July 16, 1983

July 16, 2011

1983 was a pivitol year for me and music.

As the year began, I had begun to explore more of the radio stations available to me in our corner of the Midwest, gaining familiarity and interest in songs and artists that I might not have heard on Top 40 radio.

I was also hearing music from the ’60s and ’70s, some of which existed as vague recollections, but much of it for the first time.

There would never be a time in which more music would be a wholly new experience for me.

But, American Top 40 with Casey Kasem was still appointment listening each week, offering an education in the acts appearing in the countdown that was not easily obtained in a pre-internet world.

And, 1983 was still a time of a fair amount of diversity on Top 40 radio, meaning that, while I might not particularly like the song playing at any given moment, I was a mere four minutes away from one that I did want to hear.

For our purposes today, though, we’re examining the the songs which debuted on the Hot 100 in Billboard magazine during the week of July 16, 1983…

Mitch Ryder – When You Were Mine
from Never Kick A Sleeping Dog
(debuted #95, peaked #87, 4 weeks on chart)

I didn’t know much, if anything, about Mitch Ryder in 1983 and I still have little more than a cursory knowledge of the legendary Detroit rocker’s career thirty years later.

When You Were Mine had first appeared on Prince’s Dirty Mind set in 1980 and – though Prince was becoming a household name with 1999 that summer – I wouldn’t become familiar with the song until hearing Cyndi Lauper’s version on her debut She’s So Unusual in late ’83.

Despite production assistence from John Mellencamp (who, I think, would have still been John Cougar at the time), I don’t recall hearing Ryder’s stellar take on When You Were Mine in 1983 and I suspect that I wasn’t alone.

INXS – Don’t Change
from Shabooh Shoobah
(debuted #90, peaked #80, 4 weeks on chart)

I’ve sung the praises of INXS’ Don’t Change in the past and I will undoubtedly do so in the future. I was indifferent to The One Thing, the initial hit from Shabooh Shoobah, but I instantly fell for Don’t Change.

With soaring synthesizers, grinding guitars, and Michael Hutchence’s defiant vocal, Don’t Change is an anthemic track that is an open road leading to a destination of infinite possibilities.

Jeffrey Osborne – Don’t You Get So Mad
from Stay With Me Tonight
(debuted #89, peaked #25, 14 weeks on chart)

Jeffrey Osborne had a handful of hits in the first half of the ’80s after abdicting his post as lead singer of the R&B act LTD and I was familiar with most of them.

On Don’t You Get So Mad, Osborne advises his significant other to keep her jealousy in check over a light funk melody. The song didn’t really appeal to me, but I do remember being slightly puzzled by my buddy Beej’s affection for it.

The B-52’s – Legal Tender
from Whammy!
(debuted #88, peaked #81, 4 weeks on chart)

Grown-ups have long warned of the evil influence of pop music on “the children” and, though I’ve heard plenty of songs that might have touted less than acceptable behavior, I’ve managed to avoid becoming a menace to society.

However, Legal Tender, The B-52’s ode to counterfeiting is such a bouncy delight, I’m tempted to follow their lead and start cranking out tens and twenties in the spare room.

Engelbert Humperdinck – Til You And Your Lover Are Lovers Again
from You And Your Lover
(debuted #87, peaked #77, 5 weeks on chart)

Is it possible to say “Humperdinck” and be serious?

I suspect I knew of Engelbert Humperdinck from seeing him crooning away on some daytime talk show – maybe Dinah Shore’s – as a kid after school. Or, it’s certainly the type of music I might have heard my mom playing on occasion on the cabinet stereo in our living room.

As for Til You And Your Lover Are Lovers Again, I was certain that I was hearing that rascally Engelbert putting the moves on some woman estranged from her husband. It turns out that, though he might be a crooner, Engelbert’s intentions are honorable.

Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
from Faster Than the Speed Of Night
(debuted #75, peaked #1, 29 weeks on chart)

I, like most listeners, knew Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler for her 1978 Top Ten hit It’s A Heartache, but I distinctly remember being wowed by Total Eclipse Of The Heart the first time I heard the song on the radio one steamy summer day in ’83.

I don’t think that I had ever heard anything so epic and the song seemed to last the entire afternoon.

I totally dug it.

And why not?

Like some demented scientist, producer/songwriter Jim Steinman had assembled a musical cast of thousands – including guitarist Rick Derringer, E Street bandmates Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg – to back Tyler as she raspily belted out her tale of woe to the heavens with enough melodrama that the song could have filled a Behind The Music episode all on its own.

If Steinman drives like he writes and arranges a song, the man has needed the sizable royalty checks he’s accumulated simply to pay his speeding tickets.

Naked Eyes – Promises, Promises
from Naked Eyes
(debuted #71, peaked #11, 20 weeks on chart)

I loved Naked Eyes’ update of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Always Something There To Remind Me when the UK synth duo reached the Top Ten with the song as their debut in the spring of 1983.

I was far less enamored with Promises, Promises and, though the track failed to follow Always Something There To Remind Me into the Top Ten, I seemed to hear it far more on the radio.

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Big Fish*

May 8, 2011

How far is it from a relatively obscure, failed ‘70s feature film by an Oscar-winning director to a thirty-foot, fiberglass catfish?

Thirty-five miles.

Paloma and I have taken advantage of the fact that, here in the 21st century, people will deliver movies to your doorstep because we enjoy movies and…well…going to a theater requires leaving the couch and venturing into an often rude, zombie wasteland.

I’ve been delving into grainy movie memories from my childhood (several of which I’ve mentioned of late). One which I wanted to check out was Sorcerer, a 1977 film directed by William Friedkin (of The Exorcist fame) and starring Roy Scheider, who was fresh off the boat from his fishing excursion in Jaws.

I’d been fascinated by the poster for Sorcerer as a kid and the viewer comments on The Internet Movie Database touted it as an underappreciated gem.

The story revolved around four dodgy characters from various locales around the globe that end up hiding out in some South American village. Through a chain of events, they become mercenaries, driving two trucks laden with nitroglycerin through the jungle at great peril.

(Paloma was intrigued by this concept as a potential career opportunity)

Inspired by the viewing of Sorcerer, I decided that we should take a trek of our own, sans nitroglycerin, to a small town in the middle of nowhere where a restaurant boasted their catfish to be the finest in the state.

Paloma, ever supportive of my random whims – and won over by my assertion that such a place would certainly have pie – agreed to the venture, so long as I knew where we were going.

(leading to my assessment, halfway somewhere, that “we should be going west…or maybe south.”)

Thirty-five miles from our front door, there it was, a giant fiberglass catfish, perched majestically atop the roof of a roadside shack, proclaiming to all passers-by, here be catfish!

In the end, the catfish was serviceable, the Mississippi mud pie was, in the words of Paloma, “divine,” the thirty-foot catfish sign was the most life-like thirty-foot catfish sign I’ve ever seen, and Sorcerer was gritty, suspenseful, slightly surreal and well worth the walk to the mailbox.

There’s a lot of stuff under the sea. Here are four songs titled after some of the things that might be found in the briny deep…

The Other Two – Tasty Fish
from The Other Two & You

New Order were college radio darlings when I was in school and a lot of my friends loved the band. I was much more a casual listener.

In 1993, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris – half of New Order – released an album as The Other Two. I liked it enough to file it away, but I couldn’t have named a song by the duo until Tasty Fish popped up.

It’s totally charming electro-pop, a pulsating, shimmering three minutes or so that would have been enough for me to hold onto the album to be rediscovered one day.

The B-52’s – Rock Lobster
from The B-52’s

I know that I wasn’t familiar with Rock Lobster in ’79. I can’t imagine that I heard the song until 97X went on the air four years later.

Then, Rock Lobster was a staple for the station and a burst of fun from the radio when it would come up.

Hooverphonic – Tuna
from Blue Wonder Power Milk

Like a lot of people, I was mesmerized the first time I heard A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular by the electronica/trip hop of the Belgian band Hooverphonic. It was a hypnotic listening experience.

Unfortunately, that album as well as Blue Wonder Power Milk and The Magnificent Tree didn’t make the transfer from harddrive to iPos explaining why I hadn’t heard the band in awhile.

Chilly, stately, and dreamy, Tuna, like most of Hooverphonic’s oeuvre, is perfect music to drift away to while listening on headphones.

Heart – Barracuda
from Greatest Hits

Though Heart might have had a lull in the early ’80s, the band remained popular on radio stations in our part of the Midwest. Then, the band notched a string of massive hits and platinum-selling albums in the mid-’80s that took the band to new heights.

I quite liked some of those latter ’80s hits, but I preferred Heart’s less-varnished ’70s stuff. The ubiquitousness of that later period made it easy to forget how much raw energy the band possessed.

Barracuda – driven by Ann Wilson’s piercing banshee wail – was as fierce as a band could hope to be.