Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ten Great Songs From One Great Year


(for previous 1981 lists, click here and here)

On January 19, Iran agrees to release the 52 Americans, who had been held hostage for 444 days. While it was President Carter who was in office at the time, it is widely believed that the Iranian fear of President Reagan, who succeeded Carter the very next day, was the catalyst for their release. Two months after he was inaugurated, Reagan survives an assassination attempt, when he is shot by John Hinkley. His quick recovery increases his charm and popularity. Just two months later, Pope John Paul II is shot and nearly killed by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish gunman, as he enters St. Peter's Square in Vatican City to address a general audience. Later that month, Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman is assassinated in Chittagong. Of course in Noveber, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is assassinated during a parade by army members who belong to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization (part of the Muslim Brotherhood). He is replaced by Hosni Mubabrak, who then outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood from the country.

In June, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 5 homosexual men in Los Angeles, California have a rare form of pneumonia seen only in patients with weakened immune systems (the first recognized cases of AIDS). Two days later, The Israeli Air Force destroys Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor. While this was widely condemned around the world, it was eventually praised the Reagan administration, as well as by other Western leaders. In July, tragedy strikes Kansas City, when two skywalks filled with people at the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapses into a crowded atrium lobby, killing 114.

In August, Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, after being convicted of murdering John Lennon in Manhattan 8 months earlier. Chapman remains imprisoned at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, having been denied parole six times. In sports, Muhammad Ali loses to Trevor Berbick; this proved to be Ali's last-ever fight. A 51-day players strike forced the cancellation of 713 games, during the summer and in football, the story of the year was the rise of the San Fransisco 49ers dynasty, led by 3rd-year QB, Joe Montana.

Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do) - Christopher Cross (lyrics)

Peter Allen wrote this song with Carole Bayer Sager. It didn't become "Arthur's Theme" until a few years later when Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach (who were married) reworked it for the movie Arthur starring Dudley Moore. Allen came up with the line, "When you get caught between the moon and New York City" when his plane got stuck in a holding pattern waiting to land at JFK airport in New York. This won the 1982 Oscar for Best Song From A Film. It was a very successful theme song, capturing the charming side of Dudley Moore's character as he faces a drastic change to his lifestyle. In the film, Moore must consider giving up his fortune for his new love, played by Liza Minnelli. The original script had him losing his money to be with the girl, but audiences in test screenings wanted an even happier ending, so the script was rewritten with Arthur keeping his fortune and the girl. Of course, this blew away the premise that Arthur must choose between money and love, but that's where this song came in handy. Speaking about the film in the New York Times, Larry Brezner, who was one of the producers, said the idea was to "give Arthur the money, bring up the music loud and get the audience the hell out of the theater happy, before they have time to think about it." Christopher Cross, whose real name is Christopher Geppert, won four Grammy awards in 1980: Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Sailing," Album Of The Year for Christopher Cross, and Best New Artist.

Urgent - Foreigner (lyrics)

The group wanted a "Junior Walker-style" sax solo for this record. When they took a break from recording, one of the members read in New York newspaper The Village Voice that Walker was performing that night mere blocks from the recording studio. Walker accepted their offer to play, and the recording of the sax solo was swift and without a hitch. Before recording this album, 2 members of the group left, trimming the band from 6 members to 4. This, along with the fact that it was their fourth album, explains the title, 4. Foreigner's guitarist Mick Jones produced the 4 album with Jeff "Mutt" Lange, who is known as a very meticulous producer with a tremendous work ethic. Jones told us: "We locked horns at the beginning, both pretty strong-minded about what we wanted to achieve, and we gradually discovered that it was the same thing. He drew a lot out of me. He was the first person that insisted on listening to every single idea I had on every single cassette tape, or any ideas I had anywhere, down on paper or lyrically, phonetically, instrumentally. He pulled songs like 'Urgent' out of that, and contributed a lot to 'Juke Box Hero.' It ended up being a great relationship."

Tempted - Squeeze (lyrics)

Squeeze singer and guitarist Chris Difford wrote the lyrics to this song. He explains: "Tempted was written in a cab on the way to Heathrow, I just wrote down what I saw and how I felt as we wormed our way through the traffic. I also must have anticipated a good time on tour as the chorus suggests." Paul Carrack sang lead on this. He also sang with the bands Ace ("How Long") and Mike And The Mechanics ("The Living Years"). In 1987, he had a solo hit with "Don't Shed a Tear." Carrack was with Squeeze for their East Side Story album, replacing Jools Holland on keyboards and also contributing vocals. He rejoined Squeeze in 1993 for their album Some Fantastic Place, and sang on a new version of "Tempted" that the band recorded for the soundtrack of the 1994 movie Reality Bites. Elvis Costello produced this track and you can hear him singing on the second verse. This was the first Squeeze song to crack the charts in America. Squeeze was already a big deal in their native England, where they had 7 Top-40 hits to this point. They managed just 2 more US hits: "Hourglass" and "853-5937," but "Tempted" remains their most enduring song in The States, where it continues to get airplay. Glenn Tilbrook, who writes the music for Squeeze, considers this one of his favorites. Says Tilbrook: "It was a sort of breakthrough song for us, in spite of the fact that it wasn't a hit, it was our first song. It was when we grew up, really, as a band. When we finished it I couldn't quite believe it was us." (video NSFW)

Who's Crying Now - Journey (lyrics)

This was one of the first Journey songs to feature keyboardist/guitarist Jonathan Cain. He had been a member of The Baby's before replacing long-time keyboardist Gregg Rolie in Journey. According to the liner notes of Journey's Time3 compilation, Steve Perry wrote the chorus of the song driving from Bakersfield to San Francisco, singing into a cassette recorder. He went to Cain's house, rain pouring down in sheets outside, with the whole song in his head. He hummed the song to Cain and guided him through the piano part. Cain suggested the tune sounded like "A somebody done somebody wrong song" and came up with the line, "Who's crying now?" They finished the song that afternoon. Escape was Journey's only #1 album. It contained 3 other hits: "Don't Stop Believin'," "Stone In Love," and "Open Arms." This was featured on Journey's Greatest Hits album, which has sold over 10 million copies. Cain and Neal Schon left the group in 1989 to join John Waite (also a former Baby's member) in Bad English. Plans for a tour ended when Perry injured his hip while hiking in Hawaii in the summer of 1997, and could not perform without hip replacement surgery – which he for some time refused to undergo. In 1998, Schon and Cain decided to seek a new lead singer, at which point drummer Steve Smith left the band as well.

All Those Years Ago - George Harrison (lyrics)

This is tribute to John Lennon, who was shot and killed the year before and remained friends with Harrison after The Beatles broke up. In an interview after Lennon was shot, George said that he originally had written most of the lyrics for Ringo, but with Lennon's assassination, he rewrote the lyrics and told of how he looked up to John. Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney played on this along with Denny Laine from McCartney's band Wings. Long time Beatle producer George Martin produced this song as well. Geoff Emerick, one of The Beatles sound engineers, also had a hand in this tune. In Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, Al Kooper gives an eye-witness account of George Harrison's reaction to hearing the news that John Lennon had been shot: "George was in the kitchen, white as a sheet, real shook up. We all had breakfast. He took calls from Paul and Yoko, which actually seemed to help his spirit, and then we went into the studio and started the day's work. Ray and I kept George's wine glass full all day..." Working til midnight, some of the work from this session ended up on the album Somewhere in England. Of course, the great George Harrison passed away in 2001, from lung and brain cancer.

The Voice - The Moody Blues (lyrics)

This was one of the songs that propelled The Moody Blues to a comeback in the early 1980s, and of their newer songs, this appealed the most strongly to fans of their original work. Written by Justin Hayward, The lyrics have the same philosophical tone of their songs in the late 1960s, and the song is alternately urgent and hopeful about the future. It seems to be telling listeners that they face major choices on how their world will turn out, and that there is great hope in it, but only if they make it happen of their own initiative. The Moody Blues have sold in excess of 70 million albums worldwide and have been awarded 14 platinum and gold discs. As of 2012 they remain active with one member from the original band from 1964 and two more from the 1967 lineup. In 2007, the now defunct Hard Rock Park theme park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, announced the building of a dark ride entitled "Nights in White Satin: The Trip". The ride incorporated multi-sensory experiences as well as a re-orchestrated version of the song by Justin Hayward. A re-recorded version of Graeme Edge's "Late Lament" again followed, which had each group member reading a verse of the poem. In March 2009, the ride closed because of the conversion of the park to the Freestyle Music Park, with the new owners desiring to make the park more "family friendly." The group continue to tour yearly; they toured the US, Canada and the UK in 2006 through 2010. In addition, Hayward took part in the UK tour of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds in April 2006, and a second tour in November 2007, also with dates in 2009. The Moody Blues also toured Australia and New Zealand in 2006. Their long-time producer, Tony Clarke, died in January 2010.

It Must Be Love - Madness (lyrics)

This was written by Labi Siffre, whose original version reached #14 in the UK in 1971. Madness' backing track was recorded in 9 hours in a front room studio in a house in Dagenham, Essex, and the production duo of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley produced this track. Langer recalled the bold use of strings on this track in an article by Eric Olsen of Blogcritics Magazine: "We had the strings play pizzicato: 'plink, plink, plink,' which at that time required real musicians. It was quite an experiment and you took a lot of responsibility because you had to pay the bill. Now you can just use a sample." Winstanley added: "A few years later Trevor Horn told me that he nicked the pizzicato strings idea from us for the first ABC record - that was quite flattering really." In 1992 this was re-issued and again it reached the UK Top 10 this time peaking at #6. In America this was the follow-up to the band's only Top 10 hit, "Our House," and was released in the States in 1983. However the Ealing Comedy-influenced music video for this song, which featured the band all running around in undertaker's gear, was not appreciated across the Atlantic and this song only reached #33. The video also featured underwater performances from guitarist Chris Foreman and saxophonist Lee Thompson. Foreman recalled to Q Magazine August 2008: "In the pool, I had these lead weights on. I thought I was gonna die. The hire guitar got bent so we got a hairdryer and sent it back. They said, 'The neck's like a banana.' So we had to buy it." Labi Siffre made a cameo appearance in the video as a violin player.

Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) - Air Supply (lyrics)

Air Supply consists of Graham Russell as guitarist and singer-songwriter and Russell Hitchcock as lead vocalist. Formed in Melbourne, Australia, they had a succession of hits worldwide, including eight Top Ten hits in the US. From their formation in 1977, they were popular in heir native country, but only limited in their success. So much so that Russell claimed, on a 1995 DVD, that he and Hitchcock were so poor that they were reduced to checking the backs of hotel sofas for change so that they could buy bread to make toast. That all changed in 1980. A re-recorded and remixed version of "Lost in Love" was released internationally as a single in January on Arista Records. The associated album, Lost in Love, appeared in March and contained three top 5 singles, including the title track which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The two other big hits were "Every Woman in the World" (#5) and "All Out of Love" (#2). Because of this newfound success, Arista Records president Clive Davis teamed the group up with producer Harry Maslin and he went on to produce five top 5 records in a row. In 1981 Air Supply released The One That You Love, with the title track issued as a single that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also featured two other Top Ten hits, "Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You)" was written by Norman Saleet and "Sweet Dreams". The followup album, Now and Forever, also had three charted singles. However, they were not as popular and it seemed Air Supply was running out our air. However, the then released their Greatest Hits LP. which featured the Jim Steinman written song, "Making Love (Out of Nothing At All," which hit #2. Ironically, it was Steinman's other major 1983 release, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, that kept it from the top spot. After that, Air Supply only managed one more top 40 song, 1985's "Just As I Am." In 2008, based on their chart performance, they were ranked the 83rd best musical act of all time in Billboard Hot 100's 50th anniversary edition. The band continues to tour regularly and in May 2010, they released their latest album titled Mumbo Jumbo featuring 14 new tracks.

The Night Owls - Little River Band (lyrics)

Another Australian band, The Little River Band chose its name after passing a road sign leading to the Victorian township of Little River, near Geelong, on the way to a performance. LRB enjoyed sustained commercial success not only in Australia, but also in the US, as well. They have sold more than 25 million records and achieved 13 U.S. Top 40 hits, besides many music awards gained in Australia. Formed in 1975, out of the remains of a number of popular local bands, and fronted by lead singer Glenn Shorrock, LRB broke through successfully upon their single "Help Is On It's Way" which peaked at #14 in America in 1977. The band followed that up with an additional 9 top 40 hits over the next 5 years. However, In 1982, Shorrock was forced out of the band as the other members were keen to try different musical directions. In came John Farmham, who sang lead on "The Other Guy." It appeared not to matter, as this song peaked at #11. But after one more hit, 1983's "We Two," the pressures of success and constant touring took their toll on LRB and other members gradually left. Farnham left upon completion of the group's short Australian tour in support of their album No Reins (May 1986). Three founding members, Beeb Birtles, Shorrock, and Graeham Goble, went on to perform reunion concerts (in 2002-2007), but because they lost the rights to the name Little River Band, they appeared under the name Birtles Shorrock Goble. As the trademark owner, Guitarist Stephen Housden (who was the one member of the band to continued to perform under the LRB name, as other members came and went, has effectively stopped Birtles, Shorrock, and Goble from using references to their LRB past. But the musicians who have since toured under the name Little River Band have continued playing songs written by Birtles, Shorrock, and Goble. LRB's performance legacy has been in the hands of Wayne Nelson since 2006, as Housden himself no longer tours with the band.

Love In The First Degree - Alabama (lyrics)

Alabama is a country music and southern rock band from Fort Payne, Alabama. The band was founded in 1969 by Randy Owen (lead vocals, Rhythm Guitar) and his cousin Teddy Gentry (bass guitar, background vocals), soon joined by Jeff Cook (Lead Guitar, fiddle, keyboards). In 1973, after Owen's graduation from Jacksonville State University, they gave up their day jobs and weekend gigs. The group, formerly known as Wildcountry, left Fort Payne to explore the possibilities of the club scene in coastal South Carolina. The band is often credited with bringing country music groups (as opposed to solo vocalists) into the mainstream, paving the way for the success of today's top country groups. Since its change in name in 1972, Alabama has included Owen, Cook and Gentry. The band's blend of traditional country music and southern rock combined with elements of gospel music, and pop music gave it a crossover appeal that helped lead to their unprecedented success. They also toured extensively and incorporated production elements such as lighting and "sets" inspired by rock concerts into their shows. The band has over 30 number one country records on the Billboard Magazine charts to their credit and have sold over 73 million records to date. Although recording since 1977, it wasn't until 1981 before they hit crossover appeal, with their LP Feels So Right. The title track reached #20 and it's followup, "Love In The First Degree" passed it to #15 - to date, the highest charted Alabama song on the Hot 100. However, from 1980's "Tennessee River" to 1986's "You've Got The Touch," the band had an incredible string of 21 number one Country hits. If you continue to 1995, they charted in the Country music top 20 a record 41 straight times and 47 times overall and in the Country music top forty an amazing 59 times. In fact, for 20 years (1980-2000) every single one of their released singles have made the Country music top 40. In May 2002, the band announced its "Farewell Tour", which took place across the US during 2003 and 2004. They are now retired from touring, but released two albums of inspirational music in 2006 and 2007. Teddy Gentry has produced albums for various artists, most notably Emerson Drive and Collin Raye. Jeff Cook now performs with the Allstar Goodtime Band. The band was recently reunited at the 2011 ACM awards when they performed "Old Alabama" on stage with Brad Paisley. They are featured in Paisley's 2011 single "Old Alabama" which sings about Alabama; in the song they sing several lines from the chorus of "Mountain Music." Owen, and his wife Kelly Owen, were the primary benefactors for the construction of the Kelly Owen Women's and Children's Pavilion at DeKalb Regional Medical Center in Fort Payne, which was at the time a charitably-operated hospital of Baptist Health System of Alabama.


Shaddup You Face - Joe Dolce (lyrics)

Dolce was born in 1947 in Painesville, Ohio and formed various bands including Headstone Circus with Jonathan Edwards who subsequently went on as a solo artist to have a charting hit song in the US "Sunshine". Dolce relocated to Melbourne, Australia (another Australian) in 1978 and his first single there was "Boat People"—a protest song on the poor treatment of Vietnamese refugees—which was translated into Vietnamese and donated to the fledgling Vietnamese community starting to form in Melbourne. His one-man show, Joe Dolce Music Theatre, performed in cabarets and pubs with various line-ups including Lin Van Hek as singer/performance artist. In July 1980 he recorded the self-penned "Shaddap You Face", for Full Moon Records label at Mike Brady's new studios in West Melbourne. When in Ohio, Dolce would sometimes visit his Italian grandparents—they supplied the inspiration with "What's the matter, you?" and "Eh, shaddap". He wrote the song about Italians living in Australia and first performed it at Marijuana House, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy in 1979. Dolce paid A$500 for the recording and spent $1,000 on the music video clip, which was created by Melbourne filmmaker, Chris Lofven. It became a multi-million-selling hit, peaking at No. 1 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart for eight weeks from November 1980, in UK from February 1981 for three weeks, also No. 1 in Austria, New Zealand and Switzerland. Over the last two years Dolce has achieved recognition as a serious poet and essayist winning the 25th Launceston Poetry Cup in Tasmania and having thirty poems and lyrics selected by Les Murray for publication in Quadrant (magazine). Quadrant also published two of his essays: "Biblical Imagery in the Songwriting of the Creative Infidels: Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Paul Kelly" (Jan-Feb 2012) and "Hey Mr Cowbell Man: Sir Christopher Ricks' Dylan's Visions of Sin" (2012). He has also had work published in Meanjin, Island, Cordite 35, Eye of the Telescope 2, Carmenta, Journey, Italian Essays and Divan. His first book of poetry Hatbox was released in 2010.