music friday: 1982

Michael Jackson, "Billie Jean". Let's quote Wikipedia, since it never lies. "That performance is considered a watershed moment, not only in Jackson's career, but in the history of popular culture."

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "The Message". Speaking of watershed moments ...

The Pretenders, "Back on the Chain Gang". Third year in a row I've included The Pretenders, who by this point were Chrissie Hynde, drummer Martin Chambers, and a pick-up band.

Bruce Springsteen, "Atlantic City". Bruce didn't used to do videos. If I remember right, this was his first. So of course, he doesn't actually turn up in it.

Prince and the Revolution, "Little Red Corvette". If the lyrics were more subtle, the song would be almost vulgar. Instead, the double-entendres turn vulgarity into art. And there's nothing vulgar about "It was Saturday night, I guess that makes it alright".

The English Beat, "Save It for Later". Closer to the future than to The Beat's ska past.

Fleetwood Mac, "Gypsy". The video was the most expensive up to that time. We've come a long way from "Shake Your Money Maker".

The Jam, "Beat Surrender". Paul Weller says bye.

Miguel Rios, "Bienvenidos". I like Spanish rockers who record albums called Al-Andalus. This song is not from that album.

The Clash, "Should I Stay or Should I Go". Was this question ever definitively answered?

Not "Gypsy":

 Spotify Playlist

music friday: 1981

Gary "U.S." Bonds, "Jole Blon". The man whose first hit was "New Orleans" sings a Cajun classic. This song was part of the second coming of Bonds' career, with Bruce Springsteen's help. We saw Bonds in a club when he toured behind that album, and Bruce showed up, still the only time in all these years that we've attended one of Bruce's legendary drop-ins.

Soft Cell, "Tainted Love". Cover of a mid-60s soul song by Gloria Jones, who later hooked up with Marc Bolan, who was an influence on Marc Almond, the singer with Soft Cell.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll". Cover of a mid-70s song by The Arrows. On a roll with these cover versions ... but it ends here.

Bauhaus, "Kick in the Eye". I didn't pay much attention to them in those days ... there were a lot of synth-pop bands that blended together in my mind, although Bauhaus has a funky approach that at least made me want to listen to Gang of Four.

The Pretenders, "Message of Love". The tail end of the great, short run of the original band. Chrissie Hynde was already 28 when they released their first record.

Bobby Womack, "If You Think You're Lonely Now". At the time, this marked a comeback for Womack, who had been recording as far back as 1954, when he was 10.

Kim Wilde, "Kids in America". Wilde's first hit was written by her brother and her father. Wikipedia fact of the day: "[S]he has branched into an alternative career as a landscape gardener."

Foreigner, "Waiting for a Girl Like You". Still had three years to go before the summit that was "I Want to Know What Love Is".

Prince, "Controversy". "People call me rude / I wish we all were nude / I wish there was no black and white / I wish there were no rules."

David Johansen, "Bohemian Love Pad". "You know the cockroach traffic in here / It's got me drinkin' too much beer."

Spotify Playlist (with The Arrows substituting for Joan Jett)

music friday: 1980

I feel like we've moved past punk (or we're into "post-punk") almost as soon as punk began. There are several New Wave songs on this list ... even Prince's song is New Wavish. And the post-punk tunes. Only the Funky 4 + 1 hints at the coming hip hop onslaught. And the only real punk tune here comes from Flipper.

Joy Division, "Love Will Tear Us Apart". I've always preferred New Order to Joy Division, but this song is unstoppable.

Bob Marley and The Wailers, "Redemption Song". Covered by seemingly everyone (I'm partial to Joe Strummer's version).

Blondie, "Call Me". I tend to forget this was from American Gigolo ... just feels like one of a succession of great Blondie singles at the time.

Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime". A memorable video, but watching it, you might think Talking Heads consisted solely of David Byrne. I kinda prefer the Stop Making Sense version, which focuses on Byrne, but at least lets us know there are other people in the band.

The Pretenders, "Precious". The first track from their first album. As a statement of purposes, it's hard to top Chrissie's "Fuck Off!". All these years later, it's hard to explain how powerful those two words were at the time. 

Prince, "When You Were Mine". As usual, it's hard to find Prince videos online, so here's Bob Mould, a contemporary of Minneapolis Prince, playing the song at the famous First Avenue just after Prince died.

The Fall, "Totally Wired". Mark E. Smith died a couple of months ago, which forced me to realize I don't know any Fall songs. Until I put this list together, and remembered I do know this one.

The English Beat, "Mirror in the Bathroom". Their first album was like a greatest hits album.

Funky 4 + 1, "That's the Joint". The infallible Wikipedia tells us, "They were the first hip hop group to receive a recording deal, and the first to perform live on national television. The group was also notable for being the first to have a female MC." Christgau named this the best single of the 80s.

Flipper, "Ha Ha Ha". I have so many Flipper stories. I've told most of them before. I called this a "real punk tune" above, but it's probably post-punk too. Sigh.

Spotify playlist

music friday: 1979

The Clash, "London Calling". Their greatest track? I don't know what I'd choose ... "Safe European Home"? "Complete Control"?

Chic, "Good Times". Their greatest track? What else ... "Le Freak"? Rodgers and Edwards sued and got songwriter credits for:

The Sugarhill Gang, "Rapper's Delight". Their greatest track? What else?

Patti Smith, "Dancing Barefoot". Her greatest track? Christgau called it "quite possibly her greatest track ever".  How about "Gloria" or "Free Money"?

Michael Jackson, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". His greatest? Some might choose "Billie Jean", but I'd cheat and easily go with "I Want You Back".

The B-52's, "52 Girls". Their greatest? I suppose most would choose "Rock Lobster", but for me, the only real alternative is "Private Idaho".

Graham Parker, "Local Girls".  Their greatest? OK, I'm stretching ... it's not even the best song on Side One of Squeezing Out Sparks. I'll vote for "Don't Ask Me Questions".

Earth, Wind & Fire, "After the Love Has Gone". Their greatest? It won a Grammy. OTOH, it was kept out of the #1 slot on the charts by "My Sharona". (I'm going with either "September" or "Shining Star".)

Delta 5, "Mind Your Own Business". Their greatest? It was their first. Sure, I'll vote for it.

Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb". Their greatest? Those who consider David Gilmour solos to be integral to any discussion of best Pink Floyd tracks probably vote for this. But my favorite Gilmour solo is this one:

Spotify playlist

throwback thursday: my first prince concert

Saw Prince for the first time, 37 years ago, at The Stone in San Francisco, capacity around 700. Greil Marcus was there, and wrote the following:

Fronting a band of three blacks and two Jews from Minneapolis, Prince stormed into town on the heels of last year’s breakthrough Dirty Mind, was greeted by the most excited and diverse crowd (black and white, punk and funk, straight and gay, young and old, rich and poor) I’ve been part of in a long time, and sent everyone home awestruck and drained: “That was the history of rock ‘n’ roll in one song!” a friend shouted before the last notes of “When You Were Mine” were out of the air. All barriers of music, sex, and race were seemingly trashed by Prince’s performance, and leering organist Lisa Coleman walked off with the 1981 Most Valuable Player award—edging out Junior Walker, whose sax work on Foreigner’s “Urgent” is the closest he’s come to hoodoo in a twenty-year career.

The setlist:

Do It All Night
Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?
Gotta Broken Heart Again
When You Were Mine
Sexy Dancer
I Wanna Be Your Lover
Still Waiting
Crazy You
Gotta Stop (Messin' About)
Dirty Mind

Everybody Dance


music friday: 1978

Blondie, "Heart of Glass". 1978 was the apex of our concert-going days. We saw five of these acts, including Blondie, who were a bit disappointing. Opening act Rockpile was better.

Talking Heads, "The Big Country". Opened the show we saw, which seems odd to me. "I wouldn't live there if you paid me."

Chic, "Le Freak". Nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 11 times, which should have been unnecessary, but since they still haven't gotten in ... Nile Rodgers finally made it on his own, which is something.

X-Ray Spex, "Germ Free Adolescents". One of many bands to start up after seeing the Sex Pistols, and one of the few to match the greatness of their influences.

Lou Reed, "Street Hassle". Too often, when a rocker decides to go Epic, the result is overblown. But "Street Hassle" is one of the handful of total classics from one of the musics greatest songwriters.

Bob Marley and The Wailers, "Is This Love". Easy to like, which doesn't mean it's his greatest song.

Bruce Springsteen, "Darkness on the Edge of Town". In the case of Bruce, we saw him three times ... in 1978. This album may have connected with me on a personal level more than any other record in my life.

Patti Smith, "Because the Night". Bruce turns up for a third time. (He has a cameo in "Street Hassle" ... was pretty busy that year!) The two versions (Patti's and Bruce's) stand alone, reflecting the respective artists. Much as I love this version, though, Bruce's live versions on the Darkness tour were another level of thrilling.

Earth, Wind & Fire, "September". They are good enough that it is unfair that whenever I hear them, I think of George Clinton's "Earth, Hot Air & No Fire".

Elvis Costello, "Radio Radio". I was hanging out with a group of women ... this would have been the mid-90s. They were talking about Elvis Costello and which of his albums were the best. I offered the opinion that This Year's Model was so much better than any other Costello album that a discussion was unnecessary. They said I was being a guy.

Spotify playlist

throwback thursday: love has gone away

I picked up a CD the other day, and I assure you, I rarely buy CDs anymore. But this one can't be found on streaming. It's a couple of Lou Reed concerts from 1978, when he was touring behind Street Hassle. The concerts happened a month or two before the ones memorialized on Lou's official live album, Take No Prisoners.

One of the concerts on the CD I got, Waltzing Matilda (love has gone away), was from The Old Waldorf in San Francisco, recorded 40 years ago today, March 22 1978. And we were there. I think it was the third time we'd seen him, first time in a club (so this might have been the night my wife looked at Lou's hands ... we were right up against the stage ... and informed me that they looked like her grandfather's).

There are no easily available cuts from the night we went (hence my buying the CD), so here is one from Take No Prisoners:


music friday: 1977

The Jam, "In the City". Their great debut single. I know they were an important band, but honestly, outside of this and "That's Entertainment", I can't think of any of their songs off the top of my head.

Donna Summer, "I Feel Love". Took five tries to get her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is four too many. She may not have made my favorite disco record, but she made lots of near-favorites, while most of my favorites made one record of note. Heck, Bruce even wrote a song for her.

Television, "Marquee Moon". Punk hadn't quite solidified in 1977, so I don't think we really noticed this was a ten-minute song with guitar solos. If it came out in 1979, people would have complained.

Fleetwood Mac, "The Chain". Perhaps my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of the post-Peter Green era.

The Brothers Johnson, "Strawberry Letter 23". Originally written and recorded by a teenaged Shuggie Otis in 1971. How time flies department: Shuggie is 64 (so am I, but still).

Kate and Anna McGarrigle, "Southern Boys". They made ten highly-regarded albums, yet I can't think of anything to say about them except that the late Kate McGarrigle was the mom of Rufus and Martha Wainwright.

Judas Priest, "Diamonds & Rust". I saw them open for Led Zeppelin in 1977. There is something fascinating about a metal band, named after a Bob Dylan song, covering a Joan Baez song about Bob Dylan.

Althea and Donna, "Uptown Top Ranking". According to the always-true Wikipedia, when this was a hit, they "became the youngest female duo to reach the number 1 place of the UK chart."

Wire, "1 2 X U". As good as punk got in 1977.

The Clash, "Capitol Radio/Janie Jones/What's My Name/Garageland". First they were the greatest punk band. Then they were the greatest band, period. Along with Bruce Springsteen, The Clash got me through a lot of my years working in the factory. And, also along with Bruce and Prince, they were the best live performers I ever saw.

Spotify playlist

music friday: 1976

The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the U.K.". Back when Glen Matlock was still in the band, on bass.

VIcki Sue Robinson, "Turn the Beat Around". Wendy Simmons on bass.

Thin Lizzy, "The Boys Are Back in Town". Phil Lynott on bass.

Lou Reed, "Temporary Thing". Bruce Yaw on bass. (I'm on a roll.)

Max Romeo & The Upsetters, "War ina Babylon". Boris Gardiner on bass.

Blondie, "The Attack of the Giant Ants". Gary Valentine on bass.

David Bowie, "Stay". George Murray on bass. No disrespect to Murray, but the reason this is my favorite Bowie song is the guitarists, Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar.

Heatwave, "Boogie Nights". Before I get to the bass player, a word about Rod Temperton, who wrote this song and played keyboards in the band. He later worked with Michael Jackson, writing such hits as "Off the Wall" (which sounds a lot like "Boogie Nights") and "Thriller". Mario Mantese on bass. In 1978, Mantese was stabbed by his girlfriend, and was clinically dead for a few minutes before going into a coma. A few months later, he awoke from the coma blind, mute, and paralyzed. He eventually recovered.

Patti Smith, "Pumping (My Heart)". Ivan Kral on bass.

Robin Trower, "Daydream". Cheating ... the song came out a couple of years earlier, although it did turn up on a live album that was released in '76. I saw him that year (second time). Obviously, when a band is named after the guitar player, he's the primary musician, but ... James Dewar on bass. Dewar is one of the most underrated blue-eyed soul singers of this time.

For all my jabbering about bass players (and I have no idea how I got started on that, I think because I wanted to highlight Wendy Simmons), there is some great guitar work here ... "Daydream" has always been my favorite Robin Trower song, and I've already singled out Slick and Alomar on "Stay". Here's a delightful 2-minute video where the guitarists explain how they came up with the guitar lick for "Stay":

Spotify playlist

international women's day

Some of the women whose work informs and inspires me today:

Maureen Ryan, TV Critic, Variety. Sample piece: "‘Sweet/Vicious’ Canceled by MTV but Should Live on Elsewhere (Opinion)". "One of the greatest joys of this job is coming across something around the margins that does something cool, unique, or entertaining. When a show you’ve never heard of does all of those things, it’s like getting a jolt of joy straight to the nervous system."

Sleater-Kinney. All of them, in all of their projects. Special shout-out to Carrie Brownstein for her memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.

I think I was too scared to be open with the fans because I knew how bottomless their need could be. How could I help if I was just like them? I was afraid I might not be able to lessen their pain or live up to their ideals; I would be revealed as a fraud, unworthy and insubstantial. The disconnect between who I was on- and offstage would be so pronounced as to be jarring. Me, so small, so unqualified.

Dee Rees, Director, Mudbound.

Lana Wachowski, Director/Writer/Producer. Along with Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski, created Sense8.

Hall of Fame: Pauline Kael. "In the arts, the critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising."