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Thirty-five Years Ago Today: Dio avoids the “sophomore slump”

Dio Last in LineIn 1983, Ronnie James Dio released an epic debut album called Holy Diver. In 1984, he recorded with the same core lineup of Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain, and Vinny Appice, adding keyboardist Claude Schnell to the mix, and unleashed The Last In Line. The album reached #23 on the Billboard 200 charts, and three singles—“Mystery,” “We Rock,” and the title track—received a lot of attention from rock radio stations in the United States. The album was certified platinum in 1987.

Campbell, Bain, Schnell, and Appice used the name of this album to form a new band in 2012, teaming up with vocalist Andrew Freeman to perform Dio classics and write new material. The group has released two albums so far, Heavy Crown in 2016 and II in 2019. Sadly, Bain passed away in 2016; Phil Soussan took over bass guitar duties.

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Thirty-Five Years Ago Today: Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck collaborate again

Rod Stewart CamouflageHardly a groundbreaking album, but somewhat entertaining nonetheless, Rod Stewart released Camouflage on June 18, 1984. The record saw the reunion of Stewart with guitarist Jeff Beck, who he worked with on the first two Jeff Beck Group albums. Beck contributed his guitar wizardry to three songs on Camouflage and made a cameo in the video for “Infatuation.”

Stewart hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts with three singles: “Infatuation” (#6), a cover of the Persuaders’ song “Some Guys Have All The Luck” (#10), and a cover of the Free classic “All Right Now” (#72). Stewart (with Beck) also recorded a cover of Todd Rundgren’s 1978 song “Can We Still be Friends. Rundgren’s original reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978, and Robert Palmer scored a minor hit with it in 1979. Stewart’s version was not released as a single.

20 Years Ago Today: Dokken Erases the Slate with a new guitarist

Dokken Erase the SlateDokken was known for high-pitched wails from singer Don Dokken and some of the most shedtastic riffs from guitarist George Lynch. The pair had worked together since the group’s full-length debut Breaking the Chains in 1981. In 1999, Dokken, Jeff Pilson, and Mick Brown teamed up with Winger guitarist Reb Beach, one of the most underrated rock guitarists in history, and released Erase the Slate, the first full-length Dokken record without George Lynch.

The album was released by CMC International, an independent record label that was known for promoting hard rock bands from the 1980s who found themselves without a label home after the rock implosion of the early 1990s. CMC International’s roster boasted some of the biggest names in hard rock history, including Judas Priest, LA Guns, Slaughter, and Warrant.

At the time of Erase the Slate’s release, I was working at a small radio station in Hartford, Kentucky. I spearheaded a format change at the radio station, switching from country music to classic rock (and new music by classic rock artists). My definition of classic rock music included such bands as Ratt, Mötley Crüe, and Poison—more progressive at that time than most—so it was not difficult to work Dokken into the rotation as well. Two songs from Erase the Slate were featured heavily on the radio station: “Maddest Hatter” and the cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One.”

Beach only lasted one album with Dokken; he has since recorded with Whitesnake and the reunited Winger. John Norum of Europe fame played guitar on Dokken’s next release, Long Way Home; he had previously played on Don’s 1990 solo effort, Up From the Ashes. .Jon Levin manned the position on the last three.

30 Years Ago Today: SRV gets “In Step”

SRV In StepStevie Ray Vaughan’s status as a legendary blues rocker was already established when In Step hit stores in 1989. Sadly, it would be his last album with Double Trouble before his untimely death in August, 1990.

The record produced four singles: “Crossfire,” which hit #1 on the US Rock chart, “The House is Rockin’,” “Wall of Denial,” and “Tightrope.” The album itself peaked at #33 on the Billboard 200 and Vaughan won the 1990 Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

The influence of Stevie Ray Vaughan lives on in the music of blues rock artists such as Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Joe Bonamassa. SRV keyboardist Reese Wynans released an album called Sweet Release in March of this year, featuring two covers from In Step: “Crossfire” with Shepherd on guitar, and “Riviera Paradise” with Shepherd and Bonamassa.

35 Years Ago Today: The Boss releases “Born in the USA”

Bruce Springsteen Born in the USABruce Springsteen is a force to be reckoned with.

I have to be honest, I didn’t realize how many great (and popular) albums the Boss had released until looking back at his career for this blog entry. Born in the USA, released on this date in 1984, was his fifth of eight straight albums to reach the top ten on the Billboard 200 chart. It was his second of nine #1 albums. It remains one of the best-selling albums in history, certified 15x Platinum in the US. The title track is a sing-along pop anthem that will never go away.

Of the twelve songs on the album, seven made it to the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. At the time, only Michael Jackson’s Thriller record could make the same claim; since then, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 and Drake’s Scorpion have joined that list.

Bruce Springsteen singles

The first single, “Dancing in the Dark,” is also notable for featuring a pre-Friends, not-yet-famous Courteney Cox in the video.

40 Years Ago Today: KISS goes disco!

KISS DynastyDisco was all the craze in the late ’70s, and it even affected shock rockers KISS when they wrote and recorded Dynasty in 1979. The influence can be heard most clearly on the most popular single from the record, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” co-written by songwriting extraordinaire Desmond Child.

Nine songs appear on the album, including a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “2,000 Man,” sung by Ace Frehley. Though pictured on the cover, Peter Criss only performed one song—“Dirty Livin’”—on this entire album; Anton Fig, who had drummed for Frehley’s 1978 solo effort, was brought in to play in Criss’ place.

The album spent 25 weeks on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and peaked at #9, but the subsequent tour was a flop. KISS struggled on at least the next couple albums to rediscover their hard rock foundation.

35 Years Ago Today: SRV drops his second studio album

SRV Couldnt Stand The WeatherThe second studio album from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Couldn’t Stand The Weather was released on May 15, 1984. The record peaked at #31 on the Billboard 200 chart and the title track’s video received regular airplay on MTV. The group also shot a video for “Cold Shot,” the first song on side two of the album. Vaughan was a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix and included his own version of the Hendrix classic “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” on Couldn’t Stand The Weather.

In the early morning hours on Monday, August 27, 1990, following an all-star jam in Wisconsin, Vaughan was tragically killed in a helicopter crash, along with the pilot Jeff Brown, agent Bobby Brooks, bodyguard Nigel Browne, and tour manager Colin Smythe. SRV was only 35 years old.

30 Years Ago Today: Tom Petty releases his first solo album

What’s the difference between “Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers” and “Tom Petty”?

*insert shrugging emoji*

Tom Petty Full Moon Fever 30 years oldDon’t ask me. Full Moon Fever is the debut “solo” album by Tom Petty, even though members of the Heartbreakers were involved. The album was produced by Petty, Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers, and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. Campbell and Lynne both played guitar, bass, and other instruments, while Petty’s other pals from the Traveling Wilburys, George Harrison and Roy Orbison, performed on a track each. The album features some of Petty’s most enduring music, such as “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and one of my personal favorites, “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”

This is one of those albums that should be in everyone’s library. If it’s not in yours…click here.

Street Talk is 35 years old this month

Steve Perry Oh Sherrie Street Talk 35 years oldOne of the first MTV videos that absolutely transfixed me was Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” from the album Street Talk. The album was released in April 1984, 35 years ago. It remains one of my favorite songs, as cheesy as it may be.

Marc Tyler Nobleman caught up with Sherrie Swafford, Perry’s old girlfriend, while researching a piece about the girls of Journey‘s “Separate Ways” video. Swafford sent him a brief response, but declined a full interview. You can read it on the Noblemania blog.

Is Street Talk in your collection? If not, buy it!

P.S. — Perry also released a brand new album in October last year called Traces.

Some hobbies are way too expensive

I love vinyl. I’ve picked up loads of used vinyl at record shops and antique stores in the Cincinnati area (where I live), Knoxville (a yearly trip), and Bowling Green (on my way to my son’s college). Generally I don’t spend more than $10 on a title, and that’s only if I really want the record and haven’t seen it elsewhere. For the most part, though, I like to stick with the bargain bins and keep most purchases under $5. I’ve found some great releases in those bargain bins, including The Guess Who, Merle Haggard, and Frank Sinatra.

Sometimes I click around on Amazon to see what some of my favorite albums would cost on vinyl, and it blows me away. In the same way that some baseball cards are ridiculously out of reach, I never expect to own any of these vinyl releases, as much as I would like to hear them in all their clicky-and-poppy glory.

Alice Cooper Van Halen

  • Alice Cooper, Along Came a Spider, $1396.48. The shock rocker’s best album since at least the late 1980s, maybe even since the glory days of the 1970s. Features a harmonica performance by Ozzy Osbourne and a killer guitar solo from Slash. Yet, I will never buy it at the current price (although, it does have free shipping!!!).
  • Van Halen, A Different Kind of Truth, $179.98. I was fortunate to find the first five original VH releases at reasonable prices, and received the remastered 1984 for my birthday last year. (Actually, come to think of it, the debut was a Christmas gift along with the turntable three years ago). ADKOT is another story. The record was panned by many, but I love how it reaches back into the vault and updates some old riffs that were used on demos in the 1970s. But at this price, I’ll have to stick to the shiny compact disc version.
  • Van Halen, Balance, $419.78. Sammy’s last full album with the band is the only Van Hagar production I really enjoy. “Can’t Stop Loving You,”Milli Vanilli “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do),” “Feeling,” “Not Enough,” and “Take Me Back (Deja Vu)” all rank among my favorite Van Halen songs. I really hope I stumble across this in a bargain bin someday (or even for $10), because I’m not dropping four Benjamins and a Jackson regardless of how much I like it.
  • Cinderella, Still Climbing, $89.99. I was fortunate to find Cinderella’s debut, Night Songs, a few years ago for about $8, and I snatched it up immediately. Still Climbing, the band’s last album from 1994, has been more challenging to track down. It didn’t perform well on the charts or on radio as grunge had brainwashed everyone by the time it hit stores. The 21st century price tag is just a little out of my range.
  • Mill Vanilli, Girl You Know It’s True, $65.55. I can hear the groans. I don’t care if the guys in the picture didn’t actually sing the songs, they are still great pop songs. This is one of my go-to albums for “take me back to the easy breezy days of being a young teen in the late 1980s.” But at nearly seventy bucks? Nope.
  • Stone Temple Pilots, Core, $699.99. This album was huge in 1993, but by that time vinyl was on the outs. Everyone was listening to CDs or cassettes. I’m not sure if it was even released on vinyl in the 1990s. The “collectible” reissue from 2013 is currently going for $700. Insane.
  • Black Label Society, Mafia, $70.90. Zakk Wylde’s side-band has changed lineups frequently over the years, but with ten studio releases under the BLS moniker since 1999, it is a force to be reckoned with. My favorite album from Zakk and friends is 2005’s Mafia, which includes “In This River,” a touching song frequently dedicated in concert to Wylde’s best friend Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, who was killed in a shooting in 2004.

Some of these albums may get reissued, and hopefully I’ll be paying attention when that happens so I can buy them for about $20. In the meantime, I’ll just have to stick to my CDs and Amazon’s streaming service.

Cinderella Stone Temple Pilots Black Label Society

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