It's one thing to form a bond with a local radio disc jockey - we've probably all had our favorites over the years that we listened to with almost religious regularity - but it is something else entirely to develop an almost familial relationship with a DJ an entire ocean away.

Somehow, some way, I managed to do just that with John Peel.

Now, if you were as voracious a reader of British music publications as this writer was, then you could not help but become familiar with the name "John Peel", as he was often referred to in glowing terms by any number of iconic artists (The Undertones, New Order, and The Sex Pistols, to name a few) for plucking them from obscurity and making them stars. His name was also attached to a now seemingly uncountable number of Peel Sessions albums from Joy Division, Pulp, and Killing Joke to the Chameleons, House of Love, and the Smiths.

Of course, being broadcast by the powerful BBC gave this singular "music whisperer" the largest pulpit anyone could possibly imagine. It is to our mutual and eternal benefit that the BBC, to borrow a popular Clash album title, gave him more than enough rope to hang himself and immediately came to regret it in one sense (Why's he not just playin' the hits?!"), but could not argue with his consistent popularity and steady ratings.

All that ended quite suddenly on October 21, 2006 when John Peel died of a heart attack at 65 while on vacation. Upon hearing the news, Britain seemed to come to a screeching halt as if being informed a member of the Royal Family had passed.

Since then, family, friends, and many of the artists whose careers he helped throughout his five decades on the air have wasted little time in paying fitting tribute to Peel's immeasurable contribution to British music, and pop culture in general, over the past five decades.

Here in the States, it's easy to underestimate the charm of the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" because, quite frankly, none of us have still ever heard the song on the radio, MTV, or anywhere else. but for an entire generation of kids (now fully grown and wistfully nostalgic adults) who heard the song blaring out of a radio or telly that tyhey knew darn well was tuned to the stodgy old BBC, were immediately left to wonder how such a fun, vibrant, and openly sneering song could have possibly found its way onto the airwaves of the mighty Beeb!

Screen grab of the John Peel Archive, containing Peel's entire record collection
But when it happened repeatedly, suddenly kids began tuning in regularly to hear what this Peel fellow played next and, in doing so, walked straight into a parallel universe completely removed from parents, teachers, and, most importantly, anyone who happened to live outside the UK.

But neither geography nor simple physics could keep Peel a secret forever to we voracious consumers of music who long ago strayed from the "trail most taken". Technology has since done the rest, making Peel's radio shows streamable to anyone on the planet with a fast enough internet connection prior to his untimely passing and bringing documentaries like "John Peel's Record Box" (viewable above in its entirety) and the John Peel Archives (where Peel's voluminous record collection is documented and curated).

It gives those of us not lucky enough to have been born within earshot of him the opportunity to be just as amazed by his love for and championing of great alternative music when, we now know, it was often done with the complete disapproval of his superiors.

So today, on the tenth anniversary of his passing - because, let's face it, when the music stops that suddenly, you never forget the day - open your heart and ears to the world of John Peel.

In the press blurb advertising the forthcoming Pretenders album, Alone, Chrissie Hynde explains that she and producer Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) initially set out to record a follow-up to her well-received 2014 solo effort, Stockholm, but the project gradually morphed into a Pretenders record even though she is the last remaining original member (Martin Chambers last appeared on 2002's Loose Screw).

That sounds to this writer like a) Dan Auerbach wants "The Pretenders" on is resume (and who can blame him?), or b) the label agreed to finance the album under one condition...

That's too bad because the teaser cut "Holy Commotion" is a jaunty jalopy of a tune that recalls former hubby Ray Davies' "Come Dancing". You've gotta hand it to Auerbach, as he consistently gets great results by challenging legacy artists to leave their comfort zones. Whereas most teaser tracks only succeed in scaring you away, "Holy Commotion" actually manages to whet the listener's appetite and build anticipation for a Pretenders album of otherwise dubious pedigree.

Auerbach definitely tends to impose his own sound upon the proceedings check recent works by Ray LaMontagne, Lana Del Rey and Cage The Elephant for proof) which is precisely what the artist, the label, and we the music buying public want from him.

Alone comes out tomorrow, October 21.

Are you finding yourself completely indifferent to Green Day since Billie Joe Armstrong was replaced by Ann Wilson from Heart? Wait, what? That's Billie Joe? Damn.
Billie Joe Armstrong For L'Oreal: "Because I'm worth it".
For all the skate punk posturing, Green Day's Dookie had been nothing more than Ugly Kid Joe's As Ugly as They Wanna Be with vaguely better songs made by three kids who at least looked like they belonged in the same band together.

Ugly Kid Joe's mistake had been to give up when the tide of public interest turned against them whereas Green Day, by soldiering on after the dull thud of Insomniac, are now sitting proudly in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Where the Sex Pistols had been the safety pin that pierced the cheek of stale social conventions in a time of deep social and economic oppression, Green Day were the clip-on nose ring, removed at the first sign of confrontation.

That's not to begrudge them their success. I mean, they're millionaires, but let's stop pretending Green Day was ever anything more than a boy band using punk as a prop. 

When a proper punk band finally has the ear of their audience, what do they do?

A proper punk band says, "You want music? Well, here's some fucking silence for ya" Green Day, on the other hand, release three full albums in a three month period.

Can you say "massive overkill"? I knew you could.

One can only imagine the conversation that took place in the band's rehearsal space over a round of Triscuits and wine coolers:

TRE COOL: "Hey all our songs sound vaguely the same."
BILLIE JOE: "You know what we should do? Release three albums in a 3-month period!"
DIRNT: "Hey, that sounds rad! What'll we call 'em?
BILLIE JOE: "Uno, Dos, and Tre!"
TRE: "Hey, that's my name!"
BILLIE JOE: "I know, dude!"
DIRNT: "Awesome!"
TRE: "Party on!"

Of course, if sales of those three album combined ( 470k) is less than half of the sales tally for 21st Century Breakdown (1 million); itself an album that managed to sell one-sixth as many units as American Idiot (6 million), what does Green Day do that Ugly Kid Joe would not?

Release a new album, of course!  
The boys killing time while Lars' Maserati gets worked on.
Much like everyone alive at the time remembers exactly where they were when they heard Elvis had died, many of us remember precisely where we were when we first heard St. Anger, Metallica's heavily-hyped eighth studio album.

The year was 2003 and, despite twelve years having passed since the massive global success of their 1991 self-titled "black album", the world was still waiting for its proper follow-up.

The band's "blood and semen" period, once realizing the sour note they'd hit with fans, was quickly dubbed a musical "lost weekend" of sorts and that THE NEXT ONE would be the one where they go back to the basement and rock all our asses off.

The band had surely meant for the cover art's defiant fist to signal a return to the brutal pummeling of albums past, but all this writer could wonder is what had this fist done to be so forcefully restrained. Or maybe it had accidentally touched a bucket of blood mixed with semen and was now in the process of being lopped off.

But its desperate, angry, profanity-soaked screams would ultimately go unheard.

Of course, somebody had to have heard it. The album went #1 in eight countries. Even so, every time this writer gives it a listen, it is as if I am hearing it for the first time, God bless the mind's ability to repress the harshest memories.

Even though it is I who presses the play button, fully expecting the speakers to come alive with sound, I am ultimately caught completely off-guard by what comes out of the speakers. I know it's coming the second I hate play but it still catches me off guard, like someone dousing you with cold water unexpectedly.

Your heart races and, for a moment, you honestly think this might be the big one, and then you listen some more and it becomes less scary and more annoying. You joke to yourself that Albini must have recorded it because, honestly, a couple of his "productions that he refuses to call productions" do sound a tad like this.

You click to the next song, the album's "title cut". They wouldn't name their album after a song that sucks, would they? Of course not!

OK, well, turns out they did. In fact, if you want to get the full "majesty" of this album's misguided nature, one truly needs only listen to this song. You can just see these guys driving up to their remote Bay Area rehearsal studio in their respective Italian sports cars, walking into a rehearsal space bigger than most clubs. It used to be four guys in a room - any room - now its 10-20 roadies and sound guys feverishly working to ensure that when the band does get down to writing a song, it will be a good one.

Thing is, when an organization that big is waiting on you to deliver the goods so that these glory days never have to end, we fans probably shouldn't blame the guys for going a little batty. Not only had they been blindsided by the whole Grunge movement and somehow lived to tell when most other bands saw their platinum days washed out to sea, then technology came along making it possible for anyone with a computer to download the band's music for free in seconds.

While the anger is definitely there, the inspiration isn't and every single song on St. Anger is a desperate cry for help. They may as well be singing: "Please, get me off this ride. It has become so much bigger than we ever imagined. I'm not that kid anymore. I just want to drive my Ferrari!"

Did Metallica bounce back from the crushing sonic void of St. Anger, you ask? Our promo copy of 2008's Death Magnetic found a place on the coffee table where I toss CD's I fully intend to listen to and their it has sat ever since, making a damn fine coffee coaster in a pinch.
This tasty slab of vinyl can be YOURS
First off, please join me in saying, "Bless you, Richard Branson" for building a global conglomerate out of a small record label that had unlikely hits with unlikely artists and proved to the rest of the industry that it really isn't all that hard. Plus, they did so without any physical U.S. presence until 1990.

His label's first release had been "Tubular Bells" by then-unknown 20-year-old multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield - itself a mega-smash hit that has remained a consistent seller for the label, enabling Branson to continue to be a risk taker, with varying degrees of massive success. The label signed the Pistols, after all, even after the band had split acrimoniously with EMI and A&M Records.

Would Never Mind The Bollocks have gone on to become the template for an entirely new musical genre that flies in the face of the establishment if released by any other label?

This writer's hunch is an emphatic "No!"

Nor would The Flying Lizards' minimalist cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" have gotten a serious listen, much less a serious offer to release the song commercially. The lo-fi savaging of Cochran's 1958 hit by multi-instrumentalist David Cunningham and singer Deborah Evans-Stickland for a mere 20 British pounds hadn't been a hit, but it had made money and that gave Virgin the requisite faith to bankroll a second single.

Boasting a deliciously clanky production that frames Evans-Stickland's disconnected monotone perfectly, their cover of Barrett Strong's "Money" is future pop at its minimalist best, proven by its meteoric UK chart climb (it peaked at #5), but also for managing an unlikely #50 showing in the U.S. - a feat most other UK new wave acts could only dream of at the time.

While the band would never reach such heights again, the song itself has only gained in popularity since its unlikely chart run. It has also appeared prominently in such movies as Adam Sandler's "Wedding Singer", "Empire Records", and "Charlie's Angels" to name just a few.

Not bad for a song that was reportedly cut in a meat fridge for £6.50.

"'Do I own every Cure album?!' What do you think?'
The internet is great for finding things you would have never in a million years found or seen otherwise. For some of us sheltered by circumstance, YouTube literally gives us the adolescence we never had. I may not have lived in Britain as a teen, but, by golly, I've seen every Top of The Pops and BBC music documentary from that period!

It was during one such search on YouTube that I was "recommended" a YouTube clip with the rather attention-grabbing title "The Height of Goth: One Night At The Xclusiv Nightclub, Batley, West Yorkshire, UK". I click hoping it is what I think it is and, for once, it turns out to be exactly that: two hours of footage of goth kids dancing and interacting at a club in England circa 1984.

Not only are those of us unlucky enough to not have born under the tyranny of Queen Elizabeth able to catch up on all the great TV we've missed, now we can actually put ourselves in the same room with other like-minded kids a world away.

Watching it now, the most jarring part is seeing how we used to interact with one another that we don't do now for fear of being too "in your face". That made me feel kind of sad. Other than that, though, there was joy and wistfulness to be found in heavy measures, even during the slow parts.

Even more importantly, you actually get to see who you would have been had you grown up in Batley, West Yorkshire in 1984, and who you know you would have danced with, wanted to dance with, or, in true goth fashion, which corner you'd have made yours and done nothing.

The music, of course, is what it's all about here. Back then, our whole life evolved around music. It informed our clothing, our vocabulary, and our identity unlike any decade since. Need proof? Thirty two years later, and those working in the entertainment biz are still trying to recreate the '80s.

After watching this, can you blame them?

Those wanting the inside story on the taping of this great '80s artifact can CLICK HERE to read more.

Set aside whatever bias (good or bad) you may have about either artist and revisit each album solely on its musical merits. Dig the song craft, the effortless ebb and flow of the arrangements, and the go-for-broke vocal performances that still give you a chill down the spine. Try breaking down the components of songs you've heard a million times and see if you can tell what makes them tick and what makes then soar.

This is music that transcends the artist, the genre, the industry, and mere life itself. Need we remind you, quite sadly, that this music has already outlived both of its creators and will go on to inspire and influence millions.

So without further adieu:

The first thing I think of when I hear anything from Thriller is just how truly bad-ass Quincy Jones was as a producer. Anyone who wrote him off as a relic of the swingin' sixties did so at their own peril. Jones's production is pristine, spirited and flawless in arrangement and execution. There is not a note, a phrase or a high-hat out of place. Sure, you can say that about most albums, in a sense, but there is a sense of order about every second of this album that defies logic.

Not bad for a guy who has been a groundbreaking producer and, let's face it, the hippest cat in the room since the 1950's. Lest we forget it was his label that signed New Order in North America.

On the purple side, Prince Rogers Nelson circa 1984 was a modern-day Quincy Jones in the making, and then some, as he could not only write a great pop song, but he could play every instrument while also engineering the session. Add to that the fact that he was the consummate showman, capable of delivering a stirring visual performance that is every bit the equal of his musical gifts.

In 1982, he'd finally gotten the attention of the world-at-large with his fifth album 1999, which spent the better part of 1983 high atop the charts as singles "Little Red Corvette", "Delirious" and the empirical title cut were in constant rotation on radio and MTV.

While 1999 had put him on the map, it would be his next album that would either propel him to the upper echelon of the pop elite or send him back to the R&B/funk bins with the likes of Roger, Con Funk Shun, and Chico DeBarge.

To say that Prince knocked the proverbial ball out of the park with Purple Rain would be an understatement, especially when you consider the fact that Purple Rain wasn't just his next album, it was also the soundtrack to his first theatrical film.

No pressure there.

So, in that sense, one would almost have to call Purple Rain superior to Thriller due to the simple fact that all Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones had to worry about was the music.

Even so, Thriller is a musical tour de force with few equals that boasts a production that is so expertly executed as to not be noticed at all due to Jones's attention to detail and keen ear for subtle nuances. making it an album that you can still listen to and find yourself catching things you never noticed before, like the subtlety of Steve Porcaro's guitar work in "Human Nature" or how Michael's backing vocals always manage to stick out no matter how many others are singing.

While one would never confuse one for the other, the two albums are not without similarities:

Both albums contain nine songs, for example. Also, each album was unarguably the creative and commercial peak for each artist.

But which album is superior, you ask?

Considering how much Prince actually had to do with its creation, it is impossible to deny the completely singular artistic statement that is Purple Rain. The songs drip with a palpable sexual tension and many a lyrical chance is taken ("Darling Nikki" anyone?) whereas a song like "Billie Jean" - sung from the POV of someone accused of fathering an illegitimate child  - came across as completely innocent in Jackson's hands.

It's even cuter when sung by a busload of first graders.

And, at the end of the day, it's the cute factor that ultimately does Thriller in whereas Purple Rain is still as playfully and cheekily an adult listen today as it was when our young ears first heard it.
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