The next best Rock ‘n Roll Christmas songs…

I’m a little Grinchy when it comes to Christmas songs.  I prefer originals to covers.  And I prefer rock ‘n roll Christmas songs to the classics.  Although I do love me some “Little Drummer Boy”.  That song rocks.

A few years back I wrote a post that listed what I thought to be the Top 10 Rock ‘n Roll Christmas songs of all time.  If you missed you can read it at:

http://arizonapremieremusic.com/2008/12/13/top-10-rock-n-roll-christmas-songs/

But time has passed, and I thought it would be a good time to list some of my other favorites.  And I had to break the rule on some of these, a few of them being covers of classic Christmas songs.  And some of them I can merely tolerate.  I know, I’m a mean one Mr. Grinch.  So with no further adieu here are my best of the rest rock ‘n roll Christmas songs:

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV8x7H3DD8Y

This song has been covered over the years by numerous artists, including my favorite rendition by U2.  But I’ll always give props to the original of any tune.  So Darlene Love and Phil Spector, good job.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Bruce Springsteen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Khpk9274gMg

I’m not big on covers.  And like I said above, I prefer originally penned rock ‘n roll Christmas songs over the classics, but this one is an exception to the rule.  I remember this song from when I was a kid and always liking the baritone coda from Clarence Clemons, “you better be good for goodness sakes”.

Christmas Is The Time to Say I Love You – Billy Squire

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPf2snTB2wo

This is a Christmas song I really like.  I’m surprised I didn’t include it in my original list of Christmas rock ‘n roll songs.  Billy Squire had a hot streak going in the early ’80’s including this song.  Which was pretty much the last good song he wrote.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – John Cougar Mellencamp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsat4e8jgHA

Another cover here.  This is one of those Christmas songs that I can tolerate.  It’s not bad, but it’s not great.  But then again, the GREAT original rock ‘n roll Christmas songs are hard to come by.

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight) by the Ramones

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Y5GtaTrPHM

Kind of a weak attempt at a Christmas song, but it’s the Ramones, so ya know.  Plus, it’s a little different take on a Christmas song.  So I’ll give them credit for that.

Superstar – From the movie “Jesus Christ, Superstar”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvVr2uks0C8

I know, I know.  This is not really a Christmas song.  But I’ve always liked this song.  And it IS about Jesus Christ, so technically it IS a Christmas song.

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Signature Songs of the Decades

I was just thinking the other day about songs that would be considered signature songs of a respective decade.  It’s hard to boil these type of things down to one song but here are mine (click on the highlighted song titles to view/listen to the songs/videos):

50’s“Rock Around the Clock” – Bill Haley and the Comets.  Yes, Elvis was The King, but this one got the whole ball rolling;
60’s“All You Need Is Love” – The Beatles.  I think this pretty much speaks for itself;

70’s“Get Down Tonight” – K.C. and the Sunshine Band.  Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll.  Sums up the 70’s pretty succinctly;

80’s“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears.  In the decade that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, this was a song that encapsulated decades of Cold War paranoia;

90’s“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana.  Raw angst coupled with boredom. Yep, that was the 90’s.

00’s- Nothing.  A decade, and unfortunately a new generation, bereft of anything culturally meaningful.  Sad to say, but true.

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Exile vs. Sticky Fingers…

With the release of the remastered version of the Rolling Stones “Exile on Mainstreet”, the making of documentary, and all of the surrounding media attention around it, I thought it would be a good idea to throw in my two cents about “Exile on Main Street”.

Now, let me preface this argument by saying I think “Exile” is a GREAT album. But, in my opinion, “Sticky Fingers” far out shines it.

Over the years I talked with many a rock fan about “Exile”.  I think “Exile” is the album that the “too cool for school” crowd likes to like.  It doesn’t have a lot of radio friendly hits on it, barring “Happy” “Tumbling Dice” and “All Down the Line”, which the T.C.F.S. base likes.  And it is bare bones rock ‘n roll all the way through.  Not a lot of embellishments, not a lot of studio trickery.  But still, “Sticky Fingers” out classes it.

From “Brown Sugar” to “Moonlight Mile” there is not a filler song on Sticky Fingers.  And the boys rock just as hard and just as soft as they have on any album previous or since.  The workout of “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'” is one of the greatest jam sessions/codas between a guitar and sax you will ever hear.  And “Moonlight Mile” is one of those album tracks that does not get NEARLY enough radio airplay.  A beautiful closing track to an epic album.

Mick Taylor had just joined the band at this point and his presence is felt immediately.  He added an element to the band that Brian Jones, through his multi-talented being, could never quite summon.   And although Taylor continues to exhibit his guitar lyrical prowess on “Exile” he doesn’t quite reach the crescendo exhibited on “Sticky Fingers”.

I even like the cover art better on “Stick Fingers”.  An Andy Warhol design. A simple photo of a man’s (presumably Mick’s) groinal area in a pair of blue jean trousers.  The original vinyl version actually had a functioning zipper on it.  (“I busted the zipper on me trousers.  You wouldn’t want my trousers to fall down now would ya’?”).

So in summary, “Sticky Fingers” is the better album.  But as with any of the Holy Trinity of Rock ‘n Rollers (The Beatles, Stones, and Zeppelin) choosing best albums is akin to choosing between a Hot Fudge Sundae and Chocolate Cake.

I expect to hear from the T.C.F.S. crowd shortly.

Synthesizers, oh how I love thee…

I know I’ll get a lot of grief from my fellow rock purists, and my business partner and co-author of our blog here will probably ban me from posting ever again, but I’ll admit it , I love synthesizers.  And I think deep down, most pop/rock listeners do to.

Tell me synthesizers didn’t make “Dark Side of the Moon” groovier. Tell me synthesizers didn’t make “Songs in the Key of Life” funkier.  Tell me synthesizers didn’t make “Physical Graffiti” more mystical, and “Baba O’Riley” more wastelandy.  And tell me, honestly, that you can’t help but do your best robot dance while belting out the lyrics to “Cars” by Gary Numan in that mechanical, lifeless, futuristic humanoid voice you summon up upon the first hand clap of the song.

The synthesizer has gotten a bad rap over the years.  It probably all started when keyboard players started wearing those skinny ties with the piano keys silk screened on them.  The advent of the Keytar was a low point in the evolution of the synthesizer as well.  But if one can overlook those obominations of musical design and look objectively at how the synth has expanded the horizons of pop/rock music, one will be amazed at the versatility of the instrument and how it has enhanced our musical experience over the years.

My favorite period in Rock/Pop history is the timeframe between 1975 and 1985.  Mainly because of the sheer diversity of music that was being produced  in that period, rock, punk, disco, rap, new wave, and the various shades and tones of each.

I would argue that it was during the period noted above that the synthesizer truly made it’s impact on Rock/Pop music.  Sure, bands had used the instrument prior to this period, most notably Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, and some of the other prog rock bands of the period.  But the mid-70’s is when the potential of the synthesizer began to present itself and alter the sound of our music.

I’m not going to go into a history of the synthesizer in this post.  No I merely wanted to express my appreciation of the instrument and point out to all the naysayers that your musical listening experience over the past 40 or so years would have been far inferior if it were not for the almighty synthesizer. 

I just can’t get enough, I just can’t enough. Of the synthesizer.

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What makes a great band iconic? It’s the little things.

Last night I was watching a great program on the History channel called “The Beatles: On Record“.  It’s a facinating introspective on The Beatles and their recording process, starting with their first single “Love Me Do” through their first album, “Please , Please Me” on to “Abbey Road” (their last recorded album, although “Let It Be” was released after).  The show is narrated via interviews with the boys in the band (do I really need to name them?) and George Martin.  With studio film footage and rare outtakes.  It’s really facinating to hear their take on songs and a little bit of the recording process.

Unfortunately the show was only an hour long.  One cannot possibly expect to compress the entire Beatles library into one hour and satisfy the palate.  I could have watched eight hours of this stuff and not been satisfied.

As I was watching I thought to myself, what is the difference between bands such as the Beatles, Stones, and Zeppelin that seperates them from the rest.  And I’m not talking about them compared to average run of the mill bands.  I’m talking about them compared to bands on the next level.  Kind of like comparing Michael Jordan to say, Dominique Wilkins.  Talent wise there may not be a huge difference.  But still, there’s a HUGE difference.

What I surmised was this, the truly iconic bands seperate themselves from the rest by the “other songs” they wrote.  For example, my favorite Stones album is “Sticky Fingers”.  Now yes, I love “Brown Sugar”, “Bitch”, and “Wild Horses” (the hits from the album).  But what makes that album extremely special for me are the songs like “Moonlight Mile“, “You Gotta Move“, and “Dead Flowers“.  These are the songs you don’t hear much on the radio, but nonetheless they are terrific songs.  And they show the breadth of the band.

Again, watching that Beatles show last night I was reminded of some of the songs on “Revolver” (probably my favorite Beatles album) and “Rubber Soul” (close 2nd on list of favorites) that were the “other songs”.  Songs like “And Your Bird Can Sing“, “Doctor Robert“, “You Won’t See Me“, and “If I Needed Someone“.  Remarkable songs all of them.  And for almost any other band they would have been considered masterpieces.  Which again makes the iconic bands stand out from the rest.

The fact that those songs don’t get the airplay or recognition that the “hits” off the albums get is not a tragedy.  It just goes to show that when you are THAT great your only measure of comparison is to yourself.  Often I hear Zeppelin fans pan “In Through the Out Door”.  Really?  Maybe, for a Zeppelin album, it doesn’t measure up to “Physical Graffiti” of their first album, but still, it’s a great album.  Put it up against most other bands best (except the icons of course) and I think you would feel the same.

What’s my point here? I guess it’s just that true greatness cannot necessarily be measured just by record sales, although all of the aforementioned bands sold plenty of records.  I would say it’s the reason why many people view Willie Mays as the greatest baseball player of all time.  Sure, guys hit more home runs than Willie, stole more bases than Willie, hit for a higher average, etc.  But it was the little things that set Willie apart, his true artistry on the field, and his overall volume of work that amazes people. 

And the same holds true for the rock ‘n roll icons.

Father’s Day Special – Songs/Bands about Dad

Pic of Homer

Man, the pickings were slim for this one. Dad’s are just as good as mom’s. Why doesn’t anyone write songs about dad’s. And most of the song’s about dad don’t paint him in a very glowing light.

But we, being dads, here at Arizona Premiere Music, like dads. So we did our best to scratch together a list of songs or groups that have some relativity to dads/fathers/papas.

Here you go Padres: (click on the hyperlinked song titles to hear the songs).

1. “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by the Temptations. I for one have never called my dad “papa”. And my dad was not a rolling stone. Although he really likes the Rolling Stones. And he likes the Temptations. This being my favorite Temp song, when they were in their psychedelic phase. Anyway, maybe not the best representation of what a dad should be, but a cool song nonetheless.

2. “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. Again, not the best endorsement of dear old dad.  The song is basically about an absentee dad who raises a son who becomes an absentee dad.  Like father, like son.  Good song though.  I better get home to the kids.

3. “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna.  Not one of my favorite people on the face of this earth. But I do like some of her music.  Especially when she gets preachy. Or, in this case, telling her dad not to get preachy.  A very endearing song about a conflicted girl who is having a baby out of wedlock, or is waying other options.  Good luck with that. I’m sure Mr. Madonna (Danny Aielo?) was right proud of his little girl when she presented this song to him.

4. “Surrender” by Cheap Trick.  I told you last time we met (have we met?) that I was going to repeat this song on my Father’s Day post.  I never had any Kiss records for mom and dad to roll numbers (?) too, but my mom and dad were alright.  And not really that weird.  So…ya know.

5. “California Dreamin‘” by The Mamas and the Papas.  I told you the pickings were slim for songs about dear old dad.  So I had to stretch and include bands with “Papa” in the title.  Since my dad was born and raised in California, and grew up in the 60’s when this song was at the height of it’s popularity, I included in the list.

6. “Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins and Messina. Yes, I know, the TITLE of the song doesn’t even include the word “Dad”, “Father”, or “Papa”.  But the chorus does, so that made it work.  Before Kenny Loggins was riding the highway to the danger zone he was part of a duo with Jim Messina (co-founder of Poco) True, my mama didn’t dance, but she and my dad did rock ‘n roll. A lot. Check out the Muppet-like appearance of Mr. Loggins in the linked up video.  Very goofy.

7. “Last Resort” by Papa Roach. I don’t even like this song or the band.  But “Papa” is in the band title.  Come on people write more dad oriented songs!

Well, happy Father’s Day dads.  Rock on!

Proving once again that we do more than just show you the best deals in the Phoenix real estate market; we show you how to get the most out of living in Arizona, and try to help you get the most out of what you are listening to.

Mother’s Day Special – Top 10 Songs about Mom

Marge Simpson

Moms.  None of us would be here without ’em. I know, my brilliance knows no end.

Their influence, wisdom, and love are with us throughout our lives.  So to honor moms all over the world on their special day I assembled a list of songs that either include the word Mom, Mother, Mama, etc., are about moms, or include some special advice only a mother could dispense.

Maybe your mama don’t dance, but she can still rock ‘n roll.

1. “Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This” by the Shirelle’s – Mom’s have always been good about warning kids about the ways of the world.  This is an old school tune from back in the day for those moms who may be celebrating their…well we won’t say how many mother’s days they’ve celebrated. Just know that they get better with time. Like fine wine:

2. “Days Like This” by Van Morrison – Since I was on the “days like this” train of thought I thought I would include this one by Van the Man.  It still packs as much wisdom as the Shirelle’s song, just at much more leisurely, Sunday brunch type tempo. This clip was the only one I could find on YouTube for this song but I found it profoundly fitting for most moms:

3. “Mama Said Knock You Out” by L.L. Cool J – Mama’s say a lot of things don’t they?  Although I can’t ever remember my mom telling me to knock you, or anyone for that matter, out.  Even still, it’s a classic hip hop song from one of my favorite hip hop artists.  I’m sure Mamma Cool J was right proud of her son, Lil’ L.L., when he wrote this:

4. “Shop Around” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – I CAN remember my mom dispensing this advice.  But I think it was when I was looking for a new car, not a girl.  Either way, whether it’s a girl, car, or shoes, it’s sound advice. One of my favorite Motown classics, smooth as silk. I’m doing the “Mashed Potato” as I write and listen to this song, so excse me for anyyy typos:

5. “That’s Allright Mama” by Elvis – Can’t ever go wrong with The King in any list.  One of Elvis’s original Sun Records songs. Recorded in 1954 it still sounds great today.  No wonder our Mamma’s (and possibly Grandmammas) were so hot for the dude:

6. “Mother and Child Reunion” by Paul Simon -The story goes that Paul Simon wrote this song after ordering a Chicken and egg dish at a Chinese restaurant.  My memories of this song harken back to helping mom clean the house on Saturday mornings with “Rhymin’ Simon” spinning on the Murphy family turntable.  Sorry, no video for this one.  But I found an audio link. Enjoy. Just click on the song title to hear.

7. “Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Three Dog Night – That aint’ the way to have fun son.  No truer lyrics have been sung on the behalf of moms the world over.  Nancy Reagan should have just used this song in her “Just Say No” campaign.   By the looks of the  Three Dog boys in this clip, it looked like they may not have heeded mama’s advice. By the way, what is that funny cigarette you’re smoking?:

8. “Surrender” by Cheap Trick – This song could be included on my Father’s day list too (and probably will, so look out for it).  Again, mom dispensing some helpful advice, “…she also told me stay away, you’ll never know what you’ll catch.”  Always an awkward moment when mom is lecturing you on V.D.  But just know that she loves you:

9. “Mother’s Little Helper” by The Rolling Stones – Every mom can relate to the sentiment in the song at one time or another.  Just a little something in the cupboard to take the edge off a day with the kids.  Just make sure the childproof cap is secure.  Again, just click on the song title to hear.

10. “Motherless Children” by Eric Clapton – Maybe not technically a song about moms, but it’s one of my favorite Clapton songs. So I’m sticking with it.  Hey, it has “Mother” in the title:

Rock on Moms. Happy Mother’s Day.Proving once again that we do more than just show you the best deals in the Phoenix real estate market; we show you how to get the most out of living in Arizona, and try to help you get the most out of what you are listening to.