The Dead Of Winter

January 5, 2013

winterI have no idea when I became aware that new albums and cassettes didn’t simply sprout randomly in the bins and racks of record stores but, rather, arrived on a (theoretically) predetermined date – the street date.

As I became a music consumer in the early ’80s, this information wasn’t at your fingertips and was as much rumor and speculation as actionable intel.

At the time, I was frequenting record stores like mall staples like Camelot and Record Bar, cooler chains like Peaches, and a few smaller independent stores like Globe. All of them made some attempt to provide release dates.

Most of the time there was something posted on the counter top by the registers. It might be a list clipped from Billboard. If it was, it would be, maybe, a scant dozen titles and usually limited to major releases.

Other stores would have a handwritten list taped to the counter, often riddled with corrections and dates crossed out or changed. And, still others made use of chalk or dry erase boards.

Often I simply got release dates from DJs on the radio.

Regardless of how the information was disseminated, it was hardly gospel.

And, by the time I reached college, I had definitely learned to expect little in the way of new music in January. It was a barren stretch of a month when the labels often dumped titles for which they had little commitment.

A January release was often the precursor to the act being dropped.

A college roommate called me after we’d parted ways with news of a band whose failed debut we had loved. We had graduated as we were expecting the follow-up and, belatedly, it was finally slated for release.

“It comes out in January,” he told me and we both knew what it meant.

(six months later, Epic dropped them)

1982 was the year that I truly began to devote the few dollars I had to purchasing music. Here are four songs from albums that arrived in January that year…

The Waitresses – I Know What Boys Like
from Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? (1982)

The Waitresses brief career – two albums and one EP – was launched when their debut, Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?, arrived with the new year in 1982. The New Wave band from Akron would have a minor hit that summer with the sassy, saxophone-driven I Know What Boys Like which I was introduced to when the band performed the song on Solid Gold.

Though I Know What Boys Like failed to make the Top 40, the song has appeared on every New Wave compilation issued over the past three decades. Their career might have been slight, but The Waitresses managed two classics with I Know What Boys Like and the seasonal perennial Christmas Wrapping.

XTC – Senses Working Overtime
from English Settlement (1982)

I was certainly unfamiliar with XTC at the beginning of 1982, though I would at least know the name of the English trio by that spring when I took note of the listing for English Settlement and the unusual band name in a catalog for the Columbia Record & Tape Club.

I wouldn’t actually hear XTC until the autumn of the following year when 97X went on the air. The band would be a staple on the station as they would be a favorite amongst the college rock crowd into the next decade.

Hanoi Rocks – Don’t Never Leave Me
from Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks (1982)

Hanoi Rocks was a band that I knew from leafing through the pages of Circus – one of the few music magazines on the rack at the drug store in my hometown. That the Finnish band was in Circus, whose emphasis was on hard rock and metal bands, did little to pique my interest.

(I did dig the band’s name and I still think that Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks is one of the coolest album titles of all time)

After Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction broke, I recall the opinion that it might have been Hanoi Rocks having such success had the band’s career not been derailed by the death of their drummer.

Years later, I finally checked out Hanoi Rocks after snagging several CDs in a cut-out bin and it was indeed like hearing some proto-Guns N’ Roses.

Huey Lewis & The News – Do You Believe In Love
from Picture This (1982)

Huey Lewis & The News’ Picture This was actually released at the tail end of January, so, even though the band’s debut had gotten little attention, maybe the label hadn’t totally given up on the band. Maybe they weren’t surprised at the success of Picture This and Do You Believe In Love.

Of course, no one would have predicted how inescapable Huey Lewis & The News would be during the rest of the decade. Reviled by many, the band had stuff I still dig – Workin’ For A Livin’, Heart And Soul, If This Is It, The Power Of Love – and stuff I never did – I Want A New Drug, The Heart Of Rock And Roll, Hip To Be Square

The bouyant earworm Do You Believe In Love ends up among the former group.

August 14, 1982

August 14, 2011

With nothing of use in my head, it’s a good time to pull up a Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart from the early ’80s – a period of my initial infatuation with music and radio – and check out the debut songs.

So, here are the seven songs which were making their first appearance on the chart during this week in 1982…

John Schneider – In The Driver’s Seat
from Quiet Man
(debuted #90, peaked #72, 6 weeks on chart)

John Schneider was one half of the Duke boys in the ’80s series The Dukes Of Hazard. The other brother was played by Tom Wopat and – had he had the song debuting – I could recount the tale of an insane neighbor I once had who dated him, leading her to declare to me, “Tom Wopat loves me!”

(my college education had, unfortunately, not prepared me for such an inconceivable situation so I stood there, slack-jawed and inert, unsure of an appropriate response and not wanting to laugh)

Strange courtships aside, I had never heard In The Driver’s Seat, not in ’82 or during the ensuing three decades, but – rightly or wrongly – it makes me think of Jim Croce’s Speedball Tucker and Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy).

Tané Cain – Holdin’ On
from Tané Cain
(debuted #89, peaked #37, 11 weeks on chart)

Tané Cain was the daughter of actor Doug McClure who starred in, among other movies, The Land That Time Forgot which was eagerly awaited by me as a seven-year old in 1975. In 1982, Cain was married to Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain and issued a self-titled album.

Holdin’ On managed to eke into the Top 40, but it’s a rather generic pop/rock track and the only time that I ever heard the song on the radio was when it aired on American Top 40.

More memorable was the sleeve of the 45, catching the attention of me and my buddy Beej when we found it in the record bin of our hometown discount store. It was like she’d been booted out of Charlie’s Angels for dressing like Pocahontas.

Spys – Don’t Run My Life
from Spys
(debuted #88, peaked #82, 5 weeks on chart)

Formed by keyboardist Al Greenwood and bassist Ed Gagliardi, who had been founding members of Foreigner, Spys released two albums in the early ’80s to scant success.

It’s a bit surprising that Don’t Run My Life didn’t prove to be more popular given Spys’ pedigree and a sound that wouldn’t have been out of place on Journey’s Escape.

The Gap Band – You Dropped A Bomb On Me
from Gap Band IV
(debuted #85, peaked #31, 13 weeks on chart)

Q102, the station I would have favored in August, 1982, was Top 40 with a rock slant, mixing in album tracks and stuff that would be staples of classic rock stations in the future. There wasn’t a lot of R&B.

I knew the Gap Band from hearing Early In The Morning earlier that summer on American Top 40 for a month or so. However, it was the groovy, electro-funky You Dropped A Bomb On Me , though, that was my real exposure to the trio of siblings as Q102 played the song – and often – as the summer was ending.

Quarterflash – Night Shift
from Night Shift soundtrack
(debuted #83, peaked #60, 8 weeks on chart)

My friend Will and I were quite smitten with Rindy Ross, lead singer and saxophonist for Quarterflash. The band had notched a pair of major hits in late ’81/early ’82 with Harden My Heart and Find Another Fool from the band’s self-titled debut.

Night Shift was the title song that I didn’t hear on the radio from a movie that I didn’t see (but apparently was on cable – which we didn’t have – all the time the following year). It starred Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler – Batman and Fonzie – running a brothel from a morgue.

(or something like that)

The song is a pleasant, little number with a laid-back, shuffling groove but doesn’t really pop like those earlier hits.

Huey Lewis & The News – Workin’ For A Livin’
from Picture This
(debuted #73, peaked #41, 9 weeks on chart)

There was a period of about five years during which it was damn near impossible to surf the dial and not come across a song by Huey Lewis & The News. Some folks had an almost deranged reaction to this saturation of the airwaves.

I quite liked some of their songs and the others I ignored.

The manic Workin’ For A Livin’ is one of the former.

Santana – Hold On
from Shangó

(debuted #72, peaked #15, 14 weeks on chart)

I don’t think I knew Santana in 1982 beyond Winning from the year before.

(it was a staple on the bowling alley jukebox)

Though I doubt it’s considered a Santana classic now, Q102 played the hell out of Hold On in ’82. I dug the song’s fluid feel and it does have a chorus that invites a singalong (or murmur under your breath in traffic).

It’s Just Like The Battle Of Stirling Bridge…Yet Completely Different

April 8, 2010

Before joining the ranks of corporate America several years ago, the end of the month merely meant that the rent would soon be due.

That was then.

Some of you might also labor in offices and cubicles, hunkered in some flourescently-lit bunker performing some task that, when you truly stop to ponder what it is that you do, is not only rather pointless but bordering on ridiculous.

(perhaps it’s all beamed somewhere as a reality show for aliens)

The end of the month means that there are goals and such that simply must be met lest it become a new month…

And to lead this crusade, the powers that be – paunchy, white men younger than they appear to be – tap into repeated viewings of Braveheart, channel Sir William Wallace (as portrayed by Mel Gibson) and roust the troops with militaristic speech.

It’s a strange ritual and difficult to take seriously.

But it’s a gig, right?

It’s been more than a week and my brain is still a bit addled. As I wait for normal brainwave activity to resume, here are four songs about the art of work…

Huey Lewis & The News – Workin’ For A Living
from Picture This

There was a period of about five years during which it was damn near impossible to surf the dial and not come across a song by Huey Lewis & The News. Some folks had an almost deranged reaction to this saturation of the airwaves.

I quite liked some of their songs and the others I ignored.

The infectious Workin’ For A Living is one of the former.

Dramarama – Work For Food
from Hi-Fi Sci-Fi

Dramarama was from New Jersey, but their sound always made me think of Minneapolis bands like The Replacements and Soul Asylum. I snagged one of the band’s CDs from a box of promos at a record store where I worked.

I was quite pleased and Work For Food was a massive hit in some parallel universe. It’s too insanely catchy not to have been.

Devo – Working In The Coal Mine
from Heavy Metal soundtrack

My high school friend Streuss was insane for Devo. The rest of us mostly knew a few songs and not much more.

One song which we all did know was the quirky gem Working In The Coal Mine. It was on the radio a bit and we all had seen Heavy Metal.

And I seem to recall Devo performing the song on the television show Fridays.

Aztec Camera – Working In A Goldmine
from Love

I first learned of Roddy Frame when I heard the effervescent Oblivious on 97X out of Oxford, Ohio in high school. I think that I heard Working In A Goldmine on the syndicated show Rock Over London and immediately was smitten with the dreamy song – “glitter, glitter everywere.”