July 9, 1983

July 7, 2012

As we stretch into another week of high temperatures in triple digits, thinking is a challenge.

(it’s easy to be distracted by the bead of sweat rolling down my nose)

So, it’s time to pull up an old Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart and note the songs that debuted that week and, today, it’s 1983.

As the 4th of July hullaballoo was fading in the rear view of 1983, I was getting back to summer life as a kid in one of the last responsibility-free summers I would have. And that meant a lot of music.

I was still mostly tethered to Top 40 radio, but I was at least hearing of more exotic stuff thanks to my buddy Beej who was telling tales of the music videos that he was seeing on the newly launched Night Tracks on TBS.

I was beginning to check out hitherto unexplored frequencies on the FM band, among them the album rock of Q95 and, by that autumn, the alternative rock of 97X.

And, twenty-nine years ago this week, a half-dozen plus one songs made their debut on the Hot 100 chart in Billboard magazine…

Peter Tosh – Johnny B. Goode
from Mama Africa (1983)
(debuted #95, peaked #84, 4 weeks on chart)

Aside from Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, my knowledge of reggae music is scattershot at best, but Peter Tosh was a member of the legendary Marley’s Wailers and claimed to have taught Marley to play guitar.

I had not heard Tosh’s take on Johnny B. Goode before and it’s mostly what I expected – a reggae version of Chuck Berry’s iconic song with a surprising amount of kick that leaves me bobbing my head.

Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack – Tonight, I Celebrate My Love
from Born To Love (1983)
(debuted #89, peaked #16, 29 weeks on chart)

I couldn’t seem to help coming across Tonight, I Celebrate My Love For You while channel surfing in 1983. It seemed to be a given as assuredly as it was a given that I would quickly move on in search of something else.

But, despite my dislike for the mawkish ballad, Peabo is a fun word to say and it is a fun word to hear said.

Peabo.

Peabo.

Peabo!

Zebra – Who’s Behind The Door?
from Zebra (1983)
(debuted #87, peaked #61, 8 weeks on chart)

During the summer of ’83, several friends were twitterpated over Zebra and their song Who’s Behind The Door? They were hardly alone as the band was quickly attracting fans (and detractors) for the heavy Zeppelin influence in their sound.

I liked the band’s name and found the song intriguing, so I snagged a copy of the Long Island (via New Orleans) trio’s debut and it was one of my most played cassettes of that summer. The dreamy, enigmatic Who’s Behind The Door still sounds like the summer of ’83 to me.

Rick Springfield – Human Touch
from Living In Oz (1983)
(debuted #70, peaked #18, 15 weeks on chart)

Even in 1983 – which, technologically speaking, now seems as advanced as 1883 – Rick Springfield was lamenting the disconnect between man and machine in Human Touch.

At the time, I was unaware that actors weren’t supposed to sing (and, usually, with good reason). Of course, I doubt that I was aware that Rick Springfield was a soap opera star aside from a DJ or Casey Kasem mentioning it.

But Springfield had a string of hits in the early ’80s that were undeniably catchy and still sound pretty good all of these years later.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Fake Friends
from Album (1983)
(debuted #68, peaked #35, 10 weeks on chart)

Few acts were hotter in 1982 than Joan Jett & The Blackhearts who had topped the charts with I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – one of the biggest hits of the decade – as well as notching sizeable hits with Crimson And Clover and Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).

So, there was great anticipation for new music from the quartet and I vividly recall staying up to tape the resultant Album when it debuted on WEBN’s Frog’s Midnight Album.

Often the nightly show was a chance to have an album before I’d have the opportunity to get into Cincinnati to actually purchase it, but Album was one that didn’t make the cut. It seemed as uninspired to me as the title and the first single, Fake Friends, simply lacked the monster hooks of Jett’s hits from the year before.

(all of which had been cover songs)

Journey – After The Fall
from Frontiers (1983)
(debuted #62, peaked #23, 12 weeks on chart)

If Joan Jett’s Album was one of the more anticipated releases of the summer of ’83, Journey’s follow-up to the massively successful Escape was one of the most expected from earlier in the year. Like Album, I had also taped Frontiers from its airing on Frog’s Midnight Album.

Though I was excited when Frontiers arrived and I played it a lot at the time, I still recognized it as a somewhat pale imitation of Escape. That didn’t stop it from selling millions and spawning hits in Separate Ways and Faithfully.

After The Fall became the third hit from the album, but I wasn’t a fan of the shuffling song.

Jackson Browne – Lawyers In Love
from Lawyers In Love (1983)
(debuted #59, peaked #13, 15 weeks on chart)

Lawyers In Love was Jackson Browne’s first new album since Hold Out from three years earlier, before I had truly become interested in music. I did know Browne, though, from hearing older hits like Doctor My Eyes and Running On Empty on the radio, and I’d loved Somebody’s Baby, which had been a Top Ten hit the previous summer.

I dug the catchy, upbeat Lawyers In Love, which was fortunate as my buddy Beej played the album into the ground, though the social commentary of the song likely escaped me at the time.

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June 5, 1982

June 7, 2011

As part of a semi-recurring series, I thought that I’d pull up the Billboard Hot 100 for this corresponding week from a year in the early ’80s and note the songs that were debuts.

I’m opting with 1982 again as it was the year during which I listened to more Top 40 radio than I ever would again.

(there are also a lot of missing issues during the Junes of the first half of the ’80s in Google’s online archive of Billboard magazine, but ’82 is there)

So, here are the songs which debuted on the Hot 100 during the week of June 5, 1982 as my final summer before entering high school was beginning…

Genesis – Paperlate
from Three Sides Live
(debuted #90, peaked #32, 14 weeks on chart)

Following the success of ’81’s Abacab, Genesis issued Three Sides Live – three sides of live material and – at least in the States – a fourth one consisting of studio material.

Paperlate – like Abacab‘s No Reply At All – featured the the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section giving the song some kick. More than just a lament over an undelivered daily, the ever increasingly commercial trio seems to be warning against slavish devotion to routine.

Ambrosia – How Can You Love Me?
from Road Island
(debuted #89, peaked #86, 4 weeks on chart)

When I pulled up the chart for this week in ’82, I wasn’t surprised that most of the songs debuting were well-known to me. Ambrosia’s How Can You Love Me? was not.

I didn’t recognize it as I listened to it, either, but it certainly surprised me as, like most listeners, I know Ambrosia for their soft rock smashes like How Much I Feel and Biggest Part of Me.

How Can You Love Me? is punchy, guitar-driven rock and maybe the world wasn’t ready for such a thing from the L.A. quartet and the song would prove to be their final hit.

Jeffrey Osborne – I Really Don’t Need No Light
from Jeffrey Osborne
(debuted #88, peaked #39, 15 weeks on chart)

There was essentially one urban station in our range that went by the moniker of The Blaze, but I didn’t spend much time there while surfing the dial. So, I wasn’t really familiar with Jeffrey Osborne’s time as the lead singer of LTD.

But several of his solo hits did make their way to the playlists of the pop stations to which I was partial, so I did hear I Really Don’t Need No Light on occasion. It’s actually a rather catchy, light funk track that I probably enjoy more now than I did then.

Chic – Soup For One
from Soup for One soundtrack
(debuted #87, peaked #80, 6 weeks on chart)

Not only did Chic notch some major hits during the late ’70s with Le Freak, I Want Your Love, and Good Times, the group’s members continued to have an influence on pop music into the ’80s.

Bassist Bernard Edwards worked with acts like Diana Ross, Adam Ant, Rod Stewart, Air Supply, ABC and Duran Duran. He also produced Robert Palmer’s Riptide as well as the debut album by The Power Station, whose line-up included Palmer and Chic drummer Tony Thompson.

Meanwhile, guitarist Nile Rodgers produced pretty much every album during the first half of the decade including releases by Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, INXS, Madonna, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, and Thompson Twins.

And, yet, Soup For One – a song I hadn’t heard as the title track for a movie I’d never heard of – is pretty unmemorable.

Ashford & Simpson – Street Corner
from Street Opera
(debuted #85, peaked #56, 10 weeks on chart)

The songwriting duo of husband and wife Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson penned songs for most of Motown’s biggest acts, but only managed to reach the pop Top 40 twice as artists. Street Corner wasn’t one of them.

I didn’t hear Street Corner much, if at all, on radio at the time. The only time I really do recall hearing it was on America’s Top 10Casey Kasem’s weekly television countdown – as it was a much bigger hit on the R&B charts.

But the song did catch my ear at the time. It reminded me of songs like George Benson’s Give Me The Night and Brothers Johnson’s Stomp! from the previous summer, both of which I totally dug.

Larry Elgart & His Manhattan Swing Orchestra – Hooked on Swing
from Hooked on Swing
(debuted #83, peaked #31, 12 weeks on chart)

The London Philharmonic had reached the Top 10 with a medley of classical compositions in early ’82 and, later that summer, Meco would reach the Top 40 by stitching together some classic movie themes.

And, over the previous year, Dutch studio group Stars On 45 had also scored hits with medleys of songs by The Beatles and Stevie Wonder.

So, true to form, record labels proved willing to flog the medley equine until it was of no interest to anyone but Elmer’s.

Cheap Trick – If You Want My Love
from One On One
(debuted #81, peaked #45, 10 weeks on chart)

Sure, Cheap Trick had lost a bit of mojo since rocketing to superstardom a few years earlier with Cheap Trick At Budokan, but how could a song as stellar as If You Want My Love fail to even reach the Top 40?

This lack of love for Cheap Trick also baffled ticket-scalper Mike Damone that summer in Fast Times At Ridgemont High as he asked. “Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?”

(of course, Damone apparently forgot the magnetism and charisma of Bun E. Carlos)

Glenn Frey – I Found Somebody
from No Fun Aloud
(debuted #77, peaked #31, 13 weeks on chart)

Though I’m not as opposed to The Eagles as The Dude was in The Big Lebowski – in which his abiding hatred of the group gets him tossed from a cab – I’ve never been much of a fan, either. Maybe it was the overkill of hearing their music so much on radio as a kid.

So, I had minimal interest in Glenn Frey’s solo debut. However, the languid I Found Somebody is pleasant enough.

Chicago – Hard To Say I’m Sorry
from Chicago 16
(debuted #75, peaked #1, 24 weeks on chart)

I know that Chicago has some seriously devoted fans, but I’ve never been much more than lukewarm toward most of their music. Here and there is a song I like, but, mostly, I’m indifferent.

Hard To Say I’m Sorry would prove to be inescapable that entire summer and remained so as we returned to school in September. I always found the version with Get Away – which I heard as often as the truncated single – to be a bit jarring.

Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
from Eye Of The Tiger
(debuted #73, peaked #1, 25 weeks on chart)

Sure, the lyrics are pretty goofy – I think I realized that even in ’82 when Rocky III was one of the summer’s biggest flicks and Survivor’s theme was everywhere – but the music is sonic adrenalin.

Rick Springfield – What Kind of Fool Am I
from Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet
(debuted #57, peaked #21, 12 weeks on chart)

Though I don’t usually seek them out, when one of the dozen or so tracks on the iPod by Rick Springfield shuffles up, I’m likely listening to the entire song. The guy had some catchy tracks.

I would have guessed the the mellow rocking What Kind Of Fool Am I had been a Top 10 hit. It certainly seemed to be as popular as Don’t Talk To Strangers, the first single from Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet on the stations I was listening to.


I’d Rather Let The House Burn Down And Sit Here In My Own Filth

February 5, 2011

As a kid, I wasted a lot of time hanging with an odd schoolmate whose mother taught bellydancing and father looked like Mike Brady mostly for the opportunity to play Pong.

I must have been ten or so and already blowing the little coin I had at that age on pinball and air hockey at the bowling alley, but Pong had all my friends boggle-eyed and hooked.

A cursor batted back and forth between two other cursors on the television screen in the den at Tony’s house had the same effect on us as that monolith had on the monkeys at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

We were all twelve or thirteen when the first wave of major arcade games – Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pac-Man – began to arrive and. like certain songs or albums, each of them would help define a period of months.

We all eventually had an Atari system at home and even a town as small as ours had an arcade that was a social hub for junior high and high school kids.

It all kind of ended for me in ’83 or so, around the time when we got our driver’s licenses. Cable and home video were also becoming available, so there were more options for entertainment.

And music had become my dominant interest.

By college, video games seemed like something from another era (even if it had only been five years since Pac-Man had become the Jaws of video games)

There was a brutal stretch of winter in February of ’89 when three housemates and I surrendered, embraced the weather-induced malaise and vowed to not leave the house unless no option existed to blow off work or class.

Instead, we hunkered down, ordered a lot of pizza and played computer baseball ’round the clock. Each of us had two teams and we played much of an entire season before March arrived.

One of my last brushes with videogames happened about a decade ago, coinciding with my first office gig. Though it was a relatively casual job, it was still a disorienting experience and I remembered what an escape videogames had once provided.

So, I snagged a copy of The Sims, “a simulation of the daily activities of one or more virtual persons (“Sims”) in a suburban household near SimCity.”

For a week or so, I was enthralled with the game as I attempted to maximize the happiness of my avatars. I was spending a lot the time when I wasn’t working sending my onscreen Sim to work so that it could acquire a home, pay bills, and buy stuff.

It quickly became exhausting.

I was spending my free time doing the very things in a virtual world – working, paying bills, cooking, taking out the trash – that I found mundane and unappealing in the real world.

Soon, the entertainment value of the game was simply when something went awry – the Rain Man-like behavior of my Sim when something caught fire or the Pig Pen-esque cloud that would develop when I’d neglect to have a character shower.

It was then that I realized that I had enough trouble being a human being in real life and, if I was going to escape from that world, I’d rather be blasting space rocks or eating a maze of dots.

Here are four songs which address the idea of being human…

White Zombie – More Human Than Human
from Astro Creep: 2000 – Songs of Love, Destruction And Other Synthetic Delusions Of The Electric Head

Science fiction fans recognize the title of White Zombie’s best-known song as the motto of the Tyrell Corporation from the classic flick Blade Runner. I’ve always found the supercharged track to be the sonic equivilant of a shot of adrenalin to the heart.

I met Rob Zombie at a record store where I worked and he seemed like a good guy – very polite, very soft spoken.

Michael Jackson – Human Nature
from Thriller

You only get to discover fire once, but, apparently, Jackson was obsessed with trying to recapture the unparalleled success of Thriller for the rest of his life.

Personally, I always thought that the lush, dreamy Human Nature, despite being a massive hit in the late summer of 1983, was the most underrated song on the album.

Rick Springfield – Human Touch
from Living In Oz

Even in 1983 – which, technologically speaking, now seems as advanced as 1883 – Rick Springfield was lamenting the disconnect between man and machine in Human Touch.

At the time, I was unaware that actors weren’t supposed to sing (and, usually, with good reason). Of course, I doubt that I was aware that Rick Springfield was a soap opera star aside from a DJ or Casey Kasem mentioning it.

But Springfield had a string of hits in the early ’80s that were undeniably catchy and still sound pretty good all of these years later.

Björk – Human Behaviour
from Debut

I find Iceland’s finest export to be utterly charming and completely fascinating while, at the same time, being respectfully terrified of the former Sugarcube.

It was impossible not to be drawn in by Human Behaviour‘s strking video, but the hypnotic song – which contains a sample of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Go Down Dying – is as equally arresting.

“If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready be ready to get confused.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it all up.