Monthly Archives: April 2014

 The Poetry of Chrissie Hynde

ltc

I’d like to celebrate national poetry month and keep the theme of this blog going by featuring some of my favorite lyrics from pop songs in 1984. The following lyrics are courtesy of Ms. Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders’ My City Was Gone.

I went back to Ohio

But my pretty countryside

Had been paved down the middle

By a government that had no pride

The farms of Ohio

had been replaced by shopping malls

And Muzak filled the air

From Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls

Screamer of the Week: Heaven by The Psychedelic Furs. This week in 1984.

Every week the Long Island radio station WLIR would allow viewers to vote and choose the best new song of the week.  The station’s DJ’s (Donna Donna, Malibu Sue, Larry the Duck) would each rally behind one song and attempt to convince listeners to pick their ‘Screamer of the Week’. The DJ’s were passionate and knowledgable and they helped shape the musical taste of countless teens in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.

This week In 1984 The Psychedelic Furs’ Heaven was the Screamer of the Week. The single came from the band’s fourth studio album Mirror Moves which also contained Here Come Cowboys and my favorite – The Ghost in You. This is a case where the song is much better than the video. Heaven, the song, is haunting, sad and poetic. The video – well – there’s lots of spinning. And lots of rain.

Ah, but what a gorgeous song. Annie Lennox covered it 1995 (of course her version is equally haunting).

While conducting research for this post I discovered the band is on tour right now on the east coast. If anyone sees them please send a review in the comments. Also – SCREAM when they play Heaven to remind them of what they accomplished 30 years ago.

Additional Screamer of the Week posts:

The Thompson Twins – You Take Me Up

Prince and the Revolution – When Doves Cry

R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion

Cameo was Strange – and I Liked It.

In 1984 Cameo’s, ‘She’s Strange’ sat on top of Billboard’s R&B charts for the entire month of April. The tune combined elements of disco, funk, rap and R&B and in addition to being a catchy, sexy pop song – it served as one of the year’s best anthems for the freaks and eccentrics of the time.

"Now I'm a different guy/ And I don't compare to many"

“Now I’m a different guy/ And I don’t compare to many”

Cameo wasn’t alone embracing otherness in the mid-80’s. Boy George, Annie Lennox, and Michael Jackson all made being odd feel very mainstream. Also, is it a coincidence that the title of Cyndi Lauper‘s debut album, She’s So Unusual, is so similar to the title of Cameo’s single? Well actually – yes – that probably is a coincidence (but let’s pause for a moment and imagine the magic that would have resulted if Blackmon and Lauper had recorded a song together. That should have happened!) Of course funk musicians like George Clinton and Africa Bamabaataa were letting their freak flags fly well before 1984; but there was something about Cameo’s exploration of weirdness – especially in this song  – that really intrigued me.

“Straaaaaaaaange!”

Even before the music starts Cameo lets us know what we’re in for.  It’s their one word, harmonic, declarative statement that sets us up for the simple, brilliant chorus.

“She’s Strange/And I like it”.

It’s the word ‘and‘ that really made the song interesting to me. Blackmon is stating he likes this woman because she’s different. Imagine if the chorus were “She’s strange/but despite her strangeness I still find her appealing,” See the difference? Not as interesting, right?  In all seriousness, I remember thinking about that line quite a bit the first few times I listened to the song. So – being odd is good? Difference can be sexy? Of course those are simple and true statements  – but how often, either as a teen or an adult do we need to be reminded of those facts? This music video is a great time capsule of mid-80’s R&B imagery. Jheri curls? Check. Women with big hair? Check. Dressed in neon day glo colors?  Check! Check!

Larry Blackmon's brother from another mother?

Freddie Mercury: Larry Blackmon’s brother from another mother?

But what really stands out for me is Blackmon’s style. Blackmon rocked the ‘the 70’s are not quite over ‘stache’ like no else –  with the possible exception of Freddie Mercury (I think of Blackmon and Mercury as brothers in arms  – from different musical genres and different countries, but sharing the goal of fighting for the rights of freaks everywhere).       Blackmon’s style in the video is amazing. The muscle T, the leather jacket, the sunglasses –  Blackmon was serving three minutes and forty seven seconds of On the Waterfront realness! Two years later he’d cement his style icon status by 1) sporting an enviably high flat top 2) wearing that unforgettable red codpiece. I’d place that codpiece right alongside Elvis’ blue suede shoes, Madonna’s cone bra, and Michael’s glove. It’s iconic! Someone needs to write an epic poem about that codpiece!

So Much Depends Upon/ A Red Codpiece

30 Years later I’m just as intrigued by the song and video and have just as many questions. Is Blackmon gay? Is he straight? Was that a whore-house in the middle of the desert the band just visited? Why so many shots of women applying toe nail polish?  How can a woman be one’s Al Capone, one’s Rollingstones and one’s Eva Peron? Many questions without definite answers. 30 Years later the song and video are still inscrutable, the music is still great and I still like it.

Cyndi Lauper Never Lies: 30 Years of She-Bopping

Like myself, Cyndi Lauper has also decided to celebrate the music of 1984. In her case – she’s re-releasing her debut album ‘She’s So Unusual,’ which turns 30 this year. In ’84 I liked Cyndi Lauper, but I didn’t love her. I thought her music was catchy and she got major points in my book for casting pro wrestler Captain Lou Albano in her Girls Just Wanna Have Fun video. But I also thought of her as a bit of a novelty act.  What I think I failed to understand back then was that one could have a sense of humor and also be a serious musician. There were so many painfully serious, incredibly earnest acts at the time – I didn’t realize what a breath of fresh, Long Island accented air Cyndi was for the pop scene.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is classic and Time After Time is perhaps one of the greatest pop ballads ever written, but I had a soft spot for She-Bop. I was so very pleased with myself for figuring out the song was about self-pleasure (we won’t go into why that was an easy analysis for a 16 year old boy to make) and now 30 years later Ms, Lauper has validated my theory! Thank you Cyndi!

 

 

Number One This Week in 1984: Footloose

This week in 1984 Kenny Loggin’s Footloose was the number one pop single (the song was number one for three weeks in a row – from March 31st to April 14th). This was the first single from the soundtrack for the hit film of the same name starring Kevin Bacon. Pop Culture confession – I’ve never seen this movie. Somehow I missed it when it was out in the theaters and then for the next 30 years on TV. I don’t feel like I’m missing out because the music video shows me everything I need to know. – Teen angst and parental oppression are no competition for the power of gymnastics, dancing and Kevin Bacon in a tank top.

I haven’t heard or thought about this song in years – but after watching the video I think it holds up really well. So much energy, so much fun. And despite some really stiff competition – this tune would go on to win the Grammy for Song of the Year.

What do you think – when you hear this song – does it still make you want to cut loose?