Tag Archives: 1982

Boom shaka laka laka by the lake

Depending on your passion, today was a day chock full of anticipation.

If you dig the Green Bay Packers, as many in these parts do, you likely enjoyed getting the first glimpse of the preseason schedule. Though preseason football is unwatchable, it means the season is that much closer.

If you dig music and beer, as many in these parts do, you likely enjoyed getting the first glimpse at the headliners for all the side stages at Summerfest. That’s the huge festival on the lakefront in Milwaukee.

In each case, you learn what you’ll be seeing, but not when.

There’s a fair amount of wishful thinking that goes into perusing that Summerfest list. Of the 63 side stage acts — Summerfest casts a wide net — only three or four look interesting.

I’d drive a couple of hours and put up with thousands of people to see Buddy Guy and Lewis Black, and to see whatever constitutes the Spinners and Morris Day and the Time these days.

Some of the acts I’ve seen: Billy Idol, Dr. John and Pat Benatar (all of whom I’d see again) and Alice Cooper, Styx and the Eagles (all of whom I’d pass on, unless Alice was playing his straight-up rock show minus the Halloween theatrics).

I’m most stoked for our son Evan. Three of his fave bands — Bad Religion, Social Distortion and Dropkick Murphys — are among the side stage headliners. It’s fun to see him digging it, but Pops must observe from a respectable distance these days. I get that. Maybe his experience will be like mine once was.

Thirty years ago, we saw Tina Turner on a side stage at Summerfest. She was just 43, but was considered an oldies act. She had split from Ike Turner, had no record contract and was touring with two backup singers.

Yet on that night, on that side stage in the middle of the Summerfest grounds, it was wild. To call her show sizzling or scorching or incendiary doesn’t do it justice. It was insane. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing and hearing.

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“Ball of Confusion,” Tina Turner, 1982. It’s a single culled from “B.E.F.: Music of Quality and Distinction, Volume 1,” a British comp on which Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh of Heaven 17 did duets with a variety of partners. The LP is out of print but the single is available digitally.


Maybe we heard this. Hard to say. That long-ago night is a blur.

This Temptations cover became a top-5 hit in Norway in 1982. That got Turner a record deal in the UK. She and the gents from Heaven 17 then covered Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” a top-10 hit in the UK in 1983. That got her a record deal in the States. “Private Dancer” followed in 1984, and the rest is history.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under April 2013, Sounds

Gone in threes, yet here forever

They have gone in threes again this week.

There was Dick Clark. As he did when Don Cornelius passed earlier this year, my friend JB said everything I wanted to say about Dick Clark in his post over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. When I heard the news of Clark’s passing and thought of his legacy, I immediately thought Cornelius was more influential.

Duane Dudek of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also had a fine piece on Clark, drawn largely from a new book that’s deeply skeptical of Clark’s role in how “American Bandstand” came to be integrated. The headline says it all: “Dick Clark’s TV legacy, including on race, is complicated.”

There was Levon Helm. He holds a singular place in the history of this blog. His PR people are the only ones to ask that a song be taken down in the five years we’ve been doing this. The tune we shared came off a free sampler his record label handed out at Record Store Day three years ago. Go figure.

There was Greg Ham. He was one of the Men At Work, the guy who played flute and sax and keyboards in a group that for a time in the early ’80s was one of the most popular bands in the world. Greg Ham, just 58, was found dead at his home in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday.

After word spread of Ham’s death, his fans turned to Colin Hay. When you think of Men At Work, he’s the guy who comes to mind, and rightly so. He wrote most of their songs, sang lead on most of them and still performs charmingly reworked versions of them in his solo act.

Men At Work fans crashed Hay’s website while trying to read his statement about his friend’s death.

Greg Ham and Colin Hay were friends for 40 years, having met while seniors in high school. “We shared countless, unbelievably memorable times together,” Hay said. “We played in a band and conquered the world together. I love him very much. He’s a beautiful man.”

Less beautiful was that Ham felt his legacy marred by a copyright lawsuit. An Australian court ruled in 2009 that his memorable flute riff on “Down Under” was cribbed from “Kookaburra,” an Australian nursery rhyme written in the 1930s. Doubt anyone outside Australia hears it that way. You know the riff.


Men At Work put out only three albums. I had the first two — “Business As Usual” and “Cargo” in the early ’80s, then sold them at the end of that decade. Time, it seemed had passed them by.

Then, nine years ago, I discovered “Man @ Work,” a record on which Colin Hay covered some of those old Men At Work songs Hearing them again, it was clear how good those songs were, and are.

You also know Ham’s sax solo on “Who Can It Be Now.” It was, Hay said yesterday, “the rehearsal take. We kept it, that was the one. He’s here forever.”


Greg Ham is here forever, too.

“Be Good Johnny” and “Down By The Sea,” Men At Work, from “Business As Usual,” 1982. It’s out of print but is available digitally. The used vinyl is fairly common. I bought this record and “Cargo” last year for $1 each.

Ham and Hay composed the music for “Be Good Johnny,” and that’s Ham as the adult speaking to the kid.


“Down By The Sea,” composed by Ham, Hay, guitarist Ron Strykert and drummer Jerry Speiser, is the last cut on the album. It’s laid back, but still a bit of showcase for each of them.


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Filed under April 2012, Sounds

Bonnie and Dave and the boys

After the passing of NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino last week, I ripped some covers of NRBQ songs, then decided against using them in that post. It was getting plenty long as it was.

Let’s give them a listen, shall we?

NRBQ’s popularity among critics, fans and their peers peaked as the ’70s started to turn toward the ’80s. During that time, NRBQ released three albums widely regarded as among their best: “At Yankee Stadium” in 1978, “Kick Me Hard” in 1979 and “Tiddly Winks” in 1980.

Bonnie Raitt noticed. Disappointed at how her 1979 LP, “The Glow” was received, she decided have a little fun with her next record. She rocked out on “Green Light,” released in 1982. Who better to have fun with than NRBQ? So she covered two of their songs.

“Me And The Boys” and “Green Lights,” Bonnie Raitt, from “Green Light,” 1982. It’s out of print but is available digitally.



Dave Edmunds noticed, too. He picked a bunch of covers for “D.E. 7th,” his first record after the breakup of Rockpile. One was an unreleased Bruce Springsteen song. There also were covers of Chuck Berry, Brian Hyland and Doug Kershaw. And an NRBQ cover, one also chosen by Bonnie Raitt.

“Me And The Boys,” Dave Edmunds, from “D.E. 7th,” 1982. The buy link is to a double-length CD that also includes the “Information” LP from 1983.


Edmunds kept some of that spirit on his next record, “Information,” in 1983. Though most remembered for Jeff Lynne’s production and songs, Edmunds still worked in covers of songs by the J. Geils Band, Moon Martin and Otis Blackwell. And one by NRBQ.

“I Want You Bad,” Dave Edmunds, from “Information,” 1983. The buy link is to the same double-length CD mentioned earlier.


See how they compare to the originals.

“Green Lights” and “I Want You Bad,” NRBQ, from “At Yankee Stadium,” 1978.


“Green Lights” written by Terry Adams and Joey Spampinato.


“I Want You Bad” written by Terry Adams and Phil Crandon.

“Me And The Boys,” NRBQ, from “Tiddly Winks,” 1980. It’s out of print. The song is available digitally. It’s part of “The Rounder Records Story,” a 4-CD, 87-song set released in 2010.


“Me And The Boys” written by Terry Adams.

At this point, I must state for the record — so to speak — that both the Bonnie Raitt record and the NRBQ records were brought to the party by the lovely Janet, who at the time was my girlfriend and who somehow decided to stick around and become my wife.

Now if I could only find our copy of “Tiddly Winks.” We used to have it, and I can’t imagine we let it go in either the Great Record Purge of 1989 or our Great Garage Sale of 2006. If so, that’s another story for another day.

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Filed under January 2012, Sounds

Detoured from Baker Street

By now you know Gerry Rafferty left us last week.

The significance of his passing already has been nicely documented by Dw. Dunphy at Popdose, by Larry at Iron Leg and by George and Denny at 30 Days Out. Check them out, please.

Arriving late at the wake, I also remember hearing Gerry Rafferty on the radio.

Digging through the R’s and the S’s on the shelves behind me, I find four Rafferty or Stealers Wheel records before unearthing “City To City,” his breakthrough solo LP from 1978. You know the one. Everyone had it once. It’s been reissued on 180-gram vinyl — if you want to pay $25 — but is a fairly common sight in the used vinyl bins for $1 or $2.

But some of my best memories of Gerry Rafferty are of some of the deep cuts from the albums from a time when the spotlight had passed him by. Then I start playing those records, something I’ve not done in probably 25 years. The memories come back in a rush. The songs, the harmonies, are timeless.

Here are some of those songs, from a couple of albums that followed “City To City.” They’ve endured, at least for me. A musician can’t ask for much more.

“Welcome to Hollywood” and “Syncopatin’ Sandy,” Gerry Rafferty, from “Snakes and Ladders,” 1980. It’s out of print.



“Welcome to Hollywood” shows Rafferty’s disdain for fame. He’s confident enough to draw on his time as a star, writing “stuck in the middle with the blues again.” The intro and outro are dead-on parodies of hangers-on. In “Syncopatin’ Sandy,” ostensibly about a whiskey-fueled music hall piano player, the often alcohol-fueled Rafferty wonders “how long, how long” he can keep going.

“Sleepwalking” and “The Right Moment,” Gerry Rafferty, from “Sleepwalking,” 1982. It’s out of print.



I’ve had the infectious drumbeats of “Sleepwalking” rattling around in my head since hearing it again for the first time in many years. “The Right Moment” is a gentle counter to it, all piano and synths, something that fits nicely next to …

“The Way It Always Starts,” Gerry Rafferty, from the “Local Hero” soundtrack, 1983. Accompanied by Mark Knopfler, Alan Clark, Neil Jason and Steve Jordan. “Local Hero” remains one of my favorite films.


This song, written by Knopfler, was one of the last things Rafferty did until resurfacing five years later with the “North and South” album.

And a charming tribute.

“Baker Street,” a laid-back acoustic cover by my friend Alan Wilkis, a solo musician from Brooklyn. Alan can’t remember exactly when he did this, but he thinks it was four or five years ago.

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Filed under January 2011, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 23

williexmastape

Tonight, we wrap up Willie’s Hot Christmas.

In this little series within a series, we’ve recreated a radio show I taped off the air while living in Madison, Wisconsin, in the late ’80s. For the back story, check out the Day 20 post.

The first part consisted of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Jimmy Smith, an unknown jazz sax instrumental version of “The Christmas Song” and “Merry Christmas” by Lightnin’ Hopkins.

The second part had “Christmas Blues” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, “Christmas In The City Of The Angels” by Johnny Mathis and “You’re All I Want For Christmas” by the Salsoul Orchestra with Jocelyn Brown.

The third part had “What Christmas Means To Me” by Stevie Wonder, “Funky Christmas” by the Whispers and “Christmas Celebration” by B.B. King.

Now we take one last listen to the old WORT-FM show, where Willie Wonder cued up this big finish …

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“I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” McCoy Tyner, 1967, from “Jingle Bell Jazz,” 1985. (This CD, released in 1985, combines cuts from the 1974 album “Jingle Bell Jazz” and the 1981 album “God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen.” This cut is from the 1974 album.)

All you get on this one is Tyner’s elegant solo piano. It’s plenty filling.

soulxmascd

“This Christmas,” Donny Hathaway, 1970, from “Soul Christmas,” a 1991 CD reissue of the 1968 Atlantic Records album of the same name.

Widely covered, this is the smooth original, written by Hathaway and Nadine McKinner. It was recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York in November 1970 and released as Atco single 6799 on Nov. 30, 1970.

aljarreauxmassingle

“The Christmas Song,” Al Jarreau, 1982, from the Warner Bros. 7-inch single 7-29446. Out of print, but available on eBay.

Jarreau never released a Christmas album before this year’s “Christmas,” but all the synths on this single clearly date it to the ’80s. Jason from Popdose, who roasted Jarreau’s new album as part of the Mellowmas series, says this isn’t the same version of “The Christmas Song” as on the new record.

(This last cut has gone from radio to tape to CD, and then ripped, so that may explain the sound quality if you find it lacking.)

That said, Willie Wonder leaves us with a lovely holiday message in his voiceover at the end of this cut, which closed the show.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds