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Posts Tagged ‘music’

Favorite Songs by Decade

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 18, 2016

My Favorite Songs by Decade

Recently, Gretchen and I were listening to our favorite DJ, Richard Blade, on our favorite radio station, First Wave, on SiriusXM as he interviewed The Cure’s Robert Smith, one of my favorite singers from one of my favorite bands. Gretchen can’t stand him. Richard asked him an interesting question and I was surprised by Robert’s answer. The question was for him to name his top 30 songs from the 1980s. A tough question to answer. Since The Cure started out as post-punk in the late 1970s, before quickly transitioning to goth (which they’re still known as by most fans), and later simply as an alternative band, one of the biggest in the world, I was expecting mostly songs by alternative bands, as well as a few goth bands. I was surprised by the answer because that was not at all the case. It was a diverse mixture of songs from all genres and I thought that was very interesting. And it got both of us thinking about what our lists would look like. So we decided to make our own lists.

When I sat down to make my list of my favorite ‘80s songs, I knew it would be very long and I’d have to make some hard cuts. That’s exactly what happened. I initially chose close to 100 songs. Then I started cutting. The first 20 were pretty easy, but after that, it got surprisingly hard. Each song had merit. Each song deserved to be on the list. But I had to keep cutting. Finally I got down to 50 and had to stop. I couldn’t go any further. There was simply no way I could cut any from my list of 50 and have any integrity that the list would be a complete list of my top songs from that decade. So I was finished. When Gretchen did hers, she was much more brutal and ended up with 30. When we shared them with each other, to no one’s surprise, they were very different. There was almost no crossover. While I had a lot of new wave, goth, and industrial, she had almost none of that. It was interesting.

So interesting, we wondered what a list of the 1990s would look like. That decade is one of her favorites, while it’s one of my least favorites. Or so I thought. I didn’t think I could come up with enough songs, but Gretchen challenged me to do so, so I sat down and started thinking. And to my shock, I was able to come up with a few songs. I really don’t think much good music was made during that decade. At all. Gretchen loves the music from that decade, but I think it’s a lost decade. Nonetheless, I was able to compile a shortish list and when I was done, I counted how many songs I had and to my surprise, I had exactly 40. Since I didn’t really want to cut any of them, I decided to keep them all and left my list at 40. When Gretchen did her list, it was 30 again. And again, our lists were very different. While Gretchen’s was mostly grunge, pop alternative, and alternative, mine was mostly industrial, alternative, electronica, world, and metal.

This brought us to the gigantic decade: the 1970s! Since we both grew up in that decade, it would be a gigantic challenge because there would be so many songs to choose from. When I sat down to work on mine, little did I know it would take me three days. I also decided to cut as I went, instead of writing down all of the songs and then cutting after I had written them all down. So as I was writing, I cut well over 125 songs as I went along. When I was finished, I had a list of 128 songs! I have gone over and over that list to see what else I can cut, but I cannot bring myself to cut a single one. After all, I’ve already cut 125 as I was compiling the list. Many classics I love didn’t make the list. But the list is long. I wanted it to be no longer than 75 songs. However, that proved to be impossible. There are too many good bands, too many good songs. I simply can’t cut, so to my shame, I’m leaving my list at 128 songs. And Gretchen? She wants to make her list, again, 30 songs, but she hasn’t done hers yet. I am begging her to do at least 50 because 30 won’t be a fair representative of that decade, but she seems determined. And my list? It’s comprised of classic rock, disco, soul, metal, new wave, arena rock, and a couple of punk songs. A big variety of music.

Gretchen will probably want to do a list from the year 2000-. While I like some music from that decade, it’s mostly some “new” rock and I’m tired even of that, so I doubt I’ll do any more lists. I think these three are enough for me. I’m going to post all three in this blog post, in order of decade, from oldest to most recent. I’m sure no one will agree with many or most of my choices, but that’s the beauty of lists, subjectivity, and free will. Anyone can make a list of their own and they can all differ as much as they want. Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy seeing my eclectic lists. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into these, for no good reason other than the fun of it. Cheers!

 

Scott’s Top ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s Songs

Top ‘70s Songs

1. AC/DC — Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

2. AC/DC — Highway to Hell

3. The B-52’s — Rock Lobster

4. Billy Squire — The Stroke

5. Black Sabbath — Paranoid

6. Black Sabbath — Iron Man

7. Boston — More Than a Feeling

8. Boston — Foreplay/Long Time

9. Boston – Don’t Look Back

10. The Cars — Good Times Roll

11. The Cars — My Best Friend’s Girl

12. Cheap Trick — Dream Police

13. Chic — Le Freak

14. Chicago — 25 Or 6 To 4

15. Chic Corea & Return to Forever – You’re Everything

16. Christopher Cross — Ride Like the Wind

17. Chuck Mangione — Feels So Good

18. The Commodores — Brick House

19. The Commodores — Sail On

20. David Bowie — Changes

21. David Bowie — Ziggy Stardust

22. David Bowie — Suffragette City

23. Deep Purple — Smoke On the Water

24. Deep Purple — Space Truckin’

25. The Eagles — Hotel California

26. The Eagles — The Long Run

27. Earth, Wind & Fire — September

28. Earth, Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove

29. ELO — Mr. Blue Sky

30. Elton John — Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

31. Elton John — Island Girl

32. Fleetwood Mac — The Chain

33. Foreigner — Cold As Ice

34. Foreigner — Hot Blooded

35. Gary Numan — Cars

36. Gary Numan — Down in the Park

37. Heart — Barracuda

38. Heart — Magic Man

39. Heart — Crazy On You

40. James Taylor – You’ve Got a Friend

41. Jeff Beck — Led Boots

42. Jeff Beck — Blue Wind

43. Jeff Beck — People Get Ready

44. Jefferson Starship — Miracles

45. Jefferson Starship — Jane

46. Jethro Tull — Aqualung

47. Jethro Tull — Cross-Eyed Mary

48. Jethro Tull — My God

49. Jethro Tull — Locomotive Breath

50. Jethro Tull — Thick As a Brick

51. Jethro Tull — Bungle In The Jungle

52. Jethro Tull — Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day

53. John Lennon — Imagine

54. Journey — On a Saturday Night

55. Journey — Hustler

56. Journey — Feeling That Way

57. Journey — Wheel in the Sky

58. Joy Division — Isolation

59. Kansas — Dust In the Wind

60. Kansas — Carry On Wayward Son

61. KC & The Sunshine Band – That’s the Way (I Like It)

62. KC & The Sunshine Band — Get Down Tonight

63. KISS — Rock and Roll All Nite

64. KISS — Detroit Rock City

65. The Knack — My Sharona

66. Kool & the Gang — Celebration

67. Kool & the Gang — Get Down On It

68. Led Zeppelin — Good Times Bad Times

69. Led Zeppelin — Communication Breakdown

70. Led Zeppelin — Stairway to Heaven

71. Led Zeppelin — Rock and Roll

72. Little River Band — Cool Change

73. Lynyrd Skynyrd — Gimme Three Steps

74. Lynyrd Skynyrd — Call Me the Breeze

75. Lynyrd Skynyrd — Free Bird

76. Michael Jackson — Off the Wall

77. Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ With Disaster

78. Mott the Hoople — Sweet Jane

79. Mott the Hoople — All the Young Dudes

80. Pat Benatar — Heartbreaker

81. Pat Benetar — Hit Me With Your Best Shot

82. Paul McCartney & Wings — Silly Love Songs

83. Paul McCartney & Wings — Live And Let Die

84. Paul McCartney & Wings — With a Little Luck

85. Paul McCartney & Wings — Band On The Run

86. Paul McCartney & Wings — Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

87. Paul McCartney & Wings — The Long And Winding Road

88. Paul McCartney & Wings — Listen to What the Man Said

89. Peter Frampton — All I Want to Be (Is by Your Side)

90. Peter Frampton — I Wanna Go to the Sun

91. Peter Frampton — Do You Feel Like We Do

92. Pink Floyd — One of These Days

93. Pink Floyd — The Great Gig In the Sky

94. Pink Floyd — Brain Damage

95. Pink Floyd — Welcome to the Machine

96. Pink Floyd — Have a Cigar

97. Pink Floyd — Wish You Were Here

98. Pink Floyd — Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)

99. Pink Floyd — Comfortably Numb

100. Pink Floyd — Run Like Hell

101. Queen — Bohemian Rhapsody

102. Queen – You’re My Best Friend

103. Queen – I’m In Love With My Car

104. Queen — Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)

105. Queen — We Will Rock You

106. Queen — We Are the Champions

107. Queen — Sheer Heart Attack

108. Queen — Get Down, Make Love

109. Rainbow — Man On the Silver Mountain

110. Ramones — Blitzkreig Bop

110. REO Speedwagon – Ridin’ the Storm Out

111. The Rolling Stones — Shattered

112. Rush — The Trees

113. Rush — Closer to the Heart

114. Rush — La Villa Strangiato

115. Sex Pistols — God Save the Queen

116. Styx — Renegade

117. Styx — Come Sail Away

118. Styx — Suite Madame Blue

119. Styx — Miss America

120. Supertramp — The Logical Song

121. Supertramp — Take the Long Way Home

122. Tom Petty — Refugee

123. Tom Petty – Don’t Do Me Like That

124. Van Halen – Runnin’ With the Devil

125. Van Halen — Eruption

126. Van Halen — And the Cradle Will Rock…

127. ZZ Top — Tube Snake Boogie

128. ZZ Top — Cheap Sunglasses

 

Top ‘80s Songs

1. Asia — Time Again

2. Bauhaus — Stigmata Martyr

3. Bauhaus — Telegram Sam

4. Bronski Beat — Why?

5. The Cars — Magic

6. The Church — Reptile

7. The Cult — Phoenix

8. The Cure — Pornography

9. The Cure — Fascination Street

10. David Bowie — Cat People

11. Duran Duran — A View to a Kill

12. Echo & the Bunneymen — Bedbugs and Ballyhoo

13. The Fixx — Are We Ourselves?

14. Front 242 — Welcome to Paradise

15. Front 242 — Headhunter, Vol. 1.0

16. INXS — New Sensation

17. KMFDM — Virus

18. Dead Can Dance — Black Sun

19. Love and Rockets — Ball of Confusion

20. Love and Rockets — No New Tale To Tell

21. Madonna — Into the Groove

22. Michael Jackson — Beat It

23. Ministry — Stigmata

24. Ministry — So What

25. Moev — Wanting

26. Nine Inch Nails — Head Like a Hole

27. Nine Inch Nails — Terrible Lie

28. Nitzer Ebb — Control I’m Here

29. Peter Murphy — All Night Long

30. Peter Murphy — Cuts You Up

31. Prince – Let’s Go Crazy

32. Queen — Another One Bites The Dust

33. REM — Feeling Gravitys Pull

34. REM — The One I Love

35. REM — Orange Crush

36. Red Hot Chili Peppers — Higher Ground

37. Rush — Tom Sawyer

38. Simple Minds — All the Things She Said

39. Simple Minds — Sanctify Yourself

40. Sinead O’Connor — Jerusalem

41. Sinead O’Connor — I Want Your (Hands On Me)

42. Sisters Of Mercy — Dominion/Mother Russia

43. Sisters Of Mercy — Lucretia My Reflection

44. Skinny Puppy — Tin Omen

45. The Smiths — Bigmouth Strikes Again

46. Tears for Fears — Shout

47. Thomas Dolby — Hyperactive

48. Tones On Tail — Go!

49. U2 — Bullet the Blue Sky

50. Van Halen – Panama

 

Top ‘90s Songs

1. AC/DC — Back In Black

2. Arrested Development — Tennessee

3. Bigod 20 — The Bog

4. The Chemical Brothers — Block Rockin’ Beats

5. Dead Can Dance — Yulunga (Spirit Dance)

6. Dead Can Dance — The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove

7. Dead Can Dance — Carnival Is Over

8. Death In Vegas — Dirt

9. Deee-Lite — Groove Is In The Heart

10. Deftones — My Own Summer (Shove It)

11. Depeche Mode — Enjoy the Silence

12. Depeche Mode — Policy of Truth

13. Depeche Mode — Barrel Of A Gun

14. Faith & the Muse — The Trauma Coil

15. Faith No More — Epic

16. Jane’s Addiction — Been Caught Stealing

17. Jesus Jones — Right Here Right Now

18. Lisa Gerrard — Sanvean: I Am Your Shadow

19. Manufacture — As The End Draws Near

20. Manufacture — A Measured Response

21. Marilyn Manson — The Beautiful People

22. Marilyn Manson — Rock Is Dead

23. My Dying Bride — Your Shameful Heaven

24. My Dying Bride — Turn Loose The Swans

25. My Dying Bride — She Is The Dark

26. My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult — A Daisy Chain 4 Satan

27. Nine Inch Nails — Broken

28. Nine Inch Nails — Hurt

29. Nitzer Ebb — Lighting Man

30. Rage Against The Machine — Killing In The Name

31. Rage Against The Machine — Wake Up

32. Rammstein — Sehnsucht

33. Red Hot Chili Peppers — Under The Bridge

34. Revolting Cocks — Stainless Steel Providers

35. Skinny Puppy — Tormentor

36. Sonic Youth — Kool Thing

37. Tool — Stinkfist

38. Type O Negative — Black No. 1

39. Type O Negative — Love You To Death

40. Type O Negative — Burnt Flowers Fallen

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A Review of Man on the Run

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 3, 2016

Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970sMan on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s by Tom Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man on the Run is an interesting biography of Paul McCartney and his family during the 1970s, as well as his band, Wings (one of my favorite bands of that decade). It is a long, thorough look at the good, bad, and ugly and pulls no punches, even while it clearly sympathizes with McCartney.
The book begins with the messy breakup of the Beatles, centering around the very public feud between Paul and John, which was part of the impetus for Paul’s decision to legally file to dissolve the Beatles. However, the legal ramifications showed that there were financial problems for the group and led to even more, thus sending Paul into a spiral of depression that led to he and his wife, Linda, to move to a farm in Scotland, out of the spotlight. During this period, he also lost a great deal of his confidence he had had in his abilities as a musician, as well as his own identity. Thankfully, Linda helped him through this crisis. Without her devoted love, who knows what would have happened to Paul?

The McCartney family became hippies and lived the hippy lifestyle, but Paul missed being in a band and missed touring, something he had tried to talk the Beatles into doing again and which they had refused to do. So he decided to start his own band – Wings. I didn’t know this, but there were actually three incarnations of Wings, three different bands over the years, all with Paul and Linda in them. And they were all comprised largely of studio musicians, mostly unknown. In my opinion, it’s frankly amazing Wings achieved the success and prominence they did with such an unassuming group of musicians. They obviously did this only with Paul’s leadership and drive.

However, first Paul put out a couple of solo albums, although one was credited to both he and his wife. They were all largely critical failures. The first Wings group met, practiced, and put out Wild Life in 1971. I don’t actually recall how it initially did, but ultimately it reached number 11 in the UK and number 10 in the US. Indeed, Paul’s first “hit” was a political song called “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” a song that was banned by the BBC. A 1972 non-hit was actually “Mary Had a Little Lamb, literally, which left both his band and the critics confused. Not Paul’s best decision. In 1973, Red Rose Speedway was released. It ultimately hit number 5 in the UK and number 1 in the US. In late 1973, the band got its first big break with Band on the Run, which immediately hit number 1 in both the UK and the US (the previous two albums achieved high chart status over time, not immediately). Band on the Run turned Wings into instant stars. 1973-4 hits include “Jet,” “Let Me Roll It, “ “My Love,” a major song that hit number one in the US, “Helen Wheels,” “Junior’s Farm,” “Band on the Run,” a huge hit that got to number three in the UK and number one in the US, and “Live and Let Die,” a theme song to a new James Bond movie and one that hit number two in the US.

And on it continued. After starting its career playing impromptu college student union tours for something like 50 pounds, Wings were now doing international stadium tours. And Paul could finally gloat over John, who had been taunting Paul publicly for years, basically calling him a giant failure while John, of course, was a musical genius. Not anymore. While John turned out the occasional hit, Paul McCartney and Wings were international stars selling out stadiums with superstar hit albums, something John couldn’t say. Paul could, temporarily, put his demons behind him.

However, there was a problem. Pot. He and Linda loved their pot. They smoked a lot of it. And they got it shipped to whatever country they were visiting on their tours. And in one country, Finland?, they were caught and it made international headlines. Of course, it was hugely embarrassing, but the couple actually embraced the moment and came out in favor of pot use and said they were in favor of legalizing it. Later in his career, Paul would be arrested in Japan for possession and it could have been a very serious situation. You should read the book to find out what happened.

Meanwhile, there were band personnel changes. Paul was a cheapskate and while he raked in millions, he paid his band members practically nothing at all. Finally, these session musicians would get fed up and state that they could make more doing session work back in New York or London, so they’d leave. Paul never really got the hint. It’s a shame. Still, he continued to put out good albums and tour with his new musicians.

In 1975, Venus and Mars was released and would ultimately hit number one in both the UK and US. 1975 hits included “Venus and Mars/Rock Show” and “Listen to What the Man Said, “ which would hit number one in the US. In 1976, Wings released two albums: Wings at the Speed of Sound and a live album, Wings over America. Both hit number two in America. They contained “Silly Love Songs,” which hit number two in the UK and number one in the US and “Let ‘Em In,” which hit number two in the UK and number three in the US. In 1977, “Mull of Kintyre” was released, instantly a huge hit in the UK, remaining at number one longer than any other song in British history until that time, I believe. However, in America, it didn’t fare so well, just getting to number 33.

It was at this time that Wings peaked. Already there was a third group of musicians and maybe it was chemistry, maybe Paul was burned out from the nonstop, frantic pace of the decade, I don’t know, but the following two albums weren’t nearly as good as the preceding albums by most accounts. In 1978, London Town was released. It didn’t do as well. Only Paul, Linda, and the lead guitarist were on the album cover because those were the only people in the band. It actually happens to be one of my favorite albums of all time, because I was a youngish kid when it came out and it was one of the first albums I had and my best friend and I listened to it over and over while building model planes. I love that album, but most critics do not. It’s not considered one of the better Wings albums, but it did hit number four in the UK and number two in the US. There were three singles released from this album, but the only one that really charted high was “With a Little Luck,” one of my all time favorite songs, which hit number five in the UK and number one in the US. Wings’ last gasp in the studio came in 1979 with Back to the Egg. It hit number eight in the UK and number three in the US. Its’ biggest single was “Getting Closer,” which made it to number 60 in the UK and number 20 in the US. And aside from some more solo work over the years, Paul was done and Wings were definitely done as a group. It was the end of an era. A highly successful era, a great decade of music, one of my favorite groups, as I said. And while the rest of the Beatles went on to do solo work and while John achieved some success, clearly Paul McCartney ended up the most successful Beatle of them all, post-Beatles. The best musician, the one who taught John and George how to play, ended up teaching Linda and helping his studio musicians put out a series of commercially successful albums and successful world tours, something the other Beatles rarely, if ever, achieved.

John sniped at Paul throughout most of their post-Beatles lives and Paul, on occasion, sniped back. Paul never really understood where John’s hostility came from, his utter hatred. Paul tried to make peace a number of times. There were a few times John seemed to accept the olive branch, only to blindside Paul later with public attacks that hurt Paul deeply. Fortunately, some time before John’s premature death, they buried the hatchet and reconnected, so that’s a very good thing and even though the author implies John was the major one to start things between the two, he treats all of the Beatles with reasonable respect and points out Paul’s faults when necessary.

The author stresses certain things that are important to Paul, such as family. He brought his family on the road with him, kids included. This sometimes made his band members uncomfortable, as it limited their abilities to lead the stereotypical 1970s rock and roll lifestyle (i.e., groupies), and it led to tension, but Paul was dedicated to his wife and kids and that’s generally a good thing. He was the only Beatle to have a 100% successful marriage/relationship. That’s impressive. He was also committed to financial honesty, at least in his dealings with the Beatles and in management’s dealings with the band. He figured out quite quickly that the manager the other three had hired had been screwing the band out of millions while paying the band crap, so he sued – and won – and was vindicated in doing so. The only difficulty with his financial honesty was in his dealings with his band because he stuck with his commitment to pay his band members their agreed upon wages, but when they struck it rich with their new number one hits and their world tours, he wouldn’t share the riches and it was truly rather greedy of him, unfortunately. A McCartney wart.

This hardback I read isn’t long, just over 250 pages. However, it’s packed with so much information and trivia, it takes longer to get through than your average 250 page book. Still, it’s informative and exciting and exactly what I’ve been looking for. I know a lot about the Beatles. I know a lot about John during the 1970s. What I didn’t know was what happened to Paul during the 1970s and the story of Wings and I didn’t know a book like this existed. So I’m elated to have discovered it and read it. I learned a ton of new information, some good, some bad, but all fascinating, and it answers a lot of questions I had about these people, that band, and that decade. For anyone who’s a fan of McCartney and Wings, this is a must read for you. Even if you’re just a Beatles fan or a 1970s music buff, this will be a good read for you. Four stars and definitely recommended.

View all my reviews

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End of the Year Post 2015

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2015

I wrote this blog post quite early this morning and didn’t post it. I wasn’t sure about it. Since then, I’ve reread it twice and have had second thoughts about posting it. I usually post an End of Year post on the last day of the year, but this one is too depressing, too negative. I don’t think I want to be a downer for my readers. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to post it after all, although I’m not sure it’s a great idea. It does, however, describe my year, which is my intent. If you’re not interested in reading a depressing or negative post, feel free to skip this one. No hard feelings. If you’re interested at all, feel free to read it though. Hopefully 2016 will be better for me/us and hopefully all of you will have a good 2016. Happy New Year!

 

On the last day of each year, I write a year in review post. Here are the links to the 2014 Year in Review blog post and the 2012 End of the Year blog post. I had a lot going on in both years. If you read them, you’ll note I had some health problems, particularly last year. Well, I’m about to write an abbreviated post for 2015. It’s abbreviated because this year was largely a personal disaster due to hideous, nightmarish health and pain problems and I/we didn’t really get to do very much at all.

In January, my mother celebrated her 85th birthday. Although she’s had a couple of bad falls this year with broken bones, she still is relatively good health and living alone in a condo in Knoxville, TN.

In February, I developed severe back pain to accompany my head and facial pain, out of the blue. It took time, but over the course of the year, I sought treatment from my orthopedist and a rheumatologist, as well as physical therapists. It seems I have spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, massive osteo-arthritis throughout my entire body, and a broken tailbone. They’re recommending surgery to remove my tailbone, probable spinal fusion surgery, and down the road, two hip replacement surgeries. My pain has been at about a 9.6 out of 10 level every day this year and virtually no pain medication helps.

About the same time, my head pain increased and got worse. My Trigeminal Neuralgia was joined by at least one, perhaps two, other types of head pain, which I have been trying to have diagnosed and treated all year, with little help. My two types of head and facial pain have been at a 9.6 out of 10 level every day, virtually all day all year long with virtually no relief from any pain medication. Any pain medication that used to be helpful is no longer useful. I now have three new diagnoses for additional types of head pain disorders, all three of which can be extremely painful, one of which is supposed to be the most painful condition known to mankind. I don’t know. My wife and I are convinced there’s another undiagnosed condition that has yet to be treated, since I’m responding to no treatment.

Since this spring, my longtime insomnia has worsened. I am averaging about three hours of sleep a night and am now, in fact, waking up and getting up between 11 PM and 12:30 AM. It sounds insane, but it’s true. That means I go to bed early, but I still get only two to three hours of sleep. I also can no longer successfully nap. I started falling asleep at red lights while out driving, and in chairs sitting up, and at doctor’s offices, and at church dinners, and my wife and I suspect I may have narcolepsy so I have an appointment with my sleep doctor in a few weeks to discuss this.

During the spring, somehow I was able to get to some of the concerts I was able to buy tickets for 2014 Christmas for my wife. Because of my health problems, we unfortunately had to blow some off and waste that money, but we did get to see Lewis Black, Weird Al Yankovic, The Who (which was awesome), and Barry Manilow, which was pretty much the highlight of my wife’s life. We blew tickets to Chicago and a Pittsburgh Penguins game. Oh well. We had good times.

In April, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary. It was pretty low key. It feels like we’ve been together for so much longer than that. We have a wonderful relationship and I’m very lucky to have Gretchen for a wife and best friend. April is also Gretchen’s birthday and so that was pleasant, although she’s not thrilled about getting older. I keep telling her she looks and acts infinitely younger than she is, looks at least 10 years younger than other women her age. I think she knows that intellectually, but still is annoyed with aging. I think she’s still sexy as hell. She always will be.

In July, I started going to a new neurologist who I didn’t like personally very much, but who, to his credit, did try some new things. He’s an egomaniac, but then many doctors are, I suppose. He’s given me a couple of Botox injection treatments so far and has tried a number of new medications on me, none of which have helped, but at least he’s trying.

Also, in July my head pain got even worse, if possible. Since I’m up 21 hours a day on average, it became 21 hours of pain a day, every day, without break. At a near 10 out of 10 scale, which combined with my back pain made life nearly unendurable. I applied to get into Vanderbilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic, which has a good reputation, thinking that after nearly six years of treatment in Chattanooga and only getting worse, I need to go elsewhere if I’m going to get better. July was also the second anniversary of my father’s death. It was a sad occasion.

I had my birthday in September. I suppose it was low key, as I remember nothing about it. This fall has been largely a blur, due to my pain status. I’ve been super focused, while also at the same time, largely oblivious. If that makes any sense. I particularly enjoy September and October because of sports. You have college football, the NFL, baseball, hockey just starting, college basketball just around the corner. It’s pretty awesome. I enjoyed watching my Pirates make the playoffs for the third straight year, watching my Tennessee Vols have a frustrating but ultimately successful 8-4 bowl year and my UCLA team have a winning bowl year, my Steelers have a injury-plagued year in which they still have a minor chance of making the playoffs and the hockey season, in which we paid for a year of NHL Gamecenter Live, in which you can watch any game you want – not on national TV – live for a one time set price. So I get to watch my Penguins quite often. If only they were playing up to their expectations and potential. It’s been disappointing so far. Of course, the UT Lady Vols are doing well so far, but they’ve had so many injuries, they’ve only been able to dress seven players lately, so it’s only a matter of time until they start losing many games and the men’s Vols basketball team has a great new coach, but not much talent while my Long Beach State team is having a rough year getting beat up by major teams like Duke.

In October, I finally got to go to Vandy. I was instructed to bring my medical records, so I spent two weeks and hundreds of my own dollars getting them, Gretchen took a vacation day, we drove six hours two ways, went to Nashville and met with a doctor who didn’t even want to look at my records, said they weren’t important, didn’t want to discuss my background with me, spent perhaps 15-20 minutes with me, prescribed a useless migraine medication for me, said I needed Botox immediately (so they scheduled me for three and a half months away) and, when Gretchen asked if we couldn’t just get this done in Chattanooga, reacted angrily and said it had to be done there. We left pretty ticked off at what waste of time and effort that was. I haven’t canceled my next appointment there yet, but I will. There’s no point in going. Meanwhile, my mom has stepped up to the plate and said she’ll pay for me to go anywhere to help get me fixed, cured, whatever. So, I’ve been researching Mayo, Johns Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic, UCLA, etc. So far, Johns Hopkins would be convenient because that’s where Gretchen’s family lives, but Mayo seems most impressive by far. I’m not going to pursue it just yet though. Want to exhaust things here in town first.

In November, we traveled to Maryland to visit Gretchen’s parents, sons, and friends. It was a difficult trip for me health wise, but she had been wanting to go for months and we hadn’t been up there for a year and a half, so it was time. And we had a good time over Thanksgiving. It was good to see everyone. We also celebrated our one year anniversary of getting our kitten, Ace, who has become Gretchen’s baby. He’s now about 16 months old, and Henry just turned 10 years old, which is unreal because I can remember when he was just a month old, but they get along much better now and Ace is calming down a little bit finally. But just a little bit. Ace is also the most social, codependent cat I’ve ever seen in my whole life! He needs to be with people like nothing I’ve ever seen. He needs to be held. When we went to Maryland, we hired petsitters to come to the house twice a day to help mostly Ace. Henry is pretty independent and I’ve left him by himself for a good three days or so, but Ace couldn’t take even one day, I’m sure. It’s kind of sad. Cute, but sad. Nonetheless, we love them both and they add to our lives tremendously.

This month, we celebrated our five year anniversary of when we started dating. That’s always an exciting occasion for us and fun to remember. We also had a very subdued Christmas, which was somewhat anticlimactic. My pain was so severe and I was on so much pain medication, it was virtually impossible for me to function at all. My mother drove down from Knoxville to be with us on Christmas day and we exchanged a few gifts, nothing like last year. We couldn’t put up our tree this year like we’ve done in the past because of Ace. He goes wild. We put up a mini-tree we bought, with some lights and ornaments. That was destroyed the first night. We put up an old ceramic tree with plastic lights I’ve had for decades, but Gretchen thought better of it, so she got a little wooden tree with a string of lights and that was our tree. We didn’t even put presents out until the night before because Ace would destroy them. We try to control him, but we really can’t.

One year-long note. Early this year I was forced to drop my Obamacare and start using my Medicare I got last year when I went on disability. I had no idea how that would change my life. It’s been a nightmare. Medicare Part D is a freaking nightmare from hell! With Obamacare and BCBS, my monthly medical bills came to roughly $400 a month. With Medicare, I was quickly paying up to as much as $2,800 a month in medical bills, almost all of it prescriptions. One of my prescriptions alone had a co-pay of $800! That’s fucking insane! That total is more than double my disability check. How the hell am I supposed to pay for that? And I have no choice. As long as I’m on disability – and there’s no way I can work – I have to be on Medicare and as long as I’m on Medicare, I’m stuck paying thousands a month for medical/prescription bills. It’s unfair and cruel and I resent it like hell. It’s practically ruined my life even more. Thanks for the added stress, government. Thanks for practically bankrupting me. Appreciate it.

Well, I guess that’s about it for 2015. It was truly a horrible year. Probably worse than 2011, perhaps. I don’t know that 2016 will be any better, but I’m hoping it will be because we intend to aggressively pursue medical treatments for my back and head and solutions and ways to diminish and end my pain. I don’t know if that’s possible or reasonable, but dammit, we’ve got to try. My wife, meanwhile, has her good job, although without insurance, and Obamacare just doubled her premium, so we can no longer afford it, so that’s just great. So she’s actually thinking about looking for a new job next year, which would mean leaving her nice, cushy job that’s so great otherwise. Pity. I hope anyone reading this has a pleasant New Year and a wonderful 2016. Cheers!

 

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Weird Al Concert

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 9, 2015

Friday night was the Weird Al Yankovic concert in Knoxville. Back at the beginning of the year, I found out about it and bought tickets because my wife, Gretchen, is a HUGE fan. She knows all of his songs and all of the lyrics. When I told her about it, she was so excited and was disappointed she’d have to wait so long to see him. Well, the day finally arrived. Bear in mind that, for months, I’ve been having to deal with significant head and back pain. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I didn’t have any. So I was concerned. And in fact, I had some. A lot. Gretchen said we didn’t have to go, but I had to, we had to, she had to see her show. So we left Chattanooga at 4:30 and made the two hour drive to Knoxville and checked into our hotel and got a bite to eat.

Let me interject. The day before the show, I got a voicemail from someone from CID Entertainment telling me I had bought the VIP package and I’d have to pick up my tickets, not at Will Call, but in a different building entirely. Additionally, there’d be gift bags and a party. I called the next day, the day of the show, to confirm this and indeed I had bought VIP tickets. No wonder they were so damn expensive. I just thought they were cause they were in the third row. Oh well. Sadly, we couldn’t make the party. We hadn’t known about it in time and just couldn’t make it. But we got our gift bags and got the tickets and we went into the Tennessee Theater, which is a beautiful theater where we had seen comedians and concerts before. The show was sold out. We got Gretchen a concert t-shirt and she was excited. Then we found our seats. They were aisle seats, which I normally like, but in this case, they weren’t that great, even though they were close to the stage. There was a huge screen as the backdrop and I could only see part of it because I was simply cut off from seeing the whole thing. Oh well.

The show began promptly at 8 PM. On the screen, Weird Al appeared. He was outside somewhere singing his hit, “Tacky.” He was walking and singing. Soon it appeared as though he were actually outside in Knoxville near the theater. Soon it became apparent he WAS and he was walking toward the entrance, singing, and soon he entered the theater and made his way into the theater from the back and came down the aisle before going up onto the stage, all the while on the screen. It was a pretty awesome entrance.

He sang several songs from his new album, Mandatory Fun, and then spent the rest of his time singing old favorites. I knew the newer stuff, as I have the album, but as I’ve never been a real fan, I didn’t know a lot of the older stuff, although Gretchen had played some of it for me, so I did recognize some of it. He came out for one encore and it was pretty great. The crowd went wild for him all night. The crowd was interesting in that there were people our age, young people, old people, teens, and little kids. A lot of little kids. And every single person there was a nerd. I’ve never been around so many nerds in my life. It was hilarious. After the show, I was still feeling pretty wretched, so we would normally have a drink or two, but we just went back to our hotel room and I passed out. Still, it was a good night and I’m glad we did it and Gretchen was really happy, so that made me happy. Here are some pictures.

 

Weird Al singing "Tacky"

Weird Al singing “Tacky”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Al singing "Dare To Be Stupid"

Weird Al singing “Dare To Be Stupid”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Al singing "Fat"

Weird Al singing “Fat”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Al singing "I Want To Be Your Lover"

Weird Al singing “I Want To Be Your Lover”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Al going out into the crowd

Weird Al going out into the crowd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Al singing "Amish Paradise"

Weird Al singing “Amish Paradise”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Al singing "The Sage Begins"

Weird Al singing “The Sage Begins”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen wearing her new Weird Al concert t-shirt

Gretchen wearing her new Weird Al concert t-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Review of Comfortably Numb

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 21, 2015

Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink FloydComfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! After reading this book, I’ve come to the conclusion that Roger Waters was one of the biggest assholes who has ever lived. He was/is a freakin’ monster! A bully. A grouch. Never happy. Always has to be right. Always has to win. Always has to have the last word. Confrontational. Critical as hell. A royal dick. To everyone. Especially to David Gilmour. And Richard Wright. He generally spared Nick Mason.

This is one of the most comprehensive rock bios I’ve ever read, starting out with the group’s boyhoods in Cambridge in the 1950s to their forming the band in the mid-60s. Of course, Syd Barret was the singer and guitar player and was charisma personified. This book probably is probably one fourth about Syd, which irritated the hell out of me and nearly knocked it down a star. I’ve never understood the writer’s, fan’s, and band’s obsession of and love for Syd Barret. Floyd’s classic album Wish You Were Here was made as a tribute to Barret and just about every album they produced had songs that were tributes to him. Yet he was only with the band for one fucking album!!! The first one. The band has been in existence for 50 years and he was with the band for about two, so get the fuck over him people. Damn! He wasn’t even that good. And six months into their first album’s existence, he went insane. Too many drugs, mostly pot and LSD. Lots and lots of acid, daily. He burned himself out. He went from being a fun, eccentric, vibrant young man with lots of promise to a basic corpse on stage who couldn’t/wouldn’t sing and just let his guitar hand around his neck without playing it. So the band hired their friend David Gilmour to come in and back Barret up, to play the guitar for him and even sing the songs, all the while pretending it was Syd. But that didn’t last very long. After about six months of that, one night the band decided not to pick Syd up for a show. And then they didn’t the next night. And after that, he was gone.

Pink Floyd got their start playing at the UFO, a psychedelic club in London where they were the house band and everyone was tripping. When their first album came out, it generally got decent reviews and made them minor stars. They were doing what was called acid rock or space rock, take your pick. After Syd left, they had to find a new songwriter, so Roger took that role on his shoulders and became the band’s de facto leader. He wrote the songs, with minor contributions from the others and Gilmour sang. Gilmour was apparently an excellent guitar player, while Waters was a mediocre bassist, but he was an ideas man and felt good about that.

Their next few albums got decent reviews, but weren’t huge sellers and their record company was begging them for a hit single. Finally, they produced the all time classic, Dark Side of the Moon, which stayed on the charts for an amazing 14 straight years. That changed everything. It went to number one in many countries, made them superstars, and made them rich. And they went on tours. Big tours. Expensive tours. Tours that Waters became dictator of in regards to everything in every detail.

Wish You Were Here and Animals came out over the next few years and sold well. Everyone seemed to know the first one was the band’s tribute to Syd, who by this time was quite ill. But Gilmour was watching out for him, making sure he was getting his royalties and being taken care of. Around this time, Waters had had enough of Wright, who he thought wasn’t contributing enough, so he got the band to fire him, which was stunning. Wright’s keyboards played in integral role on virtually every Floyd song there was and he had even written some songs, so it was just a crazy power play. This didn’t sit well with Gilmour, who by this time was having a hard time even conversing cordially with Waters.

Meanwhile, Waters had a vision. He wanted to do a themed album, a brutal album about a rock star who goes crazy, gets power hungry, but is then redeemed at the end. In other words, himself. And Syd. He wrote the songs for The Wall and the band put it all together for a year and a half. The band hired Wright back, but not as a full member, rather as an hourly player with no credits. Somehow Wright agreed to this. When The Wall came out, it was a huge hit and Waters was flush with pride. And then they made it into a movie, starring Bob Geldoff as the main character. Waters hated Geldoff, but couldn’t do anything about the casting. The band went on a huge tour with some 200 roadies, all around the world, and made a killing, but Waters pissed everyone off so much, that a lot of people refused to ever speak to him again. Gilmour, by this time, hardly spoke to Waters, himself. He had had it with him. And Waters had had it with Gilmour. So he quit Pink Floyd and tried to dissolve the band. But Gilmour and Mason had other ideas. They wanted to keep the band going, with Wright, and still put out albums under the Pink Floyd name. Waters was incensed and sued them to stop it. He lost. Hah! Serves him right. He went on to do solo albums, none of which made a dent in the charts. He toured to crowds of 6,000 people, but claimed it didn’t bother him. Meanwhile, the remaining members of Pink Floyd gradually decided to do another album, after Gilmour put out his own solo album, which also didn’t sell. A Momentary Lapse of Reason was produced with Gilmour writing most of the songs, with the help of his then journalist girlfriend, later his wife. The album shot to number one everywhere and the band went out on huge stadium tours playing to 80,000 people at a time. Gilmour must have felt vindicated, but Waters couldn’t let it go, bitching that Gilmour could only do it with the help of his wife, that he didn’t have the talent to do it on his own. He also said the album sucked.

Fast forward a few years. There are more solo albums, by everyone. None sold well. The members of Pink Floyd decide to do another album and spend a good bit of time producing it. It hit number one on the charts too and they went on another big tour. During this tour, they played new stuff, very old stuff, including stuff from the first album, and the entire Dark Side of the Moon album. Recordings of the concert were later released as Pulse. Of course, Waters was immensely critical.

And that’s about it. Waters produced an opera that was mildly successful and allegedly mellowed in his 60s. The band reunited for Liveaid 8 around 2005 and there was speculation they’d get together again. Waters even indicated he’d be willing to, but Gilmour wouldn’t hear of it. He hated Waters too much. He turned down a $250,000,000 offer. The book ends with a new solo Gilmour album that becomes the band’s first solo album to sell successfully and with Gilmour finally finding some peace. And with Syd’s death in 2006. He lived very frugally, but to everyone’s surprise, was quite rich when he died. He left his money to his brothers and sisters. None of the band members attended the funeral. Syd was quite insane for most of his life. A pity.

One of the cool things about this book is the detailed descriptions of the covers and how they came about. How they were conceived and shot or drawn. You don’t usually get that in rock bios and I was glad to see that. You also get commentary on most songs on the albums. Pink Floyd is one of the most enduring and successful bands in rock history. This book does them justice and is definitely recommended for fans and anyone else.

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A Review of Who I Am

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 25, 2015

Who I AmWho I Am by Pete Townshend

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, this book was a gigantic disappointment! I got it after seeing The Who on their 50th Anniversary Tour stopover in Atlanta. Pete was funny, engaging, a great musician and all around great guy. I’ve always admired him. I thought this would be a great book. Boy, was I wrong.

Now Keith Richards’ autobiography is the standard by which all rock autobiographies are written. It’s excellent. I thought this one could mirror that at least. It doesn’t. Instead, it’s a series of loosely collected, somewhat chronologically arranged anecdotes, some of which begin and end with one paragraph and others of which run on for pages. Pete talks about his spiritual adviser, Meher Baba — although he never met him — without giving us any idea as to why he felt so strongly about him. Pete name drops constantly, without giving us much detail on who these people are to the importance of the text. Maybe a brief explanation, but that’s it. A sentence. What the scoop on the band? Won’t get it here. I know almost nothing more about The Who now than when I started the book. I know Roger had a temper and liked to start fights when he was younger. OK. I know Keith and John were party animals. But you never really get a sense for who these men are. What their relationships are like. How they worked together. It’s very frustrating. As for Pete, he marries Karen and has two daughters. He goes on tour and tries to remain loyal, but when he gets drunk, does the groupie thing. And then feels somewhat guilty. But not very. And he constantly falls in love. Or is it lust? Pete becomes a raging alcoholic and then a raging cokehead, but eventually cleans up on the coke. He relapses on the alcohol. After 25 years of marriage to Karen, they split up and he takes a new, young lover. What were the reasons for the split up? Not really mentioned. He just said the marriage was suffering. He doesn’t really get at the meat of things in this book. It’s like when 11 people are killed in a stampede at a Cincinnati concert in 1979 — you’d think that’d be time for reflection, but they just leave town and go to the next concert. Here’s something that really irritated the shit out of me — he claimed to be broke all the damn time, but in the very next paragraph was buying a new mansion and a new yacht and a new sailboat and a new car and a new studio and all sorts of expensive equipment to go into it. I don’t know how many houses he had at one point, but it was A LOT! But he was broke. Um, yeah. Sure, Pete. He graciously decided to go on tour with the group after he had decided to shut the band down because he didn’t want the other band members to have to live in smaller houses. Classy. Here’s another thing I didn’t like — he spent half the damn book talking about albums that were utter shit while ignoring classics like Who’s Next! Who cares about some of the ones he focuses on? Iron Man? Really? An album from a book from Ted Hughes? Really? And he went on and on about Tommy. We had to learn about the 8th stage production of the show on some tiny stage in some podunk town in some small state in mid-America, like it mattered at all. When he could have been writing about more important things. Like his relationship to his bandmates. Or to Karen. Or to his daughters. Or his songs. Or something. I’m so sick of hearing about Tommy I want to puke. And then there’s the pedophilia thing, something I had forgotten. He sets it up beautifully. He starts implying early on that he starts “remembering” possible sexual abuse by his grandmother and a male friend of hers when he was a child. He relives this in therapy. He never goes into detail. It’s just implied. Then, he mentions that he meets a Russian who wants to start a Russian orphanage who he’s going to help out financially and he goes online to a search engine and types in something like Russian orphanage little boys or something like that and is all of a sudden confronted with kiddie porn. He’s horrified. He’s outraged. He wants to write an expose on kiddie porn on the Internet, so he goes about researching it. Sound stupid yet? He goes to a site and enters his credit card number to show that banks are working with kiddie porn sites, without bothering to think that now it’s HIS credit card number the feds have on file. And sure enough, he’s arrested and all ELEVEN of his computer are confiscated. And he pleads no contest. Sign of guilt? Who knows? Pedophile? Who knows? Disappointing, that’s for sure. He spends a lot of time setting this topic up and then almost no time at all once it arrives and is addressed. I wonder why. Two last things. This typifies the book to me. At the end of the book, he is writing about various things, wrapping up, and he writes about being a heroin addict. Um, what the hell??? Where did that come from? When was that ever addressed in the book? Never mentioned. Damned bizarre. The second thing — when Keith dies, he writes that Roger called him and said that Keith had did it. And that’s it. That’s all he says about Keith’s death. So I don’t know if Keith committed suicide, if he OD’d, if he died of natural causes, how this affected the band, how this affected Pete, how this affected the fans, nothing. All I know is that Pete immediately got a new drummer and got the band back out on tour which strikes me as pretty shitty. When John dies, there’s more, but not much. Pete just doesn’t put much into human relationships in this book. And it’s sad. It’s like he’s an immature, self absorbed, egomaniacal-yet-frail person who wrote a bad book which was badly edited and now here it is and it’s bitterly disappointing. I wanted to give it four stars or better, but I just can’t and I can’t recommend it either. Too bad.

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A Review of Nothing’ to Lose: The Making of KISS

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 17, 2015

Nothin' to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975)Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS by Ken Sharp

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, this was a fascinating book! It’s a behind the scenes look at the creation of KISS and their rise to fame, circa 1972-1975. It’s co-authored by two band members, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, so you see a lot more of their viewpoints than others, but they have good stuff to share, so it works out. It’s interestingly presented in that it’s 99% interviews. The primary author, Ken Sharp, sets up a chapter or section with a brief paragraph and then there is page after page of interviews with band members, managers, record company owners and employees, producers, DJs, fans, concert attendees, and other bands, some of whom liked KISS and some of whom hated them. Very interesting.

KISS got its start in Queens with Gene and Paul wanting to start a band. They found Peter Criss, their drummer, through a newspaper/magazine ad, and I think they found Ace by guitarists trying out and him standing out to them. The band started out named Wicked Lester and they only played at the Coventry. Apparently, in the early ’70s, there were only three clubs in all of NYC that would take bands playing original music — all of the rest wanted covers. KISS wasn’t about covers. KISS was about heavy metal partying. They were about girls and love and lust and life. Nothing subtle. Nothing to think about. Not your thinking man’s band. But they played the hell out of the Coventry. Then they got a gig at a club in Amnityville, out on Long Island. Yep, that Amnityville. And by this time, they were wearing early versions of their makeup, although Paul was just wearing red lipstick and rouge. (Even after reading this book, it still isn’t clear to me who came up with the kubuki makeup thing. It happened early. It was obviously a gimmick. I just don’t know.) Glam was popular at the time, and KISS wanted to out-glam all of them. They found a manager and then started doing gigs at an old hotel in NYC, a place where other decent bands had played, but was run down. By then, several people had heard of them and were started to come see their shows. Their manager sent them on the road. To tiny little places no one’s ever heard of to play at places like high school cafeterias and barns. I’m not kidding. And they went all out, pretending they were at Madison Square Garden every time. They thought they owed it to the audience and they were trying to build an audience one person at a time. They went on a three city Canadian tour and froze their pants off. Again, they played in odd places. They were glad to get home.

A fellow came into their lives named Neil Bogart, who was a record company owner. He loved KISS and could envision big things for them, so he started a new company called Casablanca, aligned it with Warner, and signed KISS. KISS made a record. The record didn’t sell. They continued to tour. They opened for just about anyone. They opened for folk artists. They opened for comedians. They opened for Manfred Mann, who hated them. They opened for ZZ Top. They opened for Slade. They opened for Black Oak Arkansas, which was a strange combo. They hated each other. They opened for Black Sabbath. Sabbath hated them and dropped them from the tour midway through. Still, they soldiered on.

By this time, their show had gotten big. They had their makeup and costumes. Gene was breathing fire and spitting blood. They had huge amps and could blow the sound of just about anyone off the stage. They had drums on risers. It was pretty professional, especially for an opening act. It got to the point where not many bands wanted KISS to open for them cause they were concerned about being upstaged.

A side note. The band were not partiers. Gene and Paul didn’t drink or do drugs. Ace drank a lot, but kept to himself. Peter enjoyed the girls. They all enjoyed the girls, actually. The rumors about the groupies are apparently true. Lines and lines of girls waiting to be let into the hotel rooms of these guys just for a quickie. Bizarre. I’ve never understood groupies. Still, they didn’t trash hotel rooms or do crazy things like Zeppelin did and other bands.

A second album came out. Sold about the same amount as the first. Not much. They couldn’t get radio airplay. They weren’t a singles band. They also couldn’t get press. Rolling Stone detested them. About the only magazine to cover them was Creem, based in Detroit, the city KISS made their home. They considered themselves to be a blue collar rock and roll band playing gritty, real life stuff and they thought they would appeal to blue collar workers who had shitty jobs who would like to bang heads for a few hours. And they were right.

Sometime along the way, Neil cut ties with Warner because he didn’t think they were promoting KISS sufficiently, so he took a big gamble and mortgaged his house and maxed out his credit cards. KISS was losing money like crazy. Still, everyone thought they’d make it. Big. It was just a matter of time. There were more and more fans. The shows were getting sold out. You’d see t-shirts and posters. People would call up radio stations and ask for KISS.

Third album — Dressed to Kill. Had “Rock and Roll All Nite” on it. Didn’t chart. They couldn’t buy radio airtime. It did sell better than the first two albums, but not enough to generate enough money so that they’d go into the black. What to do?

Someone came up with the idea to capture the intensity of their live shows on an album, because they just didn’t think it was happening with the albums they had put out so far. So Alive was born. It was a double live album and had a great cover shot of the band and it sold — in the millions! And “Rock and Roll All Nite” (live) made the top 20. All of a sudden, they were international stars. Someone in middle America, a schoolboy, decided to start the KISS Army, to which I belonged as a kid, and it grew to become huge. All of a sudden, they were headliners. Pre-Steve Perry Journey opened for them. Rush opened for them. Rush and KISS came out about the same time, KISS perhaps a year or two earlier, so they could each relate to how things were going for each other. KISS loved Rush and Rush loved KISS. They had nothing but great things to say about each other in this book. Some kids at a high school in the midwest wrote KISS to ask if they’d come to their homecoming and they did! The whole town came out for it. Everyone dressed as a KISS member, babies and old people. The mayor gave them the key to the city. This, after the local clergy had taken him to task for allowing them to come to town. Hah! It was fun to read about.

One of the great things about this book is all of the pictures. There are hundreds of pictures of KISS, of liner notes, scrawled lyrics, fliers from early shows, etc. Real collector item stuff. The reason I’m giving this book four stars instead of five, however, is the incredible redundancy. The author would raise an issue, there would be an interview quote about it and then something like 10-15 more just like it. It’s like he was beating you over the head with it. It really ticked me off. Just give us a few. Some of these interview quotes were completely unnecessary. Did he have a page count he had to make? It just went on and on. The book gets a five for the photos and a three for the redundancy and a four plus for the story, so a solid four overall. Recommended.

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Barry Manilow Concert

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 5, 2015

Last night, we went to Atlanta to see Barry Manilow in concert. Yeah, not someone I would normally see, but my wife’s a lifelong fan and has never seen him, so I got her tickets for Christmas. It’s been agonizing waiting a half year to see him, but she said it was worth it.

We somehow made it through the crazy Atlanta traffic to the Gwinnett Center, where we saw The Who (another Christmas present) two months ago. We waited and let everyone else go in before entering. We went to the bathroom and bought drinks and then stood in line so Gretchen could get a tour t-shirt. And stood in line. And stood in line. It was horrible. Finally she got her t-shirt, put it on immediately, and we found our seats. I was a little nervous about how the seats would be. I got us great seats for The Who, but even though I tried to get pre-sale tickets for this show the minute they went on sale, I couldn’t get good seats and had to settle. So we were pleasantly surprised when we found we were in section 106, row AA. That meant we were against the wall on the bottom level. No one behind us to kick us in the back and spill stuff on us. And a walk way in front of us so we could stretch out our legs. And it was raised, so our sight line was awesome. It was a little higher than I would have preferred, but considering what I thought we would be getting, these were pretty awesome.

Let me tell you — I’ve never seen so many old people at a concert in my life before! It was hilarious. People in wheelchairs, using walkers and canes. White hair, if any at all. I felt young. In fairness, there were people of all ages there, but it was mostly an older crowd, and no surprise here, mostly a female crowd. Still, there were a lot of husbands there with their wives, so I didn’t feel like I stuck out too much.

The opener was a smooth jazz musician named Dave Koz. I’m not a big fan of smooth jazz, but he had a lot of energy and seemed pretty excited to be there, and he did a fine job, so it wasn’t too bad.

Then Barry came on. The crowd went apeshit nuts! I’ve never seen such a crowd so crazed over a performer before. I was wondering when the bras and panties were going to be flung up onto the stage. It was crazy. Everyone had glow sticks, which they had handed out, and they were waving everywhere. Gretchen was the first one standing, waving her glow sticks, cheering, singing, and dancing. She had a ball! That made me very happy. I didn’t know that many of the songs, but it was enjoyable. He was quite the showman. Really knows how to charm an audience. Seemed really authentic too. The crowd went nuts when he sang “Mandy.” Other songs were equally appreciated.

I guess due to the older nature of the audience members, the show ended fairly early (it started early), and we made it back to our hotel in good time. We went to a nearby tavern for a nightcap and so that Gretchen could calm down. She was psyched.  She’s wearing her concert t-shirt again today. Heh. Will probably be wearing it for a week. So, we’re back from Atlanta now, having braved the damn traffic once more and we’re happy to be home. We missed the kitties. But we had a good time and Gretchen was very happy and those are the things that count. Some pics:

 

Us, waiting to get into the Barry Manilow concert

Us, waiting to get into the Barry Manilow concert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen in her new Manilow concert tour t-shirt

Gretchen in her new Manilow concert tour t-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arena glow sticks

Arena glow sticks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lights

Lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow

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A Review of Hey Ho Let’s Go

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 6, 2015

Hey Ho Let's Go: The Story of the RamonesHey Ho Let’s Go: The Story of the Ramones by Everett True

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read and wrote a review of a book called Ramones on November 26, 2013, so much of this is overlapping. With that in mind, I’m going to reprint some of that review here:

“Let me begin by saying I’ve liked the Ramones for a very long time. Since roughly 1980. And while I’ve enjoyed their music, I never thought they were musical geniuses or lyrical geniuses the way Lennon and McCartney were or even Trent Reznor. It was just fun, fast music. This book is about the music, but I’m downgrading it a couple of stars because the author thinks the Ramones are the world’s greatest band, for all intents and purposes. He’s a real fan boy. But since this is an authorized biography, I guess you would expect that.

The band started out in New York in 1974. Four disaffected young people who couldn’t play a musical instrument to save their lives. They couldn’t even imitate their musical heroes, the way Bowie or McCartney did. But they did get instruments and learn a chord. Their first show was a disaster, but soon the new club, CBGB’s, found them and nothing was ever the same again. They’d come on stage and rip through 17 songs in 15 minutes or 23 or 24 songs in 20 minutes. The object seemed to be to get through the songs as quickly as possible, with as much loudness as possible. The chiefs at Sire, a new outfit, heard their demo and signed them, and all of a sudden they had a record. And it got great reviews! All of a sudden, they were the founders and leaders of a new punk movement, and they influenced the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, and many, many other bands. They toured a lot and continued putting out records. That’s pretty much the book. A couple of lineup changes, the only one of which — when bassist and song writer Dee Dee quit — was big. There’s mention of drugs and alcohol, but just barely. This is a PG rated book, unlike other rock biographies I’ve read. A lot of the songs are quoted in the text, or snippets of songs, but it serves, in my opinion, to show just how insipid their lyrics were — not how great they were like the author asserts! While the Ramones never sold many records, they did tour a lot, and I guess that’s what prompted the author to write, “Everyone in the known universe loves the Ramones today.” Huh? They made $400 for their shows. Their albums sold in the 25,000 to 40,000 range. Obviously NOT everyone in the known universe loves the Ramones….”

Well, this book basically echoes that review, but instead of it being PG rated, it’s R rated. We learn of Dee Dee’s heroin addiction, of the band’s affinity for sniffing glue when younger, of Marky’s alcoholism, (and Joey’s too, it seems), and Johnny’s totalitarianism control freakishness and his Reagan/Bush loving Republican loving right wing politics (which is really weird). We learn how Johnny and Joey stopped talking to each other after about 10 years and spent the next 12 years communicating through others while still playing shows together year after year and still recording albums together. Part of that may have been because Johnny stole Joey’s girlfriend and married her.

I used to like the guys, but this book made me feel icky about them. Joey’s like this child-like, tall, skinny praying mantis who’s always in a dream state and doesn’t deal with reality well. Marky is an alcoholic in denial. Dee Dee is in a permanent state of being pissed off and is a drug addict. And Johnny is a right wing nut job penny pinching control freak. Tommy, the original drummer, is the only one who seemed normal. Maybe he got out at just the right time. CJ, Dee Dee’s replacement on bass, seems fairly normal too, but he’s never really viewed as one of the group.

We learn about how the band feels about music and their place in rock, as well as their views of other groups. We learn that they grew bitter about not selling records and not being recognized for starting punk or speed metal or whatever you want to call it (Johnny called it both). We learn that they seriously hated Styx, Foreigner, Boston, and Journey, as well as Yes and Pink Floyd. We learn that they kind of looked down their noses at the Sex Pistols. We learn that they liked AC/DC and Monster Magnet. We learn they hated goths, although they played a festival with Sisters of Mercy. We learn they hated traditional metal, opening for Black Sabbath and having bottles and cans thrown at them by the audience. We learn the author thinks they were bigger than the Stones in South America. Perhaps that’s true, and perhaps it’s true that they played to 50,000 people at a show there, but Queen played to 130,000 people there, so they don’t have the record, sorry. (I like Queen more.) The Ramones wavered on liking The Who and The Stones. Sometimes they did; sometimes they didn’t. They didn’t think too much of Lou Reed. They liked Debbie Harry and Joan Jett, who partied with them.

It was weird reading about them dying at the end of the book. Except for Dee Dee, and perhaps to a certain extent before he got cleaned up, Marky, they didn’t really live too hard. After shows, they wouldn’t have traditional rock parties with groupies, etc. They’d go out in the clothes they wore at the concert and look for a 7-11 or a Burger King. Then go watch cartoons or monster movies.

As stated in the previous review, the author and many of the people he interviewed thinks the lyrics are genius. Personally, I think they’re insipid. But I think that’s part of the fun of the Ramones. You can’t take them seriously. I don’t think they took themselves seriously. How in the hell do you take Beat On The Brat or We’re a Happy Family seriously? As to musicianship, many thought Johnny was the best guitarist ever. I think that’s insane. (Jeff Beck is.) One person interviewed, however, said Johnny sucked, was horrible, couldn’t play his way out of a box. The truth was he was probably somewhere in the middle. I doubt he created a genre, as so many claimed in this book, but he was decent.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. It filled in a lot of details I didn’t know and was entertaining. The only downside was, it lowered my respect for the band members a bit, which is unfortunate. Nonetheless, I’d still recommend this for fans. It’s chock full of good info which you can’t find elsewhere.

View all my reviews

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Joan Jett and The Who Concert

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 25, 2015

Two nights ago, we traveled from Chattanooga to Atlanta to see Joan Jett and The Who in concert and we had a blast! They were actually playing north of Atlanta in Duluth, in a place called the Gwinnett Center, where I’d been before. It’s pretty nice. It’s The Who’s 50th anniversary tour and we’d never seen them before, so it was pretty special.

We left at 1:45 PM to avoid Atlanta’s notorious rush hour traffic and got stuck in rush hour traffic. It was horrible. There’s a beltway called I-285 which is an absolute nightmare. Congestion at all hours of the day. Dead stop all the time. We got there mid-afternoon and found ourselves stopped. I couldn’t believe it. I thought surely we’d beat the after work crowd. It was a Thursday afternoon! We eventually made it to I-85 N and it didn’t get any better. We crawled along. It took us an hour and a half just to crawl a few miles. When we finally got to our hotel, we were frazzled. But it was a nice hotel, so that was cool.

Since we arrived so much later than we expected to, we had to start thinking about dinner. There were several restaurants in the area, but Carraba’s (sp?) was just across the street and neither of us had been to one in decades, so we went there. We’re both on diets, but we found items we could have without busting our diets. We had a pleasant server who had an exotic name that began with a “Z” and who looked a little exotic — we tried in vain to figure out her ethnicity. Fortunately, we arrived just in time because there was a big wait when we left.

Gretchen had a quick beer back at the hotel and then we marched off. We were literally within walking distance of the arena. That was very cool. When we got there, there was a big line, but they were just starting to let people in, so we got in pretty quickly. Gretchen wanted a concert t-shirt, but she’s pretty cheap, so I knew she wouldn’t want to pay for what they charge these days for those things, so I had brought some cash with me, so I could get her one. And we got her the perfect one. She looked really good with it on. Then we found our seats. And we had really good seats. We were up by the stage, literally looking down on the stage from the side. We could see everything! It was awesome.

Eventually Joan Jett came on and the show started. And she rocked the place! I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t know what I was expecting with her, but she surpassed my expectations. She started out with “Bad Reputation.” She played about 35 minutes or so and it was a very energetic show. They had big screens on the walls of the arena, so you could see everything and everyone close up. She looked pretty good for her age, I thought. And she’s tiny! Gretchen and I couldn’t figure out who was smaller — her or Roger Daltry. LOL!

After her show, the intermission lasted forever. A lot of people were still coming in. Weird. In fact, people were still arriving 45, 50 minutes after the show started. I don’t know if that’s cause of bad traffic or if that’s just cause they’re rude. One thing. The staff was pretty polite, but people started taking videos with their phones and the staff went all Nazi on them. They starting running around telling them they couldn’t do that and insisting they delete the video in front of them. They did this to Gretchen. She wasn’t pleased. It’s not like she was going to make money off of it! Still, we got lots of pictures.

Finally, The Who came on. They were awesome! Of course, the only original members left are Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend, but there were I think about eight men on stage. The drummer looked like he was maybe 18, like he was just out of high school. Gretchen looked him up online, though, and apparently — though this is hard to believe — he’s Ringo Starr’s son and is 49. Bizarre. He was damn good though. They played for a few hours. They played a lot of favorites. One of my early favorites was “My Generation.” They played some older stuff in the middle. They played some of their rock opera stuff toward the end. I particularly liked “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Baba O’Riley,” and “Eminence Front.” Pete did his windmills. I tried to get pictures of that, but failed. It was disappointing. Still, great show. My only real surprise and disappointment is that they didn’t do any encore. I have never been to a concert where they didn’t do at least one encore. Never. Ever. Not possible. I’m still shocked. But whatever. It was a hell of a show.

We got back to our hotel and hit the sack. I got three hours of sleep. Following three hours of sleep the night before. Actually I had had about six hours of sleep in 58 hours. I was tired. So Gretchen graciously did all of the driving, including all of the grueling Atlanta city driving. Very generous and brave of her. We arrived home yesterday morning and were glad to see the cats. This was Gretchen’s first major Christmas present. The second one is this coming week when we go see Chicago. Yay! Here are some pictures:

 

Gretchen in her Who concert t-shirt

Gretchen in her Who concert t-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Us at The Who concert

Us at The Who concert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joan Jett rocking the house!

Joan Jett rocking the house!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Who

The Who

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daltry and Townsend

Daltry and Townsend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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