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Thursday, July 03, 2008


In 1977 I was emerging from a year of compulsory study in modern music, Rock 101, an entry level course in rudiments - The Beatles. My brother Rod had bought me 'Abbey Road' the year before, and I quickly obtained much of their catalog. My concentration in that field of study was the latter half, '66-'70. I liked the heavier, freakier stuff, and so it was only natural that at the end of that year, when I was ready to absorb the greater world of popular music, I tended toward the heavier, freakier stuff: Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, and Van Halen. Those were the big bands of the day, and a huge part of the foundation of my musical sensibilities.

In '78 Nugent and Aerosmith were the top grossing acts on tour, Kiss had set box office records the year before, and Van Halen were opening up for one of them most of the time . Although posterity observes that each of those three headlining acts were in fact past their peak in 1978, it wasn't that clear yet since 1976 represents their respective/collective peak year.

30 years is a good stretch of time, and it's notable that there is any relevance attached to these acts today, but for what?

'Double Live Gonzo' is still one of the greatest live records ever made, and Ted's influence as a Guitar God is undeniable, but today he is more well known for his hunting, reality TV, and his extreme right wing political views. Ted recently left Michigan (very Rock) and moved to Crawford, Texas (very not).

In 1978 Kiss had just begun to saturate the market with product. That year saw the release of the four 'Solo Albums', the Kiss dolls, the Kiss radio, the Kiss comic books, Kiss lunch boxes, and everything else that could be cheaply made with a Kiss logo on it. Consequently their fan base dropped in age considerably, and the release of 'Kiss Meets the Phantom', their ill advised TV movie marked the end of whatever credibility as a serious act they might have attained.

2008 finds Gene Simmons on A&E starring in a, yep, reality TV series. I will admit that it is one of the very, very few shows of that ilk that I watch, but it's a far cry from 'God of Thunder'. The few live shows Kiss plays these days feature a fake Ace and Peter, and two brand new aluminum hips for Paul Stanley.

The Toxic Twins - Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, were earning their moniker with gusto in '78. A year later the situation was such a mess that Joe Perry quit soon to be followed by co-axman Brad Whitford. Tyler, Hamilton, and Kramer hired two new guitar players and eeked it out for a couple more years before Tyler hit bottom, a moment marked by his selling his Corvette for dope on the Lower East Side.

As we all know, Steve and Joe cleaned up, reconciled, and embarked on a comeback that resulted in the second most sickening corporate sellout in Rock history.

2008 finds Aerosmith largely inactive, probably due to Steve's recent relapse and rehab visit.

Van Halen's landmark debut record hit the bins in 1978 and set the world of guitar firmly on it's ear. Eddie changed the rules, and Van Halen was soon the biggest band on the Rock block. By 1985 tensions between Eddie and Diamond Dave were relieved by Dave's departure and the beginning of the dark time known as the Van Hagar years. To add insult to injury, Sammy was replaced by the dude from Extreme for a brief period before VH went into extended hibernation.

To mark their 30th anniversary, 2008 saw the long awaited reunion tour with Dave, sadly without Michael Anthony. Replacing Anthony, who's vocal harmonies helped define the magical blend of Hard Rock and Pop that was the core of the VH sound, with his son Wolfgang is just another self imposed shot in the foot in a seemingly endless series of bad career decisions perhaps not unrelated to another stint in rehab for Eddie which in turn postponed the tour.

Next year, the Cars, Cheap Trick, Blondie, and the B-52's.

I feel like Ted Nugent is one of those acts where you have to have been the right age. I'm only a few years younger than you Jackson, but Nugent was already an object of ridicule by the time I started listening to the rock. That may be the inevitable generation change, where the youngsters need to laugh at everything that came before, but it was just hard to find anybody who took him seriously.

His later trip into bow-hunting, right-wing freakazoid didn't help him much either.

So, it's just weird to think that he was such a huge act at one time.

I'd like to know how he does that move he is doing in the photo here.

If you can, listen to the self titled Ted Nugent record and 'Free For All' front to back. Alex Cooley produced awesomeness. Yes, part of it was the age, but he frimly kicked major ass at California Jam II. While the title track on 'Cat Scratch Fever' was pretty weak, the rest of the album is pretty good. It was firing Derek St. Holms, Rob Grange, and Cliff Davies that sent him into 'Weekend Warriors' crapland.
I think the timing thing is a very real factor. I have the same issues with Chrispy and much of the Hard Rock, it was so lame by the time he showed up to the party that most of that stuff got relegated to a mind set. Even in 76/77 Ted had his questionable moments, moments that are somewhat cringe inducing today, but were totally bad ass at the time. Take certain song titles, for example: 'Wang Dang Sweet Poontang', 'Yank Me, Crank Me'. That stuff, though the riffs are phenominal, is a bit off-putting for don't have a mid-70's context to relate it to.

I don't know if we'll ever convert/convince Dave on Ted's account. Me may get a healthy respect for some of the riffs though. 'Free For All' is undeniable.
I definitely dig the big guitar riffs that Nugent cranked out, so no need to convince me on that front. Jackson is right, the Hard Rock started to become self-parody at a certain point, which makes it harder to get back to the reason it was popular.

Black Sabbath, for example, became kind of a creaky, Spinal Tap dinosaur in later years (especially after Ozzy left), but when you go back and look at the early film of them, you remember that there was a pretty good reason they go so big. Those early shows border on pure punk energy.
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