Rock’s New Old Heroes

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As the USA recovers from Covid-19 there are a couple of new releases from today’s finest rock bands to provide a much needed experience of joy.

Weezer and Twenty One Pilots are today’s new/old rock heroes. Sure Weezer has some great back catalog; Twenty One Pilots’ catalog is fewer titles but growing well.

Okay, Weezer has been around over 30 years, but remain vital as ever. Alright let’s start with the newest Weezer platter….

Van Weezer is just the right album for Summer 2021. Vocalist Rivers Cuomo had been wanting to contribute this type of modern rock n roll that salutes his love for eighties metal and hard rock.

Hero is a standout single that is on par with great Foo Fighters tracks.

Blue Dream uses the actual tab from Ozzy’s Crazy Train! And the song is totally original.

There are many flourishes of Eddie Van Halen’s playing style throughout the record hence the title Van Weezer.

The entirety of the set’s thirty minutes is pure cathartic release of why rock fans never stop wanting more no matter their age.

Twenty One Pilots have spent their Covid time recording the follow up to their concept epic Trench.

The new one is titled Scaled and Icy to reflect isolation and the scaled back way of life everyone has endured.

Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are a great duo. On the current set singles like Choker return them to their earlier form on records like Vessel.

Do not let the surface happy pop sound fool you. The lyrics are just as complex and probing as any Tyler has done previously.

Good Day opens the set with the declaration that it’s hard to believe that today is good. Singing out is the best way to bring joy. Mr. Joseph does just that. He sounds a lot like Mika which is a great thing.

Both albums will provide plenty of happiness this Summer!

Greta Van Fleet

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The Battle At Garden’s Gate is the second studio album from a band which had been on their first world tour when Covid-19 struck.

The Battle At Garden’s Gate on Lava Republic Records

Instead of complaining about the abrupt halt to their goals they spent time reflecting on what had happened to them and to their world.

Josh Kiszka; Jake Kiszka; Sam Kiszka; Danny Wagner wrote new songs they recorded in Nashville. The result is a much more complex set of tunes in which these young musicians did something quite amazing. They found their sound. Perhaps not a signature yet but still an audible gust that sets them apart from their peers.

Tracks like My Way Soon and Heat Above revel in the freedom of making music and being able to hit the road where you can make your own rules. It’s not for nothing the band’s earlier hit was called Highway Tune.

Age of Machine displays a new side to this group. A progressive component that lifts Josh’s vocals to new heights. I think his vocals have set them apart as genuine stars in the making.

His brothers Sam and Jake form a guitar sound that is all their own. You hear a chord progression that is Greta Van Fleet’s unique stamp. A mix of progressive rock with melody rooted in 1960’s psychedelia. Not a simple feat.

Producer Greg Kurstin (Foo Fighters) has brought out something deep in their arsenal of heavy melodic soft but hard edged rock that was there on the debut Anthem of the Peaceful Army but now is on the March with opuses like Broken Bells and Built By Nations.

This album is highly recommended. With the pandemic starting to lift let’s hope we can see these guys back on the road soon.

Iron Maiden

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I bought my first Iron Maiden record in 1982. “The Number of the Beast” garnered great reviews from the heavy metal community.

Here in America it also received threats from church officials as being an agent of satanism. Heavy metal music does a lot of satanic material. It just fits the genre so well. This kind of music is a tonic for many fans. I love complex guitar based music. Soaring vocals are a huge component as well.

Circus magazine wrote a response to the controversy. The article explained Iron Maiden are not devil worshippers, just devil-may-care.

I was a fan for life after that era. Their mascot Eddie, a re-animated ghoul, appears on every album cover. Created by Derek Riggs, he assumes different types and styles that fit each album’s themes and concepts.

From their eponymous debut in album to their first double studio album in 2015, the band’s music has evolved from traditional metal to a more progressive groove.

Their line-up changed several times. Original vocalist Paul DiAnno quit due to substance abuse. His replacement was Samson singer Bruce Dickinson who turned out to be their ticket to global stardom.

For two albums, Bruce was replaced by Blayze Bayley. Their 10th and 11th albums were as good as anything they had done before but fans did not like this change.

In the year 2000 the band made a huge comeback with Bruce’s return. Guitarist Adrian Smith also came back. This current line-up of the group proved to be their best.

Since the year 2000 Iron Maiden are Bruce Dickinson (Vocals), Steve Harris (Bass), Adrian Smith (Guitar), Dave Murray (Guitar), Janick Jers (Guitar), Nicko McBrain (Drums).

The past 20 years of a nearly 50 year career have produced critically acclaimed records like “Brave New World”, “A Matter of Life and Death”, “The Final Frontier”, and “The Book of Souls”.

This followed their now classic albums of the 1980’s: “Killers”, “The Number of the Beast”, “Piece of Mind”, “Powerslave”, “Somewhere in Time”, and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son “.

A documentary film, “Flight 666”, follows Maiden on a record setting world tour in which lead singer Bruce Dickinson piloted the band’s plane called Ed Force One.

Around the world Maiden’s fan base grew not only larger but younger too. In my opinion Iron Maiden have the best fans.

In the past four decades you will have seen people wearing Iron Maiden shirts or patches or bracelets or hats.

In 1982, Eddie was a demon spawn. Then in 1983 he was condemned to the rubber room. In 1984 he was an entombed pharaoh. In 1986 he became a cyborg. In 1988 he became the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

Now in their fifth decade, Iron Maiden are nominated to the Rock Hall of Fame.

Not seeking this award, the band will continue to empower their massive audience that spans the globe with their upcoming seventeenth studio album.

Bassist Steve Harris founded the group on Christmas day 1975! He said at the end of each decade that Maiden had another ten albums in them. And their sixteen studio records all have songs that became big concert classics.

This is a snapshot song list of my favorites from the band’s ongoing career:

Remember Tomorrow

Strange World

Transylvania

Iron Maiden

Wrathchild

Running Free

Sanctuary

Murders In The Rue Morgue

Another Life

Innocent Exile

Prodigal Son

Killers

Phantom of the Opera

Die With Your Boots On

The Prisoner

The Number Of The Beast

Run To The Hills

Revelations

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Flight Of Icarus

Where Eagles Dare

The Trooper

Still Life

To Tame A Land (inspired by Dune)

Sun And Steel

Aces High

Two Minutes To Midnight

Rime Of The Ancient Mariner

Powerslave

Sea Of Madness

Somewhere In Time

Wasted Years

Stranger In A Strange Land

Moonchild

Infinite Dreams

The Clairvoyant

Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

The Evil That Men Do

No Prayer For The Dying

Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter*

Holy Smoke

Public Enema Number One

Be Quick Or Be Dead

From Here To Eternity

Afraid To Shoot Strangers

Wasting Love

Judas Be My Guide

Weekend Warrior

Fear Of The Dark

Sign Of The Cross

Lord Of The Flies

Man On The Edge

The Aftermath

Judgement Of Heaven

The Unbeliever

Futureal

The Angel And The Gambler

The Clansman

The Educated Fool

Wildest Dreams

Rainmaker

Dance of Death

Paschendale

The Wicker Man

Brave New World

Blood Brothers

Out Of The Silent Planet

Different World

Brighter Than A Thousand Suns

The Pilgrim

The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg

Lord Of Light

Satellite 15…The Final Frontier

El Dorado

The Alchemist

Isle Of Avalon

Star blind

The Talisman

The Man Who Would Be King

When The Wild Wind Blows

If Eternity Should Fail

Speed Of Light

The Book Of Souls

Death Or Glory

Tears Of A Clown

Empire Of The Clouds

*The only single to reach #1 on the chart.

Up the Irons!

The list of songs above reflects how well Iron Maiden have covered their horror, science fiction, fantasy, and historical literary interests.

Their songwriting is done now by each band member. Steve Harris is their lead songwriter who composed epic songs lasting a minimum of six minutes on every record. Frontman Bruce Dickinson wrote the longest track in their history so far. “Empire Of The Clouds” runs 18 minutes!

Arguably the most epic of bands, I hope Maiden get elected to the rock hall of fame this year. They deserve this honor.

Dearest readers I leave you with a few of my favorite versions of mascot Eddie:

Flash Gordon The Story Of The Film

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Written by John Walsh
Titan Books (November 30, 2020)
Language : English
Hardcover : 192 pages
ISBN-10 : 1789095069

Here is a book 40 years in the making. The Dino De Laurentiis production of “Flash Gordon” was released on December 8, 1980 in North America. It’s first weekend at the box office was on par with then recent blockbuster “The Empire Strikes Back” which was the first sequel in the Star Wars saga.

The Alex Raymond comic strip was a different cinematic animal. Flash Gordon’s universe had existed since the 1930’s. The makers of this film decided the project would be an update of the look and nature of a 1930’s comic hero into one that fit 1980. An approach that allowed shades of camp and fun to weave the fabric the production would build itself upon.

What makes this book special is that the love audiences have for it has increased over the decades. Among cult films this one stands pretty tall. For me this is my Rocky Horror or Escape From New York.

Bob Lindenmayer is a private collector of Flash Gordon props and memorabilia. His collection is considered the largest in the world. He contributed images of every prop weapon used in filming. The secrets of how to achieve on screen dimensions from the flat but colorful pages of illustrations is truly amazing to see unfold here.

Because Flash Gordon is a product of both English and Italian production teams the book delves into the process of casting, costuming, set design, storyboarding, construction, scoring, writing, editing, and directing such a challenging work.

You will learn a lot of names associated with the film who made crucial contributions to why it has endured for 40 years in the hearts of millions of film lovers around the world.

Lawrence Noble is the American sculptor who created the Flash Gordon logo that adorned Richard Amsel’s theatrical poster and the cover of Queen’s soundtrack album. We discover other notable work he did for film including the poster for “Time After Time”, a time travel fantasy about H.G. Wells attempt to capture Jack The Ripper. He also created the 10th Anniversary release poster for “The Empire Strikes Back”.

The memorable opening titles of the film set the mood, tone, and style for what was to come. Richard and Bob Greenberg created the animation for this sequence and the dazzling energy curtain that drapes Mingo City at the film’s climax. R/Greenberg associates based in New York had provided such animation mainly to commercials. The Flash Gordon team loved their work so much they were asked to work on Flash.

Filled with elements that were never used in the film you can enjoy the struggle of making such an epic scale film as a fan of the work. This book makes it possible. You get a close look at everything that went wrong as well as the fast pace of production. Time is money. Sets were built that went unused. There is a great section showing storyboarded scenes that were too costly to shoot.

Frank Van der Veer had worked on the DeLaurentiis production of “King Kong” so he was quite experienced as a special effects master. For Flash Gordon Van der Veer and his team had nine months to create 600 composite social effects shots ahead of their Christmas release date!

The book has many wonderful moments to share. The last one I will detail here involves the choice of Queen to score the film. Originally, Pink Floyd were chosen by Dino De Laurentiis. On the day Queen visited the set the music playing was Pink Floyd.

After seeing rough dailies of the film each member of the group decided what they wanted to compose. Guitarist/Vocalist/Songwriter Brian May was adamant about writing the films opening theme. And so it went with each member of Queen coming in separately to do their portion of the soundtrack. Their music was a total of 45 minutes of screen time. The rest would be composed by Howard Blake who had to come up with orchestrations in a period of just weeks.

The efforts and sacrifice of every artisan involved with this film has been embraced by millions of fans over the past 40 years. Cheers to Titan Books for publishing it.

You will indeed have as much fun reading through this book and taking in all of the eye-popping imagery as you did with the film itself. Flash, A-ahhh! Such a good time.

KISS 2020 Goodbye

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American rockers KISS produced a livestream concert on New Year’s eve to send off a terrible year.

Choosing the city of Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel was truly inspired. KISS had never played the Emirates.

With Covid protocols in place the band performed a 2 hour plus show filled with hits spanning their nearly 50 year career.

Detroit Rock City opened the night with the largest display of pyro in history. A trademark besides the makeup, the amount of firepower used placed them in the Guiness Book of World Records.

KISS have never rested on their laurels. The set featured ‘I Love It Loud’, ‘War Machine’, ‘Say Yeah’, and ‘Psycho Circus’.

Tommy Thayer had his guitar solo and drummer Eric Singer banged out his solo as well.

The socially distanced KISS Army cheered their rock heroes after every cut from the vast back catalog of material.

Kisstory was made once again. Despite the obvious bad year had by all this legendary band gave us a treat to shout it out loud and remember to never give in to whatever life throws at us!

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David Bowie Icon

David Bowie ICON; Published by ACC ART Books; 181 Pages. http://www.iconicimages.net; http://www.accartbooks.com; Picture Editing:
Stephen Reid, Daniel Rachel
and Carrie Kania
Interviews and Text:
Daniel Rachel and Carrie Kania; Project Editor:
Carrie Kania; Publisher, ACC Art Books
James Smith
Editor
Susannah Hecht
Design
Craig Holden
Production
Stephen Mackinlay

Photographs by
FERNANDO ACEVES
BRIAN ARIS
PHILIPPE AULIAC
ALEC BYRNE
KEVIN CUMMINS
CHALKIE DAVIES
JUSTIN DE VILLENEUVE
VERNON DEWHURST
GAVIN EVANS
GERALD FEARNLEY
LYNN GOLDSMITH
GREG GORMAN
ANDREW KENT
MARKUS KLINKO
GEOFF MacCORMACK
JANET MACOSKA
TERRY O’NEILL
DENIS O’REGAN
NORMAN PARKINSON
MICK ROCK
JOHN SCARISBRICK
STEVE SCHAPIRO
BARRY SCHULTZ
RAY STEVENSON
MASAYOSHI SUKITA
Introduction by
GEORGE UNDERWOOD

This is the finest collection of photographs you will ever find depicting perhaps the only singular rock icon to rival the visual power of Elvis. From the very start of his career David Bowie wanted to become a star. He did not covet rock stardom. No. He aimed higher. We should all be grateful.

The editors at ACC make clear this is not a complete set. That would encompass thousands of pages.

What we have in our hands with this tome is a representation of fine rock photography from 25 of the most legendary artists in this field.

If there is one common thread running through these pages its the sessions for each studio record being seen without their final texts or titles.

David Bowie represented so many different avenues of creativity it’s impossible to pigeonhole him into any category or frame. Every picture in this book will leave you with an impression that is yours alone to decipher.

For this is the goal of a genuine artitst. To keep you guessing. To keep you wondering. To leave you utterly astonished.

The team that made this book possible attempted a seriously daunting feat. They got a group of the world’s finest photographers to contribute their best work to a singular project.

This work shows the many sides of David Bowie from his debut through his glam starpower to his thin white duke class and the many projects that drove his creativity and genius.

This resulting coffee table prize is a success. If ever there was a time we needed art of this caliber it’s now at the end of 2020.

CONFESS by Rob Halford

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With Ian Gittins. Hachette books. 355 pp.

Full of honest, humble, and heavy duty experience comes a memoir you will never want to put down.

Rob Halford from the “Black” Country of Birmingham, England grew up to be the front man for the heavy metal band Judas Priest.

He relates stories of family life in a post-war landscape. Nothing was ever assured. The only thing Rob knew early on was that he was not like other boys.

This is really the story of how a gay man went from being a scared, lonely, and frustrated boy into an honest, sober, and loving person.

Since this boy was to become a world famous rock star we have the memoir of the year.

Rob goes into great detail of his many misadventures with straight men. He had run-ins with police too.

He describes his identity this way following a painful breakup in the late 1970’s:

“It was five years since I’d been seeing Jason. Apart from the odd snatched, random fumble, I had been alone ever since…not just alone, but forced to suppress my longings, my needs, myself. I had to live a stifling life, or kill the band I loved.

Outside of that bedroom door, I was Rob Halford from Judas Priest, macho talisman and emergent metal god. Inside it, I was Robert John Arthur Halford, a sad, confused late twenties bloke from the Black Country, longing for the forbidden fruit of intimate male company”.

Rob Halford pg.134.

Judas Priest’s first line-up disbanded before Rob showed up to audition. His sister Sue was dating the band’s founder, bassist Ian Hill who is still in the group today. She insisted he try out. Their town, Walsall breeds humble people. Rob was told by Ken Downing that he was in the band.

British Steel became their watershed moment. Named for the filthy foundry plant in their village, recorded in a house once used by The Beatles, owned by Ringo, and used by John and Yoko for their Double Fantasy album, sold millions and spawned the now classic, ‘Living After Midnight’.

The group adopted an all leather look. They went full in as a metal band. Rob could not believe his mates did not realize he was a gay man.

Well before this time Rob had written a song called ‘Raw Deal’ about a doomed romance on Fire Island! He had never been there but imagined it.

The song ‘Metal Gods’ off British Steel was inspired by Frank the robot on Queen’s News of the World album. Rob Halford’s rock hero was Freddie Mercury. In the polarized homophobic culture of those days all of this remained unknown.

Priest fans will discover so much about their favorite group. Nicknames like K.K. Downing for Ken were used, but they were going to call Rob, ‘The Queen’. That would not have gone down well in my opinion.

A humorous book as well. He describes his arrest for lewdness in America. The cops knew who he was and asked what he was doing. Being famous can be like armour.

Rob Halford would encounter his idol, Freddie Mercury on the Greek island of Mykonos, a prime destination for gay men. They were at a yacht party. He describes a crowded space. His nerves got the better of him despite receiving a wink and wave from Freddie.

After all these years Rob Halford was ready to Confess. In his words it feels great and was just good for his soul. Perhaps it will do the same for his readers.

Right Place, Right Time

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Abrams; 379Pages; Now available

This memoir is truly inspiring. A kid from Long Island develops (pun intended) a keen interest in photography at the age of 5. His mother has her own darkroom.

After leaving college over and over decides to pursue his real passion—creating images with his camera.

I think he made the right decision. You learn when reading this story how much of life is just being in the right place at the right time.

Over the past 60 years he has chronicled rock’s most significant artists. Beginning at the 1965 Newport folk festival when Bob Dylan plugged in with an electric guitar for the first time to the birth of disco, punk, and new wave, his best stories are collected here.

You will truly feel as if you are with him during all the late nights, problems with deadlines, and hangovers.

Bob Gruen became close friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Ike and Tina Turner.

He spent a lot of time showing the world the day to day lives of these extraordinary people. He de-glamorizes the biz. You see the tough times these folks lived through to get their art in the hands of listeners across the globe.

At the drop of a hat Bob Gruen flew to London, Germany, France, Japan or wherever needed to lend support.

In the moment he captured many moments that still resonate today.

Led Zep in front of the Enterprise Starship aircraft; John Lennon in his New York city tee-shirt; The Clash on the observation deck at 30 Rock; Ike and Tina Turner doing just about anything.

Alice Cooper and Salvador Dali. Dali created the first ever hologram of Alice.

This book is the perfect gift for the music fan in your life. He photographed Queen before they were famous. KISS in 1978 on the 14th St subway platform which had phone booths!

A magical journey peopled by lots of fascinating figures including:

Elton John, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Tina Turner, Debbie Harry, The Ramones, Alice Cooper, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Who, Runaways, and on and on.

Bob Gruen reminds his reader of the authenticity of New York city’s great power to help re-invent those who seek a new life.

Filled with black and white photos and full color of many moments that shaped his long-term success you get a deeply affecting impression of what it truly takes to become a fine artist.

One of my favorite early moments was when he took photos of models. A young college student came to the studio. Years later he found out that would be model became movie actress Karen Allen who appeared in “Animal House” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Today, Bob Gruen photography is a thriving business. The countless hours of painstaking work along with the warp speed social life required to achieve it are worthwhile.

I strongly recommend you get a copy of this account.

John Lennon 1980 Playlist

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John Lennon: 1980 Playlist by Tim English
Independently published; 245 Pages.

Tim English is a noted authority on musical plagiarism. He has been in the Chicago Tribune and on BBC Radio 2.

His research is expertly presented here as a playlist divided into the four seasons that make up a year.

In this case the year is 1980. The creative rebirth of John Lennon and the tragedy of his death in the same year.

If you think you already know everything about Mr. Lennon you will be gobsmacked when reading this book. You will discover so much about the former Beatle you did not understand.

Why John Lennon stepped out of the music business for five years was the birth of Sean. He took on the new role of house husband. Today we accept this role for men as normal. In the 1970’s this was considered strange.

Mr. English informs his readers of all the music being released during John’s absence.

The tempermant of an artist is fragile. For a while John Lennon was musically set adrift after the sixties. The long shadow of The Beatles had to be accepted by him. He knew his solo work would never compete with that legacy.

We discover why The Beatles became rock’s most influential group. We find John struggling to find his next chapter.

Among the artists that made John want to record again are Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Bruce Springsteen.

He stayed on top of every musical shift in the seventies. He loved Donna Summer. Blondie were his favorite group. Along with The B-52’s, The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello, new wave caugh his fancy as well.

Artists like John Lennon absorb the culture around them like a sponge. Their taste becomes eclectic. What they want to express musically is an exacting process.

Double Fantasy took several years to create.

This book provides the rest of the missing pieces. It’s a journey music lovers should take. You may find yourself learning how to be a better listener. Your musical taste will be much improved too.

In The Limelight

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In the Limelight

THE VISUAL ECSTASY OF NYC NIGHTLIFE IN THE 90S

By Steve Eichner and Gabriel Sanchez

Published by Prestel Verlag, Munich · London · New York, 2020.

Hardcover $45.00 Oct 20, 2020

224 Pages | 9-1/4 x 11

ISBN 9783791386812

Documenting the birth of a radical era of music, fashion, pop culture, media, and art, Steve Eichner was hired by Club King Peter Gatien to make images of his clubs.

Sex, drugs, and dance music created the perfect cocktail of hedonistic bliss set amid a backdrop of iconic parties that catered to revelers every whim. 

On any given night, one could party alongside celebrities, club kids, drag queens, ravers, hip hop heads, models, banjees, body boys, bondage slaves, goths, and the bridge-and-tunnel set at legendary nightclubs like Tunnel, Palladium, Club USA, Roxy, and Limelight.

At a time when people from all walks of life came together at night to celebrate themselves. There was universal respect. No one could see what went on inside these nocturnal spaces…until now!

Steve Eichner was the official photographer of NYC nightlife. There are 200 brilliant images in this book.

Here is a sample of his work:

Shampoo Room at The Limelight 1995 (c) 2020 Steve Eichner.
(From Left): Sushi, Richie Rich, and Ernie Glam at The Tunnel 1995 (c) 2020 Steve Eichner.
The Palladium, 1995 (c) 2020 Steve Eichner.

This collection of vivid good times comes at a point when we could use a reminder of the days when people gathered in mass.

Ordinary people became clubbers. They rubbed shoulders with celebs and danced the night away.

Here, a new group of upstarts of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and economic backgrounds came together on the dance floor in a celebration of PLUR (peace, love, unity, and respect). 

This book will be a great addition to any coffee table this upcoming holiday season.

Available for Pre–Order here:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/646485/in-the-limelight-by-steve-eichner-gabriel-sanchez/

Steve Eichner

https://steveeichner.com/

Gabriel Sanchez http://gabrielheliosanchez.com/