Monday, August 13, 2012

"Supremely" outdone

"You Keep Me Hangin' On" came blaring through the airwaves on some bad Saturday night '80s radio show with rain and the smell of 1,000 pig asses hovering all around some patch of nowhere in Lancaster County.

It sounded good. It sounded way too good. I thought it was Exposé, or maybe even Bananarama, which would have explained why it sounded so amazing, but I knew in my gut it wasn't either group.  And I couldn't for the life of me remember who did the original.

The Supremes!

Yes, yes, it was The Supremes, and amazingly, unbelievably, outrageously, Kim Wilde, she of the equally awesome "Kids In America," had outdone the legendary Motown group that spawned Diana Freaking Ross, and she did it on their signature song. I'll admit I'm a kid of the '80s, and yeah, the slightly morbid minor-key overload of keyboards slathered all over the song really gets me, but I'm a student of the classics too, and almost always a believer that it was done best the first time.

But not this time. And not when Vanilla Fudge did it (my wife when I pulled the song up on YouTube: "Can you turn that shit off?"), or when Reba McEntire did it.

You might think it's preposterous to even consider comparing a two-hit wonder with an icon of Motown. But give a listen.

Kim Wilde, 1987

The Supremes, 1966

Friday, August 10, 2012

Upon further review: R.E.M.’s “Out of Time”

Buck's face says it all.
Why the Athens, Ga.-bred band’s seventh full-length album is a dried-up pile of vom on the side of the road and not a breakthrough Grammy Award-winning classic:

Because “Losing My Religion” is the only good song on the album; it’s timeless, actually.

Because “Shiny Happy People” is the second-most well-crafted pop song on the album.

Best album cover ever?
Because on three of the songs there are little or no lyrics, so therefore little or no thought given to the songs by one Michael Stipe: “Endgame,” “Low” and “Belong.”

Because the aforementioned songs give weight to the argument that Stipe was the one who caused R.E.M. to be “Out of Time” with the record label because he couldn’t come up with any lyrics or vocal melodies to match the otherwise lush melodies that Berry, Buck and Mills came up with.

Because “Near Wild Heaven,” one of two tracks where the unable-to-sing Mills was allowed to take or share lead vocal duties, is in the crucial clean-up spot on the album; there’s a faster, cooler version of "Texarkana" out there with Stipe on lead vocals that is actually kind of sublime.

What happened to you?
Because “Radio Song,” an experiment on par with Dennis Miller as color commentator on “Monday Night Football,” is the leadoff track, undoubtedly one of the sources of the eventual departure of Berry (yeah, the aneurysm, but …); can’t imagine the mega-cool Unibrow King going for this mess of a marriage of limp chamber pop and watered-down rap; on behalf of white people everywhere, I apologize to KRS-1.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Axl Rose: No GNR reunion, no Rock Hall appearance and no induction, please

Says it all. Axl, how you wound us so. Or, go eff yourself.
Assuming this is for real - and the fact that it was Tweeted from GNR's official Twitter account seems to say that it is - what we have here is Axl Rose saying three things:

1) He will not be playing with Slash, Duff, Izzy and Adler Saturday in Cleveland.
2) He rejects the Hall's induction
3) He isn't attending, and doesn't want to be inducted in absentia

The main quandary for the slimy critics, members of the media and fans to consider: Does this make Axl the lamest or coolest rocker ever?

For GNR fans, he's a piece of shit because they'll never get to see the classic lineup again.

But to Rock Hall critics, this might be an amazing statement. Read on and see what you think.

Axl's letter to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Guns N' Roses Fans and Whom It May Concern

by Guns N' Roses on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 4:19pm ·
To: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Guns N' Roses Fans and Whom It May Concern,
When the nominations for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame were first announced I had mixed emotions but, in an effort to be positive, wanting to make the most of things for the fans and with their enthusiasm, I was honored, excited and hoped that somehow this would be a good thing. Of course I realized as things stood, if Guns N' Roses were to be inducted it'd be somewhat of a complicated or awkward situation.

Since then we've listened to fans, talked with members of the board of the Hall Of Fame, communicated with and read various public comments and jabs from former members of Guns N' Roses, had discussions with the president of the Hall Of Fame, read various press (some legit, some contrived) and read other artists' comments weighing in publicly on Guns and the Hall with their thoughts.

Under the circumstances I feel we've been polite, courteous, and open to an amicable solution in our efforts to work something out. Taking into consideration the history of Guns N' Roses, those who plan to attend along with those the Hall for reasons of their own, have chosen to include in "our" induction (that for the record are decisions I don't agree with, support or feel the Hall has any right to make), and how (albeit no easy task) those involved with the Hall have handled things... no offense meant to anyone but the Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony doesn't appear to be somewhere I'm actually wanted or respected.
For the record, I would not begrudge anyone from Guns their accomplishments or recognition for such. Neither I or anyone in my camp has made any requests or demands of the Hall Of Fame. It's their show not mine.

That said, I won't be attending The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction 2012 Ceremony and I respectfully decline my induction as a member of Guns N' Roses to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf. Neither former members, label representatives nor the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should imply whether directly, indirectly or by omission that I am included in any purported induction of "Guns N' Roses".

This decision is personal. This letter is to help clarify things from my and my camp's perspective. Neither is meant to offend, attack or condemn. Though unfortunately I'm sure there will be those who take offense (God knows how long I'll have to contend with the fallout), I certainly don't intend to disappoint anyone, especially the fans, with this decision. Since the announcement of the nomination we've actively sought out a solution to what, with all things considered, appears to be a no win, at least for me, "damned if I do, damned if I don't" scenario all the way around.

In regard to a reunion of any kind of either the Appetite or Illusion lineups, I've publicly made myself more than clear. Nothing's changed.

The only reason, at this point, under the circumstances, in my opinion whether under the guise of "for the fans" or whatever justification of the moment, for anyone to continue to ask, suggest or demand a reunion are misguided attempts to distract from our efforts with our current lineup of myself, Dizzy Reed, Tommy Stinson, Frank Ferrer, Richard Fortus, Chris Pitman, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and DJ Ashba.
Izzy came out with us a few times back in '06 and I invited him to join us at our LA Forum show last year. Steven was at our show at the Hard Rock, later in '06 in Las Vegas, where I invited him to our after-party and was rewarded with his subsequent interviews filled with reunion lies. Lesson learned. Duff joined us in 2010 and again in '11 along with his band, Loaded, opening in Seattle and Vancouver. For me, with the exception of Izzy or Duff joining us on stage if they were so inclined somewhere in the future for a song or two, that's enough.

There's a seemingly endless amount of revisionism and fantasies out there for the sake of self-promotion and business opportunities masking the actual realities. Until every single one of those generating from or originating with the earlier lineups has been brought out in the light, there isn't room to consider a conversation let alone a reunion.

get's rough. We love our fans and work to give them every ounce of energy and heart we can.

So let sleeping dogs lie or lying dogs sleep or whatever. Time to move on. People get divorced. Life doesn't owe you your own personal happy ending especially at another's, or in this case several others', expense.
But hey if ya gotta then maybe we can get the "no show, grandstanding, publicity stunt, disrespectful, he doesn't care about the fans" crap out of the way as quickly as we can and let's move on. No one's taking the ball and going home. Don't get it twisted. For more than a decade and a half we've endured the double standards, the greed of this industry and the ever present seemingly limitless supply of wannabes and unscrupulous, irresponsible media types. Not to imply anything in this particular circumstance, but from my perspective in regard to both the Hall and a reunion, the ball's never been in our court.
In closing, regardless of this decision and as hard to believe or as ironic as it may seem, I'd like to sincerely thank the board for their nomination and their votes for Guns' induction. More importantly I'd like to thank the fans for being there over the years, making any success we've had possible and for enjoying and supporting Guns N' Roses music.

I wish the Hall a great show, congratulations to all the other artists being inducted and to our fans we look forward to seeing you on tour!!

Axl Rose

P.S. RIP Armand, Long Live ABC III

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Green Day to induct GNR ... WHY

Douchy, party of three?
I am absolutely certain that when Billie Joe(l) and Green Day were playing it cool, this induction speech would have been delivered with a mammoth piece of Irony Pie. Now? I'm not so sure. GNR = corporate rock. Green Day = corporate rock. Congratulations to you all!

CLEVELAND (AP) - Green Day will welcome fellow hard rockers Guns N' Roses into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rock Hall spokesman Todd Mesek said Monday that Green Day members Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool will induct Guns N' Roses at Saturday's ceremony at Cleveland's Public Hall.
Mesek says it's not yet known if the original Guns N' Roses lineup will reunite and perform. Mesek say he believes frontman Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and other band members plan to attend. The group split in 1996.

Guns N' Roses stormed onto the music scene in the mid-1980s, awakening an industry then dominated by pop and dance music.

This year's Hall of Fame class includes the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Donovan, Laura Nyro and The Small Faces/The Faces.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Songwriters Hall let's Rock Hall off the hook by sucking worse

The Baseball Hall of Fame is the creme de la creme of all Halls. There will be debates and controversy, and legitimate gripes about who gets in and who should be in, but at least Cooperstown has standards (imaginary benchmarks like 500 HR, 3,000 hits, 300 wins, etc.). And scruples (no Roiders, no Cheaters).

But the others mostly suck. The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Ill., lets in just about everyone, and its lack of focus - NBA, men's and women's college, Olympic, grade school JV, YMCA rec league players and coaches from every level all seem to get in - makes it irrelevant. For what it's worth, Bill Simmons laid out a dream NBA HoF in his 2009 "The Book of Basketball." 

The Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, seems to have slightly better standards, but stats are so hard to measure in football. The different eras, with vastly different styles of play, discrepancies in sizes and speeds of players, segregation in play early on and, most recently, protection rules and Dark Helmet-esque domes for quarterbacks, make it impossible to judge everyone on an even keel.
It's true: Jackie Moon is in the hoops hall.

Hockey isn't a sport, so no need to discuss or even find out anything about that Hall.

As this blog has testified to since 2011, the Rock Hall is pretty much in the basement of all Halls of Fame. So no need to say anymore there.

However, we've found an all new low: The Songwriters Hall of Fame.

This piece of rhino dung seems to let in just about every SoB who ever picked up a pen.

Garth Brooks? Phil Collins? Jon Bon Jovi?

And now Bob Seger, a 2004 Rock Hall inductee who will go in the Songwriters Hall with the 2012 class along with Gordon Lightfoot, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones (legit), Don Schlitz and Jim Steinman (totally legit).

Bob actually made Tom's career.
Personally, I could care less about this jackwad Hall and their complete lack of standards. But putting Seger in gives complete legitimacy to his '04 induction to the Rock Hall, which should never happen.

"Against The Wind" and "Night Moves" are fine FM radio staples; "Old Time Rock & Roll" will be played at weddings forever; "Hollywood Nights" is kind of a sick track (by the way, you ever see that 1980 flick "The Hollywood Knights" with Tony Danza, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Wuhl as Newbomb Turk? It's a late-night HBO classic. You know what I'm saying).

But Seger should not be in the Rock Hall, and he should not be in the Songwriters Hall. After all, the guy cites Don Henley and Glenn Frey as songwriting teachers.

I think The Briefs said it best:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rock Hall to poop all over Cleveland's sidewalks

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the Rock Hall has plans for a Walk of Fame that boasts names of inductees on bronze plaques all over the sidewalks of downtown Cleveland.

The first 17 plaques will be unsheathed on April 4, 10 days before the next Sh*tFest of Rock History, otherwise known as the annual Rock Hall Induction Ceremony.

Most certainly these plaques will bear the names of as many worthy choices (Beatles, Dylan, the bitchin' Chuck Berry, etc) as they will complete farces who are already in the Hall (The Band, cornball Jackson Browne, Madonna, the billions of '60s bands who were rubber-stamped in).

In other words, we see each of these brownish plaques as $5,000 pieces of turd. Better bring a pooper-scooper next time you're in Cleveland.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome back to the jungle: Original GNR to be at the Hall

Billboard Magazine is reporting that all of the original members of Guns ’N’ Roses will be at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 14 in Cleveland.

Keyboardist Dizzy Reed confirmed that he’ll be in the house at the Public Hall with Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagen, Izzy Stradlin, Gilby Clarke, Matt Sorum and Steven Adler (how big is this freaking stage?). He didn’t say much else, as in, WILL THEY BE PERFORMING TOGETHER?

At the very least, this ensures that GNR will avoid the debacles served up by the Sex Pistols and Van Halen, when almost zero members showed up. There’s still a chance, however, they could pull something douchy like John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival:

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Breaking news: Dave Grohl is old

Relevance to the Rock Hall: Mr. Grohl's Foo Fighters can never get in.

From: G.E. Smith
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2012 11:32:55 -0500
To: Michael Anthony
Subject: three amigos

OK, I got no problem with Butch Vig. He did Nevermind and some big early 90s albums. I got no beef with Dave Grohl, mainly because he's Flipout Wilson’s boy. I have no beef with Rick Springfield, because he rocked some great tunes. Yet all three together, doing something musically seems….wrong. Disingenuous maybe. What is up with this sh*t.

From: Michael Anthony
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 11:34 AM
To: G.E. Smith
Subject: Re: three amigos

Maybe Vig is Rick's stunt double?

Corgan, or the New Radicals guy?
From: G.E. Smith
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2012 11:38:39 -0500
To: Michael Anthony
Subject: RE: three amigos

First rubbing d*cks with Fogerty and now this. In the Facebook post where this pic comes from Rick says "yes we look happy" and reveals they had just finished recording a song for "Dave's project" called "The Man That Never Was." Yes they do look happy. They look like they just "finished" something if you know what I mean.

From: Michael Anthony
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 11:46 AM
To: G.E. Smith
Subject: Re: three amigos

They need to get Corgan in there to complete the sh*t sandwich.

From: G.E. Smith
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2012 11:49:56 -0500
To: Michael Anthony
Subject: RE: three amigos

I'm thinking Corgan would be the hockey-puck-like, too-old-to-eat patty and Rick would be the "special sauce."

Check out this clip when you get a chance. Kurdt calls Dave's first Nirvana co-writing contributions (on "In Utero") "simple" and "bone-headed."

Also, this photo answers the question: "When does irony become reality?"

From: Michael Anthony
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 11:55 AM
To: G.E. Smith
Subject: Re: three amigos

Yeah seriously. Like you said - I respect Vig for his work, deeply admire Springfield and his music for what it is, and give Grohl some points for drumming in a decent band.

No, we will not die like dogs! We will fight like lions!
But who would have thought the guy who produced Killdozer, and the supposedly once-cool drummer from a pioneering grunge band would be doing this now? Or I guess - maybe - this is what we should have figured all along?

Either way, Michael Gerald from Killdozer should stop by to take a steaming dump on the soundboard, then kick their asses.


From: G.E. Smith
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 12:03 PM
To: Michael Anthony
Subject: RE: three amigos

Look, you get older, your tastes change. You get a little lamer. Maybe you don't chuck a best-of Boston CD when it gets mailed to you by their PR people. Maybe you leave Styx's "Too Much Time On My Hands" on when the vid comes on Classic. But you can still be cool. As long as you're aware of getting older and lamer, you stay cool.

This, this right here, is not being aware, and not staying cool. Allow me to drive the nail in Dave Grohl's coolness coffin.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

If Janis Joplin is in, then Whitney Houston should be in.

If Patti Smith is in, then Whitney Houston should be in.

If Madonna is in, then Whitney Houston should be in.

All three were/are supremely talented.

Joplin had her raspy, otherworldly booze-and-smokes laced voice and incredible stage presence. Smith wrote poetic lyrics that blew her fans' minds for some reason I can't understand. Madonna was an above-average singer who could dance and put on an amazing show, as well as David Bowie’s female counterpart as the all-time best pop star chameleon.

Only Madonna could match Houston in the great tunes category, and in the voice department Whitney blows all three away.

Look, there’s a lot of hyperbole going on right now in the wake of Houston’s death - "best female singer ever," "best pop star of the ’80s," "one of the greatest artists of all time."

Big Shot Bob had the magic.
Let’s give credit where credit is due without going overboard: Whitney Houston is one of the greatest female singers and pop stars of the last 30 years.

And during her peak years, she dominated pop but had this weird dash of Robert Horry magic, always in the right place at the right time to bury the killer shot and win it all.

Filling a void in pop radio in the middle part of the decade. Slamming it out of the park at the 1988 Olympics. Rocking that “Bodyguard” tune and somehow selling us on the idea that Costner could even come close to landing a date with her. Lending "The Greatest Love of All" to the Dr. J highlight reel on that unreal NBA Superstars video.

It’s criminal that it takes her dying to make her induction so obvious and urgent. And since the Hall is apparently now in the mood to right some wrongs, it shouldn’t be too long before this happens.

In the meantime, here's CDNR's dark horse all-time favorite Whitney tune:

Friday, February 3, 2012

CDNR readers: Don Henley should be in the Rock Hall

Congratulations to Donald Hugh "Don" Henley, who has been selected by YOU, the readers of Cleveland Does Not Rock, as the next solo artist who should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

According to the poll, which appeared on this site for several months, 10 people said Henley should get in, 5 people said Sting should be next, and 4 people picked Phil Collins.

Now I don't know about you, but these figures seem to be just a little misleading and it might not represent the most scientific data ever gathered. That might be because only 19 people voted out of the thousands who likely stumbled onto this sacred plot of virtual space by accident.

However, there are a few deductions that can be made from this poll:

Sting: Gracious in defeat. Maybe a little too much so.
- It is believed that Henley is the least lame of the three. I can get behind that: He freaking sang "Hotel California" and "Boys of Summer." How badass is that? He's a drummer who sings. Double badass! He made the album "End of the Innocence," which features a duet with Axl Rose and ample amounts of Bruce Hornsby. Uh ...

- Readers believe that Henley is the better of the two drummer-singers in the poll, blasting Phil Collins out of the water. I'm not down with this. Collins is a better singer; Henley whines like his nuts are dragging on the ground like some old dog walking around a dusty little league baseball field. Collins is (was) ten times cooler, having been the drummer for the best prog band ever, Old Genesis (as opposed to New Genesis, which is pretty assy). Henley is zero percent cool.

- Sting sucks ass.

- This was a horrible poll question.

You might not like this, but DD must go in before Sting.
- People don't give a shit. This might be the most important deduction of all, because while it's sort of a total long shot that Henley and Collins will ever get in as solo artists, the danger is very real that Sting could get in soon. The voters are facing a tough stretch here as '80s bands are coming up. Will these lame f*cks ever vote in any of the amazing left-of-the-dial bands? (Replacements, The Pixies, Hüsker Dü, Minutemen, etc.) What's the verdict on New Wave stuff like Duran Duran? Will they realize that there are more than three rap acts in the history of music? If the answer is no to all of those, Sting enters the picture. Thankfully, the results of this poll show that no one gives a crap if he gets in or not, because any jerk who's into Sting and tripped their way onto this page would have seen the word "Sting" and done whatever they could to make sure their Gordie got critical acclaim.

- Henley rules, and of the two overwrought, cynical, super-smug, post-Eagles people-are-livin'-seedy-lives tracks, the readers of CDNR clearly prefer his "Dirty Laundry" to Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues." You be the judge, and hold on to your horses for a "Dirty Laundry" vs. "Smuggler's Blues" post.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Steve Perry: Rock Hall can go eff itself

 All it took to pull us out of hiatus was an out-of-nowhere shot at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by one of rock's greatest and most unheralded vocalists.

Ex-Journey lead singer Steve Perry recently told Billboard Magazine that Journey doesn't need to be in the Hall in order to solidify its place in the lore of rock history.

"I'm not a big fan of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's just a personal thing, not an ego thing. I think that, honestly, Journey doesn't need to be in the Hall of Fame. With everything we accomplished ... we've had our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you know? It's in the hearts of the people out there and their experiences and their memories of what we did together."

Maybe Perry, aka The Voice, was sidestepping the actual question from Gary Graff - which was would Journey do a one-off reunion if they got in the Rock Hall one day - because Perry has an actual working brain, and he knows Neal Schon and the other remaining king-sized douchebags in the sham-of-a-band would never swallow their pride and reform the band under any circumstances. Come on, dudes, you know you're a better band with Steve as the singer.
Only with the classic lineup do you get Air Everything.

Why? Why is the "classic" lineup of Journey not on tour right now? Why is this guy the lead singer, and why won't anyone acknowledge the total bullshit that's going on here. Even VH1 Classic looks the other way in a promo for one of their classic concert nights - for .1 seconds they use a clip of the current lead singer, what's-his-name, singing "Anyway You Want It" and then the second it goes to another shot, Perry's vocal seems to seep in. Journey continues to f*ck its own legacy, as evidenced by how they allowed David Chase to play their signature tune over the worst closing scene to a series in television history.

They can make it all right by reuniting with Perry. Why can't this happen? Look at Van Freaking Halen. Sure, Eddie is screwing up that victory lap by not reaching out and getting original bassist Michael Anthony in the mix, but he made up with Dave to give the fans what they want (DLR-era VH) and give their pockets what they want (straight-up hardcore cash money).

Money is the root of all evil, but it can also heal all wounds.
Look at The Police, Garbage, Afghan Whigs, The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Stone Temple Pilots, Superdrag, the "classic" lineup of Guided By Voices, Pavement, Soundgarden, Archers of Loaf and every other band that realized there was more money to be made if the egos were set aside in the name of doing what was right and, frankly, making sense.

Perry is actually correct. Journey doesn't need to be in the Rock Hall. But they should be.

But the situation there does bring up a good point and the possibility of actually improving the wretched Hall. If you get in, you should reunite. Better yet, if you get in, you HAVE to reunite. This would prevent numbnuts like Axl, Slash and Guns 'N' Roses from pussing out and refusing to get back together, and stop jerks like John Fogerty from accepting the trophy with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford and then not playing tunes with them at the induction ceremony.

(Should be noted here that Cook and Clifford are jackwads in their own right, for the mere existence of Creedence Clearwater Revisited which, by the way, will be at Dover Downs on April 13. Get your tickets now!!)

(Should also be noted here that R.E.M., which ceased being cool and relevant the second Bill Berry got up from the drum kit in 1997, realized this and reunited with Berry for an amazing set that only lost points for the kind of moberry duet with Ed Vedder on "Man on the Moon.")

Journey probably won't ever get in the Hall, Steve. But like you said, you can't stop believin'.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Easy Lover": Best duet of all-time?

I was checking this cornball radio station - yes, I'm one of five people in America that will put on a regular old radio station - that plays just about everything, but not really ever anything that's great.

Don Gorske is most certainly an avid Phil Collins fan.
Yesterday, however, it cranked "Easy Lover," the 1984 smash hit by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey. Like Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes," Huey Lewis & The News' "Heart & Soul" and multiple Duran Duran singles, this lite-pop gem brings on warm feelings of nostalgia not unlike the ones Morgan Spurlock describes in "Supersize Me." Like McDonald's, these crispy, tasty, audio nuggets have almost no nutritional value but they're associated with good times and good things - Atari, hanging with your mom in the summer, breakfast for dinner, first Little League games, etc.

While listening to this tune, it hit me - this is a duet by TWO EFFING ROCKING AND ROLL HALL OF FAMERS. Uber-soprano Philip Bailey went in with Earth, Wind and Fire, who probably should be in but definitely went in prematurely in 2000. Phil Collins, of course, went in as the drummer of The Legitimate Genesis and frontman of The Fraud Genesis in 2010.

Let me throw out some more minutia that might seem inconsequential but in fact build upon this tune's greatness.

- There was no Desmond Child/ ghost writing bullshit going on here. Collins and Bailey actually had a hand in co-writing the tune along with Nathan East, a member of the group Fourplay and product of the Philly soul machine.

- It did NOT appear on a Phil Collins album, so any hipsters trying to shoot a superficial hole in it will have to try again. It's actually on Bailey's 1984 album "Chinese Wall."

- It reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 in the UK, and sold more than 1 million copies.

Where were you when Ritcher beat Moolah?
- For some reason, it was a theme song for the original "WrestleMania." Because when I think of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T fighting Rowdy Roddy Piper and Cowboy Bob Orton, and Junkyard Dog and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine" battling for the Intercontinental Title, I think about lyrics like "you're the one who wants to hold her/ hold her and control her/ you better forget it/ no, you'll regret it."

- The video. My God, the video. It's a behind-the-scenes look at making the video, shot in London, is mostly a gleeful glimpse of the two guys goofing off, riding in helicopters, getting pampered backstage and the like. Highlights include Bailey blasting Collins away when they rehearse the tune falsetto and Bailey singing OVER the track during the video shoot and Collins inflicting his British humor on Bailey, who kind of gets it but kind of doesn't, resulting in an awkwardness thicker than a major f*ck up on "Chopped." 

Gotta admit, this was pretty freaking awesome.
The combination of the substance of "Easy Lover," plus the fact that it's sung by two HoF artists, plus the insanely sick video shown above, has to put this somewhere near the top of all-time best duets, if not the very top, right?

What's better? "Say Say Say" by Paul McFartney and Michael Jackson? "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys? "Endless Love" by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross? "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty?

I would hear arguments on all of those. But I still say it's "Easy Lover," which will take your heart but you won't feel it, and before you know it, you'll be on your knees.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Johnny Ramone is still an a*shole, even from the grave

You can say whatever you want about Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, but you can't say he wasn't one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

You could also never say he ever made any apologies for acting like a total jerk 100 percent of the time.

Read just about any account of the band's career, and John Cummings, who died in 2004 at the age of 55, is portrayed as a mega-douche. Because he was. We're talking about a guy who stole Joey Ramone's girlfriend out from under him, then flaunted it in his face while the band was at it's peak. A guy who wouldn't visit Joey in the hospital and bury the hatchet, even when the singer was dying of cancer. A guy who is said to have possessed a large amount of Nazi memorabilia. A guy who wouldn't even let Joey's family in on the band's induction into the Hall in 1998. A guy who went from being best friends with Joey's brother, Mickey Leigh, to treating him like dung for decades on end.

Solid read.
A great account of Johnny's greatest hits can be read in Leigh's admittedly one-sided book, "I Slept With Joey Ramone."

So now come reports that Johnny's autobiography, "Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone," is set for release in April.

The book is stocked with stories told from the death-bed, so there's a 1.9 percent chance there are some apologies and remorse (If there is, I swear I will come back and delete this post). But we're talking about Johnny Ramone here. While his people are keeping most of the details close to the vest, we know that he once again goes into his relationship with wife Linda, poking through his coffin and into Joey's yet again, effing with poor dude's already effed up head in the afterlife. And we know that even though Linda thought about including interviews from John's pals, maybe balancing the thing out a little, but nah, why not let the guitarist rip away from his bully pulpit.

What a d*ck.

Yet, we can almost forgive it all because of sh*t like this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Ghost of Rock and Roll Past: Billy Joel

Billy Joel is one of the most polarizing figures in modern pop music. Hipsters think he's lame, squares think he's a one-man Beatles. A large segment of people older than 35 have at one time in their lives owned the double-disc 1985 best-of, while most people younger than that know him as that one-hit wonder ("Piano Man") who's always getting DUIs and ending up in the tabloids. 99.9 percent of his fanbase is white, but black people love him too because he's a vehicle for making fun of white people.

This polarization hinges on one year, 1986, and one album, coincidentally called "The Bridge."

Barry, as we'd like to remember him.
Because of that breaking off point, and that deflating, morbidly mediocre album, Joel should be the Barry Bonds of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - everything he did up until that point (Bonds' career as a Pirate) definitely merits induction, but everything he did that year and after (Bonds' years as a Giant, a juicer, a woman abuser and a big-time asshole) should have kept him out, or at least get him booted (hmm ... another "Kicked Out" post is in motion).

BUT - let's just say Joel quits during that mysterious three-year gap between 1983's slammer-packed "An Innocent Man" and "The Bridge." He goes on an acid-dropping binge with Howard Jones and ends up like Brian Wilson, sparking the "Billy Joel Is A Genius Who Is Ahead of His Time" campaign.

Or - and this is totally macabre and in no way is meant to insinuate that I want Billy Joel dead - what if Joel went down in a plane crash after "Innocent Man" comes out and the videos for "Uptown Girl" and "Tell Her About It" and "The Longest Time" turn him into one of the world's biggest pop stars. Given that scenario, he becomes a modern-day Buddy Holly, right? His pre-death catalog instantly becomes spotless, and then the big "Greatest Hits Vols. 1-2" - the one every non-cool college freshman had from 1985 up through somewhere in the late 1990s - comes out, and it's easily the top-selling album of all time at that point.

If you're 35+, white and say you never owned this, you're lying.
Most of all, "The Bridge," with the putrid "A Matter of Trust," and the awful video that showcases the talents and mannerisms of jerk-off drummer Liberty DeVitto, and the embarrassing sap-fest "This Is The Time," never happens. Neither does the sickeningly corporate "Storm Front," with the pithy "End of The World As We Know It" rip "We Didn't Start The Fire" and the super-indulgent "Downeaster 'Alexa'" (why the f*cking quotes within quotes? WHAT?), where Joel all of the sudden decides he wants to be the Gorton's Fisherman. Neither does - holy Lord help me - "River of Dreams," which sounds like the bathrooms at the Wells Fargo Center during Wing Bowl and appeared to be his attempt to put out something whiter than Genesis' "I Can't Dance." I dare say he succeeded.

Bill is Hall-worthy just for pulling this off.
If we could just go back to July of 1986 - take Doc's DeLorean, summon the Ghost of Christmas Past, whatever - and stop the release of "The Bridge" and somehow end Joel's career, we would remember The Piano Man differently.

This would have been the guy who wrote "Allentown," which would be considered the folk-pop equivalent of Bruce's "Atlantic City" instead of over-scrutinized because Joel wrote it about another Pennsylvania town (Some well-researched background here). He would be the slick-ass motherf*cker who got down on "Tell Her About It" (my sister always thought Joel was black. That's how cool he SOUNDED). "Pressure" would be perceived as a psych-rock classic. "Goodnight Saigon" would be on the top shelf of Vietnam vet odes with "Born In The U.S.A." "Songs In The Attic" would be "Sgt. Pepper's," "Piano Man" would be "Like A Rolling Stone," Christie Brinkley would be Yoko Ono ... maybe I'm getting a little out of hand, but you see where I'm going here.

Instead of all of that, Joel's record will be scarred by stuff like this. And this. And this. And, well, this:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Making a Case: Shawn Fanning

He put the pee stains in the RIAA's underwear.
Rock and roll was originally about being a bad ass.

Playing rock and roll meant you sacrificed a lot of money following your dream down a long, unlit dirt road.  

“Being” a rock and roll used to mean you raised a middle finger and a fist to the status quo.

To aspiring artists, those tenets are still largely true, though not as frowned upon. To everybody else, rock and roll is just another pre-faded T-shirt at the bottom of their not-actually-dirty pile of dirty laundry.

That was especially the case in 1999. You remember 1999, right? Good heavens, I've tried forgetting it but the awful memories won't allow me. 1999 is when the most un-rock and roll artists topped the charts. 

You had albums by both of these tools. Admit it.

I mean, shit, Korn competed for the same fan base as 98 Degrees, and the kids couldn’t buy enough of them. The key word is “buy” because a year later that word began its disassociation with the music industry.  

Credit Shawn Fanning, mastermind of Napster and the biggest and most bad ass rebel that rock and roll has seen since the Rock Hall constructed its ugly-ass pyramids in 1986.

Shawn Fanning did what countless musicians wished they could do: He (metaphorically speaking) shoved his middle finger in the face of Recording Industry Association or America (RIAA) suits then kicked them square in the balls every day for about two years.

How rock and roll is that? Who in the history of music changed the music industry more than Shawn Fanning? Is such a revolution even possible anymore?

Most importantly, whose lives didn’t Shawn Fanning affect?

How many people didn’t think twice of downloading a yet-to-be released album… just because they could? How many people began to dislike Metallica after they spoke out against Napster?

Napster not only saved me hundreds of dollars I would have wasted on shitflop albums, it also opened my eyes and ears to hundreds of bands I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.
My formula was simple, I Napster’d bands listed in the liner notes of my favorite albums. Within three months, I left the depressing confines of shitty post-grunge and discovered Supergrass and The Hellacopters and dozens of other bands that I had no earthly business discovering while locked in the cultural shackles of Western Pennsylvania. 

Yes, a lot of artists suffered because of this leveling of the recording industry. Labels now have less money to dole out to fewer artists, which means that labels will be less likely to take a risk on an experimental or non-traditional artist few people have heard about.

My argument against that: Nowadays, all artists need to sell their music is a computer with an Internet connection. And you know what, Mr. Self-Important Singer-Songwriter Guy Who Bogarts the Coffee Shop Open Mic Night With Overwrought Emo Songs? It’s the best chance you’ll have to making a dollar or getting gullible girls to like your insufferable songs about your heart and soul or whatever. Better than the chances of a major label getting a whiff of you in 1990, back when nobody had the luxury of truly being an independent musician.

All this is beside the point. According to the Rock Hall, the non-performer category honors “songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists and other industry professionals who have had a major influence on the development of rock and roll.” (EDITOR'S NOTE: The Hall changed the non-performer category to the "Ahmet Ertegun Award" in 2011, another lame attempt to hide their true intentions behind names and pointless jargonese - G.E.)
To say that Shawn Fanning was a major influence is the understatement of the year. But Shawn Fanning’s ultimate contribution to rock and roll wasn’t the beautiful destruction of major record labels. Rather, it is the empowered and enlightened consumer.

In 1999, people bought albums chock full of over-produced duds after hearing one mildly catchy single. Most often, that was all they were allowed to hear before spending $16.99 for that song and 11 others.

Since 2000 and for the foreseeable future, people can buy an album for much less after listening to the album in its entirety. And that purchase is a statement because any major label album can be downloaded for free.

This revolution was televised on our computer screens, millions and millions of them. The RIAA poo poo’d about it all the way to court room. And though the court ruled in the RIAA’s favor, it did little to change people’s attitude that major labels sell overpriced, overpackaged, overmarketed music.

Nobody in the Rock Hall seemed to notice. I’m not surprised.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kickin' Em Out: 1994

WARNING: This is going to piss a lot of people off.

OK, here goes: The Band should not be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Hear me out. Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel are all great players, and form a really good backing band. In other words, The Band is not a good band band, but The Band is an amazing band to have backing a solo artist. Got it?

It's why they made their bones and their name as the band behind rockabilly player Lonnie Hawkins. It's why they had such success backing up Bob Dylan (pause for a moment: I'm sure their 1974 tour together was insanely incredible, but if you're going to try and tell me that "The Basement Tapes" are these great lost treasures, you're lying. They're horrid.)

It's why "The Last Waltz" is arguably the best concert film ever, and almost certainly the best show that ever went down, in terms of performance and music produced. I mean, Van Morrison's jacked-out-of-his-mind performance of "Caravan"? Holy shit. And they set up one hell of a haulin'-ass train behind Muddy Waters' massive locomotive on "Mannish Boy." And they manage to wring more cheese out of Neil Diamond when he does "Dry Your Eyes" than the kids in "Saving Silverman."

Look out everyone! He's got a hanger!
And they completely neutralize Neil Young's coke booger when he does his insane rendition of "Helpless" with Joni Mitchell, who wasn't stoned enough yet to get up next to him and said nose refuse.

And then there's the closing all-star jam of "I Shall Be Released," when Ron Wood and Ringo F*cking Starr pop out of the audience to join in. Mr. Starkey jumps in on second drums (maybe the only time ever that the two-drum attack has been not only acceptable but actually works really well) and even rocks out one of those signature Beatles drum fills (as noted by Robertson on the behind-the-scenes shit they show on VH1). Sure, some of the credit can go to cocaine, but then again grass and psychedelics could take most if not all of the credit for Woodstock and Monterey Pop.

If this seems like a ton of glowing praise for a "Kickin' Em Out" segment, it is. But it also proves the point - The Band is a fine band on its own, but it's not a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band on its own.

Robertson, Helm, Danko, Manuel and Hudson are like Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, Steve Kerr and other role players on the dominant Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s - they take the proverbial Michael Jordan, whether it be Dylan, or Young, or whoever, and help elevate them to all those NBA titles. Without them, Jordan is just dicking around, winning scoring titles and dunk contests and scoring 63 points against the Celtics in a first round playoff game before going home early.

Man, that was one ugly shot.
And that's the frustrating thing. Like my soon-to-be-laid-out theory on how Billy Joel could have been Buddy Holly, The Band could have been Hall of Famers - just like Pippen and Rodman. All those other dudes are essentially Hall of Famers without the plaque - everyone knows Kerr iced the Jazz in 1997, and that HoGrant was a monster on the boards, and that Cartwright had that sweet foul shot.

Look, I'll give you "The Weight," one of my top 30 songs of all time, and "Up on Cripple Creek." And maybe I'll even give you that "Music from Big Pink" and the self-titled follow-up are great albums, event though I don't agree with that statement at all.

But take a load off, Fannie - I'm still kickin' em out.

By the way, this is one of the most amazing Rock Hall classes of all time. Marley and Lennon in the same class? Elton John and Rod Stewart in the same class? And (even though I personally think their music sounds like the garbles of bird squawking in its own vomit) the Grateful Dead? Wow.

One more thing: While I'm at it, I'm kicking the Animals out too. I don't even need to explain why. God, I hate that band.

Oh yeah, you're out too, assholes.
The Animals
The Grateful Dead
Willie Dixon
Duane Eddie
Elton John
The Band
John Lennon
Bob Marley
Johnny Otis
Rod Stewart

p.s. - I'm sorry

p.p.s. - No, I'm not

p.p.p.s. - Ok, maybe I am, but just a little bit

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Who's in first: Def Leppard vs. Bon Jovi, Round 5

Nevermind the puffy eyes, bloody noses and wobbly walks, it's on to Round 5 of the death match between Def Leppard's "Adrenalize" and Bon Jovi's "New Jersey" - winner earns a spot first in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Def Leppard, "White Lightning"

G.E. Smith: There's no mulligans in rock 'n' roll. Ask this band, this guy or even this f*ck-up.

The Ledge. Badass.
But if there was ever an OK-to-crap-the-bed moment, this would be it - one whole track to unload your sadness, pain, guilt, anger and whatever other feelings you're having as a band over the death of long-time guitarist and friend Steve Clark, who had died only a year earlier, in 1991, at the age of 30. He was found dead on his couch with codeine, Vicodin and morphine in his blood along with a blood-alcohol level of .30, three times the legal limit. Authorities deemed it "accidental." No disrespect intended and in all seriousness, this is complete bullshit. Clark, Ledger, Winehouse, Michael Jackson, etc. - don't sugarcoat it. It is what it is.

Are you like me? Do you think this guy should be locked up?
Anyway, if this song really sucked, it'd be just a-OK. Metallica hadn't paved the way with the hire-a-band-shrink thing, so Lep didn't know it was an option to do this or even use it as a shroud to stage a faux documentary in yet one more feeble attempt to resurrect a career that you drove straight into the gutter with one piece of shit record after another after another. (apparently, the therapy didn't work. they still blow.)

But guess what? "White Lightning" (a reference to Clark, who always wore white) ain't that bad. Guitarist Phil Collen pays tribute to the slick axe man with an opening solo that Clark (who plays on half of the songs on the album, but obviously not this one, duh) might have come up with himself. The song isn't "Wish You Were Here," but it's got a decent enough swagger that builds to some moments of real emotion.

Criticisms: Kind of long at 6:46, and as such cliche-meister "Mutt" Lange has room to get in there and throw out some of his favorite hackneyed rock lyrics. Verse 2 (cliches in bold):

Got both ends burnin' like a moth to a flame
You're goin' off the rails like a runaway train
It's a no-win situation there's no way out
And no one will ever hear you scream and shout

Even if this sucked out loud, I couldn't rate it below a 5. A fitting tribute.

Rating: 5.9

Michael Anthony: When I heard this for the first time in almost 20 years, it really did suck out loud. The intro goes on way too long without the appearance of a single riff or original idea, and the whispered verse vocals - while screaming "Take me seriously!" - are a cornball joke. Sorry, Joe.

And at SEVEN MINUTES, you'd expect a hook in there somewhere, but sadly there's nothing. Come on, these guys wrote "Photograph" and "Foolin'"! Can something please happen in this song?

And the lyrics lyrics. The LYRICS! Here are the only words in "White Lightning", and I'm being completely serious here, that aren't cliched dreck:

When you come down here
You're already

White lightnin'



You get the idea.

On the other hand, there are some solid solos to be found here, much better than what Richie Sambuca was cooking up on New Jersey or the even more putrid Keep The Faith. And, because what you're about to hear below is so bad, I give "White Lightning" and the Def Lep boys a 4.0 by default.

Rating: 4.069

Bon Jovi, "Blood on Blood"

G.E. Smith: There are some Bon Jovi fans who believe songwriters Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and the band could pull down their pants in the studio, press record and produce an album of them taking a crap and it would sound amazing.

Nobody f*cks with the Boz.
Well, they did just that right here, and guess what? It sounds like warthogs being neutered. It sounds like Jerry Sandusky's future cell in prison. It sounds like the script to "Blackout," aka "Midnight Heat," starring Brian Bosworth.

It's apparent Jon and Richie handled the music - it's a pop-metal-lite take on Bruce - and that Dez Child wrote the bulk of the lyrics. More horseshit "we were young" and "we were crazy" and "we can do it" and "we'll prove 'em wrong" and "I'll be there for you" and then some crap about his dad.

But they're reaaaal proud of themselves. They've written themselves a timeless anthem here. They're legit artists. They're not just beefcake dunces who teenage girls put on their walls and dream about at night.

Watch the video below and you'll hate this vomit cake on the sidewalk even more.

Hey, there's one thing you can always believe in, and that's dreams. So tonight, a dedication. "Blood on Blood."

Michael Anthony: Alright, things are getting interesting!

I have to disagree with G.E. here.

Yes, this is a lite-rock, brain-dead version of "Bobby Jean", chugging along briskly (and dangerously wimpily) with its tales of dudes duding out just for dudes' sake. But hey - it's kinda decent for what it is!

There's no rhythm to speak of, nothing memorable sonically, and the lyrics are terrible - but really, it's not half-bad!

The other, more, well, "special" Bruce.
I like its limp vibe and pointless lyrics about loyalty and camaraderie, despite the fact that it falls apart after a decent guitar intro, not to mention the Bruce comparison I made earlier is totally unfair (to Bruce, of course), and, honestly, a better sounds-like would be something along the lines of Soul Asylum-meets-Bruce Hornsby. Didn't think you'd ever see that sentence here, or anywhere? Let me explain...

See, "Blood On Blood" takes the low-rent, gray jangle of the B-teamers of punk rock and melds it with half-baked singer-songwriter nonsense akin to the worst "rock" music the 80's had to offer, stirs it all up in a pot of semi-audible guitars and tinny-sounding drums, and sets it all to PUKE.

But I like it. A little.

Rating: 3.69