Music/Popular Culture

Tournament of Rock IV: the Rick Springfield pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!We have an upset: in pod #10 Eric Clapton takes out Starship, thanks to a remarkable display of apathy on the part of our voters. I guess low turnout is bound to happen here and there in a contest like this, huh?

Let’s see if we can generate a little more enthusiasm for pod #11. I mean, if there’s anything we can all agree on, it’s Jesse’s Girl, right?

  • #16 Seed: Rick Springfield
  • .38 Special
  • Matchbox 20/Rob Thomas
  • Steve Miller Band
  • 3 Doors Down

Rick Springfield

Although Rick Springfield’s music was frequently dismissed as vapid teen idol fare, his best moments have actually withstood the test of time far better than most critics would ever have imagined, emerging as some of the best-crafted mainstream power pop of the 1980s. … Powered by the classic single “Jessie’s Girl,” which eventually hit the top of the charts, and the Top Ten follow-up “I’ve Done Everything for You,” Working Class Dog was a smash success, and Springfield eventually returned to his first love of music when concerts conflicted with his television career. The follow-up, Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet, was released in 1982, spawning the Top Ten smash “Don’t Talk to Strangers”; 1983’s Living in Oz offered more of the same, including the Top Ten “Affair of the Heart,” although it betrayed signs that the gears were beginning to wear down on the Springfield machine.

Me: Rick was undoubtedly a corporate superstar. But he is also a minor deity in the Power Pop Underground, which keeps alive the flame of Beatles-esque guitar pop. And periodically he’ll crack off a record of surprising introspection and depth. Tao comes to mind, as does his 2012 release, Songs for the End of the World. And 2004’s Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance was an unmitigated ragefest that sounded like he’d been listening to a lot of Queens of the Stone Age. No, really. One of my all-time favorites.

Jim: Yes, being a talented power pop writer and performer who’s also handsome and a soap opera star makes you a corporate whore. I’m sorry, but making a living is not illegal….

.38 Special

Initially, .38 Special were one of many Southern rock bands in the vein of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd; in fact, the band was led by Donnie Van Zant, the brother of Skynyrd’s leader, Ronnie Van Zant. After releasing a couple of albums of straight-ahead Southern boogie, the band revamped its sound to fall halfway between country-fried blues-rock and driving, arena-ready hard rock. The result was a string of hit albums and singles in the early ’80s, highlighted by “Caught Up in You,” “If I’d Been the One,” “Back Where You Belong,” and “Like No Other Night.” .38 Special’s popularity dipped in the late ’80s as MTV-sponsored pop and heavy metal cut into their audience. Though the band had its biggest hit in 1989 with the ballad “Second Chance,” it proved to be their last gasp — they faded away in the early ’90s, retiring to the oldies circuit.

Bonesparkle: Hey, look – hillbillies can sell out, too!

fikshun: Just because you hail from the South, it doesn’t mean that you can’t also butt rock.

Jim: Ooh, the guys in Lynyrd Skynyrd got killed in a plane crash – let’s cash in on that….

Matchbox 20/Rob Thomas

As the lead singer and principal songwriter for Matchbox Twenty, Rob Thomas found success with a blend of ’70s rock influences, slick hooks, and 1990s post-grunge crunch. The Florida-based band broke through in 1996 with “Push” and never looked back, issuing single after single, scoring hits in various radio formats, and watching their debut LP, Yourself or Someone Like You, go platinum 12 times over in the U.S. Thomas himself won numerous songwriting awards as the scribe of such Matchbox hits (including “Real World,” “If You’re Gone,” “Bent,” and “Mad Season”), and he later parlayed that success into a career as a solo artist.

Jim: The male equivalent of Gwen Stefani and No Doubt….That is not a compliment….

Me: True corporate whores aren’t measured by their capacity for selling out. They’re measured by how thoroughly they corrupt everything they touch. One day I’ll come up with a clever term for this power, but for now let’s just call it the “Santana Factor.”

Steve Miller Band

Steve Miller’s career has encompassed two distinct stages: one of the top San Francisco blues-rockers during the late ’60s and early ’70s, and one of the top-selling pop/rock acts of the mid- to late ’70s and early ’80s with hits like “The Joker,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Rock’n Me,” and “Abracadabra.” … Miller formed a blues band, the Marksmen Combo, at age 12 with friend Boz Scaggs; the two teamed up again at the University of Wisconsin in a group called the Ardells, later the Fabulous Night Trains. Miller moved to Chicago in 1964 to get involved in the local blues scene, teaming with Barry Goldberg for two years… He then moved to San Francisco and formed the first incarnation of the Steve Miller Blues Band, featuring guitarist James “Curly” Cooke, bassist Lonnie Turner, and drummer Tim Davis. The band built a local following through a series of free concerts and backed Chuck Berry in 1967 at a Fillmore date later released as a live album. Scaggs moved to San Francisco later that year and replaced Cooke in time to play the Monterey Pop Festival; it was the first of many personnel changes. Capitol signed the group as the Steve Miller Band following the festival.

fikshun: What needs to be said that Miles Davis didn’t already say?

Jim: Ever the opportunist – moved to San Fran in 1966 from Chicago and got a record deal in about a week – made some terrific records – then came the 70’s – and the decision to take the money and run….now the punchline (and indirectly referenced in my latest novel….) to jokes about who was the biggest sellout – him or Grace Slick….

Bonesparkle: “Abra abra cadabra, I wanna reach out and stab ya.”

Wufnik: Made some good albums, then went down the same road many of these people do. But, it also has to be said, was also responsible for one of the greatest rock songs ever – “Dime-a Dance Romance,” written by Boz Scaggs, from the Sailor album. Best played at eleven. Trust me – I’m never wrong about these things.

Otherwise: Spent a lot of your youth in elevators huh, Wuf? I hate Miller and Scaggs.

3 Doors Down

The founding members of 3 Doors Down — vocalist/drummer Brad Arnold, guitarist Matt Roberts, and bassist Todd Harrell — were raised in Escatawpa, a cozy town of 8,000 people. Although brought up in religious households, the musicians also felt the call of rock & roll at an early age, eventually forming a rock trio in 1994 to play a friend’s backyard party. As the years progressed, so did the band’s sound, and the group soon added guitarist Chris Henderson and retained a studio drummer so that Arnold could come forward and sing live. After touring the Gulf Coast’s venues, the band made its way to New York, where a showcase at CBGB’s brought 3 Doors Down to the attention of Republic Records. A subsidiary of Universal, Republic Records signed the musicians and issued their major-label debut, The Better Life, in early 2000.

Bonesparkle: Hold on – I thought 3 Doors Down was what Matchbox 20 changed their name to when Rob Thomas left and hired Carlos Santana to be his guitarist. No, wait, that was 3rd Eye Blind. Or…Deep Blue Something. No, dammit. that’s not right. They’re the band Daughtry was in with Clay Aiken. Right? Fuck, I’m confused. I can never remember this stuff.

Jim: It is best to avoid all bands with numbers in their names (see Special, .38). This rule increases in importance the closer one comes to the present time. 

Click to vote.

The rules.

11 replies »

  1. 3 Doors Down did the song for the National Guard commercials they played before movies at the theater. That counts for something, right?

  2. Rick Springfield was huge when I was in high school, so there’s a lot of baggage, wait, I mean nostalgia with him. I do like several of his songs.

    .38 Special has some great songs too.

    I’ve go to go with Steve Miller though. I really love a lot of his stuff.

    Matchbox 20, 3 Doors Down, 3rd Eye Blind, Eve 6, 7 Mary 3, too much algebra for me.

    Jim, does the number thing also apply to 13th Floor Elevators?

  3. Springfield was on General Hospital, that alone disqualifies him. 😀 I have to go with Steve Miller on this one.

      • Oh, I know, I watched it religiously during the eighties and the reign of Luke and Laura. I never did dig Dr Noah Drake. lol My ex hated the show, but secretly watched it, he had a serious crush on Demi Moore, he was and is still a sucker for husky voices. 🙂

  4. Retro – Yes, it applies to 13th Floor Elevators. I am not part of their cult. Pink Floyd meets Iron Butterfly. Don’t take drugs, kids…might make you think this stuff is worth $100 a pop per album….