The Monks’ “Black Monk Time” is an Album I Want to Be Buried With

Imagine, if you will, a group of U.S. servicemen, who are stationed in Germany in the mid-1960’s, who eventually decide to form a band.  They record one album, make a television appearance on a German TV show, and then they disappear for nearly three decades.

Yet that one album has become a major influence for hundreds of punk, pop, metal and rock artists, and you can hear the experimental, energetic sounds of a new musical movement.  Right there in the proto-beats and rhythmic chants.

Meet the Monks.

No, not Benedictine monks.  These Monks apparently took a vow of energy.  And they pumped it into their guitars, drums, organs and banjos.

And the one album they recorded – a German-only pressing called Black Monk Time – is absolutely amazing.

And the first single that was released from Black Monk Time, “Complication,” sounds like it was a textbook studied by nearly every 70’s punk and 80’s dark wave band.  Not bad for a track that was recorded in 1965.

Your eyes do not deceive you.  They are actually wearing tonsure hairstyles, similar to those worn by your average stereotypical Friar Tuck-style monk.  Add some black clothing and noose-like neckties, and the image is complete.

And if you want to see what the Monks actually sounded like in front of a live audience, you’re in luck.  The Monks appeared on a German music television show in 1966, and we have this raucous appearance by them, captured on videotape for all to enjoy.

Here’s a non-album track, “Monk Chant,” followed by the track “How To Do Now,” as performed on the German show Beat Club.

I know.  Mind blown, right?

You want to hear this album?

Crank up the speakers and enjoy.

Meanwhile, I’m going to cram this LP into my afterlife listening library.  Because, if nothing else, the music from these Monks could certainly wake the dead.

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You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1967 Broadway Soundtrack) is an Album I Want To Be Buried With

Last night, I took some “Chuck time” and watched a drama club performance of the classic You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown at Heatly School in Green Island.  It was a fun show, and it reminded me of all the moments of participating in grade school and high school and college theater projects.

It also reminded me of how much fun and joy the original Broadway musical – and its soundtrack – brought every time I heard it.  And mind you, I’m a big Peanuts fan, so watching this show actually made me feel quite nostalgic.

In fact, for some vague reason, I remember seeing an auditorium high school performance of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown way back in 1972 as a third grader at Corinth Elementary School (school #5 on the list of the Twelve).  And because I remembered my relatives having this soundtrack album and playing it often around the house, I was able to sing along with all the classic tracks – “Suppertime” and “Happiness” and “My Blanket and Me” – well, I got about half a lyric out of my mouth before my teacher, Mrs. Grippe, who was sitting next to me, told me to shush for the remainder of the performance.

And, in my not-so-humble opinion, I appreciated shows like You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in that they allowed students the chance to appreciate theater and the arts.  And once you go down that route, once you fall down the rabbit hole of drama, many things happen to you.

You develop a strong memory – I mean, how else do you learn your lines so that they’re script-perfect every performance?

You develop commitment to rehearsals and doing the best job possible.

You develop strong communication and interpersonal skills, working with your co-stars and your director.

And you also learn that there are many different components to a successful performance – everything from lighting to stage managing, from costume design to prop construction.

And all those skills – both personal and interpersonal – will help kids in their future dreams, designs, dedications and determinations.

I know there’s a 1999 soundtrack that has new songs and new performances, and I’m sure that’s why when I watched the Heatly School drama club perform this show, there were songs they performed that I did not remember from this soundtrack album.  That’s fine.  Their version is for their generation, this version is for mine.

So I hope you’ll excuse me as I find room in the afterlife jukebox to add this classic LP to the post-mortem playlist.

If I can take anything with me to the next great journey, at least I can have these great songs and a ton of fantastic memories.

Blotto’s “Combo Akimbo” is an Album I Want To Be Buried With

I have great memories of this 1983 LP.  I was a student at Hamilton College at that time, and spent most of my academic life at the college radio station, WHCL.  We must have played this record to death, based on several of the LP’s powerful tracks.  And believe me, there were plenty of big hits from this LP to go around.

Right off the bat, you had the heavy metal spoof “Metal Head,” which featured a guitar solo from Buck Dharma of Blue Öyster Cult, and three – count ’em, THREE – false endings.

There was also the “this workplace sucks the life out of its employees, and I’m getting out before it’s too late” song, also better known as “I Quit.”  Note: this song was actually released as a single in Canada, when tracks from Combo Akimbo and Blotto’s two previous EP’s were released as one compilation LP.

Combo Akimbo also contained the Blotto 7″ single “When The Second Feature Starts,” which was produced by legendary producer Bob Clearmountain.

And finally, there was the spoof song that laid to waste all the James Bond motion picture themes.  In fact, five years ago some intrepid video editor combined clips from Bond films to create an ersatz music video for “Goodbye, Mr. Bond.”  Funny stuff.

Listen, folks, I enjoy me some Blotto.  Always have, always will.  And normally, I would have written today’s blog post at any time, on any day.

I’m writing it today in memory of someone who worked with Blotto, who recently passed away.

If you look at the album cover at the top of this blog post, you can see that the five members of Blotto at the time – clockwise from top left; Sarge, F Lee Harvey, Broadway, Bowtie and Cheese Blotto – have their collective heads poking through a large-scale drawing.  The artist who drew that cover art?  John Caldwell, the local cartoonist who also worked at MAD Magazine and who had a serialized Far Side-like single-panel comic strip in the Times Union.

Sadly, John Caldwell passed away last night at the age of 69.  Thoughts and prayers to his his family and friends and to all who knew him and who enjoyed his work.

And yes, this little touch of artwork to Albany’s legendary independent band.

Another great song to take with me on whatever future journeys I will take.

Stevie Wonder’s “Hotter Than July” is an Album I Want to Be Buried With

The other night, I had a pleasant surprise.  Up popped a commercial for some Apple product or whatever, and I saw – good Lord, it’s Stevie Wonder!

Wow.  Stevie Wonder still sounds great.  And since his first hit, “Fingertips (Part 2)” was #1 on the pop charts the moment I popped ONTO the hospital chart, I’ve always had a kinship and affinity and appreciation and enjoyment of Stevie Wonder’s music.

So I thought about all the albums he’s recorded over the years – and if I had to take one Stevie Wonder LP with me to the other world, which one would I take?

Songs in the Key of Life?  Maybe.

Fulfillingness’ First Finale?  Possible.

Talking Book?  It’s a thought.

The Secret Life of Plants?  Maybe not that one.

And it occurred to me.  My favorite Stevie Wonder album of all time… the one in which every single song is a masterpiece…

Hotter Than July.

Come on, right off the top this LP has three amazing tracks – the debut single “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” the soulful and wistful ballad “Lately,” and the bouncy and joyful ode to Martin Luther King Jr., “Happy Birthday.”

Don’t believe me?  Here’s a memory refresher course.

Yeah, that warms you up, doesn’t it?

Now follow that with this beautiful song, “Lately” –

Awesome…

Just for the heck of it, I’ll toss in his country-R&B track “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” here –

Along with the song “Cash In Your Face,” where Stevie sings (using two different inflections of his voice) about housing discrimination.

And his amazing tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., “Happy Birthday.”

Actually, that last track got me in a bit of trouble in college.  Let me explain.

It was January 1983, and I was finishing up my college radio shift.  I knew that my shift coincided with Martin Luther King’s birthday, so I went through the WHCL archives and I found an old 1963 LP of King reciting his “I Have a Dream” speech.  I played the track, then I followed it up with Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday.”

Nice touch.  I turned on the microphone, read a public service announcement, and went to the next song.

About two minutes later, I received a phone call from Mark Pisani, who – like me – figuratively lived at the radio station inbetween classes.   “Chuck, that wasn’t funny,” he said.

“What are you talking about?”

“That little thing you just did.”

“Okay, now I’m confused.  I played Stevie Wonder with Martin Luther King’s speech.  What’s the problem?”

“You could have picked a different PSA.  Very tacky on your part.”

And it was at that moment – I realized I had read a public service announcement about checking for health risks, including diabetes – which could cause blindness.  And some people might have taken that PSA as me joking about Stevie Wonder’s blindness, which was a million miles away from my original intent.

Yeah.  My bad.  Trust me, when I wrote this blog post, I originally wrote after Stevie’s Apple commercial, “Stevie Wonder still looks good.”  And I crossed that out and rewrote that sentence – just because of my faux pas at WHCL 30+ years ago.

Be that as it may, though…  I’m adding Hotter Than July to the afterlife playlist.  It’s a fantastic album and you would do well to hear it for yourself.

Midnight Oil’s “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” is an Album I Want To Be Buried With

It’s the spring of 1983, and I’m finishing up my sophomore year at Hamilton College.  The running joke at Hamilton was that if you wanted to find Chuck Miller anywhere on campus, look first at the campus radio station, then at the college computer center, and then after that if you haven’t found him, he might be in class.

Well, I was at the college radio station, WHCL, when I received a “care package” from my mobile DJ friend in Australia, Jim McCaslin.  In that package was an LP by a group that was completely unfamiliar to me, a surf-punk band named Midnight Oil.  McCaslin told me that this group would completely blow me away.

So I dropped a needle on the record.

And he was right.

In the late 70’s / early 80’s, you had a ton of protest rock out there – the Clash and Black Flag both come to mind.  Midnight Oil had its own angry songs, and on their album 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, many of those songs were about subjects that weren’t normally subjects for pop songs – rampant consumerism (“Power and the Passion”), the wealth and caste system (“Short Memory”, “Read About It”), and United States imperialism (“U.S. Forces”, “Only the Strong”).

Wow.

Hard-driving beats; angry guitars; lead singer Peter Garrett’s impassioned voice on every song.  Just stellar.  And when you realize that this was the album that helped spur Midnight Oil toward the international stage, you can hear the starting point behind the Oils’ biggest songs in their careers – you know, “Beds are Burning” and “Blue Sky Mine” and “The Dead Heart.”

And Peter Garrett, the leader of this angry surf-punk band?  He later ran for – and was elected to – the Australian Parliament.  How about that.

This is the entire Midnight Oil album from first track to last.  Definitely worth enjoying, and if I have to place in the coffin an angry rock record that decries American military bases in sovereign waters, followed by a dance track about rampant waste and consumerism and the loss of native culture…

… then I’ll certainly take this LP and find a space in the casket for it.

ABC’s “The Lexicon of Love” is an Album I Want to Be Buried With

During the early 1980’s, I enjoyed listening to a ton of British new wave and new romantic pop music, and a pop group whose music sneaked up on me and caught my attention was the band ABC.  With soulful lyrics from Martin Fry and production work by Trevor Horn and the members of Art of Noise, ABC’s debut album The Lexicon of Love was just an amazing debut recording.  Almost every lyric was written with multiple rhymes in the most unexpected places; almost every orchestration showed the influence of 1960’s pop production and three-minute orchestral symphonies.

This was the album that produced the amazing hits “The Look of Love” and “Poison Arrow,” and romantic ballads like the wistful “All Of My Heart.”  It was almost too perfect an album; while ABC would have other Top 40 hits, including “When Smokey Sings” and “Be Near Me,” they never had another album that reached the sonic stratosphere of The Lexicon of Love.

While “The Look of Love” was the group’s debut single in the United States…

They already had established a European hitmaking beachhead with the song “Poison Arrow”; here’s an extended dance mix of that song.

And then they followed that up with a beautiful ballad called “All of My Heart.”

Maybe Martin Fry wasn’t the second coming of a New Romantic David Bowie; maybe he thought that debut album pigeonholed the band into being a New Romantic gold-lame tuxedo-wearing poptop band. Probably explains that when the band made their second album Beauty Stab, they jettisoned their previous image and went for a grittier, more earthy sound. It didn’t work. Songs like “That Was Then, but This Is Now” and “How To Be a Millionaire” barely get “deep cuts” play on SiriusXM’s “First Wave” satellite music channel, while “Poison Arrow” and “The Look of Love” are in that stations’ heavy rotation across the nation.

So I’m going to add The Lexicon of Love to the playlist of the afterlife. And if you want to hear the full LP… here it is, from side A to side B.

Man, at this rate I’m not going to need a coffin. I’m going to need a whole family plot. Hee.

Oh, and as a postscript – about a decade ago, VH1 aired a series of programs called “Bands Reunited,” where someone would try to round up the original band members to perform a one-off reunion concert. Did the host get the founding members of ABC back on stage one more time?

Tune in and find out.

UB40’s Labour of Love is an Album I Want to be Buried With

I want to tell you the story of how this album came to join the rest of the playlist that I wish to take with me to the next world.

As a Hamilton College student in the early 1980’s, I was fortunate to spend my time with the campus radio station, WHCL.  During my time there, I and several other students helped transform the station from a 5-watt monaural broadcast that barely reached half the campus, to a 270-watt stereo powerhouse that could be heard throughout the Mohawk Valley.  This is nice.

And during my time there, I was exposed to several new musical genres – including British new wave, ska, rock-steady and reggae music.  Some of it was a bit much to take in, some of it took time to absorb.

Eventually, however, I did grow to appreciate some of this new music – including the works of British reggae musicians UB40.  And when an album called Labour of Love arrived at the WHCL studios, almost every disc jockey played the bejeebers out of it.  It was usually two different tracks that received airplay love – a cover of Bob Marley’s “Many Rivers To Cross,” and an old Neil Diamond rarity called “Red, Red Wine.”

Of course, how was I to know that UB40 were paying respects to a version of “Red, Red Wine” by performer Tony Tribe?

It’s 1983 and UB40’s “Red Red Wine” becomes a worldwide hit; in America it becomes a #1 college radio smash.  A few years later, a disc jockey in Phoenix started playing the song again… and all of a sudden, the UB40 track becomes a #1 hit in the United States.

UB40 had a few more American hits, mostly reggae-ified covers of songs like “I Got You Babe” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”  But it was this album, Labour of Love, that really showed, for me at least, that there was a way to immerse myself into a new musical style – while, at the same time, appreciating the sounds upon which these new musical styles were based.

So let’s put yet another LP into the afterlife storage unit.

Okay, crank up the speakers and enjoy.  Thanks to some YouTube subscriber, here’s the entire LP of Labour of Love.  Enjoy.

Told you it would make you feel better.  Doesn’t feel so cold outside today, now does it?