Monday, 6 June 2011

Like Punk never happened...

Ok, it’s like this.

When I was 17, it was a very good year (© F. A. Sinatra). It was a very good year for AOR. In fact, the only thing I have in common with Kurt Cobain is the fact that our favourite album of 1980 was ‘Departure’ by Journey. Goddamn that guy, he was always ripping me off…. Yeah I was a teenage AOR nerd. I loved it all, from the big (REO, Loverboy) to the small (Coney Hatch, Kim Mitchell). I paid a lot of money for US import LPs by bands no-one outside of Tinygulch Arkansas had ever heard of. And I loved them all. Don’t get sniffy with me Mr RockSnob, I wore my animal print, cap sleeve T Shirt with pride and Je ne regrette rien. And then along came The Smiths and, in particular, REM and my little world went topsy turvy. Occasionally, in an unguarded moment, I would confess to my former sins and accept the howls of derision from my learned muso mates. It used to hurt. It doesn’t anymore.

Tons of albums by leather-trousered, pointy guitar toting Rock’n’Rollers were sold to pay the rent in my darker days. Some I don’t miss. Some I bought again, on CD, when no one was looking.

When I saw that lineup at the top of the page boys and girls, there was no way I could not go. The 17 year old Rushbo that lingers within just would not let me walk away. So I went.

The result - Here are two words I haven’t uttered since 1983: ‘STYX RULE!’

This is STYX - don't pretend you don't recognise them...
(one of these men is wearing off-white cuban heels)
Say what you like about this genre of music (and I am braced for the brickbats in the comments section…in fact, I’ve started you off), last night at the LG Arena, I was E.N.T.E.R.T.A.I.N.E.D. The best performances were tight, concise, beautifully played and full of energy. Men of a certain age (some with suspiciously luxurious hair) racing around a huge stage and working a crowd up from polite to uproarious in about 35 minutes. Contrast this with the last time I saw REM at the same venue a few years back when it was all I co do to stop myself from playing solitaire on my ‘phone. Yeah, it was cheesy, but the Styx demographic DEMANDS cheese. And bombast. And audience participation. And loads of other stuff that readers of Mojo Magazine would find offensive. I grinned like an idiot throughout a mini ‘greatest hits’ set with NO filler, NO extraneous noodly crap and NO pretentions whatsoever. Pantomime? Hell yeah…but who doesn’t love Pantomime?

(Foreigner were decent when they played the songs without pulling them out into Black Crowesy workouts. ‘Cold As Ice’ was fab. Journey played great, but were WAY TOO LOUD. And I say that not as a 47 year old geezer, but a bloke who has been to about 1000 concerts. They were still ace, tho…)

At the risk of repeating myself (!), there are two sorts of music: Music you like and Music you don’t like. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are way too subjective. To illustrate my point, here’s a true story:
A guy comes into my record shop and pre-orders a CD. Not a new one – a cheap re-issue. He’s super-excited. On the day of its release, he’s outside the store when I arrive, almost hyperventilating with excitement. I open up and dutifully trudge to the back of the store (slightly peeved that this guy has delayed my morning coffee by 10 minutes) to retrieve his disc. He rips off the cellophane. His hands are trembling. And then he bursts into tears. Unselfconsciously, a grown man is so happy to purchase this music that he is weeping in front of a sales assistant. Being an Englishman, I have NO CLUE what to do in this situation, so I go to the other end of the counter and avoid eye contact while he gets it out of his system. Eventually (10-15 minutes later) he is composed enough to pay me and leave.

The music that reduced him to tears was... 

‘The Very Best of a Flock of Seagulls’.

…A Flock of Seagulls. Jeez.

I have sold thousands of releases by ‘Good’ artists - everyone from Nick Drake to Radiohead, from Bach to Coltrane, but the only person who ever wept for joy on purchasing a recording was the guy who bought ‘The Very Best of a Flock of Seagulls’. I dare you to tell him he's wrong.

So what’s my point? Guilty pleasures are OK? Don’t be ashamed of liking what you like, whatever it is? Sometimes, cheeseburgers taste nicer than Pate De Foie Gras? I don’t know. But I know one thing:


(For Pete Lutwyche...'I love you man!')


  1. Rushbo, you are a buffoon.

  2. I had my AOR year and a bit around the same time. Journey were on the list as was Styx's Grand Illusion and Pieces Of Eight.

    Much as I agree with A Flock Of Seagull's contribution to the thing we know as music, I knew them really well and still speak occasionally to a couple of them and they are really really nice guys.

    Most of my heroes I met were tossers to be honest, so I suppose there should be no surprise in the niceness of AFOS.

  3. I used FOS as an example of music that the cognoscenti might sniff at. I quite enjoyed the tunes, but I draw the line at the hair... next time you see them , please tell them the effect they had on a resident of Harborne, Birmingham. The only other instance of anything like that was a drunk demanding to listen to 'Power of Love' Jennifer Rush.He then proceded to snog the face off his girlfriend, who was also drunk and crying. Not quite such a poetic story, I'm sure you agree.

  4. Sorry, Styx don't rule, though I don't mind hearing Grand Illusion every once in a blue moon.

    But the real reason I'm commenting is to share two stories.

    1) When I was a teenage metalhead learning to play guitar, I hatched a plan to borrow a cassette from the local library and to add a bonus track - my own (inept) interpreration of Van Halen's Eruption. And the cassette I chose - Journey's "Escape". I often wondered about the mental anguish suffered by those who later borrowed the cassette.

    2) My father generally slagged of any music that came out in my formative years (late 70's, early 80's), especially anything I liked!! But inexplicably, he had a soft spot for one band......Flock of Seagulls!

    Man, I could fill a book with anecdotes like these - not that anyone could be arsed reading it!

  5. I must be a wee bit older than the rest of you who post here. My friends and I wouldn't be caught dead listening to any of these bands, much less buy any of their LPs. Just uttering the words "Flock Of Seagulls" was reason enough to get your head pummeled.

    I actually lived near Lou Graham and once saw him live when he was in Black Sheep. They were so bad, a group of us took turns yelling "YOU SUCK!" during their whole set. Not nice, but it was justly deserved.

    Styx, Rushbo? We refered to them as Stynx. "I'm saaaaaaillllllinnng awaaaay" Bloody, bloody awful song, but I digress. This post was about guilty pleasures. I suppose we all have a few, so I'm not going to dish out too much crap. I'll even confess to having more than a fondness for The Association and The Grass Roots.

    As far as STYX RULE!, Not A Chance!!! (and I'm very proud to say that I honestly didn't recognize the band from the photo).

    On a side note, sorry about your boots, Rushbo. I was going to clean it up, but if I did, I would have missed Last Call!

    And if anyone is still reading this post, if you haven't checked out RUSHBO'S GUIDE (upper right on the blog page), you're missing out on some very interesting and funny writing.

    Peace Out!

  6. I think you`re absolutely correct, like what you like and never apologize for it...except for maybe Jimmy Buffet. I keed, I`m a keeder, he`s probably a really nice guy.

  7. Ralph - great idea! can you imagine settling down to hear some uber-produced soft rock only to be greeted by some teenage shredding...Yow!

    Hey Oxy...I've always had a soft Spot for Lou Gramm's voice, but never having seen (or heard) Black Sheep, I will reserve judgement. And thanks for the kudos on the guide, by the way. There's another one coming in a week or two. You're right, in the grand scheme of things, Styx probably don't rule but for about 40 minutes they were Princes at the very least.

    Stivseed...Jimmy Buffet always strikes me as a stand-up guy. I'm pretty sure he'd get a round of drinks without too much persuading.

    I had to Google 'keed'...I am now enlightened.

  8. Hey Rushbo,

    Oh, don't get me wrong, Lou Graham is a decent enough singer, but when I saw him with Black Sheep, it was the musicianship of the whole band that sucked. It was also a small venue and in my opinion, Graham's voice is solely suited for arena rock. He's definitely a belter. I guess he got in with the right group of guys. Can't say I think too much of their lyricist, though.

    I went to allmusic to check out Stynx and was surprised to see how many singles they had that charted. Of them all, I knew only three - Babe, Come Sail Away and Mr. Roboto (hmmm... did I just unintentionally prove my prior post's point?) However, I am going to give Styx their just due. Maybe not quite Princes, but certainly brief contenders to the throne. Someone was buying their albums (it just wasn't me).

    Domo Arigoto, Mr. Rushboto,


  9. I have A LOT of hate for 'Mr Roboto'...what were they thinking?
    Yeah, Foreigner lyrics - not exactly Cole Porter are they? I'd like to think they were being all post-modern and ironic, but it was probably more six pack of Bud and a rhyming dictionary.

  10. I was never a Flock of Seagulls fan but your story really touched me.
    I love the way you write! Keep it coming...