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It was a time of flannel, cardigans from Good Will, and combat boots. The skies were gray-like, always- even in California. The music held angst. Musicians seemed to take pride in only knowing three chords. People emphasized the emotion, dude, not the musicianship. Except, the emotions expressed proved to be dark, disturbing, and slightly damp. Ugh.

Can a decade be moldy?

Okay, I exaggerate. While I found great joy in the nineties: I hooked up with the right guy (he was under my nose the whole time), graduated college, got married, bought my first house, and gave birth to my first child, the music scene felt dire.

When I say dire, I mean sucking away my joy and will to live. Bleak. Pretentious. Worst of all? No clean, soaring guitar riffs, well, not many. In a word? Rough.

However, I tend to veer to the positive, so while I bewail the nineties from a musical perspective, they remain great years. Naturally, one cannot exist through ten years without stumbling upon a gem here and there. In my humble opinion, I have gathered some of those gems below.

imagesnineties

As stated in my earlier blog, The Eighties Called, please do not go searching for your boy bands, your pop princesses here. Google is a wonderful tool- your Top Forty Shangri-La exists out there, somewhere. My tastes run the scope of musical genres, but my heart belongs to rock and metal with a dash of progressive. You will not find The Spice Girls here. No bueno.

No matter how dark the night, light (or in this case decent rock music) will find a way into your heart. Amongst the coffee fueled wasteland emerged beacons of hope. Here are a few.

Based on a follower’s suggestion I have ordered my Top Ten in chronological order:

1.) July, 1991 Enter Sandman by Metallica from their Black Album. Just killer.

2.) October, 1991, The Show Must Go On by Queen off their album Innuedo- the single came out just six weeks before Freddie Mercury’s untimely death of AIDS. Brian May actually wrote the song after watching his bandmate struggling with the disease. When the band was recording the album in 1990 May wasn’t even sure that Freddie would physically be able to complete the necessary vocal. When he said as much to Mercury, the singer said, “I’ll fucking do it, darling,” slammed a shot of vodka and went into the booth and (in May’s words), “killed that vocal.”

3.) December 1991, Operation Spirit by Live from their debut album Mental Jewelry- probably the song that best sums up my religious views, see verse two. And with respect, that is that.

4.) May, 1992, Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden, the title track of that year’s album– and an awesome album it is.

5.) June, 1992, I by Black Sabbath from the album Dehumanizer which reunited at long last riff master Iommi with vocal god Ronnie James Dio.

6.) May, 1993, Mother by Danzig from their EP Thrall: Demonsweatlive- I am sort of cheating here. Actually, Mother was first released in 1988 as a response to The Parents Resource Center and Tipper Gore’s ridiculous album parental advisory system. When Danzig released the remixed version in 1993, it became a metal hit in a time that belonged to rap and grunge, reaching number 17 on the Billboard charts in the US.

7.) August, 1995, The Hall of The Mountain King by Rainbow from the last album to feature Ritchie Blackmore in full rock regalia, as God intended, A Stranger In Us All. The album didn’t do as well commercially as well, anyone, wanted and Blackmore disappeared into the world of renaissance acoustics to sulk. Like most of his fans, I keep hoping for a recovery from this clear case of losing one’s flipping mind. Until then a true rock god travels Europe wasting his talent.

8.) October, 1995, Flood by Jars of Clay from their self-titled debut- Christian rock’s finest moment, no seriously, amazing song. No offense, Stryper.

9.) August, 1998, Dragula by Rob Zombie from his first solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe- I was torn here. I mean, I love More Human Than Human by his group, White Zombie, too. This is the stronger song though.

10.) November, 1998, The Kids Aren’t Alright by The Offspring off Americana- These guys were such a bright light in the Nineties. Their passion carried their music in a way that the dirges of grunge could never ignite my soul. But, hey, that’s a punk inspiration for you.

Honorable Mentions:

1.) February, 1992, Right Now by Van Halen (or Van Hagar depending on your musical political bent) from their album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge- Sorry, just a guilty pleasure. Can’t help myself. Gets me every time.

2.) September, 1992, Would? by Alice ‘N Chains from their mega-hit making album (it scored five singles), Dirt- sometimes even the enemy comes up with something brilliant.

So, there you have it, The Top Ten Rock Songs of the Nineties according to me. I realize that this list will look nothing like other lists on the web, but that’s because it’s my list. What songs would you put on your list?

The Nineties weren’t all bad pop culture-wise. They brought us Buffy. Next blog we look at the dawn of another decade and new rock- thank heavens!

 

Erika Gardner

Erika Gardner

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

I was speaking with a friend a couple of weeks back. We were discussing under rated songs. You know, the ones you loved, but they didn’t have the backing for the radio stations, MTV, Youtube- pick your poison- to pound them into the collective consciousness until they were the MEGA hits. She suggested that I put together a series of top ten lists for the decades.

At first I wasn’t sure. I mean, the Internet is literally crawling with these lists. What could I possibly add? So I started surfing. To my surprise for the genre that I loved the most, hard rock/heavy metal, the lists were disturbingly homogenous. I mean, it’s hardly news to tell an eighties rock fan that the song Mob Rules in fact rules, right?

Maybe there was room for another list. At the very least, I could add to your work out songs playlist.

I started examining my favorites. To be fair, my preferences line up pretty well with a lot of “greatest” lists. That’s when I thought, we started this because we were talking about under rated songs. Okay, I can do that. How about a top ten list that will look nothing like anyone else’s top ten? Equally valid in quality, just… different… other… fresh.

Now, how about a series of lists- by decade? Done.

I give you the Unconventional Top Ten. Just remember that for ME, quality means heavy metal or at least progressive rock. While not all songs will be metal they will at least skirt the prog rock/hard rock label. There will be no pop. Paula Abdul is the next blog down. Move along, top 40 people.

This week we’ll wander through the eighties, land of my youth, lots of big hair, and way too much Aquanet and eye-liner. Whatever you do, don’t light a match.

My list is mine. You people who lived through the eighties can make your own if you don’t like this one. If you didn’t live through it– just pipe down. I’ll never be able to explain the freedom and excess, the innocence of that decadent, happy time. We lived a pipe dream, of course. We just didn’t know it yet. That crashing realization came later. They called it the nineties. It was grim and that’s NEXT week.

I’m not ordering these. They are numbered for convention, but not ranked. It’s all a tie for first with the honorable mentions taking second. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s an original brew.

"Misplaced Childhood" by Marillion- possibly the greatest concept album ever.

“Misplaced Childhood” by Marillion- possibly the greatest under rated concept album ever.

1.) Kayleigh by Marillion from the 1985 album Misplaced Childhood. One of my all time favorite songs. We played it at my wedding- though I certainly hope I have a happier end to my love story than Kayleigh and Fish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Command

The Last Command

2.) Wild Child by W.A.S.P. from the 1985 album The Last Command- what can I say? It just rocks. Blackie Lawless did a lot to shock audiences, but at the end of the day he’s a pretty smart guy who always sought to entertain.

 

 

 

 

 

Joan Jett- proving rock doesn't discriminate on gender. Got that, boys???

Joan Jett- proving rock doesn’t discriminate on gender. Got that, boys???

3.) Do You Wanna Touch Me There? A 1984 cover by Joan Jett of the 1973 Gary Glitter classic. Thank God she covered it. Given his criminal record, if she hadn’t, a really good song would have been bundled up in the shame of its writer’s bad-shit craziness.

 

 

 

 

Sabbath: Butler, Iommi, Appice and Dio as God intended.

Sabbath: Butler, Dio, Iommi, and Appice as God intended.

4.) The Sign of The Southern Cross by Black Sabbath from the 1981 album Mob Rules. Ronnie James Dio’s soaring passionate vocal, Iommi’s godlike rifts, Butler’s unmistakable rhythms and signature backup vocals combined with Vinne Appice’s passionate blanket of thunder to make this a stand out song and album for any rock fan.

 

 

 

Long Way to Heaven by Helix

Long Way to Heaven by Helix

5.) Deep Cuts the Knife by Helix was a single off their 1985 album Long Way to Heaven. Most of Helix’s songs were good time party tunes, but this one packed a bit more emotional punch. Great song to run to, really great song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doro on stage in Germany

Doro on stage in Germany

6.) All We Are by Warlock from their 1987 album, Triumph and Agony.- I have to include a Warlock song on this list if only to celebrate their lead singer, Doro Pesch. Hugely popular in Europe, the band didn’t make the same kind of impact in the US. Doro was the first woman to front a band at the Monsters of Rock Festival in Donington, England. She performs to this day, one of the true women of metal. Love her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

90125album

90125album

7.) Changes by Yes off the seminal 1983 release 90125 (named for the album’s Atlantic records catalog number). Many of us owned this album and Owner of a Lonely Heart certainly dominated the airwaves at the time. Probably because I had such a crush on Trevor Rabin, this remains my favorite Yes song.

 

 

 

 

 

Y & T in their hey day

Y & T in their hey day

8.) Midnight in Tokyo-  While later albums would yield bigger hits for Y & T (think Summertime Girls) the albums of the early 80’s, ie Black Tiger and Mean Streak to me were the band’s best work. My favorite song comes from the 1983 album, Mean Streak.  The guitar, the driving rhythm section and passionate vocal from Dave Meniketti make Midnight in Tokyo the quintessential Y & T track.

 

 

 

Iron Maiden- so many great songs

Iron Maiden- so many great songs

9.) The Clairvoyant by Iron Maiden from 1988’s Seventh Son of A Seventh Son- Honestly, when it comes to Maiden, this could have been one of twenty, even thirty songs. Their catalog is just that deep, making choosing a real conundrum. This song has all the classic hallmarks one demands of Iron Maiden: the time changes, the intelligent concepts, the force and the speed of a metal great.

 

Operation Mindcrime

Operation Mindcrime

10.) Another 1988 album produced the song rounding out my Top Ten with Queensryche’s epic Eyes of a Stranger from the amazing Operation Mindcrime. It stands as the band’s greatest work to date. Layered in the complex progressive rock lies intelligent, insightful and biting commentary on Western Civilization in general and the United States in particular.

Honorable Mentions- Those songs that just missed my ten-way tie for first place include Too Late For Love by Def Leppard off their hugely successful Pyromania album and You Give Me All You Need by the Scorpions from another 80’s masterpiece, Blackout.

Okay, and there you have it. As they say on That Metal Show, other lists need not apply.  This is my Unconventional Top Ten of Eighties hard rock and heavy metal songs, with a little progressive thrown in for good measure. And yes… I know. I left off Priest, solo Dio, Aerosmith, Van Halen, so many good bands. The top ten lists demands tough choices, my friends.

Have a great week!

Erika Gardner

Erika Gardner

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

Another year, another Big Bike Build! As has become our tradition my family participated in the annual Bike Build in San Jose. Volunteers come together to assemble more than 2500 bikes. Charities’ trucks line up to give the bikes to underprivileged kids at Christmas. It’s a wonderful day. Here are some shots of this year’s fun- and of course- you should read the original blog and learn all about Turning Wheels For Kids.

Son David building an adorable Barbie bike!

Son David building an adorable Barbie bike!

 

Friend Tony helping on the same bike.

Friend Tony helping on the same bike.

 

My Better Half in the Tricycle Races.

My Better Half in the Tricycle Races.

 

He got third!

He got third!

 

This year's bikes- ready for happy kids!

This year’s bikes- ready for happy kids!

 

 

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

No, I didn’t drop off the end of the earth. No matter what certain religious groups will tell you, the earth is not flat. I just got busy… again.

Hope your Thanksgiving, or for those friends in other countries, your weekend went well. Greetings! I have had this song in the back of my mind to write about for some time.

The female species has been cajoled, bribed, bludgeoned, flattered, and manipulated into placing the emphasis on physical beauty over internal substance. Mind you, at certain points in history, men have too, or used other yardsticks: ability to throw a spear, crush heads with a rock, spitting, pissing, making money, pick your useless standard.

We make ourselves sick trying to capture an ideal of femininity that can never be achieved. Even those models in the magazines can’t get there- and that’s with hair, make-up and wardrobe crews. It requires the almighty Photoshop to warp reality into glossy covers. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17j5QzF3kqE

An even more illuminating experiment can be seen in the following video. Four “ordinary” women were asked to participate in an experiment. Have a professional photo shoot, complete with hair, make-up and wardrobe and THEN let the Photoshop wizards go to town.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRlpIkH3b5I

The reactions of the four after seeing their “Beautiful” photos is telling. “Once someone has directed your clothes, your hair, how your body looks and then taken away your imperfections, there’s not much left of who you really are.” Another remarked, “I like my freckles. I think that they add character. The fact that they’re gone– I don’t even know who that is.”

Exactly. Our imperfections define us, make us unique, special. Take dimples, for example. Dimples occur when you have facial muscles which do not work- causing “pits” as it were in one’s facial expressions. In fact, dimples are defined as:

Dimples are a facial muscle deformity.

Yet, we have accepted those failed muscles as a positive. We have found their beauty. They add a special loveliness to one’s expression. Likewise with freckles, well-defined brows, laugh lines, widow’s peaks, hips, and square jaws. If Photoshop is allowed to smooth these all away, how will we know ourselves?

We spend money, time, and energy trying to smooth these things away ourselves. Trying to reach an ideal that doesn’t exist, never existed, and can only exist inside a computer. And that is, by definition- not human. We are human, not perfect- and that’s okay. It’s even… imperfectly perfect.

For my daughters- Katie & Anna- Cause I like you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXoZLPSw8U8

“Try”

Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim
So they like you. Do they like you? Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong
So they like you. Do you like you? You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try Oh Get your shopping on,
At the mall,
Max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose,
Buy it all
So they like you. Do they like you? Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try

No
Oh

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try
You don’t have to try

Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
Cause I like you

Here I am in Maui with my family. I will never be a cover girl- even with Photoshop. I am a woman. I’ve borne three children. I live, I love, I eat. I have more curves that I used to. My nose is Roman, my jaw is square, my hair is wild, I am five feet tall (or short depending on your view point), and these things set me apart– in a good way.  Never hide your light. Spend less time obsessing over yourself and more time loving your sweeties. You don’t have to try so hard.

No Photoshop

No Photoshop

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

On July 1st I took my son, David, to see his first concert.  We saw Queen with Adam Lambert.  Sadly, it can never be the Queen of yesteryear.  Freddie Mercury left this world in 1991 and John Deacon retired from the band’s public life in 1997.  Friends say he was never the same after Freddie’s death.  So, needless to say, I did not go into this show with high expectations.  I simply hoped that my son would have a good time.

What a wonderful surprise!

Hats off to all the members of Queen and a huge ‘huzzah!’ to Adam Lambert.  I love Paul Rodgers, but I certainly sat and scratched my head when I heard he was fronting Queen. I mean, really?  On the other hand, Lambert (who first met members of Queen when he sang Bohemian Rhapsody with them during his time on American Idol) is stylistically and vocally a much better fit.  He’s hitting all those notes with power and passion, even the super high ones. Wow.

I didn’t realize when David and I went to see them that this tour was being billed as a salute to Freddie Mercury.  Apparently, Lambert is a huge fan himself.  And that was the most impressive part, while Lambert clearly adores the limelight, he was generous with the spotlight.  Twice he left the stage so that other members of the group, including Roger Taylor’s son, Rufus, could shine.  Lambert seems perfectly at ease with the place Mercury holds in the band and the fans’ hearts.  He celebrated Freddie and sang back and forth with Mercury’s recorded image on Bohemian Rhapsody to the delight of everyone present.  If you can get yourself out to see them- DO IT!

He’s not Freddie Mercury– no one is.  Yet, once again, Queen have a flamboyant, sexually ambiguous front man whose voice soars to the upper registers as he sings his ass off on stage.  Something in the universe seems right once more.

While the show held many high points for me, I think the most poignant was on Love of My Life.  This song was written by Mercury after his breakup with his long time girlfriend, Mary Austin (whom Brian May had introduced to him) and appeared on Queen’s 1975 album, A Night at The Opera.  As I said, I hadn’t realized that the band would be showcasing Freddie to the degree that they did, so the night held many surprises for me.

Love of My Life was performed in the past as a duet between Brian May and Mercury.  May had come up with a lovely acoustic arrangement and then of course Freddie took care of the vocals.  This evening, however, May sat alone and after complimenting “the new kid” asked the audience for their help filling Freddie’s shoes.  He asked us to sing to Freddie, to let him know we still loved him.

So we sang along, all of us.  It is always amazing to me how heartrendingly lovely thousands of voices raised in song are.  Lighters (or iPhones) alight and hands raised in heart shapes, it was a bittersweet moment.  And then, on the last stanza, came that rich voice, those amazing, pliant, soulful tones.  Freddie’s image was on the jumbotron and his voice filled the arena, reminding everyone anew what we had lost.  Everyone over the age of thirty-five bawled their eyes out.

So here it is, sing along, let Freddie know you still care.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USDANRZ5CKw

A Night at The Opera by Queen 1975

A Night at The Opera by Queen 1975

 

 

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.

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