Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday 80s Flashback for June 22, 2012

[Heat Rises] -- In honor of surviving our first heat wave of the Summer of 2012, this week's theme is Heat Rises. Er, no, heat doesn't rise ... hot air rises. Man, my old high school physics prof would have blown a gasket if he saw me write "heat rises." Anyway, due to the severe weather advisory for the northeast over the past two days, severe enough to prompt many cities to open cooling centers for the first time this season, I thought we could look at some hot songs from the 80s. Specifically, I'm thinking about songs that somehow have references to hot, heat, or summer. This is quite timely with the Summer Solstice occurring this past Wednesday. Now, one song you will not find in this week's playlist is Glenn Frey's 1984 hit, "The Heat is On." That song has been completely played out during the 2012 NBA playoffs. So, what three scorching tunes do I have for you this week? Read and hear more after the break.

Flashback #1"Don't be afraid of the world we made on a hot summer night."

At the start of the 80s, Billy Idol was just another former leader of a moderately popular punk band -- his band, Generation X, had broken up after releasing three albums and appearing in the documentary, D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage (1980). But he was driven by that small taste of life as a rocker, and he had the desire to succeed as a solo artist. So, in 1981, Idol moved to New York City cranked out a solo EP (Don't Stop) which yielded two top 40 hits. With his foot in the proverbial door, Idol continued recording his first solo full-length album, Billy Idol, which was released in July 1982. Idol primed his fledgling fan base for the new album by releasing the first single one month earlier. "Hot in the City" was a showcase for why Generation X was going in different directions, and it worked well for Idol: the single peaked at #23 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and the album itself peaked at #45 on the Billboard 200. The original version of the music video uses just about every video effect that was available in 1982. Seriously, it looks like a student video project. Another video was made with a trio of backup singers, but it ended up being banned by MTV due to a scene with Idol's pregnant girlfriend on a cross. I have passed on both musical video versions in favor of relishing in the dichotomy of Billy Idol performing on the TV show Solid Gold (September 1982): 

Flashback #2"Hot summer streets | And the pavements are burning."

As 80s-philes look at the music scene of the last two or three decades, they may be tempted to scoff at the number of musical acts that appear overly fluffy because they don't play their own instruments. But rest assured, your beloved decade had its fare share of such pop fare. Exhibit B is Bananarama, the most successful British girl group in pop history. Creating their name from a mashup of The Banana Splits (a children's TV show) and the song "Pyjamarama" by Roxy Music, Bananarama started out as a duo of childhood friends, Keren Woodward and Sarah Dallin, in 1981. But they quickly became a trio after adding fellow London College of Fashion classmate Siobhan Fahey. The girls wrote their own songs, but played no instruments -- they performed live with backing tapes (yes, that would mean cassette tapes, kids). Their second studio album, Bananarama (1984), served up the group's first success in the US: the top ten hit, "Cruel Summer." To me, this song plods along with something akin to a heavy wispiness -- heavy because of the pseudo bass line and it's earnest pace, which feels like it wants to break out but is stuck fighting against its own hot and humid air, and wispy because of the dreamy vocals and polished production. Strangely, the music video shows the British singers as NYC's own version of the Dukes of Hazzard -- because, of course, that was every Brit's fantasy back in in the early 80s, right? Or was that just how they viewed Americans? 

Flashback #3"She's turning on the heat | She's got the magic touch."

Our final flashback of the day is a "hot" song, but it has no direct relation to summer ... or any season for that matter. But my iPod dealt it up in a shuffle playlist on Wednesday. And, between that happy occurrence and that day's scorching temperature, I got to thinking about hot summer songs. Now, Loverboy started their career as something of a new wave group -- really, just check out  "Teenage Overdose" and "Little Girl" from their self-titled 1980 debut. But by their third album, Keep it Up (1983), they had fully developed their new wave tinged AOR sound. It was slick and polished, but still a very high energy pop rock. Keep It Up was released in November of 1983. Yes, I know, that's hardly the time to be thinking of summer music. But I received a cassette version of the album for my birthday in April 1984. Funny story: As my 16th birthday approached, my folks asked if there were any specific albums I wanted and I mentioned this one. My poor mother, however, immediately forgot this particular album title. When she went to a store to purchase it, she figured she had enough of an idea of the album title to get by ... but she was a little embarrassed to play the "name that album" game using the clues she had in mind. I don't want to put too fine a point on this, but just look at that album title, maybe even say it out loud, and you can probably imagine what she had in mind. ("Um, I'm looking for an album by some 'Lover' band? The album title kinda sounds like ... oh, I can't say it.") Anyway, our final flashback of the day is "Hot Girls in Love," which hit #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Top Rock Tracks charts even with what is surely one of the sillier videos of 1983. (Really, guys? barrels and gas pumps?). 

Oh, and if you really want to be entertained, check out The Cherry Bombz cover of "Hot Girls in Love." The song gets a different spin with a female vocalist!

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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