Friday, June 5, 2015

Heavy Metal Memories: Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force

I drove into work today as the sun was rising, and for some reason, it brought back memories of a longer commute set to the soundtrack of Yngwie Malmsteen's debut album Rising Force, when I lived in New Jersey and rode the train to my job in New York City every day. 

Back then, I was quite the creature of habit: I parked in the same spot at the Little Silver rail station, bought the same type of coffee (cream + 2 sugars) and a buttered roll. I boarded the train to the same car (the second), and always sat halfway up the car, in a right hand window seat. I had a cheesy cassette tape deck then - not quite a Sony Walkman, which cost more than I could afford - and as soon as the train doors slid shut, I'd start whichever tape I'd selected for the ride.

Little Silver rail station

For a long time, I listened to either Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, or KISS during the commute. They've been my favorite bands for as long as I can remember. In early 1985, someone gave me a cassette for a new band from a Swedish wunderkind named Yngwie Malmsteen, who could make a guitar do things I'd never heard before. He had a knack for translating classical compositions to appeal to a heavy metal crowd. The Monday after receiving the cassette, I popped it into my player, stuck my foam headphones over my ears, hit "play," and dove into a surreal musical experience. 



Blistering guitar, coaxing notes out of thin air in accompaniment to soaring vocals and a driving beat. 

Melancholy guitar, piercing to the heart and drawing out every longing secreted there. 

Majestic guitar, bringing a Greek tragedy to life, from soaring heights to the final, fatal plummet.  

Eight songs opened my ears to a new world of metal; one that folds classical themes into rockin' chords; turns guitars into playgrounds for Bach and Paganini; used keyboards to recall towering cathedral organs, with heavy thumping bass and drums adding their own intricate beats.

Prior to the release of Rising Force, few metal bands incorporated classical music into their sound. The most notable include Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orchestra, composed by legendary keyboardist Jon Lord. His iconic bandmate, Ritchie Blackmore, also infused classical undertones into his work with Rainbow, and his current solo work. Uli Jon Roth and the late Randy Rhoads also embraced their classical influences, but back in 1985, no one had fully immersed himself into this unconventional blend as much as Yngwie Malmsteen. Every song on Rising Force features his unique style, and the track Evil Eye includes a fiery "duel" between guitar and keyboards that still makes my hands hurt.

Neo-Classical Metal Master

Yngwie helped launch a musical genre known as neo-classical metal, and was quickly followed by talented guitarists, like Tony Macalpine, Joey Tafolla and Jason Becker, and bands like Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The incredible Jason Becker. Please check out his amazing story HERE.

However, Yngwie will always be my first choice. Rising Force was my soundtrack for those long commutes to and from New York City in 1985. During the sleepy morning rides, the songs helped fully wake me up and brace for the coming day. During the exhausted evening rides, they helped keep me going until I arrived at my destination.

In my memories, one song stands out among the rest. I don't know whether it's an uncanny coincidence, or the Universe moves in mysterious ways, but Icarus Dream Suite, Opus 4 always came on when the train pulled out of South Amboy on its northward journey. From my seat, I'd watch the sun break the horizon, warm rays reaching up to light the sky, and I could envision Icarus' exhilaration over his incredible flight toward the sun, and the helpless terror he felt when his wings melted.

South Amboy sunrise

Which brings me back to my drive to work this morning. 

I glimpsed the sun's rays as they reached up to warm the morning sky, and suddenly, the delicate interplay between guitar and keyboards in Incarus Dream Suite, Opus 4 filled my consciousness, transporting me back to a time when I was young and the world was a buffet, waiting to be devoured. 

I'm still hungry.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fun with Lyle Richardson on today's CCPT Hockey Show

Those of you who know me, know I co-host a hockey podcast (CCPT Hockey Show) with my friend Cassie. I'd say we do it weekly, but sometimes we skip a week or 3 for various reasons. Today, we were joined by great hockey mind and good friend Lyle Richardson from Spector's Hockey.

Here's the link from the podcast:
http://ccpthockey.blogspot.com/2015/05/sunday-may-17-special-guest-lyle.html

Happy 9th Anniversary, Spector's Hockey!!!!


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Heavy Metal Memories: On the Radio

There's been a long, dry spell in my writing efforts. I've had plenty of ideas, but for some reason, the pathway between my brain and my hands seemed to be cut off with no detour in sight. I'm slowly getting back on track, although I can't seem to get my thoughts out in coherent fashion for the two novels currently "in progress," so I'm using this space for a smaller-scale writing exercise, in which I share random memories from my somewhat long and eventful life (eventful to me, at least).

Here's the first in a series I'm calling HEAVY METAL MEMORIES:

ON THE RADIO. When I moved to New Jersey from Germany in 1983, I decided to pursue interests I'd never had the courage to pursue in high school. I got a job answering phones at the music publishing arm of a major record label in NYC. I joined a heavy metal band as their lead singer. I paid for the privilege to host a 30-minute heavy metal radio show that aired down the Jersey shore (and parts of NYC) on Monday nights at midnight. The company that made this possible was called NBS (I still have my ID card somewhere). I taped the show on Saturday mornings at 10am, at their studios in midtown Manhattan. Each week, I carefully compiled my playlist, buying or borrowing albums to lug up to New York on the North Jersey Coast Line train. I think I had enough time to play 3 to 5 songs, plus two 30-second PSA's. I recorded those PSA's on carts and engineered my own show. I learned to end each show with an instrumental, which is easier to fade out than an actual song, should I mistime my show. (I ended a lot of shows with "Dee" by Randy Rhoads, "Switch 625" by Def Leppard, and the intro to "Crazy Train," by Ozzy).

(My studio at NBS Radio in 1984 looked a lot like this)

During this time, I met a guy named Eddie, who rode my train in the mornings. He told me about a record label called MegaForce, that sold records at a year-round indoor flea market on Route 18 in New Brunswick. I drove there one weekend and met MegaForce owners Jon and Marsha Zazula, who, once I told them about my radio show, sent me off with albums from several bands they had on their roster so far: Kill 'Em All by Metallica, All for One by Raven, Fistful of Metal by Anthrax, and TT Quick's debut album. I devoured these albums and shared them with my listeners. When Metallica's second album came out, I was one of very few radio DJ's to receive a copy. I think I played Ride the Lightning in its entirety, over several weekends. (Side note: Heavy metal was garnering more interest at this time, and Bob Cutarella, one of the A&R people I worked with at PolyGram (Chappell-Intersong, to be exact) asked me whether I knew any bands that might interest him. Thinking immediately of Metallica, Raven and Anthrax, I introduced him to Jonny Z. The two of them chatted and, the next thing I knew, Bob and Jonny had gotten deals for Metallica (Elektra Records), Raven (Atlantic Records) and Anthrax (Island Records). I am NOT claiming any responsibility whatsoever for any of this, because the bands were so awesome, it was only a matter of time before Jonny wrangled deals like this on his own. I'm just tickled to have been able to facilitate one introduction that yielded such great results, especially for Metallica.)

(The eternally ageless Marsha & Jon Zazula. founders of MegaForce Records)

(Kill 'Em All For One tour t-shirt, 1983)

(Thrilled to have been one of a few radio deejays to play this album first)

As MegaForce Records expanded and opened a record store, Rock 'n Roll Heaven in Clark, New Jersey, I was given access to more bands and albums. I took to giving Rock 'N Roll Heaven a shout out in each week's show, giving special thanks to store manager Brian Nyers, who is one of the most nicest people around. I played bands like Venom, Manowar, White Lion, Battalion and Talas, as well as giants like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy and Black Sabbath. I went to some great shows at Roseland Ballroom, L'Amour in Brooklyn and L'Amour East in Queens, and talked about them. I interviewed bands like Talas (Billy Sheehan's group) and Loudness (from Japan, with lots of interpretation from their Irish manager).

(Loudness, circa 1984)

(I still have this poster. Metallica, circa 1984)

The fun ride lasted about a year and a half, before NBS went out of business. I had a great time sharing metal with listeners up and down the north Jersey coast and was sad when it ended, but had no desire to pursue a radio career. My passion lay in writing, and I was fortunate to land a gig writing for Hard Rocks, a short-lived but awesome offshoot of The Aquarian Weekly. I met some incredible people, some of whom are still in my life; and enjoyed some incredible music by countless bands, some who flared brightly for an album or two before fading away, while others are still going strong. MegaForce Records continues to support rockin' music, with Jon & Marsha still at the helm. Their #1 person, Maria Ferrero, runs her own PR firm (Adrenaline PR) and management company (Breaking Bands LLC). Bob Cutarella is a highly-respected music producer in LA. Metallica, Raven and Anthrax are still going strong. Brian is living a quiet life but is active on Facebook. Sadly, L'Amour, L'Amour East and Roseland Ballroom are no more. I don't even know whether there are any clubs left in the New York City or tri-state area that cater to heavy metal bands.

(RIP, L'Amour, Rock Capital of Brooklyn)

(The indomitable Ms. Maria Ferrero)

I smile when I think about my time as a radio DJ. Most of my listeners were guys and they never remembered my name. I was known as "The Chick that Plays Metal." I had cassette copies of every show, but sadly, like the metal clubs mentioned above, they met a tragic demise. All that remains are memories, which may or may not make it into one of my novels. Writing about this experience has given me some ideas, though, so as they say in show business, stay tuned.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The punch seen 'round the world leads to backlash against... RAY RICE'S WIFE??

(Janay & Ray Rice/AP Photo)


The latest turn of events in the Ray Rice saga stunned... no, shocked me, and I'm not talking about the video released by TMZ this morning, nor his subsequent contract termination by the Baltimore Ravens or suspension from the NFL.

What I found even more shocking than the punch seen around the world, were the reactions of many people, predominantly women, vilifying Janay Rice for not only taking the beating, but marrying him. Many critics were not sympathetic toward Janay; in fact, she's being called everything from "desperate" and an "idiot," to "gold digger," using her husband's fat paycheck to ease the pain from a fat lip (and other myriad injuries). Even people I thought I knew well had harsh words for Janay, saying she was as much to blame for the elevator altercation as her Pro Bowl husband because she hit him, too.

Now, I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors in the Rice household. I don't know whether the elevator incident was an "isolated" one. Some comments accused the media of fueling a one-sided story by airing the video, using it to condemn Ray Rice and "bully" the Ravens into cutting him loose.  Others are questioning why the extra video is only coming to light now, instead of months ago, along with the snippet seen by millions - showing Ray dragging an apparently unconscious Janay out of the elevator by her hair.

Take ten seconds and go back and read that last sentence. Go ahead. I'll wait. 

The video showed Ray Rice dragging his apparently unconscious then-fiancee out of an elevator. BY. HER. HAIR

This could hardly be considered an an act of love and concern on behalf of a besotted young man. The sight of a man dragging a woman by the hair sends a very clear message: HE's ANGRY and SHE's PAYING THE PRICE.

And yet, several things happened as a result of the original video clip:
  1. Both Ray and Janay were arrested and charged with domestic violence
  2. They held a join press conference where both apologized for their roles in the "incident."
  3. Janay married Ray, a man she has known and loved since they were 16 year old high school students.
The fact that Janay married Ray seems to lie at the root of 85% of the backlash against her. There's also the fact that she's seen pushing him before he punches her so hard, she hits her head on a railing inside the elevator and is knocked unconscious. Oh, and she was also arrested, so it's just as much her fault as his (another popular assertion).

So... am I being hypersensitive about this? Am I bandying about the term "domestic violence" a little too freely? Am I reading too much into Janay's body language from the joint press conference and seeing a woman who is firmly under her husband's thumb; a man she's been with since the tender age of 16? Is she really a gold digger, overlooking his apparently violent temper for his multi-million dollar salary, jewelry, a nice house, fancy cars and all the perks that come with being an "NFL Wife?" Is she pushing his anger buttons because she has become addicted to his temper?

Or... is Janay Rice a victim, whose husband has had years (decades) to groom her, chip away at her confidence and bend her to his will? Is she feeling useless and trapped, unable to stand up to her famous husband, especially not with a toddler in the house? Is she feeling as though she cannot make it on her own, in spite of a communications degree from Towson University? Does she look in the mirror and see a failure, blaming herself even for the newest video released today and for her husband losing his job without even a glimmer of hope he'll ever play professional football again? Is she afraid he'll blame her, too, and take it out not just on her, but on their little girl?

Whenever I think about this situation, I try to place my mind in an impartial state, but my gut keeps seeing that brief clip of Ray dragging an unconscious Janay out of the elevator by her hair, and just like that, it's difficult to be impartial.

The majority of men who took to social media today seem to agree. Current and former NFL players came down on Ray Rice like the proverbial ton of bricks. Many fans called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to step down, accusing him and the Ravens' front office personnel of trying to cover up the severity of the so-called "altercation," then expressing surprise when TMZ posted the incriminating video this morning. Several sports pundits, including a couple of former NFL coaches, vented their outrage "as fathers." Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he and Ray had talked a lot since the first video emerged and expressed hope the couple would work their way through this, together, and come out stronger for it.

I've never been in an abusive relationship. 
I know people who have been in very abusive relationships. 
Some were able to leave and not look back. 
Some look over their shoulders all the time. 
Some have gone back to their abusers, over and over... and over again. 
Some remain in troubled relationships because they just can't leave right now, because they're afraid, because of the kids, because they have no support system, because, because because. 
Some of these people have very successful careers. 
Some of these people would make you shake your head in disbelief and say, "Her? NO WAY is she a domestic violence victim!" 


Is Janay Rice a victim? No matter how incriminating that video looks, only she knows for sure, and she's not telling, at least not right now. If she is, we can only hope she finds her voice before it's too late.


If you're reading this and you ARE in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, call the 
National Domestic Violence Hotline for immediate help, 24/7: 
800-799-7233  

Or-- visit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence for more resources: www.wscadv.org
(Please, make sure you're in a safe place or using a phone your abuser cannot access)

If you know me and want someone to talk to before making any decisions, either for yourself or someone you're concerned about, get in touch with me via Facebook or Twitter (@Motley_Su or @TaoOfSu) - or have someone get in touch with me on your behalf if you don't feel safe reaching out. You're not alone and you do not have to go through this alone. 



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mariners' anthem memory

 
Two years ago this week, THIS happened.

 
On May 9, 2012, I had the honor of performing the National Anthem at the Seattle Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers game at Safeco Field. The date is pretty special, because it was the day after the anniversary of my mother's passing (May 8, 1991). For those of you who know me, you also know my mother was a huge baseball fan and a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees.

At the beginning of the 2012 season, I sent the Mariners a clip of me singing at a Seattle Thunderbirds game with no expectations. Imagine my surprise (shock) when they emailed to book me (!) and offered these dates: May 7, 8 or 9.

I don't believe in coincidences.

After a long and somewhat tearful conversation with my sister Kimberly, I selected May 9. We both felt performing on May 8, the actual date of our mother's passing, might prove to be too emotional. I had a terrible sound check (seriously - I started way too high and was intimidated by the players who were taking batting practice on the field). The three-hour wait that followed only served to ratchet my anxiety into orbit.

Then, something weird happened.

As I stepped onto the field to sing, a sense of calm washed over me. I stepped up to the mic - and sang. I didn't fall apart until I finished singing and walked off the field and into my family's waiting arms. We then enjoyed watching the M's beat the Tigers 2-1.
 
I'm so thankful to the Seattle Mariners for helping make one of my anthem dreams come true... and thankful to my friend Elaine, who recorded it on her phone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WHL US Division well-represented in NHL playoffs... plus Seattle's "Golden Boy" TJ Oshie

 
Fans of WHL's US Division teams have a number of teams to cheer for in the first round of the NHL playoffs. But if you're not a diehard fan and want to know who to follow, I've done the legwork for you. Below are players from WHL US Division teams whose NHL teams are in the battle for Lord Stanley's Cup. 

In addition, one of the Seattle-area's homegrown stars, TJ Oshie, is shaking off an injury in an attempt to help lead the St. Louis Blues in the Cup chase.

Take a look at the list of players below. Let me know if I've left anyone out. And may your team win the Cup (if your team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, that is).

TJ Oshie - product of Seattle Junior Hockey Association


 
Brenden Dillon (2007-2011) - Dallas Stars (v. Anaheim Ducks)

 
Patrick Marleau (1995-1997) – San Jose Sharks (v. Los Angeles Kings)
 
Cory Sarich (1998) – Colorado Avalanche (v. Minnesota Wild)
 
 Nate Thompson (2001-2005) – Tampa Bay Lightning (v. Montreal Canadiens)

 
Radko Gudas  (2009-2010) – Tampa Bay Lightning (v. Montreal Canadiens)

 
Ryan Murray (2008-2013) – Columbus Blue Jackets (v. Pittsburgh Penguins)

 
Note: Former Silvertips Head Coach Craig Hartsburg is Columbus Blue Jackets’ Assistant Coach
Carey Price (2002-2007) – Montreal (v. Tampa Bay Lightning)

 
Clayton Stoner  (2002-2005) – Minnesota Wild (v. Colorado Avalanche)
 


Tyler Johnson (2007-2011) – Tampa Bay Lightning (v. Montreal Canadiens)
 

Darcy Kuemper (2007 - one game) –  Minnesota Wild (v. Colorado Avalanche)
 
Jared Spurgeon (2005-2010) – Minnesota Wild (v. Colorado Avalanche)
 
Ray Whitney (1988-1991) – Dallas Stars (v. Anaheim Ducks)
 
Note: Former Chiefs Head Coach Mike Babcock is Detroit Red Wings’ Head Coach
Note: Former Chiefs Assistant and Head Coach Bill Peters is Detroit Red Wings’ Assistant Coach
 Braydon Coburn (2000-2005) - Philadelphia Flyers (v. New York Rangers)

Brandon Dubinsky (2002-2006) – Columbus Blue Jackets (v. Pittsburgh Penguins)


Marian Hossa  (1997-1998) – Chicago Blackhawks (v. St. Louis Blues)

 
Ryan Johansen (2009-2011) – Columbus Blue Jackets (v. Pittsburgh Penguins )
 
Cody McLeod (2001-2005) – Colorado Avalanche (v. Minnesota Wild)
 
Brenden Morrow (1995-1999) – St. Louis Blues (v. Chicago Blackhawks)


Nino Niederreiter (2009-2011) – Minnesota Wild (v. Colorado Avalanche)


Luca Sbisa (2010) – Anaheim Ducks (v. Dallas Stars)

Colton Sceviour (2004-2008) – Dallas Stars (v. Anaheim Ducks)


 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Puckpourri: T-Birds love, 'Tips news, two ooh's + one OMG GWG

T-BIRDS LOVE
The Seattle Thunderbirds proved to be no match for the CHL-leading Kelowna Rockets, losing all four games in their WHL playoffs second round match-up. The T-Birds showed some flashes of brilliance, but unfortunately, the Rockets shined just a bit brighter, winning 3 of 4 games pretty handily: 6-2, 6-3, -5-4, 5-2. 

(Photo: Kelowna Rockets/WHL)

I'm not going to try to wrap up the season. That's definitely not my strong suit. I will say this: I thoroughly enjoyed myself this season, both as a fan and as an anthem singer. T-Birds fans are incredibly friendly, supportive and loyal. AND they sing along. I can't wait to see what next season brings.

In the meantime, here are write-ups from hockey minds I respect and admire:

Thom Beuning (The "Voice of the T-Birds"): The Last Harrumph
Andy Eide (T-Birds writer for MyNorthwest.com): T-Birds season ends with 5-2 loss to Rockets in Game 4

Player notes:

The team and fans said goodbye to Mitch Elliot, who wrapped up his fifth and final season. He played his entire WHL career with the T-Birds, which is a bit of a rarity in these times. He played in a total of 322 regular season games, scored 14 goals and had 20 assists. He played in 16 playoff games, scored 1 goal (against the Everett Silvertips in Game 5 of this year's playoffs), and had 2 assists. I had the chance to sit and chat with Mitch, his parents and his billet parents. That story will post very soon. I will say this about Mitch - he's a class act, and I expect this young man to succeed at whatever he puts his mind to doing.

(Mitch Elliot/Photo: Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL)


Captain Justin Hickman signed an ATO with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (the Islanders' AHL team). Here's the release. I wonder whether former T-Birds Captain Thomas Hickey (current d-man for the Isles) will be able to offer any tips.


(Justin Hickman/Photo: Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL)

D-man Shea Theodore has been called up to the Norfolk Admirals (the Ducks' AHL team). Here's the release.
(Shea Theodore/Photo: Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL)
'TIPS NEWS
The Everett Silvertips have got to be proud of goaltender Austin Lotz, who made the NHL Central Scouting Service's final rankings of North American goaltenders prior to the Entry Draft in June. Lotz came in at number 22 of the top 30 goalies. By all accounts, Austin had a stellar season: 57 games played, Record: 31W (including 5 shutouts), 18L, 3OTL, 2SOL. His GAA was 2.53 and SV% WAS 0.905%.
(Austin Lotz/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)
 
Player notes:
Captain Matt Pufahl signed an ATO with the Lake Erie Monsters (the Avs' AHL team). Here's the release. The d-man will protect former enemy opponent, former T-Birds goalie Calvin Pickard.
 
(Matt Pufahl/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)

Josh Winquist and Jujhar Khaira have joined the Oklahoma City Barons (the Oilers' AHL team). JJ signed a contract with Edmonton over the summer, while Josh signed an ATO. (Side note: The Silvertips Booster Club has this neat thing they do every year - they match each member up with a player in a "secret pal" program. The pals deliver good cheer to their players throughout the season, along with gift cards. At the end of the regular season, they host a party where the pals and players finally meet, and the pal gives his/her player one last gift. I was proud to be JJ's secret pal this season, although I couldn't make it to the reveal party because of a prior commitment. I'm told he thoroughly enjoyed his gift, a mounted photo of him in action against the Winterhawks, snapped by awesome photographer Chris Mast. I wish JJ the best of luck with the Barons and beyond).
 
(Jujhar Khaira/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)
 
(Josh Winquist/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)

Mirco Mueller has been called up to the Worcester Sharks (San Jose's AHL team). The Sharks drafted him 18th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Read about all three players here.
(Mirco Mueller/Photo: Mast Images/Everett Silvertips)


TWO OOH'S
Marc-Andre Fleury (Pens):  incredible flip to deny Red Wing Daniel Alfredsson in the shootout the other night.



Kris Letang (Pens): suffered a stroke six weeks ago. Wednesday night, he laced 'em up and hit the ice for the first time and played like he'd never left. I won't lie - seeing him back in the game makes me nervous, but as friends (and Tanger himself) pointed out, a stroke could hit at any time, no matter what he's doing. Why not at least be doing what he loves? I can't argue with that.


(Kris Letang/Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins/Getty)

Jonathan Quick (Kings): Kings fans know what a class act Jonathan Quick is - now, the entire nation knows. Watch what happened when he surprised a young fan on the Ellen Show:



OMG GWG
Justin Holl (University of Minnesota): This kid waited until the final 6 seconds of the final 4 of the Frozen Four to score his very first goal of the season. And what a goal! Holl's shot lifted the Golden Gophers over the UND Fighting Sioux team to land in the championship game against Union College, who beat Boston College Thursday. That game takes place tomorrow (Saturday, April 12) at 7:30pm ET on ESPN.



Talk about the ultimate buzzer-beater.