Monday, October 12, 2020

How Jack White Completely Changed The Narrative of Last Week's SNL Musical Chairs!

First off, it must be said that Morgan Freeman, or whatever that schmuck's name was who somehow landed a coveted slot as musical guest on Saturday Night Live and then lost it after breaking COVID-19 safety protocol in order to shove his tongue down the throats of some off-duty mall teeth whiteners down at Coyote Ugly.

What struck me was how much fucking press Morton Downey Jr. or whatever his name was got from not only being careless, but also fucking up an opportunity thousands of other artists would kill to have fall into their laps. 

Making matters worse was the fact that the likes of "The Today Show" and other major media outlets actually chose to interview Morgan Fairchild or whatever his name was, giving this rhinestone doofus even more free publicity.

Upon first hearing the story, I admit that my first thought was that none of us would ever hear from this Maura Tierney fellow ever again, but once I saw that someone had pulled Lorne Michaels out of storage, it dawned on me what was starting to happen...

Those smarmy motherfuckers at NBC who only care about ratings noticed that this story now had legs and, as a result, their thinking quickly shifted from kicking an unknown country singer to the curb to talk of re-scheduling Morley Safer's musical appearance because, sigh, doing so would practically ensure an entire week of breathless media hype and sky high ratings.

But then a funny thing happened: Michaels, or whoever he'd entrusted at SNL to "fix this" made a grave mistake by recruiting a well-rested Jack White to step in as that week's musical guest. 

Now, I'll be the first to offer that White is a popular and energetic performer of some acclaim (!), but the former White Stripes singer/guitarist is a "legacy act" these days and, despite his continuing influence as an arbiter of cool, we know what we're getting.

The Jack White that hit that SNL stage this past Saturday night, however, was a wild animal freed from its cage after months of captivity.

Within seconds of White tearing at the custom graveyard blue guitar Eddie Van Halen had gifted him, the entire audience was in the palm of his hands and, with each passing second, you could see the narrative of the entire week changing on a dime and by the end of the first performance, Jack White had made every single person in this country forget all about ol' what's-his-name and, for that, we should all be thankful.

After all, how long has it been since we didn't have to turn the channel whenever the latest gaggle of lip-syncers and backing dancers made us question why we continue tuning in to what is often a weekly celebration of craven mediocrity at all.

Will SNL still bring back the bro-country douche who made this all possible? 

Probably, but something tells me that when they do, Morgan Stanley will no longer be the subject of the same breathless, week-long media spectacle without the media also reminding us how Jack White stepped in and showed the folks at home how a professional operates.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Shit On My Mind: Shirley Manson's Bush, Buying Office Supplies At 3AM With Eddie Van Halen, and More!


Recording has gotten too easy:  

It should not be possible to create a five-minute drum track in less than five minutes, period. These days, you cut and paste two bars of the solo drum intro to "Living After Midnight", clean up the start and finish points, copy and paste the fucker a few hundred times, and, BAM, you've just created five minutes of awesomeness in less than thirty seconds and beaten "God" in a foot race.


For some reason, I doubt I will ever forget about reading an interview with producer Billy Bush (Garbage) in TapeOp magazine (subscribe to this cool producer-and-studio-intensive bathroom browser if you don't already! It's FREE!). During the delightfully nerdy interview, Bush chuckles about the time that he found using an Abbey Road plug-in during a recording session AT ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS!

Ha ha ha, who hasn't? Happens to the best of us. 

Here's where Billy Bush and I differ, though: I would never *forget* I was INHABITING the legendary Abbey Road recording studio, where the motherfucking Beatles and producer George Martin did their thing, especially when using an Abbey Road plug-in.

See, that would be like playing a video game called "Pandemic" during a pandemic and never once noting the irony.

Did I mention that Bush is married to garbage singer Shirley Manson? Do you hate him now, too?

(some days I'm kidding, others not so much) 


You know you're old when there are videos on YouTube of millennials losing their shit while trying to understand how good ol' fashioned tape recorders work. 

That was nothing compared to the week I spent trying to learn Ableton Live before finally setting it ablaze and, in doing so, regaining my love of both music and FIRE!


The passing of Eddie Van Halen has come as a devastating shock. Fuck cancer.

Even more unbelievable than bumping into Eddie Van Halen at a Studio City, CA Staples store at 3AM back near the turn of the century is the fact that Staples was ever open 24 hours, but that was the world we lived in pre-9/11, my friends.

Most unbelievable of all would be that the legendary heavy metal guitarist, almost unrecognizable for a variety of reasons at the time, would engage you in conversation whilst waiting in line to pay for his items and, in doing so, begin a conversation that would end with the two of you exchanging phone numbers after EVH offered you - free of charge, no less - the remaining studio sound-proofing tiles from a recent install at his 5150 studios.

Keep in mind that Eddie did not know me (and thank goodness for that considering the ink I got from offering copies of my CD in exchange for unwanted copies of VH3 a year or so prior to that) and, truth be told, was probably happy just to get rid of the stuff, but the gesture itself struck me as incredibly friendly and outgoing.

Granted, it was a tad obvious Eddie was buzzed, but so was pretty much everyone else at a Studio City Staples store at three in the morning is tripping on something. 

I will say that once you trade phone numbers with Eddie Van Halen at a Staples store, every other trip to pick up toner cartridges will be disappointingly uneventful by comparison. Hell, I could find a bone-dry Benjamin on the floor of the men's room and still have a case of the "yeah buts" in the parking lot.

Rest in peace, Eddie. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Cheap Trick's 'Dream Police' Turns 41!

On this day 41 years ago, kids all over the country flocked to record stores to pick up the new Cheap Trick studio album, Dream Police, in hopes of hearing more of the hooky, guitar-driven pop that had turned "I Want You To Want Me" into a global game-changer for a band that, up to that point, had been relegated to club and/or opening act status; two roles the band relished.

It was their role as rock & roll spoilers that made such gigs especially incendiary because, in most cases, kids who saw the band open for the likes of Kiss and Kansas never knew what hit them while older fans who'd already heard the band and went specifically to see them in a club setting still wound up having their collective asses handed to them when the band's live power proved even more substantial than expected.

After all, Cheap Trick was the ultimate band for stumping those who judged bands based on album covers. Sure, the two poster-worthy rock stallions - singer Robin Zander and bass player Tom Petersson - looked the part, but Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos were total wild cards and could have anyone convinced what they were staring at might just be a comedy album.

Song titles like "Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School" or "He's A Whore", both from the band's debut effort, did little to dispel such assumptions, but those who ventured beyond such red flags were no doubt floored by what they finally heard.

Obviously, the ginormous success of "I Want You To Want Me" had resolved the band's identity problem and increased their name recognition ten-fold, but was the Budokan success just a mad fluke or did the band have plenty more hits in their arsenal?

Since it was finished before At Budokan had even been released in the States, and further delayed by the live album's completely unexpected success, Dream Police had been recorded, not in the wake of their first major commercial success, but in response to the admittedly lackluster reception the band's Heaven Tonight record had received in their homeland.,

Sure, the band were teen idols in Japan already, but watching three albums chock full of high-octane, radio-ready hooks fall flat in the U.S. must have been a head-scratcher for the band. They'd gone the dark, subversive route on their debut, done a complete musical one-eighty for In Color, and then settled for a sound that was somewhere in the middle and, still, nothing had clicked with radio programmers. 

As the band entered the studio with producer Tom Werman, the man behind their last two records, at least one of them had to be wondering what else could they do to get America's attention. Main songwriter Rick Nielsen's response was to create the premise for what could have been a Pink Floydian concept album a la The Wall, but wound up limiting the concept to a single song that, despite the success that it received, should have been a bigger hit than it was.

"Voices", the emotive power ballad that wore its Beatles influences on its sleeve, sounded destined for the top of the charts, but, again, was stopped shorter than anyone who actually heard the song expected.

In fact, anyone who heard the album at the time would have agreed that Dream Police was the sort of album that should have built upon the success of At Budokan. Instead, two sure-fire hit singles had petered out in the lower reaches of the Top 40 and the band began seeing attendance at headlining shows start to dip.

If this had been the response to All Shook Up, the band's next album, such developments arguably could have been expected, but Dream Police is arguably their most solid studio album, both production-wise and from a songwriting aspect.

This is pretty damn remarkable when you consider that, after the band's three previous rock-solid studio albums had gone commercially unnoticed, Rick Nielsen must have had little confidence that his label could do anything with these new ones, either, yet he somehow reaches back and finds another gear.

To this day, song-for-song, it remains his most ambitious work and one the label completely botched.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Triumph In The Hall, Bandmates With Tattoos, and Do We Keep The Guy With The Flying V? Doctor Rock Answers Your Band-Related Questions!

Every so often, our resident "Rock Doc" stops by to answer a few questions from readers just like you. Enjoy!

Q: Since you're known for championing bands that deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, why is there never any mention of inducting Canadian hard rock act Triumph?

A: Is that you, Jeff Turnbow? Boy, I sure don't miss those 10th grade Civics classes where you constantly kept pulling my attention away from the teacher with talk about how great Triumph were and how they were going to change the world. 

Precisely what was it about my Devo and B-52's textbook covers that made you think I wanted to hear about your favorite Canadian mullet-rock trio?

Though I can barely remember my own social security number, thanks to you, I can still name all three members of the band, despite numerous attempts to delete such info from my head's internal hard drive.

Having said that, they're not the worst band in the world, but ask yourself, "When's the last time another band mentioned Triumph as an influence?" 

Q: We're a relatively new band still getting our feet wet on the local scene and a local booker who we're trying to work with has suggested that we "get a chick in the band". What do you think?

A: I have a few responses to choose from, take your pick:

      1) Easier said than done. You see, you can't just go out and find any "chick" to be in your band. This isn't Hollywood, where you just call down to Central casting and ask them for one Susanna Hoffs-type and a Zia McCabe knock-off.

      2) Feel free to grovel, beg, and lie to land that coveted club gig but NEVER, I repeat, never listen to club talent bookers. 

      3) Has any all-female band ever been told to "get a dude in the band", I wonder? I ask only because, deep down, it is every dude's dream to be the only guy in a band full of gals. In fact, some of my rock idols are those who have managed this rare feat, like Joe Vincent from NYC band the Prissteens (a band Joey Ramone LOVED!)

Q: In this pandemic age, what recommendations can you make to musicians eager to find new revenue streams?  

A: Buy one of those old ice cream trucks that used to drive through our neighborhoods when we were kids and instead of blaring that cheesy carnival music, blast tunes from your album, which you can then sell to the kids who come flying out of their houses. It might also help to actually sell ice cream, or tacos.

Q: Did any band do more coke in the '80s than Toto?

A: No.

Q: I'm the only member of my band that doesn't have any tattoos and am constantly being pressured by the rest of the band to get some ink, but thus far I have refused. How would you suggest I handle this moving forward?

A: You can either quit the band and be done with those losers or, better yet, fight fire with fire.

 It may take a little doing, but, if at all possible, show up to your next band rehearsal with your face full of satanic tattoos and piercings that are painful just to look at. As they begin to avert their eyes, say, "Your move, bitches". They won't bother you after that.

Q: I'm in a goth band and we recently auditioned a guitarist who was everything we had been looking for - very tasteful player, awesome stage presence - but he insists on playing a Flying V guitar. What should we do?

A: Seriously? Even if it was one of those cheesy Charvels with the pointy head stock, I wouldn't give it a second thought. Hell, they could show up to gigs wearing a flaming tutu and I'd be completely okay with it if they were everything else I had dreamed about in a band member. If this is the biggest problem you've got, buy a lottery ticket. 

Wait, on second thought, can you gimme their number?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Listener's Guide To Air Supply Studio Albums: Part 1, Life Before Clive!

I've always had a bit of a light-hearted love-hate relationship with the Australian band Air Supply, whose run of massive U.S. hits in the '80s remains fresh in one's mind since 4 out of 5 radio stations favored by dentists' offices to this day continue to play their music.

Songs like "Here I Am", "Even The Nights Are Better", "Lost In Love", "Every Woman In The World", and "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All", just to name a few, rank as some of the most overplayed songs in radio history, thus meaning that few of us ever really hear a popular Air Supply song anymore so much as subconsciously deflect it for fear of annoying ourselves and/or loved ones by singing the darn thing for the rest of the day while we run errands.

Thing is, for all of the millions of singles and albums sold over the years, has anyone ever listened to an Air Supply album all the way through? I ask only because I can't possibly be the only one who imagines that your typical Air Supply fan seems like the sort of person who buys an album and then only listens to the songs they hear on the radio.

Being a fan of deep cuts, myself, I suddenly found myself thinking "What does an Air Supply deep cut actually sound like? 

Air Supply - self-titled (1976)

Had this album been released in the U.S., I can see myself overlooking it based solely on their resemblance to one of the many faceless UK prog bands a la Gentle Giant or Curved Air. Musically, there are no prog leanings to be found, but the band does try out a lot of different musical styles in a search for something resembling an identity.

First single "Love & Other Bruises" is an unremarkable string-laden ballad that inexplicably went Top 10 in Australia, but their next two singles would miss the Top 40 altogether. 

One can't help wonder how things might have been different had they released the peppy "What A Life" or the Doobies-adjacent "Secret Agent", both of which feature lead vocals from main songwriter Graham Russell instead of Russell Hitchcock. The album closes on a passable, albeit forgettable note with by-the-numbers disco cut "Ain't It A Shame".

Best track: What A Life
Rating: 4 on a 10 scale

The Whole Thing's Started (1977)

Released only seven months after their debut, this album boasts more piano-driven balladry than the debut, but most of the material seems half-baked, although the then-struggling band ends their album on a ballsy note with the aptly-titled "The End of The Line", which boasts a prog-worthy bridge highlighted by a Keith Emerson-worthy Moog synth solo.  

Best track: The End of The Line
Rating: 2/10

Love And Other Bruises (1978)

While in the States on tour with Rod Stewart, it is decided that the band should perhaps have some product in the stores, as their first two albums were not released in North America. Stewart's producer, Jimmy Horowitz is given a budget by Columbia Records to hire sessions players with which to re-record a number of selections from the band's first two albums, along with two new tracks, so that all Russell and Hitchcock have to do is record their vocals. Not utilizing their own band, with whom they were on the road at the time, causes such friction within the band that original bassist Jeremy Paul quits in disgust. Only the re-recorded version of "The End of The Line" seems to improve upon the original. The album's lack of success ends their relationship with CBS Records.

Best track: The End of The Line
Rating: 5/10

Life Support (1979)

Judging by the title of their fourth album, and first for Big Time Records, the boys still have a sense of humor after two albums that have thus far failed to dent the charts in any meaningful way.

Based on the original cover, which, to this day, confounds our sensibilities, one would think the band was moving in a new wave direction, but lead off cuts "Give Me Love" and "Looking Out For Something Outside" are the same old song and dance that didn't work at CBS.

However, the album's third track, "Lost In Love" is a game changer, although the band doesn't know it just yet. 

The original recording of what would later become their first U.S hit single features a vocal performance by Russell Hitchcock (the bloke with the dark hair) that can melt asphalt and outshines the hit version, yet the synth arrangement and female backing vocals here recalls 10cc's "I'm Not In Love", which is great for those of us who love that sort of thing. Of course, part of the fun of hearing this original version is trying to figure out what made Clive Davis do a double-take and sign the band just to get his hands on this song.

Funny thing is, the song that sounds like an "emphasis cut" is "More Than Natural", which, beneath the less-than-evocative title, is actually a credible Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles detour with an ear worm chorus that truly makes you wonder why the band never went back to it once they broke big in the States. 

Meanwhile, "Bring On The Magic" and "I Don't Want To Lose You" boast soaring choruses atop musical arrangements where one can actually hear a distorted guitar or two. I kid you not! Does that make this the band's guitar album?

Album closer "Believe In The Supernatural" rises above a dreadful title with soaring harmonies and enough Marshall-driven riffage to give Styx or Toto (pre-"Rosanna") a run for their money, so make that a solid Yes (and Howe, har har!).

Best track: More Than Natural
Rating: 6/10


Monday, August 24, 2020

Five 80s Albums I Can't Believe I Bought!

Swing Out Sister - It's Better To Travel 

Come on, who didn't think "Breakout" was a catchy little jam and that their CD collection could stand a little class & sophistication? Who knows, you might have someone classy & sophisticated over for Hot Pockets and Bartles & Jaymes!

At the time, there was a mad rush by every label in the UK to turn the "New wave '80s" into The "Hey, let's re-hash all those Motown songs you're sick of, but with white folks and drum machines" Decade and this camper was having none of it. Forced to choose between Simply Red and not Simply Red, we made the right choice and stick by it.

Rolling Stones - Sucking In The '70s

I grew up with my old man's Stones records, but, oddly enough, did not follow the Stones on their country-tinged '70s adventures, but, a few months before my parents got me Tattoo You for Christmas, I grabbed this compilation during my high school lunch break and then had t wait the rest of the day to get it home and listen to it.

Maybe in those three hours of watching the clock instead of my teachers, my expectations became too great because what I heard when I finally got off that damn school bus was a supreme disappointment.

Thing is, I can't put my finger on exactly why. The track listing is a mix of semi-hits and deep cuts, some performed live, but perhaps it is the slap-dash nature of the tracks assembled here and the seemingly random mix of studio and live cuts that has absolutely no continuity whatsoever.

Is it really possible to wreck a teenage boy's life via "poor sequencing"? Perhaps PTSD should also stand for "Poor Track Sequencing Disorder" and be taken more seriously.

The Roadie Soundtrack

Ugh, I can still feel the Massive Letdown when this long-awaited movie and soundtrack finally hit the streets, but if you blinked at the wrong time, you might have missed it because neither the film nor the soundtrack were around for long.

For months and months and months, every rock mag on the planet had been hyping the project because Cheap Trick had "written a song" for the movie with Beatles producer George Martin, Blondie contributed a live version of "Ring of Fire" to both film and soundtrack, and Alice Cooper makes a cameo at the end! What, that's not enough for you?

Aside from Cheap Trick and Blondie's contributions, the soundtrack was so absolutely forgettable that I almost forgot about the Teddy Pendergrass, Jerry Lee Lewis and Yvonne Elliman tracks! Zzz. 

As for the film itself, just think: A major movie studio pinned their financial hopes and dreams for their entire third quarter on, uh...Meatloaf, what could possibly go wrong!

What chaps my hide is that I bought the entire TWO ALBUM SET just to get ONE Cheap Trick song and then Epic Records wound up GIVING THE SONG AWAY with copies of the band's specially-priced EP Found All The Parts!

Have I seen the film, you ask? Not on your life, buddy.

Platinum Blonde - Alien Shores

Now, it might debatable as to whether Canada's answer to both The Police and Duran Duran was ever cool in the first place, but this kid thought the band's debut album was a lo-fi new wave masterpiece, but when I saw the Maybelline make-over and clown outfits the band were sporting on the cover of their eagerly anticipated follow-up, my heart sank.

But wait, isn't that Kenny Maclean from the Deserters?! Now I know why there haven't been any new Deserters albums! Well, then maybe this album won't be as bad as it looks like it might be.


If you ever want to hear every shitty '80s production bell & whistle compiled all in one place for easy mocking, this is the album. Sure, I have told myself (and members of Platinum Blonde) that it wasn't so bad, but it was. Even the album's best song would have been the one you skipped over had it been included on their debut.

Thing is, as bad as it was, Alien Shores is Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band compared to the album they released next, Contact, which this writer avoided until I could pick it up for a couple bucks.

I still love the band, though, and am glad that they reunited and have been tearing up the nostalgia circuit in Canada lo the past decade or so.

The Romantics - Rhythm Romance

Anytime a key member leaves a popular band, not only are the fans eager to hear the band's next album to see if they somehow managed to find an adequate replacement and actually make a noteworthy record, but I always imagine that the member who left is also eager to hear what they sound like without them - kind of like seeing who an old flame is going out with now.

In the case of the Romantics, I just imagine Marinos getting an advance copy of the band's new album and speeding down the highway in a jet black Mustang laughing his ass off. Sadly, Marinos' own output left much to be desired, but at least it had some fucking energy.

Rhythm Romance, on the other hand, is just the limpest wet noodle of a rock album, which is weird because the only change made to the formula between In Heat (two massive Top 40 hits, including "Talking In Your Sleep") and Rhythm Romance was to piss off the songwriting/singing drummer so much that he left. 

Also, if your little one refuses to go sleep, just play them the Romantics' cover of "Poison Ivy" and you'll be checking for a pulse before the song is done.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Ode To The Cool Uncle!

You can get along without a lot of things, just ask my car and my girlfriend, ba dum bum, but the fact of the matter is that the one thing no young boy can go without is a cool uncle.

As a kid, I didn't have a whole lot going for me except for the fact that I had two cool uncles; my dad's younger brother who was every bit as funny as Robin Williams, and my mom's younger brother, who was a bit of a gadget geek throughout the 60s and 70s. By the time I was reaching my teen years, all that sixties schtick was coming back into vogue and he was looking like the coolest dude on the planet to this young kid.

Then one fateful day in 1976. he played me a VHS copy of the original network airing of The Beatles' second movie, "Help!", and my ten-year-old brain...exploded.

Suddenly, I was seeing all the hip gear that my uncle owned, and kept in pristine condition, in episodes of The Monkees' TV series, Gilligan's Island, and other well-known TV portrayals of the psych rock scene that had become "in" again.

Vox organ? Check.

Transparent bass guitar? Check.

Multi-track reel to reel recorder? Check

Fancy Swedish speakers hand made by fine Swedes and once mentioned by Mike Nesmith in a Stereo Review interview that you not only had to order from freakin' Sweden BY MAIL, but then assemble yourself 6-8 weeks later? Check.

Who had the first big screen projection TV (just like the one pictured with Hef above)? My uncle.

Who had every variant of VCR because if one manufacturer added a new feature ("Whoa, DIGITAL CLOCK!", they just had to have it? My uncle.

Who was such a pop culture geek that they had a satellite dish back in the late '70s/early '80s in order to watch local news coverage in other markets, as well as live feeds from on-site news broadcasts, and the hours-long "affiliate feeds" allowing him to watch movies and TV shows days before they aired? My uncle.

He was the uncle who kept my brother and I up-to-date in the latest Commodore computer equipment every Christmas, leading me to develop an early distaste for coding long before HTML and CSS.

He was also the uncle who lent me his video camera equipment on numerous occasions in order to film an ill-fated music video for my band. Ugh, what a disaster I was, but he humored me none the less and it meant a lot as a kid to have someone who would do that.

I mean, my uncle might not have set the next Spike Jonze or Daniel Lanois loose upon the world, but he sure as hell did his part. 

To those who never had an uncle like that, I never knew how you felt until a few days ago, when he passed away at the age of 70.

Through a comical set of circumstances, I now live in the house that he grew up in, full of belongings he once held dear, but left behind.

My cool uncle left his coolness behind ages ago, spending his last days at "the lake house", squirreling away plastic grocery bags and packing materials. If anyone ever needed the box a replacement hard drive for a computer purchased in 1998 came in, he had it, just good luck ever finding it.

 In my once-cool uncle, I saw how life changes us all and how, after awhile, dreams don't just go untouched, but unsought. 

I saw a man who had always been on the cutting edge eventually surpassed and overcome by a present that moved faster than he did and no longer resembled anything he could remotely give a shit about.

That which had always been so much a part of his world had gone obsolete, just like all the other crap it replaced.

There's a lesson in there somewhere, I suppose, but it isn't the gadgets I will remember about my uncle as much as the fact that he made a concerted effort to share his world and, in doing so, not only taught this kid\how to interact with adults beyond parents and teachers, but expanded my horizons exponentially in the process.

On the day of my high school graduation ceremony, he and I drove right past my schoolmates in their caps and gowns sweltering in the mid-day heat on the varsity football field on our way to one high-end stereo equipment stores that was commonplace then but has long-since gone out-of-business to purchase a state-of-the-art recording device for a format that has long since been discontinued as my present for graduating high school.

It all seemed so "cool" at the time, staring at wall upon wall of the absolute latest in stereo sound regurgitation, knowing that I could have the most up-to-date device available and, or a solid four months or so, being top dog on the block until the new machines with even more bells & whistles came along.

It was nice while it lasted, but we had some good times together. For that, I thank you, Uncle Bruce.  May you rest in peace.