Monday, June 23, 2008

Ride the Tiger

On this date in rock history, Jefferson Starship released their second album after changing their name from Jefferson Airplane. Red Octopus and the “Miracles” single taken from the LP were both smash hits in 1975. The album would hit number 1 in the U.S. 2½ months later, while “Miracles” peaked at number 3 in the middle of October that year. “Play On Love” and “Tumblin'” were also standout tracks from the best-selling album. I remember seeing the Starship in the Spring of 1975 at the University of Iowa. One of their standout tunes from that concert (I believe it was their opening song) was “Ride the Tiger,” and the lyric “Look to the Summer of ‘75/all the world is gonna come alive” sticks in my mind. Thinking about this now, 33 years later, it seems so fitting that they would be singing that back then. First of all, it rhymes – they’d have to come up with something like “Look to the Summer of ‘08/the whole world is what we create” to have a similar vibe, and it’s just not the same. Also, for me, it was a time of optimism – middle of the decade, I wasn’t quite 24 years old, summer’s almost here, it was a time to “come alive.” So let’s relive this tune and see if we can muster up some enthusiasm – c’mon people, it’s the Summer of ’08! Thanks as always to and for the info, and keep on rockin’!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We Were The World...

While not happening on this specific day in rock history, this is a serious blast from the past. You know it but you obviously haven't thought about it in a long time. Remember the superstar track, "We Are the World", which raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia? The performers read like a who’s who of mid-eighties pop culture: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E, Bob Geldof, Daryl Hall, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, LaToya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings (wait a minute – Waylon Jennings was there? Ya gotta be kidding me!), Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, John Oates, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, The Pointer Sisters, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder. The year was 1985, and the song reached #1 on the Billboard chart on April 17th. The song was also Billboard’s #1 song of 1985, which meant it was the fastest-selling single of that year. There are some good stories behind the recording... like all the artists arrived in limos, except the Boss, who showed up behind the wheel of a pickup. The song has been parodied in the Simpsons (duh) and also Saturday Night Live. Flashback to the '80s for real! Our local radio station broadcast a dumbed-down version of the song where an announcer would dub in the name of the singer or singers doing a solo verse. As if we couldn’t recognize distinctive voices like those of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, or Cyndi Lauper! It may interest you to know that John Denver, who had been actively campaigning against world hunger in the 1980s, had offered to participate in the recording, but was turned down. Speaking of ol’ Waylon, he wasn’t there for long - he left the recording session due to a dispute over the lyrics. The dispute started when Stevie Wonder announced that he would like to substitute a line in Swahili. After a few rehearsals, a full-fledged creative conflict broke out. Geldof pointed out that Ethiopians do not speak Swahili. Michael Jackson then proposed to keep his original line "Sha-lim sha-lingay" but after a few rehearsals, it too ran into opposition, because it does not have a meaning. Eventually Al Jarreau cried, "We can make a meaning" and came up with "One World, our word" which was changed one last time in "One world, our children." Alright already – we get it! So here it is one more time, the “We Are The World” video. Feel free to remember it any way you want to! Thanks to and for the info, and keep on rockin’ – in a socially responsible way, of course!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Still The One...

My wife and I just rode another MS 150 this past weekend, our third. This is a 150 mile bike ride from Duluth to the Twin Cities to raise money for multiple sclerosis. We never cease to be amazed at the folks who just keep on riding and volunteering for this great cause year after year. The MS Society does an excellent job of supporting this group of riders (3200 strong this year) with well-staffed rest stops, support vehicles, overnight accomodations, and entertainment for the weary riders. I was trying to think of a musical theme for this weekend, and I happened to hear the old Orleans tune "Still The One" blasting from one of the team tents at the camp ground in Hinckley Saturday night. You know, that sums up the committment that so many people give to this weekend - year after year, they're still the ones out there riding and volunteering to raise money for this worthy cause. So here's to you, the riders, the volunteers, the corporate sponsors...year after year, you're still the ones that care so much and give so much. Keep on believing that we can find a cure, and we'll be right there riding along with you. Thanks for a wonderful time, and we'll see you next year!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Twist and Shout...

Today in rock history, the Isley Brothers released “The Angels Cried” in 1957. The song for Teenage Records was their first single; it had a doo wop flavor to it, and was backed by “The Cow Jumped Over the Moon.” Neither track was a hit and they soon moved on to RCA Records where they recorded their infectious track, “Shout.” Eventually, in 1962, “Twist and Shout” cracked the top 20 and began an intermittent run of hits for the New Jersey trio, that extended into the 1970s. The Beatles covered “Twist and Shout” early in their career. The day the song was recorded, Lennon was suffering from a cold, and was drinking milk and sucking on cough drops to soothe his throat. Even so, he produced a memorable vocal performance, a raucous, dynamic rocker. He later said his voice was not the same for a long time afterward, and that "every time [he] swallowed, it felt like sandpaper." Another famous appearance of an Isley Brothers tune was when “Shout!” was performed by the fictional band Otis Day and the Knights in the 1978 movie Animal House. Though Day's voice was dubbed, both the musical and visual performances were unforgettable, and a record release also became a hit. So let’s hear it for the Isley Brothers, who are one of the few groups to have long-running success on the Billboard charts placing a charted single in every decade since 1959 and as of 2006 was still charting successful albums performing under a repertoire of doo-wop, R&B, rock 'n' roll, soul, funk, disco, urban adult contemporary and hip-hop soul in the last six decades with a variation of lineups ranging from a quartet to a trio to a sextet to finally a duo. Here the Isley's perform "Shout!" in 1959. Would that all of us could be this tall and skinny! Thanks, as always, to and for the info, and keep on rockin’!