High blood drumming on your skin it’s so tight

March 22, 2013

Another week, another late entry to the 1983 in music series. At least this time I have an excuse: I spent a lot of my free time out of the house and wasn’t able to sit down and blog. Stop complaining, it’s free.

“Billie Jean” continued its domination of the Billboard Hot 100 on March 19, 1983. Meanwhile, a single from a band that would become one of the quintessential musical groups of the 1980s reached its peak on the chart. Kept from the top spot by both “Billie Jean” and Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” the second single from their 1982 album Rio peaked at #3: “Hungry like the Wolf,” by Duran Duran.

“Hungry Like the Wolf” comes close to being the definitive Duran Duran song. The lyrics are vaguely, er, suggestive of Little Red Riding Hood; the accompanying video is inspired by Indiana Jones. And none of it, in the end, actually gets around to meaning anything.

Duran Duran was one of my guilty pleasures back in my teens, as I discovered them as they were becoming unfashionable, so I listened in secret, for fear of the Jews. My earliest copy of Rio was on cassette, and that was how I heard the album for about 15 years before I bought the 2001 re-release on CD. Of course, the sound quality was far superior to my well-worn tape, but the first thing I actually noticed was that the CD cut of “Hungry Like the Wolf” was considerably shorter than I remembered—by nearly two minutes, in fact.

The Internet can tell you anything. It turns out that there were three versions of the album track: the original British LP track, the US album remix, which is half a minute longer, and the extended “Night Version,” which is the one I had on cassette. The 2001 remaster uses the UK album version. I don’t know if the Night Version has ever been released on CD. I’d love it if it were.


Time for a 1983bie

March 12, 2013

I’ve been slack with the music over the last few weeks. Had a few other things on my mind, I guess. However, I did pretty much promise 52 tunes over 52 weeks, which means that tonight you get not one, not two, but three tunes from 1983 to make up for it. Huzzah!

Back when we last left this series, on February 19, the #1 song 30 years earlier was “Baby Come to Me,” an R&B duet by Patti Austin and James Ingram. They held the top spot for two consecutive weeks.

Meanwhile, however, the first hit from a new British band was starting its rise up the charts. That song was “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” from Kissing to be Clever, the debut album of Culture Club. After their first two singles failed to chart, this release became a global #1 hit, although it peaked at #2 on the Billboard chart in the U.S. The reggae-ish “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” thrust the New Wave band with their androgynous, cross-dressing front man Boy George into the mainstream.

After two weeks topping the charts, Austin and Ingram were displaced by another R&B hit. This one is likely more familiar: “Billie Jean,” by the one and only Michael Jackson. Really, what more need be said?

“Billie Jean” spent 7 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

Journey were not exactly an 80s’ band, as they arguably had their best success in the late 1970s. This is not to say they didn’t have some major success in the 1980s; in fact, their best-known song, “Don’t Stop Believin'” was a 1982 hit, and the 1983 album Frontiers was one of their highest charting. The lead single from Frontiers was the rocker “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”:

The video for “Separate Ways” has gained a reputation as one of the worst ever, particularly for the instrument miming and the dated fashion. Really, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Thanks to the success of Frontiers, Journey became one of the few rock bands to have their own licensed arcade game. The background music during gameplay was a loop of “Separate Ways.” Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Midway Games also manufactured the (considerably more successful) movie tie-in games Tron and Discs of Tron—and “Separate Ways” has a prominent place in the arcade scene in 2010’s Tron: Legacy.


Some old forgotten words or ancient melodies

February 7, 2013

Whoops! Little bit late this week . . .

On February 5, 1983, Men at Work were knocked off the top of the Billboard Hot 100 after three weeks. The new #1 hit was the second single from Toto’s 1982 album, Toto IV. Ironically, although the band won a Grammy for their first single, “Rosanna,” it only reached #2; it was the follow-up single, “Africa, that became their first and only #1 song:

I’ve wondered for years what “Africa” was supposed to be about. Tonight I checked Wikipedia to see what it said. Basically, it’s about someone trying to write a song about Africa who has never been there. Figures, really.


Those precious words keep me hangin’ on

January 29, 2013

For the third week running, Men at Work’s “Down Under” owned the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 29, 1983.

Meanwhile, the latest single from Phil Collins was rising up the chart. On the 29th, it was at #11, and it would peak a week later at #10, although it had already been a #1 hit on the UK charts. It was Collins’ cover of the Supremes’ hit, “You Can’t Hurry Love”:

The video, though somewhat awkward in execution (this was after all, the early 80s, and music video production was still at the toddler stage), is great in concept. Collins can certainly channel his inner Diana Ross!


What do you want?

January 22, 2013

Men at Work’s “Down Under” continued to top the Billboard hot 100 on January 22, 1983.

January 20, 1983 was the release date of Def Leppard’s third album, Pyromania. This album, which made the hard-rock band into a household name, is 30 years old.

Personally, I don’t feel that Pyromania is as accessible as its 1987 followup Hysteria, but it’s still quite listenable. Of course, the best track on the album is “Rock of Ages.”

This is the one time in your life that you will see bad hair, tight pants, Union Jack boxers, a giant glowing sword, and chess, all within 4 minutes. Unless you watch it twice.


He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich

January 15, 2013

Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” was knocked out of the Billboard Hot 100’s top spot, after four weeks, by a song that had been virtually ignored for more than a year.

Australian pop group Men at Work’s “Down Under” had been released in Australia and New Zealand in late 1981. It came to North America a year later, where it became a #1 in Canada in October 1982—a relatively rare instance of Canadian precedence, for a non-Canadian single. A month later, Americans finally began to take notice, and “Down Under” began its climb up the Hot 100, reaching #1 on January 15, 1983.

This was the second hit for Men At Work, following “Who Can It Be Now” about six months earlier. Their album, Business as Usual, topped the album chart the same week, making Men at Work the only Australian band to have a #1 single and album simultaneously.