Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for January 23, 2015



[Jack Your Weekend] -- As previously mentioned here, the calendar dates for 1981 and 1987 line up with those of 2015. So, I'm using chart activity from '81 and '87 as my Flashback guide. Now, two of the top three slots on the Billboard Hot 100 for this week in 1981 remain unchanged from two weeks ago. And, frankly, the chart toppers for this week in 1987 do not interest me. So, instead of focusing on a trio of songs that hit it big this week in a prior year, I've chosen a more eclectic triumvirate for your aural pleasure: an action hero's album, a milestone in house music, and a Nebraska dream-pop outfit's debut, all from this week in 1987. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for January 16, 2015



[April Wine in January] -- As I mentioned last week, this year's Flashbacks will find me dipping into 1981 and 1987's chart activity because the calendar dates of those years match up with those of 2015. Speaking of last week's post, the top three songs on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1/10/1981 maintained their positions for the week ending 1/17/1981. So, I thought I could use an album released during the past week -- albeit 34 years ago. I had a choice between The Nature of the Beast by April Wine and In Our Lifetime by Marvin Gaye. I'm thinking of saving Mr. Gaye's release for a Flashback later this year. So, April Wine it is!

 The Nature of the Beast was Canadian rockers April Wine's ninth studio album. It was released on January 12, 1981, and would eventually peak at #11 on the Canadian Albums Chart and #26 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart. The album spawned two singles, "Just Between You and Me" and "Sign of the Gypsy Queen" (a cover of Lorence Hud's 1973 hit). The former was a top 25 hit in the U.S. for the band while the latter had more moderate success, peaking at #57 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although not released as a single, "All Over Town" received airplay on AOR radio stations, so it ended up charting at #29 on the Top Tracks chart. Our Flashbacks this week will be the top 25 hit and ... the full album! Read and hear more after the break.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for January 9, 2015



[This Week in 1981] -- I know I missed the last two weekends. I'm sorry, but there was holiday stuff and traveling, so I hope you'll forgive me for not posting new 80s material until now. Speaking of now, you might be wondering why a January 1981 calendar (from Marvel Comics' 20th Anniversary Calendar) is my introductory graphic this week. Oh, you're not wondering. Oh, well, I'm going to tell you anyway. You see, calendars regularly repeat day-date combinations. And it turns out that 2015 is a dead ringer for calendars from 2009, 1998, 1987, 1981, and 1970. According to the calendar image above, this weekend matches right up with The Puppet Master and his step-daughter, Alicia. Not that The Puppet Master has anything to do with this week's Flashback. He and Alicia just happen to be hanging out on this weekend's dates which do have everything to do with the Flashback. Why? I'm glad you asked that! It's because I will be dipping into the chart history of the 80s for more than a few posts this year. And I'm starting out with this very week in 1981. So we'll re-visit the top three songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Before we get to the top tunes, it is interesting to note that, at the outset of the new year (1981), we find the old guard ruling the charts. In fact, the top 20 slots are all occupied by tried-and-true 70s artists, if not even a tad older. The other interesting fact is that our top three songs were all released prior to December 1980, and one of them was recorded back in 1979. The pre-digital music business moved at a much different pace than we are currently accustomed to.

Do you remember what topped the Billboard Hot 100 a mere 34 years ago this week? When you're ready to be reminded, you can read and hear more after the break!    

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for December 19, 2014

Rex and Herb, the Hosts of A Claymation Christmas Celebration 


[The One with the Doo-Wop Camels] -- The Winter Solstice is upon us and Christmas Eve is just a few days away. Oh! And our TVs are alive with holiday movies nearly 24/7. As I came of age during the 80s in Small Town, USA, Christmas TV specials were a huge part of my personal history. Now, most of the TV specials I recall from my youth were originally broadcast in the 70s. This is a fact that became only more apparent to me as I went digging for a show to blog about in this week's Flashback post. As much as I love Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, for example, it premiered in 1978. So I can't use it here ... unless I want to talk about its network TV debut in 1980 (I don't).

However, I do recall a fantastic Christmas Special from the 80s, one that had top-notch musical performances: A Claymation Christmas Celebration. Hosted by a pair of very Siskel and Ebert-esque dinosaurs, Rex and Herb, A Claymation Christmas Celebration featured an entire cast made out of clay! They jawed back and forth while they introduce videos of Christmas carols and standards. To date, it is still the only Christmas show starring dinosaurs. Let's look at a few performances from the show!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for December 12, 2014


[Winter Holidays Week 2 Redux (again)] -- The nice thing about having a year's worth of blog posts is that I can reach back and pluck a choice one from the archives. Such is the case today. In December 2010, I did four straight weeks of music about "Winter Holidays." Two years ago, I did 25 Days of Holiday Music in addition to my usual 80s Flashback posts. So why not re-run a previous Seasons Greetings kind of playlist? To learn, or remember, what stocking stuffers I shared two years ago this week, read and hear more after the break.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for December 5, 2014

The Meyers say: "Get your moose costume and come over for drinks!


[Better Off Cusack] -- We're into the December stretch now, so the holiday season is getting into full swing. Lights and trees are going up, ugly sweaters are going on, and holiday entertainment is streaming forth. So let's look at a holiday movie shall we? Or, rather, the music from one such movie. Now, I'm not ready to focus on a holiday-themed movie, but I am willing to look at a flick that features a holiday scene. And that movie is the 80s classic Better Off Dead (1985). This John Cusack vehicle is a teen romantic comedy with a bit of a dark streak (but, really, what John Cusack film doesn't have at least a bit of a dark side, right?). Cusack's character, Lane Meyers, is suicidal after his girlfriend, Beth, breaks up with him. He wafts between attempting to kill himself and striving to win Beth back, but ultimately he falls for Monique, the French exchange student next door (not exactly the oldest plot in the book, but whatever). The film is chock full of one-line zingers and teen angst, and the lone Christmas scene is truly a gem. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is a bit of a snoozer. That's primarily because popular tunes that appear in the movie --  Howard Jones' "Like To Get To Know You Well", Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some", Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do", Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover", Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady", Frank Sinatra singing "A Man Alone," and Hall & Oates' "She's Gone" -- do not appear on the soundtrack album, most of which was produced, arranged, and scored by Rupert Hines. The album is heavy on synthesizers and light on hooks (and devoid of Christmas songs). However, there are a few standout tracks, even if none of them will really jingle your bells. So, which tunes from the Better Off Dead score made the score this week? Read and hear more after the break!  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for November 21, 2014


[The Flock] -- Due to movies, TV, and the Space Shuttle, the 80s had something of a fascination with "space age." That simply means folks were fascinated with things that looked or sounded space age. One band that capitalized on that fascination, at least briefly, was A Flock of Seagulls. You remember A Flock of Seagulls, right? They were a UK synthpop band founded by two brothers, one of whom was a hairdresser (look at the image above and guess which guy had that gig).  Mike Score (keyboards, vocals) and Ali Score (drums) formed the original lineup with Frank Lee Maudsley (bass) and Paul Reynolds (guitar). A Flock of Seagulls holds the record for actual number of video plays [The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History: The video generation, 1981-1990] -- for their debut smash, "I Ran (So Far Away)" -- but that was likely due as much to the paltry video selection available at the time as it was to fans' demand for their futuristic look. Considering the band's penchant for a futuristic look and sound, it is ironic that they petered out in less than two years. I mean, they kept going for a bit after 1984, mostly with new or session members joining Mike Score, but they never reached the heights of their 1982 popularity (or the heights of Score's 80s hair). Read and hear more about the band after the break.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for November 14, 2014



[Time to Catch Up] -- This week in 1985, Depeche Mode released Catching Up With Depeche Mode, a compilation album for US and Canadian fans. This release gathered singles and album tracks from the previous four studio albums (Speak & SpellA Broken FrameConstruction Time Again, and Some Great Reward) in an attempt to help fans across the Atlantic "catch up" with the band's growing discography. It was the second of two such compilations in the 80s (the first being People Are People in 1984). Now, Catching Up is similar to, but slightly different from, a singles compilation that was released in the UK: The Singles 81→85. We can see that in the track listing for each release:
Track listing for Catching Up With Depeche Mode: 
01 - Dreaming Of Me
02 - New Life
03 - Just Can't Get Enough
04 - See You
05 - The Meaning Of Love
06 - Love, In Itself
07 - Master And Servant
08 - Blasphemous Rumours
09 - Somebody
10 - Shake The Disease
11 - Flexible
12 - It's Called A Heart
13 - Fly On The Windscreen  
Track listing for The Singles 81→85: 
01 - Dreaming Of Me
02 - New Life
03 - Just Can't Get Enough
04 - See You
05 - The Meaning Of Love*
06 - Leave In Silence
07 - Get The Balance Right
08 - Everything Counts
09 - Love In Itself
10 - People Are People
11 - Master And Servant
12 - Blasphemous Rumours
13 - Somebody*
14 - Shake The Disease
15 - It's Called A Heart

*CD only (not on original vinyl)

What trio of tunes have I selected to help you Catch Up as you Flash Back? Read and hear more after the break!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for November 7, 2014

A Side - Take The Skinheads Bowling 7"


[Camping with Beethoven?] -- I recently listened to Episode 546 of WTF with Marc Maron. In this October 30 podcast, Maron interviews David Lowery who is best known as the founder of Camper Van Beethoven (1983–1990 and 1999–present) and co-founder of Cracker (1990–present). As this is an 80s Flashback post, I'll be focusing on the first of those two bands. So, yeah ... remember Camper Van Beethoven? I remember the moment I discovered them during my freshman year at PSU. Well, OK, it was more like I was introduced to them, but that's still a form of discovery on my part, right? Anyway, While I don't remember who first spun their discs for me -- it could have been my roommate at the time, Paul from down the hall, or half a dozen other folks -- but I do remember thinking, "Who is this band? Camping with Beethoven? Well, do they have more?" I immediately loved their sound, which I thought to be a fantastic blend of jangly Americana, punk, and rootsy hillbilly. When I dug into their back catalog a bit, I found their earlier stuff also featured their imitations of ethnic-type instrumentals (they must have been developed by thinking something along the lines of, "What would a Klezmer band based in India sound like?"), and it all had a hint of that punk DIY attitude fueling it.

It should come as no surprise that the band was eclectic and experimental. David Lowery, the vocalist and main songwriter for Camper, is also a mathematician and something of a tech-head. (Side note: Lowery has done pretty well for himself through investing and side work as a financial analyst, and he has also headed up a number of music-related businesses). Camper Van Beethoven released five studio LPs and four EPs during the 80s. Two of the LPs and at least one of the EPs were self-produced and released on the bands own label, Pitch-A-Tent Records. While their records never charted big sales numbers, the band did earn effusive critical acclaim, and they toured rather successfully. Check out a few of their tunes after the break!