Posts Tagged ‘A Town Called Malice’

Every Monday, we rolled out of bed, ate breakfast while scanning the sports section of the morning newspaper, and headed to the bus stop, where we waited with a motley crew of kids from the neighborhood. At school, we navigated the halls on the way to and fro’ class, and fled at day’s end unless we had an after-school activity of some kind. The next morn, we did it again. And again after that, times three, until summer break came.

After school, depending on weather and mood, we played in the street or the park, rode our bikes or walked to independently owned music and book stores in our small town’s business district, or hiked the long hill to the Village Mall, where we browsed the chain-store versions of the same. The main difference: the folks behind the counter at those independent stores knew my name. At the chain stores? They only knew my cash.

In 1982, social media would have meant talk radio. Cable TV was around, but channels weren’t many. In the Philly area, the most important to get was PRISM, an HBO-like premium channel that, in addition to movies and specials, carried the home games of the Flyers.

In some respects, life was less hectic. The news cycle played out in drips and drabs via the newspapers and evening newscasts, not the incessant drumbeat of disagreements that fill our Facebook and Twitter feeds. But, make no mistake, life was no less difficult then as now. June 1982, for example, saw America stuck in a wretched recession: Inflation clocked in at 7.2 percent while unemployment was 9.8 percent.

I was 16, going on 17.

New movies released this month include Poltergeist, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T., Grease 2 and Blade Runner. True story: one day later this month, after school had let out for the summer, a friend and I trekked to the Village Mall, which was home to a two-screen Eric movie theater. He took in Poltergeist. I took in…Grease 2. That’s just how I rolled.

The top TV shows for the just-concluded 1981-82 season included Dallas, 60 Minutes, The Jeffersons, Three’s Company, Alice, The Dukes of Hazzard, Too Close for Comfort, M*A*S*H and One Day at a Time. (Of those, I only watched the last two on a regular basis.)

In the world of music, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder were atop the charts with “Ebony and Ivory” – a 45 I still own – for all of June. Other hot hits included Rick Springfield’s “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny,” the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ cover of “Crimson & Clover.” (As always with all things charts, I rely on Weekly Top 40.)

Which leads to today’s Top 5: June 1982 via Creem. Joan Jett graces the front cover of the issue and, via an ad, the back.

1) Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – “I Love Rock ’n Roll.” The Iman Lababedi-penned cover article chronicles Joan Jett’s ascent from the generally ignored Runaways to this point in time, when she was on a roll, having finished a seven-week run at No. 1 with “I Love Rock ’n Roll” on May 1st, and then cracking the Top 10 again this month with “Crimson & Clover,” to say nothing of her platinum-selling I Love  Rock ’n Roll album.

2) Quarterflash – “Harden My Heart.” “In the United States, statistics show, a girl is walking out on her no-good man every 15 minutes. Statistics also show that 15 minutes later they’re going out and buying the Quarterflash record.” So begins music journalist Sylvie Simmons in this in-depth profile of the Portland, Oregon, band, which – to my ears – always sounded somewhat like Pat Benatar. Interestingly, the songs weren’t written by singer (and saxophonist) Rindy Ross, but her husband, guitarist Marv Ross.

3) The Jam – “A Town Called Malice.” Penny Valentine checks in from Britain with a good piece on the Jam. “Not since the Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’ has a record so well captured an urban mood and sent out its own warning: ‘Better stop dreaming of the quiet life/‘Cause it’s the one we’ll never know/And quit running for that runaway bus/‘Cause those rosy days are few.’”

She also delves into the album the song springs from. “So ‘Gift,’ an indecisive, incomplete, somewhat directionless collection musically and a set which reflects Weller’s own confusion between a salvation that lies with love and individualism or collective action, somewhat accidentally reflects exactly the political climate at the moment.”

4) Van Morrison – “Cleaning Windows.” Richard Riegel has the lead review, of Van Morrison’s Beautiful Vision, in the Records section. Of this song, he writes that “‘Cleaning Windows,’ which opens Side Two of Beautiful Vision, picks up some of the threads of ‘Summertime in England,” and is the most interesting song on the new set as a result. ‘Cleaning Windows’ stars Van Morrison as a repatriated Belfast window washer, who measures his life in the number of sparkling panes he’s left behind…”

He also laments that “nowhere else on Beautiful Vision does Van Morrison allow us such crystalline metaphors for his life. All 10 cuts have his trademark beautiful-vision melodies but lyrically too many of the other songs celebrate those vague bromides favorited by Bob Dylan in recent years, songs in which the satisfaction of the singer’s belief is supposed to substitute for acute lyric detail.”

5) The Call – “War-Weary World.” Riegel also contributes his take on the Call’s eponymous debut to the Rock-a-Rama roundup: “Clenched-jaw, urban-melodrama-verging-on-paranoia, a la Talking Heads, but far icier and more detached music than David Byrne would ever allow his disciplined-to-funk urban soul to express.”

IMG_5382John Belushi graces the issue of this Rolling Stone, which arrived in my mailbox toward the end of my junior year of high school. The 33-year-old comedian, actor and singer had died on March 5th of a drug overdose. A true waste. Inside, there’s a nice tribute to him that features the recollections of his parents, siblings and wife, as well as such friends as Brian Doyle-Murray, Chevy Chase, Lorne Michaels, Paul Simon, Jack Nicholson, Anne Beatts, John Landis, Duck Dunn, Ray Charles, Penny Marshall, Hunter Thompson and others.

“Even though he was a bit of a monster, he was our monster, as well as a damned good person you could count on for help in the dark times,” says Thompson.

The entire issue isn’t devoted to him, though. Other articles focus on Joan Jett, whose “I Love Rock ’n Roll” had recently hit the top of the singles charts; independent labels, Jimmy Webb, concerts on cable TV, the plane-accident death of Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads, the Waitresses, Teddy Pendergrass and AM stereo.

There’s also this preview of the future: A company called Video Corporation of America was planning to roll out 300 to 500 video-rental kiosks by the end of the year. (One hopes they got their due from Redbox.)

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Anyway, today’s Top 5:

1) The Blues Brothers – “Soul Man.” In honor of Belushi. From a New Year’s Eve 1978 show in San Francisco…

IMG_53852) Rickie Lee Jones – “Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking.” In July 1981, Rickie Lee released the follow-up to her classic 1979 self-titled debut: the equally classic Pirates, which is home to “We Belong Together” and this song, among others. She didn’t tour in support of the album, however, until early 1982, as this Random Notes mention indicates.

This incomplete clip (no video, just sound) is from her stop in Philly that year. (I was a fan, but I wasn’t there – wouldn’t see her until 1989.) Decades later, Diane and I saw her at a mesmerizing show at Temple University, where she played her first two albums in their entirety back-to-back. Another favorite show: 1994 at the Keswick Theater, when she delivered a spellbinding set of her songs by her lonesome. (This Inquirer review really got it wrong.)

3) Joan Jett – “I Love Rock n’ Roll.” Joan Jett Has the Last Laugh, reads the title of the article about the 23-year-old Jett, which basically relates her not-quite-overnight success. “[K]udos in excelsis are due to Jett herself, who has managed to combine the punch of heavy metal with the adrenalin of New Wave—and make America like it.”

IMG_53884) Bob Dylan – “Jokerman.” Dylan wouldn’t release Infidels until October. Early in the year, though, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame: “As the Jerry Kravitz Orchestra romped through an abbreviated version of ‘Blowing in the Wind,’ Dylan strode to the podium to receive his citation from a beaming Tom Paxton. ‘I think this is pretty amazing, really,’ said Dylan, ‘because I can’t read or write a note of music. I never will be able to. So thank you.’” The short piece ends with this: “And he had one backstage request: to be photographed with Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dinah Shore. He got his wish.”

This “Jokerman” clip is from Dylan’s 1984 performance on Late Night With David Letterman.

5) The Jam – “A Town Called Malice.” The top-selling album this month was the Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat – a classic through-and-through. Other hot albums include (#2) Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire soundtrack,(#3) J. Geils Band’s Freeze-Frame, (#4) the Police’s Ghost in the Machine and (#5) Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ’n Roll. New albums fresh to the charts include (#21) Rick Springfield’s Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me, (#22) Quincy Jones’ The Dude, (#36) Willie Nelson’s Always on My Mind, (#40) Asia’s self-titled debut, (#46) XTC’s English Settlement and (#58) the Jam’s The Gift, which I bought a month or two later, after seeing the video for “A Town Called Malice.”