Leap Of Faith

Sometimes, To Find Religion, You Need To Get Lost.

What amazes me about religion is that it retains its world wide popularity without the embracement of technology. It seems that the various heads of the different religions have figured out that scientific, communication and design advancements would inevitably dwindle the number of the faithful. Some funding along with some creative thinking could bring faith into the 21st century. Using the same principles behind developing paranormal detection instruments, we couldn't be too far away from the introduction of a "Pious Meter" that would be used to ascertain the actual level of one's spirituality. A very handy item for the workplace to be used on employees asking for time off for religious commitments. With one pass of the "ipious"(The truth shall set you free) or "Pious Pole" (Tell the truth or you don't have a prayer) your boss could tell the difference between the person of true faith and the chooch who wants the day off to wave a John 3:16 banner at the roller derby playoff.

Time off from work for spiritual reasons is accepted universally as the payment for rolling into your house of worship on a semi-weekly basis. Leaving your job all together over religion frightens people because it makes them wonder what kind of heavy shit you are really into. When Dez Dickerson stepped down as Prince's lead guitarist for The Revolution after the "1999" tour, he said it was for religious reasons, but you have to wonder if he left for the church or because Prince thought he was god. Dickerson actually became a born again christian a few years before and the songs often charged with ferocious sexual themes began to trouble him as well as speculated non-credit for the writing, or partial writing of songs (Dez was rumored to be involved with the writing of "When You Were Mine" from 1980's "Dirty Mind" and covered the song after he left the Prince camp). Dickerson channeled this internal paradox through his guitar and emitted a very deft and precise soulfulness that was able find credibility with both funk and rock audiences. Dickerson left Prince's band but stayed within his sphere of influence which provided Dickerson and his new unsigned band "The Modernaires" an appearance in the movie "Purple Rain".  The song "Moderaire" carried the bouncy march embodied by all of the songs from the movie, however, live footage of the band was limited to under 30 seconds in the film and the song was a last minute deletion from the soundtrack in favor of Prince's 11th hour compositions (It was his movie after all). "Modernaire'" is a nimble intertwining of sytnh and guitar as the beat moves you across the room with your shoulder blades and footsteps in syncopation until you realize its charm is also its curse-it sounds too much like the rest of the songs on "Purple Rain" to honestly allow Dickerson to escape from Prince's shadow. For years the only way to find this song was to count off 17 paces from the big rock with an eyepatch and dig, but that curse is in this case its charm... not having it crammed down our throats allow you to appreciate the song for what it is: a cool lost track that has finally been released from a ground breaking soundtrack.

Listen To "Modernaire"

Buy Dez Dickerson's "Modernaire"

The band Riot had looked like they put the right pieces together when they released "Fire Down Under" in 1981. After some changes from the original lineup and a solid showing as an effective touring undercard for several platinum selling hard rock acts they were receiving solid rock radio airplay and broke into the Billboard top 100 albums. On the verge of wider success the band had a divine "interruption" when vocalist Guy Speranza opted to leave Riot due to his religious convictions clashing with his duties as singer in a metal band. Upon his departure Guy settled in Florida to work as an exterminator, leaving me to ask what religion does not allow the debauchery filled nights in a band yet allows the daily killing required in the pest control field? 

Riot's songs were regulated to the PM portions of the FM radio programming schedule providing the sound that fueled the citizens of the American night whose perception ability rose as the sun set. Even though Riot was based in NYC, they received some juice when they were grouped in with The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, scoring enough advance money to promote themselves to the point that their label picked them back up after dropping the band.  "Swords and Tequila" was the first single and led the album off with a guitar riff that hacked at you with a seemingly drunken fury that intensified with Speranza's smokey and powerful singing. The litmus test for a badass rock song to me, is changing the title of the song during the chorus to any other words with the same amount of syllables and see if it is still effective (as of this writing "Stab Whoopi Goldberg" is my favorite). The truth is, I don't care what he is singing, for when the song reaches the guitar break, I am charged up enough to take to the street and cold cock the ice cream man. The violent theme of the song is a happy accident, for rock music, at its finest is like a street fight: It starts in a flash, its over in a few short minutes and when all is finished everyone is looking around to figure out what happened.

Listen To "Swords and Tequila"

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Riot - Fire Down Under

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Got You Covered

Prepare To Meet Your Re-Makers
The Inmates

When you do a cover version of someone else's song you have to treat it like you are sleeping with someone else's wife. You don't want to be too obvious, you don't want to get involved with something old and tired that has a lot of baggage and do it so well that just once isn't enough. What happens most of the time in this situation is that it ends up being forgotten about because the parties involved are too embarrassed that it ever occurred. Covering a classic song? That takes balls, so in order to pull that off without getting pistol whipped in a rage of cathartic jealously by the guy whose life you ruined with this shit, you have to go into this with the expectation that you are going to own it when you are done with it by doing something unique. The Inmates weren't home wreckers, they were more like your mom's new boyfriend-they did the same stuff your dad did but much cooler because he actually wants you to like him.
The Inmates were lumped in with Punk and New Wave like everything else from 1979 that didn't have a 6 minute guitar solo and an album sleeve inspired by a gram of psilocybin laced mushrooms. What they really were was a bad-ass bar band who were not looking to make something new, but to dress up mid '60s rock with leather and a bottle of mid shelf bourbon creating a sound that reached out from your speakers and grabbed you by the throat long enough to shake the wuss out of anyone within earshot. "Dirty Water" was a severe and unapologetic overhaul of a dated top 20 hit, and they nailed it. The difference in the sound between The Standells original recording of "Dirty Water" and The Inmates remake of the song was the quality of the water they were singing about. The initial entry from 1966 was menacing by glorifying the polluted riverbanks of Boston's Charles River and hiding references to The Boston Strangler in it's murky reverb. By the time 1979 rolled around, the rivers of the world's large industrial cities were toxic fire spawning death flows, so any redoing of this song needed to reflect the current state of affairs by being as hard as the edge of a busted beer mug and having a badge of honor quality, therefore, avoiding sounding like you are the opening band at a No Nukes concert held in the parking lot of a stereo store. The band stamped these badges, town by town, making city specific versions (re-recording an entire stanza-not just dropping the location in an empty space in the song) with the name of the local river pressed on promotional 12" vinyl for local radio play. So, not only did Baltimore, Houston, Cleveland and the rest of industrial America get an "oh wow!" version of the song, they were guaranteed a shout along showstopper when the band played a local venue.

Listen to "Dirty Water"

Buy Inmates music 
The Inmates - Dirty Water - The Very Best of The Inmates - Dirty Water

David Lindley and El-Rayo X

The dream date with David Lindley begins and ends much differently than the bar crawl we just had with The Inmates. Lindley arrives promptly in a second hand pickup with flowers picked minutes ago from your neighbor's garden. Dressed in eclectic thrift shop gear, he whisks you away for an ironically original evening of leftovers and reruns. This is the genius of David Lindley and El-Rayo X, crafting magic out of previously recorded material, chosen with deft to suit his voice, style and playing ability.

Lindley is a crack musician and a master of every single string instrument, however he and his band refuse to be caught in the trappings of virtuoso pretension, instead focusing on creating an entertaining aural ruckus, peppered with layers of different instruments. Every album the band released beginning in the early 1980's (After Lindey left Jackson Browne's band) was a new batch of hairy buffalo effortlessly fusing unrelated genres of music. By the time the band released it's final record "Very Greasy" the block party had moved to the Caribbean.

Leading off side 2 is an adventurous strike at Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London" which in theory has all the appeal of passing a kidney stone. The ability to pull off something of this magnitude owes it's success to the listener not knowing what they are listening to until the operation is in overdrive, like being kidnapped by drunken strippers. The song holds you at boobpoint, racing, swaying and strangely hypnotized by David Lindley speaking, not singing, the lyrics that Zevon wrote and free forming a few of his own. It is the music and the band, however, that keep this from becoming a farce by balancing adept horns and a brilliant slide guitar break that ends as abruptly as 3 dollar lap dance.

Listen to "Werewolves Of London"

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David Lindley & El Rayo-X - Very Greasy - Werewolves of London
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If you Asked These Two Musicians If They Were Crazy... They Might Say Yes

Alice Cooper

It's getting so hard to see a doctor nowadays that people are soliciting examinations for all of their ailments from people on the street. Either they want to be calmed and reassured death is not minutes away or doctor visits are eating into their lottery money. Normal citizens will ask me to view discolorations of the skin or some knot or bump and actually want my opinion of what it might be. My answer, always the same, "That's cancer," seems to alarm them. "Oh my god! Why would you say such a thing?" I tell them this because I am not a doctor and I want them to go away. This will work most of the time...

Our obsession with diagnosing others as "crazy" has reached such expert proportions that the word is meaningless in modern society. To label someone crazy does not have anything to do with their mental state any longer, it just means they have outlived their usefulness. Someone exceeding the speed limit behind the wheel of a car you're in is making good time, until they get a ticket, then they were driving like a maniac. Girlfriends aren't crazy - EX girlfriends are. Back in the 20th century if you were "crazy," you got thrown in the hole, not released back into the wild to drunk dial you at 4:15 am claiming you ruined their life by not doing the dishes. Being crazy meant something and branded you with a badge of honor that scared the fuck out of voters and landowners. Alice Cooper scared people and got put away, but is by no means crazy.

Alice Cooper is the Hugh Hefner of rock, meaning his name is the brand and everyone wants to hang out with him. When asked about not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame he said it would be cooler to "get kicked out" of it, displaying the aura that made everyone stop asking what his real name (Vincent Furiner) is. Also making up that aura was Alice's late 1970's daily consumption of booze that would euthanize the average bar patron. This drunken layer not only affected the Cooper stage show but his judgment enough to write a loose concept album around a fictional private detective named "Maurice Escargot." The record, "Lace And Whiskey" tried to succeed by harnessing the singer's newly found star power (Cooper appeared on the Muppets, Hollywood Squares, Dinah Shore's talk show and funded the renovation of the famous "Hollywood" sign.) and a ballad ("You And Me" which went to #9 on Billboard.) helped the album sell, but no one was really buying that this baby killer was in the rat pack. During the support tour for the album, Cooper checked himself into a sanitarium in order to treat his sadistic alcohol habit. Before he cleaned himself up, he recorded "It's Hot Tonight", a bad ass rocker enough out of place with the rest of the album that metaphorically has a drunken Cooper picking up the best looking girl in the bar. The opening riff is as heavy as a humid summer night without air conditioning, giving way to twin guitar ruckus mimicking all the noise from the street cascading through your open window. The song might have been taken more seriously if it was not for Cooper's need for fame knocking down his credibility with the rock crowd and the stage performance of the song featuring the singer in full P.I. getup being chased by chickens with automatic weapons.

Listen to "It's Hot Tonight"

Buy Alice Cooper music
Alice Cooper - Lace & Whiskey - It's Hot Tonight

Frank Marino

Frank Marino took a lot of acid, so much of it the experiences couldn't be called "trips" they were full blown relocations. As a result of these daily interactions with LSD, he had to be placed in an institution while still in his teens. Instead of concentrating on eating solid food again while under psychiatric care, Marino instead focused on playing guitar religiously throughout the day forging his renowned speed, power and technical skill that drew comparisons to the greatest guitar players dead or alive, and a drive and passion not normally associated with someone that probably used the word "groovy" more than once. After being released from the hospital (or maybe being asked to leave on account of the noise being too much for the inhabitants of the ward) Marino embarked on his journey into rock music with a slightly clearer sense of direction.

After pounding out a number of albums with his band "Mahogany Rush", Frank ventured on his own trying to expand on his Canadian homeland fan base by breaking through in the US. Marino's second solo effort "Juggernaut" succeeds in capturing the American audience by showcasing the guitar player's adept ability to bounce between different styles, both old and new. The new was the initial single from the album "Strange Dreams", and its addition of a synthesizer, which meshes very well as it interacts amongst the heaviness of the story generated in the deepest sleep. This new dimension works because Marino himself, and not some new wave poseur, mans the controls of the synth line so it acts almost as another guitar track, complementing the sound of the song enough to make you want to reach for the corner of your eye in order to remove the deposit that built up overnight. The song's ability to get attention without overpowering you had no similar brethren on the album, dooming any change of a successful follow-up single.

Listen to "Strange Dreams"

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Bail! Bail! Rock And Roll!

Checking Out The Last Records Of 2 Bands That Checked Out.

Artful Dodger

The marathon. A race in tribute to a guy that ran 26+ miles then dropped dead. Why would you sign up for this? I would drop out right after the 1st wheelchair contestant passed me by or when they told me what that liquid you drink during the race actually is. Life is a enough of a marathon on its own. Anyone that tells you life is short has cancer-because life is the LONGEST thing you will ever do. Brushing your teeth? I have heard you should brush them for 2 minutes. 2 MINUTES?! Do you really expect me to be away from my cell phone for that long? Don't dictate to me when I'm done. No matter if it's a marathon or I'm brushing my teeth, I am finished when I get bored or when I see some blood... All of us have that timer inside that tells us when it's time to go. The "time to go" timer for the band Artful Dodger, however, had a snooze alarm.

Artful Dodger was a national band that unfortunately only had a regional following. Pockets of fervor in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic were not enough to carry the band further than small clubs and sporadic radio airplay. After 3 albums on Columbia that did not sell (even though they contained perfect Power Pop masterpieces such as "Wayside" and Think Think"), the label told them to hit the bricks and they were left out on the street to fend for themselves, eventually signing with the obscure Ariola label, thus buying the band an extra 9 minutes of sleep. The biggest problem keeping the band from breaking through on a larger level is what they refer to in the film industry as their "high concept pitch" (meaning you can not describe the idea in one short sentence). So instead of attempting to describe Artful Dodger as "Yearning guitars and smokey yet powerful vocals about love lost or never had. A band with a smart pop sensibility with the edge of desperation that crystallizes the sound of your breaking heart though a Marshall amp.", the sell was "They sound like the Faces if Rod Stewart didn't want to be on the cover of People Magazine," and no one wanted to buy that album....

Small record deal or not, 1980's Rave On was a beautiful album showcasing all that made this band special to a select few. Clear and focused in the way you would be when you decide to swallow the whole bottle of pills, the band might have known this was the last mile and created this record as a headstone to 1970's Power Pop sound that they helped create. "A Girl (La La La)" was the rock radio single that might have been too vulnerable to be a hit, although the sing-along outro on the song showed that they still wanted to give it a try. Artful Dodger came to an end in 1982 when Billy Paliselli, the band's lead singer, appropriately broke some hearts when he resigned.

Listen to "A Girl (La La La)

Let's Active 

It seemed everyone knew about Let's Active yet no one owned any of their records. The band's highest charting album went to #111 and they had only one single that charted, and that was #17 on the Modern Rock Tracks, a chart compiled from stations that at the time had slightly more listeners and slightly less signal strength than Ecuadorian CB Radio. Those that tuned in were in for a treat. Band founder/leader and producer, Mitch Easter, coaxed lush but angular sounds out terrestrial equipment creating a manifest for the moody jangle rock of the mid 1980's. There were several lineups (that somehow included Easter's girlfriend or wife...) from '81 to '88 ,with the only constant being Easter and his alchemic production ability. Late in the decade, Easter surveyed the scene, and felt he was older than everyone else that was in a band. Getting that rush of blood to the head similar to when you realize you are most senior person at the neighborhood Arby's, Easter more or less dissolved the band that had been named after a bad English to Japanese translation of "Let's Get Physical."

Our last glimpse of Let's Active is a maturation from the quirkiness and sparseness of their initial album, through the texture and layers of the middle releases, to the stadium ready powerful alternative rock that was 7 years too early to the party. In an attempt to bring some mainstream success, an outside producer was used on "Every Dog Has It's Day" instead of Easter, however, these are his songs, his style and his voice-a slight southern drawl trying to reach for the note above the cookie jar. The title track was the song that eventually climbed the Modern Rock Chart mentioned earlier. Possibly the loudest Let's Active song, its charm rests in the spacing between the guitar notes. Perhaps realizing that it might take a minute to wrap your ahead around the fact that this is indeed Let's Active, the band gives you a second to catch up before blasting away again. 

Listen to "Every Dog Has It's Day"

Buy Let's Active Music
Let's Active - Every Dog Has His Day
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But seriously....

Sometimes what a sad clown has to say is no joke.

Tommy Tutone
One of Music's great ironies is that bands that tend to write humorous songs are bands that seem to have sad endings. Gaining attention with a "novelty song" is a mine field strewn with the cadavers of bands on the run from the one-hit-wonder Gestapo. Funny is rarely taken seriously, and that is why clowns wear make up. You can't expect to leave the bar with a girl's phone number if she knows you've been making balloon hats all day.

Much of what makes an enduring rock record lies in our ability to not understand the whole of it completely. Lyrics shrouded in mystery and metaphor, and vocals hidden behind reverb and echo, with some mumbling for effect, allow you to listen repeatedly without burning yourself out on the song. Songs with a punchline do not aim to be subtle, so getting hit over the head with it gets old very soon. The clearer the message, the more expendable the music. This is why Bob Dylan is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the guy who wrote "Happy Birthday" is a tool whose name nobody knows.

Any good joke has a set up, and the preamble to Tommy Tutone's showstopper "867-5309" was their 1980's eponymous debut album. This under the radar collection of grainy, yet fun songs played just like a Top Secret/Classified document would read; some real juicy nuggets with a thing or two that seem out of place. Columbia Records promoted the album in trench coat style as well, offering the record like a stolen watch for $3.99. Oddly this laissez-faire strategy had some effect, getting the album to # 68. "Angel Say No" does an effective job spotlighting the closing moments of a relationship that has deteriorated and the song bounces with its sad realization. With enough guts to be a rock record and fun enough to be a hit, the song reached the edge of the top 40, disputing the common notion that Tommy Tutone was a one hit wonder.

Listen to "Angel Say No"

Oingio Boingo

Oingio Boingo was a band that was serious about being funny. Launching on the Gong Show as "The Mystic Knights of Oingio Boingo", they have the pedigree to amuse but with the heart of a serial killer, methodical yet spontaneous, with ability to go from tickle to torture in the snap of a snare drum. Skimming the surface of the forbidden zone with mania and deadpan, this band was the menu item that you did not go into the restaurant for, but had to have once you got there. Songs were delivered with enough precision and fervor that you never knew if they were kidding or not.

If you are gifted with a sense of humor and a soul of darkness, balancing comedy and tragedy is not only attainable but desirable, allowing you to have a longer run in the music business. The laughs will get you noticed, however, we know it is the drama that gives your band a credible stance. So, after cross pollenating these two extremes in 3 albums and one "So Lo" record by the group's leader and songwriter, Danny Elfman, Oingio Boingo effectively merged all of the elements together for 1985's "Dead Man"s Party." The songs with the sly humor (and soundtrack placement) received most of the exposure on radio and the seemingly endless array of music video channels arriving on the scene. "Just Another Daywas released as the second single, and even though it was hidden in plain sight as the lead track, this perfect theme song for the bipolar disorder high school dance only reached #85 on the Billboard 100. A dense song about the emptiness of having nothing to look forward to and the stark reality of looking over your shoulder to see nothing following you--this, to me, is one of the band's finest moments.

Listen to "Just Another Day"

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Doing The Wave

It's much easier to jump on the bandwagon when you are already in a band...


When New Wave entered my life in the late 1970's it felt a little like learning the Metric System. The songs/units of measure were shorter than what we were used to. It came from Europe and we were supposed to accept it while disregarding what was being listened to/used at the time. Eventually we allowed some of it to become part of our culture (2 liter bottles and eyeglass frames that were too big for your face). There are some things that will most likely never make the conversion. We will not eliminate miles for kilometers and we will never accept Foghat as a New 
Wave band.

Foghat is Boogie Rock and guys with big mustaches. It's the music that runs through your head when you open a Mickey's Malt Liquor or when you see a Camaro. The songs are long enough to time with a sundial. 

Popular music will cause bands to make wholesale changes to be or stay popular. In 1980, the most recent example was the Disco craze that saw numerous artists recording a "Disco" song no matter how removed from the scene they were. New Wave was a safer bet to conform to, yet still maintain some shred of credibility. The difference between the two is that there is no money in New Wave. Foghat should not be faulted for trying. They paid attention to the scene and made some changes in album design, the sound of the band, and they cut their hair. The band's lead singer Lonesome Dave Peverett, was a fan of New Wave, "It appealed to me, even though I felt Foghat was part of what New Wave was trying to replace. So I was kind of knocking myself in a way." The problem was that it still sounded like Foghat, but without the guitar hooks. The confusing "Tight Shoes" gave us the aptly titled "Stranger In My Home Town." Aptly titled because the London they knew had changed while they were out touring the football stadiums of the US. If you have ever made a meal at 3 am while you are drunk, you will experience deja vu upon hearing this song. The song is full of things that you would never normally put together, but there they are... so you might as well enjoy it.

Listen to "Stranger In My Hometown"


The louder your argument, the less prepared you are to have someone agree with you. In order to be right and sustain the feeling of superiority, someone m
ust be wrong. When the enemy changes sides by agreeing with you it confuses you to the point that you label the person a sellout for doing what you wanted them to do. Punk and New Wave music made some high volume points on the bloated state of '70's stadium rock, however, no one expected bands like Nazareth to buy into it. The band's sonic makeover was one part "you were right honey" husband-like reaction so he can return to watching a ball game and another part "we need to get back on the fucking radio." They got back on the radio with the album "Malice In Wonderland." What kept it from sounding like
 a cheap knock-off was the band mixing the current music scene with a few bottles of whiskey, making it a little more mature and worldly--like a bouncer at a New Wave bar.

While most of the record goes the angular and upbeat route, "Fast Cars" follows bands such as New Order and Wire down a dark alley. The results are a moody, sparse, and atmospheric departure from a band that thrives on big stadium anthems. The song, as good as it is on its own, is guilty by association. Getting AOR airplay on the heels of the rock radio hit "Holiday", people found it difficult to associate this song with this band. Much like a dog that speaks french, the uniqueness catches your attention until the novelty wanes and you just want the dog to bark again. Even though the album (according to the band themselves) "went nowhere with a bullet" in the UK, it reached #41 in the US and tempered the band's sound for future records.

Listen to "Fast Cars"


Foghat is sold out! You're welcome...

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