Monday, November 30, 2009

Pink Floyd's "The Wall"- 30 years later

Pink Floyd
The Wall
Released 1979
Rating: ****

November 30, 1979- Progressive rock band Pink Floyd releases The Wall. The double album is a rock opera written by bassist Roger Waters. The album sells millions of copies and is still considered a classic today.

The Wall is a great album but sometimes, doesn't meet to it's epic proportions. Some critics believe it doesn't live up to its title. The story of the album deals with a man named Pink. When Pink is just a boy, his father dies in World War II (similar to Roger Waters). As a child, Pink is tortured in school by his teachers and overprotected by his mother. Pink thinks of each bad incident of his life as "another brick in the wall". Pink becomes a rock star. However he suffers from being cheated on by his wife and gives in to drugs. Once his wife leaves him, he starts to build the wall. Once it's complete, he has his fans come and starts dictating like a Nazi. After he puts himself on trial, the wall is tore down. However, Pink survives.

Bassist Roger Waters wrote the story and planned to have it be a perfect album. The story's main character sounds has the charecteristics of him and lost bandmate, Syd Barrett. Waters and the band chose Bob Ezrin to produce the album. David Gilmour, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason all have different stories on how recording went down for The Wall. Based on all the stories, Waters sounds as if he was a bully to his band mates. Mason remembers that Waters was pissed whenever they were behind schedule. Things got worst when the relationship between he and Rick Wright fell apart. While David Gilmour says that he was annoyed Wright's lack of input, it was easy to see why Wright wasn't in a good mood: his marrige was falling apart. In the 2008 book Comfortably Numb, the author says that when Waters wanted to know of Wright's contribution Wright apparently replied "Tell Roger to f***" off. Wright, before his passing in September 2008, denied this story. In the same book, the relationship between Roger and Rick wasn't the best although Rick did state that they were good working partners. During the recording of the album, Rick Wright left the band as suggested by Waters. When the band went on tour, Wright was recruited but was paid back-up musician wages.

Despite the chaos in creating this album, the finished product is pretty good. Disc 1 is very good. "In The Flesh" is a great opener while "Another Brick In the Wall Part 2" is the anthem for kids who hate their teachers. "Young Lust" is an overlooked rocker while "Mother" is a classic. Disc 2 is less impressive but has "Hey You", which is one of the band's best. "Comfortably Numb" sees David Gilmour playing one of the greatest guitar solos known to man. I'm not kidding. Go and listen to that solo. Freakin' sweet. "Run Like Hell" is another underrated cut, which has some impressive hooks from both Gilmour and Roger Waters.

As of now on my list of my top 130 favorite albums, The Wall ranks in at #107. It sounds a little bit off but for now, that's the way it is. I should move it a few spots up to probably the 80 to 70 range. We'll see!

Sources: Wikipedia, Comfortably Numb (2008 book), and some previously known knowledge!

Ronnie James Dio diagnosed with Stomach Cancer

Since November 25, singer Ronnie James Dio has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. The Heaven & Hell singer's manager and wife, Wendy, has issued a statement to Blabbermouth that Ronnie will immediately undergo treatment and that he will "kill this dragon and go back to the stage". Ronnie Jame Dio, 67, has been the lead singer for Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, his own band Dio, and now a spin-off Sabbath band called Heaven & Hell.

This is sad news but Ronnie is strong. There are so many improvements that have been made in killing the disease compared to years ago. My prayers go out to Ronnie.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kevin DuBrow (1955-2007)- Two Years Later

Kevin DuBrow
October 29, 1955- November 25, 2007

Today marks the second anniversary of the passing of Kevin DuBrow. DuBrow was the singer of heavy metal band, Quiet Riot. In this post, I'll go into the history of Kevin & Quiet Riot and why he's important to the metal world.

Kevin DuBrow grew up on rock music. His favorite band was Humble Pie, whose singer Steve Marriott, was a major influence on DuBrow. It was in 1973 when he received a phone call from a young guitarist named Randy Rhoads. In an interview with Kelly Garni in 2008, he said that he and Randy heard of Kevin at a party. From appearances, Rhoads and Garni were a bit disappointed as they wanted to do a shock rock band (ala Alice Cooper or Black Sabbath). DuBrow almost dressed like Rod Stewart! However, DuBrow stayed because he really wanted to play with the band. After adding drummer Drew Forsyth, the band got the name Quiet Riot after talking with a member rock band Status Quo, who said he wanted to form a band with name that was "quite right".

The members of Quiet Riot were only in their teens and were playing in clubs. CBS saw this and signed them. In 1977 and 1978, the band released two albums. Both were released only in Japan. By the release of the second album, Garni left and was replaced by Rudy Sarzo. Quiet Riot broke up after Rhoads went to join Ozzy Osbourne until his death at 25 in a jet plane accident. DuBrow reformed Quiet Riot with drummer Frankie Banali and guitarist Carlos Cavazo. Rudy Sarzo joined shortly after and in 1983, Metal Health was released. By November, the album knocked off Michael Jackson's Thriller the #1 spot. This was thanks to massive MTV airplay of "Cum On Feel The Noize", which was a cover of the hit by glam band Slade. The band didn't want to record it but recorded it after seeing there was no way out. The self titled track also became an anthem, as it declared listeners to "bang your head".

The band followed up Metal Health in 1984 with Condition Critical. The album did fairly well with hits like "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" (another Slade cover) and "Party All Night". However, the band got picked on as DuBrow spoke his mind in metal magazines. By 1985, Sarzo left and was replaced by Chuck Wright. QRIII followed in 1986, which managed to squeak out a hit with "The Wild and the Young", but still didn't meet up to Metal Health. After a crazy tour for the album, DuBrow was fired due to tensions and Wright left. Banali and Cavazo soldiered on with singer Paul Shortino and bassist Sean McNabb and released 1988's Quiet Riot (aka QR or Quiet Riot '88) which flopped. The band split soon after.

Quiet Riot reunited in 1993 with DuBrow, Banali, and Cavazo. It wasn't until 1997 that Sarzo rejoined, which meant the classic line-up had reunited. Due to financial issues, the band split in 2003. In 2004, DuBrow released a solo album called In for the Kill. In 2005, DuBrow and Banali reunited the band. The band had been touring in 2007, still in support for 2006's Rehab. In late November 2007, DuBrow went missing after Thanksgiving. Former band mate Kelly Garni tried helping. Police knocked down the door to Kevin's Los Angeles home and found him dead. The cause of the death was later revealed to be a cocaine overdose. Quiet Riot ended for good in 2008.

Kevin DuBrow's death had the metal world shocked. DuBrow was a healthy man and looked fit. Although he didn't get along with everyone, friends have their memories of Kevin. In March 2008, I interviewed Rudy Sarzo (via telephone). When I asked about his memories of Kevin, he said
"A favorite memory? I used to live with him before I joined Ozzy. We used to go out in his car. He had a Corvette. *laughing* As a matter of fact, we used to blast our favorite cassette at that time was Heaven And Hell (Black Sabbath. Their first w/ Ronnie James Dio). We just used to crank the hell out of it on the way to the Whiskey. He had a really loud sound system and we just cranked the hell out of it! When I was on tour with Ozzy and I met him, we used to go to the Rainbow. We would go straight from the airport in whatever transportation we had and I’d just go straight to Kevin’s place. Sometimes with Randy. We’d just hang out and hit the town. We did a lot of hanging. Even though we had a falling out in the end, I still have plenty of memories of hanging out with him."

In June 2008, I interviewed Kelly Garni (who is now a photographer) and he said

"We would go out to dinner two or three times a month. Every single time we went to dinner or lunch, we just kind of looked at each other and smirked and said 'Can you believe how much we used to hate each other?" And now we just adore each other...always had/said that. And we always thought that there was three of us sitting there."

Rest in peace, Kevin.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991): 18 years later

Freddie Mercury
September 5, 1946- November 24, 1991

It was eighteen years ago today when the rock world lost one of its finest voices. That man was Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen. When Queen got bigger, Mercury was recongized for his powerhouse vocals. His style was unique and he wrote some of Queen's best songs such as "Somebody to Love" and "Bohemian Rhapsody". His frontman skills were top notch, has he had the crowds singing and warming up to his calls of "Day-o!". For his entire career, Freddie seemed like a healthy person. He hinted at times of his sexual orientation but it didn't matter at all. His Queen bandmates kept it a secret when Freddie told them he had AIDS. However, the media became curious. His performance on Queen's last studio album, Innuedo, was powerful but at the same time weak. Mercury's appearance wasn't the best either. Tabloids called him "HIV freak" without even asking Freddie if he was sick.
Finally on November 23 1991, Freddie Mercury announced to the world that he had AIDS. He remarked he would fight this disease but the next day, he was dead. Mercury's death inspired the 1992 tribute show, which had the surviving Queen members on stage with people like Roger Daltrey, Metallica, Guns N Roses, and George Michael.
Today, we remember one of the greatest rock singers ever.
Rest in peace, Freddie.

Also on the very same day, Eric Carr of Kiss passed away from cancer. This post is dedicated to both Freddie and Eric. I would've had a picture of Eric but there aren't any pictures of Eric that are copyright free.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ringo Starr- new album out January 2010

According to one source and others, former Beatle Ringo Starr should have a new studio album out early next year. The album, entitled Y Not, will be released on January 12, 2010 according to The arrival of this album is very fast since Starr's last album was 2008's Liverpool 8. One article I've read is concerned whether fans will buy it or not due to Starr's recent status. About a year ago, Ringo left a video on his web site in which he simply stated he wouldn't accept any more fan mail. Ringo had been known to be very friendly to the fans but when this happened, some fans were left scratching their heads.
I hate to say it but statistics show that of all the Beatles, Ringo's career has been the least successful. The peak of his career was his 1973 album, Ringo. I thought Liverpool 8 was a fine album. The album was enjoyable but Ringo's long time producer, Mark Hudson, walked out. Apparently, the two had a falling out or just stopped due to creative differences. No matter what, Ringo Starr has a special place in the hearts of every Beatles fan. Don't worry, Ringo. We'll buy your next album!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Steven Tyler quits Aerosmith? (UPDATE 11/11/09- FALSE ALARM?)

UPDATE 11/11/09: Yesterday I posted that Steven Tyler was leaving Aerosmith as Joe Perry had said so. Last night in New York at the Fillmore in Irving Plaza, Tyler appeared onstage with the Joe Perry Project (Joe's solo band). Before the band kicked into "Walk This Way", Tyler said to the auidence that he was not leaving Aerosmith.

No other comments have been made since but it looks like this was a rumor since last Friday. I want to apologize to anyone who read this and got a scare. Almost every major news site was confirming this and with all the crap Aerosmith had been through this year, I was believing this. Let's hope that the Toxic Twins and the other guys in the band can patch things up and get back in the saddle again!

Here's the URL to a video of what happened last night via YouTube:

Note: I've saved the original writing as a document just for laughs on Word.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Michael Jackson's This Is It review

Just four months after his passing, a movie of rehersals for Michael Jackson’s planned comeback tour has been released. Not only is the movie good but it also gives the audience the closest thing to seeing the King of Pop in concert and behind the scenes.

Since he was a kid, Michael Jackson had been household name. His career as a solo artist made him even bigger and possible, the most famous entertainer of his time. Ever since Jackson’s 2005 child molestation trials, his image wasn’t great. Earlier this year, Jackson annouced he would be playing 50 shows at the London O2 Arena. Suddenly on June 25, Jackson passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest. The movie consists of rehersal footage from the day Jackson annouced the shows to June 23. Critics have complained that the movie is spliced up too much. It isn’t that much but this was done by director Kenny Ortega so that the movie could capture what those shows would’ve been like.

If you go and see the movie, you’re most likely to get a lanyard with a laminated mini picture of the movie poster. It’s almost like having your own backstage pass. The movie starts off with interviews with the dancers and how they’re excited to be with Michael. We are then shown how the show would’ve started: lights out, crowd goes crazy, and there’s Michael singing “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”.As for other performances, audiences get to see the remarkable new videos for“They Don’t Care About Us”, “Earth Song”, “Smooth Criminal”, and “Thriller”. Other personal favorites include “Beat It” and “Black Or White”. Jackson had a great back-up band. Jackson’s female guitarist, Orianthi, shines the most.

Throughout the entire film, Michael is both is good shape and in poor shape. Michael was said to have been in good health before he passed away and showed no signs. Sometimes, Michael isn’t standing up straight and looks gaunt. This doesn’t really affect the enjoyment of the film. In fact, there are parts in the movie that are very amusing. Jackson, as seen in the film, was a perfectionist. He didn’t know how to play an instrument so he’d have to start imitating the instruments. During “Human Nature”, we see Jackson flapping his arms for no particular reason. Jackson is also seen trying to describing to the keyboardist how to play the opening for “The Way You Make Me Feel”. You can see the discomfort of the keyboardist! At the end of “Beat It”, Jackson is rolling on the floor. Another funny scene was when we see the dancers in training, where they are learning how to do Jackson’s trademark crotch grab. It gets funnier when we see a woman is teaching them! The laughs continue when Jackson has to stop the performance of a Jackson 5 medley and explain to everybody about his “inner ear” and how it hurts.

“So you want it turned down, Michael?”

“Yes, that would be nice.”

This Is It is a great movie and a touching tribute to Michael. What is sad about this movie is to see the commitment these people had in the show and in the end, it doesn’t happen. Luckily, their effort didn’t come to waste. The movie will be in theaters for only two weeks so that the movie can be released on DVD and Blu-Ray before the year is over. If you are reading this and the movie is still in theaters, go and see it. It’s the closest thing you’ll get so seeing Michael Jackson in concert.

Deep Bands- Badfinger

Badfinger - Straight Up

Picture: Cover of the Straight Up album.
L to R: Joey Molland, Tom Evans, Pete Ham, and Mike Gibbins.
PS: I could not find ANY copyright free pictures of Badfinger.

Once seen as the Beatles’ apprentices, Badfinger were supposed to be the next great thing. The band, formed in Swansea, Wales, had some success but in the end Badfinger may have the saddest story in rock n roll.

In 1965, a band called the Iveys were making a name for themselves. The band consisted of Pete Ham (guitar/vocals), Roy Anderson (drums/vocals), Ron Griffiths (bass/vocals), and Dai Jenkins (guitar/vocals). Anderson and Jenkins left after only a short time and were replaced by Mike Gibbins and Tom Evans. In 1968, the Iveys were signed to Apple Records. Apple Records was a new record label found by the Beatles. In 1969, Maybe Tomorrow was released. The self-titled track was chosen as the single and had the potential of being a hit. Sales were disappointing and the band needed help to stay alive. That same year the band worked on Magic Christian Music, the soundtrack to the comedy movie The Magic Christian starring Ringo Starr and Pete Sellers. Griffiths left the band and before the album was released in 1970, the band changed their name to Badfinger. The name came from the working title of the Beatles hit “With A Little Help from My Friends” (“Badfinger Boogie”). Beatles road manager Neil Aspinal suggested the name and it worked. The band also hired guitarist Joey Molland to replace Griffiths. Evans switched over to bass. When Magic Christian Music was released the single, “Come and Get It”, written by Paul McCartney, became an instant hit.

In 1970, Badfinger got to work on their next album. That album, No Dice, is now seen as the band’s first good album. The album contained songs such as “No Matter What” and “Midnight Caller”. However, the standout track was the Ham/Evans written ballad, “Without You”. It wasn’t much of a hit but singer Harry Nillson made it a hit a year later. No Dice did fairly well in the charts, reaching #28. In 1971, George Harrison helped produce the band’s next album Straight Up. Harrison had to quit his job not long after as he was organizing a charity concert for Bangladesh. Harrison made it up to them and invited the band to join him onstage for the concert. Pete Ham, Tom Evans, and Joey Molland were playing accoustic guitars and were hard to hear while Mike Gibbons was playing percussion. Jealousy arose when Harrison invited Ham to play “Here Comes the Sun” at the concert. Todd Rundgren replaced Harrison as producer for Straight Up, which was released in 1971. Despite having hits with “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day”, the album tanked in the charts and received a number of negative reviews. Ironically, the album is now thought to be one of the band’s best.

Back in 1970, Badfinger were under new management when they picked Stan Polley as their new bussiness manager with Bill Collins still as their manager. In 1972, the New York Times published an article that stated that Polley was a “bagman” for the Mafia at one time. Family and friends advised the band to be careful but the band decided to stay with Polley, which would soon be the band’s downfall.

In 1973, Ass was released. It would the last album by the band released on Apple Records as Badfinger had now switched to Warner Brothers Records at Polley’s suggestion. A self-titled album was released in 1974 and failed to do anything. Despite this, the band recorded their next album in Colorado in Baribou Ranch. That album, Wish You Were Here, was critically praised by Rolling Stone magazine. Fans today cite the album as the band’s best album. However, Polley’s management had not been in touch with Warner. Polley was now the cause of the band’s finanical problems (which I can’t understand so I won’t go into them so much). Polley tried to get Pete Ham signed as a solo artist as he had left the band briefly after a 1974 tour. When he rejoined three weeks later, the band was now a five piece band with keyboardist Bob Jackson in 1974. Joey Molland quit the band soon after a short UK tour due to tensions in the band.

Two weeks in late 1974, the band (now a four-piece band again) had recorded material for what would become the album, Head First. Polley gave the tapes to Warner Brothers, who refused to release as $100,000 advanced payment was missing from an escrow account. As a result, distribution of Wish You Were Here was stopped everywhere in December 1974. Head First was finally released in 2000.

Badfinger spent the first months of 1975 trying to figure out how to get out of their financial siutation. By April, the band wasn’t recieveing any salaries. Pete Ham was very fed up with this. At the time, Ham was about to become a father to his girlfriend Anne’s baby daughter. On April 24, 1975 the unthinkable happened. Anne woke up in the morning to find Ham, hanging in this studio garage. Ham was dead at the age of 27. His suicide note read,

“Anne, I love you. Blair (Anne’s son) I love you. I will not be allowed to trust or love everybody. This is better.- Pete

P.S.: Stan Polley is a soulless (sic) bastard. I will take him with me.”

Without any question, Badfinger was over in April 1975. However in 1979, Tom Evans and Joey Molland reformed Badfinger and released an album called Airwaves. The new band toured with ever changing line-ups. Some of these line-ups included Mike Gibbons and Bob Jackson. After 1981’s Say No More was released, Molland quit Badfinger due to tensions with Evans. Molland formed his own version of Badfinger, which got Evans pissed. Evans continued with his version and had Bob Jackson in the band as a permanent member while Mike Gibbons joined on occasion. However in 1983, finacial troubles caught up to Badfinger again. Evans was asked by former manager Bill Collins for a share in the royalties for “Without You”. Early in the morning of November 19, 1983 Evans and Molland had a heated argument on the phone about the band’s income and the “Without You” royalties Evans had. When Evans’ wife woke up hours later, she discovered Evans…hanging in the backyard by a tree. Evans was now dead at the age of 36.

In the early 1990’s, singer Mariah Carey had a hit with her version of “Without You”. Also in 2000, an episode of Behind the Music aired on Badfinger. Today, Joey Molland continues to tour with his version of Badfinger. Mike Gibbons kept drumming until his death on October 4, 2005 at the age of 56 due to natural causes. Bob Jackson continues to play keyboards for different bands. In 2006, I got to interview Jackson via email. Pete Hams daughter, Petera Ham, appeared at the 2006 Badfinger convention along with Tom Evans’ son Stephen and bob Jackson.

Recommended albums: No Dice, Straight Up, and Wish You Were Here

Personal thoughts: I like Straight Up the most but still, I really like Wish You Were Here.

Recommended songs: No Matter What, Come and Get It, Day After Day, Without You, We’re For The Dark, Midnight Caller, Baby Blue, Timeless, When I Say, Maybe Tomorrow, Dennis, and Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke

Recommended compilation: The Very Best of Badfinger, released in 2000. You can easily buy a copy on Amazon. Make sure you don’t get any re-recorded hits. This one has the original recordings. Plus, it was my first Badfinger CD. I then got No Dice and Straight Up. Wish You Were Here can easily be downloaded for a cheap price ($8.91 or cheaper). That’s what I did but you can buy a reissue from 2007 on Amazon also.

Also if you go YouTube, try looking for the Behind the Music episode on Badfinger. Highly informative, despite missing some things. Just type in “Badfinger behind the music”.