Bang Bang! The Greatest Album Ever Made

The Beatles vs. Stones

I hate the question. Why can’t we be happy that we had and have both, that they are two very different bands. Everything has to be some sort of competition.

All I know is that I get so excited every time either one of them move up and I am about to play them. Every single time. Now there are other bands that I look forward to as well but both the Beatles and the Stones remain separate from all othr bands. They are unique, they are special.

They were hitmakers but after the movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help they settled in to become the greatest studio band ever, which meant that they could afford to be as creative and innovative as possible without the worry of having to promote an album with touring. So with the guidance of George Martin they settled into a partnership, they used different instrwauments, different sounds, different recording techniques and created some of the greatest albums including the greatest album ever made.

Now you want me to tell you what that album is, or maybe you guesed from the title of the blog and you are already shaking your head no. I would not likely think about the greatest album ever made if I had not become so interested in acquiring all 500 albums on Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Albms of all time. So for the record I have listened to all the great albums and if you look at similar compilations from other publications you will find the top 10 or so pretty universal. My top 10 is close to these but not exactly and one of the primary places I disagree is what’s number 1. Most puplications including Rolling Stone will tell you its Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think the Beatles have made 4 pretty close to perfect albums and Sgt Peppers is one of them. It is an amazing album a journey and whether you believe it was fueled by drug use doesn’t matter one single bit. From the opening chords to the epic single note finish that echoes on forever it as as close to any definition of perfection that you can get. It is not my number 1, its actually number 3 on my list. I absolutely love it.

It isn’t Rubber Soul which is number 11 on my list but higher on most others. Its a great album, and it marks a sea change for the band. Listening to the Beatles the way I do chronologically it follows the movie albums and you can hear the dfferences in confidence. They were nearly done with touring and what you get is a more mature less hit driven album that is beautiful to listen to.

Now I have many friends who are into music to some degree, some a lot and some a little all the middle ground as well and many will argue that their favorite album and the Beatles best is the White Album. To me the White Album is actually one of the worst albums the Beatles did. If you want to know where the breakup started well there you go. The White Album is a hodge podge of over 30 songs stuck together with little rhyme or reason. You can hear Yoko throughout the album. It was the first time an outsider had been allowed into the studio and Yoko did her thing, drivng wedges to John’s heroin addled amusement between all the members of the band. John treated everyone badly especially George who was his favorite to pick on. He may have written the greatest song ever and is loved for his songs of peace and love but in fact John was a horrible human being an abusive father, and husband a horrible friend and bandmate. He found the perfect woman in Yoko just as lousy a human being as he was. John threatened to quit daily and George Martin left unable to stand the spectacle any longer.

The Beatles should have done a better job of regrouping after they completed the album. Instead they took very little time off and did nothing to heal the rifts created in the recording process of the white album. When they returned to the studio Ringo was battling his own addiction issues, John still didn’t want to be there and George seethed with anger at everyone especially Paul and his optimistic attitude that the answer was making another album. Within just a few weeks everyone had walked out at least once and they got nothing of use done so they shelved everything and left to lick their wounds. These recordings would be sifted through by Phil Spector and Let it Be would be the result. And no Let it Be is not my favorite either although I think Phil Spector did a great job.

Some how, some way the individuals found it in themselves to come back and try again. They did their best to make up and move forward and the result is one of the great compromises in music history. Side A was John’s with contributions from George and Side B was Paul’s again with some help from George. The result was something magical, something nearing perfection and to rival anything they had ever done before; Abbey Road. It has one of the great rock songs that I think was always perfect for Steven Tyler who sang it years later Come Together. What person doesn’t love the medley on side 2 that continuous music that is impossible not to sing along with. I love Abbey Road but its still only 4 for me.

So what’s left, because the Beatles never recorded again as a band. Well you have to go back, back to 1966 after Rubber Soul. The Beatles recorded what may be considered the first real psychedelic album without really even trying. 14 of the most perfect songs ever to be found on any album anywhere, Revolver is my greatest album ever made. It gets you from the start, a George Harrison song Taxman. Then maybe the Beatles greatest song ever Eleanor Rigby, and its a story you follow you follow the intertwining lives the life and death wrapped up neatly in one package. It is simply full of great songs 3 alone by George Harrison and the overlooked song that I seem to always have trouble remembering the title Tomorrow Never Knows. Here, There and Everywhere, Yellow Submarine, She Said She Said, Good Day Sunshine, And Your Bird Can Sing, The conclusion of the album is a rock lovers dream, Doctor Robert, I Want to Tell You, Got to Get You Into My Life and the aforementioned Tomorrow Never Knows. It is a masterpiece written by four master craftsmen and one amazing producer. Every note is perfect and every lyric with multiple meanings and nuance. It is the greatest album ever made.

Mike out

Dogs Go Moo, Cats Go Quack Quack

1966

So you are an adolescent, 14 or 15, maybe older maybe younger. It doesn’t matter. You have a little money in your pocket, something your grandparens slipped to you when your old man was not looking. He hates when they give you money. You were thinking of walking down to the record store and buying a new record for the phonograph. The world seems to be changing daily. There is a war that just a year ago you were sure about because your parents were sure about. Now you are not so sure.

There is all that trouble in the South, young people getting beaten and they seem so much like you except for the color of their skin. There is a lot to think abut and now to top it all off you are reaching that age where thinking about what you are going to do with yourself for the rest of your life is something that teachers and parents are expecting. So some new music definitely is in order something to make you feel better

Mr. Johnson says good afternoon and you wave back going to the new records. You have wanted Rubber Soul for awhile now and still have not bought it. Now you have heard that they are going to have a new record. Then you see it and the cover makes you laugh a little and let’s face it the art of buying just the right album is just as much about the album cover as it is about the band and sometimes even more than the music. Its just the band feeding and petting a bunch of animals. You like the band. They sing the songs that always make you feel better, songs about girls, and surfing and cars. Despite it being a bit whimsical you buy the album and you rush home, open it amd put it on the phonograph. You watch as the arm carries the needle over and drops. The familiar vocals with even a familiar sounding song starts to play.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older

Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long

And wouldn’t it be nice to live together

In the kind of world where we belong

And just like that, everything changes. Its not an album about cars, or surfing or girls. Its a song and album about all the things you have been thinking about. You don’t like it much, can’t help but feel a little disappointed. There is that song Caroline No. It will be all over the radio soon. You play the record again, and again until suddenly you can’t stop playing it.

The band of course is The Beach Boys and the album Pet Sounds.

In 1965 Brian Wilson left the touring band that was the Beach Boys to concentrate on writing and recording. His first attempt The Beach Boys Today was a masterpiece. In 1966 he wrote and recorded the second greatest album of all time. Considered by many to be a solo album the Beach Boys could not tour the album to promote it. It could not be duplicated live. Wilson was an innovator, still is. The recording techniques and instrumentation were so far in advance of anything out there that it was difficult to wrap your head around the album. The counter culture movement was just beginning but the summer of love was still a year away. When we look back it seems like every youth in America was part of the movement, free love, drugs and protesting a war that was increasingly unpopular. The truth was somewhat different, America’s youth struggled with what was happening in their own country and struggled wth the reasons the generation they were supposed to respect were giving them as to why young American soldiers had to die in a place that many still didn’t even know where it was.

Brian Wilson through his own increasing darkness seems to capture these dark undercrrents on Pet Sounds. Caroline No is a haunting song. For all its brightness Wouldn’t it be nice is not a happy song, its hopeful longing of a better world, a kinder world. God Only Knows, I’m Waiting for the Day, Put Your Head on my shoulder all have these darker undercurrents running through them. It is a true masterpiece of music and lyric by a man who seemed to grasp perfectly that the world was on the brink of change.

I have never been a Beach Boys fan, and I like only a few songs outside of Pet Sounds. I bought the album because its part of one of those lists, specifically Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Albums where it is rated #2. When I first heard the album I was doing what I did going through my music excited because I was closing in on The Beatles certainly one of my all time favorite bands. Then one day I actually heard what I was listening too. I had listened to the album in rotation probably a few times and then one day it caught me at just the right moment, a quiet day, my feet up and the first thing I did was not something so unusual. I listened to the song Caroline No twice. When you think of the Beach Boys that kind of song is not what you think about. I have the album on CD, sure wish I had it on vInyl, really wish I had it on original 1966 vinyl but oh well. The second thing I did was stop the next CD and listen to Pet Sounds again and then a third time and a fourth. I didn’t listen to anything for the rest of the day afterwards but the next morning I began the day with coffee and another playing before I allowed it all to move on. I am still not a Beach Boys fan, I just can’t get past all the high vocals as good as they are and while the kid in my story likes car songs and surfing songs I can handle only so many. Yes the Beach Boys are more than those kinds of songs but when someone mentions them there is a certain sappy feeling that comes over me, like artificial sweetener for your tea.

Pet Sounds is the exception. If you have not listened to the album look it up. I hear you can do this digitally now. Really listen to it and enjoy it.

Mike out

Bad Company and A Year of Hell and it’s All Paul Rodgers’s Fault

I have always thought the greatest musical karma ever was Mick Ralphs bringing the song Can’t Get Enough to Ian Hunter and the rest of Mott the Hoople and being turned down. Ralphs believed enough in the song and not enough in the long term future of Mott that he left and formed the band Bad Company with Paul Rodgers. He was right on both accounts. As Bad Company rose Mott the Hoople faded. Can’t Get Enough became Bad Company’s first hit song and instantly became my favorite band. I loved them, loved the second record Straight Shooter really loved Run With the Pack and liked Burning Sky.

It seems quite odd that a band I loved so much would come to symbolize so much pain, darkness and suffering, so much so that I have spent 40 years trying to suppress repress or forget completely the events of an entire year of my life. And that year should have been important. I had been looking forward to it. It was also the year of bad decisions and things fell apart very quickly.

In the fall of 1978 I was a Sophomore in high school, technically my second year of high school but the first actually at the high school. I was looking forward to it if only because there would be more girls to look at. I had dreams of finding a girlfriend There was trouble at home though. My father was spending time away for work and these just seemed to increase. My mother was quiet. It didn’t take a genius to know things were wrong and they split up. I didn’t know anyone who had divorced parents.It was confusing. I chose not to talk about it all except because of my age I had to pick where I was going to live. No kid no matter what age should ever have to do that. I had to choose between the mother who loved me and wanted to keep me safe or the father I just wanted to be close to, even though I knew all that he wanted was not to pay child support. I broke my mother’s heart with the second worst decision of my life next to being born, that any one person could make. It went as I expected. My father was interested in one thing being single and I was in the way. He was rarely home and mostly left me at home to fend for myself. I was heartbroken even though I was not surprised by anything. I couldn’t go backwards, I couldn’t go forwards. Somewhere around this time, my best friend from junior high abandoned me for another friend. I don’t blame him. I wasn’t easy to be friends with.

With one friend gone I found a kindred spirit to lift me in Guy Bach. We were likely the two most obnoxious sophomores to ever walk the halls of any high school, but he was what I needed. Together we were the Bartholomew brothers Hannigan and Shenanigan. Guy knew there were troubles and at his home I had the kindness I couldn’t seem to get anywhere else. His parents were so good to me and his father pulled me aside more than once to make sure I was okay. I was anything but okay. I was drinking and drinking a lot and I would take anything anyone gsve me. It didn’t make the confusion any better. It was an angry response to a near impossible situation to manage on my own. School was a nightmare. I had been offered advanced placement classes which I had refused. I didn’t want to be removed from a classroom of people that I liked to go somewhere where i believed everyone would look down at me and that’s how I felt. But those English classes were boring and I wrote a story about my pet rock the famous Rock Bottom and I was sent to the office where a couple of teachers a guidance counselor and a vice principal pleaded with me to go to advanced placement courses. They threatened to call my parents. I was surly angry said some things that should have gotten me suspended but didn’t. I told them to call my parents because at that time I doubted my parents would even care and I guess they called one of them or they just moved me anyway because suddenly I was in advanced placement everything. I feel sorry for every teacher I had that year. I don’t know why no one noticed how much pain I was in but they didn’t and I sure wasn’t talking to anyone about anything. I knew my mother would help me but I crushed her and I honestly didnt know how she felt about me. I saw my dad as an enemy and every adult as just another person who wanted to control things for me. I was only 15. I was lost and I needed guidance.

I knew Kim from Junior High. I can’t remember the details of why we became a couple. I think your first love is always the one that messes you up the worst. The funny thing is I feel towards Kim what I have always felt. She is a super fun person. I always liked watching her she is so full of verve. But to this day we are always a bit of a mess. I tried to hide as much as I could from everyone. My dad is incredibly likeable and charming so he was always very cool to friends. Neither Kim or Guy ever knew just how much of a lifeline they were to me. No I wasn’t suicidal. I never thought about it but I also didn’t care whether I lived or died. Guy really knew there were problems when one day we went to get a snow cone and Guy being Guy said man I sure wish we had some rum. So off to my place we went. Guy probably thought I had a stash which I did. There was always vodka outside my window which I drank from every night. Nope we walked in, my dad in his easy chair watching television and I went to where the liquor was and poured rum in both of our snow cones. Then we left. By this time I spent more time grounded than not, but grounded meant nothing. Every weekend my dad would leave and tell me to stay home and fifteen minutes after he ws gone I would leave too. By the cold months of the year I was spending a lot of time at the Seventh Street Theater where I had been accepted by a motley and degenerate group almost all older than me half of whom were gay called the Front Row Club. Guy usually had a curfew so I would either drive there myself with no drivers license but my dad did give me a car with the instructions don’t get caught or someone would give me a ride. I was accepted there and for some odd reason there was always someone I could talk to. My dad banned me from the place after meeting one of these strange people accused me of being gay, still makes me laugh. Of course hanging out with these people and the many high school people that would show up started the rumor and the ridicule and even more pain and humiliations as my peers called me evey name they could and asked me every inappropriate question there was. It didn’t mtter that I was straight. It was something to hurt me with. So if you want to know why I avoid reunuions or gatherings of classmates well there you go. I have no desire to see any of these people.

I bet you are wondering right about now what the hell this has to do with the band Bad Company. Haha, well nothing really. As much as things were chaotic and bad for me I hadn’t fallen completely apart, I didn’t like being bullied or made fun of but there was little I could do. I had a great best friend. I had a cool girlfriend complete with a dog named dammit. Dammit come here. I can’t remember if that was really the dog’s name. When Bad Company announced a concert at good old Tarrant County Convention Center naturally I wanted to go and Kim was willing to drive. My dad’s girlfriend closer in age to me than my dad offered to drive me and Guy to get tickets if we would only skip school, ahhh gee let me think about that, I really like math, ok sure. All we had to do was wait for her while she went to her hair appointment. No one really explained to two 15 year old boys how long hair appointments could be but we waited and by the time we got tickets all we could get was balcony. Still okay to me because it was still my favorite band. There was trouble in paradise though. Kim was spending more and more time with an ex-boyfriend including taking me to his house and stranding me in his living room while she went off to “talk” to him. I couldn’t have seen it coming if it had been a freight train but of course everyone else did. Guy said break up with her, I said no way. Bad Company was going to save everything. We went to the concert and Kim said she was going to go to the floor and say hi to someone and she would meet me at our seats. She never showed. Paul Rodgers greeted us all with “Hello Houston” which angered me to no end because I was already angry and then they didn’t play a single song from Run With the Pack. Now it was the Desolation Angels tour but that was a horrible album. Concert over, Kim shows up thankfully to give us all a rilde with the ex-boyfriend in tow.

A few nights later she made it official and broke up with me. I told her I was coming over and she said okay but it would not change anything. I was grounded told my dad we needed milk and he said don’t go to Kim’s and I went anyway. I was gone almost an hour. I did bring milk back. My dad actually was kind that night and he said it was okay that it would happen again and that it was just part of growing up. A few weeks later after a horrible argument I walked out of the apartment and ran away. I lived in Fort Worth for a few days with various members of the Front Row Cub taking care of me including taking me to school. I got a note through the office that I needed to go home after school one day. My dad and I created a very uneasy truce. A few weeks later school was out and my dad had to force me to go get my drivers license. A week after that I was arrested for minor in possession (alcohol not drugs) in Saginaw. My dad came to get me in the jail. That was not fun. We had to go get my car, thankfully the cops did not know that it was there or searched it because it would have landed me in considerably more trouble. A few days after with my dad angrily camping out over me we had to go see a juvenile judge and he let me off. For a week my father laid into me with angry words every night, I was called worse names by him than I was at school and so one morning after he gave me a laundry list of things to do while he was at work I packed some of my stuff and left. This time I stayed gone for awhile. I stayed with two of the nicest human beings on the planet, one an openly Gay man who was the official leader of the Front Row Club and a drag queen who did nothing but make me laugh and helped me work through a awful lot of pain and confusion and even called my mother for the first time who was worried sick about me. She had a litany of rules that I would need to follow most of which I didn’t like. She was tough, my mother. She was the toughest person I have ever known. Every rule was non-negotiable. I don’t know how close she ws to breaking. She did tell me that my dad had washed his hands of me. It would be a few momths before I saw him and that was briefly.The best feeling I had that year was being hugged by my mother. I can still feel it.

Thus ended a year of pain and yet in so many ways its never ended. I have spent 40 years repressing or trying to forget anything and everything about that year. It has colored my world in shades of grey and black with occasional glimmers of green blue and purple. Now a few things, Its not my friend’s fault for abandoning me. The fault was mine for not communicating better. If you think Guy should have spoken up stop we were 15. If you think Kim ws horrible remember she was 16. No one did anything wrong. I thought a lot in those days about going back to junior high an talking to Coach Massey or Ms. Goad. They would have helped me. Almost anyone had I asked or said something would have done something. Guy’s father couldn’t make me talk. I made a series of catastrophic decisions which is the story of my life. Its not Bad Company’s fault. I am sure Mick Ralphs asked to play songs from Run with the Pack. That bastard Paul Rodgers who couldn’t get the city right ruined everything.

I know its silly. When those first five albums come up I never know how I will react. Sometimes I just start crying. Sometimes I numbly go through them. I still do love Run With the Pack though, still despise Desolations Angels and I really liked some of the late 80’s post Paul Rodgets period. They are just not the same band for me, probably not fair but there is just too much pain and darkness I associate with the albums I once loved so much.

I spent the rest of high school with the sure fire plan to be invisible. I wanted few friends and anytime someone got too close I would push them away sometimes by just taking a break from them. I wanted nothing to do with being noticed. I did just enough to get good grades so my mom would be pleased but not enough to make the National Honor Society. That took a lot of energy picking and choosing which assignments I could tank to lower my grade just enough. Do you know how much planning and energy that took? I wanted no more girlfriends and that meant in my senior year when I really liked a girl I had to keep her at arms length even though I knew it confused and hurt her. I didn’t like that. I have never liked hurting someone. I knew what it felt like but i also didn’t want to be hurt myself. It would be college before I had another girlfriend and she would hurt me badly and the one after even worse. I have learned to push people away before they can hurt me, friends, intimate relationshps scare me. Please don’t tell me as a social worker I should know better, I hate it when people do that as if therapists or social workers are somehow immune to personal pain or personal issues that we should all just heal ourselves. I spent a lifetime working with troubled youth with that fire that if I could just help one prson it would somehow lessen my own.

I think for most sons the relationship they have with their father is the most complicated one ever. There is just something about how sons feel about their fathers and father their sons that inevitably things get complicated. My father and I have gone through wonderful times and we have gone through rocky times and at this stage of our lives mostly we have found a balance. There is a lot of love between us. There isn’t amything you are going to say that is somehow going to make the events of 40 yeaars ago go away. There isn’t anything he is going to say or that I am going to say. That year has never been discussed. Be careful with any criticism, judgment and certainly any name calling. I honestly believe if I had stopped and asked to talk to my dad and told him all that was going on he would have listened as any of the adults, teachers, school administrators parents of friends my mother or my sister. Any one of them would have listened and helped. I chose to manage it on my own which was disastrous.

I have not shared everything of that year with you or with anyone. No one knows everything and to some extent this means me as well. I put all the memories and pain away in boxes sealed them up and hid them in the darkest recesses of my mind. They bounce around and occasionally something escapes. I can be riding through old Hurst or Bedford and see a spot and something will slip. Several years ago I wrote a smll novel and to date its the most charachter development that I have ever done on a single character. I spent weeks working on this one aspect, this person without a friend in the world without ever having a friend, ever. Devoid of even the most simple of communications with people he is invisible. He is never promoted, never given a raise, never invited to office parties. At one point he says I have lived 27 years this way and I don’t think I can do another 27. A few days after writing this I woke up from a bad dream, not a nightmare a memory of that horrible year and I knew exactly where Calvin came from. So these memories will find a way out and I will deal with them as they come.

Hello Houston indeed, damn that Paul Rodgers

Mike out

The Weird, the Profane and the Return to Fun

Mick Jagger

Steven Tyler

Freddie Mercury

Ozzy

Jim Morrison

Robert Plant

Fred Schneider

Wait, what, Who? This isn’t an exercise like one of these doesn’t belong. I wouldn’t do that to you. I have listed some of the greatest including THE gratest frontman in the history of rock and roll. Sorry Fred, Mick is still the greatest.

It was a Saturday night in 1980. I was hanging out with friends. We had the house to ourselves because one of my friend’s parents had gone out of town. We had been on a kick lately where we were more into weed than we were into alcohol and well we were high as kites. We were coming down and ordering supertacos from Jack in the Box, that’s what they were made for and we turned on Saturday Night Live. There they were, this weird strange band with these two chicks with beehive hairdos, actually called a b-52 where they got the name of their band. I don’t remember the song they were singing, might have been Private Idaho or could have been Rock Lobster. It would not have mattered anyway. And they had a front man, yea now you remember Fred Schneider.

Now I am not about to tell you that Fred is every bit as good, as Mick or Steven, or Freddie but in my humble opinion he is one of the great frontmen in music history. He is an incredible entertainer, great stories and I think he is impossible to not just love. Now you might not, you might think he is a bit too flamboyant or he doesn’t have a great voice. Being a frontman is all about presence and in case you didn’t know Mick Jagger does not have a great voice. People can’t take their eyes off of a great frontman. Now with the B-52s I grant you that there are other visual things that draw your attention. Kate Pierson too is a wonder as a singer and she too has a great presence.

And Cindy, my absolute favorite. I love to watch her dance. I always wanted a girl who could dance like Cindy. Cindy actually sang as many lead vocals as Kate and many 52 songs have both of them singing together, songs like 52 girls and Roam. I love Cindy but I love the band and I always have.

Sometimes its easy to get lost in music as to who the best is. There are all sorts of opinions on who the greatest drummers are and who the greatest guitarists are, what the top one hundred albums are etc. I know people that go nuts for lyrics, oh my god those lyrics they mean so much to me. Look all of that is well and good but sometimes people lose sight of the one thing music is supposed to be; its supposed to be fun. Whether it makes us dance, or sing along, or turn up the volume when songs come on music is enjoyable, it lifts us up. No one does this better than the B-52s and you will probably argue but thats ok. I have a ton of albums from all sorts of genres but I only have one where there is credit given to someone playing a smoke alarm. You can find that on the first B-52s record on the song Rock Lobster. Next time you hear it you will listen for it now and then you will think I could do that and maybe laugh at the sheer audacity to use a smoke alarm. But it’s fun right? The B-52s are all about fun. Love Shack, Private Idaho, 52 Girls, Strobe Light where the interplay with Fred and Kate is just genius. What about the song Planet Claire, she drove a Plymouth Satellite for God’s sake. If you don’t like them that’s fine. If you think they are stupid, that’s fine but they are a little bit, that’s the point they want you to laugh at them and their music. They want you to be entertained, bounce in your seat and sing along with them and when the show is over if you want to put something serious on the old cd player or your Bluetooth or whatever that’s fine too.

I always look forward to when the B-52s hit. The music means a lot to me ad it brings me joy. I love Fred’s voice, I love Kate’s and Cindy has always been my favorite 52 girl. So as I sit down and play the B-52s and share some select songs with you raise a glass to Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, Keith Strickland and the late great Ricky Wilson no doubt looking down and still be bopping to the music so much of which he wrote.

Mike out

Layne

The people who know me have heard the stories, probably at least one too many times. Last night my poor friend Genia got trapped and the wheels were turning, make it stop. Just kidding. The best friends know that I just don’t get out much and when I do, well there are going to be stories. Still you should feel a little sorry for her. No, my friends know some truths about me, that I have a lot of music, a lot of stories and a lot of opinions on the music that I have. They know for example that my favorite musical time in history is the late 80’s to the mid 90’s in Seattle, Washington. Now people call this grunge, a stupid all inclusive term that says nothing really about the music played. Its also grossly unfair to the bands to be lumped in a category. If you take the first 4 Seattle area bands to hit it big, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and of course Nirvana not a one of them sounds like any of the others. In fact other than the fact that they all play rock music and are roughly from the same place they have little in common in regards to how they sound. Its a horrible term.

Now from that time period I have two great musical loves. Most people know the reverence and love I have for Andrew Wood and Mother Love Bone. You might not know that I consider them one of the 5 most influential bands of all time. But I digress and somewhere in the massive letter M Mother Love Bone and Andrew Wood will get their space and time. Now since you are probably a little bit of a smart ass if you read my stuff then you have already guessed who the second person is, after all the title is called Layne. This will probably surprise people, because the name isn’t Chris or Kurt and how could I just discount those departed greats. I am not. Both will get their time too. They are from Seattle so geez they are going to have a place on Mike’s music blog.

So let me start this all off by saying that of all the bands from Seattle Alice in Chains sounds more like you are sitting in your neighborhood and guys around the corner are in their garage playing away. So you grab a 12 pack and head down and they let you stay cause you think its cool and you have beer. That is not a criticism. Alice in Chains sound right out of the 70’s. They sound like going to a club and realizing that you just saw Black Sabbath. They had that heavy guitar sound and they had something special in one of the greatest rock and roll vocalists of all time. Layne Staley had almost a lazy delivery, a growl to his voice and darkness to everything he was singing about. Its easy now for people to look at lyrics and point and say see see there you go proof that he was needing help. Hindsight is always 20/20 right?  I don’t even buy that argument though. It was just great music. Facelift is one of the greatest debut albums ever and for that time period only Pearl Jam’s 10 is better for me. Dirt was also great, and had the song Would? on it which is about Andrew Wood. But if you really want to dive into Layne’s vocals then to me it starts with Jar of Flies the EP Alice in Chains did after Dirt. Its almost entirely acoustic and was planned to be that way. Layne’s vocals are just haunting and the one thing about Alice is the interplay the harmony between Layne and Jerry Cantrell. My other favorite Layne Staley vocal is not even an Alice in Chains song. Its River of Deceit that he did in the side project Mad Season. That song puts me in a such a still place.

Layne died in 2002. The general consensus is that Layne never really got over the death of his friend, fiancée, girlfriend, buddy girl Friday Demri Parrott who died in 1996. Layne was an addict and had a world of problems before her death,  and its true he grew more reclusive after 1996 only recording three songs. There s a fan page, actually a fanatical page on facebook and you will get all sorts of opinions there. I have some Seattle connections and get even different stories. Layne was a mystery. He shared very little of himself gave us few glimpses behind the curtain. In the end it doesn’t matter. He is gone and with him whatever pain he was carrying. It is absolutely tragic. We were lucky that he left so much of his music behind and that music stands up well. Its rich and glorious.

Alice in Chains have gone on. In 2006 they replaced Layne with William Duvall. There are a lot of people that blame Cantrell for continuing Alice in Chains but in no way has Cantrell been disrespectful to Layne’s memory and its certainly not William’s fault. I like William and I think he has handled the situation well. He has never tried to sound like Layne. He has given his own voice to those songs and they have new songs. I know there are people who somehow think that bands shouldn’t go on, or they should be like Joy Division who changed their name to New Order and re=formed after the death of Ian Curtis. Alice is as much Jerry, and Sean’s band as it was Layne. Let them be.

Mike out.

The Great American Band

Sometime in the late 60’s early 70’s Steven Tyler was at a crossroads. He had been working as a professional a drummer in a band but they weren’t exactly going in a direction that Tyler wanted. He was ready for a change and so found himself at his parents summer house in the early winter freezing and trying to figure out what would come next. He ran into a guy he knew and they talked a but and the guy knowing Tyler already had a couple of records under his belt invited him to come out and see his band play. Tyler felt the band was just absolutely horrible but when that kid came out and played it brought electricity to his soul. Thus began the strange and sometimes hostile relationship between Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. Years later after Perry had left Aerosmith and Aerosmith was struggling to fill even clubs Tyler went to see the Joe Perry Project at another venue. Again he felt it was a horrible band but there was Perry and the way he played guitar and all that electricity. Thus began the comeback.

In the Summer of 1976 I was 13 years old. When I look back I can’t remember a better summer than that one. For some time my father had been talking about a trip to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where he had served with the 101st Airborne Division and my sister Sherry was born. So naturally my sister was excited. Normally a car ride with both my sister and myself was going to be a small war. We fought like cats and dogs but I don’t remember us fighting much. Because it was a long trip there was some bribery going on that began with the radio. Normally we listened to what my dad chose but on this trip he chose radio stations that he knew we would like the music. W also made a stop at Vicksburg where I gave everyone a tour of the battlefield. It seemed the same song was being played on every radio station. My dad was making fun of it and since I could not understand any of the lyrics I joined in too. In every state on every station the same song was plying. My sister was the only one who even knew who the band was. I am sure that Aerosmith had some airplay prior to the album Rocks, but Toys in the Attics the prior album had been a failure and mostly the band was struggling to get more than a foothold. And so we laughed at the song Last Child over and over again but by the time we got home I wanted that album and Rocks became my first Aerosmith album. Soon after Walk this Way was released as a single from the album Toys in the Attic and I had both albums.

Rocks remains a really special album because of that summer vacation.  I believe side 1 of Rocks is the greatest side of any rock album of all time. Now let me qualify as there are a couple o Beatle albums that I think have better sides and an Elton John side that I think is greatest side of all time. But Aerosmith is really a different kind of band, they are a rock band like the Stones, like Led Zeppelin. I will put Back in the Saddle, Last Child, Rats in the Cellar and Combination against any of those bands and their best sides and remember I have most if not all of the albums that could challenge Rocks side 1.

I followed Aerosmith until their slow fall from grace.  I hated to hear the stories of Tyler’s addicton. He was one of my heroes and I just did not want him to die and did not want the band I loved slip into something pathetic but lets face it they became pathetic and ultimately Perry and Tyler split. Tyler stayed with a bastardized version of Aerosmith and despite everything he kept it alive. Now I love Run D-M-C. They are total greatness but I hated their version of Walk This Way. Because of how much I loved that band it was irreverent for me to hear them mess with a great song even if Aerosmith loved it and participated. It did get Aerosmith noticed but it was still a slow crawl back to the top. They had a really good album in Permanent Vacation and then re-invented themselves with Pump. What an album, and every song and every video just audacious. How could you not love that band that album those songs.\? They became hit makers helped along the way by the greatest video chick ever Alicia Silverstone. They had wonderful hit songs. I love I don’t Wanna Miss a Thing. Its a beautiful song.

You never really know if they are coming or going. Its been awhile since they have had a hit song. That’s okay. Joe Perry has had a couple of heart attacks and I worry that soon they will be gone, and gone for good. We make jokes about the old rockers especially Keith Richards, but the truth is they won’t live forever. One day they will be gone and while they leave behind a wonderful legacy and for most of us a slew of memories it wont be the same knowing they aren’t part of the world. Right now Aerosmith is in Las Vegas doing a residency. How awesome. I have seen some videos. They don’t jump around as much, Tyler can’t hit the notes that he used to but there is something about them, like Steven Tyler seeing that kid Joe Perry play for the first time; electric down to the roots of your soul.

I get a little frustrated when people talk about the greatest bands of all time. Now I will give you this the Rolling Stones are the greatest band to ever walk the planet but throw the Beatles out. They were a studio group only and they never could rock like the Stones. I will put Aerosmith right there though. They are every bit as good as the Rolling Stones and they are an American Band.

Mike Out

The Music Blog:The Devil’s Music

What you missed, ABBA, Gregory Abbott, Paula Abdul

Welcome to the blog where I get to talk about everything I want about my music collections. If you don’t know all the whys and whats and where tos then you need to catch up by reading the three prequel blogs that explain my music collection. To reiterate I am not going to discuss every piece of music I have. I hope to hit the important bands bands that were important to music,  bands that were important to me.

Now understand, I don’t claim to be an expert and there are always people out there who seem to thrive on the ability to correct others. I call them the music police. They bring everything down. There are mistakes with my collection. Its alphabetical and then chronological and I have made mistakes in how this is all organized. I will give you four examples. The band or artist Sigur Ros. I am not a fan don’t really care for the music but alas I have two albums. Now I honestly don’t know should I organize this under R or S. Well for me its S. If that’s wrong deal with it. I love the blues and I have a lot of it, there are a ton of Blind so and so’s and Memphis so and so’s and other examples. I try to be consistent with this but I am not. Mostly its about feeling where it goes which is appropriate for the blues. In 1977 or 78 the four members of Kiss did solo albums under the Kiss umbrella. I have one of those albums. It is not under Kiss but under the letter for the last name. It always has been. I don’t care how long you have been a card carrying member of the Kiss Army it isn’t getting changed.  Finally. AC/D released the album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap fairly early in their career, way before Highway to Hell.  For me tis album was released after Bon Scott’s death and that’s when I saw and when I bought it.

Which brings me to the subject matter of this first blog; AC/DC Now its kind of funny just how much influence my parents had on me. On the one hand I was rebelling and on the other they ingrained in me a deep fear of devil music without really defining what it was. Most albums I wanted they had to listen to first and some things like the second side of Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies I was not allowed to listen to except that they had these things called headphones. I can remember being over a friend’s house, now this was the70’s and the room was dark and the blacklight was going and Black Sabbath was playing. I could not help but wonder if my friend didn’t worship Satan. Now of course this is ridiculous now at age 56. But I was profoundly uncomfortable. I don’t know how long it took me to really get over this.

AC/DC was just one of those bands I considered sketchy. Now I can honestly say that I listened to The Cars, Journey, Styx, Springsteen. I really don’t know anyone who liked AC/DC all that much. The first song I heard and identified as being by them was Highway to Hell. I can remember being in a record store and looking at that album cover with Angus Young and devil horns and wondering if they were real. I knew they were not but those old parental warnings were banging around in my head.

Some time after Bon Scott died the song Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was released. Now seriously what sixteen year old couldn’t get behind the meaning of that song. That became the first album I ever bought by AC.DC. It will forever sit between Highway to Hell and Back in Blsck. I didn’t like it. The title track was the only song I liked. I seriously thought it was a hodge podge of songs put together and released while they figured out what they were going to do next.

What came next of course was Back in Black. I think its the greatest comeback album of all time. There might be another as good but I can’t think of one. When I heard the bells and that opening riff for Hell’s Bell’s I didn’t care if they were the devil’s personal groomers. That song was made to play one way and one way only, loud. Afterwards there were a series of songs they made that were meant to be played the same way. Its why I love music. I wouldn’t call AC/DC a particularly complex band. Its pretty much three chords and blaze of glory with some catchy lyrics to go along with it.  But let’s face it they spent 30 years doing it as well as anyone. And they are still out there.

 

Mike out.