Archive for February, 2020

Great Rock Albums of 1986: The Housemartins- London 0 Hull 4

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2020 by 80smetalman


First week at the halls of residence at Queen Mary College in London and I’m standing in the bar when this song called “Happy Hour” starts playing. An English student nearby says out loud to no one that it’s The Housemartins. So I have a listen and while it’s not metal, I find myself kind of liking the song, at least the first thirty seconds of it. Because to my surprise, a bunch of guys get out on the floor and a mosh pit, though it wasn’t called that back then, forms in the middle. Therefore, I must conclude that there must be something to this band if they can generate such activity.

Fortunately for me, my roommate, who was American and also from New Jersey, (I loosely base the Henry character in “Rock and Roll Children” on him), has already picked up a copy of their album “London 0 Hull 4” and puts it on and the rest is near history. It didn’t make me a Housemartins convert right there and then but I did like the album. It was, however, my introduction into the genre which would be called ‘indie rock,’ a genre which would always garner my interest from a distance.

“London 0 Hull 4” has a diversity of songs on it, then, I’ve always found the caption ’16 songs 17 hits’ rather amusing. There are songs on it which if the speed was slightly increased and the guitar turned up, would pass for The Ramones. The Housemartins have a more civilized 1-2-3 go style made famous by The Ramones. “Anxious,” “Sitting on a Fence,” (my vote for hidden gem) and the instrumental “Reverend’s Revenge” are the best examples. On the other hand, while the single mentioned at the top of the post and “Sheep,” while not in the 1-2-3 go style do have catchy rock hooks. Especially the guitar in the latter song, while it’s not Van Halen or even Mars, it’s still a good hook.  “Over There” is also along those lines.

Just when you think you might have pigeonholed the band, the album takes another turn. “Think For a Minute” passes for a hippy 1960s pop song as it does sound a bit out there and I love the intro. “Flag Day” is the second closest song to a ballad with the piano and though the repetition of the title at the end can start to get annoying, it’s still an all right song. “Lean On Me” is a more of a proper ballad and it’s here I’m most impressed with P.d. Heaton’s lead vocals and on the vinyl and cassette version of the album, would have been the best to close the album. Saying that, with the four bonus songs on the CD version, the cover of the Hollies’ classic “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” is definitely the best to close the album.

Track Listing:

  1. Happy Hour
  2. Get Up Off Your Knees
  3. Flag Day
  4. Anxious
  5. Reverend’s Revenge
  6. Sitting On a Fence
  7. Sheep
  8. Over There
  9. Think For a Minute
  10. We’re Not Deep
  11. Lean On Me
  12. Freedom

Four Extra Tracks on the CD

13. I’ll Be Your Shelter

14. People Get Ready

15. The Mighty Ship

16. He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother


The Housemartins

P.d. Heaton- lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, melodica

Norman Cook- bass, backing vocals

Stan Cullimore- guitar, backing vocals

Hugh Whitaker- drums, backing vocals

Exposure to The Housemartins put to rest my idea that British music was the extremes of NWOBHM and synth pop. The band was neither and their album “London 0 Hull 4” gave me a nice introduction to indie rock.

Next post: Bruce Springsteen- “Live 1975-85







































































Great Rock Albums of 1986: Kim Mitchell- Shakin’ Like a Human Being

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2020 by 80smetalman


One term bandied about in 1986 and I’ve used it on the blog on two occasions recently is ‘sell out.’ Some people back then were quick to but such a brand on Kim Mitchell when the first single from the “Shakin’ Like a Human Being” album, “Patio Lanterns,” made its radio debut. The song was more of a ballad and after hearing his great “Go for Soda” from the previous “Akimbo Alogo” album, some misguided individuals might be inclined to think that. However, I was never misguided and I knew that there was more to this album than what was playing on the radio.

Don’t get me wrong, “Patio Lanterns” isn’t some synth pop, let’s try to be Duran Duran type of song. It’s a decent ballad and though it’s not my favourite track on the album, it’s still more than half decent. It was just the fact that in 1986, power chords meant the world to me. For me, the first two tracks on the album are the best. Both are great rockers, reminding me a little of classic 70s hard rock. There are great power chords and cool guitar solos on both tracks but I do prefer “Get Lucky (Boys and Girls)” slightly more than “In My Shoes” but only slightly.

A second ballad to adorn the album is “Alana Loves Me.” This has me thinking a little back to the days of the Little River Band. It sounds like 1970s light rock but with far better guitar solos, which there are several on the song.

Following the two ballads, Kim seems to go into several different directions, a dangerous thing in a time when people were beginning to put music into pigeon holes, but with the good songs, he definitely pulls it off. Though with the first ballad-succeeding track, “That’s the Hold,” you might be inclined to think he’s going back to being totally hard rock. After all, this song does cook. Then, “In Your Arms” is another ballad, more like “Alana Loves Me” in mood but it does have a cool guitar solo and interesting sounds on the keyboards. It’s “City Girl” where things go a bit different. It is a faster song and it does make me think that if it were more guitar driven than keyboards, it would be great. Still, it’s a pretty good song, especially the way the guitar solo trades off with the keyboards in the middle. “Easy to Tame” has a country feel to it and with this song, that’s not a bad thing. Even his guitar solo sounds right out of Nashville but there’s a very strong bass line from bassist Robert Sinclair Wilson.

One song I can’t fathom is “Cameo Spirit.” Maybe it sounds a little too 80s pop but it is also a little catchy. Kim really stretches way out here to the point that even the biggest ‘let’s pigeonhole everything’ type person would have difficulty putting this one in a box. Maybe that was Kim’s objective. Keyboards also dominate the closer, “Hitting the Ground” but there’s another solid bass performance from Wilson on it. Then about a minute in, Kim’s and Peter Fredette’s guitars come in and then Kim adds his own lead guitar magic to it so by the time the song and the album ends, you know that Kim has made a very good album.

Track Listing:

  1. Get Lucky (Boys and Girls)
  2. In My Shoes
  3. Alana Loves Me
  4. Patio Lanterns
  5. That’s the Hold
  6. In Your Arms
  7. City Girl
  8. Easy to Tame
  9. Cameo Spirit
  10. Hitting the Ground


Kim Mitchell- lead guitar, vocals

Peter Fredette- rhythm guitar, keyboards, vocals

Robert Sinclair Wilson- bass, keyboards, vocals

Paul Delong- drums

Pye Dubois- lyrics

I don’t think “Patio Lanterns” even charted in the US, though it did receive a fair amount of radio air play. But who cares about singles charts when Kim Mitchell comes out with another consistently good album.

Next post: The Housemartins- London 0 Hull 4
























































































Great Rock Albums of 1986: R.E.M.- Life’s Rich Pageant

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2020 by 80smetalman


First of all I can confirm the intellectual rock label given to bands like The Smiths, The Cure and R.E.M. My sister, who was attending Rutgers University at this time, said that all of her fellow students were very heavily into all three bands, especially The Cure. But because my sister was and still is the ultimate metal maiden, she hated The Cure’s “The Head at the Door” album and didn’t think much of the other two bands.

As for me, I never really paid much attention to R.E.M. back in the 1980s and they really didn’t come onto my radar until the 1990s. Even then, I basically know them from some of their more famous singles. “Man on the Moon” is my favourite R.E.M. song but that’s irrelevant. Subsequently, their 1986 album, “Life’s Rich Pageant” passed me by and this is a bit of a shame because now that I’m listening to it, I like it!

While some filed R.E.M. into the ‘intellectual rock’ category, does such a genre exist? I have to actually agree with Wikipedia’s label of ‘alternative rock.’ See back in 1986, people were putting all forms of music into nice neat little categories, people still do, and R.E.M. didn’t fit into any of the ones that were around at the time. Although the guitar is the chief weapon of their musical arsenal, it’s not hard enough to be considered metal. With the absence of synths, one can’t call them synth pop nor could they call them progressive rock or alternative pop. Since the only single from the album,  “Fall on Me” only got to 94 on the charts, they were definitely not a top 40 band at the time. So by default, alternative rock is the best way to describe the band and “Life’s Rich Pageant.”

I won’t be equating guitarist Peter Buck with greats like Blackmore, Malmesteen and Van Halen etc.,  but he does produce some interesting guitar hooks on a lot of the songs. It’s his work on the opening song, “Begin the Begin” which immediately turns my attention to the album and the intro notes on the follow up, “These Days,” is probably his best efforts. However, the one thing I can say about the album is that most of the other songs could have been released as a single and probably wouldn’t have broken the nineties in the billboard top 100 charts. While there are differences in each and every song, R.E.M. don’t stray too far from their basic formula. Saying that, Buck’s banjo intro on “I Believe” is quite good and the song particular reminds me most of the sound I would later would associate with R.E.M.

Of course, I don’t want to let the side down and there is a hidden gem on the album, which if it was up to me, would have been released as a single. “Cuyahoga” is about a river which flows from Cleveland, Ohio into Lake Erie and became so polluted that it actually caught fire in 1969. In the song, singer Michael Stipe laments on how the river was a great place to spend a day but became so polluted that it was no longer possible to do so. Back in 1986, this would have been especially significant with me because at the time, the US had a president who didn’t give a flying f*ck about the environment, much like the clown they have in the White House right now.

Track Listing:

  1. Begin the Begin
  2. These Days
  3. Fall on Me
  4. Cuyahoga
  5. Hyena
  6. Underneath the Bunker
  7. The Flowers of Guatemala
  8. I Believe
  9. What If We Give it Away
  10. Just a Touch
  11. Swan Swan Away
  12. Superman



Michael Stipe- lead vocals, backing vocals on “Superman”

Peter Buck- guitar, banjo

Mike Mills- bass, backing vocals, piano, organ, lead vocal on “Superman”

Bill Berry- drums, backing vocals

Of the three albums from so-called intellectual rock I have reviewed, I have to say I like R.E.M.’s “Life’s Rich Pageant” the most. Had I listened to it when it first came out, the alternative rock would have been more to my liking then as it is now.

Next post: Kim Mitchell- Shakin’ Like a Human Being





















































































Great Rock Albums of 1986: The Cure- The Head on the Door

Posted in Uncategorized on February 14, 2020 by 80smetalman


Wikipedia lists The Cure’s 1986 album “The Head on the Door” as ‘post punk’ as it did with The Smiths album of the same year. However, I remember back in 1986, people were calling these bands, ‘intellectual rock.’ The belief was that many of the people who were into both The Smiths and The Cure as well as REM, whom I’ll be posting about next, were college students. Well, it was when I got to Queen Mary College in London that I was introduced to The Smiths and it was a friend from Stockton State College in New Jersey who introduced me to The Cure. Maybe someone had a point about the intellectual label.

My initial reaction to this album was that it was too pop for my personal tastes. Remember, I was chasing the metal in this year. However, listening to the album after a few beers and possibly other substances, I can begin to appreciate the intricacy of the musicianship on the album a bit more and I appreciate the musical smarts of Robert Smith. What he did was to take the traditional doom and gloom of his song writing and set it to slightly more danceable music. I do remember some Cure material being played at college discos in both the US and UK.

Thirty plus years on, I no longer cast a song aside just because there are synths in place of power chords. While the opener, “In Between Days” was definitely marked to be a top 40 pop song, the rest of the album veers away from the synth pop I so disliked back then. Tracks two through six are especially indicative of this. There is something I like about each of the songs in this line up. “Kyoto” has the gloomy feel which The Cure were best known for and it’s even more the case with “The Blood,” which I like even more. “Six Different Ways” has an acoustic guitar intro which sucks me in and the rest of the track keeps my attention. However, my top track on “The Head at the Door” has to be “Push.” The guitar is the most heard instrument on the song, and it’s not even the hardest track on the album, that one goes to “A Night Like This.” However, in this case, harder does not mean better and while I like “A Night Like This,” it’s not the best track on the album.

As for the rest of the album, “The Baby Screams” reminds me of very early U2. I’m talking about their debut “Boy” album so that’s a good thing. However, it’s followed by the second single, “Close to Me.” This is definitely a danceable tune and while it’s not bad, it is a little bit of a comedown from the previous songs. “Screw” starts like it’s going to be a bit of a rocker but then turns into more of a dance tune and it does put me off it a little. The same can be said for the closer, “Sinking.” Most of it sounds like a dance tune until you get near the end. Then Robert Smith takes it into a new direction enough to take the album out on a high.

Track Listing:

  1. In Between Days
  2. Kyoto
  3. The Blood
  4. Six Different Ways
  5. Push
  6. The Baby Screams
  7. Close to Me
  8. A Night Like This
  9. Screw
  10. Sinking


Robert Smith- vocals, guitar, keyboards

Lol Tolhurst- keyboards

Porl Thompson- guitar, keyboards

Simon Gallup- bass

Boris Williams- drums, percussion

Ron Howe- saxophone on “A Night Like This”

I guess Steve Lukather never went over to England

Let me be honest here, while I appreciate The Cure’s “The Head on the Door” album more today than I did back in 1986, it doesn’t make me want to go back in time and burn my metal collection. Saying that, if I ever went to an 1980s disco, I would want songs from the album played there. It’s best for that although it does provide a good alternative if like me, you sometimes want to listen to music beyond your chosen favourite genre.

Next post: R.E.M.- Life’s Rich Pageant

























































































































Great Rock Albums of 1986: The Smiths- The Queen is Dead

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2020 by 80smetalman


Reflecting on the tour of 1986 thus far, I find myself wondering if I should have done this year a little different. Most of you know by now that I divide each year up into rock albums and metal albums with some hopefully interesting news and tidbits from said year in between. However, I could have divided 1986 up another way, 80smetalman in the US for the first eight months and 80smetalman in Britain for the final four months of the year. See, it was in August of that year, I left the US to come to the UK for a year’s study at Queen Mary College in London. It was when I arrived in the UK, I first learned about The Smiths.

My initial experience of The Smiths wasn’t through their music. Actually, it was the cover of their previous album, “Meat is Murder.” It seemed that many British students were buying posters of the album cover to decorate their dorm walls or displaying it on t-shirts. It was enough to capture my curiosity and check the band out more. Fortunately, there were many British students who were very obliging in helping me fulfill this quest.


This cover was very popular around Queen Mary College in 1986

The Smith’s second album, “The Queen is Dead” gave me the education I needed to understand what post-punk really meant. It’s nowhere near The Sex Pistols but there is a rock vibe that I appreciate very deeply. Furthermore, I detect and like the humour in the lyrics of the songs on the album. “Frankly, Mr Shankly” is definitely one of those songs. I can identify with those who use humour as a mechanism when confronted with serious subjects.

But sometimes I feel more fulfilled

Making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.

Also some lyrics from “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” gives some great amusement:

And if a double-decker bus crashes into us,

To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.

See what I mean?

“I Know It’s Over” and “Never Had No One Ever” are both supposed ballads but neither are soppy or power ballads. The former is about an ended relationship and I can feel the pain in Morrissey’s vocals as he sings it. On the other hand, “Cemetry Gates” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again” are more in the lines of what the post punk I was being introduced to at the time. What really amazed me about the latter song was that it was released as a single and got to 26 in the UK charts. When I learned that, my reaction was, “That would not have happened in America.”

Saying that, “The Boy With the Thorn In His Side” did even better reaching number 23! Listening to it, I can hear the why it would make a good single at the time, with guitarist Johnny Marr playing some other instruments like the marimba on it. But I also get the spirit of the lyrics about a boy growing up around all the hate.

Back to humourous lyrics, the all out winner and my choice for hidden gem is “Vicar in a Tutu.” Did Morrissey see something alarming as a youth? Not that it matters because I do like the song, not because of the funny lyrics but the strong rock beat on it. The more I listen to “The Queen is Dead,” the more I admire the musicianship of the rest of the band.

Track Listing:

  1. The Queen is Dead
  2. Frankly Mr Shankly
  3. I Know It’s Over
  4. Never Had No One Ever
  5. Cemetry Gates
  6. Bigmouth Strikes Again
  7. The Boy With a Thorn In His Side
  8. Vicar In a Tutu
  9. There is a Light That Never Goes Out
  10. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others


The Smiths

Morrissey- lead and backing vocals

Johnny Marr- guitar, marimba, synthesized strings, harmonium

Andy Rourke- bass

Mike Joyce- drums

It would be wrong to say that The Smiths was my introduction to music in the UK. I had already become immersed in the great British metal bands. But what they did do was to open my eyes as to great alternatives to the UK pop scene. This album helped.

Next post: The Cure- The Head on the Door





























Great Rock Albums of 1986: Peter Gabriel- So

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2020 by 80smetalman


Thinking back to 1986, I realise that I wasn’t always as open minded about music as I tended to think. Peter Gabriel’s 1986 “So” album supports this. The thing was that I was so caught up in my quest of all things metal, that anything that sounded too commercial or synth pop got rejected without further investigation. My first thought when the single, “Sledgehammer,” came on the radio was that Peter was selling out and going commercial. Fortunately, I see things more clearly thirty plus years on and while I agree with those who say that “So” was Peter’s most commercially successful album, it was not a sell out.

The weird thing was that I never disliked that single, “Sledgehammer.” It does have a catchy tune and I can hear an electric  guitar in the background. Therefore, I have to admit that I think the song is pretty darn good. I am also familiar with the other two of the first three tracks on the album. “Red Rain” proves that he hadn’t strayed too far from the formula which brought him so much success with early Genesis back in the 1970s. It also proved that, along with GTR and ELP, that 70s style progressive rock had not totally gone away.

Track three, which I didn’t get to experience until I got to England towards the end of that year, “Don’t Give Up,” was a pretty good one. Kate Bush lends her vocal talent on the chorus and makes things more interesting. Reading a little of the history, Peter wrote the song in reaction to the rising unemployment under the Margaret Thatcher government in the 80s. It’s a good progressive ballad.


Kate Bush

Now for the rest of the album, don’t worry, I don’t think the rest of the album sucks. In fact, it’s quite good but saying that, I don’t think the remainder of the album is quite at the level of the first three songs. While not filler, Peter puts effort on each and every one, but none of these tracks have me standing up and shouting, “This song kicks f*ckin’ ass!” Of the six remaining songs, “Mercy Street” is the best of them and “That Voice Again” is done quite nicely. What you do get on those tracks is some good progressive rock that was right for the 80s, while not going synth pop. It’s a fine effort from Peter Gabriel but I still prefer his previous album, “Security.”

Track Listing:

  1. Red Rain
  2. Sledgehammer
  3. Don’t Give Up
  4. That Voice Again
  5. In Your Eyes
  6. Mercy Street
  7. Big Time
  8. We Do What We’re Told
  9. This is the Picture

Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel- lead vocals, Prophet synthesizer, synthesizer, percussion, piano, Synclavier

Kate Bush: vocals (track 3)

Tony Levin- bass (tracks 1-5 &7)

David Rhodes- guitar, backing vocals

Jerry Marotta- drums (tracks 1, 5 & 8), bass (track 7),

Manu Katche- drums (tracks 2 & 5), percussion

Chris Hughes- electronic drums

Stewart Copeland- hi hat (track 1), drums (track 7)

Daniel Lanois- guitar (tracks 1,2 & 4), tambourine, 12 string guitar (track 8)

Wayne Jackson- trumpet (tracks 2 & 7), coronet (track  7)

Mark Rivera- tenor, alto, processed and baritone saxophones

Don Mikkelson- trombone (track 7)

Richard Tee- piano (tracks 3,5 & ^0

Simon Clark- keyboards, backing vocals

L. Shankar- violin (tracks 4 & 8)

Larry Klein- bass (tracks 5 & 6)

Djalma Correa- surdo, congas, triangle

Bill Laswell- bass (track 9)

Nile Rodgers- guitar (track 9)

Laurie Anderson- synthesizer, vocals (track 9)

P.P. Arnold, Coral Gordon, Dee Lewis, Youssou D’Nour, Michael Keen, Jim Kerr, Ronnie Bright- backing vocals

And no sign of Steve Lukather!

Once again, I think back to all the cool progressive rock that I missed out on. Still, I was on a quest for metal so I have no regrets back then. But it was good to know that there was some great prog rock compliments of Peter Gabriel with “So” to be had.

Next post: The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead









































Great Rock Albums of 1986: Frank Zappa- Does Humor Belong In Music?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2020 by 80smetalman


By 1986, video recordings of concerts to own were becoming a thing. So, when I finally got a VCR and saw that a video of Frank Zappa playing live was for sale, I bought it. Then I discovered that there was an album for the concert available on CD, although there were bootleg editions of it on vinyl. Now normally, if I have something on one form of media, I don’t buy the other because I think, “What’s the point of having two items with exactly the same songs on it?” However, there are songs that are on the video which don’t appear on the album and vice versa.

My minor complaint about the album was that some of the songs that don’t appear on it from the video are some of my favourites. “Bobby Brown,” definitely in my top five of favourite Zappa tunes, “Be In My Video” and “Honey Don’t You Want a Man Like Me” from the live “Zappa in New York” album are on the video but not the album. But that doesn’t stop me from liking the album because the songs which replace them are pretty cool too.

Both medias start with the instrumental, “Zoot Allures” and explode into another Zappa favourite of mine, “Tinseltown Rebellion.” What’s good is that they even keep the little extras from the song from the video in the album version. “Trouble Every Day” is also on both and I forgot how Frank wails on the guitar on that track. “Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel” also appears on both but only fragments of the song are on the video so, it’s probably a good idea to have the album for the full version of that. What’s best about both is that they close with a cover of an Allman Brothers song, “Whipping Post.” Keyboards player Bobby Martin delivers the vocals on it and man, what a great musician he is. Not just on “Whipping Post” but on the entire album. How he doesn’t get mentioned in musical circles is beyond me. There is one difference between album and video on the song. Frank nails the guitar solo on the video but the album version has son Dweezil wailing away on the guitar and I learned then that he could play like his father.

As mentioned, the songs which are on the album are very good, very Frank Zappa. “Penguin in Bondage,” “What’s New in Baltimore” and my choice for hidden gem because the title gives me childish amusement, “Cock-Suckers Ball,” are all great Zappa tunes. The album version also gives you a second instrumental, the sixteen minute long “Let’s Move to Cleveland.” Like with Zappa instrumentals, the musicianship is so complex, there is a drum solo from Chris Wackerman and keyboards solo from Alan Zavod, that you don’t realize the song is that long. These songs make the album version worth getting.

Track Listing:

  1. Zoot Allures
  2. Tinseltown Rebellion
  3. Trouble Every Day
  4. Penguin in Bondage
  5. Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel
  6. What’s New in Baltimore
  7. Cock-Suckers Ball
  8. WPLJ
  9. Let’s Move to Cleveland
  10. Whipping Post

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa- lead guitar, vocals

Ray White- rhythm guitar, vocals

Ike Willis- rhythm guitar, vocals

Bobby Martin- keyboards, saxophone, french horn, lead vocal on “Whipping Post”

Alan Zavod- keyboards

Scott Thunes- bass

Chris Wackerman- drums

Dweezil Zappa- lead guitar on “Whipping Post”

While I prefer the video only because it has some of my favourite Zappa tunes, the album version of “Does Humor Belong in Music?” is exceptional too. Frank was always a perfectionist and it shows very clearly on both.

Next post: Peter Gabriel- So