I have never been considered an ‘average’ music fan. Music has always been a big part of my life. I remember my parents playing songs to get me to stop crying as small child. I worked at several record stores and sold pianos and keyboards for a while. I played drums in the Cleveland alternative rock band, NOTHING LIKE VAUDEVILLE. I studied music theory and songwriting in college. I graduated from The Recording Workshop and Beachwood Studios audio engineering programs. Friends often told me I should be a disk jockey or an A&R person for a record label. Several excellent producers and recording engineers I had the fortunate opportunity to learn from consistently noted I have ‘great ears’. But more than anything, the art of songwriting has always been a passion. Discovering. listening to and analyzing great songs is simply what I love best.

About 3 years ago I began to think about all the songs that truly impacted me over the years and for the first time ever I started to go back and listen to my entire music collection — records, 45’s, tapes and CD’s from around 1970 all the way through to present day. Then I began to compile and document  ‘The List’.   Songs on ‘The List’  all have a certain ‘it’ for my ears. If I were a record executive or radio program director, these are the songs that would have got the artist signed or added to the playlist rotation. These are the songs I would have loved to have written. These are the songs I listened to, replayed, analyzed so often that I may know the songs better than the original artists. There are thousands of songs on ‘The List.’

It is hard to truly define, but for my musical tastes,  a song with a certain  ‘it’ can be one of many things:  unique or catchy vocal phrasing, a great riff, interwoven melodies and instrumentation, guitar melodies that talk, beats and bass lines that won’t let your legs stand still, backing vocal harmonies, take-on-the-world lyrics, a subtle note or melody laying back in the mix, a groove with space to catch created musical overtones, and without fail, an energy and mix that build to a crescendo over the course of the song. I normally know an ‘it’ song immediately. And when I find one, I will listen, replay, dissect and analyze the song over an over and over again for a period of time, sometimes only a couple of days but more often weeks or months. The song becomes a permanent part of me, then the search for the next  ‘it’ song continues. A great song with the ‘it’ factor does not always mean it is popular. I love trying to find the great songs that have been overlooked or before the song works it way up the charts when the band/artist is not a well known name.

I personally miss the consistent human element of going to record stores and flipping through the racks to see what strikes you. Talking with the clerks and other music lovers to learn about cool new artists, songs, and releases. Hearing a song blasting over the speaker system and thinking to yourself “who is that”. Regardless, everything evolves and it is now easier then ever to gain access and listen to new bands and artists – which led me to create GREATSONGSNEVERDIE.COM. My goal for this music blog is to be a simple, modern-day resource to share new musical ‘gems’ I am finding and adding to ‘The List.’ I hope to create positive exposure for cool tunes and upcoming or under-the-radar artists/bands. Plus share some older favorites from ‘The List’. So for music fans who love to discover, I am here to share and let you decide for yourself. Hopefully you’ll  find many, many new favorites.

Now let’s get started . . . .

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When The Kinks front-man Ray Davies turned 13, his oldest sister Rene, who was 31 at the time, bought him his very first guitar as a birthday gift. That same night, while visiting from her home in Canada, she went dancing at the Lyceum Ballroom in London. Due to a weak heart from childhood rheumatic fever, Rene suffered a fatal heart attack and died at the ballroom. Twenty-five years later, Davies wrote “Come Dancing” filled with memories of his sister and her love of dancing. The song, recorded for their STATE OF CONFUSION (1983) album, reached #6 on Billboard and became one of the band’s highest charting singles.

Long-time radio programmer John Gorman was responsible for making Cleveland’s WMMS one of the country’s best stations back in its heyday. Gorman eventually grew critical of traditional radio and in 2015 created oWOW Radio, a Cleveland internet station that is locally owned, operated, and programmed. The format is a diverse blend of both new and timeless rock. The coolest part is 20% of oWOW’s playlist features local indie bands/artists – something virtually unheard of on commercial radio in this town. Found a new favorite by Cleveland-based Falling Stars – a great track produced by Mitch Easter & Don Dixon (early R.E.M production team.) Honestly though, just the fact the band was formed as result of rock-vets Tim Parnin (Cobra Verde, Sweet Apple) and Chris Allen (Rosavelt) jamming Replacements covers at a local tribute show was good enough reason for me to get onboard.

After the initial success of Cake’s 1996 hit “The Distance,” the release of their follow up album PROLONGING THE MAGIC (1998) generated some negative reviews. A writer for The Times in London predicted Cake would go down as ‘one-hit wonders’ and were little more than an above average bar-room act. Wrong. “Never There” went to the top of Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks. Cake has shared the secret to their unique sound: cheap guitars. Guitarist Xan McCurdy states “Front man/guitarist John McCrea’s guitar is a shitty old starter guitar from the ’60s. They probably made a million of them off an assembly line. We never get the exact same tone twice.” Maybe he’ll have it with him when Cake performs in downtown Cleveland this weekend at the InCuya Music Festival.

Yesterday marked 17 years since my life ‘turned on a dime’, getting diagnosed with cancer. As time rolls on, the less and less I hang onto that day; but the gratitude for recovery never leaves. So on occasion, I try to share a little piece of my story with the humble hope that, even in the smallest way, it helps someone, somewhere, going through their own tough battles. Aside from faith and family, songs are my refuge. It has always been my place to celebrate all I love in this world and my escape and defense mechanism against everything I find wrong with it.

About 8 months into my unexpected journey –- immediate surgery, weeks of radiation, losing 50 pounds, constant pain & nausea, lack of sleep and a tremendous amount of anxiety — a disciplined nightly exercise routine, set to a continuous soundtrack of music (“The List”), had finally started to have positive effects for me physically. But mentally and emotionally I was still struggling and needed some confidence against the uncertainties life now presented. That is when God’s grace again pointed me to a music piece critical in my recovery – Paul Westerberg’s Stereo/Mono. Westerberg (aka Grandpaboy) and The Replacements had always been my ‘go-to’ rock-n-roll inspiration representing the beautiful-struggle that comes with doing things your own way. The Good Lord apparently must have nudged the former ‘Mats front-man to release not only a new record, but a double-record at that – perfect timing and exactly what I needed for a little ‘attitude’ as I adjusted back into the world.

I know as an adult the term ‘attitude’ can seem sophomoric. But believe me, the first time life awakens you from the carefree invincibility of youth and you realize life truly has a beginning and an end, no exceptions, including for yourself, you are exposed to an unsettling new vulnerability that never leaves. Acceptance was absolutely necessary for coming to terms with this fact, but adopting a slightly defiant mindset helped me more convincingly begin to work through the onslaught of fears and doubts that came with everything I experienced, and spurred me to continue to move forward. Stereo/Mono contains 25 songs and I could post any one of them because they are all important to me, but this reflective track pretty much summarizes it best . . .

Singer/songwriter Diana Chittester, who resides in NE Ohio, is one of the finer ‘finger-pickers’ around. She has performed her “percussive-playing style” all over the U.S and Canada, usually alone onstage surrounded by her arsenal of guitars. The new featured track “Freedom”, off her upcoming release PARADOX due out May 11th, was written on a ukulele. She decided to try something new and record with additional instrumentation and full production. She absolutely nails it with great feel on this song and as a bonus I hear a little Ani DiFranco influence built in (Ani is one of my all-time favorite indie artists.) In addition to her 5/11 record release party at Beachland Ballroom, Diana will be opening for Joan Osborne (“What if God Was One of Us”) and Lisa Loeb (“Stay (I Missed You”)) at Cain Park on August 10th. Check her out . .