Hitting the big 6-0 today is a gentleman whose prowess on guitar is the stuff of legend: Eddie Van Halen.
Born in Nijmegen, Netherlands in 1955, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen wasn’t just born unto a father who played clarinet, saxophone, and piano, he was actually named after a musician…or didn’t you realize that “Lodewijk” is Dutch for “Ludwig”? (This explains a bit more why Eddie went on to name his son Wolfgang.) The Van Halen family moved to Pasadena, California in 1962, and soon began to study piano, along with his brother Alex. Although Eddie had a gift when it came to tickling the ivories, even winning a piano competition at Long Beach City College four years running, he soon shifted his interests to the guitar, while Alex - inspired by his brother – decided to take a stab at playing drums.
34 years ago today, one of the most memorable anthems to emerge from the UK during the ‘80s first hit record store shelves, kicking off Kim Wilde’s career in a big, big way.
“Kids in America” may have been Wilde’s first single, but she came into the music business with the right background: she was the daughter of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roller Marty Wilde. Unsurprisingly, it was family connections which helped pave the way for her own success, but what is surprising is that the first connection wasn’t her dad: she was discovered by legendary producer Mickie Most while she was recording vocals for a song by her brother, Ricky Wilde. Impressed by both her voice and her image, Most was interested in working with her, which led to Ricky and Marty collaborating on a song for Kim…and given this particular post, you’ve probably guessed what that song was.
37 years ago today, a member of Chicago died who, over the course of the band’s career and musical evolution, has become far more of a footnote than he deserves to be: guitarist Terry Kath.
Born – appropriately enough – in Chicago on January 31, 1946, Terry Alan Kath came from a musical family, with a mother who played banjo and a brother who played the drums, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the prevalence of various instruments in his home led him to try and master these instruments himself. Once he entered high school, however, he obtained his first guitar and amplifier, effectively setting his future career in motion. Although he was far more self-taught than not, Kath had nonetheless learned enough by 1963 to join his first semi-professional band, The Mystics, later becoming a member of Jimmy Rice and the Gentlemen and – later still – Jimmy Ford and the Executives, where he was effectively the bandleader.
29 years ago today, Ray Charles officially joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and while some might generally think of Charles’s music as being more in the vein of R&B, jazz, or even country (he did top the country charts in ’85 with “Seven Spanish Angels,” you know), surely we can all agree that the man’s music most definitely rocks.
Charles was certainly in good company on January 23, 1986: his other fellow performer inductees included Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers, and Little Richard. (If you hadn’t already guessed from that list, yes, it was the Hall of Fame’s very first induction ceremony.) When it was Charles’s time to shine, Atlantic Records founder and president Ahmet Ertegun took the stage to say a few words about the man for whom he wrote “Mess Around” before introducing “my adopted honorary Turkish brother,” Quincy Jones, who handled the formal induction duties.
Remember when we used to argue about Days of the New?
This was back in the mid-nineties when Geffen Records was the king of rock, just before that format imploded and so did the label. Before videos were all about the production and not the music, before rap went on a victory lap.
It's almost like it didn't happen. Days of the New was huge, and then they disappeared. You see the "creative genius" of the group, Travis Meeks, fired the rest of the act after the initial success. Which he could then never duplicate. Did he lose the formula, or was the effort of the rest of the band key?
We haven’t really done much in the way of compiling video playlists for Rhino.com, but there’s no time like the present to remedy that situation, and we thought we’d kick things off with one that spotlights some videos from the days when MTV actually still stood for “Music Television.”
(Yes, we know it’s an overplayed joke. But we also know it’s still an accurate one.)
Some of these videos are from the earliest days of the network, while others are from a few years farther down the line, but they’re all very much from the ‘80s, a.k.a. the glory years of music video. Some of them were MTV staples in their day, like a-ha’s “Take on Me” and ZZ Top’s “Legs” – hey, we just took it from A to Z! – while some may have escaped your notice until they turned up on 120 Minutes several years later, like Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” or The Smiths’ “This Charming Man.” If you lived through the ‘80s, though, then you’ll no doubt enjoy reminiscing about that time Milton Berle hung out with Ratt, or when Devo introduced one generation to the Rolling Stones while another generation decided that they’d just heard musical blasphemy at its worst, or when Al Jarreau actually got airplay on MTV.
Today would have been the 55th birthday of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, but as he’s no longer with us, it’s instead a very good day to celebrate the legacy that he left behind.
Since you already know there’s no way we’re going to end this piece without providing you with a playlist of his best efforts with INXS (plus Hutchence’s collaboration with The Heads, “The King is Gone,” which somehow felt appropriate), we thought we’d make note of three of his additional contributions to pop culture – two musical, one cinematic – that might not immediately leap to mind when you think of the late Mr. Hutchence’s back catalog of accomplishments.
31 years ago today, Yes made the sort of comeback that rarely comes around anymore, taking more than a decade’s worth of history as prog-rock superstars, setting those aspects slightly to the side, and transforming their sound so successfully to match current musical trends that they secured the first – and, to date, only – #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” was predominantly – but not exclusively – a Trevor Rabin composition, with frontman Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, and producer (and former Yes member) Trevor Horn making additional contributions to the final version of the song. Rabin, formerly of the band Rabbitt, was a new addition to the Yes lineup, having first crossed paths with Squire and drummer Alan White in 1980 while Yes was…well, let’s just say they were on a hiatus, shall we? The three started working together under the name Cinema in early ’82, bringing in another former Yes member, keyboardist Tony Kaye, to assist them on concert dates. Between Rabin’s material and some stuff that Squire and White had brought along from an aborted project called XYZ which had temporarily teamed them with Jimmy Page, Cinema soon had enough tunes for an album, which Horn helped them put together. Unfortunately, Horn and Kaye didn’t really get along, so Kaye left, leaving Rabin to pick up much of the keyboard work, and since neither Rabin nor Squire were really the most distinctive of vocalists, Squire decided to reach out to Jon Anderson, and…well, you can probably figure out what happened next.