Tag Archives: Pop Music

THE REFLEX: NUMBER ONE THIS WEEK IN 1984

In honor of the anniversary of the Fab Five’s first number one US hit I’m reposting my recollection of attending their first show at MSG.

MY FIRST TIME (WITH DURAN DURAN)

On March 21st, 1984 I attended my very first concert. Duran Duran’s Sing Blue Silver tour arrived in New York City and sold out two nights at Madison Square. Despite my parents’ assumption that riots were guaranteed to break out at any and every rock show, I was able to score tickets and permission (in that order) to the concert. A few days before the show I found out that pop station Z-100 was going to broadcast the concert live. I immediately set up a plan that would enable me to relive this historic moment in pop history over and over again.

I was able to convince my mom to agree to tape the show for me. This was a decision she would quickly regret.

Step 1 Teach her how to record radio on my boom box:  “I’m going to leave the radio on all day in my room so all you have to do is push the play and the record buttons at the EXACT same time at EXACTLY 8:00pm. Don’t push play and then record – you HAVE to push them at the same time, ok?  Alright, then come back at about 8:50 and as soon as the band finishes whatever song they’re playing QUICKLY flip the tape to side B, rewind to the beginning if necessary, and then IMMEDIATELY hit the play and record buttons again.”

Step 2 – Trial Run (“OK – see you hit the record button too late. You have to use two fingers! No – I’m sorry, I’m not raising my voice, it’s just that …”)

Step 3 – A few hours before the show call home and make sure Mom has retained her lesson. Also remind her that the benefit of listening to the show is the added peace of mind of knowing that the state police have not been called in to halt the Duran Duran riots.

Step 4 – Get a friend to tape the show – just in case.

I attended the show with my friend Diana. At the time we were friendly, but not the best of friends, but our mutual appreciation of Duran Duran set up a solid foundation.

The exultant anticipation of walking into MSG to see a show for the first time is an experience you never forget. Getting from the street to your seat literally takes a lot of time and effort. First you have to make your way past the sketchiness of 34th street/Penn station. Then, relieved you haven’t been mugged or pick-pocketed, you walk through a cavernous under ground bunker into the lobby, through the ticket gate, and finally begin your ascent – up, up, up the escalators. And at MSG when you’ve only paid $12.00 for tickets you spend a lot of time going up the escalator.

When Diana and I arrived at our seats we realized we were in the rafters but that didn’t temper our excitement. We ignored the opening band (the cool thing to do) , chatted with a couple of other concert goers and then . . .

the lights dimmed . . . and then . . . the eruption of screams from thousands of frenzied pubescent girls. And the screaming did not stop for the next two hours. At first it was fun, but three songs in,it quickly grew tiresome.  “I get it – three of the five band members are REALLY hot (I didn’t have the nerve to say) but can we tone down the screeching and focus on the music, just a little?”

Duran Duran T

An exact replica of the t-shirt I owned. I may need to buy a new one on ebay.

The next day I proudly walked the hallways of my high school, ears ringing, wearing my Duran Duran concert tee. Girls I didn’t know came up to me to ask for details about the show. They jabbed their fingers against my chest, tracing the outlines of their favorite band member, “Oh – Nick is my favorite – how did he look? How was his hair?!?”

 

 

Most of my friends found it hard to believe how much I liked the group. They understood why so many 9th grade girls liked the band – but why was I so enthralled? I’d argue, with 100% sincerity, that these guys had every right to be compared to the Beatles.

“Rolling Stone Magazine called them the Fab Five.”

“These guys are real musicians who play their own instruments and write their own songs.”

“Their lyrics are really deep. Take Union of the Snake  for example. Of course it’s about sex – ‘the UNION of the SNAKE’. But it’s also about our inability to communicate, ‘If I listen close I can hear them singers/Voices in your body coming through on the radio.’ Think about it.”

In truth – I did like Duran Duran’s music – it was catchy and fun and danceable. And when Nile Rodgers started working with them (The Reflex single remix, Wild Boys, Notorious) their music also became interesting. But I was also drawn to the image  – the band’s look and their looks. I embraced the aforementioned Rolling Stone cover story because it a) gave the group some musical cred and b) gave me the chance to stare at those pretty, pretty faces.

duran-duran-rolling-stone-cover

They’re looking through me.

And in case you were wondering – here’s how they ranked (16 YO Sean and Sean of today have similar taste, although today I might swap Simon and Roger).

5. Nick

4. Andy

3. Roger (arguably the most underrated member of the group)

2. Simon

1. John

 

Alas, mom did a great job taping the show (the second tape ran out during the final song – but who could have predicted Duran Duran would do a 12 minute encore version of Girls on Film!!??)

Last year while working at Fuse I met John Taylor –  backstage at Madison Square Garden. It was a nice ‘full circle’ moment. I made a point to tell him that 29 years earlier he and his band mates had the honor of providing me with my first concert experience. I think I expected him to be a little surprised (there weren’t many boys at the show and the only other black people in the arena were the two back-up singers and Nile Rogers). But without a pause he thanked me for being a fan and remarked how quickly the time had passed. I guess when you were at one point the biggest band in the world you assume everyone was a fan.

John Tayor and SDJ

Apologies to the colleagues who I cut out of this shot – but this is a two man band.

John Taylor was gracious and funny and his well aged cheekbones were still on point! Later that night I sent a little psychic message to my 16-year-old self. “Duran Duran may not be your favorite band forever (or even later this year) but for now – your love of the Fab Five is completely justified.”

 

 

 

 

 

 Duran Duran at MSG – March 21st – The Set List

1. Tiger Tiger

2. Is There Something I Should Know

3. Hungry Like the Wolf

4. The Reflex

5. New Moon on Monday

6. Union of the Snake

7. New Religion

8. Cracks in the Pavement

9. Of Crime and Passion

10. Rio

11. Friends of Mine

12. The Seventh Stranger

13. The Chauffeur

14. Save a Prayer

15. Planet Earth

16. My Own Way

17. Careless Memories

18. Girls on Film

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NUMBER 2 – CENTIPEDE: THE BEST MICHAEL JACKSON SONGS OF 1984

Michael-And-His-Older-Sister-Rebbie-michael-jackson-31713447-283-309The second greatest Michael Jackson song released in 1984 is . . . Centipede by Rebbie Jackson, written and produced by Michael Jackson. Are we beginning to see a theme evolving on this countdown? So far Michael’s greatest songs of 1984 include a chorus sung on the record of a childhood friend, a duet with an older brother, a featured music video cameo for a sister and now, at number 2, an R&B /pop classic written for the eldest Jackson sibling, Rebbie.

In 1984  Michael Jackson emerged as a superstar solo artist but, in many ways, he was still laying claim to his role as a member of the Jacksons (the family and the group). Did Michael plan to continue to collaborate with the members of his clan ( the way Prince worked would work with The Time, Sheila E. , The Family, Apollonia and Vanity 6, etc)? Or was this his year of bestowing parting gifts? Was he giving his family one last brush of his Midas touch before ascending further into his identity as a solo artist?

centipedeMaybe Michael wasn’t even sure, but whatever the motivation he succeeded in writing and producing a sexy, slinky pop tune that only seems to get better with age. Play this song within earshot of any Gen X’er and you’re bound to induce involuntary exclamations of, “Ohhhhhh this was my jam!!!”

Good for Rebbie! Record one indelible hit, exit out of the spotlight and go on to become ‘the Marilyn Munster’ of the Jackson clan.

 

Just the Facts: It’s a family affair. Michael and Latoya sing backing vocals on the song (as well as The Weather Girls). “Centipede” reached number 4 on the R&B charts and went up to 24 on the pop charts.

Favorite Moment: 1:50 into the video Rebbie delivers a great MJ impressions when she strikes a classic Jackson pose and sings, “Don’t You Know!”

Also – she shoots lighting bolts from her palms. Hundreds of them!

You Might Also Like:

#3 – Say Say Say

#4 – Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ (Too Good To Be True)

#5 – Farewell My Summer Love

#6 – Somebody’s Watching Me

Michael Jackson at his best in 1984

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 1

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 2

NUMBER 3 – SAY SAY SAY: THE BEST MICHAEL JACKSON SONGS OF 1984

And as Casey Kasem would say . . .the countdown continues. The 3rd greatest Michael Jackson Song from 1984 is  . . .

Number 3 – Say, Say, Say by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

Joining me to discuss this song is Cutie Pie. Please make sure to check out her blog – All Things Michael! for a comprehensive and passionate tribute to the King of Pop.

First of all,  I will admit that I’m playing a little loose with chronology by including this song on the list. “Say, Say, Say” was released in October of 1983 BUT during the first week of January 1984 the song was sitting at the top of the pop charts. When the year begins with “Mac” and “Jack” at number one, you know you’re in for a great (the greatest) year of pop music.

paul-mccartney-michael-jacksonThis song is all about pedigree. A Jackson (THE Jackson) and a Beatle team up and record a song at Abbey Road studios. I imagine there was a lot of pressure on this song to be a mind-blowing, life changing, world peace creating masterpiece.  I love the fact that instead of attempting to create something that sounds like the confluence of pop genius the duo crafted an easy, breezy mid tempo tune.

Cutie Pie has seen my complete list of 6 favorite MJ songs from 1984 and I believe this is her favorite.

“I love the collaboration of Michael and Paul.  Paul McCartney is my favorite Beatle.  I loved Linda (god rest her soul) as well.  This song is another example of the light, fun hearted side of Michael. I like the timing and the beat of the song as well as the harmonica.”

And both Sweetie Pie and I also love the ‘short film’ that accompanied the song. The fact that Paul and Michael allow themselves to be so goofy makes the video feel so extraordinarily cool. In late ’83 and early ’84 I watched this video every chance I could get – and since this was a cross over hit (aka equally loved by people both Black & White)  – I was able to see it on Friday Night Videos and Ralph McDaniels’ Video Music Box.

Just the Facts: Jackson stayed with Paul and Linda while recording this song. It was during this visit that Paul told Michael about the value of owning song catalogues. Jackson took this advice to heart and mind and later purchased the Beatles catalogue.

Favorite Moment: Latoya’s cameo! If casting your sister as a love interest in your music video is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

You Might Also Like:

#4 – Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ (Too Good To Be True)

#5 – Farewell My Summer Love

#6 – Somebody’s Watching Me

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 1

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 2

 

THE BEST MICHAEL JACKSON SONGS OF 1984: NUMBER 4 – TELL ME I’M NOT DREAMIN’ (TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE)

Michael-and-JermaineTo commemorate the 5th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing I’m posting my 6 Favorite Post-Thriller Michael Jackson Releases from 1984 (very specific – I know – but the list fits perfectly within the theme of this blog and the focus of my obsessions).

These are the best songs either sung, written or produced by MJ that came out in the great (greatest) year of pop.

Joining me to discuss today’s song is Cutie Pie, the author of my absolute favorite Michael Jackson blog – All Things Michael!

Coming up today . . .

#4 TELL ME I’M NOT DREAMIN’ (TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE) By Jermaine Jackson and Michael Jackson

If you’ve never heard of this song or if you only have the flicker of a vague memory I need you to stop reading and do the following:

1) Hit ‘play’ on the youtube link below.

2) Turn the volume of your phone/tablet/computer way up (pump her booo, pump her!)

3) While listening, stand-up and dance and perform backing vocals as if you were Randy or Marlon or Tito joining your brothers Jermaine and Michael for a command performance.

4) Repeat if necessary.

If you followed those steps you just shared my experience of re-discovering this song after a couple of decades of forgetting it ever existed. There’s much to love about this record and Cutie Pie agrees! She calls it, “a beautiful collaboration between the two brothers. Their harmonies are strong and smooth.” I’d like to imagine the two of them in the recording studio falling into old rhythms and pulling a lifetime of experience and habits together to make this song.

So if this song is so good – why didn’t it become a hit? Cutie Pie reminded me that the song was never officially released as a single because of legal issues between Michael’s label and Jermaine’s label. The song was only on the B-side of Jermaine’s single, “Do What You Do” but still received quite a bit of airplay.

Sadly, since it wasn’t an official single the brothers never had the chance to make a video. THAT is a tragedy! If Cutie Pie had the power to travel back in time and hire a director for the video that never was she says she’d pick, “Bob Giraldi because Michael seemed to work well with him. He directed “Beat It,” “Say, Say, Say,” and the infamous Pepsi Commercial.  Joe Pytka is another good director that Michael worked well with. He directed “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Dirty Diana,” “Heal the World” and the Pepsi Commercial called “The Chase” during the Bad Era.”

Someone get Cutie Pie a time machine, I think she’d use it very responsibly!

Just the Facts: The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Performance by a Duo or Group.

Favorite Moment: The fact that you don’t hear Michael’s voice by itself until 1:27 into the song. That’s a nice bit of younger sibling/bigger star generosity.

You Might Also Like:

#5 – Farewell My Summer Love

#6 – Somebody’s Watching Me

Michael Jackson at His Best in 1984

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 1

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 2

Michael Jackson: Now & Then

THE BEST MICHAEL JACKSON SONGS OF 1984: NUMBER 5 – FAREWELL MY SUMMER LOVE

To commemorate the 5th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing I’m posting my 6 Favorite Post-Thriller Michael Jackson Releases from 1984 (very specific – I know – but the list fits perfectly within the theme of this blog and the focus of my obsessions).

These are the best songs either sung, written or produced by MJ that came out in the great (greatest) year of pop. Coming up today . . .

MJ 73#5 Farewell My Summer Love.

In 1984 everything and anything associated with Michael Jackson turned to gold (or platinum) so it’s no coincidence that in May of that year Motown ‘found’ this ‘lost track’ in its archives and released it. The label used existing Jackson vocals, originally recorded a decade earlier, and added new musical tracks. Hmmmm – a record label crafts a new release from old recordings completely without Jackson’s permission . . .  why does this seem so familiar? Hmmm.

Ok – that’s the last bit of sarcasm you’ll hear from me in this post. Although the label’s intent was to cash in – the effort resulted in the release of one of the sweetest, most tender songs of the summer. When I researched and listened to this song earlier this week I had an equally sincere realization. It occurred to me that I was the same age in 1984, when I heard first heard this song, that Michael was when he originally sang it. And, as it happens, the Spring/Summer of 1984 marked the first time I fell in love. So I’m going to ignore the crass commercialism and connect to the innocent, bittersweet (10% bitter, 90% sweet) vibe of the song.

We should also be thankful that Jackson’s voice sounds so good in this song. Imagine what it would have been like if Michael’s voice had not made the transition from childhood prodigy to adult SINGER. But listen closely and you can hear that successful transition from boy to young man in so many of the notes he hits on this record. (Sadly I did not make the same successful transition; thus my 5th grade star turn as the King in The King and I was my last great public vocal performance).

Favorite Moment:

Ten seconds in, right after the piano intro, Michael’s ‘woooowooowooooo’ is pure joy!

Favorite Lyric: 

 Bye Bye

Don’t Turn Around

You Might See Me Cry

You might also like:

#6 – Somebody’s Watching Me

Michael Jackson at His Best in 1984

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 1

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 2

Michael Jackson: Now & Then

THE BEST MICHAEL JACKSON SONGS OF 1984: NUMBER 6 – SOMEBODY’S WATCHING ME

He ain't heavy, he's Rockwell

He ain’t heavy, he’s Rockwell

The world couldn’t get enough of Michael Jackson in 1984. Even after the constant radio airplay and video rotation generated by Jackson’s 1983 pop masterwork, Thriller; we still wanted more. And Michael delivered. Instead of taking a break after the insane success of Thriller – Michael Jackson ran a victory lap (pun intended) in 1984.

To commemorate the 5th anniversary of his passing I’m going to post my 6 Favorite Post-Thriller Michael Jackson Releases from 1984. These are the songs either sung, written or produced by MJ that came out in the great (greatest) year of pop.

Read here to see why I think 1984 was such a pivotal year for Jackson.

#6 Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell. Chorus vocals by Michael Jackson.
Joining me to discuss this song is Cutie Pie, the author of my absolute favorite Michael Jackson blog – All Things Michael!

Let’s all agree that without Michael this song would not be a hit. It probably wouldn’t exist.  The verses, sung by Rockwell, are fun in a tongue-in-cheek/high quality novelty song kind of way. But then the chorus kicks in and you hear that unmistakable alto delivering yet another unforgettable melody and you think you might be listening to a great B-side from Off the Wall.

One of the reasons I really like this song is because it illustrates Michael Jackson’s loyalty. Jackson and Rockwell (otherwise known as Kennedy William Gordy aka Berry Gordy’s son) were childhood friends. I imagine there were hundreds of wanna be pop stars who were clamoring for a chance to collaborate with Michael in 1984. But Michael chose to sing on the song that would turn out to be his childhood friend’s only hit.

Cutie Pie agrees that Michael makes the song work. “I loved this song the minute I heard it and it’s mostly because of Michael’s vocals.” She also informed me that, “Jermaine (Jackson) is singing background on this song as well as the duo The Weather Girls.”

And despite the fact that this is officially a Rockwell song, Cutie Pie points out that the theme of constant observation, ” . . . could also apply . . . to Michael as he never had any privacy from the press or his fans.”

And finally Cutie Pie makes a great point that this song tied into the themes of George Orwell’s 1984. Indeed!

“Big Brother is Watching . . . Rockwell!”

 Just the Facts: Somebody’s Watching Me went to #2 on the US and UK pop charts and stayed at number 1 on the R&B charts for 5 weeks.

rockwell showerBest Thing About the Video: Without hesitation or guilt I will state that Rockwell gives good shower scene.

Coming up tomorrow . . .  my 5th Favorite Michael Jackson Release from 1984.

You Might Also Like:

#1 – State of Shock

#2 – Centipede

#3 – Say Say Say

#4 – Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ (Too Good To Be True)

#5 – Farewell My Summer Love

Michael Jackson at his Best in 1984

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 2

MICHAEL JACKSON AT HIS BEST: POST THRILLER

Michael-Jackson-The-Jacksons-VictorY-Tour-1984-michael-jackson-17890123-547-800Imagine the pressure an artist feels attempting to follow-up the success of a lifetime. Imagine: You’re Ralph Ellison trying to write the next novel after Invisible Man. You’re Orson Welles planning your next film after Citizen Kane. Now imagine it’s late 1983 and your Michael Jackson. You’ve just recorded and released the most successful pop album of all time. What do you do?

No one would have blamed Michael if he had taken a very long hiatus to enjoy the spoils of his great success. But something tells me Michael didn’t have a choice. OF COURSE he was immediately back in the studio writing, producing, recording and performing; inevitably generating some of the best singles of 1984. I think the most interesting thing about Michael’s post Thriller output is the fact that so many of his recording were collaborations. At one point I thought he was going the way of Prince and creating a family of protégés. But Jackson’s prolific collaborative phase was primarily confined to 1984, the year immediately following Thriller’s chart domination.

To commemorate the sad anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death this week I’m going to countdown my 6 Favorite Post-Thriller releases from 1984.

Coming up  . . . the 6th Best Post Thriller Song by Michael Jackson. And the 5th Best Song. But first, let’s look back at the album that set the standard. Below you can check out earlier posts about Jackson’s seminal album, Thriller:

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl: Part 1

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Let the Truth Unfurl Part 2