U2 “New Year’s Day” 1983, 12″ single. Happy New Year, 2020! “New Year’s Day” was the lead single from U2′s third album War (released in February ‘83). It was U2′s first top 10 in England (it went to #2 in their native Ireland) as well as their first international hit, going to #53 in the US, #36 in Australia and #41 in Canada. This 12″ features the “Long Version” – which is just 4 seconds longer than the album version so it pretty much sounds exactly the same. Also included on the 12″ is another big U2 anthemic track, “Treasure (Whatever Happened to Pete the Chop)” plus live versions performed in Werchter, Belgium on July 4th, 1982: “Fire,” “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” (both from October) and “A Day Without Me” (from Boy).
The Bolshoi “Lindy’s Party” 1987. Beggars Banquet. Industrial goth, post-punk and highly danceable, Lindy’s Party was The Bolshoi’s second LP (or their third if you count the 1985 mini-album Giants). For whatever reason I never listened to The Bolshoi in the 80′s, though I certainly listened to their contemporaries and bands they gigged with like The Cult and Lords of the New Church (and though I’m not sure if they ever toured with Love and Rockets, I’d compare The Bolshoi’s sound with them, too).
Lindy’s Party has a big, glossy 80′s sound with lots of keyboards, bordering at times on synthpop, courtesy of newish member (’85) Paul Clark. My top tracks are the industrial-dance “Auntie Jean,” the hook-ladened “Please,” the Rio-era Duran Duranish “Swings and Roundabouts,” the jangly Smiths-esque “She Don’t Know,” and “T.V. Man” which cleverly nabs snippets of dialogue, film titles and soundtrack soundbites from Clint Eastwood’s catalogue. I also really like “Barrowlands” which is creepy in a carnival funhouse Siouxsie and the Banshees way and provides an appropriately gothic break to Lindy’s (dance) Party.
Eurythmics “Love Is a Stranger” 1982. 12″ single. “Love Is a Stranger” was the third single from the band’s January 1983 album Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and it’s one of my all-time favorites from the synthpop/new wave duo. First released as a single in November ‘82, it did relatively poorly (it was their 5th single to date, hitting #54 in the UK. However, after the next single, the title track “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” hit #2 in the UK and #1 in the US (it was their first single released in America), they re-released “Love Is a Stranger” and it, too, became a hit going to #6 in the UK and to #23 in the US (#7 on the US Dance chart). The B-side of the 12″ has two tracks, “Let’s Just Close Our Eyes” which is hypnotic and super-danceable and “Monkey Monkey,” also hypnotic but more mostly just an instrumental track: experimental with lots of techno weirdness.
Seven and the Ragged Tiger entered the UK album chart at #1 in 1983 and went to #8 in the US a bit later. Quoting myself (and others) from a year ago when I wrote about the album for its 35th anniversary: “’Opulently produced, their new romantic origins blooming into lush decadent pop’ from The Telegraph and ‘Restores danger and menace [to Duran Duran]’ from Melody Maker. Danger and menace definitely describes several of the tracks on Seven and the Ragged Tiger including their first single from the album, “Union of the Snake” which hit #3 in both the US and the UK, the non-single tracks “(I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement,” “Of Crime and Passion” and “Shadows on Your Side,” as well as the third and final single “The Reflex” which went to #1 in the US and UK. New romantic, opulent and lushly decadent are apt descriptions for the other songs from Seven and the Ragged Tiger like the instrumental “Tiger Tiger,” sultry and aching “The Seventh Stranger” and the second released single “New Moon on Monday.” “New Moon on Monday” has always been one of my favorites (my Duranie name was La Luna Le Bon – we Duranies had our own special names, a worldwide network of penpals and other nutball schemes only pre-teen and teenage girls could come up with); it went to #9 in the UK and #10 in the US and its video won two Grammy awards though Nick and Andy both hated the video and making it: it was miserably cold and by the end of the shoot the entire band was drunk. On the upside we get to see Nick dance which is a rare occurrence.
Depeche Mode “Shake the Disease” 1985, Mute Records. 12″ single, special edition, UK import. This past weekend the subject of Depeche Mode came up with an old friend who shares a mutual enthusiasm for the band and who is currently re-collecting the band’s catalog on vinyl. I commented how grateful I was that I’ve pretty much hung onto all of my records since I started buying them in the 80′s. This 12″ extended version of “Shake the Disease (Edit the Shake)” is one i’m still very fond of: I purchased this soon after its release in 1985 while on a visit to Los Angeles. While there I heard “Shake the Disease” on KROQ and was thrilled to be hearing the new Depeche Mode single before my friends back in the Midwest – radio stations in small-market Wisconsin cities did not play such dark gothy synthpop in the 80′s.
“Shake the Disease” was Depeche Mode’s 13th single, a stand-alone that DM would include on their 1985 comp album The Singles 81-85 (UK) and Catching Up with Depeche Mode (US). It went to #18 in the UK and into the Hot Dance Club chart top 40 in the US. It’s super-dark, melodically minor: a great bridge from the moving-darker synthpop of Some Great Reward (1984) to the industrial goth Black Celebration (1986). “Alan Wilder felt this song captured the essence of the band, saying that ‘there’s a certain edge to what we do that can make people think twice about things. If we’ve got a choice between calling a song ‘Understand Me’ or ‘Shake the Disease’, we’ll call it ‘Shake the Disease’. There’s a lot of perversity and innuendo in our lyrics, but nothing direct.’" (DM website/Wiki)
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” released on this date, November 18th, 1981. This worn and well-loved LP was the first record I ever bought with my own money when I was 10 years old and I still love it (and since it’s an original pressing, it has the track “Little Drummer Boy” included as the record was released for the holiday shopping season. I don’t like that Christmas song but Jett’s version is tolerable). Hard pop rock inspired by the late 50′s/early 60′s classic rock-n-roll sound, Jett’s second solo studio album (and her first with the backing band The Blackhearts) was a massive hit, hitting #2 in the US and #25 in the UK. The title track “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” was the first single from the album; originally recorded by the Arrows in 1975, Jett’s version went to #1 in the US and #4 in the UK. But the single and the version on I Love Rock ‘n Roll wasn’t her original take – she first recorded it with Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols in ‘79 as the b-side to “You Don’t Own Me” (which appears on her first solo LP Bad Reputation). Jett also released “Crimson and Clover” as a single, another cover song (by Tommy James & The Shondells), which hit #7 in the US and #60 in the UK. Jett’s version is so great, adding in a hard rocking beat to balance the sweetness of the original. Other notable covers that Jett recorded for I Love Rock ‘n Roll are “Bits and Pieces” originally by The Dave Clark Five, “Nag” by The Halos and “You’re Too Possessive” (she basically covers herself: it was on The Runaways’ album Waitin’ For the Night from 1977). The album isn’t all covers, though – I really love Jett’s “Love is Pain” and the Bo Diddley-inspired “Be Straight.”
Morrissey “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” released 30 years ago today, November 13th, 1989. Released as a stand-alone single (it would appear on the comp Bona Drag in 1990), Morrissey’s fifth single as a solo artist was his first not to hit the top 10 in the UK, going to #18. And honestly, it’s not a great song – I picked up this 12″ single mainly for the cover and the cheap price when in London this past summer (at Flashback Records, I think in Islington). The video is weird as hell, though, crystal balls, a spirit manifesting on a fridge in the middle of the woods, a lot of dizzying camera work on Morrissey laying in a pile of leaves, etc. (it was ranked by Pulp magazine as the most “tweaked” music video of all-time). The b-side to the 12″ has “Yes, I am Blind” (a collaboration with the Smiths’ Andy Rourke) and “East West,” which is a cover of a song originally performed by Herman’s Hermits. I’m not much more of a fan of these tracks, either, though of the bunch “Yes, I am Blind” is the best, with a lovely little acoustic guitar riff and some real emotion behind the lyrics.
Duran Duran “Arena” released 35 years ago today, November 12th, 1984. My original gatefold copy from ‘84, complete with an 8-page glossy booklet featuring sultry photos of each band member (the one of Nick clutching what looks to be a pole is particularly amusing).
Arena (which went to #6 in the UK and #4 in the US) was “recorded around the world” when Duran Duran toured in ‘83 and ‘84 promoting Seven and the Ragged Tiger and includes songs from that album performed live like “The Seventh Stranger” and “Union of the Snake” but also many from Rio. Those are the always popular “Hungry Like the Wolf” which Simon introduces by asking the audience “Is anybody hungry??!!” as well as “New Religion” (which fabulously demonstrates the tension between Andy’s desire to be a rock-n-roll (metal???) band, Simon and Nick’s art-rock tendencies and John’s funky disco bass playing), “Save a Prayer” (I love it when Simon sings this live, adding in “ch-ch-ch” after the word “fire”), and “The Chauffeur.” They also perform the stand-alone “Is There Something I Should Know?” which appears on the US reissue of their debut record Duran Duran, plus “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories” from that LP. The only non-live track on Arena is “The Wild Boys” (produced by Nile Rodgers) which they released as a single just prior to Arena; itwent to #2 in both the US and the UK and became infamous for having the most expensive video ever made up to that point.
Pointer Sisters “Break Out” released on this date, November 6th, 1983. One of my earlier LP acquisitions (I got Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll in ‘82), Pointer Sisters’ 10th studio release was their most successful ever and I loved it so much – I even got to see them while they toured for Break Out during the summer of ‘84 at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Break Out went to #8 on the US pop album chart, #6 on the R&B chart and to #9 in the UK. So many great, great danceable pop/R&B tracks including the multiple hit singles they released, four of which went to the Top 10. Those included “Jump (For My Love)” (#3 US, #6 UK), “Automatic” (#5 US, #2 UK), “Neutron Dance” (#6 US, #31 UK) and a remix of their previously released hit “I’m So Excited” (it went to #30 in ‘82 and then hit #9 in ‘84 in the US, #11 UK). Pointer Sisters also released the smooth, non-dancey “I Need You” which scored high on the R&B chart but didn’t crack the Top 40 chart ( #48), as well the track “Baby Come and Get It” which was released in Spring ‘85 (#44 Hot 100 chart, #24 R&B chart). “Neutron Dance” gained particular notoriety when it used as the music for the introductory scene in the hit film Beverly Hills Cop in ‘84.
And Hugh Grant breathed some hilarious new live into “Jump (For My Love)” in 2003 with a classic scene from the romantic comedy holiday film Love Actually.
Sinead O’Connor “The Lion and the Cobra” released on this date, November 4th, 1987. One of my favorite records of the late 80′s. I distinctively remember hearing it for the first time when my dear friend Susie played it for me in late ‘87 and being completely blown away by the eerie atmospheric music and the searing, soaring, gorgeously clear and tortured vocals. The Lion and the Cobra was O’Connor’s debut LP and it went to #27 in the UK and #36 in the US. Ours is the American version, the UK release had a different – and more accurate -cover: a photo of O’Connor in full-rage mode. Apparently the record company (Chrysalis) felt we sensitive Americans couldn’t handle this:
O’Connor released two singles from the album: “Troy” (which charted in the Netherlands but not in the UK or US until it was remixed in 2002 and then went to #48 and #3 respectively – on the Hot Dance Music chart in the US) and “Mandinka” (#17 UK, #6 Ireland, #14 US Dance chart). I love those two songs but I also adore the opening track “Jackie” (so unbelievably haunting), “Jerusalem” (exotic, ethereal, beautiful) and my absolute favorite: “Just Like U Said It Would B.” That song has the most amazing vocals of pretty much any song I’ve ever heard and I love trying to sing along (alone, of course, though I can nail a lot of it some of the time). O’Connor co-wrote “Just Like U Said It Would B” with another Irish musician, Steve Wickham of The Waterboys. Another Irish performer, new agey Enya, also contributed to The Lion and the Cobra; she does a Celtic recitation of Psalm 61 for the intro to “Never Get Old.”