Tag Archives: 1983

I still want my MTV Christmas

Believe it or not, there was a time when artists made Christmas videos and MTV played them at Christmas time, just as radio would play their Christmas singles at Christmas time. ‘

“Christmas In Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. has become a Christmas tradition. You know that one.

So here are three that are less seen today, yet still among my favorites.

* * * * *

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“Rock & Roll Christmas,” George Thorogood and the Destroyers, 1983, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1995.

As you can see, it once was used to rock the house at MTV. Damn! Mark Goodman gets a nice long smooch from a cutie under the mistletoe at 1:55!

And, yes, that appears to be John Lee Hooker as Santa Claus. I once was skeptical, but my friend Larry pointed me to photos of Thorogood and Hooker taken by Bob Leafe at an MTV taping in 1984.

When I went looking for this video last year, it had been wiped from YouTube. Delighted to have it back.

* * * * *

rnrxmascd

“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You,” Billy Squier, 1981, also from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1995.

Squier was one of the biggest stars on MTV at the time, so a Christmas single seemed logical. And who could forget these lyrics: “From grownup to minor/No one could be finer” and “From rooftop to chimney/From Harlem to Bimini.” I know of no other Christmas song with “Bimini” in the lyrics.

Squier lip-syncs it with the MTV VJs and crew on the video. It’s a guilty pleasure, perhaps even corny, but it’s a good memory from that time. Of course, it revives the age-old debate: Nina Blackwood or Martha Quinn?

* * * * *

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“Do They Know It’s Christmas (single edit),” Band Aid, from the 12-inch single, 1984. It’s out of print but is available on “Now That’s What I Call Christmas,” a 2001 CD compilation, and digitally.

Before “We Are The World,” there was this. In 1984, everyone who was anyone on the UK music scene came together as Band Aid to sing “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” Bob Geldof wrote the words. Midge Ure wrote the music. The song, which benefited hunger relief in Ethiopia, was huge — a solid No. 1 in Britain and close to it in the States.

As you watch the video to see what all the fuss was about, see how many of those performers you can name.

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

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2013, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 13

In the mail this morning is a note from Clay Eals, who is Steve Goodman’s biographer. Clay’s note is long. They usually are.

So is his book on Goodman, the beloved Chicago folk singer. Clay is thorough. He would like to remind you that “Steve Goodman: Facing The Music,” now in its third printing, is available via his website.

But the best part of Clay’s note, albeit a bittersweet one, is word that Goodman’s mother, Minnette, died last week. She was 85. Dave Hoekstra of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a wonderful tribute. She was a familiar sight at Chicago shows almost until her death.

“It wasn’t a gig if Minnette wasn’t there,” said the great folk singer John Prine, who was Steve Goodman’s best friend. She never missed a Jimmy Buffett show, either. When she went to last summer’s show, Buffett had her park her Honda Civic right next to his tour bus.

I met Steve Goodman in 1983, a year before he died of leukemia. He’d released a live solo acoustic album and was touring to support it. I bought that record after his show in Madison, Wisconsin. He signed it this way: “Joe — Hello, Steve Goodman.” That’s a story in itself.

That record, “Artistic Hair,” has another of our favorite Christmas songs on it. You never hear it. Then again, when was the last time you heard anything by Steve Goodman?

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“Winter Wonderland,” Steve Goodman, from “Artistic Hair,” 1983. It’s also available digitally.

In which Mr. Goodman takes a request from the audience, then realizes he’s not sure he knows the lyrics.

“You gonna feed me the words?” he asks.

It’s kind of absurd.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

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

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Filed under Christmas music, December 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

Who’ll follow the Big Man?

Louis Jordan … King Curtis … Sam Butera … Clarence Clemons … all gone.

No one takes their place, but someone must follow.

Who’s the most influential rock ‘n’ roll and R&B sax player out there now? I’ll go with Maceo Parker, but no one else leaps to mind. (And at 68, Parker is just a year younger than Clemons.)

I confessed here long ago that I’ve never been much of a Springsteen fan. That said, I’ve always loved horns, and especially the Big Man’s tenor sax.

One of my favorite albums from the ’80s is Clarence Clemons’ first LP.

In 1983, with Springsteen and the E Street Band between albums and tours, Clemons put together a group on the side. Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers — named for Red Bank, New Jersey, where Clemons briefly owned a club in the early ’80s — put out one record.

I dug it out last fall and wrote about it on my other blog, The Midnight Tracker.

“Rescue” is full of spirited, blue-collar R&B and rock, the kind you’d hear from a bar band. Which is exactly what the Red Bank Rockers appeared to be, albeit with one well-known sax player.

“A Man In Love” and “Resurrection Shuffle,” Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers, from “Rescue,” 1983. It’s said to be available on a two-fer CD along with “Hero,” his 1985 solo debut, but it’s hard to find.

The first song is co-written by Clemons and Desmond Child, who at the time was just getting started on his remarkable songwriting career. Keyboard player and producer Ralph Schuckett and Terry Abramson also are credited as co-writers.

The second, of course, is a cover of the old Ashton, Gardner and Dyke song from 1971. This cover alone may be why I bought this record.

The vocals on both are by John “J.T.” Bowen, whose hard-luck story we shared over at The Midnight Tracker.

“Peter Gunn Theme,” Clarence Clemons, from the “Porky’s Revenge” soundtrack, 1985. It’s out of print.

You always wanted to hear this one played by the Big Man, didn’t you? The credits aren’t specific, but I believe he’s backed by Dave Edmunds on guitar.

Finally, there is this …

This song popped up on shuffle earlier today. I immediately got the sense of being at church and hearing the tenor sax preaching a tribute to the Big Man. That is Andrew Love of the Mar-Keys on the tenor sax.

“Let It Be,” the Mar-Keys, 1971, from “Stax Does The Beatles,” 2007. It originally was on “Memphis Experience,” their last Stax LP (available on this two-fer CD with the “Damifiknow!” LP from 1969). I have this tune on “Beatlemania, Volume 2,” a Mojo magazine compilation CD from September 2004.

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Filed under June 2011, 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

12 days of Christmas, Day 12

We were talking the other night about Christmas presents for our son, who’s 15, a sophomore in high school. At issue was whether we have that one big gift, the one with the wow factor.

I was thinking back to when I was 15, what that one big gift was. It was Christmas 1972. That one big gift was this:

That is a suede leather Converse All-Star basketball shoe, gold with black trim. I, too, was a sophomore the year I got a pair. It was a big deal. I’m not sure my parents fully understood the attraction, but they popped for the $15 — almost $75 in today’s dollars — to get them. I wore them until they wore out, then kept them around for years as something close to sandals.

There are other good memories of that one big gift. The Tickle Bee game, G.I. Joe, the Packers helmet and jersey, and, of course, that Panasonic AM-FM radio.

Now we have one big gift for you. More of our favorite Christmas tunes, the ones without which it wouldn’t be Christmas.

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released earlier this year.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.)

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!

“Winter Wonderland,” Steve Goodman, from “Artistic Hair,” 1983. I bought this record at his show in Madison, Wisconsin, in April of that year. He signed it “Joe — Hello.”

“It’s kind of absurd/when you don’t know the words/to sing/
walkin’ in a winter wonderland!”

“All I Want for Christmas,” Timbuk3, 1987, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. Pat MacDonald grew up here in Green Bay and has returned. These days, he performs as pat mAcdonald — he insists on that spelling. His gig notices also say “Timbuk3 (no space!) is to be mentioned in a biographical context only.” So there!

“All I want for Christmas is world peace.”

“Merry Christmas Baby (alternate edit),” Elvis Presley, 1971, from “Reconsider Baby,” 1985. It’s out of print, and pricey if you can find it. It’s my favorite Elvis record, full of his blues tunes. That it’s on blue vinyl is just icing on the cake.

“Wake up, Putt!”

“Twelve Days of Christmas,” Bob and Doug McKenzie, from “Great White North,” 1981.

“OK, so g’day, this is the Christmas part.”

“Santa Claus and his Old Lady,” Cheech and Chong, from Ode single 66021, released December 1971. Also available on “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Cheech and Chong,” a 2-CD best-of compilation released in 2002.

“We could sure use a dude like that right now.”

No great lines, just great tunes

“White Christmas,” the Edwin Hawkins Singers, from “Peace Is ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.” 1972. It’s out of print with that title, but is available as “Edwin Hawkins Singers Christmas,” with essentially the same cover. This has a great solo by Tramaine Davis.

“Christmas Medley,” the Salsoul Orchestra, from “Christmas Jollies,” 1976. This is 12 minutes of soul, salsa and dance bliss. An instant party starter.

“Halleujah! It’s Christmas,” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. Re-released in 2008 as “The Best of .38 Special: The Christmas Collection,” one of those 20th Century Masters reissues. This joyous, upbeat tune — written by guitarists Don Barnes and Danny Chauncey and lead singer Donnie Van Zant — ought to be a classic.

“Feliz Navidad,” Robert Greenidge, from “It’s Christmas, Mon!”, 1995. It’s out of print. Though Greenidge gets no cover billing on this CD, he’s playing the steel pan. He’s been with Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band since 1983. Earlier this year, Greenidge and his bandmates released “A Coral Reefer Christmas” on Buffett’s Mailboat Records label. This tune is not on that record.

“Christmas in the City of the Angels,” Johnny Mathis, from Columbia 1-11158, a 7-inch single, 1979. Though Mathis has recorded several Christmas albums, this cut never made it onto one. People ask for it every year. (This cut has gone from radio to tape to CD, and then ripped, so that may explain the sound quality if you find it lacking.)

Bonus gifts!

Some of our friends have sent along some tunes they thought you’d like.

“Must Have Been A Mighty Day,” Emily Hurd, from “Tins and Pins and Peppermints,” 2010. She’s a singer-songwriter from Chicago by way of Rockford, Ill., where we have a mutual friend. It’s been interesting to listen to her style evolve, moving from loose and gritty to far more poised and polished. This tune has a bit of both styles. She previewed this record for fans last year, then released it this year.

“Cashing In On Christmastime,” Charles Ramsey, 2010. He’s a singer-songwriter from Philadelphia who has some other nice, non-holiday stuff on his MySpace page. This genial, laid-back cut reminds me of Bob Dylan or Tom Petty with the Traveling Wilburys.

“Christmas Medley,” the Midwesterners, 2009. A pleasant little instrumental featuring Richard Wiegel, the guitarist in this band out of Madison, Wisconsin. He was one of the guitarists in Clicker, the much-loved ’70s Wisconsin rock/pop/glam/show band we write about from time to time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

12 days of Christmas, Day 11

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was on the other night. Mariah Carey and her mom had their Christmas special, too. “Scrooged” has been on. “Miracle on 34th Street” — the good one, from 1947 — is coming up.

They even screened “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” in Santa Monica, California, today. (Did you know that when it aired on NBC in 1962, it was the first animated Christmas special?) That was one of my favorites. Kinda scary in places, but still one of my favorites.

I wonder whether they’re showing some of my favorites from another time.

Gather around the hearth, kids, and hear how MTV once aired Christmas videos. It was the early ’80s, and MTV seemed so cutting-edge at the time. Those old videos seem so quaint and innocent now. Our 15-year-old son would take one look at them, roll his eyes and say, “That’s so corny!”

Absolutely. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Take 1:

“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You,” Billy Squier, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1995.

Squier lip-syncs it with the MTV VJs and crew on the video. A good memory from that time. It revives the age-old debate: Nina Blackwood or Martha Quinn?

Take 2:

“Rock & Roll Christmas,” George Thorogood and the Destroyers, 1983, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1985.

This once rocked the house at MTV. Mark Goodman gets a nice long smooch from a cutie under the mistletoe at 1:55!

(Is that really John Lee Hooker as Santa Claus? My friend Larry says: “I think that may in fact be Hooker as Santa” and points to the photos of Thorogood and Hooker taken by Bob Leafe at an MTV taping in 1984. “I’d love to know for sure,” Larry says. So would I. Ah, those little mysteries.)

Take 3:

“Run Rudolph Run,” Dave Edmunds, 1982, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. The CD is out of print but the song is available digitally.

This is from the MTV New Year’s Eve Rock ‘n’ Roll Ball, so Happy New Year 1987, everyone in the Central time zone!

And some others seen on MTV …

Take 4:

“2000 Miles,” the Pretenders, from “Learning to Crawl,” 1983.

Talk about playing a guitar like ringing a bell, quietly, gracefully. A modern Christmas classic about a loved one gone at Christmas. That it came from an album with so many other great, straight-up rock songs — this was the flip side to “Middle of the Road” — makes it all the more remarkable.

Take 5:

“Do They Know It’s Christmas (single edit),” Band Aid, 1985, from the 12-inch single. It’s out of print but is available on “Now That’s What I Call Christmas!” 2001.

Before “We Are The World,” there was this. In 1984, everyone who was anyone on the UK music scene came together as Band Aid to sing “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” Bob Geldof wrote the words. Midge Ure wrote the music. The song, which benefited hunger relief in Ethiopia, was huge — a solid No. 1 in Britain and close to it in the States.

So, how many of those performers you can name?

Take 6:

“Christmas In Hollis,” Run-D.M.C., from “A Very Special Christmas,” 1987.

This one, as always, is for Doug.

Bonus video!

Grace Jones sings “The Little Drummer Boy” on Pee-Wee Herman’s 1988 Christmas special!

 

And now, a word from our sponsor.

It may just be a Midwestern thing, but this used to be a familiar sight at this time of year. It debuted in 1977; this clip is dated 1981.

A friend who once worked at Miller Brewing in Milwaukee told us people so loved this commercial that they’d start calling the brewery in November to try to find out when it was going to air.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010