American Idol Week 2 Auditions Season 8 (2009)

Find my latest American Idol article here.

As I watched this week’s American Idol tryouts, I was struck by the fact that they have become tired.  This, of course, is not good for the show, and may be the first chink in its up till now platinum armor.

The theme this year is definitely ‘style over substance.’  The producers have shown us three things so far, idiots, people with nice personalities and people with good back stories.  I have not been overly impressed the the singing ability of one person that they have shown so far (there have been three or four decent ones though).  I hold out hope that the really good singers just do not have the back-story or personality that the producers of the show are looking for this point.

I am going to take a preemptive shot at Idol here.  I have always disliked the group performance once the contestants make it to Hollywood.  There are always a few people who simply refuse to work with other people or do not have the talent to do so.  It just is not fair to send some good singers home because they are forced into a group containing someone who has a bad attitude.  Mark my words, that full-of-herself little girl from Puerto Rico with the irritating laugh will not be able to function in a group.

Speaking of her, that brings me to another point that is getting under my skin.  Last night the irritating little Puerto Rican made a statement that is being said on a regular basis by those who are trying out for the show, and some others who are dismissed from the show.  She said when asked why she was there, “I deserve to be the next American Idol.”   Look, I do not have a problem with a person having a positive attitude.  If she had just said, “I am going to be the next American Idol,” it would have been great, but hearing these kids many of whom are not even out of high school imply that they deserve to become the Idol is just wrong.  As the great Clint Eastwood once said, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”  All these kids deserve is a high school diploma if they have earned it, and a swift kick in their asses to encourage them to get out of the house and become a productive member of society.

Finally, to Kara, shut the hell up and let Simon finish what he is saying.  Your bitchy little attitude that expects him to let you ramble on like Paula while at the same time expecting to be able to cut him off dissmissively whenever he comes close to criticizing someone you like (even if he’s trying to be constructive about it), is not going to fly.

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

From 1983-1986 80s music hit its high point.  There was a plethora of good songs released during this four year period, and many were forced off the list that would probably have been included in previous years.

20. “She’s A Beauty”, The Tubes– I love the syncopated style of the guitar and keyboard at the beginning of the song.  The funhouse theme of the video was cool, and the woman in the mermaid suit was hot, hot, hot.

19.  “Up Where We Belong”, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes– Joe Cocker has a face for radio and a voice that is the male version of Fran Drescher, but his hyper-affected style, and gravelly sound proved just right for this great 80s love song.  It was the theme song for the great movie, An Officer and a Gentleman.  The song made a clean sweep of the awards topping the charts, winning a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

18.  “Overkill”, Men At Work– “Overkill” is generally regarded as the best song by the Australian band Men At Work.  It was more mature than many of their early hits, but 80s music had matured faster than the band did, so even though I like it better than “Down Under”, it is further down the list in 1983.

17.  “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”, Eurythmics– This was the first big hit for the band that was fronted by Annie Lennox.  Her strong alto vocals matched well with the synthesized sound of the music.  The video is very surreal, and features the Lennox and keyboardist Robert Crash in a field with cows and cellos at one point.  This song proved that the synthesizer alone had the ability to make a song that was distinctively 80s.

16.  “Photograph”, Def Leppard– Def Leppard pulled hard rock music into the pop music genre.  They were the first (and really the only) hard rock group that I have ever liked.  Their songs were still very melodic and singable.  All you really need to say is, “One armed drummer!”

15.  “Electric Avenue”, Eddy Grant– Eddie Grant was just cool.  The synthesizer and bass give this song a disco-funk feel.  You have to move when you hear this song, and it is still played quite a bit today.

14.  “Der Kommissar”, After The Fire– This song was released the year before in German by the unknown (at that time) Falco, and it was the B-side a few years later on “Rock Me Amadeus”.  After the Fire released the song in English in 1983.  The song is still very popular today, and has been repeatedly sampled by Hip Hop artists.  Most notably it was the basis for MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” in the 90s.  When I hear it, I see myself looking down at the Frogger machine at the local skating rink as I was growing up.  You could count on hearing it about once an hour.

13.  “Modern Love”, David Bowie– This is easily my favorite David Bowie song.  The beginning of the song almost sounds like and Eagles’ song, until the keyboard and Bowie enter.  The song is upbeat, toe-tapping, and the sax part is nice.  The background singers really make the song.  If I had liked Bowie more at the time, this probably would have been one of my favorite songs of the 80s.

12.  “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”, Air Supply  This song signaled the end of Air Supply’s run, but it was a great way to end it.  The beginning with just the keyboard is iconic, and the tenor’s voice seems to go into the stratosphere.  The song is still heard often today.

11.  “Tell Her About It”, Billy Joel– The bee-bop style with the horn back-up in this song is excellent.  Billy Joel proved again that he could sing almost any style with this song.  The Rodney Dangerfield appearance in the video is nice.

10.  “She Blinded Me With Science”, Thomas Dolby– This song features a great keyboard player providing some great keyboards.  You know the song in about two notes.  It is a little quirky with the weird old man screaming, “Science!”, but that chick in the video with the violin drawn on her back may have the best figure that I’ve ever seen.

9.  “Cuts Like a Knife”, Bryan Adams– I always liked the tone of Bryan Adams voice.  This sing one of the all-time great “na-na” songs, and is easy to sing along with.  I like it better than his other hit from that year, “Straight From the Heart.”

8.  “Maneater”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– You know this song in just a couple of notes.  The baseline with the echoing, whammy keyboard sound is memorable, but the sax makes the song.  This is one of my favorite Hall & Oates songs.  According to Hall, Kelly LeBrock was the inspiration for the song.  I remember those legs from Woman in Red, and I have to admit they inspired my 14 year old hormones quite a lot.  This is another Hall & Oates song that is sampled a lot by Hip Hop groups.  I chose it over “One on One” which also charted this year.

7.  “Billie Jean”, Michael Jackson– I really did not want to put any Michael Jackson songs on the list, what with all of the pedophilia and all, but I just had to include the greatness of Billy Jean.  Most people regard it as his best song, and it carries with it the complicated issue of teen pregnancy.  The bass line and percussion part are iconic.  The addition of an orchestra made the feel of the music much deeper and less disco, than it would have seemed without it.  The song garnered two Grammies for Jackson, and the video featured the stylistic dance style that because a hallmark of Jackson videos in the next few years.

6.  “Every Breath You Take”, The Police– This is one of the best of the Police songs.  It is a little more of a vocal feature for Sting, and a lot more mellow than some of their earlier releases.

5.  “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, Bonnie Tyler– I love this song, and it is the rare true female power ballad.  The piano is the feature instrument with a memorable four note repetition.  The piano is great but not as great as Bonnie Tyler’s vocal.  She’s incredible, and the emotion that she conveys with her vocal is moving.  The background vocal is also an important part of the song.  It is interesting to note that the song was inspired Wuthering Heights.

4.  “Faithfully”, Journey– This is the second of the two great and enduring power ballads by Journey to make it onto the list.  You can find some of Steve Perry’s best vocals on this song.  I chose it over “Separate Ways” and “Send Her My Love” both of which are great songs.

3.  “Africa”, Toto– This is the second and last great song for this band of musical ringers.  The keyboard part carries the song.  The vocal has an ethereal quality until it hits the chorus, and then it soars.

2.  “Always Something There To Remind Me”, Naked Eyes  This song and the #1 song on this list from 1983 would probably make my top ten for the who decade. They both still get a lot of play, and you can hear them almost anywhere.  The four note keyboard part is iconic, and stays in your head.  In the end, this song is just cool, and is why chose it over their other great hit, “Promises Promises” from the same year.

1.  “Come On Eileen”, Dexy’s Midnight Runners  1983 presented us with several great one-hit-wonders, including the number one hit which I consider the greatest to be the best one-hit-wonders of the 80s.  This song exposed me to my own Irish musical heritage, eventually leading me to other music like Folk Like Us, The Chieftains, Lorenna McKennitt and even Enya.  I love the sound of an Irish fiddle, and this song definitely delivers.  I liked this song so much that I eventually bought an imported album called The Very Best of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.  What could go wrong?  I mean they claimed that this album contained the very best music that Dexy’s Midnight Runners had to offer.  After listening to all 25 songs (most of which were a whip), I realized that I knew two of them, period.  They were “Come On Eileen” and the live version of “Come On Eileen”.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

 

 

 

 Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

 Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

 Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

 Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Obama’s Short Honeymoon

Today’s inauguration went off with pomp and circumstance which has not been seen in the world since the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  Just as when these two were married, the sky seems to be the limit.  How could anything ever go wrong?  Everyone, it seems, is smashing themselves together with the sole aim of showing their support for a new messiah…, I mean president.

I, as most good Americans that voted for someone other then Obama (I am not saying you are a bad American I you voted for Obama), will support him as the elected leader of our country, and hope that he leads us well as a nation.  I am struck with the fear that he will appoint several young, liberal Supreme Court justices in his first year, and then follow in Clinton’s footsteps and expand the use of executive orders, thus legislating from the desk (oval office).

As far as the honeymoon goes, I hope Obama is ready.  Of course, the Republicans in Congress will be looking for anything and everything to criticize.  I look back on Clinton’s presidency and remember how ashamed I was when Republicans refused to support the use of force to stop the genocide that was happening in Bosnia.  If Obama looks to the right for support, he will get none.  This, I think, is expected.

What will be unexpected will be that the first shots will come from his own supporters.  In a few months, as he begins to face the reality of what withdrawal from an instable Iraq means to international peace, he will stall the withdrawal, and former supporters like Cindy Sheehan will draw first blood.  This, however, will only be the beginning.

Guantanamo will be another place where former supporters will turn on him.  It cannot be shut down.  Even if we decide to put all the detainees on trial, it will take years perhaps even a decade to hear them all.

The environmental movement will be even worse.  These people have lived their lives blaming the U.S. and lack of government intervention for every problem that they can conceive (and I do mean conceive).  The point is that in these economic times, it will not benefit Obama to hop on board with a bunch of wealth sapping green ideas, and he won’t.  Their expectations will be through the roof, and he will be able to deliver even less than he probably wants to.

Eventually, all of these and other special interest groups will realize that they are getting little more with Obama than they had with Bush, and then they will re-arm themselves with the only real weapon that they have, blame.  Unfortunately, for Obama, the there will be no one else to blame but him.

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

20.  “Twilight Zone”, Golden Earring– This was one of the first videos I ever saw before I had MTV, and we had to wait for Friday Night Videos to be shown on one of the local UHF channels in the Dallas area.  It was the first video to feature a cinematic storyline, and it would make my Top Ten One Hit Wonders List (maybe I’ll have to do that sometime).  The song was very edgy with a great strong guitar part and a four note baseline that every bassist learned as quickly a he picked one up.  It charted through 1983 for the Dutch band, but there was so much great music in 1983 that I pushed this one back so that I could get more into that year.

19.  “The Safety Dance”, Men Without Hats– The video for this one had everything:  medieval setting, hot girl, weird lead singer prancing around, irritating echo, and creepy dwarf, all swirling around singing a song that somehow championed safe sex.  The tune was catchy, and employing the cheer-like tactic of spelling out the word harkened back to the days of the Village People, and their mega-hit “YMCA”.  It would also make the Top Ten One Hit Wonders List.

18.  “I Melt with You” Modern English– This is the first hit by the British new wave band Modern English.  It has a great chorus, and is easy and enjoyable to sing along with.  It had a popular video, and was featured in the Nicholas Cage star vehicle Valley Girl.

17.  “Sweet Dreams”, Air Supply– This Air Supply song has a synthesized ethereal keyboard sound that is a little different from their other stuff.  The voices almost sound like they are going through a harmonizer.  It was a top ten hit, and I liked it better that their other hit that year, “Even the Nights Are Better.”

16.  “I Can’t Go For That”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– was the fourth Billboard #1 hit for Hall and Oates and the second song released off of the album, Privates Eyes.  It knocked Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” out of the top spot after an amazing 10 weeks at the top of the list.  It also topped the US R&B chart which is unusual for a couple of white guys (one did have a huge ‘fro).  I like it better than “Private Eyes” which also charted in 1982.  It is still one of the most sampled songs by modern Rap and Hip Hop groups.

15.  “Do You Believe In Love”, Huey Lewis and The News– This was the first song to hit the top ten by one of my favorite 80s bands.  Huey Lewis has a great, powerful voice that is easy to listen to, and the band had the coolest looking bassist in the business (I remember buying a pair of those sunglasses and a London Fog trench coat in the early 80s).  The back-up singers’ dissonant harmony helps make the chorus of this one

14.  “I Love Rock N’ Roll”, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts– This is simply a cool song.  She’s got a sexy voice, and the strong beat is hard to forget.   It held Billboard’s #1 slot for 7 weeks.

13.  “Abracadabra”, Steve Miller Band– If you have not had enough whammy-bar in your music lately, check out this hit from the Steve Miller Band.  It is a tune that you hum for the rest of the day once you hear it.

12.  “You Can’t Hurry Love”, Phil Collins– As I said in my criteria for this list, I was not going to include a lot of ‘covers.’  For the most part, I am against the cover.  Unless you are Willie Nelson or Elvis, or unless you do a significantly different and worthy remake of the original, there is no reason to cover it in the first place.  My only other exception to this rule is when I like a cover song better than the original which is extremely rare.  Notable examples of this are Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”, Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover” (thank the Lord someone finally removed the voice harmonics and made a good version of this song), and of course the greatness that is Phil Collins’ rerelease of “You Can’t Hurry Love.”  The fun and upbeat style of this song almost forces you to sing along.  I loved the video with Phil and the three back-up Phils (complete with different personalities) singing perfect harmony.  Fun times.

11.  “We Got The Beat”, Go-Go’s– This song was a huge hit for the British all-girl band the Go Gos.  I could still listen to this song in the right atmosphere, but too much of this type of music would make me tired.

10.  “Ebony And Ivory”, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder– This was a great duet that dealt with an unusual topic for Pop Music, racial harmony.  McCartney and Wonder sound very good together.

9.  “Physical”, Olivia Newton-John– This single was huge.  It was not my favorite song ever, what with the workout craze that it helped to start, but I still considered Olivia Newton-John to be the girl who wore the black leather and tights in Grease.  Any chance to see her jumping around in something that was tight-fitting was a bonus.

8.  “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, Foreigner– This is one of the great power ballads of the early eighties.  I really like the tone of Lou Graham’s voice when he sings a ballad.  It is a very nice sound when someone can have an edge to their vocals as they enter their higher range, but still have the tone sound whole without any screeching.  You will find this to be the case with this song.

7.  “Heat Of The Moment”, Asia The first thing that I think of when I hear this song is the television commercial campaign that accompanied the release of the album.  They were the first band that I associated with a logo (their band name in the shape of a pyramid was iconic).  The use of distortion on the guitar together with the keyboard that sounded like rain dropping at the end of a line sounded good.  I like the strong vocal also.

6.  “Love Me Tomorrow”, Chicago– Chicago 17 may have been a better album from top to bottom, but my two favorite Chicago songs were both from Chicago 16, and they were both released in 1982.  They were of course, “Love Me Tomorrow” and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”.  These are two of my all time favorite ballads.  The guitar part in “Love Me Tomorrow” makes it more of a power ballad while the keyboard led melody of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” makes it more of a soft rock song.  Neither song has the Tower of Power horn sound that is usually found on Chicago songs, but they do not suffer for it.  “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” hit #1, but in the end I chose “Love Me Tomorrow” because of the terrible idea that the band had for ending the “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” with “Get Away”.  Most radio stations refused to play the tagged song and opted for an awkward ending that simply truncated the song before “Get Away” could get started.  It was better that way.  The best analogy I could come up with is this.  Imagine Charles Monet painting his famous Lilli Pads, and at the very end, Jackson Pollock is brought in to provide the final touches.  The resulting mess would be the visual equivalent of marrying these two songs together.

In the end, I chose “Love me Tomorrow” because it did not have anything to take away from its greatness.

5.  “Eye Of The Tiger”, Survivor– In a world desperate for more of the good feelings given them by the first two Rocky movies, Stallone and the group Survivor delivered with this song featured in the third installment of the movie.  It was a physical education anthem when I was growing up, and who would not be inspired to run in place a little faster or do their jumping jacks a little harder while listening to this great song.  And at the end of the routine, you always had to suppress the urge to clench your fists and put your arms straight up in the air as if you too were a champion.

4.  “Open Arms”, Journey– This is one of Journey’s two best power ballads (the other being “Faithfully”).  It only reached #2 during its release, but the song has had as much staying power as any song from the 80s.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  As with most of the Journey power ballads, Neil Schon was not a fan.  He said that it “sounded kind of Mary Poppins,” and tried to keep it off the album.  Luckily for the rest of us, sanity prevailed and we were presented with on of the greatest love songs ever.

3.  “Centerfold”, J. Geils Band– I remember my mom finding the 45 for this song in my little sister’s room and throwing it away.  I did not even know she had it, but by the time it was banished, I had already become a big fan of the song on my own.  The quirky sound provided by the keyboard, sax and harmonica is great.  The baseline is good, and I really like the whistle that accompanies the music at the end.  The fade-out to this has you whistling for the rest of the day.  The video provided some nice leggy eye-candy, but my favorite part of it was the reprise when the percussionist really lays it on the snare drum, and we are surprised by the effect as the top of the drum is covered in milk.  Great song.

2.  “Rosanna”, Toto– One of the best songs of the 80s.  The base line lets you know what song playing in a couple of notes.  I love how it builds toward the chorus, then smacks you with a strong rock beat, and a full horn section.  It has a very Chicago-like quality to it.  The video with the hot blonde simply dancing around in a Marylin Monroe style dress while the bad plays is very good.  It is the best song provided by the band, Toto.

1.  “Down Under”, Men at Work– I put this song on the list at #1 as an homage to the kid that I was in 1982.  At the time, I was a goofy 7th grader who was just getting into Pop music, and this was the perfect goofy song for me to really like.  To describe it and the band as quirky, would be an understatement, but the song was huge.  The flute part has a whimsical quality which matches well with the band’s lifestyle.  It was played a lot during the early 80s, and I’m sure Australia is still trying to get away from the association.  Today, I smile when I rarely hear it played somewhere, and I have to admit that I do not remember choosing to play it for myself in the last 15 years.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Jim Rice Polutes the Baseball Hall of Fame

Anyone from outside of the Northeast who likes baseball will eventually get beaten down by the Eastern media bias.  I had some feeling of this growing up, but really had it drilled home with Ken Burns’ Baseball.  You would have thought that there were only three teams in baseball as Burns waited until the last hour of the program to acknowledge the existence of any great player outside of Boston or New York.  I actually think I saw the great Nolan Ryan’s face flash past the screen in a montage, but I was not sure.

The problem is two fold.  Great players from teams outside of the Northeast have to be that much greater to even be considered for the Hall of Fame.  While it seems like Players for that Yankees and Red Sox simply have to be good for a long period, and be likable to make it into the Hall of Fame (see Wade Boggs). 

Today, we are told that Jim Rice will be in the Hall of Fame.  I don’t have any problem with a person saying that Jim Rice was a very good baseball player, but he does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.  Put him in your team’s Ring of Honor if you wan to, but not in the Hall of Fame.

He did not reach any of the ‘benchmarks’.  He did not have 3000 hit.   He did not even have 2500 hits (2452).  He did not have 500 home runs (382).  There is no justification for his inclusion, and it cheapens the Hall of Fame.

I looked at a few other players in comparison.  Reuben Sierra and Al Oliver are two Texas Rangers who have never sniffed the Hall of Fame, and rightly so.  Oliver had a 303 batting average, 2743 hits, 219 home runs, and 1326 RBIs in 18 seasons.  Sierra had a 268 average, 1322 RBIs, 2152 hits and 306 home runs in 20 seasons (he played less than 50 games in 11 of these).  These players are not as good as Jim Rice, but they compare with him, and the point is that they obviously do not belong in the Hall of Fame.

Ricky Henderson obviously does belong in the Hall of Fame.  He hit a benchmark with his 3055 hits while compiling the most stolen bases in history.  That’s it.  He’s in the Hall because he did what it took to get there.  Unfortunately, players like the great Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski will now have to have their names spoken in the same breath with Jim Rice.  Am I the only one that sees the wrongness of this?

Drain Nightmare

One of my favorite stories happened when I was a sacker a Minyards in Lewisville, Texas, while I was in high school.  It was a good job for me that taught me some responsibility and provided me with spending money that came in handy for a kid in high school at the time.

For the most part, I liked the job, and the people that I worked with.  Also, my managers liked me, and knew that they could count on me to do a good job.  As a result, I was consulted to do a lot of things besides just the daily bagging requirements that were my normal job description.

One of my managers was named Dale.  He was sort of legendary as a guy who really liked to catch shoplifters, and I liked working for him.  On this particular occasion, Dale pulled me aside and asked me to assist him with an unusual project.

The store contained four walk-in coolers in the back of the store: one for meat, one for vegetables, one for frozen foods, and still another for dairy perishables.  It was the diary perishable cooler that he wanted help with.  There was a lot of condensation in this particular cooler, and the drain in the bottom of the floor was essential to leach away the extra water.  Unfortunately, during the several decades that this particular store had been open, many gallons of milk and quite a few eggs had leaked or broken while in the cooler and seeped down the drain.  Eventually, these binding agents had worked together to clog the drain, and now there were about three inches of standing water in the bottom of the cooler which had begun to slightly sour.

Rather than call an expensive plumber to deal with the problem, Dale had decided to try to deal with it locally first.  This is where I came in.  On the way to the back of the store, he handed me what looked like some futuristic weapon.  It was in the shape of a “laser gun,” was about 18 inches long, and was made of hard plastic.  There was a large pistol grip big enough to grab with both hands and a trigger.  The front end was round, about 3.5 inches across, and shaped like a funnel that tapered down to a nozzle point with a hole in it about ½ an inch in diameter.  In the back of the gun, was a little slot in which you would insert a carbon dioxide cartridge (the kind you would put in a pellet gun).

The idea was simple.  You put the nozzle into the offending drain and pulled the trigger expelling the entire CO2 cartridge in one second.  The result would be that most clogs would simply get blown down the line, freeing up the drain to function properly.

Dale quickly explained all of this to me, and he demonstrated by positioning himself over the drain and putting his weight on the gun to make a good seal.  He told me to be sure to put all my weight down on the gun, and he assured me that there was nothing to worry about.  I thought it was odd that as he was saying this, he was backing out of the cooler through the clear plastic “drapes” that hung down in front of the door, but I was not too worried.

I placed myself over the drain, made sure the nozzle was firmly in the hole, and put my full weight (about 220 lbs. at the time) onto the grip of the gun.  Then, I pulled the trigger.  I would say that time slowed down, but everything happened so fast that it would be impossible to think of it as slow, though I still remember it vividly over twenty years later.

My hands immediately shot past my face and hit the top of the cooler above my head.  Then, a scene which could only be described in language that would have been used at Spindletop unfolded.  Old Faithful would have been impressed at the geyser of old eggs, soured milk and sour cream that spewed forth and coated my whole body (chunks included).

There is no way to describe the awfulness of the smell.  Skunks would have run from it.  My manager looked at me (and smelled me) and said only two words, “Go home!”  This only made sense to me.  The problem was, there was only one way out of the store, and that was through the front of the store.  I figured that the best approach would be to go as fast as I could down the widest aisle, and straight out the front of the store.  So, this is what I did.

It was a surreal experience as I walked down the aisle, and came up behind people.  Before I even got to them, they would straighten up quickly, and cock their heads to the left, and slowly turn toward me with a horrified look on their faces.  I just blew on by them, but I assure you, it was an ill wind.

I went straight out the door without even clocking-out, got into my truck (rolling down the windows), and beat a hasty retreat to my home and a very long bath.

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

See list criteria here.

20.  America”, Neil Diamond– Neil Diamond was not my favorite artist growing up, but his music has grown on me as I have aged.  Where I would have turned him off in the 80s, now I will listen to his music, and all of his songs have strong choruses.  I like the patriotic aspect of this song also.

19.  “Morning Train (Nine To Five)”, Sheena Easton– This song was huge at the time (maybe to the point if overplay), and it has catchy (almost monotonous) beat.  You could count on hearing this song on the way to work every day for about two years.  “For Your Eyes Only” was also a very good song released by Sheena Easton in this year, and it was hard to choose between the two.

18.  “Young Turks”, Rod Stewart  I was never a big Rod Stewart fan what with the whole stomach-pumping rumors and all (Yes, I know it was all untrue now, but we did not have Snopes back then, and we were stuck with the rumors we had.  By, the time the truth was revealed, the damage was done).  That all being said, this song has a strong melody, and his voice does not sound so much like sand paper in this song.

17.  “Leader of the Band”, Dan Fogelberg– I always really liked this song, and it was easy for me to apply it to the relationship that I had with my own father.  Since his death, it only seems to apply better.  Same Old Lang Syne” was also a great song that was released in the same year and charted higher than “Leader of the Band”, but I just like “Leader of the Band” more.

16.  “Shake It Up”, The Cars– This is the first great Cars’ song of the 80s.  It has the quirky, syncopated style that eventually style that eventually becomes a staple of Cars’ music.

15.  “Arthur’s Theme”, Christopher Cross– I doesn’t get much more melodic or sing-able than the theme from the movie Arthur, though it is a little on the soft rock side of the scale.  It will always be one of the best movie theme songs.

14.  “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, The Police– This is another upbeat and very good release for the British punk band.  It is the kind of tune that stays in your head in a good way.

13.  “Jessie’s Girl”, Rick Springfield– I have always thought of Rick Springfield as ‘Bruce Springstein without the edge’.  This was a huge hit at the time with a chorus that was easy to sing along with.

12.  “Who Can It Be Now?”, Men at Work– This is the first song released by the quirky group from Australia, and is my second favorite Men at Work song.  I have fond memories of this group because it was my ‘gateway drug’ from Country to Pop music.  I was a big fan right up to the point that I rented their “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” concert video.  My ‘gay-dar’ was not as precisely tuned at that time, but when I saw Colin Hay and the rest of the members of the band prancing around on the stage, I slotted the band with what became an ever growing number of androgynous, quasi-gay 80s bands that put out decent music, but whose concerts I would never go to.

11.  “Urgent”, Foreigner– This was the first hit off of Foreigner’s mega album “4”.  The percussion and keyboards (keyboards supplied by the great Thomas Dolby) has a nice syncopated quality that usually causes the listener to tap his foot or nod his head.

10.  “Our Lips Are Sealed”, The Go Go’s– This was the lead song off The Go Go’s debut album “Beauty and the Beat”.  Belinda Carlisle lent her nice, sexy vocals to the band’s sometimes overly energetic style.  This song stayed on the charts for over a year, an impressive feat for any 80s hit.

9.  “You Make My Dreams”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– This is second song from the early 80s powerhouse Hall and Oates, and is the last single to be released from “Voices”.  Like several of the other songs.  This song almost has a 50s doo-wop feel to it, and I like it better than the Mega-hit “Private Eyes” which was the first song off of the album of the same name.  “Private Eyes” is a little too-cool-for-school for me, and it does not have the staying power of its predecessor.  I chose this song over “Kiss On My List” which I also like a lot.

8.  “The Tide Is High”, Blondie– The main problem that I had with Blondie was Debbie Harry and her ‘Children of the Corn’ eyes.  I found her hard to look at, but she was a beauty compared with that horse-faced Toni Basil.  The Tide is High is a pretty mellow song for this group, but I like it better than anything else that they released.

7.  “Endless Love”, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie– With this song, Lionel Richie began to make a name for himself outside of the Commodores.  It is still Ross’s best selling hit, and the harmonies between Ross and Richie are superb.  The only downside to it is that it was title song of a dreadful movie starring Brooke Shields.

6.  “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, Pat Benatar– Pat Benatar is the best and most prolific rocker-girl of the early 80s, and this song is vintage Benatar, complete with ricochet sounds.  She is one of the few rocker-girls that did not seem screechy to me when she would belt it out.

5.  “The One That You Love”, Air Supply– For some reason, Air Supply decided to confuse all of its fans in 1981 by releasing a song with the very pronounced chorus ‘Here I am, the one that you love’ and another song named “Here I am” that only used these words at the very first of the song, and had a chorus that said, ‘Just when I thought I was over you….”  This was all unnecessarily confusing, though I like both songs.

4.  “Celebration”, Kool and The Gang– This song held the number one spot on Billboard’s Top 100 for six weeks, and charted for over a year.  Its disco-funk chorus, of course, had a great beat and base line.  This song is still a staple at most wedding receptions.

3.  “Don’t Stop Believing”, Journey– This release from the great Journey album ‘Escape’ is the signature song for the band today.  It is another of the harder songs that are more associated with Graham Nash by many Journey fans than Steve Perry.  The song recently received a revival when it was featured prominently in the last episode of The Sopranos.  “Who’s Crying Now” was also released this year.

2.  “Keep On Loving You”, REO Speedwagon– This is a truly great song by a band that would become an 80s power ballad staple.  “Take It On The Run” was also recorded in this year, but for me, there was no question which of the two was the best song.  It was played on MTV’s first day, and still can be heard regularly today.  It was released on the album Hi Fidelity, and was one of two great songs on this album.

1.  “In The Air Tonight”, Phil Collins– This is my favorite Phil Collins song ever, and one of my favorite songs of all time.  It is dark and edgy, and led to one of the greatest urban legends of all time.  Supposedly, Phil had written the song about an evil man who had allowed one of his friends to drown when they were on a trip to the beach.  According to the legend, Phil later invited the evil man to a concert, and sang the song to him.  Of course, when Phil was asked about this, he did not know what the hell the reporter was talking about.  He simply expressed the truth that this song like “Against All Odds” was written during a tough divorce from his wife.  I’m sure that he and Ben Folds could get together and write a song that would force the listener to commit suicide.  True greatness.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

See list criteria here.

20. “Against The Wind”, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band– 1980 was tough.  Most of the music on this list would not have had a chance to be included in the 1985 list, for example.  That being said, I still consider all of these songs to be listenable, and still hear them from time to time.  This song is one of those songs.  It is nice and mellow.

19. “Don’t Bring Me Down”, Electric Light Orchestra– I remember hearing this song ad nauseum just as I was beginning to pay attention to popular music.  Whenever I think of ELO, this is the song that comes to mind.  It has a good guitar and base line that is hard to forget.

18. “Sailing, Christopher Cross”– This song is not good to listen to when you are driving, and trying to stay awake.  I like it better than “Ride Like The Wind, and I will have to admit that I usually sing along with it when I am alone.

17. “The Rose”, Bette Midler– I have to confess that I really like this song, even though I think that today it would be a little more adult contemporary than pop.  It is extremely sing-able.  I just wish someone else had released it, because few people whip me more than Bette Midler.

16. “Longer”, Dan Fogelberg– I really like Dan Fogelberg’s voice.  He definitely sings ‘singer’s songs,’ and he is also a little more adult contemporary.

15.  “Still”, Commodores– This was one of the first songs to give the world a glimpse into the greatness that was to come from Lionel Richie.  It’s a little short, and is more forgettable than a lot of other songs because it doesn’t really have a chorus.

14.  “Refugee”, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers– One of the most sing-able of the Tom Petty songs.

13.  “Everybody Wants Some”, Van Halen– I put this one on the list because it is not terrible, and because after looking, I noticed that there was not another Van Halen song on the list.  I also like the Better Off Dead link.

12.  “I’m Alright” – Kenny Loggins– I noticed that I did not have any Kenny Loggins on the list either, so it was easy to add this song in a bad year.  I like the Caddyshack tie-in to this song also.

11.  “Another One Bites the Dust”, Queen– “We are the Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” were not available, so I chose this song.  It has a strong baseline, but it is not a singer’s song.

10.  “Magic”, Olivia Newton-John– This is also way down on my list of favorite songs, but I probably would not turn the radio if it were on.  She has better stuff, but it was not available to choose from in 1980.

9.  “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd– I’m not a big Pink Floyd fan, and I really think that they are one of the most overrated bands of all time (see The Grateful Dead for another).  This tune, however, is pretty good, and it does not beat me like Another Brick in the Wall.  The drug theme is a little troubling.

8.  “You’re Only Lonely”, J.D. Souther– This song has more of a 70s soft rock feel to it, but that being said, it is still a very sing-able song.

7.  “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ “, Journey– Now we are talking 80s music.  I personally like the Journey power ballads better, but there are a lot of people who like the more rocking Graham Nash stuff like this.  It’s still pretty good, and I like it better than their other 1980 hit “Any Way You Want It” (still not bad).

6.  “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, The Police– The first big 80s hit in a strong group of 80s Police hits.  You generally do not mistake The Police for any other band.  Sting’s unique vocals combined with the band’s upbeat style paved the way for many other British punk bands.

5.  “Kiss on My List”, Hall & Oates– I chose this song over two other good Hall & Oates songs from the same year, “Wait For Me, Daryl Hall” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”.  From this point, Hall & Oates became an 80s staple for the next few years.

4.  “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me”, Billy Joel- Billy Joel foreshadowed his future greatness in 1980 with the release of Glass Houses.  This song was pretty strong for 1980, and still enjoys quite a bit of play today.  “You May Be Right” was also released this year.

3.  “The Long Run”, The Eagles– 1980 signaled the end to one of the greatest runs in the history of rock and roll music.  Most of the Eagles 70s music is incorrectly associated with the 80s (though it is more like modern country music than anything else).  Heartache Tonight” and “I Can’t Tell You Why” are two other great Eagle’s songs from 1980.  These are not the best Eagles songs of all time, but they are all the 80s have to offer, and they are still pretty good.

2.  “Cool Change”, Little River Band– I love this song.  It is extremely sing-able, and very cool in a John Denver, “Calypso” kind of way.

1.  “All Out Of Love”, Air Supply– The release of this great song in the same year with “Lost In Love” and “Every Woman in the World to Me” started Air Supply’s dominance of early 80s pop music.  Their tunes are very melodic and pretty sing-able, though the short one (Russell Hitchcock) has an extremely high vocal range which often leaves the listener repeatedly changing keys when trying to sing along.  Their looks may have been a bit off-putting, but it was a hell of an organization what with midget and Frankenstein and all.

Seriously, these guys were a brush with greatness for me.  In high school, I had season tickets to Six Flags in Arlington, Texas.  At the time, you could see any singing group that came to the park’s theatre for the price of admission plus $4.  Since I had a season ticket, I could see all of the concerts for a mere $4, so I did. 

One night, I saw Air Supply there.  It was a good concert, and as my friends and I left the show we decided to ride the ‘plane ride.’  As we got to the front of the line, Air Supply stepped in front of us to ride the next time the planes stopped.  There they were, one an Aryan giant, and the other an Australian midget.  The short one looked even shorter without his odd elevator shoes.  They rode in the plane right in front of me, and as the flight ended, we all went our own ways.  I went back to Lewisville, and I assumed they went back to Lilliput.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

 

 

 

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Song from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Top 5 Worst Presidents in U.S. History

1. Jimmy Carter– He is hands-down, the greatest embarrassment to the office in the history of the Presidency.  He was an abysmal failure while in office, who could not even pass legislation with a sympathetic Congress.  His economic policies led the U.S. into one of the greatest recessions in its history, and his foreign policies led to events such as the storming of the U.S. embassy in Teheran.  At least, he did his constituency the service of hiding out in the rose garden during most of his presidency and refusing to be the leader that he was elected to be.

Today, he spends much of his time violating two centuries of Presidential decorum by decrying the work of the men who have succeeded him, and sticking his nose into affairs in which it does not belong, such as working with terrorist organizations like Hamas.  Giving him the Nobel Peace Prize cheapened it, and it has become the sad political tool that it is today.  No amount of house building can make up for the awful way he has dragged the most prestigious office on Earth through the mud.

2. Warren Harding– I tried not to hold the fact that a president died in office against him.  Presidents like William Henry Harrison or James Garfield get an incomplete from me.  They are obviously near the bottom, but as a result of their untimely deaths, did not have the opportunity to do anything truly bad to the office.  However, the Harding administration, though only two years in length was simply packed with Presidential embarrassments.  His administration is generally viewed as the single most corrupt in the history of the U.S., and that includes the Grant administration.  Harding was barely by his own party.  He did poorly in the primaries, was part of a split vote at the RNC, and after a deal was struck for his candidacy in the predawn of a hotel room, it still took ten ballots for him to receive the nomination. 

He won the general election by a landslide, and then had to pay back those to whom promises were made.  This led to the appointment of several corrupt individuals to his administration.  Many of his appointees were personal friends who were completely unqualified for the posts to which they were named.  His nominee to head the Veteran’s Bureau robbed its coffers of $200,000,000 and fled the country.  The Justice Department was accused of taking bribes.  The Attorney General was proven to have illegally profited from allowing alcohol to be taken from government supplies during the middle of prohibition, and corruption was discovered in the office of the Alien Property Custodian.

The most egregious example of corruption in his administration was the Teapot Dome Scandal in which the Secretary of the Interior received $400,000 in bribe from oil companies after leasing oil-rich land to them without any competitive bidding.

This was all bad enough, but Harding’s personal problems were also prominent.  He was married, but he carried on several affairs while he was president.  These eventually came to light adding to the cloud that surrounded his presidency.  Today, there are some theories that he was actually poisoned by his own wife.  In any case, he was dead after serving only two years.

3. Andrew Johnson– He was impeached but not convicted on two occasions.  Most historians agree that he did not deserve to be convicted, but his track record in office showed that he did not agree with his party or Lincoln in regards to the position of former slaves in post-Civil War America.  He repeatedly vetoed legislation that was meant to protect the former slaves and allow them to be absorbed into normal American society.  His appointments and policies promoted the establishment of so called ‘black codes’ that allowed southern blacks to be kept in some sort of servitude as second-class persons.  He was instrumental in defeating the 14th Amendment which eventually made the former slaves actual citizens.  Lincoln was a practical man who would do what it took to eventually get the outcome that he wanted, but his appointment of Johnson was easily his biggest mistake, and one, that with his death, could not be undone.  Johnson’s apparent racism which undermined many of the victories that so much blood was shed for during the Civil War put him high on the list.

4. Ulysses S. Grant– Grant’s two terms as president of the U.S. were notable for their corruption and failed domestic policies.  Waffling on the issue of ‘greenbacks’ and allowing unrestrained speculation in the gold market by Jay Gould and James Fisk led to Black Friday in which the Stock Market shut down.  The Grant administration failed to react by releasing gold early.  This caused the ruin of many investors, and when the administration finally did release its gold reserves, it caused a crash in the gold market that led to more ruin.

Though he was never personally accused of corruption, his administration was involved in several famous instances of corruption.  The most famous of these were the Credit Mobilier swindle and the Whiskey Ring.

Grant may have been a great general, but he was not a great president.  His two terms and his military legacy keep him off the bottom of the list.

5. Richard Nixon– Nixon is an anomaly.  His foreign policy achievements could easily have put him into the top 20 presidents of all time.  The problem was that his own paranoia and character flaws led him to use abuse his power as president and to eventually sanction crimes committed at the expense of his political opposition.  Of all the people on the list, his actions as president were probably the worst, but his extremely effective foreign policy keep him off the bottom of the list.

6. James Buchanan– I added a sixth because he is really the only other bad president.  For the most part, America’s presidents have been good and able men who led the country to the best of their ability.  Some may have been less effective than others, and some served short terms, but the true bottom-dwellers are a short list.  Buchanan’s lack of any attempt to keep the U.S. from devolving into Civil War puts him near the bottom of the list.  He and Nero could have played a duet.

Top 20 United States Presidents

A few years ago I ranked the top 20 presidents in the history of the U.S.  I went back recently, and looked at the list again.  I decided that it just did not look right, so I opened a spreadsheet, and began to rank the presidents on several criteria.  These included: Popularity, Character, Number of Terms, the Issues that they had to deal with, their Legacy, the Legislation that they pushed through, their Effectiveness, and their Leadership, and their Negatives.  I gave more weight to: Issues, Legacy, Legislation and Effectiveness.

In the end, my list looked mostly as it had before, but some things looked much better.  Enjoy.

  1. Abraham Lincoln– He had it all: the biggest issue (the Civil War), the best rhetoric, an impeccable character, and was unafraid to take the wheel if it was needed.   He died in office before making any large mistakes.  He tried to choose Lee.  He fired incompetent generals at will, and chose Grant in the end.  He delivered the Gettysburg Address.  He signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  He preferred an easy peace with the South at the end of the war.  On the downside, he did suspend habeas corpus during the war.
  2. George Washington– The first.  He was extremely popular.  He was very careful to set proper precedents for the office.  He had been General of the armies during revolution.  He showed his character by refusing to be king.
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt– He had the big events: WWII, the Great Depression.  He is and will be the only four “termer.”  He overcame Polio, and he was an excellent orator.
  4. Thomas Jefferson– He was the author of Declaration of Independence.  He was a Founding Father, and he made the Louisiana Purchase.  However, he did disband the National Bank, and was a somewhat divisive figure.
  5. Theodore Roosevelt II– TR, a true man’s man.  He was a sportsman, and one of the first true American naturalists.  He established many of the National Parks that we have today.  He led the charge up San Juan Hill.  He is a symbol of American Imperialism (“Speak softly and carry a big stick).
  6. Ronald Wilson Reagan– He brought America out of a recession.  He proved the greatness of conservative fiscal and social ideals.  He proved the greatness of capitalism using its principals to economically bring down the greatest threat to America in its history.  He is still known as the Great Communicator.  He won 49 0f 50 states.
  7. James Monroe– Probably the most popular President ever while in office.  His presidency is still known as “the Era of Good Feelings.”  He instituted the Monroe Doctrine which established the attitude that the U.S. did not support European involvement in the Americas.
  8. James Madison– He was president during the war of 1812.  He was a Founding Father, and he was the designer and author of the Constitution.
  9. Harry S. Truman– Two termer.  He had the big event (WWII).  He made what may have been the hardest decision ever made by a president, and it was the right one (the atomic bomb).
  10. Andrew Jackson– He is a two termer.  He was a war hero.  He stood up to the Supreme Court.  He was very popular.
  11. Thomas Woodrow Wilson– He was a two termer who led the U.S. during WWI and started the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.
  12. William Jefferson Clinton– He was very popular.  He was a two termer.  He served during a time of economic growth.  He was fiscally conservative, and was able to get his economic policies passed even though he did not have a sympathetic Congress.  His positives will probably outweigh the negatives caused by his personal problems and impeachment.
  13. George Walker Bush   He has the big events: 911 and the war.  His 911 speech will go down as one of the greatest of any president.  He had a sympathetic congress, and pretty much passes any legislation that he liked during his first two years.  He effectively prosecuted a war against an enemy that could not be easily seen.  He did hot do enough to get his message out there, and as a result, his second term was a failure highlighted by the loss of the Congress, and eventually the Presidency for his party.
  14. Dwight David Eisenhower– He was general of the allied armies during WWII.  He was a two termer who served during a very happy time for America, the 50s.
  15. James Knox Polk  He expanded America more than any president except Jefferson.  Took in the Oregon Territory, and the California Territory.  He annexed Texas (this should get him a couple of more points).  He signed The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  He ran on the slogan of 54-40 or Fight.  His policies stalled the Civil War for a few years.  He did not want to be President, and only served because he was asked to.
  16. John Adams– One of the most important of the Founding Fathers, he stood on his principles and kept America out of an unnecessary war even though it hurt him politically and probably cost him reelection.  He was disliked politically and arrogant.  Also, he signed the Alien and Sedition Acts which were alter declared unconstitutional.  These things pushed him down the list.
  17. John Fitzgerald Kennedy– He was extremely popular.  He faced down the Soviets.  He pushed the Space Program.  He was a good orator.  He was a war hero.  On the downside, there was the Bay of Pigs, the War in Vietnam, and his social life.  Also, his Presidency was cut short. 
  18. William McKinley– He was President during the Spanish American War.  He acquired, Guam, The Philippines and Puerto Rico from Spain.  He also advocated annexation of Hawaii.
  19. George Herbert Walker Bush– He presided over the fall of Communism and Desert Storm.  He was a war hero.  He was the former head of the CIA and former Ambassador to the UN.  On the downside, “No new Taxes” and only one term.
  20. Lyndon B. Johnson– His social policies were largely responsible for the success of the American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  However, his welfare state was a big issue.  He got America further involved in Vietnam, and he bowed-out after only one term.