Category Archives: 1980s

The Essentials: The Bangles’ All Over the Place

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

Although it seems daft to me now, in the early and mid-‘80s I often bought albums on cassette, and cassette only. I’d love to say that, for a time, I did so due to me taking not one, but two buses to travel to and from Penn State’s Ogontz campus (now known as Penn State Abington), which for a time I did, and that during those hour-or-so trips I listened to music via a Walkman clone. Or that I later purchased them for the tape deck that I installed in my ’79 Chevette.

The truth is, however, that I bought them because I bought them, which I’d been doing off and on since my folks gave me a cassette deck that plugged into my Radio Shack compact stereo/turntable in the late 1970s, though the trend picked up steam after Christmas 1982, when they presented me with a Sanyo Mini AM/FM Cassette Recorder Stereo. Sometimes I went with the cassette because the vinyl wasn’t in stock; and other times just because. In some cases, I eventually bought the same album on vinyl – but there was no rhyme or reason as to what got duplicated. Some touchstone albums in my life, such as Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Lone Justice’s debut and Dwight Yoakam’s Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., never made the jump to vinyl (though all, in time, made the leap to CD) while others that weren’t did.

Another touchstone album that I never picked up on vinyl: the Bangles’ All Over the Place, which – says Wikipedia – was released on May 23, 1984. I didn’t purchase it until the fall, however – on October 15th, a Monday, according to my desk diary, four days before another touchstone album, David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name…, came into my life. (It may seem incongruous to love both, yet I did…and still do.)

That is, I didn’t buy the vinyl until yesterday, when I stopped in HHH Records a used-vinyl store near me, and found it for $4. (Clean LP, no pops, crackles or snaps.)

As I wrote in my long-ago review of Susanna Hoffs’ Someday album, thanks to Rolling Stone, I’d been aware of the Bangles since March 1983, though I didn’t actually hear them until their videos for “Hero Takes a Fall” and “Going Down to Liverpool” received play on MTV in the spring and summer of ’84.

(Leonard Nimoy’s friendship with Susanna Hoffs’ parents accounts for his appearance in the video, from what I’ve read.)

The band was the focus of a Michael Goldberg-penned article in Rolling Stone that September and, presumably, a review around the same time, though my lack of access to the RS Archives means I can’t confirm the latter (and I have no memory of reading one).

Wayne King did offer a less-than-glowing review of their debut LP in the September issue of Record magazine, however. The words that would’ve caught my eyes: “bouncy guitar group sounds,” “soaring vocals” and “mid-‘60s fixation.” The criticism itself…eh. I’d already seen the videos. They sounded good to me. It was just a matter of when, not if, I invested in the LP…or, in this case, cassette.

To my ears then and now, All Over the Place echoes the mid-‘60s, specifically the Beatles and Byrds, while sounding very much of its own time. I.e., it’s both retro and modern, and – simultaneously – ahead of the curve. “Hero Takes a Fall” is one example. Another is “Tell Me”…

And another is “Dover Beach.” (Check out Vicki Peterson channeling her inner Dave Davies at the 3 minute mark.)

Really, to me, All Over the Place – despite topping out at No. 153 on the Billboard charts – is reason enough for the band (Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson, Debbie Peterson and Michael Steele) to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (Additional reasons came along later in the decade, of course.)

Anyway, here they are on Late Night With David Letterman in November of ‘84…

Side 1:

  1. Hero Takes a Fall
  2. Live
  3. James
  4. All About You
  5. Dover Beach

Side 2:

  1. Tell Me
  2. Restless
  3. Going Down to Liverpool
  4. He’s Got a Secret
  5. Silent Treatment
  6. More Than Meets the Eye

Here’s the album in full, via YouTube…

I should mention, the playlist includes a bonus track tacked onto the CD at some point in time: a cover of the Grass Roots’ first hit, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” which the Bangles released as the b-side to “Hero Takes a Fall.” (As I point out in my (un)Essentials essay on Jan & Dean’s semi-classic, semi-kitsch Folk ’n Roll album, however, the Grass Roots weren’t the first to release the song. The surfer duo was.)

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The Essentials: The Long Ryders’ State of Our Union

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

Great albums transcend their times. Such is the case with this gem from 1985, which sounds as fresh my ears now as it did then.

In fact, if push came to shove and I really had to whittle down my voluminous Top 10 (lotsa ties!) to, say, a mere 25 titles (not as many ties!), this – the third release from Messrs. Griffin, McCarthy, Sowders & Stevens – would likely be among them. Since I bought State of Our Union at the newly minted (and now defunct) City Lights Records in State College, Pa., that fall, I don’t think I’ve gone longer than a few months without listening to it or – thanks to the 2-CD Anthology (1998) and Final Wild Songs box set (2016) – songs from it.

In many ways, the 11-song set – along with the Ryders’ 1983 E.P. 10-5-60 and 1984 LP Native Sons – served as a primer for what’s now called “Americana” music. It integrates rock ’n’ roll, R&B, country and folk into a tasty whole, contains glorious guitar work and incisive lyrics, and features melodies that burrow into the brain like a groundhog beneath a back deck. As with those earlier efforts, the Long Ryders build upon the traditions begun by such forebears as Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Flying Burrito Brothers while incorporating a punk and post-punk ethos. They embraced the past while remaining relevant to the present, in other words, such as on the Tom Stevens-penned “Years Long Ago,” about how the nostalgic pull of the past often hides ugly truths:

“If we return to the places we lived in before
We turn from all that we’ve gained
If we lived out a life that we struggled to change
Just to turn back the calendar page
Then we’d see that our memory betrayed us
We’d see what had frightened us so
We’d hear all the voices that fall silent now
Pieces of years long ago.”

Another highlight: the anthemic “Looking for Lewis & Clark.

Another: “WDIA,” which offers a history lesson on the importance of America’s first black-run radio station to generations of black and white youth.

And another: “State of My Union.” Robert Christgau, the dean of American rock critics, said that the song “aggravates the honest chauvinism of Ronnie Van Zant’s reflections on the same subject with the gratuitous self-righteousness of Neil Young.” That’s a criticism, I think, but I find it funny. It’s a great song. Here’s a live version (and, yes, I’ve shared it before):

Here’s the album, via YouTube, in full (plus a few bonus tracks drawn from the Looking for Lewis & Clark EP that were added for the CD release):

The track listing:

Today’s Top 5: 33 Years Ago Today (Aug. 6, 1984)

Can it be? Thirty-three years ago as I write, I was basking in the glow of having just seen Crosby, Stills & Nash show at the Mann Music Center, an open-air venue, in Philly. The ticket stub for the concert, which was paper clipped into my Doonesbury-themed desk diary for decades, is currently AWOL…not that it matters much. I have my memories.

Two weeks earlier, on July 24th, I saw Roger Waters (with Eric Clapton on guitar) at the Spectrum – another great show despite the former Pink Floyd bassist chiding the audience to “stop the fookin’ whistling.” (He apologized after intermission; in England, he said, whistles equate with boos, but Eric explained to him that in the States – or, at least, Philly – they equate with cheers.) And nine days later, on the 14th, I found myself at the back of the Mann’s ample lawn, right where it turns to pavement, to see Huey Lewis & the News.

In that same time span, I picked up three albums: Stephen Stills’ Right by You, Otis Redding’s Best of and the Byrds’ Greatest Hits, Vol. II; and, as the month unfolded, just two more: John David Souther’s Home by Dawn and Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers, which I already owned on cassette but wanted on vinyl. I wasn’t quite walking in lockstep with pop culture, in other words, though I owned eight of the top 25 albums listed in this month’s Record charts.

And if you’re feeling a slight twinge of deja vu – that’s because, yes, we have been here before. My plan to spin this intro into a Top 5 based on this month’s Record magazine has been waylaid by forgetfulness on my part: Once I retrieved said issue from the temperature-controlled vault and saw the cover…oops. l featured it in a Top 5 on January 30, 2016.

What I didn’t say then, but will share now: Those few purchases were due to me being out of work for a spell: The single-screen Hatboro Theatre, where I worked (and worked, and worked) as an usher for the previous year, closed its doors for the final time on Sunday, July 22nd. To rephrase a Joni Mitchell lyric, they paved paradise and put up a Wendy’s. (That’s me in the doorway in the accompanying picture, which I scanned way back in 2003; if I ever come across the original photo again, and it’s here somewhere, I’ll scan it at a higher resolution.)

There was good news on the horizon, however: On the same day that I saw Huey Lewis, I interviewed for and scored a new job as sales associate at a major department store – in the Domestics department. I learned to fold towels and sheets, and keep my cool when accosted by overzealous customers.

Also, an interesting side note – as my desk diary shows, the day before that CSN concert, I received the bill for the fall semester at Penn State Ogontz, which was one of a dozen-plus PSU satellite campuses scattered across the commonwealth. The total cost: $1123. Today, to attend the same campus – which has since been renamed Penn State Abington – the cost is $6770 for tuition, $236 for the student fee and $252 for the Information Technology Fee – $7258 altogether. That’s more than twice the (cumulative) rate of inflation! That’s just not right.

In the wider world, the dominant stories in the news revolved around the Summer Olympics, which were taking place in L.A. The presidential race between incumbent Ronald Reagan (R) and challenger Walter Mondale (D) was in the offing, but the campaign was on the back burner – unlike today, political campaigns were not year-round exercises. The economy was doing okay, but not great: Unemployment stood at 7.5 percent on August 1st; and inflation was 4.29 percent.

Popular movies of the summer included the feature-length music video known as Purple Rain, which opened on July 27th; Ghostbusters and Gremlins, which had been in the theaters since June 8th; and not Police Academy, which was released in March and, at this point in time, was past the end of its life cycle. (Those were the kinds of films the Hatboro Theatre had towards the end.) On the TV front – aside from the Olympics, everything was in repeats. TV in the summertime was always dull, in those days; the (wrong) assumption was that few people watched.

Anyway, enough of this voluminous intro. Here’s Today’s Top 5: 33 Years Ago Today (Aug. 6, 1984), though the charts – courtesy of my go-to site for such things, Weekly Top 40, are for the week ending the 4th. They’re the top songs of the week.

1) “When Doves Cry” by Prince. The now-classic ode to pigeon love ruled supreme for the fifth week in a row.

2) “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. The theme to the original Ghostbusters clocks in at No. 2.

3) “State of Shock” by the Jacksons with Mick Jagger. Moving up from No. 4 to No. 3 is this unlikely collaboration…

4) “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Slipping to No. 4 from No. 3 is this great song from the Boss, which remains a delight to hear in concert.

5) “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner. In its 11th week on the charts, this instant classic – which, according to Wikipedia, had been first offered to Cliff Richard(!) – jumps from No. 9 to No. 5 on its way to No. 1.

And a few bonuses…

6) “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E. This semi-mainstay of today’s oldies radio (at least as heard on WOGL-FM in Philly, which I’ve been groovin’ to of late) reaches its top spot on the charts this week…No. 31.

7) “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama. The seventh single by the British girl group was its first U.S. top 10 single. Here, in its third week of release, it’s one of the “power plays,” jumping from No. 55 to 43.

8) “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince. And, to bookend this Top 5, here’s another chart entry from the Purple One, a “power play” that enters the charts at No. 45.