Friday, October 5, 2012

Mtume - "Juicy Fruit"

Juicy Fruit - Juicy Fruit

(Debuted August 6, 1983, Peaked #45, 12 Weeks on the Chart)

If you're a little young to remember the 1980s and anyone tries to tell you that the music that's made nowadays is more graphic or is somehow less "pure," here's a song you can ask about. The "Juicy Fruit" in this song isn't about a stick of gum, it's about cunnilingus. That's right, oral sex given to a female...and the words don't really skirt the subject, either: "I'll be your lollipop, you can lick me everywhere."

Mtume was a funk/soul combo named after percussionist James Mtume, a protege of Miles Davis. Peaking at #45, it was as close to the U.S. pop Top 40 as the group would ever get. Despite that, the song was a million-seller and has provided sample material for a whole host of songs, notably The Notorious B.I.G.'s debut hit "Juicy" and Keyshia Cole's 2007 hit "Let it Go."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Robert Plant - "Big Log"

Big Log - The Principle of Moments (Remastered)

(Debuted October 15, 1983, Peaked #20, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

I guess I have to preface this with the fact that I turned 12 in 1984. At the time, I (along with my friends) found the title "Big Log" to be rather funny for purely juvenile reasons. Besides that, there was a friend's older brother, a Led Zeppelin fanatic, who just didn't like the way the song went. Since Robert Plant had been the lead voice of Led Zep, he just found it atrocious that he was willing to do such "soft" material.

Time has passed, and I can listen to the song today without snickering (much) at its title -- which, by the way, is never actually mentioned in the words of the song -- and find it to be a great 1980s single. From the casual guitar to the mellow synthesizer lines, the music suits the mood. Not only has Plant explored his vocal range in the years since, he has also branched out into totally different genres that make this song seem not so "soft" anymore. As for the friend's brother who argued that the voice of Led Zeppelin shouldn't be on this single, I lost track of him 25 years ago. I'd be interested to hear what he had to say about it today.

Actually, he might be pretty favorable with it, too. He was about 18 at the time and life's lessons often have a way of changing our outlook on things. I know my own view of things is a lot different than I saw things back then.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Pretenders - "Back On the Chain Gang"

Back On the Chain Gang - The Singles

(Debuted December 11, 1982, Peaked #5, 23 Weeks on the Chart)

"Back On the Chain Gang" was really supposed to be about Kinks leader Ray Davies, who was part of a couple with Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde and had a child with her. However, the song became an epitaph of sorts for band member James Honeyman-Scott when he died in July 1982 after battling heroin addiction. The group was understandably devastated, with the death coming just two days after bassist Pete Farndon was fired from the band after his own addiction to the drug (he would die soon afterward, in April 1983).

Undaunted, Hynde finished writing the song and recorded it with a revamped Pretenders lineup that now featured her, drummer Martin Chambers, former Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremner and future Big Country bassist Tony Butler. Beginning with a Byrds-inspired 12-string guitar and using similar grunting sound effects that linked it to Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang," the song was a recap of what happened with Honeyman-Scott but also a restatement that the band could carry on despite what happened to him. Released on a single with "My City Was Gone" (another great song in its own right), it didn't see an official album release until Learning To Crawl came out at the beginning of 1984.

By that time, Hynde had revamped The Pretenders' lineup again and continued the process of moving on, just as she promised to do in "Back On the Chain Gang." It ended up being their biggest U.S. hit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Saga - "On the Loose"

On the Loose - Defining Moments:Volume 1

(Debuted February 26, 1983, Peaked #26, 17 Weeks on the Chart)

Saga was a band from Canada who were an even bigger success in Europe -- Germany specifically -- than they were in their own country. In fact, the band is still together and still charting in Germany. In the U.S., however, they only managed three Hot 100 singles, with "On the Loose" being their only Top 40 hit.

Despite being a hit in the spring of 1983, "On the Loose" Appeared on Saga's '81 LP Worlds Apart. And though it sounds like a generic early to mid-1980s rock hit, it was actually different than they'd ever recorded before. In fact, producer Rupert Hine told singer Michael Sadler to "stop singing like a choirboy" for the album and ordered him on the roof of a barn to get the "proper attitude" for the song.

It's their most recognizeable hit in the States, with a video that matched the manic performance they gave it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wham! - "Bad Boys"

Bad Boys - Fantastic

(Debuted September 17, 1983, Peaked #60, 9 Weeks on the Chart)

It's easy for Americans to forget the pre-stardom days of Wham!, when seen through the spectrum of the band's mid-1980s success and singer George Michael's monster solo career. But before their 1984 breakthrough, they were known as Wham! UK here in the states because of conflicts with a similarly-named band and were much more of a group effort, giving more credit to the backing dancers/vocalists (a la The Human League) and sported a different look with their leather jackets and outwardly rowdy behavior.

That behavior was at the center of "Bad Boys." While on its surface, it was a song about being rebellious -- reflecting the 19-year-old age of George Michael at the time -- there was a middle eight that featured the parents' viewpoint as well. It was their fist appearance in the Hot 100; however, when Michael and bandmate Andrew Ridgely began having success with their LP Make it Big, they quickly distanced themselves from the earlier material as a way of forgetting what brought them to the dance to begin with.

In fact, when Wham! issued it greatest hits compilation, there was no mention of "Bad Boys" at all. Like the older brother on Happy Days, it was never spoken of again.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Missing Persons - "Words"

Words - Spring Session M

(Debuted August 28, 1982, Peaked #42, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

Missing Persons was an L.A.-based band made up of three former Frank Zappa session performers: husband-and-wife team Terry and Dale Bozzio, along with Warren Cuccurullo. Zappa associate Patrick O'Hearn and Chuck Wild were also members. The line-up gelled after the recording of Zappa's LP Joe's Garage, which explains the rampant experimentalism behind the band's music. Dale Bozzio had her own distinctive delivery, which often included "hiccuping"as she sang...something quite evident in "Words."

"Words" and its followup "Destination Unknown" are played often of 1980s stations and appear in compilations, which obscures the fact that neither song made the pop Top 40 during its chart run. They both peaked at #42 and were as close to the Top 40 as Missing Persons would ever get. Both cuts appeared on the LP Spring Session M -- an anagram of the band's name --  and both were staples of MTV during that channel's infancy.

Strife between the Bozzios led them to split the group (and their marriage) in 1986. Cuccurullo went on to join Duran Duran later that year, cementing his standing as a figure of 1980s music even as he might not have been as warmly embraced by the fans.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Buckner & Garcia - "Pac Man Fever"

Pac-Man Fever - Pac-Man Fever

(Debuted January 9, 1982, Peaked #9, 19 Weeks on the Chart)

One of the biggest crazes of the 1980s was the video game arcade, which was home to Space Invaders, Asteroids, Berzerk, Frogger, Centipede and a whole host of electronic characters. However, the biggest video game of them all was Pac-Man. It was a phenomenon, spawning a "sequel" (Mrs. Pac-Man), a Saturday-morning cartoon series and a whole host of novelty items.

It was also the source of the biggest song of the era related to a video game. Performed by the songwriting duo of Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, it was part of an album that was entirely based on different video games. It was also the duo's only hit under their own names as performers; they were tagged as "novelty" artists and affected by the inevitable crash of the games' popularity by 1983. Buckner and Garcia continued to write for other artists and perform their own material after that.

Sadly, Gary Garcia died in November 2011 from an illness at his Florida home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Journey - "Open Arms"

Open Arms - Escape

(Debuted January 16, 1982, Peaked #2, 18 Weeks on the Chart)

When he came to Journey in 1981, Jonathan Cain had the music worked out for "Open Arms." He had written it while he was still a member of his previous group The Babys, but leader John Waite rejected it for being too "syrupy." However, when he joined Journey and played it for fellow member Steve Perry, he loved it and helped Cain finish the song. It was one of the early power ballads, and Waite had to wait three years before touching on his own ("Missing You").

Whaen they recorded the song, guitarist Neal Schon reportedly wasn't thrilled with the idea of a ballad, but came around after performing it live and seeing the concertgoers' response. It was something different than the band had ever tried before, and was almost kept off the Escape LP as a result.

"Open Arms" was a #2 smash, kept out of the top spot by the twin puch of "Centerfold" and "I Love Rock & Roll," showing how powerful those two songs were in 1982. It ended up being as close as the band ever got to the top of the charts. It was used twice in the 1982 film The Last American Virgin and has appeared in several movies since, in addition to becoming a standard Karaoke tune and a frequent choice of reality-based TV performance shows.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jennifer Holliday - "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going"

And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going (Broadway Musical Version) - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Jennifer Holliday (Remastered)

(Debuted July 3, 1982, Peaked #22, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

The showstopper has long been a part of Broadway shows, but by the 1980s they weren't as much a part of the general landscape of the pop scene as they were until the 1960s. You can blame the decline of the movie musical for that, as they gave way to the rock operas and the occasional project like Grease. However, stage shows were still going strong, and one of them that premiered late in 1981 was called Dreamgirls, which was largely taken from the story of The Supremes but fictionalized just enough to keep from getting sued by Motown.

That play's showstopper was "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," which was performed be the character Effie in the play and originally voiced by Jennifer Holliday. The Texas native immediately caught notice, driving the song into the pop Top 40 and the top of the R&B chart. It was the first song from a stage show in several years to hit the Top 40; even Grease had to wait for a movie version before it generated any hits.
Today, the song seems to be better known for Jennifer Hudson's rendition in the 2006 movie version of Dreamgirls, as well as the way it tends to get picked by every big-voiced ingenue on reality-based TV shows as a way of demonstrating their vocal range. While that can be occasionally disheartening, Jennifer Holliday set a pretty high bar with her performance.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Donald Fagen - "I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)"

I.G.Y. - The Nightfly

(Debuted November 27, 1982, Peaked #26, 13 Weeks on the Chart)

The I.G.Y. referred to in this song is the International Geophysical Year, and depite the futuristic and utopian lyrics the event actually took place in 1957-'58, but was propagated by a group of scientists who saw visions that were expressed in the song's words. The entire content of Donald Fagen's LP The Nightfly was based on his recollections of growing up during that time, surrounded by optimism and great hopes for the future. In a way, it was a much brighter collection than the albums of Fagen's former group Steely Dan.

Speaking of Steely Dan, while The Nightfly was a solo effort, its recording was similar to the "old days" for Fagen. With 31 session musicians supplementing the music and Steely Dan producer Gary Katz onboard, it seemed all that was missing from the project was co-member Walter Becker. It was also one of the first albums that was recorded digitally, with several audio engineers using it to check their own setups due to the way it was laid down. And this was even before the advent of the CD and the digital age that followed.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Robert Gordon - "Someday, Someway"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted June 27, 1981, Peaked #76, 4 Weeks on the Chart)

 Robert Gordon was a kid who grew up in the turbulent 1960s but had an affinity for the rockabilly music from when he first remembered listening to the radio. He was able to bring that raw sound to his recordings, which ironically bridged punk, New Wave and alternative. His first chart success was a collaboration with the 1950s guitarist Link Wray called "Red Hot" that was given a bump after the death of Elvis Presley despite the fact that it wasn't a tribute to him.

"Someday, Someway" was a retro-sounding song written by Marshall Crenshaw, who was similarly interested in music from the past. Opening with a great guitar riff, Gordon rode that through the song and gave it a great vocal. When Gordon's version stalled at #76, Crenshaw recorded it himself (his version was reviewed here last year) and took it into the Top 40.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Police - "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"

De Do Do Do, de Da Da Da - The Police (Remastered)

(Debuted October 25, 1980, Peaked #10, 20 Weeks on the Chart)

For the second day in a row, here's a song that was in the film The Last American Virgin but isn't really remembered for that. Which might be a good thing, as the scene with the song involved teenage boys trying to kill a case of of the crabs by drowning them in a pool. I really don't think Sting and company really had that in mind when they conceived the song.

In fact, when Sting wrote the lyrics, he was trying to make a comment about how people claimed to like high art but then still gravitated to songs like "Doo Wah Diddy" and "Da Doo Ron Ron." They were good songs, but their catchy refrains were essentially gibberish. So, he wrote a song that used some nonsense lyrics. However, once the band's reggae-like rhythms were added and a groove was created for it, it was easy to miss the meaning of the song.

I really don't know if that proved Sting's point or not.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

REO Speedwagon - "Keep On Loving You"

Keep On Loving You - Hi Infidelity

(Debuted November 29, 1980, Peaked #1, 28 Weeks on the Chart)

While this is another song that was included in the soundtrack for the film The Last American Virgin, it is better known on its own terms. In 1981, it hit #1 on the pop chart and solidified REO Speedwagon's stature as much more than a live band. Adding the power ballad to their arsenal, it helped gather them more fans than their vaunted live sets ever could.

A listen to the lyrics reveals that the protagonist of the song is borderline possessive. His girl is beginning to look for other men and has begun to act on those impulses. It isn't really said in the song if their relationship has ended or not (though I'm guessing it has), but this poor guy isn't ready to let go of something that once seemed so right. Seen through that lens, the lines "when I said that I loved you, I meant that I love you forever" can be ominous rather than resilient. Dude...she's moving on, you need to let her go. For your own good.

In any case, "Keep On Loving You" was the first #1 hit for a band that was poised to become one of the biggest acts of the 1980s. The song was everywhere in 1981, and soon it seemed that all of their music was pulled out of the vaults because of it. That's good, because certain songs like "Ridin' the Storm Out" were too good to merely be brushed off only when a hurricane or tornado were in the area.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jim Steinman - "Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through"

Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through - Bad for Good

(Debuted May 30, 1981, Peaked #32, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

Before it was released as a single by Meat Loaf in 1993, "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" appeared as a Top 40 single for Jim Steinman, who wrote the material that Meat Loaf was spinning into gold. However, when the pair were recording the followup to Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf lost his voice and the material eventually appeared as a Steinman solo project. So, "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" was written with Meat Loaf in mind; his recording of the song was essentially righting a wrong that fate played in his life.

Actually, calling it a Steinman solo project is a misnomer. While his name was on the record label for the LP Bad For Good and he was shown in the video singing the words, the vocals were actually recorded by Canadian singer Rory Dodd. It features many of Steinman's signature styles, and listening to it after Meat Loaf finally recorded really needed his wider range to work. That's not to say that Steinman's version was bad; he simply played with the cards he was dealt.

The video below has the shortened single version. On the album's extra EP, the song is faded back in and given a coda that was simply cut off for the single.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Get Wet - "Just So Lonely"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted April 25, 1981, Peaked #39, 9 Weeks on the Chart)

Here's a song that proves the maxim that everything old is indeed new again. At first, "Just So Lonely" sounded like it could have been a relic of the "girl group" sound of the 1960s with some early 1970s bubblegum mixed in. Yet it is infused with a New Wave sensibility. It's possible that the duo Get Wet were paying homage to styles they grew up with, and those were just part of the sound they wanted to project.

In any case, the record was produced by Phil Ramone, who definitely was involved in the recording of those earlier styles. He certainly had a blast putting together the record.

"Just So Lonely" was the only chart hit for Get Wet in the U.S. While they were essentially a duo of Sherri Beachfront and keyboardist Zecca Esquibel, they were supported by a backing band. On "Just So Lonely," there is a guitar solo, a sax part and a rhythm section. Those weren't done on Esquibel's keyboard. Not in 1981, at least.That type of technology was years away from being realized.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peter Gabriel - "Games Without Frontiers"

Games Without Frontiers - Games Without Frontiers / Games Without Frontiers (Japan Aircraft - Indaba Remix) - Single

(Debuted August 16, 1980, Peaked #48, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

"Jeux sans frontieres."

That's the French translation of "Games Without Frontiers." As I've said here before, I don't understand French (I took Spanish in high school) so I spent several years trying to figure out just what the hell Peter Gabriel was singing throughout this song. I was trying to understand how "she's so funky, yeah" or "she's so popular" tied in with the rest of the lyrics, but a reading of the lyrics when the song was played on the Direct Choice service around 2001 showed me I was mishearing the lyrics because I was listening to them in the wrong language.

The rest of the lyrics have references to adults acting like children (in fact, "Games Without Frontiers" is itself a reference to the methods often used in international diplomacy). The names refer to people in history, such as Adolf -- who built a bonfire -- and Enrico, who played with the fire. This is a reference to Adolf Hitler and Enrico Fermi, the man who built the atomic bomb. As a child of the Second Wrold War who grew up under the threat of a nuclear Holocaust, Gabriel definitely used the images from his own life to frame his song.

A track from the third self-titled solo Gabriel LP -- known to fans as "Melt" to distinguish it from the others -- "Games Without Frontiers" missed the Top 40 during its initial chart run. However, Gabriel's popularity during the next decade kept it in the public stream of consciousness.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bob Seger - "Fire Lake"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted February 23, 1980, Peaked #6, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

"Fire Lake" may be a 1980 single, but its history stretches long before that. Bob Seger began writing its words in the early 1970s and recorded it for his 1975 LP Beautiful Loser. While it didn't make the final cut for that album, it sat in limbo for several years until Seger reconsidered it for the 1980 LP Against the Wind.

Rather than simply releasing the song as he'd recorded it, Seger cut it again and had three of the Eagles (fellow Michigander Glenn Frey, along with Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmidt), who gave it a characteristic feel that would be recognized by any of that group's fans. The song was different for Seger, with a rolling R&B meets country feel. The lyrics, however, were well in Seger's wheelhouse, featuring a protagonist who's ready to take a big risk and give it all up.

Seger has never spoken about the place he wrote about in "Fire Lake," and that has sparked some debate about where it is. Some fans say it's a reference of the lake of fire that was mentioned in The Bible, while some say it's a place called Silver Lake near Seger's childhood home. Others still point out that there is a real Fire Lake in Michigan. Wherever the source of the song, Seger spins quite a yarn and provides a compelling tale that was a quick Top 10 hit for him.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bette Midler - "The Rose"

The Rose - The Rose (The Original Soundtrack Recording)

(Debuted March 22, 1980, Peaked #3, 25 Weeks on the Chart)

In 1979, Bette Midler starred in a movie about a superstar whose rapid ascent to fame only fueled her self-destructive tendencies and ended up becoming the victim of an overdose. Though The Rose was a fictional account, the story was loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin but was changed after Joplin's family refused to give their consent. The movie was one of Midler's finest big-screen moments and earned her an Academy Award nomination, but the title song is perhaps better remembered than the movie was...thanks to its second life as a standard Karaoke song by drunk women to sing.

There is a story behind the song that has nothing to do with Midler or the movie. It was written by Amanda Broome in the late 1970s after she heard a line to a Leo Sayer song that stuck with her, and began leading to some other lines. Racing home to write the lines down before she forgot them, she wrote the lyrics down in about 10 minutes from the time she reached her piano. After sitting on the song for a year, she was encouraged to submit it for the producers of the film. Of course, they hated it, as producers do. In a last gasp, the song was given to Midler and she liked it enough to lobby for its inclusion.

That turned out to be a good move. Not only was it the film's centerpice song, it was one of the biggest hits Midler ever had. Not only did it reach #3 on the pop chart, it was also a #1 adult contemporary hit for 5 weeks. In 1983, a version by Conway Twitty that featured a spoken passage to bring out the power of the words went to #1 on the country chart as well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Frank Sinatra - "Theme From New York, New York"

Theme from New York, New York - Sinatra: Best of the Best

(Debuted May 3, 1980, Peaked #32, 12 Weeks on the Chart)

Today is the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks...and here's a song that picked up airplay because of its connection to the city of New York.

However, "Theme From New York, New York" wasn't originally a Frank Sinatra song. It was originally recorded by Liza Minelli for the 1977 Martin Scorsese film New York, New York, with "Ol' Blue Eyes" adding it to his concert repertoire the next year. It was finally released as a single in 1980 and became the final Top 40 hit of Sinatra's long and storied career.

The song is now so deeply ingrained in the lore of the city it names it seems hard to imagine when it wasn't around. It's played after every home Yankees game and each Rangers contest at Madison Square Garden. It appears in commercials, weddings and bar mitvahs. And with its big band sound and its defiant and brassy "if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere" line, it will be associated with the city for a long time.

Like the city or hate really have to admire the resilience of many people who call it home.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Molly Hatchet - "Flirtin' With Disaster"

Flirtin' With Disaster - Flirtin' With Disaster

(Debuted January 5, 1980, Peaked #42, 10 Weeks On the Chart)

Debuting the first week of the new decade, "Flirtin' With Disaster" just might be Molly Hatchet's best-known song. It was defintely their highest-charting single, just missing the Top 40 with their slice of Southern Rock.

The band hailed from Jacksonville, Florida, an area that also produced Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special, and also saw the foundation of The Allman Brothers Band. While their brand of loud guitars and Southern flair had always assured the group a fanatic audience at home, the infux of meatl bands like Van Halen into pop was a big boost for Molly Hatchet and .38 Special during the new decade.

Below is the song as performed live...the way it was meant to be heard.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Melissa Etheridge - "Similar Features"

Similar Features - Melissa Etheridge

(Debuted April 8, 1989, Peaked #94, 4 Weeks on the Chart)

A friend of mine in college clued me in to something about Melissa Etheridge's music that I never paid attention to before: she never addressed her lover by a name in her songs. While I was recounting the lyrics of the songs I knew in the back of my head, my mind focused on the lyric "Go on and close your eyes, go on, imagine me there...she's got similar features with longer hair..." My friend told me, when she's singing about the other woman but doesn't specifically say the other person is means she's a lesbian."

A couple years later, I really wasn't surprised to hear that Etheridge came out of the closet. It has nothing at all to do with the songs she sings (other than giving a frame of reference), but ever since then I've heard other songs where the "other person" was mentioned but not the lover and wondered if the singer or writer was gay.

That said, "Similar Features" works on a level for those of us who are straight as well. She's singing as a woman who realizes that her lover might be imagining another as they're getting intimate. The knowledge that her lover is still hung up on an old lover stings her. However, she realizes that the lover is where he is and lets the fantasy go on. That shouldn't be a straight or gay feeling, that's real life. It's also one of the more memorable debut albums of the era, and a shame to fall off the chart after only peaking at #94.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Great White - "Once Bitten, Twice Shy"

Once Bitten Twice Shy - Great White: Greatest Hits (Remastered)

(Debuted May 13, 1989, Peaked #5, 26 Weeks on the Chart)

There was something about "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" that wasn't mentioned out loud at the time. It was a remake of a 1975 song by Ian Hunter (the former lead singer of Mott the Hoople), and while it summed up life on the road quite nicely, it was still kept quiet because the 1970s were still equated with Disco and bad taste, even though the era was making a resurgence to anybody who really paid attention. But for whatever reason, people still chuckled about the previous decade and those of us who were fans -- like me -- just needed to be content seeing that the signs were there.

When Great White did its version of the song, I actually knew a girl who reminded me of the groupie in the lyrics. Even today, I have a visual of her while I hear the song. That's the power of music...a girl I haven't bumped into in 20 years comes to life in a song when I hear it, even though she may have grown up to straighten her ways, I will always remember her as she was at the time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tears For Fears - "Sowing the Seeds of Love"

Sowing the Seeds of Love - The Seeds of Love (Bonus Tracks)

(Debuted September 2, 1989, Peaked #2, 15 Weeks on the Chart)

As the 1980s came to an end, there was a renewed interest in music from the 1960s. Whether that was a factor of the Baby Boomers looking back at "their" music as they started turning 40 and the "new" stuff didn't hold as much appeal to them...or if it was a way for the younger fans to go back an appreciate music back when it seemed simpler and was unadorned by such things as synthesized lines and drum tracks, I have no idea.

The sound of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" recall the late 1960s sound of The Beatles, with its dreaminess and the layers of music used (although there was a synthesizer in the instrumental bridge), even using the line "all you need is love" in the lyrics. The video made for the song recalled the era as well, with a series of psychedelic images. What seems to get lost in the song is that it was born out of a political issue: it was written shortly after Margaret Thatcher was returned to office and wasn't exactly supportive of her remaining in power.

The song was a rush of day-glo sugar, enough to float to #2 on the pop chart in the U.S. and helping to inspire more 1960s reflections to come, from Manchester-based bands the next year.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Art of Noise featuring Tom Jones - "Kiss"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted December 3, 1988, Peaked #31, 10 Weeks on the Chart)

At the time this version of "Kiss" came out, the spring of 1986 seemed like such a long time ago. I was still in the 8th grade when Prince took the original to #1 on the pop chart, but I was a high school junior now. I'd picked up a great deal of life experience in the meantime and all, so by late 1988/early 1989 I thought it was novel for a song from my past to make a comeback.

And the new version of "Kiss" was definitely different. The original by Prince was a funky falsetto, but the new version had the twin talents of 1960s/70s singer Tom Jones and the 1980s band The Art of Noise, who used the instrumental bridge to riff on their earlier hits "Dragnet," "Peter Gunn" and "Paranoimia." While the original had a funky vibe, this one crossed the line to pure camp.

It ended up being the group's biggest hit, and introduced Tom Jones to a new fan base. Suddenly, it was cool to like him without people wondering what was wrong with you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Living Colour - "Open Letter (To a Landlord)"

Open Letter (To a Landord) - Vivid

(Debuted July 8, 1989, Peaked #82, 5 Weeks on the Chart)

Yes, the title of the band is right. Living Colour's name uses the British spelling, because founder Vernon Reid was born in the U.K. even though the band hailed from New York. While often tagged as a novelty because hard rock groups of the era weren't usually ethnic, Living Colour was the real deal; they proved it by opening for acts Guns 'N' Roses and The Rolling Stones.

"Open Letter (To a Landlord)" was one of my favorite songs from the group's LP Vivid. At the time, I was still in high school and really didn't understand the landlord vs. tenement argument as much as I do today. However, I did get that the words of the song were socially aware and that the lyrics expressed the plight of those being forced out of their homes. In New York, rent control had made it tough for some to move out of their tenements, so some unscrupulous landlords took the step of hiring
hoodlums to rob the tenants. In some cases, they had the hoods burn the houses (mentioned in the lines of the song) so that people had to leave. Then, the tenements were razed for new and more expensive units.

From the opening guitar riff to the final "fight for your neighbor," vocalist (and occasional actor) Corey Glover told it like it was for a group of people living in New York at the time. He's backed up by a solid guitar attack and some of the finest music on what may be one of my favorite 1980s hard rock albums. While many focused on the group's race, their message has remained just as true today as it was than. That isn't something you can say about all of the era's rock acts.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Dan Hill - "Never Thought"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted December 12, 1987, Peaked #43, 19 Weeks on the Chart)

On the heels of his "comeback" hit with Vonda Shepard "Can't We Try" (reviewed here last year), Dan Hill's next single struck the same chord. A devotional song, Hill uses the same smooth vocal style he used on the earlier hit. He peppered it with compliments about how the lady was "too beautiful for the human eye," which sounded great on the radio but not so great when this 15-year old used then as a line.

"Never Thought" reached the same peak position of #2 on the Adult Contemporary Chart, but oddly enough missed the pop Top 40. While the AC-leaning station sure played it a lot, it wasn't nearly as ubiquitous as "Can't We Try" was the summer before. Whether it was the interaction with Shepard that made that record a bigger hit or a sense that it was something that had been heard already, it simply slid off the chart.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Cure - "Just Like Heaven"

Just Like Heaven - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

(Debuted October 10, 1987, Peaked #40, 18 Weeks on the Chart)

I was never really a big fan of The Cure. That said, I went to high school with some people who were a little bit scary when it came to their devotion to the band. Though I didn't realize that "Close To Me" was by them, it was "Just Like Heaven" that was my first taste of the band after I found out who they were.

It was a very good song, with a great introduction to the work of Robert Smith and company. However, the pop-laden hooks of the song weren't enough to overcome the fanatics of the group for me to look deeper into their material. Had I grown up a couple of years earlier or fell in with a different crowd, the story may have been different and I'd be here expounding how "Killing an Arab" and "Boys Don't Cry" were underappreciated classics. But I'm not.

That said, "Just Like Heaven" was the band's finest pure pop song. Even if "Lovesong" and "Friday I'm in Love" would surpass it on the charts.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Elton John - "Candle in the Wind"

Candle In the Wind (Live) - Live In Australia

(Debuted November 7, 1987, Peaked #6, 20 Weeks on the Chart)

"Candle in the Wind" wasn't a new Elton John song when he released it as a single in 1987. Originally a part of his 1973 double LP Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, it was one of several tracks from the album that failed to get tagged as a single in the U.S. despite being a standout track. The problem was than John was putting out so much music, his record company was limited when it came to singles,. Despite that, the tribute to Marilyn Monroe was still popular as an album track and lived on through repeated radio airplay.  

In 1986, John gave a concert in Melbourne, Australia that was recorded for posterity as the LP Live in Australia With the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. At the time, John was scheduled for throat surgery in January '87 and was unsure if he'd ever perform again. Fortunately, it worked out for him and he was able to enjoy a career resurgence afterward. And what better song to bring him back than a golden oldie that had served him well for nearly 15 years? It became his first Top 10 in two years.

John wasn't finished with the tune, either. After the untimely death of Princess Diana in 1997, he and co-writer Bernie Taupin reworked the lyrics into a tribute to her called "Candle in the Wind 1997." John performed that song at her funeral, and the single became one of the best-selling records of all time, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks. Not bad for a song that was originally written out of nostalgia on the 10 anniversary of a screen star's death.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Van Halen - "When it's Love"

When It's Love - OU812

(Debuted August 6, 1988, Peaked #5, 19 Weeks on the Chart)

A few weeks ago, I featured a song by David Lee Roth as he transitioned from the Van Halen frontman to a solo artist. Today, here's Van Halen two albums later, after Sammy Hagar filled in the space at the microphone. Hagar wasn't exactly an unknown entity before joining the band; he was a solo artist before that and also the singer of Montrose. However, he was no "Diamond Dave." Some of the group's fans weren't impressed with the change from a showy singer to a more technically correct one and referred to the band as "Van Hagar," but many fans embraced the change.

The album that included "When it's Love" was OU812, which was a sly reference to Roth's full-length solo LP Eat 'em and Smile. Written by Hagar after the Van Halen brothers provided him with a rhythm track, it was the last Top 10 pop single Van Halen ever achieved. Though there were several big Mainstream Rock hits after that and all of their Hagar-era LPs topped that chart, they began to decline on the bigger chart from that point.

Say what you want about the band's lead singer drama over the years. But "When it's Love" represents when they were still at their peak.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Midnight Oil - "The Dead Heart"

The Dead Heart - Diesel and Dust (2007 Remastered)

(Debuted August 6, 1988, Peaked #53, 10 Weeks on the Chart)

In the late 1980s, I was still a teen and still trying to figure out where I fit in. That said, I did know what I liked when it came to music, and became a big fan of Midnight Oil when I first heard "Beds Are Burning" on the Top 40 radio station. So when "The Dead Heart" was released as a followup, I was pretty much predisposed to like that as well. After hearing that song, I picked up the cassette for Diesel and Dust and even "discovered" the band's earlier LPs Red Sails in the Sunset and 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 (which I simply called "Countdown").

At that age, I knew the group was into politics but I really didn't care about that. The beat was solid and the group's material (on Diesel and Dust) was skewed toward the pop side. As a 16 year old American, I wasn't really bothered by the plight of the Australian aboriginals but I liked the noise. I'm guessing the group and frontman Peter Garrett knew that too, since the message was tempered somewhat on the album: still present, but shifted more into the background than it was on previous records.

"The Dead Heart" was certainly a political song. The title was a reference to the sparsely populated center of Australia, and it directly addressed the treatment that Aborigines received after the English arrived and founded the nation. It was right there, and evident to anybody who wanted to hear it. That's a bold topic for a single, and probably why it stopped at #53 on the Hot 100. But enough teens and college-age kids dug it sufficiently to take it to #11 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. To this day, I'm unsure whether that proved their point or not.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Bee Gees - "You Win Again"

You Win Again - E.S.P.

(Debuted September 19, 1987, Peaked #75, 6 Weeks on the Chart)

In 1987, there was nothing as seemingly "uncool" as certain 1970s music, and Disco was near the top of the list when it came to music that. And thanks to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, The Bee Gees were placed front and center on the "forbidden" playlist. However, I was the type of person who wasn't interested in what others told me I should  or shouldn't listen to, and like a renegade I gravitated to the music that others considered "awful." Part of it was the morbid curiosity that causes people to check out accident scenes, and part of it was the wonder of what was so bad about it that turned people off. For crying out loud, much of the music of the 1980s wasn't exactly high art, either.

In the process, I discovered that there was a lot from the previous decade worth listening to...and The Bee Gees enjoyed a long and fruitful career even before Saturday Night Fever. So, when the syndicated version of Top of the Pops that played on American TV at the time announced that the group was enjoying a resurgence and that their song "You Win Again" was the #1 song in the U.K., I waited to see how it did here.

I wasn't waiting long. Thanks to a local record store that posted the Hot 100 list every week, I watched as the song died after reaching #75. It seemed to be a hit everywhere else but in the U.S., and it was one of the first times I wondered if what they said about us Americans not being "with it" was true. It's a question I still ask myself from time to time.

In 1987, the U.S. was just unprepared for The Bee Gees. The eventual rennaisance came later, and when 1970s music was "in" again several years later, I was already immersed in it. And I was already proud to admit that I was a fan of the band's work.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kenny G - "Don't Make Me Wait For Love"

Don't Make Me Wait for Love - Duotones

(Debuted August 29, 1987, Peaked #15, 19 Weeks on the Chart)

Fans will immediately know that Kenny G is the artist behind the saxophone, but "Don't Make Me Wait For Love" isn't an instrumental. As with many of his hits, there's a guest vocal, and this one is done -- very capably -- by former Tower of Power frontman Lenny Williams. Since I gave a little background info on Kenny G here when I featured another one of his songs last year, I won't rehash the history...but it's worth checking out Williams' biography if you're unfamiliar with him.

In 1987, I was nearing my 15th birthday and I was still woefully unprepared when it came to dealing with the opposite sex (though I had no idea about that and wasn't all that interested in being told). At the time, songs like this one -- with its smooth jazz leanings and the calm voice over the saxophone lines -- seemed to convey a certain sophistication to me. As a result, I saw this as a mature seduction and something that I could use to show I had a certain "je ne sais quois" about me.

What is funny about that is that I had no understanding of French. Actually, I still don't, but I know that the phrase "je ne sais quois" means "I don't know what" and that sums me up at that time perfectly. Within a year, I had dropped the pretentious bit and returned for the time being to the louder stuff I was really interested in and let the smooth jazz inflections of Kenny G recede into the background. Until "Silhouette" came out in 1989, that is. Older and seemingly wiser, I was ready to give it another try even though I was still untested when it came to the ladies. I must have really seemed comical then.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Suzanne Vega - "Luka"

Luka - Solitude Standing

(Debuted June 6, 1987, Peaked #3, 19 Weeks on the Chart)

Here's a song that sounds like it's a bright pop song until you actually listen to the words. And that's the allure of "Luka": Suzanne Vega sings about something as serious as child abuse by presenting it as breezy, with the protagonist going as far as making up excuses for why he's showing the tell-tale signs on his body. It was enough to get it on the radio, and enough to make people talk about what is often an uncomfortable subject. In a way, it mirrored the usual discussion by well-meaning onlookers..."at what point do we get involved in the business of others?"

While "Luka" is synonomous with the summer of 1987, according to the liner notes on Vega's CD it was actually written several years before that. Vega wrote the words in 1984 and didn't include it on her self-titled debut LP the following year. When it finally appeared on her Solitude Standing LP in 1987, "Luka" became a fluke hit due to its fragile simplicity and the heaviness of its topic. 

Suzanne Vega was born in Santa Monica, California but grew up in Manhattan. She had written her fist song at the age of 14; in fact, some of her songs on Solitude Standing were written while she was still in her teen years. Her method of singing softly over an acoustic guitar won over a lot of fans in the folk-rock genre but has only accounted for three hits on the pop chart.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hipsway - "The Honeythief"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted January 24, 1987, Peaked #19, 15 Weeks on the Chart)

When 1987 rolled around, Hipsway's sound seemed too "now" for the band to be gone too quickly, but "The Honeythief" was their only real chart success on either side of the Atlantic. Formed in Scotland, Hipsway was made up of ex-Altered Images bassist John McElhone, who was joined by singer Graham Skinner, guitarist Pim Jones and drummer Harry Travers. Their sound was pushed pretty hard by Mercury, who saw them as another band in the mold of Living in a Box or Go West. However, they released only one followup LP and split by 1989.

By the time the band broke up, McElhone was already part of the group Texas and was on the chart again with them.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Amazulu - "Montego Bay"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted July 25, 1987, Peaked #90, 4 Weeks on the Chart)

To American listeners, "Montego Bay" is probably best-remembered as a 1970 hit by Bobby Bloom. Bloom co-wrote the song with producer Jeff Barry. It was Bloom's only Top 40 hit. Unfortunately, Bloom battled depression and shot himself in 1974. It's one of the "what could have been?" stories of the 1970s...even considering the large number of One-Hit Wonders that abounded during the era.

Despite the Caribbean rhythm of "Montego Bay" and its exotic band name, Amazulu was a British pop/ska band. They originally started as a six-piece band but had been reduced to a trio when the song was recorded and a duo by the time of their only American hit. They enjoyed much more success in their native U.K., scoring nine chart singles and four Top 20 hits, three of which charted higher than "Montego Bay."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mike + the Mechanics - "Taken In"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted June 28, 1986, Peaked #32, 15 Weeks on the Chart)

During the summer of 1986, the members of Genesis -- past and present -- were all on the Top 40 at the same time. The group was there, former lead singer Peter Gabriel was enjoying success as a solo artist, former guitarist Steve Hackett was on the survey as a member of GTR, and current member Mike Rutherford charted with his "other" group Mike + the Mechanics. It was the first time in a decade that four acts from the same band charted separately (The solo Beatles had each charted in 1975).

The group was a diversion for Rutherford when he wasn't busy with Genesis, somewhat like Steely Dan in that he and Christopher Neil were the chief songwriters and then assembled the songs in the studio. In fact, with "Taken In," the instrumental backing tracks were already completed before singer Paul Young (the former Sad Cafe member, not the English soloist who charted with "Everytime You Go Away") was hired. Also the bassist in the video below was Ashley Mulford, who was part of the group on tour but didn't actually contribute to the music on the Mike + the Mechanics LP.

"Taken In" was the third single from the group and the lowest-charting song yet from them. The #32 peak surprises me, since the song was in heavy rotation at the station I was listening to at the time. It's a rather simple ballad, though Young gives it a great sense of emotion as he recounts the words of a man who knows he's being "taken for a ride" by his woman. And he realizes that he's still going to fall for her charms. As he says, "there's one born every minute, and you're looking at him." Indeed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ta Mara and the Seen - "Everybody Dance"

Everybody Dance - Radio Waves of the 80's - Urban Hits

(Debuted October 12, 1985, Peaked #24, 20 Weeks on the Chart)

Ta Mara (whose real name was Margie Cox) was one of several mid-1980s artists to emulate Prince's "Minneapolis Sound" but at least she had a tenuous connection: she was from Minneapolis and her record was produced by one of the scene's progenitors, Jesse Johnson of The Time. Later, she would be part of Prince's New Power Generation as an associate and had a long list of credits with His Royal Badness. She was born in Morocco while her father was a diplomat, and that fact may have helped explain the way she sounded...well, not white.

That said, "Everybody Dance" was a group effort. Ta Mara and the Seen (not "the Scene" as they are sometimes called) featured four other members: Keith Woodson on bass, Gina Fellicetta on the keyboards, Jamie Chez on the drums and Oliver Leiber -- songwriter Mike Leiber's son -- on the guitar. However, having a pretty face on the voice up front probably obscured the rest of the band. In fact, the band's first LP only showed Ta Mara in the picture, so it wasn't hard for fans to see the record as a solo performance.

A Top 40 hit right when Prince was one of the hottest performers around, "Everybody Dance" ended up being the group's only hit. It was a modest pop hit and #3 on the R&B chart. When later singles failed to get much attention and the second LP stiffed, the band split apart in 1989.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Howard Jones - "No One is to Blame"

No One Is to Blame - Best of Howard Jones

(Debuted April 12, 1986, Peaked #4, 23 Weeks on the Chart)

Here's a song that has seen me change my opinion about as the years have unfolded. When it came out, I found it slow and meandering, and would sigh when the percussion that kicked off the tune started playing on my radio. Oversaturation of the song on MTV, Top 40 radio and the adult contemporary-leaning station that I also listened to had a definite effect, because I detested this song by the end of the summer of '86 in a way that just isn't healthy.

Today, I'm closing in on my 40th birthday (that will pass in December) and have experienced a lot more of the life I wouldn't have seen coming in 1986. And it's not like I would have believed the stories I'd have been told if -- somehow -- an older version of myself showed up and had a talk with me at 13. That's the reason I didn't care for this song back then; there's a philosophy to the lyrics that just didn't register in my mind at the time. Back then, I still believed that anything was possible...since then, I've realized that there will always be someone bigger, stronger, more handsome or smarter. That's just the way life is, sometimes things spin out of control despite your best efforts and I'm getting better at understanding that.

"No One is To Blame" was Howard Jones' biggest hit on the American pop charts, reaching #4. It was also a #1 adult contemporary song. It originally appeared on his 1985 LP Dream into Action but was given a makeover the next year. Phil Collins produced a new, radio-friendly version (which is why the drums here are so prominent) for Jones' One On One LP. And this version had Collins' marks all over it, with an instrumental backing that sounds like his later hits: the piano on "Groovy Kind of Love" and the vocal quality that marked "Another Day in Paradise" show up here.

Despite its overt pop leanings, its message has stuck with me over the years more than I realized.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Timbuk 3 - "The Future's So Bright, I've Gotta Wear Shades"

The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades - Greetings from Timbuk 3

(Debuted October 25, 1986, Peaked #19, 15 Weeks on the Chart)

Sometimes, scoring a memorable hit single can be a double-edged sword. Yes, there's the fact that you get your song played, but there's also the chance that your message will get obscured by fans who might not have clued in on the fact that you were being a smartass when you penned the lyrics. When "The Future's So Bright, I've Gotta Wear Shades" arrived on the radio in 1986, it was different from the stuff playing around it. It mentioned college subjects and had a harmonica in it, for crying out loud...but the yuppies, hipsters and pseudo-intellectuals who embraced the tune missed the sardonic nature of the words.

In a way, the clueless treatment was apt. The protagonist of the song was a self-satisfied overachiever who summed up the Reagan era quite nicely. While Pat McDonald (who wrote the song and provides the vocals) enjoyed cashing his royalty checks from the surprise success of the song, that same success unfairly tagged his group as a novelty act...which is why few beyond the group's fans can name a second song from Timbuk3 off the top of their head.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "Secret"

Secret - Crush

(Debuted December 14, 1985, Peaked #63, 12 Weeks on the Chart)

The number above can't be right. I saw the video for "Secret" enough times in 1985/'86 on MTV that it couldn't have possibly stalled at #63. However, the references (and Wikipedia, which I use strictly as a backup) all have that number as its peak, so it must be correct. However, the video of singer Andy McCluskey walking along an English seaside resort interspersed with scenes from the previous 40 years mix with the synthesized riff that drives the song. That's the power of music; whether you like it or not, certain melodies can take you back to a point in your life. It somehow allows you to remember old friends, think back on old times (good ones and not so good ones) and put yourself in a time and place where things were different.

While the LP Crush was the first that most of us in the U.S. heard from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, they had been hitting in their native U.K. since 1979. In fact, Crush was their sixth LP. Early on, the group's stylistic leanings were toward Kraftwerk and Ultravox, but once they incorporated more melodic material into their repertoire, they began getting noticed on this side of the "Big Pond" as well.

The sound is a little quixotic, though. The fragile lyric seems to be overpowered by the force of the synthesizers and production on the record. It's definitely a 1985-era sound, which may be one of the reasons I can remember it so well in my own mind. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Extra: New Beastie Boys Book

(This is the third and final installment of a series of books on 1980s artists. I'm keeping my end of the bargain in running these...which is more than Rhino could do. They promised to let me give away five free copies of this book and possibly talk with the authors -- which would have been helpful this week -- but they didn't. And then they refused to answer my followup emails. But, it's not Christopher Weingarten's fault that his PR guy punted the ball away, so please keep that in mind as you read on.)

There is a common thread that runs through the three books I've featured recently. Like the reviews I did for this book and this book, I noticed that there was an element of fandom here. These books aren't a rehash of what Wikipedia will present about the groups' origins, and they aren't a whitewash about the groups' early days, as authorized by people who now have identities and carefully crafted personas. In short, these books are all about the authors' memories as fans, and Every Day I Take a Wee is no exception.

The book's title is from a line in one of The Beastie Boys' songs that was misheard by Christopher Weingarten during his early days as a fan of the band. Starting his narrative in 1985 and continuing from 1987 (when -- at the tender age of seven -- he first heard the tape License to Ill) and continuing throughout certain periods as he grew up, he explains how the band continued to surprise him even after he was convinced that he knew all there was to know about that LP.

The book began as an article by Weingarten to commemorate the 25th anniversary of License to Ill but was finished before the untimely death of member Adam Yauch earlier this year. Here's a song from that album that is a classic today, even though it never charted on the Hot 100 as a single:

It is an amalgamation of the many facets they brought to their music...and part of why they were so important to bringing rap music to the suburbs, where the rich white kids would be able to give it a wider audience. Here's a couple of links that will allow you to pick up the ebook in its digital format. But don't fret if you don't have a e-reader; it's ready for any computer as well.

Every Day I Take a Wee: The Beastie Boys and the Untimely Death of Suburban Folklore - Christopher R. Weingarten

These are available for only $1.99. There is no additional shipping cost, and you'll be reading it within minutes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Paul Hardcastle - "Rain Forest"

Rain Forest - Paul Hardcastle

(Debuted January 12, 1985, Peaked #57, 18 Weeks on the Chart)

Here's a song that I'd heard several times over the years without ever realizing it. There was a station I used to tune in on Saturday afternoons that used this as a music bed to fill in the space between the last song of the hour and the content of the next hour, an old radio "trick" that is often neglected now that stations (especially the ones I tune in nowadays) rarely even have any real people manning the board anymore. That bothers me as a former radio DJ to understand...but the first thing people complain about with their local radio stations is the fact that there's too much talking in between the music. I think part of that is the commercials, but the radio stations aren't going to be cutting into their revenue streams. Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox...

Paul Hardcastle is best known for his hit "19" (featured on this blog last summer), which interspersed dialogue from a documentary on the Vietnam War with a beat that was solidly from the 1980s. "Rain Forest" actually arrived first and was a big hit on black radio (it peaked at #5 on the R&B chart). A jazz-inspired electronic tune, it had an atmosphere that gave it a definitive sound. Despite the R&B success of "Rain Forest" and the hit that "19" later became, it might be a surprise to some to learn that Hardcastle is actually a British artist, who was born and raised in London.

He has continued riffing on his jazzy side ever since and has remade "Rain Forest" at least two times. The MP3 versions of the song above and below may be the remake versions; the original appeared on his 1984 LP Zero One, and that's the version in the video clip below.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

David Lee Roth - "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody"

Just a Gigolo / I Ain't Got Nobody - Crazy from the Heat - EP

(Debuted March 23, 1985, Peaked #12, 17 Weeks on the Chart)

Stepping away from Van Halen -- he hadn't yet left the group at the time the EP was released -- David Lee Roth tested the solo waters with a four-song set of vintage tunes called Crazy From the Heat. While it presented "Diamond Dave" without the sonic pyrotechnics that usually accompanied his voice with the group, it gave him the ability to showcase his own singing style in a way that wasn't upstaged by his highly talented bandmate. While the collection wasn't exactly essential, it got his name and face out in front of the crowd and showed he could be successful on his own. It was no surprise, then, when he announced shortly thereafter that he was leaving the group.

Roth's second single was a medley of two songs that weren't initially recorded together. "Just a Gigolo" was written in 1928, with an English translation penned the next year. It was a bittersweet look at the past from a former Austrian military man after World War I ended his days of parades and parties. "I Ain't Got Nobody" originated in 1914-'15 and was a plea for attention. The two songs were combined by Louis Prima in 1956, and Roth's performance was based on that. The two songs blend together so well, many fans assume it was written together; however, it was not. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Teena Marie - "Lovergirl"

Lovergirl - Starchild

(Debuted December 15, 1984, Peaked #4, 23 Weeks on the Chart)

Today, I get to feature a song that has already appeared over on the 1985 Music Videos blog. It isn't the first time (yesterday's video was the first he featured), but I really want to take the time to give him a plug. While the author (Molten Lava) appears to want to feature the Top 100 videos of the year -- according to MTV -- I think there are a lot of great videos to mine from that year. If you think so, too...go read his blog regularly and let him know. He would love the readership, and there's enough room in the Blogosphere for more 1980s videos.

If you read that article (really, go and read it...I can wait in the meantime), Molten Lava said something that applied for me as well: I wasn't really aware of Teena Marie's career before this song. Yes, Casey Kasem reminded me on his show that Marie was one of the first successful white artists on the Motown label. What I didn't realize was just how many hits she had, because I happened to live in a part of the country where the R&B hits tended to get passed over in the early 1980s unless they were on Kasem's show (Yes, I heard "I Need Your Lovin'," but was too young to know it was also Teena Marie).

"Lovergirl" would be her biggest pop hit, and it contained a really tasty bunch of hooks, but Teena Marie deserves to get a deeper look into her R&B hits.