Saturday, December 16, 2006

Top 25 Greatest Cover Songs Of All-Time

You may have noticed by this time that I love lists! Here be the best remakes in Rock 'N' Roll history:

1) “You Really Got Me”—VAN HALEN (1978) V.H. took this venerable Kinks song--already a Rock classic--and shot it into the Stratosphere.  Best cover version of any song on earth in this hemisphere!
2) “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”—ELTON JOHN (1974) I actually grew to know Elton’s somewhat reggae-fied version before I ever even heard The Beatles’ original, and I have to say I prefer EJ’s more atmospheric rendition over the Fab Four‘s.  John Lennon played on it too, so it obviously had his stamp of approval.  It’s sure a damn sight better than William Shatner’s version…
3) “All Along The Watchtower”—JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE (1968) This was Jimi’s finest hour on vinyl, featuring a timeless guitar solo.  Also, isn’t it amazing how much better Bob Dylan’s songs sound when SOMEONE ELSE performs them?
4) “Proud Mary”—IKE & TINA TURNER (1971) Damn right they NEVER EVER did nothin’ nice and easy--Ike certainly didn’t, anyway!  This was one of the rare occasions when the Grammy Awards got one right, and this one buries C.C.R.'s original version, which is pretty tepid in comparison.
5) “Louie, Louie”—PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS (1965) True, this song has been recorded eleventy-million times, but never quite so rambunctiously as Da Raidas did on the live side of their debut Columbia LP Here They Come!, complete with a blistering guitar solo by the extremely underrated Drake Levin.  Screw The Kingsmen--this is the definitive “Louie x2”!
6) “Summertime Blues”—THE WHO (1970) The Who took Eddie Cochran’s 1959 classic, electrified it, and made it their own concert staple throughout their career.
7) “Jim Dandy”--BLACK OAK ARKANSAS (1973) B.O.A.’s version of the 1956 LaVern Baker tune was their only Top 40 hit, and rips the original to shreds.
8) “Move It On Over”—GEORGE THOROGOOD & THE DESTROYERS (1978) Lonesome George is renowned for doing cover versions, and this one is my favorite.  Hank Sr. would be proud…
9) “Never Can Say Goodbye”—THE COMMUNARDS (1985) This remake of Gloria Gaynor’s disco-fied remake of the Jackson Five’s most underrated song would even get my sorry ass out on any dance floor!
10) “Oh Pretty Woman”—VAN HALEN (1982) V.H.’s second-best cover song, featuring Diamond Dave in top form.
11) “Rock And Roll Music”—THE BEATLES (1963) This is the DEFINITIVE version of Chuck Berry’s classic, sung with great gusto by John Lennon.  It blows the doors off the Beach Boys’ lame 1976 version, too.
12) “Taxman”—BLACK OAK ARKANSAS (1975) B.O.A.’s Jim “Dandy” Mangrum makes an even more convincing Taxman than George Harrison when he growls “Let me tell you how it will be…”
13) “Don’t Be Cruel”—CHEAP TRICK (1988) Cheap Trick does Elvis proud!  Thank you--thank you verrrrry much!
14) “You’re Sixteen”—RINGO STARR (1973) Ringo’s album Ringo was most definitely his finest hour during his solo career, featuring “Oh My My” and “Photograph”, plus this classic remake of Johnny Burnette’s 1960 hit.  Paul McCartney and the late Harry Nilsson play the kazoo solos in the middle eight--impress your friends with that piece of trivia!
15) “Louie, Louie”—MOTORHEAD (1978) The ONLY version of this song where I can actually understand the lyrics, by Motorhead, of all groups…go figure!  Second-best version of "Louie, x2" ever.
16) “The Loco-Motion”—GRAND FUNK RAILROAD (1974) Screw the critics--these guys were good!  G.F.R.’s version of Little Eva’s classic is now a staple of most bar bands.
17) “I’ll Make You Happy”—DIVINYLS (1983) Sadly, hardly anyone’s ever heard this one since no one knew of Divinyls until they started touching themselves in 1991, but this remake of a minor hit by Australia’s Easybeats can rock anybody’s house.
18) “Shakin’ All Over”—THE WHO (1970) Originally done by British legends Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, “Shakin’” has been copied several times, but never quite as feverishly as The ‘Orrible ‘Oo did on Live At Leeds.  Pete Townshend isn’t really known for his lead guitar work, but he was on fire that night.
19) “Dixie”—BLACK OAK ARKANSAS (1974) Granny on “The Beverly Hillbillies” would have loved this remake of her favorite song!
20) “Hey Little Boy”—DIVINYLS (1988) Divinyls strike again with a re-genderfied version of Syndicate of Sound’s 1966 hit “Hey Little Girl”
21) “Higher Ground”—RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS (1989) Stevie Wonder’s funky classic gets even funkier with Flea’s bass playing.
22) “Rockin’ At Midnight”--THE HONEYDRIPPERS (1985) Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant croons this update of 1949 hit by Roy Brown, blowing away the remake Elvis tried to make.
23) “Dear Dad”—DAVE EDMUNDS (1982) There have been a zillion Chuck Berry covers. Dave Edmunds and George Thorogood account for maybe a third of them, and this one is pretty dandy.  All about a guy asking his pappy for a Cadillac to replace his P.O.S. car, and you gotta love the punchline at the end, “Sincerely, your beloved son, Henry Jr. Ford.”
24) "Twist And Shout"—THE BEATLES (1963) Gotta give it up to John Lennon for somehow
winging this one in just one take.  He already had a cold, and his voice was shot to hell after recording all day long to complete The Beatles' first album.
25) “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”—DEVO (1978) Almost unrecognizable remake of the Stones’ classic, but somehow, it still worked!  Are we not men, indeed!

HONORABLE MENTION: "(You're) Having My Baby"—THE HALLELUJAH TABERNACLE CHOIR (1978) Okay, this one's fictional, courtesy of "WKRP In Cincinnati"'s Dr. Johnny Fever, but can you just imagine?

Odds and ends (mostly Odds!)

Just some random miscellany for your perusal today...

Why do guys buy those lame-ass “Girls Gone Wild” videos?  As a heterosexual male, the commercials for these damn things embarrass the shit out of me!  Why throw your money away just to see a bunch of drunken skanky co-ed college whores flashing their breasts and asses?  I’d sooner watch a “Riverdance” video—at least the chicks on those are cute!  What happened--did Cinemax stop airing those soft-core porn flicks (Emmanuelle Does Duluth, et al) on Friday nights?  Come on, America, you can do better than this!


You’ve no doubt heard of the Young brothers—Angus and Malcolm—of the band AC/DC.  Some people aren’t aware that their older brother George was a guitarist in the ‘60s band The Easybeats who did “Friday On My Mind” and the original “I’ll Make You Happy” (later re-done by Divinyls).  Well, as fate would have it, George is the oldest of the Young siblings, and Angus is the youngest, which naturally leaves Malcolm in the middle!  (Place rim shot here!)

You know how car dealers often place big placards under the open hoods of cars in their lots that spell out the word “S-A-L-E”?  I’m not making this up--about a year ago, I passed a used car lot that had the cars arranged to spell “S-A-E-L”!

Totally useless information here, but below are two body parts that are formed out of the word “below”:


Confused yet? You won’t be after the next episode of “Soap”!

Actor Dick Van Dyke gets some sort of royalty from the DVD industry for the use of his initials, does he?

Pardon my Spanish, but does anyone know if there is a proper form of etiquette to convey to a co-worker that they are wearing way too much perfume/cologne?  If so, please give me a hint!  There’s this guy I work with whom we call the “Hai-Karate Kid”, and I can literally smell him from ten yards away!  Nothing wrong at all with trying to smell good for the general public, but why do some guys put on enough (usually cheap) cologne sufficient enough to bring down a large elk?  One of the radiologists I work with gets plenty of mileage out of his Hai-Karate too, but we call him “Smelly Cat” because when he talks he sounds like that old cartoon character Snaggletooth (evennnnnnn…).  One day last week, both “Hai-Karate Kid” and “Smelly Cat” were in the same room together, and I thought for a while we were going to have to evacuate the building!  In the words of the late Jim Morrison, "Grown men were weeping…"

On the opposite end of the olfactory spectrum is a new female co-worker we’ve been dealing with lately who—how shall I put this?—doesn’t always excel at feminine hygiene, let’s say.  “Madame Funkenstein” (or "Sasquatch", as I prefer to call her
) also has this habit of grossing everyone out the lunch table with her atrocious table manners--chewing with her mouth open, etc.  Anyway, she tries to cover up her odors with the cheap-ass perfume she wears (Eau de Black Flag, or Eau de D-Con, one or the other), but still as the day wears on, the funk starts a-risin’ around her desk area and we’re desperate for a tactful way of telling her she smells like a Port-A-Potty!  Any suggestions would be most welcome by our nasal passages…

Ahmet Ertegun (1923-2006)

Ordinarily, I wouldn't make too big a fuss about a record company executive, but I do want to acknowledge the passing of Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, because he was a VERY important figure in Rock 'N' Roll.  He excelled at spotting talent, and is the man responsible for bringing us singers like Ray Charles, Bobby Darin and Aretha Franklin and groups like Led Zeppelin and my boys Black Oak Arkansas, among many others.  Speaking of Brother Ray, one of the funnier moments in 2004's Oscar-winning film Ray is when Ahmet (rhymes with Comet) first meets up with Ray Charles and Ray mispronounces his name "Omelet"!

Ahmet Ertegun died at age 83 from a head injury he suffered after a fall at a Rolling Stones concert in late October.  The man was STILL rockin' at age 83!  And ironically, at the time of his death, he looked a good ten years younger than Keith Richards! R.I.P. Ahmet...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

R.I.P. Lamar Hunt (1932-2006)

It’s a dark time in K.C. sports these days. For the second time in two months, we’ve lost a major sports figure here.  First it was Buck O’Neil in October, and now Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt.  Though not unexpected, his death is still depressing all the same.

Much will be written and said about him in the coming days, and here’s my .02 worth.  I don’t think too many people realize the full impact this guy had on the professional sports world—not just in Kansas City.  Look at the spectacle the Super Bowl has become—it’s practically a national holiday in our country now—and Mr. Hunt was as instrumental in making it what it is today as anyone.  As for K.C., we were damn lucky to have an owner like him with deep pockets who was willing to do what it took to keep the Chiefs here.  He certainly wasn’t one of these douche-bag owners like Art Modell and Al Davis who threatened to pack up his team and leave town every time the city failed to kiss his ass.  He was light years ahead of his time by conceiving the dual stadium set-up and because of Lamar Hunt’s vision, Kansas City didn’t get stuck with some crappy domed stadium that would now be obsolete (or demolished already like the Kingdome).  Instead Kansas City has two of the coolest stadiums in the world, and will continue to have them for many more years to come, thanks to him.  And let’s not forget he was the man who gave us Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, too.  Thank you, Lamar!

It occurred to me today how Lamar Hunt even indirectly affected the course of my own life in some ways.  I got to thinking—"What would life had been like if there was no Kansas City Chiefs football team when I was a kid?"  They were a huge part of my formative years--hell, in my 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-grade school photos I wore a Chiefs shirt, so what does that tell you?  But, if they didn’t exist at that time, I may not have even gotten into football at all—I might have gotten more into stock car racing or golf instead, or worse, I might have become a Dallas Cowboys fan (ewwww!).  Timing is everything, they say, and without Lamar Hunt, Kansas City might not have gotten a football team until I was in my teens or 20s, and who knows how things might have been?  Isn’t it amazing how certain people impact your life and you don’t even realize it?

Mr. Hunt was certainly a unique individual and a very important man around these parts, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude, no doubt about it.  So long, Lamar—ya done good. And long live "The Foolish Club"…

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Top 10 Most Irritating Top 40 Hits of All-Time

1) "Pass The Dutchie"—MUSICAL YOUTH (1983) This one’s for you, Tom! I have to avoid listening to this one now because every time I hear it, the damn thing gets stuck in my head for a week. There is nothing more annoying than a bunch of off-key Jamaican kids "singing"!
2) "Don’t Worry, Be Happy"—BOBBY McFERRIN (1988) This cloying piece of excrement went to #1 of course. Not sure which was worse, the song itself or the video for it that featured McFerrin, Robin Williams and some other dork jacking off (well, not literally) in front of the cameras. Not one of Robin’s more stellar career moments…
3) "Rock Me Amadeus"—FALCO (1986) I couldn’t understand a word this fool was singing, if you can call that singing.
4) "You Oughtta Know"—ALANIS MORISSETTE (1995) This bitch can NOT sing--she always sounds like a cat being stepped on! And the attitude she displays on her records makes her sound like some bratty kid that needs to be taken out and spanked...
5) "Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool"—LITTLE JIMMY OSMOND (1972) The Osmond clan was on a roll in the early ‘70s, so they thought it would be cute to trot out "little" brother Jimmy to warble and shriek this hokey little ditty. It wasn’t cute—it was the ultimate '70s cringe moment! In a similar move, the "Partridge Family" producers trotted out the neighbor kid, Little Ricky Seagall to "sing" cutesy little songs at the end of each episode while everyone fawned over him. Both he and Jimmy were like fingernails on a blackboard...
6) "Buffalo Stance"—NENEH CHERRY (1989) Take away the vocals, and the backing track is actually rather tolerable here, but Cherry’s breathless jabbering makes one’s Esctat-O-Graph needle peg out on zero real quick!
7) "Jumpin’, Jumpin’"—DESTINY’S CHILD (2000) I could actually list most any Rap/Hip-Hop song here, but this one stands out for me because I was forced to hear it 3-4 times daily at work when we had to listen to the Hip-Hop station!
8) "Paper In Fire"—JOHN MELLENCAMP (1987) I could list most any Mellencamp song here too, but this one is far and away his most annoying, with those insidious fiddles screeching like monkeys on Meth-Amphetamines.
9) "How Will I Know?"—WHITNEY HOUSTON (1985)/"Smooth Criminal"--MICHAEL JACKSON (1988) [TIE] How many times could they possibly repeat the same damn phrase ("How Will I Know?"/"Are you okay, Annie?", respectively), over and over again during the same song? In Jackson's case, it was a total waste of a perfectly good backing track.
10) "Everyday Is A Winding Road"—SHERYL CROW (1997) In best Weird Al Yankovic style, just substitute "Sheryl Crow has a whiny voice!" for the title line and sing it just like she does, and you’ll get the idea!

NOTE: The above songs were so irritating to me that even "The Macarena" didn't make the cut! And Yoko Ono, Zamfir, Yanni and John Tesh would most assuredly have made my list, but alas, they never made the Top 40 (American record buyers do have SOME taste!), thus they’ll have to settle for an honorable mention here...

Monday, December 11, 2006

When Electricity Came FROM Arkansas!

Time to praise one of my favorite underrated bands of all-time, Black Oak Arkansas. Whenever you had a band that Rolling Stone magazine’s so-called "music critics" hated (Kiss, Grand Funk Railroad, Styx, Rush, et al), chances are pretty good that I liked them, and Black Oak Arkansas is a prime example. One such critic derisively summed up BOA’s career by saying, "Black Oak’s distinguishing characteristic is that the band has three guitarists who collectively don’t even add up to one good one." This is precisely why I rarely listen to music critics! And neither does the paying public either, because BOA sold a boatload of records in the early ‘70s and they were a major concert attraction as well. Okay, I’ll readily admit that musicianship-wise BOA wasn’t a great band—a good band, but not great—but being technically proficient isn’t always as important as being entertaining. Emerson Lake & Palmer were technically very good musicians—but live in concert were about as exciting as watching paint dry!

Black Oak Arkansas was a fun band, and I’ve found it’s damn near impossible to be in a bad mood while listening to them. I wish I could have seen them live during their heyday, which is highlighted on their 30th anniversary DVD on Rhino. Although the production value is a bit lacking on the DVD (there’s a graphic on it saying they played at London’s "Royal Alberts Hall"!), the old footage of the band in concert is excellent. BOA went through more personnel changes than Sprint after a layoff, but the one constant was lead singer Jim "Dandy" Mangrum (whose stage presence David Lee Roth practically stole from him), and he’s a colorful dude, to say the least. "Jim Dandy" was a minor Top 40 hit in 1974, and "Hot And Nasty" still gets a spin or two on Classic Rock stations, but there was so much more to this band, and it’s unfortunate that they get overlooked so much. So while the boys at Rolling Stone spend all their waking hours dissecting those Pink Floyd and King Crimson records note-for-note, I’ll continue to boogie to Jim and the boys. Jim Dandy to the rescue, indeed!

MY TOP 5 BLACK OAK ARKANSAS SONGS1. When Electricity Came To Arkansas
2. Rebel
3. Race With The Devil
4. Hot Rod
5. Cryin' Shame

Shut Up already, Bay-Beee!

Is there possibly a more irritating human being than ESPN’s Dick Vitale? Yes, his enthusiasm for and working knowledge of college basketball are admirable, and from what I hear, he's actually a genuinely nice man off-camera, but dammit I wish someone would stuff a dirty sweat sock in his mouth! He takes over every telecast he does and overshadows everything else going on with his breathless ravings. Every time some second-string schlub comes off the bench and makes a basket, Vitale starts praising him like he’s the second coming of Michael Jordan and goes off on these "Diaper Dandy" tangents, and it gets really old really quick. Thank goodness for March Madness and the NCAA Tournament because CBS carries it, and Dicky V. is relegated to covering the NIT on ESPN, which no one gives a rat’s spleen about anyway. It’s about the only way to shut him up! Even my mute button doesn't stand a chance against him!

My Top 10 Underrated Rock Guitar Players of All-Time

I always like to give a shout to the unappreciated, so here’s my list of Rock ‘N’ Roll’s most underrated guitarists. All of these guys know their way around the fretboard every bit as much as the big names (Clapton, Van Halen, Hendrix, et al).

1) Davey Johnstone (Elton John Band) Never gets near enough credit for his body of work, esp. on the Yellow Brick Road album.
2) Drake Levin (Paul Revere & The Raiders) Played on all their stuff up through "Hungry" and hardly anyone remembers him. Thank goodness I still do...
3) Dave Edmunds (Rockpile/solo) Rock ‘N’ Roll’s best-kept secret.
4) Neal Schon (Journey) It you look past Steve Perry’s wailing and crooning, Schon’s fretwork is pretty tasty stuff.
5) Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) Power Pop at its finest. John Lennon once complimented him by saying "I coulda used you on 'Cold Turkey'".
6) Billy Duffy (The Cult) Flexed his muscles on 1989’s Sonic Temple CD and really put on a clinic. Too bad the band’s subsequent albums have been so bland.
7) Craig Chauquico (Jefferson Starship) Similar in melodic style to Neal Schon. He’s ventured into the world of jazz guitar in recent years, and it ain’t too shabby either.
8) Brian Setzer (The Stray Cats) "Guitar Slinger" is a pretty good description of him.
9) Allen Collins (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Played the entire solo on "Free Bird" himself! ‘Nuff said…
10) Alex Lifeson (Rush)/"Fast" Eddie Clarke (Motorhead) [TIE] Two guys you don't think of right away when listing great hard Rock guitarists, but more than worthy.