Category Archives: Pat Benatar

Today’s Top 5: December 1980 (via my Christmas List)

fullsizeoutput_1167That’s me sometime in December 1980: I was 15, a high-school sophomore and unabashed music freak. My all-time favorite act was Paul McCartney & Wings, though the Beatles were a pretty close second. I owned several of the Beatles’ LPs, including their red (1962-66) and blue (1967-70) best-ofs, and listened to them quite a bit. But McCartney (with and without Wings) was current, and churning out new product on a regular basis – an important thing. His erstwhile partner and friend, John Lennon, was shot to death on the 8th of the month, not long after releasing his first album in five years.

Prior to his death, I owned Lennon’s Shaved Fish compilation and the “(Just Like) Starting Over” single, which had been released in late October; I bought both at the Hatboro Music Shop. Joe Celano, the proprietor, was accustomed to me taking upwards of an hour flipping through the LP racks in his (fairly small by today’s standards) store before settling on a single 45, which cost a buck. What can I say? I was a kid; money was tight.

Money was tight for adults, too. The economy was, all things being equal, a disgrace. Unemployment clocked in at 7.1 percent for the year; and the wage killer known as inflation was 13.5 percent. Those economic bad times, which continued for the next few years, were why Ronald Reagan soundly defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter that November.

Anyway, to my Christmas list:

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It consisted, as the above picture shows, of two hand-held video games, neither of which I received; four LPs, three of which I did; three books, of which I received all; a calendar; and a wallet. (I also received, as always, clothes and stuff.)

fullsizeoutput_116aOf the video games: I was a Space Invaders enthusiast, and often played for 20 or 30 minutes on one quarter at the arcade in the Village Mall. I believe I already had it for our Atari VCS console, but could be mistaken – that may have been to come. The handheld Entex model just meant that I could have taken it with me – perfect for backseats, the school bus and/or school cafeteria. I have no idea what drew me to list Toss-Up; I likely saw a TV commercial and thought it looked like fun. (It was actually made by Mego, not Meeco; and now goes for $1,499 on Ebay.)

Of the books – G. Gordon Liddy’s autobiography, Will, is an odd request for a 15-year-old kid to make, but I was an odd kid; I saw Liddy interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show and found him fascinating – just as I found professional wrestling fascinating, which explains The Main Event. The Beatles Forever, of course, needs no explanation. I still have the copy I received that Christmas in my personal archives (aka the attic).

And now to today’s Top 5: Christmas 1980 (via My Christmas List).

1) Pat Benatar – “Heartbreaker.” I’ve written about Pat Benatar before on this blog, most notably on this Top 5. Although I’m sure I first heard “Heartbreaker,” “I Need a Lover” and “In the Heat of the Night” in 1979, simply because I listened to rock radio, I didn’t buy anything of hers until her second album, Crimes of Passion, in late 1980.

2) Wings – “Wild Life.” The Wild Life album wasn’t one of McCartney’s best, but it has its moments.

3) Paul McCartney & Wings – “Medley: Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut.” Red Rose Speedway, the album that followed Wild Life, is a much better produced effort from McCartney & Co. Originally slated to be a 17-song, double-LP set, it was trimmed down to one LP by cutting nine songs and adding this 11-minute medley…which, for whatever reason, I liked at the time. I still do, though that may be nostalgia at play.

4) The Beatles – “A Day in the Life.” Nicholas Schaffner’s Beatles Forever tome, remains one of the most insightful books about the Beatles written. And, since there is no actual song associated with the book – I’ll go with one of the Beatles’ best.

5) The Doors – “L.A. Woman.” I didn’t receive the Doors’ Greatest Hits that Christmas. I actually didn’t need it – anytime you wanted to hear the Doors, all one had to do was turn on rock radio and, within an hour or so, you were guaranteed to hear “Light My Fire,” “Hello, I Love You” or one of their other radio staples. In time, I eventually picked up their first album, Morrison Hotel and the L.A. Woman LP.

Today’s Top 5: October 1983

IMG_5108October 31, 1983: Ronald Reagan was president, and morning in America was still a far ways away: the unemployment rate was near 10 percent for the second year in a row. Ten days earlier, the Beirut barracks bombing, which killed 299 American and French troops, had occurred; and we’d just invaded Grenada in what was seen by some as a cynical misdirection ploy and others as justified and heroic.

Movies released that month included Never Cry Wolf, Never Say Never Again, The Dead Zone and The Right Stuff. The No. 1 song was “Islands in the Stream,” a pop confection written by the Brothers Gibb and sung by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. The best-selling novel, according to the New York Times, was James A. Michener’s Poland; and the best-selling nonfiction book was Erma Bombeck’s Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession. I’d mention TV but, honestly, it was pitiful, as this schedule shows.

I was 18, a college freshman, living at home and working as an usher at a movie theater. That last fact put money in my pocket, which gave me a modicum of freedom – as much as $3.35/hour could buy, at any rate. I’d used some of that freedom to see the Muddy Blahs (aka Moody Blues) in concert 10 days earlier; and, on this day, I exercised more of it with two purchases: Paul McCartney’s new Pipes of Peace and Neil Young’s new-to-me Decade, a three-LP compilation of his career through 1977.

For today’s Top 5: Music I Bought in October 1983.

1) Paul McCartney – “Through Our Love.” Pipes of Peace was reissued yesterday, alongside its companion album, Tug of War; and I listened to it last night for the first time in near-32 years. It’s safe to say that it’s not his best outing, but it’s also not his worst – basically a mix of leftovers from the Tug of War sessions, one piece of pure pop gloss (the MJ duet of “Say, Say, Say”) and three wondrous works: the title track, breezy “So Bad” and this, which features a tremendous melody and lyrical message. Love, in both the abstract and specific, is indeed the answer for most of life’s ills.

2) Buffalo Springfield – “Mr. Soul.” I’d gotten into Neil Young’s music just two years earlier, with the release of re*ac*tor in 1981, so was playing catchup; Decade, which is one of the best anthologies released by a still-vital artist, was a great addition. The Buffalo Springfield songs, which I’d never before heard, were a revelation; and, in two weeks time, I purchased their one-LP Retrospective.

3) Irene Cara – “Fame.” True story: a year or so ago, Diane and I tuned in the 1980 movie Fame and the songs were silent – lips moved, but we couldn’t hear what they were singing or the music, period. Yet, we kept watching, and, even without the music, the movie worked – a little long, and very much of its time, but entertaining. Anyway, to the point: I have no idea why I waited until 1983 to pick up the 45 of the movie’s theme, but I did. Perhaps I’d recently caught it on Prism, a popular premium channel in the Philly area at the time, I don’t know. But this video is interesting and fun. It was filmed in 1982, likely to cash in on the MTV craze, and mixes footage from the film with shots of Cara lip-syncing to the song on the streets of New York.

4) Sly & the Family Stone – “Everybody Is a Star.” By rights, I should be including “Little Red Corvette” from Prince’s classic 1999 here, as I bought it on cassette on the 18th, but the Purple One removed his music from YouTube a while back, so I’ll instead go with something from Sly’s Greatest Hits, originally released in 1970, which I picked up on the 15th.

5) Pat Benatar – “Love Is a Battlefield.” It’s an odd thing, music fandom. I’ve stuck with some artists (Paul and Neil, for instance) since discovering them; others, however, I’ve relegated to my personal nostalgia circuit. One example: Pat Benatar. I doubt it had much to do with her music, per se, as this single – which enjoyed a five-week run atop the pop charts – is quite good, and expands upon her stylistic motif. I.e., she wasn’t repeating herself. But it was the last single or album of hers I purchased, save for her one-CD Best Shots compilation a decade-plus later. One possible reason: this video.

 

Today’s Top 5: November 1981 (via Creem Magazine)

IMG_5067Another day, another music magazine: That, in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, was part of my life. I subscribed to Rolling Stone and, as a few past Top 5s show, Record – the latter came at a discount for RS subscribers, if I remember correctly, so it was a no-brainer. I also read Creem, Circus and Trouser Press. (There are others that I should name, and would if I remembered them.) Some months I bought one or two, others none; $1 or $1.50 may not seem like much in today’s world, but back then it put a dent in one’s wallet.

Anyway, this specific issue of Creem, dated November 1981, came into my life because of the cover story on Pat Benatar. I was 16 and quite the fan – In the Heat of the Night and Crimes of Passion, her first two LPs, were part of my collection. She had a big voice and the music rocked and/or smoldered.

And, sometimes, she and her band sounded a lot like Blondie – especially on her debut. “We Live for Love,” for example, or “Rated X.” What wasn’t to like, right? Oh, I know, I can hear the choir of rock snobs chortling at my mainstream taste. The hipster mentality on what and what not to like annoyed me then and annoys me now, though back then I just didn’t know it. But, yes, to the point: Pat Benatar was mainstream. Her music was at once combustible and contained, and accented by her operatic vocals and tough-gal persona.

And, not only could she sing and strut, but – as the (mostly positive) Creem feature explains – she did housework! “When I get back home from a tour,” she says, “I like to vacuum as a form of therapy.” She even cleaned her hotel rooms before the maids could get to them.

All of which leads to today’s Top 5: November 1981 (via Creem). It’s more a snapshot of the previous few months, however, since Creem – like the other magazines – often reviewed items months after their release.

1) Pat Benatar – “Fire and Ice.” The lead single to her third album, Precious Time, was basically a pastiche of her previous hits, bringing together the moody dramatics of “In the Heat of the Night” with the punchy “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” while adding a pinch of “Treat Me Right” for good measure. The album was her third in three years, and recorded during near-constant touring, so it’s safe to say she and the band were running on fumes. I liked it, but not as much as Crimes of Passion, and still like some of its tracks all these years later. Was it flawed? Yes. Even my 16-year-old ears thought the “Helter Skelter” remake was ill-advised. Yet, it had its charms – Side 1, especially.

IMG_50692) The Pretenders – “Message of Love.” This issue also has an in-depth article on the Pretenders that’s interesting. “There’s nothing wrong with being commercial. What’s wrong is to change your sound to try and be commercial. But if you have a commercial sound, don’t be ashamed of it.” So says Chrissie. There’s also a negative review of their second album, Pretenders II, by one Jim Farber: “Welcome to the Pretenders’ nightmare—an entire second LP to fill, hopefully living up to a big box-office debut, and just about all Chrissie and company can come up with are a bunch of industrial waste Def Zeppelin riffs.”

At the time that I read that review, I had their first album – which I loved – on a cassette that a friend had made for me the year before; their March ’81 EP, Extended Play, on vinyl; and, due to the distance between release and review, The Pretenders II. The EP had two of II’s songs – the brilliant “Message of Love” and sublime “Talk of the Town” – plus a live (and incendiary) “Precious,” as well as two other cool tracks (“Porcelain” and “Cuban Slide”). I played it to death; and when II came out, I was thrilled…until I listened to it. “The Adultress” and “Bad Boys Get Spanked” are supposed to be (I think) sexy and saucy, but are just embarrassingly second-rate. And the other new songs aren’t much better. Still – it was a second album. Those can be a bear.

kookoo3) Debbie Harry – “Backfired.” I admit it: I was one of those “Heart of Glass” Blondie fans who initially confused Debbie Harry for Blondie. She was blonde – from a bottle, perhaps, but blonde nonetheless – and the focal point of the band. I was wrong, of course, and no point drove it home better than KooKoo, her solo debut. At the time, I found the collaboration between Debbie & Chris Stein and Nile Rogers & Bernard Edwards just…odd. In fact, the most memorable thing about the album, I thought, was the acupuncture cover. I played it twice, maybe three times, and moved on. So imagine my surprise when I read, months later, a positive spin on it in Creem, which called KooKoo “very good” and “the kind of pop record that will sell by the truckload and deserve to.” I wondered if we’d listened to the same music.

But, the thing is, listening to this track – the first single – for the first time in 30+ years? I like it.

IMG_50704) Hall & Oates – “Private Eyes.” There’s a full-page ad for the duo’s Private Eyes LP, which was released in September of ’81, and by the time I bought the magazine – in October – the title tune was shooting up the charts. Seeing it now, however, makes me think back to the first Hall & Oates song that I was familiar with: “Kiss on My List,” which was a hit the year before. I wasn’t a fan of the duo, but wasn’t a hater – they just weren’t my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong: I eventually bought their Rock & Soul, Vol. 1 best-of on cassette and later upgraded to CD. Certain songs of theirs were (and are) brilliant; others, such as this No. 1 smash, less so. It sounded like “Kiss on My List” with different lyrics.

IMG_50725) Kim Carnes – “Bette Davis Eyes.” Here’s the thing: certain songs – whether or not you like them – become part of one’s generational fabric. “She Loves You” is one example; “Billie Jean” another; “Smells Like Teen Spirit” yet another; and “We Belong Together” one more. And for anyone between the ages of 13 and 30 in 1981, or even 8 and 35, this is likely one of those songs. I never owned it (or anything by Carnes, for that matter); and why would I? I can hear it in my head at just about anytime because it’s been seared into my memory banks. It was a massive hit, riding the No. 1 slot for not one, not two, but nine weeks. WIFI-92 played it non-stop.