A Great Time to Rock

Like many people, I got introduced to the rock band Pink Floyd through their album, The Dark Side of the Moon.

Produced by the brilliant Alan Parsons, this is their masterpiece; every track, a standout. Insightful and incisive lyrics by Roger Waters (who since became one of my favorite songwriters), guitarist David Gilmour’s superb vocals, and flawless playing by the whole band from beginning to end. It remains a classic.

And, needless to say, it sold. It spent an astonishing fifteen years on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.

And (brace yourselves, Boomers) this year will mark the 50-year anniversary of its release.

I know, right? O…M…G!

But wait, there’s more.

In 1973, I was just becoming a serious rock and roll aficionado. I mean, I’d heard some before then, but wasn’t really a devoted follower yet. But all that changed in ’73.

And I think a big reason for that is all the great music that came out that year. Here are just a few albums, besides Dark Side, turning 50 in 2023:

Billion Dollar Babies, Alice Cooper; The Captain and Me, The Doobie Brothers; Brothers and Sisters, The Allman Brothers Band; The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get, Joe Walsh; Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player and Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road, Elton John; Innervisions, Stevie Wonder; Desperado, Eagles; Piano Man, Billy Joel; Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin; Tres Hombres, ZZ Top; Band On the Run, Paul McCartney and Wings; Full Sail, Loggins and Messina.

I mean, holy crap! And that’s just some of them!

I turned 14 in 1973, and I’m convinced I grew up in the greatest era in rock history. So much creativity, poetic expression and first-class musicianship in that time. And so much legendary showmanship in the live performances. I mostly missed those, though; the only two concerts I attended as a teen were Cat Stevens and a triple billing of the Allman Brothers, Joe Walsh and the Marshall Tucker Band. But the music was memorable; even now, it’s my go-to music. Takes me back, I guess.

So, maybe I’m a bit biased. Who cares? You like your music, I like mine. The main thing is, keep listening.

To paraphrase Neil Young, “Keep on rockin’ in the new year…” 🎵🎵

A Cat Named Hercules

On this date, March 25, in 1947, Reginald Kenneth Dwight was welcomed into the world, in Pinner, Middlesex, England.

He would grow up to become my rock and roll idol.

Elton. Hercules. John.

In case any of you forgot, let me remind you of this man’s accomplishments in the music world, courtesy of eltonjohn.com:

Elton has achieved 1 diamond, 32 platinum or multi-platinum, and 21 gold albums, over 70 Top 40 hits, and he has sold more than 300 million records worldwide. He holds the record for the biggest selling single of all time, Candle In The Wind 1997, which sold over 33 million copies. Since launching his first tour in 1970, Elton has over 4,000 performances in more than 80 countries to his credit.

Elton is the most successful solo male in the history of the American charts and the third most successful artist overall, behind only Madonna and the Beatles. He has logged 67 Hot 100 entries between 1970 and 2000, including nine No. 1s and 27 top 10s. He achieved seven #1 albums in the three-and-a-half-year period from 1972 to 1975 — a period of concentrated success surpassed only by the Beatles.

Not bad, right? The guy’s had an absolutely awesome career. He’s an immensely talented musician and composer, and he knows how to put on a terrific show. I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing him in concert four times – once alongside Billy Joel – and he’s never failed to deliver.

(I do wish, though, I had seen him earlier in his career, performing in all those outrageous wardrobes and doing handstands on the piano. That must have been spectacular.)

Of course, he’s received a few awards and honors along the way. Again, from eltonjohn.com:

Besides his knighthood, Elton’s landmark awards include Best British Male Artist BRIT Award, 1991; Songwriters Hall of Fame (with Bernie Taupin), 1992; Officer of Arts & Letters (France) 1993; induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1994; Polar Music Prize, 1995; MusiCares Person of the Year, 2000; Kennedy Center Honor, 2004; Billboard Magazine Legend of Live Award, 2006; Songwriters Hall of Fame Johnny Mercer Award (with Bernie Taupin), 2013; BRITs Icon Award, 2013; Rockefeller Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, 2013 and the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative Leadership Award, 2013. In 2002, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music and in 2004 he became a Fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers.

Elton has won 13 Ivor Novello Awards between 1973 and 2001, been nominated for a Grammy Award 11 times (winning in 1986, 1991, 1994, 1997 and 2000), and received the Grammy Legend Award in 2001. Three of his albums have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, including his 1970 eponymous album. Elton has 4 Oscar Award nominations (winning in 1995 and 2020), and a Tony Award (with 4 nominations) for Best Original Score for Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aidain 2000.

Now, at 75, Elton remains part of the current music scene. His latest album, The Lockdown Sessions, includes collaborations with contemporary artists like Dua Lipa, Charlie Puth, Brandi Carlile and Lil Nas X. And he continues his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, no longer on hold due to COVID, on into 2023.

Add to that a happy home life with husband David Furnish and sons Elijah and Zachary, and his continued work with numerous charities like the Elton John Aids Foundation, and it’s clear this guy is not slowing down at 75. Good for him; I wish him all the best.

Happy Birthday, Sir Elton! From the first time I heard you (way back when), I’ve been a big fan. You and your longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin, have provided a remarkable soundtrack for my life, and I thank you.

Rock on!!

Living and loving, kissing and hugging,

Living and loving with a cat named Hercules

Elton John, “Hercules”, 1972.

Keep On Rockin’

I got to thinking about all the rock and roll stars I’ve been lucky enough to see perform live in my life. Maybe you won’t be impressed by this list, but I kinda was.

Elton John. Billy Joel. The Eagles. Bruce Springsteen. Steely Dan. Rush. Neil Diamond. Stevie Wonder. Dan Fogelberg. Roger Waters. Phil Collins. Cher (with Cyndi Lauper). U2. The Doobie Brothers. Cat Stevens. The Allman Brothers Band, Joe Walsh, and The Marshall Tucker Band (together).

Oh, and N’Sync, with two of my nieces. Shriek!!!

Many of these guys, I’ve seen twice, and in Elton and Billy’s case, four times each.

Then, of course, there are the ones who got away, like Genesis, Wings, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Stevie Ray Vaughn, to name just a few.

Oh, and Johnny Cash.

Yes, Johnny Cash, my first musical hero. I would have loved to see him live.

I thoroughly enjoyed every concert I attended. (Well, not so much N’Sync, but my nieces loved it.) There’s nothing like the energy at a live rock concert. When it’s good, the performers and the audience feed off each other to make an unforgettable experience.

If you were to ask me what my favorite show was, I’d give you different answers, for different reasons. The easy answer is Elton, because he’s my favorite artist, from a long way back. Billy Joel, because he’s another piano player, like I once was (though nowhere near that caliber).

For professionalism and virtuosity, Steely Dan and Rush take the honors. For the sheer spectacle, I gotta give it to Cher and Roger Waters. Those weren’t just concerts, they were events.

The Eagles were and are my favorite band vocally. Their harmony just shines.

Stevie was just incredible. He is so musically gifted. He’s really one of a kind.

But nobody, and I mean nobody, gives more of himself onstage than The Boss. Bruce Springsteen just lays it all out there every time, and the E Street Band is always equal to the task. It is amazing to watch.

It’s great to see live shows coming back now, after going missing last year. There are still some restrictions in place, though. My sister-in-law and her daughter are going to a concert tonight, but they have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result from the last 24 hours. It’s a new world, folks.

But it’s still a chance for fans to go see their favorite artists, sing along jubilantly, and just forget the world for a few hours and be only about the music. And that’s worth something.

Rock on, y’all.