October 2, 1982

September 29, 2012

At some point last year, I started a semi-regular tradition of pulling up a Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine and dissecting the debut songs for a given week in the early ’80s (when I was first listening to music and most familiar with Top 40 radio).

It was an idea that I nicked from 70s Music Mayhem, a groovy blog that I’d been reading for awhile.

Each Saturday, like clockwork, there would be a new post in which Chris Stufflestreet would cover the songs that had been a debut on the Hot 100 from a corresponding date in the ’70s. It was an engaging mix of Joel Whitburn, Casey Kasem, and childhood nostalgia that was a favorite read.

And then, earlier this week, I was perusing another favorite internet outpost, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, and was surprised to read that Chris had passed away last week.

I seem to recall exchanging an e-mail or two with Chris and the occasional comment on each other’s blog. I knew that he was considerably knowledgeable about baseball cards and I had been meaning to solicit his thoughts on a few items of sports memorabilia, but…

I didn’t know Chris, but, through his writing, I kind of felt like I did.

I’ll miss having his words to read as I lazily ease into a Sunday morning with coffee and offer my heartfelt condolences to any of his friends or family who might stumble upon here.

He seemed like a good guy.

Here are the ten songs that made their debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100 as October arrived this week thirty years ago…

The Clash – Rock The Casbah
from Combat Rock (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #8, 24 weeks on chart)

Punk didn’t make it to our part of the Midwest and, though I knew The Clash by name, I had never heard their music prior to Rock The Casbah.

(it would be over the next few years – and thanks to the passion my buddy Streuss had for the band – that I would discover what all the fuss was over “the only band that matters”)

I thought that Rock The Casbah was übercool as was the song’s video which makes fine use of both Burger King and armadillos.

Bad Company – Electricland
from Rough Diamonds (1982)
(debuted #87, peaked #74, 4 weeks on chart)

I can’t say that I’ve ever had much affinity for Bad Company, though I much prefer the Paul Rodgers era to the late ’80s/early ’90s stuff sans Rodgers that briefly saw the band return to mainstream success.

And I can’t say that I’d ever heard Electricland, though its subdued, mysterious vibe briefly held my attention before I lost interest.

Missing Persons – Destination Unknown
from Spring Session M (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #42, 14 weeks on chart)

Missing Persons was as exotic as exotic got for me and my friends in 1982 and we totally took to the band. Their sci-fi, synth sound and the comely looks of lead singer Dale Bozzio – and her plexiglass, fishbowl bra cups, bikini bottoms made of posters, and cotton-candy hair – were irresistible to our teenage ears and eyes.

I think we all had a cassette of Spring Session M and I still dig it when Words or the spacey, hypnotic Destination Unknown pops up on the iPod or Sirius.

Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
from Emotions In Motion (1982)
(debuted #84, peaked #32, 17 weeks on chart)

During my junior high/high school years, Billy Squier was a rock god to most of the kids in my hometown. Of course, he was toppled from that exalted position as minor deity by the infamously bad video for Rock Me Tonight in 1984.

But when Emotions In Motion came out, he was still cool and Everybody Wants You was constantly playing from a radio or car stereo.

In fact, DJ Mark Sebastian from Q102 in Cincinnati – the station most of us listened to at the time – played the damned song repeatedly one night on his shift for an hour or two after supposedly locking himself in the DJ booth.

Timothy B. Schmit – So Much In Love
from Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack (1982)
(debuted #81, peaked #59, 7 weeks on chart)

Apparently it was Irving Azoff, one of the film’s producers, who pushed for the inclusion of four solo Eagles and other ’70s acts on the soundtrack of Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The movie was a sensation but the kids in my high school in 1982 were listening to The Go-Gos and The Cars – who also had songs used – not Graham Nash, Jimmy Buffett, or Timothy B. Schmit.

Schmit’s contribution was a cover of So In Love, a hit by The Tymes from twenty years earlier, making the song positively antediluvian to us. Yet the song played during a closing scene in which the geek got the girl and, if its charms escaped me then, I find it pleasant enough now.

Bill Medley – Right Here And Now
from Right Here And Now (1982)
(debuted #80, peaked #58, 8 weeks on chart)

I had never heard Right Here And Now by Righteous Brother Bill Medley or, if I had, it hadn’t stuck. I listened to it and promptly forgot almost everything about it.

But, I do recall thinking that it wouldn’t have been out of place on one of the three or four soft rock stations on our dial in 1982.

Paul McCartney – Tug Of War
from Tug Of War (1982)
(debuted #75, peaked #53, 8 weeks on chart)

Paul McCartney’s 1982 album Tug Of War arrived with great expectations as it found the former Beatle reuniting with producer George Martin. The album received glowing reviews at the time and became a huge commercial hit driven by the ubiqitous duet with Stevie Wonder, Ebony And Ivory.

The title track was pulled as the third single from Tug Of War – following the breezy, summer hit Take It Away – and alternates between gentle and dramatic with a lilting melody and a hopeful vibe.

Linda Ronstadt – Get Closer
from Get Closer (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #29, 12 weeks on chart)

Linda Ronstadt had a fairly impressive run of hits in the ’70s, but her singles began to receive a less attention with Get Closer. To me, the title song from that 1982 album lacks the personality of her ’70s stuff.

(I thought the album’s lesser radio hits – I Knew You When and Easy For You To Say – were better)

I can’t hear Linda Ronstadt and not think of a classmate not long after Ronstadt had released Living In The USA album – the one with a cover shot of her on roller skates and wearing an inconceivably short pair of satin shorts.

Our teacher asked us to name something twelve-year old boys wanted.

The classmate raised his hand and replied, “Linda Ronstadt.”

Donna Summer – State of Independence
from Donna Summer (1982)
(debuted #70, peaked #41, 10 weeks on chart)

A cover of a track by Yes’ Jon Anderson and Vangelis, Donna Summer’s State Of Independence has a bouncy, reggae hitch and a quasi-spiritual lyric. The song builds to an inspirational swell with a vocal choir that included Michael Jackson, Brenda Russell, James Ingram, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Loggins, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder.

(supposedly the all-star vocal gathering inspired producer Quincy Jones for We Are The World a few years later)

I’ve not heard the original, but I was familiar with Moodswings’ version – retitled Spiritual High (State of Independence) – from the early ’90s which featured Chrissie Hynde on lead vocals.

Diana Ross – Muscles
from Silk Electric (1982)
(debuted #61, peaked #10, 17 weeks on chart)

Even though there wasn’t a lot of R&B on the radio when I first started listening – we had one station on a remote portion of the dial – Diana Ross was all over pop stations with songs like Upside Down, Endless Love, and Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Still, about the only time I heard Muscles was when listening to Casey Kasem and American Top 40 on the weekends. It struck me as an odd song – a slow, sparse track with Ross cooing and sighing of her longing for buffness.

Of course, each week Casey would remind listeners that the song was written by Michael Jackson who soon was on the countdown with The Girl Is Mine, his duet with Paul McCartney and the first single from Thriller which would arrive that Thanksgiving.

Advertisements

I’ll Give You Something To Cry About

September 22, 2012

Occasionally, I will be surprised to find Ravi, our smallest cat, hanging from the top of the curtains in our living room.

I find these moments to be hysterically entertaining. It’s like being in a cartoon.

Paloma is less amused. In fact, for reasons inexplicable to me, she is not amused.

Not at all.

Ravi’s hanging antics – and whether or not they should be celebrated, perhaps even encouraged – is one of the few major points of contention between Paloma and I.

The other is her declaration that Morrissey would take Bruce Springsteen in a fistfight.

I thought it was kooky talk.

Paloma will profess her affection for Springsteen, but she is a long-time devotee of The Smiths and has argued that, should fisticuffs ensue, Morrissey would fight dirty.

I first heard The Smiths, for whom Morrissey sang lead, on 97X in high school – it must have been their clasic How Soon Is Now? – and the band was hugely popular with a lot of my friends and peers in college.

I just was hardly rabid about The Smiths, though, and The Smiths fans that I knew often were.

(as a lot of Springsteen fans are rather obsessive about Bruce)

I liked The Smiths, but I never totally embraced the band. However clever and literate the lyrics, despite the wonderful, jangly guitar, the mopiness of it all wore out its welcome with me.

“What’s he bitching about now?” I’d ask a college buddy when he’d put on The Smiths and Morrissey would lament how he never got what he wanted.

I thought of Paloma’s pugilistic prognostications regarding Morrissey and Springsteen the other morning while commuting to work.

I often bounce between E Street Radio and the ’70s station on Sirius and had the latter dialed up as Gilbert O’Sullivan was singing Alone Again (Naturally). I couldn’t help but hear the morose lyric and imagine Morrissey covering the song.

Given the sensitive inclinations of many of the singer/songwriters of the decade, several other hits of the ’70s popped into my head.

I believe that Ravi should be allowed to dangle without restrictions and I have no doubt that Bruce would indeed triumph should he and Morrissey enter Thunderdome.

And, here are four songs from the ’70s that I think might be ideal for Morrissey to cover…

Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally)
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box (1998)

Pretty grim stuff, Mr. O’Sullivan – a groom left at the altar, two dead parents, and suicidal thoughts.

God only knows how I interpreted this song as a child. I imagine that I was too entranced by the nursery rhyme-like melody to ponder Gilbert’s existential angst.

Michael Murphey – Wildfire
from Blue Sky – Night Thunder (1975)

I wasn’t listening to music in 1975 aside from what I’d hear on the radio in the car, but I do remember hearing Wildfire. How could I not?

Before the first chorus, a young girl is dead and “the pony she called Wildfire” is lost in a blizzard.

Oh, the carnage.

Michael Johnson – Bluer Than Blue
from The Very Best Of Michael Johnson: Bluer Than Blue (1978-1995) (1999)

To paraphrase Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, how much more blue could Michael Johnson be?

The answer is none. None more blue.

Henry Gross – Shannon
from Release (1976)

And then there is ex-Sha Na Na member Henry Gross and his elegy about the death of Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Irish setter Shannon.

So, to recap, we have four songs with a jilted, suicidal groom, a pair of dead parents, a dead girl, a pony lost in a blizzard, a disheartening break-up, and a dead dog that drove Casey Kasem to distraction.


Money, Cocker And The Loaf

September 19, 2012

Eddie Money spooked Paloma.

His mug appeared on the television as he belted out Two Tickets To Paradise in a commercial for some beer or burger or chainsaw.

(or something)

“That’s scary,” she noted.

There was something about the aging rocker, shuffling about the screen in an exaggerated manner and belting out song in a gravelly voice, that made me think of Joe Cocker.

“He reminds me of Joe Cocker. I think that the two should go out on tour together.”

I pictured the pair lurching across America.

“And Meat Loaf,” she added.

She paused, then succinctly expressed the logic with the very thing I was thinking. “He emotes.”

It’s true.

The Dude abides.

The Loaf emotes.

And the world keeps spinnin’ ’round.

And so I imagined Eddie Money, Joe Cocker, and Meat Loaf touring the country, contorting and lurching, belting it to the back rows, emoting with more melodrama than a dressing room full of drag queens…

…it made for quite a spectacle in my head.

Here are four songs from the catalogs of the trio…

Eddie Money – Think I’m In Love
Eddie Money – Shakin’
from No Control (1982)

Eddie Money’s career was in a lull when I started listening to music at the outset of the ’80s. Of course I knew his early hits like Two Tickets To Paradise and Baby Hold On To Me as I heard them often on the rock stations, but as those had been several years earlier, it was ancient history to me.

Then, he released No Control. I vividly recall hearing Think I’m In Love for the first time and how damned catchy it was (and still is).

As for Shakin’, while it failed to match Think I’m In Love‘s success, it seemed to get as much airplay and it was notable to me and my friends for the novelty of hearing “tits” on the radio.

Joe Cocker – Shelter Me
from Cocker (1986)

Like Eddie Money, Joe Cocker’s career was waning as the ’80s arrived. I imagine that the only thing that I knew by the man was hearing him croak his way through the mawkish You Are So Beautiful.

Then, he duetted with Jennifer Warnes on Up Where We Belong and I saw him perform on Solid Gold – something for which I was wholly unprepared.

I understand that Cocker is well regarded, but he didn’t exactly make a good first impression on me and, over the years, I’ve not become much more acquainted with his oeuvre beyond the basics. I did hear Shelter Me on the radio a bit in early ’86 and, though I imagine the song is unlikely to make a list of his essentials, I finally took to his gruff, soulful voice.

Meat Loaf – You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
from Hits Out Of Hell (1984)

I’m still bitter about reality television ruining my concept of Meat Loaf.