Rock n’ roll church

12 01 2013


It just occurred to me a few minutes ago; the Hard Rock Cafe is really like a church. The Detroit Hard Rock Cafe has stained glass depicting kiss, The Supremes, Alice Cooper, Stevie Wonder and other images synonymous with the Detroit music scene.  This is not unlike the Christian churches in the world, great and small, which honor saints of centuries past by memorializing them in colored glass.

The photos of rock gods on the wall are like icons and statues so important to Catholic and Orthodox worship.  More than anything, what we call “memorabilia” has value because of its connection to famous people.  We’re fascinated to see Eminem’s (grubby) sweat pants or a guitar Eddie Van Halen played on a wall.  “He touched those!” we think when we see them, or at least we’re supposed to have that reaction.  Otherwise, why would we care to see a shirt worn by David Crosby?  The stuff on the wall works out to be modern relics.  Maybe we no longer fight wars over a splinter from the “true cross” or an article allegedly touched by a saint or Christ Himself.

I know it’s only rock and roll, as Mick Jagger once said — I know that’s a little corny.  But I see a deeper meaning: places like the Hard Rock Cafe are little hints that people need a God or gods to worship.  The Judeo-Christian Father God is not seen by us under what we would consider normal conditions.  But these gods we can see and touch.

If the Hard Rock Cafe is like a local church, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is like St. Peter’s in Rome.  Think about it.




They played “Romeo Delight”

21 02 2012

Van Halen was in my hometown last night, playing The Palace of Auburn Hills.  I love Van Halen but, for reasons I can’t explain, I don’t feel like I missed out by not seeing the show.  Maybe I’ll catch ’em next time.

But just because I didn’t see the concert myself doesn’t mean that I don’t believe it was a noteworthy happening.  I did hear callers and emailers on WRIF this morning, and there seemed to be mixed fan reaction to the show.  Some supposed die-hards were “disgusted” by how “boring” it was and walked out of the concert after a handful of songs.  Other clowns griped about there not being a lot of “fist pumping” and “jumping” in the audience.  Still others said it was the best Van Halen show they’ve seen.

Here’s Gary Graff’s review of it.

What jumped (no pun intended) out at me the most was that Van Halen went deep into their material, playing stuff you wouldn’t expect.  Normally, the big acts play the hits, the songs they think the people want to hear.  I’m of the belief that hits at concerts are fine, but that failure to get past them often shows a lack of depth in material or lack of guts on the part of the performer.

The song in the set list that I would least have expected to hear was “Romeo Delight.”  (One of the WRIF callers, incidentally, complained about that song finding its way onto the set list.)  That’s an underrated song, one of the better tunes on Women and Children First.

The truth about A Different Kind of Truth

7 02 2012

Oddly, Van Halen chose “Tattoo” as the first “single” (if there is such a thing anymore) off their first album with David Lee Roth in 28 years.  It might be one of the weaker songs on the album.  Normally I can’t really dig an album the first time around, but I’ve run ADKoT through once, and played a few of the songs a couple of times, and I’m just… stunned.

Diamond Dave is notoriously difficult to live with, to put it mildly.  If you believe Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen is practically certifiably nuts, almost completely incapable of composing a song.  Maybe that was true a few years back; Eddie, it’s no secret, isn’t the clean-living type.  Given the stories about these guys, it’s hard to imagine that they were able to put out anything, let alone a rock masterpiece.

The music on ADKoT proves, beyond any doubt, that Eddie Van Halen is still the best rock guitarist on the planet.  His hooks are infectious and dirty, melodic and gritty.  The album is loud.  Really loud!  There’s no pop like “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” or “Dreams.”  ADKoT has the grit of VH’s first four albums, and none of polish of 1984 or the so-called Van Hagar output.  VH was criticized for resurrecting old material — old outtakes and demos from 70’s and 80’s — for this album, but that best explains why this album has elephant balls.  You can tell you’re listening to Van Halen, but it sounds like the young, hungry, partying Van Halen of the early 80’s.  At the risk of sounding like an ageist, it’s hard to believe guys pushing 60 still have enough fire in ’em to rock this hard.

I expected more songs with a bit of shuffle to them.  It’s easy to imagine that Diamond Dave would try to make an album of uptempo show tunes.  But this is rock, pure and simple.  The only song that has a softer feel is “Stay Frosty,” an “Ice Cream Man” for the 2000’s.  “You and Your Blues” is pure stomp, with just enough pop to make you think of “Jamie’s Cryin’.”

“China Town” is Van Halen doing thrash… well sort of.  It cooks like a honest-to-goodness metal song.  “Bullet Head” isn’t really much different.  It would fit nicely right next to “Romeo Delight.” “Blood and Fire” reminds me of “Unchained,” 3 parts metal, 2 parts pop.  It’s one of the songs that is unmistakably vintage VH.

For “AsIs,” Eddie must have tuned his guitar way down.  It’s got a blues metal boogy with a punk vibe.  Guys half their age would have a helluva time keeping up with it.  Van Halen’s never done anything like “Honeybabysweetiedoll.”  The intro sounds like extraterrestrials of the old B movies. The guitar growls and bites.  “Outta Space” is another big guitar boogy that would be impossible for any guitar rock fan to resist.

The things about this album that jump out at me the most are:

  • Eddie might be playing the best guitar of his life!
  • David Lee Roth can still sing (at least in the studio)
  • Either Wolfgang Van Halen is one of the best bass players around — a far superior player to Michael Anthony — or Van Halen finally decided to put out an album where the bass could be heard in the mix on all the songs.  Whatever the case may be, the kid’s amazing!
  • Alex Van Halen is still among the best rock drummers ever; no resting on his laurels on this album.
  • The lyrics are not atypical for David Lee Roth, but there’s little or nothing on there that would embarrass him.  He’s a more clever — and more eccentric — writer than Sammy Hagar by miles.
  • The true “brown sound” is mostly gone.  Eddie’s new gear sounds so different from the stuff he was using the last time they worked with Roth. But you can still here Eddie in the crunch.  “Big River” is a good example of the brown sound finding its way to the surface.

If you like Van Halen, run to the store or to amazon or wherever and get your hands on ADKoT.  If you just like rock, you’ll have no complaints and  it will be $12-15 well spent.


VH goes acoustic

18 01 2012

and makes a documentary with Roth.  Interesting.–223429483

Hey, Wolfie can really shred!

10 01 2012

I had no idea the boy had such skills! He’s really good.  It shouldn’t surprise me given the musical talent in his genes.

After 16 years…

9 01 2012

we finally get a new Van Halen-David Lee Roth song.   “Tattoo” debuts tomorrow.  Preview clips were available online, but UMG has pulled them all due to copyright.

Here’s the purported track listing for the new album which will be released in a month.

01. Tattoo
02. She’s The Woman
03. You and Your Blues
04. China Town
05. Blood and Fire
06. Bullethead
07. As Is
08. Honeybabysweetiedoll
09. The Trouble With Never
10. Outta Space
11. Stay Frosty
12. Big River
13. Beats Workin’

A Different Kind of Truth

6 01 2012

Van Halen’s new album, A Different Kind of Truth, is set to hit stores on February 7.  The first single, “Tattoo,”  will debut on January 10.  Finally we’ll have new Van Halen material.  It’s been a long time.