Category Archives: The Rolling Stones

Today’s Top 5: February 1984 (via Record Magazine)

record284008Thirty-three years ago, in February 1984, America was stumbling out of back-to-back recessions that almost hammered the American Dream flat. The unemployment rate for January was 7.9 percent, which is high – but better than the 10.3 percent of January 1983. In fact, the unemployment rate for 1983 as a whole was, according to the St. Louis Fed, 9.5 percent – the same as it was in 1982. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics has slightly different numbers – 9.6 and 9.7 percent, respectively.) The trend was headed in the right direction, however.

(This Pew Research Center essay delves in-depth into the “Reagan recession.”)

Stories in the news included Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire while he filmed a Pepsi commercial on Jan. 27th; the cable networks A&E and Lifetime debuting on Feb. 1st; the first successful embryo transfer from one woman to another being announced on Feb. 3rd; the movie Footloose premiering on Feb. 17th; and Michael Jackson winning eight Grammy Awards (seven for Thriller and one for the E.T. audiobook) on Feb. 28th.

record284009New music releases for the month included the Footloose soundtrack; Thompson Twins’ Into the Gap; The Smiths’ eponymous debut; Queen’s The Works; The Alarm’s Declarations; and Van Morrison’s Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which had been released in November 1982, still ruled the album charts, as Record’s Top 100 list shows. At the time, I owned – on vinyl or cassette – four of the top 10 and seven of the top 20; and, by year’s end, 20 of the top 100. As February dawned, the top single was – according to Weekly Top 40 – Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon.” John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” had just cracked the Top 10. By month’s end, the top slot was held by one of the more infectious songs of the year, Van Halen’s “Jump.”

hatborotheaterAt the time, I was 18 and living the commuter-college life. I lived at home, attended Penn State’s Ogontz campus and worked, worked and worked as an usher at the single-screen Budco Hatboro Theater – a fun job that I’d held since the previous summer. (That’s me in the doors in the picture on the left.) This month, however, the employees learned that it was destined to close at some point over the summer, as Budco saw the writing on the wall for single-screen palaces. The building was sold, torn down and a Wendy’s was built on its spot.

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My purchases for the month show where my head was at, beginning with Neil Young’s masterful On the Beach, which I picked up on Feb. 1st.

I also bought Stephen Stills – Stills (6th); CSNY – So Far (6th); Stephen Stills/Manassas – Down the Road (12th); Joni Mitchell – For the Roses (12th); and Stephen Stills double-LP Manassas set (17th), which quickly became (and remains) one of my all-time favorites. This song, featuring former Byrd and Burrito Brother Chris Hillman on co-lead vocals, is a a minor gem:

And, with that, onward to today’s Top 5: February 1984 (via Record Magazine)…

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First, though: This issue isn’t one of the magazine’s best. I wasn’t a fan of David Byrne at the time (I’m still not), and never read the interview with him. I also never read the articles about Huey Lewis, Spandau Ballet, Juluka, Philip Bailey and DeBarge. So why choose this month? Because of On the Beach and Manassas. When I saw both in my old desk calendar, well, how could I not go with this month?!

1) The Rolling Stones – “Undercover of the Night.” I won Undercover, a sad-sack Stones album, from WYSP on November 19th of the previous year by calling in on a trivia contest and saying “John Drake” (the real name of Number Six in The Prisoner TV series). I think I played the album once, maybe twice, and never went back. In other words, Anthony DeCurtis – who penned this review – is more generous to it than I obviously am. Of this song, he writes that it “opens the first side with a machine-gun run of synthesized drumming that crashes into a barrage of percussive disco bottom and patented Stones guitar chords.”

record2840122) Paul McCartney – “Pipes of Peace.” This, the second review, goes to show the delay that once existed between release and review. The February issue of Record would have been on newsstands by early or mid-January, I’m sure, but Pipes of Peace had already been out for at least two months by then, as it was released in October 1983 (as I write about here).

In the review, the (apparently tone-deaf) critic Craig Zoller doesn’t mince words: “The only McCartney LP worth holding onto, by any stretch of the imagination, is Wings Greatest because it collects most of his good hits (along with some silly ones). And seeing sluggish hodgepodge efforts like Band on the Run and Tug of War garner critical raves is as bad a joke as hearing the Beatles described as Paul’s old back-up band.” Lest one have any doubts about where he’s headed, he then states of Pipes of Peace: “I’m here to tell you in no uncertain terms that it’s just another lousy McCartney album with a couple of halfway decent cuts, a load of hummable pablum and the usual no-risk coasting.”

What I find interesting: in back-to-back reviews, a subpar Stones album is saluted while an admittedly mediocre McCartney album is thoroughly trashed. Says much about the mindsets of rock critics at the time…

record2840133) Bob Dylan – “Sweetheart Like You.” I’ve been in something of a Dylan mood of late, having listened to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a-Changing, Bringing It Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and the Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964 this week, with Freewheelin’ and BIBH both receiving twin spins. But, though I know his ‘60s output as well as most, and bought Slow Train Coming in 1979, by the time the decades turn to the ‘80s… I’m admittedly ignorant. There are a few albums I’ve bought and liked, and a few I’ve bought and disliked. Which is likely why I turn to his ’60s oeuvre whenever I have a hankering to hear him.

Anyway, of Infidels, reviewer John Swenson opens by saying that Dylan “is the most consistently misunderstood figure in pop music history” and closes with “Dylan hasn’t sung this well in some time, a fact which indicates his ultimate commitment to his material.” In between, there’s a lot that makes me want to check out the album, which I may well do in the coming week.

4) John Cougar Mellencamp – “Pink Houses.” Christopher Hill accurately describes the one-time Johnny Cougar’s seventh album: “Uh-Huh, Mellencamp’s first record under his real name, is also his first conscious effort to speak collectively for the people of his state and his state of mind. Though not always successful, the rough grain and savor of parched Midwestern earth that comes through makes this a bracing, provocative antidote to the bleak romancers of the ‘Badlands.’” He doesn’t single out the album’s tour de force, however, which is this song:

record2840145) Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers – “A Woman’s Got the Power.” Anyone from the Delaware Valley circa the late ‘70s and early ‘80s likely remembers the A’s – at least, anyone of a certain age who, regardless of whether you were old enough to get into the clubs, listened to Philadelphia’s two main rock stations at the time, 93.3 FM WMMR and 94.1 WYSP. The homegrown rockers were routinely plugged and played on both, as they should have been – they were damn good.

And this song, which was the title track of their 1981 album of the same name (their second and last on Arista), was played to death – as I remember it, at any rate.

Anyway, of the Big Man and his side band: Barry Alfonso, who reviews Rescue, notes that “the feel captured is right on the mark—such tracks as ‘A Man in Love,’ ‘A Woman’s Got the Power’ and ‘Savin’ Up’ (the last-named a Springsteen composition) have the funky nobility that big-band R&B has always traded in.” He also raves about lead singer John “J.T.” Bowen: “He lends to Clemons the same sort of urban bravura that Clemons brings Springsteen. It may not be new, but it still packs a wallop.”

AND, if two clips of the same song aren’t enough, here’s a third: the A’s performing it live…

 

 

Today’s Top 5: March 21, 1966 (via Newsweek)

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Newsflash: Teenagers confound adults.

fullsizeoutput_1158In 1966, however, they weren’t just confounding the older generations; they were concerning them, too, because of the largeness of their numbers. According to the unsigned editor’s note in this Newsweek issue, the “17.9 million young Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 loom like a subcontinent within U.S. society. Their numbers exceed the population of Australia and New Zealand, and at times they seem as far-off and hard to reach.” Thus, the magazine’s braintrust decided to delve deep into the world of the modern teen, to learn not just who they were but, as noted newsman Les Nessman might phrase it, what they were plotting.

That tongue-in-cheek reference to the WKRP in Cincinnati reporter serves a purpose. If you watched the show, odds are you remember the shy and sly Bailey Quarters –

Bailey was played by Jan Smithers – who, it just happens, is the 16-year-old girl riding the motorcycle on the cover. Inside, she’s afforded a mini-profile in a section titled “Six Faces of Youth”: “Beneath the Fluoristan smile, Jan worries. ‘Sometimes when I’m sitting in my room I just feel like screaming and pounding my pillow,’ she says. ‘I’m so confused about this whole world and everything that’s happening.’ But she wants to understand why.” She also observes that ‘[w]hen you’re young you might as well take advantage of it. And even if I become old and saggy, I’m still going to be young.”

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fullsizeoutput_1154As a whole, the in-depth investigation of all things teens paints kids as spoiled creatures who subscribe, more or less, to a parentally-approved lifestyle: “In contrast to the troubled minority, most teenagers seem docile indeed. They criticize themselves sternly: drinking, smoking, long hair, hot rods, eye makeup, net stockings, eccentric clothes.”

Anyway, onward to today’s Top 5: March 21, 1966 (via Newsweek).

1) The Beatles – “Nowhere Man.” There, on page 102, is an article titled “Bards of Pop.” In the last three years, we’re told, Beatle bards John Lennon and Paul McCartney “have written 88 songs that have been recorded in 2921 versions and have sold close to 200 million copies.”

fullsizeoutput_1140“Their latest album of originals, ‘Rubber Soul,’ now fourth on U.S. charts, marks a turning away from the percussive electric backgrounds of rhythm & blues to more intimate settings and subtler forms. Still simple and direct, their lyrics are no longer concerned with handholding, but with desertion, seduction and satire.”

Later, McCartney makes a cogent point: “Our best influences now are ourselves. We are so well established that we can bring fans along with us and stretch the limits of pop.” He also says this: “I wouldn’t mind being a white-haired old man writing songs, but I’d hate to be a white-haired Beatle playing at Empress Stadium.”

Anyway, according to Weekly Top 40, “Nowhere Man” was the No. 4 song of the week – and here they are in Munich performing it:

2) The Temptations – “Get Ready.” There’s also a mini-profile of 15-year-old Tommy Brewer, a black kid from Chicago, in “Six Faces of Youth” section, that follows the peek into Jan’s life. He “travels 6 miles via two buses and an El” to attend Lindblom Technical High School because, unlike his neighborhood school, it has science labs, electronic courses, and woodworking and metalworking shops.” Out of school, he “divides his time between Look and Ebony. He listens to WVON, a Negro rock ’n’ roll station, and his favorite groups are the Temptations and the Miracles…”

“Get Ready” was one of the week’s “power play” songs, having jumped from No. 53 to 42; and here are the Temps, from an appearance on Where the Action Is

3) The Rolling Stones – “19th Nervous Breakdown.” The piece on the Beatles opens with this line: “How long can Animals, Beatles, Stones, Spoonfuls or Supremes survive in the musical jungle? The cruel laws of pop says they will die commercially before they are 30.”

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

4) The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Daydream.” And about those Spoonfuls…they had the No. 10 single of the week with this cool confection. This clip also features John Sebastian explaining how the song was inspired by the Motown sound…

5) The Supremes – “My World Is Empty Without You.” And speaking of Motown, here’s the No. 30 single of the week…

And one bonus…

6) Stevie Wonder – “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” In the Jan Smithers piece, there’s this: “Most of the action centers on The Trip, a vibrating folk-rock haven…” I googled that club, and found this cool flashback. It was a short-lived venture, but – by looks of the pictures – booked quite a few happenin’ acts, including Stevie.

“Uptight” was the No. 40 single this week, having fallen from No. 13 the week before. Here’s Stevie from Top of the Pops in ’66…

And, for the curious, here are a few more looks inside this edition of Newsweek:

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