Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Summertime Rolls by Jane's Addiction

(unfortunately I had to link to a live version; not that it is bad)

I was late bloomer when it comes to Jane's Addiction. The story goes like this. My friend Carl (see the Slayer post) had a friend named Cory. Cory was a cool guy who had the most amazing Trans Am I had ever seen. It was barely street legal. Anyway, Cory had jammed with us once just for fun and was not involved in music at all at this time. That's how I knew him. He was one of the only friends who had his own apartment and we used to go over there and party sometimes. One night we were all there and having a good time. I had several beers and was feeling pretty good. Then this song came on. As soon as it started, I felt the song take a hold of me. I closed my eyes and just listened to it, tuning out the rest of the noise from the party. The song was Summertime Rolls from the Nothing's Shocking album. I love songs that have that “trance effect” like The End by the Doors. I asked Cory who was doing the song and he told me. The song starts with a mellow but cool bass line and stays steady through the beginning of the song. The lyrics for Summertime Rolls are about a summer time love with nice poetic twists. Not cheesy at all. Later the rest of the band comes in and the song has straight forward beat but with great power. Finally is slows back down like in the beginning and finishes with finesse. Beautiful song.

So fast forward a few months and I was in the record store browsing for a cassette to buy when I remembered that song I heard at Cory's. I had to jog my memory and then found it. I was startled by the cover. Conjoined twin topless blow-up dolls. So I bought it based on the one song I heard and rushed to listen to the rest of it. I was blown away with the entire album and especially the guitar player. I remember asking myself “what the hell is a guitar player like that doing in a band like this? Nothing's Shocking is now in my top 20 favorite albums I own. Each song has its own personality and I love Perry's vocals and lyrics. I then had to go out and get the rest of their catalog and was not disappointed.

What do you think about this song?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Xanadu by Rush

The Rush song Xanadu (lyrics) from the A Farewell to Kings album reminds me of my early drumming career. Once I discovered Rush, all bets were off. I dove in head first to emulate Neal Peart in every facet of my drumming style and it continues today (along with Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater). As I started collecting Rush albums, A Farewell to Kings just stuck with me. I loved the melodies, lyrics and other adventurous nature of the arrangements. It is still my favorite Rush album. The song Xanadu just blew me away. There are so many little parts that Peart throws in there. How can you not like a song where both guitar players have double-necked guitars (a very 70's thing)? This song took me an entire summer of practice to really get a handle on it. I wore out two cassettes because of constantly rewinding it. I was so wrapped up in this song I did research on what the lyrics meant and the history behind it (very cool stuff by the way).

As further proof of my devotion to this song, I was given a xylophone for my birthday to learn those parts as well. I would use mallets on my 22” ride cymbal as the gong on the song. I also purchased agogo bells to play this and other Rush songs. I then found other songs by Rush and others (like Jethro Tull's Baker Street Muse) to use my xylophone on. Another important factor in learning this song was the video Exit Stage Left. The video is from the Moving Pictures tour which was one of the last tours that Rush played Xanadu in its entirety. I was able to study this video over and over to see how Peart played a specific part. I incorporated a few of the fills Peart included that were not on the studio version. Of course the parts I really needed to see were not always shown (darn guitar solos :).
After all these years I still enjoy playing this song and album. The difference now is that I understand Xanadu's time signature changes much more than I did then so the parts have come together tighter. This song more than any other defined my style for most of my drumming career. Even when I was is a blues band, I would add little things to the songs that made them more fun to play and make them my own. Some people did not not like my “busy” style but you can't please everyone.

As a side note, I have since learned odd time signatures much better and can count the measures while I listen and play songs. For years the middle section of the song A Farewell to Kings always stumped me. Now I know why, the measures alternate between 7/8 and 5/8. It is one of the most difficult sections I have ever learned by Rush. Once again I just hunkered down and played it over and over again until I could play through more often than not.

Do you have story about this song? Please Let me know.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Radar Love and Twilight Zone by Golden Earring

Another pair of great suggestions by Perplexio.

 Golden Earring was a Dutch band that formed in the 1960's.

Radar Love: What can you say about one of the best (if not THE best) driving songs of all time. It is tradition, like yelling “Free Bird” at a concert. There were many times when I would go out of my way to put this song on while on long trips, especially in the summer with the windows down ( My first car was a 72 Buick Skylark with no air so I did not have a choice).  I have always loved the drums in this song, even before I ever became a drummer. I do have one small story for this song. I remember arguing with my buddy Fred because he liked the remake of the song by White Lion better than the original. Don't get me wrong, it was not a bad remake, but it pales next to the original in terms of energy and drive (pun intended). I grew up on the original so maybe I am biased.

Twilight zone: I have to admit I never really cared much for that song. When you listen to the two next to each other it's hard to believe it is the same band. However, I give Golden Earring credit that they found a sound that blended nicely with the times much like Rush did over the decades (who also had a song called Twilight Zone). Twilight Zone was definitely an 80's song but not in the same cheesy mold as much of the other songs of that time. I agree with Perplexio that despite it's 80's sound, it does hold up well.

Thanks again Perplexio for the suggestions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

No Rain by Blind Melon

This song reminds me of the summer my sister and I drove to Florida back in 1993. The trip itself was fun but the real story was leading up to the trip and the drive down there. About 2 months before our trip I was at a party where I knew exactly 1 person. He was a childhood friend who talked be into going into a not-so-great part of town. So I met him there and things were going well until the cops showed up. I don't mean one squad showed up, I mean the place was SURROUNDED!! I was freaking out but my friend told me to chill. The cops got my name and number and let me go. I was jumping for joy. So another month by and I got a call from my mom while I was at work saying I got a letter from the Milwaukee Police Department. I told her to open and read it. It said that if I do not show up for my court date I was going to have a warrant put out for me. Apparently they sent me a ticket in the mail and I never got so now I had a a court date. The ticket was for the fact that the person throwing the party was selling the beer like a bar. Did I mention that I only knew 1 person at this party and got a $300 ticket? Not only that but the court date was the day my sister and I were supposed to leave for Florida!! So I went to court and explained what happened. Since I had no prior record they lowered the ticket to $200 and let me go. I was just happy that it was all over.

Having that behind me, we left late in the afternoon to avoid Chicago traffic. I drove nearly the entire way to Florida (I hate being the passenger on trips). When we got to the Atlanta area, I had been driving ~85 mph most of the way and found it hard to slow down when in the city area. So you guessed it, I got pulled over about 24 hours after paying my ticket in Milwaukee. The sheriff was cool but I still got the ticket. So I slowed down the rest of the way and while channel surfing, I heard No Rain by Blind Melon all the way down there. I also heard it while driving along the Bee Line between Orlando and Cocoa Beach. I still think of that trip and all that went with it when I hear that song. Do you have any memories for this song? Let me know.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Writ by Black Sabbath

I have always been a huge Black Sabbath fan (mainly the Ozzy years). They have been a huge influence on my taste in music, my metal roots if you will. While their first 2 albums are masterpieces, one of my favorite songs is The Writ (lyrics) from 1975's Sabotage (probably my favorite album). This is one of Sabbath's more “proggy” songs. The song opens with a maniacal laugh that is a segue from the previous song. The laugh fades into a very quiet bass line that goes on for a few measures and then the song bursts wide open with the opening verse. If you're not ready for the opening it can really catch you off guard and make you jump. The song is about being Ozzy's disdain for their manager at the time who screwed them out of a bunch of money and was fired. A writ is a legal document that you are served as part of a lawsuit
which the band was part of. The album title was also a reflection of the what was going to the band from their crooked manager.

My favorite part of the song is the middle section which slows down with a great melody including a xylophone in the background. I always thought that this section could be used in a movie like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It just always personified insanity to me.

The story I have for this song takes me back to my sophomore year in college. It was the middle of winter and I stilled live in a suburb called West Allis which required me to take one of 2 buses down to UWM. Either bus I took was long ride but in the winter it seemed especially long because it was dark on the way home. That semester I had chemistry, mineralogy and a couple of other classes I can't remember. When I was in chemistry, they had the bright idea of scheduling their big exams in the early evening from 7-8 pm. So I was on campus from ~8:30 am to 8:30 pm and then you guess it... I had to take the bus home. This all came to a head when the stars aligned for me and I had a quiz or exam in each class, all on the same day. Although I studied harder for chemistry than the others it was a brutal day from start to finish. After finishing my early quiz and exams I had a few hours to study for chemistry. My brain was already reeling and I managed to get a C on the chemistry exam. Al things considered, I thought that was pretty good.

After all my brain power had been fully drained I climbed on the number 5 bus which is the only choice I had being that late at night. It was dark already and the bus took forever, with a ton of stops. So while sitting there in a vegetative state, I popped in my cassette of Sabotage and just closed my eyes to take it all in. I remember vividly when I got to The Writ, that feeling of being alone during the “insane” part of the song. I was after all, the last person on the bus. It was a nice diversion from the dreadful day I just had and the song seemed to reflect perfectly as to how I was feeling at that moment. When I finally got home, I went right upstairs and collapsed in bed. I have had strenuous days physically, but this has to rank as one of the top brain-busting days I have ever had. Whenever I hear The Writ, I go back to that day and wonder how I managed to get through it. I know this is an obscure song, but do you have a story about this song? Let me know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bob Marley (reggae in general)

My wife and I met four weeks before I was to move to St. Louis for graduate school. Things were going well and to make a long story short, we decided to try the long distance relationship thing. A couple of weeks after I moved down there and got settled, I asked her to come down. While she was there I was in absolute heaven. It was a nice diversion from being alone in a city where I knew not a single soul. While she was there we decided to go out. I had scoped a few places to go before she had got there. There are several bars along Delmar Avenue directly west of where I lived in an area called University City. It was where the Washington University students hung out (I was going to St. Louis University). We ended up at Blueberry Hill, a 50's themed bar and restaurant that played what else, oldies on the jukebox. We decided to eat first and then after dinner we went down stairs to the see what band was playing. It turned out to be a very good reggae band. I had never really been that interested in reggae before but after this night, I would definitely become a fan. The only reggae I knew was Inner Circle (the Cops theme), and the Steven Segal movie Marked for Death. I am not even sure if the band played any Bob Marley that night but it was great reggae anyway.

At first we just sat idle. We were still a new couple and I am sure there still some nerves between us. I knew she liked to dance but I was not sure if she would get into this kind of music. But after a few drinks I got up the nerve to pull her out to the dance floor and she did not resist. The place was not that big and it was packed with people. I remember it being very hot down there. We got out on the dance floor and immediately we felt as if we were in our own world. The music took a hold of us, the lights put us in a trance and we just flowed together as the music played. We were swaying and sweating in rhythm with the band, along with the rest of the dance floor. It was pure bliss at a time when we both needed it; unsure about our long distance relationship. It was a bonding moment for us and helped get us through being apart most of the time, for a while at least. Well it all worked out because we are now married and have been for nearly 12 years. She looks back on that night with smiles too, as if it is a private joke between us. Its just one of the many memories we have between us.

To this day, when I am having a bad day, I will sometimes put on Bob Marley and it takes be back to that night and puts me at ease, along with a smile on face. What does reggae, or Bob Marley, do you for you? Please let me know.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Which album is better: Women and Children First or Fair Warning by Van Halen?

I have always been a big fan of the David Lee Roth years of Van Halen and rather than involve their first album which may be their best (or maybe it isn’t), I thought it would be more fun to compare two of the middle albums. So here goes my take on these awesome albums (the links within the text go to a site to show the lyrics).

Women and Children First:
This has always been my favorite VH album when played as a whole. The album starts with ...And the Cradle Will Rock,  a typical in-your-face Eddie guitar riff with the rest of the band joining in like they were shot out of a cannon. The song talks about teen angst and has some poignant lyrics that I am sure many of us could relate to at some point in our lives. The next track is Everybody Wants Some!! A feel good romp about what else… sex. “I love the way the line run up the back of your stockings” That should tell you all you need to know. I always found it curious that they left Roth’s timing mistake in the song. Usually that sort of thing is edited out or rerecorded. Maybe they thought it would add some character. This song IMHO is probably the weakest song on the album. I love the song Fools. It’s just a down and dirty riff that grabs you and takes you a fun ride. It’s a bluesy tune about how everyone else is wrong and to hell with them all, they are all fools. Great song. Next is Romeo Delight. Possibly one of the most underrated songs on the album (or by the band for that matter). This song just kicks some serious butt. Tora Tora/Loss of Control. This is a departure for the band in terms of its heaviness. One of the only songs that has straight double bass in it. This song is a blast to try and play. Take Your Whiskey Home is another bluesy tune with a great middle break section. My old band used to play this and we did it very well. Could This Be Magic? reminds me of summer. I love the harmonies and playful guitar riffs. One of favorites from this album. In a Simple Rhyme: yet another underrated song by VH that has (what else) a great guitar riff, harmonies and drums. This song is mostly forgotten by a lot of people I think. Too bad.

Fair Warning:
Mean Street. This is my favorite VH song. The beginning riff alone is legendary. The song just rocks. There is nothing bad about this song to say, so onward. Dirty Movies: A song about the prom queen falling from grace and turning to porn. It has a nice funky vibe to it but not one of their best. Sinner's Swing: being a drummer I can't help but love this song. Another song about sex sure, but rhythmically it more than makes up for the innuendo. Hear About It Later is a bit of a disappointment. This song just does not go anywhere. Weakest on the album by far. Unchained, back to classic VH. Awesome song. Push Comes to Shove has a great funky bass line that finally shoes off Michael Anthony a bit, but again the song does not go anywhere. So-so at best. So This Love? Another “simple” song by VH with a nice Eddie lead in it. It is a fun song that gets your toe tapping. Sunday Afternoon In the Park is a keyboard (I think) instrumental that is a bit if foreshadowing I think to the next albums with more keys in them. Nothing special. One Foot out the Door has the keys as the main riff continuing from the previous song. Alex does a great little roll in there and then Eddie does what Eddie does. Its a short but I think pretty decent tune to end the album.

Other than Mean Street, Unchained and Sinner's Swing, I have a tendency to gravitate toward Woman and Children First and think it is overall a better album from beginning to end. They are both must haves if you like VH. These are my opinions. What do you think?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The End by The Doors

I discovered The Doors when I was in my early teenage years. I was drawn to the lyrics immediately. Somehow Jim Morrison always seemed to be talking to me directly when I listened to their music. Mind you they had some really bad songs (e.g. Running Blue), but the song that always sent me on a journey whenever I listened to it was The End off of The Doors self-titled debut. This song, really allows the band to shine at various moments during its 11:47 running time. Right from the opening flemenco guitar riff, the song grabs you and takes you on a magical ride with twists and turns along the way.

So this brings me to the memory I have associated with this song. I actually have two stories for this song but I will post them separately. This story begins with me and a bunch of buddies traveling up to Pembine, Wisconsin which is a dot of a town right in the northeast corner of the state. My friend Fred's brother had a trailer up their that they stayed in during hunting season. For us, this was just a get away weekend and an excuse to drink and let loose. The first night we were up there, we starting drinking and having a blast. A real guys night out. After a while, the effects of the beers I had drank kicked in and I said we should put the Doors on and see where the music took us. At first the guys thought I was being weird, but they went along with it. So we dimmed the lights and started the song. At first their was some giggling but soon the room went silent as the song had grabbed them as well. I was in a deep place and as the song progressed I remember feeling more at peace than I may have ever been in my life. My eyes went closed and I clear my mind of any thoughts and let it fill with whatever the song exposed me to. Soon I started feeling as if I was moving somehow. Shapes starting floating around me with all kinds of colors. Now let me interject here, I was not on any type of drugs and only had maybe 3-4 beers at this point.

So as the song went on the motion began to feel more intense and the objects brighter somehow. During the “The West is the best” portion of the song, I remember having visions of the desert I had been in 1990. That faded and finally as the song began its march toward it's crescendo. I felt my heart start to race as the tempo of the song increases. With each notch of tempo, I started to feel like I was racing through space. I described it as sitting in Capatain Kirk's chair while going into warp speed. The kept going through the entire fast section until I was going to fast I felt like I was nearing the other side of the universe. When the song came back down, I was gripping the chair as hard as I could, nearly panting and visibly sweating. It was the most intense experience I have ever had without some kind of help.

After the song was the other guys looked at me and could tell I had just been through something intense. The thing was that they too had their own little experiences too. It truly was a magical weekend.

Does this song have any memory for you? Let me know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Head Like a Hole by nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails is one of those bands I call "a guilty pleasure". The early albums had electronic drums but I still love their stuff (well, most of it). The story behind Head Like a hole start when I first started college in January of 1991. I screwed up my math and English placement tests so I had to start in courses that were below 100 level and for no credit. In addition I had a philosophy class and a geology class. The philosophy class was a joke. It was called "God, Minds and Morality" but was taught by an atheist. The professor once yelled just before class, without any warning,  "While were are sitting here, there are babies being killed all over the world!" We all just sat there in stunned silence. So I hope you can tell why this class was a big waste of time after a while.On Thursdays, I had a 5 hour break between the philosophy lecture and the discussion. So I spent a lot of time hanging out on campus.

My buddies did not go to college but were avid pool players so they would come down to UWM and we would hang out in the rec center on my 5 hour break. there were many times that I would just skip the discussion all together because we were having fun sand the class sucked. While we played pool, this song would come on all the time and I found myself singing along to the chorus: "Bow down before the one you serve, you're going to get what you deserve". Finally after a few times hearing this song I remembered to go see who was the artist was on the jukebox. So whenever I hear that song I think of ditching class with my buddies and playing pool.

I now work at UWM and a different buddy of mine teaches pool in the rec center so occasionally i will go and visit him. I always think back to those times when I step foot in there.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kashmir by Led Zeppelin

First, I would like to thank Perplexio for his suggestions including Kashmir by Led Zeppelin off the Physical Graffiti album. I do have a couple of smaller stories I would like to share about this song.

When I first starting learning drums I had already been a Zeppelin freak (as immortalized in my high school yearbook). So it was no surprise that John Bonham became an early influence on me. I remember playing Kashmir in the basement and just getting into a zone while pounding away that amazing drum beat. The bass drum beats in the middle sections were a bit tricky for me at first but I eventually got it down. The long rolls near the end were especially fun and challenging for me at the time. I still enjoy playing Kashmir on the drums.

Skip ahead to the present where I am a family man and an avid fan of karaoke. We purchased a machine for my older son and we love it. Now even my 4 year old songs along (look for videos of this in the near future). As mentioned before, I have been a Zeppelin guy for most of my life and Robert Plant to this day is my favorite singer of all time. I always joked with people that if I could sing like that I would quit my job tomorrow. He was real, raw and powerful. So yes, I try to sing along to Led Zeppelin tunes with Kashmir being my all time favorite song to try and imitate. I have sang in public before while in bands and so I can sing somewhat, but we all know trying to copy Robert Plant is not easy. I love to try on this song because of the vibe it has. The moaning, groaning and the notes he hits are just magical even in my living room. Nothing is more rewarding than being able to hold that long note near the middle.

All I see turns to brown, as the sun burns the ground
And my eyes fill with sand, as I scan this wasted land
Trying to find, trying to find where I've beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen.

Thanks again Perplexio for the suggestions. Do you have a memory from this song? Let me know.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Aenima by Tool

This song takes me back to the summer of 1998. I was a graduate student in St. Louis getting my Master's degree and had to spend a summer gathering the data I needed for my thesis at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. Academically, the experience was amazing. However, personally it was a real struggle to stay focused when I was 1,200 miles form my fiance (normally we were 400 miles from each other St. Louis to Milwaukee). So finding some new music that grabbed me was just the prescription I needed while down there.

While I was there I met some very gifted students from all over the US and abroad. My roommate went to Vanderbilt and was a super nice guy. Across the hall was a another great guy from Germany who first introduced me to Tool and the song Aenima in particular. Being a drummer, I noticed quickly how awesome Danny Carey was throughout the album.

One evening we all gathered in the German guy's room (sorry, I can't remember his name), and he played the CD again. The song Aenima has some amazing drum parts including the middle section with the triplets. I could not get this song out of my head! Also, the lyrics really caught my ear as well. I was studying to be a seismologist and the song talks about how the material greed will cause the faults in California to sink Los Angeles. A song after my own heart you could say (the seismology references that is).

Now, I am not one for gratuitous swearing in songs but the f-bombs spoken in the middle section absolutely fit the song and the edited version played on the radio loses its bite when played. I eventually fell in love with the rest of the album while in New Mexico and as soon I returned to St. Louis I bought the DC and listened to it constantly for several months.

The curious aspect of Tool for me is that, as great as Danny Carey is as a drummer, I never tried to play their stuff a lot. His style is much different than mine and so I never caught on to playing along to Tool's music. I may do another entry on Forty 6 & 2 from the same album in the future but that is a whole different story. Let me know if this song has any special meaning to you. Thanks.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Refugee by Tom Petty

So, this memory goes way back to grade school. It was roughly 5th or 6th grade (my memory is going, I guess) when I was attending Cooper school. Every couple of months we had roller skating parties sponsored by the school which were so much fun. So this would have been around 1983 – 1984. I remember going to Rollero and skating with my friends. Whenever this song came on, we went nuts. We would go as fast as we could around the rink, weaving in and out of people. There were a few times when Refugee was played for the corner game which was similar to musical chairs. The song would play and when it stopped you had to skate to the nearest corner. The corner with the most people stayed in the game; everyone else had to leave the rink. Then the process was repeated. Back then, this game was a big deal and we tried everything we could to win. Those were fun times indeed. Does this song remind you of anything? Let me know.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Angel of Death by Slayer

Ok, so I understand that this may not be everyone's cup of tea but this song brings back fond memories for me. I just turned 13 and had just moved to a new area. I was just starting to make new friends when I met Carl. Now Carl was about 2 years older than me and a rebel in many ways. He had (and still does) have hair down to the middle of his back and basically raised himself. We both lived in the same apartment complex where I would go to visit and was amazed by the freedom he had. He could smoke in the house, have girls in his bedroom (even overnight a few times) and had no curfew at all. Being from a very regimented family I relished in this type of freedom even if it only lasted for a few hours.

I had started smoking by then and we would bum each other smokes (as we called them) and listen to music. I can thank Carl for introducing me to three bands that would have a lasting impact on my music listening enjoyment and later playing career. Up in his smoke filled room, with his goofy green frog ashtray (the same one my father-in-law uses to hold sponges, but I digress), Carl played me Yes (Classic Yes), Jethro Tull (Aqualung) and Slayer (Reign In Blood). Now that's quite a mix of genres I know, but I loved all three right away.

I grew up listening to mostly blues based rock so this music just blew me away. The song Angel of Death still gets me pumped up when I listen to it (over 25 years later). I fell in love with thrash metal and progressive rock that day and have never looked back. I have never had the chance to see Slayer live but I hear they are still amazing after all these years. This may be a reach but is there anyone else out there that has memory attached to this song? Let me know.

A Call for Suggestions

I would to invite any and all who view this blog to make suggestions for songs that hold a special place in your heart. You can pose the song, but I would hope that you would allow me to post your story so others can view it and respond if they would like. I will post this every so often to remind people. Thank you for visiting.