Category Archives: 1980′s

My Thoughts on The NFC Championship

SeahawksLogoI wanted to write this post well before tonight’s NFC Championship; lest anyone think that I might be one of those phony bandwagon fans who only jump on board when a team is doing well and then disappears when the wheels fall off the bus. That’s hardly the case with me. I’ve been an east coast Seattle Seahawks fan for thirty years.

That’s right, I said thirty years.

It all began back in the early 80s. I was one of those disappointed Philadelphia Eagles fans lost in the wilderness and looking for a new home after a bitter, painful defeat at the hands of some dude named Plunkett and the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Ok, I’ll admit I was one of those creeps who ditched the ship when it sank, just like the ones I opened this post talking about. But in my defense, I was only twelve years old at the time and didn’t know any better.

Yeah, let’s go with that.

CenturyLink-MeIt was a cold Monday night a few years after that Super Bowl when I first saw the Seattle Seahawks on television. At the time, I had absolutely no idea who they were. They had some left-handed quarterback (Jim Zorn), a wiry, fast as lightning receiver (Steve Largent) and this rookie running back from Penn State named Curt Warner. A “hometown” connection.

I couldn’t even tell you the team that they played that night. All I remember is that the Seahawks lost the coin toss and started the game out with an on-side kick. An on-side kick!!! Something almost unheard of in the NFL.

The Seahawks wound up getting the ball and scoring on that drive….and the seed was planted.

As you can imagine, the 1980′s were a time before the Internet and satellite football games became common place. So getting to see my new team was nearly impossible. About the only time I ever saw them on TV was when they played against the Eagles or New York Giants, and considering that the Seahawks were in the other conference at the time, those games were even rarer.

The Seahawks actually almost made it to their first Super Bowl the first year of my fandom, but lost to (ironically enough) the Oakland Raiders in the conference final. But this time, instead of ditching I stayed a fan. Reading updates in the newspaper about loss after loss. Some years good. Some years, very bad.

In 1992, we were so bad that we were awarded the #2 overall pick in the NFL. A time when we were in dire need of a quarterback. We wound up with a bust named Rick Mirer, while the New England Patriots got this guy named Drew Bledsoe (the “parent” QB to Tom Brady).

More years of mediocrity would follow, but I stood tall.

CenturyLink2

I was there when Seahawks owner Ken Behring tried to move the team out-of-town to California in the dead of night. That attempt failed and Behring would eventually sell the team to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. With Allen on board, the team hired Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren and a slew of other talent, planting the seed for a run to greatness that came to fruition in 2005.

SeahawksHatDuring my time as a 12th man there has only been one low point, and that was Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As any fan of the NFL will tell you (and even Steeler fans too, if they’re honest), the referees decided that game. For me, it was stinging. Imagine waiting 23 years for a shot at a Super Bowl and then being cheated by a bunch of turds in pinstripes.

The thing is, in the NFL there are no guarantees and the days of dynasty left once the salary cap was initiated. You only have so much time to make a run before players and coaches leave for other pastures. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to my team following that “defeat”.

It’s taken eight years for the Seahawks to get back to the NFC Championship game. Eight long, often-times miserable years. But I never lost hope. I watched as Marshawn Lynch caused an earthquake with one of the greatest runs in NFL history and knew that the stars were aligning again….

I even took a weekend 2,856-mile trip to Seattle by myself two-years ago just to see them play the Atlanta Falcons. The first time I was ever a part of the 12th man.

They lost.

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for this game. I’ve even been having dreams at night this past week where the game is on and I am sitting around checking the score. Every time I looked, the score was changing. Thankfully, we were winning.

I don’t know what’s going to happen when it’s all over. Hopefully, dreams do come true. But all I can ask is that the refs let it be settled on the field. And may the better team then kick the sh$t out of the Patriots or Broncos.

Go Hawks!

Sign In, Please: Guitarist Steve Lynch Discusses the Return Of Autograph

SteveLynch1It’s been nearly 25 years since the members of Autograph completed their three-album deal with RCA records and mutually decided to go their own separate ways.

For guitarist Steve Lynch, that departure also meant the opportunity to get more involved in writing, teaching and hosting guitar clinics. Eventually, Lynch made his way back to his native Seattle and opened the Federal Way School of Music, where he continues to demonstrate, among other things, his legendary two-handed technique.

After a long hiatus, Lynch and bassist Randy Rand have reunited Autograph in 2014. Together with new singer Simon Daniels, the band plans to tour extensively — with shows that already include the Monsters of Rock Cruise, M3 and Firefest — before returning to the studio to record new material.

I spoke with Lynch about the reunion, his music and Autograph’s unique first gig in 1984.

GUITAR WORLD: It’s been 25 years since we last saw Autograph. What sparked this reunion?

In 2011, I saw Randy down at the NAMM show, and the two of us started kicking around the idea of doing a reunion. We saw a lot of bands out doing a “weekend warrior” sort of thing, and since I run a music studio and teach during the week, I thought it would be a great way to do it. We got our original drummer Keni Richards involved in early rehearsals, but he had to back out due to health issues.

Steve Lynch

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Read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Steve Lynch by Clicking Here

Singer-Songwriter Tim Butler Talks Nazareth Show And New Music

Tim Butler performs in Nazareth, PA on Jan 18th

Tim Butler

Guitarist Tim Butler’s love of music goes back much further than the twenty years he’s been performing in the Philadelphia area. From his early years singing in boys choirs, to his stints in high school musicals and teaching himself to play the instrument he loves, Butler is the pure definition of singer songwriter.

His catchy, hook ridden original songs have received lavish praise and his tasteful renditions of songs by such artists as Crowded House and Mister Mister have been pleasing audiences for more than two decades. But the thing that really makes Butler unique is that he’s just as comfortable performing solo as he is with a full-band; both of which being a must see.

Butler took a bit of a hiatus in 2013, but will return to his native Lehigh Valley for a show at the Nazareth Center for the Arts on Saturday, January 18th. In addition, he’s also been working on a CD of brand new material that’s expected to be released in February. I spoke with him about both and more in this exclusive interview.

Tell me a little about your upcoming show.

The show will feature 2 performers. Opening will be a musician by the name of “Not for Coltrane.” He’s local to the Lehigh Valley and has a very cool alt-folk-rock type of sound. Due to some of the constraints of the venue, I will not be playing full-band and instead will be doing a duo performance with my long time bass player, Rick Delana.

How would you describe the sound of your music?

I have really been described as many things: rock, pop, alt folk, alt country, folk rock, it goes on an on. Hearing that entertains me, but it also makes me realize that listeners can hear a lot of different things. I will tell you that I cut my teeth on pop and rock. Structurally, most of my songs are pop tunes. I love hooks and big choruses! But there is definitely a “rock” sound to many of my tunes, especially when I’m playing with the full band.

What are your thoughts on performing cover material?

I’m primarily an artist that does original music but I do enjoy sprinkling in some covers. Sometimes I’ll play something because someone asks me to, but 90% of the time the covers that I do really mean something to me or sometimes its just because I like the song or band.

Can you give us an update on your new CD?

It’s likely the new recording will be ready to drop by early to mid February. Most of the tracking is completed. There’s still some lead guitar work that needs to be done and then we are on to mixing and engineering.

Is there a particular song from the new CD that excites you?

One of my faves from the new CD is a song called “We’ll Be Happy.” It comes from a place that is my bread and butter: pop, with lush harmonies. It may sound a little “Beach Boys”, but I’m ok with that. I went in that direction with the instrumentation and harmonies. I didn’t fight it at all. In fact, with this CD I decided at the outset to just let the songs go wherever they wanted to go. Every song on this release I just let happen.

What’s your songwriting process like?

I am primarily a music first kind of guy. Sometimes a song will start with just a riff or a chorus structure or sometimes it might just be a “sound.” From there, I usually work through melody lines, etc. By that time, I’ve typically created a theme in my head and create lyrics based on that. It’s really worked well for me.

When did you first get bitten by the music bug?

I started singing at a very young age. I was in a touring boys choir starting in 5th grade and sang in choirs and in stage performances for a very long time. I took piano lessons for a short while and didn’t pick up a guitar until my senior year of college.

Tell me a little about your music experience in high school.

I have a lot of very fond memories of high school. It was there that I decided that I wanted to stick with music. It solidified that I would have music in my life in some organized fashion even if I didn’t major in it in college.

Coming into EAHS [Easton Area High School], I was actually all “choired out” and avoided singing all together. I remember people were always trying to get me involved, but I just wasn’t into it. Then one day, Ed Milisits [EAHS choir director] tracked me down and “drafted” me. I remember he was very persuasive about it and I ended up joining the Concert Choir and also being in a few school musicals. Those years were a big part of my life.

What are you most looking forward to in 2014?

I have been doing this pretty much non-stop since 1994 and last year decided to take a bit of a break (although I did perform a few random shows and at fundraising events). I discovered that I really missed making music, so getting back in the studio was GREAT!  I’m very excited about 2014. Although I won’t be setting out onto a full-fledged tour, I will be doing more shows that give me the opportunity to share some music. For me, I’m blown away with everything I’ve been blessed with over the years and am just so thankful! Musically, I hope to continue to do something that I really love to do. If someone likes it, loves it or it can mean something to them, then that’s a huge win for me.

Tim Butler Will Perform at the Nazareth Center for the Arts
30 Belvidere St. Nazareth, PA 18064
January 18th, 2014 @ 7:00pm
Tickets are $8 in advance / $10 @ door

For more on Tim Butler, check out his ReverbNation site by Clicking Here!

Bobbi Brown Discusses New Book: Dirty Rocker Boys

dirty rocker boysShe’s been a model, video vixen, rock star wife and a reality TV star. But Bobbi Brown has taken things to an entirely different level as published author. The ex-wife of the late Warrant vocalist Jani Lane is dishing the dirt about the LA scene in her new tell-all book, “Dirty Rocker Boys: Love And Lust On The Sunset Strip.”

In it, Brown talks about her journey from Louisiana beauty queen to the glamorous life of LA. From her early modeling career and time spent on TV’s Star Search to how she became the infamous “Cherry Pie” girl in the Warrant video of the same name.

Brown also pulls no punches when it comes to detailing her sometimes stormy relationships with Lane, Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe), Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) and even a young Leonardo DiCaprio; often going into vivid detail about the sex, drugs and debauchery that ran amok in the 90′s. Her book is a roller-coaster ride of emotion and a refreshingly quick read. More importantly, it’s an open and honest look at the life of a Louisiana girl who’s come full circle.

In addition to the release of Dirty Rocker Boys: Love And Lust On The Sunset Strip, Brown’s reality show along with other fellow rock ladies has just completed a second successful season. I spoke with her about the book as well as her relationship with Lane and the close circle of friends that’s become known as the Ex-Wives of Rock.

What made you decide to write a book?

I had read about a dozen or so rock books that I had been mentioned in. As I was reading the stories I just remember thinking, “Well, that’s not exactly right.” I felt the stories were more serving the ones who wrote them and weren’t really being accurate or honest. So I thought I would do a retort, but also have it be what life was like on the scene from a woman’s perspective.

bobbibrownWhat was the writing process like?

Caroline [Ryder] and I met and hit it off right away. She really got my sense of humor and what I was looking for and came back with the best perspective of my voice. There would be times where she would come over and we’d stay up all night just talking stories. I couldn’t have asked for better ghost writer. I wanted it to be realistic and for the reader to feel like they were one of my friends and I was talking to them about it.

After you arrived in LA, did you think that you would be immune to the drugs, sneaking around and cheating?

I think that when you get into a situation like I was in, you always sort-of believe in the back of your mind that somehow you’re “special” and that’s not going to happen to you. But that’s delusional. And the thing is it’s not even personal, but I think it’s the nature of the beast when it comes to dating a musician.

It’s been discussed that Jani’s time with Warrant was strained due to his addiction. What was his relationship like with other members of the band while you were with him?

They all got along well and never really had any serious rifts. It was “party scene-ish” and just very social. There were no serious emotional bonds or loyalties that I witnessed. In the same respect, they had known each other for quite a while and had history together. That’s why I was a little bothered after Jani passed that they didn’t make a bigger deal about it. I took that personally. I do know that he put them through a lot of grief, but I think that was part of his illness and addiction.

You mentioned your regret for not being there much for your daughter Taylar while she was growing up. Is there anything else you regret?

You know, I could actually sit here and say that I have a little bit of regret about all of the decisions that I’ve made. Looking back, you can always say things like ‘”Hey, maybe I should have done this differently or tried a little bit harder.”  But I’m really grateful every day for what I have and I think that has a lot to do with the way things are going for me now. I’ve also learned that the more grateful you are, the less sad you are.

Did you discover anything else about yourself after you finished writing the book?

It was very cathartic. I didn’t go into it imagining that it would end up being therapeutic, but going through all of these stories opened up a lot things that I had suppressed over the years. Some of which I never really had any closure with. It was a nice release.

Let’s talk a little about “Ex-Wives of Rock”. What’s your relationship really like with the girls on the show?

Believe it or not, it’s exactly what you see on camera. We’ve known each other for more than 20 years so it’s very much like a family. We may have our battles, but it’s never a situation where one of us will say “I hate you and I’m never going to speak to you again!” We may fight and argue but at the end of the day, we all care for each other.

Ex-Wives of Rock (l to r): Bobbi Brown, Susan "Blue" Dixon, Athena Lee, Sharise Neil

Ex-Wives of Rock (l to r): Bobbi Brown, Susan “Blue” Dixon, Athena Lee, Sharise Neil

Have any of the people you talked about in the book approached you to refute your side of things?

Knock on wood… Not yet! [laughs]. What I will say though is that it’s my own perspective of my story and I was very honest and open about it. I might have said things that some people didn’t want discussed or talked about, but it’s my life too. It is what it is. My favorite thing to say is “If you didn’t want anyone to find out about it, then maybe you shouldn’t have done it!” [laughs].

BobbiWhat advice would you give to people who might want to follow in your foot steps?

Don’t just think that you’re going to go out to LA and “give it a shot.” That kind of attitude just won’t fly. That’s when you can get caught up in the mistrust and be side tracked by opportunists. Make sure that it’s something you’re really passionate about and driven to do. It’s a crazy city and everyone here is here for a reason.

Is there a message you’d like people to take from reading your book?

I don’t want people to come away from it feeling sorry for me. When they finish the book, I want them to feel that my life has come full circle and maybe say “Good for her!” I want them to feel good about what they’ve read. I also don’t want them to feel like I was a victim, because I wasn’t. All of my life experiences were my own choice.

No one made me do any of the things I did. But in the end, they all made me the person that I am today.

Be sure to check out Bobbi’s Facebook Page and follow her on Ex-Wives Of Rock

REO Speedwagon: Live at Moondance Jam

REOMoondanceIt was a cold winter’s night back in 1985 when I braved the frigid February elements and drove my beat up rickety Toyota station wagon to a local college gymnasium to see REO Speedwagon. I was just a wiry, sixteen-year old at the time. A novice of the live band brouhaha and attending one of my very first concerts.

I’m not sure whether it was REO’s performance that night, or the fact that I was in the thick of what would one day become known as the “classic rock” era of music [more likely a combination of the two], but that night still reigns as one of my favorite shows ever.

Now almost thirty years later and with 40 million albums sold world-wide and thousands of more shows under their belts, attending an REO Speedwagon concert isn’t just an event, it’s an experience [and trust me, I've seen many of them]. I liken it to being witness to the opening of a time capsule of classic rock goodness.

A lot of people seem to forget that it was REO Speedwagon’s mid-west work ethic in the early 1970′s that paved the way for bands like Styx, Kansas and Cheap Trick. They’re also one of few bands from that so-called bygone era who still continuously tours year after year. And why not? The band’s blockbuster album, “Hi Infidelity” sold more than 9 million copies alone and spent an astounding 15 weeks in the #1 slot. A feat that’s simply unattainable in music today.

REO’s new album/DVD, “Live at Moondance Jam” was recorded in 2010 at the annual mid-summer festival in Walker, MN and once again showcases the band at its absolute finest. A performance that begins with a superfecta of songs from the Fidelity album before bounding around the Speedwagon catalog of hits that include “Roll With The Changes”, “Time For Me To Fly” and “Ridin’ The Storm Out”. Every song on this live album package was at one time or another burned out on a vinyl turntable or cassette deck.

Consisting of lead singer/guitarist Kevin Cronin (who’s penned not one, but two #1 hits; both of which are performed here), Neal Doughty (founding member of the band); Bruce Hall (Bass); Dave Amato (Lead guitar/Vocals) and Bryan Hitt (Drums), REO Speedwagon continues to prove that real rock is alive and well and hard work pays off.

“Live At Moondance Jam” is a concert experience you won’t have to brave the elements to attend, but one that’s a must have for your collection.

REO

Tracklisting:

CD: Don’t Let Him Go; Keep on Loving You; In Your Letter; Take It on the Run; Keep Pushin’; Golden Country; Can’t Fight This Feeling; Like You Do; Time for Me to Fly; Back on the Road Again; Roll with the Changes; Ridin’ the Storm Out; 157 Riverside Avenue.

DVD / Blu Ray: Don’t Let Him Go; Keep on Loving You; In Your Letter; Take It on the Run; Keep Pushin’; Golden Country; Can’t Fight This Feeling; Like You Do; Time for Me to Fly; Back on the Road Again; Roll with the Changes; Ridin’ the Storm Out; 157 Riverside Avenue. Bonus : Interview with Kevin Cronin

REO Speedwagon:

Neal Doughty – keyboards, organ, piano, synthesizer
Kevin Cronin – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano, keyboards
Bruce Hall – bass guitar, vocals
Dave Amato – lead guitar, vocals
Bryan Hitt – drums, percussion

The Power Of Gum

freedentI 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.

BubblesGum.

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 me us.

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.

How The Bay of Pigs Invasion could have been avoided.

How to avoid a Cuban Missile Crisis.

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.

Five Things I Think: Thanksgiving Edition

turkeyThis 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.

peace_candle3. 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.

Kate Rockwell & Aaron Finley Discuss Their ‘Rock Of Ages’ Experience

RockofAgesThey 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.

Kate Rockwell as Sherrie

Kate Rockwell as Sherrie

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.

Aaron Finley as Drew

Aaron Finley as Drew

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.

ROA1Is 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.

For more on Rock of Ages, check out the Official Website and Facebook

Cars

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.

corona

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.

torino

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.

Letters From Jan

Jan Kuehnemund  (November 18, 1961 - October 10, 2013)

Jan Kuehnemund
(November 18, 1961 – October 10, 2013)

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.

Hi James!

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!!! :)

Best,
Jan

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.

Godspeed Jan!

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