Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle Fantasy Records 1976
I became a CCR fan a decade after they broke up. There was no exposure to their original albums and not much radio airplay. But there was a TV commercial for this greatest hits package that ran constantly through the 80s on syndicated television, cable, and of course the early days of MTV.
If this record introduced you to John Fogerty and Creedence as well, we’re not alone; over 8 Million copies were sold in the US!
If Pete Townsend was the Godfather of Punk, then Ray Davies is the Godfather of New Wave.
The Kinks delivered a one-two punch in 1982 and 1983 with the albums Give The People What They Want followed by State of Confusion. The former was loved by the critics; the latter was loved by the masses.
Next week marks the 30th anniversary of State of Confusion. It had everything that albums by new bands in 1983 had: World premiere videos on MTV, stylish costumes on stage, and non-stop radio play on Top 40 and Rock and AC formats. For most of 1983, Ray Davies was both as iconic as McCartney or Jagger and also as relevant in the moment as Bono or Madonna. Check out the title track video below!
During MTV’s golden age of 1981 through 1986, an annual tradition was the low-budget, slapped together, in-studio Christmas video! Let’s take a look…
Billy Squire “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You” 1981
This was the first MTV Christmas video and arguably the best of the songs. The video itself could be replicated now with the phone in your pocket. It set the trend of featuring the MTV staff, most of whom look really high. I think there was a White Christmas in the MTV offices in 1981!
The video set a nice precedent for having A-list artists involved in these MTV-produced projects. Squire was huge at the time, a veritable one-man Led Zeppelin reborn. But that would end in just a couple of years, ironically when his “Rock Me Tonight “ video on MTV killed his rock credibility in less than 5 minutes.
Joe King Carrasco “It’s a Party Christmas” 1982
This song is truly awful. It’s not only the worst Christmas song of the Modern Rock Era, but is in the running for the worst song EVER. I’ve tried to like it for years in the spirit of being such a fan of the genre. But, c’mon, this sucks. I am embedding the video below, but do yourself a favor and DON’T watch it.
George Thorogood “Rock n Roll Christmas” 1983
Unfortunately this video has been pulled from YouTube. C’mon Lonesome George, really?
Bryan Adams “Reggae Christmas” 1984
By ’84 the budgets were bigger and Pee-Wee Herman showed up. Somehow this give us Canadian Reggae. Yeah, mon, eh?
Jon Anderson “Three Ships” 1985
This is 90125 – era YES lead singer Jon Anderson. It’s indescribable; just watch.
Monkees “Christmas Medley” 1986
Sixties nostalgia reigned supreme in 1986, culminating this part of the Monkees’ comeback. The Monkees were one of the biggest bands of 1986 and capped the year with this video that officially reunited Mike Nesmith with the other boys. Spoiler! He’s in the Santa suit.
And there’s the circle of life for MTV: Nesmith, whose PopClips videos were an inspiration for MTV’s creation appears at the very end of the golden age of MTV via this Christmas video. Within a year, new owner Viacom would gut MTV and begin replacing music with reality shows and other nonsense.
Some call this surreal television. Some call it the weirdest moment in entertainment. To me it’s just a perfect musical moment.
Tomorrow marks the 35th anniversary of the airing of the Bing Crosby’s last Christmas special. In 1977 glam rocker David Bowie appeared as a guest and sang a duet with Bing. The song was a medley of the new song “Peace On Earth” with the standard “Little Drummer Boy”.
Bing died a month after this was recorded, and a month prior to the airing of this TV special. Then the song was released as a single in 1982. Also that year, MTV added the clip to its rotation as a stand-alone video.
After decades of forgettable holiday TV specials and variety shows with duets with artists from varying genres, this one performance stands out from all others. At first you may think it’s due to how odd this pairing is: it’s the tiny point on the Venn Diagram where The Golden Age of Hollywood overlaps with Modern Rock. Shock value doesn’t hold it up for 35 years; two great voices do.
My favorite not-exactly-new record of the year so far is Squeeze: Live at The Fillmore. The band recorded this show earlier this year and it is much cooler than the typical great hits live record that so many bands put out. Some of Squeeze’s biggest songs go into extended jams and solos. Maybe it was the spirit of The Fillmore causing that.
Glenn Tilbrook’s voice is still so strong that it’s hard to believe it’s been 35 years since some of these tunes were first recorded. He and the whole band sound so good that it’s a shame they weren’t included in the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics this summer.
There’s not a lot of info out there about this record, other than the lineup listed on the band’s website and the venue made obvious by the title. You see, there’s no CD or liner notes to this record; it’s available only as an iTunes download ($10) or as a limited-edition vinyl LP via mail order ($25).
What a cool concept: one to the 80’s biggest international bands recorded at a 60’s iconic venue and distributed in a 2012 digital way or by mail in the favorite format of the 70s.
I was disappointed to not hear Gilson Lavis on drums. Apparently Gilson is currently playing with former Squeeze member turned big-time UK TV host Jools Holland and not a part of the current lineup. Gilson and his jazzy riffs are missed here!
If you were to make a list of the biggest rock bands of the 1980s, REO Speedwagon would probably not land on your top 5 guesses.
Or top ten. Or top forty.
But, if you could take a trip back to 1981 and watch MTV for an hour, you would assume they were the Beatles of the era. We now forget how huge Champaign Illinois’ favorite sons were.
And huge they were! 18 Million albums sold between 1980 and 1984 alone; a dozen top 40 singles in that same period; thousands of live concerts across the globe.
MTV promoted the REO like crazy. REO was a natural fit with MTV’s initial AOR-type programming format. Also important for the new music channel: the band made video clips! In fact, in the first 24 hours of MTV, REO videos (mostly live concert clips) were played 16 times, which ties them with Rod Stewart as the most played artists on the first day. Much of the first week of broadcasts included promotion of MTV’s first Saturday night concert starring, yep – REO Speedwagon.
So even with all of this exposure REO had, we now barely remember them. Why?
Part of the problem is that they don’t really fit in with the stereotype of what we think bands of the 80s sounded like, and even more so, looked like. These guys had a pretty typical arena-rock / classic rock sound. They had big guitars, but not too crunchy like metal bands. They had keyboards, but basic pianos and organs without the synthesizers of other pop bands or new wavers. And most of all, they didn’t look like 80s pop stars at all. They wore jeans, sport coats, and sneakers – they looked more like stand up comics than rock stars.
I have a theory that as time goes on, the masses will forget about mega rock stars who had bigger songs but a pedestrian look. Middle of the road rockers like Genesis, Phil Collins, Bruce Hornsby, Don Henley, and Huey Lewis sold tens of millions of records each, but when someone says “80s Music” most people think of outrageous-looking minor artists like A Flock of Seagulls.
My Grandmother once told me the best year for music is, or was, whatever year you turned fourteen years old. She was not an expert on modern popular music or entertainment media or targeted market research. But she did know a lot about people (especially kids!).
I thought about this theory often while I was working in music promotion and radio programming. It seemed to be true across generations and decades for all demographics.
Recently I shared this notion with my colleague Dave Whalen, who is on my short list of smart dudes. Dave concurred with Grandma’s “Age 14” theory, so I’m pretty much now calling it law: The greatest year for music was whatever year you turned fourteen.
So, for me, the greatest year for music was 1982.
That’s right, 1982: The Crossroads between classic rock, pop, new wave, punk, and heavy metal. But remember, that’s just for me…your experience will vary…
Not About Michael Jackson
A quick note here – 1982 brought us the best-selling album of all time, Thriller. However, I am not, nor was I ever, a fan. The only part of it in which I find any value is the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo in Beat It (oh, and the Vincent Price voice-over bit in Thriller). But if you really want to catch some great Eddie work from ’82, see the Diver Down album on the list below.
The video music channel launched in August 1 1981, but it was 1982 where the number of homes in the US (including mine) with access to MTV exploded. And then, everything changed!
The best way to adequately explain how BIG 1982 was to Generation X is to list some of the albums of the year that were huge sellers, influential, or important milestones. See if you agree with me about 1982 and/or the “Age 14” rule…
Peter Gabriel – Security
The Clash – Combat Rock
XTC – English Settlement
The Jam – The Gift
Talking Heads – The Name of the Band Is…
Asia – Asia
Genesis – Three Sides Live
Men At Work – Business As Usual
Frank Zappa – Ship Arriving Too Late To Save the Drowning Witch
Sonic Youth – Sonic Youth
Split Enz – Time and Tide
Squeeze – Sweets From a Stranger
Madness – Complete Madness
INXS – Shabooh Soobah
The Fixx – Shuttered Room
Devo – Oh, No!
Men Without Hats – Rhythm of Youth
Thomas Dolby – Golden Age of Wireless
The Motels – All Four One
Dexys Midnight Runners – Too-Rye-Ay
Flock of Seagulls – Flock of Seagulls
Duran Duran – Rio
Go-Go’s – Vacation
Pat Benatar – Get Nervous
Adam Ant – Friend or Foe
Robert Plant – Pictures at Eleven
Pete Townsend – All The Best Cowboys
The Who – It’s Hard
The Beatles – Reel Music
Toto – IV
John Cougar – American Fool
Tom Petty – Long After Dark
Queen – Hot Space
Kansas – Vinyl Confessions
Rolling Stones – Still Life
Crosby Still & Nash – Daylight Again
Steve Miller – Abracadabra
Golden Earing – Cut
Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
Phil Collins – Hello, I Must Be Going
Led Zeppelin – Coda
Scorpions – Blackout
Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
Rainbow – Straight Between the Eyes
Ozzy Osbourne – Speak of the Devil
Sammy Hagar – 3 Lock Box
Van Halen – Diver Down
What great albums are missing on this list? Let me know via comments!
Who ruled the radio airwaves, record charts and most importantly, video music channel programming of 1986? Genesis? Phil Collins? Bon Jovi? Madonna? How about The Monkees!
Somewhere between audio and video in 1986, there was a huge revival of The Monkees. The comeback was as planned, pre-packaged and targeted as the original Monkees show. And, our friends at MTV are to thank!
This wasn’t geared toward the Boomers who first made “The Pre-Fab Four” one of the top ten acts in the 1960’s. This was targeted at the Generation X’ers who grew up watching the Monkees as a syndicated show (always in the summertime here in Chicago!) in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was brilliant programming move. The kitsch of the Monkees, campy visual comedy, and most of all, pre-made music videos (typically 2 per 30 minute episode) were a perfect match for The MTV Generation.
It started with a series of Monkees Marathons in early 1986 on MTV. The show ran and ran and ran that spring.
The popularity of these reruns of reruns resulted lots of records and tapes from Rhino’s catalog being sold. This lead to a new greatest hits release with a new song (“That Was Then, This Is Now”), a tour, and a Christmas video (of which is dreadfully hard to a good copy!). Those enterprises included a brief reunion with Mike Nesmith, The Monkee who didn’t really need the money.
Late ‘86 brought a new album of all new material (“Pool It”) which lead to 2 decades of on again / off again reunions, recording and tours. These reunions and comeback seem to now be over with through 2012 and the passing of Davy Jones. Though his death itself lead to a jump in sales of a recent Greatest Hits album on iTunes and Amazon and a third generation of Monkeemania!
Every August 1, fans of 80s music, Classic Rock, New Wave, etc note that it is the anniversary of MTV launching. Last year, we saw several media stories about the 30th Anniversary and were treated to seeing some 30-year-old content via places like the awesome YouTube Channels MTVClassic1andMTVTheFirst24.
But the real 30th anniversary for most of the US is happening right now. It was the summer of 1982 – not 1981 – when most cable customers got MTV.
On MTV’s Day One, very few cable operators actually offered MTV. I don’t trust anyone who says that they remember watching MTV’s first hour of broadcast. If anyone says this to you, ask them how the liked living in Oklahoma City, as that’s one of the few larger markets that had it on day one!
It was nearly a year later that most of America got the world’s first music channel. I can remember coming home from camp in June of 1982 and seeing “Who Can It Be Now” by Men At Work. The phones in my little town in Northern Illinois were on fire with high school and junior high school students spreading the word about what was going on Warner Amex Cable channel 12!