Friday, October 19, 2012



October 19, 2012

On Saturday, September 15, 2012, 102.3-FM presented “KISS ON THE MOUNTAIN,” a three-hour radio special which celebrated the musical history of one of the most successful American rock bands of all-time. The show was done in conjunction with the group’s September 18 show at Montage Mountain in Scranton. We had a great time putting it together. And based on the feedback we received, we know a lot of people enjoyed it. In fact, thanks to the fact that info about the show was posted on the official KISS website and Facebook page, as well as some of the most popular KISS fan sites in the world, we knew we had people listening not just in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but also all around the globe.

We were also aware, however, that a show broadcast in Pennsylvania, USA, from 8-11 p.m. (EST) might not have been the best time for someone to listen in Australia, England, or Japan. And we also had some of our regional listeners tell us that they'd like to hear it again. Thus, in celebration of the recent release of KISS' new album, "Monster"  - which is currently the No. 1 album in Northeastern Pennsylvania - the entire "KISS ON THE MOUNTAIN" program is now also podcast. You can now listen to the entire radio special right here, commercial-free. And to make it even more convenient, we’ve broken it down into three segments.

What will you hear?

 1. Excerpts from a new 2012 interview with Gene Simmons, during which he talks about  “Monster,” as well as several other musical topics.

 2. Audio excerpts from archived newspaper interviews that I had done with the band dating back 18 years. They include conversations with Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss and Simmons from 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2011.

 3. Commentary on the music of KISS. I’ve been a fan since 1976, have interviewed the band more than dozen times, have written more than 35 articles about the group and have now seen them live 32 times. Thus, I had fun sharing a few stories.

 4. More than 30 songs from all eras of the band’s career. This includes the classics and some gems that you'll probably never hear anywhere else on the radio.

 What do Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley think guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer bring to the KISS lineup? What are Simmons' thoughts on the 2012 tour? And, from the archives, how did Stanley feel, in the early ‘90s, when the band suddenly became the inspiration to countless KISS tribute acts and began to receive long overdue critical acclaim? What were Ace Frehley’s and Peter Criss’ fondest memories of KISS?  What were Simmons' thoughts on the grunge movement and how it affected live performances, and how do both Simmons and Stanley feel about the legend of the KISS live show? What are Stanley's thoughts on the successful non-make-up era of the band, which saw KISS continue on as a platinum act? And how does Simmons feel about the loyalty often displayed by the group's fans?

 You can hear it all on the “KISS ON THE MOUNTAIN” radio special, as well as some of the band’s best songs. When discussing KISS, it’s easy to get caught up in the image, the innovative stage shows and all of the pomp, but KISS is a band that has sold 100 million records and has 28 gold albums.  It has a band that has recorded some fine rock and roll music, and this radio show, more than anything, is about that music.

You can hear the entire program simply by clicking on these three links. Just click on the image and that hour of the show will play:

Hour #1:

Hour #2:

Hour #3:

We hope you enjoy the show.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

'82 concert helped define 'Who' I am

Listening to you, I get the music
Gazing at you, I get the heat
Following you, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet ... "

- The Who, 1969

JFK Stadium: September 25, 1982

September 25, 2012

There are days in your life that, as time passes by, you realize helped define you as a person. They are those all-too-rare days that have such an incredible impact on you that, even years later, you are still well aware and appreciative of their significance. For me, one of those days was Sept. 25, 1982.

That was the day - exactly 30 years ago - that I attended my first rock concert.

That was the day I saw The Who play to more than 100,000 people at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.

And that was the day I experienced, perhaps for the first time, the power, the energy, the spirit and the beauty of rock 'n' roll.

And if were it not for that day, there's a very good chance I wouldn't have done a lot of the things that I've done over the past 20 years, such as serving as the music editor at The Times Leader, the editor of The Weekender, a music columnist at both papers and a DJ on 102.3-FM, The Mountain. Such work also led to the launch of the former "Concert For A Cause," which led me to the work that I do today with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Many important dots in my life can be connected to September 25, 1982.

Although it's been 30 years since that show, some of the memories remain as clear as the skies above on that gorgeous fall afternoon. I can still recall Roger Daltrey doing his trademark microphone toss high over his head, and the great Pete Townshend doing his patented guitar "windmills." 

(Yes, that old promo in The Weekender of yours truly doing a "windmill" - if you remember it - was my tribute to Townshend.)

I remember how the mammoth JFK stadium, which stood where the Wells Fargo Center now stands, was lined with British flags, and I can still recall some of the banners fans had brought into the facility.

Pete Townshend on the 1982 tour

 "Long Live Rock!" read one.

"Break the (expletive) guitar, Pete!" read another.

Townshend, who had stopped smashing guitars at that point in his career, unfortunately did not oblige. 

I remember my parents being kind enough to drive a friend and I to Philly to the concert. They knew how much I wanted to see the show, so they dropped their teenage son and his buddy off at JFK in the late morning, spent their day in the city, and picked us up after the show. I am still, to this day, appreciative.

I remember seeing opening acts Santana and The Clash, and I remember hearing on the car radio on the way to the show how a disturbed man named George Banks decided to kill 13 innocent people back in Wilkes-Barre earlier that morning. And although I was only 15 years old and extremely excited about going to my first concert, my thoughts also were on the tragedy back home throughout the day.

My biggest memory from the concert itself was simply being overwhelmed and awed by the sheer size of the crowd. I'd been to professional baseball games and football games before, but I'd never seen such an enormous sea of humanity as I did on that day. Nor have I ever seen one like it since. And it was all for music, and all for The Who, which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

 A seed was planted in that 15-year-old kid that day, and it was the glorious seed of rock 'n' roll. In the ensuing years, I bought almost all of The Who's albums, and with each one, I seemed to discover more and more of Pete Townshend's creative brilliance. I'd go to the "midnight movies" and watch films such as "The Kids Are All Right," "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia," and I became fascinated with the band's tough-as-nails image yet ultimately discerning music.

JFK Stadium, Philadelphia - September 25, 1982
I wore out a few cassette copies of "Who's Next" and "Who Are You," and my concert shirt that I bought at the show soon became equally worn.

Although The Who's 1982 road jaunt was billed as its "Farewell Tour," the band, thankfully, didn't keep its word. In 1989, the group was out commemorating the 20th anniversary of "Tommy," and in 1996, the band dusted off "Quadrophenia" and brought it to America's stages. I, of course, was in Philly again on both occasions. And I was able to catch them again in Hershey in 2002. Personally, I'm glad they didn't stick to their "farewell" words of three decades ago, and considering Townshend and Daltrey are still playing shows together and packing them in, apparently so are a lot of other people.

 In 1969, The Who, according to some, stole the show at "Woodstock."

 In 1985, The Who stole the show at "Live Aid."

 In 2001, The Who stole the show at "The Concert For New York."

And on Sept. 25, 1982, they stole a little bit of my heart. And every time I hear "Baba O'Riley," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Love, Reign O'er Me" or any of the band's incredible songs, I revisit that day just for a few moments. And it is during those moments that I again feel the power, the energy, the spirit and the beauty of rock 'n' roll.

It is then that I remember why I became at least a part of who I am.

It is then that I remember, with gratitude, how I got here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A 'Motley' mission accomplished

August 1, 2011

I've never really been one to try and go backstage at concerts. Considering I've covered literally hundreds of them over the past 19 years for The Times Leader and The Weekender, you'd think I'd have a wall of laminates in my collection. But I don't. If I had to guess, I'd say I've only gone backstage about 20 times over the years, and I've only done so when I was a big, longtime fan of the artist.

On Sunday night at Montage Mountain, with Motley Crue back in town, I ventured backstage for the first time in a few years. I'd known the band professionally for about 15 years, interviewed them many times, and even back in high school, I was the first kid on the school bus to blast their music. I saw them at Pocono Downs back in '87, at the old Spectrum in Philly, at the F.M. Kirby Center, at Montage a bunch of times, in Camden, N.J., and at the arena in Wilkes-Barre. On one occasion, as part of a radio contest, I even saw them play in somebody's backyard. In total, it's probably been about 10 times that I've caught them live.

On Sunday night, I was on a bit of a mission. And it was both personal and professional. And it all evolved around something that I doubt many of our readers even know: In 1999, I wrote the liner-notes to the entire Motley Crue CD catalog. And though I'm sometimes asked why my name is on all of their albums, and how it all came about, I don't think it's anything I've ever written about. So I'll explain ...

In late 1998, the band had played in Wilkes-Barre and I had done an interview with Vince Neil to advance the show. The story was also picked up by one of the national entertainment news wires and it ran in newspapers all across the United States. I'd also covered Motley's 1997 show in Philadelphia. In 1999, I got a call from the band's publicist telling me that the group really liked my stories on them, and they wanted to know if I would be willing to work with them on a new CD project and write their bio. Of course, I was.

The albums, titled "Crucial Crue," were the original Motley Crue albums, but were digitally-remastered and included special bonus tracks. They also included all new liner-notes written by me with the help of the band. For several days in the spring of 1999, I interviewed Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars on their recollections of various albums in their catalog. Those thoughts were then included on the new CDs. The band also credited me on each album. I sometimes joke that I might have to explain to St. Peter someday at the Pearly Gates why my name is on all of the Motley Crue albums. And I hope I get a pass. It was a lot of fun.

At the time of the project, Tommy Lee was in the band, but he never called when he was scheduled to do so for his interviews. Nobody knew why. Not even Nikki. I can still remember having phone conversations and e-mail exchanges with him where we both wondered what was going on. Eventually, with the deadline to finish the project approaching, Nikki filled in and covered all of the CDs that were originally assigned to Tommy. And it was just a few weeks later that we all learned that Tommy Lee had left Motley Crue.

"Well," I thought. "That explains that."

To the band's credit, ever since we worked on the project together, they've always treated this music columnist from Pennsylvania pretty good.  A few years back, when Motley played the arena in Wilkes-Barre, I had requested a phone interview, through the band's publicist, with Nikki, and was told he wasn't doing any one-on-one interviews with the press, just a group teleconference. I politely asked the publicist to tell Nikki it was me making the request. Soon, Nikki and I were chatting on the phone. And he gave me a great interview.    

I had also caught up with the band, sans Tommy, a few times around 1999 and 2000 while they were on tour. They were very nice. In fact, one year they sent a beautifully framed and autographed item commemorating CD sales of 30 million to the "Concert For Karen" rock auction. And when we met, Nikki, Mick and Vince all signed a copy of a "Dr. Feelgood" CD that I wrote the liner-notes for and the original story I wrote for the newspaper. But until yesterday, they were both still missing one signature: Tommy's.

Not any more.

He signed them both last night.

Though the "Crucial Crue" project was 12 years ago, they still hooked me up with a great pair of seats for last night's show and I was able to go back and say a quick hello to Mr. Sixx, who said he remembered the project well. And while Tommy was keeping to himself or roaming about somewhere else in the backstage area, the band's tour manager - who was also aware of the "Crucial Crue" project - asked him sign my two items. And he happily obliged.

Motley mission accomplished. "Crucial Crue," to me - after 12 years - is now complete. And maybe that's why, to me, "Dr. Feelgood" sounded particularly great last night.

Thanks, Crue.

It's always good to see ya.