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By Ron Stutts

The Music in My Head

By Ron Stutts Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm

The 80’s has never been my favorite decade for music. My favorite decade for music remains the 60’s and probably always will, for two really strong reasons. First of all, that’s the decade in which I came of age, and secondly, it truly was the best music ever made. I know you may feel differently, but that’s my truth, anyway. When the 80’s came along I was still more than a little bummed out by the disco-infested 70’s, and a lot of 80’s music just seemed a little blah for me. Oh, I would get excited about a particular artist or an outstanding song every now and then, but for the most part, the 80’s was a bit of a blur. A lot of that stuff just pounded in my brain. And as Jimmy Buffet once said, “I guess I never was meant for glitter rock and roll.” It all seemed to be about big hair and really loud, not particularly melodious guitars, accompanied by a lot of guys with high voices. So when I first heard about “Rock of Ages” coming to Durham Performing Arts Center, I wasn’t exactly enthralled. Then I started reading reviews of the show, and talked with someone who had actually seen it, and I decided it might be worth checking out. Then I did a phone interview with the performer who plays “Lonny” in the show (the narrator) and I was ready to go. And it’s always fun to go to DPAC and check out the show.

“Rock of Ages” is an original Broadway show that’s been a big hit wherever it’s been. They’ve performed it in front of appreciative audiences all over the country, and in several countries around the world. Now it was about to be shown in Durham! We went over for Opening Night. From jump street, “Rock of Ages” blew me away! It opens with a big image of David Coverdale, lead singer from Whitesnake, with his recorded announcement, welcoming everybody to the show. I can’t remember what he said, but I thought it was pretty clever, and it got the production off to a great start.

Often, musicals strike me as a little silly. A couple of characters can be having a normal conversation, and suddenly one of them breaks into song. Yeah, right. This show didn’t seem ridiculous, though. It was song after song, some I had long forgotten, performed by a talented cast, some accomplished musicians appearing as the house band in a music club on the Sunset Strip, and I was sold. This show was so good it took me right back to the 80’s when everybody had big hair (I could have done without a couple of mullets) and it was all about a pounding beat and rocking out at every opportunity. The story takes place in 1987, and by that time there had been lots of good tunes during the decade, and we heard maybe two dozen. Here’s one of my favorites from the night. Well, actually, here’s the original version of the song, by the original artist, but you get the picture.

Tunes by REO Speedwagon, Bon Jovi, Pat Benetar, Foreigner, and a lot of other famous 80’s groups were featured…Oh, and Journey. Lots of Journey. Listen, I’m aware that a lot of people ridicule Journey, especially the song, “Don’t Stop Believing.” My guess is because it’s been played to death on the radio. And “Don’t’ Stop Believing” has been performed by the cast of “Glee,” or so I’m told. I happen to like it, though, even if I came nowhere close to being “born and raised in South Detroit.” And it came at the perfect moment in the show.

What always made Journey different was the voice of Steve Perry. Nobody else ever sounded like that guy. You could hear his voice for about two seconds and know it was another Journey song coming on the radio, back in the day. And after he started recording on his own, he did a song that turned out to be sort of the showcase piece in “Rock of Ages,” partly because one of the main characters was a girl named Sherry. This is the song I just haven’t been able to get out of my head since I saw “Rock of Ages,” and that’s not all bad, since I happen to like this song, too. Here’s Steve Perry with “Oh, Sherry!”

“Rock of Ages” really rocked. Since we’re talking 80’s rock and roll here, it would have been better with some Guns ‘n Roses. And maybe a little Aerosmith and AC/DC. The 80’s decade is still not my favorite for music (or much of anything else, come to think of it) but there was enough good music to make it a fun experience for one night’s worth of remembering.

My question to you: What’s your favorite decade for music? And why? Tell me your favorite artists. I would love to hear from you because I’m always ready to talk about music!

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