The A-Team

January 29, 2013

AI got sucked into The A-Team on cable.

Three hours later, I had watched about an hour and a half more of the exploits of Hannibal Smith and friends in movie form than I had ever watched of the television series.

As I was a kid at the time The A-Team initially aired, I was well aware of it. It was enormously popular for awhile and I imagine I undoubtedly checked it out for ten or fifteen minutes on a Tuesday night.

(with five, six channels and no cable, the viewing options were limited)

I was fifteen when The A-Team arrived. I think I essentially shrugged it off as simplistic.

And Mr. T…I remember the first kid in our neighborhood that had made it into The City to catch the previous summer’s blockbuster Rocky III. The next morning, we gathered as usual for a pick-up baseball game.

It was June and the sun beat down on us. It was already hot.

The lot of us were sprawled out on the grass, sweltering, breakfast digesting as Alvin recounted to us the plot of Rocky III and we hung on every word.

He was a generally quiet kid but he verbally jitterbugged as he excitedly got the first few moments out.

And he stopped.

He seemed crazy from the heat, like some addled prospector wandered in from the desert telling tales, as he slowly told of the beast that was Rocky’s opponent, Clubber Lang as played by Mr. T.

Clubber had a Mohawk.

Clubber mostly growled.

Clubber was unstoppable.

His destruction of Rocky for the heavyweight title was done with a stunning savage efficiency.

When we all finally got to see Rocky III – it arrived in our small town’s theater pretty quickly – we might have been rooting for Rocky, but we were in awe of Clubber.

Clubber was soon overshadowed by Mr. T. It seemed he was everywhere – talk shows, magazines, commercials.

Clubber had been a frightening creation. Mr. T soon began to grate on my nerves.

I was also spending more time listening to music during the years that The A-Team originally aired and the show wouldn’t have had enough appeal to pull me from doing so.

As for the movie, it was a decent popcorn flick unburdened by preconceptions or childhood memory.

The A-Team debuted almost thirty years ago to the day. Here are four songs from albums that were also arriving that week in 1983…

Eurythmics – Love Is A Stranger
from Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)

By the time Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) was released, several singles had been issued and failed to gain traction. In the States, it took until summer, but the title track finally clicked and gave the Eurythmics a breakthrough hit that topped the charts.

Sweet Dreams might be better remembered, but I’ve always preferred the chilly Love Is A Stranger.

Todd Rundgren – Drive
from The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1983)

Todd Rundgren’s commercial peak had expired about five years before I was listening to music. However, my friends and I were exposed to the music of Runt – both past and present – through our buddy Bosco. He was a Rundgren fanatic and each new release from the man was an event.

According to the internet, The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect was a contractual obligation album and considered a throwaway, but I’ve remained quite found of the set.

(though I need never, ever again to hear Bang The Drum All Day – ever)

And I do love the clanging call to action, Drive. It makes me want to go to work tomorrow, burn down my office building, load Paloma and the animals into The Jeepster, and do as the title suggests.

Journey – Send Her My Love
from Frontiers (1983)

Journey’s follow-up to the iconic Escape was the most eagerly anticipated album of my young life in January, 1983. Separate Ways arrived as Frontiers‘ first single and it quickly became a Top Ten hit.

And, a week or so before the full album arrived in stores, I stayed up to tape Frontiers when it was played on Frog’s Midnight Album, which aired nightly on WEBN.

I played that copy of Frontiers incessantly until I made it into Cincinnati and to a record store to purchase an actual cassette. Even as I listened to it repeatedly into the summer, I could hear it as a calculated attempt to replicate Escape.

However, the haunted Send Her My Love would have been a worthy addition to Frontiers’ predecessor.

Red Rider – Human Race
from Neruda (1983)

Canadian band Red Rider never got much love here in the States. They’d get a smattering of airplay on our album rock stations and the moody Lunatic Fringe was deservedly a staple (even if I doubt most listeners could have named the band performing it).

I seem to recall hearing the sparse, eerie Human Race occasionally that spring and it’s a compelling mix of straight-ahead rock with a slight New Wave vibe.

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Nothing Like The Threat Of Armageddon To Stoke An Appetite

November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving, like the once annual airing of The Wizard Of Oz used to be, is an event.

Yeah, some people make it out to be dysfunction junction (and for them, maybe it is), but getting to watch football all day on a day which usually would be spent slogging through work is a brilliant concept.

And, of course, it is a chance to feast.

It’s like being king for a day.

Bring me gravy! I shall gnaw on this turkey leg in a slovenly fashion as these superhumans on the television perform amazing feats for my amusement!

OK. It’s not necessarily that dramatic and, as the Lions always play on Thanksgiving Day, the feats are not always amazing in a good way.

(though I cannot imagine how empty a Thanksgiving without the Lions playing the early game would be – it would be like a Halloween without a visit from The Great Pumpkin)

One Thanksgiving was spent living in London, eating some take-out pizza in an ice-cold flat.

And, in a cruel twist, my favorite team was making a rare Thanksgiving Day appearance. They would lose, in overtime after a bizarre coin toss snafu to begin the extra period.

It was a game that would have been maddening to have watched and it was maddening to miss.

Thanksgiving hasn’t been brilliant every year, but that year – no food, no football, no heat – is really the lone one I recall as being truly miserable.

As a kid, our parents dragged us off to mass. I mean, you have the day off school and can sleep in and lounge on the couch; the last thing you want to be doing at an early hour is trudging off to church.

When I was fifteen, the priest decided to use his sermon to rattle off a laundry list of accidental nuclear exchanges between the US and USSR that had been narrowly avoided.

(this was 1983 and two months earlier there had been all of the hullaballoo surrounding the television movie The Day After)

I kept having images of an extra crispy bird and excessively dry stuffing.

It was a bit of a bummer.

It was also a year when my team had a Thanksgiving game and Detroit bottled them 45-3.

But, global tensions and football smackdowns aside, I have no doubt that the food was good.

Of course, as a kid in the ‘80s, we had a lot of music with somber themes alluding to the impending nuclear Armageddon. But a lot of those songs managed to be far from sinister. Some even managed to be deemed perky enough to sell Burgers.

Here are four Armageddon-themed songs from the ’80s…

Nena – 99 Luftballons
from Nena (1983)

Several of my friends and I were taking our second year of German in high school when Nena arrived. So, we understood that 99 Luftballoons was a song about red balloons sung by a chick named Nena who didn’t shave her armpits.

Then, when the English version arrived, we knew the full, terrifying truth.

Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark – Enola Gay
from The Best of OMD (1988)

Paloma turned me on to OMD. I knew their hits So In Love and If You Leave, but there was an entire body of work with which I was unfamiliar.

Anyhow, Enola Gay is a sprightly little number about the bombing of Hiroshima.

Alphaville – Forever Young
from Forever Young (1984)

Forever Young will always remind me of a good friend from college. Her boyfriend, whom she had dated for several years in high school, had been killed by a drunk driver and she’d tell me how she would sit for hours playing Forever Young repeatedly as a means of coping with his death.

Modern English – I Melt With You
from After The Snow (1982)

Modern English’s I Melt With You is about as quintessential ’80s as it gets and with good reason. I’m not sure if I’ve read that it’s about nuclear war or it’s my own particular take on the lyric. Sure, it seems to be a nothing more than an extremely melodic, joyously upbeat song of devotion, but there is the whole matter of stopping the world and melting with your beloved which could be interpreted as a more dire scenario.


August 6, 1983

August 12, 2012

My brain is mushy from work.

(there might be a hell of a screenplay if I could unscramble my mind)

And I am under the sway of the Olympics.

(well done London)

So, as I opt to periodically do – when I have no other viable or unviable ideas – it’s time to pull up an old Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart and note the songs that debuted that week.

1983 is always good as I was surfing more of the radio channels, beginning to gravitate toward album rock but still interested in the pop stations. That autumn, 97X would debut and I’d discover the exotic sounds of modern rock.

Twenty-nine years ago – more or less – seven songs debuted on the Hot 100…

Kissing The Pink – Maybe This Day
from Naked (1983)
(debuted #95, peaked #87, 5 weeks on chart)

The one song from these debuts with which I was not familiar was Kissing The Pink’s Maybe This Day. The British synth-pop act would shorten their name to KTP and have another minor hit a few years later with Certain Things Are Likely, which I do remember, but Maybe This Day? Nothing.

Maybe This Day shuffles along punctuated by muted horns, but I can hear why it wasn’t a big hit. It reminds me a bit of Naked Eyes, who were having great success at the same time, but not nearly as catchy.

Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road
from Naked (1983)
(debuted #92, peaked #82, 5 weeks on chart)

I can’t hear Holiday Road – the theme song from National Lampoon’s Vacation – and not want to cruise through a desert in the American Southwest in a station wagon with a dead aunt strapped to the roof on the way to a theme park thousands of miles from home.

Tears For Fears – Change
from The Hurting (1983)
(debuted #90, peaked #73, 6 weeks on chart)

Growing up om a small town was underscored by the occasional visit of my buddy Beej’s uncle from Cincinnati. The fellow had an enviable collection of New Wave albums, EPs, and twelve-inch singles by artists we often wouldn’t hear of until months later (or sometimes not at all).

Most American listeners wouldn’t hear Tears For Fears until 1985’s Songs From The Big Chair which had the hits Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Shout, and Head Over Heels.

Beej’s uncle had made us familiar with the name Tears For Fears during the summer of 1983 when The Hurting was released. A few months later, I found 97X where I heard Pale Shelter and the shimmering Change.

Robert Plant – Big Log
from The Principle Of Moments (1983)
(debuted #86, peaked #20, 16 weeks on chart)

In ’83, I was still becoming acquainted with Led Zeppelin’s extensive catalog beyond Led Zeppelin IV (a locker room staple) and I was completely unfamiliar with Robert Plant’s solo debut from the year before.

I quickly became well acquainted with Plant’s follow-up, The Principle Of Moments, when it arrived as summer was slipping away. Not only was the languid Big Log becoming the singer’s first Top 40 single, I was hearing other tracks from the album like In The Mood and Other Arms on the rock stations.

Spandau Ballet – True
from True (1983)
(debuted #67, peaked #4, 18 weeks on chart)

Beej might have heard of Spandau Ballet from his uncle, too, but I remember him mentioning the New Romantic act from seeing their videos on Night Tracks.

Of course, anyone listening to the radio late that summer and into the fall would have known True. The lush ballad was a mammoth hit and one of the enduring songs of the period (currently heard in some car commercial).

The song wasn’t my cup of tea at the time. The sophisticated crooning of Tony Hadley held no appeal to me, but, other the past three decades, I’ve succumbed to True‘s charms.

Elton John – Kiss The Bride
from Too Low For Zero (1983)
(debuted #60, peaked #25, 12 weeks on chart)

Elton John was no longer the radio juggernaut he had been as my interest in music was beginning to develop, but the man was still having hits. In 1983, John’s Too Low For Zero would lead off with the upbeat I’m Still standing and, as the year wound down, the ballad I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues would be inescapable.

Sandwiched in between was the rollicking Kiss The Bride, another track that, like Spandau Ballet’s True, I have a greater fondness for now than I did at the time.

Stray Cats – (She’s) Sexy + 17
from Rant N’ Rave With The Stray Cats (1983)
(debuted #51, peaked #5, 15 weeks on chart)

I didn’t really like rockabilly revivalists The Stray Cats when their Built For Speed became a smash in late 1982 and Rock This Town and Stray Cat Strut were constantly on the radio. They were a band that might have existed when my parents were in high school which was not a selling point.

By the time Rant N’ Rave With The Stray Cats was released, I was becoming more curious about lots of different music and I was more receptive to the retro trio. Plus, (She’s) Sexy + 17 was too damned catchy to dismiss.