Sunday, March 3, 2019

#33. "New Year's Day" - U2 (1983)

While in junior high I tuned into ASN's Atlantic Canada's Choice on Saturday evenings lying down two feet away from the TV.

I recall watching "New Year's Day" in a trance, captivated by this new group riding on horses and playing in an open field in the middle of winter.

This is the song that introduced Ireland's U2 to many of us in North America. 

The early U2 sound exuded fire and soul: the Edge's signature 'chugga-chugga' guitar and Bono's passionate vocals are alive and well here. 

Bono is convincing when delivering the chilling "I will be with you again" and "I will begin again". I would find out later that the lyrics were about persecuted leader of the Polish Solidarity movement, Lech Walesa.

After all these years, "New Year's Day" remains an uplifting song, an anthem of freedom and renewal, and a staple on my beach runs. 

That piano riff that weaves in and out is pure magic.

Happy New Year!

#34. "I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)" - Hall & Oates (1981)

"I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)" by Hall & Oates is legendary. 

The intro is fantastic then a myriad of hooks galore keep you groovin'.

It's such a fun song with its sing-a-long chorus, shimmering keyboard overdubs and layered backing vocals. 

The song's legacy is carved in stone with a number of claims to fame:

- Infectious bassline inspired Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"
- Invented the phrase "no can do" still used by all the generations
- One of the first songs to use a drum machine

What gets lost in the genius of the music is the meaning of lyrics, the apparent rejection of a one-night stand offer. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

#35. "Rio" - Duran Duran (1982)

Those of us attending junior high at the time will always remember the playful decadence of the "Rio" video, shot while the band was on holiday in Antigua. 

But let's not forget the tune was a cracker, too. 

"Rio" sports a grand intro before giving way to a bouncy, maniacal John Taylor bass line and Andy Taylor's timely guitar riffs, setting up the iconic singalong chorus about the mystical Rio dancing on the sand. The song changes gears a few times, including an amazing sax climb before the last chorus.

Back to Rio: does she really exist? 

Well, a metaphor. 

According to SongFacts, Duran Duran explained on the VH1 show True Spin that Rio is a metaphor for America, and the song expressed their desire to succeed there, which they of course did.

I'd always thought LeBon said "...evidently run you down... in the lyrics during the bridge : "Hey now (wow) look at that did he nearly run you down. Before Google we experienced dozens of similar examples. 

"Rio" is still a favourite at Duran concerts, and often during an extended version when Simon LeBon introduces band members to the audience. I was fortunate to have seen it played in the encore of their 2011 gig at Montreal's Bell Centre.

#36. "Don’t Stand So Close To Me" - The Police (1980)

I suppose listening to the The Police could be  defined as 'rebellious' for an 11-year-old with access to a clock radio and two radio stations. 

Hearing "Don’t Stand So Close To Me" on the radio inspired my first album purchase: Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police. I still vividly recall playing the record from start to finish on my parent's hi-fi unit while studying the photos and lyrics of the tactile inner lining. I can still hear the pops and crackles from playing the vinyl.

The magnificent trio to open the album, "Don’t Stand, "Driven to Tears" and one of the longest titles ever made, "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around" made me a life-long fan of The Police. 

Up until then I'd been content with lapping up the soft 70s pop and classic rock stuff (April Wine, Harlequin etc.) that CJCH and C100 offered up. Remember that in 1980 it would still be a couple years before music videos became mainstream and almost 15 years before the internet.

"Don’t Stand So Close To Me" starts with that almost sinister synth before the verse begins infectious reggae-rock  with just an amazing chorus. It had the familiar guitars, but also had some synth, a sign of where my tastes were heading. Since Sting was a teacher in a previous lifetime I've always wondered if the lyrics were autobiographical.

Friday, March 1, 2019

#37. "Don’t You Forget (About Me)" - Simple Minds (1985)

"Don’t You Forget (About Me)" is one of the key anthems for those of us in Generation X.

Surprisingly, The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol all refused to perform the song for The Breakfast Club before Jim Kerr and The Simple Minds were approached. Their loss. The soundtracks of John Hughes' movies are the stuff of legends. 

The track oozes that slightly cheesy, seriously catchy synth-pop new wave vibe that dominated the charts the middle part of the decade. That part from the bridge to the end is the best and I can't help myself playing air drums.