Go For Soda

May 16, 2012

I missed a lot of class during my junior and senior years of high school.

My friends and I, much like the prison escapees Gail and Evelle in Raising Arizona, felt that the institution no longer had anything to offer us.

(especially now that we were mobile)

We had our escapes down to a science. We worked through some office connections to erase any evidence that we had been absent or I would provide faked doctor’s notes using the nom de plume Dr. A.E. Lifeson, DDS, an homage to the Rush guitarist.

(I have no idea if his middle actually begins with an E, I simply liked the feel)

However, the nearest civilization was forty-five minutes away in Cincinnati. We yearned for the thrill of the escape, but time, financial or transportation constraints sometimes made such a trip logistically impossible.

And, these escapes had become too easy.

The rock station perferred by most of us at the time would play a song called Go For Soda by Kim Mitchell and its conclusion – “might as well go for a soda” – provided inspiration.

We challenged ourselves with a game we quickly dubbed Go For Soda.

We had ten minutes between classes and the goal was to sneak off the grounds and get to the nearest grocery store – about three minutes away – to get soda. We then had to return to school and make it to our next class on time.

(the best chance for success was if one of our twin friends – known as Smart and Dumb to us – was behind the wheel)

We soon became adept enough to return with grocery bags of donuts, Cheetohs, and Pop-Tarts.

We’d sit in the back of English class, munching on our provisions and plotting our next move.

Here are four songs that were possibly running through my head as I ignored Mr. Haynes droning on about Greek mythology as the school year wound down in early May, 1985…

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Don’t Come Around Here No More
from Southern Accents (1985)

It was recording the Southern Accents album when Petty broke his hand against a studio wall. I thought that I read in Rolling Stone at the time that he did so in a fit of excitement as he mixed the album.

Whatever the case, we all loved Petty and I eagerly awaited Southern Accent‘s release as it unexpectedly paired him with Eurythmic Dave Stewart as producer. The album was a bit of a mixed bag, though the title track might be the loveliest song the band has ever done.

Don’t Come Around Here No More was as wonderfully demented as I’d expected. The sitar-laden song was trippy and the video equally so.

(and it’s still one of the coolest clips ever)

Eurythmics – Would I Lie To You
from Be Yourself Tonight (1985)

Dave Stewart also had a new album that spring with partner Annie Lennox. The first song to hit radio was the surprisingly soulful stomp Would I Lie To You.

The two truly were a fortuitous musical pairing and made some of the most evocative music of the ’80s. And though Annie is undeniably cool, I’ve always thought Dave Stewart was underappreciated.

The Hooters – All You Zombies
from Nervous Night (1985)

Outside of the Philadelphia area where the band was a popular regional act, All You Zombies served as the The Hooters’ introduction to the rest of the US. With its reggae hitch and portentous lyrics, the song hooked me the first time I heard it on Q95.

Nervous Night left me mostly underwhelmed, but it had several hits over the next year or so and the band caused a stir for a brief time.

The second record came and went pretty quickly (though I thought it had a couple of decent songs).

A songwriter friend hosted a couple members of the band years later to do some songwriting and apparently they were delightful guests.

‘Til Tuesday – Voices Carry
from Voices Carry (1985)

And, in early ’85, Aimee Mann’s platinum blonde rat tail was the Annie Lennox orange buzz cut of two summers earlier. When ‘Til Tuesday first came up in conversations with friends, the striking Mann and her feathery ‘do and its braided appendage was duly noted.

The moody Voices Carry was a smash and, like Don’t Come Around Here No More, featured a memorable video. It would prove to be ‘Til Tuesday’s greatest commercial success. Though subsequent albums would be stronger, fewer listeners heard them and the band shed members until Mann eventually went solo.

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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.


November 13, 1982

November 13, 2011

As we closed in on Thanksgiving in 1982, I imagine that it seemed as though summer had never happened and never come ’round again. We were housebound more as raw days of wind and cold, stinging rain were a November staple in our part of the Midwest.

For one of the first Novembers of my life, I had the radio to help battle the restlessness of being a kid confined to quarters. Casey Kasem and American Top 40 was a drowsy weekend morning staple.

But there were sixty songs beyond the ones Casey counted down each week and, though I had heard him reference Billboard magazine and the Hot 100, I don’t think that I’d ever seen either.

(the magazine wouldn’t appear in the racks at the town drug store – a small, family-owned outlet on a downtown corner – for another five or six years)

I was – listening to as much radio as I was – familar with a lot of the songs on the Hot 100 including the ten that debuted on that chart twenty-nine years ago…

Sonny Charles – Put It In A Magazine
from The Sun Still Shines (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #40, 14 weeks on chart)

Put It In A Magazine might have debuted on the Hot 100 as folks were making Thanksgiving plans in 1982, but the song by R&B singer Sonny Charles wouldn’t reach the Top 40 until the following February. I have no doubt that the only time I heard the song was during its brief time on American Top 40.

It didn’t appeal to me at the time, but now I kind of dig the laid-back groove of the song.

Robert Plant – Pledge Pin
from Pictures At Eleven (1982)
(debuted #89, peaked #74, 5 weeks on chart)

Most weeks, the Sunday newspaper would include a list of the week’s Top Ten singles and albums. I vividly recall seeing Robert Plant’s Pictures At Eleven listed and being puzzled as to who this fellow was and how his album could be in the Top Ten if I wasn’t hearing its songs on the radio.

Of course, I had heard of Led Zeppelin and I knew a few of the band’s song even if I didn’t know the name of their lead singer at the time. When Plant’s next solo album, The Principle Of Moments, arrived a year later, I had begun to gravite to the album rock stations on the dial and I was far more knowledgable about Percy.

Scandal – Goodbye To You
from Scandal (1982)
(debuted #86, peaked #65, 11 weeks on chart)

Scandal might have released their self-titled debut EP in ’82, but I don’t recall hearing Goodbye To You (or its follow-up, Love’s Got A Line On You) on the radio until the following spring.

Goodbye To You might not have been a major hit, but the song – a straight-ahead kiss-off with some New Wave sass – was ridiculously catchy and lead singer Patty Smyth’s vocals made it clear that her affections were not to be trifled with.

Adam Ant – Goody Two Shoes
from Friend Or Foe (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #12, 21 weeks on chart)

When my friends and I first heard the manic Goody Two Shoes, we thought it was hysterical. The fact that it was sung by someone called Adam Ant only added to our amusement.

(his pre-solo incarnation Adam & The Ants had not found their way to our part of the Midwest)

However, the song was like a sugar buzz to me and it went from fun to grating quickly.

A Flock Of Seagulls – Space Age Love Song
from A Flock Of Seagulls (1982)
(debuted #83, peaked #30, 18 weeks on chart)

Even folks who lived through the ’80s probably remember A Flock Of Seagulls for no more than their debut hit I Ran (So Far Away), which was a Top Ten single, and lead singer Mike Score’s gravity-defying hair.

That’s too bad as I thought that the band’s blend of spacey synthesizers, effects-laden guitar, and sci-fi lyrics made for an engaging and interesting sound that stood out from a lot of their contemporaries and merited more than a footnote.

Though it wasn’t as successful as I Ran, I preferred A Space Age Love Song from the moment I heard the full album. The song is breathtakingly wooshy and, at the time, it had a sonic vibe that sounded as if it might indeed be perfect for a romantic encounter in a future filled with jet packs and laser blasters.

Steve Winwood – Valerie
from Talking Back To The Night (1982)
(debuted #79, peaked #70, 4 weeks on chart)

In 1982, I would have only known Steve Winwood for While You See A Chance, his hit from the previous year, and I certainly didn’t hear Valerie until it was remixed and became a Top Ten hit five years later following his comeback album Back In The High Life.

It’s a pleasant enough song that’s a bit more welcome to me now as opposed to 1987 when the ubiqitousness of Winwood’s music had left me a bit fatigued and unreceptive.

The Motels – Forever Mine
from All Four One (1982)
(debuted #77, peaked #60, 8 weeks on chart)

Martha Davis and The Motels had notched a breakthrough hit with Only The Lonely during the summer of ’82, but neither of the follow-up singles – Take The L and Forever Mine – managed to get much attention.

Though it’s hardly as memorable as the melodramatic and noirish Only The Lonely, the sprightly Forever Mine reveals a lighter, more playful side of the band.

(and I still haven’t bothered to see if my liner notes were used for a planned repackaging of the band’s two albums prior to All Four One)

Michael McDonald – I Gotta Try
from If That’s What It Takes (1982)
(debuted #76, peaked #44, 11 weeks on chart)

I’ve never had the affection for Michael McDonald, either solo or as a Doobie Brother, that apparently the rest of the world has for the singer.

(and it’s not just because he once almost rear-ended me in his convertible – at least I’m almost positive it was him)

But I do like I Gotta Try. It’s got a bit of pep (but not too much).

Air Supply – Two Less Lonely People In The World
from Now And Forever (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #38, 14 weeks on chart)

Air Supply was a pop music juggernaut during the first few years of the ’80s when I was becoming acquainted with the radio. So, I heard hits like Lost In Love, All Out Of Love, and The One That You Love and I heard them often.

The songs were breezy and light and, at that age, I assumed that these Aussies had love figured out since it was the subject of every song. I’m sure that I surmised their music could offer me valuable insight into charming the ladies.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – You Got Lucky
from Long After Dark (1982)
(debuted #58, peaked #20, 18 weeks on chart)

Though I liked Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – at least the few songs that I knew like Refugee and The Waiting – I was more enamored by the video for You Got Lucky than the song. The song that really caught my ear from hearing Long After Dark repeatedly at my buddy Beej’s house was Change Of Heart.

Over the next decade, Petty would earn a place amongst my favorites and I’d grow more fond of You Got Lucky (though the grittier Change Of Heart still appeals to me more)