May 1, 1982

May 1, 2011

It’s been a grueling stretch at the office – and I’m still vexed by the realization that I use the phrase “at the office” – and I think a part of my cerebral cortex is still a bit glitchy from the rabbit hole Paloma sent me down last week.

There’s also a band who have dubbed themselves Cosmic America playing downstairs and anyone who might be able to hold a coherent thought in their head while a band that would think Cosmic America might be a good moniker bashes away is made of sturdier stuff than I.

(it would be better if it was America making a mockery of my Saturday morning zen, but even that would be tedious after two hours)

So, since I haven’t done so in awhile, I pulled up the Billboard Hot 100 – opting for this this week in 1982 – and perused the chart of the most popular singles, eyeing the songs that were debuts.

At the time, I was mere weeks away from finishing up eighth grade and moving on to high school in the fall. It was during the school year that was ending that I had discovered radio and, when possible, it was on. Usually it was tuned to Q102, the Top 40 station that was popular with most of my classmates, but I was also searching the dial, exploring what else was out there.

Nine songs debuted on the Hot 100 twenty-nine years ago – only two with which I was unfamiliar – and it’s a relatively mellow lot with only a few hits that might hold my attention enough not to scroll past…

Patrice Rushen – Forget Me Nots
from Straight From The Heart
(debuted #90, peaked #23, 16 weeks on chart)

I wasn’t listening to much R&B at the time. I’d sometimes pause on The Blaze, an urban station, if I heard something familiar but the bouncy Forget Me Nots got played a lot on my Top 40 stations of choice, too.

I remember seeing Rushen perform Forget Me Nots on Solid Gold, but it couldn’t pull my attention away from the gyrations of the Solid Gold dancers. I enjoy the engaging song now, but I find it impossible to hear it and not hear Will Smith rapping about men in black.

Alessi – Put Away Your Love
from Long Time Friends
(debuted #87, peaked #71, 4 weeks on chart)

I had never heard Put Away Your Love or heard of Alessi before now. Apparently, the act consisted of twin brothers – Billy and Bobby – who released five albums in the late ’70s/early ’80s and whose greatest claim to fame was placing a song on the soundtrack to Ghostbusters.

After four albums that garnered little success, the brothers Alessi hooked up with Christopher Cross who produced Long Time Friends.

Cross was a light rock juggernaut at the time, having notched a string of hits and winning a slew of Grammy Awards over the previous two years, but Put Away Your Love is unmemorable and tepid.

(unlike Cross’ hits which, while arguably tepid, were, at least, memorable)

Bertie Higgins – Just Another Day In Paradise
from Just Another Day In Paradise
(debuted #86, peaked #46, 10 weeks on chart)

Just Another Day In Paradise was Bertie Higgins’ follow-up to his Top Ten hit Key Largo, a song that holds a strange fascination for me. I can’t say that I was (or am) a fan of that song, but it catches my attention when I hear it and I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because it’s sung by a man named Bertie, who now is a pirate and has fans who call themselves Boneheads. Or, maybe it’s because Key Largo strikes me as so odd, like seeing a two-headed kitten, that I’m merely puzzled by its existence.

As for Just Another Day In Paradise, it’s not a two-headed kitten but rather a soft rock trip into Jimmy Buffett territory sans the quirks, booze, and cheeseburgers.

Jimmy Hall – Fool For Your Love
from Cadillac Tracks
(debuted #83, peaked #77, 3 weeks on chart)

The other song here that I didn’t know was Fool For You Love by Jimmy Hall, who had been a founder and the lead singer of Southern rock band Wet Willie during the ’70s.

I can’t say that I’m familiar with Wet Willie aside from the name (which is only slightly better than Cosmic America) and the only thing I know previously knew by Hall was his work as a guest vocalist on guitar legend Jeff Beck’s 1985 Flash set, but Fool For Your Love is pleasant enough as it shuffles along goosed by some catchy harmonica.

.38 Special – Caught Up In You
from Special Forces
(debuted #82, peaked #10, 17 weeks on chart)

By the time .38 Special released Special Forces, the Southern band was already a radio staple in our part of the Midwest with songs like Rockin’ Into The Night, Hold on Loosely, and Fantasy Girl. Unlike their Southern rock brethern, .38 Special quickly evolved into a more polished act with a decidely arena rock/pop slant.

Though hardly reinventing fire, Caught Up In You sounded made for radio and I probably heard the song as much that summer as any hit at the time. It was written by Jim Peterik who also wrote a song that would prove to be the monster track of the year for his band Survivor.

Between Caught Up In You and Eye Of The Tiger, the summer of ’82 undoubtedly bumped Peterik into a higher tax bracket.

Ronnie Milsap – Any Day Now
from Inside
(debuted #81, peaked #14, 15 weeks on chart)

JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ looked at 1981 the other day, noted the number of country hits crossing over to the pop world and surmised it might have been “an admission by record labels and pop programmers that pop was out of ideas.”

Of course, a year later Ronnie Milsap was covering a song written by Burt Bacharach from twenty years earlier, so maybe everyone was out of ideas.

Despite my love for Burt Bacharach, if I want to hear Any Day Now, I want to hear soul singer Chuck Jackson’s original from 1962 which I wouldn’t become familiar with until hearing it on Bacharach’s box set The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection.

Karla Bonoff – Personally
from Wild Heart Of The Young
(debuted #79, peaked #19, 18 weeks on chart)

Singer/songwriter Karla Bonoff’s break came when she placed a trio of songs on Linda Ronstadt’s 1976 album Hasten Down The Wind as well as singing back-up for Ronstadt. Then, in 1982, Bonoff scored her lone Top 40 hit with a song written by someone else.

As much as I heard the coquettish Personally at the time, I’d have thought it was a much bigger hit.

Queen – Body Language
from Hot Space
(debuted #78, peaked #11, 14 weeks on chart)

As my attention was turning to music for the first time in the late ’70s/early ’80s, Queen was a behemoth, following earlier hits from Bohemian Rhapsody through We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions with the über-selling album The Game and the mammoth singles Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites The Dust in 1980.

Then, the band’s now-classic duet with David Bowie, Under Pressure, was a relative failure in the States in early ’82 and that was followed by Hot Space, which alienated a lot of long-time fans with its emphasis on a sparse, funk sound.

(and, according to Wikipedia, the song’s accompanying video was the first to be banned by a fledgling MTV)

I didn’t care much for the slinky Body Language at the time, but the song – though hardly essential Queen – has grown on me over the years.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Crimson And Clover
from I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
(debuted #63, peaked #7, 15 weeks on chart)

Joan Jett’s I Love Rock N’ Roll was such an enormous smash in early 1982 that she could have belched the alphabet and had a follow-up hit. Instead, she opted to cover Tommy James’ Crimson And Clover.

The song already been getting heavy airplay on Q102 for a couple months before it was even released as a single and I recall it causing a bit of commotion when Jett, not altering the lyrics, sang, “Now I don’t hardly know her, but I think I could love her.”

M schoolmates and I had no idea who Tommy James was. It was one of our hipper teachers who played the original for us in homeroom one afternoon (as well as suggesting that the term “crimson and clover” was code for a roll in the hay).

We preferred Joan’s version and, after seeing the sleeve for the 45, we realized that, not only was she cool but a babe, too.

It’s Already Been A Long, Hot Summer (And It’s Not Even Summer)

May 13, 2010

(reposted with alterations from last June)

It’s hot today.

It was hot yesterday.

And the forecast calls for this heat wave to persist for the next week.

Though Paloma and I have central air in our tree house suite, a glimpse at the unit’s guts when it was being repaired last summer leads me to believe that it has been built from surplus bi-plane parts manufactured in the ‘30s.

The fact that I am marinating on the couch leads me to question its structural integrity and cooling prowess.

The stifling heat makes thinking an effort. Each time I begin to follow a tangent to write about, it becomes a mirage and, if it doesn’t become a mirage, it’s an oasis far enough in the cranial distance that it doesn’t seem to be worth it.

And it’s only the second week of May.

Summer definitely had a lot more cachet as a kid.

So, I thought I’d pull up Billboard magazine from this week in 1982. Music was a relatively new obsession for me, Clear Channel was years away from homogenizing radio and a heatwave simply meant summer break was within spitting distance.

Some of the songs I was hearing as summer arrived in 1982…

The Waitresses – I Know What Boys Like
from Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?

I’m almost certain that I never heard The Waitresses’ I Know What Boys Like on the radio in ’82.

Not once.

I did see the Akron band perform the song on the television show Solid Gold several times as spring gave way to summer that year.

At the time, I didn’t care much for the song, but, it was undeniably catchy and lead singer Patty Donahue’s teasing vocals were a preview of coming attractions as to which sex truly had hand as the freshman year of high school loomed at the other end of that summer for me and my friends.

Dazz Band – Let It Whip
from Keep It Live

Though the Dazz Band apparently had a string of R&B hits during the ’80s, Let It Whip was their lone pop hit during those years, but it was mammoth that summer. Smooth and cool with a laid-back groove, for some reason, the song always sounded better at night to me.

Van Halen – Dancing In The Street
from Diver Down

Diver Down might have been Van Halen’s fifth album, but as the first four were released when I had little interest in music, it was my first exposure to Eddie and Diamond Dave.

The group had already had a smash that spring with their take on the Roy Orbison’s (Oh) Pretty Woman and their version of seemed to be a declaration that summer was upon us – gurgling synthesizers, Eddie’s guitar heroics, and David Lee Roth’s vocal howl served the song well, successfully remaking the Motown classic as a hard rock anthem.

.38 Special – Caught Up In You
from Special Forces

Southern rockers .38 Special were a staple on the pop and rock stations in our corner of the Midwest. You couldn’t spin through the dial for very long before coming across Rockin’ Into The Night, Fantasy Girl, or Hold On Loosely.

With Special Forces, the band sanded off some of the rougher edges and opted for a more slick, polished pop sound. Caught Up In You was pleasant enough, but, by the last day of school in late May – when I had already heard the song several thousand times (or so it seemed) – it had lodged in my head where it would remain (as it would on radio) until summer’s end.

Fall Break

October 17, 2009

moody-autumn-skyI always believed that fall break was one of the most inspired things. It wasn’t as lengthy as spring break – a mere Thursday and Friday – but it’s placement in the school year was almost flawless.

It usually fell in late October, a week or so before Halloween, half the way between the start of the school year and Christmas break. It was far enough into the semester that the hopeless feeling that the school year would never end had set in, but scattered warm days of Indian summer were reminders of the summer past.

There are a couple schools I pass on the morning commute to work each day. They all have some kind of message board at the front of the school, marquee letters announcing football games and such.

I’ve started seeing dates for fall breaks.

I keep thinking of the fall break in 1984. It was the first fall break where my friends and I all had licenses. Acquiring a vehicle, though, sometimes demanded nimble gamesmanship and negotiation with parents or an older sibling.

I think it was my pyro friend who had snagged his older brother’s car. Another friend, Bosco, had joined us, but, as the pyro hadn’t actually obtained consent to have the car, there had been no time to track anyone else down.

We headed to the city – Cincinnati – and an hour later we were rifling through the racks at a record store. Bosco, an obsessive fan of The Tubes, was determined to snag the recently released solo album by the band’s front man Fee Waybill.

Bosco eventually purchased the album at a Record Bar in the mall from a clerk whom he dubbed “DLR” as the kid had adopted the look of Van Halen’s lead singer. We ended up taking the purchase to a stereo shop where Bosco peeled open the shrink-wrap and we listened to the record on a display system (at least until we were asked to leave).

I remember vividly the overcast skies – much like today – that day, but it was far warmer than it is here, now, where it feels as though we’ve skipped directly from September to November. I seem to recall the sun breaking through a bit on the drive home.

I’m less certain of what music I purchased that day, though I have no doubt that I returned home that evening with several new cassettes. Here’s a quartet of tracks from albums that I very well might have snagged on that break in the autumn of 1984…

INXS – Burn For You
from The Swing

I hadn’t been a fan of INXS’ American debut from the year before, although I thought (and still think) the song Don’t Change is brilliant. And, by the fall of ’84, their second album, The Swing, had been out since the spring.

However, during the summer, another friend had bought INXS’ entire catalog (including earlier Australian releases that were only available to us as imports) and I had become a fan thanks to his incessant playing of the band. Also, our town finally had MTV and the video for the slinky, soulful Burn For You was getting a lot of play that fall.

Roger Hodgson – Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy)
from In The Eye Of The Storm

If you have followed my babbling on this site, you might be well aware of my affection for Supertramp (at least Breakfast In America). By 1984, founding member Roger Hogdson had left the band for a solo career that didn’t exactly pan out.

Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy) got some airplay on some of the stations to which I listened. In truth, it could have been on Breakfast In America and not sounded out of place.

The Fixx – Less Cities, More Moving People
from Phantoms

I think I always liked The Fixx in theory better than execution. Everything was in place – cool name, cool futuristic vibe – for them to be a favorite, except consistently good songs. Aside from Reach The Beach, their albums were maddeningly hit or miss to me.

Not that I gave up trying to embrace them. Although I didn’t like Are We Ourselves?, the first hit from Phantoms, I gave the album a shot nonetheless (and was disappointed). But, there were a couple of worthwhile tracks like the twitchy, shuffling Less Cities, More Moving People.

.38 Special – Teacher Teacher
from Teachers soundtrack

.38 Special was from the South and they were a rock band, but, despite being labeled at times as a Southern rock band, they never really struck me as belonging in that genre. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a big fan of Southern rock and I liked a lot of .38 Special (or, at least the hits in the early ’80s).

Of course, the band was a staple on a lot of the stations in the Midwest, so maybe it was a familiarity thing, but Teacher Teacher was catchy, straight-ahead rock with a punchy chorus and plenty of guitars. I know that we caught the movie Teachers on one of our treks to the city. As we were in high school at the time, it resonated with us, though, for some reason, I don’t think I’ve happened across it since seeing it in the theater.