I have reminisced earlier on this blog (and to be sure, I will again before I’m done) on the early 1980’s hard rock explosion. Loverboy was right smack in the middle of it. The band’s self titled debut turned into a double platinum surprise smash. As a 7th grader I remember cranking my Panasonic Platinum boom box as loud as it could go if I heard the “The Kid Is Hot Tonight” or the music intro to “Turn Me Loose” with it’s funky bass line come on KQ92 or Stereo 101, I’m sure to my parents dismay ( I gotta do it my way…or no way at all). Their debut album sold over a million copies in Canada and went double platinum in the States.
In October of 1981 I turned 13 years old…..and Loverboy released the much anticipated follow up to their eponymous debut Get Lucky. While the first single from the album reached just #29 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Working For The Weekend” was an instant rock radio smash and has withstood the test of time to stand as a classic rock song. It’s anthem like chorus and hedonistic message struck a chord in our teen souls. This was an age where AOR radio was far more important to album sales for a rock band than chart success or Top 40 airplay. The beauty of AOR radio in the early 1980’s was the fact that program directors and DJ’s still had huge input on which songs would be played. The request line was a real thing that could influence whether a song got on the air. Radical concept,huh? As the 1980’s went on MTV became more of an influence on record sales and airplay…what a shame.
This combination often lead to songs that became “hits” without ever being released by the record company as a single or being released as a single solely because of increased airplay from AOR Radio. This is the reason songs like “Lucky Ones” and “Jump” were huge hits with the teenagers of the day but failed to chart. “Jump” is still my favorite song from this record and the songs co-writer, fellow Canadian Bryan Adams, would be a huge sensation himself in a couple of years. The other big hit off this album “When It’s Over” was symbolic of rock music at the time. Pre Heavy Metal you could have a keyboard player and still be a rock band. This song was driven by the synthesizer and brokenhearted teenage boys.
Loverboy was always a guilty pleasure of mine and my friend Jeff Koolmo. We have seen them live countless times. The first time we saw them live was on a scorching July day in Minneapolis in 1983 at the now long gone Parade Stadium at a concert called The Great Northern Picnic. Loverboy headlined the show which included Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Greg Kihn and Quiet Riot. We have seen them over the years and almost evry kind of venue including at the St.Paul Civic Center, Riverfest at Harriet Island, the Minneapolis Rib Fest and the Medina Ballroom.
Posted in Top 200
Tagged 92 KQRS, Bryan Adams, Greg Kihn, Harriet Island, Joan Jett, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, KQ92, Lucky Ones, Medina Ballroom, Minneapolis Rib Fest, MTV, Panasonic Platinum, Parade Stadium, Quiet Riot, Riverfest, St. Paul Civic Center, Stereo 101, The Kid Is Hot Tonight, Turn Me Loose, When It's Over, Working For The Weekend
It’s funny how things can be cyclical. Joe Firstman lit out on the old dog out of Charlotte, North Carolina in his early 20’s for the bright lights of Los Angeles. Leaving the Dirty South for La La Land. I find it ironic because 2009’s El Porto is a return to roots of sorts for Joe. The piano has been traded in ( for the most part, but not completely) , metaphorically speaking, for the guitar. The result is a more earthy and organic sound than 70’s sounding disjointed rock that was on DrAma & Fell Swoops. It isn’t country, but it’s not far off, ya’ll. More folk than rock. It’s a return to thoughtful and introspective songwriting and yet another musical makeover for Firstman.
Shots of Makers October 2009
“The One That Makes You Happy” isn’t just the best song on this record, it’s holding a reserve spot near the top of the rotation for the Rhino Records Greatest Hits package. Joe’s voice sounding so sincere over a slow groove that’s as warm and smooth as a midnight glass of Maker’s Mark in front of a roaring winter fire. Yeah…it’s that good. The music is slowed down, like a southern drawl allowing songs like “Crowded Town” & “Only For A While” to breathe. While the songs are short and concise (no song clocking in longer than 3:35) they feel like finished thoughts. They feel as long as they were meant to be (as confusing as that may sound). While the stripped down, sparse musicality of “Marlene And Her Sisters” and “Mr.Winston” in no way resemble the opus like qualities of “The War Of Women”-era Firstman, they grow on you after a few plays and soon thereafter you will find yourself humming the tune. An album that fits better on the front porch than the Sunset Strip. This was the album and era where Joe really set his mind to be a road dog and perfect his craft in every small shit hole he could play, in front of the loud whiskey soaked drunks (guilty as charged). A corner had been turned and El Porto was a first step in the right direction of his next musical journey.
other Joe Firstman on this blog;
Posted in Top 200
Tagged Charlotte, Crowded Town, DrAma, Fell Swoops, Joe Firstman, Los Angeles, Makers Mark, Marlene And Her Sisters, Mr.Winston, NC, Only For A While, The One That Makes You Happy
The Replacements. Well that’s probably what you call them. But if you were there, then you know that they’re simply The Mats. You can have Seattle and Athens because for my money there was no more influential time and place for music than Minneapolis in the 1980’s. Prince, The Time, Husker Du, Slave Raider,Soul Asylum…. and the Mats. If Prince was the king of the Minneapolis music scene, then the Mats were surely the court jesters. On any given night when you went to see them play you had no idea what you may be in store for…it could be one of the best shows you’ve ever scene or it could be a complete drunken train wreck that would devolve into the boys telling the audience to fuck off and smashing their shit. Therein lies the beautiful contradiction that was the Replacements. I was fortunate enough in the late 80’s and early 90’s to see some of the debauchery first hand. There was a time when I held a residence in the infamous C.C. Club where I was known to deal in the exchange of pharmaceutical powders. The C.C. Club sits on the corner of 26th and Lyndale in South Minneapolis, 2 blocks from where on I lived on 28th and Lyndale. But the real significance is what sat across the street. Kitty corner from the bar was Oar Folkjokeopus and Twin/Tone Records, which was basically the center of the Minneapolis rock universe. Because of the bars proximity to these sacred rock institutions, business was very good for awhile. On any given night Paul Westerburg from the Mats, Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum and/or Peter Buck from REM could be in the joint. It was amazing how on any given night or day who may walk thru the door of the C.C. Club in those crazy decadent days.The after closing parties could be legendary and last well after the light of the South Minneapolis sunrise. Of all those people my favorite probably was the beautiful wreck that was Bob Stinson who unfortunately could never learn how to put the brakes on that lifestyle and ended up dying in that same South Minneapolis neighborhood at the tragically young age of 34. Some of those guys probably still owe me money…but with guys like that, fronting them was always a chance to hang out with these local rock Gods…and where rock Gods were, women were always near by. But that’s all another story for another day.
By the time Don’t Tell A Soul was released the band was barely hanging on. It marked the debut of Slim Dunlap on guitar, as Bob Stinson was no longer with the group. There was no mistaking that this record was the band taking their shot at the big time. Unfortunately (or fortunately maybe) it was a swing and a miss. While it would be the groups highest charting album and produce their only Billboard Hot 100 single ( “I’ll Be You” reached #51) it just wasn’t enough. The end really was the disastrous tour they had as the opening act for Tom Petty. The album itself is one of the groups weakest efforts. But just like the band itself…in the midst of shit grows beauty. “Achin’ To Be” is one of my all time favorite Mats songs. It captures classic Westerburg lyricism at it’s best (thought about not understood… she’s achin’ to be)…pure gold. While I also love ” I’ll Be You” and “Talent Show” the rest of this record it is uneven. It would be the last real Mats record. There would be one more album released, All Shook Down, but it was really a glorified Westerburg solo record that carried the Replacements name.
Posted in Top 200
Tagged Achin' To Be, All Shook Down, Athens, Bob Stinson, C.C. Club, Dave Pirner, Husker Du, I'll Be You, Minneapolis, Oar Folkjokeopus, Paul Westerburg, Peter Buck, Prince, REM, Replacements, Seattle, Slave Raider, Slim Dunlap, Soul Asylum, Talent Show, The Mats, The Replacements, The Time, Twin/Tone Records
The 1980’s didn’t end the way they started for Billy Squier. The curse of the “Rock Me Tonite” video was too much to overcome. After stringing together 3 straight Platinum selling albums (Don’t Say No, Emotions In Motion & Signs Of Life) this would be his 2nd consecutive offering to struggle to send 300,000 copies. The decline in popularity was obvious with the venues he was playing when he came to Minneapolis. After seeing Billy play the Met Center and St.Paul Civic Center arenas in his previous trips to town, this tour found him playing the Orphium Theater. I was the “Squier” guy at Blaine High School. Just like Mike Williams was the “Kiss ” guy, Jeff Koolmo was the “Journey” guy, Kent Larson was the “Iron Maiden” guy, Dave Marchetti was the “Who” guy,etc. Squier’s music had carried me thru the phases of my adolescence. When Don’t Say No was released I was 12…when Hear & Now was released I was 20. An eternity had passed but I still identified with Billy’s music.
It’s too bad this record flew so far under the radar because it was probably better than anything he had released since Signs Of Life. I feel like Billy is such an underrated guitarist, his ability to come up with catchy, amp popping riffs is mind blowing. It continues on this effort. “Don’t Say You Love Me” shows of his guitar prowess and I feel ranks right up at the top of any Squier “Best Of” lists and although it was his highest charting single since “Rock Me Tonite” it reached no farther than #58 on Billboards Hot 100. It would reach #5 on the AOR charts becoming the 5th of 6 top 10 hits on the AOR charts. Billy’s riffs reach a fever pitch on his guitar opus “G.O.D.” a return to his stadium shaking rockers. While Squier might provide much speaker thumping guitar work on this album it is in the quieter moments that he shines. “Don’t Let Me Go” finds his lyricism at it’s best ( You are the reason…Your’s are the final eyes…and when I hold…no one can touch me now). Of course I’m a sucker for sappy romantic ballads and every Squier album holds a favorite one for me…on this effort it’s “Your Love Is My Life” fits that to a “T”.
other Billy Squier on this blog:
Posted in Top 200
Tagged Billy Squier, Don't Let Me Go, Don't Say No, Don't Say You Love Me, Emotions In Motion, G.O.D., Iron Maiden, Journey, Kiss, Met Center, Orphium Theater, Rock Me Tonite, Signs Of Life, St. Paul Civic Center, the Who, Your Love Is My Life
Who the hell is Piper? My guess is most people reading this have never heard of this band. But Piper was the band that Billy Squier played in before there was a….well….Billy Squier. After kicking around for several years in various bands, Squier formed Piper and for the first time in his career was the central figure of the band. The band itself was short lived as they would release just 2 albums before Billy left the band effectively ending the Piper experiment.
As I’ve alluded to earlier in this blog, growing up in the pre-internet 1980’s was a different time to acquire information. As you may have noticed if you had perused my blog for very long, I’m a bit of a Billy Squier fan. But even by the time of the release of “Don’t Say No”…the 2 Piper albums were long out of print. I had read about Squier being in this band, but had never heard a single note. In December of 1984 I was 16 years old and got a job as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant in Northtown Mall (via my friend Jeff Koolmo who was already cleaning Rice Bowls when he helped get me the gig). I was hired on at a mind boggling $3.05/hr. When I cashed my very first check I went straight down the hall and around the corner to Musicland and special ordered the 2 Piper albums. I honestly don’t remember how long it took for those albums to be delivered but I do remember going to Musicland every time I had a shift and bugging them about it until the day they finally arrived. The day they finally came in I had to put them in my 1976 Ford Pinto until my shift was over. The anticipation was painful and the excitement of getting to listen to these records dulled the harassment and screaming of our asshole manager Mike (at least that’s what I think that drunken prick’s name was). When I got home and put that wax on my turntable I was not disappointed. Although a little poppy (especially the bubble gum sounding “Telephone Relation” in comparisons to Billy’s first few solo albums is was still guitar driven rock and roll with Squiers voice. Even the original “Who’s Your Boyfriend” sounds much more pop than the version he put on Tale Of The Tape. But there is some rocking to be had here like the scorching cover of The Rolling Stones “The Last Time” or heavy guitar riffs of “42nd Street”. The highlights for me is the mid tempo rock sounds of “Out of Control” and “Whatcha Gonna Do”.
Other Billy Squier on this blog:
Posted in Top 200
Tagged 42nd Street, Billy Squier, Don't Say No, Piper, Piper featuring Billy Squier, Tale of the Tape, Telephone Relation, The Last Time, The Rolling Stone, The Stones, Who's Your Boyfriend