The Clash – Rock The Casbah 12” single (1982)
I had this rudeboy friend in the early 90s and we’d go to this joint called the Lizard Lounge on Thursday nights – a kind of alternative night at the back of a dive bar before the great gentrification of the Windsor area of Chapel Street. He was a big Clash fan but he said the only song of theirs he hated was Rock The Casbah. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s a dance song,” he replied. I don’t know, I can dance to nearly all their songs, ha ha. I asked my friend if he wanted to be the singer in the band I was starting, because he was a cool looking dude. I gave him demos of some early songs I’d written so he could learn them before we jammed. ‘Jenny Says’, ‘Hell’, ’21’ plus a couple of others. When I went around to his house to go through the songs, just me on guitar and him singing, he just couldn’t get it. It was so bad that there was not even a remote chance that he would EVER get it. He knew he sucked and he ended up saying to me, “You should be the singer – you sound fine on the demos.” And that’s how I became the singer of HBlock101 – because no one else would do it. Anyway, my friend was right on one count: Rock The Casbah is a very danceable tune, and although it says on the back cover that the b-side is ‘Long Time Jerk’, it’s actually ‘Mustapha Dance’ which is a cool instrumental version – and possibly even more danceable. Drummer Topper Headon wrote the music and actually recorded most of the instruments on it, too – talented man who should have stayed off the Horse.
38 Special – Wild-Eyed Southern Boys (1980)
Produced by Rodney Mills. The first I heard of 38 Special was in 1989 when they had their ballad ‘Second Chance’ in the top 40. Obviously I assumed they weren’t for me – fucking ballads, pfft. Then about 13 years ago we had Gold FM on at my old job and ‘Hold On Loosely’ came on. I’d never heard it before! Such a ruling song, kinda has a harder rocking Cars vibe about it. During my lunch break I went down to Dixons Recycled and whatdyaknow – they had it for 5 bucks. And why is ‘Hold On Loosely’ so good? Coz Jim Peterik, the man who co-wrote Eye of the fucken Tiger also co-wrote this! The man is a wizard. 38 Special are another great example of how awesome Southern Rock bands become when they try and make it big with a change to a more AOR approach. Their first two albums stuck pretty much to the Southern country rock algorithm, but then ol’ pal Peterik got involved with the album before this and, whoa, get outta the friggen way! He co-writes/writes 4 songs on this and they’re probably the best ones on the album, but the band contributes ’First Time Around’ which is excellent. At times in that song Donnie Van Zant’s voice reminds me of Nick Barker’s – maybe that’s where Nick got his American-ish accent on his classic ‘Timebomb’ song. Ha ha, maybe not. When I was on tour in America with an Industrial Rock band I had joined briefly (as a drummer, no less), I had a plan that I was going to give up smoking when the tour had finished. I bought 4 big pouches of Port Royal and I was going to smoke like a friggen chimney for those last 5 weeks. I ran out of papers by the time we got to Texas. I went to Walmart and asked if they had any papers. “Pipers?” she repeated in what was an approximation of an Australian accent, but she wasn’t trying to mimic my accent – she genuinely couldn’t understand me. I tried a few more times until another cashier said in an American accent, “Oh, he means papers”. “Oh, papers! Where you from?!” “Australia.” “Oh, I lurve your accent.” That’s nice. Now can I have my pipers?
Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo – Good Clean Fun (1982)
How good was Valley Girl?! Well, I remember loving it when I saw it in the 80s and I borrowed it out once from the video library in the early 90s, but I can’t actually remember much about it now. I’ll have to track it down somewhere and reacquaint myself. How good were video libraries?! Man I loved those places. Just walking down the aisles looking at all the covers was a thrill! How good is this album?! This is a lost power pop gem with the first two songs on side A appearing in the Valley Girl film. ‘Girls Like Me’ plays over the opening credits and is so toe-tappingly good it could lift any foul mood. Couple of less catchy songs, but nearly everything on this is an energetic, joyously bouncy romp(!). Bonnie and drummer Kevin Hayes are siblings of Chris Hayes, guitarist from Huey Lewis and the News. Sik! Kevin ended up playing with blues legend Robert Cray, so he’s no slouch. And Bonnie’s written songs from everyone from Cher to Bonnie Raitt to Bette Midler. Nothing she ever did was as infectious as this album, though. On a side note, when I was listening to this today I had to think back to when I bought it because the opening riff to ’Inside Doubt’ sounds nearly exactly like ‘Buying Adequacy’, a song that I wrote in 1995. Don’t panic – I bought this album around 2001, so no plagiarism concerns in regards to me ripping off Bonnie Hayes – by recollection I think I was trying to rip off… er, I mean, trying to be influenced by 999 with that song, ha ha. Anyway, buy ‘Good Clean Fun’ for ‘Girls Like Me’ and ‘Shelley’s Boyfriend’ alone and you’ll be satisfied enough – two of the greatest non-hit pop songs of the 80s.
Van Halen – 1984
I had already taped 5150 off a friend, so technically this was the first Van Halen album I bought. When I first started buying music I didn’t realise that you could order stuff in at the record shop; I thought you just went in there and what ever was on the shelf, that was it. Consequently, instead of on vinyl, I bought this on cassette, which wasn’t my favoured media because of the tendency for our cheap tape decks to chew up the tape. My plan was to dub a copy to keep the original in pristine condition. On the way home from the shops I stopped in at my friends house to show him the new album. “OK, OK – we’ll just listen to ‘Jump’, but we can’t risk any more, just in case the tape chews.” Song finishes, I go to the can and when I get back he’s playing my tape in his cheap-arse one-speaker tape player. Fuck you! Anyway, crisis averted – no chewing of tape. A few months later my friend, lent the Warriors soundtrack off this older kid, Clem, from down the road. We used to idolise Clem – awesome trick-riding on his BMX, cool clothes, real nonchalant and confident enough in his popularity to risk talking to a loser like me. I really appreciated that. Anyway, my friend’s shitty tape deck chewed up Clem’s Warriors tape! My friend showed me the tape and said he didn’t know what to do. “Just be honest with Clem and offer to buy him a new copy,” I said. Next day I see my friend and asked how he went. “I just stuffed the tape into it’s cover and left it at his door.” You…what the fuck?! I was flabbergasted but thought it wasn’t really my business. Few days later I saw Clem riding home from school, I said hi and he greased me off. “Clem, what’s going on.” “I got my tape back.” “Oh yeah, I told my friend to be upfront about it.” “Yeah, he told me you borrowed it off him and you returned it like that.” Ahhh, right. And that’s when I learned that sometimes you get fucked over from unexpected quarters. “But Clem!” I protested, but he didn’t want to know. I don’t know what happened to Clem. I still really want to meet up with him one day to explain that “It wasn’t me! Please still be my friend.” ha ha. And this album? It’s Roth-era VH -of course it’s excellent.
Alice Cooper – Muscle of Love (1973)
Produced by Jack Richardson & Jack DouglaS. I was pretty excited to get this in the early 90s. I was an Alice fan but without the internet and living in a country town, I was unaware of this album. The packaging, the fact that it was sandwiched between the pretty good Billion Dollar Babies and the stellar Welcome To My Nightmare albums – I was expecting something pretty special. Wasn’t to be. I really like the title track and the rejected theme for the Bond film of the same name, ‘Man with the Golden Gun’, but the rest is pretty forgettable, although I must say that repeated listens is making it stick a little more. Nothing atrocious, but not a patch on what was to follow two years later when Alice himself went solo, and the weakest since the pre-Love It To Death era.
Written by Karl Mautner.
Read more of Karl’s entertaining and insightful thoughts on classic albums at the Rise of the Rat Facebook page, and Karl’s own Instagram page.