Mainstream Rock: Quarterflash, “Harden My Heart” (1981)
Jason: As a kid, I always had to pass through Quarterflash before I could get to the Queen records in the store. Pissed me off. I like the sax, though.I wonder how many requests Pat Benatar gets for this song.
Darren: Ah, Jason, ya beat me to it. Quarterflash were signed, it seems, for the sole purpose of filling the “Benatar void” that existed for a couple years in the early 80’s while Pat went off and gave birth to her daughter (fathered by guitarist/hubby/lucky bastard Neil Giraldo).
While I admit liking the band in a platonic “you’ll do for now” kinda way, I always knew Benatar was ten times the rocker that Quarterflash singer Rindy Ross was (who, oddly enough, was also married to her guitarist – do the similarities never end?!). The proof? Benatar and Giraldo are still out there hitting us with their best shot:Rindy and her hubby are in a, uh, traditional acoustic folk ensemble.
As for the video, wasn’t MTV regulated by law in the early ’80s to play at least three videos an hour that featured at least one person scrambling down a dark hallway?
Thankfully, of course, through tireless perseverence on the part of David Coverdale, this clause was lifted lifted in favor of mandatory airings of Tawny Kitaen suction-cupping a Jaguar.
Gary: Part of the soundtrack of my high school years. This video was in heavy rotation on our local video show (way before we got MTV). I had a bigger crush on Rindy Ross than Pat Benatar at the time (although looking at the picture Darren linked to, I’m forced to admit she hasn’t aged well, and I’m back to liking Benatar more). Just seeing her in that black leotard got my adolescent juices flowing. Their second album was good too, with “Take Me To Heart,” but after that it was two albums of crap and they were done. And to think they were hip enough back then to play the US Festival, sandwiched in between Berlin and U2 on Rock Day. They even played the World Series Of Rock here in Milwaukee, with the likes of .38 Special, Loverboy, Triumph and Foreigner. Good times, good times.
Jefito: I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something unspeakably awesome about a World Series of Rock featuring 38 Special, Loverboy, Triumph, and Foreigner. What would they call that concert today if the same bands were featured? Other than Thursday afternoon at the Des Moines County Fair, I mean?
Dunphy: A Cry For Help Festival?
Sounds Of The Ground Down?
The Quarterflash debut reminds me of “The Fly.” Someone walked in to the departure tube with an adult contemporary band, a jazz-rock band, a new wave band and Pat Benatar. Out pops Quarterflash from the arrival tube, with smoke pouring out and pieces-parts falling off. “Harden My Heart” is the hit and is an amiable enough tune. Good, serviceable pop. “Find Another Fool” has a tougher, bad-girl edge to it. There are a bunch of jazz tinged tunes like the solo-heavy “Williams Avenue” and, of course, “Valerie.”
What to say about “Valerie”? Young girl goes to art school. Still with me? Meets Valerie. Still with me? Stuff happens. You know. Art school stuff, not papier mache related. My sister, who owned this record, always tried to believe Valerie was a male foreign exchange student.
John: Not Pat Benatar, but an incredible simulation! Not a big fan of this song, but I loved “Take Another Picture,” especially when they performed it live on Fridays and the lead singer went out into the audience during an instrumental break with an Instamatic and began, yes, TAKING PICTURES. Subtlety be damned!
Zack: A chick in a tuxedo, motorcycles, shifting vapors, a saxophone solo, excessive mascara â€” how many ’80s cliches can they pack into a single video?
Will: Wow, did Sam Raimi direct this? Because, if not, then based on that opening bit with the lead singer running down the hallway as she’s followed by the camera, we at least know where he swiped his style from:
David: Director Brian Helgeland once told me that one of the first pieces of advice he ever got on filmmaking was, “If you’re not sure how to end the movie, set everything on fire.” I wonder if he directed this video.
Nothing particularly pro or con to say. The sax line is awfully catchy. That unitard does her no favors, though.
Robert: Did he get that advice from Richard Donner, who directed Helgeland’s Conspiracy Theory script as well as Lethal Weapon 3, which ends with everything on fire? Me no likey that Lethal Weapon, especially not the gangs-are-bad subplot.
Zack: And which one of those guys directed Romeo Must Die? That also ended with everything on fire. Also, it sucked.
Kurt: This song was perfect music for the times:somewhere between pop and a hard place. One thing’s for sure, I miss hearing the saxophone in rock.
Gary: Me too. She could really blow. Eddie Money still plays sax, but I can’t think of another rock/pop band that uses sax anymore. Even Chicago.
Kurt: Huey Lewis:
Jefito: Yeah, that was the first name that popped into my head, too. Poor saxophone â€” first the EWI comes along, then Kenny G. It never stood a chance.
David: My friend Tim thinks Huey Lewis & the News were a government conspiracy designed to turn teenagers into Stepford children.
Dunphy: See, I thought the chick in Quarterflash played the sax too, but AllMusic seems to indicate someone else was blowin’. I’d hate to think she Ashlee’d her way through all those videos.
As for the sax, look. In good hands, it can be a great addition to a song. In bad hands, it is Curtis Stigers. I would gladly miss the instrument if no one played it barring wanky jazzbos “slumming it.”
Jefito: Curtis Stigers!
Are there any other old critics in the group who still remember receiving the inaugural Curtis Stigers presskit from Arista back in ’91 or ’92? They were really playing him up as the Next Big Thing. I still remember one of the couplets they held up as an example of his incredible songwriting talent:
There’s things to do, there’s trains to catch
And my socks just never seem to match
At least it isn’t “use/abuse” or “love/above,” I guess. And hey, he did earn Nick Lowe a pocketful of dough, so he’s all right in my book.
Modern Rock: Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence (1990)
John: Loved it at the time, but if I never hear it for another ten years, I won’t be sorry.
Zack: I’ve always had a soft spot for this song, because it hit the airwaves at about the same time my family got cable, and thus is one of my first MTV memories along with Martha Quinn and all the background music they used during the first season of The Real World. That said, it’s pretty much a barrel of fish in terms of mockability.
Kurt: Not the biggest fan of these blokes, but they certainly have their moments. Hated it when it first came out, but grew to like it over the years.
Gary: I always thought these guys would be better as an instrumental band. I can’t stand this guys droning voice. Halfway through this video I turned off my speakers and enjoyed the silence. Typical Eurotrash.
David: I love Depeche â€” well, I did until Alan Wilder left the band; now I merely like them â€” and while most bands’ biggest song is far from their best, this one truly is one of their best songs ever. True story: it started out as a moody ballad, and Alan Wilder told the rest of the band to go away for the weekend, while he reworked it into something more upbeat. When they came back, they heard this, and said, “Holy shit. This is going to be HUGE.” And they were right.
Will: This remains my favorite song on Violator. It’s not my all-time favorite DM album â€” that honor still belongs to Black Celebration â€” but I’m in no way surprised that it was their biggest commercial success.
Dunphy: I’m not a big Mode fan. I like “People Are People” and “Dream On.” I’m okay with this tune as well, but I’m put off by the way Dave Gahan shoves the line “All I ever wanted, all I ever needed.” It’s the musical equivalent to writing to the edge of the paperand havingtosmashthewordstogetherandwritingsmallerandsmaller:
Darren: Aside from me never understanding the across-the-board adoration for this band in goth circles (and among the fratboy set), I think this video offers enough evidence to challenge the idea of Dave Gahan as “rock star.” I’m no Robert Plant myself, of course, but I’ve seen music journalists with more charisma. I half expected him to bust into the Revenge of The Nerds theme at any given moment. Anyhoo.
AC: Bob Carlisle, “Butterfly Kisses” (1997)
John: Dammit Jeff, I swear to God, I’ll scratch your eyes out, Mary. How COULD you?!? This is like you pooped in my earhole.
Gary: I know you guys are going to hate on this one, but it is what it is, a simple song about his daughter. And I’m sure a lot of women used this song at their weddings. He used to be in a good CCM band called Allies, and also sang background on some Petra albums. Believe it or not though, he’s a very respected studio musician and french horn player. He’s played on albums from the likes of Dream Theater, Motley Crue, Elvis Costello, David Byrne, REO Speedwagon, Dizzy Gillespe, and Jason & the Scorchers among others.
David: I am proud to say that I still have never heard this song. I remember what an instant hit (and how instantly reviled) it was, but I never listened to stations that played it. So I was safe. I think I’m going to continue that streak as long as I can. Sorry, Jefito, but I’m skipping this one.
Jason: I can also proudly say that I’ve never heard this song all the way through (and I’m not starting now). I think I almost got into a car accident the first time I heard it, though, scrambling for the dial at the first mention of Jesus.
Will: As a father who just got home from a two-week business trip and was tackled by my daughter at the airport as she ran toward me, arms open, hollering, “Ally’s daddy! Ally’s daddy!,” I can in no way dismiss this song’s sentiment. But I can still mock its schmaltzy feel.
Kurt: Oh God, why hast thou forsaken us? What hath we done to incur your wrath?
Dunphy: Look, I listen to some Christian artists. I won’t lie. But I usually can find redeeming musical values with most of them. Not so here. This is strictly the stuff of Hallmark Cards and wedding toasts and not much else. The guts of this thing is that Carlisle isn’t even trying. It’s as if he’s saying to the listener, “This is a letter I sent to my daughter when she was at summer camp. Hope you enjoy it!”
On the positive, it’s not really preachy. You can’t categorize it until the moment Carlisle drops the J-bomb (as in WWJD). On the negative, how many people have contracted life-threatening diabetes from listening to it?
Gary: I wouldn’t even consider it a Christian song. Sure it’s done by a Christian artist, but more of a secular song. Tom Petty even mentioned Jesus in “Free Falling.” I like the song’s sentiment, and I don’t even have kids (that I know of). At least it beats the crap out of other songs artists wrote for about their kids like “Skyler’s Song” by Vince Neil, and even “Tears In Heaven” from Clapton.
Jason: Whoa, Gary. There’s a big difference, I think, between:
Petty: “Loves Jesus”
Carlisle: “She was sent here from heaven and she’s daddy’s little girl. As I drop to my knees by her bed at night, she talks to Jesus and I close my eyes and I thank God for all the joy in my life, oh, but most of all, for butterfly kisses after bedtime prayer.”
Jefito: “Butterfly Kisses” beats “Tears in Heaven”? No, no, no. I mean, not that I’m holding up “Tears” as a pop masterpiece, but it’s loads better than this drivel, and I say that as a proud father who would have melted into a literal, Nick Nolte-type puddle on the airport floor if I’d been in Will’s shoes.
Zack: Excuse me for a second. I’ve got to go grab some Q-tips to clean the blood out of my ears.
Hot 100: Roger, “I Want to Be Your Man” (1988)
Darren: That was one long-ass Jheri Curl commercial.
Jason: What the:? Who the fuck are these guys? I swear I’ve never heard of them OR this song before, and I thought I knew just about every artist on the charts between ’87 and ’89, at least:oh wait, I recognize this chorus, vaguely. God, that’s an annoying chorus. Someone’s really excited about their new synthesizer. This is awful. This, however, is awesome. That guy is my new hero.
Kurt: (spits water all over monitor) Easily one of the worst things I’ve ever heard, with a video worthy of a local access channel.
Will: I can never remember. Is this new jack swing? Or is it just tepid R&B?
Dunphy: Bland R&B. No, worse than that â€” bland ’80s R&B. The talkbox effects on the keys leads me to think these guys thought they were doing something innovative, something Prince-like. Instead, they sound like the soundtrack to R2D2 and C3PO getting it on.
Gary: I barely remember this one, but the vocoder sounds really dated today. These guys were always in the shadow of Parliment/Funkadelic, Kool And The Gang, Gap Band and others from the era and never really made it big. In fact, things got so bad that Roger was eventually shot to death by his brother.
David: I had completely forgotten about this song:and I was okay with that. Actually, I find it a fascinating look into what a man will do to get a crossover hit. He also did a couple songs with Scritti Politti that year. One of which, “Sugar and Spice,” still rocks my world.
Tragic ending to Roger’s story, actually, for those who don’t know.
Zack: All I can say is that I’d love to see Rahzel to a cover of this song.
John: Can’t hate on the Roger. I have to second the shoutout on the Scritti collabs:that was good stuff.