Posts Tagged ‘Radio Free Europe’

April 1983: high-school graduation was a month and change away. I’d yet to attend a concert, outside of some nondescript local band (named Lightning, if memory serves) that played the high school one Friday or Saturday night in ’81 or ‘82. That would change the following month, though, when I saw not one, but two cool shows: the Kinks at the Spectrum and Roxy Music (with Modern English opening) at the Tower Theater…

And, yes, we have been here before: That opening paragraph is borrowed from what I wrote 11 months back, when I covered this same stitch in time – but via Musician magazine (click here for that). So, instead of regurgitating a similar recap, I’ll turn straight to the newsprint. And I do mean newsprint: the newspaper-like Record came folded in fourths, just like its big brother Rolling Stone did in the early ‘70s, and the ink sometimes smudged on the fingers.

Ric Ocasek of the Cars, as evidenced by the picture up top, graces the cover. He’s the focus of an in-depth profile by David Gans that, as the Contents page reveals, uncovers the fact that the soft-spoken musician is warm, human and lovable. Who would’ve guessed?

Today’s top 5:

1) Holly & the Italians – “Dangerously.” Mark Mehler pens an excellent profile of Holly Beth Vincent, which opens with this: “One morning about a year ago, [she] awoke to perhaps the worst feeling a human being can have—none at all. ‘I felt like I was in a void,’ she says matter-of-factly, not unlike one of those ‘real people’ on television describing the onset of a migraine headache. ‘I had no control over my body. I didn’t know who or where I was.’”

That inability to move apparently didn’t stop her from grabbing for a pen and scribbling the lyrics to this song, which graces her second album, Holly and the Italians. According to Mehler, “it’s one of several tunes on the album dealing explicitly with the thin line between sanity and insanity; with remembrance; with violence and loss. But these subjects are handled with poignancy, melodic grace and occasional humor.” (For the complete Holly Beth article, scroll down.)

2) R.E.M. – “Radio Free Europe.” Mehler also catches up with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, who discusses the recording of his band’s first album, then tentatively titled 7,000 Gifts. “From what I can hear,” he says, “most albums consist of ten songs all sounding pretty much the same. It’s taking me a long time to come to terms with the fact that we’re actually in the middle of recording one ourselves.” The brief piece concludes with Stipe discussing touring: “I don’t like to drive the van. Driving from Philadelphia to Madison, Wisconsin, in the middle of the night is no fun. But I can’t claim to be a martyr to rock ’n’ roll; it’s the life I chose.”

3) Marvin Gaye – “Sexual Healing.” At this point in time, Marvin was in the midst of a comeback – and sat for an interview with Gavin Martin. There’s far too much to recount, but I found and still find the last questions and answers  illuminating and sad.

4) Neil Young – “Transformer Man.” Stuart Cohn is not kind to Neil’s Trans album: “Neil Young’s much-vaunted experiment in electronic music is like one of those get-rich-quick schemes everyone comes up with now and then. It seems like a sure thing in the middle of the night as the drinks are flowing. But hungover in the cold light of dawn, you realize it wasn’t such a great idea after all.”

5) The Bangles – “I’m in Line.” Wayne King tackles the debut EP of “yet another all-girl group.” As you can see in the scan, he raises the question that “haunts most all female acts” – whether they play their own instruments on record – before dismissing it as irrelevant: “somebody has come up with what they used to call a hot platter, one so tight and sharp that it threatens to singlehandedly resurrect that deservedly-dormant phrase, power pop.”

He also singles out their “intricate and endearingly rough harmonizing” and equates the end of “I’m in Line” to the Move’s “Message From the Country.” He also pushes forth his view of how the band should evolve: “If the Bangles don’t yet articulate the tough sexual politics of a Chrissie Hynde, they at least may be close to finding that voice.”


 

IMG_5201I’ve been skipping through the years every which way of late, somewhat like Marty McFly in Back to the Future II – where I stop next, who knows? Today’s edition picks up the non-linear tale in January 1983 with Trouser Press, a magazine I usually read at the bookstore.

It was a difficult time for the music industry. As Mick Farren points out in his “Surface Noise” column: “The record industry is in almost complete decline, bled to death by cowardice, ignorance, home taping and video games.” And: “Mass market radio…has gone after the zombie market and based itself largely on music a decade or more old.”

The albums I bought that month included Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask; Neil Young’s Trans; Van Morrison’s Moondance; Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Chronicle; Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits; and Todd Rundgren’s The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect. There was much more that I wanted, and a few came from this issue.

IMG_52071) Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo – “Shelly’s Boyfriend.” Bonnie & band are featured in a quick-hit feature with fellow newbie acts R.E.M., Wall of Voodoo and Trees, who apparently was just one guy (Dane Conover). It covers “who,” “how,” “what” and “why.” We learn that “a decade ago, San Francisco native Bonnie Hayes was a teenager playing keyboards in jazz-rock fusion bands. In the ensuing years she lived the life of the journeyman musician, moving to New York and then Atlanta, working in every sort of bar band imaginable, from jazz to Top 40 to country. At one point she cranked out ‘heavy rock’ in a group that included future Foghat member Nick Jameson.” Later, we learn that Hayes & Co. “play energetic, gleaming pop music, not unlike current cotton-candy ‘new wave’ bands but with considerably more depth.”

Here’s a cool video of Hayes and the Wild Combo from September of ’83 performing “Shelly’s Boyfriend” and “Shake.”

IMG_52082) Bruce Springsteen – “Atlantic City.” Starkness at the Edge of Town reads the headline for this review of Springsteen’s now-universally acclaimed Nebraska album, which he recorded on a four-track cassette recorder. The songs were demos; he assumed, while laying them down, that he’d flesh them out in the studio with the E Street Band. The sparseness of the tracks, however, seemed to capture a certain essence that was lost when they were ported into the E Street soundscape; and, as a result, Springsteen released his original takes instead. Reviewer Ira Robbins, however, isn’t totally sold: “When Springsteen searches for the point of essentially meaningless crimes in the title track and ‘Johnny 99,’ he comes up empty-handed.” Later, he observes that “[w]hen Springsteen doesn’t force Big Truths onto his subject matter he’s a more perceptive commentator and ultimately more profound.”

 

IMG_52113) Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy.” I have doubts that the Top 20 Domestic Albums Chart featured at the front of the magazine is accurate. Chief reason: Too many outlier acts, like Yaz, English Beat, R.E.M. and the Malcolm McLaren-created and -controlled Bow Wow Wow, which featured teenager Annabella Lwin and the Ants from Adam & the Ants. There were controversies surrounding the group, ranging from McLaren’s supposed support of home taping to his sexualization of the underage Lwin, most notably in a recreation of Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbs” painting that was used as the See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy! cover art in the U.K. and for the Last of the Mohicans E.P. in the U.S. (I won a copy of the E.P. in a give-away from our local newspaper, the Today’s Spirit. I forget when, exactly.)615jjsYYBmL._SY355_

Regardless, this is still a fun rendition of the 1965 Strangeloves’ hit. It originally appeared on Last of the Mohicans and, then, topped the I Want Candy album, which – if the Trouser Press charts are to be believed – was No. 18 on the charts.

IMG_52154) Rachel Sweet – “Shadows of the Night.” In the quick-hit Fax & Rumours section, there’s this: “Rachel Sweet may be small, but she’s not about to let other female singers walk over her. Last year the atomic Akronite recorded D.L. Byron’s ‘Shadows of the Night,’ but added lyrics of her own (with Byron’s approval). This year Pat Benatar is riding the song into the charts. It’s Sweet’s version, however, and the post-punk popper isn’t credited. Sweet’s manager/father is aiming for an out-of-court settlement with the song publisher to smooth ruffled egos and redirect royalties.”

IMG_52165) R.E.M. – “Radio Free Europe.” “The unassuming quartet got together in their native Athens, Georgia a little more than two years ago,” we learn in the “how” section of this quick-hit feature. Under “why,” we’re told: “R.E.M. is compared to everyone from the Byrds, B-52s (fellow Athenians) and Psychedelic Furs to the Who, Television and Herman’s Hermits. They themselves list influences as disparate as Patti Smith, Donna Summer and Pere Ubu. Their haunting, minor-key songs feature insistent choruses, Stipe’s raspy singing and Buck’s ringing Richebacker. Lyrics, written mostly by Stipe, are purposely oblique. ‘You should just be able to get a feeling from the whole song,’ Buck says. ‘It doesn’t have to make any sense as far as structure goes.’”

Here they are on Late Night With David Letterman later in the year…