Monday, September 1, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 8

72.  "One Thing Leads To Another"--The Fixx
Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  4

Saved from mediocrity by a guitar so cool it's friggin' sub-zero.  Barred from greatness by everything else.

Keep It?  NO

"Red Skies"--The Fixx

Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

Yet another song about nuclear war, but "Red Skies" differs from "99 Red Balloons" in one important aspect:  the style suits the substance.  This creeping dose of New Wave encapsulates the dread and hysteria experienced by a populace that need only look up to know their future.  Sooner than later the hardbodies will be in flight; the psi will strike the land with an almost cartoonish force.  The radiation will make a terrific first impression, leaving rubble and flame, wind and waves, shadows and sickness.

Sometimes all there is to say is..."Oh."

71.  "Super Freak"--Rick James
Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  16

Professor Rick James is here to teach Sexuality in Music 101 through 301, so please take notes.  (After you've taken off your clothes.)

Oh, he enjoyed those kinky gals, all right...perhaps the kinks more so than the gals?  Straight from the pages of "new wave magazines," groupies with champagne dreams and superhuman tolerance for the lashes of whips, the strain of chains, and the searing of melted wax.

"Super Freak" isn't sexy, it's sex.  Not just bog-standard wham-bam, either, this is sex in a groovy haunted house decorated by someone with a vendetta against epileptics.  Look out for the Temptations, dressed up as Frankenstein monsters, holding out their arms and stepping in place as they harmonize.

Keep It?  YES

70.  "I Love Rock 'n' Roll"--Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

The Arrows wrote a hot song; Joan Jett made it cold-blooded.

The original stands as a straight-on "I Saw Her Standing There" for the scruff-set.  Sometimes--not all the time, but some of the time--a woman's touch is required to turn the black to blue.  Leather-clad, bad-ass, straight outta the place dreamers say to never return--Joan Jett was that woman.  One guitar, one microphone, one attitude, one mission:  beat us half-silly in 'round about the same amount of time as a Wheaton Metro escalator ride.

Keep It?  YES

69.  "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"--R.E.M.
Released 1987
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  69

Four rolls at the start, just like a great meal.  R.E.M. were usually never this punk-frantic, but Michael Stipe was always this punk-unintelligible.  Best I can glean, the end will be both calamitous and commonplace.  As resources deplete, the world will have no other choice but to eat itself.  Time enough at last for dessert.

R.E.M. did their finest work in the 80s, but this song got old even before the years 1999 and 2012 with their accompanying, semi-trolling apocalypse-panic showed me how limited people's musical reference points really are.

Keep It?  NO

"Driver 8"--R.E.M.
Released 1985
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

This here is what I call "more like it."  Such a gorgeous tune.

Peter Buck's guitar is the star, a jangle of forward motion, a thousand memories per note.  I can hear the climb, fall and climb again that comprises a life.  I can hear the climb that ends with the summit reached.  The only way to go is back down.   This also comprises a life.  Both adventures require a plummet that leaves scrapes, scratches, bumps and bruises all over the body.  Only one scenario allows for one's grip to be willingly relinquished; that's "the good life."

Stipe thankfully forgoes cryptic napkin-poetry to do justice to the overexerted train engineer and the world he speeds through.  A world he serves without ever truly getting to know.

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