A friend on Facebook recently roped me into posting a favorite single from the ’80s every day for a week. I normally avoid any form of ‘pressured participation’ in what is basically a chain letter, or an attempt to guilt you into ‘liking’ some page so the original poster can harvest your details (especially the ones that are “Share this page if you are against child abuse” – the implication being that if you don’t share then you are in favor of child abuse), but this one seemed fun. So I did it. If we’re ‘friends’ on Facebook you’ll have already seen this, but for my non-Facebook friends (and I’m seriously considering joining their ranks given the significant increase in ‘sponsored’ content recently), I’ve consolidated my postings here. (And also because I haven’t posted anything here for a while, and I’m feeling guilty. As well as lazy.)
Day 1: Motörhead – Ace of Spades (1980). (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI9gTHdCZ9U)
I was a huge Motörhead fan, back in the day. Had the denim jacket with the big Motorhead patch on the back, all the albums, etc. All I was missing was the long, greasy hair, but going to a military boarding school precluded that. Ace of Spades isn’t their BEST (that would be Overkill), but it was a bit of a hit for them, and that’s why it is important (to me). It spent 13 weeks on the charts, peaking at number 15, which pretty much meant that the BBC couldn’t ignore it (as they typically tried to do with any NWOBHM band) and had to give them a slot on Top Of The Pops, which was a total thrill. Seeing ANY heavy metal band on TOTP, sandwiched in between Dollar and Cliff Richard seemed so subversive (almost as subversive as John Peel’s raised eyebrow as he had to introduce some crap he clearly loathed…), like ANYTHING was possible!. I only have one Motörhead album left in my collection (their eponymous debut), and I can’t say I’ve listened to it in probably 30 years, but Motorhead, and this single, will always hold a special place place in my (ongoing) musical education.
Day 2: Whitesnake – Here I Go Again (1982) (https://youtu.be/i3MXiTeH_Pg)
Despite being well into my headbanger phase at the time, I also had a soft spot for more ‘softer’ fare – such as Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Gillan, Rainbow (all of which are connected if you want to dig out your copy of Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees)… This record isn’t my favorite ‘soft/classic rock’ single of the ’80s, but again, there’s reason for its inclusion in my list. Somehow, at boarding school, we managed to convince one of the teachers that it would be a great idea to drive a minibus full of us up to London (from Dover) once a year to go to a rock concert at Hammersmith Odeon The first two years we went, we saw Iron Maiden. Both excellent gigs, especially the second one (the Number of The Beast Tour, I think), where we had tickets near the front, and I caught Stevie Harris’s sweat-stained West Ham wrist-band, which remained a prize possession for years, until some bastard stole it. The third year we went, either Iron Maiden weren’t touring, or someone with more influence than me wanted to see something softer, so we saw Whitesnake. I think it was the Slide It In tour (Coverdale was fond of his single-entendres – he even named his band after his todger). That was an all-time favorite gig of mine, mainly because they had Jon Lord (ex Deep Purple) on keyboards (stabbing his Hammond organ with daggers) and the legendary Cozy Powell on drums (and pyrotechnics…). It was all very ridiculous and overblown (and that was just Coverdale’s hair!), but that feeling of being with ‘your tribe’, singing along to Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City with 5,000 of your new best friends, when most of your schoolmates were stuck back at school listening to the New Romantics on a crappy mono record player in the Common Room, was overwhelming and not soon forgotten.
So that’s why I’m including this one. It was a toss-up between this and Run To The Hills by Iron Maiden (I had the 7″ picture disc – it was extra thick, and slightly warped, so you had to put a penny on the turntable arm to stop it from bouncing – kids today they just don’t believe you…), and frankly this had the better video, thanks to the beautiful Tawny Kitaen (although I’m sure Coverdale thought he was the more beautiful of the two when they married…).
Day 3: Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time (1983) (https://youtu.be/VdQY7BusJNU)
I know, a bit of a shock after Days 1 & 2, but… Sometimes I associate songs with people. This is one of them. For some reason, I associate this song with a particular girl who was the object of my affection back in the ’80s when this single came out. I’m sure she had no idea (of either my unrequited love or the song connection) and I can’t even remember WHY I associated this particular song with her, but every time I hear it I think of her. Not with the same feelings of longing and regret as I had back then, but the connection is hardwired, like the way some smells remind you of certain events or places. There’s a couple of other songs that are the same way for me (different songs/different girls, but always in relation to unrequited love – story of my teenage years!). In fact, one of my favorite albums I couldn’t even listen to for years because it was playing when another unwitting object of my affection broke my heart by telling me that she’d started dating someone, just as I was about to ask her out myself.
So this song is on my list to thank the girls I never dated but who, nonetheless, helped shape me emotionally – into someone who’s no longer afraid to put their feelings out there (like this) and see what happens. And if any of you mofo’s have a problem with that, f*** you!
Day 4: The Cure – Lovecats (1983) (https://youtu.be/gjvOhDyjNrA)
I don’t really like this song at all. It’s just way too twee and cheerful, and is almost my least favorite Cure song ever, second only to The Caterpillar. The first album of The Cure’s that I owned – and loved – (and played to death – and still have on vinyl) is Pornography, which really couldn’t be more different to this single: all dark and moody and edgy. Which turns out to be exactly my cup of tea. Working backwards through their discography I found Faith and Seventeen Seconds, which lacked the ferocity of Pornography, but were still generally ‘down’ enough to be enjoyable (!). But then they went and released THIS. It just wasn’t what I wanted to hear from The Cure, and I largely gave up on them until many years later when a friend told me they thought Disintegration was more my thing (and they were right; it was – but I still refuse to buy Wish, with the horribly upbeat Friday I’m In Love on it).
So why is this single on my list? Because when I went off to college in 1984, a regular event on my (admittedly limited) freshman social calendar was the Friday Night Alternative Disco at the Student’s Union, where The Lovecats was played every week without fail. And I’d be there every week without fail, dancing along to it – and Rock Lobster, and Destination Zululand, and whatever else they played – with unselfconscious abandon (amazing what subsidized beer will do,,,). That was just a great time: no money, no girlfriend, no cares.
So this one is on my list just to remind myself that I used to know how to have a good time, before my ex wife took the fun out of going out, and that maybe next time I get pressured to dance at a wedding or a Chicago bar, maybe I shouldn’t be so self-conscious, and should just get out there and shake my ass like they’re playing my second-least-favorite Cure song.
Day 5: Sisters of Mercy – Temple of Love (1983) (https://youtu.be/u_W3VykYhWA)
Quite possibly as a result of going to the Alternative Disco (see Day 4), I discovered the Sisters of Mercy – and so began my Goth phase. Or maybe my Goth-lite phase; I never dyed my hair black or back-combed it, and never wore black eyeliner… But I did dress predominantly in black, and had skinny black jeans (that I had to take in myself because my legs were so skinny that regular skinny jeans looked like flairs…), bondage boots, and a bullet belt, so if the faux-dusty, wide-brimmed hat fits…
Anyway, I LOVED the Sisters of Mercy – at least First And Last And Always, which is a classic album that I still listen to. They were best on their EPs – Alice, Reptile House EP, and Body And Soul (all of which I still have), or their many excellent covers (Stones’ Gimme Shelter, Dolly Parton’s Jolene, and Hot Chocolate’s Emma), but kind of went off the boil when Eldritch decided to go it alone. But then, we also had The Mission, All About Eve (barely goth), some Cure, some Banshees, and of course, Fields of the Nephilim. The ‘Nephs epitomized both the good and bad about Goth: The affected sub-bass vocals were laughable, as was much of the lyrical subject matter, but when they hit their stride (Last Exit For The Lost, Dawnrazor), they had all that overblown grandeur that made rain-lashed walks on desolate clifftops in thunderstorms, with your arms outstretched to the heavens, seem like the perfect day out.
I kind of gave up my Goth look not long after I left college (as, probably, most Goths do, or risk turning into Gary King in The World’s End – I had that T-shirt!), but the music still clings to me, like the smell of so much stale patchouli…
Day 6: Sonic Youth – Teenage Riot (1988) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvDuATZCY8I)
OK, so I never actually owned this single, and I didn’t really get into Sonic Youth until many years later, but this was released in the ’80s so I’m going with it.
Sonic Youth (no, they didn’t do Pass The Dutchy – that was MUSICAL Youth…) were always on the (far) fringe of my musical tastes – I’d only heard a couple of things by them, and wasn’t overly impressed. My best bud at the time, Mattee, felt it his duty to get me into Sonic Youth, even buying us tickets to see them at the Brixton Academy. It was an excellent show, but I still didn’t really GET it. It was all a bit fractious and deliberately ‘difficult’ – like you had to actually _work_ at liking them. Plus, Kim Gordon’s off-key caterwauling was like nails on a chalkboard. Actually, worse. Nails on a chalkboard may have actually worked better with Thurston Moore’s guitar on occasion. So I never dug any further into them, and left it at that – a great first date, but no lasting relationship.
But several years later, in the early 2000s, I heard Teenage Riot – like really HEARD Teenage Riot – and just got it. There was lots of guitar, a minimal amount of Kim Gordon, and even a _tune_ you could sing along to, unraveling over six joyous minutes. I picked up the album it came off (Daydream Nation), and found I loved that, too. Their most recent album at the time was the excellent Murray Street, so I also picked that up, and I was hooked, picking up every release since then. I’m still far from being a Sonic Youth completist, but I’m slowly working backwards through their back catalog, loving some, hating others, but always finding something interesting.
So this one is on my list because it was the sweet-spot where Sonic Youth’s listenability and my openness to more obtuse works happened to coincide. And to remind myself that you should never really write off anything for good – maybe you’re just not ready for it yet.
Day 7: The Jesus and Mary Chain – Some Candy Talking (1985) (https://youtu.be/LDmzfVMVr8k)
And what a way to finish! I’m stretching the rules slightly in that I never actually owned this single, and this is more of a vote for their debut album, Psychocandy, which was released in the same year but didn’t originally contain this single – at least until the CD reissue in (I think) 2003.
I bought Psychocandy when it came out, on cassette (I still have it – even though I no longer own a working tape deck), and was just blown away. It was like an aural punch to the face – all that energy and attitude, realized through barely-controlled feedback and a couple of simple chords. There was lots of controversy surrounding the JAMC at the time: riots at gigs that only lasted 20 minutes (they managed a contractually-obligated 45 minutes when I saw them), and Some Candy Talking being banned from Radio one when simpering tool Mike Smith (the DJ not my old schoolmate and FB friend) ‘decoded’ the barely-concealed drug references and declared it a moral outrage, but behind all that were some pretty cool ‘tunes’ – fueled by the Reid brother’s love of Bo Diddley and the Shangri-Las as much as their borrowing from The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. If you opened up and LISTENED, it was a hugely rewarding album.
Actually, my favorite album of theirs is their sophomore effort Darklands (1987). That toned back the feedback, and allowed the tunes to do the talking. It’s probably my #1 favorite album of all time, and to my ears is the absolute perfect ‘pop’ album. Very accessible, chock full of classic songs (the gorgeous title track, the Springsteen-esque Happy When It Rains, Nine Million Rainy Days with its Sympathy for the Devil on downers feel, hell, all of them!), and is guaranteed to lift even the most sullen of moods.
But much as I love Darklands and every single (thing) on it, Some Candy Talking makes my list, just because that first album, and this single (which really should have been on the album when it was first released) prove that just because you look moody and miserable on the outside doesn’t mean you’re not amped up and blissed out on the inside.
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