April 12 – Turntable Talk 13 : Deke’s Out On The Highway

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks once again to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. If you’re keeping count, this is our 13th instalment…hopefully lucky 13! For any new readers, briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columnists from other music sites, sounding off on one particular topic. This month, our topic is This Song’s Going Places! We’ve asked our guests to pick a song, or even album that is all about going somewhere…there’ve been tons of great songs about traveling, either geographically or mentally , not to mention ones about specific destinations. A big category, and I look forward to seeing what piqued the others imaginations.

Today we have Deke, from Deke’s Vinyl Reviews and More. There he does a bang-up job on keeping up with the best of new releases and old classics in the hard rock or metal end of the spectrum. Which maybe suggests what his traveling pick will be: 

Thanks to Dave for once again coming up with an interesting topic. My pick for this series is a bonafide winner in the hard rock category of “Planes Trains and Automobiles” – Judas Priest‘s “Heading Out To The Highway!

Released back in 1981 from the Point of Entry album, ” Heading Out To The Highway” was the lead off track on the record. For me personally, next to 1982’s Screaming For Vengeance, Point of Entry is my favourite album of theirs as it’s not your typical, full-out heavy metal record but one that balances the fine line between Rock and Hard Rock… if that makes sense.

“Heading Out To The Highway” begins with the twin guitars of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing followed by Ian Hill’s bass and Dave Holland’s drums. Lead singer Rob Halford cracks the opening line of “Hit ’em boys” and we’re off and running as Rob sings about the freedom of jumping in your car and heading out to any highway without a worry in the world. No back seat driving is allowed, according to Halford!

I have loved this tune from the time I purchased it on cassette tape back in the summer of 1981 for my good ol’ Sony Walkman and over the various years I have rebought it on CD and now of course, vinyl.

I love how the song builds and builds with such a catchy chorus, and Priest as they always do in their tunes have KK and Glenn dialing in the dual leads together which is what they are known for (and with Rob’s vocals of course). Plus the rhythm machine of Hill and Holland just plays it straight ahead.

Heading Out To The Highway” still gets my heart pumping whether I’m walking or riding around on my mountain bike as it gives me that extra shot of energy. Basically the only difference between 1981 and 2023 is of course my age, and the IPhone has replaced the Walkman but other than that the song still remains the same for me!

Cheers folks! Thanks for reading!

Check out this video to get a feel for the tune…

Heading Out to The Highway’

Hit ’em boys

Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again
You get nothing for nothing, expect it when
You’re backseat driving and your hands ain’t on the wheel
It’s easy to go along with the crowd
And find later on that your say ain’t allowed
Oh that’s the way to find what you’ve been missing

So I’m heading out to the highway
I got nothing to lose at all
I’m gonna do it my way
Take a chance before I fall
A chance before I fall

You can hang in a left or hang in a right
The choice, it is yours to do as you might
The road is open wide to place your bidding

Now, wherever you turn, wherever you go
If you get it wrong, at least you can know
There’s miles and miles to put it back together

And I’m heading out to the highway
I got nothing to lose at all
I’m gonna do it my way
Take a chance before I fall
A chance before I fall

On the highway
On the highway

Making a curve or taking the strain
On the decline, or out on the wane
Oh everybody breaks down sooner or later
We’ll put it to rights, we’ll square up and mend
Back on your feet to take the next bend
You’ll weather every storm that’s coming at ya

And I’m heading out to the highway
I got nothin’ to lose at all
I’m gonna do it my way
Take a chance before I fall
Yes, I’m heading out to the highway
I got nothing to lose at all
I got nothing to lose at all


March 2 – Rock’s Pasta King

If Bob Marley could perhaps be termed music’s “Rasta king”, today we look at it’s “Pasta King”. A birthday for a man we admire – Jon Bon Jovi. Happy 61st to him!

Bon Jovi has of course been the main man – singer, main writer and often rhythm guitarist – in the band named after him for 40 years years. And Bon Jovi was far from his first band – he’d been playing guitar and piano in bands since he was 13, and by 20 he was working as an assistant at the famous Power Station recording studio. But of course he found his niche with Richie Sambora and the Bon Jovi band. They’ve put out 15 studio albums and from that notched six #1s in the U.S., five in the UK and had 11 platinum albums at home, including Slippery When Wet, 1987’s biggest-seller which is now diamond status in the U.S. and Canada. That one sported a pair of #1 songs, “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Living on a Prayer” and established him as a mainstay on rock radio ever since. If critics at times have found his music a little formulaic and overly glossy, millions of fans care little. Since the mid-’80s, the band’s sold over 130 million albums, putting him in the same league as that other New Jersian, Bruce Springsteen (who grew up about 30 miles south of Jon). And then there’s his two solo albums on top of that, the first of which, Blaze of Glory went to #1 in Canada and Sweden and earned him yet another platinum record at home. Curiously, his only Grammy came in 2007 for a country music record, a collaboration with Jennifer Nettles.

We salute Jon though, not only because of his musical popularity, supplemented by an occasional acting career, but for his philanthropy. On the band’s most recent tour, last year, he had an unsigned act from each city open his concerts for example.  He was named to a Presidential council on “community solutions” by Barack Obama, not too surprising since he’s one of the most generous and positive people in rock. He works extensively for charities ranging from the Red Cross to environmental ones to the Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity. Plus, he has his own foundation designed to promote “safe and affordable housing options ” to people in need. It also runs a pay-what-you-can restaurant …which no doubt serves a lot of pasta, with his family’s Bongiovi sauce! Proceeds of that condiment go towards the charity. Bon apetit Jon!

February 19 – Now Ozzy Will Remember The Alamo

Jim Croce once sang “you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off that ol’ Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim”. He might have added you also don’t mess around with the state of Texas and most definitely do not pee on the Alamo. Ozzy Osbourne found that out this day in 1982.

Oz was in Texas to do a concert on his appropriately-named Diary of A Madman tour. The album had been out for about three months and was rising up the charts, on its way to going triple-platinum in the States, largely on the strength of the single “Flying High Again”, which made it to #2 on rock radio charts. The former Black Sabbath main man was drunk in his hotel, hours before the concert and apparently wanted a bit of fresh air it would seem.He stumbled out into the streets, wearing “his girlfriend’s (now his wife, Sharon) green evening dress” and found nature called. The city’s Express newspaper later said “he paused in front of what he thought was an old wall …and publicly urinated in Alamo Plaza.” He was promptly arrested for Public Intoxication and carted off to Bexar County Jail.

He was bailed out by the promoter for $40 in time for him to make his show; he left the jail with Sharon, grinning and telling reporters he’d achieved “a lifetime goal. I pissed on the Alamo! The White House is next!”. Technically, it was pointed out it wasn’t on the Alamo itself. Rather he relieved himself on a cenotaph in the Alamo grounds honoring those who died in the battle there. Which probably didn’t make Texans any more chuffed with him.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the concert went off with a hitch. It broke out into a riot and two dozen more people were arrested, all making the front page of the then-daily paper in San Antonio, The Light, which had a sub-caption quote from Ozzy himself : “If I had a kid, I wouldn’t let him go to my show.”

The Oz-man wasn’t sent back to jail, but he did find that people in Texas remember the Alamo…and people who use it for a makeshift bathroom. The furious city council banned him from performing there again or setting foot on any city property. Which might be more of a blow than it sounds, when recognizing it is a city of over a million people that has a large hard rock-loving community.

In the end, ruffled feathers were smoothed. Osbourne returned to San Antonio a decade later, apologized and donated $10 000 to the Daughters of the Republic, who at the time looked after the historical site. Once again he could play shows near the Alamo.

Oh, and if you were wondering why he was in a green dress? Well, turns out it wasn’t to shock the locals, nor to make some kind of pro-LGTQ kind of statement. It was simply because Sharon had gotten into the habit of hiding all his clothes if he got drunk in his hotel room. “So there was no way I could leave and get into trouble unless I was prepared to walk down to the lobby stark, bollock naked!” he explained. Only she didn’t think to hide all her clothes! And thus, the rest is Texas – and rock and roll – history.

February 16 – Turntable Talk 11 : Brits Did Big Right!

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. If you’re keeping count, this is our 11th instalment! But for new readers, briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. This month, our topic is A Really Big Show. We’ve asked our guests if they had a time machine, and could go back and see one concert what would it be? It could be a show from before they were born, one tey missed or one they actually attended and would like to relive. Big festival, small club show, you name it.

Today we have Deke from Deke’s Vinyl Reviews & More. We know Deke is our Canadian aficionado of hard rock and heavy metal…so I’m guessing if given a day in the time machine, he wouldn’t be aiming it at an old Osmonds concert…he says:

Back in the early to late 80’s I was listening to a ton of hard rock and buying magazines. One of those mags was British, Kerrang, which was at one point published bi-weekly and copies would make it here to Thunder Bay.

Being an import magazine Kerrang to me was more legit than Circus and Hit Parader who it seemed like they were run by the record companies whereas the writers at Kerrang would not sugarcoat anything in interviews and reviews. Plus they also featured Canuck bands more than the American mags would so there was that plus as well.

Anyway, once a year in England there would be a huge outdoor festival calling itself Castle Donington and it would feature a who’s who of all the top hard rock acts of the day. Here in Canada and basically North America these types of festivals were unheard of.

Kerrang would do a deep dive leading up the show and after as well. It was mega, as a 17 year old I drooled at the thought of going to England and catching this show.

So when Dave talked about doing this, going back to a Somewhere In Time post (all you Iron Maiden fans see what I did there?), these Donington festivals popped right into my noggin and I thought which year would I have gone abroad to England to brave the elements of sun, rain and a ton of mud for one day?

1984 would have been the year I picked. More specifically the date would be August 18th of that year. Attendance – 60,000

The Castle Donington lineup was headlined by AC/DC. Other acts were Van Halen, Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Y&T, Accept and Motley Crue

What a lineup…

Motley Crue touring behind Shout At The Devil which was selling like hotcakes led off the day followed by Germany’s Accept who were a ton of inroads both in Europe with their current Balls To The Walls release.

San Fran’s Y&T was the third act and were always a good band. Back in ’84 they were plugging their current album In Rock We Trust and the one before, the classic Mean Streak record as well. Both to this day still sound good.

Now we get into the heavy hitters…

Gary Moore (ex-Thin Lizzy) before he found the Blues in 1990 was a serious rock guitar god as he at one point in his band had Ian Paice on the drums. So Gary surrounded himself with some serious talent at various times. Moore was plugging his We Want Moore live release and if you ever want to check out any of Moore’s stuff look no further than the track “Murder In The Skies”.

All aboard the Crazy Train as here comes Ozzy Osbourne and his latest guitarist Jake E. Lee and together they barked at the moon. Ozzy never had any trouble finding hot shot guitarists to take him to another level. (Randy Rhoads, Brad Gillis and later of course Zakk Wylde).

Considering Van Halen was selling millions of their latest album 1984, ironically enough, it’s 1984 and here comes David Lee Roth and company. Looking back, this was VH’s last appearance in England with Roth at the mic as I believe they never returned to England with Dave as their singer. Also the fact that in North America VH were kings of the arena circuit but in Europe they took a backseat to the headliners who were….

AC/DC! Smart move on VH’s part as good luck in following Angus Young and company on a live stage! AC/DC will come out and knock your block sideways with their sound which is original and who can (back then especially) go onstage and follow that? (ask the Stones when they did SarsStock in Toronto and had to follow AC/DC as I know people who saw that show and said the crowd was drained after AC/DC left the stage before the Stones came on).

Now for a few observations….

What a lineup and what a show and speaking of this lineup, it toured right through Europe that summer so this was not a one off show.

How about the guitar players at this show? Gary Moore -Jake E Lee – Eddie Van Halen and Angus Young. Talk about a guitar clinic!

Thanks to Kerrang covering Donington every year I was able to read about it during the ’80s and realize just how huge this festival was. Plus I didn’t have to brave the weather elements as well. I kept my hearing intact. But….I would have gone if I had the chance.

On a side note, Van Halen in the summer of ’88 did their own Monsters of Rocks shows through the U.S that summer with Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom Come on the bill but the tour had patchy attendance in some places and was not the money maker they had hoped for. So the concept never returned to North America.

January 15 – Turntable Talk 10 : Heavy Metal’s High Water Mark?

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Deke from Deke’s Vinyl Reviews & More. Deke is a fan of rock on the harder side, so who might he pick to spotlight lyrics?

Thanks to Dave for letting me once again be a part of Turntable Talk. My pick for one of my all time favourite lyricists is Steve Harris from Iron Maiden.

Let’s rewind to the fall of 1984

 The song I have chosen to talk about is “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” from the Powerslave album

Steve Harris delivers the track of a lifetime and I recall reading about the pre hype of Powerslave in a Canadian music magazine called Metallion that Powerslave was gonna feature a 14 minute tune titled “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” and the album itself was going to clock in as a whole at over 51 minutes!

Now that’s getting your money’s worth. That alone sold me. MAIDEN, MAIDEN, more MAIDEN! Impressive that Harris and company could drop a real long tune at the end of the album so to speak and it could still draw me in as a listener.

Power of music, folks! More impressive is the fact that singer Bruce Dickinson could nail each line live and not cheat with any help with the lyrics being taped all over the place to remember the words to this epic track

Rime” charges right out of the gate with Maiden loading up and delivering massive epicness of a sonic delight. At the midpoint you hear the creaking of the ship boards like you’re in the middle of the Atlantic with Harry and Crew. It’s amazing to me that Maiden during their “World Slavery Tour” would hammer out this tune every night, city after city and still toss in the usual after show party treats yet they could still deliver  at a higher rate of musicianship than some of their peers at the time! (I’m not naming names!).

Check out Harris’ brilliant crafting of lyrics or cue up the tune on streaming choice, YouTube or better yet an old fashioned album.

Driven south to the land of the snow and ice
To a place where nobody’s been
Through the snow fog flies on the albatross
Hailed in God’s name, hoping good luck it brings

And the ship sails on, back to the north
Through the fog and ice and the albatross follows on

The mariner kills the bird of good omen
His shipmates cry against what he’s done
But when the fog clears, they justify him
And make themselves a part of the crime

Sailing on and on and north across the sea
Sailing on and on and north ’til all is calm

The albatross begins with its vengeance
A terrible curse a thirst has begun
His shipmates blame bad luck on the mariner
About his neck, the dead bird is hung

And the curse goes on and on at sea
And the curse goes on and on for them and me”

HOOO BOY ….them Mariner fella’s are in deep doo doo…

Samuel Taylor Coolridge was the poet who wrote the original poem while Steve Harris wrote a tune about it!

Harris has always been one of my favourite lyricists as he wouldn’t write the same ole same ole of his counterparts. ‘Rime’ is the best example of this. Harris was probably in his mid 20s when he wrote this and it just boggles my mind that he had and still to this day has this kind of creativity.

So here’s a cool story relating to this song and I owe Steve a huge thank you! 

Back in 1985, I’m in Grade 12 English and one of our assignments was to dissect a poem by an author and present it in front  of  the class.

 Hip Hip Hooray as I raised my hand quicker than Billy The Kid drawing his pistol as I’ll never forget my teacher’s reaction as I had pretty much said jack shit all semester but now it was Deke’s time to shine….’I’ll do Rime by Coolridge I blurted out loud!’ All those little Duran Duranie girly fans sitting in the front row of Mr Babcocks Grade 12 class did not see that one coming…

Come presentation time  not only did I show up with my notes of the poem(thanks Mr Steve Harris for simplifying the actual poem for me in song) but I  showed up to class with a ghetto blaster(courtesy of my pal Tbone) and the cassette of ‘Powerslave'(once again courtesy of Tbone as I only had it on vinyl) and wasn’t going to drag my stereo system to school.

I’ll never forget those front row girls looked bored and dreaming of Corey Hart and Duran Duran and I plug-in and let the sonics of Maiden and Rime take over. No,the whole song wasn’t played that day in class, only snippets but man I wish I could have snapped a pic. BOOM….DONE….Mr Babcocks  Grade 12 English class just got Maidenized that morning!

When the dust had settled I scored a mid 80s mark, took my seat at the back of the class and went back into my Grade 12 English Coma!

December 9 – Turntable Talk, Round 9 : Rockin’ Around That Christmas Tree

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As this is the ninth instalment, regular readers know what it is. Every month, I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. Earlier this year we’ve looked at some topics that sparked lively debates, including if the Beatles were still relevant and people’s takes on how videos changed music. This time around though, in recognition of the calendar we have a simpler topic : Songs of the Season. We’ve just asked the guests to talk about a Christmas/holiday song that they love and why it has meaning to them.

With us today is Deke, from Deke’s Vinyl Reviews & More. Deke’s something of a hard rock enthusiast who keeps track of what’s new, and old and worthy in that genre from his home in Ontario. So, with his interests, he’s probably not picking Perry Como…or is he?

Thanks Dave for letting me be a part of Turntable Talk. It’s probably fair to say my pick may be the raunchiest of the bunch, but when Dave mentioned this topic this was the first song that popped into my head.

AC/DC writing a Christmas song? You bet, but when it comes to these guys you know they are working another angle to say the least as the song starts off with these lyrics.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the day
I just can’t wait till christmas time
When I can grope you in the hay”

“Mistress For Christmas” comes off of 1990‘s The Razors Edge album and is the fifth track on the album. Which won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. I was a first day buyer of this album back in September 1990 and when I first heard this tune I laughed back then and 32 years later , I still laugh.

Lead singer Brian Johnson sounds like a sauced up Santa when he sings the verses and of course AC/DC have their own sound in regards to backing vocals. The song is actually quite catchy, well to my ears at least. But make no mistake about it, these guys are not to be taken seriously. There’s always been that dicey side to some of their lyrical choices.

Like any song by these guys Angus Young tears up the fretboard while bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Chris Slade hold down the fort musically while guitarist Malcolm Young keeps Santa’s Sled on track with his tight rhythm playing.

If anything “Mistress For Christmas” is a fun tune and for some it may not be the typical pick, but for me, I had to be that one in the crowd that had to pick an AC/DC track of all things.

So I will leave you what the sauced up Santa Johnson sings at the end of the tune and by the Merry Christmas folks!

I can hear you coming down my smoke stack, yeah

I want to ride on your reindeer, honey, and ring my bells, yeah”

November 4 – Turntable Talk, Round 8 : The Year When Things Got Loud

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our seventh round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?” or the one dealing with one hit wonders we ran at the start of last month.

This month, a simple category…but one which is challenging and should bring up some interesting memories : Those Were The Days My Friend. Simply put, we’re asking the contributors to write about “music’s best year.”

Obviously, that’s a pretty subjective choice. A few executives might try to look at sales charts and give a statistical answer based on album sales or concert grosses, but to most it comes down to the year that seemed to be when the best music was played, or when the most really good records came out. We’ve not limited it but I would expect that most are going to pick a year from the ‘rock era’ in the second half of the 20th Century…’60s, ’70s, ’80s and maybe ’90s.  But if someone opines it was 1804 because that was when Beethoven started working on his 5th Symphony, that’ll be interesting to read about.

Today we have Deke from Deke’s Vinyl Reviews & More. Deke’s Canadian and a big hard rock fan, so will he veer away from the late-’60s/early-’70s favored so far? :

1982  – things really began to ramp up big time in Metal. Between getting into all this Hard Rock and basically discovering it on my own (I had no older or brother-sister to steal music from) through reading magazines or going down to the record shops with my pals Muc and Tbone…and there was a lot of music coming out.

My allowance would dry up quicker than the Sahara. As soon as my Mom and Dad gave me my weekly sum it was off to the races for records and magazines!

Iron Maiden put out The Number of the Beast in early 1982 which made me very giddy with delight as it was just in the summer of ’81 that Killers came into my world followed shortly after by MaidenJapan. I still remember buying TNOTB at Music City in Thunder Bay. Grabbing a copy already mesmerized by the artwork of Derek Riggs and flipping the cover over and going where’s Di’anno? I had no idea Maiden parted with Paul as Maiden wasn’t getting the full out press coverage on this side of the Atlantic yet. (That was coming). Once I got this album home the new guy Bruce Dickinson made my fears go away as once “Invaders” kicked off Side A I was onboard!

Another favorite act Van Halen released Diver Down which at the time I thought was lazy of them to do a half covers/half original album. But as I write  in this 2022 blog, Diver Down has slowly crept maybe into my Top 5 of the whole Halen catalog. Who doesn’t love goofballs doing what they wanna do? I didn’t get what and why VH did this record as a 15-year-old in ’82 but I get as a 55-year-old in 2022. I accept Lazy at times now!

British fellas Judas Priest released the phenomenal Screaming For Vengeance which takes you all of 20 seconds of The Hellion” to realize that Rob and Company are ready to grab you by the throat and choke you out! It Worked.

Rush put together their masterpiece in Signals which we all dug, as no two Rush albums sounded alike. Peart/Lee/Lifeson. Need I say more?!

I picked up UFO’s Mechanix which to this day is still my fav of the UFO studio catalog. Phil Mogg is a great lyricist and Neil Carter was a huge addition to UFO.

Not to be outdone but 1982 brought Mogg’s nemesis Micheal Schenker and Mikey released the brilliant Assault Attack as well earlier in the year the double live One Night At The Budokan. Attack of the Mad Axeman!

1982, I purchased my first Zep album Coda which to this day I still really dig. Some cool stuff on that album which opened my ears to the other albums of Zep!

Some other firsts that went into my record pile that year. Rainbow with the brilliant pomp rock of Straight Between The Eyes. Scorpions with Blackout. Krokus with the AC/DC riff-rock of One Vice At A time, as well as Anvil with Metal On Metal which was a pretty damn heavy album at the time well in my world that is…

Another couple of firsts in 1982 were in regards to the world of Ozz.I bought Diary of a Madman and for Christmas my parents got me Speak of the Devil. Prog and Satan for Xmas 1982.

Stevie Ray Vaughn with Texas Flood was a sound I had never heard and SRV recorded a guitar-driven album as a 3-piece which sounds totally live and from there on out after Texas Flood, I bought anything SRV put out after.

Saxon came across in my world thanks to my pal Muk as he had on import The Eagle Has Landed. What a starting point!

Adrian Vandenberg as well put out a stellar album titled simply Vandenberg which easily became one of my all-time favs as there is not a dud on the debut. Too bad they never cracked the North American market like they should have. Dick Kemper had the coolest name ever for a bass player.

My favorite Canadian punk’n’rock band, Teenage Head released the fantastic Some Kinda Fun LP and it is just that… Fun!

Thanks to Music Express Magazine which was Can-Con and did their best at promoting Canadian Bands ,I discovered cool Canadian rock dudes Coney Hatch who delivered a monster in the form of the self-titled debut!

Racing Time from Santers which was another fine record from the Toronto 3-piece.

And of course 1982 would not be complete without a couple of albums from a couple of bands that were trying to find their footing in 1982.

Aerosmith returns with a couple of new dudes in Rick Dufay and Jimmy Crespo who released the stellar Rock In A Hard Place which did not exactly set the world on fire but in my world, it did! Steven Tyler still had life in him as this album only cost $1.5 million to record! Must have been snowing lots on the recording console.

Gene and Paul, yes Gene and Paul, put out the perfect KISS album in Creatures of the Night, for which no one cared. But I did. I spun the s*** out of Creatures and I couldn’t understand why the masses were not on board with a ramped – up KISS plying their trade of KISS rock for those who still believed. Ace (Frehley) is on the cover but KISS hired a bunch of hired guns to lay down the solos including everyone’s favorite crazy man, Vinnie Vincent! I thought KISS stepped up. Not many did though!

1982 was the start of a huge musical curve for me in the Hard Rock Sphere! I couldn’t get enough records/tapes and magazines.

September 17 – No Illusion, GNR Were Hot 31 Years Ago

A few days back we commented upon Guns’N’Roses #1 single from 1988, “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Today we look at their most ambitious project, which came out this day in 1991. Use Your Illusion dumped 30 songs and over 150 minutes of hard rock on their fans, on two CDs (simply entitled Use Your Illusion I and II). Rather than put it out on as a single two-disc release, Geffen records decided to sell them separately (to add to the continuity of the project they packaged them with the same picture on the covers but in different colors – orange for I, blue for II). The albums were huge hits and helped GNR dominate rock radio for over a year. In fact, between the two of them, they hit #1 in most markets including the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia, and the final single off them didn’t come out until 1994!

Fittingly the album had taken over a year to record in fits and starts. Overall I did a tad better than II, selling some 16 million worldwide instead of 15 million for II. Both are 7X platinum in the U.S. I spawned the rather remarkable nine- minute hit single “November Rain” (a top 5 in North America) as well as “Don’t Cry” and their cover of Wings “Live and Let Die” (which Rolling Stone described as “Wings on steroids”) while II gave us the rockin’ “You Could Be Mine” and their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” which had been released a year before on a movie soundtrack.

Reviews were surprisingly good for “metal” albums. Rolling Stone graded them 4-stars although noting they were physically assaultive and verbally incendiary, at times downright screwy” and that songs with names like “Back off Bitch” and “Double-talkin’ Jive”, they weren’t going to appeal to everyone. Entertainment Weekly rated it “A” pointing out that the band has “gained more fame for their riots and uncontrollable blasts of temper than for the excellence of their mega-platinum albums,” which it considered a shame. It wondered whether these two albums, “as diverse as the band’s moods” which showed an ability to “write songs that are complex structurally and emotionally” would change that perception.

Whether or not they did is debatable. Although the records sold more than their predecessor GNR Lies, it didn’t match their Appetite For Destruction‘s success – not that anybody at Geffen was complaining. However, after that in-fighting among the members and other troubles more or less sidelined the band for years and they never again rose to the lofty heights of the late-’80s,early-’90s. In 2016, Axl temporarily took over for Brian Johnson as the lead singer of AC/DC on their tour but in 2019 GNR were back at it with a hugely popular tour.

September 10 – Sweet Love Letter Rose To Top For GNR

The ’80s may be largely remembered for the new wave movement but the “hair metal” phenomenon was also a large, although more dubious, sound that characterized it. For all the Cinderellas, Poisons or Ratts that MTV could throw at us, none did it better than Guns N’ Roses. Perhaps that’s because they seemed the most sincere in their hard-rock posturings, less interested in the coifs and makeup than in the loud, authentic rock music they made. Anyway, GNR had a big day this day in 1988, hitting #1 on Billboard‘s singles chart with “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, making it their only chart-topper.

It certainly stood out in a year when Tiffany and Debbie Gibson each had #1 hits and Michael Jackson scored three! Singer Axl Rose wrote the lyrics for his girlfriend, soon-to-be-wife (and also soon-to-be-ex-wife) Erin Everly – daughter of Everly Brother Don. The song, along with “Paradise City” and “Welcome to the Jungle” helped their debut Apetite For Destruction album hit #1 in the U.S., sell 18X platinum (and go diamond status in Canada as well) and replace Boston as the biggest-selling debut ever. To date, the album’s sold over 31 million copies worldwide, about as much as their two next-biggest albums combined.

Although top-hatted Slash thought the song a little too simplistic, the fans disagreed. Not only being the #5 single of the year on Billboard, it’s one of the few videos from that decade to have been watched over a billion times through YouTube. It’s also ranked among Rolling Stone‘s 200 Greatest songs of all time. They describe it as “southern rock cosplay” noting that Axl “went out and got some old Lynyrd Skynyrd tapes (to listen to) to make sure we’d got that down-home heartfelt feeling.”  Apparently a little love, a little Sunset Strip flash and a little backwoods Southern flavoring can be mixed up into a winning formula.

August 25 – Apparently It’s Their Day

August 25 is designated “Kiss and make-up Day” – boy, those good people at Hallmark never stop trying do they? – so what better day to look at the band Kiss…and makeup!

If ’70s bands like Pink Floyd or Chicago were known widely for their songs but without many of their fans having a clue what they looked like, Kiss was the opposite. Even people who didn’t know one tune by them instantly recognized them by their looks… or at least, their on-stage, on-camera looks. Because Kiss created a huge brand for themselves by way of their costumes and, more importantly, crazy face designs, of striking black (or in one case, silver) painted designs on ghostly white background makeup. There was guitarist Paul Stanley “Star Child”, drummer Peter Criss as the “Cat Man”, guitarist Ace Frehley, the “Space Ace” or “Spaceman” (using the flashy silver makeup) and the focal point, bassist Gene Simmons, with his bat-wing eyes as the “Demon.” That coupled with heavy leather outfits, full of spikes, metal inlays and high-heel, S&M-ready boots. It would be hard to walk down the street in their stage outfit without being noticed, no matter where the street. Ironically, it actually did help them go about their ordinary, off-stage lives anonymously. In the pre-internet, pre-social media age, no one really had a clue what they looked like, which Stanley liked. He says now “there is a certain mystique that is gone because everything is known. I think mystique is healthy.”

The idea for the makeup and wild costumes, not to mention the envelope-pushing stage show with the pyrotechnics and blood-spitting displays, was all Simmons who from the start had an idea of making Kiss a very lucrative “rock brand” instead of another “rock band”.

At the same time we were forming in New York (around 1973), there was a very big glitter scene,” he told reporters some years back. “Boys were basically acting like girls…we were more like football players. All of us were over six feet tall, and it wasn’t very convincing.” Still he was game for it, but “the very first pictures (of Kiss), we looked like drag queens.”

But Simmons wasn’t going to be another, run-of-the-mill, long haired, jeans-clad band. ”We weren’t a Grateful Dead kind of band that would get on stage and look worse than the roadie who delivered our stuff. That doesn’t negate what the Dead were doing, it just wasn’t us.”

So, looking silly as glam rock pretty boys, he hit upon the idea of being larger-than-life comic book-style characters. He designed the makeup and personas himself. That, coupled with the wild, much talked-about, high-energy shows worked to make them huge quickly. He mentioned to the Pittsburgh Tribune recently that within two years of them starting, it was clicking. “It wasn’t about the albums. It was about the shows getting bigger and bigger. And it was about the fervor, how crazy the fans were getting…we didn’t have any hit singles, and here we were (headlining a show at Anaheim Stadium in California).” Which was fine with him, because he also says “anything that prevents a band from becoming as mega as possible is complete idiocy to me.”

Of course, soon they did have the hit singles, notably “Beth” and “I Was Made For Loving You”, but it is worth noting that unlike the vast majority of bands, their first hit album was a live one, Kiss Alive. Since then they’ve racked up ten platinum albums at home, and 15 more gold ones. And toured around the world numerous times to enthusiastic crowds. Except perhaps for awhile in the ’80s and early-’90s. In 1983, they famously decided to go naked…well, not “naked” really, but without their famous makeup and costumes. Although the album that brought that in, Lick It Up, did no better nor worse than most of their earlier material, the tour was met with noticeably smaller, less wild crowds. Eventually, they returned to the Comic Book characters.

They’re currently on what they say will be their farewell tour, a lengthy world tour running through next year. In full costume. Which says 70 year old Paul Stanley, is part of the reason they’re calling it a day. He notes that it takes him a minimum of an hour to get into full garb before a show and “if we were a band wearing t-shirts and jeans, we could do this into our 90s.But we’re carrying around 30 to 40 pounds of gear, running around, making it look easy.” So rather than be reduced to jeans or carrying around the gear, groaning and limping, he says they want to go out with a bang.