Category Archives: pop

Nostalgia over music that made me want to stab myself in the face

cutting crew

I recently made a station on Pandora that I call “The Worst Pandora Station Ever.” I have filled it with songs that tortured me during my teens and 20s — terrible, terrible pop music. Why did I do this to myself? I guess it’s a combination of nostalgia, humor and self-torture. I don’t exactly know why, but I get a certain perverse pleasure out of it. It puts me back in a time when I didn’t have much choice and was stuck listening to these things.

It feels really weird having to thumbs-up songs I hate and thumbs-down songs I like. Also, if I listen with half an ear while doing something else, I will sometimes catch myself grooving on it a little. I sent this to a friend whose musical taste I respect and I got back text messages like “Gah, how could you do this to me?” Then a message, “Oh no! My wife likes it!”

One of the most insidious things about this type of music is that it’s often quite catchy. You might hear one of these songs and hate it, but it will be echoing in your brain for hours.

A few days ago I went into a convenience store and heard a perfect example: “Into the Night” by one terrible hit wonder Benny Mardones. I had to look it up. I knew the song, but not the singer. It only gets worse when you see the video. That girl’s dad seriously needs to call the police.

Another one I was discussing with my brother is “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. One of the most cringeworthy songs of my youth. And what the hell is is going on in that video?

Some other examples are:

“We Built This City” by Starship (easiest call ever)

“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Karnes

“I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” by the Cutting Crew

“Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry and “Open Arms” by Journey (Journey and Perry make a lot of justified appearances on this bad music station, yet Journey at one time was very good, including their album Escape that included the terrible ballad “Open Arms.”)

“I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner

“How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” by Michael Bolton

“Don’t Speak” by No Doubt (newer than most of the others, but I hate it so much)

“All Out of Love,” “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” by Air Supply or really anything by Air Supply *shudder*

“Right Here Waiting” (or anything) by Richard Marx

“Lady in Red” by Chris DeBurgh

“Missing You” by John Waite

What makes a “bad” pop song?

Obviously it’s subjective.

For example, “These Dreams” by Heart. I should hate that song. It was co-written by Martin Page, who wrote the hideous Starship hit “We Built This City.” But I always liked it. Perhaps because the lyrics are courtesy of Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics for so many of Elton John’s best songs.

I have friends who are always ragging on artists I think are solid, despite a few duds here and there. The Eagles, Phil Collins and Hall & Oates come to mind.

I also realize there’s some overlap with AM Rock Radio music, which I actually think was overall quite good. Now and then a song will pop up that KINDA fits, but I have to give it the thumbs down because it’s too good. Songs by Little River Band and Steely Dan for example. I know I’m confusing the hell out of Pandora’s algorithm.

I’m sure I’m leaving out some other bad pop. Post your own list in the comments and tell me what I forgot.

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Teen singer/songwriter Josie Charlwood throws Internet for a loop

A couple of years ago when I used to frequent a certain social media/music promotion website, I would occasionally run across submissions by a group of teenagers from England called Escape Route 36.

At first I didn’t pay much attention. Teenagers with a band, how good could that be? But soon I began to notice Josie Charlwood, the female lead singer with the flaming red hair. She could really belt ’em out. It was shocking to hear such a powerful voice coming from such a small package. I thought, this girl is going places.

After hearing some of Josie’s recent solo work, I think I was right. Just 17, Josie is already developing a devoted following on the web with her videos, which demonstrate her use of loop pedals and a powerful set of pipes. Her songs include covers of bands like MGMT and the Gorillaz, as well as originals.

I just interviewed Josie via e-mail and got some great answers:

You’re 17 now, is that correct? How old were you when you realized you had musical talent?

I am indeed 17 at the moment but turn 18 this July. I never touched an instrument until I was around 11 – I have my cousin to thank for that. She’d just got into singing and I wanted to do the same! Instead of buying the karaoke machine I desperately wanted, my Dad insisted he’d teach me the chords to any song I wanted to sing so I could play along on the keyboard. He indeed did this and that is how my interest in piano and singing began.

How did you get involved with Escape Route 36? Can you give me a few details about the band – who the members are, what they’re up to now, etc.?

Escape Route 36 was essentially a project we started in our school days to help inspire all of us in terms of the music. At school I had a tough time with music in general (I think I can speak for the boys too) as we were never really given the encouragement when it came to performance and/or creativity. In contrast to this, the band was a great thing which we all enjoyed and helped me at least get through exams and stuff. The ER36 project started when we were all 14/15. The boys were all from school too and we’re still great friends, even though we’ve taken different paths. I’m not sure if they would all want their names mentioned but I can tell you one’s going into photography as far as I know and one into music production (specialising in Dubstep).

How long did you work with ER36 and when did you start recording solo?

As a band we worked together for around 2 years I think. Things changed when we left school and wanted to concentrate on other things. It was however a great experience for me (and I hope the boys too) and I learnt a lot about performance, arrangements and working as a team on the whole. After the “No Divider” album I obviously wanted to keep recording and experimenting with my originals. The first single was “The Mirror” with two of my good friends sessioning; Dan Hardingham (drums) and Blyss Gould (bass). Shortly after this (and a few other tracks!) I really got into filming for Youtube; this is when solo stuff became more prominent for me.

Why did you decide to use looping and how do you see that process developing as you create new songs?

I first got into looping after being massively inspired by singer-songwriters Ed Sheeran and KT Tunstall, both well known names now! I’m all for trying new arrangements and looping was something I’d never tried so I decided to give it a go. People sometimes ask me if I’d had “lessons” as such; this never happened. In fact I bought a BOSS RC-30 loop pedal back in April 2011 and just began experimenting. I paid a lot of attention to how loop artists break their tracks into parts. After a week or so (and some serious practice) I filmed my arrangement of “Electric Feel” by MGMT.

How is working on your own different from being in a band?

It’s very different. When working with a band you have so many ideas to share and compromise with, which always results in new things. You also have people to share the music with and that’s such a good feeling. However, it can also be hard work and a lot harder to arrange compared with a solo gig. With solo rehearsals you can put in as much or little as you want, whereas with a full band everyone has to be fully focused else it won’t go anywhere.

Do you still collaborate and if not is that a possibility for the future? What about working with other musicians?

Of course, I love to work with other musicians! I’ve made tracks like “My Life Begins Now” and “The Mirror” where I’ve done live session work with other musicians and that’s been great. I also have a growing interest in the electronic music industry and have collabed on several tracks with Dubstep/DnB producer Filthzilla, who is a very close friend of mine. Both of these things are ongoing projects and I am always eager to work/share ideas with new musicians.

What has gigging been like? Have you been able to perform live very much? Does your age complicate that because of age restrictions at clubs, etc.?

I love gigs, but in the last year or so have done very little. I’ve sung at a couple of small events but have mainly been concentrating on exams – I’m sitting my A Levels at the moment and want to get this right! There will always be time for gigs in the future. The amount that I’m doing at the moment age isn’t really an issue and I should be 18 by the time I get back into serious gigging.

I understand your parents have been involved in the music business. Could you tell me a bit about that? I think your father sang and is your manager now and your mother also was a singer?

Erm, well Dad [Toby] is now a producer (formally a chartered accountant) and Mum [Annie] a music teacher at the local Primary School. They have both been musicians for a while now, in fact they met through playing in a band together. Dad now runs the tobesmusic.com independent record label, which all my music is released through.

How did your parents influence you musically?

I think my parents are the reason I’m so into music these days. They have always supported my growing interest, right from the start. Dad essentially taught me most of what I know about harmony and theory and was my main teacher when learning keys. I never really had formal piano lessons. The only instrument tuition I’ve had was singing lessons for just less than a year, a few years back. My parents are still so supportive and I learn new things from them all the time, whether it’s based around guitar, piano, or music technology.

What bands have influenced you most and who are your current favorites?

This is a hard question! I really am into such a wide range of music. For looping, Ed Sheeran and KT Tunstall. For songwriting, so many artists inspire me. I’m really into funk and love music from people like Stevie Wonder and bands such as Steely Dan. I’m a great Genesis fan too – we had their albums in the car for a bit when I was younger. In terms of more recent bands I enjoy alternative music such as Porcupine Tree, Bloc Party and Everything Everything. There really are too many artists to list.

Do you have an album in the works?

Indeed I do! It’s on my list of things to get done (alongside my A Level exams and driving test). At the moment it’s more about building my portfolio, especially online – gotta keep the Youtube channel active. However, I am working on an album to hopefully be released this year.

What are your long term plans? Are you going to make a career out of this? Are you thinking of getting signed to a label or would you rather stay independent and release music digitally?

I am definitely looking into a music career whatever the case, but I’m still unsure of what I want to do. I’ve got myself a degree placement in London, beginning this September and plan to come out with a full music degree before I really decide what to do for the future. Until it (hopefully) becomes a career I am in no rush to be signed to any label nor make any money out of my art. However if I could eventually make a living out of what I love, that would be amazing.

It looks like you’ve got a growing fan base on Youtube and recently got some nice attention from Reddit. Is the Internet your primary source of marketing? Do you think you could do this without the Internet?

The internet is definitely the reason my music is “out there.” I’ve been able to build an active online profile essentially from home, whilst still concentrating on my education and other things. It’s great that people are enjoying my music from all over the world! At this age especially, I would not have achieved that otherwise.

I’ve noticed you get a lot of comments about your hair. Is it more pro or con? (Heard enough redhead jokes yet?)

Haha, this is the first time that question’s come up in an interview. I get plenty of redhead jokes, but I don’t mind them. People are always going to find something to comment on, after all. I like the colour of my hair and it makes me more recognisable too! Someone stopped me in a shop in Chichester and said “excuse me, are you Josie Charlwood?” Could just be my point of view but I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened if I were a brunette. Overall I don’t think there are any “cons” to being a redhead, except being terrible at hide and seek.

This cover of MGMT’s “Electric Feel” may be my favorite performance so far.

She also has some great originals, such as “Better Days.”

I’m kind of glad she didn’t get that karaoke machine.

Josie essentially uses Youtube as her home base. Check out her Youtube page for lots of cool videos. You can find her band page on Facebook.

She distributes music through Bandcamp and iTunes.

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Filed under interview, one to watch, pop

Doleful Lions – beautiful ballads for the zombie apocalypse

Doleful Lions Jonathan and Robert Scott

Make fun of old horror movies all you want, but if you saw one as a child, it stuck with you didn’t it? There is a lot of emotional power in those images — just as there is in a well-written pop song. Combine the two and you really get something special. Nothing demonstrates that better than the music of Doleful Lions. I’ve been fascinated by the group for years. The title track to The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is a perennial secret weapon in my Halloween playlists.

Doleful Lions frontman Jonathan Scott lives in Plano, Ill., about 50 miles west of Chicago. The band started in Chicago in the mid-’90s and relocated to Chapel Hill, N.C. for several years. It  includes Jonathan on guitar and vocals and his brother Robert on bass. The brothers will give their first Doleful Lions show in two years on April 22 at the Abbey in Chicago. They just completed a new album, Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out of Prison, which should be released soon — hopefully by summer. They are working on yet another album for the Jesus Warhol label and have numerous albums available on Parasol Records.

I spent several hours over the last couple of weeks visiting with Jonathan about his music, his influences and his outlook on life.

Zombies


“We are all zombies waiting to have an apocalypse,” said Jonathan, when asked about the significance of B horror references in his songs. Jonathan believes Americans are being distracted by trivialities from a creeping fascism — much like the future described in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World — and disaster is bound to be the result.

“I feel like everything is a horror show. I think that B-Movie horror is a good barometer for what is going on in the world. I think we are pretty much all programmed and I think that eventually that programming will destroy everyone. I mean people are actually entertained by Dancing With The Stars, which to me is a sign of being a zombie. Most people could care less about the government taking away your rights. They have a big screen TV so who cares? It is totally Brave New World.

“It’s by design. They want us to be all preoccupied with our jobs and our rent and paying for food they know that if we are worrying about that we won’t question them taking our freedoms. People’s lives are hard, ’cause that is what they want, so we don’t question anything. We watch Dancing with the Stars when we get off work cause we can’t be bothered with what is really going on.”

His lyrics are a way of expressing his horror at the world’s problems and dealing with his struggle with bipolar disorder. They also spring from a heartfelt love of old cinema and science fiction — and growing up with access to a damn good video store.

Musical Beginnings

MusicMissionary: “Would you mind telling me how you got into music?”
Jonathan Scott: “When I was 4 is when it started. My parents had an old Realistic stereo they never used and they had a few records and I discovered it and learned how to work it and started listening. I remember they had Abbey Road, Beatles 65, Beatles VI, some Barbra Streisand record and Creedence, but once I discovered the stereo I stopped going outside to play. At that time we were living in Memphis and Elvis was huge so I went to K-Mart and bought Elvis 45s and The Eagles, John Travolta, Shaun Cassidy – you know, the popular stuff in the mid-’70s.”

MM: “Osmonds…”
JS: “I didn’t have any Osmonds, but when I was in kindergarten Kiss was huge and I heard Kiss Alive II and the music scared me and Gene Simmons scared me, but I really loved it.”
MM: “I actually had a Donnie & Marie album. Don’t tell anyone.”
JS: “Oh, that’s okay, I don’t think you should have to be responsible for any record you owned until maybe when you reach high school. I had a lot of pretty lame shit, I had the John Travolta record and really loved it. This song called ‘Easy Evil’ – I loved that song. I read a few years ago that Jim Gordon played drums on that song.”
MM: “Only Travolta song I remember is ‘Gonna Let Her In.’”
JS: “Yeah, that was the big song from the record but I liked the B-Side. That was the A side. I don’t know I was 4. I thought it was good haha.”

Hardcore Punk

MM: “So what about playing music. When did that start?”
JS: “I got into hardcore when I was in high school and really wanted to play in a band ’cause my friends had started playing music. I didn’t play an instrument, but I could sing okay, so my first year of junior college at College Of DuPage I put an ad up looking for a band that plays in the style of Husker Du/Bad Religion or the Descendents and this guy Jason called me and we eventually started a band. We were really bad.”
MM: “What year would that have been, about?”
JS: “This was in 1990. There were a bunch of bands in suburban Chicago doing similar stuff and we eventually got in contact with a lot of people in bands.”
MM: “Did y’all make songs or do covers?”
JS: “We did all originals but we did do a Mudhoney song and a Minor Threat song. It was fun though.”

Cinco de Gatos

Jonathan Scott in his post-hardcore days with Cinco de Gatos

MM: “So anyway… You left off doing hardcore and singing but not playing. When did you start doing that? You play guitar, right? Anything else?”

JS: “Yeah well, when that first band broke up, I moved to Chicago and my roommate [Dan Panic] played drums for Screeching Weasel and Jason – the guy that was in my first band — lived like a block away, so we decided to start playing, even though I had only been playing guitar for like a month. We were called Cinco de Gatos and I had to learn to play pretty fast, but we spent most of that summer rehearsing and played our first show in January of 1995. At the time, we had this dude named Ryan who had played drums in this band called Gauge playing second guitar. We did our first show and we were so bad Ryan and Dan quit that night.”

MM: “You say you moved to Chicago. Where were you before that with your first band?”
JS: “In the suburbs. We were based in the Downers Grove area.”

JS: “There was a suburban hardcore scene out there. Tony Victory lived down the street in Downers and had shows at his house all the time and now he is Victory Records haha.”

MM: “What kind of music were you guys making?”
JS: “It was really influenced by Fugazi and the stuff on Dischord Records. Also the bands on Lookout and stuff like Jawbreaker. There were a lot of bands like that at the time.”

From post-hardcore to indie pop

MM: “When did you start to develop your current sound? I’m hearing Beatles, Beach Boys, some shoegaze maybe… Very different from the kind of music you’re describing.”
JS: “Well, at the time when I was playing in Cinco I was getting into stuff like Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, obviously the Beatles, the Byrds and then the UK stuff like My Bloody Valentine, Ride. I was way into Elvis Costello too, but by the end of that band I had completely lost interest in playing post-hardcore or emo or whatever you want to call it and I wanted to play stuff like what I was listening to. Plus Bee Thousand by Guided By Voices came out in ’94 and I got that and I said ‘Screw this band I am in.’ So I bought a 4-Track in 1995 and wrote a bunch of pop songs.”

MM: “Normal pop songs? As in, not about Satan or werewolves or sci fi?”
JS: “Oh no, these songs were love songs. You know, guitar pop stuff, and with Casio keyboards — real twee stuff. I played it for Jason in Cinco de Gatos and he hated it. So I knew I was onto something.

“I have to tell you this story: When my first album Motel Swim came out, DL’s played Chicago. I was living in Chapel Hill at this time, and I played the album for my childhood friend Kevin Smith. Kevin had come up with me and been into hardcore and stuff, and I played him Motel Swim and he said ‘Dude this is the most uncool record I have ever heard.’ I felt like I had accomplished something ’cause that is what I was going for. Haha.”

MM: “So, what was it about pop songs and being uncool that was cool to you?”

JS: “Well, I had been playing in punk rock bands or hardcore, emo whatever you want to call it. Power pop is uncool at least in my circles and I really wanted Doleful Lions to be completely different from the Chicago emo shit that was going on at the time. I felt no connection to that stuff at all.”

MM: “What was it about emo that you hated? Too whiny?”
JS: “No, I just didn’t really feel an emotional connection to it — which is weird considering it is called emo — it always seemed contrived to me. I didn’t feel that music at all, but I felt stuff like Beach Boys and Flamin’ Groovies. I mean I remember where I was the first time I heard ‘Shake Some Action’ but I can’t say the same about the first time I heard Fugazi.”

Horror Movies

MM: “The main thing that has fascinated me about your stuff has been the pairing of lush pop and B horror imagery. Can you explain why you like that combination and why you like B horror movies?”

JS: “I grew up loving B movies so much. My brother and I used to watch all that stuff all the time. There is a song on the new album called ‘Julie’s Video’ which is kinda a tribute to this video store my brother and I used to go to, it is what I know so I figured I would write about stuff I know, which is Lucio Fulci movies.”

MM: “Why B horror and not ‘art’ horror?”

JS: “Because I relate to stuff like Gates Of Hell and Dawn of The Dead more than some art house movie. I think it is probably because I am a suburban kid who had access to a really good video store.”

MM: “It seems like you have a thing about zigging when others are zagging if you know what i mean. Finding uncool things and making them cool…”
JS: “Yes, there is a song on the Rats Are Coming The Werewolves Are Here called ‘The Contrarian,’ which is about myself haha.”

MM: “The B horror movie thing is a perfect example.”
JS: “Yeah, taking horrible movies and putting them in a literary context… I mean The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is a horrible movie! Almost unwatchable. But Andy Milligan’s movies are charming and I would much rather watch that than Inception or something.”

MM: “How did you get into that stuff and what made you want to make songs about it?”
JS: “Well, I have been into horror movies since I was a kid and never really grew out of it, and bands like the Misfits and the Cramps have done that sort of thing before, but not really a guitar pop band at least not at that time really.”

MM: “That’s what I found so striking about your music. Pretty sounding music, but the titles and lyrics are like Night of the Living Dead. I love juxtapositions like that.”
JS: “Yeah, I do too. The new record is even more pronounced with that type of thing. The lyrics on the new record are pretty hateful and violent.”

Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out Of Prison

The forthcoming Doleful Lions album has a rather controversial title, though not everyone will get the reference. (I had to look him up myself.) Indie musicians have a hard enough time getting attention that a bit of controversy probably won’t hurt, and it might help.

Beausoleil is doing hard time for the 1969 murder of music teacher and associate Gary Hinman. Beausoleil said he was trying to collect money from Hinman, who was said to owe money to Charles Manson (yes, THAT Charles Manson) for selling a bad batch of mescaline that had in turn been sold to some rather pissed off bikers.

Beausoleil was also a musician and aspiring actor who appeared in some B horror movies and wrote the soundtrack for a movie called Lucifer Rising that he would’ve starred in if he hadn’t gone to prison. Beausoleil wasn’t involved in the Manson Family’s “Helter Skelter” murders, but his affiliation with the Family has most likely kept him from getting paroled.
Jonathan doesn’t condone what Beausoleil did and thinks he deserves to pay for his crime. But he also thinks it unfair that the man’s cultural contributions are forgotten and that he seems to be paying for murders he didn’t commit.

“I think Bobby Beausoleil should pay for his crime, which was murder, but he should not be lumped in with the Manson family ’cause he was never a part of it. Vincent Bugliosi said that Bobby was a part of the Manson family but he wasn’t. He is what I would consider a genius musician and he deserves a fair parole hearing.”

The album title has already garnered a bit of attention.
“Actually I got a message from Bobby Beausoleil the other day about the record from his wife,” Jonathan said. “She was really appreciative. I wanted to let her know we are not planning on breaking him out of prison. We just wanted to acknowledge the musical influence he has had on us. And she told him about it. I guess he got a kick out of it.”

Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil is going to be a very dark album, as you might gather from the video of the title track, which contains scenes from the Kenneth Anger film, Lucifer Rising.

MM: “Tell me about your new album. You said it’s very dark.”

JS: “Yeah it is. I kinda gave up on everything last year. My girlfriend who I lived with I caught cheating on me. She was having an affair and I basically stopped caring about stuff. So the album is really dark and hateful.”

The song “Funeral Skies For Burst Patriot” is a good example of that darkness. Jonathan explained that the lyrics are about a fictitious assassination of right wing pundit Glen Beck. It is also inspired by Peter Gabriel’s “A Family Snapshot,” a song that tells a story from an assassin’s viewpoint.

“Like I said this is a pretty dark record,” he said. “I actually was a little hesitant to put the song on the album after the AZ congresswoman got shot.”

It’s a beautiful song, despite the subject matter:

Mental health issues

Jonathan said he has bipolar disorder. He describes himself as “crazy,” but he is functioning — earning money, paying the rent, making music. He isn’t taking medication right now and says smoking weed “does the trick” without the side effects prescribed drugs gave him.

MM: “Maybe the album [Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out of Prison] is a kind of exorcism.”

JS: “Well I am bipolar and it is a lot about me not dealing with being bipolar. I stopped taking my medicine last year. I got tired of being so asleep so with this record this is me totally nuts.”

MM: “Do you want me to edit that part?”

JS: “No, I want people to know how I am. Don’t edit it at all.”

MM: “OK. Totally your call. I know some people are private about that.”

JS: “I am not. I want people to know I am bipolar and I am doing okay.”

Jonathan has uploaded numerous Doleful Lions videos on YouTube. You should also check out the Doleful Lions’ Facebook and MySpace pages. And you’ll want to hear the Doleful Lions back catalog. Jonathan will start releasing those albums soon on Bandcamp. Check the Doleful Lions Facebook page for updates.

UPDATE: The deal with Parasol is off. The new album will come out in digital format on the Jesus Warhol label and Jonathan is shopping the album around to other labels for a CD release. Find out more about the planned release and the blowup that nixed the Parasol deal.

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Filed under indie, indie pop, indie rock, interview, music, pop, psych, rock, shoegaze, Uncategorized, video

Phil Collins quits music biz – happy retirement, love and respect always

Phil Collins is calling it quits, doesn’t think anyone will miss him.

I read a while back that Phil had quit drumming. Years behind the drum kit have given him back problems, hearing loss and nerve damage. Now he’s retiring from music altogether. I’m sorry to read that he thinks no will miss him. Wrong. People give him a lot of grief over his sappy ballads in the late ’80s and ’90s, but there are people who remember when he was awesome.

Like most rock lovers I cringed at songs like “Against All Odds,” “Another Day In Paradise,” but I still have respect for him and what he did in Genesis and at least the first 2 solo albums. Putting Genesis’ first singer Peter Gabriel on a pedestal is the hipster thing to do — and I do love Gabriel as well — but Collins ought to get more credit for the early days.

Part of it is nostalgia maybe, but I really loved Genesis when I was a teenager – had Abacab on cassette and played the hell out of it. And Then There Were Three, Duke and Trick of the Tail were among the very first CDs I bought when I graduated from cassettes. “Follow You Follow Me” and “Trick of the Tail” are awesome pop songs. The rest was very decent prog rock/pop, if you like that sort of thing. The ability to make a good pop song is nothing to sneeze at. At some point he decided he just wanted to get paid and I didn’t like the music that gave us, but I guess that was his right, his decision.

And his criticism of the music business is spot on: “I look at the MTV Music Awards and I think: ‘I can’t be in the same business as this.'” Beyoncé, Britney, Kanye, Rihanna, Panic at the Disco… Who are these clowns? What happened to MTV and the music business since the 1980s? If we thought Collins’ ballads sucked, it’s because we just didn’t know how bad it was going to get.

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Crazy 8s – albums I used to own on 8-track tape

Anyone else remember the 8-track tape? It was a terrible format in many ways. Once I finally had to switch, I realized that. But I am still nostalgic about it. I had quite a stack of those things when I was in high school. All my lawn mowing money went into them. I made this list on Rate Your Music a while back, before I started my blog. I’m not going into detail here like I did on RYM — you’ll have to check it out there if you want to know why a rock ‘n’ roll kid had albums by Neil Sedaka and Walter Murphy — but here is the bare bones version of my 8 track collection, the best I can remember:

Boston – s/t

Van Halen – s/t

Blue Öyster Cult – Fire of Unknown Origin

Devo – Freedom of Choice

Aerosmith – Greatest Hits

Electric Light Orchestra – Time

AC/DC – Back in Black

Cheap Trick – Dream Police

April Wine – The Nature of the Beast

Eagles – Hotel California

Kansas – Audio-Visions

Queen – The Game

Various Artists – Heavy Metal: Music From the Motion Picture

Journey – Departure

Journey – Escape

Walter Murphy – Rhapsody in Blue

Bee Gees – Here at Last … Bee Gees … Live

Three Dog Night – Joy to the World: Their Greatest Hits

Styx – Paradise Theater

Neil Sedaka – A Song

Pat Benatar – Crimes of Passion

I toyed with the idea of just copying my whole list over to WordPress with all its descriptions, but I think I’d rather use this as an introduction to the list feature on RYM, one of the best aspects of my favorite site on the Internet. I have several fun lists there, including a non-musical one about parasites you shouldn’t look at unless you have a really strong stomach. Anyway, check out this list and my others too. And if you have the inclination, check out some of the other users’ lists. I always enjoy doing that. You never know what you might find. I’ll dig up a few and promote them here in the future. See if this doesn’t get you hooked: http://rateyourmusic.com/lists/

Also, give Rate Your Music a spin in general. There’s so much to enjoy for any music lover – rate your albums, write reviews, talk to a knowledgeable (if sometimes a bit rowdy) community of music lovers. They have turned me onto so much good music.

The site has also expanded to encompass movie reviews and ratings. If that’s your thing, you’ll also find plenty to keep you occupied.

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The brief glory days of AM rock radio

If you’re younger than I am or if you didn’t grow up in America, you might not know what I mean by AM rock radio, so I’ll try to explain.

The transition of music and music listeners from radio to the Internet reminds me a lot of something I’ve seen before: the late ’70s/early ’80s trend away from playing music on AM radio. If you listen to music on the radio at all, you are probably doing it on the FM band. Nowadays, AM is reserved mostly for news and talk radio. It wasn’t always that way.

AM was where you heard all the top hits of the day for many many years. That was still true when I was a young adolescent in the mid-70s, just getting a taste for rock ‘n’ roll. The sound was a bit trebly and not in stereo, but that was normal. No one thought anything of it. FM radio existed at that point, but there were very few FM stations, at least in my neck of the woods, in the Texas Hill Country. Usually there was one classical station (if you were lucky) and one station that played elevator music (pretty much guaranteed, if there was only one, that would be it). And there was a problem called FM drift. You had to keep retuning the dial every few minutes, cuz the signal would drift to the left or right and it would be off the station.

There was a brief golden age, between about ’75 and ’79, when the music on AM radio was especially good. I’m talking about rock and pop stations, but the country music stations were pretty good at that time also. It basically ended when disco began to take over and you heard nothing else for a few years till everybody got fed up and people started smashing their records and wearing “Disco Sucks” T-shirts.

There were some basic rules to AM rock radio. For one thing, it couldn’t rock too hard. For another, it had to be clean. Sex and drug references had to be well-disguised in metaphor. It was for the kids, but Mom and Dad were going to be listening, so no shenanigans. Strangely enough, those vague restrictions led to some pretty good songcraft.

Here are some of the songs you might typically hear on one of those stations during that time:

Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street

Elton John – Daniel, Tiny Dancer, Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Little River Band – Reminiscing

Billy Joel – Honesty, Only the Good Die Young

ELO – Strange Magic, Evil Woman, Telephone Line

Firefall – You Are the Woman, Just Remember I Love You

Todd Rundgren – Hello It’s Me

Linda Ronstadt – Allison, You’re No Good

Seals & Crofts – Summer Breeze, Diamond Girl

The Who – Mama’s Got a Squeezebox

Chicago – Color My World, 25 or 6 to 4, Saturday in the Park

James Taylor – Shower the People, Up on a Roof, Smiling Face

The weird thing is, I didn’t realize how good it was at the time, only in hindsight. (All I thought back then was, couldn’t we rock a little harder?) There was some dreck on the airwaves to be sure, but any hour of a popular AM station playlist from ’76 would blow the crap they play today right out of the water. Maybe somebody else can come up with other examples.

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