Out of the blue, on December 28, 1989, my younger brother Bob and one of his friends died tragically in a house fire. Today is thus the 32 anniversary of that awful, life-changing day. My younger brother lived life loud and large. He was a mid to late 80’s hair metal music fan, and got me listening to the likes of Motley Crue, Ratt, Cinderella, Tesla, Dokken, and even Ygwie Malmsteen.
He also liked a range of artists in other genres, such as Elton John’s pop, Duran Duran’s techno-pop, Van Halen and Bon Jovi’s hard rock. He actually went to Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985 with me, my brother, and my Uncle Joey, who had attended Woodstock when just 16, which I think helped give him a bigger appreciation of some of the bands of the 70’s and 80’s that were perhaps a bit before his time.
As I have previously related in my blog (see October 6, 2021 blog “Dance With My Father & Big Bad John – Tribute to Dad”) music has the ability to comfort, console, and heal. I had previously shared a playlist of music that reminded me of my dad or helped me process my grief after his death. Again I will cite Albert Einstein, “I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” So it is not surprising that after my brother died, I found it therapeutic to make a mixed tape (pre-music streaming or even CD burning) of music that he liked and/or somehow seemed fitting for dying unexpectedly at a young age in a house fire.
I titled the cassette “Out Of The Blue” after the David Gilmour song of the same name. The first 22 songs of this now 130+ song playlist comprised the original cassette tape offerings. The rest of the songs were added to the Spotify playlist as popular songs by many of his favorite artists. “Out Of The Blue” summarized my grief and emotions soon after the fire and loss of my brother:
“Out of the blue on the wings of a dove
A messenger comes, with the beating of drums
It’s not a message of love
Our children are born, and we keep them warm
They must have the right, to live in the light
To be safe from the storm
Out of the blue, with wings on his heels
A messenger comes, bearing regrets
For the time that he steals
But steal it he will, my children’s and mine
Against our desires, against all our needs
Our blood spilled like wine
Over and over we call, no one hears
And further and further and further we fall
And though we pray that we soon will awake
It is clear, that it’s no dream at all
Our lives are at stake
I cannot believe, nor even pretend
That the thunder I hear, will just disappear
And the nightmare will end
So hold back the fire, because this music is true
When all’s said and done, the ending will come
From out of the blue”
And with losing him to a house fire, Bon Jovi’s “Silent Night” was too hauntingly familiar:
“After the smoke clears
When it’s down to you and I
When the sun appears
And there’s nothing left but good-byes
We’ll just turn and walk away
How could we let it end like this
Just turn and walk away
Should we seal it with a kiss”
Also fitting was a song he had quoted in some of his writings, Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Dreaming (Tell Me):
“Shades of night, fall upon my eyes
Lonely world fades away
Misty light, shadows start to rise
Lonely world fades away.
In my dreams your face is all I see
Through the night you share your love with me.
Dreaming visions of you
Feeling all the love I never knew.”
As a teen who turned his life around, deciding to put effort into his repeating senior year of high school, improving from failing most classes to strait A’s, this song, by Led Zep drummer John Bonham’s son Jason’s band Bonham seemed fitting:
“Walking down that road
Of no tomorrows
Spend up my time
Living for today
Well, I got a long way to go
And I know it ain’t easy
But that’s okay
Lookin’ at my dreams
Oh so near
To where I want to be once again
I’m gonna hold on with all the rest I’m givin’ in
Oh, you gotta fight to win
Oh, doncha think about it
What you could
What you could do with your life
Oh, you must think about it
Keep it up
Up so high
Reach for the sky
Never give up
Keep it up
Up so high
Reach for the sky
Never give up”
Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” maintained the sorrowful mood:
“Every rose has its thorn
Just like every night has its dawn
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
Every rose has its thorn
Though it’s been a while now
I can still feel so much pain
Like a knife that cuts you the wound heals
But the scar, that scar remains”
And a verse of “I Won’t Forget You” seemed appropriate as well:
“… Late at night I close my eyes
And think of how things could have been
And when I look back
I remember some words you had said to me
… It’s better to have lost at love
Then never to have loved at all
… I won’t forget you baby
(I won’t forget you)”
A few lines of Cinderella’s “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone)” again seemed fitting.
“I can’t feel the things that cause you pain
I can’t clear my heart of your love, it falls like rain
Ain’t the same
I hear you calling far away
Tearing through my soul, I just can’t take another day”
“Nobody’s Fool” is yet another of their great power ballads:
Rounding out the mid-80’s hair band of Poison and Cinderella were Motley Crue (video further below) and Ratt, with their video “Round And Round” featuring old-school comedian Milton Berle. The song has been featured in the series “Supernatural” and “Stranger Things,” and video games Grand Theft Auto and Guitar Hero.
He introduced me to Yngwie Malmsteen, whose neoclassical playing style in heavy metal. Be sure to give a listen to “Arpeggios From Hell” on the Spotify playlist. His “Rising Force” video is spectacular.
And “Heaven Tonight” is probably Yngwie’s most popular song:
And from Breakfast Club, Simple Minds‘ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” seemed appropriate.
Bon Jovi‘s “Wanted, Dead or Alive”:
Queen‘s “Who Wants To Live Forever” from Highlander, such a good cult movie of the 80’s, a must watch if you haven’t seen it.
Def Leppard‘s “Rock Of Ages”, which is, interestingly enough, quoted in “Highlander” when the gorgon says “I’ve got something to say – it’s better to burn out than fade away”:
My older brother and I along with some friends took Bob when he was around 10 years old to see “American Werewolf in London.” He was so terrified that he was in tears, and I had to take him to the lobby of Vernon Cine and call home on a pay phone (well before the time of cell phones) and have my mom and dad come pick him up.
Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is prominently featured in the movie, as well as CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising”:
Fast forward a few years, and he couldn’t get enough of scary and even slasher movies. Halloween became his favorite holiday (even once dressing as a street walker), followed closely by Christmas.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was an early favorite of his (he even had a MJ phase of dressing for a bit!):
Then zombie movies (or dressing like a zombie, above), featured in Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself”:
And eventually even Freddie Kruger couldn’t scare him. He not only liked the movie, but also the band Dokken, who’s song “Dream Warriors” was prominently featured:
After his dog “Skippy” died when he was younger, he found solace in Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” which featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica. He also liked Elton’s “Sad Songs Say So Much” on the follow-up album a few years later:
He also loved Duran Duran. The “Hungry Like The Wolf” video was filmed in Sri Lanka, with a distinctively “Raiders of the Lost Ark” vibe, and won the very first Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1984:
Bob also had an attraction to girls, and vice versa. He was a true chick magnet. He loved girl videos, part of the decade of excess misogynistic 80’s. Such videos included:
Motley Crue‘s “Girls, Girls, Girls”:
ZZ Top‘s “Legs” (I remember him asking me to guess who was singing “Rough Boy”, and it blew me away that it was ZZ Top, not their characteristic southern rock/blues sound):
Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”, a video which almost every teen guy in the 80’s couldn’t get enough of. David Lee Roth was debauched, but made it seem so lighthearted and funny and innocent that he got away with his sexist, irreverent humor, probably wouldn’t be able to this day in age:
David Lee Roth with his solo offering “California Girls”, a remake of the Beach Boys classic:
I will be seeing David Lee Roth for his last hurrah, his last concerts at House Of Blues in Las Vegas New Years Eve. I heard that the last Van Halen tour, before Eddie died, that the band and Sammy Hagar was great, but David was awful, usually drunk, forgetting the lyrics, a big mess. I am hopeful that he realizes that he needs to leave on a high note, and Mandalay Bay and House of Blues will try to keep him in line and sober to wow the audience on his last go-round. I’ll update the blog post after the concert.
The last few songs on the list seemed to fit the theme of the tribute, though they were released a year or two after he died, including Poison’s “Something To Believe In,” Ozzy’s “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” and Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity.” I know they are songs my brother would have loved.
I do worry about the burden the fire has placed on my older brother John, and Bob’s friends Craig and Justin, narrowly escaping the ravages of the fire, and unable to aid Bob and Michael despite their efforts. I fear it weighs heavily on their hearts, though it was not their fault. It was out of their control. Yet they likely carry the weight and trauma of the tragedy with them still. This scene from the Netflix series “Daredevil”, where Matt states “God’s plan is like a beautiful tapestry, and the tragedy of being human is that we only get to see it from the back, with all the ragged threads and muddy colors. We only get a hint of the true beauty that would be revealed if we could see the whole pattern on the other side as God does” can help us make sense of such tragedies in life.
I miss him, and think of him often. I sometimes wonder what he’d be doing had he lived. While we didn’t always see eye to eye, toward the end we appreciated each others’ talents and gifts. He was large (over 6’ 1”, to my 5’ 4”), loud, obnoxious, funny, caring, and troubled, but he was changing, evolving, excelling, and finding direction, just in time for dying an untimely death. He lived life to its fullest, cramming a lot into his 19 years of life. It was as though he knew he didn’t have a full lifetime to live. As the cars processed from the church to the cemetery for his funeral, half the procession took a wrong turn. I think he had the last laugh.
And now for the playlist – pretty killer of hair-band songs and then some from the 80’s. Here to lots of great memories of a larger than life personality, my younger brother Bob.