By Jeb Wright
Greg Kihn lit up the pop-culture radar in 1983 with his band’s “Kihnspiracy” LP, which yielded a No. 2 hit on The Billboard Hot 100 with “Jeopardy” (which later was lampooned by Weird Al Yankovic).
The Greg Kihn Band, which released its eponymous debut album in 1976, remains active, playing shows mainly in California. In addition to music, Kihn is very involved with his favorite charities, including “Operation Care and Comfort,” which sends care packages to our men and women in uniform and Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Calif., to help fight cancer.
His latest release is “The Greg Kihn Band: Best of Beserkley, ’75-’84,” which features 21 remastered songs from his career on Beserkley Records. The album can be purchased at his website at www.gregkihn.com. A man of multiple talents, Kihn just released his fifth novel, “Rubber Soul,” via Premier Digital Publishing. The historically accurate rock and roll novel puts The Beatles front and center in its plot.
While famous for his pop hits, Kihn’s musical influences, as you shall see below, range from Folk to Psychedelic to Punk. Deep down, the clean-cut MTV darling was actually ... dare I say it … a HIPPIE!
1. Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: From the front cover to the incredible selection of original songs, I learned this album backward and forward. I was a folkie at the time, so I basically inhaled most of these songs. Bob set the standard with the definitive singer-songwriter LP. The songs were genius: “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right,” “Masters of War,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” It made me want to write songs. And I did.
2. The Rolling Stones, Out Of Our Heads: Another cover that you couldn’t forget, complete with Keith Richards’ acne scars. This is the album that made the Stones what they are today: the true bad boys of rock. I loved it from top to bottom. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” became my generation’s anthem, but there were other gems as well. This was only their third album, but it established Mick and Keith as a songwriting team to rival Lennon and McCartney.
3. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced: I remember the day it came out. My buddy and I went to the record store and we both had just enough money for one album, and I was torn between “Are Your Experienced” and “Sgt. Pepper.” So, I bought Jimi Hendrix and my buddy bought The Beatles. We went back to his house to smoke a joint and listened to both records; we played them both over and over. That day lasted forever and blew my mind. Jimi Hendrix made the electric guitar sound completely new. He was light years ahead of his time.
4. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: The greatest record ever made. Consider this — the first two songs recorded for Sgt. Pepper never even made the album; they were pulled by EMI for a double-sided single, so two of The Beatles’ greatest songs were left off. Imagine how strong it would have been with the inclusion of those first two songs: “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.”
5. The Sex Pistols, Nevermind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols: What a great band these guys were, full of piss and vinegar. I witnessed the rise of punk in London in the mid ’70s. The Damned beat everybody to the punch with the first punk hit single, “New Rose,” but it paved the way for the Sex Pistols. I go back and listen to it now and then just to hear what raw primitive rock and roll sounds like. You can almost smell their bad breath through the speakers.
6. The Wailers, Burnin’: I listened to this album a thousand times when it came out. The songs were from another planet, and I couldn’t get them out of my head. I was already into reggae and I loved Toots, but this was the best-produced reggae at the time and the songs were classics like “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Get Up, Stand Up” and “Small Axe.” I saw them live in San Francisco on their first tour in a small club and it was hypnotic and mesmerizing.
7. The Who, Who’s Next: Back in 1978, The Greg Kihn Band got to record at Rampart Studios, owned by The Who, and let me tell you, those guys were passionate about their music. They would have fistfights about it. Nobody in that band took any sh*t. Pete is the father of the power chord, and we owe him a lot. Let us now praise one of rock’s best songwriters, and this classic album which has some of his best stuff. Still the gold standard for rock albums.
8. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks: This was a real life changer when I was a young hippie. Van’s long, jazzy, stream-of-consciousness lyrics were beyond anything I’d ever heard before. I used to lay there in the dark in my room and play it over and over again. And, God, could that man sing! Long before “Moondance,” he was making incredible music. Every cut is great. There’s never been anything like it before or since.
9. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds: The genius of Brian Wilson shows through every note of every song. This album is lush, emotional, passionate and brutally honest. It can bring you to tears. I cut my teeth on songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Caroline, No,” “Sloop John B” and “God Only Knows.” Hal Blaine wrote about the making of this amazing album in “The Wrecking Crew.” Still sounds as bright and shiny today as it did back in the day.
10. Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger: The first real folk album I ever bought when I was 14 years old, and it was a revelation. Dave Van Ronk was the big daddy of the Greenwich Village folk scene. Mentor to a young Bob Dylan, Bob actually stole Dave’s version of “House Of The Rising Sun” note for note on his first album. This album is a primer for all wannabe folkies. Every track is a stone classic. This is the good stuff.