Digital Hair Ball For June 2nd, 2011 - Fool In the Rain

Led Zeppelin - The Morning Song

I moved out of my Mom and Dad's house twice as a teenager. This story is about the second time I moved out into the very nearly infamous "Green Apartment." My Mom and dad were moving to another state and I had to make a choice. Stay with my friends or start anew in..ack..Tennessee.

So Tim, Dan, and I moved into the lower level of a house in Sheffield, AL. It was grit your teeth green and had a massive room in the middle. I don't remember if we officially named it the "dungeon," but it had a vaulted ceiling and it ran most of the length of the house. It was the perfect place for late night D&D. There was a small room in front that was the living room and the kitchen/dining room and a bathroom in the back of the house. A couple of bedrooms were thrown in along the side. I started out sharing the larger bedroom with Dan, I remember this because I had to turn my clock radio up on its face because the light from the clock evidently radiated all the way across the room and disturbed Dan's sleep. He didn't seem to mind the extra volume from the speaker as I listened to Larry King and Art Bell going to sleep late at night.

Before I get to the point, that little living room in the front of the house was where I beat Super Mario Brothers 3! I came in from work one night around 5:30pm and my roommates were all working night shift, so I had the place to myself! I started up the Nintendo and started my game. My roommates and other friends started coming in around 9:00 and beers were passed around as I worked. About 5:30 the next morning after defeating bowser in his clown sky car we all watched in horror as Princess Peach proclaimed, "Thank you for saving me, but our princess is in another castle...Ha Ha Ha, just kidding!"

But more to the point, "The Dungeon" was the perfect place for parties. We lived there for a couple of years and the parties were fast and furious. We had a band at the time with me, Dan, Scott, Kevin, Jamey, and Danny. Danny was the new lead singer and he will probably get a post to himself at some point. But we would practice over a store front in Tuscumbia and everyone would gravitate back to our apartment after the fact. "The Dungeon" would become the triage unit for after party causalities that couldn't and shouldn't drive home.

Along about this same time I discovered Led Zeppelin. I was the oldest child, so my music discovery was mixed between me, my parents, and MTV. My parents had provided me with ample doses of 60's and 70's Pop and country music. Fortunately, MTV came along and the closet classics indoctrinated me into 60's and 70's Rock-n-Roll. One of the bands featured on those closet classics was Led Zeppelin, but I never really got into them until THE box set came out.

ledzepboxsetcover.jpg

I remember saving up for it. It wasn't cheap, but I knew I had to have it. It was supposedly some kind of Holy Grail of rock-n-roll and I needed it for research, if nothing else. Well, I finally got it and I cannot remember ever doing this since, but I would literally lay in the middle of the floor in "The Dungeon" on my off days for hours on end soaking in the information on the cassettes in that box set off our little stereo in the "entertainment center." "Good Times, Bad Times," "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," "Whole Lotta Love," "Heartbreaker," "D'yer Mak'er," "Kashmir," "Over the Hills and Far Away," and etc,... But the song that defines the "Green Apartment" is "Fool In the Rain."

As I mentioned before, the "Green Apartment" had its share of parties and thus had its share of morning afters. One morning after, I got up and decided I would cook breakfast for everyone, more to impress the girl I was dating at the time than anything. Tim, roommate, smelled breakfast cooking on the stove and got up and came into the kitchen to see if he could scalvage any food. I had every intention of sharing, but not until it was ready and definitely not until my girlfriend got first pick!

I told him to get back in the dungeon and watch TV or something and he could get in line behind everybody else. Well. He didn't turn on the TV, instead he turned on the stereo and the fourth cassette of the Led Zep box set was in and track 1 was "Fool In the Rain." He cranked it and everyone in the house came pouring out of the bed rooms. The smell of bacon frying on the stove and the strains of Led Zep's zydeco music turned it into a joyous occasion and to my amazement it was my girlfriend, not a morning person, that lead the conga line into the kitchen and snuggled up against me as it proceeded through the kitchen and back into the dungeon all to "The Morning Song." A tradition was born and many parties went by and many morning afters, all capped with "The Morning Song" and  the conga line. It was the first time I can remember feeling like I kind of had a family outside of my family.

- DHB

PS. My favorite cover of this song. O.A.R. featuring Robert Randolph:

Digital Hair Ball For May 11th, 2011 - Fight For Your Right

Beastie Boys - Fight For Your Right To Play Guitar In a Band

I try to play guitar.

I started this ridiculous pursuit about 27 years ago in my childhood home posing with my Dad's Japanese Douglas guitar to Duran Duran, Van Halen, and Ratt blasting on the living room stereo, while Mom and Dad were gone, of course. One day, Dad came home early from work and caught me, having snuck his guitar out of the closet in their bed room. But instead of hollering at me or punishing me, he walked back to their bed room and back into the living room to throw a Mel Bay Chord Book at me. "If you are going to be jumping around with it, learn how to play it!" He said. Well, about a year later, my first band played our lead singer's younger twin brothers' birthday party at the Tuscumbia Rec Center.

Scott (vocals), Brian (bass), Kevin (drums) and I cobbled together a sparse set list. I can probably recall most of it right now (in no particular order): You Really Got me, Pretty Woman, Feel Your Love Tonight (Van Halen), Take It Easy and When the Rain Comes Down (Andy Taylor, because that was the closest to Duran Duran we could play), Johnny 'B' Goode (Marty McFly, although we were well aware of Chuck Berry), Pipeline (The Ventures) etc,.. But the biggest response we got was for this new band/act called Beastie Boys' song called "Fight For Your Right." The song was an obvious addition to the set list, minimal vocal and/or musicianship required, flat instrumentation and rap/talk the lyrics. "The Party Boys" (Our remarkable substitution for "The Beastie Boys" in the lyric. We actually named the band Tel Aviv, more about that later.) muddled through "Fight For Your Right" with everyone's complete attention! Scott's little brothers and their friends were suitably impressed.

Since I took Dad up on his challenge and learned to play guitar on his Douglas, the morning of the show he walked through the front door with a case which contained my first new electric guitar, a red Peavey Falcon. It was a Strat clone right down to the three single coil pickups and five position selector switch. Of course no one thought to pick up any extra strings and I had to finish up the second set on Scott's Harmony after I started a long tradition of breaking strings during shows. Also, the entire band was almost electrocuted when we came out for the second set barefoot.

The couple of glitches aside we survived our first show. Our payment for the show was Scott's Mom had t-shirts printed up for us with my very crude Tel Aviv logo, which we were thrilled with and I think a couple of which are still floating around. Tel Aviv, name taken from the instrumental off the first Duran Duran album (we did not get our parents' references to us being a Jewish rock band, we were thinking Tel Star by the Ventures and the spacey New Wave sound of the song), was a hit with the middle school crowd and gave us just enough confidence to continue to pursue our ambition. Thanks Beasties! Thanks Dad!

- DHB

Digital Hair Ball for February 9th, 2011 - Fire Woman

The Cult - Arena Rock

I have never been a fan of The Cult, but I did go to one of their concerts. A local Memphis band (Tora Tora) that was making some noise on MTV and Jason Bonham's band, Bonham, opened for them. My bandmates and I, at the time, were fans of Tora Tora and Bohnam, so we went!

After Bonham finished their set, Kevin, Scott, and I made our way out of the arena and as we walked back to the car, with the headliner already playing, we noticed a group of people behind the arena standing at a barricade. With nothing better to do, we walked over to see what was going on. A couple of roadies were standing there talking to the group and as we approached the group dispersed.

My friends and I took their place and began talking to the roadies. They were telling us stories about setting up the stage and wild parties when Anthony Corder, the lead singer of Tora Tora, came out and saw us with the roadies and walked over and joined the conversation. While we were talking, the low throbbing drone of the Cult's set died out and Jason Bonham came out the back of the arena with a stack of food in boxes and made a bee line for the bus, that close to meeting the son of the greatest drummer ever! We continued our conversation with Anthony Corder while The Cult played their encore...Fire Woman.

- DHB

Digital Hair Ball for December 24th, 2010 - Do They Know It's Christmas?

Band Aid - Do They know It's Christmas too?

 

I left a particular pop Christmas song out of my last post on purpose. Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was recorded and released for Christmas 1984. It is significant for several reasons. Bob Geldof, lead vocalist for the Boomtown Rats, organized the recording after seeing a news report on the BBC about the famine in Ethiopia. The proceeds from the sale of the record went to shipping relief supplies to the famine stricken country and kicked off a string of charity events and projects across the world to do the same.

The Band Aid project was particularly effective in a short time thanks to the popularity of MTV and other music video based shows and networks around the world, all of which were more than happy to put the all-star video straight into heavy rotation. Geldof took advantage of the pop media phenomenon to take his idea from concept to world wide attention in a couple of months leading up to Christmas that year. A feat that simply would not have been possible in a cable TV and in particular MTV less world just a few short years before.

I remember watching the premiere of the video on MTV that year. The involvement of Sting, Bono, and Duran Duran (some of the biggest acts in the world at the time) supplied instant buzz and made the debut a huge event that holiday season. The song, while not necessarily a master class in song writing (Geldof's lyrics, Midge Ure of Ultrvox's music), had a bit of that iconic British, i.e. The Beatles, magic about it. Especially Bono's memorable, "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you" and the "Feed the World" refrain that served as the coda of the song.

Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was a prime example of 80's pop culture giving the world a reason to believe in the middle of the Cold War and what seemed like a precarious existence at times. The world could come together, 4 minutes and 33 seconds at a time, at Christmas time.

- DHB

Digital Hair Ball for December 10th, 2010 - Someday At Christmas

Pearl Jam - Some Music at Christmas

I have always loved music, so it should come as no surprise that my favorite part of the Holiday Season is the music! Even before I was over the whole Christmas toys thing, (I think I am over that), I can remember Dad pulling out the Christmas albums with the decorations. He would DJ with Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and The Ray Conniff Singers, amongst other records while Mom, my sister and I went about the business of decorating the house and the tree. It just would not have been the same without the music that instantly transformed a night at home into a magical and exciting night that marked the start of the Holiday Season!

The first Christmas song that I can remember buying was the 45" of "What Do You Get a Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)" (1980). Holy Crap! Two of the best things rolled into one, Christmas and Star Wars! What more could I ask for? I remember driving Dad crazy that year, because every time I heard him turn on the stereo that season, I would run and grab my 45 and take it to him to play. It stayed in heavy rotation for the next 3 or 4 years :O) The perfect song to listen to on Christmas Eve, right before going to bed and dreaming of the Star Wars' action figures, vehicles, and hopefully that Death Star playset that Santa was going to bring!

Interesting side note, the flip side of "Wookie," "R2-D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas," was written and performed by John Bongiovi (Jon Bon Jovi). Bon Jovi's cousin Tony Bongiovi produced the album, "Christmas In the Stars." Also, on the video of "Wookie" above, it opens ands closes with a clip from another of my favorite Christmas songs, David Bowie and Bing Crosby's version of "Little Drummer Boy."

 As I got older, I really enjoyed collecting Christmas music. I loved pulling the records and cassettes out each year (guess I got that from Dad). There was something special about my collection of songs that I only listened to for a few weeks each year. They never got old because of that and it was like rediscovering them each year. Another of my favorites then and now is Jim Henson, as Rolf the Dog, and John Denver's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." There is something special about their version in particular that brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it. What a paradox, especially as a child. A song about the most joyous time of the year, yet so full of melancholy. (It also doesn't help that Jim Henson and John Denver have long since left us.) I once started a screen play for a movie just because I had an idea for a final scene that would feature this song. It was a tear jerker to say the least, maybe I will finish it one day.

As I got older still, and as I got into pop and rock music, I remember going to the mall one year, walking into Record Bar and finding, at the time anyway, what had to be the single greatest compilation of Christmas music ever! It was like someone took all my favorite artists off MTV and squashed them down into a single cassette. It was called "A Very Special Christmas." Sting was on there. U2 was on there. Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Eurythmics, Run D.M.C. and the list seemed to go on and on. It was a treasure trove of Christmas covers that could keep me busy for a few weeks out of the year for years to come! (The proceeds for the sale of the album of all the "Very Special Christmas" albums go to the Special Olympics.)

Well now I was on a mission. Rock-n-roll Christmas songs! Got to collect them all. Next up, I found one by Billy Squire that he had debuted on the MTV Christmas Party way back in 1981! This song would kick off a whole bunch of Christmas parties for years and years to come. "Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You."

In 1992 "A Very Special Christmas Vol. 2" came out with one of the classiest/coolest covers ever of a traditional Christmas song. "What Child Is This?" by Vanessa Williams.

1997, ten years after the original, "A Very Special Christmas Vol. 3" came out. Ska was king, and No Doubt had my favorite track! "Oi to the World."

There are way too many songs in my Christmas collection to list them all. I haven't even touched on the various Beatles' members entries or some even more rockin' songs by some more recent artists and bands and some by more obscure acts.

I'll end with Pearl Jam, one of my "Big Three." Back in 2004 they released their fan club Christmas single, just as they had done every year since '93 or '94, but unlike most of those singles, it was an actual Christmas song. "Someday At Christmas" is a cover of a Stevie Wonder Christmas song that was also covered by the Jackson 5. It really sums up my feelings about Christmas and the holiday season.

I remember the following year a group of friends and I had our annual Christmas party. We had all moved on with our lives and it was getting harder and harder to get everyone together for the festivities, so I burned everyone a CD of a rock-n-roll Christmas song playlist that I had put together. This made sense on a couple of levels, because most of this group of friends were ex-bandmates from the last band I was in and if we didn't get together in the years to come, they could pop in the CD since I wouldn't be there to DJ the party. The Pearl Jam song inspired the gift and was on there, but one of the only non-rock-n-roll songs I put on there was "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." By that time, Christmas had lost a little of its luster, through the loss of family members and the pace of adult life, which tends to lead to cynicism. After so many years, I finally understood were Rolf and John Denver were coming from.

 - DHB

I can't leave it like that. Happy Holidays!

 

 

Digital Hair Ball for December 3rd, 2010 - High Wire

Badlands - Without a Net

We had an awesome local "Mom and Pop" record store in Florence growing up, but sometimes the lights and sounds of the "big" city would call. Once my friends and I got our driver's licenses, we would take field trips to the big city of Huntsville, AL. It was about an hour down the road and it had a couple of big malls and as we would find out, lots of little speciality stores on a couple of the main streets in town. An awesome book store, called Book Vila (incredible stock of RPG's and later Magic the Gathering and other CTCG's), a used record shop called Sunburst Records, and a used book store, the Booklegger. A trip to Huntsville always meant finding some small treasure that simply wasn't available at home.

One of our road trips to Huntsville resulted in me discovering Badlands. In this particular case, I am sure I could have eventually found the cassette in Muscle Shoals/Florence, probably at Pegasus, but because of the drive I felt the need to search something new out. I remember after making all of our usual stops, I had nothing to show for the trip. So when we went to Madison Square Mall, I had no choice but to take a chance on something in one of the TWO record stores inside. Amazing, a mall with two record stores!

We actually stopped at the mall to get something to eat and this mall had the best food court, a new concept at the time (circa 1989). The food court was upstairs, but the best record store, I believe it was a Record Bar, was downstairs and we made a special trip down there to rummage through their stock. We had a Record Bar in the mall back home, I bought most of my Duran Duran 12" singles from there growing up, but the one in Huntsville had even more rarities and indie music in its stock. But on this particular day, I found an interesting looking album by a band called Badlands.

I have never been much of an Ozzy Osbourne fan, but I have always admired his eye for guitarists. Starting with Randy Rhodes, 'natch, all the way up to Zakk Wylde, he or his management has always had an uncanny knack for keeping a top notch guitarist, amongst other musicians, at his side. Jake E. Lee was certainly one of the briefest, but possibly one of the best. After leaving Ozzy's band, he struck out on his on and formed Badlands with Ray Gillien, ironically one of Ozzy's replacements in Black Sabbath, Eric Singer on drums (drummer for Black Sabbath during Gillien's stint on vocals), and bassist Greg Chaisson.

I bought the Badlands cassette completely off of Jake E. Lee's reputation from reading Guitar World articles. We left the mall and got in the car to drive home. I was driving that day, so I got to pop in my new cassette by default and what we heard next was pure magic. My last post talked about how my friends and I got into the Blues/R&B fueled hard rock of early Whitesnake as a result of their mainstream US success in the late 80's. Well here was a brand new band that none of us had heard of before that day and from the opening riff of "High Wire," everybody in the car knew that I had stumbled across the real deal. It was a blues-infused power rock that took Whitesnake to task! These guys were for real and song after song, track by track, they slathered power blues all over the speakers in my car!

It was unusual for a cassette, new or not, to play all the way through on one of our road trips. We were all MTV kids, which meant trading one tape out for another as someone hollered to hear their favorite song, but not on the trip home, not on this day. We were taking in a newly discovered holy grail of rock-n-roll. What were these guys thinking, coming out with a blues heavy, almost plodding, tour of 60's and 70's classic rock? Didn't they know that Bon Jovi, Poison, and Warrant were ruling MTV and the radio? If they did, and I am sure they did, they didn't care. This was guitar rock in its purist form. Good licks, good song writing, good production, and honest!

- DHB

No official video for the song, so first: Studio Version of "High Wire."

"High Wire" Live bootleg from 1989:

And "Seasons." A song that means a lot to me. (Angi.)

Digital Hair Ball for November 29th, 2010 - Ain't No Love In the Heart of the City

Whitesnake - Ain't No American Metal In the Heart of the Snake

Whitesnake made a huge splash on the US music scene in 1987 with the self-titled release "Whitesnake." Songs like "Still of the Night," "Here I Go Again," and "Is This Love" made a huge impact on the US singles chart and the album landed at #2 on the Boardboard albums' chart. The success of the '87 album even boosted Whitesnake's first foray into "American Metal," 1984's "Slide It In," from gold to double platinum sales. However, some of the best songs on "Whitesnake" were from the band's other career as a Deep Purple spin off success in England. (Specifically, "Here I Go Again" and "Crying In the Rain" were from the 1982 release Saints and Sinners.)

There was a R&B version of Whitesnake that played all through the United Kingdom and Europe during the 70's and early 80's. David Coverdale was the front man for Deep Purple in and around 1974 and supplied vocals for one of the their best albums, "Machine Head." After the demise of Deep Purple, Coverdale looked to forge ahead with a solo project that would eventually lead to the formation of Whitesnake, the name of his first solo album, from the touring band that he put together.

The pre-US Whitesnake went through various configurations, but the main stays were Coverdale, of course, Bernie Marsden and Mickey Moody on guitars, and Neil Murray on bass, John Lord on keys and eventually Cozy Powell on drums. Whitesnake recorded 5 albums before Geffen Records finally "metalized" them on "Slide It In" by adding Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes to the formula. On the pre-Geffen albums, the song writing and the guitar duo of Marsden and Moody (along with Murray's bass) was geared more in the vain of earlier British Metal like the aforementioned Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. If you want to read more about Whitesnake's pre-US success and discography, check out the Wikipedia page and the albums. It's well worth it, if you like Blues/R&B fueled classic 70's hard rock!

For now, enjoy "Ain't No Love In the Heart of the City!"

- DHB

 

 

PS. Here I Go Again (live) 1983 (4 years before the US Geffen Whitesnake album) arrangement from Saints and Sinners.

 

Digital Hair Ball for November 22nd, 2010 - Overkill

Lazlo Bane - Under Cover

My best friend and I used to joke back in the 80's when we saw the "K-Tel Hits of the XX's" ads on MTV about how funny it would be when we saw commercials for hits packages for the 80's. At the time I can remember how crazy it sounded that in some far flung future the songs we were listening to would be considered "classics." Ah youth. Well this post is not about some Time/Life greatest hits of the 80's package, but it is about the first time I can remember realizing that music and pop culture had moved on. The first time I realized that things had changed.

1997, August 30th to be exact. I was living in a little one room apartment in Florence, AL. I will never forget the night. A friend of mine had come over and was drinking a few beers, not unusual for a Saturday night, let along a holiday weekend. I had recently bought a Packard Bell and had introduced my friend to the wonder that was the Internet and the World Wide Web. In particular, I had stumbled across this amazing "social network" called IRC (Internet Relay Chat), much like AOL chat at the time, but larger and definitely more unfiltered. My friend was hopping around on IRC and I was watching MTV2, because they still played videos, when the first event of the night occurred.

As I was watching MTV2, something incredible happened. A video came on and the song that was coming from the speakers was all too familiar, but the band was not. The song was "Overkill," I knew this because one of my first cassettes as a kid was Men At Work's "Business As Usual" and, being the completest that I am, I had bought the follow up "Cargo." It was not Men At Work, but a band called Lazlo Bane, as the lower third stated as the video started, playing the song. It was a true cover of the song and I was enjoying it, not recognizing Colin Hay in the concept footage interspersed with the bands performance video, until he took over lead vocals on the final verse. I was floored and hollered at my friend to check out this cover of a song that I had grown up listening to. He turned from the keyboard/monitor and watched the end of the video, I believe as stunned as I was. A new band had felt the need to cover a song from my youth. My world had changed.

Then the next event of what had started out as a completely normal Labor Day weekend day occurred. Literally as he turned back to the keyboard and monitor he told me to turn the TV to CNN, Princess Diana had been in a car wreck. As I fumbled for the TV remote, he opened a more general IRC channel than the one he had been on and was reading the conversation to me as I switched the channel from MTV2 to CNN and we waited a few minutes for the news to hit the cable channel. I was astonished as this infant means of communication had scooped the biggest, at the time, 24-hour news channel on a story involving a world figure. The world had changed.

The world had gotten smaller and I had gotten a lot older in the span of a few minutes.

I have thought back on that night more than once over the years. The sources have changed, but the flow of information on the internet has only increased. Most recently I can remember hearing about the plane crash on the Hudson over Twitter and seeing the first reports of Michael Jackson's death over the same Twitter feed. I could never have imagined watching MTV as a kid how much smaller the world would become by the time a band decided to cover a song by a band that I grew up listening to.

- DHB

PS. Ironically several years later I would come to realize why Colin Hay was in Lazlo Bane's cover of "Overkill." He produced the band's debut album and through that relationship eventually showed up on an episode of my favorite sitcom of the '00's, Scrubs. Lazlo Bane's single, "Superman," was used as the theme for the series and, as a result, Colin Hay was approached to guest star in an episode.

Digital Hair Ball for November 18th, 2010 - Hey Jude

The Beatles - Hey Julian

With the hype over the Beatles hitting the iTunes music store this week, I thought I would post one of my favorite Beatles' songs. I have always been a Paul fan, I think Lennon is absolutely cool, but probably a little too pretentious for my tastes. Paul is accessible. More of an everyman. I say that to set up "Hey Jude."

"Hey Jude" is certainly one of the Beatles' masterpieces and in a solid tie for my favorite Beatles' song with another of Paul's contributions. "Hey Jude" has an interesting story behind it. Legend has it that McCartney wrote it for Julian Lennon because he was going through a hard time dealing with his dad's divorce from his mother (Lennon's first wife).

Originally called "Hey Jules," when McCartney played it for John Lennon for the first time, it would become epic in length, especially by 1968 standards and introduce one of the most famous codas in rock-n-roll history by the time McCartney/Lennon finished collaborating on the song. The coda in particular is a prime example of what makes the Beatles great, even going on 50 years later, it is a pure melody. Five or six notes max, yet instantly recognizable.

One of my favorite stories about "Hey Jude" comes from catching an interview with Paul McCartney, I believe while he was on his "Back In the U.S.A." tour. He said at that initial playing of "Hey Jules" for Lennon, he got to the line "The movement you need is on your shoulder," paused and told Lennon that it was a place holder and he planned to clean it up later. According to McCartney, Lennon looked at him and said, "You won't you know. That's the best line in the song."

- DHB

Digital Hair Ball for November 7th, 2010 - Not An Addict

K's Choice: Good Choice K!

I talked about my favorite radio station growing up, WKDF in Nashville, in a previous post. Another band that KDF introduced me to is K's Choice.

I remember hearing them in studio one morning back in the 90's on KDF and they played acoustic versions of their two best known songs, "Not An Addict" and "A Sound That Only You Can Hear." This was a regular feature of the morning show on KDF at the time. Rock bands that were touring through Nashville would typically perform a stripped down set to promote their show in the home of country music.

The band formed in the early 90's in Antwerp, Belgium. Sarah and Gert Bettens (sister/brother) are the core of the band, handling the majority of the song writing duties and Sarah fronting the band. In 1995 they recorded and released "Paradise In Me," their second studio album. "Not An Addict" was released as the first single and quickly garnered international attention.

"Not An Addict" is haunting and beautiful, but the subject matter is dark and troubling. I could get all deep and philosophical about the meaning of this song, but it probably works better if I let you listen to it and draw your own conclusions.

- DHB

 

Songs in the Key Of D^2

I was on a Duran Duran kick this past week. I downloaded the special editions of Duran Duran, Rio, and Seven and the Ragged Tiger. I highly recommend everyone do the same. It is amazing listening to the bonus tracks, which include b-sides, remixes, and demos, that this music was created by a band that even at the height of its popularity was written off as just another bubble-gum pop band manufactured to look good on the cover of “Bop” magazine more than for writing and playing music. An 80’s version of The Monkees, if you will. But listening to the rough demos, with the production at a minimum, Duran Duran still sounded like Duran Duran, granted with a little Bowie, Chic, Roxy Music, and Gary Numan mixed in.

At any rate, here are a few of my favorite Duran Duran songs that you probably have never heard.

Palomino - An album track off Big Thing. Big Thing was most definitely the first sign that Duran Duran was not going to be in it for the long haul. The second album after losing two of the original members, it's a very uneven album with really only one true hit on it. But there is still some good music there.

 

TV vs Radio - A song that was recorded during the demo sessions for the original Fab Five’s comeback album Astronaut. Really wish it had made it onto the album. It would have been fun to hear a fully produced version of the song.

 

Violence of Summer - Off the Liberty album. Never heard of the album? Not surprising. I stumbled across it in a record store about 6 months after it was released back in 1990. This was the dark before the dawn that was Duran Duran (The Wedding Album).

 

One more:

Late Bar - The b-side on the Planet Earth single way back in 1981. My favorite non-album track.

Digital Hair Ball for August 2nd, 2010 - Start Me Up

The Rolling Stones - Beam Me Up

I assume most people are like me. I keep a few talking points in reserve in case there is ever an awkward silence. I have two that are music related. The first one is just a trivia question. Who wrote the Monkees' I'm a Believer? Neil Diamond, of course. (Hope I don't ever run into an awkward silence with any of you guys :)

The second one is a discussion topic and certainly does not have a correct answer. If aliens landed and you could only give them one song to describe rock-n-roll, what would it be? Silly question, huh? I think about it all the time. I have to say though, my answer has always and, as far as I can tell, will always be The Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up."

YouTube wouldn't let me embed the music video for the song, so above is a live performance from 1995 in Argentina. I would say that may have been the Stones at the end of their prime. Bill Wyman was still there holding down the backend with his bass and Richards did not yet look like the caricature that Dennis Leary made him out to be in one of my favorite stand up bits ever. Nuclear Armageddon...cockroaches and Keith at ground zero...(paraphrasing) "I saw a light...are we going on?"

The Stones, like so many of their British brethren, got it. The blues fueled Rock-n-Roll. First you have the subject matter, since they were guys (yeah I know about all the stories with Bowie and compromising situations) you talk about a girl. Next, you have to have a guitar lick, one for the ages with "Start Me Up" and the drums and bass playing a backbeat. A sing along melody doesn't hurt! All the elements are present in "Start Me Up." The stones certainly have other songs in this discussion, "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Satisfaction," and "Brown Sugar."

- DHB

 

Daily Digital Hair Ball for July 27th, 2010 - Late Bar

Duran Duran - It's Never Too Late

OK...so I love Duran Duran and there is a whole set of songs that most have never heard. There was a movement in the 80's to throw some rejects from the album onto the b-sides of singles to up sales. Duran Duran excelled at this and more than a few have turned into classics.

Without further ado...Late Bar, the b-side for Planet Earth.

Daily Digital Hair Ball for July 13th, 2010 - Crazy

Gnarls Barley: Crazy Music

I really don't remember when I heard Gnarls Barkley's Crazy the first time. I think it may have been on the Grammys or some other awards show. Whenever it was, I was immediately drawn to it. It has a warmth and familiarity to it that I immediately felt like I had been listening to this song all my life. That's the mark of a truly great song!

Here is a version of the song that I found on YouTube. It's a kind of a haunting/stripped down performance of the song, but the melody and the lyrics still ring true. Cee-Lo has a voice straight out of 60's Motown and Danger Mouse knows how to support it!

-DHB

P.S. I have said this over and over again, but I honestly believe this is far and away the best Pop song of the '00's!

Daily Digital Hair Ball for July 8th, 2010 - One For the Mockingbird

Cutting Crew: One For the...Road.

Back in the summer of 1987 a country boy from Muscle Shoals, AL, fresh out of high school, toured Europe with a stage band called American Showcase. It was a crazy few weeks on a bus hurtling from town to town throughout mainland Europe. Luckily I had my Sony Walkman with me and a box full of tapes, one of those tapes was Cutting Crew's Broadcast.

I remember thinking back then that Cutting Crew is kind of what Duran Duran would have been if the original line-up had stayed together and Andy Taylor's guitar got to be heard on the albums. Certainly, now I realize that they are two distinct bands, but I still think that Broadcast is an awesome album and you should check it out, if you haven't already.

At any rate, every time I hear the song below I think about flying down the Autobahn at 100 miles an hour in a double-decker tour coach (the driver got offended if we called it a bus), forehead leaned against the window, homesick, but relishing every moment of the adventure. Cutting Crew was a big part of my soundtrack that summer! I have some stories, maybe I will share some them later on this blog.

-DHB

Daily Digital Hair Ball for July 6th, 2010 - Jump The Reflex

Van Halen/Duran Duran: "Jump"ing the Shark Was a Reflex!

The "Big 3." Duran Duran, Van Halen, and Pearl Jam! New Wave, Metal, and Grunge. Not really. I don't think any of my three favorite bands are that easy to pigeon hole. They all share something in common tho. They all write/wrote great songs, IMHO!

So you can imagine my dilemma in 1983 when Van Halen's Jump went up against Duran Duran's The Reflex for the all time MTV Friday Night Video Fight championship! I think I remember The Reflex winning, but luckily I was able to embed both videos here for you to decide. Vote early and vote often.

-DHB 

Daily Digital Hair Ball for July 1st, 2010 - The Zoo

Scorpions: It's a Zoo Out There

The 1970's and 1980's produced a whole bunch of "Hard Rock" bands. There was a time that Heavy Metal was regulated to the AM dial on the radio. At some point in the 80's, thanks to MTV primarily, Heavy Metal became the catch phrase that encompassed any band that didn't use a keyboard on a regular basis.

Scorpions are often seen as a cheesy punch line, but I am here to tell you that they are easily one of the best Hard Rock bands ever. Their musicianship and song writing was always there, screaming guitars and a screaming lead singer in tow. Were they as heavy or raunchy as, say, AC/DC? Nope. But were just heavy and raunchy enough, as a German band especially, to infiltrate MTV and American mainstream radio in the 80's? Yep.

They may have been the template for other 80's "Heavy Metal" bands such as Def Leppard and Quiet Riot to follow them into the radio and MTV mainstream. These guys are slick live and in the studio. If you are looking for fist pumping and smoking guitars, look no further than Scorpions.

I was sad to see that their recent March release will be their last album and that they are on their farewell  tour. I guess we all have to go sometime, but I think these guys could play songs from Blackout and Love At First Sting well into their 60's. I saw them at Monsters of Rock at the Memphis Liberty Bowl back in 1988 and I have to tell you, as the most casual of fans, they rocked!

A song that I have always thought was under-rated is "The Zoo" off their Animal Magnetism album from 1980. Enjoy a live performance by Scorpions!

-DHB

 

Daily Digital Hair Ball for June 28th, 2010 - One Night In Bangkok

Murray Head: One Night Wonder

The 80's are full of awesome one hit wonders. I suppose anyone can say that about the decade that they grew up in listening to music, but the 80's are special because we were the first generation to have our one hit wonders firmly documented on video.

As far as one hit wonders go in the 80's, this is easily one of my favorites. I told a friend on Twitter the other day that it is in my top 10 songs of the 80's (I amended that later, putting it in my top 30 of the 80's). The song was penned by ABBA alums Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson for the neo-musical Chess. "The verses could be described as a spoken rap by Head, a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek denunciation of the city's moral corruption and comparative glorification of the intellectual purity of chess." (Thank you Wikipedia.) The subject matter is certainly part of my attraction to the song, unusual for a Pop song.

Murray Head performed the song for the soundtrack and starred in the video below. It was an international hit in 1984, hitting the top 20 around the world and several top 5's (including #3 on the US Billboard singles chart).

-DHB

Daily Digital Hair Ball for June 28th, 2010 - Wild, Wild West

The Escape Club: The last of the 80's Pop Songs!

To me this is the last gasp of 80's Pop. The video is creative and the song just has that 80's feel to it, not to mention subject matter.

The Escape Club is an English rock band out of London. Who better to finish up the 80's with this 1987 Billboard #1. Remarkably, the video was banned in England for being too sexist and offensive. Really?! Didn't you guys play the "Girls On Film" video? At any rate, a very 80's song and video by a British band.

- DHB