Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for May 16, 2014

[Live Your Life] -- Last week, I heard a song on my way to work and thought, "Y'know, that has to go in the latest Flashback." It also inspired the theme for the post as I went in search of additional songs that, at least in some part, spoke of how to live one's life. I was going to finish the post last Friday evening, after I got home from work. Unfortunately, after I got home, my hard drive crashed. Well, technically, there was an OS corruption that prevented the drive from booting. Still, the bottom line was I could not use my laptop. And, as I had recently changed all my passwords, I could not access my Blogger account from another computer. I took it to a local Mac shop on Saturday and did not get it back until Wednesday evening.

So, last week's Flashback is now this week's. And maybe, just maybe, I added a bonus tune. Want to know what tunes I think are about life and how to live it? Read and hear more after the break!

Flashback #1"Raise the walls to hide these flaws, the carpenter should rest  |  So that when you tire of one side the other serves you best."

Our first Flashback is the song that inspired this week's theme: "Life and How to Live It" by R.E.M. Now, R.E.M. retired/disbanded/called-it-quits in 2011, after a career of 31 years in which they recorded 15 studio albums, 2 live albums, 10 compilation albums, and 3 EPs. Peppered among that massive catalog are a total of 64 singles. Did I hit upon one of your favorites? Well, read and hear more after the break. "Life and How to Live It" was the fourth track on Side A of Fables of the Reconstruction (1985), the band's third studio album. While it's not exactly a song that instructs the listener in how to live life, it is something of an object lesson. You see, the song is apparently based on the true story of a schizophrenic man from Athens who split his home into two sides, each one decorated and furnished totally different from the other. After the home was thus divided, he would likewise split his time living in one side and then the other. (See item #5 of Life and How to Live It from Matthew Perpetua's R.E.M. song blog). "So, what's the object lesson?" I hear you ask. And to that, I would reply: Perhaps a schizophrenic has something to teach us about living a balanced life. I mean, metaphorically speaking, of course. I'm not suggesting you literally divide up your domicile.  

Flashback #2"All the people cheer 'til the end is near  | And the hero takes a fall  | Then they'll drag you through the mud  | You're only flesh and blood."

Survivor is pretty much known for one anthemic song ("Eye of the Tiger") and a slew of 80s pop hits (like "High on You" and "I Can't Hold Back"). Truth be told, they released over 20 singles over the course of three decades. OK, it's more accurate to say they released 20 singles between 1978 and 1989, and then released one more single since returning from hiatus in 1993. "Man Against the World" was the 3rd single off Survivor's sixth studio album, When Seconds Count (1986). It had been intended for the 1985 soundtrack to Rocky IV, but it was cut (it did, however, appear on the 2006 reissue). After its 1987 release, the song peaked at #86 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent a total of five weeks on the charts. True, "Man Against the World" is schmaltzy even by 80s standards, but who hasn't felt, at least once in their life, that the whole world was against them so they needed this kind of a boost? 

Flashback #3"I live at the top of the block  |  No more room for trouble and fuss  |  Need a change, a positive change  |  Look, it's me writing on the wall."

When "Back to Life" was released, the version found on Soul II Soul's debut album, Club Classics Vol. One (1989), was an a cappella recording. There was only one problem with that: the radio single version was a groovalicious R&B number produced by Jazzie B and Nellee Hooper. And it was that breezy single version -- the one that had reached the top 10 and had been certified platinum -- that the record buying public was probably hoping to find. Anyway, "Back to Life" doesn't contain any real insights into how to live one's life. However, the repetitive lyrics ("Back to life, back to reality | Back to the here and now") do somewhat serve as a mantra for grounding you into the here (or hear?) and now. 

Bonus Flashback"The world has a lot to give, but it's worthless if you don't live."

As I mentioned in the intro, I missed posting a Flashback last Friday due to computer issues. So, to make it up to all of you, I'm including a bonus Flashback song this week! At least ... I hope you consider it a bonus.

In 1983, prog-rock stalwarts Kansas released their ninth studio album: Drastic Measures. The name pretty much summed up what the album meant in their, at that time, decade long career. It was an all-out, last ditch effort to hold on to their fading rock-star power by taking a stab at mainstream, synth-infused commercial rock music. But it was a very different Kansas that took the mainstream plunge. They had lost their violinist and front man,  Robby Stienhardt, who left due to his discomfort with the band's increasingly Christian-oriented lyrics. Their current lead singer and songwriter, John Elefante, had only just replaced the former singer, Steve Walsh, on the previous album. In fact, aside from co-founder Kerry Livgren, there were only two other remaining members from the band's original lineup: Guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Ehart. Still, the band was pretty much progressive in nature, and this background very much influenced their dive into creating mainstream rock. Unfortunately, the new sound confused longtime fans and turned off Christian listeners (who had gotten into the band over the last few records). Unsurprisingly, Drastic Measures was the band's lowest-charting record since their debut in 1974, and they disbanded at the end of the 1983 tour (only to be revived in 1985, but that is a story for another Flashback). Our final Flashback of this day is also the final song on this album, “Incident On a Bridge.” It was not released as a single, but perhaps it should have been. "Incident On a Bridge" is both lyrically and compositionally a triumphant piece. In it, the protagonist sings of (spiritual?) tribulation and success, speaking of the very long road he has travelled. And there is also a recognition that he might need to move on ("...for each life there is a reason ... for each time there is a season ... Now the bridge leads on, to a brighter dawn. It's waiting for me."). I find in this song many allegories I can make my own. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. 

Well, I've made my 80s offerings, so 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!

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