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.


music friday: 1979

Blondie, "Heart of Glass". At the time, categorization mattered ... I mean, it always does, but the years provide perspective. In the late 70s, there was still a perception that New Wave was different than Punk (and hardcore punks could claim to dislike New Wave because it was more "accessible") and that Disco was different from both ("Disco Sucks" being the operative slander). Disco was absorbed into the mainstream, and New Wave band Blondie did their part to smash barriers with this song.

Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive". This was released in late 1978, but got serious airplay in '79. This is unapologetically disco ... in fact, it won a Grammy for Best Disco Recording, the only year that award was given. (The other nominated artists: Earth, Wind & Fire, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer, and Michael Jackson.)

M, "Pop Musik". "M" was more a concept than a band, created by Robin Scott. If you're trying to categorize this one ... well, the title wants to claim Pop, I guess, I think of it as Synth-Pop, and really, who cares by this point.


music friday: 1978

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, "You're the One That I Want". From a movie I don't like, featuring singers I don't care much about (as singers). But this is a great song, and a great pairing of singers.

Village People, "Y.M.C.A." An example of how a concoction can make good records. Victor Willis is the lead singer.

Boney M, "Rivers of Babylon". A Rastafari song, recorded by The Melodians in 1970 ... it turned up on the soundtrack for The Harder They Come, making it famous. In 1978, it became an international hit by Boney M., a group formed by German producer Frank Farian.

And the original:


sleater-kinney 2024

Wrote a long email to a friend who had forwarded me a video of Corin and Carrie, and thought maybe it was time to put my thoughts here on the blog.

I've been thinking a lot about S-K lately. The new album is the reason, plus it seems like everyone I know wants to tell me that the band has a new album ... I guess my Sleater-Kinney obsession is well-known.

When No Cities to Love came out after the ten-year hiatus, I was happy. It wasn't their greatest album, but it was good, better than I had expected, and I looked forward to the future. And they were still great live ... saw them 3 times, climaxing with a New Years Eve show at the end of 2016. But then came The Center Won't Hold, which I liked but didn't love, and then Janet left the band. I saw them twice after that, my 16th and 17th time, and honestly, I liked the three times I saw Wild Flag more than I liked those shows. When Path of Wellness came out, it barely registered with me, and now Little Rope sounds OK but I'm not obsessed anymore.

And I think it's all about Janet. I thought of Sleater-Kinney as a trio ... maybe because the first time I saw them was in 1998, after Janet joined the band, or maybe because I was so in love with her drumming. I thought of her as the final piece in creating a great band. Now, I don't suppose we'll ever know exactly what happened, and I imagine the three of them are on good terms, but I haven't been able to shake what Janet said when she left. “I said, ‘Am I just the drummer now?’ They said yes. And I said, ‘Can you tell me if I am still a creative equal in the band?’ And they said no. So, I left.”

That crushed me, way more than the hiatus ever did. It was like when the Beatles broke up. Because I got the feeling, and nothing the last five years have shown me otherwise, that Carrie and Corin always thought it was their band, while I always thought it was a trio.

So I might like them better now if I hadn't loved them before. But I can't get Janet out of my mind. I wish I liked Quasi, but I don't.


music friday: 1977

The Bee Gees, "How Deep Is Your Love". One of several contributions by the Bee Gees to the iconic soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, which was for several years the best-selling album in history. The Bee Gees had been recording since 1963, and were prolific enough that their international debut album, Bee Gees' 1st, was actually their third album. I remember hearing songs like "Holiday" and "New York Mining Disaster 1941" in the early days of FM Underground radio. 

The Emotions, "Best of My Love". The mid-70s were the peak period for the R&B group The Emotions, and "Best of My Love" was their only #1 hit. It was written by Maurice White and Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire.

Debby Boone, "You Light Up My Life". A monster hit from the 70s, this was originally the title song to a movie written, directed, and produced by Joseph Brooks, who also wrote this song. In the film, actress Didi Conn lip-synced to a recording by Kasey Cisyk. There were shenanigans with Brooks (google it), and he went into the studio and recorded a new version with Debby Boone, the daughter of Pat Boone (Cisyk's version was on the original soundtrack album). Boone's version was the biggest single of the 1970s ... it was also voted #4 by Rolling Stone readers on a Worst Songs of the 70s poll. Boone's version won a Grammy as Song of the Year ... the song also won an Oscar for Best Original Song.

You Light Up My Life" has been covered many times, by artists as diverse as Johnny Mathis, LeAnn Rimes, and Whitney Houston. But perhaps the most remarkable cover was this one: