#TBT #Vinyl Genesis, Abacab, 1981


Atlantic Records US / Charisma Records UK

Genesis’ last good album according to progressive rock fans. Genesis’ first good album according to pop rock fans. 





#TBT #Vinyl — Styx, Paradise Theatre, 1981

Styx Paradise Theatre


Paradise Theatre
A&M Records


I was never the biggest Styx fan, but as a kid, I loved this album. It had some screaming guitars by James Young (“Snowblind” and “Half-Penny”), new-wave-ish pop by Tommy Shaw (“Too Much Time”) and some funky theatrical jazz by Dennis DeYoung (“Nothing Ever Goes As Planned”).

The packaging was cool. The LPs had laser etching and the cover and back paintings were fantastic – truly a lost art!


Styx Paradise Theatre

Styx Paradise Theatre

Styx Paradise Theatre

Styx Paradise Theatre

#TBT #Vinyl The Who, You Better You Bet, 1981

You Better You Bet Single The Who

The Who
You Better You Bet
From the album Face Dances
Polydor Records (UK)

Here’s The Who’s first hit post-Keith Moon. This is a Polydor Records version from the UK.

You Better You Bet Single The Who

You Better You Bet Single The Who

You Better You Bet Single The Who
Looks like I picked this up at Appletree Records, DeKalb, IL

MTV Christmas Videos 1981 – 1986

MTV Christmas

During MTV’s golden age of 1981 through 1986, an annual tradition was the low-budget, slapped together, in-studio Christmas video! Let’s take a look…


Billy Squire “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You” 1981

This was the first MTV Christmas video and arguably the best of the songs. The video itself could be replicated now with the phone in your pocket. It set the trend of featuring the MTV staff, most of whom look really high. I think there was a White Christmas in the MTV offices in 1981!

The video set a nice precedent for having A-list artists involved in these MTV-produced projects. Squire was huge at the time, a veritable one-man Led Zeppelin reborn. But that would end in just a couple of years, ironically when his “Rock Me Tonight “ video on MTV killed his rock credibility in less than 5 minutes.



Joe King Carrasco “It’s a Party Christmas” 1982

This song is truly awful. It’s not only the worst Christmas song of the Modern Rock Era, but is in the running for the worst song EVER. I’ve tried to like it for years in the spirit of being such a fan of the genre. But, c’mon, this sucks. I am embedding the video below, but do yourself a favor and DON’T watch it.



George Thorogood “Rock n Roll Christmas” 1983

Unfortunately this video has been pulled from YouTube. C’mon Lonesome George, really?



Bryan Adams “Reggae Christmas” 1984

By ’84 the budgets were bigger and Pee-Wee Herman showed up. Somehow this give us Canadian Reggae. Yeah, mon, eh?




Jon Anderson “Three Ships” 1985

This is 90125 – era YES lead singer Jon Anderson. It’s indescribable;  just watch.



Monkees “Christmas Medley” 1986

Sixties nostalgia reigned supreme in 1986, culminating this part of the Monkees’ comeback. The Monkees were one of the biggest bands of 1986 and capped the year with this video that officially reunited Mike Nesmith with the other boys. Spoiler! He’s in the Santa suit. 

And there’s the circle of life for MTV: Nesmith, whose PopClips videos were an inspiration for MTV’s creation appears at the very end of the golden age of MTV via this Christmas video. Within a year, new owner Viacom would gut MTV and begin replacing music with reality shows and other nonsense.


Squeeze – Live at the Fillmore

 Squeeze Live At the Fillmore Jack Monson

My favorite not-exactly-new record of the year so far is Squeeze: Live at The Fillmore. The band recorded this show earlier this year and it is much cooler than the typical great hits live record that so many bands put out. Some of Squeeze’s biggest songs go into extended jams and solos. Maybe it was the spirit of The Fillmore causing that.

Glenn Tilbrook’s voice is still so strong that it’s hard to believe it’s been 35 years since some of these tunes were first recorded. He and the whole band sound so good that it’s a shame they weren’t included in the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics this summer.

There’s not a lot of info out there about this record, other than the lineup listed on the band’s website and the venue made obvious by the title. You see, there’s no CD or liner notes to this record; it’s available only as an iTunes download ($10) or as a limited-edition vinyl LP via mail order ($25).

What a cool concept: one to the 80’s biggest international bands recorded at a 60’s iconic venue and distributed in a 2012 digital way or by mail in the favorite format of the 70s.

I was disappointed to not hear Gilson Lavis on drums. Apparently Gilson is currently playing with former Squeeze member turned big-time UK TV host Jools Holland and not a part of the current lineup. Gilson and his jazzy riffs are missed here!


Check out what former Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis is up to and see his cool artwork here!



REO Speedwagon: The World’s Biggest What?!?

If you were to make a list of the biggest rock bands of the 1980s, REO Speedwagon would probably not land on your top 5 guesses.

Or top ten. Or top forty.

But, if you could take a trip back to 1981 and watch MTV for an hour, you would assume they were the Beatles of the era. We now forget how huge Champaign Illinois’ favorite sons were.

"REO Speedwagon" MTV "Live Aid"

And huge they were! 18 Million albums sold between 1980 and 1984 alone; a dozen top 40 singles in that same period; thousands of live concerts across the globe.

 MTV promoted the REO like crazy. REO was a natural fit with MTV’s initial AOR-type programming format. Also important for the new music channel: the band made video clips! In fact, in the first 24 hours of MTV, REO videos (mostly live concert clips) were played 16 times, which ties them with Rod Stewart as the most played artists on the first day. Much of the first week of broadcasts included promotion of MTV’s first Saturday night concert starring, yep – REO Speedwagon.



So even with all of this exposure REO had, we now barely remember them. Why?

Part of the problem is that they don’t really fit in with the stereotype of what we think bands of the 80s sounded like, and even more so, looked like. These guys had a pretty typical arena-rock / classic rock sound. They had big guitars, but not too crunchy like metal bands. They had keyboards, but basic pianos and organs without the synthesizers of other pop bands or new wavers. And most of all, they didn’t look like 80s pop stars at all. They wore jeans, sport coats, and sneakers – they looked more like stand up comics than rock stars.

"REO Speedwagon"
Rock Stars or Stand-Up Comics? REO, looking like they’re about to do some airline food jokes.

I have a theory that as time goes on, the masses will forget about mega rock stars who had bigger songs but a pedestrian look. Middle of the road rockers like Genesis, Phil Collins, Bruce Hornsby, Don Henley, and Huey Lewis sold tens of millions of records each, but when someone says “80s Music” most people think of outrageous-looking minor artists like A Flock of Seagulls.