I’m still churning my way through the alphabet in my CD collection, and here are some brief thoughts on who I’ve been listening to this week…
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERSI’m not completely sold on whether this guy truly belongs in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, but TP does have his moments now and then. I can usually only take Petty in small doses, apart from his 1989 Full Moon Fever CD, which was far and away his best (ironically minus the Heartbreaker name) and the second Traveling Wilburys CD, Vol. 3, which he practically carried by himself at times.
My All-Time Tom Petty Top 10:1) Runnin’ Down A Dream (1989)
2) Refugee (1980)
3) Poor House [Traveling Wilburys] (1991)
4) Jammin’ Me (1986)
5) Yer So Bad (1989)
6) Last Dance With Mary Jane (1993)
7) Cool Dry Place [Traveling Wilburys] (1991)
8) Don’t Do Me Like That (1980)
9) [tie] I Need To Know (1978)/American Girl (1976)
10) Zombie Zoo (1989)
Yes, the man has been reduced to a mere caricature these days, but let’s not forget why he became such a cultural icon in the first place. Like Eddie Murphy says, when Elvis was young, he was "a bad motherfucker!" and his early music certainly reflects that.
I view Elvis as a rather tragic figure—he got run into the ground by his manager, Col. Tom Parker, who had him making all those crappy movies instead of focusing on his music career in the ‘60s, and then Elvis got all mangled up on drugs to the point where he was a walking zombie by the mid-‘70s. Elvis also made the tactical error of surrounding himself with a bunch of leeches and yes-men (his "Memphis Mafia"), not to mention The Big Dick (see photo), but I think he was an extremely lonely man, which I find very sad. His demise was inevitable, but as Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits once sang, "He’s still the man…"
My All-Time Elvis Top 10
1) A Big Hunk O’ Love (1959)
2) Hard Headed Woman (1958)
3) Mean Woman Blues (1956)
4) Kentucky Rain (1970)
5) Jailhouse Rock (1957)
6) Hound Dog (1956)
7) In The Ghetto (1968)
8) Suspicious Minds (1969)
9) Money Honey (1956)
10) Way Down (1977)
THE POLICEAs with Cheap Trick and Journey, I’m more partial to a lot of The Police’s "B-stuff" than their big hits, thus "Roxanne" doesn’t even crack my Top 10, and I never need to hear "King of Pain" and "Every Breath You Take" again as long as I live...
Evidently, there are still plenty of suckers out there paying $200 a pop to see the band on the latest "We’re Only In It For The Money" tour (a tradition started by The Eagles back in the mid-‘90s), but I have no intention of seeng them live now (unless Sting, Andy or Stew personally invites me). I have fonder memories of two excellent Police concerts back in the day, one at Kemper Arena on March 25, 1982 (ticket price: $10.75) and another at St. Louis Arena (then known by the silly name "Checkerdome") on July 24, 1983 (same day as the George Brett pine tar incident), where they pretty much brought down the house both times. I remember the crowds were very energetic at both of those shows and were almost as much fun to watch as the band was, especially all the girls who were dressed like The Go-Go's.
So, how come Sting’s solo career was so dull? Successful, yes, but so utterly dull…
My All-Time Police Top 10:1) One World (Not Three) (1981)
2) Message In A Bottle (1979)
3) Synchronicity II (1983)
4) Regatta De Blanc (1979)
5) Demolition Man (1981)
6) When The World Is Running Down… (1980)
7) Rehumanize Yourself (1981)
8) Synchronicity I (1983)
9) Born In The ‘50s (1978)
10) Spirits In The Material World (1981)
THE PRETENDERSHave to admit I wasn’t terribly crazy about Chrissie Hynde at first, but I grew to like her over time—well, at least her voice and her songwriting, anyway. Still not crazy about her attitude sometimes, but at least she didn’t allow her band to morph into "Chrissie Hynde & The Pretenders", as so often happens with bands who have a female lead singer, a la "Patti Smyth & Scandal" and "Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine" (was that a mouthful, or what?). Like Petty, I’m not so sure the Pretenders belong in the HOF either (not yet, anyway), as I think they’re a tad overrated at times, but there is some good stuff to behold here.
For you trivia buffs, that’s Rockpile’s Billy Bremner playing lead guitar on "Back On The Chain Gang" and "My City Was Gone". Also, Chrissie Hynde attended Kent State University at the height of the anti-war protests, and she was there during the tragic May 4, 1970 campus shootings, although I’m not sure if she actually witnessed the massacre or not.
Speaking of "My City Was Gone", it also serves as the intro music on Rush Limbaugh’s Communist—er uh, conservative—radio propaganda program—er uh, talk show. Seems strangely ironic that he would choose the music of a liberal über animal rights activist like C. Hynde for his show. Ay, oh, way to go, Ohio…
My All-Time Pretenders Top 10:
1) Message Of Love (1981)
2) Tattooed Love Boys (1980)
3) Time The Avenger (1983)
4) Middle Of The Road (1983)
5) I’ll Stand By You (1994)
6) My City Was Gone (1982)
7) Mystery Achievement (1980)
8) Show Me (1983)
9) Back On The Chain Gang (1982)
10) Precious (1980)
One of my bigger regrets in life is never getting to see Freddie Mercury & Co. live in concert, as I’ve heard they used to put on an awesome show. My best chance was probably in 1980 when they played Kemper Arena on The Game tour, but as I remember, that was a very tough ticket in this town. Queen returned again in 1982 on their Hot Space tour, but we passed on that one because the album was so crappy, and I later heard that it was a poor show anyway, and they were actually upstaged by upstart opening act Billy Squier. Saaayyy—you don’t suppose Billy and Freddie—oh, never mind, let’s not go there!! Ironcially, Squier himself was upstaged by upstart opening act Def Leppard the next time he came to town. And so it goes…
Getting back to Queen, Hot Space did a ton of damage to their career in America that they never really recovered from, but the fans in England and Europe remained fiercely loyal to the band, and they put out some damn good stuff in the mid-to-late ‘80s that went sadly unnoticed in America, right up until Mercury’s death in 1991. One of the greatest vocal performances you’ll ever hear is Freddie singing "The Show Must Go On"—you’d never know that the man was literally dying when Queen recorded it for their final album Innuendo, and it was an unbelievably powerful performance coming from someone who at the time needed assistance just to go to the toilet.
Queen should have ended right there and then, but now we have Queen + Paul Rodgers, which I’m having great difficulty embracing. No offense to PR—he’s a great singer in his own right—but you just don’t replace a Freddie Mercury. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
A little Queen trivia for you: You know how Freddie Mercury's truncated microphone stand came about? Totally by accident. At one of the band's early gigs, he had some mic stand that evidently was bulky and heavy, and during a performance, Fred tried to move the thing and it wouldn't budge, so he just ripped the top portion of the mic stand out of its base and did the rest of the show without the base. He liked it so much that it stuck...
My All-Time Queen Top 10:1) Tie Your Mother Down (1976)
2) Bohemian Rhapsody (1976)
3) Killer Queen (1974)
4) The Show Must Go On (1991)
5) Crazy Little Thing Called Love (1980)
6) One Vision (1985)
7) You’re My Best Friend (1976)
8) Rock It (Prime Jive) (1980)
9) I Want It All (1989)
10) Need Your Loving Tonight (1980)