Monday, December 31, 2018

#97. "Sweet Child O' Mine" - Guns N' Roses (1987)

"Sweet Child O' Mine" had to make the list. Yep, it's overplayed but the tune had its place. It was the song played on summer road trips with the gang en route to PEI for a weekend of teenage mayhem. 

On said road trips I’d always get outvoted (new wave anyone? ... anyone? ... Bueller?), then subjected to a tortuous, endless loop of Def Leppard, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses. 

Especially GNR.

Not only did I learn to tolerate the tune, I actually liked it for what it was: a great riff and a bonding moment with the guys. 

Thanks to osmosis, the lyrics are forever etched in some remote netherland in the back of my mind along with state capitals and the times tables. 

Catch me in the right frame of mind after a couple and I'll caterwaul the "Where do we go now" bridge and toss in a bonus chorus for good measure. During a full moon of course.  

Sunday, December 30, 2018

#98. "Cloudbusting" - Kate Bush (1985)

"Cloudbusting" by Kate Bush is a brilliant piece of art and a risky single to release; it was so noticeably different from the standard fare on tap in 1985. 

The track also had one of the more innovative storylines in an 80s music video. In fact, it was more of a 'mini-movie'. Starring Donald Sutherland as Kate's father, he invents a machine that makes it rain. After the men in suits take Sutherland away, the 'cloud buster' only works when Kate gives it a go. 

The song itself is spellbinding, dramatic and melodic. 

The instrumentation is off the charts: the dreamy strings and the marching effect at the end are spectacular. It's a nicely-textured soft song I prefer to crank up loud on headphones to hear all the nuances like the ambient drum rolls.

A few years later while in in Vancouver record shop I remember recognizing a sample from "Cloudbusting". Turns out it was from the now classic techno club anthem "Something Good" by Utah Saints.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

#99. "99 Luftballons" - Nena (1984)

One of many pro-peace anthems from the Cold War era, "99 Luftballons" by German artist Nena reached #1 in much of Europe, Canada (I think) and #2 on US Billboard, only bested by "Jump" by Van Halen. 

Shout out to the bass plucking to keep things kinda light since the lyrics are dark as hell.

The song is about how balloons were mistaken for missiles on the radar thus instigating a nuclear war. But at the very end of the tune, after the apocalypse, a single balloon is found offering hope.

I prefer the German version to the English remix "99 Red Balloons", much in the same way I'd rather watch Montreal Canadiens home games in French on RDS: for the authenticity. 

Fave lyrics: 
"99 Düsenflieger
Jeder war ein großer Krieger
Hielten sich für Captain Kirk"

"99 jet planes
Everyone was a great warrior
Thought they were Captain Kirk"

Below is a great sounding redubbed English version from Nena's appearance on the popular Brit show Top of the Pops

Since it's now 2018 and environmentally incorrect to release 99 red balloons into the air, we no longer have to worry about balloons triggering an apocalyptic use of military force.  

Friday, December 28, 2018

#100. "Poison Arrow" - ABC (1982)

Along with "Tainted Love" and "Don't You Want Me", cheesy, cinematic tracks like "The Look of Love" and "Poison Arrow" by ABC got me hooked on new wave music as an impressionable 13-year-old growing up in Dartmouth, NS. 

This was only the beginning: pristine pop from the UK started pouring in as an alternative to the prog rock scene that dominated the times.  

Released during the Pre-Boombox period,"Poison Arrow" was the first song I ever recorded
 using the 'high-tech' method of placing a portable tape recorder with a blank cassette beside a clock radio playing C100 or CJCH. Of course the recording inevitably included part of the DJ intro and/or outro and sounded like crap, but at the time it was awesome. Anyone else remember making these first-generation mixed tapes full of blemishes with varying volumes? 

A few years later I always got a kick from the electro funk of the "How to Be A Millionaire", but unfortunately, the amusing animated video is currently not available on YouTube due to some sort of copyright infringement. 

Not to be confused with the 12" single "How To Be A Zillionaire (Wall Street Mix)"...

Thoughts on future remixes: perhaps the current reference to Pounds and Dollars should be switched to Euros and Yuan? Or Bitcoin and Barter? Water and Seeds? Tune back in ten years to find out the answer...

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Bubbling under: "In The Air Tonight" - Phil Collins (1981)

"In The Air Tonight" is best experienced at night (duh) on headphones or while driving. This atmospheric track is unfailingly hypnotic and should the song put you in a trance while behind the wheel the iconic drum break should be able to wake you up.

A couple years later Phil with his band Genesis repeated his success with the slightly more sinister and moodier "Mama". 

Bubbling under: "Eyes of a Stranger" - The Payolas (1982)

In the same year that produced "Eye of the Tiger" and "Eye in the Sky", a group of Vancouver-based musicians gave us the mysterious and theatrical "Eyes of a Stranger".  

What a fantastic opening to lure us in before we get slapped with a riveting lyric. The guitar echo combined with a reggae percussion creates a unique blend of new wave that sounds like it could be a jam session between The Police and The Cure, plus a dash of inspiration from this classic.

I'm quite sure I heard this track for the first time on CBC's Sunday morning
Switchback hosted by Stan the Man... 

...and speaking of Switchback; was it just me or did every episode seem to play "Come On Eileen" or "My Girl"...or perhaps it's my memory that's gone, gone, gone?

Bubbling under: "Second Skin" - The Chameleons (1983)

Starting in the late 70s U.K. cities best represented by Manchester produced an embarrassment of riches in the post-punk genre (The Buzzcocks, Joy Division) as youth turned to music as an escape from the bleak post-industrial economy. The proliferation of influential artists continued into the 80s with among others, New Order and The Smiths, and 90s with Oasis and the Charlatans. 

Lost in the shuffle is a band called The Chameleons. Never heard of them? Neither did I until recently.

Their 1983 debut album Script of the Bridge offers layered and textured sonic landscapes that combine the sound of early U2, New Order and The Cure. Listen to "Second Skin" on headphones or cranked in the car at night and let the haunting, hypnotic synths and reverb guitar wash over you. Like floating on air. 

Bubbling under: "Do They Know It’s Christmas" - Band Aid (1984)

Band Aid may not have achieved all its lofty goals but it was still a good idea.

Just the fact that the 'who's who' of the British music scene came together to make a charity song spoke volumes about their hearts. It led to the Americans and the Canadians to follow. It inspired Live Aid concerts in the summer of 1985. And dozens of similar gigs.

About the song itself, that intro with the bells still gives me goosebumps. With all the egos in the room (check out Sting starring at Bono) it was amazing that the track even got produced in the first place. 

The spirit and magic of collaboration is on full display as Boy George and George Michael sung emotive lines while the boys from Duran and Spandau Ballet played side by side. 

I'll always remember the SEA staff party in Halifax (1997?) when Bruce from accounting unpacked his acoustic guitar while we took turns botching the lyrics. 

Below are the follow up songs, ordered by my personal preference: Canada's "Tears Are Not Enough" by Northern Lights and the USA for Africa "We Are The World".

Bubbling under: "Tenderness" - General Public (1984)

Members from Birmingham UK's The Beat dissolved and formed two new groups: The Fine Young Cannibals and General Public, founded by Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling. 

General Public then churned out the infinitely catchy "Tenderness" on radio and video channels in 1984, later featured on the soundtrack of the nerd Weird Science film.