Oh, 1984. I can’t stay away from you for very long. I love you too much. And you looked pretty good this week – June 9, 1984, to be exact!
10. Jump (For My Love) – Pointer Sisters Amazon iTunes
9. Self Control – Laura Branigan Amazon iTunes
8. Breakdance – Irene Cara Amazon
7. Hello – Lionel Richie Amazon iTunes
6. The Heart Of Rock & Roll – Huey Lewis and the News Amazon iTunes
5. Sister Christian – Night Ranger Amazon iTunes
4. The Reflex – Duran Duran Amazon iTunes
3. Oh Sherrie – Steve Perry Amazon iTunes
2. Let’s Hear It For The Boy – Deniece Williams Amazon iTunes
1. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper Amazon iTunes
10. Jump (For My Love) – Pointer Sisters
I’ve already bitched enough about parentheticals in song titles, but I figure there’s always room for me to bitch some more. When you say the title of a song to someone, how do you indicate the parentheses? Do you have to act them out? Doesn’t this put a lot of undue pressure on people who aren’t actors and just want to say the name of a song? I’m just asking. I don’t think these parentheses are really unnecessary, especially since Van Halen’s "Jump" had hit the charts earlier in the year, and I’m sure they didn’t want people to confuse the two. Although wouldn’t a Pointer Sister’s version of Van Halen’s "Jump" be freaking awesome? I can hear it in my head. I can also hear Van Halen covering Pointer Sister’s "Jump."
Anyway, uh, yeah. Big hit for the Pointer Sisters.
9. Self Control – Laura Branigan
"Self Control" opens with a fat guitar riff. It’s actually kind of exciting. I’m anticipating some big rocking! But then, out of nowhere, guitar is abolished from the song. Abolished! Be gone with you, rocking! You’ve been replaced by synth and drum machines – wave of the future! The guitar does make an all-too-brief return during the middle section, accompanying of a bunch of guys singing "Woah-oh-oh" – in what I can only imagine was a HUGE call-and-response moment in the Laura Branigan concert. I think my parents may have seen Laura Branigan in concert. I’ll have to ask them. She probably opened for Lionel Richie or something.
I admire Branigan’s earnest delivery of these lyrics. She does say "I live among the creatures of the night," after all. The wiki for this song is pretty serious, too. Here’s how they describe "Self Control":
The song narrates the singer’s slip into the world of nightlife, the allure of which has her "livin’ only for the night" and deeming herself to "live among the creatures of the night". Rather than actually invoking control over herself, the singer repeatedly declares to a phantom protagonist that that "you take my self, you take my self control".
I shall name my next band Phantom Protagonist.
Just a few more words about this song: Branigan’s version is actually a cover. The song was written by Giancarlo Bigazzi (my band after Phantom Protagonist shall be named Giancarlo Bigazzi), Steve Piccolo, and Raffaele Riefoli. Raffaele released the song in 1983 under the name Raf. I don’t feel like anybody needs me to put the original version up, so here’s a short clip from iTunes. Oh, and what the hell, here’s a sample from the Ricky Martin version – en Español. Bigazzi, by the way, also wrote "Gloria" and released it as an Italian ballad before Branigan recorded it. She sure loved herself some Italians.
8. Breakdance – Irene Cara (download)
Okay, so I saw this one on the chart and had no idea what it was. I figured the fine folks at Billboard meant to write "Flashdance" and just made a clerical error. But after hearing the song – a crappy tribute to the breakdancing craze – I figured, this must have been on a movie soundtrack. Like Breakin’. Or Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. It just has that movie soundtrack sound. I was wrong. It’s not on Breakin’. Or Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Nope, somehow this song made it to #8 on its own merits. How, I ask you? How? The chorus is the only thing that’s relatively catchy, and barely.
Then, I figured it out.
If one writes a song about an actual dance, they stand a good chance of it cracking the top 10. See songs like "The Locomotion" (a top 10 in 1962, 1974, and 1988), "The Jerk" (1965), and "The Twist" (1960 and 1962). Irene Cara (and her co-writer, Bunny Hull) must have figured this out, because look at verse 2:
They used to do the locomotion, do the jerk and the twist
But there just ain’t never been nothing like this
Now popping and locking is a new way of talking
Things will work out for sure spinning out on the floor
How smart is that? They referenced ALL THREE top 10 hits! No wonder!
Thankfully, this song never went further than #8. Eight was enough. (You like that one?)
7. Hello – Lionel Richie
Jeez, I haven’t covered 1984 in six weeks, and yet "Hello" is still on the charts. I can’t find a damn thing to say about it that I haven’t said before, so if you’re new to CHART ATTACK!, check out #29, where you can see the video and even hear Mike and I perform a snippet as part of our Acoustic ’80s set.
6. The Heart Of Rock & Roll – Huey Lewis and the News
DETROIT! Unhh! Heart of rock & roll! I’ll continue to defend Huey Lewis and the News for being a talented, unassuming bar band that wrote fantastic, thoughtful pop songs. I use the word "thoughtful" because I am continually impressed by the chords these guys choose to use. "Power Of Love," for example, has the kind of bridge that you weren’t hearing in pop songs at the time. "Heart Of Rock & Roll" works, despite it being a sort of lyrical precursor to songs like "We Didn’t Start The Fire," because it’s fun. Great harmonies, and unbelievable horns, and this one fantastic chord coming right out of the bridge into the last verse. It definitely does not warrant inclusion on the "Awesomely Bad" song list. I remember, as a kid, being slightly freaked out by the end of the black-and-white video, when Huey’s heart starts physically beating out of his chest. I was a sheltered child.
Do yourself a favor and check out JB’s post about Huey Lewis and the News, who astutely puts their career into perspective, and offers a great defense of their covers disc, Four Chords And Several Years Ago.
5. Sister Christian – Night Ranger
I wrote "Sister Christian" off for many, many years. I didn’t really have any valid reason; I just ignored it whenever it was on. I didn’t even pay much attention when Alfred Molina freaked the fuck out to it in Boogie Nights. But sometime last year, it happened to come on the iPod, and I decided I kinda dug it. I half-jokingly told Mike that we should consider performing it with our band, because it would clearly rawk.
Fast forward about seven months. All I know now is that I have to sing "Sister Christian" next Friday night down at The Bitter End and I’m wondering if maybe I took this joke too far. I mean, I can sing it, but I can’t really do it seriously. I wind up making rawk faces and overenunciating my words and growling. (You know, like the original.) I’m fairly certain that this may be the only way to really approach this song. Am I supposed to seriously convey the emotion behind "And mama’s worryin’ that you won’t last to say ‘let’s play’?" I just don’t think I can do it. Not without some serious fucking pyrotechnics behind us, anyway.
The saving grace to us playing this song live is Mike’s guitar. He rocks it so hard. Even if he refuses to use a whammy bar or wear a big-hair wig.
Enough about me. "Sister Christian," live in Japan, 1983:[youtube]UwdQpvyvDjA[/youtube]
What a clip! "Sister Christian" before the song was
legendary! well-known! The keyboard intro with the Styx "Babe" sound! The cat burglar on keys! Keagy’s pants, fer chrissakes! Check out Keagy’s pants! The way he sweats! The tears that almost seem like they’re going to burst through his eyes during the last few notes! That final ad-lib: "You know you’re motorin’." You can almost hear his sister affirming it: yes, Kelly. I know. I’m motorin’. I’ll give credit where it’s due, however: he may look a little like the guy who helped install our above-ground pool in Long Island back in 1986 in exchange for a six-pack of Budweiser, but he sure as hell had the vocal chops. I realize this now, as I die a little every time I hit those final notes.
4. The Reflex – Duran Duran
I first heard "The Reflex" a number of years after it was released, when I was a DJ (and I use the term very, very loosely) at my summer camp. We had "The Reflex" on 45. I stole it at the end of the summer. The record had two skips in it, and so eventually those skips just worked their way into my memory as part of the song. Even now, when I hear it on my iPod, I wait for the skip. And it never happens. Damn memory.
There’s been a lot of speculation as to what "The Reflex" is really about. I seriously don’t think I could possibly care less. If we’re going to spend time pondering the Duran Imponderables, why don’t we question why the world tolerated Simon LeBon’s horrible, petulant whine during the final choruses of "The Wild Boys?"
If you are interested on some of the background of "The Reflex," though, I’d suggest checking out this article, featuring insight and memories from producer Ian Little on not only the recording of the single but also the general sessions behind Seven And The Ragged Tiger. Fairly interesting stuff.
3. Oh Sherrie – Steve Perry (download)
I know what you want out of me. You want snark. I can’t do it. I like "Oh Sherrie." There. I said it. In fact, I said it a while ago at The Week In Rock. Here’s what I said then, and I stand by all of this:
Why does this song get such a bad rap? It’s extremely catchy, it has a great chorus, and love it or hate it, you can’t deny that Steve Perry had unbelievable vocal power. I like it. And why is the video so awful? As opposed to a lot of bombastic music videos of the mid-’80s, this one actually has a sense of humor (it seems to me like the only artists who weren’t taking themselves too seriously in music videso at the time were Steve Perry, Phil Collins and Huey Lewis). Here’s what it has going for it:
1) False start
2) Hot model
3) Steve Perry playing guitar on a broom
4) "What about the flaming forest of doom, Steve?"
Here’s the part where I’d show you the video to illustrate the above four points. But wouldn’t you know it, Viacom has taken it down sometime during the past month. Fuckers!
2. Let’s Hear It For The Boy – Deniece Williams
1984 was a good year for Dean Pitchford. Not only did the man write Footloose, the movie, but he wrote the majority of the songs on the soundtrack. He’s involved in at least nine, including co-writes with Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman, Eric Carmen and – yes – Kenny Loggins. He was nominated twice at the 1984 Academy Awards, for "Footloose" and "Let’s Hear It For The Boy." I can kind of understand "Footloose," but not "Let’s Hear It For The Boy." It’s not a bad song, but is it Oscar material? I think not.
(Recently Pitchford collaborated with Richard Marx on a song for Bambi 2
: Electric Boogaloo, so you can draw your own conclusions regarding his current career status.
After choosing this week for CHART ATTACK!, "Let’s Hear It For The Boy" was stuck in my head for two days. Imagine waking up at 3 AM only to hear Deniece Williams hitting that high note near the end. You should thank me for not offering it up here for download.
1. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
Did you know that The Hooters were the backing band for Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual? (Why do I feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t know this?) Well, at least the core members – Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman were involved – and Hyman went on to co-write "Time After Time" with Lauper, essentially guaranteeing that the man never needed to release a successful song ever again. "Time After Time" has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Eva Cassidy (beautiful), Willie Nelson (terrible), Miles Davis (just reminds you that the song is essentially three chords over and over again), Uncle Cracker (you don’t expect me to comment, do you?), Sugar Ray (fuck you), and even The Hooters themselves (instrumentally sound, vocally meh). I like the original, despite the fact that I’ve never quite been able to fall in love with Lauper’s voice. I had a slew of covers to choose from here, but in the end I went with Everything But The Girl’s version – mainly because I love me some Tracey Thorn.
Everything But The Girl – Time After Time (download)
That’s it for this week! Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you next Friday for another edition of CHART ATTACK!