Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ten Great Songs From One Great Year

1985 v.2

The year started with the second inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, who won a second landslide election. Later that month, taking a cue for Britain’s Band Aid, the single “We Are the World” is recorded in Hollywood.

In March, in what was becoming an all-too-common occurrence, Associated Press newsman Terry Anderson is taken hostage in Beirut (he is eventually released on December 4, 1991).

In May, Philadelphia (PA) Mayor Wilson Goode orders police to storm the radical group MOVE's headquarters to end a stand-off. The police drop an explosive device into the headquarters, killing 11 MOVE members and destroying the homes of 61 city residents in the resulting fire. In June, a Hezbollah fringe group hijacks TWA Flight 847, carrying 153 passengers from Athens to Rome. One passenger, U.S. Navy Petty Officer Robert Stethem, is killed. Of course, just a few months later, the cruise ship Achille Lauro is hijacked in the Mediterranean Sea by 4 heavily armed Palestinian terrorists. One passenger, American Leon Klinghoffer, is killed. And in December, as if the year didn’t have enough Islamic terrorism, Rome and Vienna are attacked when Abu Nidal terrorists open fire at the El-Al ticket counters at the two cities’ airports, leaving 18 dead and 120 injured. Just another friendly hello from the “Religion of Peace.”

On the lighter side, “Calvin and Hobbes” debuts in 35 newspapers, the computer game Tetris is released and Mike Tyson makes his professional debut in Albany, New York, a match which he wins by a first round knockout.

Can't Fight This FeelingREO Speedwagon

It took 14 years for REO Speedwagon to reach the top of the charts, with their epic hit “Keep on Loving You.” Yet, it only took an additional four to reclaim the top spot. With this cheesy, but extremely popular ballad. "Can't Fight This Feeling" has appeared on dozens of 'various artists' compilation albums, as well as several REO Speedwagon greatest hits albums. It has also been featured on soundtracks of movies such as “Not Another Teen Movie”, “Waiting...”, and, most recently, “Kickin' It Old Skool” and “Sex Drive.” The song was also heard on the South Park episode "Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy," the Fringe episode "Power Hungry" as well as in the Showtime hit series Queer as Folk. The band performed the song at the 1985 Live Aid concert and it was sung at the end of “Horton Hears a Who!”

Everybody Wants To Rule The World - Tears for Fears

This song is about the quest for power, and how it can have unfortunate consequences. In an interview with Mix magazine, the band's producer Chris Hughes explained that they spent months working on "Shout," and near the end of the sessions, Roland Orzabal came into the studio and played two simple chords on his acoustic guitar, which became the basis for the song. Said Hughes: "'Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ was so simple and went down so quickly, it was effortless, really. In fact, as a piece of recording history, it's bland as hell.” This was the first #1 hit for Tears for Fears. "Shout" went to #1 two months later.

Don't You (Forget About Me) - Simple Minds

This was featured in the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club. Directed by John Hughes, it featured many members of the "Brat Pack," including Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, and Judd Nelson. Simple Minds had been around for 5 years and developed a strong following in England when this was released. The song was much more bombastic and radio-friendly than their previous material, and alienated many of their core fans, but was a breakthrough hit in the US for the band, where it was by far their biggest hit.

You Belong To The City - Glenn Frey

This was written specifically for the TV series Miami Vice. In 1985, Frey acted in an episode of the show that was based on his song "Smuggler's Blues." This song, along with Jan Hammer's "Miami Vice Theme", helped the Miami Vice soundtrack album reach the top spot of the Billboard 200 chart for 11 weeks in 1985, making it the best-selling album of the year and the most successful TV soundtrack of all time.It was written by Frey and Jack Tempchin. Among Tempchin’s credits are other Eagles hits “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone” - as well as Johnny Rivers’ smash, “Slow Dancin’ (Swayin’ to the Music).”

Every Time You Go Away - Paul Young

This was written and originally recorded by Hall & Oates in 1980; Young's version became a hit 5 years later. In the October 16, 2009 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Daryl Hall listed this as one of his favorite Hall & Oates songs, and explained: "Paul Young had a pop hit with it a few years after we released it. It's just one of those songs. I feel very proud of its craftsmanship." This was the biggest hit for Young. He contributed to Band Aid in 1984, and had hits with covers of R&B classics "Oh Girl" and "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted."

You’re Only Human (Second Wind) - Billy Joel

After Billy Joel attempted suicide back in 1970 (by drinking furniture polish), it failed to kill him and he wrote the song "Tomorrow is Today" (on the LP “Cold Spring Harbor) as the suicide note. Later on he was asked if he could write a song that could help prevent teenage suicide. Joel agreed, but the first recording concerned him because it had a dreary and depressing tone that he thought might give troubled teens the wrong message. As result he created a new version with bouncy, joyous beats and lyrics about personal forgiveness and optimism for life. During the song, Joel noticeably hesitates with one of the verse lines and laughs after it. He decided to keep this mistake in the recorded version because it seemed to be proof of his personal fallibility, as in the line "You probably don't want to hear advice from someone else - But I wouldn't be telling you if I hadn't been there myself."

Invincible - Pat Benatar

This was the theme song to the movie “The Legend of Billie Jean,” which was a box office bomb despite the success of this song. By the end of the decade, Pat Benatar had become one of the most popular voices on radio - with two RIAA-certified Multi-Platinum albums and five RIAA-certified Platinum albums, plus three RIAA-certified Gold albums and 19 Top 40 singles to her credit. Simon Climie and Holly Knight wrote this song. Climie's songwriting credits include "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" by George Michael and Aretha Franklin, and "Ecstasy" by Jeff Beck. Knight wrote Benatar's 1983 hit "Love Is A Battlefield." Knight says of "Invincible": "I love that song. It's one of my favorite songs. I'd love to hear that song cut by an alternative band, like Foo Fighters or something."

CryGodley & Crème

Kevin Godley and Lol Crème were childhood friends who both became session musicians. Between 1970 and 1976 they were members of the band 10cc (“The Things We Do For Love”, “I’m Not In Love”). They left after recording 10cc's 4th album “How Dare You!” to work as a duo, later moving into video production. The pair directed memorable videos for The Police ("Every Breath You Take"), Duran Duran, Herbie Hancock and Frankie Goes to Hollywood that stretched the boundaries of the new format. The video was very influential as it featured one of the first uses of the digital morphing effect, to sequentially blend numerous faces of different ages and races that morphed from one to another as they mimed the lyrics to the song. They used people from the London Ugly Agency for the video, which Kevin Godley directed. This was their only American hit as a duo.

Fortress Around Your Heart – Sting

This was inspired by Sting's divorce. The pain he felt when he couldn't make his first marriage work led him to write some of his biggest hits, including "Every Breath You Take" and "King Of Pain." In a Musician magazine interview later that year, he said: "Fortress is about appeasement, about trying to bridge the gaps between individuals. The central image is a minefield that you've laid around this other person to try and protect them. Then you realize that you have to walk back through it. I think it's one of the best choruses I've ever written." During one of Sting's concerts, his roadies pulled a practical joke by lowering a miniature fortress around him while he performed this. Sting was not pleased.

Never – Heart

After hitting it big in the 70’s, with classic rock standards “Crazy For You,” “Magic Man” and “Barracuda,” Heart hit a dry spell. Two of the original members, Steve Fossen and Michael Derosier, left the band and their subsequent album failed to make any noise. However, Ann Wilson recorded a duet with Mike Reno (of the band Loverboy), called “Almost Paradise.” The song went to #7 and brought a new generation of interest in the band. Their next album, simply titled “Heart,” went to #1 and sold 5 million copies on the strength of 4 Top-10 hits: "What About Love?" (#10, 1985), "Never" (#4, 1985), "These Dreams" (#1, 1986) and "Nothin' at All" (#10, 1986). By that time, Heart had abandoned their earlier hard rock aspirations to make slick, radio-friendly pop music.

Bonus Track

You Look Mahvelous – Billy Crystal

Since the beginning of Saturday Night Live, the show has been something of an anti-television show, turning the medium on its head with endless fake commercials and parodies of TV shows themselves. The most common style of their recurring sketches has been the talk show format. One of the more popular of these types of sketches featured Billy Crystal playing Fernando Lamas. He would interview various celebrities, often confusing them with someone else (e.g. confusing actor Johnny Yune for football player Johnny Unitas.. .). Always during the interview he would say, "You look mahvelous." and frequently the sketch would end with, "It's better to look good than to feel good."

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