Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for February 25, 2011

[Heirs of Avalon] -- This week's theme has nothing whatsoever to do with the court of King Arthur. No, today I am dealing with bands inspired by the look, style, and sound of the English art-rock band, Roxy Music (1971-1983; 2001-present). The theme is named in honor of their last studio album, Avalon (1982). Well, that, and I suppose you could make a case for "heir" being rather close to "hair" which was something of a trademark for these bands, but I digress.

Now, art rock is closely related to progressive rock. Both are experimental, sometimes drawing on themes from classical music, and both often incorporate avant-garde influences. And art rock is typically more keyboard than guitar-driven. However, as the 80s gave rise to New Wave music, art rock went a bit more in the synth direction and relied less on concept albums (although some bands still dabbled in large-scale story telling on occasion). Roxy Music, to my mind, lies between the extremes of progressive and art rock. So they were the perfect gateway band for their later 80s forebears.

Of course, many bands claim to have been influenced by the Rox (wait, does anyone really call them that? Oh well, I just did), but I am bound by the rule of three, so I had to whittle my options down. I had to find a trio of artists to represent the gamut from New Romantics to New Wave Rock.

Who made the cut, and what songs are featured? Read and hear more after the jump.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for February 18, 2011

[An Awkward KISS] -- With yet another Valentine's Day safely in the collective rear view mirror, we can reflect on other Valentine's Days gone by -- specifically, Valentines of the 80s. I spent the first half of the 80s in junior and senior high school, so most of those "celebrations" can be filed under the category of awkward. That's just the nature of the pre-teen and teenaged experience. Now, the members of KISS, who had been the object of many teenagers' hero worship through the 70s, probably were not awkward (or even necessarily honorable) in their dealings with members of the opposite sex , but the start of the 80s did find them at an awkward point in their career. They entered the decade strong: To their credit, they had a string of eight Platinum-selling albums, the last five of which included the interesting gimmick of their four "solo" albums -- all released on the same day in 1978 -- and the disco-influenced Dynasty of 1979. But they also greeted the new decade with internal tensions, Peter Kriss and Ace Frehley being particularly dissatisfied, and musical identity issues. Kriss and Frehley were therefore less-involved with the recordings of this period and they eventually left the band in 1980 and 1982 respectively. KISS eventually experienced something of a rebound in the late 80s, probably due to the convergence of glam/hair metal rising in popularity and an increase in KISS nostalgia. But 1980 - 1983 were pretty much a low point for the band. So, what could I possibly choose as showcase songs for today's Flashback set?

Read and hear more after the jump.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for February 11, 2011

[Covered] -- I decided to go in a slightly different direction with the Flashback today. Please be advised that this post might not be for the 80s purists in our midst. You see, I love cover songs. Sure, I feel there is something to be said for purity of an artist's vision for their own music. However, I also feel that one of art's most wonderful qualities is its capacity for reinterpretation. When an artist covers material from the previous generation, they show a love and respect for that material (there are exceptions for satire and spoofs, neither of which are the focus of today's Flashback). And a successful cover can prove a song's staying power and legacy. So, while a song may have been born in a specific decade and brought to life with certain music technology, it can enjoy new life and, sometimes, bring new attention to the original artist. Even if the original artist is forgotten in the release of a successful cover, the original song's innate glory is preserved. And somewhere, within some percentage of the listening public, there will be folks who do remember, and who can sit back satisfied smile and say, "Yes, so-and-so really was a skilled songwriter."

Are you ready to find out what artists have I chosen for their covers of great 80s songs? Read and hear more after the jump.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for February 4, 2011

[Theme: Super Bowl XLV Weekend!] -- In case you haven't noticed, Super Bowl XLV is this weekend. And my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are playing for their 3rd title in six seasons (or their 7th in franchise history). Now, this isn't a football blog by any stretch of the imagination. And aside from winning Super Bowl XIV in January 1980 (to cap off the 1979 season), it's not like the Steelers had a great deal of success in the 80s. Also, "Renegade" by Styx, which has become something of an anthem for the Steelers since 2002, comes from 1979.

So how do I select 80s songs to go with this week's theme?

First, I thought I would try to select a song from the 80s-equivalent of each year the Steelers have reached the Super Bowl -- basically 20 years prior to the recent year. But whether I went with the year of the season (2005, 2008, and 2010) or the actual Super Bowl year (2006, 2009, 2011), I ended up with only two out of the three years actually falling in the 80s: The first option yielded 1985, 1988, and 1990; the second option gave 1986, 1989, and 1991.  
Aside: Yes, if we want to get technical, 1990 is 20 years prior to 2010 and it can be considered part of the 80s if you run the decade as 1981 - 1990. I just chose to not go that route.
Fortunately, while riffling through songs from 1985 and 1988, I came across this one tune and the path to fulfilling this week's theme was clear. I will simply select three songs from the 80s that make me think of this Steelers team playing in this Super Bowl.

Are you at all curious about what I selected? Need some great 80s tunes, either to get fired up for the game or just have a great weekend? Read and hear more after the jump.