Tag Archives: Paul McCartney

Today’s Top 5: January 7, 1983

The first week of January 2018 has been accented by frigid temperatures across much of the nation. In the Delaware Valley, we’ve “enjoyed” highs in the teens, and windchill temps clocking in the single digits. On this day in 1983, however, it felt positively balmy: We hit a high of 55.

I covered this month before via Trouser Press; and the previous month via Record magazine. The most important thing to know: Unemployment topped 10 percent for the fifth month in a row. The Reagan Recession, in other words, was in full swing.

But, as I mentioned in that Record magazine recap, you wouldn’t have known it by me. I was 17, a high-school senior, and concentrating on my studies. And although far from a math wizard, I could count – which explains why I worked inventory at the Abraham & Straus department store at the Willow Grove Park Mall as a temporary employee this month. (In a few years, I’d sign on at the same store as a sales associate.) I also had plenty of Christmas cash courtesy of my great aunts and uncle, and used much of it to expand my cassette collection – a necessity, as I’d received a Sanyo Mini AM/FM Stereo Radio Cassette Recorder for Christmas.

On January 3rd, a Monday, I picked up Neil Young’s Trans and Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask. I already owned Trans on vinyl; as I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I assumed store-bought cassettes possessed better sound that recorded copies of LPs. (In retrospect, I wish I’d gone the home-taping route and used the extra cash to buy other albums.) The Blue Mask, however, was new to me, and “Waves of Fear” quickly became a favorite track:

Anyway, as my Garfield desk diary reveals, the month’s other purchases included cassettes by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin and Todd Rundgren; and a way-cool three-LP Velvet Underground set. I also received, via the RCA Music Club, five of the six tapes I’d ordered the week after Christmas; as with Trans, I already owned Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna and Pete Townshend’s All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes on vinyl, but Eagles Live, Glenn Frey’s No Fun Aloud and Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk were new to me. 

One album that I inexplicably left off of that end-of-the-month summary – Van Morrison’s Moondance, which came into my life on Friday the 7th. It’s still one of my favorite Van albums.

One other notable event this month: on the 21st, I ventured into Philadelphia to see A Clockwork Orange at the TLA on South Street.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: January 7, 1983 (via Weekly Top 40; for the week ending the 8th):

1) Hall & Oates – “Maneater.” For the fourth week in a row, the No. 1 song in the land was this catchy hit from the Philly pop-soul duo.

2) Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney – “The Girl Is Mine.” The lead single from MJ’s classic Thriller was this syrupy confection, which was the week’s No. 2 single.

3) Don Henley – “Dirty Laundry.” The lead single from Henley’s first solo album, I Can’t Stand Still, is as relevant today as it was when it was first released on October 12, 1982. This week, it rose to No. 3 (from No. 4).

4) Men at Work – “Down Under.” Jumping four spots to No. 4 is this one-time MTV staple.

5) Marvin Gaye – “Sexual Healing.” Entering the top 5 this week is this latter-day classic from Marvin Gaye, who was in the midst of a comeback. (His last hit had come in 1977, when “Got to Give It Up” topped the charts.)

And two bonuses…

6) Golden Earring – “Twilight Zone.” The Dutch group’s “Radar Love” is (rightfully) considered one of the greatest driving songs of all time, but this “powerplay” track – which jumped from No. 52 to 50 this week – is their lone Top 10 U.S. hit. (I’ve featured this song before, of course, in my March 1983 rundown.)

7) Dire Straits – “Industrial Disease.” After the success of 1980’s Making Movies, Mark Knopfler & Co. stretched out on Love Over Gold, a full-length LP with just five songs (including the 14-minute “Telegraph Road”). This satiric tune, which entered the charts at No. 86 this week, was the album’s shortest entry at 5:50.

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Remember December, Vol. IV: The Honorable Mentions

The annual Old Grey Cat Awards fete, in which the Album of the Year nominees gather in the great hall that is our living room while anxiously awaiting the word, was more crowded this year than most. Were the Las Vegas oddsmakers correct? Or would an underdog be crowned king or queen? (Canines are much loved by the admittedly feline-centric OGC Committee, so it’s always a possibility.) By the time the gala’s host finally scampered onto the mantel to bellow the mews, well, the tension could’ve been cut with a claw.

Except, as often happens with this, the most ballyhooed of music awards, the many contenders could and should have saved their Xanax for another night. Courtney Marie Andrews’ Honest Life was and is just one of those albums. And the runners-up…aside from the late entry from the sister collective known as the Staves, not surprising. (The winner and four runners-up can be seen here.)

But awards ceremonies never tell the full story of a year.

While sorting through the year’s top contenders for my Album of the Year honors, I was shocked – but not appalled – by the many great albums and EPs released in 2017. I thought I’d share my numbers 6 through 11 – aka, the Honorable Mentions – here. Some I reviewed during the course of the year; others, unsurprisingly, I didn’t. They’re all worth buying or, at the least, adding to one’s Apple Music or Spotify library.

6) Garland Jeffreys – 14 Steps to Harlem. “As a whole, 14 Steps to Harlem finds Garland looking back, surveying the present and contemplating the future – and doing it all to melodies that linger long after the music has ceased.” Here’s the title track:

7) Paul WellerA Kind Revolution. “Long Long Road” is such a tremendous song that, even if the rest of the album was just so-so, A Kind Revolution would be an honorable mention. But the album is among Weller’s best.

8) Tift MerrittStitch of the World. “While we listened to it earlier today, me for probably the 10th time this week, Diane noted that certain songs would’ve been at home on Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel – or, I’d add, Emmylou Harris’ Luxury Liner. I.e., there’s a timelessness about them.” Here’s one of its stellar tracks,  “Heartache Is an Uphill Climb.”

9) Kasey ChambersDragonfly. “Ain’t No Little Girl” is just tremendous, bluesy and – in concert, especially – jaw-dropping in its intensity. The remainder of the double album is damn good, too.

And, two ties at No. 10…

10) Paul McCartney – Flowers in the Dirt (deluxe edition). “The set features the original album; a second disc of 10 demos recorded with Elvis Costello; a third disc of 9 of the same demo songs recorded with the nascent Flowers in the Dirt band and produced by Elvis; a fourth disc of b-sides and remixes; and a DVD of videos and behind-the-scenes stuff. ”

10) Natalie Merchant – Butterfly (available as part of The Natalie Merchant Collection). Here’s “Frozen Charlotte” from it…

Today’s Top 5: July 7th, 1979

Thursday night found us at what sometimes seems like our home away from home, the World Cafe Live in West Philly, to see Rickie Lee Jones. If I’ve done my math right, it was the seventh time that I’ve seen the jazzy singer-songwriter, who’s long been a favorite. Though she had a cold, she delivered a solid set that was accented by spellbinding moments – especially on “We Belong Together.”

That’s not my video, I hasten to add. We were in the front row, where experience has taught me that the upward angle guarantees the overhead stage lights will appear like glowing orbs on my iPhone videos. But here’s a photo I took:

“We Belong Together” hails from her classic 1981 album Pirates, of course, and really should’ve been released as a single, as it’s one of her best songs.

Another highlight came earlier in the night with the second single released from her 1979 eponymous debut, “Chuck E.’s in Love,” which is the first thing I – and most folks, I’m sure – heard by her. According to Weekly Top 40, it made its chart debut – at No. 65 – on April 28th, the same week that Blondie’s “disco song,” “Heart of Glass,” topped the charts. Over the course of the next two months, it slowly weaved its way through the disco and pop dross cluttering Top 40 until, on June 9th, it hit entered the Top 10 at No. 8.

Four weeks later, on July 7th, it peaked at No. 4 (a spot it would hold for an additional week).

That July wasn’t much different from what I described in Today’s Top 5: June 1979 or Today’s Top 5: September 29, 1979 other than, for me, school being out. There was also this: I was 13 when the month began, and 14 when it ended. Beyond that, according to Wikipedia, the month’s notable events included, on the 2nd, the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin being introduced; on the 8th, L.A. passing a gay and lesbian rights bill; and, on the 16th, Steve Dahl’s “Disco Demolition” stunt at Chicago’s Comiskey Park going kaboom.

Among the albums released this month were Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Rust Never Sleeps, the B-52’s debut and the Kinks’ Low Budget, but I wouldn’t discover them for quite some time. I was a kid on a budget, after all, and albums were often a luxury. And, too, there’s this: I was (likely) still grooving to a release from the month before: Wings’ Back to the Egg.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: July 7th, 1979 (via Weekly Top 40):

1) Anita Ward – “Ring My Bell.” Some people hate this pure shot of disco fluff, which was enjoying its second week at No. 1, and it’s understandable why they might. But it has a certain charm…

2) Donna Summer – “Bad Girls.” As I noted after her untimely death, Donna Summer wasn’t just the “queen of disco” in the late ‘70s, but the queen of the Top 40. This week, she holds the No. 2 spot with the propulsive second single from the Bad Girls album; it was No. 3 the previous week, and would hit No. 1 the next. According to the Wikipedia entry, she was inspired to write the song after she was stopped one night by a police officer who mistook her for a prostitute. Who knew?

3) Donna Summer – “Hot Stuff.” And here’s additional proof of Summer’s chart dominance: “Hot Stuff,” the lead single from Bad Girls, dropped to No. 3 this week from No. 2, and before that had enjoyed a three-week run as No. 1. It would remain in the Top 10 for several more weeks, too. One of the interesting things about the song, to me at least, is the way it effortlessly blends rock and disco. (Check out the guitar solo at the end.)

4) Rickie Lee Jones – “Chuck E.’s in Love.” Rickie Lee’s biggest hit is also one of her greatest songs, a true effervescent shot of upbeat joy. This week, it reached No. 4 on the charts – a spot it would hold for one more week before falling out of the Top 10.

Here’s a cool video of her singing it on stage back in the day…

5) Kenny Rogers – “She Believes in Me.” Disco may have ruled the charts in the late ‘70s, but as evidenced by “Chuck E.’s in Love,” there was more to the era’s music that fast beats. And just as hip sounds could find their way in the charts. So could country – especially when sung by Mr. Rogers.

And a few bonuses…

6) Supertramp – “The Logical Song.” Mr. Spock’s theme song, from Supertramp’s smash Breakfast in America LP, peaks at No. 6 this week.

7) Wings – “Getting Closer.” Back to the Egg sported a cool cover, and some good-to-great tunes. Not Paul McCartney’s best, but far from his worse – New Wave in theory, at least in spots, but Old Wave in practice, through and through. This, the lead single, clocks in at No. 31, and would stall a few weeks later at No. 20.