The living room of our treehouse is a very cozy nook to me.
From the second floor perch at the corner of a T intersection, there is often a steady flow of traffic and pedestrians to observe.
A friend once called and asked what I was doing.
“Watching Afternoon Traffic Theater,” I replied, describing the actual scene playing out down below, some twenty-yards away – two middle-aged woman who had had some minor mini-van tête-à-tête.
I covered the incident until its underwhelming conclusion without lifting my head from the back of the couch and with most of my attention focused on ESPN.
But the room is usually a calm place with the traffic usually nothing more than a steady, soothing background hum almost like the urban equivilant of ocean surf.
It’s a glorious place to have the windows open.
Tonight, there’s something in the air that arrived with the setting sun a couple hours ago.
(aside from a very luminous moon through the tree branches)
For the first time, as summer ends, there’s a chill in the evening air that is unmistakeably autumn to me.
As a kid, that hint of chill was the signal that the months of sleeping with the bedroom window open – a necessity growing up in a ’70s-styled ranch house with no central air – was coming to an end.
The hum of the interstate, a mile down the country road running in front of the house but audible at night, would soon no longer be lulling me to sleep.
(but those last few nights with the window open and the crispness in the night air did make for the best sleep of the year)
When that chill arrived in 1983, it did so a mere six weeks or so following the debut of Friday Night Videos.
MTV wouldn’t be available to us until the following summer, though my friends whose families had cable had been watching music videos on WTBS’ late-night, weekend show Night Tracks all summer.
(my buddy Beej would rattle off the names of bands whose videos he had seen that were unfamiliar to us)
Though video clips for songs had existed for years, MTV had become a phenomenon in the early ’80s and Friday Night Videos offered those of us without cable ninety minutes each week to feel like we were living in the modern world.
Here are four songs whose videos I most certainly saw on Friday Night Videos as autumn arrived in 1983…
Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself
from Don’t Stop
With a mere ninety minutes less commercials, Friday Night Videos had little time to show more than videos that were popular songs or new. In 1983, Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself was neither.
The song had appeared on Idol’s four-song EP debut from two years earlier, but, since its release, the singer had a couple hits from his self-titled full-length album with Hot In The City and White Wedding.
I don’t think that I ever heard the energetic and catchy Dancing With Myself on the radio, but the apocalyptic, zombie-filled video seemed to pop up on Friday Night Videos each week until Idol’s Rebel Yell album was released later that fall.
Quiet Riot – Cum On Feel The Noize
from Metal Health
From all I’ve read and based on a few first-hand accounts, Quiet Riot lead singer Kevin DuBrow worked ceaselessly to break his band. Then, he proceeded to alienate most of the music industry and Quiet Riot, who had been the first metal act to have a Number One album in the US, plummeted back to obscurity (with DuBow getting fired from the band).
However, during the autumn of ’83, Quiet Riot’s cover of Slade’s classic Cum On Feel The Noize was inescapable and Metal Health was heard blaring from every car stereo in our high school parking lot
The Motels – Suddenly Last Summer
from Little Robbers
With the sultry vocals of lead singer Martha Davis and their moody style of New Wave-tinged rock, Los Angeles’ The Motels had broken through the year before with the Top Ten ’80s classic Only The Lonely.
As I headed back to school in 1983, the band had issued its follow-up, Little Robbers, introduced by the single Suddenly Last Summer. The wistful, almost eerie song became a second Top Ten hit for The Motels and the song’s video apparently featured one of Davis’ daughters.
(and, somewhere out there, there might be a compilation of The Motels featuring liner notes by yours truly)
The Stray Cats – (She’s) Sexy + 17
from Rant N’ Rave With The Stray Cats
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.