Prince: My Tribute to a Legend

A little part of myself died when Prince left us, and I would like to explain why. In the past few days, I have been reading various articles about why we mourn famous people that we didn’t even know. This is a valid question, and perhaps I can shed some light on this, at least from my personal experience.

While I became aware of Prince around 1982, it wasn’t until a bit later that his music became an integral part of my life and happiness. In 1983, my mother passed away suddenly. I was 9 years old, and I was lost. While I turned to music long before this for comfort and fulfillment, this was a time in my life where music would be more important than ever to get me through. 

In the summer of 1984, I begged my father to take me to see Purple Rain. He begrudgingly obliged, and while I may not have completely understood all the subject matter, the concert sequences alone provided me a jolt of energy that would singlehandedly make me a Prince addict. That same week, I rode my bike to my local record store and plunked down envy penny I had to buy the Purple Rain soundtrack on vinyl (when I say every penny, I mean it…there were lots of pennies on that counter). Those songs brought me to a place that I needed to be. They made me feel alive, happy, and helped heal my broken spirit. The amount of times I played air guitar in my mirror to ‘Let’s Go  Crazy’ defied reality. For the first time in a while, I started to feel myself again, and Prince’s music was partially responsible.

There were Prince eras that I identify with stronger than others, and chronologically, the Sign O’ The Times era was the next one that I strongly connected with. That double album had absolutely zero filler, just one powerful track after another. It was this era that made me realize the strength of Prince as a storyteller. I was mesmerized by the lyrics of ‘The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker’ and ‘I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man.’ I spent hours analyzing those songs, and I had entire scenarios built in my head for these songs, including vivid representations of what the characters looked like, etc. In late 1987 into early 1988, I developed a habit of listening to SOTT in its entirety while staring out into the desolate darkness of the Ohio winter. I found this very comforting and calming, and I did this nearly every night, letting the beauty of those songs engulf me like a warm blanket just out of the dryer.

My first opportunity to see Prince live is another experience I would cherish forever. In 1997, it was announced that he would be playing in Cleveland for the first time in many years. I was lucky enough to score a general admission floor ticket, so the day of the show, I arrived at the venue many hours before the show. Once the doors opened, I bolted down the stairs of the arena to the floor where a security guard tried to slow me down, I blasted right past him and didn’t stop running until I hit the barricade in front of the stage. My poor friend that came with me struggled to keep up with me, and thoughtI was insane at that point. But where he really questioned my sanity was when the show started, Prince came out, and he was right in front of us. Within the first minute, I was overcome with emotion and started to cry. I will never forget my friend noticing out of the corner of his eye, leaning over to me and yelling into my ear “you are a strange bird.” I fully accepted that.

Another special memory I have of Prince in a live setting took place in 1998. He came back to play Cleveland at the same arena. Earlier in the day, I heard rumblings of an after show party at a local club. My plan was to leave the arena as soon as the encore started and try to be the first person at the club. That part of the plan worked to perfection. I got to the club, paid my $20, and got frisked by an extremely intimidating person at the door. Once I was in the club, it was just me and a couple regulars at the bar who looked rather surprised and bewildered about why I was there. I sat at the bar and ordered a drink, while Boyz ‘N The Hood played on the big screen television behind me. I finished my drink and made my way upstairs to the dance floor area. People started to trickle in, and I started thinking “Is HE really going to show up here?” As I was starting to lose hope, I looked over to my right, and Chaka Khan (who opened the show) was standing next to me! A few minutes later, I noticed a bit of commotion near a door across the room. I made my way over there, the door opened, and there HE was, right in front of me, in all his bedazzled, high-heeled glory. He was flanked by huge bodyguards, so I kept a little distance. I watched him walk past me, and everything turned to slow motion. He was escorted to an upstairs VIP area that overlooked the dance floor. He seemed very entertained by looking down at people dancing, and every once in a while, he would reach his cane down so people could jump up and try to touch it. It was an absolutely unforgettable night.

One of the things that hurts the most about Prince being gone is the prospect of never seeing him make people happy in person ever again. However, I am so grateful for the opportunities I had. Nobody can ever take those nights from me. And the music? That will be with us forever. Generations after us will have the opportunity to discover his musical genius and share it with their friends, just like many of us have done. All I can hope for right now is that he is somewhere where he can see all of us celebrating his life and art. I, for one, will never stop celebrating him. Neither should you.

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Jane’s Addiction: 25 Years of ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’

In 1990, I was 16 years old, and music was the center of my universe. For the most part, music was a way for me to have fun, to escape, to live vicariously through someone else. Up until a few years earlier, when Living Colour’s ‘Vivid’ introduced me to “music with a message,” I never thought too deeply about music. I just went with it. That all changed with the release of ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual.’

On August 21st, 1990, I went to the local mall to get my copy of the disc. After my purchase, I walked outside and sat on the top step that led down to the parking lot outside one of the department stores. I opened the box, then the case, and I pulled out the little “Novena” booklet that included a very poignant passage from singer Perry Farrell, as well as the lyrics of the songs on the record. I have no idea how much time went by, but as I finished reading the booklet, I immediately started reading it over again. I fell in love with the record before even hearing it.

Upon listening to it when I got home, it literally changed me. For the very first time, I thought of music as art, where before, I thought of art as only something you could hang on a wall. Perry’s words painted a picture of a world I could only dream of. His voice transported me directly to Los Angeles, to a world that was just as frightening as it was beautiful. Stephen Perkins’ drumming is just unparalleled, swinging wildly from tribal, to metal, to the tightest groove imaginable. Eric Avery’s bass tone/sound is as unique as it gets, navigating some of the tracks like a beacon in the night. And where do I even begin with Dave Navarro’s guitar heroics? I can only tell you to listen closely to the soloing in “Three Days,” and if you aren’t moved by what you hear, you may not be among the living. The more I listened to this record, the more I wanted to discover who I really was as a person. It made me want to expand my musical horizons even more, because I thought if there was something this astonishing out there, what else is out there that I am missing?

I have an amazing memory of having this record be the first I played in my crappy hand-me-down car, right after I got my driver’s license. I saved up enough money to have a CD player installed in it, which was not very common back then. I pulled out of the installation shop, popped the disc in, rolled the windows down, and just as I got to a red light, Dave’s guitar kicked in on “Stop!,” Perry screamed his signature “Here we go!,” and the mortified look on the elderly couple’s faces in the car next to me is stuck in my brain forever. I was so proud at that moment. Now at 41, I get the EXACT same feeling when I hear that intro, and I still completely lose myself in the record 25 years later.

Failure: Grog Shop (7/5/15)

Failure is the best band some of you may have never heard of. Plain and simple. After an 18 year absence, they made their triumphant return to Cleveland last night to remind everyone that they are back with a vengeance.

My evening started with the VIP soundcheck/meet and greet, which being a fan since 1992 and never having the chance to meet them, it was a must for me. Lisa, Failure’s incredibly nice tour manager, brought the VIP’s in to watch the soundcheck. What a great experience to have the opportunity to watch a 2 song private performance with just a handful of people. Immediately following soundcheck, the guys came out for the meet and greet. I was a ball of nerves, but they were extremely kind and accommodating, signing all of my vintage setlists and ticket stubs from shows I attended between 1996-1997. I then got a picture with the whole band, we said our goodbyes, and off they went to get ready for the show. If you are a Failure fan, do yourself a favor and do the VIP package. You will be so happy you did.

Queen Kwong opened the show, and they were a pleasant surprise. Led by singer Carré Callaway, they plowed through a blistering set that found Carré tossing water bottles, jumping into the crowd, and just generally being a badass. They seemingly won the entire crowd over by the end of the set, and it was easy to see why. I am looking forward to hearing more from them in the future.

When it came time for Failure to hit the stage, I was going through many different emotions. I was thinking back to one particular Cleveland show on the Fantastic Planet tour, where it was obvious there were some issues going on. There obvious tensions on stage, and certain members may not have been in a good place in their lives. Even though they sounded amazing, there was no way to hide the problems. But I knew that was all in the past now. I knew this was going to be a different band. One that would be healthier, happier, and firing on all cylinders. Turns out I was right on the money.

From the moment Failure appeared, starting with ‘Segue 4’ into ‘Hot Traveler,’ it became apparent that the evening took on a triumphant, even celebratory tone. Old school fans like me were ecstatic to see the band at its absolute best, lean and mean, with something to prove. Fans that never had the chance to see the band in the 90’s were overjoyed they were finally able to see their musical heroes in the flesh. And the band? Well, let’s just say there were smiles last night…and to the best of my recollection, I don’t remember much smiling in the 90’s. They could feel that they were missed, and they were going to deliver an unforgettable performance.

The amazing new record, The Heart Is a Monster, was well represented by tracks such as ‘A.M. Amnesia,’ Atom City Queen, and the beautiful ‘Mulholland Dr. (featuring Greg on piano),’ as well as tracks off of the first three records. For me, being such a massive fan of the Fantastic Planet record, I was overjoyed that record was well represented by tracks such as ‘Sergeant Politeness (featuring Kellii’s signature bashing),’ ‘Pillowhead,’ and ‘The Nurse Who Loved Me,’ as well as the entire three song encore. My highlight of the entire set took place during ‘The Nurse Who Loved Me,’ when Ken sang the lyric “she acts just like a nurse,” then motioned for the crowd to finish it, and the entire crowd screamed back “with all the other guys.” I freely admit that my eyes immediately welled up with tears at that moment, because it occurred to me that whether the people in the crowd were old or new fans, at that moment, we became one strong fanbase that is going to see the band all the way through this comeback.

SETLIST:
Segue 4
Hot Traveler
A.M. Amnesia
Another Space Song
Atom City Queen
Counterfeit Sky
Sergeant Politeness
Segue 1
Frogs
Macaque
Magnified
Otherwhere
Mulholland Dr.
Pillowhead
Smoking Umbrellas
The Nurse Who Loved Me
——————————–
Stuck On You
Heliotropic
Daylight

Failure: The Heart Is a Monster

Failure came into my life in 1992, the year their debut album, Comfort, was released. An older (and much cooler) friend urged me to listen to it, and I was instantly hooked. My first Failure show took place in 1994, when they opened for Tool in Cleveland. During their set, I was up against the stage screaming along and air drumming, while much of the crowd up front stared at me making a fool of myself. Fast forward to ’96/’97, and I was lucky enough to have seen all three Failure shows in Cleveland, in support of the brilliant masterpiece, Fantastic Planet. Then, just like that, they imploded due to well documented issues with substances, internal strife, etc. I was left to mourn their loss, like you would a childhood friend who was removed from your life much too soon, never to return.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Failure reformed in the last few years, playing select shows to rave reviews and beginning to record the follow up to Fantastic Planet. The recording process was well documented on social media, as well as the launch of their PledgeMusic campaign. With the recording completed, and Entertainment Weekly being given the exclusive rights to stream the record titled The Heart Is a Monster, Failure was officially back in a big way. This time, though, there is the added bonus of health, maturity, and perspective to bolster their chemistry as a unit.

Which brings us to the record, which is a stunningly perfect next step from Fantastic Planet in terms of songwriting and the use of new technology. Failure are masters in the studio, and it was obvious from the beginning that they would take advantage of all the new toys and tricks available to them in order to create a beautiful sonic experience. The record kicks off with ‘Segue 4,’ which continues the series of segues started on Fantastic Planet, and it’s cinematic nature prepares you for the plunge you are about to take. This leads right into ‘Hot Traveler,’ which the first thing that caught my ear was the absolutely gnarly bass tone, which is prevalent throughout the record. There are so many improbable tempo changes, subtle instances of feedback, and perfectly placed noises and sounds, that were probably painstakingly tweaked for days upon days. Other standout tracks are the Beatles and Pink Floyd influenced ‘Mulholland Drive,’ and the up-tempo burner ‘Otherwhere.’ The incredibly haunting ‘I Can See Houses,’ with its plodding, disorienting tempo, takes your brain on a six minute trip that you will want to take again and again.

Overall, this record is an instant classic that needs to be listened to start to finish, uninterrupted. In an era where “full albums” are largely shunned in favor of the potentially more lucrative singles-driven approach, all that goes out the window with The Heart Is a Monster. While the entire band’s performances are stellar, I have to give a special shout-out to drummer Kellii Scott, who gives it all he’s got on a record where there is so much diversity, it could be easy to lose your musical identity. But Kellii adapts in a way that when bashing is called for, he is up for it, but when more subtle, intricate drumming is what is needed, he steps it up just as well. As much as I adore Greg and Ken’s performances, I don’t want to overlook the fact that I don’t think any other drummer could have pulled this record off.

I couldn’t be happier that after all these years, even having given up hope, I finally got my “friend” back, hopefully for many years to come. Who knows, I may even conjure up the bravery to introduce myself next week in Cleveland and thank them for all the years of great music, something I couldn’t bring myself to do many, many years ago. I think I learned my lesson to not let those opportunities pass by, because you never know what the future holds.

For more information, please check out http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/failure

Jane’s Addiction – House Of Blues (Cleveland) – 5/21/15

Sometimes in life, you end up somewhere and feel that everything is right. You feel a sense of belonging. That was my experience at the Jane’s Addiction show at HOB Cleveland.

My history with Jane’s goes back to late 1988. At that time, my musical tastes were not particularly varied. I mainly listened to KISS, “hair bands,” and whatever happened to be on Pop radio at the time. That year, I discovered Living Colour, and was introduced to Jane’s by an older, cooler friend. From that point on, the floodgates were opened for me to experience much more variation in the music I chose to listen to, as well as the shows I attended.

I was fortunate enough to have seen Jane’s live a handful of times, going back to early 1990, but I was never able to experience them from close up, in an intimate setting. When the show was announced at HOB Cleveland, I wasn’t taking any chances. I arrived at the venue just before 5:00 to take my place in line, and I was the first one there. When the doors finally opened around 7:30, I bolted down the stairs, and didn’t stop until I hit the barricade on the left side of the stage.

I admittedly had a difficult time focusing on the opening band (A Place To Bury Strangers), as my anticipation for Jane’s to hit the stage was getting the best of me. I had a ton of nervous energy I was working through, and by the time Jane’s came on and launched into ‘Up The Beach’ (as they started the show by playing the epic ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ record top to bottom), I was ready to let all that nervous energy out. Dave Navarro (one of my guitar heroes) played the intro to ‘Ocean Size,’ Perry Farrell counted it off, and I absolutely lost my mind for the next 75 minutes. At some point within those first two songs, Dave came up to the front of the stage and fist-bumped me, and it was absolutely surreal. Shortly after, he also acknowledged my Fishbone shirt! In addition, being that close to drummer Stephen Perkins absolutely pummeling his drum kit was equally surreal. Not to take anything away from bassist Chris Chaney, who is a great musician in his own right, but Dave, Perry, and Stephen have been musical heroes of mine since I was a kid, so it was near impossible to watch them all equally.

After the performance of ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ was complete, the band finished up the show with three tracks from one of my all time favorite records, ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’ (‘Been Caught Stealing’ ‘Three Days’ and ‘Stop!’). Immediately after his blistering ‘Three Days’ solo (which that solo shows up on MANY “all time greatest guitar solo” lists), Dave stretched his hand out over the barricade towards me and handed me his pick. At that moment, so many things raced through my mind. Among them, how many times I played air guitar to THAT VERY solo in my lifetime (along with all the rest of his solos), as well as how that one moment, that one gesture, felt like a small payback for 27 years of loyalty. I have never been able to meet any of the band to tell them how much their music meant to me, but maybe in that moment, Dave saw it in my eyes. Or maybe he just shredded that pick, and figured he had to do SOMETHING with it, so he might as well give it to me. However, I prefer my fantasy world interpretation more. All said, it was a night I will NEVER forget, and for that night, there was nowhere in the world where I could have belonged more.

Primus: Babylon A-Go-Go, 8/22/91

8/22/1991
Primus
Babylon A Go-Go

At the time of this show, Primus had not yet enjoyed any real mainstream success, but they were definitely on the verge. They were touring behind the wonderfully eccentric Sailing The Seas Of Cheese record. When the show was announced, I realized I knew nothing about the venue aside from hearing the name in passing. I was pretty certain that the place was probably a dive bar, and I questioned why Primus would have been booked there. I would soon realize that my suspicions about the venue were very accurate.

I talked another one of my co-workers into going to the show with me. I purchased the tickets at the local independent record store as soon as they went on sale, and I’m glad I did, as it apparently sold out fast. We got to the venue, which was not in the greatest neighborhood, and I immediately got nervous as we got in line to enter. Before we even got in, I was sizing up the venue on the outside, and I had a bad feeling about it. As we entered, the feeling went from bad to worse. I tried to shake my nervousness, and I made a beeline to the front, right hand corner of the stage, as I knew that was where Primus singer/bass player Les Claypool would be stationed. The crowd started filling in quickly, and by the time the opening band, Tad, was in the middle of their set, the atmosphere became uncomfortable. By the time Tad finished, and I looked behind me, I was pretty terrified.

Primus took the stage, and the crowd was ready to pop. The temperature inside the place was just insane. The minute the music started, the crowd started to push and mosh. I just focused on the band and tried to forget about what was going on behind me. I started getting pushed out of my spot, and into the people that were sitting at the bar to my immediate right. They started getting pissed off, and kept pushing me hard back towards my original spot. But there was no chance I was going to lose that spot. At one point, all of a sudden I got lifted up in the air and was briefly crowd surfing. I have no idea how it happened, since it happened so quickly. I recall looking behind me and seeing so much movement, with many people jumping up and down in unison. I got down pretty quickly, but it was enough to freak me out pretty bad.

After a few more songs, someone got up on the stage and whispered something to Les. He got on the microphone and told the crowd that they needed to step back and calm down. I am pretty certain that nobody heeded the warning, because a few songs later, the same guy got onstage and whispered something to Les again. This time he told the crowd that if they didn’t calm down, they would no longer be able to play. Even this did not seem to deter the crowd. The general chaos continued, and this time the band stopped playing mid-song. Les addressed the crowd, saying something to the effect of “Don’t blame us folks, show is over.”

I looked around, and half the crowd was angry, while the other half was stunned. I was completely stunned, as I had looked forward to seeing Primus for a few years, and all I got was approximately 40 minutes. As we made our way out, I kept hearing people talk about “the floor.” We stood outside the tour bus for a little while, and again, I heard people talking about the floor. I asked someone next to me if he knew what happened, and he said that he heard the floor buckled under the weight of all the people jumping and generally going crazy. As far as I know, that was the last show ever at that venue. I was just glad to get out of there in one piece. Looking back, it was definitely one of the most dangerous situations I have ever been a part of at a show. This may sound crazy, but that kind of volatility and unpredictability was intoxicating. After this show, I secretly longed for that feeling of fear. Regardless of how nervous these types of shows made me, I couldn’t get enough. In every other aspect of my life, I avoided any kind of danger or confrontation at all costs. This was different, and I loved every minute of it.

Rolling Stones/Living Colour- Cleveland Municipal Stadium: 25th Anniversary

Today is a very important anniversary in my concert-going life…25 years since the Living Colour show at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium! I suppose a little band called The Rolling Stones were there, too. What follows is an excerpt from my ongoing book project about my concert experiences. I hope you enjoy it!

Mike

9/27/1989
Rolling Stones/Living Colour
Cleveland Municipal Stadium

I knew absolutely nothing about the Rolling Stones. I didn’t listen to Classic Rock radio, so I knew 2 or 3 songs at the most. This show was 100% about Living Colour for me. However, I did not realize until well after the tickets went on sale that they were the opening band. When I went to get tickets for the show, I was told they were sold out. Now that I had discovered the ticket scalping angle, I would not be stopped. There was no way I was going to miss Living Colour after their incredible performance I witnessed just months earlier.

At this point, it was only a few days before the show, so my instinct was to check out the newspaper to see if maybe there were any classified ads that were selling tickets. There were a handful of ads, so I started making phone calls. I might add that at that time I was painfully shy. I found it extremely difficult to carry on conversations with most people. I tried to negotiate, but most of the prices were too steep. I just got my first job at a drug store 3 months earlier making $4.15 an hour, so I was not exactly independently wealthy. Finally, I was able to negotiate a fair price with someone, $50.00 per ticket. The seats were in the lower level of the stadium, but ridiculously far from the stage. We were behind home plate, the stage was in center field. But I was desperate at this point. The guy told me I could come pick the tickets up that night, but there was one slight problem. I was 15, with no license! I explained this to the potential seller, and he told me that for another $10.00 per ticket, he would deliver them to me that night. I begrudgingly agreed, and the deal was done.

I walked to the bank near my house to withdraw my money from the ATM. Ray had already given me his money in anticipation of me getting the tickets. The seller was supposed to meet me at 10:00 PM on the corner of my street. I was afraid to give him my address, because he sounded like he was hammered on the phone. I was imagining my Grandma’s horrified reaction to some drunk guy showing up at our door. I waited at the designated spot, and shortly after 10:00, a rusted out car slowly crept towards my street corner. Taking a chance that it was my seller, I frantically waved so he would see me. The car made one of the most heinous left turns I have ever seen. I was convinced the guy was going to run me over (and I was on the sidewalk!). I confirmed it was him, and we made the exchange. I was going to see Living Colour again in a few days (oh, and the Rolling Stones).

The night of the show arrived, and as usual, Ray’s mom dropped us off. When we got to our seats, we realized we were even farther away from the stage than we anticipated, but we didn’t care. When Living Colour came onstage, we stood up on our seats. For the next 45 minutes, we screamed every word to every song. We were blissfully unaware of anything going on around us. When the set was finished, we screamed, pumped our fists, high-fived, etc. At that point, we realized that our section, and most likely every other section, was staring at us. As we slumped down in our seats, it became painfully obvious that we were among only a few people there to STRICTLY see Living Colour. We now had the opportunity to take in the scene around us, and what a scene it was! Not exactly the ideal environment for a 13 and 15 year old. Even ‘Cheech and Chong’ would have been shocked. The amount of drugs and paraphernalia being passed around us was astonishing. Obviously these people were not part of the “Just Say No” movement.

The Stones eventually came on and did their thing, and while I respect them, they were just not my thing. We ended up leaving a bit early. The lesson here is, get out and loudly support your band, and don’t pay any attention to what anybody thinks about you. There’s a good chance they may be high anyway.

KISS/Def Leppard – Blossom Music Center 08/26/14

One of the biggest rock tours of the summer steamrolled into Blossom Music Center on 8/26/14, and I feel it is safe to say not many people left disappointed. For me, this was not so much a night of nostalgia, but more a celebration of my lifelong love for music, especially KISS.

I made the decision to jump on the Live Nation Platinum Seats option once I saw that there were front row seats available. Although they were pricey, in retrospect, I would not hesitate to do it again. The night kicked off with a raucous set by The Dead Daisies, featuring the MONSTER drummer Brian Tichy. The band was incredibly tight, but I found myself so blown away with Tichy’s drumming, that I was having trouble even concentrating on the rest of the performance. I really liked what I heard, so I will definitely check them out further.

The stage was set for Def Leppard, as they opened to the strains of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” They brought an amazing energy that the crowd was giving right back, with most in attendance singing along to hit after hit. Their set served as a great reminder of not only how many hit songs they had, but how incredibly memorable they all are. I am admittedly a casual fan, but I realized that those songs, whether pre or post ‘Hysteria,’ are embedded in my brain forever. The highlight of the set for me was when Vivian Campbell tossed a guitar pick to me, and I made a clean catch. They were incredibly professional, without seeming like they were going through the motions, but they were also having a great time. The crowd fed off of that, and looking around me, there were more smiles than I could ever count. Def Leppard more than surpassed my expectations, after not having seen them for 26 years on the ‘Hysteria’ tour. I found it interesting that it poured rain that night many years ago, and also started pouring during this show. I will definitely check them out again when they return.

When it came time for KISS to take the stage, I realized that I didn’t care that the curtain malfunctioned, and the band was revealed too early. I didn’t care that the “spider” lighting rig wasn’t functional that night. All I cared about was that my childhood “superheroes” were right in front of me, playing the music I love to the people that I feel such a bond with, the KISS Army. I will tell you with no hesitation that as much as I love Ace and Peter, Tommy and Eric keep this machine rolling, and help maintain the high quality of the overall performance. I am very grateful for that, because without them, there may not be a show at all. To be in the front row, able to make eye contact with Gene and Paul was something special beyond words. Knowing they are the same people whose pictures adorned the walls of my bedroom from the age of 2 1/2, and now they were directly in front of me within arms length, was a stunning experience. The setlist was again sort of a greatest hits type set, but things like that don’t matter much to me anymore. I just want these experiences to cherish before they are over someday. The most special moment for me was when Paul was directly in front of me, throwing pick after pick to the people in the rows behind me. I looked up and made a “what about me?” motion. He popped a pick into his mouth, pounded his chest, and spit the pick out right to me. It landed right at my feet, and I slammed my entire body down on top of it, landing in a huge beer puddle. That didn’t matter, as nothing could take away from the excitement of my new prized possession. All in all, it was a perfect night. I feel lucky to be part of such a great fanbase as the KISS Army, and to have chosen KISS as the band I have looked up to my entire life. Their music and presence has been there for me through good and bad, and will always continue to be.

Horns Up!
Mike

Prince: 30 Years Of Purple Rain

With today being the 30th anniversary of Prince’s iconic Purple Rain soundtrack, instead of giving you my track by track breakdown, I want to give you a little background on how that record affected my life at the time. The summer of 1984 was a strange time for me. I was 10 years old, and my Mom had unexpectedly passed away a year before. I was still trying to pick myself up and move forward with my childhood, no matter how difficult it was. As always, music provided me a fantasy world where I could escape, but it was more important than ever at that time.

I was already well aware of Prince from the radio singles off of the 1999 record. The release of the first single “When Doves Cry” caught my ear, but when I first heard “Let’s Go Crazy,” I was hooked. Sometime very shortly after the release of the full soundtrack, I gathered up some crumpled up dollar bills, and a bunch of change to make up the difference, and rode my bike to my local record store. I walked up to the counter where some vinyl copies were displayed, and emptied my pockets onto it. I meticulously counted out the change after I was given the total as the clerk chuckled. I rode home carefully carrying what would become my best friend for the rest of ’84, well into ’85 and beyond.

Those songs spoke to me in a way no ther songs had before. I listened to all the intricacies with the utmost attention. I recorded myself singing the lyrics into my tape recorder, convinced that my voice could mirror all the different voices Prince could muster. In short, when I needed someone or something to help me through a difficult time, Purple Rain was there for me then, and still is 30 years later. I have many favorite records, but I have an emotional connection to this record like no other. Happy 30th anniversary from both my 10 year old self, and my 40 year old self!

Mike

Top Ten Favorite Records Of All Time (For This Week, Anyway…)

I have been thinking recently about how I would rank my top ten all time favorite records. This is an incredibly difficult task, and even though they could change from minute to minute, I gave it a shot. Here we go:

 

#10 Injected ‘Burn It Black’ (2002)

This Atlanta band seemingly came out of nowhere to put out this straight up, no frills hard rock record that boasts riffs and songwriting that are equally amazing. The energy of their live shows was second to none. With such a solid major label debut, I expected a long career from them, but that was not to be. Their follow up record was shelved, and they broke up shortly after.

Key Tracks: When She Comes, Faithless

 

#9 Veruca Salt ‘Eight Arms To Hold You’ (1997)

This is a huge sounding rock record, with big drums, bigger guitars, and the beautiful vocals of Nina Gordon and Louise Post. Whether singing alone, or singing harmonies together, the vocal performances on this record by both women are stellar. Their use of guitar feedback is also a high point of the record for me.

Key Tracks: Straight, Volcano Girls

 

#8 Living Colour ‘Vivid’ (1988)

This is such an important record to me, considering it was the first record I owned that truly made me think. Not only do you get ridiculous musical performances on every level with this record, but you get lyrics that paint pictures of racism and other injustices that are burned into your brain, and make you want to take action. The individual performances by Vernon Reid, Will Calhoun, Muzz Skillings, and Corey Glover are just on a whole different plane.

Key Tracks: Cult Of Personality, Open Letter (To A Landlord)

 

#7 Jane’s Addiction ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’ (1990)

Finding a perfect balance between art and Rock, this record pummels one minute, and makes you cry the next. The amount of musical styles and directions are many, and the guitar work overall by the great Dave Navarro is jaw-dropping, specifically his solo on the beautiful Three Days.

Key Tracks: Stop!, Three Days

 

#6 White Zombie ‘La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume 1’ (1992)

This record is pure hard rock insanity, sprinkled with a little bit of evil. Vicious riffs, punctuated by B-Horror movie quotes, along with Rob Zombies signature vocal style, all make this record the fun trip that it is. I have been listening to it for well over 20 years now, and I still hear something new that I have never heard before with each listen.

Key Tracks: Welcome To Planet Motherfucker/Psychoholic Slag, Thunder Kiss ’65

 

#5 Metallica ‘…And Justice For All’ (1988)

The production issues with this record are well documented, but you have to be able to look past that and really focus on the brutality of the songs. They paint a picture of war, betrayal, despair, etc. Riffs galore by Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, and an exceptional drum performance by Lars Ulrich make this a record for the ages.

Key Tracks: Blackened, The Shortest Straw

 

#4 Prince ‘The Gold Experience’ (1995)

I love all eras of Prince, but for my money, Prince is at his best when tearing it up on guitar. And that is exactly what he does on this record. Between Prince’s guitar performance and Michael Bland’s drumming (check out the intro on Shhh), it is damn near musical heaven. This record is another great example of an artist that can weave in and out of a ton of different styles, all without breaking a sweat. And even if he does break a sweat, I’m sure he has minions that come out of nowhere to fan him with purple palm leaves, because, well, he’s Prince.

Key Tracks: Endorphinmachine, Gold

 

#3 Failure ‘Fantastic Planet’ (1996)

Good God, where do I begin here? With this record, Failure manages to paint a lush sonic landscape that is ultimately guitar driven, but includes many sounds that fit perfectly into the overall puzzle. Over the years, it has been well documented that substance abuse played a big part in the creation of this record, and you can almost hear that. Listening to it front to back is almost a disorienting experience, because you get the sensation of being lost in this world that Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards created. I can say without hesitation that to me, this is a perfect record.

Key Tracks: Saturday Saviour, The Nurse Who Loved Me

 

#2 Guns N’ Roses ‘Appetite For Destruction’ (1987)

One of the reasons I loved this record as a 13 year old when it was released is that it felt dangerous, and it still feels the same way to me today. Even the less abrasive songs feel like the could come unhinged at any moment. The whole record just has a dirty sound to it, and that’s the way I like it. It makes you feel like you are in the seedy parts of Los Angeles after midnight, and they say nothing good ever happens after midnight, don’t they? Well, I say EVERYTHING good happens after midnight!

Key Tracks: It’s So Easy, Rocket Queen

 

#1 KISS ‘Alive’ (1975)

This record was made to capture the energy of a KISS concert, like the perfect souvenir from going to see them live. They hit it out of the park with this one. There has been much debate and speculation over the years as to how much is actually live, and how much was overdubbed in the studio, but I honestly don’t give a shit about any of that. I do know that when I was 3 years old and I got my little hands on this, I was obsessed. Down came the Mickey Mouse stuff off the walls, up went Gene, Paul, Ace, and Peter, and I never turned back. You can almost feel the explosions and fire when you listen to it, which I’m sure was the original intention. Brilliant.

Key Tracks: Deuce, 100,000 Years

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed checking out my list, considering next week could potentially be ten different records! And please, if there are records on this list that you have never heard, and you have a few minutes, please check them out. There are not many things that make me happier than turning people on to new music!

 

Horns Up! 

Mike. \m/