Friday Five: 1989

The end of the 1980s was the high point of the reign of hard rock.  After Motley Crue and (especially) Guns N’ Roses, if you had long hair and you were in a guitar band that played L.A. clubs, you just might become a rock star.

The formula was simple: you had to have at least one guitar-driven rock video and one ballad, usually a love song.  Oh, people loved them some big-hair, 80s rock ballads!

So here are five of my favorite rock ballads from 1989…

5. “When I See You Smile” (Bad English)
When Journey broke up, guitarist Neal Schon (who started Journey before Steve Perry and later reformed the band without him) reunited with former Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain and joined forces with vocalist John Waite and bassist Ricky Phillips, two of Cain’s former bandmates from The Babys, one of Cain’s pre-Journey projects. Billed as something of a US-British “super group,” the band had only minimal success, largely due to this hit ballad.

4. “Heaven” (Warrant)
Probably one of the most successful of the second-tier 80s rock bands, Warrant hit it big with their debut album Dirty Filthy Sticking Rich, an endeavor that spawned three MTV hits that crossed over to the radio charts. This ballad was the engine to their album sales. They’d repeat their success with their follow-up album Cherry Pie a year later, and another ballad (“I Saw Red”) before disappearing under the wave that was grunge.

3. “Patience” (Guns N’ Roses)
Guns N’ Roses might have been the most respected of the 80s rock bands.  They were seen as more talented, artistic, and authentic than the MTV manufactured kind. G N’ R Lies––the follow-up to their monumentally successful album Appetite for Destruction––was an acoustic EP (“extended play,” or not quite a full “long play” album) release from the band, a reflection of the way they honed that reputation.  “Patience” was the only release from the album, and so its only hit.  It’s a masterful example of the genre, in some ways because it is so simple.  (It wasn’t the only song to be widely known, however. Among the unreleased tracks was “One In A Million,” a song that featured lead-singer Axl Rose spouting off in a racist and homophobic mini-tirade.)

2. “What It Takes” (Aerosmith)
Aerosmith were kind of the granddads of the 80s rock movement, a 70s rock band that experienced a “second career” starting with the release of their 1986, best-selling album Permanent Vacation. The follow-up, 1988’s Pump, was an even bigger commercial success. “What It Takes” was the album’s final single to be release, barely scrubbing the charts in 1990. As an owner of the album, however, it was on frequent play for me throughout 1989 and 1990. This quickly became my favorite Aerosmith song, mostly for its bluesy rock style, but also for the feeling of playing my cassette and driving with the windows down as I went to meet friends for a night out.  It still sounds like youthful grown-up-ness to me.

1. “Love Song” (Tesla)
Sacramento-based rockers Tesla straddled stardom until their 1989 album The Great Radio Controversy made them into the proverbial “overnight success.” In truth, their love of the blues and Northern California 70s rock really gave them a distinct sound, and secured a reputation of more legitimacy in the hard rock world than if they were “only” a ballad-playing MTV band. That said, they remain forever known by one song––one ballad––one ballad that just might be the king of 80s rock ballads.

For a bonus treat…the song played a memorable role in the band’s acoustic album, Five Man Acoustical Jam. Recorded live in Philadelphia, the song acted as a transition to a short “electric” set. The crowd’s sing-a-long speaks volumes about the song’s popularity.

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Immigrants are #MoreThanALabel

About a week ago, I was asked to participate in the #MoreThanALabel campaign, an effort by the MSW Program at Simmons College to promote positive immigrant-related discourse in the United States.

It’s not mystery that this is something dear to my heart, both intellectually and personally. It’s what I care about as a professor, through work that focuses on the history of Latin American-descent migrants and their descendants. It’s what I care about as a Chicano, as the member of a family and larger community that is both immigrant and native-born. And it’s what I care about as a person, as a human being who sees the unnecessary suffering of people as they make terribly difficult decisions to migrate and, ultimately, take up the struggle of creating lives in new often hostile places.

For those in the United States who care about immigrants––especially those who are part of the majority (white, native-born) society––there is work to be done.  If we really care about doing something to combat the labels and stigmas that affect the lives of immigrants in our country, we have to start by looking in the mirror.

We need to check our fears and assumptions. We need to open ourselves to learning about the diversity of immigrant experiences.  We need to promote the creation of new immigration systems that are designed to meet 21st century challenges.  And we need to forcefully and affirmatively commit ourselves to the social value of humanism.

Being a humanist in the 21st century means learning about the world. It means grappling with the complexity of things like capitalism and neoliberalism, systems that link much of us together in ways that are powerful and, often, invisible to our understanding. It means being empathic, extending ourselves to understand the lives, the desires, the struggles of others, even when those are nearly impossible to fully understand.

It also means changing how we think about the nation that is the United States.

There is no a person in the United States today who is not benefiting from the work of immigrants.  Not one of us will go the day without eating something that is planted, picked, packed, or processed by a Spanish-speaking migrant.  And that’s just one, life-giving form of work.  The work immigrants is so diverse that it relates to each of our lives in countless different ways, each day.  The common link of all this labor is simple: The United States does not survive without immigrant labor.

That is a good starting point, but its not a very humanistic one.  We’re not going to combat the racism and xenophobia making immigrant lives so difficult by shouting “We need them for cheap labor so we can benefit from them!”

What we need to do is to learn about these relationships between our own lives and the lives of immigrants.  We need to think about the ethics and morality that come with them. Is it right to benefit from the suffering of others?  Is it right to support a system that labels some “acceptable” and others “illegal”?  And finally we need to find a way to humanistically “flip” the power imbalance that makes migration such an oppressive system in our present.

We do that by accepting that global migrants deserve the same inalienable rights as do all other human beings in the world.  We do that by making sure our political systems nurture and protect those rights.

And we do it by living our own, individual and personal lives in ways that show it.

MoreThanALabel Logo



Posted in Immigration | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Five: 1988

This weekend is my 25th high school reunion!!  25 years!!

I can’t be there because I’m in Tampa at a conference, a commitment I made before the date was set.  So what better way to celebrate than a selection of tunes from 1988.

5. “Hands to Heaven” (Breathe)
There were a lot of ballads that topped the charts in 1988. This song, by the British group Breathe, was one of them. My sister once walked in on me singing along to it at the top of my lungs. I was not embarrassed.

4. “Parents Just Don’t Understand” (DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince)
We first met Will Smith back in 1988, but we didn’t know it yet.

3. “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” (Tracy Chapman)
Maybe the best thing musically about 1988 was the self-titled, debut album of Tracy Chapman. It included her hit single “Fast Car“––which remains a favorite song of mine to this day––and this song, the lead-off track on the album. In this video Chapman performs the song at Wembley Stadium as part of the festival concert in June 1988 to commemorate the 70th birthday of Nelson Mandela. Younger audiences should note, Mandela was still imprisoned in 1988, with the support of much of the West.

2. “A Little Respect” (Erasure)
I love this song so much. I have sung along with it, laughed with friends while it played, and gotten as sweaty as a person can get while dancing to it. It is one of my top 20 sons of all-time, solely for the the memories and many meanings it has had for me. A classic. Here’s the original video, along with a 2014 live performance that shows it means a lot to others, too.

1. “Push-It” (Salt-N-Pepa)
It’s more than a catchy tune that can be used for commercials in 2015, and make my kids laugh. Put it in context: In 1988, the idea of women rappers was revolutionary. They were trailblazers. And they did it well.

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cocina! Cocina!

IT IS DONE!! It is FINALLY done!!

After 29 days––29 long, eating too many sandwiches, washing dishes in the bathroom sink, not being able to cook more than a salad days––the Summers Sandoval family has a kitchen again!

And it’s better than ever before…


We have new, custom cabinets on both sides and a beautiful tile counter. We live in a historical district so we tried to keep a lot of the charm and style of the old kitchen.  The molding and built-in shelves aren’t technically historic for the period of our house but they sure look like it to our 21st century eyes.


We had wall and door taken out, seen here in the far end of the kitchen. It really opened up the space and made it feel like we added on.

cocina4 cocina3

I’m just happy that we can go back to cooking and eating our typical food. It’s amazing how difficult that dietary shift has been for us as a family, adding to the mood swings and short tempers with all the chaos in the house.  The kids have been great about it, though, but not as great as my wife, who had a lot more inconveniences to deal with than any of us.

Here’s to new beginnings! And to Dodgers taking care of business tonight in game 4!

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

“The People and the Police: Oakland” (1974)

This documentary originally aired in 1974. It was produced by KRON as part of their “Assignment Four” series. It’s narrated by Paul Ryan and was written, produced, and directed by Ira Eisenberg.

Posted in History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Weekend of Chicana/o Arts

What a great weekend!

One of the things I love about the weekends is the chance for us to go out as a family and spend time making memories. With the kitchen still in the final days of its rebirth, these days we like getting out of the house and eating. But we also live in an amazing community and region, and we’re only 30 miles from one of the great cities of the world!

This weekend was a reminder of both.

On Saturday, the wife took kid #3 to an evening birthday party at one of those trampoline places. #3 is a megawatt battery of energy who is as physical as they come. Cake and jumping–that’s a win-win in her book.  While they were off, #1 and #2 and I went out to “Second Saturdays,” one of the best things about Pomona.  As the name suggests, it happens once a month in the downtown arts district.  Galleries usually schedule openings or closings that night.  There are vendors, music, and on super hot days like this weekend, a lot of families looking to cool of with the evening breeze and evening shade.

We grabbed dinner and visited the opening of the annual Aztlan art show at The dA Center for the Arts.  The Dodgers game was on, too, but I felt like I could use a little break from the tension of watching it at home, so I decided to DVR it. It was on the big screen while we at our veggie burgers in downtown and after Greinke gave up those homers, I felt like I made the right decision.

The Aztlan art show has been bringing Chicana/o and Latina/o art our community for 13 years now.  The opening is always fun–not only a chance to see some amazing art but also other things, like danzantes.

IMG_7371 2

The kids loved the Aztec dancers more than the paintings and sculptures, but how can stationary art beat feathers, drums, and amazing moves? After the smoke and sweaty heat of the gallery, we headed out for desert.


We drove a little farther than we had to for frozen yogurt, mostly so we (I) could hear some of the game on the radio. On the way back home, we caught the 7th inning, including “the slide.” I got home in time to watch the final innings live.

On Sunday, we all went into the city to watch a beautiful outdoor production of the Popol Vuh story of the Maya (or K’iché).  It was done by the Center Theater Group in Grand Park and it was AMAZING!

IMG_7379 2

It’s a wonderful story made all the more wonderful by lovingly-made masks and puppets, some larger than life.  The color, the detail, and the size all complimented the 100% community production.  It was so much fun to watched the wonder and surprise in my kids’ eyes as the play unfolded.  The 5 year-old (#3) even gasped at one point.

IMG_7384 2

The best part, of course, was being with other Angelenos–mostly Chicana/o families, single folks, couples–watching such a visually-moving piece of community theater that was culturally relevant to the audience.

We’ve been locked in the triple digits for days now but our memories of this weekend won’t have much to do with the weather–or the various emotional meltdowns of 3 kids (or their parents).

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

Friday Five: 1987

Popular music and teenagers have gone together for the better part of the last century of U.S. culture.  There’s a lot I could say about this as a historian, and as a lover of music, but the only thing that really matters is this: for most of us, the music of our teen years makes an indelible mark in our life story.

I don’t want to make the case about this music being “the best.”  Intellectually, I know that some of the music I loved in this period of my life really wasn’t even all that good.  No matter. All that is external to the power of music in our lives.  When a song comes along that means something to us, that’s all we care about, not whether or not we should like it.

This list of 5 songs from 1987 contains songs that meant something to me in 1987.  Some are better than others, yes, but all match up in a visceral way to my (memory of my) life at the time.  They might seem like an eclectic bunch.  That’s as much as function of me as it is the culture at the time.

5.  “Where the Streets Have No Name” (U2)
It’s one of the biggest albums of the decade from one of the biggest bands in popular music.  I wasn’t a U2 fan before Joshua Tree made them more pop than “college radio.” I really wasn’t too much of a fan even after that, but there are songs, and this might be my favorite of the bunch. I remember the day in spring 1987 when they announced on the radio that U2 was going to be filming a video in downtown LA and gave an address to go to if you wanted to be a part of it. I’m pretty sure at least a few people skipped school that day. That made the video and song even more meaningful to me, somehow. The Edge’s guitar, the way it builds and explodes, and the period of it release kind of make it like my generation’s “Born to Run.”

4. “I Think We’re Alone Now” (Tiffany)
I had a mad crush Tiffany. In 1987, Tiffany zoomed to the top of the MTV charts with “I Think We’re Alone Now,” a remake of an old 60’s song by Tommy James & the Shondells. I fell in love with it, and with the video. I think it says a lot that I didn’t go around expressing my love of her music to my friends. But I did love it. I bought the 45 and, later, the cassette. Tiffany was the first “star” I remember knowing about whose rise to fame came as a result of performing in shopping malls, hence the video (which is also another reflection of the “video/reality” genre of the time).

3. “La Bamba” (Los Lobos)
I don’t know when I first heard of Los Lobos. They were just always there, always known, the Chicano band from East LA. When the movie La Bamba came out they became bigger than that. I can’t say enough about the movie and its importance to Chicanos in Southern California. There were (and still are) so few reflections of our culture in popular media. The movie filled a void and provided a release, all while celebrating a music legend. Los Lobos covered the title track in a masterful way, reuniting it with its root in traditional music of Mexico. They made it a tribute and made it their own all at once. The flurry of mexicanidad at the end didn’t often make the radio. I remember sitting in my room with my radio on my lap every time I heard the song play, just hoping it would play all the way through. It remains the band’s only #1 song.

2. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (Whitney Houston)
Whitney Houston was about as vocally talented as a person can be. She was so good, that it almost never really mattered what she sang. She had a voice that could make just about any song better than it was. I think this song is an example of that. It’s not bad, not at all. It has what it needs to be catchy enough. But I don’t think it would have been what it was in the slightest without Houston’s performance. The video is beautifully 80s, too.

1. “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns N’ Roses)
Guns N’ Roses was my band. I’m hardly unique in that sense, of course. They were probably the most “authentic” of the hard rock bands of the time, able to occupy a space that drew in big hair glam lovers with metal heads. I first heard of them in 1987 before their album Appetite for Destruction came out. They were making such a name for themselves in the LA club scene and a version of the song “Mr. Brownstone” was getting play on non-mainstream radio in the city. When this song was released later in the year, it made them household names. My favorite part of it, aside from the song, is the way Axl Rose looks. It’s a style from before they made it big, a look that was probably replaced as soon as the record company hired a stylist for him. But it’s so LA metal at the time.

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment