Archive for reggae

Great Rock Albums of 1984: Tommy Shaw- Girls With Guns

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2017 by 80smetalman

 

Styx guitarist, although back in 1984 it was former, Tommy Shaw’s first solo album is yet another reason why I don’t let one song influence me when I buy an album. It was the opening title track that was played by radio and while “Girls With Guns” is a decent song, it on its own, wouldn’t have been enough for me to buy the album. What influenced me to buy it was the songs Tommy wrote whilst he was in his former band.

The great thing about Styx in the 1970s and 80s was that Tommy, Dennis De Young and James Young all had the ability to write and perform great songs. While I don’t have a preference in this realm, the songs that Tommy wrote which I really loved were: “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Renegade” and “Man in the Wilderness” for starters. Therefore, like with Dennis’s solo album, I used the memories of the great Styx songs Tommy wrote to influence my decision to buy “Girls With Guns.”

Styx

Did my logic work out? My answer is yes. It’s true that the opener, title track and first single was always intended to sound more 80s synth but I did like it. It doesn’t really matter because each track after offers up something new each time. The very next track, “Come In and Explain” is very much heavy rock and Tommy does open up with his guitar on that one. Following that, he attempts a ballad with “Lonely School.” Now, I don’t want to knock his voice because Tommy Shaw can sing and it’s not a bad song but I don’t think that voice is made for ballads, at least on this song. Just my thoughts that’s all. However, he does go into more familiar territory with “Heads Up.” This sounds like his days with Styx and there is good harmonizing in the vocals. Plus, there’s the added bonus of him laying down a particularly cool guitar solo, so full marks here.

Pure speculation here but maybe he realized he wasn’t up for singing ballads because while “Kiss Me Hello” is a ballad, there is much more harmonizing on it and therefore a big improvement. Additionally, I have to give full marks to Peter Wood here because he does a marvelous job on the keyboards on this one. Tommy does end the song with a little guitar solo so full marks all around, actually.

“Fading Away” has a very progressive rock intro and then goes to a reggae sound. Now Tommy Shaw is no Bob Marley but his voice sounds okay on it. He does fuse more progressive rock into the song and the mix sounds okay. “Little Girl World” has a catchy feel good factor about it. It’s one of those songs you would play at a celebration or something and has some more good keyboard work from Wood. But there’s some hard guitars that do manifest themselves out of the background. A similar thing can be said for “Outside in the Rain” but the guitars are more noticeable, especially with one of Shaw’s solos on it. He is also accompanied by one Carol Kenyon on the vocals. “Free to Love You” is the love child between 1980s synth and traditional Styx. Elements of both permeate the album without either establishing dominance and with another cool guitar solo, Tommy blends them well. The closer, “The Race is On” is a decent progressive rock song with saxophones on it. Nicely done in a way that closes the album out on a good note.

Track Listing:

  1. Girls With Guns
  2. Come In and Explain
  3. Lonely School
  4. Heads Up
  5. Kiss Me Hello
  6. Fading Away
  7. Little Girl World
  8. Outside in the Rain
  9. Free to Love You
  10. The Race is On

Tommy Shaw, now sporting a mullet in 1984

 

Tommy Shaw- guitars and lead vocals, mandolin

Steve Holley- drums, percussion

Brian Stanley- bass

Peter Wood- piano, electric piano, synthesizers

Carol Kenyon- accompanying vocals on “Outside in the Rain”

Richie Connata- sax solo on “The Race is On”

Molly Duncan- saxophone section on “The Race is On”

Tommy Shaw followed Dennis De Young in releasing a solo album after Styx. While he’s not afraid to stretch out a bit on the album, he does remember that his guitar work is his main weapon as it was for Styx. However, he does have  good keyboards player in Peter Wood and that helps to make “Girls With Guns” the winner here. If I were to compare it to Dennis’s album.

Next post: The Kinks- Word of Mouth

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to https://www.amazon.com/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1501701674&sr=8-7&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Rock Albums of 1984: Weird Al Yankovic- In 3D

Posted in 1980s, Humour, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2017 by 80smetalman

Michael Jackson did two things in 1984 which rose him up a few points in my estimation, both of which were linked to his top selling song, “Beat It.” First, when accepting a Grammy for the song, he had the decency to include Eddie Van Halen in his list of thank yous. After all, it was Eddie’s guitar solo on the song the reason why metalheads, bought the single. The other act was to allow Weird Al Yankovic to record a parody of “Beat It” called “Eat It.” That would be Weird Al’s best known single and even charted in the UK and it helped his 1984 album, “In 3D” become his biggest album. In fact, he was allowed to use many of the same dancers Michael Jackson used in the “Beat It” video for “Eat It.”

Weird Al Yankovic has always been known for his parodies of other great songs and there are plenty of those on “In 3D.” His second single from the album, “I Lost on Jeopardy” is a parody of the Greg Kihn Band’s 1983 hit, “Jeopardy” as well as making fun of the TV game show of the same name. I do wonder how many people went on game shows and looked stupid on national television. Greg Kihn makes an appearance in the video for this song. “King of Suede” parodies the classic from The Police, “King of Pain” and is about a clothing store owner. “Rocky XIII” is a funny parody of Survivor’s hit from the film “Rocky III” “Eye of the Tiger” about how Rocky Balboa gives up boxing to be delicatessen owner. I love the lyrics: “It’s the rye or the kaiser, it’s the thrill of one bite.” A lesser known track but one of my favourite is “The Brady Bunch,” a parody of the Men Without Hats’s only hit, “Safety Dance.” It is believed that from the lyrics, Weird Al didn’t care too much for the 1970s American sit com his song is named after.

It’s not just famous songs that come under the comic roast of Weird Al. He parodies other subjects as well. The second track, “Midnight Star” takes the rip out of grocery store tabloids. However, some of the headlines he mentions for his tabloid, “Midnight Star” aren’t too far fetched in the real ones. I do remember headlines like, “They’re Keeping Hitler’s Brain Inside a Jar,” “Aliens From Outer Space are Sleeping in My Car” and “The Ghost of Elvis is Living in My Den.” Another of my favourites is “That Boy Could Dance” which is about a nerdy geeky loser who is a great dancer, so all his shortcomings are overlooked. Trust me, the song is much funnier that my attempt to explain it here. Then there is the Bob Marley influenced reggae track, “Buy Me a Condo” which is about a Jamaican boy who wants to come to America and live a middle class existence. Even my least favourite track on the album, Mr Popeil is funny. Probably because I remember all the Popeil adverts for things like the Ginsu Knife and the Pocket Fisherman.

In 1981, there were two singles called “Stars on 45” and “Stars on 45 II.” The former took Beatles’ songs and made a medley out of it. The latter did the same with Beach Boys songs. So what Weird Al did was to take classic rock songs and make a medley out of those but instead, set to polka music. Some great rock classics like “Smoke on the Water” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” get the polka treatment.

When I bought this album and saw the track listing, I thought the closer, “Nature Trail to Hell,” might be a parody of the AC/DC classic, “Highway to Hell.” Instead, it lambastes blood and gore horror films. “Nature Trail to Hell” to quote the song, is about “A homicidal maniac who finds a cub scout troop and hacks up two or three in every scene.” This was particularly relevant at the time because “Friday the 13th Part 4” was in the cinema then. You know, the one advertised as the film where Jason meets his grisly end. Well done by Al, it makes a fantastic closer.

Track Listing:

  1. Eat It
  2. Midnight Star
  3. The Brady Bunch
  4. Buy Me a Condo
  5. I Lost on Jeopardy
  6. Polkas on 45
  7. Mr Popeil
  8. King of Suede
  9. That Boy Could Dance
  10. Rocky XIII
  11. Nature Trail to Hell

Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic- vocals, synthesizer, accordion, piano

Jim West- guitar

Steve Jay- bass, banjo, talking drums

John ‘Bermuda’ Schwartz- drums, percussion

Rick Derringer- guitar, mandolin

Weird Al Yankovic hit the big time 1984 with this album, “In 3D.” I dare anyone to listen to this album and not laugh their heads off at least one song. For me, it’s nearly all of them. Anyone who doesn’t find any part of this album funny, then they have no sense of humour.

Next post: Randy Newman- Trouble in Paradise

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1983: Men At Work- Cargo

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2016 by 80smetalman

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Let me clarify something I wrote when I posted about Men At Work’s debut album, “Business As Usual.” I stated that Men At Work was the closest I got to mainstream music back in the 1980s. That was definitely the case in 1982 however, after refamiliarising myself with their second album, which I find superior to the debut album by the way, and thinking about music in 1983, I have to agree to the premise that this band wasn’t really mainstream. Still, they were the closest I got to it.

One reason why the “Cargo” album might be considered mainstream was that it had three successful singles on it. “Dr Heckyll and Mr Jive” was a very fun catchy tune and I love the paranoid feeling that “Overkill” provides. I’ve had days when I feel exactly like that. However, my favourite all time Men At Work song is the single “It’s a Mistake.” Its release couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Call it kharma or deja vu but hearing a good anti war song right after coming out of the marines was unbelievable. The video of the song provided the proper punchline. Even without all that, I still would have found it a good song.

From the Men At Work video: It's A Mistake

From the Men At Work video: It’s A Mistake

Call “Cargo” what you will, post punk, new wave or even mainstream, none of it stops this album from being a good, fun album. There also elements of reggae in it as well, I site “Settle Down My Boy” and “Blue For You” as evidence,  so in my mind, all of those combinations make it anything but mainstream. I sort of like it when people aren’t able pigeon hole certain bands. With “Cargo” there is something for everyone to like. Hell, I even noticed a bit of a hard rock-ish sound on “High Wire.” What’s more, Men At Work incorporate a brilliant sense of humour on their songs, something I always like. That’s expecially the case with “I Like To.” Therefore, my conclusion is while “Cargo” by Men At Work may not be the hard pounding metal album I was liking more and more in those days, it was still a very enjoyable album.

Track Listing:

  1. Dr Heckyll and Mr Jive
  2. Overkill
  3. Settle Down My Boy
  4. Upstairs in My Room
  5. No Sign of Yesterday
  6. It’s a Mistake
  7. High Wire
  8. Blue For You
  9. I Like To
  10. No Restrictions
Men At Work

Men At Work

Greg Ham- flute, keyboards, saxophone, vocals

Colin Hay- guitar, vocals

John Rees- bass, backing vocals

Jerry Speiser- drums, backing vocals

Ron Strykert- guitar, vocals

Men At Work might have been the closest I ever got to mainstream music back in the 1980s but they certainly weren’t mainstream. Good musicianship, fun and catchy music and lyrics and a sense of humour was why I liked the “Cargo” album.

Next post: Night Ranger- Midnight Madness

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1983: Joan Armatrading- The Key

Posted in Books, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2016 by 80smetalman

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In Laina Dawes’s book, “What Are You Doing Here?,” which is about a black woman’s liberation through heavy metal and the prejudice she experienced as a female metalhead of African origin, she mentions great black female rock singers like Joyce ‘Baby Jean’ Kennedy from Mother’s Finest and Skin from Skunk Anansie, both of whom have made a big impact on the rock scene. However, I don’t remember, though I could be wrong, any mention of another great lady who belongs with the two already mentioned, Joan Armatrading. Note to self: find and reread that book. The two Joan Armatrading albums I’ve listened to, the 1981 album “Me Myself I” and her 1983, “The Key,” are both great rocking albums. Therefore, I am forced to think that Joan doesn’t get the musical respect she deserves.

untitled

Way back in 1983 during my final weeks in the marines, Joan’s single from the album, “I Love it When You Call Me Names,” got a good amount of airplay. I love the hard rocking edge to the song and the lyrics just cracked me up. This song appears to be about a sado- masochistic couple who get off on abusing each other. The lyrics, “He loves it when she beats his brains in” are sufficient evidence to the fact and there’s a cool guitar solo at the end. That song continues to amuse me to this day and I’m a little surprised that no thrash band has covered it.

While it may not have the amusing lyrics like the single, the rest of “The Key” is a really cool album. There are the straight forward rockers like “Drop the Pilot,” “Tell Tale” and “What Do Boys Dream.” Then there’s the power ballad, “Everybody Gotta Know” and while “Foolish Pride” incorporates horns, it is still a decent song that will dent anyone’s belief that horns can’t be used in a rock tune. Joan does show her versatility with the reggae sounding title track. This is a good bouncy song that has you repeating the chorus, “I found the key to your heart,” for several minutes after the song’s conclusion, a fine album by a fine singer.

Track Listing:

  1. I Love it When You Call Me Names
  2. Foolish Pride
  3. Drop the Pilot
  4. The Key
  5. Everybody Gotta Know
  6. Tell Tale
  7. What Do Boys Dream
  8. The Game of Love
  9. The Dealer
  10. Bad Habits
  11. I Love My Baby
Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading- lead vocals, guitars, piano

Adrian Belew- guitar

Daryl Stuermer- guitar

Gary Sanford- guitar

Tony Levin- bass

Larry Fast- synthesizer

Stewart Copeland- drums

Jerry Marotta- drums

Julian Diggle- percussion

Mel Collins- saxophone

Annie Whitehead- trombone

Guy Barker- trumpet

Dean Klavatt- piano

Jeremy Meek- bass vocal

I never realised it before but there are some great musicians who play on “The Key.” One reason why this album is so good. However, this takes nothing away from Joan and her great vocal ability and song writing skills. She is certainly a power force in rock.

Next post: ZZ Top- Eliminator

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

 

 

Great Rock Albums of 1983: The Police- Synchronicity

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2016 by 80smetalman

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When I returned home from the marines on the last day of June of said year, the album “Synchronicity” by the Police was the one I came home to. It seemed every time I turned on the radio, the song, “Every Breath You Take” was playing and if I left the radio on for any amount of time, rest assured, it would be played again. While that song may have been a big hit, (number one on both sides of the Atlantic) it wasn’t one to me. In fact, when I heard it, I began to pine for such Police classics as “Roxanne,” “Message in a Bottle” and my all time favourite Police jam, “Don’t Stand Too Close to Me.”

Fortunately, one song does not an album make. I will be posting about a reverse situation in the very near future but enough of that for now. The great thing about Police albums is that it was guaranteed there would be at least one song that I really love. In the case of “Synchronicity,” it is “Synchronicity II.” That is a really catchy up-beat jam and recently, I have began to wonder how it would sound if metalized. Plus, the lyrics, “Another working day has ended, another Russia has to face,” has always amused me. “Synchronicity II” definitely ranks up there with the classics previously mentioned.

In addition to the two tracks already named, the album had several other radio friendly hits, “King of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger” being the most prominent. In spite of this, with “Synchronicity,” The Police pretty much remain true to their reggae based roots. “O My God” is the best example of this and “Murder By Numbers” another one. The latter did get some air play as well. At the same time, I did have a good laugh when listening to “Mother,” a very amusing song with Andy Summers doing the lead vocals. Furthermore, the great musicianship still remains on this album. Now, some people have been quick to assume that with all the radio hits on “Synchronicity,” The Police sold out on the album. I was, at first, ready to assume that on account of “King of Pain” and “Every Breath You Take.” However, those might be radio hits but the album itself is everything The Police were known for.

Track Listing:

  1. Synchronicity
  2. Walking in Your Footsteps
  3. O My God
  4. Mother
  5. Miss Gradenko
  6. Synchronicity II
  7. Every Breath You Take
  8. King of Pain
  9. Wrapped Around Your Finger
  10. Tea in the Sahara
  11. Murder By Numbers
The Police

The Police

Sting- bass, lead and backing vocals, oboe, saxophone

Andy Summers- guitar, keyboards, lead vocal on “Mother”

Stewart Copeland- drums, percussion, xylophone, co-lead vocals on “Miss Gradenko”

“Synchronicity” would be the last album The Police would record together. The band would split after the tour. Apparently, Sting’s ego became bigger than the rest of the band. Joking aside, from what I heard, Sting and Stewart Copeland just couldn’t stand one another. In any case, it could definitely be said that they went out on a high.

Next Post: INXS- Shabooh Shoobah

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

Great Rock Albums of 1983: Thomas Dolby- The Golden Age of the Wireless

Posted in 1980s, Humour, Music, Rock with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2016 by 80smetalman

Thomas_Dolby_-_The_Golden_Age_Of_Wireless_(US)

In many musical circles, Thomas Dolby is considered a one hit wonder, only known for his classic song, “She Blinded Me With Science.” Me personally, I’ve always liked that song, always having loved humour in music and there is plenty of it to be found in “She Blinded Me With Science.” What I loved best is the background voices that hilariously repeat the title or just say, “Science!” Furthermore, the keyboards in it are played very well. However, for those of us who take our music slightly more seriously, Thomas Dolby is not a one hit wonder. As I reflect back to 1983, I think that he represented the crossroads between progressive rock and the synth pop that made up much of the 1980s. I also know that I wasn’t the only metalhead who liked Thomas Dolby, so for any of my metal brethren out there, don’t be afraid to step forward and admit it. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.

The trademark keyboards that I mentioned on the hit single can be found throughout the entire album. Some of the tracks are quite trippy bordering on space rock. “Weightless” and “Windpower” are two of these. I could easily listen to both of those songs along with Hawkwind or a Paul Kantner solo album and they wouldn’t be out of place. Dolby’s vocals add to the trippy feeling. He doesn’t try to make any of these songs sound commercial, barring “She Blinded Me With Science” but it’s the humour that makes that song for me. “Commercial Breakup” goes more in a traditional progressive rock direction while at the same time having a reggae feel to it, nicely done. What Dolby does on “The Golden Age of the Wireless” is employ the modern technology of the time into his music but he does so without compromising any of his musical integrity.

Track Listing:

  1. She Blinded Me With Science
  2. Radio Waves
  3. Airwaves
  4. Flying North
  5. Weightless
  6. Europa and the Pirate Twins
  7. Windpower
  8. Commercial Breakup
  9. One of Our Submarines
  10. Cloudburst at Shingle Street

Thomas Dolby

Thomas Dolby

Thomas Dolby- vocals, synthesizers, wave computer, piano, kalimba, monk voice

Kevin Armstrong- guitar, backing vocals

Dave Birch- guitar, monk voice

Bosco- percussion

Mark Heyward Chaplin- bass

Justin Hildreth- drums

Simon House, Tim Kerr- violin

Simon Lloyd- leadline brass, flute

Daniel Miller- synthesizer

Andy Partridge- harmonica, percussion

Dr Magnus Pike- voiceover

Matthew Seligman- moog bass

Further backing vocals provided by: James Allen, Les Chappel, Judy Evans, Lesley Fairbairn, Mutt Lange, Lene Lovich, Miriam Stockley, Brian Woolley, Akiko Yano

I should have included “One of Our Submarines” in with the songs that stand out for me since it does. My conclusion here is what I have always thought all these years. Thomas Dolby was not a one hit wonder but a very underrated musician. Although many of them might not admit it, I think many of the synth pop bands that came after him would site him as an influence. For me, he was more than synth pop or a one hit wonder.

Next post: Nantucket- No Direction Home

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

 

Great Rock Albums of 1983: Todd Rundgren- The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2016 by 80smetalman

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The first time I heard the song “Bang On the Drum All Day” by Todd Rundgren on the radio, I thought, “This is great! Todd is back.” I have been a big Todd Rundgren fan since 1978 when a friend enlightened me to the “Something/Anything” album. Adding to the euphoria brought on by listening to that album, he then released the “Hermit of Mink Hollow” album in said year. If I wasn’t a Rundgren convert before, I certainly was after hearing both of those great albums. Therefore, it was a no-brainer that I would be obtaining his newest offering in 1983.

toddsa

trhomh

In a fairy tale world, I would be telling you how great “The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect” is. Unfortunately, it’s not. It lacks the versatility that I have always liked Todd for. On the two previously mentioned albums, there is lots of progressive rock, hard rock, ballads and even a little heavy metal. “Metal?” you ask. Just listen to the track “Out of Control” off the “Hermit of Mink Hollow” album and you’ll see what I mean. Another thing great about Todd’s previous albums is that he brings a bit of humour to some of the songs on both. However, on this album, the only evidence of that is on the track “Emperor of the Highway,” which is the second best track behind “Bang On the Drum All Day.”

The funny thing is that the first four tracks all start off with a very catchy introduction but each of those tracks quickly turn bland after and one loses interest. They are all very keyboard dominated and pretty much sound the same. “Tin Soldier” picks things up a little and it’s the third best track. Then comes to the two best tracks and they redeem the album from the previous blandness. Sadly though, the last two tracks are a big let down following the big single. Maybe Todd should have made “Bang On the Drum All Day” the closer, it would have worked in my humble opinion.

In defense of Todd, now, unlike the Motorhead album, reading a little of the background history to this album was a good thing as far as Mr Rundgren is concerned. It turns out that “The Ever Tortured Artist Effect” was a contractual obligation album. Therefore, he didn’t put the time and effort into it as he did with his better albums. This would be his last album with Bearsville Records. So, with this new evidence taken into consideration, I can let him slide for this album not measuring up to the previous ones.

Track Listing:

  1. Hideaway
  2. Influenza
  3. Don’t Hurt Yourself
  4. There Goes Your Baybay
  5. Tin Soldier
  6. Emperor of the Highway
  7. Bang on the Drum All Day
  8. Drive
  9. Chant

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Todd Rundgren- All instruments, vocals and production

All in all, “The Ever Tortured Artist Effect” isn’t horrible. It’s just not nearly as great as his best albums. Then again, when you record an album simply because you have to, it probably won’t be as good and you won’t put your best effort into it. Let it be known that my feelings for the posted album in no way detract from my assertion that Todd Rundgren should be in the Rock Hall of Fame.

On a separate note, when I learned about Lemmy’s passing last week, I thought that the metal hating UK newspaper, The Sun, would say little if anything at all about it. To my surprise, there was two pages dedicated to the great man and his contribution to music over the past forty years. Before we get to excited, one of the contributors did write about Lemmy’s limited vocal capability. He misses the point, Lemmy’s voice was perfect for the songs he sang. Let’s hear Olly Muirs try to sing “Ace of Spades.” Then again, the skeptic in me thinks that the main reason the paper ran so much about Lemmy is because he is seen as a British icon.

thesun

Next post: Bryan Adams- Cuts Like A Knife

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London.