Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chris DeBurgh - "Don't Pay the Ferryman"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted April 30, 1983, Peaked #34, 14 Weeks on the Chart)  

When I was in the eighth grade, I learned a little bit about Greek mythology in Mrs. Metcalf's English class, with a student teacher named Mr. Boliver helping out. One of the stories we read involved Charon, the mythical ferryman who crossed the newly cross the river Styx into Hades. In return for the passage, he demanded a token for his trouble. Once I learned that, this song made a lot more sense to me.

Chris DeBurgh is usually identified as an Irishman, but it's only part of his heritage. His father was a British military officer and diplomat who traveled often. DeBurgh was born in Argentina and lived in places like Malta, Zaire and Nigeria before his family settled down in a castle in Ireland, his mother's country. After that castle was converted into a motel, DeBurgh gained practice performing for the guests.

"Don't Pay the Ferryman" was DeBurgh's first hit in the U.S. With its eerie lyric and matching synth line, it was catchy enough to reach the Top 40. Although he eventually had a bigger hit with "The Lady in Red" in 1987, this is still perhaps his finest song.

But before I present a video with the song...

One of the kids I grew up with is Marcus Mastin, who used this title for a book he wrote. Don't Pay the Ferryman was published in 2003, and is the first book in the Carthage Chronicles series of suspense novels. Carthage, by the way, refers to the small village in upstate New York where we both grew up. I have a signed copy of the book on my shelf. It's interesting to see that a kid I was in Boy Scouts with have his own page on Wikipedia. For information about Marcus's books, here's a link to check them out.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Eddy Grant - "I Don't Wanna Dance"

I Don't Wanna Dance - The Very Best of Eddy Grant - Road to Reparation

(Debuted August 13, 1983, Peaked #53, 7 Weeks on the Chart)  

In the United States, Eddy Grant is best known for "Electric Avenue" and "I Don't Wanna Dance" was released as the follow-up single. Here in the U.S., things were done backwards. Grant actually released "I Don't Wanna Dance" first (late 1982), and it was a bigger hit than "Electric Avenue" every place it charted...except in America.

"I Don't Wanna Dance" really deserved to be a bigger hit than it was here. Ironically, the song about not feeling like dancing because a relationship was about to end was infused with a beat that made it damn near impossible to not dance. It was a #1 single in the U.K., Grant's first since 1968, when he was a member of The Equals.Perhaps its poor showing on the U.S. pop charts was due to a hint of a reggae beat, since even Bob Marley wasn't able to get more than one record ("Roots, Rock, Reggae," not even one of his best songs) on Billboard's pop chart.

At the time, I had a friend who had the cassette of Grant's LP Killer on the Rampage and played it fairly constantly during the summer of '83. I even remember a weekend outing where we set up a tent in his back yard and stayed overnight. There was a moment where one of the guys with us mentioned how the words to the song "Killer on the Rampage" were weird for us in a tent like that. For the longest time, hearing "Electric Avenue" or "I Don't Wanna Dance" made me think back on that weekend.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sylvia - "Nobody"

Nobody - RCA Country Legends: Sylvia

(Debuted August 28, 1982, Peaked #15, 19 Weeks on the Chart)  

Country crossover hits were a big deal in the early 1980s. Though the film Urban Cowboy gets a lot of credit for starting the trend, it had really started in the 1970s when Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Eddie Rabbitt, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray and Barbara Mandrell helped usher in a new brand of country music that really sounded a lot like adult contemporary music. "Nobody" was a latecomer to the crossover era, as the "craze" was winding its way down as country music slowly but surely started to embrace its roots during the 1980s. In fact, the week after "Nobody" hit #1 on the Billboard country charts, it relinquished the top spot to "Fool Hearted Memory," the very first of many #1 singles by George Strait. In that respect, a new era was just beginning.

"Nobody" is a tune about a lover who's feeling she's about to become an ex-lover. The signs are apparent: claims of late nights at the office, a mysterious woman calling on the phone, sly looks as other women pass, and his claiming the woman is simply "nobody." While the song is a reminder that all he wants to have is available for him, perhaps it's time she begins considering him to be "nobody." Just a thought.

Not to be confused with the Sylvia who scored the 1973 hit "Pillow Talk" (that was Sylvia Robinson, formerly of the 1950s duo Mickey & Sylvia and the founder of Sugar Hill Records),  this Sylvia continued to have hits for a few more years, until country began to toss aside its old "Countrypolitan" artists in the mid-to-late 1980s. It would be her only hit on the pop chart, though.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Skyy - "Call Me"

Call Me - Salsoul Classic, Vol. 2

(Debuted January 16, 1982, Peaked #26, 11 Weeks on the Chart)  

I once heard a stand-up comedian (maybe Wanda Sykes, but I might be mistaken) explaining one of the many differences between men and woman. She said that when a man introduces his girlfriend to one of his buddies, that buddy will say "I need to find a girl like that." Women, on the other hand...would say, "I want that man."

That's the topic of "Call Me." Accompanied by a wonderfully funky guitar riff, the lead singer is coming on to the lover of her best friend. And, by virtue of being a dog simply because of his gender, the guy is calling in before the song is over to get in on the action that is being offered him. Turns out he was a "playa" all along.

Skyy - Call Me
- Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Supertramp - "It's Raining Again"

It's Raining Again - Famous Last Words

(Debuted October 30, 1982, Peaked #11, 12 Weeks on the Chart)  

Supertramp was a well-known group in the U.S. and elsewhere during the 1970s, but since I was really young I never knew about them until I heard this song toward the end of 1982. I was turning 10 around that time, so I'm not entirely sure if it was the music video that told the story of a man who's constantly unlucky or the children singing "It's Raining, It's Pouring" as the song began to fade out. In any case, I liked the song when I heard it.

As a young kid who was then getting into Monty Python (thanks to seeing And Now For Something Completely Different on a cable station), I may have been drawn by a twisted sense of humor. Considering the cover of the LP ...Famous Last Words shows a pair of scissors cutting a tightrope while it's being used, in addition to the way Murphy's Law applied to the protagonist in the song's video, it definitely seemed the band was delightfully twisted in that sense.

"It's Raining Again" would be the last big hit for Supertramp's most successful lineup. Roger Hodgson, who wrote the song, would leave the band after the band's 1983 tour to stay closer to home.

(Sorry if the YouTube video doesn't work. Due to copyright issues, it doesn't play everywhere. If you click on the Amazon link below, you can hear a 30-second clip of the song.)

Supertramp (It's Raining Again) - MyVideo

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Steel Breeze - "You Don't Want Me Anymore"

You Don't Want Me Anymore - Steel Breeze

(Debuted August 28, 1982, Peaked #16, 19 Weeks on the Chart)  

During an episode of the American Top 40 program, Casey Kasem told a story about how Steel Breeze was "discovered" as part of a large stack of demo tapes that were about to get tossed out. Whether that story is true or just a "feel good" story sent out by the record company to generate positive buzz for an artist remains to be seen.

Despite that story, Steel Breeze had been performing "You Don't Want Me Anymore" for a few years around its Sacramento home base before it was made into a hit single. Written by band member Ken Goorabian, the song would be the last one produced by former Runaways impresario Kim Fowley before he moved on to other interests outside of the music business. The video proved popular during MTV's early days,which no doubt helped send it toward the Top 40.

Steel Breeze managed one follow-up hit that also reached the Top 40 called "Dreamin' is Easy" but were soon dropped by their record label. They released some albums on independents and went through a revolving door of members, but never managed to get back on the Hot 100 after that.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kano - "Can't Hold Back (Your Loving)"

Can't Hold Back (Original) - New York Cake (LP) - EP

(Debuted December 26, 1981, Peaked #89, 4 Weeks on the Chart)  

Formed in 1979 in Italy, Kano was a dance-oriented group whose sound was referred to as "Italo-disco" even though disco itself was considered to be dead by the time they arrived on the scene. A purely studio concoction, the producers behind the group (Luciano Ninzatti, Stefano Pulga and Matteo Bonsatto) relied more heavily on synthesizers and other electronic instruments to accompany their session singers than disco acts of the 1970s, which frequently used string and brass sections of an orchestra.

"Can't Hold Back (Your Loving)" was the band's only hit on the U.S. pop chart, but they scored other hits on Billboard's R&B and disco charts as well. The group broke up after 1985.

Although it didn't get too far up the pop chart, "Can't Hold Back (Your Loving)" has a nice funk groove that has probably been used in samples by recent artists. If I'm wrong about that, it should be...it has a great little groove there.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Joe Dolce - "Shaddup You Face"

Shaddap You Face - Shaddap You Face - Single

(Debuted May 2, 1981, Peaked #53, 14 Weeks on the Chart)  

Here's a novelty song to take you into the weekend.

Despite the low chart position in the U.S., it was a popular (and heavily-played) song on the Dr. Demento radio program. Joe Dolce was an Ohio native who moved "Down Under" to Australia during the late 1970s. When he wrote "Shaddup You Face," it was a way of reaching out to others who shared his Italian heritage in his new country, as well as a reflection on his upbringing.

I personally didn't understand it. But then again, I'm not of Italian ancestry. However, I appear to be in the minority, as the song went to #1 in 11 countries, including the U.K. and Dolce's adopted Australia. In the days before viral videos can spread worldwide in a matter of hours, "Shaddup You Face" took the old-fashioned approach of getting airplay and sales by word-of-mouth in the U.S. My friends who grew up under Italian households love it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Diesel - "Sausalito Summernight"

Sausalito Summernight (LP Version) - Watts In a Tank

(Debuted September 12, 1981, Peaked #25, 17 Weeks on the Chart)  

While the name Suasalito brings Marin County, California to mind, Diesel wasn't from that part of the world. They were actually Dutch, founded in 1978 by drummer Pim Koopman, who had previously been in a band called Kayak. The fact that they were a European band seems to have been overlooked by many, considering "Sausalito Summernight" is sometimes attributed to Steve Miller (and to be fair, it does sound somewhat like something Miller would have done in the late 1970s).

"Sausalito Summernight" is a guitar-driven tune that has been widely overlooked despite reaching the Top 40. A nice "driving song" -- literally, as its lyrics describe a road trip in a car that is clearly on its last miles -- that has an incredibly catchy guitar line and enough hooks to catch a whole bunch of fish. It was the only American hit the group enjoyed before they broke up in 1985.

(I normally feature YouTube videos whenever I post songs here. However, the videos for  "Sausalito Summernight "" seem to get yanked rather quickly over there, probably due to copyright infringement issues. While it's never fun to lose out on something like this that rarely gets any radio play anymore, I do realize that copyright holders can do  -- and should do -- whatever they like with their property. With that in mind, here's a video of the song from over at Veoh.com. Hopefully, this one stays for a little while. However, if it disappears, there are links to both iTunes and Amazon in this post that will let you get your hands on the song.)

Watch Diesel - Sausalito Summernights in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lulu - "I Could Never Miss You More Than I Do"

I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do) - Greatest Hits

(Debuted August 1, 1981, Peaked #18, 18 Weeks on the Chart)  

Lulu was best known for the 1967 hit "To Sir With Love," taking it to #1 for five weeks, but had some assorted hits through the years. However, none of her followup singles after that had reached into the U.S. Top 20 pop chart even though she'd scored several U.K. hits in the meantime, sang a Eurovision-winning song in 1969 and sang the theme song for the James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun.

In 1978, she had recorded "I Could Never Miss You" as part of an LP called Don't Take Love For Granted but didn't release it as a single. Since the album generated little interest at the time, perhaps that was a good thing. In 1980, the song was recorded by both Melba Moore and Bobbi Walker, which led to a second chance. Rather than re-recording it, the song was released in all of its 1978 glory, which may have allowed it to stand out among New Wave, synth-pop and other "modern" sounds of the day.

That's an interesting tactic: sending a three year-old song into the radio static at a time when songs of that era were largely being forgotten. It seemed to work in Lulu's favor, though. It not only went into the Top 20, it was also a #2 adult contemporary hit and went into the Top 10 in Canada and New Zealand. In Lulu's native U.K., however, it was a low-charting hit.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quincy Jones - "Ai No Corrida"

Ai No Corrida - The Dude

(Debuted April 11, 1981, Peaked #28, 12 Weeks on the Chart)  

Quincy Jones is well known as a songwriter, producer and arranger. He's done stuff many fans recognize (the Thriller LP, the soundtrack to Roots, Leslie Gore's #1 hit "It's My Party") and some stuff that many may not even realize he did (the theme to Sanford & Son, the song "Soul Bossa Nova," used at the beginning of all three Austin Powers movies). His pull is so strong that when he decides to record a song under his own name, the studio session can become an all-star event.

However, Quincy Jones didn't write "Ai No Corrida" or any of the other songs featured on his LP The Dude. Instead, ex-Ian Dury & the Blockheads keyboardist Chaz Jankel wrote it with American expatriate Kenny Yong (writer of the 1964 Drifters hit "Under the Boardwalk"). Jankel made the original recording, but it wasn't a hit anywhere. However, the song won a Grammy for them in '82 after Quincy Jones tackled it.

There's some confusion about the translation of the song's title. Some sources say it's Spanish, while others claim it's the original working title of a 1976 Japanese film called Realm of the Senses. Rather than focus on its meaning, I'm just going to listen to it instead. It's a great song that features a crisp, timeless production quality. You wouldn't expect any less from Quincy Jones.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shalamar - "Make That Move"

Make That Move - Three for Love

(Debuted April 25, 1981, Peaked #60, 8 Weeks on the Chart)  

When I was growing up, there were certain types of music that I wasn't exposed to, for several reasons. Much of it was out of my control; my parents preferred country, my friends were influenced by rock radio and MTV...which in the pre-Thriller/Prince era seemed to avoid a lot of music that was soul/funk-based. As a result, I missed a lot of great music, including this song. Fortunately, I have managed to fill in some of those empty spots with repeated listenings of "old school" radio and exercises like this blog.

Shalamar began as an outgrowth of the Soul Train TV show. Their first hit was "Uptown Festival" in 1977, which was essentially a medley of 1960s Motown hits set to a disco beat. That song was sung by session singers, but its success led Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius to assemble a more permanent lineup that could tour to support their singles. Two of those members would be popular dancers from the show, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel. Joining together with vocalist Howard Hewitt, they recorded what would be the group's best-regarded material under Dick Griffey's SOLAR Records.

One of the songs recorded during their late 70s/early 80s heyday was "Make That Move," a single that stalled short of the Top 40 but was a Top 10 R&B hit. Though "disco" was thought to have died out a couple years before, the song has every bit of the upbeat fun and even some elements of a late 70s-era disco hit. In short, the music didn't change nearly as much as the fans did. But, since the terminology had changed by the time the 1980s were underway, it's not considered to be the disco classic it would have been certainly tagged if it came out in '78.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rocky Burnette - "Tired of Toein' the Line"

Tired of Toein' the Line - Tired of Toein' the Line - Single

(Debuted May 10, 1980, Peaked #8, 19 Weeks on the Chart)  

Rocky Burnette had rock & roll in his blood. His father Johnny Burnette and uncle Dorsey Burnette were rockabilly artists from Memphis in the 1950s, and his cousin Billy Burnette was also a singer who later replaced Lindsey Buckingham in Fleetwood Mac. Rocky would follow in his father's footsteps, anticipating a wave of success brought by nostalgia for rockabilly.

Unfortunately, his timing was a little premature. When The Stray Cats ended up riding that rockabilly revival wave in 1982/'83, Burnette had been dropped by his label. As it turned out, he enjoyed one big hit on the U.S. pop charts with "Tired of Toein' the Line." A song about a relationship that's heading south in a big hurry, it made its way into the Top 10 (in fact, its #8 peak matched the high point his father had achieved with "You're Sixteen" in 1960) and would score well in several other countries, where there was a better reception of rockabilly-influenced music. It even reached #1 in Australia.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Michael Jackson - "Off the Wall"

Off the Wall (Single Version) - Off the Wall

(Debuted February 16, 1980, Peaked #10, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

In the 1970s, Michael Jackson was best known as a member of a group with his brothers. Though he would go on to notch a solo #1 hit with "Ben" and appear in a movie version of The Wiz, he was still seen by many as the young singer whose voice graced those early hits by The Jackson 5. In the 1980s, he developed into the biggest star on the planet.

The seeds of his 1980s success were already being planted in 1979, when he released the LP Off the Wall. That album was produced by Quincy Jones, who also directed Thriller and Bad for him. They first worked together for the soundtrack for The Wiz, and their partnership was a mutually beneficial one. Quincy Jones had a long list of credits and was known to have a keen ear, and Michael Jackson's raw talent presented a great opportunity.

The success came almost immediately. The first two singles from Off the Wall -- "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You" -- would hit #1 on the Hot 100. The title track and its followup also made the Top 10, which made it the first LP in history by a solo artist to notch four Top 10 singles on the American pop chart.

It's worth mentioning that when Jackson began doing his vocals for Off the Wall, he was still only 20 years old. He had been notching hits for nearly half his life, and still had his best music ahead of him. The album began what would be a phenomenally successful decade, which is even more amazing when that success was generated by a mere three albums.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chuck Mangione - "Give it All You Got"

Give It All You Got - Chuck Mangione: Greatest Hits

(Debuted January 19, 1980, Peaked #18, 16 Weeks on the Chart)  

This is only the third single featured on 80s Music Mayhem that is an instrumental and the second this week. In fact, all three of the singles peaked on the chart in 1980. Granted, the instrumental was becoming a dying art form among hit singles since the mid 1970s, but TV and movie themes were able to keep them afloat for a short time. However, after MTV helped introduce the music video as a movie element and TV shows began dropping theme music in favor of credits that played over the opening scenes, the end was getting near.

"Give it All You Got" was a theme song as well. It was commissioned as a theme for the 1980 Winter Olympics, which were held in the Adirondack Mountain town of Lake Placid in upstate New York. Chuck Mangione -- who is a resident of upstate New York -- came up with a jazz-inspired tune that was both upbeat and motivational to fit the spirit of international competition.

In any case, it's one of the few hits of the decade that featured a flugelhorn on it.

Without any doubt, Chuck Mangione will be known to most music fans for his 1978 hit "Feels So Good." However, it's worth noting that he has done much more work that the one song that has defined his career.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Meco - "The Empire Strikes Back (Medley)"

The Empire Strikes Back Medley: Darth Vader/Yoda's Theme - The Best of Meco

(Debuted June 14, 1980, Peaked #18, 14 Weeks on the Chart) 

Disco was considered to be dead in 1980, but that didn't stop Meco Monardo from making a version of the music from the Star Wars sequel. He had taken a discofied version of the original film's theme to #1 in 1977, beating out the John Williams score. Fortunately for him, his take on the music from the new adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and company didn't have to contend with the original score on the Billboard chart.

While Meco was careful not to make the song too "disco," he definitely made an uptempo version of Darth Vader's theme from the movie, one that was presented in the film as a foreboding sense of an agent of evil (not something that would normally inspire a dance song). As the song ends, the music includes bits from Luke's theme and the title music but it's Vader's theme that makes up the bulk of the single. One thing I will add, though: Meco was able to get better sound effects to accentuate the music to use this time around. The ones that marked the segue between "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" in 1977 sounded really wrong to the fans of the film who had seen it several times in the theater.

I turned 8 years old in 1980. Needless to say, I watched Empire Strikes Back in the theater -- twice -- during its initial run. For a large part of my childhood, I was a Star Wars fanatic. I had the Kenner action figures and playsets, collected the Topps gum cards, and even slept under a set of sheets with images from the original movie for a few years.

That said, I still wish they could have put John Williams' version out as a single. It's a really great piece, one that makes me wonder who may have been turned on to classical or orchestral music from the influences that inspired it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

707 - "I Could Be Good For You"

I Could Be Good for You - 707

(Debuted October 11, 1980, Peaked #52, 9 Weeks on the Chart)

1979 had been a great year for Casablanca Records because of its position as the pre-eminent disco label. However, 1979 was also a bad year for the same label when the backlash against disco went into full swing.  Realizing that the tastes of music fans was changing as a new decade arrived, they added some acts that were more rock-leaning. 707 was one of those post-disco signings.

While "I Could Be Good For You" was a nice debut for the Detroit-rooted band and attracted attention from several listeners who caught it on album-oriented rock stations, 707 never managed to get a followup hit. The band was plagued by changing lineups, shakeups at the record companies and the changing tastes of the general public. Despite opening gigs in support of AOR stalwarts like REO Speedwagon, Rainbow and Loverboy, they never managed to break through despite the potential they showed in that first hit.

707 was a group that featured several distinct singers, which meant nobody was the "regular" lead singer. Bass player Phil Bryant handled the lead vocals on "I Could Be Good For You," but guitarist Kevin Russell and keyboardist Duke McFadden were also able to get in front of the microphone. The song was written by McFadden and drummer Jim McClarty.

The video below comes from an appearance on The Midnight Special. That is Stephanie Mills doing the intro, which seems odd given the difference in material. However, that was the beauty of The Midnight Special before it was tossed to the wayside like many programs in the wake of the MTV juggernaut.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Roachford -- "Cuddly Toy"

Cuddly Toy - Roachford

(Debuted April 15, 1989, Peaked #25, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

With this post, I've now finished a single week of reviews from each year from 1980 through '89. Next week, the reviews will return to 1980 and begin going through the 1980s another time. Since this was the beginning of the blog, I specifically avoided getting Top 10 hits as it was ramped up in favor of more "forgotten" tunes; bigger hits will start showing up soon. If anybody would like to request a song for me to consider, drop me an email and I'll check it out.

Today's review is a song that had a really short life on hit radio, and one that showed a lot more promise that never was fulfilled. Actually, that statement isn't correct. See, Roachford managed to get additional hit singles after "Cuddly Toy," but they were all on the other side of the Atlantic. Here in the United States, it would be their only appearance on the Top 40.

"Cuddly Toy" was a straightforward rock tune, which was a welcome addition to the Top 40 during a time where many of the hits were synthesized dance grooves, out-of-touch adult contemporary pap or bombastic hard rock. Roachford was actually a group, despite the way the video and Rolling Stone press focused on guitarist/bandleader Andrew Roachford. They were based in England, but should have been given a better chance in the U.S. than the one they eventually had.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Johnny Kemp -- "Birthday Suit"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted February 25, 1989, Peaked # 36, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

I was 16 years old in 1989. I probably don't need to explain in any detail what it was about "Birthday Suit" that attracted my attention.

"Birthday Suit" was a song from the soundtrack of a film called Sing that came out in 1989. I never actually watched the film (not even as a video rental or on a late-night showing on a cable station), so I can't give any insight about what its purpose was in the movie. In fact, the only thing I know about the film is that it featured Lorraine Bracco as a teacher returning to her old high shool in Brooklyn and trying to help a troubled student(which was a concept lifted from Welcome Back, Kotter). Other than that, there was this song and a Paul Carrack/Terri Nunn duet called "Romance" that was a hit on the AC charts but missed the Hot 100.

Johnny Kemp was a singer who was born in the Bahamas but grew up in Harlem. His breakthrough came in 1988 when "Just Got Paid" was a Top 10 pop hit. I really wasn't much of a fan of "Just Got Paid," though, so I was pumped up when this song played on my radio in 1989. However, the chart fortunes being what they are, "Birthday Suit" would be Kemp's last hit.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Katrina & the Waves - "That's the Way"

That's the Way - The Best of Katrina and the Waves

(Debuted July 22, 1989, Peaked #16, 12 Weeks on the Chart)

"Then vs. Now" is sometimes an interesting game to play in one's mind.

In the summer of 1989, I heard the song "That's the Way" while at a friend's house. My friend had a TV set in his room (black & white, but that really didn't matter much to us) and even had a cable hookup. While goofing around in his room, we usually just put MTV on and let it play in the background. Sometimes a good song came on to catch our attention, and sometimes something came on that just made somebody turn the damned thing off. However, there were times when something new popped up and caught the attention of this young music lover, and "That's the Way" was one of those songs.

At first, I loved it. I had been burned out on "Walking on Sunshine" when it was a hit in 1985, and the "new" sound that came out on this record was different. Today, it comes across as formulaic, while "Sunshine" has improved with the passage of time. Watching the video again, I think I can see what probably attracted me to the song when I was 16 years old.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cinderella -- "Coming Home"

Coming Home - Long Cold Winter

(Debuted January 21, 1989, Peaked #36, 10 Weeks on the Chart)

When this song was running its way onto the Top 40 and on MTV, I was in the 11th grade. Like many others, at that point in my life I was faced with the uncertainty of what I was going to do after graduating from high school the next year. Thus, the opening line "I took a walk down the road" shortly followed by "a man's gotta make his way" caught my ear very quickly, even if the rest of the song mentioned heading back after being gone.

Cinderella made its debut with 1986's Night Songs, and the group's association with Bon Jovi and Poison lumped it in with the other "hair bands" of the day. In 1988, they released their follow-up, Long Cold Winter, which featured more of a blues-influenced sound even as it still fell in line with glam metal. If the shift was a way of distancing themselves from a rapidly crowding pack of hard-edged rockers, it didn't help them avoid the drop in popularity that they exprienced once grunge arrived.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Traveling Wilburys - "End of the Line"

End of the Line - The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 (Remastered)

(Debuted February 11, 1989, Peaked #63, 9 Weeks on the Chart)

The concept of the "Supergroup" had fallen out of favor during the 1980s. Maybe it seemed like such a progressive 1970s thing...or perhaps large assemblies of established stars like Band Aid, USA For Africa and Artists United Against Apartheid made the entire concept seem silly. However, the 1960s became cool again thanks to nostalgic looks at that decade, which not only jogged memories of the kids who grew up then but also made certain kids of the 1980s (like myself) believe it was a much better time to be young. With the surge of interest in 1960s culture, that interest naturally spilled over to music.

In the wake of that wave of nostalgia, a new Supergroup appeared. On paper, it sounded irresistible...a member of the Beatles, Dylan, Roy Orbison and two guys who were roots oriented but had been involved in more recent hits: Tom Petty and ELO's Jeff Lynne. When the record arrived, it sounded great: guitars and straight rock, without any of the synth-driven music that had been in vogue. Unfortunately, Orbison died soon after the album was released, which meant that the group would be a one-time collaboration.

The music video for "End of the Line" (not the YouTube video below) featured the four surviving members doing their parts, and when Orbison's vocal came around, his guitar was shown sitting in a rocking chair and his framed picture appeared for a moment. It was a nice way to include an artist that had been an influence on the others and had been taken away from the stage far too early.