Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for January 9, 2015

[This Week in 1981] -- I know I missed the last two weekends. I'm sorry, but there was holiday stuff and traveling, so I hope you'll forgive me for not posting new 80s material until now. Speaking of now, you might be wondering why a January 1981 calendar (from Marvel Comics' 20th Anniversary Calendar) is my introductory graphic this week. Oh, you're not wondering. Oh, well, I'm going to tell you anyway. You see, calendars regularly repeat day-date combinations. And it turns out that 2015 is a dead ringer for calendars from 2009, 1998, 1987, 1981, and 1970. According to the calendar image above, this weekend matches right up with The Puppet Master and his step-daughter, Alicia. Not that The Puppet Master has anything to do with this week's Flashback. He and Alicia just happen to be hanging out on this weekend's dates which do have everything to do with the Flashback. Why? I'm glad you asked that! It's because I will be dipping into the chart history of the 80s for more than a few posts this year. And I'm starting out with this very week in 1981. So we'll re-visit the top three songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Before we get to the top tunes, it is interesting to note that, at the outset of the new year (1981), we find the old guard ruling the charts. In fact, the top 20 slots are all occupied by tried-and-true 70s artists, if not even a tad older. The other interesting fact is that our top three songs were all released prior to December 1980, and one of them was recorded back in 1979. The pre-digital music business moved at a much different pace than we are currently accustomed to.

Do you remember what topped the Billboard Hot 100 a mere 34 years ago this week? When you're ready to be reminded, you can read and hear more after the break!    

Flashback #1"And we got nothing to be guilty of | Our love will climb any mountain near or far , we are | And we never let it end."

We kick off this weekend with "Guilty," a vocal duet between Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb, as our first Flashback. Written by all three brothers Gibb (collectively known as the Bee Gees), "Guilty" was the title track and the second single released from Streisand's twenty-second studio album. Guilty (1980) is considered a collaborative album because Barry Gibb wrote much of it, performed two duets with Streisand, provided background vocals for a few other songs, and appears on the cover with Babs. "Guilty" is a slow jam, very much rooted in the disco-influenced Adult Contemporary music of the late 70s. And that must still have been in vogue with the record-buying public: During the week of January 3 to January 10, 1981, "Guilty" jumped from #7 to its peak of #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached #34 (UK Singles Chart) and #5 (U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart), although not necessarily on this particular weekend. "Guilty" conquered more than the airwaves and record sales -- it also won the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. Speaking of performances, here is a live performance of "Guilty" by the award-winning duo:

Barbara Streisand & Barry Gibb-Guilty by SirDroopy

Flashback #2"Yesterday's gone | And now all I want is a smile."

During this week 34 years ago, Neil Diamond's "Love on the Rocks" made the move from #3 to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. His tune remained in the #2 slot for a total of four weeks, never quite able to wrest the top spot from ... well, you'll find out that song later. "Love on the Rocks," to me, is a classic of the ballad format. But it is not a love song. It is, rather, a heart-wrenching and deeply personal realization of a man who finds himself trapped in a lackluster relationship and the dissatisfying circumstances of his life. Neil Diamond performs this tune (and other songs) in the 1980 remake of the 1927 classic film, The Jazz Singer. In the remake, Diamond portrays a young Jewish cantor who dreams of making it big as a popular singer. Diamond's character ultimately succeeds, but not before experiencing personal, professional, and relationship trials. Unlike the original with Al Jolson, the remade film fared poorly, both in terms of box office receipts and critical reception, even earning Diamond a Razzie for Worst Actor.  The soundtrack, however, was a huge success, peaking at #3 on the pop albums chart and spawning two other top ten hits. My sister and I had this album, and I've seen the move more than once (on HBO). I'm pretty certain the only reason I enjoyed the movie was due to the songs. The movie has really only one solid performance, that of Laurence Olivier playing Neil Diamond's character's father. But even Olivier is uncharacteristically overwrought. Fortunately, the soundtrack doesn't have that problem. Well, "Love on the Rocks" and the other hits don't (the reprise of "America" might be a tad overwrought). 

Flashback #3"Our life together is so precious together."

Here we are. It's the final Flashback of the day, and it's the #1 song for the week of 1/10/1981: "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon. At this time 34 years ago, "(Just Like) Starting Over" was in the third week of its five-week reign at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. And Billboard ultimately ranked it as their #4 song for all of 1981 as well. The first single off Double Fantasy (1980), Lennon's seventh and final studio album, "(Just Like) Starting Over" was the first new recording Lennon had released since "Stand by Me" in 1975. Released jointly with his wife, Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy marked Lennon's return to creating music after his turn as a house-husband. While Yoko's contributions seem to ... disrupt ... Lennon's more sentimental tone and introspectiveness, the album still succeeds as a window into the life of an artist electing to emerge from five years of self-imposed exile in domesticity. Unfortunately, John Lennon did not live see "(Just Like) Starting Over" become his biggest solo American hit -- he was shot and killed in NYC on 12/8/1980. Lennon's tragic death makes Double Fantasy too short a glimpse into what-might-have-been the new phase true rock and roll original's stellar career. And his death also makes this track's opening lyrics ("Our life together is so precious together") eerily prescient. 

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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