Posts Tagged ‘Prince’

Last evening, Diane and I watched a film we’d never seen before: St. Elmo’s Fire.

For those unfamiliar with the movie, which was released in June 1985, it’s a so-called “brat pack” picture about the trials and tribulations of seven friends in the year following college graduation. The main cast consists of three-fourths of The Breakfast Club (Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy) plus four other talented young actors (Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore and Mare Winningham). Joel Schumacher directed it and co-wrote the script with Carl Kurlander, whose initial screenplay, a semi-autographical tale, centered around a bellhop’s unrequited love for a waitress. 

The original storyline remains, but is spread out amongst several characters. Rookie reporter Kevin (McCarthy) has always pined for aspiring architect Leslie (Sheedy), who’s with political aide and philanderer Alec (Judd Nelson); Kevin’s roommate Kirby (Estevez), a law student and waiter, has it bad for hospital intern Dale (Andie MacDowell), who was a few years ahead of him at Georgetown; and social worker Wendy (Winningham) has a longstanding crush on bad-boy Billy (Lowe). At the same time, Billy is finding it hard to shed his frat-boy ways; and banker Jules (Moore), a party girl, basically lives on credit cards and cocaine.

Here’s the trailer:

Back in ’85, it did okay at the box-office – $37.8 million (90 million in today’s dollars), which translated into a tidy profit for Columbia Pictures, as the studio spent about $10 million to make it. Although it was not well-received by critics then nor now, every so often some writer will pen a piece that claims it “defined a generation” – like this Entertainment Weekly oral history.

Trust me when I say that the only thing it defines is bad cinema. (If Diane said “this is bad” once, she said it a hundred times during the course of its one hour and 50 minutes.) In short, it’s a shallow spin on a subject with much potential, primarily marred by thoroughly unlikeable characters, especially stalker-in-the-making Kirby and out-and-out jerks Alec and Billy. You find yourself rooting that each will get hit by a car. The most interesting stories don’t get their proper due, such as Wendy’s decision to move out from her family home and make her own way in life or Kevin’s landing a bylined piece in the Post. Jules’ descent into drugs and debt is also interesting, if predictable, though I found her character intriguing for another reason: She reminds me of the manager I worked for right about the time of the film’s release, though that manager – to my knowledge – didn’t have a drug habit, just the same hairstyle.

I’ve revisited 1985 many times in the past (click here for those posts), so won’t recount too much beyond the basics: I’d just finished my sophomore year at Penn State’s Ogontz campus, was working full-time in a department store and saving most of my cash for the fall, when I was due to beam up to the Penn State mothership in University Park. But I still found time for music. Among my music purchases for the month: Bryan Ferry’s Boys & Girls, Hank Jr.’s Major Moves and 5-0, and The Highwaymen by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson.  

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: June 7th, 1985, courtesy of the charts (for the week of the 8th) over at Top 40 Weekly.

1) Tears for Fears – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” One of singer-songwriter Diane Birch‘s favorite songs, this tune enjoys its first week (of two) at No. 1. 

 2) Katrina & the Waves – “Walking on Sunshine.” Sneaking into the Top 10 this week is this blast of pure happiness. 

3) Prince & the Revolution – “Raspberry Beret.” Following up Purple Rain with the soft-hued psychedelia of Around the World in a Day may have confounded some fans, but so what? This was an instant-classic song, which leaps to No. 17 from 25.

4) ’Til Tuesday – “Voices Carry.” Aimee Mann has carved out an acclaimed solo career, yet this song is the first thing I think of when I hear her name. It takes the 25th slot, up from 28.

5) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Glory Days.” A year after the release of the Born in the USA album, “Glory Days” saw light as the album’s fifth single. It would eventually top off at No. 5, but this week – in its second week – it cracks the Top 40 at No. 37.

Can it be? Thirty-three years ago as I write, I was basking in the glow of having just seen Crosby, Stills & Nash show at the Mann Music Center, an open-air venue, in Philly. The ticket stub for the concert, which was paper clipped into my Doonesbury-themed desk diary for decades, is currently AWOL…not that it matters much. I have my memories.

Two weeks earlier, on July 24th, I saw Roger Waters (with Eric Clapton on guitar) at the Spectrum – another great show despite the former Pink Floyd bassist chiding the audience to “stop the fookin’ whistling.” (He apologized after intermission; in England, he said, whistles equate with boos, but Eric explained to him that in the States – or, at least, Philly – they equate with cheers.) And nine days later, on the 14th, I found myself at the back of the Mann’s ample lawn, right where it turns to pavement, to see Huey Lewis & the News.

In that same time span, I picked up three albums: Stephen Stills’ Right by You, Otis Redding’s Best of and the Byrds’ Greatest Hits, Vol. II; and, as the month unfolded, just two more: John David Souther’s Home by Dawn and Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers, which I already owned on cassette but wanted on vinyl. I wasn’t quite walking in lockstep with pop culture, in other words, though I owned eight of the top 25 albums listed in this month’s Record charts.

And if you’re feeling a slight twinge of deja vu – that’s because, yes, we have been here before. My plan to spin this intro into a Top 5 based on this month’s Record magazine has been waylaid by forgetfulness on my part: Once I retrieved said issue from the temperature-controlled vault and saw the cover…oops. l featured it in a Top 5 on January 30, 2016.

What I didn’t say then, but will share now: Those few purchases were due to me being out of work for a spell: The single-screen Hatboro Theatre, where I worked (and worked, and worked) as an usher for the previous year, closed its doors for the final time on Sunday, July 22nd. To rephrase a Joni Mitchell lyric, they paved paradise and put up a Wendy’s. (That’s me in the doorway in the accompanying picture, which I scanned way back in 2003; if I ever come across the original photo again, and it’s here somewhere, I’ll scan it at a higher resolution.)

There was good news on the horizon, however: On the same day that I saw Huey Lewis, I interviewed for and scored a new job as sales associate at a major department store – in the Domestics department. I learned to fold towels and sheets, and keep my cool when accosted by overzealous customers.

Also, an interesting side note – as my desk diary shows, the day before that CSN concert, I received the bill for the fall semester at Penn State Ogontz, which was one of a dozen-plus PSU satellite campuses scattered across the commonwealth. The total cost: $1123. Today, to attend the same campus – which has since been renamed Penn State Abington – the cost is $6770 for tuition, $236 for the student fee and $252 for the Information Technology Fee – $7258 altogether. That’s more than twice the (cumulative) rate of inflation! That’s just not right.

In the wider world, the dominant stories in the news revolved around the Summer Olympics, which were taking place in L.A. The presidential race between incumbent Ronald Reagan (R) and challenger Walter Mondale (D) was in the offing, but the campaign was on the back burner – unlike today, political campaigns were not year-round exercises. The economy was doing okay, but not great: Unemployment stood at 7.5 percent on August 1st; and inflation was 4.29 percent.

Popular movies of the summer included the feature-length music video known as Purple Rain, which opened on July 27th; Ghostbusters and Gremlins, which had been in the theaters since June 8th; and not Police Academy, which was released in March and, at this point in time, was past the end of its life cycle. (Those were the kinds of films the Hatboro Theatre had towards the end.) On the TV front – aside from the Olympics, everything was in repeats. TV in the summertime was always dull, in those days; the (wrong) assumption was that few people watched.

Anyway, enough of this voluminous intro. Here’s Today’s Top 5: 33 Years Ago Today (Aug. 6, 1984), though the charts – courtesy of my go-to site for such things, Weekly Top 40, are for the week ending the 4th. They’re the top songs of the week.

1) “When Doves Cry” by Prince. The now-classic ode to pigeon love ruled supreme for the fifth week in a row.

2) “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. The theme to the original Ghostbusters clocks in at No. 2.

3) “State of Shock” by the Jacksons with Mick Jagger. Moving up from No. 4 to No. 3 is this unlikely collaboration…

4) “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Slipping to No. 4 from No. 3 is this great song from the Boss, which remains a delight to hear in concert.

5) “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner. In its 11th week on the charts, this instant classic – which, according to Wikipedia, had been first offered to Cliff Richard(!) – jumps from No. 9 to No. 5 on its way to No. 1.

And a few bonuses…

6) “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E. This semi-mainstay of today’s oldies radio (at least as heard on WOGL-FM in Philly, which I’ve been groovin’ to of late) reaches its top spot on the charts this week…No. 31.

7) “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama. The seventh single by the British girl group was its first U.S. top 10 single. Here, in its third week of release, it’s one of the “power plays,” jumping from No. 55 to 43.

8) “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince. And, to bookend this Top 5, here’s another chart entry from the Purple One, a “power play” that enters the charts at No. 45.

As I said over the weekend, there is so much good new music in the world that it can be hard to keep up – especially since finding said sounds means channeling one’s inner- Jim Rockford. Even so-called “good” radio stations (more on that in the coming weeks) do a lousy job of spotlighting new discoveries – unless it’s the latest generic alterna-rock band, that is.

To that end, here’s a collection of YouTube clips that shouldn’t be missed…

1) The Staves – “Blues Run the Game.” So the Staves played a forest the other day…

2) First Aid Kit – “Fireworks.” And FAK premiered a new song just in time for July 4th.

3) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Sea Town.” CMA, meanwhile, shared this clip that was filmed near the Boot & Saddle in South Philly last month. While I was searching for a parking spot before that show, I drove past her shooting this. I should’ve honked!

4) Natalie Duncan – “Get Right.” Here’s a relatively new song from one of my favorite voices of the past decade…

5) Karrie – “Performers.” And, finally, here’s a stunning track from Karrie that she didn’t include on her wonderful 2016 album Perpetual Motion. (More from Ms. O’Sullivan this weekend.)

And three bonuses…

6) Erin O’Dowd – “Jump the Gun Song.” Another of my favorite new voices.

7) Diane Birch – “Nothing Compares 2 U” & “When Doves Cry.” Here’s the Church of Birch pastor’s lovely tribute to Prince (from a February show in Berlin):

8) Paul Weller – “Soundtrack of My Life.” The Modfather reflects on songs that shaped his life in this NME video. Why do I feel old looking at him?

IMG_1063September 1983: I was 18, attended Penn State’s Ogontz campus, lived at home and worked part-time as an usher at the Hatboro Theatre, a single-screen movie (not-quite) palace that was torn down the following year to make room for a Wendy’s.

At the start of the month, the Eurythmics ruled the charts with “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”; and Billy Joel held the top spot with “Tell Her About It” by its end. Popular films included Mr. Mom, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Risky Business, Cujo and Easy Money.

My purchases for the month: Kate Bush’s The Dreaming and her self-titled mini-LP (kind of a mini-sampler); Michael Jackson’s Thriller; Joan Jett’s Album; Patti Smith’s Easter; Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New; Heart’s Passionworks; Led Zeppelin’s Coda; the Beatles’ Revolver; Bad Company’s Desolation Angel; Pat Benatar’s Live From Earth; and Harry Chapin’s Heads & Tales. I also picked up five singles: Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield,” Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Breathless,” Janis Joplin’s “Down on Me,” the Zombies’ “Time of the Season,” Don McLean’s “American Pie” and Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”

I also bought this issue of Musician. Prince is on the cover, and there’s an in-depth interview with him inside, but I bought it because of the name below his: Joan Jett.

IMG_1064Anyway, at that point, Prince was still riding high on the success of 1999, which had been released the previous October, but the Q&A (by Barbara Graustark) is about much more than that double-LP set. It delves into his early years, rocky relationship with his dad and entry into music, as well as the esoteric subjects of the songs themselves.

“I think I change constantly, because I can hear the music changing,” he says. “The other day I put my first three albums on and listened to the difference. And I know why I don’t sound like that anymore. Because things that made sense to me and things that I liked then I don’t like anymore. The way I played music, just the way I was in love a lot back then when I used to make those records. And love meant more to me then—but now I realize that people don’t always tell you the truth, you know? I was really gullible back then. I believed in everybody around me. I believed in Owen [Husney, his first manager], I believed in Warner Bros., I believed in everybody. If someone said something good to me, I believed it.”

Anyway, onward to today’s Top 5:

IMG_10661) Prince – “Controversy.” In addition to the Graustark piece, there’s a short Q&A with rock critic Robert Hilburn.

Musician: I liked your first two albums, but it seemed to me that the third record, Dirty Mind, was really a growth.

Prince: Yes, the second record (For You) was pretty contrived. After the first record, I put myself in a hole, because I’d spent a lot of money to make it. With the second record, I wanted to remedy all that, so I just made it a “hit” album. I usually write hits for other people, and those are the songs I throw away and don’t really care for. Dirty Mind started off as demo tapes; they were just like songs inside that I wanted to hear. So I took it to my manager and he said “This is the best stuff I’ve heard in a long time. This should be your album.” The drag is that I don’t know how I could make another album like that. I usually change directions with each record, which is a problem in some respects, but rewarding and fulfilling for me. I have mixed emotions.

Musician: The fourth album, Controversy, sounds more new wave. 

Prince: It depends a lot on what instrument I write on. When I write on guitar, I come up with songs like “When You Are Mine” and “Ronnie Talks to Russia.” When I start with drums, I get “Controversy.” Controversy is a little erratic. I’m really proud of this new album (1999).

IMG_10672) Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – “Fake Friends.” Charles Young has an excellent profile of former Runaway Joan Jett that, among other things, delves into her gum-chewing prowess: “‘I like to make a lot of noise and blow bubbles,’ chews Joan, now twenty-three and still fully cognizant cool. ‘It’s a good way to clear out sleeping space on airplanes.'” Of her old band, she says: “We were just a good band that wanted to have a good time onstage. What were all those other groups singing about? They didn’t have to answer those naive questions: ‘Oh my God, this is your career? What are you going to do if you find the right boyfriend? Will you dump your career?’ Well, not me. When I listen to our old records or read old articles, I still don’t understand what got people so uptight. They were afraid we’d rob their houses or kill someone.”

Of this song she says, “I think ‘Fake Friends’ is not so much about anger as a show of disgust. It’s not a big deal to lose fake friends, people who just tell you what you want to hear. You don’t have to be in rock ’n’ roll to understand that.”

IMG_10693) Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – “The French Song.” In addition to the Young piece, there’s a review of Jett’s third album, simply titled Album, by one R.J. Smith, who summarizes it as “better than Wayne Newton, gravel in a Maytag, and is frequently the equal of Jett’s two earlier records.. It shows her uneasily accommodating to her arena-sized success. But if the record’s an on-again, off-again rumbler, it frequently bangs about with the glory of a buffalo padding down Park Avenue.” Later, he observes that “[t]he production terraces the sound on Album in surprising ways. On ‘The French Song,’ for instance, half the chorus soothes like a Stevie Nicks velvet glove, just before the rest of it interrupts with a punch.”

He concludes with: “‘I am what I am,’ Jett growls in ‘The French Song,’ like Popeye immediately after a green fix. And what she is comes into focus on Album: not the dedicated fan of I Love Rock ’N Roll, but a professional who knows it’s too late to turn back now. For the first time, it’s her original material and not the covers that carries the day. She has to think harder about what to do next, in the wake of her chart-topping success. Album isn’t a full answer. Still, it provides more than enough reasons for waiting around until she tries again.”

IMG_10704) Kate Bush – “Sat Into Your Lap.” In June 1983, EMI release a five-song EP to help introduce Kate to us Americans. It featured two tracks from The Dreaming, including this one.  J.D. Considine first raves about the cleaner sound for the tracks lifted from The Dreaming. It “makes it easier to absorb the layers of detail Bush packed into “Sat Into Your Lap” and “Suspended in Gaffa.” The rippling rhythms of “Sat” are far more effective when you can hear them all, and the nuances of Bush’s vocals stand out impressively. But at the same time, the sonic clarity also shows up just how much of Bush’s handiwork is gimmickry and how little is magic.” He also equates “Babooska” with an “elementary school Christmas pageant,” and concludes with “[a]fter The Dreaming suggested that Kate Bush was both daring and different, this record seems to show that she’s really pretty much the same as any other over-ambitious chanteuse.”

IMG_10725) The Plimsouls – “A Million Miles Away.” J.D. Considine is much nicer to the Plimsouls, one of the great lost L.A. bands of the ‘80s (and featured to great effect in the classic Valley Girl film): “Now here’s a garage band that has come to terms with its time. Even though producer Jeff Eyrich has slicked up the Plimsouls, tightening the arrangements and turning ‘A Million Miles Away’ into mainstream hit material, he’s left the band’s drive and bite intact. So not only are the Plimsouls able to make the most of their smarts, as on Peter Case’s ‘Shaky City,” they also enjoy the luxury of sounding dumb, as on the grimy ‘Lie, Beg, Borrow and Steal.'”