Anyone want to compare this case to the Houses of the Holy kids. There’s something here. Not sure it’s worth $450,000. “There’s something about it though that is disturbing and haunting, perhaps more so because I am in it.” - Stefan Gates
Can we all agree how iconic Alice looks in this video? The doorway, the chair, the cane. The misogyny has aged poorly, but the great Nigel Dick ("Welcome To The Jungle," "Wonderwall," "...Baby One More Time") makes Alice Cooper look like a hard rock prince.
It’s unfortunate he never gets credit for it, but “Hazard” is absolutely Marx’s songwriting and recording masterpiece. It creates a mood unlike anything else he’s done. I love the story about Marx writing to Nebraska’s Chamber of Commerce asking for the names of suitable Nebraska towns for this tale. Hazard must of not minded, they invited Marx to grand marshall their own parade a year later. As for Marx, he apparently thinks the song is “stupid.” Richard Marx has poor judgement on his own material.
The Doves album was gorgeous. Some acts have a hard time coming back in middle age. For them, sonically, it made sense.
You know, compare the sampling and medley madness of Jive Bunny to Prince's effort. There's a bar that the Mastermixers couldn't cross. Meanwhile, Prince raised it.
Yup, and I'm not surprised at Prince's appropriation of the groove and bass tone (and what a sound it is!) in "Batdance." Number one's don't always have to be about melody or even chord progression. Sometimes it's about listening to where sounds are at the moment and pushing just a little further into something so novel that no one's heard it before. It's Prince's "Pump Up The Volume" and it's aged just as well.
The Outfield missed an opportunity with that album, 1989's Voices of Babylon. The title track had this unusual mix of pop rock with underground flavor, echoes of U2 and more gothic, monolithic feeling. Imagine if the whole album went in that direction. We'd might be talking about them like we do The Las. A completely accessible act with record collector credibility. Instead, they released "My Paradise" as a single and sealed themselves permanently into a 1989 time capsule. Good band though.
I'm going to argue for this track as a successful piece of music. Prince pulled something out of the air in 1989 and adapted it to his own funky needs, no surprise. Consider what what happening in hip hop and house music in 1989. The Timelords had just become The KLF and were unleashing their sample-heavy house trilogy, not miles away from what Prince was trying to do here. De La Soul's "3 Feet High and Rising" was merging rap production sensibilities to bebop and funk. Over in jazz, Miles Davis was communicating Minneapolis vibes back in Prince's direction and he certainly would have noticed. Listen to the riff on "Burn" and tell me if Prince didn't try to do the same groove, audaciously replacing Miles with Michael Keaton samples and his own blistering solo. In content, I also sense that Prince understood the kids better than just about anyone on the charts at that time. The position the samples occupy in this dizzying mix lend them a mysterious quality to younger ears. Thumbing his nose at the square pearl-clutchers, he opens the song with a sample that sure sounded to my 13-year-old self as "Get the f**ker, Batman!" And the middle section just oozes sex. This song annoyed parents and old school Adam West watchers. And we, the kids at my private school, were thrilled. So this is more than just a collage, it's a hybrid, a medley, it's incorporating the zeitgeist. It's goes a little farther than Tom suggests.
My second was the f**king BoDeans at a county fair. No really. This is not right. It got better. Gig three was Faith No More touring Album Of The Year. Limp Bizkit opened and were roundly booed by the FNM faithful. My other memory of the that show was the soundguy playing a then-unreleased Deftones album before the headlining set.
My first show was, uh, a decade-past-prime Foreigner in 1994. Touring for Mr. Moonlight, an album nobody remembers. Weidner Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin. How are all these kids getting to cool gigs for their first concert?
We live in an era where “take everything that was popular in 2019, throw it in a blender, hope it sticks” is now celebrated as “post-everything pop.” Heaven help us.
Saw them open for Doves in Chicago, summer of 2001. Doves blew them off the stage. When the album arrived, it was OK, but it wasn’t “Lost Souls,” the true revelation for me that year.
Why is it that, for the majority of covers, modernizing a pop classic involves slowing it down? If the tempo remains this grave throughout Olsen's album, it's going to be a slog of a listen.
I would suggest everyone go stream "The Raw and The Cooked." It's a fine album that's aged pretty well for the most part. The band covers a lot of ground, R&B to weird rock hybrids to jangle pop. And Gift sings all of it well. Great band, wish they'd reunite and surprise us all.
Much respect for placing Heart so high. Those '80s hits are finally starting to get their due as Heart classics. I might have placed "These Dreams" that high, but there you go.
OK, silly question, but does anyone know who's miming to the track in the music video? Because the drummer sure does seem like a young Zack Alford (B-52s, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie). I'm probably wrong though.
Forget Nirvana, this was the band that introduced me, and many other rural American brats, to "Alternative Music." Nirvana was great, but nowhere near a life-changing as Faith No More.
THE GHOSTS OF BILLBOARD What happened to Mary Alford? In 1984, Alford played a critical role in the creation of a phenomenon. As Maurice Starr’s talent agent, she spent that summer patrolling Boston’s tougher neighborhoods looking for five white boys who could dance, sing or rap. Part reconnaissance, part mystic, I imagine Alford had an almost impossible task: Spot the raw talent of random prepubescent boys and imagine their future selves. Then convince their parents you weren’t a manipulative hack. Alford found bad boy Donnie Wahlberg first, his younger brother Mark came along for the ride. But after a few months of practice, the future Marky Mark bailed to “steal cars and play basketball,” according to the older Wahlberg. He wouldn’t be the only dropout. Alford was back on the mean streets looking for replacement Kids. In Jamaica Plain, she nabbed local theater nerd Joey McIntyre, who auditioned by singing Nat King Cole. This would initially prove to be a bad mix, as the older New Kids bullied the awkward McIntyre to the point he almost quit. With the line-up complete, the boys drilled at New New Edition Boot Camp, where they busted moves and squeaky falsettos for Boston festivals, talent shows and retirement homes. Starr and Alford even booked them at a men's prison, where the boys reportedly threw out cigarettes to a trapped, unruly audience. I have such a hard time imagining this scenario. Hardened criminals expecting Johnny Cash get Joey Mac instead? They somehow survived prison, Boston, a flop debut album and changed voices to land on the walls of teenaged girls across America. But the woman who put them there didn't. Mary Alford stopped managing the New Kids sometime during the making of Hangin' Tough. Was she fired? Did she quit? Did an unhappy Columbia Records force her out after weak sales? It's a mystery, pop music has a pathetically short memory, and her career trajectory is reduced to one sentence in a 1989 Los Angeles Times article: "(Mary Alford is) no longer associated with the group." Finding Mary Alford leads to frustrating Google results. Is she running for office in Alachua County, Florida? Did she die of cancer in Boston back in 2005? The latter, thankfully, was proven untrue by a New Kids blogger, who reported her as present when the boys were inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2014. There appears to be a picture, but is it really her? The trail goes cold soon after. If anyone has information about the whereabouts of one-time teen pop empresario Mary Alford, please report them to the Strereogum Number Ones Comments Section. Thank you. You could help solve a mystery.
To be clear, after some time looking through Discogs and AllMusic credits, it appears this was the last single mastered by Sax to top the Billboard Hot 100. He almost got there again several times. In fact, I believe Midler's "From A Distance," also mastered by Doug, hit number two a couple of years later. Of course, he likely topped the album charts several times after "Wind Beneath My Wings," but as far as number one songs go, this seems to be the last. The majority of his attention, as you suggest, seemed to turn to remastering CDs from analog masters for the audiophile market, amongst many other things. Dude's discography is incredible.
THE GHOSTS OF BILLBOARD When we talk about chart longevity and impact, we talk about McCartney, Cher, Clive Davis. But look deep into the credits of your favorite albums and you’ll routinely find a name that’s shaped the sound of the American Top 40. A man who writer Robert Harley claimed occupied a spot in the Top 100 every week for four decades: Doug Sax. Sax upended his family name by gravitating to the trumpet, playing alongside his high school buddy Herb Albert at Fairfax High School in West L.A. After a stint in the military, where he played in the 7th Army Symphony, Sax returned to California and quickly found his true calling. Back in the ‘60s, albums were often pressed by the labels themselves, quality often damned in favor of quantity. This greatly irritated the perfectionist Sax, a sound nerd I imagine hunched over an LP with a magnifying glass, identifying instruments based on the shape of the vinyl groove. With his longtime friend, Capitol Records pianist Lincoln Mayorga, and his engineer brother Sherwood, Sax opened The Mastering Lab in 1967 and got down to the business of correcting the sound of pop. True mastering engineers would hate these words falling out of my fingers, but they are the Grand Master Wizards of record creation. They generally don’t record the album, or mix the instruments; their job is to add the detailed touches, the equalization and compression pixie dust, that makes the music jump out of your hi-fi speakers. Or perhaps more importantly, they shine up songs for the radio, an acoustic Wild West where good recordings duel with bad FM reception. Poorly mastered recordings? They die like dogs in the crossfire of white noise and signal bleed. In this High Noon scenario, Doug Sax is the Sheriff, he’s seen the worst sounding LPs and run them out of town. Sherwood his deputy, supplying our hero with the - often homemade - weapons he needs to protect the ears of the innocent. If a tube amplifier failed the signal-to-noise test, Sherwood and Doug would often engineer their own, more suitable, replacement. A quirky, independent streak The Mastering Lab continues to this day. A Sax mastered recording first hit number one in 1968, The Doors’ “Light My Fire.” Not a bad start. By 1972, 20% of the Billboard Hot 100 was mastered by Sax, with The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd all eventually receiving their dose of Sax’s magic. A full list of his work would take down this website, but his last chart topper from what I can tell (and it was hard to tell) was this very single, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Sax heard it all: The rise of digital mastering, the ‘90s rush to remaster every title ever released, the arrival of iTunes. He could be funny, he could be grumpy. He once cautioned against the race to replace vinyl with CDs by printing “STOP DIGITAL MADNESS” t-shirts for his clients to proudly wear. Through it all, he continued to cut masters with Sherwood’s gear, his last Top 40 entry being a Cobie Caillat single in 2009. Doug Sax was perfecting pop right up until his death in 2015. “He mastered all of my recordings,” wrote engineer Al Schmitt, “I don't know what I will do without him.”
And thanks for the hat tip. All the quotes really are from Tim Pierce, by the way. He comes across as a little jaded in most interviews. Poor guy, he's doomed to watching his parts being mimed by the pretty boys to the end of his days.
Because, for the majority of the track, it's not Slash. The only part of the song he actually plays is the little intro skit heard on the album. The bit where the dad is hammering on the bedroom door telling his son to turn it down. The guitar instrumental coming over the "radio" features Slash playing the lead. As for the track itself, all the riffs and rhythm guitars are played by Pierce and producer Bill Bottrell, who also raps on the track, bizarrely.
THE GHOSTS OF BILLBOARD Let’s talk more about guitarist Tim Pierce. A man who sees multi-platinum records like a butcher sees a side of beef. “I’m in the music business. It’s a bad as you think it is. And far worse." Hailing from Albuquerque Rock City, Pierce got his break when producer Keith Olsen refered him to Rick Springfield for his live band. Pierce entered stage left right as “Jessie’s Girl” was blowing up, too late to have played on the actual record. And it’s this writer's theory that this fact became Tim’s axe to grind. Tim Pierce has a very sharp axe. It was first deployed a year later for a hit record in New York. Pierce was cutting tracks for a John Waite album, when he met an ambitious young nobody sweeping floors at the studio. He efficiently and ruthlessly played all the guitar parts on his demo. The song was “Runaway,” and John Bongiovi would soon be changing his name. It was Pierce’s first taste of the Top 40 and he already understood his destiny as Ghost Guitar Slinger. The single stuck its foot in the door at number 39, but anonymously haunting Billboard’s lower reaches would not do. Tim Pierce had to anonymously reach the top. He played on several hits over the next few years, but still no number one. He backed up Neil Finn on Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and cut tracks for Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven on Earth” album, though apparently not the title track, again robbing him of a chart-topper. Tim Pierce finally drew blood with Damian’s version of “Rock On,” an unusual scene for a murder. Now, we cannot be certain who exactly is playing the solo on the track. Every source I’ve turned to is vague about the sessioneers slugging it out with producer Larry Weir. But Pierce did play on the album, and judging by the sound, I’m fairly convinced that’s our axegrinder Tim finally, and anonymously, grabbing the Billboard brass ring. “Par for the course,” according to Pierce, holding his bloody axe, “The industry has become about using a bunch of very old, experienced people to make the music and then having some 20-year-old musicians pretend that they did it." After Damian, he was ruthless while remaining unknowable. The industrial riffing on the bridge of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White?” Pierce. The tower of power chords on Meat Loaf’s “I'd Do Anything For Love…” Pierce. Making Celine Dion actually rock on “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now?” Pierce. (Wait, that one only hit number 2, but it’s a 10.) Millions of records sold, multiple chart toppers, no one sees the guitarist leaving the scene of the crime. They blame Slash. “(Michael) wanted to promote Slash as the guitar player (on “Black or White.”) So they actually created a little intro piece of music that allowed them to market him as the ‘kind of’ guitar player on the song. And even that didn’t really bother me at the time.” A perfect alibi. While Slash served his time for starring on Jackson’s record, Tim Pierce has moved on to become a vertible serial killer, claiming high profile victims over multiple generations: Springsteen, Nicks, Madonna, Stewart, Santana, Clarkson, Cyrus. But in 2009, he still found time to go back to the scene of his first crime. That’s Tim Pierce landing the solo in Michael Damian’s 2009 reworking of “Rock On,” which, I’ll admit, improves upon Damian's first try. Maybe it was an attempt to kill the song twice. Watch your back. Tim Pierce will likely return to number one next week. You’ll never see him coming before it’s too late.
Anyone know how to post a picture to this Wild West of a comment section? Thanks!
THE GHOSTS OF BILLBOARD Let's talk about Gemma Corfield. By 1988, Corfield was with A&R at Virgin Records with a moderate level of success having worked with artists like Simple Minds and Was (Not Was) alongside her husband Don Was. It was at this point she was paired with Paula Abdul, tasked with finding the right producers, material and votes of confidence for her aspiring singer. When Paula found a song or sound she liked, it was Gemma's job to make the connections and win Virgin's approval. You can imagine how difficult this was when Paula put Oliver Leiber's tape on her desk. Leiber had no hits to his name, not even a studio. "I got a frantic call from a very high-strung English lady," recalled Leiber. "She asked me who I was, what did I do, where did I come from and was I a producer? And up to that point, I had never produced anything in my life other than my demos... ...I said 'yes,' and that was the beginning of my involvement with Paula." Let's not pretend Corfield was completely sold on Leiber's little lie on her way out to Minneapolis to see his "studio," a space he borrowed that day to impress his potential client. I imagine she'd seen enough "producers" to know when the talent was for real. But something about Leiber passed her test. "I had done all my stuff on my bed, I lived in a bedroom and had done it all on a sequencer. I guess I did a convincing enough job. (She said) 'work up the track, let us know when you're ready, and Paula will come out and do the vocals.'" Corfield guided Paula Abdul through an industry minefield. "Gemma held her hand and flew out with her to meet me. This was the second song they were recording on the album. She pulled me aside and explained, 'She had a terrible experience (with Babyface and Reid), we need this to be a positive experience' or they were going to have a very damaged artist on their hands." They shouldn't have worried, "Forever Your Girl" was a breakthrough for Abdul, Leiber and Corfield. Leiber went on to produce another number one for Paula, along with a track for her 2008 comeback, "I'm Just Here For The Music." Corfield guided Abdul to multi-platinum success for her second album as well, which included production work by her husband. She was a part of the production team on albums by Shaggy, Maxi Priest and After 7. Still married to Was, today she focuses on music video production.
That said, they were always a better band live than on record. Most of the definitive versions of their best songs ("I Can't Read," "Goodbye Mr. Ed," "Baby Universal") were cut in BBC sessions or released on live records.
"Long Cold Winter" is one of the great overlooked classic rock albums. Barely any fat on it at all. But, hey, it came out in 1988. So "hair metal," right?
But they real darkness came with "Promised Land." DeGarmo's song about his dad, "Bridge," is just heartbreaking.
Like "Jmf74" and the rest of you, I'd also like to talk about this era, the Great Arena Rock Comedown. Eras in music are never drawn clearly and there was this wild crossover from 1989 to 1996 where Arena Rock stars were navigating an Alternative Rock universe. I find it absolutely fascinating. A few bands adopted new sounds and made interesting music. Def Leppard, Metallica and Queensryche (all Q Prime artists) turned inwards and darker. All of them, to my ears, revitalized their sound successfully for those challenging years. Others did the same and floundered. Anyone remember Slaughter's psychedelic "Revolution?" Poison's bluesy "Native Tongue?" Some Arena Rockers reacted by getting heavier. Warrant's "Dog Eat Dog" and, probably the most commercially successful album of this phenomenon, Skid Row's "Slave To The Grind." Weirdly, these bands all seemed to flame out after testing their metal. Some of my favorite stories are the artists who came along just too late for true commercial success but managed to last in some form: Thunder, The London Quireboys and Trixter. A few, like Siagon Kick, arrived late enough to dress for the times but were actually Arena Rockers in sound and heart. Finally, there were the bands that refused to change a damn thing. Just a slight haircut and carry on, many to continued success, like Bon Jovi and Aerosmith. Others (Whitesnake, Great White, Cinderella) not so much. Regardless of the path chosen, there are interesting stories here: Death, tragedy and reinvention. All of them worthy of a book if I had the time and publishing.
It’s been 32 years. The image of Madonna dancing in front of burning crosses, over *that* bridge, and the sound of the bridge shouldn’t be underestimated for its role the impact… It remains breathtaking.
Tina totally pulls off the children’s choir trick, as “We Don’t Need Another Hero” is written from their perspective. What’s more, she introduces them in dramatic fashion, gets out of their way, let’s them shine and ends the song shortly thereafter. With Mike + The Mechanics, the kids are there throughout the track repeating the same tired refrain. After a while, they almost feel like a prop. Another synth in the chorus. There to say, without saying it, do it for the kids. The result drags down the song and, oddly, reduces Paul Carrack’s role in a track he should have owned. Then again, what else would you have put in that chorus? If you find yourself asking that question, as a songwriter, you need to write a better chorus. Strictly from a songwriter’s point of view, “The Living Years” falls short, there really isn’t a lot there other than a message. “Silent Running” is a far better track.
Billy still doesn’t know why he goes to them.
He plays on the next album, “Anything Is Possible.” This album, “Electric Youth,” features two relatively unknown session guitarists, Ira Siegel and Tommy Williams.
The Carpenters’ shadow looms large on this track.
I've written this elsewhere, but I disagree. If you view pop culture through a generational lens, the 1990s begin with Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul and, arguably, as far back as Janet Jackson's "Control." When it came to making a generation shift, rock was slow on the upswing, still making gestures toward Aerosmith, The Stones, glam rock and other '70s artifacts. Alternative rock, as cool as it was, just wasn't ready to make a commercial or chart impact, the place where generations and decades are truly made through songs. The real place where the '90s began was, not surprisingly, on the dancefloor. Kids were growing tired of what Boomer radio programmers were throwing their way, both in terms of rock throwbacks (Genesis, Aerosmith, glam metal) and desperate attempts at pop relevancy (Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston) that your parents could also like. Hip Hop and New Jack Swing had just been born and was on the rise. The kids made their choice, Janet Jackson hopped on this trend early with Jam and Lewis and the writing was on the wall. By 1989, all these acts both inspired and collaborating with Janet (Brown and Abdul in particular) were scoring huge hits with uptempo songs that wouldn't have happened in 1986 or 1987. Rock would change clothes and draw a line in the sand soon enough, but this is where it begins and soon Queen Janet would return to claim her throne with the longest running number one of 1989. To my ears, that was no accident. Janet Jackson is the Nirvana of pop.
“…unfunky looking…” Boy I was there was an edit feature here.
The unfunny-looking Eliot Wolff: Wolff died tragically a few years back. He got lost while solo camping in New Mexico. His body was found 18 days later.
This was the point that I was arguing for in the "Two Hearts" column. 1991 wasn't the year when Gen X broke through to radio and the charts. It was 1989. Rock hadn't yet changed to their tastes, although it soon would. It was on the dance floor where Gen X first stuck it to the Boomer radio programmers and their middle of the road ballads.
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