Rocktober

Episode 16: Rocktober And Everything After

In this, the headiest podcast yet, the gang tells all about the month that almost killed them, fogs up the van and travels back in time, because why the hell not? PLUS!!! New music from Australia's Tame Impala, Sweden's The Amazing, and finally (!!!) Florida's Roadkill Ghost Choir!!!

Episode 16: Rocktober And Everything After"







ROCKTOBER 2012: 1999 - Own Nothing, Have Everything

“Fans of the MP3 digital audio format will be interested in Napster. This software supports a virtual community and search engine that makes it a good way to find MP3 files and associated resources. In addition, the software also lets you download and play MP3 files combining almost all the functions you need in a single application.” Newsbytes July 23, 1999

On March 16, 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade organization that supports the major music companies, introduced a new certification level for record sales. The RIAA already awarded Gold records to albums that sold more than 500,000 copies and Platinum records to sales over one million, but the new “Diamond” certification was conferred upon albums that sold more than 10 million copies. The new distinction made sense – the $13.8 billion record industry was growing ever bigger, with Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and Santana moving so many units that a higher classification of “hit” record was necessary.

Not long after the Diamond classification was introduced, however, record sales began to slow down, and it’s easy to see a steep drop-off in the number of Diamond certified albums released after 1999. There’s another Britney album, two Eminem albums, Shania Twain, and, inexplicably, Linkin Park, but the list ends there. While most of the years prior to 2000 feature several albums that achieved Diamond status, 2003 and 2004 have just one each - OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Usher’s Confessions, respectively. There have been none since.


ROCKTOBER 2012: 1997 - Everything Is Gonna Be OK

1997 was a year in transition for the music industry.  As Chunky Rusty noted in his paean to 1996, the mid to late 1990s found the music industry uneasily poised between the business models of the past and an uncertain digital future.  While (as anyone who was in college in 1997 can tell you) folks had already discovered how to upload their music to the Internet and share it with friends, the process was still unwieldy for most (IRC / FTP sites anyone?).  Napster was still two years away from release and broadband Internet was not yet widely available outside of the dorm.  As such, the CD, with its $17.99 price tag (or life ruining Columbia House subscription) was still the king of the home listening market.  And, if CD was king, radio was its ubiquitous, frequently annoying herald.

If 1997 is not the year with the most overplayed, persistent radio earworms in history, it must be in the top-5.  It is as though the music industry saw the changing landscape and, in a pre-emptive move to retain a stranglehold on the listening habits of the American populace, launched an all-out assault on the nation’s earholes.  But don’t take my word for it.  Rather, take a listen to this list of 9 radio mainstays from 1997 that you will be unable to get out of your head for the next week:


Put these in your ear and, uh, smoke em.

You’re welcome…and I didn’t even bother to include some of the truly execrable crap that was unleashed on the listening public that year like Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love and its ubiquitous single “My Heart Will Go On.” 


ROCKTOBER 2012: 1986 - Show Me Round Your Fruit Cage

If 1984 and 1985 were the years that the wave of awesome that was the 80’s crested, then 1986 might be mostly remembered as the year the tide of cool began its retreat back into the depths of the murky, musical abyss from whence it came. Mostly.

Oh sure, there were still high points. Some socially important one’s too. The 80’s were a time when segregation was still very much in effect on the radio dial and on MTV, and 1986 in particular was a year in which more artists than ever fought, and won, the battle to bring people together, regardless of their skin color, sex or nationality. The Beastie Boys released their classic debut Licensed To Ill, with its break out mega hit (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!), and in doing so were the first hip-hop act in history to reach #1 on the Billboard Charts. Likewise, RUN-D.M.C. didn’t just blur the boundaries between rap and rock when they recorded “Walk This Way” with 70’s stalwarts Aerosmith; they blew those distinctions up and paved the way for an entirely new genre of music. Paul Simon’s Graceland took afro-pop sounds and caressed them into a folky mold, producing not only one of the biggest hits of his career, but arguably one of the most important albums in history. And Janet Jackson’s Control, with its hit’s “Nasty,” “Control” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately” not only established the gloved ones younger sibling as an important artist in her own right, but her domination of the charts sent a shot across the industry’s male dominated bow saying that women were here NOW, and they were likely about to take over.  


ROCKTOBER 2012: 1985 - 1.21 Jigawatts of Rawk Aid!!

Fire up the Delorean, Goonies, because today we’re going back to 1985, the year Marty McFly wore a life preserver vest and ordered Pepsi Free without anyone barking for payment or accusing him of jumping ship. Ship, you say? I’ve got just the map to lead you to the treasure. Because down here, it’s our time; it’s our time down here!

Much as the once-pint-sized adventurers who discovered One-Eyed Willie’s loot are today just a bunch of grown-ups with day jobs in an age where plutonium’s still not available at every corner store, so too are we, holding out patiently for a respectable mode of future-forward transportation, all but willing to trade in our flying car fantasies and hoverboard dreams for a safe and green Mr. Fusion. If you’re as unprepared as I am to face the fact that we’re now only three short years away from The Future as Marty knew it and much of it has come to bear, and you still haven’t found your own buried fortune or even written your way (spiritually) out of Saturday detention, then let us take you back -- down here -- where the ‘80s revival happening “up there” pales in comparison to the real thing, Cold War and all. Because down here, Rocky’s been training in Siberia, and he’s gonna take Drago DOWN!!!

Wow, where to even start??

I suppose with the hits:

We Are The World. Take On Me. I Want to Know What Love Is. Shout. Into the Groove.


Rocktober Day 31: THE END...Chicago style


 

 

Consider this:

 

 

That's f@#king rock and roll people. It's awful rock and roll but it DEFINED a generation. So what if Peter Cetera is no longer with the band. "Hard Habit To Break" is still a masterpiece of modern songwriting with or with out that karate kid wannabe.

Whether you like it or not, the band Chicago laid down a foundation of pure rock energy that shapes not only the direction of ALL music today, but our very lives in this modern society. The lessons we take away from classic tracks like "Stay The Night", "Once In A Lifetime" and "Along Comes A Woman", songs that lay our emotional psyche bare on the grill of life for us to take in in all it's naked glory, those lessons are what makes our world run today. Thousands of years from now when we are all but dust in the wind, our evolutionary successors will discover this sonic tomes and know one truth and one truth only:

THE GODS HAD FEELINGS. MANY, MANY FEELINGS.


Rocktober Day 30: Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet


 

Hellz Bellz people, we’re almost there! We’ve covered a lot of ground this month, much of it as assy as you could ever hope it would be, but the one thing we haven’t really touched on is one of the greatest perpetrators of good/bad music in the HISTORY of music:
BON F@#@ING JOVI.

Yes, New Jersey’s favorite sons...well...their OTHER favorite sons, rose up from the muck and the mire of the 80’s hair metal movement to reach new heights as a...um...hair metal band. But they were a ridiculously popular hair metal band that you had just as good a chance of seeing on the MTV Top 20 Video Countdown as you did Headbangers Ball. In a mysterious confluence of screeching guitars, inappropriate chap usage and genius marketing the band became one the biggest in the world seemingly overnight.

And it was all due to little album by the name of Slippery When Wet.


Rocktober Day 29: Steely Dan...all of it


 

We’re getting close to the end folks, and unsurprisingly we’re sort of running out of steam. When I decided on this year’s theme, I had NO IDEA how hard it would actually be to find 31 albums that are worth your time and ours. And so it is today we step a little outside the box and talk about the band that people either love or hate, either get or do not. It’s a band that is near and dear to my heart (in fact my favorite band) and it pains me to eviscerate them in the manner I’m about to, but it simply must be.


The band I’m speaking of is none other than Steely Dan. Now I know, I know...It’s a fact that this rotating cast of musicians rotating around Donald Fagan and Walter Becker are some of the best makers of music that the world has ever seen. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter on guitar? GET THE F@!# OUTTA HERE!! The man is an absolutely monster. Jim Hodder on drums. OH.MY.GOD. As for Fagan and Becker? Master musicians and songwriters who can switch from jazz to rock, to well, whatever they want at the drop of a hat.

Over the course of 8 albums, group produced some heady, HEADY music throughout the 70’s. In fact without hits like “Do It Again”, “Reelin’ In The Years”, “Kid Charlemagne”, “Hey Nineteen”, “My Old School” and more the 70’s might not have been quite the period of grooviness that it is known for. Steely Dan soundtracked the shit that was going down in an intelligent, complex, and most of all catchy way that has survived the test of time.

But then there’s the rest of their catalog.


Rocktober Day 23: Yes - Big Generator

 

We’ve already talked about the band Yes once in this years Rocktober series and it wasn’t pretty. On 90125 the band their  legacy of being the purveyors of mind bending and mind bend-ingly good progressive rock, and threw it to the wolves in favor of a more commercial approach to making the wearing of capes in public acceptable. On 1987’s Big Generator the band, still rolling in awful 80’s mode, packed up the healing crystals and set off on yet another trip across time, space and the lack of even a shred of good taste.

Big Generator is a fractured record full of nothing but fail that somehow got burned into the collective consciousness of anyone who grew up with in earshot of the era in which it was released. With Trevor Rabin again pushing his vision of cleaner, poppier, more futuristic Yes, the group pushed forward despite the fact that numerous members of the band, who, you know, were actually IN Yes when they were great, complained and pushed for a return to the more traditional space-whale-friendly sounds of the bands youth. That return to form was not to be though, and what we’re left with was one of the greatest examples of what happens to a band when you replace their mystic healing crystals with a bunch of Hypercolor shirts and a Casio keyboard.


Rocktober Day 22: Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Oz

 

The Prince Of Darkness. The Godfather of Heavy Metal. Reality TV star. Ozzy Osbourne has worn many hats in his 40+ year career, including the one of he who bites the heads off of bats, birds and possibly little children. In his early days Osbourne was the fearsome metal madman that gave voice to classics like “Iron Man”, “War Pigs” and the drugged out celebration of LSD by way of HELL that is of “Faeries Wear Boots”. That Ozzy kicked all kinds of ass, and his legacy from that time period is nigh untouchable. The same might not be said for his later years though.


In hindsight, and in the afterglow of the world getting to know Ozzy Osbourne, family man in the early 2000’s, it would seem once the Oz-ster hit the late 70’s early 80’s that he was looking at long slow decline in his stock in evil (listed as EVL on the NASDAQ for all you day-traders out there) in favor of the more commercially acceptable icon that we know, and love, today. That having been said, in 1980, Blizzard of Oz  was hands down the scariest album on the planet.

One look at the album cover and you think “SATAN”. OK maybe you think “Cheesy, overly dramatic, omg-the-eighties-mus-thave-really-sucked Satan, but he’s still up in there. There’s a human skull with ANTLERS in there people. None. More. Evil. And the record in large part delivered on it’s Beelzebub-ian promise and then some.


Rocktober Day 21: Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast

 

I guess if you’re gonna try to be the most metal as f@#$ band in existence you might as well go all the way with it, and on Iron Maiden’s seminal metal classic, Number of the Beast, all roads lead straight to Satan.

Released in 1982, Beast was only Iron Maiden’s third album, and the first to feature vocalist Bruce Dickinson, but they already achieved a  good bit of fame with the previous two records.  The bands debut is still considered by many to be one of the finest metal albums ever made and is listed as one of the....

Ahhh hell. You know what, I’m just gonna let this one speak for itself.

 

HAIL SATAN!!!

 

 

Or if you prefer


Rocktober Day 20: Eric Clapton - Slowhand

 

This one hurts.

Like many of you who grew up in the 80’s I grew up LOVING Eric Clapton. Behind The Sun had hits all up and down the radio. You couldn’t escape “Forever Man” or the Phil Collins powered cover of “Knock On Wood” if you tried. And it wasn’t like it was good. It wasn’t. AT ALL.

But then came the Crossroads box set, and with it the whole history of the legendary guitarist was cracked open for all of us newbies to explore. Taking in the hits of The Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayall, Blind Faith and so many more all at once was a positively mind blowing event, but there it was. A straight mainline of rock into my brain that would alter my DNA for pretty much ever.

After about a month of cramming all of that awesome into my ears I decided to pick up guitar. I got a Fender Strat (just like Clapton), a bitchin’ Fender amp (just like Clapton) and a wah pedal (JUST LIKE CLAPTON) and my destiny was set. As I struggled to rock out on “Sunshine Of Your Love” (illegal in 36 states) I dove deeper and deeper into Clapton’s catalog proper. Hearing “the hits” was one thing, but seeing how they fit into the context of an album was a whole other beast entirely.


Rocktober Day 19: Anvil - Metal On Metal

 

When you’re talking metal, and when it comes to that art forms heyday, there are a handful of bands that you have to mention if you’re to be taken seriously. Priest. MotÖrhead. Metallica. Bon Jovi (LOL). The Scorpions. IRON F!@!ING MAIDEN.

They were all at the forefront of the movement in the early 80’s. They all went on to sell millions of albums. And sadly, and inexplicably, they all left a little band named Anvil in their dust.

For sure, Anvil, comprised of singer/guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudrow, drummer Robb Reiner, and a rotating cast of rhythm guitarists, was right out there with the heavy hitters. Early in their career MotÖrhead singer Lemmy actually tried to recruit “Lips” as their new guitar player, and the band toured the world on a Monsters of Rock tour along with many of the bands mentioned above. It seemed for a while that they two were on their way to fame and super-stardom, so what the hell happened?

They had all the chops. They had the moves. They had the HAIR for f@#@s sake. Good lord did they have the hair. They seemingly had it all, yet as their peers stars rose through the stratosphere and beyond, theirs simply fell back down to earth where it sputtered and fizzled until it finally was for all intents and purposes extinguished.

The whole ordeal is well chronicled in the 2008 documentary, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, which is making it an absolute must see for even the casual fan of music and/or metal. Funny and full of tremendous moments of humanity it paints the portrait of two guys who simply love rock and roll more than anything else in the world, and frustratingly can’t really do much with that love. More frustrating though than the duo’s inability to adequately capitalize on that love of music is the fact that at the end of the day, Anvil’s music sort of freaking rocks.

Metal On Metal, and album with a title that says it all, the band shreds through every guitar-god, leather wearing, head banging cliche you could ever think of and does so in a deadly serious, and deadly Kerrang-tastic way. This was metal folks. It was sexy, scary and perpetually juvenile, but it was meant to rock your face until it melted off in a puddle of sonic destruction. And Anvil could hold there own against the best of them.

Where other bands merely mentioned the number of the beast in a lyric, Anvil went all the way and closed their album with the track “666”. On songs like the “Tag Team”, “Stop Me” and “Jackhammer” (the hammer...is his penis, folks) the band explored the type of ridiculous sexuality of the time that only full grown dressed in leather and chains could pull of and still have their dignity intact. Huge riffs, screams straight from the halls of Valhalla, Satan looking over your shoulder...it was all there folks. Still is in fact as they've released 16, count-em, 16 albums since that 1982 masterpiece.

The thing about Metal on Metal is that at it’s heart it’s just about the purest distillation of whatever it is that metal is supposed to be. “Lips” and Robb took this shit serious as a virgin sacrifice on the blood moon, and they’re only hope was that you did too. In a perfect world that should have been enough, but the world isn’t perfect and neither were Anvil.

The upside to all of this is that not only does the world have a record to cherish that lays down all the fundametal laws of the metal land, but Anvil, thanks to the film, has found themselves with a second lease on life....

AND THEY ARE PLAYING

IN OUR NECK OF THE WOODS

TONIGHT!!!

HO-LEE CRAP!!!


So if you want to rock your face of tonight, meet Andre and I out at Jaxx in Springfield around 7pm.

“What’s a Jaxx?” you ask? I have no freaking clue. I just know that Anvil is gonna be there, which means it being ROCKTOBER we’re all obligated to be there too.

Btw..Metal On Metal isn’t actually available for streaming, but their greatest hits sure as hell is, so that should clue you in to the type of shredtastic awesomeness that your in for should you choose to join us on our quest for the truth about Anvil.

Choose wisely my friends. Choose wisely.

 

Or if you prefer


Rocktober Day 18: The Crow - OST

 

As Kevin noted in his introductory post, this year’s Rocktober theme, “best/worst albums,” is somewhat enigmatic and wholly subject to the personal whims of each CG contributor. For me, a best/worst album is an album that that I love in spite of (and perhaps because of) its myriad faults. It’s not a guilty pleasure, an ironic statement, or something I hide in shame when my friends come over.  

No, I own that shit – like I own The Crow OST.

At the time of its release, The Crow OST enjoyed heavy airplay, awards consideration, and even briefly hit number 1 before being unceremoniously replaced by Ace of Base’s The Sign (a record that could never earn the “best” part of the best/worst tag). However, while I bought the soundtrack during the height of its popularity, it was the next summer that earned it a permanent spot in my musical consciousness and this illustrious Rocktober entry.

I spent a good chunk of the summer of 1995 at my grandparents’ ranch painting fences and cutting weeds in the ungodly inland Northern California heat.  My only companion on those long afternoons was a portable stereo with sporadic radio reception and the three cassette tapes I had seen fit to bring with me from home.  Two of those tapes were undeniable classics – Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York and Soundgarden’s Superunknown – and the third was The Crow OST.

It could be argued that I only love this album because I listened to it approximately 8700 times in a few short months (and that may be true) but really, what’s not to love? The Crow OST boasts a murder’s row of 80s and early 90s talent: Nine Inch Nails, STP, The Cure, Violent Femmes, Rage Against the Machine, Helmet, and Pantera all contributed tracks (not their best songs, but still…).  Hell, I had never even heard of the Jesus and Mary Chain or Rollins Band before I listened to Snakedriver and the epic "Ghostrider".  Looking back on it, the combination of Post-Nevermind radio grunge ("Big Empty"), pop-goth/industrial ("Dead Souls", "Burn, After the Flesh"), and overly earnest emo ("It Can’t Rain All the Time") was a bit of an odd fit for a sun blasted field in rural California but I still dug the hell out of it (and it definitely beat listening to Rush Limbaugh on the local AM station).

Now, I can’t deny that there’s a heavy dose of nostalgia at work with this pick. For better or worse, these days I would be more likely to dismiss a popular soundtrack getting heavy out of hand than to give it an honest listen. In fact, I’m not even sure that I’d love The Crow OST if I came upon it for the first time today. But none of that matters and it doesn’t change the fact that, whether you’re listening on a ranch or in an office; on a tape deck or an Ipod; at age 16 or 32, The Crow OST still rocks.

 

Or if you prefer


Rocktober Day 15: Guns N Roses - Use Your Illusions I & II

 

Oh where to begin?

In 1991 Guns N' Roses were perhaps the biggest band in the world. Though at the time they had only released one album proper, that record, Appetite For Destruction turned out to be one of the biggest, baddest and best albums of all time. Here was a record that kicked open the door to “hard rock” for the masses that previously eyed the art form as something that was a) for kids and b) maybe even a little bit scary. More importantly though, even though it would go on for a little while longer, and even though mountains of hair most definitely had their place in GNR, it effectively sounded the death-knell for the hair metal movement of the 80’s. It was raw, gritty, and dangerous, and the band that created it deserved every comparison to the Stones or Led Zepplin that it received

Needless to say, expectations where high for the next record...which would take almost 4 years to make.

That’s a long time between records back then. Hell, that’s a long time between records now. But logic would dictate that if you’re going to take that long then your going to come away with some sort of masterpiece, right? Well Guns N' Roses came away with a masterpiece alright, but not really in the way they envisioned.


Rocktober Day 14: Def Leppard - Hysteria


Words: Roddy from the Northern Territories 

The aging aspiring rock stars among us know just how taxing and pricey recording a well-produced album in a traditional studio can get.

And at some point, we've all – rocker or not, young or old – said that some thing or another "cost us an arm and a leg"...

Well, My Friends in Rock (and bless you if you already know where I’m going with this), let the story of Rick Allen – the man for whom this album cost HIS ACTUAL ARM –give you pause forevermore:

Hysteria, so aptly named after the infamous incident and ensuing media frenzy, was of course Def Leppard's crowning achievement, if not the swan song signifying the End Days of hair metal itself. (And what an illustrious, all-too-short-lived life it was!) And it cost this man exactly one literal, non-metaphorical, shit-you-not ARM – the entirety of his professionally percussive, once-drumstick-wielding, lucky-golden-ticket appendage, from clavicle to fingertip.

I mean, can you even imagine?? Are you getting it? Really getting it??

While it's hard to write this review without putting this ubiquitous, schadenfreude-satisfying nugget of rock trivia front and center, maybe that's unfortunate. Why is that, you ask? Well, because, truth be told, this album is So. Much. More! 


Rocktober Day 13: Huey Lewis and the News - Sports


Like it or not, every last one of you mofo’s knows who Huey Lewis and The News is. Whether you came by him by “Power of Love”, the hit song from Back To The Future,  his later endeavors as an actor in classics like Sphere or the unforgettable Duets with Gweneth Paltrow, you know who the f@@k I’m talking about. So the question isn’t WHO this Huey Lewis cat is, it’s how he makes you feel.

I’ll go first. Makes me feel pretty damn good actually. “I Want A New Drug”, the lead single off of 1983’s Sports damn near threatened to ruin my life. Nancy Reagans “Chemical People” initiative was in full swing and my father headed up their local chapter. As luck would have it the first thing on their agenda was to ban the song before it corrupt the youth of America. Luckily, I could hear it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT on the top 10 countdown...and so could everyone else...so maybe that one didn’t work so well, eh Nancy. In fact if anything it made me want to find out what this whole Sports thing was all about.

And what it was about was hits. LOTS and LOTS of hits. More hits than you would ever imagine, and yet you know them all: “The Heart Of Rock And Roll”.“Heart and Soul”.“Walking On A Thin Line”. The aforementiond “I Want A New Drug”.“If This Is It”. That’s more hits then most people have in a career folks, but for Huey Lewis and the News it was just all in a day’s work, and all on one album.

UNPOSSIBLE!!!!


Rocktober Day 12: Yes - 90125


In 1983 the band Yes was for all practical purposes dead. They had had broken up 3 years earlier and all gone their separate ways. While most of the members seemed to still be cordial, there seemed little hope, or even need that Yes ever reform as theirs was a music of a time that had long past its sell by date.

Good prog rock is one thing (and sort of an oxymoron) but when you’re talking about space whales and interstellar trips throughout the galaxy, well, the times they went and did some changing. Which is where guitarist Trevor Rabin comes in.

Rabin, a guitarist from South Africa had been looking for his next creative project when he hooked up with ex-Yes members Chris Squire (bass) and Alan White (drums). That pair had continued to play together after the demise of Yes and were prepping material for a new album under the name XYZ when they came across Rabin as a producer, but the partnership quickly developed into a band that was in the business of expanding.


Rocktober Day 11: Nitzer Ebb - That Total Age

 

Lies! Lies! Lies! Lies!
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Guns! Guns! Guns! Guns!
Fire! Fire! Fire! Uhh!

Those are just some of the words you will get impaled with if you decide to lace up your steel-toed boots, head over to your local 80’s dance club, and ask them to play a track off of Nitzer Ebb’s 1987 debut album That Total Age, upon which they will either love you or laugh in your face. At least that was the response I remember back in the day, depending on if the club was down with the electronic body music scene or not. If they take your request, throw yourself into the mosh pit and hold on tight as the drill sergeant vocals will shout and growl into your earholes in rhythm with the vintage synthesized industrial dance music.  Sounds like fun, right? Well, depending on your age and mood, this is either the best or worst decision of your day.  

So I’ll confess, I’ve always had a soft (or maybe it’s a sore) spot for this albumAfter spending my formative years in and around clubs and record stores in Chicago where this album and type of music was all the rage, it has been engrained into my DNA and is considered one of the quintessential examples of electronic body music.

What makes this album so great is the straight-forward raw intensity you will hear on first listen. And as an angry, impressionable 13 year old, this was a fist pumping, boot kicking good time. What else could you ask for? But naturally, it's this same consistent intensity that starts to wear thin as you make it through the entire album, making it slightly laughable at times some 24 years later. Much in the same way the WWF was great, but always tongue in cheek. But wasn’t that what the 80’s were all about?