August 29, 1981

August 31, 2011

At the suggestion of a friend from college, I’ve been reading and reading with the actual intent to learn and not merely for entertainment.

I’ve actually been studying, something that I rarely did in college.

Some of the concepts have been abstract, but the neurons still fire and the subject matter holds the potential for being of great use.

(as opposed to those metric tables junior high)

Thirty years ago, I was in eighth grade and mindlessly memorizing metric conversions that I would never use. Football and classmates of the female persuasion were the primary recipients of my interest and attention.

For the first time in my life, I was actually interested in music and spending increasing amounts of time with the radio on.

And five songs were making their debut on the Hot 100 in Billboard magazine…

The Go-Go’s – Our Lips Are Sealed
from Beauty And The Beat
(debuted #90, peaked #20, 30 weeks on chart)

The Go-Go’s built the perfect beast with Our Lips Are Sealed, their first hit, and the one-time punk band’s New Wave-tinged pop was both old and new (and completely irresistible) as its sunny vibe helped hold back the impending chill of autumn in 1981.

By summer of the following year, the all-female band was a pop culture juggernaut – Beauty And The Beat had sold millions of copies, We Got The Beat was playing over the opening credits of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and the band memorably appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in their underwear.

(which Jane Wiedlin and I discussed when I had the opportunity to interview her twenty years later)

Aretha Franklin with George Benson – Love All The Hurt Away
from Love All The Hurt Away
(debuted #89, peaked #46, 10 weeks on chart)

I’m certain I didn’t know Aretha Franklin in 1981. As for George Benson, I know that I’d heard his silky-smooth, lightly funky Give Me The Night a year earlier as it was pretty inescapable.

I didn’t know their duet Love All The Hurt Away then or until now. If Paloma was listening now, I think she’d nod and say, “Quiet storm.”

Love All The Hurt Away does have a mellow vibe, but the song builds to a dramatic crescendo.

Atlanta Rhythm Section – Alien
from Quinella
(debuted #88, peaked #29, 15 weeks on chart)

As a kid in the late ’70s, I remember hearing Atlanta Rhythm Section’s Imaginary Lover and So Into You often on the soft rock stations the parents would play in the car. I was listening to music more than I ever had in 1981, I don’t really recall hearing Alien, though.

The song has a laid-back groove like Imaginary Lover and So Into You, but Alien might be even more drowsy than those earlier hits.

I’ve read that much of Atlanta Rhythm Section’s catalog was more Southern Rock – the band came together as session players in a Georgia studio used by Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special – but I’ve only heard the mellow stuff.

Dan Fogelberg – Hard To Say
from The Innocent Age
(debuted #72, peaked #7, 19 weeks on chart)

A Dan Fogelberg song was on the radio one recent Saturday morning and Paloma noted that she liked his voice.

(I agreed)

I mostly know the late singer/songwriter for his early ’80s hits – songs like Same Old Lang Syne, Leader Of The Band, and Missing You – which I heard often while listening to the radio at the time.

Though Hard To Say is pleasant, it wasn’t my cup of tea for the months in late ’81 when I’d hear the song several times each day.

I had little interest in the song, but my neighbor and childhood friend Will seemed to harbor a burning hatred of Hard To Say. One snowy afternoon, having just seen the song on the Solid Gold countdown, he turned to me and said sullenly, “I think Dan Fogelberg just ruined the Solid Gold dancers for me.”

Hall & Oates – Private Eyes
from Private Eyes
(debuted #68, peaked #1, 23 weeks on chart)

Hall & Oates had resuscitated their career from a late ’70s commercial lull with 1980’s Voices. It was impossible to not hear You Make My Dreams or Kiss On My List on the radio at the time.

The duo followed that album with Private Eyes in the autumn of ’81. The title song was ridiculously catchy, had a bit of New Wave sheen and was a mammoth hit.

(and for the next half dozen years, there always seemed to be some new Hall & Oates song on the radio)


At Least Cooper Huckabee Got To Keep His Pants On*

July 7, 2011

I was channel surfing the other day and happened upon a station where the closing credits to the movie Urban Cowboy were rolling.

Perhaps because I can be amused by something as simple as a piece of toast, I watched as the names scrolled across the screen. One caught my eye – Cooper Huckabee.

It was an unusual name and it was nowhere near the top of the cast, but it made me wonder about this fellow as I had never heard of him and Urban Cowboy was released in the early ’80s.

Was this Mr. Huckabee’s fifteen minutes of fame?

I wondered what his life was like during the time the movie was filmed.

Was he a struggling waiter/actor who had finally landed a role in a major motion picture?

Did he make excited phone calls home (maybe some small town in the hinterlands of Iowa) telling family and friends that he had finally made it?

Did his parents breathe a sigh of relief?

Did their disappointment that young Cooper had abandoned a college scholarship or their plans for him to take over the family feed store to pursue an acting career turn to pride?

Did his hometown newspaper do a feature story on him and the mayor give him the key to the city on “Cooper Huckabee Day” as most of the town’s 2,000 residents watched?

Did he believe that this would be the stepping stone to his becoming the next Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino?

Does he regret abandoning the family business now that it is thirty years later and his career hasn’t followed such a star-bound trajectory?

I also wonder about Don McManus.

McManus has appeared in over 80 movies and television programs in mostly bit parts, including an episode of Seinfeld.

He also had a role in The Shawshank Redemption, a movie that is one of the most critically acclaimed pictures of all time.

If you’ve seen the movie, he appears in one of the iconic scenes, one in which Tim Robbins’ character locks himself in the warden’s office and plays an opera recording over the prison loudspeaker. It’s a powerful scene and one in which McManus gets most of his screen time.

Unfortunately, much of that screen time consists of him sitting on a toilet, reading a comic book as he, in his character’s words, “pinches a loaf.”

I wonder if he has mixed emotions about being in such a pivotal scene of such an acclaimed movie with his trousers around his ankles. I wonder if his grandchildren will brag about his cinematic career, pointing to that scene as the highlight of his work.

Maybe my musings concerning these two fellows are rooted in wondering what it’s like to get so close to your wildest dreams only to fall just short of it being everything for which you might have hoped.

I didn’t see Urban Cowboy when it was in the theaters during the summer of 1980 but – though I wasn’t quite interested in music, yet – I do recall hearing several songs from the soundtrack on the radio at the time.

Here are four songs that were on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart during this week in 1980…

Ali Thomson – Take A Little Rhythm
from Take A Little Rhythm

Ali Thomson is not only from Scotland, but his brother Doug was the bassist for Supertramp.

I remember hearing Take A Little Rhythm often at the pool during the summer of 1980 and it shuffles up periodically on the iPod. Yet, I couldn’t recite to you more than a few words of lyric aside from the titular ones.

I don’t want to know. I just want it to be a laid-back little song that feels like summer to me.

George Benson – Give Me The Night
from The George Benson Collection

Guitarist George Benson cut his teeth performing straight-ahead jazz with organist Jack McDuff as well as performing with the great Miles Davis. In the ’70s and early ’80s, Benson also notched a number of pop hits with songs like This Masquerade, On Broadway, and Turn Your Love Around.

Give Me The Night – written by Rod Temperton who would pen several hits on Michael Jackson’s Thriller – is a silky smooth ode to nightlife with a light disco feel.

Joe Walsh – All Night Long
from Joe Walsh’s Greatest Hits

Like Cooper Huckabee, the laid-back groove of All Night Long appeared in Urban Cowboy.

I should probably delve into Joe Walsh’s ’70s stuff as it seems to be fairly well regarded. I know most of his stuff from the ’80s as my high school buddy Bosco was a fan and, during the latter half of the decade, a college roommate and I were greatly amused with Walsh’s Got Any Gum?

I also recall Glenn Frey, Walsh’s Eagles bandmate, doing commercials for some health club at the time. One popped up late one night while I was watching television with another roommate. The commercial ended and, still staring stupified at the screen, he noted, “Joe Walsh is sitting on a couch somewhere, right now, with a bong and laughing his ass off after seeing that.”

The Pretenders – Stop Your Sobbing
from The Pretenders

From the debut by The Pretenders, the jangling Stop Your Sobbing is a cover of a song written by future paramour of lead singer Chrissie Hynde (Ray Davies) and produced by a man (Nick Lowe) who would later write a song (I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll) alledgedly about the ex-wife of a former co-worker of mine.

That must mean something.

*reconfigured from a July 22, 2008 post while my head heals


At Least You’re Not Trapped In A Chilean Mine

September 4, 2010

I overheard a co-worker bitching about a “delivery charge” being added to a pizza she had delivered for lunch.

Not surprising as she issues perceived grievances in fifteen to twenty minute monologues sprinkled throughout the course of eight hours.

As she railed against the injustice of the two-dollar fee, I thought, it could be worse – you could be trapped in a Chilean mine.

(and, yes, I admit that for a moment I considered that this might only be worse from her perspective)

It must have been two weeks ago that the story of the miners trapped in San Jose, Chile burst onto the front pages on news sites and it was riveting stuff.

As I read the details, I immediately thought that there had to be someone, somewhere, already working on acquiring the rights to the tale for books, movies, action figures – that might be cynical, but I’ve experienced the corporate world.

Then, as the timeline for rescue was projected to be months, I realized that this situation would be something which the entire world would follow – hour by hour, day by day – until the group was topside.

I thought of 1979 and the Iranian students who seized the US Embassy in Tehran, taking those working at the consulate hostage.

I was in fifth grade and every morning would begin with Sister Marie providing us with details about one of the individuals being held which I imagine she had culled from the numerous print articles and television coverage.

The event gave birth to Ted Koppel’s long-running Nightline program which helped kill off the brilliant late-night show Fridays by cutting into its timeslot.

(I’d like to see Iran sanctioned by the UN for that)

So as I read about the plight of these miners and the extraordinary measures that would have to be undertaken in their rescue, I envisioned how the story might play out.

And I imagined the world hanging on each new development and pondered a happy ending that might provide the entire planet with a reason to feel good for a moment.

(whenever I catch the movie Apollo 13, I wonder what the vibe around the world must have been like at that time)

Here’s hoping that the situation in Chile does end with a successful rescue. I couldn’t imagine being trapped in such confines with my co-workers for months.

Eight hours…that’s my limit.

And, no matter how slowly those eight hours pass, at least I’m not trapped in a Chilean mine.

I was stuck once in one of our building’s elevators for about ten minutes. As I had my iPod and cigarettes, I think I could have lasted twice that long. So, here are four random songs that I might have heard…

Shivaree – After The Prince And The Showgirl
from Rough Dreams

I first came across the name Shivaree reading enthusiastic reviews of the band’s 1999 debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump which was produced by Joe Henry. So, I was quite pleased to receive an advance of the trio’s follow-up, Rough Dreams.

I was fortunate to snag a copy because, nearly a decade later, the album has yet to receive a proper release in the States. It’s too bad as lead singer Ambrosia Parsley might well have endeared herself to the audience that Shelby Lynne claimed during the decade with her soulful Americana stylings.

Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
from Song Review: Greatest Hits

The second major hit single of the legendary Stevie Wonder’s career, Uptight (Everything’s Alright) was the first to be co-written by the musician and helped establish Wonder as a staple on pop radio for the next two decades.

As for the song, it’s a dose of joyous R&B delivered in a tightly-packaged three minutes.

Dramarama – Incredible
from Hi-Fi Sci-Fi

Dramarama is a band that has left more than a few listeners puzzled as to why the alternative-leaning power pop act never broke through to major success. Beginning with 1985’s Cinéma Vérité, the band issued five albums that earned them attention at college radio but were mostly ignored by mainstream audiences.

By 1993, alternative rock had exploded, making stars of acts like Soul Asylum and Goo Goo Dolls. Blending humor and poignancy along with hooks galore, Dramarama’s Hi-Fi Sci-Fi deserved similar attention, but it would prove to be another undiscovered gem in the band’s catalog.

George Benson – Give Me The Night
from The George Benson Collection

Guitarist George Benson cut his teeth performing straight-ahead jazz with organist Jack McDuff as well as performing with the great Miles Davis. In the ’70s and early ’80s, Benson also notched a number of pop hits with songs like This Masquerade, On Broadway, and Turn Your Love Around.

Give Me The Night would prove to be one of Benson’s biggest hits. Written by Rod Temperton – who would go on to pen several hits for Michael Jackson’s Thriller Give Me The Night is a silky smooth ode to nightlife with a light disco feel.