Johnny O’Neil, cofounder of Dare Force and stalwart of the Minneapolis hard rock scene since the 1970s, releases his first solo album – Truth or Dare.
The moment I put on Johnny’s CD, I smiled. The music drove me right back to the 1980s. The heavy metal twang on the guitar riffs, confident vocals, the driving drum. All of the musical punctuation. Funny how you can just be so immediately transported. It’s like it was all there waiting for me to come back.
Then listening to the songs, I realize there’s an edge to the work that I haven’t heard before. There’s a depth and range to the songs topics – it’s a varied soundtrack to the many moments in our life, which makes sense since it’s a collection of songs Johnny has written throughout his life. Coming For You captures the male lust that is familiar to the genre. There’s an interesting cover of the Beatles’ Revolution. Ode to Mark, an instrumental piece, is a softer side that really showcases his adroit guitar playing. Johnny wrote, actually cowrote, the songs as a young teenager with a slightly older friend named Mark, who sadly passed away soon after when hit by a drunk driver on the way home from a gig.
Tell Me What You Think You Know is great song with an incredible purpose. I loved that song when I heard it, but was afraid maybe I was bringing too much of myself and the civil unrest of the last years. Turns out I wasn’t. It is a song about systemic racism. It’s about talking to people who don’t agree with you and asking them – what do you think you know? Johnny said that while he doesn’t want to be a political band but it is the job of the artist to call BS and to call out injustices, especially today. He’s in a unique position to reach fans who may benefit from hearing the message. Music is a fantastic way to reach people and change minds.
Fun to get to know Johnny too. A clinical psychology by day, rocker by night. Parent of teenagers. Has shared the stage with the likes of KISS and still geeks out over the musicians playing with him today. Enthusiasm of a solo debut with the confidence of a musician who knows his style and plays to it because there’s always room to grow.