It’s gonna be a World Series weekend in Chicago

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One of my favorite old school Sammy Hagar songs–and I have quite a few of them–is Rock and Roll Weekend. Not only does Sammy name-check Chicago (and Cleveland) toward the end of the song, but he paints an image of the best part of the week, being filled up with the best music there is. A better combination could not exist.

So it’s worth pointing out that while Cleveland had the early part of the 2016 World Series on a Tuesday and Wednesday night, and they may get the final games of the Series again next week, this weekend will belong to the Chicago Cubs. The city has been starving for World Series action my entire lifetime (and probably yours, too), and when it finally does arrive it’s in the form of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games.It could not be any more perfect than that.

So let’s rock, Chicago. Let’s fill the air with a celebration that none of us have ever known, and one that we may not ever see again, at least not exactly like this. Get on the phone, tell all your friends!

Tell ’em it going to be a World Series-winning weekend.

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Rockers are mortal, after all

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It wasn’t always this way for me, but within the past couple of years the deaths of people I don’t know have taken on a whole new dimension. Whether I knew the person or not–and particularly if they were somebody famous for one reason or another– the first thing I want to know is how old the person was when they passed on.

Age is only a number, in death as in life, but it can serve as a measuring stick against our own mortality.  The wide majority of deaths in the news are still thankfully older than my age, as was the case with Glenn Frey’s passing today at 67. I’m still literally decades away from that number, so I can’t feel too bad for somebody who lived that long. And, to put a different spin on it, living one day as Glenn Frey must have been better than anything I could imagine, so spending a few decades in his shoes must have been out of this world.

But Frey’s death comes on the heels of David Bowie’s passing just a few days after his 69th birthday. Having been inspired by an article written by Neil McCormick about the inevitable passing of rock’s gods in the days and years to come, I looked at three groups of rock musicians:

  • Those who were born in the 1940s and were older than Bowie was when he passed away,
  • Those who were younger than Bowie but older than Frey when he passed away, and
  • Those who were younger than Frey but were still born in the 1940s, and are thus at least 65 years of age.

The findings were quite interesting. I’ve never inserted an excel spreadsheet into a post before, and I hope it works out. I’m going to insert the link to my findings after every paragraph, to make it easy for anyone who wants to see the full listing of musicians and their birthdays. The source of all birthdays is The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock, Third Edition, published in 2005. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, and in the event that I left out someone who belongs on the list, well, that’s what google is for. Birthdays before 1940 and after 1949 were not considered for this piece, so Tina Turner (born in 1939) and Peter Gabriel (born in 1950) are excluded.

First, the group that was older than Bowie has to be hearing the footsteps of Father Time, if they weren’t already. Living the life of a rock star probably has some multiplying effect that is impossible to quantify, but I can’t imagine that a year in the life of music legend is anywhere near the equivalent of 12 months for anyone else. It might seem to have a shortening effect on a someone’s life span, but Keith Richards is still going strong, so who knows what the story really is? And Mick Jagger’s onstage dancing have probably added years onto his life in exercise value, alone.

Rock Birthdays

But everyone who was 69 years or older when David Bowie passed away last week had to wonder how much longer they have left. For instance, Jimmy Buffet just turned 69 last Christmas, making him a couple of weeks older than David Bowie. The same can be said for Robby Krieger of the Doors, Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead, and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, all of whom reached age 69 in December of last year. David Bowie’s death has no direct bearing on any of their mortality, but I’m certain that each of these soon-to-be septuagenarians sat up and took notice, anyway.

Rock Birthdays

Others in the rock world who have reached 70 already include Bob Dylan (who will turn 75 in May), Paul McCartney (who will be 64 plus another ten years in June), Jagger and Richards (who are both 72), and Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, Pete Townshend, and John Fogerty. The rock pantheon is aging at the same pace as the rest of us, but their numbers will inevitably thin out over the coming few years.

Rock Birthdays

But those who are approaching age 69 later this year must have been thinking of their own mortality when Bowie’s death was announced. And now, the realization that Glenn Frey was even younger than they were must feel like a 1-2 punch. Many of them knew Bowie and/or Frey already, but they’ve now entered into what I call the Bowie-Frey Zone, which as of ten days ago didn’t even exist. They’re approaching their 69th birthdays–which is all the time that David Bowie got on this earth–with the realization that they’ve already outlived Glenn Frey by as much as a year and ten months.

Rock Birthdays

The names on the list of these rock stars is quite impressive:  Elton John, Queen’s Brian May, no less than three members of the Eagles (Don Henley, Don Felder, and Joe Walsh), Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Sammy Hagar, Meatloaf, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Robert Plant, and Jackson Browne. If David Bowie’s death didn’t rattle them–from a sheer numerical standpoint–it’s likely that Glenn Frey’s did.

Rock Birthdays

And the final group of musicians I looked at can take some comfort from the fact that Glenn Frey was older than them: Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Gene Simmons, Paul Rodgers, and both Hall and Oates. A majority of ZZ Top is on this list, as well.

Rock Birthdays

So what does all this mean? I’m not sure, exactly, but I can give one short story that seems a bit relevant here. Last summer, I was having some work done on my teeth, and as I was laying there with my mouth wide open, and nothing else to do, my mind started wandering to death and rock stars. I began with the Rolling Stones, and the death of Bobby Keys at the age of 70. He wasn’t officially in the band, but he played on some of their most well-known songs, and that’s a pretty significant thing.

I then started to mentally go through different bands, as bits of my tooth were flying through the air, thinking of who had passed on from each of them. I came to the realization that most bands have experienced death in one way or another, and that rock and roll does appear to extract a toll from those who live the life, whether onstage or out in the audience.

Neil Young once sang that it’s better to burn out than fade away, and after seeing him tear up the stage at Farm Aid 30 last summer, I can confidently state that he’s not fading away anytime soon. So maybe age is just a number, in some sense. It’s true that rock and roll can never die, but its principal practitioners aren’t getting any younger, either. I’m afraid that none of us are.

 

On Dreams We Will Depend

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Nothing says “summer” to me musically like Van Halen’s 5150 album. I turned 18 in the summer of 1986, and was determined to enjoy one last summer before going away to college. I bagged groceries by day, drank whatever I could get my hands on by night, and listened to the fusion of Sammy Hagar and Van Halen whenever I could. Life was as good as I had ever known it to be.

Many years have gone by since then, but hearing the songs on that album–my copy at the time was a tape I had recorded from the radio station that played it all the way through on air–takes me back to that time in my life. So when I received an iTunes gift card for my birthday this summer, I first used it to address a hole in my digital music collection by downloading a copy of 5150.

The technology that now allows for cars and phones to sync with each other is far beyond what was available back in 1986. So I discovered, while driving a rental car around on Cape Cod this summer, that I could put on “Summer Nights” or “Good Enough” or any other track from the album on whenever I wanted to. Driving around the Cape is fun enough to begin with, but also being able to time warp back to the summer when life was stretching out before me was an added treat.

On June 26–the day the Supreme Court ruled that everyone had a right to get married to the person they love, regardless of their gender–I was working on a laptop computer in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. I received a text indicating that my family had made their way to a beach in nearby Truro, and inviting me to come and join them. It was nearing lunchtime, so I hopped in the car, headed toward Route 6, and turned on my music of choice. The first song to come on was “Dreams,” which happens to be my favorite song on the album.

As I drove along the highway on that beautiful summer’s day, I thought of all the dreams that had been granted on that day. For far too long, people had been wrongly denied the right to enter into a legal and (if you want) religious agreement with the person they love the most. Is it any of our business what gender that person happens to be? I don’t think so, and neither did a majority of the Supreme Court.

Growing up in the 80s as I did, many of my associations with the songs of that era are from the videos that were made for MTV. The “Dreams” video I linked to above makes it all but impossible for me to hear the song and not think of the Blue Angels. But on a sunny Friday afternoon, driving down the highway from Wellfleet to Truro with this song on the car radio and a new and improved America on the horizon, I think I may have found a competing image for this song.

That’s what love is made of……

NOTE: This is the second in my series of attempts to clear out my WordPress Drafts folder. I started this post in late June of 2015, and am completing it on August 16, roughly seven weeks later. I still have a backlog of fifty or so unfinished thoughts in the Drafts folder, and will bring as many of them as I can to fruition in the days and weeks ahead.

Return of the Red Rocker

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Probably the best concert I ever saw in my life–and this varies with whatever mood I happen to be in– was Sammy Hagar at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, way back in October of 1984. Any concert when you’re 16, and newly able to get around without needing a ride from somebody’s parent, is a good thing. But at that point in life, Sammy Hagar was the Man.

I was a big fan of his work as a solo artist, and as the lead singer for Montrose. When he joined up with Van Halen a year or so later, I was about the happiest I could be at that point in my life. But all that was still in the future back in 1984.

Music videos had exploded as the artform of choice for teenagers like me, and Sammy’s “I Can’t Drive 55” was one of the more amusing ones at the time. It’s worth pointing out that 55 was the speed limit on the interstates back then, and it wasn’t raised to 65 (or even higher, depending on where you are) until 1995. But that’s just an example of how much has changed since those days.

I held onto the ticket stub because that was one of the ways to remember a show. There was also the tour T-Shirt, of course, and here’s me wearing mine, probably in the summer of 1986.998073_10202078525579178_1108930424_nThe shirt’s long gone by now, but the little scrap of purple paper they gave me got buried in a box and somehow came back to me, all these years later.

Ticketmaster fees? No way, at least in those days. These were physical tickets, and the only way to get them was to go to the box office, preferably on the day they want on sale. I didn’t get these tickets, and I’m not exactly sure which of my friends did, but to get anything in the second row took some waiting in line. That’s how it was back then.

Section AA was in front of one very large pile of amplifiers, and Section CC was in front of another large pile. Section BB was in the middle, and perhaps those people were spared some of the sonic assault that I endured for two hours and more. But sonic assault was exactly what I was there for. My ears rang for three days after the concert, and I loved it. And any hearing loss hasn’t caught up to me yet, either.

When the lights when down and the music started up, the stage was flooded with homemade banners proclaiming “Sammy’s the best, Fuck the rest.” There were literally dozens of them, and they were displayed for the approval of those in attendance. Great minds all think alike, apparently.

At the end of the show, after taking several requests from the audience, Sammy promised the crowd that he was going to come back to Springfield again. And so far as I know that hasn’t happened, an least until this upcoming weekend. Hagar will be playing with his band at the Illinois State Fair, and it should be a Rock and Roll Weekend for those who can make it. Sadly, though, that won’t include me.

Part of me realizes that concerts are a commitment of both time and resources, and part of me doesn’t want to disrupt the memories of the VOA tour back in 1984. To mix old rocker metaphors for a moment, Eddie Money once put it pretty well:

I wanna go back, and do it all over

but I can’t go back, I know

I wanna go back, cause I’m feeling so much older 

But I can’t go back, I know

So I’ll just heed Eddie’s advice and take a pass on seeing Sammy this weekend. Reminiscing about it here is good enough for me.

Some of the concerts I’ve seen

 

Photo ©1995 robbi cohn/dead images

I wrote this for my sister a few years back, as we were getting ourselves psyched up for our first Springsteen concert. With the new Springsteen tour going on, and a concert at Wrigley Field in the near future, I wanted to dust this off. A few edits have been made for brevity and other issues. Enjoy!

KISS/the Plasmatics, 1983

The coat I wore to that concert, wherever it is, still reeks of pot.

Quiet Riot, Early 1984

Quiet Riot had to know that it would never get any better for them.

Sammy Hagar, Fall 1984

My ears rang for three days afterward. I loved it.

U2, Spring 1987

Right after the Joshua Tree came out, and right before they became megastars. It was a great show.

Monsters of Rock, Spring, 1988

A day-long procession of heavy metal bands on a warm sunny day. Who thought that was a good idea? It was cool seeing Eddie Van Halen onstage, though.

Grateful Dead, Spring 1988

My first Dead show, and  I wasn’t prepared for the parking lot scene at all. I wonder where all those people are now?

Van Halen, Fall 1988

Having just seen Van Halen a few months before, the thrill wasn’t quite so great.

Grateful Dead, Spring 1989

It seemed like the band played “Terrapin Station” for a verrrrry long time.

Fine Young Cannibals, Spring 1990

Roland Gift had maybe the best singing voice I’ve ever heard.

Grateful Dead, Spring 1993

Jerry Garcia really played some incredible guitar at this show. The Steve Miller Band opened, but the parking lot at Soldier Field won out instead.

 Jimmy Buffett, 1990s, exact years uncertain

We camped out somewhere in Wisconsin after two of the shows, and one of them was played in the pouring rain. Camping in the rain isn’t any fun, but Jimmy’s show made it seem worthwhile.

Grateful Dead, Spring 1994

My fourth and final Dead show. Sting was the opening act, but it was pouring rain and I think he only played 3 songs. The Dead’s music was very good, as usual.

Pink Floyd, Summer, 1994

I remember that the rain started to fall during “One of These Days,” and it felt like a special effect to go with the song. And “Comfortably Numb” went on for a very long time.

The Who, Halloween 1996

The band played “Quadrophenia” straight through. Pete Townsend had some hearing issues, so he played acoustic guitar for most of the show.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Fall 2007

Springsteen concerts are unlike anything else. And I’m glad I got to see Clarence Clemons play live.

KISS, Fall 2009

Not as many pyrotechnics (or as much pot) as in the 80s, but I love how some of their fans wear the makeup and costumes to the show.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Wrigley Field, Fall 2012

Jake Clemons, Clarence’s nephew, is playing with the band, and fitting in very well, from what I’m reading. I’m sure this will be a summer of anticipation.

Ain’t talkin’ ’bout love

It seems weird to use the commas in the song title above. But that’s the way the band wrote the song, and that’s the only way it can be sung, so there it is.

Van Halen is going on tour this year, and I’d love to go see them. I saw them twice back in the late 1980s, during the Sammy Hagar era. Seeing them with David Lee Roth is an exciting prospect, to be sure. I’m also sure that the band knows this, and tickets will be priced accordingly.

Complicating matters is an upcoming Springsteen tour, for which nothing has been announced yet. I’ll hopefully get to one of the two shows, but $50 tank fill ups and two children who ice skate leave going to both shows out of the question. And Roger Waters and the Wall at Wrigley Field? I’ll just have to live vicariously through other people’s reviews of that show.

With spring weather coming up this weekend, it should be a good one, indeed.

Summer nights and my radio

There are rumors that Van Halen is releasing new music some time in the near future. This will be with David Lee Roth on vocals, and the three Van Halens (Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang) so it can’t be called the “original lineup.” But given my longtime identification as a VH fan, it’s close enough.

The first song of theirs I ever heard was “Dance the Night Away” which was a 45 single (I can still remember those things) back in 1979, possibly. The cover sleeve showed David Lee Roth doing this mind-blowing jump, which he broke his foot doing. I didn’t know that at the time, but I can believe it. That song offers no hint of Eddie’s guitar virtuosity, it’s just a late 70s radio number. It’s not a disco song, but it is from that era, unfortunately.

I’m ashamed to admit that the first time I really took notice of Van Halen was through Eddie’s guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat it.” I’m not the only one, I’m sure, but it’s still embarrassing that I was into Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and even Iron Maiden back then, but never got around to Van Halen. And then 1984 came out–ironically enough, in 1983–and nothing was ever the same after that.

I was a huge Hagar fan back then, so when Dave left the group to go solo, I was happier than a pig in (well, you know what) when Sammy came in. 5150 is a record I could put on today and get transported back to high school in the bat of an eye. I even titled this post after one of the songs on that record, if you didn’t notice.

I remained a VH fan throughout the Hagar era, and haven’t paid them much mind since he left after Balance in about 1993. That’s almost 20 years now. It’s crazy how time rolls on. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago was weird when Eddie and Alex and Dave didn’t show up, leaving the two now-exiled members of the band (Sammy and Michael Anthony) to accept the honors.  And the inevitable Dave reunion and tour was interesting, but I never really expected new music to come out of it.

And it still hasn’t come out yet, so maybe this is jumping the gun (no pun intended) just a bit. But I owned a Van Halen 8 track once upon a time (Van Halen II), vinyl (1984, Van Halen I), cassettes (Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down, 5150, OU812), CDs (Balance, Right Here Right Now) and now I’ll snap up their latest on iTunes, if it ever appears. It’s a crazy musical progression, but one that I’ll be quite happy to have made.