The kids in the room won’t remember, but waaaaaay back in 1984, MTV played nothing but videos. Seriously! Swear to God. Music videos, all the time.
Of course, it was the same small handful of videos all the time, so in that respect, the MTV of today isn’t very different. God, now that I think about it, maybe the channel is better now.
Anyway, flash back to ’84 if you can. MTV’s limited, beat-it-to-death playlist included:if I remember right:a few Cyndi Lauper videos, Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue,” Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherry,” a whole bunch of Michael Jackson, some Hall & Oates, and Dan Hartman:
(Confusing side note: It wasn’t actually this video for Hartman’s “I Can Dream About You” that went into heavy rotation. Nor was it the album version of the song [download] that became a hit. It’s all got something to do with a movie called Streets of Fire. I can’t find the more popular video for the song on YouTube, so content yourself with this one, in which Hartman plays a bartender who looks a little like Paul Young.)
Hartman had been around for a little while in ’84. He was a sideman for both of the Winter brothers (that’s Johnny and Edgar) — matter of fact, if memory serves, he actually wrote “Free Ride.” He had a couple of disco hits (“Instant Replay” and “Relight My Fire”) in the ’70s. Neither “Instant Replay” nor “Relight My Fire” have had the same kind of staying power as “I Can Dream About You,” though, which is kind of funny, because for a song that was annoyingly pervasive in its day, it did almost nothing to create an identity for the guy singing it. It probably didn’t help that Hartman didn’t actually appear in the soundtrack version of the “I Can Dream” video, or that his vocals on the song sounded a little bit like every other popular male singer of the era.
(Truthfully, I hated the song when it was popular, along with everything else on MTV. The strange and bitter irony that’s always been at the heart of the channel’s success is that the autistic repetitiveness of its heavy-rotation playlist breeds contempt and repeated viewing — you didn’t want to fucking see “Sister Christian” again, but neither did you want to miss it if the channel happened to actually serve up something you’d never seen before. What was B.F. Skinner doing in the early ’80s? I believe he was MTV’s program director.)
Anyway. What were we talking about? Oh yeah — I Can Dream About You.
This is a funny record. Not funny ha-ha — although you may feel differently after listening to a few tracks — but funny in that despite its success, and despite the fact that songs like “We Are the Young” (download) and “Shy Hearts” (download) couldn’t sound more like 1984 if Steve Perry or Peter Cetera were singing them, the album really did nothing for Hartman’s solo career. Looking back, it’s sort of inexplicable, because “I Can Dream About You” is actually a pretty great song, and even if album cuts like “Power of a Good Love” (download), “I Can’t Get Enough” (download), and “Electricity” (download) aren’t quite as good, listening to them now, I can’t for the life of me figure out how MCA managed to keep all of them off the radio.
Hartman was unquestionably a talented guy (check out the Dan Hartman tribute website if you’ve got the time and/or inclination — holy shit, he wrote “Living in America” for James Brown!), he wasn’t ugly, and he was all over the radio in ’84, so:what happened?
Beats me. I just work here. Still, though, given the reissue frenzy that’s gripped the record industry for the last ten years, given the fact that you still hear “I Can’t Dream About You” on the radio, and given that — as a piece of slick FM product — this album actually really isn’t half bad, I’m surprised it’s out of print. Given that used copies of Dream are selling for upwards of fifteen bucks at Amazon, I’m sure some label or other will change that before too long. But you, Cutouts Gone Wild! reader, will be able to say you had these mp3s before the rest of the kids on your street! Yowza!