The Who – Who Are You

It is the true mark of a great drummer when they become such an integral part of the band they are in, that if they die, the band can’t continue – or maybe shouldn’t have.

With Keith Moon’s untimely death in 1978, only a few months after the release of The Who’s eighth studio album, “Who Are You”, most people thought it marked the end of The Who. When The Who did eventually continue, many felt they should have thrown in the towel; that The Who would never be the same band without Moon on the skins. I have nothing against Kenny Jones, former drummer for The Faces who picked up where Moon left off. Kenny is great, but he’s no Keith Moon.

Keith Moon was a madman on the drums. He played with a fervor that mirrored his personality – a barely controlled craziness that seemed like it was going to break through the walls of sustainability at any moment. Unfortunately, that craziness brought about his all too early demise when he died from an overdose of Heminevrin, a drug used for the treatment for effects of alcoholism withdrawal.

When Keith Moon died, it was the end of an era for The Who. They lost an integral part of not only their sound but also their personality. They would never be the same band without him because no one could replace the dynamics, power, intricacy, and borderline insanity of Keith Moon’s drumming – not even Kenny Jones.

Alice Cooper Goes To Hell

“Alice Cooper goes To Hell” is the continuation of the “bedtime story” that started on Alice’s previous album “Welcome to My Nightmare”. The album tells the story of Alice’s unwanted descent into the depths of the underworld and his attempt to escape through influencing the dreams of Steven, a character introduced in a song on Cooper’s previous record.

Ironically, “Alice Cooper Goes To Hell” paralleled Alice Cooper’s real decent into the lowest depths of his life as it was being consumed by alcoholism. The tour for this album would end up being canceled because of his failing health and Cooper had himself committed to rehab, which at that time, meant being committed to a mental asylum. Cooper’s subsequent album, “From the Inside”, would be written about his experience there.

Cooper maintains his sobriety to this day, finding his refuge in both his music and golf. I heard him joke in an interview a while back that with golf, he traded one addiction for the other. Good trade.

Alice Cooper continues his musical career to today. He released his 27th album “Paranormal” last year and will be playing the role of King Herod in a televised stage performance of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” this Easter Sunday.

UFO – No Place To Run

Michael Schenker is a brilliant guitarist. But that isn’t always good enough to keep yourself from being kicked out of a great band. You also need to be reliable. Unfortunately, Schenker’s drug and alcohol use made him anything but reliable, especially when it came to touring. So, after recording seven albums with Schenker as lead guitarist, the members of UFO kicked him out, replacing him with their much more reliable friend, Paul Chapman.

Chapman may not have been as creative as Schenker, but he was still a great guitarist. So good in fact that he helped make “No Place To Run” UFO’s most successful album in the U.S.

Some might say the success of the album was due to the record company choosing to have George Martin, known for his work with The Beatles, produce and help mix The album. But personally, I think the album could have been better with someone different at the helm.

I have nothing against George, he is a great producer. But to me, this really wasn’t a good fit. Although the members of UFO were great musicians, they were also known as a wild and hard rocking band. That wild edge seemed to be held in reserve on “No Place To Run”. It’s still a great album. But with the strength of the songs on it I think it had potential to be even better had they been allowed to cut loose more as on their previous records.

Nearly four decades later, UFO continue to perform as a successful recording and touring band. They just released their 22nd album, “The Salentino Cuts” in September, 2017.

Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

The Foo Fighters are perhaps the most important American rock and roll band to gain notoriety in this millennium.

Dave Grohl formed Foo Fighters following the breakup of Nirvana, which was caused by the tragic suicide of that bands lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain. Grohl decided to step out from behind the drum kit, which he played in Nirvana, and instead, pick up the guitar and sing.

“Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” finds Grohl and company stretching out further musically than they had on any of their five previous albums. By the time of its release in 2007, the members of Foo Fighters had grown as musicians and Grohl had matured as a songwriter.

It’s hard to picture on the Foo Fighters earlier albums, some of the acoustic songs that appear on “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace”. From their earlier albums, it’s equally hard to imagine them performing songs with a piano, or a string quartet, or doing a song with a fiddle or accordion. But here, it’s an easy fit.

For those who love the Foo Fighters earlier stuff, there’s still the same appeal the Foo Fighters have always had – they still rock their asses off. But the bonus here is there’s more depth. There’s more emotion. There’s more melody. Quite simply, there’s more music.

“Echoes, silence, Patience & Grace” is the sound of the Foo Fighters finding their footing. But it’s more than that. It’s the sound of a band standing tall and proud, not afraid to take chances.

Alice Cooper – From The Inside

Back in the 1970s, if you suffered from alcoholism, there were no rehab centers to go to. You would be put in a mental institution. It was in this era, that Alice Cooper suffered from severe alcoholism. It almost killed him. “From The Inside” is the story of his experience while being institutionalized and of the people who were in there with him. 

The title song of the album, tells the story of how Alice’s lifestyle landed him in the mental institution. The quiet room describes being put in padded room after violent episodes. A safe place of isolation, where you won’t hurt yourself, but one where being all alone, your thoughts can drive you even more mad.

Then there’s the cast of characters. A rich girl from California, who was institutionalized by her family after she, like Alice, succumb to alcoholism and drug abuse. Another is a sexual addict obsessed with one of the nurses. There’s a couple so in love they murdered their spouses together and a character so obsessed with his dog that nothing else in life matters. Finally, there’s the Vietnam vet suffering with PTSD and addicted to morphine and meth.

Mixed in with these songs of mayhem is a very slow and emotional song that became Alice’s biggest hit from the album. “How You Gonna See Me Now” finds Alice writing a letter to his wife, asking her if she even still wants to be with someone who’s been sent to a place like this, back in her life. 

As it should, the album closes with the song “Inmates (We’re All Crazy)”, which tells of his being released, realizing that what put him in the mental institution is something that will always be a part of him and something he will have to deal with for the rest of his life, from the inside.

The album design itself was unique in that Alice’s stage face opens like doors to reveal the characters described in the songs, inside the mental institution. Inside there, is a small door that opens to reveal Alice curled up in a ball inside the quiet room. The back cover of the album has two doors that open revealing all of the inmates being discharged. 

I have to think that of the albums Alice Cooper has released through the years, this one has to be the most personal to him.