Alexi Lalas is a former soccer star and current soccer analyst for ESPN and ABC Sports. He’s one of the most recognizable players in the history of the U.S. Men’s national team and played in the 1994 World Cup. Before he left for Brazil to cover this summer’s edition of the tournament, he stopped by KCRW to share some songs that have inspired him.
Banner Image Credit: Larry Hirshowitz
1. Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love
2. Triumph - Magic Power
3. Ratt - Lay It Down
4. 'Til Tuesday - Coming Up Close
5. The Lemonheads - Rudderless
Mathieu Shcreyer: Hi, I am Mathieu Schreyer, and I am here with Alexi Lalas, former soccer star and current soccer analyst for ESPN and ABC Sports. He’s one of the most recognizable players in the history of the U.S. Men’s national team and played in the 1994 World Cup. Right now, he’s in Brazil covering this summer’s edition of the tournament, and today we’ll be playing excerpts of songs he has selected that have inspired him over the years as KCRW’s Guest DJ Project.
Alexi, what did you bring for us?
Alexi Lalas: Well, this is the most difficult thing that I have had to do in a number of years, and I feel horrible for leaving so many great songs and bands off the list. I mean for me, I’ve been involved in music before I was kicking the ball and I will be in involved in music even after I stop talking about soccer. So this was difficult.
You’ve heard of Led Zeppelin, right?
MS: No. Never.
Well, everybody has their first time. And everybody has their first time when it comes to music, too.
So my first time when it came to music – where the light bulb went on and everything just clicked – was hearing this song.
I had a neighbor who was much older than me, and we went over and it was like this scene out of Dazed and Confused, cause it was in the ‘70s and he had this basement and he had the black light and the posters and all that kind of stuff. And the needle hit the groove, and man, it just – it absolutely blew me away.
To this day, the way that that was recorded and the way that it is played – because so many people have tried to duplicate it and nobody can – it’s just so down and dirty and wonderful when that song starts. You know that you’re about to hear something fantastic.
And also one of the greatest solos – when that break happens, and Jimmy Page comes in is just – it blew my mind then and continues to do so nowadays.
But it was one of those moments where, an older person says, “You need to hear this. This is going to change your life.”
MS: And it did.
AL: And it did.
Song: Led Zeppelin – “Whole Lotta Love”
MS: That was a “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. What’s your next song?
AL: So I grew up outside of Detroit, from a musical standpoint, where the ‘80s really impacted me. Because in Detroit, geographically, you’re very near Canada, and a lot of Canadian bands influenced me, and that whole Canadian type of vibe was very, very important. And it was all part of the culture and hockey and the north and all this kind of stuff and so my second song is “Magic Power” from Triumph.
And to hear this soaring voice coming through my little transistor radio and to have it also mirror what was actually happening cause the lyrics of this song talk about how music can, when you’re feeling bad, bring you back up and then can inspire you and it’s talking about this person listening to music the way that I was listening to it at the time in the ‘80’s.
MS: So let’s get into it. “Magic Power” by Triumph.
Song: Triumph – “Magic Power”
MS: That was the Canadian rock of Triumph, a pick from our guest Alexi Lalas. What’s next on your list?
AL: Ratt is a band out of Los Angeles that came out of the whole – you can call it ‘hair,’ you can call it ‘glam’ - scene in the ‘80s.
For me, the best rock band that America has ever produced. My favorite rock band ever, and the first time that I ever heard Ratt, I knew that that was something that I wanted to be a part of – not just the music, but the whole scene.
Whether it was the hair, the spandex, or the over-the-top type of production and shows, it had everything that I wanted from a band. It was entertaining. It was produced. It was full of hooks. It was something that you could scream, and it was something that you could play at high decibel levels with your windows down.
Their single off of their second album, “Lay It Down,” has probably the greatest opening riff that I have ever heard from guitarist Warren DeMartini, who comes in and – you just hear that and you are ready to go somewhere. And so, “Lay It Down,” from Ratt is my number 3 pick. The greatest rock band ever.
Song: Ratt – “Lay It Down”
MS: Well, that was great. That was “Lay It Down” by Ratt.
AL: I can almost guarantee that that is the first and only time that “Lay It Down” has ever been played on this station. (Laughter)
MS: Probably. Is that a song that you would listen to in a locker room before a game?
AL: Absolutely. And now in my current position, I often do speaking engagements for corporations and they ask me, “What song do you want to come out to?” And inevitably, I will say, “I am coming out to ‘Lay It Down’ from Ratt.”
MS: Well, let’s go to pick number 4.
AL: Everybody that’s into music and loves singer-songwritersbknows the name Aimee Mann – Grammy-nominated, all that kind of stuff. And she’s come to become an incredible solo artist.
Before that she was in a band called ‘Til Tuesday, and many people know that from their hit single “Voices Carry.”
I flew so much in my career as a player, and I used to play this song on take-off of every single flight that I ever took. The captain would say, "Here we go." The engines would rev up. I would hit play and on would come “Coming Up Close” from ‘Til Tuesday.
Song: ‘Til Tuesday – “Coming Up Close”
AL: The words were absolutely just beautiful and devastating and this whole concept of reaching for the ideal and the ultimate and not quite getting there but that still being okay – at least that’s how I interpreted these lyrics.
MS: That was “Coming Up Close” by ‘Til Tuesday. So what’s the last one you have for us, Alexi?
AL: The Lemonheads, a band out of Boston, an alt band.
They started as a punk band. But when they found, for me, melody and more beauty in the way that they wrote and just more interesting songs, as opposed to just blazing through noise, that’s when they really became good.
And there’s a song called “Rudderless” that was from 1992. And I just love the way it was simple, but it had dynamics. And I think he really found what worked for his voice and what worked for the band. And I love the end part of “Rudderless” where it just kicks in and goes and talking about how we often are ships without rudders.
Song: The Lemonheads – “Rudderless”
AL: I actually got to meet the guys from The Lemonheads after the World Cup. All these different opportunities came out of the World Cup. And I remember being backstage at a concert in New York City – I kind of remember it (laughing) – with The Lemonheads and all that. So it was kind of cool to be able to meet a band that I loved and that I was certainly playing at that time, and I still play.
MS: What music will you be listening to in Brazil? Do you like Brazilian music?
AL: I don’t understand the words, not that you have to understand the words, but some of it is, I guess, okay. And I’ll be down there, so I’ll be exposed to a whole lot of new things.
I’m hoping to be exposed to something where I come back and say, “Look this is a great band that I discovered down in Brazil or that discovered me when I was down in Brazil and bring it on back here.”
MS: Thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com.