Category: Things I Think

Things I Think: My Favorite Songs from the 1980’s

It’s been a while since I posted a blog article on “Things I Think”, so I decided to go back and revisit a bunch of my favorite songs from the 1980’s. I’ve listed a bunch of them here, in no particular order of favorites.

These songs all remind me of growing up in the MTV generation. A time when going to the store to buy an album and then running home to listen to it alone in your bedroom was an experience. If you didn’t listen to an album in its entirety from first song to last (even if the hit was song #3) you weren’t doing it right. You listened completely and as you did, you made sure you read every lyric, liner note and thank you that was written on the sleeve. NO exceptions!

So grab an Orange Julius and Bavarian pretzel and put the quarters for Pac Man and Dragon’s Lair to the side for later. Here’s my list with a little commentary on why each song was so special to me. Let’s have some fun with this!

Ready? Let’s go.

“Africa” by Toto (From the album, Toto IV – released in 1982)

There are very few songs from my era as a teen that I will listen to whenever it comes on the radio, and this is one of them. Let’s be honest, how may writers do you know who can put the line, “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti” into a song and still make it fucking cool? The song is from the band’s Toto IV album, which won six Grammys, including Album of the Year. It is the band’s first and only #1 song (“Rosanna” was also a monster hit but only reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100).

“Kiss On My List” by Hall & Oates (From the album, Voices – released in 1980)

“Kiss on My List”; along with The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”, were the first two songs I vivdly remember listening to as the 80s began. The only reason the latter song didn’t make this list is because it was released in 1979. “Kiss On My List” was Hall & Oates second #1 song (“Rich Girl” was their first; four years earlier). I still remember listening to it on the radio in the summer of 1981, when I recorded my own “Weekly Top 40” countdown on a beat up cassette recorder. Of course, this song was always #1.

“She Dont Know Me” by Bon Jovi (From the album, Bon Jovi – released in 1984)

“Runaway” was a big hit and, of course, there would be a ton of other songs to follow, but this song from the band’s debut album will always be my favorite. The very first concert I ever saw was on June 16, 1984 when Bon Jovi (on their very first tour) opened for The Scorpions in Allentown, PA. It was a magical day. This track is also the only hit that wasn’t written by Jon and Richie Sambora. It was actually penned by Marc Avsec, who also wrote the song, “Ah! Leah!” Because it wasn’t written by the band, it was essentially dropped from the set once Slippery When Wet became a smash in 1986.

“Cum on Feel The Noize” by Quiet Riot (From the album, Metal Health – released in 1983)

It was during the summer of 1983. My Dad was driving me and my siblings along a rural stretch of Pennsylvania back road when the drums kicked in on the radio, and my immediate instinct was to yell, “TURN IT UP!!!” “Cum on Feel The Noize” (actually Quiet Riot’s verion of a Slade song from ten years earlier) was the first song that, as a teen, I said was “my song”. A roaring combination of guitars, vocals and groove.

“If She Knew What She Wants” by The Bangles (From the album, Different Light – released in 1986)

I’ve loved these ladies ever since their 1984 debut, All Over The Place. They collaborated with artists like Prince and even opened for Queen on their 1986 Magic Tour. This was a tough one for me, because there are actually two Bangles’ songs from the 80’s I adored. And although I loved “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like An Egyptian,” my favorite track from their album, Different Light, was their infectious cover of Jules Shear’s “If She Knew What She Wants”.

“Downtown Train” by Rod Stewart (From the album, The Best of Rod Stewart – released in 1989)

I may take some heat for this one, but that’s ok. As far as the 80’s go, “Young Turks,” “Infatuation,” “Some Guys Have All The Luck,” “Forever Young,” and “My Heart Can’t Tell You No” all spoke to me. But THIS track, actually a cover of Tom Waits 1985 song, wins the day. I just love Stewart’s arrangement; particularly the guitars in the bridge and the squealing hammond-synth sound as it goes back into the chorus. Gives me chills every time. On a side note, check out Waits intriquing, original version of the song, which sounds nothing like it.

Say It Isn’t So” by The Outfield (From the album, Play Deep – released in 1985)

When you think of the 80’s, most folks gravitate toward The Outfield staple, “Your Love” from their 1985 debut album, Play Deep.  Others will consider the anthemic, “Since You’ve Been Gone” from their 1987 album, Bangin’. For yours truly, I’m going with the first single from Play Deep, and my first exposure to The Outfield – “Say It Isn’t So”. I love the intro to this song and the infectious harmonies of Tony Lewis and the late John Spinks. Do yourself a favor – fast forward to 1:50 of this video and listen to them harmonize on the bridge portion of the song. Especially the line, “I see right through you”. Killer!

“Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper (From the album, She’s So Unusual – released in 1983)

Rob Hyman from The Hooters wrote this song with Cyndi, and when I interviewed him about it, he told me Cyndi’s inspiration for the song and title came from when she was reading TV Guide and noticed the 1979 film “Time After Time” was coming on. The song orignally was much faster, but the two ended up slowing it down to the masterpiece it became.

“And We Danced” by The Hooters (From the album, Nervous Night – released in 1985)

Speaking of hooters… well, The Hooters, this is another track that makes me wanna move. This song reminds me of summer time, and I’ll never forget the first time my neighbor, Mike, exposed me to this band out of Philadelphia. Thanks, dude!

“I Can’t Hold Back” by Survivor (From the album, Vital Signs – released in 1984)

This track holds a special place for me. The entire Vital Signs album, actually. This was one of the first videos I remember seeing on MTV when it finally went mainstream, and a song that spoke to a fifteen year old kid who was looking for love. It was also one of the very first songs I ever learned how to play on guitar. The Vital Signs album I owned then is still with me to this day, and is now signed and framed on a wall in my office. Needless to say, it’s sentimental.

“Heat Of The Moment” by Asia (From the album, Asia – released in 1982)

It was June of 1982. I was in seventh grade music class sitting in an ungodly hot room during one of the last days before summer vacation. As an end-of-year gift to the class the teacher, Mr. Brobst, allowed students to bring in some of their albums to listen to while we cleared out our desks. That was when a classmate named Danny put this album on the turntable. As needle met vinyl and the crackling hum and hiss began, it was the first time I heard that now infamous guitar riff and opening line: “I never meant to be so bad to you. One thing I said that I would never do …” I don’t think I have to say anything more.

“(You Can Still) Rock In America” by Night Ranger (From the album, Midnight Madness – released in 1983)

Gotta give kudos to Mike again for introducing me to these guys way back when. Every Friday night during the school year required a mandatory visit to the mall. And it was on one of these occassions, as Mike’s mother was chauffeuring us over in this super-huge station wagon, that Mike dropped Midnight Madness into the cassette deck. If you could’ve seen my eyes when the first sounds of this track came through the speakers, they were as wide as saucers. It was something I had only heard glimpses of with Boston and Thin Lizzy, but it was also something else. Something insatiably magical.

“Eternal Flame” by The Bangles (From the album, Everything  – released in 1988)

I couldn’t end this list without giving another shout out to The Bangles. “Eternal Flame” was released as a single in 1989 and would go on to become the band’s second #1 hit (“Walk Like An Egyptian” was first). Without a doubt, this is my all-time favorite Bangles song. But when I hear it now, some thirty years later, it’s almost melancholy, because it reminds me of the end of the 80’s.

By 1989, I was already two years out of high school. The Friday night hang outs at the mall; the pep rallies and bonfires; and the cruising of the strip in my souped up ’74 Torino were over. All the friends I had grown up with were either half way done with college, entering the workforce or joining the military. As for me, I was still struggling to determine where I fit in with the big mystery called life.

The days of childhood innocence were over, but this song will forever hold a special place in my heart because, at least for me, it officially says “goodbye” to that decade.

Whew! Ok, there’s mine. Let’s hear some of yours! Drop a line in the comments below!

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Three Things I Think: 2014 New Year’s Edition

2014-Numbers-Happy-2014-New-Year-free-Image-WallpaperWell, here we are. Five days into the brand new year. Have you made any resolutions for 2014?

This year, I resolve to continue a healthful regimen of diet and exercise as well as devote more time to my music, reading and writing. Then of course, there’s also a need to spend more quality time with family and friends.

I spent much of this past week compiling a list of things I can do to help me achieve these goals like starting a journal, doing a few writing prompts and downloading guitar exercises online.

It was then that I decided to make another list. Not things for me personally to achieve, but wishes for us as a society. Things I hope are gone by the end of the year that would make the world as we know it a much better place.

So, without any further adieu, here are the three things I think we need to get rid of by December 31st, 2014….

3. Reality Shows

I know it’s never going to happen, but is it too much to ask that they tone them down a bit? I mean, “The Voice” literally just got over a few weeks ago and I’ve already seen commercials promoting the next “season” which starts in February. I always thought “season” in TV vernacular meant years and not months.

Then there’s “American Idol”, “Biggest Loser”, “The Bachelor/Bachelorette”, “So You Think You Can Dance” and “X-Factor”. Oh, and let’s not forget “Dancing With The Stars” which seems to run non-stop all year long. If we could just get rid of one of these shows in 2014, I’ll be a happy camper.

2. Crappy Music

I may sound like an old fuddy-duddy for saying this but I don’t care. New music today sucks. You can’t turn on the radio dial without hearing the exact same terrible songs over and over. Auto-tuned vocals, blasé beats and cliche’ lyrics are the norm these days. Whether it’s Taylor Swift’s latest man problem, Justin Bieber’s threats of retiring or Miley Cyrus’s twerking, it never seems to go away.

This June will mark the 30th anniversary of the very first concert I ever attended: The Scorpions and Bon Jovi. This is relevant because three decades later I can still remember exactly where I was, who I was with and the music I heard. Better still, Bon Jovi; the band that was just starting out at that time and literally got booed off of the stage in favor of the Scorpions, was the highest grossing tour act of 2013.

There’s something to be said about having longevity in music. Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Elton John, The Rolling Stones. Some of these artists have been doing their thing for more than a half-century.

Call me old-fashioned, but somehow I don’t think that we’ll still be talking about Taylor Swift, One Direction, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus 50 years from now. And even if we are, I’ll thankfully be long gone by then.

And now, the #1 thing we need to get rid of by the end of 2014….

119498920855513921snow.svg.med1. Naming and Fear Mongering about Winter Storms

I don’t know what part of the country (or world) you come from, but here in the great Northeast the weather has changed dramatically over the last year.

And no, I’m not talking about global warming and an increase in heat waves, rainfall or snow accumulations. I’m talking about way the media has decided to hype up their weather forecasting coverage by fear mongering about “apocalyptic” storms.

An apocalyptic event should be one like a Category 5 Hurricane, an F-5 Tornado, an earthquake, volcanic eruption or a horrific Tsunami. Not one where the region gets blanketed with three inches of snow causing slower than usual commute times to work on a Monday morning.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that we’re given advance notice about pending hurricanes and nor’easters. But it seems that lately every passing front that goes through between the months of December and March qualifies as Armageddon.

Here are just a few quotes I’ve heard regularly on television weather forecasts (emphasis added because the meteorologist added it in their own reporting).

“It’s going to be the coldest air in FIVE years folks!” — (Wow! That’s certainly a long time ago.)

“Stay tuned and I’ll tell you when to expect the COLDEST air we’ve had in TWENTY YEARS on NBC news at 11.” — (Beg pardon, but what was the weather like 20 years ago? Yep… cold!)

“Winter Storm Hercules is bearing down, blanketing our area with as much as a foot of snow in some of the higher elevations.” — (Hercules? Oh, please!)

Since when have we become such a watered down society that we now have to name every single storm regardless of cold temperatures, ice and snow? I don’t know about you, but in my forty-four years of existence we’ve always had just one name for this type of phenomenon:

Winter.

Four Things I Think: The 4 Greatest Inventions Ever

thingsithinkAside from the thumb (and having sex for fun instead of just procreation), it’s the one thing that separates us humans from the rest of the animal kingdom: the ability to use our brains to create things that make our lives easier. And thank God for engineers with PhD’s because about the only thing I can create (besides a blog article) is a bowl of cereal and maybe toast.

Now, I’m not just talking about smart phones, TVs, CD players or microwave ovens (although those are all noble inventions). I’m talking about inventions that REALLY make our lives easier. Things that if you took them away (even though I could adjust) I’d be a complete wreck.

So, without further ado, here are my choices for the 4 Greatest Inventions EVER:

4. Electricity. Thank you Mr. Franklin and your kite experiment. Even though it’s a no brainer, I decided to include one of the most obvious discoveries on the list. I suppose a case could be made for a car (it’s much cooler to pick up a girl for a date in a Mustang rather than riding on a donkey) or a candle (can you imagine coming home from work every day and spending the next six hours sitting in the dark?)

3. The Internet. Another no brainer really. Something that’s been around for longer than you think, but didn’t really gain traction until the mid 1990’s. Every answer to any question you’ve ever wanted to know about is somewhere easily accessible.

The Internet is a phone, music player, television, library and pretty much anything else you can think of. Normally, this would blow my top two choices out of the water. Although I do appreciate not having to drive to the library and use big reference books or microfiche anymore to find information, the next two are inventions are ones that have made my “physical” life better.

2. Air Conditioning. I don’t care who you are, if you’re buying a home, this is a MUST. I cannot even imagine how people lived through heat waves during the turn of the century without it. And central air conditioning improved upon an already great invention.

For me, growing up in a home where there was no central air and having to lug ginormous units and place them into small open window frames was a pain. Finding a place to store them once winter rolled around was an even bigger problem.

Speaking of winter, here’s the number 1 Greatest Invention Ever:

1. The Snow Blower. Without question, the greatest contraption ever invented. Case in point: Here in the Northeast, we are bracing for a huge snowstorm. Years ago, this would have meant that I would have to spend HOURS and HOURS shoveling my driveway and sidewalk; back breaking work (especially if it was that wet, packed snow).

Now, I just look out my window and say to Old Man Winter “Is this all you’ve got?” From the time I decide to go out and snow blow until the time I am once again resting on my comfy couch in my stocking feet it’s thirty minutes max. And unlike fancy cars and some other luxuries, use it just one time and you quickly discover it’s a machine that’s worth every single penny you pay for it. Just make sure you remember to fill the gas tank the night before the snowstorm.

Your turn: What are some of your choices for greatest inventions ever?

Five Things I Think: The Top Rock Vocalists of All Time

Yesterday they announced that Britney Spears and Demi Lovato would be joining the judges panel for the Simon Cowell talent show “X-Factor”. I was dumbfounded by this revelation. What credentials could these two individuals possibly possess that qualify them to be judges of singers?

So while I was thinking about how shows like this have “sold-out” and now only seem to be launching pads for celebrities to jump start their stagnant careers (hello J-Lo) I started thinking about some of the best rock singers I knew.

Singers. I’m a big fan of them. Especially ones that do it with ease. Because what they do is something I long for but know I’ll never achieve, even with years of training. It’s something you’re born with. And it makes me love them and hate them all the more. But in a good way.

So I decided to give you a quick list of who I think are the five greatest rock singers of all time. We can debate about it all you want (and I hope we do) but let’s see if you agree:

Lou Gramm

#5. Lou Gramm: When I first heard “Hot Blooded” for the first time I was blown away. It was one of the first songs I ever attempted to sing for real and subsequently realized that I wasn’t a singer. Thanks Lou!

Lou’s vocals also shine on songs like “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, “Juke Box Hero” and of course “I Wanna Know What Love Is”.

 

Robert Plant

 

#4. Robert Plant: I’ll probably take a lot of heat for this one but truth be told I was never really into Led Zeppelin all that much. I know, a travesty. Especially for a metal-head like me.

I was one of the ones who knew about them but like most people grew incredibly tired of hearing “Stairway to Heaven” being played ad nauseam on rock radio.

Perhaps that’s why I never opened myself up to some of their other great songs. But I give credit where credit is due. Robert was one of the best ever.

 

Steve Perry

#3. Steve Perry: You know how you can tell you’re an awesome singer? When you get kicked out of the band and the remaining members proceed to spend the next 15 years replacing you with guys who sound exactly like you. Sorry, but in this case, nothing comes close to the original.

Kids these days can’t seem to get enough of “Don’t Stop Believin”. But I like to remind them how great it was for me to be living during the years when songs like “Any Way You Want It”, “Lights”, “Stone in Love”, “Open Arms”, “Separate Ways'” and “Faithfully” were actually new!

Try to find any singer out there today that comes close to equaling a resume of songs like that.

Freddie Mercury

#2.Freddie Mercury: Without a doubt the ultimate front man. Watch their Live Aid performance from 1985. Or check out the video from their “Kind of Magic” tour. Not just a phenomenal singer, Freddie also knew how to play to the audience.

Listen to him on the magnum opus “Bohemian Rhapsody”, his swagger on “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and his fun side on “Fat Bottomed Girls”. And even those are just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s still hard to believe that this guy’s been gone for over twenty years. Just think of all the great music we’ve missed. I still believe that if he was still alive Queen would be the biggest thing on the planet.

 

Even when they replaced him with Paul Rodgers (an honorable mention on my list) they STILL played in front of crowds in excess of 300,000 people.

Jimi Jamsion

#1. Jimi Jamison: In my view the ultimate rock singer. And no, it’s not just because he’s the only one on my list that I’ve actually met in person (although he is one of the most humble, down to Earth people you’d ever meet).

Just listen to him on any of the 1980’s Survivor albums (my favorite songs being “Can’t Hold Back”, “Man Against The World” and “Desperate Dreams”) or any of his solo material. The man’s voice never changes. It’s as powerful as ever and he does it with ease.

Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan once said Jimi could sing the phone book and quite honestly, I’d really like to hear it.

Your turn. Who are your favorite male rock vocalists?

Five Things I Think: The Top 5 People I Wish I Had Met

I think for each of us there have always been a few famous people we wish we could have met at some point or another before they died. Whether they were actors, musicians, presidents or athletes, there have always been people who’ve influenced us that we always wished we had rubbed elbows with but never got the chance. And I myself am no different.

So what I’ve done is compiled my own list of the top five people I wish I would have gotten the chance to meet before they went off to the great beyond. But rather than just put together a list of people you’d most likely expect to see (like say Jesus, Beethoven or Abe Lincoln) some of the people on my list come with a little twist. You see, a few of the people on my list I would have liked to have met in person and for some others, the character that they portrayed. Confused? Don’t worry, you’ll see what I mean soon enough. Enjoy!

#5. The Mad Painter: Was there ever a child who grew up in the 1970’s and watched Sesame Street that didn’t want to hang out with the guy who went around painting numbers on things without fear of retribution?

The Mad Painter was always one of my favorite shorts from the show. I didn’t care that his real intent was to actually teach me how to draw numbers properly. I just loved watching him use his old school graffiti talent and go around painting numbers on things. The world was his canvas and as an artist, what could possibly be better than that?

Who could forget the time a young Stockard Channing (who would go on to play Rizzo in the movie Grease) was having a picnic by herself while the Mad Painter used condiments to paint “3”‘s on her sandwich? Check it out here.

The Mad Painter was portrayed by Paul Benedict (1938-2008) who most people know as Harry Bentley, the neighbor of George and Weezie on “The Jeffersons”. You remember, the dude who always got the door slammed in his face by George.

#4. Mr Rogers: I don’t know about you, but I used to love watching this show too. There was something about rushing home from elementary school and watching Mr. R take off his work jacket, put on a cardigan sweater and sneakers and hang out for a while.

At one point I used to pretend to be Mr. Rogers and do his show live from the studio inside my bedroom. And I would have given up a weeks allowance to take a ride on the Trolly. As an adult now, I think I’d get a big kick out of listening to him tell stories about the show while we listened to Smooth Jazz.

Sadly, Fred Rogers passed away in 2003.

#3. Curly From The Three Stooges: They tried three times to replace him and each time failed. Nothing compared to the fun of watching Curly do his thing. The Three Stooges were a staple in my home on Sunday mornings.

I used to, and quite frankly still do, get pissed when the intro would come on and that damn Shemp’s picture was there with my boys Moe and Larry. And if Joe was in the short well, it was definitely bathroom break time.

To me, there was no better Stooge than Curly Howard (1903-1952). Whether he was making dog barking noises or getting punished by Moe that guy just had a knack for making me laugh.


#2. Dr. Seuss: Ok, now we’re starting to get to the heavy hitters. I could have spent years talking to this man about everything from Yertle The Turtle right up to the Grinch. I would want to know every detail about how he came up with such wonderful stories and characters.

I don’t think there’s ever been an author who has written children’s books in quite the same manner or continues to fascinate them more than Dr. Seuss, even twenty years after his death. I mean, this is a guy that tackled such things as the true meaning of Christmas (Grinch), prejudice/discrimination (The Sneetches) and even environmental issues (The Lorax) way before anyone else.

And finally….drum roll please…..

#1. Bob Ross: Without a doubt this is the one person that I regret not meeting most of all. All throughout the 80’s this man was a big part of my life. I used to love coming home from high school at 2:45pm just in time to watch Bob with my grandmother when his show came on the local PBS station at 3.

When I caught his show for the first time I thought there was absolutely no way anyone could paint a picture like that in 30 minutes. And yet, he took a plain white canvas and turned it into a masterpiece in less than half an hour.

He was the one who made me start picking up my own brush and palette and I’d spend countless hours reading his instructional books and painting the pictures he did.

As a teenager filled with all the emotional rage and feelings that teenage boys often carry, his “happy tree” demeanor always made me believe that anything was possible.

I’d look at my own finished work and say: “Wow, if I can paint like this, what else can I do?”

Take a peek at the master at work here.

I wish I would have gotten the chance to meet him before he died in 1995. If for nothing more than just to say… “Thanks!”

Now it’s your turn. Share some of the people you’ve always wanted to meet but never got the chance to.

Five Things I Think: The Best Movies of All Time

Perhaps you’ve read my past rants regarding holiday specials, the best scary movies I’ve seen or the warnings I’ve given about the films you need to avoid. As we wind down 2011 it seems only fitting that I’ve saved the best for last. So I’ll use this post to inform you of what I believe are the greatest movies of all time.

Let’s be honest right up front: I’m no movie mogul. I have no degree in movie watching and for the most part I can sit through pretty much anything. I like the thriller, comedy and action movie all equal. In other words, I’m not a hard person to entertain (I mean, I watch Godzilla for goodness sakes).

My judgement on these movies has nothing to do with box office success either. Truth be told I didn’t care much for Avatar (way too long) and Titanic and Transformers didn’t make my list either ( no offense Mr. Cameron or Mr. Bey). The criteria I use to determine if a movie is great or not is simple, much like me:

#1 – The film must have a fantastic story line. (as most great films tend to do)

#2 – The movie must not drag on and on. There are plenty of movies that are worthy of being called great but they seem to drag on longer than they should (Avatar and Batman: The Dark Knight both quickly come to mind). I prefer movies that tell the story quickly and makes you want to watch it again.

#3 – I’ll give bonus points to a movie that meets the first two criteria and also has a twist or is unique for the year it came out. For example, according to the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest movies of all time the #1 film by far is Citizen Kane and I would tend to agree with that statement. For a film that came out in 1941 there’s no doubt it meets all of my criteria to a tee. Everything about it deserves top honors. But since neither I nor my parents were around in 1941 to witness this masterpiece first hand I’ve instead created my own list with some information from Wikipedia included.

So dim the lights, grab some popcorn and let’s go:

5. The Sixth Sense (1999): This film made my list because I, like most others, fell for the twist at the end. I love movies that get you thinking one way and then pull the rug out from under you at the end.  Hollywood tried to copy the twist from this movie many times since but always came up short.

This film also gave director M. Night Shyamalan a green light to make a half-dozen bombs following it’s release. (See, well on second thought DON’T see, The Happening, a film which made my WORST list).

 
4. Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981): Harrison Ford at his finest. This film is an adventure of biblical proportion. It pits Indiana Jones (Ford) against a group of Nazis who search for the Ark of the Covenant because Adolf Hitler believes it will make their army invincible. Contains non-stop action, a love story and even the Nazi’s getting an ass-whooping. What more could you ask for?

 

 

3. Forrest Gump (1994):
Tom Hanks was a freaking genius. One of the first actors to for go his salary in exchange for a take of the box office. The story depicts several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, a native of Alabama who experiences firsthand, and contributes to, some of the defining events of the latter half of the 20th century while being largely unaware of their significance due to his below-average intelligence. Run Forrest, RUN!

 

2. Star Wars (1977): Episode 4 for those keeping score, this film clocks in at 90 minutes and is the movie that started the whole Star Wars craze. I’ll even give props to Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as far as coolness goes but nothing beats the original.


and by now you should already know….

1. JAWS (1975):  Without a doubt the greatest movie ever made. The only film that if I can (and have) watched every day and it never gets old. I used to be able to quote this entire movie line for line, much to the chagrin of my parents and siblings. “You all know me, know how I earn a living…”

JAWS won three Academy Awards and should have won the Best Picture but lost out to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when the academy had a Jack Nicolson bias. Don’t get me wrong, Cuckoo was a good film but certainly not better than JAWS.

Honorable Mentions: These are films I highly recommend you see. Right now if possible. You have my permission to take the rest of the day off.

In no particular order:

Platoon (1986), The Usual Suspects (1995), The Green Mile (1999), Memento (2000), The Lord of the Rings Series, Groundhog Day (1993), Can’t Buy Me Love (1987), Fight Club (1999), A Christmas Story (1983).

Your turn. What are some of your favorite movies of all time?

Five Things I Think: The Best Christmas Songs of All Time

Yesterday I wrote about the over saturation of Christmas music being played non-stop on my local radio station. And although they have tried their best to ruin songs that I’ve grown up with and adore they haven’t succeeded.

There are certain songs played only this time of year that not only remind me about the true meaning of the holiday but also conjure up memories of family and Christmases long gone by. After all, there really is no place like home for the holidays.

The list of songs I’ve compiled here all have one thing in common: visual imagery. When ever I hear these songs (done well of course) I find myself being caught up “in” the story of the song.  So with this in mind you’ll see that none of these songs contain barking dogs, Christmas donkeys or Grandmas getting run over. Yes, songs like that are cute but they aren’t even in the same league as the ones below.

Although I don’t ever recall toasting marshmallows this time of year or telling tales of glory or ghosts (although there was that one time I saved the cat that was stuck out on the roof) these songs forever hold a special place in my heart. Let’s see if you agree.

My Favorite Christmas songs of all time:

5. Christmas Time Is Here(1965): It’s got to be the version by Vince Guaraldi for The Charlie Brown Christmas Special. No other song sets the mood for Christmas more for me than this. When I hear this song I immediately conjure up memories of Snoopy and all the children skating on the ice as the snow softly falls. For a short while I’m a child again sitting in the parlor with my grandparents watching the show underneath a lighted Christmas tree and all is well with the world.

4. Happy Christmas (War is Over) – (1971): I’ve always been a big fan of John Lennon. But in all of the songs he’s written nothing (well except for maybe Imagine) makes you think more than this one does. From the very first line it immediately asks the question:

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?

And I think, what have I done? What have we all done to make this a better world? It can happen….if we only want it to. So why haven’t we?

3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1944): Initially written to coincide with a scene in the Judy Garland movie Meet Me In St. Louis, I can only imagine what it must have been like to have watched this movie in the theater and heard that song for the very first time. This song also brings back warm memories of family for me, most notably the line:

Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow

What a promise of hope. Although families may be apart due to death, distance or war someday, God willing, we will once again all be together.

2. Do You Hear What I Hear – (1962): Believe it or not this song was actually written during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A time when the threat of nuclear war was very real and very near. Although the real meaning of this song dealt with one of the scariest times in our nation’s history when I listen to this song now I immediately become one with the night wind, Sheppard boy and mighty king. In my mind’s eye I see an old kingdom on the first Christmas morning where royal and peasant join in unison in praising the name of the newborn. I see myself high above the tree looking down and taking it all in as the call to pray for peace everywhere is made. Sadly, 50 years since it was written and this same proclamation couldn’t be needed more.

1. Hark The Herald Angels Sing – A carol that actually began in the mid 1700’s and went through several iterations to become what it is today. This song is my all time favorite for several reasons but mostly because of just one line that pretty much sums up the entire holiday for me:

Peace on Earth and Mercy Mild, God and Sinners reconciled.

So tell me, what are some of your favorite songs of Christmas?