Taking me back to my youth

26 05 2010

I’ve always loved music.  By the age of 4 or 5, I was a pretty ardent Beatles fan.  I cut my teeth on “oldies” on the radio, Olivia Newton John, Linda Ronstadt and other soft rock, with some country sprinkled in.  But my musical coming-of-age, if you will, was during the early days of MTV.  While we didn’t have MTV in our house — my mom didn’t get cable TV until the late 90’s — I watched it at other people’s homes.  MTV made music videos, as a medium, explode across the rest of TV.  Anyone remember “Friday Night Videos”?  More than that, MTV, at least I would argue, helped spread fresh music back through FM radio.  Bands that had big video hits seemed to be able to make radio hits out of songs that probably wouldn’t have gotten much airplay otherwise.

What that whole period — 1982 through 1985 — did for me was expose me to all kinds of styles.  Hard rock and heavy metal were starting to explode, hitting something of an apex with the success of the countless hairbands (which happily ended when “Grunge” took over in the early 90’s.)  Punk morphed into a more listener-friendly style: New Wave.  Rap (the nice kind that doesn’t talk about murder and drugs) also took off like a rocket.

I wasn’t necessarily into New Wave.  In fact, I was more of a rocker.  Van Halen was my favorite band back then.  But New Wave, then and now, defined the sound of that period.  Just like the Beatles or the Yardbirds take Baby Boomers back to the mid-60’s or Elvis and Buddy Holly take the previous generation back to the mid to late 50’s, New Wave takes me back the early to mid 80’s.  Much of what is called “80’s music” these days is really the New Wave, which ranged from dark and edgy (The Cure) to pop (Soft Cell.)

I can hear the Beatles and not think of the 60’s or hear the Bee Gees and not think of the disco movement of the 70’s.  But I almost cannot separate New Wave from that period.  I can’t hear it in a vacuum.

All that said, this song, which, ironically, is from 2009, takes me right back to that period.  I hear it a few times a week at the gym and I flash back — not necessarily in thought but in feeling — to 1983.   It’s a pretty catchy song.  I wish I had written or performed it.


Earth below us, drifting, falling

19 04 2010

One of my favorite 80’s songs is “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling.  I saw the video at my gym yesterday and it inspired me to share it here.

Even they gotta be embarrassed

30 10 2009

I don’t like Kiss.  Never have.  Never will.   But I did like at least one song, “Lick It Up.”  Notice the past tense; “did like.”  In 1983, this song seemed catchy, with a good pop-metal hook.  Now it seems insipid.

The video, though, is hysterical.  In the early 80’s, the video was kind of cool and had a tough-guy rock vibe.  Now it’s comic genius.  When the band walks down the street singing and flexing, why are there human skills on the ground?  The band had “unmasked” several years before this.  Their make up and costumes was replaced with huge hair, tight jeans, ripped t-shirts, belts, bandanas and all the other trappings of hair bands.   They look like Flock of Seagulls meets New Jersey housewives.

Vinnie Vincent, Ace Frahley’s replacement on ax, is in all his gender-bending glory, with his pink guitar and soft feminine features accented with more blush, mascara and eyeliner than you could find at an Avon party.  I remember thinking, “Dang, he looks like a girl.”  And he did.

Why are they guys drinking out of plastic gas cannisters?  At one point, one of the savage girls and later a guy on the band look like they are drinking out of a mustard squirt bottle.  Crimped-haired dolls feed the band like they are starved savages.

Not surprisingly, the video more or less ends  with the band “performing” on a stage beset with fire.  The whole set looks so post-apocalyptic.

Paul Stanley couldn’t be bothered to actually play the guitar he’s holding.   He’s too busy swinging an thrusting his pick hand in the air.  Ditch the guitar Paul.  It’s an instrument, not a prop.

No Kiss experience would be complete without having to see Gene Simmons’ slithery snake-tongue.  Sadly, I think Gene has always believed that is sexy to see.

And just what are we supposed to “lick up”?  What is the “it”?  They don’t really tell us.  But we do know that “it’s only right now”.  If you take anything away from this masterpiece — and my ramblings about it — remember this: “it ain’t a crime to be good to yourself.”


25 10 2009

Busy and uninspired lately, I’ve had nothing I felt I really should or could say.  But writing nothing, or waiting for the urge to write, seems unwise.  So here’s a little filler for you.

For whatever reason, this song and video came to mind.  As a Van Halen fanatic as a kid, I thought this song was one of the best of the Roth era.  Actually, it’s gotta be in my top 10 favorite Van Halen songs.  The video, though kind of fun for 13 year old boys (and back in the day when the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition was risque), is somewhat embarrassing now.  Still, it’s a great song and the video has camp.

Without further ado I give you…”Hot for Teacher”

Video Flashback: “Just Like Paradise” — David Lee Roth

8 10 2009

1988 — I was a huge Van Halen fan and had really liked David Lee Roth’s first solo LP, Eat ‘Em and Smile.  So it was a big deal when DLR released his second LP, Skyscraper.

I don’t remember when I first got my hands on the album, but I do know I was a “sandwich artist” at Subway, two doors down from the (now defunct) Harmony House music store in our town.  A young, cool musician-type — wannabe hair metal singer — came in for a sandwich and we struck up a conversation about music.  By that time I had heard Skyscraper and recommended it to him.  He raced over to Harmony House, bought the cassette and came back for more chit-chat.  Ultimately I put him in touch with a friend who was an excellent guitarist and a new band was formed, but that’s a different story.

Around that time I happened to be at my friend Brent’s house.  We didn’t have cable but he did, so I did most of my MTV viewing.  We were lucky enough to catch this video together — he had already seen it.  My memory of the video is that I thought it was quite cool.  I really liked the song save some of the cheesy synthesizer work.  It ended up being one of the more catchy and enjoyable songs on that album.

But like most of the things I loved when I was 16 or 17, I outgrew the song and the album within a few years.  I heard “Just Like Paradise” last night in a store and it brought back these little memories.  I was reminded of why I liked the song.  Watching the video tonight, I am reminded of why I outgrew this stuff.   The staff antics of DLR and his band are just plain corny.  Steve Vai is a guitar wizard, but his stage presence is almost embarrassing to watch.  Of course, there is no bigger cheeseball alive than David Lee Roth, and he’s in typical form in the video.

Despite all that, a part of me still likes the song and video.  Catchy is catchy, right?

Video Flashback: “In the Mood,” Robert Plant

25 05 2009

I was a little too young to know much about Led Zeppelin.  Sure, I had heard of them as a kid, but my parents weren’t fans and we didn’t have rock n’ roll radio on too much.  My mom played a lot of Linda Ronstadt, some Eric Clapton and Olivia Newton-John, together with a mish-mash of oldies and country.

Because of that, I didn’t have much of an idea of who Robert Plant was when this song came around.  I heard the song a bunch on top 40 radio and loved it.  In fact, it was one of the songs I recorded from the radio and listened to over and over.  It wasn’t until I went to my mom’s best friend’s house and we turned on MTV that I learned of the then former career of Mr. Plant.  My mom’s friend’s younger brother, about 6 years older than me, made my “cousin” and I sit still while he watched this video.  He told us who Robert was and that “Zeppelin rules!”

This is another song that I haven’t heard in years.  It has simply dropped out of the radio station.  I’m not sure why it doesn’t get played much anymore.  It beats the crap out of most of Steve Winwood’s solo work and that still finds its way onto radio.


Video Flashback: “Africa” by Toto

1 03 2009

One of the coming-of-age social events for me was spending the night at a friend’s house.  Other than relatives, I wasn’t really allowed to do that until 6th grade.  But one cold winter night when I was 11, my mom finally buckled and let me stay at Jimmy’s house.

This was pretty exciting for me.  Jimmy, his little brother Tommy, and I started the evening playing Donkey Kong on Intellivision.  Mrs. ***** moved us from the living room to the boys’ bedroom as it got late.  We didn’t go to bed, of course, but stayed up until the wee hours talking, joking, passing gas, calling each other names, and expressing our budding interest in our female classmates.

A song that takes me back to that night is “Africa” by Toto.  We played the local top 40 radio station all night and this song was in hot rotation.  It must have been a top 10 hit at the time because it was played probably once every hour.  Other songs were played, too, but this one burned into my memory. [In this case, it wasn’t the video that we saw, just heard the song on the radio over and over.]

It’s funny how, like smells, music can trigger a very specific, very limited memory.  The smell of mothballs always, without exception, reminds me of my great aunt’s house (when I was six.)  I’ve heard “Africa” hundreds of times, but it always, without fail, takes me back to that night.

I wonder what Jimmy is up to these days.