June 23, 1984

June 26, 2011

As my personal, week-long wake listening to the E Street Band winds down, I thought that I’d pull up the Billboard Hot 100 for a corresponding week from a year in the early ’80s and examine the songs that were debuts.

Twenty-seven years ago this week, I was undoubtedly pushing the durability of the cassette of Born In The U.S.A. that I’d had for two weeks to the limit.

(much of that wear and tear occurring on side two’s opening salvo of No Surrender and Bobby Jean)

Over the previous year, I had begun to move away from Top 40 when it came to the radio, spending more time locked into the album rock stations and – when the reception was good enough – one of the first few alternative rock outlets in the country.

But, despite my broadening musical horizons, I was still quite aware of most of the songs that were hits. So, here are the songs which debuted on the Hot 100 during the week of June 23, 1984…

(with a tip of the chapeau to whiteray at Echoes In The Wind )

R.E.M. – So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)
from Reckoning
(debuted #95, peaked #78, 5 weeks on chart)

I’m not sure if I had heard R.E.M. in 1984. I know that I knew the name as their debut album Murmur had gotten a lot of press a year earlier and my buddy Bosco was an early champion of the band.

Perhaps I’d heard them during the nine months that I’d been listening to 97X, but I doubt that the offbeat Georgians would have resonated with me at the time. Over the next several years, though, I tentatively became a fan of R.E.M. and, by the time I got to college, I was devoted.

(because, in 1986, that was the law)

But R.E.M. became a band whose each new release – through 1998’s Up – was an immediate purchase. The jangly, mysterious So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) has long been a must on any R.E.M. compilation and I’ve always loved the lyric “Go build yourself another dream, this choice isn’t mine.”

John Waite – Missing You
from No Brakes
(debuted #89, peaked #1, 24 weeks on chart)

I vividly remember the first time I heard John Waite’s Missing You. My buddy Beej and I had met a couple of girls from another high school who had come cruising in our town (which drew kids from many nearby towns for just that purpose).

Beej had gone off with the one girl and I had spent the evening hanging with Tina, driving about in Kathy’s Chevette when, at some point, a song I didn’t recognize came on the radio. The song simply stood out and, within thirty seconds, the hypnotic melody had me hooked.

Tina and I would see each other a few more times over the summer, but Missing You would become one of the biggest hits of the year and one of the more enduring pop songs of the ’80s.

Johnny Mathis – Simple
from A Special Part Of Me
(debuted #88, peaked #81, 8 weeks on chart)

Aside from duets with Dionne Warwick and Deniece Williams (with whom he had a #1 hit with in 1978 with Too Much, Too Little, Too Late) crooner Johnny Mathis hadn’t had a Top 40 hit since 1962.

I knew some of Mathis’ music from hearing my mom playing it on occasion while growing up, but I had never heard Simple. It’s not a bad song and I could hear it being played on light pop stations at the time beside the latest from Al Jarreau.

However, ever since viewing the controversial Home episode of The X-Files, I can’t think of Johnny Mathis and not recall the use of his song Wonderful, Wonderful during one of the most disturbing murder scenes I’ve ever seen.

Yes – It Can Happen
from 90125
(debuted #85, peaked #51, 7 weeks on chart)

Even though Yes had their heydey in the ’70s and were split by the time I really started paying attention, I was familiar with the band beyond the radio stuff as my buddy Streuss was a big fan.

(I recall his ongoing search for a copy of their Tormato album)

Then 90125 brought the reunited band to a new audience aided by the production of Trevor Horn and MTV. I think most of us owned a copy at the time and, though I’m still a bit burned out on Owner Of A Lonely Heart, songs like Leave It, Our Song, and the shimmering It Can Happen (complete with sitar) sound pretty good a quarter century on.

Lionel Richie – Stuck On You
from Can’t Slow Down
(debuted #72, peaked #3, 19 weeks on chart)

Somewhere, I read a piece lamenting the diminished communal experience of terrestrial radio which noted that, in 1984, whether you liked the man’s music or not, we all lived through the string of hits by Lionel Richie together.

Van Halen – Panama
from 1984
(debuted #52, peaked #13, 15 weeks on chart)

Panama immediately makes me think of MTV as the channel finally became available in our town in 1984. That summer, I must have seen the video for the song several hundred times (and we didn’t even have cable). I’d go over to my friend Beej’s house, we’d turn on MTV, and – more often than not – we’d hear the drone of the airplane that opened the video before the band crashed into the song.

What odds would you have gotten in Vegas that a year later, the original Van Halen – experiencing their greatest commercial success with 1984 – would be no more?

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“The Biggest Man You Ever Seen”

June 21, 2011

It was June 9, 1984 – a Saturday – that I made it into Cincinnati and bought a copy of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s Born In The U.S.A, which had been released five days earlier.

Though I knew a handful of songs by Springsteen from the radio, Born In The U.S.A. was his first album released with the E Street Band since I had become obsessed with music.

It was their first album where I was there.

It was the first album by the already-legendary band that I would own.

I was hardly alone as Springsteen brought a lot of new fans into the fold as Born In The U.S.A. sold millions, dominated the musical landscape, and the band embarked on a sell-out tour that seemed to last forever.

At that age, for me, it did seem like forever.

I had just finished my sophomore year of high school that Saturday when I purchased Born In The U.S.A. and I was making plans to come home for Thanksgiving from my first semester at college when the sprawling Live/1975–85 set was released at the tour’s culmination.

A year later, Tunnel Of Love arrived and though it was a success, there was no possibilty of maintaining the fervor that had surrounded Springsteen and a portion of that audience – for whom the music might have been no more than a trendy accessory – had moved on.

I was in for the long haul.

Oh, I didn’t become one of those Springsteen fans that can recite setlists at will, but each new release was anticipated and, as those releases became catalog, the music was cherished.

I wouldn’t see Springsteen live until ’96 when Paloma and I caught a show on his acoustic, solo tour for The Ghost Of Tom Joad. It was memorable, but, after years of reading of and seeing clips of Springsteen performing with the E Street Band…

Finally, in 2000, I had the chance to see the E Street Band on their reunion tour.

It was everything I’d read of, heard of, or been told of for twenty-some years and though it was the joyous three-hour celebration I’d been promised, but perhaps the most memorable moment had been the performance of the sparse, solemn If I Should Fall Behind near the end.

One by one, Bruce, Steve, Nils, and Patti stepped up to the mic, sang a portion of the song and stepped aside for a bandmate before surrendering the spotlight to Clarence, playing the sax and singing with Bruce.

It ended with the five of them crowded around that one mic together.

Of the however many hundreds of shows I’ve attended, I have never seen a band that seemed so genuinely happy to be together. There was a love and devotion between this somewhat disparate group of people that was palpable even from the cheap seats.

I left the arena that night knowing that – trademarked self-anointments be damned – I had just seen the greatest rock and roll band in the world.

(not to mention what must have been one really cool gang to be in)

I had one last chance to see them together, sharing a show with Paloma eight years later.

I’ve been surprised at how truly sad I have felt at the passing of The Big Man.

Maybe it’s because the E Street Band loomed so large during my sixteenth summer.

Maybe it’s because it seems as though this collection of scrappy underdogs has always been there and it seemed that they always would be.

Maybe it’s the stark reminder that not even The Boss is immune from the inexorable march of time.

And maybe it’s the realization that there is no more E Street Band.

Hours I’ve spent the past few days reading the recollections of fans and those tributes rightfully mention Springsteen classics like Rosalita, Thunder Road, Born To Run, and Jungleland, songs that were made transcendent by the sound of Clarence Clemons’ saxophone.

But it was none of those songs that I heard in my head upon learning of Clarence’s death.

Instead, the song that came to mind was one from Springsteen’s 1995 Greatest Hits set that had been newly recorded by the reunited E Street Band.

The song captured the bond between Bruce and his bandmates that, for me, made them a band for the ages and makes me grateful I got to witness some of it.

Buon viaggio, Big Man

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Blood Brothers
from Greatest Hits


A Well-Balanced Breakfast With Supertramp*

June 18, 2011

I’ve been hoping for a Supertramp revival since the use of Goodbye Stranger in the movie Magnolia.

Oh, my devotion to them isn’t slavish. In truth, it’s rather limited. Their more progressive stuff doesn’t move me and it’s not simply because it’s progressive.

(I fully admit to having dabbled in progressive rock, but that flirtation was mostly limited to Marillion in the early ’80s. I’ve had the chance to drink with their former lead singer Fish on a handful of occasions and, I assure you, to walk into a pub in Edinburgh with the man is akin to walking into Cheers with Norm…I digress)

My meager devotion to Supertramp is to about a half-dozen songs and the Breakfast In America album. When that band worked, they were capable of producing a nearly perfect pop song and almost every track on Breakfast In America works.

(I seem to recall Oh Darling being the only song which I ever skipped).

Not only is the music worth the price of admission, Breakfast In America has an album cover that always makes me smile – a jovial waitress, menu in hand and orange juice at the ready.

(her name has to be Bev)

Bev simply looks like someone that would deliver a well-balanced breakfast.

Remember the commercials during Saturday morning cartoons in the ’70s for cereals when they would conclude with a shot of the “balanced breakfast” consisting of said cereal, juice, milk, bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, waffles, fruit, and an entire pot roast?

Did that ever strike anyone else as a lot of food?

Pop Tarts, in their commercials, were touted as something to accompany a “balanced breakfast.”

Personally, I have long been a fan of Pop Tarts. They’re magically delicious and their simplicity is a stroke of genius. When traveling abroad or even ‘cross town, I always keep Pop Tarts in my backpack for those unexpected twists in the road.

I also admire the way that Kellogg’s has steadfastly unveiled new flavors to a salivating public.

Remember the early days of Pop Tarts when they only came with fruit fillings? You could kind of pretend that they were healthy.

Well, somewhere along the line they just said to hell with that.

Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts?

Yeah, who doesn’t love sundaes?

Fudge Chocolate, Chocolate-Filled, Chocolate Chip Pop Tarts?

Why not?

Frosted Cookies And Creme With Bacon Bits Pop Tarts?

We’ve almost reached a pre-fabricated food moment of such goodness as I know that there is now Cake Batter Pop Tarts.

Sometimes I get concerned that I don’t take things seriously enough. You know, stuff like God, evolution, evil neo-cons, evil liberals, paper or plastic, and such.

Then, I realized that Pop Tarts are something that I truly feel passionate about.

And sometimes Supertramp.

Here are four songs from Supertramp…

Supertramp – Give A Little Bit
from Classics

Not even incessant commercials for The Gap (wasn’t it The Gap?), could make me sick of Give A Little Bit.

Like so many Supertramp songs, it sounds like a nursery rhyme and it does have a lovely sentiment. Of course, my fairly staunch anti-human stance keeps me from getting carried away by the lovely sentiment and, then, I simply space out and bob my head to the pretty melody and music.

Supertramp – The Logical Song
from Breakfast In America

Effortlessly, Supertramp manages to sound positively giddy (I suppose it is a giddy tinged with melancholy) as they sing of conscription into a lifetime of conformity where banality can be a ticket to success.

Supertramp – Take The Long Way Home
from Classics

Sadly, after singing its praises, I realize that I do not have several tracks from Breakfast In America ripped individually (and I’m jonesing to hear Gone Hollywood, Lord Is It Mine and Child Of Vision) and, unfortunately, the only version of Take The Long Way Home I own is the single version with the edited intro.

Supertramp – Breakfast In America
from Breakfast In America

Apparently, Roger Hodgson feels his girlfriend has less than fulfilled her girlfriend potential, but God help you if he catches you checking her out. However, he seems to be quite fond of kippers (add kippers to the well-balanced breakfast, Bev), so the mind boggles at what hell might rain down on the scoundrel who takes his kippers.

Supertramp – Cannonball
from Brother Where You Bound

I had to include a fifth song today (Paloma encouraged me – “It’s Supertramp”) and that fifth song had to be Cannonball.

Sure, it’s a snappy tune with quite a bit of pep, but it also earns my appreciation for…you really need to see the song’s video and, I assure you that, unless you are feeding starving children, negotiating peace in the Middle East, or napping, you will not use four minutes and fifty-seven seconds more productively today…

Supertramp – Cannonball

Cannonball is simply the greatest caveman music video I have ever seen.

I find his determination as he runs down the interstate inspiring.

Truly.

But what the hell am I meant to take from this video?

I think it’s that our ancient ancestors gave us art, fire, an inborn protectiveness toward crockery rivaled only by the protectiveness Roger Hodgson has toward his kippers, and a primordial affection for Supertramp that lives on in our DNA.

If so, there might be hope for the humans, yet.

*originally posted on June 26, 2008 and regurgitated for your pleasure