January 31st, 2020 – Freedom Rock

In 1989 there was plenty of political unrest and social upheaval around the planet to keep the 24 hour news cycle humming as background noise on televisions across America, mine included. Most people barely paid attention.

But it has been a time honored tradition for musicians to write songs highlighting political hot button issues or calling out hypocritical, tyrannical or complacent governments and leaders. Some folks got their news and social perspectives from woke musicians who took full advantage of this country’s freedom of speech to advance the conversation.

Neil Young – “Rockin’ in the Free World”

I never felt that Neil Young was a particularly strong singer. He has a unique sound to be sure but it’s his songwriting and energy when he delivers this song that captivates me. Truth be told, when I was playing in a band at around the time this was released I really enjoyed singing this tune onstage.

Rockin’ in the Free World” was released in 1989 and was from Neil Young’s 17th studio album “Freedom“. The story behind the song is that Young and his band Crazy Horse were planning a tour that included the Soviet Union. When that gig fell through it was his drummer who quipped “we’ll have to keep rockin’ in the free world” – Young seized upon that phrase and applied it to all of the geopolitical concerns of the day.

The song made it to number 2 on Billboard, is considered to be one of Neil Young’s best songs and ranks 216 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of all Time. I don’t know if it was Neil but the Berlin Wall opened the same month this song was released. Coincidence?

Fast forward to January 2020, Canadian born Neil Young is granted United States citizenship after living in the U.S. for more than 50 years – Happy Freedom Neil.

Lew Hastings

There’s colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin’ their feet
People sleepin’ in their shoes
But there’s a warnin’ sign on the road ahead
There’s alot of people sayin’ we’d be better off dead
Don’t feel like Satan, but I am to them
So I try to forget it, any way I can

Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away, and she’s gone to get a hit
She hates her life, and what she’s done to it
There’s one more kid that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people, says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive

Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world

Writer: Neil Young Reprise Records

January 30th, 2020 – Persons of Interest

I remember hearing this tune for the first time and thinking, wow, this sound is quite unlike anything I had heard from the “metal” genre in the 80’s. The musicianship and power these guys deliver is overwhelming at times. I can only imagine what audiences thought when they took the stage as openers for Guns & Roses and The Rolling Stones in 1989. I know what I would have thought, uh oh, wouldn’t want to follow them.

This band has been classified at a fusion between hard rock, metal, funk and alternative. One thing is for sure, this song comes out and punches you in the face and then runs you over with a freight train with no regrets.

Living Colour – “Cult of Personality”

Off their debut album “Vivid” released in 1988, “Cult of Personality” ended up at number 13 on the U.S. Billboard charts and ultimately ended up being Living Colour‘s most famous song.

But don’t be so quick to feel sorry for the guys yet, the song killed at the MTV music awards taking home Best Group and Best New Artist as well as taking the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1990.

Not only that, but VH1 ranked the song at number 69 on their 100 greatest rock songs, Guitar World ranked founder and guitarist Vernon Reid‘s solo at 87 in their 100 greatest guitar solos and it made it into the book “1001 Songs you must hear before you die”.

The kicker is Reid says the song came about by accident and was written during a single rehearsal. Isn’t that always the way?

Living Colour consists of members Corey Glover lead vocals, Will Calhoun on drums, Doug Wimbish on bass and the uber-talented Vernon Reid on guitar and vocals. Reid also gets points for living on the island of my birth – New York‘s Staten Island.

Lew Hastings

Look in my eyes, what do you see?
The cult of personality
I know your anger, I know your dreams
I’ve been everything you want to be
I’m the cult of personality
Like Mussolini and Kennedy
I’m the cult of personality
The cult of personality
The cult of personality

Neon lights, a Nobel Prize
Then a mirror speaks, the reflection lies
You don’t have to follow me
Only you can set me free
I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your T.V.
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you still you love me

I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality
Like Joseph Stalin and Gandhi
I’m the cult of personality
The cult of personality
The cult of personality

Neon lights a Nobel Prize
A leader speaks, that leader dies
You don’t have to follow me
Only you can set you free

You gave me fortune
You gave me fame
You gave me power in your own god’s name
I’m every person you need to be
Oh, I’m the cult of personality
I’m the cult of, I’m the cult of, I’m the cult of, I’m the cult of
I’m the cult of, I’m the cult of, I’m the cult of, I’m the cult of personality

Writer/s: WILLIAM CALHOUN, COREY GLOVER, VERNON ALPHONSUS REID, MUZZ SKILLINGS
Publisher: Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

January 28th, 2020 – Hanging Stones

Yes I like classic rock, but the pop stuff has always been where it’s at for me. When the greats of rock and roll seemingly “sold out” with their Top 40 radio crossover and fans were abandoning them in droves, that is when I sprang into action and bought their albums.

Bought my first Led Zeppelin album when “In Through the Out Door” came out in 1979, bought Billy Joel‘s “Glass Houses” in 1980 and I had “Tattoo You” in 1981 and played it out loud on purpose.

The Rolling Stones – “Hang Fire”

Interestingly, The Rolling Stones album “Tattoo You” was a collection of songs written and recorded, finished and unfinished, back in the 70’s when the Stones were tearing it up as the bad boys of rock and roll.

Hang Fire” was actually written back when the boys were recording the “Some Girls” material in 1978. The song is clever in that it is taking the hang fire term for when there is a delay from pulling the trigger on a firearm and the firing of the weapon and applying that to the disdain people had in the UK for the Monarchy, British politicians and England‘s economic downturn through the 70’s.

As you might imagine, the song was never released in the UK as a single but it did make it into the Billboard Top 20 here in the U.S. The album itself reached number 1 in the U.S. as well as in more than a few other formerly British held countries. Any chance to take a swipe at the old motherland I suppose.

Lew Hastings

In the sweet old country where I come from
Nobody ever works
Yeah nothing gets done
We hang fire, we hang fire

You know marrying money is a full time job
I don’t need the aggravation
I’m a lazy slob
I hang fire, I hang fire
Hang fire, put it on the wire baby
Hang fire, hang fire put it on the wire baby, go ahead
Hang fire

We’ve got nothing to eat
We got nowhere to work
Nothing to drink
We just lost our shirts
I’m on the dole
We ain’t for hire
Say what the hell
Say what the hell, hang fire
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire
Hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Doo doo

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo

Yeah ten thousand dollars, go have some fun
Put it all on at a hundred to one
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Doo doo
Doo doo, hang fire, hang fire put it on the wire
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire
Put it on the wire, baby
Put it on the wire

Writer/s: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

January 27th, 2020 – Diamonds but Not Rough

This band has been around since since 1970-71 with a unique concept -classical arrangements with multiple stringed instruments, a futuristic theme, with a not so subtle nod to The Beatles.

I personally played many of their heyday albums out until the grooves disappeared. Then for some strange reason, nothing. I didn’t seek out new music. I didn’t play the old music. I remember seeing a live concert on PBS or some pay channel back in the 80’s. It was not their best sound. Then came the Wiburys. That pretty much cured me of all things Jeff Lynne. I definitely needed a break.

Electric Light Orchestra – “Four Little Diamonds”

So every once in a while I’ll hear a tune and it will take me back to the good times. This one found its way onto my playlist.

The 70’s and 80’s were ELO‘s most successful years with 14 of those years producing 27 top 40 singles, 15 climbing into the top 20 in Billboard and sales of 50 million records worldwide. Interestingly the band has the distinction of holding the record for most top 40 Billboard hits without one of them making it to number 1.

This song fared worse than that. Released in September of 1983 on the album “Secret Messages” – “Four Little Diamonds” cracked the U.S. Billboard Top 100 and came to a screeching halt at 86. In the UK it squeaked out two more spots to land at 84. Written, produced and performed by the multi-talented Jeff Lynne along with bandmates Bev Bevan, Richard Tandy and Kelly Groucutt. I find this song quirky and fun from beginning to end and that is quite probably what Lynne intended.

The song found a second life in 2002 when it appeared in the soundtrack for the video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City“. Did anyone notice that little gem?

Lew Hastings

I used to think she was the greatest thing
I really cared, gave her a diamond ring
She said she’d rather die than ever leave me
Well I never saw her face since then
And if the law don’t get her then I will
Four little diamonds

She must be somewhere on the open road
She always said she was a lonely one
She gets you down with her tales of woe
She took me for everything
And if the law don’t get her then I will
Four little diamonds

I looked around I climbed up high into the dawn
But she was gone with the night
I thought about the things she said
And all the things we’d done
But where could she run
There’s just no answer to give

I keep wonderin’ about her, day and night
She probably thinks I was a fool- she’s right
She don’t know it
But I’m gonna keep on searchin’ for that woman
I’m gonna search everywhere
And if the law don’t get her then I will
Four little diamonds

I looked around I climbed up high into the dawn
But she was gone with the night
I thought about the things she said
And all the things we’d done
But where could she run- she ran away
There’s just no answer to give

I still hear her callin’ out to me
I still listen for her endlessly
But it never even crossed my mind she was a cheater
I gotta find where she hides
‘Cause if the law don’t get her then I will
Four little diamonds

Songwriters: Jeff Lynne Four Little Diamonds lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

January 26th, 2020 – Don’t Leave Me Hanging

This band has held my attention since I first heard them burst onto the scene with their debut album in 2000. While the rest of the world was still shaken by the unrealized threat of Y2K, these alternative rockers were gearing up to deliver a different brand of attack that would catch the music industry off guard.

Lifehouse had inauspicious beginnings in 1995 under the name Blyss. But for lead singer songwriter Jason Wade, evolving and creating was his way of life.

Lifehouse – “Hanging by a Moment”

From the group’s 2000 debut album “No Name Face” the song “Hanging by a Moment” screamed up the charts planting the band firmly onto the music scene as the new decade continued to scramble for the favor of alternative rock fans.

To his credit, the band’s frontman Jason Wade taught himself guitar at 14 and originally wrote songs as an escape from the impact of his parent’s failed marriage. In the video for HBM, Wade looks more like a California surfer dude than rockstar but the songwriting and performance tell a different story. During the bands formative years Wade caught the attention of music industry producer Jude Cole who introduced him to Dreamworks Records who funded the demos that would eventually become Lifehouse‘s debut album “No Name Face

Wade changed the name of the band to Lifehouse as a nod to the music being representative of his life and by extension those who would come to identify with it. And identify they did. The album went on to sell over 4 million copies worldwide. While the song peaked at number 2 on the Billboard charts, it eventually went on to be crowned Billboard’s number 1 single of 2001 beating out Alicia Keys, Usher, Train, Matchbox 20 and Lenny Kravitz among others for the top spot.
Fun fact – Wade admits the song was written quickly, in under 10 minutes, with no real regard for what would eventually happen to it. But after some reflection, Wade says the song probably represents being able to appreciate living in the moment.

-Lew Hastings

I’m desperate for changing
Starving for truth
I’m Closer to where I Started
Chasing after you

I’m falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I’ve held onto
I’m standing here until you make me move
I’m hanging by a moment here with you

Forgetting all I’m lacking
Completely incomplete
I’ll take your invitation
You take all of me

Now I’m falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I’ve held onto
I’m standing here until you make me move
I’m hanging by a moment here with you

I’m livin’ for the only thing I know
I’m running here and I’m not quite sure
Where to go?
And down I know I’d like to be in tune
Just hanging by a moment here with you

There’s nothing else to lose
There’s nothing left to fly
There is nothing in the world that can change my mind
There is nothing else
There is nothing else
There is nothing else

I’m desperate for changing
Starving for truth
I’m closer where I Started
I’m Chasing after you

I’m falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I’ve held onto
I’m standing here until you make me move
I’m hanging by a moment here with you

I’m livin’ for the only thing I know
I’m running here and I’m not quite sure
Where to go?
And down I know I’d like to be in tune
Just hanging by a moment here with you

Just hanging by a moment
Hanging by a moment
Hanging by a moment
Hanging by a moment here with you

Writer/s: Jason Wade 
Publisher: Round Hill Music Big Loud Songs

January 22nd, 2020 – A Fire in Kansas

I keep saying that I am not a big fan of progressive bands yet there have been several in my playlist so far and we are not out of January yet. This band cites the likes of Yes and Genesis as influences and wound up writing and recording some of the biggest rock anthems of all time.

I can’t remember where I heard or saw them for the first time but I watched a documentary on the band last night and I’m betting that I saw them on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert which was a TV show in the 1970’s that featured bands of the time performing live.

Kansas – “Fight Fire with Fire”

By the release of “Fight Fire with Fire” in 1983, Kansas had long been entrenched in superstardom after their releases of “Song for America“, “Carry on Wayward Son“, “Point of No Return“, and of course “Dust in the Wind“. Some would say they were past their prime at this point in their career but of course, the 80’s brought new chart life with more radio friendly pop tunes and Kansas fell in line with the albums “Vinyl Confessions” and “Drastic Measures“.

I try and choose songs to listen to that may not have gotten the same airplay as the biggest hits from some of music’s biggest bands. While this is a lesser known song from Kansas, it did actually do well on the charts reaching 58 on Billboard‘s Top 100 and number 3 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts.

In my opinion, the decade of heavy metal pop was kind to the band and while some key members were not in Kansas anymore, they maintained their signature sound and produced shorter compositions that I think packed a punch. A space in my playlist is well deserved.

~Lew Hastings

There’s a hole in the wall
With a light shining in
And it’s letting me know to get up
It’s time to begin

Oh there is nothing to lose
‘Cause it’s already lost
In a runaway world
Of confusion
I’m gonna take it

That’s why I fight fire with fire
Oh I’m burning inside and my heart is a-cryin’
Fire with fire
I don’t want to lose this flamin’ desire
Standing alone
In a crowded room
I can feel a chill in the air
I’m shakin’

I’m miles away
I want to cry out loud
I want to fight till the end
I won’t let ’em take me alive

That’s why I fight fire with fire
Oh I’m burning inside and my heart is a-cryin’
Fire with fire
I don’t want to lose this flamin’ desire
Standing alone
In a crowded room
I can feel a chill in the air
I’m shakin’

And you know I’ll fight fire with fire
Oh I’m burning inside and my heart is a-cryin’
Fire with fire
‘Cause I’m never gonna lose this flamin’ desire

Songwriters: Dino F Elefante / John ElefanteFight Fire With Fire lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

January 18th, 2020 – Good Lord

I know that this will not be a favorite of many people following this blog or for fans of music in general. I know this because I caught a lot of flack back when I was listening to them. Well, fear not, the band broke up long ago. But I think after hearing some neat facts about the band and the song, you may look at them with a tiny bit more respect.

This song has a big, sing along chorus with dramatic keyboards leading it and a pounding drum to accent the power chords of the electric guitar.

Mr. Mister – “Kyrie”



Formed in Arizona but quickly residing in L.A., Mr. Mister had been kicking around in one form or another from the late 70’s and early 80’s. That’s a sound right in my wheelhouse. The lineup of Richard Page, Steve George, Steve Farris and Pat Mastelotto broke out with their first album in 1984 on RCA records. Not a critical success but the industry attention got frontman Richard Page offers to front bands like Toto and Chicago, both jobs he wound up turning down. Prior to the first album Page and George were already pretty much industry insiders having working as session musicians for Quincy Jones and having written songs for the likes of Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Kenny Loggins, Rick Springfield and others.

Popular success came with the release of their second album “Welcome to the Real World” in 1985. “Kyrie” was the second single and made it to number 1 on the Billboard charts riding the success of the albums first single “Broken Wings“. Richard Page, who was heavily into meditation and introspection and personal power, wrote “Kyrie” he says, as a prayer. In fact, Kyrie Eleison translates to “Lord have mercy” in Greek. Page remember singing this in church services he attended as a kid.

The song was a blockbuster hit worldwide reaching Number 1 in the U.S., Canada and Norway. It made the top 10 in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. And it made the top 100 in Australia, Italy, and New Zealand. If you ask me this might be one of the quintessential 80’s tunes of all time. Hallelujah and Amen.

~Lew Hastings

Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison, kyrie

The wind blows hard against this mountain side, across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide, setting my feet upon the road

My heart is old, it holds my memories, my body burns a gemlike flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine, is where I find myself again

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going will you follow
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

When I was young I thought of growing old, of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road, or only wished what I could be

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going will you follow
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

Writer/s: JOHN ROSS LANG, RICHARD JAMES PAGE, STEVEN PARK GEORGE 
Publisher: Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.