March 5, 1983

March 5, 2011

If I were able to teleport back to 1983 and show my iPod to that year’s version of me, it would undoubtedly blow my mind.

Obviously being visited by a being claiming to be myself from thirty years in the future would be mind blowing, but a device smaller than a cassette case containing 40,000 songs would have been the most amazing thing that I’d ever seen.

At the time, I’d been buying albums – in cassette form – for a year or so and I doubt that I had more than two dozen of them. It couldn’t have been more than three hundred songs.

Yeah, if someone had shown me a device the size of a cassette that would hold 150 times the number of songs I owned, my flabber would have been gasted.

Anyhow, it’s as good a time as any to peruse the Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine for this week in 1983 and, as inspired by several other blogs, sift through the debut songs.

Seven songs debuted on that chart twenty-eight years ago and none of them even managed to make the Top 40 – though several came close – and I believe a couple of them are unavailable…

The System – You Are In My System
from Sweat
(debuted #90, peaked #64, 8 weeks on chart)

I don’t think I’d ever heard The System’s You Are In My System, but I did know Robert Palmer’s cover of the song from a few months later as I heard it sporadically on the radio that summer.

The System’s original sounds no different to me aside from lacking the suaveness of Robert Palmer

Single Bullet Theory – Keep It Tight
from Single Bullet Theory
(debuted #84, peaked #78, 4 weeks on chart)

Nor had I heard Single Bullet Theory’s lone hit, but I did know their name from seeing it on leader cards while browsing through record stores.

The Wikipedia page for the Virginia band tells the too common tale of a promising band getting snuffed out by a label’s indifference and/or ineptness.

Keep It Tight made me smile from its opening. It’s less than three minutes of New Wave-tinged power pop, complete with saxophone, that’s more fun than killin’ drifters and makes me curious about the rest of the band’s one album.

Robert Hazard – Escalator Of Life
from Robert Hazard
(debuted #83, peaked #58, 9 weeks on chart)

I’d come across things on Robert Hazard through the years and knew that he had written Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and seemed to have a cult following for his own music. And, from what I’d read, there seemed to be great affection for Hazard’s one hit Escalator Of Life.

The song was likely a bit too New Wave for the stations in our part of the Midwest to air in 1983. We wouldn’t get MTV for another year, so I didn’t hear the song or see the video at the time.

I can understand Escalator Of Life‘s appeal. It’s chilly, droning synth-pop with robotic vocals that’s an ode to excess (or maybe not). The song, like it’s accompanying video, is totally of its time.

Mac McAnally – Minimum Love
from Nothin’ But The Truth
(debuted #81, peaked #41, 12 weeks on chart)

I could have sworn that I saw Mac McAnally perform this song three or four times on Solid Gold in a span of a couple months in 1983. I wasn’t hearing the song on radio, but there was this McAnally fellow taking three or four minutes of screen time from the Soild Gold Dancers.

Minimum Love is pleasant enough adult pop, I suppose, and his voice reminds me of James Taylor. But the song didn’t do much for me then and I really haven’t warmed to it over the years.

Berlin – Sex (I’m A…)
from Pleasure Victim
(debuted #79, peaked #62, 7 weeks on chart)

Berlin was a band that I knew in early ’83 by reputation only as the L.A. band had caused a stir with the lyrics for their song Sex (I’m A…) and a lot of stations across the country wouldn’t play it.

I heard the song later that summer. My buddy Beej returned from a couple weeks in Arizona with albums by bands that he’d discovered on a Phoenix alternative radio station and Pleasure Victim was one of them. I dug it, but I was a little underwhelmed considering the hoopla.

Years later, I’d interview lead singer Terri Nunn who was an absolute sweetheart.

John Anderson – Swingin’
from Wild & Blue
(debuted #75, peaked #43, 14 weeks on chart)

Our small hometown had a country radio station which would usually be playing in our kitchen during breakfast, so I heard Swingin’ often that spring, but it also got played on the Top 40 stations I preferred right alongside Journey, Duran Duran, and Michael Jackson.

The song was hardly my cup of joe and I mostly remember how my friends Beej and Kirk The Pyro thought it be hysterical and would often sing the chorus, imitating Anderson’s gruff drawl.

The Psychedelic Furs – Love My Way
from Forever Now
(debuted #73, peaked #44, 10 weeks on chart)

Love My Way, produced by Todd Rundgren, was probably the first song by Psychedelic Furs that I ever heard, but it wasn’t on radio. Instead, I knew the song from its use in the movie Valley Girl . That autumn, 97X took to the airwaves and I heard more from the Furs including their signature song Pretty In Pink.

The following spring, my buddy Beej became a fan of the band from seeing their videos on Night Flight, the USA Network show which aired music videos over night on weekends. MTV wouldn’t be available to us until the summer, so Night Flight was the only chance to see the new medium for music.

During the summer of ’84, we wore out Psychedelic Furs’ new album, Mirror Moves, but it was the dreamy Love My Way that was my first exposure to one of the more iconic bands of the ’80s.

Out Of Print

July 23, 2009

I’m not sure when I first heard those words – out of print. It might have been leafing through a Phonolog.

It’s strange to think that there is an entire generation that has never seen a Phonolog. This means there’s an entire generation of record store employees who have never had the tedious task of updating the Phonolog.

The tedium was the packet of loose leaf pages that would need to be snapped into the book. As the Phonolog was invariably at the front counter, this placed one precariously in the sightline of every bumfoozled customer.

(I cannot speak for all record stores, but, in the ones in which I worked, customer service was far down the list of concerns, well behind things like smoke breaks and hormonal pursuits)

(as an exception to the above declaration, Paloma was admirably, unfailingly, and most exceptionally patient with the people)

Anyhow, as I first discovered music and was spending time and (allowance) money in record stores, the Phonolog was the source. And sometimes the source would reveal that the item you sought was out of print.

(I can’t recall if it was denoted with a square next to the title or if the title simply didn’t appear in the act’s discography)

It was a disappointment.

As a record store employee, telling a customer that something a customer wanted was out of print was opening a Pandora’s Box of problems.

“Well can I special order it?” and “Would another store have it?” were two of the most popular responses for those who didn’t simply shrug and walk away.

One well-known, local club DJ reacted to “out of print” as though I had shuffled up to him in bloodied surgical garb and told him that a loved one was dead. He was inconsolable.

(it was quite melodramatic)

Explaining the concept of out of print to older customers could often go off the rails and quickly. It was often taken as a criticism of the music that they were seeking.

One old fellow (who had mistakenly called me “ma’am” from behind) eyed me suspiciously as I told him the album he wanted was out of print. He angrily interrogated me for twenty in an impromptu kangaroo court.

Finally, I simply told him that there were albums that I wanted which were out of print. It’s economics, man.

His clenched fists quivered with rage in the most genuine “you kids get off of my lawn” moment I’ve ever experienced.

I’m not sure if anything is truly unavailable these days. I do know that I’ve owned a lot of music that had gone out of print at one time or another.

Here are some tracks that I’ve read mentioned recently as being unavailable…

The Motels- Shame
from Shock

The Motels had a sizeable following in the late ’70s/early ’80s – first as an underground band; then, with the hits Only The Lonely and Suddenly Last Summer (see the video for the latter at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’).

They were a good band and worth checking out beyond the hits. Martha Davis was one of the sultriest, most dramatic singers of the period and reminded me of a female Jim Morrison. Shame was their last hit song in ’85 and, unfortunately, seems to be forgotten.

Paul Hyde & the Payola$ – You’re The Only Love
from Here’s The World For Ya

This song was (apparently) a small hit in 1985, but I don’t think I ever heard it on the radio. It was in the movie Real Genius, though, and my friends and I were quite familar with Real Genius as it was always on cable. (fortunately, it’s a fun flick)

I knew The Payola$ from another ’80s soundtrack – their song Eyes Of A Stranger was in Valley Girl. That song was chilly New Wave not unlike The Cars. You’re The Only Love was a mid-tempo ballad but bright and shiny.

Not a bad song, but it’s nothing to get excited about either.

Real Life – Send Me An Angel
from Heartland

All-Music Guide describes Real Life’s debut as Duran Duran-inspired and I wouldn’t disagree. It’s very much an album of the times with a serious dose of New Wave synthesizers.

Of course, Send Me An Angel hasn’t been forgotten and most folks would recognize the ethereal song upon hearing it.

Phantom, Rocker & Slick – Men Without Shame
from Phantom, Rocker & Slick

Phantom, Rocker & Slick was two Stray Cats – Slim Jim and Lee – and guitarist Earl Slick, who had been a member of David Bowie’s band in the ’70s. The union lasted for two records, their self-titled debut arriving in autumn of 1985.

For some reason I recall hearing this song during the fall of my senior year in high school. Several friends and I had trekked up to Butler University in Indianapolis to hang out.

I do know that the first time I heard Men Without Shame, the song had my attention. It rumbled and howled, welding glam rock to the rockabilly revivalism of Stray Cats. I was quite pleased to find Phantom, Rocker & Slick on vinyl recently and it still sounds as good.