August 29, 1981

August 31, 2011

At the suggestion of a friend from college, I’ve been reading and reading with the actual intent to learn and not merely for entertainment.

I’ve actually been studying, something that I rarely did in college.

Some of the concepts have been abstract, but the neurons still fire and the subject matter holds the potential for being of great use.

(as opposed to those metric tables junior high)

Thirty years ago, I was in eighth grade and mindlessly memorizing metric conversions that I would never use. Football and classmates of the female persuasion were the primary recipients of my interest and attention.

For the first time in my life, I was actually interested in music and spending increasing amounts of time with the radio on.

And five songs were making their debut on the Hot 100 in Billboard magazine…

The Go-Go’s – Our Lips Are Sealed
from Beauty And The Beat
(debuted #90, peaked #20, 30 weeks on chart)

The Go-Go’s built the perfect beast with Our Lips Are Sealed, their first hit, and the one-time punk band’s New Wave-tinged pop was both old and new (and completely irresistible) as its sunny vibe helped hold back the impending chill of autumn in 1981.

By summer of the following year, the all-female band was a pop culture juggernaut – Beauty And The Beat had sold millions of copies, We Got The Beat was playing over the opening credits of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and the band memorably appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in their underwear.

(which Jane Wiedlin and I discussed when I had the opportunity to interview her twenty years later)

Aretha Franklin with George Benson – Love All The Hurt Away
from Love All The Hurt Away
(debuted #89, peaked #46, 10 weeks on chart)

I’m certain I didn’t know Aretha Franklin in 1981. As for George Benson, I know that I’d heard his silky-smooth, lightly funky Give Me The Night a year earlier as it was pretty inescapable.

I didn’t know their duet Love All The Hurt Away then or until now. If Paloma was listening now, I think she’d nod and say, “Quiet storm.”

Love All The Hurt Away does have a mellow vibe, but the song builds to a dramatic crescendo.

Atlanta Rhythm Section – Alien
from Quinella
(debuted #88, peaked #29, 15 weeks on chart)

As a kid in the late ’70s, I remember hearing Atlanta Rhythm Section’s Imaginary Lover and So Into You often on the soft rock stations the parents would play in the car. I was listening to music more than I ever had in 1981, I don’t really recall hearing Alien, though.

The song has a laid-back groove like Imaginary Lover and So Into You, but Alien might be even more drowsy than those earlier hits.

I’ve read that much of Atlanta Rhythm Section’s catalog was more Southern Rock – the band came together as session players in a Georgia studio used by Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special – but I’ve only heard the mellow stuff.

Dan Fogelberg – Hard To Say
from The Innocent Age
(debuted #72, peaked #7, 19 weeks on chart)

A Dan Fogelberg song was on the radio one recent Saturday morning and Paloma noted that she liked his voice.

(I agreed)

I mostly know the late singer/songwriter for his early ’80s hits – songs like Same Old Lang Syne, Leader Of The Band, and Missing You – which I heard often while listening to the radio at the time.

Though Hard To Say is pleasant, it wasn’t my cup of tea for the months in late ’81 when I’d hear the song several times each day.

I had little interest in the song, but my neighbor and childhood friend Will seemed to harbor a burning hatred of Hard To Say. One snowy afternoon, having just seen the song on the Solid Gold countdown, he turned to me and said sullenly, “I think Dan Fogelberg just ruined the Solid Gold dancers for me.”

Hall & Oates – Private Eyes
from Private Eyes
(debuted #68, peaked #1, 23 weeks on chart)

Hall & Oates had resuscitated their career from a late ’70s commercial lull with 1980’s Voices. It was impossible to not hear You Make My Dreams or Kiss On My List on the radio at the time.

The duo followed that album with Private Eyes in the autumn of ’81. The title song was ridiculously catchy, had a bit of New Wave sheen and was a mammoth hit.

(and for the next half dozen years, there always seemed to be some new Hall & Oates song on the radio)

Miles Of Aisles Of Melissa Manchester

March 24, 2009

During the nine months or so that Paloma and I’ve been buying vinyl, I’ve noticed certain things. There will always be some album which I’ve never seen and am thrilled to have found.

The next store I visit, I come across another copy of the new-found treasure (like the Korgis’ Dumb Waiters).

Then, there are the certain artists who I feel pressured to buy. There are so many of their albums in the bins of used record stores, I wonder if anyone held on to a copy (or maybe the previous owner upgraded to CD).

Melissa Manchester is one whom I’ve noticed. I could walk into any of the half dozen or so places where we shop for used vinyl and probably find a copy of damned near every album in her catalog, none costing more than a dollar.

It’s been tempting to make the investment.

I don’t really know a lot of her songs, but the ones I do know are pleasant enough. Of course, the only songs of hers that immediately come to mind are Midnight Blue and You Should Hear How She Talks About You.

(I’ve always thought that Carly Simon would have given the former some cojones)

And speaking of Carly Simon, she too is an act that, like Ms. Manchester, seems to be well represented in used record stores and most of the music she has released could be acquired for less than a pizza from Domino’s.

In Carly’s case, I have a copy of her box set from a decade or so ago – a freebie from her label – which I’ve never explored much beyond the radio hits.

Deep Purple, Boz Scaggs, Kenny Loggins…they’re all there, too.

Most of these artists aren’t ones in which I’ve ever had much interest, at least beyond owning a stray track or two.

Yet I live in fear of them, knowing that one day I may return home from a vinyl-buying venture and, having been unable to resist the inexpensive siren song of some siren’s songs, find myself explaining to Paloma why we now own a dozen albums by Helen Reddy.

Here are a few tracks that I do own by some of the acts I’ve noticed with extensive catalogs readily available in used record stores…

Chuck Mangione – Give It All You Got
It is impossible for me to think of Chuck Mangione and not imagine Mick Jagger cranking the music of the flugelhorn player on trans-Atlantic flights with supermodels on a private jet in the late ‘70s.

His music makes me think of shag carpet and the 1980 Winter Olympics for which this song served as the theme (and after two weeks of hearing it on the television broadcasts, I was hearing it in my sleep).

Steve Miller Band – Swingtown
Actually, Steve Miller has already made his way into our vinyl collection (I think we’ve got the greatest hits record and possibly Book Of Dreams).

Even before I was really into music, I knew a lot of Steve Miller songs from his hits in the mid- to late- ‘70s. Fly Like An Eagle, Jet Airliner, and Take The Money And Run were always playing over the public pool’s sound system.

Personally, I much preferred Swingtown which was a staple on the jukebox in the bowling alley where my friends and I killed time before we could drive (and sometimes after).

Gino Vannelli – Wild Horses
I’m well acquainted with Gino’s big hits, I Just Wanna Stop and Living Inside Myself, as they were played often on the local light rock station. My mom was fond of the station and I was indifferent at the time. Once I became interested in music, I wrested control of the car stereo from her in a bloodless coup.

But Wild Horses I quite liked when I heard it on that same light rock station while home from college one spring. Several years later, I’d learn more about Gino than I’d ever imagined I would. Our record store’s receiving clerk (who greatly resembled Mario from the Donkey Kong video game) was a devoted fan of the bare-chested Canadian.

Atlanta Rhythm Section – So Into You
Southern rock has never been a genre of which I’ve been very fond (although I’ve become less resistant the older I’ve gotten). The handful of radio hits I know by Atlanta Rhythm Section are hardly what I’d describe as Southern rock (perhaps the non-hit stuff was more in that vein).

But those hit songs – Alien, Imaginary Lover, Spooky, a couple more – are all wistful and engaging. They sound like a cloudy, autumn day.