Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday 80s Flashback for May 11, 2012

[Word to the Mothers] -- This weekend we in the U.S. observe Mother's Day. I don't know if you've ever looked for "mother" songs before, but there are many, many songs with some variation of "mother" in the title or lyrics (mother, mama, mom, etc.). However, the subject matter of the vast majority of those tunes, particularly in the 80s, was not exactly fodder for Hallmark. And, on top of that challenge, two songs that I thought were perfect for the holiday were not recorded or released in the 80s. They both came out in 1991. So, I've been scrambling to fill out this week's playlist. I think I have successfully crafted a flashback set that honors mothers, recognizes folks who have less-than-perfect relationships with their mothers, and gives a nod to something that most mothers believe about their offspring at one time or another. So don't just sit there and wonder what three songs I have for you this week. Read and hear more after the break!

Flashback #1"You're so precious to me | Cute as can be | Baby, you're mine."

Our first flashback of this Mother's Day weekend is most appropriate in both theme and content. It is probably no surprise that I could reliably turn to Disney for a song that honors the very heart of motherhood. Well, I sort of turned to Disney. I turned to Hal Willner, an American music producer with several tribute albums and live events listed among his many credits. In 1988, Willner released his fourth tribute album, Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Stay Awake featured new recordings of Disney tunes by a whole range of performing artists, from Sun Ra to Michael Stipe, and from Buster Poindexter to Ringo Starr. This is still one of my favorite CDs from the 80s. At the time, I loved it because it made a somewhat adult soundtrack out of songs originally created for kids. More than 20 years later, I still love it for the milestone in my life that it represents. The second track on Stay Awake pairs Bonnie Raitt with Was (Not Was) on "Baby Mine" from the 1941 film Dumbo. And it never fails to put me in mind of my own mother.

Flashback #2"Well the telephone is ringing | Is that my mother on the phone?"

Our second flashback comes from Synchronicity (1983), the fifth and final studio album by The Police. Now, just as some people experience a deterioration in parental relationships, a band's relationship can also deteriorate over time. This flashback tune addresses both scenarios. As Sting's popularity rose outside his role in The Police (between 1979 and 1983, Sting had branched out into acting), his relationship within the band, particularly with drummer Stewart Copeland, soured. And, because Sting was widely considered the face and voice of The Police, Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers started to feel as though they were regarded as mere sidemen. Although Sting, a gifted lyricist and composer, had provided the band with most of their hits, Copeland and Summers were also fine songwriters. And they often had to fight to get one or two of their songs on a group album. The artistic tension between Sting and Copeland, and their outright fighting for control of the band, perhaps provided fuel for Summers' more ... interesting ... contributions like "Mother." Its screamed vocals and frantic music certainly mirror the angst a few of my friends have expressed over the prospect of a phone call from home. "Mother" was never released as a single, but someone did take the time to make a nice little fan video for it. 

Flashback #3"Ma ma ma ma mama weer all crazee now."

At least once during the teen years, we may have thought our parents were crazy. And I'm certain my parents had similar thoughts about me, likely on several occasions. Few anthemic rock songs pick up on this vibe better than Slade's 1972 hit "Mama Weer All Crazee Now." In fact, it was so effective that it has been covered at least a dozen times. And two of those covers came in 1984, one by the American band Quiet Riot, and the other by Irish rockers Mama's Boys. Some writeups indicate that the Mama's Boys version was released prior to Quiet Riot's, but there is no doubt that Quiet Riot's recording was the more popular of the two. That may be due to Quiet Riot already having a following in the US: their cover appeared on their fourth studio album, Condition Critical (1984), which came on the heels of the highly successful and #1 album, Metal Health (1983). Mama's Boys released their version of the hit on their second studio album, Turn It Up (1983). In my opinion, it is the better of the two 1983 covers, so it is the version I use for this week's final flashback tune.

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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