#7Songs – Thunder !!

I’ve really enjoyed participating in the 7Songs blog series. To be candid, it’s impossible to get it down to seven single songs. I’m sure you could make a list like this fairly easily using different eras of music, different genres of artists and a myriad of different filters to compile a “best of” list.

The item that pulled all of these songs together for me can be summed up in one word – passion !! I am passionate about my choices and most people are very passionate about music. You may love one type of music and absolutely despise another. If you bring that up, you are sure to get arguments from others because they will defend their faves as well.

For me, there is only one band that embodies passion for me because every time they strike a chord on the guitar or belt out a crushing vocal, they bring it !!

#7 – Thunderstruck by AC/DC

Let's RockYou can’t help but banging your head and throwing your hands in the air the minute an AC/DC song starts. Thunderstruck epitomizes the essence of this
Aussie power group !! They made a career of songs built on three chords. Even though it’s “simple” music, they make arenas erupt.

I had been a fan of AC/DC for years when Thunderstruck came out. They had been making rock anthems for years before MTV had videos. So, I also got to SEE them perform this, and I couldn’t contain myself. The riff that Angus Young starts deftly moving up and down the frets of his guitar hooks you instantly. It’s something that would turn into a performance tied to HR down the road.

When I was chair of the Ohio SHRM State Conference, the theme was HR Rocks !! (double exclamation points included) For those of you who know me double exclamation points are the norm when I write (even texts and e-mails) because they epitomize passion.

As chair, I pulled my committee aside and showed them my vision of the opening of the conference. I wanted a stage with a catwalk, flashing lights and Thunderstruck blaring overhead. I actually bought an Angus Young costume and dressed up like him to take the stage and loudly welcome everyone to the event.

When I did this, the attendees all had drum sticks that they could pound together to bring the noise to a triumphant crescendo !! By the time I reached the mic to yell out “Hello, Sandusky !! Are you ready to rock ??!!” they were already geeked to get the show started.

Passion is something that we too often suppress when it is something we should express. Being tentative may be safer, but it leads to regret because you miss out on what you wanted to do. I learned long ago what it felt like to work in an environment that sucked the soul out of you. When I left that company, I vowed that my passions would never be suppressed again. . . . And they haven’t since !!

So, I encourage you to get the entire AC/DC catalog. It’s great to rip off the lid of the day and just flat rock !!! Find your 7Songs and keep them on a playlist to remind you that you were created to be vibrant, creative people. It’s who you’re supposed to be.

Let me help you get started – hands in air, head banging, cue the riff . . .

#7Songs – Release Your Inner Nerd !!

I am a nerd. There’s no doubt about it and it’s who I’ve been all of my life. In school I never was one of the “cool” kids. I was in Show Choir, Physics Club, Chemistry Club, Student Council, etc. Like many of the folks I know, I was involved in as many activities as I could find because these were my social outlets.

The odd thing about being a nerd is that people don’t expect you to do things outside of the box that they put you in. You see, I was also a very good athlete as well as a musician and student. People desperately want people to fit inside their filters and stereotypes because if you don’t it’s unpredictable and that’s unnerving.

Another thing that you don’t think of when you’re younger and nerdy is that you’ll “grow into it” later in life. The teenage years are awkward enough without having to carry a moniker of Geek with you. Relationships are challenging because teens (like adults) want to run around with packs of people who are just like them. You aren’t supposed to cross lines.

It’s no wonder that when I saw a “nerd” be a rock n’ roll artist, I was drawn to him which brings me to my next song.

#6 – Veronica by Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello was unlike anyone I ever had seen in music before and no one made music like he did. When he burst onto the scene, he looked like a Buddy Holly remake, but he was far from anyone who played rockabilly.

Elvis CostelloHis tight suits, coiffed hair and HUGE black glasses were outstanding. You could tell by listening to his songs that he was a lyricist. One, in my opinion, that is unmatched in the music industry !! I think I have every song he’s recorded, and this song just hits a note every time I hear it.

Like most of his music, Veronica, tells a story. The video is dead on with the song by showing Elvis visit an elderly woman in a nursing home. She fondly remembers the past, but is slowly forgetting the present and even her name. It’s something that perfectly frames a moment in time.

Being able to write like that is a gift. No one who “looks” at Elvis Costello expects him to be someone who is enshrined in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Ironically, very little of his music ever has had radio play and the general Top 40 public who follow the next great passing trend would hardly recognize him.

He’s recorded with legends of the music industry and often has an eclectic mix of artists who back him up. It’s outstanding that he’s never veered from being the original nerd that he always has been. He’s never fallen to the narrow path and formula that record companies force on their artists.

I dig Elvis because I believe in living out my inner nerd as well. So, how about you? Are you trying to “fit in” with the folks who want you to blend in with everyone around you so there’s no visible identity or distinction? Break with the crowd and let that inner nerd out !! You’ll be glad you did.


#7Songs – What rules ??

I’m not one to have many regrets about life. It’s been absolutely amazing so far and I’m looking forward to what will happen in the future !! However, everyone has a “I wonder what my life would be if” thought every once in awhile.

I’ve always thought it would have been great to live in the UK !! If I could even narrow that down, I’d live there during my teenage years which happen to have been in the late 70’s because I would have been present during the birth of Punk Rock. I didn’t really listen to punk bands until I heard more of them in college, but once I did one band clearly stood out and stuck – The Clash.

To me they defined the genre and never settled for the status quo. Most people know their two most popular songs, Rock the Casbah and Should I Stay or Should I Go? These are phenomenal, but I think one song stands out above the rest in their impressive catalog.

#5 – White Man in Hammersmith Palais by The Clash
Clash LogoThis song has incredible lyrics where Joe Strummer, the front man of the group. questions the other punk rock artists of the time and insinuates that they’re selling out. This epitomizes who The Clash were. They questioned the establishment and self-centeredness of their own generation. They set their own path and didn’t look back. If you had to describe their approach you’d say “what rules” ??

I’m someone who has always looked at life from a slightly different angle. I enjoy running contrary to what people expect. It’s also how I’ve approached HR. I have chosen to do something completely radical . . . . and be positive about people !! You wouldn’t think that this is “punk rock” enough, but it truly is. We’re bombarded with negativity almost every moment of every day. It takes a concerted effort to not bend to the will of others, or the trend that is easy to fall into.

I make sure to listen to The Clash as least once a day to remind me that you can redefine the norms and status quo. This song is a great place to start because once you hear it you won’t get it out of your head, and you’ll be yearning for more.

I hope by sharing this, you step out and question the status quo a bit more than you do now. So, let’s get you started !!


#7Songs – Poems

I remember when my high school friend, Jamie Miller, drove up to the Mello Creme donut store where we used to hang out. As he rolled his window down music I had never heard emanated from his tape deck. He was geeked and said, “Steve, have you listened to The Wall yet?”

“What? What’s The Wall ??”

“It’s simply the BEST album I’ve ever heard !! It’s by Pink Floyd. Dude you have to get this. It’s freakin’ incredible.”

He then sped out and drove off. I was intrigued and I saved up my money because this was a double album. I didn’t want to get the cassette tape, I wanted the vinyl. After I bought the set, I consumed it. I listened to the entire thing over and over.

When the movie came out, I was one of the first to see it on the big screen and it blew my mind. I had never seen anything like it. During college I hosted an annual movie night where we’d play the best VHS tapes of the day with two exceptions. Every year we included Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Wall. My friends and I could sing every single word of the movie and never miss. This brings me to song #4 . . .

#4 – Nobody Home by Pink Floyd

Nobody Home Pink FloydIf you haven’t listened to a Pink Floyd album, then you’re missing out on the layers upon layers of sound, movement and lyrics. You’ll hear little phrases dropped in odd places, and this song captures them all. It also caught my attention because of the opening line that is lightly screamed before the song truly begins.

“I’ve got a little black book with me poems in !!”

You see, I’ve been an aspiring writer for most of my life. I have poetry that I wrote through high school and college. They captured my deepest thoughts and feelings and were a way to get things out. I kept them to myself and filled a few journals with them. Writing has a powerful way of allowing you to stretch, communicate and create.

Pink Floyd did this with this song, and honestly with all of their music !! (in my opinion) The lyrics of Nobody Home are more free flowing with little rhyming. I love it because it tells a story with random thoughts that are running through the mind of the main character of the rock opera.

I have that happen often. Random thoughts are just trying to come together and be expressed. I’ve been writing poems each week for years now as part of my HR network, so I still have the opportunity to create. I think people would enjoy what they do in their lives more if they took the time to be creative. I hope to take this up a level and compose a book. We’ll have to see. I think when I take the time to put it together, this will be playing in the background !!


#7Songs – Thank You

Have you ever taken a personality assessment? As an HR practitioner, I’ve taken a ton of them. I enjoy doing it and the outcome is the same every time. I’m a fierce extrovert !! I don’t even come close to the median of any extroversion scale. It’s honestly how I’ve been ever since I was very young. There are more challenges to being extroverted than you would think. One of those is finding someone who will deal with you and how you’re wired.

Meet my wife. She’s taken those same assessments and we are exactly the opposite. I wouldn’t call her a “fierce” introvert at all. I’d categorize her as a sound and grounded introvert which I find to be perfection. She caught my attention over a quarter of a century ago when she went way outside her comfort zone and asked me out !! Honestly, she took the first step to bring us together, and I’ve been thankful ever since.

Song #3 – Thank You by Led Zeppelin

I’ve always consider Led Zeppelin the quintessential rock band. There are few acts that I would classify as legendary, but Zeppelin qualifies. Many people are familiar with their hits, but few take in their whole catalog. One of the facets of the majority of my music collection is that I tend to own an artist’s entire catalog of albums. You run the risk of finding a few clunkers when you do this, but you also get to see the entire spectrum of their work.

My favorite song of theirs came from Led Zeppelin II – their second album. It’s a beautiful love song that you wouldn’t expect. It doesn’t reflect the massive, driving rock laced with  incredible vocals, lead guitar and crushing drums that capture the essence of Led Zeppelin.

Thank You ZeppelinIt’s my favorite because the lyrics of the song describe the love I have for my wife. She’s the one person on the planet who accepts me for who I am. That makes her the best partner I could have ever asked for. Now, mind you, I love her for who she is as well. We fill in the gaps in each other’s strengths and that makes for an incredible bond. When I was fortunate enough to have Debbie say “Yes” and agree to marry me, I asked her if we could have this song be our first dance.

She loved the song, but felt that Led Zeppelin may be a bit of a stretch for those that came to our wedding. I reluctantly succumbed, and we ended up using a love song from 1989 – the year we wed. The Zeppelin song has lasted just like our marriage, and it will last forever. Here’s why. Take a look at these lyrics and then click on the video and enjoy !!

“If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When the mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.”


#7Songs – Not Bad at All !!

College is a time when you “grow up.” It was my first time away from home for any extended period of time and I was the only person from my town to attend Ohio University. I went there not knowing a single person. Now, you need to know that I graduated in a high school class of 73 people, and just joined a university that had 17,000 people attending at that time !! I suffered a major culture shock, but fell in love with everything the school had to offer.

JC Penney StereoMy sophomore year, I became a Resident Assistant (an RA). I was practicing HR even back then but didn’t know it. As an RA, you get a single room which meant you had a room that normally held two students all to yourself. I saved up money and purchased a JC Penney MCS Stereo System !!

It “looked” cool, but it wasn’t. Several students in the dorm had massive stereo systems with components, equalizers, woofers, etc. They could shake the building when they were turned on. Almost every day you could hear the low hum of systems just waiting to blast out music.

I started my album collection in college and EVERY Friday I would come back from classes and a full week and pull out an EP to play this song . . .

#2 – Bad (Live) by U2 from Wide Awake in America

Almost everyone has a band that they can say defined their generation and U2 is that band for me. I know that they are a group that people either adore or don’t. There really isn’t a middle ground.

I saw this song performed on a HBO special in the dorm late one night from one of their concerts and I was transfixed. I had never seen someone sing so passionately. Bono was dripping in sweat and the crowd hung on every word he sang. The Edge played the guitar in a way I had never heard before and Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton provided the solid drums and bass to keep things incredibly tight.

After a full week it felt cleansing to pull this EP out of it’s sleeve and gently put the vinyl on my stereo. I played it so incredibly loud that I could hear nothing else. As the RA, I was supposed to keep things “in line”, but I wasn’t much of a rule follower even back then. I saw U2 as a group that was changing music and I saw myself in them because I too was changing and wanted to see things change even more.

I would absolutely love to meet the band someday (another bucket list item). I continue to love everything they do, and my interest in them only grew from the time I had this EP. After I served as the chair of the Ohio SHRM State Conference, the committee was gracious enough to get me a signed copy of their Joshua Tree album. I’d like to think that I’d thank them for providing that release every Friday.

In fact, I think I’ll go dust off that EP and slap it on my turntable once again . . .

#7Songs !!

Recently, my good friend Michael Carty published a blog series noting his seven favorite songs. He was inspired by two other great friends – Tim Scott and Tony Jackson who did similar posts. These three are just a few of many friends who are music lovers. I think it’s great because music is something that brings most people together. We may have some commonality, but the wonderful thing about music is the diversity of thought and taste.

A few years ago, a few of us even started the hashtag #HRMusicShare on Twitter. We use it to share what we’re listening to as well as music related links and/or videos. It’s a great outlet that reminds us that we all have many facets in our lives, and that we’re not about work and HR only !!

The idea of #7songs is to list your favorite songs over seven days. Now, I’m sure that the songs I list may not be your faves, and that’s fine. I think it’s fascinating to hear people’s opinions because we are so passionate about what we listen to. Please note that this isn’t a series about favorite groups or artists. I could never get down to seven and trying to even pick these seven was a challenge !!

So, here we go . . .

Song #1: Barcelona by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe

I don’t know about you, but music moves me emotionally. I have music playing every minute I’m at work and also during my commute. Every once in awhile I hear something that literally brings me to tears. This song does that. Every. Time.

I’m not kidding. It is an incredibly beautiful piece that I first heard during the Barelona Summer Olympics and I loved it. I forgot about it until I was playing the 3 CD (yes, I own CD’s and vinyl !!) set of Queen’s greatest hits. When it came on, I wept. Hearing Freddie Mercury sing reminded me of how amazing he was !!

Freddie Mercury was the iconic “front man” of rock and roll. He was artistic, charismatic and incredibly gifted. The first time I heard Bohemian Rhapsody from Queen I couldn’t believe what I was hearing !! No one sang like Mercury (and few have since).

If you were in a band, what would you do? I’d love to be the front man !! To stand in front of an audience and rally them with your music would rock. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in front of thousands of screaming fans performing at Wembley Stadium. A great front man can get a crowd worked up, but they can also bring them to silence just by talking to them quietly.

I may never get a chance to be the front man for a rock band, but it’s a great bucket list dream !! I do get the opportunity to speak at HR events and I never take it lightly. It’s an awesome responsibility and gets me close to my bucket list.

This song captures the brilliance of Mercury and show the depth of his talent to be able to sing with an accomplished operatic soprano. He fits right in. When you listen to it, replay it and listen again. I’ll be joining you and be assured that the tears will well up !!