Friday, January 30, 2015

Superhits 1983, Part 3

The Clash, “Rock the Casbah,” #8, 1/22/83
The Clash’s one and only Top 10 hit in the United States, and one of only three US chart hits overall (they did better in the UK, with 23 charting hits).  It’s about a fictional war between a king and his populace over rock and roll, although it’s based in reality after the Iran revolution of 1979. Probably their biggest hit throughout the world (except in the UK, where “London Calling” takes the honor), and a staple of classic rock radio.

 John Cougar, “Hand to Hold On To,” #19, 1/22/83
The third Top 20 single from American Fool, following “Hurt So Good” and “Jack and Diane” – both of which Top 40 stations were required by law to play (one or the other) in the last six months of 1982.  To me, it sounds like a sequel to Bob Dylan’s 1979 song “Gotta Serve Somebody,” except instead of God’s comfort, Mellencamp was saying you gotta have somebody around to hug at night.  Also, the odd verses sound a little Dylanesque, too (“Having good luck with your financial situation/Play the ponies, be president of the United Nations/Go to work and be a Hollywood stud/Drive your four-wheel drive right into the mud”).

Sonny Charles, “Put It In a Magazine,” #40, 1/22/83
Sonny Charles is an old soul man (he’s still around – he toured in 2010 with the Steve Miller Band) whose biggest hit, “Black Pearl,” came in 1969 with the Checkmates Ltd. and was produced by Phil Spector.  This was his biggest solo hit, on Highrise Records, a small independent label.  Catchy song that might have gone further with a bigger label.

Tyrone Davis, “Are You Serious,” #57, 1/22/83
Tyrone Davis was an old soul man (he passed away in 2005) whose biggest hit, “Turn Back the Hands of Time,” came in 1970, one of 13 top 10 hits on the R&B chart on either Dakar or Columbia Records.  But Davis hooked up with Highrise Records at the same time as Sonny Charles (weird, huh?), and hit the pop charts for the first time since “Give It Up, Turn It Loose” in 1976.  Highrise also released albums by Maxine Nightingale and jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon, but appears to have gone out of business by the end of 1983.

Rough Trade, “All Touch,” #58, 1/22/83
It was a little early for Americans to accept musicians occasionally performing in bondage gear, but give Rough Trade credit for trying.  Based out of Toronto, Canada (although lead singer Carole Pope was originally from Manchester, England), the song comes from the band’s third album For Those Who Think Young, released in late 1981 (and originally titled For Those Who Think Jung).  The song was a big hit in Canada in 1982, but didn’t cross over to the States until 1983, by which time their parent label Boardwalk Records was winding to an end after the death of its founder, Neil Bogart (in fact, the label’s bankruptcy is cited as a reason the record didn’t do better here).  The group broke up in 1988 but has reunited from time to time.

Little Steven, “Forever,” #63, 1/22/83
On the other hand, here’s a one-hit wonder almost everybody knows – because Little Steven is Steve Van Zandt, who was played guitar for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band from 1975 to 1983 (and has been with the band again since 1999).  In his spare time, he’s also played Silvio Dante on The Sopranos.  This song came from his first solo album, Men Without Women (the official billing is Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul).  Lots of familiar names contributed to the album, including Springsteen, four other members of the E Street Band, a few Asbury Jukes, two Rascals, and Gary U.S. Bonds.

The Spinners, “Funny How Time Slips Away,” #67, 1/22/83
Last of 29 pop chart hits for The Spinners, stretching all the way back to 1961. The song has been around since 1961 as well – written by Willie Nelson, it was made a country million-seller by Jimmy Elledge, while remakes by Joe Hinton and Dorothy Moore also charted as well.  The arrangement isn’t much (I don’t think the group was a high priority for Atlantic Records at the time), but check out the lead vocal (which I believe is by Jonathan Edwards, their primary lead singer at the time) – the falsetto at the end is really something else.  Don’t know if they’re still touring – their official website’s concert listing ends with shows from last summer, and the one remaining original member, Henry Fambrough, is now 76.


Unipop, “What If (I Said I Love You),” #71, 1/22/83
I got very little on these guys.  Husband-and-wife team, Manny and Phyllis Loiacono, and this was their one chart hit on independent label Kat Family Records.  Cute pop, but nothing special.  No videos on You Tube, or any place else for that matter - you'll just have to take my word for it!

Dire Straits, “Industrial Disease,” Dire Straits, #75, 1/22/83
Great song, great album, but not meant to be a single.  Love Over Gold contains only five songs, and the best of them – perhaps the best song the band ever did – was over 12 minutes long and couldn’t be cut down to fit AM radio (“Telegraph Road,” with a lengthy Mark Knopfler guitar solo at the end).  There is no such thing as an “industrial disease,” although there are plenty of maladies referred to within the song that could have been contracted through the work environment, with the possible exception of Bette Davis wheeze.  (Bette Davis eyes would obviously be preferable.)


Michael Murphey, “Still Taking Chances,” #76, 1/22/83
Well, at least he isn’t pining after the woman who went searching for that damn horse Wildfire.  The last of six Hot 100 hits for Murphey, whose first album, Geronimo’s Cadillac, came out in 1972.  He’s still a regular presence on the country and bluegrass charts, however, and tours regularly under the name Michael Martin Murphey.  I suspect this pop-country confection about his continued risk taking (if you can call taking candy from strangers risky) isn’t on the set list.

Utopia, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” #82, 1/22/83
Another final chart hit, from a band that only had three to begin with.  It’s a good one, though; kind of a Beatles-meets-The Cars pastiche (guitarist Todd Rundgren and bassist Kasim Sulton would tour as part of The New Cars during a Ric Ocasek hiatus in 2005).  From the album Utopia, their only album for Network Records, an Elektra imprint that would fold by 1984.  Utopia would release two more studio albums before breaking up in 1986 (there would be a short tour and live album in 1992).  Rundgren, of course, had been recording as a separate solo act long before and continued well after Utopia retired; his new album, Global, comes out in April.  The video bugs me, though.



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