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.