Tag Archives: Hard Rock

The Worst Vegas Lounge Act – EVER!

Jon Thor Covering (Butchering) Sweet’s Hard Rock Classic “Action”

What is the worst cover song of all time? Of course that is subjective and debatable, but this may be it.

If you can stay with this five minute video, it will be worth it for its jaw dropping kitschiness.

On national television, with Merv Griffin doing the introduction, from 1976, here is Jon Thor straight from the Aladdin Hotel’s Red, Hot and Blue Show doing his “Muscle Rock” rendition of Action.

For those who do not know what the original song sounds like, because any resemblance of Jon Thor’s version to a real rock song is purely coincidental, here is Sweet’s original version recorded in 1975.

If you are wondering whatever happened to Jon Thor, in the early 1980’s he eventually transformed his act into “Thor,” a quasi-metal act that is still active today according to his web site.

Rock n’ Roll Deaths In April 2013

Andy Johns, Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones Right Hand Man; Storm Thorgerson, Album Cover Creator Extraordinaire; Christina Amphlett, Lead Singer Divinyls; All Die in April

April has been a bad month for the world of rock ‘n roll, as death has taken away three unique talents.

Andy Johns with Eddie Van Halen © Getty Images

Andy Johns with Eddie Van Halen © Getty Images

Andy Johns who worked on some of the greatest rock albums of all-time as a producer and engineer died in Los Angeles on April 7, at the age of 62 due to complications of a stomach ulcer.

Johns was a name not known to casual rock fans because he worked behind the scenes, but his contributions to dozens of classic albums is immeasurable. From the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street to Led Zeppelin’s greatest period of production in the early 1970’s, Johns was setting up and overseeing the recording of albums that will be played for as long as people listen to rock n’ roll. Some of the many bands and artists Andy Johns worked with included Free, Eric Clapton, Blind Faith, Cinderella, Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Mott The Hoople.

After Andy Johns died I scanned The New York Times on a daily basis in disbelief that they did not cover his death. Nearly two weeks after his passing, an obituary finally appeared.

Here, Andy Johns talks about his experiences working with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and the recording of Led Zeppelin’s classic Led Zeppelin IV (a.k.a. 4 Symbols or Untitled) and the song Stairway To Heaven.

David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd between Storm Throrgerson photo possibly by Jill Furmanovsky

David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd between Storm Thorgerson photo possibly by Jill Furmanovsky

Storm Thorgerson was a name even less known by the general public than Andy Johns, but literally millions of people have seen his work. Thorgerson, as half of the design firm Hipgnosis with Aubrey Powell, created dozens of the most iconic record album covers, sleeve and insert artwork of all time. After the dissolution of Hipgnosis in 1983, Thorgerson ran his own firm and continued working until he died on April 13 at the age of 69 from cancer.

LP Cover Scorpions Lovedrive LP Cover The Who Who's Next LP Cover Led Zeppelin Presence LP Cover AC DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Thorgerson’s work was surreal and many times bizarre. But it caught your attention like any great artwork that was meant to be contemplated. Millions of people who bought albums would study the large canvas that an LP album offered for insights and clues about the music and the band they were listening to. With the supremacy of CD’s in the 1990’s, cover artwork was given a much smaller space and a less important role in point of purchase sales of music. Despite this, Thorgerson maintained a steady stream of clients who wanted original and outstanding works of art to go with their musical output.

LP Cover Yes Going For The One LP Cover Peter Gabriel LP Cover Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here LP cover Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy Gatefold

Best known for his long association with Pink Floyd, Thorgerson also created album covers for a wide variety of bands including Led Zeppelin, Yes, Scorpions, UFO, Phish, AC/DC, 10cc, Black Sabbath, The Alan Parsons Project, Anthrax and many others.

In this clip below, Thorgerson talks about the beginnings of Hipgnosis.

Chrissy AmphlettThe Divinyls lead singer Christina Amphlett was known in the United States as more of a one-hit wonder for the 1991 top ten song I Touch Myself than for anything else. But in her native Australia, Chrissy Amphlett was a rock legend. The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard even spoke of the impact of Amphlett’s death and what she meant to the Australian music scene.

Amphlett died in New York City at the age of 53 on April 20 after battling multiple sclerosis and breast cancer for many years.

The Divinyls were not just a pop band, they could rock as hard as anybody as evidenced here in a 1982 live performance of Boys in Town. With her schoolgirl outfit Amphlett displays some head-banging moves reminiscent of AC/DC’s Angus Young.

 

Clive Burr, Iron Maiden Drummer Dies At 56

Clive Burr – Iron Maiden’s Masterful And Highly Underrated Drummer Passes Away

Clive Burr Drumming 1982Clive Burr, who was Iron Maiden’s drummer from 1979-1982, died in his sleep at his home in London, England on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. He had been in ill-health for a number of years.

Burr played on the first three Iron Maiden albums, Iron Maiden, Killers and The Number of the Beast. With Iron Maiden on the verge of worldwide stardom, Burr was replaced under circumstances which remain murky to this day by Nicko McBrain for 1983’s Piece of Mind album. The official reason given was personal problems and difficulties in dealing with the heavy touring schedule.

Clive Burr Interview 1982Burr played with a string of other bands for the next dozen years, but never achieved the success he had with Iron Maiden. In the early 1990’s Burr’s musical career came to an abrupt end when he noticed tingling in his hands. He received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 1994.

His former band mates held several charity events during the last decade which they called “Clive-Aid” to raise money to help Burr with his medical expenses which had left him in debt.

Iron Maiden Cliveaid 2007

Steve Harris, Dave Murray and Clive Burr at 2007’s CliveAid Concert

Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood said in 2002 at the first benefit, “Maiden has always been a family and even after all these years, we still consider Clive to be part of the family and as such we feel we should help him in any way possible.”

There has been a long simmering debate among hardcore Maiden fans about who was the better drummer, Burr or McBrain?

They were so different in style that a comparison is very difficult, but I always preferred Burr’s lucid, free jazz-style drumming. Continue reading

12 Great Heavy Metal Albums From The 80’s That Are Under The Radar (Part 2)

Great Metal Albums from the 1980’s That Have Been Forgotten

Continuing our article from Part 1 of twelve metal albums from the 1980’s you should check out:

1986 – Metal ChurchThe Dark (Elektra)

Metal Church put out great albums during the 1980’s and 1990’s and even opened for Metallica during their 1991 tour and this should have lead to more exposure for the band. But Metal Church never caught on with the music video generation and that may have had an big impact on sales. Continue reading

12 Great Heavy Metal Albums From The 80’s That Are Under The Radar (Part 1)

Great Metal Albums from the 1980’s That Have Been Forgotten

Still one of the most exciting things for me is to be introduced to great music that I have never heard before. It doesn’t matter if it was made this year or thirty years ago. If you haven’t heard it before, it’s new to you, isn’t it?

I started thinking about bands casual heavy metal fans may be familiar with by name, but not their work with the exception of possibly a song or two.  That lead to the creation of this list. Rather than focus on great albums from well known bands such as Judas Priest, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Dio, Van Halen, Testament, Overkill, Exodus or any of the well known bands, these are bands and albums that may have had a brief moment in the spotlight or are known for the wrong reasons, like an MTV video.

So in chronological order, here is part one of twelve albums that you should check out.

1980 – Angel WitchAngel Witch (Bronze Records)

What a debut album should be: songs with one amazing hook after another. Angel Witch emerged from The New Wave of British Heavy Metal looking like they would rise to the top. This trio lead by Kevin Heybourne lead singer and guitarist should have conquered the world. For whatever reason it never happened.  Almost every song on here is a classic in songwriting 101. Continue reading

Great Band Publicity Photo And Video

Ensoku – Deserving Worldwide Attention

Rarely will my mouth hang open in disbelief. I’m too jaded. This photograph of the visual kei band Ensoku with the nightmare Disneyesque theme did not make my jaw drop. But their music video did.

I’m not sure if this is brilliant, but I had a smile on my face the whole time while watching their video. It’s great to make an entire song out of a utilitarian object. You’d think four words repeated over and over would not be enough to have a killer song. You’d be wrong. Here is This is a Pen.

Deep Purple Founder And Keyboardist Jon Lord Dies At 71

Jon Lord: God Of The Hammond Organ, June 9, 1941 – July 16, 2012

More and more of the people I grew up admiring are leaving us. In the last couple of weeks actor Ernest Borgnine, Encyclopedia Brown author Donald Sobol and director William Asher died and on Monday, July 16, 2012 the announcement of Jon Lord’s sudden death really hit home.

Lord who had been battling pancreatic cancer, died unexpectedly at the London Clinic of a pulmonary embolism. He leaves behind his second wife Vickie, their daughter, Amy, and Sara, his daughter with his first wife Judith Feldman whom he married in 1969 and divorced in 1981.

I grew up admiring Deep Purple and they have always been one of my favorite bands. I had seen them perform live which was a very festive and loud experience.  After seeing them live I came away with the first hand knowledge that Jon Lord was without a doubt one of the most exciting and greatest rock keyboard players ever.

Being an extremely amateur musician myself, there are two things I wish I had the ability to do. One is to play stride style piano like James Johnson or Fats Waller and the other is to flawlessly play the guitar solo or keyboard solo to Deep Purple’s driving locomotive of a song, Highway Star.

Jon Lord was a classically trained musician and that training always came through in Deep Purple’s music. The structure of many of the bands songs are clearly classically influenced and this is due to the fact that both Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore drew a lot of their inspiration from the classical realm.

(l-r) Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, Jon Lord

In rock n’ roll there are many talented composers that are not great performers. There are great live bands, without good original songs. Then, there are phenomenal studio bands who can’t cut it live. During the height of their fame in the 1970’s,  I don’t think there was a more talented group of individuals playing together as a band than Deep Purple. What I mean is each individual was a virtuoso in his own right, a master at their instrument. Together they were able to write great songs, record them in the studio and play them effortlessly with an edge in front of a live audience as few rock bands could. To do any one of these three things well is an accomplishment.  Deep Purple was in a rare class as they did all three. Continue reading

The New York Times Obituaries Occasionally Celebrates Low-Lifes, Yet Ignores Deserving Artists and Notables

Who Gets A New York Times Obituary Write-up?

What do legendary blues and heavy metal guitarist, Gary Moore, rock album photographer Jim McCrary and playwright, screenwriter, author and jazz champion Max Wilk all have in common?

When they died, The New York Times did not cover their deaths in the obituary column. We all know space is limited, but these people were significant in their artistic fields, enriching the lives of countless others.  It would be nice had the self-proclaimed “newspaper of record” recorded and noted their amazing lives. But The Times editors felt these people were not deserving.

The official policy about who the The Times decides to write up is :

When we look to see whether someone had made a newsworthy impact in some way — who “made a wrinkle in the social fabric,” — we don’t equate significance with fame. In point of fact, 9 out of 10 people we write about are indeed not household names (the 10th is — a movie star, a secretary of state). But that doesn’t negate their importance. Most made their marks in quiet ways, out of the public limelight, but they still made a mark, possibly on your life and mine.

So who is deserving?

Apparently an unremarkable low-life, graffiti tagger, StayHigh 149, a.k.a.  Wayne Roberts , can get a full write-up.

Yes, Roberts definitely, as The Times puts it, “made a mark on your life and mine.”

More like a blemish.

Especially in New York City in the 1970’s when the city was bombarded with the eyesore of graffiti defacing public and private property.

As is noted in the obituary, this great man (sarcasm) in the 1960’s was working as a messenger on Wall Street and smoking about an ounce of marijuana a week, earning the Stay High nickname.

Inspired by other vandals tagging subway cars, he then began defacing public property.

Chris Pape a fellow graffiti  afficianado says in the Times obituary:

“He (Roberts) rode empty trains all day with markers in his pocket, and he wrote everywhere.” By the early ’80s, Pape said, drugs had begun to take their toll. Roberts left his World Trade Center job, and his wife, because of his drug use. “He was a functional junkie who occasionally did time in prison for stupid things,” Pape said. “He was like that for 20 years. He didn’t want to be found.”

For some reason, I can only think of the millions of wasted dollars that it cost taxpayers to eradicate the vandalism this cretin created.  As I have said before – graffiti is definitely not art.

This is the sort of person The New York Times chooses to cover in their obituaries?

For the record, when one of the most influential singers in heavy metal history, Ronnie James Dio, died on May 16, 2010, the following day The Times devoted 493 words to summing up his life.

Graffiti vandal Wayne Roberts had 838 words written about him.

Motörhead Live In Their Prime – 1980

Concert At Nottingham Theatre Royal Is Well Worth Viewing

motorhead tour booklet photo Brian GoodmanFor those of you who are fans of Motörhead this is definitely worth watching.  If you are not a fan, then this video should help make you one. This show captures the band in full control playing a scorching set with good audio and video. The classic line-up of Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clarke and Phil Taylor perform the following set:

 

Overkill
Too Late Too Late
Shoot You In The Back
Step Down
Jailbait
Leavin’ Here
Metropolis
Train Kept a Rollin’
Bomber
Motörhead

 

Who is Strider? The Bron-Y-Aur Stomp Dog

Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant With His Dog Strider

For those of you who are big Led Zeppelin fans you already know that the song Bron-Y-Aur Stomp off of Led Zeppelin III is about Robert Plant’s dog Strider. Here’s a photo of the pooch in question with his somber companion. Interestingly the song was misspelled on the original album: it was supposed to read Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp.

Listen to: Bron-Y-Aur Stomp live from the Led Zeppelin live album How The West Was Won

Lyrics: Continue reading