What We Want for Christmas From Rock’s Biggest Bands
With the holiday season in full swing, we’ve decided to embrace our inner child and draw up a “Dear Santa” list detailing everything we want for Christmas from rock’s biggest bands. Basically, it’s an extremely nerdy string of mostly polite, sometimes obscure demands that shows what would happen if we were ever put in charge of deciding what classic-rock legends should do with their careers. So join us as we pretend to be professional A&R people, managers and booking agents who are granted everything from control over Rush‘s set lists to access inside Van Halen‘s tape vault. But most of all, see if you don’t agree that at least some of these ideas would be pretty freakin’ awesome.
GET BACK TO WORK! By Jeff Giles
The guys in AC/DC have earned the right to rest on their laurels — and they’ve certainly accumulated enough of them to rest for quite awhile. But only three studio albums since 1990’s ‘The Razors Edge’? You’ve only got one job to do, gentlemen, and it involves fat chords, loud vocals, and filthy lyrics. It’s time you went back on the clock.
PLUG IN! By Matthew Wilkening
By going alphabetically, we’re starting off with a band that’s actually checked a lot off our wish list in recent years: a proper release of the ‘Let There Be Rock’ film on home video; box sets full of rarities, videos and live performances; and, in ‘Black Ice,’ their best album in years, if not decades. So unless they’re hiding a version of ‘Back in Black’ with Bon Scott‘s vocals on it somewhere, about all we can do is suggest “What Ifs.” What about a covers album? What if Angus Young tried using effects pedals on a record? But really, in a world where there’s needlessly 24 flavors of M&M’s, they’re doing the right thing and all we want is more.
EASY ON THE BALLADS By Jeff Giles
Once bands reach a certain age, they seem to have a hard time entering the studio without promising fans that they’re “getting back to basics” or “returning to their roots” — and they tend to have an even harder time living up to those claims once the music’s finally out. Aerosmith is a perfect example: after working hard to strike a balance between hard rock and radio-ready pop during the ’80s with their classic ‘Permanent Vacation’ and ‘Pump’ albums, they’ve let their records get a little too produced, and in spite of those old “back to basics” promises, 2012’s ‘Music from Another Dimension!’ was no exception. Here’s hoping Steven Tyler‘s upcoming solo album is enough to get all the power ballads worked out of his system for awhile, and leads us to a new Aerosmith record that truly recaptures the sound of the band we fell in love with all those years ago.
MAKE THE CRUEL CUTS By Matthew Wilkening
As stated in our review, there’s a damn good album’s worth of material on ‘Music From Another Dimension‘ — it’s just buried among 25-30 minutes of stuff that should have stayed in the studio. Classic rockers who want to get back to their roots in the studio need to remember that brevity was part of that magic formula. So let’s enact the ‘Toys in the Attic’ rule: That was 37 minutes of pure bliss, and bands should have to apply for some sort of government license if they want to make a record longer than that nowadays. Also — and this request may get repeated for a lot of the acts on here — how about a collection of ’70s concert video footage?
HIT THE CLUBS By Annie Zaleski
The promise of Aerosmith’s back-to-basics 2012 record ‘Music From Another Dimension!’ sadly never translated to album sales. We suspect part of that had to do with context: Although the blues-rock boogie and Stones-y swagger was begging to be played live, the band barely acknowledged the album in concert. It’s understandable, since as an arena act, Aerosmith has to play for the fans there to hear the hits (e.g., ‘Dream On’ and ‘Love In An Elevator’). Here’s a solution to that—how about an Aerosmith club/small theater tour for the die-hards? In an intimate setting, the band can really get back to their roots by wailing on deep cuts, album tracks, new stuff and (of course) select hits. We suspect such a tour would be an energizing catalyst for the band — and, as an added bonus, drum up some pretty serious promo buzz.
1,2,3… AND 4 By Jeff Giles
The guys in Black Sabbath have already given us so much, starting with that time they invented heavy metal, so we’re reluctant to ask for more. If we’re being selfless, we’d love it if we could get another year of sobriety for Ozzy Osbourne and improved health for Tony Iommi. But selfishly? We can’t help wishing that Bill Ward was back in the lineup.
JUDAS SABBATH By Matthew Wilkening
This one’s easy: Put out whatever film you’ve got from the times Judas Priest’s metal god Rob Halford filled in as Black Sabbath’s lead singer — the two shows in 1992 when Ronnie James Dio refused to open for Ozzy’s solo show, and the 2004 night when Ozzy was too sick to go on. And if the video quality isn’t good enough, then invite him back and get it done right this time. Oh, and from the Ozzy solo side, how about a 30th-anniversary edition of the ‘Bark at the Moon’ live VHS?
FREE THE BASEMENT TAPES By Michael Gallucci
We’re not complaining about Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series. Really, we’re not. How can we even think of tearing apart a series that salvaged the singer-songwriter’s much-maligned ‘Self Portrait’ album and turned it into one of 2013’s best releases? But after 10 volumes, isn’t it time to finally get around to the project fans have been wishing for since day one? We’re talking about a complete version of ‘The Basement Tapes.’ The abridged 1975 album that collected a handful of Dylan and the Band‘s spontaneous 1967 recordings is great, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wealth of material the sessions produced. It’s time that all 100-plus songs see an official release.
ANOTHER SALVAGE PROJECT By Matthew Wilkening
While we’re at it, how about a second edition of the ‘Chronicles’ autobiography and an expanded version of ‘Hard to Handle,’ the 1986 concert film where Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were Dylan’s backing band? (Hey, if they could fix ‘Self-Portrait‘ … )
FLY FAR FROM THE NEST By Matthew Wilkening
Of course we’ve got some of the standard requests — how about more archival live footage and a new record that’s messier, a bit louder and good golly how about shorter than ‘Long Road Out of Eden’? But we want to use this spot to focus on two outside projects. First, we’re very curious to hear Don Henley‘s reportedly country-leaning solo album ‘Cass County.’ Second, and more urgently, how about a full-scale tour from Joe Walsh‘s former band the James Gang?
FIVE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER By Michael Gallucci
Fleetwood Mac’s 2013 tour felt a bit incomplete without Christine McVie onstage. And while a reunion tour featuring the five-member lineup that made the group’s best and most successful albums would be great, we’re really hoping for a weird new album like 1979’s ‘Tusk,’ the last masterpiece made by the mighty quintet. Lindsey Buckingham undoubtedly has a surplus of great tunes waiting for the full-band treatment, and we’re betting both McVie and Stevie Nicks have at least a couple killer tunes each waiting for those magical tight harmonies and that awesome rhythm section. But mostly, we’re wishing for a speedy recovery for John McVie, who was diagnosed with cancer in late 2013.
NO, THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER By Dave Swanson
With nothing but love for Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, a really cool move, Mac wise, would be for the core trio of drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham to go into the studio and make a rock solid album as a trio. You know that live version of the old Mac classic ‘Oh Well’ from the 1980 ‘Live’ album? Yeah, something like that! Simple stuff: guitars, bass, and drums. Lindsey can do all the vocals and work his studio magic to make it shine. Maybe bring in dear ol’ Peter Green to guest on a track or two, but leave the chicks at home for just this one.
TAKE ME BACK TO PARADISE CITY By Jeff Giles
No surprises here: we want the same thing just about every other GNR fan wants — namely, a new album written and recorded by the band’s classic lineup. It’ll probably never happen, but that’s what Christmas miracles are for. If we can get one on 34th Street, why not Paradise City?
HAVE PATIENCE By Matthew Wilkening
Not all of us want that. Don’t get me wrong — if they decide to do it on their own, it’d be a blast. But what’s the point of being a rock star if you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do? Same goes for any “where’s the new album?” wishes. Granted, way less people are clamoring for that as much as they were for ‘Chinese Democracy.’ So I’ll just be over here, knowing that the band’s last tour was a hell of a good time and that there were some really cool songs on that last album and, yes, curious to hear what they do next.
SOMEONE’S MISSING By Matthew Wilkening
Again, here’s a band that’s very generous to their fans — all the important archived audio and video seems to be available, and the tours featuring recreated stages and set lists from years gone by are much appreciated. But there is someone who’s been missing for years — Eddie. Let’s face it, with the exception of 2006’s ‘A Matter of Life and Death,’ over the past couple decades our favorite heavy metal mascot has looked less and less like himself and more like some generic, computer-generated Syfy-original movie monster. We’re opposed to telling people who to work with — and maybe we sound like boring old computer-phobic “glory days” coots — but if the band can’t or won’t get the mighty Derek Riggs back in the fold, can’t they at least get someone who works in the same style?
NO MORE ‘SEPARATE WAYS’ By Annie Zaleski
Like Def Leppard, Journey is a classic rock cockroach that has survived shifts in musical, cultural and haircut trends to remain a massively popular touring act. But with all due respect to Arnel Pineda — who’s a fantastic singer, performer and humanitarian — Journey could propel their popularity to even greater heights by burying the hatchet with Steve Perry. Imagine the ecstatic (and epic) tone of a concert with the leather-lunged frontman at the helm, hollering out classics such as ‘Open Arms,’ ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),’ ‘Faithfully’ and, of course, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’.’ If anything, such a reunion tour would finally quell the grumbling of the purists who gave up on the band after Perry departed in 1998.
LET’S GET SMALL By Matthew Wilkening
OK, here’s the pitch — we’ll call it the “Two Timer Tour.” Kiss come to your town and play their traditional, over-the-top career-spanning show, complete with flame-spitting mechanical spiders and flying rigs and whatnot. But then they stay for a second night and take over a smaller theater armed with only the early costumes, candelabras and flash pots of their pre-stardom days. Keep the set list confined to the first three albums, and we’ll gladly pay twice as much for that one. Also, if Neal Schon can put his wedding on PPV, there’s no reason Kiss can’t book Red Rocks and stage a one-time-only televised performance of ‘Music From the Elder,’ complete with a symphony and actors explaining exactly what the hell is supposed to be going on.
BRING BACK THE ORIGINALS By Ted Asregadoo
If you need to be reminded why Kiss was “the hottest band in the land” at one point in their career, just play the following albums in order: ‘Alive!,’ ‘Destroyer,’ ‘Rock and Roll Over,’ and ‘Love Gun.’ Sometimes, it can be all-too-easy to forget that for the early part of their career, they were a rock band that put the emphasis on the music before the make-up and costumes. There’s a kind of magic to these albums, and if Santa could grant me a wish, I would want the original members of Kiss to go back into the studio and write some songs that channel the spirit of their mid-’70s greatness. In order to do so, Santa would have to wipe the memories of Gene, Peter, Paul, and Ace so they could forget all the turmoil in the band. Doing so would make them hungry to write great rock pop songs, and you know that’s worth a deuce.
WHOLE LOTTA REISSUES By Matthew Wilkening
Look, obviously we’re going to join a long line of people that automatically hands over our cash to Led Zeppelin for whatever reissued versions of their studio albums they unleash next year. So really we’re just asking for mercy — if you’re going back into the vaults again, make it worth our time and money with every single piece of whatever truly new and different material you’ve got, OK? This better not be just a 30-second coda tacked onto ‘Hot Dog.’ You really want to make us happy? Let us play with the original multitracks on some songs. As far as solo careers go, it’s hard to ask for more from the highly prolific and restless Robert Plant or even John Paul Jones. But is there anybody else out there who’d rather see Jimmy Page touring or creating new music instead of doing these reissues? Actually, wouldn’t Jones’ Them Crooked Vultures sound good with a second guitar player?
PICK UP THE PACE By Matthew Wilkening
Psychologists will tell you that the sandwich method is the best way to deliver a difficult message without making someone you care about and truly respect feel offended. Basically, what you do is “sandwich” your critique by making a pair of genuine positive comments before and after it. So here goes … Dear Metallica, you are are undoubtedly and deservedly going to go down in history as one of the most important and influential bands in all of heavy metal. But what is this “wait until 2015” nonsense you’ve been spouting off about your next album? It’s already been five years! Also, is it possible you’ve been over-thinking things a bit in the studio? You recorded ‘Kill ‘Em All’ in 17 days and ‘Ride the Lightning’ in three weeks. Hell, even ‘Master of Puppets’ took only four months. You can have a nice holiday break, take twice that much time and still turn in a new album before the leaves turn brown. And if you can’t do that, can you at least book some crappy studio for a couple of weeks and bash out ‘Garage Days 4’?Because we all really love you and are very excited to hear what great new ideas you come up with next.
A VISUAL GREATEST HITS TOUR By Matthew Wilkening
OK, we’re getting used to the fact that Motley Crue are really going to retire — barely — but we’ve got an idea about how we want them to say goodbye. How about a “Greatest Hits” tour? And we’re not talking about songs, but instead … stage sets. Very few bands have successfully visually re-designed their shows each time out as dramatically as the Crue, and we’d like one more chance to see the highlights again, especially all those crazy Tommy Lee drum solo stunts! Now, yes, we know Metallica just employed this same idea for their ‘Through the Never’ concert film, but if we only let one band use each good idea, the genre would be rather stunted, wouldn’t it?
A HEALTHY 2014 & FAR BEYOND By Jeff Giles
We still prefer to think of him as ageless and immortal, but there’s no getting around the fact that Lemmy has had a rough year health-wise. When it comes to Motorhead, we’ve only got one thing on our list for Santa: A year on the mend for one of rock’s all-time greatest frontmen.
WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED By Matthew Wilkening
Let’s be blunt: Our beloved Uncle Ted’s last few solo albums haven’t properly captured the magic that anyone who goes to his live concerts knows he’s still fully capable of delivering. So now that Derek St. Holmes is back in the fold alongside the fantastic rhythm section of Mick Brown and Greg Smith, there’s just one more thing we need for Nugent’s planned 2014 album to scale those glorious mid-‘70s heights: Rick Rubin. As he proved with his work on Black Sabbath’s way-better-than-we-had-any-right-to-expect reunion album ’13,’ he’s the producer to call for any classic-rock artist looking to reconnect to the sound of their glory days.
STRIP DOWN By Annie Zaleski
Every so often, in between E Street Band tours, Bruce Springsteen picks up a guitar and does a solo tour. These appearances always seem to inspire the Boss and get him fired up for making (and playing) music. Why doesn’t Tom Petty do something similar? A stripped-down tour in theaters — perhaps with guitarist Mike Campbell adding color, perhaps not — that covered his solo career, reinvented some of the Heartbreakers’ tunes and revealed some of the stories behind the tunes. It might help reinvigorate the Heartbreakers’ own tours, which have (sadly) been hit-or-miss in recent years. At the very least, it would let Petty revisit some of the best music he’s written in the last quarter-century.
BARRETT IMMERSION By Dave Swanson
Pink Floyd never go out of style it seems. From the moment ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ was released in 1973, there probably hasn’t been a day that has gone by where a whole lotta Floyd hasn’t been heard blasting out of a radio somewhere. Their legacy, and catalog, has been well maintained over the years, with upgrades and remastered versions of the many albums having been offered up. Among their more recent outing were the multi-disc “Immersion” sets afforded to ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘The Wall.’ Good albums one and all, but the gnome on the top of tree is whispering loudly that what the world really needs is a similar set for the Syd Barrett era. A set collecting ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn,’ the early singles, and (though his involvement was limited) ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ would tell the tale of that ever so important first chapter in the Pink Floyd story. Amazing tracks like ‘Lucy Leave,’ ‘Scream Thy Last Scream’ and ‘Vegetable Man’ have long been bootlegged, but have never seen a proper release. Not to mention all the unreleased radio sessions out there. Combining all these titles would be a dream come true for Barrett fanatics.
LET THE ANIMALS GO FREE By Matthew Wilkening
While we’re at it, was there any particular reason ‘Animals’ was skipped over in this ‘Immersion’ series? Sure, it included some leftovers from ‘Wish You Were Here,’ but really, there’s nothing else to add to that story? And Waters is going to release a kick-ass HD home-video version of that recent ‘The Wall’ tour, right? Right?
MULTIPLE VISIONS By Matthew Wilkening
The past 20 years have proven what everybody, including the surviving members of Queen, already know: No one person is capable of replacing Freddie Mercury. So if the band decides to keep playing live or even recording new music again, may we humbly suggest the tactic that proved so successful at the band’s awesome 1992 Mercury tribute concert: lots of singers! Surely there’s a galaxy of stars both young and uh, more experienced who would line up to collaborate with Brian May and Roger Taylor, right?
OPEN THE VAULTS! By Dave Swanson
While it’s great that the Rolling Stones are still out there doing there thing on the road, one very large gap in their story is their reluctance of issuing unreleased material! What I’d like to see is some sort of ‘Anthology’ type series on the Stones, not unlike what the Beatles delivered several years ago. Either that, or perhaps two different box sets: one featuring studio outtakes and radio sessions (there are plenty of both!) and the other featuring unissued live material. The 1972 tour alone could fill a box. It’s not like the stuff isn’t there! They have a lot of great recordings just begging to be heard. So come on guys, stop chasing your tail and take a good look, through the past brightly, shall we say! (And yes, we’re aware of the Stones Archive site, but we’re protesting until they make the ‘Brussels Affair’ vinyl available as something other than as part of a $500 deluxe editon!)
LET’S GEEK OUT By Ted Asregadoo
The boys have been together for 40 years. That’s a lot of music! And while Rush is very good about changing up their setlist from tour to tour, how about doing something really novel and featuring a “deep cuts” set by playing ‘Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres’ in its entirety. The rarely played epic is just a few seconds over 18 minutes, but busting out this tour de force from ‘Hemispheres’ in the middle of a set that could also feature selections from their early and later albums would really showcase how far the band has progressed. So, if Santa is keeping a wish list of songs, I hope he jots down ‘What You’re Doing,’ ‘Lakeside Park,’ and maybe ‘Making Memories’ as contenders from the early years. Later in the set, Rush could feature ‘Double Agent,’ all four songs in the ‘Fear’ trilogy, ‘We Hold On’ from ‘Snakes & Arrows,’ and whatever they love the most from ‘Clockwork Angels’ (Remember, Rush believes in free will).
DUMB IT UP! By Dave Swanson
Rush are one of the most beloved and respected band in the history of rock and roll. Those three guys are still at it, doing their thing, which is a thing that no one else can quite do. From simple beginnings, through a maze of incredible albums, they are still reconfiguring their sound in the studio, and still delivering at 110% whenever they hit the road. Now this is, obviously a pipe dream, but it’s Christmas and from what we hear, Santa is a big Rush fan from way back, so what if Geddy, Alex and Neil were to go into the studio and knock out a blistering, straight to the gut hard rock album in the vein of their 1974 debut and their second offering, ‘Fly By Night?’ Obviously very early on the band were already moving away from that more simple style. But no harm in wishing on this little star of Toronto, right? How amazing would it be to slap on a new Rush album that had all the power and glory of those first couple of albums? They somewhat approached that style in 2004 with the release of ‘Feedback,’ the covers album, so they’re apparently not totally adverse to such things!
SLOW DOWN! By Michael Gallucci
When ‘High Hopes’ comes out next month, it will mark Springsteen’s seventh album since the turn of the century. The one that kicked off his ’00s run, 2002’s ‘The Rising,’ took seven years to follow its predecessor. ‘The Rising’ also happens to be Springsteen’s last perfect record. Coincidence? Maybe it’s time for the Boss to just relax a little bit and allow more than a couple years to pass between albums. He’s busy enough on the road, so it’s not like he doesn’t have something to do with his time. Make us actually anticipate some new music. We’re not saying seven years between albums is an acceptable time frame, but we’d be willing to wait, say, at least five.
BURY THE HATCHETS By Jeff Giles
Van Halen used to be one of rock’s all-time greatest party bands, but over the last 20 years or so, that good-time vibe has curdled into a sour stew of incessant feuding, lengthy hiatuses, and underwhelming tunes. The group’s recent reunion LP with David Lee Roth, ‘A Different Kind of Truth,’ definitely has its moments, but we’re still yearning for a return to the days when the band looked like they wanted to be on stage, and Eddie seemed like he still wanted to be our favorite guitar god. We’re not asking for another ‘1984,’ but c’mon, guys — it’s only rock ‘n’ roll. Bury the hatchets, crank up the amps, and start having fun again — and while you’re at it, why not open the door to periodic collaborations with former members? Peace on Earth, goodwill to Michael Anthony.
GREEDY GRAB BAG By Matthew Wilkening
Let’s start with an easy one — how about a live concert video featuring David Lee Roth on vocals? It was widely reported that one was coming from the 2007 reunion tour, which would be fantastic to see. More importantly, how about turning some of those bootlegs that my, uh, friends have — like ‘Scorin’ at the Forum’ or the band’s legendary ’83 US Festival performance — into legitimate releases? If we can extend our wish list out to include alumni and solo careers, let’s put out Sammy Hagar‘s full 1983 MTV concert and stage at least a brief HSAS tour. And surely Roth can round up the ‘Eat ‘Em and Smile‘ band for a proper sequel in between a couple of his globe-trotting adventures. Lastly, I need a weekend alone in the ‘5150’ studio, with full access to all unreleased songs, late-night jam sessions and cello experiments hidden within — and I get to release 60 minutes’ worth of whatever I find inside.
NO MORE OPERAS By Ted Asregadoo
Sure, The Who pioneered the rock opera to great success. The problem is that Pete Townshend has a hard time saying goodbye to the genre. ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away,’ ‘Tommy,’ ‘Quadrophenia,’ the even the aborted ‘Lifehouse’ project were worthy of the group’s time and effort, but by the time ‘Wire & Glass’ came out in 2006, it was clear Townshend couldn’t stop obsessing about his childhood traumas in anything less than a cringe worthy way. I’m all for a good primal scream to get your demons out, but let’s not forget that some of The Who’s underplayed, but still stellar songs came out of a period when the band decided to call it quits (Um, this would be the first time they were breaking up in 1982). I’m talking about the album ‘It’s Hard.’ The first six songs on the record are just pure gold, and had the group really broken up, it would have been a fitting end for a band that went from Mods, to a kind of prog rock opera sound, into more compact, but still powerful songs that demonstrated why they are one of greats.
GET TO THE GOOD STUFF By Michael Gallucci
Neil Young has been talking about emptying his vaults for so long now that we figure he’s just toying with us every time he makes an announcement about his ‘Archives’ series. While there have been seven volumes of various live recordings in the ‘Archives Performances’ sub-series, 2009’s 10-disc ‘The Archives Vol. 1 1963–1972′ is the only career-spanning set that’s been released so far in Young’s highly anticipated overview. There’s plenty of great material — both released and previously unreleased — on the first box set, but it ends just as Young’s music was getting interesting. Few artists deserve hefty, multi-volume projects like this; Young is definitely one of them. We’d like to listen to the entire series before our hearing gives out on us.
KEEP ON KEEPING ON By Matthew Wilkening
Do whatever you want. Just keep doing it. Oh, but if the mood strikes you, put out a DVD from the last Crazy Horse tour — I couldn’t see it cause my first child was born the day before. Stupid baby!
MORE, MORE, MORE By Matthew Wilkening
It’s simple — we want more of everything. We want more new ZZ Top records. Where’s the second half of ‘La Futura’ they were talking about? We want weirder ZZ Top — mysterious, somewhat menacing stuff like ‘Manic Mechanic,’ ‘Heaven, Hell or Houston‘ and ‘Thug.’ We’re so happy the 1980 concert from Germany is finally on home video, but we want footage from other old tours too — like the Worldwide Texas Tour, for starters. We want them to make a covers album, with a take on Van Halen’s ‘Drop Dead Legs‘ and then nine Queens of the Stone Age songs, including ‘God Is in the Radio.’ How about more than two cities get a Moving Sidewalks reunion? While we’re at it, how about a BIlly Gibbons solo album?