I was born and raised on a farm approximately 45 miles southwest Detroit, Michigan. I was weaned on Album Oriented Rock (AOR) Radio at the time, and that meant a steady diet of Foreigner, Foghat, the Rolling Stones, adopted Detroiters the J. Geils Band, and of course hometown hero Bob Seger. As a teen in the early 1980’s, for me and many of my friends, cool was defined by WRIF radio, and afternoon DJ Arthur Penhallow, and the morning radio team of JJ and the Morning Crew. A quick google search will lead you to the history of these and many other things Detroit based at that time. In many ways, I’m still there; I’m still a fan of the music. I semi-lovingly refer to it as 3 chord thud rock. It’s the music of my youth, and is still resonates with me. I was exposed to alternative rock though, because we spent a lot of times in bars and nightclubs at the time, and while many times they had live bands playing 3 chord thud rock, between sets, and after the live sets, they would have DJs spinning alternative music, which was the dance-able music then.
Fast forward to the late 1980s and early 1990s, basically the hair-metal era. I wasn’t a fan of hair-metal, but I wasn’t not a fan either…It’s what was there, so I listened to it. I started listening to 89X once in a while, then. It was fun to hear nothing but new (to me) songs, but I still found myself going back to the AOR stations. I distinctly remember the events that lead to my “conversion” if you will to Alternative Rock. I had a run of insomnia for a few nights in a row, and I was listening to the radio to pass the time. I found that I could predict the songs in order at a certain point. The playlist was way too tight, way too predictable, and exactly predictable. The 2nd night, when I was able to predict the songs, I thought it was a fluke. The 3rd night, I was mad. The 4th night I switched. I was an “alternative rocker”. Then Nirvana happened, and everyone was an alt-rocker.
I remember the first Hip song that found its way into my consciousness. Little Bones. You can watch the official video here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPJ2rcYQC88) There was a line, or a set of lines that show up in the song that really got my attention:
For a hi-ball and a buck and a half
For a beer, happy hour
Happy hour, happy hour is here
later in the song…
Two-fifty for a decade
And a buck and half for a year happy hour
Happy hour, happy hour is here
And then finally…
Two-fifty for an eyeball
And a buck and a half for an ear happy hour,
Happy hour happy hour is here
Full lyrics to the song are available here: (https://www.google.com/#safe=off&q=little+bones+lyrics)
I was in, and little did I know “all-in” at that point. I know I started paying attention to TTH songs from then on. As I mentioned in the previous post, my first CD was Up To Here. I’ve been with them since.
I’m doing a really poor job, in my estimation, of relating why I love this band so much. Maybe it’s because their musical influences are very similar to mine. Maybe it’s because we’re all nearly the same age. Maybe they just effin’ rock. I have to confess to not always loving each release right out of the gate. I bought all of them as soon as they were released, and now, the entire catalog is still in regular rotation on my iPod. Yes, I still have an iPod. Some of the records took 2 or 3 listens for me to fall in love with them. I always managed to give them that many listens…One of the interesting things, in my opinion anyway, is the way that many of the songs are presented live versus the studio versions. Often times, the live versions are way more “rockin’”. That appealed to me. I recall an interview that lead guitarist Rob Baker gave for the release of the latest record, “Man Machine Poem” (not to be confused with the song Man Machine Poem from the previous release). He described that many times, the songs really found their legs “live” and that when he goes back to the studio versions of some of the songs in the live set list, they sound almost “small”. The band really crafted them over the years for the live show.
The music as I’ve mentioned a couple of times, is layered, and textured. If you look at their recording carrer as a whole, you can see the band grow up and age, if you will, as the guys got older too. In the mid-late 1980s they were a blues rock based bar band, not unlike myself. As they grew up as men and musicians, and also achieved more success the songwriting got more intricate and the storytelling better. It’s been a fun journey to be a part of.
I’ve been trying to think of what my favorite TTH album is. It’s been difficult. The cliché answer would be “the last one I’ve listened to.” I’d like to think I could give a better accounting of things than that. In many ways, my first TTH album is my favorite, Day for Night. It was my first collection. A strong case could be made for Fully Completely as well. It could easily be argued that the band was at its creative peak during this period (through the Trouble at the Henhouse record). In the run-up to the last concert of the last tour, there was a lot of discussion of this topic, and also of one’s favorite Hip album. The Internet seemed to agree on the Road Apples record. Of the 12 songs on that record, 7 of them have been a part of the Live Set for years. It’s hard to argue against that as the best. I listened to that record a couple of weeks ago, and just hit after hit, if you will (even though I feel that way about most of their recordsJ).
I was fortunate enough to be able to see them play live three times. The first time, was in late 1996 or early 1997 at Cobo Arena in Detroit, MI. This show was recorded, and released as “Live Between Us”. I like to tell people that this is where I made my recording debut. I was one of the 10,000 or so folks you can hear cheering between songs. J My 2nd Hip Show was at the House of Blues in Orlando in 1998 or 1999. This is a much more intimate venue than the show in Detroit. The Detroit show was a pretty standard arena rock show for that time period. The House of Blues venues is a couple of thousand people maximum. It was more like a club date. It was particularly exciting for me to see them there very close. The final show was in 2010 or so in Atlanta, Ga. Again a smaller venue, but a great show. The band really limited their US touring over the years, at least to places not near the Canadian border. There are pockets of Hip fans in several places, but not enough to make touring profitable. The band has released a full length concert DVD from a show in Toronto as part of a greatest hits package. The last show from the last tour (see post above) is still available on YouTube, as are several other sets.