Sunday, September 14, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 21

20.  "Jessie's Girl"--Rick Springfield
Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

This is sausage to me.  Morally iffy sausage, at that.

Admittedly "Jessie's Girl" doesn't (can't?) plumb the depths of other actor-turned-singer offerings from that time.  I'm thinking of "She's Like the Wind," "Heartbeat," any of Bruce Willis' bullshit props and stunts.  But that doesn't save it from being the Chuck E. Cheese of 80s pop-rock.

Keep It?  NO

"Like No Other Night"--.38 Special
Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  14

.38 Special and Survivor should do a tour of state fairs.  Audiences full of people nodding ever-so slightly and murmuring to themselves, "Oh yeah, I remember that song" for two straight hours.  A band could have a worse legacy, really.

The generally hairy dudes of .38 Special picked up where Lynyrd Skynyrd unwillingly left off.   Not only is their name a reminder of one of that band's more underrated tracks, singer Donnie Van Zant studied at the bare feet of Ronnie himself growing up in the same home. Their first albums were straight-on Southern rock, but soon enough they decided to revamp their sound and voila--arena-friendly tunes built barroom-tough.

"Like No Other Night" is the choicest of their cuts, actually taking time out to make the pre-mega drive portion of the song interesting.  Hell, I can crank this up and almost be convinced that hanging out in a bar full of straight people wouldn't be that bad.  And of course it ends with guitar solo jamboree.  That's tradition.  Rednecks are big on tradition.

19.  "Time After Time"--Cyndi Lauper
Released 1984
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Take a dive into "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and you'll break your neck.  "Time After Time," well, hope you can swim in smashing water.

The temptation is strong inside me to just talk about "Time After Time" using safe, well-worn words.  After repeated exposure, I can't take very much of the song.  Don't misunderstand, I find it to be one of the better ballads of the past forty years, and I agree 100% with its inclusion on this list--but I just can't bear to hear it all the way through.

Lauper's delivery is so affecting in its slipperiness, and the guitar on the verge of weeping does not help matters.  As a young girl my biggest fear was losing one or both of my parents.  Not the fear that they would walk away from the family, because somehow in my gut I knew better, but instead that they would die suddenly and I wouldn't have anyone to depend on.  I would cry listening to "Time After Time," and not be able to stop even several minutes after it was over.  Mom would walk by, catch sight of my wet face, and ask what was so upsetting.  Unable to admit a stupid song had made me imagine a nightmare world without her in it, I would just shake my head or make some non-committal noise, and she wouldn't press the issue any further.  She'd just come over to wherever I was, be it the couch or my bed, and give me a nice hug, rubbing my back until the tears stopped and the smiles started.

Keep It?  YES

18.  "Come On Eileen"--Dexy's Midnight Runners
Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Oh, those poor lasses named Eileen (or Aileen).  Great tuneski, sure, but it will follow that name and all the women blessed with said name for all the days.

Or is my sympathy misplaced?  My name got a New Wave bar-band all-time classic, but theirs got an Irish teen pregnancy anthem with a keener counter melody.  Knocked up by some toothless, unshaven street urchin whose best friend in the world is his parents record collection, what a life.

(Also, nothing in "867-5309" comes close to "beaten-down eyes sunk in smoke-dried faces.")

Keep It?  NO

"Don't Lose My Number"--Phil Collins
Released 1985
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  4

As a dumb li'l kid, I thought Phil should've named this "Billy Don't Lose My Number."  See, I was not yet aware of either "Billy Don't Be a Hero" or "Rikki Don't Lose That Number."  But Phil was.  No doubt he did not want the third single from his ridiculously popular No Jacket Required prejudged ahead of time.

Definitely not a widely-praised song, nor widely-derided, "Number" is the dollar bill in between the couch cushions.  The drums are the very first thing the listener hears, and it turns out they are the very same drums from "In the Air Tonight," flexing in front of a mirror.   Then a tale of suspense unfolds.  Neither the sparse guitar, hide-n-seek keys or Phil's lyrics themselves explain much.  I have decided that this "Billy" person kidnapped a Komodo dragon from some zoo somewhere and the authorities somehow were tipped off as to his identity.  Rather than surrender the venomous creature, Billy has packed up and is now on the run with the pet he has named "Modo," and together they will create a life rich with adventure and love.

17.  "Here I Go Again"--Whitesnake
Released 1987
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Unlike the Fixx and "Red Skies at Night," Whitesnake's decision to remake a song originally recorded in 1982 proved commercially wise.   The only significant difference can be heard in the chorus, where the word "hobo" has been changed to "drifter."  Why?  No homo.  No, seriously.  That was why.

Everyone, let's go out to the parking garage and do a hood dance--no Shenehneh.  Roll around and contort our bodies till nap time.

Keep It?  NO

"Brilliant Disguise"--Bruce Springsteen
Released 1987
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  5

Bruce turned introspective and retained every iota of popularity.  Baby we were born to doubt each others motives at every turn.  Folks can relate.

Every dispirited second of "Brilliant Disguise" is driven by brutal honesty.  All the world's indeed a stage, we are merely players, some of us more suspicious of the script than others. 

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