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friday random ten, 1981 edition

Since I did the last several Random Tens before I left for vacation, this is the first time I've sat down and created a new one in about a month. Here goes:

1. Gary U.S. Bonds, "Jole Blon." In 1981-1982, Bruce Springsteen made two very good albums that are mostly forgotten. One reason is that the name on the cover of those albums was Gary U.S. Bonds. But make no mistake ... 10 of the 21 songs on the two albums were written by Bruce, the E Street Band served as the support group, and on "Jole Blon," Bruce took the second verse for himself and sang backup throughout. None of which is meant to disparage Bonds, an early idol of Bruce's, but what lifted these albums wasn't just Bonds. We saw Bonds in a small club in June of 1981, and one couldn't help but notice as the set progressed that among the songs he hadn't yet sung were the three Bruce songs from that first album, and "Quarter to Three," which was a longtime set-closer for Bruce. Sure enough, near the end of the set, Bonds said that he had a friend he'd like to bring onstage ... the subsequent "whaaaaaaaah!" was collective and as intense as anything I've ever experienced in concert. "Hey," Bonds said, "I've got more than one friend, you know." But this friend was the one we wanted. Our seats/table were right in front, but that didn't matter ... as Springsteen hit the stage, the entire audience (probably around 750) pushed forward, so that the whole group seemed to be within five feet of the stage. One guy was standing on our little table. Bruce and Bonds then sang all of those songs we'd been missing ... I've never forgotten it.

2. Toni Basil, "Mickey." Do I really need to say anything about this one? The video link proves that Basil's a better dancer/choreographer than singer.

3. Taana Gardner, "Heartbeat." Disco refused to go away, although I notice that the All-Music Guide refers to this as "post-disco," which they say comes between disco and house. Whatever ... this one was much-sampled in subsequent years (just ask Ini Kamoze).

4. Rosanne Cash, "Seven Year Ache." Rosanne Cash has made a lot of fine records, but this one was the favorite at our house ... it got played over and over, back when albums still got played (and you had to turn it over to hear Side Two).

5. Prince, "Controversy." Sometimes, shuffle play makes for weird segues (as in "awful segues"). But I like to think in this case, what we're seeing is the diversity of music in 1981. 1981 was also the year I saw Prince in concert for the first time ... I don't suppose I have to tell you it was great. It's silly to claim that we still had Prince to ourselves in those pre-Purple Rain days ... Controversy was his second platinum album ... but he hadn't yet reached the pinnacle that he deserved (and deserves).

6. The Descendents, "Weinerschnitzel." I'm surprised it took shuffle play this long to come up with what we called "KALX music" and what the rest of the world knows as "College Rock." Is there a better song in the universe than this one? It's the Booty Call of music: ten seconds long, it makes the typical Ramones song seem like an endless symphony.

7. The Pointer Sisters, "Slow Hand." A favorite of my wife's, who once told me if I wanted to know what appeals to a woman, I might listen to this song.

8. The Go-Go's, "Our Lips Are Sealed." Greil Marcus, champion of such avant-garde women rockers as LiLiPut, Essential Logic, and Sleater-Kinney, loved the Go-Go's.

9. Lester Bangs and the Delinquents, "I'm in Love With My Walls." Everyone knows what they think of Lester by now ... greatest rock writer ever, overrated bum, guy in that Almost Famous movie. No one says much about his musical career. I'm a huge Lester fan, but the best things about his songs are their titles, many of which, like this one, tell the story of my life.

10. Stiff Little Fingers, "Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae." One of the great ones. It's not the lyrics ... oh, they're OK in a rather charmingly revolutionary-but-naive way ... but the guitar riff is a monster, and the vocals are as perfectly matched to the guitars as Robert Plant's are to Jimmy Page. When this one turns up on shuffle play, I find myself hitting the repeat button several times in a row.

You got to pass the bowl and make the food go round
Cos that's the only way to trample crime to the ground
Equal rights and justice for one and all
Cos only through liberty freedom shall form
Don't fight against no colour class nor creed
Cos on discrimination does violence breed
We are all in a one and one in all
So throw away the guns and the war's all gone
Throw away the hunger and the war's all gone
Throw away the fighting and the war's all gone
Throw away the guns and the war's all gone
Throw away the hunger and the war's all gone
Throw away the fighting and the war's all gone
Throw away the grudges and the war's all gone