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.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Godley & Creme - "Cry"

Cry - The Very Best of 10cc

(Debuted July 20, 1985, Peaked #16, 17 Weeks on the Chart)

Yesterday, I mentioned how a gift alarm clock helped me look into more-offbeat material around the dial. Perhaps I was more disposed to that than I'll admit, as the song "Cry" led me to seek out material from 10cc, the band that Godley and Creme once belonged to. As a fan of Monty Python (since I was 10...there's another hint that I was an offbeat person), I had an appreciation for sly British humor...and I definitely found a twinge of that in 10cc's material. Yes, they were first-rate pop composers, but there was also a sense that they sometimes had a tongue in their collective cheeks when they did songs like "I'm Not in Love" and "Rubber Bullets."

Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left the band during the mid-1970s after branching out in their own artistic direction. As they beat on the drums that they then followed, the duo began experimenting on music video direction just as the format was exploding in popularity. During the 1980s, the videos directed by the pair could make up a lengthy block of MTV know, when the channel was still playing videos. The Police's "Every Breath You Take," "Synchronicity II" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" were directed by the duo, as were Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," Asia's "Heat of the Moment," Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes," "Duran Dauran's "Girls on Film" and "A View to a Kill," Sting's "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free" and Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." These weren't simple performances; they all had concepts to them.

And what people remember about "Cry" is the music video. It used an early analog technology to "morph" the faces on several people together...young and old, male and female, from several races and religions. It showed that basically we're all the same, and that we all feel certain emotions even if we don't show it outwardly. Not bad for a duo whose earliest recordings made some listeners wondering if they were just being smartasses.

Monday, August 6, 2012

James Taylor - "Everyday"

Everyday - That's Why I'm Here

(Debuted November 9, 1985, Peaked #61, 10 Weeks on the Chart)

I turned 13 during 1985, and one of the presents I received that year was a clock radio. Now, I realize that the gift was probably more incentive to get my own self up and get the driveway shoveled -- and living in northern New York, those mornings were frequent -- but at the time I saw it as a way to surreptitiously listen to a local radio station when I was supposed to be asleep. However, the only FM station that came in clearly in my room at the time was WTOJ (then called "OJ-103") an adult contemporary-leaning station...and when I started clandestinely listening, there were two songs I really remember in heavy rotation. One was Barbra Streisand's song "Somewhere" and the other was James Taylor's "Everyday." Both songs were remakes, and I was surprised to find out later that neither would reach the pop Top 40. Really, that's how often they were played on that station; I knew that within 30 minutes of bedtime, both would have been played.

And that's my recollection of "Everyday" during its hit period. It would play every single night (or so it seemed) that I listened. Now, I'm a big fan of Buddy Holly, who originally recorded in 1957 as the B-side to his "Peggy Sue" single, so I was familiar with it. That said, when Taylor put it on vinyl, he did it in a way that you'd have never known it was a Holly composition. It was done in Taylor's signature laid-back style, as if he never knew the words until an assistant placed the lyric sheet in front of him in the studio.That's not really a knock...Taylor does a serviceable job with the song and gives it a different feel (I like that) even as he reworked a song that didn't deserve the treatment it got (and that's something I don't care for). Breathing new life into an old song can be ambitious, but Taylor really doesn't seem as ambitious here.

Fortunately for me, a Top 40 FM station was right around the corner for me. And the lack of local variety on the dial caused me to start listening to other stuff that was more offbeat on that radio.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Extra: New Duran Duran Book

(This is the second of three weeks where I was supposed to pass along info about new books. There were supposed to be 5 copies of the book given out...but the PR guy over at Rhino dropped the ball. Sorry about that, but please keep in mind when you read this that it's not Lyndsay Parker's fault that her PR guy threw it into the stands. Anyway, here it is:)

In her book Careless Memories of Strange Behavior: My Notorious Life as a Duran Duran Fan, Lyndsay Parker touches on a point I made here last year...the girls my age were really wild about Duran Duran, while the boys my age really only liked them if they wanted to attract those girls. That was true for me, except for "Save a Prayer" (which I admitted I liked then) it really took until the next decade before I finally looked at the group's music in a light that wasn't tainted by the fact that they were on every Tiger Beat cover I remember seeing on the newsstand for three years.

Actually, when talking about music with women who are around my age, I usually get a surprised reaction whnen I answer "Duran Duran" to the question: "Do you know who I really liked?" And I don't really understand why...I remember that I was passed over during my adolescence because I didn't look like Nick Rhodes or Simon LeBon. Guys don't forget stuff like that easily. Nor did I forget that one of the first times a previously "unobtainable" girl actually talked with me was when I rattled off the names of all five of the group's members. When you're 12, that's power.

Today, of course, the band is mentioned as an influence by a lot of musicians who weren't likely to admit to it 25-30 years ago. That's also something that Parker covers in her book.

Since this is an extra post, I get to dig into the archives for a song by the group that wasn't a Hot 100 hit. Here's an early classic of theirs that wasn't ready for the American charts yet:

Here's the links to get them at either iTunes or Amazon...and if you don't have an e-reader, that's okay. They can be read on the computer, too:

Careless Memories of Strange Behavior: My Notorious Life As a Duran Duran Fan - Lyndsey Parker

Each is available at $2.46, with no shipping charges and just a few minutes needed before you're reading it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Billy Satellite - "I Wanna Go Back"

I Wanna Go Back - Billy Satellite

(Debuted December 8, 1984, Peaked #78, 4 Weeks on the Chart)

While "I Wanna Go Back" is associated with Eddie Money, it charted well before he recorded it. It was written by three members of Billy Satellite, a band from Oakland, California. Monty Byrom, Tom Chancey and Ira Walker wrote the song, which sounds like a streamlined version of the tune that Money took into the Top  40 in 1987. It has the synthesizer lines, but fewer guitar riffs and no saxophone.

They ended up with two minor chart singles, but split up before recording a follow-up LP. After the split, Byrom worked with Money (after he recorded "I Wanna Go Back") and led the country band Big House. Chancey joined the group .38 Special in 1987 and remains with them today.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Talk Talk - "It's My Life"

It's My Life - It's My Life

(Debuted March 24, 1984, Peaked #31, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

Last year, I featured Talk Talk's first U.S. hit on this blog. Their second would be their biggest on these shores, as well as their only Top 40 single. Before recording the album It's My Life, producer Tim Friese-Greene joined as an unofficial "fourth" member and helped write several songs with the band's leader Mark Hollis. One of those songs was "It's My Life," which leaned toward the New Wave/New Romantic style the band used for its first album.

After this LP, the band would go in its own direction musically, a move that gained it a lot of fans among other musicians but killed its future potential for more hits. They broke up in 1992 but are listed as influences by an awful lot of artists. "It's My Life" would appear again in 2003 when No Doubt took their own rendition of the tune into the Top 10.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Christopher Cross - "Think of Laura"

Think of Laura - Another Page

(Debuted December 10, 1983, Peaked #9, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

The TV soap opera General Hospital was at the peak of its popularity during the early 1980s. Not only did it help two songs become #1 hits (1979 "Rise" and 1983's "Baby, Come To Me") due to their exposure on the show, but one of its own actors -- Rick Springfield -- enjoyed a string of hits during the same time he played Dr. Noah Drake on the show. It even inspired a Top 40 spoof hit called "General Hospi-tale" in 1981.

In 1983, it helped another song, Christopher Cross's "Think of Laura." One of the show's popular couples was Luke and Laura Spencer, who "split" when Genie Francis left the show. Her character was killed off, but would reappear later...because soap operas just work that way. After Laura's "death," whenever Luke would think back to the life they shared, "Think of Laura" would play in the background.

However, the song wasn't written with the show in mind. Instead, he was writing about a Denison University lacrosse player named Laura Carter, whose death was much more of a reality than the TV show's. She was tragically killed by a stray bullet that was fired from a block away. Carter's roommate was Cross's girlfriend at the time, so he wrote the tune as a way of helping her out.

While "Think of Laura" would be Cross's last Top 10 and final Top 40 hit, it also spent four weeks at #1 on the adult contemporary chart, which matched 1981's "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" for his best showing on that survey.