Posts Tagged ‘Pipes of Peace’

record284008Thirty-three years ago, in February 1984, America was stumbling out of back-to-back recessions that almost hammered the American Dream flat. The unemployment rate for January was 7.9 percent, which is high – but better than the 10.3 percent of January 1983. In fact, the unemployment rate for 1983 as a whole was, according to the St. Louis Fed, 9.5 percent – the same as it was in 1982. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics has slightly different numbers – 9.6 and 9.7 percent, respectively.) The trend was headed in the right direction, however.

(This Pew Research Center essay delves in-depth into the “Reagan recession.”)

Stories in the news included Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire while he filmed a Pepsi commercial on Jan. 27th; the cable networks A&E and Lifetime debuting on Feb. 1st; the first successful embryo transfer from one woman to another being announced on Feb. 3rd; the movie Footloose premiering on Feb. 17th; and Michael Jackson winning eight Grammy Awards (seven for Thriller and one for the E.T. audiobook) on Feb. 28th.

record284009New music releases for the month included the Footloose soundtrack; Thompson Twins’ Into the Gap; The Smiths’ eponymous debut; Queen’s The Works; The Alarm’s Declarations; and Van Morrison’s Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which had been released in November 1982, still ruled the album charts, as Record’s Top 100 list shows. At the time, I owned – on vinyl or cassette – four of the top 10 and seven of the top 20; and, by year’s end, 20 of the top 100. As February dawned, the top single was – according to Weekly Top 40 – Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon.” John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” had just cracked the Top 10. By month’s end, the top slot was held by one of the more infectious songs of the year, Van Halen’s “Jump.”

hatborotheaterAt the time, I was 18 and living the commuter-college life. I lived at home, attended Penn State’s Ogontz campus and worked, worked and worked as an usher at the single-screen Budco Hatboro Theater – a fun job that I’d held since the previous summer. (That’s me in the doors in the picture on the left.) This month, however, the employees learned that it was destined to close at some point over the summer, as Budco saw the writing on the wall for single-screen palaces. The building was sold, torn down and a Wendy’s was built on its spot.

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My purchases for the month show where my head was at, beginning with Neil Young’s masterful On the Beach, which I picked up on Feb. 1st.

I also bought Stephen Stills – Stills (6th); CSNY – So Far (6th); Stephen Stills/Manassas – Down the Road (12th); Joni Mitchell – For the Roses (12th); and Stephen Stills double-LP Manassas set (17th), which quickly became (and remains) one of my all-time favorites. This song, featuring former Byrd and Burrito Brother Chris Hillman on co-lead vocals, is a a minor gem:

And, with that, onward to today’s Top 5: February 1984 (via Record Magazine)…

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First, though: This issue isn’t one of the magazine’s best. I wasn’t a fan of David Byrne at the time (I’m still not), and never read the interview with him. I also never read the articles about Huey Lewis, Spandau Ballet, Juluka, Philip Bailey and DeBarge. So why choose this month? Because of On the Beach and Manassas. When I saw both in my old desk calendar, well, how could I not go with this month?!

1) The Rolling Stones – “Undercover of the Night.” I won Undercover, a sad-sack Stones album, from WYSP on November 19th of the previous year by calling in on a trivia contest and saying “John Drake” (the real name of Number Six in The Prisoner TV series). I think I played the album once, maybe twice, and never went back. In other words, Anthony DeCurtis – who penned this review – is more generous to it than I obviously am. Of this song, he writes that it “opens the first side with a machine-gun run of synthesized drumming that crashes into a barrage of percussive disco bottom and patented Stones guitar chords.”

record2840122) Paul McCartney – “Pipes of Peace.” This, the second review, goes to show the delay that once existed between release and review. The February issue of Record would have been on newsstands by early or mid-January, I’m sure, but Pipes of Peace had already been out for at least two months by then, as it was released in October 1983 (as I write about here).

In the review, the (apparently tone-deaf) critic Craig Zoller doesn’t mince words: “The only McCartney LP worth holding onto, by any stretch of the imagination, is Wings Greatest because it collects most of his good hits (along with some silly ones). And seeing sluggish hodgepodge efforts like Band on the Run and Tug of War garner critical raves is as bad a joke as hearing the Beatles described as Paul’s old back-up band.” Lest one have any doubts about where he’s headed, he then states of Pipes of Peace: “I’m here to tell you in no uncertain terms that it’s just another lousy McCartney album with a couple of halfway decent cuts, a load of hummable pablum and the usual no-risk coasting.”

What I find interesting: in back-to-back reviews, a subpar Stones album is saluted while an admittedly mediocre McCartney album is thoroughly trashed. Says much about the mindsets of rock critics at the time…

record2840133) Bob Dylan – “Sweetheart Like You.” I’ve been in something of a Dylan mood of late, having listened to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a-Changing, Bringing It Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and the Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964 this week, with Freewheelin’ and BIBH both receiving twin spins. But, though I know his ‘60s output as well as most, and bought Slow Train Coming in 1979, by the time the decades turn to the ‘80s… I’m admittedly ignorant. There are a few albums I’ve bought and liked, and a few I’ve bought and disliked. Which is likely why I turn to his ’60s oeuvre whenever I have a hankering to hear him.

Anyway, of Infidels, reviewer John Swenson opens by saying that Dylan “is the most consistently misunderstood figure in pop music history” and closes with “Dylan hasn’t sung this well in some time, a fact which indicates his ultimate commitment to his material.” In between, there’s a lot that makes me want to check out the album, which I may well do in the coming week.

4) John Cougar Mellencamp – “Pink Houses.” Christopher Hill accurately describes the one-time Johnny Cougar’s seventh album: “Uh-Huh, Mellencamp’s first record under his real name, is also his first conscious effort to speak collectively for the people of his state and his state of mind. Though not always successful, the rough grain and savor of parched Midwestern earth that comes through makes this a bracing, provocative antidote to the bleak romancers of the ‘Badlands.’” He doesn’t single out the album’s tour de force, however, which is this song:

record2840145) Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers – “A Woman’s Got the Power.” Anyone from the Delaware Valley circa the late ‘70s and early ‘80s likely remembers the A’s – at least, anyone of a certain age who, regardless of whether you were old enough to get into the clubs, listened to Philadelphia’s two main rock stations at the time, 93.3 FM WMMR and 94.1 WYSP. The homegrown rockers were routinely plugged and played on both, as they should have been – they were damn good.

And this song, which was the title track of their 1981 album of the same name (their second and last on Arista), was played to death – as I remember it, at any rate.

Anyway, of the Big Man and his side band: Barry Alfonso, who reviews Rescue, notes that “the feel captured is right on the mark—such tracks as ‘A Man in Love,’ ‘A Woman’s Got the Power’ and ‘Savin’ Up’ (the last-named a Springsteen composition) have the funky nobility that big-band R&B has always traded in.” He also raves about lead singer John “J.T.” Bowen: “He lends to Clemons the same sort of urban bravura that Clemons brings Springsteen. It may not be new, but it still packs a wallop.”

AND, if two clips of the same song aren’t enough, here’s a third: the A’s performing it live…

 

 

IMG_5108October 31, 1983: Ronald Reagan was president, and morning in America was still a far ways away: the unemployment rate was near 10 percent for the second year in a row. Ten days earlier, the Beirut barracks bombing, which killed 299 American and French troops, had occurred; and we’d just invaded Grenada in what was seen by some as a cynical misdirection ploy and others as justified and heroic.

Movies released that month included Never Cry Wolf, Never Say Never Again, The Dead Zone and The Right Stuff. The No. 1 song was “Islands in the Stream,” a pop confection written by the Brothers Gibb and sung by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. The best-selling novel, according to the New York Times, was James A. Michener’s Poland; and the best-selling nonfiction book was Erma Bombeck’s Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession. I’d mention TV but, honestly, it was pitiful, as this schedule shows.

I was 18, a college freshman, living at home and working as an usher at a movie theater. That last fact put money in my pocket, which gave me a modicum of freedom – as much as $3.35/hour could buy, at any rate. I’d used some of that freedom to see the Muddy Blahs (aka Moody Blues) in concert 10 days earlier; and, on this day, I exercised more of it with two purchases: Paul McCartney’s new Pipes of Peace and Neil Young’s new-to-me Decade, a three-LP compilation of his career through 1977.

For today’s Top 5: Music I Bought in October 1983.

1) Paul McCartney – “Through Our Love.” Pipes of Peace was reissued yesterday, alongside its companion album, Tug of War; and I listened to it last night for the first time in near-32 years. It’s safe to say that it’s not his best outing, but it’s also not his worst – basically a mix of leftovers from the Tug of War sessions, one piece of pure pop gloss (the MJ duet of “Say, Say, Say”) and three wondrous works: the title track, breezy “So Bad” and this, which features a tremendous melody and lyrical message. Love, in both the abstract and specific, is indeed the answer for most of life’s ills.

2) Buffalo Springfield – “Mr. Soul.” I’d gotten into Neil Young’s music just two years earlier, with the release of re*ac*tor in 1981, so was playing catchup; Decade, which is one of the best anthologies released by a still-vital artist, was a great addition. The Buffalo Springfield songs, which I’d never before heard, were a revelation; and, in two weeks time, I purchased their one-LP Retrospective.

3) Irene Cara – “Fame.” True story: a year or so ago, Diane and I tuned in the 1980 movie Fame and the songs were silent – lips moved, but we couldn’t hear what they were singing or the music, period. Yet, we kept watching, and, even without the music, the movie worked – a little long, and very much of its time, but entertaining. Anyway, to the point: I have no idea why I waited until 1983 to pick up the 45 of the movie’s theme, but I did. Perhaps I’d recently caught it on Prism, a popular premium channel in the Philly area at the time, I don’t know. But this video is interesting and fun. It was filmed in 1982, likely to cash in on the MTV craze, and mixes footage from the film with shots of Cara lip-syncing to the song on the streets of New York.

4) Sly & the Family Stone – “Everybody Is a Star.” By rights, I should be including “Little Red Corvette” from Prince’s classic 1999 here, as I bought it on cassette on the 18th, but the Purple One removed his music from YouTube a while back, so I’ll instead go with something from Sly’s Greatest Hits, originally released in 1970, which I picked up on the 15th.

5) Pat Benatar – “Love Is a Battlefield.” It’s an odd thing, music fandom. I’ve stuck with some artists (Paul and Neil, for instance) since discovering them; others, however, I’ve relegated to my personal nostalgia circuit. One example: Pat Benatar. I doubt it had much to do with her music, per se, as this single – which enjoyed a five-week run atop the pop charts – is quite good, and expands upon her stylistic motif. I.e., she wasn’t repeating herself. But it was the last single or album of hers I purchased, save for her one-CD Best Shots compilation a decade-plus later. One possible reason: this video.