Sunday, August 27, 2006

Between rock and a hard place

In and around doing other things last night, I was checking out a replay of VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Yes, I'm aware that the series is a few years old. But if you haven't seen it before, it's new to you, right?

I'm not going to run down the entire list here — you can go here to review it, if you're so inclined — but I jotted down a few random thoughts that wafted through my formerly hard-rock addled brain as I watched the program. You'll see that I dug out a few souvenirs to solidify my rocker cred.

96. Meat Loaf. I'd have had the Loaf much higher on my ballot. SSTOL regulars already know that I loves me some Meat Loaf. The singer, too.

90. Rainbow. One of the funniest bits in Cameron Crowe's book, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (upon which Crowe based his screenplay for the seminal teenage comedy), involves a kid who skips school every April 14 to celebrate the birthday of Rainbow's lead guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore. That always strikes me as funny because one of my best friends' birthdays also falls on April 14, and when we were in high school together, I never got her birthday off.

89. Lita Ford. One of the great injustices of this list is that the Runaways, the all-girl band that spawned the careers of both Lita Ford and Joan Jett (#66), isn't included. The Runaways' eponymous first album, raw and undisciplined though it may be, rocks harder and is way more fun than anything Lita ever recorded as a solo artist.

86. Foreigner. I want to know what love is. I want Lou, Mick and the boys to show me. In a strictly musical, heterosexual way.

83. King's X. An amazing three-piece musical juggernaut that never got the credit its collective talents deserved for two reasons: (1) because its members had in their early careers been backup players with such "contemporary Christian music" acts as Petra and Phil Keaggy, and thus King's X was stigmatized as a religious act (though their music never fit the CCM mold); (2) because lead singer and bassist Doug Pinnick came out as gay, effectively cutting the band off from the fan base that had supported King's X when they were being marketed as a Christian band.

74. Pat Benatar. I seriously crushed on Pat Benatar back in the day. That was before I saw her live in concert, and discovered that she was this microscopic slip of a woman, maybe four-foot-ten and 85 pounds. How did such a mammoth voice emerge from such a petite frame?

72. Foo Fighters. The VH1 series failed to answer one of the great mysteries in music history: What is foo, and why are these guys fighting it?

67. The Rolling Stones. The Stones, way down at #67? You've gotta be kidding.

61. Jethro Tull. I still chuckle when I recall that Tull copped the first-ever Grammy Award for heavy metal performance. I see they snuck in here, too.

57. Heart. Maybe the most underrated band in rock, ever. The Wilson sisters (that's Ann and Nancy, not Carnie and Wendy) were, at the height of their powers, one of the most sensational songwriting and performing combinations in popular music. The cognoscenti sometimes referred to Heart as "Led Zeppelin with breasts," and they were right. About the Zeppelin comparison, I mean. And yeah, the other thing(s), too.

55. Blue Öyster Cult. I still own a complete collection of BÖC LPs, up through The Revolution By Night. A perfect fusion of science fiction sensibility and heavy metal thunder, led by one of rock's most distinctive guitarists in Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser. How can you not love a band that could create songs with titles like these: "I'm On The Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep," "She's As Beautiful as a Foot," "Seven Screaming Diz-Busters," "Baby Ice Dog," "Veteran of the Psychic Wars," "The Great Sun Jester," and "Shooting Shark," just to name a few. Seriously, what other band in rock history could have recorded scary songs about both Godzilla and Joan Crawford?

44. ZZ Top. Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man. Especially one with a waist-length beard and a '34 Ford.

31. Def Leppard. The only band in rock history with a one-armed drummer, although he still had two when Leppard recorded their best album, Pyromania.

25. Cheap Trick. Back when I was a college radio DJ in Southern California in the early '80s, Rick Nielsen once telephoned me in the studio to thank me for playing a Cheap Trick tune. The song, in case you're interested, was "Southern Girls," from Trick's 1977 album, In Color. Hey, Rick, I'm still in the book, man, if you ever feel the urge to reconnect.

17. The Ramones. Riff Randall still fondly recalls the way Joey Ramone slithered pizza into his mouth.

13. Queen. Freddie Mercury was The Man.

8. The Who. Would be Numero Uno on my ballot, with Zeppelin (first on VH1's tally) a close second, and Queen — my personal favorite of the three — in third. No one ever sounded like The Who, then or now. Who's Next remains the greatest non-Beatles album in popular music history, hands down.

4. AC/DC. Dirty deeds. Done dirt cheap. Angus Young always looked like a doofus in the schoolboy shorts, though.

3. Jimi Hendrix. Well, yeah. Duh. 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky.

2. Black Sabbath. Not my thing, really, but they were half of one of the coolest rock concert films ever shot: Black and Blue, the audiovisual record of Sabbath's co-headline tour with Blue Öyster Cult.

1. Led Zeppelin. All of which reminds me... it's been a long time since I rock-and-rolled.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Imperpay offered these pearls of wisdom...

> 72. Foo Fighters. The VH1
> series failed to answer one
> of the great mysteries in
> music history: What is foo,
> and why are these guys
> fighting it?

Would you believe... "Foo Fighter" is WWII era slang for a UFO. That still doesn't answer what a foo is, exactly. Check it out here:

12:06 PM  

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