Thursday, December 31, 2015

Emotions Revealed - A "Lost" Steve Roach Album from the 80s

If you want to chill a little on the last day of 2015, you could do so with this "lost" recording by Steve Roach.

From the website:
A delayed transmission from the early 80s. Discovered serendipitously in 2015, these lost tracks created just prior to the Structures from Silence era represent two then-emerging sides of Steve’s artistic muse. “Emotion Revealed” is a mesmerizing, yearning sequencer exploration connected to the German school of electronic music. “Firelight” was his first long-form atmospheric composition of emotional introspection — stillness, silence, and solitude. Two essential touchstones of Steve’s sonic origin. 

Stream it here, or go to and download it (for whatever price you'd like to pay).


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Whose Holiday Is This Anyway? [Redux]

Holiday candle (Free photobank

Prophet or Madman: Whose Holiday Is This Anyway? [Redux]: We're knee-deep in the holiday season now -- Hanukkah has passed, the Winter Solstice is upon us, and Christmas is right down the stretch of this week -- so now seems like the right time to re-post a little something I wrote in 2004. This time around I have included links to "4000 Years of Christmas" and a video performance of Dar Williams' "The Christians and the Pagans." I have also changed "Chrismahanukwanzakah" to "Chrismahanukwanzakyule" as it better expresses my pluralist leanings. I hope you enjoy this holiday rewind...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for December 18, 2015

[Stay Awake (Redux)] -- In 2000, after we eloped, Mrs. Brainwise and I flew to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon. Shortly thereafter, we made the plan to return to the House of Mouse every five years to celebrate our anniversary. We nearly didn't make it here in 2015 due to my recent bout of unemployment, but Mrs. Brainwise had always wanted to see how Disney World decorated for Christmas, so we're back and our every-five-years plan remains intact. This week marks my fourth visit to Walt Disney World with my wife (and my sixth time here overall when I add in previous family trips). Seems like a good time to revisit Hall Willner's Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films (1988). Willner is an American music producer with several tribute albums and live events listed among his many credits, Stay Awake being his fourth tribute album. I was in college when it was first released, and 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. When I first blogged about this album in 2013, I wrote that our Disneyland guide had never heard of Stay Awake. It is possible that many of my fellow 80s-philes are likewise still unaware of this album. So, I figure this CD makes for a great Flashback. I've chosen three tunes from the 20+ songs represented on the album. You know the drill: Read and hear more after the break.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for December 11, 2015

[30th Anniversary of Sun City] -- 30 years ago this week saw the release of "the most political of all of the charity rock albums of the 1980s" (per AllMusic). Sun City (1985) was a protest album driven by Steven Van Zandt (perhaps best known for his affiliation with  Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band) and Artists United Against Apartheid. The name pretty much tells you what the group was all about. They recorded two versions of the song, "Sun City," and other material for this album. The personnel assembled by Van Zandt reads like a who's who of popular and critically acclaimed artists of the mid-80s. For example:

  • Little Steven (Van Zandt) – vocals, guitar, drum programming
  • Kool DJ Herc, Peter Wolf, Pat Benatar, Joey Ramone, Jimmy Cliff, Daryl Hall, Lou Reed, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Nona Hendryx, Kashif, Peter Garrett, Malopoets, Gil Scott-Heron, Afrika Bambaataa, Rubén Blades, Bono, George Clinton, Peter Gabriel, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Bonnie Raitt, Run DMC, Bruce Springsteen, John Oates, Michael Monroe, Darlene Love, The Fat Boys, and others – vocals
  • Zak Starkey, Tony Williams, Ringo Starr – drums
  • Sonny Okosuns – talking drums
  • Keith LeBlanc, Benjamin Newman – drum programming
  • Pete Townshend, Stanley Jordan, Keith Richards, Ron Wood – guitars
  • L. Shankar – double violin
  • Clarence Clemons – saxophone
  • Miles Davis – trumpet
  • Herbie Hancock, Richard Scher, Robby Kilgore, Zoe Yanakis – keyboards
  • Doug Wimbish – bass; Ron Carter – acoustic bass
  • Jam Master Jay, DJ Cheese – scratches
Sun City didn't achieve great commercial success, but it did peak at #31 on the Billboard 200 pop albums chart. It did, however, receive critical acclaim in abundance, reaching #5 on the Pazz & Jop Critics Poll (yes, that's really the name) for albums for that year. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for November 27, 2015

[Black Friday -- Redux] -- As I often do during a holiday, I'm re-using a previous Flashback post (with a few corrections/updates). This one was originally posted in November 2012, but the tunes are just as fresh, and the topic just as relevant, today. Here we go!

It's the day after Thanksgiving, colloquially known as Black Friday here in the States. It's a special, special day when all those prices that have been steadily jacked up over the past few months are lowered (just a bit). Some folks could not even wait for this morning, and began shopping last night or at least camped out (2012 link | 2015 link) in the hope of nabbing huge deals. As the 80s are often considered the decade of materialism during which "shop till you drop" became a mantra, I thought I could find a few tunes to reflect the inanity of Black Friday. Read and hear more after the break.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for November 20, 2015

[Presto] -- This week in 1987, Canadian power trio, Rush, released their 13th studio album, Presto. could muster only 2.5 out of 5 stars for this record, but my own appreciation has, well, appreciated over time. Maybe that's because Presto heralded a return to a more guitar driven sound after nearly a decade of synth-dominated discs. Lyrically, this record can seem simplistic at times, or that it is trying too hard in others. At least, I think that's the impression I had after it first came out. However, in retrospect, I feel that lyricist/percussionist Neal Peart captured the confusion and frustration of the close of the 80s. And he did so without losing his own sense of optimism, something missing from many prog rock records of that time. Presto  peaked  at #16 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling over 500,000 copies (Gold) in the US and over 100,000 copies (Platinum) in Canada. For this week's Flashback post, you can read and hear more about a few singles after the break. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for November 6, 2015

[Eye of the Glass Tiger] -- For some reason, all this week, several songs by Canadian rockers, Glass Tiger, have been been on constant replay in my head. So, I take that as an excuse to feature them in a Flashback post. Between 1983 and 1991, Glass Tiger released three studio albums: The Thin Red Line (1986), Diamond Sun (1988), and Simple Mission (1991). Each one sold at least 500,000 copies (Platinum) in Canada, but only their debut grabbed much attention outside stateside ... or elsewhere. After 1991, their record label released about half a dozen compilation albums, all of which were pretty much attempts to milk more cash out of the band's lightning-in-a-bottle debut. Depending on what site you visit, Glass Tiger disbanded in either 1991 or 1993, though they did reunite in 2003 and have performed together a few more times since then. For this week, I've chosen two tracks from their debut album, and one from their sophomore release. If you're ready to find out which tracks made the cut, just read and hear more after the break.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for October 30, 2015

[Halloween] -- I missed flashing back last week, but I couldn't pass up a chance to post a very special holiday edition of the Friday 80s Flashback this week. It's Halloween! I've previously run new Halloweenish Flashbacks in 2010 and 2011, while 2012 and 2013 featured re-runs of prior years' material. And, some reason, October 2014 has four Flashback posts, but none of them are Halloweeny. That means I need to get back in the game this year, and with trick-or-treaters prepping for this weekend, you need a soundtrack. If you'd like to know some of my latest suggestions, read and hear more after the break.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for October 23, 2015

[Oranges & Lemons Reissue] -- XTC's 11th studio album, Oranges & Lemons, was originally released in February of 1989. This month, it's getting reissued as a CD+Blu-ray deluxe edition with plenty of extras. One of those extras is that prog rock legend, Steven Wilson, has remixed the album for stereo and 5.1 surround sound from the original analog tapes!

The original release was available as a either a double LP or a 16-track CD. Of the three singles ("The Mayor of Simpleton", "King for a Day", and "The Loving"), only the first two charted well. "The Mayor of Simpleton," which hit the charts in January 1989, performed extremely well. It peaked at #46 on the UK Singles Chart. In the US, it hit #72 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks charts, making it XTC's best-charting single in the States. The album was also a commercial success, scoring the #1 position on the US college / alternative album chart and #44 on the US Billboard Top 200 chart. In the UK, it peaked at #28 on the UK album chart.

Oh, and though they weren't released as singles, "Hold Me My Daddy" and "Merely a Man" (with lyrics that include "We're all Jesus, Buddha and the Wizard of Oz") hold a special place in my heart.

The availability of the reissue seems to range from last Friday, October 16, to today, October 23. Some stores still list it as a pre-order item. And it is currently out of stock on Amazon. Anyway, while you're waiting for your deluxe reissue, you can stream the original version of the full album on YouTube here: Or, if you just want to check out the singles from Oranges & Lemons, then read and hear more after the break.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for October 9, 2015

[A Little Moyet] -- Alison Moyet is an English pop singer whose bluesy contralto voice has graced recordings and stage performances since 1978. She got her start in the music industry when Vince Clarke, formerly of Depeche Mode, selected her as the voice of the second phase of his electronic music career. For more about Moyet's collaboration with Clarke in Yazoo, refer to my 3/11/2011 post, The Clarke Factor. After Yazoo disbanded in 1983, Moyet moved on to a solo career. Her discography includes eight studio albums (including two in the 80s), three compilations, and two live albums. She has 30 singles to her credit, many of which were highly successful in the UK and across Europe. Although she has had little to no chart success in the US, she does maintain a huge fan base. I could be wrong about that; I freely admit some bias due to being a huge fan myself. So, what Moyet recordings have I selected for you this week? Read and hear more after the break! 

Friday, October 02, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for October 2, 2015

[Let It Be - 31 Years Young] -- On this date in 1984, The Replacements released their third studio album, Let It Be. The album cover features the band sitting on the roof of Bob and Tommy Stinson's mother's house. The record itself was produced by Steve Fjelstad, Peter Jesperson, and Paul Westerberg (The Replacements' lead singer and songwriter) for Twin/Tone Records. But it wasn't like there was an actual producer lurking over the boys, making them sweat each note. The album title, Let It Be, was ripped from the Beatles' record, of course. But it was just their way of saying nothing is sacred; The Beatles "were just a damn fine rock & roll band" (Paul Westerberg, quoted by Rolling Stone). Sacred or not, Let It Be is ranked among the greatest rock albums of the 80s, and Rolling Stone even includes it on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. No doubt, this is more by accident than by some design on the Mats' part. So, I'm picking three tracks to feature pretty much the same way. Read and hear more after the break.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for September 25, 2015

[30+ Years of Private Eyes] -- September 1981. Simon & Garfunkel performed a free reunion concert in New York City's Central Park. Iron Maiden fired vocalist Paul Di'Anno and hired Bruce Dickinson to replace him. The Rolling Stones opened a US tour in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And the record industry released nearly 50 new albums. Now, some of those new records were EPs, compilations, and live recordings. However, I'm sure that list of releases is incomplete, so I maintain that we saw a boatload of new material to kick-off Fall 1981. As I looked over the collection of albums released 34 years ago this month, I find many that I have loved (and still enjoy). Only a few, however, stand out as having survived the passage of the last three decades, at least as far as I'm concerned. These are records whose songs jump immediately to the turntable in my brain, and play unabashedly at full volume. But, only one of those records was presumably released this very week in 1981: Private Eyes by Daryl Hall & John Oates. Maybe that record is still part of my music-appreciating DNA simply because the TV show Psych used it for a commercial several years ago. Or, it could be that the songs are still that darn good. More likely, I'm a sucker for nostalgia and blue-eyed soul. So, what tracks have I selected to highlight this week? I'll give you a hint: You won't find "Mano A Mano" when you read and hear more after the break.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for September 11, 2015

This is a reworking of a post that originally appeared on September 9, 2011.

[I Love NY, on September 11 and Always -- Redux] -- On September 11, 1981, the top song in the U.S. was "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100 from August 9 to October 10). In baseball, the Detroit Tigers defeated the Cleveland Indians at Tiger Stadium. Movie goers were about to lift Arthur to the role of top-grossing movie for that weekend. Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Sandra Day O'Connor ended. On the world stage, the U.S. accused the USSR of using poison gas in Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan. The Soviets began amphibious landing exercises on the Polish coast as part of naval training in Baltic Sea even while pressure for democracy was mounting within Poland. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat claimed Referendum results supported his crackdown efforts against opposition forces, and the Ayatollah Khomeini's personal representative was assassinated in Tabriz, Iran. And a private plane crashed into the Swing Auditorium, a legendary concert venue in San Bernardino, California, damaging it beyond repair.

30+ years later, we are once again remembering the aftermath of a trio of plane crashes that occurred on the East Coast, destroying an architectural icon in downtown New York and devastating our national psyche. I have previously written about 9-11 (The Real "Never Forget," They Crashed the Planes and Changed the Rules, and Visit to United Flight 93 Memorial for example). But I have yet to do so from the lens of 80s music. So, this week, the Friday 80s Flashback celebrates New York City. Wondering what songs we have for the Big Apple? Read and hear more after the break.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for September 4, 2015

Cover Image from

[Worlds Apart] -- Though I graduated over 20 years ago, Labor Day weekend makes me think of college. I am particularly mindful of bands I learned about within my first two years at Penn State. One such band was Cactus World News. Although they are best known for "The Bridge" -- their very first single (1985) which was produced by Bono (lead vocalist of U2) -- I tend to remember them for "Worlds Apart," the second single of their first full length effort, Urban Beaches (1986). Perhaps that is the more appropriate song as, with each passing year, I am vastly more worlds apart from the self of my college years. I would like to spend more time musing on this, but I'll do so offline. So, this week, I simply offer up three tunes from Cactus World News, but I do so without my customary editorializing. (I'm sure you're all suitably crushed).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for August 28, 2015

[Revenge of the 80s -- Redux] -- A few years ago, June of 2009 to be a bit more precise, I created an 80s playlist for a friend's birthday. She's about half my age, so she never got to experience the 80s. At least not directly. I titled the CD, "Revenge of the 80s." It was a 12 track extravaganza, and each song fit the scheme because it met one of the the following four requirements:
  • an 80s song by an 80s artist, 
  • an even older song covered by an 80s artist, 
  • an 80s song covered by another 80s artist, or
  • an 80s song covered by a later artist. 
Got that?

Now, I recently learned of the streaming service known as Mixcloud. After playing around with it a bit, I thought it might be a fun experiment to upload the entire Revenge of the 80s playlist to share it with other 80s fans. You can check it out after the break.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for August 14, 2015

Vixen: the 1988 album (L) and the animated DC Comics hero (R)

[Tale of Two Vixens] -- This week's Flashback post has its roots in a Matt Moore (@Guerrillascribe) tweet about belting out a tune by 80s girl-glam-metal, Vixen, because he was working on a podcast about the DC Comics character of the same name. Realizing Moore was speaking my dual languages of comics and 80s music, and always liking internet-induced synchronicity, I decided to feature Vixen's only 80s record in the Flashback while linking back to Moore's podcast. So, be certain to stop by the Comic Book Noob podcast (site | episode) and learn all about the Vixen who was supposed to be DC's first African female to star in her own series (and who will be on television this fall). Then, return here to read and hear more about the all-female glam-metal band that debuted in the late 80s!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for August 7, 2015

[When "The Doctor" was Punk] -- So, a month ago today, we took off for SDCC 2015. (Please note: Dangrdafne and I are still working on several blog posts about that week for Bookended By Cats -- stay tuned!). Among the big attractions for SDCCers were Doctor Who and the Nerdist Podcast. In fact, Peter Capaldi, the actor portraying the 12th incarnation of The Doctor, made an appearance on a live recording of the Nerdist Podcast. During that show, Capaldi made reference to the fact that he and actor/comedian/former talkshow host, Craig Ferguson, were in a punk band together! And this band, the Dreamboys, recorded an EP back in 1980! Capaldi sang and played guitar while Ferguson played drums. Temple Clark and Roderick Murray rounded out the foursome. Just look at Capaldi rocking out (and rocking the sweater vest):

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for July 31, 2015

[Rapping to the Beat] -- Once upon a time, rap music sold thousands of records, but barely cracked the upper echelons of pop culture. That statement may seem odd to read in a year in which hip-hop's wealthiest artists have incomes that are measured in HUNDREDS of millions of dollars (e.g., Dr. Dre is #2 on Forbes list of Hip-Hop's Wealthiest Artists Of 2015 at a paltry net worth of $700M). But well before Yo! MTV Raps, In Living Color, and Empire, rap music made its mainstream network television debut on ... 20/20. Yes, in July of 1981 -- 34 years ago this month! -- ABC's 20/20 became the United States' first network TV news program to air a special report on rap music.

Would you buy rap records from these guys?

Sure, it seems kind of quaint now. And, yes, children of the Internet, "portable" music players in those days really were the size of briefcases. But this investigative report is actually quite fascinating and informative, particularly considering the history they delve into (Cab Calloway, radio DJs, and Blondie, for example). And the clips of the Sugarhill Gang, Funky 4 + 1, and Kurtis Blow -- and the the footage of street scenes -- are worthy additions to any time capsule. So, we have only two Flashbacks this week: Parts 1 and 2 of the Hip-Hop special report.

Flashback #1: 20/20 Report Hip-Hop Special - Part 1

Flashback #2: 20/20 Report Hip-Hop Special - Part 2

That's all for this 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!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for 7/24/2015

[Bucks Fizz] -- In late 1980, the songwriting team of Nicola Martin and Andy Hill crafted a tune for the Eurovision Song Contest. In January of 1981, Martin and Hill put together a band to perform their new song. Following the two male, two female formula pioneered by ABBA, Martin and Hill lined up as Jay Aston, Cheryl Baker, Bobby G, and Mike Nolan as Bucks Fizz -- the performing vehicle for their potential hit. And it seemed to work. "Making Your Mind Up" ended up winning the contest and even reached #1 in the UK singles chart (and it charted in a few other European countries). Bucks Fizz did not, however, have much chart success in North America. And they had their detractors. Daniela Soave, in a review for the Record Mirror, wrote: "I think Bucks Fizz are bunch of gutless wonders who can perhaps sing in tune but don't know the meaning of singing with emotion." Still, over the course of five studio albums (1981 through 1986), Bucks Fizz racked up 20 top 40 hits. Their self-titled debut album was released in July 1981, and it was responsible for three of those hits. And today, the Friday 80s Flashback looks to that debut LP for our weekend playlist. Check out some tracks after the break!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for July 17, 2015

Still from an Entertainment Tonight Segment on 1982's Summer Movies
[1982 Summer Flicks] -- The summer of 1982 was a great time for science fiction films, quite possibly the greatest. In that year, we saw the release of The Road Warrior (May 21, 1982), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (June 4, 1982), ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (June 11, 1982), Blade Runner (June 25, 1982), John Carpenter's The Thing (June 25, 1982), and Tron (July 9, 1982). And regarding 1982 as a great year for sci-fi isn't just a view we have with the benefit of hindsight. Even Entertainment Tonight, which was a decent program in its pre-Internet heyday, recognized the significance of that Summer in this Movie Sneak Preview segment. So, for this week's Flashback playlist, we'll look back at one piece each from three of those movies. Which movies and tracks did I select? Read and hear more after the break!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for July 10, 2015

[Batman 1989] -- I'm at the San Diego International Comic-Con this week. This afternoon, I saw the 3rd Annual Musical Anatomy of a Superhero panel, and it got me to thinking about superhero movie scores from the past. So, I thought we could flash back to one of the most iconic pieces of film music from the 80s: the Batman: Original Motion Picture Score by Danny Elfman! Prior to scoring films, Elfman was known for his work with that great band of the 70s and 80s, Oingo Boingo (responsible for such hits as "Dead Man's Party" and "Weird Science"). However, after scoring his first film (for his brother) in 1982, Elfman has gone on to develop scores for many TV and film projects. And he has been nominated for many awards, winning (for example) a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (for Tim Burton's Batman) and an Emmy Award for his Desperate Housewives theme. Elfman's work on the 1989 Batman score is recognized on a rather wide scale because it was later used as the basis for the theme music in Batman: The Animated Series (1992) as well as the soundtrack for several Lego Batman video games.

No trio of Flashbacks this week. Instead I'm using an embedded YouTube playlist with all 21 tracks:
  1. "The Batman Theme"
  2. "Roof Fight"
  3. "First Confrontation"
  4. "Kitchen, Surgery, Face-off"
  5. "Flowers"
  6. "Clown Attack"
  7. "Batman to the Rescue"
  8. "Roasted Dude"
  9. "Photos/Beautiful Dreamer"
  10. "Descent into Mystery"
  11. "The Bat Cave"
  12. "The Joker's Poem"
  13. "Childhood Remembered"
  14. "Love Theme"
  15. "Charge of the Batmobile"
  16. "Attack of the Batwing"
  17. "Up the Cathedral"
  18. "Waltz to the Death"
  19. "The Final Confrontation"
  20. "Finale"
  21. "Batman Theme (Reprise)"

Well, 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!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

SDCC 2015!

My Wife and Me at the San Diego Convention Center
Greetings my fellow 80s-philes! 

For the next week, I'm in San Diego for that great geek Mecca known as the San Diego International Comic-Con (SDCC for short)! You'll catch some of my photos and musings on Twitter (@brainwise), but there might also be posts at the nerdy blog I now co-author with my wife, Dangrdafne: If you'd like to keep up on the comic booky (and other entertainment) goodness, go give our fledgling blog a try! 

Friday, July 03, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for July 3, 2015

80s Boombox via Zazzle

[Red, White, and Bruised ... er, Blue! Redux] -- The Fourth of July lands on a Saturday this year, so many wage earners in the U.S. are given a three-day weekend to celebrate a unique event: when 13 scrappy, English colonies engaged in an act of civil disobedience. Well, it was actually an act of treason. And it was committed by writing a sternly worded letter to King George III, who wouldn't receive his copy until August 30, 1776. Now, I don't know what the Founding Fathers would make of this week's playlist. But there will be plenty of serious fare discussing the events of 1776 on the web, radio, and television. So on the Flashback, we're gong to cut loose and have some fun. If you're ready to celebrate with me in 80s rock style, then read and hear more after the break. We'll enjoy a few tracks that somehow have a little red, white, or blue associated with them.

Please note, I'm re-using a post/playlist is a slightly modified version of the one that originally appeared on July 4, 2014. But, hey, these songs are over 20 years old anyway, so there shouldn't be any problem with me recycling a year-old blog post, right? If you agree, you can read and hear more after the break.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for June 26, 2014

[Love Conquers] -- When I was in college in the mid-to-late 80s, I took a training program to become a resident assistant (RA). Counselor Education 302. One of the exercises in that course left a strong impression upon me as it was meant to help potential RAs empathize with students who were struggling with their sexual orientation. We also watched Torch Song Trilogy and attended a performance of The Normal Heart, but it was that aforementioned thought experiment that most moved me and changed the way I saw hetero- and homosexual relationships. Now, it may seem difficult to remember this, but even as recently as the 1980s, the majority of LGBT people kept their affections a private, hidden matter (with, of course, a few very public exceptions). I remember wondering if gay people would ever be fully welcomed into society. (A society, by the way, they had entertained, taught, and served while all-too-often keeping their true selves in the shadows).

Flash forward to today -- June 26, 2015 -- and the Supreme Court of the USA has legalized same-sex marriage across the US.

This doesn't mean that LGBTs still don't have some hurdles to conquer. No, there are still places where a person can lose their job if they are outed. And not everyone was happy with today's news. I, for one, applaud the Supreme Court decision. And I've decided to honor this historic occasion with a suitable selection of 80s tunes. What is on our playlist this week? Read and hear more after the break!  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for June 19, 2015

[This Week in June 1982] -- During this week in 1982: President Reagan and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met regarding the violence in Lebanon, the Argentine government was at war with Britain, George Allen became the coach of the Chicago franchise of the new U.S. Football League, and the Satellite News Channel debuted as competition for CNN.

Oh, and these songs topped the US Billboard Hot 100... 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for June 12, 2015

[Clutching at the 80s] -- I was a bit disappointed with this week's chart activity in 1981 and 1987 (remember, the calendar dates from those two years line up with those of 2015). Kim Carnes did keep her hold on the #1 spot with "Betty Davis Eyes" on 6/13/81. But beyond that, the charts were mired in forgettable pop fluff (with "Stars on 45" and Sukiyaki's "A Taste Of Honey" joining Kim Carnes in the top three in 1981, and Atlantic Starr -- really?! -- taking the top spot in 1987). So, I turned to album releases to see if there was something a bit more interesting this week.

And there was.

On today's date* in 1987, 80s prog rockers and cult darlings, Marillion, released their fourth studio album, Clutching at Straws. Marillion got their start in Aylesbury, England, in 1979, and took their name from J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, The Silmarillion. A favorite among the D&D playing teens in the early 80s, Marillion reached the peak of their success with Clutching at Straw's predecessor, the concept album Misplaced Childhood (1985). While not as commercially successful as Childhood, Straws did reach #2 on the UK Albums Chart and it received many positive reviews. In fact, considers this album to be their "most unheralded masterpiece." It was certainly a transitional record -- it was the last record with singer-songwriter, Fish, and it heralded guitarist Steve Rothery's ascension to being the band's new musical instigator later recordings.

Like Childhood, Straws is a concept album. However, rather than delving into the vagaries of youth, this record looks the downward spiral of a young adult. In these songs, we see Torch, who is 29 years old and out-of-work. His life is a mess and he seeks solace mainly in alcohol. It is not a happy story, as Torch ends up a raging drunk beyond all hope of redemption.

CD Booklet for UK release of Clutching at Straws
The three singles released from Clutching at Straws were "Incommunicado," "Sugar Mice," and "Warm Wet Circles." However, since we're dealing with a concept album, I thought it might be best to provide a full playlist rather than just pick my usual three selections. Enjoy!

Flashback Video(s)"I'm a citizen of Legoland travellin' incommunicado  |  And I don't give a damn for the Fleet Street aficionados." (lyrics from the first single, Incommunicado)

Well, 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!

* Wikipedia has 6/12/87 as the release date for Clutching at Straws., however, has the release date as 6/19/87. Other sources list it simply as June 1987. So, by blogger's imperative, I'm going with 6/12/87!

Friday, June 05, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for June 5, 2015

[ Bad Animals] -- This week in 1987, Heart released their ninth studio album, Bad Animals, which was their second with Capital Records. The move to Capital coincided with -- or perhaps spurred -- Heart's resurgence. Their more polished sound had resulted in many new followers and an increase in album sales. This album is also significant in that only three of the ten tracks include a writing credit for either of the band's founders, Nancy or Ann Wilson. You know what else is notable? The fact that three of this album's four singles were top 40 hits (on the US Billboard Hot 100). And that fourth one was a respectable #49. Read and hear more after the break to find out which tunes from Bad Animals are spotlighted here.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for May 29, 2015

U2, Kim Wilde, and Chris De Burgh: In the Top Three this Week in 1987

[This Week in 1987] -- It is now a week after Memorial Day weekend, and we are getting ready for another summer. Schools are letting out (at least those schools that no longer have to make up snow days). At this time in 1987, I was on the cusp of my very first summer as a college guy. That is, I had wrapped up my freshman year and moved my gear back home from the Penn State campus. I'm sure it felt a little strange to be back in what had been considered "home" for 18 years, particularly as I had come to regard State College in general, and University Park in specific, as "home." Music, of course, helped with the transition. So, what was hot on the radio 28 years ago this week? If you want to know, read and hear more after the break.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for May 22, 2015

[As Falls Wichata] -- I'm changing things up ever so slightly for this week's Flashback. And it's going to start out a bit sad. But at least I warned you ahead of time and you can bear with me, right? Right! So, here we go.

Today, May 22, 2015, would have been my father's 69th birthday. I say "would have" because I lost him two years ago this very month. He passed away due to complications with his second bone marrow transplant, which had been done in 2010. Some of you may recall reading updates about Dad's final journey, which started around the middle of March 2013 and ran through to his death on May 4. I'm not saying you need to go back and read those posts. Really, you don't. I've done it for you. It's what I do now as Winter winds into Spring.

However, although he is physically gone now, Dad was very much alive in the 1980s, and ever ready to help me with my musical appreciation. I'm sure he was at least slightly worried that I would be hopelessly lost to new wave, heavy metal, or synthpop. He wanted me to be grounded in the classics (er, classic rock) and jazz. And genres that incorporated elements of jazz (jazz fusion, world music, etc.). Read and hear more about my father's influence after the break.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Hate(d) My Lawn

So, I'm listening to DruidCast as I mow my lawn, but I can't help thinking, "I hate my yard." Next thing I know, the two-doors-down neighbor drops by to talk. Before leaving, this neighbor tells me, "Your yard is beautiful." I was so focused on my yard's flaws (burnt out patches of grass; vole damage, my makeshift walkway extension, etc.). But my neighbor didn't know about my laundry list of complaints; just saw the whole of the yard, and thought it was beautiful.

That gave me something to think about whilst I went about the rest of my errands.

From this vantage point, my yard doesn't look so bad, right?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for May 15, 2015 (Farewell to a King)

B.B. King performing in New York in the late 1980s
Photo Credit: "BBKingNY" by Ronzoni - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

[Farewell to a King] -- I'm taking another break from following the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1981 and 1987 this week. The reason this time: To honor the passing of a legend: B.B. King – born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925 – died on May 14, 2015, at the age of 89. He started his recording career in 1949 (with his famous guitar, Lucille). And, at the time of his death, he had a discography that consisted of 43 studio albums, 16 live albums, and 138 singles. He is also credited on countless other releases by other artists. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. You can visit The Guardian for BB King: chairman of the blues – a life in pictures. And you can check out a few of his 80s highlights after the break.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for May 8, 2015

[Kick Some Flash!] -- Another weekend, and time for another Friday 80s Flashback. But on this weekend, I'm attending the Philadelphia Comic Con (also known as Wizard World Philadelphia). Now, what might be an appropriate way to celebrate both? I know! How about using some great music from Queen, who did the soundtrack for the 1980 movie, Flash Gordon, based on Alex Raymond's comic strips! The campy 1980 film was a hit in its native UK, and even performed well in Italy, but fared poorly as an export overseas. Poor Sam Jones, the title character, was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. However, the film received fairly positive critical reviews, and it has developed a cult following. A sequel was discussed, but didn't happen. But after 35 years, a sequel could be in the works

Friday, May 01, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for May 1, 2015

[Hits from My Birthday Week in 1987] -- I have been remiss in posting Flashbacks, but I had to come back and take a look at what topped the charts during my birthday week. 28 years ago this week in 1987, Ronald Reagan was the US President, The Secret of My Succe$s was number one at the box office, actor Hugh Dempster died, U2 was on the cover of TIME magazine, and I was turning 19. I was living in the North Halls residence area at University Park, but I was probably spending more time holed up in a vacant classroom so I could study for finals. So, it is rather unlikely that I cared what was on the radio right then, but that's what flashbacks are for, right? And if you'd like to know what was ruling the airwaves that week, read and hear more after the break. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for March 6, 2015

[This week in 1982] -- Earlier this year, I said I was going to use chart activity from 1981 and 1987 because their calendars are dead ringers for 2015. Unfortunately, chart activity is often slow to change. Top songs often hold onto their peak positions for multiple consecutive weeks. So, even though I've bounced between two years, and even take a few breaks to feature certain albums' release dates, I'm in a rut as to the top three songs at this point in both 1981 and 1987. I supposed I could just feature songs that aren't in the top three just yet, but then I might be robbing from my future posts. So, my other option is to just go with another year even though its dates won't line up exactly with 2015. A year like ... 1982. March 6 was a Saturday in 1982, and therefore a day when chart results were posted. What songs were topping the Billboard Hot 100 on that day? Read and hear more after the break! 

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.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for January 30, 2015

"Family Ties" The Real Thing: Part 2 (1985)

[At this Moment in 1987] -- Because the calendar dates for 1981 and 1987 line up with those of 2015, I'm using chart activity from '81 and '87 as my Flashback guide this year. And there was an interesting triumvirate of tunes topping the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending January 31, 1987. Do you remember the number one song that week? Do you recall any of the songs in the top 10? Well, read and hear more after the break and your memory will be revived!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for January 23, 2015

[Jack Your Weekend] -- As previously mentioned here, the calendar dates for 1981 and 1987 line up with those of 2015. So, I'm using chart activity from '81 and '87 as my Flashback guide. Now, two of the top three slots on the Billboard Hot 100 for this week in 1981 remain unchanged from two weeks ago. And, frankly, the chart toppers for this week in 1987 do not interest me. So, instead of focusing on a trio of songs that hit it big this week in a prior year, I've chosen a more eclectic triumvirate for your aural pleasure: an action hero's album, a milestone in house music, and a Nebraska dream-pop outfit's debut, all from this week in 1987. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for January 16, 2015

[April Wine in January] -- As I mentioned last week, this year's Flashbacks will find me dipping into 1981 and 1987's chart activity because the calendar dates of those years match up with those of 2015. Speaking of last week's post, the top three songs on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1/10/1981 maintained their positions for the week ending 1/17/1981. So, I thought I could use an album released during the past week -- albeit 34 years ago. I had a choice between The Nature of the Beast by April Wine and In Our Lifetime by Marvin Gaye. I'm thinking of saving Mr. Gaye's release for a Flashback later this year. So, April Wine it is!

 The Nature of the Beast was Canadian rockers April Wine's ninth studio album. It was released on January 12, 1981, and would eventually peak at #11 on the Canadian Albums Chart and #26 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart. The album spawned two singles, "Just Between You and Me" and "Sign of the Gypsy Queen" (a cover of Lorence Hud's 1973 hit). The former was a top 25 hit in the U.S. for the band while the latter had more moderate success, peaking at #57 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although not released as a single, "All Over Town" received airplay on AOR radio stations, so it ended up charting at #29 on the Top Tracks chart. Our Flashbacks this week will be the top 25 hit and ... the full album! Read and hear more after the break.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday 80s Flashback for January 9, 2015

[This Week in 1981] -- I know I missed the last two weekends. I'm sorry, but there was holiday stuff and traveling, so I hope you'll forgive me for not posting new 80s material until now. Speaking of now, you might be wondering why a January 1981 calendar (from Marvel Comics' 20th Anniversary Calendar) is my introductory graphic this week. Oh, you're not wondering. Oh, well, I'm going to tell you anyway. You see, calendars regularly repeat day-date combinations. And it turns out that 2015 is a dead ringer for calendars from 2009, 1998, 1987, 1981, and 1970. According to the calendar image above, this weekend matches right up with The Puppet Master and his step-daughter, Alicia. Not that The Puppet Master has anything to do with this week's Flashback. He and Alicia just happen to be hanging out on this weekend's dates which do have everything to do with the Flashback. Why? I'm glad you asked that! It's because I will be dipping into the chart history of the 80s for more than a few posts this year. And I'm starting out with this very week in 1981. So we'll re-visit the top three songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Before we get to the top tunes, it is interesting to note that, at the outset of the new year (1981), we find the old guard ruling the charts. In fact, the top 20 slots are all occupied by tried-and-true 70s artists, if not even a tad older. The other interesting fact is that our top three songs were all released prior to December 1980, and one of them was recorded back in 1979. The pre-digital music business moved at a much different pace than we are currently accustomed to.

Do you remember what topped the Billboard Hot 100 a mere 34 years ago this week? When you're ready to be reminded, you can read and hear more after the break!