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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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Twenty Years Ago Today: “Weird Al” encourages dangerous exercise

Weird Al Yankovic Running With ScissorsRunning With Scissors, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s tenth studio album, was released on June 29, 1999. Not as strong as 1996’s Bad Hair Day, but infinitely better than 2003’s Poodle Hat, Running With Scissors features parodies of The Offspring, Barenaked Ladies, Puff Daddy, and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and a polka medley that pokes fun at the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Beastie Boys, Hanson, Matchbox Twenty, and more.

The most enduring song from the album, however, is a parody of Don McLean’s 1971 hit, “American Pie.” Yankovic took the song and transformed it into an ode to George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

In addition to all the parodies, Yankovic shows his chops as a songwriter with six original compositions in various styles. My personal favorite of these is the 11-minute opus “Albuquerque” that closes the album.

I have loved “Weird Al” since I first discovered his music in elementary school, though he has currently stopped performing in concert a couple of the songs that drew me to his brilliance—“Eat It” and “Fat,” both parodies of Michael Jackson hits. He has not decided whether he will retire them permanently or not, but with the renewed scrutiny of Jackson’s alleged indiscretions, Yankovic has decided to remove them from his current repertoire.

Thirty Years Ago Today: The Bat hits the big screen

Batman Michael KeatonArguably the best Batman film in history was released on June 23, 1989, directed by Tim Burton with Michael Keaton as the titular hero, Jack Nicholson as the villainous Joker, and Kim Basinger as the love interest. While the franchise fell off considerably when Keaton left in 1995, Batman and Batman Returns were instantly classics.

Not only was Batman a box office smash, the music was also successful. Danny Elfman composed the score, and his main theme has become an iconic piece. It was later in animated series, video games, and the 2017 film Justice League.

In addition to the musical score, the soundtrack was also a popular release, written and performed by Prince. Initially, producers wanted Michael Jackson to write and perform ballads for the hero, with Prince handling songs for the villain. Due to contractual issues, Jackson was unable to participate. “Batdance” was the first and most popular single from the album.

I don’t know how well Robert Pattinson will perform as the Caped Crusader, but it will take a lot for him to topple Michael Keaton’s place in my opinion.

Forty Years Ago Today: Kermit and Fozzie hit the big screen

The Muppet MovieThe Muppets were a major part of my life as a kid. From The Muppet Show to Muppet Babies to three major theatrical releases in the ’70s and ’80s, you couldn’t escape that little green frog and his lovable bear sidekick. And I didn’t want to. I absolutely devoured everything Muppets when I was in grade school.

The Muppet Movie hit the big screen before I was in school, and I’m not sure if I saw it in theaters or not (probably not), but I have watched it many, many, many times over the years. It never comes to mind when thinking of favorite franchises, but the first three Muppet films are hands-down one of my favorite franchises. Jim Henson simply could do no wrong.

The Muppet Movie won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film of 1979. Other 1979 films winning Saturn Award included Alien took home the award for Best Science Fiction Film, Dracula won Best Horror Film, and Dinner for Adele won Best Foreign Film.

Of course, music was a huge part of the Muppets’ attraction. The Muppet Movie soundtrack featured “Rainbow Connection,” “Movin’ Right Along,” and “Can You Picture That?” among other great numbers. The album won the Grammy for Best Album for Children and was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.

Thirty-five Years Ago Today: Daniel LaRusso moves to California

The Karate Kid”Wax on…wax off.”

Man, how great was 1984 for movies? The Karate Kid was an insanely popular film and kids were emulating the “crane” technique on playgrounds all across America. Mr. Miyagi, everyone’s favorite sensei, showed that conflict was best resolved without violence. The movie was the fifth-highest grossing film of 1984, just shy of $91 million.

I remember buying the book adaptation of the movie by B.B. Hiller from Scholastic Book Club, reading and re-reading it over the years. I wish I still had that book (and I might somewhere in the basement).

Just like Ghostbusters and Gremlins, The Karate Kid has had a lasting impact on pop culture. There were three direct sequels (Part II, Part III, and The Next Karate Kid with Hilary Swank), a 1989 animated series on NBC (and currently included with Amazon Prime), and a reboot in 2010 with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. Last year, Cobra Kai premiered on YouTube, with Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their roles as Daniel and Johnny.

I can’t believe it has been 35 years. I feel so old.

Thirty Years Ago Today: Faith No More gets epically real

Faith No More The Real ThingWill you hate me if I say that Faith No More is epically overrated? “Epic” was a pretty good (and pretty overplayed) song from the band’s third album, The Real Thing. I love the piano outro, but the rest of the song (and album) never truly resonated with me. The album, released June 20, 1989, was certified Platinum in September 1990 and peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 in October 1990.

The Real Thing was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1990, but lost to Metallica’s “One” (both albums and songs are eligible for such nominations in pop categories). “Epic” was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1991, but lost to Living Colour’s album Time’s Up. Another song from FNM’s album, “Falling To Pieces,” won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Visual Effects in a Video in 1991.

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.

30 Years Ago Today: The Superstars of the Supernatural are back!

Ghostbusters IIHow difficult is it to make a good sequel? Not many measure up to the original, but there are a few exceptions. In my opinion, Ghostbusters II is one such exception.

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver all return in the sequel, both released and set five years after the initial film. The studio pushed for the sequel against the judgment of Aykroyd, Ramis, and director/producer Ivan Reitman, but fortunately all agreed to work together to bring it to fruition.

The sequel’s soundtrack did not enjoy as much success as the first, but there are still some quality songs from popular artists of the day, such as Bobby Brown, New Edition, Doug E. Fresh, and Run-D.M.C.

News of a third installment featuring the original cast first appeared online earlier this year. Rumored for decades, it had been consistently shot down by those involved in the first two films. I asked Hudson about the possibility of a Ghostbusters III about a decade ago; he pointed to a video game and said, “That’s the closest we’ll ever get.” I’m glad he was wrong; I only hope he is involved in the new movie, produced by the original director’s son, Jason Reitman.

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.

25 Years Ago Today: Simba becomes King

Lion KingA masterpiece of Disney animation, 1994’s The Lion King was released in only two theaters on June 15, 1994, with a wide release nine days later. Despite its limited release, the film still made over $1.5 million.

Overall, it brought in nearly a billion dollars and is the seventh highest-grossing animated film of all-time and third among Walt Disney Animation Studios releases behind Frozen and Zootopia. Zootopia? Really? The Lion King is one of only three movies made before 2000 in the top 50 highest-grossing animated films (Aladdin clocks in at #48, and Toy Story 2 at #50).

In case you hadn’t heard, a CGI-heavy “live action” film is set for a July release this year. James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa. The live-action remakes that I have seen so far have been inconsistent; even those that were good (such as Aladdin), I prefer the animated originals.

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