May 22, 1982

May 26, 2012

As I opt to periodically do – when I have no other viable or unviable ideas – it’s time to pull up an old Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart and note the songs that debuted that week.

I nicked the concept from Chris at 70’s Music Mayhem who uses the format with far greater attention to detail as he works his way through the ’70s.

The first few years of the ’80s was when pop radio provided much of the music for me and Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 was appointment listening. Thirty years ago, twelve songs debuted on the Hot 100…

Leslie Pearl – If The Love Fits Wear It
from Words And Music (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #28, 16 weeks on chart)

I know nothing about Leslie Pearl.

If I didn’t know If The Love Fits Wear It, I might believe Leslie Pearl was the name of a character pitched as a “female James Bond” for some proposed movie that never materialized.

But I do know If The Love Fits Wear It. I’d hear it on occasion as its soft rock style was well suited to the sound favored on our hometown radio station before it went full-frontal country a few years later.

It wasn’t much my cup of tea as a fourteen-year old guy in 1982, but now I find it a pleasant if undistinctive momento from the time.

Eye To Eye – Nice Girls
from Eye To Eye (1982)
(debuted #89, peaked #37, 13 weeks on chart)

I was surprised to find that Nice Girls only got to #37, as it was all over the radio stations I was listening to during the summer of ’82.

It’s not surprising that the debut album by the duo of American singer Deborah Berg and British pianist Julian Marshall would find success, though, as it boasted an impressive array of noted session players like Abe Laboriel, Jeff Porcaro, and Jim Keltner as well as guest appearances by Donald Fagen and Rick Derringer.

Tying it all together was producer Gary Katz, who had a lengthy resume working with Steely Dan and, though it lacks the lyrical bite of Becker and Fagen, Nice Girls is similarly sophisticated pop.

(Paloma loved the song when I played it for her but didn’t recall hearing it in the ’80s)

Kim Wilde – Kids In America
from Kids In America (1982)
(debuted #88, peaked #25, 18 weeks on chart)

We didn’t know much about Kim Wilde when she arrived with the New Wave bubblegum of her song Kids In America. She was a comely blonde and I imagine that’s all we needed to know.

But we did love the song.

It bounded along.

It had a chanted chorus.

It was about kids in America and we happened to be kids in America.

The J. Geils Band – Angel In Blue
from Freeze Frame (1981)
(debuted #87, peaked #40, 11 weeks on chart)

The R&B-laced blues-rock of the J. Geils Band earned them comparisons to the Rolling Stones and throughout the ’70s the Boston band was a popular live act with the occasional hit song.

In late ’81, the group released Freeze Frame and scored major pop radio success with Centerfold – one of the biggest songs of the year – and the title track.

The third track pulled from Freeze Frame was the mid-tempo ballad Angel In Blue which found its inspiration in doo-wop. Though the song failed to equal the success of the prevous two singles, the lovely, melancholic song retained the band’s soulful vibe and blue-collar grit as it told the tale of a world-weary cocktail waitress.

(for some reason, I’ve long mentally linked the unnamed waitress in Angel In Blue to Brandy in the hit by Looking Glass)

The Greg Kihn Band – Happy Man
from Kihntinued (1982)
(debuted #86, peaked #62, 7 weeks on chart)

Two of my friends were rabid fans of the work of power pop heros Greg Kihn Band even in 1982. I knew the band – as most people probably did – for the insanely hooky The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) from a year earlier.

I don’t recall ever hearing Happy Man, but it’s certainly in the same vein as The Breakup Song and far more appealing to me than the shuffling dance-rock of Jeopardy, which would be a mammoth hit for the band the following spring.

The Gap Band – Early In The Morning
from Gap Band IV (1982)
(debuted #83, peaked #24, 14 weeks on chart)

There was essentially one R&B station in our listening area and it rarely caught my ear when I’d surf the channels. The pop stations I was listening to would play the hits, but I don’t remember hearing the funky cool and percussive Early In The Morning much at the time.

(which is too bad)

Jon And Vangelis – I’ll Find My Way Home
from The Friends Of Mr. Cairo (1981)
(debuted #81, peaked #51, 8 weeks on chart)

Jon And Vangelis is a duo, so they have that in common with Hall & Oates.

However, this duo is comprised of the lead singer for Yes and the man best-known for the theme from Chariots Of Fire and, unlike the singles of Hall & Oates, I’ll Find My Way Home is utterly devoid of a hook.

(though it is jam-packed with New Age sentiments)

Melissa Manchester – You Should Hear How She Talks About You
from Hey Ricky (1982)
(debuted #76, peaked #5, 25 weeks on chart)

Melissa Manchester was also an act which I associated with the hometown radio station. Her mellow hits like Midnight Blue and Don’t Cry Out Loud were staples I’d hear a breakfast as a kid.

You Should Hear How She Talks About You sounded nothing like those melodramatic ballads. It was upbeat, synthesized dance-pop and it seemed like Manchester was on Solid Gold every other week that summer performing the song.

Van Halen – Dancing In The Street
from Diver Down (1982)
(debuted #74, peaked #38, 11 weeks on chart)

Van Halen’s Diver Down was the first of the band’s albums to be released after my interest in music had become more than passive. So thirty years ago, I was far better acquainted with the band for their recent cover of Roy Orbison’s (Oh) Pretty Woman from earlier that spring than stuff from their classic catalog.

And I have no doubt that I had yet to be introduced to Martha & The Vandellas when I heard Van Halen’s version of Dancing In The Street.

I still love their remaking the Motown classic as a hard rock anthem complete with gurgling keyboards, Eddie’s guitar heroics, and David Lee Roth’s vocal howl.

(a position that is likely considered blasphemy to many)

Neil Diamond – Be Mine Tonight
from On The Way To The Sky (1981)
(debuted #73, peaked #35, 11 weeks on chart)

I vividly recall hearing a lot of Neil Diamond’s hits from the ’70s from the vantage point of the backseat of the car as songs like Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue, and You Don’t Bring Me Flowers streamed from the soft rock stations my parents seemed to favor.

By 1982, I had (mostly) wrested control of the radio from the parents and I would have been far more intent upon finding Kids In America somewhere on the dial than Be Mine Tonight.

Journey – Still They Ride
from Escape (1981)
(debuted #72, peaked #19, 14 weeks on chart)

Of course I loved Journey in the ’80s. I was in junior high and high school when Escape and Frontiers were multi-million selling albums and allegiance to the band was hardly uncommon.

Like J. Geils Band, as summer arrived in 1982, Journey was still having hits from an album released before Thanksgiving break. Still They Ride – which I’d already been hearing for months – was the latest hit from the monstrously successful Escape,

Though I dug Journey and had worn out a cassette of Escape, I wasn’t too enamored with Still They Ride and often skipped it. Three decades later, I have considerably more affection for the wistful song that builds to a rather dramatic crescendo.

Alabama – Take Me Down
from Take Me Down (1982)
(debuted #69, peaked #18, 13 weeks on chart)

During the first couple years of the ’80s, our hometown radio began to shift from Top 40 to light rock to, eventually, whatever was passing for country at the time. Alabama managed to fit into all three formats and, thus, I was used to hearing Feels So Right, Love In The First Degree, and the laid-back, slightly twangy Take Me Down on the kitchen radio.

(not that I was particularly happy about it)

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“I Don’t Think I Was Speeding, Officer, Was I Weaving Or Something?”

March 7, 2012

Paloma shook her head at the commercial which promised three nights airing National Lampoon’s Vacation to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Clark Griswald’s trek to California.

She knew that I – having not seen it in glorious HD – would be unable to resist the sirens’ song.

She has often heard me echo the query of Imogene Coca’s deranged Aunt Edna – “Am I gonna eat? Or am I gonna starve to death?” and is good natured enough to have not brained me.

There was a time that I could have recited damned near every line of dialogue from Vacation as could most of my buddies. Chevy Chase had been one of our favorites in Caddyshack a few years earlier but, in that movie, he had been a memorable charcter in a large ensemble.

In Vacation, he was The Man, an outlaw on the road, skinny-dippin’ with Christie Brinkley, who had brightened our winter days for several years in the early ’80s in Sports Illustrated‘s annual swimsuit issue.

(Clark Griswald could have been in the Olympics, man)

If lab animals were subjected to as many viewings of one movie as my buddies and I had watched Vacation, PETA would rightfully raise a ruckus.

It was not difficult to exhaust the possibilities for fun in our small town before the late news aired. At that point, there wasn’t much to do other than acts of vandalism involving produce and/or fireworks.

(it was a town of three thousand people in the middle of a lot of corn in the Midwest)

Often, a bunch of us would end up encamped in Kirk The Pyro’s den watching Vacation on late-night cable or VHS.

(his family had a spacious house and cable and VCR before most of us did)

We were beginning to get our driver’s licenses – Vacation had been in theaters the summer we took Driver’s Ed – and, like Chevy, we yearned for the open road and dipping skinnies with Christie Brinkley.

The farthest we usually got was Indianapolis or, more often, Cincinnati and there were no “pool waitress” supermodels frolicking in the coin fountain at the mall.

But we did make good use of numerous quotes – travel-related or not – from the movie and, at some point, usually when it was suggested that we call it a night and head home, someone would rally the troops with words of wisdom from Chevy.

(the more delicate amongst you might want to cover your eyes)

“I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamned smiles. You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of you’re assholes!”

Here are four songs from the soundtrack…

Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road
from Words & Music: A Retrospective (1992)

I can’t hear Holiday Road and not want to cruise through a desert of the American Southwest in a station wagon with a dead aunt strapped to the roof on the way to a theme park thousands of miles from home.

The Ramones – Blitzkreig Bop
from Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology (1999)

Not long ago, a client was giving me his last name. “Ramone,” he said. “Like the band. Do you know who I’m talking about?”

He was surprised and duly impressed as I explained that I not only knew his reference, but that Paloma has a framed poster autographed by Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky hanging in our treehouse.

The Pointer Sisters – I’m So Excited
from Greatest Hits (1989)

During the first few years of the ’80s, when I was really listening to the radio for the first time, The Pointer Sisters were inescapable. A lot of those hits still charm me when I hear them on shuffle.

But sometimes, the manic I’m So Excited is just a bit too perky.

Vangelis – Titles
from Chariots Of Fire (1982)

As part of the last week of school in eighth grade, our class took a trip to a multi-plex in Cincinnati to see Chariots Of Fire. The movie might have just won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but a slow-moving, British, period piece on distance running and religion surprisingly proved to be a buzzkill for us kids.

(I’ve meant to watch it again as an adult but…)

Vacation arrived just a year after Chariots Of Fire, so the spoof of Chariots Of Fire hadn’t yet become cliche.


Cheese, Crackers And The Voigt-Kampff Test

July 8, 2008

Some, to paraphrase Kramer, serve their dark master, the cocoa bean, but it is the salty snacks that I crave, particularly in the form of a cracker. Having had a reaction due to the ingestion of a certain plant-based substance, I once rampaged my way through several boxes of crackers, leading my housemates to dub me “Cracker Vacuum” (it was later translated into Chinese as the far more sonically palatable Bin Gone Kon).

Munchies-inspired nicknames aside, crackers are delightful and the addition of cheese was a great moment in humankind. My enjoyment of this combination has been tempered of late by my concern that – based on knowledge gleaned from numerous viewings of Blade Runner – I’m a replicant.

When I first saw Blade Runner, it was as on VHS a couple years after its theatrical release. I’m certain it didn’t get screened at our smalltown theater and I’m surprised my friends and I found it at our local video rental joint.

It bored me.

I certainly found it to be breathtakingly grim and it’s still visually stunning twenty-five years later, but I didn’t truly ponder the ramifications of the concepts at the time. When I did, the questions the film raised about consciousness and humanity were mind-bending.

[Did they have crackers in Blade Runner? I know that there were noodles (which are another wondrous foodstuff).]

Now, throughout the film, Gaff leaves origami animals for Harrison Ford’s character Deckard and these items – combined with the unicorn footage added for the director’s cut – strengthens the argument that Deckard himself is a replicant. The unicorn memory is one programmed into all replicants who are unaware that they are synthetic creatures.

My earliest memory of eating cheese and crackers was when I was four or five and it’s vivid. On a family vacation, I was allowed to stay up quite late with my uncle; we watched a movie about cartoon cats in Paris and ate cheese and crackers.

Unfortunately, when I reconsider the event, I fear it couldn’t have happened. The movie had to have been The Aristocats (is there another “cartoon cats in Paris” flick?), but this was years before VCRs and cable television. Would they have shown such a movie on network television following the late news?

More suspicious is the conflict between my memory and my uncle’s life rhythm. It was remarkably consistent as I recall – on the river fishing at dawn, an afternoon draining bottles of Iron City at the Moose Lodge, and asleep in his recliner shortly after dinner. I don’t remember ever seeing the man awake after dark let alone eating cheese and crackers.

And so, I have to wonder at the possibility that this memory is my “unicorn sequence.” Maybe lots of people have such a memory.

Maybe Edward James Olmos is someday going to leave a foil, origami Triscuit at my doorstep. Or maybe a Ritz.

Vangelis – Blade Runner (End Title)
Vangelis really captured the vibe of the movie with his score. My friend Chris, who had prompted our friends and me to rent Blade Runner, played the album into the ground.

White Zombie – More Human Than Human
The motto of the Tyrell Corporation set to music. I met Rob Zombie at a record store where I worked and he seemed like a good guy – very polite, very soft spoken.

Cracker – This Is Cracker Soul
I loved Cracker’s debut which included This Is Cracker Soul, but David Lowery was rude to Paloma once and it’s dulled my enthusiasm for Cracker’s music ever since.

Kenickie – Robot Song
I remember Kenickie being “the next big thing” for about ten minutes in the mid-90s. Coming across this track to post, I’m thinking I might have to go back and check out the rest of their debut, At The Club.