Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 3/29/18
Each Thursday, Hard Rock Music Time Machine takes a journey back in time to feature a variety of songs that date back as far as the ’70s.
In addition to appearing on the embedded YouTube playlist below, all songs featured on Hard Rock Music Time Machine can be listened to individually by clicking on the hyper-linked song titles above each review.
ADAM WALDMAN – (Publisher, Hard Rock Daddy)
QUEENSRŸCHE – “Speak” (1988)
I can’t say for sure off the top of my head what my favorite album is from most years, but 1988 is easy – Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime. Already a massive fan of the band since their 1984 release, The Warning, this epic concept album took the band to an entirely different level in my eyes. The album became something of an obsession for me, not only for the incredible music, but for the captivating storyline.
Rock and roll has always been about rebellion in some form or another, but Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime is rebellious in a more sophisticated, intellectual way. Choosing one song to feature off of a concept album can be challenging because of context, but I literally could have chosen any of the songs off of Operation: Mindcrime to feature. The album is that good. So, why “Speak”?
In 1988, I took the lyrics to “Speak” with the same grain of salt that most teenagers did. While I was fascinated by the story, it was more in the way that I appreciated good fiction. The deep meaning behind songs like “Speak” never really hit home (aside from being a clear anti-government song of rebellion). Thirty years later, living with the current “truth is stranger than fiction” state of our government, the sage lyrics of the song no longer seem like a movie, rather a brutal dose of reality.
Throughout history, moments in time tend to feel unique, especially when it comes to problems and divisiveness. I can’t say how the older generation was feeling in 1988, but I can tell you that I don’t feel like we’ll look back at this particular moment in time 30 years from now as something less than the horror that many of us feel that it is.
The following lyrics from “Speak” feel particularly appropriate in this moment…
“Seven years of power, the corporation claw. The rich control the government, the media, the law. To make some kind of difference, then everyone must know…eradicate the fascists, revolution will grow.”
“The system we learn says we’re equal under law. But the streets are reality, the weak and poor will fall. Let’s tip the power balance, and tear down their crown. Educate the masses, we’ll burn the White House down.”
OZZY OSBOURNE – “Miracle Man” (1988)
Sanctimonious, holier-than-thou hypocrites are all the rage these days in America and government. As Queensrÿche’s “Speak” illuminates, the problems of today also existed 30 years ago. While I don’t remember being politically outraged in 1988, I distinctly remember despising televangelists for trying to kill rock and roll.
“Miracle Man” happens to have been specifically inspired by a hypocritical scumbag named Jimmy Swaggart, but it just as easily could have been written about others like him. Swaggart attacked Ozzy Osbourne directly, so it’s understandable why the song originally used his name, rather than the more generic “Miracle Man.”
So, what did Swaggart have against Osbourne personally?
In 1985, a teenager killed himself after listening to the Ozzy classic, “Suicide Solution.” Osbourne was not found liable in a lawsuit by the teen’s parents, but that didn’t stop Swaggart from going on a crusade against rock music, specifically targeting Osbourne’s “depravity.” In 1987, this “holy man” was caught with a prostitute and admitted to having an addiction to pornography.
Fast forward to today…
There are still plenty supposed holy men and politicians that sit in their glass houses throwing stones. Often times, they end up getting busted doing the very things that they shun. I cannot tell you the joy that I feel when one of these hypocrites ends up sitting in a metaphorical pile of broken glass when they get caught. But I digress…
“Miracle Man” was featured on 1988’s No Rest For The Wicked, the first album with Zakk Wylde on guitar. Ozzy has played with numerous guitarists, but aside from Randy Rhoads, none have the bond with the Prince Of Darkness like Wylde. It comes across in the music.
Some may look at the “Miracle Man” video as being sacrilegious, but it seems like a fitting metaphor to have a church filled with pigs, especially given what went on around the time of the release of the single.
Beyond the meaning of the song, “Miracle Man” has an even greater significance because it was the introduction of one of the greatest pairings in hard rock and metal history. I had the pleasure of meeting both Ozzy and Wylde on the No Rest For The Wicked tour (see full story). To this day, it remains one of my best rock and roll memories.
SUZANNE BRACKEN – HRD Music Scout
LIVING COLOUR – “Cult Of Personality” (1988)
Living Colour burst onto the metal scene with their debut album, Vivid, in 1988, breaking down both color and cultural barriers as they infused new life into the hard rock genre. I clearly remember hearing “Cult of Personality” for the first time, and wanting to know everything that I possibly could about this band.
Today, I would Google countless articles from various sources to do my research about a band. However, back in 1988, pre-internet, we would rely on Rolling Stone, various other music publications, as well as the all-important album liner notes to learn about our favorite bands.
Vivid was an album that I listened to over and over in 1988 because it was so fresh and innovative. The musicianship was insane! The members of the band not only possessed impressive credentials, but incredible talent as well. The fact that they were from New York was a great source of pride as well for me. Their songs ranged from timely and relevant to simple and fun (“Glamour Boys”, “What’s Your Favorite Color?”).
In 1988, we couldn’t have possibly imagined that so many of the songs on this album would resonate as strongly (some even more so) thirty years later, as we are literally living “Cult of Personality” in real time on a daily basis.
“Open Letter To A Landlord” speaks today to the rampant gentrification that is destroying the very landscape and character of New York (as well as many other American cities, rendering some neighborhoods virtually unrecognizable).
“Which Way America” paints a picture of the racial and economic divide that exists in our country (with no signs of improvement on the horizon).
I saw Living Colour open for the Rolling Stones a few nights in a row at Shea Stadium on the 1989 Steel Wheels tour, still riding high on the success of Vivid. Opening acts rarely hold much interest for me, and usually serve as the time to go get some refreshments, use the restroom, etc. With Living Colour, it was the exact opposite. My friends and I were riveted to the stage to see what we considered to be the best new band in years, not wanting to miss a minute of any song. Their set was great, and their palpable energy truly left you wanting more.
Today, Living Colour continues to grow, evolve and sound better than ever. They record new music and tour extensively, playing festivals and clubs all over the country. A few years back, they were performing Vivid in its entirety (something that many bands do with their classic albums). I hope to get to see them in the coming year. I just know that they will be better than ever!
VAN HALEN – “When It’s Love” (1988)
OU812, Van Halen’s second album with Sammy Hagar at the helm, made it abundantly clear that David Lee Roth’s replacement was here to stay.
While we all loved (and continue, to this day, to cherish) the original Van Halen lineup, in certain ways, things had run their course with DLR.
The addition of Hagar brought something entirely new to Van Halen in terms of focus and maturity. They were ready to up their game, boldly experimenting with keyboards and synthesizers, while still retaining their fun-loving, lighthearted California spirit.
From a pure talent perspective, Hagar outperforms most hard rock vocalists. Both his range and soulfulness brought an intensity (as well as honesty) to the new Van Halen songs. While there are several great ones on OU812, my favorite on this album has to be “When It’s Love.” Generally, power ballads are great, but when it comes to albums, I tend to gravitate towards the harder-edged, guitar-driven songs. However, because of the strength of “When It’s Love,” the song is in a class of its own. In my opinion, it is simply one of the best power ballads of the ‘80s (or any other decade for that matter).
“When It’s Love” has everything…the perfect Eddie Van Halen guitar solo, the beautiful Michael Anthony harmonies (which are sorely missed in the current Van Halen lineup), and, of course, the stellar Hagar vocals which continue to amaze 30 years later. He shines like a diamond on this one, proving that he can sing pretty much anything from classic rock, hard rock, and metal to the ultimate heartfelt power ballad.
I love that he has continued to perform this song (as well as many of the other Hagar era Van Halen songs) in concert over the past years of solo touring. His voice has not lost any of its incredible power. Songs like these brought new life, a different vibe and steady direction to an already iconic band.
Personally speaking, I would love to see the Hagar era lineup back together for one last tour, but at this juncture, it doesn’t appear likely. Fortunately, all of the members of each of the lineups are going strong and touring regularly. I’m grateful for any opportunity to see them in concert, regardless of the lineup.
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