Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday 80s Flashback for February 24, 2012

[Fear of a Two-Fold Theme] -- Those of you who follow this blog somewhat regularly know that last week's theme was inspired by Ernest Cline's novel, Ready Player One. Well, I finished that book the other night, and thought I would do another post featuring songs/artists mentioned in the book. But I also realized I had not yet done a Flashback in honor of Black History Month. But without the contributions of African-American musicians and singers, all of them uncredited and overlooked until later in the 60s and 70s, there would have been no rock and roll. And that means there would have been no decade of 80s music as we know and cherish it today. (I'll just sit here and wait for the haters to get the "blame game" out of their system and leave the room before I continue). Well, who says I cannot do both in one post? Who says I cannot honor the contributions of African-Americans to the music scene and play music (in)directly linked to Ready Player One? That's right, before you can say "Super Hero Team-Up," I combined the two potential themes into one powerful Flashback! Read and hear more after the break.

Flashback #1"Whenever you're in trouble | Won't you stand by me."

According to Wikipedia, there are over 400 recorded versions of "Stand By Me" which was written by Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1960. And it was a top-ten hit for Ben E. King twice in his own career. It first hit #1 as a single in 1961 on the US Billboard Hot 100 R&B Singles, but it was not released on an album until two years later when it appeared on King's Don't Play That Song! In 1986, when "Stand By Me" was re-released to coincide with the movie of the same name, the song peaked at #9 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Although this song is not mentioned in Ready Player One, I can make the case for two connections to the book. First, a young Wil Wheaton (along with River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell, and Corey Feldman) starred in the film and he narrates the audiobook version of Ready Player One. Second, the song's themes of trust and friendship, even the face of great obstacles, clearly echoes a lesson that Wade, Aech, Ar3mis, and Shoto -- all loners when we first encounter them in the book -- all learn.   

Flashback #2"And I wonder when we are ever gonna change it | Living under the fear until nothing else remains."

Soundtracks figure prominently in Ready Player One. And the right single on the right soundtrack can really make an artist. Our next flashback artist, Tina Turner, was already a worldwide star before she appeared in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and recorded its hit theme song. But "We Don't Need Another Hero" was one of Turner's biggest worldwide hit singles, peaking at #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, at #3 in the UK, and reaching #1 in Canada and Europe (Australia, Germany, Poland, Spain and Switzerland). Tina Turner's career and achievements cannot be briefly summarized here in a flashback post, so I recommend you check out her Wikipedia entry. Once you see that, you will realize that her contributions to music and film are outstanding (and she could possibly deserve her own holiday or month). This song's link to Ready Player One is more easily explained: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is indirectly referenced because the Mad Max movies are included in OASIS creator James Halliday's list of "Holy Trinities" of film.  

Flashback #3"I know your anger, I know your dreams | I've been everything you want to be."

Our final flashback of the day has the most tenuous of connections to Ready Player One, but there is nothing tenuous about its energy. "Cult of Personality" was the first single off Living Colour's debut album, Vivid (1988). This funk-metal tune all but leapt out of radio speakers and grabbed hold of the record-buying public. Of course, the novelty of Living Colour being an "all-black heavy metal band" probably helped them in the attention department (according to Wikipedia, but without citing a reference). But once they had your attention, for whatever reason, the music held it. "Cult of Personality" roared up the charts, hitting #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. Living Colour nabbed an MTV Music Award as Best New Artist (1989) and "Cult of Personality" won them a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance (1990). What is the connection, if any, to Ready Player One? Just that the world of the OASIS is pretty much populated by personality. And just like the political/celebrity personalities mentioned in this song, the OASIS personalities are manufactured, showing only what the people behind those facades want other people to see. That, and it's probably a great song to listen to while playing some of those games!

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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