Summer in the 80’s- Part 2

I’d been meaning to get back to this for a while, but a lot of stuff has come up that’s been garnering my attention.
It’s been a rough 24 hours- between a smoke alarm I had to disconnect cuz it went off out of nowhere and may be due to be replaced and severe thunderstorms, I’d been a bundle of nerves.
For the most part, I have calmed down, but here I am at 8:30am on a Sunday writing this cuz I need something to keep my mind occupied. Something light and fun. Not to mention I want to get this out before we potentially lose power again (we did earlier, but thankfully only for 30 seconds and our AC and internet and electricity work. Most importantly, I can make myself coffee).

Last time, I think I did 4-5 songs. I have a few in mind for the moment, but we’ll see how many I wind up doing.
There are two songs I wanted to talk about, but sadly both are out of this time frame. Maybe another day. One is by ELO and the other is Donna Lewis’s one big hit.
***
I’ll start with one that was playing in my head this morning… for some random reason. It doesn’t even have anything to do with what’s been going on. But it’s one of those songs I love whenever it comes on and I’m delighted for it to come back into my conscience

Easy Lover (1984)- by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey of Earth Wind and Fire
according to Wikipedia, Phil Collins was producing a solo album for Philip Bailey and he asked him for them to write a song together. And this song basically came out of a jam session… which is a cool thing to read, considering how many of Prince’s songs came from jam sessions. Often, they’re brought on by a random riff or moment that’s unplanned and he rides the groove out until something takes shape in his head.

Anyway, back to this song… I love me some Phil Collins. My fandom of him isn’t nearly as massive as my top 5 or so musicians and artists. But I’m a sucker for a good song, whether it’s solo or Genesis or whatever the hell else. I could devote a whole post to the history of all that, which funny enough, started with him doing the Tarzan soundtrack and over the years I’d gotten to know more of what he’s done.

Right away, when you hear the opening riff of this song and Bailey’s falsetto in the chorus, you really feel like you’re in another Earth, Wind and Fire song. Except you have Phil Collins playing the low end (vocally as well as the drums). So you have EWF plus a little slice of Phil Collins brand of pop and rock. My favorite part is probably the chorus where the falsetto happens and the flute in the keyboards really come out. And there’s the pre-chorus that ends with Bailey going higher, holding the note and Phil Collins goes low- the last word of the line “you’ll ever know,” he takes down the chromatic scale and it’s a really sweet contrast.
There’s also an instrumental break that happens towards the end, before the final pre-chorus where you hear the flute keyboards and some quick drum fills… I’m making this connection just now… it reminds me of the drumming at the start of “Take me with you” from Purple Rain- they indicate the song is about to change direction. But in this case, the song remains pretty consistent. It goes on for a little over 5 minutes, but I could listen to that chorus with the harmonies and the dynamics a couple more times 😎

it’s also a very interesting storyline in the song about how this girl is very unique, will have you on your knees and she’ll love you and leave you and you’ll never regret her.
***

Word Up by Cameo (1986)

last time, I talked about the bass being a highlight for me in Animotion’s “Obsession”… both of these songs, not only do I own them on the same disc (Rolling Stone Presents: 80’s club hits), but I’ve sometimes (ok, maybe twice, but the point still stands) played them in conjunction with one another when I’m in the mood to hear some cool bass.
I used to love getting the NOW compilation series because it would typically have a bunch of one-off songs that were big in that particular time period. Some of which were by random artists that I didn’t want to buy a whole album from or search for (Amazon wasn’t big back then and my only income was birthday and Christmas money). But when the music scene changed and had more hip-hop and rap, I stopped. But I will get the occasional set when a lot of great songs come out in a given time period.
I’m also the type of person who likes greatest hits albums. So this Rolling Stone disc was one of those sweet discoveries I’ve come across at random and to this day, I’ll still listen to it- if ONLY for 4 songs. I’d since added a few back onto my iPod (Glamorous Life, Oh Sheila!, I feel for you, Looking for a new love) that I may talk about at a later time.

But back to Cameo… I don’t know much about this guy (ok, it’s actually a band). I just know that this video played on VH1 Classic’s 80’s block a couple times and it just got stuck in my head. Sometimes I am just a sucker for a cool groove and I will follow it through a whole song without batting an eye.
Not only is the bass sick, but for what I believe to be a rare occurrence- I could be wrong- it’s one of few songs where the bass is the principle instrument. It’s not wonky (like funky bass is in some Prince and Sly & the Family Stone songs) and it doesn’t pop. It creates the main beat as well as the melody.
The lyrics go in some interesting places. This is kinda like the latest dance craze, but it’s more about attitude than any actual steps. And it’s also about being authentic. You have to have the attitude, but you can’t put on airs and act cool, you have to feel it and believe it.
In addition to the bass, you have the occasional 80’s synths that pop up and it’s one of those things I love about this decade. Cuz you hear that and you know right away where the music is from.
Going into the history of it, there have been several covers by Korn, Mel B. and even Little Mix for X-Factor UK fame. But I doubt any could compare to the original.

Also- another cute little thing. There was an ad either for Target or Staples for back to school season a few years ago where Melissa McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone was singing about denim. It took me a while, but I picked up that his made-up song was actually to this melody. Although he’d cameoed in all of his wife’s movies, I’ll always refer to him as “denim guy” because of this ad.
***

Head over Heels by Tears for Fears (1985)

I’m sure I had talked about this song before as part of a summer mix CD I made a few years ago, but I had to bring it up again cuz I like it that much.
Plus, it’s a ray of sunshine on days like this.

I like to think of myself as somewhat of a music expert- where I could hear a song for the first time and occasionally be able to place the band… I heard this song for the first time and my jaw dropped cuz of how enchanting it was. And the chord changes in the verses brought me back to Prince, but also Wendy & Lisa from his band. Songs like “Take me with you” and “everything but you.” I thought that maybe they had some writing credit on it somewhere, but at best it’s probably coincidence that there’s that slight similarity there.
But I heard the song, wrote it down to look up later- and on a whim, I wrote “Tears for Fears?” because the singer sounded vaguely familiar. I wound up being right and absolutely floored.

As far as Tears for Fears goes, I like a bunch of their songs. I’d been familiar with “Everybody wants to rule the world” for years as well as “Shout”. But I got a greatest hits for this song and some others and I really didn’t like a lot on the disc… however, having this song totally made it worth. It and “shout” (the other, I had already had from another compilation disc we have).

Once on the show “Recess” there was a heat wave and one of the kids, Gus, coped with it by focusing on something else. Their teacher mentioned something about thinking about something else to take your mind off the heat. And he was thinking about being with his dad in the snow on some military operation.
I’d used this technique a few times, but for the opposite reason… I’d be outside with my dog, in the cold waiting for him to do business in the backyard. And I’d think of this song to keep me warm. With those first few notes, I feel warmth and when the guitar comes in, I feel sunshine.
This song is what brings me sunshine on a cloudy or cold day, but the kind of sunshine you bask in to get a nice tan. Not too hot and humid- just right. And this song would come on and brighten my mood in an instant.
The lyrics are a little odd cuz he’s talking about being head over heels for this girl, but she’s not entirely buying into what he’s selling. One lyric is “it’s hard to be a man when there’s a gun in your hand”… yeah, a little weird. The music video is also nothing like I pictured. The band is in the library and he’s trying to woo this librarian and the gun lyric has her holding a gun, but in Loony Tunes style, she shoots it and a flag with the word “Bang!” comes out of it.

But for me, this song is all about the music and vibe. The guitar comes in every now and then to brighten it up more, but it’s mostly keyboards and the chords they play I really like. The verses are airy and the chorus has an array of descending notes- it’s really pretty.
If I had my way, this song would go on for another verse and chorus, and it wouldn’t end like it does- which is playing the melody from the opening, but without the guitar at the forefront, and they just say “la la”s for the rest of the duration. You know it’s about to end where he has a final line “in my mind’s eyes… funny how time flies”… the reverb on “flies” and how the song fades out, that’s pretty cool. It gives me chills every time.
***

The Reflex by Duran Duran (1984)/ Some like it hot by The Power Station (1985)

I’m putting these songs together because in my mind, they sound very similar and I like them for similar reasons.

The Reflex had been in my head on and off for ages and I really don’t know why πŸ˜› there are a lot of songs I’d been hearing lately that have vaguely reminded me of it and that Power Station song is one of them.

Duran Duran had a lot of great stuff in the 80’s, most on the same album, which we have somewhere in the house. Songs like “Rio” and of course “Hungry like the wolf”… the latter, I believe is their biggest hit because it’s the one on the radio the most. (The first time I heard it, funny story, was in that Frankie Muniz movie “Big Fat Liar” and Paul Giamatti was dancing to it before he got into a pool, which Frankie had filled with blue dye).

On the Wikipedia entry, one of the singers said how the steel drums make him laugh because they’re out of tune, but they just work in the song.
There’s a lot more steel drums and Caribbean flavor in the Power Station.

“The Reflex” is one of those songs that I’d heard a few times, but never knew the name of it before going through the album it was on. It’s a strange little song. I don’t really know what it’s about or even what the lyrics are. I just remember “why don’t you use it, try not to bruise it… time don’t lose it”… and the chorus mentions something about “the reflex”… I have no idea what it’s about, though πŸ˜› but I kinda don’t care. The music is very 80’s and it’s why I kinda like the song cuz a lot of songs from that decade have similarities to it.
I’d heard “New Romantic” being thrown around as a genre in the 80’s. I don’t know much about it, but I think Duran Duran is one of the bands that was at the forefront of it. And I hope that this song is a mark of that genre as well. So I know what the heck I’m talking about, lol
(according to Wikipedia, this movement involves glam rock and synth pop and bands involved also include Spandau Ballet, who have “True” as their big hit and Culture Club. But David Bowie was one of those artists who first developed it. There’s also a “Second British Invasion” subheading and it talks about the second phase of this movement. Originally, it was the first couple years of the 80’s, but it had a resurgence from 1982-1985).

I don’t know much about Power Station besides the fact Robert Palmer was involved in it.
“Some like it hot” is a fun song that always makes me think of summer and the beach and having a live band play on said beach. The rhythms are so sick in that chorus. Almost like they’re created by a tap dancer instead of steel drums.
Listening to it now, there’s a little rhythm guitar thrown in too. Ok, maybe they aren’t steel drums. They could be Linn-drum, but I’m not 100% sure. Also a sick guitar solo in there too.
Also- I had no idea Robert Palmer had died… I don’t know much about him other than this song, “Addicted to Love” and “Simply Irresistible”… but it’s sad. He was only 54 and died of a heart attack. It was back in 2003.

Listening to The Reflex… the similarities between the songs are very slight… the rhythm of the percussion is similar, but done with different instruments. There’s also a little rhythm guitar that’s kinda similar.

and since I’m kinda touching on the New Romantics, I’ll do one last song that was mentioned in that article.
***

True by Spandau Ballet (1983)

I thought this was Tears for Fears for years (haha, not intentional) until I didn’t find this on that hits album. So I looked it up and I’d played it a few times on YouTube since.

apparently it was written in tribute to Marvin Gaye, and I do hear some similarities to his sound here. it was a year before his death, however.

Oh man, listening to it again… I don’t listen to it much, but when I do, I can’t help but get swept up in it. The vocal is very genuine and heartfelt and emotional. It contrasts nicely with the music. The lyrics are very simplistic. And musically, there’s the occasional pluck of a guitar and steady tapping of the drums. Very understated, but then you have synths that just fill up the song and they cast this really romantic vibe.
It’s cheesy 80’s, yes, but I’m a sucker for songs like this.
I think there was a commercial for a car, I forget if it was Nissan or Infiniti, I think it was Nissan. But everyone is swooning to this song in the car and it’s kinda funny how they’re all suckers for it like I am.
What I kinda don’t like is how the song ends and the singer says “I know this much is true” and his voice breaks on “true”… it doesn’t quite work.
The lush synths are nice when they come in, but I also like the piano that descends after the lyric “I want the truth to be said/known”. And those descending notes happen towards the end a couple times, but a few other notes come in to bring it up the scale. It’s a really nice touch to just keep the song going.

It’s not quite up there, but it’s one of those “it’s so beautiful I wanna cry” type songs.

And it’s a good way to end things.
Sorry for the overall randomness of this post. I want to try sticking with songs I know well that I can gush over more details. But I was not feeling particularly inspired and had to go with what had been on my mind recently.

Hopefully next time I do this, it will be a little more concise and knowledgeable on my part.

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