Monday, June 30, 2008

ZZ Top…

Numerous web sites, ZZ Top's Official Web Site (music plays immediately when the site opens), The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and Famous Texans were quite helpful in preparing my tribute to ZZ Top. Please click on the hyperlinks to enjoy these web sites.

The classic rock trio known for its Texas heritage, bearded, haggard look, reclusive mystique, hard-nosed business tactics, and blues-rock sound, ZZ Top (a.k.a., That Little ol' Band from Texas) was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, as performers, in 2004. Keith Richards (the Rolling Stones) is their presenter. Keith Richards Official Web Site

Click here to see the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee List.

The members of ZZ Top are Billy Gibbons (guitar, keyboards, vocals; born December 16, 1949), Dusty Hill (bass, keyboards, vocals; born May 19, 1949), and Frank Beard (drums; born June 11, 1949). Ironically, “Beard” is the one without a beard. Gibbons & Hill have mighty impressive beards.

ZZ Top plays red-hot Texas boogie and blues, and no one does it better - or has done it longer - than this “little ol’ band from Texas.” The trio’s enduring appeal owes much to their mastery of and feel for rootsy forms, and fantastic videos containing beautiful women. ZZ Top Video - Legs

Guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard were influenced by such blues masters as Freddie King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. While growing up in suburban Houston, Gibbons learned about R&B music from his family's maid, who was African-American.

From the beginning they took a hard-rocking power-trio approach to the blues, cultivating a new audience for it in the Seventies and Eighties with superior musicianship as well as attitude, style and some devilishly funny songs.

The genius of ZZ Top is that they’re reverential about the blues but loose and funny about the subject matter of their songs. Their songs are laden with pop-culture references, sexual double entendres and the determined pursuit of a good time. They have written about fast cars, fishnet stockings, sharp clothes, TV dinners, cheap sunglasses and “tush.” They visually connected with the MTV generation by virtue of Hill’s and Gibbons’ long beards and fur-lined guitars. For many, ZZ Top have been the premiere party band on the planet. Certainly, they have been Texas’s foremost cultural ambassadors.

Guitarist Billy Gibbons met his future manager, Waxahachie native Bill Mack Ham, backstage at The Doors concert in Houston in 1967. Gibbons' band at the time, The Moving Sidewalks, had a local hit with the song "99th Floor." They soon opened on The Doors' Texas tour. After later opening for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix named Gibbons his favorite guitar player during an appearance on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. The Sidewalks broke up and Gibbons and Ham contracted to form a new band.

After a few false starts with other musicians, the Gibbons-Hill-Beard version of ZZ Top was founded in 1969. According to Gibbons, the name came from one or more of the following: the two brands of rolling-paper, Zig-Zag and Top, a tribute to blues legend Z.Z. Hill, and/or Gibbons seeing the two words running together on a dilapidated bill board. Hill and Beard had been members of a Dallas band called American Blues.

ZZ Top formed in 1969 as Gibbons’ psychedelic blues band, The Moving Sidewalks, (who released one album, Flash), was coming apart. He hooked up with Beard and Hill, who’d played in American Blues (which cut a pair of albums). The trio bonded around a shared love of basic blues, boogie, rock and all things Texas-related. ZZ Top played its first show in February 1970.

The trio spent its first few years playing mostly regional concerts. Ham's bosses, Houston record producer Pappy Daily and family, cut a deal with him to finance "ZZ Top's First Album" (1971). Five other records followed on the London Records label - home of the Rolling Stones and John Mayall, a plus in the group’s eyes. Their earliest albums - ZZ Top's First Album (1971) and Rio Grande Mud (1972) - staked out their bluesy, no-frills territory and gave them a chart hit, “Francene.”

ZZ Top solidified their sound on “Tres Hombres” (1973) by recording in Memphis. This album brought them national attention. Its hit song "La Grange," about a whorehouse, was a growling boogie about the same place celebrated in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. It was allegedly based on John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen." It is still the band's signature riff tune. Also included was "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers," the would-be anthem. Musically, the union of Texas blues and Memphis soul became a hallmark of ZZ Top.

The band built a word-of-mouth fan base on the road, and nonstop touring in turn propelled record sales. Tres Hombres reached #8 and became the first in an unbroken string of eleven gold and platinum albums. The next two albums - Fandango (1975) and Tejas (1977) - hit #10 and #17, respectively. Fandango yielded the hard-driving “Tush,” which became ZZ Top’s first Top Forty single.

Their lean, driving approach helped launch the Seventies on its hard-rocking course. They brought rootsy vigor to the music scene, surviving over the decades by demonstrating an ability to adapt and evolve without radically altering the foundations of their sound.

In an event that tried to be a rock-style Willie Nelson Picnic, the group was the featured headliner in the "Rompin' and Stompin' Barndance and Barbecue," held in Austin on Labor Day, September 1, 1974. Appearing with them before a crowd of 80,000 was San Francisco legend Bill Graham, Carlos Santana, Joe Cocker and Bad Company making its U.S. debut. This was ZZ Top's first concert in which they were seen as more than just a Texas act. It was the biggest concert in Austin's history, and the last to be held in Memorial Stadium on the University of Texas Campus for another twenty years. The stadium had been trashed by concert-goers, who had suffered from the heat and lack of food, water and toilets.

ZZ Top carried stagecraft to elaborate heights with its Worldwide Texas Tour: Taking Texas to the People. The year-and-a-half-long Worldwide Texas Tour, which came between Fandango and Tejas, had stage props like haystacks, ranch tools and Longhorn cattle, began in 1975. ZZ Top lugged 75 tons of equipment and animals native to Texas, including a buffalo, a longhorn steer, buzzards and rattlesnakes. They also performed on a Texas-shaped stage. Afterward, an exhausted ZZ Top took an extended hiatus. It featured songs from "Tres Hombres" and "Fandango". Although their concert earnings were now in the tens of millions, by the end of the tour the group was exhausted. They took a break that ended up lasting three years.

Manager Bill Ham stayed busy, however, shrewdly negotiating a lucrative recording contract with Warner Brothers that is still talked about in the music business. A fiery new album, “Degüello” (1979) was filled with instant classics: “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Fool for Your Stockings,” “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” and their remake of Sam and Dave’s “I Thank You.” Their next album, “El Loco” (1981) yielded another naughty anthem (“Tube Snake Boogie”) and poised them for a phenomenal explosion in popularity.

In 1981, ZZ Top joined a diverse group, organized by art patron and civic leader Marilyn Lubetkin and including such philanthropists as Dominique de Menil, to donate money to purchase J.D. McKissack's Orange Show from his heir. The Orange Show, an open-air, multimedia sculptural installation dedicated to the orange, is Texas' leading example of an art form called "folk art environment." For their support of the blues and an art form, the band was given a piece of wood from Muddy Waters' shack in Clarksdale, Mississippi. They had it made into a guitar, named it the "Muddywood," and sent it on a tour to raise funds for the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

In the Eighties, ZZ Top discovered synthesizers, and drum machines, and MTV discovered ZZ Top. The group’s bluesy, irreverent approach to synths appealed to fans of rock, blues, boogie, disco, and New Wave alike. “Eliminator”, whose title and cover were inspired by Gibbons’ hot-rodded ’34 Ford coupe, became one of the biggest albums of the decade, selling more than 10 million copies. Three of its songs - “Gimme All Your Lovin’” (#37), “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” (#8) - were radio, video and club hits. "Eliminator" debuted ZZ Tops biggest hits, "Legs" and "Sharp-Dressed Man."

Until MTV came along in the '80s, ZZ Top had declined all offers for TV appearances. Their first video, "Gimme All Your Lovin'," set the style for follow-ups "Legs" and "Sharp-Dressed Man." The addition of videos took the band's famous mystique and popularity to an all-time high. With its leggy, model-strewn video, ZZ Top Video - Legs “Legs” remains the biggest single of ZZ Top’s career. The group's next album, "Afterburner," with its continued use of synthesizers, became a worldwide smash hit.

From the release of Eliminator (1983) until The Best Of ZZ Top dropped off the charts ten years later, ZZ Top were international superstars. The group followed Eliminator with Afterburner (1985), which yielded four Top Forty hits: “Sleeping Bag” (#8), “Stages” (#23), “Rough Boy” (#22) and “Velcro Fly” (#35). The trade magazine Pollstar declared ZZ Top the top touring act of 1986. “Recycler” (1990) completed the trilogy that had commenced with Eliminator and several instant classics - “Give It Up,” “Doubleback,” “My Head’s in Mississippi” - to the repertoire. Of the title Recycler, Gibbons remarked, “We’ve been reinventing ourselves for quite awhile; in our own way, we’ve made every effort to preserve our precious rock and roll environment.” The Afterburner tour marked another tour pinnacle, offering cosmic blues and boogie from a Disney-designed stage strewn with futuristic props.

By 1990, the band had sold 50 million records. In July 1992, ZZ Top announced that they were moving from Warner Bros. to RCA. They’ve since recorded four more albums - Antenna (1994), Rhythmeen (1996), XXX (1999) and Mescalero (2003). ZZ Top's 1996 album, "Rhythmeen" was considered one of their best. Gibbons called it the "first pure trio record of our career," because only the three of them played on it. That return to an earlier sound, made more pure and raw, continued on their 1999 album, "XXX," which celebrates the band's thirtieth anniversary. At the turn of the century, ZZ Top was the only rock group with its original members after three decades.

To this day they remain one of rock’s most entertaining live acts. After three and a half decades, the “little ol’ band from Texas” just keeps rolling.

Time Line:

May 19, 1949: Dusty Hill of ZZ Top is born in Dallas, Texas.

June 11, 1949: Frank Beard of ZZ Top is born in Frankston, Texas.

December 16, 1949: Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top is born in Houston, Texas.

December 25, 1963: A teenaged Billy Gibbons gets his first guitar for Christmas: a Gibson Melody Maker.

June 1968: The Moving Sidewalks, Billy Gibbons’ pre-ZZ Top band, opens for Jimi Hendrix, who will later remark on The Dick Cavett Show that Gibbons is one of his favorite guitarists.

1969: ZZ Top release their first single, “Miller’s Farm,” on manager Bill Ham’s Scat label. It is reissued on London Records when they sign to the label but fails to chart.

"He's our kind of guy." -- Frank Beard to Billy Gibbons after Beard introduced himself to Dusty Hill in a bar. Hill passed out drunk before returning Beard's greeting.--1969

February 10, 1970: ZZ Top perform their first live show at a Knights of Columbus Hall in Beaumont, Texas.

August 4, 1973: ZZ Top’s third album, Tres Hombres, enters the charts. Keyed by the FM favorite - and near AM hit - “La Grange,” Tres Hombres rises to #8 and becomes the band’s first gold album.

September 1974: ZZ Top draws 80,000 fans to a Labor Day stadium concert that they dub “ZZ Top’s First Annual Texas Size Rompin’ Stompin’ Barndance and Bar B.Q.” Also on the bill: Santana, Joe Cocker, Bad Company.

May 17, 1975: ZZ Top’s half-live, half-studio album Fandango! enters the charts and yields the Texas trio’s first big hit, “Tush.”

November 24, 1979: ZZ Top breaks a nearly three-year hiatus by releasing Deguello, their first album for Warner Bros.

April 23, 1983: ZZ Top issues Eliminator, which peaks at #9, stays on the charts for over three years and eventually is certified ten times platinum.

May 18, 1984: ZZ Top’s biggest hit, “Legs” (from Eliminator) enters the pop charts, where it will peak at #8. “Sleeping Bag” (from Afterburner) will repeat the feat a year later.

September 18, 1984: At the first annual MTV Video Awards, ZZ Top wins in two categories: Best Group Video (for “Legs”) and Best Direction (“Sharp Dressed Man”).

November 16, 1985: Afterburner, ZZ Top’s hotly anticipated followup to Eliminator, enters the album charts, where it will peak at #4.

October 1, 1990: ZZ Top kicks off a yearlong world tour in support of Recycler, their first album in five years.

May 4, 1991: ZZ Top Day is declared by Texas governor Ann Richards.

1993: ZZ Top releases Antenna, their first album for RCA and seventh to go platinum.

1999: ZZ Top releases XXX, a new album that coincides with the group’s 30th anniversary.

October 14, 2003: Chrome, Smoke & BBQ: The ZZ Top Box, a four-disc career retrospective, is released.

March 15, 2004: ZZ Top is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the nineteenth annual induction dinner. Keith Richards (the Rolling Stones) is their presenter. Keith Richards Official Web Site

Recommended Readings:

Sharp Dressed Man: ZZ Top Behind the Scenes from Blues to Boogie to Beards David Blayney. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

ZZ Top Robert Draper. New York: Ballentine Books, 1994.

“ZZ Top: Twenty Years of Texas Cool” Cub Koda. Goldmine (October 18, 1991): 8-16+.

Chrome, Smoke & BBQ: The ZZ Top Box Set Warner Bros., 2003. (Note: The booklet accompanying this box set contains biographical and discographical information.)
Fandango (1975)

Tejas (1977)

Degüello (1979)

El Loco (1981)

Eliminator (1983)

Afterburner (1985)

Six Pack (1987)

Recycler (1990)

Antenna (1994)

Rhythmeen (1996)

XXX (1999)

Mescalero (2003)

I love ZZ Top, members of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, for their great videos, including ZZ Top Video - Legs. They have many great songs, including Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers, Black Betty, Cheap Sunglasses, Fool For Your Stockings, Gimme All Your Lovin’, Got Me Under Pressure, I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide, La Grange, Legs, Rough Boy, Sharp Dressed Man, Sleeping Boy, Tush, TV Dinners, and others.

Thanks, ZZ Top, for over 30 years of great music, and great videos.

A Flock Of Seagulls…

Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote a biography of A Flock Of Seagulls, for VH1, which I have included in this post, VH1 Biography Of A Flock Of Seagulls, in addition to my own thoughts. Click on the “VH1 Biography Of A Flock Of Seagulls” hyperlink to see Stephen’s well-done original article.

This pop, dance, new wave band’s web site is A Flock Of Seagulls - Click Here.

Hairdresser Mike Score (lead vocals, keyboards) formed A Flock of Seagulls with his brother Ali (drums) and fellow hairdresser Frank Maudsley (bass) in 1980, adding guitarist Paul Reynolds several months later.

As well-known for their bizarrely teased haircuts as their hit single "I Ran (So Far Away)," A Flock of Seagulls became part of the musical wonders of the new wave era. Growing out of the synth-heavy and ruthlessly stylish new romantic movement, A Flock of Seagulls sleek dance-pop was forever indebted to the short-lived movement. The group benefited considerably from MTV's heavy rotation of the "I Ran" video in the summer of 1982.

The group released its debut EP on Cocteau Records early in 1981, and its lead track, "Telecommunication," became an underground hit in Euro-disco and new wave clubs.

The band signed a major-label contract with Jive by the end of the year, and their eponymous debut album, A Flock Of Seagulls, appeared in the spring of 1982. "I Ran (So Far Away)" was released as the first single from the album, and MTV quickly picked up on its icily attractive video, which featured long shots of Mike Score and his distinctive, cascading hair. The single climbed into the American Top Ten, taking the album along with it. “Telecommunication” & “Space Age Love Song” were also singles from this album. "Space Age Love Song" peaked at number 30.

The group's second album, Listen (1983) also had some success as "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)" reached number ten later that year, in the UK; in America, that single became a Top 40 hit in 1983.

In 1984, they released The Story of a Young Heart which contained “The More You Live, The More You Love.” After this release, the band’s members changed. Paul Reynolds, guitarist, left after the album and was replaced by Gary Steadnin. The band also added keyboardist Chris Chryssaphis.

The new lineup was showcased on 1986's Dream Come True. Shortly after its release, the band broke up. Mike Score (lead vocals, keyboards) assembled a new lineup of A Flock of Seagulls in 1989, releasing the single "Magic" and touring the U.S.A. After, the band had most of the members leave by the end of the year. The band continued to tour worldwide, although with major changes to its members, and in 1995 released a new album, The Light At The End Of The World.

A Flock Of Seagulls has released many albums…

A Flock Of Seagulls - 1982

Listen - 1983

The Story of a Young Heart - 1984

Dream Come True - 1986

The Best Of AFOS - 1991

Telecommunications - 1992

The Best Of AFOS - 1993

The Light At The End Of The World – 1995

20 Classics of the 80's – 1995

Wishing - 1996

Greatest Hits Remixed (remix) - 1999

Platinum & Gold Collection - 2003

Essential New Wave - 2003

Best of A Flock of Seagulls – 2006

A Flock Of Seagulls has a handful of quality songs, such as "I Ran (So Far Away)," "Telecommunication," “Space Age Love Song,” "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)" and “The More You Live, The More You Love.”

"I Ran (So Far Away)," and "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)" were also re-released as extended dance club songs.

Their music is easy to listen to, as the fast-paced, up-tempo sounds also blend in well with any music you want to play at a party.

Thanks to A Flock Of Seagulls for some enjoyable music…

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Billy Squier...

To visit The Official Billy Squier Fan Site, click on the hyperlink. If your speakers are on, music will start playing once the site opens.

Billy Squier’s first album, The Tale of the Tape was released in 1980. His first album, with success on the music charts, was Don't Say No in 1981, which contains many of his best songs, such as In the Dark, The Stroke, My Kinda Lover and Lonely Is the Night. This was his best album, and was followed by Emotions in Motion in 1982, which contained the hit Everybody Wants You.

I saw Squier in concert, twice. Both were the “Emotions in Motion” tour, after the release of the album. One concert was Squier opening for Queen, and both acts were phenomenal. The other concert was Def Leppard - Official Web Site (the “Pyromania” tour) opening for Squier. Both concerts were solid, as Squier, Queen, and Def Leppard were good acts to see live.

Don't Say No and Emotions in Motion were his two best albums.

Signs of Life was released in 1984. It contained the hit, Rock Me Tonite. Subsequent albums did not have successful singles. Squier also released numerous greatest hits albums, and live albums after the successes of Don't Say No, Emotions in Motion, and Signs of Life.

Squier’s other releases were…

Enough Is Enough (1986)
Hear & Now (1989)
Creatures of Habit (1991)
Tell the Truth (1993)
16 Strokes: The Best of Billy Squier (1995)
King Biscuit Flower Hour (1996)
Reach for the Sky: The Anthology (1996)
Happy Blue (1998)
The Best of Billy Squier [EMI] (1998)
Live (2000)
Hits You Remember: Live (2001)
Classic Masters (2002)
Live!: Extended Versions (2002)
Greatest Hits Live (2003)
The Best of Billy Squier [Platinum Disc] (2003)
From The Front Row...Live! (2003)
Rip This Joint (2004)
Tale of the Tape/Don't Say No (2004)
Absolute Hits (2005)
The Best of Billy Squier: 10 Best Series (2005)

According to The Official Billy Squier Fan Site, Squier, as of June 25, 2008, is on tour, with a man you probably have heard of, Ringo Starr - His Official Web Site. Starr, one of the “Fab Four,” is from a group you’ve probably heard of, The Beatles - Official Web Site.

As I am writing this, on June 29, 2008, he will be at the North Fork Theatre At Westbury, New York this evening.

On May 16, 2007, Squier’s “Everybody Wants You” was featured in the TV show, American Idol. The song was performed by the finalists as part of a music video.

I love Billy Squier’s music because Don't Say No was a great album, with songs I love, such as In the Dark, The Stroke, My Kinda Lover and Lonely Is the Night. That was his best album. Emotions in Motion had another great song, Everybody Wants You. Signs of Life had another great song, Rock Me Tonite.

Squier was a great concert act. Seeing him with Def Leppard - Official Web Site was great. And, his concert with Queen, was also great. Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, rest his soul, was a phenomenal live concert act. Squier was solid in both concerts, from the “Emotions in Motion” tour.

In a current era, where it’s a lot more difficult to hear current, quality, rock and roll, it’s comforting to know that Squier is still on tour.

Thanks, Billy, for some great music.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

James Ingram...

Chris Rizik, of Soul Tracks, wrote a great review of Ingram’s career, which I have included in this post, in addition to my own thoughts. Click on the “Soul Tracks” hyperlink, to see Chris’ well-done, original article.

Ohio native James Ingram first received minor attention in the late 70’s as part of the band Revelation Funk.

However, it was a 1980 demo tape on which he sang that became his unexpected career boost. He cut the demo of "Just Once," a Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil composition that was being delivered to Quincy Jones for possible inclusion on Jones's landmark The Dude album. “Just Once” was also featured in the film, “The Last American Virgin.” Jones not only liked the song, he liked the singer on the tape and invited Ingram to provide the vocals to both "Just Once" and "One Hundred Ways" on The Dude.

I remember when “Just Once’ was released, I purchased it as a 45 single, knew nothing about Ingram, wondered who had this great, smooth voice for ballads, and was thrilled when “One Hundred Ways” was also released as a 45, so I bought that, too. His voice is perfect for ballads. Of course, The Dude became an international smash and both Ingram cuts rocketed up the pop, soul and adult contemporary charts, ultimately landing Ingram a Grammy Award for best R&B vocal performance.

Ingram's debut album, It's Your Night, was released to great anticipation, and it didn't disappoint. Led off by the smash duet with Michael McDonald, "Yah Mo Be There," Night was perhaps the best soul album of the 1983 and boasted the most beautiful ballad of that year, "There's No Easy Way." “How Do You Keep The Music Playing,” with Patti Austin, is also from this album. Most of that album was also included on Ingram's 1991 greatest hits disc, The Power of Great Music, which is an essential album for any soul music lover.

In 1988, Ingram released “Never Felt So Good,” which did not contain any known hits. His next release, in 1989, was “It’s Real,” containing the hit, “I Don’t Have The Heart,” as well as a hidden gem, that never became a hit. “When Was The Last Time Music Made You Cry” is the type of ballad where the lyrics grab you, and Ingram’s performance makes time stop when I hear this. To my knowledge, this song was never released as a single, so you may never have heard this. If you have “It’s Real,” please try “When Was The Last Time Music Made You Cry.”

Over the course of the next decade, Ingram's career took an odd direction, as he became known almost exclusively as an adult contemporary duet artist. He consistently hit the charts in duets with Patti Austin ("Baby Come To Me," "How Do You Keep The Music Playing"), Linda Ronstadt ("Somewhere Out There"), Dolly Parton ("The Day I Fell In Love"), Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes ("What About Me"), and Barry White, Al B. Sure and El Debarge (on Quincy Jones's "Secret Garden").

Ingram was a wonderful singer caught somewhere between soul and adult contemporary music, but without a sufficiently strong fan base in either group to support his solo recording career. He broke his drought in 1990, taking the Thom Bell-produced ballad "I Don't Have the Heart" to number one, but never again had a major hit.

1991 featured the release of “The Greatest Hits: The Power of Great Music” which was a compilation of hits, including for the first time, the song that plays during the closing credits of the movie, “City Slickers,” titled, “Where Did My Heart Go ?,” another brilliant ballad for Ingram, and another song featured in a movie, as well as “Just Once.”

His next release, in 1993, was “Always You,” which did not contain any known hits.

After a six year hiatus, Ingram released Forever More: The Best of James Ingram in 1999, which included re-recordings of some of his biggest hits along with some lesser new material, including covers of “I Believe I Can Fly,” and “My Funny Valentine.” He also appeared as a guest vocalist on Michael McDonald's In the Spirit holiday album in 2001. Ingram has continued to provide guest vocals for a number of artists and has been a regular participant in the "Colors of Christmas" concerts with Peabo Bryson, Roberta Flack and others. He's also occasionally penned material for other artists, such as Phil Perry and recently wrote a children's musical with dancer Debbie Allen called Brothers of the Night. Ingram has formed Intering Records for future projects.

James Ingram is one of my favorite artists, because he performs ballads so beautifully. His vocals grab your attention, hold it while you listen to him tell some great love stories, and by the end of his ballads, you are relaxed, with a clear mind, happy to have just listened to such beautiful music. He's the type of artist who can turn a stressful day into a pleasure, by "unwinding" from listening to his music.


I found a great web site, '80's Music Lyrics, and an article, Asia, which was very helpful in preparing this tribute to Asia.

Asia was formed in 1981, as a rock and progressive rock group. The group consisted of former members from the groups Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Hold the Ladder, Uriah Heep, U. K., and The Buggles. The formation of Asia was much hyped to be a super group, consisting of many popular, well-known members from the former groups. After the groups, Yes, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and King Crimson split up, the formation of Asia began. Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, John Wetton, Allan Holdsworth, as well as Eddie Jobson got together and their debut album was released in 1978.

By 1980, Wetton had left the U. K. And a new supergroup project was planned. This time it consisted of Wetton, Wakeman, Carl Palmer, and Trevor Rabin. Wakeman quit the group just before the group signed with the Geffen Records label. Wetton and Steve Howe (guitarist for Yes) got together in 1981 and worked together writing. The two were joined by Geoff Downes and later by Carl Palmer. Some demos were also recorded with Trevor Rabin in the group but he dropped out to join a new Yes group that was forming.

The group’s debut album, Asia, in 1982, met with much commercial success and reached number one in the U. S., staying there for nine weeks. From the album came the singles, “Only Time Will Tell,” and “Heat Of The Moment,” which were a big success and reached the Top 40 chart. “Heat Of The Moment” reached the Top 5 and stayed as a stadium favorite in U. S. Sporting events. It was also parodied, beautifully, in a South Park episode. “Sole Survivor,” from the same album, was a favorite, also, and received a lot of airplay on the rock stations in the U. S. "Asia" was, by far, their best album.

The group toured the U. S. in 1982 and 1983 and had sold out performances at each concert. I saw them in concert, with Chris DeBurgh (“The Lady In Red,” & “Don’t Pay The Ferryman”) as their opening act. Asia was great.

MTV television channel played their videos and Asia was named Album of the Year by the Billboard.

Neither of the groups following 2 albums received as much recognition as their first one did.

In 1983, they released “Alpha,” their second best album. Their ballad, “Don’t Cry,” reached the Top 10 on the charts in 1983 and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes,” was in the Top 40 on the Billboard chart. The tracks, “Eye To Eye” and “My Own Time” were big fan favorites and “Open Your Eyes” and “The Heat Goes On,” were concert favorites. Greg Lake replaced Wetton in 1983 and the group had a tour called, Asia In Asia, in Japan. Wetton was recruited back into the group in 1985 and Steve Howe left the group and was replaced by Mandy Meyer.

“Asia” and “Alpha” were their best albums, containing their hit singles. In 1985, they released “Astra,” followed by “Aqua” in 1992, “Aria” in 1994, “Arena” in 1996, “Archiva Vol. 1” in 1996, “Archiva Vol. 2” in 1996, “Anthology” in 1997, and breaking their tradition of choosing a word, beginning with the letter “A” as an album title, released “Rare” in 1999.

They went back to tradition, finding a one word album title, beginning with the letter “A”, with “Aura” in 2001, then, broke tradition again, with “Silent Nation” in 2004, followed by “Definitive Collection” in 2006.

It was announced that the group was going back into the studio in 2007 to record a new album which was to be released in 2008.The group had 18 albums and 32 singles during their span in the music industry.

I love Asia, because their first two albums, “Asia” and “Alpha,” were terrific. “Don’t Cry,” “Heat Of The Moment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” are my favorites. They were also an enjoyable group to see in concert. South Park’s Eric Cartman character has a great “Heat Of The Moment” tribute in the episode, South Park - Kenny Dies.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy…

If you like an energized, jazz, swing sound, that’s also great music to play at a party, try Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

They have a great web site, click on the hyperlink, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Web Site. If your speakers are on, music will start playing once the site opens. At their site, you can click on VIP Lounge, and become a friend of BBVD on MySpace Music.

Their CD’s include…

1994 - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
1998 – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Interscope)
1999 – This Beautiful Life
2003 – Save My Soul
2004 – Live (with a bonus DVD)
2004 - Everything You Want for Christmas
2005 - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

The Internet Movie Data Base - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy web site lists their many songs included in soundtracks, acting roles, and performances as themselves. A truncated list is below…

Their music has been part of numerous soundtracks, including The Wild,” (2006) “Night of the Living Doo,” (2001) "Friends," (2001), “Three to Tango,” (1999) “Never Been Kissed,” (1999), and “Swingers” (1996).

They’ve acted in the movie Swingers,” (1996) as well as the T.V. show, "Party of Five"

They’ve performed as themselves in many T.V. shows, including "Last Call with Carson Daly," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Total Request Live," "Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon,"Christmas in Rockefeller Center,” (2004) “Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary,” "Titans," "Ally McBeal,"Super Bowl XXXIII,” (1999) as the Halftime Performers , “Comedy Central's Hi Fi Party,” (1998) “MTV Sports & Music Festival 2,” (1998) and "Melrose Place."

Their sound is lively, lots of fun, and enjoyable to listen to. Some of their songs that are among my favorites, include “Go Daddy-O,” “Mr. Pinstripe Suit,” and “You and Me And The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby).” If you’re tired of the usual melancholy Christmas CD’s, try their “Everything You Want for Christmas” CD that will add some life to your holiday music.

I love Big Bad Voodoo Daddy because their music is easy on the ears, and livens up any mood, whether by yourself, or at a party.

Thank You…

I have started to receive feedback, from readers, as to the types of music they would like to see profiled at this site.

If you want to point me in a direction, as to the types of profiles you want to see, please vote in the poll, on the left, or, leave a comment at one of the columns, and let me know, specifically, which artists you would enjoy reading about.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Meat Loaf...

I found two sources, Meat Loaf at and The Internet Movie Database - Meat Loaf to be very helpful. Please click on these hyperlinks to see two very well written articles about Meat Loaf. I used portions of their articles, and added to them, to create this tribute…

Singer, songwriter, and actor, Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, was born on September 27th (some sources say 1947, others 1951) in Dallas, Texas. One of the top selling solo artists in the history of rock music, Meat Loaf achieved his greatest success to date with the 1977 album, Bat Out of Hell, the third highest selling album of all time, with an estimated 30,000,000 copies sold worldwide. It spent over 470 weeks in the UK charts - an all-time record. According to "The Guinness Book Of World Records 2000" Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" is the biggest selling album in the UK ever.

At first, Meat Loaf tried to make it in rock music, forming a band called Meat Loaf Soul and later Popcorn Blizzard. His first obscure single with local Michigan band Popcorn Blizzard, "Hello/Once Upon A Time" sold 5,000 copies! But his first big break came as an actor.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to play in local bands and appear in musicals such as "Hair" and "As You Like It". He eventually ended up in New York City where he appeared on and off-Broadway. Meat Loaf met future collaborator Jim Steinman from working on More Than You Deserve, which Steinman had written.

Was starring Off-Off Broadway in Paul Foster and John Braden's "Silver Queen" at La Mama E.T.C. when he was offered the role of "Eddie" in the American stage premiere of "The Rocky Horror Show". He had to leave "Silver Queen" a week before closing. His role was taken over by "Silver Queen's" director Robert Patrick, who had to wrap Meat Loaf's costume's trousers around him twice.

He made his film debut with a memorable role, as Eddie and Dr. Scott, in cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Moving from small parts to the pop charts, In 1977, he and lyricist Jim Steinman released an operatic rock album called "Bat Out Of Hell", the record was huge and has sold 35,000,000 copies worldwide. Meat Loaf struck gold—and later platinum—with his album. Famed rocker Todd Rundgren produced it, and Jim Steinman wrote all the songs, which formed a rock opera of sorts with each song forming a different narrative. While “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” tackled heartbreak, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” was a humorous ode to teenage sexuality. Both these songs and “You Took the Words Right Out of Mouth” became very popular. Meat Loaf toured heavily with a large band and singer Karla De Vito to promote the album and seemed to gain fans at nearly every stop.

However, the tour promoting the album took a toll on Meat's voice and left him unable to sing on the follow-up record, an album of music written by Steinman, "Bad For Good" (1980). Meat Loaf was able to make his next album, 1981’s Dead Ringer, but failed to match Bat’s success. In 1983, Midnight at the Lost and Found (1983) was released without making much of a splash. The same was true for Bad Attitude (1985) and Blind Before I Stop (1986).

Only single to chart in the United States for Meat Loaf in the 1980s was "I'm Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us" which peaked at #84 (He charted in the UK 4 times: in 1981 with Cher for "Dead Ringer for Love" (reaching #5), in 1983 for "Midnight at the Lost and Found" (#17), in 1984 for "Modern Girl" (#17) and in 1986 with John Parr for "Rock 'N' Roll Mercenaries" (#31).

Meat Loaf appeared in films Out of Bounds (1986) as a Pilot, and The Squeeze (1987) with Michael Keaton. He, again, collaborated with Steinman, for a powerful sequel "Bat Out Of Hell II" which went to #1 in the US and UK. Bat II has now sold an excess of 20,000,000 copies. His TV credits include the Soldier being held prisoner in Vietnam in "Lightning Force" (1991), a mad Doctor who invents a serum to keep zombies from deteriorating in "Monsters" (1988) and a slick Landlord of a restaurant who ends up on the menu in HBO series "Tales from the Crypt" (1989).

Steinman and Meat Loaf began work together again. They proved that lightning does sometimes strike twice. They scored another huge hit with 1993’s Bat Out of Hell II: Back in Hell, with over 20,000,000 copies sold worldwide. The theatrical ballad “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” reached the top of the pop charts, won a Grammy, and “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” also made a strong showing. The album sold millions of copies and returned Meat Loaf to celebrity status after years in near obscurity. It is considered one of the biggest musical comebacks in music history.

Outside of his music career, Meat Loaf has maintained a career as a character actor. He has appeared in such films as the hit comedy Wayne’s World (1992) with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, Fight Club (1999) with Ed Norton and Brad Pitt, Crazy in Alabama (1999), and Focus (2001) with William H. Macy. Although he is sometimes credited as Meat Loaf or Meat Loaf Aday, he has legally changed his name to Michael Lee Aday. Meat Loaf's next record "Testify" was released in March of 2002.

Most recently, Meat Loaf has added a third installment to the Bat Out of Hell series in 2006. Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose featured a number of songs written by Steinman. While there was no breakout single, the album did make it up to number eight on the Billboard album charts. Meat Loaf continues to tour, although he had to cancel some concerts in the fall of 2007 when he was diagnosed with a vocal cord cyst.

“Tidbits” about Meat Loaf…

His trade mark is that he carries a red hanky on stage.

He owns a production company called Yellow Rose, Inc. with actor Brett Cullen.

Occasionally hosts VH1 show "The List" (1999).

Played 300 soldout concerts between 1987-91.

Along with Derek St. Holmes, Meat Loaf handled lead vocals on Ted Nugent's 1976 'Free For All' record.

His movies Blacktop (2000) (TV) & Trapped (2001) (TV) and his special appearances in TV series "Lightning Force" (1991), "The Outer Limits" (1995), "John Doe" (2002) & "Masters of Horror" (2005) were all filmed in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Has an extensive line of theatre credits including "Hair" and its sequel "Rainbow," "More Than You Deserve" which collaborated him with his future lyricist Jim Steinman, William Shakespeare's "As You Like It" and the theatre production of "The Rocky Horror Show", later to reprise his role in the film version The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).

Was offered the title role in "Phantom Of The Opera" but turned it down.

Made a very special appearance in Ann Magnuson's Cinemax comedy movie special Vandemonium Plus (1987) (TV) - he played Steve The Piglet.

He was offered lead vocalist position in the rock band Foreigner, but wanted to stay with Jim Steinman.

Has played in two movies with Richard O'Brien, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and Spice World (1997).

Daughter Pearl Aday (has two daughters: Pearl Aday and Amanda Aday) is a back-up singer with his band.

Was the producers' second choice to play "Bluto" in Animal House (1978) if "John Belushi" was unavailable.

In addition to songs from his own albums, his concerts usually include the song "Hot Patootie", which he sang as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).

(March 2008) Is the host of an original game show in DirecTV called Rock and a Hard Place. The show pits teams composed of musicians/groups playing various games to raise monies for charities.

Why I Love Meat Loaf…

Bat Out Of Hell (1977) is a masterpiece. This is my all-time favorite album. Every song is good, and some are fantastic. Starting off with the title cut, “Bat Out Of Hell,” followed by the distinctive beginning voices during “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night). Next, is one of Meat Loaf’s many quality ballads, “Heaven Can Wait.” He returns to his more frequent powerful rock songs, “All Revved Up With No Place To Go.” Then, my all-time favorite Meat Loaf song, his best ballad, “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.” Jim Steinman writes great, tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, funny lyrics for Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler, and others.

The lyrics in “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad,” one of my all-time favorite songs, are brilliant…

Baby we can talk all night
But that ain’t getting us nowhere
I told you everything I possibly can
There’s nothing left inside of here

And maybe you can cry all night
But that’ll never change the way that I feel
The snow is really piling up outside
I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here

(by this point, Steinman’s already telling an interesting story…)

I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m crying icicles instead of tears

(“But you’ve been cold to me so long, I’m crying icicles instead of tears” – brilliant visualization)

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But -- there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you

Now don’t be sad
cause two out of three ain’t bad
Now don’t be sad
cause two out of three ain’t bad

(“I want you, I need you, But -- there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you, Now don’t be sad, cause two out of three ain’t bad” – A perfect example of Steinman’s use of humor in song. Try telling your better half this line, and see what the result is…)

You’ll never find your gold on a sandy beach
You’ll never drill for oil on a city street
I know you’re looking for a ruby in a mountain of rocks
But there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a cracker jack box

(These 4 lines are some of the best lyrics ever, describing how one is not going to find improbable riches. I also love how Meat Loaf sings “Coupe de Ville” stretching out the words, and the change in the music after “cracker jack box.” The song gets powerful during the next stanza.)

I can’t lie
I can’t tell you that I’m something I’m not
No matter how I try

Ill never be able
To give you something
Something that I just haven’t got

(I love the power of Meat Loaf’s voice during this part, and how the song, and his voice, goes melancholy afterwards, beginning with “There’s only one girl…”)

There’s only one girl that I will ever love
And that was so many years ago

And though I know I’ll never get her out of my heart
She never loved me back
Ooh I know I remember how she left me on a stormy night
She kissed me and got out of our bed

And though I pleaded and I begged her not to walk out that door
She packed her bags and turned right away

(Phenomenal description of sorrow, heartbreak, and unrequited love)

And she kept on telling me
She kept on telling me
She kept on telling me

I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you

Now don’t be sad
cause two out of three ain’t bad

I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you

Now don’t be sad
cause two out of three ain’t bad

Don’t be sad
cause two out of three ain’t bad

(Love the irony of how earlier in the song, Steinman, through Meat Loaf’s voice is telling his “Baby,” “I want you, I need you, But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you.” By the end of the song, the tables have turned, and Meat Loaf is talking about only one girl he’ll ever love, so many years ago, and she was the one telling him “I want you, I need you, But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you.” Absolutely terrific storytelling by Steinman, and masterfully performed by Meat Loaf.)

Baby we can talk all night
But that ain’t getting us nowhere

(And the song ends with the same two lines that started it. What a way to wrap up a story, and tell a cyclical tale of Meat Loaf telling his “Baby” “don’t be sad, cause two out of three ain’t bad,” when the words have haunted him, because the one girl, the only one that he will ever love, had uttered those words to him, “so many years ago.” The song ends brilliantly with the piano accompaniment coming to a close.)

Bat Out Of Hell continues with the classic, “Paradise By The Dashboard Light,” a staple at parties, and a guaranteed sing-along. What I love about this song, is that it is still played, decades later, and will continue to be, decades from now, because of its originality.

It’s like “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Nights In White Satin” by The Moody Blues, “The End” by The Doors, “In A Gadda Da Vida” by Iron Butterfly, et. al. in that the song, start to finish, is so unique, and so perfectly performed by the original artist, that you will never hear a better performance of these songs.

“Paradise By The Dashboard Light” also includes a mid-song interlude, which included late, great, Hall-of-Fame Yankees’ shortstop, Phil Rizzuto, whose lines become an integral part of the song. In interviews, Meat Loaf admits to being an enormous sports fan, and brilliantly ties his love of sports into his music, which I appreciate and respect.

The album closes with another great ballad, “For Crying Out Loud.” Bat Out Of Hell is as good as it gets. Many CD's have numerous hits, but few, are the type where you can start the CD at song one, play it start to finish, and every song is quality, an absolute joy to listen to.

Bat Out of Hell II: Back in Hell (1993) was Meat Loaf’s other fantastic CD. “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” and “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” were terrific. The hidden gem is “Life Is A Lemon (And I Want My Money Back).” I am an enormous fan of Jim Steinman’s lyrics, and again, he uses humor, and sarcasm, to tell an entertaining story…

I want my money back
I want my money back

It's all or nothing
And nothing’s all I ever get

Every time I turn it on
I burn it up and burn it out
It's always something
There’s always something going wrong
That’s the only guarantee
That’s what this is all about

(Ever buy a warranty, or guarantee ? The only guarantee is that something will go wrong.)

It’s a never ending attack
Everything’s a lie, and that’s a fact
Life is a lemon and I want my money back!

(I love how Steinman pokes fun at how nothing is all he ever gets, something always goes wrong, everything’s a lie, life is a lemon, and comparing it to the lemon law for car purchases, he wants his money back. Hysterical !)

And all the morons
And all the stooges with their coins
They’re the ones who make the rules
It's not a game – it’s just a rout

(Great description of how those with all the money, are morons, stooges, make all the rules, and control everything.)

There’s desperation
There’s desperation in the air
It leaves a stain on all your clothes
And no detergent gets it out

(Wonderful visualization of desperation being a permanent stain, which no laundry detergent can remove.)

And we're always slipping through the cracks
Then the movies over - fade to black
Life is a lemon and I want my money back!

(When the movie’s over, the screen fades to black, and, it’s all over. Again, great visualization.)

I want my money back
I want my money back

What about love?
It’s defective!
It’s always breaking in half

What about sex? !
It’s defective!
It’s never built to really last

What about your family?
It’s defective!
All the batteries are shot

What about your friends?
They’re defective!
All the parts are out of stock

What about hope?
It’s defective!
It’s corroded and decayed

What about faith?
It’s defective!
It’s tattered and it’s frayed

What about your gods?
They’re defective!
They forgot the warranty

What about your town?
It’s defective!
It’s a dead end street to me

What about your school?
It’s defective!
It’s a pack of useless lies

What about your work?
It’s defective!
It’s a crock and then you die

What about your childhood?
It’s defective!
It’s dead and buried in the past
What about your future?
It’s defective!
And you can shove it up your ass!!

I want my money back
I want my money back

(I love how he describes the most important things in your life as defective, and how, if it was something you purchased, that broke, you would want your money back.)

It's all or nothing
And nothing’s all I ever get

Every time I turn it on
I burn it up and burn it out

It's a never ending attack
Everything’s a lie, and that’s a fact
Life is a lemon and I want my money back!
It's a never ending attack
Everything’s a lie, and that’s a fact
Life is a lemon and I want my money back!

And we're always slipping through the cracks
Then the movies over-fade to black
Life is a lemon and I want my money back!

Jim Steinman’s lyrics, combined with Meat Loaf’s storytelling ability, through his voice, are an unbeatable combination. Meat Loaf, when I have seen him interviewed, seems like a down-to-earth guy, the type you would like to hang out with. Between his acting, and his music, I am thankful his talents are recorded, so they can be appreciated by others.

Thanks, Meat Loaf, for brilliant work, including my all-time favorite album, Bat Out Of Hell.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


The band Foreigner debuted in 1977, with their self-titled, “Foreigner,” containing the hits “Feels Like The First Time,” “Cold As Ice,” & “Long, Long Way From Home.” Their follow-up “Double Vision,” in 1978, contained the title track, as well as “Hot Blooded” and “Blue Morning, Blue Day.”

“Head Games” was next in 1979, featuring the title track.

Then, came my favorite album of theirs, “4”, loaded with quality songs, such as, “Night Life,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Break It Up,” (my favorite Foreigner song), “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” (their first big hit as a ballad), “Luanne,” “Urgent,” and “Don’t Let Go.”

Years later, when looking at my album version of “4,” I noticed a few interesting people who helped…Tom Dolby (known as Thomas Dolby, of “She Blinded Me With Science” fame, played main synthesizers, and Robert “Mutt” Lange (now Shania Twain’s ex-husband) was one of many who provided background vocals.

In 1982, they had their first compilation album of hits, “Records.”

“Agent Provocateur” was an original release, in 1984. “That Was Yesterday” and “I Want To Know What Love Is,” their other big hit as a ballad, were hits from this release.

Another compilation album, “The Very Best…And Beyond,” was released in 1992. Other “hits” albums followed…”Jukebox Heroes: The Foreigner Anthology” in 2000, “Complete Greatest Hits” in 2002, and “Definitive Collection” in 2006.

Their lead singer, Lou Gramm (Lou Gramm's Official Web Site), of the aptly named, “The Lou Gramm Band,” is currently on tour with the rock band, Boston. In 1987, he started a solo career, and released “Ready Or Not,” known for the hit single, “Midnight Blue.”

Foreigner is one of my favorite bands, and “4” one of my favorite albums of all time. One of the things I love about Foreigner, is that their lead singer, Lou Gramm, has one of those distinctive voices. Once you hear that voice, you know it's either, Lou, solo, or Foreigner. Either way, it's enjoyable to listen to.


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