The World Of Johnny Horton

Driving out to see my dad for Veterans’ Day yesterday got me thinking about Johnny Horton. I used to hear a lot of his songs when I was growing up. When I ran across this album a while back I had to pick it up for the memories, if for nothig else.

Johnny Horton’s songs weren’t just old school country ballads and rockabilly that gets stuck in your head. Some of his biggest hits, like “The Battle of New Orleans”, “North To Alaska”, and “Sink The Bismark”, were also short history lessons; truly a taste of Americana.

Although his songs are far from being forgotten, and their influence on American music can’t be denied, Johnny Horton’s music isn’t a name often thought of when people think of along with the greats like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Gene Autry, that’s only because his life was cut short in 1960 when he was killed in a tragic car accident at the age of 28; just as his career was starting to take off. But his songs and their influences live on. Songs of a legend in the making.

Muse – Simulation Theory (super deluxe edition)

When Muse comes out with a new album, I never fully know what to expect, except I expect it to be totally awesome. With that, “Simulation Theory”, the eighth album from Muse, is exactly what I expected.

Like Muse’s last few albums, “Simulation Theory” is more than just a collection of songs; there is a theme wrapped around all of them. This time though, the trio steps back a bit from the seriousness of “The Second Law” and “The Resistance”, instead diving into a
science fiction virtual reality world. But that’s not to say there aren’t also underlying sociopolitical statements. This is Muse I’m talking about after all.

I pre-ordered the super deluxe edition of “Simulation Theory” because from what I had already heard from the singles released on the Internet, I knew I was going to like it. It was packaged as a double album with basically, an alternate version of the album on a second record and both records on CDs. It also came with free pre-release digital downloads for some of the songs. I would have gladly paid the price for this just for the two records alone. The album artwork designed by “Stranger Things” artist Kyle Lambert fits the sci-fi theme of the album perfectly, as does the heavy use of synthesizers and electronics in the music.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, it also came with pre-release access to tickets for their upcoming concerts. I have seen Muse live twice already and look forward to seeing them again. Those two shows rank among the most amazing concerts I have been to, ranking right up there with Rodger Waters performing The Wall, Pink Floyd, and TSO.

My favorite song on the original album is probably “Break It to Me” with its strange chord bends on the guitar. My favorites on the bonus record are tied between the gospel version of “Dig Down” and the live version of “Pressure” performed with the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. I thought the latter was such an odd combination when I read it in the credits, I didn’t know what to expect. But it was awesome. Exactly what I expect from Muse.

George Thorogood And The Destroyers – Maverick

No surprises here. With George Thorogood and the Destroyers, you know exactly what to expect – old school blues rock. Music to party to. Listening to 1982’s Maverick, I’m surprised that I have never seen these guys live. I have to imagine it would be a wild and crazy scene with people dancing in their seats and in the aisles, singing along to the songs.

Starting out in the ’70s, Thorogood’s band was originally called the Delaware Destroyers because, you guessed it, they came from Delaware; Boston to be exact. During that time, right into the ’80s, George Thorogood and the Destroyers were one of the hardest touring bands ever. As if to drive that point home, in 1982 they did their 50/50 tour – all 50 states in the US in 50 days.

In 1970, Thorogood gave up his career in minor league baseball and never looked back. He has recorded 20 albums and sold over 15 million. He is still recording his style of boogie party rock today, releasing “Party of One”, his first album without The Destroyers, in 2017. He last toured in 2018. I’m hoping there will be a 2019 tour as well. I still can’t believe I haven’t seen him live.

Bob Marley And The Wailers – Catch A Fire

Being stranded in England following a UK tour supporting Johnny Nash turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Bob Marley and the Wailers. In desperation, the band ended up contacting the tour promoter who got ahold of record producer Chris Blackwell. With an agreement that the band record an album for Island records once they were back in Jamaica, Bob Marley and the Wailers got their tickets home. The result was what is considered to be one of the best Reggae albums of all time, 1973’s “Catch a Fire”

I really wish I could thank an old Army buddy Kent Clark for turning me on to Reggae music, especially Bob Marley and Peter Tosh (who was part of The Wailers until pursuing a solo career in 1976). Unfortunately, I was terrible keeping in touch with anyone once I got out. Fortunately, social media has allowed me to get back in touch with a few.

The Human League – Dare

The Human League’s third album, “Dare”,
was for the most part, my introduction to synth-pop and electronic music. Up to that time, I had listened to a lot of bands that used synthesizers and loved the versatility and expanded sound they brought to rock and roll. But I don’t think I had ever heard a band that used synths exclusively; no guitars and no real drums. If I had, The Human League was the first to make an impression on me.

“Dont You Want Me” was the first song I heard off of “Dare”; it was all over the radio in 1981. But it wasn’t the airwave saturation that grabbed me; it was the switch-hitting baritone and alto vocals of Philip Oakey and Susan Ann Sulley. It was the lyrics. It was the catchy hook of the song. And of course, it was the synthesizers. Only synthesizers.

Joe Walsh – You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind

Joe Walsh’s 1976 live album, “You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind” was one for the fans – a live memento of Joe Walsh’s past hits with a hint of what was to come.

With five jamming renditions of Joe Walsh’s biggest hits, this album really couldn’t miss. Add to that, Joes extended solos as well as the solos from his top-notch band, which included Eagles member Don Felder on a second guitar, and you get an album that’s meant to be cranked up.

And speaking of the Eagles, for some perfect vocal harmonies on “Help Me Through the Night, Joe is joined by two other members of that band; Don Henley, Glen Frey. The crowd loved it. Apparently Joe Walsh did too. He joined the Eagles shortly after “You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind” was released.

Scritti Politti – Cupid & Psyche 85

The 1980s saw a huge rise in the popularity of synth-pop bands. Scritti Politti was one of many that had success with only a couple of albums and then faded away. “Cupid & Psyche 85” was their most successful album, finding its biggest popularity in the UK where it hit the #5 spot on the charts and spun off three top 20 singles. In the US, the album peaked the charts at 50 and had only one hit single, “Perfect Way” which went up to #11.

The first song I heard off “Cupid & Psyche 85” was “Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)”. I remember being immediately grabbed by the song’s funky groove. What made me want to listen to the whole album though was its crisp, production and innovative use of synthesizers and electronic keys. That same production and innovation resonates through every song on “Cupid & Psyche 85”. It is a synth-pop album that showcased what the genre was capable of.

John Lennon – Mind Games

After the break up of The Beatles, there was always the big debate among their fans: who was better as a solo artist, John Lennon or Paul McCartney? Although Paul could write exceptionally good pop/rock songs, to me it was always the depth and meaning in John Lennon’s music that made him better.

John Lennon held a firm belief that the right songs could not only change someone’s life but that they could also impact the world. To some, that may seem like an over the top, grandiose sentiment. But not if you consider the legacy of John Lennon and his music.

“Mind Games” is intentionally less politically motivated than Lennon’s two previous solo albums, due in part to the Nixon administration putting Lennon under FBI surveillance and attempting to have him deported from the US because of the political views expressed in his previous albums. Some of his songs had become rally cries against the war in Vietnam.

Eventually, The Watergate scandal would force Nixon to resign from the Presidency and the US court of appeals would rule that Lennon could not be selectively chosen for deportation based on his nonviolent political activism. Lennon eventually became a permanent resident of the US in 1975.

After Lennon’s tragic death in 1980, a 14 year court battle ensued resulting in over 270 pages of FBI documents being declassified and released. They were published in Jon Wiener’s 2000 book “Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files” and for the making of David Leaf’s 2006 documentary “The US vs. John Lennon”.

Sweet – Desolation Boulevard

Are you ready Steve? Uh-huh
Andy? Yeah
Mick? Okay
Alright fellas, let’s go-o-o-o-o-o!

I can’t imagine Sweet’s third album, “Desolation Boulevard” without the song “Ballroom Blitz” kicking things off. But if you bought the album in the UK or Europe, that’s what you got. Or should I say, what you didn’t get.

In the UK and Europe, “Desolation Boulevard” opened up with “The 6-Teens”, the second song on the version that what was released in Japan, Canada, and the US. It’s not a bad song, but it’s no “Ballroom Blitz”

In a trade-off, the UK and Europe got the song “Turn it Down” and an extended version of “Fox on the Run”. Personally, I think the US, Japan, and Canada got the better deal, even though I do like the longer version of “Fox on the Run” better. I mean, “Turn it Down” is a good song and all that, but hey – and I’m sorry for repeating myself here – it’s no “Ballroom Blitz”.

Jethro Tull – War Child

“War Child”, the seventh album from Jethro Tull, was originally planned to be a double album soundtrack to a black comedy of the same name. When the band couldn’t find a studio to financially back the film, the more ambitious project was scrapped and the album was trimmed back to a single record. The result was a record that has a bit more lyrical humor than prior Tull albums.

The story of the film, and of the album, to a lesser degree, revolved around a teenage girl who dies and in the afterlife has encounters with three shrewd businessmen who are actually avatars of Lucifer, St. Peter, and God.

“War Child” was received harshly by most music critics, but that didn’t stop it from debuting at the number 2 spot on the Billboard charts and earning the band another gold record. The album contains one of Jethro Tull’s biggest hits, “Bungle in the Jungle”. It also has what is quite possibly my favorite Jethro Tull song, “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day”.