Satori Mix Tape

My latest Satori Blog mix tape (and they will always be mix tapes and not playlists to me!) is released and can be found here. Music inspires and brings joy to me. I show my age but the music I gravitate to is the music and the bands of my youth. They were the ones who spoke to me when life was still unfolding, and they continue to whisper into my ear today. So you don’t have to guess, my music is mostly from the middle 1980’s, mostly what would have been called New Wave, and mostly was written and recorded by real musicians without autotune or protools. Organic. Authentic.

Of Note:

The Church lead things off with the haunting Numbers from their revival album, After Everything

I’m not a huge Bowie fan but Modern Love gets turned up when it comes on my radio

The Jam and Clash give us a taste of the end of 70’s London Punk Scene

New Order and the Pet Shop Boys give us shimmering synth sounds

Peter Murphy’s haunting Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem is a reminder of how talented the former members of Bauhaus are/were

Stand or Fall and Bye Bye Love reminds us that not every song needs to have the depths of the ocean, some are just slabs of pop, and that’s not a bad thing

Dead Can Dance’s Brendan Perry can rip your heart from its chest with the depth of the emotion in his baritone. A nice compliment to slabs of pop.

The Beach Boy’s Til I Die is an example of Brian Wilson’s evolution over time, an evolution that cost him mental health along the way

The Waterboy’s title song to June 1984’s A Pagan Place LP gives a glimpse into the big music sound, music that inspired U2 who had the fame but admired Mike Scott nonetheless.

Echo and the Bunnymen with a deep cut, Clay, REM with the rockabilly sing along Don’t Go Back to Rockville, Depeche Mode industrial synth, U2, The Lightning Seeds, The Wild Swans, and Marty Willson-Piper round out the affair.

Creative Space

The concept of my Satori! is simple: I sat in bed the days following the death of my dog Kay and I wondered about my own mortality.

My dog was just a puppy in 2005 when I accepted a position that became a life-altering job. The job gave me a chance to achieve my career goal of being the top operations manager of an electric power generation company, but it came with non stop travel, heavy stresses and the need for wide shoulders because ultimately every issue seemed to find its way to my desk.

Fourteen years later, and that dog had became my best friend and night time companion, as unresolved discomfort in a bed, and my broken nose style of snoring found me sleeping on the floor with her to find rest. She was a flawed animal, once biting my sister in law, and we couldn’t let any strangers near her, but she was loving and kind with my family. Her death shook me. It dawned on me that I only had so much time. None of us know the hour, and worrying about it won’t add a second, but I was gripped with this thought that all the hard work in my life would go for naught and that I’d never have healthy retirement years to pursue my personal goals and objectives.

That was my Satori, my sudden awakening, that I was mortal, that time wasn’t infinite and I could not afford to waste any. I took a Konmari approach to organizing my life. It was simple really; what is important and gives me both utility and happiness was kept, and what did not was not.

The Capstone Project is a direct result of my Satori, an application of a lifetime of skills and knowledge and applying it, like a focused beam of light. But I needed the right incubator, fertile space to flesh out my ideas into reality. I needed creative space.

There are different schools of thought on the ways we as humans learn. The benefit of being in my mid 50’s is that I have enough perspective regarding my own experiences and I’ve realized that the ways I learn at 53 are the same way I learned at 18: I like quiet, uncluttered space, with my thoughts organized in a manner that I can easily access them.

I can’t work with the radio or TV on, absolutely no headphones unless noise cancelling, and I need my work and creative environment to be clean. I can’t work or think cluttered and “…you don’t need a degree in organizational psychology to know that a cluttered work area does not make for clear thinking” (Pernnell 2019). A different form of psychology, the relatively new science of environmental psychology, “…explores the influence of our physical surroundings on how we think, feel and act ” and again, I know I need well lit, clean, organized and quiet (Rattner 2017).

As a result of Satori, I have started this Capstone Project, a series of projects really, all interlinked and chronicled here. I don’t want to get ahead of myself on the projects, but if I’m going to be creative I needed creative space and I have secured space to work within. Located mere minutes from my house, 1,000 square feet with a loft for storage and bathroom that allows me to drink unlimited coffee at night and on weekends.

It needs work, but that’s OK, its all part of the journey. I don’t like to rush through my personal projects, quality over quantity. “Give your space a metaphor or theme. This will shape how people use and think about the space” (DeGraff 2014). Creative space is the metaphor.

My goal is to have the creative space cleaned, organized and built out to my personal taste and specifications by the end of the coming winter. I’d like to begin my actual first project in the spring of 2021. Video companions to the posts begin around January 2021 if I stay on schedule.

I’ll post progress pictures and write updates along the path.

Thanks for reading

Citations

DeGraff, Jeff. “Need to Get Creative? How to Create and Idea Space.” Jeff DeGraff Blog. 15 Dec 2014. Retrieved at: https://jeffdegraff.com/blog/2014/12/need-to-get-creative-how-to-create-an-idea-space/

Pennell, Kate Maria. “How to Set Up Physical and Mental Space To Do Your Best Work.” 6 May 2019. Medium.com. Retrieved at: https://medium.com/swlh/create-space-to-have-space-to-create-2bf24bafeac8

Rattner, Daniel. “How to Use the Psychology of Space to Boost Your Creativity.” 2 June 2017. Medium.com. Retrieved at: https://medium.com/s/how-to-design-creative-workspaces/how-to-use-the-psychology-of-space-to-boost-your-creativity-4fe6482ef687

My Blogging History- 700 Posts and 12 years Later

Blogs come and go. Those of us old enough to remember a time before Twitter and Facebook know that blogs were a place where thoughts, ideas and information was exchanged. The comments section became a time line of sorts and the discussion went on long past the blog posting.

In September 2008, I started The Turk and the Little Turk blog, a Horse Racing and Handicapping blog with a featured race within each post. Almost 700 posts later the blog is still alive and well. Twitter and other social media platforms have taken the traffic and the comments, but that’s OK, I was never there for the collection of a large audience or ad revenues, I simply like to share my thoughts and observations about horse racing.

It’s a very different blog, intended for a very different audience. If you are interested you can find the link here, The Turk and the Little Turk.

Today’s blog post featured Saturday’s Fourstardave, a Grade 1 event from Saratoga Springs run over the grass. I made the offer in today’s post, if you ever read this, and would like to know how to learn the basics of horse racing so you can explore the sport, just reach out.

YouTube Mix Tapes-2020

An essential part of my youth was music. It set my mood, gave me affiliation, opened my mind to the world and possibilities.

The mix tape was an expression of my love of music that I shared with friends and acquaintances. Like an apostle traveling the Mediterranean in the time of Paul or a Mormon teen knocking on my door in the summer, I sought to spread the word.

90 Minutes. A blank canvas. Simple rules: I had to believe in it, it had to have passion, no one hit wonders, or gimmicks. I made and gave away over 150 of these in a 15 year period before I became a father and my time consumed by another passion, my son.

The digital age came while I rested. A friend gave me “Zip drive” mix tapes. Only playable on a device that few computers had, and not in cars, it was about as popular as a Betamax machine.

I own a huge collection of digital music now and I have yet to really find a good way to make a mix tape using that music and sharing it freely and easily. YouTube is a window for me into a world of the music I love and the selection I find there is just as good, undoubtedly better, than what I could buy. Demos, Live Clips, different versions, it’s all there.

2020 has become the year of the Mix Tape again for me. While I have fewer people to share it with, and nothing on these mixes is new, the apostle continues to spread the message.

This is my 35th year making mix tapes. It never gets old to me. Enjoy.

You will find the playlist here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV00rGz2tQuVd8TYnIOdMudTL1JPOn7zI

Work for Love- Ministry***Welcome to the Occupation-REM***Angels and Devils-Echo and the Bunnymen***Somebody Might Wave Back-Waterboys***Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Version)-The Replacements***Secret Journey-The Police***Moving in Stereo-The Cars***Digital-Joy Division***Premonition-Simple Minds***Rollercoaster-The Mighty Lemon Drops***The Murder of Love-Propaganda***How Men Are-Aztec Camera***Get the Balance Right-Depeche Mode***The Rhythm-Spoons***If there is a Heaven Above-Love and Rockets***This Time of Night-New Order***Like the Weather-10,000 Maniacs***Goodnight Song-Tears for Fears

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV00rGz2tQuUCaOpqgLBSSu1p9X9wvPaO

Should I Stay or Should I Go-The Clash***Thursday-Morphine***The Azalea Festival-John and Mary***Mandinka-Snead O’Connor***Explode and Make Up-Sugar***11 O’Clock Tick Tock-U2***Secrets-The Cure***Head over Heels-Tears for Fears***Hounds of Love-Kate Bush***The First Notebook-Railway Children***Raspberry Beret-Prince***Save It For Later-English Beat***Seeing out the Angel-Simple Minds***Cherry Came Too-Jesus and the Marychain***Here’s Where the Story Ends-The Sundays***Caroline, No-Beach Boys***Don’t Fade Away-Dead Can Dance

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV00rGz2tQuUCaOpqgLBSSu1p9X9wvPaO

Someone Up There Likes You-Simple Minds***Such a Shame-Talk Talk***There is no love between us Anymore-Pop Will Eat Itself***Heaven-Eurogliders***Dreams-Cranberries***The Pan Within-Waterboys***Don’t Change-INXS***Maybe I’m Amazed-Paul McCartney***Hollow Man-The Cult***Clare’s Scarf-John and Mary***Procession-New Order***What’s the Matter Here-10,000 Maniacs***Orange Crush-REM***Out of Control-U2***New Dawn Fades-Joy Division***About You-Jesus and the MaryChain***Darlin’One-The Replacements

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV00rGz2tQuXZ0j_KMMS23y7vzM2mtKLr

Opium-Dead Can Dance***Streets of your Town-Go Betweens***A New Season-The Church***The Only One I Know-The Charlatans UK***Between Something and Nothing-Ocean Blue***Planet Earth-Duran Duran***Strength-The Alarm***All in My Mind-Love and Rockets***Suddenly Last Summer-The Motels***Believe What you are Saying-Sugar***Stories for Boys-U2***Theme for Great Cities-Simple Minds***Heaven or Las Vegas-Cocteau Twins***Achin’ to Be-The Replacements***When Loves Breaks Down-Prefab Sprout***You Are the Everything-REM***What About Love-‘Til Tuesday***All Night Long-Peter Murphy

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV00rGz2tQuWoiXbf5qQ1OCs2zZnAuont

Harborcoat-REM***Linger-Cranberries***Your Mind is a Box-Poltergeist***Like a Song-U2***Trouble Me-10,000 Maniacs***When You come back to Me-World Party***To Wish Impossible Things-The Cure***Give it Up-Talk Talk***Stars are Stars-Echo and the Bunnymen***This Time of Night-New Order***This is the Sea-The Waterboys***The Last-The Replacements***This Night Has Opened My Eyes-The Smiths***The Dog End of a Day Gone By-Love and Rockets***Hyacinth House-The Doors***Since You’re Gone-The Cars***Sensation-Bryan Ferry***Sweetest Chill-Siouxsie and the Banshees***Severance-Dead Can Dance***Atmosphere-Joy DIvision

Falbo 230

The Working Hour-Tears for Fears***What are you going to do with your Life-Echo and the Bunnymen***I Fall Down-U2***Song of the Stars-Dead Can Dance***Dome-The Church***Spirits in the Material World-The Police***Same Old Scene-Roxy Music***Confusion-New Order***Only The Lonely-The Motels***Working in a Goldmine-Aztec Camera***Help Me Lift You Up-Mary Margaret O’Hara***Valerie Loves Me-Material Issue***Freelove (Live)-Depeche Mode***Is the Something I Should Know-Duran Duran***Don’t You Want Me Baby-The Human League***1979-Smashing Pumpkins***Fake Plastic Trees-Radiohead***Sweet Thing-Waterboys***She’s The One-World Party

The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog (Continued)

Tears for Fears: The Hurting- Purchased 1984

The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog continues with the debut album by Tears for Fears, The Hurting, released in March 1983. While Songs for the Big Chair, released two days before I joined the Navy, on 25 February 1985, may be the more commercially accessible album, The Hurting was the one that mattered the most to me.

Sometime in mid 1984 the song ‘Way You Are’ was getting play on 102.1, Toronto’s CFNY, my station of choice at the time after graduating from the classic sounds of Buffalo’s 97 Rock. The Way You Are was recorded while on tour in support of The Hurting and was a precursor to their pop sound to come. It wasn’t until just before leaving for boot camp in February 1985 did Tears for Fears explode with the release of Shout. Right after boot camp, I was living in the Chicago area and two of the first albums I bought were The Hurting and Songs of the Big Chair. The first concert I was able to attend after boot camp was Tears for Fears at the Aragon Ballroom on Lawrence Ave. It’s a beautiful old theater, similar in appearance and age to Buffalo’s Shea’s Theater. The band played every song off of both albums except one (The Prisoner). While not overpowering as a live act, the live versions of The Hurting gave the music more pace, stripped back some of the production, and revealed excellent song structures, with themes that resonated with the 18 year old me living in the big city.

I did a girl wrong (not felony wrong, poor gentleman behavior wrong) around this time. She sent me the lyrics to Change, and I felt shame. I never did a girl wrong again, so thank you to that girl, you know who you and gratefully you forgave me.

The band’s combination of Curt Smith’s soulful tenor and Roland Orzabal’s masculine baritone, complimented each other. The music, again not complicated or virtuoso, is well produced for the period, and they grew as musicians through their catalog. Their clear Beatles influences are mostly observed in 1989’s Sowing the Seeds of Love and 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, and The Hurting is more about emotions played across the full spectrum.

The album took me to a place of introspection. Songs dealt with alienation, childhood trauma, isolation, failure, the loss of friends, death. The subjects were weighty, they were handled with intelligence, and they further expanded my mind to the power of music as a window into emotion and passion. It was dark but danceable, moody but not pretentious. Passion comes in many styles, but it can’t be faked.

Memories Fade, Start of the Breakdown and Watch Me Bleed were the tracks that stood out to me while Pale Shelter, Mad World and Change were the ones most gravitated too.

I was lucky enough to see them perform in Buffalo in 2004, an acoustic show, in support of their last studio album. Quality was always valued more than quantity by Orzabal and Smith, and as long as their long but perpetually fragile relationship holds up I’m sure they are capable of a late career gem. Will we get it? Who knows, but what we do have are these time capsules from a different time and a different place.

The Cult: Love- Purchased 1985

The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog, 1985’s Love by The Cult.

This was The Cult’s second studio album after a bit of a rebrand from their gothic punk roots.

I had never heard of The Cult before the girls at the club on Bennett Road in Orlando started dancing to She Sells Sanctuary around Christmas 1985. Not every album in my series touched me on an intellectual or emotional level, some just rocked. A band could not be more masculine than the sound of The Cult. Loud and in your face. While not the new wave Motörhead they became with 1987’s Electric, this album is a sonic assault lead by Billy Duffy’s Gretch White Falcon and Jamie Stewart’s pulsating bass. Singer Ian Asbury has been compared to Jim Morrison most of his career. The Wolf Child has a lot of similarities with the Lizard King, including filling his shoes when Robbie Krieger and Keyboardist Ray Manzarek brought The Doors Of the 21st Century on the road. By the that was a hell of a reimagined Doors, with the 2002 lineup including Stewart Copeland of The Police on Drums along with Asbury and the boys. Something else. I digress.

This was my Cult, not the one that came before or even the one that came after. I loved the sound, the production, and I didn’t mind the trippy lyrics because of the passion that Asbury brought to it.

When they started to write Electric they recorded 12 new sounds at Manor Studios in England. They did not like the sound. They wanted to go in a harder direction, and hired Rick Rubin to produce what many consider their masterpiece. Those 12 discarded songs were reworked by Rubin, but the originals have leaked out over the years, many issued by the band themselves. The songs were an extension of Love. While I dug it, the band didn’t and that’s all that mattered.

Not deep, not introspective. I danced my ass off to Rain and She Sells Sanctuary in 1986. Sweaty and alcohol fueled, those nights on the floor at St. Catherine’s Gords Place or Welland’s Aquaduck seemed like they would never end, but alas, nothing lasts forever and that moment in a young person’s life is fleeting. I wish I would have realized how fleeting, but then again, that’s part of the maturation process. The people, the music, it’s all ingrained in memory now.

Love.

John and Mary: Victory Gardens 1991

The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog continues with John and Mary’s Victory Gardens.


This 1991 release was high on my radar for many reasons, primarily my enjoyment of folk rock, Buffalo acoustic bars, and the 10,000 Maniacs, where John Lombardo, John, was Natalie Merchant’s writing partner and band mate before leaving just as commercial success came with 1986’s In My Tribe. After meeting classicly trained violist Mary Ramsey just six months previously, the duo recorded the album with most of the Maniac’s and a who’s who of American underground college rock alumni at Mitch Easter’s studio in North Carolina.


I wrestled with if a 10,000 Maniacs album belonged in this spot, but quite frankly I lump them all together anyway, as John and Mary are member’s of both and the music is really no different. Two different lead singers, but both brimming with talent.
In late 1991, the Maniacs were still recording what would become their last album with Merchant, Our Time in Eden, and they played a few nights at the Tralf in Buffalo and played many new songs, most of them with extended instrumentals. It was an incredible live experience. Who knew except the band themselves that Merchant declared her plans to leave at the end of that albums tour. A few days later I saw John and Mary play a small bar in Buffalo. Again, mentally no difference.


I loved the Maniacs. Merchant went on to have a forgettable debut solo effort, and her big homecoming to Buffalo’s Art Deco masterpiece, Shea’s Theater was a study in tedium, as her band was boring, with a heavy dose of militant feminism surrounding the affair. Not the boat ride I signed up for. The death of Rob Buck in 2000 silenced one of the best and distinctive guitarists of his era. I’ve never considered Natalie Merchant again relevant, which is sad because I find her a compelling artist, but John and Mary, and some version of the Maniac’s live on.


It’s said that Mary Ramsey has perfect pitch. That may be true, but what I do know she is my favorite female American musician and vocalist, the highest praise available to this reviewer.


Highlights are The Azalea Festival, Red Wooden Beads and Rag of Flowers. A selection from the album and two John Lombardo era Maniac’s songs in the comments.

The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses-Purchased 1989

The Albums that Shaped me Microblog’s latest installment is perhaps the greatest British New Wave Album ever recorded, 1989’s eponymous The Stone Roses.
This is a blog about the albums that shaped me. It is not about bands with longevity, or hardest working. If that was the case, The Stone Roses, slackers in every sense of the word, would not be on this list.


It’s easy to be captivated by the Roses mix of danceable rhythms and atmospheric, yet powerful guitar leads. The band’s rhythm section of bass player Mani and drummer Reni anchor this sound, but the riffing of Guitarist John Squire and the opaque nature of singer Ian Brown’s lyrics seal it.


With the epic ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ sounding all of an updated ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, to the danceable ‘Elephant Stone’, the first side of record gets your attention. Side 2 is a masterstroke, a suite of seperate songs but connected in spirit and vibe, similar to side two of Abbey Road. Powerful, in your face, but never obnoxious.
Another Manchester Band, and along with the Happy Monday’s, maybe one of the last great bands of the 1980’s before Oasis arrives. A long inactive period followed, with a fight over their music label, and a lot of weed later, the band delivered “The Second Coming” (with the strongest track in the comments) in late 1994. Too late, and the moment had come and gone for them.


This album owned by cassette deck on the summer 1989 mid Pacific operations that were getting pretty tedious to me with less than 9 months until getting out. Music was my escape during the long, hot and tiring hours in an engine room of a submarine, and this album passed a lot of time. Thirty years later, it’s one of the few albums I will put on a listen to in its entirety, a testament to the writing and this snapshot in time in my 23rd year.


Love Spreads.

Love and Rockets: Express- 1986

The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog continues with 1986’s Express by Love and Rockets.


Love and Rockets are a classic, flawed band, that produced flawed records punctuated by moments of greatness. The band, and even this album, acts more as a gateway drug to a greater world of the musicians involved, and the creative output of them not only in Love and Rockets, but in their previous band, Bauhaus.


Love and Rockets first broke into my musical archive in late 1985, when their cover of Ball of Confusion owned the dance floor of Club Exit in Niagara Falls. It was the dawn of the dancing era for me, uninhibited and unconstrained by the social construct and rules that governed conduct in high school, free to wear a cardigan sweater, a jean jacket, and some old broach and not give a f**k what anyone thought. Ball of Confusion went on seemingly forever and it laid the groove down.


Driven by a highly compressed and processed guitar played by the immaculately coifed/immaculately cheek-boned Daniel Ash, and a rhythm section of two brothers, David J on the bass guitar and Kevin Haskins on the drums. Express comes at you like a psychedelic sledgehammer, driving and pushing the sound that was dark and gothic with Bauhaus to the edge of pop sensibility with lyrics deeper than first impressions. The groups debut album in 1985, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, hinted at this direction, but Express delivered.


In one magical six day period in December 1986 I saw Love and Rockets on the Express tour, New Order on the Brotherhood tour, I turned 20 years old and I reported onboard the submarine Louisville. Lots of activity, all good memories of an era that I miss, surrounded by people that I miss.


The band produced four excellent albums in a five year period, as well as non stop toured. This was on the heels of Bauhaus’s four albums in a three year period. Bands worked hard back before the instant gratification world.


Again, a gateway drug. Bauhaus wasn’t my scene really, as I wasn’t a goth. That said, I liked the music and this led me to Peter Murphy, lead singer of Bauhaus, and his solo career.


I always found it amusing when the Bills, for many years, would play the opening bars of Kundalini Express before kickoffs. I wondered how many in the crowd were there in that small, sweaty bar in December 1986 when Love and Rockets gave a masterclass in psychedelic rock. I wonder how many even knew the name of the song or its history. No matter, folks don’t care much for these sort of things anymore, but luckily some of us still do.

Dead Can Dance: Towards the Within- Purchased 1994

The 27th and final Album in the Albums that Shaped Me Microblog, 1994’s Toward the Within, a live album by Dead Can Dance


This is not an easily accessible band, and like many of their 4AD label mates, I tried them in the ‘80s but it didn’t resonate. In my late 20’s, married but well before adopting Jae, I was still experimenting with new artists, and I heard a cut from Dead Can Dance’s new album on CFNY and I was captivated by singer Brenden Perry’s rich baritone. After doing a bit of reading, the Live Album was as unique as the band, as only 3 of the 15 tracks ever appeared on a studio album.


Dead Can Dance followed this album up with Spirtchaser in 1996 and with that I was locked in for good.


Co-vocalist Lisa Gerrard has an other worldly operatic range and she compliments Perry’s songs and deep emotive singing. World music is one way to describe the sound, composed with samples of unusual folk wind, string and percussion instruments tuned to organic brilliance.

While many have never heard of Dead Can Dance, singer Gerrard has lent her voice to some of the best movie soundtracks of the 90’s, Michael Mann’s brilliant, The Insider and another Russel Crowe movie, Gladiator.


After a long hiatus, they returned with 2012 Anastatis, and 2018’s Dionysus.
Brilliant music, made my master craftsmen. Not for everyone, but not intended to be.

Honorable Mentions

27.


I set out at the start of the quarantine to share the albums that shaped my life, and along the way that became the “30”albums blah blah blah. Arbitrary.


I made it to 27, and I started to question the concept of good versus great versus epic. Our culture tosses around adjectives loosely, in particular the assignment of superlatives. Halls of Fame are businesses, and businesses need products to sell. To that end, they assign arbitrary and completely subjective judgement on who or what was great, and by inference, all others. They assign status, the status applies cache, and suddenly we have named something great and all are expected to accept their greatness because they are in a museum that sells tickets and makes you exit out of a gift shop.
What happens in reality is the great are mixed with the semi great, very good and the questionably good. This is a very long way of explaining my disdain for the business of Halls of Fame, but also to explain why I shouldn’t, and will not, water down my list of albums that shaped me simply to get to an arbitrary number. If it’s 27 it’s 27.


I’m going to wrap this microblog up however on a final note, a droning open chord from the past. I had a collection of albums that came close but just didn’t make the cut. I’m not going to denigrate them by explaining why they weren’t good enough to make my subjective listing, my hall of fame (oh the ironies) but instead just point out their moments of brilliance and what the album meant to me.


In case you are interested, the 27 albums that shaped my life are:
U2 -Unforgettable Fire

Joy Division -Still

Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority

Waterboys- Fisherman Blues

Duran Duran – Rio

Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

New Order- Low Life

The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow

Talk Talk – Colour of Spring

REM -Fables of the Reconstruction

The Replacements -Tim

Simple Minds -New Gold Dream

The Beatles- Past Masters

Depeche Mode- Black Celebration

Siouxsie and the Banshees- Tinderbox

Prefab Sprout- Steve McQueen

Echo and the Bunnymen- Songs to Learn & Sing

The Psychedelic Furs-Mirror Moves

The Cure- Standing on the Beach

The Church-Heyday

The Cars-The Cars

Tears for Fears-The Hurting

The Cult-Love

John and Mary-Victory Gardens

The Stone Roses-The Stone Roses

Love and Rockets- Express

Dead Can Dance- Toward the Within


I have no specific number, arbitrary is dull, and I’m also sure I may miss something so I’m not constrained by the editorial standards of say the NYT (oh the irony as well) and I can edit later.


The Jesus and Marychain- Darklands
While Psychocandy could have also made the cut, the cleaner guitar and completeness of Darklands makes this an album I revisit every so often. As a band, you may have considered their thin musical chops and figured them to be no better than a momentary blip, but the Reid Brothers had a good ear, weren’t bashful about ripping off melodies, and made the brew of distortion their own.


Kate Bush-Hounds of Love
I can’t say I’m a huge Kate Bush Fan. The idea of watching the Babooshka video or hearing it again is not something I’m interested in. That said, I sat in a laundry mat in Orlando in 1985 and read about Hounds of Love and I gave it a chance. I loved the first side, Cloudbusting, Hounds of Love and Running up that Hill in particular. Timeless. A real artist I have very deep respect for, she’s just not my touchstone like she is for others.


10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe
I loved the band. I loved they were from Western New York and I believe they were one of the most talented bands to emerge from the 1980’s. Guitarist Rob Buck, Rest In Peace, drove the band, and young Natalie Merchant gave the band passion and energy. Natalie has other plans and the band broke up when they should have been in their creative peak.


The Police- Album?
I wanted several times to add a Police Album to this list, but I couldn’t put my finger on one that actually shaped me. If forced to I’d say Regatta De Blanc, their second album. I don’t think the band aged well, the song production, the musical themes, I find dated. Virtuoso players also often focus on their personal virtuoso playing and less on the passion, emotion and intensity that to me defines and underscores as a common theme my 27 album suite. Ghosts In the Machine came close as well. Synchronicity, while a masterstoke of song construction and hit making, to me falls short. It lacks empathy.


Roddy Frame/Aztec Camera- Surf
Technically a Roddy Frame solo record, but the reality is most of Aztec Camera was a Roddy Frame solo effort anyways. Late career, deeply moving, powerful without overpowering. Roddy would be top five on any list of best guitar players or singer/songwriters.


The Railway Children- Reunion Wilderness
A Manchester band on the same music label as New Order, intelligent pop music. WellConstructed, fantastic vocals, popping bass, but also failing to make their audience believe them with the same fever as others could.


Propaganda- A Secret Wish
Cool, lush German. Mechanical, metallic. An incredibly produced and assembled collection of songs on the ZZT label and from the same team that made Frankie Goes to Hollywood a worldwide phenomenon. With ex Simple Mind, the greatest bass player of the era Derek Forbes, the music came to life. Timeless.


The Clash/Big Audio Dynamite- Album?
A similar problem as I had with The Police, The Clash and BAD, In particular the music of Mick Jones, was a soundtrack of my young life, yet none of their albums spoke to me as a complete work.


Bryan Ferry- Boys and Girls
Roxy Music was before me and didn’t resonate to me but Bryan Ferry did. His singing touches a nerve deep inside, and the session players he assembled created complex and soulful compositions that set a mood more than anything. This, and the follow up Bete Noir, were a high water mark of his music. Putting the album on in 1985 on the dark streets of Orlando’s seedier side and just driving is a memory of my youth and the shaping into adulthood, the very concept of this blog.

Satori- Sudden Awakening

Was it sudden or did I finally listen to the voice in my head? Life crystallized for me over the past few months with the death of my father and father in law.

My son turned 20 on Valentine’s Day. The following day my father in law was brought to the hospital, aged 89, unable to swallow. When I say he couldn’t swallow, I mean nothing, not even his own saliva. Dysphagia is the medical term, something I had never heard of.

The Doctor’s and Nurses tried but nothing worked. After three weeks in the hospital his choice was simple? A feeding tube, inserted into his stomach, and constant suction with a wand to prevent choking. Quality of life not too good, and most likely death from pneumonia -OR- no feeding tube and go home to starve to death under hospice care. My father in law, Joe, made the decision, he had enough of hospitals, he had a good life, he wanted to die at home.

We brought him home on a Friday. That entire weekend the house was packed with family and friends. My father in law was still healthy enough to talk to everyone, enjoy a beer (although he couldn’t swallow), and he was so happy. The non stop house party continued until the following Wednesday night. He started to really lose weight fast and his sleep was growing longer. He had a very lucid evening after waking up and the family all laughed with him. He fell asleep Wednesday night, March 11. COVID-19 was starting to really hit the County, with overseas travel suspended and businesses starting to consider closing. He didn’t wake up Thursday morning, just a period or two of restlessness. He passed away at 3:05 PM, March 12. The funeral was the following Monday and by the time the funeral was over Churches were closed and we were full blown into quarantine.

My father, Carmen, had congestive heart failure. He received a pacemaker in November 2008. In October 2019 his doctors declared him healthy enough to have pacemaker replacement. After what looked like successful surgery he developed a massive chest infection and the pacemaker removed from his chest, an operation in which he almost died after an overdose of pain medication in recovery caused him to crash and be intubated. The recovery from this second surgery was hard on him as he was immobile and his weakening heart weakening further. The Doctor’s put the new pacemaker back into him in February, his third operation. He was in the same hospital at the same time as my Father in Law. The week after my Father in Law’s funeral my Dad had his fourth operation since October, this time because the pacemaker they just put in wasn’t communicating. He was never same after that last operation. By the time we brought him back to the hospital two weeks later he was starting to hallucinate and he was slurring words and shuffling around slowly. They turned him away in his moment of need. The discharged him at midnight the night we brought him to the ER because they needed to keep beds open in case of the COVID wave that never came. The next morning, Friday April 3 we called his Doctor, sent a strip of data, and the Doctor told us to rush him to a different hospital. He was admitted but we couldn’t see him because, you know, COVID. I called his room on Saturday morning and we spoke, but he was confused and it wasn’t really a conversation. We spoke on Sunday morning and he seemed a bit better actually. Things turned bad by Monday. The hospital seemed resigned to him dying, saying his heart was only pumping at 15%, the same 15% it had been pumping at for years. His kidneys started to fail. I never spoke to him again. They finally let me and my family in at 12:30, Wednesday April 8th. He was dead at 3:30 PM, 3 hours later.

I’m 53, going to be 54 in December. I’m healthy. No one knows how much time they have or how many healthy years they have. I’ve worked hard in my life, since leaving high school early to join the US Navy Submarine Service, I’ve clawed my way to being the top Operations Manager and Senior Vice President of the company I work for, a green energy and renewable gas business. I see the end, around 60. What am I going to do with my healthy retirement years? I assume I’ll have 20 years, but there are no promises and nothing is taken for granted. I want to die like my Father and Father in Law, accomplished and nothing left on the table.

I have goals, short term and my Capstone, the name of the blog. The Capstone is the last great adventure. I know what I want it to be, but I’ll talk about it more fully in a future posting.

Satori. The Japanese word for sudden awakening, an a-ha moment, a light bulb turning on feeling. I’ve had a sudden awakening in 2020. It’s time to continue with the rest of my life.

Carmen Joseph Falbo: 1938-2020; Father-Husband-Veteran
Joseph Charles Agnello 1930-2020; Father-Husband-Veteran

Microblog: The Albums that Shaped Me.

The Cars: The Cars. Purchased July 1984.

In this latest installment of the Albums that Shaped Me Microblog, the debut album by The Cars, released in 1978.

The band began playing in Boston nightclubs in 1976 and was an iteration of bands started by principal song writer Ric Ocasek that included bassist and co-lead vocalist Benjamin Orr. The addition of Greg Hawkes on keyboards, Elliot Easton on lead guitar and David Robinson, late of Modern Lovers, sealed the classic lineup.

The album was a greatest hits package disguised as a debut. Songs that were crafted and shaped over hundreds of live shows came together under the skillful production of Roy Thomas Baker, who at the time of recording this album was most notable for the production of several Queen records.

What was The Cars style? Influenced by the times, The Cars were a straight ahead rock band that began to veer in an art house direction by Ocasek, who was already 34 years old at the time of the debut. It was an interesting time in music: Disco was popular, the titans of the sixties were losing sway, and the burgeoning punk rock scene wasn’t yet popular in the US, with NY Dolls and The Ramones the only real entrants. The Cars were precursors of New Wave/Art House with the use of Hawkes modern keyboard sound and the band’s avoidance of cliche, at least until 1987’s album finale with the classic lineup, Door to Door.

Dance swingin’ and rockin’, these songs were classic teenage anthems. I fell in love with The Cars driving around in my parents 1978 Ford Thunderbird, a land yacht, and singing away to these as they came on the radio. It was a cross over band, a rare one, played on the classic rock station in Buffalo as well as the alternative station in Toronto.

The star of the band is Ben Orr. Ben was a celebrity in the Cleveland area long before The Cars was released as he appeared as “Benny 11 Letters”(owing to his full last name, Orzechowski) while performing in the house band, The Grasshoppers, on local television. Orr met Ocasek in the late 60’s in the Columbus Ohio area before the two went off to Boston together.

What can I say about Orr? Handsome, masculine voice, a gifted musician and performer. While not a writer, he brought many of Ocasek’s songs to life and while best known for his vocals on the mega smash hit, Drive, to me it was his work in the early Cars that is an absolute treasure as well as his back up vocals when Ocasek took the mic.

Orr is a tragic figure. After reaching dizzying heights with the sucess of 1984’s Heartbreak City, his star turn on Drive and finding himself on stage at Live Aid in Philadelphia, the band fractured internally. He had a falling out with his long time buddy, Ocasek. Perhaps it was women, perhaps it was ego, perhaps it was alcohol, or maybe all the above. The final album was recorded, and while a return to a more organic sound than the computer driven and overproduced 1984 Heartbreak City, it was dead inside. The magic was gone, and the band ceased to exist by 1988.

I believe they would have reunited, perhaps the 1999 release of remastered albums might have done it, but Orr, the rock and roll soldier he was, playing hundreds of shows per year in malls, small bars and anywhere else, got the bad break of his life, pancreatic cancer. The last time The Cars appeared together was for a promotional video for the release of their remastered works. Orr was near death, and the rest of the band, especially Ocasek, who had yet to make things right with his best friend, were all shell shocked at the prospects of his demise. Reunited, old feelings and grudges settled, but death awaited. Ocasek joined Orr in heaven in September 2019. It would have been pretty cool to see these old friends embrace again.

As good as this album was, watch the live videos. The expressions on the bands face as they tightly tear through these songs is pure, raw and unadulterated passion. This is what infected me at 17 and still gets my foot tapping at at 53.

Microblog: The Albums that Shaped Me.

The Cars: The Cars. Purchased July 1984.

In this latest installment of the Albums that Shaped Me Microblog, the debut album by The Cars, released in 1978.

The band began playing in Boston nightclubs in 1976 and was an iteration of bands started by principal song writer Ric Ocasek that included bassist and co-lead vocalist Benjamin Orr. The addition of Greg Hawkes on keyboards, Elliot Easton on lead guitar and David Robinson, late of Modern Lovers, sealed the classic lineup.

The album was a greatest hits package disguised as a debut. Songs that were crafted and shaped over hundreds of live shows came together under the skillful production of Roy Thomas Baker, who at the time of recording this album was most notable for the production of several Queen records.

What was The Cars style? Influenced by the times, The Cars were a straight ahead rock band that began to veer in an art house direction by Ocasek, who was already 34 years old at the time of the debut. It was an interesting time in music: Disco was popular, the titans of the sixties were losing sway, and the burgeoning punk rock scene wasn’t yet popular in the US, with NY Dolls and The Ramones the only real entrants. The Cars were precursors of New Wave/Art House with the use of Hawkes modern keyboard sound and the band’s avoidance of cliche, at least until 1987’s album finale with the classic lineup, Door to Door.

Dance swingin’ and rockin’, these songs were classic teenage anthems. I fell in love with The Cars driving around in my parents 1978 Ford Thunderbird, a land yacht, and singing away to these as they came on the radio. It was a cross over band, a rare one, played on the classic rock station in Buffalo as well as the alternative station in Toronto.

The star of the band is Ben Orr. Ben was a celebrity in the Cleveland area long before The Cars was released as he appeared as “Benny 11 Letters”(owing to his full last name, Orzechowski) while performing in the house band, The Grasshoppers, on local television. Orr met Ocasek in the late 60’s in the Columbus Ohio area before the two went off to Boston together.

What can I say about Orr? Handsome, masculine voice, a gifted musician and performer. While not a writer, he brought many of Ocasek’s songs to life and while best known for his vocals on the mega smash hit, Drive, to me it was his work in the early Cars that is an absolute treasure as well as his back up vocals when Ocasek took the mic.

Orr is a tragic figure. After reaching dizzying heights with the sucess of 1984’s Heartbreak City, his star turn on Drive and finding himself on stage at Live Aid in Philadelphia, the band fractured internally. He had a falling out with his long time buddy, Ocasek. Perhaps it was women, perhaps it was ego, perhaps it was alcohol, or maybe all the above. The final album was recorded, and while a return to a more organic sound than the computer driven and overproduced 1984 Heartbreak City, it was dead inside. The magic was gone, and the band ceased to exist by 1988.

I believe they would have reunited, perhaps the 1999 release of remastered albums might have done it, but Orr, the rock and roll soldier he was, playing hundreds of shows per year in malls, small bars and anywhere else, got the bad break of his life, pancreatic cancer. The last time The Cars appeared together was for a promotional video for the release of their remastered works. Orr was near death, and the rest of the band, especially Ocasek, who had yet to make things right with his best friend, were all shell shocked at the prospects of his demise. Reunited, old feelings and grudges settled, but death awaited. Ocasek joined Orr in heaven in September 2019. It would have been pretty cool to see these old friends embrace again.

As good as this album was, watch the live videos. The expressions on the bands face as they tightly tear through these songs is pure, raw and unadulterated passion. This is what infected me at 17 and still gets my foot tapping at at 53.

Microblog: The Albums that Shaped Me.

The Church: Heyday. Purchased April 1986. Thrown Away August 1986. Repurchased January 1988

he Albums that Shaped Me Microblog: The Church Heyday

I spoke at length over the past month about 20 albums that truly inspired and shaped not only my musical outlook, but the mental attitude of who I am. I’m going to continue this micro blog for the foreseeable future but perhaps go off on tangents from time to time. I like tangents. Like a road trip pre-GPS, sometimes it’s just more fun to get lost and meander about.

I bought the January 1986 release of The Church’s fourth studio album sometime around April 1986. It may have been part of a big purchase I made before a long road trip. It lasted a few listens, and several months later around August 1986, when while visiting my friends girlfriend at the Fatima Shine gift shop, it started to hiss. Before it destroyed my Pioneer Supertuner Three cassette deck, I ejected it and threw it away. I just didn’t care for it. Why did I buy it in the first place? Peter Walsh, the producer of Simple Minds New Gold Dream produced this for Arista Records. It was that simple. Walsh amazingly produced New Gold Dream at 21 and was still only 25 when he produced this. It’s always amazing to me when I hear young people say their are no opportunities. You have to make your opportunities. I digress.

Flash forward to March 1988. The submarine I was on, The USS Louisville, relocated to San Diego a month earlier and a Tower Records on Sports Arena Boulevard quickly became my hangout. The “Coming Soon” board stated that The Church would release Starfish in April. The Church had a bigger presence in San Diego. Hailing from Bondi Beach, Sydney Australia, San Diego’s music scene was much more fond of them than a place like Toronto, or even the British music magazines I drew most of my ideas from. I bought Heyday for the second time in advance of Starfish’s release.

I had nothing else to compare it to in terms of the Church’s catalog. I liked the keyboards, the shimmering production, the guitars and the lead singer, Steve Kilbey. The album was a gateway drug. It lead me to solo works which seemed to populate the music “art house ” label Rykodic. Marty Willson-Piper‘s Art Attack blew me away. Peter Koppes ( Peter Koppes – fans of ) Desert Flower Bride was a melancholy masterpiece. Then Starfish came. “…a bucket full of Starfish, warm rain, the long sleep…” A commercial peak but still plenty of elevation yet to climb artistically.

Why do some bands with seemingly little talent (I’m looking at you Aerosmith) make it big, when other bands, bursting with ideas and talent don’t? I dunno, but what I do know through the wisdom of age and perspective is it doesn’t matter. If music truly is art, then it is created not for money, not for clicks or download counts, or oppulant lifestyles, but simply as art. The Church created art and it worked. Kilby’s side project Hex, with a Facebook favorite of mine, Donnette Thayer, created two albums I hold dear and God knows how few they actually sold. It was a brilliant period, too short to contain the creativity that these musicians had.

No story of the music that shaped me could be complete without a discussion of the Church. It didn’t matter how popular they were, they mattered an awful lot to me.

Microblog: The Albums that Shaped Me: Albums 11-20

The Replacements: Tim. Purchased December 1984

Album 11.

We forget that before the CD pushed “albums” to 72 minutes in length, single albums were typically 35-45 minutes in length. Many a great record, The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s for example, was a little over 39 minutes. Quality over quantity.

The Replacement’s September 1985 LP, Tim, was one of those records. Clocking in at 36 minutes, it’s a masterpiece of American garage rock.

The album introduced me to the brilliance of singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg. From Minneapolis, the band was known for their drinking primarily, and their sloppy songs, and in the early days of 1981 they had songs that would just end mid bar.

This was the last album with guitar player Bob Stinson. The older brother of bass player Tommy Stinson, Bob, like Westerberg, was an alcoholic and a drug user, and as time went on he struggled to hold his demons at bay. By their next album, Pleased to Meet Me, released in 1987, Bob was out of the band and working as a short order cook when he wasn’t in rehab. Bob sadly passed away from organ failure caused by years of hard living 10 years after Tim was released. Tommy, who is exactly two months older than me, has been in the music business since joining the Replacements after dropping out of 10th grade. His high school classmate? Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum. Tommy also went on to have a long career in a little band known as Guns N’ Roses during the Chinese Democracy era.

Westerberg cleaned himself up and has had a long, lo-fi solo career. Tim captures The Replacements at the height of their albeit drunken, but impressive musical powers. There is no substitute for passion.

Simple Minds: New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84. Purchased 1986

This list was in no order. If it was in an order, this album would have been first, alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end for me, Simple Minds New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84.

It may have seemed to many people that Simple Minds just dropped out of the sky when 1985’s The Breakfast Club arrived and Don’t You Forget About Me was on every radio station thereafter. Six albums. That’s how many albums Simple Minds already had released before that song made them an overnight sensation. Their first album was in 1979. 700. That’s the number of concerts they performed between ‘78 and ‘84. They were an absolute beast as a band, tight beyond belief, and album after album they progressed their sound and craft forward. By the time New Gold Dream was released in late 1982 they found themselves fully mastering the sound they strived for: a melodic and muscular bass line that the songs were built around, an ambient guitar sound intended to sound like anything but guitar, and keyboards and piano that gave the music depth, weight and emotion. The drums complimented the songs, not overpowered them. Danceable. Mysterious, European. Singer Jim Kerr, like many of his contemporaries cared little if the words made sense and more about how they sounded together and the mood they struck.

I could talk about this album for hours. The nuance that each song demonstrates fascinates me. I personally became aware of Simple Minds in the early summer of 1984. Their Sparkle in the Rain album was out and the single Waterfront was a staple on CFNY-102.1. It led me to New Gold Dream which I bought on vinyl Christmas 1984 at Record Town or Cavages in the Summit Park Mall.

I’m still hypnotized by Hunter and the Hunted and King is White and in the Crowd. I still find my thoughts drifting to a time long ago when Big Sleep or Someone Up There Likes You starts playing.

Derek Forbes bass playing to me is truly special. He tweeted at me not too long ago and I had to pinch myself that my favorite musician ever tweeted at me. Crazy world.

The band was never the same after Don’t You Forget About Me. Derek Forbes was sacked, for what or why that is still murky 35 years later. Their biggest commercial success was in front of them but what made them special artistically was gone, replaced by puffed up political and social justice themes, pompous excess and just plain boring song writing. They are nothing more than a nostalgia band today, but for a brief time, 1981-1985, they were the best band in the world in this reviewers humble opinion.

The Beatles: Past Masters Vol.1 and 2. Purchased early 1988

The Beatles Past Masters Volume 1 and 2 came out in early 1988. I bought them at Tower Records on Sports Arena Boulevard in San Diego. They were the first Beatles CD’s, as the Beatles were slow to move onto CD just as they were slow to join the iTunes Store.

While they may have been the first Beatles I bought, I reckon when I was 21, this was not my first Beatles. In 1971 at the age of five my beloved Aunt Rosie gave me some of her records. One was the LP of Help and the other was Tom Jones It’s Not Unusual (which will make a good story on its own- Tom Jones, early 2000’s, Melody Fair. The bras were flying!) I digress.

After playing that Help LP into the ground, my mother bought me the Red and the Blue Greatest Hits albums around 1977. Paul McCartney’s Wings at the Speed of Sound was on tour the year before and it reawakened The Beatles in me. This was followed by front row seats at Shea’s for Beatlemania around 1979, and from that moment on the Beatles have been the mother ship that I come back to from time to time.

Past Masters in 1988 was the first time I circled back to the Beatles following my music awaking of 7th grade that began with classic rock (Rush/Styx/Zeppelin and AC/DC) before transitioning in 9th grade (Journey/Triumph/Yes) before mid 10th Grade (U2/Duran Duran) and then on to new wave. Rediscovering them in 1988 was like a fresh new day. The recordings themselves were crisp and clear and the tracks included went deeper than anything that was on the greatest hits albums. It spurred me to buy the rest of the catalog and go into the rabbit hole like so many others.

I couldn’t even tell you what my favorite Beatles record is. It’s sort of like Beatlemania actually, I like the early group with fresh faces, I like the experimental group through Sgt Pepper’s and I like the long haired band that finished out the ‘60s. Three separate bands. I’ll add my top five Beatles songs in the comments below.

Depeche Mode: Black Celebration. Purchased March 1986

Day 15 of the Albums that Shaped Me Blog.

Brian Wilson once said that he “…played the studio”. It was an admission that the acoustics and the sound that a room made influenced his creative work product. There are many famous studios where many of the albums on my list were recorded but I’d like to talk about Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin for the next two or three nights. The first album I will highlight from Hansa, which literally sat in the shadow of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War is 1986’s Black Celebration by Depeche Mode.

Bowie and Iggy Pop put Hansa on the map, with Bowie’s Heroes and Pop’s Lust for Life being recorded there in 1977. The first Depeche Mode album I ever purchased, Construction Time Again, which included their US breakout hit People are People, was recorded at Hansa in 1984. I was attending Navy Nuclear Power School in Orlando Florida and I bought Black Celebration on the day it was released from Strawberry Records on Colonial Drive in March 1986.

To hear people talk about recording at Hansa is fascinating. In 2018, a documentary called Hansa Studios: By the Wall 1976-1990 was released. Nick Cave says the building “…has darkness in the dust.” Producer Flood says that “…the building is as much an instrument as any guitar, drum or synth.” Depeche Mode’s producer Gareth Jones said “…they could throw beats around the building.” Bowie’s Heroes was inspired by a day of staring at the bleakness of the Wall. The bleakness often allowed bands who were suffering writers block to work it out there, primarily because there was nothing else to do. U2 arrived after the draining Joshua Tree period without a thought of what to do and left after reinventing themselves with Achtung Baby. REM recorded Collapse into Now there, and recorded a live show there, with lead singer Michael Stipe questioning what was “…imbued into the wood, in the grain of the fabric of the place (Hansa)…”

You’ll love or hate Black Celebration. It’s the Depeche Mode before Violator, their enormous 1990 album, that is dark in the music, with the increasingly influential Alan Wilder providing the sonic palate for song writer Martin Gore’s angst, isolation, longing and despair. Singer David Gahan was as much an instrument as the band’s increasingly complex organic synth sound. Tracks like Fly on the Windscreen and Stripped were standouts and are included in the comments below.

The music is sharp, the songwriting top shelf and the aesthetic oh so 1986. It’s not an album I find myself listening to regularly in my early fifties, but Depeche Mode played a very important part in my formative years, adding their darkness to the darkness I felt as I finished school and spent long weeks and months at sea. I reckon Hansa did have something special about it. A darkness that inspired these artists to explore and audibly visualize it is on display here and a few more albums I will highlight.

Thanks to Emine Sander of The Guardian for some of the quotes about Hansa.

Hansa by the Wall

Siouxsie and the Banshees: Tinderbox. Purchased April 1986

A quick recap of the first 14 albums:

U2: Unforgettable Fire
Joy Division: Still
Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority
Waterboys: Fisherman Blues
Duran Duran: Rio
Beach Boys: Pet Sounds
New Order: Low Life
The Smiths: Hatful of Hollow
Talk Talk: Colour of Spring
REM: Fables of the Reconstruction
The Replacements: Tim
Simple Minds: New Gold Dream
The Beatles: Past Masters Vol 1 and 2
Depeche Mode: Black Celebration

Released in April 1986, Siouxsie and the Banshees 7th studio album, Tinderbox, was both a reinvention and a new beginning for this goth inspired post punk band.

Recorded at Hansa Studio, featured in my last post regarding Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration, bands went to Hansa by the Wall, literally in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, for inspiration, dark inspiration. The Banshee’s found theirs.

The Banshee’s were not on my radar before late 1985. I had heard of them, as with many bands of this era, a punk mystique preceded them, with an outer worldly name and a mesmerizingly different lead singer in Siouxsie Sioux.

My first exposure came with their cover of the Lennon White Album masterpiece Dear Prudence, from their 1984 album Hyena. It was the moment they went from being foreign and inaccessible to having a relatable sound. Real Banshee fans are laughing at me right now because the bands pre 1984 catalog is beloved, especially the classic lineup with new wave guitar legend, sadly gone before his time, the great John McGeoch. That said, those weren’t my Banshee’s. 1986-1989 were my Banshee’s and this album was the beginning.

Dark. Exotic. Textured. Driven by Bassist Steve Severin and Sioux’s lover and future husband, Budgie, on drums, the album assaults you subtly. Rhythmic like a train driving down the tracks from the opening song. The music can simultaneously haunt you (Sweetest Chill, This Unrest, 92 Degrees) and shake you to your core (Cities in Dust Candyman and Song from the Edge of the World).

No longer tied to the standard formula of guitar driven song structure, the Banshees added multi instrumentalist John Valentine Carruthers and the music shimmers and finds balance, giving Sioux space to be who she was at this point, a pioneering non archetype female voice in music.

I had the pleasure of seeing this version of the Banshees live in Boston at a Concert on the Commons in August 1987. A friend of mine from High School was working the concert and got me into the VIP Tent before the show and I’ll admit to having weak knees after Siouxsie said hello to me. Beautiful in a way people didn’t think of her.

I would never have guessed how powerful they would be live, but they were incredibly tight and energetic. Sioux commanded the stage and the band was muscular and less nuanced. I had opportunity to see them again with my friend Jim in San Diego on the Peepshow Tour in 1988.

An acquired taste, not for everyone, dense, foreboding and intimate.

Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen/Two Wheel Good. Purchased November 1985

In 1985 I was living on my own for the first time, and I was hanging around laundry-mats like any single guy, usually on Wednesday Nights (creature of habit). I was living in Orlando off of East Colonial Drive (Route 50) near Baldwin Lake. I would go to the Strawberry Records on the N. Bumby and Colonial and buy British Music Magazines to pass the time while my clothes were washed and dried. The buzz record in ‘Smash Hits’ around this time was by a band called Prefab Sprout, and the album was called Two Wheel Good in the US, but in England the Album was called Steve McQueen. The bands management, for this their second record, didn’t want the recently deceased Steve McQueen’s estate to sue them.

In case I wasn’t clear, today’s featured record is Prefab Sprout’s 1985 masterpiece Steve McQueen.

Have you ever just wanted to try something new but after popping it into your tape deck you just didn’t know what to do with it? That was Steve McQueen to me. I didn’t understand it, didn’t appreciate the themes, it wasn’t very danceable, and soon this tape went to the storage wall, the death sentence for my music. I did have a very hip girlfriend a short while later who adored this album but even that wasn’t enough to get me to listen again.

Perhaps a record for elapsed time, this album didn’t get a second chance with me until 2007, 22 years after I purchased it. By this time I was traveling quite a bit for work and the enigmatic lead singer and song writer, Paddy McAloon, released a legacy edition of this album, remastered and including a full acoustic re-recording of the album. I was intrigued. It was apparent to me after listening that In 1985 I wasn’t mature enough for the themes, which vary from love, death, marriage, infidelity, success and failure.

The lyrics pulled me in. The music, far more clever than I remembered it, impressed me. Thomas Dolby’s (Blinded me with Science) production was spot on.

The lyrics:

From Bonny…

“….I spend the days with my vanity
I’m lost in heaven and I’m lost to earth
Didn’t give you minutes not even moments…. I count the hours since you slipped away,
I count the hours that I lie awake,
I count the minutes and the seconds too,
All I stole and I took from you, but Bonny don’t live at home…”

From When Love Breaks Down…

“…When love breaks down
The things you do
To stop the truth from hurting you
When love breaks down
The lies we tell,
They only serve to fool ourselves…”

From Appetite…

“… So if you take – Then put back good
If you steal – be Robin Hood
If your eyes are wanting all you see
Then I think I’ll name you after me
I think I’ll call you appetite…”

These snippets don’t do Paddy McAloon justice. From Durham in the Northeast of England, Paddy and his brother started writing songs at the age of 15. After the success of their cheaply produced debut album Swoon in 1984, the band gave Producer Thomas Dolby access to McAloon’s growing collection of songs, and out of 50 unrecorded songs Dolby picked his favorites.

The album in retrospect, when I returned to it in 2007, Is now considered flawless by me. The song writing is literate and a level up in intelligence and depth. I can only conclude I wasn’t ready for this album at age 18. It’s a mature record, a record for a serious man that addresses the serious issues a man must confront in his life.

It truly is an album, made to be listened to straight through, the tracks forming 45 minutes of pop bliss. It’s an album of details, with the vocals in front of the mix, the multi octave and multi tracked ethereal voice of Wendy Smith combined with the plaintive, blue collared and mid ranged Paddy. The rhythm section is organic and the keyboards are dated in this era but still effective. The guitars and the chord changes ever fascinating.

For such a long career, Prefab Sprout never toured America. They barely toured at all. Content to write music in his bedroom and share it irregularly, Paddy is a unique man, caring little for the music business and the soul selling activities required to make it big.

A series of highly intelligent and pop gems followed this, which I’m still exploring 35 years after buying this album on a whim after reading about them in Smash Hits. Life is funny like this.

Echo and the Bunnymen: Songs to Learn and Sing. December 1985

When I was younger and not swimming in disposable income, greatest hits and live albums gave me an opportunity to really dive into a new band on a budget. One such band, the the subject of today’s post is Liverpool’s Echo and the Bunnymen, and the album in question is Songs to Learn and Sing, released for Christmas season 1985.

In December 1985 I was attending Navy Nuclear Power School in Orlando Florida. I was raised to join the military. My dad was in the US Army and the Air Force Reserve. From an early age he encouraged me to join the military. He promised me that if I went in the Military and served our country, like him and his father before him, that he would pay for my college and room and board after I got out. I was very conflicted in 10th grade. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and go in the Army because I was afraid I would let him down if I didn’t. As much as I liked the idea of the Army, I questioned if I was physically up to that sort of duty. My father was built like a fire hydrant, not tall, thick with arms like tree trucks and a grip that could break your hand. Me at 15? Skinny and Scrawny. I went through the motions and visited the Army recruiter office. I almost enlisted. I finally had a heart to heart with Pops and told him I wasn’t sure about the Army. He told me that he didn’t care what I joined, and opened the newspaper and asked me how many job openings there were for tank drivers or infantry men? None I said. Exactly he said, go and learn a trade with your hands. I met the Navy recruiter the next week and he suggested I take the test for Navy Nuclear Power School, a demanding 26 week school with a high drop out rate. The idea of submarines came from a summer vacation when I walked to the mall in Troy, Michigan and saw Das Boot, the German WW2 submarine classic. I gambled on myself and the rest is history.

Room and Board? I didn’t need it. My Uncle Jim Dinieri opened the door of opportunity when I got home and I walked through it. I served my country for 6 years and one war and within a month of getting out I started working where I still am 29 years later.

I digress. Echo and the Bunnymen recorded four albums between 1979 and 1985 and they were burned out and needed a break. In mid 1985 they recorded a single new track to include on a greatest hits record. The song was called Bring on the Dancing Horses, and the song shimmered from a production standpoint, grandiose thematically. It was a new wave hit. The album cover, a photo by the then not well known Anton Corbijn captured a sense of silent procession, a new wave version of The Beatles Abby Road album cover. I was intrigued.

My plane ride home at Christmas time that year cemented this album with me, and the band dominated musical conversation with me and my friends. Powerful but eccentric guitars, a groovy bass and muscular drums were punctuated with solid lyrics and a charismatic singer in Ian Mccullogh. Spanning all four albums, the band sounded like a more modern version of the Doors, helped by the fact that Ray Manzarek was on record praising them in the music press. The band thought the Velvet Underground and Bowie were their true influences, but no matter.

This album led to my exploration of their remaining catalog. It wasn’t just the music. The hair, the clothes, the swagger, this was me in 1985. My personal favorites include A Promise and Silver.

The band was never the same. They felt pressure to be more like break out new wave bands The Cure, U2, New Order and Simple Minds, four bands they were arguably bigger than in 1984. By the time they reconvened in 1987 to record their last album with the classic original lineup, Simple Minds and U2 rocketed to international stardom following Live Aid performances and The Cure and New Order found huge commercial success. The band lost their momentum, produced a weak album, albeit their biggest selling US album producing the mega hit Lips Like Sugar, but the magic was gone. Drummer Pete De Freitas, the human drummer who replaced the electronic drum machine named Echo, died in a motorcycle accident in June 1989. The band reformed in the 90’s and actually recorded some very good music before descending into a derivative of themselves.

The Psychedelic Furs: Mirror Moves. Purchased January 1985.

The Psychedelic Furs released their fourth album, Mirror Moves, in August 1984. The summer between 11th and 12th grade was one of an explosion of personal growth for me. Life was changing. I was enlisted and the clock was ticking until I left for the Navy in February 1985. I had access to a car, a big car, every night, I had a laughably bad fake ID that worked every time, an affinity for vodka, cigarettes and the company of my friends. It was mostly a boys club, but we had a few girls who fit in with us. One of those friends was away on vacation most of July and when she returned back home she was sporting a small button affixed to her jean jacket. No fancy graphics, a simple message, The Psychedelic Furs. I had no idea who they were but I was in.

Heaven and The Ghost in You started to get heavy airplay on Toronto radio station CFNY 102.1. For a kid who was listening to Styx, Journey and Triumph a year earlier, this was growth. The name was art punk, they wore sunglasses day and night, smoked incessantly and dripped cool.

The album was produced by Keith Forsey. Forsey was a drummer in the 70’s, played on Donna Summer’s hit Bad Boys, wrote the Simple Minds commercial breakout hit Don’t You Forget About Me, and his eccentric career included co-writing Flashdance- What a Feeling and producing Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell. Diverse.

The band found more commercial success following the movie Pretty in Pink, in which their 1981 song of the same name was featured. Feeling pressure from their label, they went into the studio, Hansa by the Wall, featured in this series with Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration and Siouxsie and the Banshee’s Tinderbox. While the band was marketed differently for this album, like some Disney version of punk rock complete with S&M like leathers, the album aged well and contains some excellent tracks including the title track Midnight to Midnight.

Two “return to your roots” records in the early 1990’s followed, and then a long hiatus. The first Furs new album since 1991 comes out next week.

One of the most iconic vocalists of the era. The Furs.

The Cure: Staring at the Sea/Standing on the Beach. Purchased April 1986

I bought my first Cure Album, 1985’s The Head on the Door, in April 1986. I bought 10 new cassette tapes for my road trip which I was making from Orlando back to Niagara Falls. I had limited time at home before I had to head to Saratoga Springs and find a place to live, so I gave myself 24 hours to make a 19 hour ride. With 10 new tapes, plus the almost 60 I already owned, I would have plenty of tunes to keep my beautiful 1984 Mazda RX-7 powered up.

Not that it matters but I bought those ten tapes the night that Geraldo Rivera opened up Capone’s underground hangout on live national TV only to find nothing, so Wikipedia keeps track of this date for me, April 21, 1986. (See link in comments). If you were alive around this time you’d know this was a big pop culture moment of that year and still a pretty good Geraldo put down. I digress.

I can’t say I became a Cure fan based on the Head of the Door. Yes there were some very catchy tunes, with the dance standout In Between Days, as well as Night Like This, but Robert Smith is an acquired taste. It was the release of Staring at the Sea that made me a Cure Fan. For a band that had no visibility on my radar before late 1985, they had been together since 1976 and making albums since 1978. Staring at the Sea was eclectic because early Cure records were all very eclectic and different from each other. From the early Pop Sensibility of Killing an Arab and Boy’s Don’t Cry, to the harder, darker and gothier (new word) material that followed like A Forest and Charlotte Sometimes, to a return of Pop with Love Cats. Quite eclectic.

The Cure feature a certain guitar and bass sound that is unmistakably theirs, with six string basses and heavily flanged and phased guitar, with all parts mirroring each other, The Cure were a highly competent rock band wrapped in a different perspective than say, The Rolling Stones. They looked inward, downward, seldom outward.

An absolutely amazing career that still sees them creating new music and putting on massive 3 hour concerts. Robert Smith still looks like Robert Smith, just older, more ragged. It’s with this passage of time that you realize the man is authentic, no act, no illusion, no concern about appearance or vanity. He’s living his art and I appreciate that about him.

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me followed in early 1987 and it dominated that year, a rather dark year musically with The Smiths breaking up, The Bunnymen putting out a shite record and New Order content to release greatest hits. 1989’s Disintegration was an absolute masterpiece as was 1991’s Wish. Both records took full advantage of the longer running time of CDs and pushed the envelope musically.

A brilliant guitar player, a brilliant band leader and a brilliant song writer. Robert Smith is one of the greats of the New Wave era, able to do it all without looking like he’s even trying.