Many times, the raised fist (or variations of) is the only weapon we motorcyclists have in the battle for road space, especially when cage-dwellers absent-mindedly spray their windshields as you drive past or flick cigarette butts out the window so they land in your crotch. Funny how all these years since Easy Rider debuted, a lot of people still hate everything about bikers or are just plain ignorant.
So when someone exhibits rude or even life-threatening behavior, raising the arm (preferably non-throttle) is an instinctive reaction. It’s a lot like rock ’n’ roll music, which many also find to be socially unacceptable in these days of political correctness and moral high-handedness. Every now and then, what’s wrong with thumbing your nose at society? Sure, riding motorcycles and wearing black may not exactly be living dangerously to us, but add in riding and playing loud music and then you have what some think should qualify as criminal behavior. Even if you’re well past the big five-oh, it still feels good to be a rebel. Some of us may be getting older and greyer, but as our riding skills can attest, we ain’t dead yet…
During the ’80s Def Leppard was the epitome of arena-rock bands—challenged only by Journey. Albums like Pyromania and Hysteria were platinum sellers and few bands could match the popularity of the group (excluding of course Ozzy). Now Def Leppard has decided to follow the route of so many DIY bands and jump to a smaller, more focused indie label. Leaving the comfort (and bank account) of a major label, the group has released Mirrorball with distribution through, of all places, Jimmy Buffett’s Mailboat Records. Lest you think the band has reverted to wearing Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops, I can attest that this really is a Def Leppard album. There’s not one song about boats in the whole set. Maybe “album” is the wrong word, because it’s actually a three-disc set: two CDs of live material with three new songs, and a bonus DVD of behind-the-scenes footage from the Sparkle Lounge Tour. But you’re gonna have to ride over to Sam’s Club or Wal Mart to get it because they have it exclusively, at least for now.
The band sounds just as potent and still consists of the original members from the 1992 lineup: Joe Elliott (vocals), Phil Collen (guitar), Vivian Campbell (guitar), Rick Savage (bass guitar), and Rick Allen (drums). The group has also unveiled a new website (defleppard.com) where one can discover that Lady GaGa reveals she was heavily influenced by Def Leppard. There’s even a new single, “Undefeated,” but it’s not from the Sarah Palin movie of the same name (this is getting confusing). There are big choruses, big guitars, and the same high octane Def Leppard sound. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
2120 South Michigan Ave.
George Thorogood & The Destroyers
Finally after 16 studio albums, George Thorogood and the Destroyers have made the one album we’ve all been waiting for—an all-out blues extravaganza featuring some of the greatest blues classics ever recorded for Chicago’s Chess Records. The album title is taken from the Chess Records’ address, which was also used by the Rolling Stones as a title for one of their early instrumental jams, a version of which appears on this album. Along with a couple of originals, the album features the songs of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy (who also plays on the album), and others.
That George was heavily influenced by the Chess sound is well known and many of his albums have been heavily seasoned with influences from the Chess stable, especially Bo Diddley. Early on, George and the band spent plenty of time on the road playing with some of these legendary bluesmen, so these guys learned from the best and threw away the rest. They are the real deal. When George whips out his axe, it’s authentic, homegrown, and true, and he can trade licks with the best of ’em. Listening to George and the band rip through Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful,” Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son,” or Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me,” is like walking into a club 40 years ago on Saturday night on the south side of Chicago. It’s a party, and a good time is guaranteed for all. Charlie Musselwhite even guests on the rip roarin’ title track and on a smokin’ version of Little Walter’s “My Babe.” Sweet. Let’s hope for a volume two!
The Complete Recordings: The Centennial Collection
The one thing that Robert Johnson and practically every other bluesman have in common with bikers is the road. The road, or the crossroads to be exact, is supposedly where, according to the legend, Robert Johnson traded in his soul to the devil in order to gain the proficiency to play blues guitar. One thing is certain: Robert Johnson is acknowledged by many to have been the greatest bluesman ever. Many of his songs, such as “Crossroads,” “Love In Vain,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” have been recorded by a who’s-who of rock bands and are now part of the great American songbook. Move over Irving Berlin and Cole Porter; nothing personal.
This two CD set was released on May 8 to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Robert Johnson. There’s an updated biography and new liner notes, plus tracks have all been re-mastered (again) and sound better than previous reissues. Of course recording techniques were crude back then—no 48-track boards or ProTools—but the emotions and passion come through loud and clear. From his early years, up until the time of his unfortunate death, Robert Johnson was a figure larger than life. Many say he was doomed from the start, and his brief life was full of pain, trouble, and unfortunate circumstances. His nomadic wanderings were also the stuff of legend. Robert Johnson travelled near and far, just for the chance to play the blues. He was clearly influenced by many his contemporaries like Skip James, Charlie Patton, Son House, and a mysterious artist named Ike Zinneman, who was never recorded. Johnson’s unique style of playing guitar influenced countless others, thus revolutionizing the blues from that time on. Play this music loud if you’re on your bike. Turn it up; go find a lonesome road, and who knows who you might meet.
Flashback Albums of the Month
Blizzard of Ozz (Legacy Edition)
Diary of a Madman
Speaking of getting old, it’s hard to believe it has been 30 years since Blizzard of Ozz was first released by one of rock’s original outrageous bad boys, Ozzy Osbourne. Hated by parents and accused of everything from worshiping the devil to inspiring suicides, Ozzy has been going strong ever since that first seminal Black Sabbath album 41 years ago. Now Sony has gone into the vault and dredged up two rock and roll masterpieces for a little polishing, Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Both albums further cemented Ozzy’s reputation for being, well basically, a crazy person. Who knew? He’s one of us! After being fired from Black Sabbath in 1978, Ozzy eventually formed a new band, The Blizzard of Ozz, and set about recording its self-titled first album, which would be released in 1981. With manager (and later, wife) Sharon Osbourne steering a new sharper course, the band boasted the late, great guitarist Randy Rhoads of Quiet Riot, bassist Bob Daisley (ex Rainbow/Uriah Heep), keyboardist Don Airey, and drummer Lee Kerslake (also ex Uriah Heep). It was like a new and improved version of Black Sabbath and the band re-energized Ozzy. Much to the chagrin of parents, Ozzy was seen as the devil, a replacement for the previously hated Mick Jagger. Fans of Black Sabbath—who had begun deserting the band’s latter efforts, came back in droves and made the album a huge hit in the UK and the US, mainly propelled by the singles “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley” (this was when radio was still playing rock music).
Diary of a Madman was released later that same year as the clamoring for all things Ozzy became more intense and the band prepared for a tour. It proved to be an excellent follow-up. The 30th anniversary version includes a second bonus CD of previously unreleased live performances and the usual re-packaging flourishes. Both are highly recommended for summer riding when you feel like annoying fellow motorists who are often engaged with the new-age jazz while running you off the road. Play ’em loud.