. As far back as I can remember I dreamt of being on a stage with a mic in my hand.

In grade school I formed a one-day band with a few buddies to lip-synch Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” to a gym full of kids and Catholic nuns. We brought the house down. At least that’s how I remember it. 

As a teen, I chose to sing my everyday observations much to my family’s delight. “I just took a really big poop!” sounded much better when delivered with a rocking melody. I still do this. Just ask my wife. She LOVES it. 

When I got old enough to frequent the taverns, it was karaoke city whenever I got the chance. My go-to was, (still is) “Crazy Train”, but once in awhile I’d get brave and try a Skid Row or Journey tune. The results weren’t always stellar, but drunk people don’t require stellar.  

Then, somewhere in the late nineties, early aughts (the time thing is kind of blurry. I’ve killed a lot of brain cells over the years) I got the chance to be a “real” rockstar. And the rest is history. Seriously, it’s all history now. Over and done with. But damn was it fun while it lasted.

First there was Redeye and Redeye was good. Four typical guys with day jobs squeezing out every last bit of talent in them. I miss the practices in the cold garages. I miss playing crappy college bars and the adoration of the tens of fans in the crowd. I miss Gus, the tiny bass player with the dirtiest house I’ve ever seen. (Gus was a hoarder before hoarding was televised.) I miss the severe head pain brought on by dehydration — the cheap rented stage lights cooked my head and caused me to sweat more than any human being ever should. The free shitty beer did nothing to replenish my fluids. The adrenaline of being on stage made me want to guzzle as much booze as possible, which in turn caused me to forget a big chunk of my lyrics by the third set. We weren’t winning any Grammys, but we were pretty decent for a hodgepodge of wannabes. We even headlined our own festival—SchultzFest. When I say headlined, I mean we invited one other band to play before us, for free. People liked us. And we liked being liked. Those were some of the best days of my life. And no one can ever take them away. 

Then, I moved to Madison and Redeye was no more. So I looked for a new band, and found Downfall. I wish I hadn’t. More cover tunes, this time with a little more edge but with a bunch of dudes I barely knew, or barely liked. I’d drive an hour to practice at least once a week, missing Redeye the entire time. We sucked, and only managed to land a few shows. I think the lead guitarist literally (yes, I know what that word means) thought he was Eddie Van Halen. He wasn’t. Literally or figuratively. The gig where the drummer showed up wearing eyeliner was my last gig with that band. I wonder where those guys are today. Wait, no I don’t. They were dicks. 

In 2006 I moved to Milwaukee and landed a quick stint with a band that had too many members and too little talent. They called themselves 45 North because that’s the road you took to get to where they lived. Original. It was my first attempt at sharing the stage with another singer. It didn’t go well. Egos, even in a cover band, are humungous. No frontman worth a shit shares the stage with another singer — that’s not how the rockstar thing works. I couldn’t learn the songs because I hated every single song on the setlist. I’d have piles of notebook paper at my feet filled with lyrics in 75-font-size so I could glance down when I needed a reminder. They made me sing country. Nobody makes me sing country. I was doomed from the get-go and stuck out like a sore thumb. That time we played a church festival was time for me to move on. Jesus and rock ’n roll don’t go together. Unless you’re Stryper. And it’s debatable if it worked for them. 

My last attempt at rock stardom was Ten Foot Small. And this band had potential. These were serious, focused, talented musicians. We didn’t suck. We even had a few tunes of our own, and a sound guy who promised to “take us to the top.” We liked each other, for the most part. I threw a tantrum or two now and then, that’s what lead singers do, but we got along. Things were going well. But then they weren’t. I moved, again, because I could never sit still. And Ten Foot Small ended. Like so many bands do. 

And those were just the bands I got the chance to be part of. There were many more that wanted nothing to do with me. And some of those stories are just as good. 

Most of those stories go something like this: I’d respond to an ad posted in a music-store lobby or Craigslist. After an awkward phone interview, I’d get a tryout in a stank basement or creepy storage unit. I’d show up, plug in my mic, and do my best to impress a roomful of strange faces staring back at me. No pressure at all. In between tunes I’d stand off to the side and watch the rest of guys take a few pulls off the water bong. (I wasn’t in it for the drugs. Drugs were so cliche’.) After the weed — I assumed it was just weed but what do I know — a few test tunes and some uncomfortable small talk, I’d pack up my mic, walk up the stairs, and most of the time, never hear from the stoned strangers ever again. It was weird. But it was cool. And I wasn’t murdered and left in any of those stank basements, so there’s that.  

So many memories. So many stories. So many bragging rights. I don't care what anybody says, I was a rockstar, even if for just a minute. I’ve thought about giving it another go, but with 50 just a stone’s throw away, I ain’t got it in me. How do bands like the Stones make it work for so long? How do they survive the drama, the egos, the arthritis? Do they wear Depends on stage? So many questions. 

The stage was always my safe place. A pedestal I could stand on with an admiring crowd in front of me, and be somebody else for three hours. It was my alter-ego. My weekly self-esteem boost. My break from the real world. And I miss it. A lot. 

Writing about it makes me want to get the band back together! Maybe I’ll call up a couple of the guys from Redeye and see if they want to jam. Wait, it’s after 9. They’re probably sleeping. Never mind. 

Let’s rock.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Rock ’n Roll Will Never Die

In a SiriusXM interview the other day, Gene Simmons, aka the Donald Trump of shitty schlock rock, confidently proclaimed that “rock music is officially dead.” He firmly believes there hasn’t been a decent new rock band since Foo Fighters burst onto the scene in the mid-90’s.

Gene Simmons, you’re an idiot. Dude, we know that’s not your real hair. And how has your Hep C not ended you yet? Stop talking and go away. For real this time. No more “farewell tours”, please. 

Any real music fan knows that if you take the time to listen, rock is far from dead. In fact, it’s alive and kicking. I give you three new-ish bands kicking the shit out of it right now:

Rival Sons. Do yourself a huge favor and buy every album from this band right now. Or at least download a few of their songs. Then, go see them live. Jay Buchanan is far and away the best voice rock music has heard in a long, long time. I can’t stop listening to their latest album, Feral Roots. This is what rock music is supposed to sound like. I mean it, go listen. Start with the song, Hollow Bones, give Pretty Face a listen or twelve, and then head on over to the newest stuff, paying special attention to Sugar on the Bone, Feral Roots and Too Bad. So, so good. Thanks for rocking so hard, fellas. We appreciate it. 

The Winery Dogs. If you like incredible musicianship, you’ll love The Winery Dogs. These guys are pure talent. Bass, drums, vocals. Bluesy, ballsy, badass. They’re a bit of a mini super group. Drummer Mike Portnoy co-founded Dream Theater, so there’s that. Billy Sheehan has been one of the best bass players on the scene for decades. (He was in Mr. Big, but don’t hold that against him.) And Richie Kotzen—who can hit Chris Cornell notes when he wants to—has been around since the late 80’s. I’ve had the privilege of seeing them live a few times, and they sound just as good, or better, in person as they do on record.

Greta Van Fleet. Yes, they sound like Led Zeppelin. But so what. I like the way Led Zeppelin sounds. Get over it and just enjoy the fact they’re doing their part to make sure rock stays relevant. 

And let’s not forget about the proven vets who’ve been bringing it for years and don’t show any signs of slowing down. Here’s just a small sampling: 

Foo Fighters. Two words: Dave Grohl. That is all.

A Perfect Circle. Nobody does it better than Maynard. He’s weird. He’s super smart. He doesn’t give a shit what you think. And he can fucking sing. Their latest album Eat the Elephant, is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece. I’ve been a huge fan since the get-go in the late 90’s, and they’ve only gotten better with age. I got the chance to see them live last November and was blown away by their sound and presence. Best live show I’ve ever seen, period. My only gripe with these guys is they don’t put out enough stuff. It takes them way too damn long to release an album. More APC, please! 

Queens of the Stone Age. Josh Homme is part standup comedian, part kickass rockstar. Mostly kickass rockstar. He does the drugs. He lives the lifestyle. He is rock ’n roll. His band has been delivering solid stuff for nearly two decades, and their latest, Villians, is damn good. 

U2. Yep. They’re still really, really good, and a huge influence on so many bands, new and old. Their latest albums were panned by critics and other people who don’t know what they’re talking about, but I thought they were outstanding. They have stories to tell. They're seasoned. I think that’s why they’re still so good.

So don’t tell me, Mr. Simmons, that rock is dead. You just don’t recognize good music. Never could. 

Rock ’n roll will never die. The artists eventually will, some too soon, and the bands might fade away, but a new act will step in and keep the fires burning. That’s just how it works. Always has. 

Let’s rock.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Who's Your Phil Collins?

We’ve all got one. That band you’re not supposed to like because it’s not “cool.” The singer you listen to in secrecy for fear of being shunned by your rocker friends. The artist you share your admiration for only with those you trust the most. 

That artist for me is Phil Collins. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a Phil fan. He’s a crazy-talented pop singer who sold a billion albums in the 80’s and 90’s. And he shares my hairline. 

But he’s also a radio-friendly, cookie-cutter, mainstream performer with a dull-as-dishwater rock reputation. Or is he?

Think about it—the guy played drums before anybody even knew he could sing. And he played them damn well for one of the best prog-rock bands of all-time. That’s pretty kickass.

But I’m supposed to lean more on the heavy side. A self-proclaimed rock ’n roll elitist who likes a little edge and anger in his music. 

Guess what. Phil brings all of that and more. Then he mixes in a little bit of heartbreak.

You want anger? Turn up Mama. Wow. If it’s heartbreak you’re looking for, give Man on the Corner a few spins. Ouch.

Politics your thing? Land of Confusion is more relevant today than it was in 1986.

Just want to hear the perfect song and not think about anything else? Listen to Throwing it All Away or In Too Deep. Right now. 

Maybe it’s not very metal of me to be a Phil fan. But then again, maybe it is.

Disturbed, Nonpoint, and the lead singer from Mudvayne—they all covered Collins tunes. It doesn’t get much more metal than that.

His list of badass songs with Genesis is more than enough to earn your respect and cement his place in rock history: Abacab, Mama, Man on the Corner, Just a Job to Do, Land of Confusion, That’s All, In Too Deep, Throwing it All Away, Home by the Sea, Invisible Touch. Pretty impressive, right? 

But wait, there’s more. When the guy decided to go solo the hits just kept rolling: I Don’t Care Anymore, In the Air Tonight, Take Me Home, I Missed Again, Easy Lover, Don’t Lose My Number, hell, even Sussudio.

Bottom line, the dude could sing and write a song. (And hopefully still can. I hear he’s having some serious back issues. Me too, Phil, me too.) 

Now, he’s no Robert Plant, or Maynard from A Perfect Circle. He’s no Sebastian Bach, or even Sammy Hagar. But Phil Collins is right up there with some of my all-time favorite vocalists. And as I get older, he seems to be climbing closer to the top of that list.

I guess what I’m saying is, great music is great music. Legendary talent is legendary talent. Don’t let what anybody else thinks change what you listen to. 

That being said, all you die-hard KISS fans, I don’t get you. You ever really listen to Gene Simmons try to play the bass? Or Paul Stanley struggle to hit a note? Yikes. 

But, whatever. You do you. Rock out with your true self out. Play your Phil Collins, and play it loud.

Let’s rock.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

In the Beginning

Christmas morning, 1984. The official beginning of my love for all things rock 'n roll.

I'd been exposed to great music before that day. I knew every word to every song from Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band's, Against the Wind. That 8-track lived in my mom's ill-equipped Chevy Chevette for the better part of the early 80's.

One of my favorite lyrics of all time came from that album: "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." Pretty heavy stuff for a 10-year-old. No idea what it meant. Still have to stop and think about it when I hear it today. Maybe that's what makes it such a great lyric.

But it wasn't until I tore open my Twisted Sister, Stay Hungry cassette and popped it in my twenty-five-dollar boombox on baby Jesus's birthday, did I realize just how much music meant to me.

Burn in Hell, I Wanna Rock, The Price. I'd play those songs over and over and over. I weighed 60 pounds soaking wet and sported the dumbest tiger-striped glasses in town, but I was all metal.

My dad thought my music was crap. The nuns at school probably thought I was a baby devil. But I didn't care. Rockin' was my business, and business was good.

It became a bit of an obsession, fueled by the mail fraud of Columbia House and their "8 Cassettes for One Penny!" pyramid scheme. Sure, I ended up with a stack of shit I never listened to, because I forgot to send in the goddamn postcard every goddamn month—13-year-olds forgot stuff. But in a few short years, I built an impressive library of legendary artists: Duran Duran, Quiet Riot, The Police, Springsteen, Hall and Oates, Huey Lewis, Van Halen, The Cars, Chicago, Billy Idol, the Vision Quest Soundtrack (seriously, there are some kickass songs on that soundtrack) and on and on...

These weren't original recordings of course. This scam of a company had to make money somehow. But I didn't know that. And I wouldn't have cared if I did. Not back then.

On hot summer days when mom would lock us out of the house (you would've done the same, we were shitheads), I'd throw Metal Health or Synchronicity into my 5-pound Walkman, hop on my yellow and blue BMX, and ride up and down the gravel driveway until near-dehydration. Or until my batteries went dead.

Fast forward a few years. The tiger glasses were gone, I'd beefed up to a bulky 95 pounds, and I had myself a $600 Dodge Omni with a $300 stereo. That meant I had my pick of the ladies!

(I made that last part up. Apparently high school girls like guys they can't beat in arm wrestling.)

So, I just listened to more music.

INXS, Kick. Damn what an album. The Outfield, Play Deep. I wore that pop masterpiece out!

Axl was on the Nighttrain. Kip Winger was singing about being a pedophile. David Coverdale was doing his best Robert Plant impersonation. Def Leppard was just starting to lose rock cred.

And Sammy joined Van Halen.

Things haven't been the same since. 5150 made me want to be a rockstar. And to this day, whenever I listen to it, I am a rockstar.

Music. It makes me happy. It makes me sad. There have been many a time it has made me feel like putting my fist through a window. But it always makes me feel something. It did then. It does now.

So I started a blog about it.

Let's rock.