Monday, February 18, 2019

THE SOUNDS OF '79 (My 30 Favorites, After 40 Years)

My 30 Favorites, After 40 Years

Wow, it seems like yesterday!
I was just 16, and cute as can
be. But the harsh reality is, it
WAS a very long time ago. Yet,
for me, much of the music of
1979 has remained memorable.

Life is fleeting, indeed. I was at a local fast food joint the other day. Tattooed completely from the neck down, and sporting numerous metallic piercings, the stunning teenage girl taking my order was a glorious-looking, walking, talking work of beautiful art. But sadly, someday her groovy gauges will dangle past her soon-to-be replaced hips — sooner than she may realize. And her ultra-intricate body ink will wind up flowing ultimately somewhere due south. And I should know. Not too long ago, I was sitting in my stylist's station at the salon when I felt something brush across my lap. It was my chicken neck. Yes, time marches on — whether we like it or not. However, music often can endure the race better than we do.

The birth of my longtime hearing disability can be traced back to 1979. It was the year in which I first began playing in bands and attending frequent rock concerts. And it was during the summer of '79 when I would spend countless hours cruising with my high school crew in our buddy's 1964 Oldsmobile as the sounds of the latest cassette releases from KISS, Van Halen, Frank Zappa and The Cars blasted from his Jensen tri-axle speakers. 40 years later, those albums remain among my all-time favorites.

On the left, me in 1979. On the right, me - 40 years later in 2019.
My son, Jesse, is so super-savvy when it comes to creating compelling content, he's become my top go-to adviser. As a result, he urged me to ramp this list back from my initial exhaustive Top 50 faves to a more concise Top 10. Opting to split the difference, I went with a Top 30. This is NOT some type of "Ultimate Best Of" ranking. Honestly, I'm too old (and mature) these days to possess the desire to engage in any type of tired (and pointless) "this band" vs. "that band" debate. While I certainly loved the classic 1979 releases from the likes of Pink Floyd, Bette MidlerLed Zeppelin, Paul McCartney, The KinksThe Eagles, Michael Jackson and many others, I agreed with Jesse that I needed to set some limits here. Hence, this feature is meant merely to reflect a few of my personal favorites — the albums I listened to most and continue to cherish most — 40 years later. I hope you will enjoy this lighthearted trip down Memory Lane, along with my personal commentary. 


Known to his faithful global flock as
the "Motor City Madman," Ted Nugent
unleashed a spectacular string of five
consecutive platinum-selling albums
from 1975-1979 — an accomplishment
every bit as impressive as his iconic,
guitar-driven anthems. Fueled by the
tracks, "Paralyzed," "Take It Or Leave
It," "Alone" and the George Harrison-
penned "I Want to Tell You," State of
Shock marked Nugent's last gasp of
unchallenged cock rock glory.

Armed Forces

Already a fervent fan of his unique
New Wave-style work, I plunked
down my $6 gleefully for the latest
LP from Elvis Costello on the day
it was released in January 1979.
Featuring the singles, "Accidents
Will Happen" and "Oliver's Army,"
as well as the soon-to-be staples,
"Senior Service" and "Goon Squad,"
Armed Forces serves as its own
self-contained "Best Of" collection.


Proving the old tried and true adage
that (often) "less is more," British
metal stalwart, Judas Priest broke
the floodgate wide open with the
release of this sizzling single live
set. Like many hungry hard rock
enthusiasts of my day, Unleashed
in the East was my introduction to
the music of Priest. I still can recall
hearing "Exciter," "Running Wild,"
"The Ripper," "Green Manalishi"
and "Victim of Changes" for the
first time — simply heart-stopping.


Bursting with such signature standards
as the title track, "Way of the World,"
"Gonna Raise Hell" and "Voices," the
fourth studio set from Cheap Trick was
a mighty follow-up to the surprisingly
super-successful Budokan record,
released just six months earlier. I
wore out my first copy of Dream
Police on 8-Track in short order.


Produced to perfection by co-founding
KISS frontman, Paul Stanley, the debut
record from New England oozed melodic,
guitar-driven, sing-along appeal. The
Top 40 single, "Don't Ever Wanna Lose
Ya," "P.U.N.K. (Puny Undernourished
Kid)" and "Shall I Run" were a few of
the most personally appealing tracks.


Arguably Journey's second-strongest
work, next to Infinity. It further
cemented the band's growing rep
as a major up-and-coming rock force.


After residing for years just outside the
entrance to rock's "Champagne Room,"
Supertramp finally were issued official
VIP credentials with the release of their
sixth studio set — a record packed with
perfect songs, perfect performances
and perfect production.


The compositions contained within this
two-record set clearly were orchestrated
meticulously. Yet to me, the music felt
dangerously spontaneous. The blistering
urgency of Zappa's guitar work on "I'm
So Cute," "Rat Tomago," "Yo Mama"
and the title track was unlike anything
I'd heard before. And discovering some
of the other supremely gifted musicians
who played on the record  Terry Bozzio,
Adrian Belew, and Patrick O'Hearn was
simply life-changing. Why don't you
take it down to C-sharp, Ernie?


A blistering and brutal, gloriously
raucous sophomore set. Dave was at
his peak of "golden god" splendor,
and the other fellas did nice jobs
too. Simply put, Van Halen II is
the buzz you crave, even though
you know darn well you'll be
waking up with your face stuck
to the sheets the next morning. 


In my world, Angel was THE perfect
rock band. Possessing infectious hooks
as large as their massive stage show and
super-human, superstar image, the band
released their fifth and final studio LP
in 1979. Featuring such crunchy ear
worms as "Don't Take Your Love,"
"LA Lady," "You Can't Buy Love,"
"I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and
quintessential track, "Wild and Hot,"
this is my second favorite Angel record.


Although it was the height of the "Super
KISS" era, in 1979, my masked messiahs
were licking their wounds from the recent
disappointing results of the four solo LPs.
KISS needed a BIG commercial hit, and
they got one with the wildly popular Top
40 dance / rock single, "I Was Made for
Loving You." Despite its distinction of
being perceived as a disco record, I never
viewed Dynasty personally as being
anything other than a well-polished rock
record. Additional golden highlights
include "Sure Know Something,""Hard
Times," "Charisma" and "X-Ray Eyes."


After four less than successful studio
efforts, guitar great, Pat Travers, nailed
it to the wall with the release of his land-
mark live LP. Fueled by a lethal mixture
of blues-inspired passion and brutal
hard rock riffs, this eight-song set is the
most exciting, turbo-charged single
live album ever! Boom Boom, indeed.


The adorable stylistic Siamese twin to
the band's 1978 breakthrough album,
Parallel Lines. So crisp, so catchy
and so fun. Come for "Dreaming"
and "Atomic, " but stay for "Union
City Blue" and "Shayla." Hey, I
like cotton candy — I wonder if
Clem Burke likes cotton candy too.


The crown jewel of the Tom Petty catalog,
Damn the Torpedoes is a simply gorgeous
piece of work. When I get to Heaven, I'm
gonna thank Tom for "Louisiana Rain." 


To suggest that this is my favorite ABB
album, would make blood shoot from
the eyes of the band's most passionate
fanatics. But it happens to be true. If
"Can't Take it with You" or "Pegasus"
can't grip ya, then maybe "Need Your
Love So Bad" will do the trick.


The last truly great rock record from this
truly great rock band. From the sound and
the songs to the performances and, even
the look — Nine Lives achieved absolute
rock perfection. #OnlyTheStrongSurvive


Touted at the time of its release as one
of the first rock albums to be recorded
digitally, Tusk was the overachieving,
double-record follow-up to the un-
matchable, billion-selling Rumours
record. While initial sales were less
than expected, Tusk did deliver some
of Fleetwood Mac's best-loved songs
— timeless treasures, including "Over
& Over," "Think About Me," "Sara,"
"Storms," "That's All for Everyone,"
"Angel" and "Never Make Me Cry."


At the lend of the day, it's all about
the songs. And this is a blistering,
guitar-driven rock record from
start to finish — enhanced by
Ricky Medlocke's hair-raising
vocals and masterful storytelling.


It's heartbreaking for me to think of
where countless souls will be spending
eternity based on the poisonous lyrics
of the title track. The band members
can spin it however they want, but
the message IS lethal. Aside from
that little detail, this probably is the
most perfect rock record ever made.

Turn Up the Radio

Arguably one of Detroit's most authentic
rock exports, The Rockets are known
primarily for the high-octane remake
of Fleetwood Mac's classic, "Oh Well."
However, the band's remake of Little
Richard's "Lucille"is equally raucous.
And the heartfelt ballad, "Lost Forever,
Left for Dreaming" is simply superb.

THE B-52's

The groundbreaking debut LP from this
Athens, Georgia-based New Wave combo
was perceived by most as "weird" when
it first arrived in 1979 — outrageous,
artistic and infectious. It still is.

As an admitted, devout Nugent nut
and dedicated Aerosmith disciple,
I'd never heard anything like this.
Numan's compelling vocals sound
as computerized as the captivating
music. The featured single, "Cars,"
has since become iconic. It still
sounds fresh and exciting to me.


Bursting with heart-stopping urgency, the
debut record from The Knack was a bona
fide blockbuster right out of the box 
dripping with irresistible Beatles-inspired
melodies, fueled by a crisp Byrds-style
guitar ching-a-ling and driven by rib-
cracking drum work. In addition to the
Top 40 mega hits, "My Sharona" and
"Good Girls Don't," Get the Knack also
featured such nut-busters as "Let Me Out"
and "Frustrated." It will forever be the
ultimate playlist for frustrated, pimple-
faced, teenage virgins everywhere.


Telling the compelling tale of troubled
wannabe rock star, Joe, and his groupie-
in-training girlfriend, Lucille, Zappa's
three-record rock opera also educated
me about the certain correlation between
music, heartbreak and unpronounceable
diseases. He used to cut my grass, he
was a very nice boy.


A powerfully perfect rock record,
oozing unqualified timeless mystique.


Crisp and crunchy, super-sweet and
slightly sloppy, this song-driven set
was the perfect record for the perfect
band, at the perfect time. One of
rock's all-time greatest live albums.


British singer / songwriter, Graham Parker,
delivered one of the year's most critically
acclaimed albums. I caught a clip of
"Local Girls" by chance on a fledgling
music video TV program when I returned
home late one night from a high school
dance in '79. I bought the LP the next day.


Somewhere between their initial slew of
less-than-successful studio sets, and before
their MTV breakout, The Tubes released
Remote Control. Overseen by legendary
producer, Todd Rundgren, it proved that a
band could make a compelling, commercial
rock record without compromising street
credibility. Addressing how society was
becoming addicted to the video medium,
the songs have since proven prophetic.
From the hard-driving "TV is King" to the
heartfelt "Love's a Mystery" to the brash,
yet insightful commentary of "Telecide,"
this record is an incredible masterpiece.


Although "Is She Really Going Out With Him"
became an enormously successful international
hit, it's arguably the record's weakest track, as
"One More Time," "Sunday Papers," "Baby
Stick Around," "(Do the) Instant Mash" and
"Got the Time" are a bit more effective in
grabbing ya by the nards and demanding a
hearty cough. Zesty, well-crafted pop / rock
songs possessing an authentic snotty, punk-
inspired attitude — performed and produced
to complete chub-worthy perfection.


The sophomore set from The Cars is
possibly my all-time favorite record.
Candy-O is so vibrant, you can hear the
colors — so irresistible, you can taste
the magic. The cover  equally perfect.
And the triple-threat combo of "Double
Life" and "Shoo Be Doo" into the title
track remains one of the most chilling
eight minutes of music ever — at least
in my world. Doggonit, I miss Ben Orr. 

In sum, life flashes by in an instant. To me, 1979 seems like yesterday — so make smart choices and treat others well while on this amazing, all too brief earth journey

And finally, for those with sticks stuck in embarrassingly private places, be sure, the preceding feature was just a fun thing. As I said, your results may vary. Please feel free to offer your personal perspectives in the "Comment" section below.

-Christopher Long
(February 2019)



C'MON! -

Monday, February 11, 2019



As I've gotten (much) older and
(hopefully) a little bit wiser, I find
myself reflecting on the '80s with
the benefit of enhanced hindsight.
From hair bands to animal prints
to past personal perspectives, I
now perceive that once beloved
era as being less than magical.

We were the self-indulgent "me" generation — coming of age during the gloriously neon-colored, spandex-clad decade of big hair, short skirts and compromised values. While '80s college radio introduced us to what I would recognize (much later) as some truly quality, timeless music, and I still break out my old school snakeskin boots on occasion, the Reagan era now has left me with a intensifying and generally unpleasant aftertaste. As a result, I hope you'll get a kick out of my lighthearted list of the 10 suckiest things about the '80s. DISCLAIMER: Your personal rearview perceptions may differ from mine. And that's okay — we're ALL friends here.


An array of iconic movies made it to the
silver screen during the late '70s. However,
the integrity of many of these much-loved
classics was compromised in the '80s by a
slew of dreadful and painfully unnecessary
sequels. Take for example, Caddyshack II,
Grease II and the shameful 1983 Saturday
Night Fever sequel, Staying Alive. Oy vey!


Simply put, a Pink Floyd reunion without
Roger Waters is NOT a legit Pink Floyd
reunion — it's a desperate cash grab. And
despite generating a massively successful
revenue stream, the 1987 album release
and subsequent tour featuring golden era
and Richard Wright was a disservice to
the band's fans and its distinguished legacy. 


"Business in the front. Party in the Back."
Although it's currently making something
of a surprise comeback — be sure that
NOBODY ever has rocked the '80s-birthed
mullet hairstyle — except for John Stamos.


Led by several diligent wives of democrat
was organized to regulate what it deemed as
"objectionable" lyrics in rock music. But all
that really was accomplished following the
group's infamous 1985 senate hearings, was
offer mainstream exposure to underground
bands with relatively few fans and ensure
platinum-selling results for any record with
the iconic mandated "Parental Advisory"
warning sticker stuck on the front cover.


Pitched as a virtually indestructible digital
alternative to the popular analog vinyl
format, compact discs were heralded as the
wave of the future when first introduced to
consumers in the early '80s. Yet, despite
revolutionizing the music industry in the
short run, this convenient new technology
actually led to the big picture demise of
the record business.


During the '70s, SNL was a relevant,
cutting edge weekly TV show that gave
us creative, comedic characters, including
In the '80s, it birthed an unlikable human
version of the popular claymation character,
Gumby, and a "person" named Pat. In the
'70s, SNL wove such catchphrases as "No
Coke — Pepsi" and "You ignorant slut"
into the fabric of American pop culture.
In the '80s, it gave us "That's the ticket."
'Nuff said.


The 1985 Chicago Bears was a formidable
force in the NFL. But as rappers, well, not
so much. While the team would go on to
become Super Bowl champs in January
1986, they also graced the world with a
campy, albeit well-intended music video.


Does this really require an explanation?


If you write dopey, dick-driven rock songs
while in your 20s, it's forgivable — sorta.
But if you're still writing drivel while in
your 30s — misogynistic gobbledy-gook
like "Burn Bitch Burn," "Bang Bang You,"
"Let's Put the X in Sex" and "(You Make
Me) Rock Hard" — well, that's just sad. 


I was a liar, a cheater, a thief and a fraud.
Yes, I was THE #1 suckiest thing about
the '80s. In fact, I was such a despicable
douche during my 20s (and beyond),
I can't reflect on any aspect of the '80s
without feeling literally nauseous. 

When I look back now on who I was during the '80s, I recognize a vital component was missing from my life. I had a "Barbie" wife, I was in a promising rock band and I had a cool job managing a successful record shop. Yet something was missing  I didn't have Jesus. As a result, I made all the wrong life choices, and in the process, I conducted myself like a complete scumbag. But, truth be told, we're ALL guilty of being scumbags to one degree or another, at one point or another in our lives — a fact that's missed by most of today's top-trending, finger-wagging socio-political bully movements.

Fortunately, many of us experience positive personal transformations — turning our lives around and getting our stuff together. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess to being on a current decade-long "tour" — reaching out and apologizing to everyone I can think of who I've hurt or wronged over the years. And believe me, it's a VERY long list. Conversely, I've also offered forgiveness to ALL who have wronged me. BTW, I take no personal credit for my own transformation — that glory all goes to Jesus.

Yes, the good news is, we don't have to remain condemned by the past. Through accepting Jesus, there IS forgiveness available to us ALL — unconditional forgiveness that frees us from our dark pasts and allows us to move forward into bright futures. Through our personal relationships with Jesus, we can experience quality lives — lives full of peace, free of guilt and filled with love, kindness and compassion for others.

In sum, I'm so grateful to not be the same person I was in the '80s. Heck, does anybody really want to be that guy still trying to squeeze into a 1988 White Lion T-shirt in 2019? However, my obsession with Debbie Gibson is one that will NEVER die!

-Christopher Long
(February 2019)



C'MON! -