Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Another One Bites The Dust



I'm not trying to be insensitive. Sly Stallone couldn't get the rights to the Queen tune for his Rocky III movie, so he got Survivor to custom write a song that became the subtitle of his movie: Eye of The Tiger. About a week ago I was listening to The Search Is Over, bathing in my own isolation with the soap of lost loves. I have the music for this somewhere but I can't sing any Survivor song since their lead singers, (thru 1982 Dave Bickler) and then Jimi Jamison (in their prime years) both had the high tenor pipes a la Steve Perry of Journey or Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger. It's hopeless for a Bass Baritone to try to sing in that range and even if I lowered everything they still pass my threshold of a one octave spread. Alas, Jimi the voice of Survivor has died and I only learned this looking for a video of this song.


To my disgrace, I actually owned (and wore) the wide stripe jacket with the shoulder pads. I will note that Survivor's golden years corresponded to my own musical awakening so they are forever linked to what I consider formative music. 1982-1988 had a vast variety of musical traditions destroyed and rebuilt and reinvented and I was completely enchanted by it all even if I was under the belief that all musical eras were basically the same. I did not listen to older music, say from the Disco Era, and had never heard of The Hollies or The Dave Clark Five or Nat King Cole; nor did I judge it harshly. I simply had too much brand new music from Madonna, Springsteen, Mellencamp, Survivor, Cyndi Lauper, Toto, Run DMC, Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Hall & Oates, and many strong new wave British bands like Tears for Fears, Big Country, 'Til Tuesday, The Cure, etc. I would still be tested to listen to every song from 1985.

1985, when this Survivor song was released, also included what I consider to be the quintessential 1980s song: We are the World. It's not my favorite, but it represents that era of incredible, optimistic talent all uniting in one room to sing a song written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, produced by Quincy Jones, a song about making a difference. There was nothing ironic or parody-worthy about an honestly genuine fundraising effort by the top musicians in the America. It was not viral. It was not mocked. I was living in a small New England town where the very first shopping mall had recently opened. I was addicted to vector graphics arcade games that all cost a quarter to play. A grandstand seat at Fenway Park cost $6.50 and could be purchased at the gate before I went into the game. Hot dogs were $1. African affairs never entered my mind until Lionel Richie sang about them. "There comes a time..." For a very brief time MTV and pop music were amazing vehicles of good. That's the cultural backdrop of this Survivor song and the video is a low budget affair with lots of hairspray and prop cars...stonewashed jean jackets, Carerra sunglasses...lip gloss...broken hearts, but the message is that the music and not the spectacle was paramount. Survivor did not dance...and didn't pretend to dance and they weren't very photogenic either; they were musicians. The topics are timeless but the presentation is trapped forever in 1985, which those who weren't teenagers at that time, stumbling through their Freshman year in high school in 501 jeans that were too short and clinging to the ninja uniforms of their youth, won't understand.

Survivor's songs are idiomatic of the time immediately before Hair Metal cleavage bands took over and got me thinking of oral sex and drugs. They are self-reflective, optimistic, urban-gospel. They had high hopes that hard work would pay off and their lover would forgive them for being aloof. Major key piano licks were blatantly overstated and not considered cliche. Survivor songs are classic mullet hairdo time capsules. These videos made me think I could be a cool musician with long hair and a pretty girl in a fast convertible would still break my heart. I had Madonna's sexy eyes and Survivor's courageous worldview. What could go wrong?



Rock on, Jimi.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.