Sunday, August 28, 2016

Freedom...And A Hasselhoff Concert??

The Fall of the Berlin Wall...Part 2

For over 25 years, the residents of East Germany and the city of East Berlin had been unable to travel to the west. But after waves of East Germans began flooding into Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and demanding asylum at the West German embassies in those countries, the East German government decided to ease travel restrictions. On the evening of November 9th 1989, during a press conference to announce the lifted restrictions, a party spokesman was asked when the new regulations would take effect. After hesitating for a moment he said "As far as I know immediately, without delay". The lifted restrictions included East Berlin and no one had bothered to inform the East German border guards. Huge crowds began showing up at all of the crossings and demanding that they be let through. After several frantic calls, the border guards stepped aside and the crowds swelled past and into freedom and the waiting crowds of West Berliners who welcomed them with champagne and flowers.

As the night went on people began to climb up onto to the wall and celebrate its demise. The party raged all night and included citizens trying to break down the wall. Some pulling it down...

....others taking a more visceral approach.

On New Years Eve 1989, David Hasselhoff performed a concert at the remains of the wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate. I'm not sure how many East and West Berliners crossed back in to East Berlin that evening in an attempt to escape his singing but the numbers are probably in the thousands (I won't inflict the video of him singing on a crane, swinging back and forth over the wall while wearing a light up jacket). He's not good. The wall was removed over the next few years and was completely removed (except for a few pieces left in place as historical examples) by 1992.

In late 1990 my parents traveled to Germany to witness the reunification of the city of Berlin and they brought me back a piece of the wall (along with a Soviet soldiers hat!). Millions of people took time out of their visits to the city of Berlin to chisel off a piece of the wall...but only one of those people did it with his words, President Ronald Reagan. But he also had a chance to take a swing at the wall he helped knock down....

Walls don't stop freedom...they just delay to for a few years. And they always fall.

Wow....This Guy Is Good.

The fall of the Berlin Wall.....Part 1

Construction of the Berlin wall began on August 13th 1961. It effectively cut the city of Berlin in half and came to symbolize the divide between the Democratic West and the Communist East. For over 25 years, the residents of West Berlin were surrounded by walls but it was the citizens of East Berlin that were walled in and unable to enjoy the freedoms of the west. The wall started out as a wire fence and a simple concrete wall. Over the years the fence was improved and the wall was strengthened. Any homes or businesses along the path of the wall were demolished. In 1975, the wall was improved (or more to the point, hardened). The picture below shows this version of the wall.... consisted of a 12 foot high reinforced concrete wall, built to nearly impervious standards, topped with a smooth round cap intended to deter someone from scaling the wall. Behind the wall, in an area referred to as the "death strip", were anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, a lighted service road, a raked sand or gravel road designed to easily show footprints and additional fencing and barbed wire. The open area between the fencing and the wall allowed a clean field of fire for posted guards who had orders to shoot to kill anyone attempting to escape. Research has confirmed 136 deaths but the numbers could be as high as 200. No one is really certain how many escapes were successful, some suggest over 5,000.

Over the years, the residents of West Berlin came to see the wall as a place to show their artistic outrage towards the wall. Some of the art was political...

...some was just artistic expression....

....but most was just a mishmash of graffiti that had a beauty all its own...

...either way, the people hated the wall.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan, a fierce opponent of communism, came to West Berlin and gave a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the city of Berlin and said some very famous words....

Powerful stuff. Little more than two years later, the wall would come down on one of the most dramatic nights of the Cold War.

Continued on Part 2.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Metal Masterpiece Theatre

Holy Diver by Dio

Released in August of 1983, this was the lead single from the debut album of the same name. The song is considered one of the high water marks in early Heavy Metal, right before the genre really took off. It is one of those songs that set itself apart as what Metal could really be.

The video, on the other hand......

Dio is walking among the ruins of a church wielding a sword....then he kills a dude...who turns into some rats (???). Well, moving on. Dio then goes and throws away what just proved itself to be a perfectly good sword so that he can get a newly forged sword (???). Wait....what was wrong with the one that just successfully turned a dude into rats?? No time for explanations....there's a guitar solo coming up. And now there's monks from the Spanish Inquisition....

....and after all of that, Dio just leaves (????)

Oh well, it was metal and it was awesome. The song made it into the top 40 in the US Rock Tracks chart and VH1 placed it at #43 on the top 100 Hard Rock songs. So there's that. But take a moment and enjoy this......masterpiece?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Its A Peppy Song, Sure...But Is It Worth 10 Million Pounds??

Walking On Sunshine by Katrina And The Waves

The song, recorded in 1983 and re-recorded in 1985, was released in mid 1985 and became the bands biggest hit. Reaching #8 in the UK and #9 in the US, it was everywhere during that summer and its a great, feel-good song. The band kept the rights to the song going and earned over $1 million per year since its release from airplay and advertisement usage. In fact, an employee at the record label claimed it was the "crown jewel of the label". In August of 2015, the band sold the rights to the song for 10 million cha-ching!!!

The video is a lot of fun because it shows Katrina bouncing around a foggy, gloomy London, smiling and singing along to this up beat song while the members of the Waves walk along behind her looking cold, sad and miserable (one of them even falls in the English mud). But who can be down when you're wearing Chuck Taylor All-Star high-top shoes?? Well, I sure can't and neither can Katrina and the boys. They finish up the video playing this great song on stage and looking much more happy....see, the song won over their sad moods.

Now go watch the video and make your day a much happier one.

Monday, August 22, 2016

This Was Once A Punk Song.

Holding Back The Years by Simply Red

Released in 1985, it was the bands biggest hit, reaching #2 in the UK and #1 in the US. The song was originally recorded as a punk song by the band Frantic Elevators with Mick Hucknall (pictured above) as the lead singer in 1982. The band Frantic Elevators was made up of musicians from Manchester, England, some of which were present at one of the very first Sex Pistols shows (along with members of the bands The Fall, The Smiths, Joy Division and The Buzzcocks!!!!).

The song was written about the traumatic experience of Mick's mother leaving the family when he was three years old. That event must have been very formative. Just listen to Mick's vocal performance on this song.....seriously, put on headphones and really hear the emotion in this vocal. It's amazing. The band makes appearances in the video as the guys playing cricket and climbing off of the train. They had the easy part.

Please Enjoy...

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hair Metal? Nope....Blues Metal!

Don't Close Your Eyes by Kix

Formed in Maryland in the late 1970's, this blues rock band finally made the big time by going the hair metal route in the late 1980's. Their fourth album was released in 1988 at the height of the hair metal take over of America and they had the songs and the talent to win over fans.

In the years since the hair metal craze, I've realized that most of the best bands from that era were basically a repackaged Aerosmith (thereby increasing my appreciation of Aerosmith). Kix, Guns N' Roses, Cinderella, Skid Row and others all owe their careers to Aerosmith.

This song was typical of the power ballad that was usually released as the second or third single off an album as an attempt to woo female fans (most female fans made up their mind about a band after seeing them on MTV). I always liked this song for its blues rock style and its anti-suicide that guitar solo is amazing!!!

Please enjoy...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

So There Was That Time The Olympics Were In Los Angeles...

The Games Of The 23rd Olympiad.

1984. The Olympic games came to Los Angeles. The Russians stayed home as a pay back for the United States skipping the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.....yes, people....that was how the cold war was fought....we skipped each others Olympics out of silly spite (ok, there were political reasons, but still...)

I was lucky enough to be living in Los Angeles and I went to a few of the events. We saw the torch marathon which seemed to pass through every major city in America and every city in the Los Angeles area. I mean, literally, every city seemed to have a day that the torch was being carried through it on its way to the games....which were very close to the center of the city. We attended the marathon, which was basically my family standing on the same corner we watched the torch pass by....watching marathoners pass by. I also went to an afternoon of field hockey (sort of exciting) and the soccer final in the Rose Bowl (France beat Brazil) which was really exciting...unless you were cheering for Brazil and more than half the crowd was!!! The french fans sure loved the final score.

These were the only Olympics in modern memory that was profitable and, by most accounts, were very well organized and very easy to attend. Considering how many different venues there were, in so many different areas of the city, it was universally praised as a successful games. Unless you were McDonalds. They put on a scratcher contest where every time an American athlete won a gold medal and you had that sport listed on one of the scratch off tickets, you won a Big Mac or a coke or french fries........McDonalds was nearly financially ruined but they made fans of most of America by providing free food for most of the country for those two weeks.

But you can't deny that having the Olympics in the hometown of Television and Movies wasn't going to make for a great match. The story lines were compelling and everything looked epic. From the Torch lighting in the Coliseum, to Carl Lewis winning four track and field gold medals, to Marylou Retton winning the women's all-around gold in gymnastics....a first for a non-european gymnast.

Maylou was the darling that year. She seemed to be a permanent smile with legs and a non-stop bundle of energy. She needed a perfect 10 on the vault to win the gold and she got it.....and then she used her second vault (which she didn't need to do) and also scored a perfect 10. Its a fun moment and I recommend you watch it below.......Go Team USA!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

In The End, Its About A Kid And A Train

Stand By Me

Released in August of 1986, its a story about four friends who go on an adventure to look for a young boy that was hit by a train and end up finding out a lot about themselves along the way. The movie stars Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell (with voice-over by Richard Dreyfuss).

Each of the young actors shines in this film. Its truly quite amazing to see such top-notch work out of such a young cast. The credit has to go to the film's Director, Rob Reiner. He captures comedy and drama equally well in this film. The scene where Phoenix's character, Chris, breaks down while telling a story about getting in trouble at school is so well done. You really feel like its a good kid that wants to get out of the bad situation that his family name brings to him. Follow that up with the story that Wheaton's character, Gordie, tells about a pie eating contest to entertain the other boys and you can see that Reiner has all the bases covered here.

Watching this film recently, I was immediately struck by the incredible amount of curse words used by the young actors. I know that I was using the same amount at that age but I never thought about it until I heard it on film. Wow, we were foul-mouthed little punks.

Here's little clip of some of the kinder boy insults you can hear in this film. Please enjoy....and shut up.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rock 'N Roll Baby

Back On The Chain Gang by The Pretenders

Released in October of 1982, it reached #4 on the US charts. The song was written after the bands original guitarist died of a drug overdose and Chrissie Hynde (lead singer and lead song writer) dedicated the song to him. The guitar solo, performed by a studio musician, was recorded in one take.

But take a look at the video. Chrissie is quite pregnant. Not so obvious during the early parts of the video as she walks along the streets on London singing this great song. But by the end of the song she's walking along a small hill of dirt that the "chain gang" is working on and......yep....she's pregnant. That's a real trooper there. Watch as one of the guys working on the small hill of dirt nearly hits her several time with a pick ax. Hey dude, watch out for the bad ass pregnant rock star. She's way more important than you are.

Please enjoy

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Perks Of Being A Rock Star

Talking In Your Sleep by The Romantics

Released in September of 1983, this was the lead single off their fourth album. It reached #3 on the US charts and is a great song live.

But the video proves that being a rock star can be a pretty good job to have. The whole video is filled with attractive women dressed in their nightgowns, lingerie and pajamas pretending to sleep (see what they did there?). Well, I wonder who's idea that was? The band does spend most of the song wandering through the "sleeping" women.

Please Enjoy..

Monday, August 8, 2016

Albums Of 1986....Part 7

Night Songs by Cinderella

Released the first week of August 1986, this debut album was lumped in with the glam metal/hair metal crowd and suffered a bit for that miscategorization. The cover of the album screamed one thing, but the songs screamed something else. One part Aerosmith, one part KISS, add in a dash of blues rock and a healthy dose of musicianship and you get a better idea of what this band was really about.

The album made it to #3 on the US charts and spawned a top 15 single. My personal favorite was this song, the third single from this great album, Somebody Save Me. A straight on blues-rocker with an arena-rock back bone, it was (and still is) a live show staple for the band. The video followed the previous two video formula of showing "twins" that appear to be big Cinderella fans stalking the band while they blast a stadium full of fans with the song. The punch line of the video is that the girls are really after two other rock stars and you'll have to watch the video to see who that is (Hint** Cinderella were opening for these guys at the time).

Please enjoy...and watch for a duel guitar solo swap in the middle of the video

Sunday, August 7, 2016

How's This For A Start?

Superstition by Stevie Ray Vaughn And Double Trouble

Stevie Ray Vaughn. He is a legend of Texas Blues guitar. He acquired his first electric guitar in 1963 when he was 9 years old. History shows that it was a great acquisition. His first album, Texas Flood was a critical success but his solo on David Bowie's song China Girl the year earlier had been his real introduction.

By 1986, he had established himself as a major star and a live album was what the public wanted (I guess). The Live Alive album was recorded over 4 shows and feature many of the songs that laid the ground work for his rise to blues legend. The song Superstition, originally by Stevie Wonder, was selected as the single. It was a live recording with some studio overdubs (so "mostly" live). The video shows Stevie Ray and the band arriving for sound-check before their show (on Friday the 13th) and they experience some of the things that can bring you bad luck (broken mirror, stepping on a crack, walking under a ladder, having a black cat cross your path). During the course of the song, the members of Double Trouble are befallen by "accidents" at the hand of the black cat. Stevie Ray survives to bring the song to a completion. The Black cat's owner is proven to be Stevie Wonder. What a comedian that Stevie Wonder is....I wonder if he saw that coming?

Now, one of the reasons I feel this song deserves more of our love is that Stevie Ray was the first act I ever saw Live. He came out on stage, plugged in his own guitar, walked up to the mic and said, "How ya'll doing tonight?" and proceeded to destroy the crowd with his genius.

Please enjoy this song and see a tiny bit of what I experienced over 30 years ago.

I Love Me Some Singing Ladies

Seasons Change by Expose

I'm a sucker for great female singers: Pat Benatar, Sade, The Go-Gos. These ladies from Miami are also great. Put together by a producer, the three you see above were not the original three in the band. The original trio was replaced because the record label felt they lacked star quality (ouch). The single those three singers recorded went to #1 on the US Dance charts (and is why I like this album) but that wasn't enough for the record company. So they went out and found three new singers. Well, these three were able to create a #16 debut album, including four top ten singles. But it was this song that made it to #1 that sealed the deal for the band. We'll all ignore the bad acting and the sappy premise (closing up a vacation home by the beach) and just enjoy the song.

Please enjoy

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Ladies And Gentlemen....Rock 'N Roll

With those simple words, our world was changed. On August 1st, 1981 at 12:01 am EST, MTV went on the air. Music videos were not a new thing, but no one had ever thought to put together an entire channel that showed music videos 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We were in musical heaven.

It was the perfect storm. Most artists had grown up watching television and had a visual style that they could sell to a willing public. Artists such as Duran Duran, Madonna, Culture Club and Devo were tailor made for this concept. New acts could reach a wider audience just by being interesting or visually appealing (Men At Work, INXS and Human League) and older acts could revive struggling careers by tapping into this new idea (David Bowie, Micheal Jackson and Blondie).

The VJ's were all young and hip and knew the music and the trends that were out there.

(L to R: J.J Jackson, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter)

Plus, how cute is Martha Quinn.

They told us about the artists, they helped us to hear new songs and they weren't afraid to play unusual things. (heck, in those early days they'd put anything on to fill an hour)

The cool part was that they got so many artists to do promos for them. Culture Club...

Hall And Oates...

Billy Idol....

even The Police...


Now I know a lot of people will say, "yeah, but when was the last time they showed a music video?" Well, the good news is that on the 35th anniversary of MTV, nostalgia prompted them to rebrand their sister station, VH1, into MTV Classics. They'll be showing music videos again. It sounds like its mostly 1990's and 2000's era videos but there's hope that they'll see that the best era was the 80's and either add those videos or create a whole other channel for our era. They can call it MTV Original. I won't even charge them for coming up with the name.

To take you back, here's the first few minutes of MTV.  Please Enjoy

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Those Go-Go's Sure Are Talented

Vacation by The Go-Go's

Sure they can play their instruments, sure they can write classic 80's tunes but who knew they could water ski in formation?

The band was coming off a huge debut album so the record company wanted to really promote the new single off their sophomore album (also called Vacation), so the record company put up $50,000 for the video (a lot back in those days). But take 5 rock stars and make them sit in a sound stage for 10 hours and they're going to get bored. So what's a bored Go-Go to do....but get drunk. Yep, towards the end of the day they were pretty much snokered. Having to pretend you're water skiing while your drunk must have been loads of fun.

But since the song was fun (well, not the lyrics, she's sad over a break up and wants to get away) and they were drunk....well, its a party.

Please enjoy the video (excuse the crappy quality and the words at the beginning of the video, there is no "official" video available from the band....probably embarrassed about how drunk they were)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Song That Need Our Love....Part 26

Rain On The Scarecrow by John Mellencamp

Released in the spring of 1986, this song was about the financial crisis in America's heartland. Farmers couldn't make a decent living selling their crops and banks just wanted to give them another loan, which usually set them on a spiral to bankruptcy. Thousand's of farmers lost their family farms that, in some cases, had been in the family for over 100 years. John, growing up in Indiana, knew some of these people and felt for their plight. He created, along with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, FarmAid. A music festival that raised funds and awareness for farmers and their families and led to legislation from Congress that helped to save many farms from foreclosure.

The first FarmAid in 1985 raised over $9 Million. The festival has continued every year since.

The song reached #21 but it told America how bad some of these families had it out there where our food comes from. The video has a small live portion toward the end.

Please enjoy.