CATEGORY: ToR4

Tournament of Rock IV: the Bryan Adams pod

Well. That last one was completely devoid of drama. As they say back home, Rick Springfield done stomped a mudhole in the field and walked it dry. Seriously – big turnout, better than 82% of the popular vote. This might suggest something to watch for in the Sweet 16, huh?

On to pod 12, where I fear I smell an upset brewing. In fact, I’m looking at the seeding and wondering what I was thinking. Let’s see what you think as we consider what may be, top to bottom, the most competitive pod in the entire tournament.

  • #6 Seed: Bryan Adams
  • AC/DC
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • Mötley Crüe
  • ZZ Top

Bryan Adams

Canadian Bryan Adams rose to popularity in 1983 with the release of his third album, Cuts Like a Knife. The album made him popular throughout the United States. However, it was his fourth album, Reckless…that made him an international superstar and gave him his first Grammy nomination. It also sold four million copies at the time. In 1987, he released Into the Fire, a more social[ly] conscious album. The album yielded a top ten hit “Heat of the Night,” another Grammy nomination and another platinum album… However, in 1991, he released the album Waking Up the Neighbours, which included the single “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You.” The song sold more than three million copies in the United States, becoming the second best selling single, second only to “We Are The World.” It was also Adams’s first Academy-Award nomination and Golden Globe nomination, as the song was written for the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Waking Up the Neighbours sold four million albums in the United States and garnered him six Grammy nominations (a record for a Canadian).

Lex: Does Canada still claim Bryan Adams?

fikshun: In the summer of ’69 Bryan Adams was 10, which makes him either creepy or just someone who knew that his baby boomer audience would eat up that sort of Americana … even though he’s Canadian. He also gets a special place in hell for his “All for Love” contribution to the Three Musketeers soundtrack (though he spent most of the ’90s slumming for soundtracks, didn’t he?) He started out with respectable rock tracks like “Run to You” but then just sort of slid into the housewife rock parking lot space next to Michael Bolton.

Me: #1 on the Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen list. In fairness, he’d have been ranked much higher had he soared to greater heights in the 10 minutes between the time he was discovered and the moment he sold out. Here’s what you need to know: “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” is one of the most popular wedding songs ever. And not in a Billy Idol “White Wedding” or a Nick Lowe “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock & Roll” or an Elton John “I Wanna Kiss the Bride” kind of way, either.

Bonesparkle: Wait – what do you mean, Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen? How far can you fall off a one-foot high footstool?

AC/DC

AC/DC’s mammoth power chord roar became one of the most influential hard rock sounds of the ’70s. In its own way, it was a reaction against the pompous art rock and lumbering arena rock of the early ’70s. AC/DC’s rock was minimalist — no matter how huge and bludgeoning their guitar chords were, there was a clear sense of space and restraint. Combined with Bon Scott’s larynx-shredding vocals, the band spawned countless imitators over the next two decades and enjoyed commercial success well into the 2000s.

fikshun: Some artists keep making the same piece of artwork because the subject matter continues to haunt their souls. I’d like to give AC/DC that sort of benefit of the doubt, but no, I just don’t think exploring new musical territory has ever occurred to them. Sorry kids, awkwardly adding bagpipes to one of your tracks doesn’t count.

Me: Hey, wait a second. Those bagpipes were on the best track off their very first album. Maybe the best track they ever did, period.

Beavis: AC/DC ROCKS! THEY ROCK!

Lex: Never been a fan of AC/DC, which can make life difficult since I may be one of four people who aren’t.

Me: In their defense, you don’t ever get the sense that they’re pandering. They just happen to have been born on the same wavelength with a very large audience. And they’re also one of the very few acts to survive, let alone thrive, after losing an iconic front man.

Electric Light Orchestra

The Electric Light Orchestra’s ambitious yet irresistible fusion of Beatlesque pop, classical arrangements, and futuristic iconography rocketed the group to massive commercial success throughout the 1970s. ELO was formed in Birmingham, England in the autumn of 1970 from the ashes of the eccentric art-pop combo the Move, reuniting frontman Roy Wood with guitarist/composer Jeff Lynne, bassist Rick Price, and drummer Bev Bevan. Announcing their intentions to “pick up where ‘I Am the Walrus’ left off,” the quartet sought to embellish their engagingly melodic rock with classical flourishes…

fikshun: Do you know what would have made the Beatles even better? They would have been totally better if you shaved off some of their songwriting prowess and used the savings to bring in a little Alan Parsons and disco influence. Yeah, that would have been totally better.  The further this tournament goes, the more I’m forced to consider the possibility that I may already be in hell.

Me: I can’t explain how ELO isn’t on the Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen list. Honestly, they belong somewhere around #10. Not only did they sell out, they did so with blinding speed and very little warning. A New World Record was a great album. Out of the Blue suggested that they were losing their way. Then WHAM! Roller Disco, bitches!

Bonesparkle: In a just world Jeff Lynne wold have been strapped naked to a freezing gurney and forced to listen to Olivia Newton-John singing “Xanadu” on endless loop until his brains melted and gooped out his ears. How the hell US PsyOps torturers interrogators left this one off the playlist is beyond me.

Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe were one of the most influential hair metal bands of the ’80s, boasting a striking visual presence and hedonistic reputation rivaled only by Guns N’ Roses. By combining Alice Cooper’s shock rock with the bluesy, metallic stomp of the New York Dolls and Aerosmith, they helped establish hair metal as a commercial genre, sending their first five albums to platinum status in the process. Such success was at least partially due to Mötley Crüe’s reputation as a riotous pack of rabble-rousers, replete with drug addictions, near-death experiences, groupie encounters, and celebrity girlfriends. Of course, that same self-indulgence nearly derailed the band, forcing the musicians to embrace sobriety during the creation of their most successful album to date, 1989’s Dr. Feelgood. Like most hair metal bands, Mötley Crüe’s album sales waned during the 1990s, as the popularity of grunge overshadowed most of the music that immediately prefaced it. Nevertheless, the band soldiered through the decade with modest success, releasing two gold-selling albums along the way.

Lex: Mötley Crüe was very good at being exactly what they planned to be, which I assume is to someday have a shot at winning this tournament. A finely honed blend of accessibility, offensiveness and carefully crafted rock excess. But at least I don’t cringe if “Kickstart My Heart” comes on the radio.

fikshun: They took mindless glam metal to new lows with ridiculously vacant tracks like “Dr. Feelgood.” Prior to Mötley Crüe, no one had considered the possibility that you could make drug addiction and deadly drunken car accidents seem glamorous … or even harmless youthful hijinks. Thank you, Mötley Crüe, for considering that for us.  You’re to blame for the Lindsey Lohan lifestyle, aren’t you?

Me: These things are all true. But in 1989, if you wanted to pack the hell out of a dance floor in a midwestern college town, all you had to do was crank up “You Shook Me All Night Long” and jack “Girls Girls Girls” right in behind it. You never saw so much butt-boogying sweaty Camaro hair in your life. (I am the DJ. I am what I play.)

ZZ Top

Their third album (Tres Hombres) gained them national attention with the hit “La Grange,” a signature riff tune to this day, based on John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen.” Their success continued unabated throughout the ’70s, culminating with the year-and-a-half-long Worldwide Texas Tour. Exhausted from the overwhelming workload, they took a three-year break, then switched labels and returned to form with Deguello and El Loco, both harbingers of what was to come. By their next album, Eliminator, and its worldwide smash follow-up, Afterburner, they had successfully harnessed the potential of synthesizers to their patented grungy blues groove, giving their material a more contemporary edge while retaining their patented Texas style. Now sporting long beards, golf hats, and boiler suits, they met the emerging video age head-on, reducing their “message” to simple iconography. Becoming even more popular in the long run, they moved with the times while simultaneously bucking every trend that crossed their path.

fikshun: In 1982, ZZ Top turned their brand of Texas rock into a 120-bpm drum machine pumping hit formula, which put them in exclusive company with … well, everyone at the time. You almost have to admire them or their label for somehow managing to make the long-bearded, dusty old cowboys seem like hipsters in those heady MTV days. On the plus side, they never made it easy on people to categorize them as anything more specific than rock (truck stop rock, maybe?).  Vaya con queso, amigos!

Lex: There should be a separate bracket for the bands that started out really good and then sold all the way out (see, MTV). Tres Hombres is a fine album and ZZ Top carved out their own little niche in the Southern Blues Rock genre…and then they invited us all inside their sleeping bag, which I assume would be uncomfortably itchy with the vast quantities of facial hair we’d be forced to contend with in there.

Me: Dammit, ZZ Top, you know Molly Hatchet looks up to you. When you do something, they think they ought to do it, too. Now look what they went and did. Go on, look! Proud of yourself?

Click to vote.

The rules.

Image Credit: Confetti & Cake

Turn left, then right, then back in time

by Carole McNall

I hadn’t traveled that road in eight years.

Once, it was the path to home. I lived in three towns when I was a kid, but if you asked me to describe the home of my youth, it would be this street and that house. When I married Steve, my husband, and moved to this town, my definition of “home” broadened to include two communities, two streets and two houses.

Dad sold the house eight years ago. We — my brother and I — knew it was only a matter of time. The house became too big for him and Mom when Tom and I moved on to lives in other places and homes of our own. It became very much too big when Mom died and he was sharing that too-big space with nothing but memories. He lasted there almost exactly six years after she died, then found himself with a new relationship and the need for a different space.

I’d volunteered to be his lawyer for the house sale. I wanted to be the one to reassure him about things that had changed in the 40-plus years since he’d last sold a house. And maybe I realized that forcing myself into logical lawyer mode would also bring logic to the good-bye I was going to have to say to that house, that yard and yes, that street.

But realizing that does not, apparently, guarantee accepting it. I knew the new owner would make changes. I knew the tree where our dog once “guarded” our cat (we suspect he was the reason she was in the tree) would be history. I knew the new owners wanted to turn our one-family house into a two-family, and I knew they were planning to build a second house on the big yard that had helped sell the house to us.

I knew all that. But I didn’t need to see it in person.

And avoiding it was easy. The street is a short one, with just (today’s count) nine houses. It effectively dead ends at a small pond, although Tom and I knew the path that curved around the pond and rejoined one of the streets nearby.

I told Dad once that I hadn’t driven past the house since shortly after he sold it.

“Really?” He was both surprised and amused.

“Yep. It hasn’t been the right time. I’ll get there — the street’s not going anywhere.”

The street still hadn’t gone anywhere on a cold Saturday a few weeks ago. It was sitting there waiting for me as Steve and I left a memorial service for Dad.

“I think maybe I’m going to want to go down Kibler today,” I told him.

“Your call,” he replied.

“Left, please.” And we were driving down that street, passing those memories for the first time in eight years.

Had it changed? Ah, yes. The yard that used to house football games now has a parking area for the families in the original house. The apple tree I climbed before the house was even ours has vanished, another casualty of the need for parking. The new second house is pretty, but my mind’s eye wants trees and lawn and a driveway that snakes around a tree.

We drove most of the way to the pond before turning around and leaving the street. On a nearly last glance, I found one piece of my memories — a maple tree I’d planted from a seedling that sprouted on the corner where we waited for the bus. I nursed it into a spindly little tree, but it’s really alive today because of Dad. The first winter I was in college, the bunnies thought my tree looked like dinner. Dad foiled them — literally, by wrapping the trunk of the little tree so they took their bunny teeth to other places.

The new owners have left the maple tree in place. I’m grateful — that cold Saturday would not have been the time to discover they’d sacrificed that tree as well to new plans.

Since then, I’ve wondered why I was suddenly sure I needed to travel that road that day. I think it’s because that street and that town, like that house, became not-quite-home on a Friday night in September when Dad died. Maybe it was another of his many gifts — that I could finally look at the-place-that-was-home and say good-bye to its homeness. I suspect that somewhere he’s shaking his head and saying something like, “You finally drove by the house?”

I did, Dad. I’m not sure whether I’ll go back for another visit. But if I do, I’m likely to see you riding that bright red bike down the street or hear you telling me a story of your Army days as we sat in the kitchen of a house that’s no longer really there.

Carole McNall is a lawyer and an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University.

Frank and Liliose

One of my hardest adjustments to living in Rwanda has been that of having hired help around the house. Well, let’s say it’s been my hardest and easiest adjustment.

In Rwanda culture, a standard for most homes includes having a house girl or house boy help with weekly chores, and also for a guard to patrol the property at night. So, a portion of my monthly rent in Kigali goes toward the salaries of one house girl and a guard named Frank.

Frank keeps our house safe at night. From Sunday through Saturday, he sits at his guard post between sundown to sunup regulating our gate and keeping watch over the property. Frank wears a blue uniform with tall black boots and a baseball cap that my roommates occasionally borrow while intoxicated on the weekends (we recently bought him an extra hat as a gift for his good spirits). Frank keeps the gate locked every Continue reading