Posts Tagged ‘Runaways’

Step back to 1980 – Part 1

September 28th, 2011 9 comments

The series now hits 1980, which was a pretty good year for pop music. Good enough to warrant four instalments, I think. It was the year in which I turned 14.

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Cheap Trick – Dream Police.mp3
This was the first record I bought in 1980. Cheap Trick probably were the first hair metal band. I didn”t really dig them very much, but I did like Dream Police, even if I had no idea what the song was about. It had a good guitar riff, a catchy chorus and some amusing sound effects. The term “dream police” has been used to describe a state on an LSD trip when the brain figures out that it”s not in charge anymore (or something like it; what the hell do I know about LSD trips?). But I think the lyrics are far better applied to describe a state of schizophrenia, with its paranoia and controlling inner voices.  The half-minute interlude at 2:50 certainly sounds like mental illness. Or, indeed, an alarming drugs trip.

Electric Light Orchestra ““ Confusion
And this was my second record of 1980. As with Cheap Trick, I”d never been much of an ELO fan. Don”t Bring Me Down changed that, and I liked Confusion even better (and perhaps still do; I prefer whichever of the two I’m presently hearing). Strangely, I didn”t buy the LP the songs were from. Later I discovered, as it were, that it”s a pretty good album. The purists don”t like it, I believe, because they thought that Jeff Lynne had sold ELO out to disco. Funny enough, disco often incorporated strings, which Lynne mostly dropped for the Discovery album. I”ll grant that Shine A Little Love and Last Train To London are a nod to disco, but for the most part it”s a wonderful pop album (Horace Wimple excepted).

Cherie & Marie Currie – Since You’ve Been Gone.mp3
In later 1979 and early 1980 there were two versions of the Russ Ballard-penned Since You Been Gone (or Since You”ve Been Gone, as some have rendered it. You can get Ballard”s original here). The excellent Rainbow version was the more successful, and apparently South African popsters Clout had a single of it out as well. I bought this single, by former Runaways singer Cherie Currie with her sister Marie (whom you will remember if you saw the recent biopic of the Runaways). I think the Curries” cover can just about compete with the Rainbow record. I”m not sure why I bought this single though. In the face of compertition by Rainbow, who were huge in West Germany, it wasn”t a big hit. Perhaps I saw it on the Musikladen TV show on which the sisters appeared in December 1979; but if I liked it, I”d have bought it right then, not in January (somehow I always had money for a single). Perhaps I bought it on strength of Cherie Currie, seeing as I liked The Runaways back in the day. Maybe I just like the cover”¦

AC/DC – Touch Too Much.mp3
Bon Scott was my first rock death as a fan. Of course, people whose music I had known had died before. Elvis, of course. Marc Bolan of T. Rex. Keith Moon of The Who. I had known their music, but I wasn”t a fan at the time. However, when Bon Scott died on 19 February 1980, I was something of an AC/DC fan. When the others died, I had no interest in their next record, but I was very much looking forward to the next AC/DC record, with Bon Scott on vocals, maybe featuring as great a song as Ride On from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. When the next album came out, with undue haste later that year, I had mixed emotions. The songs ““ Hells Bells, title track Back In Black, and especially You Shook Me All Night Long ““ were great, but to my mind new singer Brian Johnson was a pale imitation of the great Scott. I still think he is. So I started 1980 mourning the death of a favourite singer. I”d end the year in mourning an even more favourite singer.

Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad of Lucy Jordan.mp3
Like Since You Been Gone, The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan was a cover version, in this case of Dr Hook and the Medicine Show”s original penned by Shel Silverstein. Marianne Faithfull”s version is beautifully arranged, and the melody is lovely, but it was, of course, that broken voice which raised the song to another level. At the time I hadn”t heard of Faithfull”s history with the Stones. When I did, I went off Mars chocolate bars for a bit. Faithfull insists that the story is an untruth spreads by the London narcs after they raided Keef”s Redlands mansion. The singer says she is far too prudish to do that. In her biography she wrote: “It”s a dirty old man’s fantasy… a cop”s idea of what people do on acid!” Anyway, at the age of 13, Faithfull seemed to me so ancient as probably being close to death”s door from natural causes (of course, her drug use might have killed her). She was only 33, four years younger than Lucy Jordan”¦

Kenny Rogers – Coward Of The County.mp3
I never bought the single, though the chorus was pretty catchy. But buying a country record? Not very likely. It”s a jaunty little number that rather cloaks the disturbing lyrics. You don”t get many pop hits about gang rape. And that”s what happens in the song to poor Becky at the hands of the ghastly Gatlin boys. Trouble is, Coward of the County”s dad was a bit of a troublemaker in his time and on his deathbed extracted from CotC an oath of rigorous pacifism, with Uncle Ken serving as a witness to the pledge. So what does a pacifist do when the Gatlin boys violate his girl? Ah, I shall not spoil the ending for you, but it does not involve a visit to the local police station followed by a judicial process. We are not told whether Coward ensured that Becky would receive appropriate counselling.

Georg Danzer – Zehn kleine Fixer.mp3
I was a year late with this one, but what a good song it is. Danzer was an Austrian singer-songwriter ““ or Liedermacher (song-maker), as they say in German ““ who had a good reputation for producing accessible songs with sophisticated, sometimes funny and often socially conscious lyrics. He died of lung cancer in 2007 at the age of 50, having been a heavy smoker for years. In Zehn kleiner Fixer he sings about “ten little junkies” who die one by one. His tone is sardonic: while he shows little compassion for the junkies, but blames the ills of society for their condition.

Here”s my clumsy translation of the lyrics:

Ten little junkies sat in a boat. Ocean Desperation, homeport Death.One of them jumped overboard and sank like a stone. “Shit” was his final word; then there were only nine.

Nine little junkies; among them were girls. One was just 13, couldn’t break free.Went out on the corner, froze to death, then there were only eight.

Eight little junkies, one just out of jail. Parole officer let him down, no money for rehab, parents written off; he saw no other way out, then there were only seven.

Seven little junkies were so fed up with their lonely desert in the high-rise ghetto. One, they say, suffocated on wine and biscuits and indifference; then there were only six.

Six little junkies, one ended it with a golden fixall on the station toilet. Some tramp who found him took his shoes and socks, then there were only five.

Five little junkies, left all on their own, had neither hope nor money. One walked into a bank and “asked” the cashier who didn’t hesitate; then there were only four.

Four little junkies sat in a boat. Ocean Desperation, homeport Death. One reported a dealer to the police; when he was released again there were only three.

Three little junkies on the final tour; among them they had just one more fix. Oh, the heroin ran out and they capsized the boat.
Love was never their home, and now they were all dead.

Ten little junkies were now gone. Clearance sale, urban garbage, just lowly filth. But how long do we want to sweep them under the carpet? One day, when they rise again, they will strike back.

The Nolan Sisters ““ I”m In The Mood For Dancing.mp3
Now here”s a record I most definitely didn”t buy. I didn”t particularly like or dislike the song it was a hymn to my indifference. And yet the song stuck in my head for years. It was one of those earworms I found myself inexplicably singing at random moments. That kind of song. Some 11 years after this was a hit, I met my future wife. One day she randomly sang I”m In The Mood For Dancing. Then, a while later, she did so again. As it turned out, we had a shared permanent earworm of the random-singing variety (I don”t know the technical Greco-Latin terms for the phenomenon, I”m afraid). I”d like to say that I knew at that point that we would grow old together, but there were other, much better clues which did not involve the Nolan Sisters. Truth be told, I quite like the song now, in as far as inoffensive pop music from that era goes.

Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers.mp3
Peter Gabriel – Spiel ohne Grenzen.mp3

This was my 100th single. Now, that doesn”t mean it was the 100th single I had ever owned or bought. But when I bought it, it was the 100th single in my possession. Before that I had frequently swapped singles with friends (who exploited me; I gave away some really good records. So after that, I stopped trading). Others I had discarded for being too embarrassing to own, such as my Bay City Rollers records. But when I bought Games Without Frontiers in March 1980, it was single #100, a milestone. Within a year I would almost stop buying singles in favour of albums (though I”d rediscover the joy of the single when I lived in London in the mid-“80s).

Games Without Frontiers refers to an game show that was popular throughout Europe at the time in which village teams representing different countries were pitched against one another in bizarre action games, usually dressed in silly costumes. In French the show was called Jeux sans Frontiers and in German Spiele ohne Grenzen (both mean Games Without Frontiers); in England it was It”s A Knock-Out. Gabriel re-recorded his entire 1980 album, which also included the anti-apartheid song Biko, entirely in German. Hence the second file: the German version of Games Without Frontiers.

Tim Curry – I Do The Rock.mp3
When I bought this, I was blissfully unaware of that overhyped cult twaddle that is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Indeed, I remained so until the late “80s. So when Tim Curry visited a restaurant in London where I worked as a waiter in 1985, my excitement was based on my love for I Do The Rock. The 80-year-old owner of the restaurant, an old Australian whom we had nicknamed Mr Magoo, was dining on Table 15 at the same time, and somebody advised him that a celebrity was at Table 8. Mr Magoo moseyed over, stood before Mr Curry and his lovely companion, stared at them for a bit while pushing his rolled-up tongue back and forth through his fleshy and disconcertingly moist lips, as he habitually did, and then blurted out in an accusatory manner: “So, you”re famous!” Mr Curry responded gracefully that he was an indeed an ac-tor. Thus informed, Mr Magoo grunted, turned and waddled back to Table 15 to complete his meal.

The song itself was one of thise that referenced the celebs of the day ““ from Solzhenitzin and Sadat to O.J. Simpson and Virginia Wade to Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Liza Minelli and Charlie’s Angels ““ and a few characters from the past, including Joe DiMaggio and former English cricket captain Colin Cowdrey. I Do The Rock also acquainted me with The Dakota as the New York residence of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a piece of information that would become relevant later in the year.


More Stepping Back

Step back to 1977 – Part 3

July 26th, 2010 4 comments

Here is part 3 of 1977, the songs that can take me back to the autumn and winter of that year.

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ABBA ““ The Name Of The Game.mp3
This is my favourite ABBA song, with a rather endearing video of domestic bliss via a communal game of ludo (it”s the name of the game, you see; video here). I had a bit of a crush on Agnetha. Actually, I still do. I think it”s the way she furrows her brow when she sings, as though she is in pain or perhaps in the incipient throes of an orgasm. Agnetha was the first adult woman I really fancied (along with the dark-haired lady from Baccara from part 2). Another Swede was my first pre-pubescent celebrity crush: the girl who played Annika in the Pippi Langstrumpf (Pippi Longstocking) movies. Anyway, for all their talents, the members of ABBA seemed to be rather nice, ordinary people. They might have been your folks” friends, the people you were allowed to greet before being sent to bed. One can imagine Björn getting a bit bristly, possibly due to the tight trousers he wore. He looked like he really should have been an architect. Agnetha looked like a dental hygienist (don”t even think of making oral jokes!), Annifrid like a hairdresser (or perhaps art teacher), and Benny like a truck driver who got promoted to an administrative office gig where he”d now mainly look at porn magazines. Yes, they did look like they could have been my parents” friends. No surprise, then, that in 1977 my mother bought the ABBA ““ The Album LP, and the following year went to see ABBA ““ The Movie (though her review of it was scathing). My older brother, the DJ at the church camp disco that produced my first slow dance (story in part 1 of 1977), acquired the single as part of a whole bunch for more church discos.


Amanda Lear ““ The Queen Of Chinatown.mp3
Amanda Lear pulled one of the great PR stunts in pop history when rumours, allegedly emanating from her quarters (as per an idea by Salvatore Dali), began to circulate that she was a transsexual, a notion supposedly supported by her deep voice. Then, to prove that these were just “malicious” rumours, Lear posed for nude photos, which were widely published. Even Bravo “” for all its inherent conservatism not a publication shy of portraying nudity (the pederasts must have loved the covers showing naked teen girls; check out the “70s Bravo covers) “” ran some of these pics. Sure enough, Ms Lear was indeed all woman. The rumours of her transgendered birth persist, because it”s just too god to let it go.

All that calls to mind the South African runner Caster Semenya, the world champion who was publicly humiliated by having to undergo a test to determine whether she was a girl or a boy or transgendered (and I don”t buy the argument that a white athlete would have been treated in the same shameful manner). Last month it was rather quietly revealed that she is indeed female. In the interim this rural teenage girl was put through a hell of publicity, with even the standard bearers of political correctness feeling entitled to crack jokes at her expense. I wonder whether this gifted athlete and perfectly pleasant girl will ever recover from this experience? And the muck of wilful suspicion will not dissipate.


Raffaella Carrà – A far l”amore comincia tu (Liebelei).mp3
Sometimes the songs you despised back then are very effective in conjuring sentiments of nostalgia. So it is with this song, which I absolutely despised as 1977 turned cold (I hated the German Schlager version by the ingratiating Tony Holiday, titled Tanze Samba mit mir, even more). Hearing the song now, it isn”t really that bad. It has a nice energy. Carrà“s stage personality didn”t really help much to endear her to me. She had an over-enthusiastic way of shaking her booty that hinted at coordination troubles, she dressed in disco clothes like a pre-menopausal startrooper on a final mission, and she disappointed me by not conforming to my stereotype of the dark-haired Italian. Carrà, who first recorded the song in 1975, later released the song in German as Liebelei (the word that incongruously was part of the original title).


Leif Garrett ““ Surfin” U.S.A..mp3
I remember the day I bought this atrocity very well. I had just bought a pop music magazine called, I think, Pop. That issue included cool stickers picturing pop stars and band logos, and (I”m pretty sure) an article about the Lynyrd Skynyrd planecrash. I read the mag on the bus to my maths tutor”s place. On the way back, I decided to stop in town and drop in at the local Karstadt department store to buy myself a single”¦this single. Leif Garrett, as the cover suggests, was a teen idol in the Shaun Cassidy mode, the kind that Tiger Beat fed on regardless of accomplishment or talent. Before becoming a recording star, Garrett had been a quite prolific child actor, playing roles such as Tony Randall”s son in the TV series of The Odd Couple. His singing career was not very successful, though his disco number In Was Made For Dancing was a hit in Europe in early 1979. My older brother borrowed this record, and in return introduced me to Them, thereby igniting in me a nascent interest in older rock music which would find fuller expression a few months later. Yet, when I bought this single, I had no idea Surfin’ USA was a cover of the Beach Boys song.


Santa Esmeralda – Don”t Let Me Be Misunderstood (single version).mp3
Santa Esmeralda – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood + Esmeralda Suite.mp3
Santa Esmeralda”“ You”re My Everything.mp3

Handclaps, percussion, enter the Spanish guitars, wait for the riff and the strings, and then Leroy Gomez kicks in: “Baby, do you-ou understahand me now”. Wow. And it gets even better. Never mind Nina Simone, Santa Esmeralda”s is the perfect version of Don”t Let Me Be Misunderstood. Here we have the 7″³ version, which is all I can handle as I boogie furiously across the floor, and the even better full version, which comes with a heart attack warning. And in case I never get around to posting it, there”s also a very fine ballad titled You”re My Everything, which appeared on the LP (which included only four songs) and in some regions as the b-side of Don”t Let Me Be Misunderstood.


Umberto Tozzi ““ Ti Amo.mp3
I must confess:  I rather like cheesy Italian pop, and I have no idea whether the stuff is considered totally uncool or not by Italians (I suspect the latter). Ti Amo possibly is my favourite of the lot (but that may be the nostalgia speaking). Umberto really gets into it, too. He went on to have a few more hits in Germany, including Tu and Gloria, which later became a hit for the late Laura Branigan. South African-born Schlager singer Howard Carpendale did the obligatory German cover of it, retaining the Italian title but draining all the impassioned drama from the original.


The Runaways – School Days.mp3
Having noted my return to music fanaticism, my mother gave me for a stereo for Christmas. It was a fairly basic thing by most standards, but a most welcome step-up from my now broken record player whose lid doubled as a speaker. This one had a plastic lid designed for no other purpose than to guard the system against dust. Cool. By now I was spending all my money on singles. Just after Christmas, I bought the Wings” Mull Of Kintyre, a few weeks before it even entered the German charts, persuading me that I had an unerring talent for spotting a trend. And I bought the Runaways single. Having read about manager Kim Foley and the decimation of the original line-up in Rocky magazine, I rather liked the look of promoted frontwoman Joan Jett. I had no idea what the Runaways sounded like. But I wanted at least some Joan Jett. I remember sitting on the bus on my way to my grandmother”s (she still funded my record-buying expeditions, but acknowledged that she could no longer use me as a proxy for her Heino-loving ways), feeling a rather sexual excitement at the thought of hearing Joan Jett”s voice. She would not disappoint. And it would not be the last record I”d buy under the influence of hormones.