Tag Archive | "#AlmostFamous"

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I wanna love you the best that I can

Posted on 30 May 2020 by Nestor Aparicio

We’ll rise above the mess. We’ll take the world together. I got a hand for you.

I will have two more albums left on this #MusicalNes journey but Hootie and The Blowfish are the final band that “mattered” in my life. At least so far…

And “Hold My Hand” is one of the greatest songs ever written.

What a time in the world to be listening to “Drowning” this weekend as we all look for a hand to hold from an integrated, intelligent, rock band borne in the Deep South.

And 25 summers later, I look back at every aspect of “Cracked Rear View” as a masterpiece – an 11-song pop rock banquet with all sorts of sounds and rich musical influences and graceful songwriting.

Race. Friendship. Love. Drug addiction. Loneliness. Loss. Homesickness.

All of the things you learned about in college these guys were writing about. And, after all, Hootie And The Blowfish is the frat band that everyone went to college with back in the day!

They became, quite simply, the biggest band in the country from this album and invariably dealt with massive blowback from their immense success. They were almost victimized by what an incredible album this was, even though I have loved everything they’ve ever done.

Darius Rucker can sing me the phonebook!

(Well, as long as it’s not in country…)

They were the last band that I ever fell in love with that I wanted to go see on the road ­ –and wait for every new album, knowing I was going to love at least some of it.

Don Gehman produced this. He also produced R.E.M. “Life’s Rich Pageant,” which makes him like Bruce Fairbairn and Mutt Lange, repeat offenders to my list. Gehman didn’t get a Mellencamp album on my list but that’s him, too. Jimmy Iovine didn’t make it with Petty or Springsteen but I will also tip my cap.

Never, ever say the production doesn’t matter. It does. Leadership always does.

Hootie and The Blowfish is an underrated, historically great American rock and roll band. They should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And Darius Rucker could be in the Country Music Hall of Fame, too, someday if he ever wanted to rev up the wagon wheel.

And what a career and journey and path he’s had, right?

And you want local connections?

Darius was always around Baltimore back in the day and owned a home and had family in Towson. Mark Bryan and Dean Felber went to Seneca Valley High. They were Orioles fans and Redskins fans. (Remember: the Ravens didn’t’ exist!)

My final never-before-told-story as best I can remember it:

A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless because he’d probably prefer it that way) knew the newly famous band and their management well. Remember: I had been a major metropolitan newspaper music critic for an #AlmostFamous decade before I started doing sports radio so I knew a lot of folks in the industry.

The Baltimore Orioles were into the grasp of Angelos by then but not so far as that there weren’t still civil, normal people around to grab an ear and said: “Hey, do you guys want Hootie and The Blowfish to sing the National Anthem at a game before they play Merriweather?”

This was June 1995. “Let Her Cry” is about to become the No. 1 song in the country. Cal Ripken is 60 days away from 2131. I spent a few weeks setting this up because I heard the guys in the band were really interested in doing it because they loved sports. Like everyone, they wanted to meet Cal Ripken, too! I didn’t know them. I met them that night in the Orioles media lounge.

Somehow, there was a miscommunication within the chain of command and Rucker was on a golf course in Howard County after 5 o’clock and needed to be summoned off the 13th hole to get to Camden Yards amidst 45,000 people on a summer night against the Red Sox.

The other guys in the band were at the ballpark during batting practice and the tension mounted for a good hour in the early cellphone era as to whether Darius was going to get to the ballpark. But, in just in time, Rucker showed up with a cape and nailed the National Anthem before Roger Clemens tossed a gem against a feckless Orioles lineup.

I had nights that I wrote about in Purple Reign with Jim Harbaugh, Tony Siragusa and Michael McCrary piling into a limo to see them at the Bayou in 1998. I saw them on New Year’s Eve 1996 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas with my infamous young Tiger Woods story. They once shouted me out at a Super Bowl media party in Jacksonville in 2005 and then proceeded to play cowboy songs with John Daly.

Great dudes. Great music. Great memories. My wife loves them. I love them. They reunited last summer and it was pure magic. And I would love to see a Hootie and The Blowfish concert again sometime soon.

Let’s get through this pandemic and rise above the mess.

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Here we are…now entertain us

Posted on 27 May 2020 by Nestor Aparicio

Perhaps this is a good time to come as you are into the journey of my 32 most influential albums in 32 days. Now that we’re getting toward the end, putting my #AlmostFamous journey into a before and after period, Nirvana was certainly the great delineator of my rock critic life. When this one came along, everything changed in music – and my life changed, too, as I became a club and wedding DJ and a sports radio shock jock speaking truth to power in other ways.

I was the one who liked all the pretty songs and I liked to sing along…

Music historians far more verbose and qualified than myself would tell you that “Nevermind” was an epochal generational shift. What else did you expect from Kurt Cobain, who set out to have a sound of The Knack and the Bay City Rollers getting molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath?

No wonder I loved it!

You never forget the first time you heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – and as the record shows, I had already heard a LOT of music in my life before my 23rd birthday. I remember one night riding around with Kevin Eck and we couldn’t turn that CD up loud enough or listen to it enough. And that hadn’t happened since “Red Barchetta”…

I left The Evening Sun and a life of Cameron Crowe dreams about three months after this was released and started doing Orioles reports from Camden Yards. One day, I’ll write further about how I almost became the music critic of The Memphis Commercial Appeal and The Tacoma Morning News Tribune and the zillion directions my life could’ve taken if I had ever been foolish enough to leave Baltimore.

There was something about Nirvana that was so very different at the time.

The sound was loud and numbing and raging and I was 23 years old. My hair was getting longer and this was the next big thing. Hammerjacks was about to die. And this grunge thing was very, very real – like a #MusicalNes pandemic!

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was just an invitation to dive into the rest of this Cobain buffet of short, edgy, wailingly passionate mumbling tracks that all had a screech and an urgency that didn’t sound like anything else any of us had ever heard.

I listened to this very loudly, very often and always in its entirety. I loved every track. Still do.

My favorites are “Drain You” and “On a Plain” but they all have such a primal appeal, even all of these years later.

The naked baby on the cover chasing the dollar bill is now in his thirties. He once told a reporter that he has the most famous penis in the history of rock music – and I believe him!

Kurt Cobain didn’t have to die to make this music. And as you get older and read the lyrics and know the legacy, it’s shame that living life killed him because he was a melodic genius. And a tortured soul…

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It oughta be easy, oughta be simple enough…

Posted on 22 May 2020 by Nestor Aparicio

But this isn’t supposed to be my favorite Bruce Springsteen album?
 
Generally speaking, I don’t like country music. And this tunnel is the country-est of flavors, and the starkest imbalance to the real E Street Band this side of Nebraska. I must also add that I had a my virgin Jimmy Buffett crush during this period when “Songs You Know By Heart” opened a Parrothead gateway that altered my course of sobriety and song – and the search for that one particular island.
 
(It’s all because I loved Kenny Rogers and my maternal mother loved Conway Twitty!)
 
And none of the above did interviews or press of any kind – they were all “mature artists” and didn’t “do phoners” with snot nose music critics from Baltimore not named J.D. Considine back in the day. Well, there was that one time Randy Travis invited me to the gym to workout but I’ll save that one…
 
So, armed with a Hammerjacks backstage pass and a suitcase of CDs of current artists and Jellyfish and New Material and Tommy Conwell and Child’s Play and Merriweather concerts and a zillion musicians who wanted publicity and would give me 30 minutes on the phone talking about what made them tick and allowing me to make a few bucks during college, what good were they to a budding 18-year old #AlmostFamous music critic like me?
 
But I loved “Hungry Heart” – who didn’t want a wife in kids in Baltimore, Jack? – and knew every song on “Born In The USA” from my days working at Sound Waves at Eastpoint Mall and by then had became familiar with songs like “Born To Run” and the “Rosalita” video on MTV.
 
But I had never been to a Springsteen concert or even cared to go amidst all of my early music fandom. The week my son was born in September 1984, I saw Rod Stewart and Rush at the Capital Centre while missing Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen at RFK Stadium and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.
 
And I went to a LOT of concerts – five nights a week or more during this period of my life, sometimes seven. Honestly, the only people I had ever met who saw a Springsteen concert in 1984 were Brian Poole’s parents.
 
I was young and naïve in a lot of ways.
 
But when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
 
As the music critic at The Baltimore Evening Sun, I was a confident young man but I also took the professional part of my job very seriously. Every piece of new music that hit my desk got listened to during that time.
 
I was always fair. (And still am!)
 
So when the massive three-CD “Live 75-85” dropped to considerable fanfare, it made me take notice as a reviewer and fall in love with songs like “Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” and “Adam Raised A Cain.”
 
My main gig – as I was always reminded by my mentors Jack Gibbons and Robert Nusgart, was on the sports desk – and Ken Rosenthal was like a workplace big brother to me at this time in my life. I was on the phone with him several times a day, every day because he covered the Orioles and I was the 3 a.m. gopher who played the utility role of getting the baseball stats, coverage, notes, quotes and – if needed – dictation to make sure that by 5 a.m. we had a newspaper ready to go. And we wanted to kick the asses of The Sun. Ask anyone I ever worked with about our competitive fire for sports section greatness! I worked the graveyard shift from January 1986 through January 1992. It allowed me to go to weeknight concerts to review and then come into work and do my sports responsibilities putting the scoreboard page together. Occasionally, I screwed up the lottery numbers and all hell broke loose on Calvert Street!
 
Rosenthal was the first person I ever met who loved Springsteen like a god. And I think everybody knows someone from New York or New Jersey who shares this addiction. Kenny gifted me some old 45s with “Be True” and cool B-sides, opening the door and allure to the E Street vault, legend and lore.
 
Then, soon arrived this colossal follow-up album full of soft, country-fried, very uncertain love songs – complete with a grown-up Springsteen in a bolo tie with roses. My pal Michael Fountain bought it and brought it over (I don’t remember getting it for free as a critic because I don’t think they sent review copies) and couldn’t stop playing it at my house on Kane Street.
 
“Tunnel of Love” dropped five days before my 19th birthday. I fell in love with it – all of it – and I haven’t stopped playing it for 33 years.
 
I won $40 on a leftover buck lottery ticket at Eastpoint Liquors (and I don’t think I have purchased a lottery ticket since!) and used it to buy a scalper ticket on the roof of The Spectrum in Philadelphia to see Bruce very early on this tour.
 
That was March 8, 1988. I heard “She’s The One” for the first time that night.
 
My life was never the same.
 
I still think “Valentine’s Day” is as good of a song as Springsteen has ever written. And I have been in this 5D mirror and tunnel ever since hearing these songs, searching for clues and answers and defining what love is and what it means. And relationships and what to do with it all?
 
This soulful album came from a deep, dark, conflicted place for a 36-year old Springsteen when I was 18 years old – and it still resonates as I turn 52.
 
But this whole chapter of spoken words and music and melody – as a straight listen through – is a work of art.
 
Painful. Personal. Emotive. Reflective. Hopeful. Joyous. Desperate.
 
Lost. And found.
 
And lost again.
 
Love hurts…and heals. And keeps us alive!
 
God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of…
 
I will have more to say about the spirit in the night. Show a little faith, there’ll be some more Bruce magic on June 1st for my finale of the 32 most influential albums of my life in 32 days in the order of their release.
 
But for now – and for you, for you – cuddle up, angel. Cuddle up my little dove…

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Can’t stop this feeling, can’t stop this fire

Posted on 21 May 2020 by Nestor Aparicio

Step inside, walk this way…

Sure, I could’ve selected “Pyromania” and many of you would’ve nodded and agreed that “Photograph” and the Union Jack is etched upon the hearts and into the ears of anyone my age who loved rock music in 1983. “Let It Go” and “Bringing On The Heartbreak” set the Def Leppard stage even earlier when these guys were teenagers opening for Blackfoot at the Towson Center. And then the triumph of the “Rock Of Ages” era and that incredible album and tour turned to tragedy when Rick Allen lost his arm.

There have been movies made and books written about the legend of Def Leppard. The drugs, the girls, the alcohol, the tragedy of the 1980s hairspray metal life is woven into the soul of this working class band, employing the genius of “Mutt” Lange who schooled them to become iconic rock gods.

My roommate Doug Bennett, a dearly departed recurring #MusicalNes friend in the early part of my life, kept bugging me about when the new Def Leppard album was going to arrive in the summer of 1987. I was on every major record label mailing list so boxes dropped daily with music for me to review. I always got the music before it was at the mall and when the radio station only had the advance single. “Hysteria” actually came on an old-school LP (they always had a gold stamped “REVIEW COPY” with a legal warning that everyone ignored). I think some record companies still preferred sending the album because you got the artwork in a larger format. The next morning, after Doug had spun it all night, he declared it the greatest album he’d ever heard. He swore every song was going to be a hit. In the end, it only had seven major hits – and all six on Side One!

Sure, we’ve all been hot and sticky and sweet for three decades and don’t ever need to hear that one again. But “Women,” “Animal” and “Love Bites” are the reasons I was delighted to be in New York at the Barclay’s Center last spring when Def Leppard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

My wife would tell you that the one rock star I’ve always wanted to meet – and never have – is Joe Elliott. I actually interviewed Phil Collen on the fly in Hershey a dozen years ago and scored a picture with the inspirational and sensational Rick Allen. And Vivian Campbell is a two-time cancer survivor.

Def Leppard is another band that I have seen in every time zone in the United States in every era and circumstance you can imagine. Baseball fields, theatres, gyms, arenas, sheds, a field in the middle of Western Wisconsin at midnight under the stars and mosquitoes – even in the round, back at the Capital Centre once! These songs always stand the test of time.

We saw them play with Bryan Adams on my birthday at Bristow earlier this century and everyone in the third row with us were amputees from Walter Reed, clearly guests of Allen wearing backstage passes. They were all shaking and headbanging their prosthetic limbs over their heads during the concert in unison.

You don’t forget nights like that.

Mad music, all around. Crazy people, crazy sound…

Do you wanna get rocked?

 

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Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky…

Posted on 17 May 2020 by Nestor Aparicio

Of all of the albums that I will share, this is perhaps the finest for its relative obscurity and its overall weirdness of sounds and the sheer audacity that these four awkward genius dudes had to make music that they didn’t care whether you liked.
 
Look, all of the work of R.E.M. is rightly praised and damned by those who know and think they know.
 
They always had this incredible energy to polarize music people in some strange way because they weren’t hairspray or bubble gum and the college radio types somehow hated their success for being so brilliant with music like this during a period when they were popping out great albums every year.
 
I love most everything in their catalog but “Life’s Rich Pageant” is my favorite studio album and has been one of my favorite albums for most of my life.
 
I think “King of Birds” is as fine of a song as there is. I came in on the R.E.M. indie college party an album before this (and definitely had catching up to do on “Pretty Persuasion” and “Radio Free Europe”) but this fourth album is the one piece of music that I always tell people to buy that they probably don’t own.
 
Literally, just turn it on and turn it up.
 
It’s a roller coaster of sheer sonic awesomeness.
 
It is a beautiful box of rock chocolates with lots of different gooey centers and warm flavors.
 
My favorite song is “What If We Gave It Away” but “Fall on Me” also has aged well against global warming. And “Begin The Begin” is as good of an opening track as has ever been written.
 
And you, of course, know “Superman,” which was a bit of a throwaway but has stood the test of time.
 
Miles Standish proud, indeed…

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The best of both worlds…

Posted on 16 May 2020 by Nestor Aparicio

First, let me say that I, too, loved the David Lee Roth version of Van Halen.

I bought the eponymous Van Halen on vinyl in Highlandtown from Larry Kessler, who had a place called Music Outlet, a great old-school used record and CD store. He was a great guy to chat with because he loved rock and roll, too.

I loved “Women and Children First” and saw the Roth lineup at the Capital Centre on the “Diver Down” show, which is famously bootlegged and even more famously dreadful for just how terrible Roth was at the craft of singing. I was in the 12th row that night and still have the pictures from my Pentax 110 camera I snuck into the Capital Centre.

But “5150” was the most anticipated album of the year after the “Just A Gigolo” Dave-Wants-To-Go-Solo breakup and I remember receiving it on vinyl and dropping the needle onto the turntable. I probably played it a dozen times the first two days I had it.

It blew my mind.

I was a Sammy Hagar fan from “Heavy Metal” and “I Can’t Drive 55” but no one could’ve anticipated what these four guys would come out of that hazy Los Angeles canyon studio with that summer.

The bar was so high – this was Van Fucking Halen – and the expectation was so great that it’s still amazing that they did something that still exceeds the hype almost 35 years later. I still listen to this album regularly and consider it the kickoff to every vacation I’ve ever had.

“Hello, bay-bae…”

The next two albums were similarly brilliant – and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any band with a trio of rock era album awesomeness like Van Hagar – and this time and place in rock and roll was very significant because music was about to change.

“Dreams.” “Right Now.” “Love Walks In.”

Just incredible songs, all clearly driven by Hagar playing in – and inspired by playing with – the greatest band in the world. This is as fine of a rock album as has ever been made.

I know you probably don’t know the title track on this album, but I love the song “5150.”

I interviewed Alex Van Halen and wound up drinking several Heinekens with them underneath the Spectrum as a 17-year old #AlmostFamous music critic. I’ll be telling those stories on a podcast with my wife today at 4pm in lieu of the Preakness. And there was that time we drank the best wine of our lives in a cellar with Sammy Hagar in Napa Valley with Julio Bermejo.

I might even crank this one up with a Cabo Wabo Tommy’s Margarita! Mas tequila, indeed…

The love line is never straight and narrow…

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Ain’t no big surprise…

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Nestor Aparicio

If you have followed the story of my life and the solitary man, it ain’t no big surprise that Neil Diamond came into my life way before any of the rest of this rock and roll stuff.
 
Even before Kiss!
 
Can you hear it, babe?
 
From another time, another place: my first-ever record purchases at the brand new Eastpoint Kmart in 1974 were a trio of 45s that included The Beatles “Got To Get You Into My Life,” (and spooky ass “Helter Skelter” on the B-side), The Starland Vocal Band “Afternoon Delight” and “If You Know What I Mean” by Neil Diamond.
 
So, the 14-year old version of my #MusicalNes had plenty of appreciation for Neil Diamond. “Forever In Blue Jeans” was a big song in my neighborhood and at the rink. And I defy you to watch “The Jazz Singer” and not think it’s a great movie! Our parents all loved it and in the aftermath of Elvis dying in 1976, we needed a new sequined hero!
 
(And I was pretty close to latching onto Kenny Rogers there for a while…still am, now that we’ve lost him!)
 
I still love both of the “Hot August Night” live records and the primal, evening growl of Diamond on a stage, but this collection of studio greatest hits of the middle period of one of the most iconic singer/songwriters in American history is unforgettable.
 
These are just great songs.
 
“September Morn” is as fine of a song as has ever been written.
 
I bought this on CD the morning after seeing Diamond with the incomparable Phil Jackman at the Capital Centre one hot summer night in July 1989 as an #AlmostFamous music critic. In my review, I think I referenced the aerobic workout for the “over 40” types.
 
Now, yesterday is gone and all I want is a smile.
 
But I knew almost all of these songs long before I bought the compilation. And then the $17.99 new CDs became $9.99 used, so…
 
“Money talks but it don’t sing and dance it don’t walk…”
 
I shook Neil Diamond’s hand one summer night at the Capital Centre during the Vietnam veterans event “Welcome Home” in 1987 – and he signed a really cool autograph in a gold pen. But I never got to interview him and he had such great stories because he wrote so many incredible songs – going back to the 1960s and The Monkees.
 
This album had Streisand and crooning ballads and the bombast of “Coming to America,” freedom’s light burning waaaaaa-hhhhrrrmmmmm.
 
And the radio played like a carnival tune! Here’s to the songs we used to sing!
 
A beautiful noise, indeed!
 
And the best part?
 
“Sweet Caroline” isn’t on this one! Because we don’t really need to hear that one again, do we?
 
Plus – as we all know – “hands touching hands” is inside six feet.

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One voice is clear above the din…

Posted on 08 May 2020 by Nestor Aparicio

Sure, the pure Led Zeppelin snobs will throw the earlier “in their prime” albums in your face to proclaim the band’s greatness – and I will embrace and concur with all praise of “Physical Graffiti” or “Presence” or the number albums.
 
There are no bad Led Zeppelin songs and no bad time for their music to enter your life.
 
But this was when the greatest rock and roll band that our creator ever created first came into my life.
 
I bought “In Through The Out Door” in the brown paper bag cover during the first week of seventh grade, just as I entered Holabird Junior High. There, it was Zeppelin, Skynyrd and Kiss ruling the school – as well as the book cover art wars and jean jacket patch tattoos. I still have and wear my Led Zeppelin belt buckle that I bought at KayBee in Eastpoint Mall in 1980. #JennStrong knows this is a family artifact. She bought me a matching Rush one from the same era on the internet.
 
Now more than 40 years later, this smooth, wavy gravy Zeppelin groove is still my favorite and I listen to it regularly. I’m a huge fan of “I’m Gonna Crawl” at a volume that my wife doesn’t enjoy. And “In My Time of Dying” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” only have one volume and it’s the same as my cousin’s uniform!
 
Like some other bands and artists that have aged differently for me, most of their music was created before my time. So, I have spent the rest of my life going backwards in this catalog and always finding new things I love about their music. Any Led Zeppelin fan would tell you that is the case and that is the beauty of the music.
 
I interviewed Jimmy Page in 1985 on The Firm tour and shared soup, bread and ice cream with Robert Plant in my 1989 #AlmostFamous era. (He bought my son some Ben & Jerry’s at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia on the “Manic Nirvana” tour before a show I reviewed at The Spectrum.)
 
I only saw the two of them on the same stage at the same time twice – I was at Live Aid in 1985 and took in Page/Plant awesomeness once in Oakland, California with my cousin Gene.
 
“In Through The Out Door” had several different cover shots of the same image. This is the one I owned.
 
The cup is raised. The toast is made yet again…

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