Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for May 20, 2011

File:Lewis Hine Power house mechanic working on steam pump.jpg
Power house mechanic working on steam pump 
by Lewis Hine, 1920. (Wikipedia)
[It's a Livin'!] -- This could be my very last Friday 80s Flashback given that Judgement Day is on the agenda for Saturday, May 21, 2011 (tomorrow!). You know it's official when there is a website and everything (, right?

Now, with the Rapture scheduled to begin tomorrow evening, you're probably expecting songs about the end of the world (and that I feel fine). I understand those expectations. However, with the last week or so I've at at my day job, I have been thinking about songs focusing a spotlight on that all-too-frustrating aspect of modern life known as work. And, believe me, Ragnarök or its equivalent is looking preferable to my current slate of projects. Plus, there is a tie-in with all this rapping about the rapture: What are the two events that can bring an end to the drudgery of working day to day? Well, one is winning the lottery, and the other is ... the end of the world, of course. 

You 80s-philes will have to judge whether this week's selections are winners. Are you ready for this job? Read and hear more after the jump.

Flashback #1"During the week I'm only half alive, wasting my time all day from 9 to 5."

Did you know that the Netherlands have a reputation for "symphonic metal bands"? Well, it's true (at least according to Wikipedia). In the 80s, however, there was only one Dutch band that achieved some amount of international success: Vandenberg. Named for founder and guitarist Ad "Adje" van den Berg (a.k.a. Adrian Vandenberg), Vandenberg was active from 1981 to 1987. 1987 saw the band skidding into nowhere, so when David Coverdale offered Adrian Vandenberg a permanent spot in Whitesnake, he accepted it and disbanded his eponymous effort. But before Vandenberg fizzled out as a band, they released three studio albums, each one peppered with tracks that would have been right at home on an 80s teen movie soundtrack. Their second LP, Heading for a Storm (1983), is the source of our first flashback of the day: "Friday Night." Sure, this tune's main focus is on having fun and rocking out on Friday night, but it also captures the frustration of sloughing through the work week. You can check out the actual music video on YouTube, but the audio quality is poor. Instead, I give you the virtualized experience of listening to this track on vinyl. (Full disclosure: That is not my LP, but I do have Heading for a Storm on vinyl.) 

Flashback #2
"I wake up every mornin', stumble out of bed | Stretchin' and yawnin', another day ahead."

Sheena Easton, that lovely Scottish lass who has graced an earlier flashback (Bonded from 3/4/11), had her first U.S. hit in 1980 with our second flashback of the day. Originally titled "9 to 5" in the UK, this tune had to be renamed "Morning Train (Nine To Five)" for the U.S. and Canada to avoid any confusion with Dolly Parton's hit from the movie "9 to 5." Even the album was branded differently depending on what side of the Atlantic it was released: Take My Time in the UK and Sheena Easton in the US. "Morning Train" chugs along in a rhythm familiar to many songs from the late 70s, but the story is a bit of a shock for such a seemingly wholesome young woman: The narrator begins simply enough by singing wistfully of her man grinding out a 9 to 5 existence, only to surprise us with the fact that she is a randy darling pining for her man to come home and slip into bed for a romp (i'll bet he watches the clock something fierce!). Interestingly, this video betrays nothing of the narrator's sex starved status. (That was to come later, after she started working with Prince).

Flashback #3
"Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent. | I get a check on Friday, but it's all ready spent."

I'll bet you were expecting to find "Everybody's Working for the Weekend" as the final entry, right? Well, that's a great song, but it is not really about work. Huey Lewis and the News, however, did offer a song about work on their second album, Picture This (1982). "Workin' for a Livin'" neatly draws a parallel between the struggles of a working band and the average working stiff. It was the third single from Picture This (1982) and it hit #41 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #20 on U.S. Billboard Top Tracks.  It's hard not to see why it was so popular. Who couldn't relate to lyrics about not getting a sorely needed and expected raise? Who doesn't identify with the 9 to 5 mantra of "takin' what they're givin'" from the powers that be? (OK, millionaires and the raptured can't relate, but they're both isolated cases).

In doing the research for this Flashback, I did find the official music video of "Workin' for a Livin'," but I also found this live performance from 1982 that features Huey and his bandmates playing with the Tower of Power Horns.

Even on the eve of Judgement Day, the rule of three applies to Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. But if you 80s-philes need more flashbacks, please visit 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 you don't like the flashback, share it with your enemies.

I'll see you in seven (assuming you're still here after Saturday)!

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