June 4 – A Worldwide Phenomenon No Matter Where It Was From

The Boss” got promoted on this day in 1984. Bruce Springsteen put out his seventh album, the iconic (and perhaps ironic) Born In The U.S.A. While Bruce was already popular and had already famously been on the cover of Time and Newsweek simultaneously, this was the record that took him to an entirely new level of worldwide popularity.

The cover photo is iconic, being right up there with the other mega-hit of the early-to-mid ’80s, Thriller, when it comes to fame and recognition. It’s also where the irony begins. It looks about as patriotic and flag-waving as it could be – it has the flag as a backdrop after all – but hides the fact that much of the record’s message is about the problems of America in the 1980s and the woes of the ordinary American. Barry Miles noticed that discrepancy, but gave Springsteen some latitude for it. Writing in The Greatest Album Covers Of All Time, he opines “the choice of working class symbols (such as the baseball cap and Levis) rather than the symbols of corporate America reveal Springsteen’s leftward leanings and pro-working class stance.” Of course, the only leads into the title track and it’s similar dichotomy of an anthemic, in-yer-face “Born in the U.S.A.” bellowed between gritty lyrics about the country’s disregard for its veterans. Journalist Bruno MacDonald noted that as well, pointing out “millions heard the song but not all listened – then-president Ronald Reagan cited the song’s ‘message of hope’”.

The rather discouraging lyrics on songs like that one, “Glory Days” and “My Hometown” don’t stray far from the downbeat themes of the album’s predecessor, the acoustic Nebraska. But the sound itself was something entirely different – mainly loud, rocking and enthusiastic. Springsteen himself says of it, “if you look at the material…it’s actually written very much like Nebraska – the characters and their stories, the style of writing. It’s just in a rock band setting.”

Whether people heard it as a message of a middle class in decline and indifferent politicians or just a great Friday night party soundtrack, hear it they did… and buy it. It was easily the biggest of his career, hitting #1 in most major markets including his homeland (where it topped the charts for seven weeks), Canada, Australia, the UK and Germany, where he’d never even had a top 30 hit before. When all was said and done it had sold something in the range of nearly 30 million copies – about 15 times that of Nebraska. It ended up as the biggest-seller of 1984 in Canada and of 1985 in the U.S., helped along by a major world tour of huge outdoor stadiums and the many singles.

The album dropped an incredible seven singles – there were more singles than songs not released as 7” 45s on it – and more incredible, all seven hit the Billboard top 10, something only Thriller could match in the decade. From the first, the lively “Dancing In The Dark” (which went platinum as a single in both the U.S. and Canada) to the final one, “My Hometown”, the singles dominated rock radio for fully two years.

Critics at the time largely loved the album. The Village Voice picked it as the top album of 1984; LA Times gave it a 4-star rating (their highest) loving how he got his political message out to a wider audience with solid rock songs, and Rolling Stone lauded his “rowdy indomitable spirit”. It said of the songs, he “May shove his broody characters out the door” but at least “he gives them music they can pound on the dashboard to.” The same publication would rank the album among the 100 greatest of all-time nearly thirty years later calling it “immortal” and buoyed by a “Frank mix of soaring optimism and the feelings of, as he puts it, ‘being handcuffed to the bumper of a state trooper’s Ford.’” Allmusic rate it a perfect 5-stars, noting that he “remembered that he was a rock & roll star” and for the “first time… Springsteen’s characters really seemed to relish the fight and to have something to fight for. They were not defeated and they had friendship and family to defend.”

And yes,if you haven’t noticed it before, that is a young Courteney Cox he dances with in the video for “Dancing In The Dark”. Imagine how big the record would’ve been if he’d used Jennifer Aniston!


June 1 – Alice & His Student Anthem

Well, this is going to be the anthem for a lot of kids – and probably some teachers! – today. In our county, it was last Thursday but in a number of cities in the country, today is the last day of classes for public school. It’s holiday time… “School’s Out”! And back in 1972, it seemed pretty much everyone, student or not, was lovin’ that scary Alice Cooper‘s hit.

The title track to his (or, more accurately his band’s) fifth album, “School’s Out” captured the exuberance only a child knows when the bell rings for the last time for two months. Which was according to plan. Cooper has told people he got the idea for the lyrics after someone asked him “what’s the greatest three minutes of your life?”.

People didn’t really know what to make of Cooper back then. He’d had one real hit single before (“I’m Eighteen”) but was mostly known for his macabre makeup and stage show, complete with guillotines and boa constrictors. Take Rolling Stone for example. Their review of School’s Out noted “Alice is variously an actor, rocker, comic, madman and exorcist” before declaring “as a cultural assassin, he is harmless.” The fact that the original pressings of the LP came out with a thin pair of panties around the album instead of a paper liner only added to the notoriety.

That notwithstanding, or maybe because of it, the LP was his only #1 hit in Canada and charted to #2 in the U.S., much better than his prior releases. The single, although banned by some radio stations for it’s counter-culture lyrics (ironically, as much as we’ve gotten more accepting of ‘out there’ statements of late, it seems doubtful anyone would play a new tune suggesting “school’s been blown to pieces” in the current environment) the single was a smash hit. It got to #7 at home in the States – he’s never had a higher-charting single. In Canada, it was in the top 10 of the year and it was his only #1 across the sea in Britain. Seems that summer break is a universal highlight for students.

The song has usually been his closer at his concerts through the year and is heard in any number of other places, including a number of movies and commercials. Most noteworthy of those perhaps was one for Staples in which he appeared.

Enjoy your summer, kiddies!.

May 29 – Stones Own Label Debut Was A Sweet Success…Or Was It?

At the time they thought it was pretty sweet. The Rolling Stones were on top on this day in 1971 with their fifth American #1 song, “Brown Sugar.” That must’ve been a relief to them as it signaled a number of changes for the band and a return to form commercially. Remarkably their three previous singles had failed to chart on Billboard.

Brown Sugar” was the first single off Sticky Fingers, which was not only their first album on their own self-named record label after they left Decca Records, but their first studio creation with Mick Taylor on guitar replacing (by then dead) Brian Jones. This one brought in Bobby Keys for a powerful sax bit and Ian Stewart on piano as well. It was also a bit of a return to their straight-forward, dirty rock origins after a few more experimental, psychedelic efforts to finish the ’60s. Fittingly, they’d recorded it (back in early 1969) at Muscle Shoals in Alabama. As Cashbox put it, the single was a “return to the fresh blues sound of the team’s pre-Satanic days.” So it was a bit of a risk. Would their fans return with them?

Lyrically it was a bit of a risk too, although few back then thought so. Some thought it was a veiled reference to heroin as that was sometimes nicknamed “brown sugar.” But a more careful listen seemed to suggest it was all about sex with Black women and what’s more, with lines like “sold in the market down in New Orleans”, one about slave women. Although at the time, it didn’t seem very risky or risque.

Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics and was the main composer (although as per their norm, Keith Richards got co-credit) and said “it was all to do with a combination of drugs and girls.” He, and the band were hot commodities then, so maybe not surprisingly, different girls or women claimed to have been his inspiration for it. Most noteworthy of those were Marsha Hunt, a girlfriend of his who had his child, and Claudia Lennear. Lennear was a backing singer for Ike & Tina Turner who was the subject for David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul.” Bandmate Bill Wyman suggests it was her who was Mick’s “Brown Sugar.”

Either way, the song was a massive international hit, something that had eluded them a little in the previous couple of years. Besides the States, it also topped charts in Canada, Switzerland and a few other European lands and got to #2 in their UK, where it got them a gold record. They’d go on to score two more U.S. #1s, “Angie” and “Miss You.”

The song’s considered a classic. Rolling Stone has included it in their list of the 500 greatest songs of all-time and put it as a lofty #5 on a list of the greatest “Guitar songs”. They note “here the Stones lay waste to a battery of taboo subjects – slavery, sado-maschochism, inter-racial sex – and still manage to be catchy as hell.”

It was a highlight of their live set on many tours (even some concerts from before it was officially released), but the times, they are a-changin’. In 2021, the band bowed to pressure and removed it from their setlist. Mick Jagger said “it’s such a mishmash of all the nasty subjects in one go… I would never write that song now.” Keith Richards, on the other hand stated “I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out with the sisters, quite where the beef is? Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery?”

Maybe they did, maybe they interpreted it another way. As did, perhaps, Pepsi  and Kahlua…both of whom have used it in commercials.

By the way, if you like the song but thought “what it really needed though was Eric Clapton on guitar”, you’re in luck. They actually recorded a version of the song for the album with Clapton playing, but preferred the ’69 original when it was done. The Clapton one was eventually released on a deluxe reissue of Sticky Fingers however.

May 28 – John’s Birthday Gift To Fans

It’s John Fogerty’s birthday today, so a happy number 78 to him! And it’s an anniversary of sorts for his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival . They made their presence known on this day in 1968 with the release of their self-titled debut album. It delivered glimpses of the greatness soon to come through its eight songs and 33 minutes, but as a whole was a little lacking.

Although it only charted to #52 in the States, it eventually was one of nine CCR albums to go platinum and it introduced listeners to the band which as Allmusic say, were “gloriously out of step with the times.” By this time, CCR had been around for about five years in the San Francisco area, although the name itself was quite new. They’d begun as a group called the Blue Velvets while the members were still in school, then built a following as The Golliwogs. When Fantasy Records signed them, the new boss there Saul Zaentz (a name which would shape the band’s future and haunt Fogerty for decades) wanted them to record but hated the name “Golliwogs.” The album saw John take over lead vocals from his brother Tom, who had to admit, “I could sing but John had a sound!”. While John Fogerty wrote five of the tunes, including “Porterville”, a song they’d released as a single as the Golliwogs previously, the noteworthy singles were both cover songs from the ’50s: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You” and Doug Hawkins (no relation to Screamin’ Jay) “Susie Q.” Drummer Doug Clifford said of it “it was a rockabilly song that sounded like all of the other rockabilly songs” and he wasn’t too far off. However, John Fogerty wanted it on San Fran prog rock station KMPX, so they extended it out to over 8 minutes, added some feedback and “the little telephone box (vocals) in the middle which is the only part I regret.” It lacked the unique quality of later hits the band wrote but would still hit U.S. charts and be the first of 10 top 10 hits they scored to the north in Canada.

Decades later, few see it as a great work, but instead consider it an interesting introduction to a great band. Utimate Classic Rock for example, ranked it as the sixth-best (out of seven) of their albums. they thought “CCR were digging for treasure in the mud of Americana” and that it was a “sampler platter of what the guys… were into, from roadhouse rockabilly to Stax soul.” At the time though, fledgling publication Rolling Stone weren’t as impressed as they would later be by CCR. They liked John well enough, saying he was a “better than average singer” but other than that “there’s nothing else.” How wrong they were! By the end of the following year, they’d have four albums under their belt and four American top 10 hits:  “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River” and “Down on the Corner.”

May 26 – A Monster Of A Hit

It was a monster hit for the whitest musician in Texas 50 years ago. Edgar Winter (or more accurately, the Edgar Winter Group) hit #1 on Billboard this day in 1973 with the rockin’ single “Frankenstein.” It managed to displace Stevie Wonder out of the top spot for a week before Paul McCartney took over with “My Love.”

Frankenstein” was a most unusual chart-topper for two reasons. First, and most obviously, it was an instrumental. As such it was the first to hit the top of the charts in the decade… it would be about another year before there was an instrumental #1 hit, that being Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra and their “Love’s Theme.” Secondly, while it sounds like a heavy-driving hard rock song, listen closely and you notice it’s primarily played on synthesizer. That made it the first #1 single in the U.S. to use that instrument so extensively. It also topped the charts in Canada and was a top 10 to the south, in Mexico. It lives on not only on Classic Rock radio but in movies and TV shows including The Simpsons, My Name is Earl and Tropic Thunder.

Edgar himself played the synth and keyboards on the track; he is a multi-talented instrumentalist (as was his brother Johnny) who can handle guitars, sax, and of course, sing a tune as well if needed, as we heard on the follow-up single “Free Ride.” That single was written by bandmate Dan Hartman who’d later go onto solo success with “I Can Dream About You.”

Frankenstein” is a long piece, the album version being much lengthier than the single, and came out of a number of recording sessions produced by Rick Derringer. They took the best bits and spliced them together (Winter notes “when we were editing it in the studio… you physically had to cut the tape and splice it back together”) , which gave them the idea for the title.

Both Edgar and Johnny Winter are albinos, resulting in their trademark snow white hair and the dark glasses they usually wear. Edgar is still active, putting out albums regularly although none have been top 10 successes like They Only Come Out At Night from which this is drawn, and is often called upon for session work by the likes of Meat Loaf and David Lee Roth and has been in four editions of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band.

May 9 – Bill Martin The Piano Man?

Today we wish the one and only Billy Joel a happy 74th birthday. We’ve looked at the “Piano Man”’s life before, and many of his great albums, but today let’s go back a bit further and turn to the song that gave him his lasting nickname. Yep, that would be “Piano Man”, the title track of his second album. Which came about because no one much liked his first one really.

Billy wrote “Piano Man” from his experiences over the previous year, 1972 into ’73. He’d moved from his New York home to L.A. and indeed was a piano-playing lounge singer at a place called the Executive Room. He was about 23 at the time and as he put it, “hiding out.” “It was this gig I did for about six months just to pay rent.” Whether or not there was much money in his jar on the piano, in time that gig paid off handsomely for Joel. But few might have guessed it when they sat and drank and listened to “Bill Martin” as he called himself there. He didn’t want “Billy Joel” to be found.

However, it wasn’t the Mob or loansharks he was hiding from, it was from his first record company, Family Productions. He was under contract to them, and he felt they had botched the making of his debut, Cold Spring Harbor (which at the time was a resounding flop) and probably weren’t being very upfront with him about money either. He wanted out, and found Columbia Records were interested in him. So he let the big boys there duke it out with Family Productions while he hid and couldn’t use his real name for some reason tied to his contract.

He drew from real life to write the song; the characters were real even if he took a liberty here or there with the storylines. There was indeed a “real estate novelist”, house-seller by day and guy who “sat at the bar each night working on what he believed would be the next great American novel,” Joel says. There’s no word on who that Paul really was, so presumably he didn’t write the Great American Novel in the end. There was a “Davy who’s still in the Navy,” David Hertz. And how about that “waitress practicing politics”? That turned out to be none other than Elizabeth Weber, who became his first wife!

The song featured Joel demonstrating his skills on the piano that made him a lounge hit, as well as the harmonica, something he liked Bob Dylan for using. Michael Omartian was one of the few session musicians behind Billy, playing accordion.

Piano Man” was long for radio at the time – over 5 and a half minutes. You could get away with that if you were the Beatles, but it was harder for an unknown. Columbia (who did indeed sign him) would trim it down by about a minute for a 7” single. It also was unusual, but not unique, in its form. Lyrically, both Cashbox and Record World noticed it seemed a little like Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” from a year earlier; another story drawn from happenings while the singer did a mediocre “side gig.” Joel says when you read it, it seems like a long limerick and it’s in ¾ time, not a common rock signature.

It was different – but caught on. His third single overall, but first with Columbia, was his first to chart, reaching #25 in the U.S., #20 in Australia and #10 in Canada, its best showing. Which seems surprising now, given how popular it has become. Obviously as he got to be better-known, fans looked back to his earlier works and really embraced this breakthrough of his. By now it’s certified platinum in Britain, where it failed to crack the top 100, and 5X that at home where it’s the biggest of his 11 platinum singles. As Ultimate Classic Rock puts it, “somewhere right now, Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’ is playing…it’s a key component of the aural wallpaper that surrounds us every day” …but they note that’s “because it’s a damn great song” that they rank as the 63rd best “classic rock” song of all-time.

As for Billy, it’s not his favorite but he says “my songs are like my kids, and I look at that song and think ‘my kid did pretty well.’”

One more measure of its popularity – Weird Al Yankovic parodied it as “Ode to a Superhero – Spider Man”.

If you’re wanting to see the 74 year old Piano Man, you’re in luck -especially if you’re in the Big Apple. He seems to resume doing monthly concerts at Madison Square Garden this summer and in fall he’s got a few concerts around the country scheduled with Stevie Nicks.

May 2 – Melissa Etheridge Was The Only One To Sound Like That

At the time some labeled her the “next Janis Joplin”. By the time she’s done, those people might refer to Janis as the “first Melissa Etheridge”…because the gravelly-voiced rocker has beaten cancer, taken unpopular stands and is still rolling out the music, 35 years after her debut album came out. Melissa Etheridge, the album, was released this day in 1988.

Melissa by that time had been a fixture on the L.A. music scene for much of the decade, after moving there from her Kansas home to find fame and perhaps a somewhat less judgmental environment. Times weren’t as accommodating for openly gay people like Etheridge then as they are now. She’d signed on with Island Records in ’86 and had recorded this album within a single week the next year. She wrote all 10 tracks, played guitar and sang, as well as co-producing it with session drummer Craig Krampf (who’d recently had a brush with fame working with Steve Perry and co-writing his hit “Oh Sherrie”). Among the other noteworthy session players backing her were guitarist Waddy Wachtel and Level 42 producer Wally Badarou adding keyboards as needed.

The result was a set of rootsy rock songs uncommon in the era and of a gritty style perhaps last heard from a popular female artist with Joplin – hence the many comparisons back then. As Classic Rock Reviews noted years later, she “found a rather unique niche and filled a huge void in the popular music scene” of the day with “raw-throated vocals, confessional compositions and simple yet effective acoustic-built music.” Typical of the record were a trio of radio hits, “Bring Me Some Water”, her first single and a top 10 on American rock radio charts, “Similar Features” and a song that just barely missed the U.S. top 40, “Like the Way I Do.” The album got to #22 at home, being double platinum eventually, a very solid #3 in Australia and triple platinum in Canada.

Critics who noticed the album tended to find it refreshing and a solid entry to the music world. However, she was yet to become a high-profile artist and as a debut, many of the publications of the day missed it when it hit the stands. Later on, Uncut rated it 3-stars, Q, 4-stars and allmusic 4.5. They considered it her best work of the 20th Century and while they lamented the “limited scope of the songwriting – hunger for affection, the pain of unrequited love” they loved the “infectious up-tempo songs that propel the album forward” and concluded it was “one of the most stunning debuts of the ’80s.”

Seemingly one of the more important ones too as Melissa’s still recording, putting out 15 more studio albums since, the latest being 2021’s One Way Out;  five of which have gone on to platinum status domestically, notched half a dozen top 40 singles including “I’m the Only One” (a surprise #1 on Adult Contemporary charts) and “I Want to Come Over,” winning a couple of Grammys along the way and becoming a respected spokesperson for a number of causes including of course LGBT rights.

April 26 – Wheatfield Grew Band’s Reputation Worldwide

Well, It was a big day in Canadian music history 54 years ago today as the Guess Who put out their first album… sort of. Wheatfield Soul was released on this day in 1969, in the U.S. Canadians had been listening to the offering from the pride of Winnipeg’s rock scene for a few months already at that point.

Nowadays, Canada is seen as a pretty major player in the world music scene, particularly in rock. Over the past three decades, the likes of Alanis Morissette, Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan and, lord help us, Nickelback have become international superstars coming out of the Great White North. Sum 41 led the vanguard of a new generation of punkers early this century and now Drake is huge in the hip-hop world.  But in 1969, Canada was still a bit of a musical backwater. Sure Paul Anka was from there and wrote popular songs, and Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot were at the front of an impressive folk music scene in Toronto, but when it came to rock… well, Canadians looked back to the motherland (Britain) or south to the States. This album, as much as any, changed that perception.

The Guess Who had in a way been around almost the entire decade in that cold Prairie city, led by Chad Allan and using various names always involving his name though. In 1965 they had a #1 hit at home (and top 30 in the U.S.) with their cover of “Shakin’ All Over.” Around that time, their label then, Quality thought it would be fun to build up a mystery about who was singing “Shakin’…” for some reason. Remember, it was the ’60s and umm, “experimentation” was in vogue! So although it was technically Chad Allan and the Expressions, the label shipped it to radio stations in a sleeve saying “Guess Who?” Well, the little ruse backfired… DJs played the track on radio, a lot, but introduced it as “here’s the Guess Who?” Not long before the band, and the record company decided they had no choice but to change the name to The Guess Who?

As 1965 went along, for some reason Chad Allan quit (good thing it wasn’t called “Chad Allan” anymore!) and a young Burton Cummings came in to take over the mic. A couple of unsuccessful albums followed in Canada, but in ’69 this one changed things.

Although an up-and-down affair veering all over the pop music world, while leaving no doubt as to where they came from (witness songs like “Lightfoot” for good ol’ Gord, and “Maple Fudge”) it hit gold with the great single “These Eyes,” their first to be played on radio with Cummings singing, and adding some neo-psychedelic keyboards as well. It zoomed to #1 in Canada on the small Nimbus label, but seeing how well it was doing to the north, RCA came in and signed them to the American market and put the record out, the single going to #6 there. (It should be noted that record-keeping then wasn’t ideal in Canada; some references listed it as only a #7 hit domestically.)

The album did fairly well, their first to make U.S. charts at all. The reviews were middling. As allmusic say, they were “Canuck rockers who dabbled in R&B, blues rock and summer of love anthems” and on this album they were a “band stretching and searching for direction” and dissing Cumming’s “imitating Jim Morrison” on “Friends of Mine”, decrying their lack of use of Randy Bachman’s great guitars but approving of “excellent production” and “These Eyes” which showed Cummings at his best and “the authority that the band would repeat on diverse chart songs…down the road.” Those would include the two-sided hit “Laughing” and “Undun” which hit #1 in Canada and saw both A-side and B-side chart both sides of the border, and later their tour de force, “American Woman.”

Bachman left around 1973 to start another successful rock band, BTO, while Cummings steered the Guess Who for a few more years. They were among the first inductees into Canada’s Music Hall of Fame and in 2002 won the prestigious Governor General’s Award for a lifetime achievement in the arts.

April 14 – Van Halen Found Sometimes Easy Does It

Over four years of regular touring, recording and living the rock star lives had worn Van Halen down a little…which made Diver Down a bit of a surprising album. The California glam-hard rockers fifth album came out this day in 1982.

They’d been touring extensively for Fair Warning, the previous album which had only come out mid-spring ’81. The band was tired and wanted a bit of down time…but their label, Warner Bros., were eager for them to keep at it and build their following. Their flamboyant frontman David Lee Roth had the idea that they could record a one-off cover song quickly, release it as a single and that would buy them some time to rest and think about another album. As Ultimate Classic Rock suggested, that “backfired in the best possible way.”

His first idea was the old ’60s Motown single “Dancing In the Street.” Guitarist Eddie Van Halen said “”I couldn’t figure out a riff…so I said, ‘look, if you want to do a cover version, why don’t we do ‘Pretty Woman’?” Of course, they ended up doing both. They quickly recorded their take on Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”…and Warner said “you’ve got a hit single on your hands!” And they wanted more.

So Van Halen called up their usual producer, Ted Templeman, and headed back into the studio in L.A. and quickly put together a new album, making it as easy as possible. They did “Dancing in the Street” and a Kinks tune, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” As Roth recalled later, “we’re capable of playing six different Kinks songs. In our bar band days, (we) played them into the dirt.” They even did a goofy cover of Dale Evans old cowboy ditty “Happy Trails”, a tune they’d once included on a demo and played at times when just fooling around. In all, they came up with a 12-song, 31 minute album of decidedly more pop-py rock tunes than they’d been known for. Calling it twelve songs is actually a bit of a stretch – four songs come in under two minutes, including two that are just instrumental intros to other songs – “”Little Guitars Intro” and “Intruder”, a chance for Eddie to show off his guitar chops going into “Pretty Woman” that they wrote specifically to make that song longer to fill a longer video they made! It was all a bit new for them and their fans, and the surprises even expanded into a nod to the New Wave that was increasingly popular. Both Roth and Eddie VH tried their hands at synthesizers a little on different tracks, something they’d incorporate more on their following record, 1984. And to add to the novelty, they even brought in Eddie and Alex’s dad, Jan, to play clarinet on “Big Bad Bill.

At the time, Rolling Stone, usually diehard fans of American rock & roll, panned it, giving it 2-stars. They said among other things that the Kinks song “lays bare all singer David Lee Roth’s shortcomings” and the record was “a cogent case for consumer fraud. Van Halen it appears is running out of ideas.” Later reviews would look on it a bit more fondly. Ultimate Classic Rock , for instance noted “despite being a hastily recorded collection featuring only four full, original songs (it) turned out to be one of the band’s most fun records.”

Fans agreed. The album spent over a year on Billboard charts, rising to #3 at home and #5 in Canada, their best showings to that point. (Britain, on the other hand weren’t enthusiastic, and it’s #49 peak there was their worst showing to that point!). The album is 4X platinum in the States, a lot of that from the popularity of “Pretty Woman”, their first rock radio #1 hit and their first foray into the top 20 singles chart in North America. Sometimes the hardest thing for a band to do is take it easy… but as Van Halen show, sometimes it’s also the best thing.

Unfortunately with Eddie Van Halen’s death in 2020 coupled with David Lee Roth’s retirement from music, it would seem the band has literally hit the “happy trails.” However, those itching for something new Van Halen-ish can check out Eddie’s (and Valerie Bertinelli’s) son Wolfgang who is busy following in his father’s footsteps and is working on a brand new album.

April 10 – Tyler & Perry Dreamed On To Bigger Things

An overnight sensation – after about 1000+ nights! Onthis day in 1976, Aerosmith topped out at #6 on Billboard with their signature tune “Dream On” – their first single. With an asterisk. The Boston band had been playing since 1970 and drawing comparisons to the Rolling Stones. Columbia boss Clive Davis signed them in 1972, saying “sigining Aerosmith was pretty much a no-brainer….Steven Tyler had undeniable star quality from the very start.”

This song was the lead single off their self-titled debut in 1973, even though Joe Perry disapproved. “to me, rock & roll’s about energy and putting on a show – ‘Dream On’s a ballad…(but) we also knew …straight rock & roll didn’t get played on radio.” Neither did this song at first. It went unnoticed, except in their hometown. In Boston, it was a hit, being the #1 song of ’73 on one FM station. But back then, radio was a local thing, and the song only hit #59 nation-wide and was ignored in several big cities. It wasn’t until their Toys In The Attic album in ’75 became a hit and “Sweet Emotion” became a radio hit that people outside of Beantown began to pay attention. Columbia had the sense to re-release the single, (as well as “Walk this Way”, another single that flopped initially) in ’76 and this time it became a radio staple. It also made the Canadian top 10 at the time, and while it didn’t chart in the UK, it sold enough to go “silver” (half the level for gold), making it their biggest-seller there until the late-’90s. As to the song itself, Stephen Tyler wrote it, using some music he’d heard his dad (a classical pianist) play when he was a child, and using a keyboard he got through odd circumstances, apparently. He says he bought the keyboards he wrote the song on, using a suitcase full of money he found outside the house the band was practising in! A dream come true, perhaps, so what better song to write? He says the tune is “about the hunger to be somebody…dream until your dreams come true.” A good motto for us, headbangers or not.

Odd trivia- actor Neil Patrick Harris and the Glee cast had a top 30 cover hit of it in 2010!