Sep 032020

Can you imagine The Rolling Stones leaving “19th Nervous Breakdown” off any one of their numerous classic greatest hits albums? How about Chicago bypassing “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” or Lynyrd Skynyrd putting out a greatest hits collection minus “That Smell”?

OK, these aren’t the first songs we tend to think of when we think of each band’s greatest hits, these are no longer in regular rotation on the increasingly narrowing playlists of Classic Rock and Oldies stations, but for those who grew up with these artists, they were cool songs, second-line radio staples that the artists’ record labels had the good sense to include on each band’s standard-issue greatest hits album. I was never a big fan of two of the three bands I listed, so I was happy to have these less-popular radio hits included on a hits collection to save me having to buy a full album by Chicago and Lynyrd Skynyrd just so I could have each of those songs handy.

When Tom Petty‘s first greatest hits collection came out on CD in the early ’90s (?), I played it a few times through, thinking I’d somehow skipped “Shadow of a Doubt,” a second-line hit from early in his career that I enjoyed hearing more than “Breakdown” (for the 8 billionth time in the first couple years of its release). No dice! “Shadow of a Doubt” was not considered one of Petty’s greatest hits.

Similarly, when I was a yon’ teen and brought home my copy of David Bowie‘s Changesone greatest hits collection, I was disappointed to find that one of the Bowie songs that most psyched me up when it came on the radio wasn’t included: “Panic in Detroit.” Why? That was in semi-regular rotation in its time, but it was cast aside by the greatest hits compiler. I didn’t want to buy whatever full Bowie album that song appears on, because I typically found his full albums to be a waste of time. I’m hoping that our resident expert on greatest hits collections, Townsman Andyr, can help us gain insight into the selection process.

Meanwhile, what relative radio staple have you been disappointed to learn was left off a greatest hits album? (Eventually inclusion on a boxed set, by the way, does not count.) Did you eventually break down and buy the original album on which that song appears? I’ve not yet bought a copy of Aladdin Sane.

Aug 172020

Too many things tend to bother me, and the older and (hopefully) more mature I get, I have trouble letting all the little things that bother me rush to the front of the queue.

Get back, new formulation of a favorite childhood candy, I’ve got a pain-in-the-ass interruption of my hard-earned career aspirations to attend to!

Stand down, idiocy of a band ditching its unintentionally racist band name for a sexist one, I’ve got two sons to help through their slow journey into manhood!

It’s for reasons like these that I have trouble cranking out the daily content I once did here in the Halls of Rock. Trust me, I’m thankful for seeing you all in this context during our Pandemic Relief reboot. I hope I’m doing my part.

I was thinking about this over the weekend: What stupid thing continues to gnaw at me enough that I should move it in front of my concerns over the health of our planet or the idealism on which my country was founded? Then it came to me:

Jun 102014

Over the years I’ve thought I wanted to delve more deeply into George Harrison’s solo catalog. I know what the general feeling has been but All Things Must Pass is a classic by almost anyone’s standards. And Living in the Material World has enough charms that I bought the reissue a few yeas back to supplant the old vinyl copy. And I bought the big comeback, Cloud Nine, way back when and remember liking it well enough (even if I don’t remember too much of it very well now).

Over the last several decades I thought I should try some of the maligned records that came out between Material World and Cloud Nine but never had; after all, how bad could they be? Back a decade ago after George died a box set of all the Dark Horse material came out and that tempted me.

Thank the music gods that I resisted!

I recently borrowed the one disc Best of Dark Horse, 1976-1989, and it is stunningly pedestrian. There’s one cut that would deserve to go on a true Harrison best of, “Blow Away,” thanks to a stellar chorus. And I’d listen to “Got My Mind Set On You,” “Crackerbox Palace,” “When We Was Fab,” and “All Those Years Ago” all the way through if they came on the car radio (although “When We Was Fab” belongs more on an ELO album – and not a greatest hits ELO album).

And the other 10 tracks, well, if that’s the best of the Dark Horse albums then they must be horrible. I won’t subject any of you to any of them here; seek them out at your own risk.

Am I being too harsh? Why did he even bother putting out this dreck? And is there a worse Best of than this? No cheating on that last question; we all know Christopher CrossBest of sucks (at least I presume it does).

Mar 132014


If you could only listen to 10 albums for the rest of your life/were stranded on a desert island with 10 albums of your choosing, what would they be? To me, this is a different question from “favorite albums,” because I’d try for more variation on this list. Compilations generally don’t count, but they could in some cases.

Jan 102014

(AKA Hey Jude.)

(AKA Hey Jude.)

I don’t think you can buy The Beatles Again (aka Hey Jude), a vinyl collection of non-album tracks, as a distinct CD. It may have changed in recent years, but there was a long stretch when you also could not buy a distinct CD of Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ similar odds & sods collection, Taking Liberties. Soon, when all physical media are done away with, none of this will matter whatsoever and I’ll be grumpier than ever. Before this worse day comes, let me me bemoan the fact that not all the odds & sods collections of my youth are available as distinct packages in the digital age. I don’t like having those tracks split up as bonus tracks on various albums.

I’m pretty sure, meanwhile, that The Who’s Odds & Sods has always survived the digital age as a distinct product, right?

What odds & sods collections from the vinyl age do you most regret seeing broken up over the reissues of various original albums?

May 082013

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed the hits of Steve Miller Band. I never got around to buying a single record by the guy, not even a 45, but Miller’s hits bridged the leap I was making from AM to FM radio. Compared with so much of the sludge I found myself wading through in the new (to me) world of FM rock, Miller’s music was catchy, fun, and kind of old-fashioned. Even when he mixed in the occasional long space jam intro, his songs eventually got down to the simple business of hammering home a couple of meaty hooks and some off-hand lyrics that espoused only the slightest trace of cool. Steve Miller wasn’t that cool, mind you, but his level of cool was attainable.

When I was in my 20s, fully reveling in my role as a rock iconoclast, I found opportunities to pump up my mild teenage enjoyment of this artist. As mainstream rock got more ponderous and underground rock became less disciplined and hook conscious, the humble strengths of Miller’s big hits suddenly shined. I held onto this perspective for the next 10 to 15 years.

Then, for a few years, I toyed with officially upgrading Miller, holding him in the same regard I hold for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: rock-solid radio fare that’s always worth letting play out when flipping the dial. I seriously considered picking up Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits.

About 2 years ago, however, seemingly overnight, I found myself recoiling when Steve Miller Band songs came on the radio. My wife still digs him for all the reasonable reasons anyone could dig him. She wants to let the songs play through, but his lyrics are so dumb and his delivery so devoid of anything but the lowest-level sense of cool and self-deprecating humor that I feel it beneath me to expect so little of any artist. I’ve had it with Steve Miller. I think there’s only a single lyric from all of his hits that still resonates with me in any way, that “really like your peaches, want to shake your tree” line from “The Joker.” I like the “midnight toker” line, too. They are both so evocative of a type of feeling that was in the air at that time with some kids at my school that they mean something to me. They’re like the musical equivalent of Spicoli. The rest of Miller’s lyrics and delivery can go to hell. I’m not buying his Greatest Hits. I’m no longer considering him for a Critical Upgrade. I’m not even going to play the “Steve Miller is actually great” card to piss some rock snob off. It’s not worth it.

Steve Miller, I’ve had it!

Mar 222013


As I may have mentioned a few times over the years, I HATED THE 1980s!

I hated ’80s style and culture in general, but as a music-obsessed person, I especially hated “’80s” music, which I typify as synth-pop featuring Yahmaha DX7s and strained vocals. I hated hair gel and guys with dyed hair. I hated asymmetric hairdos and shirt collars. I hated shirts with shoulder pads and epaulets. I hated puffy socks and women wearing jeans with high-riding waistbands. I even hated Madonna, although stripped of her iconic ’80s style she was my idea of a Hot Woman. Thankfully Madonna provided some opportunities to confirm that suspicion.

I hated what the ’80s did to Michael Jackson. I hated the bright colors. I never aspired to androgyny. I even hated much of the “cool” underground music of the ’80s: hardcore, shitcore, REM, that goth stuff like Bauhaus coming out of England… I even hated bands that were making music fairly similar to my own band’s aspirations because I was jealous of their relative success.

I think I hated myself as much as anything. I grew up in the 1970s, feeling pretty much out of place but certain that I would develop into a well-rounded hipster in my early ’80s college years only to be unleashed in a world where I fit in even less. Damn you, 1980s!

Today, my wiser, kinder, gentler self occasionally hears Human League‘s “Don’t You Want Me Baby” on the radio and thinks to himself, “At least I always liked that song. There must have been another 24 hit songs in the ’80s that I liked, right?”

Well, were there? I am calling on you, my trusted Townspeople, to help me recall whether I liked 25 hit songs from the 1980s. The rules for submission follow…after the jump!

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