Category Archives: 1980′s
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I beg to differ. Quite often (and more often than not), it’s annoying. When I was growing up, it wasn’t good enough to just go to school wearing Members Only jackets and Jordache jeans. In the 80′s, a lot of the kids at my school routinely liked to show up at our educational establishment mimicking their favorite entertainers.
I kid you not, some girls would actually come to school with the exact same haircut and wardrobe ensemble as Pat Benatar or Madonna. Then there was a section of the student body who felt obliged to pay homage to Boy George from Culture Club on a daily basis. And don’t get me started on the dudes who came to school wearing a replica of the jacket Michael Jackson made famous in the “Beat It” video.
Which leads me to yet another atrocity of copy cats I’d like to discuss - the doppelganger world I see whenever I stroll down the cereal aisle at my local grocery store.
As if it weren’t already bad enough that I can only get Count Chocula at Halloween time, half of the shelves that once housed such morning goodness as Quisp, Frute Brute and Waffle O’s are now home to the wannabes; generic cereal that’s been cleverly disguised as some of my all time favorites.
You don’t fool me.
Sure, grocery chains tout that by purchasing generic brands, consumers can still enjoy their favorite breakfast cereal and also save money at the same time. Although there is some truth to that statement, these same people who claim to know what’s best for Americans seem to have forgotten about one very important thing – the fun factor.
Time is a precious commodity in this day and age, and there’s only a certain amount of it we get to spend using it on breakfast. Personally, I’d much rather spend mine with Lucky the Leprechaun, Toucan Sam or Fred Flintstone than with some stranger trying to imitate my homies.
I find it funny how these generic brands of cereal attempt to make themselves out to be alternatives to the name brand by using slightly different names (and characters) in their promotion. For instance, compare the use of the word “swirl” in Fruit Swirls with the “loop” in Froot Loops; an obvious Jedi mind trick. Oh, and look! How convenient…a monkey pitching the product. Could it be that both a monkey AND a toucan might be found in the same deep jungle? I’m sure it was just a coincidence. NOT!
Sometimes, the characters used to pitch generic versions are more blatant than others. As is the case with “Fruity Bits”; a knock off of my beloved Fruity Pebbles. You’ve got to give them credit for using a dinosaur to appeal to the Jurassic customers who’ve regularly indulged in the name brand for years. Sorry, but eating a bowl or these bits doesn’t even come close to the euphoria I’ve experienced by having breakfast with Fred and Barney over the years.
And what’s with the word “bits” anyway? Bits sounds like something you’d give to your dog. It’s not as manly as “pebbles”. Sure, it might sound like you’re eating rocks (and who knows, maybe you are), but this is the stone age we’re talking about, right?
If it were me and the decision had to be made, I’d go with the name brand cereal every time. If for no other reason than I would much rather be sitting at the table in the wee hours of the morning reading about the games Fred and Barney have in store for me than contemplating if it was really worth it to save thirty cents just to buy some knock off. You can’t put a price on happiness.
And as for the grocers who think it’s cool to not stock Count Chocula and some of my other favorites in order to make room for products like these, there’s a special place in Guantanamo for you.
When I heard my very first KISS album back in the 1970′s, a seed was planted and I realized I wanted to be a rock star. I remember picking up my grandmother’s hand-held potato slicer (which kind-of resembled a guitar) and played it til my fingers bled. Which come to think of it, happened rather quickly. Those little metal tines sure were sharp.
In the mid 80′s, I seriously began working on my craft. I’d sit up in my bedroom and play guitar for hours after school. I even remember getting mad at myself if I fell short of my set goal and only practiced for 2 1/2 hours instead of three. I couldn’t let anything (not even dinner or mowing the grass) interfere with my progress. Whether it was trying to figure out the lead to ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ by AC/DC or mastering a section from my guitar lesson music book, I accomplished it.
Back then, I had no fear.
It wasn’t until 1987 that I had my first chance to actually get out of the bedroom and play in front of an audience. I was the sole guitarist in the pit band for the school play and also performed the song “Flashdance” on stage with the school choir. That’s where it all began.
Over the next few years (oh, ok… decades… I’m 43) I played in no less than seven different bands with various degrees of success. I remember a lot of the lows, like playing hair metal in dive bars for 6 people. I also remember the high: performing in front of 6,000 people at Musikfest. But whether it was six or six thousand it didn’t matter. The message was the same:
I had no fear.
I’ve never really been concerned about playing my music in front of an audience. Nope, no stage fright here. Whether they loved it or hated it, I didn’t care. As Frankie said, I was doing it “my way”.
Which leads me to the real meat of this post.
Last month, me (along with a great friend and artist) had the opportunity to write and publish my first children’s book. I was interviewed by the local newspaper about it (piece of cake) and did an on camera, live TV interview (ok, I’ll admit, that one was a bit scary). I was even offered the opportunity to read my book to a group of children at a bookstore next week to help raise funds for a local organization, and I jumped at the chance. Not only would it be for a good cause, but it would also be a good outlet for the story. In retrospect though, as the day beins to draw closer, I’ve realized something:
I have fear.
There is something about reading in front of children that intimidates me. I could bring my guitar and sing songs all day long without worry. But reading a book (MY BOOK) is a whole different story (literally and figuratively). It’s funny to think that I can already tell I’ll be looking for reaction from their faces; hoping that my book will be worthy enough for them.
It’s odd how someone my age, who’s played so much music in front of people of all ages, would suddenly be nervous when it comes to a small amount of children. But I think I know the reason. When we’re kids, we discover early on how much it means to fit in with others. We all grow up wanting affirmation from our peers that what we’re doing is cool in their eyes. It’s important to kids that they feel a sense of belonging with each other, and I think one of the reasons for my own “cold feet” about reading the book has something to do with my subconscious mind still wanting to fit in too.
Regardless, I know the event is going to be fun and I’m really looking forward to it. Although some of my fear may rest with the fact that this whole experience is something completely new to me, I’m going to face it. For as is the case with music, the show must go on.
See you there.
I suppose it’s best to start from the beginning. It was somewhere in tenth grade when our paths crossed for the very first time. Now, thirty years is a long time to hold on to such memories but bear with me here. It was definitely the first year of high school; a time when the future seemed oh, so bright and the feeling of being in the home stretch of public education was finally starting to settle in.
Although I had just started playing guitar and dreamed of one day being the next Eddie Van-Halen, my original intent going into high school was to become a doctor. I had even taken some courses to help prepare me for my journey, including algebra and Latin. I really wanted to help people.
Anyway, I was sitting in tenth grade history class; a required subject, but one that I fell in love with right from the start. It was the only class in all of my years of education where I actually sat in the front row. I know this not because I was a nerd or anything (seriously, I wasn’t), but because last spring, Michele reminded me.
Michele, who also happened to be in the same class, could tell you exactly where I was sitting in proximity to her location and the classroom door. She has an amazing memory (in fact, when we reunited with each other last spring after too many years, it was one of the first things she pointed out remembering). I’m sure that if she thought long and hard about it, she could probably even tell you exactly what I was wearing. My guess is that it was a J’s Subs T-shirt and Lee jeans that I liked to wear religiously in those days.
High school years can be trying times, and mine were no different. But with all of the peer pressure and trying to find out where I fit in, I always found solace in art and music. And although we had never become friends and were nothing more than “another classmate” to each other, I do remember that Michele was also in my art class at one time too. Perhaps it was because she had written the word “Dokken” or “DIO” on her math book that jars my own memory about it. After all, she was a “metal head” too!
I always enjoyed doodling and writing poems in those days, never realizing what it might eventually turn into. But as the years went by, the hunger to become “Eddie” soon began to outweigh the desire to take the Hippocratic Oath, and music and art would become my life.
After high school was over, Michele and I both went our own separate ways. She would go on to become an educator and artist. As for me well, I did what most struggling musicians often do: bounce from job to job, attend community colleges and play the occasional bar gig or party. Eventually, I was able to balance my love of art with steady, full time employment.
Over the years, I have been extremely blessed to have been able to write and record my own songs and interview many of my favorite musicians for news articles, but there was always another dream I had running in the back of my mind: to one day write a book of my own. But as is often the case, life always seems to have other intentions and the dream would always wind up being placed on the back burner. Then last year, I began to have this idea for a rhyming story about a little girl and a dog. It was a spiritual story; one where both characters wonder about how things were made. The time was finally right. It was something I knew I had to do, but what I really needed was someone to come in and do the hard part: the illustrations. That’s when fate stepped in.
With our “big” 25th high school reunion approaching, the class of 1987 students began reuniting with each other via Facebook. It was there that Michele and I connected again. She was now living in Ohio but mentioned that she was going to be visiting the area and (along with another amazing friend) we all hooked up for dinner one night. I bounced the idea off of Michele, who coincidentally, also had the same dream of publishing a book. After a series of back and forth emails and months of organizing, proof-reading and spell-checking, “Doodle” finally came to life. It may be a children’s book about innocence, spirituality and wonder, but on a personal level, it’s also about friendship, reunions and good memories.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Shortly after the release of the book, Michele asked me if it were possible to donate her share of the profits of the book to her friend, whose daughter Ashley has been ill for quite some time. Ashley will soon require a bone marrow transplant and her medical bills are astronomical. Without hesitation, I decided the best thing to do was to donate 100% of all of the profits we make from the book to Ashley.
Check out the video of my interview discussing the Story Of Doodle and our mission:
The cost of each book is $7 and can be purchased online via Create Space or Amazon.Com. Depending upon where you order, we will receive a different royalty rate per copy. If you order through Create Space, we receive a royalty of $1.95 for each book. Purchasing through Amazon’s website will give us a royalty of .55 cents per copy ordered.
If you get a chance, please check out our “Doodle” Facebook page. Even if you don’t purchase the book, please consider giving the page a “Like” and share it to help raise some awareness. We’d greatly appreciate it!
Because in the end, while creating this book has fulfilled a life-long dream for both Michele and I, there is nothing greater than accomplishing that dream than with a true purpose.
For more information about Ashley’s Army Click Here
Click here to purchase your own copy of “Doodle”.
Last summer, I had the pleasure of speaking with the amazing Julie Piekarski Probst. Although her name may not ring a bell, chances are if you were a fan of “The Mickey Mouse Club” or “Facts of Life” back in the day, you’ve seen her.
Now, the beautiful actress and dancer is embarking on a journey to get on this season’s ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and I’m doing a re-visit of that interview to help her on her quest.
Julie is no stranger to the art of the dance, having honed her chops from a very young age performing in front of huge audiences at The Muny, the nation’s largest outdoor theater located in St. Louis, Missouri. She took time off from perfoming in the mid-1980′s in order to raise a family, but is now ready to enter the biggest ballroom in prime time.
In just the short time that we spoke, I found Julie to be a warm, infectious person with a love of life and the arts. She would be awesome on the show.
1. Julie would be the first Mousketeer to appear on the ABC show, which coincidentally also owns Disney.
2. With another ‘Fact of Life’ alum, (Lisa Whelchel) having made a successful run on the TV show ‘Survivor’, a “Facts of Life’ battle for TV ratings could be in order.
3. As a side note (and in another odd twist of fate) Julie and Lisa were BOTH Mousketeers and first worked together on ‘The New Mickey Mouse Club’.
You can read the rest of my interview with Julie here
Please help me help Julie by clicking this link and letting producers from Dancing With The Stars know you want Julie on the show. You can point them to my article if you like, but let’s make it happen. It would be very cool to say we played a role in getting Julie on the show and then cheering her on to victory!
Here are a few clips from Julie’s career:
Julie on The New Mickey Mouse Club
Here’s Julie from Facts of Life:
Julie on the show, Quincey M.E
Julie Returns to Walt Disney World:
I’m looking for someone, and I hope you can help me find him. He’s the last piece of the puzzle I need to complete my musical journey.
Back in 1984, I purchased my very first record album; Survivor’s “Vital Signs”. You know, the one the that has “I Can’t Hold Back”, “High On You” and “The Search if Over” on it, among other great songs.
By now, you all should know about my love of this particular album but if not, you can read about it here.
The music of Jimi Jamison, Frankie Sullivan, Jim Peterik, Stephan Ellis and Marc Droubay quickly became the soundtrack of my life.
Over years of repeated listenings, the album eventually wore out and soon found itself a new home (along with other items of reckless teenage abandon) in a box in the farthest reaches of my basement. Hell, by that time I had already moved on to having a copy of Vital Signs on cassette tape and CD anyway. (I have it on iTunes now, for those keeping score).
When I finally built my own music room/office area seven years ago, I decided to take the album out of the darkness, put it in a nice frame and hang it on a wall. It would become a beacon of youth; a reminder of all of the good times and great music I enjoyed in high school. Nail soon met wall and before I knew it, the music of my teenage years was on full display.
As I stood back to admire my new wall decor, it quickly became apparent that something was missing; and that’s when the idea hit me. I thought, what if I could take the album that meant so much to me nearly thirty years ago and try to get the entire band to autograph it? The only caveat was, five signatures were needed and only two of the guys from the album were still touring with Survivor. It was no small challenge, but one that I was up for.
The search began.
Guitarist Frankie Sullivan and drummer Marc Droubay signed it for me after a Survivor concert at Hershey Park in 2009.
Two Down… Three To Go
Three Down…two to go!
A few weeks ago, after doing an interview with Jim Peterik for Guitar World, I made arrangements to send the album out to Chicago for a signature. An album that had not been out of my possession since 1984 was gone and left in the hands of fate. Yesterday, I received the album back in the mail, signed by Jim.
Four down… ONE to go.
The call now goes out to you, oh faithful reader! If anyone can help me locate and connect with bassist Stephan Ellis, please let me know. Because when Stephan signs Vital Signs…. (as the song says)… the search is over!
What or where is your Utopia? For me, Utopia is the name of a store in downtown Easton that I frequented quite a bit as a teenager in the 1980′s. And not just any store mind you, Utopia was THE place to go if you were a connoisseur of music and someone whose parents had absolutely no intention of driving you across town to the Listening Booth store in the mall. Yes, in an age where record album sales and concert tickets were all the rage, Utopia was the closest place to go to get your music fix if you lived on South Side.
For a melodic rock / hair metal enthusiast like me, it truly was utopia. I still remember the hot summer days of youth walking downtown with a group of kids from the neighborhood with money burning a hole in my pocket. We all knew that what awaited us between those musty smelling walls was pure musical heaven. And unlike some of the more “modern” record stores of the day that allowed you to listen to new music before buying, Utopia was a shopping only experience.
You knew you had arrived at Utopia when you were greeted by the wicker furniture that resided in the store front windows. And once you crossed the threshold and into the store, the smell of cheap burning incense would consume you. Utopia showcased many of the newest albums of the day and even had a ticket counter where you could purchase tickets to the latest concerts coming to the area.
Utopia was the place where I purchased all of my concert tickets for shows at Stabler Arena and The Allentown Fairgrounds, including my first ever concert in 1984: The Scorpions and some new band named Bon Jovi. It was also where I purchased my first Dokken, Ozzy, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon and Stevie Nicks albums.
Perhaps the only thing I didn’t fully understand about the store were these peculiar objects they peddled in addition to albums and chairs made of sticks. They were oddly shaped, glass bottles that resided behind the counter. I found it strange that these vases were in the same location as the “dirty” men’s magazines and something you would embarrassingly have to ask a clerk to get for you.
I never inquired about them, but occasionally thought about getting my Mom one with flowers in it for Mother’s Day. They looked cool; almost like a genie bottle or glass pipe. My brother even had a blue one in his bedroom that he told me never to touch.
Last night I purchased an album on iTunes and it got me to thinking about the old shop again. It’s been years since I’ve visited Utopia. Perhaps its time to pay a visit and see how much has changed in a quarter of a century. Although I’m sure they still sell wicker furniture and cheap incense, I’m fairly certain that new music and concert tickets are no longer being peddled. I guess I’ll find out. And who knows? I might even get up the nerve to finally ask them about the glass pipes behind the counter.
But I highly doubt it.
Bassist John Taylor’s autobiography, “In The Pleasure Groove: Love Death and Duran Duran” is an insider’s look into one of the most iconic bands that dominated the charts during the “Second British Invasion” of the 1980′s. To date, Duran Duran has sold more than 100 million records and performed to sold out audiences in countries all over the world.
John’s book goes into great detail about many aspects of his life and career. From his early upbringing to the origin and meteoric rise of Duran Duran as well as its mid 80′s hiatus, when the band split into two hugely successful side projects:The Power Station and Arcadia.
John also pulls no punches in discussing his addictions to sex and drugs. His journey back is a true tale of inspiration.
The chapters are compact and the pages practically turn themselves. Filled with stories and photos from John’s personal collection of memorabilia, “In The Pleasure Groove” is a must-read not only for fans of Duran Duran, but also for connoisseurs of all things 80′s. It’s also a message of hope for those seeking inspiration in the face of their own addictions.
I had the pleasure of speaking with John about his new book and more in this exclusive interview!
What made you decide to write a book at this stage of your career?
I think now is a good time to write a book. I’ve got enough perspective and feel I’m on relatively safe ground emotionally and can go back and dip into those smoking, swirling times and not get caught up in it. I can be objective and speak cleanly about it. Also, there’s still time to come. I don’t feel like the end is near or anything like that. I have huge amounts of memorabilia from the early years of the band and also had a dozen or so really key scenes I thought would make for a perfect book.
I had spoken with someone who had read the book and mentioned how much they loved the scene with Sting where, as a child I went to see The Police perform. You can’t make up stuff like that. What’s written is absolute verbatim; exactly as it happened. It’s the kind of scene that would not have been impactful if I were sitting with Simon (Le Bon) doing an interview on CNN or speaking with you. It would be a total waste for me to try and lay that act out into that kind of an interview. I felt the only way to really give it the full impact was to write it. And it was fun! There were a lot of scenes I had fun writing about.
You mention the influence your Mom had on you quite a bit in this book.
My mom just loved pop music. When I was at a very young age, I really picked up on the way that she related to The Beatles. I also talk in the book about going to church and the Catholic songbook. How incredibly well written those songs were. Ones that appeal to people from the age of 4 to 90. Extraordinarily well put together, especially melodically.
Have you noticed anything different about the way people try to make it in music today?
I’ve lived in LA almost twenty years and am struck by how many of the musicians I meet tell me how they conceive of becoming successful. They’ll say: “Start by getting a lawyer, then get a deal, write some songs, then put a band together.” Its like, “Yeah but, when are you going to do a gig?” [laughs].
I went to the greatest of schools. I went to The Beatles primary school, the David Bowie secondary school and The Sex Pistols college. By the time I was 18, I already knew how to make a band and a record. It wasn’t arrogance. I really believe that if you want something badly enough and are prepared to really go for it, I see no reason why you won’t have success.
We [Duran Duran] did have extraordinary chemistry but it took time for the band to come together. We had to make some changes along the way and they weren’t always out of choice. Guys left us. Nick (Rhodes) and I were stranded by our first singer, but we didn’t drink over it. We kept moving and made the best of the situation.
My wife is a real worker who taught me the phrase, “Work Begets Work”. Instinctively, I think I always knew that. You always want to make things happen and I think that’s part of wanting to write the book too.I’m not sure where it’s taking me, but it feels good and I’m glad that I wrote it.
Do you have any regrets?
I don’t honestly believe in regrets. If you’re happy with yourself right here, right now and can feel good about your relationships, then I can also feel good about everything that’s happened to get me here.
Is there a message you’d like people to take from reading In The Pleasure Groove?
The recovery aspect is important. I was exposed to such a powerful, profound method of recovery. I was very fortunate. I was brought back from the dead. It was a few years ago but I wanted to communicate that because there are a lot of people struggling with addiction. I wanted to find a way to put that out there in plain man’s language to let people know that there is hope out there.
Article first published as Duran Duran Bassist John Taylor – In The Pleasure Groove on Technorati.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about from being a songwriter it’s this:
Inspiration can be found almost anywhere.
But sometimes though, we as writers tend to get complacent or hit road blocks. Situations where we just can’t seem to find anything to write about or get tired of using the same, dull songwriting formula we’ve grown accustomed to. It’s times like these when the search for inspiration can become almost fruitless.
So what are some of the things you can do to break out of your “comfort zone” and find that inspiration? I’m glad you asked. Using my love of 80′s music (and metal, of course) along with several of my past interviews, I’ve compiled a list of four things to help inspire that creative spark.
So the next time you’re about to hit the wall with songwriting, pick up your guitar (or whatever other instrument you have lying around) and give one of these a try:
1. Watch a movie, read a book or attend a sporting event for inspiration.
Stuck in a rut? Try one of the above mentioned suggestions for instant inspiration. Visual stimulation can sometimes work wonders for a songwriter. You never know when a scene in a movie, a passage from a book or a touchdown toss might awaken something inside you.
Back in 1982, songwriters Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik of the band Survivor were given a rough cut of a movie to watch as inspiration for a song. After watching a few minutes of the raw footage, the duo became inspired to write a song that would not only would go to #1, but would also earn them a Grammy award in the process. The movie was Rocky III and the song? “Eye of The Tiger.”
Frankie Sullivan: “You know, that song was the easiest of them all. I think Jim [Peterik] and I wrote the music for it in about half an hour and it took us three days to write the lyrics, only because we couldn’t come up with the punch line. But we kind of had the whole thing down in half an hour.”
2. Give yourself a deadline.
There are times when a deadline can actually be your own best friend. Try giving yourself a time frame to write a song from start to finish and see what happens. You’d be surprised what you might come up with when the pressure is on. Take John Parr’s #1 hit from 1985: St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion):
John Parr: “David Foster and I were working on songs for the soundtrack and were given a day to write it and a day to record it. David wasn’t feeling in the mood to write at the time, but I persuaded him and over the course of an hour we wrote three songs; one of them being “St. Elmo’s Fire.”
3. It’s OK to be cliché’.
A lot of music publishers will tell you that when it comes to songwriting, never, EVER write cliché’ lyrics (unless of course you’re Taylor Swift, Katy Perry or any new Bon Jovi song).
But despite the need to avoid the simple and mundane, there’s something to be said for just playing your guitar and writing down whatever comes to mind while you’re in the moment. The worst that could happen is that what you write never goes anywhere beyond the written page. But sometimes, it can lead to things you never would have expected. As was the case with Mike Tramp of White Lion when he co-wrote the band’s hugely popular song, “Wait”.
Mike Tramp: “There’s almost no origin to that song. The story goes, Vito [Bratta, guitarist] started playing the riff and the very first word out of my mouth once I heard it was “Wait.” It’s one of the simplest lyrics I’ve ever written, but it’s also the perfect American FM song.
4. Let Life Happen.
Sometimes we just need to put down our guitars for a little bit and let life happen. Conversation and recreational activities can play an important role in subconsciously finding inspiration. Good things can happen when you least expect it.
When Lita Ford was finishing up her hugely successful album “Lita” in 1987, she had also just finished moving into a new home. One night, she received a visit from Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne who brought her a house-warming present. After opening a bottle of wine and playing a few games of billiards, Lita and Ozzy went into a side room where a guitar and amp had been set up.
Lita Ford: “We just started playing and singing and wound up writing “Close My Eyes Forever”. The song was kind of an accident really.”
You’ll notice that in each of the song examples I’ve mentioned, there was more than one songwriter involved in the process. If you don’t already have a writing partner, consider getting one. Two heads are always better than one as Lennon/McCartney or Elton John/Bernie Taupin would tell you.
Remember, inspiration is everywhere. So give yourself deadlines, be cliché’, experience new things and compose riffs and lyrics you know no one else will ever hear. Life is the open road. So get on it and see where it goes.
I do. It was June of 1982. I was in seventh grade sitting in, ironically enough, music class during one of the last days before summer vacation…..
Thirty years after that steaming-hot day in seventh-grade music class, I spoke via telephone with Howe, who was home in the UK. In this interview, he shares his thoughts on XXX, the origins of Asia and their groundbreaking debut album. Howe also discusses the short-lived, albeit successful GTR project with Steve Hackett, his affinity for Martin guitars and his latest solo album, Time.
Read my complete article and interview with Steve Howe here