[Big Business] -- This week's Flashback is inspired by the production that opens at my theater this weekend: Big Boys by Rich Orloff is a comedic look at corporate greed in the person of Victor Burlington. He is not exactly one of the smartest guys in the room, but he certainly ranks among the most corrupt and the least ethical. Although Big Boys is set in the post-Enron world, its story is somewhat familiar to those of us who came of age in the 80s. We can certainly recall pre-internet stories about the excesses of CEOs -- remember the stock trading scandals of the early 80s? If not, refer to Michael Douglas' performance as Gordon Gekko schooling a young Charlie Sheen (before his "Winning" ways) in the 1987 flick, Wall Street, which dramatized the corporate raiding and greedy excess that typified much of the decade. So this week's flashback looks at songs about big business, big money, and big ambition. No need to worry about insider trading here, so if you want to know what made the cut, you and read and hear more after the break.
Flashback #1: "Big money got a mighty voice | Big money make no sound."
Our first flashback comes from Canadian prog-rock trio, Rush. Formed in 1968, Rush racked up Gold and Platinum records as they rocked through the 70s with blues-flavored heavy metal before evolving to their more progressive, and often more complex, approach to hard rock. Now, the 80s may not seem like a haven for progressive rock music, but Rush did well for themselves, continuing their trend of releasing high-selling and sometimes chart-topping albums. It is likely that their embracing of keyboards and synthesizers, wedded with their science fiction and fantasy inspired lyrics, helped cement their continued success in the 80s. Our first flashback was the first single off of Power Windows (1985) which achieved Platinum status in the U.S. and Canada, and reached #10 on the U.S. album charts. "The Big Money" takes its title from a John Dos Passos novel and explores the influence, seduction, and power of money in our society. If the lyrics seem a bit vague at times, the music video pretty much hammers home the intended message. I mean, the band playing is on a giant Monopoly-style board game! Oh, and dig those computer graphics? That was state-of-the-art for video games in 1985, baby!
Flashback #2: "America is waiting for a message of some sort or another."
In the intro for this week's flashback, I mentioned the 1987 movie, Wall Street. As that film is emblematic of corporate greed in the 80s, it should have some representation this week. Unfortunately, the true soundtrack is not available (refer to the comments on Amazon.com). Fortunately, Wall Street's entry at IMDb includes a list of songs that were actually used in the film's score. Many of the songs are from previously released albums, such as My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981) by David Byrne and Brian Eno. "America is Waiting" is the first track off that album, but during Wall Street, it plays in the background as Bud Fox (played by Charlie Sheen) is trying to make the profit on the sinking stock for his mentor, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). You can just barely make out the lyrics (more like a collection of spoken passages), but the music definitely has a haunting quality. This fan video really captures the essence of the song and serves up a great collection of images (both from and used by American society).
Flashback #3: "I'm looking for a partner, someone who gets things fixed | Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be rich?"
Supposedly inspired by the relationship between the main characters in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, our final flashback of the day was so nice it was released twice. Well, the first release was not so nice (translation: it charted very poorly). But the second release charted in the top 25 of several countries (including #11 in the UK and #10 in the U.S.). This tune tells the story of two schlubs who join forces to make a ton of money. Unfortunately, their schemes are doomed to failure. Still, you have to seize opportunities if you're going to hit it big, right? And Pet Shop Boys have certainly hit it big, with "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" from their 1985 debut, Please, and several subsequent releases.
Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, 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.
I'll see you in seven!.