The Grammy Awards

February 15, 2011

The Grammy Awards aired the other night.

I watched The Simpsons.

During the first few years in which I was suddenly fascinated by and paying attention to music, it was – like most people of a certain age, I suspect – through pop radio. The idea that there were awards given for songs was a compelling one.

I think the first Grammy Awards show I remember was the one from 1981 and Christopher Cross’ slew of trophies for his debut album from the prior year.

At the time, Cross’ shiny trinkets undoubtedly validated my affection for the cassette of Christopher Cross, which I had made one of my first musical purchases.

Though that album has retained a special place in my psyche, it wasn’t long before I realized that, for the most part, the Grammys was a bit bogus and not to be taken seriously.

Through the years, I’d sometimes catch the show and sometimes I wouldn’t.

I did have the opportunity to once fill out a Grammy ballot. An ex-girlfriend worked at a law firm that had some musician clients and, thus, the firm was a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

This girlfriend’s boss knew that she was an aspiring singer and, having no interest in performing the task, handed his Grammy ballot to her.

I don’t recall the specifics, but a voter was allowed to vote in so many categories and this girlfriend blew through most of her allotment notching a straight ticket.

(it was either for Joan Osbourne’s Relish or Shawn Colvin’s A Few Small Repairs, I can’t remember)

She handed the ballot to me with a few picks remaining.

It truly destroyed the last bit of mystique that the Grammys held for me.

In February, 1983, I most certainly was excited to watch the Grammys. Here are songs from four of winners for whom I’d have undoubtedly voted…

Men At Work – Down By The Sea
from Business As Usual

During the second half of ’82, Men At Work became a sensation with the release of Business As Usual, one of the biggest selling debuts ever. By the time the Australians won Best New Artist, the album had already spawned two mammoth hits with Who Can It Be Now? and Down Under.

Though the two hits were the most memorable songs on the album, Business As Usual could have had another hit single or two had the band not had the follow-up Cargo waiting in the wings.

Though I wasn’t fond of the laid-back Down By The Sea, the song was a nice change of pace from the manic vibe of most of the album and it’s grown on me over the years (likely because of Paloma’s affection for the song).

Toto – It’s A Feeling
from Toto IV

Toto won fifty or sixty Grammys – ok, it was really six – for Toto IV including Album Of The Year. Sure, there were the twin titans of Rosanna and Africa, as well as the lesser hits Make Believe and I Won’t Hold You Back, but the entire album is a stellar set of pop/rock gems.

It’s A Feeling was moody and mysterious – not so dissimilar from Toto’s early hit 99 – and one of my favorites from Toto IV.

A Flock Of Seagulls – D.N.A.
from A Flock Of Seagulls

When A Flock Of Seagulls arrived with I Ran and their self-titled debut, I quickly adopted the Liverpool quartet as my own. I was hearing the music of the future and I wasn’t about to be left behind.

A Flock Of Seagulls relied heavily on synthesizers and electronic drums, but there was also plenty of guitar as on D.N.A. which won the band a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, beating out nominated songs by Dixie Dregs, Maynard Ferguson, King Crimson, and Van Morrison.

Pat Benatar – Shadows Of The Night
from Get Nervous

Pat Benatar was one of the major acts of the early ’80s and Get Nervous became her fourth straight platinum album when it was released in late autumn of 1982. She was fetching in spandex and her songs were on every crude mixtape I was making from the radio.

Get Nervous provided Benatar with one of her signature songs in the dramatic Shadows Of The Night and the song earned the singer a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.