You’re the poet in my heart

FleetwoodMacSaraOn 16 February, 1980, “Sara” by Fleetwood Mac peaked at #7.

One of the more distinctive songs I’ve covered so far in this project has been Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk“, which is more a primal chant than a pop song.  With “Sara“, Fleetwood Mac is again doing something unconventional, but in a much more subtle manner. You can be sitting in your car, whiling your way through a traffic jam by humming along with this song, and then it strikes you… this song doesn’t rhyme!  That may not seem like a big deal, but for a song on top 40 radio, that’s unusual.  You would also be forgiven if you didn’t notice when you were shifting into the chorus.  This song doesn’t provide any prompts as to where it’s going:  no hokey key changes, no crescendos, no dramatic pauses.  It’s just a shuffle of a drum beat with a subdued, though oddly chaotic guitar strum, with elfin background vocals drifting in and out of a shimmering curtain of music, not sad, not mysterious, but certainly serious and… maybe wistful.

Or maybe those background voices are really entirely neutral and only pick up their wistful quality by association with Stevie Nicks’s lovely, lilting delivery of what is, effectively, a prose poem, saying much more about life and love in images than Kenny Loggins could say with direct statements.  There’s a man, both attractive and daunting, a great dark wing in the wings of a storm, but he was a restless soul (“when you build your house, then please call me home”).  And her consolation as she drowns, eagerly, in a lake of love is the knowledge that this powerful, restless heart once told her that she was his everything.

Sure, she’s a total sap, but she’s a total sap in the way everyone wants to be a total sap — dreamily and achingly.  She may have lost in love, but she’s found beauty in the experience.

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Make no mistake where you are

LogginsThisIsItOn 16 February, 1980, “This Is It” by Kenny Loggins peaked at #11.

This Is It” by Kenny Loggins is the first song I’ve discussed on this blog that I remember from my childhood.  I don’t actually remember it on the radio in 1980; I remember it from 1982 when, I vaguely recall, it was heavily used in television commercials for WXRT, a radio station in Chicago. (Do radio stations advertise on TV anymore?)  WXRT was an adult contemporary station, which is an oldies station for people whose long-term pop culture knowledge goes back no more than 5 years.  These same people are going to absolutely love Wham! and subsequently George Michael, because “This Is It”, with its breathy delivery, vaguely self-affirmative lyrics, and faux-exotic loungy melody, is essentially a template for George Michael’s early career.

Who are these people, these people who gave Kenny Loggins 13 vapid top-40 hits in as many years?  My guess is that these were people whose musical tastes were transitioning from what they listened to in college to what was being played in the registrar’s office at same-said college.  Why the transition?  Their reasons for listening to music had changed.  They’re no longer using music as a mood setter for drinking, flirting, dancing, having sex, or whatever; now music is a mood setter for parenting, typing, shopping, or eating tuna salad.  It’s a method for reducing tension, not increasing it.  There’s always going to be a band of people making this social transition — new parents, people newly in the work force — but I think in times of high cultural volatility, it’s easier to recognize those people from their consumption habits than it is at other times.  The early 80s were one of these dramatic shifts, as we saw last week with Blondie’s “The Hardest Part“, and the result is increasing specialization of radios stations, giving rise to stations like WXRT.  Contrast to today, where most radio stations playing contemporary music are playing very similar playlists — this is a period of low  cultural volatility.  I hesitate to speculate who is the Kenny Loggins equivalent of this particular cycle and just relish the thought that this too shall pass.

 

Bullet-proof vest, shatterproof glass

220px-Blondie_-_The_Hardest_PartOn 16 February, 1980, “The Hardest Part” by Blondie peaked at #84.

I wanted something different, and this — “The Hardest Part” by Blondie — this is different.  It has a power pop feel, but doesn’t have the power pop chords to really land it in that category; it isn’t ragged enough to be straight-up punk; it isn’t repetitive or layered enough to be new wave (though that’s what everyone said it is, mainly because it and songs like it were so different from everything else and the concept of new wave was no new and amorphous that anything uncategorizable in the late 70s got labelled new wave), it’s really its own thing.  And, as if to assert just how different it is, it’s unashamedly about something that practically never hits the top 40:  robbing an armored truck.   Yup, there it is, 25 tons of hardened steel, just waiting for Debbie Harry and the crew to force it to a stop and apply that nitro and acetylene to cut into the chassis and make off with enough money to take them to Brazil.  The hardest part?  It’s not even the armored guard, really, it’s that driver… How do you get him to stop?  Just turbo past and force him off, I suppose (the song isn’t clear).

I mean, this is an exciting story!  It could easily be the focal point of a movie, a movie I’d want to watch.  The music highlights the adrenaline rush of the scene, starting with a jaunty bubbly intro, and then settling into a relentless pulsing drive as our heroes grit their teeth and whiten their knuckles gripping the door handles and their guns, preparing to burst forth and execute their nearly-perfected plan.  Take me along, even if it means I only get to watch as a perplexed but impressed bystander!

The thing I like most about this song is how unapologetic Debbie Harry is in singing this.  There’s no appeal to try to justify why she’s turned to a life of crime.  She’s just a hardened criminal out to make a living, mentally prepped by Taxi Driver and A Clockwork Orange to take the world as she finds it and treat it as she wants.  It’s perhaps our first real taste of a Gen-X cynicism that will play an increasingly large role in the culture of the 80s.  As a Gen-Xer myself, I’m welcoming it with open arms and open eyes.

Overview of 16 February 1980

Only ten songs peaked on the Hot 100 in the week of 16 February 1980 and quite a few of them are notable, so this overview will be fairly short.

We both know something is coming

Dana Valery I Dont' Want to Be Lonely.pngFirst off, at #87 we have  “I Don’t Want to Be Lonely” by the lovely Italian Dana Valery, which is a very good song for people learning how to speak English.  Valery sings about a relationship on the rocks very simply and clearly, the sentences are very straightforward and literal, using only the commonest of idioms.  As a result, it is incredibly unmemorable, with no standout lines or anyplace in particular in the song where the music does anything surprising or notable… even the guitar solo is anodyne.  I’d be amazed if anyone remembers this song at all.

Journey to the stars! Rock n’ roll guitars!

april-wine-i-like-to-rock-capitol.jpgThen we have “I Like to Rock” by April Wine at #86.  April Wine were a much bigger deal in Canada than they were in the US, but they had a bit of a heyday south of the border for a year and a half around 1981.  It’s not entirely clear exactly what prompted them to write “I Like to Rock”.  The lyrics are a bunch of non-sequiturs, particularly the part about space travel, and the music is not particularly special classic rock jammin’.  C’mon Canada, you can do better than this.

 

Even though it’s not a big hit for them, “The Hardest Part” by Blondie (#84) is too interesting to tackle in just a few sentences. It gets its own page.

Spread it with some jelly

twennynine-featuring-lenny-white-peanut-butter-elektra.jpgPeanut Butter” by Twennynine featuring Lenny White (#83) is not in any way what I was expecting.  I was expecting a disco cover of “I like Peanut Butter” by The New Beats, which is surprisingly not the most insipid song ever written. Instead, this is a funk anthem of sorts about eating peanut butter sandwiches.  Oh, with the occasional Woody Woodpecker laugh.  It’s a weird concoction clearly made with a healthy sense of nonsense.  Or is it really a Taoist philosophical parable — if all you want in life is a peanut butter sandwich, how can you ever be unhappy?  You know, ’cause peanut butter ain’t nothin’ but a sammich.

Swift time

MikePineraGoodnight.pngMike Pinera had a career playing guitar with hard rockers like Iron Butterfly and Alice Cooper, which makes “Goodnight My Love” (#70) weirdly incongruous, because it sounds like the kind of thing Kenny Rogers should be singing. That’s not exactly a bad thing, and I think Pinera actually does a better job than the standard lifeless crooner in singing about how torn he is between wanting to stay with his love and needing to leave because the wee hours are turning into the waking hours.  he sounds tender and torn, and that’s an achievement in easy listening.  Nonetheless, the song isn’t particularly memorable, which makes his lack of chart success unsurprising.

It’s a heartbreakin’, earthshakin’ devil’s child

dann-rogers-looks-like-love-again-international-artists.jpgI can’t say the same about Dann Rogers’s delivery in “Looks Like Love Again” (#41), in which he sings about the repeated travails love puts you through in a tone more suited to selling dish soap. It’s a shame, because lyrics like “love’s a little slice of heaven and a little hell” deserve a more heart-felt vocal, and the title needs to be sung in a world-weary pain that doesn’t come across in perky easy-listening country well.  This one could serve to be covered by someone willing to take more risks.

 

There are four more songs that peaked this week, but they’re all notable, so I’ll write about them individually. And because they’re all clumped in the high numbers I can keep them secret for a bit.  So, those are the lesser songs of the week of 16 February 1980.  Next up will be Blondie, and then four mystery songs, at least one of which is actually good.

 

Let that rhythm get into you

JacksonRockWithYou.pngOn 9 February, 1980, “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson peaked at #1.

It’s only in retrospect that we, or at least I, find it strange to think of Michael Jackson as seductive.  For much of my adult life, I knew of Michael Jackson as either weird, because that’s what he looked like on TV, or as 12, because that’s what he sounded like on the radio station my parents listened to.  For a while from, say, 1975 to 1984, he was not exactly a sex symbol, but certainly an attractive guy who could deliver lyrics like those in “Rock With You” without coming across as creepy.  If you buy the argument that most rock songs that aren’t obviously about something else are actually about sex, this song is about lots and lots of sex. The thought of lots and lots of sex with 1990 Michael Jackson is repulsive.  The thought of lots and lots of sex with 1980 Michael Jackson is totally reasonable.

So let’s get past the visuals of Michael Jackson and just listen to his delivery of these lyrics, silky-smooth with just enough occasional friction to create an adventurous frisson that lets you know that a night of rocking with MJ is going to be quite an experience.  The result is what disco was really designed for — to serve as a enabler for dancing and seducing, interesting enough to keep your attention, but not distracting enough to take your mind off of your dancing partner/seductee.  With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that “Rock With You” went to number one, but it also makes sense that it’s not one of Michael Jackson’s best songs — it doesn’t have the theatrical fullness of “Thriller” or the creepy undercurrent of “Billie Jean” or the social consciousness of “Black or White”.  But that’s not its job; it’s a great dance song, that’s all, and it triumphs in that.

 

I guess we used to be the lucky ones

StyxWhyMeOn 9 February, 1980, “Why Me” by Styx peaked at #26.

They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery; if so, Queen should be very flattered by Styx’s “Why Me“.  It’s not a 100% stylistic… homage, let us say — the saxophone that chimes in at 1:45 on this video is decidedly not-Queen, for instance — but from the triumphal bombastic beginning and the occasional growling delivery of Dennis DeYoung to the weird interpolation of “Rubelator” in a pause in the action there’s a lot of Freddie Mercury lingering in the wings.

But if you’re going to mack someone else’s style, you should do it well, and Styx does a good job at putting out a second-rate Queen single here.  They take on an abstract concept — the vagaries of life shifting one’s fortunes from day to day — and hit mostly the right tones with it.  And at the end of the song, you feel both the frustrations and exhilarations of life, not just in the lyrics, but also in the music.  So good on Styx.

Where this song fails to ascend to the heights that Queen is able to reach is in its inability to bridge from the abstract to the concrete without seeming trivial.  To make an admittedly unfair comparison, “Bohemian Rhapsody” — perhaps one of the best rock songs ever, if not the actual best — discusses all of these things, but also ties the discussion to a gripping concrete story of murder and desperation.  Sure, Styx wasn’t trying to rival “Bohemian Rhapsody” in “Why Me”, but the attempts to connect with the concrete in this song — those bills to pay, and the awkwardly forced “that’s what I want to know” as the song fades — clank like tin among the soaring tones of the abstract parts of the song.  Styx would have been better to keep their heads in the clouds on this one, which is admittedly hard for a band that was billing itself as America’s voice for the blue collar rust belt.  But that’s the difference between a good band and a great band:  a good band makes great songs but can’t transcend its niche.

9 February 1980 Overview

Eleven songs peaked on 2 February 1980.

Softly we met with a kiss

AerosmithRemember.jpgRemember (Walking in the Sand)” by Aerosmith, a blues-rocking cover of the debut single by the Shangri-Las peaked at #67.  Whereas the original sounds funereal, Aerosmith gave it a sharper bite by wisely dropping the moronic, naively maudlin vocal lead-in and making the chorus something of a rockabilly shuffle. It’s still overdone, but less ridiculous, which succeeds in doing what a cover should do:  reinterpret a song but not to the extent that it’s no longer memorable.  Not my cup of tea, but it serves its purpose.

Share my popcorn and jellybeans

SisterSledgeGottoLove.png After Prince’s genre-defying “I Wanna Be Your Lover” we needed someone to remind us what mainstream disco sounds like, and Sister Sledge does so suitably with “Got to Love Somebody” (#64).  Though it’s straight up disco with the twonky bass, standard brass section, and far more singers than are necessary, Sister Sledge do better than the average disco group in the topics they sing about and the lyrics they use in doing so.  This an empowering song that takes the specifics of loneliness without overselling loneliness as the end of the world– being the only hand in the popcorn box at the movies — and then the change in attitude that, presumably, will fix the situation.  The song isn’t making any promises other than that this girl is going to have fun looking for her next beau at the discos than she was watching rom-coms alone.

You’ve probably been crying forever

RodStewartTalkAboutIt.pngSometimes you have to be careful with YouTube.  I Don’t Want to Talk About It” by Rod Stewart (#46) is a case in point:  he rerecorded it in 1989, and I nearly reviewed the wrong version.  This one is acoustic, and as a result feels a lot earthier, and more sincere, not adjectives I normally associate with Rod.  His trademark gravelly voice works here to make him sound like he’s on the verge of tears, a vulnerability I really appreciate in a good ballad.  And it fits the lyrics:  in consoling an ex who has been hurt in some way, he’s absolving her, hinting strongly that he still loves her, sure, but not wanting to linger an the wrongs she’s done him.  The guitar work is nice, too (though I could have passed on the wonky key change toward the end), so all In all, a pleasant surprise.

Given any day there’s a jet flying somewhere

JonStewartLostHer.pngJohn Stewart is a former member of The Kingston Trio, and given “Lost Her in the Sun” (#34), he must have been the one with the boring voice.  Nevertheless, good songwriting and good delivery overcome vocal failings, and John Stewart delivers on this score.  “Lost Her in the Sun” is an aching ballad about a lost love; he wonders what he’s done that his girl should fly away without letting him know why, and he may never know.  He does know it’s going to hurt forever, like cold wind cutting deep into his soul.  And he knows, whatever it was, it’s his fault he’s lost something wonderful — he’s lost her in the warmth and light of the sun, after all.  Really this song is about as perfect as a two-verse lost love song can get.

Dance with you, romance with you

RufusChakaLoveWhatYouFeel.pngFull disclosure:  I was four years old in 1980, which means that like some of the young ‘uns out there today who are unaware that Sting got his start in a band called The Police, I was unaware that Chaka Khan started out with Rufus (who isn’t actually a person at all, but just the name of the band). They had a string of top-40 soul and disc hits through the 70s, of which “Do You Love What You Feel” (#30) was the final bookend.  Lyrically, it’s nothing special.  Musically, it’s fun, but not doing enough to really be memorable.

“Why Me” by Styx (#26) deserves its own entry.

Well, I wouldn’t stop for a million bucks

HayesDon'tLetGo.pngDon’t Let Go” by Isaac Hayes (#18) is his last hit.  It’s a bit unusual for him in that it doesn’t feature his voice the way you’d expect.  He’s pushed back in the mix, so much so that the jaunty funk guitar seems to get top billing over him.  Don’t get me wrong, this song is infectious; I dare you to listen to this without getting restless legs.  It’s just not a good showcase for Isaac Hayes.  Really, this should be a Grace Jones song (a la “Pull Up to the Bumper“, which fell one spot shy of the Hot 100 in 1981) — she can put the sultry sexiness that a choppy bouncy song needs, whereas Isaac Hayes is just too smooth for this kind of beat.

You’re a different space in time

WarwickDejaVu.pngSpeaking of Isaac Hayes, he’s one of the talents behind “Deja Vu” by Dionne Warwick (#15); he wrote it with Adrienne Anderson, and Barry Manilow produced the whole album.  Perhaps this is why the song sounds like living purple lame.  Listening to it, can’t you just imagine Dionne standing on a stage in, say, Las Vegas, wearing a purple lame gown, dripping in white rhinestones, exhaling this east ditty as a bunch of cigar-chomping businessmen sit around totally ignoring her?  I say ignoring her, because the way she delivers this song is barely substantial; it’s more a well-practiced breathing pattern than a series of words with natural inflection or even meaning.  like so much cigar smoke and twinkling light, it drifts around in the background, greasing social skids but leaving not much of substance in its wake.

In the public eye, giving someone else a try

tom-petty-and-the-heartbreakers-dont-do-me-like-that-1979.jpgDon’t Do Me Like That” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (#10) is another vulnerable rock song, albeit with a bit of a macho twang to it.  Here’s a guy who’s trying hard not to admit he’s in love with the girl he’s seeing, and he’s tryin’ to play it all cool warning her if she strays she’s going to get hurt, just as much as he would.  It’s a fine example of a guy transitioning from the free-wheeling womanizer to the marrying kind.  I’m not sure exactly why this is top ten material, but the competition wasn’t all that strong, as we’ve been seeing. If it sounds a bit on the high-school anthem side, like, oh, “Centerfold by the J. Geils Band, you’re not alone:  Wikipedia tells us that Tom Petty nearly gave this song to J. Geils, thinking it sounded more like their style than his.

All the debutantes in Houston

EaglesLongRun.pngAt #8, we have another loping bit of somnolent rocking from The Eagles, “The Long Run“, which isn’t making me like them any more than I did before.  It’s another rambling litany of related sentences that don’t get much further than establishing that the singer was a cad, and now he’s not, and it’s because he’s in love, and she should treat herself better, too.  If it were a little more drunk it would sound just like “Heartache Tonight“; there may have been room on the charts for them both in 1980, but I certainly don’t have the energy for both.

And finally, “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson spent its last week at #1, and every #1 deserves its own page.

I want to be your mother and your sister, too

PrinceLover.pngOn 2 February, 1980, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince peaked at #11.

It’s hard to believe, but for two years it looked like Prince might be a one-hit wonder.  His first hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” was the only top 40 single off his second album, Prince. For You, his first album scored no hits; neither did either of his next two albums, Dirty Mind and Controversy.  It wasn’t until the end of 1982, when “1999” broke the mold for what an R&B singer could sound like, that Prince announced that he was on the charts to stay. It didn’t help matters that in the early 80s, Prince was giving uninformatively coy interviews like this one on national television, but his reticent personality aside, he sounded like a one-hit-wonder, and his output put him on the track to be one.

I personally think that Prince was actually the cliché that people throw around too often without thinking — he was ahead of his time.  But not in the usual sense that he created something that other people followed.  Instead, I mean that in 1979, when this song was recorded, Prince was working in a musical environment that didn’t suit him.  On “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, he’s trying to play disco, but it’s not a disco that sounds like the rest of disco.  Sure, it mixes in just fine with all the other disco that was being played at the dawn of the 1980s, but it sounds different.  You hear this sandwiched between contemporary Donna Summer and BeeGees songs, and your ears perk up — this is not your standard disco song! — and then you go back to the litany of syncopated violin bursts.

Disco, and even soul, were too small and constrained for Prince in the early 80s, not just in terms of its structure and instrumentation, but also in terms of its scope.  Disco is meant for a smoky dance club with a mirror ball and dry ice, and despite his size, Prince’s showmanship was never going to fit into that kind of atmosphere.  His stage personality was too vibrant, too emotional, too explosive and sexy to stand only four feet above its audience.  Prince had to break out, musically and physically, from the constraints of a club; he really needed to be the R&B equivalent of an arena rock band, Motown’s Kiss.  Such a thing existed, but it wasn’t exactly popular:  George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic was a feast for the senses, filling an arena with all sorts of incredible musical and theatrical craziness; critically well-regarded, it only scored two top-40 hits in the years before Prince had his first hit.  The stage wasn’t set for soul to be bigger than any room that tried to hold it.

You can hear it in the music on “I Wanna Be Your Lover”:  The taut, tight guitar that starts the song’s pulse; Prince’s falsetto that here sounds genuine, not ridiculous, straining at the bit… every time Prince goes into “I don’t want to pressure you baby, the tension in the song builds through the chorus and wants to burst into a flare of music, but then backs down to that basic pulse again.  In the future, Prince wouldn’t have those constraints:  he’ll be more mature, less constrained, and the nature of how music is produced and consumed will give him the space he needs to be the superstar we remember him as.

2 February 1980 Overview

 

OK, so, after quite a lot of thought and a comment by a reader, I’ve decided that the original plan was a bit too ambitious.  So I’m reformatting.  Instead of doing an entire page on each song that hit the Hot 100 in the 80s — an endeavor that could last more than four times as long as the 80s themselves — I’m going to do an overview of each week with a paragraph on each of the lesser songs, and then do a page on each of the more interesting songs.  I’m finding it’s rare that I have more than two paragraphs to say about many of these songs anyway, and I want to get to the more interesting stuff as quickly as possible. Still, I’m going to try to stick to the original format as much as possible, albeit in a condensed form.  The same links to videos, the same headers featuring lyrics from the songs when possible, and the same level of snarkiness.  The only downside is that these overview pages are going to be a bear to construct.  Here’s the first one.

Thirteen songs peaked on 2 February 1980.  The following I’ve already talked about:

So here’s what the rest of the week looked like:

They’re a dozen for a dime

RobertJohnLonelyEyes.pngPeaking at #41, just outside the hit zone, is “Lonely Eyes” by Robert John, who clearly has a thing for eyes, because his previous hit was “Sad Eyes” which made it to #1 in 1979.  “Lonely Eyes” is superficially triumphal, but it’s about a woman who hangs out at bars or discos and slinks from one one-night-stand to another.  The delivery, with its gentle lope and weepy violins, takes up a fitting tone, both danceable and world-weary.  This is the kind of music sung by a singer and played by musicians who have seen too many nights, just like that emotionally isolated woman, driven by habit or need, underappreciated for their talents.  The irony that this song didn’t quite score a hit only underscores the sweet sadness of the song.  This is a pleasant surprise for me.

It was one of those nights

ELOLastTrainThen we have a compelling guitar riff backed by a suitably funky pace, and I think that we may have something special… until I realize it’s the perfectly nonsense “Last Train to London” by The Electric Light Orchestra (#39).  It baffles me how anyone took the grating falsetto vocals (“I really want tonight to last forever!”) that epitomized disco seriously, particularly when they’re delivering totally uninspired lyrics (“I really want to be with you!”).  There are the requisite violin bursts and then what would be an utterly boring keyboard solo if it weren’t for the fact that it’s some sort of broken-glass orchestra noise they’re using, presaging how dance is going to merge with new wave soon.  There’s a last train to London, I’m not sure if he gets on it or stays with the girl he’s singing to, but I am sure I don’t much care.

I’m caring, sharing everything I’ve got

SantanaYouKNowThatILoveYouI somehow missed that Santana put out albums in the 80s, but given how uninspiring “You Know That I Love You” (#35) is, perhaps that’s not surprising.  There’s nothing here to suggest that this is the same musician who made “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman” the epitome of Latin rock.  How did Santana get so… uncool?  This is a lame, uninspired song that isn’t even worthy of being a fifth single off of a Cheap Trick album.  This was the only single off of Santana’s Marathon album, and that’s probably a good thing.

Please can I see you every day

VoicesCheapTrickSpeaking of Cheap Trick, here they are with “Voices” (#32), which is about as close to a stalker song as you can get without actually being a stalker song. I don’t normally like Cheap Trick because they feel sort of superficial and smarmy, making themselves out to be tougher than they are, but really just sounding like a light-weight Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.  On this song it works, though, because the desperation of the protagonist goes well with that mock-tough, mock-sweet tone.  This guy is at one and the same time begging his girl to love him and trying to convince her by stating as fact that she does indeed love him.  Those voices in her ear should be telling her to back away slowly, but until Bon Jovi comes along, these guys and Journey are about the best you were going to get in the arena rock category, so I guess you have to make the most of it.

I like what you like

OJaysForeverMineWe’re not going to hear much from The O’Jays in the 1980s.  Their hey-day was the 60s and 70s, and there’s not going to be much room for the molasses-rich soul vocals they were soaking their records in. This is a shame because even when they’re singing scary lyrics like “don’t you ever think about leaving”, like they do here on “Forever Mine” (#28), they sound so dignified and smooth, like scarlet velvet.  And the passion with which he sings about how she exceeds all the loves he’s had in the past makes you feel it, you know, that she is something special. I don’t know that the singer and the object of his affection are made for each other the way he says, but the song makes you want to think that they are.

I kept the feelings to myself

FoghatThirdTime.pngAnother classic band we’re not going to see much of again is Foghat, whose clumsily titled “Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was a Fool)” hit #23.  I kind of wish they’d go into the details of the three loves this guy is singing about — once bitten, twice shy, third time lucky.  In the lyrics, the first time sounds like he’s a jerk, writing to her that he’d never forget her and now he can’t remember his name.  Maybe being a fool is treating her so badly.  But that doesn’t sound like he’s been bitten, but rather that he was doing the biting.  Whatever, I’m sure she’s fine.  Then the second time he’s too shy to act on his feelings, which is indeed a disaster… unless you’re a stalker like the guy in the Cheap Trick song, in which case maybe it’s better you keep your distance.  I mean, really, this week guys in the charts really come off as jerks:  stalkers, creepy seducers, and this guy who thinks that somehow he’s the victim of two love affairs, one of which didn’t happen and the other of which was his own insensitive fault.

And then there’s “I Want to Be Your Lover” by Prince at #11, which I’ll cover on its own.  And that’s an overview of 2 February 1980.

 

 

 

 

Like hair everywhere

Dig the Gold.pngOn 2 February, 1980, “Dig the Gold” by Joyce Cobb peaked at #42.

I have tagged “Dig the Gold” as reggae, not because I think it is, but because that’s what Wikipedia says it is.  What I think it is is weird, so I’ve also tagged it with that.  It’s not Joyce Cobb’s usual style — she’s a jazz and blues kinda woman.  But then, this isn’t really anyone’s style that I know of, at least not until the ragamuffin Haysi Fantayzee show up in 1983, and then it’s more a willful obnoxiousness that they have in common with this song than anything stylistically or melodically.

Not that willful obnoxiousness is necessarily a bad thing, because often an in-your-face approach is novel, memorable, and, like this, unique.  Joyce Cobb has taken some sort of tropical something or other, double-timed it, put in a disco backing beat and bass, and then played around with it.  That’s not really violin you’re hearing, it’s more zydeco or bluegrass fiddling.  And a clarinet, I think, which is also very zydeco.  Maybe this is zydeco disco, but without an accordion?

Anyway, then there are lyrics.  This is some subversive stuff.  This singer, whoever she is, is digging gold, like her father in South Africa, and when she starts to think about the fruits of her labor and the distribution of wealth among the workers and suppliers of capital (where does that gold go, anyhow?) she decides to up and run with her excavated gold.  Of course, running with gold is actually a pretty difficult thing if you have a lot of it, given how much it weighs, but this character sounds beaten down enough that maybe just a few ounces will turn her life around.  Forget the gold, where does the singer go?  What does the future have in store?  Prison?  A life as a new capitalist?  As a labor organizer?  Who’s to say?  We’ll have to imagine whatever we want, based on our own political predilections and, I guess, on how much we like the song.  So… does she make it or not?