music friday: 1988

Phil Collins, "A Groovy Kind of Love". I learned a few things about this recording ... nothing earth-shaking, I just didn't notice it in 1988 for some reason (perhaps because it sux). I remember it as a hit in the 60s for The Mindbenders ... what I didn't know in the 60s, or in 1988 for that matter, is that the song was co-written by the soon-to-be ubiquitous Carole Bayer Sager. Collins recorded it for the 1988 film Buster ... again, I must have slept through 1988, I don't remember that movie, which actually starred Collins in the title role!

Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Worry, Be Happy". But wait, it gets worse. This insipid piece of junk might work as a novelty, with McFerrin using his specialty (all of the sounds on the track are made by McFerrin without instruments). This leads to one of the most remarkable bits of trivia I've ever heard, and once again, I can't believe I didn't know this before. McFerrin affects a Jamaican-sounding accent for no apparent reason, but according to Wikipedia, McFerrin was influenced by a Mexican restaurant next to the recording studio (the famous Fantasy Studios, aka the House that Creedence Built). I can't say I recognize the Mexican influence in his stupid vocals, but let me get to the trivia. Fantasy Studios, which is about half-a-mile from my house, is across the street from Juan's Place, where we have been eating for close to 50 years. My wife and I even have our pictures on the wall. Here is a picture of me with the late Juan:

With juan 2

Belinda Carlisle, "Heaven Is a Place on Earth". A bit of a cheat, here, as this one came out in 1987. The video is directed by Diane Keaton. Carlisle is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She's not there as a solo artist.

Bonus: The Proclaimers, "Oh Jean". I'm no expert, but if I had to guess, I'd say Americans think of The Proclaimers as one-hit wonders, that hit being "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)". That song came from their 1988 album Sunshine on Leith. It's a great song, but I've also always loved "Oh Jean" from the same album. Here's a lo-fi live recording of that one:

One-hit wonders in the USA, perhaps, but not necessarily in their native Scotland. In fact, Sunshine on Leith became the basis for an award-winning musical in 2007. In 2013 came a film version:

And yes, "500 Miles" was in the film, as well:

music friday: 1987

Los Lobos, "La Bamba". A return to the charts for this classic, as Los Lobos recorded a version for the biopic of the same name. This was one of the first songs I ever sang in public ... our garage band played a gig that went well for a change, and we were called back for an encore, which we hadn't prepared. So we started in on "La Bamba", and I did the vocals, even though I didn't know the words. Many, many years later, I learned the words, and once sang it at a karaoke bar. I didn't need the teleprompter.

Rick Astley, "Never Gonna Give You Up". Would we even remember this song if it wasn't for Rickrolling?

Whitney Houston, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me". My daughter loved her. Me, I was more on the side of Robert Christgau, who, in a review of the 1987 album from which this track came, called Houston "the most revolting pop singer in Christendom", finishing the review with "the results are forgivable--she does have a good voice, you know. C+"

Bonus: Eric B. & Rakim, "Paid in Full (Seven Minutes of Madness - The Coldcut Remix)". I don't know exactly what song from 1987 sticks with me the most, but this has to be in the running:

music friday: 1986

Falco, "Rock Me Amadeus". Actually came out in 1985, but hit the top of the Billboard charts in '86. Wikipedia lists 21 versions, edits, and remixes. Falco also hit with "Der Kommissar", which I only remember from the version by After the Fire.

Madonna, "Papa Don't Preach". It's not that there was a time when Madonna could do no wrong. It's just that there was a time when she cranked out a gazillion great records.

Jermaine Stewart, "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off". A former Soul Train dancer who had a moment in the sun as a singer.

Bonus: "Rock Me Dr. Zaius".

bruce springsteen #37

It had been so long since we'd seen Bruce that he was only 66 years old at the time. We didn't miss any tours ... this was his first tour since we saw him in '16. But there was COVID, and then he did his Broadway show, which played off an on between 2017 and 2021. He stayed busy. There were three studio albums, one of which, Western Stars, later was released in theaters as a full performance of the album. He released an album of soul covers. The Broadway shows were released as an album, as were his performances at the No Nukes concerts in 1979. He also continued his release of live concerts from the archives, almost 100 of them since that last show we saw in 2016. These are properly mastered, and basically replace all those decades where we collected bootlegs. Four of those were of shows we attended. So yeah, the old geezer kept busy.

It's impossible to attend a Bruce Springsteen show in 2024 without bringing your past along. I couldn't help but compare what I was seeing to what I had seen in the past. Sure, nothing is likely to match the shows from 1978, but he's put on so many great shows since ... the 1999 E Street Reunion return was tremendous, and I was especially taken by a couple of 2008 shows from the Magic Tour. But now it's 2024 ... the E Streeters who have died were replaced more than a decade ago, what you see now is what you get. The musicianship remains top notch, and Bruce's voice is still powerful. If you'd never seen him before, you might not have noticed how little he moved around, but really, he didn't look all that different from other acts, it's just that when we were all young, Bruce would run around and climb on stuff and go into the crowd, and that's in the past. The band had fun with it ... during "Rosalita", always one of the most physically active songs in the show, Bruce and buddies danced in little circles. It was charming.

In the old days, it was always fun to see what new songs Bruce would perform, and that's not as true now, but then, he's got 50+ years of tunes to get through. He played a song each from the two albums he released in 1973, he played four songs from 2020's Letter to You, he played a song from the 2022 album of soul covers. With someone whose back catalog is so huge, there are always going to be songs people in the audience missed (I'm still waiting to hear "Back in Your Arms" for the first time). But, as I said at one point to my wife, he has a lot of songs, and while his peak was, what 1975-1988?, his output since then has not been insubstantial.

On to the setlist junkie info ... he opened with "Something in the Night" from 1978 ... it was the tour debut for this one. Another tour debut was "Atlantic City", which was inspired by a sign in the crowd. Finally, there was a tour debut for "Land of Hope and Dreams". They played five songs we'd never seen live (because they were recorded after 2016). He played seven songs that he had played at our first show in 1975. "Born to Run" is "our song" (us and every other Bruce fan ... some day girl, I don't know when, we're gonna get to that place where we really want to go and we'll walk in the sun ... has meant something different from when we were 22 to now when we're 70). "Rosalita" has always been my favorite Bruce song, and I'm glad to hear it, but it really was better in the olden days. "Backstreets" probably hits closest to home for me ... I choke up the second the piano starts up.

Here are a few videos, not necessarily the best songs of the night, but the best videos ... a tip of the cap to some of these people who do such a great thing under tough conditions. This is so far the best video I have seen:

And the timeless "Backstreets":

Over the course of 50 years, some songs rise to the top of your personal pantheon, others slip away only to return down the road. But of all the words Bruce Springsteen has written, these resonate the most for me to this day:

Remember all the movies, Terry, we’d go see
Trying to learn how to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be
And after all this time to find we’re just like all the rest
Stranded in the park and forced to confess
To hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
We swore forever friends on the backstreets until the end
Hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets

Here we are at the show:

At bruce 2024

music friday: 1985

I'm typing this on Thursday afternoon, but by the time it posts, I will have seen Bruce Springsteen for the 37th time, and the first time since 2016 (this 8-year break is by far the longest of our life since the first time we saw him in 1975). This is Music Friday 1985, and Bruce didn't release any albums that year ... he was still touring behind the previous year's Born in the USA. We saw him once on that tour ... here is the setlist from that show:

Born In The USA / Badlands / Out In The Street / Johnny 99 / Seeds / Atlantic City / The River / Working On The Highway / Trapped / I'm Going Down / Glory Days / Promised Land / My Hometown / Thunder Road / Cover Me / Dancing In The Dark / Hungry Heart / Cadillac Ranch / Downbound Train / Stolen Car / I'm On Fire / Pink Cadillac / Bobby Jean / This Land Is Your Land / Born To Run / Ramrod / Twist And Shout-Do You Love Me / Stand On It / Travelin' Band

Here is a low-fi video of "Stolen Car" from that show:

Now I'm driving a stolen car on a pitch-black nightAnd I'm doing my best to make it throughWell I'm just sitting down here at the Stanton lightI wanna get caught but I never do

And here is a Creedence song recorded 9 days later, this time with no video but much better sound ... this closed the set for us in Oakland:

music friday: 1984

George Michael, "Careless Whisper". I'm crediting Michael here, but it's a bit more complicated than that. It was written by Michael and his Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley, and originally appeared on a Wham! album. But when it was released as a single, it was attributed to Wham! featuring George Michael in some countries, and just George Michael in others.

Stevie Wonder, "I Just Called to Say I Love You". From the soundtrack to a forgotten movie, The Woman in Red. Wonder won an Oscar for the song.

Cyndi Lauper, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". A bit of a cheat, since it came out in 1983, but it had its biggest impact in '84. The video stars Captain Lou Albano, leading to the odd "Rock 'n' Wrestling" angle that lasted longer than you might think.

You thought I was kidding about Rock 'n' Wrestling? On the very first Wrestlemania, Women's Champion Leilani Kai put her title on the line against challenger Wendy Richter. Richter's manager was none other than Cyndi Lauper.

music friday: 1983

Culture Club, "Karma Chameleon". Culture Club and singer Boy George were quite a phenomenon at one time. You can't talk about the music of the early-80s without dealing with this band.

Michael Jackson, "Billie Jean". On May 16, 1983, NBC telecast Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. The Jackson 5 reassembled for a medley of hits, then everyone but Michael left the stage. What followed was a massive cultural moment, the equal of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Jackson lip-synced his recent hit "Billie Jean", dazzling the audience with his dance moves. And then, suddenly, for the first time, he did the Moonwalk. The next day, 809 billion kids (and a lot of their parents) spent the day in their homes trying to do the walk.

Nena, "99 Luftballons". German-language hit ... later there was an English-language version, but the German one was the bigger hit:

music friday: 1982

Survivor, "Eye of the Tiger". Also known as the Rocky III song. The band in the video attempts to look like bad asses. They don't succeed.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll". In this video, Joan Jett looks more bad ass than Survivor.

Kid Creole and the Coconuts, "Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy". Kid Creole was August Darnell, who had formed Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band with his brother Stony Browder Jr. It could just be me, but I feel like this band is largely forgotten today, but they made more than a dozen albums back in the day.

Bonus: "Edge of Seventeen" was a track from Stevie Nicks' 1981 debut album Bella Donna. It was released as a single in 1982, but the real reason I've added it here is because the opening guitar lick sounds a lot like the one in "Eye of the Tiger":

music friday: 1981

Kim Carnes, "Bette Davis Eyes". This song was so huge that it almost seems like Carnes was a one-hit wonder, since nothing else she did came close. But she's recorded more than a dozen albums, and has not one but two Grammies. Ironically for this songwriter, "Bette Davis Eyes" was written by Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss.

Soft Cell, 'Tainted Love". It feels so much of its time (as do all of this week's songs, to be honest), that it's amazing to realize it was originally the B-side of a flop mid-60s single. I also love this bit of trivia: the man who wrote "Tainted Love" also wrote "Dirty Water" ("I love that dirty water, Ooh, oh, Boston, you're my home").

Prince, "Controversy". Looking back, I think the pre-Purple Rain Prince is a bit misremembered. He was already Prince, but he wasn't Biggest Act in the World Prince. This is the title song from his fourth album.

What was I doing in 1981? Attending my first Prince concert. This was recorded a week before we saw him:

music friday: 1980

Pink Floyd, "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)". I have a vague memory of someone back in the day questioning the benefits of a pop song telling kids they didn't need no education.

Barbra Streisand, "Woman in Love". From her 22nd album ... she was prolific.

Lipps Inc., "Funkytown". I guess Lipps Inc. were one-hit wonders. The singer's name is Cynthia Johnson.

What was I doing in 1980? Well, in October, we saw Bruce Springsteen five times in seven nights in two states and three cities.