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Vail: 80s cover band plays Street Beat

Sarah Mausolf
smausolf@vaildaily.com
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
ALL |

VAIL, Colorado ” Ah, the ’80s. That glorious decade when MTV actually played music videos and a wristful of jelly bracelets was the height of cool.

Few people love the ’80s more than Chad “Chadzilla” Johnson. He’s the drummer/singer for Denver cover band Chadzilla and the Asteroids. The band plans to rock ’80s tunes at Wednesday’s free Street Beat concert in Vail.

“For me, the ’80s was the decade that I became a musician,” said Johnson, 37. “I was really influenced by a lot of the music that was popular back then. Even though I had been into jazz, and the ’60s and ’70s, you know The Beatles and Zeppelin, there was something different about the ’80s with the use of keyboards and a lot more complex harmonies.”



Chadzilla’s five-man band breaks out gems like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,'” U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Message in a Bottle” by The Police. Fittingly, Chadzilla and the Asteroids formed last year as the opening act for a screening of “The Breakfast Club” at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver. Chadzilla is a nickname Johnson picked up for doing Godzilla impressions during drum solos Asteroids is a shout-out to the Atari video game from the ’80s.

Below, Johnson names five of his favorite things from the ’80s.



Johnson bought the British rock band’s 1983 album, “Synchronicity,” the day it came out ” and he was devastated when the band broke up the next year.

“It hurt,” Johnson recalled.

As The Police went their separate ways, Johnson wondered whether Sting would “flail away into nonexistence” or launch a successful solo career.



Even though The Police broke up, their legacy lives on. Songs like “Every Breath You Take,” which Chadzilla plans to perform in Vail, continue to jolt fans’ memories back to that romantic couples’ skate from the ’80s.

“It’s funny that so many people think (‘Every Breath You Take’) is this sweet little love ballad but if you really listen to the words, it’s a stalker song,” Johnson said. “I mean how brilliant is that? This guy who can write a nice, beautiful song and everyone sings along with it but if you really listen to the words, that some sick, twisted stuff. ‘Every move you make, I’ll be watching you.'”

Long before Heidi met Spencer, MTV played non-stop music videos.

“That’s how I saw bands,” Johnson said. “Especially growing up in Denver, Colorado, not a lot of big bands came through here ” I mean, they did but I was too young to see the big shows.”

Johnson will never forget Phil Collins’ video for the song “In the Air Tonight.”

“He had this weird effect on his face,” Johnson said. “It was kind of like this white silhouette that was coming in and out. … Here’s Phil Collins, the drummer for Genesis, and he’s singing this song, and he’s this freaked out looking ghost face singing. And when you realize he’s a drummer, that was some good mojo for me as a drummer.”

When Johnson was in the sixth grade, he had to endure a half-hour drive to music camp. It was a real drag, until he got a Walkman.

“Once I got my first Walkman, that bus ride was awesome,” Johnson recalled.

Unlike with the iPod, with its discrete earbuds, the Walkman was hard to miss in a crowd.

“They had the little metal thing that went over your head, but you would get yellow or orange foam cushions that would sit on top of your ears so it was always really obvious what you were doing. People could really tell around you ‘Oh yeah, this guy’s listening to music.'”

Johnson is still mad at George Lucas for making him wait three years to find out whether Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.

The Star Wars trilogy reached full tilt in the 1980s. “The Empire Strikes Back” came out in 1980, followed by “Return of the Jedi” in 1983.

Johnson’s favorite character was Han Solo ( “He was a bad-ss”). However, few images left a bigger impression on Johnson than Princess Leia in her bikini top on Jabba the Hut’s sail barge.

“If you were a young boy at the time, you’ll never forget it,” he said. “I wouldn’t go that deep but let’s say this:I thought a lot about it at night.”

Asteroids was Johnson’s favorite game on the Atari 2600 game console. Armed with a the most basic of joysticks, he would spend hours shooting asteroids in faux-outer space.

“What’s funny about it is basically you wouldn’t just turn and shoot,” Johnson said. “You could also just fly around. My sister and I, we would have these contests to see how long we could just travel on and off screen as fast as we possibly could before we were hit.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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