Tag Archives: 1982

Rocks In The Attic #582: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – ‘The Distance’ (1982)

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I know almost nothing about Bob Seger, aside from Phil Lynott’s namecheck on Thin Lizzy’s Live & Dangerous record. He definitely belongs in the same bucket as Bruce Springsteen, especially on the big opening number Even Now. In fact, it would be hard for a mid-paced rock song from the late ‘70s / early ‘80s with piano and saxophone to not sound like Springsteen.

This is album number twelve for Seger and his band, and while I’m sure it’s not his best, it serves as a decent introduction for me. I’ll definitely be checking out his earlier records as soon as I can.

There’s an amusing entry in the Wikipedia page for this record which serves as a great indicator of the type of person who likes Seger:

‘Capitol Records had stopped manufacturing albums in the 8 track tape cartridge format by the time this album was released. However, Seger asked the label to include that format for this album, knowing that many of his fans still used 8 track players.’

Hit: Shame On The Moon

Hidden Gem: Even Now

Rocks In The Attic #567: ABC – ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ (1982)

rita567I often wonder what would have happened had I been born a full ten years earlier. That would push 1978 back to 1968, and would mean reaching my teenage years around 1981. Punk was dying by that time, and New Wave was quickly morphing into what we now refer collectively as ‘80s music.

Would I have been a fan of ABC? It’s hard to say. The one aspect of ‘80s music that always puts me off is the fashion. I think this stems from looking at the sleeves of my brother’s Adam & The Ants records. I always thought Adam Ant himself straddled the line between looking like a cool motherfucker and looking like an idiot, but I always though the rest of the band looked ridiculous in their camp eyeliner and dandy highwayman clothes.

ABC are a little less offensive to the eyes, and obviously put the music first. Image is obviously still very important to them though – just check out that wonderfully composed record cover. Trevor Horn’s bold production really brings the band to life, and isn’t quite as overbearing as his work a few years later on records like Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Welcome To The Pleasuredome. They also wear their Bowie influences on their sleeves, and I really love that; it’s one of the saving graces of a lot of pop music from the early ‘80s.

Hit: Poison Arrow

Hidden Gem: Show Me

Rocks In The Attic #523: Albert Lee – ‘Albert Lee’ (1982)

RITA#523.jpgKnown as the ‘guitar player’s guitar player’, Albert Lee might never have found success as a solo performer or in one particular band, but his list of jobs as a sideman and session musician is almost endless.

I first became aware of him at 2002’s Concert For George. It seems like he exists in that world – showcase concerts at venues like the Royal Albert Hall, alongside the likes of percussionist Ray Cooper, and with master of ceremonies Eric Clapton usually organising things.

Despite his Englishness, his fondness for country music adds a transatlantic element to his songwriting. A song like Your Boys could have been performed by any American AOR artist in the mid-80s, and I guess this is why I find his lack of mainstream success such a mystery.

There are a couple of outstanding songs on this record – the aforementioned Your Boys, the opener Sweet Little Lisa, and the smoldering Boulevard (or On The Bourlevard as it’s listed on the record), written by Hank Devito, the pedal steel guitarist in Emmylou Harris’ backing group The Hot Band. The rest of the album isn’t too shabby either. The songs are radio-friendly as well; so perhaps the record company, Polydor, didn’t promote it well enough?

In fact, I’d suggest Boulevard as a great song you’ve never heard…

Hit: Real Wild Child

Hidden Gem: Boulevard

Rocks In The Attic #459: Hall & Oates – ‘H20’ (1982)

RITA#459Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has a lot to answer for. Hearing Out Of Touch on that game’s soundtrack turned me onto Hall & Oates in a big way, but I only managed to get around to buying one of their albums on vinyl last year. I’m sure there’ll be more.

The subject of Hall & Oates often gets mined for comedic effect, and that’s fine; anybody who has cut that much of a wedge through the AOR genre is fair game. One of the funniest things I have ever read on Twitter, courtesy of New Zealander Mark Leggett, hits a fine line between the absurd and the just-about believable:

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(Note – as Moo quite rightly pointed out to me, this joke has some – presumably innocent – similarity with a Big Train sketch from 1998.)

This record was a massive seller, spending four weeks at #1 in the USA. Their ‘70s output was a bit more wholesome but by this point in the early ‘80s, they’d refined their craft to the extent that they could churn out million-seller pop singles like Maneater with ease.

Hit: Maneater

Hidden Gem: At Tension

Rocks In The Attic #437: Jerry Goldsmith – ‘Poltergeist (O.S.T.)’ (1982)

RITA#437It was Halloween last weekend, which meant, living in the New Zealand, the sight of young children dressed in vaguely scary clothes in broad daylight. There’s something about living the southern hemisphere, celebrating Halloween just as spring is turning into summer that just removes any aspect of horror from the proceedings. Trick or treat, you say? Ah, I know you, you’re the kid who lives four doors down.

Poltergeist is an odd film. Essentially a big-budget horror from one of the studios (MGM / UA), in response to the wealth of independent horror that had crossed over into the mainstream in the prior decade, the film feels less like a horror, more like a family-friendly adventure film.

Listed as directed by Tobe Hooper, the film stinks of the touch of Steven Spielberg – the listed writer and producer of the film – but most likely the director by proxy. At the time, Spielberg had a clause in his contract forbidding him to direct another film while he was making E.T., so rather than a genuinely scary film about spirits attacking a family, we get something that could almost be happening on the same plot of suburbia as E.T. It’s almost impossible to consider that the “director” of this went from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to this fluff in eight years.

The music also stinks of Spielberg. It might not be John Williams, but it’s Jerry Goldsmith doing his best John Williams impression at least.  I can’t imagine Williams writing anything as whimsical as Carol Ann’s Theme but the rest of the soundtrack’s cues for the film’s more exciting moments could definitely have sprung from his baton.

As a sidenote, for the last three years I’ve also been celebrating Guy Fawkes in broad daylight with my kids. Again, fireworks and sparklers also don’t have that same effect in the glare of the early evening sun.

Hit: Carol Anne’s Theme

Hidden Gem: The Light

Rocks In The Attic #407: Huey Lewis & The News – ‘Picture This’ (1982)

RITA#407This is album number two for Huey Lewis and his band. It’s nowhere near a ‘great’ record – but you can tell that the band are getting better and better, starting to gel as they search for that elusive hit. This would ultimately arrive on the next record, Sports, in the form of I Want A New Drug.

The most successful single off this album, the extremely ‘80s sounding Do You Believe In Love, was written by Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange – and you can hear it. If there’s a song in Huey Lewis’ back catalogue that sounds like it could have been lifted off a Def Leppard album, it’s this one. For that reason, it’s the least Huey Lewis & The News sounding song on the album.

The band even cover a Phil Lynott song on the album, Giving It All Up For Love – originally titled Tattoo (Giving It All Up For Love), from Lynott’s first solo album, Solo In Soho. It always strikes me as an unlikely friendship – Huey Lewis and Phil Lynott. It’s like Lemmy from Motorhead being friends with John Oates.

Picture This has to be one of the best record covers to do a ‘sleeveface’ with though. Well, if you want to look like a slightly zombiefied version of Huey Lewis.

Hit: Do You Believe In Love

Hidden Gem: Change Of Heart

Rocks In The Attic #390: Mike Post – ‘Television Theme Songs’ (1982)

RITA#390Mike Post is the man. Responsible for the themes behind such TV shows as Hill Street Blues, The A-Team, Quantum Leap, Magnum P.I., CHiPS, The Rockford Files and many, many more, this is a guy who knows how to create a catchy tune to fit a narrow sixty-second window.

There are a couple of songs on this album that I’m not aware of – Theme From The Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not), Theme From White Shadow and School’s Out (From Richie Brockelman Private Eye) – I’m guessing because those shows didn’t play in the UK. I do recognise Believe It Or Not, believe it or not, from its use in a New Zealand television commercial (for Lotto?) over the last couple of years. Still, you don’t need to have been exposed to these themes in your childhood to be able to see them as instantly catchy slices of television soundtracks. Still, I don’t want to start spreading rumours but Mike Post must have been – ahem – exposed to a hell of a lot of children in the ‘80s…

I’d buy the album alone for the themes to Hill Street Blues, Magnum P.I. and The Rockford Files. Great stuff. I have a childhood memory of listening to the theme to The Rockford Files on a tape player while I was in a bath (hardly safe, I know, but my parents were probably trying to kill me) and thinking that the pitch-fiddling synth line playing the main melody sounded like a duck.

Hit: Theme From Hill Street Blues

Hidden Gem: Theme From The Rockford Files

Rocks In The Attic #311: The Who – ‘It’s Hard’ (1982)

RITA#311Argh, the ‘80s! The cover of this record is a bit confused. Roger Daltrey looks like a real estate agent. Pete Townshend looks like a pre-op transsexual. John Entwistle looks bizarrely like Ringo Starr in a pinstripe suit. Kenney Jones looks like a waxwork. All four of them are facing away from a young boy playing a Space Invaders machine, his back to the camera, in a darkened room. Aside from the allusions to Pinball Wizard, I don’t know what this all means, but it feels dodgy. Don’t worry though; Townshend was just doing research, right?

Thankfully the album doesn’t sound as unnaturally ‘80s as they were trying to make themselves look on the cover. There’s a fair bit of synth on the album – but no more than say, Quadrophenia, and that always jarred slightly on that album anyway.

The reason I’ll put this album on will always be the last track on the first side – Eminence Front, with lead vocals by Townshend himself. I know the song from the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, so hearing its slow burn always reminds me of driving around Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas, knocking over pedestrians and doing drive-bys.

Hit: Athena

Hidden Gem: Eminence Front

Rocks In The Attic #262: Duran Duran – ‘Rio’ (1982)

RITA#262I’m sitting on the fence with Duran Duran (figuratively that is, I don’t live on the next farm over from Simon Le Bon). On one hand, they’re an empty, vacuous bunch of hairdressers masquerading as musicians, dressed like cheap Parisian hookers, and only bettered in the depths of awfulness by the turgid Spandau Ballet. On the other hand, they’re got a fair few fantastic songs, and they always seem to be surrounded by hot chicks (mainly due to that great Girls On Film video).

They also recorded one of the better ‘80s Bond themes – regardless of Le Bon’s inability to reach those high notes when playing the song at Live Aid. This faux pas on a global (jukebox) scale is something the band have tried to keep under wraps – like Zeppelin’s performance, it doesn’t feature on the Live Aid DVD, but lives on in all its wonky-noted glory on YouTube (at 2:54 on this clip).

The link to Nile Rodgers is also a tick in their box – he remixed The Reflex and went on to play guitar on the Notorious album. But still, without all those good things going for them, they still manage to vex me.

Not too long ago, I watched a special on TV where the band was playing in front of their adoring middle-age female fans in a TV studio. Their fans – all bimbo women of varying ages, but weighted to the mid- to late-40s – danced badly to the band playing through their greatest hits. If smell-o-vision was available on the current batch of smart TVs, you would have been able to smell the fake tan and cheap sparkling wine wafting off the crowd.

I guess that’s what annoys me most about Duran Duran – they were once fashionable, a horrible example of when New Wave transformed into the full-on ‘80s pop sound – but that doesn’t translate into musical respect. I may be wrong, but as far as I know bands aren’t lining up to get Andy or John Taylor to do a guest appearance on their album.

Simon Le Bon has a cracking voice though – and his wife is hot! Damn hot!

Hit: Rio

Hidden Gem: Hold Back The Rain

Rocks In The Attic #259: Dexys Midnight Runners – ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ (1982)

RITA#259I like to think that if I was in the first incarnation of Dexys – a Londoner drafted into the band due to my mean skills on the trombone or sax, and my love of Motown – and Kevin Rowland then sent the band into this direction for their second album – all fiddles, dungarees and ponytails – I’d probably want to leave the band. In fact, the second I saw somebody walk into the room with a fiddle, I’d punch Rowland in the face. Seeing Rowland dressed as a woman on a cover of a later solo album might lead me to believe I had very much made the right decision to leave.

That’s not to say that Too-Rye-Ay is a bad album. It’s not. The melodies are still there, and the homage to American music is very much still there in a cover of Van Morrison’s Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) – with the band’s appearance on Top Of The Pops providing one of the best television bloopers ever, as the dance in front of a video screen featuring darts player Jocky Wilson – but their image had taken a turn for the worse. On Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, they had dressed as New York dockworkers in the style of On The Waterfront. Now they just looked like idiots.

Come On Eileen, even after its over-use at every party and wedding since 1982, is still a fantastic single – a trans-Atlantic number one, in fact. There’s hurt and emotion in there, in between the lyrics, hidden in a way I just can’t comprehend. I get the same feeling I do when I hear a Michael Jackson song, where a couple of seemingly throwaway lines in the bridge sound like the most important thing in the world.

I could still do without the fucking fiddle though.

Hit: Come On Eileen

Hidden Gem: The Celtic Soul Brothers