Billy Idol: Blue Highway

It’s a nice day for a Billy Idol song!

William Broad (Billy Idol) was born in 1955 in England and actually has dual citizenship with the United States. Influenced by punk rock, he was a part of the “Second British Invasion” during the early to mid 80’s. After his first successful band Generation X parted ways, Idol decided to move to New York City to pursue a solo career with guitarist Steve Stevens. His two albums, Billy Idol and Rebel Yell launched his career and he had three U.K. singles that made the top ten: “White Wedding“, “Rebel Yell“, and “Eyes Without a Face.” After this he continued to release albums, taking a break in the 90s but then coming back in 2005 and 2014 with some great work.

“Blue Highway” is probably my favorite Billy Idol song behind “Rebel Yell” and “Bitter Pill” from his new album. Idol’s discography explores many different genres, including the Occult, sex, drug abuse and of course, love. “Blue Highway” is a very upbeat song with rhythm that moves and some great keys. Stevens’ great guitar riffs throughout give this song the feeling of being out on the open road or in the sky, and his solo at the end is very underrated. This song is sure to brighten your day and maybe cause you to see a different side of Billy!

Paul McCartney and Wings: Medicine Jar

In honor of Jimmy McCulloch’s birthday, today’s Rock Pearl comes from Paul McCartney and Wings, a band formed by former Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda McCartney in 1971. The band proved that there was “life after the Beatles” and when McCulloch joined in 1975 their album Venus and Mars went to the top of the charts in both the UK and The United States.

This band is a really fun band to listen to as they played around with some very different music than what the Beatles produced, and this album is an awesome start-to-finish listen. McCartney purposefully strung the tracks together like Abbey Road and the result is story-like.

Jimmy McCulloch was round a lot of great musicians and played with many different bands. He played guitar and bass and also sang on albums. His life ended due to drugs and alcohol when he was only 26, so there’s no telling how much farther he could have gone. Ironically, today’s pearl is an anti-drug song called “Medicine Jar” and is one of the songs that McCulloch sang. It’s not every day that one of the most legendary singer-songwriters of all time will give up the mic to someone, but McCartney was happy to provide bass for this really fun track. Enjoy a pearl from Wings!

T. Rex: Seagull Woman

Bang a Gong! It’s Mickey Finn’s birthday!

Hired initially for his “good looks”, Finn joined T. Rex (Formerly Tyrannosaurus Rex) and debuted on their self-titled album with Marc Bolan. The British psychedelic rock group formed in 1967 and had a decent following worldwide throughout their years. With big songs like “Hot Love” and “Bang a Gong”, T. Rex actually had a kind of popularity comparable to The Beatles in the early going stages of their existence. While their popularity fell off after a few years, they continued releasing an album a year until Bolan’s tragic death in a car crash in 1977. Multiple albums reached the top of the charts in both the UK and the US before their descent from the spotlight.

Seagull Woman is a mellow, short tune off of the T. Rex album. You can hear a more “psychedelic” Beatles-sounding riff throughout the song. Guitar licks reminiscent of George Harrison exist throughout the song, and it’s remarkable that these tracks were put together mostly by Finn and Bolan alone. Enjoy today’s Rock Pearl!

.38 Special: Play a Simple Song

Today’s Pearl comes in honor of Steve Brookins’ birthday. The drummer for .38 Special, Brookins was a member of this Jacksonville based band who released songs like Hold on Loosely and Caught up in You. .38 Special was actually founded by Donnie Van Zandt, the younger brother of Ronnie Van Zandt, lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd until his tragic death in 1977. They got their name because the cops apparently shot the lock off of the warehouse door in which they were practicing, saying “we’ll let this .38 special do the talking.”

Influenced strongly by southern rock, much like Skynyrd, .38 Special has been around touring and making music since their formation. While they have only a few songs that truly “made it big,” it’s really fun to go back and listen to some of their early albums and hear about their influences.

Today’s Pearl is “Play a Simple Song.” While it seems “simple” enough, it’s a very talented piece that has a bluegrass sound. A mellow tune that will lift your spirits, the harmonies and arpeggios along with a neat interlude with a great solo make this a great 3 minutes of music from a band that struggled to get out from under Skynyrd’s shadow.

The Rolling Stones: Memory Motel

English rock group The Rolling Stones, London, 1963. Left to right: Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman. (Photo by Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images/Getty Images)

Happy birthday Ronnie Wood! Today’s Rock Pearl comes from The Rolling Stones, a British rock group formed in 1962. The Stones are known for Sympathy for the Devil, Jumpin Jack Flash, Satisfaction and You Can’t Always Get What you Want. This band was an absolute jugggernaut and still plays today, spanning almost six decades.

Ronnie Wood joined the band in 1975 alongside Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts. Many have gone on to have successful solo careers, and their songs can be heard everywhere. They performed in Super Bowl XL at halftime in 2006 and still sell out concerts today.

Today’s pearl is actually a slower song feature Richards on vocals at certain parts. A song about being on the road constantly, Memory Motel is almost a ballad with some great keys and guitar parts. There’s actually a cool live version of this song with Dave Matthews which is really fun to watch. The way the Stones do this song live is awesome, especially when Richards jumps in while shredding on the guitar. This is really a beautiful song that is somewhere between Angie and Beast of Burden, and leaves you with an almost haunted feeling of life on the road as a musician. Enjoy today’s Rock Pearl!

Led Zeppelin: Out on the Tiles

Happy birthday John Bonham! He would be 72 today had he not died tragically back in 1980. Easily one of the top ten drummers of all time, Bonham drove Led Zeppelin with advanced drumming techniques. Zeppelin’s big hits include, but aren’t limited to, Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir, Immigrant Song and Ramble on. Bonham’s drums are always present, regardless of the song’s speed, but some of his best drum tracks are When the Levee Breaks, Moby Dick and today’s Rock Pearl, Out on the Tiles.

Led Zeppelin was one of the best bands of the 20th century, and depending on who you ask or put them up against, the best rock band. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who would probably be their competitors for notoriety but Zeppelin was quite special. All four members are solidly in the top 10 for their instrument on the all-time list. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and Bonham are often voted #1, also, with John Paul Jones almost always rounding out the top 10 amongst bass players.

There are many tunes from this band that are worthy of a rock pearl, but this one stood out as a really nice exhibit of Plant’s vocals and Bonham’s drumming. Out on the Tiles is a really fun song with an upbeat chorus, some great guitar licks and a very signature Zeppelin sound. Please enjoy today’s Rock Pearl!

Electric Light Orchestra: Here is the News

Today we are moving on to another member of the Traveling Wilburys. Jeff Lynne is one of the most accomplished musicians, frontmen and producers in the history of music. George Harrison chose him to help kickstart his solo career again with “Cloud Nine“, Tom Petty solicited his help for blockbuster hits like “Free Fallin” and “Won’t Back Down” (which also featured Harrison and Ringo Starr), and Roy Orbison elicited his help in “You Got It” which helped him get back on the charts. In fact, if you listen closely to many of these songs, you can hear Lynne’s backing vocals on many of the tracks. It seems that if you’re a high-profile artist, asking Lynne to help with an album will guarantee you the big bucks.

A modest artist who loves to be in the studio producing music, Lynne has written and produced hundreds of songs with Electric Light Orchestra. Some of the biggest hits are “Mr. Blue Sky“, “Don’t Bring Me Down“, and “Evil Woman“, but much like The Beatles, they really have too many hits to count. Like many eventual stars, Lynne grew up idolizing the Beatles and working with Harrison was a dream come true for him. He continues to tour and actually has had George’s son, Dhani Harrison open for ELO recently.

“Here is the News” is a really fun, fast-paced song off of ELO’s Time album, released in 1981. This album is similar to a short story in which interstellar travel and loneliness in the galaxy is highlighted. The multitude of keyboards throughout the song give it a futuristic feel, almost resembling a video game or sci-fi movie set on a space station. Lines like “Somebody has broken down on Satellite 2/ Look very carefully, it might be you” have an eerie resonance forty years later as one of our general fears is a loss of connection based on satellites. We can all sympathize with the slow portion in the middle of the song that completely changes the pace, with the speaker lamenting that “I wanna go home, I want my baby back” and this sentiment is highlighted with the idea that he is stuck in space without his loved ones. This album’s feeling of a seemingly infinite divide between earth and space and its effect on the human psyche still echoes today, as thought technology keeps us connected, true face-to-face contact has no equal.

Enjoy today’s Rock Pearl, Here is the News!

Procol Harum: Simple Sister

Today’s Rock Pearl comes from the extremely underrated British rock band Procol Harum. In honor of Gary Brooker’s birthday, we are heading back to psychadelic rock. If you’ve heard anything from them, you’ve probably heard A Whiter Shade of Pale, one of their hit singles. A slower song, A Whiter Shade of Pale incorporates a Bach-like melody and it actually won an award along with Bohemian Rhapsody for one of the best British pop songs.

Procol Harum formed in 1967 and played until about 1977, then reformed multiple times with new lineups. Brooker was a constant throughout, and his lead vocals and piano talent put this band in a much different category than many of their contemporaries. Their Baroque style meshed with a psychedelic side to create some great albums. I highly recommend checking their stuff out.

“Simple Sister” is a really fun song with an awesome repetitive crescendo towards the end that will play in your head all day. The guitar from Geoff Whitehorn throughout is fantastic, and Brooker takes some liberties with the piano throughout a really fun song that changes speed and melody. Enjoy today’s Rock Pearl from Procol Harum!

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Wrote a Song For Everyone

Happy birthday John Fogerty!

Today’s pearl comes from none other than Creedence Clearwater Revival, an American band hailing from San Francisco. Despite their Pacific roots, they played music rooted in the deep south, invoking bayous and catfish, as well as some political issues surrounding the Vietnam War. Their big hits are Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, and Lodi, to name a few.

John Fogerty wrote most of the songs for CCR, and they actually began playing together in 1959 under the name The Blue Velvets, then in 1964 switched to The Golliwogs after a children’s fantasy character. They landed on Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1967 because Tom Fogerty’s friend was named Credence, they saw a commercial advertising “clear water” beer and the four members had a renewed commitment to the band. Their first top 40 hit Suzie Q. initiated what would be a very brief time period of success. The band broke up in 1972, but left some really great stuff.

The Pearly today is “Wrote a Song for Everyone.” This slow song with a great beat has some really deep lyrics, referring back a time in Fogerty’s life when he was younger and had a difficult time connecting with his wife, even though he was able to “write a song for everyone.” The slow guitar solo doesn’t sound terribly complex, but the way it moves within a mellow drum beat and the bass line holding the song together makes it one of my favorite, slower guitar solos. Kick your feet back and enjoy a lyrical masterpiece from CCR with today’s Rock Pearl!

Jefferson Starship: Stranger

… Yes, they did write songs other than “We Built This City“!

Hailing from San Francisco, Jefferson Starship evolved from Jefferson Airplane and released multiple hit records with singles appearing on the charts. The new incarnation of Jefferson Starship started in 1974 and they released an album almost every year. They combined psychedelic rock with an almost jazzy sound for a progressive style that set them apart. Their big hits are “We Built This City” (where the band name was actually just Starship due to legal reasons), “Jane“, and “Miracles.”

Singer Grace Slick brought a powerful voice to the band, and in the album Modern Times was actually rejoining Jefferson Starship after a hiatus. Today is Pete Sears’s birthday and this song was one he wrote with his wife Jeannette, and featured a very powerful duet with Slick and Paul Kantner, who led the band for most of its existence. The resulting music video is a very fun mix of the band’s talents. The drumming in the band took off when Aynsley Dunbar picked up the sticks, but the guitar solos from Craig Chaquico really make the song. Sears’s keyboard playing and the bass line he recorded for the song drive it as a high energy song that somehow seems to have an ability to slow down and grab your attention without actually changing the rhythm.

Sears was a mainstay at Jefferson Starship for some time and specialized in playing many different instruments. He always wrote or co-wrote on 2-3 songs per album, often with Slick. His talents on these instruments really drove the progressive rock sound that Jefferson Starship produced throughout the 70’s.

Enjoy rocking out to today’s Rock Pearl!