This has become an embarrassment, and I can't stop.
Like Social D once sang, "Story of My Life"
Jets (-6) over Packers, 3 dimes
Miami (-2) over Bengals, 3 dimes
49ers (-1) over Broncos, 1 dime
Saints (-1) over Pittspuke, 1 dime
Last week: 1-3 (-2 dimes)
Season: 8-17-1 (-17 dimes)
Sunday, October 31, 2010
This has become an embarrassment, and I can't stop.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Well the Cavaliers take the floor tonight for the first time since the Browns beat the Saints, since the Indians season ended, and since a few other Cleveland sports happenings that I just can't seem to place right now.
While the basketball world, or more accurately, ESPN especially, gives manual pleasure to the new-look Miami Heat at every possible chance, let's look to see how the "new-look" Cavaliers might do this season, according to local and national writers who care enough to look at the team, or are contractually obligated to do so.
Below is a rundown of some predictions for the Cavaliers. They range from the comically low 12 wins projected by Kelly Dwyer on Yahoo a few weeks ago to the surprising 46 wins estimated by the PD's Terry Pluto. Most, however, seem to hover between the 30-35 win range, a season that would definitely be "torture" for Cavs fans, in the no-playoff, low-lottery position. We'll see.
Unless an injury derails them, they will challenge for playoffs
Terry Pluto, PD
With hustle, they will surprise
|Via Twitter at @FSOhioZJackson |
Bill Simmons, ESPN (and Joe House)
Under 29.5 wins
Calls it one of their 5 “locks” in over/under
John Hollinger, ESPN
Size is their strength, but need breaks to make playoffs. Keep eye on Ramon Sessions.
JA Adande, ESPN
Says Cavs lost 13 of last 14 without LeBron
Chip on the shoulder won’t take Cavs far enough
Chad Ford, ESPN
Hodgepodge collection of solid role players, will struggle to reach 30 wins
Zach Harper, Daily Dime, ESPN
Tim Legler, ESPN
Not good defensively
Chris Sheridan, ESPN
And will struggle to reach 21 wins.
Marc Stein, ESPN
30.5 a good over/under, won’t be surprised to see them do better than expected.
Michael Wallace, ESPN
Could be fringe playoff team, or sink all the way to the bottom.
12-70 (predicted three months ago)
But admits he could be terribly, terribly wrong because the Cavalier are a professional team.
Last in central. Nothing the Cavs have done will replace LeBron.
David Snipes, Sports Nickel
Cavs aren’t smart enough to make the smart trades to rebuild this year. Nothing they have fit. “Crap parts, crap team.”
Last in Central, needs 23 wins to avoid single season win decline record.
Predicts that the Cavs “magically” land the #1 pick
35 wins would be a huge accomplishment.
Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus
Surprising playoff team
Statistical analysis shows that Cleveland would have won about 34 games last year even if all of LBJ’s minutes went to an average replacement (and Jamario Moon is better than that.)
Random Scout on ESPN
32-50 to 36-46
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
As CST's self-proclaimed "biggest Cavs fan in the world" and accused " half-glass empty typical Cleveland fan", I can't help but admit I have an uneasy feeling just hours before the 2010-2011 NBA season kicks off. The new look, new era, LeBrat-less Cavs will wait until tomorrow to begin shocking the world, but TNT didn't wait long to force feed us The Three Queens, as the Miami Heat takes on the long time heel turned babyface Boston Celtics squad tonight to kick off the season.
After a long, emotional summer, I fear that the (sweet lies) bitter truth (shout out to CST contributor Doug) hit me Sunday morning while sipping my coffee, watching the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and reading The Plain Dealer's Cavs preview section. Maybe I am a paradox of myself - the half glass empty Cleveland fan, wearing his rose colored glasses, looking for anything to grasp on to. Maybe I've been kicked in the balls too many times by the Sports Gods. All I know is that I've definitely lived through the five stages of grief (which I've done countless times before) since The Decision:
Anger has not subsided by any means. I'm bitter and I hope the Heat fail miserably. But reading about the Cavalier roster caused a conflict inside of me, like when the Dark Side almost consumed Luke Skywalker. Now don't get me wrong - I never thought about rooting for the Evil Empire, led by "Mr. I'm going to tamper right in your face and there's not a damn thing you or David Stern are going to do about it" Pat Riley, but the difference between succeeding in the NBA and losing is a fine line. It's a line in the sand between relevance and irrelevance.
Searching the roster, amid the PD's "preview" for something to be excited about was actually a difficult task. Antawn Jamison is 158 years old with a bad contract but looks more like 168. Mo Williams has the heart of baby lamb, plays no D, but is a decent player who's best as a sidekick to a superstar. Anderson Varejao is a role player who benefited from you-know-who and can create his own shot about as well as me. We have two undrafted rookies that I'm supposed to be excited about, which is more of an indictment of our roster than anything. Our most exciting facet? Probably the head coach.
I really do think the Cavs will be better than the worst team in the Eastern Conference or the third worst record of all time that has been predicted by certain media outlets. I think they can fight for the 7th or 8th seed. But that, at the same time, is my biggest fear. In the mid 90s under Mike Fratello, we saw this play out. Just good enough to make the playoffs, but not bad enough to get a good draft pick. That's the kiss of death in the NBA. The equivalent of being stuck as a wrestling mid-carder, occasionally getting to work a program with another mid-carder to open SummerSlam or Survivor Series. I don't want to be the NBA's Tatanka. Do we have to job in order to get another push? It's looking like we have no choice.
It's tough to be me right now. The kick off to the NBA season has, especially for the last seven years, been like a holiday. I sang, I danced, I was merry. But today I'm scared... real scared. I'm torn between proving everyone wrong and banging my head against the wall (although being from Cleveland - BOTH of those things are a constant).
To quote my good friend and fellow CST contributor SamVox: "I was a Cavs fan before LeBron and I'll be a Cavs fan after LeBron".
Tonight - and this season - could test my mind and soul. But make no mistake about it - LeBrat will NOT ruin the NBA for me. (I'll keep telling myself that).
In the meantime, and until tomorrow - GO CELTICS!
- For Cavaliers Fans, Tonight's NBA Tipoff Is a Bittersweet Affair (waitingfornextyear.com)
- Cavaliers, Fans Prepare For Season Opener (waitingfornextyear.com)
- The City Of Cleveland Vs. Lebron James: Really, It's Over (bleacherreport.com)
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Just like a chick in the casino,
Take your bank before I pay you out.
I promise this, promise this.
Four lucky-LadyGaGa chalks:
Falcons (-3.5) over Bengals, 4 dimes
Cowboys (-3) over Giants, 3 dimes
Chargers (-2.5) over Patriots, 2 dimes
49ers (-3) over Panthers, 1 dime
Last week: 2-3 (-2 dimes)
Season: 7-14-1 (-15 dimes)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
It’s very hard to get the true measure of a college football team in this age parity. It’s especially difficult to get a bead on a powerhouse program like Ohio State, which plays maybe three or four tough games a year thanks to a mediocre Big Ten and a soft out-of-conference schedule.
In their first real challenge of the season, coming in as a #1 against a brawny, smash-mouth Wisconsin team, the Buckeyes not only didn’t measure up, they were shockingly dominated in all facets of the game by a much more focused, seemingly much more prepared Badgers squad. While special teams’ breakdowns have become an unfortunately almost expected part of Ohio State football in 2010, Wisconsin’s supremacy at the line of scrimmage was a freezing bucket of water on an already chilly fall evening at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Badgers’ oversized offensive line created running lanes wide enough for my
sainted mother to get eight yards a pop if she was suited up. The Buckeyes’ offense faired a bit better in stretches, but Wisconsin put enough pressure on Terrelle Pryor to hasten the return of “Bad Terrelle,” the hesitant, out-of-sync lob thrower who tries to get his receivers killed (Dane Sanzenbacher bumped like The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25 on a couple of those catches over the middle) and looks about as ready for the NFL as I do.
In a cruel irony, Ohio State has emerged in recent years as a faster and more athletic team, two elements the program has been criticized for missing in the past. But as evidenced last night, improved speed has done nothing for team toughness. The Buckeyes look like a finesse football squad, far from their usual m.o.
A pass-first mentality is needed when you don’t have an Eddie or Beanie in the backfield (even with Boom Herron’s surprisingly tough running last night), although I’d have no problem with the Buckeyes creating even more designed runs for Pryor and to hell with trying to mold the guy for the NFL. The Buckeyes took the ball out of their best running back's hands on the goal-line drive at the end of the half, which I found very curious.
Defensively, Ohio State may have finally felt the ill effects of injuries to the secondary, as they were playing soft coverage on Wiscy receivers all night, which the Badgers smartly exploited through pitch-and-catch wide receiver screens and simple curl routes.
As for the defensive front-seven, I don’t know what the fix is here. What do I look like, Mike Ditka? All I know is they were blown off the ball on most every down and could not stop the run game or get pressure on the QB during Wisconsin’s nail-in-the-coffin drive after the lead was cut to three.
So, what’s next for our Buckeyes? For one, a boulder-like plummet in the polls, with the rest of the season relegated to sneaking back into the BCS picture with hopes of snagging one of the meaningless non-Rose Bowl affairs that take place on Jan. 5 or some other oddly random date on the early-year calendar.
At least it’s early enough in the season for us know what the Buckeyes are...a team no longer looking out for #1.
- Buckeyes Crushed in Madison, Now What? (waitingfornextyear.com)
A sea of loud red /
Big ass Wisconsin linemen /
"Off the goalposts please."
Ouch. A season which looked like Ohio State was destined to be in the BCS championship game ended with a giant punch to the mouth in Camp Randall.
If anything, it's good to have Big Ten powerhouses again.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Editor's note: By request, here is the final volume of Vox's Top 100 Rock Artists (with capsules for every artist, updated with rewrites and links). This column originally ran, unfinished, on June 28, 2008.
In 1983, my first favorite song was "New Moon on Monday" by Duran Duran. I was listening to it just the other day and the hook is timeless. I realized it has been 25 years since I first heard Michael Jackson’s Thriller through my ghetto blaster or spun the 45” Police single, "Every Breath You Take," on my parents' record player. A few years later, I remember hearing Bob Seger’s "Like A Rock" and wondering if I’d ever be old enough to say “twenty years now, where’d they go?” Well that day has come, and then some. What follows is my love-letter to rock-n-roll. The musicians below have shaped my life for the past quarter century. At 33, I am now the same age Jesus Christ was when he died for our sins and, coincidently, the same age Bono was when he became MacPhisto during the historic ZOOTV tour. And I’m six years older than Billy Corgan was when he wrote the song "33," a heartfelt and confusing ballad. When Billy says he’s "wrapped up in the pleasures of the world" that’s exactly how I feel when I’m alone with rock and roll. Rock, my savior. Roll, my salvation. I intend not to sound evangelical. I just want to illustrate the importance of music and lyrics to my existence. So let’s count-off my Ben Franklin backwards, SportsGuy-style
The Vox Top 100 Rock-n-Roll Artists*
* Since rap artists are Rock Hall eligible, I felt their inclusion necessary. And although I’m not as well-versed in rap as I am in the history of rock, I’ve heard enough to at least make this a somewhat responsible list (Yes, Jay Z is still my critical blindspot). Before we kick-start this thing, allow me to mention the 25 artists that just missed the Top 100: Mötley Crüe, Roy Orbison, Live, Roxette, The Beach Boys, Queen, Alice in Chains, They Might Be Giants, Credence Clearwater Revival, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tori Amos, Jane’s Addiction, Janis Joplin, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, AA Bondy, The Velvet Underground, Billy Ocean, The Wallflowers, Lionel Ritchie, Elliot Smith, Green Day, Jewel, The Grateful Dead, and Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam. Hit the beat now.
100-71: Watch Yourself, Rog
100. Nine Inch Nails
Lots of 'Fuck Bono' T-shirts at my first NIN show. Took me years to get over it; took Trent years to get over himself. He mellowed and recently did the excellent soundtrack for The Social Network.
Download: Head Like a Hole, Hurt
Essential Album: Pretty Hate Machine
Vox Definitive Lyric: Got money, let's go dancing on the backs of the bruised
99. Crash Test Dummies
Vocalist Brad Roberts couldn't go wrong: mega-deep voice, dual college major: English and Philosophy, and he went to school with a kid whose hair turned from black into bright white.
Download: Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, Afternoons and Coffeespoons
Essential Album: God Shuffled His Feet
Vox Definitive Lyric: Oh, afternoons will be measured out, measured with coffeespoons...and T.S. Elliot
98. Mike & the Mechanics
Yes, that is Veruca Salt's dad in the video for "All I Need is a Miracle." I hear the opening sequence of that song, and suddenly I'm eleven years old.
Download: All I Need is a Miracle, The Living Years
Essential Album: Mike + The Mechanics
Vox Definitive Lyric: I think I caught his spirit/ Later that same year/ I'm sure I heard his echo/ In my baby's new born tears
97. No Doubt
Snicker if you like. But Gwen did those push-ups in the "Don't Speak" video, and that was it for me.
Download: Don't Speak, Spiderwebs
Essential Album: Tragic Kingdom
Vox Definitive Lyric: I’m just sippin on chamomile/ Watching boys and girls and their sex appeal/ With a stranger in the face who says he knows my mom/ And went to my high school
96. Julian Casablancas
You like him leading the Strokes. I love him solo. This is revenge music for the 00s.
Download: Out of the Blue, 11th Dimension
Essential Album: Phrazes for the Young
Vox Definitive Lyric: Yes, I know I'm going to hell in a leather jacket/ 'least I'll be in another world while you're pissin' on my casket
95. Notorious BIG
The first introspective rapper. The streets made him famous, death made him an icon.
Download: Hypnotize/ Big Poppa
Essential Album: Life After Death
Vox Definitive Lyric: I put hoes in NY onto DKNY (uh-huh)/ Miami, D.C. prefer Versace (that's right)/ All Philly hoes, dough and Moschino (c'mon)/ Every cutie wit a booty bought a Coogi (haaa!)
94. Iron & Wine
Also known as Sam Beam. Painfully honest and beautifully flawed singer/songwriter.
Such Great Heights, Love and Some Verses
Essential Album: Our Endless Numbered Days
Vox Definitive Lyric: From your changing contentments/ what will you choose for to share?/ someday drawing you different/ may I be weaved in your hair?
93. Bobby Brown
During an acceptance speech for some award Whitney Houston won a few years back, she called Bobby Brown "the King of R&B." They said it was Whitney just being Whitney, but she'd never been more right.
Download: My Prerogative, Cool it Now
Essential Album: Don't Be Cruel
Vox Definitive Lyric: I made this money, you didn't! Right, Ted? We outta here
92. The Sex Pistols
To this day, I think Nasty Varmint kicked me out of the band for changing the words to "Anarchy in the UK." But Sid Vicious would've been proud.
Download: God Save the Queen, Anarchy in the UK
Essential Album: Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (their only album)
Vox Definitive Lyric: Is this the I.R.A?/ I thought it was the UK?/ Or just another country/ Another council tenancy
91. Justin Timberlake
His career took the Mark Wahlberg route. From teenage joke to undeniable talent in everything he attempts. I can't get enough of both of 'em.
Download: Cry Me A River, What Goes Around Comes Around
Essential Album: Future Sex/Love Sounds
Vox Definitive Lyric: Just a classic case sce-sce-scenario/ Tale as old as time/ Girl you got what you deserved
90. George Thoroughgood
In a moment of misguided hyperbole, I once told fellow CSTer, Doug, that GT is one of the most influential slide guitarists ever. That same night, I also dry-heaved into the side pocket of Niko's pool table. Let it go, Doug. Let it go.
Download: One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, Bad to the Bone
Essential Album: George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Vox Definitive Lyric: I said 'I know, everybody funny, now you funny too'
89. Edie Brickell
Her husband is Paul Simon, and they are the only married couple on the countdown. Check her performance as a folk singer in Born On the 4th of July.
Download: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, What I Am
Essential Album: Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars
Vox Definitive Lyric: Choke me in the shallow waters/ Before I get too deep
88. Belinda Carlisle (The Go Go’s)
Along with Elizabeth Shue in The Karate Kid, Belinda in 1986 is the Vox's definition of perfection. Or as one observer noted here, "the pinnacle of female evolution."
Download: Mad About You, I Get Weak
Essential Album: Heaven Is A Place on Earth
Vox Definitive Lyric: Pushing the night into the daytime/ Watching the sky's first light/ While the city sleeps
87. Soul Asylum
The memorable video for "Runaway Train" is credited with reuniting numerous missing children with their families. One of my all-time favorite songs.
Download: Runaway Train, Somebody to Shove
Essential Album: Grave Dancers Union
Vox Definitive Lyric: Runaway train, never coming back/ Runaway train, tearing up the track/ Runaway train, burning in my veins/ I run away but it always seems the same
86. Ice Cube (NWA)
"Started thinkin', man. Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the 'hood."
"Hey Dough, you still got one brother left."
Download: It Was A Good Day, Dopeman
Essential Album: The Predator
Vox Definitive Lyric: It's ironic, I had the brew she had the chronic/ The Lakers beat the Supersonics
85. The Goo Goo Dolls
Ironically, their own "name" (and Top 40 Radio) didn't do them any favors as far as their rock credibility is concerned, but I'm sticking my sore neck out for them. They should change their name to The Johny Rzeznik band.
Download: Name, Don't Change
Essential Album: A Boy Named Goo
Vox Definitive Lyric: You grew up way too fast / And now there's nothing to believe/ And reruns all become our history
84. The Bangles
Suzanna Hoffs was smoking hot, and, more importantly, she was the lucky recipient of songs written by two of my favorite lyricists. "Manic Monday," was a gift from Prince. And "Hazy Shade of Winter" was originally penned by Paul Simon. It was performed by the Bangles on the Less Than Zero soundtrack, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite books. This game could go on forever. All of my tastes are intertwined, like your friends on facebook.
Download: Eternal Flame, Manic Monday
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Vox Definitive Lyric: Slide your feet up the street bend your back/ Shift your arm then you pull it back/ Life's hard you know (oh-ay-oh)/ So strike a pose on a Cadillac
83. Snoop Dogg
Perhaps inspired by Snoop's "Gin and Juice," one of my roommates at OSU had a system for weeding out freeloaders at our keg parties. He'd pull the stranger aside and say, "OK, we're going to play the 'Who-do-you-know-here?' game." And when the perp couldn't name anyone, Ry would say: "OK, one drink and you're out." A tough, firm approach, but certainly more diplomatic than Snoop.
Download: Who Am I? (What's My Name?), Drop It Like it's Hot
Essential Album: Doggystyle
Vox Definitive Lyric: Now, that, I got me some seagrams gin/ Everybody got they cups, but they aint chipped in/ Now this types of shit, happens all the time/ You got to get yours but fool I gotta get mine/ Everything is fine when you listenin to the d-o-g/ I got the cultivating music that be captivating he
82. The Cranberries
"Linger" is to Delores O'Riordan as "Nothing Compares 2 U" is to fellow Irish export Sinead O'Connor. Extraordinary piece of art from an ordinary artist.
Download: Linger, Dreams
Essential Album: Everyone Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We?
Vox Definitive Lyric: It's the same old theme since 1916/ In your head, in your head they're still fighting/ With their tanks and their bombs/ And their bombs and their guns...
81. John Mellancamp
Over the past two years, "Cougar" has become one of the most important words in pop culture. The politically correct term for "milf." I can't help but think we'd have a different term if Mellencamp hadn't ditched his nickname.
Download: Paper and Fire, Small Town
Essential Album: Scarecrow
Vox Definitive Lyric: Gonna let it rock, let it roll/ Let the Bible belt come down and save my soul/ Hold on to 16 as long as you can/ Changes come around real soon, make us women and men
80. Dr Dre
Although Dre seems like an afterthought on NWA's seminal Straight Outta Compton, he'd go on to release arguably the greatest rap album ever and then sign/produce Snoop, Eminem and 50 Cent.
Download: Nuthin' But a "G" Thang, Let Me Ride
Essential Album: The Chronic
Vox Definitive Lyric: And that's realer than Real-Deal Holyfield/ And now you hookers and ho's know how I feel
79. Elton John
I think Friends became unwatchable after about 1.5 seasons. But two jokes, in the later years, will always stick with me. Joey's moo point...it's a cow's opinion. And Phoebe's Hold Me Close Young Tony Danza.
Download: Candle in the Wind, The One
Essential Album: Elton John
Vox Definitive Lyric: And I would have liked to have known you/ But I was just a kid/ Your candle burned out long before/ Your legend ever did
78. The Dream Academy
Lately, I have been listening to the Academy and imagining I'm riding off into the sunset with Sloane Peterson. Perfect songs for your 1980s pipe dreams.
Download: The Edge of Forever, Life in a Northern Town
Essential Album: The Dream Academy
Vox Definitive Lyric: And when we kiss goodnight/ There's a million hearts/ Beating in my room/ I wish they would go away.
77. The Who
“The fact of the matter is, I'm fucking brilliant. Not 'was' brilliant. 'Am' brilliant." ~Pete Townshend
Download: Pinball Wizard, Baba O'Riley
Essential Album: Who's Next
Vox Definitive Lyric: I have hours/ Only lonely, my love is vengeance/ That's never free
76. 30 Seconds to Mars
Better band than the Frozen Embryos?
Download: Attack, The Kill
Essential Album: A Beautiful Lie
Vox Definitive Lyric: I call her red
Lead Vocalist Kelly Jones and the Vox have a few things in common: both are Welch, born in 1974 and influenced by Bob Dylan. And Kelly's amplifier is the Vox AC30.
Download: Rewind, Dakota
Essential Album: Language. Sex. Violence. Other?
Vox Definitive Lyric: If Jesus rode in on a camel today/ with your cross on his shoulder/ Time to take you away/ Have you done all you wanted?/ Are you happy and warm?/ Do you miss someone special/ You don't see anymore?/ Have you blood on your hands?/ Do you dream of white sands?/ Can you sleep well at night?/ Have you done all you can?/ The place I was born in/ Stays crooked and straight/ I see innocent blue eyes/ Go blind everyday
74. Dire Straits
In the early 90s, this prank phone call spread like wildfire across American high schools. It set the table for the Jerky Boys' success. My favorite part is when dudes decide to fight at McDonalds.
Download: Walk of Life, Money for Nothing
Essential Album: Money for Nothing
Vox Definitive Lyric: Juliet, the dice was loaded from the start/ And I bet, and you exploded into my heart/ And I forget the movie song/ When you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong?
73. The Psychedelic Furs
Praise John Hughes for bringing the Furs, Dream Academy, and Simple Minds to the mainstream. Criticize him for cartoonish, one-dimensional portrayals of cool, rich guys from the 1980s. Long live Steff.
Download: The Ghost in You, Love My Way
Essential Album: Mirror Moves
Vox Definitive Lyric: Caroline talks to you softly sometimes/ She says 'I love you' and 'Too much'/ She doesn't have anything you want to steal/ Well, nothing you can touch/ She waves, she buttons your shirt/ The traffic is waiting outside/ She hands you this coat/ She gives you her clothes, these cars collide
72. Dave Matthews Band
Loved their second album as much as I hated their first. And so it goes, my love/hate relationship with jam bands. I believe in the 4-minute single, but I'm still the proudest monkey.
Download: Two Step, Let You Down
Essential Album: Crash
Vox Definitive Lyric: Hike up your skirt a little more/ And show the world to me
71. The Verve
Not the Verve Pipe. Not "The Freshman." Not me singing. No bad karaoke anywhere in sight. Please allow me an inside joke or two, in spite of Vox's ever-expanding audience.
Download: The Drugs Don't Work, Lucky Man
Essential Album: Urban Hymns
Vox Definitive Lyric: But I know I'm on losing streak/ 'Coz I passed down my old street/ And if you want a show, then just let me know/ And I'll sing in your ear again
70-50: Insignificantly Significant
70. Janet Jackson
The truth is that JJ has been particularly average and uninspiring for the majority of her 25-year career. But she had three straight albums in a seven year period (1986-93: Control, Rhythm Nation, Janet) that are as good as pop music gets, culminating in one of the greatest Rolling Stone mag covers of all time.
Download: Black Cat, That’s the Way Love Goes, Again
Essential Album: Control
Vox Definitive Lyric: I’m not a prude, I just want some respect/ So close the door if you want me to respond/ ‘Coz privacy is my middle name; my last name is control/ No, my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet…Miss Jackson if you’re nasty
I used to sell windows door-to-door in C-bus. I was an impressionable college kid, and I’ll never forget some of the older co-workers-- particularly this free-spirit named Shane. Before canvassing the neighborhoods, we’d stop at the gas station so he could get some rolling papers….and then he’d get high when he was supposed to be mentoring us. Anyway, my introduction to Cracker was from Shane. He’d blaze up to their music, and once got a cash bonus for banging one of the customers.
Download: Get off this, Teen Angst, Low
Essential Album: Low
Vox Definitive Lyric: ‘Coz what the world needs now/ Is a new Frank Sinatra/ So I can get you in bed
68. Velvet Revolver
I’m a long-time admirer of Scott Weiland’s lyrics but, like many rockers, he’s a walking soap opera. Now reunited with his old pals the DeLeo brothers, he recently suggested Sebastian Bach would be a better fit to sing lead for Velvet Revolver. I’m still trying to figure out if that was an insult. So is Slash.
Download: Loving the Alien, Fall to Pieces, You Got No Right
Essential Album: Contraband
Vox Definitive Lyric: Sometimes/ Means all the time/ And never/ Means maybe
67. George Michael (Wham)
GMike will always remind me of junior high school, when the Faith album was a phenomenon and everyone thought he went straight after looking so gay in Wham. Now that George is totally OUT, he can’t catch a break, but he was one of the most gifted pop artists ever-- whether dancing foolishly with Andrew Ridgely, crooning “sex is best if it’s one-on- one” in his 80s leathers or duetting with Elton John in “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
Download: Everything She Wants, One More Try, Freedom ’90
Essential Album: Faith
Vox Definitive Lyric: And now you tell me that you're having my baby/ I'll tell you that I'm happy if you want me to/ But one step further and my back will break/ If my best isn't good enough/ then how can it be good enough for two?
They say Kurt came up with all of the riffs for Courtney on Hole’s 1994 breakthrough Live Through This. And maybe so, because Love was never as good in the albums that followed. But she’s a master of the hard-ass chick confessional, and has never received enough credit for her musicianship and acting.
Download: Violet, Miss World, Doll Parts
Essential Album: Live Through This
Vox Definitive Lyric: I want to be the girl with the most cake/ He only loves those things because he loves to see them break/ I fake it so real, I am beyond fake
65. The White Stripes
I’m not too concerned about Jack and Meg White being siblings or divorcees, and I don’t care how brilliantly the band marries punk to blues to country. They’re raw and confrontational and possess an unmatched energy. But what gets me off is Jack White, the lyricist. I’m in awe of his writing. And let's not forget the chill moment: 100,000 fans plus in The Horseshoe rocking out to "Seven Nation Army." It's now a stadium cliche, but it gets me every time.
Download: Icky Thump, Seven Nation Army, Blue Orchids
Essential Album: Elephant
Vox Definitive Lyric: White Americans, what?- nothing better to do?/ Why don't you kick yourself out?- you're an immigrant, too/ Who's using who? What should we do?/ Well you can't be a pimp and a prostitute too
Andre 3000, the next Prince? No way; he lacks the lyrical prowess. But "Hey Ya" is probably the best pop song of the new millennium; Andre counts off, and the Goose is already breaking it down in her car seat. Ms. ExVox believes Dre unnecessarily dates the song with the “Beyonces and Lucy Lius” reference. I’m sorry Ms. (Jackson), I respectfully disagree.
Download: Ms. Jackson, Hey Ya, Roses
Essential Album: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Vox Definitive Lyric: She need to get a piece of the American pie and take her bite out/ That's my house, I disconnect the cable and turn the lights out/ And let her know her grandchild is a baby and not a paycheck/ Private schools, daycare, shit, medical bills-- I pay dat
63. Tom Petty
I remember a bad rumor, and it had some legs, about Bob Dylan being Tom Petty’s father. I met a couple chicks in Columbus that told me this like it was fact. I soon learned that Dylan is only nine years older than Petty. Nasal-vocals and self righteousness should be the extent of the comparisons. Petty peaked with his ’89 solo effort, entered the Rock Hall in ’02, and recently gave into his lifelong fight against corporate evil by playing the ’08 SuperBowl.
Download: Runnin’ Down A Dream, American Girl, Don’t Come Around Here No More
Essential Album: Full Moon Fever
Vox Definitive Lyric: I wanna glide down over Mulholland/ I wanna write her name in the sky/ Gonna free fall out into nothin'/ Gonna leave this world for awhile
62. 2Pac Shakur
I was a sucker for any mediocre film starring Pac (Above the Rim, Poetic Justice, Juice). His presence alone always escalated my enthusiasm. I didn’t get into his music until recently, but now I finally understand why every self-respecting black person in America called in sick the day after Tupac was murdered.
Download: Hit ’Em Up, Keep Ya Head Up, California Love
Essential Album: All Eyez On Me
Vox Definitive Lyric: Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice/ I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots/ I give a holler to my sisters on welfare/ 2Pac cares, if don’t nobody else care
61. Huey Lewis & the News
Huey and his band-mates would tell you they were a good bar band that happened to play the right kind of vibe at the right time, and were catapulted to undeserved rock stardom despite their mid-level talent. I like their modesty and I agree, but The News is one of those bands I appreciate more as I get older. I feel the same way about Jason Bateman.
Download: Jacobs Ladder, Hip To Be Square, Heart and Soul
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Vox Definitive Lyric: But the heart of rock and roll, the heart of rock and roll is still beatin’…In Cleveland
60. Red Hot Chili Peppers
One of the enduring images I have from my coming-of-age summer (1992) is Anthony Kiedis running at me, slo-mo and topless, in the vid for "Under the Bridge" (what the hell does he mumble at the end of the song?). Before I even heard RHCP, I was digging Anthony as a drug-dealing surfer in Point Break. Who cares that he has no range and Flea’s slap-bass style is occasionally sloppy.
Download: Soul to Squeeze, Scar Tissue, Under the Bridge
Essential Album: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Vox Definitive Lyric: (Under the bridge downtown) Is where I drew some blood/ (Under the bridge downtown) I could not get enough/ (Under the bridge downtown) forgot about my love/ (Under the bridge downtown) I gave my life away…yeah, yeah
Like Rod Stewart, Steve Perry wasted away a god-given rock voice on piano-driven, manufactured ballads. But the few times when lead guitarist Neil Schon and Perry clicked resulted in some of the finest rock singles of the 80s. Or at least great background music for the most important parallel-parking job in television history.
Download: Don’t Stop Believin’, Separate Ways, Wheel in the Sky
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Vox Definitive Lyric: A singer in a smoky room/ the smell of wine and cheap perfume/ For a smile they can share the night/ It goes on and on and on and on
58. Simple Minds
Heart-wrenching frontman Jim Kerr is the closest thing there is to a Bono comparison. You probably didn’t know that Simple Minds didn’t write "Don’t You (Forget About Me)." They just reluctantly performed it. What you do know is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal.
Download: Alive and Kicking, She’s a River, Don’t You (Forget About Me)
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Vox Definitive Lyric: She’s the spirit of creation/ She’s the last chance guarantee/ Got a myriad of poses/ Sweet miracles and roses/ She’s a river and she’s turning in front of me
57. Kanye West
More than just another prolific MC born in the ATL, he is one of the few rappers to achieve mega-stardom without ghetto roots. But street cred isn’t necessary when you can sample like Kanye, and still manage to incorporate religious, political and social motifs into slickly produced rap anthems.
Download: Through the Wire, Slow Jamz, Gold Digger
Essential Album: The College Dropout
Vox Definitive Lyric: She got a light skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson/ Got a dark skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson
56. Depeche Mode
The mode Depeche was in usually depended on the song; sometimes it was goth and electronica. Sometimes it was synth-pop and soft rock. By the mid 90s, they were considered modern alternative.
Unfortunately, their legacy may be “Personal Jesus.” Cue heavy breathing.
Download: Policy of Truth, Somebody, Enjoy the Silence
Essential Album: Violator
Vox Definitive Lyric: Words are very/ Unnecessary/ They can only do harm
55. Bryan Adams
Adams was 9 years old during the "Summer of '69." So even though he admitted a few years ago that the song is a sexual innuendo, those of us that did the math figured it out much sooner. I don’t know what I was thinking in the rock-n-roll booth at Richmond Mall…but the song still sounds great to this day, even if it is just a Canadian version of "Night Moves."
Download: Heaven, Summer of ’69, Cuts Like a Knife
Essential Album: Reckless
Vox Definitive Lyric: And now the times are changin'/ Look at everything that's come and gone/ Sometimes when I play that old six-string/ think about you, wonder what went wrong
54. Cyndi Lauper
Her irreverence, cartoon accent, crazy wardrobe, and kinship with Captain Lou Albano, Wendy Richter and various personalities from the World Wrestling Federation greatly overshadowed her excellent songwriting skills. But, Cynthia, the Vox loved your music AND your performance on Piper’s Pit.
Download: Time After Time, Change of Heart, True Colors
Essential Album: She’s So Unusual
Vox Definitive Lyric: After my picture fades and darkness has/ Turned to gray/ Watching through windows, you’re wondering/ If I’m ok/ Secrets stolen from deep inside/ The drum beats out of time
53. Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks)
Mrs. ExVox, a longtime deadhead, asked me if I really thought that anyone was going to actually read something this long? I said, I don’t know—you read those Rolling Stone Top 100s, don’t you? Her response: “You’re not Rolling Stone.” Then she called me arrogant for writing such a lengthy piece. Just for that, I’m axing the Grateful Dead from the top 100. Get me my editor and Trent Reznor and on the line, Nine Inch Nails is in.
Download: Everywhere, Landsilde, Stand Back
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Vox Definitive Lyric: Well I’ve been afraid of changing, ‘coz I’ve built my life around you/ But time makes you bolder and children get older/ I’m getting older too
52. Peter Gabriel
Two major pop-culture staples of my childhood involved prog-rock vet Peter Gabriel’s outstanding solo career: the zany and revolutionary video for "Sledgehammer", in heavy rotation for most of 1986 and, a few years later—Lloyd Dobler, in Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, holding a boombox over his head and blaring "In Your Eyes" (written for Rosanna Arquette).
Download: Solsbury Hill, Games Without Frontiers, Sledgehammer
Essential Album: So
Vox Definitive Lyric: My heart was going boom boom boom/ Son, he said, grab your things/ I’ve come to take you home
51. Stone Temple Pilots
Scott Weiland has the lone honor of fronting two bands on this list. Yes, Peter Gabriel was a founding member and the first lead singer of Genesis, but the Genesis on my countdown (see #34) is solely the 1980s edition of Phil Collins, vocals & percussion, Tony Banks on keyboards, and Mike Rutherford, guitars (also the founder of #98 Mike and the Mechanics). See, getting these little details straight is more important to me than a full paragraph on STP. But if I had the space, I would’ve said something like this: when STP hit the airwaves, many dismissed them as a Pearl Jam rip-off—which couldn’t be more untrue. Weiland is a rock-god and genius writer; also see #68.
Download: Interstate Love Song, Sour Girl, Big Empty
Essential Album: Purple
Vox Definitive Lyric: And I see, so much depends on the weather/ So is it raining in your bedroom?
50. Concrete Blonde
Recently reunited after a long split, and Johnette Napolitano is still rocking. Few female vocalists can match her conviction and deliverance.
Download: Caroline, Joey, Tomorrow Wendy
Essential Album: Bloodletting
Vox Definitive Lyric: I told the priest, ‘Don't count on any second coming’/ God got his ass kicked the first time he came down here slumming/ He had the balls to come, the gall to die and then forgive us/ No, I don't wonder why; I wonder what he thought it would get us?
49-34: Rock-n-Roll Doggies
49. Jimi Hendrix
For a self proclaimed rock doggy, I discovered Hendrix relatively late in life. Needing a crash course in psychedelic blues for an upcoming band tryout, my favorite reporter Douglas the J lent me two Hendrix cassettes in March 1999. The audition came and went, but the Jimi experience will stay with me forever.
Download: Are you Experienced, Hey Joe, Fire
Essential Album: Are you Experienced
Vox Definitive Lyric: I'm goin' down to shoot my old lady/ you know I caught her messin' 'round with another man/ And that ain't too cool
48. Eddie Money
Check out his daughter, Jesse Money, on MTV’s Rock the Cradle. Not sure if he she has any real talent, but she looks damn good. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if Eddie had any real talent either—but his distinctive voice and meat ‘n potatoes music always gave me a charge.
Download: Take Me Home Tonight, I Wanna Go Back, Walk on Water
Essential Album: Greatest Hits, The Sound of Money
Vox Definitive Lyric: Just like Ronnie sang...
47. Pink Floyd
On a weekend in 1991, I was in C-bus visiting my uncle and they were playing the Horseshoe. I didn’t know Pink Floyd from Sleepy Floyd, but I could actually hear the concert in his living room as I tried to fall asleep on the couch. Three years later, Floyd played the ‘Shoe again. This time, I was sitting on a blanket on the lawn right outside the ‘Shoe. I still wasn’t a fan yet, but Gilmour’s guitar, flying pigs and bad herb was a memorable combination.
Download: Comfortably Numb (live), Take it Back, Wish You Were Here
Essential Album: Pulse (the light blinked for three years)
Vox Definitive Lyric: Did they get you trade?/ your heroes for ghosts?/ hot ashes for trees?/hot air for a cool breeze?/ Cold comfort for change?/ Did you exchange a walk on part in the war/ for a lead role in a cage?
46. Suzanne Vega
My name is SamVox
I lived on the Maple grove
When I lit a cigarette
Burned my eyelash on the stove
If you don’t like this little blog
You can eat my toilet log
I just won’t post here anymore
I just won’t post here anymore
Download: Luka, Tom’s Diner, In Liverpool
Essential Album: Solitude Standing
Vox Definitive Lyric: Oh, this rain, it will continue through the morning as I’m listening/ To the bells of the cathedral/ I am thinking of your voice.../ And of the midnight picnic once upon a time before the rain began/ And I finish up my coffee and it's time to catch the train
Listening to Radiohead is a lot like hanging out with a smart, good looking chick but you can’t break the ice with her, and end up having zero rapport. There’s simply no entry point with Thom Yorke’s lyrics. 'Head’s masterwork, OK Computer, requires numerous leaps of faith by the listener, but your patience will be rewarded tenfold.
Download: Creep, Karma Police, Fake Plastic Trees
Essential Album: OK Computer
Vox Definitive Lyric: He used to do surgery/ For girls in the eighties/ But gravity always wins
44. Tears for Fears
Like Cyndi Lauper, T4F had a couple huge songs and a nice career, but never received the recognition they deserved for being outstanding songwriters. Although Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal were new-wavers, their sound transcends the decade that made them famous.
Download: Break It Down Again, Mad World, Head Over Heels
Essential Album: Songs From the Big Chair
Vox Definitive Lyric: And I find it kind of funny/ I find it kind of sad/ that the dreams in which I'm dying/ are the best I've ever had
There’s a lot of shit to sift through on a Marshall Mathers LP. The posturing, the baby-mama-drama, the g’d up accent, the shiftless rage and hate lyrics. At his worst, he’s a tacky shock-rapper with meek pipes. At his best, he’s a 21st century Rimbaud: a free-styling genius poet and a master of word-play. Either way, you won’t come out clean. And you don’t know Marshall.
Download: Sing For the Moment, Cleanin’ Out My Closet, Superman
Essential Album: The Eminem Show
Vox Definitive Lyric: It’s all political: if my music is literal and I’m a criminal, how the fuck can I raise a little girl?/ I couldn’t; I wouldn’t be fit too/ You’re full of shit too, Guerrera—that was a FIST that hit you
42. Snow Patrol
They did everything right on 2004’s Final Straw: Unconventional song structures; fuzzy guitars and atmospheric drumming underscoring Lightbody’s deadpan vocals and emotive lyrics. They did everything wrong on the follow up, Eyes Open—an album of hallmark songs perfect for a Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack.
Download: Spitting Games, Gleaming Auction, How to be Dead
Essential Album: Final Straw
Vox Definitive Lyric: Oh baby let me explain something/ It's all down to drugs/ At least I remember taking them and not a lot else/ It seems I've stepped over lines/ You've drawn again and again/ But if the ecstasy’s in the wit is definitely out/ Dr. Jekyll is wrestling Hyde…for my pride
Nasty Varmint and I rehearsed the hell out of three Cars tunes: "You Might Think," "My Best Friend’s Girl," & "Just What I Needed." The latter two made it on to our opening night set-list. I suppose that was because they were technically simple to perform and I was very comfortable with the songs, thanks to Hadman and Trout turning me on to the Cars during college.
Download: Magic, Drive, You are the Girl
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Vox Definitive Lyric: You've got your nuclear boots/ and your drip-dry glove/ Oh when you bite your lip/ It's some reaction to love
Stop smirking readers. The Material Girl (she hates that) is the embodiment of all things rock star. She sets the trends, and doesn’t care who judges her. She reinvents herself and her art seamlessly. She has one name, which always helps. And best of all, she's the artist of choice for my first-born- known as The Goose in these parts. Her younger sis, The Deuce, will tolerate Madonna and often joins our sing-along for "La Isla Bonita", but is partial to Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga.
Download: Justify My Love, Like a Prayer, Live to Tell
Essential Album: True Blue
Vox Definitive Lyric: A man can tell a thousand lies / I've learned my lesson well / Hope I live to tell / The secret I have learned, till then / It will burn inside of me
39. Pet Shop Boys
In fifth grade, I was completely blown away by this electronic duo’s #1 single, "West End Girls." In the song, the wickedly savvy Neil Tennant describes the tumultuous rift between England’s cosmopolitan and working class. Neil, if you could do a remix and change the lyrics to "The East Side Jews and West Side Goys," I would forgive you for that bombastic cover of "Where the Streets Have No Name."
Download: West End Girls, Opportunities, I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing
Essential Album: Very
Vox Definitive Lyric: I've had enough of scheming and messing around with jerks/ My car is parked outside, I'm afraid it doesn't work/ I'm looking for a partner, someone who gets things fixed/ Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be rich?
38. Annie Lennox (Eurythmics)
Some people use whirlpools and massagers. Some talk long walks in the park. Some even pay big bucks for shrinks and medical cocktails. I use Annie Lennox, the first and only white soul queen.
Download: Here Comes the Rain Again, I Saved the World Today, Why
Essential Album: Diva
Vox Definitive Lyric: This is the book I never read/ these are the words I never said/ this is the path I’ll never tread/ these are dreams I’ll dream instead/ this is the joy that’s seldom spread/ these are the tears…the tears we shed./ this is the fear, this is the dread; these are the contents of my head/ and these are the years that we have spent/ and this what they represent
37. Michael Jackson
If you can’t separate the art from the artist, you won’t like it here. I’m not defending, Michael. I’m not accusing, Michael. But if you loved the way OJ ran the football, then you still love the way OJ ran the football, right?
Download: Billie Jean, Dirty Diana, Give Into Me
Essential Album: Bad
Vox Definitive Lyric: People always told me: be careful what you do/ Don’t go around breakin’ young girls hearts/ And Mother always told me: be careful who you love/ Be careful what you do ‘coz the lie becomes the truth
36. Led Zeppelin
Bono calls Robert Plant “the tall, cool one.” Plant calls Bono “the short, fat one.” So the admiration isn’t mutual, but it’s hard to find any musician that wouldn’t credit Zep as the pioneers of hard rock.
Download: Thank You, Tangerine, Over the Hills and Far Away
Essential Album: Houses of the Holy
Vox Definitive Lyric: Many dreams come true/ And some have silver linings/ I live for my dream/ And a pocket full of gold
Right now you’re thinking, “how the hell is Poison one spot better than Zeppelin?” My response: read Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman, which gets academic in the defense of hair metal. I personally believe that a long, fluffy guitar solo by CC DeVille is one of the few earthly sound-pleasures we have left.
And Brett, yes, I will happily stay in your house and continue to rock your world.
Download: Fallen Angel, I Won’t Forget You, Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Every Car Has Its Horn)
Essential Album: Greatest Hits 1986-96
Vox Definitive Lyric: Though its been a while now/ I can still feel so much pain/ Like a knife that cuts you the wound heals/ But the scar, that scar remains
34. The Beatles
My favorite Beatle is Paul. My least favorite was George. John Lennon was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off of people. Ears to you, Ringo. Got to be good-looking 'coz he's so hard to see.
Download: Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), In My Life, Hey Jude
Essential Album: Rubber Soul
Vox Definitive Lyric: The day breaks, your mind aches/ You find that all her words of kindness linger on/ when she no longer needs you
33-22: Holy Ground
Rest in peace, Hutch. A Jim Morrison/Mick Jagger hybrid, Michael Hutchience allegedly lost his will to live when an accident robbed him of his sense of smell. In the summer of 2005, the remaining band members auditioned new lead singers on the prime-time show, Rock Star. The winner, J.D. Fortune, was the only contestant who grasped the Hutchience legacy, but that wasn’t enough to save INXS.
Download: Not Enough Time, By My Side, Never Tear Us Apart
Essential Album: Kick
Vox Definitive Lyric: Here come the world/ With the look in its eye/ Future uncertain but certainly slight/ Look at the faces, listen to the bells/ It's hard to believe we need a place called hell
32. Genesis (Phil Collins)
When you turned on your radio in the very early 90s, you couldn’t escape "I Can’t Dance," "No Son of Mine," "Another Day in Paradise" and "Something Happened on the Way to Haven." DJs paid the rent spinning Phil Collins. You may even like one of those songs, but Genesis and Collins were commercial shit by then. The "I Can’t Dance" video alone was enough to annoy even the most tolerant fan. But just five years earlier, the trio had peaked with the irresistible Invisible Touch album, which rivaled Phil’s finest solo effort, No Jacket Required. Those albums were about a year apart, and both proved to be a tremendous break in tempo and mood when compared to Phil’s darker, drum-oriented hits from the early 80s, “In the Air Tonight.” and “I Don’t Care Anymore.”
Side note #1: Froms’ brother told me "(Billy) Don’t You Lose My Number" was written for Billy Ocean, since he and Phil were good friends. Yes, I believed him.
Download: Take Me Home, Invisible Touch, Land of Confusion
Essential Album: Genesis: Invisible Touch/Collins: No Jacket Required
Vox Definitive Lyric: I got some money in my pocket, about ready to burn/ I dont remember where I got it, I gotta get it to you
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" changed radio play-lists overnight and GenXers had their first real hero (unless you count Winona Ryder). If Kurt were alive today, I think he'd have long since left Nirvana and would be putting out incomparable, mature solo efforts that’d redefine music. With his songwriting skills and voice, his destiny could've been the world's greatest rock star...not the fallen face of grunge.
Download: You Know You're Right, All Apologies, Sliver
Essential Album: Live in New York, MTV Unplugged
Vox Definitive Lyric: Here we are now, entertain us
The Britpop movement of the mid 90s was often portrayed as Manchester’s response to Seattle. Blur frontman Damon Albarn once said, “If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I’m getting rid of grunge.” But the Vox was never big on Blur, the Stone Roses or Happy Mondays. Oasis was the exceptional exception, thanks to their cocky but introspective songwriting and heroic sound.
Side note #2: To set the record straight once and for all, it was not Deep Blue Something’s "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" that Froms and I sang together in my bedroom at OSU. It was "Wonderwall," and I’m sure it would’ve made the brothers Gallagher proud. I own up to my duets, fuck everybody.
Download: Don’t Look Back in Anger, Wonderwall, Live Forever
Essential Album: What’s the Story (Morning Glory)?
Vox Definitive Lyric: So please don’t put your life in the hands/ of a rock-n-roll band/ who’ll throw it all away
29. Billy Joel
Mrs. ExVox hates Billy Joel, but loves "We Didn’t Start the Fire." I love Joel, but I hate "Fire" and consider it a microcosm of the faults that plagued some of Billy’s standards: an overly-simplistic theme, dumbed-down melody and the sincerity-overkill in his voice (Also, any johny can rhyme off a bunch of unrelated historical names and events). I once read an interview where Joel said he cringes every time he hears "Tell Her About It" and "She’s Got A Way." Us too, Billy. But more often than not, his carefully-crafted, rhythmic verse proved that Billy knew his way around a pop song and showcased his keen lyrics. "Only the Good Die Young" remains a charmingly potent indictment of 20th century Catholicism.
Download: Downeaster Alexa, And So it Goes, Only the Good Die Young
Essential Album: Greatest Hits Vol. III
Vox Definitive Lyric: You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation/ You got a brand new soul/ and a cross of gold/ But, Virginia, they didnt give you quite enough information/ You didn’t count on me/ when you were counting on your rosary/ They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait/ Some say its better but I say it ain’t/ I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/ The sinners are much more fun... you know that only the good die young/ You say your mother told you all that I could give you was a reputation/ Oh, she never cared for me/ but did she ever say a prayer for me?
28. Billy Idol
Coolest white male on the planet. He was the first rocker to want his MTV, and then used the medium to stylize hard rock in a way that seemed both blasphemous and radical. Idol didn’t sing, he sneered…incorporating the vengeance of Sex Pistols-punk into dance beats. Two Idol-related notes I need to cop to: 1) I thought David Bowie sang “Eyes without a Face” for the longest time. 2) The video for “Cradle of Love” makes me want to fuck Billy.
Download: Cradle of Love, Rebel Yell, White Wedding
Essential Album: Vital Idol
Vox Definitive Lyric: I'm on a bus, on a psychedelic trip/ Readin' murder books, tryin' to stay hip
27. Don Henley
In a Rolling Stone interview with the Eagles, Glenn Frey said: “Without Don, we’d just be love songs and harmonies. We’d be Air Supply.” No shit. I’m no fan of the Eagles play-it-safe melodies, but Don’s solo career is the marvelous journey of 60s idealism giving way to 80s excess.
Download: Boys of Summer, The Heart of the Matter, The Last Worthless Evening
Essential Album: The End of the Innocence
Vox Definitive Lyric: Out on the road today, I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac/ A little voice inside my head said: don’t look back, you can never look back/ I thought I knew what love was/ what did I know?/ Those days are gone forever/ I should’ve just let’em go
26. Bright Eyes (Desaparecidos)
Lyrics so good, I get physically sick with amazement and envy. Like Mozart, Bobby Fischer, Wayne Gretsky, and Doogie Howser, singer/songwriter Connor Mullen Oberst was a true child prodigy. Always prolific, if not completely proficient, Oberst put out his debut album at 13 and continues to tackle subject matter seemingly well beyond his years. His lyricism and intensity recall both Dylan and Springsteen, but he has a diverse style and temperament unprecedented for a folk artist. My brother, RonVox, saw Oberst quit on the audience just a few songs into a 2001 show. After some booing, an angry, drunk Connor came back out and sat down at the end of the stage to drink his beer and flip off the crowd.
Download: Lover I Don’t Have to Love, Man and Wife The Latter (Damaged Goods), Road to Joy
Essential Album: Lifted
Vox Definitive Lyric: Well I could have been a famous singer/ if I had someone else’s voice/ but failure’s always sounded better/ Lets fuck it up boys, make some noise!
If Idol is the world’s coolest white guy, Steven Tyler is a close second. He’s simply a clinic on how to front a rock band. He can nail any note and has a natural dramatic flair. Even sober, he’s wild and spontaneous. Favorite 'Smith moment: Tyler's Madonna joke at the 1994 VMAs.
Download: What it Takes, Janie’s Got a Gun (live), Angel
Essential Album: Get a Grip
Vox Definitive Lyric: You have to learn to crawl, before you learn to walk/ but I just couldn’t listen to all that righteous talk, oh yeah/ I was out on the street/ tryin’ to survive/ scratchin’ to stay/ alive
24. Rolling Stones
Salman Rushdie once said you are either a Stones man or a Beatles man, implying that everyone likes one band or the other, but not both. And while I rate the Stones just ten slots higher than their rivals, I’d much rather hear Mick sell me snake oil than Paul and John harmonize to save the world. And although the Stones are largely a singles outfit and never had the depth for conceptual albums…when they were running on a full tank with their evocative rhythms, Mick and Keef had no peers.
Download: Sympathy for the Devil, Paint It Black, Wild Horses
Essential Album: Hot Rocks
Vox Definitive Lyric: Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners, saints/ As heads is tails, just call me Lucifer/ 'coz I'm in need of some restraint/ So if you meet me, have some courtesy/ have some sympathy and some taste/ Use all your well-learned politesse/ or I'll lay your soul to waste
23. Duran Duran
In 3rd grade, I hummed "Hungry Like the Wolf" in secret and begged my parents to get cable so I could get my MTV and see Simon LeBon flip that table over, flip that table over, flip that table over. After a long hiatus, Duran would come back into my life as a senior in high school with their comeback single “Ordinary World”—a remarkable and deceptively simple song about losing a friend.
Download: Ordinary World, New Moon on Monday, Hungry Like the Wolf
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Vox Definitive Lyric: Papers in the roadside/tell of suffering and greed/ Here today, forgot tomorrow/ Oh, here besides the news of holy war and holy need/ Ours is just a little sorrowed talk/ And I don't cry for yesterday/ there's an ordinary world somehow I have to find
22. Def Leppard
(By the way, if you are reading Vox 23 in one sitting and have come this far, God bless you. You must really enjoy Vox and you are fucking nuts.) Before I get into my technology spiel about this groundbreaking five-piece from Sheffield, England, let me say that Def Lep has world-class backing vocals. Now backing vocals haven’t been cool since the 80s, but their importance should never be underestimated. Bands today don’t sweat them, ‘coz they only let the front man sing…but Def Lep’s back-up vocals are like Raphael Nadal on clay: unbeatable (although Boston and VH are close). Anyway, Bono believes that “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (before it became The Stripper Anthem) was the first industrial record. Purists scoff at that sentiment, but, like always, I realized Bono was right after hearing “Sugar” in my iPod. They just may have been the first band to blast only the drums in your left headphone and the vocals/guitar in your right. Before Lep’s innovative “separation,” the various parts of a song were always audibly meshed together for the master recording.
Download: Pour Some Sugar on Me, Hysteria, Photograph
Essential Album: Hysteria
Vox Definitive Lyric: Lookin' like a tramp, like a video vamp/ Demolition woman, can I be your man?
21-6: The Sacred Sixteen
21. Smashing Pumpkins
Perhaps no band was as tuned into the 90s zeitgeist as the Pumpkins. And maybe they created it, to a certain extent. Siamese Dream, like the era it defined, is an illusion of sorts; overloaded with overdubs, and spectacularly textured to bury the anguish that often hides underneath prosperity. The ache and melancholy were then blatantly let loose on Infinite Sadness, their mammoth follow-up that might’ve benefited from condensation. But those ballads made Billy Corgan one of the most distinguished voices of the 90s and the Pumpkins influence can be heard almost every time you turn on a modern rock station, from My Chemical Romance to the Silversun Pickups.
Download: Mayonaise, 1979, Drown, Disarm
Essential Album: Siamese Dream
Vox Definitive Lyric: We'll crucify the insincere tonight
20. Bush (Institute)
Has there ever been a rock musician more disrespected than Gavin Rossdale? (That’s a rhetorical question. Thanks.) From Bush to Institute to his recent solo disc, critics never missed a chance to dump on him. Bush’s self-released debut Sixteen Stone went 6 times platinum, but was harshly criticized for its borrowed sound. Looking back, it was much more than an opportunistic grunge record. Hoards of bands piggybacked off the success of the Seattle sound, but Rossdale’s unwavering, howling baritone and seductive, instinctual lyrics separate him from the imitators. And Glycerine is the greatest drum-less rock song ever.
Download: Glycerine, The Chemicals Between Us, Swallowed, Boom Box
Essential Album: Sixteen Stone
Vox Definitive Lyric: Blood is like wine/ unconscious all the time/ If I had it all again, I'd change it all
19. The Cure
The enigmatic Robert Smith. Mr Mopey. Reluctant Goth Superstar. Hater of U2. He once snipped that if the Cure had recorded the song, "Numb," it would’ve ended up in their demo-room trash can. See, the Vox plays no favorites here. Just don't expect any tributes to Henry Rollins.
Download: Lovesong, Just Like Heaven, Trust, Fascination Street
Essential Album: Cure Show
Vox Definitive Lyric: Daylight licked me into shape/ I must have been asleep for days / and moving lips to breathe her name/ I opened up my eyes/ Found myself alone, alone/ alone above a raging sea/ stole the only girl I loved/ and drowned her deep inside of me
Did y'all ever see Fergie tear up "Barracuda" with the Wilson sisters on American Idol? I’m telling you, she took it to church. So, so frustrating that Fergie is flushing her rock chops down the proverbial toilet in favor of a 1-2-3 teen rap career. There’s surely a lack of empowering female rockers since Alanis Morisette vanished from the scene. That night on Idol, Ann Wilson looked ready to hand Fergie the baton. I’ll produce your next album, Stacy. Let’s cut something of our own with drums and guitars. FuckinA, you knew I’d work Fergie into this column somehow.
Download: Nothing At All, Crazy On You, What About Love, Who Will You Run To?
Essential Album: Heart
Vox Definitive Lyric: Is it cloak 'n dagger?/ Could it be spring or fall?/ I walk without a cut/ through a stained glass wall/ Weaker in my eyesight/ the candle in my grip/ and words that have no form/ are falling from my lips
When Chris Martin ruled the world, five years ago, none of us figured Coldplay had blown their entire creative load on A Rush of Blood to the Head. Rush was truly a fresh sonic jewel; organic guitars and piano grandeur flirting effortlessly with Martin’s (overused) falsetto. The much anticipated follow up, X&Y, was billed as Coldplay’s Joshua Tree, sure to make them superstars. Unfortunately, it was a formulaic letdown that also exposed Martin’s need for lyric lessons (we should’ve known he was a dud after “Yellow”). I used to say it matters not what Martin is saying, it’s how he says it. But an entire catalog of ambiguous space and time platitudes is embarrassingly shameful, regardless of Martin’s gifts as a communicator. So, with their latest release, the band hires Brian Eno to fix their fuck-ups and bring their Achtung Baby out of them. Martin’s theft of Bono’s dance moves in the iTunes ad was as close as they’d come. Viva La Vida I mean Death and All His Friends has a pretentious double-name for a 10-track experimental album (and the first cut is an instrumental), plus they’re still afraid to publish the lyrics in the CD booklet. And yet, without fail, you’ll find those magical Coldplay moments when the stars align and they sound like a searing foursome with no limitations. In those fleeting instances of percussion-utopia, I’m reminded why I fell in love with rock-n-roll.
Download: Politik, In My Place, God Put A Smile upon Your Face, A Message
Essential Album: A Rush of Blood to the Head
Vox Definitive Lyric: Sorry kids, they don’t have one yet
16. Simon & Garfunkel
Paul Simon, great American Jewish poet. And I’m sure he and Art won’t mind if I use their space to honor the other great Jewish rock lyricists: Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Billy Joel, Adam Duritz., all three Beastie Boys. Other Jews in rock include Joey Ramone, David Lee Roth, Micky Hart, ½ Steely Dan, Amy Winehouse, Perry Farrell, Gene Simmons, the Silver Jews, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Robbie Robertson, and Aimee Mann from Till Tuesday. Madonna wishes she was Jewish; Slash and Courtney Love are half-Jews; Bono is rumored to be a quarter Jewish. Not too shabby.
Download: America, Scarborough Fair, Sounds of Silence, The Boxer
Essential Album: Sounds of Silence
Vox Definitive Lyric: Cathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping/ I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why/ Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike/ they’ve all gone to look for America
In my recent book, 2004’s Sunglasses At Night: A Rock Memoir, I suggested REM “wasted much of their career on meditative string arrangements.” To my ears, 1994’s Monster was a plugged-in masterpiece, as the band comfortably shed the shackles of REM’s old standard, the mandolin-lullaby complete with pristine vocals. Instead, the great Mike Stipe is all sexed up on Monster and Peter Buck plays like he overdosed on Sonic Youth records. The tour was equally triumphant, but that’s no surprise: as I noted in my book, REM continues to rate as one of the world’s best live acts. OK, there is no book. I actually wrote that in Vox in the Box 12. But it sure felt good lying.
Download: Strange Currencies, Drive, Pop Song ’89, Losing My Religion
Essential Album: Automatic for the People, Monster
Vox Definitive Lyric: No fear, Cavalier. Renegade, steer clear. A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies/ Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline
14. Bob Dylan
I’ve seen Robert Zimmerman and his never-ending tour six times. There will not be a seventh. Bob has become a cartoon of his former self on stage-- seemingly held together by marionette strings and a fiercely loyal audience with long memories. The pot smoking baby boomer in the seat next to me remembers Dylan as the voice of his generation and one of the most important figures of the 20th century. All I know is the way his words lay on a page to form some of the most perfect poetry in human history.
Download: Tangled Up in Blue (Live), Like A Rolling Stone, Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight, Up to Me
Essential Albums: Bringing It All Back Home, Blood on the Tracks
Vox Definitive Lyric: But me, I’m still on the road/ headin’ for another joint/ We always did feel the same/ we just saw from a different point/ of view/ tangled up in blue
13. Pearl Jam
So Eddie Vedder, one of my all-time favorite lyricists, never did evolve into the Rock Messiah that seemed to be his birthright early on. His band certainly has the name for it, which sounds as epic as the sweeping anthems on their first three albums. But what if there weren’t trademark issues and PJ’s label (Epic) let them keep their original name, Mookie Blaylock? Would they have achieved the same worldwide adulation being synonymous with a poor shooting, scrappy point guard from the Atlanta Hawks? Well that wouldn’t matter, you say—the music’s the thing. Maybe so, but I’d argue to never underestimate the presentation and the packaging…which is often the fine line between mainstream and alternative, failure and commercial success, grunge and 70s rock. Hearts and farts, they fade away. But even with several sub-par releases in their review mirror, PJ are still viciously good in concert.
Download: Black (live), Elderly Woman, Given to Fly, The End
Essential Albums: Ten, Vs.
Vox Definitive Lyric: I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a sun/ In somebody else's sky/ but why, why, why, can't it be, can't it be mine?
12. The Police (Sting)
When the Police were the biggest band in the world, Sting was an artist in full command of all of his tools—playing the bass like a motherfucker and revealing truths about the human condition with his thoughtful lyrics and jazzy voice. His solo run has been uneven at best, although he’s managed to sell over 40 million albums. In a 60 Minutes interview years ago, Sting lamented that getting radio airplay was all about how many bars it takes to get to the hook. Too bad it’s not about banal clichés, ‘coz Sting has that cornered pretty well post-Police. Apparently, chess, strip clubs and tantric aren’t helping fuel the creative process. Damn, I write these tributes to my favorite artists and I use the whole paragraph to criticize them. What’s wrong with me? I should love my idols, VH1 does.
Download: Every Breath You Take, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, Don’t Stand So Close to Me, Fields of Gold
Essential Album: Synchronicity
Vox Definitive Lyric: Loose talk in the classroom/ to hurt they try and try/ Strong words in the staffroom/ the accusations fly/ It's no use, he sees her/ he starts to shake and cough/Just like the old man in that famous book by Nabakov
Prince Rogers Nelson. Soul-singer. Dancer. Choreographer. Producer. Plays 25-plus instruments. Lyricist extraordinaire. Has there ever been a rock artist so gifted and talented? Has there ever been a rock artist so controlling and uncompromising? No and no.
Side note #3: The cover art for Prince’s 1985 album Around the World in a Day depicts a ladder to the heavens. Froms’ brother told me this was because Prince was dying from a rare disease while recording it. I believed him on that one, too. Wow, I was a gullible 10-year old.
Download: Sign O’ the Times, Purple Rain, Erotic City, When Doves Cry
Essential Album” Purple Rain
Vox Definitive Lyric: Sister killed her baby cuz she could afford 2 feed it/ and were sending people 2 the moon/ September, my cousin tried reefer 4 the very first time/ now he’s doing horse, it’s June
10. Beastie Boys
Even before they learned to play their instruments, Mike D, MCA and The King Adrock were living legends. License to Ill, which used guest musicians, was sometimes wacky, occasionally amateurish, racist, sexist, extremely juvenile and just plain brilliant. And in the spring of ’87, it was my first experience with a no-filter album. The Beasties, who started out as a punk band, have grown up with their fans. They went from urinating on their audience, to political activists to 2008 Rock Hall Inductee.
Download: The New Style, Shake Your Rump, Sure Shot, Intergalactic
Essential Albums: License to Ill, Paul’s Boutique
Vox Definitive Lyric: My pistol is loaded - I shot Betty Crocker/ Deliver Colonel Sanders down to Davey Jones' locker/ Rhymin' and stealin' in a drunken state/ And I'll be rockin' my rhymes all the way to Hell's gate
9. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
A very poor man’s Springsteen, Seger’s albums are hit and miss…but when a song is in Bob’s wheelhouse, he’ll crush it. Roll Me Away is my all-time favorite song; like most signature Seger songs, it starts simple and slow with the keyboard…then the drums and guitar kick in, like an exact science. And Seger always knows when to exercise restraint and when to bust out the over-the-top vocal. But fuck the technical shit—I have a personal admission that’s the biggest compliment I can give to Bob Seger: I get a little choked up every time I hear "Rock and Roll Never Forgets."
Download: Roll Me Away, Rock and Roll Never Forgets, Like A Rock, Still the Same
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Vox Definitive Lyric: Twelve hours outta Mackinaw City/ Stopped in a bar to have a brew/ Met a girl and we had a few drinks/ And I told her what I’d decided to do/ She looked out the window a long long moment/ Then she looked into my eyes/ She didnt have to say a thing, I knew what she was thinkin/ Roll, roll me away/ Won’t you roll me away tonight?/ I too am lost; I feel double-crossed/ And I’m sick of what’s wrong and what’s right/ We never even said a word, we just walked out and got on that bike/ And we rolled/ And we rolled clean out of sight
8. The Doors
Arguably the greatest American rock band ever, the Doors changed all the rules--substituting the keyboard for bass and letting their metaphysical filmmaker turned poet turned lizard king improvise his way through live shows. Forty years, a major motion picture (Johnny Drama as John Densmore), a Rock Hall induction, a few thousand lousy tribute bands, an Ian Astbury and a Scott Stapp later, Mr. Mojo Rison is still the poster boy of 1960s American counterculture.
Download: The Crystal Ship, Love Street, The End, Awake
Essential Albums: The Doors, Waiting for the Sun
Vox Definitive Lyric: oh tell me where your freedom lies/ the streets are fields that never die/ deliver me from reasons why/ you'd rather cry; I'd rather fly
7. Van Halen
Again, see Vox 12. I basically wrote a dissertation on VH and I can’t justify giving them any more of my hard-earned words since they haven’t been competent in fifteen years. Eff the brothers Van Halen. The Red Rocker rules. Michael Anthony rules. David Lee Roth is arguably the smartest guy on earth, and he rules. And so do all of those Halen tunes you hear blasting out of the “back of a pick-up truck at the Burger King drive-thru.”
Download: Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love, Love Walks In, Dreams (Live), Can’t Stop Lovin’ You
Essential Albums: Van Halen, 51/50
Vox Definitive Lyric: Ohh, there she stands in her silken gown/ silver lights, shining down
6. Bon Jovi
If punk rock was the elimination of barriers between artist and audience, then hair metal purported to be its polar opposite: the gimmicky stage props, the excessive partying backstage with hand-picked groupies, the gunslinger guitar heroes prone to self indulgent solos and the pretty-boy lead singers with “mystique” portrayed as rock deity by MTV. I suppose the movements that followed, 90s alternative and rock-rap, were somewhat of a compromise between the two. But while punk legends like the Clash and Ramones are celebrated for their legacy, bands like LA Guns and Ratt are considered a bad joke, and probably will be playing your local fairgrounds this summer at $5 a ticket. Only Bon Jovi got out alive. They continue to pack arenas worldwide and even released four star efforts in 1995 (These Days) and 2000 (Crush). Critics still dismiss them as rock-n-roll cockroaches, but I attribute their longevity (last two albums aside) to Richie Sambora’s graceful, beatlesque playing and Jon’s passionate yet purposeful vocals (Never mind that in 1993, at my first Jovi show, Jon told the Blossom crowd he was gonna rock us "like Bill Belichick").
Download: Runaway, Never Say Goodbye, These Days, Always
Essential Albums: Slippery When Wet, New Jersey
Vox Definitive Lyric: And I walk these streets/ A loaded six string on my back/ I’m playing for keeps/ ‘Coz I might not make it back/ I’ve been everywhere/ Still I’m standin’ tall/ I’ve seen a million faces/ And I’ve rocked them all
5 to 1: Sent from God to My iPod
Bill Simmons once labeled GNR the Doc Gooden of rock-n-roll, prodigies that “flamed out too fast.” Fair enough, but while Doc’s drug use and reckless lifestyle were only detriments to his career, Guns actually thrived on destruction, chaos and conflicting personalities. Listening to Appetite, maybe the best debut album ever, you can sense how combustible the band must’ve been when recording it. The contrast of Slash’s laid-back iconic riffs with Axl’s rage-filled tenor created a unique brand of rock that couldn’t be classified. Was it Metal? Punk? Blues? I’ve always maintained G-n-R paved the way for the entire grunge movement by making hard rock accessible to the mainstream.
I like to credit the rhythm section for the band’s monumental success. The great Duff McKagan on bass provided a muscular and steadying force. The underrated, hyper drumming of Stephen Adler was so unconventional because he played slightly ahead of the beat, and Izzy Stradlin was a beautifully peculiar and plodding strummer; a perfect counterpart to Slash since they shared the same influences (Aerosmith, Sex Pistols, Stones). When Adler became erratic and was forced to leave, the Cult’s Matt Sorum was a fitting replacement as the band evolved to a more epic and melodic sound.
I recently finished Slash’s autobiography. It was a fantastic read and should leave no doubt that there will never be a Guns reunion. Although it was interesting to learn that Axl’s main inspirations were singer-songwriters like Elton John and Billy Joel, he clearly lacks a sensitivity chip and had no respect for his bandmates or their audience. Or his label; he mixed Chinese Democracy for over a decade. And I'll never get over Axl drowning out Slash's solo on "Sympathy for the Devil." If there was ever a song Guns was born to cover, that was it. Oh well, we'll always have the vid for "November Rain." Watch it now for the 4,000th time. Admit it, you couldn't resist.
Download: My Michelle, Patience (live), Don’t Cry (Original), Yesterdays, November Rain
Essential Albums: Appetite for Destruction, Use Your Illuison I and II
Vox Definitive Lyric: I know it's hard to keep an open heart/ When even friends seem out to harm you/ But if you could heal a broken heart/ Wouldn't time be out to charm you?
4. The Killers
It would happen so quickly, me and the Killers. The Mr. Brightside video came on VH1 hits and I thought to myself: bands like this don’t exist anymore. Straight outta Duran Duran and the Cars, mixing in a little Cure and Psychedelic Furs; the prodigious bass-playing, the dazzling lead guitar, and here came Brandon Flowers, dripping with throwback bravado. On a whim, I picked up Hot Fuss as a gift for Mrs. ExVox’s b-day…and we were hooked within a month. Up to that point, we hadn’t agreed on a thing musically. Here was this GenY quartet from Vegas to reconcile us, serving up synths for a new millennium.
Hot Fuss would become the Achtung Baby of my adult years, never mind the legion of teenagers that would drown me out at my first Killers show. If there was one sound I wanted in my ear for the rest of my life, it was Mark Stoermer’s basslines, so divinely similar to Adam Clayton but without the barrage of eighth notes. The U2 influence was lightly pronounced on the Killers debut, but the Sam’s Town album often sounded like Mr. Flowers was studying Bonology at Springsteen University. So appropriately named, Sam’s Town cemented the Killers as much more than Duran 2.0. And even if this four-star desert invention couldn’t match the intention, Brandon was brazenly borrowing from both of my heroes.
Download: Read My Mind (Rebel Diamond Mix- thanx Pucky), Mr. Brightside, Smile Like You Mean It, All These Things I’ve Done, Losing Touch
Essential Albums: All of ‘em
Vox Definitive Lyric: Slippin’ in my faith until I fall/ You never returned that call/ Woman, open the door-- don't let it sting/ I wanna breathe that fire again/ She said, ‘I don't mind, if you don't mind’/ ‘Coz I don't shine if you don't shine/ Put your back on me, put your back on me, put your back on me
3. Counting Crows
It took’em fifteen years, but the Crows finally managed to put out a less than stellar album. After two masterpieces and two near m-pieces, their fifth and allegedly final proper release is a disappointment, six years in the making. Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings takes an unusually bipolar approach for an overly-literate seven-piece, grounded in roots rock, folk, and American pop. Adam’s normally exquisite and chillingly original lyrics have given way to a generic and uncomfortably manic vocal & verse. Even Saturday’s best brooding moments are a far cry from the profound and eclectic stylings of 2002’s Hard Candy.
Their harshest critics say that a Crows album is just Adam Duritz singing along to his record collection, but, for almost a decade, Adam could do no wrong in my eyes. When he wanted to be Bob Dylan, so did I. When he hoped next year will be better than the last, so did I. When he was banging two Friends at the same time, so…well, no, but you get what I mean. If he had a broken heart, insomnia, an identity crisis or social disillusionment…I loved my front row seat for Adam Duritz theatre. And, even though he likes to fuck with the audience during live shows, a Counting Crows concert is always a life-affirming event and proof that there is still at least one great American rock band left-- living the dream on their own terms.
Download: A Murder of One, Raining in Baltimore, Angels of the Silences, Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby, Holiday in Spain
Essential Albums: August and Everything After, Hard Candy
Vox Definitive Lyric: When I look at the television, I wanna see me…staring right back at me
2. Bruce Springsteen
Look, there just ain't enough hyperbole to describe what Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen has meant to me. And I don't mean his "legendary" live shows, which are often longwinded. I'm talking about the meat of his albums, which never cease to blow my mind-- whether I was a troubled nineteen year old passing time in a dorm room, a lost Generation Xer on a long road trip post 9-11 or a father working in the backyard, the sound of an angry lawnmower overtaken by the jangling guitars of "The Fuse" in my iPod.
Has there ever been an artist so magnificent after 50? Springsteen's last three albums are arguably his finest: The Rising (a misunderstood record with true healing power and a strong departure from his usual renegade-poet verse), Devils and Dust (an underrated portrait of how fear and insecurity undermine the toughest heartland folklore) & Magic (a dreamy combination of everything Bruce has done well throughout his career, complete with layered vocals and poignant commentaries; only this time our hero is no longer an active participant, just a wise old observer whose knows every trick thanks to thirty plus years studying American disillusionment).
The E Street Band (RIP, Danny Federici), however talented, resourceful and endearing they’ve proven to be over three decades, is just wallpaper. Bruce, and only Bruce, fills the room. Like Bono once said: “They call him ‘The Boss,’ but he works for us.” And he’s been there at every stage of our lives. Young and reckless? Strap on Born to Run. Broken dreams and lost innocence-- Try The River. In a crumbling relationship? Tunnel of Love. Bruce has always been abnormally aware of his own mortality, and it forever fuels his superb songwriting.
Download: Badlands, I’m On Fire, Tunnel of Love, Dead Man Walkin’, Girls In their Summer Clothes
Essential Albums: Born in the USA, Magic
Vox Definitive Lyric: tonight our bed is cold/ lost in the darkness of our love/ God have mercy on the man/ who doubts what he’s sure of
I can regurgitate the same takes you've heard time after time from Vox and all of the other adoring fans and media, scared to criticize the great and glorious U2 machine. Or I can give you unfiltered honesty. Knowing Paul David Hewson for nearly two decades the way I do, I know he'd want the latter. As the band's biggest fan, I'm also their biggest critic. It's been an illustrious 30 years without two bad albums in a row, but the higher registers on Bono's voice have completely vanished thanks to red wine and cigarettes. His lyric writing has suffered from too much time as World Spokesman for the Poor. And the band often loses its collective edge due to a prolonged comfort level attained from too many hand-jobs from reviewers, too much acclaim from fans and too much money from units sold. How to Dismantle a Pile of Shit was the result of three complacent musicians no longer pushing each other and one missing frontman, who can't hit the important notes and forgot his own rule: just three chords and the fucking truth. No Line on the Horizon was a mixed bag, but surely a marked improvement with the band often treading gleefully at their experimental best. The title track was one of U2's fierce triumphs- unbelievably innovative and provocative for four men at the half century mark (And, yes Doug, it kept me from punching the passenger's seat).
Here is my U2 Hall of Fame induction speech I wrote for atU2.com:
So who are U2?
"I don't mean to sound arrogant," said Paul David Hewson in 1981, "but at this stage, I do feel that we are meant to be one of the great groups. There's a certain spark, a certain chemistry, that was special about the Stones, the Who and the Beatles, and I think it's also special about U2."
May I sing a line from U2’s “Original of the Species”….
Some people got waaaaay too much confidence, baby….
Almost 25 years later, that confident young man is known affectionately across the globe as Bono…for his sins. He could probably write his own masterful induction speech for him and his mates, surely bigger-than-life prose that would capture the ideas and the passion and the chaos that U2 filtered throughout thirteen studio albums and over two decades touring the earth….but that’s my job tonight.
And speaking of jobs, at the turn of the millennium, U2 re-applied for a position they had vacated but was never filled: BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD. Most bands have to reunite for this ceremony. Most acts have to dust off their guitars a few weeks before and see if they're still in tune with each other. Most artists walk through the Rock Hall doors years after the last time they were truly relevant. But U2 arrives with the rock industry on their shoulders, a potentially record breaking tour just two weeks away, and a new album that takes you by the balls, breaks your heart, then lifts your spirits and asks you why. But that's just my relationship with this U2 record.
As teenagers, U2 gave us Boy—a new, wide-open sound, full of promise and dressed in adolescent anarchy…..and the follow-up, October, was the awakening…who needs lyrics when you’re making deals with God?
War was filled with militant beats, made for white-flag waving. And just when you thought U2
was only raw and political, The Unforgettable Fire was a textured and vulnerable, magical
reinvention of themselves; Suddenly U2 was more than just The Next Clash.
The Joshua Tree was the band’s love-letter to America; an epic and spiritual journey to the fire-and -rain heartland. Rattle and Hum was the bang when they got there; the inspiration buried in the mud.
And right when you had these guys pegged as earnest, idealistic Irishmen, Achtung Baby shattered every image and broke every rule, pitting love against lust in an ocean of distorted and sexual, poetic pedal-rock.
Abusing their position as superstars soon became a hobby, as our heroes continued to fuck the mainstream with Zooropa-- the unavoidable, but marvelous and hypnotic hangover to Achtung Baby; the devil masked in zeitgeist culture…..and Pop, a turbulent musical fusion; an ambitious and shiny contradiction embedded with ironic and dark allusions.
And All That You Can't Leave Behind was the ex-champion, boxing true to form, and reclaiming what was his with a few well-executed and glorious trademark punches.
That’s a catalog, my friends. The sort of body of work that can’t be labeled. And despite the consistent grandness of U2’s music, there are no formulas. Just the chemistry of four individual personalities, merging together to deliver a sonic experience greater than the sum of its parts.
Indeed there is much more certainty in seeing U2 rock a live audience. Watch’em perform and
they know exactly who they are. If Bono’s not playing God, then he’s inviting Him into the
arena to share in the gospel, and the blues. They say seeing U2 perform is like a religious experience, but to me it’s much simpler than that. It’s pure rock-and-roll. It’s an art form of freedom and love, expressed by a band of soul-singers.
But, really, who are these lads from the north side of Dublin?
Well that cat Bono is a nice bunch of guys. Singer. Activist. Poet and speech-writer. Illustrator.
Boxer. Chess player. Closet -smoker. The Last of the Rock Stars. And when he’s not saving the world or downing large consumptions of red wine, he’s a father of four and husband of 23 years to his high-school sweetheart. Ask him about U2’s studio secrets and he’d tell you the music happens when God walks through the room. But on stage, he’s a little Elvis and Jim Morrison…with the swagger of Sinatra, the soul of Springsteen and the spirit of Strummer.
It’s easy to say The Edge is U2’s lead guitarist. But he’s really a mad scientist in a skull-cap. Frustrated drummer. Piano player. Part time producer, lyricist, and vocalist. Full-time inventor of sounds. The anti-guitar hero, Edge gets his money’s worth from every note….holding it to create the dramatic soundscape that effortlessly fuels the band.
Lord Adam Clayton plays bass-guitar. Mr. Cool. Unbreakable as a poker-champion on stage and wearing a dangerous sophistication on his steady face. Slyly and almost single-handedly puts the sex in U2’s sound. Slips in, behind the beat, when you least expect it, conveying the relaxed and seductive mood that can only come from a fearless bass-man that has tasted life.
Larry Mullen Jr., drums and percussion. Motorcyclist and Harley-Davidson enthusiast. Leave the bullshit at home, please. Mr. Mullen is here to bang on some drooms. Right on the beat; both the backbone and the conscience of U2. And too good looking for this band…it’s like Boy George once said: “Every time I hear Bono sing 'I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,' I feel like shouting: Turn around!"
Anyway….I heard U2 on the radio the other day. It wasn’t “Vertigo” or “Beautiful Day” or “Pride” or “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Or any of the countless other U2 FM-staples. I was listening to Chris Martin from Coldplay croon “In My Place” and I heard Bono. And I’m sure I caught a vintage Adam Clayton base-line during “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers. And then Snow Patrol’s anthem, “Run” came on and I could’ve sworn I was listening to some classic Edge reverb and that big-drum sound made famous by Larry Mullen.
So if yall still don’t know who U2 are tonight, that’s OK. They’ll reveal it in their music. A music that could only be created by four best friends, inspiring and challenging each other, questioning their faiths and beliefs, celebrating their hopes, embracing their sadness, destroying myths and exposing their own doubts and hypocrisies. Ladies and gentleman, critics and fans alike, won’t you please welcome onto the stage and into the Rock Hall of Fame-- THE BIGGEST AND BEST BAND IN THE UNIVERSE: U2
(sings) You are the first one of your kind
Download: Out of Control, The Unforgettable Fire, Acrobat, Ultra Violet, Kite
Essential Albums: The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby
Vox Signature Lyric: And I'd join the movement/ If there was one I could believe in/ Yeah I'd break bread and wine/ If there was a church I could receive in
Alright, alright. Fart, burp, gasp, exhale. That countdown kicked my ass pretty good and I gotta check out now. I’ll close with another Bono lic from the Pop album that I’ve always loved, but it never applied to me until now:
Looking for a sound that's going to drown out the world
Looking for the father of my two little girls
I am Mother…Mother-sucking rock-and-roll in the Box.
Like a fly on the wall...parting is finally inevitable