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It’s been a bit. How are you? How have you been? Well? Well-ish? Life has consumed me, but I need to start blogging again.

Well, crap on a cracker, but what a sad reason to return.

Sunday we lost Chris Squire.

Squire in concert

Squire in concert

For those of you who don’t know who Chris Squire is– I am deeply sorry. That is a shame. Because you’ll never see him, tall, with a swagger, a soaring voice, and, most of all, a commanding bass guitar. Chris Squire was quite simply the bass player that broke all the rules, the guy that other bassists looked up to. Most people think of the bass as a rhythm instrument, working in tandem with the drums. Squire taught us differently. Not content to be back ground scenery, he threw off the bass player wall flower persona and rocked. If anyone helped give birth to what is today Progressive Rock it was Squire. Aside from Yes, only Genesis can claim to share the mantle to such a degree. Okay, I’ll give an honorable mention to King Crimson if only to keep Bill Bruford from hunting me down and taking direct action.

Bands as varied as Marillion, Dream Theater, Queensryche, Asia, Kansas, Opeth, Muse, Hawkwind, and the Alan Parsons Project owe Yes a huge debt. Talk about doing the heavy lifting.

The man could rock a cape.

The man could rock a cape.

The thing is, as amazing as the music is, and the music IS amazing. The greatest loss is in terms of the person. And by that I mean, personal time, friendships, those sweet intimate moments that string together a life. It’s the barbecues, the hugs, the tears, and the laughter that make up a person. Now, I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Squire, but I went to… fifteen, eighteen, twenty? Yes concerts: Big Generator, Union, Talk, Learning to Fly, lots of shows. I got to watch him work, no, play on stage many times. The joy and delight he exuded was plain to see. I cannot help but believe that the camaraderie there extended to other areas of his life. I could be wrong but at a guess I would say that whatever the deprivation to his fans and the musical world in general, the blow to family and friends is even more devastating. And I am so sorry for that loss. So incredibly sad.

All that beautiful, lovely music silenced. I cannot believe that there will never be just one more magical summer night. Just one more. Please.

For those remembering Chris or learning of his music for the first time, here are two of my favorite Chris Squire memories from concerts I attended. First, from the Union Tour in 1991, The Heart of The Sunrise featuring his signature driving bass and masterful solo. On the reunion tour Yes featured two drummers, two guitar players, two keyboard players, plus their lead singer– but just one bass player. That was all they ever needed. The second piece is from one of my favorite Yes albums, 1994’s Talk. An underrated record, please enjoy the very lovely I Am Waiting which will always invoke for me gorgeous melodies floating in starlight.

Chris– Every step forward we will be missing you. Our Fish Out of Water. I don’t want you to rest in peace- I hope a part of you still sings with us. Now and always. Love you.

 

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.

 

Erika Gardner

Erika Gardner

 

I shudder just typing the phrase “fo’ shizzle,” but then I used to shudder whenever anyone used it. However, those old enough to remember can likely guess our next decade of songs to review and rank.

The 2000’s definitely held some bright points in music. Grunge took its place in musical history. At last, soaring guitars with clean solos could be heard throughout the land. And exhale, thank heavens. Also, it was a much better decade for women. Evanescence, Nightwish, White Strips, SilverSun Pick-ups all boast women in their ranks. So refreshing.

Once again, we’ll be listing the top ten most awesome heavy metal/hard rock songs in chronological order. This is NOT order of preference, just a way of organizing the piece. And, as it’s been a few weeks since I posted, please remember, my list-my-blog-my picks. You can create your own list. Trust me, there’s enough Internet to spare.

As per usual pop, hip-hop, rap… y’all just move along to the next site down. Nothing for you here.

The return of guitar.

The return of guitar.

1.) Brave New World by Iron Maiden- the title track from their May 2000 album. The intro is lyrically gorgeous, the chorus is driving, soaring, and great to run to. One of my favorite Maiden albums.

2.) In The End– The possibilities glimpsed in 1990 with Epic by Faith No More of a marriage between rap and metal were realized to their full fruition in October 2001 with the release of Linkin Park’s fourth single, In The End, off their album, Hybrid Theory.

3.) Bring Me to Life– the epic from Evanescence off their debut album, Fallen, released April 2003. My daughter, Anna, was born the same month and I used to catch the video on late night while nursing.

4.) Seven Nation Army- April 2003 was a very good month in music. The distinctive guitar line was the brain child of the White Stripes off their fourth album, Elephant.

5.) Nemo by Nightwish- This track off the June 2004 Once would make my Top Ten of all time. It is haunting. Tarja’s vocals are simply off the charts. My sympathies to Annette and Floor having to follow up that woman.

6.) The Haunting by Kamelot- God bless Kamelot. They’ve been around a long time, always just shy of the overwhelming mainstream success their passionate brand of music deserves. There were a ton of great songs to choose from, but in the end I chose this September 2005 gem off their The Black Halo album.

7.) Pretender by the Foo Fighters’ – One of the Foos’ most passionate offerings arrived via Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace in  August 2007.

8.) Panic Switch by the Silversun Pickups from their April 2009 release, Swoon. Another band with a female member, their bass player has changed through the years, but over the course of the band’s history is a woman.

9.) Bible Black– Many know Heaven and Hell as one of Black Sabbath’s greatest albums and the debut of Ronnie James Dio into the band. However, from 2006 until Dio’s tragic death in May of 2010 this line-up of Sabbath toured as Heaven and Hell. In March 2009 they premiered this song, Bible Song, from their album, The Devil You Know. Yep, Dio makes the list again. What can I say? I’m a fan.

10.) Uprising by Muse- This is an interesting song. It, like a couple others on the list, is really more of an alternative track, but it still rocks. Hence, its inclusion here. It’s from their September 2009 offering The Resistance.

Well, there you have it. My favorites for the 2000’s. Other lists need not apply.

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.

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.

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