Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ten Great Songs From One Great Year

1983 v.2

We were in the middle of the Reagan years and in the heart of the Cold War. Nothing brought this to our attention better than two events that happened this year. First was in April, when Manchester, Maine schoolgirl Samantha Smith is invited to visit the Soviet Union by its leader Yuri Andropov, after he read her letter in which she expressed fears about nuclear war. The second event was the ABC_TV broadcast of the miniseries “The Day After.” T he film portrays a fictional nuclear war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact that rapidly escalates into a full scale exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, focusing on the residents of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

It scared the bejeebes out of everybody.

But madness was ascending rapidly in other parts of the world as well. This was the year when 63 American servicemen were killed in a bombing in Beirut. While Israel agrees to leave Lebanon, Hezbollah forms to fill the void and swiftly massacres those who were allied with Israel. And Korean Air Lines Flight 007 is shot down by a Soviet Union jet fighter when the commercial aircraft enters Soviet airspace. All 269 on board are killed.

In pop culture, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video debuted. It becomes the most often repeated and famous music video of all time, increasing his own popularity and record sales of the album "Thriller". Microsoft Word is first released, although it would be 7 years before it overtakes WordPerfect in popularity. The NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) makes its first appearance in Japan and after 251 episodes over 11 years, M*A*S*H says farewell as the final episode becomes the most watched TV show in history.

Pass The Dutchie - Musical Youth

Originally, this song was "Pass The Kutchie," meaning a marijuana pipe. Because all the members of Musical Youth were between 11 and 16 years old at the time, the group's manager suggested a lyric change, replacing "Kouchie" with "Dutchie." The name change also helped it get airplay on radio and MTV. Musical Youth are a British-Jamaican pop/reggae band. The group originally formed in 1979 at Duddeston Manor School in Birmingham, England. The group featured two sets of brothers, Kelvin and Michael Grant, plus Junior and Patrick Waite. The latter pair's father, Frederick Waite, was a former member of Jamaican group The Techniques, and sang lead with Junior at the start of the group's career in the late 1970s.[1] They received a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards of 1984.

Overkill – Men At Work

This was the first single from their second album, Cargo. Their first album, Business As Usual, was a huge hit and helped earn them a Grammy for Best New Artist. The band quickly went from a local Australian group to a worldwide success. Lead singer Colin Hay wrote this song and had this to say: "It was a song about what was happening at the time, the experience we were going through of stepping into the unknown. It's about having a fear about that, but also knowing that what was going to happen was inevitable. Leaving behind where you are and stepping into something, which is out of your control to some degree. That's what it felt like at the time."

Promises Promises – Naked Eyes

Naked Eyes were one of the first bands to make significant use of the Fairlight CMI sampling synthesizer on a pop recording. Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush had used the instrument on prior efforts, but the usage had been far less than Naked Eyes would employ on their debut effort. Tony Mansfield, produced the debut album Burning Bridges along with the follow up album Fuel For The Fire, which also featured two titles produced by Arthur Baker, who also produced “Walking on Sunshine” for Bananarama and was a “mix consultant” for Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper and Hall & Oates.

My Love – Lionel Richie

As the front man for the Commodores, Richie was well known for his soulful, romantic lyrics on such huge hits as “Three Times a Lady”, “Still” and his duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love.” Already considered a superstar, he released his debut solo album in 1982 and from it came the number one smash, “Truly”, followed by the top 5 hit, “You Are.” For his next single, he went with another brilliant ballad that featured backing vocals by country superstar Kenny Rogers. The collaboration was a repayment for Rogers hitting number one with Richie’s ballad “Lady”, in 1980. “My Love” was Richie’s fourth straight Billboard Adult Contemporary #1 and 11th overall during his brilliant career. As a member of the Commodores, as well as a solo artist, he has hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart seven times. Only 9 other individual singers have scored batter.

She’s A Beauty – The Tubes

The Tubes started as a collection of high school friends from Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Two Phoenix bands, the Beans and The Red, White and Blues Band, both relocated to San Francisco in 1969 and eventually merged. Although they were well received and a popular live draw, they were relatively unknown on the charts. It wasn’t until their 6th studio album, Outside Inside, that they finally had a song chart higher than #35 (this one, which hit #10) and that was mostly due to the emergence of MTV and the video’s placement in heavy rotation. Their other claims to fame were an appearance in the film Xanadu (they sang the rock portion of the cross-genre song "Dancin'" opposite a big band) and appeared in a commercial for Activision's video game “Megamania.”

Come Dancing – The Kinks

Ray Davies wrote this nostalgic song about his older sister Gwen. It describes how guys would take her out dancing, only to be frustrated at the end of the night when all they would get for their efforts (and money) was a kiss on the cheek. Clive Davis, the president of Arista Records, disagreed with Davies' choice of this as the album's single. However, he allowed to be released even though he thought it "a ditty" and too slight to be the smash hit it became. The song was the group's biggest American hit since "Tired of Waiting for You" also reached #6 in 1965. This song was inspired by a ballroom dance show called Come Dancing, which ran from 1949-1995 on the BBC. In 2004, the show was revived with celebrities dancing in a competition renamed Strictly Come Dancing.

I Know There’s Something Going On – Frida

Frida is Anni-Frid Lyngstad, a former member of Abba. This was her first and only US chart hit after the group broke up in 1982. Phil Collins produced this, played the drums and sang back up as well on this track. The drum beat is very reminiscent of Collins’ hit “I Don’t Care Anymore” which came out a year prior. Former Argent lead singer Russ Ballard, who was enjoying newfound success in the business, wrote the song. In the past two years, he hit the top 20 twice. Once as the songwriter for “Winning” by Santana (#17) and then with the song “You Can Do Magic” by America (#8), which helped resurrect the band’s career. The following year, America brought in Ballard to produce their follow-up album, Your Move. One of its tracks, "The Border", which was co-written by Ballard with Dewey Bunnell, reached #33 on the Billboard Hot 100.

I Won’t Hold You Back – Toto

1982 marked the beginning of Toto's most successful era. After the poor sales of Turn Back, the band was under a great deal of pressure from their record company to produce a new smash record. With Toto IV, the band delivered one of the most commercially successful records of the 80s. After initially only garnering limited airplay with the first release off the album, “Make Believe”, the follow up song, “Roseanna” – named after Roseanna Arquette, then-girlfriend of keyboardist Jeff Porcaro (according to lead singer David Paich, only the title referred to Arquette, nit the lyrics) – raced up the charts and was plced on MTV’s heavy rotation. The song rose to #2 and was soon followed by an even bigger hit, “Africa” , which topped the charts for one week in February ’83. The next single, Steve Lukather’s “I Won’t Hold You Back” followed “Africa” into the top 10, where it stalled at #10. The Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmidt performed the backing vocals on this song.

True - Spandau Ballet

Band member Gary Kemp wrote this when he was in the middle of an unrequited love affair. He wrote of the song on his website: "I wanted to write a Soul song a-la Al Green or Marvin Gaye. I still remember sitting on my bed at my parents' house writing it on guitar and calling Martin (his brother and Spandau Ballet bass player) in to listen to it. It became a song about trying to write a love song to someone who didn't know your true thoughts, but how difficult it is to spell out your feelings without seeming too foolish. The lyrics were delicately influenced by Nabakov's Lolita, a book that she'd given me to read at the time. Unfortunately, she never got the message! We never realized the full potential of this song until we started to record it at Compass Point. On the ECD's home movie footage of Nassau you can see the moment where we're playing back the song, half finished, in the studio, and everybody, including the roadies, are singing along to it. It was at that moment that I knew we had something special." A specific lyric that Kemp took from Lolita is "Take your seaside arms and write the next line." This has been used in a number of movies and TV shows, including The Wedding Singer, Sixteen Candles, Wedding Crashers, The Office, Spin City and The Simpsons.

One On One – Daryl Hall & John Oates

This uses a one on one basketball game as a metaphor for a romance. Because of the basketball references this was used in NBA commercials in the Mid 1980s. In a Mix magazine interview, Daryl Hall said, "That song expresses a theme I've explored in lots of my songs, the idea that I've been traveling all my life but my heart longs to stay in one place; being in one place, but wanting to be somewhere else." From 1980 to 1985, no band was as popular as Hall & Oates. While they had some success (and a number one hit) in the 70’s, their careers took off when they released their Voices album at the start of the decade. Over the next 10 years, every single they released (23 of them) each hit the Billboard Top 40, including 14 top ten hits and 5 number one smashes.

Bonus Track

Mr. Roboto - Styx

"Kilroy" is the main character of the album. He is a famous Rock Star who is sent to prison by a group called The Majority For Musical Morality. In jail, robots have replaced workers, and Kilroy escapes inside a robot costume (thus, Mr. Roboto). This song is about his escape from jail, and makes a statement about the dehumanizing of the working class.

1 comment:

Samantha Desatnik Kuznik said...
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