Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for February 27, 2015

[The World Won't Listen] -- This week in 1987 (2/23/1987), The Smiths' record company, Rough Trade Records, released the compilation album The World Won't Listen. It is a collection of singles and their B-sides -- as well as a few unreleased gems -- spanning the years 1985 to 1987. The record's title could be a reference to Morrisey and the band's frustration that they weren't getting enough radio play or record sales. In true Smiths fashion, this record had to take a backseat when, just three months later, Rough Trade released the expanded and US-intended collection titled Louder Than Bombs. Still, this is a good compilation with such standouts as "Bigmouth Strikes Again," "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," and "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side."

Listen to the full album after the break.    

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for February 20, 2015

[Hits for the Spring Equinox 1987] -- Well, it took us over a month, but we finally see a top three from the Billboard Hot 100 that actually looks and sounds like the 80s. Of course, we're looking at February 1987, so we're much more likely to have music that has what we've come to regard as iconic 80s elements. Also, in the interest of accuracy and full disclosure, the previous week's top three (2/14/1987) was just as representative of 80s music conquering the charts, but I chose instead to feature that great album from XTC. But to see what three tracks dominated the Hot 100 this week in 1987, read and hear more after the break. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for February 13, 2015

[The Ecstasy of an English Settlement] -- I'm breaking out of the Billboard charts 1981 and 1987 this week. I want to flash back to 1982 instead. Why? Because this week in 1982 saw the release of what I regard as a seminal 80s album: XTC's double LP, English Settlement. Released on February 12, 1982, English Settlement was XTC's fifth studio LP since they settled on a name around 1976 or 77. The UK band had started as a trio consisting of  Colin Moulding (bass & vocals), Terry Chambers (drums), and Andy Partridge (guitars & vocals) back in 1972. But they weren't called XTC back then. No, they went through a slew of names -- such as The Helium Kidz and Star Park -- for several years. They even kind of chased the punk scene for about a year. But after keyboardist Barry Andrews joined the band, they made their final name change to XTC and landed a contract with Virgin Records. Initially, their brand of melodic pop was critically praised but failed to chart. Their third album, Drums and Wires (1979), had a modest top 40 hit with "Making Plans for Nigel." And it was evidence that the band's songwriting chops were sharpening. 1980's Black Sea, the group's fourth studio LP, was their most successful American album, peaking at #41; it also reached #16 on the UK charts.

As I mentioned at the outset of this post, I feel that 1982's English Settlement is a seminal record. It was certainly transitional. For one, it represented a milestone in the band's musicianship. For another, it marked the end of the band's touring years -- XTC had embarked on a major tour to support English Settlement, but during one of the early shows, singer Andy Partridge suffered a mental breakdown. In the wake of that show, Partridge continued to suffer from uncontrollable stage fright, presumably brought on due to Valium withdrawal (search for "valium" in this interview). XTC abandoned the tour altogether and became a studio-only band, which makes a certain sense given how big an influence the Beatles were for them.

You can listen to English Settlement in its entirety via this YouTube link. Or, you can check out videos of the three singles -- and a few notes about them -- after the break.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for February 6, 2015

[The Final Punchout] -- Continuing with the concept of "This week in 1981" (or 1987), we have the top three songs for the week ending February 7, 1981. Now, here in 2015, this has been an interesting week for me. You see, last week I learned a new business phrase: RIF. It stands for "reduction in force." This week, I experienced RIF personally. My position was eliminated and I am, for the first time since I graduated from college, unemployed. I punched out for last time (metaphorically speaking, of course, because I haven't used a punchcard since 1988)! How interesting, then, that this week's songs deal with happy situations. And, for added personal irony, I should point out that the #4 song this week in 1981 was Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" (hours I am not currently working). If you want to know what songs charted above "9 to 5," read and hear more after the break.