It has indeed been a long way to the top for the thunder from Down Under. AC/DC have been around for fricking ever, going back to the band formed by Malcolm and Angus Young in 1973 for a New Years gig at the Bondi Lifesavers. They wore schoolboy and other uniforms. Some labeled them “hard rock/blues” some called them “heavy metal” but the lads just called themselves “rock and roll.” The death of Bon Scott in 1980 - after the release of Highway to Hell - nearly killed the band: “Bon’s Gone But AC/DC Rocks On” bumper stickers tell the story. Replaced by singer Brian Johnson, AC/DC are still going strong, having sold more than 200 million records worldwide, 71.5 million albums in America and made all the Greatest Rock Artists of all time, from VH1 to Rolling Stone. AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Currently Angus Young is the only original member, with Axl Rose singing vocals.
The rock band Boston wasn’t the only popular rock act to emerge from the city of Boston in the 1970s. The roots of Aerosmith go even farther back than U2, to 1970, when future guitar God Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton formed the Jam Band, and asked vocalist/pianist/harmonicist Steven Tyler, drummer Joey Kramer, and guitarist Ray Tabano if they wanted to jam. They did, and that combination of lovely lads has been jamming ever since - with some fits and starts. ,Aerosmith ravaged the 1970s, signing with Columbia Records in 1972 and releasing the Aerosmith album, then Get Your Wings (1974), Toys in the Attic (1975) then Rocks (1976). Aerosmith put out five albums total in the 1970s, traveled the world and back and put a dozen singles in the Hot 100: Dream On, Same Old Song And Dance, Sweet Emotion, Walk This Way, Back In The Saddle, Draw The Line, Come Together. And that was just the 70s. Drugs and burn out nearly evaporated the band in the first half of the 80s, but they came back with Geffen Records, did a comeback tour, collaborated with Run DMC and surprised everyone by regaining their previous popularity. After nearly 50 years of performing, partying and producing, Aerosmith has sold more than 150 million records, recorded 25 gold albums, 18 platinum albums, 12 multi-platinum albums, 21 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, four Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, and ten MTV Video Music Awards. In 2001, Aerosmith were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Contrary to fake news, KISS does not stand for “Knights in Satan’s Service” or anything else heinous. KISS just means pucker up and smack. This band goes back to 1973, when the alchemy of founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley combined with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss for an audience of three at the Popcorn Club in Queens. It picked up from there, as KISS evolved their stage makeup and costumes and a deal with Casablanca Records. And then...everything: Two dozen studio albums, millions of albums sold, nearly blinding themselves with bad makeup, mega-concerts, dying drummers, selling branded KISS goods, movies, tribute albums, tours, reality TV an unmasked version of KISS from 1983 - 1996 and a reunion tour from 1996 - 2001. KISS were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. The current KISS has Simmons and Stanley fronting, backed by Eric Singer on drums and Tommy Thayer on guitar.
AKA Chili Peppers or RHCP, this Gang of Four are a funk-rock band with roots going back to 1983 from Los Angeles. Singer, Anthony Kiedis and bassist, Flea have always been the face of RHCP with a shifting crew of drummers and guitarists: Slovak, Irons, Smith, Frusciante, Navarro. Working with Rick Rubin, Danger Mouse and other super producers, RHCP are the most successful alternative rock act of all time, RHCP have sold 80 million records, won 16 Grammy Awards, posted 13 #1 singles and are still going strong, 30+ years after their genesis. RHCP were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
Recently immortalized in the movie Rocketman, the chap born as Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947 became Sir Elton Hercules John through sheer God-given talent. Sir Elton learned to play piano as a young lad in Pinner, London - and hasn’t stopped since. His music was the soundtrack of the 1970s and he moved from that into soundtracks, and tributes and charity: five Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, a Disney Legends award, and a Kennedy Center Honor. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1998. An outwardly out personality, Sir Elton has been dragon-slaying AIDS for decades and hosts a yearly Oscar party - one of the hottest tickets around. His music is soul music to several generations.
Born Alecia Beth Moore in Doylestown, PA in September of 1979. Her parents divorced when she was 10, which inspired some rowdy behavior. Moody and asthmatic as a child, Alecia began singing in bands at age 14, and took on the name Pink - for Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs: "I was extreme. I went through phases from skateboarder, to hip-hopper, to rave child, to lead singer in a band. I did it all, and all at the same time." The Artist Now Known as Pink performed with a girl-group called Basic Instinct at 14, but that didn’t last long. At 16, Pink was part of an R&B group called Choice, which produced a single that got some air-play and lead to a deal with LaFace Records. They recorded an unreleased album and then it was decision time: Go solo or go home. She went solo, and hit a home run. Beginning with her debut single, "There You Go" in February 2000 which hit #7 on the Billboard charts, Pink has soared to a long and distinguished career that is still going strong: Pink’s collaboration on Lady Marmalade for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack was an international hit. Her second album Missundaztood (2001) sold more than 12 million copies and featured "Get the Party Started", "Don't Let Me Get Me", and "Just Like a Pill". Her third album, Try This (2004) didn’t sell well, but won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal. I’m Not Dead (2006) and Funhouse (2008) sold multi-platinum. On and on. Pink has sold over 40 million albums and 50 million singles worldwide, and has won three Grammy Awards, a Brit Award, a Daytime Emmy Award and seven MTV Video Music Awards, including the Video Vanguard Award. In 2009, Billboard named Pink the Pop Songs Artist of the Decade. Pink married professional motocross racer Corey Hart in 2001. Their marriage was off and on, but it’s back on and they have two children: Willow Sage (2001) and Jameson Moon (2016).
One of the Top 5 most successful recording artists in American history, Billy Joel - like Tom Petty and many other musicians - was inspired into the rock and roll life when he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
Born in Hicksville, New York in 1949, Joel was more interested in fighting than music. He took piano lessons grudgingly, but was an accomplished boxer winning 22 bouts. A broken nose ended his boxing career, but left his fingers intact.
Joel played in a lot of bands as a teenager through the 1960s: The Echoes, the Emeralds, the Lost Souls, the Hassles, Attila - a duo which broke up when Joel had an affair with his partner’s wife - whom Joel eventually married.
The Billy Joel that went on to so much success began to catalyze in the first half of the 1970s. He produced his first album with Family Productions and recorded his first solo album Cold Spring Harbor - which included She’s Got a Way and Everybody Loves You Now, but the album didn’t catch on. In 1972 Joel signed with Columbia Records and moved to Los Angeles, where he played in a piano bar under the name Bill Martin and was inspired to write Piano Man - which became his signature song.
Joel’s 1973 album Piano Man had modest sales, but then things took off for Joel - good and bad: 10 albums, a couple of suicide attempts, four wives, 33 Top 40 hits, six Grammys dozens of awards and collaborations and a thousand gigs later, Joel returned to Hicksville High in June of 2017 to accept the high school diploma he bailed out on in the 1960s, prophesying: “To hell with it. If I'm not going to Columbia University, I'm going to Columbia Records, and you don't need a high school diploma over there.”
And he was right.
Real name Saul Hudson, but Slash is way cooler. British-born, African-American mother, white father, both artists. Saul Hudson’s life was changed when he heard Aerosmith’s Rocks. That set him on a path that lead to learning bass first, then guitar and fate teamed him with Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler and Axl Rose as the lead guitarist for Guns N' Roses.
At Dublin’s Mount Temple Comprehensive School in 1976, four lads with limited musical ability put a band together. Paul David Hewson called himself “Bono,” singing and playing guitar badly. David Evans called himself “The Edge,” and played guitar. Adam Clayton used his real name and played bass. Larry Mullen Jr. played drums and percussion. They called their band Feedback, and then The Hype and played some gigs in 1977. When they were presented with six possible band names, they settled on U2 because of its multi-meanings. They didn’t know what they were doing at first and at some point Bono dropped his ambition to be a guitarist, and just sang. And now, 40+ years later, they’re still at it, recording and performing, the four original guys and the same name. And they’ve done well, releasing 14 studio albums, selling more than 170 million records worldwide, winning 22 Grammy Awards, and being inducted first try into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Gratified by and grateful for the giant success of a bunch of clueless, 16-year-old Irish kids, U2 as a band have stood up and made their voices heard for social justice and human rights campaigns: Amnesty International, Jubilee 2000, the ONE/DATA campaigns, Product Red, War Child, and Music Rising.
Famous for the 1970s hits I’m Eighteen and School’s Out, Alice Cooper is considered one of the Godfathers of heavy metal. Born Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit in 1948, Cooper’s career goes back to the 1960s when he was a member of the band Alice Cooper. That band released its first album in 1969, but had commercial success with their third studio album Love It to Death, which featured I’m 18 and School’s Out. Cooper launched a solo career taking the band’s name in 1975, with the album Welcome to My Nightmare - since then he has released 19 albums as a solo artist and 26 albums in total. Alice Cooper the band was inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Cooper has had a classic rock and roll life up good time and bad times, but he now counts golf as his favorite addiction. He plays six times a week.
He set aside a career as a tennis pro and Episcopalian minister to pursue music, and that was a good move, as Lionel Richie has had a long career, going back to The Commodores in 1968. Richie played saxophone and sang on hits like Machine Gun and Brick House and wrote Easy, Three Times a Lady and Sail On. He wrote Lady for Kenny Rogers and sang Endless Love, a duet with Diana Ross. Richie went solo in 1982, and had a long string of hits, including Truly, You Are, My Love, All Night Long, Hello, Stuck on You and a dozen others. Richie won an Oscar for Say You, Say Me and collaborated with Michael Jackson on the charity single We Are the World. Richie has continued to write and perform all through the 1990s and up to now, and is considered one of the most successful singer/songwriters in music history with sales of more than 100 million records, four Grammy Awards and an Oscar for Best Original Song. As recently as 2015. Richie played to more than 100,000 screaming fans at the Glastonbury Festival in England.
The sound of the 70s. Fleetwood Mac has roots in the British blues invasion of 1967. Led by guitarist Peter Green, the original incarnation of Fleetwood Mac had a hit with Albatross. Good times, bad times, the evolution of Fleetwood Mac out of the 1960s into the 1970s was a soap opera: adultery, lawsuits, a fake Fleetwood Mac, betrayals, renewals, sex and drugs and rock and roll. The second incarnation of Fleetwood Mac was 1975 to 1987 with Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joining founder Mick Fleetwood. The 1975 album Fleetwood Mac reached #1 with the hits Over My Head, Say You Love Me, Rhiannon and Landslide The 1977 album Rumours had four Top 10 singles, was #1 in America for 31 weeks and has sold over 40 million copies - #8 all-time in album sales. Fleetwood Mac got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979. And from there, more decades of drama. Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Born Thomas Earl Petty in Gainesville, Florida in 1950, Petty met Elvis Presley on the set of Follow That Dream in Ocala at the age of eleven - impressed and inspired, Petty did follow that dream. Seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 intensified the dream. Petty worked as a groundskeeper and gravedigger for a while, and took guitar lessons from Don Felder - who would become one of The Eagles. His first band was the Epics, which evolved into Mudcrutch - with Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench - which split up then regrouped with Petty, Campbell, Ron Blair and Stan Lynch forming the first version of The Heartbreakers. You’re Gonna Get It singles I Need to Know and Listen to Her Heart that launched Petty into a long, successful career: Damn the Torpedoes, Hard Promises (1981), Long After Dark (1982), touring with Bob Dylan and co-writing Jammin’ Me with Dylan. Hit records, the Travelin’ Wilburys, lawsuits, marriages, divorces, arsonists, more hit records. The dream was sometimes a nightmare for Petty, but his talent has put him up there with his influences: Elvis and The Beatles, and who knows how many starry-eyed kids Petty inspired to follow their dreams.
Drummer for The Beatles, maybe that’s the best gig in the history of music? Born Richard Starkey in Liverpool in 1940, he had a “Dickensian” childhood plagued by poverty, illness and learning disabilities. He started playing drums while recovering from tuberculosis in a sanitarium in 1953. He didn’t return to school, and stayed at home, hitting cookie tins with sticks. Starkey got interested in 1950s “skiffle” bands, which lead to him taking a job as drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes - and adopting the name Ringo Starr. Ringo first met The Beatles at a gig in Hamburg on October 1, 1960, then first played with Lennon, McCartney and Harrison on October 15, 1960. He joined the band in August of 1962 and that was that: Albums, movies, singles, touring with the most popular rock and roll band of all time. After The Beatles broke up in 1970, Ringo had a solid recording career, including the singles It Don’t Come Easy, Photograph, You’re Sixteen and Back Off Boogaloo. Starkey has never forgotten his difficult childhood and practices philanthropy whenever and however he can.
The most successful actor of all time - in terms of money - Johnny Depp’s original ambition was music. Born in 1963 in Owensboro, Kentucky, the youngest of four in a troubled family. His mother gave Depp a guitar when he was 12, and he dropped out of high school to play in a band. When he tried to go back to school, the principal actually encouraged Depp to follow his dream. So he did, to Los Angeles, where he played with The Kids/Six Gun Method and wrote songs for other bands. His first wife Lori introduced Depp to Nicholas Cage, who suggested Depp try acting. He did, and that lead to everything: Platoon, 21 Jump Street, Willy Wonka, Captain Jack Sparrow. But Depp never forgot his first love: He played slide guitar on the Oasis song Fade In-Out, acoustic guitar on the film Chocolat and the soundtrack for Once Upon a Time in Mexico. He played in the band P with Gibby Haynes, Flea and Steve Jones. Depp appeared in music videos for Tom Petty, The Lemonheads and Paul McCartney, played guitar with Joe Perry and sat in for Elvis Costello on the song Kansas City. In 2015, Depp joined Alice Cooper and Joe Perry to form the supergroup Hollywood Vampires. Their first album had 11 covers, two original Depp compositions and he performed with the Vampires at the Roxy and in Brazil’s Rock in Rio festival.
Good times, bad times, Cher has seen her….share. Also known as Cheryl Sarkisian, Cheryl LaPiere, Cher Bono, Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere, Bono Allman, Cher is kind of a female Justin Timberlake: Golden-throated singer, graceful dancer, comforting TV host, Oscar-winning actress and an omni-present American personality going back to the mid-1960s. As Cheryl Sarkisian, she ran away to Hollywood from a broken home at 16. But unlike most runaways, Cheryl had talent and transformed herself into Cher, and a half a century of struggle, success, achievement, good times, bad times: hit albums, love and broken marriages, records that bombed, TV shows that hit it big, TV shows that bombed, infomercials, comebacks. Truly an epic life way too extensive to synopsize here - all from a pretty sixteen-year-old runaway, determined to make something of herself.
Shining Star, That's the Way of the World, Devotion, Reasons, Sing a Song, Can't Hide Love, Getaway, Fantasy, Love's Holiday, September, Boogie Wonderland, After the Love Has Gone, Let's Groove: So many hits from this 1970s alchemy of soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, Latin, African and R&B sounds. Formed by Maurice White in 1970, Earth Wind & Fire has has many members in the past decades- and their sound has evolved with the times. Earth, Wind & Fire have sold over 100 million records, been nominated for 12 American Music Awards, were inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame and had five members inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Two songs are in the Grammy Hall of Fame: That’s the Way of the World (2004) and Shining Star (2007). President Barack Obama invited Earth, Wind & Fire to play at the first party of his administration - that’s how funky they all are.
Leland Sklar is a bassist from Los Angeles who for the past half century has played on over 2,500 albums and has been on tour every year since 1970 with artists from James Taylor to Phil Collins to Billy Cobham to name a few. His major break came when he met and started playing with James Taylor in the very beginning of JT’s career and they were together for 20 years of recording and touring. He has had the pleasure of working with artists in every genre of popular music. The easiest thing to do is to Google him for there is way too much to post here.
Hard to categorize Jane’s Addiction’s sound, although “alternative metal” seems to be the designation of choice, with tastes of funk metal, punk and other flavors = “funk punk.” Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, the original group was frontman Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney. Their first live self-titled debut album was followed by the tremendous success of Nothing’s Shocking (1988) and Ritual de lo Habitual (1990). Their farewell tour in 1991 launched the Lollapalooza tour, which has became a base for alternative rock. Since 1991 Jane’s Addiction have appeared, disappeared and appeared again, with original members coming and going and artists like Flea stepping in. Jane’s Addiction for elected into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
One! Two! Three! Four! When the drums thunder to start California Sun or Sedated or Rockaway Beach, that’s the hand and feet of Marky Ramone rocking steady. This might be a secret, but the Ramones aren’t actually blood brothers. Born Marc Steven Bell in 1952, Bell picked up the sticks in 1971 and dove into the New York punk scene. In May of 1978, Tommy Ramone asked Bell if he would join The Ramones - and Marky was born. He was the drummer from 1978 - 1983, touring and recording, including the Ramones anthem I Wanna Be Sedated. Marky’s drinking problem resulted in excommunication in 1983, but he was back on board by 1987 - playing 1700 shows and recording 10 albums until the band retired in 1996. MTV rewarded him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, he was inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy Awards in 2011. Marky is the only surviving member of the Ramones. Read all about it in Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As a Ramone published in 2015.
Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Matt Sharp and Jason Cropper had their first practice on Valentine’s Day of 1992, and shortly after closed a gig for Keanu Reeves’ Dogstar. They signed with Geffen Records in June of 1993 and recorded their debut album with Cars founder Rick Ocasek at Electric Lady Studios. Weezer’s first album - also called The Blue Album - featured Undone - The Sweater Song, Say It Aint’ So and Buddy Holly. The videos for these songs were huge hits, and Weezer got launched. Weezer are proof positive that killer singles and great videos can take a band to infinity and beyond: Hash Pipe, Island in the Sun, Beverly Hills and Pork and Beans are the songs everyone knows by heart and sight and propelled Weezer to millions of copies sold and a much longer career than anyone expected.
Skateboarder Tony Hawk once said: “Never underestimate the power of television” and that was certainly true for William Michael Albert Broad. Aka Billy Idol. An Englishman born in 1955, Billy Idol was singer for Generation X in the 1970s, then split off in 1981. Idol’s debut solo album Billy Idol was a success and the two singles Dancing With Myself and White Wedding were played relentlessly on MTV - launching Idol into super stardom. He followed that with the album Rebel Yell which had two more giant singles: Rebel Yell and Eyes Without a Face. Idol released for more albums into the mid-90s, then decided to chill for a decade or so - lay off the SADARAR and raise his kids. Idol made appearances on stage, in movies and TV into the 21st Century, then released Devil's Playground in 2005 and Kings & Queens of the Underground in 2014. There’s way more to the story, so pick up a copy of Dancin’ With Myself which Idol published in 2014.