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Lou Gramm Tag

We gather again at the Popdose dinner table this Thanksgiving to enjoy one another’s company, grub on some fine holiday vittles, and listen to our good friend Dave Lifton tell the story of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, excerpted from the diary he kept on the voyage. We’ve all eaten our fair share of Kelly’s Robyn-themed hors d’oeuvres (the “Cobrastyle” bruschetta rocked, but the “Indestructible” chicken fingers were a little tough), and look forward to Ken’s blessing, which, as I understand it, quotes liberally from “Thunder Road.” Oh, and I personally can’t wait for Jason’s acoustic rendition of “Colors of the Wind,” which of course explains why he’s dressed like Pocahontas.

And though I know everyone just wants to get down to the eatin’, I ask your indulgence once again, to allow me the opportunity to express my gratitude to all my Popdose brethren and sisteren—my virtual colleagues who have become real-life, analog friends. It is the greatest of pleasures to work with you, joke with you, debate with you, insult your mothers, receive your encouragement and withstand your good-natured insults about my baldness and love of REO Speedwagon. To you, I raise this glass of Buzzy Mary (V-8, vodka, and Frank’s hot sauce, on the rocks. Big ups to Lauren Markow, the bestest Jewish aunt I never had, for naming my concoction).

We’re going to end the letter G this week with a super post filled with great tunes and the Grateful Dead. Enjoy a ton of music as we continue our alphabetical trek through the rock end of the ’80s.

Giant
“Innocent Days” 1989, #11 (download)

This is a pretty brilliant track by the Huff brothers and Giant. I lamented about Giant back in the original Bottom Feeders series and how they were labeled both hard rock and glam of which they were neither. However, Last of the Runaways from which “Innocent Days” was from, had quite a few moments of brilliant pop-rock. I’m not sure they would have made it even if they weren’t mislabeled, but “Innocent Days” is a lost gem.

Gillan & Glover
“Telephone Box” 1988, #15 (download)

I have always kind of enjoyed “Telephone Box” by Deep Purple members Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. I’ve never heard Accidentally on Purpose, the one album credited to Gillan & Glover, However I do think that Deep Purple was one of the few classic rock bands that still had some fresh ideas in the ‘80s, so it’s not a surprise to me that this is a decent song. Sure it’s a little cheesy, but cheese is what the decade is about.

David Gilmour
“All Lovers Are Deranged” 1984, #10 (download)
“Murder” 1984, #14 (download)

About Face was David Gilmour’s only solo record in the ‘80s and is simply a wonderful listen. I’ve never been a fan of Pink Floyd and of course Gilmour’s voice gives you that unmistakable Floyd feeling but the album is a rock record that’s completely accessible to the masses, so I’m sure that’s what makes me like it so much.

“All Lovers Are Deranged” is a great rocker, co-written with Pete Townshend and “Murder” starts off slowly but then builds up to almost epic proportions. It might be the most Floyd sounding song on the album.

I’ve read so many reviews of this disc over the years, some praising it and some hating it that it’s hard to understand what it’s like if you’ve never listened to it, but the end result is that if you are going into it looking for a Pink Floyd replica then you won’t be happy. Free yourself from that notion and this should excite you.

Some times you have to give in to nostalgia, which is why I found myself at a St. Louis area casino a few weeks ago to see Foreigner. A note had been left with our complimentary tickets letting us know that we were in for a good night of music. We were assured that although Foreigner guitarist/founder Mick Jones is the only remaining original member, these guys still put on a kick ass show that is worthy of the Foreigner name. And indeed, having seen the new lineup a year prior, I was very aware that this lineup of Foreigner, with veteran singer Kelly Hansen replacing Lou Gramm on vocals, did in fact have the goods. The rest of the Foreigner lineup in addition to Hansen and Jones fills out with veteran players that include former Dokken member Jeff Pilson on bass and vocals, journeyman drummer Brian Tichy, longtime multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel (with the band since 1995), and Michael Bluestein on keyboards.

Out of all of the bands touring with “replacement singers,” the revitalized Foreigner deliver an experience that is as close as you’ll come to seeing the original band “back in the day.” When I interviewed Night Ranger’s Jack Blades a few years ago, he spoke of playing a show with Journey after they added vocalist Steve Augeri, himself filling the big shoes of iconic vocalist Steve Perry. Blades watched the crowd sing the “nah nahs” in “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’,” and said that in that moment, “they didn’t give a shit who was on stage singing.” The statement from Blades is something that sticks with me and resonates when I see a band like Foreigner trying to carry on minus their most visible and well known member. The fact that they’re able to pull it off and present an experience that feels completely authentic is impressive. New music? They’ve cleared that hurdle as well with the release of last year’s Can’t Slow Down, a new Foreigner album that sounds like it could have been released in 1985.

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Welcome back to another edition of Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold! It’s been way too long since we’ve done our wussy spelunking through smooth instruments and gentle vocals. But today, friends, we won’t be doing much singing. Okay, maybe there will be some singing at the end of this post, but for now, we’re going to explore a different side of this genre: the Mellow Gold instrumental.

Chuck Mangione — Feels So Good (edit) (download)

You kinda knew this was coming, didn’t you? There are only a few true Mellow Gold instrumentals — and no, “Baker Street” doesn’t count, because it has lyrics (even if nobody remembers ’em) — but “Feels So Good” is perhaps the smoothest and mellowest of them all. There are plenty of reasons why, too — but first, let’s learn a little bit about Chuck Mangione, the man who clutches his flügelhorn so intently that I believe he’s nicknamed it “Mommy.”

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Chuck Mangione — known around Popdose as the Mang — was born and raised in Rochester, NY, home to luminaries such as Lou Gramm, Steve Gadd (an eventual collaborator), Wendy O. Williams and Rosalie Hale. (If you know who Rosalie Hale is, congratulations, you’ve just been outed as a Twilight fan.) Mangione began his career as part of the Jazz Brothers, a group formed with his brother, Gap Mangione, as well as his two cousins, Benetton Mangione and Express for Men Mangione. (I’m making a funny, but Gap is indeed the name of his brother, meaning I’m now obligated to call him Gap Mang, which will also be the name of my next band.)

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I didn’t think anyone could be a more perfect candidate for this series than Dan Fogelberg, but I was wrong. This, folks, is a band that shouldn’t have new music. Hell, even the last Foreigner album was a record out of time and space, and that came out in 1995. By now, these guys should be collecting buffet passes for America’s finer casinos and playing “Hot Blooded” twice a night for politely appreciative crowds of Camaro owners and shut-ins. Maybe a stray new track or two on the compilations that dribble out once or twice a decade, sure…but an entire album of new Foreigner songs? They’re kidding, right?

But wait. Back up a minute, because that ’95 Foreigner record — it was called Mr. Moonlight, stop laughing — was actually really good. And so, God help me, is Can’t Slow Down, the two-CD, one-DVD recession-busting value package that the current version of the band is peddling through a Walmart exclusive.

Let me be clear. I listened to, and loved, more than my fair share of ’80s AOR; if there was a rocker attempting a desperate late-career comeback during the decade, I was there, plunking my money down on the counter at the record store to own the undignified flailings of everyone from Chicago to Heart to Bad Company. I’ve never had any special affection for Foreigner, though; by the time I started collecting music, they were polluting the airwaves with “I Want to Know What Love Is,” which was followed by the even shittier “I Don’t Want to Live Without You” — and the less said about 1991’s Lou Gramm-less Unusual Heat, the better. Many a rock band has crumbled under the weight of platinum records, but Foreigner was unique — no sooner did they achieve mainstream success than Gramm and Jones were at each other’s throats, splitting and reuniting twice after 1990, destroying in the process not only Gramm’s burgeoning solo career, but Foreigner’s too. Of course, they would have been wiped off the map when grunge slouched onto the scene in the early ’90s, but they should have at least been intact, instead of dissolving from one of Atlantic’s crown jewels into a motley crew of hired hands tagging along with Jones on a series of progressively sadder tours.

“It’s always that one song that gets to you. You can hide, but the song comes to find you.”
— Rob Sheffield (Love Is a Mix Tape)

I dislike Rob Sheffield for many reasons—his writing comes off as pompous, hipper-than-thou snark (and that’s just for the stuff he likes); his greasy, perpetual grad student look smacks so obviously of affectation; his voice on those VH1 shows sounds like he’s gargling bathwater with a tampon shoved up each nostril; and he made music writing safe for a whole army of people just like him (read Spin lately?). I also dislike him out of insane jealousy; in spite of all the above, he wrote one of the most moving books about music and music fans I’ve ever read. The bastard done really good. Go to Amazon now and purchase a copy, or borrow one from your local library, that most wonderful of socialist institutions.

A song I’d relegated to the leaky, cobwebby space in the back of my mind recently came to find me. I’d been in the mood to listen to some vinyl, and one of the hundred or so LPs I had standing at attention on a shelf in my living was Foreigner’s 1987 album Inside Information. Immediately, I knew which song I would drop the needle on first; I flipped the thing over to Side Two, and let my trusty old turntable do its thing.

This week, I’m taking a cue from Popdose’s own Uncle Donnie (and not from my cousin Donnie, thank you very much) to offer up a little pre-emptive career advice. It was made known recently that Kiss would be releasing a three-disc, brand new album soon, it would be an exclusive to WalMart, and it should have the Lazarus-like qualities found in Journey’s last album, Revelations. Oh, I had something to say about it, but only after its release, as one of the curious benefits of being a WalMart exclusive is that you don’t have to market your band to the critics – meaning you critics are probably not getting promotional copies with which to skewer the provider. You’ll buy your review copy like everybody else.

What does all this have to do with Mick Jones? Well, aside from the fact that the Clash’s Mick Jones gets all the love while Foreigner’s Mick Jones has to keep reminding folks he’s not the Clash’s Mick Jones, Kiss just pooped on his band’s parade ground, for only a week or so prior to Kiss’ announcement for the upcoming Sonic Boom, Jones was lightly basking in the pale, lukewarm glow of his band’s own impending WalMart release, Can’t Slow Down. He has a few handicaps already doing the exact opposite of his CD’s title. First of all, Lou Gramm is not the vocalist on the album. Since his conversion to Christianity, his bouts with cancer and the plain old truth that he doesn’t sound much like Lou Gramm anymore, Foreigner has necessarily had to employ the services of former Hurricane vocalist Kelly Hansen. I refuse to take shots at this situation because, for all I know, Hansen might be a great addition. I’ve never heard him sing, so he’s getting a pass. However, he’s not the only addition to the group. Mick Jones is the sole original member of Foreigner now. But these things happen to bands after 30 or so years. At any rate, this new album was getting a fair amount of write-up on the rock blogs and such until, whap, Gene Simmons went and barfed Karo syrup and red dye #5 all over Can’t Slow Down. Those same blogs are now inundated with Kiss blurbs on a daily basis.

One of the great eccentrics (and notorious drinkers) in rock, Michael Schenker also served in one of the great hard rock bands of the mid- and late 70s.  The Schenker/Phil Mogg/Pete Way/Andy Parker nexus that powered UFO in this period produced a handful of classic albums, including the scorching, varied Lights Out (1977).  Mogg is an oft-overlooked voice in this period who, at his best, could match Paul Rodgers and Lou Gramm in strength, sleaze, and swagger.

Don’t believe me?  Check out “Too Hot to Handle,” the lead cut from Lights Out.  To these ears, that chorus is easily the equal of “Baby I’m a bad man” or “I’m hot blooded / Check it and see” in sheer potency and sexual bluster.  And that shit was important in 1977, dawg.  I remember how the girls went nuts when little Eddie Blevins sang “Cat Scratch Fever” during second grade recess.  Never forgot it.

Back to Michael Schenker.  He was a Scorpion at 15 (older, mustachioed bro Rudolph is still at it) and hooked up with Mogg, Way, and Parker at 18 for a four-year run of arena tours, smokin’ records, and hard partying.  While Schenker developed the latter into a debilitating affliction, for a while there he was a monster riffmaster and soloist extraordinaire.  Except for this one little track …


Hi, everybody! This week’s CHART ATTACK! takes us back a whopping 22 years, and wow, do I feel old, considering I remember hearing just about every single one of these songs on the radio when they first came out. The songs this week aren’t that bad, actually, but as you’ll soon see, almost all of them are linked together in…well…just about the worst way possible. Stay tuned as we review the Top 10 from April 11, 1987!

10. The Finer Things — Steve Winwood Amazon iTunes
9. Let’s Go! — Wang Chung Amazon iTunes
8. Midnight Blue — Lou Gramm Amazon iTunes
7. Sign ‘O’ the Times — Prince Amazon iTunes
6. Come Go With Me — Exposé Amazon iTunes
5. Don’t Dream It’s Over — Crowded House Amazon iTunes
4. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight — Genesis Amazon iTunes
3. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) — Aretha Franklin and George Michael Amazon iTunes
2. Lean on Me — Club Nouveau Amazon iTunes
1. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now — Starship Amazon iTunes

10. The Finer Things — Steve Winwood

“The Finer Things” is just one of the many collaborations between Winwood and his writing partner for most of the ’80s, Will Jennings. Jennings co-wrote almost all of Winwood’s hits, including “While You See a Chance,” which clearly inspired the opening of this song — all synths, baby! I’m usually anti-synth, but if it’s Steve Winwood, I’m okay with it. “The Finer Things” was the second biggest hit from Back in the High Life, peaking at #8.

Jennings, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is quite the accomplished songwriter: in addition to his work with Winwood, he wrote/co-wrote songs such as “Tears in Heaven,” “Up Where We Belong” and “My Heart Will Go On.” There’s a nice interview with him over at Songfacts.

Any fans of Kids Incorporated in the house? Y’know, that cheesy kids’ TV show from the ’80s and early ’90s? If so, good news! Here’s their cover! Hooray, I guess…?

9. Let’s Go! — Wang Chung (download)

I had no idea I had ever heard this song before until I reached the chorus, although to be fair, it’s not like I can really remember the verses of “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” either. While this song did make it to the Top 10 (peaking here at #9), it wasn’t a strong enough hit to make the overall Hot 100 for 1987. I do like this mention of the song over at Wikipedia, though (emphasis mine): “The single was a hit for Wang Chung in the United States, and it provided the band with their second (and so far, last) top-10 hit.” Isn’t that cute? Who knows, everybody — Wang Chung may be making a comeback! Simple Minds, you’re on deck!

Not much to say about “Let’s Go!” — It follows the same format as their previous hit: stupid lyrics, catchy chorus. But, uh, hey: if you liked Kids Incorporated, this should be a happy day for you. They covered it!

8. Midnight Blue — Lou Gramm

I remember what my father said. He said, “Son, life is simple. It’s either cherry red, or midnight blue.”

What the hell does that mean? Is that really the best advice you got from your father? ‘Cause that’s shitty advice. Really shitty advice. It’s just unhelpful. Is there some double entendre I’m missing here?

This week we have a ginormous, gigantic, gargantuan post, as we finish up with the letter G on our trek through the bottom of Billboard‘s Hot 100 charts during the ’80s.

Michael Gore
“Theme From ‘Terms of Endearment’” — 1984, #84 (download)

You know, it feels like every week here at Bottom Feeders starts with something completely bland or just plain douche-a-rific now. I guess if you’re listening to everything from top to bottom you can consider this your intro song. Or if you’re putting together a nice light-rock CD for grandma, you can make this your centerpiece. That’s it — grandma music.

Go West
“We Close Our Eyes” — 1985, #41 (download)
“Call Me” — 1985, #54 (download)
“Eye to Eye” — 1985, #73 (download)

If I didn’t collect ‘80s music I most certainly would have missed out on these gems and thought that “King of Wishful Thinking” (1990) was Go West’s first single and Indian Summer (1992) their first album. If you ever wanted to get into Go West for some reason, that album could easily be the place to start and stop. However, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not going back and listening to their 1985 self-titled debut. The follow-up, 1987’s Dancing on the Couch, wasn’t quite as good as Go West, but it still contains some catchy-as-hell pop tunes. All three of the great songs featured here are from Go West, and though they sound dated today, if you think back to 1985 they actually sound a little too sophisticated for that era. Maybe that’s why none of them made an impact on the charts. Go West had one single in ’87 barely crack the Top 40 — “Don’t Look Down (The Sequel)” hit #39, but it isn’t even included on the British version of Dancing on the Couch.

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Mainstream Rock: Lou Gramm, “Midnight Blue” (1987)

John: Move over, Foreigner! There’s something blander!

Zack: Despite Lou Gramm’s dreadful, dreadful hairstyle, I really enjoy this song. I can’t help it. It’s such a simple song I could probably play it myself (and I don’t play any instruments), but I appreciate that, the same way one appreciates an old rotary telephone: not too many moving parts, won’t break down too easily, can take a good knock without falling apart, and works even when the power is out.

Scott: When Lou Gramm left Foreigner (the first time), I thought it was because he wanted to rock again, not produce mediocre pop like this. I love this guy’s voice, though. And I think that the follow-up song, “Just Between You and Me,” was a better, more passionate mediocre pop single.