To end Australia Week let us ask a question. Where would the world be without the music coming from Down Under? Consider the cultural impact made by these bands and artists: AC/DC, Midnight Oil, INXS, The Vines, Hoodoo Gurus, The Church, Natalie Imbruglia, Nick Cave, Counting Crows and so so many others. And don’t deny the guilty pleasures of The Bee Gees, Savage Garden and Air Supply. You know you sing along at the top of your lungs to “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” when you’re alone in the car.
Australia’s most important export may be its culture. And in truth, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all had a little Aussie in us?
For the finale of Australia Week let’s do a flashback to one of my all-time favourite bands from the Land of Oz, Men At Work. Can’t you hear the thunder?
It ain’t Friday…but I figured there is no time like the present for a flashback. From their 2008 appearance in Tokyo, Sting, Andy and Stuart rock it old school with one the all-time iconic tunes. Such a cool version…
Check out this and other songs by The Police on [itunes link=”https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/message-in-a-bottle/id110871?uo=4″ title=”The Police on iTunes!” text=”iTunes “]!
Arguably, one of the most underrated alt-rock bands of the 80’s & 90’s, The Smithereens, to this day goes down as one of my all-time favs as I quite literally have every album and know most every song, even the deep tracks, by heart. So, naturally, when they came to the Northern Virginia’s State Theatre a while back I just had to go. Some may say that the band has long since passed their prime…and they’d be right. However, these cats still rock out loud. They are not even the least bit pretentious. In fact, they are far from it. While most of the alt-rock veterans would rather play their “brand new” stuff (that nobody cares about) the Smithereens plastered the filled to capacity crowd with their most notable tracks from every album in their arsenal. It was epic.
I was fortunate enough to actually meet and hang out with the band a little bit after the show (that’s me with drummer Dennis Diken) and they were the epitome of cool. In fact, I talked with bassist Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion about playing the bass line to “Blood and Roses” featured above. His response? “The first time I played it I thought I my fingers would bleed…it is such an honor to play that song.” With all the nit-picking in the music industry today it’s somewhat refreshing to hear someone give deference to their predecessor, in this case, former bassist Mike Mesaros.
We could have picked any number of tunes from The Smithereens catalog…“A Girl Like You” or “Only A Memory” would have been the more than obvious choices…but “Blood and Roses” was one of the tunes that was instrumental in my alt-rock conversion. Thusly, I pay homage to the song and the band today on the Friday Flashback. Enjoy my friends
Check out all the stuff by The Smithereens on [itunes link=”http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-smithereens/id529246?uo=4″ title=”Smithereens on iTunes”] !
Twas many a moon ago when a certain English gentleman, Marty I believe his name was, was here from the Great Isle visiting a friend of a friend. I don’t think I had known him for more than (5) minutes before, naturally, I felt it my solemn duty to pester him until he told me the name of at least one band from the UK that no one was yet listening to here in the States. After several not so veiled threats of violence he finally gave up a name. “The Housemartins,” he said. “The what Martins?” I replied. This cat was setting me up for sure. “The Housemartins,” he said again. “It’s boppy English music played by nerdy white guys.” Oh…this I just had to hear.
He lent me a cassette (I told you it was a while ago) and the first song I heard is featured above. ‘Me and the Farmer’ was released as a single in August 1987 and then later released as part of what would be both their 2nd and final studio album ThePeople Who Grinned Themselves to Death. Quite honestly, while I dug this tune and another song from the same album called ‘Build’, the rest of the album didn’t thrill me. It did however make me curious enough to procure a copy of their debut release entitled London 0 Hull 4. I was (and still am) completely enamored with tracks like ‘Happy Hour’, ‘Flag Day’, ‘Sitting on a Fence’ and ‘Think for a Minute’. The music was the furthest thing from complicated and yet seemed to sparkle with a certain brilliant simplicity that was quite intriguing. What I struck me most, though, was that it was, and still is, instant sing-a-long music. Take gander at the vid above and see if you don’t agree!
[itunes link=”http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-descendants/id293375772?uo=4″ title=”Descendents on iTunes”]
Ever wonder where the emo-punk got it’s start? Contrary to what Billy Joe may think, it wasn’t Green Day. Sorry to disappoint but, while they were prolific early adopters of the genre, it was actually a band nearly (400) miles to the south in Hermosa Beach, CA that many point to as the true founders of melodic hardcore. Descendents got their start in 1978 but it wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered them on a fateful “unauthorized” Spring Break trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. Certain details of the trip are still a bit fuzzy but what I do remember was my buddy Ted “Under the Table” Levendosky turning me on to Milo and the boys doing their rendition of “Wendy” by the Beach Boys. Epic. Some of my other personal favs from their 1986 release entitled Enjoy! are “Sour Grapes”, “80s Girl” and “Get the Time”.
Regrettably, there is hardly any decent live footage or video from the band’s earlier work but the vid above for “I’m the One” found on 1996’s Everything Sucks disc is very much representative of the simple punk genius that is Descendents. Dig it.
It was a Saturday, many moons ago. I remember sitting at home and, after counting all of the ceiling tiles in the family room, quickly determined that I was bored out of my skull. It got the point where even hard labour was starting to sound appealing. Was anyone going to call? Finally, there it was. Ring…Ring. I was saved! With my feet barely touching the ground I sprinted into the kitchen and anxiously picked up the receiver. To my chagrin, it was one of my college buddies from Baltimore, MD. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Nothing, I’m bored out of my mellon,” was my reply. “How’s that working out for you?” he chided. “There better be an invitation coming jackass or I’m going to reach through the phone and rip out your larynx.” Thankfully (and luckily for him) there was indeed an invitation. It was to join he and some other compadres at the 8×10 Club in Baltimore that evening to see a band from NYC called Urban Blight. Who? Never heard of them…but heck anything was better than doing nothing.
What I remember most was that as soon as those cats hit the stage the air was suddenly electric. It was like everyone knew what was coming. The drummer set the tone immediately with a phat groove that became the foundation for “Knock You Out” and I became insta-fan. Loved it. The mix of funk, ska and new jack swing was simply phenomenal and while “Love Bites” remains my absolute fav, the song featured in the video above, “Get Closer”, was a close 2nd.
Much like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, so it was for the remaining members of Joy Division. After the tragic death of vocalist Ian Curtis, bandmates Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris were faced with a very difficult decision…would they keep pressing on or simply quit the music scene altogether. Well the answer came quickly and press on they would. The addition of keyboardist Gillian Gilbert completed the original line up of what would become one of the most critically acclaimed post-punk/new wave bands of all time…New Order.
In early years, their sound was somewhat a continuation of what they had begun with Joy Division but they soon picked up on the dance vibe emanating from New York and began building the most appealing of those elements into their songs. “Blue Monday” is the absolute epitome of their transformational sound. Oh…and by the way…it’s one the best selling 12″ singles of all time.
Somehow…I think these cats were on to something but take a listen and dig it for yourself.
[itunes link=”http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/big-country/id373911?uo=4″ title=”Big Country on iTunes”]
I was in Mississippi visiting my grandparents for the summer when I first heard them. I had snuck out of my room to catch Saturday Night Live and the musical guest that evening was…you guessed it…Big Country. It was their American television debut and I was completely blown away. Their sound was unlike anything I’d ever heard and, almost instantly, they became my favourite band of all time. I bought every album and, even now, listen to at least one Big Country song just about every day. I count it among one of my good fortunes in this life that I was able to watch them “grow up” as a band right before my eyes and ears and, needless to say, I was quite taken aback the day I learned of lead singer Stuart Adamson’s death. Distinctly I remember my friend Josh, a huge BC fan as well, and I commiserating, reminiscing about our favourite songs just trying to make sense of what, to us at least, was a senseless tragedy.
Fast forward to 2011. I am scanning for Facebook fodder one Friday afternoon when I happen upon a curious post from Treading Lemmings frontman Quinn. Big Country is back together? What? How could this be? Soap opera scenes of characters who had been killed off in early episodes returning after a case of mistaken identity flooded my consciousness. Is Stuart back with us and, more importantly, has he seen and/or spoken to Elvis? Inquiring minds want to know. Alas, ’tis not the case. I am somewhat perplexed to find The Alarm’s original front man, Mike Peters, has joined the band for it’s 30th Anniversary tour. Oh…and I suppose they are going to change their name to the Big Alarm now too. That’s just great!
Having not yet even heard this new incarnation of my most beloved band, I wanted to hate them. However, try as I might…I just couldn’t. I scoured YouTube for live footage of performances and was once again blown away by what I heard. Maybe not so much as before but a respectable amount of “blown awayness” for sure. Bassist Tony Butler still sounds amazing as do the other members of the band. Peters, thankfully, is not trying to be Stuart or evening like him. He’s just being himself…and it works.
“Another Country”, the track featured above, is the band’s first new single in over (12) years. It was produced by none other than Steve Lillywhite who worked with the band on their first two albums. European concert dates in the early part of 2011 gave way to additional dates in the Spring. Hopefully, they’ll be making their way across the Big Pond as I would do just about anything to be able to see these cats live.
Take a listen to the “flash forward” above and be sure to check out the band’s 2011 live performances on YouTube.
The consummate forerunners of folk-punk, Violent Femmes began with the formation of their rhythm section consisting of Brian Ritchie on bass and Victor DeLorenzo on percussion. Gordon Gano (singer/guitarist) would join later, completing the trio that would eventually be discovered by the Pretenders who, back in 1981, were playing the Oriental Theatre in the Femmes home town of Milwaukee, WS.
As the story goes, the Femmes were playing out on the street (which they did a lot) in front of the theater and were invited by Chrissy Hynde to play an acoustic set after the opening band. They did just that and the rest is history. Soon after they recorded their break through, debut album that included songs that would clearly define the bands early years, ‘Blister in the Sun’, ‘Add it Up’, ‘Kiss Off’ and ‘Gone Daddy Gone’. Almost ten (10) years and one brief break up later, they released their album 3 which produced what would be their next hit, albeit a minor, ‘American Music’ featured in the video above.
The Femmes enjoyed quite a long run on the alternative music scene but, alas, all things must come to an end and for them the end was 2009. After disputes over song rights and a desire to pursue other musical interests, Gano announced that they were done as band. However, for this week, Flashback celebrates the simplistic genius that was and is the Violent Femmes.
Dig it? Get in on [itunes link=”http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-spirit-of-radio/id521302?uo=4″ title=”Rush on iTunes”]
Flashback highlights one of the greatest, if not the greatest, progressive rock bands of all time. Rush formed in Toronto, Canada back in 1968 and are still going strong today. Although the band got it’s official start back in ’68 it recognizes 1974 it’s official starting point as that was the year that drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart joined the band…just (2) weeks before their first tour of America. Since their inception, Rush has always been on the cutting edge of progressive rock invoking an eclectic mix of genres, instrumentation and influences in their compositions creating a sound that is near impossible to duplicate or copy. Neil along with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are true originals through and through.
‘Working Man’ was released as part of Rush’s self-titled debut album back in ’74 and remains a classic today. For all the doubters out there who might think that rockin’ for 30+ years has taken it’s toll on this band…think again. The video above shot just a couple of years ago is proof positive that these cats have not lost a step.