Sunday, December 4, 2016

'80s Christmas Songroll

Its become almost a tradition at this blog to have a holiday season post (or posts!) with some retro '80s era Christmas songs. Some of the songs have been posted yearly, not unlike the yearly ritual of trotting out the same old beloved ornaments. Here's '80s Christmas songroll for 2016.

First up is a new one for this blog: the Pointer Sisters' version of the old classic "Santa Clause Is Coming to Town."

Here's another first appearance for this blog, Annie Lennox (and Eurythmics') doing a lovely rendition of "Winter Wonderland."  Is the holiday spirit being felt?

This one's a classic: U2's very '80s version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."

John (Cougar) Mellencamp's rockin version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

All of the above were from 1989's wonderful charity album, A Very Special Christmas, which benefited the Special Olympics.

Here's a few '80s Christmas classics coming back to take their place under this year's tree:

Wham's very, very '80s holiday song, "This Christmas," from 1985.

And, rounding it all off, Billy Squire's 1981 "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You." 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thats What Friends Are For

The charitable spirit that followed Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas," and all of the musical efforts to give relief to famine victims in Africa, culminating in the mamoth Live Aid concerts, continued onto other causes.  In September of 1985, right after Live Aid, a group of American musicians put together the very first Farm Aid concert to aid American farmers. The event featured Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, the Beach Boys, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, and many others. It would later go on to being a yearly event.

Then in late 1985, a small group of musicians got together to reord a record to help fund AIDS research. The one-off group was called Dionne Warwick and Friends, and included Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight. The song they released was penned by the classic songrwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager, and was called "Thats What Friends Are For."  It became Billboard magazine's number one sing of 1986. The video is above. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

When '80s Bands United For Charity

Its Thanksgiving, and the holiday seaon is upon us. Since charity, music, and fun are important parts of this time of year, its a good time to remember when all three of those elements combined for a series of wonderful charity records back in the '80s. This starts around Christmas time, with a beautiful effort by a bunch of musicians. 

In 1984, a group of primarily British and Irish musicians united to collect fund for famine relief in Africa. A project initiated by musicians Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, they called themselves Band Aid, and they released a memorable Christmas single called "Do They Know Its Christmas." Band Aid was literally a "whos who" of the '80s British music scene, and included, among others, such names as Boy George, Sting, George Michael, Phil Collins, David Bowie and members of Bananarama, Duran Duran, and U2.
"Do They Know Its Christmas" went on to become a major holiday song in 1984, and a wonderful memory of that year. 

The Band Aid effort ultimately led to additional efforts at famine relief. In January of 1985 there was USA for Africa, a similar effort by American musicians. This group put out "We Are The World," a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and featuring, in addition to those two musicians, also Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Paul Simon and many others.

The charitable spirit was catching.  Shortly after, in February of 1985, a group of Canadian musicians got together as Northern Lights, and put out the song "Tears Are Not Enough."  This single also collected money for African famine relief, and included Anne Murray, Geddy Lee (of Rush), Mike Reno (of Loverboy), Joni Mitchel, Corey Hart, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and Burton Cummings (of the Guess Who), among many others.

Not to be left out, heavy metal musicians also put out their own effort to help famine relief. It was called Hear n' Aid, and they put out their charitable single "Stars," a song written by Ronnie James Dio, and which included contributions by members of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, and many others.

These collective efforts culminated in the enormous Live Aid concert in 1985.

Happy Thanksgiving, and a blessed holiday season to us all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Great Space Coaster

Does anybody remember The Great Space Coaster? It was a syndicated kid's show that ran from 1981 to 1986.  I used to watch it all the time before school when I was in middle school. Although I think the show was really aimed at kids younger than I was at the time, I found it so enjoyable that I couldn't resist. There were other kids my age who also indulged in the Coaster.

The show had the most wonderfully memorable opening.  (Above, courtesy of  I just love it.

The show focused on three young people (Francine, Danny, and Roy), who took a spceship to this funky asteroid populated by a bunch of fantastic characters. Probably the most prominent of these characters is a shy clown named Baxter, who also had the ability to become invisible.  See Baxter, above. (Frankly, at the time, I wasn't exactly sure what Baxter was.  He was just Baxter.)

  The Wikipedia article describes the show further:
The asteroid is populated by strange-looking, wise-cracking puppet characters such as Goriddle Gorilla, Knock-Knock the Woodpecker, Edison the Elephant, and Gary Gnu (host of newscast The Gary Gnu Show). Baxter is forever on the run from M.T. Promises, a nefarious ringmaster who plans to re-capture Baxter and return him to the circus he worked at before he escaped. Each episode ends with a different life lesson, and various celebrity guest stars (such as Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame and composer Marvin Hamlisch) occasionally dropped by.
Above is a clip featuring Gary Gnu (the gnewscaster with the only gnews show guaranteed to contain no gnews whatsoever!) interviewing another character, Goriddle Gorilla.  (Thanks to TGSCoaster on Youtube.)

Heres the Great Space Coaster fan site: Click Here.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween with Kiss and Freddy

Found this Halloween treat on Youtube (thanks to architek777).  This goes all the way back to 1976.  Its Kiss, original members back in the original full makeup mode, appearing on Paul Lynde's Halloween Special.  Joining them is Margaret Hamilton, reprising her original Wizard of Oz role as the Wicked Witch of the West, and the character of Witchiepoo from the '70s show H.R. Puffnstuff.

For another trick or treat, following is a re-post of a post of mine from 2012. 

Freddy Krueger (Re-post of October 25, 2012 post.)

Halloween is approaching, and thoughts turn to things scary and spooky. . . and horror.

Those of us who grew up in the 1980s and were into horror movies remember Freddy Krueger. The ghoulish star of the horror flick Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Freddy followed in the wake of slasher era flicks like Friday the 13th (1980) and Halloween (1978).  During the late ‘70s and the ‘80s, these three movies produced numerous sequels which thrived among horror loving young people.

I first became acquainted with Freddy at an informal video-watching party among several members of my high school drama club, of which I was a member. We clustered together around a couch, munching on popcorn, and watching the first Nightmare on Elm Street.  I always thought that, behind the blood and gore aspects of the Freddy movies, there was actually some psychological insight into all those dark thoughts and fears that young people live with. 

Freddy represented the dark and scary stuff that lurked in all of our nightmares.  Things that bother us. Things we run away from.  The kind of stuff that we all are relieved to know doesn’t follow us into our waking lives. . . but in all of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, they did.   

Pete Burns (1959-2016)

Pete Burns, R.I.P.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Greatness of John Hughes, Revisited

I've been enjoying reading a book called Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the films of John Hughes.  Its a collection of essays where different writers describe the effect that John Hughes movies have had on them as teens. Very often this effect is quite strong, and ground-breaking, causing an effect on the consciousness of those observers.

I, too, have found the teen films of the '80s to have had a significant and important effect on society, much more so than would be acknowledged by those who would casually dismiss them.  One such essay described an experience the writer had which shows this effect.  In the essay "A Slut or a Prude: The Breakfast Club as Feminist Primer," writer Juliana Baggott wrote about the following incident which happened after watching that seminal Hughes movie.

 A few days after I saw the movie, I was in the cafeteria with my people- a group of field hockey girls, a few with eating disorders. Some idiotic football players were spitting spitballs at some band geeks. But they weren't just football players and band geeks, not after The Breakfast Club. We were all trapped in the same ugly, dying organism: high school.

I walked over to the football players and said,”C'mon, knock it off.”

One said,”Knock what off.”

“The spitballs. Just grow up a little.”

“Don't I look grown up to you, little girl.” He had me by a hundred pounds and more than a half foot in height.

“Listen, asshole, just stop it with the spitballs.”

“Oh, she's angry now.” He put his arm around me, rubbed my back. “Isn't she cute when she's angry?”

“Cute” was my trigger word- often true for short people. “Don't call me cute again.”

“What's wrong cutie. You're so cute!”

“I mean it. Call me cutie again and I swear it won't be pretty. . . ”

He paused and looked at me deeply in the eyes. “You're so cute.”

I slapped him. He had a big head and a thick rubbery cheek. He was fair, and the skin went red fast. Friends told me later that my small handprint was on his cheek for the rest of the day.

The long term result was astonishing. All of the boys at that table seemed to fall in love with me and treated me with enormous respect. They addressed me politely in the halls. I'd feel someone watching me, and when I turned around, it would be one of them- all agaze.

It made no sense. It only encouraged me. To what? Refuse to accept a definition – a prude, a slut, a . I knew that definitions wouldn't work for me, that I was volatile, unwieldy, and that was the only way I'd survive.

This wonderful movie by John Hughes caused a typical American teenager to feel closer to the other teens in her school, to literally stand up for other teens who were different than herself, to confront a blustering bully, and to see her own self in a different light.  Thank you, John Hughes, or your remarkable work.  I use this account as a preface to a re-posting of my previous tribute to John Hughes, which appears below.

Thank You, John Hughes

(first posted on September 20, 2011)

Some of my most pleasant memories of being a teen in the '80s came from some of the better teen movies which flourished at that time. Foremost among the creators of this genre of moviemaking was the great John Hughes whose work during the '80s was known for treating the minds and feelings of teenagers, and the situations that teens found themselves in, with seriousness and respect.

Hughes created such teen classics as Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Pretty In Pink, movies which were big in their day, and have since become cult classics, and the source of much imitation in the form of subsequent teen oriented flicks. Hughes also went beyond the teen movie genre to make such films as the holiday classic Home Alone and the comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  But Hughes' creation which, for many of us, still resonates most strongly was the teen classic The Breakfast Club.

An account of several teens from very different cliques bonding with one another during their stay in detention, The Breakfast Club served for many of us as a protest against the walls that separated us from our fellow teens. It also had an unusual depth for a teen flick, allowing its characters to express the complexity which lay behind the facades of various teen stereotypes. Kids who were as different as a nerd, a stoner, an arty outsider, a jock and a preppie suddenly seemed more than just one dimensional. I remember getting great pleasure out of the way this movie made you think, as you chewed on the dialogue going on between the characters on the screen.

But the thing that made The Breakfast Club, and all of Hughe's movies, so wonderful for a teen loner like me, is that Hughes had a particular soft spot for the outsiders, the individualists, and the misfits, and he had a great way of exposing their dilemma through his movies, and ultimately empowering them in the process.

For example, there is this scene in the Breakfast Club, where the jock character, played by Emilio Estevez, tells about an awful thing, a pitiless prank that he played on this nerdy kid. He had done it to impress his fellow jock friends, but in the movie, he was expressing how bad he felt over his part in such a cruel prank, and how awful he must have made that hapless boy feel. At the conclusion of the jock's account, the nerd character, played by Anthony Michael Hall, quietly mentions that the boy who was the target of the prank was one of his friends. The scene is powerful, and there is this painful awareness as the nerd and the jock realize how close this awful prank struck each of them.

Thank you, John Hughes, for moments like that, which exposed the pain of being an outsider, and brought home just how much we had in common as teens from different backgrounds.

John Wilden Hughes (1950-2009)