Posts Tagged ‘Pretenders’

Thirty-five years ago today was a Friday and, although a winter’s day, calm and not too frigid in the Delaware Valley. The daytime high soared to 55 degrees (Fahrenheit) before dipping to 26 at night.

The New York Time’s summary of that day’s edition can be found here. A big pop-culture story unfolded after the issue was put to bed, however: While filming a Pepsi commercial that afternoon in L.A., Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire. What else? I recapped February ’84 (via Record Magazine) a few years back, so won’t go too in depth into the economic concerns of the era beyond to say that the early ’80s/Reagan Recession was beginning to ebb.

Beyond that: Cold War worries also kept some folks up at night – as did bad TV. And NBC, in a masterful stroke of programming, married the two in the wretched World War III miniseries, which aired on January 31st and February 1st:

A more major media milestone occurred on Jan. 22, 1984 during Super Bowl XVIII, which saw the L.A. Raiders trounce the Washington squad 38-9. No, not the game, but the debut of Apple’s famous “1984” commercial for the Macintosh personal computer.

The following day, Jan 23rd, another historic event occurred: the Iron Sheik, who’d thumped Bob Backlund for the WWF championship the previous month, lost the coveted title to Hulk Hogan at Madison Square Garden. It was the first step in Vince McMahon’s masterful plan to take the WWF national.

On the personal front: I was 18, attending Penn State’s Ogontz campus in Abington, and working part-time as an usher at the Hatboro Theater, a single-screen movie house that was destined to be demolished by summer’s end. Early in the month, I scored a temporary gig working inventory at the A&S department store in the Willow Grove Park Mall, and that extra cash helped fuel a month-long shopping spree – according to my Doonesbury-themed desk calendar, I picked up 15 albums and one single over the course of those 31 days. Most were purchased at Memory Lane Records, a used-record store in Horsham where the platters were plentiful and prices cheap, but two relatively new releases came either from the Hatboro Music Shop or the Listening Booth at the mall: the Pretenders’ Learning to Crawl and Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man.

As evidenced by the picture, I was knee-deep into all things Crosby, Stills & Nash this month. In other words, I was out of step with the mainstream pop world – and not for the first or last time.

Here’s the Top 10 for the week ending on the 28th via Weekly Top 40:

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: January 27th, 1984 (via Weekly Top 40)…Further Down the Charts. 

1) John Mellencamp – “Pink Houses.” At No. 12 is this classic populist ode from the Heartland rocker – still one of the greatest such songs.

2) Van Halen – “Jump.” There’s no denying the utter joy of this single and its synth-driven riff, even if it was inspired by a man who was threatening to leap from the ledge of a downtown L.A. building. (“Go ahead and jump” was what Roth imagined people were yelling at him.) The group’s first and only No. 1 single was on its way to the top of the pop chart, rising in one fell swoop from No. 34 to No. 20.

3) The Pretenders – “Middle of the Road.” It’s no surprise that Learning to Crawl was one of the two new LPs I picked up this month. I’d argue that it encapsulates rock’s past, present and future in its four minutes and 15 seconds, but I’m sure others would disagree. Anyway, this week it edges up to No. 21 from No. 25. 

4) Nena – “99 Luftbalons.” The success of this song in both its German- and English-language incarnations speaks as much to the Cold War concerns of the era as to its catchy beat. On its way to No. 2, this week it floats to No. 22. 

5) The Motels – “Remember the Nights.” Martha Davis & Co. never quite caught on as much as it seemed they might, but they did release a handful of classic tracks. This, the third single from their 1983 album Little Robbers, clocks in at No. 36. 

And two bonuses…

6) Irene Cara – “The Dream.” The theme song from D.C. Cab inches up to No. 39 from No. 41. It follows the “Flashdance…What a Feeling” blueprint – though it doesn’t capture the same euphoria, it’s still a fun listen.

7) John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band – “Tender Years.” So the Eddie & the Cruisers movie was based on a best-selling book, and Cafferty & Co. were tapped to provide the soundtrack. The classic E Street Band sound rankled the critics… but also scored them some hits. This week, “Tender Years” debuts at No. 94. It would eventually stall at No. 78 before being re-issued in the fall, when it made its way to No. 31. Here they are on Solid Gold 

In the late 1990s, just like every other driver, I was dependent on CDs or the radio for my in-car entertainment; and, given that my daily commute to and from the office was a mere 10-15 minutes, that meant the radio more often than not. In no specific order save for the last, stations in my rotation at the time included KYW-1060, Philly’s all-news station, which I listened to for the weather; WIP, a sports-talk station; WXPN, which featured (and still features) the “adult album alternative” music format; WMGK, a “classic hits” station that leaned heavily on the ‘70s; and WOGL, which programmed more traditional oldies.

In those days, I should mention, my company gave us an hour paid lunch. That meant that I zoomed home at noon and, fifty minutes later, zoomed back. It was great. And while the specific year of the sun-soaked spring day that I’m remembering has been lost in my memory banks, in a sense it doesn’t matter. What does is this: On the way back to work from lunch, I tuned to WOGL only to hear the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” saunter from the speakers like a wisecracking diner waitress.

“Brass in Pocket” was an oldie?! If not for the fact that I was stopped at a red light, I would’ve driven off the road. The oldies in my mind then and now basically equate to the songs Michael St. John played on his Saturday night oldies show on WPEN-AM in the late 1970s – a musical milieu of pop, rock and doo-wop from the 1950s and early/mid-1960s. They weren’t the songs of my youth.

But, of course, by the late ‘90s they were becoming just that.

So, for today’s Top 5: Oldies, but Goodies (aka, Singles I Purchased in 1977, ’78 & ’79)… in the order that I bought them. I think. (Not all were “oldies” at the time, but those that weren’t definitely are now.)

1)  Jan & Dean – “Sidewalk Surfin’.”

 

2) Dion – “The Wanderer.”

3) The Zombies – “She’s Not There”

4) Carly Simon – “You’re So Vain.”

5) Al Stewart – “Song on the Radio.”

And one bonus:

6) Eddie Cochran – “Twenty Flight Rock.”

Okay, a second bonus…this one from 1981.

7) The Go-Go’s – “Our Lips Are Sealed.”

 

This morning, I played The Freewheelin’ First Aid Kit – a playlist I created on YouTube a while back, after coming up with the idea here. As the name infers, it features their versions of a few Bob Dylan songs (plus a few other cool covers). First Aid Kit are relative young ‘uns, of course, and their willingness to dig deep into the music of the past is, well, a joy to behold.

I’d love to read a list of their seminal albums.

Which leads to this: Over the past week or so, my Facebook newsfeed has exploded with lists by friends and acquaintances of albums that made a lasting impression on them during their formative years. Such lists get flung around on Facebook every now and again, it seems. This specific meme lays down a few rules: list 10; don’t think too long or hard about them; and don’t choose more than one per artist or band. Some respondents expand the 10 to 20 or even 30; and quite a few can’t help but to push the “one album per artist” rule to two or three. They are always interesting to read.

me_headphones_80ish007-1Anyone who’s spent time on my blog already knows most, if not all, of mine. My music-obsessiveness kicked into gear a few months prior to my turning 13 in 1978 – and has lasted ever since. I’ve always been a fairly open-eared listener, awash (at various times) in the Top 40, AOR rock, oldies, country and adult contemporary, plus disco, R&B and soul. I have no shame, and no “guilty pleasures.” Life’s too short for that.

Some days, I listen to little. Others? I play a lot. On my Wednesday morning commute, I listened to the Jam’s Snap collection, which I had on vinyl way back when; on my way home, I played the Kinks’ One for the Road, another favorite 2-LP set from my teen years. In between, at work, I strapped on my headphones and listened to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Neil Young’s On the Beach, Gladys Knight & the Pips’ Imagination and, because I’m not totally stuck in the past, the Staves’ If I Was and Harriet’s debut. The day before, while working from home, I made it a Rumer day, and listened to her entire oeuvre (minus Stereo Venus). Right now, I’m listening to Jackie DeShannon’s Are You Ready for This?, a wonderful but oft-overlooked gem of an album she released in 1966 –

– but before that it was Imagination (again) and the Jam’s The Gift.

Anyway, here are not 10 nor 20, but 16 albums from my teen years that (along with lots of others) laid the foundation for much that has followed, arranged in (more-or-less) chronological order as to when I acquired them. Though some are stone-cold classics, others obviously are not – yet they were, in their way, equally important in the evolution of my music-obsessiveness. Then as now, my listening pleasures weren’t always new; some things I discovered from the radio, others from the music magazines and, often, the Rolling Stone Record Guide. I’ve also reduced the span from my teen years to my middle- and high-school days (1978-1983); and, in some instances, included links to past posts where I discuss the album or artist.

It’s also far from definitive. Rickie Lee Jones’ stellar debut isn’t mentioned, for example, though it should be (and is, in a way, now). When I finalize my All-Time Greatest Albums list, which I’m in the process of doing, such lapses and oversights will be corrected.

  1. Paul McCartney & WingsLondon Town
  2. Olivia Newton-JohnTotally Hot
  3. The Beatles – 1967-1970 
  4. Linda RonstadtMad Love
  5. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Against the Wind
  6. The Go-Go’sBeauty & the Beat
  7. The PretendersExtended Play
  8. Neil Young & Crazy Horsere*ac*tor
  9. Joan Jett & the BlackheartsI Love Rock ’n’ Roll
  10. Janis Joplin – Pearl
  11. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
  12. Dusty SpringfieldDusty in Memphis
  13. Lou ReedRock ’n’ Roll Animal
  14. Patti Smith Easter
  15. The JamThe Gift
  16. Roxy Music – The High Road

Anyway, here’s today’s Top 5: 16 or 10 to 6. AKA, songs from six of the above albums…

1) Olivia Newton-John – “Deeper Than the Night.” Fresh from the success of Grease, Olivia released what may well be the greatest album of her career, Totally Hot.

2) The Go-Go’s – One of the greatest crimes of the 21st century: That this band is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Here they are with “Lust to Love” from Beauty & the Beat…

3) The Pretenders – “Talk of the Town.” Extended Play is no more, which is a shame. A five-song classic it was, and this song was my favorite (with “Message of Love” a close second).

4) Roxy Music – “Like a Hurricane.” The High Road was another EP – and is another lost gem, as it fell out of print.

5) The Jam – “Just Who Is the Five O’Clock Hero?” Paul Weller. The Jam. From their swan song, The Gift.

And… one bonus:

6) Patti Smith – “Because the Night.” From Easter.