Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter Song - Wednesday

"I knew a girl who tried to walk across the lake
'course it was winter, and all of this was ice"

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Super Hits 1982, Part 4

Quarterflash, “Harden My Heart,” #3, 2/13/82
Music labels tend to follow trends, so when the hot chick singer trend happened (Debbie Harry, Pat Benatar), Geffen Records went one better – a hot chick singer who could also play saxophone!  In fairness, Doug and Rindy Ross had been around for a while (Quarterflash formed in 1980 from two other Oregon-based bands, Seafood Mama and Pilot), but this was a hit beyond anybody’s expectations, and at least it was a fresh spin on the formula (albeit one with an annoyingly repetitive chorus).

Juice Newton, “The Sweetest Thing,” #7, 2/13/82
This song had been around for a while; Newton had recorded it with her band Silver Spur in 1975.  She did a new version for her 1981 album Juice, and then when the first two singles released became hits (“Angel of the Morning” and “Queen of Hearts”), the song underwent some more surgery, with the country arrangement being chucked for a more pop sound, and poof, a third top 10 hit.  (Warning:  be very, very careful when downloading this song; she’s done a lot of remakes for low-budget labels.)

Rick Springfield, “Love Is Alright Tonite,” #20, 2/13/82
Third hit from his album Working Class Dog (this song also contains that title buried in the lyrics), and unlike the other two hits, he isn’t a loser in love.  It also has the hard-rocking (well, for Rick Springfield) arrangement we’d come to expect from him – and would be deprived of when his next album would appear.

Loverboy, “Working for the Weekend,” #29, 2/13/82
Third Hot 100 hit for this band, and while the lyrics were as trite as ever (really, could “Turn Me Loose” be any stupider?), at least they got the idea to make songs to party to.  So while this wasn’t a big hit its first time out, radio stations have been playing it at 5 PM on Friday afternoons for the last 30 years.

Earth, Wind and Fire, “Wanna Be With You,” #51, 2/13/82
Not their best lyrically (“You take the cake/For goodness’ sake!”), but a catchy groove.  Nevertheless, this failed to make the pop top 40, making it six out of seven EWF singles that failed to hit that landmark (the exception being the megahit “Let’s Groove”).  At that point, somebody might have whispered into Maurice White’s ear that it might be time to take a break for a year or two to avoid oversaturating the market (which was filled with Top 40-friendly R&B bands like EWF, The Commodores, and Kool & The Gang).

Steve Miller Band, “Circle of Love,” #55, 2/13/82
On the other hand, taking too much time off can backfire as well.  This was the title cut and second single from Steve Miller’s first album since 1977’s Book of Dreams, and it seemed a little skimpy (not even 33 minutes long, and just five songs, including the 16-minute opus “Macho City”), not to mention not up to the quality of the previous album and 1976’s Fly Like an Eagle.  Miller would bounce back later in the year, however.

Placido Domingo and John Denver, “Perhaps Love,” #59, 2/13/82
Gimmicky duet featuring opera star Domingo and Denver, who also wrote the song (to his wife, with whom he was in the process of getting a divorce).  If Domingo was interested in crossing over to the pop charts, Denver wasn’t a great choice, as he hadn’t notched a top 20 single since 1975’s “I’m Sorry.” Both Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti were trying to become bigger names in America in the 1980s; it didn’t really happen for either one.

All Sports Band, “Opposites Do Attract,” #78, 2/13/82
I cannot find anything about this five-man pop band, other than the lead singer is now a church pastor (at least according to a You Tube commenter).  Released on Radio Records (the people who brought us “Stars on 45” here in the US – thanks a lot, guys).

Kool & The Gang, “Steppin’ Out,”  #89, 2/13/82
Weird that Kool & The Gang, in the midst of a major hit run, would have a song that barely cracked the charts (although it shows up in all their greatest-hits sets).  It’s not the most exciting song, and James “J.T.” Taylor’s efforts at falsetto don’t do him any favors.  I finally figured it out recently – at some point, they flipped the single to the B-side, “Get Down on It,” which wound up becoming a top 10 hit (same catalogue number and everything).  That’ll come up here later on.

Air Supply, “Sweet Dreams,” #5, 2/20/82
The band that proved that H. L. Mencken’s opinion of the American public was dead on, Air Supply notched its sixth consecutive top five hit with this song, which cranked up the string crescendos a little bit more to give it more of a classical feel. 

Sheena Easton, “You Could Have Been With Me,” #15, 2/20/82
Less-successful followup to her 1981 James Bond theme “For Your Eyes Only,” and you have to wonder if either she was running short of material (not Sheena’s fault, as she has only a couple of cowrites to her credit over her career) or the American public was sick of her after three fairly big singles in a row.  It’s also far sappier than the previous singles (“Morning Train,” “Modern Girl”), for what that’s worth.

Barry Manilow, “Somewhere Down the Road,” #21, 2/20/82
Second single from Manilow’s If I Should Love Again album, and it follows most of the typical Manilow rules (big finish!  Oops, we forgot to change key!).  In fairness, it’s a pretty easy song to sing along to in the car, as I’ve learned.  Cowritten by Tom Snow and Cynthia Weil, one of Weil’s few songs where she hasn’t collaborated with husband Barry Mann – they’ve been working together for decades, writing everything from “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” to “Don’t Know Much.”

Genesis, “Abacab,” #26, 2/20/82
Fun song that would be both the title track and second single from Genesis’ 1981 album.  The song structure when it was first written was A-B-A-C-A-B; by the time the record was finished, the structure had changed, but they kept the name anyway.  A showcase for keyboardist Tony Banks (although it looks like he got his shirt in this video courtesy of the wardrobe stylist from Zoom), and this stayed in their live set list for quite a while.

Donnie Iris, “Love Is Like a Rock,” #37, 2/20/82
Crunching rocker that became the second chart hit from Iris’ album King Cool (billed as Donnie Iris and The Cruisers), and possibly the second-most recognizable Iris song beyond “Ah! Leah!”  (I’m not counting The Jaggerz’ 1970 hit “The Rapper,” on which Iris sings lead.)  Frequently played on my fraternity’s jukebox and a popular singalong – albeit with a slightly modified, NSFW chorus. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hogie's Heroes: The Police

Well, once again returning after an absence! Unfortunately, my usual "Phoenix rising from the ashes on New Year's Day" bit was more a "Phoenix gets shoved back down into those ashes and mixed with toxic sludge to create an awful, tarry bird slurry." So if you hear any awful gooey noises, that's me still tasting the remaining unwanted lung goo. Thankfully the other guys who post on this blog have been more than making up for my absence and knocking it out of the park. So, ONWARD and BACKWARDS...

One of the dividing lines between Generation X and Millenials is whether someone can think of Sting as something other than an older, balding pretentious guy. Gather 'round young 'uns, and I'll tell you the tale of a time when Mr. Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner wasn't even 30, had hair that everyone envied and fronted a band that recorded the New Wave's own version of "Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)". Submitted for your approval: "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da".

Back in the day, The Police were considered pretty hot stuff, both musically and as eye candy for the laaay-deez. (Maybe a bit less so in the latter department for guitarist Andy Summers, who was about a decade older than the rest of the band and slightly more Harpo-ish.) Their energetic mixing of reggae and punchy rock captured the zeitgeist of "New" pretty handily along with their spikey blonde locks. They were hip enough to appeal to college kids and catchy enough to appeal to the high school crowd. (AKA young Master Steve.)

"De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" is a fun hooky song built around the celebration of a nonsense lyric, but I should be clear that Sting still can't quite avoid getting Sting-ish. No doo-wop band would ever record lyrics like "When their eloquence escapes me/Their logic ties me up/And rapes me." Heavy! Still, it was a fun spin on 45rpm, especially when I slowed it down to 33 1/3rpm where it turned into kind of a creepy dirge. (Sort of like The Police's own remake of "Don't Stand So Close To Me" on their greatest hits album.)

(Poor Stewart Copeland is stuck in this video pretending to film the thing. I guess pretending to athletically play the drums on a steep snowy hill is not a good idea.)

His Prices Are INSANE!

A smattering of 1970s stereo ads.

I remember going to audio stores with my older brother (whose 1970s stereo remains in use, and in mint condition) and thinking stereo salesmen were among the sleaziest beings on the planet. Where do guys like that work nowadays?

More ads after the jump.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tell Us a Story, I Know You're Not Boring

Stairway to Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

There Is A Lady We All Know

Here is Heart performing "Stairway to Heaven" at a recent Kennedy Center Honors performance, along with Jason Bonham, a full orchestra, and a gospel-style choir. In attendance: Led Zeppelin. I'd like to report that my heart was hardened to this overblown rendition of the Most Overplayed Rock Song Ever, but the fact is that it is one hell of a rendition. Robert Plant is clearly very deeply (and tearfully) moved, and Jimmy Page's delight is a joy to behold. (When the hell did these guys get so gray?) 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Super Hits 1982, Part 3

Jennifer Warnes, “Could It Be Love,” #47, 1/23/82
Poor Jennifer Warnes.  She’s had a long and varied career (she was a regular on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour when she was just 21), but she’ll probably always be known for singing those duets on movie soundtracks.  (She’s been nominated for four Academy Awards for her movie themes, winning three times.)  This song, however, wasn’t on a movie soundtrack, or apparently even an album other than greatest hits sets – the label on the 45 doesn’t say anything about “From the forthcoming LP Blah Blah Blah,” so I’ve got to think it was a standalone that only would have made it onto an album if it was a bigger hit.  (And, no, I don't know why the only available video shows scenes from Gossip Girl.)

Bob Seger, “Feel Like a Number,” #48, 1/23/82
Second single from the live album Nine Tonight, which was Seger’s second live album (his first, the classic Live Bullet, came out five and a half years before).  Not sure why this was chosen as the next single after “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You” became a top five hit, as it had gotten lots of AOR airplay as an album cut three years before when it had been on Stranger in Town, and the title track, to my knowledge, had never been on a studio album. (Sorry, but you're getting the studio version here - I refuse to post one of the bootleg live versions recorded from an iPhone.)

Sheila, “Little Darlin’,” #49, 1/23/82
First of all, her real name is Annie Chancel; she took the stage name “Sheila” in the early 1960s after the name in a song by Tommy Roe.  Second, she’s been a star in France for about a half century, but this is her one hit in the United States (an attempt to join the disco bandwagon in the late 1970s, under the name Sheila and B. Devotion, didn’t really take, despite one of her albums being produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards).  She goes the straight pop-rock route here; after that, it was back to singing in French.  (Maybe they spent all the money she made on dry ice.)

Kiss, “A Word Without Heroes,” #56, 1/23/82
After the flop album Unmasked and single “Shandi” in 1980, Kiss decided to try something different – and so, the concept album Music From “The Elder” was born.  Produced by Bob Ezrin (who had just worked on Pink Floyd’s The Wall), the concept wasn’t embraced by the band (especially Ace Frehley, who was going through his own problems at the time), the label (Casablanca, which was struggling), or the fans.  As a result, the single flopped, and the album is the only Kiss release not to go gold.  After this, Kiss stuck for the most part with rockers.

Daryl Hall & John Oates, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” #1, 1/30/82

Huge hit for Hall and Oates, following up the equally huge “Private Eyes.”  This hit #1 on the pop and soul charts, which I believe was a first for a white act (it hit #1 in dance club play as well).  In his usual modest way, Hall wrote in his diary after this achievement, "I'm the head soul brother in the U.S. Where to now?"  But it has been sampled or remade plenty of times, so I suppose he’s entitled to a little braggadocio.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, “Hooked on Classics,” #10, 1/30/82
If you’re thinking this is the way to introduce your child to classical music, please think again.  Louis Clark, who had been doing arrangements for Electric Light Orchestra until Jeff Lynne decided to get rid of the violins and use a synthesizer instead, put together this track by having the Royal Philharmonic play just the most famous parts of the most famous classical pieces (“Flight of the Bumblebee,” the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” etc.), splicing them together, and adding a drum track.  Cute a couple of times, but annoying when played every four hours on top 40 radio.  Clark has still been playing with the concept recently, touring in 2011 with the English Pops Orchestra.

Barbra Streisand, “Comin’ In and Out of Your Life,” #11, 1/30/82
One of three new songs from Streisand’s third greatest hits set (and second within three years), Memories.  Although the album was somewhat unnecessary and poorly selected (three songs were duplicated from the 1978 best-of Greatest Hits Vol. 2, while “The Love Inside” and “New York State of Mind” weren’t even singles), this pretty ballad (done without the help of Barry Gibb, who had produced 1980’s monster album Guilty for Streisand) would become her last top 20 hit for fifteen years.  

The Beach Boys, “Come Go With Me,” #18, 1/30/82
Remake of the old Del-Vikings hit from 1957, and originally included on the little-heard M.I.U. Album (that stands for Maharishi International University, by the way), this was plucked from the Boys’ 842nd greatest hits set Ten Years of Harmony (representing all the stuff they made after 1971, which includes almost none of their classic hits).  Surprising everyone, this song became their biggest original hit (excluding “The Beach Boys Medley” from 1981) since 1976’s #5 hit “Rock and Roll Music” – this was especially a surprise since Ten Years of Harmony didn’t scrape into the top 150 albums at any point.  The band was such a mess at that point – Brian Wilson was dysfunctional from drug use, Carl was trying and failing to launch a solo career, while Dennis Wilson and Mike Love were having issues as Dennis had gotten romantically involved with Love’s (alleged) daughter Shawn – that this cheery song (with lead vocal by Al Jardine) reflected only that the band’s output wasn’t anywhere near the reality. Also the shortest song to hit the Billboard chart in 1982, at two minutes and four seconds.

Al Jarreau, “Breakin’ Away,” #43, 1/30/82
Second single from the album of the same name, and Jarreau’s second of eight top 100 hits.  This album featured an astonishing array of LA-based studio musicians (Jay Graydon produced and played guitar; other players included George Duke, Michael Boddicker, David Foster, Steve Gadd, and Jeff Porcaro and Steve Lukather from Toto), and it would be Jarreau’s biggest hit, climbing to #9 pop and #1 soul and jazz.

Henry Paul Band, “Keeping Our Love Alive,” #50, 1/30/82
Paul was a singer and guitarist, originally with the country-rock band The Outlaws (and later with the country-rock band Blackhawk), but this band had more of a pop sound, as did this single, which would be their only one to make the pop charts. After minimal success under his own name, Paul would go back to the Outlaws a couple of years later.

Bill Champlin, “Tonight Tonight,” #55, 1/30/82
Champlin would spend eight years trying to establish his band, Sons of Champlin, but they never really caught on.  After a few years as a studio musician (and co-writing Earth, Wind and Fire’s 1979 hit “After the Love Has Gone” with David Foster and Jay Graydon, which would win them a Grammy), Champlin would chart twice solo in 1982, with this hit being the first. Champlin would join Chicago later in the year.

Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin, “It’s My Party,” #72, 1/30/82
Okay, first of all this isn’t the Dave Stewart from Eurythmics; it’s a different guy.  Second, this was a huge hit in Great Britain (and precursor of the synthpop sound that would become a mainstay of top 40 radio on both sides of the Atlantic for the next few years), but it barely registered here in the States.  And when we think of this song today, we still think of Lesley Gore.  (Dig the countdown to the top song on the Beeb!)

Gidea Park, “Seasons of Gold,” #82, 1/30/82
I swear, if I hear one more medley of songs with a disco backbeat, I’m gonna puke.  British band led by Adrian Baker which strung together a bunch of old Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons songs and charted on both sides of the pond (he had also recorded a Beach Boys medley in 1981, but the Boys themselves srelease a version here that would beat him to Billboard).  In fairness, this was a real band, not somebody with a bunch of studio time and some soundalikes.  Baker would later tour with the actual Beach Boys and the actual Four Seasons, which should inspire musicians everywhere.

The J. Geils Band, “Centerfold,” #1, 2/6/82
The band’s first top 10 hit made it all the way to #1 with this risqué-at-the-time hit about a guy who discovers his high school crush is now a model in his favorite men’s magazine.  (Because that happens all the time.)  Fun song, fun video, and turned the band from a cult favorite to a huge concert draw – for awhile.

George Benson, “Turn Your Love Around,” #5, 2/6/82
One of two new songs recorded for Benson’s hits set The George Benson Collection, and this would be his second-biggest hit, topped only by 1980’s “Give Me the Night.”  Cowritten by (okay, stop me if you’ve heard this) Jay Graydon, Bill Champlin, and Steve Lukather, and it would win a Best R&B Grammy Award as well.

Paul Davis, “Cool Night,” #11, 2/6/82
First single from the album of the same name, and thirteenth top 100 hit for Davis, who had been charting since 1970.  Davis had been charting regularly for the previous few years since 1978 (“I Go Crazy,” “Sweet Life,” and “Do Right” had all hit top 30), but this ballad would be Davis’ biggest Adult Contemporary hit and still gets airplay today.

The Rolling Stones, “Waiting on a Friend,” #13, 2/6/82
This one had been in the can for nearly a decade, dating from the sessions for Goat’s Head Soup – but that’s not a shocker, as the parent album, Tattoo You, was filled with songs that were left over from other albums (“Start Me Up,” for example, had been sitting around for six years after being rejected for Black and Blue).  Featuring a sax solo by jazz vet Sonny Rollins, it’s a great song and should be heard more often on oldies stations than it is now.

Del Shannon, “Sea of Love,” #33, 2/6/82
Seventeenth and final chart hit for Shannon (although his first since 1966’s “The Big Hurt”).  It was a remake of the old Phil Phillips song (and would be remade yet again a few years later by Robert Plant’s band The Honeydrippers), and produced by Tom Petty.  Label issues would keep the album hard to find for awhile (it was originally scheduled to be released by the then-fading RSO Records, home of The Bee Gees, and would wind up released by Network Records, which would also fold a few years later).  Shannon would later record with Jeff Lynne, and his final album Rock On would be released posthumously two years after his 1990 suicide. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

10 Songs About Trouble

Like you, I have seen my share of personal trouble and of troubled times. First, there's the picayune kind of trouble, the trouble you bring on yourself through laziness or sheer stupidity. Unfortunately it's the brand I'm most familiar with, having done enough dumb, simple things (or in many cases, not done dumb, simple things) that got me into plenty of hot water.  But that's just dipshit stuff, and is nothing compared to real trouble -- the trouble you find yourself in when you've made a horrible mistake, or when you've stumbled morally or ethically, or simply because whatever caused the trouble seemed like a good idea at the time. And that's nothing compared to the worst kind of trouble, that kind you find yourself in through nothing more than dumb luck and no fault of your own -- like you or a loved one getting seriously sick, or getting laid off, or becoming the target of a soul with malice on their mind. As I grow older, I worry a lot less about the picayune dipshit stuff, which is a relief, but I worry a lot more about the scary unknown shit, which is a lot more real and lurks around every corner, looking to leap out at you. Eventually, it probably will, so you're left to prepare as best you can  -- usually while you're laying awake at night trying not to think about it. Here, then, are some songs to help get you through the worry, and maybe even through the trouble.

1. Bruce Springsteen, "All That Heaven Will Allow"
2. BoDeans. "I'm in Trouble Again"
3. Bob Marley, "No More Trouble"
4. Ray LaMontagne, "Trouble"
5. Bessie Smith, "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out"
6. Emmylou Harris, "Till I Gain Control Again"
7. Chris Isaak, "Heart Shaped World"
8. Ray Davies, "Return to Waterloo"
9. Stevie Nicks, "Whole Lotta Trouble"
10. Madonna, "Papa Don't Preach"

UPDATE: old pal Rich Kurlantzick adds:

11. Allman Brothers, "Trouble No More"
12. Marvin Gaye, "Trouble Man"
13. Dave Edmunds, "Trouble Boys"

Don't Worry, We'll All Float On

Modest Mouse.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My First Pop LPs

These are by my reckoning the first albums I bought with my own money (and by "own" I mean my allowance as given to me by my parents). I had plenty of others given to me as birthday and Christmas gifts, but for me to spend cash on something other than comic books, it had to be a pretty big deal. To wit:

There was a brief standoff among the kids in my family over the Osmonds vs. the Jacksons, and deep arguments ensued over who had the better Saturday morning cartoon. Obviously, I was on the Side of Good in this matter (as I continue to be, in all matters).

My older sister owned Night at the Opera, which I loved, and when she got all bossy just because I kept gumming up her copy with fingerprints and schmutz, I went out and bought this (Queen's first album) just so I could have something she wasn't allowed to listen to. Her reaction? "It's not as good as Night at the Opera."

I am obviously not the first person to have been introduced to the Beatles via this 2-volume set, as its recent re-release has people nostalgically clamoring for it. It's okay, and serves as a quick introduction to the group, but yanking the songs out of the context of their respective LPs does them a disservice. Which is nothing compared to the mix -- both this and the "Red" 1962-66 album sound like shit, because apparently some unknown Apple engineer remastered every single track into mindless, sprawling stereo, which pissed off John Lennon to no end (as did the cover, which he had intended for the aborted Get Back LP). As a result, for years I didn't care much for the stereo "Revolution", which I thought was a loud, muddy mess, until I accidentally heard the mono 45, at which point I understood for the first time the difference between the two formats.
Back then, it was just called Star Wars, and it was very dear to me, and thus the soundtrack was well worth shelling out the fifteen bucks or whatever it cost for a double album back then. Aside from the music (and having my name featured prominently on the cover) the most memorable aspects of this LP, my first soundtrack ever, was its sleek, black, reflective surface, the beautiful selection of film stills, and for some reason, the awesomest smell of any new thing I have ever encountered, including brand new cars. It was a bright, powerful, new-plastic aroma (most probably from the black coating) and I found it tremendously intoxicating. It was probably the closest I will ever get to snorting any kind of mind-altering substance, and could be the main reason I became an even weirder kid.
This is a cheat, because it isn't an LP, but it was a compromise between my two main buying habits. There was a lot I didn't like much about this and the Captain America record, which I also bought -- the acting was horrible, the sound effects and music were stupid, the comics they selected to adapt were particularly listless and lame -- but there was a charm about them that I appreciated even at the time.  They featured high-quality paper that was ten times superior to the toilet tissue the original comics were printed on, and they even smelled great (see above). One aspect that drove me crazy was that in order to fit everything onto a 45 the producers whited-out entire balloons of dialogue and replaced them with badly-lettered one or two-worded substitutes that were reflected the edits on the recording. Ah, but whaddaya gonna do. It was fun anyway.

UPDATE: Here you go.