Top Five RockTrax NewsNotes of 2011

Covering rock ‘n’ roll news on Rock 104’s RockTrax provided some great moments. For example, Meat Loaf’s run on Celebrity Apprentice, where he earned more than $204,000 for his favorite charity before getting the boot. Along the way, there were some unfortunate stories – including the passing of Warrant’s Jani Lane.

It was difficult to narrow everything down to a top five list of stories that define the year we’re about to wrap up. So here goes.

5. Start of Paul McCartney’s third marriage

By now, you’re well aware his first marriage ended in the passing of his then wife, Linda. His second marriage ended in a bitter divorce (perhaps less said the better). After that, the former Nancy Shevell entered his world. They tied the knot this past October. Ringo Starr, the only other living former Beatle, was in attendance.

Since then, word came Sir Paul is working on a new album – mostly of standards. It’s been a project 20 years in the making.

4. Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed say “I do” (finally!)

This past summer, during an appearance on the CBS daytime show The Talk, Gene Simmons admitted it was time to “grow up” and avoid the temptations the typical rock and roll lifestyle bring.

After that admission, Gene and long-time lover Shannon Tweed vacationed in Belize, he got down on bended knee and proposed, she said yes — and they also tied the knot this past October.

A quick sidebar: New radio co-worker Michael Mergens got to meet Gene Gene the metal machine. Merg and his wife Teresa, a.k.a. “Mrs. Merg”, saw KISS in concert in 2009. Nice to see we finally have a “Gene is to Shannon as Michael is to Teresa” analogy.

3. Cheap Trick avoiding disaster in Canada

The band was performing at the Ottawa Bluesfest in Canada. Just after they finished performing one of their best known hits, “I Want You To Want Me”, the stage they performed on collapsed in the midst of severe weather. No one was seriously hurt in the incident. But panic and hysteria followed soon thereafter.

2. It’s the end of R.E.M. as we know it

After years of carving a niche in the world of college radio, the band finally hit it big in 1987 with the hit song “The One I Love”. R.E.M.– which formed in Athens, Georgia — went on to taste success for much of the next two decades. This past September, R.E.M’s members posted a message online noting they decided “to call it a day as a band”.

1. Clarence Anicholas Clemons, Jr. (1942-2011)

Having worked with the classic rock format for nearly my entire radio career, it’s not often I tune in to music of other formats. However, I must confess, “The Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga has grown on me for two reasons.

First, the basis of the song. She recalled as her grandfather was dying, his wife of six decades stood over him. The singer recalled he looked like a champion — sending a message of “we won” to his widow-to-be.

The other reason — the unmistakable sax solo of “the big man”. What’s also included in what proved to be Clarence Clemons’ last professional work is a concert performance with Furthur, which includes former members of The Grateful Dead.

Clarence, of course, will forever be known with his work with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, all of whom will be going forward with a tour next year. Needless to say, this is a story my Rock 104 co-workers and I will be following.

The world of rock will miss him dearly.

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