Category Archives: 1980′s
I stood fourth in line at the Quik Mart this morning with nothing but my customary 20 oz coffee in hand. A ritual that I’ve been following most mornings since becoming a working member of society.
While my thoughts were fixated on the day ahead and the consumption of hot, golden deliciousness I happened to notice the plethora of items that sat neatly on the store counter available for quick purchase.
There were small, red plastic bottles filled with a fluid that promised an extra boost of energy in the event you found yourself dragging during the middle of the work day. Bags of Swedish Fish beckoned to my inner child with fairy tale urges of sugar rush. Truthfully, had it not been for the fact that it was 5:30 in the morning, a package or three would have left the store with me and my coffee.
As I continued to stand behind customers purchasing everything from gasoline to cigarettes, I discovered that one of the patrons in front of me was also purchasing a pack of Freedent chewing gum along with their Marlboros.
Now there is one of life’s greatest mysteries. A 5,000+ year old product that has always confused me. For no matter how often I chew it or how many bubbles I blow, inevitably two questions always come to mind whenever I consider gum of any sort:
First of all, why is it that we as a society can invent things like the Internet or build a hover craft the size of a pea and land it exactly where want it to on the surface of Mars, but still can’t figure out how to make a stick of gum’s flavor last more than 15 seconds?
Second, and even more importantly: Has mankind ever really considered the true power of gum?
Gum itself has been taboo for years. Back in my school days it was contraband and one of the quickest ways to earn a visit to the principal’s office. It was off-limits on school grounds, and only the fool would dare risk life and limb by sitting in an Earth Science class chewing like a cow on Hubba Bubba.
Of course, that didn’t deter
In between classes, when no one with a teaching degree was looking, there was plenty of gum to be found. Sometimes it was bartered in bathroom stalls or doled out behind locker doors. I confess, I was one of the offenders and did partake in the reverie. And yes, there were many times I raided my mother’s purse before school just to bring the goodness of spearmint to campus.
Gum’s power was just to big for me to ignore.
For aside from the short-lived flavorful chew just before it became a bland piece of rubber, gum synthetically gave me something more. Why just having gum in my possession gave me popularity, courage and the confidence to do things I’d normally never do.
Case in point: The only time I ever had the nerve to talk to any of the girls in school was if there was a pack of gum in my pocket. And any attempt to open the line of communication without it was only met with sweaty palms and heart palpitations.
I was never one of those guys who could ask a cute girl what she got for question three on a homework assignment, much less invite her to a dance. But put a pack of Fruit Stripe in my Garanimals and I instantly became a teenage Casanova. Because as long as I had a five-pack of gum, I knew that I could fearlessly ask her if she wanted a piece, and nine times out of ten knew that she was going to answer in the affirmative.
Which leads me to this conclusion. Stronger than any threat of a nuclear mushroom cloud or zombie apocalypse, I really believe gum might be the one thing that could bring about world peace.
What if John F. Kennedy had offered Nikita Khrushchev a stick of Bubblicious fifty years ago? I’m thinking Kroosh (I would’ve called him that) would gladly have accepted and instead of having a Cuban Missile Crisis there might have had a bubble blowing contest.
What if Ronald Reagan had offered Mikhail Gorbachev some Freedent at one of their many summits? Not only would it have not stuck to their dental work, but I also believe it might have ended the Cold War sooner. What if all the differences amongst all the nations could simply be resolved over a stick of gum?
The truth is, we may have only just begun to scratch the surface of what gum can do for the good of mankind. But whether it encourages young love in school classrooms or summit meetings between rival nations, one thing’s for sure:
The simple pack of gum has five chances to turn any enemy into a friend.
This Thursday, millions of American families will once again come together for the annual tradition of watching football and devouring as much tryptophan as possible. I too will put forth my own best effort in an eager attempt to fall into a deeper state of food coma.
For me, the Thanksgiving holiday has always been a particular favorite, especially while growing up. I have fond memories of my grandmother rising early Thanksgiving morning and beginning the process of stuffing the bird and making side-dishes. Aside from getting the turkey out to thaw the night before, nothing was ever done or prepared ahead of time. On the contrary, everything was done on the actual Thanksgiving day.
By mid-morning, every nook and cranny of our kitchen would be cluttered with empty bags or cans of vegetables and cranberry sauce. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be slowly winding down and I would be glued to our 19″ portable TV just waiting for a Kermit the Frog or Superman balloon to float down the streets of Manhattan.
Pies of many different varieties would be cooling on the stove and the smell of pumpkin and spice would begin to fill my senses. I remember looking outside of our kitchen window and seeing the last of the brown, wilted leaves falling from the trees and realize that the year was officially beginning to wind down. A feeling of home and family would wash over me as the cold winds of November blew across our little South Side Easton home. The heat given off from Nan’s all-day cook fest would be more than enough to warm a pilgrim army on their way to their own bountiful celebration. Looking back now, it surely WAS home.
As you can see, there are many things that I remember about the holiday. But as we all prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving 2013, and before I recall all the years I challenged my brother for wishbone supremacy, I’d like to share with you the five favorite memories I have about Thanksgiving while growing up.
5. Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special: It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without ol’ Chuck and his pals. The “wedge” between Great Pumpkin (my favorite of the series) and Charlie Brown Christmas, watching this show was a treat. Snoopy duking it out with the chair was hilarious and making popcorn for Thanksgiving? Well that’s just sheer genius in my book.
4. Godzilla Marathons on Channel 9. Laugh all you want, but this was one of the highlights of turkey day for me. Godzilla was actually the predecessor to MMA if you really think about it. You knew that when the big guy met the Smog monster or some other nefarious creature, there was more to it than just a desire to kick the crap out of each other. No, those guys in rubber suits really wanted to kill each other.
For me, nothing compared to the idea of filling my plate mile-high with buttered mashed taters, stuffing, beans and one of the drumsticks from the turkey and then scurrying over to the tube to watch my boy go toe to toe with King Kong. Channel 9 out of New York used to run marathons of Godzilla movies all weekend long and it didn’t get much better than that.
3. The Peace Candle. The day after Thanksgiving is always the busiest shopping day of the year as hordes of crazy people line the stores to find an elusive $50 laptop. You know, the stores that only have two in stock at that price, but 600 people out to get it.
But Black Friday is also the night the 106-foot tall Civil War monument in the center-square of my hometown is lit up and transformed into a giant candle. Dedicated to all the men and women who served or are serving our country, it also represents one of the best meanings of Christmas: Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Man.
2. Easton/P’burg Football and Bonfire. Unless you were born and raised in the area this one probably won’t mean anything to you. Every Thanksgiving morning for the past century, our high school football team and their cross town (actually cross-state) rival battle it out on the gridiron for football supremacy. And every night prior to the big game, Easton would light a huge bonfire at the high school to rally the troops. This is the one thing, aside from graduation that any student of Easton looks forward to their senior year.
It certainly wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without this tradition and I remember listening to it on a crappy old AM radio we had lying around. Sometimes, even on the clearest of Thursdays, you could barely hear the game amidst the static of the signal, but it didn’t matter.
And now the number one memory I have about Thanksgiving growing up:
1. Family: Aside from the shows, the football, the parade and the turkey, my favorite Thanksgiving memories growing up are about family. The best ones being spent with my grandmother and disabled grandfather. He had suffered a stroke and due to his paralysis was unable to join us downstairs, so we would always bring Thanksgiving to him. Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent sitting on the couch next to him breaking bread (and if I was REALLY lucky, getting him to watch Godzilla with me).
Although nowhere near the same now, I suppose I can still thankfully celebrate these “traditions” every year. DVDs can be put in and the football game and Peace Candle ceremony can be attended. But even though technology evolves and the participants in the football game change, one thing will always remain.
So, as you gather around the table to continue your own Thanksgiving traditions, my wish is that you be surrounded by good food, good health, good memories and most of all…family.
They call it “Broadway’s Best Party”, and for good reason. As any child of the 80′s (like me) will tell you, Rock of Ages isn’t just a musical, it’s an experience.
It’s one part theatrical stage production and one part rock concert, all performed on a gritty, LA themed stage set that makes you feel like you’re back in time. A combination love story / feel-good comedy coupled with music that defined the 80′s generation creating a truly unique party environment.
Lead actors Kate Rockwell and Aaron Finley both missed the 80′s the first time around, but now get the chance to live it again every night on stage.
Backed by a full-on rock band with guys who regularly perform in Night Ranger and Blondie, the duo (along with the rest of the company) perform as many as eight shows a week at New York’s Helen Hayes Theatre.
I spoke with both Rockwell and Finley about their own Rock of Ages experience. They also let me in on what they love most about the 80′s and offer good advice for up and coming actors!
Was being on Broadway something you both always dreamed about doing?
Rockwell: For me, it was always Broadway. From the time I was very young I remember singing along to the cast album of Godspell. Even if I didn’t know what the words meant at the time, I’d usually make up syllable sounds [laughs].
Finley: Although I grew up loving to sing and my parents had always encouraged me to pursue it, I actually didn’t know what musical theater was until I was in my 20s in college and just fell in love with it.
You weren’t around to actually experience the 80′s, but what is it you like most about that period of time?
Rockwell: In the 80′s, there was a general sense of freedom that was really prevalent in the culture. Everyone really did just want to have a great time and celebrate. I think that was a cool energy to be a part of and why people really love the music from that era. It captures that energy and carries it across generations. It really was a special time.
Finley: Everything back then was so flamboyant and over the top. What’s really interesting is that a lot of the cool things from the 80′s (like the fashion and neon colors) are starting to filter back into culture and people are getting the chance to experience it all again.
What’s it like having an actual rock band as part of the production?
Rockwell: It’s amazing. Not only are they spectacular musicians, but they’re also characters in the show. They play key roles and are just as much a part of the company as they are musicians. When I first joined the show, I remember looking to them to really understand what it was I was doing, because they represent exactly what we’re trying to recreate. They’re great people and so much fun to work with.
Finley: They’re world-class rock stars and it’s an honor just to be able to rock out with guys who not only know, but actually live the music from this era. They know their instruments better than anyone I’ve ever met.
Rockwell: And it’s not like they’ve “retired” to Broadway. They’re still recording and out touring for weeks at a time doing their real gigs. They’re not reminiscing about when was rock was great. They’re still doing great rock!
How did you get your start?
Rockwell: I knew that this was going to be my path early on. I did a lot of theater in high school and have a music degree from college with a specialty in musical theater.
Finley: For me, I always knew that I wanted to sing, but I just wasn’t sure as to what capacity. Then while I was in school, I was introduced to theater through a show called “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”.
I got to play Joseph and had a blast. Being in a show where I could sing, act and be on stage in front of everyone was everything I loved all rolled up into one. I ended up switching majors and jumped into theater. I worked professionally in Seattle for seven years and then decided to make the move with my family to New York to see what could happen.
What’s the best thing about living New York?
Finley: I’m still somewhat of a newbie here, but I think it’s the diversity. There’s so much to see and so many different things to do. There are actually more languages spoken in New York than anywhere else in the world. I’m still taking it all in and processing it, but it’s just fascinating with all of its diversity.
Rockwell: The immediacy is what I love the most. The fact that at any time, anywhere in this city you can have whatever you want. You can find anything at any time, day or night.
Is there any advice you can give to up and coming actors?
Rockwell: The most important thing to remember is that you can’t be anyone else, you can only be yourself and no one else can be you. You may never be the tallest or be able to sing the highest, but you’ll always be the only person who can do what you can do. Sometimes it might be difficult because you can get boxed in and people may try to tell you what you are or what you’re not. But the more you stay true to yourself, the more success will come to you.
Finley: I think it’s also important to not let it be the one thing that dominates your life.
Being able to explore and do lots of different things is key. Whether it be sports, hobbies or other interests, open yourself up to new things. The more life you’re able to experience, the better the actor you’ll become.
I’m sure the last thing you’d probably expect to see me do is waste a blog post talking about some of the cars I’ve owned over the years. But, I’m very nostalgic (as most of you already know) and considering that it’s been more than a quarter century since I really came into my own as a solo driver, I decided to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about two of the first automobiles that got me around on the highways and byways of this land that I love.
After you first receive your official drivers license, one of the coolest things you can do is go used-car shopping with your parents. There are aisles and aisles of horsepower as far as the eye can see, and having a say as to what car you’ll be showing off at school is one of the most important social decisions any new conqueror of the K-turn can have.
My very first car was a gray 1973 Toyota Corona wagon that my Mom purchased for $500 (along with some money I had made from working at McDonalds). It was 1986 and truth be told, I didn’t even care what kind of engine was under the hood. Four? Six? Eight cylinders? None of that nonsense even mattered to me. For all I knew, it could’ve had hamsters running in those wheel thingies for power (and if you must know, sometimes the car really did seem to drive that way).
As new drivers often do, I drove my gray Corona everywhere. Always looking for any excuse or opportunity to take it on some errand, whether up the street or across town. And considering that gasoline was around .89 cents a gallon at the time, it only made sense. Yes sir, once I became legal walking and bicycle riding went the same route as the dinosaur as far as I was concerned.
I still remember the very first day I drove it to school too. With my trusty neighbor Mike riding shotgun, we drove the back roads of Easton in the early morning sunshine. Windows down and the radio blasting Ozzy, we slowly made our way into the upper parking lot of Easton High School.
Once parked, we gathered our brown paper bag covered text books and made our way inside, making sure to give a salute to the poor unfortunates who had just arrived via the dingy, yellow school bus. It was the least I could do to let them know I still cared a bit for their plight.
Sadly, my beloved Corona began to deteriorate over the course of the school year. In December, the headlights just stopped working for no apparent reason. The following March, the right front fender began rusting off and peeling away. Fortunately for me, duct tape was the same color as my car and worked well to hold things together, but rust eventually would become my Corona’s worst enemy. At one point, the passenger side door would not open at all and in order to get in you literally had to pull a “Dukes of Hazzard” and climb through the window.
Shortly before graduation, the poor Toyota was involved in a wreck (would you believe I was turning into on coming traffic and someone just hit me?) Sadly, it was time to say good-bye to my beloved friend.
But that was when fate stepped in.
Because around that same time, my Aunt sold her well maintained 1974 Ford Torino to my brother. Bro had been driving the car for a few months, but started moving on to Mach 1 Mustangs and pick-up trucks. In a true example of brotherly love, he entrusted his beloved Torino into my care.
I was so in love with this car that I even had my picture taken next to it right before I went to attend graduation and get my HS diploma.
This car provided me quality transportation for many months post high school; being my trusty steed on youthful excursions to the mall and spending late nights parked at the Starlite Drive-Inn watching movies.
But one evening, while coming home from the mall with a bunch of friends disaster struck. I remember we were driving on the highway, just a few miles from home when I heard this blaringly loud “pop” and the engine light came on. The car was slowing down rapidly, and it felt as though I had just run over some huge piece of metal. I was fortunate to get the car off of the busy highway and onto the shoulder just as the engine completely shut off and would not re-fire. All of the love I once had for this car immediately turned into rage.
A day later, after the Torino had been towed back to the house, my brother freaked out on me. He just couldn’t understand how his well maintained 14 year old car had suddenly blown up without warning. He did some quick checking of things under the hood and then asked me the one question that to this day I still don’t have a proper answer for:
“WHY DIDN’T YOU EVER CHECK THE OIL??”
Oil? OIL? I had driven the car for months and months and honestly, the thought of checking the oil level had never occurred to me. In my defense though, this was 1988 and you would think technology had developed enough to at the very least have a warning light come on to alert me that the engine was almost out of oil. But it wasn’t meant to be. Not a drop of oil was found in the engine and it had seized; blowing a piston into the crankshaft and destroying it completely. The car was dead.
The formerly “well-maintained” Ford Torino would now sit in silence on the hill outside of our home until I could afford the $300 to put a replacement engine into it. But even with the engine replaced, the Torino never ran quite the same again and, much like it’s predecessor, eventually went to junk car heaven.
I thought of this story again today (in November of 2013) when the “Maintenance” light came on my 2012 Toyota Corolla. Needless to say, I have a 15,000 mile appointment tomorrow morning.
I’m taking no chances.
I was so sad to hear the news today that Vixen founder and guitarist Jan Kuehnemund had passed away after a battle with cancer.
As a metal head myself, whose never discriminated on the basis of sex, I’m proud to say that Vixen’s music was an integral part of my coming of age in the late 80′s.
Over the past few months, I have been extremely fortunate to have spoken with Vixen members Janet Gardner, Share Ross, Roxy Petrucci and Gina Stile. These ladies (along with Jan) produced some of the best hard rock music ever. For me to not only have the opportunity to interview them, but also actually meet them in person at this year’s M3 Festival (where they performed as JSRG) was nothing short of amazing.
Of course, (being a guitarist myself) I was incredibly interested in speaking with Jan. Jan’s guitar work inspired me right from that very first album. I didn’t even care that she was a girl who could run circles around me on the fret board. I wanted to pick her brain about guitars and songwriting. She’s a musical hero to me.
If you’ve read all of my articles with the girls of Vixen, then you’ve probably noticed that Jan Kuehnemund was the only member of the band that I didn’t interview. But what you may not know is that Jan was actually the very first member of Vixen I approached for an interview way back in July of 2012.
Sadly, Jan and I weren’t able to coordinate a date/time for an interview. But even though I was never able to confirm what I actually already knew about Jan the guitarist and Jan the songwriter; I still learned a lot about Jan the person just through our brief email correspondence.
Correspondence which I’ll now share here.
On July 2nd, 2012: I learned Jan was a humble person.
Hey Jim! Thank you very much for the invite to do an interview with you! I would be extremely honored!! Please let me know what your timeline or deadline might be, and let’s set it up! Looking forward to talking to you! Thanks again! Best regards, Jan K
On July 14th: I learned that Jan was an exciting and busy person.
Hi Jim -
I’m really looking forward to this, too!!
Will let you know when it’s not soo craaazee around here, so we can schedule something! (This past week has been really busy!)
Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay in touch! : ) – Jan
On October 12th, I learned that Jan was a caring person.
Hi Jim! I have not forgotten, and I was just thinking about YOU the other day! Let me see how this next week and next weekend looks, and I’ll get back to you… Thanks very much for your patience! Have a great weekend, too! Best, Jan
The last time I heard from Jan was December 9th, when I learned that she was human and compassionate.
So sorry once again, for the delay.. I just lost my dog, so it’s been a real rough and sad time. I really, really DO want to speak with you, so I don’t want you to think I’m making excuses, because I am not!
Still no (recording) news, so would still like to have some specifics on some things when we do talk, so please continue to be patient for a little longer, and we will DO this!!!
I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving as well, and wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and happy holidays, just in case we don’t get to talk before Christmas!?!?
Please continue to keep in touch, and I thank you once again for your extreme patience!!!
Do I lament that Jan and I only had a brief email exchange and never actually connected for an “official” interview? Of course.
But I’ll take comfort in remembering Jan Kuehnemund as someone who not only inspired me to be a better guitarist, but also as someone who indirectly taught me how to be a better person.
Since I assume many of you are already wondering what you should get me for my birthday next month (October 5th), I’ve taken the liberty of posting my list here in order to give you an early jump on your shopping duties.
Unfortunately, none of these items can still be found in stores, so you’ll have to poke around on E-bay in order to find them. But in an effort to help you in your search, I’ve already scoped out and gone through the trouble of pricing these items in order from low to high, so you shouldn’t have any concern over whether or not you’re spending enough. But when you think about it, can you REALLY put a price tag on a gift?
I now present to you the Five Best Presents you can get me for my birthday. Things I received as a child and would love to see again.
Chutes Away ($45) Ah, nothing beats looking through a scope and dropping plastic parachutes from a plane into fox holes on the battlefield as it spins around in circles.
4. Magic Window by Wham-O ($100) You want to talk about mindless entertainment? Look no further than this plastic circle filled with different colored sand. You maneuver it around and the sand magically transforms into different patterns. Let’s see the X-Box Kinect or Wii try to top that! Hours of fun here.
3. Weeble Haunted House ($300). Since there’s no Count Chocula action figure, this is the next best thing. Who ever invented the Weeble was a true genius. They always wobbled but never fell down. I love the glow in the dark ghost.
2. Mego Spiderman ($400) It just wouldn’t be my birthday without a visit from good ol’ Spidey. I’ve had several different Spidey action figures over the years, but never an original Mego one. So, please do what you can to make a 44-year old boy happy this year!
1. Stretch Monster ($800) – C’mon, you know I’m worth it. Stretch Monster was the coolest thing ever. Much better than Stretch Armstrong. I suppose that’s why I’d only let my sister play with Armstrong. She’d NEVER be allowed to touch my Monster. Me and Stretch Monster were tight. We did everything together. Right up until that one day when he fell on some rocks and bled out.
That syrupy stuff inside him got all over, and no amount of band-aid or bandage could save him. To see him again this year would be the ultimate!
Christmas came early this year. Or is it Halloween? Well, in either case, my inner child is doing one heck of a happy dance this morning. As most of you fellow cereal connoisseurs already know, The Monster Cereals have been my absolute favorite ever since I was but a wee lad. I still remember how cool it was to go with my mother to the local Food Lane and see my homies sitting there on the shelf just waiting for me.
Not only did the boys get me through some rough hunger spells growing up, but I also attribute the psychological benefits of having breakfast with a monster with helping me to overcome my introvertism. (Ok, I made up that last part).
Sadly, my beloved Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry buddies were exiled to the latter part of the calendar year; only making their appearances on store shelves now when the weather gets cooler and monsters and trick or treating become all the rage.
Don’t get me wrong, I still do ravage local supermarkets and Target stores every September to stock up on as many as I can for the winter, and always lament the boys taking an extended vacation starting November 1st. But much like seeing the first robin in spring, I always look forward to that first box of Boo on store shelves every Autumn.
But this year will be extra special.
A few days ago General Mills (the ones who magically brought my cereal hombres to life) decided to do something special for the fans and this year are bringing back two more monsters; one of which has been MIA for more than thirty years. Just when you thought breakfast in the fall couldn’t get any better, Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy will be joining the Holy Trinity of Cereal this year!
Fruit Brute (or now, FRUTE Brute for you politically correct people) was discontinued in 1982 and is considered by many collectors to be the most sought-after vintage cereal box. Not only because Brute’s a cool wolf who wears colorful suspenders, but also because the box was used by director Quentin Tarantino in his films “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Yummy Mummy, no stranger to succumbing to the endangered sugar list, has been gone for more than two decades himself. His triumphant return will mark the first time in history that all five boxes of Monster Cereal will be available at the same time.
When asked to comment on the return of the childhood favorites, Julie Anderla, integrated communications senior manager at General Mills had this to say: “The love for the Monsters that we make available each Halloween continues to be huge and the passion for all of them across social media is incredible. We’re bringing back Frute Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy in an effort to give our fans what they asked for.” Can’t argue with that.
But WAIT!! – It gets even better!!
As part of a special promotion with Target, all five monster cereals will be housed in their original retro art packaging!!! So it will indeed be like those days of yore when a young 44 year-old boy sees his childhood friends on the shelves, looking exactly as they did way back when.
I tried to find a way to properly express my emotion for the return of this quintet, but I decided to let Dinosaur Dracula explain how big this news really is in his review of the “new” cereal. Thanks dude!
When it comes to LIVE albums, it doesn’t get more real or raw than John Waite’s LIVE ALL ACCESS.
Recorded live in both Philadelphia and Manchester, ‘LIVE ALL ACCESS’ features performances from Waite’s most recent solo album, “Rough and Tumble” as well as songs from his Babys days and early solo career.
Fans who attended Waite’s performances not only participated on the album, but were also privy to seeing the former Babys/Bad English vocalist and his band at the top of their game.
I spoke with Waite about the new album as well as The Babys, Bad English and some of his biggest hits!
What made you decide to do a live album?
The band was the reason. I remember there were a few times when we were out on stage and I just looked around and thought, “God, this is where I want to be!” This is where I live and I want to share it with people. It sounded so great. I knew I had to get it on tape somehow.
How many shows do you think you’ve performed over the course of your career?
As a solo, I’ve spent most of my life on the road. The Babys also did an enormous amount of gigs and Bad English spent a year on the road. I’ve played small clubs, arenas, the lot. I don’t really think about how many shows I’ve done. I think about it more in terms of how many times I’ve gotten on an airplane [laughs].
What was the recording process like?
I recorded a few shows in Philly at Philly Sound. It’s a church in the blue-collar part of town [a recording studio in the church]. It was a free concert and I brought along three kegs of beer with me each night. A few months later, I decided to try to record again and we got another beautiful performance in Manchester, New Hampshire. I then mixed the best of Philly with the best from Manchester. There isn’t one single overdub on this record and I’m proud of it. It came out exactly as I wanted it to.
Discussing The Babys, Bad English and Biggest Hits
How did the band come up with the name The Babys?
Our manager in London was fairly contentious. He was a very dry and sardonic kind of guy. I remember he’d always stand there in his overcoat just sneering at us. I could give as good as I get, so one day I looked back at him and said “What?” He just looked and he said, “Ah, you’re just a bunch of babies!” and walked out. Then he came back in and said “That’s it! The Babies!” At the time, I had dyslexia and instead of spelling things with “ies” I’d just put a “y” around it. So I would spell it “Babys”. He took that and it became the name of the band.
What caused the breakup of the band?
The whole thing had turned sour. At the time, some of us weren’t acting as sweetly as we should. Our record label [Chrysalis] had done such a poor job with everything and Jonathan [Cain] was also leaving to join Journey. We all knew it was the end.
Let’s discuss some of your biggest solo hits. How does a song like “Change” come across your desk?
I’ve always been street wise for knowing that you need a hit, but also that it had to be quality. I was writing with Ivan Kral [Patti Smith / Iggy Pop] putting together the ‘Ignition’ album when I got a cassette in the mail. I remember playing it and thinking “Wow, this sounds like a John Waite song!” [laughs]. It sounded like it was written in my style. I changed some of the lyrics around to make it more “me”, and it worked.
What was the concept for the video?
I was a reporter running around in a zoot suit. I was meant to be a sort of Jimmy Olsen character trying to talk someone down off a ledge. She was having a hard time in the film business. Kort Falkenberg III shot that video and also shot “Missing You”. The thing I liked was that he really understood and loved film. I follow old film religiously [it's my love, other than music], so I knew a lot about what he was talking about.
I was living away from my wife (we were on the edge of divorce) and was torn. I had spent time in New York and obviously had met Nina Blackwood [MTV] and we were close. The thing is, when you think of a girl you think of the setting in which you see that girl too. New York City comes into that song. It’s a song about distance and not being there.
Did you know at the time that it was going to something special?
I knew it immediately. I started by taking “Every Time I Think of You” [which is the title of a Babys song] as the first line just to get going and it just all came out from there. I got the whole first verse, bridge and chorus in one go and remember standing back and just being so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn’t even speak. It was one of those moments where all of the things that are sitting in the back of your mind come to the front.
When I hear it, I always think of two songs which must have been an inspiration. One was “Wichita Lineman” (Glenn Campbell sang the quintessential version) and the other is “Catch a Train” (by Free). You couldn’t get two more opposite songs, but they’re both about distance and I used them as a reference going into that song. I wasn’t trying to compete with those songs. I just understood what they meant. ‘Missing You’ would have come out anyway.
How did the Bad English project come together?
I had done four solo records and was about to make a 5th. I had just gotten out of EMI and my manager walked me into Epic and the A&R guy there told me he was going to find great songs for me. Then I thought, “Why don’t we just do it as a band? No one would expect it!”
I started looking for guitar players, originally trying to find someone like Johnny Marr [Morrissey]; a prodigy to that kind of north of England, working class, ambitious rock. I met a lot of people, but couldn’t find anyone to fit the bill. That was when the suggestion was made to reform a core of The Babys, and it was great to play with those guys.
What was it like working with Neal Schon?
The great thing about Neil is that he just wants to play. Even after a complete night out, when you’re all tired and bleary eyed, he’d still come up with something. “Lay Down” [off the first album] was a song that was written after we had just been up all night. We were destroyed from the night before and just decided to go into the studio and write something and the two of us wrote that song.
Are you working on any new music?
We have a song called “If You Ever Get Lonely” which the country band, Love and Theft has released. In September, I intend to go back into the studio.
Tony [Brock] and Wally [Stocker] have recently reformed The Babys. Did they approach you about taking part?
They did. I love Tony and Wally, but think we probably should have done it twenty years ago.
When you look back over the course of your career, what thoughts come to mind?
My life has been unbelievable. I think if you were to go back to when I was a kid at age five [listening to Marty Robbins and living in a cottage in the English countryside in the black and white 50's] and then step forward to where I am now; there’s such an air of fragility that sometimes even I don’t believe it. It’s almost like I’m asleep. It’s been such a great life, and it’s nowhere near over.
Be sure to check out my interview with John Waite on GuitarWorld.Com where we discuss more about “LIVE ALL ACCESS”
John Waite’s new live album, Live All Access, is as real and raw as it gets.
Recorded live in Philadelphia and New Hampshire with absolutely no overdubs, the album features Keri Kelli on guitars, Tim Hogan on bass and Rhondo on drums and showcases the former Babys and Bad English vocalist at the top of his game.
Waite has achieved international success over the course of his 35-year career. His hits included 1984′s “Missing You,” which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
I recently spoke with Waite about his new live album and more.
GUITAR WORLD: What made you decide to do a live album?
The band was the reason. We also added Keri Kelli as our guitar player, which really upped the ante. I remember there were nights when we were out on stage and I just looked around and thought, “God, this is where I want to be!” This is where I live and I want to share it with people. It sounded so great. I knew I had to get it on tape somehow.
You can read the rest of my interview with John Waite by Clicking Here!
Maxine Petrucci likes to call what she does “evolved music.”
The former Madam X guitarist [and sister of former Vixen drummer Roxy Petrucci] has taken much of what she’s learned from the ’80s and ’90s to a completely different level. It’s a sound and style some may find not suitable for the “commercial” world, but Petrucci says that suits her just fine.
Bassist Billy Sheehan has called Petrucci “a true rarity, a lady who has powerful command of her instrument and her voice.” Rick Derringer cites Petrucci’s guitar playing as “masterful” and has referred to her right-hand picking technique as “the hummingbird effect, so fast, it’s a blur.”
Continuing to forge her own path, Petrucci’s third solo album, Back to the Garden, is an eclectic mix of riff and shred, one that will make even the most jaded critic stand up and take notice. Her new band features Imminent Sonic Destruction members Pat Delon (drums) and Bryan Paxton (bass), plus guitarist Rachel May (Broadzilla).
I spoke with Petrucci about Back to the Garden, her time spent with her sister in Madam X and much more.
GUITAR WORLD: Tell me about Back to the Garden.
This is my third solo album, and it’s completely different from anything I’ve done before. I don’t have a label, so I have the luxury of doing what I want to do when I feel like doing it. For Back to the Garden, I wrote all of the songs and did all the guitars, bass and vocals. Pat Deleon wrote and played the drum parts, and Gaetano Di Falco illustrated the album cover
Bonus: Know which famous metal singer once fronted Madam X
before hitting the skids? Then read the rest of my Guitar World interview with Maxine Petrucci – Click Here