Sappy Christmas Movies – Top 20

This month’s blog was going to be a musical tribute to all the great fallen rockers this year, but after much debate your blogger decided it was time to come clean on a secret that is hard to admit to.  I must come out of the closet and admit that I love sappy Hallmark-type Christmas movies.  Oh, I hate Christmas, make no mistake of that.  Oh make no mistake, however, the spirit of this time of year plus the chance to visit with friends and family (or at least most of the family except you-know-who – probably me) is joyous and wonderful.  What I despise is the need to spend mounds of cash buying overpriced worthless junk for everyone you know in the name of holiday giving – ugh. Call me Mr. Scrooge.  Being generally frugal, this just tears my guts out – especially when January 16th rolls around and the credit card bill shows up (happy happy, joy joy).  In trying to analyze why I love cloying Christmas cinema (made for TV) I suspect it’s because at the end of the each show is that happily-ever-after moment.  The route to that throat-catching eye-wetting moment is almost always pretty predictable and often the stories are interchangeable, but the payoff is the knowing that everything in the hero and heroine’s lives will be perfect in the end.  We know that our lives have no chance of getting to that level, of course.  I mean, it’s amazing how much money most of the characters seem to have and how good looking they all are (the cuteness of the characters however is a factor in whether I like the show – especially the female lead, let’s be honest).  Frankly I do tend to like the shows where the people at least look somewhat normal and don’t have 6 figure incomes more than the movies about royalty or slumming celebs.  Oh, and right off the bat I won’t watch any show starring Candace Cameron Bure, a Barbie Doll of a lady who doesn’t look or act like anyone you have ever met in real life.  By the way, having an old recognizable star in a supporting role always helps even if you can’t place their name or what show they used to be on.  When you watch these movies, you are struck by how many beautiful/handsome single parents there apparently are in the world who have had some sort of Christmas catastrophe that has ruined their holiday spirit and only need to meet the right person to fulfill their lives with a little help from an angel/magic spirit/man in a red suit.

The following list of my fave 20 sappy Christmas movies doesn’t include any of the real cinematic holiday gems such as my favorites It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle On 34th St (that cane hanging on the doorknob in the end always chokes me up).  I will try to include a link if one exists but I apologize for any technical issues (note that due to copyrights many are either not available or altered in some way plus may be removed at any time).  WARNING – get your hankies ready and I apologize if I give away the plot too much but frankly you know how they are going to end, now don’t you?

1.The Christmas Card – 2016

Any made-for-TV show with Ed Asner and Lois Nettleton as the parents has a leg-up on the competition.  The main characters are believable human beings – Alice Evans as a woman whose parents own a logging operation and John Newton as a soldier trying to find her based on a card she sent thanking the troops for their service at Christmastime.  The card shows an idyllic life that Newton’s character longs for after the pain of war.  When you see the sort of creepy smarmy guy she is supposedly in love with you know that she will fall for the handsome GI.

2.The 9 Lives Of Christmas – 2014

Kimberly Sustad plays a lady training to be a veterinarian who doesn’t have time for romance and seems awkward with her looks – oh and she loves cats.  Brandon Roush plays a hunky but down-to-earth firefighter mainly interested in work and rebuilding the house he lives in so he can sell it.  A stray cat seems to have designs on mixing these two together (and removing Roush’s worthless girlfriend from the picture).  Will they or won’t they?

3.The Mistletoe Promise – 2016

A newcomer from last season, this has one of the more original story lines for these sorts of shows and includes two very likable characters.  Luke MacFarlane plays a lawyer who hates Christmas and Jaime King a travel agent also disillusioned by how the holidays have let her down.  The story involves how they are thrown together and make a legal pact to help each other’s careers.  They have great chemistry, so…

4.Mrs. Miracle – 2009

The late Doris Roberts is a gem as the title character (Mrs. Merkle) who mysteriously shows up when a sweet but frazzled single dad (James Van Der Beek) is desperate to find a nanny for his out of control kids.  Merkle magically has a hand in bringing a cute-as-a-button travel agent (Erin Karpluk) into his life and makes sure that everyone cleans the dishes.  Of course she has family issues that need to be worked out as well.

5.Fallen Angel – 2003

Gary Sinise is what makes this movie believable and warm with perhaps the best acting in any of these movies.  He plays a big-city lawyer who returns to his old town to tie up his estranged father’s affairs after his death.  He gets sidetracked by a single mom (played by Joely Richardson) who he has a past with – unknown to her.  While her blind child (Jordy Benattar) seems a tad contrived as a plot addition, she ends up adding sweetness and wonder to the show.  The parts about her homeless dad are instructive as well and handled with dignity.

6.A Boyfriend For Christmas – 2004

The cast in this show is alot of its charm.  Veteran character actor Charles Durning plays Santa who spends a lot of his time trying to bring two do-gooders (played by Kelli Williams and Patrick Muldoon) together that are fated to love each other but can’t seem to make the proper connection without a little help.  They may also share a backstory unbeknownst to them.  Martin Mull plays her dad and his blessing feels genuine but man do these people look rich rich rich!!  The Salt Lake City establishing shots are a rare addition.

7.Call Me Mrs. Miracle – 2010

Sorry, but only the trailer is available on this sequel to the movie at number 4 on our list starring Doris Roberts again as the magical Mrs. Merkle.  This time she meddles with the lives of a department store heir played by Eric Johnson (whose dad hates what Christmas reminds him of) and a lady watching her nephew while her brother is in the Army.  Jewel Staite plays that woman and her interesting non-cookie cutter look sets this apart (plus the late Doris Roberts who was so good here and as the mom in Everybody Loves Raymond).  This is one of the few movies with a decent supporting part for a Latino (Patricia Mayen-Salazar).

8.The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – 2008

Since Henry Winkler played the Fonz in Happy Days it seems like he has never been cast in anything that worked like that character for me till this one.  Here he plays a no b.s. ex-cop from the east coast travelling to visit his niece who is a single mom living in Chicago.  The way he befriends and trusts implicitly the character played by Warren Christie would seem odd in today’s scary world if Winkler didn’t make is seem okay with his ex-cop mentality.  Brooke Burns is a tad more beautiful than any other suburban single mom I can imagine, but the story works again because of Winkler.  His Uncle Ralph character brings home a man who wants to be a chef and is on his way to Denver to try his luck but can’t make it due to weather.  The rest is chemistry.

9.Matchmaker Santa – 2012

Another trailer here as the full movie isn’t available for free online.  Lacey Chabert plays a lady who a large jolly man named Chris who may or may not be the real Santa is trying to be matchmaker for.  She is to wed a busy business-type but of course may or may not end up with his handsome assistant (Adam Mayfield).  A rarity for these shows is that the business-type played by Thad Luckinbill is not unlikable and good things end up happening for all involved thankfully.  Recognizable background players include John Ratzenberger of Cheers and Florence Henderson of The Brady Bunch.

10.The Christmas List – 1997

As these shows age, TV seems to drop them which is too bad as you hardly see this one anymore.  This two decade old charmer is much better then the Alicia Witt movie it shares a title with (though that one is at least watchable if not great).  Mimi Rogers plays a perfume expert in a store who on a whim makes a list of all the things she wants for Christmas.  When her friend playfully mails it to Santa her wishes amazingly start coming true but not always with the result she wants.  Old-guard actress Stella Stevens plays her mom.

11.The Christmas Shepherd – 2014

The star of this show is Ace the dog who plays Buddy, a German Shepherd who brings together a single dad (Martin Cummins) and a children’s book author (Teri Polo).  Ace has great acting skills and chemistry with the rest of the cast.  The scenes where the author helps the clueless dad get his daughter ready for a dance are especially believable.

12.Trading Christmas – 2011

The third Debbie Macomber story in our list is the first not about Mrs. Miracle.  Virtually all the cast have recognizable TV faces and are mostly Canadian.  Without giving away too much, small-town teacher (U.S. actress Faith Ford from Murphy Brown) goes to the big city to surprise her daughter who isn’t there and ends up meeting a business-type (Gil Bellows).  Her friend played by Gabrielle Miller goes to surprise her in her small-town and ends up instead surprising her house-swapping big-city author played by Tom Cavanagh.  Those stories are winning and fun as opposed to the daughter’s story which didn’t grab me as much.

 

13.Crazy For Christmas – 2005

Another trailer I fear.  The payoff for me is Howard Hesseman who seems truly believable as an eccentric rich dude who after years of being a ruthless businessman is now giving back in spades at Christmastime.  Andrea Roth plays a single-mom chauffeur he hires to drive him around while he does his good deeds.  That he has a backstory with her she isn’t aware of is what supplies the plot.  Yannick Bisson plays a reporter who is tailing them and may have some interest in doing more than report on the chauffeur.  It is fun to see former SCTV star Joe Flaherty in a small role.  While I can’t stand the part (or actor Jason Spevack?) who plays her whiny kid, this is the only movie here that has a surprisingly sweet gay story arc that works in the context of the main plot.

14.Christmas Every Day – 1996

This is the oldest show on our list and shares plot similarities with Groundhog Day with the main character played by Erik Von Detten replaying Christmas till he figures out how to get it right due to a wish by his sister.  The story is actually based on an 1892 story by William Dean Howells with the same title.  Robert Hays as the dad is one of those character actors you instantly recognize.  The teens in the show actually seem believable and you end up interested in the ancillary stories that feed the main plot.

15.Finding John Christmas – 2003

Peter Falk as Max the angel is the glue that holds together this sweet story about trying to find a lost soul and bring him home to his family after years of self-torture having formerly been a hero fireman.  Valerie Bertinelli plays his sister who is also trying to save the E.R. she works in.  Canadian actor David Cubitt (who plays the reporter Max is trying to steer toward the nurse) has a backstory with the fireman as well.

16.The Christmas Ornament – 2013

Once again if you wish to watch this you will need to fork over $9.99 or watch the myriad repeats on the Hallmark Channel.  Okay, parts of this story seem way hokey and contrived – trying to sell Hallmark ornaments methinks.  At the same time, the stars actually look and feel like real people with Kellie Martin and Cameron Mathison being good enough looking but not knockouts.  Truth be told, I do find her friend played by Jewel Staite (see number 7 above) to be cute in an exotic way (the big glasses help).  She lost her husband and is trying to keep his bike shop afloat even though her heart isn’t in it as she bakes killer cookies (what could be in them?).  He had his heart broken by a rotten but hot babe and has a tree lot while he dreams of some sort of Christmas theme-park or something.  Will they get together?   Will she find her lost mittens?

17.Holiday In Handcuffs – 2007

This one is on DVD and occasionally on TV so once again you get a trailer.  This is a screwball comedy that only works because of the sweetness and charm of Melissa Joan Hart.  She plays a struggling artist who must bring some guy – any guy – home to her odd family for Christmas.  I suspect the only reason Mario Lopez is cast as the reluctant guy is so he can go without a shirt (his acting skills are okay but I would think the ladies like his pecs better).  Old-guard actors Timothy Bottoms, Markie Post and June Lockhart play the odd family perfectly.  Will they ever get Mario out of Hart’s handcuffs?  Well they must have found the key as I see there is a new pairing of the two listed on this years’ Hallmark movie calendar.

18.Christmas Angel – 2009

The title is similar to several other shows so make sure to look for veteran actor Bruce Davidson in the credits.  Since this doesn’t play as often as some of the less worthy shows it is too bad I could only include a trailer.  Davidson’s understated performance sells him as a real person who is dying and has enough money to bestow on someone of his choosing to carry on his Secret Santa mission.  Kari Hawker and K.C. Clyde play a cynical woman and a reporter looking into the Santa story.  The plot digs deeply in to what Christmas should be about.

19.Three Days – 2001

Holy cow, if this one doesn’t make you cry you have no heart.  A hard driven business type has been neglecting his marriage and comes to regret that when his wife dies.  An angel played by Tim Meadows gives him a chance to relive the three days before his wife dies and he tries to change everything, but things don’t always go perfectly in life.  The end feels like something that Rod Serling would have written for The Twilight Zone.  Kristin Davis and Reed Diamond play the couple.

20.A Town Without Christmas – 2001

The Grinches at Hallmark make you watch this in mirror image but at least they haven’t taken it down yet (but you can watch this in endless replay on the Hallmark channel anyway).  This was the first movie in which Peter Falk played Max the angel (there is a third not on our list – When Angels Come To Town).  The story is about a small-town Washington child who writes a letter to Santa about his divorcing parents and how he doesn’t wish to exist anymore.  Patricia Heaton plays a hard-bitten reporter who goes to the town to get the story and ends up bonding with a struggling writer (Rick Roberts) in search of the truth.  The story is great though there isn’t the same chemistry between Heaton and Roberts as she had with Ray Romano on Everybody Loves Raymond.

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London & The Rock Doc

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. and Mrs. Rock N. Roll Dentist returned from a 40th anniversary sojourn to London.  It has taken this long for your’s truly to recover from the crud gained from the 9 1/2 hour return flight on British Airways (thank you anonymous coughing teenager).   Not being a world traveler, I was lured to ‘Jolly Ole’ by the promise of seeing Beatles locales while the wife wanted to see castles and jewels .  Neither of us ended up disappointed with a splendid time had by all (including VISA which sent us a huge bill recently).

 Arriving at Heathrow (well west of London proper), after buying passes (called Oyster Cards) to ride their subway – The Tube, one grabs a London Underground Tube Map and jumps on for a ride via the Piccadilly line.  A simple transfer to the District line at Hammersmith station took us to our destination of Victoria station.  After riding on these fast, efficient and well-marked trains one has to wonder why it is so difficult for the city of Denver to install a much simpler light rail system (but I digress).  Not for the first time after emerging from the Underground, we became disoriented as to the direction we needed to go – without the Colorado mountains it is frankly hard to tell west from east.  We managed to stumble the few blocks to our pleasant hotel (Hanover) where our trip was headquartered.

 Spending extensive prep work at home with Frommer’s Easy Guide To London was extremely helpful in determining which museums we wanted to see and how to get to them.  Armed with the Tube map and Free Tourist map of London, we set out to see all the critical sites and frankly we did a pretty darn good job.  Many folks like the hop on/hop off bus, but we found the Tube to way far more user friendly and economical.  Of course we could have traveled in better comfort and style, but had to decline.

 The Thames is a ubiquitous presence through town and is surprisingly muddy proving correct the excellent cover version of “Dirty Water” by the Inmates.

Later on our trip we ventured north the the Camden Market and where rewarded with jams of people and hundreds of stalls selling clothing, crafts, records and alot of food.  I would recommend this to anyone going as it was alot of fun – it is also critical to walk up the road as the best stalls are farther north.  We had some outstanding Malaysian food for 7 pounds and I bought 20 45s for 15 pounds.  This is where you mostly need local money as few took credit cards here (which is what we mostly used on the trip).  For that reason I suggest taking about 200 pounds.

  

Most of our time was spent on the north side of the Thames which can be easily traversed by several bridges if you want to see the south side.  This bridge afforded a nice view back of St. Paul’s Cathedral which they say is where Hitler concentrated alot of his Blitzkrieg in an attempt to demoralize the Brits.

On the Southbank we discovered that you can save alot of money by eating at outdoor food markets which was not only cheaper but tastier than restaurant food generally since you pay extra if dining in.

 Mrs. R.N.R.D. managed to grab a lamb pita while your’s truly couldn’t finish the huge Korean burrito.  While at Greenwich I found a really nice used record store Music & Video Exchange at 23 Greenwich Church St. that had 25 pence 45s (about 34 cents!).  After seeing the locale of Greenwich Mean Time and the Cutty Sark  we found another food market for some tasty Asian fare.  

The most critical thing I wanted to do was to visit Waterloo at Sunset on Friday night in memory of the excellent Kinks song – mission accomplished. 

While we took a guided walking tour of some of the Beatles London sites, frankly the biggest help was the book The Beatles’ London-A Guide To 467 Beatles Sites generously given to me by L. Pergeau one of my patients (thanks!).  We managed to find where the Beatles performed their rooftop concert Jan. 3o, 1969 at Apple headquarters 3 Saville Row which is now an Abercrombie & Fitch Kids store.

       

Marylebone Station was the location for the intro scenes to the movie A Hard Day’s Night.  Where they are running at the camera and George falls is to the right of the entrance and then when they enter the front it is a turn to the left.

     

Recreating a couple of pictures was fun for me and using the book made it a snap.  John Lennon, for instance, appeared in a 1966 TV sketch in front of the entrance to a pay toilet.  Interestingly, it has changed a bit however it is still there on Broadwick at Hopkins St.

  

Another iconic Beatles picture was taken in July 1963 and used for their On Air – Live At The BBC Vol. 2 CD.  While the Guilford St. area has changed alot (at the northern tip of Russell Square), the shape of the upper level of the Hotel President has not and it gives away the location.

  

34 Montagu Square has had a colorful history beginning with Ringo leasing it in 1965.  Paul used it as a demo studio in 1966 then Jimi Hendrix shared it in 1967 with his manager Chas Chandler.  John and Yoko moved in the following year and filmed the Two Virgins naked cover inside.

   

Of course the most iconic site in London for any Beatlemaniac is Abbey Road Studios which is not open to the public as it is still a working recording studio.  It is a short walk from the St. John’s Wood tube station which also reminds you of the lyrics to the Rolling Stones song “Play With Fire”.   

Abbey Road is a very busy street and the constant stream of tourist recreating the Beatles famous album cover have to always look out for speeding cars coming from all directions.  The crosswalk is perhaps 20 feet to the left of the studio as you look from across the street.  Needless to say we took many pix of the studio exterior and each of us walking across.

    

  

  

Here are some other random Beatles related photos.  While he was with Jane Asher, Paul lived in the upper level of the Asher residence at 57 Wimpole St (late 1963 to 1966).  To escape fans he would climb up the roof, run down to the right and then leave via the alley behind the house.  Of course I had to recreate the escape.

    

Paul and Jane then moved to a place fairly close to Abbey Road studios on 7 Cavendish Ave.  He apparently still owns it but didn’t invite us in.

  

The Indica Gallery was a basement art gallery with an upstairs bookstore funded in part by Paul.  It was in the art gallery that John went to see Yoko Ono’s exhibit and became smitten.  6 Masons Yard was hard to find which might be why the Beatles went there.  If one looks to the right of the steps leading to the basement, you see the green 13 Masons Yard, the former nightclub Scotch Of St. James where the Beatles had their own table.

  

The Bag O’ Nails was a club frequented by the Beatles as well and known as the place Paul first met his future wife Linda Eastman.  Jimi Hendrix played there as did Georgie Fame and many others.  It is still at 9 Kingly St. in Soho.

Another iconic location still in operation is Trident studios (17 St. Anne’s Court) where the Beatles recorded “Hey Jude” and several other songs.  David Bowie also recorded the album Hunky Dory there.

    

Sadly the building that housed the Apple Shop boutique at 94 Baker St. in early 1968 (that the Beatles had the Fool paint in psychedelic colors) has been torn down with only the location marked by a plaque on a building with the same dimensions.

  

Not terribly far from the Marylebone Station is the location of where Ringo married Barbara Bach (1981), Paul married Linda Eastman (1969) and Paul married Nancy Shevell (2011).  Apparently Liam Gallagher wed here twice and David Gilmour once as well.  The Marylebone Registry Office is at 181 Marylebone Rd.

  

As my sister Cheryl’s friend Debbie G. says, this was like visiting the motherland for music fans like us.  Here are just a few other non-Beatles related music items from the trip to see where so much of the music I love came from.  1.We went to an outstanding Organ Gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall, 2.Billy Fury (UK pop star who died too young) lived across the street from Paul McCartney at 1 Cavendish Ave., 3.as a kid my fave band was the Dave Clark 5 and they were always talking about them as being the ‘Tottenham Sound’, 4.Hermans Hermits weren’t a London band, but their song “Leaning On A Lamp Post” inspired a photo or 2, 5.Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” also kept coming to mind. Oh and lest you think we have no culture, Strauss live just off Chinatown for a time as you can see.

      

  

    

Well thanks for reading my blog.  If you have made it this far you might as well look at a few  more random London pictures.  Till next time!

      

    

      

    

Song Memories Of Brenna

Last post I saluted my dad’s passing with music he might have enjoyed.   This month I will move to a happier topic – the marriage of my daughter.  Songs often will often become inextricably bound to a memory.  When I think of my daughter Brenna who will marry Jeff in a matter of days, I mostly remember silly things from her youth.  It is interesting how we have different personalities at different points of our lives often totally at odds to what we once were.  I recall thinking with Brenna that I hoped she would always stay that happy uncynical child that could always find fun in life.  I’m certain my parents always looked at me and wondered what happened to that kid who over time became  more sullen and ground down by doubts and fears especially in high school – a time we either look back with fondness or with dread (count me in the latter).  Life does that to us all to some degree – takes a child who has little to worry about other than what and who to play with today, then adds reality.  The secret is to find something in life that keeps that pilot light of happiness lit in your core so the darkness stays away.  For me that has always been music (and food to some degree – give me an egg roll!).  When the voices of doubt and anger start getting louder in the stillness, it has always been comforting that I can play a song and it walls out the unhappiness.  Perhaps we will explore that at a later date, but for now let me turn to the songs that bring some sort of memory of Brenna (some intertwined with youngest child Hilary as well).  There are so many other songs I used to play for my kids that they liked – I won’t include them all, but I will at least mention “Yellow Submarine” (Beatles), “Happy Together” (Turtles) and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” (Abba) as being faves.  I hope we were good parents, but how do you know.   I, like any caring parent, only want one thing for my children – a full and happy life.  Brenna and Jeff – congratulations!

Girl On A Swing – Gerry & The Pacemakers

This is a very early memory song and one that Brenna will likely not recall first hand as she was just a toddler when we pushed her on the swing and sang “girl on a swing swing high, girl on a swing swing low”, but it certainly takes me back to her childhood.  Every family needs to have moments that are special to them and this is one of ours.  The song itself dates back to 1966 and was Gerry’s last hit in the U.S. albeit a minor one.

La Bamba – Richie Valens

It would be interesting to know how many young people know songs not of their generation strictly from commercials.  Brenna always called “La Bamba” the popcorn song every time it came on the radio because of this commercial for Pop Secret Popcorn.  In 1958 Richie Valens adapted an old Mexican folk song and made it the b-side to his #2 hit “Donna”, hitting #22.  The Los Lobos remake from the Valens biopic made it to #1 in 1987 which no doubt inspired its use in the commercial.

Java – Al Hirt

Hearing this song always brings to mind the Muppets, but it was also a perfect song to make Brenna’s stuffed toys dance to.  I remember making her toy Blue Guy dance and rock to this jolly tune.  Of course at the end something crazy would have to happen like having it soar across the room – always the entertainer.  We discussed this song in the last post so please feel free to go back and read it.  It was an Allen Toussaint composition taken from his 1958 LP The Wild Side Of New Orleans.

Martian Hop – The Ran-Dells

Brenna, Hilary and often Elvis the cat (with me in hot pursuit) would chase around a coffee table to many songs.  This silly hit from 1963 was one of our favorites to race to.   Space was on everyone’s mind back in the ’60s with the Telstar satellite having been successfully launched the year before. This one-hit wonder group from New Jersey had the space aliens from Mars be friendly (the opposite of what most sci-fi movies painted them as) throwing a sock hop for us Earthlings.

Lollipop – The Chordettes

Here is another very early Brenna favorite.  Handclapping, dancing, mouth popping – what more could you ask for?  This is the perfect song for kids to sing along to as it is pretty simple.  This 1958 #2 hit was first done by Ronald & Ruby then covered by the female quartet the Chordettes from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Sarasponda – Barney

For those who don’t know, there was a TV show popular with kids featuring a purple dinosaur named Barney which aired starting in 1992.  It was a pretty tame show that was built around alot of singing and I would have to say is unfairly criticized for being too upbeat.  To that I say, why must a child be exposed to woe and misery – they’re children, so lighten up.   “Sarasponda” is an old campfire sing-along that supposedly traces back to Dutch spinners who sang it while at the spinning wheel.  My friend G Brown hosted the Fox 31 Kids Club back then and got us passes to go to a Kids Expo and see Barney live (along with the Power Rangers).  The picture of the girls with Blinky the Clown at the beginning of this post was taken at that event.

Haircut – Craig ‘N Co.

Craig Taubman’s 1992 CD Rock N Together had this muy muy spiffy song about dreading getting a haircut.  Reading about him online shows a performer who started putting out kids records in the early 90s  but has now moved into releases involved with his Jewish faith. Sort of an intro to rock music for kids – and pretty catchy at that.

Ren & Stimpy – Happy Happy Joy Joy

Oh my, I guess we were ‘progressive’ parents for letting the kids watch the rather edgy humor of chihuahua Ren and cat Stimpy – but it was funny.  John Kricfalusi put this show together to air on Nickelodeon in 1991.  If Bart Simpson’s “eat my shorts” got uptight folks hot and bothered, this one was guaranteed to push them over the top (but was pretty tame by current animated hijinks on South Park and the like).  We had to buy the CD after watching Powdered Toast Man, Mr. Horse, Muddy Mudskipper, etc.  This song is insanely inane.

Space Ghost & Brak – I Love You Baby

Just plain dopey is the only way to describe taking a kids sci-fi cartoon and making it into a weird outer space talk show with the dumbest host ever not to mention the even dumber sidekick Brak who gets the sing this song.  Would have also included to Brak discussion of dating and eating a pu pu pu platter but it’s not a song.  Of course we had to have this CD as well in our collection.  Yes, I must say that I believe watching weird shows like these helped make my kids just as crazy as I am – and I’m proud of it.

Cow & Chicken – Opening Theme

Brenna and Hilary always seemed to have the knack of winning contests – mostly coloring (proving the adage that you can’t win if you don’t enter).  I don’t recall exactly how Brenna won the chance for our family of 4 to go to the 1997 pool party that Cartoon Network threw to premier Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Cow & Chicken but this pretty rockin’ theme song reminds me of that.  The party was alot of fun and they gave us some nifty themed pool toys to keep.  Only in animation would a cow and a chicken be siblings.

Johnny Horton – The Battle Of New Orleans

We used to play this enough that Brenna and younger sis Hilary worked up a pantomime routine for me to videotape.  Needless to say they killed it with hand gestures and marching.  This song might well be the first country song that non-country music fans liked opening the door to exposure to other non-rock goodies – something that today’s youngsters don’t get due to the homogenizing of music tastes which is a true pity.  This song was written by Jimmy Driftwood and gave Johnny Horton a #1 in 1959.

Peter, Paul & Mary – Puff The Magic Dragon

This song speaks for itself.  What self-respecting kid doesn’t know the lyrics to this Peter Yarrow, Leonard Tipton song?  It hit #2 in 1962.  This song reminds me of one of the very first concerts we ever took our kids to (Peter, Paul & Mary at Fiddler’s Green).  I will never forget Brenna saying to me that she really liked that song (after they performed it) and that she hoped they would do it again.

Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl

Well this might not be an obvious choice for a kid favorite, but Brenna mistook the title for “Brenna Girl” and that was all it took to become a must have in the collection.  The other misheard lyric (or mondegreen as they are called) for her was “sha la la la la lucky duck”.  This was a #10 hit in 1967 for the former singer from the band Them (whose “Gloria” was the first 45 I every owned – and still have).

Toni Basil – Mickey

Even though this song was a #1 hit 5 years before she was born, it was so catchy that it had the legs to endure many years.  Basil’s cheerleader video was perfect for girls to dance to and had a great fairground organ riff to appeal to boys.  We had pom poms and a tambourine that we would use to recreate the video.

Ace Of Base – The Sign

In early 1994 the Berggren siblings and Ulf Ekberg had a U.S. #1 becoming the next big thing from Sweden to hit the charts after ABBA.  This was catch enough for mom and dad but sounded like modern music to the kids.

Spice Girls – Wannabe

A #1 in 1997’s U.S. charts after taking the world by storm the year before, this was a perfect girl-pop song by a British creation from management team Bob and Chris Herbert as the answer to the boy bands popular at that time.  1997 seems to be an important year musically for Brenna as she was discovering music not of her parents (but that honestly still appealed to older folks as well – not unlike the Beatles had done years before).

Aqua – Barbie Girl

This was a big worldwide hit for the Scandinavian group Aqua.  Like so many songs that become catchy to the younger set, it was rather suggestive (how about “Whip It”?). In 1997 it got to #7 in the U.S.  Brenna had to have the CD which had some other goodies like “Dr. Jones”.

Hanson – MmmBop

Another 1997 single, this one hit #1 for the every so cute brothers Hanson.  The fact that Isaac, Taylor and Zac actually have musical chops put them way ahead of most teen pop acts.

Larger Than Life – Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys were the pin-up boy band du jour in the late ’90s and even if you didn’t like them you had to admire how well crafted their records were.  This, I am told by daughter Hilary, was one of Brenna’s faves.  This Brian Littrell composition was from their third album (Millenium) and frankly sports a pretty cool video.

25 Fave Easy Listening Instrumentals

An interesting debate in my mind has boiled for some time – how much of what is ‘you’ comes from genetics and how much from environment.  My parents love of music certainly infected me too and likely my love comes from both sources.  As a kid mom played a lot of classical music and show tunes while dad had a thing for ragtime and easy instrumentals.  When you are growing up and in the throes of soaking up the culture of your generation the farthest thing you want to admit to liking is the music of your parents.  As an adult I still love the Beatles plus rock and roll, but darn if an awful lot of the things mom and dad liked sounds pretty good today – sort of like comfort food for your ears taking you back to a more innocent time.  So much music evokes feelings and memories personal to you – bygone mundane things that you would give a year of your life to revisit.  The first real softening of the musical divide between my dad and I was Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass who he and I both liked (though he didn’t like the more rocked up songs and I didn’t like the quieter songs as much).  With the recent passing of my dad, I decided that as a tribute to him I would make a listing of my favorite ‘elevator music’ songs (though today’s elevator music seems to be rock and roll from my past).  I know some of these would be too jumpy for him, but generally I know he would be pleased to know that I still love instrumentals.  As a crabby old white guy, I often feel that why I don’t like today’s hits is that it is based on dance-worthy beats as opposed to hum-able tunes which I miss.  Dad, I hope you enjoy these (and mom, we’ll do classics another time).

1.Miss Marple Theme – Ron Goodwin

Mr. Goodwin was a British composer mostly known for his film music (Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines).  He did the music for the four 1960s movies starring the great Margaret Rutherford as the Agatha Christie character Miss Marple – an elderly busybody with a knack for solving murders.  This may just be my favorite all-time piece of music that isn’t by the Beatles – it is just so darn jaunty and it never fails to make me grin.  Hard to believe that it was produced by George Martin – the Beatles producer.

2.The Magic Trumpet – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

From the sixth TJB album (a #1 in 1966), this is a cover of a tune by German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert called “Happy Trumpeter”.  While the original version is more syncopated, this version is more like a march and no doubt stirs up my Teutonic blood (though the Lowe half of me keeps me firmly in check thankfully).  As with my #1 song, this just makes you happy and want to nod your head from side to side in time with the music.  Look at my last month’s post about fave American bands for a capsule about the history of the TJB.

3.A Swingin’ Safari – Billy Vaughn

Yet another cover of a Bert Kaempfert original (written as Bernd Bertie).  This song was used as the theme to Gene Rayburn’s game show – The Match Game (dumb Dora was soooo dumb that she didn’t know a … from a blank – you fill in the blank and try to match a celebrity panel).  Vaughn’s cover charted at #13 in 1962 and had more punch than the original.  Vaughn was a member of the 1950s vocal group the Hilltoppers, but left in 1955 to become the musical director of Dot records where he would chart 28 records of his own.

4.The Theme From “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith

One of the earliest Canadians to breech the U.S. market, Faith had a wonderful way with lush string-laden orchestrations with this 1960 #1 record (for nine weeks) being his apex.  While he did chart a few singles, it was his myriad albums for Columbia records that are most remembered – most vinyl collections of the era had at least the 1963 album Themes For Young Lovers.  Max Steiner wrote the tune (Mack Discan wrote the lyrics not heard here) for the 1959 Troy Donahue/Sandra Dee romantic drama.

5.Portuguese Washerwoman – Baja Marimba Band

If these guys sounded a lot like the Tijuana Brass (with less trumpet and more marimba) there is a good reason – they were both mostly the studio greats we now call The Wrecking Crew who also played on the TJB records (the touring bands generally didn’t play on the records).  Indeed leader Julius Wechter played on records by the Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, etc.  After playing marimbas on the first TJB hit “The Lonely Bull”, Alpert encouraged Wechter to form his own hispanic theme band (though neither were Latino).  They became a hit on Alpert’s (and Jerry Moss’) A&M label.  This song charted #15 on the adult contemporary charts in 1966 and can be found on the fine Watch Out! LP that stood incongruously in my collection next to my Rolling Stones albums.  The composer credit on the record is Popp and Lucchesi.  It is a cover of a big 1950s hit for Lou Busch who recorded as Joe “Fingers” Carr for Capitol records as a ragtime pianist.

6.Music Box Dancer – Frank Mills

Here is a classic example of a song finding its time.  Canadian pianist Frank Mills recorded this bright original in 1974 but it did nothing.  It finally became an accidental big hit in Canada in 1978 and then crossed the border to the U.S. where it charted at #3 in the spring of 1979.  He had two other small U.S. hits but has continued on as a performer while not charting.  Back when radio played a potpourri of styles side by side, you might segue from this to the Bee Gees to Dolly Parton, etc. – made you a more rounded music fan than today’s more narrow “if you like this then maybe you will like that” computer brainwashing.

 

7.A Walk In The Black Forest – Horst Jankowski

More of a jazz player, German pianist Jankowski wrote this million selling 1965 hit known as “Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt” in his native tongue.  As with all our songs thus far in this list, it is a happy ‘up’ sort of tune that raises your spirits which I have always found a good way to break out of a funk.  Listen to music, it is cheaper than drugs and psychoanalysis.  Jankowski was essentially a U.S. one hit wonder but continued to release albums till his death in 1998 at age 62 of lung cancer.

8.Candy Girl – The Hollyridge Strings

This is the most wistfully dreamy record on our list.  The Hollyridge Strings existed as a studio creation of Capitol records that would mostly put out albums of orchestrated rock hits (Beatles, Elvis, etc.) to make them tamer for mom and dad.  While Mort Garson and Perry Botkin, Jr. did some of their work, for me it was the Stu Phillips led records that were the best.  This song comes from a tribute to the music of the Four Seasons with the eerie intro violins drenched in echo.  One Krieger family activity would be going to a large mall when such things sprang up in the latter part of the 1960s (Villa Italia or Cinderella City) and I clearly remember hearing this as background music while strolling with mom and dad and sister Cheryl (mom – please please please don’t make me sit in the ladies department holding your purse while you try on clothes – NOOOO!).

9.Route 66 Theme – Nelson Riddle

The picture in this video says mono, but wow that glorious 1962 wide stereo sounds amazing even today 55 years later.  When I look up these folk who did these records, I am struck by how many of these talents passed at my pre-66 age or even younger.  Riddle left the world at age 64 in 1985 (liver disease), but before that he had an wonderful career spanning everything from arranger for Capitol artists like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to later success working with Linda Ronstadt in the 1980s.  He also had a successful history arranging music for film and TV including this excellent theme to a 1960s show about two men travelling the country in their Chevy Corvette.  This #30 1962 hit was written by Riddle and featured an insistent descending bass line and a piano augmented by strings.

10.That Happy Feeling – Bert Kaempfert

Here is a man who only made it to age 56 (passing of a stroke in 1980), but German Kaempfert still had a long influential career including producing a session for a Brit named Tony Sheridan who brought along his backing band to help out on his 1961 single – “My Bonnie”.  In that session the unknown Beatles were also allowed to record an instrumental (“Cry For A Shadow”) and a John Lennon vocal version of “Ain’t She Sweet”.  Kaempfert was also an accomplished songwriter composing the tunes for “Strangers In The Night”, “Danke Schoen”, “Wooden Heart”, etc.   This jaunty record only managed to place at #67 in 1962 here in the U.S. where he had hit #1 previously with “Wonderland By Night”.

11.The Big Country Main Title – Jerome Moross

Few may know the title to this song and even fewer the composer, but there is no mistaking that agitato string intro that never fails to thrill.  This was the main title theme to the classic 1958 William Wyler western starring Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons and in his best supporting actor Oscar role as Rufus Hannassey – folk singer (and snowman in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer) Burl Ives.  Jerome Moross’ musical score was also nominated for an Academy Award.  Moross composed music for films from 1948 till 1969 with this his best known.

12.Music To Watch Girls By – The Bob Crewe Generation

Six months before the summer of love in 1967 your’s truly was buying this album by producer Bob Crewe fronting a group that sound suspiciously like the Tijuana Brass which in hindsight likely means that they were both using the Wrecking Crew studio musicians.  This song was a Sid Ramin/Tony Velona composition that hit #15 and was used in a diet Pepsi commercial.  Velona’s lyrics can be heard on the later Andy Williams vocal version.  Crewe was mostly known for producing and co-composing hits for the Four Seasons (“Walk Like A Man”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”) among others.

13.Cotton Candy – Al Hirt

Going head to head with the Beatles in 1964, this record was a #15 hit for New Orleans trumpeter Hirt.  The song was composed by Russ Damon and seems to evoke the feel of doing jumping jacks or something equally boppy.  Hirt charted 22 albums for RCA Victor in the 1950s and 60s and had his own club on Boubon St. in New Orleans.  He performed in several of the early Super Bowl half-time shows including at #XII in January of 1978 when the Broncos played the Cowboys.

14.Elizabethan Serenade – Mantovani

Ronald Binge was an arranger for conductor Mantovani who then composed this pastoral piece in 1951.  It won him the Ivor Novello award.  Annunzio Mantovani was hugely successful with his cascading strings sound.  He is reported to have had six albums in the U.S. top 30 simultaneously in 1959.  His London label records were often used in the pre-rock era to demonstrate sound equipment due to their dynamic stereo.  His biggest hits were “Charmaine” and “Around The World”.  This song was another mall music staple.

15.The Syncopated Clock – Leroy Anderson

There can’t be a kid of the 1950s who doesn’t know at least six songs by this genius whose music seemed to be on every black and white TV show of the era (and as intros to late night movies in the 1960s).  You many not know the names of the songs but we all know this, “The Typewriter”, “Blue Tango”, “Sleigh Ride”,”Fiddle-Faddle”, “Bugler’s Holiday”, etc.  Anderson studied at Harvard in the 1920s and 30s before hitting it big in the 1950s.  He died of cancer at age 66 in 1975.

16.Exodus – Ferrante & Teicher

Wow does this have a stirring intro before giving way to the dual pianos of Art Ferrante and Louis Teicher.  If this doesn’t give you chills then you aren’t reachable.  Released late in 1960, it hit #2 as the theme from the Otto Preminger movie about the founding of the modern state of Israel.  It was composed by Ernest Gold.  Ferrante & Teicher met while studying music at Juilliard in New York in 1930.  They continued to perform together till retirement in 1989.

17.Down Yonder – Del Wood

I very stupidly never asked my dad, but I would have to wonder if this wasn’t one of his favorite recordings.  It seemed to encapsulate everything I remember about my dad when he played the piano (though he was mostly an organist – and a darn fine one).  The ragtime piano featured a driving left hand bounce with a very catchy (and very fast) right hand melody lead.  This 1921 composition was by L. Wolfe Gilbert and did have words but is generally played as an instrumental.  Del Wood (Polly Adelaide Hendricks Hazelwood) is credited with being the first female instrumentalist to sell a million records (1951).  She is known as Queen of the Ragtime Pianists (with Jo Ann Castle of Lawrence Welk fame often sharing that title).  She passed in 1989 at age 69 having achieved her goal of joining the Grand Ole Opry.

18.Swedish Rhapsody – Percy Faith

This was a 1953 chart hit for Faith which comes from a 1903 composition by Hugo Alfven.  You can certainly visualize it being played while Swedish children might dance around the may-pole.

19.Java – Al Hirt

This song and the Muppets will always be locked in my mind having seen this with the crazy dancing fuzzy tubes (and the surprise ending, kids!) on Ed Sullivan and the Muppet Show episode 22 (look on youtube).  The song was written by New Orleans composer/performer Allen Toussaint and was Hirt’s biggest hit (and his first) hitting #4 while the Beatles owned the charts in early 1964.  It earned Hirt a Grammy that year.

20.Calcutta – Lawrence Welk

Oh my, the Lawrence Welk show might have been my Krieger grandparents’ favorite TV show.  Boy does it evoke an era with the old folks in the audience watching the polkas and bubbles – and who can forget Myron Floren on accordian?  This song had the same accordions and such, but was a bit more (dare I say) rockin’.  It managed to hit #1 in early 1961 giving Welk the distinction of being the oldest artist (at 57) to have a #1 chart record up till then.  Heino Gaze wrote the song as “Tivoli Melody”.  You can credit his music director George Cates for this hit, however, as Welk had to be talked into recording it.  His recording career amazingly started in the 1920s.

21.Baby Elephant Walk – Henry Mancini

If I had to pick one artist that my dad loved more than any other, I would assume it would have been Henry Mancini who was a genius at writing catchy tunes for movies.  This song from the 1962 John Wayne film Hatari earned Mancini a Grammy (one of his lifetime 20).  This was a much goofier song a la “The Pink Panther Theme” as opposed to his usual themes like “Moon River” and “Days Of Wine & Roses”.  During his recording career he put out over 90 albums.

22.Spanish Flea – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

While this song as the B-side to “What Now My Love” only charted at #27 in 1965, it always felt like a bigger hit as it was used extensively on The Dating Game TV show.  This delightfully bouncy tune was composed by Julius Wechter of The Baja Marimba Band.  It appeared on the TJB LP Going Places in 1965 which was one of their best records (along with Whipped Cream & Other Delights).  From  October 16, 1965 through April 29, 1967 the TJB had at least one album in the Top 10, making 81 consecutive weeks.  They sold over 13 million records in 1966 alone and in that year they had five albums at the same time in the top 20 on the Billboard  album chart which it is said has never been repeated.

23.The Poor People Of Paris – Les Baxter

With a title like that you would think it would be fairly somber, but it is quite the opposite being a light and frothy song making the listener think of a busy Parisienne gayly strutting down the sidewalks and through the bistros.  The song was written by Marguerite Monnot with added lyrics that are seldom heard.  Les Baxter’s 1956 release hit #1 for six weeks (chart fans may want to know that the next #1 was Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel”).  Baxter was mostly involved in movie music for many years.

24.Soul Coaxing (Ame Caline) – Raymond Lefevre

Well this is the one song on this list that I know would have been too rockin’ for dad, but it has all the elements of a great record – driving drums over a descending bass part with echoy strings playing the main melody.  A heavenly choir takes over at times to be supplanted by pounding piano going then back to the strings.  This record only managed a #37 placement in 1968 though it feels like it was more popular here in Colorado on KIMN.  This was the year of “Love Is Blue” so instrumentals were not totally out – just fading by then.   Michel Polnareff wrote the song as a vocal.  French orchestra leader Lefevre had a slightly bigger hit with “The Rains Came” ten years earlier.

25.March From The River Kwai & Colonel Bogey – Mitch Miller

Here is another song that seems like a much bigger hit than the national charts suggest.  I doubt there is a single child of the 1960s worth their salt who couldn’t whistle this stirring tune yet it only hit #20 in early 1958 for the bearded bandsman.  As an oboe player, I was always excited that such a famous man also played the oboe.  He was best known for his series of ‘sing-along’ records and TV show.  This song was a medley of two songs – “March From The River Kwai” written by Malcolm Arnold for the 1957 film about prisoners of war in WW II and “Colonel Bogey March” from 1914 by  F. J. Ricketts.

Twenty Fave American Bands

  

Independence Day celebrates the July 4th, 1776 ratification (by Congress) of our nation’s  formal Declaration of Independence.  While caught up in the recent patriotic fervor of our 2017 celebration, your Rock N Roll Dentist was moved to pen a list of his favorite American bands (three or more members).  It’s hard to figure these sorts of lists out criteria-wise.  Do you rate a band that only stuck around for a few great albums then broke as high as a band that also put out a few great albums but then kept pumping out records well after they should have given up the ghost?  These sorts of lists always feel like personal puffery so please forgive me especially if I have omitted one of your faves – if anything, please feel free to comment and submit your additions.  Sorry, but the Electric Flag (seen above) didn’t make it.  Oh and if you are looking for the Monkees, forget it as Davy Jones was British and I really couldn’t include them on this list of All-Americans.

1.Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Back in 1978, their classic 2nd album You’re Gonna Get It moved me to visit my local vinyl emporium (Underground Records on Pearl perhaps?) after hearing “Listen To Her Heart” on the radio.  It sounded a lot like a snottier version of the Searchers (clear chiming 12 string guitar over a great tune) – something sorely missing from the disco-drunk music scene of the late 70s.  To rock starved ears they filled the bill, but could they keep it going?  Well, here it is over 40 years after their debut and they don’t show any signs of slowing down with their 13th studio album Hypnotic Eye (2014) debuting on the charts at #1.  The team of TP on vocals + rhythm guitar and Mike Campbell on lead guitar is as potent as ever with original keyboardist Benmont Tench and bassist Ron Blair.  The late Howie Epstein was a fine Heartbreaker bassist as well who formed a great rhythm section with the much missed Stan Lynch on drums and backing vocals.  The volatile Lynch left in 1994 to be replaced by Steve Ferrone who is an able replacement but doesn’t have the distinctively loping behind the beat style Stan brought.  Their 1979 album Damn The Torpedoes was their breakout album with great songs like “Refugee” and “Don’t Do Me Like That”.  My personal favorite Petty song is “The Waiting” from the 1981 LP Hard Promises.

2.Creedence Clearwater Revival

Their 1968 debut single, a remake of “Susie Q” by Dale Hawkins, got played on Denver’s first underground radio station KMYR – all 8 minutes and 37 seconds.  It was a strange amalgam with classic screaming rock vocals over a nearly metronomic rock backing that gave in to a psychedelic guitar/vocal workout before returning to its roots.  Frankly, I wasn’t ready for it or their first album – but boy did that change in 1969 when John Fogerty and company pumped out three classic albums – 3 in 1 year!!  Bayou Country, Green River + Willy & The Poor Boys were loaded with rock and roll classics like “Born On The Bayou”, “Green River”, “Fortunate Son” and “Proud Mary”.  By July of 1970’s Cosmo’s Factory, CCR were America’s biggest band.  John’s late brother Tom Fogerty played rhythm guitar while the able rhythm section was Stu Cook on bass and the undervalued Doug Clifford slammin’ the drums.  John Fogerty, however, was the MVP writing, producing, playing guitar and possessing one of the greatest swamp rock vocals of all-time (chooglin’ from California – go figure).  In addition to playing his music in college, I also adopted Fogerty’s look of lumberjack shirts and jeans not to mention his mop of Prince Valiant hair and long-sideburns (where did all that hair go!?).  One more pretty good album and another not so good album then it was all over in 1972.  While the passing of Tom and the acrimony with Stu and Doug means no CCR reunion, at least John Fogerty has embraced his legacy and still sounds and looks great in concert.  John (if you are reading this – unlikely) why don’t you write an update on your character Jody as I would like to know what he’s been up to since he fell out of his tractor on “It Came Out Of The Sky” and he went to the rodeo on “Almost Saturday Night”.   You can’t beat “Travelin’ Band” from the classic Cosmo’s Factory for 2:07 of rock and roll maniac energy on a vinyl record.

3.Los Straitjackets

Oh my – I can hear many heads being scratched.  Who are these guys?  Well kids, they happen to be one of the coolest and rockin’est instrumental combos to grace a stage plus they have pumped out just south of 20 albums if spiffy rock and roll since their 1995 debut The Utterly Fantastic And Totally Unbelievable Sound Of…  If that isn’t enough, who can resist the mysterioso wrestling masks not to mention on-stage choreography on classics like “Itchy Chicken” (cool cheesy instro choreography at that – not pre-packaged lip-synced dance a la Madonna and her more modern ilk)?  Danny Amis of the Raybeats (way ahead of their time) and rockabilly Eddie Angel (the Neanderthals – great band) formed the original guitar core with Amis spouting fake-o Mexican jive on stage (they’re as Mexican as Jose Jimenez after all – look him up if you don’t remember Bill Dana).  Scott Esbeck gave way to the winged Pete Curry on bass in ’99 while an assortment of drummers (Jimmy Lester and Jason Smay) have lead to Chris Sprague.  When Amis became ill in 2010, Greg Townson from the Hi-Risers (another great band) came on board and has given a nice kick to the sound now that Amis is back.  On stage nifty originals like “Lonely Apache” stand next to classics like “The Munsters Theme” and Duane Eddy’s “Yep”.   They have a history of teaming up at times with vocalists including, recently, Nick Lowe leading to their newest record – an instrumental tribute to Lowe’s music called What’s So Funny About Peace, Love & Los Straitjackets.  Go see them in concert now!  They do a killer “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.

4.Paul Revere & The Raiders

When rock and roll was a fresh music style to this brand new teenager in 1965, my parents signed up for the Columbia Record Club (remember those, baby boomers?).  They got something like 10 records for a penny (give or take) as an intro offer and gave the catalog to me to pick out two albums of my own.  Thanks to mom and dad’s largesse I got to drive them crazy repeating over and over Do The Freddie (Freddie & The Dreamers – my first concert too) and Just Like Us! by the very sharp looking Paul Revere & The Raiders who also rocked like mad.  I suspect my first exposure to the Raiders was similar to other teens of my era – Dick Clarks’ after-school music TV show Where The Action Is.  They seemed to be having a great time while wearing revolutionary war costumes and pumping out covers of the day’s rock and roll hits.  They followed that formula on their LP adding the singles “Steppin’ Out” and “Just Like Me” – two garage rock classics.  Who knew that they had already put out over a dozen records since 1960 in a frat rock style (unless you had bought their early chart instrumental “Like Long Hair”).  That classic line-up of Revere on Vox organ, Mike Smith on drums, Phil “Fang” Volk on bass, Drake Levin on guitar and the pony-tailed and leather lunged Mark Lindsay on vocals and sax was the band I remember (though on-line they list around 30 members over the years).   I saw them at my 2nd ever concert (at the echoy Denver Coliseum) after Jim Valley had replaced Levin.  For a time I forsook them as being too pop (Hendrix called), but couldn’t resist tasty radio hits like “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon” and “Too Much Talk” and returned to buy all their albums.  Sadly three of that classic line-up are gone (including Revere), but Lindsay occasionally performs and records (saw him a few years back and he could still rock).  That they are not in the rock and roll hall of fame is a total travesty.  “Hungry” is classic rock and roll.

5.The Beach Boys

With guitarist Al Jardine having a brief desire to study Dentistry, it’s easy to see why your kindly Rock N Roll Dentist is in the thrall of these guys (not to mention I have always loved those striped shirts).  Some 56 years after they formed literally as a garage band, there is still a version lead by Mike Love and Bruce Johnston on the road plus another version in all but name lead by Brian Wilson and Jardine.  While they have recorded something like 29 studio albums and a pile of live records, we think mainly of their output of the 60s when they went toe to toe with every style of music and came out on top.  Heck, they didn’t even have a #1 single till the British Invasion swept many U.S. acts off the charts yet they managed three during the Beatles’ heyday – “I Get Around”, “Help Me Rhonda” and “Good Vibrations”.  Brian combined the great harmonies of the 4 Freshmen with the wall of sound a la Phil Spector plus he threw in a dose of Chuck Berry rock and roll for good measure and came up with the classic Beach Boys sound of summer.  Brian’s genius for pop hits gave way to amazing studio productions that he heard in his head an translated to beautiful art with Pet Sounds and Smile.  When Brian and the big hits faded, it gave his late brothers Dennis (drums) and Carl (guitar) a chance to shine.  Frankly there aren’t many bands who could sing as well as the former Pendletones then you add in the songwriting and you come up with nearly 60 chart singles.  The Mike Love helmed version scored an unexpected #1 in 1988’s “Kokomo” that doesn’t sound out of place with their classics of two decades previous.   When former guitarist David Marks and the rest of the living originals toured in 2012, they stopped at Red Rocks Amphitheater for an outstanding show that was non-stop hits – over 50 of them.  No other American band could top that.  My favorite hit by them is a great cover of “Sloop John B”.

6.Raspberries

No fan of what we now call power pop music should be without at least a Raspberries greatest hits album.  Since they only recorded four albums between 1972 and 1974 (the Raspberries, Fresh, Side 2, Starting Over), it is smarter to just buy their whole discography.  Dave Smalley, Jim Bonfanti and Wally Bryson came out of the Ohio band The Choir (“It’s Cold Outside”) and added Eric Carmen of rival band Cyrus Erie in the 1970.   Their self-titled debut on Capitol (combining some Beach Boys with Badfinger and the Who soundwise) came with a scratch & sniff fruit scented sticker on the cover – my copy still has that odor.  Their sound   While Smalley and Bryson both sang and wrote, it was Carmen’s smokin’ rock and roll voice plus his catchy songs (“Go All The Way”, “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)”, “Tonight”) that bore chart fruit.  Acrimony lead to Smalley and Bonfanti leaving before the final excellent album on which Scott McCarl and Michael McBride replaced them.  After a strong Carmen solo career (“All By Myself”, “Make Me Lose Control”) I was lucky enough to see one of their rare reunion shows at Denver’s Fiddler’s Green in 2005.  Sadly they didn’t record any new material, but they did release an outstanding live album in Live On Sunset Strip.  Their quintessential hit has to be “I Wanna Be With You” from Fresh.

7.Cheap Trick

This band from Illinois seemed to take over the style Raspberries and have kept it going through 18 studio albums and induction in to the rock and roll hall of fame last year.  They are a 40+ year tribute to perseverance with very few changes (music and personnel-wise).  Power Pop bands seem to be the offspring of the Beatles and the Who with other smart Anglophile references of their own.  In Cheap Trick’s case, over the years they have added some Roy Wood (The Move, ELO, Wizzard) in the form of “Brontosaurus” (at least the riff) and “California Man”.  The Move classic “Blackberry Way” is covered on the deluxe edition of Trick’s newest album We’re All Alright!.  They showed another of their influences with the strong tribute to the Beatles in 2009’s Sgt. Pepper Live.  Singer Robin Zander still has a great set of pipes while unlikely guitar god Rick Nielson lugs around some of the coolest guitars ever seen on a stage.  He also can send a guitar pick soaring through the audience for several rows with one landing in my souvenirs following a Fiddler’s Green concert purely by luck.  Original bassist Tom Petersson left for a time then returned while drummer Bun E. Carlos (Brad Carlson) was replaced by Nielson’s son Daxx in 2010.  Their second album (1977’s In Color) is the one that first grabbed me with great songs like “Come On, Come On” and “So Good To See You”, but didn’t take off in the U.S. till a live-in-Japan “I Want You To Want Me” became a surprise hit.  Over the years they have had hits like “Surrender” and “The Flame”, but my fave will always be “Dream Police” from the album of the same name.

8.The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Though not as flash a guitarist as his sorely missed younger brother Stevie Ray, the cool Jimmie Vaughan was the first of the two to strike pay-dirt when he teamed with singer and harp player extraordinaire Kim Wilson.  From ’76 to ’90 those two led one of the best swampy blues rock outfits in the country while selling few records.  In ’86 with drummer Fran Christina and bassist Preston Hubbard, they finally hit it big with “Tuff Enuff” which was of a piece with all their other fine records including “The Crawl” from 1980’s What’s The Word and “I Believe I’m In Love” from Butt Rockin’ the following year.  Since Vaughan left in 1990, Wilson has nested with a flight of fine players (including the late great Nick Curran on guitar) and continues to keep the Austin sound alive in concert.  My fave T-birds track is 1989’s “Powerful Stuff” from that same album.

9.The Doors

It’s interesting how the mythology of singer Jim Morrison has kept the legend of the Doors going over 46 years after his death, but if the music wasn’t there no one would really care.  If they had only released their 1967 self-titled opener, that might still be enough to get them on this list.  Robby Krieger’s “Light My Fire” was the song that drew us all in, but “Break On Through”, “Soul Kitchen”, “Crystal Ship” and the powerful “The End” kept us there.  John Densmore’s whip-crack drumming and Ray Manzarek’s keyboards all fit with the enigma that was Morrison to create one of the more unique sounding bands of the rock era.  They weren’t heavy but they rocked on songs like “Hello, I Love You” and “Roadhouse Blues” (Waiting For The Wind and Morrison Hotel respectively) – but how do you classify songs like “Horse Latitudes” (Strange Days) or “Runnin’ Blue” (The Soft Parade)?  Their last album (1971’s L A Woman) is nearly the equal of their debut.  Frankly they should have broken up after Morrison’s passing July 3, 1971 but instead they released two easily forgotten albums before mercifully closing in ’73.  I would love to know if Robby and I share any common ancestors, but from pictures it appears we shared a love for Gibson SG guitars (which I too played through my Vox amp back in the day).  I guess my favorite Doors song is “Twentieth Century Fox” off The Doors.

10.Huey Lewis & The News

In my music life, it seems there are certain bands that everybody seems to like at a certain time.  Santana in college and Fleetwood Mac later.  These guys were in that category in the early 80s when they could do no wrong.  They came out of the 70s Bay area music scene being mostly an amalgam of Soundhole and Clover (who backed Elvis Costello early on).  The original six have stayed amazingly stable over the years with only guitarist Chris Hayes and bassist Mario Cippolina departing.  What remains from that band are Bill Gibson (drums), Sean Hopper (keys), Johnny Colla (sax/guitar) and Huey Lewis (harp/vocals).  They struggled for a time till 1982’s Picture This with “Do You Believe In Love”.  Their next record Sports is the one that really spread the word far and wide with hits like “Heart & Soul”, “I Want A New Drug”, “If This Is It” and “The Heart Of Rock & Roll”.  Placing their leader and their song “The Power Of Love” in the movie Back To The Future kept things rolling till the 1986 album Fore! which sported “Hip To Be Square”, “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Stuck With You”.  Their everyman image seemed to be tailormade for heavy MTV rotation as well.  Since then they have had a few lesser chart hits (though still good musically) and continue to crop up every so often in concert.  If I want to play a News track it is generally “Workin’ For A Living” from Picture This.

11.The Lovin’ Spoonful

From mid-1965 to early 1969 these guys charted 14 singles on the Hot 100 which is pretty darn good, but that they charted top 10 with seven consecutive singles is a feat only matched in the 60s by Gary Lewis & the Playboys.  The stretch from “Do You Believe In Magic” to “Nashville Cats” was remarkable with great material like “Daydream” and “Summer In The City”.  Coming out of N.Y.’s folk scene, we had never seen any band that had someone like John Sebastian happily singing while playing the electrified autoharp.  We CERTAINLY had never seen a band with someone like Canadian Zal Yanovsky with his cowboy hat and crazy persona (sorta like a template for one of the Monkees in ’66).  Quiet Steve Boone on bass and occasional singer Joe Butler on drums rounded out the original four.  My favorite LP of theirs is the 1966 album Daydream (their 2nd) with great album cuts like “Let The Boy Rock And Roll”, “Jug Band Music” and “There She Is”.  The original band only recorded three albums and two soundtracks before Yanovsky left to be replaced by Jerry Yester in 1967.  Their sound was less ‘good-time music’ by this time and more guitar pop though “She Is Still A Mystery” and “Six O’Clock” are great singles (the album Everything Playing was only okay).  After Sebastian split in ’68 they still managed a decent swansong LP in Revelation: Revolution ’69 with Butler singing lead on the excellent singles “Me About You” and “Never Goin’ Back”.  The original four had an odd reunion playing music in a cameo appearance in the Paul Simon movie  One Trick Pony (1980) and then finally at the rock and roll hall of fame induction in 2000.  With Yanovsky’s death and Sebastian’s vocal problems, Boone, Butler and Yester continue to perform under the old name.  I saw Sebastian a couple of years ago and even if his voice isn’t up to par, his stories and quick wit are.  “Rain On The Roof” remains my fave track by them.

12.The Smithereens

Keepers of the power pop flame, the Smithereens are a band that found success a bit later than most.  At the time of their excellent 1986 debut album Especially For You, singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio was 31 while high school buddies John Babjak (guitar), Dennis Diken (drums) and Mike Mesaros (bass) were nearly 29.  From New Jersey, these guys were fighting an uphill battle to get on the charts with great pop tunes like “A Girl Like You” and “Blood & Roses”, but their lack of chart success had nothing to do with lack of quality.  In addition to their original albums, they have recorded their version of the Who’s Tommy and two albums of Beatles tributes not to mention an excellent Christmas album.  Mesaros left in 2006 to be replaced by Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion and are still outstanding in concert as a recent Denver show proved (though I worry about DiNizio who no longer plays guitar as he had little use of his arms it seems since an accident).  You can’t beat the song “Top Of The Pops” from their ’91 album Blow Up.

13.Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Admittedly the music has to start with Springsteen’s songs, but frankly it has been the six to ten headed monster that is the E Street Band that in my mind has made that music special.  It has been sort of like seeing Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound come to life in a different context then he would have imagined.  Max Weinberg’s power drumming in team with bassist Gary Tallent then Roy Bittan and Danny Federici on dueling keys formed the core.  The Boss fronted first Miami Steve Van Zandt then Nils Lofgren and now both in a guitar army with wife Patti Scialfa at times joining in.  Oh, and you can’t overlook the big man – Clarence Clemons on master blaster sax and percussion.  Soozie Tyrell came in on violin in 2002.  In it’s prime they were a formidable force on stage and on record.  Forming in 1972, members came and went before finding the core that mostly still remains.  They hit their stride with the 1975 album Born To Run carrying through great albums like The River in 1980 and the  ’84 LP Born In The USA.  The 40 track box Live: 1975-85 neatly summarized the band after which Bruce put the full act on hiatus recording a series of personal albums only reconvening off and on for various projects till a true reunion tour in 1999.  Federici and Clemons have since passed, but they finally go recognized as the E Street Band were inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 2014 by Bruce himself.  My favorite song by them could be “Glory Days” which has a bright classic rock sound rife with cheesy organ.

 14.The Ventures

That it took the best selling instrumental band of all time (over 100 million records) till 2008 to finally get in to the rock and roll hall of fame tells you volumes about how little many regard instrumentals, but this writer loves this kind of music.  Northwestern guitarists Don Wilson and the late Bob Bogle became the Ventures in 1959.  A version of the band continues to this day mainly touring Japan where they apparently still appreciate instros.   With Nokie Edwards on bass and Howie Johnson on drums they had a hit in 1960 with Colorado guitarist Johnny Smith’s jazz standard “Walk, Don’t Run” done in a rocked up manner.  For many, their story would end with their other big hit “Hawaii Five-O” in 1969 but there is a lot of great music in between those records and since.  Nokie Edwards was also a skilled lead guitarist so he and Bogle switched instruments while Johnson was replaced in ’63 by one of the finest drummers of early rock in the late Mel Taylor.  During the 60s the band pumped out a series of excellent albums every few months that included instrumental versions of many of the hits of the day (such as “Secret Agent Man” that was better than the vocal version frankly) plus covers of other band’s hits – often better than the original (“Out Of Limits” from The Ventures In Space Jan. ’64 and “No Matter What Shape” Feb. ’66 Where The Action Is just to name two).  In their career they have released over 60 studio albums plus countless more live records.  Looking at their classic live videos you can see many of the same moves that Los Straitjackets still do on stage – the synchronized turning of the guitarists for instance.  When Mel died in ’96, his son Leon took over with the band hardly skipping a beat.  Mel’s drum workout “The Creeper” ( from their album Walk, Don’t Run ’64) remains my favorite Ventures track likely because my pal Dan Campbell and I used to play this – me on guitar and DC on pounding skins.

15.The Turtles

Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman have to be the most unlikely looking rock stars ever – sort of overweight and sort of goofy looking, but they sang like angels and had a sense of humor that always tickled me (except in their scatological era with Frank Zappa).  As Flo and Eddie they still front a version of the Turtles keeping alive all the great late 60s pop hits they pumped out – “Happy Together”, “You Baby”, “She’s My Girl”, etc.  That last abbreviation reminds me that their composition “Elenore” may be the only chart hit to include the work etcetera.  Lesser songs by them are still great pop – “Guide For The Married Man” and “Can I Get To Know You Better” come to mind.  Their crowning achievement for me was the Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands LP from 1968 on which they managed to lampoon several different music styles while putting out a good record (surf music in “Surfer Dan”, heavy rock in “Buzzsaw” and the aforementioned “Elenore”).  Al Nichol on guitar, Johnny Barbata on drums and Jim Pons and bass where the band at that point.  At various times I have listed “You Know What I Mean” from the Golden Hits album as my all-time favorite song.

16.Aerosmith

For good reason, many liken these guys to the Rolling Stones – classic blues based rock and roll and a big-lipped singer (Steven Tyler) paired with a classic riffing guitarist (Joe Perry).  Add in the other three backing musicians (Joey Kramer on drums, Tom Hamilton on bass and Brad Whitford on guitar) and you have just about the only 46 year old classic rock band still made up of all originals.  “Dream On”, “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” are standards by now.  Their issues with drugs are well documented.  That they beat the odds and regrouped to even bigger success is amazing – “Angel”, “Janie’s Got A Gun”, “Love In An Elevator” on and on.  While it wasn’t a huge success, I think their best album is their 14th studio album – 2004’s Honkin’ On Bobo which is 12 trax of classic blues just like the Stones did in 2016 on Blue & Lonesome.  The use of 1987’s “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” (Permanent Vacation) on Disney’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster ride cemented it as my favorite song by them.

17.Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids

Okay, I am biased as they are from Colorado and I became friends with them in the course of writing a magazine article about the band years ago (thanks again to manager Scott O’Malley for the access).  I don’t care how much I liked them as people, however, if the music wasn’t in the grooves than they wouldn’t be on this list.  I refer you to my Jan. 2016 blog post for a thorough band history.  I can still remember reading a review of their self-titled debut Epic album in a 1973 issue of Phonograph Record Magazine and being intrigued by their wit and devotion to classic rock and roll.  They came to fame playing the high school band in American Graffiti  and kept it up on TV in Happy Days.  Sadly three of the guys in this picture are deceased (Sam McFadin, Kris Moe and Linn Phillips III), but a fine version of the band still hits the sheds on occasion with original bassist Warren “Butch” Knight and longtime sax player Dwight Bement.  They are also known for the single “Did You Boogie (With Your Baby)” that featured Wolfman Jack.  “Good Times Rock And Roll” from the Sons Of The Beaches album (1975) is one of my all-time favorite songs as it speaks to my love of music while rockin’ up a storm.

18.Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

By 1962 when he released “The Lonely Bull”, Herb Alpert had already tried a lot of different roles in music from songwriter and producer for Jan & Dean (“Baby Talk”) to performer under the name Dore Alpert (“Tell It To The Birds”).  This nice Jewish trumpet player hit the big time, however, when he created a new genre of instrumental hits in a Mexican vein.  On Top 40 radio back in the 60s, the charts weren’t just rock and roll and a kid like me got exposed to country and pop hits as well.  Some of that stuff was pretty good and bridged the generation gap between parent and kid.  The TJB were the only group I liked that my dad liked as well so I was allowed to go see them in Fort Collins at Moby Gym at a fine concert.  The TJB I saw in concert were not the TJB I heard on records, however, as Alpert mostly used the guys known as the Wrecking Crew as they knew the studio better.  At their peak in 1966, they had five albums in the Billboard top 20 and at one time they had four in the top 10.  Their two best records were released in 1965 – Going Places (“Spanish Flea” and “Tijuana Taxi”) and Whipped Cream & Other Delights that had a cover remembered fondly by young boys (and their dads) but was pretty tame by today’s standards.  From that latter album, the songs “Whipped Cream” and “Lollipops & Roses” were used on the TV show The Dating Game as intro music.  Alpert finally got a #1 in 1968 with the vocal “This Guy’s In Love With You” and got another with the instrumental “Rise” in 1979 making him the only artist to have a vocal and an instrumental #1 hit.  I guess my favorite song by them was “The Magic Trumpet” from the ’66 album What Now My Love which was a Bert Kaempfert tune so leaned more to Deutschland than Mexico.

 19.The Byrds

As can be seen from this picture, the early Byrds were heavily influenced by the look of the Beatles which is not surprising given that folkies Jim (late Roger) McGuinn and David Crosby switched to the use of 12 string guitars on folkish rock in 1964 after watching the movie A Hard Day’s Night.   McGuinn and Gene Clark had already been playing some Beatles covers at the Troubadour in L.A. (later joined by Crosby).  They added Michael Clarke as a drummer who was a novice at best, but looked the part.  Later came a country mandolin player in Chris Hillman who took up the bass and this version released the folk rock #1 hits “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”.  That latter cover of a Bob Dylan song was their first single and used mostly members of the Wrecking Crew on backing as producer Terry Melcher didn’t think the band was competent enough yet to record (save McGuinn’s 12 string).  Clark was the first to leave beginning a series of line-up changes seen till the group broke up in 1973.  Singles like “Eight Miles High” and “My Back Pages” came out in ’66 and ’67 leading to my favorite Byrds album in Jan. 1968 The Notorious Byrd Brothers which was not a huge chart success but featured great songs like “Goin’ Back” and “Wasn’t Born To Follow” which showed them leaning towards country.  McGuinn and short time member Gram Parsons took the Byrds heavily in to country for the Aug. ’68 album Sweetheart Of The Rodeo which was a pretty radical move for its time (country was seen as music of straight people who supported the war and had short hair).  With a totally new Byrds, McGuinn dove head first from then on in to a country/rock amalgam on excellent records like Ballad Of Easy Rider (1969) and Untitled (1970).  The original band reunited briefly in ’72-73 for a weak album (Byrds) and did reunite off and on over the years (both Clark and Clarke are now deceased).  McGuinn seems content anymore to play as a solo act and release covers of folk songs.  Gene Clarke’s song “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” from their debut 1965 album Mr. Tambourine Man remains my favorite song by them.

 20.Z Z Top

From 1971 till today the three man team of Billy Gibbons (guitar), Dusty Hill (bass) and Frank Beard (drums) have pumped out nasty Texas blues rock and made long beards synonymous with hot cars and leggy women.  They took a bit to grow on me as their early stuff just on London Records just seemed like mostly southern boogie rock – a genre I don’t much like.  I did buy the singles “La Grange” (’73) and “Tush” (’75) but it was a switch to Warner Brothers that got me on board as it seemed to bring out the humor and rumble on songs like “Cheap Sunglasses” and “She Loves My Automobile” from the ’79 LP Deguello.  Between 1983 and 1990 they seemed tailor-made for MTV with a series of story videos to go with their best singles “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Pressure” and “Legs” notably from the classic Eliminator album.  Afterburner and Recycler continued in that vein with songs like “Sleeping Bag” and “Doubleback”.  Releases since have been sparse and less produced but still good bluesy guitar based rock up to 2012’s La Futura.  Concert has been the best way to appreciate the band as they burn pretty good for a three-piece yet still retain their senses of humor (choreographed stage moves, fuzzy covers on the guitar bodies and even moving sidewalks for the guys on stage on one tour – a tip of the hat to Gibbons’ old psychedelic band The Moving Sidewalks).  Every time I hear “Sharp Dressed Man” from Eliminator I have to crank up the car radio and bask in the fuzzy guitar glory.

Honorable Mention – The Wrecking Crew

Though not a band per se, this fluctuating aggregation of talented musicians were the uncredited (at the time) players behind countless many of the hits we loved in our youth.  They played on The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra sessions – Crystals (Phil Spector) and Simon and Garfunkel records.  On and on – the list is staggering and they would really have to be the #1 hit making band on this list.  Their legacy is best appreciated by watching the 2008 documentary The Wrecking Crew put together by Denny Tedesco the son of the late Tommy who played guitar in the band – listen to the flamenco flourishes on the Gary Lewis & The Playboys album version of “Sure Gonna Miss Her”.

The Beatles: What If?

WHAT IF?  Always an exercise in frustration, but fun at the same time – What If?.  You can’t change history, but how many interesting movies, TV shows and books have been devoted to that prospect?  I have to assume that most of us have at some time engaged in speculation about what things would have been like if something from the past were to have been different.  As a for instance, I always contend that if one could have eliminated one of these murders: Martin Luther King, John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, the one that would have perhaps made the most difference was of the person who may have been the least influential at the time – Robert Kennedy.

I have to feel that if Bobby lived, he as a Democrat would have been elected President instead of Nixon the Republican.  This would have likely lead to an entirely different slate of future Presidents and an entire different slate of political agendas.

Ah, but Civil Rights folk/Black activists might argue that the murder of MLK was the biggest game-changer and had he lived the rioting of the late 60s would have at least been less fierce.  He may have even moved into politics himself.

Then again if you think about it in another way, the murder of JFK could have had the biggest impact of them all -but not politically.  His death may have changed the course of music and culture. Why, you ask?  Read on and speculate about THE BEATLES – WHAT IF?

 Throughout the history of the Beatles, there are many chance occurrences, lucky breaks and random crossroads that lead to what we know about our generation’s biggest cultural icons. I have no secret knowledge of what the world would have been like without the Beatles, but I am certainly grateful to have lived through an era when their music existed.

What If Paul and John never meet?

The most legendary concert in the history of the Beatles (and perhaps in music history period) is the July 6, 1957 Garden Fete at Woolton Parish Church for it was there that Paul McCartney was introduced to John Lennon laying the foundation for the Lennon/McCartney partnership plus bringing in Paul’s friend George later.  What if Paul decided not to go and watch the Quarrymen play that day?  Perhaps they would have met some other way, but if they never cross paths would John and Paul have ever been music stars without each other?  As much as John loved music, he also loved art and you can easily see a future for him in that direction if his band never got beyond the talent level of the Quarrymen.  John tended to lose interest in things if he wasn’t getting rewarded immediately.   A creative and satirical artist, his career may have been a struggle, but you have to assume he would have been recognized and become successful.  Paul, on the other hand, has always been a skilled musician with a love for rock and roll but also a love for pop.  One can see a world where Paul joins a dance-band as guitarist and singer then goes out on his own like Cliff Richard did to solo stardom.  Paul’s friend George may well have joined that same band, but without the Lennon/McCartney example to feed on it is hard to see him become more than a quality sideman on guitar.

What If Ringo emigrates to Houston, Texas?

As a teenager, Richard Starkey seriously looked in to moving to Houston and working in a factory.  He was enthralled by cowboys and country music and had seen on the back of a Lightning Hopkins LP that he came from Houston, Texas.   The U.S. Consul told him that you needed a job to emigrate so he was looking at factory work.  As someone slight of build and sickly as a child, Starkey would not have been cut out for hard physical labor so one assumes that after a time he would have attempted to catch on with a country band and it isn’t hard to see his strong steady beat behind some Texas singer.  This of course would have left the Beatles with Pete Best (had they have so decided to not dump him) and perhaps they would have used someone like Bobby Graham in sessions since he played drums on many early hits by the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, etc.  Without the likable Ringo, it is hard to see the Beatles as the four-headed personality monster they became on TV and in the movies, however, so Texas’ loss was our gain.

What If Brian Epstein does not go to the Cavern Club or, worse, goes and hates the band?

On November 9, 1961, two genteel customers attended the afternoon Beatles scrum at the Cavern Club in the personages of Brian Epstein and his assistant Alistair Taylor (looking totally out of place in their smart suits).  The story goes that earlier a young man named Raymond Jones had gone to Epstein’s NEMS record store and requested a copy of the new record by the Beatles – “My Bonnie”.  Finding out that the record was actually by Tony Sheridan with backing by the Beatles, Epstein was intrigued to see the group in person after finding that they were local faves.   Eppie is quoted later as saying “I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humour on stage – and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm.”  When he became their manager, he had the where-withal and credibility to push the Beatles to stardom.  If Brian doesn’t manage the Beatles it is hard to imagine that someone with clout would not have filled the management void eventually.  Whether another person would have had the devotion to the boys and the name recognition (Brian being head of a large record store) to get them signed to a label is hard to say, however.  It is thought that Brian knew enough about the charts to manipulate the sales of the debut single “Love Me Do” making it hit the U.K. at #17 – another manager may not have known about this and the record along with the Beatles may have sunk without a trace.

What If Dick Rowe & Mike Smith signed the Beatles to a recording contract before George Martin?

One of the more famous blunders posited in music history is the rejection by Decca records execs Rowe and Smith of the young Beatles –  instead they chose Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.  Had the Beatles signed with Decca, they would likely still have recorded “Love Me Do” and “P S I Love You” for their first single (though who knows if Ringo would have been in the band since it was via George Martin’s rejection of Pete Best’s drumming that the weaker drummer was ousted bringing in the charismatic Starr).  Even if that single still had gone to the lower rungs of the U.K. charts, the follow-up certainly would have been very different and may have sunk the band’s fortunes.  It is widely reported that Lennon brought a slow Roy Orbison-influenced version of “Please Please Me” to Martin for the next Beatles single and that George M. wisely helped shape the song into a faster snappier pop hit that kicked off Beatlemania.  You can assume that producer Mike Smith may not have been so astute in rearranging Lennon’s dirge thus dooming their 2nd single to be a flop.  More than likely the label would have cut them loose or demanded they record outside material for a do-or-die 3rd single – this would have put a crimp in the growth of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership.  It can’t be stated enough the importance that producer George Martin had in shaping the Beatles.  He became a true fifth Beatle playing keyboards, arranging and helping to create new sounds – something, you assume, the more conventional producer Smith may not have done.   Thank you Decca for not signing the Beatles.  Indirectly this also probably helped out the career of the Rolling Stones who did get signed to U.K. Decca in an attempt to make up for the loss of the Fab Four.

What If President Kennedy is not killed?

Many writers, when searching for the reason the U.S. belatedly went insane for the four mop-tops from Liverpool (early in 1964), point to the need for something to come along and snap our country out of the grief gripping us following the tragedy of Nov. 22, 1963.  Up till “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (the fifth single by the Fabs), there was very little interest in the Beatles on our side of the Atlantic.  Capitol records finally released that record nearly a month after it came out in the U.K. when the demand for Beatles product started taking off.  Somehow the killing of Pres. Kennedy has always seemed like an odd excuse to spark Beatlemania in the U.S., but it may well have helped push us into the deep-end quicker then if the President wasn’t killed and we weren’t in a state of depression.  I still believe that we would have inevitably succumbed to the same mania that gripped virtually every corner of the world.  The Japanese, the Greeks, the Malaysians, you name it – they all got caught up in the fever pushing Beatles songs to the top of the charts.  Why would we have been any different? The Ed Sullivan show exposure sure helped push them in to our living rooms Kennedy or no Kennedy.   Cliff Richard was never as big here as in the U.K., you counter.  Well, he simply wasn’t as dynamic on record or in person as the Beatles.  Okay, you say, ABBA were never as big here either.  Sure, but they still managed to become sizable stars in the U.S. just as I believe the Beatles would have been.

What If the Beatles do not take drugs?

Use of benzedrine and amphetamines were common for the young pre-Fabs to conjure enough energy to play long grueling sets in Hamburg.  It’s hard to know what effect that had on their early songwriting or playing.   From then on there are at least three levels of drugs that were taken by at least one member of the Beatles.  The lowest level drug that all four Fabs were involved in was marijuana.  As opposed to former Pres. Clinton, there is no doubt they inhaled.  If you believe what George Harrison said in a 90s interview, he felt that all it did was focus their attention on the music.  In contradiction I have friends that tell me that the use of weed, however, tends to sap your drive and lower your desire to do much more than smoke more drugs.  Looking online they say that side effects are paranoia, memory and relationship problems, lowering of IQ, impaired thinking, etc.  Whether this tended to make them write more languid songs such as John’s “I’m So Tired”  or stupider songs like “Wild Honey Pie” is up for debate.  The next level of drugs, however, had a big impact on the music – LSD.  Without acid perhaps they would have written more classic conventional pop songs like early in their career – or not since they still seemed to want to broaden their subject matter regardless of the chemicals they ingested.  You can obviously pick out the songs of John and to some degree George that would not have come about without mind-altering chemicals (“Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Only A Northern Song” et al).  You wonder if the Indian spiritual side trip the band went on would have happened without LSD.  It is harder with Paul but doubtless it impacted his writing as well perhaps on things like “Fixing A Hole” (we know that “Got To Get You Into My Life” was about marijuana).  Looking at how Brian Wilson, Peter Green and Syd Barrett (to name a few other sad musical examples) had their brains negatively altered by too many trips, it is hard not to assume that some of John’s mental anguish might have stemmed from overdosing his neurons.  It may have robbed him of his drive to top Paul who increasingly took control of the band from Sgt. Pepper on – something the old John would not have simply sat back and let happen.  You figure a clearheaded John would have gone toe to toe in the song writing at least.  This of course was nothing compared to the third level of drugs – the hard stuff.  It seems they all had some relationship with cocaine starting with Paul during the making of Sgt. Pepper.  Articles paint the other three as using a lot of cocaine in the 70s mainly and online it says side effects include euphoria and energy followed by paranoia and anxiety.  Paul seemed to benefit from the increased energy levels around this time but after the Beatles broke up he plunged in to a depression, it is written.  Who knows if drugs played a part.   You certainly can see hard drugs all over John’s behavior and music especially around the Plastic Ono Band time.  That he also used heroin for a time was even worse on his ability to create great music or even function well.    You hate to think that the use of drugs robbed us of alot of great music, but it seems clear that after some sparking of creativity it may have lead to a drop.

What If Brian Epstein doesn’t die?

On Aug. 27, 1967 just a couple of months after the release of Sgt. Pepper (when the Beatles were in Bangor with the Maharishi), their manager either took his own life or accidentally overdosed.  John is later quoted as saying he knew this was the beginning of the end for the Beatles.  Had Brian lived we do know that he had already merged NEMS with Robert Stigwood’s management company which made the Fabs angry as they reportedly despised Stigwood.  For that reason, Epstein continued to manage the Beatles while stepping away from his other acts.  The four lads were fiercely loyal to Brian even though he frankly bungled many of their business dealings (Northern Songs and Seltaeb’s laughable merchandising contracts to name two).  The whole misguided Magical Mystery Tour idea of Paul’s may not have happened or at least have been better organized with Brian and company overseeing.  With a living Epstein, if Apple is still created it is a much tighter ship not bleeding money with him in charge.  Certainly you wouldn’t see Allen Klein ever enter the picture which had nearly as much to do with breaking up the band and their interpersonal relationships as anything else.  I still think they would have split for a time to do solo projects, but under Brian they would have had a clearer incentive to regroup from time to time and make more great music.  As a band they were more than the sum of their parts as is clearly seen by the huge drop-off in quality from 1970 on without JPG&R feeding off each other and hope that they would not have ever released inferior music under the Beatles name.  Oh that “Ebony & Ivory” and Kisses On The Bottom never happened.

What If John Lennon and Yoko Ono don’t get together?

John Lennon wanted a mother apparently.  Seemingly this man felt unresolved abandonment issues from the time of his youth when his mom gave him up to be raised by his Aunt & Uncle (and then was later killed by a car).  Since Paul had also lost his mom at a young age, there was an unspoken connection there.  John’s wife Cynthia must not have fit that role for him and we all know the stories about how he became obsessed with Yoko after a fateful meeting at the Indica Gallery Nov. 7, 1966.  This led to the breakup of his marriage and likely the band he belonged to as well (or at least it didn’t help group harmony any with Yoko wanting to caterwaul as a band member ).   As my friend Dan C posits, what if John climbs up the ladder to look at the tiny word on the ceiling and it says “No” instead of “Yes” (John made a big deal about how positive Yoko’s art was, after all)?  What if he thought this woman whose idea of art was appearing in a plastic bag or putting an apple on display was just another poser and he left vowing to not waste any more time on her?  What if he thought her strangled cat screeching vocals sounded like nails on a chalkboard?  Sadly, it never happened.  It is hard to see John and Cyn staying married even without Yoko as he never really wanted that marriage in the first place and only did ‘the right thing’ when she became pregnant with Julian.  If it wasn’t Yoko it would have been someone else, but maybe he doesn’t feel a need to spend every waking moment with that person or take heroin for his pain.  Maybe that person isn’t so controlling and doesn’t stifle his creativity or pull him away from his friendships within the band.  All four would still have gone their own way for a time.  John would never have played on trash like “Bip Bop” or “Silly Love Songs” so Paul would have had to do solo records.  George would have certainly wanted to do an outside project since he felt stifled within the Beatles (especially by Paul), but loyalty to the brand would have brought them back together off and on.  Listening to Lennon songs like “One Day At A Time” and “Mind Games”, you can hear classic Beatles songs waiting to get out if played with George, Paul and Ringo and produced by George Martin.  One can only dream of a great rock and roll covers album in the 70s since they all loved to rock and did those rockers well – something the solo John couldn’t pull off.  It is reported that Yoko kept Paul from reaching John if you believe many of the books which is a true crime.

What If John Lennon isn’t shot fatally in 1980?

When John was killed, he was one of my heroes.  Other than Abe Lincoln, I now idolize no one, but in death John Lennon has faded as an object of worship after reading about his human foibles (a lazy naivete, aggression that lead to physical outbursts, cruelty to women, etc.).  This is a tragedy as the rest of us have had nearly 37 years to grow as human beings while John is caught in time as being what he was at and before age 40.  Frankly I don’t see him as having a long life anyway since he was a huge chain-smoker and we know how this robbed us via cancer of his musical brother George Harrison at age 58.  During the time we would have had with John going forward, however, you can see him getting much more involved in music again.  It has been reported that he and the other Beatles were planning a 1981 reunion to see about recording – a very exciting and ultimately sad prospect.  He would have patched things up with the band and son Julian.  Indeed you can imagine how proud he would have been to see Julian’s chart run in the mid-80s and likely they would have done some work together just as Brian Wilson and his daughters have done.  Had he lived long enough to work with Sean as well, it is hard to see him allowing the acrimony that developed with Julian and his second family – they would have found a way to make peace you assume.  You can see flashes of the old John coming back musically before his death.  “Grow Old With Me” never got beyond the demo stage, but would have become one of his masterpieces given time to record it properly.  John Lennon was a rocker and you can see him revisiting that music of his youth perhaps working with Carl Perkins as George and Ringo did so winningly in 1985.  A John Lennon/Dave Edmunds collaboration would have been my dream mix.

 There are many other What If speculations you can think of.  What If the police don’t stop the Beatles’ Jan. 30, 1969 rooftop concert?  Were they planning to play more songs or had they essentially finished their set?  If not, then what would they have played?  What If Paul married Jane Asher instead of Linda Eastman?  If nothing else he benefited from his Eastman in-laws handling his money.  What If they don’t go to India?  So much of the double album The Beatles came from there that you have to wonder what direction their next album would have taken without it. What If they do something other than the ill-fated Let It Be film sessions?  Would they still have imploded as a band?  

You can think of more questions and answers – I welcome your comments. 

MUSIC AUTOBIOGRAPHIES

Some of the Rock & Roll Dentist’s fave books are music related autobiographies.  This seems to be an especially ripe time for these sorts of books as more and more artists rush to get their stories in to print after Keith Richards’ 2010 Life which winningly told the story of a (hopefully) former junkie who rips a rock riff like no other can out of his guitar.   Sadly, just as the old VH1 series  Behind The Music would, most every one of these books starts to sound repetitive and predictable with too much attention spent on the inevitable “but then” fall after the initial rise to fame (be it fueled by drugs, drink, money problems, jealousy, sex, etc.).  I can honestly say that after the myriad of these books I have read, by the end I disliked the subject music star nearly unanimously (or at least couldn’t identify with them as people).  The only artists that came off as having been reasonably normal were Pat Benatar (Between A Heart & A Rock Place: A Memoir) and Brenda Lee (Little Miss Dynamite: The Life & Times Of Brenda Lee).  Even then, Ms. Benatar wanted to whine about being marketed as a female sex-pot early on her LP’s though I’m guessing she was happy to have the money we spent on those “exploitative” records – you just wanted to remind her that show biz is as much about look and fantasy as it is about talent.  Ms.Lee, while seemingly very down to earth and likable, also began performing at such a young age that it is hard to imagine her life being much like mine as a kid.   What most of these books told me is that no matter the fantasy of being a rock star, there is a reason I never could have made it in the world of rock and roll.  I liked to sleep in a warm bed and eat regularly plus I had little interest in drugs or alcohol.  By far the biggest gripe I have with virtually every book here is that the only reason I remotely care about these people is their music yet most of their book dwells on everything but the music.  With that in mind, let’s look at some capsule comments about several music books:

 Jimmy Webb – The Cake & The Rain: A Memoir

Just as many of his songs can be pretty obtuse (but rewarding) to grasp, so too was this one of the harder reads in this genre – at least for me.  Usually these books are like eating fast food – basic, quick and salty with some queasiness at the end.  This book was much harder to ingest since Webb’s writing demands a careful read so as not to miss the meaning of each phrase.  He, also, jumps back and forth between years throughout the book requiring a certain amount of compartmentalized recall.  Frankly I wish he just would have spent more time explaining the genesis and meaning for each of his more famous songs (like “Wichita Lineman”) though you do at least come to figure out much on your own if you pay attention to his asides.  As a songwriter, “MacArthur Park” is his most famous output and was open to so many interpretations back when it was “melting in the dark”.  That this song isn’t an entire chapter (or 2) is a pity, but no more so than a lack of any apparent interaction with his biggest interpreter – Glen Campbell.  It would have been nice to know more about the 5th Dimension than “Up Up & Away” – I loved “Carpet Man” and “Paper Cup” yet they don’t deserve even a mention.  What is mentioned WAY too much is his cocaine use and desire for various married women.  That the book doesn’t go beyond his mid-70s Harry Nilsson/John Lennon cocaine bingeathons is a pity as it would have been nice to read about his C&W #1 with The Highwaymen or his recent Kanye West charter.

Bobby Rydell-Teen Idol On The Rocks: A Tale Of Second Chances

The time after both Buddy Holly died and Elvis Presley got tamed by the army, radio seemed to be dominated by hoagie eating teen idols from Philadelphia.  Robert Ridarelli was one of the most successful, charting 26 singles from ’59 to late ’63 when the fab four took over the airwaves and drove his last four chart “hits” to the lower rungs of the hot 100.  This is a simple read and is shows his obvious lack of rock and roll cred and adesire to be a “real” entertainer like a Sinatra.  That he had little to do with the creation of his hits other than singing what the folks at Cameo records  presented him means that he has very little to say about the genesis of each record.  This book is mainly about his time as a performer, his complicated relationship with his mom and his drinking issues which resulted in kidney/liver transplants.  He does talk about Frankie Avalon and Fabian plus his time with Ann-Margret in “Bye Bye Birdie”, but curiously absent is any real interaction with other stars of the time like Chubby Checker  who he even charted a duet with.

 Robbie Robertson – Testimony

It was with some trepidation that I dug in to this book knowing that some former cohorts of his from The Band have accused him over the years of not giving them proper credit for songwriting.  That the book turned out to be one of the better music autobios was a pleasant surprise.  I don’t know how to feel about the accusations leveled by long-dead former friends against Robertson, but he seems to go out of his way to explain his side and not duck the issue (but also not belabor it).  That the book ends with the dissolution of the classic-era version of The Band at The Last Waltz in 1976 is likely fitting, but a bit frustrating as even one chapter about his solo career would have been welcome.  His early times backing Ronnie Hawkins and later Bob Dylan are just as interesting as his 8 years with The Band which helps drive the book through the rough patches like his (alleged) mob relations.  As usual, however, I wanted way more about how songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” went from germ of an idea to grooves in vinyl.  Likely a whole book could be written on just the day to day of recording The Music From Big Pink and The Band.

 John Oates – Change Of Seasons: A Memoir

Talk about trepidation, let’s be honest here – you typically want to read about the main singer/songwriter in an act – not “…and so-and-so”.   That meant Daryl Hall as opposed to John Oates.  That being said, with apologies to Mr. Oates this turned out to be a pretty entertaining read.  Once again, however, here is a risk taker who tells stories aboutsimply heading to England with little money or sleeping in some abandoned structure on the beach with no real means of support – very different than my life and hard to identify with.  The history of Daryl Hall & John Oates’ records is here, but much of the detail is about the early part of their career where they were more equal partners.  As Hall took over more of the hit songwriting, Oates became more famous for facial hair and there is less in the book about the history of those songs (but at least some mention of the mustache).  Oates, to his credit, says up front that this is not a Daryl Hall history and will leave that side of the act to him if he wishes to tell it.  This is one of the few books that also includes a CD of music – pleasant albeit solo John Oates as opposed to hit Hall & Oates.

 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

Going in to a book like this you realize that it will be wordy but that those words should be well-chosen based on the style of the author’s lyrical content.  Mr. Springsteen has dug into his psyche including his need for analysis while at least explaining how his career came to be.  For that it takes alot of words and this is a long read (but good if you like the subject).  As an admirer of his band even more than much of his music, I wanted to read everything I could about the E-Streeters past and present.  Since he has to work with these folks you assume, however, that he can’t say all he has felt about his band-mates over the years.  Here is a guy who from a young age seemingly didn’t have a problem moving in and out of a comfortable existence which shows up in his songs certainly.  Those that hang on his early “New Jersey-ness” will certainly hang on those parts of his life story more than someone like me who frankly likes his newer stuff much better (reflecting a more stable life?).  Mr. Springsteen has never been one to use 3 words in a lyric when 30 tells more of the story and so I actually would like to see him put out a book that talks about every song he has written plus their creation and meaning.  One of the book’s criticism’s I’ve seen leveled is his political stance, but that is the man – take him or not.  I frankly don’t believe that one has to agree politically with someone to enjoy their music and to see their slant on life.  It seems that we as a people (in the U.S.) are suffering from a crisis of intolerance (this from a middle of the roader).  I hope we can get over it, but I fear it is tearing us apart as a nation.

 Phil Collins – Not Dead Yet: The Memoir

Up front I admit to being a huge progressive-era Genesis fan that lost interest as the band became more pop and famous.  I am far less of a Phil Collins solo artist fan as well.  Keeping that in mind, it’s a decent read that shows an artist’s dive into alcoholism as his relationships tanked (which helped to create alot of his music, interestingly).  My biggest gripe with the book is that it needed to come with a slang U.K. English translation dictionary as he throws in a bunch of references and descriptive phrases that meant nothing to me as an American.  Somehow it felt like he was holding back alot of his feelings – especially about fellow musicians who he might still work with again so perhaps if he is still “not dead yet” in another 10-15 years he might write a sequel and dish the real dirt.  That he felt a need in the book to apologize for being ubiquitous and successful for a time is too bad.  Being good wasn’t a crime – not putting out a new Genesis album with mellotron, however, is a (Nursery) Cryme – come on Phil and get the guys back together – and don’t forget Steve Hackett!

 Mike Love – Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy

 Brian Wilson – I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir

That these two books came out a month apart from each other is certainly no coincidence.  You are left as a Beach Boys fan to juxtapose the two stories as told by one man who keeps the band going along with much animus and another told by a tortured genius recovering from mental issues.  I admit my bias, but I have always seen Mike Love as the villain of the band – quick with a lawsuit and overly defensive while Brian Wilson always seems the victim who is afraid to stand up to the bully.  True picture or not, I tend to root for the underdog and hope the front-runner fails.  On dint of a pure reading experience, however, Love wins over Wilson as the former’s book is generally clear and fairly candid while the latter’s jumps all over the place and seems to reflect some schizophrenic lack of focus.  At least you can tell Wilson wrote this book as opposed to his first dubious attempt in 1991 at a life story under the aegis of Eugene Landy (Wouldn’t It Be Nice: My Own Story).  Wilson comes across as a needy childlike figure who at least can be seen as a success story – one who I could never have imagined leading concert tours in his 70s when viewed some 40 years ago.  Love seems an assured controller, but at least he is smart enough to realize it and tries to get you on his side with tales such as trying to deal with Wilson’s current wife which may or may not have helped put an end to the happy 50th anniversary reunion tour.  As painful as it is to say, the Love book is the better read as a life story.  Perhaps a study of the musical history of the Beach Boys is best left to some future dispassionate outside biographer.

 Chrissie Hynde – Reckless: My Life As A Pretender

This might be the most non-musical book about a music star in this whole list.  It is frankly amazing to read how old she was before she took up a guitar in anger and started a band seemingly on a whim (most music stars talk about getting their first guitar as kids and wanting to be Elvis or whatever – not her).  The title is non-factual as the actual part of the book devoted to the Pretenders is fairly short with little if any discussion about their songs and how they were created.  Three quarters of the book was about an aimless life that turned out well strictly by luck it appears.  Maybe she is planning on writing a second book about her career in music?  Her links to the burgeoning U.K. punk scene might interest fans of that music otherwise skip this one.  I found her thoroughly unlikable as a person.

 Michael Nesmith – An Autobiographical Riff

Which finally brings us to this piece of pathetic tripe.  It is simply the worst autobiography I have ever read.  Self-aggrandizing, ego-centric, worthless swill – you take your pick.  Perhaps Mr. Nesmith assumes we already know about the Monkees and his relationship with them plus their music… who knows – which is a pity as I give him alot of credit for the start of country-rock as a popular music form.    You would never know that he did anything of note based on his writing in this book except he takes credit for inventing MTV – even though music videos (notably by the Beatles and even Rick Nelson) existed long before his Elephant Parts video program which admittedly was at least ahead of it’s time.  The fact that he was in the Monkees is the only reason most would care about him, yet he offers very little about his time in the band and nothing about their reunions over the years.  His own music doesn’t fare much better as I saw nothing in the book about the creation of the fun song and video “Cruisin'” (Lucy & Ramona & Sunset Sam go to Venice Beach, if you recall).  Even his family gets shorted –  his mother invented liquid paper which is actually interesting, yet he has little to say about it – I would love to know how she invented it, etc.  Oh, but he has plenty to say when it comes to preaching his own brand of philosophy and hanging with Jack Nicholson.  Spare me – maybe Peter Tork will give us some real insights some day.