Howdy, everybody! Hope you’re all enjoying the last of your summer days, while I sit indoors and listen to ten artists who are likely never be found on the Top 10 — hell, probably the Top 40 — ever again. Let’s take a look back at the week ending August 28, 1982!
10. Take It Away — Paul McCartney Amazon iTunes
9. Wasted On the Way — Crosby, Stills & Nash Amazon iTunes
8. Vacation — Go-Go’s Amazon iTunes
7. Keep the Fire Burnin’ — REO Speedwagon Amazon iTunes
6. Even the Nights Are Better — Air Supply Amazon iTunes
5. Hard to Say I’m Sorry — Chicago Amazon iTunes
4. Hold Me — Fleetwood Mac Amazon iTunes
3. Abracadabra — Steve Miller Band Amazon iTunes
2. Hurts So Good — John Cougar Amazon iTunes
1. Eye of the Tiger — Survivor Amazon iTunes
10. Take It Away — Paul McCartney
I consider myself relatively well-versed in Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles career (though I do not know a single song from Press to Play), and yet I think I need someone who knows his stuff a little better to explain what the difference is between this song — a Macca solo song from Tug of War — and a Wings song. Production-wise, this doesn’t sound much different from “Listen to What the Man Said.” But what do I know. “Take It Away” features Ringo on drums, who also appears in the video with Tug of War producer George Martin on piano. I didn’t like this song the first time I heard it, but like so many of his songs, I just can’t get it out of my head now.
9. Wasted On the Way — Crosby, Stills & Nash
In 1982, Crosby, Stills & Nash peaked here at #9 (their second highest charting single behind 1977′s “Just a Song Before I Go”), and also had a #18 hit with “Southern Cross.” Do you think they were thinking, “Hello, ’80s!”? Because that certainly didn’t happen. Not that it matters, but “Wasted On the Way” was their final Top 40 appearance.
Interesting story behind Daylight Again, the album containing the single: it was intended to be a Stills & Nash project, mainly due to Crosby’s never-ending drug problems. They went straight to the B-list for possible replacements, including Art Garfunkel and the Cryptkeeper Timothy B. Schmit, but the folks at Atlantic Records pretty much told ‘em they had to get Crosby or the album wasn’t happening. Crosby and Nash tried to hold their ground, even paying for the recording sessions out-of-pocket, but eventually relented and asked Crosby to join the project. Personally, my imagery goes straight to Crosby in a Hawaiian shirt, being dragged on his back by his ponytail into the studio while eating a slice of pizza, never quite realizing what’s happening, and the scary thing is that it might not be far from the truth.
For all that I love harmony and acoustic music, I’ve never been much of a CSN fan. One of the guitarists in my band is always asking me why I don’t care for CSN, so I was excited to tell him that I actually like this one. You know what he said? “Oh, that one’s so wimpy.” I said, “…As opposed to what?” Either way, I do think this is a nice song. I think the instrumentation on the studio version is pretty much unnecessary; I like this live version from 1982 instead. You really do get the sense that Crosby has no idea where the hell he is. Check out the part where he makes the “shhh” motion, either to an already-quiet audience or the goblins doing a rain dance in his head. It doesn’t matter, though; they sound fantastic.
8. Vacation — Go-Go’s
I was looking over the Go-Go’s chart history, thinking that surely there was a song I was forgetting about — but only two singles ever made the Top 10: this one, peaking here at #8, and “”We Got the Beat” at #2. I don’t care much for either of these songs — I prefer “Our Lips Are Sealed” (which only hit #20) and “Head Over Heels” (#11). The only thing I really remember about “Vacation” is the half-humorous, half-awkward video. Songfacts has a great interview with guitarist Jane Wiedlin where she mentions the video:
Well, we were at the A&M sound stage, and it was a big budget video, because of course by that time we were really popular, because it was our second album, and our first album had sold like, I don’t know, over 2 million copies or something. So we had a lot of money to do the video, which was the first time for us, because the other videos we just spent, like $5,000 on or something. And it was fun, but it was a way of working that we weren’t accustomed to. And I remember it being a really long day, like a 14-hour day, and about 8 hours into it we all were getting really bored and restless, so we started drinking. But by the time they actually shot the scene where we’re on the water skis, skiing one-handed and waving and stuff, we were all really looped. It’s so funny, if you look at us, look in our eyes in those parts, we’re all like cross-eyed drunk.
7. Keep the Fire Burnin’ — REO Speedwagon (download)
One day far in the future, my grandkids will all gather ’round the fire (or whatever has replaced fire by then) and say to me, “Tell us a story about the old days, Pappy!” And I’ll tell them the story of a band who was signed to Epic Records (they were a “record company,” children!) in 1971. This band managed to release six albums, plus a live album, before one reached the Top 40 — as well as nine singles, many which didn’t even reach the Hot 100, before reaching #1. It took them nine years to find popular success, and yet they were never dropped from their major record label.
I’d like to think that my grandkids will “ooooh” and “aaaah” over this story, but more than likely, they’ll be bored to tears. (Never mind the awkward “What’s a record label?” question.) So this is the part of the story where I will don an eye patch (if I’m not wearing one already), jump up and yell “ARRRRRRRRRR!” And the kids will scream and go, “Pappy, are you some kind of scary pirate?” and I’ll respond, “No, children, I’m Kevin Cronin! I overpronounced everything! ARRRRRRRR!”
Of the successful Speedwagon singles (four Top 10 hits altogether), it’s kind of a sad note that “Keep the Fire Burnin’” is by far the most aggressive of the bunch. And it’s not a bad song. In fact, I’ll go on record as saying that the last 55 seconds rock pretty hard. But it’s still a sort of awkward rocker, mainly because, like “Keep On Loving You,” Cronin’s overpronunciation make the rhymes so painfully evident. Have Cronin and Dennis DeYoung ever worked together? If not, they should. They could strip the rock from anything.
Some people really do love the Speedwagon; check out Rob Smith’s excellent Death By Power Ballad post on one of their more recent releases.
6. Even the Nights Are Better — Air Supply
I don’t need to tell you this, because you already know it, but I am a full, un-ironic fan of Air Supply — pretty much all Air Supply. (What you don’t already know is that although we owned all of their albums growing up, I really don’t remember most of the songs that weren’t singles — just trying to clean up my reputation here.) And you also probably already know that I loved the Air Supply concert I saw in 2007. And I’m not the only one; Steve Spears of the awesome Stuck in the ’80s blog recently discussed his experiences rocking out at one of their concerts. They actually do kind of rock. Remember the beginning of “Even the Nights Are Better”?
Well, this is what it sounds like when they play it live these days:
I can’t be sure, but I think there’s a good possibility this change in style is due to bassist/rock god Jonni Lightfoot. Jonni will probably find this post during a Google search soon, so Jonni, if you’re reading this, please chime in and let us know if you’re responsible for bringin’ the balls to the Supply.
Here’s why “Even the Nights Are Better” rocks. The guys who wrote it — Ken Bell, Terry Skinner and J.L. Wallace — wrote a song that’s actually quite complex. If you’re a musician, here’s the sheet music. Check out how, after the guitar solo, the song very subtly changes keys, and renders the song virtually impossible to sing. Unless, of course, you’re Russell Hitchcock, and that’s why Air Supply gets the credit in my book, even if they had nothing to do with the song’s composition. And you can bet Hitchcock still sings it in the original key. That’s another reason why they rock. And finally, they get credit for an incredibly awkward music video, where the two guys walk around a relatively deserted Coney Island (Graham is inexplicably wearing a suit), talking to each other until they come across two girls riding bicycles. They sneak into a carnival, which suddenly is operational but only for the four of them, and then, at the end, Graham and Russell double team ‘em under the boardwalk.
Okay, maybe that doesn’t happen, but why doesn’t that happen? It seems like the logical conclusion. Also, there’s lot of discussion between the four in this video that we’re not hearing. Someone needs to go ahead and record dialogue over this video; preferably the guys who do the literal videos.
And because I’m a nut, here’s another version by Air Supply — a live version from 1983. Why Graham plays a 12-string acoustic on this song, I’ll never know. Is it even turned on?
5. Hard to Say I’m Sorry — Chicago (download)
I hesitate to mention this, but “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” was actually the theme song to a movie entitled Summer Lovers. From Grease and The Blue Lagoon director Randal Kleiser, this movie featured Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah as a couple who get involved in a three-way with Russell Hitchcock ValÃ©rie Quennessen. It bombed. And the reason I hesitate to mention this is that I’m pretty sure this movie is going to show up in my mailbox any day now. Jeff already sent me The Van and A Night in Heaven after I wrote about them. I just hope he’s not reading this.
Despite the movie’s failure, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” was a massive hit for the band, and a much-needed one as well; Columbia had dropped them in 1981 after they had gone three years without a Top 40 hit. Chicago 16 (on Warner Brothers) was the first album to feature Bill Champlin, but more notably David Foster, whose writing and production completely turned the band around. Chicago 16 featured session musicians (including members of Toto), outside songwriters, and less of the horns, but there was really no arguing that a pop direction was the only way Chicago was going to find any continued success. And you can crucify me for it, but I love this song. As a kid, I was always irritated that radio stations would edit out the second half of the song, “Get Away”; the mark of a “cool” station for me was one that would play the entire thing.
So, that being said, here’s the music video…with “Get Away” edited out. This video amuses me; it’s clearly meant to highlight Champlin’s new contribution to the band, and it also features Cetera playing bass. I find this interesting because it’s probably one of the last times he was identified as a bassist in a music video. Also, I don’t think there’s any actual real bass on this song.
Incidentally, I discussed this song way back in CHART ATTACK! #3; I totally forgot I did this, but I somehow blended “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” with the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights. Check it out, yo.
4. Hold Me — Fleetwood Mac
“Hold Me” was the biggest hit off of 1982′s Mirage, and a co-write between Christine McVie and Robbie Patton, who opened for Fleetwood Mac in 1979. Mick Fleetwood stated in his autobiography that he believed the song was about Christine’s relationship with Dennis Wilson. You can read one person’s interpretation of the song, as well as hear a pretty good live version (considering the heavy production on the original) here. My favorite part of the interpretation is when the person discusses the line “So slip your hand inside my glove”: “There was a lone opinion that possibly this line is sexual in nature.” Har!
There are so many things that I love about “Hold Me.” The first is that I can’t hear Stevie Nicks anywhere on it. I love that it’s a duet between Christine and Lindsey, which was less common than a duet between Lindsey and Stevie. Within the duet, a couple of excellent choices are made: Lindsey sings some of the lines at his own pace, rather than conforming to Christine’s, and his vocal is occasionally thrown to the front of the mix, blurring the lines in terms of who’s singing lead. I love the production and instrumentation overall, especially the percussion; I want it to be a cowbell, but I know it’s probably a woodblock. Maybe Stevie’s playing the woodblock.
“Hold Me” is played on VH1 Classic all the time. If I turn it on in the middle of the night, and “Hold Me” is on, I know it’s time to go to sleep. My brain can’t handle whatever weird shit is going on in this video.
3. Abracadabra — Steve Miller Band
You suck so bad, Steve Miller.
I kind of want to leave it at that, but I guess I should explain. Does anybody write dumber lyrics than Steve Miller? I mean, “Take the Money and Run” actually makes me angry. Like, blood-boiling angry. This song ain’t much better. I mean, what’s stupider? “Every time you call my name, I heat up like a burnin’ flame,” or “Keep me burnin’ for your love, with the touch of a velvet glove”? Can we just agree that they’re both dumb, maybe? This song is so dumb that Sugar Ray covered it. When your song is in Sugar Ray’s wheelhouse, you know you’re in trouble.
But here’s the thing that kills me: this song is awesome. I’ve said it before, but Steve Miller, dumb-ass lyricist that he is, writes a killer hook. And “Abracadabra” has great music and an even better chorus. I think this is why he’s forgiven for his crimes against songwriting. He gives the people songs that allow ‘em to sing and dance. So fine. You win this round. But if I ever have to write about “Take the Money and Run,” there will be blood.
“Abracadabra” reached #1 for two non-consecutive weeks, giving Miller his first chart-topper since 1976′s equally idiotic “Rock’n Me.” It was also his last #1; his last Top 40 hit, actually. I wonder if, like Crosby, Stills & Nash, he was thinking, “Man, and I thought the ’70s were good? ’80s, here I come, armed with more dumbass lyrics! Abracadabra, bitches!”
Here’s the video, which is filled with awkward ’80s effects, bad magic (a chicken turns into a baby?) and, thankfully, very little Steve Miller.
2. Hurts So Good — John Cougar
In the liner notes to his (first) greatest hits collection, The Best That I Could Do 1978-1988, Mellencamp says: “I literally dreamt up that song in the shower in my house in Bloomington and I was still dripping wet when I got dressed, walked out of my bedroom and said to my old song writing friend George Green, ‘Hey! I just thought of a great chorus that goes “Sometimes love don’t feel like it should. You make it hurt so good!”‘ In the time it took to dry off, we’d written the verses together and finished it.”
John Cougar, I’d like to introduce you to my good friend Steve Miller.
I actually won’t knock Cougar Cougar Mellencamp Mellencamp too much, because as I think I’ve mentioned before, I have an irrational fear of him beating me up. He’s the only rock star I’m actually afraid of, and this is coming from someone who once mouthed off to Henry Rollins. (Okay, Rollins kind of scares me too.) Like many of his songs, this one is a strong, rootsy rocker (you have to use the word “rootsy” or “roots” when talking about Mellencamp, right?), and “Hurts So Good” was his first entry in the Top 10, followed by another nine. I didn’t realize how many singles he had in the Top 10. That’s impressive. Now I’m just kissing up in case his management reads this and sends him after me. I’m sorry for making fun of your lyrics, John. Well, actually, wait. I do have one question. I’m all for the whole “hurts so good” philosophy (well, not all for it, but I see where you’re coming from), but I don’t get “sometimes love don’t feel like it should.” I mean, how do you use the word “should” in that sentence and still make it sound like a positive experience? I understand “sometimes love don’t feel like you thought it would” doesn’t scan correctly, but I’d be more in favor of this song if you had chosen different lyrics. Maybe you should’ve taken a longer shower. (Full circle!!)
Anybody want to see the “Hurts So Good” video? Me neither. Moving on.
1. Eye of the Tiger — Survivor
Seriously? One of the best commercials ever. Seriously.
We could talk forever about “Eye of the Tiger.” Actually, Jim Peterik has talked forever about “Eye of the Tiger”; he discusses the song extensively on the Songfacts page. But you can break it down like this: basically, Survivor owes its success to the fact that Queen had not yet become the corporate whores they are today. See, Stallone was working on Rocky III, and had cut one scene to “Another One Bites the Dust.” Queen, however, weren’t willing to give up the rights to the song. (Yet.) Stallone had heard some tracks from Survivor’s Premonition album, and contacted the group to write a song in a similar vein. Peterik took many of the lyrics, such as “eye of the tiger,” “went the distance,” and “insert your own sports clichÃ© here” directly from the movie. Personally, my favorite line is “So many times, it happens too fast, you trade your passion for glory.” I want to try and work this into as many conversations as possible — like, when they’re really having a heart-to-heart with me, I’d work it in, as sincerely as possible. “You know how it is, man. So many times. It happens so fast. You trade your passion for glory…y’know?” Boy, it’s a good thing I’m not a therapist. I’d be using it daily.
Also, far be it from me to tell Jim Peterik how to write an anthem, but I think “you trade your passion for pussy” would have been a better lyrical choice.
I don’t need to tell you that “Eye of the Tiger” was friggin’ huge. It held the #1 spot for six weeks, won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and was nominated for an Academy Award. Still, it would be three years before they reached the Top 10 again (with a different singer, no less), and the closest they came to topping the chart was a #2 hit with “Burning Heart,” also an awesome soundtrack song, this time from Rocky IV.
We have plenty of readers — hell, we have plenty of contributors! — who still listen to Survivor. I’m not really a fan, but I did listen to their last album, Reach, and while I thought that a few songs were just attempts to recreate “Eye of the Tiger,” they were actually good attempts. Check out “Fire Makes Steel,” for example.
I could show you the original video, but instead, I’d like to point you to the version by the PS22 Chorus. And if this is your first introduction to the brilliance of PS22, lucky you.
And just like that, we’ve finished another awesome week of CHART ATTACK! Hope you enjoyed. See you back here soon, hopefully with 100% less Steve Miller!