Saturday, October 11, 2008

10 Great Songs from One Great Year


What started out as a year of malaise and terror – with the 53 American hostages in captivity in Iran (yes, we’ve been dealing with this problem for 29 years now (thanks, Jimmy!), turn into a brighter future with the landslide election of Ronald Reagan.

Musically, disco died a rather ignominious death and new wave was all the rage. While Urban Cowboy, Xanadu and Fame brought Hollywood into mainstream radio and into the mass market. Glory returned to the American sports scene at the Winter Olympics – “Do you believe in miracles” being ingrained in all of our souls.

Thousands fled Cuba and thousands fled Mount St. Helens – both on the same day. Both the Phillies (victorious) and the Eagles (runners-up) brought championship opportunities for Philadelphia. On the other hand, the year brought us Rosie Ruiz, Robert Mugabe and Pac-Man.

The end of the year brought more sadness with the death of former Beatle, John Lennon.

Him – Rupert Holmes

The follow up to the mega hit, “Escape (the Pina Colada Song),” This is a song about a menage a trois. The guy demands his mistress chose between him and her steady boyfriend: "She's gonna have to do without him, or do without me."Written in the same “tongue and cheek” style as his other songs, this song was the last top 40 hit for him. However, Holmes received Tony Awards for Best Book, Best Music and Best Lyrics for the Broadway production of “Drood” – a musical based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The musical won five Tony Awards out of eleven nominations, including Best Musical. Currently, Holmes is writing the book of a musical theater version of the film "The First Wives Club," which is scheduled to play in San Diego prior to a Broadway engagement. The score is by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland, the songwriters of most of the Supremes hits of the 60’s.

Fire Lake – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Seger planned to release "Fire Lake" for his 1975 album, Beautiful Loser, but the track did not make the final cut. In fact, the song had been partly written years before, in 1971. It was finally released in 1980 on Seger's classic, Against the Wind and reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. Seger and colleagues decided to make "Fire Lake" the first single from Against the Wind because it was "totally and unequivocally unlike anything I'd ever done before.” Although the Eagles (who had worked with Seger a number of times over the years) broke up in late 1979, Timothy Schmitt, Don Henley and Glenn Frey lent their backing vocals to the single. They did this as well to the Boz Scaggs hit late that year, “Look What You’ve Done to Me” – although this was only on the single release. On the original recording (made for the movie Urban Cowboy) Skaggs used contract studio singers.

99 – Toto

Legend has it that the title refers to Agent 99, Barbara Feldon's character in the 1960s TV series Get Smart. However, according the band, it was inspired by George Lucas' movie THX-1138 (1971). This movie is set in the future where names have been replaced by numbers. Lucas used THX as the name for his movie theater sound system. Toto made the video for the song look like a scene from the movie. In a particular scene, the main character (THX-1138) is being taken into prison. His cell is completely white, and everyone is wearing a white suit. Toto copied this in the video where everything was in white as well.

Lookin’ For Love – Johnny Lee

This was originally written by two school teachers - Wanda Mallette and Patti Ryan - about a classroom of second grade children. They sent the song to songwriter Bob Morrison who did a "high level editing job" on the track and started to try to find someone to record it. The song was turned down at least 23 times before record executive Irving Azoff got nightclub singer Johnny Lee to put it to disc. His recording then found its way onto the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, where it ended up becoming the number one country song of the year. Aside from now being a hot commodity on the charts, Lee married Charlene Tilton, of Dallas fame in 1982. The marriage lasted 2 years.

Romeo's Tune – Steve Forbert

Even though it states that "Romeo's Tune" is "dedicated to the memory of Florence Ballard" on the sleeve of the album Jackrabbit Slim, the song is not really about the Supremes singer who died in 1976. The song was actually written about a girl from his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, but was dedicated to Ballard because, as Forbert explains, "That seemed like such bad news to me and such sad news. She wasn't really taken care of by the music business, which is not a new story." Forbert never recaptured the success he had with “Romeo’s Tune,” but he has recorded over 20 albums and released his latest CD in 2007.

All For Leyna – Billy Joel

After two wildly successful LP’s, Billy Joel continued to evolve from a pop-singing piano man to a harder-edged lyricist and rock singer. His 1980 release, Glass Houses featured a number of tracks that played upon this theme ("You May Be Right", "Sometimes a Fantasy"). In addition, the former opens with the sound of a glass window shattering. "All for Leyna" is another example of Joel’s metamorphosis. With a charging piano and a frantic, passion-driven lyric, the song tells of a young boy’s obsession with a woman who uses him, but clearly doesn’t love him back. Wow, where have I heard that before?

Do Right - Paul Davis

Although mostly known for writing soft-rock songs, this track, off of his fifth album is noteworthy for it’s strong Christian undertones. “Do Right” was the third consecutive top 40 single for Davis (and his 4th overall to date), who was riding a bit of a hot streak around this time. After completing his follow up album – and releasing his last three charting singles (“Cool Night”, “’65 Love Affair” and “Love or Let Me Be Lonely”), Davis fell off the charts for good. Unfortunately, Davis died of a heart attack this past year, just shy of his 60th birthday.

You Can Have me Anytime – Boz Scaggs

One of the most beautiful songs ever written, this tune was the third single from Scaggs’ multi-platinum Middle Man LP (the other two were “Breakdown Dead Ahead” and “Jojo”). 1980 turned out to be a big year for the singer-songwriter as he was also nominated for a Grammy Award for his song “Look What You’ve Done To Me”, from the Urban Cowboy Soundtrack.

Keep the Fire – Kenny Loggins

Perhaps the least known single and certainly the most under-appreciated song of Loggins’ distinguished career, this title track from his third solo album was the follow up to his most successful single, “This is It.” Starting out as a contract songwriter for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Loggins joined with Jim Messina and together they charted with two huge hits, “Danny’s Song” and “Your Momma Don’t Dance.”After ended that partnership, Loggins became one of the more prolific artists in the soft-rock field, recording 26 top-40 songs, as well as 13 studio albums – the latest, 2007’s How About Now.

Pilot of the Airwaves – Charlie Dore

A classic one-hit wonder, this ode to an unnamed DJ was a monster hit for London born singer-songwriter Charlie Dore in 1980 reaching #13 on the US chart; unsurprisingly it also received heavy airplay in the UK, although it didn't do nearly as well. Dore, who also had some minor success as an actress in London, returned to the charts as a songwriter for the Sheena Easton hit, “Strut.” Currently, she still performs from time to time and still records. Her latest album, Cuckoo Hill was released in 2006.

No comments: