29 July 2021

29 July 2021 - ZZ Top - Sharp Dressed Man

ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill died this week, aged 72.  

We pay tribute with a feature of their breakthrough song/video from 1983, the lead single form their Eliminator album, which brought them to a new audience.  Fun fact:  the guitar solo is a guitar DUO, played on two different guitars with different tunings.  

This song was really my introduction to ZZ Top as well.  And what an introduction!!!

28 July 2021

28 July 2021 - Lita Ford - Kiss Me Deadly

You don't usually affiliate hard rock music with keyboards.  However, that's exactly what Lita Ford did, when she moved from hard rocking music with the Runaways to her more glam-rock solo career, and it helped the song gain crossover appeal.  The song itself starts slow and builds quickly to a chaotic, energetic conclusion.  

This song, a breakthrough for her in 1988, came after a management change to Sharon Osbourne Management - yes, that Sharon Osbourne.  It hit #12 on the US charts and kicked off a period of generally strong success.  Lyrically, the song is somewhat sexually charged - she's singing about getting laid - or not - which wasn't a typical subject women tackled in 1988.  

It was Ford's boldness that made her something of a feminist icon - and probably contributed to this song being featured in the movie Captain Marvel.  

Ford did take a long hiatus from the mid-90s until about 2010, but she is back and still performs this song.....

27 July 2021

27 July 2021 - Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill

The first single from 1985's Hounds of Love, this was Kate Bush's most successful single in the 1980's  - and her first of the decade in the States.  But why is she making a deal with God and running up hills??!

Well, the original title of the song was "A Deal With God", which her record label balked at, because, well, that title doesn't get airplay in some countries (probably including the United States).  Her point was, men and women don't always understand each other, so making a deal with God to swap places.... well, that might help.

The video is interpretive dance.  That's not something you see every day.  

The original song is very synth-heavy, which, well, 1980s.  When she finally performed the song live, Kate Bush appeared with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, a frequent collaborator - and the synth was replaced with guitar.... and it still worked.  You'd never think a keyboard solo would work on guitar, and it does, seamlessly.  

In 2012, Kate Bush released a new mix of the song, in conjunction with the Olympic Games in London.  This version, which debuted at the opening ceremony, was also a chart hit for Bush. (EDITOR'S NOTE: but the IOC won't let us share it, so here's audio)  

26 July 2021

26 July 2021 - Limp Bizkit - Nookie

For about 20 minutes in the 1990s, Fred Durst was everywhere.   This song, released in 1999, vaulted hs band, Limp Bizkit, into superstardom (they were already moderately known), and was a big rock radio hit with some pop radio crossover.

This is despite some of the most abysmal reviews in history.  

The song was a bitter breakup song, dealing with a rough relationship that Durst had with a recent ex.  

If you were were not aware, also in 1999, Limp Bizkit played Woodstock 1999, where a riot broke out during and after their performance.  This was not the song that incited that riot, but Fred Durst and the rest of the band were wanted for and in fact arrested for inciting that riot with their words and actions, when he told people to keep breaking stuff.   

But this performance does show their energy.  Also, no one was breaking stuff at this point. 

23 July 2021

23 July 2021 - Cypress Hill - How I Could Just Kill a Man

You'd think that Cypress Hill would have risen to prominence on something having to do with weed.

You would be wrong.  This song was their first hit, their debut single, and featured homages to many popular hip hop and punk artists of the day, with Q-Tip and Ice Cube making cameos in the video.  See if you can hear the Suicidal Tendencies reference near the end of the song.  

I mentioned homage.  This was the height of the popularity of so called "gangsta rap" groups such as NWA - and I really hate typing that name out, because it generalizes and minimizes such a broad category of music.  The violence referenced here by three very high guys is absolutely homage, and having these guest stars in the video drives that home.

At any rate, it's an enjoyable tune, and I hope you give it a listen.  

22 July 2021

22 July 2021 - Debbie Gibson - Only in My Dreams

Remember when Tiffany and Debbie Gibson were two artists you had to choose between?   They never bought into that, so neither did I.  Besides, they did different things.  Tiffany is best known for, well, a cover. Clearly, I have zero issue with that - and if you have not seen Totally Covered, you need to.

But this was different.  Whereas you'd expect a young pop artist to be singing songs written by others, especially in the mid-1980's, that's not what Debbie Gibson did.  She WROTE this song in 1984 - when she was 14 - and recorded it in 1986.  

The video was recorded in Asbury Park, near where she lived.  The song was a top 5 hit in September 1987.

In 1998, Deborah Gibson re-released the song, with a different remix, after she left Atlantic Records.  The new version is 1) more mature, and 2) notice the name change.  

21 July 2021

21 July 2021 - Suzanne Vega - Luka

The breakout music hit of 1987 was "Luka" by Suzanne Vega.  A singer/songwriter from Greenwich Village, the song was from her second album, Solitude Standing. Some albums, you remember where you were when you bought them.  I bought this one at Record Town at the McKinley Mall in suburban Buffalo.  It is the last cassette I ever bought in a cardboard longbox.  And, it was a revelation.

This song is written and performed from the point of view of an abused child.  This isn't something that was common in 1987, let alone for a hit song - #3 on the pop charts, and her 2nd biggest worldwide hit.  Give it a listen.