Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Music 30 Years Ago

Gather 'round youngsters because Uncle Oggy wants to tell you about a time long long ago before the internet and basically before home computers when everything you learned about the world was either on the radio, TV or some Junior High School teacher would make you memorize the countries of Africa for no reason. That time was 1984, the year Orwell wrote about in a dystopian novel that basically came true but Orwell foolishly supposed people would give a fuck. The Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles but most of Europe boycotted them because the U.S. had boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, which we feared then as "The Soviet Union" but now know was a total fraud, like our economy. Here we are 30 years later and the kings are still fucking around with the pawns and gay rights in Russia and our economy is still a fraud and we're talking about boycotting another Russian Olympics. Not much changes...except music. Because 1984 pop music could only exist in 1984.

1982, as I've said before, is when I became musically aware. Until then I only thought about baseball. After 1982 I thought about baseball and music. In 1983, I thought about baseball, music, and Culture Club. In 1984 I thought about baseball, music and Madonna. She released her first album in 1983 but in 1984 my dad took the lock off the television (yes, he actually locked the power plug up because I was addicted to Scooby Doo and Gilligan's Island) and I was able to watch MTV almost all afternoon. This was back in the day when school was cancelled so we could watch the premier of Thriller by Michael Jackson. 1984 found Oggy less taken by Hall & Oates tunes as he was deeply moved by Madonna's over sexual thrusts and projecting breasts. Madonna released "Like a Virgin" in late 1984 and it seemed fitting because Oggy was a virgin, a mere 13 years old with stick thin legs and arms and hair sprouting on my balls and lip. I remember giggling with Matt P. during gym class (flag football) that "I'd do Madonna." like that was funny. But Madonna was not always a force of entertainment like she is today. Once upon a time she competed with The Go-gos and Cyndi Lauper and a transexual singing for Culture Club.

Some other highlights of this year in music were Born in The USA by Bruce Springsteen. Classic video from this album was "Fire". This paralleled my sexual awakening as I started to hear rumors about girls who gave handjobs behind the bleachers and some high school girl who got fucked on a picnic table, etc. rumors and lies and Playboy and Madonna and a mentally painful "sex ed" class at the Unitarian Church were all part of Oggy's 1984 experience. I listened to music pretty much non stop in 1984 as I owned a Walkman personal cassette player with Thriller by MJ and Working Class Dog by Rick Springfield. The LP was beginning to be phased out so tapes could be played in cars and stereos and big Boom Boxes. In fact, Born in The USA was the first domestic Compact Disc to be made in 1984 so the cassette would last barely a decade.

I chose the Alan Parson's Project tune "Don't Answer Me" as a representative tune because it's a mixture of Phil Spector 'wall of sound' production with the melodies and pop kick of mid eighties. I loved this song in 1984 along with Duran Duran. Inexplicably, a white neighborhood sports friend named Jess P. and I became totally engrossed in rap music by The Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow and of course Run DMC. Their music stands the test of time as clean classic rap, fun, no "mature lyrics" stickers on those records. I could recite most of Kurtis Blow's songs and may have done so for a class project. Speaking of school, my Junior High School choir sang "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, a song released in late 1983 but was on heavy rotation through my spring term at 7th grade. When I hear that song now I'm reminded of an underpaid music teacher waving his arms in the gymnasium as 40 tone deaf kids screamed

"...What Can I Do Girl To Get Through To You? Cause I Love You Baby. Standing Here, Baptisted In All My Tears..."

Of course the original movie "Footloose" was released in 1984 and I saw that in the theater and it was formative in my musical tastes as the entire soundtrack was recorded that year and played ad nausea on the radio. I suspect that movie made a lot of young men realize they were gay because if you didn't fall in love with Kevin Bacon then you were completely straight or a lesbian. I didn't think Lori Singer was that hot but I hopelessly adored Sarah Jessica Parker's cheerful character, setting the precedent for Oggy falling in love with the completely wrong kind of women, a habit that continues to this day. "Almost Paradise" is a dramatic song on that soundtrack by Eric Carmen, who would later reappear in 1988 with "Make Me Lose Control" (also written by the screenwriter of Footloose, Dean Pitchford) and then later when I covered a "Raspberries" show in Los Angeles for a defunct entertainment newspaper. Another popular film released in 1984 was Karate Kid. This was back in the day when it was not necessary to do a remake of a completely generic story. The soundtrack for Karate Kid was classic.

Other highlights include strong British offerings by Depeche Mode and The Cure, also Lionel Richie, who is awesome, and who released "Can't Slow Down" in late 1983 and the singles off that album are all classic pop gems of 1984. It's fair to say that when Lionel Richie left The Commodores that the Motown/funk era ended. Mainstream Black music turned from a minor key shuffle to a major key ballad and never looked back.

One of the classic '80s trivia questions that I ask anyone to stump them is "Who was the other singer in Wham!?" And the answer really separates the poser from the connoisseur of Eighties trivia. But the good singer is George Michael and the 1984 WHAM! album "Make it Big" was the last collaborative effort. "Wake me up before you go go" was played about every ten minutes at one point in 1984 and probably was played at the junior high school dances that I was too shy to attend so me and my cripple friend played whiffle ball in the concrete racquetball courts next door. I also remember how nakedly false and phony everyone became at those dances. It irked me that I couldn't play baseball all day long and pretending to be interested in a girl who had absolutely nothing in common with me seemed I never went and have no memory of those dances or what music was played at them. But I guarantee WHAM! was featured heavily.

It's painful to admit that this is 30 years ago because if you listened to music that was 30 years old in 1984 then you would be listening to Nat King Cole and Les Paul, neither of whom I'd ever heard of in 1984! Is it possible kids today have never heard of Quiet Riot or Culture Club? But I recently realized '80s music will never be called "Oldies" because that is a designation for music pre 1950s. After that music is designated by the decade and '80s music will always be called '80s music even when I'm old and grey and Madonna and Boy George are long dead.
 This is around the time when I would listen to Kasey Kasem American top 40 on the weekend. His voice was professional and comforting. He obeyed the trend and never to questioned what direction music was going in. He accepted the status and made it normal. Here's the top 10 for this week in music 30 years ago. It's an example of the fact most top hits were released about a year earlier because that's how long it took for the album to gain momentum. Thriller was from 1982 but still popular in 1984 because of the video.


Here's another tune you couldn't escape in 1984. Cheers.

foreigner - i want to know what love is by kareem93
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.