Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The talent throughout the series seemed suspect; none of the contestants seemed all that good, but then again, this really isn’t my genre to judge. Truth be told, I’m a fringe player when it comes to this rap game having lost any remaining passion for it sometime in the mid-90’s when it I perceived rap to have lost its ability to go beyond its most trivial themes.
A brief foray into trip hop happened before I entered into the realm of a rap sideliner, but have managed to stay in some sort of context thanks to the direction of reviews and through surrounding myself around younger listeners who subscribe to rap’s marketing plan.
What I’ve found is that the genre is explicitly a younger game, as evidenced by the alarming rate of turnover within the community and by the lack of meaningful sales results from old school artists. You still see, from time to time, rock artists in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s selling out venues and posting impressive chart entries, but when did Public Enemy or even an artist who had some successful albums last decade maintain that success a decade later?
Which makes it easier to understand why Shamrock won The (White) Rapper Show contest; with little in terms of originality and quality rhymes, he managed to defeat John “King Of The Burbs” Brown through the sheer ability of emulating the artists that he’s seen paraded in front of him during that past few years. And that emulation begins and ends with his limited interpretation of “The Dirty South” rather than examining what the show tried (and failed) to accomplish in almost every one of its episodes: appreciating and learning from the history of hip hop. To this viewer, Shamrock sounded exactly, in terms of his content and flow, like the same person who started the show when he competed against 9 other artists.
But what do I know? I’m just a Sideline Sally at this rap game and, as one of the judges said on the final episode: rap “isn’t about [the] words anymore.”
100 Proof-The mohawked Texan was fairly entertaining, and I felt he was let go too soon. Although his rhymes didn’t seem good enough to warrant being part of the final four, I still liked the idea of a Waylon Jennings wearing drunk spitting rhymes. Wanted him to be in the final four.
Dasit-Shit, I don’t even remember this dude. Oh wait, he was the one that didn't write anything when he was asked to. That's it, Dasit: way to fuck yourself in the first episode.
G-Child-Most notable moments: she was tiny and Vanilla Ice was her hero. While it takes gonads to admit that, there are some of us who were around when Vanilla Ice was all over MTV and radio and, more importantly, old enough to remember what a crock of shit he was.
John Brown-I want a recount, hallelujah hollaback. The self-proclaimed “King Of The Burbs” and his unbelievably retarded “Ghetto Revival” business plan were just enough to piss off his fellow rappers and to keep me tuning in week after week. Even in the face of his adversaries, he didn’t break a sweat once, which leads me to believe that his repetitive mantra was total bullshit, and therefore, brilliant. One of the best rappers of the bunch, I was kind of bummed that he lost.
Jon Boy-The only thing I remember about him was that he was into Christ. Because I’ve heard Christian rock before, the idea of a Christian rap artist frightened me.
Jus Rhyme-How this fucker ended up in the final four is beyond me. Weak rap skills, lame lyrical content, and an image straight out of Austin, Minnesota. Better name: Jus Spam.
Misfit Dior-The British babe known more for giving Sullee a boner instead of rap skills. Weak sauce.
Persia-And the award for best choke artist is….Great rhyme skills combined with a piss poor memory, Persia had only herself to blame for forgetting her rhymes in the heat of the moment. Her beef with John Brown made for some great television too. Should have been in the final four, but she couldn’t remember the number that came after 3.
$hamrock-Everything about this dude rubbed me the wrong way. Unoriginal and uninspiring, Shamrock won by playing it safe while his competitor (John Brown) made the fatal mistake of spitting a challenging rhyme in front of a club audience. Shouldn’t have been in the final four.
Sullee-Should have been in the final four, but being Irish usually means you also have a temper. Sullee did and it got the best of him: whenever he faced one too many challenges, he got bitter and shut down. Like Persia, he had some memorable beefs with John Brown and like Persia, he has only himself to blame for walking away from the game. Plus, he voted for Bush, which is reason enough to “step off.”
So what's worse than admitting to watching a guilty pleasure? Writing about it and letting the world know.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The problems between Dave and Eddie are deeper than expected.
Seriously, I would love to be a fly on the wall when those two are in the room together.
Friday, February 23, 2007
I'm hoping for this.
The ups and downs are fairly notorious and well documented in one of my favorite rock and roll movies of all time, "Twenty-Four Hour Party People." Highly recommended. Put it on your Netflix list immediately if you haven't seen it, or better yet, buy it.
Tony's initial notoriety was as a television personality in Britain. But on June 4th, 1976, Tony was with about 40 other people at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England to witness the Sex Pistols perform live. He wasn't the only one on that night who walked away inspired. Indeed, the small crowd present seems like almost a "who's who" of rock history: Howard Devoto (The Buzzcocks/Magazine), Pete Shelly (The Buzzcocks), Morrissey (The Smiths), Ian Curtis (Joy Division), Bernard Sumner (Joy Division/New Order/Electronic), Peter Hook (Joy Division/New Order), Mark E. Smith (The Fall), and others all saw the show and, more importantly, did something about it afterwards.
What Tony did was start the independent record company known as Factory Records.
The band that Factory Records first signed was Joy Division.
When the label experienced financial problems (an occurrence that happened more than once), they were approached by a larger company for a potential buy-out. When it came time to discuss the legalese that comes with any merger, Tony explained that none of his artists ever signed a contract with Factory. The bands on Factory, it seemed, were the ones that owned the label.
Tony also started the legendary Hacienda club in Manchester. The club, which was essentially ground zero for the rave culture back in the late 80's and, despite having little trouble drawing sold out crowds, it too faced financial issues and subsequently closed. On the final night of operation, Tony encouraged the patrons to loot the place on their way out.
On every step of the way, it seems that Mr. Wilson finds no problem picking up the pieces and starting over. This is most assuredly a characteristic that many of us should strive to emulate.
But cancer is a tough broad, and in many cases, thoughts and well-wishes are what's needed to help overcome such an adversary.
After losing Ian Curtis. After losing Martin Hannett. I wanted to make sure my own well-wishes were heard before some online epitaph was created. This isn't a eulogy and I don't know Tony Wilson personally. I do know what he's done for me personally, and if his actions have made an impact in your own life, that verbal strength can be shared with him in the hopes of a speedy recovery.
The Loft, 10A, Little Peter Street
Manchester, England M15 4PS
One of these days, I'm going to get around to writing that massive undertaking of how fucking brilliant Joy Division were to me.
And I just want Tony to be around to read it.
There is a certain amount of envy that I have for three year olds; their imaginations are incredible and their lives are completely carefree. What a glorious time!
I try not to be too overbearing and the entire "don't sweat the small stuff" adage was probably created with children in mind.
A good example is this morning when E located the scissors is a drawer and secretly took them downstairs. This happened in plain view of me in the kitchen, but I was too busy reading the latest shitty issue of Rolling Stone and eating Raisin Bran Crunch to notice him slyly concealing the scissors in his ride hand as he made his way towards the living room.
A verbal clue was provided.
"Hey! I can see my underwear now!"
I ignored this, choosing instead to read about the influences of John Frusciante.
After I completed learning about shit I really didn't need to know (He digs Hendrix, Pat Smear, Greg Ginn, etc., and ripped off a part in "Under The Bridge" from T-Rex), I glanced at E to see him giving me a shit eating grin.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
Without a word, he made some snipping noises with the scissors, later divulging that he "accidentally" cut his pajamas.
"You shouldn't do that! That's not a very good boy, is it?"
"I'm sorry, Daddy. It was an accident," he replied.
"No, it wasn't an accident. You knew that you shouldn't cut your pajamas with scissors!"
"Well, I didn't mean to," he offered.
"E, maybe you didn't mean to, but you know you're not supposed to play with scissors because they can hurt you and you can do things like cut your pajamas with them. Was that a very smart thing to do?"
"No, Daddy. I'm sorry."
And with that, the event was over. He's got other pajamas. He's got all his fingers. And now he doesn't know where I've hidden the scissors. Everything's cool.
Here's a recent photo of the cutter, sportin' the Wilco hat his Mommy got him on the tour for A Ghost Is Born:
And here's his top ten list of non-children related songs that he knows or requests. He's still got a thing for those God-awful Wiggles, Doodlebops, and other television-inspired shit (he's 3, for Christsakes) but whenever he blurts out a line from one of the following, it makes his Daddy proud:
1.) THE RAMONES-"Blitzkrieg Bop"
Known as the "Hey! Ho! Lets go!" song. He smiles and sings whenever they play it a baseball or hockey games.
Referred to as the "Ow" song
3.) ANDY GIBB-"Shadow Dancing"
My fault on this one. I sometimes make him dance and sing "Shadow Dancing" while I'm moving his arms. He was amazed once when this song came on during "I Love The 70's" on VH1 to the point where he lit up and exclaimed "Hey! That's 'Shadow Dancing.' Now that he knows the song is for real and not just a torture device (although some opinions may still vary), he'll break out the Andy Gibb classic if you ask him nicely.
Since I've played him this, it's being used in a television commercial. He reminds me every time it comes on: "Hey! You've got this song, Daddy!" We play it when we want to get funked up.5.) THE BEATLES-"I Want To Hold Your Hand"
I will not let this child go through life without knowing and appreciating who The Beatles were. To do less than this is sacrilegious. Meet The Beatles was part of my toddler years, and Goddamnit, it will be part of E's too.6.) THE CRAMPS-"Tear It Up"
"E won a prize at Chuck E. Cheese the last time we visited: a plastic cordless toy microphone. He likes to stand on the hearth of our fireplace and give concerts with it. The show often develops to the point where he places the top of the microphone into his mouth and starts making guttural noises. When I commented that he looked like Lux Interior when he did this, I was obligated to show him video footage of The Cramps live in concert. He was very observant that Mr. Interior stole his vocal styling and that Mr. Interior's pants were falling off. He also noticed that Lux was shirtless, prompting E to incorporate this into his own stage act."7.) THE RAMONES-"Commando"
Because the second rule is "Be nice to Mommy."
8.) THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE-"Who?"
Known as "The Hoot Owl" song. He knows part of the lyrics to this one. That is, the lyrics that are the word "Who" repeated over and over.
It has a baby at the beginning of the album version. He likes that. Plus, we go and gangbang Mommy with kisses when we play it. Admittedly, it pisses me off when he tries to slip her the tongue...but like Father like Son I guess.10.) LOU REED-"Walk On The Wild Side"
Known as the "do do do" song. This selection is curious because he thinks Lou looks like a monster on the cover of Transformer and he usually isn't too hip on monsters.
As mentioned in the Lou Reed song, E has an absolute dislike for monsters and subsequently hates the band Kiss which is fine with me. He has demanded that I turn off the Kiss "Live In Houston" performance from '77 whenever it's on, explaining "I don't like those guys." as his reasoning. He also dislikes any performer, male or female, with too much make-up. He'll offer "Boys don't wear make-up" as the reason for his discontent with eyeliner-wearing male performers and remain fastidiously silent on why women with lots of makeup bug him. His Mother only wears make-up for work and rarely around the house, so maybe that has something to do with it.
He also doesn't like artists with "things" in their hair. Cornrows, colors, dreadlocks and items like bandannas or any cloth that are around the person's hair typically bother him to the point where he immediately develops an impression about them.
It goes without saying that old pictures of yours truly with long hair back in the salad days confuses him, but he generally just blows it off as me "being silly."
Like I said, we try not to sweat the small stuff around here.
And for those of you who haven't seen footage of The Cramps before, here's a great segment from the movie/soundtrack Urgh! A Music War.
Monday, February 19, 2007
The awful truth about reunions is that they're often the result of greed and ego: a quick lift in the player's bank accounts and self-worth. There are examples of bands coming together again for the sake of unfinished business (Celtic Frost, Dinosaur Jr., and a few others come to mind) but Father-time typically doesn't prove to be on the side of aging rockers.
Van Halen-As discussed here.
The Stooges-Look, as much as I'm excited about this, I'm also a realist. Thirty-three fucking years have past since Raw Power and none of the surviving members are spring chickens. Hell, they're not even Popeye's Fried Chicken. But this is The Stooges we're talking about; a band so mired in destruction that we're blessed that Iggy and the Ashtons are even alive. And at the end of the day, don't we owe it to them to pay tribute for being able to wake up in the morning? The Live In Detroit dvd is riddled with equal parts tear-inducing nostalgia and ear-hurting embarassment. And "My Idea Of Fun" from their upcoming The Weirdness is a decent Iggy track but nowhere near the brilliance of The Stooges past glories. We'll see if the rest of the album is better, but time and reality are certainly against them.
The Police-This will be the moneymaker of the year….And with ticket prices ranging from $60-$225 (“packages” are even higher) this tour has got me considering a financial boycott. I’m not sure of the financial status of Stewart or Andy, but I know Sting isn’t hurting for cash, even though his last few solo efforts have stiffed. Regardless, explain to me why I’m required to get fucked up the ass so that Sting doesn’t slip into obscurity? The Police have never really qualified as a “punk” band, but it would have been very punk if they’d leveraged their reunion tour with reasonable financial restraint.
I’m secretly hoping this tour absolutely fails and the blame is placed solely on the outrageous ticket prices. Serves ‘em right. I’m also secretly hoping that a pair of tickets magically appear on my doorstep because (losing credibility here perhaps) I’d really like to see this one.
Smashing Pumpkins-Note to Billy Corgan: nobody gives a shit. If the Pumpkins were your “dreams” then why did you form Zwan? I doubt that anyone would have noticed James or D’Arcy missing from the Pumpkins line-up if you chose to carry on the moniker. In Totale’s world, you released two great albums (Gish and Siamese Dream) before succumbing to a pattern of elitism and pretentiousness. Keep your ego in check, Corgan: you may sell out a few theatres but don’t expect a lot of hero worship to upgrade your reunion to the arenas.
Rage Against The Machine-Not a fan, so no real excitement here. I will say that we really could’ve used a ton more lefty-leaning rock outfits during the Bush II Evil Empire (get it?) instead of fucking Audioslave.
Genesis-My dick might get a little hard if Gabriel were in the line-up, but no, it’s Phil Fucking Collins Genesis, to which I’m reminded of some truly horrible shit from the 80’s and into the 90’s. To be honest, by 1988 I couldn’t tell what was Phil Collins solo and a Genesis track, so I’m not the dude to ask if these fuckers could fill a state fair stadium. The last Genesis album I bought was Duke and I remember liking Abacab and a few tracks from their ’83 eponymous album. None of those albums mean that I would be caught dead at a Genesis concert.
Dinosaur Jr.-I’d totally see this one. When I missed them in the original line-up tours, I heard that they were loud as fuck and very inconsistent. I’d like to believe that getting older would help out in the latter department, but would hate to see a reduction in the volume. After all, that’s part of the thing that made You’re Living All Over Me and Bug so enjoyable: Mascis’ amplifier meltings were a thing of beauty. From reviews I’ve read about the reunion so far (which includes an album), they haven’t lost much.
Sebadoh-Really? I didn’t even know they broke up. I’m willing to bet that other people didn’t know this either.
Did I get ‘em all?
Now for the list of dream reunions. These are the bands that I would definitely consider seeing if they ever decided to reunite.
Spacemen 3-I’m sure that Jason Pierce is the only thing that’s holding this one up. And I’m sure that he’s making enough from Spiritualized to not even consider re-teaming with Sonic Boom again. But if he did, and even if they only played one chord together for 45 minutes, I’d want to be at the foot of the stage paying homage to these dudes. Check it:
The Smiths-Rumor has it that they were offered millions for a one-off that was systematically rejected. Hell, I’d even salivate if Morrissey/Marr teamed up under a different moniker. A full-fledged reunion seems unlikely since bassist Andy Rourke really hosed them in court for back royalties.
Husker Du-Saw ‘em in ’87 when they were on the downward spiral, and the show was so intense that I’d gladly see ‘em again. From what I understand, Grant Hart and Bob Mould dislike each other so much that the idea of a reunion would never get off the ground. I also don’t think the band has enough notable legacy to pay them what they’re deserved. And what they deserve is a hundred times more than what fucking Genesis will make from their reunion shenanigans.
The Stone Roses-Betcha these guys could absolutely kill in their heyday. Like that quote from the movie "Shaun Of The Dead" says: Second Coming wasn’t that bad of an album. I think they only substantially toured the states in support of that album (which I missed) and time has made me miss them immensely. I guess I’m not the only one since there are two Stone Roses tribute bands currently cashing in around England: The Complete Stone Roses and The Clone Roses.
Pink Floyd-It’s cheesy, I know, but I’d totally be psyched for a reunited Waters/Gilmour thing. I saw the Floyd Water-less and it was painfully apparent that he was gone. Live 8 fueled the fire that they were on better terms, but I don’t see this happening. First of all, Waters is completely book for a solo tour throughout this summer and none of the members really need the cash. Gilmour has hinted that working with Waters is like pulling teeth and that Gilmour already has more money than a hundred dentists. Which is funny, especially if you’ve ever seen pictures of Rodger Waters’ teeth circa ’73.
Feel free to comment on what bands you’d like to see reunite.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
SLF: Why are you doing that?
TOTALE: Because it's funny.
SLF: No, it isn't.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
I swear the baby looks like its smiling in this shot.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
When I graduated from high school in 1985, my parents gave me a round trip plane ticket to California so that I could visit a friend who had moved there. I noticed that The Smiths, a band that I had grown enthralled with during my high school tenure, would be playing there during the time I was visiting. My friend, who was also a fan, picked up a pair of tickets to see them.
Irvine Meadows Amphitheater was located in the suburbs of Orange County. Typically reserved for heavy metal acts that had no trouble filling the outdoor venue, it was reserved on this night for a British band that only had two records available domestically. It seemed like too big of a venue to be for our heroes.
Indeed, Irvine Meadows was probably only half full this night, whereas today it wouldn’t be able to hold all of The Smiths’ fans that would want to see them live. Funny how twenty years of influence, particularly addled by a too-short an existence, can change things.
Our seats weren’t particularly good, but when you’re young, you tend to look for ways to improve your situation even if it means doing so through extraordinary attempts.
The first goal was to get to the lower level. To do this, we located some fellow fans already lucky enough to have tickets in better seating. We explained our plan and exchanged tickets, using theirs to get by security and into the better section. After exchanging tickets, we repeated this formula until we were about 15 rows away from the stage. Not wanting to press our luck, we camped out at some unused seats, moving to other rows when they were claimed by their proper owners.
It was summertime in California, which meant that dusk was just starting when the sounds of livestock omitted from the speakers. The Smiths took the stage and began their set with the title track from their latest album, Meat Is Murder.
It was, admittedly, not my favorite track on the album (what song about not eating meat is?) and probably not the best song to begin a show with.
Thankfully, things got into high gear with the rest of the set which included several of their more upbeat numbers and plenty of their most popular cuts. The band was note perfect throughout and Johnny Marr’s guitar playing was stunningly precise. “What She Said” seemed even faster than the album version and “That Joke Isn’t Funny” paired with “Stretch Out And Wait” was incredible.
Throughout the performance, Morrissey teased the audience causing a few to throw up flowers which he promptly spreads throughout the stage. Soon the floor is covered with petals with Moz galloping through them, carefully paying attention to both sides of the stage.
The set ended with their most popular song at the time, “How Soon Is Now.” The entire crowd stood and danced along to Marr’s pulsating Bo Diddley beat; it felt good to finally be in the presence of a crowd that appreciated what many back in the Midwest considered to be “weird.”
The Smiths gave us not one, not two, but three encores. The first ended with the wonderful “Reel Around The Fountain,” and I was sure that this would be a perfect way to exit. They came back to play two of my favorites, ”William, It Was Really Nothing” and “This Charming Man” along with another one before leaving the stage once again.
The crowd of about 4,000 people began cheering just as loud as you would hear at any other typical rock concert (which struck me as being strange) and the band was obligated to return for a final song.
“Barbarism Begins At Home,” one of the band’s funkier numbers, began and they performed it as an extended number. While the band was jamming, a member of the crowd found a hole in security and climbed up on stage. A couple of members of the event staff went to intercept him, but he managed to reach Morrissey and give him a hug. As security began pulling him off, Morrissey stopped them. He then went to the edge of the stage and requested more of the crowd to join them. While the rest of the band continued playing, the crowd surged forward as the stage grew with audience members. Morrissey danced, occasionally being interrupted by the hug of a fan, weaving in an out of the makeshift discotheque. A well-endowed blonde female audience member draped her arms around Morrissey and gave him a hug. When he moved to attend to another fan, she turned to the crowd and lifted her shirt to expose her breasts. Morrissey didn’t notice it, but bassist Andy Rourke did and he smile in approval. This was probably the most “out of place” moment in the entire evening; while an exposure like this is to be expected at a metal concert, I never imagined that it would happen at a Smiths concert. At least it gave me a story to relay back to the Iowa folks who would give me a puzzled look when I explained to them that I saw a band called The Smiths during my visit to Cali.
After a 15 minute “Barbarism,” the band left the stage for the final time. Prior to this show, my live concert experience consisted entirely of hard rock and metal shows. A lot of this was do to the nature of who toured in the Midwest, but the reality was that I never paid close enough attention to look for alternative shows around my area.
Seeing The Smiths changed this, and in the process of discovering music beyond the mainstream I got a chance to see a band that remains on one of my "best live shows ever" list.
Here’s a video clip from the same tour immediately followed with the setlist for the Irvine Meadows show.
Meat Is Murder
Hand In Glove
I Want The One I Can't Have
That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
Stretch Out And Wait
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
What She Said
How Soon Is Now?
The Headmaster Ritual
Reel Around The Fountain
William It Was Really Nothing
This Charming Man
Barbarism Begins At Home
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
And goddamn...have they reconsidered and given the MVP to Grossman yet? One man doesn't lose the game (blah blah wolf wolf) but lets be honest here, there's plenty of blame to be thrown his way and I'm finding it hard for Grossman to do what he's been known to do when things don't go his way: blame others.
Nah buddy, this one's all on you.
The delay in this posting is because I wanted to include a link to Prince's halftime show. Prior to posting, Universal Music Group made You Tube take down the performance. Copyright issues aside, it was the best halftime performance ever and reminds us that, when he wants to, Prince can absolutely rule.
The frustration comes from knowing this and watching him sidetrack his genius with unwarranted label issues and with music directions that leave many longtime fans bewildered.
An update link was found, so enjoy again while it remains available.
Prince - SuperBowl 2007 Halftime Show
Uploaded by pacouli
Speaking of the Bears, who knew that Bob Mould wanted them to win....but only because there was a possibility that he might see Brian Urlacher shirtless in the locker room.
Monday, February 5, 2007
Sure, he got to front a shit-hot band for a few solo albums, but “shit-hot” usually means “a few egos” itself, and they bolted just in time to watch Roth’s career nosedive to the point where radio dj and paramedic actually became part of Diamond Dave’s resume.
“Shit-hot” could also describe the three remaining V.H. members…Ok, maybe two of ‘em, since it’s well documented that bassist Michael Anthony walked away with the “luckiest son-of-a-bitch in show business” title around the time of Women And Children First (more on this later)…But nonetheless, there’s a ton of ego to contend with Eddie himself, as the past decade has proven.
You know, I thought it was fine initially when Sammy joined Van Halen. Whatever. Dave was a jerk. Why should the rest of the fellas struggle to fit in the same limousine as Roth’s head? I knew the songwriting would take a step back with Sammy, and it did. By the time of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, it started to be a little sad that they still thought album titles like that were funny and that the forty-something Hagar was writing songs with lyrics like “the wetter the better.”
So spirits were high when Hagar left (or fired, depending on who you talk to) and the rumors started that Diamond Dave would be returning to the fold. Those hopes were crushed when Dave acted up on the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, an act that pissed off Eddie and ended any plans of a reunion.
So fast forward eleven years and the announcement that Dave is back with Van Halen. Michael Anthony’s luck has apparently run out, which makes the reunion somewhat bittersweet. Understand that, for all the simplicity that his bass contributions were, there was something inherently vital to his backing vocals. Anthony’s tenor was absolutely essential to the V.H. sound and to find excuses not to include him merely point to the notion that maybe Eddie’s ego has managed to expand to greater proportions than Roth circa ’85.
Never mind the zany behavior that Eddie has displayed during the past ten years:
- Arriving late and appearing drunk at the 2003 NAMM show, thereby jeopardizing his relationship with Peavey.
- Offering Anthony a reduced salary for the 2004 Hagar “reunion” tour, essentially demoting the bassist to that of a hired gun.
- Staggering on stage during a performance at the United Center where he managed to trip over the guitar cable 18 times.
- Laying down on stage at the same performance during the “Eruption” guitar solo, explaining to the audience in a drunken slur that he “done run outta gas.”
- Divorcing Valerie Bertinelli in 2005.
- Hiring Gary Cherone as the lead singer of Van Halen circa ’97-’99.
- Announcing on Howard Stern that he cured cancer through illegal means.
Personal and wacky issues aside, I should be pretty stoked that Diamond Dave, one of rock and roll’s greatest frontman, is back in his rightful place at the helm of Van Halen. But due to the absence of Anthony, it’s a silly notion that I would want to pay top dollar to see 3/4ths of the original line up with his 15 year old playing bass, and the obvious fact that America’s premier party band is much, much older now, I’m having serious reservations.
Rewind back eleven years: a no brainer; I’ve got no issue with people in their mid-40’s reliving their glory days but by the mid-50’s, its like that Uncle who always has too much to drink at Thanksgiving dinner and talks endlessly about the ass of the blonde Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. Would I feel comfortable with Dave, now at age 54, singing “Beautiful Girls” let alone high-kicking his way around the stage? Can he even high-kick at his age anymore?
In short: do I risk spending over a hundred dollars only to be sorely disappointed that I had spent that much on a bunch of old dudes embarrassingly cashing in at one final attempt at filling in the large arenas?
There’s that obligatory feel of nostalgia that says “Absolutely!” because, and I’m not alone here, Van Halen was a vital part of my pre-teen and teenage years. They were the epitome of the Saturday night band, one where you didn’t have to think very hard about the subject matter of the lyrics as you were thinking hard about how Eddie managed to achieve such amazing solos on his “Frankencaster.”
Just how good were they? Realistically, there’s a ton of laziness in the Roth-era V.H. catalog; most of the albums clocked in at just over 30 minutes and some of those were filled with too many covers and pointless instrumental segments. But when the band was on, they owned.
It was 1978 and I was desperate for entertainment during the obligatory week long stay at my Grandparent’s house in rural Southwest Iowa. The town, which had about 1,500 people in it, was home to both sets of Grandparents that I’d alternate between every other day. Their homes were blocks apart, and try as they may, they’d occasionally run out of ideas on ways to amuse me.
On one such occasion, my Grandmother took me down to the local appliance store which had a section devoted to music. I asked, and was granted, a cassette of Van Halen’s debut album. She didn’t seem to mind that I played “Runnin’ With The Devil” endlessly.
Until a few years ago, I never owned II. It always seemed to be the album that everybody else had, thanks in part to “Dance The Night Away.”
A few years later, Van Halen had just released their third album Women And Children First. Thankfully, FM radio back then actually considered lowly teenage rock fans by occasionally airing new releases. I’d hooked up a large FM antenna in my parent’s attic (it’s still there today) and run the wire down to my bedroom so that I could pick up the distant album oriented rock stations. One such station had a weekly show that featured a new album and played it, uninterrupted, at an hour that most 13 year olds should be in bed. The week they featured Women And Children was the week I stayed up late with a cassette at the ready and recorded the entire album in a primitive form of file sharing.
The next album, Fair Warning, came when I had graduated to middle school. For reasons that bewilder me now, I had also graduated to a career of stealing records. Woolworth’s, K-Mart, and any retailer that had lax security, found their bottom line impacted by my efforts. A close call at Woolworth’s involving, count ‘em, six albums lifted from their music department on the same day prompted me to change my shoplifting strategies to cassettes exclusively.
Parking lots were not immune to my thieving either; on orthodontic appointments I’d scour unlocked cars of the hospital for cassettes. Noticing an unlocked small truck with raised white-letter tires and after-market mags, I scored Billy Squier’s Don’t Say No, Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary Of A Madman and Van Halen’s Fair Warning. All three albums got a lot of plays, but it was Fair Warning that eventually died at the hands of a sticky pinch roller.
Diver Down was met with much anticipation as it came during my Freshman year of high school. Badassed cover art notwithstanding, the album itself is the definition of lazy V.H. Pointless covers (“Dancing In The Street” anyone?) and numerous instrumental interludes, Diver Down finds the band treading water, understanding that the supporting tour will undoubtedly provide them with another financial windfall, regardless of how the critics receive the studio output.
1984 found the band in fine, overly accessible form that proved to be the band’s commercial achievement and MTV favorite. I remember almost getting into a fight with another guy when we agreed to dj a school dance together. The guy did absolutely nothing to secure the equipment, assist with the set up, or help with the music selection. Instead, after the dance was underway he felt the need to become the main dj and he tested his authority by playing “Jump” four times during the two hour event. When I told him that he wasn’t going to play it again, he became irate and threatened to kick my ass. Instead of violence, I placed the Van Halen record inside a sleeve for Chicago, knowing that he’d never find it there. He later started his own car detailing business, which I hope provided him with enough money to buy 1984 and play “Jump” as many times as his heart desired.
Of course, all of these specific memories overshadow the reality that Van Halen albums were just common soundtracks for driving up and down Main Street under the influence. They were your buds in the back window speaker, encouraging you to get a case of beer and go chase some tail. When that original line up ended and was replaced by Sammy Hagar, they became those party guys with the dude too old to be hanging around the high school kegger.
The irony now is that they’re all too old to be there. But if memory serves, those were damn good times.
The Van Halen 'Recommended For Further Listening' list:
- Van Halen-The essential debut. Not only the definitive V.H. album (meaning: required listening) in terms of sound, but an album that changed the face of rock & roll guitar in the same manner that Are You Experienced? did. The only downfall is that classic rock radio has played the piss out of nearly every track on this album that it’s gotten to the point where I’m completely tired of it. Nonetheless, there’s a reason why it’s overplayed: its an album that’s completely devoid of filler and impeccable from start to finish.
“I heard the news baby
All about your disease
Yeah you may have all you want, baby
But I got something you need”
- Fair Warning-Thanks to the fatigue I’ve got from the debut, the forth V.H. album is my personal favorite. Darker and dirtier than other Van Halen albums, it was recorded when the relationship between Dave and Eddie began to strain. The end result is the most brutal performances in their catalog and subject matters that seem to deviate from the party anthems that brought them success.
“Come back to your senses, baby
We can come to terms
I can almost t-t-taste it
- Women And Children First-Gotta love third albums; it’s the one that band’s are required to figure out if they’re in it for the long haul or just a one-trick pony. V.H. start to branch out with their third and, thanks to their recent status as headliners, they do it with confidence. Starting with their most anthemic song (“And The Cradle Will Rock”), the band runs through a variety of styles and hits every one of them with authority.
“Well they say it’s kind of frightenin’
How this younger generation swings”
- 1984-I can’t explain how universally accepted this album was; respected by long term fans it also managed to gain new ones (particularly girls) thanks to some fairly snazzy video airplay. There’s another reason too: the band obviously took some time at crafting the songs, which included some new strategies (namely Eddie’s keyboards) and some greater attention to melodies.
“You’ve got to roll with the punches
To get to what’s real”
- II-How do you repeat a successful debut? For most bands, including Van Halen, you try to stick to the exact same strategy that won people over to begin with. There are some great songs on II, and I probably listen to it more than 1984, but ultimately, it’s the same formula as the debut with material that’s a hair beneath it. The ranking considers the album’s pointless cover (“You’re No Good”) that opens the thing and a few duds (“Somebody Get Me A Doctor,” “Women In Love,” and “Outta Love Again”) that hold it back from being a classic like the other four. And even with these songs included, it barely cracks the 30 minute mark.
“Creatures from the sea
With the look to me
That she’d like to fool around”
- Diver Down-What happens when you let Dave have man the controls? You get Diver Down, an album that is the definition of “going through the motions.” Plagued by pointless covers (“Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now” and “Happy Trails”) and a number of instrumental “interludes,” the album fails to show any progress and, again, barely clocks over 30 minutes. One of the instrumentals (“Cathedral”) is noteworthy for the fact that Eddie fried out the volume knob of his guitar after the second take to achieve the incredible effects the song demonstrates.
“He’ll make conversation
But she’s listening to your cash”