Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ten Great Songs From Three Great Years


When I began these lists, I did so with the knowledge that every year features certain songs that form the soundtrack of my life. I know it sounds crazy, but my life has always had a backbeat and every memory I have – the good, the bad and the ugly – is molded with a musical background.

My earliest memory as a child was being at the Arnstein Jewish Community Center, in Knoxville, Tennessee and when I think abut that one memory, I hear the Beatles “A Hard Day's Night.” The first time I got behind the wheel of a car, “Ride Like The Wind” by Christopher Cross played in the background. And my first real kiss – with a real girl – was set to the song “The Goodbye Girl” by David Gates.

Every story and every event has a musical memory for me. But for some reason, there were three straight years that didn't have the same effect. It could be because of changes that took place during that time – I got married, moved around a lot and had a baby – but I rather think it had more to do with the music of the day. Those three years were from 1990 to 1992. Maybe I was depressed at the time, although I don't think I was. I think music – at least the rock and roll variety – was just poor.

Therefore, instead of focusing on one great year, I decided to take 10 songs (plus a bonus track) from all three years instead. After this, I will only have two more years to list and when they are done, I have some surprises planned before I begin with other songs from those years.

Blaze Of Glory - Jon Bon Jovi

This song was featured in the movie Young Guns II, starring Emilio Estevez. Bon Jovi makes a cameo in the film. In this song, the singer is determined to fight to his death, knowing he will be remembered for his bravery. Bon Jovi recorded this as a solo project while he was taking a break from his band and it was nominated for, but did not win an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1991. He got the band back together to perform this at the Academy Awards telecast. Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck played the slide guitar solo on this. He also featured on several other songs on the Young Guns II album. Randy Jackson played bass guitar on this track. He said on American Idol that it was his second best performance ever. He didn't disclose what he felt was his best performance.

Janie's Got A Gun – Aerosmith

This is about a girl who shoots her father because he is sexually abusing her. Steven Tyler wrote it after reading an article about children who had been killed by guns. Tyler wrote the line "He raped a little, bitty baby," but changed it to "He jacked a little, bitty baby" at the request of his record company, who worried that radio stations would not play it if it was too graphic. He also stated that it was the “hardest record (he'd) ever written.” Although Aerosmith first hit the scene in 1973 (“Dream On”), the enjoyed a real renaissance in the late 80's that carried them well into the 90's (and beyond). Officially drug-free – after their well known abuses - they never stopped recording. But they matured – especially Tyler 's songwriting and suddenly became a huge commodity again. “Janie” became their biggest hit until 1998, when they finally hit number one with “I Don't Want To Miss a Thing.” The video to “Janie's Got a Gun” depicted a girl killing her father. It got lots of play on MTV. The video was directed by David Fincher, who went on to direct Alien III and Panic Room. It starred Kristin Dattilo as Janie, and Lesley Ann Warren as her mother.

Freedom ‘90 - George Michael

George Michael was trying to free himself from the shackles of Sony, which was his record label at the time. They created an image for him to promote his Faith album, and Michael was now trying to distance himself from it. In the video all the Faith trademarks explode: the jacket, the jukebox, the guitar. When the video first came out people were quite shocked because Michael was barely in it (he doesn't appear in "Praying for Time," also from the album, at all). He got a bunch of Supermodels including Naomi Campbell to lip sync for him – but it was quite effective. In the video, there is a man shot from the waist down - he walks and he scratches his boxers. That is Michael. His scene goes with the line, "When you shake your ass they notice fast some mistakes were built to last," referring to the flack he got from his tush in "Faith," and the consequent spoof of him and his butt on SNL. The song is autobiographical and chronicles Michael's Wham days with lines like: "Heaven knows we sure had some fun boy, what a kick just a buddy and me, we had every bigshot goodtime band on the run and boy, we were living in a fantasy." The year was added to the song title, originally released as "Freedom," so as not to confuse it with the hit single by Wham! also titled "Freedom."

Something To Talk About – Bonnie Raitt

Raitt, the daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt and his first wife, pianist Marjorie Haydock, began playing guitar at an early age, something few of her high school girlfriends did. Later she would become famous for her bottleneck-style guitar playing. "I had played a little at school and at camp", she later recalled in a July 2002 interview. “My parents would drag me out to perform for my family, like all parents do, but it was a hobby—nothing more... I think people must wonder how a white girl like me became a blues guitarist. The truth is, I never intended to do this for a living. I grew up in a Quaker family, and for me being Quaker was a political calling rather than a religious one.” Early in her career, while living in one of the West Hollywood apartment complexes directly behind Cherokee Studios, Bonnie used to pick up back up singing recording gigs with music producers Bruce Robb (producer) and Steve Cropper. As Cherokee's owner Bruce Robb recalls, "Bonnie became somewhat of a fixture around Cherokee, hanging out on the back steps when she was in need of work. Cropper and I would pull her in to sing on stuff and give her a couple hundred bucks. She already had the awe of us on the 'music' side of the industry. It was the suits who took a little longer to figure out that she was a star." After more than twenty years im the music industry, Bonnie Raitt finally achieved commercial success with her 10th album, Nick of Time. Released in the spring of 1989, Nick Of Time went to the top of the U.S. charts following Raitt's Grammy sweep in early 1990. At the same time, she walked away with a fourth Grammy Award for her duet "In the Mood" with John Lee Hooker on his album The Healer. Nick Of Time has sold over 6 million copies in the US alone. She followed up this success with three more Grammy Awards for her 1991 album, Luck of the Draw, which featured this song (her biggest hit) and "I Can't Make You Love Me" and has currently sold nearly 8 million copies in the United States.

I Touch Myself – Divinyls

The Divinyls are singer Christina Amphlett and guitarist Mark McEntee. They wrote this with the songwriting team of Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, who have a knack for writing hit songs for female vocalists. They also wrote "I'll Stand By You," "Like A Virgin," "Eternal Flame," "True Colors" and "So Emotional." This is clearly about masturbation, but there's more to it. Says Steinberg: "What I like about the song is that in spite of the fact that the chorus kind of boldly says that, the verse was much more sort of poetic and kind of meaningful. It says, 'I love myself, I want you to love me, when I feel down I want you above me, I search myself, I want you to find me, I forget myself, I want you to remind me.' Those words I think are very strong and it's not an obvious start to finish jack off song. I like playing with words, and whether it's 'Like a Virgin' or 'I Touch Myself,' I like taking phrases or words that are sort of untapped and find a way to write something meaningful and that has a rebelliousness because really that's what Rock's all about. Talking 'bout my generation, you know." This was the only US hit for this Australian group. It went to #1 in their home country and it was featured in the motion picture Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

Something To Believe In – Poison

On Christmas Eve 1989, Poison lead singer Bret Michael's huge Polynesian bodyguard died alone in his Palm Springs hotel room. His name was Kimo, and much like the rest of the band, he became heavily involved with alcohol, drugs, and women, which had taken a toll on his health. Kimo was also a personal friend of Michaels and when the Poison vocalist was informed of his mate's death, he reacted by locking himself in his room and writing this song. Kimo can be seen in the video. Poison began their journey in 1983 under the name Paris and consisted of lead vocalist Bret Michaels, guitarist C.C. Deville, bassist Bobby Dall, and drummer Rikki Rockett. Moving to LA in 1984, they started playing big clubs and several other clubs. The name Poison was picked by the band after seeing Spinal Tap. Despite Poison's success, DeVille's cocaine and alcohol addictions had begun to cause strife in the band. Conflict between Michaels and DeVille culminated in a fistfight backstage at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, provoked by DeVille's inept live performance. After bringing "Unskinny Bop" to a grinding halt, DeVille launched into "Talk Dirty to Me", forcing the band to switch songs in mid-performance. DeVille was fired and replaced by Pennsylvanian guitarist Richie Kotzen.

Come As You Are – Nirvana

This could be about not being judgmental when someone changes after you haven't seen them for a long time. In hindsight, it can be seen as a song about suicide, since lead singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide less than three years after this was released. The chords in this song are a slowed down replica of Killing Joke's 1985 song "Eighties." The songs were so similar that Nirvana considered holding off releasing this as a single. Killing Joke decided not to sue Nirvana, and in 1992, Dave Grohl helped them out by playing drums for them on an album. The lyrics, "Come doused in mud, soaked in bleach" were taken from a campaign in Seattle that encouraged heroin users to soak their needles in bleach after injecting to reduce the risk of spreading HIV. The phrase for the campaign was actually "If doused in mud, soak in bleach." The lyrics as used by Cobain could be about tolerating everyone no matter what they look like - black people being the "mud" and white people being the "bleach." Nirvana was the catalyst band for the “grunge” style of music that was based out of the Pacific Northwest. Although Cobain's suicide effectively ended the band, the influence of their sound and success has served the genre well.

Life Is A Highway – Tom Cochrane

Cochrane fronted the Canadian rock band Red Rider and has won seven Juno Awards. He joined Red Rider in 1978 and served as their lead singer and main songwriter for more than 10 years. Red Rider included Ken Greer, Jeff Jones, Peter Boynton and Rob Baker and were best known for their 1985 hit “Lunatic Fringe” – which was featured on the movie Soundtrack for the motion picture Vision Quest . Cochrane launched his solo career in 1991 with the release of the song "Life is a Highway". The single became a global success and was followed by the release of his Mad Mad World album, which would reach the 6 million mark in worldwide sales. The albums Ragged Ass Road, Songs of a Circling Spirit, X-Ray Sierra and No Stranger followed. Cochrane's massive bodies of music and energetic live shows have established him as one of Canada 's most-treasured artists. An avid golfer, pilot and hockey buff, Cochrane lives in Oakville , Ontario and spends summers at his cottage/studio on the shores of Georgian Bay in Northern Ontario and winters part time at his home outside of Austin , Texas . Tom and his wife, Kathleene have two daughters, Cody and Evanne. Cochrane continues to tour and perform in Canada where he remains one of the country's most popular live acts.

Just Another Day – Jon Secada

Secada is a Cuban-American with a masters degree in jazz from Miami University. The album Just another Day was one of the biggest albums of 1992, selling over 6 million copies worldwide. Secada arrived with his parents in the United States at the age of nine. While attending school, his family managed a coffee shop. As a teen, Secada discovered his gift for music. In the culturally diverse city of Miami , Secada was exposed to salsa and merengue. In the late 1980s, Gloria Estefan hired Secada as a background singer. He also started composing music for Estefan, including some of her best-known ballads. Among other songs, Secada co-wrote and sang background on "Coming Out of the Dark" Gloria's number one hit from her 1991 album Into the Light . During Estefan's "Coming Out of the Dark" tour, Secada was given the life-changing opportunity of taking over the stage and performing solo. It launched his career as a solo performer. Secada, who supports the Republican Party, was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. The committee is charged with creating a multi-year action plan aimed at closing the educational achievement gap between Hispanic students and their peers.

All I Want – Toad the Wet Sprocket

Toad the Wet Sprocket was formed in 1986 at San Marcos High School just outside of Santa Barbara, California, when singer/songwriter Glen Phillips was only 14 and a freshman; the other members were 17 and juniors. The band drew its name from the Eric Idle monologue "Rock Notes" on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album from 1980, although the name is featured in a parody of The Old Grey Whistle Test on Rutland Weekend Television in 1975. The band's first public appearance was at an open-mic talent contest in September 1986. The band lost the competition. Toad the Wet Sprocket's first album came out in 1989. Bread & Circus was self-financed through their label, Abe Records. The album spawned the singles "Way Away" and "One Little Girl," which made the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, but did not receive much attention. The band finally achieved fame with their third album, Fear. The album was released in 1991, and saw the singles "All I Want" and "Walk on the Ocean" reach the top twenty of the Billboard Hot 100. The album became the band's first RIAA-certified platinum album. In 1992, the cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured the song "Little Heaven" and was included in the movie soundtrack and 1993, the Mike Myers feature film So I Married an Axe Murderer included the song "Brother" on its soundtrack. Toad the Wet Sprocket formally broke up in July 1998, citing creative differences but temporarily reunited in late 2002, playing a benefit for the Rape Crisis Center in Santa Barbara, and opening a few shows for Counting Crows. The group then played a few months of full-length shows in early 2003. Although seemingly successful, at the end of the tour the band decided to continue on their separate paths and careers. However, they have occasionally reunited for benefit concerts and even for a 34-date tour, in 1996.


The Thunder Rolls – Garth Brooks

Brooks has enjoyed one of the most successful careers in popular music history, breaking records for both sales and concert attendance throughout the 1990s. The RIAA has certified his recordings at a combined (128× platinum), denoting roughly 113 million U.S. shipments. He is also listed as the best-selling artist of the Nielsen Soundscan era (from 1991 onwards), with approximately 67,774,000 albums sold (as of April 5, 2008 ). From 1989 through 1997, Garth Brooks ruled country music and during that span, he had 14 number one albums and an amazing 47 top 40 country singles (including 19 number ones). In 1992, NBC-TV broadcasted two Friday evening specials, “Garth Brooks” and “This is Garth Brooks.” Both rated as the most watched music specials of the year. "The Thunder Rolls" tells the story of a wife waiting up late into the night for her husband. As he comes into the house, she smells another woman's perfume on him. All of this is set against the backdrop of a storm, representing the tribulation of the couple's marriage. The song originally contained a third verse in which the woman runs to her dresser drawer to get a pistol, telling herself that she'll never again wonder where he is. However, producer Allen Reynolds felt it worked well with just two verses and the third verse never appeared on the studio version, although Brooks does sing it at concerts as is evidenced on Double Live.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only song i really know well is the Bonus. That was the dry spell when we were only listening to Christian rock. Had a GB fan in the fellowship so I'd gottne as sick of the song as a person can get.
I know lame. But there wasn't that much happening mid 90s so I didn't miss much. But thank g'd for the heathens at work... I at least heard of Toad.
Yours is a better music education than i could give since my station plays all Sting all the Time.
Or is it all this time?
:) :) :)