02.11: Michael Jackson's best backup singer of all time was born on this day in 1962. Know who it is? We'll give you a hint. Her last name is a type of bird. Gloria Eagle? Nope. Janice Dove? Nope. Cynthia Peacock? Not even close. Okay, one more hint. Her first hit song was called "All I Wanna Do." That's right, Sheryl Crow! Anyhoo, Ms."Former-Lance-Amrstrong's-Girlfriend-Now-They're-Just-Friends” Crow started her music career a little later than most, at least in this day and age, but didn't look back once it began to pick up momentum. Yes, she toured with Michael Jackson (yes, that's her in the photo) as a backup singer on his Bad World Tour, and, yes, she was a music teacher, jingle writer, and sang for the best cop musical television show ever (Cop Rock, duh!; on a different note, yes, this really existed), but once she got going, all of those things became ancient history. We dig on Sheryl because not only does she rock and look hot doing it, but she's worked really hard to get where she is today. And at having fun. But mostly rocking and being hot. Happy birthday, Sheryl!
02.13: What a year, 1961. For Henry Rollins, at least. You see, that year saw Henry Lawrence Garfield take his first breath, and music gained a unique individual. Well, it took a good twenty years for this unique individual to make his mark, but believe us, he definitely did. Rollins joined California punk pioneers Black Flag, who'd gone through a steady stream of singers in its already-four-year career before Rollins joined the band for an impromptu song at one of their shows in New York. In Rollins, who was a huge fan of the group prior to his singing duties (ha, we said duties), they found an intense poetic sensibility uncommon in punk and the stage demeanor of a caged animal, pacing back and forth, waiting to pounce as soon as the music charged up behind him. From 1981 to 1986, Rollins stint in Black Flag tore through every bar, club, and theater they entered, sometimes ending with Henry in a fistfight with one or more audience members. Did we mention he was intense? After Black Flag disbanded, Rollins leapt into a very diverse career, from publisher to actor, from author to activist. He formed his own band, Henry Rollins Band, which recorded and toured from 1987 through 2003, when Henry decided to concentrate on his spoken-word career. Huh, you say? Yeah, Henry's spoken-word routines kill. They are always a weird, amazingly vital and vitriolic hybrid of stand-up comedy and Shakespearian soliloquies, regaling his audiences with tales from the road and tales from the street. Henry Rollins is truly one of a kind.
02.03: A good chunk of the first wave of rock and roll royalty died on this day in 1959, when a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper crashed during a snowstorm in a field in Iowa, on the way to the next gig of their "Winter Dance Party" tour. Fraught with problems from the beginning (poor planning of the tour route, the breakdown of the heater on the bus, bitter winter weather), the tour, nevertheless, brought rock and roll to the Midwest masses, eager to break up the monotony, like many kids in those days eager for a little rebellion, of the "nuclear family" American life. On the way to their gig in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly had had enough. Enough of the cold bus, enough of the unwashed clothes, enough of the long rides on the desolate roads. He let it be known that he was going to hire a plane to take him to the next gig, in style, in a hurry, so that he could get a hotel room and have some semblance of normalcy, if only for a night. After the gig, Holly did just that, contracting a young, inexperienced pilot to take them to Moorhead, Minnesota, so that he could get a warm hotel room and a decent shower. Originally, only Holly's backing band were to travel with him, but that changed. The Big Bopper, suffering from the flu, asked to have the second seat from Waylon Jennings (one of Holly's band mates), who gave it up to the ailing big man, while Valens flipped a coin with Tommy Alsup (Holly's other band mate) to see who would get the third seat. Unfortunately for Valens and fortunately for Alsup, relatively speaking, of course, Valens won the toss. It is thought that the pilot, inexperienced with flying at night and disoriented with the heavy snowfall, misread the instruments and took the plane into a steep dive, slamming into the ground at 170 mph. All died instantly, before their time, again, as so many have done, leaving us with only their recordings and the memories. To imagine what these guys could've accomplished through the '60s, especially Valens, who was only 17, is to make a futile attempt at re-imagining history. We are just grateful for "Come On Let's Go," "Chantilly Lace," and "That'll Be The Day." Classics, all of them, and forever ingrained in our mind.
01.27: "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" became Otis Redding's one and only #1 hit, entering the charts on this day in 1968, just a little over a month-and-a-half after he died in a plane crash at the age of 26 (which still blows our mind and makes us sad). Now, get ready for some learnin', kids. Otis actually wrote the bulk of the song while he was staying on a houseboat - in a bay! Richardson Bay to be exact, in-between the beautiful California towns of Sausalito and Strawberry (sounds like a '70s disco duo). The song departed from Otis' deep soul style, flirting with more pop sensibilities, inspired and influenced by The Beatles, allowing his writing partner, Steve Cooper, to pen more personal lyrics. Before Otis' death, they'd planned on recording the last verse, for which lyrics still needed to be written, but which is held now and forever in place with that insanely awesome whistle solo, and adding a horn section or backup vocals by The Staple Singers. These things, of course, never happened. Those plans ended in a cold lake in Wisconsin, two days after the song's recording. This is one of those things that just make us sit up and reflect on not only the nature and frailty of life, but also the beauty of which life is capable, the amazing ability of people to produce lasting art and have that art affect generations. This is Otis. This is his legacy. If "Dock Of The Bay" is your in, then you should take it because to explore Otis' catalog is to explore the history and vitality of not only soul music, but music itself.
01.28: Tying back in to Mr. Van Halen's b-day two days ago, this day in 1984 saw Van Halen's 1984 hit the album charts for an impressive run of rock popularity, churning out hits such as "Jump," "Panama," and "Hot For Teacher," which itself spawned one of the best videos ever to impress impressionable young men everywhere (it doesn't hurt that the song absolutely shreds). Quite a week for the then-recently-turned-27-Eddie and the rest of the guys. 1984 turned out to be one of their most popular albums, both critically and commercially, yet also turned out to be the last recorded with Diamond David Lee Roth. Every album after this one held the Van Halen moniker, but we consider them to be either easy listening palatable (the Van Hagar years) or just complete crap (check out the Gary Cherone years, if you don't believe us). Though they've redeemed themselves recently with the reunion tours and the announcement of a new album with Diamond Dave, nothing can ever be as good as the good 'ol days, but that's how it should be. There's no going back, guys, but there will always be the fond memories and fuzzy feelings. And the "Hot For Teacher" video.
01.20: You might look at Ozzy Osbourne these days and think he's pretty tame, that he wouldn't harm a fly. But this is the Ozzy of the new millennium. This is the Ozzy of reality show fame/infamy, the Ozzy of cell phone commercials and marble-mouthed mumbles. It wasn't so long ago that many considered Ozzy a very dangerous man. Parents' groups denounced him as Satanic, saying that he wrote and performed music that made people want to kill themselves. His drug use and alcoholism didn't put him in many people's good graces, either, especially when he tried to strangle his wife, when he was arrested for urinating on the Alamo while wearing a dress, or when he went on a rampage and shotgunned all the family pets. Suffice it to say, most animal rights groups didn't take kindly to many of Ozzy's antics. Once, he bit a dove's head off during a meeting at his record company. What was a dove doing at the meeting, you ask? Well, Ozzy and Sharon, his wife, had planned on releasing a couple doves as a symbol of something or other, but Ozzy felt that their gesture of good will didn't receive the attention from the execs he was looking for. So, instead of just letting it go, he grabbed a bird and bit down, forever scarring some poor, innocent record company suits. Which brings us to this day in 1982, to a concert in Des Moines, Iowa, when Ozzy bit the head off another animal. This incident wasn't quite as blatant as the dove lunch he'd enjoyed, but, during the concert, someone tossed a bat onto the stage. Ozzy thought it was a rubber toy, so he did what any sane, head-biting person would do and bit its head off. Unbeknownst to him, until right after the bat bit him as he was biting it, the bat was real. Another animal fell to the power of the Mad Man. Some claim the bat was dead when it was tossed on stage, but Ozzy insists it was alive. We're not so sure of this because wouldn't it fly away after it'd been tossed, if it were alive? We're just sayin. Anyway, the Ozzman cometh and he is hungry, people. Lock up the cats, hide the birds, and don't make any sudden moves. That mumble-mouthed old rocker isn't as harmless as he appears.
01.14: Foo Fighters would not exist without Kurt Cobain's self-inflicted shotgun blast. Think about it. Would Dave Grohl ever have formed Foo Fighters and gone on to front one of the biggest mainstream rock bands of the last decade? Not in its present iteration, no. Maybe not at all. Things certainly would've turned out differently. Why do we bring this up today? Today is Dave's b-day. He was born on this day in 1969, and it just reminds us of things, induces another one of those thought experiments that frequently flit through our head. Now, by saying what we did, we in no way imply that Dave would rather Kurt killed himself that fateful day than not. Quite the contrary. Dave's said over and over and over how much he misses Kurt, how he tried to help and reach out and stop the inevitable. It's kinda twisted that it took the suicide of one of the biggest musicians of all time to bring Dave out from behind the kit and to the forefront of his own band. Would it have happened otherwise? Possibly in some form or another, with another set of musicians backing Dave, but Foo Fighters could not exist without Kurt's death. It sucks, but it's true. Personally, we'd take Kurt any day over Foo Fighters. To take this thought experiment further, would Nirvana still be together today if Kurt had survived his popularity? Dave had been writing the songs that would become Foo Fighters' first album while Nirvana was at their height. Maybe he would've split and started Foo Fighters. Maybe he would've just had a side project and release the songs on his own. Maybe Kurt would've helped Dave flesh out his songs. Maybe they would've recorded them as Nirvana songs. "My Hero"(our favorite Foo's song, btw) with Cobain's input? We could go on wondering things all day and night, but for now, we're just gonna say: Happy Birthday, Dave! You rock, man.
01.08: What a few coupla days for music-related birthdays! Today, in 1935, The King himself, Mr. Elvis Aaron Presley came into this world in Tupelo, Mississippi. Joining him for a birthday today are The White Duke, David Bowie (1947), and one Mr. Robert Sylvester "R." Kelly (1969), best known for being trapped in a closet and some other incidents we'd rather not mention.
01.09: Songbird Joan Baez flew into this world, and into, eventually, many a dirty hippy's heart, on this day in 1941. While her music and words are held in high esteem by many within the music community, many consider them to be fluff and her delivery to be grating. We dig her. Nuff said on that. We're celebrating another birthday today, as well, and we totally dig the fratastic stylings of one Mr. David John "Dave" Matthews who danced, very goofily, we might add, into this plane of existence on this day in 1967, in a little town known as Johannesburg, South Africa. Yeah, we know, it's not cool, in many music circles, to like Dave Matthews Band, but we do, so nanny, nanny, boo, boo, and get over yourself.
Battle of the Bands Competition Gives Emerging ArtistsThe Chance To Take The Stage In Rome
Orlando, Fla., January 7, 2014 – Hard Rock is on the search for rising rock stars to take the stage in the heart of the Roman Empire! Hard Rock Rising, the world’s largest and most far-reaching battle of the bands competition, will give one local band the chance of a lifetime – an all-expenses paid trip to Rome, Italy to perform at the first Hard Rock Live Rome music festival this summer! The selected runner-up bands will each receive new music equipment and gear valued at $10,000.Hard Rock, in partnership with the online musician community ReverbNation, will host open registration for bands wishing to participate in the global battle starting on Monday, January 6, 2014, through Friday, January 27, 2014. The combination of Hard Rock’s iconic brand and ReverbNation’s extensive network of more than 3.3 million artists in 250 countries worldwide will provide undiscovered bands with an international stage to jumpstart their careers.“Hard Rock is committed to discovering new musical talent and supporting the emerging artists of tomorrow through the Hard Rock Rising program,” said John Galloway, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Hard Rock International. “Over the past two years, more than 24,000 artists entered to compete in Hard Rock Rising where more than one million songs from these up and coming artists were downloaded by fans – we’re honored to welcome these artists to Hard Rock’s global stage and look forward to discovering more talent in 2014.”“Like Hard Rock, we believe that great music should be heard,” said Mike Doernberg, CEO and Co-founder of ReverbNation. “In everything we do, we work to expose our community of undiscovered and largely independent musicians to opportunities to get heard, get discovered, and find new fans. The Hard Rock Rising program continues to be the perfect execution of our mission.”
Jeff Nolan, Hard Rock's extremely eminent, insanely knowledgeable, and just downright handsome historian, has been so kind at to put together his thoughts on the year in music, 2013. And...here...we...go!
2013 has come and gone, leaving a fetid stain of rehashed ‘80s synth pop, electro-disco bleatings, corporate post-grunge and pretentious Americana performed by people who seem the think that repeated viewings of their dad’s VHS copy of The Last Waltz gives them depth. Kids are buying freakin’ BANJOS these days for cryin’ out loud. Pedal your fixed-gear bike off my lawn. That said, here are my picks for best albums of 2013:
12.31: Okay, let’s go back in the Way Back Machine. We’re going back to the early ‘80s, a time before the fandangled interweb thingamajiggy, upon which you find yourself this very second, a time when, compared to now, the music business seemed small, almost quaint. It was before the rise of alternative rock, before the term “hip-hop” entered the lexicon and most people just called it “rap music,” before MySpace and YouTube, a time when you owned a record player, a boom box, or were still relegated to Super 8s (look it up). Michael Jackson made people take notice for his music not his life and Madonna struggled to get her nascent name on the tips of everyone’s mind. In 1983, a little band from Sheffield, England, came out with an album called Pyromania and the world exploded in awesomeness. Def Leppard blended the metal of the previous decade (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest) with the melodic sense of theater that came from glam rock (David Bowie, T.Rex). Def Leppard owned the term “hard rock” in the ‘80s. Pyromania launched them into the stratosphere of popularity, on the propulsion of songs like “Photograph” and “Die Hard The Hunter.” Def Leppard tied themselves to the mast of the then-new MTV, as it sailed the musical seas, and they never looked back. Okay, what does this have to do with this day in rock history? Well, kiddoes, on this day in 1984, Rick Allen, Leppard’s shirtless drummer extraordinaire, flipped his car going around a corner at very, very high speeds and, in the ensuing crash, lost his arm. Well, he didn’t actually lose it. It was found in the field by paramedics. Ewww. They even reattached it. Okay, that's cool. Then they sawed it off again due to infection. Double ewwww. Man, way to mess with a guy, doctor dudes. Kinda like the ol’ “I got yer nose” trick people play with kids, except they were doing it with a guy’s arm, and they weren’t pretending. Anyhoo, Allen didn’t give up the drumming gig and went on to help Def Leppard close out the ‘80s by drumming (with a special kit, of course) on Hysteria, the equally popular follow-up to Pyromania, which featured the best stripper song ever, “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Man, we love that song. Thanks for not giving upon music, Rick.
12.23: Yes, he's still alive, to this very day. Eddie Vedder joined us on this day, the eve of Christmas Eve, in 1964, not quite ready to lead the charge from Seattle that would impale the music world with the grunge. Grunge. Grunge. Say it again. Grunge. If you weren't there or weren't paying attention at the time or were too old or too young to care, grunge came like a tornado, destroying the '80s L.A. hair metal scene (Poison, L.A. Guns, Ratt, etc.) seemingly in a single pass, showing the L.A. poseurs for the rock wannabes they really were, their music for the insipidness it belched out on a regular basis. Vedder's band, Pearl Jam, tore out of Seattle, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and Alice In Chains, in 1991, taking the music world to task, ruling rock radio for a few short years, showing the world what's up. Actually, all the Seattle bands really wanted to do was make music, to channel their creative energies into something meaningful to themselves and a few other people. That the entire country (kinda) got what they were doing attests not only to their prescience, but to the universality, at the time, of what they were doing. Namely, melding metal with punk with alternative rock, writing lyrics based on their lives, their hard lives, their disenfranchised Generation-X attitude, and, generally, just being genuine. This isn't to say that all Seattle music espoused this thinking or that every "grunge" band adhered to anything even remotely like this categorization, but the label stuck to many bands that didn't make it past the times and is still heavily associated with Seattle. The term "grunge" disappeared almost as fast as it emerged. Pearl Jam, though, is still alive, to this very day, lead by a fearless and insanely, extremely talented musician who goes by the name Vedder. Eddie Vedder. Happy Birthday, Eddie.