Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A LOST "CLASSIC" AND A "FINE MEMORY"

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BEAUTIFUL LOSER
Bob Seger
1975
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Late last November, my Bro and I drove down to Tombstone ("The Town Too Tough To Die") to get out of Phoenix for the weekend. Bro doesn't have a CD or tape player in his car, and since Airheadzona is too uncultured to have a real Jazz radio station, we had to settle for "Classic" Rock. (There's nothing like seeing the rebellious Rock of a man's youth labeled "CLASSIC" and played in grocery stores to make him feel geriatric!)
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Driving out of the uncultured metropolis and into the unyielding desert wasteland, our talk turned to tunes of our ancient personal history. While Bob Seger's 'Turn The Page' played (thanks to "The Real Deal, Rockin' Steele" at KDOG), Bro mentioned how much he used to like Seger, a rocker I had turned him onto back in '75. Before we even reached Tombstone's Boot Hill (final resting place of Billy Clanton and the McLaury Bros. after that nasty little bit of business near the OK Corral), I had decided that I was gonna get Bro a copy of Seger's 1975, ‘BEAUTIFUL LOSER’ for Christmas -- you know, exhume that body from the graveyard of his buried past for him.

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So, on Christmas morning, while y'all were in slippers and knotting those new ties around the collars of your pajama tops, Bro and I -- two Beautiful Losers -- were re-experiencing our Black Nights, discussing Momma, and sharing a Fine Memory or two. It was astounding to me -- a Rock 'N' Roll deserter who took up arms for the Jazz camp about 20 years ago -- to find just how good this album sounds today.
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‘BEAUTIFUL LOSER’ was released at the time Bob Seger was just starting to get national recognition. Some might call this a minor breakout album, but I'd call it the "Lost Classic Rock" recording. My Bro also got Mr. Seger's 'Greatest Hits' from me last Christmas, but ‘BEAUTIFUL LOSER’ was the winner.
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Bob sings like a REAL man (a rare occurrence in those androgynous days and an even greater rarity in this era of wimpy, pseudo-tough poseurs trying to convince every hormone-overdosed, pimply suburbanite that they've seen bad times). Seger strikes an ideal balance between catchy hard rockers and sensitive (but most certainly not saccharine) ballads, perfectly expressed through that Jim Beam and barbed wire-raked voice of his. The man sure knew how to write an intelligent Rock song. (Yeah, I know that's nearly an oxymoron. And was this really the same guy who 5 years LATER would pen the sophomoric and regrettable 'Horizontal Bop'?)
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The song BEAUTIFUL LOSER always did (and still does) remind me of a beautiful friend who one night in 1986 decided to voluntarily find out what's on "the other side". KATMANDU is driven by Bob's Motor City mania. JODY GIRL is not just one of the most tender ballads ever written, it's one of the saddest -- damn near activates my tear ducts! MOMMA brings to my mind that tortured and misunderstood, yet loving relationship between my Ma and my Bro back in those days contemporaneous to this album.

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The biggest surprise was NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS, which I never much cared for back "in the day". Don't know what I was thinkin' -- this bad boy REALLY ROCKS; it nearly blows the grey hair right off of my head! And this collection closes with a beautiful and introspective ballad about a FINE MEMORY, which the entire album is for me.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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23 comments:

  1. That line about classic rock making you feel geriatric is so good I made it into an image quote and you'll probably see it on my blog sometime soon.

    I've had that happen, by the way. Mary and I were at the grocery store and I hear Blondie's "One Way Or Another" playing. Well, better over the hill than under it...

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    1. Thanks, JOHN. I'm glad you liked the line and I'll watch for the meme.

      My first (and shockingly memorable) experience with that was the day I was in the frozen food section and heard the grocery store's sound system playing 'DON'T FEAR THE REAPER' by Blue Oyster Cult. I think that was the day I realized I'd grown old.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    2. POSTSCRIPT:
      Did you happen to see my review for the baseball book 'DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER'?

      Our discussion last week prompted me to post that one when I did.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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  2. Bob Seger is timeless! ♥ Had the pleasure of seeing him in concert twice, the last time for my 60th birthday in 2015. (Talk about geriatric!) He was pushing 70 and still sounded great! "Jim Beam and barbed wire-raked voice". Perfect description!

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    1. Thanks, DEBBIE! I saw BOB SEGER in concert once, at The Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles, circa... sheesh! ...when was that?

      Anyway, what I DO remember (almost, kinda-sorta, very nearly so) is that either UFO or THE CARS opened for Seger. It was definitely one of those two, but I can't recall which of them, and I've always thought it was one of the strangest concert packages I ever heard of.

      I'm inclined to say it was The Cars (who were the most boring band I ever saw live on a stage). But either way, what LSD flash-backing promoter dreamed up that one-two punch?

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

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    2. Interesting opening act, either way. We had the J. Geils Band. I was never a fan of their music, but Peter Wolf (the lead singer) was very entertaining.

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    3. The J. Geils Band doesn't seem as incongruous as The Cars or UFO opening for a rocker like Seger.

      I should add, however, that for several years (and at the time I saw them), I was a big fan of UFO. I still think 'LIGHTS OUT' is one of the greatest Hard Rock albums from the "Classic" Rock era.

      The Cars... eh, a bit too "girlie man" and artsy-fartsy for my tastes. (I have a fake macho man reputation to protect, don'tcha know!:o)

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    4. UFO is much better than The Cars, for sure! ☺ I'm a big fan of long-time member Michael Schenker, brother of Scorpions founder Rudolph. All in all, I'd say a fitting opening act for Bob Seger. Those Cars guys were too skinny for my taste. LOL There's something to be said for macho men, fake or otherwise.

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    5. DEBBIE ~
      Yeah, for sure, Michael Schenker was one hell of a hot Hard Rock guitarist. Or as their song might imply: "Too Hot To Handle".

      I did like The Cars very first album, and a few of those songs I'll still crank up (like, "Let The Good Times Roll" and "Just What I Needed"). But that overly synthesized Techno-Pop sound got old for me real quick.

      UFO just seemed like an odd opening choice to me because Seger was a kind of Old School, almost "Roots" rocker. But I was still jazzed to see 'em both.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  3. Sixgun McItchyfingerFebruary 17, 2017 at 3:23 PM

    We had an email conversation four or five years ago about Seger, and though I won't go back and find it for my exact remarks, I think I said something along the line of: I like him but he is a a second tier act. That he was sort of a guilty pleasure.

    Well, in the years after that conversation I have decided that I was wrong. You convinced me. He is really, really good... and you can add him to the Tom Petty list. That makes two. Maybe 2.5 if you add The Babys.

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    1. SIXGUNBOY ~
      Dang! That's great! Thanks for relating that to me. I'm glad you now hear what I hear in the cat. I tend to like his earlier stuffs best, and to me, 'BEAUTIFUL LOSER' is the album to own if one is going to have just one. But 'NIGHT MOVES', which was his real breakout album, is freakin' excellent, too.

      Glad you like him now and we can make that addition to our list (if it's long enough to even be called a "list"). Ha!

      And I had NO IDEA that you like The Babys in the least. To me, their first two albums are really great, straightforward Rock. Their later, most popular album 'Union Jacks' didn't do much for me, but I still have those first two in my collection and play them farily often. I love their drummer (Tony Brock). He was never a wild man on the kit but he had a distinct sound and did some really interesting fills. And I also love the tone and style of their guitarist (Wally Stocker). He sounded a bit like Paul Kossoff.

      The Babys were quite underrated in my op, and I think their name didn't help matters in that department. A lot of people probably just ignored them because of the lame name.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
    2. Al Bondigas here. Yeah, that's the case with me. The name seemed so sissified that I never really gave them a chance. Maybe I'll put it on Spotify and give it a listen. Do their songs have hooks?

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    3. Hooks? Abbalouly! Start with their big hit 'ISN'T IT TIME'.

      Yeah, I think you'd dig a lot of their songs if you give them a chance (ample time to sink in).

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    4. Sixgun McItchyfingerFebruary 19, 2017 at 7:35 AM

      I love the Babys and consider them possibly THE most underrated band in history. One of my all-time favorites, and why I still like John Waite to this day. I saw him in concert a couple of years ago and he can still really rock! I've bought most of his albums along the way, also. I saw Bad English in a little club in San Diego after the Babys split, too. That was really good.

      My favorite Babys album is Head First, followed by Union Jacks, then Broken Heart... so we are a little off there. But man, the HOOKS! Great, great hooks.

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    5. Hokey-Smoke! How cool, Sixgunboy! We really do have a "list" now. Three definitely makes a list.

      I did know and remembered that you liked John Waite quite a bit, but I had always assumed you were just into his later solo stuffs (which I didn't really dig) because I couldn't recall you having mentioned The Babys before.

      Yeah, our album choices are off but at least we agree on the band, and on their underrated status, too.

      I did own 'HEAD FIRST' on LP back in the day, but didn't play it nearly as often as the first two albums. I kinda felt they were starting to get a shade predictable, even though that one did have their big hit "Every Time I Think Of You".

      'HEAD FIRST' was the last from The Babys that I purchased, but Twinkie owned 'UNION JACKS', so I heard that one quite a bit in the Bay Street house.

      I saw The Babys at the Whisky-A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip probably just before 'Head First' was released. I remember shouting repeatedly for the song 'READ MY STARS' but those baby bastards never played it. I only held a grudge for 26 years.

      Any time someone mentions that "more cowbell" joke, the very first song I think of is 'LOOKING FOR LOVE' by The Babys.

      You raise a very interesting question with "the most underrated band". Hmmm.... I'd have to give that some real thought, which I never have.

      I've often said I think the most underrated guitarist from the Classic Rock era was Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult. But I'd never thought about an entire group. Certainly I'd have to consider The Babys for that category.

      As I type this, I'm listening to a group that would have a really good shot at getting my vote for most underrated: SPANKY & OUR GANG. You probably know them, but if not, I'd describe them as being "like The Mamas & The Papas only better, with more complex and interesting harmonies".

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

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    6. Oh yeah, now I remember.

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    7. NAPSTER ~
      Although there are a-lotta Babys songs I really like, if I were forced to name just one, it would undoubtedly be GIVE ME YOUR LOVE.

      Listen to that one several times and see what you think. It's got a great melodic hook, but at the same time, it rocks like a sumbitch! (Which, by the way, isn't all that easy to pull off.)

      Focus on the drummer, TONY BROCK. I've described his playing (and particularly on 'Give Me Your Love') as sounding like "rolling thunder". Man, that dude smacks the skins!!

      The very first video I ever saw by that guy Joe Dan Gorman at YouTube ("Intellectual Froglegs"), it included a snippet from The Babys' 'Give Me Your Love'. I knew instantly that I was gonna like that guy.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    8. Sixgun McItchyfingerFebruary 23, 2017 at 9:18 PM

      very very late, but finally have some internet and a tad bit o' time.

      Given our "great divide,” I am not surprised that you were not super thrilled with Head First. Yeah, these songs ARE a bit more predictable - for the most part. But that does not disqualify them as great. To me, the album in damned near perfect. There is only one song that I don't at least "like" and most I just love. A couple of them fascinate me: "Please Don't Leave Me Here."

      Listen to it:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSz7bDfbiHw
      The whole thing seems to twist in anguish in a minor key. You keep wanting resolution… then finally at 2:44 it resolves beautifully, in a rocking rush infused with blues! Then it writhes again until the end. It has always seemed to me that they took the bridge and made it the main song, and took the main song and made it the bridge. Whatever they did, to me it is haunting, and the bridge has the best hook on the album!

      I love “I Was One,” “You,” “Going to Mexico,” blah blah. All of them except White Lightning.

      And Waite's voice is really good... in THE most unusual way of any rocker ever, I think. One friend - a bar musician/performer - hated Waite's voice, describing it as "talk-singing." That is not far off. His extremely casual style DOES border on talking at time. But then he can really belt it out, and he always has an exact sense of where he needs to be to vary the note he is singing while keeping the song harmonic. He'll talk-blues-sing up down and all around and always know where he is and where he needs to go.

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    9. OH, MY GOSH!

      I haven't heard this album in decades. I'm listening to 'Please Don't Leave Me Here' right now.

      I will have to go to Spotify one of these days and listen to the whole thing again.

      But the reason for the "OH, MY GOSH!" opening is because the ONLY song title from this album that I recognize now -- because it was my favorite track -- is WHITE LIGHTNING. Ha!-Ha! Is that hilarious?! The ONE song you didn't like was the ONLY ONE on the album that I DID really like. SBB-6, our musical divide is so real and so weird!

      Hmmm... I like Waite's voice too, and I always thought he was one of the best Hard Rock singers. But I never thought of it as "talk-singing". I thought of it more as genuine singing a la Perry of Journey (whom I did not like, BTW).

      When I think of "talk-singing", that commie creep Bruce Springsteen comes to mind first. Then of course I have to include Dylan (although I dig him big time, as you know).

      Interesting discussion, Brother.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

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    10. Sixgun McItchyfingerFebruary 24, 2017 at 11:31 PM

      That is hilarious. I re-listened to White Lightning again tonight... and I must say that I don't get it. It has some of the stupidest lyrics I've heard in a while, starting off that that weird almost-unlistenable-why-would-they-think-that-would-work-near-creepy story of the kid in the dentist chair. Sorry, Bro: there is a side of me that is SURE you are pulling my leg by saying that is your favorite track!

      Here is an interesting interview with Waite that you should read.
      http://www.classicrockrevisited.com/show_interview.php?id=997
      He actually mentions Marty Robbins as a huge influence, and also mentions Jack Kerouac, two people you have published blogs about in the last couple of weeks.

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    11. SIXGUNBOY ~
      I apologize for being late pulling the trigger on this comment. I've been fighting a cold and losing. So my mind is more dull than usual, and as a result, I've been slow to comment and have fallen way behind in Emails I owe people.

      I read the John Waite interview and found it very interesting. Thanks! And that was weirdly fun to find both Robbins and Kerouac mentioned. I'm curious to check out that album he was raving about, 'All Access Live'.

      OK, I can 'splain our differences about The Babys: See, for me, as much as I liked them (those first two albums), it was really ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC -- especially the rockers. And although I liked John Waite, for me the real draw was Tony Brock and Wally Stocker. And that would explain why I never cared much for Waite's big hits later: no Brock and Stocker.

      Now for WHITE LIGHTNING: No, I wasn't pulling your leg. And when I re-listened to it the other day, I thought: eh, so-so.

      I never liked that song anywhere near as much as the stuffs on albums 1 and 2; I merely liked it best on 'Head First'.

      But here's the big reveal: Most of the Hard Rock bands I liked, it was because of the energy and the guitars, drums, etc. I found that very few hard rockers could write song lyrics to save their lives. As lyricists, nearly all hard rockers are strictly pedestrian, and I always thought that The Babys were one of the worst. Calling them "pedestrian" lyricists would even be pretty generous on my part.

      Most of their songs were about male/female relationships and the words usually seemed junior high school-ish to me. I mean, even my favorite Babys song starts out: "Give me your love. Oooh, I need that thing real bad."

      Sheesh! Give me a pen, a piece of paper, and five minutes and I could probably compose lyrics for a song better'n ANYTHING The Babys ever wrote. (GiR)

      So, for me, the words of Babys songs are almost always kind of simplistic, irrelevant -- sometimes even dumb -- and I really don't even hear them. I'm just listening to the music, focusing on Tony Brock's "rolling thunder" drums, Wally Stocker's stun-vibrato guitar lines, and the good melodies.

      FUN FACT: Until you wrote it above, I didn't even know there was anything about a kid in a dentist's chair in 'White Lightning'. Ha! THAT'S how much I pay attention to the words in Babys' songs.

      Hard Rock albums that I still dig today:
      'Grab It For A Second' by Golden Earring
      'Lights Out' by UFO
      'Spectres' and 'Mirrors' by Blue Oyster Cult
      'Van Halen' and 'Women And Children First' by Van Halen

      Although I dig most of the tracks on all of those records, few of them contain lyrics above the level of pedestrian.

      You'll be pleased to know, however, that I feel THE WHO were one of the rare Hard Rock groups who actually COULD write some darn good lyrics. Songs like 'Behind Blue Eyes', 'Won't Get Fooled Again' -- hell, just about everything on 'WHO'S NEXT' -- showed intelligence and an ability with words. Not so for The Babys.

      In fact, back in 2008, about two months into my new blogging "career", I wrote a blog bit titled "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Stooge', about what I considered to be some of the dumbest song lyrics ever penned. And guess what! Our boys, The Babys, made the list:

      http://stephentmccarthysstuffs.blogspot.com/2008/05/so-you-want-to-be-rock-n-roll-stooge.html

      So, that explains to some degree our divide with The Babys. For me, it's all about the music and mostly about the rockers, and the words are always just something for Waite to sing.

      ~ D-FensDogG
      Check out my new blog @
      (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

      Delete
  4. I like this post. I also like Mr. Seger, but that aside there is somehthing about your writing here that gets me, It must be the heart. Therre's a lot of heart in this post. When I think about it there's a lot of heart in most of Mr. Seger' songs, too.

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    1. FAE ~
      Thanks for the "hearty" compliment.

      I remember that back in 2008, some stranger at Amazon.com told me he had read this review for 'Beautiful Loser', and it led him to spend the next 3 or more hours reading almost all my reviews.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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