I Can Never Quit

This is the final installment of a three-parter. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Three days after the Billy Joel concert, two days after the record store trip that scored Marshall Crenshaw and War, I turned 20 years old. There’s only one thing about the day that now remains with me.

It was a Monday, so I would have traipsed off to differential equations and computer architecture class at the appropriate moments. I wouldn’t be shocked if you told me that my parents drove in to take me to dinner that evening, as it’s exactly the sort of thing they would do. They were well aware that I’d been very low about the breakup for over a month and no doubt would have wanted to check on my state in person, especially since I hadn’t gone home for the weekend. I don’t remember any of the presents they gave me that year.

It’s the gift from James, likely received before we went to breakfast, that turned out to be the day’s highlight. I guess the Joel ticket I’d given him for Christmas had raised the bar for such occasions, but even so I think I was surprised or flattered (or both) to be handed a twelve-inch square package, obviously an LP. A black, textured cover, with bright green block lettering in the upper left corner. Fear of Music, by Talking Heads.

This was probably not a lucky stab in the dark on his part. Music was of course a frequent topic in our conversations, and it’s reasonable to believe I had expressed interest in learning more about the Heads. After all, “Burning Down the House” had been a Top 10 hit the previous year; this could have led me to relate how much I liked “Take Me to the River” and to recall an extremely favorable writeup of Fear of Music in Stereo Review.

It didn’t take long to throw it on the turntable. I loved it, and maybe just as importantly, James loved it too. While our individual musical explorations wouldn’t always move in the same direction, Talking Heads effectively became our band, the one group we seemed to enjoy equally. Within months I bought More Songs about Buildings and Food and Remain in Light, while James scored ’77. We saw Stop Making Sense multiple times when it was the Friday midnight showing at the Kentucky Theater those last couple of years of college.

So, how do I feel about the eleven songs on Fear of Music today?

11. “Animals”
I don’t get into the groove from the first half of the song. Things pick up when Byrne starts chanting about the titular creatures setting a bad example and living on nuts and berries.

10. “Drugs”
The most atmospheric piece on the album, which almost makes it feel out of place.

9. “Heaven”
The “we’re going to slow things down for you couples out there” piece on the album, which almost makes it feel out of place. A bit odd that “Heaven” is the second-best known song on the album but was not released as a single.

8. “Electric Guitar”
James and I came to interject snippets of Byrne’s lyrics into our daily interactions, such as “Warning sign…warning sign” and “Don’t get upset—it’s not a major disaster.” I’m disappointed now that “This is a CRIME…against the STATE” never rose to that level.

Hmm…side two just isn’t measuring up to side one.

7. “I Zimbra”
That moment just as the needle dropped on side one was always exciting, assuming the leadoff track wasn’t already a hit single. This time I got a real winner, with strong hints of what was to come on the band’s next album, Remain in Light.

6. “Air”
My grad school friend Greg doesn’t suffer fools all that well, particularly other drivers. I’ve heard him quip, “Some people never had experience with air,” complete with falsetto on the last word, when someone in his vicinity does something he considers (to put it nicely) lacking in good judgment.

5. “Paper”
I used how often the songs on FoM run through my head as a first-order approximation for these rankings. “Paper” may be the shortest song on the album but it has one of its best guitar riffs, and it definitely rocks the hardest.

4. “Mind”
I knew from “Take Me to the River” that Byrne was an unconventional vocalist, though from how early on and to what degree I couldn’t know fully until hearing those first two albums later in 1984. Still, I think he took it up another notch on FoM, first evident with the various ways he attacks the title word in “Mind.”

My friend Kevin, WTLX’s station manager, hosted a weekly interview show called Transy Talks each Monday evening during our sophomore year. That spring I was asked to run the control board when Kevin interviewed Dr. Humphries, the Academic Dean. I brought Fear of Music down to the studio with me and queued up side one as Kevin was getting the mic set up in the adjacent room (there was a window over the board allowing you to see into it). There’s no telling what Dr. Humphries, who knew me as well as he did any decently performing student, thought when “Mind” played.

(Aside: It’s occurred to me that I considered the Dean to be plenty old when I was a student, so I’ve looked for mention of him online. Turns out he was 59—my current age—the day of that interview.)

3. “Cities”
Fantastic groove they elected to fade in, punctuated by Weymouth’s ascending bass line. Byrne’s feral growling of “find myself a city to live in” at the end sure is something to behold.

2. “Life During Wartime”
It’s just two four-bar riffs interspersed and played over and over, but what a hypnotizing sound. I’ll take this as an excuse to mention again the parody I wrote based on this song about the four-week period at the end of the year we called May Term.

1. “Memories Can’t Wait”
The most sublime moment on the album—if you’re familiar with the song, you know what I’m going to say—comes two-thirds of the way through “Memories Can’t Wait,” that resolution and modulation right before the line, “Everything is very quiet.” Prior to that the sound is constantly driving and swirling (I have no idea how some of it was created), while afterward…well, it’s not very quiet, but it is more conventionally structured, building back up to the satisfying conclusion. This is a strong contender for my favorite Talking Heads song; if I’d had half a brain five-plus years ago, I would have made “These memories can’t wait” this blog’s tag line (but better late than never, I suppose).

FYI: Side two of the very slab of vinyl James gave me (its cover is pictured at the top) is playing on the turntable in my basement as this is being published.

Keeping American Top 40 charts between the ages of 12 and 18 was formative, but I’d point to getting these three albums over a little more than 36 hours in February 1984 as my origin story, when I started becoming that dude who wants to share his musical tastes and the associated stories with the world. There’s the fellow who critics loved but could never break through, the up-and-coming band who’d soon conquer the world, and the group that had already enjoyed their commercial and artistic peak but became so important to two guys on the fourth floor of Clay Hall. I guess the only thing that’s missing from the tale is a female singer-songwriter; alas, Suzanne Vega’s debut album was still a year-and-a-half away.

James was very kind to think of me on my birthday with this present, especially given what a turkey I’d been over the previous month. I couldn’t have been—and still wouldn’t be for another few weeks—enjoyable to live with. When the time came to discuss roomie situations for the next school year, he initially hesitated to commit to continue with me. I gave him time and space to think and decide. In the meantime, another friend checked in on the possibility of rooming with him. My preference was for the status quo—maybe I was wanting to hold on to some degree of continuity in my life. One night some time later, James was ready to talk about it again. He said some very nice things about me, that I was cool to room with, that he’d like to remain roommates. We never considered an alternate arrangement after that. I’m still appreciative of the grace he showed me, deserved or otherwise.

Postscript: My ex-girlfriend and I had another class together in the fall of our junior year, but managed to live essentially parallel lives on our small campus over the last 1.5 years, only rarely interacting. We were in the same place a very few times over the next three decades, a wedding here, a reunion there. At our 30th year reunion in 2016, she and I were part of a group that spent much of the day together; since then, we’ve reestablished a friendship, emailing and/or texting one another periodically. A nontrivial percentage of our correspondence in recent years had to do with James and his declining health. Even though I’d already heard, I really appreciate that she called me that Thursday afternoon last April to make sure I knew he had passed.

I Will Begin Again

This is the middle entry of a three-part series. You can find Part 1 here.

I didn’t go by myself to Cut Corner Records that early evening Saturday in February 1984.

I was hanging out by myself in the dorm room when a freshman swung by. I’ll call him M, which isn’t related to his name. We didn’t know each other that well but had certainly hung out from time to time in the cafeteria the previous fall. A genuinely funny guy, M was a denizen of the Fine Arts building, his academic interests quite different from mine. He took me up on the offer to tag along on my quest for vinyl. Heaven only knows now what we talked about, but the conversation was in part subtext; to an extent each of us was sizing up the other.

Some number of days after this foray, M and my former girlfriend began dating.

From a distance, I’d been getting vibes that something of the sort was possibly developing. I’d never thought of it this way until recently, but it occurs to me now that M sought me out the night after the Billy Joel concert to confirm that she and I weren’t exploring a restart. Assured by whatever I said and/or however I said it, he soon moved forward in gauging her interest. Who knows at this point if that’s what was going on, though? I’m not going to try to find out.

This plot twist probably didn’t help my frame of mind, but, since there wasn’t anything to do except deal with life as it was, I continued climbing out of my hole. By this point my reputation as the Eeyore of Transy was hardening among those in my social network (not unjustifiably, I realize). One way I tried to move beyond that was by getting a t-shirt made at a shop in a local mall. The front was a transfer, a drawing of colorful hot air balloons; the back screamed, “I’M HAPPY!” I think I wore it on three occasions over the rest of the semester, which may have been two times too many.

Regardless, during March I became much more often than not a close approximation of okay to be around. M and my ex continued as a couple through the rest of the school year but not much longer than that, IIRC.

The other LP I’d purchased on 2/11/84 was U2’s War. In the comments below I’ll address how it had landed on my radar, but just like Marshall Crenshaw, it was an A+ selection—it remains, easily, my favorite album from Bono and the boys. There’s no reason to delay any further discussing how I feel about its songs.

10. “The Refugee”
The one that I might not miss if it weren’t here. Maybe just a little too screamy for my tastes?

9. “Drowning Man”
And the tough choices begin in earnest.

It’s clearly a Christian piece, with God or Jesus reaching out to a lost soul in trouble, trying to reassure, I suppose even save. It’s moving, and the haunting electric violin line only amplifies its power.

8. “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
Putting this iconic song so low speaks (I hope) to the quality of the competition. One of my first exposures to U2 came from MTV, Bono skipping around the stage at Red Rocks, marching forth with a white flag to plant at the front of the stage.

7. “ ’40’ ”
A suitable closing track, inspired by Psalm 40, of course. (As it happens, today is the 40th anniversary of War’s release, a happy accident.) I will say that the version on Under a Blood Red Sky, with its audience participation at the end, is better.

6. “Red Light”
There aren’t many contributions on those early U2 albums from outside the band. Roping in the Coconuts (of Kid Creole and… fame, who happened to be touring in Ireland during War’s recording) for three songs, including “Red Light,” worked out exquisitely. Equally inspired here was the addition of a searing trumpet solo.

5. “Two Hearts Beat as One”
The second single released here in the States, it Bubbled Under for four weeks in July 1983, reaching #101. The frenzied, repeated “I can’t stop the dance/Maybe this is my last chance” at the end is yet another true highlight on the album.

4. “Seconds”
I don’t know why it’s only now that I’m realizing that the Edge is doing lead vocals here—it never did quite sound the same as other songs on the album. Nuclear anxiety was certainly the order of the day when “Seconds” was written.

3. “Like A Song…”
The energy and passion astound.  I attend church regularly, though in many regards I don’t consider myself particularly religious. Nonetheless, “A new heart is what I need/Oh God, make it bleed” feels like the message I should be hearing as I advance beyond middle age.

2. “Surrender”
Maybe this was the beginning of the distinctive, hypnotic Edge sound? The atmosphere he creates here, from the opening, on through the bridge (Bono’s “TO-NIGHT!” at its end? Magnifico.) and into the fadeout perhaps hints at what’s on the horizon for the band.

1. “New Year’s Day”
Here’s another time that the first song you hear from an album winds up being your favorite. While references to “the chosen few” have always—ALWAYS—made me very uncomfortable, I can’t shake my affinity for this tune; the piano part, simple as it is, plays a big role in that. Would only reach #53 on the Hot 100 in May 1983.

While by early 1984 I’d heard “New Year’s Day” and the live version of “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” on the radio and seen “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on MTV, I was ultimately moved to purchase War via a review I’d come across in a magazine that belonged to James. He had grown up in a Southern Baptist church; with that came involvement in summer mission trips and ongoing exposure to (and I presume enjoyment of) contemporary Christian music. I have no idea now the name of the magazine, but it was an Evangelical publication of some type. Perhaps I was restless one weekend afternoon during my extended January funk and decided to thumb through it. The music review section naturally attracted my attention. Their pick for Christian Album of the Year for 1983? You guessed it. The reviewer went out of his/her way, maybe multiple times, to reassure the reader that War really was a Christian album. It should be clear by now that I don’t disagree, and even if the CCM scene never appealed to me, the review added enough intrigue to what I already possessed to put War on my “to add” list.

I’ll Be Stronger When She’s Off My Mind

This is the first of a three-part series. I hope to get around to the second and third installments later this month, but we’ll have to see…

In November 1983 I learned that Billy Joel would be playing Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington on his An Innocent Man tour the following February. Even though I was almost 20, I’d yet to attend a rock concert; it was time to change that. The day that tickets went on sale, I walked the few blocks from campus to the Rupp box office and after a short wait in line I secured three seats on the floor, about halfway back and maybe slightly right of center as you look at the stage. My memory is that they cost $15 apiece—those certainly were the days, right?

The other two tickets were Christmas gifts, one for James and the other for my girlfriend. I passed them along before we all parted ways for the break.

My girlfriend broke up with me as soon as we got back on campus in January.

This wasn’t exactly out of the blue. We had both been miserable more often than happy as a couple for a good while (and it’s fair to say that I was responsible for a sizable majority of the misery). Ending the relationship was 100% the correct decision, and to be honest, one didn’t need hindsight to judge that.

But that doesn’t mean that I handled it well. At all. It took a day or two to absorb what was happening, and even then, I perhaps thought it might just be a pause. When it became clear that things really were over, I quickly descended into a deep funk, alternately moping, sulking, and crying. As much as I wish I could say otherwise, I was in a state for multiple weeks, usually sitting alone in the cafeteria at meals, staying in my room most of the rest of the time (it didn’t help that she and I had two classes—differential equations and Western Lit—together that term). I’m still not one to do a good job of trying to hide emotions; my behavior then, however, was well over the line into obvious immaturity. I later learned that my fantasy role-playing gamer friends created a non-playing character based on this excessively hangdog version of me for one of their adventures during this period.

By early February, I think I was behaving—and maybe feeling—more like a normal person. I had been able to concentrate on coursework throughout and not let things slip away there. The day of the concert was fast approaching, though.

I hadn’t asked for the ticket back, and my recollection now is that I insisted she go. I don’t believe I harbored hopes that something might get rekindled—instead, my position was it had been a gift, and it seemed wrong to rescind that.

So when the evening of Friday, February 10, rolled around, the three of us walked downtown together; I suspect conversation was a tad slow and/or awkward. James of course sat in the middle once we got down on the floor. Joel was great, a very good choice for my first concert. Unfortunately, as the night progressed, I became more emotional (“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” was especially hard—I imagine she and I had listened to my copy of The Stranger some during our year-plus of dating). I wasn’t yet ready to spend an evening like this in her company. I should have bowed out instead of going.

I may be wrong about this, but I believe I returned to campus by myself.

The concert, a hiccup on the path to getting past the past, was the beginning of a memorable few days. The next evening, I drove to Cut Corner Records, on the second floor of a dumpy building near the intersection of Limestone and Euclid Avenues, on the periphery of UK’s campus. I bought two albums that night, and it’s not an overstatement to say that my relationship with record-collecting underwent a profound change because of those purchases (along with an LP I received as a gift from James a couple of days later). At that point, I had around two dozen albums—I’d largely stuck with 45s over the years. The size of my collection would explode over the final 2.5 years of college. I’m pretty sure money I was no longer spending on dating wound up going toward obtaining mass quantities of vinyl and cassettes.

This is the first of a series in which I take a close look at those three vital albums entering my life in mid-February 1984; you get the interesting-to-only-a-few-if-that-many personal history as a freebie. Today it’s the scintillating, self-titled debut album from Marshall Crenshaw. Those who’ve been around these parts a while may recall that I learned of Crenshaw from Steve Simels’s rave write-up in the June 1982 issue of Stereo Review. While I don’t know now that I went to Cut Corner that evening with specific LPs in mind to buy, Marshall Crenshaw would have definitely been on my “must seek out someday” list. I’ve continued to give it regular attention across the decades; like the other two I’ll be covering soon, it’s almost certainly in my personal Top 10 albums of all time. Here’s how its twelve tracks rank today:

12. “Girls…”
I would’ve rated this much higher back in the 80s. Maybe one reason it’s slipped is that there’s not a specific ‘girl’ in mind here? It also gets knocked down for being the least rockin’ cut on the album.

11. “Brand New Lover”
I’ve always felt that MC was just a little whiny on this one. This past fall I discovered via my pal The UnCola that Texas rocker Lou Ann Barton recorded it around the same time and included it on her album Old Enough. Barton’s version is true to Crenshaw’s, but the vocals are more muscular.

10. “Soldier of Love”
Speaking of covers… Wikipedia says that Crenshaw chose to record this after hearing the Fab Four version while touring with Beatlemania, unaware that they had discovered it by listening to Arthur Alexander.

9. “Rockin’ Around in NYC”
Crenshaw had landed in the Big Apple from his native Michigan a few years earlier to make his rock-and-roll dreams come true. The influence shows in ways both small and overt, such as in this song title and shouting out “right here in New York” toward the end of #4 below.

8. “Not for Me”
For years I thought of this and “Brand New Lover,” the last two songs on side two, as just not quite as good as the rest of the album; times change. Today I’m hearing echoes of what my ex could have been thinking at the time of our breakup: “If I follow your direction, where would I be?”

7. “I’ll Do Anything”
James and I never saw eye to eye about Crenshaw. I don’t know any specific reason he didn’t cotton to Marshall’s songs, but it almost became a running joke, me trying to convince James that this and later albums were quality stuff. The conversation usually ended with a derisive snort. This has nothing to do whatsoever with “I’ll Do Anything,” a romp that belongs on that mixtape you’d make for your sweetie soon after you start dating. But I’d give a lot to have another musical conversation, even about stuff on which we disagreed, with James right now.

6. “Mary Anne”
One of the many nice touches on this one is how the backup voices alternate between “Don’t cry Mary Anne” and “You’ll be alright.”

5. “The Usual Thing”
It starts with a bang-bang chorus, and I love the way Crenshaw’s voice is double-tracked here.

4. “She Can’t Dance”
I don’t think it’s accidental that the first two tracks from each side comprise my top four—they’d picked the most arresting pieces for those slots. The kickoff for side two is a near-perfect distillation of the power pop/new wave zeitgeist of the moment, about a young woman totally into those very sounds.

3. “There She Goes Again”
I was familiar with only one song when I purchased Marshall Crenshaw, so I couldn’t know exactly what to expect as the needle dropped on side one upon my return to the dorm. The opening bars of “There She Goes Again” led me to quickly understand I’d made the right call.

2. “Cynical Girl”
A favorite from the first time I heard it, another of those songs that just leaps from the speakers and takes me someplace magical. My guess is that it’s producer Richard Gottehrer hammering away on the glockenspiel.

1. “Someday, Someway”
Simels’s review meant I was primed for this one when it reached AT40 in August 1982. The song continued bouncing around my head after I started college; whistling it during chemistry lab one Tuesday afternoon in the opening weeks of the semester may have caught my lab partner/then-future girlfriend’s ear? Yes, this album goes all the way back to the beginning of the story, too.

SotD: Television, “See No Evil”

Guitarist Tom Verlaine passed away earlier today. I’m in no position to do a survey of his life and career–there are plenty of others who can and will do that task justice. Still, Verlaine’s magnum opus is definitely part of the music of my life, so I’ll take time to briefly describe how that came to be.

The August 27, 1987 issue of Rolling Stone was part of the magazine’s celebration of its twentieth anniversary, its attempt to identify the 100 Best Rock Albums of its lifetime. It’s not a shock to hear I’ve always been attracted to that sort of thing, and as you might imagine, I spent quite a few hours poring over their rankings after a copy arrived at the apartment I was sharing with John and Jim. Gratified when I saw an LP from my collection mentioned, mystified frequently when a title was unfamiliar. By this point I probably knew of the album at #38, sandwiched between Innervisions and Purple Rain, but had never heard anything off it.

(Noel Coppage’s brief, color-me-very-unimpressed blurb in Dad’s copy of the May 1977 issue of Stereo Review must have passed under my eyes a decade earlier without registering.)

My interest was piqued enough at the time to file Marquee Moon under “must seek out someday” in my brain; it would be well over a decade, though, before anything of the sort happened. As it turns out, my father was responsible for getting it into my hands.

I’ve noted before that Dad was a collector of various things, music (both rock and classical) being one of his primary avenues of expression. When he latched onto CDs in the 90s, he no doubt took advice from any number of articles identifying Essential Disks Everyone Should Own (TM), which is how I expect that a copy of Marquee Moon ended up in a box underneath the bed in my folks’ townhouse basement bedroom. When I came across it on a weekend visit around 2003 or so, he gladly allowed me to take it home.

I’d guess that Dad never played it, but I didn’t waste time. My recollection is that I slipped it into the CD player in our kitchen one Sunday morning soon afterward. I was immediately captivated by the searing riffs on the opening track.

The album turned out to be a treat from start to finish and became a regular listen over the ensuing years; it’s near the top of my list of disks to recommend to friends who don’t know it. While I doubt I would have appreciated MM that much when it was released in 1977, I do regret not checking it out immediately after the RS write-up in 1987.

I’m also regretting today that I haven’t yet sought out Mr. Verlaine’s other output. That will likely take place in the coming days, but tonight it’ll be “See No Evil,” “Venus,” “Friction,” and the rest from MM. I hope he rests in peace.

Stereo Review In Review: January 1978

The only artifact I have from all the years my father subscribed to Stereo Review is Peter Reilly’s full-page look at Billy Joel’s The Stranger in the January 1978 issue. As best as I recall, my sister and I didn’t get the album until close to the time that 52nd Street was released, but fortunately, Dad held on to his older issues for quite a while. I know now that Joel didn’t just appear out of the ether at the end of 1977; at the time I was probably impressed that someone seemingly relatively new rated such real estate in SR. He owns perhaps an outsized space in my personal musical landscape, for various reasons (you’ll learn more about that in my next post). This review could be a partial key to understanding why.

Rick Mitz Talks with James Taylor
Easily the longest feature piece I’ve come across over the three years of this series. Mitz’s fandom comes across loud and clear as the conversation bounces from the mill that is the music business, to songwriting (“There is a songwriter’s place. There is a place you are at when you write a song, and I’m not there all the time”), to performing (“…I just sort of get into a frame of mind where I’m fated to do it. It’s sort of like Zen archery—there’s the target and I’m the arrow, and there’s the space to be covered between the two of us”), to critical reception of his work (“I listen to my critics and absolutely read my record reviews…when I read something, I take it seriously, even though I know better”), to married life (“Carly is an extraordinary person to know because she is probably as positive as anybody you will ever meet”). It’s a long and winding chat.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Ron Carter Quartet, Piccolo (CA) “The sophistication, swing, and high-caliber musicianship offered by the late, lamented Modern Jazz Quartet are to be found in the Ron Carter group, and a commensurate popularity will surely follow.”
–Merle Haggard, A Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today (NC) “Anyway, there’s personality and style in what he does, when he’s up to snuff as he is in this album.”
–Pete Townshend/Ronnie Lane, Rough Mix (SS) “…in its best moments it is so alive, so friendly, so inventive, that the lapses hardly matter…you should grab it immediately, no matter which side of the New Wave you’re on.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–The Nighthawks, Side Pocket Shot (JV) “Their songs are lean and spare, designed to allow as much room as possible for instrumental fills and passages…(t)he combo is crisp and driving as always, with the rowdy sense of fun that distinguishes them.”
–Diana Ross, Baby It’s Me (PK) “This new, tamer, warmer Diana is a welcome visitor, and the whole program is distinguished, despite the lush arrangements, by a spirit at once exhilarating and pleasantly civilized.”
–Sanford-Townsend Band, Smoke from a Distant Fire (JV) “Townsend’s lead vocals are forceful and exciting; he is able to sing at the top of his range without exhausting himself or the listener, and when he hits a high note there is a joie de vivre to it that brings a grin.”
–Adam Wade, S/T (PG) “Obviously, this is a disco album, but of an exceptionally high quality. That all too familiar danceable beat is subtly underplayed, permitting Wade to explore the full range of his voice and style.”
–Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean Blues (SS) “The sound of it is as California-lush as anything the Boys have come up with in the Seventies, with ethereal vocal choirs, relentlessly layered instrumentation, and snippets of melodies that suggest strange, primitive chants.”

Featured Reviews
–Karla Bonoff, S/T (NC) “But nostalgia has practically nothing to do with the appeal of her music. The dramatic buildup she likes to create (she definitely prefers the chorus to the bridge, structurally, and is smart enough to avoid repeating the chorus so much that it gets blunted) is a characteristic, all right, but the way she does it seems to come from no particular time or place.”
–Hodges, James, and Smith, What’s on Your Mind? (PG) “In short, this is not just another girl trio…(they) show all the signs in this first outing of real staying power.”
–Billy Joel, The Stranger (PR) “…it gives the listener a unique opportunity to get into the head and feelings of a now grown-up ex-greaser though a group of songs that are at once a love letter and a farewell to youth, by turns touching, mordant, funny, gross (new sense), melodramatic, and naïve.”
–Randy Newman, Little Criminals (William Anderson) “Most of his melodies are habit-forming on first hearing, and his arrangements have a lapidary quality—perfect setting, perfect fit—that permanently pre-empt the listener’s affections…(t)here are no songs here that once could call less than beautifully crafted…”
–Elvis Presley, Elvis in Concert (John Morthland) Also includes reviews of Merle Haggard’s My Farewell to Elvis and Elvis’ Favorite Gospel Songs by J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. “Had Elvis not died between the time it was recorded and the time it was released, it would attract no more special attention than any of his many other dubious albums.”
–Lily Tomlin, On Stage (Lester Bangs) “Just where many comedians turn self-indulgent, Tomlin creates authentic American folklore out of her most intimate material, giving us an oral history that goes beyond comedy to touch the heart…”
–Lester Young, The Lester Young Story, Volumes 1-3 (CA) The first installment of “Columbia’s long-awaited five-part chronological reissue of everything this extraordinary pacemaker recorded for that label.”

Other Albums Reviewed
–The Babys, Broken Heart (JV) “…the producer and the engineer knew their business when it came to miking the instruments and getting good separation. Unfortunately, their efforts were wasted.”
–Harry Chapin, Dance Band on the Titanic (PR) “Harry Chapin is in his usual form here…which is to say that the only thing more pompous and portentous than his songs is his performance of them.”
–Chicago, Chicago XI (PR) “Anything of any real interest that this group was doing surely faded at about III or IV, but their public, easily the most loyal since Edgar Cayce’s, continues to buy their albums in astonishing quantities. Listening to XI was—surprise, surprise—very much like listening to X and IX and VIII and so on. And on.”
–Country Joe and the Fish, Reunion (NC) “Though the album works best as nostalgia despite itself, it does suggest the band could stay together if they want to and give the present and the future, as well as the past, a going-over.”
–Doobie Brothers, Livin’ on the Fault Line (NC) “The group still seems to ride mainly on crossing watered-down soul with that amorphous Southern California non-style of rock, and if their lyrics are emptier than usual here, blame it on the times.”
–Firefall, Luna Sea (SS) “If you’d enjoy an album that has nothing to recommend it except that it supports critical theorizing, this should be just your cup of tea.”
–Jermaine Jackson, Feel the Fire (PG) “His decision to leave the Jackson family group was on target. Jermaine had outgrown the group musically…he comes across as a high-energy performer who infuses his songs with an infectious, boyish fervor that never supplants his emphasis on solid singing.”
–Carole King, Simple Things (PR) “There was a time, and that quite recently, when introspection and soul searching were appropriate. But this kind of precious, totally self-involved tender loving care of one’s own teeny-tiny emotional world has gotten to be a bore.”
–Richard Pryor, Greatest Hits (JV) “But on these tracks, apparently all recorded live, Pryor seems brutal and abrasive, so it is difficult to tell whether he is using his substantial comedic gifts to soothe his rage or using his rage to feed his gifts.”
–Rush, A Farewell to Kings (JV) “I would have enjoyed this album more if Rush had been a little more specific about what they intended to say; as it is, their point remains, if not a closely guarded secret, certainly one that is well chaperoned.”
–The Staples, Family Tree (PR) “The Staples…have delivered another very good session here, particularly the title song, which has an extra measure of that warm gutsiness that is so identifiable in all of their work.”
–Steely Dan, Aja (JV) “The seven selections in Aja are not so much pop songs as they are mood pieces taking a more or less jazz direction…(t)he project is musically successfully, then, but I still miss Steely Dan’s songs.”
–Dwight Twilley Band, Twilley Don’t Mind (JV) “But to anyone who was around when the Liverpudlians held happy sway, Twilley’s music will sound like an old story twice told.”

1982: My Top 100 (At The Time)

If you’ve been checking things out here for a while, you likely recall that I kept track of my personal Top 50 from early Spring 1980 through the end of 1982. One requirement I had in place from the beginning was that any song on AT40 had to have a place on my chart–this meant that big hits in real life that didn’t float my boat as much often languished in the teens and twenties while I was waiting for them to begin their tumbles back down.

A few weeks after I left for college in September 1982, I stopped making my formal weekly AT40 charts, though I have evidence that I was keeping notes on it until March 1983. I dropped doing my own list over the winter break, though–forty years ago today was a Saturday, the day that broke that streak, I suppose.

I left some unfinished business. At the end of 1981, I’d painstakingly tabulated points for dozens of songs based on their positions on my charts over the calendar year and drawn up a list of my Top 100 songs. That didn’t happen for the 1982 charts as the new year dawned. One of my resolutions for 2022 was to go back and compile that list; going in, I didn’t know which of three or four songs would wind up on top.

I could reconstruct the formula I’d used for the 1981 summary from the work I’d kept, so that was employed again: 50 points for being #1, 49 for #2, 48 for #3, etc., 10 points for each week on the chart, plus some bonuses thrown in if a song stayed at #1 for more than two weeks. I used Excel for my calculations this time around–pretty painless other than the data entry, of course.

Anyway, without further adieu, the results–I won’t even keep you in suspense by starting at #100:

2Don’t You Want Me948222
4Only the Lonely8771(3)19
5Do You Believe in Love8431(5)17
6Sweet Dreams8391(3)18
7Hard To Say I’m Sorry8311(2)18
8Hurts So Good825522
8Who Can It Be Now?825418
10Caught Up in You8181(1)18
11Don’t Talk to Strangers8171(2)18
12Take It Easy on Me*814217
13Kids in America810418
14Shake It Up*8081(3)17
16Theme from ‘Chariots of Fire’8001(1)17
17I Love Rock ‘n Roll797317
18Eye in the Sky7881(3)17
19The One You Love**7831(3)15
20You Should Hear How She Talks About You777317
20You Can Do Magic777217
22Open Arms775216
24Tainted Love7721(1)17
25’65 Love Affair759317
26Never Been in Love7161(4)15
28Key Largo7111018
29Somebody’s Baby705316
30Always on My Mind688417
31Man on Your Mind666315
32Heat of the Moment663615
34Ebony and Ivory645916
35Love Is Alright Tonite620516
35You Don’t Want Me Anymore620614
37Hot in the City617715
38Did It in a Minute614414
39Under Pressure*6101(2)13
39Spirits in the Material World610615
41Hold Me606915
42Nobody Said It Was Easy599414
44Eye of the Tiger5861518
45Our Lips Are Sealed*5841(2)12
46Think I’m in Love583513
47The Other Woman580714
48My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)*5761(1)12
49We Got the Beat5721115
50Jack and Diane5661117
51Tonight I’m Yours (Don’t Hurt Me)544713
52That Girl542913
53You Could Have Been with Me*526815
54I Ran (So Far Away)525813
55Keep the Fire Burnin’521713
56I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)*5141313
57Someday, Someway5121214
58Steppin’ Out**511210
59Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me510814
61Blue Eyes4991013
62Cool Night*4981012
62Make a Move on Me498912
64Up Where We Belong**497912
65Pac-Man Fever4961114
65Even the Nights Are Better4961314
67Waiting for a Girl Like You*495310
69Wasted on the Way4931113
71Through the Years484613
72Harden My Heart*480912
73I’ve Never Been To Me4741514
74Take Me Down473912
75Empty Garden4721012
76Sweet Time467912
77Angel in Blue4641113
79Leader of the Band*4601915
80New World Man459811
81Goin’ Down458712
82Play the Game Tonight4561012
84Turn Your Love Around*4451411
85Let It Whip4422016
86Without You (Not Another Lonely Night)4411312
86I Keep Forgettin’4411513
88Get Down on It430911
89Love Will Turn You Around420911
90Body Language4121211
91Waiting on a Friend*4071511
92Heart Attack4051613
93Hooked on Classics*3961410
93Let Me Tickle Your Fancy3961512
95Break It Up3951311
96Love in the First Degree3841712
97Bobbie Sue3831311
98Hold On3811611
98Shadows of the Night**3811(3)8
100It’s Raining Again**37978

*was on the chart for at least one week in 1981
**would have been on the chart for at least one week in 1983

It turned out not to be that close for the top spot. Overall I can’t complain too much about how the top ten turned out, though I think Huey was probably top 3 in my heart, and I wouldn’t have Johnny Cougar nearly so high now.

I’m a tiny bit surprised to see “Don’t You Want Me” all the way up at #2. That said, I’ve come to recognize over the last couple of years its importance (yes, along with “Tainted Love”) in being the leading edge of the Second British Invasion. I just finished reading Tom Breihan’s The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music, in which he devotes a chapter to “Don’t You Want Me” for essentially that reason (with immense credit to MTV for its role in it all).

The song that lost out the most due to bad timing was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which was #1 the last week of December 1981 and the first week of January 1982, and didn’t make the Top 100 either year. On the other hand, both “Physical” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You” were on both Top 100s, due to their chart longevity. It’d perhaps be worthwhile to take a cue from the AT40 staff and include more (or all) of a song’s run in this exercise–of course, that couldn’t be done with songs that hung on into some of 1983…

Anyway, laugh as you will at the results; I’m glad to have ranked them at last. Here’s to the best for all of us in 2023.

I am still on Twitter, though a) I’m enjoying it less all the time, and b) I completely understand why some folks have chosen to bail. That said, I’ve begun exploring other social media outlets. Here are the coordinates of my extremely minimal presence at two other places:

Mastodon: @wmharris@mstdn.plus
Post.News: @wmharris

You’re more than welcome to follow me and/or to let me know where/how to find you in those or other spaces.

AT40’s Top 100 of 1980

The AT40 rite I held on to the longest was checking out and writing down Casey’s countdown of the Top 100 of the year just ended, something I did between 1976 and 1985 (almost three years after I’d stopped listening to the show on any kind of regular basis). I’ve been posting my charts for those surveys over the past five years, as Premiere cycles through them. This year they’re replaying 1980, one of just two from that ten-year span they’ve not spun since 2017. (The other is 1982, and I actually have only a fragmentary record for that one–so this may be the final entry in the series?)

About the notation: the three numbers to the left of each entry are 1) weeks on AT40 during what I thought was the chart year, 11/3/79-10/25/80; 2) peak position; 3) predicted position on the year-end survey. As was ever the case, the biggest forecasting errors came from misunderstanding the chart year, on both sides. The staff clearly reached back further into October of ’79 (e.g., “Pop Muzik” and “Still”) and later into November of ’80 (e.g., “Woman in Love” and “He’s So Shy”) than I expected. It’s hard to draw those lines, and I think over time AT40 did better in adding flexibility, allowing them to give some big hits that happened to chart at “the wrong time” a more just ranking.

I apparently have not held on to the records of my points computations, though I have an idea of the outline of the system I used. There is this oddly-ordered list of my predicted Top 100–it looks like it’s arranged chronologically by peak position?

I plan to be back tomorrow with another list, one that I could have tallied forty years ago but didn’t until this past week.

Songs Casey Never Played, 12/20/75

This chart went up about two months before I learned about Casey Kasem, so one could make the case it’s too early in time for me to be playing this game. There’s never a bad era from which to learn something about pop music, is what I say in response. Here are half-a-dozen tracks from the nether regions of the Hot 100 of 47 years ago; this time out, it’s rock and pop from all-male acts, some much more well-known than others.

97. Justin Hayward & John Lodge, “Blue Guitar”
The Moodies were on a self-imposed break through much of the mid-70s. Hayward & Lodge continued working together, though, and this single had followed the release of an LP earlier in the year. “Blue Guitar” is new to me today but lovely; my crack research team tells me that Godley, Creme, and Stewart of 10cc backed Hayward in the recording, with Lodge’s bass part added later. It would top out at only #94.

87. 10cc, “Art for Art’s Sake”
Speak of the devil… Godley & Creme were just about to decamp for what they hoped were greener pastures, but not before recording How Dare You! I had not realized what monsters 10cc were on the British charts: eleven top 10 hits over a six-year period, which sounds like a signal I should be checking some things out. On the other hand…I am just not hearing what made “Art for Art’s Sake” a #5 smash in the U.K. (and I say this as someone who loves their two big U.S. hits as much as anyone). It would make only #83 on this side of the pond.

76. Head East, “Never Been Any Reason”
One of those presumably now-extinct creatures, the band with a regional following that could never break nationally. They’re credited as a “midwest” act, but I guess that Cincinnati and Louisville were close enough to that for them to receive airplay. I’ve loved this song for a long time and bought Flat As a Pancake sometime while I was in college. Deserved better than the #68 peak it had enjoyed the week prior to this chart.

70. Batdorf & Rodney, “Somewhere in the Night”
Helen Reddy’s version hit the Hot 100 one week before this did–Reddy is at #45 and already streaking toward a #19 peak. (Note: this is not the only song that appears twice on this chart–of all things, David Geddes has “Last Game of the Season (Blind Man in the Bleachers)” at #18, while Kenny Starr uses just the parenthetical for the title of his take, at #61.) This would climb one spot higher the following week and then drop off.

John Batdorf soon moved on to form Silver, who hit with “Wham-Bam” in the late summer of 1976.

57. The Hudson Brothers, “Lonely School Year”
I remember watching a decent amount of the Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show the year it was broadcast on Saturday mornings. (“No thanks, we’re trying to cut down” became a part of my lexicon for years afterward.) I didn’t know until the last decade that they’d actually had two Top 40 hits–the pitch-perfect Beatles pastiche “So You Are a Star” and the Beach Boys homage (co-penned by Bruce Johnston, even) “Rendevous.” The former made #21 soon after their show debuted in the fall of 1974, and the latter reached #26 just about the time it was taken off the air, less than a year later. “Lonely School Year,” which is at its peak, sounds to these ears like a Tiger Beat version of the Raspberries; alas, it’s too slight lyrically to have had much hit potential.

(As an aside, I sure enjoyed finding and watching an episode of the HBRDS earlier today.)

51. America, “Woman Tonight”
This is one of those songs that I have a devil of a time finding the beat during the verses–I’m attempting to train myself through repeated listening right now. It was the follow-up to “Daisy Jane,” the third single off Hearts, and soon to peak at #44.

Christmas/Holiday Cheer: If Only In My Dreams

On Tuesday, I traveled to Warsaw to deliver a Christmas wreath to my parents’ graves. I’ve mentioned before that I go the cemetery there three times a year, continuing in some ways what my father did for his direct forebears. December is the month Dad passed away, but in recent years my focus in traveling there has shifted a bit, into honoring and remembering both of them at the holidays. Visiting where they lay buried always makes for a melancholy day, but for some reason I was feeling it all the more this time.

Warsaw is a one-stop-light town right on the Ohio River, in one of the smallest counties in Kentucky. They do have a very nice locally-owned restaurant, though–Jewell’s on Main, on the corner at that light, across from the county courthouse. Lately I’ve taken to calling in a lunch order as I leave the cemetery and then walking the two blocks to a park on the river to eat; it’s a peaceful, contemplative spot. Tuesday was no exception. It was cool enough, but the sun was out and there was little breeze. I was able to find a sunny spot in one of the picnic shelters to tuck into a grilled chicken sandwich and side salad.

There’s always time to walk around town while they prepare my order. I usually take the same route from the cemetery, starting by crossing Main Street at First and going one block toward the river to turn left onto High Street. At the corner of High and Second stands an office building with a cornerstone indicating it was built in 2005. It’s the plot on which my Great-Aunt Birdie’s house stood.

Dad sold the property a few years after Aunt Birdie died in 1997. At the time it was well over a century old but in pretty bad shape from years of benign neglect. I don’t blame the new owner much for tearing it down, even if I miss it. (The last time I was in the house, demolition was already underway. Somehow I was able to go inside and wander around–it was so strange to go walk up the stairs and into the bedroom where we’d sleep on visits and look directly up to the sky.)

The office building sits where the detached garage was, while the land where the house stood is bare. I veered from the sidewalk, over to where the living room had been. Today there’s a clear view of the river that would’ve been obscured by overgrowth in the 70s and 80s.

So, yeah, I might have been thinking about people I’d been with on Christmases past, maybe even wishing I could revisit–just for a few minutes–one of those magical seasons.

I don’t believe there’s a picture of Mom and Dad together on any Christmas Day. That makes sense–one or the other of them would be behind the camera to capture the moments. (Are there any of just Martha and me from when Ben was growing up? I doubt it.) The photo above probably comes from 1980 or 1981, and definitely was taken during the holidays–notice the mistletoe? Either Amy or I is with camera in the living room of our house in Walton, while Mom and Dad are standing in the junction of our bedroom hallway, living room, dining room, and kitchen (the dining room, which we rarely used, is behind them). Is it day or night? Where are we about to go? What would I say to my parents if I could jump back in the scene?

There’s a walking path around the perimeter of the riverfront park in Warsaw. I’ve noticed before that the city has installed enclosed displays periodically along the path, and the local public library uses many of them to show the pages of a children’s story book–you can read it as you walk the path counter-clockwise. After I finished my lunch, I strolled over to the first one, not far from the shelter where I’ve eaten. This month’s installation is a picture book called Christmas Is Joy, by Emma Dodd, published just a couple of years ago. The drawings are mostly of an adult and child deer walking around a snowy wonderland, and the text recounts all the good things that come from being together at Christmas (note that it’s a secular book). As I continued my stroll, I recognized that had the book been around twenty years ago, Martha and I might well have been spending the days leading up to Christmas 2002 reading it to a two-year-old boy in our laps.

As I walked up the hill back toward my car, I understood that it’s not just Christmases from my youth that I might want to relive.

Wishing you and yours the most wonderful of holidays.

Stereo Review In Review: December 1979

It’s another issue that brings back some memories, in this case the reviews of the Eagles and Talking Heads albums. A few years later, Fear of Music would play a vital role in shaping my musical tastes; I’m planning an in-depth look at it in the coming year. In the meantime, though, I’m here to learn some about what I didn’t catch the first time through.

Noel Coppage Interviews Ry Cooder
Cooder talks about his career-to-date, recognizing that each album has been a little different (“I’m just trying to find a good band sound, a good format for me“) and musicianship (“Technique is something that people are aware of now and weren’t before…speed guitar has got to be the one hook that has lasted and paid off…but having technique doesn’t mean you can play something good”), among any number of other things.

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Edward Buxbaum, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Ensemble for Early Music, Christesmas in Anglia: Early English Music for Christmastide (PK) “…a program of largely unfamiliar but totally captivating airs drawn from the Coventry mystery plays, from Scottish and Irish as well as English sources, the whole sung partly in old English, partly in Latin.”
–Gary Burton/Chick Corea, Duet (CA) “…it is in the longer pieces that the two players get the opportunity to demonstrate a really wonderful compatibility, building up breathtaking patterns and interacting in a way Corea and Herbie Hancock never could.”
Bread & Roses (NC) A two-disk live set from a fundraising concert held in the fall of 1977. Performers include Dave Van Ronk, Hoyt Axton, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Buffy Saint-Marie, Joan Baez, and Jackson Browne/David Lindley. “…it is one of the best recordings of the subtleties of acoustic music in a festival setting you could hope to hear.”

Featured Reviews
–Chuck Berry, Rockit (JV) “…epitomizes (his) past glories, demonstrates the healthy current state of his talent, and points out his possible future direction.”
–John Denver & the Muppets, A Christmas Together (William Anderson) “Overall, the touch is refreshingly light (Miss Piggy’s Carmen Miranda reading of ‘Christmas Is Coming’ would guarantee that all by itself, but ‘Little St. Nick,’ by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, further ensures that any long faces in the crowd get shorter fast).”
–Aretha Franklin, La Diva (PG) “But one mark of a true diva is the ability to bounce back from a slack period with a stunning performance that confirms her high status, and that’s just what Franklin has done…”
Giants of Jazz: Bix Beiderbecke (James Goodfriend) A three-disc overview courtesy of Time-Life. “Listeners coming to Beiderbecke’s music for the first time should be aware that, in general, they will be listening for snatches and fragments. Frankly, none of the bands Bix played with were all that good; the records are classics because of him.”
–Nancy Harrow, Anything Goes (PR) “…I actually get angry when I think of all those people who could appreciate (this album) but will never even get to see a copy in their local stores because the racks are too crowded with the latest instantly salable junk.”
–Van Morrison, Into the Music (NC) “This new album, being more even and listenable than most, is a good example of how, ideally, songwriting and singing merge in Morrison’s world. When he’s successful, his lyrics—once he’s sung them—convey, at most, that what he’s trying to express is beyond words.”
The Muppet Movie (PR) “The score that Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher have devised has the same charmingly goofy inventiveness and sunny disposition as the Muppet odd squad itself.’
–Anne Murray, I’ll Always Love You (William Anderson) “What has changed is pop music itself, which (disco aside) now seems to be ricocheting within a triangle bounded by folk, country, and rock. And who is the canny young woman occupying the catbird seat right in the middle of that triangle?”
Pennies from Heaven (PK) Several LPs full of classics from the Depression years. Most of the songs had been featured in a BBC series (which was not a re-do of the Bing Crosby film). “The beautifully cleaned-up mono sound on all these discs makes the exercise in nostalgia they encourage all but painless.”
–The Who, Quadrophenia (SS) “I’d rate the original album, divorced from the film, as more impressive because it’s more cohesive, but this soundtrack works as an album and as a vindication of Townshend’s faith in the universality of his story and the music he concocted for it.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Cameo, Secret Omen (PG) “Certainly, there is nothing convoluted or intellectual about it, but if the music makes you feel good, that can be enough.”
–Johnny Cash, Silver (NC) “It comes off as an expression of Johnny Cash as he is today, responsible, Christian, an American institution, even—but it also reminds you of the old wildness.”
–Rosanne Cash, Right or Wrong (NC) “But I’m not yet prepared to say that she’s a great singer; what I’m prepared to say is that she and her husband, Rodney Crowell, who produced this and wrote most of it, sure know how to make albums.”
–Marshall Chapman, Marshall (NC) “…seems pretty close to the kind of album (she) has been trying to make; it is a hard rocker and at times it is hilarious and always it reflects an unsinkable spirit.”
–Chic, Risqué (EB) “It’s slow, first of all, and it tends to have unexpected rhythms that get in the way on the dance floor. Worse, the typical Chic song is weak on melody, putting romantically lush arrangements and hypnotic repetition where the song should be.”
–Ellen Foley, Nightout (JV) “One often seems to be hearing—all at once—a Phil Spector ‘wall of sound’ from the Fifties, some of the more charming studio gimcrackery of the Sixties, and the obsessively clinical engineering of the Seventies. Foley shines throughout, and I heartily recommend that you hear and cheer her.”
–Mighty Pope, Sway (EB) “This is hypnotically trancy music that seems to grow rather than build. It’s sexy and great for both heavy dancing and just listening.”
–Genya Ravan, And I Mean It! (CA) “…it tops everything (she) has done previously, and that includes her work with Ten Wheel Drive, which originally established her on the American pop map.”
–Steve Ross, S/T (William Livingstone) “…an excellent example of the kind of work that keeps Ross’ devoted following of theater-goers and performers coming back for more…American theater songs which he has chosen with taste and performs with skill, reinterpreting them in cabaret style.”
–Talking Heads, Fear of Music (SS) “…it’s now quite obvious that Sixties funk of the Memphis variety, rather than SoHo minimalism, is the real root of what they’re doing…a sound album in the best sense, full of textural surprises, rhythmic quirks, and striking instrumental work…”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Blondie, Eat to the Beat (Lester Bangs) “The band…is growing with (Debbie Harry), though there’s still nothing really outstanding about their playing, and the songs are mostly pretty serious stuff…but, for my taste, pop groups were never supposed to be this heavy and grim.”
–Carlene Carter, Two Sides to Every Woman (NC) “She’s a major talent…her voice is full of warm tones; if the writing and production could simply follow the way she sings decent stuff…the album would seem more unified and, for me at least, more alive.”
–Eagles, The Long Run (SS) “Yes, against all expectations (for this they labored three years?), here is still more monied Angst, lame social comment, and overproduction from the Eagles, who apparently believe that what the world needs now is a tuneless, turtle-tempo essay on the human condition as seen from the perspective of five very rich, very bored Angelenos.”
–Garland Jeffreys, American Boy & Girl (PG) “I do not like his music, and his singing style leaves me unmoved. But he’s a talented lyricist, a brilliant urban troubadour, and I do like what he’s saying.”
–Steve Martin, Comedy Is Not Pretty (JV) “Martin can be quite funny, though, in a haphazard way. He appears to be incapable of a sustained routine, but he has some lovely flashes—giddy plots with a series of punch lines that jab like a Golden Gloves boxing champ.”
–Carolyne Mas, S/T (NC) “In some ways this is a crackerjack of a bubblegum album, but it leaves you feeling (she) has the intelligence—and knowing she has the voice—to aim higher.”
–Giorgio Moroder, E=MC2 (EB) “The unbroken medley on side one…is a dancer’s delight. Too few disco producers provide this kind of instant party, obvious though the idea seems. Yes, there is a sameness of tone and tempo in the three perky songs…and yes, they don’t hold up for mere listening, but they do build beautifully for dancing.”
–The Alan Parsons Project, Eve (EB) “It’s not the most profound concept, the conflict of the animal urgings of sex and the human need for love, and it’s not carried through and developed in a literary or operatic way, like Evita or Tommy.”
–Pink Lady, S/T (PR) “…a disco album that sounds so much like every other disco album you’ve ever heard that you’ll have to keep checking the label to make sure you have slipped some older record onto the turntable by mistake.”
–Kenny Rogers, Kenny (NC) “But this album, like most of his recent ones, has a predigested, market-researched air about it and an amorphous non-style…That would be all right…except that the songs and instrumentation are so formula-struck.”
–Rachel Sweet, Fool Around (JV) “In musical and historical terms she can be compared with Brenda Lee and Lesley Gore, but with one important difference…Today a rapid loss of innocence is assumed, and a teenager can handle material that is womanly rather than girlish…what I guess we will have to call nymphet-rock.”
–Frank Zappa, Joe’s Garage, Act I (Eric Salzman) “…a slightly surrealistic sound drama about garage bands, groupie sex, and all-American sleaze…(Zappa’s) zestful, zany adolescent Singspiel and muddled madcap music may be amusing, but it hardly has the urgency his work used to have.”