Saturday, August 19, 2017

Solar Eclipses 1979 and 2017

In anticipation of the 2017 solar eclipse, which will take place on Monday, August 21, I am recalling another solar eclipse which occurred during my childhood.

In 1979, when I was in fifth grade, another nationwide solar eclipse happened. We were in school when it was occurring. I lived in a part of the United States which did not get to see, or hardly got to see, the full solar eclipse. Nevertheless, the teachers had us sit down on the carpet, and they brought in a TV monitor and put on the coverage of the eclipse. I seem to recall it was the ABC News coverage, of which I have found the above clip. (Thanks and acknowledgement to Steve Newman.) This video of the 1979 eclipse coverage looks so familiar, and brings back memories of our sitting on the carpet and watching coverage of various parts of the country going momentarily dark as the moon covered the sun.

Here's another clip about the phenomenon of eclipses. (Thanks and acknowledgement to Vox.)

Please, if you plan to experience the eclipse, be very careful not to stare at the eclipse, as it could cause severe vision damage. But, otherwise, enjoy this fascinating astronomical event.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The '80s Paisley Underground

"The idea that you'd make music with guitars. The idea that you'd make music with long, unscripted and unstructured jams. The idea that you were into 60s garage bands. The idea that you'd play one chord until your arm fell off. All the things that we thought were exciting and cool couldn't have been less fashionable." Steve Wynn, of the band The Dream Syndicate. 
My last post dealt with the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in 1967.  To follow up on that recollection, it would be good to recall a very creative '80s musical subculture that was inspired by the pop music of the '60s, especially the Summer of Love era, and who made an effort to revive the feeling and spirit of 1967 in the midst of the 1980s. This scene was called the Paisley Underground, and it stood in contrast the the synth-pop, New Wave, and hair metal of that period.  Although I am actually an aficionado of '80s music, in particular New Wave, I was also fascinated and inspired by the 1960s, and was drawn to the Paisly Underground's effort to revive the psychedelic and hippie spirit of many years before. 




In the early '80s, the Paisley Underground emerged in Los Angeles out of a tight knit group of like-minded bands: the Bangles, the Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, The Three O'Clock, the Rain Parade, and the Long Ryders, among others.  An article appearing on May 16, 2013 in the the Guardian, explains the origin of the name "Paisley Underground," 
"The tag Paisley Underground was first coined in 1982 as a joke by Michael Quercio, the young leader of the Three O'Clock. "We were being interviewed by a local paper called the LA Weekly," he recalls. "The writer asked me: 'So, what do you call this new scene of you and the Bangs [later the Bangles], and the Rain Parade and the Dream Syndicate?" And I said: 'Oh, it's the Paisley Underground.' I didn't think much of it – it was just an off-the-cuff remark. It wasn't until a couple of months later that the other papers started picking up this name and started to write about the scene and call it that.""


Probably the most well-known of the Paisley Underground bands was The Bangles, who eventually were given support by Prince, and who reached the heights of '80s popularity with their big hits "Manic Monday," and "Walk Like An Egyptian."  But they started in the early '80s Paisley Underground scene, as one of its originators.




A favorite of mine from the Paisley Underground was the band The Three O'Clock, who created music that resembled '60s pop groups like the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Here they are in 1983 appearing on the MV3 music video channel (a competitor to MTV).



Here's The Three O'Clock again, with a more polished mid-80s video.


Here's the Rain Parade, a bit more psychedelic and trippy.


Here below are Parts I and II of a short, 20 minute documentary from 1985 all about the then burgeoning Paisley Underground.  (Thanks and acknowldgement to BobC1965)






By 1985, the Paisley Underground had become an influential scene, most particularly providing a strong influence to multifaceted '80 superstar Prince, who named his new record label Paisley Park, produced and championed Paisley Underground bands like The Bangles and The Three O'Clock, and who released a heavily '60s influenced album, Around The World In A Day in 1985.  The Paisley Underground, based in Los Angeles, also inspired a large number of garage-style bands and music scenes around the world. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

'60s Songs, '80s Videos


1967 "Love" poster by artist Peter Max
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. In 1967, there was an explosion of the hippie counterculture which spread across the the world, most particularly the Western countries, and brought a blossoming of art, music, idealism, and experimentalism. 

Although I grew up in the 1980s, I was greatly inspired by the '60s and by the Summer of Love. I remember watching documentaries about that era, and I listened heavily to the music of that time.  The events which happened in the '60s were imperfect, as is usually the case when one speaks about anything human. The Summer of Love itself was imperfect, and one can point at many mistakes made by the young people behind all the happenings. But at its best the Summer of Love represented an earnest and hopeful attempt to live out ideals of beauty and love. 

As I grew up in the '80s, I often looked back to the '60s for inspiration, taking the best of it while acknowledging where they fell short.  So how does an '80s guy with an '80s blog celebrate the anniversary of the Summer of Love and the larger era it represented? How does one celebrate the '60s when youre focused on the MTV era? 

How about with '80s era MTV-style videos of classic '60s songs? Back in the '80s, a show came on TV called Deja View.  Aimed at the thirtysomething baby boomers of the '80s, who at the time were very nostalgic for the Sixties, Deja View featured '80s style videos for '60s songs.  A 1985 Chicago Tribune article talked about Joel Gallen, Deja View's producer:

A character in the movie``The Big Chill`` spoke for
countless baby boomers when he grumbled that there hadn`t
been a good record made since 1967. And as for rock videos,
you won`t hear many veterans of the Age of Aquarius
wistfully singing, ``I want my, I want my, I want my MTV.`` 
Joel Gallen couldn`t understand why videos couldn`t
accommodate people whose interest in rock music peaked
about the time the Beatles split. An avid fan of 1960s music,
Gallen was ``intrigued and excited by the technique and the
form of music video. But I didn`t really relate to Twisted
Sister, Judas Priest and a lot of the other MTV-type bands.``
So Gallen, 28, came up with the idea of ``marrying`` `60s
hits to the new video technology in a show he now calls
``Deja View.``

I remember, as an '80s teen, tuning into Deja View and enjoying it.  In celebration of the Summer of Love, and of those who appreciated the '60s from the vantage point of the '80s, here are some '80s videos of '60s songs from the '80s show Deja View:

 
The Hollies, "Bus Stop."  After seeing this video, every time thereafter that I heard the song it brought to mind this very scene, with the same bus stop and bench, and the couple at the beginning with their umbrella. 1966 song, just before the '67 Summer of Love. (Acknowledgement and thanks to hinken24 for the video.)


Procol Harum, "A Whiter Shade of Pale." This one is a true Summer of Love classic, reaching the peak of the pop charts in the midst of that psychedelic summer of 1967. Its mysterious lyrics caused much speculation, often under alternative states of consciousness (Acknowledgement and thanks to hinken24 for the video.)

 
The Zombies, "She's Not There." Spooky song from 1964, foreshadowing much psychedelia to come.  (Acknowledgement and thanks to hinken24 for the video.)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Oingo Boingo: From Gong Show To Weird Science


The name Oingo Boingo brings to mind the quirky new wavish '80s for many of us. But the group has a more extensive history.  It started back in the early '70s as a performance art group called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.  One of their more noteworthy performances at that time came in 1976, when they appeared as contestants on the original version of The Gong Show with their then wacky host Chuck Barris. (Acknowledgement to junkfoodforworms for the video.)


In the '80s came New Wave, a genre the group took to well, changing their name to simply Oingo Boingo, and adopting a ska-influenced New Wave style.  Here's my fave song from them, the very catchy "Stay" off of their Dead Man's Party album.  (Acknowledgement to Boingo Vision for the video.)

They are probably most well known for the theme song to the very '80s John Hughes film Weird Science in 1985.  (Acknowledgement to NewOrderUp for the video.)

In the '90s, they briefly shortened their name even further, to Boingo, and followed new musical directions.  The group's frontman, Danny Elfman also made a name for himself with his work on movie soundtracks, including Pee Wees Big Adventure and Men in Black.


Friday, July 14, 2017

The Dream Academy (Life In A Northern Town)

The Dream Academy is a unique '80s group whose work has included elements of psychedelia, melodic pop, classical music, and ethereal chanting. The combined effect is quite magical. 


The group's most well-known song was the extremely popular 1985 hit "Life In A Northern Town." The song was intended in part as a tribute to '70s musician Nick Drake, and contained melancholy references to '60s memories, mentioning specifically JFK and the Beatles. Its quite a haunting, sentimental record.  The song and the album from which it came were co-produced by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, with whom the band often collaborated.

In 1986, the band also did a dreamy version of the Smiths' "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want."  This was the song that played in the background during the museum scenes in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.


Here's one more from Dream Academy: the follow up single to "Northern Town," called "The Love Parade." 

(Acknowledgement and thanks to The Dream Academy for the videos.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Getting In Trouble With Heavy Metal

 


I'm feeling like being rebellious and getting into trouble. The problem is that I'm in my 40s, so maybe being bad isn't such a good idea. So, how about the next best thing: listening to some '80s rebellious heavy metal and watching some videos about misbehaving.


First, lets rebel against parental authority at home. The best song for that is Twisted Sister's 1984 classic metal anthem, "We're Not Gonna Take It." (Acknowledgement and thanks to RHINO.)


Now, lets rebel at school. The song for that has got to be Motley Crue's "Smokin in the Boy's Room" from 1985. (Acknowledgement and thanks to Louder Noise.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

For July 4th: When America Came Together

I wish all of my readers in the United States a great Independence Day. 

In honor of July 4, I am re-posting a post which originally appeared May 21, 2016.  Its a post commemorating an event which brought Americans together, back when doing so seemed much more common than it does today. Hands Across America brought together Americans of very different politics, lifestyles, and viewpoints to call attention to the needs of the homeless. The event consisted of creating a human chain across the United States made up of people from all walks of life. 

I post this today in commemoration of my country, the United States of America, and also to remind us that we can come together again as we once did in the past.


Hands Across America (May 25, 1986)




On May 25, 1986, a truly unique event occurred which I think has some lessons for us today.  In an effort to draw attention to the plight of the homeless, over 6 million people joined hands in a chain that crossed the United States from coast to coast.  The effort was called Hands Across America.


The event drew support from across the political spectrum, and included participation from many political, artistic and religious figures.  These included Yoko Ono, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Michael J. Fox, Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Liza Minelli, Kenny Rogers, John Cardinal O'Connor, and the Reverend Robert Schuller, all of whom joined the human chain at some point along its lengthy route.




In Washington, D.C., the event included President Ronald Reagan at the White House, and House Speaker Tip O'Neill at the U.S. Capitol.




I think this wonderful event, which went on to raise $34 million for homeless charities, is an example for today.  Now that there is such division and mistrust in the U.S., we need a reminder that it doesn't always have to be like this.   As we approach the aniversary of Hands Across America, we could do well to look back and see that we came come together with hopefullness and idealism to do good, and to see the best in one another.




hands across america
hands across the land i love
united we fall
united we stand
hands across america
mother and father
daughter and son
learn to live as one
i can not stop thinking again and again
how the heart of a stranger
beats the same as a friend
learn to love each other
see these people over there?
they are my brother and sister
when they laugh i laugh
when they cry i cry
when they need i’ll be there by their side
we are the river of hope
that runs through the valley of fear
and there is a lady whose smile shines upon us
saying all is welcome here.
learn to love each other
see the man over there?
he’s my brother
when he laughs i laugh
when he cries i cry
when he needs me
i’ll be right there, right by his side
the kiss never felt so sincere
full of countless dreams
this earth, it never smelt so sweet
cradles a song in it’s great heartbeat
learn to love each other
see the man over there?
he’s my brother
when he laughs i laugh
when he cries i cry
when he needs me