Nineteen eighty wasn’t a game changing year on the US pop chart. It wasn’t 1964. It wasn’t 1991. For the most part it was music business as usual. The death of disco was greatly exaggerated. Just ask any member of Lipps, Inc., should you have any idea what any member of Lipps, Inc. looks like. Seventies hit makers stayed on the charts. Paul McCartney. Diana Ross. Stevie Wonder. Barbra Streisand. The Captain & Tennille did it to us one more time, it meaning having a hit single. A few outsiders snuck into the top 40 with sounds unlike the rest – Devo hit with “Whip It,” Gary Numan with “Cars,” and The Vapors with “Turning Japanese.” In the coming years more such weirdos would make their presence known.
While many of 1980’s hits were great singles, many classics were born outside of the mainstream. Releases such as Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Redemption Song,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Peter Gabriel’s “Biko,” Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” and Funky 4 + 1’s “That’s the Joint” are often referred to as classics these days. In 1980, not a single one of them troubled the US Hot 100. Change was on its way. In 1980, rap wasn’t a fixture on the top 40, though its influence was heard in Queen’s #1 smash “Another One Bites the Dust.” The next few years saw #1 hits from Peter Gabriel, Prince, David Bowie and a rap song, plus a top ten reggae song.
Today’s Throwback Thursday playlist shines a spotlight on 1980.
Inspired by the November 11 birthdays of XTC’s Andy Partridge, LaVern Baker, Wu-Tang Clan’s U-God, Marshall Crenshaw, Stubby Kaye, Peaches, Mose Allison, Raveonettes’ Sharin Foo, Dennis Coffey, Chris Smither, Static Major, The Ides of March’s Jim Peterik, and The Blasters’ Dave Alvin.
Inspired by the July 28 birthdays of Devo’s Jerry Casale, Rachel Sweet, Rudy Vallee, Stephen Lynch, and Afroman; and the July 27 birthdays of Maureen McGovern, The Moonglows’ Harvey Fuqua, Bobbie Gentry, Juliana Hatfield and Phosphorescent.
Inspired by Black Music Month, LGBTQ Pride Month, the June 3 birthdays of Curtis Mayfield, Deniece Williams, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter, C + C Music Factory’s David Cole, Suzi Quatro, Allen Ginsberg, Dan Hill, Boots Rudolph, Republica’s Saffron, Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones, and Beabadoobee, and the June 2 birthdays of The Rolling Stones‘ Charlie Watts, Chubby Tavares, Cypress Hill’s B-Real, Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley, Bangles’ Michael Steele, Jimmy Jones, Skillz, Otis Williams, David Dundas, Marvin Hamlisch, Sammy Turner, and Robin Lamont.
Inspired by the May 18 birthdays of Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, Rick Wakeman, Butch Tavares, Robert Morse, Big Joe Turner, Rob Base, Ezio Pinza, George Strait, Martika, Enigma’s Michael Cretu, Albert Hammond, Perry Como, Oak Ridge Boys’ Joe Bonsall, the Rubettes’ Paul DaVinci, Jack Johnson, and Broadway composer Meredith Willson.
Foo Fighters – “Learn to Fly” Today is Foo Fighter Dave Grohl’s birthday. This is easily my favorite song from the group’s album There Is Nothing Left to Lose. Grohl said it’s one of his least favorites on the album. What does he know?
Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire” Today is the birthday of Kings of Leon’s lead singer Caleb Followill. About this song, Caleb’s brother and fellow bandmate Nathan said in an interview “Sex On Fire was just kind of a little lyric just to fill in to kill some time until we could actually write something that wasn’t about sex and fire.”
Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody” Grammy Award winner for Record of the Year.
Foo Fighters – “Everlong” David Letterman introduced a performance of this song on his talk show as “my favorite band playing my favorite song.”
Bobby “Blue” Bland – “I’ll Take Care of You” Written by Brook Benton and originally recorded by Bobby “Blue Bland,” this song was covered by Gil Scott-Heron, whose version was remixed by Jamie xx. That remix was sampled in the Drake/Rihanna hit “Take Care.”
James Brown – “King Heroin” This song is a poem written by New York City Stage Delicatessen worker Manny Rosen set to music.
Barbara Lewis – “Baby I’m Yours” This song was written by Van McCoy, who hit #1 with his classic disco recording “The Hustle.”
Mary Wells – “Two Lovers” This song was written by Smokey Robinson, who was inspired by a movie he was watching on television in which a woman had two lovers. Imagine the song we would have gotten had Smokey been watching The Thing With Two Heads.
Oasis – “Slide Away” Oasis member Noel Gallagher, who write this song, says it contains his brother Liam’s best vocals ever.
Foo Fighters – “I’ll Stick Around” This song’s music video was directed by Jerry Casale of Devo, who is coming up later on this playlist.
Dionne Warwick – “Promises, Promises” Like most of Dionne Warwick’s sixties hits, this one was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
LL Cool J – “I’m That Type of Guy” Today James Todd Smith turns 52 years old. He’s cool and the ladies love him, hence his rap moniker LL Cool J.
Run-D.M.C. – “Run’s House” Run-D.M.C. sampled this in their final top 40 pop hit, “Down with the King.”
Clarence Carter – “Strokin” Today is the 84th birthday of Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Ooh Shit Clarence Carter.
The Smashing Pumpkins – “Landslide” In 1994, Smashing Pumpkins’ version of this Fleetwood Mac song hit #3 on the US Modern Rock chart, becoming the first version of this song to chart.
Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs” The title track from the 2011 Album of the Year Grammy winner.
Jack Jones – “Wives and Lovers” Another Grammy Award winner, this one for Best Vocal Performance, Male. As with the Dionne Warwick song earlier in this playlist, this was written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The lyrics, which may have already seemed backwards when they wrote it in 1963, come across as downright anachronistic today, telling women they need to stay attractive and attend to their husbands if they want them to remain faithful. Today is Jack Jones’ birthday.
Clarence Carter – “Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street)” Another classic performance from Carter, referenced in “Strokin.”
Devo – “Working in the Coal Mine” A cover of the Lee Dorsey classic, written by the late Alan Toussaint, whose birthday is today.
The Pointer Sisters – “Yes We Can Can” Alan Toussaint write this song also. He wrote a lot of great songs. He also co-produced the Labelle classic “Lady Marmalade.” Respect.
Today is the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. You’re officially allowed to start listening to holiday music now. To get you started, I compiled a playlist of what I consider to be 100 of the best Christmas songs. Okay, 98 songs, a stand-up routine and a skit. It’s a mix of standards, versions of standards with which you may not be familiar, and obscure but delightful tunes.
In 1979, Giorgio Moroder, famous mostly for his production work on Donna Summer records, composed the score for the film American Gigolo. He asked Stevie Nicks to sing the movie’s theme song, for which Moroder wrote the music, but she had to decline for contractual reasons. He next turned to Deborah Harry of Blondie.
Harry write the lyrics to the song that became “Call Me,” the second #1 single for her band. Of her experience with Moroder, she told Billboard “He’s very nice to work with, very easy, (but) I don’t think he has a lot of patience with people who fool around or don’t take what they do seriously. I think he’s very serious about what he does and he’s intense and he’s a perfectionist and he’s very talented, so I think that people who are less talented or less concentrated bore him quickly…you really have to pay attention.”
Said Moroder of working with Blondie, “There were always fights. I was supposed to do an album with them after that. We went to the studio, and the guitarist was fighting with the keyboard player. I called their manager and quit.”
Moroder did end up working with Deborah Harry again years later on another soundtrack song, producing “Rush Rush” from Scarface, and in 2004 remixed Blondie’s single “Good Boys.”
Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week spotlights the best of 1980, kicking off with Blondie’s “Call Me.”
The B-52’s 1980 single “Private Idaho” made Pitchfork’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs from Punk to Present,” present being 2006. In his capsule review, Nitsuh Abebe wrote “Those who dismiss the B-52’s as silly or kitschy should live in fear of the frenzied last half-minute, which sounds like it’s out to track those people down, lock them up in cages, and make them go-go dance until they cry for mercy.”
Every Friday, Tunes du Jour tries to make you dance to welcome in the weekend. This week’s dance playlist kicks off with The B-52’s’ “Private Idaho,” featuring the vocals of Fred Schneider, who turns 65 today. (By the way, the B-52’s first performed in Idaho in 2011.)