“They’ve Got Cars Big As Bars”

“They’ve got rivers of gold. But the wind goes right through you. It’s no place for the old” – The Pogues

Fairytale of New York: The surprising story behind The Pogues' Christmas  anthem
MacColl and MacGowan

Usually every December I’m featuring some 80’s Christmas song and video. I’ve written about Wham! and the iconic “Last Christmas.” I’ve written about Run-DMC and “Christmas in Hollis,” and of course the collaboration known as Band Aid and “Do They Know it’s Christmas?

This December’s featured Christmas song is really a song that I barely remember from a band that barely registers on my 80’s radar, so I’ve immersed myself in all things The Pogues the past few days. Outside of today’s song, a couple of my favorites from The Pogues include 1996’s “Love You Till the End,” and 1985’s “Rainy Night in Soho,” and “Dirty Old Town.”

As the son of a full-blooded 100% Irish father, one of the things I appreciate about The Pogues is that they have a very Irish vibe and sound to their band even though most of the members were not/are not Irish. Formed in London in 1982 and calling themselves Pogue Mahone (translation = “kiss my arse”), the group shortened their name to The Pogues for their 1984 tour with The Clash. Elvis Costello worked with the group as producer on their 1985 album “Rum, Sodomy, & the Lash,” and was apparently the person who challenged and/or wagered lead singer Shane MacGowan to write a Christmas song around the same time.

The song apparently took two years to write during which time they lost their female singer Cait O’Riordan who married Costello and left the band in 1986. Upon the recommendation from their then-producer Steve Lillywhite (who also produced for U2), they recruited Lillywhite’s wife Kristy MacColl for the female vocals on the song.

“Happy Christmas your arse. I pray God it’s our last.”

I can see the appeal of this song. Many refer to it as an anti-Christmas song, and I’m sure many can relate. All you have to do is listen to the first line of the song “It was Christmas Eve babe in the drunk tank” to know this isn’t your typical Christmas song. For many, the Christmas season is just a time to tolerate as many have memories of tough times and family strife. So in those regards, I’m sure this song is very relatable for many. The song has drunks and love and a fight and controversial name-calling all to a very distinctive danceable Irish sound. Probably sounds like a normal Christmas gathering for many!

Most all of my Christmas memories are times of happiness and joy and anticipation so this song never really connected with me, but I can understand if it connects with you. If it does, I hope you have better Christmas times now and in the future.

“So happy Christmas. I love you baby. I can see a better time when all our dreams come true.”

Shane McGowan, the band’s lead singer, was actually born on Christmas day 1957. And if the young police officer in the video below looks strangely like a young Matt Dillon, that’s because it is. Dillon was a big fan of The Pogues and apparently met them on their first tour of America in 1986.

In the UK, this is apparently the most played Christmas song of the 21st century and reached #2 on the UK charts back in 1987. From their album “If I Should Fall From Grace With God,” here is McGowan along with the late Kristy MacColl and the band known as The Pogues with the somewhat anti-Christmas song – “Fairytale of New York.”

Merry Christmas all you bums and punks! I love you all.

sincerely,

the 80’s

There’s getting ready to be a Christmas fight here sometime around
Christmas 1986 or 1987 if my sister doesn’t quit leaning on me!
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“There is nothin’ fair in this world”

“There is nothin’ safe in this world.” – Billy Idol

Billy takes a break from his prayer life to pose. I’m confident that he resumed praying the Rosary shortly after this photo.

That last line – “there is nothin’ safe in this world” leads me to believe that Billy Idol is clairvoyant and saw 2020 coming way back in 1982. Whether he is or isn’t can be debated I guess, but one thing that can’t is that COVID-19 has just screwed everything up in 2020. It’s super annoying. It’s touched every aspect of our lives personally and professionally. It has ruined companies. It has ruined sporting events and concerts (including Billy Idol’s 2020 concerts), and movies and the theatre, and festivals. More importantly though it has taken lives and it continues to wreck havoc with families and friends around the world, and it probably will continue to do so until a reliable vaccine is released and the results are known.

Until that time, it’s social distancing and clean hands and masks in the restaurants and the supermarkets, and at sporting events, and most any social gathering. That includes weddings. I’ve attended two “COVID weddings” within the last two months. Both weddings were fairly “normal” events. And when I say “normal,” I mean they were both very reminiscent of pre-COVID weddings with the lone exceptions being the face masks and the increased use of hand sanitizer.

Otherwise, people you know and people who are complete strangers are still sitting next to each other at rehearsal dinner and at the wedding. People are still dancing next to each other, eating and drinking next to each other. There are still groomsmen and bridesmaids, and a first dance and a cutting of the cake. The bride still throws her bouquet over her shoulder to a group of single females all vying for the opportunity to catch it and be the next bride. The groom still takes the garter off of his bride’s thigh and shoots it in the air as all the single men who have been enjoying the free booze stumble over themselves to make the catch.

Like I said, pretty normal though bubbles has become a thing over the past five, ten years? I don’t know. I haven’t been paying that close of attention, but if you’re old enough to remember, then you’ll recall weddings where rice was the customary thing to throw as the lucky couple walked to their chosen mode of transportation waiting to whisk them away to a life of married bliss. A real mess if you think about it now. How many eye injuries happened because of people throwing rice at the couple? How many ears and open mouths were hit with rice? How much of that stuff got stuck in the bride’s hair or veil, or dress. The madness! What a terrible thing to throw. I had to research it, because I don’t know the origins of wedding traditions, but apparently the throwing of the rice signified rain which was to bring prosperity, fertility and good fortune to the couple, and which is why you were supposed to throw it up in the air, not directly at the couple. Who knew!? Probably a lot of people.

Anyway, one thing COVID hasn’t beaten or changed is love. L-O-V-E. People are still getting married in a pandemic. It may look a little different, but COVID is basically just that little, extremely annoying gnat hovering around Love’s face. Love just continues to wave it away, but you know eventually that little COVID gnat is not smart enough to leave love alone, and it’s going to get crushed. It’s just a matter of time. Ironically, even as I type this post in the living room of my home, there is a gnat that will not leave me alone. Those suckers are persistent.

Love in 2020 has driven us to think outside the box, to innovate, to stretch the limits, and despite the risks – to continue blowing bubbles. As the Good Book reminds us, “love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Love cannot be defeated, and it will continue to persevere, even in 2020.

“Come on. It’s a nice day for a white wedding.”

One of the two weddings I’ve attended this year has been of a couple with the last name White. The little ring-bearers even wore shirts to the rehearsal dinner the night before that said “Ring Security” on the front and “White Wedding” on the back. They did not, however, have Billy’s face anywhere on them.

Released in 1982, this is easily one of Englishman William Michael Albert Broad’s most recognizable songs. The now 65 year old, who performs under the stage name “Billy Idol,” has always been a favorite of mine with his bleach-blond hair, leather wardrobe, washboard abs, and his incessant snarl. In fact, his snarl with that upper left lip is to 80’s music as Elvis and his upper lip was to the 60’s.

In the iconic video featuring his real-life girlfriend at the time (Perri Lister), the singer is singing about watching the woman he loves marry someone else. It’s not really a pro-marriage song. “Little sister” is slang for “girlfriend,” and the song just happens to have the word “wedding” in the title. There’s a whole lot of damage to good kitchen appliances as well happening here. Regardless, get ready to work on that upper lip snarl and sing along with William.

I can’t wait until this pandemic is over, because I’ll be singing – “It’s nice day to… start again! Come on!”

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“We Got Wayman, Billy, and the Boys”

Billy Tubbs and Wayman Tisdale | Sooners, Oklahoma sooners basketball,  Boomer sooner
Billy Tubbs and Wayman Tisdale

I met Coach Billy Tubbs in 1984. I was 13 and he had just hired my dad to become an assistant coach for the University of Oklahoma men’s basketball team. At that time I was happy for my dad, but selfishly I was also a little bit upset. The reason? Because I had spent the first 13 years of my life an Oklahoma State Cowboy fan. I hated the Sooners!

I spent five very formative years in Stillwater from 1973-1978 (home of the OSU Cowboys) bleeding orange and black, and cheering on Cowboy greats like football players Terry Miller and Ernest Anderson, and basketball players Leroy Combs and Matt Clark. Now, like a gang member taking up a new residence, I was being forced to trade in the orange and black for crimson and cream. I was becoming a Sooner.

When we arrived in Norman, OU basketball was on the verge of greatness. The 1983-84 team led by sophomore All-American Wayman Tisdale had just given Coach Tubbs his first regular season Big Eight Championship finishing 13-1 in conference (at Iowa State being the lone conference loss). The Sooners lost in the Big Eight Conference Tournament finals that season to Kansas and then were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Dayton 89-85 to finish a promising season at 29-5.

My parents bought a house on Riverside Drive. Coach Tubbs and his wife Pat lived just around the corner on Joe Taylor Circle. I’d occasionally spend a hot summer day over there enjoying their backyard pool. My parents would spend an occasional evening over there enjoying some beverages and discussing the latest in OU basketball. One thing we did after arriving at OU was win, win, win, and with his Jack Nicholson southern twang, and fantastic story-telling Coach Tubbs became a fixture in our lives.

My dad (left) trying to show Coach Tubbs (right) how he does his pony dance.

The Tubbs had two children – Tommy, a back up point guard on the OU team, and Taylor, their younger daughter who would also attend OU and become a member of the OU pom pon squad in the mid to late 80’s. Tommy was a senior when we moved there, and in his words “not good enough to play on that team.”

There were many summer days when my dad and I would play golf at the local Trails Country Club and Coach Tubbs and Tommy would make it a foursome. The funny thing about our foursomes is that I always recall Tommy playing with range balls that he would gather off the practice range before we teed off. Back in the 80’s, The Trails was narrow and on many holes if you weren’t in the fairway, you were not going to find your golf ball amongst the wild grass that they let grow in the rough areas. I’ve heard many times that Billy had boxes and boxes of new golf balls in his garage, but because of Tommy’s penchant for hitting them wayward he refused to give him any. “They’re still finding balls I hit into the south Canadian River to this day!” said Tommy Tubbs in a recent phone call.

Left picture: Tommy Tubbs bottom right. Right picture: Taylor Tubbs with my sister Kari on the left and her friend Mikel McCurdy on the right.

Those six years flew by, and just those six OU teams in particular won 31, 26, 24, 35, 30, and 27 (173 total) games respectively behind a man to man pressing team that ran up and down the floor and took the first open shot they had. Many throughout college basketball just called it “Billy-ball.” Those same six Sooners teams won four regular season Big Eight Conference championships, three conference tournament championships, and every one of those six teams advanced to at least the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with the 1987-88 team advancing all the way to the national championship game losing a flukey national championship game to a red-hot Kansas team (sorry Jayhawk fans, but that OU team wins at least 8 out of 10 times, maybe nine).

My dad has countless “Billy Tubbs stories” of which I’m sure are actually true. He loves to tell of the time they were at Kansas State and at halftime of their game my dad tells the story of Billy asking him to find a pay phone and to call his wife Pat back in Norman. Upon doing this Billy proceeds to ask her something to the effect of if we were getting screwed by the officials on tv as bad as we were in person. Of course, Billy’s conversations with officials are legendary with the most iconic coming from 1989 when the Sooners hosted Missouri before a raucous crowd in the Lloyd Noble Center.

There’s so many things to love about this video. Where do I even begin. You have the legendary college basketball announcer (and longtime family friend of ours) New Jersey’s Bill Raftery doing commentary for the game, and a classic “that’s unbelievable!” reaction. There’s one of the all-time officiating greats, Ed Hightower who retired in 2013. We see and hear from longtime OU radio announcer and Sports Information Director, Mike Treps (who passed away in 2014), on the public address system. And of course you have Billy’s awesome announcement to the crowd, the crowd’s reaction, and Billy’s even-better incredulous look after getting hit with a technical following the announcement. Just classic. Plus, another Sooner win followed this 112-105 that day.

Tommy told me that Billy was baptized in the Arkansas River during his stay as a youngster at Fort Chaffee near Ft. Smith, Arkansas, before he moved to Tulsa. His mom worked cleaning and replacing linens at the Fort and then was offered the same role at a new laundry facility in Tulsa. So that’s what brought them to Billy’s hometown of Tulsa. It wasn’t an easy road for Coach Tubbs as he had lost both his mother and his father by the time he was 14. He persevered to the tune of countless victories at Lamar and OU and TCU, and coach of the year honors four times in the Big 8. More importantly though, he had a successful marriage of 62 years, and raised two children and lived to see many grandchildren as well.

The Kerwin’s and the Tubbs

Looking back now, I am so happy that my dad became a member of the OU coaching staff. It enabled me to make lifelong friends from 8th grade through high school graduation in Norman. I was able to play high school basketball against and with some of the best players the state had to offer. It indirectly led me to meeting my future wife. And, oh yeah, I was able to watch some of the best basketball (and football too) that the University of Oklahoma has arguably ever had. I was afforded the opportunity to witness some great basketball from incredible seats. I was able to travel with the team to Kansas City, and Birmingham, and Tuscan, and to Hawaii.

And of course I was afforded the opportunity to spend a lot of time around one of the greatest characters and college basketball coaches of all-time. But he was more than just a character wearing a black hat in the world of college basketball (a role I think he relished). He was more than a one-liner or a funny quote. He was a survivor. He was an underdog. He was a competitor. He was a top dog. He was a husband, and a father, and a friend, and a winner. He and the Tubbs are family, and that will never change. The world of college basketball just became a little less interesting and a little less fun with the passing of Billy Tubbs.

“Down in Norman, Oklahoma, ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.”

Well, there’s definitely some pain being felt today after the passing of Coach Tubbs at the age of 85. But let’s go back some 37 or 38 years when this song was released. I don’t know who wrote or sings this song, (which is a parody of Waylon Jennings’ “Waylon, Willie, and the Boys,”) but they did a mighty fine job.

When I spoke with Tommy Tubbs recently, he told me that he had visited with Regina Tisdale, wife of the late, great Wayman Tisdale, who passed away from bone cancer in 2009. Regina told him that when Billy transitions to that next life that Wayman will be there with that big smile on his face welcoming him.

That’s a wonderful thought and I’m sure a reunion of Heavenly sorts awaits Wayman, Billy, and the boys…

Thanks for reading, prayers to the Tubbs’ family, and RIP to one of the best to ever do it, Billy Tubbs.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“And I Say Rock On!”

“Uh, rock on!” – the Mighty Van Halen

Amazon.com: Mingki Van Halen Classic Rock Star Band Poster - 18 × 24 Inch:  Posters & Prints

I like lists. I’m always a sucker for a good top 10 list or a top 20 or top 50 or an every (fill in the artist) song worst to first list (I’m looking at you “Rolling Stone”). I also don’t feel that one post in tribute to the late Eddie Van Halen was near enough, so here comes my own favorite Van Halen songs list with one caveat: this list will only include my favorite 80’s Van Halen songs.

Whoa. Settle down. Crazy, right? Take the iconic “Van Halen I” (a 1978 release) and to a lesser extent “Van Halen II” (released in 1979) out of the equation as well as anything released post 1989, and you get a totally different look.

So many tough decisions on what to include and what to leave out. After a good couple of hours of politicking (flip-flopping and vacillating) between songs, here are my top 11 favorite 80’s Van Halen songs.

Why 11? Well, 5+1+5+0 = 11. That’s the best I can do.

I present you – “Sincerely the 80’s Standing on Top of the Top 11 List:” (a 90’s Van Halen reference and a song that didn’t qualify, I know… cut me some slack)

#11

“Hot for Teacher” album: 1984

Favorite lyric: “I think of all the education that I missed. But then my homework was never quite like this.”

This song was so different. A drum solo to start the song? Oddly cool. Thank you Alex Van Halen. Of course the video is iconic. Once again, thank you Alex Van Halen for your lack of rhythm during the dance sequences in the video. Eddie’s solo while walking on top of the tables in the library made me want to visit the school library just to see if there were any guitar students doing the same thing. Alas, there never were.

#10

“Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” album: Diver Down (1982)

Favorite Lyric: “Daddy didn’t need no little toys. Mommy didn’t need no little boys.”

A nod to my first Van Halen cassette when I was 11 or 12. This is the first Van Halen I knew – a group with an album of five cover songs out of 12 total songs. I didn’t know this was a cover song when I first heard it. I knew nothing of Ray Davies or The Kinks or their version. I wasn’t that musically knowledgeable yet and there was no internet either. I just thought it was a cool song. And it is… even if it’s not a Van Halen original. Sorry Roy Orbison and the VH cover of “(Oh) Pretty Woman.” You just missed this list.

#9

“Summer Nights” album: 5150 (1986)

Favorite lyric: “Summer nights and my radio. Well that’s all we need, baby, don’t cha know?”

I heard this was originally intended to be a David Lee Roth song before he departed Van Halen, and that there might be a demo somewhere with his vocals. I’d love to hear it, but nonetheless, Dave’s loss is Sammy’s gain, and I absolutely think Sammy crushed it. My buddy Barry and I agreed that this was probably the most underrated song on the 5150 album. This was an instant classic to us and was played relentlessly during the summer between our 9th and 10th grade school years.

#8

“I’ll Wait” album: 1984

Favorite lyric: “Are you for real, it’s so hard to tell from just a magazine. Yeah, you just smile and the picture sells. Look what that does to me.”

In my mind, the first true Van Halen rock ballad, synthesizers and all. The song was a collaboration between Eddie Van Halen and Michael McDonald. As an outspoken critic of the heavy synth sound that was beginning to dominate the airwaves in the 80’s, David Lee Roth was against even including this song on the album. Per usual, Eddie wanted it on the album and so it was, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

#7

“And the Cradle Will Rock” album: Women and Children First (1980)

Favorite lyric: “And so an early age he hits the street ‘n winds up tired with who he meets, and he’s unemployed. His folks are overjoyed”

This song wasn’t even on their setlist when I saw them on their “A Different Kind of Truth” tour in 2012. It was my lone disappointment with their setlist. Released in 1980, it’s the first song to incorporate Eddie on a keyboard and the first song I remember mocking all of you (now us) old, know-nothing parents when Dave asks “Have you seen Junior’s grades?” Well, too bad, because the cradle will rock! And this video is awkwardly awesome.

#6

“Best of Both Worlds” album: 5150 (1986)

Favorite lyric: “Just tune in to what this place has got to offer, ’cause we may never be here again.”

This world and a sort of spirituality lie beneath a lot of the Sammy material including this sweet little tune from… brace yourselves… my favorite 80’s Van Halen album, “5150.” Yes, blasphemy I know to dare put a Sammy-led album ahead of any Dave album… especially 1984! Sorry, not sorry. Go make your own list. The list is the best of both worlds!

#5

“Love Walks In” album: 5150 (1986)

Favorite lyric: “Contact is all it takes. To change your life to lose your place in time.”

Look it’s no secret that post-Dave Van Halen had A LOT of songs with the word “love” in the title. In fact, it’s easy to get “Love Walks In” confused with “Why Can’t This Be Love,” or “When It’s Love,” or “Can’t Stop Loving You,” or “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do).” I mean, you get the picture. So, if I’m going to choose my favorite “love” song to add, it would be this one that hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was one of four top top 20 hits from the aforementioned fabulous “5150” album.

#4

“Panama” album: 1984

Favorite lyric: “Hot shoe, burnin’ down the avenue. Model citizen, zero discipline.”

That was me back in 1984 – model citizen, zero discipline! Ok, so not really, but I remember listening to this song and originally thinking “I can’t understand a word Dave is singing except ‘Panama’ and something about ‘in the turn.'” Thank you lyrics websites all these years later for allowing me to correctly sing all of the right words in perfect pitch.

#3

“Dreams” album: 5150 (1986)

Favorite lyric: “And in the end on dreams we will depend. ‘Cause that’s what love is made of.”

Who’s out there screaming: “what??!!” Lol. If you’re all Dave and no Sammy then this list continues to disappoint you. I have equal appreciation for both lead singers though I do lean DLR. But I have to give Sammy his due and this song as well. From the synth intro to the tempo of the song to Sammy’s vocals to Eddie’s solo, this would be my favorite Sammy-era Van Halen song. Just the short Eddie solo from 4:04 to the 4:17 mark conjures up the air guitarist in me.

#2

“Jump” album: 1984

Favorite lyric: “And I know, baby, just how you feel. You got to roll with the punches and get to what’s real.”

Possibly the most iconic keyboard intro of all-time. They play it before the jump ball at basketball games. Sure it’s one of the most played 80’s songs ever, but for good reason I tell you! If this song comes on the radio, I rarely turn it. It never gets old to me. The video features Dave at his jumpiest. So flexible. I’m the anti-Dave when it comes to flexibility… even back when I was 13.

I don’t know who created this of Eddie, but go ahead and jump!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 121450108_10223687832521088_1134958548982448136_o.jpg

Honorable mention goes to: “Mean Street,” “Everybody Wants Some,” and “When It’s Love.”

And at…

#1

“Unchained” album: Fair Warning (1981)

Favorite lyric: “Non-stop talker, what a rocker! Blue-eyed murder in a size five dress.”

No real surprise to many I’d say, but I didn’t even know about this song until sometime post 1983 or 84 once I started back-tracking and listening to older Van Halen albums. So I’m not sure when I first heard this song, but I guarantee you when I did I was in as much awe of it as I am to this day. It has everything – a badass intro, Dave screaming, a cool chorus, Eddie’s short solo at the 1:49 mark, Dave’s playful banter… hey, hey, hey, one break coming up!

There you have it. My always subject to change top 11 favorite Van Halen songs from just the 80’s. As always, thanks for checking in.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“When It’s Love…”

“Hey, it lasts forever.” – Van Halen

Whose Guitar? A History Of The Most Famous Guitars & Guitarists
EVH 1955-2020

The last time I wrote a post featuring my favorite band of all-time was 2018 when I wrote about messy relationships. Now, two plus years later, I find myself paying tribute once again while reflecting upon the life and death of the great musical virtuoso, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen.

Passing away at the age of 65 from cancer, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting and reading what others have been saying and writing about this talented man. It’s left me with questions though like why does it matter so much? To clarify, why does it matter so much to someone like me (and the thousands of others) who wasn’t family or a friend or even an acquaintance? Why does his life and legacy mean so much to so many people who knew him only as a legendary guitar player for one of the best rock bands of all-time? Did we learn anything from him besides imitating his finger-tapping techniques, his pick slides, or his use of the whammy bar?

I don’t think Eddie’s life matters so much because he was a great guitar player or because of those 15-30 second bursts of fingertip magic. It’s really because of how those riffs and melodies and lyrics and how that collective sound of Van Halen music made us feel. His music penetrated many of us to our very core. Eddie’s talent transcended music in the same way that Michael Jordan’s artistry transcended basketball. You didn’t have to know anything about basketball to know that you were witnessing a rare form of greatness with Jordan. Just the same, you didn’t need to understand scales or chords or guitar types to know you were witnessing another form of artistic greatness when Eddie Van Halen held that musical axe in his hands. The sounds had meaning whether we understood it on a technical level or whether it just somehow made sense. The music he created caused us to act, sometimes reflect, or sometimes it just made us more aware of the moment we were in. And that’s what the best music does – it causes you to feel something.

Eddie was the pride of many as the son of Dutch and Indonesian immigrants. Knowing very little English when the family located to Pasadena, CA in 1962, the Van Halen brothers lived an American success story. Eddie was bullied as a child because of his mixed-race appearance, because of his low socio-economic status, and because he sounded different and wasn’t fluent in English. So instead of becoming bitter and angry, bullied child pours his time into music thanks to the love of music his parents possessed. Bullied child then becomes a guitar maestro and along with his brother Alex banging away on the skins form a few different variations of Van Halen until the they come across a young Jewish teen named David Lee Roth in 1972 who was nearly the vocal version of Eddie’s guitar riffs. It was Roth who suggested they change the name of their band from Mammoth to Van Halen in 1974.

Of course, many are familiar with the variations of Van Halen through the years – with David Lee Roth on vocals until 1985, then with Sammy Hagar until 1996, back to Dave briefly in 1996, then Gary Cherone from 1996 to 1999. Back to Sammy from ’03 to ’05, and then finally back to Dave in 2006. And oh yeah, bassist Michael Anthony being replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen in 2006 just added to the dysfunction of the Van Halen band family. But families are messy and one could argue that family dysfunction is just another normal when it comes to any kind of family definition.

My first taste of Van Halen was as a pre-teen when I lived in Seminole, Oklahoma. My first Van Halen tape was actually 1982’s “Diver Down.” I knew very little of VH I, II, Fair Warning, or Women and Children First albums. I purchased the “Diver Down” cassette as part of one of those Columbia House 6 tapes for 1 penny promotions that suckered you into paying full price for four more over the next year or two. So for the longest time, the only Van Halen music I owned was “Diver Down,” which was the album that was rushed and included five covers out of the 12 songs. Vintage Van Halen it was not, but nonetheless, 12 year old Kyle was still hooked by the Van Halen sound even if I knew very little of the glorious riches I was to hear in the coming days, weeks, and years.

For my claim to Van Halen being my all-time favorite band, I only saw them perform live one measly time. That stat alone will probably disqualify me from being some sort of super fan like a few of my friends that have seen Van Halen 10’s of 20’s of times, own VH memorabilia, and know every lyric to every David Lee Roth fronted Van Halen song. For whatever reason – timing, finances, location, etc., I never saw the original four play together, and like I mentioned, was only able to see the band one time – on their 2012 “Different Kind of Truth” tour. David Lee Roth was back in as lead singer, but young Wolfgang Van Halen was playing bass instead of Michael Anthony. So like everyone since pre-1985, I was left with viewing 3/4 of the original Van Halen lineup. Even though the war will always rage of Dave vs. Sammy, everyone knows that the heart of Van Halen was truly Eddie and to some extent his underrated big brother, Alex.

I paid $150 for a ticket to that concert in 2012. Kool and the Gang (another band I love) opened for Van Halen that night at the BOK Center in Tulsa, and I still have a few videos stored away including this one of Eddie and a partial portion of his legendary solo “Eruption.”

“You look at every face in a crowd. Some shine and some keep you guessin.'”

In 1988, Van Halen’s second album with lead singer Sammy Hagar called “OU812” was released. The album wasn’t as good as 1986’s “5150,” which completed the transformation from hard rock Van Halen into pop rock superstardom, but Eddie said in an interview one time that the band was more comfortable with each other by this time and the album came out easier than “5150” did.

By this time, Eddie Van Halen had been married to actress Valerie Bertinelli for about seven years and had downshifted slightly from a balls-out, wailing gunslinger to a more refined and controlled master of his craft. If he needed to shred, he just need open that box back up, but by the mid to late 80’s, Van Halen had morphed into a more well-rounded Billboard hit-making machine thanks largely to Eddie’s creativeness as well as the stronger vocal chops by frontman Sammy Hagar who had replaced David Lee Roth in 1985. The keyboard sound of the 80’s resonated through many a Van Halen lick while Eddie still managed to find time to showcase his guitar talent.

“Waiting for someone to come into focus. Teach you your final love lesson”

I chose this video not because it’s my all-time favorite Van Halen song (it’s not even in my top 10), nor is it a favorite Eddie solo of mine. I basically chose it because of the message the song conveys and the fact that it showcases a wide range of Eddie’s immense talent. Sure, there’s a nice guitar riff per usual Eddie, but there’s also the beautiful keyboard arrangement he performs, as well as his complimentary backing vocals, which are typically credited more to bassist Michael Anthony. Nonetheless, Eddie’s voice always blended nicely with Michael Anthony’s and together they helped create the Van Halen backing vocals, another key component in their timeless music.

Growing up, this song was always just this rock ballad to me about finding your soulmate and the lifelong love that would accompany it. However, just watching the video again for the first time in 30+ years, reading the lyrics, and thinking about the bigger picture in life, this song is much more. In a way, the music of Eddie Van Halen is love. It’s his love that he gifted to generations of fans around the world.

Many of us that longed for a reunion of the original four members plus Sammy for one big Van Halen tour were pissed that Eddie never seemed to acquiesce to the idea. And mind you if Eddie wanted it to happen, it would have happened. We thought ‘quit being selfish! Get it together Eddie, and give the fans what they want!’ Well, in hindsight, Eddie was anything but selfish. He gave us his soul. He gave us his heart and he gave us his love until he had nothing left.

So, I’ll ask again – did we learn anything from Edward Van Halen? If anything, I would say Eddie’s music reminds us to give, to share, to love, and to never take for granted the artistic talent that surrounds us everyday. Because when it’s love that you’re giving, when it’s Eddie’s love and Eddie’s gift to the world, it will definitely last forever.

Hitting #1 on the Mainstream Rock charts, #5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and music that will last forever, here is “When It’s Love”…

R.I.P. Eddie, and thank you.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“I Know That I Must Do What’s Right”

“As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.” – Toto

Toto in 1982

Today’s short video-laden post is a tribute to a song and some of the most peculiar, fun-to-sing lyrics in 80’s music lore. If you were ever to ask me to name my favorite lyric of the 80’s, the one above would surely be in my top two or three. I just figure if you can somehow manage to incorporate “Kilimanjaro,” “Olympus,” and “Serengeti” into one line of a song (a Billboard #1 hit at that), then props to you for one of the most original lines in pop music history no matter if the rest of the band likes it or not.

While doing research for this post, I also stumbled across the “Toto Forever” project created by (I presume a big Toto fan) a man named Max Siedentopf in 2019.

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Siedentopf created a solar powered display somewhere in the Namib Desert which extends along the coastal plain of western Namibia. The setup had Toto’s “Africa” playing on repeat. I have no idea if the song is still playing on repeat or the display even still exists with all of the sand storms that blow in the Namib Desert, but just the thought of stumbling upon this piece of artwork in the middle of a desert in Africa makes me almost want to travel there to find it. You know, if travel to other continents was still a thing amidst this 2020 pandemic.

“She’s coming in, 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation.”

Of course, I always thought I’d save this song and use it after a trip to Africa a’la Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell from about four years ago…

So predictable though, right? Instead I decided to write about the song after my sister sent me the following video of my cute nephew and niece and their “Africa” interpretive dance. I’ve already posted about my nephew Keller in a previous Halloween post from two years ago, but I knew when my sister sent me this video that it constituted another post featuring him along with a dancing assist from his younger sister, Sylvie.

“Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say, “Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you”

“I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had (ooh, ooh)”

This song almost didn’t make it onto Toto’s 1982 album “Toto IV.” If you believe Wiki, this was the last song added to the album, but ironically remains Toto’s only #1 hit. Written by band members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, it was the band’s third single from the album and peaked at #1 for one week back in February of 1983. The famous line featuring “Olympus” and “Kilimanjaro,” and “Serengeti” was just a “goofy” placeholder according to Porcaro and bandmate Steve Lukather. 

Regardless, the lyric will be forever etched in my brain as well as my other 80’s fans across the world and even to those who may have accidentally stumbled across the Toto Forever project in the Namib Desert. Here is the video directed by Steve Barron about a man’s love for the continent of “Africa.” Co-writer and initial creator of the song David Paich plays the researcher in the library…

If you just haven’t had enough “Africa” in this post already, then you can check out Weezer’s version from 2018 when a fan vote caused the alternative band to perform their own cover of Toto’s classic. It reached #51 on the Hot 100 chart, but #1 on the Billboard Alternative songs chart becoming the band’s first #1 since its’ 2008 hit “Pork and Beans.” As an added 80’s bonus, the video features 80’s legend Weird Al Yankovic…

Thanks for checking in!

sincerely,

the 80’s

Ahh, you know I wasn’t going to let this post finish up without my own rendition of my nephew’s dance did you (with an assist in the foreground to my wife)? It’s not near as cute, but it still was a lot of fun!

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“Do You Remember the 21st Night of September?”

“Love was changin’ the minds of pretenders.” – Earth, Wind, & Fire

For Earth, Wind & Fire, there's always 'September'

I don’t think I ever realized that lead singer Maurice White was singing “the 21st night of September” in Earth, Wind, & Fire’s iconic song “September.” Apparently he is, and now I know. And now you know if you didn’t already.

I started this post three days prior on September 18th – my mom’s 74th birthday. I started writing this just hours after visiting her and my dad at their assisted living facility in Rogers, Arkansas. I brought her some birthday cake and flowers and a card and some funny stories to lighten the mood for 30 minutes. If you’ve read any past posts then you know my dad is 80 and not in great shape physically and not quite 100% mentally sharp either. On the other hand, my mom is in good physical shape, but she’s suffering from dementia and that. is. the. worst.

“The bell was ringing, aha. Our souls were singing. Do you remember? Never a cloudy day.

She doesn’t remember. Well, maybe she remembers some, but all of her days are cloudy now. It’s a brain cloud that refuses to let go its’ ugly grip and let the sun in. Whatever is stuck in there from the past remains in there for the time being. Names and faces of family and some longtime friends still reside in her brain. There are a few stories in there as well. She tries to hide her memory shortcomings by not saying much. I bet she remembers very little of these past three years since I moved them here from Norman, Oklahoma, and it’s sad. It’s heartbreaking. It’s frustrating. Dementia is fucking awful.

And my poor dad who has to witness the fits of anger, the uncontrollable crying, and the repetitive questions minute after minute, hour after hour, twenty-four hours a day. It must be exhausting, and I know from my conversations with him that it is. I can hear it in his voice every time we speak on the phone. I can see it in his eyes the few times we’ve actually been together since the pandemic starting shutting things down.

COVID prevents me from going over whenever I want, which just adds to the hardship. It was only recently that I was even allowed to visit which helps a little, but I can’t really do anything. I can schedule a 45 minute appointment to visit them in a common area within the facility on one of three days every week. I have to tell my mom five or ten times that ‘yes, I’ve seen their apartment, and no, I can’t go up and see it until it’s safer.’ I can see the confusion on her face. I think masks and COVID are a new thing everyday. I can also travel and meet them at doctor appointments, but the point is that it has been a hard time on all of us since everything went crazy in mid-March.

“Ba de ya – say do you remember
Ba de ya – dancing in September
Ba de ya – golden dreams were shiny days”

I know this isn’t an 80’s song, but it’s upbeat and fun, and hell this would be the most depressing post of all-time if I decided on Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years,” or Echo and the Bunnymen with “The Killing Moon,” or how about Chicago’s “Look Away.” My goal is not to make you think about dementia and then want to kill yourself. My only goal is to release some of the pent up pain within which maybe some of you can relate to. I can put a pretty, happy bow at the end of a post. I can’t do the same thing in real life.

My sympathies to those of you that have already travelled my road, are just starting the journey, or are somewhere in between like me. There cannot be many worse things I can think of than slowly losing your mind, but on the list is definitely those caretakers that have to helplessly watch it occur.

So free your mind for the next three minutes and thirty-five seconds. Enjoy the funky 70’s clothing, the late 70’s psychedelic graphics and a song that features some nonsensical lyrics like “Ba de ya” and “ba duda, ba duda, ba duda ba duda.” Enjoy the cooler temps if you’re in a part of the world like I am where fall is starting to show its’ loveliness, and just reflect on some golden dreams and shiny days of past Septembers as you groove to this November 1978 release that made it to #1 on the R&B charts and #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 – “September.”

Thanks for reading and let’s find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Mom and I, birthday time September 1978 or 79.
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“Step Inside. Walk This Way”

You and me babe. Hey! Hey!” – Def Leppard

Sometimes these little combinations of letters that form words can be insufficient.  I wish I could adequately describe how I see you.  At this stage of life, you’re more beautiful than ever.  Of course, I see you right now – bashfully shaking your head in objection, asking why I would say that, trying to deflect the compliment, thinking of all the things you haven’t done right.  But you represent a beautiful portrayal for a life, for my life.  You’re an unwavering soul of God’s love poured out into this world.  Perfect?  None of us fit that description, but your imperfection is what makes life with you so worthwhile.   

Time can feel like a rapid descent down a children’s slide.  While some only focus on the rapidly approaching destination, you enjoy the ride – hands raised and free.  You live in the moment, and I love that about you.  For over 20 years that I have known you, you never miss an opportunity to say I love you or an opportunity to say something nice to someone.  You never miss an opportunity to impart some words of comfort, to show empathy, or even to instruct others.  You go out of your way and you love unselfishly hard.  You are unapologetically affectionate.  You hurt just as hard too.  You feel.  Your emotions tag along on the surface and match your intensity.   

Slide, slide, slippity-slide.

But you have this wonderful smile.  A perfect smile.  It’s a smile that says I’m happy; that says I see you.  A smile that says you make me happy and one that says welcome.  You have these ocean blue eyes that I’m convinced can see into souls.  They may not like what they see, but they look for the best in people.  Those same eyes also pierce hearts and reflect everyday beauty.   

You have passion.  Passion for your husband and daughter.  Passion for your friends and family.  Just being you is enough.  It may not feel like it sometimes.  Your occasional feelings of unworthiness and unbelonging are deceptive lies.  I see your contributions to marriage, to parenthood, to friendship, to family, to society and I appreciate them as do others. 

You’re strange and quirky and cool and nerdy.  You’re fashionable and sexy, fun and adventurous.  You have your mom’s servant spirit and your dad’s boldness.  You love your Jesus and He loves you.  Thank you for your heart and your eyes and your smile and your soul.  Words are not always sufficient at timeline points in our lives, but I know one thing – you are.     

“Listen! red light, yellow light, green-a-light go! Crazy little woman in a one man show”

Now, my wife is well aware of my affinity for 80’s music and I’ve won her over on quite a bit of the stuff I listened to growing up including this English rock band formed in 1977. We’ve seen them twice in concert over the years including two years ago in Denver. So, to celebrate my crazy little woman, here is one our favorites – Def Leppard’s 1987 #2 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 – “Pour Some Sugar on Me”

And here is the 2018 sing-along version with my wife and I on the field at Coors Field in Denver, CO on a beautiful July evening.

Happy birthday to my wife!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Lately I’ve Been Running on Faith”

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“What else is a poor boy to do?” – Eric Clapton

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “Mere Christianity” that “faith is the ability to hold onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” Changing moods may be the theme of 2020. I know my moods have swung from pure joy to head-shaking grief. From anger and fear and disgust to love and grace and empathy. And like any normal person, those moods can change from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

Mere Christianity” is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ll pick it up from time to time and just a read a chapter or two. I’d highly recommend it if you’ve never read it before and especially if you’re struggling or have ever struggled spiritually. Recently, I was drawn into chapters 11 & 12 again, which are both on the topic of faith.

Faith requires energy and intentionality and effort. It’s a constant battle, and the battle, to quote Mr. Lewis again, “is between faith and reason on one side, and emotion and imagination on the other.” Lewis even makes a point that it takes energy and effort to have faith as an atheist (of which he was one for part of his life); to remain true to your beliefs as an atheist against signs and wonders and historical facts that Christians point to in their case for Christianity.

“Lately I’ve been talking in my sleep. I can’t imagine what I’d have to say.”

For someone that has over 100 posts on this site, it’s hard for me to imagine that I have much to say, but maybe I do. Granted some of my posts are fluff pieces or just reiterations of stories from the past, but I’m also not going to knock my persistence or my ability to churn out pieces especially when I didn’t feel like writing. There are certainly those times I’m banging away at the keyboard that help me grow as an individual like the recent six-part Summer Mixtape Revisited series which was intended to amplify the struggles, thoughts, and aspirations of our fellow black brothers and sisters.

Of course there are times when my faith is tested or when it feels like it is in neutral – lacking that energy and intentionality I mentioned earlier. Shame creeps in asking why I don’t have more faith. It is those times that I am thankful for my wife and my family and my friends and my God. It’s them who brings that light into the darkness, is the sign on the road, or just the inspiration to draw from. For that I am extremely thankful.

I’m sure I’m not alone in running on faith during this time. Hell, it takes faith just to go to the grocery store during Covid 2020, and I know that it’s going to continue to take effort and time and focus to refill that faith tank as we approach the last quarter of the year. I hope you have something or someone that helps refill your faith tank during this time be it friends or faith or maybe it’s just a song by Eric Clapton. God knows we all need it.

“Then we’d go running on faith. All of our dreams would come true. And our world will be right when love comes over me and you.”

Unless you’re a big Eric Clapton fan, not many will realize this song was released in November of 1989 off of his “Journeyman” album. For me (and probably countless others), it entered my consciousness in 1992 when Eric Clapton appeared on MTV and subsequently released his “Eric Clapton Unplugged” album. That album sold over 26 million worldwide and earned Clapton six Grammy awards including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year (Tears in Heaven), Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Rock Male Vocal Performance and Best Rock Song. The dude killed it with this album further solidifying himself as one of the greatest musicians of all time.

I remember being a sophomore in college in 1991 as my friend Trey, holding an Eric Clapton poster in his hands, stared directly into my old VHS camcorder while emphatically announcing “Clapton is a god!” From the MTV unplugged early days circa 1992, here is that guitar slaying god running on faith then, and most surely in 2020 as well.

Thanks for reading, and our world may never be perfect, but it’s always much better when love comes over me and you.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Reading from The Good Book, Christmas time early 80’s.
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“Feeding on Your Hungry Eyes”

“I bet you’re not so civilized.” – Patty Smyth (Scandal)

Scandal Feat. Patty Smyth: The Warrior (Video 1984) - IMDb

Warning:  A post for “old people.”  Seriously.  When you start reading this you’re going to say ‘he was right,’ and then think to yourself ‘how old is this guy?’  But chances are if you’re reading this then you’re right in the perfect wheelhouse age-wise, or maybe you just accidentally stumbled across it going down an internet rabbit-hole.  Hold that animal theme, and here’s why:

I have a recent fascination with birds (see I told you – old people post dead ahead).  Over the last month, I have purchased four bird feeders.  I have purchased numerous amounts of feed.  I’ve studied different types of seed and feeders – colors, designs, materials.  I’ve read articles about bird feeders and food, and downloaded apps (two of them) onto my iPhone to help identify birds.  One app has a feature like Shazam (the app that listens to a song and identifies the name and artist) and will identify the bird by listening to it sing/chirp.  Tell me that’s not cool!  I dare you.  So this is where you’re free to join my wife and daughter and yell “bird nerd!”  Well, I for one am about to crack open a beer and tell Alexa to play “Freebird.”  So go right ahead reader – scoff if you must.

But I tell you this – bird watching is relaxing.  It’s peaceful.  It’s fascinating.  We have blue jays and cardinals and mourning doves, and thrashers and sparrows and a whole city of wrens that come visit.  They have their own unique sounds and hierarchy and movements.  We have four hummingbird feeders as well just for good measure.  Those four help feed one very happy hummer who’s going to be the size of a Turdus migratorius when it’s time to migrate further south for the winter.  Oh, and that’s just a fancy way (or is it? Turdus?) of saying American Robin.

“Oh, who’s the hunter, who’s the game.  I feel the beat call your name.” 

Well every good bird story is not without its’ antagonist(s).  And in

I felt someone watching me. Looked up from my computer and saw a ...

this case, there are a few to this story.  It’s the occasional feral cat creeping through the bushes and pouncing on an unsuspecting blue jay for a late afternoon snack.  Sometimes it’s the neighborhood raccoon under cover of night stealing the apparently delicious black oil sunflower seeds I set out.  I see you raccoon.  I have a security camera.

Mostly though it’s the band of four-legged, furry-tailed punks (you punks stay off my lawn!) that have no manners nor respect for property.  They are sometimes referred to as “cute” and “clever.”  But you know what?  They’re neither.  They’re sneaky little devils traipsing across the top of my fence leisurely like acrobats practicing on high wires.  They rob the birds of the food I paid for.  Hey you little scavengers, I didn’t buy you food!

And it’s those little furry beasts that led me to Walmart to purchase my very first official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.  So, yes, I sit out on my back porch mornings and evenings just waiting for those little gremlins to come crawling over the fence in search of the delicious black oil sunflower seeds so I can pop them like little Ralphie shooting Black Bart in “A Christmas Story.”       Red Ryder Christmas Story Quotes. QuotesGram | 1 Quotes

 

They like to leap from the fence onto our “bird condo” (below left) that my wife purchased a few years ago.  I call it a condo, because look how big it is!  It’s where the larger birds go to feast.  I even had to chase a cat out of there one day who was just hanging out sunning himself.  I learned that we placed our bird condo too close to the fence, but it’s not moving anytime soon.  I cemented that post into the ground so that sucker is not going anywhere.  We also provide housing as you can see below right.

So to recap:  I like birds.  I watch them eat and fly and frolic in the yard.  I listen to them communicate and I observe as they land on the feeders I’ve laid out for them, and watch them feast on the seed I’ve provided.    

The squirrels are my sworn enemy.  Bunch of little Johnny Ringo’s with tails running around taking what they please.  Well, squirrels, I’m your Huckleberry.  

kkshootemup

“Shooting at the walls of heartache bang, bang.  I am the warrior.”

Sure, if this website was sincerelythe90s, I would probably be featuring the Squirrel Nut Zippers band instead.  But, it’s the glorious 80’s and this post was a good reason for me to feature one of my all-time favorite 80’s songs.

If you like videos that resemble strange apocalyptic ballets then maybe this is right in your lane.  It’s a bizarre video sure, but Patty Smyth rocks despite all the weird clothes and paint on her face.  A couple of interesting facts about Smyth that most 80’s music lovers know:  1. Smyth is married to former tennis great/badboy John McEnroe since 1997.  2. She earned an invite to be the lead singer of Van Halen by Eddie Van Halen himself after David Lee Roth’s departure.

Patty Smyth Regrets Turning Down Offer To Join Van Halen

She turned Eddie and the band down (regretfully).  But this song featured today remains one of the quintessential 80’s classics.  Released 36 years ago this month and peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, it is Scandal featuring Patty Smyth with “The Warrior.”

“Yes, I am the warrior.  And victory is mine…” (squirrels)

sincerely the 80’s

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