As you may recall, I left the last few album slots open for 2021 & 2022 releases that didn’t even exist when I started writing this blog. To be consistent, I included the 2021 best seller (Adele and her record “30”) and another personal favorite of mine and will also include whatever is the best-selling album to date in 2022, but I decided to leave the last few slots to be determined by those closest to me, musically and personally. Anyone in this group is not only someone I care about a lot, but I also appreciate their love for music and their support and inspiration for this entire project. I asked each one of them to give an album to include, but it had to be from this current timeframe. Most of the participants were able to give me a selection, but two of them did not. I promised both of them that this did not diminish their significance in my blog and my life, and that I would choose on their behalf.
The first person in this category is my friend Nils. Nils is a one-of-a-kind person, to say the least. His physically imposing presence is impressive, but what really stands out when you get to know him is his compassion for others, his pursuit of all things interesting, and his love for music. We were introduced by a mutual co-worker, Kelly, who connected the dots with our respective tastes in music. We quickly connected on classic acts like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, and it gave me great joy to realize he was also a fan of my current obsession, The Struts. This led to many long discussions on the topics of music and life, including a monthly scheduled call we still conduct to this date.
Nils was an early thought leader for me in this process, as he also does his own writing and recommends music of many genres and tastes, sharing playlists and narratives with a distribution list of friends. I have learned a lot from his suggestions, and I look forward to digging back in to more of his new music ideas once this blog is complete. He also teaches a spin class each week, and proudly posts his weekly mix on social media each week for all to enjoy. I have recently introduced him virtually to my friend Mike, who shares not only common musical interests but the same heightened sense of curiosity, and I look forward to many more years of this conversation and collaboration.
When I asked Nils for an album to include, his response was “I don’t have an album for you. I do not listen to whole albums and I frankly can’t speak to any music that has grabbed me enough over 2021-2022.” I can’t really argue with that, but he must be included, so I told him I would pick one on his behalf.
I started with one album, and it morphed into two, and both connect me to Nils in different ways. The first is the album “Strange Days” by The Struts. I previously discussed this album a bit in an earlier blog when I did not intend to include it here, but here is why I chose it on Nils’ behalf. One, they are a band we both enjoy. And beyond that, there are several high-profile features on this album that lead me back to Nils. First, we have Joe Elliott and Phil Collen from Def Leppard on “I Hate How Much I Want You”, which is one of the best songs on the record. Nils attempted to see Def Leppard live this summer, but I think somewhere between torrential rain and lightning, Tommy Lee’s phantom drumming with Motley Crue and his man-crush on Bret Michaels, he was halfway down I-66 when Def Leppard took the stage. It doesn’t matter, it was a great night for him and a great night for rock and roll.
Tom Morello from “Rage Against the Machine” plays on the album’s best track, which is “Wild Child”, and Albert Collins from The Strokes makes an appearance on “Another Hit of Showmanship”. In another odd connection to Nils, British pop artist Robbie Williams, who Nils and I have laughed about his ongoing property line debates with Jimmy Page, appears on the title track. I think Nils even visited this rock star HOA nightmare in person in London, so who better than he to appreciate Robbie and Luke Spiller singing “Strange Days”.
If I were to call out two more tracks to enjoy, I would highlight “Burn It Down”, which sounds like an excerpt from “Exile on Main Street”, and the sultry and unique closing track “Am I Talking To The Champagne (Or Talking To You)”. This album was an unusual project for the band; they recorded it in ten days in quarantine during the initial height of the COVID pandemic. It is a much harder-edged album then their last release, and for those who love guitar rock, you should enjoy the intensity and vibe of this collection.
As I was searching for any last links between The Struts and Nils, another light bulb turned on in my head. The Struts have had many high-profile stints as an opening act, and Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters has stated they are the best opening act they have ever had. Yes… that Dave Grohl, the same Dave Grohl that Nils grew up with, watching him play hardcore punk in the Washington D.C./9:30 Club era, well before Kurt Cobain roped him into Nirvana. With this in mind, I also knew that my list was incomplete without some inclusion of the Foo Fighters, especially in light of the recent loss of Taylor Hawkins. One of my favorite Foo moments is when they performed “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, and Taylor Hawkins and Luke Spiller from The Struts sang the altering vocal lines of Bowie & Mercury.
So… with all of that in mind, I went into the discography to see what was recently released by the Foo Fighters, and I was thankfully greeted by their wonderfully absurd “Dee Gees / Hail Satin” project, which is inexplicably five Bee Gees covers (OK, four Bee Gees plus “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb) along with some alternate versions of recent songs they recorded in their more traditional sound. Grohl is surprisingly on point with his Barry Gibb falsetto, and Taylor is equally capable when he takes over on “Shadow Dancing”.
I have never been a huge Foo Fighters fan, but I have always been a huge fan of Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins. They appear to be universally loved by all people across the music industry, and I can’t help but admire their versatility as artists on the drums, guitars, and vocals. As much as I loved their version of “Under Pressure” with Luke, I think my favorite moment aligns with what Dave called the “greatest night in the band’s life”, when they played Wembley Stadium and performed “Rock and Roll” and “Ramble On” with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, with Hawkins and Grohl each singing a track. How can you possibly top that? You can’t.
It is tragic and sad that Taylor Hawkins is no longer with us. Dave Grohl and his band are about to perform two tribute concerts in his honor, and not surprisingly, both John Paul Jones and Luke Spiller, among many others, are on the bill. It is this showing of love, music and friendship that connects all of us, including my dear friend Nils. Thank you for all you have done to inspire, challenge, and support me, and I look forward to many more years of trading songs back and forth, not to mention going to see The Struts live!