Listen to this track by former Royal Academy of Music student and jazz/pop/Latin mixologist Joe Jackson. It’s “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)”, a smash hit single as taken from the 1984 album Body and Soul.
That album was the follow up to 1982’s Night & Day, a record on which Joe Jackson scored a number of hits along with critical acclaim as he was getting himself off of the new wave merry-go-round. But if that previous record was a cellar club date played by a small group of pop-oriented jazzheads with Latin percussion leanings, then Body and Soul is the Broadway show of the same kind of sound.
The crucial thing that made this song notable is just how up and positive it is, even if Jackson was known up until this point for his sardonic tone. That theme of empowerment runs right through the record, almost like it’s a soundtrack to a musical that was never produced. As the years have gone by and with all of that sparkly optimism found in this tune even now, I’ve wondered about who this song was really directed towards; us the audience, or Jackson himself? Read more
Listen to this track by British Invasion enthusiasts and power pop founding fathers from Cleveland Ohio, The Raspberries. It’s “Go All The Way”, their top five hit single also featured on their 1972 debut record Raspberries.
The Raspberries were a pretty singular group, even if you can tell they’re wearing their influences on their sleeve. By 1972, those very bands who had furthered the cause of guitar-based pop music you hear in this song had gone on to other projects. Art rock, rock operas, confessional singer-songwriter albums were common artistic avenues by the early ’70s while the four bobbing heads and catchy choruses model of the ’60s was left behind. Rock music as a form had expanded beyond that. Some would say it had grown up.
So, how did the Raspberries get their top five hit, given that the musical traditions they’re drawing from had been largely left in the past? Read more
A track packed full of mid-70s sunshine from a jaded time that didn’t actually sound jaded. This song is full of disco strings and piles and piles of production. It reminds me of long summer days when I was a kid, the kind that stretched on into forever.
Listen to this track by crossover pop-jazz guitarist and R&B singer George Benson. It’s his 1980 top-40 radio single “Give Me The Night” as taken from the album of the same name, Give Me The Night. This is one of those tunes that’s pretty of its time in some ways, tying into that whole soft rock, light jazz, post-disco vibe of the early ’80s. But, in other respects, it’s a pretty universal song. After all, how many songs have there been over the decades and since about the unifying power of music, and going out at night to hear it?
This was certainly Benson’s biggest hit, scoring a number one on the R&B charts, and number four on the pop charts. And if you recognize some of the production flourishes being similar to a pre-Thriller Michael Jackson, it may be because Quincy Jones (a man who knows a thing or two about adding jazzy flavour, with a hint of the funk, to pop tunes), is calling the shots on this one. Read more
Listen to this track of anthemic proportions, from “big” music proponents from Fife – Big Country. It’s their sole North American hit, the almost self-referential “In A Big Country” as taken from their 1983 album The Crossing.
The song was a smash radio single from a band with an impressive output, none of which had any impact on North American radio waves but for this one song. But, what a song! A tune that fuses folk-influences with big pop choruses and post-punk textures, too.
This tune seemed to come out of nowhere, with the curious addition of guitars that sounded similar to a legion of bagpipers, catching everyone’s attention. But, this tradition of pop music had been well-established in Europe, with U2, and the Alarm scoring success with audiences there, using this same approach of Celtic folk approach filtered through rock presentation.
Layer upon layer of production sheen and rife with a sort of sanitized synth pop as they were, and with a lead singer in Annie Lennox who seemingly had a penchant for wigs, they nevertheless had a knack for pop hooks. This one’s my favourite. And that’s Stevie Wonder playing harmonica, which can’t hurt.
This one is different. If you don’t like this, you’re dead inside. So, light up the oil, if you must. I’ll boil for this one.
How easy is a Sunday morning, precisely? Well, it’s as easy as Lionel Ritchie is, actually. Maybe, maybe this gets some cool points as it was covered, extremely faithfully too, by alternative rock band Faith No More. But, not too many cool points. This one is a fair distance from Brick Houses.
But, any tune that has a fuzz guitar solo on it can’t be all bad, right?
Right? Someone help me out.
The guy has a perfect life; married to a supermodel (happily mind you) with a jet setting life and a brood of great kids.
You hate him already, don’t you?
And his brand of new agey soul is like fingernails on a chalkboard to most respectable music nerds like me. So, who would have thought that I could love a song from his easy-listening, sensitive new age, fashion-model grade pen?
And yet, I do.
I’m going to burn in music geek hell, but I do.
And it’s taken from a bad Batman movie too!
New Romantic pretty boys riding yachts in Sri Lanka, wearing make up, and with perfect blow-wave hair. Sure, it’s probably kind of a dated package. But this one always was a shining gem in the career of a band that had a capacity for great singles, despite the 80s pretty boy image that lay on the surface. This one’s my favourite, god help me.
Click here to view the official “Save A Prayer” video ( embedding removed by request by EMI).
Watch any hope of my musical credibility with the hipsters slip away like an 80s video budget.