Shooting Star

March 25, 2012

Thirty years ago, music was a still mostly an unexplored world for me. It had been no more than six months since I’d brought an old radio up from the basement.

The quarter century of rock music that had preceeded me was of little consequence, yet. The songs and acts that were most popular – and, thus, most notable to me – were the ones which I heard most on the radio.

In the spring of ’82, radio would have led me to believe that the band Shooting Star was as popular as Journey.

(and Journey had just released Escape six months earlier)

But as I was hearing Journey’s Open Arms climb the countdown on American Top 40 each week that spring, Shooting Star’s Hollywood was nowhere to be found despite me hearing the latter seemingly as often as the former.

Not only would I continue to hear Hollywood on the radio well into that summer, but, over the next several years, each release from Shooting Star would spawn songs that would get significant airplay.

Yet Shooting Star caused little more than a slight ripple outside of the Midwest where I was.

Despite the heavy airplay that Hollywood got from radio stations in our area, the song was one of only three Shooting Star singles to reach Billboard‘s Hot 100, none of them climbing higher than #67.

The band’s five albums from the first half of the ’80s also garnered little attention.

It’s understandable that Shooting Star would have been a fixture on Midwestern radio as the band hailed from Kansas City and their melodic rock was well suited for an album rock landscape dominated by Journey, Foreigner, Billy Squier, and Heart.

Today, Shooting Star – despite still existing in some incarnation – is little more than a footnote, but a footnote that has pockets of rabid devotion on the internet.

(see the breathlessly enthusiastic reviews of the band’s catalog on AllMusic Guide)

In truth, it’s not surprising that Shooting Star was unable to become much more than a regional success. The songs might have sounded good on the radio, but the band’s workman-like rock rarely distinguished itself from their better-known contemporaries.

Yet, Shooting Star is a musical trinket from those formative years and there remains a place in my heart for a band that most listeners likely missed at the time.

Here are four songs from Shooting Star…

Shooting Star – Last Chance
from Shooting Star (1980)

After building a following on the club level, Shooting Star became the first American band to ink a deal with Virgin Records as the label attempted to break a mainstream rock act in the States.

(it wouldn’t be the last time that the band would be the answer to a musical trivia question)

Like fellow Midwesterners Kansas, Shooting Star incorporated violin into their sound and, though they mostly did so without Kansas’ progressive inclinations, the anthemic Last Chance is an epic-length track that builds to a suitably dramatic crescendo.

Shooting Star – Hollywood
from Hang On For Your Life (1982)

Hollywood seemed to be blaring from every beat-up Camaro in my hometown for months on end in 1982. The song breaks no new ground with its tale of farm-fresh Midwestern girl having her dreams get shattered and getting sucked into the seedy underbelly of the dirty city. But, it is an engaging four minutes of straight-ahead rock with a sentimental pull.

Shooting Star – Summer Sun
from Silent Scream (1985)

Not only did Shooting Star serve as an opening act for their more successful album rock contemporaries including Journey, Jefferson Starship, Kansas, Bryan Adams, and Heart, the band enlisted producer Ron Nevison – who had worked with several of those bands – for 1985’s Silent Scream.

Silent Scream was released at about the same time that Heart’s Nevison-produced self-titled album was providing the Wilson sisters with a major comeback, but Silent Scream proved to be a swan song – albeit temporarily – for Shooting Star.

However, like previous albums, Silent Scream found a home on the rock stations in our area. The driving, seasonally-appropriate Summer Sun was the most popular track and one I can still hear as I recall the efforts of my friends and me to find something to do in our small town that summer.

Shooting Star – Touch Me Tonight
from Touch Me Tonight: The Best Of Shooting Star (1989)

I returned from studying in Southeast Asia toward the end of 1989 to find a reunited Shooting Star again blaring from the radio with the polished rocker Touch Me Tonight. Though it was rather generic stuff and hardly the alternative rock to which I had mostly gravitated, there was still something appealing about knowing that the band was still out there.

That perseverance resulted in the highest-charting single of Shooting Star’s career – albeit at a lowly #67 – and Touch Me Tonight‘s parent compilation album became the first record to make Billboard‘s album charts without a vinyl release.


As Close To Live As You Could Get From The Middle Of Nowhere Without A Car

October 12, 2011

By the autumn of 1984, my friends and I all had our driver’s licenses.

Not that much could be done with them sans a mode of transport.

A fair number of the kids in our high school had cars. Our small town was rural enough that it was a necessity for some of the kids living on farms in the hinterlands.

(thus making the pick-up to car ratio close to 50/50 in our high school parking lot)

There were also those who had inherited vehicles from older siblings and, as there was a bit of wealth in the area, there were the kids whose coming-of-driving-age arrived with a complimentary car.

I belonged to none of those categories.

The lack of transportation plagued me and my friends’ efforts to attend concerts. The nearest cities having arenas of 20,000 seats – the ones most likely to get dates for the most high-profile tours – were sixty and eighty miles plus down one interstate or another.

(close enough to shimmer like an oasis on the horizon)

The first challenge was to get everyone to commit and have the funds.

To even get tickets meant getting to one of the cities to acquire them in person. If such a thing could not be arranged, it was a Saturday morning on the phone, trying to get through to Ticketmaster as thousands of other people attempted to do the same in the pre-internet ’80s.

(after someone having convinced a parent to part with a credit card)

It was quite an operation.

Most of the shows I attended in high school were someone coming up with tickets at the last minute and, usually, our buddy Beej loaning himself his older brother’s car to provide transport.

More often than not, it would be settling for a concert replay. There were stations from Cincinnati and Indianapolis at the time that would sometimes air the songs that had been played at the show with “live” crowd noise mixed in.

It wasn’t quite the same, but as these replays would air immediately after the show ended, the consolation was knowing that you weren’t sitting in post-concert traffic.

I’d often listen to the concert replays whether it was an act that I might have wanted to go see or not. There was something compelling about the rudimentary recreations.

Here are four songs that I might have heard on one of those replays in autumn of 1984…

Billy Squier – All Night Long
from Signs Of Life (1984)

For a few years, Billy Squier was a rock god amongst my classmates in junior high and high school. Don’t Say No and Emotions In Motion must have resided in everyone’s collections and songs like The Stroke, In The Dark, and Everybody Wants You were staples on the rock radio stations.

And then, Squier released Signs Of Life. The first single, Rock Me Tonite, was a fixture on the radio that summer, but the song was also accompanied by an infamous video clip.

I remember the video being ridiculed, but it seems as though its role as scapegoat for Squier’s subsequent career decline has grown throughout the years. Personally, the songs just didn’t reach the heights of pure rock goodness of Don’t Say No and Emotions In Motion, though I always dug the frenetic All Night Long.

Ratt – Wanted Man
from Out Of The Cellar (1984)

Unlike Billy Squier, Ratt’s career was rocketing into the stratosphere in 1984 thanks to Round And Round, which seemed to be blaring from every car stereo wherever high school kids congregated thar summer.

It didn’t get played as much, but I quite liked the more mid-tempo Wanted Man. It has a swagger and I always picture a spaghetti Western in my head when I hear the song.

Sammy Hagar – I’ll Fall In Love Again
from Standing Hampton (1981)

In the autumn of 1984, Sammy Hagar was simply The Red Rocker, ex-member of Montrose, and a fixture on the rock radio stations in our area with songs like There’s Only One Way To Rock, Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy, Rock Is In My Blood and I Can’t Drive 55 (from his then-current album VOA).

A year later, he was the most polarizing lead singer in the history of mankind, having replaced David Lee Roth in Van Halen.

I liked Sammy fine as a solo act and, though Van Halen’s second chapter wasn’t going to make anyone forget the DLR era, I thought there was some cool stuff from the band with Hagar as lead singer.

Though I’ll Fall In Love Again didn’t make the Top 40, the Top 40 station that was my listening choice at the time played the song incessantly during the summer of ’82. The song never fails to take me back to that summer.

Triumph – Magic Power
from Allied Forces (1981)

Triumph never quite became a major act in the US, but I heard their songs often on radio in the early ’80s. And it wasn’t uncommon to see kids in our high school halls wearing Triumph concert shirts.

The trio seemed to pass through the area every six months or so and, in ’84, undoubtedly did so touring to support their Thunder Seven set.

I was mostly ambivilant about the band, but I did kind of dig Magic Power from several years earlier.