June 30, 2009

I ain't gonna be your fool no more

Today is the second day of genuine, approved Canadian Content on the Crusty Curmudgeon. New Wave band Platinum Blonde was often compared to Duran Duran for their image and the stylish look of their videos. It probably didn't hurt to have a lead singer who was a British expatriate and has a similar vocal style to Simon le Bon.

Their earliest hits, such as "Standing in the Dark" and "It Doesn't Really Matter" were more political (though it didn't hinder the latter from being used in Labatt's beer ads) but by their second album, Alien Shores, they'd more or less switched over to standard pop topics.

Alien Shores was Platinum Blonde's most successful album, certified quintuple platinum. "Platinum" in Canada means 80,000 units sold, which doesn't sound like much - but when you consider that a) Canada has a tenth the population of the U.S.; b) thus the sales threshold is roughly proportional to the RIAA's platinum certification of 1 million units; and c) Platinum Blonde was virtually unknown outside of Canada, 400,000 sales is quite respectable indeed. (I'm sure most American rock performers only daydream of selling 5 million albums.) Alien Shores contains Platinum Blonde's one American hit, "Somebody Somewhere," but for today I've chosen to highlight the lead single, "Crying Over You":


The guitar solo, incidentally, was performed by the redoubtable Alex Lifeson, of Rush, which is the closest they will come to putting in an appearance this week, at least for this round of CanCon.

June 29, 2009

Why must I always say it again?

Since Canada Day is this Wednesday, I'm going to close off the Summer of Fun 80s nostalgia trip with the obligatory Canadian Content.

I know I've got a fair number of American readers (and not a few American "friends" on Facebook), who may be familiar with a few of these songs. If the rest are obscure, rest assured they received significant airplay on Canadian radio stations in their time. Canadian broadcasting regulations stipulate that radio stations must meet a certain quota of Canadian content, or "CanCon" (30% in the 1980s, and currently 35%). The intention was to promote indigenous Canadian talent by increasing its visibility (audibility?). A good idea in principle - but for every successful Bryan Adams or Celine Dion, there were a dozen "hothouse flowers," performers that flourished under the CanCon regs but were otherwise unheard of outside of their region. Maybe when I do this again, I'll devote a week strictly to the hothouse flowers, but I believe that all five of this week's performers gained at least some exposure in the United States.

Today's song is a hard rock classic: "New Girl Now" by the Niagara Falls group Honeymoon Suite:


Nothing much more to say. I always just liked Johnny Dee's voice. Also, the video has a DeLorean in it.

June 26, 2009

Come on and twist a little closer now

The last 80s movie hit of this week didn't even start as an 80s hit.

"Twist and Shout" was recorded by the Beatles in 1963 for their first album, Please Please Me. Unlike many of their hits, it wasn't written by them: it was originally penned by R&B songwriters Phil Medley and Bert Russell, and had been previously recorded by the Top Notes and the Isley Brothers before the Fab Four recorded it. "Twist and Shout" peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, but since the #1 single was "Can't Buy Me Love" and this was the legendary week when the entire top 5 was held by the Beatles - an unprecedented and unrepeated feat - I doubt they were complaining.

"Twist and Shout" charted again in 1986, thanks to being featured in yet another John Hughes teen movie: Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Matthew Broderick memorably lipsynchs to it during the annual Von Steuben Day parade in Chicago:

Reportedly, Paul McCartney was not thrilled with the addition of the horns.

Incidentally, of the four teen movies represented in this week's playlist, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the only one I saw while still in my teens: in early 1990, while I was 19. I was, however, well out of high school by this time . . .

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, died suddenly yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles at the age of 50.

I've made no secret of my love for 80s music, and there is no one from the 80s as iconic as Jackson. Already famous as a member of the Jackson 5, his 1982 album Thriller turned him into a superstar.

I "predicted" about 15 years ago that Jackson, like Elvis Presley, would be undone by his own celebrity. Sadly, that appears to be the case. Both Elvis' and Jackson's careers were at their peaks about 20 years prior to their deaths; both grew increasingly eccentric over time; both had unsuccessful marriages (Jackson's, coincidentally, to Preston's daughter); both died untimely deaths at roughly the same age.

Jackson's genuine talent has been overshadowed in recent years by his personal, financial, and legal troubles, as well as his personal eccentricities, most notably his constant changes of appearance due to cosmetic surgery. I won't minimize those problems - "he's a celebrity, and celebrities are known for doing weird things" is really not an excuse for anything - but it's easy to forget that before he became a walking freakshow, Jackson was an R&B legend of considerable talent. I will still spin Thriller regularly, because it is a near-perfect pop album. This 1983 clip, from the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever television special, introduced viewers to Jackson's phenomenal dancing talent, including his signature dance move, the Moonwalk:

RIP, Michael Jackson.

June 25, 2009

And now . . . this - June 25/09

Well, what did you think it was?

Wallabies are getting high on opium from poppy fields and flattening crops, an Australian official has said.

The marsupials have been snacking on poppies growing in fields in Tasmania, the world's largest producer of legally-grown optium for medicines.

Afterwards, they hop round in circles before crashing on top of the crops and trampling them to the ground.

[Full Story]

So it's not UFOs, it's not "vortexes," and it's not Doug and Dave. It's drunk marsupials. Don't you hate it when the world gets a little less mysterious?

Don't tell me you didn't see this from a mile away

The Belgian teen-ager who made headlines across the globe after claiming a tattoo artist had drawn 56 stars on her face, rather than the three she asked for, has admitted she lied.

Kimberley Vlaeminck from the city of Kortrijk, 90 km (56 miles) northwest of Brussels said she fell asleep during the procedure, and woke up in pain when her nose was being tattooed.

But the 18-year-old was caught off camera on Dutch television when she said she quite liked the tattoo, but lied about asking for all 56 stars when she saw her father's furious reaction.

[Full Story]

I'm shocked. Shocked!

If you have a dose of a freaky ghost, baby

Time to take a break from teen-angst movies.

The most successful comedy of the 1980s was Ivan Reitman's 1984 film Ghostbusters. Its theme song, by Ray Parker Jr., was one of the most successful hits of the year. You wouldn't think that a mock jingle about a pest control business that gets rid of ghosts would be hit material, but "Ghostbusters" spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard singles chart, anyway.

The video for "Ghostbusters" was also one of the most creative of the decade: a woman is spooked by a translucent Parker in a specially built haunted house consisting almost entirely of neon outlines. It's also notable for the number of celebrity cameos: Chevy Chase, Melissa Gilbert, Al Franken, George Wendt, and many others took a turn shouting out the song's catchphrase, "Who you gonna call?":


Parker was sued later that year by the News' frontman Huey Lewis, who claimed that "Ghostbusters" had plagiarized their own song "I Want a New Drug." They settled out of court and the settlement was bound by a confidentiality agreement. In 2001, Parker sued Lewis for supposedly breaching the agreement and implying on a television show that the settlement had involved a monetary payment.

June 24, 2009

Seven years went under the bridge like time was standing still

A year after The Breakfast Club, John Hughes made Pretty in Pink: another movie about high-school cliques, again starring Molly Ringwold.

While OK, Pretty in Pink isn't as memorable as The Breakfast Club, and the same is true of its soundtrack, which features primarily 80s alternative acts such as Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, and the Psychedelic Furs (whose song "Pretty in Pink" was the inspiration for the movie). The Danny Hutton Hitters' cover of "Wouldn't It Be Good", originally by Nik Kershaw, is pretty good. But the best song from the movie is Orchestral Manoevres in the Dark's "If You Leave," which became their biggest hit:

While I'm ambivalent about the movie and most of the soundtrack, I've loved this song from the first time I heard it played.

(By request, I'm going to start adding links to the lyrics from now on, as well.)

June 23, 2009

Will you recognize me? Call my name or walk on by?

[Late again! I'm losing my touch.]

In the 1980s, John Hughes was The King of teenage comedies. With two successful films under his belt (National Lampoon's Vacation and Sixteen Candles, Hughes went on to release one of the defining "Brat Pack" movies: 1985's The Breakfast Club. In this film, five high-school students from different social strata are thrown together in the library for a Saturday detention session. Inevitable hijinks result, resulting in some close bonding.

But at the end of the story, the question arises: what happens Monday morning? Do the five continue to acknowledge the friendship that's grown between them, or do they play to type and ignore each other's presence again? The Breakfast Club's theme song, performed by the Scottish New Wave group Simple Minds, asks the same question, pleading: "Don't You (Forget About Me)."

This seems to be one of those rare songs that doesn't have an official video posted to YouTube, at least not one that hasn't been mangled in some way. So I settled for Simple Minds' performance at Live Aid, the same summer:

I saw The Breakfast Club for the first time about three years ago, and realized I couldn't have related to it much when I was still in high school. I just never suffered all that teen angst. I was never especially popular or unpopular; I was just middle-of-the-road. And I wasn't a jock, loser, nerd, prince[ss] or head case, either, just a band geek on the honour roll. Similarly, I didn't relate too much to "Don't You (Forget About Me)" until years later when nostalgia kicked in. But in hindsight, I would consider this hit fourth on my list of "Eightiesest Songs of the Eighties."

June 22, 2009

Kick off your Sunday shoes

Why? Because it's Monday, and 80s nostalgia continues. This week's theme: Movie music.

It was George Lucas' 1973 blockbuster American Graffiti that started the trend of using popular music, rather than a traditional score, as the soundtrack to the plot. (The irony is that his collaboration with John Williams, for his next film, resulted in the greatest traditional score of all time.) By the 1980s, this trend was in full swing: predominantly, though not exclusively, in the teen movie genre, following in American Graffiti's footsteps.

I have seen all the movies represented in this week's lineup. Oddly enough, I saw only one of the teen movies while still in my teens, but by then I'd also left high school. That's what happens when you live in a small town with limited entertainment options, and friends who, if I went to a party at their place, were more likely to rent action or comedy than teen-angsty stuff. Most of them I've seen for the first time in the last 5 years.

I was brought up in a small town with moderately strict moral boundaries, but they didn't include not going to dances or listening to rock music. So I can't really sympathize with the plot of 1984's Footloose: a city teenager moves to a small town where both are banned, and fights the law and a strict local minister in order to allow a senior prom. But the music - released in the spring and summer before I started high school - was wonderful. Footloose spawned a handful of hits: Deniece Williams' poppy "Let's Hear It for the Boy," Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero," and Mike Reno and Ann Wilson's power ballad "Almost Paradise." But none of them were as catchy or just as fun to listen to as the title track itself, performed by Kenny Loggins:

"Footloose" spent three weeks at #1 in the spring of 1984. The chorus invites everybody to "cut footloose" - and with a song like this, you just gotta.

June 19, 2009

Er war Superstar, er war populär

One interesting thing I noticed while selecting this week's songs, was that there are few to no hit songs from southern Europe that make it big in North America. I guess that the southern Europeans - the French, Italians, Spanish, Greeks, and so forth - must spend their time drinking wine and sunbathing on the Mediterranean, leaving us cold Germanic folk to write all the loud music. All my selections were from northern Europe and Scandinavia, and if I'd widened my list, I could have continued in that trend: "Twilight Zone" by Golden Earring (the Netherlands); "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions and "99 Luftballoons" by Nena (Germany); "The Look" and "Dangerous" by Roxette (Sweden); or, of course, "Oh Yeah" by Yello (Switzerland).

And, representing Austria, there's Falco, whose biggest hit is my personal favourite of this theme, "Rock Me Amadeus":

Written to cash in on the recent success of the movie Amadeus, "Rock Me Amadeus" likens Mozart to a modern rock star: the video shows Falco, in modern semi-formal wear, entertaining an eighteenth-century audience; meanwhile, Falco-as-Mozart performs to the adulation of a crowd of bikers. In Canada, I recall that the version of this song that got the most airplay was actually an abbreviated version of the "Salieri" remix, in which the verses were eliminated and a bridge section listed the highlights of Mozart's life.

Falco is often wrongly considered a one-hit wonder in North America, as the success of "Amadeus" overshadows his two other more modest hits, "Der Komissar" and "Vienna Calling." Thus far, Falco is the only artist to score a #1 hit with a German-language song. Sadly, he would never top the success of "Rock Me Amadeus" before his untimely death in a car accident in 1998; he was 40.

June 18, 2009

We're heading to Venus, and still we stand tall

Staying in Scandinavia, today's 80s hit is the hard-rock anthem "The Final Countdown, by Swedish band Europe:

There's an interesting love-it-or-hate it thing with "The Final Countdown": some people count it amongst the greatest hard-rock songs ever, while others reckon it one of the worst ever. I'm in the middle: I think it's OK, but I liked it a lot better when I was a teenager. Excellent keyboard riff, though.

I wouldn't normally post two videos in a day, but this time I really can't resist. Turning down your speakers is recommended, as this performance is truly awesome in its badness:

June 17, 2009

It's no better to be safe than sorry

When I did the previous month of 80s nostalgia, I named Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" and the Thompson Twins' "Hold Me Now" as the Eightiesest Song of the Eighties. Shortly afterward, a friend Twittered me asking, basically, "What about 'Take On Me,' scum?"

So here it is: from Norway, A-Ha's "Take On Me" is officially my third most Eightiesest Song of the Eighties. On the other hand, I think the video, featuring some amazing rotoscoping, is number one:

Interestingly, this was the second recording and video for "Take On Me": the first featured different instrumentation, and the band merely singing against a blue background. But of course it is the comic-book version that everyone remembers, and subsequently won numerous awards. "Take On Me" was a number one hit for A-Ha in October 1985.

June 16, 2009

And now . . . this - June 16/09


Here's a tenez ma bière et observez ceci moment if I ever read one:

A furious Belgian father has gone to the police after his teenage daughter ended up with 56 stars tattooed on her face after allegedly asking the tattooist for "some points of colour."

Kimberley Vlaminck, 18, claimed that she asked for only three stars to be tattooed near her left eye as a present from her father, Diego, who was upholding a family tradition of tattoos. . . .

As her father ate an ice cream outside, Miss Vlaeminck claims she fell asleep before waking up to find her face covered in the "nightmare" tattoos.


I don't have a tattoo, and I don't want one. But given that a) tattooing is done with a needle, b) needles hurt, and c) needles in the face especially hurt, I rather doubt Ms. Vlaminck fell asleep long enough to have 53 superfluous stars inked on her cheek without her knowledge. Unless "fell asleep" means "passed out after a few too many pints of Hoegaarden." And it must have been one heck of an ice cream to occupy her father for that long.

I tend to believe the tattoo artist:

"She was awake all the time. I did not hypnotise or dope her, as they say, it was with agreement. No way could I have tattooed so many stars on her face against her will," he said.

[Full Story]

Ich liebe dich nicht, du liebst mich nicht, aha

From the sublime to the ridiculous, today's instalment is the aptly named "Da Da Da" by the German one-hit wonder Trio:

What's there to say? I suspect this song would be all but unknown if it weren't for the "smelly couch" VW ad a few years ago. But it's oddly catchy.

June 15, 2009

Feelin' like I'm number one

The Summer of Fun continue with Week 2 of nostalgic 80s music. This week, my theme is Europop: notable tunes from continental Europe rather than the British Isles. So there shall be no Duran Duran, Phil Collins, or U2 this week - and no guarantee that it will even be in English.

The Swedish pop group ABBA squeaks into the 80s category, just barely, thanks to their blockbuster album Super Trouper, released in 1980s. The title track was the second single (after "The Winner Takes It All") and was ABBA's final #1 single, though "Lay All Your Love on Me" would top the dance charts the next year. No embedding this time, so you'll have to click through:

A "Super Trouper," incidentally, is a brand of spotlight. Although upbeat, this song is a bittersweet tune about being lonely despite performing in an arena filled with thousands of people.

I actually grew up listening to the earlier ABBA of the late 70s, at the peak of their popularity, and never heard this song until years later. Nonetheless, it represents everything that made ABBA good: slick production, great vocals and harmonies, and clever use of synthesizers. It's pop perfection.

June 12, 2009

How many heartaches must I stand?

Phil Collins' second solo album, Hello, I Must Be Going!, has a fun cover of the Supremes' hit "You Can't Hurry Love," composed by the Motown powerhouse of Holland-Dozier-Holland. It wasn't the first cover tune Collins had recorded (his first album, Face Value, contains no less than three), but it was the first one he released as a single. It happens to be my favorite cover tune of the decade, and one of the major reasons I have long considered 1983 to be The Greatest Year in Music.

Part of the appeal of "You Can' Hurry Love" is the accompanying video: thanks to the magic of video compositing, three Phil Collinses stand in for Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Back in the day, he took himself a lot less seriously:

"You Can't Hurry Love" was a number one hit for the Supremes in the U.S.; subsequently the Collins cover topped the U.K. charts in its own time.

So far, by comparison, I've preferred two originals, and two covers. But with "You Can't Hurry Love," the contest between old vs. new remains in a dead heat. I think both the Supremes' version and Collins' are equally good: mainly because note for note, they're practically identical (apart from Collins' version lacking the horn section).

June 11, 2009

Gonna go to the place that's the best

I admit I don't get the appeal of Doctor and the Medics' recording of Norman Greenbaum's psychedelic gospel song "Spirit in the Sky." It doesn't sound that much different (apart from the addition of synthesizers), and as the video shows, the band looks like some sort of alternate-history KISS from the 60s:

Nonetheless, "Spirit in the Sky" was a #1 hit in many countries, including here in Canada. It is also the first song to reach #1 in both the 1970s and 1980s.

I'll grant Doctor and the Medics this: these days, you aren't going to find very many bands that are so boldly quirky and kitschy. So they get half marks for creativity. But I'd still rather listen to Norman Greenbaum.

June 10, 2009

More 9/11 Truther Science! revealed

Over the past few years, I've seen a whole bunch of Science! used by the 9/11 "truth" movement to prove that there is no possible way a plane crash and the resulting fires could have caused the collapse of steel-framed skyscrapers such as the World Trade Center. These would-be CSIs have modeled the twin towers with such accurate representations as chicken wire and paving slabs, stacking desk trays, and Microsoft Flight Simulator-generated videos.

But this guy tops them all with his Scientific! prowess:

I'm no materials engineer, but I can find at least three holes with this experiement:

  • Each tower of the World Trade Center was a massive, load-bearing structure of about a quarter of a million tons. A frying pan is, well, a frying pan - and it needs at least a few strips of bacon in it before it can be considered "load-bearing" in any sense.
  • If that pan is like any other stovetop frying pan I've seen, it's actually aluminum, not steel.
  • But assuming for the sake of argument that it is steel, notice how at about 3:45 he puts it back on the element and it rocks. I thought they manufactured frying pans flat-bottomed. Looks like fire can deform steel, after all.

Sometimes these Truthers are so out in left field with their Science!, you have to wonder whether they're some sort of pardody. Unfortunately for our educational system, this one appears to be completely earnest.

(H/T: the tireless Screw Loose Change.)

George Tiller revisited

My previous post on the murder of Kansas abortionist George Tiller on May 31 gained me a few comments. Most notable are (as of now) the two most recent, from "Blaise" and "Doh."

First of all, Blaise wrote:

I think you're inconsistent. You preface that you're against this type of "vigilantism," but then say "Good Riddance." If Hitler or Stalin would have been assasinated, would we say we condemn that action? Tiller the Killer killed how many babies and would have continued to kill how many more? I think the man who assasinated him should be a hero; he saved many babies. Proof in point; if a man were attempting to stab little kids in your neighbor's back yard and you shot the perpetrator before he could do harm to them, would we condemn the man with the gun in his hand? I think not; nor do I condemn or disagree with this man's courage in defending the babies.

The ends don't justify the means. It's a proverb so entrenched in our moral thinking that it's almost redundant even to state it explicitly. Everybody recognizes that good outcomes may be reached by bad means. Hypothetically, had George Tiller been indicted and convicted of some gross form of malpractice (i.e. some more serious charges than the misdemeanours he was acquitted of earlier this year), that would have been a moral means to the same end. Similarly, so would banning abortion on demand through the usual legislative process. There are means that are justified by the ends. Shooting isn't one of them. The Ten Commandments prohibit murder (Exod. 20:13), and an accused murderer could not be convicted or put to death without due process (Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6). Similarly, the apostle Paul reiterates that the civil government bears the sword to punish evildoers (Rom 13:3-4). God has not given this judicial power to the church or the individual - and there's no exception clause for odious people whom we think deserve to be offed.

On the other hand, the Bible repeatedly tells of good ends from bad means. Joseph acknowledged that when his brothers sold him into slavery, they were evil; but God's purpose was to put him in a position where he could save many lives (Gen. 50:20). According to the book of Habakkuk, the Babylonian invasion of Judah was God's righteous judgment on the covenant-breaking Jews, although the Babylonians would themselves face judgment for their own evildoing. And Jesus himself was "crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men" (Acts 2:23), but every Christian recognizes this act of ultimate evil as God's plan to bring about ultimate good.

So there is no inconsistency. There is the human perspective, in which we are held morally responsible for obeying God's revealed moral will, and there is the providential perspective, in which all things are part of God's own plan, and we are not responsible to "help" him carry out his intentions - he does just fine without our help.

In that light, it's easier to evaluate Blaise's case studies. Since the outcome is God's business, we can focus on the morality of the act itself. Is it morally justified to assassinate Hitler or Stalin, knowing that we may prevent many, many more deaths? In wartime, I would say yes: enemy leaders are a valid military target. In peacetime, that is not the case. A man attempting to harm children is committing a crime, and the law recognizes that it may be justifiable to use deadly force in their protection. (The law is not so easy on excessive force: compare the druggist in Oklahoma City recently charged with murder for allegedly emptying a handgun into a robbery suspect who was already down.)

There are relevant differences between these two scenarios. George Tiller was not in a state of war with his murderer, and in any case a private citizen has no authority to declare or carry out a war on his own initiative. Nor was he committing a crime in his jurisdiction, and he had not been convicted and sentenced to death. Tiller was deprived of due process, because his assassin was not authorized by the civil government to carry out an execution. Finally, the maniac stabbing small children is only a relevant analogy if he were also doing so at the request and with the approval of the children's mothers, who actively sought him out to procure his "services."

Next, Doh said:

Wow - you contradicted yourself pretty quickly there. Not condoning the violence - but hey if that's how God chose to take him out, so be it. I never understand the seriousness with which so many of your kind take the unborn child - something that is sorely lacking in most as soon as that unborn child takes a breath and becomes a burden you don't want to help care for. The spirits of these children - if they are yet that - are with God and go back to God. I have 3 nieces that would not exist if my sister hadn't had an abortion when she was 14. Her life would have taken a completely different trajectory. I thank God I have these three girls in my life. I wouldn't change one thing. God can work with all the choices a woman makes to bring about blessings.

I can't win with either Blaise or Doh. Blaise thinks I'm inconsistent because I ought to approve of the means by which Tiller was dispatched in addition to the outcome. Doh, on the other hand, thinks that if I don't condone his murder, I should tacitly approve of his abortion practice. Not so, for the reasons I have already given above.

This is merely an emotional appeal. It plays on pity ("Her life would have taken a completely different trajectory") and consequences ("If my sister had not had an abortion, I wouldn't have three beautiful neices to love"). But it ignores the real issue: what is the unborn? If it is a human person, then we cannot justify killing it merely because of the good outcome. It is axiomatic that you cannot kill a person if doing so gives you something you like (e.g. a better life, cure for disease, love from other family members, and so forth). Whatever joy someone gets from his nieces, the fact remains that a fourth niece or nephew died, having done nothing to deserve it, to make that joy possible.

By this same logic, the death of George Tiller is a greater moral good, since the end of his abortion practice brings joy to many pro-life advocates all over the world. (Indeed, it was recently announced that the clinic itself would be closed permanently.) Pragmatism is an unworkable ethic, which is why I took some pains to avoid it in my previous post.

We'll get wild, wild, wild

Glam rock band Slade, while one of the most commercially successful acts in their native Great Britain in the 1970s, never really made it in North America, apart from a few minor hits in the early 1980s. But their influence was certainly felt: they were a major inspiration for American glam-rockers KISS, for example. (Judge for yourself whether that's a compliment.)

In 1973, Slade's single "Cum On Feel the Noize" reached #1 with a bullet in the UK. It stayed there for four weeks. On the other hand, it barely cracked the Billboard Top 100 in the U.S. Then, in 1983, heavy metal band Quiet Riot released their third album, Metal Health. This was the first metal album to top the Billboard charts, and the lead single was a cover of "Cum On Feel the Noize":

For Monday and Tuesday's songs, I felt that the covers were an improvement on the originals. Here, I don't really think so. Slade's recording is a fun, weird jam; Quiet Riot's, although OK, is merely a typical 80s hair-metal number. Frankly, whenever I think of Quiet Riot, the first thing that comes to my mind is Mark DuBrow's candy-striped mike stand, not any particular tunes - well, except for this one and "Metal Health."

June 09, 2009

Tryin' to get away, into the night

November 1987 must have been a very good month for Richie Cordell and Tommy James. Yesterday's song was James' "Mony Mony," co-written by Cordell and others, which went to #1 on the Billboard charts on November 27 But for the two previous weeks, the #1 tune was originally also penned by Cordell and recorded by James, in 1967: teen idol Tiffany's cover of "I Think We're Alone Now":

Unlike "Mony Mony," which is more or less a straight cover with different instrumentation, Tiffany transformed "I Think We're Alone Now" from sort of late-60s psychedelic surf tune into an infectious 80s dance single, which I think is superior. I've said a few times before that I have grown fond of a number of songs from the 1980s that I originally hated, and this is one of them. Wish I could say the same for the rest of Tiffany's songs. I will not, I repeat not be subjecting you to her wretched cover of the Beatles' "I Saw Her [er, Him] Standing There."

June 08, 2009

Welcome to the Summer of Fun

And by "fun," of course, I mean a month of 80s nostalgia so . . . er . . . nostalgic that, well . . . so, yeah.

A couple months ago I did something very similar on Facebook: for 4 weeks, I posted a video of an 80s pop tune every weekday around some theme: Canadian Content, songs about girls, and so forth. I had fun, and the feedback I got was largely positive, so I decided to repeat the experiment - only this time, I am posting to the blog instead of just Facebook. (Thanks to the magic of RSS, the blog also goes to Twitter and Facebook in any case.)

So here we go again. My first weekly theme: Cover tunes. I thought this theme would be fun for the previous iteration, but put it on hold.

The inaugural tune is "Mony Mony" by Billy Idol. This song was originally a hit for Tommy James & the Shondells, and it topped the charts for three weeks in the U.K. in the summer of 1968. Idol recorded "Mony Mony" in 1981, but it was years later, in 1987, that it topped the Billboard singles chart.

While James' original has a rough, R&B vibe, Idol's is more typical of the hard rock of the 1980s, even though it's more or less a straight cover. Idol, the ex-punk rocker, is musically more aggressive, and some impressive shredding by guitarist Steve Stevens doesn't hurt the tune at all, either.

Unfortunately YouTube won't let the video be embedded, so you'll have to click through to hear it:

"Mony Mony" was a regular at high-school dances. Given the, er, customary chant between the lines of the verses, I'm surprised it wasn't banned.