Archive for December, 2010

Rock On!

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

So, there was a guy on the radio this morning that had a challenge: In 30 seconds name your top-10 musical acts of all time.


This intrigued me. Here is my list in no particular order…seriously, I was scribbling on the back of a newspaper crossword puzzle. (The notes after each name were done later.)

The Beatles —  OK, I guess this is in a particular order, in a way, because this was a no-brainer whether I said it first or 10th. And then I did the usual Eric-thing, and started thinking technical. Do they mean individual people? I decided that was impossible. Anyway…my real introduction to The Beatles was when I was nine at fine arts camp in New York and a NYC street performer gave me this great lesson in how complex “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” is when you listen to the chord changes and stuff. I mean, he practically explained it like it was a work of art (which it was), but I had kind of just thought of it until then as a nothing song. (How intense was it that I was nine and at a camp in the Catskills that this was such serious discussion? I mean, really?)

Neil Diamond —  This is going to be a theme you’ll began to see in the the next several entries. I like lyrics. I like story tellers. I’m a sucker for them. And if I can sing along to them at the top of my lungs during a concert and her everyone else doing the same thing…bingo! You have won a place in my top-10. But go on YouTube and listen to just random Neil Diamond stuff. It’s pretty awesome.

The Beach Boys — OK, this should be Brian Wilson. If you just think of their stuff as “Surfin’ USA” and “California Girls”-type songs, you are missing an entire collection that rivaled The Beatles. Not so much story telling, but the pure brilliance of the music and harmonies. If Brian Wilson had been able to market and produce “Smile,” we’d have a completely different narrative about them.

Pearl Jam —  Here’s where I date myself and my roots. I actually went to a concert once and two hours later shot pool with Eddie Vedder in Belltown. Oh, the glory days of Seattle music. (Which weren’t really the total of the glory days because Ray Charles and that type of sound that Quincy Jones made famous producing, ummm, everybody, famous…originated here. That’s what always cracked me up…some of the biggest sounds in rock, country, jazz and soul have come from within 60 miles of Seattle. We have incredible music.)

Harry Chapin — He’s just a storytelling orgy with his lyrics.  And he’s so interesting. His good biographies are long and graphic, but he was this incredibly flawed heroic-like figure, who was also a brilliant musician and arranger/performer.

Frank Sinatra —  Where do I begin? Sheesh. This one is almost a chapter of a book based on my trip with Pilar to see him in Providence once. Front row tickets. No, really, it could be a 5,000-word essay just on that one show. I’ll write it soon.

Bruce Springsteen —  I married a Jersey Girl. I actually didn’t know much of his stuff before I first heard “Born in the USA” — of course, why would a 14-year-old in Spanaway have heard the early stuff. But his lyrics, again just jump out to me. Especially the car songs and all the car references.

U2 — This kind of surprised me that it’s on my list. Again, it was lyrics. But I’ll tell you what kind of put it over the edge, was the digital live stuff my friend Barb gave me, and the fact I have been listening to a bunch of their stuff on my iTouch getting ready for the concert this year.

Paul Simon — Simply brilliant. I now sound like a broken record, but lyrics are number one. However, I also included him on my quick list because he has made me laugh as much on bad Saturday Night Lives as anyone ever. And he shagged Princess Lea. I can just take any album he’s ever made and lump it into any playlist. And I like him in concert.

Prince —  Greatest concert near catastrophe ever is just a footnote in the heads of dumb ol’ guys like me. The night Prince almost burned the Tacoma Dome down. I think it’s might have even been the very first concert there. Long story short, the Tacoma Dome was, at the time, the largest self-supported wood structure in the world. Then what do you do? Really cool pyrotechnics! Something got lodged in the roof and, literally, caught on fire a little bit. Awesome! Well…only for a brief moment before it just all fizzled out. (I tell you, if that concert had been in the USSR and that had happened then…we’d still be talking about the disaster.) But while Prince’s lyrics are a solid “B”…he’s on my list for just how much I enjoy his guitar playing. I have some underground stuff that just blows me away when he riffs for 10 or 15 minutes. When I’ve seen him in concert, I’m going to admit, hearing it live has irritated me before. Everyone starts talking. It’s not Prince’s fault…it’s just like hearing a 20-minute version of “Let’s Go Crazy” ending for 20 minutes. It’s so freaking brilliant, people start forgetting how brilliant it is. I always wondered if Eric Clapton had that problem. Sure, now we think of him as a brilliant guitarist, but that wasn’t really the case the first 20 years, say for George Harrison catching his ear…while Clapton caught the eye…I digress. The point is, this guy just absolutely is one of the greatest guitar players who has ever lived. So he makes my list.

 There it is. When I had 30 seconds to name 10 acts, that’s what my head produced. I’d actually tweak it a little, now that I’ve thought about it. But I am sticking to the rules. My 10.