Stevie Who?*

April 1, 2012

Recently, the television provoked me into doing some research on one-hit wonders of the ’80s. As I live in the States, I noticed some of the striking differences between those with one Top 40 hit in the US and the UK.

Thomas Dolby and Tom Tom Club each only had one hit in the UK (as is the case here in the US).

However, in the UK, those lone hits were Hyperactive and Wordy Rappinghood, respectively – neither being the songs that were hits here.

(that would be She Blinded Me With Science and Genius Of Love).

But, perhaps the act that puzzled me most was Stevie Nicks.

Apparently, Stevie Nicks is a one-hit wonder in the UK during the decade of the ’80s.

Such a thing seems unfathomable. There were few female artists in the early ‘80s who had more music on the radio here in the States. Nicks’ first two solo albums, Bella Donna and The Wild Heart were massive.

One of the rock stations I listened to at the time would even play the hell out of something like Violet And Blue, a song from the Against All Odds soundtrack, simply because it was by Nicks.

And it’s not like Fleetwood Mac was a footnote act and for many fans – especially those who wouldn’t know Peter Green if he was taking potshots at them with an air rifle – Stevie was the soul of the band.

Apparently, few of those fans reside in the UK.

In the UK, her only ’80s Top 40 hit was in 1989 with Rooms On Fire, not a bad song, but it came well after her solo career had peaked in the US.

(she did hit #40 a couple years later with Sometimes It’s A Bitch, a collaboration with Jon Bon Jovi from her greatest hits compilation Timespace)

Why had the UK proven to be impervious to the charms of Ms. Nicks?

Was it all the twirling?

Was it the shawls and lace?

Was it that she sang a song glorifying a Welsh witch?

Here are four songs by Stevie Nicks…

Stevie Nicks – After the Glitter Fades
from Bella Donna (1981)

Bella Donna was inescapable when it came out in ’81 with its hits Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, Leather And Lace, and Edge Of Seventeen constantly on the radio.

Though I wanted nothing to do with it at the time – it was perilously close to country music – I now prefer the twangy, fourth single After The Glitter Fades which was more low-key and intimate than Bella Donna’s other hits.

Stevie Nicks – If Anyone Falls
from The Wild Heart (1983)

Leading off with the song Stand Back, Nicks’ follow-up to Bella Donna, The Wild Heart, picked up where the former left off in 1983. Despite my relative indifference to Bella Donna, I purchased a copy of The Wild Heart and, start to finish, I still think it’s her best solo album.

(though, I’ve only heard a handful of songs from her more recent releases).

And the clamorous If Anyone Falls would likely be my favorite track by Nicks as a solo artist.

(with Fleetwood Mac, it would undoubtedly be Sara).

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers with Stevie Nicks – Needles And Pins
from Pack Up The Plantation: Live! (1986)

Nicks’ first solo hit, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, found her accompanied by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and The Wild Heart included a similar union with the song I Will Run To You.

However, I prefer their cover of a hit by The Searchers’ Needles And Pins – co-written by Sonny Bono – which appeared on Petty’s album Pack Up The Plantation: Live!

Stevie Nicks – Rooms On Fire
from The Other Side Of The Mirror (1989)

Rock A Little, Nicks’ third solo effort, was the last studio album of hers which I owned (though I did snag a promo copy of her Enchanted box set from a label rep). I thought it really suffered from the slick, glossy production which was the norm in the mid-‘80s.

There would be a four-year gap until Nicks’ next solo release in 1989 with The Other Side Of The Mirror (apparently it was inspired by Alice In Wonderland) which gave Stevie her only UK hit of the ’80s with Rooms On Fire.

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Please Put The Laser Down

April 10, 2011

I half-heartedly and groggily took in the yammerings of the assembly-line spokesperson.

He was a freshly-scrubbed fellow and his casual, yet completely unrumpled attire made it obvious that he could be trusted. He was just one of the guys, hanging out on my television, yipping and yapping.

It must have been Saturday morning and I was channel-surfing for something that would allow me to ease into consciousness with coffee.

(morning is an extremely confusing time for me…seriously)

Why I would have paused where I did is inexplicable. Perhaps I had momentarily abandoned the remote to light a smoke.

It was an infomercial from our cable provider touting some new, wonderful feature that would have pop-ups pop up for products and, with a click of the control, I would be able to pause my viewing and be provided with more information on some product or service.

The psychotically pleasant spokesman presented this new effort in the onslaught to commercialize each and every waking moment of my life as something to be applauded and celebrated.

I lit the damned cigarette, swigged some coffee, and with all of the vigor I could muster in my still-sleepy state, remotely banished this Stepford huckster from the screen.

(some Three Stooges cleansed the mental palette quite nicely)

I forgot about witnessing this ad for more ads.

Until tonight.

There, during a commercial break, the bottom third of the screen was filled with an offer for more information on the service being advertised. All necessary for me to be learn about my options for laser hair removal was to hit “OK” on the remote.

I don’t mean to sound ungracious. This truly is the land of opportunity and I’m genuinely choked up that total strangers are so concerned that I might have hair needing to be removed.

It’s just that I’m requiring nothing more this moment than to slouch on the couch and watch Indiana Jones overcome obstacles and battle Nazis. Laser-hair removal is not on the radar.

I might be often inert, but when I make a decision and action needs to be taken – it’s time to make a sandwich! – I take it.

So rest assured good people slaving tirelessly to laser remove my hair, if I need your services, I will get in touch.

Blue Öyster Cult invented the laser in ’76, though it wasn’t for hair removal but, rather, for the band’s lightshow on its Agents Of Fortune tour.

(or, maybe the laser was designed for the US’ bicentennial hullabaloo that year – it’s really impossible to know for sure)

Agents Of Fortune wouldn’t come out until May, but here are four songs that I might have heard on the radio in April of 1976 (had I been listening to the radio as an eight-year old)…

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
from Greatest Hits

How did listeners react to hearing Queen’s iconic Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time in the spring of ’76?

Were they completely baffled? Were they spellbound and delighted? Did it immediately resonate with listeners or did they need repeated hearings of the track before it clicked?

I did some quick research and found that, at the time of Bohemian Rhapsody‘s release, Queen had only had a few hits in the UK and one lone hit in the States (that would be Killer Queen).

Was the band in any danger of being labeled a novelty?

Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon
from Greatest Hits

I realized some years ago while listening to Fleetwood Mac’s box set The Chain that there is little by the band – from the early Peter Green stuff through their time as a commercial juggernaut – that I don’t enjoy.

That said, I’ve always been relatively indifferent about Stevie Nicks’ signature song. Mostly, when I hear Rhiannon, I hear a friend who would croak, “I’m a witch, I’m a witch,” whenever the song came on the radio.

Andrea True Connection – More, More, More

Anyone that has ever come across one of those VH1 retrospective shows on the ’70s is well aware that Andrea True was an adult film actress from the period. According to Wikipedia, True recorded the breathy More, More, More while stuck in Jamaica during a political crisis.

Of course, the song gained renewed attention twenty years later when the Canadian band Len sampled More, More, More in their delightful 1999 hit Steal My Sunshine.

Paul McCartney & Wings – Silly Love Songs
from All The Best

Though I wasn’t hip to much music in ’76, I vividly remember Silly Love Songs. The breezy little song seemed to be played constantly at the pool where I spent a lot of time that summer.

More than three decades later, I still associate Silly Love Songs with warm weather and the song’s mellow vibe and infectious melody suits the season well.


Baseball

July 16, 2009

For the first time in I have no idea how many years, I watched the MLB All-Star game the other night. It surprised me a bit to realize how rarely I’ve watched the game in the last twenty years.

I stared quizzically at half of the players during this year’s introductions as though I was trying to identify someone from a police line-up.

As a kid, the All-Star game was appointment viewing. We knew all of the players and most of us could rattle of a relevant stat or two.

In a world where summer had no internet, no mp3 players, only the most rudimentary of video games, and no cable television, baseball was often our favorite waste of time.

By ten o’clock in the morning, most mornings, the first pick-up game in our neighborhood would have already ended (usually in an argument, sometimes to steal strawberries from the patch out beyond our first base line).

The afternoon game that would come together (once tempers cooled and boredom set in) was like an Ironman competition and a test to merely endure in 95 degree heat.

Over the years, my interest in the sport has waned. I think it’s mostly due to the disparity in spending between the teams.

But it’s also football. Now, even in the middle of July, my focus is not on baseball but rather that my favorite team has signed some free agent linebacker and how that signing might affect a season that won’t really be underway for another three months.

It’s an onslaught of information that is, in the middle of summer, mostly empty calories. Even a dedicated fan doesn’t need to be so in the loop (and, if you do, you might have a serious gambling problem).

The first All-Star game that I vividly remember was 1979. Maybe it’s because my grandfather, a lifelong Pittsburgh fan, had passed away a few months earlier.

Almost every evening during baseball season, he’d sit on the couch with my grandmother. They’d hold hands and watch the Pirates on television or listen to them on radio.

(that autumn, the team would win the World Series in dramatic fashion)

Baseball was far more important to me than music in 1979, but perusing the Billboard charts from July of that year revealed a number of songs that, even as a casual listener, I recall hearing…

John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks) – Gold
from Bombs Away Dream Babies

The man who wrote Daydream Believer, Stewart was joined by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks on the timeless-sounding Gold. It’s a pretty perfect pop song.

If Paloma and I ever open up a bait shop in the Southwest (I always pictured this song taking place on some dusty, desolate stretch of road in Arizona), I’d insist this song be on the jukebox.

The Knack- My Sharona
from Get The Knack

I had little interest in music in ’79, but, like all of us, I knew My Sharona. I don’t recall the mania surrounding them or the backlash, but I’ve wondered if it was similar to Oasis a decade and a half later.

Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him?
from Look Sharp!

OK, I can’t honestly say that I ever heard Is She Really Going Out With Him? at the time. In fact, I’m positively certain that I didn’t hear it ’til several years later after Jackson had hit with Steppin’ Out.

Better late than never, though, and Is She Really Going Out With Him? is classic stuff.

Supertramp – Goodbye Stranger
from Breakfast In America

I’ve declared my affection for Breakfast In America before. But, as a non-music fan in 1979, I thought Goodbye Stranger was the brothers Gibb.