December 3, 1948: Ozzy Osbourne Born

On this day in 1948, John Michael Osbourne was born in Birmingham, England. Under his nickname, “Ozzy,” he has become the Godfather of Heavy Metal.

Ozzy OsbourneOn this day in 1948, John Michael Osbourne was born in Birmingham, England. Under his nickname, “Ozzy,” he has become the Godfather of Heavy Metal.

Osbourne’s first band, Black Sabbath, launched the heavy metal genre with its dark, bone-crunching sound. When Osbourne was fired from the band in 1979, he embarked on a solo career and became the darkest music of the 1980s. He bit the head off both a bat and a dove, peed on the Alamo and famously proclaimed that “Sobriety fucking sucks.” The fact that he was the same age as my dad only added to his notoriety.

The irony was that unlike the doom and gloom of Sabbath’s tracks, Osbourne’s solo music was actually… well, fun. And as he has settled into a life of sobriety that didn’t suck, he has become embraced and accepted by a legion of Americans who know little about his music.

Whether your knowledge of Osbourne does not extend beyond his shenanigans, reality TV and “Crazy Train,” here are five great solo songs worth downloading.

5. I Don’t Want to StopBlack Rain (2007)
Fun song sums up anyone who has a smidgeon of drive in them.

4. Flying High AgainDiary of a Madman (1981)
This song summed up Osbourne’s feeling after his career was resurrected from the doldrums.

3. Perry MasonOzzmosis (1995)
The most controversial performer of the 1980s sings about one of the most conservative shows of the 1950s and 1960s. Awesome.

2. I Don’t Want to Change the WorldNo More Tears (1991)
Osbourne won a well-deserved Grammy for this one.

1. Crazy TrainBlizzard of Ozz (1980)
Unforgettable riff launched Osbourne’s solo career. Who would’ve thought that you’d one day hear this song at weddings? 

October 29, 1971: Duane Allman Killed in Motorcycle Accident

On this day in 1971, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. The guitar virtuoso was only 24 years old but had already become a mythical musical figure, launching what became known as southern rock.

Duane AllmannOn this day in 1971, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia.  The guitar virtuoso was only 24 years old but had already become a mythical musical figure, launching what became known as southern rock.

Allman started out as a session musician in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, before teaming up with his little brother Gregg to form The Allman Brothers Band in 1969.  While the band has been recording and performing ever since, classics like “Midnight Rider,” “Whipping Post” and the famous cover of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” were recorded in its first two years.

During that time, Allman continued to serve as a session musician. He would drop in unannounced at recording sessions and play for cash, but not production credit. Because of this, there is no telling of the full extent of the albums where his work appears. One song that he definitely played slide guitar for was Eric Clapton’s “Layla” and that has only added to his legend.

While on break, Allman was riding his motorcycle through Macon when a log truck stopped in an intersection. He swerved but struck a part of it and was thrown from his motorcycle. He died several hours later after suffering severe internal injuries.

When music publications list the greatest guitarists of all time, Allman is generally ranked in the top ten, if not the top five.

October 16, 1972: Creedence Clearwater Revival Breaks Up

On this day in 1972, Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) officially announced that it was dissolving. It was a sad end to one of rock’s greatest groups.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - 1968On this day in 1972, Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) officially announced that it was dissolving.  It was a sad end to one of rock’s greatest groups.

With the exception of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, no other band has been as widely embraced by every generation since the 1960s as CCR. From 1968-1970, they churned out six albums of some of the most timeless music ever recorded. By 1972, however, relationships had deteriorated to a point where rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty had left the band. CCR continued performing as a trio and released its final album, the critically panned “Mardi Gras,” in April of 1972. The group broke up six months later.

The years since have been marked by bitterness between the former members and thus sadness to the millions of fans who have seen and heard the greatness of these men. Lead singer/guitarist John Fogerty (younger brother to Tom) refused to perform CCR songs in concert until 1987. When the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, he refused to play with bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford (Tom had died in 1990 of AIDS complications from blood he received while undergoing back surgery).

John now performs solo and Cook and Clifford have formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Although both sides have alluded that they would be open to reuniting, neither has let its guard down.

October 8, 1996: Marilyn Manson Releases “Antichrist Superstar”

On this day in 1996, Marilyn Manson released “Antichrist Superstar.” Produced by Trent Reznor, the album is the most successful shock rock album of all time.

Marilyn Manson - Antichrist SuperstarOn this day in 1996, Marilyn Manson released “Antichrist Superstar.” Produced by Trent Reznor, the album is the most successful shock rock album of all time.

Shock rock is generally defined as combining heavy music with shocking theatrics. Alice Cooper invented it. Bands like W.AS.P. and Gwar do it well, while other performers like GG Allin did it poorly. However, no one frightened America while making great music the way Manson did in the 90s.

His onstage depravity included tearing pages out of Bibles and tossing them into the crowd, mutilating himself and having the crowd spit on him. If that was where it ended, Manson would’ve just been gross sideshow, except he reached many fans of the heavy music. Catchy riffs and lyrics that attacked every sacred institution – especially religion – but were often true helped him sell millions of records.

Antichrist Superstar,” his third studio album, was his masterpiece and sold seven million copies.

October 5, 1952: Harold Faltermeyer Born

On this day in 1952, Harold Faltermeyer was born in Munich, Germany. This musician’s synthesizer-heavy scores are more indicative of 80s movies than those of any other composer.

Harold FaltermeyerOn this day in 1952, Harold Faltermeyer was born in Munich, Germany. This musician’s synthesizer-heavy scores are more indicative of 80s movies than those of any other composer.

Faltermeyer is an accomplished musician across the board, having produced numerous albums. In the 1970s, he moved to Los Angeles in the 70s to play keyboards on the soundtrack for “Midnight Express” and got his first big break composing the score for “Beverly Hills Cop.” He had a great run in the 80s, scoring numerous films before moving back to Germany at the end of the decade.

Faltermeyer now has a variety of projects, but recently composed the score for “Cop Out,” with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. Below is some his greatest work.

More information on Faltermeyer can be found on his website at: http://www.haroldfaltermeyer.net.

September 27, 2007: Van Halen Reunites with David Lee Roth

On this day in 2007, Van Halen performed the first show of its reunion tour with David Lee Roth in Charlotte, NC. It was the first time Roth had performed with the band had in 22 years.

David Lee Roth and Eddie Van HalenOn this day in 2007, Van Halen performed the first show of its reunion tour with David Lee Roth in Charlotte, NC. It was the first time Roth had performed with the band had in 22 years.

The first line-up of Roth, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony burst onto the rock scene in the 1970s. Then Roth left the band to pursue a solo career so Van Halen replaced him with Sammy Hagar. That line-up made several great albums before Hagar was kicked out of the band in 1996 and replaced by Roth for about five minutes. Van Halen then kicked Roth out of the band and Gary Cherone became the band’s lead singer.  He lasted for one album and then left the band.

Hagar rejoined the band for a greatest hits album and tour in 2004 before calling it quits again. Finally, in 2007 the band announced that it would reunite with Roth with Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, handling bass duties. The tour was wickedly successful (I caught the Greensboro and Philadelphia shows.) and this current line-up is still playing today.

Few rock bands have had as many line-up changes as Van Halen and continued playing arenas. Then again, few bands have had rock’s most influential guitarist and two of its greatest singers. Van Halen has also made consistently great music. Here are what I think are the 25 best songs that span their entire career and all three lead singers.

25. Why Can’t This Be Love5150
Hagar said he experienced an amazing connection when playing with Van Halen for the first time. This song exemplifies that.

24. Beautiful GirlsVan Halen II
This song was immortalized on Saturday Night Live’s “Schmitt’s Gay” beer commercial, but you can’t find the version on YouTube because it was changed to generic rock music because of licensing costs.

23. Fire in the HoleVan Halen III
The best song the band recorded with Cherone was also featured in “Lethal Weapon 4.”

22. Blood and FireA Different Kind of Truth
The most introspective song Van Halen has ever recorded with Roth showed they still had it.

21. PoundcakeFor Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
The best use of a drill in music history.

20. Runnin’ with the Devil Van Halen
Many fans would put this higher but this ranking in of the greatest bodies of work in rock history is still pretty impressive.

19. BaluchitheriumBalance
This instrumental was one of the many gems on the last studio album with Hagar. It’s a shame they split because it seemed like they were on the verge of recording a masterpiece.

18. On FireVan Halen
The early demo of this song shows the band’s heavy punk influence.

17. Everybody Wants SomeWomen and Children First
When the band performs this song live, Roth uses the middle to spend a few minutes chatting it up with the audience and the band.

16. Hot for Teacher1984
This rudest song the band they ever recorded shows how Van Halen could expertly walk the fine line between excessiveness and greatness.

15. Humans Being Twister Soundtrack
Bizarre creative differences over this song allegedly ended the first round with Hagar; a shame because this is one of their best.

14. I’ll Wait1984
One of the band’s first forays into synthesizers and ballads is amazing live.

13. Romeo DelightWomen and Children First
This one is also amazing live (check out this video from 1982 in Largo, MD) and captures the band at its most energetic.

12. Runaround For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
Everyone gets hung up on a song that they play over and over. This was one for me.

11. Panama 1984
This classic song about a car of course has a double entendre.

10. EruptionVan Halen
The most badass guitar solo ever recorded. Why? Because it stands on its own.

9. You Really Got MeVan Halen
And it precedes one of the few times a guitar virtuoso has taken another virtuoso’s (Ray Davies of The Kinks) work and made it his own.

8. When It’s LoveOU812
The guitar solo on this essential 80s power ballad is a nod to Eric Clapton.

7. Jump 1984
The band’s only #1 Billboard single. Enough said.

6. Dance the Night AwayVan Halen II
Van Halen has been given many labels. This song had fans everywhere calling them a party band.

5. Best of Both Worlds5150
When the band performed this on the MTV Video Music Awards, they set the record for the longest performance in this awards show’s history… 19 minutes.

4. Right NowFor Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
This song was overplayed to death, most notably in the Crystal Pepsi ads, but is still as moving today as it was in 1991.

3. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout LoveVan Halen
This great track’s influence can be seen everywhere from rap albums to Drive-By Truckers shows to Gillette Stadium.

2. Dreams5150
This song makes you see all of the greater good in Van Halen’s turmoil. I hope it does the same for the band.

1. Unchained Fair Warning
Eddie says he still gets goose bumps when he plays this song. Fans get them too when they hear it.

September 18, 1946: Billy Drago Born

On this day in 1946, William Eugene Burrows was born in Hugoton, Kansas. Under his stage name, he has been the most recognizable portrayer of villains in movies and television today.

Billy DragoOn this day in 1946, William Eugene Burrows was born in Hugoton, Kansas. Under his stage name, he has been the most recognizable portrayer of villains in movies and television today.

If an actor was ever born to play bad guys, it was Drago. He is quoted as saying, “I’m never going to be the boy next door. That’s not who I want to be. So I try to put a little of the dark side into my good guys and a bit of gentleness into my heavies.”

After finishing college at the University of Kansas, he took up acting full-time. To avoid being confused with another actor, he took his grandmother’s maiden name to create one of the most memorable stage names.

Drago has played numerous villains throughout his career. Here are a few performances worth seeing.

  • The Untouchables (1987): Numerous actors from Sylvester Stallone to Anthony LaPaglia to Stanley Tucci have played Al Capone’s enforcer, Frank Nitti. None have been more chilling or menacing than Drago.
  • Delta Force 2 (1990): The script ain’t so hot, but it’s fun as can be watching Drago play a Latin American drug lord.
  • Charmed (1999): Drago signed on for one episode as Barbas, but was so popular that he became one of the few recurring villains on the show.
  • You Rock My World (2001): Michael Jackson’s last great video was a homage to tough guy movies that featured Marlon Brando, Michael Madsen and Chris Tucker. However, it was Drago that gave it street cred.

September 17, 1991: Guns N’ Roses Releases Use Your Illusion I and II

On this day in 1991, Guns N’ Roses released “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II.” Their long-awaited follow-up to “Appetite for Destruction” was one of the most anticipated album releases of all-time.

Use Your Illusion I Album CoverOn this day in 1991, Guns N’ Roses released “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II.” Their long-awaited follow-up to “Appetite for Destruction” was one of the most anticipated album releases of all-time.

There was a period in the late 80s where Guns N’ Roses could make any song sound great. Don’t believe me? Listen to “Cornshucker” and “It Tastes Good, Don’t It?” Both were pure misogynistic filth and never released, but tell me they are not catchy.

The band burst on the scene in 1987 with “Appetite,” the greatest-selling debut album of all time. Critics and fans were so amazed and felt Guns N’ Roses had the potential to have success on the level of The Rolling Stones… if they could hold it together.

By the time the “Use Your Illusion” albums were released, it was apparent that they probably would not. Drummer Steven Adler was kicked out of the band for excessive heroin use (there’s no telling how bad it must’ve been), lead singer Axl Rose had angered fans with the racist and xenophobic lyrics to “One in a Million,” and the band could barely stand each other. In fact, each member of the band recorded most of his parts alone in the studio for the “Use Your Illusion” albums.

A common misconception is that the albums were received to disappointment, but in reality, both albums were given high marks from publications like Rolling Stone and USA Today. Fans also stood in line for hours to buy both of them and each album sold 7 million copies.

And if they were still together today, these albums would be held as worthy efforts. However, the band quickly imploded after a world tour marred with 11:30 am stage appearances, Izzy Stradlin leaving the band and a riot in Montreal when the band left the stage too early.

The band put out one more album, a collection of cover songs known as “The Spaghetti Incident” before calling it quits (I refuse to call that back-up band that Rose tours with Guns N’ Roses). Sadly, these two albums are considered the culminating point of its bloated. I actually can listen to both of these albums in their entirety, but I do believe if they had forced themselves to release just one album, it would’ve been considered one of the best of the last 25 years. Most rock fans have their opinion of what should’ve been on that one album. Here are mine in the order they should’ve tracked.

  1. You Could Be Mine
  2. Dust N’ Bones
  3. Yesterdays
  4. Don’t Cry
  5. Right Next Door to Hell
  6. Bad Obsession
  7. Civil War
  8. Pretty Tied Up
  9. Locomotive
  10. Don’t Damn Me
  11. Dead Horse
  12. Coma
  13. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
  14. November Rain

September 12, 1992: Anthony Perkins Dies

On this day in 1992, Anthony Perkins died from complications from AIDS. The actor who can be credited with launching the modern horror movie villain was 60 years old.

Anthony Perkins - PsychoOn this day in 1992, Anthony Perkins died from complications from AIDS. The actor who can be credited with launching the modern horror movie villain was 60 years old.

Perkins, who made his film debut at the age of 21, is, of course, best remembered for his role as Norman Bates in “Psycho.” However, he enjoyed a prolific career that saw him appear in more than 55 films, including the classics, “On the Beach,” “Is Paris Burning?,” “Catch-22” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” Here are few of his movies that left an impact on me.

  • The Tin Star (1957):  Perkins plays a green sheriff who bounty hunter Henry Fonda takes under his wing. Every aspect of the movie, from Perkins’ insecurity to his arrival as a lawman, rings true.
  • Psycho (1960): Few things are scarier than the boy-next-door wearing a dress and holding a butcher knife. What more needs to be said?
  • The Last of Sheila (1973): Perkins didn’t act in this movie about a group of despicable people on a deadly scavenger hunt. He just co-wrote it with Stephen Sondheim. For me, it remains one of the essential films of the 1970s.
  • Les Miserables (1978): The character of Javert has been portrayed by a plethora of actors from Charles Laughton to Russell Crowe, but Perkins brought an unwavering rigidity that the role that has not seen before or since.
  • Psycho II (1983): No sequel has overcome greater odds. Twenty-three years after the original and three years after the death of Alfred Hitchcock, writer Tom Holland and director Richard Franklin made a thriller that kept you on the edge of your seat to the bitter end. Honestly, I don’t think Hitchcock could’ve done better.

September 11, 1990: Warrant Releases “Cherry Pie”

On this day in 1990, Warrant released its sophomore album, “Cherry Pie.” This record is a testament to the traps of one hit song.

Warrant - Cherry PieOn this day in 1990, Warrant released its sophomore album, “Cherry Pie.” This record is a testament to the traps of one hit song.

In a perfect world, many of the 80s hair bands would’ve gotten along fine as straight-ahead rock groups without the Aqua Net and spandex. Warrant was one of them and its lead singer, the late Jani Lane, was one of the more talented songwriters of the genre. The band’s debut, “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” featured straight-ahead rock songs like “Down Boys” and “Big Talk” and ballads like “Heaven” and “Sometimes She Cries” and reached No. 10 on the Billboard charts.

For their follow-up, the band tried to transition from hair metal to the 70s rock that influenced them. While the album contained tracks that were firmly rooted in the 80s, like “Mr. Rainmaker” and “I Saw Red,” it also included a cover of Blackfoot’s “Train, Train” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the best song the band ever recorded. In fact, “Cherry Pie” was originally going to be called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Then Columbia Record said it needed an “anthem track” for the album so Lane wrote “Cherry Pie” in 15 minutes and it became the only song for which the band is remembered. Sadly, the album came out in the twilight of hair metal and even though Warrant’s third album, “Dog Eat Dog,” was its best, their popularity quickly waned.

Until his untimely death in 2011, Lane always had a like/hate relationship with “Cherry Pie.” The below interview captures his feelings at their most visceral.