Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Albums Of 1987....Part 1

Music For The Masses by Depeche Mode

Released in September of 1987, the band was facing a growing popularity and a waiting fan base for the follow up to the break-through, Black Celebration, album. For the first time in their history they were entering the studio with a new producer, Dave Bascombe, and he had a few ideas. The main idea was the dial back the sampled sounds and just rely on keyboards and guitar (which songwriter, Martin Gore, was becoming more comfortable playing live). The result was immediately a hit. And the band's fan base exploded making them instant stars (of course, they had one more level to attain on the next release but that's not until 1990).

The album reached #35 on the US charts and spawned 3 videos that ran in continuous rotation on MTV. It's a great album and needs to be a part of any 80's music lovers collection.

Lets take a look at the songs:

1. Never Let Me Down Again - Rumored to be about drug use, this opening track is best experienced live (I'll cover it in another blog post, trust me). It makes the entire crowd just soar away with the music.

2. The Things You Said - Moody and sad, just like the subject matter. There's nothing worse than the end of a relationship. Its ugly and awful but it makes a good dance track.

3. Strangelove - The first single certainly set the tone for the album. Not as direct as Master & Servant but maybe its even deeper lyrically. It should be noted: he doesn't say the word Pain after he says he won't say it again.

4. Sacred - Martin giving us his views on his songwriting. It's one thing to write what's in your heart, quite another to share it with the entire world.

5. Little 15 - It's kind of a companion piece to Question Of Time with its suggestion of a romance between a younger girl and an older man. The music sounds ominous in a way that suggests that none of this is right or appropriate.

6. Behind The Wheel - Building momentum like a car heading down the road, this was the dance hit of the album. Still, even with the car motif, this is a song about surrendering control in a relationship. Sometimes you have to trust the other person to not crash you both into a ditch. Please enjoy the video.

7. I Want You Know - It doesn't take long to figure out what's going on in this song.

8. To Have And To Hold - The end of the previous song fades into the beginning of this dark and dreary number, suggesting that what we heard in the previous song may not have been so wonderful.

9. Nothing - This may be the best bridge between past Depeche Mode songs and what was to come on future songs. Equal parts Some Great Reward and Violator, this proves that even an album track was not just a throw-away

10. Pimpf - An instrumental track, this was the song that opened the live show each night of the tour that supported this album. It builds into an almost authoritarian march, you can almost see the cold-war era Soviet soldiers marching past.

Additionally, the band issued a few bonus tracks:

Route 66 - A cover of the 1950's classic. With the car motif throughout the album, this seems like a natural. Interestingly enough, its the only cover the band has ever released.

Pleasure, Little Treasure - This was a B-side!? How was this not the lead single? Must be nice to have so many great songs you can banish something like this to a b-side.

Monday, April 24, 2017

I Like Them Leather Pants

Crimson And Clover by Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.

Released in 1982, it was the second single off her second album. It's a cover of the song from 1968 that went to #1 on the US charts. So the song had a pedigree. And I liked Joan's version.

But it was the video that made me really like her version. I point to the image of Joan at the top of the stairs in black leather pants.............Ohhhh! Also when her eyes get big during the line, "I wanna do everything". I was 13 when this version came affected me deeply.

Joan remarked later in her career that people got bothered when she didn't change the words from "her" to "him" but, as she pointed out, it wouldn't have rhymed.

Please enjoy......I know I will.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Wait....Is She Talking About Dancing?

Into The Groove by Madonna

Released in 1985, this #1 song was from Madonna's first film, Desperately Seeking Susan. Written as a tribute to the dance floors of the 80's, on further examination, its really about sex. I'll admit that I was a naive teenager and it wasn't until later than I listened to this and went......Ohhhh.

But lets take a minute to appreciate the genius that is the lyrics of this song. "I'm tired of dancing here all by myself / tonight I wanna dance with someone else". Try to tell me that's just about dancing.

Please enjoy.......and then go "Dance".

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mick And Keith Throw Away Some Great Stuff

Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones

Released in 1981, this song started out as a reggae influenced jam 3 years earlier that the band decided to abandon after a dozen attempts. As the 1980's started, the band was looking to go out on tour and it was suggested that the set list should contain songs from their vault that hadn't been released. This song turned up and the rock version of the song became the starting point for their next album. It eventually made it to #2 on the US charts, so what they consider junk, the rest of us consider musical gold.

Guitarist and co-songwriter, Keith Richards opening riff would be an instant trademark. Unmistakable, its instantly recognized. But if you watch the video, you'd wonder what made this song so popular. Keith, lead singer (and co-songwriter) Mick Jagger and guitarist Ronnie Wood are mugging it up for the cameras and just generally doing what they usually do during a Rolling Stones concert, but watch bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts. They have spent the better part of twenty years at that point being the backbone of this band full of egos. Not that its a bad thing but can you imagine what their world was like? Just trying to play some music and here's three hams trying to out pose each other. At least they were extremely rich so they could at least afford to take a few weeks off from the ego parade.

I'll only briefly mention Mick's inability to lip-sync to his own song, because, lets face it, video was not how Rolling Stones records were sold at any point in their career. But its seriously bad. I'm not even going to mention Mick's shirt.....because it was the 1980's and this was not a WTH? moment we experience now. You've been warned.

Please enjoy......the song, not the video.

Friday, April 7, 2017

They're.....Bah, Haa, Haa, Haa, Haa...Bah, Haa, Haa, Haa, Haa...

Back In Black by AC/DC

What do you do when your band is on the verge of conquering the world and your lead singer dies (in what was listed by the medical examiner as "Death by Misadventure")? You guessed it, you get another great lead singer and you make your best album ever.

The title track of that album was written as a tribute to their recently departed fact, they asked the new singer, Brian Johnson, to write the lyrics and he responded with, " pressure there". But I'll tell you, he wrote a great song and if the rest of the band feels this captures the former lead singers life.....even better. To this day, Brian claims the lyrics are just mumbo jumbo he came up with on the spot and he was only lucky that it works as a tribute. Still, you can't deny that the song isn't a kick-ass, hard rock classic.

The video was filmed as the band was preparing for the tour to support the album and since videos were not really much of a thing at the time, there was very little effort put into it beyond a quick, multi-camera capture of a staged live performance. Its apparent that Brian is not just lip syncing along to the song, but is actually singing the song......only, the record label has replaced the live audio with the recorded version of the track. Too bad.

Even with a funky video and a brand new singer, the album went on to be the second biggest seller of all time, right behind the Thriller album by Michael Jackson. Not bad for 5 non video-friendly dudes from Down Under (well, Brian's actually from England but you get the point).

Please enjoy