While my own memories of the 70's have always been a little faded, like a favorite concert t-shirt and pair of comfy Levi's ripped at the knees, the eighties and, most specifically, 1982 continues to shine with bright neon intensity, remaining ever so vivid in my mind.
While I embraced new wave and post-punk acts I read about in magazines like Trouser Press and Creem, the rest of my school was in a full-on Ozzy Osbourne frenzy. Oh, how his former Black Sabbath band members must have been kicking the shit out of themselves as they watched the lead singer they kicked out for being a drunken maniac go on to channel that lunacy into a solo album that would make him the biggest metal act on the planet. Forget "living well", success is the best revenge and with the release of his follow-up album, Diary of a Madman, in November of '81 Ozzy's strangehold on the charts continued through 1982.
Of course, if you weren't hearing Ozzy blasting out of every primer-coated Camaro on the planet, you were hearing about some crazy shit that had befallen our dear Ozzy. In January, smack dab in the middle of a sold-out show, Ozzy goes and bites the head off of a live bat. Naturally, he thought it was rubber - a likely story - and just decided to have himself a munch.
A month later, he was busted in Texas for pissing on The Alamo.
A month after that, tragedy struck when his guitarist and serious man-crush Randy Rhoads was killed in a plane crash. Of course, it was something you'd only find yourself doing as a rock star with access to more money, drugs and airplanes than the average bear. It was while on tour that they stopped at an auto repair shop in Florida to get an a/c unit on their bus repaired.
While Ozzy slept on the bus, the tour bus driver commandeered a plane that was on the property without permission and took members of the band for two flights. The first flight's passengers were the band's keyboardist Don Airey and their tour manager. Randy Rhoads and the band's make-up artist hopped aboard for the second flight and soon found themselves buzzing Ozzy's tour bus in hopes of waking up the madman. On the third pass, the plane's right wing clipped the bus and sent the plane into a death spiral, crashing into a nearby mansion and bursting into flames. All three on-board were killed instantly and burned beyond recognition.
If not for this senseless act, I wonder what kind of career Rhoads would have had, as he was only 25 at the time of his death and easily the most popular and influential rock guitarist of the time next to Eddie Van Halen. The main difference being that Eddie Van Halen was smart enough to not get on any plane he didn't absolutely have to...Will musicians never learn: rock music and small airplanes do not mix.
Of course, earlier that month, John Belushi had died from a lethal overdose brought about by an injection of cocaine and heroin - known as a speedball - at the age of 33. If he'd have lived, we would have had the good fortune of seeing him in "Ghostbusters" and "Spies Like Us". Maybe another Blues brothers album. Maybe even "Animal House 2: The Reunion".
Musically speaking, March was notable for the release of Number Of The Beast, Iron Maiden's first album with new singer Bruce Dickinson. The controversy over the album title's satanic meaning and the appearance of demonic mascot Eddie led to a shit-ton of controversy that led kids to embrace the band even more.
I hate to bring up the death thing again so soon after I thought I'd put it to rest, but April brought the passing of Lester Bangs, which meant absolutely nothing to any of the dipshits I went to school with, but shook this avid Creem and Rolling Stone reader to the core. Even at that young age, I had developed an affinity for rock journalism both literate and full-gonzo. Bangs' work fell decidedly into the latter category. Hell, I didn't know half the bands he was writing about most of the time (who the flying fuck were the Godz, fer crying out loud?) , but what made his writing so great was that you didn't have to - which is why I have never quite been able to buy a Godz album, even though they were a regular inhabitant of the cut-out bins I happened to frequent.
His death at the age of 33 left me devastated. My math teacher actually stopped class one day and asked why I wasn't cracking any jokes. "Lester Bangs died," I said.
Complete silence followed.
The Pretenders making their final U.S. TV appearance
before the untimely death of James Honeyman-Scott.
before the untimely death of James Honeyman-Scott.
In June, Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott dies from heart failure caused by a cocaine overdose. He, like Randy Rhoads, was only 25. His whole life was in front of him. Had he just, you know, chosen not to be a rock & roll cliche, think of all the music he would have made and perhaps how fucking legendary the Pretenders would be and how we'd have been spared all that fucking schlock like "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "I'll Stand By You".
It's a direct result of his carelessness that we had to be subjected to Chrissie Hynde writing an entire album with the guys who also co-wrote with Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, neither of whom were stars during James' lifetime. I wish more rockers would think about such repercussions before they decide to snort an innocent little line of coke.
In September, The Who began their heavily-publicized "farewell tour" with opening act The Clash. Oddly enough, while 3/4 of the original The Clash are still alive, they have the decency to not crap all over their legacy, which is more than I can say for The Who, who, despite the deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwhistle, are still touring to this day.
Now let's take a look at some of 1982's most notable records:
January saw the release of the B-52's Mesopotamia EP. Being that I was already a fan of their first two albums, I was accommodating when the band released the Party Mix EP with extended versions of previously-released material, but when this too proved to only be an EP consisting of six songs, this fan was perplexed at best. Turns out the band's attempt to complete an entire album with Talking Heads singer David Byrne producing was a total disaster and, rather than scrap the whole expensive affair, Warner Brothers issued the tunes on EP. Oddly enough, over the years, I have revisited both of their EPs more so than any of their full albums, go figure.
Huey Lewis & The News released their seconds album, Picture This, featuring the kinda-sorta hits "Workin' For A Livin'" and "Do You Believe In Love", the latter of which had been written by the album's producer, Robert John Mutt Lange, who had produced AC/DC and would go on to turn Def Leppard into over-processed cheese-metal superstars before later marrying country pop vixen Shania Twain. The reason I mention this album at all is because it's nice to imagine a time when our innocence remained intact and Huey Lewis's music wasn't yet everywhere. By the time their Sports album was released the following year, that would no longer be the case.
North Carolina's the dB's would release their seminal second album Repercussion on the Albion label. While I would read many a rave review of the album in underground rock magazines and hear "Amplifier" played almost weekly on a Canadian radio station that I was able to pull in on Sunday nights, it would take a move to Chicago to "attend college" in 1986 before I would procure a copy of this album from Wax Trax! Records.
In February, Epic Records issued English Settlement by the English band XTC. The band's use of dissonant chord structures mixed with a Beatle-esque flair for melody intoxicated my young mind as "Senses Working Overtime", "Jason & The Argonauts", "Ball & Chain" and "No Thugs In Our House" were in heavy rotation on my stereo.
Imagine my surprise to find out that Epic had seen fit to only release half the fooking album in the U.S. while its Virgin Records counterpart in the UK was a two-album tour de force. Not only had Epic robbed me of five songs but also the majesty of a gatefold sleeve. I alwaysd loved gatefold sleeves, yet so few of the bands I liked ever released any. That stuff was mostly left to the prog bands for which I had absolutely no use for at the time.
Haircut 100's album, Pelican West, hit stores in February and they became one of the first bands to break in the US on the strength of MTV airplay, as their video for "Love Plus One" was in heavy rotation the entire year it seemed. By the time MTV tried to hip us kids to "favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)" we were having none of it. Sadly, they would become the first casualty of excessive MTV airplay. Little known fact, the band made one more album in 1984 after singer Nick Heyward left the band. The album, entitled Paint And Paint, flopped so bad in the UK that it was never released anywhere else.
March saw the release of the debut album by prog-rock super group Asia, featuring Carl Palmer from ELP, Steve Howe from Yes and two guys only your loser uncle would have recognized, John Wetton (ex-King Crimson, Roxy Music, UK and the aforementioned Wishbone Ash) and Geoff Downes (formerly of Yes and the Buggles)
Despite my aversion to prog rockers, there was no escaping this Asia record, what with "Heat of The Moment" charging up the charts. Despite their prog lineage, the album was a remarkably accessible piece of musically adept pop fluff that soon found its way to #1 on the strength of follow-up radio hits "Only Time Will Tell", "Wildest Dreams" and "Sole Survivor". The album would go on to sell over 5 million copies in the U.S. and become the subject of my favorite line from "The 40 Year-Old Virgin", starring Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell.
Men Without hats released their Rhythm of Youth album and we all became all too familiar with the song "The Safety Dance", whether we liked it or not. The song rose to #3 in the U.S. and the video for the song, which looked like some sort of Dexy's Midnight Runners video with its English folk motif, complete with elves and mummers.
The reason I remember this is because "Come On Eileen" was a monster hit that summer and one almost got the feeling that if you wanted to score a hit, you just dressed in rags and stopped bathing. Unlike "The Safety Dance", "Come On Eileen" actually managed to hit #1 in the US. Of course, Men Without Hats would have the last laugh, and forever shed the tag of "one-hit wonder" when they scored a Top 20 hit with "Pop Goes The World" in 1987.
On the pop metal front, there were no bigger bands than the Scorpions, who dominated the airwaves with their first U.S.hit "No One Like You", from the monolithic album Blackout, and Judas Priest, whose song "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" propelled their album Screaming For Vengeance into the Top 20.
In the spring of 1982, this young man's fancy turned to "suckin on a chili dog outside the Tastee Freeze" as we kids became American Fools for John Cougar's "Jack & Diane", which actually managed to sell more copies than his previous single "Hurt So Good" and become Cougar's first #1 hit. It's a little known fact that Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson helped Cougar with the song's unusual musical arrangement and actually plays guitar on the song.
Weeks later, a completely unknown British band by the name of A Flock of Seagulls would unleash a song that would come to define the musical decade that was THE EIGHTIES. I'm talking about a little song called "I Ran", which, with its chorus-laden guitars and plaintive vocal refrain, would become the band's sole Top 10 hit single in the US. The video above is of their second U.S. hit, "Space Age Love Song", which appears here instead of "I Ran" because a) that video is actually horrible, and b) Jennifer Connelly stars in the above clip.
With spring in full swing, "I Melt With You" became an underground favorite. Despite only reaching #76 on the Billboard charts, the song was an MTV fixture and eventually broke onto Top 40 format radio.
Duran Duran's Rio and The Clash's Combat Rock would be released within days of one another. I bought both albums based solely on the cover art. I would then go on to tape a picture of Duran Duran, taken from the inner sleeve of that very album, to the front of my notebook. The next day, a girl in my math class would take one look at the band and ask, "Who are those (bleeps)?"
I mention this only because she would go on to become, not only my girlfriend, but the biggest Durannie on the planet. She would later drag me to see the band play the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, where I would unexpectedly see local band The Kind open the show. They, of course, scored a monster regional hit with "Loved By You" thanks to constant airplay on radio stations WLS and The Loop.
Fresh off of their successful collaboration with David Bowie on the single "Under Pressure", Queen unleashed Hot Space, which broke the band's string of eight Top 20 albums despite the fact that the "Body Language" single, which nobody fookin remembers, actually charted at #11 while "Under pressure" for all of its massive amounts of airplay, only reached #29. What's that about?!
No mention of misguided career killers would be complete without Blondie's The Hunter, which has to rank as one of the all-time worst follow-ups to a massive hit album in rock history. Whereas their previous album, Autoamerican had benefited from two gigantic hits ("The Tide Is High" and "Rapture"), The Hunter featured "Island of Lost Souls" and "War Child". The album didn't just flop, it broke up the band. Note to self: concept albums are not for everyone.
Just when those of us who loathed the band Eagles for their ultra-safe MOR rock stylings and were still giddy from their breakup, 1982 revealed the long-term repercussions of said break-up in the form of solo albums by Glenn Frey and Don Henley. Of the two, Henley's I Can't Stand Still was far superior to Frey's No Fun Aloud if for no other reason than the infectious #1 smash "Dirty Laundry". Plus, he had a hit duet with Stevie Nicks on "Leather And Lace".
Meanwhile, the Stray Cats would single-handedly ignite a rockabilly rebellion after "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut" both became huge hits. It was the first time I had heard of an American band forced to go to the UK to get discovered, which the band had done, releasing two albums in the UK in 1981 that eventually led to the U.S. release of Built For Speed, which took tunes from both of their first two albums, Stray Cats and Gonna Ball.
After the somewhat lackluster showing of 1980's All Shook Up and the departure of Tom Petersson, this huge Trick fan was eagerly awaiting their new album One On One. While singles "If You Want My Love" and "She's Tight" seemed to have everything that radio programmers could ask for - earworm hooks driven by Nielsen's distorteds wall-of-sound guitars - the band's strained relationship with their label saw Epic take a seemingly reserved approach to promoting the album. As a result, it became their second straight album without a Top 40 single.
Little did I know that my summer was about to get a serious attitude adjustment care of the seminal L.A. duo Sparks, who I first came to know after the Dr. Demento radio show had turned me onto a song called "Mickey Mouse" from their landmark Angst In My Pants album. Weeks later, they would pop up on American Bandstand to perform "I Predict" and "Eaten By The Monster of Love", both of which were later featured in the 1983 flick "Valley Girl". It was the second of three albums the band would record with musical backing by L.A. band Gleaming Spires and remains my favorite period of the band's five-decade career.
Speaking of "Valley Girl", Frank Zappa scored a huge left field hit with the song of the same name, featuring dialogue from his daughter Moon Unit. The song would become his only Top 40 single.
The big story of the summer of '82 was the arrival of the third installment of the Rocky saga in theaters everywhere and, with it, the phenomenal chart success of the theme song "Eye Of The Tiger" by Survivor. Overnight, the Chicago band featuring former Ides of March member Jim Peterik went from playing to half capacity clubs to headlining arenas. Pop quiz: can you name the other Top 20 single from the band's album Eye of the Tiger? The answer: "American Heartbeat", which went to #17 on the US charts.
While 1982 was the year that new wave went mainstream, there were bands who defied easy categorization who continued to enjoy huge success. One such act would be the Mysteriously faceless Alan parsons Project, who scored a massive hit with the album and single "Eye In The Sky", which is now most famous these days for its use in introducing the Chicago Bulls during Michael Jordan's tenure with the team that saw them win a staggering six championships.
The award for most successful career re-invention went to Joe Jackson, whose slick, piano-driven Night And Day was literally like night and day compared to the jittery street rock on display in his 1979 hit "Is She Really Going Out With Him?". "Steppin' Out" and "Breaking Us In Two" would go on to define his career to such a large extent that Jackson would actually release a sequel album, Night And Day II eighteen years later.
Proving that 1981's Don't Say No had been no fluke, Billy Squier's Emotions In Motion also reached the #5 position as the song "Everybody Wants You" dominated AOR radio formats as Squioer headlined to sold out shows across North America.
Arriving just in time for Halloween '82 was the first full-length by Missing Persons, Spring Session M, which mixed Blade Runner visuals with an adrenalized neo-prog/new wave sound that generated the hits "Words", "Destination Unknown" and the inimitable "Walking in L.A.".
Phil Collins helped us end the year with Hello, I Must Be Going, which helped his solo career reach a level of success that had heretofore eluded his band Genesis thanks to the success of hit single "I Don't Care Anymore" and "You Can't Hurry Love".
Billy Idol made his solo debut with a self-titled EP that featured two Generation X songs ("Dancing With Myself" and "The Untouchables") as well as a propulsive cover of Tommy James' "Mony Mony" that would become a huge dance hit.
It would be Michael Jackson who would have the last say, however, releasing Thriller on November 30, 1982. While most of its success would take place over the next two years, you can't mention 1982 without noting the release of an album that featured seven Top 10 hit singles; "The Girl Is Mine", "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", "Human Nature", "PYT", "Billie Jean", "Beat It", and sold over 65 million copies worldwide.