If you think you are getting old...
by Loren A. Roberts (guru of multi-hyphenate media)
I have a son who just started high school this past week (yippee!). Inevitably, his milestone dredged up all sorts of memories for me. I didn’t have the greatest time in high school; in fact, if I had to go back and do it all again, well, I would simply choose to not go back and do it all again. But that’s boring. What is interesting is all that fun music that I got to experience for the first time, when I was a freshman in high school. Here’s what we were playing on our Sony Walkman cassette players back in 1983:
You know the phenomenon, and you know all the stories about Michael Jackson, but -- trust me -- this was before all of that. The album had been released at the end of 1982, but by Fall of 1983 (when I entered high school) you couldn’t escape Thriller. We didn’t know it was destined to be a classic, but we did know that it was awesomely cool. And when we got ahold of the video for the title track, there was no looking back...you knew the entire Thriller choreography by heart. Ah, a bunch of high school kids dancing their hearts out...good times.
Obviously the original movie (with Kevin Bacon, 1984) was way better than the 2011 remake, but what goes unnoticed was how great that soundtrack was. Kenny Loggins on the title track, Deneice Williams singing "Let’s Hear it for the Boy” (I can still picture my show choir dancing through Chinatown in San Francisco with that song blasting from a boombox one of us had...). Bonnie Tyler screaming that she’s “Holding Out for a Hero”...simply great, singable music.
STYX: KILROY WAS HERE
This is the first of many rock concerts that I regret never having attended as a teenager. I’m sure you have heard the “domo arigato, Mr. Roboto” line millions of times, but this was Styx’s attempt at a rock opera/musical crossover, that failed miserably (I wonder if it would do better in today’s modern musical world). If you remember my previous post about us all thinking we were going to die because the bomb was going to annihilate us all, this was a related idea: 1984 (the book) might be coming true in 1984. We were worried that the government was trying to control us through propoganda and lies. And here was Dennis De Young, feeding us the same story in a sci fi package using rock music. I totally ate it up.
MADONNA (debut album)
“Lucky Star,” “Borderline,” “Burning Up,” “Holiday”...all on Madonna’s debut album. More than that, you couldn’t get away from the new-ish, liberated, empowered female persona that she was bringing to mainstream America (others had been empowered before, but never had gone 5x platinum...); and boy, was that fun to dance to at school dances. Again, we didn’t know at the time that we were witnessing the beginning of a phenomenon; she was just cool and new and hip. And you can’t believe how much she transformed the high school quad with her fashion choices; not to be repetitive, but we didn’t know we were seeing the beginning of a fashion craze...
Not enough can be said about the fact that we were still a traumatized nation, and were still in the grips of the cold war with the USSR. U2 felt it across the Atlantic Ocean, and put together what some describe as their first “political” album. “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” “New Year’s Day.” These were protest songs that caught the spirit of us kids who really didn’t want to die in a big awful war, but thought we were all going to.
- Synchronicity -- The Police -- What an incredible album.
- She Works Hard for the Money -- Donna Summer -- She had one last mega-hit album, even though her fame was more in the 70s disco period.
- She’s So Unusual -- Cyndi Lauper -- “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”...enough said.
- 1984 -- Van Halen -- what happens when you put synth pop together with hard rock. Over 10x platinum.
- This Is Spinal Tap -- so incredibly spot-on satire.
- Run D.M.C.’s debut album -- ushering in a new brand of edgier (for the time) rap.
- Born in the U.S.A. -- Bruce Springsteen -- the rallying theme song of middle-of-the-road middle-America.
- Purple Rain -- Prince -- what a ride. Still can’t believe how inspired this album was/is.
LOREN A. ROBERTS produces films, videos and music, designs magazines and logos, plays and sings in a rock-and-roll tribute band, and is a student of what happens when science and technology and the arts and culture collide. www.hearkencreative.com
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