The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #435…All The Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) by Beyonce.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #435: All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) by Beyonce.

As the 2000s have progressed, Beyonce Knowles has taken her rightful place at the very top of the music industry. Having achieved much early success as a member of “Destiny’s Child”, Beyonce was well-positioned to transition into her solo career. While “All The Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It”) was not her first hit as a solo artist it was, definitely, her first BIG hit!. This song established her as a musical force to be reckoned with. But, more than that, the theme of the song was such that it, also, sent a very clear message that, as a woman, she was not about to be trifled with by men, in an industry that is known for just that very thing. “All The Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It” is about men wanting all of the benefits of a relationship with a woman without wanting to make any of the necessary commitments. Beyonce makes very clear in this song that the days of “all play and no stay” for men were over.

The funny thing about this song was that, just prior to recording it in 2008, she had become married to rapper and music mogul, Jay-Z. Beyonce and Jay-Z were married in a private ceremony and this song was one of the vehicles they used to make their union public. “All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” was a #1 hit for Beyonce for four weeks. It was voted “Song of the Year” and the video for the song was awarded the title of “Video of the Year”, as well. As infectious a dance song as this is, there is no mistaking the message being broadcast. Women are demanding more respect from men, they are declaring their worth to the world with unabashed confidence and stating, with authority, that without a commitment and a willingness to engage in partnership of equals that, men are going to find themselves locked out of the lives they may wish to lead.

It addition to “All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”, Beyonce has produced many hit songs such as, “Halo”, “Crazy in Love”, “If I Were a Boy”, as well as, songs like “Formation”, which she performed at The Super Bowl and subsequently released solely on the streaming service, “Tidal”, which was run Jay-Z. As her career has gone on, Beyonce has produced albums and films that are allowing her voice to sing out in more complex and elaborate ways. She is embracing the responsibility of being a role-model for people of colour and for promoting the cultural importance of her heritage. Beyonce has grown into one of the most cultural and artistically-influential people of our era. “All The Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” was Beyonce’s first huge hit as a solo performer but, even though it sold many copies and earned many awards, its most important role was to act as the foundation upon which the rest of her career as an artist and her life as an icon was built. Beyonce will appear on this list again but, for today, here is “All The Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”. The video is noteworthy because there are no men at all on stage with her. It is an all-female performance. Enjoy.

A link to the video for All The Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) by Beyonce can be found here.

Beyonce has an excellent website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP: Song #436…Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #436: Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen.

With a painter’s eye for detail and composition, Bruce Springsteen has been telling the stories of his fellow Americans for almost half a century now. As a performer, he is legendary for the length of his shows and for the energy he puts into delivering his songs for his audience. He is called, “The Boss” for a reason. He has brought his vision of being a bandleader, musician and songwriter to the forefront of the music world and has done so on his terms; lending his voice to important causes, as well as, lending his presence to peers such as Roy Orbison, Melissa Etheridge, Elvis Costello, Bono and Patti Smith in the form of rockin’ collaborations. Even my girls will admit that his rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” helps to make Christmas come alive at our home each season. Over the course of his career, he has sold over 150 million albums (!!!). He has already been inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice (once as a performer and once as a songwriter). He has won 20 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a Tony Award and was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. His song list includes true classics such as, “Born To Run”, “Rosalita”, “Thunder Road”, “Hungry Heart”, “Born in the USA”, “Dancing in the Dark”, “Glory Days”, “The River”, “Streets of Philadelphia” and many more. Today, we are honouring, “Atlantic City”.

In the late 1960/early 70s, Atlantic City, New Jersey, was suffering from an economic downturn and was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. As a means of revitalizing the downtown core, developers started building casinos and large hotels; the thought being, of turning Atlantic City into a seaside gambling paradise. Unfortunately, two things happened that torpedoed that vision; first of all, because the glitz and glamour was set aside for the high rollers who came to town, not much of an economic boost was felt by the working class citizens of Atlantic City, who continued to struggle to put food on their table. In addition, gambling, and the money that tends to come with it, often attracts unsavoury characters. Even as the hotels and casinos were just being built, Organized Crime was integrating itself into all aspects of this new “paradise”. Violence started becoming a very real problem for law enforcement officials. The original vision for Atlantic City of being a glittering jewel by the sea quickly became tarnished.

Bruce Springsteen grew up on “the Jersey Shore” and knew, all too well, about how real life was playing out in Atlantic City. His song manages to capture both aspects of the story. It begins with a news headline: “They blew up The Chicken Man in Philly last night. They blew up his house, too”. These lines refer to a real-life Mob hit on Philiadelphia Mob Boss, Phil “The Chicken Man” Testa (He was seeking to take control of the gambling scene in Atlantic City…which is very close to Philadelphia. Testa was killed by a bomb which was placed under his front porch and detonated when he went to leave his house one day.) The song, “Atlantic City” continues on from the viewpoint of a young man who cannot find work and is slowly sinking into debt. In desperation, he agrees to work for the Mob. As an audience, we are left to predict the course of his life (and that of his girlfriend/wife) once he has decided to take this formal step into a life of crime.

“Atlantic City” was the only single released from Springsteen’s album called, “Nebraska”. In the song, he performs alone, for the most part; one singer voicing the inner thoughts of one character as he struggles to balance his principles and the reality of poverty and economic ruin that is staring him in the face. “Atlantic City” is a portrait of The American Dream gone wrong. It is a cautionary tale about putting a price on one’s principles. It remains one of Springsteen’s most popular songs, in terms of sales and, in terms of audience reaction when performed live in concert. Without further delay, here is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with a live version of a great song, “Atlantic City”.

The link to the music video for Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band can be found here.

A link to the website for Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping promote important songs such as Atlantic City. A link to their terrific website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #437…I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #437: I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye.

For the second time in this countdown list, we come across a song that would have tripped me up if it was the focus of the final championship question in the World Trivia Finals. The first song to do this was, “Crazy”, which I had always believed was a Patsy Cline song but, in reality, turned out to be written and originally recorded by Willie Nelson. The same scenario is true of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. This is not, in fact, a Marvin Gaye song! He was actually the THIRD act to record and release this song. All three versions of this song were created as part of the Motown music system. In that system, teams of songs writers wrote songs and then, producers like Quincey Jones, would decide which acts would be given which songs to record. In the case of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, this song was first recorded and released by Gladys Knight and the Pips. Her version of the song went to #1 on the R & B charts and stayed there for six weeks! Gladys Knight and the Pips’ rendition of “‘Grapevine” has also been selected for inclusion in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s “Song” category, as being one of the most culturally significant songs of all time. I have never, ever heard anyone sing this song besides Marvin Gaye, let alone, someone of Gladys Knight’s calibre. If this song was the focus of the trivia championship’s final question, I would have bet all of the hair on my daughter’s head that this was a Marvin Gaye song and, as a result, my sweet Sophie would be bald but, we would all be that much more knowledgable and wiser from the experience.

As mentioned previously, Gaye was the third to be given the chance to record this song. Second chance went to The Miracles (of “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles” fame). Their version didn’t chart so, Marvin Gaye was given a shot. Three years after Gladys Knight and the Pips reached #1, Marvin Gaye’s now-familiar version of the song reached #1 and stayed there for seven weeks. It, too, has been selected for inclusion in the “song” category of The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

The content of the song is straight-forward enough. It is a song about a man (in Gaye’s version) learning, via word of mouth from his friends and hers, that his partner may, in fact, be unfaithful to him. But, did you know that the phrase, “I heard it through the grapevine” is actually something whose meaning stretches all the way back to the time of The Underground Railroad? For anyone unaware, The Underground Railroad was an organized system that helped slaves escape from the southern U.S., to live as free people in Canada. The Underground Railroad operated in a very clandestine, hush-hush fashion. For example, one of the ways that a person on the run knew where they could turn if they need a hiding spot in a home or a meal or whatever, was by the colour of the washing hung on clothes lines outside of the home they were told to look for on their way. If they got to that particular house, as indicated on their map, and saw a red blanket hung, second from the left, for example, that was a signal that it was safe to stop there. These safe houses, and the codes used, which signified the true meaning of any given situation, became known as “The Grapevine”. Thus, when you hear Marvin Gaye (or Gladys Knight) speak of hearing information from “the grapevine”, they are saying that the information they posses is credible and can be counted on to be true.

I will play the Marvin Gaye version of this song below. But, I will, also, play the Gladys Knight take on this song. She was the one who recorded and released it first and she deserves full credit for her great work. In both cases, I trust that you will enjoy this terrific song; especially, now that you know a bit more about the cultural significance of that popular saying, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Gladys Knight and the Pips can be found here.

The link to the music video for I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye can be found here.

Gladys Knight and the Pips have their own website which can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Marvin Gaye has his own website that you can view by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #438…Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #438: Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges.

People are inspired by the music around them. Some are inspired to sing. Some are inspired to dance. Some are inspired to pick up an instrument and play. In most cases, that inspiration manifests itself in forms of flattery, as people often try their very best to be like their heroes. When this phenomenon happens, we call it following a trend. But, sometimes, the opposite thing happens. A person will feel that creative yearning swell within them and yet, when they look around for inspiration, they may end up not liking what they see. The same is true when someone comes up with a fresh, original idea and searches for validation but ends up not finding any from those in the current scene. As a result, you either give up your idea and conform to the norm or else, you trust your vision and chart your own course. When that happens, innovation occurs, leaders are born and new trends are established. Before Eminem and Cardi B., there came Run-DMC. Before Garth Brooks and Reba McIntyre, there was Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Loretta Lynn. Before The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, there were Bo Diddly and Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Before Judas Priest and Metallica, there was Lemmy and Motorhead. And, finally, before there were The Sex Pistols, The Ramones or The Clash, there was Iggy and the Stooges.

Unfortunately, because I am not doing these posts in chronological order, when you listen to “Raw Power” by Iggy and the Stooges, it is going to seem like something you have heard many times before. And, you would be correct to feel that way. The Sex Pistols, The Clash and, even, Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” all draw inspiration from “Raw Power”‘s manic style of delivery, the energy with which the song is played and the rawness of the sound quality. But, make no mistake, “Raw Power” preceded them all and when it was released in 1973, it was quite unlike anything being played on radio or tv at the time.

“Iggy” from Iggy and the Stooges is none other than Iggy Pop. The Stooges consisted of guitarist, James Williamson and two brothers, Ron and Scott Asheton. The album, also called, “Raw Power” was produced by an up and coming figure on the UK music scene at the time, Mr. David Bowie. Initially, because the songs on “Raw Power” (the album) were so loud and raw, they were rejected by the record company. But, Iggy Pop and Bowie persevered and the album was released to rave reviews from music critics who recognized how fresh and innovative it was compared to anything else that was considered “chart-worthy” in the early 70s. This album is said to be the favourite of many important musicians who came along later, such as Johnny Marr of The Smiths, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols.

The song, itself, is not as noteworthy as the style in which it is played. The song, “Raw Power” is purportedly about the fact that sources claim that Iggy Pop was well-endowed and, therefore, that he could be counted on in the bedroom to perform with “Raw Power”. I don’t think I need to draw you a map. It is all fairly self-explanatory. But, as we all know, self-praise is no recommendation. Thus, the focus of your attention should sit squarely on the rapid-fire nature of the song’s construction and delivery. This album/song was the birthplace of Punk Music and of Speed Metal, too. Therefore, as was the case with those early Bluegrass pickers, those Blues players dealing with the Devil, those street corner rappers, “Raw Power” stands as one of the most influential albums of all-time. It started a new trend in music that continues to this day.

My favourite live concert experience EVER was seeing Iggy and The Stooges at The Warehouse in Toronto in 1998. They were there to celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Raw Power” and to play the album in its entirety. It was so loud, the energy was so great and the crowd was so busy moshing and moving that it actually felt a bit dangerous. It was the most alive I have ever felt while listening to music. To be honest, the rawness of this song is not always my first choice of music but, sometimes, it is exactly what I need and want and, in those times, it is beyond awesome! I am so grateful to those who aren’t bound by convention and fearlessly follow their muse to where it leads. Sometimes, it leads to something new and exciting that changes the course of our Art and our Culture. Believe it or not, “Raw Power” did that, too. Sometimes a song about a man and his schlong can change the world. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges can be found here.

Iggy and the Stooges have their own website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP for supporting original and innovative music, regardless of genre. A link to their terrific website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #439…Beat It by Michael Jackson.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #439: Beat it by Michael Jackson.

He was known as The King of Pop. He had over 350 million album sales over the course of his career. His album, “Thriller” is the biggest selling album of all time in any genre. His 13 #1-ranked singles place him first of all time. He is rightly credited with helping to legitimize music videos as performance tools and helped solidify MTV as an entity when it was first launched. Michael Jackson transcended all racial boundaries when it came to the universal appeal of his music. It is fair to say that, for awhile in the 1980s, he was the single-most electrifying performer on the planet!

“Beat it” was one of those 13 #1-ranked hits for Michael Jackson. It came from his album, “Thriller” which also included the title track, “Billie Jean”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”, “Human Nature” and “The Girl is Mine”. Prior to the release of “Beat It”, Michael Jackson was more known for songs that lay in the Pop, Funk or R & B genres. His producer, Quincey Jones, thought it would be prudent for Jackson to expand his repertoire and try something with a little more of a Rock edge to it. Therefore, he requested the help of another child musical prodigy, Eddie Van Halen. Van Halen performed the solo free of charge for Jackson. Legend has it that Van Halen’s initial attempt at the solo was so fierce that one of the studio speakers caught fire! Over time, Van Halen’s guitar solo was edited down so as not to overpower Jackson’s vocals nor his personality. Whatever the studio magic was that they used, it worked! “Beat It” was a #1 hit for three consecutive weeks and was awarded the 1984 Grammy for “Song of the Year”.

“Beat it” happened at a time when Michael Jackson was at the height of his fame. As we all know, his career and his life did not hold up under the pressure that comes from living in the fish-eye lens, as RUSH would say. One can only imagine how unreal an existence it must have been to have been Michael Jackson at that time. But, whatever the case, his descent into the bizarro world of endless facial reconstruction surgeries, the fairyland world of The Neverland Ranch and, of course, the criminal charges of child molestation levelled against Jackson, effectively sullied his legacy beyond any repair. We are definitely at the point where, in order to appreciate the Art, we must separate it from the artist. As it turns out, a music stage was Jackson’s safest place. His songs, his showmanship and his ability to create magical moments on stage were second to none. I was actually watching TV the night he moonwalked for the first time. That remains one of the most amazing TV experiences I have ever had…..and I was just a skinny, pimply-faced white boy, at the time! But, I knew I was witnessing history, of a sort. It seemed almost miraculous. It was dancing of a breathtaking kind. For that, I am able to appreciate Jackson, the performer. He was an innovator, a showman of unprecedented skill and a dancer with magnificent flair and daring. In his heyday, he was simply as good as they come. So, without further delay, here is, “Beat It” from the best selling album of all time, “Thriller”. Enjoy.

The link for the music video to Beat It by Michael Jackson can be found here.

There is an official Michael Jackson website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Thanks for KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #440…Ace of Spades by Motorhead.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #440: Ace of Spades by Motorhead.

Today, we separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, as we meet one of most respected and revered figures in all of Rock, the legendary leader of Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister! Lemmy (he is usually just referred to by his first name, just like Cher or Madonna) is called the Godfather of Heavy Metal. He was the first, the originator, the one who came and played long and loud and fast before doing so became a thing. Lemmy and his band, Motorhead, paved the way for all other Heavy Metal bands that followed such as Ozzy Osborne and Black Sabbath, Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden, the boys from Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and legions more. Whether or not Heavy Metal is your brand of music, it is the music of choice for many who felt as unheard and unseen as any demographic group until they heard Motorhead records for the first time. For Metalheads, it is no exaggeration at all to say that Lemmy is to them what Michael Jackson was to Pop or Johnny Cash was to Country. He was a colossus who strode atop a genre of music for over four decades. When he passed away just a couple of years ago, he died as the undisputed King of Heavy Metal. The affection accorded him by his peers was genuine and it is accurate to say that he is sorely missed by those who knew him and who played with him and listened to him live.

There are lots of songs played by lots of Metal bands that are important to their fan base but, “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead is a song that all Metal fans know the words to. It is a song that unifies the entire genre and that is sung with respect by all. It, also, serves as a form of personal manifesto for the man, himself.

“If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man.

You win some, you lose some, its all the same to me.

The pleasure is to play,

makes no difference what you say…”

If you don’t know the song, you probably read those words like a poem. If you do know the song then, you will have read those words at a hundred miles per hour, accompanied by a machine-gun calibre drum beat. The lyrics to “Ace of Spades” speak to a personal philosophy that Lemmy maintained throughout his life. He loved to play rock n’ roll! He grew up being influenced by The Beatles and Elvis and Little Richard and was determined to always play with passion, skill and energy….every show…..every song….no exceptions. While Lemmy may strike some as a greasy looking son of a gun, he was actually a man of integrity who made his music for the love of making music. His fans always got his best effort and always felt respected by him. Because he was the first to play Heavy Metal music well, he helped set the bar for those who followed. As such, he brought a sort of professionalism to the Heavy Metal scene. He would enter into collaborations with anyone who asked him but, he suffered no fools….if you were unprepared to play or didn’t have the skills, he would let you know. In a documentary I recently saw, Lemmy was asked to play a song with Metallica at one of their concerts. When he showed up to rehearse that afternoon, the members of Metallica all called him, “Sir”.

As a musician, he was larger than life, in deed and in reputation. In his private life, he was very humble. He was a life-long bachelor who lived in a rent-controlled small apartment in Los Angeles. His apartment was well known for being as one would expect a hoarders home to be like; it was packed with artifacts from his career, hundreds of relics from World War I and II (he was a noted historian), scores of video games and magazines, along with bottles of Jack Daniels and cans of Coke which, taken together, was his drink of choice. Lemmy lived where he did because he could walk from there to his favourite bar. Each day, Lemmy would go there, sit at the end of the bar and hold court with anyone who asked for his time and/or his photo. The staff were as close to a family as Lemmy had. They would even bring him his mail there sometimes. *(Lemmy did have one son whom he loved very much).

“The Ace of Spades” is two-plus minutes of furious hell. It is loud and fast and sung with all the sincerity and passion that Lemmy’s cigarette-ravaged voice could muster. It was this song, sung in this style, that, also, influenced many of the early Punk rock bands who all played short, loud songs at lightning speed. Lemmy lived his life on his own terms and was respected for it by all who knew him or who listened to his band play. He lived hard and played hard but, he treated people kindly and was generous of spirit. He was a pioneer, a Man’s-man in the best sense of the term, a skilled player and, from everything that I have read and watched, a much-loved human being by his friends. He was truly one-of-a-kind. He was Lemmy. “Ace of Spades” was his most famous song. Strap in. Play it loud. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for Ace of Spades by Motorhead can be found here.

The link to the eulogy read by Dave Grohl at Lemmy’s funeral can be found here. Well worth a few minutes of your time to have listen. Great storytelling and sincere affection on display.

The link to Motörhead’s website can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting good music in all genres. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM- Song #441…The Parting Glass by Seemingly Every Irish Singer or Band Ever!

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #441: The Parting Glass by seemingly, every Irish musician ever! 🙂

Storytelling is a time-honoured tradition in cultures around the world and has been since time immemorial. Many of these cultures have taken to sharing their stories through song. As the generations have passed, certain of these songs have emerged to form the cultural canon of that particular country. There are many songs that exist in Ireland’s long musical history that are intrinsically-linked with their heritage; songs that, as soon as they begin, immediately bring Ireland to mind for those lucky enough to be hearing those sweet sounds. One such song is “The Parting Glass”.

While “The Parting Glass” has its origins as a Scottish song, in modern music history, I have only ever heard it sung as an Irish song by Irish singers. The first time I heard “The Parting Glass” was as a child, when the song was performed by The Clancy Brothers, along with singer, Tommy Makem. Since then, I have listened to countless renditions of “The Parting Glass” from everyone from The Irish Rovers, to Ed Sheeran, to Elvis Costello, to regular folks at Irish funerals, too.

“The Parting Glass” draws its inspiration from the long-ago practice of giving guests a drink to fortify and warm their insides as they prepared to depart from your home. As the song describes, the act of giving someone a “fond farewell” is an act as cultural, as it is personal. It is a display of affection for family and gives rise to a sense of community. It is not surprising that “The Parting Glass” is a song that, although it can be sung alone, is most often sung communally. I believe, from the depths of my heart, that there is power in singing together in public. The ties that bind are never as strong as they are when united in song. “The Parting Glass” is one of the best examples of this.

The video you are about to see contains a bonus. It is, also, a political statement because, unfortunately, it seems difficult to talk about Ireland in any way without appearing to choose sides in the conflict based upon the choices we make. For the sake of this post, I am going to ignore the politics and focus on the beauty of Irish culture. This video of “The Parting Glass” comes from a special performance in 2014 called “Ceiliuradh at Royal Albert Hall” in England. This performance was created to celebrate the ties that exist between England and Ireland and to showcase talented Irish performers who were actually living and working in England. The Ceiliuradh at Royal Albert Hall was an event held on the occasion of a visit from the Prime Minister of Ireland. Because it was a “Royal Gala”-type performance, there is an all-star cast of singers assembled to end the show by singing “the Parting Glass” together. But, before they do this, there is a reading of a poem in honour of Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, who had passed away just prior to the show. So, you get a terrific spoken word poem and a stirring rendition of a Scottish song that has come to represent Ireland on the world stage. As well, in the comments section, I will pop in the mostly-acapella version sung by the Ginger Fury himself, Ed Sheeran. It is quite nice. I will, also, include a video of the closing scene in a terrific little movie called, “Waking Ned Devine”, too. I am not even Irish but, I imagine I will be bawling before all is sung and the parting is done.

The link to the music video for The Parting Glass/Seamus Heaney at The Ceiliuradh at Royal Albert Hall can be found here.

The link to the music video for The Parting Glass by Ed Sheehan can be found here.

The link to the closing scene of the movie, Waking Ned Devine, featuring, The Parting Glass, can be seen here.

There is a website dedicated to all things Seamus Heaney. A link to it can be found here.

Ed Sheehan has his own website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM- Song #442…Zombie by The Cranberries.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #442: Zombie by The Cranberries.

When the full history of modern music is written, there will be a special section reserved for political protest songs. All throughout our modern times, there have been issues of injustice, violence and discrimination that have been counter-acted by the words of some of our best poets, authors, artists and musicians. Songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, “Beds are Burning” by Midnight Oil, “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, “White Riot” by The Clash and that seemingly innocuous chestnut, “Nine to Five” by Dolly Parton, are all examples of singers/bands using their public platform to speak up and speak out about a cause that was important to them. Taking its rightful place on this list is today’s song, “Zombie” by The Cranberries.

“Zombie” is a song written in response to a series of real events in England in 1993 called The Warrington Bombings. In order to understand the context in which these bombings took place, an extremely simplified overview of Irish history is necessary. I will start with a line from “Zombie” that states…..”It’s the same old thing, since 1916….”.

1916 is an important date in recent Irish history. For a very long time, England ruled Ireland. In doing so, the British Army conducted regular patrols throughout the country. Many Irish (especially, Catholics) considered the British to be an “army of occupation” and, as such, they actively sought to force them out by any means necessary. In 1916, in the middle of WW1, an organized revolt took place called The Easter Rising. England responded with overwhelming force. They captured those who had organized the Uprising; charging them with treason and executed them in public to send a message of deterrence to anyone else who had thoughts of sedition. While there is a more nuanced history to what happened next, The Easter Rising, in turn, gave rise to a para-military organization called The Irish Republican Army. The IRA, as they became known, began a campaign of terrorist bombings throughout Northern Ireland and England in hopes of forcing the British Government of the 1960s and 70s to enter into negotiations for Irish sovereignty. Many innocent civilians were killed in Northern Ireland, (which split along religious lines; pro-British Protestants on one side and pro-Independence Catholics on the other.) Most of the early bombings occurred in Northern Ireland but, eventually, the IRA took its campaign right into the heart of England, itself. The Warrington Bombings were part of that campaign. There were two different bombings as part of The Warrington Bombing initiative. The first was at an oil refinery. It caused damage but no injuries. A month later, a second bomb was planted in a rubbish bin (or, garbage can, as we like to say in Canada). This blast killed two children and injured 56 others. The outcry that went up as a result of the two children being murdered was instantaneous. The IRA were roundly condemned. One of the people swept up in the outrage that followed was Dolores O’ Riordan, lead singer of the Irish music group called The Cranberries. The deaths of those two children, in particular, seemed to be a breaking point for O’Riordan and many others who were so very tired of the seemingly endless cycle of violence and destruction. She claimed to have written and composed the song very quickly; her passions being as enflamed as they were, the words simply poured out of her. While I always knew that “Zombie” was about the violence that took place in Northern Ireland, I was not aware (until doing research for this post) exactly how timely this song was. The Warrington Bombings took place in 1993. “Zombie” premiered in 1994. While it was not exactly released in “real time”, it was released at a time when the physical and emotional wounds were still very fresh for all involved. Releasing as powerful a song as “Zombie”, as quickly as they did was a brave political act for The Cranberries. As it turned out, it was an act that was not without consequences for the band and for the song.

The “official” video for this song has been the subject of ongoing attempts by British and American governments (particularly, right-wing, Conservative governments) to censor it. In the video, Dolores and a group of children sing/sit by a cross. The images of her singing with the children are inter-mixed with documentary-style film footage taken throughout Northern Ireland neighbourhoods, showing real British soldiers on patrol, as well as, local shrines/murals that exist as memorials to IRA “soldiers” who have been killed in action or else, who have sacrificed their lives in hunger strikes and the like. The British Government refused to allow the video to be aired in England (claiming it was pro-IRA….a charge O’ Riordan vehemently denies); only showing the band performing live. In the U.S., the song was used in the reality show, “Rock Star: INXS” but none of the song’s references to “tanks and bombs and guns” were allowed to be aired on tv because it was the time of the Gulf War and the song was viewed as being “anti-military”.

Dolores O’ Riordan passed away a couple of years ago. She had actually been living not too far from my hometown of Cobourg, Ontario, just north of a city called Peterborough. It is said that she had been suffering from mental illnesses, of one form or another, during her later years. There is no direct evidence tying her experiences with the intense politics of “Zombie” and the violence of Northern Ireland, to her struggles later in life but, the toll taken on all those who speak out against those in power is not to be under-estimated. Not to be lost in all this talk of violence and politics is the fact that, as songs go, “Zombie” is a heck of a song! The guitar work is terrific throughout the song but, I am particularly drawn to the drumming. The drums are played by Fergal Lawler in a way that conjure images of exorcising demons. It is a ferocious display that captures my attention in the official video, as well as, any live performance I have watched. Over the course of their career, The Cranberries had several Top Ten hits but none were as overtly political nor, as emotionally-charged as, “Zombie”. Music critics have hailed “Zombie” as being one of the best and most important political anthems of the past quarter century. Please take a look at the video and find out what all the fuss is about for yourselves. As I like to say, sometimes a song is more than just a song…..”Zombie” is certainly a case in point.

The link to the official music video to Zombie by The Cranberries can be found here.

The link to a live music video for Zombie by The Cranberries can be found here.

The link to a video of Zombie being used an an “entrance song” for an Irish MMA fighter (and the gorgeous crowd sing-a-long) on the day after O’Riordan’s death can be found here.

The Cranberries have a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #443…Walk This Way by Run-DMC (featuring Aerosmith).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #443: “Walk This Way” by Run-DMC and Aerosmith.

In the 1970s, Aerosmith had a string of Top 10 hits with songs such as, “Dream On”, “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way”. They had reached the top of the musical mountain, as it were, and were rock stars in every sense of the word. However, it isn’t easy maintaining a rock-star lifestyle so, as the 1970s drew to a close and the 80s began, Aerosmith’s relevance began to wane, their ability to produce new hits songs dried up and Aerosmith faced the very real risk of breaking up due to the addictions suffered by various band members; Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, “The Toxic Twins”, in particular.

Meanwhile, as Aerosmith slipped into decline, along with many other “arena rock” bands, a new genre of music called, Hip Hop, was in its formative stages. The originators of Hip Hop, such as Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Mambaataa and, even funk master, George Clinton, all were releasing new music that bore the now-familiar cadence of rap-style singing and performing. Because they tended to wear flamboyant costumes and sang songs about lifestyles that weren’t considered “mainstream” at the time, those early innovators were not considered to be performing rock n’ roll. They were afforded a small niche on the musical spectrum and were not taken too seriously by the commercial music industry at large. Then, along came Run-DMC.

Run-DMC was comprised of three performers; Joseph Simmons (known as “Run” or “Reverend Run”), Darryl McDaniels (“DMC”) and Jason Mizell (“Jam Master Jay”). They re-invented the “look” of Hip Hop by wearing white Adidas sneakers, jeans, t-shirts and dark jackets. Their songs had a harder edge to them and their performances were spectacles not to be missed. They were managed by a young producer named Rick Rubin. Rubin saw that an opportunity existed to expand the reach of Hip Hop, into the mainstream music world, by adding an element of good, old rock n’ roll to the mix. Rick Rubin, representing Run-DMC, approached Aerosmith to see if, in the words of Simon and Garfunkal, they wanted to “marry their fortunes together” and work together on a groundbreaking project. That project was to be the first-ever collaboration between Hip Hop stars and Rock stars, using one of Aerosmith’s signature songs, “Walk This Way”. Fortunately for all involved, Aerosmith decided that they had nothing to lose and agreed to re-work their song.

In the video below, you will see the fruits of that collaboration. Normally, I prefer live performances but, in this case, the “official” video is noteworthy. In it, you will see the two groups working individually, separated by a wall. Aerosmith performs the familiar opening to their song then, to their surprise, they hear Hip Hop coming from the other side of the wall. Initially, they are frustrated at being interrupted so, they punch a hole in the wall. Once they actually see Run-DMC at work, they knock the wall down completely and the two separate groups merge as one, with Run-DMC emerging on to the traditional rock area stage with Aerosmith. This was meant to act as the symbolic union of Rock and Hip Hop in the larger, music industry sense.

This collaboration, when viewed through the lens of historic significance, has had many positive ramifications. For instance, it brought Run-DMC into the mainstream spotlight and, as a result, they became the very first Hip Hop group to tour sold-out arenas, to have Gold records and so on. Run-DMC were inducted into The Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame by Eminem in 2009. Without Run-DMC and “Walk This Way”, there may not have been a career path for people such as Eminem or The Beastie Boys or 50 Cent and others. Run-DMC helped establish Hip Hop as a legitimate music genre and helped lift it up out of its niche market. For Aerosmith, the performance revitalized their careers. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry cleaned up their addictive behaviours and put together a more Pop-infused second phase to their careers with hits such as “Janie’s Got a Gun”, “Love in an Elevator”, “I Wouldn’t Have Missed a Thing”, “Dude Looks Like a Lady”, “Crying” and “Angel”.T

o toss in one final piece of trivia….Disney Channel has a tv show called, “All About the Washingtons”. The main character on the show is an old, retired rapper named “MC Joe Speed”. In real life, MC Joe Speed is, none other than, the legendary Joseph Simmons from Run-DMC. Every now and again, his character will toss off a few rhymes and it is all I can do to not stand up and shout at my own children, “Do you know who this actually is!? This man helped change music as we know it today! He is a legendary performer.” But, all they see is the character. Too bad. I see Joseph Simmons and my head fills with, “Its Tricky” or “Sucker MCs” or, sometimes, “Walk This Way”. I smile and nod at the girls and end up enjoying that show as much as they do. For now, here is the groundbreaking video for “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith and Run-DMC. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for Walk This Way by Run-DMC (featuring Aerosmith) can be found here.

Run-DMC have an important and informative website that can be found here.

Aerosmith have a terrific website of their own that can be reached by clicking on the link here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting groundbreaking music. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #444…I Want You to Want Me…by Cheap Trick.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #444: I Want You To Want Me: Live from Budokan by Cheap Trick.

For the most part, when I listen to music or watch it in video form, I prefer live music to studio music. There is just something about the energy of a raucous crowd and the interplay between a band and their audience that helps to elevate a song from the version that was recorded in a studio and released on an album. I know that I am not alone in my predilection because the story of “I Want You To Want Me” by Cheap Trick is a textbook example of what I am talking about.

Cheap Tricked formed in the 1970s. It consisted of Robin Zander on lead vocals, Rick Nielson on lead guitar, Tom Petersson on bass and Bun E. Carlos on drums. Cheap Trick was one of the bands that formed the soundtrack of my high school years. Along with bands such as April Wine, Trooper, Kansas, Boston, Journey and so on, Cheap Trick delivered good old dependable guitar rock. Their songs were catchy and their persona was unique. The band members were almost, cartoon-like, on stage; with Nielson, as nerdy schoolboy, Carlos, as a dishevelled, Dan Aykroyd look-a-like character from Saturday Night Live, Zander and Petersson were the big-haired pretty boys. Together, they produced hits such as “Aint That a Shame”, “Surrender”, “The Dream Police”, “The Flame” and, of course, “I Want You To Want Me”. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. However, none of this would have been possible if not for live music.

Cheap Trick had released a couple of studio albums in the mid-70s. Sales were mediocre. Included on one of those albums was a studio version of, “I Want You To Want Me”. It barely made the Top 100 Album chart and then, disappeared from sight. Like many new bands, Cheap Trick were scuffling out of the gate. The very real possibility existed that Cheap Trick was not going to survive as a commercially viable entity. To help drum up sales, the band toured relentlessly. Touring in the US was not helping much so, the band made a career-defining decision to tour in Japan. I am not sure exactly what it was about Japan but, Cheap Trick were greeted there with a level of mania usually associated with the early days of The Beatles. When you watch the video for this song, there are times when it is hard to hear Zander singing because of all of the screaming from the fans in Japan. It reminds me a lot of the response The Beatles got on The Ed Sullivan Show when they first appeared on US network TV. The band recorded a live album there called, “Cheap Trick: Live at Budokan” that acted as a quasi-greatest hits album. The huge audience reaction that was captured on that live album helped bring new attention to the band and their songs and, essentially, launched their career into the stratosphere.

At this point in the story, please allow me to toss in a bit of trivia. In our house, we have all watched the complete tv series of “Full House/Fuller House” many times because it is Sophie’s all-time favourite show. One thing that I will give the show credit for is that it is a treasure trove for music lovers. The John Stamos character, “Uncle Jesse”, was a rock musician and was always playing real rock songs (from Elvis, especially), referencing real rock stars (He had a poster of Sammy Davis Jr. in his bedroom) or else, interacting with real rock legends on the show (such as Little Richard and The Beach Boys). I mention this because one of the seasons-long story arcs on Full House was Uncle Jesse’s quest to make it big in the music business. He and his band, “The Rippers” played gigs all of the time, gaining a small amount of local fame. Eventually, they recorded a song called, “Forever”, which was a cover of a Beach Boys song. In the show, Uncle Jesse’s song barely cracked the Top 100 Album chart and then, disappeared from sight. He toured relentlessly but, only achieved success in one place: Japan! In Japan, “Jesse and the Rippers” and their song, “Forever”, were met with wild, rapturous attention and Jesse became a legend. The whole premise for this story arc on Full House was based upon the real-life story of Cheap Trick and the success of their album, “Live at Budokan”. True story.

In any event, “I Want You To Want Me: Live at Budokan” captures the essence of performing live as well as any song ever recorded; saving Cheap Trick’s career in the process and inspiring the creators of Sophie’s favourite tv show to include its’ lessons of faith in yourself, the importance of persistence and of hard work as a key element of that show. So, enjoy the song and the memorable response from the crowd that helped to make this performance an all-time classic in the annals of modern music history. Ladies and gentlemen…..here is Cheap Trick!

The link to the music video for I Want You To Want Me by Cheap Trick can be found here.

Cheap Trick’s website is well worth checking out. A link to it can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the wiring of this post. A link toothier great website canoe found here.