On Fire – Van Halen

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 22

Seems to me, I have a backlog of music-related posts to make. The recent passing of Eddie Van Halen moves the band that takes his name to the top of that list of posts.

I’m not going to wax poetic about how brilliant a guitarist Eddie Van Halen was. Everyone knows he was a virtuoso that reinvented the instrument in ways unlike anyone else before or since. All rock fans have anecdotal moments centered around the virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen. My personal favorite is how the song “Eruption” instantly became the ultimate test for any aspiring guitarist. If you could play that you weren’t just good you were awesome. My mind goes back to that college dorm room with that guitar guy playing his attempt at that solo for the other dudes in the hall. It happened a lot. Usually followed by “Wish You Were Here” on acoustic, you know, to chill things out after the heat coming from that semi-blistering version of “Eruption.”

Instead, I want to reflect on my life at the time Eddie Van Halen came into my world. It was 1978 and I was nine years old. I was already starting to get into music. I had a record player of my own. I owned a few full-length albums. Bought them when going to neighborhood garage sales with my Mom. I had a few singles of my own too. Ultimately, Van Halen’s first releases were some of my very first albums on cassette tape.

When Van Halen’s debut came out, I heard it everywhere and like everyone else, it caught my ear. Never before had I heard any guitar like that. It was crunchy and fast but strangely smooth and slippery too. I have vivid memories of hearing that band in those days. Didn’t matter where I was, Van Halen was there too; the local recreation center, the swimming pool, the playground, the backseat of my Mom’s car, even coming from someone else’s car at a red light. Eventually, from my Walkman.

The gestalt present in their sound is unique. It’s simultaneously a cohesive unit and a single dominant force (Eddie Van Halen). Van Halen, Van Halen II and Fair Warning are my favorites. I could have chosen any song from the debut album. The album is that good. I decided to feature the song “On Fire” in my post for a few reasons. “On Fire” is the closing track and it’s a barnburner. It comes as advertised, three minutes of fire. It has remained one of my absolute favorite Van Halen tracks over all these years. Unlike many Van Halen songs, this song means business. It has a speed metal intensity and its purpose is to kick your ass. It’s not messing around. (“Mean Street” on Fair Warning is my all-time favorite Van Halen song for a similar reason). “On Fire” is good enough to close out their debut AND be an opening track in concert (see attached video).

To be fair, I started to lose interest in their music a couple of years into the Sammy Hagar era. That said, I can still listen to all the David Lee Roth albums with a smile on my face. That’s the secret ingredient and the true magic of Eddie Van Halen and the band Van Halen. They just wanted to put a smile on your face and that’s what they did best. Eddie Van Halen’s smile while playing guitar is my indelible, unforgettable memory of him.

Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong) – Dead Meadow

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 21

Today is my birthday. I’m 51. It’s the first day of my sixth decade. My day, year, and decade started with something that most would say is a minor serendipitous moment. However, I know otherwise. My higher power speaks through music. This was no accident.

I often wind down the day by listening to music in a lowly lit room. Last night was no exception. When I’m not in the mood for a specific artist or album, or a deep listening of something new to me, I’ll often hit shuffle on a vast playlist filled with hundreds of songs I know. That’s what I did last night.

At 11:59 (I looked at the clock) one of my absolute favorite songs came on. Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong) by Dead Meadow. Not only is this a favorite song, I consider it one of my theme songs. Only a handful of songs become theme songs to me. I’ve written about them before and will surely feature them again in my Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast posts. Typically for me, the music carries me through the song. That’s the case here as well. The guitar solo in this song is incredible. However, my personal relationship to the lyrics and their overall feel with the music, are for me, the elements that elevate a song to the highest level.

The moment midnight came and the calendar turned to the eleventh of September, my birthday, shuffle gave me this song. A piece of music with great personal importance to me. It wasn’t serendipity. It was meant to be. I wouldn’t have had my new sixth decade start any other way.

 

Lemon yellow sun up overhead today
What more is there that I could say then Lord, let it stay
I ain’t got nothing to go wrong today
No, not today

I’ve been up and down this street for quite some time
The gutters get filled, it takes all kind like fish on a line
The way that things go these days, I’m fine
Yeah, I’m doing fine

Good times come, they sure come slow
Why that may be I don’t know, just let it flow
All things in this world they come, they go
Yes, this much I know

If silence is golden then your words they’re lead
I can’t believe how that shit sticks in my head
The sun shines away, there’s nothing to say
People they talk anyway, they’re talking away

 

 

September – Earth, Wind & Fire

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 20

Do you remember?

I know it’s been a shitty year all around but the best month of the year has arrived. September is my favorite month and not just because it’s my birthday month. We need this song. It’s pure joy. Celebrate!

The lesson of the song? Never let the lyric get in the way of the groove. Ba-dee-ya!

Zig Zag Wanderer – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 19

For various reasons, I have decided that this is one of my theme songs. I have a few of them, not too many. Zig Zag Wanderer, it rings true for me on many levels. This decision comes after many years of living life and many hours of listening to music. This is a decision made through experience.

I am not even a huge fan of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band even though I respect Don Van Vleet and his important contributions to music as an alternative rock pioneer and beyond. In fact, I had not even heard this song until I was around 35-40 years old, when I took a deep dive into early psychedelic rock.

You can jump you can holler
Never lose what I have found
Heaven’s free ‘cept for a dollar
You can zig you can zag
Whoa I’m gonna stay around gonna stay around

 

W.M.A. – Pearl Jam

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 16

White. Male. American.

This song about police racism was released in 1993. It was inspired by an incident in which Eddie Vedder got into an altercation with a group of police officers who hassled his black friend but ignored him.

“He won the lottery by being born
Big hand slapped a white male American
Do no wrong so clean cut
Dirty his hands, it comes right off
Police man, police man, police man
Police stopped my brother again”

This song is now 27 years old. I’ve listened to it often over the years. Objectively it’s a pretty great song too. The tribal backbeat is hypnotic and it’s message is as vital as ever. Let’s listen to it like it’s brand new because the subject certainly isn’t old. #blacklivesmatter

Let The Good Times Roll – Little Beaver

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 15

I’m still gravitating toward my collection of funk soul classics during these times.

Let music help you rise above the bullshit blocking your way. Whatever get’s you through. This one works for me.

Never An Easy Way – Morcheeba

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 14

Heard this one shuffle this morning. It had been a while since I heard it. This song sounds best after midnight but today it was a morning song and once again I heard the right song at the right time.

The sound is bold and strong yet spacious and sparse. The lyrics are moody yet motivational.

It’s one of my personal anthems. Nothing else to say.

Ventilator Blues – The Rolling Stones

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 12

The soundtrack of life continues. Rough and tumble blues from the Stones is my nomination for our post apocalyptic national anthem. Lyrically it relates to the news of the day of course. The sound of this tune is appropriately greasy and gritty for our present situation too. Not only that, it is a damn good song, one of my all-time favorites (https://brettcalleroartist.com/2019/09/11/my-500-favorite-songs-at-50/).

If a song could literally kick your ass, this would be one to watch your back around.

When your spine is cracking and your hands, they shake,
Heart is bursting and you butt’s gonna break.
Your woman’s cussing, you can hear her scream,
You feel like murder in the first degree.
Ain’t nobody slowing down no way,
Ev’rybody’s stepping on their accelerator,
Don’t matter where you are,
Ev’rybody’s gonna need a ventilator.
When you’re trapped and circled with no second chances,
Your code of living is your gun in hand.
We can’t be browed by beating, we can’t be cowed by words,
Messed by cheating, ain’t gonna ever learn.
Ev’rybody walking ’round,
Ev’rybody trying to step on their Creator.
Don’t matter where you are, ev’rybody, ev’rybody gonna
Need some kind of ventilator, some kind of ventilator.
What you gonna do about it, what you gonna do?
What you gonna do about it, what you gonna do?
Gonna fight it, gonna fight it?

Resurrection Joe – The Cult

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 8

I’ve always liked the Cult. A chameleon of a band. However, this post isn’t about them. Maybe another day.

This post is about current events. I was simply reminded of this song of theirs today when watching the news of the election results last night. You can draw your own conclusion. Just remember, there’s a song for everything.

Missouri – Howlin’ Rain

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 7

Part three of my concert trifecta is tonight. The band is Howlin’ Rain, a band I’ve wanted to see for 10 years. The venue is the Earl. My favorite little venue in Atlanta. It’s gonna be great.

Howlin’ Rain was formed by Ethan Miller to pursue a more melodic sound in his music and express the influence of growing up in Northern California’s Lost Coast. Previously Miller fronted Comets On Fire, a heavy noise rock band. Howlin’ Rain have been described as a combination of psychedelia, blues, funk and classic 1970s arena rock. All of those are great in themselves. Howlin’ Rain combine it all in a sound that fills a space with soulful authenticity.

Howlin’ Rain’s new album The Alligator Bride is a return to form and their best since the aptly titled Magnificent Fiend from a decade ago. My favorite song on their latest album happens to be one they made a video for. Check out this thunderous track called “Missouri.”

Mind Control – Truckfighters

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 6

Once again, it’s time to fight trucks!!!

Concert night is here. This time it’s the band Truckfighters, from Örebro, Sweden. One of my favorite bands. They lay down one of the thickest fuzziest grooves you’ve ever heard. Here’s the video for “Mind Control,” one of their very best songs.