Saturday, January 25, 2014

Origin Story (Part 2)

So, when last we met I was about 9 years old and listening to top 40 radio. This was about the time I started asking for albums (never really cared much for singles, still don't) for my birthday and for Christmas. The first ones I can remember calling my own were "She's So Unusual" by Cindy Lauper, "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, Madonna's first album, and a little later "Purple Rain" by Prince. As the 80's rolled on I got into Men at Work, Duran Duran, Phil Collins (hadn't heard of Genesis yet), Lionel Richie, and Huey Lewis and the News, just to name a few. I would listen to the weekly Top 40 every Saturday Morning and root for my favorites to be number 1 again. It was my version of watching competitive sports on television. The last 80's top 40 tune I remember loving was "Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera. It was done as the theme to the movie "The Karate Kid Part 2". It was the summer of 1986. Something happened during that summer that changed my life forever. (Yes I'm being dramatic, but at the same time there's not much hyperbole in that statement, just ask my wife.) What was this groundbreaking event that so greatly impacted the life of this young music geek you may ask. I'll tell you, it was the 20th anniversary of the Monkees.
Now, anybody that knows me, knows I can talk on the Monkees for hours on end. I won't do that here. That will be for future blogs. But, long story short the Pre-Fab four was all I listened to for about two years straight. The passion still continues today, but my musical horizons have expanded greatly. I have my brother Scott to thank for that.
In the summer of 1988, I was 14, Scott was 25 and we went on a two week road trip together. It was going to be awesome, my big brother and I out on an adventure, I was so excited. Before we left he handed me some records and asked me to make copies onto cassettes so we had something to listen to in the car. The albums were, "Live Rust" by Neil Young, "Deja Vu" by Crosby Stills Nash, and Young, Bob Dylan's "Greatest Hits", and Jefferson Airplane "Surrealistic Pillow". By the time I was done making those copies I was a fan of Classic rock. This set the tone for my musical tastes to this day.
The classic rock artists got me interested in checking out the blues. The blues artists got me interested in checking out jazz. And today you will find everything in my music collection from Miles Davis to Black Sabbath and everything in between.
Now, I don't live completely in the past. Every once in a while a new artist will make me sit up and pay attention. In the 90's it was Dave Matthews Band, in the early 2000's I fell in love with Norah Jones, and lately I have really gotten into bands like Mumford and Sons and Kings of Leon. But, I always find myself going back to the classics.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Origin Story (part 1)

I don't remember a time when I didn't love music. I'm told that has a toddler I had a Mickey Mouse Club snare drum that I wore around my neck and played while toddling through the house. Apparently family would put records on and command me to start dancing like some trained monkey. To be honest, I probably didn't need much commanding. My mom would call me her little John Denver when I was a  child. I was blond, wore glasses, and was born at the right time (1973), so it makes sense. I guess all of these things were the foundation. I don't remember any of them first hand, but I've heard the stories a million times over.
The parts I do remember begin with a little portable record player I had in the bedroom I shared with my older brother Scott. I had a ton of Disney records, the soundtracks to those classic animated films are really my first musical memories. That type of music didn't last long though. My sisters were listening to stuff down the hall that intrigued my little ears. I quickly fell in love with bands like Fleetwood Mac, the Cars, and a little later the Go Go's. It was the popular music of the day, and I loved it.
I guess my transition album was the 1980 album "Chipmunk Punk". This Alvin and the Chipmunk's album was my introduction to many artists I would come to love later in life. Alvin and the boys covered "Refugee" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Call Me" by Blondie, and believe it or not "Good Girls Don't" by the Knack. I was 8 years old and officially bitten by the Rock and Roll bug. By the following year I had my own little transistor radio and I was listening to Top 40 AM radio any chance I got.
Part 2 -"The 80's" coming soon.

Friday, January 10, 2014


I was driving home from work today wondering what the topic of my next blog was going to be. I'm sure eventually they will come naturally and hit me like a lightning bolt of inspiration. Right now, I think I'm working too hard at it, and nothing is coming. It's like looking for something in your house;  the minute you stop looking for it that's when you find it. Inspiration is that lost pair of glasses.
Inspiration, maybe that's a good topic. Where do great song writer's get their inspirations from. I know it's a question they hate, I wonder how many interviews Bob Dylan has walked out on because some rookie asked "Where do you get your song ideas from?" Probably more than he cares to remember. But the honest truth is they have to come from somewhere.
Paul McCartney's inspiration for the Beatles song "Martha My Dear" off of the White Album was his English sheep dog Martha ( the one pictured on the cover of the McCartney album).
U2 was inspired to write "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by the political unrest in their native Ireland.
Led Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore" was inspired by The Lord of the Rings.
A family pet, a work of literature, world events. Inspiration can and will come from anywhere you just have to be ready and recognize it when it does.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bye Bye Love

I feel that as I music fan I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge yesterday's passing of a musical legend. Phil Everly, one half of the amazing Everly Brothers, died Friday morning at the age of 74. Along with his brother Don, Phil was responsible for a number of hits in the late 50's and early 60's including, “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bye Bye Love,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “When Will I Be Loved?" 
I first became aware of the brothers Everly in 1982, I was nine years old. My dad was a fan of Simon and Garfunkel and someone bought him their reunion album "The Concert in Central Park." It was a two record set and the second song on the second side of the first record was "Wake Up Little Susie." I loved that album, my dad would listen to it often, and when he couldn't find it, it was because it was in my bedroom on my little portable turntable. I learned quickly that "Wake Up Little Susie" was not a Simon and Garfunkel song. Even at that early age I would pour over the album covers and read everything printed about the records I enjoyed. The writing credits on "Susie" were not "P. Simon" as all the other songs were. They were Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, the husband and wife songwriting team responsible for most of the Everly Brothers hits. At that point though I didn't think to go any further than that, I liked the song, but had no interest in finding out who performed it originally.
As I got older I heard Everly Brothers songs on oldies radio stations but never really paid much attention to them. As a matter of fact in my teens I dismissed them as being not real "rock and roll" and therefore not worth my time. I knew the hits but didn't really care if I heard them or not. Then one day, in 1992, (I"m now 19 for those keeping track), I heard "Wake Up Little Susie" again. This time being performed by the Grateful Dead, who were my favorite band at the time. It was on a live album of theirs recorded in 1970 at the Filmore East in New York. This gave me pause, maybe there is something more to the Everly Brothers than what I'm seeing. It was a fleeting thought though, and on I went to other things.
Fast forward now, 2006. A friend at work turns me on to a band from the 80's called Rockpile. They made one album called "Seconds of Pleasure". My friend loans me his copy, I like it a lot so I order it through Amazon.  It arrives and much to my surprise it's a deluxe edition with bonus tracks, many of them covers of, you guessed it, Everly Brothers songs. O.K. now I start to pay attention. If so many musicians I like and respect (Simon and Garfunkel, Grateful Dead, Rockpile) like and respect the Everly Brothers, maybe I'm missing out on something. It is time to start taking them seriously. I start listening to them with a more attentive ear. I start doing research about them, and I quickly become an Everly Brothers fan.
Our final chapter begins December 30, 2013, as I sit here, 5 days ago. My wife April and I are in Wal-Mart, she's looking for discounted Christmas decorations. I spot a bin with hundreds of CD's thrown in Helter Skelter, and a sign on it that says $5. I say to April, "You know, I've been thinking about the Everly Brothers lately, we don't have any of their albums, maybe there is a greatest hits CD or something in that bin, I'm going to go look." After about 10 minutes of digging around I have found some great stuff, Boz Scaggs, The Doors, Otis Redding, just as I am about to give up, I pull from the bottom of the bin "The Very Best of The Everly Brothers." I buy it, bring it home, listen to it a couple of times, and add it to my vast music library. 
What possessed me, four days before Phil Everly's death to actively search for an Everly Brothers CD in a clearance bin at Wal-Mart? What were the chances that I would actually find one? I don't know, call it coincidence, call it something supernatural or spiritual. All I do know is that the world lost a true artist yesterday whose legacy will live on through his recordings and the impact he and his brother had on rock and roll and the musical journey of this fan.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Horse With No Name, But A Saturday Night Live Connection

I know that many consider their music as cheesy, corny, syrupy, or whatever other food related analogy you prefer, but I love the band America. The trio of Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley, and Dan Peek created some very memorable hits in the 1970's and have become a staple of classic rock radio. "A Horse With No Name", "Ventura Highway", "Sister Golden Hair", are all perfect little 3 minute pop tunes that have stood the test of time. Great lyrics, beautiful harmonies, and catchy tunes, I keep going back to their 1975 greatest hits album again and again. I pulled it out a few minutes ago while I was thinking of a topic for my next blog when I was reminded of an interesting fact about the album that I thought I would share with you all.
Phil Hartman, the late great Saturday Night Live cast member, has a connection to America' Greatest Hits.  Hartman studied graphic design at Cal State Northridge and after graduation opened his own graphic arts business, which in 1975 was hired to design the cover for the aforementioned America album.
This wasn't his only contribution to the world of music at the time. His company designed over 40 different album covers in the mid to late 70's and was responsible for designing the classic Crosby Stills and Nash logo that we all know today.
Phil was a great comedic talent who tragically left us too early. But every time I look at this album cover I' m reminded of his skills as a graphic artist as well.

I'm Back.....Hopefully This Time For A While

It has been almost three years, but I'm back. And this time I plan on sticking with it (I've got a friend that's going to hold me to task). Let me tell you what prompted this return to blogging about my favorite subject, music.
I received an instant message yesterday morning from a good friend named Jon. We used to work together but I hadn't seen him in a while. He asked if I wanted to meet him downtown for coffee in fifteen minutes. I was doing nothing important, just grading 5th grade math tests, so I said of course. I grabbed my keys and headed out the door, anxious for good coffee and good conversation.
We grabbed a table by the window and started catching up, sharing stories about family and the holidays. But soon, as conversations with Jon tend to do, the topics got deeper. We started discussing how fulfilling life can truly be when you follow your passions. Now, I love teaching, I can't think of a more rewarding career, but my real passions, as Jon knows, are in music. Not creating music, listening to music, turning people on to music, sharing stories about music, etc. We started talking about how I can fulfill that passion, which led to a discussion about blogging and podcasts. 
Well, I've looked into podcasting, I even tried recording a sample. It felt awkward. I'm more comfortable in this forum so here I am, back to something I started almost three years ago. Hope you like it. Share it with your friends or family members that are also music fans. If there is an artist, album, or song you want me to talk about, let me know. My loves are classic rock, blues, and jazz, but I'm open to new experiences. "The more you love music, the more music you love."