Sunday, March 25, 2012

All Those Years Ago

I remember the summer of 1981, and the song "All Those Years Ago," which was very frequently on the radio during that time.  The song was by former Beatle George Harrison, and although it had originally been written prior to John Lennon's passing, Harrison re-wrote the lyrics as a tribute to his friend and former colleague. 

During that year, as a rather nerdy and insular 11 year old, I was not very familiar with popular music, including that of the Beatles. I was not even very knowledgeable with the artists most associated with the early '80s, although being anywhere near a radio ensured that I was at least familiar with some of the songs then playing. "All Those Years Ago" remains in my mind as a familiar memory because my family took a road trip to Washington D.C. that summer, and Harrison's song was frequently on the radio.  

My closest association of that song, therefore, involved hearing it often as we rode down highways in a 1976 Ford Granada, a cooler of ice water in the car with us, stopping at Days Inns and Shoney's restaurants along the way, the '70s era vinyl of the Granada becoming hot in the sun as we got back in after each stop.  

And on the radio, over and over. . . the catchy, wistful song with the lyrics . . .
all those years ago...

I did not know what the song was about, but the tune and the words stayed in my memory. And so did the trip.

I remember when we got to Washington, D.C., my parents made it a point to make sure we saw all the major sights: the Capitol (we took the tour), the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument (we went to the top), and Ford's Theater (where Lincoln was shot).

 One of my fondest memories was visiting the air and space museum of the Smithsonian, which fed my strong interest in the space program, an interest which is still strong in me today. 

And it was wonderful just seeing Washington, D.C. itself, this unique city with all the monuments, all of which greatly impressed the 11 year old I was at the time. (We rode the Washington D.C. subway... woohoo!!)  

As I grow older, I can't express how much I cherish these memories of being together with my family. Just the happiness of being on a trip, in the heat of summer, with my family. . . literally all those years ago.

As I grew older, my interest in music grew very strong indeed. I'm not sure how I could have gotten through my teen years without it. This included not only music from my own teen era, the '80s, but also from other eras, especially the '60s. I grew to appreciate just how special was this group from the '60s, The Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo. The Fab Four. Rubber Soul. Sgt. Pepper. Abbey Road. Let it Be.

And I came to know what "All Those Years Ago" was all about. A tribute to a fallen musical great, and to an idealist who inspired so many: John Lennon.

What is often not known, is that it represented a rare reunion of the three remaining Beatles. The song was ostensibly that of George Harrison, and it featured his lyrics and his vocals. But they also featured the vocals of fellow Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda, and Paul's fellow Wings musician Denny Laine. Ringo Starr played on drums, and Al Kooper was on keyboards. A rather unique song. 

And a unique example of how songs can have so many meanings for us. There are the meanings which a song was originally crafted for, and for which so many may give it. And there are also the personal meanings which attach to a song, and which derive from personal memories, memories of things that happened all those years ago . . .

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Beatles in the '80s

As a fan of both '80s and '60s music, I was always interested in the music of the Beatles, not only during their time as one of the greatest rock bands of all time during the 1960s, but also as solo artists in subsequent decades.

Here is a brief view of the Fab Four during my decade, the 1980s.

Paul McCartney continued the successful solo career he started in the '70s with such hits as the poignant duet with Stevie Wonder, "Ebony and Ivory" (1982), and the catchy "No More Lonely Nights" (1984), the latter off of his 1984 film Give My Regards to Broadstreet. McCartney also teamed up with Michael Jackson on "The Girl is Mine," off of Jackson's enormously successful album Thriller (1982), and "Say Say Say," off of McCartney's own album Pipes of Peace (1983). Above, Beatlemania and Jackson-mania unite in the colorful video to  "Say Say Say," a gigantic and memorable hit for the duo during late '83. The video also features McCartney's beloved wife and companion, Linda, who passed on in 1998 of breast cancer.

In 1985, McCartney played "Let It Be" at the gigantic Live Aid concert, backed by Bob Geldolf, Pete Townshend, David Bowie, and Alison Moyet.   

George Harrison began the decade with his tribute to fellow Beatle, John Lennon, "All Those Years Ago." (1981) Afterward, Harrison next appeared with the very succesful and critically acclaimed 1987 album Cloud Nine, which included the big hits "Got My Mind Set On You," above, and "When we Was Fab," the latter a tribute to his Beatle days. 

Harrision ended the decade as a member of the quirky supergroup The Travelling Willburys, which also featured Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne.  

Ringo Starr was the narrator of the '80s childrens programs, Thomas the Tank Engine and Shining Time Station. He also made occasional appearances on various TV shows, and as a commercial spokesman for Sun Country Wine Coolers, above. In 1985, Starr performed with his son, Zak Starkey, as part of Artists United Against Apartheid, on the song "Sun City." 

Alas, John Lennon was taken from us too soon, as his life was stolen from him by an assailant in December of 1980. Here is a song released posthumously, in 1983, as part of the album Milk and Honey, and became a worldwide hit, "Nobody Told Me." 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

25 Years of U2's The Joshua Tree

A belated happy anniversary to one of the truly classic albums of the 1980s:

U2's majestic The Joshua Tree 

which was released on March 9, 1987.

I couldn't put it better than this blog:

"It was the unifying piece of music to emerge in the late 1980s, 
and even the most popular albums of subsequent years had a hard time replicating its inclusiveness."

See a more in-depth article on this blog.

And enjoy remembering the late 80's idealism of U2.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


One of my favorite '80s movies is a somewhat forgotten sci-fi flick from 1985 called Explorers

Explorers was part of a plethora of hopeful, positive sci-fi movies that came in the wake of the original Star Wars trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983), and the Spielberg classic E.T., the Extra Terrestrial (1982).

Explorers was about a trio of boys, all three misfits in different ways, who become friends and go on to do something fun and extraordinary. (It is a sci-fi flick, after all). The three boys were: Ben Crandall (played by a young Ethan Hawke), Wolfgang Muller (played by an equally young River Phoenix), and Darren Woods (played by Jason Presson). They were all different from one another: Ben was a dreamer who was into science fiction and fantasy, Wolfgang was a nerdy sort who was all into science and logic, and Darren was a practical sort who was into mechanics.

Yet they all found common ground in being outsiders in their school, and found a common goal when something very sci-fi-ish and remarkable happened: they started getting communications from extra terrestrials. This was the '80s, so were talking friendly aliens. Using the knowledge provided by the aliens, as well as their own various skills, they built a ramshackle spaceship.

You know what comes next: they go up in their ship, dubbed the "Thunder Road" (from a Bruce Springsteen song) and meet up with the alien ship.

It all ends with a wild a wacky meeting with the aliens themselves. Of course, you have to see the movie to know the rest.

One of the things I loved about this movie was that it was all about disparate misfits who join together, despite their differences, to overcome their problems and to do something extraordinary. It also came around at a time when some hopeful messages were very helpful, given that I was 15 at the time. And I loved sci-fi, so this movie just seemed wonderful when it came out. 

Explorers has gained a cult following over the years, even though it was not as well remembered as so many other '80s films. But it will always remain a favorite with me. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

David "Davy" Jones 1945-2012

The very first time I heard of Davy Jones was as a very young child in the 1970s, when a local station started running this quirky, funny show about a group of musicians called The Monkees. Of course it was a re-run, as the great heyday of Monkee-mania was during the late '60s. But for me, as a kid of around 6 or 7, it was completely new, and the zany antics of Davy Jones and the Monkees caught my attention.

Then during the '80s, a decade filled with love for retro-'60s culture, as well as a decade when the art form known as music videos came of age, the Monkees, arguably one of the true originators of combining music with action on film,  made a comeback. Their 1986 top 20 hit was "That was then, this is now." 

Monkeemania was back. Between 1986 to 1989, Davy Jones reunited with two of the other Monkees (Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz) to bring the fun and joy of their music to another generation.