Def Leppard Deserves It

If rock critics are so smart, why is Kraftwerk not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? They don’t come more influential than the German synth act, and if you’ve ever been to one of their shows, it’s mesmerizing, even a non-fan would be wowed.

But there’s a long history of critics being clueless. They use their outsider status to feel good about themselves, nerds outside the social circle, the only way they feel good is by excoriating your taste and trumpeting theirs. That’s why the Rock Hall is such a wank. There’s all this b.s. about influence and political correctness when the truth is rock is a steamy, sexy affair and if you don’t know this, you’ve probably never been laid, but if you go to a Def Leppard show you’ll see all the women you wish you had.

But you didn’t.

These women who let go, who were not too uptight to go with the flow while you were home with your punk records decrying their taste.

Hmm…

Scenesters knew of Def Leppard, they had a tiny bit of traction, and then…

“Photograph” positively EXPLODED out of the radio.

You were driving your car and your mind was suddenly centered on this exquisite sound coming out of the speakers, a mash-up of rock, metal and surf…HOW DID THEY DO THIS?

Of course Mutt Lange deserves credit. And while we’re giving it, how about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for Janet Jackson?

Talk to Cliff and Peter. They thought AC/DC was gonna exit Contemporary Communications along with them. But it was not to be. They got Def Leppard, not even the Scorpions, and when put together with Mutt there was suddenly hysteria, the managers woke up to an exploding answering machine, back when that was a thing, everybody gets excited about a hit, everybody wants a piece of a hit. And that’s what they got, Def Leppard was all over MTV, and unlike the scribes, they were cute and attractive and viewers were drawn to them and…

The album was too good to believe.

Of course it started with “Photograph.”

But then they created rock of ages with “Rock Of Ages,” with its nonsense intro and then the reference to Neil Young and then the essence of rock, the beat, listen and you can see heads bobbing in the audience.

What do you want, what do you want?
I want rock ‘n roll
Long live rock and roll

It was a pile driver with melody. No one had quite done it this way before, not successfully anyway, blending headbanging with melody, with incredible changes and choruses.

We got the power, we got the glory

We were burnin’ with the feeling. Suddenly everybody had to own “Pyromania,” you burned out the tape in your car, played the album at home at parties…

Because it set you free.

They weren’t FFFF…FOOLIN’!

Metal acts were pissed, these also-ran pretty boys ran away with their audience. The music still had elements of darkness, but they resonated with a broad audience.

It was definitely not too late for love.

But then it was four years till the follow-up.

Too long according to conventional wisdom.

We all knew the story, the car accident, the false start, we didn’t believe the band could survive the trauma.

And unlike “Pyromania,” “Hysteria” did not explode out of the box, it wasn’t until the fourth single, “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” that the victory lap was complete, that people realized Def Leppard was not only back, but they were bigger than ever, and that they’d captured the ears of listeners everywhere, this was a people’s band, and that’s what the critics hate.

And the first track that I liked was “Animal.” You know how you buy a long-anticipated album and play it over and over again until it reveals itself to you?

It happens track by track, your favorite constantly shifts.

Then came the majestic closer, “Love And Affection.”

And, of course, “Armageddon It” and “Love Bites” and “Rocket.”

But the cut that ultimately got under my skin, that never lets go, that I hear in my brain all the time, is the title track, “Hysteria.”

I’ve gotta know tonight
If you’re alone tonight
Can’t stop this feeling
Can’t stop this fire

Come on, you’ve been there, oftentimes without a condom. It’s physical, you cannot fight the urge.

And it’s the groove of the track, like building to orgasm.

You’re no longer flaccid, the blood is flowing, you’re erect.

Even better, it’s reciprocal, you’re not alone doing the hand jive.

WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR?

It’s such a magical mysteria.

Suddenly the stories were legion, of what happened under the boards at Def Leppard shows. Unlike the rappers they didn’t have to brag about it, the magic was irresistible, the women came to them.

And maybe that era is past. Maybe Me-Too has eviscerated it.

Then again, the members of Def Leppard were not dripping hot wax upon women (girls?) like the denizens of the Continental Riot House.

Then again, Led Zeppelin was deplored by these same critics. Pretty boy Plant. Bombastic Bonham. Taking himself too seriously Page. Forgotten Jones. They were blues imitators, they were rip-off artists, and suddenly they climbed the stairway to stardom and were selling out stadiums and no naysayer wanted to admit they were wrong.

But the little boys understood.

And the little girls understood Def Leppard, and therefore the act wasn’t taken seriously.

And this is not a guilty pleasure, this is a band hitting it out of the park again and again.

And speaking of parks, that’s where they play, BASEBALL STADIUMS!

While the has-beens inducted into the Hall of Fame sit home with their trophies telling tales of the old days.

And isn’t this the core of rock and roll?

A feeling between the legs.

A letting go of the world.

Awash in the glorious sound.

Only in this case, Def Leppard did it wrong. Instead of being seen as outsiders undeserving of attention, everybody glommed on to them, both boys and girls.

But still, they got no respect.

They weren’t even nominated previously.

They weren’t taken seriously.

But when given a chance, the fans overwhelmingly voted them in.

Isn’t that what we keep hearing, that it’s all about the fans?

Hell, if you let the audience vote, Bryan Adams would be in too. How many hits does it take? Or is the fewer you’ve got a badge of honor. Just because he makes it look easy he should be excluded?

Then again, the Rock Hall is a joke, always has been, after they inducted the no-brainers they’ve been conflicted, to the point where everybody now deserves to be in.

Except for the popular who satiated fans, the bedrock of rock and roll.

‘Cause it’s a miracle Def Leppard got voted in.

But one thing’s for sure, they light that fire every night, there’s hysteria in the audience.

AND ISN’T THAT WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT?

Todd Rundgren-Why He Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Todd Rundgren

“Open My Eyes”
Nazz

The Rolling Stones taught us the opening track on an album must be a killer, it must take you on a roller coaster ride, it must leave the station and never relent. “Open My Eyes” fits the bill.

“Hello It’s Me”
Nazz

Am I the only person who prefers this non-Todd vocal original, much quieter and more meaningful? It wasn’t a national hit back then, it’s just that Nazz was on SGC Records and didn’t have a chance.

“She’s Goin’ Down”
Nazz

Unknown except for acolytes, this five minute track is a tear, with a drum break to boot!

“Yankee Lady”
Jesse Winchester

Todd was the engineer. Jesse was a draft dodger moved to Canada who had impact with his initial LP and gradually lost traction to the point where most people have no idea who he is anymore. But if you play this…

Yankee lady so good to me
Yankee lady just a memory

Pull this up on Spotify, you’ll be stunned how immediate it sounds, like it was yanked from the countryside nearly fifty years later with no sign of wear. If more acoustic music sounded this clear and human, the sound could come back

“The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show”
The Band

Todd engineered “Stage Fright.”

My favorite Band album is the second, self-titled LP. The sound of the first doesn’t work for me, as great as the tracks are. “Stage Fright” is less dark than what came before, but it’s much more clear. I told my mother to send the second to me at college, she sent the third, I know it by heart.

“We Gotta Get You A Woman”
Runt/Todd Rundgren

Multiple iterations, on the world’s lamest label, Todd’s initial solo LP had no chance. But somehow this cut emerged and was a hit in certain markets, but not in others.

Written for Paul Fishkin, the lyrics remain true. My friend John texted them to me just the other day, he’s looking.

Meanwhile, this was the first inkling that Todd could write commercial pop hits seemingly without effort. If only today’s pop acts studied his catalog, they’d know melody and changes (and production!) are the key to hits.

“A Long Time, A Long Way To Go”
Todd Rundgren

“The Ballad of Todd Rundgren” is a hidden gem, it’s my favorite LP of Todd’s. Into the dumper immediately, it was nearly unavailable, I bought a cut-out version, and fell instantly in love. This is my favorite song on the LP, intimate and then overblown, a cross between teen and adult “A Long Time, A Long Way To Go” is a gem, in the same league as Split Enz’s “Message To My Girl.” If you’re a hopeless romantic, this is your track.

“Long Flowing Robe”
Todd Rundgren

The opening track from “Ballad,” it too hews to the Stones doctrine, it leaves the gate like a racehorse. And the nuances are so exquisite, that drum hit, the background vocals…

Friday night, nothing much to do but hang around

College in the seventies.

“The Range War”
Todd Rundgren

Romeo & Juliet via the Hatfields and McCoys, Todd took the country genre and mixed it with pop and rock, and opined on life better than the recognized hit writers.

And “Pittsburgh”… Platitudes don’t resonate as much as specifics.

“Perfection”
Badfinger

The second best song on “Straight Up,” the message resonates, as does the production, done by Todd.

“Baby Blue
Badfinger

More well-known than “Perfection,” also produced by Todd.

“Something/Anything”
Todd Rundgren

The double album masterpiece from ’72 that contains the hit version of “Hello It’s Me” and so much more.

It opens with the Stones policy “I Saw The Light.” But even better is “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference,” the sound is magical, but so are the words. And the trifecta is completed by “Wolfman Jack,” with the Wolfman himself included, if you don’t get up and move when you listen to “Wolfman Jack” you have no legs.

“Black Maria”… The third side opener, what a burner.

Unlike the first three sides, the fourth is done with a band, it’s not Todd only, and “Dust In The Wind” triumphs with the additional singers and players, it’s a veritable “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.”

Then there’s the humorous “Piss Aaron” and the ode to venereal disease “You Left Me Sore” and I could argue that Todd belongs in the R&RHOF based solely on “Something/Anything.”

“Just One Victory”
Todd Rundgren

A kitchen sink production that begins with angelic voices and then goes to Mars, this is an unheralded masterpiece. I could go on about “Hungry For Love” and “Zen Archer” and the Motown medley, but “A Wizard/A True Star” was too adventurous for most. Rundgren played the Neil Young card, who famously gave his audience “Time Fades Away” after “Harvest,” only the hard core stayed on.

“Personality Crisis”
New York Dolls

Overhyped, they’d be completely forgotten if it were not for Todd’s production on their debut LP.

And them came…

“We’re An American Band”
Grand Funk

One of the most hated bands on the planet, I’ll admit to liking “Closer To Home (I’m Your Captain),” but if you owned a Grand Funk LP, it was evidence you had no taste until…

FM was killing AM. But automobiles had not caught up, AM ruled in cars, 8-tracks were just beginning their infiltration and therefore, “We’re An American Band” was a hit of the type seen no longer. Everybody knew it! And it’s a classic. Great lyrics, but without Todd Rundgren’s production it would be an also-ran at best.

“The Loco-Motion”
Grand Funk

Another hit, albeit a cover. I bought the original Little Eva single, this is a bit sacrilegious, but it was great to hear it again.

“A Dream Goes On Forever”
Todd Rundgren

From the double LP in a single LP jacket as a result of the paper crisis of ’74, this is nearly as good as “A Long Time, A Long Way To Go.”

One of my personal favorites on “Todd” is “Heavy Metal Kids,” which you might immediately skip over, but who can’t smile at the lyrics:

Go on and poison all the water, use up all the air
Blow your stupid heads off, see if I could care

“Real Man”
Todd Rundgren

Todd could do anything, pop, metal and now he went prog, with synths, and with one of his best vocals, put “Real Man” over the top! He’s angelic and then throaty and the key line in the chorus sneaks up on you…”there’s a real man.”

“It’s All Too Much”
Steve Hillage

From his second LP, “L.” I bought this, a trancey take that has you nodding your head in alignment whether you’re stoned or not. Also check out the opener, a cover of Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” all produced by Todd.

“Love Is The Answer”
Utopia

Suddenly Todd had a band and was a prog rocker, he’d left the pop sound which made his solo name for experimentation, yet at the end of this third Utopia LP is a gem that England Dan & John Ford Coley took to the Top Ten.

And when you feel afraid, love one another
When you’ve lost your way, love one another
When you’re all alone, love one another
When you’re far from home, love one another
When you’re down and out, love one another
All your hope’s run out, love one another
When you need a friend, love one another
When you’re near the end, love
We got to love, we got to love one another

A message as relevant and more important than it was back in ’77.

“Bat Out Of Hell”

The fifth best-selling album of all time. With the inimitable Phil Rizzuto included in “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” Steve Popovich died chasing Sony for royalties and proper credit on this album, maybe Todd was smart to cash out his interest.

“Can We Still Be Friends”
Todd Rundgren

Just when we were convinced he’d left his pop-rock roots behind, Todd dropped “The Hermit of Mink Hollow,” proving he could do it whenever he wanted to.

“Love My Way”
The Psychedelic Furs

Their most famous track, produced by Todd.

“Dear God”
XTC

Andy Partridge had nothing good to say about Todd, that’s actually an understatement, as a result Todd aired his feelings and now Andy has come around, but once again, Todd produced one of the most remembered albums by an act with a long career.

Of course I left stuff out!

I know Todd produced the Tubes and Cheap Trick, as well as Hall & Oates and Bad Religion, but I’m focusing on his most successful, artistically and sometimes commercially, work.

And, of course, Todd is still recording and taking chances. He did an EDM tour, he refuses to play his hits, he’s got more talent in his pinky than most members of the Hall of Fame, yet…

He is ignored.

At least he was finally nominated.

But time is passing him by. There are younger voters, and it’s turned into recognition of influence and hits and if your work is singular yet artistically triumphant that does not seem to matter.

Wankers, I tell you.

But for those who know, they believe…

Todd is God.

I Am A Rock

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December

I was freezing my balls off on the Tea Cup Express. The plan had been to ride the Orient Express up to the poma to ski Bolshoi Ballroom, but the light was so flat on the Poppyfields I decided to exit back to the front side, but in order to do that I had to endure the Tea Cup Express.

They call them “Express” because they run two and a half times as fast as the old fixed-grip lifts, the Expresses detach when you get on and off, and whoosh you at high speed in between, Tea Cup in the great wide open of Vail’s Back Bowls, without a tree to block the wind. It was just me and the elements.

And I loved it.

It’s hard to explain, from back when the world was bigger, when living in the country meant you were disconnected, out of the loop, dependent upon friends and alcohol to get you through. With internet and cheap jet travel no place is that far away these days, and something’s been lost in the process. Not that I want to go back to the days of isolation, but stuck on the Tea Cup Express my mind drifted to college, where I spent four years in this environment. The sky was spitting snow, it was far below freezing, and I was loving every minute of it. It was a homecoming of sorts, even though it was thousands of miles away.

Then again, after college I spent two years in Utah, what a bizarre place that was. Living in the flats of the Salt Lake Basin surrounded by young families. Like a fish out of water, only in this case a ski bum out of snow. There’s little snow in the Basin, but as you climb the highway up Little Cottonwood Canyon…

And when I lived in Utah back in the seventies, you were stuck there. Sure, you could drive to L.A., but that was twelve hours away. As for airline travel, that was a no-no. You got behind the wheel, put cassettes in the deck and went off on a solitary journey, just you and the landscape. And it’s lonely and comforting all at the same time. I mean I love the city, I can’t imagine living anywhere else but L.A., with all that’s going on, the opportunities, but I remember when my pursuit of skiing led me to the hinterlands, and you can never get rid of the memories, like an old girlfriend.

And I’ve got four layers up top and two below and the wind is cutting through me and “I’m A Rock” starts playing in my head. It was the lines above.

And as I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t quite winter, it’s still fall.

And it’s early December, not deep December.

But it was certainly dark. The two previous days were broad sunshine, and we remarked about the shadows, with the sun so low in the sky. But on this stormy day, it was all gray, funny how the lack of color can inspire you.

Now I went to see Simon & Garfunkel in the lull, before “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Graduate.” The headliner was Soupy Sales, he was riding the success of “The Mouse.”

But Paul and Art had a slew of hits. And “I Am A Rock” was the third one, not counting their foray as Tom & Jerry back in ’57.

“The Sound of Silence” broke in the late fall of ’65, when the Beatles were still riding high, but there was room for new acts. And we thought it was a made-up moniker, a one hit wonder, but the sound of the record, it was eerie, that’s one thing that’s been lost in the internet/social network/hip-hop era. The darkness. The haunting. These records descended upon us from another universe, and then they became our everything.

Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

The quiet. After the storm, but primarily during. It’s like God has put a pair of noise-canceling headphones upon the world, there’s only room for your thoughts.

I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island

That’s what bonded us music fans, our aloneness. We were not cheerleaders, we were not star athletes, we didn’t fit in, we lived in our heads, and the music spoke to us.

We wanted love, we had friendship but we yearned to be popular. We were spinning our wheels, trying to start.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

This was before the great economic run-up. Back when we were mostly middle class. And our pursuits and culture were everything. Reading, being in the school play, those were activities, not being an entrepreneur. The only thing we were starting up were bands. We were on this great adventure, surfing the zeitgeist, not knowing we were in the midst of a generational revolution.

We had time to waste. We weren’t booked 24/7. Our rooms were everything. As a matter of fact, “In My Room” played in my head as I got off the Sourdough Express on the front side, after my flight of endurance in Tea Cup Bowl.

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

I was feeling pain, I was frozen, but I knew it was useless to cry out, as for extracting my phone to text Felice, that was never gonna happen.

But that was physical, Paul Simon was talking emotional.

The funny thing is baby boomers have come full circle. Burnt by failed romances, they’re wary about starting again, they want to keep their good feelings intact. There’s a growing loneliness amongst my generation. After all the striving, after all the achievements, we’ve realized it all barely matters, that we’re the same, we want to bond, we want to connect, but too often we’re afraid.

But we’ve got our music.

I Am A Rock

Verizon Writes Down Oath

You’d like to believe the people, mostly men, running America’s companies know more than you do.

Now I’m not so sure.

Did anybody think that Yahoo had value? Or AOL? If you haven’t switched to Gmail, the joke is on you. There’s been no investment in AOL’s e-mail product in seemingly a decade. Change your address now, because chances are you’re not getting all your e-mail.

But I am getting all my phone calls, texts and e-mail on Verizon. Unlike many Americans, I’m willing to pay for the best. And if you believe Verizon is not, you’ve been convinced by advertising, i.e. fake news, or you subscribe to a competing service and don’t want to admit you’re wrong. It’s kinda like driving a Hyundai and being convinced you’re driving a Mercedes-Benz. Then again, those Genesis models are pretty good. America is the land of delusion, where bedrock is unfindable, our whole country is shaking, possibly from fracking. Hierarchy is abhorred, everybody believes they can be a star, and the winners don’t want to sacrifice, nobody in the U.S. wants to sacrifice anymore, you can’t take away their jobs, you can’t make them drive fuel-efficient automobiles, they’ve got to be free to leave the lights on and pollute the air. America is full of adolescents, parading under the banner of FREEDOM! No one gets to be that free, no one gets to do whatever they want all the time, unless they run a Fortune 500 company.

These overpaid nincompoops make one mistake after another, and the Street is too stupid to know what’s going on. Look at the valuations of Uber and Tesla, meanwhile, Warren Buffett is investing in railroads. And somehow, the titans of wireless believe they can become entertainment companies.

We saw this movie once already, when Andy Lack was imported to run Sony Music, because there needed to be order and the music business is run by unprofessional know-nothings who need to be taught a lesson. No, Andy Lack needed to be taught a lesson, and after the rootkit fiasco, he was booted.

The CEO who built Verizon Wireless is long gone, and those who’ve followed in his seat have been so inured to Wall Street that they’ve lost their senses. Does ANYBODY think AOL has value? How about Yahoo?

But Verizon overpaid for those properties. The last bungle this stupid is when HP bought Palm.

AOL was training wheels for the internet, and after you could ride on two wheels, you gave it up. As for Tim Armstrong and his advertising strategy, he was proven a snake oil salesman long before the acquisition, why did Verizon take the bait? Oh, it needed an advertising system, one which never quite worked, to go along with the backward one acquired via Yahoo.

Some products deserve to die, some are superseded. But there always seems to be a mark willing to invest, to grow that which no amount of water and sunshine, and dollars, will ever make live again.

Like the BlackBerry believers. When I see one of those devices in the wild, I laugh. And it’s always carried along with an iPhone. As if the owner cannot type on glass. Hell, I can type faster on glass than I ever could with smartphone keys.

But you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, and youngsters keep eating the world.

That’s the story of Facebook and Google. How they took the ill-formed executions of concepts, social media and search, and refined and built upon them. Facebook switches from desktop to mobile nearly overnight, and Verizon buys dead properties. Hell, give me some of that $4.5 billion, you’re playing with my money, my rates only go up!

But no, the titans of industry believe they’re entitled to their salaries.

But the truth is they’re so locked in their silos they don’t know what is going on. Why didn’t they ask their children about AOL and Yahoo, after all children are our future, the customers coming. But NO, they know better, like the MBAs and Excel experts who never built anything. Isn’t it funny that the biggest corporations were built by college dropouts, maybe they got out before the educational system depleted their creativity. It’s conformity all the time. Meanwhile, we’re led by those thinking outside the box. When you hear about coal and the rest of the retro crap dismiss the speaker, because the future is coming down the pike and what’s successful today may be forgotten tomorrow. Does anybody want a Debbie Gibson CD?

My parents kept on telling me someone else knew better, that I wasn’t up to the game. But the longer I live it seems like we live in a nation of Ozzes, and they’re anything but wizards. They’ve been taught how to read a financial statement, yet they know nothing about the real world.

Verizon, the next time you want to buy something, call me first, I can save you a boatload of cash!