Monday Afternoon Rock Thoughts – 90’s Alt-Edition

I’ve got a few tidbits from some of the greatest 90’s Alternative bands in this post, and a few of the bands are still featuring great new music…


The more I hear it, the more I love “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.” Flea said in a recent interview on Sirius XM that he came up with the bass line and couldn’t stop playing it. He went into the studio and the band loved it, too, resulting in the creation of this addictive song.  The bass is fantastic, and the song gets better with each listen.  “Monarchy of Roses” will be released as the second single from the album I’m With You next month.

Speaking of “Maggie” songs; are there any crappy ones? This one is great, Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” is a masterpiece, Rockin’ Rod’s “Maggie May” is a classic and The Door’s “Maggie McGill” doesn’t exactly suck either.  So, for any new bands out there, it appears a secret to success is to throw “Maggie” in your song title.

Jane’s Addiction is also about to release a new album, but to much less fanfare.  The new single, “Irresistible Force,” is a different and more progressive sound from these lads from L.A.  Perry Farrell’s vocals are better than ever, and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of The Great Escape Artist.

For you Morrissey fans, the ex-front man of The Smiths will be touring the United States ever so briefly later this fall.  Check out the dates here: Morrissey Tour. Fellow 80’s/90’s Alt Rock/Dance/Synth legends New Order will also be hitting the stage again soon. New Order will only be playing a few charity events across the pond, and will do so without bassist Peter Hook who still does not get along with his old mates.

Finally – A-ha, the one of the greatest palindromic bands form Norway ever, played a reunion show in Dublin last night.  10 Bonus RARA’s points if you can name two of their songs.


Top Rock Albums From 1971

There’s been an immense amount of focus on the great albums of 1991, as we reach the 20th Anniversary of their release.  You can’t turn on your Sirius XM radio without announcements celebrating the Big 2-0 for such classics as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s 10, Metallica’s Black Album, U2’s Achtung Baby or the Lose Your Illusion albums from Guns n Roses.  Those albums were all great in their own right, but I started wondering about the prior generations’ classics; the best from 1971. It too, was one hell of a year.

Here’s my Top 10 in Reverse Order:

10. Electric Warrior, T. Rex – The album was huge in England, but only a mild success in the States. Featured “Mambo Sun,” “Jeepster,” and the band’s biggest hit “Bang A Gong (Get It On).”
Electric Warrior - T. Rex

9. Imagine, John Lennon – The album features the fabulous “Jealous Guy” one of the greatest from one of Rock’s greatest writers.  Most of the remaining songs border on mediocre, with the exception of the title track which is unquestionably one of the greatest rock songs ever.
Imagine (Remastered) - John Lennon

8. L.A. Woman, The Doors – this was the last album for The Doors before Morrison’s death in July of 1971.  The Album features the title track, “Love Her Madly,” Riders on the Storm,” and my favorite Doors song, “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat).'”
L.A. Woman (40th Anniversary Mixes) - The Doors

7.  The Yes Album, Yes – This one was the last for keyboardist Tony Kaye, but more importantly the first for guitar virtuoso Steve Howe.  The album feature three progressive rock standards: “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.”
The Yes Album (Remastered) - Yes

6. Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones – The bands 11th album, and their first entry in the 70’s, kicks off with “Brown Sugar” and features “Bitch,” “Wild Horses'” and “Dead Flowers.” It was the first album on the band’s new Rolling Stones Records label.Sticky Fingers (Remastered) - The Rolling Stones

5. Aqualung, Jethro Tull – Ian Anderson and his ever changing crew at their best. The album kicks off with their classic “Aqualung” title track and also includes two other Tull staples, “Cross-Eyed Mary” and “Locomotive Breath.”
Aqualung - Jethro Tull

4. Fragile, Yes – This was the band’s first release featuring Rick Wakeman on keyboards, and he made an immediate impression.  The album starts out with a beautiful intro from Steve Howe as they kick into their seminal hit “Roundabout.” The album also includes the classics “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Long Distance Runaround.”
Fragile (Remastered) - Yes

3. Every Picture Tells A Story, Rod Stewart – Aside from the excellent title track (featuring fellow Faces alum Ronnie Wood), this album arguably includes two of Rockin’ Rod’s all-time best: “Maggie May” and “Reason To Believe.” Interestingly, “Maggie May,” was initially the flip-side to “Reason To Believe,” until the public got a hold of it. “Mandolin Wind” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” are also packed onto the excellent second side.
Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart

2.Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin – (aka Zoso) – the tricky lads from England never named this album, so it has basically become known as Led Zeppelin 4.  The album kicks into high gear with the amazing “Black Dog” and also features “Rock and Roll,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Going to California,” and an obscure dance hit you may have heard titled “Stairway To Heaven.” The album closes with the under-appreciated “When the Levee Breaks.” Useless trivia: In Fast Times At Ridgemont High; Damone tells Rat to play side 1 of Led Zeppelin 4 to get a girl to make out.  Rat plays Side 2 of Physical Graffiti. Damone gets the girl, so obviously it pays to know your rock and roll.
Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered) - Led Zeppelin

1.  Who’s Next, The Who – Interestingly, this album started out as a disastrous attempt to record Lifehouse, a follow-up rock opera to the band’s huge 1969 hit Tommy.  Pete Townshend later admitted he almost killed himself during those failed sessions.  The band strung together the remnants for this fantastic album. Every song is a classic, from the opening keyboard notes of “Baba O’Riley” to the last chord on “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” this album is damn near perfect. The remaining tracks are “Bargain,” “Love Ain’t For Keeping,” “My Wife,” “The Song is Over,” “Getting In Tune,” Going Mobile,” and my personal favorite “Behind Blue Eyes.”

A few others I considered: At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band. Didn’t include it because it was a live album, but the 23+ minute version of “Whipping Post” is one of the best live songs ever. Pearl, Janis Joplin, released after her death, which includes “Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz” and Sir Elton’s Madman Across The Water which starts off with a bang: “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon” but the rest of the album doesn’t compare.

There you have it the Top 10 from 40 years ago.  You can check out the Top 10 from 1991 and decide which generation was better. For my money, I’d rather be stuck in the 70’s on this one.

Mike Gavan


Social Distortion – On the Road Again

Social Distortion, or as they are more commonly known by their passionate fans, Social D, is back on the road for another world tour, and they’ll be back in the United States this weekend at the Austin City Limits Festival.  The band has made a nice transition from Punk ambassadors to a solid, energetic, hard-driving rock act.  The sound of their new music is still punctuated by Mike Ness’s distinctive and powerful vocals, a hard-driving rhythm section and crisp guitar riffs.  They play ACL Sunday night and then hit 24 more cities over the next two months.

While you wait for the band to hit your neighborhood, check out this great interview from BunchTV with the band’s fantastic front man Mike Ness.  He’s interviewed by an interesting “Folk/Punk” British artist Frank Turner.  Turner was touring Germany with Social D at the time, and you can tell from the interview that he and Ness are quite comfortable together.  It’s a great peek into the mind of the legendary front man, who has been the face of Social Distortion for the past 30 years. (There’s a quick 15 second German commercial up front, but after that it’s all in English)

The band is touring in support of their first new album in seven years, Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes. The album is the first produced by Ness, and in the interview with Turner, he notes that they’re currently working towards a follow-up.  The interview is 30 minutes, but well worth the time, and it wraps up with a question regarding the five songs he’d provide to aliens once aboard the mother ship; some surprising answers including a surprise from one of their early influences The Clash.

So, follow the link below and watch the interview, buy some tickets and go see them live, this tour.  You won’t be sorry.

Mike G.

Related Links:

Mike Ness Interview


Radio Review – The Spectrum

Tractor Tunes are our 30 minute radio station reviews. So, grab an Old Milwaukee, slide on your headphones, hop on the tractor, and decide if this one is for you…

SIRIUS|XM‘s The Spectrum, Channel 28

The Spectrum features five decades of rock music targeted to listeners of adult rock.

They feature bands like Dave Matthews, U-2, Coldplay, REM, Wilco and Tom Petty. In truth, it is a fairly diverse cross-section of generally softer rock and roll, but this is clearly not music to put you to sleep. They play some brand spankin’ new stuff like The latest from The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Arcade Fire, and then quickly slide back 40+ years for something from a classic icon like Van Morrison.

There’s a nice mix between mainstream hits and some much lesser known tunes.  I guarantee you’ll hear something you’ve never heard before, an old favorite, and a deep cut off a great album (and probably a few that make you grown).

Overall, it’s good stuff, and would probably make a great soundtrack to a day at the office, or on a dock by the day.

  • Bodeans – Dreams
  • Sheryl Crow – Steve McQueen
  • Broken Bells – The High Road (live)
  • Elvis Costello – Watching the Detectives
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
  • Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
  • Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall
  • Wilco – Heavy Metal Drummer
  • Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey
The day I listened, Jenny Eliscu was the DJ. She was the perfect host, adding interesting tidbits throughout the show, without being the least bit annoying.

Date: August, 2011

Music: 98%
Chatter: 2%
Commercials  0%

Bonus Tip: Celtic Crush, hosted by Larry Kirwan. A great diverse mix of Celtic music from a guy who knows what he’s taking about. Kirwan is the front man from the fantastic Irish band Black 47.



Rock Music Musings – Rancid, Hazard…

Last week, I saw the following concert line-up: Rancid, Blink 182, Against Me! and My Chemical Romance.  Are you kidding me? Those four bands on the same bill? The folks in Vancouver had a great night! Four of today’s best punk and alternative bands under one roof.  Nice! Hard to believe, but next year is Rancid’s 20th Anniversary, and they are planning a big tour to celebrate. We’ll provide more details as we get them.

Here’s one of my favorite Rancid tunes to whet your appetite: “Red Hot Moon.” Great tune, which is made even better by the site of the video shoot.  This was filmed in front of the official favorite all-time club of RARA’s Farm, the now departed, CBGB’s. I still remember those sticker-clad, graffiti-covered claustrophobic backstage spaces, and miss them 🙂

Watch the video it really captures the essence of the band and the club.

Listening to Sirius XM’s 1st Wave, I had a flashback to some great years in the Philly live music scene. First, they played Robert Hazard’s “new wave” hit “Escalator of Life” and followed it with Joe Jackson’s “I’m The Man.” I realize Joe Jackson was a Brit, but the rocking title tune off of his 1979 album was covered fantastically by an under-appreciated Philly band, The Chasers.

As with many other Philly bands from the 80’s and 90’s, The Chasers and Robert Hazard were great live, and tore up the local stages for many years. Add in a host of other great live bands like The Hooters, Beru Revue, The A’s, The Daves and Tommy Conwell, and we were blessed with one hell of a good local music scene.  Great days indeed!

Today, I’ll leave with you a cover tune that I stumbled across on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Remember Ronnie James Dio and his hit “Rainbow In The Dark?” Check out this cover from Paola. I think she’s Swedish, but the internet is not exactly flowing with information about her. I can tell you that the song was released in 2003.  Not sure how I missed it until now..  Enjoy – “Rainbow In The Dark.”

Later – Cretin

Of Journey, Cars and Poppy Fields

Admit it, as Rock and Roll Animals, we all discriminate against old folks. Right?

You can deny it, but it’s true.  Journey is touring again this year. They are supporting Eclipse, their new studio release, and playing each night in front of thousands of fans, yet no one has bought the album or heard any of the new songs. Eclipse has been out for four months, written by long-time members Neil Schon and Jonathan Cain and featuring the vocals of Amel Pineda (who sounds as good as old Steve Perry).  Have you heard any of the tunes? Of course not.  Why? Because they band members are old now.

Radio stations treat them as an oldies band playing their old hits, and fans aren’t much better. (For the record, the album is decent middle-of-the-road Journey stuff). We’ll all go out there and sing the Glee-ly rejuvenated “Don’t Stop Believing,” and then run to the beer counters and bathrooms when they kick into their new rocker “City of Hope.”

The Cars have also released Move Like This, their new album this summer, . “Sad Song” was the first single and it’s an excellent song. But, you’d have to take my word, because no one plays it. I have a feature on my XM radio that notifies me when a favorite band is played anywhere on their network,  They have about a dozen stations where the song would fit the format.  Since setting The Cars as a favorite, I’ve seen about 100 notifications that they were being played. Only once was the notification for “Sad Song” and the station that played it? Out – their gay music station. Maybe you need to be gay to appreciate the old rockers out there? (not that there’s anything wrong with that)

If they had marketed that song as Rick Ocasek’s son and his hot new band, we’d have Ryan Seacreast fawning all over it. Take a few minutes to listen to it, and see if it’s not carbon copy 80’s hit music. Half of the new bands are trying to emulate 80’s rockers, and now we have the real thing emulating themselves, and no one is paying attention???

So, this all gets me started reminiscing about the curious English band the Poppy Fields.

Back in 2004, they came smashing onto the UK music scene with an infectious punk rock tribute to the Clash called “45 RPM.” The group put out a video featuring the early 20 punk rockers bouncing around the stage.  The song took off. All fo the big Dj’s across the pond loved it,Virgin Music Stores sold out all of their stock, and it hit the charts at #28.  The young lads had captured a sound similar to the popular Welsh band The Alarm, with vocals eerily reminiscent of Mike Peters, The Alarm’s original front man.

Word somehow leaked out that there was good reason for the similarities. The guys in the video were actors, the real musicians? Mike Peters and The Alarm! So what happened when everyone learned of the old switcheroo? Radio stopped playing it, people stopped buying it and it became another new song by an old band.  The music never changed, but the image of the guys strumming the guitars, beating the drums and belting out the lyrics changed.  That’s kind of sad. Sad, and a lame reflection on the music buying public (us).

Mike Peters mentioned afterwards that consumers assumed old guys couldn’t write meaningful new songs anymore (he was in his early 40’s), and he was afraid that image trumped talent.  He was right.

I found this Mike Peters interview about the whole incident. As you watch the music video snippets, they’ve interspersed the original video with the young actors, with the real 40 something band.  Oddly, the music sounds the same in both cases.

So, let’s try to change this a little bit, ok? Give a listen to the new stuff by the older bands, especially if you’re going to be seeing them live on their next tour. C’mon that’s the least we can do, right? Ah, forget it, we’ll all need a respite from the hits at their next concert for our race to the concession stands…

Journey: Eclipse

The Cars: Move Like This

The Alarm performing 45 RPM
Cheap concert tickets





Some Barenaked Love

I remember the first time I heard these off-beat Canadian rockers, thinking they’d be a flash in the pan. As it turns out, they spent years in the spotlight. They dominated the non-Grunge rock scene of the 90’s from their fantastic 1992 debut release of Gordon through the 2000 release of Maroon. Their song-writing was different, and the lyrics more creative and interesting than anything we’d heard in years.  Over that decade, powered by the creative duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page, they sold nearly 30 million albums, and developed a huge and loyal fan base.

Here’s my take on their Top 12 tunes, including my favorite lyrics from each. You’ll notice that there’s not much after the 90’s, as I admittedly lost some interest after the 2003 release of the mediocre Everything To Everyone, and Steven Page’s subsequent legal/drug problems and ultimate parting of ways with the band.

So, here’s the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen, including a bonus track:

Bonus Track: “Uncle Elwyn” – this is a hidden track on 1996’s Rock Spectacle.  It’s one of their infamous spontaneous raps, focused on Ed’s video-crazed uncle.  Favorite Lyric:“Elywn is tall, Elwyn is small, Elwyn plays a mean basketball.”

12.  “Hello City” – this is the first song off of their debut album Gordon.  I love the way the stand-up bass dominates this song. A great way to kick-off a fantastic album. Favorite Lyric: “The same people, the same drinks, the same music, the same quicksand.”

11. “Never is Enough” – One of my favorites from 1998’s Stunt, the album that thrust the band into International stardom. This one features Ed on vocals. Favorite Lyric: “The world’s your oyster shell, but what’s that funny smell?”

10. “”I’ll Be That Girl” – OK, I’ll admit it, I really don’t have a clue what it’s about, but I love singing along with this happy ditty, where I think Steven sings about killing the girl of his dreams. Favorite Lyric: “Then even a eunuch won’t resist the magic of a kiss, from such as me.”

9. “Pinch Me” – This was the big hit off of Maroon, and another one featuring Ed’s rap stylings. It’s infectious and was a hit with the masses. Favorite Lyric: “I could hide out under there, I just made you say ‘underwear.”

8. “Alcohol” – This one rocks, and got some nice airplay on rock stations.  Now, if I was only at least a little familiar with the subject of the song 🙂 Favorite Lyric: “Forget the cafe lattes, screw the raspberry iced tea. A Malibu and Coke for you, a G & T for me.”

7. “What a Good Boy” – Another pick from Gordon, This is a beautiful song about a young man coming to grips with life, Page’s vocals are perfect! Favorite Lyric: “Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same, when temptation calls we just look away.” 

6. “Brian Wilson” – Yup, another one from Gordon. It starts with Page driving to a record shop and spirals into thoughts on the genius behind the Beach Boys and his struggles with mental illness and obesity. Favorite Lyric: “Wondering where the hell all the love has gone, playing my guitar and building castles in the sun, and singing “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

5. “Old Apartment” – Page sings about breaking into his old apartment and reminiscing about the okay old days and a seemingly rocky relationship.  This song was actually played on  Beverly Hills 90210 (but I was way too hip to have watched that).  This is the only cut from Born On a Pirate Ship on the list. Favorite Lyric: “How is the neighbor downstairs? How is her temper this year? I turned up your TV and stomped on the floor just for fun.”

4. Life, In a Nutshell” – This is the only selection off of 1994’s Maybe You Should Drive. This one is a fun romp through a good relationship, again featuring great vocals and playful lyrics.  Favorite Lyric: “She memorized every pencil crayon color in the boxHer blue-green eyes complement the burnt sienna in her locks.”

3. “Some Fantastic” – This one is a nice collaboration between Robertson and Page, and the most unique song off of their hugely successful 1998 album Stunt.  This one is just different than anything else they’ve done, and that says a lot for this very diverse band. It’s a different take at a love song; the piano, drums, guitar, vocals… all perfect. Favorite Lyric: “And when we’re done we’ll boil ’em down for glue, that we can use to re-adhere your lips to mine if you were here.”

2. “Call and Answer” – A Steven Page masterpiece, featuring his amazing vocals throughout (even the back-up vocals are his). This single off of Stunt captures a couple struggling to reclaim a fractured relationship. Poignant, timeless and passionate!  Favorite Lyric: “I think it’s the getting to the point that is the hardest part.”

1. “1,000,000” – This actually was released on Gordon and then re-appears on Pirate Ship, but I picked the version from Rock Spectacle, their 1996 live album. It starts off as “Grade 9” a great tune of its own accord, and jumps into a rollciking version of $1,000,000 with new lyrics and plenty of audience participation. Fun stuff on a song that captures the essence of these great performers doing what they do best. Favorite Lyric: “Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?”

There you go my Top 12. I’m sure there are many other worthwhile candidates, but at least now you have this cretin’s perspective!

Monday Morning Musical Musings

Monday Morning Musical Musings – or abbreviated, we could go with “Mo Mo Mu Mu?” I know it sounds stupid, but maybe it will grow on us?

Today a few thoughts on the Handsome Furs, Matt Mays, Y&T and a new Florida band: Innercoastal

I mentioned how much I liked The Handsome Furs a few weeks ago when they released a cool new tune “What About Us,” a catchy danceable song eerily reminiscent of the great alt rock I danced to back in the great Philly after hours club, The Revival 20 years ago.  Their brand new release is “Repatriated” and it is just as good.  I haven’t listened to the entire album yet, but that’s next.  If you like dance rock, check this Canadian duo out now. If your in the Midwest, Texas or California, you may be in luck, as they are touring those areas over the next two weeks.

Keeping with our Canadian theme, one of our contributors from North of the Border, Luc,  just got turned on to a band call Innercoastal. They are a new band from Central Florida who are playing around Orlando. According to Luc, “If you ever get a chance, LOOK THEM UP! I checked it out and liked the ska feel to their music.

I heard Matt Mays on the radio over the weekend and couldn’t help but think how under-rated this Canadian artist is. He’s had a handful of great well-written songs that never got a sniff of commercial airplay on the vast wasteland of US commercial radio.  He continues to put out great rock ‘n roll, despite the lack of attention. Check out “On the Hood,” “Travellin,” “Cocaine Cowgirl,” “City of Lakes” or the just released “Digital Eyes.” Good stuff with a unique sound.

OK – and this one has nothing to do with Canada, but it’s fresh in my feeble mind, and if I don’t write about it now, I’ll probably never remember.  Y&T’s “Summertime Girls.”  Is it the best crank down the windows, cruising to the beach, stereo blasting, sing along, feel good summer song ever?  I just love that song from the hard rockers from California (who still tour today). Lead singer Dave Meniketti never got his just due as an excellent rock voice. Here’s a copy of the video to keep you entertained for a few minutes (just ignore the horrible outfits the band is wearing – that was really the style 25 years ago): Summertime Girls


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