The Beginning and the Enz of an Era Part II, the Hard Act To Follow

Split Enz Vol_II Band2My next book will be about the era from 1977-1987 when music changed for the better and new heroes were born. The intro will expose the “glam” and “quirky rock” phase of the 1970’s, which ran from approximately 1972 – 1977. During that time as fair readers will know, we loved the Bowie, the New York Dolls, Roxy Music, T-Rex, and… wait for it…. Split Enz, the Beatles from “down under.”

As we learned in part I, Split Enz was formed by singer/songwriter Tim Finn, in 1973, along with Phil Judd (guitars). Tim’s younger brother Neil, joined the band, for their 1977 album Dizrythmia. While punk is raging in Britain (Sex Pistols) and pop-punk in the states (Ramones), Split Enz was still recording decidedly-not-punk music, while making quiet preparations to draw the world into their loving circle.

The band, now a bit more honed, recorded and released their final album from the formative years, Frenzy (1979). By now, punk has splintered into a dozen branches of far more interesting music, goth, ska, Burundi/jungle/island themed rock, and…”the” new wave. Standout track “I See Red” leads to the Split Enz 1980’s work, refining and honing what it means to be an “art rock” band, sometimes almost “prog rock” yet be danceable, fun, and truly what we came to call the “new wave.”

Split Enz Vol_II True ColorsIndeed 1980’s True Colors was a complete revelation. Less makeup, soon to be none little circus atmosphere, save stage craft and coordinated brightly colored suits (classy yeah!) just serious new wave music designed perfectly to make everyone love the Enz, and love them us smart ones did. Kicking off with their first big hit “I Got You” a Neil Finn composition and lead vocal, an ANZ #1, this was now music to be reckoned with. Add to that, follow up Tim Finn rocker “Shark Attack” and you are talking one fine album! Now take the standout ballad, “I Hope I Never”- if you can really, really listen to those lyrics, and Tim’s yearning, soulful voice singing,…

“I hope I never, I hope I never have to seeeeeeee you again”

Split Enz Vol_II Tim Finn

…and not wrest a tear from your eye, you are, as I like to joke to non-criers frequently, “made of stone.” It’s one of the most beautiful songs of the 1980’s and it’s important to note, because by this point keys player Eddie Raynor who graces this one with synth strings and amazing grand piano, is really giving the 70’s proggers a run. Really. Tim kicks off “side 2” with “Nobody Takes Me Seriously” indeed. Neil “fights back” with “Missing Person” sung together with Tim, initially intended to be the first single (really?). Now, spin the next one, and to me the one that shows how ready this band is for stardom.  “Poor Boy” is another Tim Finn gem – take the bass/drum sync of Nigel and Malcolm, expertly pinning down the track on the bottom end, the spacy-synth – “she speaks to me with ultra-high frequency” and Neil’s tightly wound guitar licks…. Gonna listen till I grow old, for sure, yes, please – this music stands the test of time. Those of you who know these songs can follow this chain of thought, this unadulterated affection for the band. The rest of you hit the Spotify, Apple Music, or disks and study up!

Split Enz Vol_II WaiataIt’s tempting to categorize 1981’s Corroboree/Waiata as a sequel to True Colors. Not so. Here is the track list of the most important songs – can you even believe the first “side” of the LP is so perfectly arranged, and “side 2” does not, in any way let up? It may be their most perfect “non proggy” album, refining as it did the definition of new wave music, for the (much much) better.

All songs written by Tim Finn, except where noted. Side one:

  1. “Hard Act to Follow” – 3:17
  2. One Step Ahead” (Neil Finn) – 2:52
  3. I Don’t Wanna Dance” – 3:34
  4. “Iris” (N. Finn) – 2:50
  5. “Wail” (Eddie Rayner) – 2:49
  6. “Clumsy” – 3:29

Side two:

  1. History Never Repeats” (N. Finn) – 3:00
  2. “Walking Through the Ruins” – 4:15
  3. “Ships” (N. Finn) – 3:01
  4. “Ghost Girl” – 4:26
  5. “Albert of India” (Rayner) – 4:03

Just “Hard Act” “One Step” and “I Don’t Wanna Dance” would make a successful album. The third is the most new wave of the new wavers, so danceable, so much vibrato, so much tenor/falsetto – Neil’s guitar, Eddies synth patch, bass/drums all building the story of the boy who is too het to dance, without his sweetheart. On record, this is now one unbelievably great band. Follow up tracks “Iris” “Wail” (not my favorite) “Clumsy” complete side 1. Side two cracks open with “History” then “Walking” later “Ghost Girl” which is better than it has any possible right to be – are you kidding? “Don’t get too close boys to the ghost girl, she’s already haunting you” the clever lyrics seem so easy, so natural for them, both brothers always and to this day make it sound so easy – but just try to turn a simple phrase like that with just the right musical backdrop – art indeed.

So many of my progger friends just did not get this music, while I frankly and gladly left them in the dust listening to 80s era Yes/Genesis. What a loss for them.

Split Enz Vol_II Band

So fair readers, this is seriously awesome music you need to hear – again as fresh today as the day it was released. And, it was the first and only time I was privileged to see the band, in the gym of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo – an amazing fun, artful show that sold me forever on this important, influential band. I remember the band in good spirits, “talking the piss” out of each other, Tim doing push ups, Neil generally appearing a bit more dignified, and all of the musicianship being plainly stellar, with Eddie standing out even live with those amazing ivories. Check it out. Part III soon.


The Beginning and the Enz of an Era — The Early Years


My next book Rockin’ Fog City, will be about the era from 1977-1987 when music changed for the better, we danced a lot more, and new heroes were born. The intro will expose the “glam” and “quirky rock” phase of the 1970’s, which ran from approximately 1972 – 1977, leading directly to the decade that followed. During that time as fair readers will know, we loved the Bowie, the New York Dolls, Roxy Music, T-Rex, and… wait for it…. Split Enz, the Beatles from “down under.”

Split Enz was formed by singer/songwriter Tim Finn, in 1973, along with Phil Judd (guitars). They released a couple of albums with Tim and Paul at the helm, The band in costume, makeup and with Tim in front, the voice of an tenor angel, and moves a-quirky, all of which accented the music. Sometimes called “art rock” sometimes alternative, with elements of vaudeville, Split Enz of that early era was a strange brew of “music hall”, “performance art”, and just-plain-fun music, making them maybe the earliest progenitors of what became “new wave” music. As smart music lovers know, in 1977, Tim’s younger brother Neil, joined the band, and history was made.

SplitEnz_MentalNotes_72dpiSplit Enz released their first album Mental Notes in 1975, and Second Thoughts in 1976, Recorded in London, their second effort is the first really listenable Enz album in this writer’s humble opinion. The record included several reworked songs from their debut, and some new bits. Contained in the result is a lot of what made this band great and what also makes anything the Finn brothers have done since, exceptional. Check out “Sweet Dreams” from that album for evidence of their supremacy. Check out the cast members – Ti

SplitEnz_SecodThoughts_172dpim & Phil, joined by Jonathan Chunn (bass), Noel Crombie (percussion), Emlyn Crowther (drums), Robert Fillies (Sax/Trumpet), maestro Edward Rayner (keys) and assorted luminaries. Get this all, who engineered this album… Rhett Davies (Supertramp anyone?), and who produced it… none other than Roxy Music guitarist Phil
Manzanera! The Enz had opened for Roxy Music on their first Australian tour, and had decamped from New Zealand to Australia to build their fan base. Phil was intrigued, and arranged their travel to London to record this gem. Second Thoughts were thunk, and the group’s fortunes grew from there.

SplitEnz_Dispythia_72dpiEnter younger brother Neil Finn in 1977 for follow up Dizrythmia (1977). Anyone ever have “jet lag” will get the title’s reference and applicability to the band’s experience at the time. At first, Neil plays into the vaudeville, circus atmosphere. Phil & Mike are there but abut to be gone from the band, as Neil takes over on guitar, and new permanent member Nigel Griggs on bass. They have the first “bigger” hit, “My Mistake.” While punk is raging in Britain (Sex Pistols) and pop-punk in the states (Ramones), Split Enz was making quiet preparations to draw us into their loving circle.

Check out Tim’s performance of Dizryhmia’s “Charlie” in London

Split Enz V_1 Tim Finn

Fast forward if you must to the 6 minute mark of this video, though who does not have 6 minutes to watch the whole thing? At 6 minutes, Eddie takes center stage musically, features his amazingly beautiful grand piano chops, as Tim sings, “Sunlight, halo, you look wonderful, darling Charlie…, pale and deathly still… for heaven’s sake wake up….Charlie”

Clearly the songwriting partnership of brothers Neil and Tim was kicking into gear, as you notice the touching lyrics, Tim’s delivery, and Neil’s blooming chops on guitar, soon to be co-writer-lead-vocalist as well.

SplitEnz_Frenzy_172dpiFinally, catch the follow up – forth album Frenzy, the first to really push Neil to the fore, with his growing skills on guitar, vocals, and songwriting. Tim wrote most songs, and there are some gems. “I See Red” indeed!


Split Enz V_1 Band Frenzy

But, it’s still a bit of a distance to what was to come next, a honed down version of the band, ready to record 4 absolutely exceptional albums, starting with 1980’s masterpiece True Colors and ending with 1983’s absolute masterwork, and unjustly ignored diamond Conflicting Emotions (1983).

If you are not aware of the pedigree and history of Split Enz, you should be, my friends. But… be warned, while the first four albums, covered here, ending with Frenzy, may excite your eyes (see the videos) it might not be candy for your ears. It’s a tad quirky to say the least, while Tim and the band were finding their way to stardom.

Split Enz V_II NeilFinn_Portrait_cAG_144dpi


Updates to the Black Mirror – Keeping it Safe, Really

It occurred to me after reading my last post on the cautionary tales of Black Mirror, that for those of you who don’t know, there are several key things we can all do to help protect from the scourge of identity theft, social shaming, unwanted surveillance, loss of privacy, etc. Do you know these things?

The only reason I know these things so well, if because of my colleagues #Mark Egan, #LarsRabbe, (thanks guys), Mad Security, the genius inventors of @Splunk, and a host of other folks who, during my continuing career in Information Tech, have taught me about the increasing risk of security hacks, and the frankly rather basic things we must all do to protect ourselves.

Hopefully we all know by now why tech is getting so exciting – why we will be able to do things for ourselves that were previously unimaginable, as this all gets so much better, this consumer-driven high tech world we are living in. Hopefully you know about online banking, Fitbit, Juul ecigs, Waze, Uber, Tesla, iRhythm, and that toilet in The Island where Ewan McGregor pees after waking and it tells him “no bacon today.” (Okay on that last one, we must be close to having those, right? I want bacon!)

Want to take advantage of all of this amazing technology without worrying every single second about its disadvantages? Want to watch Black Mirror and not feel sick? Do you already play safely on the Internet, by following the rules, both basic and advanced? Here’s the test…. remember, it starts basic, gets a bit harder:

  • Change your passwords on a regular schedule – quarterly is fine
  • Make your passwords memorable, but do not write them down, do NOT share them with anyone (not at work, home, the spa, or anywhere!)
    Read this:
  • Set a password/screen saver on your Mac/PC/Table/Phone – time out those devices
  • Encrypt your Mac or PC – its easy with the ones that come with your Mac or PC. Get an antivirus package.
  • At work if your IT department did not yet implement Okta (or equivalent) and some small bit of MDM (doesn’t matter who) – give ‘em hell (I know I’m a CIO – so just do it nicely). Okta, makes it so that when you are in the office, you log into all your company’s applications with one regular, strong password. But if you are logging in from home or a coffee shop, you get to use that SAME single password, BUT Okta will text a code to your phone so you can prove who you are. That’s called “Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)” Also, MDM means “Mobile Device Management” – which means if you lose your phone or tablet, your IT group can wipe it clean so no thieves get your company and your personal data. You can also enable this for yourself, but good to have an IT team behind you as well. Don’t store files from work on your phone, tablet, etc. anyway.
  • Use Dropbox or Box or Google or MSFT for your files – your goal young Padawan, is to store NOTHING in file format on your “Black Mirror” – everything in the cloud, backed up and protected is the way.
  • Let’s punch that last point, fundamentally, work it out on your phone, Mac, or PC so that you store almost NOTHING natively on the device. What Doug? Yes, stream your music, your photos, your videos from cloud services, store youyr files in Box, Dropbox, Google, MSFT – if you have NOTHING natively on your phone, and you lose it, buy/lease another phone, you should be up and running within 15 minutes. That’s your goal friends.
  • Do NOT open emails from people you don’t know – in particular do NOT click on any link they send you. This counts at Facebook, and other social media sites. Doing this by mistake will quite possibly infect you with an “advanced persistent threat (APT)” – these are small programs, given you by bad actors on the internet (again no clicking on links you don’t know) and they insinuate themselves into your company’s systems, onto your laptops, etc. The kind of things they can then do are things like “send all your files, customer records, anything else out of your “network” over to wherever-the-f__-they are, so they can rip us off. Heard of Target, Equifax, other disasters of security? That’s how they do it – and 90% of the time it’s our fault, the employees, who thought it would be fun to click on Uncle Fester’s Daily Joke email.
  • Stream your music from the cloud (Spotify, Apple, whatever)
  • Store your pictures in the cloud (Photo, Lighthouse, Instagram, whatever)
  • Put your movies on YouTube – set up sharing preferences so you can count on that as your portal
  • Don’t invite the world to be your Facebook friends – make it your real friends/family – if you find yourself inviting hundreds of people, make pages for whatever hobbies are compelling you to do so (for instance, my rock n roll book, has it’s own page
    And a website for my blogs:
  • Use twitter for bullshit – that’s what it’s for
  • Stop all paper statements from coming to you in the mail. Shred anything with your personal/banking or other data on it. If you do get paper, Office Max will shred in bulk over at Iron Mountain – the best.
  • Go through your filing cabinet, remove all old paperwork that’s available online, old statements, all that crap you are keeping – I took 39 lbs of paper to Office Max for shredding the first time I got it thru my head that keeping this stuff was dangerous
  • Have your bills, other “payables” pay automatically off your American Express card. Amex (sorry pretenders elsewhere) has the best security protocols, and best customer service. Have the “card” text you every time it is used. You will get a lot of texts (if you spend like me) but they will bring you inner peace as you see bills paid, and know no one is using your card but you.
  • Pay your Amex card once a month. All of it. Carry no interest on bank cards.
  • Use a service to check your credit score frequently. Close all credit accounts you aren’t using and some that you ARE using. Keep enough of a combined credit line to get out of trouble if a spending emergency comes (like, LCD Soundsystem is coming in concert –need to get 4 tickets!!!!). Remember, old cards, unclosed old accounts, and open accounts with high spending limits all add to your “potential liability” in your credit score – clean it up – I like Credit Karma for managing all this.
  • Freeze your credit bureaus – I’m told that if you freeze your accounts at the three main agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) you can help prevent people from opening accounts in your name.
  • Take old computers, tablets, phones, etc. to a reputable company – we have one here on Haight Street, who will wipe it – erase your data, private records, everything, and donate to schools.

How many did you get right?

Sounds complicated but none of the above actually IS complicated – that’s the dirty secret of IT (heh heh).

Some people say to me, Doug, why cloud (basically servers at data centers tht are run by professionals – that’s cloud), why store everything elsewhere, not on the notebook I keep in my grubby hands? Well young panther, because they have 10 security guys whose kung fu is better than your one guy’s kung fu. Get Splunk and ask your IT guys to examine how much b__sh__ unknown traffic is coming in and out of your network. Conversely, hook Splunk up to Box, or Amazon EC2, or Salesforce, or Netsuite, go the the beach, and have a Mai Ti while Splunk shows you that no dirty players are logging into your systems, reading or copying your files, etc. We can and do beat these bad actors – don’t let them ruin your digitally-native life.


Type Safely, Enjoy the Fruits of Tech…


Andreas Vollenweider

Andreas Vollenweider is the Swiss genius who gently plucks the electroacoustic harp with such feeling and with such beautiful tones, that he manages in just a few bars to conjure up everything good about the genre of music known as New Age. Next to brilliant keys composer Kit Watkins, he ranks top of the class in this, his chosen art.

Andreas hasn’t been to the states for a very long time, much less, in his native Europe as he’s long been working on new material, for which we are waiting with great expectations. Let’s hope he returns soon.

My wife Artina and I have been “on a tear” over the last decade catching bands and individual musicians in concert wherever the appear – locally in San Francisco or Los Angeles if possible, but if the closest a favorite band plays happens to be on the east coast, New York, Boston, Philly, etc. we will make the trip.  We’ve done this for U2 (360 tour), Billy Crystal (one-man show), The Cure, PFM, and many others. We were fortunate over the last three years to have multiple reasons to go to the U.K. — home of my heart as it comes to music. We saw Simple Minds do their early album cuts at the Roundhouse, Kate Bush at the Odean for one of here 22 rare comeback performances, Stone Roses in the park, and, importantly my hero Rick Wakeman performing his masterwork Six Wives at the castle of Henry VIII, and his Arthurian Legend Redux at the O2. We even saw Artina’s favorite-ever singer/saxman Van Morrison in Lugano – what a blessing. It’s been expensive, certainly a luxury, and I owe it all to my last job at Splunk. I think we’ve “done it all” so to say – not sure as we peruse the list of bands we’ve loved, that another would draw us over the pond again.

Having said that (never say never – a lesson well learned from Sean Connery) I was looking through my hundreds of concert DVDs – yes I’m THAT guy) and slipped in the concert film of Andreas this morning. It’s brilliant, heartfelt, beautiful, as with all of his work. Then I checked his website, and it appears that, at least as of September last year, he plans a new release and tour. If he does that and does not come to the states, we will travel once again. If it is to be in Switzerland, which would not raise a complaint from this fan, then maybe an evening in Interlaken, Zermatt, or Lugano? Please Mr. Vollenweider!

The other main things to report, after I took quite a break from writing:

  1. LCD Soundsystem, the brilliant, Talking-Heads-ish electro-indie band, sold three nights at the Greek Berkeley – gotta go
  2. Steven Wilson is back at the Fillmore in May – his concerts are second-to-none
  3. Bananarama plays in February, as does Robert Plant – certainly two ends of the musical spectrum!?!?
  4. Best yet, the Dixie Dregs have reunited the original lineup, and are playing all over California in April – more on that to come
  5. Anything else I missed?

Reflections on Black Mirror

pasted image 0Streaming media has taken over from network TV. Among the many shows we’ve binged on Netflix, one of our favorites is Black Mirror.

Each episode is a unique story, much like The Twilight Zone and others long ago. Uniquely, the Black Mirror stories are each cautionary tales about technology in our lives – the risks of misuse, loss of privacy, loss of intimacy.

One episode for example follows a mother who tracks her daughter through an implant and tablet app that allows for real-time geolocation and vitals, but also displays what her daughter sees and even blocks disturbing content from her vision. Other episodes also extend the reach of today’s technology to fictionalize uncontrollable security robots, intrusive virtual dating apps and other scenarios that focus generally on the dark side of ‘future’ technology adoption by consumers. In nearly every episode, the focus is on consumer devices, phones, pads, sensors, and the use of massive amounts of machine data spewing from these devices, shown for either better or usually detrimental impacts on the individual.

In reality, even with the technology – devices, software, analytics and machine learning we have today, we face these ethical dilemmas. My kids, both millenials, give their data freely, and expect to gain advantages from its mining. And having worked at Splunk, understanding the potential of ‘big data” analytics and artificial intelligence, I am of like mind. Sharing freely with attendant benefits outweighs security concerns – the exception being behaviors which can directly lead to identity theft.

A recent news show featured a British security expert explaining what data we are all sharing via Fitbit and similar devices, how our whereabouts and travels could be shown on a heat map, what implications that has for military personnel, etc. Yet the benefits of using a Fitbit and openly sharing geolocation and your vitals is well established. Another positive example of using analytics and AI to mine data for its potential was highlighted in a show about Chicago police, social workers, and clergy who have teamed together to mine data collected on potential felons in order to predict criminal behavior by these individuals (yes, without the imprisoned beings depicted in Minority Report!). Once they have a list of high risk subjects, a member of the police squad, a social worker, clergy, etc. actually visit the subject at home and try to convince them to enter into counselling, job training, and other programs. It’s not even at a 50% acceptance rate, but every point on that graph matters, and lives are saved. These points offer some light to go with what is often assumed to be a darker path via big data. And the implications for running a better business, endless!

And, finally, I always know what musicians are coming, via bandsintown, where they know what I like 🙂

Greatest Concerts of the 1970’s

Greatest Concerts Cover_144dpiAs part of its 50th anniversary year, Rolling Stone magazine’s May 4th “special issue” included a lengthy article on The 50 Greatest Concerts of the Last 50 Years. I’ve been avoiding some of the “top N” lists that constantly flood social media, being so many are seemingly dreamed up by guys in their basement fishing for “click bait,” and some deemed dangerous to our privacy. But this article from the venerable rock magazine is entertaining and informative, well worth seeking out.

Over the years I’ve disagreed many times with critic’s music choices in Rolling Stone; they are so often focused on artists from the 1960’s and so frequently biased towards more commercial acts, weighted towards those hailing from the U.S. But the coverage is in depth, and the political analysis suits my beliefs nicely. I’ve been a long time subscriber.

The list of top 50 concerts in part drew my attention as I’ve recently released a book on the greatest concerts of the 70s entitled Rockin’ the City of Angels which features 36 acts from that decade, nearly all of whom played in my home town of Los Angeles, California. Was curious to see where our lists would match, and where they would diverge, and if that would be predictable for Rolling Stone. Due to the article covering 5 decades, there were 18 shows specifically from the 70s to consider.

Not surprising RS focused primarily on the type of bands that have nearly always appealed to their writing staff, six of which, in bold, matched mine, including:

The Who (Leeds, February 14, 1970)
Neil Young and Crazy Horse (Fillmore East March, 1970)
Elton John (Troubador, August 25-30, 1970)
Aretha Franklin (Fillmore West, March 5-7, 1971)
B.B. King (Cook County Jail, September 10, 1970)
The Allman Brothers (Fillmore East, March 11-13, 1971)
The Band (December 28-31, 1971)
The Rolling Stones (North America Tour, 1972)
David Bowie (World Tour 1972-73)
Van Morrison (North American Tour, 1973)
Patti Smith Group & Television (CBGB 1975)
Bob Marley (The Lyceum Theater, July 17-18, 1975)
Bob Dylan (Rolling Thunder Review, 1975-76)
Grateful Dead (North American Tour, 1977)
The Ramones (European Tour, 1977)
The Eagles (U.S. Tour 1977-1978)
The Clash (North American Tour, 1979)
Pink Floyd (The Wall Tour, 1980-81)

A 30% hit rate wasn’t a complete miss! In fact, as my own selection filtered out American R&B and the burgeoning punk movement (saved for future books), I match on about half of these artists. In addition, Van Morrison and Bob Marley are both artists I would have covered had editorial considerations not limited the book’s length!

A few particulars:

The Who Live at Leeds is indeed legendary as noted in RS, and it kicks off the first chapter in my book, as the Tommy album, the now expanded Live at Leeds recordings, and the film Live at the Isle of Wight rate highly in my collection.

Greatest Concerts_Who1Spread_144dpi
Photo @ Neal Preston

Elton John’s record-breaking shows at Dodger Stadium in 1975 are featured in my book, but I can absolutely back the argument that his first, intimate shows at the Troubadour launched him in the City of Angels, and make sense as the focus of the RS list.


David Bowie’s seminal concerts during his Ziggy Stardust period in 1972-73 absolutely rate highly, and the movie taken from this tour is the primary official release of this artist on film during the decade. I struggled with the choice between this tour, and the 1976 shows in support of my favorite Station to Station. While Ziggy meant everything particularly to my friends in Hollywood and downtown, back in my suburban valley, I was more attuned to Station’s lush, disco-infused wares. The performances on that tour were striking – as one writer put it, Bowie appeared as a “hollow man who sang songs of romance with an agonized intensity… ice masquerading as fire.”

Greatest Concerts_BowieSpread_144dpi

Ultimately these lists are a difficult undertaking – always there are forgotten favorites, and when it comes to musical art, how does one define “greatest” – it’s largely subjective, yet occasionally we labor to piece them together and support our conclusions.

If I were pressed to make a similar list of the 18 “greatest” concerts of the 1970s, as experienced my original home town of Los Angeles, understanding that all of the other 18 I cover in Rockin’ the City of Angels rate in my book, the list below would be my conclusion:

The Who – Tommy tour Anaheim Stadium June 14, 1970
The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street tour L.A. Forum, 1972
Jethro Tull – A Passion Play tour L.A. Forum July 20–22, 1973
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery tour California Jam April 6, 1974
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black tour – Shrine Auditorium June 19, 1974
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour Shrine Auditorium January 24, 1975
Cat Stevens – Majikat tour L.A. Forum, February 2, 1976
David Bowie – Station to Station tour L.A. Forum February 8, 9 & 11, 1976
Ambrosia – Somewhere I Never Travelled tour – Santa Monica Civic 1976
Paul McCartney & Wings – Wings Over the World tour L.A. Forum June 21, 1976
Queen – News of the World tour L.A. Forum December 22, 1977
Led Zeppelin – Presence tour L.A. Forum June 23, 1977
Yes – Relayer Tour – Anaheim Stadium – July 17, 1976
Supertramp – Even in the Quietest Moments tour L.A. Forum April 28, 1977
Heart – Little Queen tour Universal Amphitheater July 17, 1977
Kansas – Point of Know Return tour Long Beach Arena December 31, 1977
ELO – Out of the Blue tour Anaheim Stadium, August 26,1978
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk tour L.A. Forum December 4–6, 1979
Pink Floyd – The Wall tour LA Memorial Sports Arena February 7–13, 1980

Caveats – not many – I trimmed out the bands such as Happy The Man, Kate Bush and Camel who did not make it to L.A. for their greatest tours (in the case of Ms. Bush, never forever!). Also gone were some of the more progressive acts, such as Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, PFM, U.K., Dixie Dregs, which were amazing live, but did not garner a wider audience during the period of my focus. Even with the edits, I cheated and listed 19 bands.

Given the more mainstream focus of RS, I still would have expected the staff to cover a few more bands that make my top choices, such as Yes, Queen and Jethro Tull who I personally witness delivering the most spectacular live concerts of the decade. Having said that, I’ve come to predict the view of this magazine and their favorites over the years, which to be fair has in fact grown to include artists they would have skipped in the past. The article is a fun read, full of quotes from those who were there, and it may prompt you to reflect on your past concert experiences, and maybe grab a seat at an upcoming show, to again bask in the glow of stage lights.


Zucchero Sweetens the Palace

Zucchero_blackcatusacanadaMy wife and I were very fortunate last weekend to attend the San Francisco stop on the latest tour of Italian superstar Adelmo “Zucchero” Fornaciari. This man known simply as “Zucchero” who reportedly first picked up a guitar the year I graduated high school in 1978 somehow escaped our attention until the turn of the century, when we travelled to Sienna Italy and were surrounded by posters of his then new tour, supporting the album Shake (2001). We knew of Italian progressive rockers Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) and in a sort of happy coincidence were stopping in Pennsylvania on the way home from Italy to see a rare appearance by that band at a prog music festival. But we also picked up Zucchero’s decidedly not-prog record, learning that it was recorded near our Zucchero_Shakehome in Sausalito, then back in Italy, finally mixing and mastering at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios. It was a certified hit for Zucchero – an album of boisterous, life-affirming music. We instantly fell in love with the man and his work. From the strength of that initial exposure we started our collection, which now includes the newest, Black Cat (2016). We more recently snatched up tickets to what ended up being a fantastico, bellissimo, heart-rending blues and soul infused evening of music last Sunday night.



What we’ve learned is what many readers may already know, and I recommend the rest of you learn, that Zucchero’s career spans more than three decades, with worldwide record sales over 60 million and an impressive collection of awards and accolades received over those years. The gospel, blues, soul and rock music influenced artist is considered to be “the father of the Italian blues.” Zucchero, meaning ‘sugar’ in Italian, is a nickname given to Adelmo by a schoolteacher when he was just a young boy growing up in Roncocesi, Italy. It’s an appropriate moniker for the musician whose work is often about love and whose presence on stage exudes joy, passion and positivity. When sampling Zucchero’s work for the first time, take the time to browse a variety of his albums/songs and notice that much of his work is akin to listening to many of those he has collaborated with over the years (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, Peter Gabriel and so many more), while drawing strongly from his native Italian roots.



Black Cat is a return to the artist’s much beloved blues & soul style work, and as such is being compared to his fourth studio album, oro incenso e mirra (“gold, incense & beer) in 1990. We read that the latest album was inspired while touring the southern U.S. and that Zucchero wrote the songs much as he did in the early days of his career, when things were more simple and he didn’t have as much to lose and didn’t care about the logic of the market. The album features among others the song S.O.S. (Streets of Surrender) penned by long time friend, Bono of U2. The song, born on the wave of terrorist attacks in Paris last November is a hymn against such hatred and violence.


Zucchero’s March 19th, 2017 show at the San Francisco Palace of the Fine Arts not only joyfully delivered most of the tracks off of Black Cat, but with more than 30 tracks on the set list, it also included so many of his audience’s favorite songs spanning the past few decades, from the sexy Baila Morena (Shake 2001 – Spanish Version), to the passionate duet with Pavarotti Miserere (Miserere 1992), the soulfully beautiful Bacco Perbacco (Fly 2006), Un Soffio Caldo (Chocobeck 2012 – track titled Life on English version) and so many more. The band, which included exceptional musicians on violin, keyboards, slide guitar/guitar, bass, and drums, was top of class. Special guest Corrado Rustici, who worked on Shake, joined them on guitar for one track. The backdrop was, appropriately a framed heart, which was set off by moody low lighting, approaching brighter tones only when raising the house lights that illuminated the cheering crowd of both faithful followers and the newly informed.


Though Zucchero occasionally sings in English, it’s when you listen to his sultry, whisky voice singing passionately in his native Italian tongue or occasional Spanish that you truly ‘feel’ his work. This is what we felt Sunday night, as the artist focused much less on any pop trappings, and absolutely more so his sultry, bluesy, and heartfelt work delivered in the more romantic languages. During one of only a couple breaks between songs, after apologizing the his English was “not so good,” Zucchero explained that he grew up listing to the music of many English artists, finding that even though he had no clue what they were saying, the “music spoke” to him, adding:

Music talk. You don’t have to understand everything. It’s the vibe, the feeling…

That we understood completely, as it was our experience that night, not knowing Italian beyond a few key words like Amore. Didn’t matter in the least, in fact it made the evening a unique and special experience. It certainly helped that Italian Americans and travelers at the show enthusiastically poured their affections out verbally and visibly all around us, helping to highlight what is so meaningful about Zucchero’s songs and lyrics. Catch this legendary artist in concert if you possibly can. Your heart will thank you.



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