20 Great Covers That You May Have Missed

I love a good cover version. You know, a remake of a song that was popular for someone else? Some of them I’ve found really intriguing: “Sunshine of your Love” by the Fifth Dimension…or “Purple Haze” by Dion…or Rundgren’s “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” by Johnny Mathis. Those are for real, and have their own unique charm. However, they don’t really come close to the original version.

SO I’ve compiled a list of my favorite 20 cover versions…at least those that come to mind. I’m not saying they’re better than the originals, but they’re fun to listen to, especially if a tune gets a modern spin and doesn’t sound dated. I’ve purposely avoided tribute albums, live cuts and cover albums. And hey, this time I’ve included links so you can give them a listen! Gee, thanks Mr.GroovyRick!

1-Jackie Blue – AM & Shawn Lee (original: Ozark Mountain Daredevils): From their 2011 debut album “Celestial Electric,” AM & Shawn Lee are songwriter and producer AM, and wiz-musician Shawn Lee. I really love the vibe to this one. It keeps many of the same elements of the original, which was always an AM radio favorite of mine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENPzBr5nqts

2-Green Tambourine – Love Nut (original: The Lemon Pipers): Love Nut was the brainchild of Baltimore’s Andy Bopp, a power-pop disciple. Nut’s first album in 1995, “Bastards of Melody,” produced this great cover that my brother, Randy, turned me on to a few years ago. Love Nut broke up after two albums, and Bopp then formed Myracle Brah (featured later in our list), another band that was full-tilt power pop. These days, he fronts a couple of bands and is still recording and performing. Sorry, couldn’t find a link for this one, but you can listen if you have Spotify.

3-Little Town Flirt – Electric Light Orchestra (original: Del Shannon): About 20 years before they performed together for a short time in the Travelling Wilburys, Jeff Lynne must have been a Del Shannon fan. ELO did few covers, aside from their blistering “Roll Over Beethoven,” which really put them on the map in the US. By the time the much-anticipated “Discovery” was released in 1979, the band already had a ton of hits. Lynne recorded “Little Town Flirt,” but it was kept off the album. It showed up as a bonus track on the CD re-issue of Discovery. It doesn’t stray far from the original, but has that unmistakable ELO sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20FDKjGIQqs

4-Dancing In The Moonlight – Johnny Rivers (original: King Harvest): I always kind of liked this tune when it was all over AM radio, but thought it was a little fluffy. Johnny Rivers has done quite a few good covers throughout his career, but when I discovered 1975’s “New Lovers and Old Friends,” I immediately liked Johnny’s version better – a little more upbeat and a little less schmaltzy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjZWKgStkzc

5-For Your Love – The Four Tops (original: The Yardbirds): I’ve always loved the Yardbirds version of this tune, and I’ve always loved the Four Tops. I was really intrigued the first time I saw this pop up on some website. Released as a European single in 1977, it sounds a little disco-y, but has a great vibe. Purists may not like it, but hey, you gotta agree – Levi Stubbs can make any song sound great! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IxRruyGSc0

6-TIE – Back In The U.S.S.R./Under My Thumb – Chubby Checker (originals: The Beatles/The Rolling Stones): Chubby Checker gets a fraction of the credit he deserves, mainly because he branched out in so many directions over the years. But people still want to hear him sing “The Twist.” Too bad, because he has several little-known gems (check out the psychedelic “Chequered” if you can find links anywhere). In 1969, Chubby released the White Album’s “Back In The U.S.S.R.” as a single, and it JUMPED off the turntable. Even the Beatles had to be thinking, “Jeez, Chubby’s version kicks ass!” Fast forward to 1982, and Chubby has a one-album deal with MCA, and releases “A Change Has Come,” the title coming from his cover of the Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” It’s laid-back, like the original, but has an updated sound, and Chubby does a great job with it. A little lush maybe, but great. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGLs1chXTWM    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7A0nECoKTU

7-Lay Lady Lay – The Everly Brothers (original: Bob Dylan): This was always such a moody, melancholy tune recorded by Dylan during his Nashville period. It got AM radio airplay, and Dylan still performs it occasionally in concert. In 1984, the Everly Brothers were making a comeback, and recorded “EB 84.” Mercury Records pulled out all the stops, got Dave Edmunds to produce, and a long list of musicians influenced by the duo wanted to help on the album. Paul McCartney added a tune and played guitar, along with a host of other credible musicians. I didn’t think anyone could match the mood of the original Dylan recording, but Phil and Don give it their own spin, Edmunds made it sound current, and a great song was had by all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0mcMZHjjzg

8-I’ll Be Around – What Is This (original: The Spinners): What Is This got their start in California, and prior to securing a recording contract with MCA and releasing their debut album in 1985, featured two young members named Flea and Anthony Kiedis. When the latter two went on to form Red hot Chili Peppers, the band recruited another couple of members, secured Todd Rundgren to produce their debut effort, and released this cover as one of the first singles. It sank without much of a trace, as did What Is This. Guess those Flea and Kiedis fellows had a better idea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oR9-0tx2kcg

9-Too Many People – Myracle Brah (original: Paul McCartney): If you’re going to take on a McCartney tune, you’d better have some chops. As stated earlier, Andy Bopp has those chops. I don’t know that I like this “Ram” classic better than the original…it’s just different, and sometimes that’s enough. Check out Myracle Brah when you have a chance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHijjfy3PnI

10-Day Tripper – Otis Redding (original: The Beatles): The Beatles were so influenced by American black artists that when the Fabs started invading America, many black music fans were saying, “You like this Beatles song? You should hear the original version!” Sadly, it wasn’t enough, so those artists started covering Beatles tunes to start cashing in on what they felt was probably theirs in the first place. There is no way you can compare Otis Redding’s version of Day Tripper with the Beatles’ original. It takes the song to the next level…or two. GREAT cover! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nUGmo71SfE

11-I Started A Joke – The Wallflowers (original: The Bee Gees): Sometimes you’ll find a great cover on a movie soundtrack, and so it goes with this gem. I always loved this gentle, plaintive Bee Gees hit. Then The Wallflowers recorded an updated version for the “Zoolander” movie in 2001. A more modern sound, a little more weight, and I’m sure Barry Gibb even felt that it was a great version. Then he cashed the check. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK-DpbBxIes

12-Till The End Of The Day – Big Star (original: The Kinks): It’s a fact – the Kinks are a greatly overlooked British Invasion group. Their early sides were so edgy that it prompted member Dave Davies to later quip, “It wasn’t called heavy metal when I invented it.” This tune was an early rocker in the same vein as “All Day and All Of The Night “ and “You Really Got Me.” Big Star was formed in Memphis in 1971 after Alex Chilton was done churning out hits for the Box Tops. He got together with Chris Bell and put together some of the best power pop to come out of the US. “Till The End Of The Day” was recorded during sessions for what would become the album “Third/Sister Lovers,” but didn’t make the album until it was included as an unreleased track on Rykodisc’s 1992 CD release of the album. Jody Stephen’s high-energy drumming is probably what makes this tune really cook. Great stuff. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsZEq524YH4

13-Baker Street – Foo Fighters (original: Gerry Rafferty): You’ve probably heard this one. It was recorded during sessions for the Fighters’ second album, 1997’s “The Colour and the Shape.” It finally saw the light of day on the CD re-issue in 2007 as a bonus track…and in true Foo Fighers fashion, this tune smokes! Again, it’s almost impossible to compare this one to the original, which is just a great song. I guess it comes down to whether you’re more of a sax fan or screaming guitar fan. I’m both. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DmIk05vmMc

14-I Go To Pieces – Del Shannon (original version: Del Shannon/Peter and Gordon): Typically, when an artist covers themselves, it’s a either a last-ditch effort to regain their former glory (ie: Chicago’s 1986 version of “25 or 6 to 4”), or they feel like the original version wasn’t as good as it could have been. At any rate, it’s usually a recipe for disaster. Del wrote “I Go To Pieces” in the mid-60’s for an R&B singer he was managing, but the song went nowhere. He recorded it himself, but it just became an album track. Peter and Gordon, riding in on the British Invasion, recorded their version of the song and it became a big hit for them. Fast forward to 1989, and Del felt he had written some new songs that could restore his career. He recruited fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne and Mike Campbell from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers to produce and play on the album, and decided to take another shot at “I Go To Pieces.” Unfortunately, Del committed suicide before the album was released. It may not have restored him to his former glory, but it’s a damn fine album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GjAwJhD4y8

15-Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town – The Killers (original: Kenny Rogers and the First Edition): Originally written by Mel Tillis, this tune was recorded by Johnny Darrell before The First Edition had a hit with it in 1967. The song is about a soldier who comes home paralyzed from “that crazy Asian war”, and begs his wife/girlfriend not to go out on the town while he sits at home and wonders if she’ll be faithful. Not a terribly uplifting tune, but The Killers, who are usually good with a cover (check out their version of the Raspberries’ “Go All The Way” at the end of Johnny Depp’s Dark Shadows movie – clearly the best part of that flick), had this version appear on their “Sawdust” album in 2007, a collection of outtakes and B-sides. They stay pretty true to the original, but give it a little more modern sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhP0cwGHA8Y

16-Magnet and Steel – Matthew Sweet (original: Walter Egan): This was a nice little pop song with a throwback sound that hit AM radio in 1978. It sounded a little schmaltzy, but was still a really good pop tune from Walter Egan’s second album, “Not Shy.” Sweet’s version showed up, in all places, on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch – The Album.” Sheesh, what a way to make a few bucks. Matthew is great with a pop tune, and gives a lot more bite to Egan’s tune. I wouldn’t recommend checking out the whole album – just this tune. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us4LFfH-MdA

17-For The Love of Money – Utopia (original: The O’Jays): I’m sure you’ve noticed throughout my posts and blogs…I’m a major Todd Rundgren fan. Whether it’s a Todd solo effort or one of the great albums he did with Utopia, it’s all great stuff in my eyes. When Todd does something, it’s not half-assed. This album features one of my favorite Todd-tunes, “Lysistrata,” so there are other great reasons to check out the album. But this cover is killer – more uptempo than the original and a little more edgy. Not to knock the O’Jays version – it’s a classic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-aDbIW10F8

18-You Showed Me – The Lightning Seeds (original: The Turtles): Another soundtrack tune, this time from an “Austin Powers” movie. Not sure which one, I’ve never seen any of them. Hate Mike Meyers. But enough of my movie/actor critiques. This song was originally written by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark of the Byrds as a bit more of an up-tempo song. But when the Turtles producer, Chip Douglas, played the song for them to think about recording it, all he had to play it on was an old pump organ with broken bellows, so he had to play it slower. The Turtles liked the slow groove better and had a hit with the song. The Lightning Seeds sampled much of the original and released it as a single before allowing its use on the soundtrack. It has the same groove, the same mood, and I really like the beat in the background. Would this version, or even the Turtles’ version be nearly as cool if Chip Douglas had a decent set of keyboards at his house? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvcLJ38EdM0

19-Nights In White Satin – Bettye LaVette (original: The Moody Blues): This tune is a stone-cold classic, and probably should never be messed with at all. I can’t say enough about how much I love the Moody’s version after all these years. Then I heard Bettye LaVette’s version. Bettye has been recording since the early 1960’s, but has never really had what you would call a hit. Over the years, she’s done a ton of performing, a ton of recording, and apparently works enough to still make a living. In 2010, she recorded “Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook.” On the album, she covers everyone from the Beatles and Stones to Traffic, Zep and Pink Floyd. She also does a slow-burning version of “Nights.” She pumps plenty of soul into it, making it tough to compare it to the original. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6raFWDBZLI

20-Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) – Tom Jones (original: Kenny Rogers and the First Edition): I saw Tom Jones in concert a couple of times through the 90’s, and the thing that really impressed me was that he would do a few hits, then do something like “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz – and make it kick ass! The guy wants to stay relevant! Kenny would kind of make fun of this tune when he would do a piece of it during his Christmas concerts. But if he took some notes at a Tom Jones show, he would learn that you can still do this type of song and make it sound current. Hats off to Tom…see ya later, Kenny. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsvu4TnyHnQ

Well, there you go. Thanks for going with me on these little musical journeys of mine. I’m sure you can probably think of dozens more, just like I probably will right after I post this. Feel free to leave comments, criticism, and cookies for Santa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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He’s baaack…and he’s got a list!

I don’t know why, but I started thinking about my old blog today. Remember Groovyrick? I was surprisingly able to log into my account, and saw that my last blog post was in August, 2014. And even at that point they were pretty sporadic, especially considering I used to post something every day! Wow, I was really ambitious back then – or really bored. So welcome to my first post in 5 years!

Alright, truthin’ time. The reason I thought about my blog is that I tend to browse Facebook a lot while I’m eating lunch to give my mind a break from work. I ALWAYS see links to lists: 25 Best Guitar Players of All Time, 30 Best Rock Singers of All Time, 50 Greatest Drummers in Rock, 40 Most Influential Albums of All Time, etc. Being the musical snot that I am proud to be, I often read them with disdain. What a bunch of wankers. Who are they to tell me the best of anything in music? While I sometimes agree, I often find two things: I NEVER agree with the complete list, and they often omit people I would add. Have you ever seen Terry Kath in a “Greatest Guitar Players of All Time” list? You haven’t, and that’s a travesty in itself. OK, there’s a third thing – in my opinion, they often list someone or something that they would never consider, but they want to look cool or gain credibility. Case in point: I don’t know if I’ve ever read a list of most influential albums or best rock albums that didn’t include “London Calling” by The Clash. Sorry, not on my list. I’ve listened to it several times, but it didn’t really do much for me. But I’m that way with a LOT of albums I’m probably supposed to love.

So today I see a post from something called “The Manual” that appeared in June, listing the 25 Vinyl Albums Every Man Should Own. I was immediately miffed by a number of things. First off, why just men? Don’t women qualify as musical aficionados?  And the fact that you have to qualify them as vinyl albums immediately takes about 50 points off for me. As I read through it…yep, about halfway down…”London Calling” by The Clash. Wankers.

So you know how this ends. I thought “I’ll use my old blog to list MY “25 Vinyl Albums Every PERSON Should Own.” Nobody’s going to agree with all of them, and maybe you won’t agree with any of them. Maybe you’ll agree with half of them. I welcome your comments. My criteria? With albums, it’s got to be something I love all the way through. An album where I can’t skip a single track. Sgt. Peppers didn’t make the list. Why? I love the whole album EXCEPT for “When I’m 64”. Way too schmaltzy to stick into such a ground-breaking album.

So you won’t feel listless, here’s my list!

25 Albums Every Person Should Own (in no particular order)

1-Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This would make the list even if the album stopped after “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”. From start to finish, this is classic Elton. In my opinion, the songs are some of his best, his band is fantastic, and Elton sounds young and energetic. Just…wow.

2-Love: Forever Changes. There were a ton of great groups in the 1960’s…and there was Love. No one else could come close to sounding like them. The combination of Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean was kind of like sweet and sour. Great songwriting and great production. Love didn’t really have any big hits. They didn’t need any.

3-Elvis Presley: From Elvis In Memphis. By the late 60’s, Elvis had gotten kind of lazy, making lousy movies (that always made money – had to keep the cash flow going), but not recording anything of substance since before he left for the army. Elvis wanted to prove to himself, and his fans, that he still had some gas left in the tank. For years, Elvis was required to only record songs where he and the Colonel owned the copyright, so they could make more money from every release. Elvis laid down the law and said he wanted to record some GOOD songs, and didn’t care who owned the copyright. And he wanted to record again at home in Memphis. He chose American Sound Studio, under the direction of the great Chips Momam. Using American’s session players, some of the best in the business, he worked hard and came up with what many consider the best recordings of his career.

4-Boston: Boston. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this album on any of those wanker lists, but it damn well should be. It’s a true classic that stands up as well today as it did in 1977. Well-produced, well-written – this one will jump off your turntable and make you smile.

5-The Beatles: Rubber Soul (American). I had to specify since the UK and American versions of this album are markedly different, track-wise. And I had to put at least one Beatles album on the list. I admittedly didn’t discover the beauty of this album until I was in college, and my friend Brett brought it for a planned all-night Beatles fest in my dorm room. It quickly became my favorite. To be frank, my favorite Beatles album really depends on my mood that day. They’re all great.

6-Steely Dan: The Royal Scam. This could have easily been “Aja” or “Katy Lied”. I pretty much love every Steely Dan album, but this one always seems to be my go-to. The title track has such a cool mood to it, you gotta check it out if you haven’t already.

7-Gordon Lightfoot: Sundown. From the laid-back title track, there are so many gems on this album: “Seven Island Suite”, “Carefree Highway” and the thought-provoking “Circle of Steel” and “Too Late For Prayin’”. Lenny Waronker’s production is smooth and beautiful. You won’t need “Gord’s Gold” if you have a copy of this one.

8-Patsy Cline: Sentimentally Yours. Whether or not you’re a country music fan, this is a beautiful album. It’s the last album released while Patsy was still alive, and she was experiencing some turmoil in her marriage, family life and career. As a result, people who were in Owen Bradley’s studio when she was recording some of these tunes say that when she would finish the vocal on many of these tunes, she was so overcome with emotion that she would often break down. Plus she had a premonition that she wouldn’t live a long life. Sure enough, she was killed less than a year after recording this album.

9-Aliotta/Haynes/Jeremiah: Lake Shore Drive. The title track has become a cherished Midwest favorite, but you GOTTA listen to the rest of the album. There are beautiful ballads, sentimental remembrances and a couple of tunes that just sound like they’re sitting around having fun. The last track on the album, “Last of the Night People,” is probably the best song ever written for a musician who has played until the early morning hours in a bar.

10-Badfinger: Straight Up. With all the misfortune and crooked management that this band endured (enough to make Pete Ham and, eventually, Tom Evans take their own lives), it’s amazing that they could still produce such a great album. Just putting the album together was a travesty: Geoff Emerick produced the entire album, but Apple thought it needed to sound more polished. George Harrison was brought in to produce it, but left to do the Concert for Bangladesh. So Apple hired Todd Rundgren to re-do the entire album, scrapping the Emerick tracks. If this album only contained “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day,” it would still be a classic.

11-The Cryan’ Shames: A Scratch In The Sky. This is truly a toss up between “Scratch” and “Synthesis”, but “Scratch” wins out because lead guitarist and principle songwriter James Fairs was fully involved in the process (he left just after they started recording “Synthesis”). In fact, in addition to arranging all the tracks, he played bagpipes, bass, flute, guitar and mandolin on the album, plus added vocals. The album features what was probably the ‘Shames biggest hit, “Could Be We’re In Love,” plus a killer version of “Up On The Roof.” An often overlooked 60’s pop classic that still sounds great today.

12-Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon. I’m not a band wagoner here – this is really an album that deserves its classic status. Floyd fans can be a little snooty, so I’m sure many of them will dismiss this one as “too commercial,” but most of the rest of the Pink catalog is hit or miss with me. I remember being thoroughly criticized by a friend back in the late 70’s because I told him I didn’t really like “The Wall.” Seriously, if I hear that brick in the wall song again, I’ll throw a brick on the turntable. BTW, don’t try syncing Dark Side with “The Wizard of Oz.” It doesn’t work. Maybe you have to be really stoned. Then anything tends to work the way you want it to.

13-Blood, Sweat and Tears: Child Is The Father To Man. If you think the schmaltzy “Blood, Sweat and Tears” album that featured David Clayton-Thomas on vocals was their first album, you’ve missed out on their best album. BS&T was the brainchild of Al Kooper, who had the idea to mix jazzy brass and pop arrangements together, and the result was a killer debut album. Unfortunately, with that many egos in the band, Kooper got fed up with the project (and Steve Katz) and left the band. They went in a more pop/less jazzy direction, and Kooper has forever tried to disconnect his name from all the less-than-enthusiastic (ok, lame) releases that followed.

14-The Wondermints: Mind If We Make Love To You. There is so much talent in this band, it’s scary. In addition to putting out occasional power-pop gems, most of these guys are Brian Wilson’s touring band. Every one of their albums is a great listen, but this one really jumps out at me. Luscious pop from beginning to end.

15-Traffic: The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. I’m not nearly as Traffic-savvy as many of my music friends, but I’ve been listening to this one since my brother had the 8-track when we were in high school. The title track is eleven-and-a-half minutes of pure bliss, and begs a good set of headphones. This is one of those albums that I can’t listen to a track at a time – I have to hear the whole thing. BTW, I can still remember the exact spot where the song faded out so the track could change, then fade back up.

16-Todd Rundgren: The Hermit of Mink Hollow. I’ve encountered so many Todd-freaks in my lifetime that sometimes I just have to regroup when it comes to Sodd Runtlestuntle (as John Lennon called him). When I do that, I listen to this album, and its pop perfection. And I’ve always been impressed with the fact that the liner notes list the writer, producer, arranger and performer as…Todd Rundgren. How can you not think an album is classic that contains “Can We Still Be Friends,” the ultimate girl-and-guy-breakup song.

17-Johnny Rivers: Changes. Rivers made his mark in the early-to-mid-60’s by playing the Whiskey-A-GoGo and covering Chuck Berry tunes.  His biggest break came when he recorded the theme to the hit TV show “Secret Agent.” His extended version of “Secret Agent Man” (which is a truly kickass tune) sold a million copies, and gave Rivers enough confidence to branch out and expand his horizons. He worked with Lou Adler to create “Changes,” which featured a softer, more pop-oriented Johnny Rivers. The album includes his first self-penned hit “Poor Side of Town,” one of the greatest songs ever recorded. I got to talk to Johnny on the phone one time, and he was kind of a jerk. But hey, I just went home and listened to “Changes” and all was forgiven.

18-R.E.M.: Automatic For The People. I love this album! Love, love, love it! Most of their fans will probably say this this was their most accessible and most poppy album, and they’re probably right. But everything is here for me, from the pounding “Ignoreland” to the wistful “Man on the Moon” to the sentimental “Everybody Hurts.” Did I mention that I love this album?

19-Grand Funk Railroad: Good Singin’ Good Playin’. Talk about your overlooked gems! After they were finished pumping out hits for Capitol from ’69 through ’76, they left the label and signed a one-album deal with MCA. They wanted to change things up a bit from pop producers like Todd Rundgren and Jimmy Ienner. So they brought in Frank Zappa to produce the album. Don’t expect to hear anything Zappa-ish. You still get the great Midwest pop/rock sound that GFR is noted for, with a bit of an edge. Most of all, it sounds like they had a blast recording it. It comes out in the sound. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell, and it was their only MCA release.

20-The Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed. The Moody Blues started as an R&B band that had a modest hit with a cover of “Go Now” in 1964. By 1967, they had a couple of new members (Justin Hayward and John Lodge), and they were looking for a new direction. Their record company, Deram, asked them to record an album that would demonstrate their new “Deramic” stereo sound. The plan was to record something similar to Dvorak’s 9th Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra. It came out pretty good, and was a steady-but-not-huge seller, so the Moodies moved on. Fast forward to 1972, and Deram is still selling copies of the album, and they decide to release the album’s edited closing track, “Nights in White Satin.” The rest, as they say, is history. This is another I can’t just listen to a piece of – gotta be the whole thing.

21-The Zombies: Odessey and Oracle. This album was almost a throwaway for the band. They had already decided to break up, but owed one more album to the record company. With a very limited budget and very little time, they went in and cranked out this classic. It wasn’t even going to be released in America, but Al Kooper, who was working for CBS at the time, heard it in England and brought it back to New York, telling CBS they HAD to release this great album. Good thing. It has cemented the Zombies name in the annals of great 60’s pop/psychedelia.

22-Dan Fogelberg: Nether Lands. I’ve always been a pretty major Fogelberg fan, and always felt like this album was a high water mark for him. Oh, he released a lot of great material over the years, but I don’t know if any of them came close to this one as far as being a great album from start to finish. Folks outside the Midwest may only know Dan from his syrupy hits, but do yourself a favor. Give this one a try.

23-Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis. Ok, any time you put “Memphis” in the album title (see #3) you’re probably going to get a great album. Dusty’s popularity was starting to subside as the 60’s were coming to a close, so she wanted to show she still had some gas in the tank. Atlantic Records decided to get her together at American Sound Studios in Memphis (also see #3) with three of their best producers – Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin. The album didn’t sell well at first, but over the years has gained “classic” status. Look beyond “Son of a Preacher Man” and you’ll hear some real gems.

24-Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On. Yep, no big surprise here. I saved my two personal favorites for last. Marvin wanted to turn away from sappy love songs and record something to reflect current events. This album is just as much a time capsule of America in 1971 as it is fantastic lyrics, music and arrangements. Berry Gordy reportedly didn’t even want to release the album, but it immediately became a commercial and critical success, with everyone touting Gaye’s genius. It went on to become one of the biggest selling albums in Motown history. Best of all, Marvin was able to say “told you so” to his former brother-in-law, Berry Gordy.

25-The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds. Raise your hand right now if you didn’t think this was going to be on my list. Anyone? Nope, didn’t think so. A true classic in every sense of the word. Brian Wilson pours out his heart, his creativity and his soul in this album that takes you from happy (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”) to romantic (“God Only Knows”) to sad (“Caroline, No”). If you have about 8 hours to spare someday, sit down and talk to me about this album. That might give us enough time to cover it.

So there you go. Hoky smokes, that was a loooooong entry! Should last me another five years. There were probably a hundred others that could make the list, but they were personal favorites that may not be as accessible as these. Agree, disagree, make your own list, tell me you think I’m spot-on or way off base…it doesn’t matter. All of these crazy lists you see are totally subjective. I wouldn’t BEGIN to tell someone what they should own or listen to. I can only share and suggest.

I just hope you don’t read this list and immediately think…”wanker”…and then wonder why I didn’t include “London Calling” by the Clash.

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Please boycott the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Take a second to get over the shock that I’m writing a blog entry.

Now, do me another favor.

Please don’t ever darken the doors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s a sham. It’s a disgrace. It’s a farce. And now they’ve REALLY pissed me off.

I don’t even know where to start.

According to today’s headline in the Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s largest newspaper, “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to evict ashes of Alan Freed, DJ who gave birth to rock ‘n’ roll, son says”.

According to Lance Freed, son of famed DJ Alan Freed, his father’s ashes have been on display at the RARHOF since 2002. It’s entirely appropriate that Freed’s ashes should be a part of the museum. If not for Alan Freed’s committment to rock and roll and his ongoing fight to cross color barriers in the 1950’s, simply put, there would be no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Think about that. It’s a bold statement. But you gotta ask yourself: Would there be a RARHOF without Run DMC? Yup. Would it still exist without Bonnie Raitt? You betcha. Would it still exist without Beyonce, the subject of its latest exhibit? ‘Fraid so.

Now let’s take a minute and forget about Freed’s contribution to rock and roll. Let’s think about his contributions to society. He was scrutinized originally for playing black music to white kids. To him, it made sense. “Hey kids, you like that watered down white crap? Check out the original tune performed by a black artist. It’s like going from artificial sweetener to pure sugar.” They tried to go after him with the payola scandal, figuring if they nailed him, other DJs would stay away from corrupting young white people with black music. It didn’t work. He later hosted a TV show, but it was cancelled because the sponsor backed out. Apparently, they were upset when they saw black performer Frankie Lymon dancing with a white girl. Freed refused to segregate his audience. Gotta admire that.

However, the Rock Hall doesn’t see it that way. Lance Freed was recently contacted by Greg Harris, Chief Executive Officer of the RARHOF and told to come and get his father’s cremains. They were being taken off display. Freed’s family will need to find another resting place for one of rock and roll’s most important pioneers.

Those who know me, and those who have read this blog in the past, know that I’ve never been a fan of the uninformed yo-yos that run this joint. But I gotta tell ya, I was almost there. That’s right, the dark clouds were starting to clear. I am travelling to Cleveland in September, and I was going to give it a chance. I thought “maybe I can look past all the corporate crap and actually see something worth seeing.” All along I’ve thought “if I can just see something legitimate, like Del Shannon’s guitar, it will be worth it”. I was actually going to pay the admission and take the tour. Yep, I was gonna drink the koolaid.

Not anymore. If they were giving away tickets to this shithole, I wouldn’t stand in line for them. As a radio fan, and as a rock and roll fan, I’m insulted that that they even put the name “rock and roll” on this place.

The worst part? They don’t care. The RARHOF has never cared for the input of fans. They decide who gets in and who doesn’t. If you’re not in the Jann Wenner club, you don’t count. There are tons of great performers who have made major contributions to rock and roll, and they will never get near the place.

I don’t know if any of you have ever been to the museum, or are planning on going there in the future. I just hope that at least some of you will join this boycott. Instead, travel to Nashville to check out the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s well worth the trip. Or check out the Memphis Music Museum. In fact, there are several other music museums throughout the country that are worth seeing,  just google.

Please…just don’t go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

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Let’s get random

You know, when you get right down to it, life is pretty dang random. Oh, maybe not all the time, but for the most part, pretty random. With this thought in mind, let’s get on the random train and take it to Randomville for some good ‘ol fashioned randomness.

Random thought 1: Enough already with famous people having affairs. You know what? In the time it takes to read this blog, millions of people all over the world will get laid. Know what else?  Some of them will be having sex with someone other than their spouse. Are each of those people going to have their faces and names plastered all over CNN?  Nope. Know why? Because NO ONE CARES if you’re just an average Joe or Jane and you’re gettin’ some. Good for you! I don’t know about your experiences, but I’ve always rather enjoyed sex, and considered it a good thing. Should our nation’s leaders be held to a different standard because they got caught having sex? I understand that people are worried about whether David Petraeus let go of some government secrets in the heat of passion. If he’s like everyone else, I’m sure he was talking to God more than anything, if ya catch my drift. As the saying goes, if you wanna run naked through town, go for it…if you wanna run naked through my living room, THAT concerns me.  David Petraeus having sex with someone doesn’t concern me.

Random thought 2: This thought comes from my good friend and neighbor, Lance. We were talking over the weekend, and he said (as politically correctly as possible, ‘cause that’s the way Lance rolls) “Whatever happened to all the blind entertainers? There don’t really seem to be any new ones.” After giving it a little thought, I had to agree. We started coming up with famous blind entertainers from the past…Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano, Ronnie Milsap, Jeff Healey, Sammy Davis Jr (half credit)…that used to be something that would really get a performer noticed. The fact that they had that kind of challenge, and were still able to perform better than most other musicians amazed us. We thought “what a great storyline for American Idol” or any one of those talent-search programs that are all the rage these days. Can you imagine a blind dancer on “Dancing with the Stars?”  The viewers would eat it up! Blind Survivor? Why not? Enough said…I fear I’m starting to tread too close to the “good taste” boundry. Thanks for the contribution, Lance!

Random thought 3: Have you ever wondered what happened to instruments that were used by famous people or on famous recordings…or am I just a music geek? I remember my friend Mike, at one time, owned the clavinet that created the signature sound on “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus. And my friend Mark who owns a recording studio in Champaign once had a mellotron that was owned by the Moody Blues. I read that the woodblock that made the haunting sound in Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” was stolen almost immediately after it was used on the recording. No one knows who took it or where it is today. So whatever happened to James Jamerson’s Precision Bass? Or Rory Gallagher’s Strat? Duane Allman’s Les Paul? My friend Joe played in a blues band with Richard Hite, whose older brother was Bob “Bear” Hite of Canned Heat. Richard said that when ‘Heat guitarist Al Wilson died, the rest of the band members turned into scavengers who grabbed whatever they could, including his guitars and equipment. The bass that Larry Taylor played at Woodstock during Canned Heat’s legendary performance was in Richard’s possession when he died in 2001. According to Joe, Richard’s ex-wife still has the bass and is looking for the highest bidder. To her, it’s just a way to make money. I’m sure that many of these legendary instruments, like Eddie Cochran’s Gretsch guitar, eventually end up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. Pity…I’ll never see them.

Random thought 4: A couple of weeks ago, during a break at a Lem n Lime gig, I was talking to a couple of Buddy Holly fans. I mentioned that I met a guy one time who said he had seen Holly perform live with the Crickets in 1958. The three of us were astounded! Buddy Holly was around for such a short time that it seemed incredible that someone had actually seen him live. Since that Friday night a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about performers I would like to have seen before death made it impossible. Here is the list I came up:

a-The Beatles on their second tour of the US.

b-The Who at Woodstock

c-Creedence Clearwater Revival circa 1969 (Tom Fogerty is dead, so this qualifies. I saw John Fogerty in the late 80’s when he was still refusing to play CCR tunes in concert. He was ok. I was actually more impressed with Delbert McClinton, who opened the show that night. I even mentioned how much I enjoyed McClinton’s set to Fogerty when I met him backstage. Instead of being taken aback, he merely agreed and said “Isn’t he great? Now that’s MY kinda music!”)

d-Chicago circa 1972 with Terry Kath

e-Buddy Holly and the Crickets in either late 1957 or early 1958.

f-Eddie Cochran circa 1959

g-Queen on the “Day at the Races” tour

h-Al Green circa 1973

i-Led Zeppelin on the “Physical Graffiti” tour

j-Otis Redding at the Monterrey Pop Festival

There, that’s ten. Can you come up with more? Let’s hear ‘em. And if you have random ideas that you would like to contribute, please feel free! For his recent contribution, my friend Lance will receive an official Groovy Rick coffee mug!  Does anyone know if Sharpee comes off in the dishwasher?

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Write something for Christ sake!

I just checked. My last blog entry was March 21, 2012. March twenty-fucking-first. What in God’s name have I been doing? I remember when I used to write a blog every single day, except maybe Saturday. Where the hell did I get all that free time!?!  I seriously have no idea.

The thing that really astounds me is that when I check my stats page, there are still people who visit my site every day. Maybe they’re enjoying “the best of Groovyrick” and re-reading their favorite entries. I even have new people who google something and my blog comes up, and they leave me a nice note.

I’ve been WANTING to write…really!  But…you see…I’ve been…it’s been…aw, forget it. You fine folks are too good to me to just fill you full of excuses.  I’ve been a slacker, and I’ll own up to it. If nothing else, I try to be honest…and I’ll try to get this thing on the move…at least once a week for now. Maybe, once I get back into the groove (boy you’ve got to prove your love for me)(sorry, random Madonna moment), I can even get back to that stupid damn book I started and try to make some progress there.

There. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Jesus, I don’t know about you but I REALLY feel better. I feel like we should have a party. A real party…alcohol…music…mimes serving snacks…scantily-clad women dancing for tips…and no catalogs…DEFINITELY no catalogs.

Why do they even call those “parties”? You know the kind…Tupperware, Scentsy, Thirty-One.  The kind where women invite a bunch of other women to their house, feed them some snacks, maybe a little wine, and then shove a catalog in their face and try to get them to buy something…so that they’ll get some of the same merchandise free. Why did that idea never catch on with guys? I’ve heard about tool parties, but have never been invited to one.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely against the concept. When you think about it, it’s actually pretty cool.

Imagine attending one of these parties:

Beer Variety Party: Here’s the scenario…you invite a bunch of guys (or girls) over to your house and get them to try a bunch of different beers. Then you make the pitch: “Wanna buy some of this beer? If you do, I’ll get a bunch of free beer, and then we’ll both have a lot of beer!”  I’m guessing the more they drink, the more they’ll want to buy. Remember the wise words of 80’s comedian Gallagher: “You know how they tell you to eat a lot before you go to the grocery store so you won’t buy so much food? Well, that don’t work with the liquor store, does it? You go in there drunk, you want to buy everything they got!”

Nissan (or any vehicle) Party: My nephew sells cars for the local Nissan dealer. He gets someone like me to host a party or two. He brings out one of each Nissan model on their lot. I invite a bunch of friends, invite them to take a little drive in the model of their choosing, them give them a little alcohol and try to talk them into buying a new Nissan. Can’t miss, right? For every person that buys a new Nissan, I get points toward getting a new Nissan free! My friends get cool cars, my nephew gets a fat commission check, and I get a new car! If that’s not a win-win-win situation, I don’t know what is. Careful…don’t give them the alcohol BEFORE they test drive!

Chicken Ranch Party: For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Chicken Ranch is a legal, licensed brothel located about 60 miles west of Las Vegas near the town of Pahrump, Nevada. I think you can figure this one out for yourselves. Remember, the more your friends buy, the more freebies you get! Geez, and I thought the car idea was gold!

Bring Stuff For Me Party: I think this is the easiest, most satisfying party of all. There are no catalogs to look at…nothing to buy…hell, you wouldn’t even have to show up. Just give me stuff. Free stuff. Have it delivered if you want. I don’t have to go through the hassle of building points toward merchandise, and you don’t have to worry about hurting my feelings by coming to my party and not buying anything from my catalog. It can be just about anything of value…vehicles, guitars, alcohol, food, even money! Just give it to me!

I should have thought of this YEARS ago.

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Pure unadulterated randomness

Random thoughts from a random person SHOULD MEAN random thoughts from a random person, right? So it’s time for another installment.  Get ready…this stuff is REALLY random.

-As I write this, my daughter, Carly, is taking her voice lesson. She has a dynamite voice and a dynamite teacher.  Plus Carly is one of the wittiest people I know. One day, on the way home from church, we saw a homeless person with a cardboard sign asking for donations of money or food.  She looked over at him and said, “I can understand where homeless people get the cardboard, but where do they get the sharpies?” Great stuff.

-Speaking of church, lately our pastor has been talking about poverty and how it’s hard to understand, in our wealthy society, why there are still starving people on the planet. In fact, the subject of the sermon the other day was “What’s wrong with this picture?” He would show pictures of starving children and say “what’s wrong with this picture?” While listening to the sermon, I was in a multi-million dollar church building complete with huge screen monitors, flat screens all over the place, a huge room just for teens to “hang out”, and we’re currently trying to raise $4 million for a new addition to add a sports facility. What’s wrong with THIS picture?

-Did a thought ever come into your mind, and you couldn’t decide if it was something that really happened, or just a dream you had at some point in time? It happened to me yesterday, and I still can’t decide if it was real or something I dreamed. Who knows…maybe so much has happened to me in my life that I really can’t distinguish truth from reality any more.

-You know how there are certain things that you hated when you were a kid, but you really like them now? Lima beans fall into that category for me, and so does Bruce Springsteen. I always thought he was just OK, and then “Born in the USA” came out and I hated him for quite awhile, just because I thought he really sold out. Now I not only love his music, I have a huge amount of respect for him as an artist and performer.  I can listen to “Born to Run” and exclaim “What a great f*ckiin’ song!” And when I saw him perform on the Grammys a few weeks ago, I was so grateful that we “have seen the future of rock and roll, and it is Bruce Springsteen.”

-And lima beans have become my favorite vegetable.

-I was talking the other day with some friends about a person who had committed suicide by stabbing themselves repeatedly.  What a horrible way to go about it. Haven’t we all, at some time or another, whether we were serious or not, thought about how we would commit suicide if we ever got to that point? For me, it would be running the car in the garage…no contest.

-I love to talk to college and high school students about what they want to do with their futures. I always try to impart to them the importance of finding a career that you LIKE. Don’t even think about what it pays, because once you start working for the pay that you get, it sucks you in and you can never leave…because you get used to having that income, and it’s so hard to go back to apartment living. If you talk to someone who really loves their job and someone who makes a lot of money at their job, guess who’s going to be in a better mood.

-Why on earth do I think that other people really want to read my random thoughts? What an ego trip.

-I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating…I have the most caring, most awesome friends in the world.

-Finally, a question for everyone reading this, but mostly for my music-head friends: who is your favorite producer?  Producers can make a good song sound great, and can make a great song a religious experience. SO many names come to mind: Chips Momens, Phil Spector, George Martin. For awhile now, if anyone asks me about my favorite producer, I would probably say David Axelrod. David is probably best known for producing the great body of 1960’s output by Lou Rawls, but he did some solo sides as well. Here’s just a taste of a simple melody that he made into a symphony.  I don’t think anyone has ever implemented drums into music as well as Axelrod. Genius is a word we throw around a lot, but I’m not so sure it doesn’t apply here.

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I dreamed about Del Shannon the other night

There are dreams that are just plain dreams, and some that seem really vivid. For me, those vivid dreams usually occur right before I wake up, and I usually lie in bed for a little bit thinking about how real it all seemed.

Monday morning was one of those mornings. Right before I woke up, I was sitting in an old fashioned living room watching a black and white TV (most people claim that dreams are black and white, but I’ve never made the distinction). On TV was Del Shannon. He had just finished a song with a band behind him, and there was a rather plain white backdrop decorated with a few faint trees. Del was wearing black slacks, a white button down shirt that was open at the top, and a kind of herringbone sportcoat. And of course, he had his semi-hollow body Gibson guitar around his neck. He looked GREAT. His hair didn’t have that signature semi-pompadour, it was more parted to the side like he wore it in the mid-sixties. Like I was saying, he had just finished a song, and the host of the show was coming out onstage to chat with him for a bit. Del had a big smile on his face, as the studio audience was still cheering his performance.

Then I woke up.

Why did I dream about Del Shannon? There was no “anniversary” that made me think of him (he was born in December and died in February). I hadn’t been listening to a lot of his music, although I do listen to him quite a bit. But after I woke up, I felt so GOOD for him, as if I were witnessing him at his peak. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s almost like I felt a little bit of his spirit was with me.

Wanna hear something REALLY crazy? I’ve always believed that, in dreams, our minds take us to some sort of parallel universe. Think about it…how many times have you had dreams about your everyday life, or something that has happened in the past, and things were ALMOST the same, but just a little bit different? I remember having a dream one time about travelling down a stretch of highway that was near where I grew up. I swear, I know just about every inch of that highway for about a 20 mile stretch. But one night, in a dream, I was travelling that stretch of highway, and everything was the same…except for a patch of trees and, further down the road, a house that had never been there in my memory.

At this point in my life, I’ve experienced enough that I rarely question anything. As long as someone can give me a somewhat convincing argument about something that they believe, I don’t discount it. I’ve shared my thoughts about dreams with other people, and they didn’t look at me like I was an alien on crack…they know that the mind is an amazing thing that has capabilites that mortal man cannot even fathom.

Back in junior high, my friend Scott had read somewhere that if you write your dreams down every morning as soon as you wake up, eventually they all start becoming intertwined with each other, to where it eventually tells a story. And we weren’t even smoking pot yet! Of course, Scott also had the famous dream (in high school) that the Nazis were invading the small town of El Paso, just 10 miles south of our hometown. I’m sure the Third Reich had big plans for the IGA and the Dairy Queen.

When I worked in radio, I would occasionally have what we in the business call “DJ nightmares,” and they were VERY real. This was back in the days when we actually played music from vinyl albums that had to be “cued up” in order to start at exactly the right time. Sometimes it took a little bit to find the right album, the right song, and still deal with everything going on. In a DJ nightmare, you would be working feverishly to cue up a song while the previous song was fading. You would get the new song started just in time, and guess what? It would start fading almost right away, before you have a chance to even LOOK for the next song. And the phone was ringing off the hook, and you would have to get ready for a break and NOT be able to find any of the commercials you were supposed to play. All the while, your biggest worry was dead air. It could make you wake up in a cold sweat.

So have you ever had a really vivid dream? Vivid enough to make you wonder if it really happened when you visited a parallel universe?  Was it so crazy that you woke up thinking “wow, that was SO crazy” ?  Maybe you felt the way I did a couple of years ago when I dreamed that my wife and I went to a play starring John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston. Before the show I was just hanging out in the lobby, and John Travolta comes walking up and starts a conversation with me…and no one else even recognizes him! We talk about cars, and I mention that I have to go out and get something from my car…he says that he wants to come out with me and check out my car. Just then his wife comes up and says that they have to go backstage to get ready for the show. He says that he wants to talk to me some more, so Kelly writes down a phone number and hands it to me, saying “this is our private number…call after the show and we’ll get together.” Kooky.

Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts, or your dreams for that matter. I’d love to hear other speculation on what causes us to dream what we dream.

Maybe this tune can get you started.

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“What death means to me” by Groovyrick

I’m going to talk about a subject that may make some of you uncomfortable. I’m not even that comfortable writing about it, but it’s a part of everyone’s life.

Death.

There, I’ve said it. Yep, we’re all going to die. And I, for one, wish that I was the type of person that could stare death in the face and laugh ha HA…but unless I have one of those “never knew what hit him” kind of deaths, I’m probably going to be scared to death (ok, that was kind of funny…seriously, I wrote it before I even realized what I was writing).

Don’t get creeped out, but death has always been a bit of an odd obsession with me, maybe because I was introduced to it in a big way at a very young age. My father and my uncle, who was pretty much like another father to me, both died when I was 7, within about three months of each other. After experiencing that kind of trauma at such an impressionable age, other family deaths just kind of mildly phased me, some more than others.

You know how you sometimes do dumb things in junior high just so you can tell people about it? One summer afternoon, I was at the baseball diamonds with a few other neighborhood guys. We didn’t really have enough players for a game, so we were just batting the ball to each other. Right across the street from the ball diamonds was a cemetery. There was a funeral going on right at the edge of the cemetery so we paused to give the family a little silence. As soon as they all left, we walked over to watch them bury the guy. We asked if we could help. It was just manual labor to the guys with the shovels, so they quickly granted our request. I’ll never forget watching them lower the vault into the ground, and then hearing, “Ok fellas, put those shovels to work!” We couldn’t wait to tell our friends.

Celebrity deaths always fascinate me, too, just to see how the world reacts…and we’ve had quite a few high profile ones so far this year (just wait until we see the “Tribute” section of the year’s last issue of People!). The death of Davy Jones last week caused more of a sensation than I thought it would, and my blog about it generated some very flattering comments (thanks again, everyone). I guess losing a celebrity, especially one that has had a large impact on your life, is a lot like losing a family member.

Tonight, I looked at death from a couple of different perspectives. I didn’t plan my evening around it, but it just happened. First, I watched a movie that we had rented called “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” starring Jon Voight. Based on a novel by Mitch Albom, it follows an old amusement park maintenance man named Eddie who gets killed trying to save a little girl’s life when a ride at the park malfunctions. He wakes up in the hereafter, only to learn that he will meet five people who will help him understand some of the events that helped shape his life. Eddie had always planned to be an engineer, but he ended up taking his father’s job and never leaving Ruby Pier, where he and his father had both worked on the rides. He felt like his life had been pretty much a waste. I’ll have to admit, it was a very heart-warming movie that brought a few tears to my eyes at certain points, especially at the end (don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it). The writer’s image of a heaven in the afterlife could only be described as paradise.

After the movie was over, I went downstairs to work out, like I do every night. While I work out, I watch TV, usually Family Guy or Big Bang Theory. Tonight, on the second Family Guy episode I watched, Lois wanted Peter to spend the day with her on their anniversary, but instead Peter tricked her so he could spend the day golfing. At the golf course, he was struck by lightning, and Death showed up. If you’ve never seen Family Guy, Death shows up about once per season. He is depicted as the Grim Reeper, but is kind of a regular guy (it was originally voiced by SNL alum Norm McDonald, then later by a guy named Adam Carolla). In this episode, he wasn’t going to take Peter because he was just having a “near-death experience”. As it turns out, Death is tired of living alone with his mom (“I wish my dad was still dead”), so Peter tries to find him a girlfriend. Yes, sometimes Family Guy is very irreverent, but shouldn’t we consider it someone else’s view of the afterlife?

Which one do you suppose is closest to the truth? I’m not even going to get into that whole argument, because that even creeps ME out. My mom was clinically dead during surgery for a couple of minutes, and she describes the place that she went as more the paradise-type place. I sure hope she’s right.

But I’m also going to get a chill if I suddenly hear a guy that sounds like Norm McDonald behind me.  

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Cheer up, sleepy Jean

What a day. What a depressing day.

Davy Jones died today.

I know what you’re all thinking: “Get a grip, Rick…it’s Davy Jones…it’s not like it was anyone big.”

And you’re all wrong. Davy Jones was very big. He had a big life. As a child, he trained to be a jockey. As a young man, he performed on Broadway. In his 20’s, he became a fixture on television and in the music industry as a member of the Monkees. You can make fun of the Monkees all you want, but they did some damn good songs. They got a lot of heat at the time because of the unconventional way they became a band. Critics slammed them because they didn’t play their own instruments on the first two albums. Guess what…most of the biggest groups of the time didn’t play their own instruments on their albums. They were passed off as bubblegum music for teenagers. Personally, I would put “Headquarters” or “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD” or “The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees” right up there with some of the best albums of the 60s. In fact, I often list “Pisces” in my top ten albums of all time.

Davy Jones was an important part of pop culture. But I’m not depressed because I feel that the world lost a great performer. I’m bummed because I lost a voice that could instantly take me back to an important part of my life.

It was small town living at its best. My entire world was anyplace I could get to on my blue stingray. I wasn’t scared of anything, because I felt like every single person in that town was looking out for me. My biggest decisions were what I would do with my dollar allowance that I received every Saturday morning…and that my brother and I had spent by Saturday afternoon. The dilemma usually boiled down to one thing…would we each spend our dollar to buy a record (we had a huge 45 collection) or would we put our money together to buy a model car? Big decision, right?  Many times, that allowance money went toward buying Monkees records, because we watched the show all the time, and each week the show would feature a new song.

Tonight, when I got home from work, the kids and I watched a few Monkees episodes after I told them the news (yeah, they’re fans, as you’ll see in a moment). It immediately took my mind to an image of our living room on Mary Street, and our black & white Admiral TV in the corner. I could see my brother and I sitting on the gold sculptured carpeting, laughing out loud, and wondering aloud which one of the Monkees we would want to be. There was no job stress…no worries about paying bills…no concerns about kids and whether I’ll be able to put three of them through college…no outrageous gas prices…no health concerns…none of the things that currently plague my mind on a daily basis.

At that point in time, it was just Davy, Mickey, Peter and Mike playing music, acting crazy, and making me laugh.

I saw Davy perform a couple of times, in the early 90’s with Mickey and Peter, and at a solo gig just a few years ago. That night, we met Davy after the show. He was very friendly, very outgoing, and was gracious enough to chat with fans and sign autographs. The next day, my wife was at the mall with our kids, just doing some random shopping…and there was Davy Jones! She introduced herself, said she had been at the show, and introduced our kids. Again, he was very friendly, shook hands with each of the kids and even gave my wife a hug. He knew that he wasn’t a McCartney, or even a Ringo for that matter. He was just Davy Jones.

Even though he was 66 when he passed today, I think most of us will always picture him as a young Monkee with the long hair and British accent. I’ll always picture him on my black & white TV in my house on Mary Street, with my brother and me singing and laughing along with him.

For those memories, Davy Jones, I am eternally grateful.

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I’m puzzled by life

My son got a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, and one of the things he bought was a Beatles White Album jigsaw puzzle. It’s pretty cool…500 pieces, and on one side, if you’re a real masochist, you can try to piece together the cover of the album. If you’re like most normal people, you will try to put together the side that has all four sides of the LP.  Still, that’s no easy task. As you can imagine, my son got bored with it pretty quickly, so I decided to take on the project myself.

It was pretty easy at first, piecing together the labels. I already knew the songs on each side, and of course, there were two green apple sides, and two “sliced” apple sides. The border around the outside was a little more challenging, but as I pieced that together, the outside of the LPs started to take shape. Now I’m to the pieces that are just vinyl. All the pieces are black, so I’m going mostly by shape. I hope to have it done by the end of the week.

 

But I’ll get back to that.

I have to admit that I was pretty shaken by the death of Whitney Houston. I was never a huge fan, but I played a ton of her music when I was at WBNQ.  It was a perfect soundtrack for that time period. It was up, it was well-produced, and her voice was amazing. Seriously, it was just incredible. Very strong, very confident. And as a friend of mine who worked with me in those radio days remarked on Facebook, at that time she seemed like the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth. She seemingly had everything it took to make her a superstar for years to come.

Then it all started to unravel for Whitney. She started becoming tabloid fodder…bad marriage, rumors of alcohol and drug abuse, and her voice and image started to fade. And over the weekend, she joined the class of incredibly talented people who never made it to see their 50th birthday, either due to a fast, deliberate suicide, or a slow, painful suicide.

I tried to explain to my kids how popular this person was at one time. It was hard for them to grasp, since she had tried to stay out of the public eye pretty much since they were born. They couldn’t understand why someone who seemed to have all the elements of a great career would throw it away to drug and alcohol abuse. I didn’t have an answer for them, because I don’t really understand it either.

It started me thinking about those who seemed to have great careers, but decided to end their lives at the point of a gun or at the end of a rope. People like Don Cornelius, Kurt Cobain, Del Shannon (one of my musical heroes) and others. Maybe they just achieved too much too quickly, and couldn’t deal with the downside of a career. I have no answers there either.

Reading my last few blog entries made me feel like I was reading the rants of a crotchety old man who was determined to live in the past and felt out of place in the present. I guess when you get to be my age, you start getting resentful that there are elements in life that you just can’t keep up with anymore. Music starts to pass you by, not to mention technology. Man, I used to be on the cutting edge of all that…in radio, you had to be up on everything new and relevant. But I guess I have too many other things to worry about these days…knowing every artist that puts out music these days just isn’t at the top of the list like it used to be.

Then I went back to work on that puzzle. And it made me realize (prepare yourself for the profound point to this whole story) that life is a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. It starts off kind of easy, with pieces falling together quickly, and a form starting to take shape right away. You think “What’s the big deal? This is easy!” Then, the puzzle starts to get a little more difficult, but you still have a pretty good handle on things. You start to get a little cocky, but then you grab a piece that looks like it will fit into a spot perfectly, and when you try it, it just doesn’t fit perfectly…so you put it aside and move on to find another piece that looks like it will fit. When you find a piece that DOES fit perfectly, you get more of a sense of accomplishment than you did in the early going. You appreciate it more for some reason.  Soon, all the pieces that are left have trouble fitting in, and at times you feel like just giving up. Yet, you’re determined to see it through so you can look upon your finished product and admire the time and effort it took to get to the finish line.

Don’t worry friends…I’m not down, and I’m certainly not looking to take the “Hemmingway” out.  Just getting a little philosophical on yo’ ass, that’s all. However, I DO want this post to end on a happier note, so here’s a great musician joke a friend told me:

What outlook calendar does a jazz guitarist use to keep track of his gigs? DECADE AT A GLANCE! 

I love that one.

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