Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for July 31, 2015

[Rapping to the Beat] -- Once upon a time, rap music sold thousands of records, but barely cracked the upper echelons of pop culture. That statement may seem odd to read in a year in which hip-hop's wealthiest artists have incomes that are measured in HUNDREDS of millions of dollars (e.g., Dr. Dre is #2 on Forbes list of Hip-Hop's Wealthiest Artists Of 2015 at a paltry net worth of $700M). But well before Yo! MTV Raps, In Living Color, and Empire, rap music made its mainstream network television debut on ... 20/20. Yes, in July of 1981 -- 34 years ago this month! -- ABC's 20/20 became the United States' first network TV news program to air a special report on rap music.

Would you buy rap records from these guys?

Sure, it seems kind of quaint now. And, yes, children of the Internet, "portable" music players in those days really were the size of briefcases. But this investigative report is actually quite fascinating and informative, particularly considering the history they delve into (Cab Calloway, radio DJs, and Blondie, for example). And the clips of the Sugarhill Gang, Funky 4 + 1, and Kurtis Blow -- and the the footage of street scenes -- are worthy additions to any time capsule. So, we have only two Flashbacks this week: Parts 1 and 2 of the Hip-Hop special report.

Flashback #1: 20/20 Report Hip-Hop Special - Part 1

Flashback #2: 20/20 Report Hip-Hop Special - Part 2

That's all for this week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for 7/24/2015

[Bucks Fizz] -- In late 1980, the songwriting team of Nicola Martin and Andy Hill crafted a tune for the Eurovision Song Contest. In January of 1981, Martin and Hill put together a band to perform their new song. Following the two male, two female formula pioneered by ABBA, Martin and Hill lined up as Jay Aston, Cheryl Baker, Bobby G, and Mike Nolan as Bucks Fizz -- the performing vehicle for their potential hit. And it seemed to work. "Making Your Mind Up" ended up winning the contest and even reached #1 in the UK singles chart (and it charted in a few other European countries). Bucks Fizz did not, however, have much chart success in North America. And they had their detractors. Daniela Soave, in a review for the Record Mirror, wrote: "I think Bucks Fizz are bunch of gutless wonders who can perhaps sing in tune but don't know the meaning of singing with emotion." Still, over the course of five studio albums (1981 through 1986), Bucks Fizz racked up 20 top 40 hits. Their self-titled debut album was released in July 1981, and it was responsible for three of those hits. And today, the Friday 80s Flashback looks to that debut LP for our weekend playlist. Check out some tracks after the break!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for July 17, 2015

Still from an Entertainment Tonight Segment on 1982's Summer Movies
[1982 Summer Flicks] -- The summer of 1982 was a great time for science fiction films, quite possibly the greatest. In that year, we saw the release of The Road Warrior (May 21, 1982), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (June 4, 1982), ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (June 11, 1982), Blade Runner (June 25, 1982), John Carpenter's The Thing (June 25, 1982), and Tron (July 9, 1982). And regarding 1982 as a great year for sci-fi isn't just a view we have with the benefit of hindsight. Even Entertainment Tonight, which was a decent program in its pre-Internet heyday, recognized the significance of that Summer in this Movie Sneak Preview segment. So, for this week's Flashback playlist, we'll look back at one piece each from three of those movies. Which movies and tracks did I select? Read and hear more after the break!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for July 10, 2015

[Batman 1989] -- I'm at the San Diego International Comic-Con this week. This afternoon, I saw the 3rd Annual Musical Anatomy of a Superhero panel, and it got me to thinking about superhero movie scores from the past. So, I thought we could flash back to one of the most iconic pieces of film music from the 80s: the Batman: Original Motion Picture Score by Danny Elfman! Prior to scoring films, Elfman was known for his work with that great band of the 70s and 80s, Oingo Boingo (responsible for such hits as "Dead Man's Party" and "Weird Science"). However, after scoring his first film (for his brother) in 1982, Elfman has gone on to develop scores for many TV and film projects. And he has been nominated for many awards, winning (for example) a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (for Tim Burton's Batman) and an Emmy Award for his Desperate Housewives theme. Elfman's work on the 1989 Batman score is recognized on a rather wide scale because it was later used as the basis for the theme music in Batman: The Animated Series (1992) as well as the soundtrack for several Lego Batman video games.

No trio of Flashbacks this week. Instead I'm using the Soundtrack Suite that SGTBizarro posted to YouTube. This recording has ten pieces from the Expanded Archival Collection of Batman: Original Motion Picture Score, which is, unfortunately, no longer available for purchase. The tracks in this recording are:

  • 0:00 Main Title
  • 2:32 Roof Fight
  • 4:17 Joker's Poem
  • 5:10 Batwing I
  • 5:33 Attack of the Batwing (Batwing II & III)
  • 10:16 Charge of the Batmobile (Film version)
  • 11:53 Descent Into Mystery
  • 13:15 Up the Cathedral (Cathedral Chase)
  • 18:04 Finale
  • 19:45 End Credits (Batman Theme Reprise)

Well, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

SDCC 2015!

My Wife and Me at the San Diego Convention Center
Greetings my fellow 80s-philes! 

For the next week, I'm in San Diego for that great geek Mecca known as the San Diego International Comic-Con (SDCC for short)! You'll catch some of my photos and musings on Twitter (@brainwise), but there might also be posts at the nerdy blog I now co-author with my wife, Dangrdafne: If you'd like to keep up on the comic booky (and other entertainment) goodness, go give our fledgling blog a try! 

Friday, July 03, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for July 3, 2015

80s Boombox via Zazzle

[Red, White, and Bruised ... er, Blue! Redux] -- The Fourth of July lands on a Saturday this year, so many wage earners in the U.S. are given a three-day weekend to celebrate a unique event: when 13 scrappy, English colonies engaged in an act of civil disobedience. Well, it was actually an act of treason. And it was committed by writing a sternly worded letter to King George III, who wouldn't receive his copy until August 30, 1776. Now, I don't know what the Founding Fathers would make of this week's playlist. But there will be plenty of serious fare discussing the events of 1776 on the web, radio, and television. So on the Flashback, we're gong to cut loose and have some fun. If you're ready to celebrate with me in 80s rock style, then read and hear more after the break. We'll enjoy a few tracks that somehow have a little red, white, or blue associated with them.

Please note, I'm re-using a post/playlist is a slightly modified version of the one that originally appeared on July 4, 2014. But, hey, these songs are over 20 years old anyway, so there shouldn't be any problem with me recycling a year-old blog post, right? If you agree, you can read and hear more after the break.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for June 26, 2014

[Love Conquers] -- When I was in college in the mid-to-late 80s, I took a training program to become a resident assistant (RA). Counselor Education 302. One of the exercises in that course left a strong impression upon me as it was meant to help potential RAs empathize with students who were struggling with their sexual orientation. We also watched Torch Song Trilogy and attended a performance of The Normal Heart, but it was that aforementioned thought experiment that most moved me and changed the way I saw hetero- and homosexual relationships. Now, it may seem difficult to remember this, but even as recently as the 1980s, the majority of LGBT people kept their affections a private, hidden matter (with, of course, a few very public exceptions). I remember wondering if gay people would ever be fully welcomed into society. (A society, by the way, they had entertained, taught, and served while all-too-often keeping their true selves in the shadows).

Flash forward to today -- June 26, 2015 -- and the Supreme Court of the USA has legalized same-sex marriage across the US.

This doesn't mean that LGBTs still don't have some hurdles to conquer. No, there are still places where a person can lose their job if they are outed. And not everyone was happy with today's news. I, for one, applaud the Supreme Court decision. And I've decided to honor this historic occasion with a suitable selection of 80s tunes. What is on our playlist this week? Read and hear more after the break!  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for June 19, 2015

[This Week in June 1982] -- During this week in 1982: President Reagan and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met regarding the violence in Lebanon, the Argentine government was at war with Britain, George Allen became the coach of the Chicago franchise of the new U.S. Football League, and the Satellite News Channel debuted as competition for CNN.

Oh, and these songs topped the US Billboard Hot 100... 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for June 12, 2015

[Clutching at the 80s] -- I was a bit disappointed with this week's chart activity in 1981 and 1987 (remember, the calendar dates from those two years line up with those of 2015). Kim Carnes did keep her hold on the #1 spot with "Betty Davis Eyes" on 6/13/81. But beyond that, the charts were mired in forgettable pop fluff (with "Stars on 45" and Sukiyaki's "A Taste Of Honey" joining Kim Carnes in the top three in 1981, and Atlantic Starr -- really?! -- taking the top spot in 1987). So, I turned to album releases to see if there was something a bit more interesting this week.

And there was.

On today's date* in 1987, 80s prog rockers and cult darlings, Marillion, released their fourth studio album, Clutching at Straws. Marillion got their start in Aylesbury, England, in 1979, and took their name from J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, The Silmarillion. A favorite among the D&D playing teens in the early 80s, Marillion reached the peak of their success with Clutching at Straw's predecessor, the concept album Misplaced Childhood (1985). While not as commercially successful as Childhood, Straws did reach #2 on the UK Albums Chart and it received many positive reviews. In fact, considers this album to be their "most unheralded masterpiece." It was certainly a transitional record -- it was the last record with singer-songwriter, Fish, and it heralded guitarist Steve Rothery's ascension to being the band's new musical instigator later recordings.

Like Childhood, Straws is a concept album. However, rather than delving into the vagaries of youth, this record looks the downward spiral of a young adult. In these songs, we see Torch, who is 29 years old and out-of-work. His life is a mess and he seeks solace mainly in alcohol. It is not a happy story, as Torch ends up a raging drunk beyond all hope of redemption.

CD Booklet for UK release of Clutching at Straws
The three singles released from Clutching at Straws were "Incommunicado," "Sugar Mice," and "Warm Wet Circles." However, since we're dealing with a concept album, I thought it might be best to provide a full playlist rather than just pick my usual three selections. Enjoy!

Flashback Video(s)"I'm a citizen of Legoland travellin' incommunicado  |  And I don't give a damn for the Fleet Street aficionados." (lyrics from the first single, Incommunicado)

Well, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

* Wikipedia has 6/12/87 as the release date for Clutching at Straws., however, has the release date as 6/19/87. Other sources list it simply as June 1987. So, by blogger's imperative, I'm going with 6/12/87!

Friday, June 05, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for June 5, 2015

[ Bad Animals] -- This week in 1987, Heart released their ninth studio album, Bad Animals, which was their second with Capital Records. The move to Capital coincided with -- or perhaps spurred -- Heart's resurgence. Their more polished sound had resulted in many new followers and an increase in album sales. This album is also significant in that only three of the ten tracks include a writing credit for either of the band's founders, Nancy or Ann Wilson. You know what else is notable? The fact that three of this album's four singles were top 40 hits (on the US Billboard Hot 100). And that fourth one was a respectable #49. Read and hear more after the break to find out which tunes from Bad Animals are spotlighted here.