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! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

National Cat Day 2014: High and Low Kittehs

Here are Milo and Otis doing their split-level napping (photo taken 10/21/14):

Milo (left) and Otis

I guess this is also sort of a three-dimensional Yin & Yang nap setup. 

Simon the Cat, 4/28/96 - 10/29/03

On this day in 2003, Simon the cat passed away unexpectedly. He was our first cat and he paved the way for making this house a cat home (we currently have two orange cats we adopted about a year later).

Here is the photo collage I posted in 2004 to mark the one year anniversary of his untimely death.

 

Thank you, Simon, for 7+ wonderful years: 4/28/96 - 10/29/03

We still love you and miss you.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 24, 2014



[Orchestral Manoeuvres in the US] -- Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, who had known each other since primary school in Wirral, England, played together in various bands in the mid-70s. Out of the ashes of two of those bands -- the seven-piece ensemble known as The Id and the electronic quartet called Dalek I Love You -- they founded Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) in 1978. Initially a duo, OMD played live gigs with backup help from a Teac 4-track tape-recorder (named "Winston" after a character in Orwell's 1984). In February 1980, OMD released their self-titled debut album in the UK. This record was pretty much the work of the core duo and Winston, but it also included some drumming by Malcolm Holmes (from The Id) and a bit of saxophone from local (i.e., Wirral) musician Martin Cooper. After a tour supporting the debut, OMD went back into the studio and recorded their second album, Organisation, which was released in October 1980.

With two hits ("Electricity" from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and "Enola Gay" from Organisation), OMD's record label must have thought it was time to conquer the US. There was no truly new material for OMD's first eponymous US release. It is a morphing of the UK debut and the second LP. The five tracks from the debut are "Bunker Soldiers," "Almost," "Electricity," "Julia’s Song," and "Messages." Organisation contributed six songs: "Enola Gay," "2nd Thought," "Statues
The Misunderstanding," "Motion And Heart," and "Stanlow." So, which tracks made it into this week's playlist? Read and hear more after the break. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 17, 2014



[Walk it Off] -- My mother likes nothing more than burning off some excess energy, stress, and calories by taking a brisk walk. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. I once made her a mix tape so she could have some upbeat tunes to accompany her. She liked it so much she uses it to this day (albeit the cassette has been replaced with an iPod Shuffle). Well, she fell and broke her leg two weeks ago. Earlier this week, she had surgery to set it properly (apparently, the fracture wasn't where the doc wanted it to be after a week in a full-leg cast). She comes home on Saturday, and she'll be alternating between a wheelchair and a walker for the next two or three months. So, in honor of her recuperation, I have posted a workout music 80s playlist I found on YouTube. You can check out the songs in this playlist after the break.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 10, 2014

Open Novel on Shelf (image via alegriphotos.com)

[Novel Ideas] -- I love music, and I love reading, so why not put the two together for a Friday 80s Flashback? This week, I'm bringing you a trio of tunes that are somehow related to a work of literature. The connection could be in a lyric, a title, or maybe just a bit of inspiration. You might be surprised just how many 80s artists were quite the literary connoisseurs. Well, maybe that is stretching the point, but a fair number of our fave performers looked to the written words of others to get ideas for their own works. Wondering if your favorite work of fiction is just a few degrees a way from a song in this week's playlist? Well, to find out, you can read and hear more after the break.