Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for October 10, 2014

Open Novel on Shelf (image via

[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.

Flashback #1"But making mistakes is a part of life's imperfection | Born of the years | Is it so wrong to be human after all?"

For our first Flashback of the day, I looked to a band whose name was inspired by a novel. Level 42, a jazz-funk band out of the UK, took their name from Douglas Adams' book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You see, the "42" in Level 42 is a direct reference to the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. So "Level 42" must be a very high level indeed. Well, they've racked up some impressive mileage -- except for a hiatus from 1994 to 2001, Level 42 has been active since 1980. And during that time, they've released 20 top-40 singles. Their most successful single in the US was their 1985 hit single, "Something About You," which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit #6 on the UK Singles Chart. I loved this band's sound, particularly Mark King's slap-bass technique, and I was fortunate enough to see them open for Steve Winwood on the Higher Life tour during my freshman year at PSU. I should try to see them again.

Flashback #2"The followers of chaos out of control | They're numbering the monkeys | The monkeys and the monkeys, | The followers of chaos out of control."

R.E.M.'s 1987 opus, Document, was released during my sophomore year of college. It was the band's fifth studio album, and they were breaking out their jangly college radio roots to embrace an edgy yet polished sound that effectively wrapped and delivered increasingly political lyrics. Our second Flashback of the day was the fourth track on side A of this album: "Disturbance at the Heron House." Although it was never released as a single, it did get some attention. And the song's connection to this week's theme? Well, in a Rolling Stone interview dated November, 2009, lead singer Michael Stipe said this song was " take on [George Orwell's] Animal Farm, an uprising dismissed by the powers that be." 

Flashback #3"Wet bus stop, she's waiting | His car is warm and dry."

The Police provide our final Flashback of the day. And although their tune, "Don't Stand So Close To Me," is coming last in the playlist, it was actually the second song I thought of when I decided upon the theme. And I'll bet it was one of the first you thought of, too. "Don't Stand So Close To Me" was the first single released from The Police's third studio album, Zenyatta Mondatta (1980). And it is the perfect closer this week. Not only does it drop reference to the 1955 novel, Lolita, it also name checks the author, Vladamir Nabokov ("He starts to shake and cough | Just like the old man in | That book by Nabakov")! The song was a #1 single in the UK, and it hit the top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 as well. It also earned The Police the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Definitely one for the books!

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.

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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